In Miami, it’s practically impossible to grow up surrounded by anything but diversity. My family moved there when I was six, but I first discovered I wasn’t in Kansas (okay, Sarasota) anymore when I noticed that many of our neighbors in our new apartment complex had nailed skinny, metal plates with strange lettering painted on them in their doorways at crooked angles. The OCD side of me wanted badly to straighten them, but they were clearly meant to be that way. Either that or they’d all hired a handyman with balance issues to hang what I later discovered to be their mezuzahs.
Until we moved to Miami, I’d never known a Jewish person. I’d known two midgets – both of whom had appeared in The Wizard of Oz, a dwarf and a girl who’d worn braces on her legs, but that was as interesting as it had ever gotten for me. No black people. No Latinos. No Asians. No Indians (dot, not feather). I didn’t eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich until I was fully five years old. Clearly, I’d been sheltered. Of course, having been raised in the Assemblies of God church, I knew of Jews. Theywere God’s chosen people. As far as I was concerned, the Jews received all kinds of special treatment from God, while us “Born Agains” were the red-headed step-children of the world.
Of course, it took some time for me to discover that these nice people with whom my parents socialized and with whom I played in the pool, were different from me in any way. They looked the same. Except for the occasional foreign-sounding word, they sounded the same. In fact, they spoke more like me than my German grandmother, who peppered every sentence with words like hündchen and danke schön and bitte and auch du liebe. Unlike Grandma, all of our adult Jewish friends read The Miami Herald, rather than a newspaper written in a foreign tongue. Not to say that I didn’t pick up a little Yiddish. In fact, I was the only first grader at Westwood Christian School who, when something went wrong, often shrugged her shoulders and said, “Oy vey.” With a New Jersey accent, courtesy of Mrs. Schwartz in 3B.
As I discovered our differences, it became immediately apparent that they were minor. Some of our holidays were different, but it didn’t stop us – kids and adults alike – from dressing up for Halloween every year or celebrating one another’s birthdays. The introduction of Matzo ball soup into our diet was no stranger to me than I’m sure the butter and sugar sandwiches – a nod to my mother’s European heritage – was to them. The only truly distinguishing characteristic I could make out between my family and our Jewish friends was the fact that they seemed to possess no interest in converting others to their religion. Jews, apparently, didn’t recruit.
Protestant Christians make the U.S. Army look like amateurs when it comes to recruiting. “Be All That You Can Be” just can’t compete with “Become A Christian Or Burn In Hell For All Eternity.” Sure, the Army’s got the GI Bill and on-the-job-training, but compare that to eternity in a mansion encrusted with diamonds and precious stones and streets paved in gold surrounded by angels playing harps, and, suddenly, free college tuition in exchange for risking your life for several years doesn’t seem like such a bargain. During chapel at school, we were urged to share the gospel with our non-believing friends because we didn’t want them to spend an infinite number of years screaming from the pain of hellfire and brimstone raining down on them, now did we? Born with an innate sense of guilt that any Jewish mother would have been proud of, I bore the weight of the world upon my shoulders on a daily basis as it was. To add the fate of my friends’ immortal souls to that mix was unbearable. I had to lighten the load.
At the time, my closest friend was a pretty, raven-haired girl, we’ll call Simone. Half Jewish, the future of her soul concerned me more than some of my other friends in the apartment complex because her dolls were always naked. Barbie – naked. Even worse, Ken – naked. Absolutely shocking, Donny and Marie – naked and sometimes lying on top of each other. It’s not like they didn’t have clothes, she just didn’t choose to dress them in them very often.
Playing dolls at her apartment was like witnessing the Biblical Sodom and Gomorrah over and over again. When we’d play Barbies, in my head, my Ken doll – his red bathing suit having never been removed since it was delivered to me factory-fresh – was Lot, Malibu Barbie was his wife, and Skipper and the Bionic Woman were his two daughters. Once poor “I’m-a-little-bit-country” Marie Osmond had been mounted by one of several paramours, including her brother and The Bionic Man, my dolls would turn their backs to the plastic orgy, climb The Twin Bed Mountain and wander off into the wilderness of Simone’s Wonder Woman bedspread. Being the Christian that I was, I didn’t even allow Malibu Barbie to glance back longingly at the brimstone falling down on the heads of her comically-proportioned, nude girlfriends. I mean, she was my best Barbie. It would have done none of us any good if she’d turned into a pillar of salt. Of course, back then I didn’t realize that Lot’s two daughters later got him drunk so that they could have incestuous relations with him. They didn’t teach that part of the story in Sunday School.
Though I was now seven, I had not yet developed the savvy conversion techniques possessed by our pastor. However, I’d listened carefully in church and I knew what selling points had worked on me. Still, this would be my first attempt at witnessing as they called it. What if I flubbed it? Would Simone give me a second chance to win her soul for God’s army of Christian soldiers? Inexperienced as I was, I became determined to save my friend’s precious, immortal soul. After all, if I didn’t, who would I play naked Barbies with in Heaven?
One afternoon, as we sat in front of my wooden dollhouse amusing ourselves with my Barbies (dolls that were between nine and thirteen inches high, plastic and not of the baby variety were collectively called Barbies then), all of which were fully-clothed (my apartment, my rules), it became apparent to me that I couldn’t put it off any longer. Simone, despite my warnings, undressed Malibu Barbie, presumably so the doll could take a bath in the pink whirlpool tub my parents had given me for my birthday the year prior. Making the situation even worse was the fact that the tub was located on the third floor of the dollhouse – in the master bedroom. And who do you think was seated in that room, on the bed, his head turned so that he stared directly at the plastic, jetted bathtub? Ken. Who’s mouth was practically salivating in anticipation of seeing Malibu Barbie’s uncovered boobies and hoo hoo? Ken. Who was being corrupted by a seven-year-old Jezebel intent upon bringing sin into my dollhouse? Ken. Poor, fully-dressed in a winter coat in the middle of April, celibate Ken.
As Simone plopped the naked and voluptuous blonde into the tub, I handed her a miniature bikini. “Put this on her,” I said firmly.
“But she’s taking a bath.”
“No, she’s soaking. Our parents don’t get naked in the Jacuzzi.” I could feel my nostrils flaring and my chest turning splotchy and red, a signal that I was becoming uncomfortable.
“That’s because the Jacuzzi’s outside,” Simone said, a smirk overtaking her perpetually-tanned face. “This one’s inside their bedroom.”
Oh. As if that explained everything. As if nakedness was okay just because it was confined to the walls of a plywood room intended for sleeping. Simone had a lot to learn and there was no time like the present. God forbid she should die in a horrible car accident the following day; certainly she’d end up sitting on the right hand of the devil, little horns sprouting through her shiny, dark bob and a long, red, spiked tail emerging from you-know-where and curling around her ankle. So, right then and there, I shared my secret with her.
Blinking back my tears, I confided, “Simone, I’m very concerned about you.”
“Why?” she asked, discarding the blue and white bathing suit I’d handed her moments earlier into a pile of doll-sized clothes.
With two fingers, I plucked from the mess of clothes, the red one-piece that Malibu Barbie had worn the day she arrived under my Christmas tree two years prior. Tossing it at Simone, I casually said, “Because if you continue on this way, you’re going to burn in a lake of fire in Hell for all eternity.” I looked pointedly at the crimson bathing suit, now resting on her thigh, and then at the naked doll, who I’m sure was mortified to be stared at by Ken in a way that must have made her feel objectified.
