Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lesson One: Don't actually sit on the baby

Well, my essay rejections are coming in fast and furious, so I’ve been a little busy, what with filing and such. And really, I blush. Some barely seem like rejections at all. I’m pretty familiar around those New Yorker offices, so they ask me whether the rat is finally dead and did I get my brakes fixed.

"Keep pitching us!" They say. "We saw something round and pink fly by, and it smelled like bacon."

So I’m thinking, just as the banana plant so accurately predicted the direction of our economy, can a corn plant do the same for my writing career?

My corn is getting its male bits pretty early in the game, and that doesn’t bode well. I think the stalk should be at least my height before it goes through puberty. Who around here also admitted to detassling corn as one of their nasty kid-jobs (Jean? Petrea?).

Those nasty kid jobs teach you a thing or two. Take babysitting.

That was my profession, from about ages 12 to 14. As a teen-aged babysitter, I could fix hotdogs for the kids and tell them when to go to bed. And if they didn’t eat or wouldn’t sleep, I scraped the dogs into the garbage disposal and we all crashed in front of the TV on the livingroom floor. Really, I felt my true job was to be able to call my mom in case of fire or if one of them died.
But, inadvertently, I learned some stuff.

After the fact, babysitting taught me one has to do a disgusting thing with that diaper before it goes in the washer.

Babysitting taught me how to apply make-up. I’d spend most of the evening in the wife’s powder room, working on my Maybelline eyes. Do you know, moms out there, that every babysitter you hire will rifle through your Estee Lauder? Maybe that’s where you got that cold sore.

Babysitting taught me you don’t ask your boyfriend over when there’s a full liquor cabinet. (Story for another day.)

I find it amazing when someone claims to “love children,” as though children were pudding. One either likes pudding or doesn't like pudding, because all pudding is pretty much the same. But I think we become more pudding-like as adults, once we learn the fine arts of equivocation and compromise. But each child is so much his or her own person until the edges wear away.

And I don't like it. Pudding, I mean.


  1. If only I had gone into words instead of numbers, you're submissions wood now b approved & oui both wood bee famous! In fact, if you had sent with your writing a photo of yourself (sans cap!), well any photo wood do, Angelina Jolie or MF (Megan Fox or Marge Finnegan) would suffice, I can guarantee you would be published!

    Until then, you can keep failing with de satisfaction & knowledge that you're getting one rejection closer to success!!
    KB, remember: 1 success covers a multitude of transgressions.

  2. Speaking of babysitters and Dar's one of Dar Williams' definitive songs.


    Tonight was just great, she taught us the sign for peace
    Now she's made us some popcorn, we've turned out the lights
    And we're watching movies
    I don't understand and she tries to explain
    How a spaceship is riding through somebody's brain
    And there's blood and guts and . . .

    She's the best one that we've ever had
    She sits on her hair and she's tall as my dad
    And she tie-dyed my shirt and she pierced her own ear
    And it's peace, man, cool, yeah, the babysitter's here.

    Her boyfriend is Tom, but we call him the King of Romance.
    He wears an American flag on the butt of his ripped up pants
    and will they get married with kids of their own?
    He says, "Not if she's going to college we won't"
    And he kisses her, oh...
    Someday I'll have a boyfriend just like that.

    She's the best one that we've ever had
    She sits on her hair and she's tall as my dad
    And she got mad at dinner when Tom drank a beer
    But peace, man, cool, hey, the babysitter's here.

    And we all went to see her go dance at the high school
    We made her a big card
    And she told us that she'd be the unicorn wearing the pink
    leotard, and
    There she was leaping up just like she said
    With a sparkling horn coming out of her head
    And she's oh, oh, oh, oh
    (I can't wait to give her the card, I can't wait to give her the card)
    She's the best one . . .

    (OK, so the play was called "The Unicorn" and she was the
    unicorn so that means that the star was my babysitter.)

