Tagged: jesus

My First Grade Judas Kiss

"The Judas Kiss" by Gustave Dore (Image via Wikipedia)

While discussing the topic of dishonesty with a friend who chronicles the unbelievably funny and charming things her toddler, Alice, says in the course of everyday life in her brilliant and wonderfully concise blog, the book of alice, the topic of first lies (not first lays, you pervs!) arose. Of course, there are two kinds of first lies: (1) the one your mother will remember forever – since her heart shattered just a little that day upon discovering that you were well on your way to becoming a full-fledged heathen – but you won’t recall it because parents don’t typically beat you until you’re at least four or five; and (2) the one you remember – probably because you got your bottom whipped or at least got sent to the “naughty chair” for engaging in the deception.

As a person who is guilt-wracked when I commit the most minor of offenses, my first lie haunts me much in the same way that Scrooge was plagued the chain-rattling Jacob Marley. Due to a move to Miami early in my sixth year, I joined Mrs. Cupman’s first grade class about nine weeks into the semester, at which point I was introduced to the dreaded, blue plaid parochial school jumper paired with a baby blue, Peter Pan-collared blouse beneath. Stiff and most certainly interwoven with steel threads, the tartan fabric was made to withstand Florida’s hurricanes, falls from the monkey bars and daily instructions to sit in the lotus position on the school’s concrete sidewalks. It is rumored that the needle used to sew our jumpers was actually a long, sharpened diamond mined from Chuck Norris’ bone marrow, though I hear the current method of construction involves lasers and cold fusion. Regardless, I understand that my voluminously-pleated uniform came with accessory tent states and a portable Coleman grill.

X-Ray Vision Glasses - What? They Don't Really Work? (Image via tomvision.com)

Despite the relative strength of the blue tartan and the fact that it was so dense it could have been used to make black out curtains during WWII, my mother insisted that I don a silky, white half-slip trimmed in lace beneath my uniform. An avid comic book reader as a child, my mother may have been operating under the belief that the x-ray glasses advertised in the back of her cherished copies of Casper the Friendly Ghost really worked and that some pervy boy in my class possessed a pair. Though talkative, I was still a bit shy as “the new girl,” but managed to befriend another kid who resembled me in every way. Long light-brown hair with bangs. Check.  Gap in smile from missing front teeth. Check. Female. Duh. Scrawny with bony knees and a thin, pixie-like face. Check. Michelle quickly became my best friend. I believe the conversation went something like this:

Michelle: So, you’re new, huh?

Me: Yeah. And I have a puppy. Her name is Daisy. And I have a cat, too – named Pumpkin, but she doesn’t really look anything like a pumpkin. She looks like she stepped in paint. And she scratches. (Holding out my arm.) See. And my parents are divorced, but they’re getting married again. And I’m gonna be the…

Michelle: If you stop talking, I’ll be your best friend.

Me: For how long?

Michelle: I dunno. Forever.

Me: I can’t stop talking for the rest of my life. I’ll get in trouble when Mrs. Cupman calls roll and I don’t answer. And then there’s reading class…

Michelle: No, just shut up for a little while. I’ll be your best friend forever.

Me: (Lips pursed together tightly, I nod in agreement.)

With over two months of first grade under her belt, Michelle was a pro and she clued me in on all the vital information a newbie like me would need to know in order to succeed in this initial year of my education.

First rule: Never buy the school lunch. Even if the best your mom had in the fridge was a shriveled apple and a lettuce and mustard sandwich, you were to demand that she wrap it up in a paper bag and bring it to school. Unlike in kindergarten, bathroom breaks were not a right, but a strictly-scheduled privilege – and to eat the school meatloaf was to risk soiling one undies, not to mention gaining the nickname, “Poopy Pants” for the duration of the school year.

Second Rule: Do not commit any capital offenses. In first grade, capital offenses were amorphous crimes, and, at Westwood Christian School, could include:  taking the Lord’s name in vain, hitting, spitting, biting, kicking, sassing back, lying, cheating, stealing, failing to follow the line leader, calling the line leader a “passive-aggressive bitch,” and kissing. The latter was rumored to cause everything from pregnancy to hiccups that would never go away. Ever. However, my resulting avoidance of kissing had nothing to do with my prevailing fear of never-ending hiccups, but the punishment doled out by Vice Principal, Mrs. McCranie. A meaty woman with cold, squinty eyes emphasized by her metal, cat-eye glasses, I’m pretty sure her sole responsibilities at the school involved yanking students away from the water fountain by their collars if they drank too long, and wielding The Paddle. A medieval torture device carved from wood and drilled with multiple holes in order to ensure that no amount of oxygen could wend its way between it and the bared butt of a young child, The Paddle was discussed only in hushed tones. Tales of surviving Mrs. McCranie and her paddle were legendary. Those who returned to class from her Chamber of Horrors office, often became mute for months, staring vacantly at the wall with the eyes of someone who’d looked death in the face - and now wanted only to behave and graduate on to a nice office job, perhaps in accounting

"The Paddle" - A Disciplinary Tool Or Medieval Torture Device? (Image via thewilbournegroup.com)

Third Rule: Avoid the boys who practice the art of “picking and sticking” – a.k.a. the removal of one’s boogers with one’s fingers from one’s nose and then the act of sticking said boogers onto the exposed skin of the nearest female student. Without a doubt, the list of infamous “pickers and stickers” was crucial, memorized, then chewed and swallowed. Why? Because Michelle told me to and she was a Ms. Bossy Britches. Still, to this day, you’ll never catch me anywhere near John Nealy.

