Sara Stewart, reporter at the New York Post, contacted me via email last Monday. She wanted to talk to me in relation to an article she was working on about homeschooling. Specifically, she wanted to talk to the creator of the Bitter Homeschooler’s Wish List — that “legendary (per Andrew O’Hehir at Salon)” piece of writing. Snicker. I Am Legend. She said so.
Which of course just buttered me right up, and I wrote back in my least bitter tone expressing my great willingness — nay, happiness — to discuss homeschooling (bitterness optional).
Maybe the contrast between my voice in the email and the “Don’t *** With Me” tone of the List threw her. Maybe the fact that as hard as I try to be civilized, I couldn’t resist signing off with the same structure of signature line she used, with job title and name of employer-publication — except that mine read “Editor and Head Ranter, SHM.” At any rate, she never wrote back. Which makes me sad.
(“She could have been busy,” my 12-year-old son, Mr. Mature, points out as he reads over my shoulder. Actually more like in my lap. Which also makes me sad. Numb, anyway, since he now weighs almost as much as I do and he’s sitting on me. A lot. Thinks he’s a kitten who can just curl up anywhere he wants to at will. Has anyone seen my inhaler?)
(Now he wants to type for me while I dictate and rub his back. He’s trying to convince me that this is more than a fair trade — it’s positively generous on his part. Yeah, right.)
Anyway. There I go, scaring off publicity I could actually use. And I wasn’t even trying to be scary.
Right after I got that email, my husband, Mr. Monitors Every Electronic Word Anyone Says About Little Miss Bitter, showed me that the Wish List got posted on a Catholic web site, New Advent. I hope I will not be accused of offensive irreverence when I say that heaven only knows why it landed there. It’s true that I was raised Catholic, but I don’t mention that anywhere on the list and I promise that the Catholic church isn’t responsible for any of my bitterness. The fact that I have to walk six stinky city blocks for my favorite chocolate (Lake Champlain Rum-Caramel-filled Dark) is responsible for my bitterness. And I hold no religious body responsible for that painful fact.
So then some guy who only saw the Bitter List because of the New Advent posting blogged about me. He’s not a fan of the Bitter. He doesn’t think the list is funny at all. (He’s big on random italics, too.) He really hopes that now someone will write a wish list of things that homeschooling parents should and shouldn’t do “so as not to give the world the impression that homeschoolers are bunch of defensive, cranky, complainers [sic].” I’d get to work on that right now, but I’m too busy trying to reverse the impression the world already has that homeschooling parents are a bunch of defensive, cranky complainers who don’t know when to stop using commas.
All this got me thinking about The List. Every time a link is posted to it on a blog or loop or news site, there’s always someone who thinks that that’s how I really talk. Like, all the time. I’m really that bitter all the way down, even when there’s raisin toast for breakfast. Which is funny in that sad kind of way, because even if I was only that bitter when homeschooling was the topic, I’d have spontaneously combusted by now. You’d have heard about me on the news. (Maybe not the New York Post, but everywhere else.)
Back to The List. I don’t know that it’s funny in a tee-hee way. I think that it only works on a cathartic level. That’s why it tends to make civilians holler. It’s an inside joke. I wrote it for homeschoolers who needed to know that they’re not the only ones who hear these ridiculous questions all the time, and who needed a safe, private laugh at just such questions. Yes, this isn’t the kind of thing to belt out right in the face of a non-homeschooler — but that’s why it isn’t called “A Bunch of Stuff to Say to The Forty Millionth Person Who Asks You Any Of The Questions We Always Get.”
And yes, patiently and kindly educating non-homeschoolers is important. It’s what most of us do every day. And it’s a lot easier to be patient (and keep a straight face) if you’ve had a good belly laugh first, or can go home and get one.
So why, if it isn’t suitable for civilians, did I post The Bitter Wish List to the not-exactly-private-property Internet?
It was publicity for a then-new homeschooling magazine. I only posted about it on homeschooling loops, most of which were local. I didn’t expect it to reach, or be of interest to, non-homeschoolers. I didn’t expect it to reach all that many homeschoolers. Word got out. Civilians wandered over. Can’t say I’m sorry about that, but they knew this was a party in Homeschoolville. You can’t visit Boston and spend the whole time complaining about all the damned clam chowder.
Speaking of food — that six blocks isn’t getting any shorter. And since I don’t get to eat anything tomorrow, you can bet I’m making up for lost time today.