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Life Arts    H3'ed 1/15/11

Julie's Life as Muse (and More) for AJ Jacobs

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My guest today is Julie Schoenberg. Welcome to OpEdNews, Julie. You used to work at Entertainment Weekly. But, for many, you are best known as the muse and better half of AJ Jacobs, editor at large of Esquire, author, and very funny guy. After reading some of AJ's material, I completely understand why he thinks so highly of you. But, what about the other way around? What about him attracted you, in the odyssey from co-worker, friend and date, to main squeeze, and then husband and father?

I was aware of AJ's writing at Entertainment Weekly before I met him and thought he was hilarious. After we became friendly, he wrote a piece where he infiltrated the Oscars impersonating a little-known Australian actor who he resembled. I couldn't believe what chutzpah he had!

After three (!) years, he finally asked me out. I wasn't sure that I saw him as a love interest but he soon won me over with his sense of humor and charming (albeit eccentric) ways. Once I saw him chasing my nephew and nieces around with gusto, I knew he would also make a great father. The rest is history.

The Julie-AJ saga is familiar to AJ's readers. Did you discuss ahead of time that you were to become a major character in his writing? Has that been hard to get used to? Do you have veto power? If so, do you ever use it?

We definitely did not discuss it ahead of time -- it has just evolved. It took some getting used to! In The Know-it-All, AJ wanted to write about our infertility issues which was still so raw a subject that I vetoed some of it. By the time The Year of Living Biblically came out, I had fortunately gotten pregnant a second time via IVF so I was all for telling our story in the hopes that it might give some peace of mind to someone else.

Well, that's admirable, but it can't be easy. Does knowing that what you say can (and probably will) end up in AJ's work make you self-conscious or make you think twice about it? Do you feel like you're always "on"? And, does this make you more sympathetic with public figures and celebrities?

There definitely are times that something will come out of my mouth and then I will pause and say to AJ, "that isn't going in a book, is it?" Since I know I always get final edit, I know I can still speak the truth...and edit later!

Yes, I definitely have some sympathy for public figures and celebrities and how their lives are an open book. For them, they have no control since they aren't married to the people writing about them.

That's true. You have an edge. I recently listened to The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment. There were some pretty hilarious moments in there. I'd be driving along and start guffawing uncontrollably. Can you tell our readers a little about living through the writing of that book? Was it as much fun for you as it was for us readers? I'm thinking: maybe not.

Maybe not.

There were some experiments that were awesome (a la "Whipped" where he had to do everything I said). Other ones not so much -- the one where he was a Unitasker was horrific. As any parent knows, you have to multitask or nothing will get done. I was basically a single parent that month.

How did the Unitasking work out exactly? And did it make AJ appreciate you more? And did those two kind of neutralize one another? Let's dwell a moment on that happier episode ["Whipped"] when AJ had to respond to your every whim - most wives' concept of Nirvana. This is your chance to share with our readers just what you cooked up for him and how it all worked out.

With Unitasking, the concept that he could only do one thing at a time. No checking emails while on the phone for example.

For Whipped, I came up with all the tasks that he would normally shrug off. He had no choice but to do them. Give me a foot massage each night. Make me dinner. Clean dirty diapers. Go do an errand for me ----even though it is cold outside. The best was that he had to do it with a smile.

My favorite part was that he sat down with me and we made a list of all the things I do around the house vs. what he does. Of course, my list was 10 times longer. He definitely appreciated me more after that!

It's been a while since then. How's the housework/chores distribution between you these days? Besides your job, which we'll get to soon, you also have three active youngsters at home. How do you two juggle everything without losing your grip or your sense of humor?

The chores distribution is better. He certainly doesn't grumble as much having to do his limited assignments.

The best part of being married to a humor writer is that he can always find the humor in the worst possible situations. And, we have been in some chaotic ones over the last few years.

I bet! Do your kids think AJ is a barrel of laughs or is his humor lost on them? Because he's funny, do you end up being the Bad Guy?

My kids think he is the funniest person in the world. He is totally "Fun Dad" and I think back to when my sister-in-law would complain that AJ was always riling her kids up right before bed. Now it's our kids.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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