Proust Q 5.0 July 2009: Mary Lamey

July 11, 2009

Welcome to this month’s profile Proust Questionnaire 5.0 (What’s this? See bottom of the page)?

I met Mary Lamey, this month’s Proust subject, at The Gazette about 10 years ago, back when there were more copy editors than desks, and there were plenty of those, also. Frank, funny and fierce. And those are just the Fs. Soon, she was elbowing me on the basketball court. If we were lucky back at work, she’d bring her little ones. And then: Cue the rounds and rounds of Gazette buyouts. Mary decided to try the other side of the real estate business she’d been covering for the Gazette, going into business with her One True Love. She even has her own blog, which you can see here. She’s reinvented and ridiculously happy in her new life, and though I never see her face to face, we meet at the water cooler called Facebook, where her updates preach the gospel of Friday Night Lights and too many bands to count and are charmingly likely to declare “Bunk beds, round two.” So here’s to reinvention and to workplace friendships that survive layoffs and buyouts. And here’s Mary answering the PQ 5.0 questions.
Denise Duguay

Since we are conducting this interview via email, the world is ours for the inventing. If, as I some day hope, money is no object, in what city and establishment would you like this interview to be taking place?
Well, let’s go to Greece and find a little seaside taverna on one of the islands. The fishing boats are bobbing on the tide, the evening breeze is just beginning to rise, carrying the scent of mountain thyme, charcoal and salt water. There’s a blue striped awning and the drunk Germans have not yet arrived.

Who and what would you be wearing?

I really don’t care, as long as I’m not naked. You neither.

And, most importantly, what would we be drinking?
Let’s have some really cold beer and a plate of once-around-the-kitchen for two. The squid is particularly good.

Okay then. What are the qualities you most admire in others?
A good heart and a really free laugh.

 Donna, Mary, Frank and Sheila begin to contemplate their post-Gazette futures seconds after getting approval for their buyouts, photographed in late 2007.

Donna, Mary, Frank and Sheila begin to contemplate their post-Gazette futures seconds after getting approval for their buyouts, photographed in late 2007.

What do you like most about yourself?
My ability to see the funny side of most everything.

My inability to let bygones be bygones.

What is your greatest achievement?
Surviving my upbringing relatively intact.

What is your present state of mind?

I’ve had some exercise today, so I’m feeling cheerful and unbothered.

Where and when are/were you happiest?
At home, puttering. I love the domestic arts.

What is your first memory?

I remember waiting for my family to pick me up after Sunday school when I was three or four. They weren’t the first to arrive but they weren’t the last either. Somehow I was sure they had forgotten me and that I would never see them again. There was crying involved.

What, currently, do you most love doing?
Gardening. Reading.

What was your worst job?

Booking appointments for a Filter Queen vacuum cleaner salesman over the phone. I was 18.

Your favourite colour?

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Not worrying.

Of misery?
Never seeing my one true love and kids again.

If not yourself, who or what would you be?
I harbor a fantasy of being an NBA-calibre point guard. This is likely to go unfulfilled for a number of reasons, not least my advanced age, big butt and inability to eat a sandwich with my right hand, let alone dish the perfect no-look pass to a streaking Leandro Barbosa.

Where would you like to live?

Hmm, you mean there are better places than Verdun? How about someplace cool like New Zealand. That’d be different!

What is your favourite journey?

I spent my 19th summer backpacking around Europe. I left Montreal with $150 in my pocket. To put this is context, the travel guide was then called Europe on $20 a Day. My cash ran out after five weeks. I ended up washing dishes in a resto in the Plaka, the main tourist neighborhood in Athens. From there, I spent two weeks living on a beach on the island of Ios. Cloudless skies, a dazzling white village on a hillside and an indescribably beautiful Aegean Sea. I lived on small watermelons, bottled water and yogurt, which I kept cool in a shallow tidal pool, and peasant bread. It was perfect.

What is your favourite or most memorable meal and when is the last time you indulged?
I do enjoy good eats! It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, just good. My New Brunswick uncles worked in pulp mills and fished the Bay des Chaleurs. I remember as a kid eating freshly caught lobster off a trestle table covered with newspaper in my Aunt Ada’s back yard. There was a roll of paper towels, a jar of Hellman’s, melted butter and not much else. I haven’t been back to New Brunswick in 15 years. Aunt Ada dies two years ago.

Name the person who influenced you most and how.
To my chagrin, my father has been my biggest influence. He’s pretty inward-turned. I have tried all my life to make different career, parenting and personal relationship decisions, based on the behavior he modeled.

Name the film/song/book/art that influenced you most and why?
I first read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was 10. It was years before I fully understood it, but I read and reread it. The writing was so simple and vivid. It taught me to observe, remember and takes notes because if motherless Scout Finch in backwater Maycomb could have a story then so could I.

In this or any time, which real-life figure(s) do you most admire?

I love Robert F. Kennedy. By all accounts he was a cocky young bastard with a vindictive streak. The assassination of his brother changed him for the better. That’s when he became a champion of social justice. I think the impromptu speech he gave to a largely black crowd in Indianapolis on the day that Martin Luther King was killed is about the most heartfelt thing I have ever heard. You can listen to it here.

Who is your favourite fictional hero?

Because I was a solitary kid with a notebook I’ve always had a soft spot for Harriet the Spy.

What fault can you most easily forgive?

What fault can you not forgive?

Ass kissing.

What is your motto?
Oh yes I will.

How would you hope to die?
In my sleep, in my own bed and quickly. Just not any time soon, if it could be managed.

Any last words?
I think I need to have a little lie-down after all this introspection. Did I mention that I’m actually kinda funny and fun to be with?


What’s a Proust Q 5.0? Admit it. You read those celebrity Q&As and you know you’re easily as worthy of being profiled. I know I do, but my friends are way more interesting. So, with nods to the “confession albums” of the late 1800s  made famous by the fabulous Marcel Proust’s answers, to French TV host Bernard Pivot who adapted the questionnaire, to Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton who gave it another spin and to Vanity Fair, which uses its own elegantly spun version to anchor the magazine’s back pages, I submit for your entertainment and enlightenment the Proust Q 5.0, my own version, re-retooled for a blog age.



  1. Mary,
    Your mention of living on Grecian Yoghurt reminded
    me of the short time I travelled in Greece & the yoghurt would be high on my list of “must have’s”
    (great way to start a morning of sight seeing haveing a fairly large (I blush to think of the size
    of bowl I used, drizzled with honey. One could live
    on that for weeks.
    I remember walking (away from my tour group in search of some much needed solitude during a lunch break) in a small village on the Aegean, & I stepped
    in what I thought was “dog doo doo” only to discover
    I had walked under a very ripe fig tree. Perhaps it
    looses something in my telling, but it was quite humorour to me at the time & I was glaD I was alone.
    cheers betty

  2. Dear Betty,
    That’s a good one! I can see them dripping from the trees. I never tried figs when I was in Greece, or kalamata olives or squid for that matter. I was a callow kid of 19, a little limited in my gustatory outlook. Funny thing, Greece was also the place where I — briefly — tried boys. Turns out they weren’t for me. My life in a nutshell, yes to kalamata olives, no to boys ; )


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