    But it's Saturday night I can't sleep and we're watching the news.
    She says, "Do me a favor don't go with a guy who would make you choose."
    And I don't understand and she tries to explain
    And all that mascara runs down in her pain
    'Cause she's leaving me, oh

    You're the best one that we've ever had,
    You sit on your hair and you're tall as my dad
    And I'll make you a picture for college next year
    So hush now, Peace man, the babysitter's here,
    The best babysitter's here

  3. Didn't Willy Wonka say a good kid is like a good egg, and you can spot one right away? Grown ups are a different matter.


  4. My love for pudding waxes and wanes but parenting - good, bad, or indifferent - is forever so, maybe not exactly the same.
    Raising corn is much more like raising children and it can, at times, be very distressing. We've been experiencing various ups and downs with it. Yesterday it all went straight into the compost pile, today's was a wonder. Then again, they came from two different plots that are just worlds apart. Early tassels don't necessarily = 0 corn I find. it's complicated. Like being a freelance writer - but I can only imagine.

  5. I like pudding. Chocolate. I'm a terrible baby sitter, watched Fooley Cooley with my young charge once. Save you rejection letters. One day you might be able to publish them as a novel.

  6. You had a boyfriend at 14? or earlier? And walked barefoot a few years after?

  7. I was too short to detassel. All the other kids got to do it, though. I'm from the town they named the corn after.

    After which they named the corn. See? I'm a writer, too.

    K, they said "Keep pitching us." Do you know what that means? It means they want you to keep pitching them. It means that of the 1000 pitches they receive every day, 997 are crap. Of the remaining 3, they only have room to publish 1 and they already did the story about flying pigs. So they want you to keep pitching them because they like your style. Keep at it. You'll get it. They do not send the "keep pitching" request to 998 of the 1000 people who pitch them.

    I should have been getting into the makeup when I babysat. Instead, I got into the refrigerator. It's amazing how much I ate.

  8. I can't decide if I love the Serbian women more or Petrea, salt of the earth. Damn. I love them all. Good on you, AH.

  9. I grew wheat on the world's smallest balcony in Highland Park - wheat is very pretty and satisfying to grow. Not so satisfying to eat.

    What's their (rejection sender's)problem anyway? Don't they know who they are rejecting???

  10. Remember: if you are using FOxfire as your browser to right click the the links that I give you and select 'save page as'

    I am just going crazy loading the iPod--thought I'd share.

  11. I ditto the sports advice of the P re pitching. Keep doing it & you'll starts throwing strikes! I love how P creates metaphors out of her love of sports.

    btw, Scarlett doesn't have to decide how to divide her love - she loves the K9 best.

  12. Yeah, I love them all too. (Fact check: Vanda is Hungarian, Tash is Serbo-Croatian I believe.)

    The babysitter song is a pip!

  13. The closest I came to growing corn was a gas station in Westwood? that used to grow corn where shrubbery would usually go, so I'm not your corn gal, but in the world of submissions, keep pitching is as Petrea describes it, so hang in there.

    wv: palin (computer with a sense of humor)

  14. "In Praise of Mediocrity"

    take some advise from a graduate whose degree was earned at Sybil Brand Adjacent CSLA
    1. "aim for the middle"
    2."good enough is good enough"
    3. don't forget to use lots of random punctuation

    BTW: My employer was a stripper at the Other Ball on Valley. She gave me the cold sore.

  15. Shoot, I should have left off the first graph, it was just for transition purposes.

    I can't believe no one's outting themselves on shoddy babysitter practices. Except me.

  16. Have you considered sunflowers? Or as sunflower?

  17. Ok. I was an excellent babysitter. I never used the mom's make up (eeww!). I never drank their liquor. I probably did make a dent in any cookies or cakes they had hanging around. And although I did let the wee ones stay up past their bedtime, it wasn't usually by much. But then I am, in most ways, a superior person.

    I only wish I got such nice rejections. Usually, I never hear back and just want to crawl in a whole like the sad, pathetic, superior person I feel myself to be.

