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Getting Along by Lawrence J. Cohen - A
bi-weekly column in The Boston Globe
2/13/2003 - Advice to live by
Ever since I wrote an advice book for parents, I have
established a Sunday ritual where I race downstairs, grab the
newspapers, and rush to the back of The New York Times Book
Review to see if ''Playful Parenting'' will appear magically on
the bestseller list in the ''advice, how-to, and miscellaneous''
I suppose this habit is akin to those people who read the
obituaries every morning to make sure they are not listed,
before they can breathe a sigh of relief and get started with
Of course, I know the book won't be there. I'm not being
pessimistic, it's just that the bestseller lists are actually
calculated three weeks in advance of their publication in the
paper. That way, bookstores can make sure to stock up on the
books that will appear on the list. As a courtesy, the newspaper
notifies publishers and authors that their book will appear on
the list. (No such call for me so far, which doesn't stop me
from checking the list just in case they forgot to call.)
In the absence of any real mystery as to whether my book will be
on the bestseller list this week, I have decided to use the
''advice'' list for its original purpose: advice. I decided to
base my life on the topics covered by the week's bestselling
how-to books. There are 11 books on the list (because of a tie
for fifth place).
From now on I am going to spend 64 percent of my time on my diet
(mainly cutting out glucose and carbohydrates and following a
variety of foolproof exercise programs, as suggested by seven of
the 11 books), 18 percent of my time on spiritual enlightenment
and the meaning of life (two books), and 9 percent each on
expecting a baby and making sure that baby will be super-rich
once he or she grows up.
Ah, I feel better already - except for missing all those carbs,
and for the sore muscles from all that exercise, and for
wondering about where that baby is going to come from, since
we're not actually expecting one. I'm also wondering how that
mysterious baby is going to get rich. All that wondering makes
me want to sit on the couch and eat a cookie. Oops.
So far, I admit, I am slipping. I wish there had been a
self-help book on the list about getting one's column to the
editor on time. I am having to bend the rules a little and act
as if typing on the keyboard is one of my various exercise
programs. Maybe praying for a clever way to finish this essay
could be a step in my spiritual enlightenment.
Unfortunately, since my daughter gets her exercise in physical
education class at school, she isn't too interested in any of my
seven workout regimens, so finding time for parenthood is
definitely a problem. If only there were a book or two about
parenting on that bestseller list (hint, hint).
My wife isn't too thrilled with the turn my conversational style
has taken since I made this decision on how to live my life.
''Pass the salt'' is out, for obvious reasons, so here's a
sampling of my dinner table conversation: ''Do I look like
Suzanne Somers yet? I mean right now this moment, since that is
the only thing that matters in life, except of course for having
a deep purpose to my life, which of course I do, and it is
eliminating all carbohydrates and glucose from my diet. What?
You want pasta? Maybe if we were doing one of last year's lists.
This list is all protein. You really want pasta? It must be a
craving. I read about that in the book on what to expect during
pregnancy. You're not pregnant? Then I am going to have to
adjust the formulas I worked out for me to become a rich dad and
not a poor dad. I'll get right on that as soon as I finish my
eight-minute transformation of fat into muscle.''
If someone writes a book about how to manage your relationship
while on multiple diets and spiritual paths, I hope it gets on
the bestseller list.
I think maybe next week I'll base my life on the paperback
fiction list instead. Now that I'm in such excellent physical
and spiritual shape, I'm ready to devote my life to being a
deeply romantic law professor on the run from supernatural bad
guys in the South, solving a few murder mysteries while engaging
in soulful conversations with three generations of hard-working
rural women, then waking up with amnesia in New York, only to
discover that I am actually an accident-prone marine biologist
based on a character in a Virginia Woolf novel. See if anyone
complains about my boring conversation then!