Because a lot of what I do for a living is ask questions, I like to interview people in my head. I often do this while I’m running around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park, when I’m not otherwise contemplating how Jackie O managed to lap the place even as she maintained a Gauloise habit. Sometimes, like when I’ve written my first book, I interview myself.
Faith: Hi, Faith, you look great!
Faith: Oh my god, thanks, Faith! But please. This dress is six years old, and it’s all about ruching.
Faith: Don’t I know it. So why did you write this book?
Faith: Whoa, let’s get right to it much? Okay, um, I wrote this book because I couldn’t not. I had all these stories I wanted to tell—they’d reached critical mass, I think, because I’d arrived at a place in my life where my biggest questions were answered: What am I supposed to be doing? Will I find love? Where’s home? Will I be a mother? Do I still have eyelashes?
All those answers gave me space to breathe and reflect and feel like maybe I had something to say. And I realized the experiences I wanted to share had this thread running through them, this theme of seeking approval. And it’s universal, right? I wanted to tell my stories that really aren’t just about me. Wanting to be loved and appreciated connects us.
I see it in my kids—how beyond thrilled they are when I cheer because they’ve done something UH-mazing like conjugated an irregular verb. Even if it’s unsanitary to give my son a high five for wiping his own butt, I do it. Scientifically speaking, seeking approval is a developmental milestone, and I would no sooner deprive children of this basic need than I would refuse them a staple like gluten-free, organic quinoa-kale balls.
Faith: But then, as we become adults, we somehow expect ourselves to magically grow out of this desire for validation, we disdain ourselves for wanting it. So I thought of writing something a little bit in defense of being so…
Faith: When you were writing this book, what surprised you the most?
Faith: You love that question, “What surprised you the most?” That’s like your trademark Q in most interviews.
Faith: Then you should have seen it coming. It’s a good question.
Faith: Yes, it is…what surprised me the most? I would have to say the fact that I was unable to write without eating constantly. Truly. Frozen chocolate chips mostly. But other than that…I think I’m surprised by how far I’ve come. I don’t mean that in a self-congratulatory way, like whoo-hoo I’m such a success who doesn’t need approval anymore. I mean it like, when I was writing, it felt less like returning to a younger version of myself than it did revisiting someone I once knew long ago—someone with whom I wish I’d been more patient and loving at the time. In almost any given story from my past, I feel like Today Faith would have behaved less desperately than Yesterday Faith. But I don’t regret anything. I just wish I had a time machine to go back and hug old me, by which I mean young me. I would tell her that it gets better, like WAY better, without a hashtag, and even for heterosexuals.
Faith: Do you have any regrets?
Faith: In life or book?
Faith: Well, as I say in the book—wait, you did read it, didn’t you?
Faith: Like a third, I got the gist. But my intern did.
Faith: How dare you. As I say in the book, I regret not having a certain experience with my mom. But mostly I guess I regret how unhappy and scared I could be and how punishing of myself I was sometimes. If I’d known how it would all end up—and how quickly my life would bloom all at once after so many years of planting seeds in what sometimes seemed like shit but was really rich manure—I might have slowed it all down. I was always trying to rush through my life to tunnel through the pain and achieve the next goal. I would have cried less and roared more. Wait—we have an intern?
Faith: Her name is Zoe.
Faith: Good to know. I rue not having a wedding cake at my second wedding. The venue only offered a cannoli cake, and I balked, thinking anything short of layer cake with buttercream frosting wasn’t worth it. We had a dessert buffet, but it wasn’t the same as cutting a cake, and we should have taken the cannoli.
As far as the book goes, I regret how much low percentage cacao chocolate I ate while I wrote it. That was a jejune choice, and I should have been mature enough to go 72%. Maybe I regret telling the pee story. Depends on how many people bring it up.
Faith: What advice would you give to those who might seek approval?
Faith: Well, as Zoe knows, this is not a how-to book, but I would definitely suggest marrying someone whom you admire. And working with people who inspire you. That way, you’re earning validation from the “right” people, the people for whom it’s worth stretching yourself. And, of course, it’s healthy to continue to strive and grow by seeking approval from yourself, unless you are one of those people who won’t rest until you look like a Cat Lady.
Faith: Are you still an approval junkie?
Faith: I think I am, though not as much as I used to be. I’m at peace with it. Approval makes me run when I’m tired and pushes me to find what I didn’t know was there. I’m not so evolved that I don’t appreciate when someone likes something I’ve done. I’m not even beyond digging how the ladies at the nail salon always tell me I have beautiful nail beds. I don’t know what this means, but it makes me happy. On the other hand (which also possesses stunning nail beds), I don’t crave approbation constantly and promiscuously. I mostly want it from myself. At the root of “approval” is “prove,” and, for me, life is more fulfilling when I’m proving something to myself. Arguably, also at the root is “oval,” which is either an office or a face shape to which one should aspire.
Faith: Are you still breastfeeding?
Faith: Look at my boobs.
Faith: Faith, thank you for talking with you today.
Faith: No, Faith, thank me.
[I take off mic.]
Faith: Was that okay?
Faith: Was that okay?