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.

  • carrie

    2006/06/21 at 9:23 am

    Ohh.. at least you get to have fun with your job and its not working for the “MAN” and living in complete hell daily because your job sucks so hard a donkey couldn’t get off!

    I am sure you did fine with the phone interview. And its always nice to hear someone whos accent falls into the same “area” as my own. My own boyfriend tells me I’m a hick when I talk .. Tough Love I tell ya

    Even if you think its all crazy like .. He told you that your boobs were too big for a picture. That is ALWAYS A POSITIVE ! !

    side note.. Jon .. I have the clogs too.. Ohh they are heaven!!

  • the niffer

    2006/06/21 at 9:28 am

    Fuck you’re funny.

  • Karen Rani

    2006/06/21 at 9:29 am

    Clearly, that dude wasn’t the one asking for your “sexual picture” months back.

    “Actually” is one of my overused words too. So much that Troll Baby is constantly saying, “Actuwawee Mommy.”

    Your post cracked me right up. Congrats on the interview.

    Oh and sorry to hear someone was being baggish about you somewhere. That sucks. Some people’s kids.

  • dancingnancy

    2006/06/21 at 9:31 am

    “Uni” – thanks June for reminding me of my time studying abroad in Australia! That’s “university” or “college” for the Americans.

    When I speak in public I don’t even HAVE a word to fall back on…I just fumble, mumble, and look around as I wait for the blood to pool in my cheeks, or until the earth mercifully swallows me whole.

    The haters are just jealous. Just like the rest of us, they’d KILL to pay off their mortgage while working at home…part time….ugh, I’m going to go slink back to my 8 – 5 office job now…….

  • G Zombie

    2006/06/21 at 9:31 am

    I lauged out loud at your description of Chuck suddenly turning boneless. Thank you.

  • Sandra

    2006/06/21 at 9:32 am

    Meanies stink!

    I’d have thought those IT types would have loved a bit of Very Famous Blogger Cleavage.

  • Amy at Fannfare

    2006/06/21 at 9:42 am

    I heard a podcast with you and Kottke and thought you sounded great. Smart, confident. Congratulations on the interview, cleavage or not!

  • Tara Whitney

    2006/06/21 at 9:47 am

    i wish i could photograph you guys. i think we would have fun.

    cant wait to hear the podcast.
    i just did one myself, and was SO worried about what i sounded like. that when i actually heard myself i was pleasantly surprised that i dont sound like the screechy nasally witch that i hear in my head.

    i am sure we will all fall in love with the guttural drawl.

  • Kassi Gilbert

    2006/06/21 at 9:19 am

    too much cleavage for an IT magazine? Have they SEEN the guys who work in IT? Have some mercy, show them the cleavage. 🙂

  • Angela

    2006/06/21 at 9:17 am

    That person that made mean comments about you is just jealous.

    Because you are fabulous.

  • Snickrsnack Katie

    2006/06/21 at 9:15 am

    First off, I am sorry that someone was saying mean, hateful things about you. There are always going to be haters out there. And it never gets easier to deal with. But just know that 99.9 pecent of us think you are awesome.

    I really laughed hard at this post – just the thought of Leta sitting there grinning with a chocolate moustache and Chuck squirming around looking for his sunny spot really made me chuckle. Thanks for a pick-me-up to an otherwise lame ass day.

    You rock, Heather.

  • Snickrsnack Katie

    2006/06/21 at 9:17 am

    Oh, and forgot to add that I HATE MY OWN VOICE. I guess it is because we hear our own voices through our own thick craniums and we sound way different in our own minds. And then when you have to hear how it really sounds, it is embarrassing. I always think “Good LORD, do I always sound that northern? And is my voice THAT high pitched?” How have I survived this long in the business world with that lame voice?

    He who invented the answering machine must be shot.

  • di

    2006/06/21 at 9:09 am

    You’re so wonderfully normal! Thanks for sharing your life with us.

  • madge

    2006/06/21 at 9:12 am

    Viciously mean comments suck. But not as badly as not working up enough courage and gettin’ it anyway.

    Thanks for the laughs. (Now must go find M&Ms…)

  • Dayna Lee

    2006/06/21 at 9:13 am

    Ahhh classic fodder of the blurbodoocery. It’s great. I love it!

  • Mlwooten

    2006/06/21 at 9:13 am

    I love this post..

  • rivetergirl

    2006/06/21 at 9:15 am

    At least “actually” can have many meanings. I teach an art appreciation class at the local college here and during my lectures I’m prone to use the work “aaaaannnnd” to fill the gaps and the syllable/sound “muh.” Yeah, it’s not good. Who in the hell says “muh”? Oh, right, me. But I get to show pictures of boobs and man parts and generally talk about nekkid people so my class is always full.

