As soon as the words were out of my mouth, my friend’s expression changed. “Um…” she began, looking away. “It’s not that I wouldn’t like that. It’s just.”
I had no idea where this was headed. “Just what?”
She gulped. “Well, on your web site, you, um, say that you don’t like small children.”
On my web site? Wha…?
Then I remembered: on the very bottom of my bio page, I wrote this sentence about myself (in the third person, natch): “She prefers salty to sweet, is not overly fond of small children, and writes copy that keeps people awake.”
“It’s not that I don’t like small children,” I stammered, “that was meant to be funny. You know, ha ha…” I trailed off lamely.
I cleared up the misunderstanding with my friend, but I dialed my web guy a couple of hours later. “I need you to change something on my bio page right away,” I told him. “See, there’s this one sentence, right at the end…”
He sounded incredulous. “You really want to change that? But it's funny!”
“I thought so too!” I replied, “I wrote it while I was catching up on the Lemony Snicket series, and I thought it was hilarious. But maybe it wasn't.”
“Whatever you want,” he said. “Just send the changes when you’re ready.”
I brooded on it for a few days. I drafted several replacement sentences, which I almost sent, but didn’t. I thought about my friend, and what she thought I might do to her child. What mischief might someone “not overly fond of small children” concoct? Stock up on peanuts and milk products and other potential allergens, and hope that the miniature creature breaks out in hives? Buy a bevy of electronic toys and remove all the batteries? Play SpongeBob SquarePants on mute?
I like kids as much as the next person; I neither feverishly love them nor harbor any particular dislike of them. As the big sister of two brothers and five (!) sisters, I’ve changed more diapers and assembled more grilled cheese sandwiches in my lifetime than most mommies I know. I’ve spent a ransom in baby shower gifts. I’ve had my toes run over more than once by dueling strollers at the farmer’s market. Kids are great. Especially when they’re sleeping.
That was a joke! Come on! They say you love your own kids the best, and I’m sure they’re right. Though I don’t have kids of my own, I do have three nieces and one nephew, and I’m convinced that they’re cuter and more clever than anyone else’s nieces and nephews could ever be.
But what to do about the offensive sentence?
After careful deliberation, I decided not to change it. It occurred to me that, in fact, my friend had remembered that line, and therefore it had done what it promised to do, namely: to stand out. As someone who gets paid to write memorable messages, that's my Number One Goal. Bloggers seem to have this down, but most companies still play it very, very safe.
I get weary of reading nice tidy things that sound perfectly lovely and innocent – “No one was harmed in the writing of this press kit!” and so on. Say it like you mean it, sister! Life is full of contradictions; bad thoughts wriggle in amongst the good ones, and that’s the way it should be.
Good copy has just enough edge that people remember it long after they put down the magazine or brochure or postcard that you labored over for hours on end.
That, and it just might get you off the hook for diaper duty.
Photo Above: that's my saucy-faced nephew, worried that someone might snatch his dinner.