Excerpt From Chapter 1

 

Raising children in Las Vegas presented a unique set of parenting challenges, not the least of which was the ever-present, over-sexualized, female exploitation sub-culture that loomed over your children.  Nowadays the entire country is over-sexualized as young girls willingly exploit themselves for their fifteen minutes of fame.  But, when I was growing up, Las Vegas was ahead of its time in this department.

I remember riding in the car on the way to second grade at St. Viator, staring at the racy advertisements that were plastered on the taxis that passed us by.  I was particularly obsessed with the one for a show called, Crazy Girls!  I thought to myself, “They must be crazy, they’re not wearing any pants!” as the tanned asses of eight showgirls stared back at me.

While all of these influences didn’t appear to affect my good-girl, follow the rules, obsessive-compulsive self, secretly it was on my mind.  I would never dream of actually becoming like these women myself, but what was the harm in pretending that my Barbies were Crazy Girls! ? Pretty soon all of my Barbies were jumping into their hot pink jeep and heading out for a wild night at the strip club.

By the time I was in the seventh grade, my Barbie dream house had transformed into a virtual Mustang Ranch.  Malibu Barbie pranced around wearing not much more than her painted on tan lines.  The previously harmless Ken was suddenly donning Barbie’s fur coat and bossing everybody around, saying things like, “Bitch better have my money!”  Teenaged Skipper cried all the time and smoked a lot of dope to numb the pain of lost innocence and the rough life of the sex trade.  I was really into my dark Barbie world and my heart broke for these girls as though they had made these choices themselves and I had nothing to do with it.   Meanwhile, I went on with my self-righteous little life, saying my prayers and studying for my exams.

There is certain innocence in still having affection for Barbie when you’re already twelve years old, even if your Barbies are drug-addicted hookers and Ken is a pimp with a God complex.  At least I wasn’t doing any of those terrible things and I had no plans to ever do drugs or have pre-marital sex.  And as far as I knew, no one in my class had those plans either. 

Then I got to high school….

**

Excerpt From Chapter 3 – How to Scare the Crap out of Your Child (in a Positive Way)

 


INT.  FAMILY KITCHEN – EVENING

A FATHER sits at the table reading the newspaper while eating cookies.
His DAUGHTER, a cute college girl, walks in.

				DAUGHTER
			Hi Daddy.

				FATHER
			Hi sweetheart.  Did you have some cookies?

				DAUGHTER
			Nah.  I’m on a diet.

				FATHER
			You’re too damn thin as it is.  You’re gonna waste
			away.

Father spills crumbs down his shirt as he takes a bite of another cookie.

				FATHER
			Oh well, more for me.

				DAUGHTER
			So, my friends and I are thinking of going to T.J.
			for the weekend.

				FATHER
			T.J.?

				DAUGHTER
			Tiajuana.

				FATHER
			Tiajuana?!  What the hell would you want to go
			there for?

				DAUGHTER
				(guilty)
			I don’t know.  It’s supposed to be fun.

				FATHER
			You’d just better be careful.

				DAUGHTER
			We will.  Of course, we will.

				FATHER
                        You have no rights when you’re over there.
			No rights.  Let me tell you, those Federales will
			rob you, rape you, and leave you to rot in a
			Mexican jail, all because you didn’t have the forty
			bucks to pay them off.

				DAUGHTER
			Well –

				FATHER
			You’d better bring an extra forty bucks with you
                        and set it aside as bribe money.

		                DAUGHTER
                        Okay.

                                FATHER
                        Better yet, two sets of forty bucks.  In case you get
                        stopped twice.

		                DAUGHTER
                        So, eighty-bucks?

		               FATHER
                        Yeah, but in two separate parts of your wallet.
                        They have to think that forty is all you’ve got.  You
                        understand?

		               DAUGHTER
                        I…think so.  Anyway, I’ll bring the phone number
                        for the American Embassy, in case I’m mis-treated.

		               FATHER
	                  (laughing)
                        You think you get a phone call?  This isn’t the United
                        States we’re talking about.  

                              DAUGHTER
                        Oh.

		               FATHER
                        And don’t make eye-contact with anybody down
                        there.  You make eye contact, you might as well
                        have a big target on your back.

		               DAUGHTER
                        Well, I mean…we’re probably not even going.  We
                        were just, you know, talking about maybe going.

		               FATHER
                        Oh, I thought you had already decided.

