I love entertaining the whims of my children. Ben, now 7, used to want to go outside in his pajamas, much to the consternation of my wife. At ages 3,4,and 5 I would take him out on a Saturday or Sunday morning to run some errands, such as feed my Starbucks addiction or to grab bagels for a family breakfast. He'd climb onto counter tops and run around the stores in his best nighttime threads. It was cute and harmless. But somewhere in the past year he adopted an adult's sense of shame or embarrassment and stopped wearing his jammies outside our house. How sad it was to see the subtle peer pressures of society transform his approach to life. Or maybe it is not sad at all. I wouldn't want to have to explain to him at age 14 that he couldn't go outside in his sleepware, so maybe it is fine that he learned this now. But still, like everything about his childhood, I wish it could stretch a little longer.
My daughter, Olivia, is just four and she will still explore the silly side of life. A week ago, this past Saturday, she begged to paint my toe nails, not really aware that most men don't wear nail polish. Who was I to set her straight? I did protest, at first, but quickly gave in to her smile-filled face. Who can resist the demands of their baby girl?
She proceeded to use the freakish-looking blue polish on my toe nails, painting them like she was painting the side of the house -- liberally splashing my toes and nails with the beauty paint. It delighted her that she got to do what she sensed I didn't want her to do. But she didn't stop there.
With a bully, you give an inch -- or a toe -- and they want more. Olivia was no different. She asked, no demanded, to paint my fingernails. I drew the line there. How can I go out in public with my nails done? People will think I am a freak. I was thinking like Ben, not wanting to confront stares or ridicule from the public.
The day passed with me opposing her numerous requests. Finally, I saw an out. I told her she should ask our babysitter, Beth, if she can paint her nails. While I was out dining on Indian food and playing pool with another couple and my wife, Beth was being assaulted by the heavy paint strokes of a four-year –old. I should have paid her extra for that.
But the problem wasn’t solved.
The next morning she again went on the attack. Relentless, she followed me around the house, inquiring in her helium-filled voice, if she can paint my fingernails. She came by with her little kit that included curlers, doll clothes, and three kinds of nail polish. Shit, how was I gonna slip out of this predicament.?
I didn’t feel like a loser giving into her, because she was so happy. She had me choose a color. I went for pink which, when painted on lightly, showed like a clear color. Not bad, I thought.
Then she decided my other hand needed to be different, a more prominent color. Equal to my desire to avoid this nail paint was her appetite to see my hands colored. Again, I gave in. The blood-red paint splashed across my finger nails and fingers. She giggled as she marveled at her handiwork.
I told her I would keep it on for a day but use polish remover before going to work Monday. “No Daddy, I want them to see,” she blurted out. This girl wants me to be humiliated, I thought. But I realized she was just proud of her artistry and wanted me to show her work off.
When I went out of the house Sunday I felt self-conscious, as if everyone was looking at me. Truth is, most didn’t, and those that did kept their thoughts to themselves. But I did notice little kids staring at my hands. Were they admiring them? Were they jealous they didn’t bitch their dad up the way Olivia did me? Or were they challenged by the visual, wondering why that man has mommy polish on him?
I recall, as a child, my older sister liking to dress me up as a girl. I have photos from when I was three or four, in a dress, wearing a woman’s hat, and holding a pocketbook. She thought it was hilarious. I was some unsuspecting pawn in all of this. The habit didn’t stick with me but Olivia’s polish fetish had me recalling back to those days with my sister.
Children like to challenge expectations, boundaries, and limits. When we indulge that side of them we all benefit. I still want to get the polish off my nails but I also feel it is a badge of honor. I made my little girl happy and she got to cross a boundary that for now does not exist for her.
Is there a book marketing lesson in all of this? All of life offers lessons and when it comes to promoting your book, be willing to go out on a limb and put yourself out there, even risking embarrassment. And if you feel like painting your nails, men, more power to you!
Interview With Debut Novelist Jack Sussek
1. What is your debut novel, Manhattan Affair, about? It is about three former college friends whose lives unintentionally circle back into a conspiracy that involves sex, scandal, betrayal, and murder.
2. What inspired you to write it? Well, I’ve always liked the thriller genre and everyone, I think, likes a good mystery. Life is full of them.
3. Why will readers love it? I can’t speak for everyone but those who have read it have told me that once started they can’t put it down. If that is the case then I have achieved a part of what I wanted to do. I think also readers will like it because it tells a story that takes place during a particular time before the end of the last century, which, although not too long ago, seems like another time and place. Particularly, I think, for New York City.
4. What is it about New York City that so many authors love to set their books there? New York is place unto itself; I have traveled the world and I can tell you, although there are many interesting and fascinating cities and places around the world, there is no place like New York. It has a texture, a taste, a smell, all its own. It is one of the last ‘City – States’ left in the world, in my opinion, and what goes on here is amazing; the vibrancy, the energy, the creativity, the diversity. I think people are fascinated with New York because of that, because New York is its own world.
5. Your book covers the early 1990s in the nation’s biggest city. What were those days
like back then? Different, I think, than now. In some ways New York lost something with the passing of the 20th century, perhaps a little innocence, certainly some of its ‘hometown’ feeling. New York was more of a ‘local’ place, if you can imagine that. New York has always been a city of neighborhoods, closely interconnected yes; but separate and unique, almost like little ‘villages’ within the city. Places like Bensonhurst, Flushing, Pelham Bay, Greenwich Village. But for 400 years people came here to live and work, find opportunity, make a name for themselves, give their children a better life, you know, the American story. But now it seems there is another level, another reason, people come here. To visit. To spend money and leave. So the city has changed, I think, because of that. Don’t get me wrong; New York is nothing but change and every generation that passes through here changes it in some way. But up until now, the people who came here and changed it were people who stayed, for the most part. Now 50 million people come and visit here every year for a week or so and then leave and I think the city has changed quite a bit to cater to that. That’s one way the city has changed from 20 years ago. 9/11 had something to do with it too. Downtown, the Financial District, has sort of become like Pearl Harbor or Normandy Beach now for visitors. Before 9/11 tourists might visit New York but they rarely went to the Financial District, maybe to go to Wall Street for a few minutes, or South Street Seaport, which was relatively new in the 1990’s. Today people go to the site of the World Trade Center and stare at it.
6. Your book is described as Bright Lights, Big City meets Sex and the City. There is
sex, murder, and secret lives. What are the key elements to writing a great novel? Have a good story and know how to write it.
7. Your day job involves being a government contractor. Are you living a double life? No. It’s just my day job. If I had my druthers I’d write full time but right now the day job pays better. Hopefully that will change.
8. What advice do you have for a struggling writer? Write every day, have good discipline, re-write a lot.
For more information, please see www.manhattanaffair.com or follow jack on Twitter: @JackSussek. Please note, Jack is a client of Media Connect, the PR firm that I work for.
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at email@example.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.
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