The Debs are thrilled to welcome Wendi Aarons, an award-winning humor writer whose popular blog (which can be found here) is more addictive than potato chips. Wendi graduated with a degree in film from the University of Oregon and previously worked in the movie business in Los Angeles, and also as an advertising copywriter. She lives in Austin with her husband and two sons. She is currently working on her first book and also writes for mouthyhousewives.com. When not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and reading and can usually be found either near the 50% off rack at Target or opening a wine bottle. Thanks for joining us, Wendi!
I fell in love with humor writing the day it first got me in trouble. It was the beginning of 7th grade, and I was eager to impress my new friends Kristi, Yvonne and Shelby. They were a group of fun, high-spirited girls who were always laughing about something, and I desperately wanted to be one of them. They seemed so much more sophisticated than my old friend Heidi who only wanted to talk about what got stuck in her retainer that day.
I’d always been a shy, quiet kid, but I knew in order to cement my place in this new group, I had to prove I was funny. Kristi was known for her one-liners, Yvonne had her Donny & Marie impression, and, thanks to her father’s stash of Playboy magazines, Shelby knew more dirty jokes than a merchant marine. The bar was pretty high.
I decided to make my move during first period Science class since we were all in it together, and shared a mutual dislike of our gruff, hairy teacher, Mr. Hanson—a man famous for wearing black socks and sandals even in a blizzard. So while we sat at our lab table waiting for him to come light our Bunsen burners for that day’s lesson, I grabbed my notebook and furiously started scribbling. “Here,” I whispered to Kristi as I grandly tore out my finished masterpiece and handed it to her. “Take a look at this!”
Unfortunately, at that very moment Mr. Hanson stomped up to our table and quickly intercepted the paper before anyone could even see it. He glanced at it a few seconds, then his mustache started to twitch, and his face turned a deep shade of red. “Detention,” was all he said to my mortified face as he roughly folded up the page and jammed it in his shirt pocket. “Four days, kid.”
I spent the rest of that awful day trying my best not to cry. I had never been in trouble at school before. Ever. And this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t tried to be funny like the other girls. If I hadn’t tried to come out of my shell a little. When the last school bell rang, I slowly trudged over to the detention room and slumped into a wooden desk next to a group of pimply kids known as “The Weazels.” I smiled sadly as I watched them trying to light each other on fire, figuring I probably had no choice but to take up smoking and join their group now. And it didn’t even look like a single one of them could do a Donny & Marie impression.
The next morning, I slunk into school with my spirit broken. Now junior high wouldn’t be so amazing after all. I’d be stuck eating lunch with Orthodontic Heidi until I graduated college. But then Kristi, Yvonne and Shelby came running down the hall with huge grins on their shiny, 13-year-old faces. “Oh, my Gawd!” Kristi yelped as they circled me like ducks. “You made Shelby laugh so hard that Sprite came out her nose!”
“What? What are you talking about?” I asked, stunned by the news that I’d somehow achieved the highly regarded Supreme Soda Sneeze.
“That thing you wrote about Mr. Hanson! It’s hilarious!” shouted Yvonne.
“But…but how did you see it?” I said, still completely puzzled. “He took it away from me.”
The girls then grabbed my arm and dragged me down the hall until we came to the usually off-limits teacher’s lounge. “Look! Look right there,” Shelby said as she pushed my head into the smoky room. “Isn’t that like the most super cool thing you’ve ever seen?”
I slowly turned in the direction of her pointed arm, and there, smack dab in the middle of the teacher’s lounge bulletin board, was my handwritten note with the headline, “Come On Baby, Light My Fire: Win A Date with Mr. Bunsen Burner Himself! The Man with a Neck like A Test Tube, and a Body like a Beaker, Mr. Hanson!” Underneath that wonderful copy came the details on how to enter the contest (“Send $1.99 in unmarked pennies”), and a pencil drawing of my teacher atop a bearskin rug wearing nothing but underwear, and black socks and sandals.
Not exactly something that would ever win the Mark Twain Prize for Humor, but apparently it was good enough to entertain the entire teaching staff of Jamestown Junior High.
“My dad told me it was here,” Kristi said as all three girls, some of whom are still my good friends today, gazed upon me with complete admiration. “He said it makes the teachers laugh so hard they get stomachaches. He said even Mr. Hanson likes it! Can you believe it? Hey, want to sleep over tonight?”
I was too scared to ever write anything about a teacher ever again, but that day taught me a lesson that I’ve now followed throughout my entire life: If you’re going to do something that’ll get you in trouble, at least be sure you make somebody laugh while you’re doing it.
Especially Mr. Hanson.