Joanne Palmer's Life in the 'Boat column appears Wednesdays in the Steamboat Today. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find more columns by Palmer here.
I hate math. Which is why I sometimes have to have a little help from People magazine.
This horrifying realization came to me the other night when my son quizzed me on his math homework. Trying to demonstrate what a whiz kid he is, he asked, "Do you even know how many sides an octagon has?"
"Of course," I snapped. "Eight. The octo-mom had eight babies, therefore, an octagon has eight sides. Like a stop sign."
My son rolled his eyes and returned to his math book. Clearly, I had racked up another point in the "My mom is a weirdo" column. But I was on a roll now.
"'Obtuse' is a dummy - one french fry short of a Happy Meal - which is how Jon of 'Jon and Kate' is behaving," I added.
"He seems to be in the center of a lot of love triangles lately, if you know what I mean."
More eye rolling.
"Now an acute triangle is a hottie, better looking than all the other triangles, get it? Like Jennifer Aniston."
My son slammed his math book shut. I knew I had landed squarely in the "lock her up and throw away the key" column.
"Celebrity math," I cried as he walked away. "What a great way for right-brained people to learn math."
Occasionally, I envy people, like my son, who are good at math. It must be reassuring, comforting even, for math people to know there is always an answer. No matter what happens in life, two plus two is always going to equal four. Even if aliens take over the Earth and little green people run around bleeping at us to board the spaceship, two plus two still will be the correct answer.
Math and I were never a good match. I came close to flunking geometry because, instead of memorizing the formulas, I scribbled short stories for the answers, instead. It was obvious two sides of the isosceles triangle were equal, so why go through all the trouble to prove it? I thought my teacher might like an original answer, something different to read. Perhaps a poem.
He did not.
Science was equally difficult. I struggled to accept the fact that an amoeba was just a cell. Surely anything that could divide had to have a brain? And what about its emotional life? Splitting up must be so hard. Didn't it miss the other half of its body?
For writers, there are no answers, only possibilities. There is no right way to begin a story but rather hundreds of ways to start. To begin this column, I could just as easily have written:
"People magazine helps me with my son's math homework."
Or, "Everything I know about seventh-grade math I learned from reading People magazine."
Maybe alliteration would be better:
"Popular, puffy People magazine is my go-to resource for seventh-grade math homework."
All of these possibilities can make you crazy. After years of agonizing about word choices - is it best to write "a cow jumped over the moon," or did the cow leap, catapult, hop or skip? - many writers go crazy and spend their golden years shuffling around in their bedroom slippers staring at the lawn gnomes they've stuck into their front yard. Or staring at a blank wall. Or just shuffling.
I accept the fact that I'm slightly loopy and unconventional. I don't much care what other people think, which is why I'm sitting at my desk in a bathrobe held together with a dog leash.
And, as long as my subscription to People magazine doesn't expire, I should be able to hold my own, at least for the first trimester of seventh-grade math.