the smell of my desperation has become a stench

On being a total nutjob

A few weeks ago Jon and I gave an interview to an IT magazine for an article about accidental entrepreneurship. They wanted to know how this website now pays our mortgage when I originally started it so that I could make obnoxious fart jokes online. Short answer: I had to give a lot of head.

It was a phone interview, and they recorded it so that they could incorporate it into a podcast (when it’s posted I’ll link to it here), and I can honestly say that I have never been more uncomfortable giving an interview. One, it was only a couple days after I had discovered that someone I thought was a very cool person was making viciously mean comments about me in a public forum, and every time I answered a question into the phone I could hear in my head how this person would make fun of the way I said things. Two, in order to make sure that they had a clean edit for the podcast, the guy conducting the interview wouldn’t say anything for at least 10 seconds after I answered a question, and that disorienting pause made me think that my thrilling discourse had bored him into a coma.

Halfway through the interview I handed the phone over to Jon and pantomimed instructions for him to take over. It was during one of those miserable 10 second pauses, and I held my thumb and forefinger in the shape of a gun to my temple and then dramatically fell to the floor. There are many reasons I write, and at the top of that list is SO THAT I DON’T HAVE TO LISTEN TO MYSELF TALK. I cannot bear it, cannot remain in the same room if Jon plays a message I have left on his phone because that guttural drawl? IT COULD KILL UNBORN CHILDREN.

Jon rescued me beautifully, answered questions in complex sentence structures, and then afterward assured me that I didn’t sound that bad during the call. Something happens to me when people put me on the spot like that, my brain dissolves into a fine goo and then leaks out of my ear like an infection. Everything goes blank, and to fill the silence I start repeating filler words. My favorite is “actually” because it can be used to express a variety of emotions:

“Actually?” equals “That’s an interesting question, and even though you phrased it to make it sound like you already know the answer, I’m going to gently let you know you’re wrong.”

“Actually.” equals “Hard to believe, I know.”

“ACTUALLY!” equals “While you were asking me that question my two-year-old walked over to the dog and stuck her pinky finger in his left nostril.”

“Actually…” equals “I just lost my train of thought. Maybe this will buy me some time.”

ACTUALLY?” equals “What I’m about to say has absolutely nothing to do with what you just asked me.”

On sunday morning the IT magazine sent over a freelance photographer to take some photos. He showed up with a trunk full of gear — light boxes, tripods, reflectors — and for the first set of shots had all four of us, dooce Mascot Chuck included, sit in a tight group in front of the house. I had a hard time getting Chuck to sit upright because the sunniest spot in the yard was only a few feet away, and he repeatedly fell over on his side and tried to army crawl his way over to it. I tried wrapping my arm around his torso to hold him in a sitting position, but he fell limp around my arm like a fish, his tongue hanging lifelessly out of the side of his mouth. Hi! We’re the Armstrongs, and this is our dead dog.

Leta proved to be the bigger challenge because she was too shy to even look in the direction of the camera. I tried to pry her hands from around my neck, but that only increased her resolve to bury her head in my armpit. I looked at the photographer and told him to ask her if she wanted those chocolate candies that melt in the mouth, and when he spoke those magic letters, that first M followed by its twin, Leta whipped her face around with the force of a rotating planet. When she realized that this stranger had arrived bearing such gifts she was willing to do anything, smile, pose, turn a cartwheel, sell her own mother into slave trade. For three rolls of film she had smudges of chocolate around her mouth in the shape of unruly facial hair. Hi! We’re the Armstrongs, and this is our son.

He took photos for a good two hours, and even set up a series of shots on our bed, the hub of our family’s activity. It’s where we spend the majority of our day writing, eating, and smacking each other with pillows, and to shake things up a bit he had both Jon and I lie on our stomachs with our heads toward the foot of the bed. We were supposed to look relaxed and casual, but I felt exactly the opposite, like I was working up the courage to take it up the butt. Terrified. We had to scrap that position, though, because he said he was getting too much of a glimpse at my cleavage, and I said, what cleavage, and he said enough that it wouldn’t work for an IT magazine, and I said, enough is more than none, and now, if I can manage it, I will remain in this position for the rest of my life.

  • Amie

    2006/06/22 at 8:34 am

    I had to laugh when I read your account of the bed shoot – I’m the same way when it comes to photos, especially when a “professional” is involved. I turn into rigid-faced squinty girl. This is why I actually have a tidbit of respect for models – it turns out it ain’t all that easy to be natural in front of the camera.

