It’s not you, it’s me.
Shush, shush. No, don’t speak…
It was 17 years ago on this very day that we first ran across each other.* Do you remember? You were a longstanding, traditional newspaper readership and I was a fresh-faced columnist with a particularly bad head shot. Remember how suspicious you were of me at first? “Is this guy kidding?” you asked. Yes. Yes, most of the time I was.
Soon we came around to appreciating each other—me grateful to you for taking the time to read me every Thursday, you tolerating the occasional fart joke.
We had some laughs, didn’t we? That time in May 2006. A light chuckle on August 18, 2009. And who can forget the run of titters between February and April 2011?
Remember how I wrote about my kids? That time I pointed to my youngest daughter’s shirt and said, “Is that a Pink Floyd T-shirt?” and she scoffed and sneered, “It’s not pink…” Remember that? Really? That’s weird, because I’m writing about it for the first time just now.
You loved when I wrote about my family. Occasionally, though, I’d get in one of my moods and go off on some weird tirade that wasn’t even a column in any traditional sense but essentially a work of fiction (e.g. Bingo in Hell: “B 12… Anyone? B 12… B 12… Once more: B 12. Under the B: 12. B 12? B 12? I’ll try again one more time: B 12… B 12… That’s ‘B’ as in ‘Beelzebub’…” etc.). But you would just smile politely and turn to the obituaries.
You get me. You really get me. Most of the time you get me. Three out of five times you get me. You’ve never really said anything so I assume that means you get me.
But I worry we’re in a rut after so long together. I know what you’re thinking: “Seventeen years! That’s not so long. Why, if this column were human, it would still be a child! It wouldn’t even be old enough to vote!” True, but it would still have a history of underage drinking and have made it to third base on two-and-a-half occasions.
My point is that while this column continues to be highly immature, I am not. Between my age and the year we just had, my concentration is shot. Plus, with the children grown up, with there being only so much I can write about my pets, with the endless gift that was Donald Trump now gone from the White House, with COVID-related material now about as tired as we all are of COVID, with ABSOLUTELY NOTHING GOING ON ANYWHERE, I’ve really had to stretch lately, and God knows I can’t stretch like I used to.
You’ve noticed it. Don’t pretend you haven’t noticed it. I’ve seen how you turn away when I publish a column with a title like “Arsenic and Old Pancakes.” I’ve heard the impatient sigh.
That’s why I think we should start reading other people.
A breakup? No, let’s not call it a breakup. A break. A pause. Giving each other some column space. I’m taking three months off to recharge my batteries, to focus on a larger project and to find myself. Oh wait! There I am! Right where I left me. Forget that third point.
You may think me cruel for splitting up with you (temporarily!) in print on our very anniversary, but I read this morning on Twitter that Daniel Day Lewis dumped Isabelle Adjani by fax while she was pregnant with their child, so at least I’m not that much of a monster. Also, all that time spent on Twitter may explain why my concentration is shot.
Look at you, being so brave. No, don’t go just yet. “Alley Oop” can wait. Let’s linger here a little longer, for old time’s sake. Let me tell you about the hairline crack I found in the toilet bowl the other day. I’ll probably have to replace it. So when you think of me over the next three months—and I hope you will—that’s how I want you to remember me: trying to fix that toilet.
* Since publication, I’ve learned that I am off by two weeks. Trust the archives, not your memory.
To my online readers: This was published in this morning’s Sherbrooke Record, where I have been a columnist the past 17 years. While I take this three-month pause, I may still pop up here from time to time as inspiration moves me. Thanks and see ya.