[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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This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged. In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org