Sometime in the fall of 2014, I will be seated onstage with international bestselling author Sarah McCoy, speaking to an audience of readers and booksellers about books and writing, and I will be wearing a flesh-toned speedo. You may wonder how or why this happened.
I’m still wondering this myself.
Here’s the sad tale.
Slate’s Simon Doonan first wrote a piece for Slate entitled Why Are Guys Afraid To Wear Speedos? The subtitle of the piece is “American men need to get over their Freudian fear of showing off their junk.”
I saw Slate’s tweet indicating that the world needs more men in speedos and tweeted this in response:
Sarah McCoy, author of The Baker’s Daughter and The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico, saw my tweet and responded to me:
@MatthewDicks I'll pay $$ for you to try. #WorldNeeds. BWAHA.
I ignored Sarah’s tweet, admittedly hoping that her offer would be quickly forgotten, but a day later, she tweeted to me again.
@MatthewDicks You ignored my man-kini challenge. I see how it goes. #WontProstituteGoodsForAudienceEntertainment Moral, man. ;)
As you can see, Sarah clearly pressed the issue when I tried to let it go. All that follows is her fault.
Unable to ignore a challenge of any kind, I responded:
@SarahMMcCoy I was still debating color...
My response to Sarah flesh toned suggestion is where I made my first mistake. Here is where I allowed bravado and ego to overtake common sense. I tweeted this to Sarah:
@SarahMMcCoy Here's the deal: You buy them. I will wear them in a joint author talk with you.
Sarah responded immediately:
@MatthewDicks: Oy, err, crud, you called my buff-bluff.
Right here, I could’ve let the conversation end. I should’ve let the conversation end. I had the upper hand. I had challenged Sarah McCoy and she had backed down and admitted defeat. I had won.
But no. Instead, I turned to name calling. I was feeling overconfident about my victory. I tweeted this:
Sarah immediately responded, as people often do when accused of cowardice, with aggression.
@MatthewDicks: Coward. >> Them's fighting words. It's on, dude. You name event place & time. I'll bring the necessary libations. #FLESHTONES
Thinking that Sarah would still back down, I decided to apply pressure:
@SarahMMcCoy I'm holding you to it! I'll crowd source it. #andamsuddenlyterrified
This was the moment that other people saw our back-and-forth on Twitter and became involved in the conversation. First it was Dawn Rennert (@TooFondOfBooks), the owner of The Concord Bookshop.
@MatthewDicks I don't know what this is about, or who to put my money on?! Is Matt sporting flesh-tone stockings? @SarahMMcCoy
Now we had an audience. This was not good. Someone who I know and respect might think I’m a coward if I backed down. So I answered Dawn.
@TooFondOfBooks @SarahMMcCoy Not stockings. A speedo. We need to arrange a joint appearance.
Dawn’s response was appropriate considering my proposal:
@MatthewDicks oh. my. goodness.@SarahMMcCoy
Then Sarah responded. Her response appealed to me because she used the word “epically” (I’ve spent my entire life trying to be epic), but it also terrified me because now Sarah was actually formulating a plan. All hope of her backing down seemed to be evaporating.
@TooFondOfBooks @MatthewDicks I am a woman of my word. #MustPlan We'd make it epically something. When's your next book due out, Mr. Dicks? @MatthewDicks
I answered, hoping calendars, books and stars would not align.
@SarahMMcCoy @TooFondOfBooks Fall of 2014. You?
@MatthewDicks Ohhhhh and now we dance. Summer 2014. #MyBook3 Event on, my friend. @TooFondOfBooks
“Now we dance…”
Then good friend (but perhaps no longer) and Books on the Nightstand host Ann Kingman jumped in, offering a possible venue for this little nightmare:
Sarah seemed to like this idea a little too much and reminded me that all this was my fault (which it was) with this response:
Indeed, see here, @AnnKingman: MT @MatthewDicks called my b(l)uff then called me a coward= challenge. we r locked into Flesh-Toned Book Event
Now the boulder was actually rolling down the hill and seemed unstoppable. My moment in a flesh-colored speedo now seemed inevitable. In a moment of honesty and fear, I tweeted:
@SarahMMcCoy @AnnKingman What have I gotten myself into?
@MatthewDicks Is this, dare I say, COWARDICE I smell? #YouUppedTheAnteMyFleshTonedFriend
Forced back into bravado, I responded:
This is where we stand today. Sometime in 2014, I will be appearing with author Sarah McCoy in a joint author appearance, and I will be wearing a flesh-toned speedo of Sarah’s choice.
I have embraced this inevitability. I welcome it. I look forward to it.
Either that or I’m faking it, which amounts to the same thing.
I feel terrible for the audience members who will be subjected to this spectacle, but I will be sure to inform them of the optics of the event well in advance.
Perhaps no one will come. The specter of me in a speedo might be too much for anyone to bear.