I had a brief personal interaction with David Sedaris the other night. Let me just say, I love Sedaris's writing. I'm a long time fan and have therefore read lots of his work. He's an inspiration. A great wit, he finely crafts his hilarious, often poignant observations into highly engaging anecdotes. I leapt on the opportunity to hear him live, having missed out last time he was in Melbourne.
At Hamer Hall I had my copy of Naked hoping to get it signed after the show but bought a paperback copy of Calypso anyway, not having read it yet.
Really got lucky then. Sedaris was signing books pre-show and there were only four people ahead of me in the queue, which I joined. Sounds simple. As I waited, hyperventilating, I noticed Sedaris did a bit of sketching and colouring on the title pages as he chatted to those getting their books signed. Me, I was about to faint from nervous excitement. Interestingly, Sedaris later addressed this very feeling during his show when an audience member asked him whom he'd most like to meet. He talked about this being tricky - my word - as he is often overwhelmed by nerves and therefore when he meets a much anticipated person, someone else turns up; a representative; not his true self.
I hear you, Mr Sedaris because my representative turned up to get my books signed by you, one of my writing heroes. Prior to my turn, I'd checked the readout on my insulin pump to verify that my rapid heart beat was just nerves and not a dreaded hypo - low blood sugar. I was fine.
To expedite the signing process, Sedaris's assistant had written 'JUDI' on a sticky note and placed it just so on the title page of the book for which I'd just paid $29.
Sedaris sat at the other side of the table with his mug and his felt pens arrayed next to him, perhaps wondering which colour to use. My idiotic representative quaked obsequiously in Sedaris’s presence. For the previous few days since I'd bought the tickets I'd been wondering what I could possibly say to Sedaris. His delicious diaries - Theft by Finding - had revealed that he enjoys signing books. He's interested in what people tell him. Yet I had nothing to say and didn't want to sound stupid. Unfortunately, my blithering representative took over as I passed Sedaris my books, and this is what she blurted out during my two minute encounter:
"I was so nervous about meeting you I had to check my blood sugar to make sure I wasn't having a hypo. I'm diabetic!" She/I giggled like a teenager. Felt like a complete moron. Yet my unnecessary revelation prompted Sedaris to tell me a really insensitive clichéd tale, the type most people with diabetes have been subjected to repeatedly by the ignorant and curious. A nurse he'd met had told him about 'a diabetic' who'd had a great hole in his foot and he didn't even know it was there and you could see bones and tendons and everything!
"Yeah, thanks," I said. "haven't heard that one before." Actually, it's one of the plethora of stories one hears regularly when one has diabetes. Clearly he didn't sense my disapproval but I doubt whether he was listening. He said something about people feeling bad about being diabetic because they ate too many sweets, or some-such. I can't exactly remember, but it made me say that I'd had diabetes for 39 years. "Big year for you next year then," he remarked as he found his 'theme' and sketched '39 years’ in red felt tip pen on the title page of his book. My representative clarified that I couldn't help getting diabetes so I was one of the good ones! FFS! My cringe-worthy rep was being idiotic and politically incorrect. (There's no good or bad diabetes, or 'diabetic shaming', in case you didn't know.)
"Who are you here with?" Sedaris asked, still focused on his colouring in. "My husband," I indicated skinny Big Al, staring off over by a pillar. "Does he mind that you're diabetic?" What the fuck? "Of course not!" My representative guffawed inanely.
Sedaris was finished. My time was up and I was dismissed by his glance at the snaking queue.
Mixture of emotions for me; but mostly disappointment which I am still working to overcome. Having somehow managed to get seats three rows from the stage helped. Sedaris's readings were wonderful: poignant and hilarious; exactly what I expected. But that encounter in the foyer stuck in my craw and took the edge off what should have been a stellar evening.
I'm currently rereading Naked, and since the signing I'm perceiving things differently. Not sure I'll even read Calypso.