I called family and apologized in advance for disgracing the Martinez name and honor. I begged my best friends to stand by me as I prepared to publicly humiliate myself.
The weekly newspaper hit the neighborhood Thursday morning as I prepared to leave town for the weekend – not because of the column I had just written but because I was on my way to a teacher’s conference in Dallas.
I opened my copy and saw her – LadyBoomer – in her place in the centerfold of the small community paper, every word as I had written it. It was up to the readership to decide if I was a writer or not.
* * * *
Three months before (December 2001) I had just survived a divorce that had taken five months to finalize. I was ready to forge a new future when I opened my weekly Herald and saw an ad looking for an op-ed/personal column writer. All I had to do was dust off my resume, create a column voice, and submit three, 250-word samples – all in one week’s time.
What did I have to offer? I was a newly single, fifty-something woman with an empty nest, facing the new millennium with an even emptier pocketbook – and I loved to write. There it was: I was a lady, a boomer, and single. Surely, there must be others in my situation. Maybe we could commiserate and laugh at ourselves while we did it.
I submitted everything well within the time limit and I waited. And waited. And waited. Every week I opened the paper and nothing.
I came home from work one day in late February to a phone message from the paper’s editor. My hand shook as I returned his call. The response for the job had been overwhelming and it took a while to read and choose the top four applicants. I had been chosen among three others.
The editorial board had decided to let the readership choose the winner. They would print one entry every Thursday throughout the months of March, April, and May, and the column to get the biggest response would go weekly in June. Was I in?
My confidence was a low as the pay, but I figured I would get some experience from all this. I was asked to beef up my three columns (up to 450-550 words), and resubmit before the last Thursday of each month. (I worried since the assignment wasn’t alphabetical and I was last in the rotation, I might be the weakest writer.)
The first column played with the author’s last name and how people always worried over how to pronounce it. I read it and got nervous. It was so “cute.”
The next Thursday we read about junk mail and I started to worry. This one was so “tame.”
The third writer told about a daily fight she had with her husband over their one Lazy Boy chair. I lost interest halfway through except this was my competition.
I. Was. In. Big trouble.
This was when I started calling my family and apologizing. I begged my friends to not abandon me. I called my editor and asked if it was too late to change my name to a pseudonym.
He laughed at me and told me to leave it to the readers.
* * * *
I got home late on Sunday from the conference to find my answering machine flashing with messages from family and friends. I started my computer to find both email inboxes full of emails, all congratulating me.
The column on “Why I Joined the Gym” (because I was looking for a man my age, healthy enough to get his own evening snacks) was a hit. LadyBoomer received 643 emails that week.
PS: LadyBoomer ran from March 2002 until I retired her in October 2005. She was a grand old gal.