Many years ago, backstage at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, I was reading John Steinbeck’s Life in Letters and I came upon a letter written by a young writer, asking Steinbeck how he felt about writers using their friends and family members as characters in stories, outing family members as the human beings they are or worse exaggerating their flaws. Steinbeck’s immediate response was to feel badly for the families of writers or artists of any kind and he confessed that writers were thieves who stole gestures and words from others. Then, he explained that family and friends are the writer’s material, raw material, from which stories of humanity are told. And yes, the family and friends pay a heavy price for being so.
I have recently used a family member’s behavior to tell a story. In my last blog I spoke of my sister failing to bring my walker to me in the hospital. I confess that I was so completely selfish at the time that I did not even consider what she might think, reading what I wrote and knowing others would. And when she confronted me, I was surprised by her reaction, proof of my gross insensitivity.
I, who thought I was making an important point, didn’t consider who I was using to make that point and did serious damage to my relationship with my sister. I am the comedian on stage who busts her sibling for the sake of the joke. I can’t defend my behavior and it’s too late to take back my words. The best I can do is come clean and accept the consequences.