It's short, unequivocal, to the point. I say no at the drop of a hat. I'm good at saying no. I couch it as knowing what is good for me.
Then I have dinner with Louisa Ermelino.
Louisa works in publishing. Late one afternoon, her editor says: "Louisa, I'm the keynote speaker tonight and I've got a conflict. You have to help me out."
"I found myself on a stage," Louisa reports, "looking down at a sea of faces. I had no idea what I was going to say. Then it occurred to me: Louisa, you know more about this than they do. And I started talking. And it was fine."
"I would have said no," I say.
"And wound up at home in bed with a book."
"What's wrong with that?"
"You're not living," Louisa says. "You're in a cocoon. You're not stretching."
Stretching? I have to keep stretching? Haven't I stretched enough? Didn't I support a husband through medical school while going to night school and raising two kids? Haven't I earned reading in bed with a bowl of Grape-Nuts for dinner? Peace, my new drug of choice.
Louisa and I kiss goodnight. Heading uptown, I argue with ME:
ME: "What's so good about a book in bed? Since when don't you take chances?"
I: "I'm relieved about what I'm missing."
ME: "But what are you missing? How do you know?"
I like arguing with myself. Everyone's a winner. By the time the bus drops me off, I've made a decision. Starting tomorrow, for one year, I'll strike no from my vocabulary. Tomorrow morning begins the Year of Saying Yes.
Tim McHenry, an old pal, runs programming at the Rubin Museum of Art. "I'm doing a Friday night movie cabaret," he says. "How would you like to introduce a film?"
I'm not a film scholar. I call films movies.
"Sure," I say. Tim reads his list of esoteric films. None ring a bell till he gets to Viridiana. Viridiana was my first art house movie. It was life-changing, freshman year in college. Will it hold up?
It holds up. I research Buñuel, Franco, and fetishism. What's better than exploring what excites you, understanding what makes it work, then sharing that with like-minded people? The audience asks thought-provoking questions, and Tim presents me with the same kind of white silk scarf the Dalai Lama often wears.
Congratulations! It's a Book!
A new book coming out is like having a baby. No stretch marks, but it's yours to nurture. So yes to the Spencertown book fair in upstate New York even though it costs $210 to rent a car and I only sell one book. And yes to the Caltech Athenaeum High Tea, even though I spend more time flying to Pasadena than in Pasadena. And yes to talking to my friend Patti Rohrlich's book club. "I have a great idea," Patti says. "Since your novel deals with the importance of secrets, let's everybody tell a secret we've never told."
That night Patti asks me to go first. I tell a secret involving my ninth-grade boyfriend, Harry, that once seemed devastating. Tincture of time makes this secret hilarious. Or so I think. But the women sit there frozen. Finally somebody ventures, "Um, how old were you when that happened?" Nobody else will tell their secret. I sell 11 books.