#35 Crapometer

Genre: Commercial Fiction

To Vonnie Pennington, raised on the wrong side of the tracks and transformed into Houston's blossoming self-help expert, image is everything and she has it all. A loving marriage, the beautiful house in the exclusive zip code, and a successful career telling other women how they, too, can create the life they've always wanted. But when she runs into her husband AJ in Saks decked out in heels, a wig, and makeup better than her own, she bolts into the mall, crashes into a pole and is knocked out. Regaining consciousness with the help of her motherly neighbor and a nearby restaurant owner, Vonnie vows not to let anyone's lipstick, including her husband's, mar her perfect life. She loves AJ and always advises her readers to do everything possible to salvage a meaningful relationship. Vonnie hasn't begun doing everything possible.

Cross-dressing adolescent psychiatrist AJ Pennington (I assume here you mean he treats kids, not that he is one) wants to maintain the illusion of their perfect life and marriage almost as much as Vonnie does. (so..why the F is he cross dressing in public?) Previous attempts to reveal his true self to others resulted in rejection, and he can't bear the thought of Vonnie doing the same. But he doesn't know how long he's going to be able to keep pretending he's the man everyone thinks he is. His inner woman, Annabelle, refuses to stay under wraps.

Talk show host Claire Gershman, newly ensconced in the house across the street from Vonnie and AJ, didn't realize how living in such close proximity to their supposedly charmed existence would highlight the hollowness and desperation of her own. Consumed with envy that Vonnie has what Claire deserves, Claire sets out to poach AJ. But she doesn't stop there. When Claire's career is jeopardized, she decides Vonnie's career and life should be also.

Vonnie makes the best of the crimp AJ's true self puts in their sex life by struggling to take her own advice, though it's harder to do than she imagined. An upbeat, deal-with-it attitude only goes so far in fighting thoughts of the manly restaurant owner who helped her back at the mall when her life first spun off course.

One morning, a threatening anonymous note arrives from Claire alerting Vonnie and AJ that their efforts to keep up appearances have failed. Coming to grips with AJ's cross-dressing is no longer the issue; keeping it from destroying their personal and professional lives is. Distraught at having hurt Vonnie and causing buried baggage from her childhood to surface, AJ offers to leave, bringing her momentary relief and subsequent shame. Not only can't she do what she tells her readers to do, she's tempted to give up on her broken life before exerting sufficient effort to glue it together into a new normal. This realization strengthens her resolve to spin the situation into a better one for both of them. Committed to facing her marital challenge with renewed zest, she's friendlier to AJ's inner Annabelle, while continuing to fight her growing comfort in the masculine presence of the restaurant owner.

The only way you describe the restaurant owner is "manly" and "masculine". That says a lot...all of it bad.

In the meantime, Claire takes it upon herself to introduce Annabelle to the world by helping AJ's son expose AJ's secret, forcing Vonnie to decide whether she's going to stand by AJ or let him deal with the fallout of exposure alone. She chooses to stand by her man, such as he is. When Claire's wrinkle removing endeavor results in a near death experience and the motherly neighbor becomes sufficiently derailed by her own husband's latest sexual antics to strangle him in their cabana, Vonnie faces the shortness of life, especially her own.

AJ, now fully expelled from his closet and also freshly aware of life's limits, decides he's really a woman, taking the for worse part of Vonnie's vows to a new low. His idea of the two of them continuing as wife and wife forces Vonnie to accept that her spousal love has stretched to its limit. She wishes him bon voyage on his fast track to womanhood, forgives a reformed Claire, and begins work on her next book Love May Be Blind But You Don't Have to Be. The life she didn't know she wanted may or may not permanently include the hunky restaurant owner down the road. She'll decide when she gets there.


First of all, cross dressers aren’t gay, mostly. Not all gay men want to be women; in fact, many of them don’t want to be around women, let alone be one. Men who want to bccome women are called transgendered and are commonly called pre-op or post-op transsexuals. You don’t have to live here in Chelsea to know that.

You’ve got every stereotype and cliche in the book working here. “Wrong side of the tracks” “sex starved envious single neighbor” “ vixen trying to steal my man”

I’m not sure if you intend this to be funny, and light hearted but if you do the charm eludes me.

I think I remember this from the first pages you ran through the crapometer when she finds a pair of size xl underpants and thinks her husband is having an affair. I remember the writing as quite good.

Even if you have five superb pages, I’d never take this on.


Liz Wolfe said...

"I think I remember this from the first pages you ran through the crapometer when she finds a pair of size xl underpants and thinks her husband is having an affair. I remember the writing as quite good."

Uh, nope. The five pages were mine. The synopsis isn't.
But I'm printing this out and hanging it over my desk. Thanks!


Miss Snark said...

oh gee...the one nice thing I say about this and it turns out not to apply to her work. Yikes indeed.

Anonymous said...

The writer didn't call the husband gay, did she? "Coming out of the closet" has been co-opted from meaning coming out as gay to coming out as anything hidden, it doesn't necessarily imply that he was gay - is that the phrase you meant, Miss Snark?

A biological male who decides he wants to live as a woman is better referred to as a tranny than a cross-dresser, but it sounds like the character doesn't really come to that realization until the end of the book. So “cross-dressing” might work.

I think a light hearted, chick-lit type look at this situation from the wife's perspective could be interesting. Just cause the writer uses a lot of cliches doesn't mean she'll botch the underlying subject of being the wife of a man "coming out" as a tranny.

Would you reject this because there's no market for the subject, because you think she’ll botch the sensitivities needed for the tranny issue, or because you don't like the cliches?

Miss Snark said...

When you're talking about a sensitive subject you have to get all the details right or it's patronizing. That's why Chris Rock is funny when he talks about race, and growing up in Bed Sty; he's got the details right.

It's what makes The Wire brilliant even though it's written by a white Jew named David Simon; he gets it right.

If you want "coming out"" to mean something other than coming out as gay, you have to say so. Gay is the default association with "closet" You can come out as a literary agent, a Republican or even an alien, if you want but if the starting point is a closet, and there's no further definition I'm going to think gay. And if you say that with cross dresser/transsexual, I'm going to think you got it wrong.

Mizrepresent said...

Sounds like that Oprah show i seen, but that was real...Details separate the stereotypes from well-developed and believeable characters...by golly Miss Snark...i get it.