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Just Don’t Call Me Ma’am’s subtitle—How I Ditched the South for the Big City, Forgot My Manners, and Managed to Survive My Twenties With (Most of) My Dignity Still Intact—might be unwieldy, but it provides a handy précis of this colorful memoir about the not-always-glamorous adventures of a young advertising copywriter braving the urban wilds of Boston, New York, and Seattle and coming to terms with a midlife crisis that strikes twenty years too soon. Mitchael, a University of Texas graduate, recently returned to the state to be closer to her family. She now lives with her boyfriend on a ranch outside tiny Mosheim, a bit west of Waco, from which she writes the droll—and very forthright—blog annamitchael.com. This is her first book.
I’ve been known to say that no one under the age of 50 should write a memoir. What makes Anna Mitchael the exception? This isn’t an “I’ve figured out the secrets of the universe” kind of memoir. If it was, one might question the wisdom of having a 31-year-old at the helm. I wrote about my twentysomething years because there is another side to the Sex and the City martini-and-stilettos fairy tale of finding your way in the world. If you asked me in a few decades about the experience, it’s likely a lot of the raw edges would have been smoothed over in my mind. To me, those raw edges are crucial—they’re what assure other people that they aren’t the only ones trying to find a way through the confusing times in life.
When did you start your first blog, and what do you think of your early posts, in retrospect? I’d rather walk through coals than read those first posts. I needed an editor to step in and say, “Okay, sweetie, five paragraphs on the awfulness of your ex-boyfriend is probably a bit much.” Even though it was 2005 and blogs had been going for a while, I was new to the concept and wrote as though no one was out there. The slightly creepy thing about the Internet is that there’s always someone out there.
You write about your seminomadic life and your eventual return to Texas. Give us the travelogue. I grew up moving around, and then after I left college I continued to pack boxes every couple years. I went from Boston to Seattle to New York City and then Oklahoma, because my parents were there, and no
quarter-life crisis is complete without a brief move back under your parents’ roof. My final stop before returning to Texas permanently was in Denver. In the end it wasn’t about finding the next cool city. I just wanted to be back with the people I cared about. It just took me a lot of time and frequent flier miles to figure that out.
This book closes the door—very gently—on your recent past. What about your present and future? Well, I don’t see a lot of skyscrapers and taxicabs in my near future, that’s for sure. I’m back in Texas, and in a twist that’s unforeseeable from my book, I live in the country now. If you’d told me at 22 this was where I’d end up in a decade, I probably would have advised you to take your crazy talk to the next table, please. But this is where life has brought me, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Maybe that’s just a sign of getting older and knowing yourself better, or maybe it goes to show that you have to let life unfold at its own pace. I’m also working on my next book, and of course the blog will continue indefinitely. It’s the weirdest thing—even without skyscrapers and taxicabs and fancy martinis, life still goes on. My 22-year-old self would have been shocked to know it. Seal, $15.95