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.