S-H-A-M-E

This weekend my husband and daughter and I headed up to the Cape, for Oysterfest in Wellfleet.

Oysterfest has many things to recommend it. The oysters, for starters (and the clams, and the mussels, and the fried dough and the fried clams and the mussels in fennel and cream sauce). There's face and pumpkin-painting for kids, plus a moon bounce and concerts.

But, more than any of that, there was the matter of marital pride – the adult spelling bee.

Marriage teaches you a lot about yourself. Ideally, you learn about your untapped capacity for love and patience as you build a life and grow in tandem with your soulmate.

In my case, marriage has taught me that I am, in certain controlled settings, so insanely competitive that I would chew off my own arm to win.

A few years back, Adam and I participated in something called Urban Challenge, a sort of scaled-down city-by-city version of The Amazing Race.

I love love love watching The Amazing Race. I did not not not want to participate in the Urban Challenge. "You're too competitive!" I told my husband. "What if I can't figure the clues out? What if I can't keep up!"

Long story short – he sweet-talked me into it.

The competition began on a sunny Saturday morning in a local bar, with a trivia quiz. We won it. (We're nerds).

This meant that we got to start our hunt at the top of the pack, well ahead of the dozens of pairs of marathon runners who'd signed up for the event as a training exercise. Everything was copacetic…for about the first five minutes. At which point I turned into Hitler.

"People are passing us!" I said, as the first pair of marathon runners in matching Lycra blew by.

"It's okay," said Adam.

"No it is NOT okay," I said, starting to run after them. Adam shrugged. "You know, we really don't need to…"

I turned around. "RUN DAMN YOU!" I yelled.

And that was pretty much the way it went for the rest of the event.

He ambled. I browbeat. He lollygagged. I nagged. He screwed up one of the clues. I refused to speak to him for forty-five minutes and when I did it was to call him another word for kitty.

We ended up finishing in the top 20, out of almost 100 teams, so it wasn't all bad, but, once my blisters had healed, I decided that I would never again compete with or against my husband. It just wasn't, as Martha would say, a good thing.

But when he told me about the spelling bee, I figured, "Why not?"

There was nothing physical involved, and I'm a pretty decent speller. Words are my tools.

So maybe I got a little overconfident. A little cocky. Maybe it was wrong to refer to the Wellfleet Library as the House of Pain…or to teach Lucy to sniff my hair, post-shower, and say, "Smells like victory!"

Either way, I am pained to report that I got knocked out in the first round, forgetting the extra 'r' in "reservoir," which, God help me, I will never ever spell wrong again.

(The husband, for the record, made it through "broodstock," "aqueous," "grebe," "calciferous" and "phosphorescence" before getting knocked out on "cabomba," which is a kind of seaweed and which I would have gotten wrong, too, if I'd made it that far, which I didn't. Reservoir.)

Adam thinks we should do it again next year. I think I'm just going to sit outside and eat oysters instead and stick by my original vow of never, ever ever competing with, or against him.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has a fascinating (maybe just to me) story about how publishing is still, at heart, a guessing game, and how sometimes not even the highest hopes and most generous promotional budget can turn a book into a best seller.

And finally, a question: what do you, the readers, want to read about on this weblog?

More family stories or not so many? More publishing stuff or less? Is anyone besides me interested in how the New York Times' bestseller columnist can't stand bestsellers, or is that just my own personal thing?

You can answer by heading over to my Myspace page and posting in the Comments section (yes, you have to register for Myspace, but it's painless, and if you're my age, you get to feel hip for about five minutes after you do it).

Jen