I’m excited. And nervous. Monday, I start workshopping my solo show. The first assignment from the coach? Write your life story in one page or less. The glorious thing about an assignment like this at my age is that it is all in the edit.
My Life Story
The most revealing thing about me, in terms of my life story right now, is the fact I don’t own a cell phone. Not owning a cell phone in an age and a world defined by that device, probably speaks volumes about a certain disconnect—a disconnect that dates back to childhood.
I was born, the eldest of three, in a small Connecticut town. My father was a hugely charismatic and ambitious man who made a fortune selling shoes while my mother inherited a fortune from a family that made hats. Despite this peculiar affinity and a shared passion for reading, they did not get along.
Like my mother before me, I left home at 10 years old for the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Albany, NY. This was a boarding school for young girls that also functioned as a nunnery. I did not become a nun. Instead, I left hurriedly (I seem to have left many places in my life hurriedly) for Simon’s Rock, an early college now known as Bard, There I remained until my departure for a spring semester in Paris. A spring semester that soon turned into summer, fall, winter, and yet another spring and summer before a belated return home.
I left home, again hurriedly, to finish college—a blessedly lengthy process that entailed a short, depressing stint at Mc Gill in Montreal and at N.Y.U where I majored in French medieval poetry. This was a subject that inevitably led to a career in advertising. I loved advertising. Not only was I paid to think—the greatest luxury of all —I also earned more money for a three word tagline than I would later earn for a 60,000 word book.
My memoir, The Nearly Departed or My Family & Other Foreigners, was published to very quiet acclaim in 2004. My satire/novel, The Craigslist Murders, was published to even quieter acclaim in 2011. I long for somewhat louder acclaim—the kind I associate with 20,000 screaming fans at a concert venue.
I have been married for thirty years to the same man and am the mother of two extraordinary ‘adult children.’ All of whom own cellphones. I am currently working on a show, Jay Z and me, a Talking Memoir, which I hope to perform at some point before I am on a walker.
So the only time I feel even remotely famous in this town is when I see somebody racing towards me on the street, grinning and waving…
Oh fuck, I shriek to myself, tearing through the little that’s left of my mind, my memory.
Then they hug me. And I hug them back.
Brenda, Brenda! How ARE you?
WHO are you, I’m thinking.
Now, if you’re famous like Jay, you meet so many people you’re not
expected to remember their names.
If you’re NOT famous like me and you can’t remember their names, you’re an asshole.
The times when I do recognize a face can be even more embarrassing.
Oh my God, R. Isn’t that the guy who was in that movie with what’s her name?
No, Brenda. That’s a waiter at Bar Pitti.
Oh, right. I knew he was familiar.
Speaking of waiters and names…For thirty years, I’ve been using an alias at restaurants all over the Village. My alias is Ms. Davis.
Good evening, Ms Davis. Lovely to see you again, they say.
Or: That’s a Stoli martini up with an olive, Ms. Davis?
It took Frank at Il Cantinori eight years to finally work up the nerve and ask me why I always paid with a credit card that said Brenda Cullerton.
Of course, this alias thing makes perfect sense if you’re Jay and you’re trying to keep a low profile. Or if you’re in fucking Witness Protection. But me? Who the hell am I hiding from? I mean, I spend half my life, wondering why nobody recognizes me. For my writing, anyway. And I’m out there, using an alias.
The only name I seem to have no problem remembering is my own. If you had any idea how many times a day I type my own name into Google… Well, you’d think i was a total egomaniac. But it isn’t ego, OK? I Google myself to check and see if anything’s happening in my life; something maybe I haven’t heard about yet. Which is sort of like checking Spam for job opportunities. Something I also do. Or reading my horoscope. Which I no longer do. Because unless the horoscope says, Today, you will sit alone in your house and speak to noone or get up and scrub the floor for the godzillionith time with a Brillo pad, the horoscope would be wrong.
Actually, I believe the only time horoscopes are RIGHT is when they predict all the shit that will go WRONG in your life. Like the night of September 28th when Susan Miller at Astrology Zone told me and fellow Aries to “hunker down and stay home…” I’m not kidding. That’s what she said…