back to the Black Table

 Well, it was bound to happen at one point or another.

Sunday afternoon, I woke up, turned on that All in the Family marathon that TV Land was running in honor of Carroll OíConnor and went outside for a cigarette. Iíd been occupied most of the weekend, so I hadnít checked any of my phone messages. I am unpopular; there was only one, from 11:15 the night before.

It was my mother. She didnít sound happy.

ďYes, Will, itís your mother. Weíve been gone all day. Your dad was dragging me through Loweís [a hardware store in Illinois] and we just got home. [pause] I wanted you to know that I read your last two columns. Not only did you put my age out there on the Internet for the whole world to see, but I have to say that I was just disgusted - disgusted - to read that you had made a pornographic film. I just hope you are proud of yourself. Goodbye.Ē


I havenít talked to my mom all week and I havenít yet figured out the main reason (or even, for that matter, who is avoiding whom). Yes, obviously, discussing filming sex with an old lover is hardly the most ideal conversation topic to have with your mother. I canít even imagine how the conversation would go.

Will: So, uh, you read the column, huh?

Mom: Yes, yes, I did.

Will: Well ...

Mom: Yeah ...

Will: So, howís Jill doing?

Mom: Oh, sheís great, great.

Will: Yeah ...

Mom: All right, well, Iíll talk to you later.

Will: Yep, catch you then. Oh, and Mom?

Mom: Yes?

Will: Iím glad we had this talk.

But thatís not the real reason. The fact is, my parents have never read any of these silly columns, and thatís always been comforting to me. Not so much because Iím always writing things that would embarrass us both, giving out dirty little secrets about myself, but because, well ... I like not worrying about them. When I started this column, I vowed never to make it into my personal sounding board. It wasnít intended to be a way to send veiled messages to those close to me.

But I knew if my parents read it, and I knew they read it, and they knew I knew they read it, it would be impossible for it not to be. I wrote a column once about my father and I getting drunk at a baseball game and lamenting about penis size on the drive home. Embarrassing? Yes. Would I want him to read it? No. But thatís nothing compared to the column I wrote a few weeks ago, about how he was the greatest Little League coach since Walter Matthau. That was basically a love letter to my dad. But I would be more mortified if heíd read that than if Iíd written a poem threatening to kill him. You donít talk about shit like that in the Leitch family. We never have. Why do you think I write about it?

When I first started writing these columns way back in March 1999 - Christ, has it been that long? - I wanted everyone I knew to read them. It didnít take long for me to change that view. Whether it was calling my best friendís dad a ďjerkface,Ē a stripper whose story I told posting a nasty missive on the message board or just general paranoia that the ex-fiancťe would read everything and sue, it became clear it was better to write with strangers in mind rather than people I knew. But you know parents: They always want to know whatís going on.

So I begged, pleased, cajoled, whatever I had to do, to make certain I had free rein to write about what I wanted. I basically used scare tactics; trust me, Pops, you donít want to know. It will just make you upset. And it worked, though my parentsí general fear of the Web and computers - watching my father search for the ďTĒ on a keyboard is one of lifeís more sublime pleasures - certainly didnít hurt. Other than that, there is the occasional blip. Recently, I went to dinner with the parents of a girl Iím interested in. Theyíd just read my temping column, about how I had no money and was merely hoping to pay rent. We were looking over the menus, and the father said, ďWill, listen, this mealís on me, so you go ahead and order whatever you want.Ē Instantly, I went from Writer to Unemployed Guy in their eyes - all was well.

But then word got out about my column concerning my parentsí anniversary. More specifically, cousin Denny told my mother at her surprise birthday party that, ďYou donít want to read Willís column this week.Ē My mother knows the rules about my columns, but sheís human, and a temptation like that is difficult to resist. Unfortunately, she resisted a week, during which time another column was posted, this one about my sexual habits. She read them both, and freaked out, understandably.

So Iím torn. Truth be told, Iím a little upset at my mother. These columns are very important to me, and theyíre not a diary. To truly get across what Iím trying to do with this series - and, uh, if you know what that is, could you let me know? - I have to give up some personal details. Itís cheating not to. Sometimes those details make me look like a productive, wholesome member of society; most of the time, not so much. The notion, however, that my column is just a place to ramble on about myself and besmirch the family name, that itís not an artistic endeavor meant to find a common bond with other confused fools out there, is an insult. I suppose I canít expect my mother to understand that, particularly when sheís reading about me having sex on videotape ... but still. And, come on now ... she canít say she wasnít warned.

I dunno. I guess I keep waiting for my mom to call and apologize, which, of course, is what sheís waiting for me to do too. Maybe if I donít call her for a couple of more weeks, sheíll forget about it. If I received the same revelation about her that she learned about me, however, Iím not sure it would have been that easy.

Thatís why this column, in case you were wondering, has said absolutely nothing. I guess I was due for one of those too. One thousand, one hundred thirty-five empty words, leading nowhere, big piles of nothing. There, Mom. That should make you happy. Now, Iíll say it again: Please stop reading so I can write about my life again. Thank you.



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