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June 2007

Paging Dr. Laura

What the Dead Know

Oh brave new world -- one of my young friends has announced his engagement via his blog. Certainly, it's an efficient way to get the word out, and it's also in character for Bryon, who has always been candid about all aspects of his life, whether it's his professional ambitions or a painful break-up. (Bryon has been so open that close readers of his blog will recognize the ex-girlfriend who shows up in the comments section to congratulate him on his engagement.) I am tempted to chalk this openness up to generational differences, as New York magazine recently did. But then I think of other young bloggers who reveal almost no personal information about themselves -- her, her, and him, for example -- while there are those close to my age and older who have never stinted on personal details.

In terms of what I disclose, especially on the web, I fall somewhere in the middle. Those who read this site closely know that it purports to reveal only one piece of personal information -- but perhaps that assertion is a lie. Furthermore, I've allowed some misinformation to stand in the "unofficial" biography section -- partly out of laziness and partly because I don't see any downside in misleading people about my actual address. My blog charts professional milestones and childhood memories, but is otherwise vague about most of the things that have happened to me since the age of 25 or so. As in The X-Files, the truth is out there, but I'm not handing out any road maps.

Still, it's June, a popular month for weddings, and my young friend is engaged. My extended family, having completed the bar mitzvah gantlet, realizes that marriage will provide our next cycle of celebrations. Do I have any advice for young couples? Do I have any right to give advice to young couples? Probably not. Then again, I have a similar relationship history to this guy -- except for the abuse allegations -- and, unlike the other Dr. Laura, I have never posed nekkid. So here's my two cents: Separate your stuff.

I'm not talking about books and CDs and furniture, although, being the sadder-but-wiser-girl, I do advocate putting your name in your books now. I'm talking about your stuff -- your idiosyncrasies, your fears, the tenets rooted in the dubious rationale of but-we-always. As in -- but in my family, we always did it that way, so therefore it's the right way to do it.

Years ago, to cite just one example, I had a boyfriend who challenged me on the right way to install a roll of toilet paper. His mother belonged to the Church of Over, apparently, whereas I was kind of a toilet paper nihilist, maintaining it just didn't matter. My indifference seemed to bother him even more than the possibility that I was affiliated with Temple Beth Under. "Over or under, Laura, but don't tell me you don't care!" Things escalated. He pointed out my reckless promiscuity with the toothpaste, which left behind unsightly smears in the sink. This was undeniably true, although perhaps not as grave a fault as his promiscuity with, um, promiscuity, which left . . . oh, never mind. It was a long time ago and he was actually a pretty good guy.

Which brings me to another piece of advice: For every personal habit in your significant other that drives you crazy, try to identify one of your own that is equally annoying, then ask yourself if you're willing to change your behavior as part of a quid pro quo. A purely hypothetical example: I'll stop leaving my shoes all over the house, if you stop putting your shoes on the kitchen counter and the dining room table. If you know, in your heart of hearts, that you cannot stop kicking your shoes off - in the living room, in the middle of the kitchen, in the bathroom -- then you have to forgive the other person's bad habit, or find another one to swap. (Really, though, is it ever permissible to put footwear on surfaces where food is prepared and eaten? Is that disgusting or what? Hypothetically, I mean.)

If you're looking for Internet role models for matrimonial stability, I nominate this blogger's husband and this blogger's wife. The former can fix things. The latter allowed her husband to tape bacon to the cat.

Oh, and one last piece of advice, Bryon: Put your name in your books. Now.

Taking Care of Business

It was announced at BookExpo America that What The Dead Know is one of five nominees in the mystery category for the Quill Awards. If I understand the process -- it seems to have changed since the Quills' inception in 2005 -- booksellers and librarians will sign up to become registered voters, then choose the winners via Internet balloting. The general public gets to vote on the "Book of the Year." Vote early and often, even if it's for Michael Connelly. By the way, when I was looking for a link to the nominees, I found this 2006 entry on M.J. Rose's blog and all I can say is -- thank you M.J.! It's alarming how charming I feel after reading something like that.

I don't link to all my reviews, but this one in Salon (registration required) was particularly gratifying. Laura Miller is my new favorite Laura, with Laura Ingalls Wilder moving down to #2. (I've never even cracked the top five. It's a very competitive list.)

Download an in-depth interview with Laura here.

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