Considering One’s Audience is Lecture #1 in Writing 101.
The same goes for Public Speaking 101.
But sometimes, the Audience is overrated.
Case in point:
Centerville Junior High School
The Vice Presidential Race
In my only attempt to secure public office, I ran for V.P.
My father was disappointed. Why not the Presidency?
The answer was simple:
Popularity was not my hobby.
I didn’t shave my legs.
In English class, I looked forward to diagramming sentences.
My body looked like my next-door neighbor’s (and he was boy).
Even back in 1963, the above qualifications spelled DEFEAT.
And, to complicate the race, my opponent, Lisa, was stacked.
For those of you who need a translation of the word stacked, it is a cousin to the word boss, an adjective. Such was the rich lexicon of 1963.
Stacked meant that boys saw her chest first.
She had a boss chest.
My father became my campaign manager and he ran the campaign like Barack Obama. Our mantras were Stay cool, No Bad-Mouthing, Be Optimistic, and Value the Spoken Word. Never mind my flat chest. We would have a fishing motif. Even in those days, I knew what a literary motif was.
My sister, an artist, painted my signs. We cleverly used my last name, Block. We never contacted Charles Schultz about the use of his cartoon character, Lucy, but she became ubiquitous on campus: Don’t be a Blockhead; Vote for Cheri. Even in those days, I knew how to use a semi-colon.
The campaign had its snags.
Our Final Speeches took place in the school auditorium, which also served as the cafeteria, so by 1:00, as I wiggled backstage nervously, the smells of mystery meat and old peas, commingled with adolescent bodies and English Leather after-shave, permeated the space.
Lisa’s speech was, in short, a ruse to distract the male population with her voluptuous chest. Accompanied by a trim little musician, she sang the song, I Enjoy Being a Girl. During her two-minute burst of sexual vibrancy, coupled with Vice-Presidential minutiae, she looked vice presidential. Sarah Palin would have been very proud of her.
As I walked out on the stage, feeling like a Eunuch from The Unpopular Dynasty, and dressed as a fisherwoman, the words Yes We Can, came to mind.
The boys in my audience drifted away.
All of the flat girls clapped.
My speech ended with the following line:
And when you cast (I flung the lure, a gold Vote for Block hook) your vote tomorrow, please vote for me….and the fishing parallels went on and on.
I left the stage in my rubber waders and fishing vest, clutching my Fenwick pole, with a big fake smile and eyes brimmed with fresh-water tears.
That audience will never vote for me.
In a shocking display of substance over form, I won by two votes.
Photo by Cheri Block Sabraw 2008 Blue River, Oregon “Down the Mackenzie”