The young girl’s forehead creased and I swear she snickered. “No, I’m not.” Snatching the bathing suit up, she folded it into the palm of her hand and tightened her fingers into a fist, before releasing her grip and allowing the crumpled bit of nylon to fall back into the pile from whence it had come. Clearly, fear-mongering wouldn’t work with this one. I doubted she’d ever become a Republican.
Okay, I’d take another tack. “Yeah, you will. But that’s fine. I mean, I just thought you’d like to hang out with me in my mansion.”
One eyebrow cocked skeptically, Simone retorted, “You don’t own a mansion.” But she hesitated. She waited. I’d caught her interest.
“I will. When Christians go to Heaven, they each get one,” I said, conveniently leaving about the part about dying first.
“Says who?” Simone was as tough as a vanilla wafer that had fallen between the sofa cushions and remained undiscovered for months.
Rolling my eyes as though the answer were obvious, I answered, “Jesus.” The name prompted a blank stare from Simone. “You know, the Son of God.” This earned me a half-hearted shrug of her sun-kissed shoulders. Sighing deeply, I dutifully recited: John 14:2. ‘In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.’ I was so certain and dogmatic in my belief system as a second-grader in the Seventies, I’m glad I wasn’t born in another place and at another time – like Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution. I’d have been running around handing out pamphlets and quoting The Communist Manifesto.
“Huh?” Simone said, her eyes widening. I’m not sure if her confusion was because another seven-year-old was quoting scripture or if she just had no idea what I was talking about. Looking back now, I realize that they only thing separating me from Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction at that particular moment was the absence of a gun and an afro. Perhaps it wasn’t confusion in her eyes, but terror.
“It’s from the New Testament.”
“What’s that?” she asked, her eyes never leaving my face. I’m also pretty sure scooted back a little, putting a good foot of green shag carpeting between the two of us.
“It’s part of The Bible,” I said incredulously. “It’s the sequel to the Old Testament.” Finally, Simone’s head nodded in recognition. “Anyway, that’s not important. What’s important is that when Christians go to Heaven they each get a mansion and the streets are paved with gold and there are diamonds and rubies and sapphires, like, everywhere. Even the gates are made completely of pearls.”
My friend’s eyes grew even larger and her lips formed a perfect “O.” Fear had been replaced with good old fashioned greed.
“And you get crowns. Jeweled crowns.” I vaguely remembered the pastor saying something about crowns. “And princess dresses and a pony.” Now I was just making stuff up, but deep in my heart, I was certain that God wouldn’t give me diamonds, yet refuse me a Shetland pony. What kind of Heaven would that be? And He sure as heck wouldn’t make me run around in my blue plaid parochial school jumper. That would just be cruel.
“Crowns are for boys,” Simone insisted, folding her arms tightly against her chest. “I want a tiara.”
Of course, she did. All girls want a tiara. “That’s what I meant,” I added quickly. “The boys get crowns and the girls get diamond tiaras.” C’mon. I was so close. Simone was salivating more than Ken with his prime time view of Porn Star Barbie. I could see the wheels in her head spinning; I could practically hear the whirring and clicking of the gears in her brain as she processed this new information about Heaven and how it might benefit her to give Christianity a go.
“I want one with sapphires. That’s my birthstone,” she said, her eyes narrowing. I smiled and nodded, indicating that it was a done deal. “Okay.” Simone shook her head. “What do I have to do?”
As simply as I could, I explained that she just had to believe with all her heart that Jesus Christ was the Son of God – the Golden Ticket that would magically open up the Pearly Gates (still leaving out the minor you’ve-got-to-be-dead-to-go-to-Heaven component) so that she could gain entry to her new life as a jewel-encrusted, Lady of the Manor – and that he had died on a cross and rose from the grave three days later. That’s when the fear crept back into her stare and she slid backwards another foot on the carpet. I’m pretty sure she had a really bad case of rug burn by the time this whole ordeal was over.
“What do you mean he died on the cross?” she asked. For some reason, a guy nailed to a wooden cross, a crown of thorns cutting into his scalp, who’d been stabbed and was going to eventually croak was a bit traumatizing for her. The happy, shiny Heaven story had suddenly turned into an Edgar Allen Poe tale of murder, with a ghostly apparition rising wispy and fog-like from a cracked gravestone.
In homage to my future legal career, I hurriedly glossed over the carnage. “Oh, it’s no big deal. He comes right back a few days later. And He’s fine. Just a few scars.” I pointed to my hand with my finger as though a hole clear through your palm was the equivalent of a pockmark. Still, Simone’s face remained doubtful. “Look, Jesus is up there with God in Heaven right now. Their thrones are right next to each other’s.” I painted a cozy picture of father and son, plopped down in adjacent recliners with their feet propped up, watching an episode of Sanford and Son together and laughing every time Redd Foxx fakes another heart attack or argues with Ernestine.
Soon, her forehead uncrinkled and she agreed to move forward. Then I helped Simone kneel and instructed her to pray to Jesus, asking Him to forgive her for all the sins she’d committed and informing Him that she was now accepting him as her personal Savior. When she was finished, I’d expected her body to convulse with a jolt of Born Again power. This is what always happened at church. The wicked sinner would kneel before the pastor, say the prayer and then the pastor would touch the new Christian’s forehead, causing him to fall back, shuddering, as if he’d been shocked with an animal prod. When Simone remained upright, I tentatively touched her brow with my finger tip. Nothing. Next I tried pushing her backwards using a tad bit more force, but either the Jesus Juice wasn’t flowing through her loins quite yet or she had figured out what was expected of her and was resisting. Frustrated, I finally flicked her hard – just below her hairline – with my thumb and finger, prompting her to wince and yell, “Ow.” Okay, it wasn’t a convulsion, but it was something.
“You’re done,” I announced, digging the tiny, red bathing suit out of the clothing pile and handing it to her. Without another word, Simone quietly removed Malibu Barbie from her bath and slid the one-piece onto her plastic body.
A week later, Mr. Adams, Simone’s non-Jewish father, cornered me by the public bathroom at the complex’s community pool. Dripping wet and chilled, I stared up into his contorted, angry face, and shivered uncontrollably as he launched into a diatribe that would have frightened a Mafia Don. I was emphatically informed that despite the fact that Mr. Adams was a Christian, Simone was being raised Jewish and I was to never try to convert her to a different religion again. As I cringed before this man twice my size, I thought of missionaries who’d been murdered in the rain forest for trying to save the souls of indigenous tribe members. What horrendous fate would I suffer in the name of spreading the Gospel? Before I could imagine myself being burned at the stake or my severed head dangling from the fist of a savage, pagan head hunter, it was over. At least, I thought it was. Mr. Adams had turned away, taking his shadow with him, leaving me panting from the adrenaline rush in the bright sunshine.
Suddenly, he twisted around and hissed, “And don’t you ever tell Simone that she’s going to burn in Hell again. You got that?” I nodded silently, my heart pounding in my throat.
Hah! I knew it. Simone had been scared shitless at the concept of swimming in a one million degree lava lake. I’d sold her from the beginning, but she’d held out for a sapphire tiara. Maybe she’d turn out to be a Republican after all.
