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OutLoud: Uncool

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Sally lets it hang out at a workshop.

By Sally Sheklow

Sally74I joined a new writing group. One of our area’s eminent authors offered a four-week workshop and, since my writing life lacks oomph, I added it to my to-do list.

My overflowing to-do list. I’m already overbooked. I’m way backlogged in Wifely duties—cleaning litter boxes, dumping kitchen compost, expressing affection to my Domestic Partner—and have deep reserves of unopened bills, unfolded laundry, and cobwebbed social correspondence.

Yet here was an opportunity to rededicate myself to my professed life’s work. If   I’m going to be a writer I’d better get with it before entropy engulfs me permanently.

The workshop leader reminded us to bring something to write with, after which she wrote “Duh.” Oh, good, a sense of humor.

What, after all, did I know about this person to whom I was entrusting my fragile writer’s ego and a substantial chunk of my fragile budget? I hoped her little pre-workshop joke was a sign that she’d be gentle with my tender and tenuous literary efforts.

I tucked writing supplies into my Erma Bombeck tote bag, swag from the Writers Workshop in Ohio last spring—my most recent anti-ennui booster. That bag would be my discreet little security blanket, reinforcement that no matter how lapsed my numerous writing resolutions, I am, in fact, a writer. More a reminder to myself than anyone else, but if anyone did happen to notice, that’d be cool.

Tacked to the instructor’s front door was a “Welcome Writers” note, and in smaller font, “Please come in and remove your shoes.” I checked my socks—thin but passable. Note to self: next time wear my blue-striped wool Birken-socks. Much cooler.

A big friendly cat greeted me in the entryway. Flames flickered in the fireplace. A table was laid out with tea fixings and a bowl of popcorn. Cozy. The room, a converted barn, had a high ceiling and assorted chairs circling a thick wool rug. The decor was modern, artistic, Northwest tasteful. A wall of wooden bookshelves evidenced a literary household. Ominous and reassuring at the same time.

I took a seat in a leather easy chair. The leader called us to order and passed around packets. I sussed out the group. Nobody blipped my gaydar, but you can’t always tell at first glance. If my own queerness wasn’t obvious yet, there’d soon be no doubt.

The final activity was to read a page of our own writing. I’d brought a polished piece I felt pretty confident about. The go-round started at the other side of the room, though, leaving me with five other writers to pretend to listen to while I made little editing marks on my own page, tweaking it closer to perfection.

When my turn came I grew uncharacteristically self-conscious. I had to concentrate to keep my voice from quivering. I noticed my foot twitch and willed it to stop. Without losing my careful vocal pacing, I forced myself not to fidget with my hair or touch my face or do any of those other little nervous tics that telegraph uncool. I breathed, read my piece, got a few laughs and even some compliments for which, I strived to convey, I was graciously and humbly thankful.

It wasn’t until we were gathering our coats and putting on our shoes that I noticed my unzipped fly. Completely gaping open. It had been the whole time. My God, while I was worrying about my twitching foot—and all eyes were upon me—my poochy belly, covered only by my cotton tighty whiteys, had been utterly exposed.   How uncool is that?   I could’ve at least worn designer boxers.

Award-winning writer Sally Sheklow zips up in Eugene, Oregon.

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