One halcyon morning during my June Cleaver period, my two year old son Will baffled me by vehemently and repeatedly declaring, “Doan wanna panka! Doan wanna panka!” It took me some moments to decipher the meaning of this cryptic utterance, but eventually I got it. He was saying, “Don’t want no pancakes!” This surprised me. Didn’t everyone want pancakes? Pancakes with syrup? I myself have not tucked into a pancake for over forty years, but I’ve been on a diet since the age of twelve. He was two. What was wrong with him? Why didn’t he want pancakes?
The phrase has stuck with me, like my daughter Sabrina’s existential question at the age of two when she woke to find herself in her first motel: “Where is me?” or her sister’s crie de coeur from the back seat of the car as we embarked upon a road trip: “On bacation! On bacation! Oh my God, on bacation!” (Linguists, note how cunningly the little minx swapped the voiced labial sounds ‘ b’ and ‘v’.) ‘Doan wanna’ has become what I say to myself whenever there is something other people assume I will enjoy doing, which I will distinctly not.
Case in point: book launches. I do not enjoy book launches. Let me tell you why. I am afraid no one will come. Lest you think me paranoid, I have given plenty of readings to audiences consisting entirely of my husband, my children and homeless people trying to keep warm.
Or maybe some people will come, but they will do so because they feel obligated to. They don’t actually want to be there. They want to be anywhere but there. I know I do. So on top of feeling anxious and unloved, I feel guilty for ruining their evening.
When I was a tweenie, attending Mrs. English Bagby’s Cotillion (and, no, I did not make up; Mrs. English Bagby was all too real ), we would have two card dances a year – one in the Spring and one at Christmas. The week before the big dance, all the girls would be given cards, which the boys would then fill. In other words, Billy would come over and book the first dance, then Bruce would ask for the second, then that dreamy Martin would request the waltz . . .
If you were my friend Lucinda!
Not if you were me.
Luckily for me, Lucinda was a wheeler dealer. “You can have the third dance,” she would tell the poor unfortunate, “but only if you dance the fourth dance with Missy.” (Yes, I was called Missy in those days. It was the South, after all.) The look on that wretched boy’s face when he realized that the price he must pay for holding the buxom Lucinda in his arms was overweight, bespectacled, metal mouthed, spotty-faced me . . . . If I hadn’t been so pitifully grateful not to be sitting out yet another dance with Angie, my fellow wall flower, my cup of desolation would have been half empty rather than half full. All the more so because Angie, a stick-thin albino with a forest of protruding teeth, did not attempt in any way to hide her anguish, but moaned and sighed and countered my every attempt to cheer her up with statements like: “I’m going to hurl myself from the roof. Then they ‘ll be sorry!”
My son grew up to be a personal trainer and a nutritionist. Clearly he knew what he was on about when he voiced his opposition to the sugar and fat extravaganza that is a stack of pancakes. I was reminded of that recently when considering whether to orchestrate a launch of my newest novel, Surface Rights. I stayed up all one night, feeling utterly sick at the prospect. The next morning I looked at myself in the mirror and said, ‘ I doan wanna. I just plain doan wanna.’ I remembered my reaction when I discovered that my father, who for years ate granola and yogurt for breakfast, was now mawing down a Krispy Kreme donut instead: “He’s ninety one years old. He can eat whatever the Hell he wants for breakfast.” Well, I am sixty one years old and I don’t want to have a book launch. I doan wanna. So I’m not going to.
So, please, Gentle Readers, consider this my book launch. Surface Rights, published by Dundurn Press, is out today. You can order it through Amazon (http://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Surface%20Rights) or Chapters (http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/surface-rights/9781459707153-item.html?ikwid=Surface+Rights&ikwsec=Home). Buy it. I would be forever grateful.