I suspect it’s an offshoot of capitalism, but in America, there is this idea that all problems are soluble, that there is a remedy for everything, and that no one really needs to spend much time working on radical acceptance – loving who we are, living in what I call the Eternal Now.
I didn’t know I smacked my lips until I asked for feedback on my monologue and a lot of people told me I did. I’ve given a thousand talks at book readings, and it never came up there, so either it’s a new thing, or book readers really don’t care.
If you’ve heard a lot of writers talk and read from their books, you will probably know that there are a lot worse things than lip-smackers.. I’m not sure what the lesson is here, whether is really good to ask for advice, or not really good. I try hard to be honest with people, and I am grateful when they are honest with me (most of the time).
The whole monologue thing was very healthy for me, it led to a better understanding of myself and of how I project to others. That is a valuable lesson for a writer, who works alone and rarely gets to have much of an image of him or herself. I learned I didn’t need to be reading T.S. Eliot’s poems beautiful but somber poems aloud, I need to tell my own stories in my own voice.
Since I didn’t know that I smacked my lips when speaking, and Maria didn’t either, it came as a surprise, and I was also surprised by how many people picked up on that and sent me a lot of messages about it.
Many repeated the observation that I smacked my lips when I talked for a while (dry mouth, they call it) and many had ideas and suggestions – breathing differently, chewing gum, using mouth sprays, gum and mouthwash for Biotene, the leading manufacturer of moisturizing products for the throat and mouth.
Some women refused to believe that Maria hadn’t noticed, they said she was being thoughtful. They don’t know Maria, if there is anything about me or anything else that she is afraid to say, it hasn’t come up yet.
I’ve probably received 100 suggestions about how to deal with dry mouth and keep from coughing or smacking my lips. I am not complaining about this, I asked for it and was grateful for the new awareness.
I want to thank the people who wrote me. I also wanted to tell them that I am ware of Biotene and other sprays, I used some when I went on grueling book tours and was speaking all day long, day after day.
But here’s where I landed. It doesn’t bother me a bit to smack my lips. I’m not auditioning for any movies, and I have no interest in acting, and if I did, it would be in roles about an older man who smacks his lips sometimes.
I do not believe there are remedies for every single thing about me that might be cured. I don’t comb or dye my hair over to hide my baldness or get plastic surgery to thin out my chin.
Older people are prone to dry mouth, especially those taking diuretics. It is who I am, I’m not waiting for the team at Queer Eyes to come and spiff me up. Writers can smack their lips all they won’t and readers will never know.
I think the lesson for me, and perhaps for others is that every problem cannot be fixed with money or medicine, I can’t buy or prescribe my way out of getting older. Lip smacking is an almost viscerally cosmetic kind of problem, it doesn’t affect my health or work in any way.
So why should I worry about it and rush to the pharmacy and chew gum and spray my mouth unless I’m giving a speech or doing my radio show. I don’t need any more pills. Does my wife care?Do my dogs care? Do the donkeys? I have very few friends, and none of them would dare to care about my lip-smacking.
The best medicine is to love and respect myself, and accept me in all of my varying and sometimes disturbing glory. I am not close to perfect in any way, that is who I am.
Next Friday at 7 p.m., I’ll be doing a new monologue at the Old Castle Theater in Bennington, Vt., this one is the Story Or Red. He and I will be on stage and I will be talking for awhile in all of my lip-smacking magnificence.
“Consider your lip-smacking a gift,” wrote Diane from the Finger Lakes in way far Western New York. That’s the best advice I could get.
The Story of Red is a great story, and I will be honored to get to tell it. If I should tell his story well and smack my lips along the way, I guess I just don’t really care.
Let us be us.