People Are Unappealing

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  • Edition: Original
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-03-10
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press
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Born the child of a homo and a hypochondriac (Okay, okay. Her dad's not really a homosexual. He just acts like it. Her mom, however, really is a hypochondriac), Sara Barron never stood a chance of being normal. At age eleven, she starts writing porn ("He humped me wildly with his wiener"). At twelve, she gets mistaken for a trannie. The pre-op sort, no less. By seventeen, she's featured on the Jerry Springer Show. And that's all before she hits New York. People Are Unappealingtells the strange, funny, and sometimes filthy stories of Sara Barron's twisted suburban upbringing and deranged attempt at taking the Big Apple by stormfirst as an actor (then a waiter), then a dancer (then a waiter), then a comic (then a waiter). It's there that she meets the ex-boyfriend turned street clown. The silk pajama-clad poet. The OCD Xanax addict who refuses to have sex wearing any fewer than three condoms. Barron has a knack for attracting the unattractive.People Are Unappealingis her wickedly funny look at the dark side of humanity.

Author Biography

SARA BARRON’s work has appeared on Showtime’s This American Life, National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition, and the Today show and at the HBO Comedy Festival in Aspen, Colorado. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. This is her first book.



Lady daddy

I've always preferred sedentary activities to active activities. In my tweenage years, I shirked anything labeled "extracurricular" for the chance to head home after school and sit locked in the bathroom. I preferred the bathroom to my bedroom because it had a lock on the door for much-needed privacy, and I'd spend my time there alternately cramming the ambiguous genitalia of my Barbie and Ken dolls together and interviewing myself about my imagined acting career. Pretending an electric toothbrush was a microphone, I'd ask, "What's it like being a movie star?"

"It's fun," I'd answer back. "Sometimes I have sex with John Stamos."

I'd sustain this clever banter until my father knocked on the door. My father is a creature of habit, so from Monday to Friday for eighteen years he arrived home from work at 5:32 p.m. First he'd set down his briefcase to file his nails, and then he'd "get lucky," to use the euphemism coined by my Metamucil addict of a mother. "What I wouldn't do for your father's small intestine," she says. "The man is blessed." He'd plan it this way since the use of public bathrooms always prompted his panicked descent into oblivion. "A person ought to be able to relax and enjoy himself," he'd say. "I like a little space, a little 'me' time. Is that so bizarre?"

So he'd oust me from the bathroom and I'd head downstairs to the living room, where he'd join me fifteen minutes later. "I feel like a new man!" he'd say, and then unwind with a bottle of blush wine and one of his many musical albums. By "musical albums" I do not mean, simply, albums. I'm not being redundant. I mean musical as in musicals: Marvin Hamlisch. Kander. Ebb. "Are you listening to this?!" he'd ask over the blare of the title song from Oklahoma! "Doesn't it just . . . gosh! I don't know . . . doesn't it make you want to dance?!" Then with the flourish of an imaginary cape, he'd twirl his hips in tight, concentric circles.

Usually it's a father who catches the seed of a lisp in his son or a talent for eyeballing another man's inseam, and he bristles with fear at the prospect of, to quote my next-door neighbor Brian, whose childhood pillowcases were sewn from tattered Confederate flags, "some gay shit." That my father could recite the entire oeuvre of Rodgers and Hammerstein, that his sock drawer was flecked with freesia potpourri, forced my younger brother, Sam, into the reverse situation.

"Sometimes Daddy's like a lady," Sam would say.

This was true. But it didn't faze me. On the contrary, my dad's offbeat behavior left me feeling optimistic. "At least if Dad's gay," I pointed out, "he's not doing Mom."

My mother, in a pair of heels with her hair teased, has a good eight inches on my dad. Size-wise, they look like Golden Girls Bea Arthur and Estelle Getty respectively, a resemblance emphasized by my mother's affection for tunics and my father's clothing staple, a shapeless, taupe cardigan. Parents and sex is an unhappy combination for most, and with their atypical height discrepancy and fashion taste of Floridian retirees, I've always found the notion especially upsetting. If they weren't having sex--and if my father's weak wrists and sibilant s were to blame--it was no skin off my back. My parents were among the few still married in our Jewish suburb of Chicago, and while in later years I'd come to appreciate this fact, when I was young, the notion of divorced parents struck me as chic. Very now. The possibility of two separate homes seemed wonderfully decadent, and I wished for divorce in the hope that one of them might land someone with a heated pool.

"You should've seen the way Dad was eyeing Dr. Cohen," I'd tell my mom after a father-daughter visit to the dentist. "He kept saying ho

Excerpted from People Are Unappealing: Even Me by Sara Barron
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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