The Slippery Year started as a “Modern Love” column in the New York Times. What motivated you to turn it into a book?
My original title for the Modern Love column was Green Eggs and Van. The essay was to my mind about the ambivalence, okay, the hatred I felt for my husband’s five-ton, tricked out, jacked up, four-by-four van with after-market hydraulics that he ordered off the Internet and now wanted me to go camping in. I thought it was a catchy title (as well as an homage to one of my favorite authors, Dr. Seuss) but apparently the Times did not. They changed the title to A Diesel Engine Woke up My Marriage and in doing so revealed to me the real meaning of the essay that I was doing my very best to ignore. “A Diesel Engine Woke up My Marriage! What an uninspiring, utterly accurate and therefore very annoying title,” I sputtered to anybody who would listen. That’s when I knew I had a book.
What did you discover about yourself through the writing process?
I discovered that I could get to the meaty stuff by backing up into it, which is basically my new approach to life. The Slippery Year isn’t a typical tell-all memoir mostly because I don’t believe in telling it all. It’s more of a tell-some memoir by which I mean I traffic in some seemingly benign subject matter like how slowly people shop at Trader Joe’s and just how annoying that is which then brings me around to a more meaningful realization, like we’re only allotted a number of perfect minutes where everything is as it should be and the thing I’m most afraid of is that those minutes are running out. In writing this book I found out that pretty much everything, from scrambled eggs, to overdue library books, to forcing your son to wear your Halloween costume from college because you’re too lazy to run out to Target on a Tuesday night to buy him a new one can be squeezed and a deeper truth extracted.
Young women, in particular, have been told they can “have it all”—careers, families, love, excitement . . . But the reality seems far from it sometimes. As someone asking “Is this all there is?” what’s your perspective on the debate?
I grew up with a feminist mother who two days after my son was born sat me down and asked now when you are going back to work? Personally I’m with Barbara Walters on this: you can have it all, just not all of it at the same time. I think this is true for men as well as women. It applies to dogs and children and plants, too.
Well, I was all set to write a sequel to The Slippery Year called The Sticky Year, an entire memoir written on stickies (post-it-notes) but luckily my friends talked me out of this. Kidding aside, I do have another book in the works. All I can tell you is that there will be dogs in it, and men and women and children and paint and butter, but not necessarily in that order.