[Shaking head in disbelief…]
Boy, that took me a while. They could make a movie out of MY life. I never thought I’d find myself writing to Ann Landers. What a mess – I don’t know if I’m going to be able to squeeze out of this without any scars. I should probably read it over to see how it sounds before I send it off. I mean, I don’t want it to sound too self-righteous or something.
[Pauses, arranges sheets in a pile, lifts up sheets in front of her, stretches out her arms. Begins confidently…]
Dear Ann Landers,
I’m sure you’ve never had anyone like me write to you before. Somehow my life turned out different – the white, middle-class, 1.5 kids thing just didn’t work out for me. Now I’m at the end of my rope, and I need some solid advice from someone I can trust.
Hmm,.. I’ll always remember that advice Ann gave to that woman whose fiancee didn’t like her Doberman Pinsher… [Tough voice] Show him the door, baby! [Chuckles…]
Anyway… My life started falling apart about 18 months ago… After my second, [with emphasis] unplanned, pregnancy, I just wasn’t able to get my old figure back. My gynecologist gave me the standard line, “Eat less of the fatty stuff; start up an exercise routine.” But that is NOT my thing.
[Looking up, wondering…] I don’t know,.. some people really get off on that “work out” business. [Mockingly, deep voice, shaking head…] No pain, no gain!
[Scoffing…] I’m sorry, that “harried-mother-with-two-children look” just wasn’t written into my biography. I needed some sort of “quick fix” approach. So hey, let’s look in the yellow pages under “Plastic Surgery.” …Now THOSE are people who deliver the goods.
[Looking back to read the letter] So I took an appointment with a plastic surgeon. He said he could take off those 8 pound saddle bags with a little bit of [wiggles torso, waves fingers and hands, lifts hands ] liposuction magic. Quick and easy; in and out; not so easy on my bank account though. [Shrugs shoulders] Hey, no problem, these guys are professionals… they’ve got a financing plan… first payment after 10 months.
Well, the first 10 months were great. Then I started getting the bills. [Looks up, shakes head] Don’t you hate it! [Looks back down.] It was then that I decided I needed to fess up to my husband. My husband – let’s call him “Eric” – told me that, on top of everything else, the daycare bills and the liposuction bills were putting us in to the red.
I agreed to look for a job, and after searching around a bit, found a position as a hostess at the local Vinci’s buffet restaurant.
[Pauses, looks up cynically…] Now the downward spiral begins…
[Looks back at the letter] At about the same time, “Sandra,” my neighbor, and [looks up, rolls eyes] FORMER best friend was in a car accident with her mother. Sandra was all right, but her mother was hospitalized with some serious head and neck injuries.
Before this, Sandra and I used to spend tons of time together. We’d laugh over coffee while our 5-year-olds played. We’d share our secrets… we’d even share our husbands’ secrets. [Laughs.] But then Sandra got all uptight – what a drag. She’d constantly be going to the hospital to visit her mother. No more time for our little “tête-à-têtes.” I tried to help her out a bit, [self-righteously] but hey, I’ve got my own cross to bear – what with my two kids and my [emphasis] under-employed husband.
I tried to do the “supportive neighbor” thing, but then she started taking me for granted. At one point, I offered to look after her kid for a few hours. Big mistake! That was the beginning of the end… [With conviction] FIRST, her child started becoming a bit wild; and SECOND, she started leaving him with me almost every second day.
One afternoon when she came back from the hospital, I tried to be honest with her [exasperated] – like, I’m not Mother Teresa or something – [seriously, shaking head] and she just lost it. [Short pause. Loud.] Big time!
Well, after that, I wasn’t even comfortable having little Jeremy playing with her 5-year-old. I told Eric to plant a hedge between our two yards. [Under the breath…] (That was an ordeal.) It’s like,.. if I don’t even feel like I want to see Sandra’s face, I’m certainly not going to want to see her kid playing on our swingset.
[Long pause. Sigh.] Now I’m facing my biggest challenge, Ann.
[Seriously.] Eric was laid off about 7 months ago. He looked around for work for a few weeks, but then he just seemed to give up. Now he just mopes around the house. Anything we talk about seems to turn into an argument. Not only that, I almost feel like he’s jealous of me with MY job.
I can’t complain that he galavants around with his friends. In fact, I wish he would get out, and burn off some of his frustration with his friends… rather than waiting around here to blow up. [Self-righteously] You’d think at least he’d help out with some of the chores around the house, as long as he’s here all the time.
[Serious again.] My sister says we should get some marriage counseling. Like, I’m ready to do it,.. but isn’t that just for people who are like, [waves flat hand] mentally unstable? [Skrinches nose, hands questioning, cynically] Do I really want to rehash all the problems in front of some stranger?
[With determination…] Anyway… I’ve worked it all out. Vinci’s has offered me a full-time position of shift manager – what with my previous experience – and I think I can swing it on my own. With my new full-time salary, [slowly] …and some child support,.. I could cover the mortgage and car payments.
[Trying to convince…] Wouldn’t it be better for the kids? I mean, aren’t they better off if they don’t see us fighting all the time? [Hands back, palms open] I think Eric just needs some time to work through all this -- [long pause] ALONE! I’m no savior. I’ve done what I can. Now I need to do what’s best for me… […Afterthought, nodding…] …and the kids.
Ann, please be honest. Should I cut Eric out of my life… allow him to straighten things out on his own if he can. I mean, I’m still young. I’ve still got my figure. [Half smile.] Maybe I could find someone else. [Thoughtfully pausing…] Sometimes I wonder if we were meant to be married in the first place…
Ann, please point me in the right direction. I’ve promised myself I would follow your advice if you printed my letter.
[Folds up the letter, puts it in the envelop. Continues very slowly. With conviction.] Signed. “Shopping for more Plastic Surgery.”
[Checks the address and stands up.] In Shawinigan.
[Taps the letter in the palm of hand, shakes head, and exits pensively.
Softly] Thank God for Ann Landers
© Tom Woodley
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