Take care of yourself, y’hear

Revenge is a dish best served cold and with laughter, then it can taste oh-so-sweet.

Don Hewitt is one smart cookie. He’s an eight-time Emmy award winner and creator of 60 Minutes, the longest-running prime time broadcast on North American television (39 years and counting). Hewitt’s an unquestioned success story and an acknowledged media genius, but even he must jackknife up in bed some nights, wincing at the sentence that tumbled out of his mouth back in 1959.

He was interviewing prospective television hosts for CBS and he didn’t see much promise in the blond hopeful sitting across from him waiting for his verdict on her audition.

“With your voice,” he told her bluntly, “nobody is going to let you broadcast.” The dumpee handled the rejection well. She walked across the street and signed on with NBC. Her name was Barbara Walters.

That’s the secret to handling rejection – learn to roll with it; don’t take it personally. It’s an important skill to master because we all, in this life, get dumped sooner or later. Left at the altar, jilted, fired, sold out, passed over for promotion, selected last for the volleyball team. “It’s a long lane that has no ash cans,” said John Diefenbaker, a man who knew a thing or two about getting dumped.

Me? I’ve got enough rejection slips to paper the Skydome – but so have most writers I know. And it helps to know that George Orwell had his book Animal Farm rejected out of hand by his American publisher because, as the publisher explained, “It’s impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”

The challenge is to not just roll with the punches but to get up and KO the clown who decked you. To rise again.

I’ve never been much good at it, but Sophie Calle? Calle is a 54-year-old Parisian writer, photographer and installation artiste. Last year, she got a Dear Jane – make that a Chère Jeanne – letter from the guy she was seeing. Not even a letter – an e-mail! It was classic Dumpsville. He was leaving her “for her own good,” he wrote. He had found himself “noticing other women” and didn’t want to break his promise not to cheat on her, so he was pulling the plug, bailing out, hitting the road. “Take care of yourself,” he signed off.

Sophie Calle could have pulled her hair, sobbed, wailed and gnashed her teeth. She could have called up her girlfriends and boo-hooed with them over bottles of vin ordinaire. She had a better idea. She would “take care of” herself all right. She would take care of Monsieur Snake-in-the-Grass aussi.

First, she made copies of the e-mail. She mailed them off to professional women she knew, each with a different area of expertise. She sent one to a copy editor; another to a forensic psychiatrist, another to a professional clown, still another to an opera diva.

“Comments? Observations? Advice?” prompted Calle.

The diva sang the letter as a wretchedly cheesy aria. The clown interpreted the letter as a slapstick routine. The forensic shrink diagnosed the mental state of the writer of the letter (not healthy). The copy editor corrected it with coloured pens, pointing out the clichés, the misspellings, the bad grammar.