		               DAUGHTER
                        Nah.  I mean, with those Federales and everything…
                        you’d have to be nuts to go.  

		               FATHER
                        Smart girl.

 
 

The preceding scene was an example of how simple it can be to frighten your child out of doing something without having to “lay down the law.” The father in this scenario never once tells his daughter she can’t go, he merely “mentions” the terrible things that could happen to her in a foreign land.  
 

Notice how he opens with the comment, “What the hell would you want to go there for?” This is a very effective manipulation tool. The girl instantly feels ashamed as the image of her drunk, under-aged self, making out with a hot stranger flashes through her mind. Terrified that the same image may be flashing through her father’s mind, the kid wants to crawl under a rock and die. Mission accomplished….

 
 

Elizabeth, in one sense your book, Raising The Perfect Child Through Guilt and Manipulation is a satire, since it sort of skewers the genre of parenting books.  Yet, the book actually has a lot of really great parenting tips.  How on earth did you strike such a balance?  Are you some kind of sick genius?

Oh, you are so sweet.  I think this book came from such a real place, that it was actually very easy to find that balance.  My number one goal with the book was to entertain people with funny stories about my family, and my youth growing up Catholic in Las Vegas, (the same stories that people have been loving for years in my personal life) and to disguise the whole thing as a twisted parenting guide.  As the process went along I found that I actually had a lot of good advice for people.   I guess this shouldn’t have surprised me since I have the best parents in the world, in a lot of ways this book is a love letter to them.


Do you feel weird about using real people from your life in your stories?  Do you think this will come back to haunt you?

Let’s just say, If I were to do this again, I would have done more than just change the names of certain people, I would have “changed distinguishing characteristics” –which is a phrase I see a lot of in memoirs, but did not notice before I set out to write this book. I’m sure the phrase has been around forever, I just never thought about it, and always glanced over disclaimers at the start of books.  But, now I see that and think, “shit, I should have done a little more of that changing distinguishing characteristics business!”  I also see “some characters have been combined for the purposes of story-telling.”  I really wish I had thought of that.  Even if it weren’t true, I wish it said that at the beginning of my book.  That way, someone could reason, “Oh, this character must be me combined with some asshole.” At times I do feel a twinge of bad conscience (to use my cousin Jim’s favorite phrase…see, there I go again, not appropriately shielding people’s identities!)


Is it just my imagination, or would this book make an amazing Christmas gift, stocking stuffer, or Hanukkah gift?

Great minds think alike, yes it totally would!


Since this is part memoir, part instructional satire, do readers sometimes confuse the first person narrative stuff with the fictional examples and think that you have a bunch of relatives even sicker than some of the real ones?

Yes!  My own family has been grilling me about different parts, “Who is cousin Donny?  Who is that supposed to be?”  I have to explain that cousin Donny is totally made up, as are other examples in the faux instructional sections.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some real things weaved into those sections as well, but I prefer to keep people guessing as to which are which.


You’ve mostly made a living writing comedy pilots for television, how is writing a book different?

Well, there’s a lot less “white on the page” when writing a book, so it was a much more intimidating process in the beginning.  Screenplays and television scripts aren’t meant to be read, I mean, they are, but that’s not the final destination, so you don’t feel as obsessed over every single word of description as you do when writing a book.  (Or, I should say, “I” since I am not speaking for every other human who has written a book and a script, OR AM I? Whatever, you get the idea.)


Is there talk of turning this book into a television series?

Yes, there has been talk, but right now it is just talk.  Hopefully one day soon my dream of seeing a television version of my mother will be realized.  She really is such an amazing, hilarious, strong character, and I believe that America is ready for her to be the center of a sitcom!  They are clamoring for it!  The only thing even close to my mother on television was Carmella Soprano.  Growing up, my mother was kind of like Carmella Soprano, but without the guns hidden in the foyer, and with a much nicer husband.  Don’t even get me started on the endless hilarity that is my father.  I will not stop until there is a show that revolves around characters based on my parents.  America, you can thank me later.


Wow, those are some pretty big proclamations, “America is ready…” “America, you can thank me later.” Don’t you worry that the satire impaired will not recognize the over-the-top comedic boastfulness inherent in those phrases and think you are a pompous jerk?

It’s funny you bring that up.  Did you know that 12 million Americans are satirically impaired?  But, together, we can do something to ease their burden.  Please visit my website to find out how you can help (Jog-a-thon information to follow).


Thank you so much, Elizabeth, you have been a delight!

No, you have!