  • kaymaria

    2006/06/22 at 8:25 am

    Though there are some that find my “deeper” voice sexy, I hate it because it’s so deep. Didn’t help when I was at a 6-year old girl birthday party and the brattiest little girl attending commented, “You have a man voice.” Bitch.

  • stephanie

    2006/06/22 at 8:28 am

    it’s so easy to ignore all the trolls and all the strangers and all the just plain crazy ignorant people…and yet, even if it wasn’t a real life relationship, it’s impossible to ignore that interent person you thought you were “friends” with or at least cool with. and it does hurt. sorry about that. [clearly, she doesn’t know what she’s missing!]

    and, i HATE the telephone. i commend you for even doing the interview in the first place. it’s fucked up how strange your voice actually sounds compared to how YOU think it sounds inside your head. if there’s a god this is surely a joke he likes to play, alot. i also become a silent idiot when spoken to on the spot, it’s terrible and source of certain anxiety. once i really screwed over a friend and she kept approaching me in public and interrogating me or just plain acting like a nutcase. and i would just stand there and stare at her, which would only infuriate her more. but i really couldn’t think of anything to say, until later when i wrote about it in my online journal.

  • Madame M.

    2006/06/22 at 8:02 am

    Intrigued about backstabber. Hoping you share some more.

    As for those lovely fillers, I prefer the über-pathetic, “Like.” It’s humble; it’s short; it makes me feel young.

    It’s like a wad of bubblegum for the brain.

  • RDZ

    2006/06/22 at 8:09 am

    I broke my brain earlier today, but I remember one of my Linguistics courses (maybe Language and Gender) talking about WHY people use “He was like…” etc in conversation. Apparently, women tend to use it more and, believe it or not, for a very specific reason.

    Instead of saying “Well, he said blahblahblah” some people use “He was like blahblahblah” to mean that he said something more or less resembling “blahblahblah” but not necessarily exactly those words. I suppose it could be an example of using imprecise language to cover one’s ass.

    All this is a complicated way to say that it’s a form of paraphrasing. I say it like, constantly, and people are always all, “aren’t you educated?” and I’m like “shut up, asshole.”

    Language is fun! And language Heather-style is extra fun! Bring on the podcast!

  • Meredith Seiverd

    2006/06/22 at 7:58 am

    I prefer “DE FACTO” to “ACTUALLY” any day. Try it… it throws people off guard.

  • Sophie

    2006/06/22 at 7:51 am

    Ah… you are a breath of fresh air. I can always count on you to give me a giggle.

    I am curious though, do you ever actually (there is that famous, can-be-used-for-anything-word) get to read all the comments? They should be proof enough that, the one asshat being malicious, is just a dork.

    Again? Thank ye muchly for the smiles!

  • Dani

    2006/06/22 at 7:35 am

    Heather, You need to read the Ysrn Harlot’s account of speaking to Martha Stewart on live radio. She too immediately starts swearing and gibbering uncontrollably when it really counts.

  • fefa

    2006/06/22 at 7:36 am

    As a chick in IT with a handful, well two actually, it was for your own safety that no cleavage be visible. Trust me.

    Plus, they probably want people to read their mag or something, not wipe things down with it.

  • Methanie

    2006/06/22 at 6:18 am

    What? Someone is dissing you in public? I will so kick. their. ass. And I’m not normally prone to violence.

    I am sure that you sounded great. I, for one, am looking forward to the podcast.

  • brandy

    2006/06/22 at 6:23 am

    Gosh I wear bras that make me look like I have less boob, although for special occasions I hoist ’em up, there are secrets though that can give anyone cleavage.
    1- bronzer, the kind without glitter can create a shadow that makes cleavage appear, this is more of a night time thing as day time its like “oh your boobs are dirty”
    2- buy a really good pushup bra in a cup size smaller than your own.
    3-those cutlet looking things, they work wonders, and are fun to play with.

    Boobs are over rated. When I wear the flattening bras everyone thinks Ive lost weight AND you have to move big boobs around to sleep right.

    OH and I like your accent! My parents still have me on their voice mail message from 10 years ago, I hold the phone away from my ear when I get it.