I was a private school kid. Before you go there, I wasn’t that kind of private school kid. There were no limousines or drivers or designer bags or ivy-covered walls or disheveled teachers in tweed who lived onsite and inspired me to seize the day. In fact, I was a scholarship kid – which meant that 99% of the kids enrolled had more money than I did, but I was smarter than all of them. I raised the school’s overall standardized testing scores, won spelling bees for them, and served as my classmates’ verbal and physical punching bag – all for discounted tuition. Possessing a photographic memory and a passion for reading the World Book Encyclopedia at dinner, I knew I wasn’t normal. I quickly discovered that there wasn’t a single kid in my class who, as their mom served them meatloaf, thought to themselves, “Hmmm. I bet the R volume would be good with beef.” But I wanted to be normal. I so wanted to be.
Unlike the previous parochial school I attended, this one didn’t require the wearing of uniforms. Having spent every school day of my life in a blue plaid jumper paired with a light blue blouse with a Peter Pan collar, I was desperate for the opportunity to dress like the public school kids who waited for their bus on the opposite side of the street each morning. I pictured myself in bell bottom jeans, a crocheted halter top and bright yellow, patent leather platform heels. Because flat-chested – make that concave-chested – ten year olds don’t look at all ridiculous in see-through halter tops and neon platforms. Had my new school actually allowed pants and skimpy tops, I might have given Jodie Foster a run for her money and found myself a taxi-driving, psychotic boyfriend.
Little did I know that this small freedom would be my downfall. Despite the fact that I’d been no less of a geek at my previous school, my uniform had shielded me in a way. We’d all looked alike and I’d managed to hide my ginormous brain – under a hat -but the kids thought I was just very fashion-forward. It made me look like Jughead, but no one ever suspected that he was smart, did they? More likely, the kids just didn’t care at that age. There’s something about puberty and hormones that transforms children into the fanged and winged raptors of Satan. I’m convinced that the case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde was really just delayed puberty. Think about it. Linda Blair was 12 when she pulled her spinning-head trick in The Exorcist. Right around the advent of puberty, Jodie Foster began turning tricks, Brooke Shields got herself naked and lost on a tropical island (on purpose, I bet!) and Scott Baio started saying stuff like, “Wa, wa, wa.” That’s not even English. That’s the secret language of Lucifer.
Unfortunately, my transfer to a non-uniform school coincided with puberty for many of my classmates. This was not the case for me. Puberty was a distant promise like the destruction of the Berlin Wall and colonies on Mars. Though the students weren’t forced to dress alike, there were rules and plenty of ‘em.
FCS DRESS CODE
1) FEMALE STUDENTS MAY NOT WEAR PANTS. This is not in all caps to emphasize the importance of this rule; this is actually how it appeared in the rule book. In truth, pants were allowed if the temperature was 45 degrees or below at 6 a.m. in the morning. Swear to God, this was also in the rule book. In these cases, slacks or courderoys were permitted, but absolutely no jeans because the Highway to Hell was paved with Jordache. The problem with this rule was that I grew up in Miami. It’s never that cold – and if it is, the entire family is in shock and fighting for space over the oven burners trying to warm their fingers and ward off frostbite. No one leaves the house on a chilly day in Miami. What was the school thinking? We could have died just trying to get there.
2) The Hem of the Skirt or Dress Must Measure Two Inches or Less from the Middle of The Knee. If you’ve read my earlier post, 5 Reasons Why God Loves Short People Best , you already know how unfair this rule is for a taller-than-average girl who’s built like Lurch and is so thin that her shadow is often mistaken for a crack in the sidewalk to be carefully side-stepped (no one wants to break their mother’s back…unless puberty has set in). Fortunately, the no-uniform rule opened up a world of fabrics to me so I was no longer putting a strain on the tartan-weavers in Scotland who worked day and night trying to create enough fabric to cover my endlessly long thighs.
3) No Bare Shoulders, Cleavage or Midriffs. Though a rule about no cleavage shouldn’t have seemed necessary for fifth graders in the Seventies, remember that I was growing up in Miami. Latino girls are like crocuses; they bloom early. My best friend was Cuban and she must have been a C-cup by the time we were in sixth grade. I didn’t even own a training bra yet. Heck, I still played with Barbies and I hadn’t yet removed the red bathing suit on my Ken doll to find out what was underneath – because I was afraid I’d go to Hell.
All the rules aside, my entrance into this new school necessitated a new wardrobe. As I was a scholarship student, my parents weren’t financially prepared to take me on a shopping spree at the mall. No, the wardrobe-buying process would have to be thought out. K-mart, as an option, was quickly discarded because the clothes would have to be extremely well-made and sturdy, in order to last all year – and into the next, if possible. After all, I’d lived in two uniforms per year for the previous four years. My parents had no intention of filling my closet with dozens of new outfits. Only a few dresses would be needed. A talented seamstress, my mother also planned whip up a few designs for me to “wow” my classmates with. Because nothing says, “Wow!” like hand-made clothes when you’re ten, right? I was so excited.
For about five whole seconds…but it all drained away as my mother pulled the car into a parking spot in front of a store called, Polly Flinders. Can we just start with the name here? What fifth grader in the Hip and Happenin’ Seventies wants a wardrobe manufactured by a company that sounds as though it makes pantaloons and petticoats. Worse, I’d already had a Polly Flinders experience.
In the second grade, I’d received one of their dreaded dresses for my birthday. I call it my Patriotic Pilgrim Dress. Blue with red and white smocking, its ginormous white collar ended in two sharp points, much like vampire fangs. God forbid my mother should buy me a dress that wasn’t the same color as my school uniform. With my buckled school shoes and 15th century hair style, the only thing needed to complete my look was a tri-cornered hat and a musket. The Patriotic Pilgrim Dress still fresh in my sponge-like memory, I wrinkled my nose and cringed when my mother announced, “We’re here!” My refusal to move from my fetal position on the front seat, along with me sobbing, “Oh, God. Not here! Please, I’ll be good,” apparently gave away my distaste for the idea of shopping at Polly Flinders. But my mother said it was this or nothing. The thought of attending school in my skivvies was a threat sufficient to make me scurry from the car.
Clearly, the store catered to the Toddlers and Tiaras crowd as tiny, frilly dresses with (you guessed it…crinoline petticoats) filled the front of the shop. The skirts were so full and so short, I wasn’t sure if this was pageant hell or the only ice-skating costume shop in all of Miami. Before I could ponder them more fully, Mom grabbed my hand and dragged me down the sole, narrow pathway through the center of the store, away from the cheerful, hand-smocked confections and towards the sober Laura Ingalls Wilder dresses for girls who hadn’t yet hit puberty, but had lost every bit of Shirley Temple cuteness they ever possessed.
Why is puberty relevant here? Smocking. Nearly everything manufactured by Polly Flinders was smocked and waistless, with decorative white Peter Pan or Pilgrim collars and sleeves that are gathered at the wrist and finished with lace. Now a flat-chested girl like myself could retain the image of childhood in a dress like this – granted, childhood in the Victorian era, but I looked like a kid, nonetheless. Once boobs entered the picture, however, you had yourself a maternity dress. And no one at a private, Christian school wanted their grade school students looking – erm – knocked up, if you catch my drift.
Not only were the dresses just plain ugly, the entire shopping experience was both depressing and mortifying. Chrome rounders of smocks were tightly crammed into the poorly-lit room like a twelve pack of soda cans, clearly intended to wean out any kid with boobs whose mother was intent on purchasing her a Polly Flinders’ dress. Scattered along the path were the bones of puberty-ridden girls who’d gotten stuck between the rounders and had never made it back out. Why hadn’t their the mothers gotten similarly mired, you ask? They were taller. Their boobs skimmed the tops of the racks.
