Editing for Becca can be stressful, I have to admit. There have been times when I feel like a kindergarten teacher, one who has just realized that one of his more impatient students has the mental capabilities of a college freshman. Other times I feel like a hostage negotiator, or perhaps a suicide counselor. Imagine this scene: the top of a skyscraper, late at night, a lone figure standing at the edge of the ledge, silhouetted by the spotlights below, her hair blowing in the wind. The figure is Becca, the skyscraper is her delete key, and I have to talk her down before she jumps and kills the entire post she’s been working on for the past hour. Often, it goes something like this:
I log into Skype, and there she is, hair tangled from repeatedly pulling at it, a plastic cup near at hand, probably holding 100 proof SoCo and water, minus the water. “I don’t know if this is any good,” she says by way of hello. “Jason only laughed once.” He probably laughed more than that, but Becca doesn’t count laughs below a certain number of decibels. She puts her head in her hands and pulls at her hair some more. “Will you please look at it and let me know what you think?”
After a few seconds, she says, “You’re not laughing.”
“I haven’t even got the post on my screen yet.”
“Well hurry up.”
Scrutinized by her watchful image in the corner of my screen, I begin reading the post. My eyes are naturally drawn to the pictures; her pictures are always funny. “Don’t look at the pictures first,” she says, frowning. Involuntarily, I flinch, caught in sin. Freakin’ mind reader, I think. “You’re reading for content,” she says. “Don’t look at the pictures until you get to the place where they’re referenced.”
“You really think your audience does that?”
“Shut your pie hole. I know what I’m doing.”
Trying to ignore the fact that she is recording and analyzing every minutia of my expression, I read the post. It doesn’t help that she regularly interrupts me with questions like, “Why aren’t you laughing more?” and “It sucks, doesn’t it?” Despite this, I genuinely laugh several times.
“It’s a fine post,” I finally pronounce.
“Hmph. ‘Fine’ . . . butt hair is fine. Are you saying my post is like butt hair?”
“What the . . ? No, it’s funny. I particularly like the part about jacking off an inkjet cartridge.”
And then comes the question I dread.
“Yes, but is it hilariooky?”
This is Becca’s litmus test; the gold standard of humor. “I said it was funny.”
“Stop dodging the question.”
“Not every post can be brilliant.”
“See! I knew it. I’m starting over.” I sense that her hand is moving toward the delete key.
“There can only be one best post, after all. You can’t expect every day’s post to be better than the last.”
“Why not? Wait a minute. What was my best post then?”
I open and close my mouth several times, drawing a blank, beginning to buckle under the pressure.
“What?! You can’t even think of one? Oh great! You’ve been letting me publish substandard posts. How long has this been going on?”
“Just calm down . . .” As soon as those words leave my mouth, I think Oh shit!
“Don’t tell me to calm down! You know I hate that. Are you trying to piss me off?”
“Of course not. I don’t know what I was thinking. What are you drinking there?”
“Stop trying to change the subject. My blog sucks, doesn’t it? Don’t lie to me. You know I hate it when people sugarcoat things.”
“You’re blog is fi . . . brilliant, hilarious. Look, this particular post may not be your best ever, but . . .”
“I mean, you’ve posted worse . . . ”
“What the hell?! Like what? Which one?”
“I mean . . . look, don’t delete the whole thing,” I plead. “I’m sure that we can salvage . . .”
“Salvage?! So it’s like a wreck, is that it?”
“No . . .”
And on it goes, back and forth. By the time I’ve talked her out of blogicidal posticide and finished editing, it’s 1 AM, she’s smashed, and I feel like I’ve been run through the ringer. The next day, the comments are favorable, a few even calling it her “best post ever”.
Fabulous. Now she’ll feel compelled to top this one.
…until we meet again.