  • Muffin

    2006/06/22 at 5:50 am

    My husband uses filler when he’s telling me stories, and if he is repeating what someone said to him he’ll always say “He was like…” and when he is really into the story he’ll repeat it. And if he’s REALLY into the story he’ll repeat it more than once. And then he tacks “You know” onto the end of most sentences. I don’t know what mine are…it used to be “like” but I had an English teacher who beat it out of me by asking, “Is it something or is it like something?” That was so annoying I quit so he’d stop saying that.

  • DivineDiva

    2006/06/22 at 5:53 am

    Girl!! You totally rock! Thanks for bringing me tales from the Utah front! I am a mom of 6..and I run a daycare ..and I am stuck in B.F.E. ,Montana . You completely get me thru the day !I had a choice it’s either you or the vodka, It’s all you !!

  • MichelleM

    2006/06/22 at 6:11 am

    I used to get paid actual money to talk on the radio and that fact never ceased to amaze me. I don’t think anyone is pleased with the way their voice sounds do them when they have to listen to it played back.

    But, Heather, I have to tell you that your voice is lovely and I adore that little twang. Actually.

  • slickwilliejr

    2006/06/22 at 5:20 am

    for the safety of your beloved pink shoes….i would advise returning the clogs immediately.

    general slick willie jr
    clog army

  • Sunni

    2006/06/22 at 5:45 am

    My shrink told me that any form of aggression is an act of insecurity.

    Translation: the person posting mean comments is actually insecure and totally jealous of your bodacious bod, your actual talent of turning mundane life moments into works of literary art as well as your oh so cute family.

  • iamchanelle

    2006/06/22 at 5:15 am

    i think you rock.

  • marian

    2006/06/22 at 5:18 am

    Hard to imagine anyone saying mean things about you. One thing I marvel at is how you seem to exude kindness, even when you’re being snarky. And I for one find your accent charming.

  • WhimsyChick

    2006/06/22 at 4:31 am

    Imagine the joy of having an annoying voice that CARRIES. At my sister’s recent wedding, a relative found me from across the banquet hall by my “unique voice.”


    “Hi! We’re the Armstrongs, and this is our dead dog.”
    “Hi! We’re the Armstrongs, and this is our son.”

    send my loud annoying voice laughing and waking the children.

  • thejoyof

    2006/06/22 at 4:15 am

    I was going to go back to bed this morning but your blog brought some much needed laughs – thanks as always!

    P.S. If we always worried what the bad people think of us we would never be ourselves. Annoy the bad people – continue to be yourself!

  • Pioneer Woman

    2006/06/22 at 2:49 am

    Mine is “sort of”. My friend just interviewed my for a local radio show.

    Things like, “Blogging is a way to…sort of…make your opinions known in a public forum without having to answer to any…sort of…establishment…”
    “My blog is…sort of…about nothing in partcular.”

    It’s a tic. Yuck. I want to hurl all over my shoes when I hear myself speak.

  • signot

    2006/06/22 at 4:09 am

    I think you’d better post about the clogs again The natives are getting upset…they need resolution!! I’ve never posted but I read your site every day (and get quite upset and go into an ugly dooce withdrawl when you go a few days without posting). I’m at home with a 1 month old so I really have no life 😉

  • Cindi in Illinois

    2006/06/22 at 2:49 am

    I work with a lady who constantly uses the sentence, “you know what I’m saying?” as filler in her conversations. She will say it at the end of each comment she makes. In a five minute conversation, she may say that at least ten times! It drives me crazy. One time I couldn’t resist and after she said that for the gazillionth time, I said “Yes, I know what you are saying” but I don’t think she even realizes that she is saying that….you know what I’m saying?! lol

    Re. the meanie who said something rude about you in a “public forum” they are just jealous and insecure. I hope this person isn’t someone you had considered a friend. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

    I love reading your blog and I think you are such a cool person.

  • kim from germany

    2006/06/21 at 10:59 pm

    heather, i LOVE the way you speak. seriously! and i can’t wait for the podcast. i’m sure you were great 🙂

  • Les

    2006/06/22 at 1:42 am

    Can’t wait to hear the podcast, another top bit of writing Heather.
    My Blog at

  • Andreas Berg

    2006/06/22 at 1:56 am

    The worst thing about giving interviews is that you never know if what they write is what you said or meant. Last time a paper quote sentences I am sure I never said. But it had a similar meaning so it was ok.