My mother announced we would be buying four dresses. Mentally, I had one goal. Please don’t let any of them be blue. Nothing blue. Because I was taller-than-average, I needed to try them on because Mom was no longer sure of my dress size and we had to be certain that I didn’t violate the two-inch hemline rule. Here comes the mortifying part: the store had no fitting rooms. NO FITTING ROOMS. Okay, this may be fine when you’re five, but not when you’re ten, going on eleven. Especially not when you aren’t wearing a training bra to hide the boobs that you don’t yet have. Or when you’re wearing your Wonder Woman underwear. You’d think my mother would have warned me. At least told me to wear a bathing suit.
“Can’t I try it on over my clothes?” I asked, as Mom sifted through a rack filled with dresses my size.
“No, I won’t be able to tell if the dress fits right in the shoulders.”
“But it’s supposed to be loose so I can grow into it. That’s what you always say.” It is what she always said. Except for that day. No, not on the Let’s-Get-Naked-In-Front-Of-Everyone-Day.
My mother was losing her patience. “Just try it on,” she demanded, shoving a shit brown dress with a Pollyanna collar at me. “No one is watching you. There’s nothing to see, anyway.”
Thanks, Mom. Drive that point home why don’t you. By now, my only goal was to get out of the store as soon as possible. See, there were BOYS in there. Even though it was a store that catered to girls, mothers often brought all of their children with them, males included. Quickly, I slipped on and off every dress as instructed, my eyes tightly shut. I guess I thought, If I can’t see the people staring at me, maybe they can’t see me. This is a philosophy my cat believes in vehemently. Apparently, though a scholarship student, I wasn’t much smarter than a tabby named Dinsworth.
“Do you like this one?” Mom asked.
“How ’bout this one with Holly Hobbie on the collar? It’s blue. You love blue.”
“Uh-huh.” No, you love blue. I love not being naked in public.
“Oooh. This one’s nice!” That dressed turned out to look a lot like what Heidi would wear if her dirndl was made from a brown, patterned, Seventies hotel carpet. Did I mention that, after blue, brown was my least favorite color?
So exactly how did Polly Flinders destroy my life? Simple. I showed up on the first day of fifth grade, Holly Hobbie shyly shielding her face with a bonnet on the collar of my – ugh – blue dress, and I was quickly targeted as an outsider. How? Was my gigantic brain on display? No, I’d worn a scarf. Still, my inherent geekiness was immediately obvious. Why? No one else was wearing a dress. Not a single girl in the class was wearing a dress. Not one. Neither were any of the boys, but it was a very conservative school. Apparently, dresses were for little girls with ringlets who wore frilly socks and patent leather shoes. The fact that I was wearing the ugliest dress ever sewn didn’t improve my situation. It became abundantly clear that any girl who wasn’t a complete dork wore skirts. Every day. Skirts were grown up. Skirts were cool. Denim skirts were The Holy Grail. So why couldn’t I just wear skirts? Two reasons:
1) I only had one skirt. Exactly one. It was not denim. To wear it every day would have been as ostracizing as wearing ugly dresses four days out of the week.
2) My mother refused to buy me any more skirts. She claimed that since I had absolutely no hips to speak of, to look at, or to identify under a microscope, that skirts were NOT appropriate. They would slip right off my body and I’d be walking around school in my Wonder Woman underwear. Funny, that didn’t seem to bother her at the Polly Flinders store. This begs the question: why did I have a skirt at all? No good answer for that. It had an elastic waist and, despite my mother’s fears, never once just slipped off my hips and collapsed into a red, flowered puddle around my feet.
Surely, I must be exaggerating. How could an entire class of girls convince their parents to let them wear skirts every single school day? Don’t forget, most of these girls were starting puberty – unlike me. As Lucifer’s newest minions, they had already mastered parental mind control, and spent their evenings slaughtering the bunnies and raccoons that lived beneath Florida’s palmetto bushes, then – drenched in blood – danced around bonfires, celebrating their kills – and training bras.
Once identified as a freak, I’m afraid that I only made things worse by offering to write my essay on “The Ark of the Covenant” in rhyme, and by being the only kid in the entire class to complete all the books on the reading list. The final blow may have been bringing a few of my pet grasshoppers to school so that my classmates could also enjoy the thrill of watching Southeastern Lubbers metamorphosize over the span of several months, shedding their exoskeleton approximately five times. Who wants to learn The Hustle or how to French-braid when you can do that?
Had I not been wearing a Polly Flinders dress that first day – and 4/5 of the time after that – perhaps the kids would have overlooked my other quirks. Maybe I wouldn’t have become mesmerized by the molting and reproductive cycle of the Romalea guttata and would have gone to a slumber party or two, instead of sitting at home, burning through all the books on the friggin’ reading list. I guess we’ll never know. Still, I hate you, Polly Flinders. And one day, I may just write a rhyming poem about it.
The day I was Freshly Pressed, the gifted author of The Book of Alice - an utterly charming blog about parenting by the mother of an adorable toddler named Alice – bestowed upon The Paltry Meanderings of a Taller Than Average Woman , the highly-coveted 7×7 Link Blog Award. After gushing and blushing appropriately, I came to realize that I was now expected to do something. What, you ask? Hire Brad Goreski (screw Rachel Zoe and the toothpick she rode in on) to select the perfect couture gown for me to wear to the awards ceremony? No. Write a sanctimonious acceptance speech in which I take credit for killing Osama bin Laden and inventing paper clips? Uh-uh. Polish my golden statuette? Nope. Apparently, I don’t get a shiny trophy to set on my fireplace mantle – which is a good thing because then I’d have to go out and buy a fireplace. With a mantle. This blogging thing is getting expensive. But I do have to do something. Twenty-one somethings to be exact:
1) Reveal seven things about myself that you don’t already know (a.k.a. PART ONE);
2) Link seven of my posts to the following categories: Most Surprisingly Successful, Most Underrated, Most Popular, Most Beautiful, Most Helpful, Most Controversial and Most Pride-Worthy (a.k.a. PART TWO); and
3) Bestow this tremendous award – and responsibility – upon seven other bloggers and share with you why I believe they are so deserving (a.k.a. PART THREE).
Now, PART ONE is simple. I know thousands of things about myself. Billions, really, since I’m not a Creationist. PART TWO was a little trickier until yesterday. See, the day I won this award, I only had five blog posts – and one of them barely counts because it’s just a photo, followed by an excuse for not having written a real post. Now I have a few more and that should make my responses a little more interesting. PART THREE was also a challenge because I hadn’t had the opportunity to read many blogs yet – and I’m not one to run around, handing out 7×7 colored stars willy-nilly to random people just ’cause they’ve got a catchy blog name and know about RSS feeds (which I don’t!)
This first part has got to be my favorite. Why? Because I’m going to pretend that I’m completing the “20 Things You Don’t Know About Me” questionnaire that’s published every week in US Magazine, but I’m going to stop at number seven. Not really, but I’m going to keep the other thirteen in my jewelry box until the tabloids come a callin’.
1) My first crush was William Shatner. I was five. I can prove it and that makes me cooler than all the hipsters out there who have suddenly discovered my man, Bill, in the last few years. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Seth MacFarlane.
