So last night I returned home from work to find two packages waiting for me. One was from Amazon (that could only be good news), and the second was from The Publication that is running “my” article this coming month. Since I signed on for another article (what the hell was I thinking) I thought, perhaps, they had sent a galley of the book that would be at the center of the new piece, so I tore it open. To my dismay, I found the new issue.
C was there and seemed quite excited, but I refused to take the magazine out of the package. I just couldn’t deal. But he insisted and opened it up as I left the room. “Do me a favour,” I said as I walked away, “just check the contributor’s page and make sure they didn’t make me sound like an idiot.”
I had, a month previously, filled out a questionnaire from which they would pull information to include next to my photo on the contributor page. The questions were a bit silly and, while I answered most of them as thoughtfully and honestly as I could, I was also a bit annoyed. At one point, I made an offhand joke to my own editor and our publisher–answering one of the questions facetiously. They thought it was hilarious and both insisted I should include that as part of the form. And I did, because they seemed so tickled and because, of course, with all the other better content, I assumed they would omit it without a second thought.
How incredibly stupid of me.
Not only did they print the somewhat bitter joke, they printed it out of context. By failing to include the questions that made my answer a punchline, it now reads as a somewhat inscrutable, possibly mean, and quite unfunny response to god only knows what.
And the thing is, it’s not the joke itself I find embarrassing. What I can’t stand it that I feel as though I’ve been stupid about every single step of this process. I was foolish to try and write a piece that didn’t conform to the magazine’s established conventions without expecting to have it horribly altered. I was foolish to make a joke in a questionnaire that I did expect to be published. (How many times does some idiot have to post something silly on their facebook or twitter only to find that is precisely the thing people latch onto? I have not been living in a cave; I should have known better.) And the most galling part of all is that I am still trying Impress My Friends with my insouciant attitude–when I am forty-fucking-one and that’s not at all who I am or have ever been.
I cried for an hour after he read what they wrote. I made him put the magazine in the recycling without ever laying eyes on it. I woke up every hour wracked with panic and regret. My poor husband didn’t know what to do with me because he doesn’t see it as a big deal at all. He told me over and over I was the only person who would even care. But it was so much more than a silly mistake.
I was not true to myself and willfully ignored my better nature. While I could blame all these things on The Publication, the truth I know in my heart is that every single thing that went wrong was, in varying degrees, my own fault. As a result, my very first legit paid writing job is a complete wash. From beginning to end it is the worst possible representation of me. It’s the kind of thing that, if I saw it in a magazine, I would think, wow, I could do so much better.
And I could. But I didn’t.
And now all I want is to quit quit quit everything.