Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Praising Jesus: How the Blogosphere Might Just Resurrect My Tee Shirt Slogan Career

Now I've seen everything. Just minutes after pretty much bagging any plans I may have entertained involving my greeting card and tee shirt career, I find Jesus--and a black hockey one, at that--wearing one of my tee shirts. (Allegedly for church attendance purposes.)

Yes. The Team Vagina baseball jersey. One of my favorite designs, not to be outdone, mind you, by the "Ask Me About My Vagina!" series, and the "Vaginas Are for Lovers" line of merchandise that has been for sale at my CafePress stores since sometime around 1865. I admit that offering to send Black Hockey Jesus a tee shirt was a no-brainer, considering that his daddy blog is called The Wind in Your Vagina. It is ironic, though, since I never would have predicted I'd be sending some of my favorite home-grown pieces of merchandise to a man, much less a man I'd never met. But these times, they are a-changin'.

"What gives, anyway," you ask, "with the vaginal slant to your work?" (No pun intended, I'm sure). That's a long story; put on a pot of cough medicine and hunker down, dears. I'm about to tell you what happened long before Jesus there got dressed up for church, and what's happening now. Side note: None of it has anything to do with the DNC, the RNC or the next presidential election, so if you've come seeking a political respite, or a way to cleanse your political palate, you've come to the right place.

In 1997, I was a fine young woman going about the business of figuring out who she was, and in my love of literature, happened upon a book called The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler. I admit, its brilliant simplicity hit me hard, and I immediately declared it one of the most important works of literature I'd ever read. Most of all, I wondered, "Hey, why hadn't I thought of that?"

Also at the time, I was busy launching my lifelong career as an Internet dilettante, and was enjoying the free time that being self-unemployed afforded me. I had launched a little 'zine called Saucy Chicks, which was receiving a modicum of recognition, and was fun. This, as I learned, was a recipe for hatching crackpot schemes that were sure to make me millions overnight. In other news, I'm still waiting for morning. And also, I became the author of slogans that I thought were funny, cool, and destined to further countless women's hard-fought battles for vagina liberty. Represent.

In keeping with all my networking, reaching out ways, I had become vaguely friendly with the folks over at VDay, Ensler's anti-violence philanthropy event, and was asked to contribute some of my merchandise for their first annual benefit in New York City. (They celebrated thier 10th anniversary not long ago.) I was so excited by it all, that not only did I send boxes of "Vagina" tee shirts to be auctioned off in support of Eve Ensler's flagship foundation, but I went to the event and met Ensler herself. She and her staff were friendly and enthusiastic, and the women I met were nothing but supportive. When I asked where the shirts and mugs I'd sent were located among the other auction items, they told me that everything sold within seconds. I admit: tee shirts at an Eve Ensler benefit is not a tough sell, but I was sure all that was a sure sign that I was going to be featured in The New Yorker at any moment. All told, I'd say it was a net gain. I still consider that year one of the coolest times in my life and remember it like it was yesterday.

And then shift happened, as it will. I became a different kind of writer, a wife, a mountain-dweller, a work-a-day gal, and a mom. I've had ups and downs in my career, a goiter in my neck, a false start on a memoir, a problem with discipline and time management pretty much everywhere. I passed off Saucy Chicks to its co-founder, and now we'll say it's just napping instead of defunct. A literary agent told me quite a few years ago that she considered the vagina thing kind of over with. Moreover, I stopped caring about funny little creative projects that were going to make me--the underdog, the dark horse-- into the heroine as the credits rolled. I think the word is "disillusioned," but I refuse to say it out loud. I admit that I kind of gave up for a good, long while.

And then some dude under the moniker Black Hockey Jesus starts a daddy blog of all things, and really embraces it with the same kind of enthusiasm most people reserve for gambling, or eating hot wings. It made me nostalgic. Inspired, even. Maybe even kind of fired up in the same ways I was fired up over Saucy Chicks, meeting Eve Ensler, my early writing career, technology, and my own creative potential. My tee-shirts and mugs and stupid little shit no one is supposed to care about. I think the word is "hopeful," but I'm not ready to say it out loud. Yet.

While I was at BlogHer '08 this summer, I happened to meet the nice people at Cafe Press. They gave me a free upgrade to a premium shop for a year, which I thought was right neighborly of them. I'm designing shirts again. They make me happy, which I think is important, no matter how many or few I sell. Some of them are more kid-friendly than others. Some are more philosophical, like my forthcoming signature line of What Would Charo Do? tees. And then there's a little special something for the bloggers out there. It's coming. Will you wait for it?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Marriage: The Great Equalizer

The second amendment is alive and well in our house, and that’s because my dutiful husband has started working out again. That means that he exercises his right to walk around the house, bearing his arms, flexing his biceps, asking me if I knew that the gun show was in town.

“BOOM!” he shouts at the top of his lungs, flexing both arms and holding a one-man pose-down in the kitchen. I’ve learned not to react, not to encourage him. I can’t even say something like, “Put the safety on and come to dinner, please.” Doing so only leads to statements like:

“Do you have any duct tape? Because I’m ripped!”
“Do you have any dirty laundry? Just put it here on my washboard.”

Give me strength. (No pun intended.)

There was a lot of this going on during our recent vacation together, which is another blog post entirely, as the painful emotional and mental machinations we go through to get through a flight or a road trip without my trying to leap from whatever vehicle we’re in will no doubt make for some good reading. In short, by the time it’s all over, one of us decides we’re not speaking to the other ever again. Don’t we sound like a lot of fun?

So we were sitting on a tarmac, delayed (as usual) from Chicago to New York, which is always a long, boring story. Alex had already regaled me with talk of his muscles to the point that even he was bored with the whole schtik. And we had already perused the SkyMall magazine, making fun of it throughout, and asking the same question we always ask: “Who actually buys this stuff?” (If it’s you, please write in and tell me how you’re enjoying your Deluxe Jewelry Chest in acrylic, your Embossed Jean Jacket, or your Wonder Woman Cuff Bracelet.)

Switching to the in-flight magazine, I saw Alex flip to the Sudoku puzzle, a first for him. Twenty minutes later, I looked over at the same, blank puzzle. Twisting his pen, scratching his face, he was obviously pained about the whole thing. I took a look over his shoulder and casually entered some numbers—in pen, an event that irked him so that that veins in his forehead were blocking the exit rows.

“Wait!” he cried, snatching the magazine away from my reach. “How do you know that’s even right?”
“You don’t, it’s just an educated guess based on the rest of the numbers.”
“But it could be wrong.”

I left him to his self-torture for another twenty minutes, at which point I had to look again. Still no numbers. “If they had seen you doing these puzzles, they would have called them Slowdoku,” I said, tickled at my own joke. There it was: the point he stopped talking to me for the rest of the trip.

And this is basically what sums up our relationship, ourselves. Alex is afraid to make guesses, fearing they may be wrong, thus rendering the whole thing a failure. And I insist on just going ahead with the guessing, damn the consequences, because at least then you can go on to figure out if you’re right and fix what isn’t. I ask you, which is worse: A blank puzzle, or a messed up puzzle?

Am I oversimplifying everything? Probably. Is it kind of accurate? Absolutely.

It’s just anecdotal proof of what I already knew: That between the two of us, we’re almost a sane person. Without me, nothing would ever actually happen, and without him, all hell would be breaking loose. The silver lining is that we met, and that we both equally hate the Albany airport. It’s a start.