2) Though I’m sure my cats all know my actual name, I think they call me “Food Lady” when I’m not listening. But they spell it “Fud Ladee.” At least that’s how they write it on my birthday cards.
3) When I was in high school, I’d planned to have seven children. As it turns out, I have no kids, but I’m very fond of dwarves and little people. Also, I’d consider renting someone’s child on occasion in exchange for blood or a spare kidney, should the need arise.
4) I saw Stephen King tonight at the movie theater. This is the second time we’ve passed through one another’s orbits. The other time was at Barnes & Noble. I thought about talking to him that night, but what would I say? “I’m batshit terrified of clowns and it’s all your fault.” Like he’s never heard that before.
5) I’m the direct descendant of the second and third people (and first married couple, ever) to be put to death for witchcraft in America. So don’t piss me off ’cause that magic shit might be genetic.
6) If I was filthy rich, I’d pay someone to ride a horse up and down the cobblestone street in front of the fabulous London townhome I’d own every night until I fell asleep. The sound of horses’ hooves on stone is like rain to me. Oh, and the rider would be naked except for a thong and a sombrero. That last part’s just for kicks.
7) My husband and I sleep under a red, plaid blanket emblazoned with the Hogwarts coat of arms every night. It’s soft, it protects our pretty comforter and the cats like to knead it. I like Harry Potter. There, I’ve said it. I’ve read all the books and own all the movies. I identify with Hermoine Granger. Butter beer is amazing (especially served up with a butterscotch garnish) and one of our cats looks a lot like Mrs. Norris. Wanna fight about it?
Most Surprisingly Successful: Why I Hate Witty People I’d have to say that this is my most surprisingly successful post because it was catapulted from absolute obscurity to the front page of Freshly Pressed without warning. In fact, I wasn’t really sure what Freshly Pressed was, how one made its pages or if I even wanted to be there. For the record, I’m no longer confused about the latter; it was an awesome ride and I definitely would love to be there again. People keep finding this post and identifying with it in one way or another (apparently, there are an awful lot of unpopular witty people out there) – and that is just Wilde. Ha ha. I did it. I inserted a pun and there’s nothing you can do about.
Most Underrated: In Search of ”The Holy White Man” This post was actually doing pretty well until I was Freshly Pressed, and then Why I Hate Witty People kinda stole its thunder. I’m wondering if people think that this is some spiritual piece about my search for Jesus. It’s not. In fact, Jesus is ruled out early on. And, for the record, I’m not searching for him. I’m agnostic. But there may be a Holy White Man out there – a “being” to whom my friend’s aunt used to pray and call by this incredibly racist name – and I’ve got some theories about who this dude could be. And it’s not Chuck Norris. Ever since he endorsed Newt Gingrich, he’s become a pussy in my book.
Most Popular: Based on the sheer number of hits and “likes,” Why I Hate Witty People remains, without a doubt, the most popular post on my blog so far. That said, my page Copyright Stuff has garnered a surprising amount of interest. People, it’s just basic copyright language. It says that you don’t get to steal my stuff and, if you do, I get your first child’s kidney. Why so interested? You planning on stealing my stuff? Has your firstborn been annoying the heck out of you and only has one kidney? Erm, that’s murder, you know. Bloggy don’t play that!
Most Beautiful: I suppose if I was a really arrogant little twat, I’d say my About Me page is the most beautiful – because it features a photo of…well, me. But, honestly, people, the photo of me with my recently-deceased Uncle Danny in Farewell, My Favorite Redneck is much cuter, so check that out instead. Oh, yeah, I guess it’s also my most beautiful post because it is my heartfelt tribute to my favorite redneck, Daniel Drymon, whom I’ve known and adored since birth. If you want to see a sliver of who I am and where I come from, this is the best set of window blinds to peek through. It’s also an opportunity to discover what a groovy guy my uncle was…even if none of the stuffed dead animals in his living room agree with that notion.
Most Helpful: Considering the number of sauce addicts who have admitted their problem in the Comments section alone of my post, Hittin’ The Sauce Hard, I’ve got to assume that I’m helping my readers with this one. Admitting you have a problem is the most important step, right? Writing this post helped me come out of the pantry as well. Now that people know about my little problem, they’re going to ask that bottles be removed from tables at restaurants and they’ll raise an eyebrow the next time I order a filet mignon. I suspect I will also receive a number of spoons for Christmas next year. Didn’t get that last reference? Then read the post, silly. In the meantime, I’ve got to run to the store. I hear there’s a BOGO on A1 Steak Sauce at Publix!
Most Controversial: Without a doubt, 5 Reasons Why God Loves Short People Best seems to strike readers in the very marrow of their bones. It can’t be helped that some people’s bones are longer than others. Dozens of shrimpy, little half-pints have taken the time to comment on why they disagree with my belief that the Christian God loves them in the same way he loves the Jews – they’re His chosen people. They’re His favorites. Likewise, lots of lovely, lanky tall people with their ankles exposed to the elements also commented that they agreed heartily with this proposition, though most seem happily inclined to remain the minions of short people, forever handing the squatty ones jars of mustard off the shelves they can’t reach. Actually, I seemed to have garnered a number of both tall and undertall readers with the post – and I’m grateful. Like I said earlier, I’m quite fond of dwarves and little people.
Most Pride-Worthy: Ever created something so heinous, so awful, so painfully bad that you know it will never bring joy to another human being (Kathy Hilton – now’s your time to speak up!)? Back in college, I did such a thing when I wrote – against my will, I might add – the sonnet, “How Ironic,” about my dead dog, Daisy. In my post, The World’s Worst Sonnet About A Dead Dog Ever , I discovered that I now understand, though still loathe, iambic pentameter, and that I can make people happy by sharing with them the most God-awful sonnet ever written. Ever. Anywhere. Think Ishtar. Think Gigli. It’s the literary equivalent of Lindsay Lohan lying drunk in a ditch. It’s Tara Reid with her boob hanging out of her dress. It’s Megan Fox’s man thumbs. You can’t look away. Why does this make me so proud? Because by dissecting my sonnet – much like a science class frog pinned to a slab of black wax – I’ve been able to determine exactly what makes it so bad, make a few people giggle in the process, and dissuade others from embarking on such an endeavor. Thus, my excruciating poem has now brought joy to others in it’s own ugly little way. Sniff. Makes a momma proud.
Can I just point out, here and now, that I am officially more qualified to become President than Rick Perry? Okay, moving on…
Here are the seven bloggers whom I have determined, solely on the basis of talent, favoritism, political-leanings, ability to trill the letter R and other important criteria that have slipped my mind, are worthy of the 7×7 Link Blog Award. These blogs are not listed in any specific order – other than the amount I was paid by everyone who made the list. Not in advance. These bloggers don’t even know they’ve won this award yet. I’ll send them their bills later.
The chain letter of blog accolades, the 7×7 Link Blog Award was created by someone, sometime after the year 2000-ish (probably) to honor those who apparently blog. I personally think it should be renamed the 7x7x7 Blog Award or the 7×3 Blog Award or the 7 Cubed Blog Award or the 21 Things You Now Have To Do Blog Award, but regardless, you seven bloggers are now: IT!
