Over the past two days, while I was supposed to be refereeing a manuscript for a university press, I read two years worth of Mimi Smartypants’ online diary. I love Mimi. There is nothing about Mimi I don’t like. I love her four year old daughter Nora too. My friend Meg says Nora is sometimes like Eila. This is true. They’re both smart, and both… shall we say… assertive. Assertive isn’t the only way of being smart, but in these two girls the smartness and the smartypantsness are connected.
Yesterday Eila said, at dinner, “Mummy, am I not good and kind and nice?” I said, “oh yes, Angel, you are good and kind and nice! Why do you ask?” She shrugged her shoulders and said, “I didn’t know. Nobody ever told me.” Could this be true? No way it could be true. That night we read the first chapter of Ramona the Pest, and Eila was shocked. “I would NEVER behave that badly on my first day at kindergarten.” Of course she wouldn’t. She is good and kind and nice. But I don’t ever want her to lose her edge.
Here are the things I want to say to Mimi:
1. Yes, it’s fine to have just one child.
2. I too can’t get a good haircut because I can’t speak hair. I too emerge from the salon looking just okay, and have no idea what to do the next day with the bits of fluff sticking out of my head. It happens every time. Except once, I had the hair experience of which we hair-illiterates dream: a young gay man fluffed it up, said, “I know exactly what you need, you will look marvelous,” and sent me away after three hours of solid work looking so intensely good that after a half hour of staring at myself in the mirror with my mouth open, I flew to California and got a job. Unfortunately this took place in Israel but, Mimi, if you ever find yourself in Jerusalem, go see Asher Mintz on Bezalel Street. You will not be sorry.
I did get the referee’s report off, yes thanks. It was soundly critical. I’m continually accepting these assignments, and continually turning things down. Every now and then I have a who-am-I-to-wreck-this-fellow’s-life? moment, but more often I wonder, given all the crummy books and articles pouring off the academic presses, if there’s anyone else left out there who doesn’t let such moments affect their better judgement.