Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I spoke to Donald Miller today. Dwayne put me up to it.
Donald spoke in chapel at APU so Noelle and I buzzed on over to listen. I really enjoyed it. Donald has an unconventional take on Christianity, he's authentic, funny, and a good writer. Also he writes creative nonfiction!
"Just tell him as a creative nonfiction writer, you enjoy his work," Dwayne coached me. It seemed harmless enough, so even though I already felt the burn of embarrassment, I moseyed on over to the cluster of college students surrounding him. Dwayne followed beaming from ear to ear. He's such a good cheer leader.
"Hey, should I tell him about the article I'm writing?" I asked, leaning into Dwayne.
"Sure!" he retorted.
The thought came to mind because that morning Donald had chosen nudity as his topic for chapel. He talked about the passage from Genesis that says, "And they were naked and did not feel ashamed."
As it happens, I'm currently writing an article for Ungrind about an evening I spent naked at a Korean Day Spa, and the revelations it brought me regarding vulnerability. In fact, the whole time Donald was talking I was taking mental notes. He'll probably turn up in the story somewhere.
So for better or worse, I dove into the bodies swimming around Donald and walked up with Noelle strapped to my back.
From beginning to end I'm embarrassed of the conversation. When I have to think on the spot like that, I think in a fog. It's like my mind slows down, half speed and my words betray me.
I share all of this conversation with you, because sharing purges the embarrassment, right?
"I want to tell my daughter ten years from now that she met Donald Miller."
Stop. Right. There. Who is Donald Miller? Bono? The Dali Lama? The President? I shake my head already.
He grinned sweetly and leant over to look at Noelle who promptly gave him the cold shoulder.
"Ah, she won't look at me," he said.
"Well I just wanted to tell you that I'm a creative nonfiction writer..."
Wait. Wait. Wait. Dwayne's version was so much more gracious, so much less obnoxious and self-important, "As a creative nonficiton writer, I enjoy your work."
His eyebrows lifted, the corners of his mouth turned down, he nodded his head to say, "Is that so?"
"And I really enjoy your work."
"And I just wanted to mention that I happen to be writing an article on nudity."
"On what?" He leaned his head in, the students around us were talking very loudly and the nuances of my words were getting lost. Or at least, that's what I told myself.
"Oh!" He snapped his head back.
"On a night I spent at a Korean Day Spa." He interrupted me.
"Oh, like David Sedaris. He wrote about his weekend at a nudist colony." I nodded my head, but inside I was panicking. I wanted him to understand that I wasn't just telling him about my article on nudity for the sake of nudity, but because there's a deeper meaning there. A theme that is going to be informed by his talk, but I didn't get that far - I laughed awkwardly. "Yeah."
Great, now he thinks I was a pervert mom, with a baby on her back.
"Well, I really love your work." I said. Not totally true. I really enjoyed his first book. I haven't read his most famous, "Blue Like Jazz." And Love is a word I would reserve for Anne Lamott's work, or Annie Dillard's, or Joan Didion's. But still, I really like his stuff.
"Well, I love writing it."
Oh how the words just kept flowing out of my mouth unchecked.
"I'm sure you do! I'm so jealous of your life!"
It was written all over his face - disbelief. He looked down at Noelle and back at me, and there was no time for back peddling. The man has never been in a relationship. He's thirty years old and single, and while he has a very successful career, I absolutely would not trade my life for his. He knew it, I knew it, but the words were already out and another student was already moving in for their piece.
This is why Donald is successful. He is honest even when it hurts him, even when it makes his readers uncomfortable. I could see it on his face in that second. He would not let me romanticize his life. He would not let me turn him into a celebrity.