  • The Mighty Jimbo

    2006/06/21 at 9:08 am

    “working up the courage to take it up the butt”

    so the biggest smile i have had all week.

    nothing like a little anal sex reference to make for a happy morning.

  • solaana

    2006/06/21 at 9:00 am

    For some sad reason, my filler word is “…yeeeeeah…” a la the boss from Office Space. It’s disturbing, to say the least. And drawls are awesome. My sister-in-law, from freaking Boston, has acquired one after living in Texas for only a year so far. So they’re obviously also contagious. Long live the “y’all:” the safest way to address any group of people yet invented.

    And M&Ms = life. Good that Leta’s got that part down already.

  • smoness

    2006/06/21 at 8:58 am

    I can’t wait to read it! And, Dear GOD, I cannot stand the sound of my own voice either. I’m sure YOU’LL sound just fine, though.

  • William

    2006/06/21 at 8:59 am

    An IT mag can’t show cleavage? They could just add another T.

  • Ang

    2006/06/21 at 8:56 am

    I hate to hear messages I leave as well. It’s not a twang or anything, just the sound of my voice. Makes me cringe. And I always end up saying something dorky!

  • Lisa V

    2006/06/21 at 8:53 am

    Exactly how much head do you have to give? Because my damn car needs an $800 repair, and I am thinking of turning tricks to pay for it, so help me out with the math here. How much head to pay for a new knock sensor?

  • BigA

    2006/06/21 at 8:54 am

    I bet if Jon had been working some man cleavage as well they would have run with it.

  • monkey

    2006/06/21 at 8:56 am

    Very familiar with the brain goo occurrence…same thing happens any time I walk into a store for one particular item, which I managed to not write down. And phone calls are worse because I get distracted and stop listening. Ugh.

  • Heather

    2006/06/21 at 8:49 am

    I love your blog, Heather! And as another flatchested Heather, I can completely relate to all of the posts lately about “big” boobies, or the lack thereof!

  • Vaguely Urban

    2006/06/21 at 8:47 am

    That’s the kind of analogy they should have on the SAT:

    M&Ms are to LETA

  • slickwilliejr

    2006/06/21 at 8:45 am

    give jon his clogs back!!

    something bad will happen to your pink shoes!!!

  • fred

    2006/06/21 at 8:46 am

    enough to bee too mhc for an IT magazine? i dont remember the last time our company’s other IT guy (not me) saw some clevage..

    Never enough I say.

    you lead sunch an intresting life… there should be a DOOCE channel. ALL DOOCE ALL THE TIME.

  • Beth

    2006/06/21 at 8:43 am

    can’t wait for the podcast. I am sure you don’t sound that bad.
    Post the pics too!

  • apuraja

    2006/06/21 at 8:44 am

    yes cleavage is too much for an IT mag. I’m an IT guy and just seeing the words “I had to give a lot of Head” on this website, makes me quiver! lol.. now there’s all kinds of video thoughts swirling in my head.

  • Nancy

    2006/06/21 at 8:43 am

    I like your left sidebar with your personal links, favorites, etc. . . . but I’m worried about the right sidebar–you have a mortgage to pay and a dog to feed!

  • jenlovely

    2006/06/21 at 8:39 am

    my favorite fillers are “umm” and “uhh..yeah”.

    and screw the haters, i think you’re wonderful heather. silly accent and all.

  • Valerie

    2006/06/21 at 8:41 am

    I remember when I first heard what my voice sounded like on a tape recorder. I was horrified and desparately wished that people heard the beautiful sing-song voice I heard in my head rather than the stuffy-nosed, head-cold like sound I was projecting.

  • Talon

    2006/06/21 at 8:42 am

    Yeesh…I had to switch to a different browser to get typekey to let me log in…

    I usually say that I drop about thirty IQ points when I talk on the phone. Bleah. Much prefer writing.


  • Molicious

    2006/06/21 at 8:33 am

    Good luck with that one. No matter what position I’m in it’s extremely difficult to get some cleavage. I’m jealous. Even if it’s just a little.

  • schadenfreudette

    2006/06/21 at 8:34 am

    thank you for so exquisitely describing exactly what happens to me when i try to speak in public. which is why i write as well…

  • Jenorama

    2006/06/21 at 8:38 am

    I can relate. The current tagline on my blog is based on a comment somebody left on an evaluation of my keynote address recently:

    (My last name): “You know… You know… You know…” Irritating.


  • AnitaBonita

    2006/06/21 at 8:38 am


    Yeah, pooey on the person saying mean things.

    But boy are you inspirational that life just flows and sometimes the worst things turn out to be the best.

    Yay for the boobs!!!! (although I wonder if the IT folks would just freak out over the sight of any boobage)

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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