The Single Woman Christmas Letter
This was my last Christmas letter as a single woman clinging by a very thin thread to the fabric of sanity.
Love: Boyfriend of five years moves out, leaving me alone in rented two-bedroom house I can’t afford with two dogs and impatient ovaries. Spend time looking through old photo albums, romanticizing unfulfilling relationship and blubbering “why why why” to the universe. Vow to never love again, or at least not for one entire year.
Family: Two dogs, Wyatt and Shelby, usually relegated to laundry room for sleeping, instead sleep in bed with me, under covers.
School: Winter quarter begins of masters program in film. Take critical studies course where we have to decipher what men and women want when they go to the movies, which, in turn, represents what they want in life. Men: action, humor. Women: love, romance, “to be nurtured.” Upon hearing last, burst into tears in middle of classroom.
Career: Go to Warner Brothers for first meeting about re-writing script I sold them. As am walking onto the lot in first-day-of-school suit with scarf, practically run into George Clooney playing basketball. Take this as good omen despite fact he didn’t see me and instantaneously fall in love (which wouldn’t want anyway as am giving up men for entire year).
In development meeting, drink three glasses of water, nod head frequently in agreement, take copious notes, ask no questions, try to sound smart, and get up to pee twice in twenty minutes. (Have a nervous bladder).
God: Pray a lot. “Protect me from commitment-phobic men. Keep me chaste. Let my script check arrive before my savings run out. Find me a good roommate who won’t bring drug addicts home. Please let this writing thing not be a fluke, help me do it again and, oh yes, don’t let my dad die of a heart attack.”
Love: Notice cute German man in critical studies class, observe him as though he were beautiful piece of art as am not interested because have given up men for eleven more months.
Run into writing mentor whom have had lofty crush on for two years. He: “Hello, Shannon.” I: “Hello, Henry.” He: “How are you?” I: “Broke up with my boyfriend!” Then dash off dramatically. No ulterior motive as will not be dating for eleven more months.
Family: Take dogs to visit grandma in Santa Barbara. Since break-up am spending lots of time in Santa Barbara with, as my friend Jose calls it, my “circulo de women” (aunt, mom, grandma). Run dogs on beach. Am a woman, alone, with dogs. Am strong.
Get home to L.A. and Wyatt pukes blood. Am certain he has eaten rat poison at grandma’s and is hemorrhaging and will die shortly and brutally in my lap. Instead, x-rays reveal Wyatt has swallowed a baseball-size rock. He will either have to digest rock or have it taken out of his stomach for $2,500. Decide Wyatt will digest rock and feed him two loaves of white bread. He lives. Rocks are, after all, mineral.
Decide Wyatt may be handsome, but is certainly not smart. Decide Shelby is smart because she is female, while Wyatt is male. Decide with this attitude it’s a good thing won’t be dating for eleven more months.
Career: Flounder in re-write. Look over studio notes for hundredth time, type them up, calligraphy them, tape them to wall in front of computer. Still don’t know what “move the story from a Miata into a Range Rover” means. Am perplexed by, “Can New York be a character in the piece?” Confounded by, “Make more visual.” They will be filming it, won’t they? Doesn’t that automatically make it visual? Call no one at production company to tell them am confused. Put a food fight in script. That’s visual.
God: Pray for roommate with job and that damn check. Pray to be more humble. Will have to pray harder.
Love: German man pursues. Fantasize about his villa in Italy, me writing my memoirs by the Mediterranean, my bilingual children, his cleft chin. No! Refuse to let hormones lead me into yet another dead-end relationship. Will think with my head this time, not my … Besides, am not dating for ten more months!
Writing mentor calls to see how I’m doing. Has just broken up with girlfriend. Think, “Be careful what you wish for.” Have nothing to worry about, he does not ask me out. Why the hell did he call then? What does it matter, I’m not dating for ten more months.
Family: Wyatt begins peeing on people. Don’t know why he does it. Even pees on me and almost gets away with it as we’re standing in rain. Attribute it to his stupidity, pray he can get by on good looks.
Money: Check for my script finally arrives. It”s the most money I’ve seen with my name on it. Run to bank and have teller make a Xerox before I cash it. Feel vindicated as artist. Realize am a great writer, best writer in Hollywood. For two days feel rich. Buy dogs extra pig ears, buy myself a printer so advanced it can do laundry. Dance a jig.
