Aunt Bossy reviews Terry Sweeney’s new book, ‘Irritable Bowels and the People Who Give You Them’

Dear Bossy,Black_and_white_arm.jpeg

You seem to have your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the Lowcountry so I thought I would ask you about this new book by Terry Sweeney, “Irritable Bowels and the People Who Give You Them.” I hear it is pretty racy, I am pretty old and old-fashioned, I don’t like the title, and I have a hard time understanding people who are different from me.

I admire the work that Terry Sweeney and Lanier Laney have done in revving up many of the events in Beaufort, especially that Lafayette Soiree and some other things, and I like to read, so I thought I would ask you for your advice on this book. I also like to support local authors. I just don’t want to make myself sick with all this bowel stuff and wanted your thoughts before I buy it. You usually have a lot of sense.

Squeamish

 

Dear Squeamish,

Not to fear! This book will cure you of ails you didn’t even know you had and it isn’t about bowels, except for the innards of human humor and the heart. You will laugh, and you know what the doc says about laughter being the best medicine.

Let’s start with the title: Terry came from a family where everyone is described by some awful nickname or description. His was “the one with the irritable bowels.” This is not good if your mother is Italian, and your father is an Irish butcher, but Terry made the best of it and rose above it.

I agree with you that thinking about bowels can be unpleasant and I did spend part of the book worried about his bowels because of the people he had to deal with, but it really isn’t a major emphasis, and, so I just decided not to think about that body part. Problem solved.

Is the book, the story of many parts of Terry’s life, racy? Compared to your life and my life, probably – but then, you probably haven’t hung out in Hollywood or the television world of NYC. I haven’t either.

I have certainly never even been invited to experience a sex seminar in a teepee, as Terry was in Hollywood, although I have rejected invitations to “counter-culture” meetings and complicated “group activities.” Even though these events weren’t in teepees like the sassy one Terry and Lanier attended, being invited was enough for me. However, the story as told by Mr. Sweeney isn’t vulgar or repulsive and the “racy” parts are actually pretty hilarious because they are just so bizarre.

Terry-Lanier-Susan-Marg-Debbi-bookAs for Terry Sweeney being different from you, I can guarantee that. He is different from most of us because he is smarter and way funnier than most of us. He doesn’t have to brag about this or tell us it is true. He shows us in his story.

Terry Sweeney came from a very humble and rambunctious family and through his intelligence and talent landed a scholarship at one of the best Universities in the country, Middlebury College. (That would be waaay up North.) Middlebury specializes in languages and Sweeney is fluent in Spanish and French, and possibly Italian. Middlebury is not known for sports teams, so that was in his favor.

After college, Terry did what many kids don’t get the opportunity to do any more – he worked low level jobs to put food on his table and a room over his head, rather than to take a flying leap into some impassioned career. This gave him a clear idea of what he didn’t want to do with his life and taught him a lot about people, so he took a chance one day and ended up writing for the premier comedy show of the 70’s and 80’s, Saturday Night Live.

Being an old-fashioned type, you will appreciate the fact that when he finally got recognized as a talent that could be used on screen, he did not go around screaming and yelling and doing interviews about the fact that he was the first gay person on national television who didn’t go around denying or ignoring that fact. He was who he was. He is whterry-laniero he is. And, he is a very funny man.

I won’t tell you more, but I do highly recommend you read this book. I knew it would be funny, but what I didn’t expect was how deeply touching Terry Sweeney’s story is. He really “sees” people and his insights are deep and astute. His relationships are propelled by the truth, and although he finds a lot to like in many people, he doesn’t hesitate to get away from the destructive ones, even when they might be able to advance his career.

One last thing: Lanier Laney, who has been at Terry’s side since they were barely out of their teens (they tied the knot on their 30th anniversary), is a constant presence and influence in much of the book. They have a rare relationship, and that is an underlying thread throughout. Terry’s love of Lanier and his love of the South, especially Beaufort, is what have stayed with me. Yes, this book made me laugh like a fool in public, but, when all was read and done, it was the tenderness of Terry Sweeney’s story that left its mark on me.

Buy it. Read it.

Aunt Bossy is Susan Murphy, an internationally known Communication Skills Coach who adores spending every winter and spring in Beaufort. Ask for advice at  bossymurph@mac.com

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