My madeleine moment

When I first saw the Proust Questionnaire on the Shakespeare and Company Café placemat, a childhood memory came back to me.

In middle school, I’d made a slam book (remember those?) with binder paper and yarn. I asked my friends to answer the questions in it and then pass it along. It went around for about two days before my guidance counselor confiscated it. (Thanks a lot, Mrs. G!)

When she found out my questions were pretty innocuous, she gave it back to me, but told me to stop passing it around anyway. In my defense, it wasn’t like a Mean Girls Burn Book at all. My questions were things like:

  • What is your favorite song? Most popular answer: Take On Me by a-ha
  • Who is your favorite dancer? Most popular answer: Janet Jackson
  • What is your favorite movie and why? Most popular answer: Top Gun – the volleyball scene! (Here’s a link to it – you’re welcome!)

See, pretty innocent, right?

in retrospect, I should’ve had tea and a madeleine cookie

While my slam book questions were superficial, pop-culture obsessed, unsophisticated, benign, and wholesome (for the most part!), these placemat questions were existential, thought-provoking, and even literary-themed! These questions would reveal the true nature of a person.

I wondered: Should my answer to each question be the absolute first thing that comes to mind? Do I give it careful thought then craft a response that would match the image I’m trying to project (whether real or imagined)?

After a couple of tries, I finally said, forget it. I’m not going to overthink anymore. That’s why some answers are blank! Maybe that’s telling, too. So, without further rigmarole, here are my answers:

  1. What is your present state of mind? Sleep-deprived
  2. What is your favorite way to spend your time? Checking off boxes on my to-do list
  3. If you were an animal, which one would you be? Black labrador retriever
  4. What book makes you want to live in another era?
  5. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten? Venison-ostrich meatloaf
  6. What is your favorite journey? This thing called life
  7. Who is your hero in real life? Mom Who is your hero in fiction? Wonder Woman
  8. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Apparently, I think, I dunno, stuff
  9. What is your idea of perfect happiness? warm cuddles with my Girls; moments of complete silence and knowing that everyone/everything is all right
  10. If you could spend the rest of your life with a character from a book, who would it be?
  11. What is your theme song? My Hallelujah Song  
  12. Who are your three favorite writers? Daniel Pink (Drive), Penelope Lively (The Photograph), Milan Kundera (Ignorance)
  13. Where in the world would you most like to live? Santa Barbara, California
  14. On what occasion do you lie? Whenever I smile, but I don’t feel happy
  15. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Chocolate
  16. Which poem makes your spine tingle? If by Rudyard Kipling
  17. What is your favorite smell? New paperback books or a newborn baby’s forehead
  18. If you could ask the leader of your country to read one book, what would it be?
  19. What’s your favorite hiding place? Second floor of Noah’s Bagels (but I’m not telling which one…)
  20. What do you consider your greatest achievement? I’m still working on it…
  21. Which book do you have on your nightstand but know you’ll never read? Girl on the Train 
  22. If you could have any superpower, what would you choose? To be in two places at the same time
  23. What was your favorite book as a child? The World Almanac and Book of Facts
  24. Do you have a recurring dream? If so, what is it? The Beauty School Dropout scene in the movie, Grease, except it’s my dad (RIP) instead of Frankie Avalon
  25. What to you is the most beautiful word or words? Yes
  26. What’s the worst book you’ve ever read? Maybe #21 – see above (I started it in early 2017, but it’s slow-moving!)
  27. Who would play you in the movie of your life? Catherine Zeta-Jones
  28. How would you like to die and in what form would you choose to come back? Feeling fulfilled and content. There is no coming back. In any form. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.
  29. What’s the most romantic experience you’ve ever had? Getting married at the same location as our first date
  30. What is your motto? Never stop learning (or, Always keep learning)

OK, now it’s your turn to answer the questionnaire (put them in the comments below!) If you pass it along to your friends, just don’t let Mrs. G catch you!