1) Gemini Girl In A Random World : This sharp and witty blog is the creation of Stacie Chadwick, my new Blogging Bestie. In it, she posts about life as a mother of three, the wife of a man who is learning the art of non-verbal communication, and being the groovy Gemini that she is. I like it because, in addition to being HIGH-STERICAL (she lives in Denver and that was pun number 2) and extremely well-written, this dual-natured Gemini Girl regularly takes me down memory lane to visit the likes of skating rinks, the original Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter lives on, my friend), Charlie’s Angels (again, the original), and Melrose Place. Andrew Shue, sigh. Also, her blog made my husband laugh. And that ain’t easy, lemme tell you.
2) The Shared Brain of Baggott, Asher and Bode : As I’ve already admitted previously, I’m a blogging newbie. Not only did I not blog, I didn’t really read other blogs – except this one. I was turned on to the alternatively hilarious, literary, twisted and compelling voice of author Julianna Baggott (and her alter egos: Bridget Asher and N.E. Bode) by a mutual friend and became immediately hooked. Though I’ve never met her personally, I’m convinced she lives in a Willy Wonka-esque factory manned by Oompa Loompas who are all incredibly prolific writers. No one can write this much, this well, raise a veritable army of children, and teach – creative writing, no less – at Florida State University (Go, ‘Noles!). Read this blog. More importantly, pre-order Baggott’s new post-apocalyptic novel, Pure – due out next month and bound to be the next Hunger Games.
3) The Adventures of Trans Man : This is a brand new blog by an extremely prolific and talented author whom I am proud to say I’ve known for well over twenty years. When I knew him eons ago, he was a woman. Now, he’s not. This is about his journey and it’s a must-read for everyone. Everyone! Yes, you over there reading your Bible. And you, the one with the question about what’s between Chaz Bono’s legs. I’m not even being funny, here. Trans Man knows what you’re thinking, has heard it all before and, now, in his witty, addictive, compelling voice is going there. This is a rare opportunity to actually understand an incredibly brave man who made the decision to be true to himself – so he could be a better person and a better parent. Yep, he’s got kids. And he’s single, ladies…
4) Jumping In Mud Puddles : Looking to reminisce about someone else’s childhood because yours sucked? Join Vickie as she explores, with plentiful humor and jocularity, her idyllic past as a fascinating, but domineering, color-inside-the-lines kind girl who hated her remedial reading group, probably has mercury poisoning from regular exposure to Mercurochrome, and was secretly-tranquilized by her mother – daily – because she was hyperactive. I thank God my mom didn’t know her mom. If she’d known she could drug me legally, I’d have slept my way through elementary school. Try not to pee your pants when you read this because, if you’re like me, your mom never remembered to send you to school with an extra pair of undies either.
5) Bringing You Beirut : This blog chronicles “the adventures of an English girl in Lebanon” and is luxurious in its language and sensuous in its imagery. Blogger India is well-educated and her work as assistant to her calligrapher boyfriend, freelance journalist, translator and babysitter have given birth to some of the most interesting perspectives of a beautiful and exotic country. Until I became familiar with this blog, I never processed the fact that Lebanon has snow – and skiing. Don’t expect an over-processed travel journal, here. These are the real life experiences of someone experiencing all the true flavors of a foreign country – savory, sweet and bitter.
6) Kitchen Slattern : This blog is written by a pro. Though she claims to be a mere “housewife, mother and writer who lives in Brooklyn,” I suspect she’s been Freshly Pressed more times than the shirts in my husband’s closet. And he likes to iron. A lot. As a person who finds my corkscrew the most useful tool in my kitchen, I don’t read a lot of food or cooking blogs. C’mon – I eat A1 out of a bowl with my finger. Wine is good if it costs less than 10 bucks and even better if it’s Buy One Get One Free. However, this blogger had me sold the moment I discovered that Martha Stewart makes her “ass ache” and that she recommends being drunk before you tackle cleaning the bathroom. This is funny stuff, folks. She’s my kind of broad.
7) Live Clay : Few bloggers are truly talented in multiple arenas, but Laura Bruzzese is an accomplished artist – both with a brush and a potter’s wheel, a writer and… a creator of funeral urns. If only I’d known about her when my dog died all those years ago. I could have named my sonnet, “Ode on a Canine Urn.” A single mother living in New Mexico, Bruzzese’s experiences raising a teenage daughter, coupled with her artistic eye that always seems to be seeking out the unique and beautiful everywhere she travels (most recently, Haiti) makes for intriguing, substantial posts that both charm and inspire. She’s also developed a method for making her three young nieces WANT to clean. Compete to clean. If there’s only one reason to read this blog (and there’s thousands), that’s it!
That wraps up the 7×7 Link Blog Awards presentation. Ladies and gentlemen, start cracking on that list of 21 Things You Must Now Do. I’m gonna watch It’s a Brad, Brad World and try to forget that this post took me at least twelve hours to write. Congratulations…suckas! No, seriously. Congrats. It’s apparently a really big honor. Truly. Thank you again, The Book of Alice . Erm, I think.
This weekend we buried my favorite redneck.
Many people who know me would be surprised to discover that I dearly loved someone who used to scoot across the Everglades in an air boat, not to point gators out to tourists with cameras, but to hunt them (the gators, not the tourists). Their eyebrows might shoot up to hear that I’ve seen a deer skinned and many a hog smoked. My grandfather – who was more of a Florida cracker than a redneck – gifted me with dozens of boar tails during my childhood, without even bothering to clean the congealed blood off the severed ends first. I’d wrinkle my nose, thank him, and then stick them in a drawer until our visit ended and I could dispose of them properly.
You see, I’m Southern. I’ve had kin living in one part of Florida or another for a good 150 years. I take my tea sweet and my grits cheesy. And I don’t have to be drunk for my accent to emerge. Yesterday, at my uncle’s funeral, the y’alls and fixin’ tos started creeping into my vocabulary, and my syllables began stretching out like a long country road meandering through the mountains. This is tough for a loquacious chick like myself – when surrounded by Southerners, it can take me forever just to ask for another piece of pie. My husband doesn’t know what to think about my transformation at these family get-togethers. Suddenly, he’s married to Reba McEntire, but despite this, it doesn’t make him any richer.
I’ve never been a fan of Pentecostal Southern funerals with their open-casket visitations and absence of alcohol. Having visited with Uncle Danny only a couple months before his passing, I was anxious to preserve that happy memory of him and avoid having it replaced by the image of his pale body in a gleaming steel blue box. We’d laughed and chatted that afternoon in November. He’d teased his wife, my Aunt Kay, in the way that people who’ve been married to one another for forty-five years tend to do. As my uncle had quite the sweet tooth, we’d eaten a carrot cake I’d picked up at Publix (to have attempted to bake him a cake might have brought about his death much sooner). It had been a nice day.
Visiting my Uncle Danny in his natural habitat was like visiting the Hall of Mammals at the National History Museum. He’d sit there, sprawled in his well-worn lounger surrounded by his victims: a wild boar with its tongue lolling over its teeth like a thirsty labrador; several eight and ten point bucks – the largest of which served as a hat rack for Danny’s collection of trucker caps and his solar-powered pith helmet; and an otter. Unlike the other animals, the otter was in possession of more than just it’s head and actually stood upright next to a chair, its front paws frozen in mid-air as though it should be wearing a chef’s hat and holding a chalkboard sign with the evening’s specials listed on it.