  • mandee

    2006/06/21 at 10:18 pm

    HAHA oh man, what a good article. anything that includes the phrase “take it up the butt” deserves a medal. with my sinus infection i’m sitting here laughing trying not to choke on my own snot. brilliant.

  • Flambo

    2006/06/21 at 7:30 pm

    Oh my god, you’re just like me! I have to work up the courage to take it up the butt, TOO.


  • TeenSleuth

    2006/06/21 at 7:06 pm

    I feel so incredibly self-conscious about the way I speak at work. Ever since the new crop of interns started, I am hyper-aware of the fact that they are only a year or two younger than me and that someone is going to catch on if I say “like” one more time and decide I must have been brought on staff to manage coffeepot operations. The sucky part is, the more I think about how I do it, the more I do it.

    Question to others: when is my voice going to start sounding “adult?” Do you remember an age when you heard your voice and thought, “I sound like a grown-up”?

  • Kate G.

    2006/06/21 at 6:11 pm

    I gave an interview for a podcast once. It sucked. They were doing construction in the next apartment. I kept hearing that and my dumbass accent (a mix of all the places I’ve ever lived and picking up my interviewer’s Welsh accent) and couldn’t make complete sentences. Then I wanted to kill myself thinking about all the stupid stuff I had said. Next time someone asks for an interview, I’ll send my sister (a well-spoken, if snotty, TV meteorologist) in my place.

    Oh, and if you want cleavage, I’m looking for someone to trade boobs with me. I’ve got enough to go around and would like to have tiny, perky tits instead.

  • MeLKist

    2006/06/21 at 6:35 pm

    I realized I was guilty of “actually” abuse when my 3 year old started answering my questions by saying “actually…” followed by a weighty pause, as though he were preparing to explain a difficult concept to someone with a very low level of intelligence. I can’t wait to see what happens when he gets to the ninth grade and tries to tell me about his geometry homework.

    As for the cleavage, I don’t want for more of it.. I’d just be happy if I didn’t feel that (after breastfeeding 2 kids) I needed to tuck my nipples under my belt.

  • haley-o

    2006/06/21 at 4:47 pm

    Congratulations on all your success. I was introduced (introdooced! heh…) to your site recently, and I really enjoy your writing! You’re terrific with the analogies….your metaphors are always so entertaining and creative. Thank you for entertaining me with your writing. Congratulations again! I look forward to seeing the pics and the article.

  • Nat W.

    2006/06/21 at 4:54 pm

    How in the world could Leta be shy in front a camera??

  • ieatcrayonz

    2006/06/21 at 5:01 pm

    Say the word, and I will crack some knee caps.

  • thrusher

    2006/06/21 at 5:58 pm

    I love, love, love this post!

  • throwingutah

    2006/06/21 at 4:37 pm

    Don’t forget the fun of breastfeeding cleavage. It’s actually better the second time around!

    The Armstrong+Dog Fan Club membership outnumbers the badmouther by about a jillion to one. It’s jealousy. Pooey on ’em.

  • far and away the farthest

    2006/06/21 at 4:26 pm

    Well, I have to put in here that clogs are wonderful things in Texas where the grass may contain fireants. As soon as they show up in Utah, you should give Jon back his clogs.

    If I ran into anyone badmouthing you Dooce it would not change my opinion of you, but of the speaker.

  • Pascha

    2006/06/21 at 4:33 pm

    Keagansmom, I have to disagree with you. While I dislike Jon’s clogs, I work in a hospital and wear dansko clogs. Like you said, nurses. Clogs with holes are ugly, but brown or black dansko’s are kinda cute, and they’re the best possible shoes to wear when you’re on your feet for 8-10 hours without the possibility of sitting down.

  • Shelli

    2006/06/21 at 4:21 pm

    Um, would’nt cleavage be GOOD for an IT magazine – you know, sell more copies?

    I laughed out loud at the description of Chuck not wanting to be photographed.

    Thanks for the visual.

    It made my day.

    Shelli (of Shelli and Narda and Malka)

  • Shalini

    2006/06/21 at 1:39 pm

    Are you going to post about the CLOG WAR? I think you might be drafted into wearing pink clogs if Jon wins the Clog War… would that be so bad?

