On Monday, March 2, 1987, exactly 28 years ago yesterday, I saw this ad in the Chicago Sun-Times. I was intrigued. I was curious. I was freshly married, blissfully happy, and knew next to nothing about anything. I was the perfect candidate.
The only thing I did know was that a once in a lifetime opportunity sat in front of me at a time when I had no real responsibilities. I had a great job writing about tractors, lawn mowers, and men’s underwear as a Sears Catalog copywriter, but surely Sears would understand if I needed to leave because I’d won a national search for the next Guru of Guidance.
Of course, there was Richard to think about. But that’s all Richard has ever required. Even before he graduated with honors and a PhD in Richard from the University of Richard, he had always been self-sufficient.
I didn’t really think I stood the slightest chance of landing Ms. Landers’ job. If I had, I would have told myself to “seek counseling,” but talking to myself – – and answering – – might not have boded well, especially when seeking a job in this particular field.
The first thing I did was ask my brother, Paul, who worked with my father, to take a picture of me sitting in their firm’s law library. I wore my favorite raspberry dress with shoulder-pads as large as those worn by most defensive linebackers. Luckily, because it wasn’t humid, I was able to contain my hair within the parameters of a Polaroid.
Then came the easy part, or so I thought. I was a decent writer. I have never had a problem writing about myself when the outcome was funny. But I had to sell myself. Ugh!
Being self-promoting has always seemed so self-promoting-ish to me. I’ve always found it hard to blow my own horn, adopt an air of self-puffery, or even tie my own shoes. Well, that’s not germane (or Tito, or Marlon…) to the story.
I’m so sure I’ll be too nervous by the time I need to promote a book someday, that Veronica and I have already discussed the very real possibility of her being my stand-in at book signings, and appearances on late-night television shows.
Need more proof?
I decided the best strategy was to just honestly answer the questions to the best of my ability.
They were looking for a person who could give guidance. Okay. I had guided many a girlfriend through rough patches with their boyfriends.
They wanted someone with guts. I didn’t and still don’t have any, but figured I could grow them.
Good Advice? Um, what’s the difference between advice and guidance?
It was time to call Mom.
Mom had no shortage of nice things to say about me, so I decided to say what she said about me. In fact (cringe,) I actually quoted my mother in the letter! You might have noticed by now that I have conveniently excluded from this post the letter of submission I wrote to the Chicago Sun-Times judges. It was so bad it was just too embarrassing to print.
I wrote (cringe cringe, cringe,)
“My mother said I have an ability to communicate and to empathize with people. She also said that I always exhibited good judgement as a child, and that I was always fair, perceptive, and conscientious. She also added that I am a miracle worker with sick pets, and that I have neat drawers.”
And, Mom, as Richard will gleefully tell you, I don’t have neat drawers anymore.
On March 9th, 1987, I sent the letter and picture in, and then waited patiently (and not so patiently) for a response. What if I actually made it to the semi-finals? Let’s face it. I wasn’t going to make it to the semi-finals…unless:
1. Not one other person in all the land would take the job.
2. All the Barbie dolls in the entire United States of America were unavailable through any and all retail outlets, so there was no other choice but to hire a a fresh-faced, wide-eyed ingenue with teeny, tiny pieces of brightly colored tissue paper floating around inside her brain.
Leslie Jo Chase Korengold: Wake up and Smell the Coffee!
Inevitably, I received a rejection letter in the mail, postmarked April 5, 1987. To the judges’ credit, I didn’t have to wait very long to find out what I already knew. I’ve included a picture of the envelope, too, because, it’s hard to believe, but it was hand-addressed, and only cost .22 cents to return my letter, my picture, and the rejection letter.
Just out of curiosity, did any of you apply to be the next Ann Landers? If so, please share your stories in the comments section below. I’d feel better knowing that I wasn’t the only person I know who responded to the Chicago Sun-Times search for the next Eppie Lederer.
After reading many of her quotes, I have found my favorite:
“Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.” ~ Ann Landers