I was out for drinks the other night with two of my closest friends, Jack and Giovanni, when Giovanni got a text message from an ex-coworker. “I invited him to come join us. I hope that’s OK?”
It was, not that we had a choice at that point. Danny, a beautiful Asian painter who lives in a two-story brownstone in Brooklyn, showed up another cocktail later. “Cosmo,” he said, looking at my drink, “do people still drink those?”
“Apparently,” I nodded. “I’m Ian-Michael.”
“He’s the writer,” Giovanni bragged for me. “He’s the one who writes the column.”
“Aha! That explains the cosmo. You’re like a real-life Carrie Bradshaw.”
It’s a comment I get a lot: After all, I have been a columnist for three years now, and my columns have generally been on the topic of sex and dating. “I guess so,” I smiled, putting down my half-empty cosmo and ordering a gin and Sprite instead. (I can’t stand bitter drinks.)
I shouldn’t be mad about it: After all, I understand it’s typically meant as a compliment. It just doesn’t feel like one.
When compared to the infamous Carrie Bradshaw, I know they’re thinking of Sarah Jessica Parker. They think, “There’s Ian-Michael, in his Chloé boots that cost a month’s rent, saying witty, sassy things in his cute little column.” (And they’re not entirely wrong: My Chloé boots did cost a month’s rent, and I had no business buying them. But I digress.)
However, I don’t write because I have sassy things I want the world to know: I want to be a WRITER, all caps, following in the footsteps of some of my heroes: Joan Didion, Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton—to name a few.
Candace Bushnell, writer of “Sex and the City,” understands me. Near the end of the book, Samantha responds to Carrie’s new project with:
“It’s cute. It’s light. You know, it’s not Tolstoy.”
“I’m not trying to be Tolstoy,” Carrie said. But, of course, she was.
“How’s writing goin’?” Jack asked, a southern accent sneaking out when drunk. But he wasn’t asking about the column; he was asking about my book, the novel I’ve been “working on” for the last six years.
“Swimmingly,” I lied. When it comes to the novel, I find myself tied up in lie upon lie upon lie: I once told someone I’d written 300,000 words when I meant to say 30,000, but I didn’t know how to cover it up, so I just said, “I’m working on cutting some of it out.” I couldn’t remember how many words I’d told Jack last. The truth was 10,000.
“When are you going to let us read some of your book?” Giovanni asked. I’d finished my gin and Sprite; the bartender hadn’t cleared away my unfinished cosmo, and it took all of my willpower not to take it back.
“You’re writing a book?” Danny asked excitedly. “What’s it about?”
Head buzzing, I tried to summarize it like the back of a paperback novel. I must have gone on and on, because Danny just looked at me blankly. “Cute,” he said, smiling.
I reached out for the cosmo.