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That time I wanted to pass myself off as Joyce Carol Oates #TBT

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I submitted my first piece of writing when I was seventeen, a story about my first job, working at the employee cafeteria at General Telephone where my mother was a dispatcher. Rolling the 20# white bond backed by a sheet of thin blue carbon paper into my Smith Corona, I typed it out slowly, carefully, on a piece of erasable paper—and mailed it off to Cosmopolitan along with a cover letter. Not just to any editor at Cosmo, by the way, I sent it directly to Helen Gurley Brown. 

The piece itself, meant to be comical, was full of clumsy attempts at self-effacing humor.  I strived for a similar tone in the cover letter I addressed to Brown, completely clueless that the high powered editor in chief wasn’t the one reading unsolicited manuscripts. After I signed off I added the following PS. I could have said I was Joyce Carol Oates. What I thought that would accomplish I can’t imagine. That an unsatisfactory submission would get published because of a lame joke? 

No surprise, in the SASE I’d …

You say it's your birthday? It's my birthday too, yeah.


It's Carey Mulligan's birthday today; she's twenty nine years old. It's mine too. I'm, well, I'm older.
I wish I'd known we shared the same May 28th birthday when I met her at the wrap party for Drive, we might have bonded.

Twenty nine. It can be a tough year. The big 3—0 is approaching, fraught with expectations. It was a bit of a tough year for me but that was back in the day when being unmarried at twenty-nine was still a bit of a bummer. I can't imagine Carey with all her success, gives a damn. Still when I was working as a copywriter at Max Factor, while I loved my job coming up with lipstick shade names, writing package copy and sales brochures, there were still times when I wept over my love life.

It was 1982 and the company was in the midst of launching the Le Jardin fragrance. I was in the middle of a bad romance, and even though An Officer and a Gentleman didn't come out until August of '82, part of me had to be wishing Richard Gere would come into my workplace, sweep me up in his arms and carry me away. That didn't happen and I muddled along, making all the wrong choices*, staying with the wrong man, throwing my career away.

I've been working on a script about that bad romance, that seven year long relationship that ultimately floundered, but right now that's floundered too. It's marinating in my desk drawer.


In the meantime, Photographic Memory is a look back at some of my Max Factor days. 

* Carey's character, Bathsheba Everdene knows a bit about making bad choices having made a couple of her own in Far From the Madding Crowd. I've made my feelings about the movie known on my book to movie site, Chapter1-Take1.

PS  Were you curious? Did you do the math? If I was 29 in 1982 how old am I today? Did you say 62? Gold stars for you, baby! Turning 60 was horrible, I felt so very, very old. It's two years later and I'm younger than that now. I haven't changed anything, I didn't run out and get a face lift but my inner self has come to a place of acceptance, so that at 62 I feel reenergized and revitalized, ready for what's next. Like that ridiculous woman on the commercial who spouts "I'm only in my 60's, I've got a good long life ahead".  But how long? I need to know so I can make smart decisions about important questions like should I take early social security? Oh GOD! Has it really come to this? Yes, Sim, I guess it has!




Comments

  1. Happy Birthday! I had a birthday this month, so I've been pondering these things, too. Nothing was worse for me than turning 30, so far. Every decade after that was an improvement!

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    Replies
    1. I completely agree until I turned 60 a couple of years ago; that hit me pretty hard. I'm much better now; this birthday was a joy.

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