Hello. My name is Sara Barron.
I’m an author whose second book, The Harm in Asking, is out now.
Its publication has me feeling very Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl”—Nervous! Scared! Confused! Excited!—and this, my emotional state as it relates to my book, has forced me to consider my mother’s emotional state as it relates to my book.
For my mother, Lynn, features prominently in many of my stories. She gets up to various antics. That is to say, she:
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(a) Force-feeds people homemade trail mix
(b) Reveals a revulsion toward Orthodox Jewish overnight camps
(c) Performs Reiki
And, well, as it my essay collection, these anecdotes about my mother are pitched from my perspective. What I wanted to do here, then, is give her the opportunity to offer her perspective.
So that is what I’ve done. Or rather that is what I tried to do. My mother and I sat down together in her house in Illinois in the days right after Christmas. The whole thing should’ve gone off without a hitch, but it did not. And that is because in the half-hour prior to the scheduled interview, we got into an argument about what I perceive as my mother’s eating disorder versus what my mother perceives as her own healthy approach to eating.
This information has, I hope, provided you with just the right amount of context.
Our conversation has here been directly transcribed.
In Conversation: Lynn and Sara Barron
December 27, 2013
Sara: This is awkward.
Lynn: Yes, well, you criticized me and hurt my feelings and then asked me to do you a favor.
Sara: Which I’m sorry about. But when you get into your whole thing about how you genuinely don’t like bread, I just feel like . . .
Lynn: (Loudly) HOWEVER: I BELIEVE IT IS MY DUTY AS A PARENT TO TAKE THE HIGH ROAD AND FORGIVE YOU.
Sara: Thank you?
Lynn: You’re welcome.
Lynn: When do we do the part where I get to tell you about your book?
Sara: Now, I guess. Go ahead. Tell me about my book.
(My mother reaches into the pocket of her jeans and pulls out a piece of paper.)
Lynn: So I went ahead and made a list of parts I thought were funny and another list of parts I thought were sad.
(A pause. Sara says nothing.)
Lynn: I thought it was funny when:
1. You wrote about farting on a sorority girl at a sorority party
2. You wrote about how much your father and I like Klezmer music
But then I thought it was sad when:
1. You wrote about your professional failures
2. You wrote about walking into a deli just because you were lonely and needed someone else to talk to
Sara: That was . . . thorough. Thank you.
Lynn: You’re welcome.
Sara: Did you have any more specific feelings, though, about how you, personally, were portrayed in the book?
Lynn: Oh! I see what you’re asking. In which case: no, actually, I didn’t. I’m just happy to see you doing something with your life. Granted, you didn’t write the great American novel. Or even a . . . novel, for that matter. But the point is that you wrote a book, and it’s published, and it’s . . . fine. So what do I care if you make up certain facts, like that I’m weirdly obsessed with trail mix?
Sara: But . . . you are obsessed with trail mix.
Lynn: No I’m not.
Sara: Yes you are.
Lynn: No, I’m not.
Sara: Mom, you are. Wherever you go, you always carry a Ziploc bag of trail mix.
Lynn: Because I like a healthy snack.
Sara: Yeah, well, liking a healthy snack is a different thing from refusing, come hell or high water, to eat anything bad for you. It’s like I was saying before: You’re always coming up with these methods for presenting your obsession with eating healthfully as, well . . . healthy instead of dysfunctional.
Lynn: You sound ridiculous, you know. You sound like you’re saying that a square is not a square.
Sara: Are you kidding? I’ve seen you take a can of tuna and a bag of rice cakes with you into a movie theater because you refuse to eat candy or popcorn. And that is not normal, okay? That is dysfunction.
Lynn: I’m not getting back into this with you. You’re in some phase at the moment of wanting to attack me, and I don’t know where it’s coming from, and I don’t plan to indulge it. Are we done?
Sara: (Exhausted; defeated; unwilling to go on) Yes.
Lynn: Good. Then I need to get started with dinner. I thought I’d do salmon with couscous, which is a carb, by the way.
Sara: Yes. Like fruit is a dessert . . .
Lynn: Fruit is a dessert.
Sara: Yes. For people with eating disorders.