  18. OK, OK -- I started to write this but it was getting too long:
    Baby sitting - these women did not own make up, so I still don't know how to apply make-up.
    I hope the baby does not have recurring nightmares of being tossed into the air and landing with a bounce on the parents bed. He laughed in delight during the game. And the toddler that bit my arm when he was acting as a snake, I hope he is not frightened of brown bears that have a heavy paw - or actually, maybe that's a good thing. So warning to parents - your teen sitters will NOT baby your babies.

  19. I detasseled corn. Those were actually fun times.

    Babysitting. Ugh. I ate so many ice cream treats intended for the child's good behavior. But the kid was a brat, and I didn't want them to go to waste. I was also extremely enamored of the mom's fancy word processor. :)

  20. Okay, I confess. I used to eat the Sara Lee in the freezer. Then they locked it up and I was very disappointed.
    Now that I think about it, I don't think any of my employers provided interesting snacks. I can be very self-motivated when the need arises, at least the need for snacks.

    Petrea, when I look back on the amount of food I used to eat I'm astonished. Now, when we eat out we usually split something.

  21. And Miss H, I ♥ you whatever you do.

  22. My favorite babysitter of all time was a high school boy, and I remember him as extremely handsome. My sister and I had a terrific crush on Neal (I think we were about 8 & 10 at the time). We must have talked about him constantly, because my dad cancelled his contract after the second night.

  23. Mrs. Setchell was onto me. She started baking pies so there'd be some when I came over. She was a sweetie. I was cute, but well on my way to becoming a porker.

  24. Your babysitter had a contract, KB? I'd like to review that document! Was there a clause that said, "And no matter what, stay out of the barn"?

    My WV is tonight comes from UCLA. It's "diesc."

  25. I gotta give my babysitter/caterer friend these invaluable gems of wisdom on babesitting, gathered by your years of experience. I'm sure these will be very helpful if she were thinking about making BS a career.

  26. What is your essay about?

    Also, I was never a babysitter and sadly enough I don't think I'll ever get a chance. And I'm bitter. I'd love to babysit. I was born to have a kid on either hip! But because I'm 20 and have more qualifications to be in the business world than in the home, no one will hire me!!

    Shawna's Study Abroad

  27. 30 comments in 24 hours?

    What do you pay these people?

    And how did I miss the funniness of the title?

  28. I never put on the makeup but I did commit a fairly serious babysitting faux pas by opening up a box on the bookshelf and discovering a rather sci-fi looking, um, battery powered phallic device. This was done in the presence of the boy I was babysitting who grabbed it from me and went running through the house yelling "Robot penis!"

    I was never asked back.

  29. San Diego FarmgirlJune 15, 2009 at 8:20 PM

    This entire post was one of the best I've read from anyone. Hit home in so many places. (Keep pitching us, though!)


  30. San Diego FarmgirlJune 15, 2009 at 8:21 PM

    ROBOT PENIS? Oh Laurie, that short story practically publishes itself.

  31. Thanks Farmgirl. But you know how a cameo can steal a whole movie? Laurie! My little adventure in make up is oh so tame in comparison. How did that kid know what it was? And did you have to wrest it (shudder) from his grubby little hand? That's ok, I don't want to know.

  32. Laurie: LOL!!! I would have liked to hear the discussion between the parents when they decided not to have you back!!

  33. I babysat my Dad.

    Nice profile picture, Shawna.

    wv: tittiz

  34. Altadena Hiker: This is nothing. You should have gone clubbing on Sunset Blvd. with Laurie in the late 80s. Talk about a scene stealer! ;)

  35. We should have Laurie give us a blogger tour of all the places she made infamous last century.

  36. I must've been polluted when I made these comments here. I don't remember making them.

    "blipt" I was blipy out.

  37. 39 comments? You don't want no stinkin' 39 comments. Let's make if 40

  38. FarmGirl has got the goods on Laurie. That's hot.

    And, I type better when I'm toasted-apparently.

  39. I hope that's not a cry for help Miss Havisham.

    wv: derlict

  40. Cry for help? Oooooh child. You can help me only if you are willing to fall into the pit of eternity.

    Bless your soul.