Career: Turn in re-write to Warner Bros. Try to be optimistic, thinking, “What’s worst that could happen?” They decide it’s “horrible. A food fight?” Decide they’re not going to pay my re-write fee. Have to start from scratch with entirely new plot and everyone at studio talks to me like I’m six. Get into bed and pull the covers up to my eyes and decide to never get out. Am not a writer, am, in fact, a terrible writer. Am the worst writer in Hollywood. Will never work in this town again. Am also a very bad person.
God: Pray for death.
Love: Have begun to date German fellow (who can be expected to wait nine more months?). He is cute, thinks I’m a hottie (haven’t felt like a hottie in years). Suspect he’s not my husband, nor Father Of My Children, but try to delude self as he has long eyelashes and the villa.
Family: Wyatt gets car sick and pukes in backseat if I feed him before driving. Once, to allay his carsickness, I set him on my lap in passenger seat. He jumped out window of moving vehicle. Had to pull 70 lbs. of him back in car by tail. Shelby smirked condescendingly from back seat.
Jenna, acquaintance from work, moves in with me. Initially am worried. She has a lot of “things.” Girly things. Tchotchkis, doilies, flowers in vases. I’m more the spare, pine, flannel type. She unpacks slowly, burns incense, cooks Matza, journals, prays unironically, says things like, “The universe never leaves you alone for a second.” She introduces me to Trader Joes’ Wheat Free Waffles. We talk about men while eating wheat free waffles. She becomes not only my roommate, but friend, confidant, sister. My house, after having lived in it over two years, becomes a home.
Work: After ten years of waiting tables, I quit. I burn my uniform and dance around the flames. (Well, metaphorically).
Career: Decide may be a horrible writer, but want the rest of my money dammit. Come up with story ideas for another re-write. Hate it, but do it.
April 25th: Have first date with Henry, the writing mentor. Had to ask him out. When I did, he became very nervous, citing my recent break-up. Isn’t it too soon for me to be dating? Despite feeling sluttish, mention German guy. He responds by asking me out for Saturday. By Sunday German guy is history, villa or no.
God: Pray I don’t screw up this romance. This is a really great guy.
Love: I’m in it.
My birthday month. Am in love and graduate from with master’s in screenwriting i.e. no job guarantee. Decide to worry about that later. Both my families are there to celebrate. It’s a good birthday.
Love: Why don’t new boyfriend and me fight? Look for other shoe.
Family: Wyatt sneaks under people’s chairs and farts. Shelby is disgusted.
Career: Am becoming frustrated. Warner Bros. won’t green light any of the ideas am coming up with for script. Time goes by, money dwindles, feel like am in quick sand getting nowhere.
Tell Henry will call the Writer’s Guild and sue. He advises me not to fly off handle, but NO MORE PAPER – go in and pitch. Pitch? Thought I’d finished auditioning when quit acting. Apparently not. Deliver verbal pitch to studio and one day before Henry and I are to leave on vacation, they green light me to start writing and want script right away.
Maxim: If you want to work in Hollywood, find something else you really want to do and work will come.
Love: Henry fed me all over New Orleans. Want to marry him.
Career: Halfway through rewrite realize should’ve gone to medical school.
Family: Am much closer to parents and siblings because they like who I’m dating. Lose touch with friends because I like who I’m dating.
God: He gets a little break from all my requests because am happy. When am in car driving, try to remember to say thank you so he won’t think I’m an ingrate and take it all away (need to work on image of God).
Re-write hell. Develop taste for scotch.
Turn in re-write. Wait the longest weekend of my life imagining worst. Monday comes, they call, they like it. Try not to imagine being on location in Maui with Matt Damon and Sandra Bullock. Just am thankful for re-write check. Won’t have to walk a corner on Sunset and Vine.
NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER
Love: Am invited for holiday in Florida with Henry and his family. Am making effort not to name children.
Family: Wyatt jumps into shower with me, can’t figure out how to get out. Shelby rolls her eyes, continues filing her nails, has a cigarette.
Career: Procrastinating on new script by writing Christmas letter.
God: Am thankful for family, dogs, boyfriend, friends like all of you. Am learning as a writer and a human life’s all about point of view.
With love, Shannon, December 1998.
(my single woman Christmas letter)