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An Open Letter To David Sedaris

(Attention: Curse words and jokes-you’ll-only-get-if-you-were-at-the-reading – including talk of poop -, forthcoming.)

Dear David,

You mother cusser!

That’s the worst of my road-rage language when I’m driving with my kids in the car. They’re 9 and 11 years old, and can appreciate a good swear, but I’m trying to lead by example, so instead of saying ‘fucker’ (which is one of my favourite swear words), I say ‘cuss’. When I’m alone in my car, however, my favourite swear word is bastard (not very imaginative, but it’s been a curse word in our family for as long as I can remember. I like to keep traditions going, so I say it too). It’s also extremely useful for post-toe-stubbing injuries, and usage after dropping that snotty, clear part of the egg on the floor when I’m baking.

My hubby and I watched, listened, adored you last evening when you read at the Detroit Opera House. We’ve been fans for years, but last night was our first time seeing and hearing you in the flesh. Nice flesh, by the way. At first, we watched from the balcony as you signed people’s books, engaging everyone and smiling. Within 2 minutes of sitting down, you offered a double-bird flip to someone. You were smiling at the same time so I assume it was a friendly double fuck you. Perhaps you were remembering how awful your greek restaurant eating experience was earlier in the day. We were sorry to hear about that. In any case, I’m sure it gave you a nice tidbit to write in your diary.

It’s silly (rude?), but we were playing that game where you look at a person and create a story about them to the people in line to get their books signed. We gave them a name and an occupation. We shared some laughs (okay, that’s definitely rude?), and enjoyed people and you watching.

We were on a date night, my hubby and I. Married for fifteen years, it’ll be next July. I did the math and I’ve been with him longer than I’d been alive when I met him. (I was 19 then. I’m 39 now.) I’m a writer, not a mathematician (honestly, I just had to google how to spell that word – that’s how not math-friendly, I am), but for some reason when thinking about how long I’ve loved someone, my brain allows me to add.

I’ve been to many, many readings. We’ve been to comedy acts. We’ve been to theatrical shows, heck, earlier that day, we took the kids to a sing-along showing of ‘Grease’, and the day before, my hubby and son watched Thor:Ragnorok (that’s a fun word to say) at the movies. We love entertainment, but you really took the cake, friend.

I laughed so hard I almost puked. Hot bile wavered at the back of my throat on several occasions during your reading. I’d say that’s quite a powerful gift you have. Now, I didn’t shit my pants, not during your show. But I’ve been there. I have ulcerative colitis and…well, let’s just say, I’ve had to carry extra clothes around me plenty of times. I wonder how many people shared their shit stories with you after the show? Excrement is such a fascinating topic. I could take and write about it with dedication.

(I whole-heartedly believe that if you shit your pants at the show last night, the crowd would have given you a standing ovation. It would have been a stellar shit show. No embarrassment necessary on you part. Just putting that out there.)

That thing that happens after an incredible show happened to us while we were walking downtown looking for a bathroom (I didn’t want to stand in line at the opera house bathroom, then walk into a cloud of another woman’s vagina and pee smell. Sometimes, I just can’t handle that.), we tried to recall our favourite lines. We butchered the Romanian road-rage curses we remembered, and fell into a fit of vomit-inducing laughter once again. There were so many hilarious things you said, we couldn’t remember any of them correctly, but we were filled up with laughter and joy and awe.

So thank you for that.

And your question and answer session after the reading? Superb, friend. That’s one of my favourite parts about going to readings – when the writer engages with the audience. I liked that you gave yourself time to think about your answers. That your body got into it – shoulders shrugging, hands open-palmed – you were you, and that realness is ten breaths of fresh air these days. So thank you for that too.

I can’t believe what your neighbour did to Carol. What. The. Fuck. He can climb up into my ass and jerk off my shit. Is that how it goes? Mon dieu.

As a writer, I take my writing and what I do at readings quite seriously. I want to engage my audience and readers. I want to be vulnerable and honest. You are an extraordinary inspiration in this regard. You’re my Whoopi G-berg. And though I don’t have your address is Sussex so I can send you a box of cookies, I can write this letter and give you thanks, and let you know that you’ve showed me that a writer can be a great writer and reader. Your comedic timing is impeccable. Your storytelling is brave, heartfelt, sad, funny and lasting. I appreciate your stories and what you taught me about how to be an extraordinary storyteller.

I’m sifting through my brain to end this thank you note with something funny that maybe you can write in your diary or share at one of your readings – ’cause wouldn’t that be the bee’s knees?! –  The most recent story I can share is this one:

My daughter wanted to watch a Bruno Mars video on-line. No problem. I searched it on youtube. We watched it together. There were two little kids in the video with Bruno. My daughter asked if he had kids, perhaps these two tiny tots were his own? So, I searched, ‘Does Bruno Mars have kids?’. Some entertainment ‘biz’ website came up. I clicked on it and read an article that said, no, he did not, however, he does have a whack of brothers and sisters…and on and on. I kept scrolling down, and soon paid advertisements started showing up. There was still some copy in the story I was reading, so I wasn’t paying full attention to the images. Well, doesn’t a giant, erect, naked penis slathered in some sort of vaseline fill my phone screen!! I stop my voice from screaming out and catch my face before it reacts in horror. The image after that was a girl with huge boobs in a slutty outfit. I pulled the phone away from our view, concluding with ‘Okay, no kids for Bruno Mars. The rest is inappropriate.’ My daughter looked at me, wondering what she’d seen before the girl with the big boobs. I said, ‘Did you see that giant finger with vaseline all over it?’ She shook her head, ‘No mom, that was cream.’ I nodded my head. ‘Totally, it was cream. Weird. No more internet, ever, okay?’Penis crisis averted. She laughed. I laughed, totally forced, and let out a sigh of relief and hatred for the world wide web of giant penises  fingers slathered in cream.

There you have it. You’re a genius. Safe travels on what remains of your book tours…and wherever the adventure leads you.

Thank you for you.

Most sincerely,


Vanessa Shields, writer, mother, fan



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