  • babbling

    2006/06/21 at 1:59 pm

    I was in Amsterdam not long after you, and went to Boom Chicago. At one point during the evening, myself and 3 other people were singled out as part of a comedy skit and asked questions facing a blinding camera in a dark room, which was then transmitted to an enormous screen in front of the entire theater. The first man was asked what he loved, and he said Pooh Bear. He was English,,and seemed cuddly himself. They asked me what I hated. I said “I hate being singled out in front of people, in public, on camera, and made to speak”. Didn’t make for a very funny slant to the skit, but they worked it out. As far as your so called “cool person”,,I just had a day dream after reading that. I dreamed you were given another trip for speaking in a forum, only this time to France. You took Leta. While visiting the Louvre you showed Leta the Venus de Milo and Leta was flapping her arms wondering where the lady lost hers at,,,suddenly a fuse blew on the Eiffel tower light display, creating a city wide power outage, plunging the Louvre into complete darkness. Traffic lights go out, traffic jams, ice machines stop working. Wait they don’t have ice in France, never mind. As mad chaos erupts around the Armstrong family, you and Jon reach for Leta’s hands and as you kneel down in the mass of moving people you call to her. She couldn’t possibly know any sweeter, more comforting, reassuring sound in her entire world than the sound of YOUR voice. The way YOU speak. I know this is silly, and I babble, as always. I recall however a similiar situation to my day dream, when you were beside yourself in an airport, and when you felt the VERY worst, what did you hear? that made such a difference in your heart? Your mom. Calling “Heather”. Screw the people that don’t really matter. The love that Leta will give you? Will make up for 10 million that won’t. And she has better hair.

  • bee

    2006/06/21 at 2:47 pm

    oh god, i use ALL those filler words. uhhh… so actually, you know? yeah.

  • Wicked H

    2006/06/21 at 2:50 pm

    So Jon’s rescue efforts aren’t worth the return of the clogs? Okay, how about just one and then when he steps up to the plate again the other can be returned.

    At least think about it.

  • painterly1

    2006/06/21 at 3:11 pm

    Thank you! This post made my day! You are so f***ing funny!

  • anivyl

    2006/06/21 at 3:21 pm

    ahahaha…. flat chested is still some form of chest too you know, at least better than men’s. it’s still droolworthy, especially on an IT mag!

  • keagansmom

    2006/06/21 at 3:21 pm

    who’s dissin you? I’ll kick their fuckin ASS. And sorry, Jon, but I am totally in the “my man WILL not wear clogs” camp. Clogs are for nurses and lazy people, and are attractive on neither.

  • Charissa

    2006/06/21 at 3:24 pm

    I hope whoever is saying bad things about you gets an ingrown toenail. I’d never wish anything truly bad on someone but I’m not above wishing something terribly uncomfortable on them.


  • The Bold Soul

    2006/06/21 at 3:38 pm

    You didn’t mention which IT mag this was for… don’t forget to let us know when it comes out so we can read the article… cleavage or no cleavage!

  • kristyk

    2006/06/21 at 1:25 pm

    Maybe, if the person is a friend, they were trying to be funny? You are very open and honest about poking fun at yourself [something I still need to work on!] so perhaps they didn’t realize it would be hurtful? On the other hand, maybe they are just mean…

    I’ll give you the advice my dad gave me every morning before school: Remember who you are.

    Don’t let external b.s. change who you are.

    And I LOVE having the links in the sidebar! It is nice to see the sorts of things that interest you.

  • Elle

    2006/06/21 at 1:17 pm

    Hi Heather, I sympathize completely. When I’m put on the spot for anything I freeze up too. Most of the time I come off like a blathering idiot so the fact you could speak in coherent sentences means you’re miles ahead of me. Also glad to hear your cleavage saved the day. God knows mine has saved me time and again.

    The part I’d like to address specifically, however, is the first paragraph, because it seems to me we’re having a bit of a “moment”. You know those moments where you share a thought a complete stranger has had in approximately the same time frame they’ve had it, and the resulting realization leaves your skin feeling all funky? Those moments.

    I was doing dishes this morning, standing at the sink thinking back over your blog and how much I enjoy it. I marveled and questioned myself “Other than being a fantastic writer (which you are) and a general hoot (no question), I wonder what Heather does to achieve such ginormous traffic? And more importantly, might it be something I’d be able to do too?” Well, you know how that paragraph ends and there we are.

    You continue to write well and bring enjoyment to millions while I ponder just how far I’m willing to go to get a few more readers. It’s a good bet not *that* far. I wouldn’t be averse to letting the IT mag shoot my cleavage, though, as long as they got the twins from their good side.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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