Mounted on wooden placards around the vintage 70′s paneled living room were at least eight or ten stuffed bass, their mouths gaping, gills frilled, and tails bent in final, desperate swishes. As you perched nervously on the sofa (and who wouldn’t be anxious with a dozen or more dead animals glaring at you, vengeance on their minds), each largemouth bass would watch you, unblinking, with its single, bulging eye. Every fish had a story that may or may not have been true. For my husband, whose favorite t-shirt reads “I Make Stuff Up,” my uncle was an immediate compatriot. Even though he only met him a handful of times, Matt enjoyed Danny’s stories – told in a raspy voice that tuned up into a whine as the story became less and less likely. Like everyone, my husband wasn’t always sure what to make of my uncle’s tales – were they tall or just average in height? But Uncle Danny used to say that there were only three kinds of lies:
1) Whoppers: Lies that were so outlandish that everyone knew they weren’t true. (Know how I caught that gator? I tied Junior to a fishin’ line and told him to go swimmin’ in the swamp.);
2) White Lies: The lies you told others to avoid hurting their feelings. (Nah, those cowboy boots don’t make your ass look big.); and
3) Fishing Lies: These weren’t lies at all.
As sedentary as he was in the latter months of his life (cancer sucks the life out of you…literally), Uncle Danny had always been one of those feisty, mischievous men who was quick with a joke and always up to something. Over the years, he’d operated an auto body shop, raised gopher tortoises (“Mmmm! Gopher soup is goooood,” he used to say) and, finally, ran a plant nursery with my aunt. If he wasn’t puttering around his property, puffing away on one of the cheap Grenadier cigars he stored in a box in his front shirt pocket, or eating breakfast at Granny’s Restaurant as he did every morning, then he was hunting or fishing or being a devoted friend, father and husband.
At the funeral, the pastor shared a story about my uncle that summed up the kind of man he was. There’d been a bad storm. A tree had fallen, ripping gaping holes in the roof of the church. Now, my aunt, she never missed a church service. Sunday night, Wednesday night, choir practice, Bible study – church was and is her life. Uncle Danny – not so much. He had no problem with his wife and son’s devotion to their church but, for him, that was time that could be better spent doing pretty much anything else. However, the day after the storm, the pastor and a couple other members of the church were struggling to remove tree limbs and repair the damage before the rains came again. Suddenly, a ladder banged against the roof and a man’s head rose above the roof line. As the pastor recounted, “This was a man I didn’t know.” But Uncle Danny knew all about him and, more importantly, had been informed that help was needed. So he was there.
On the surface, it may have seemed that Uncle Danny and I were very different people. He was a Tea Party Republican and I’m a bleeding-from-every-possible-orifice liberal. He shot animals with a rifle; I shoot them with my camera. Rural life felt natural to him, whereas I start to break out in hives if I can’t throw a rock and hit someone while blindfolded. He drove a pick up truck with a horn that sounded like a duck call. At least, I think it was a duck call. I mean, how would I know? I drive a hybrid. My ringtone is “So What” by Pink. Uncle Danny watched fishing shows; I watch shows about nerdy physicists who are obsessed with super heroes and video games.
But at our core, we were extraordinarily similar. Both strong-willed, religiously rebellious and prone to humor in uncomfortable situations, I’d swear we shared genes even though he was only my uncle by marriage. At the cemetery, the folding chairs meant for immediate family members were covered in a bright blue faux fur. I kept thinking that if Danny had been alive, we’d be giggling over the fact that it looked as though someone had skinned Cookie Monster and his entire family in order to cover those chairs.
Over the years, Uncle Danny was confronted by many people about everything from his hunting to the manner in which he raised his hunting dogs (outside, in a cage – they’re work animals, not pets) to whether or not he had accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. Up until the very end, this last question was the one which consumed Aunt Kay’s pastor, so much so that his entire funeral sermon focused on Danny showing up fashionably late at Heaven’s Gates, waiting until the last second to become a Christian. While he may have finally done it because he sensed his life had grown shorter than a Kardashian marriage, or to make Aunt Kay happy, I suspect it was the only way to get the pastor to talk about something else. Regardless, much was made of Uncle Danny coming late to the dance, which was a disappointment to me. Though I’m sure it pleased him that his wife and son were certain he would one day see them again in Heaven, I doubt he would have wanted the rest of the congregation to know about his personal struggles with his spirituality. I doubt he would have wanted them to know he’d caved. Because, like myself, Uncle Danny was wholly unapologetic about who he was and what he believed.
My aunt told me that Uncle Danny had wanted jokes and laughter at the funeral, but I can’t say I heard much of either. At one point, while the coffin was being lowered in his grave, I stood with my family watching solemnly. Aunt Kay and Jason embraced one another, their eyes bleary with tears. For some reason, I felt an inexplicable need to sing “Amazing Grace” in order to break the heaviness of the moment, but I didn’t. I feared that it might be one of those situations in which I started singing…and no one else did. I’d be left trailing off and then everyone would talk about the weird niece who began belting out a hymn at the graveside. You know, stealing the grave-lowering thunder. The fact that I only know the first verse of “Amazing Grace” could have also been problematic.
The most difficult part of the day for me and my husband, however, was it’s start – the open-casket visitation and the funeral. Even though I knew the body in the casket was dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt with a trucker cap resting next to his bald head, it felt as though an intruder masquerading as my uncle was in the sanctuary. I couldn’t look. From my second row seat in the “Family Section,” I could just make out a nose peeking out above the white satin and I didn’t recognize it. When I hugged my aunt and cousin at the front of the room, I averted my eyes from his body, burying my head into their shoulders and focused on squeezing all my love and sympathy into their bodies.
At the beginning of the pastor’s sermon, he mentioned Uncle Danny’s penchant for jokes. Smiling to myself, I felt the anticipation grow inside of me as I waited for the pastor to launch into a few of my uncle’s classics. But he didn’t. “I was gonna tell some of his jokes, but y’all knew him. You already know all his jokes,” he said. But at that second, I couldn’t think of a single one. I still can’t. It’s as if when he died, they went with him into that cold casket. C’mon, just one joke, I begged the pastor mentally. I was certain that one would serve as the chink in the proverbial dike and the rest would come flowing through. I never got my joke, though. Uncle Danny took that last laugh with him.
While we indulged in over-priced Peruvian fare last night, our friend, Jarrod, shared a story about his now-deceased aunt, who apparently was a member of the only Pentecostal church in Florida that doesn’t believe in Jesus. How is that possible? Pentecostals live for Jesus. They eat his body and drink his blood at communion…yet never fail to condemn a healthy interest in vampires as devil worship. To a member of a Pentecostal Christian church, Jesus is – seriously – one righteous dude. A Pentecostal who doesn’t believe in Jesus is like a Mormon who doesn’t believe in ironed shirts and holy underwear. Hello…hard to be a Christian if you don’t believe in the whole “Christ” component, right? I mean, then you’d just be a “Tian,” pronounced shun, so I suppose all you’d do is cut off contact with everyone you know and live in cave somewhere. According to Jarrod, his aunt also dabbled in the New Age movement (She’ll burn in Hell for that for sure!), so this may possibly explain her “off-the-cross” views of Christianity.
