But why should not the truth be spoken of this region? Is the truth harmful? Has it ever need to hide its face? -Mark Twain
Several years ago I took a job working as a cashier at Victoria’s Secret. And several years later I made the grave mistake of telling people I was writing a book about the experience.
Perhaps you’ve been in a similar situation. Maybe not the selling-thongs-for-a-living part, but the having-an-idea-for-a-book-and-thinking-it’s-a-great-idea-to-tell-people-about-it part. If you have, you likely know two things: 1. That saying you’re writing a book is a hell of a lot easier than actually writing a book, and 2. Everyone–EVERYONE–remembers that you’re writing a book.
For example, I might meet someone for the first time at a party; they’ll learn about my having been a bra salesman; and then I’ll tell them that, actually, I’m writing a book about the experience. It’s good space filler, and a nice distraction from their thoughts of “Who the fuck is this weirdo?” But two years later, I’d see this person at another party and, without fail, they’d ask, “So…how’s the book going?!”
The only thing worse was getting the same question from family, as they’re more-than-accustomed to my grandiose declarations from years of hearing me make them. Before the book, it was that I was going to the University of Pennsylvania to become a plastic surgeon. And before that, it was that I moving to Nashville to become the next Tim McGraw.
So if this column is anything, it’s an answer to anyone who still asks me, because most have given up at this point, “How’s the book going?”
Or, it’s an answer to the other question I usually get: “You’re still trying to write that thing?”
This one comes from friends who have either read this material exhaustively over the past seven years, or listened to me read it live at storytelling shows. They don’t say it meanly. I’m not hurt by it. It’s just their way of suggesting that maybe it’s time to move on, to perhaps write about something different.
And I don’t disagree with them. Twice in the past three years, I’ve thought, “I think I’m ready for new things. I think I’m done with this Victoria’s Secret stuff.” Only to find it, once again, returning as my creative focus.
Elizabeth Gilbert put it best, saying that writers, storytellers, spend their entire lives chasing stories; but sometimes, instead, the story chases the writer. And that’s what I’ve resigned to being true in my situation: For whatever the reason, this story won’t let me do anything else with my life until I’ve given it the proper telling it feels it deserves–whatever that looks like.
So if this column is anything else, it’s an answer to this constant pestering. And a prayer that, once and for all, I finally get it right.
Will it be a book in the end? Likely not. But we don’t have to tell anyone that.
P.S. (or A Few More Notes from the Author)
Each week, this column will cover a different lesson I learned from my time as a cashier/bra salesman at Victoria’s Secret, hence the very un-clever title “Lessons from a Bra Salesman.” I will begin at the beginning (Oct. 2009), and chronologically cover the events that transpired throughout the following year–ie, getting dumped by my girlfriend, taking a job folding women’s underwear, and being shocked on a daily basis by what I saw and/or heard. Overall, there’ll be 52 articles total. Or something like that.
For privacy’s sake, I’ve changed the names and descriptions of almost everyone involved in this story, particularly my coworkers and ex-girlfriends. Other than that, it’s as truthful as memory will allow. I kept a journal during the entire experience, and will draw on it heavily for inspiration, or for entire articles when the moment calls for it. Either way, though, they’ll be highly edited, because…they’re journal entries. And I’d be mortified if anyone saw how I actually write.
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