Like all good Christians or even the wacky New Age Pentecostals who don’t believe in Jesus, Jarrod’s aunt always insisted on saying grace before eating. Closing her eyes, she’d raise her hands as if she was about to speak in tongues or just “raise the roof” old school style. ” Please bless this food, Oh Holy White Man!” she would cry. Not, “Please bless this food, Oh Holy Father!” or even “Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Thanks for the Grub. Amen, God. ” Nope, his aunt stuck to the physically-descriptive and….erm, slightly racist, Holy White Man nomenclature – at every single meal. Knowing that Jesus didn’t figure into her equation, I was left pondering who exactly this Holy White Man is. Perhaps there is a Holy White Man worthy of our praise and capable of blessing our food who I’m just not aware of.
In order to examine this theory further, it must be broken up into it’s four basic components: (1) Holy, (2) White (3) Man and (4) Capable of Blessing Dinner. The first is the trickiest. As Jarrod failed to ask his aunt to transcribe her dinner blessing before she passed, we can’t confirm whether she meant that the White Man was holy, holey or wholly. However, as Jarrod’s aunt never indicated that she didn’t believe in God (just not his son), little research is necessary to determine that the most conspicuous possibility for Holy White Man is probably this guy:
Considered holy by many and having already blessed billions of meals, Uber White God fits the bill. For years, white people have envisioned the Christian God as an old white guy with white hair and a draped white gown. Are you getting the over-the-top white theme here? It’s like a P Diddy party in the Hamptons. Except for the black people. Anyway, Jarrod’s aunt may have been operating under the perception that the Christian God is white. Logic, however, tells us that this conception of God must be inaccurate. Why? Christians believe in The Bible and it states that “God created man in his own image.” As you probably know, God sent Adam scampering around a place called the Garden of Eden – which it turns out was most likely located somewhere in northern Africa or Iraq. Not Iceland or Greenland or even the Cotswolds. And, uh, back in the day, not a lot of white people in northern Africa. So if man was truly created in God’s own image, he probably had a tan. I’d go so far as to say that he likely had a wicked ass tan. A more accurate rendering of the Christian God probably looks something like this:
Concerned that there may be other worthy Holy White Men to consider, I invested a strenuous fifteen minutes or so doing some Internet research, uncovering several potential candidates. Some are beloved by many. Two have born-and-raised-in-the-Arctic white skin. You could even say that one, in particular, is as pale as a marshmallow. Two of the candidates claim to be male, but as both are a bit, ummm, husky, shall we say, and have a bit of a belly, no one has yet to confirm this fact. Still, I think we should give them the benefit of the doubt. The first has been a part of our consumer heritage since at least 1898, when a rubber and tire manufacturing company ran the following ad featuring a new mascot, O’Galop of Bibendum, the original Michelin Man:
O’Galop possessed a sun-kissed glow that I doubt Holy White Man would have, but he is male and he is holey, as tires aren’t tires without holes. Regardless, Michelin cleared up any doubt for me by revamping their mascot years later, whitening him up – even though tires are black – so that the people who could afford bicycles and, eventually, cars (yes, white people) could relate to him. By dropping the monocle, disposing of the warty Jabba the Hut hangers on, and plastering a huge, trustworthy smile on his face, the Michelin Man became a welcome character on television and in print media. After all, he’s white, he’s chubby – with rolls of fat placed conveniently to hide any threatening genitalia – and everyone knows that fat, white, tire people are jolly and won’t mug you in an alley. Children wanted to hug him, and who wouldn’t want him to bless your chicken cacciatore?
Another worthy of consideration is a fictional character, both beloved for his devilish smile and beguiling sailor suit. Like the Uber White God, however, he is also feared for his sheer size and power; his ferocious temper and willingness to destroy the world’s greatest city at a moment’s notice is the stuff of legends. And Harold Ramis films, specifically the Ghostbusters franchise. I can already hear some of you clearing your throats. “But Cristy, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, of whom I know you speak, is not holey, holy or wholly.” Au contraire. Marshmallow batter is whipped, forming small air bubbles, thus making marshmallows porous and giving them their spongy texture. In fact, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is super holey. For some, another concern may be the fact that Stay Puft was once temporarily possessed by a Sumerian god named Gozer, but let me reassure you that he reformed his ways in the animated The Real Ghostbustersseries and went on to help the Ghostbusters defeat a giant praying mantis. Every diety has his bad days – Uber White God destroyed the entire earth by flood, allowed Jonah to be swallowed by a whale, and let his son be crucified. Crushing a few buildings that were probably going to be demolished eventually by Donald Trump seems trivial by comparison, if you think about it. Of course, the final portion of the analysis is whether or not Stay Puft is capable of blessing your food. I say, “Yes!” Who better to sanctify your sweet potato casserole than the Big Marshmallow himself? There’s nothing like having your food give you express permission to eat it.
Our final contender isn’t jolly, chubby or particularly lovable. However, as previously discussed, Uber White God is not always Mr. Happy Pants either. In fact, many of the more obscure religions are based almost exclusively on the concept of fear, employing tactics like human and animal sacrifice, threats of eternal damnation in a pit of fire, and destruction of the world. I’m sure if you put your research cap on and spend two or three months in the library, you can come up with a few belief systems that practice this type of fear-mongering, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head. Regardless, this particular candidate – though a tad anti-social – is white. Pasty, really. Definitely male – though I can’t guarantee that evidence of this is still intact – and holey. In fact, he’s getting holier by the minute. And despite the fact that he isn’t very gregarious, he is extremely popular these days. Shows, films, books, figurines, comics – you name it – are devoted to him exclusively. As with some religions that have multiple gods, there are many of him. Hordes of him. But rather than overwhelm you with the thousands of depictions that exist, I’ve chosen just one:
As you can see from this photo, this zombie has clearly already blessed his own food. Now, I’m sure some of you reject the notion that a zombie could possibly be Holey White Man because he is no longer alive. He used to be a man, but now he is some manner of the undead. I ask you in response, “What makes a man?” Blood coursing through his veins or blood dripping from his mouth? Neither the Michelin Man or Stay Puft have a heart, a digestive system, a brain or a penis (that we can see, anyway). I’m pretty certain Uber White God doesn’t have a belly button and I’ve never seen beneath that loose gown he wears, so I’m taking him on his word that he’s a man, period. Technically, of all the candidates, this zombie is the only one who was a man in the true, earthly sense. Granted, it looks like it’s been a few weeks since he took a breath (or brushed his teeth), but if he can avoid large artillery or an axe to the head, he’s basically immortal, an important quality in any deity. His power isn’t in question. If zombies were so easily destroyed, no one would be writing books about how to protect yourself in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Brad Pitt would be starring in another boring moving about whatever he makes movies about instead of World War Z. Whether or not you’d ask a zombie to bless your food is a moot point in my book. I mean, if you could keep him at bay long enough, you might. Lord knows, he enjoys his food. Why wouldn’t he want you to enjoy yours?
We may never know the identity of Holy or Holey or Wholly White Man, but I suspect he’d be comfortable if, in the name of not being racist as hell, we just call him Holy, Holey or Wholly Man. Wait, maybe Jarrod’s aunt meant Ho Lee White Man. But only a Chinaman would be named Ho Lee. Nope. I don’t think so.
(If this post pissed you off and you are about to send me a hate-filled comment, please don’t. This is satire. I am not a racist. Jarrod’s aunt may have been as she was real and truly did pray to The Holy White Man. She may have also just been a kook. Regardless, I’m in a bi-racial marriage, and I’ve also known many very nice Chinamen over the years, all of whom were excellent at math. That was also satire. Catching on yet? Don’t worry, you will.)