Despite my burgeoning friendship with Michelle, my efforts to chummy up with the rest of my classmates were largely rebuffed. The only exception was a fat boy (I really wish I could say he was just chubby or husky, but that would be a corporal offense) named Ronald who made a habit of deliberately missing his school bus once he laid his eyes on my mother. Back in the day, she was a hottie; if not a prude when it came to her daughter’s attire. Poured into a pair of skin-tight cut-offs and a tube top, Mom was a long, tall drink of Southern iced-tea in a pair of platform heels. Tanned the old-fashioned way with waist-length, Marsha Brady hair and the face of a fashion model, she was the center of attention the second she arrived in the pick-up line, driving our sparkly purple dune buggy. Ronald was a goner. Once he discovered that we lived nearby, he began missing the bus regularly and pawning rides off my mother, who allowed him – much to my dismay – to sit in the front seat, where he had an eagle eye view of her golden-brown stems. This mutual affection for my mom – though mine was based not on transportation and sheer lust, but on a desire to be fed, bathed and clothed at appropriate intervals – served as a sort of bond between Ronald and me for the next four years. And despite the fact that Ronald’s primary interest in me was as a source of information about my mother and her likes – her favorite color, her favorite number, her favorite television show – it was still interest.

Purple Dune Buggy + Tanned, Leggy Cut-off, Tube-top Wearing Super Fox = First Grade Boners (Image via wichita.olx.com)

Which brings me to the ominous day that I became a liar. The afternoon had begun inauspiciously. I’d inhaled my cheese sandwich, thrown my apple into the garbage as I always did, and relished my Tupperware bowl of chocolate pudding. After recess, Michelle and I had returned to our seats in the classroom – mine directly behind hers – and we’d begun our studies in mathematics, focusing on the whole adding and subtracting phenomena that was to eventually captivate the nation. As I stared inattentively at the alphabet chart strung above the green chalkboard, my jumper skirt inadvertently slid upwards, revealing the lacy hem of my slip. Behind me and to my right, I heard the boys, chuckling. Someone hissed, “Yeaaaay,” under his breath. Glancing around, I realized that at least six pairs of eyes were focused on my thigh and my exposed bit of nylon. Finally, a taste of what my mother experienced every day of her life – the admiration of the male species. Except, I didn’t particularly care that they were boys; I just wanted attention. Ignored for several weeks now, I craved to be the center of anything.

Realizing that it was the bright whiteness of my nylon slip against the starkness of my pristine jumper that was causing the ruckus, I casually crossed my legs and allowed my elbow to rest against the starched plaid fabric. Shifting my arm backwards a bit and sliding my jumper with it, I allowed a few more inches of my slip to glow in the flickering, overhead lighting. More snickering. More eyes – some of which now belonged to girls whose mouths dropped open in delighted, faux shock. The boys exhaled a collective sigh. Like my mother, I was incredibly naïve. Apparently, I thought my teacher was both deaf and blind – in my defense, she was pretty old – and wouldn’t notice that my skirt was slowly easing its way up towards my hipbones, at the encouragement of the entire class. Except for Michelle. Directly in front of me, she was clueless as to the shenanigans going on behind her.

“Now, who can tell me what four plus four equals?” Mrs. Cupman asked, turning her kind, lined face towards her pupils. As she scanned her students’ faces, she slowly realized that their attention was not on addition, but on subtraction – namely, the subtraction of my uniform from my sexy, lacy slip. “Cristy Carrington!” she shrieked, her face taking on the wailing, pained quality of the figure in The Scream. As her hands clutched at her cheeks, she demanded to know, “Are you showing your slip to the boys?”

Mrs. Cupman Upon Seeing My Bared Slip. Nooooooooooo! (Image via Wikipedia)

It was a question for which there was only one obvious answer. I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t think. “No!” I replied. “Michelle did it.” In the split second it took for me to become a liar (No!), I also became Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss (Michelle did it.). I was Abigail Williams in The Crucible accusing Goody Osborne of witchcraft, when I was the one who had danced naked around the fire in the woods and communed with spirits. I can’t explain it. I can’t justify it. My gut reaction was to deny, deny, deny, then attribute blame. I’m willing to bet I could have been admitted to law school on this act alone. In the single moment it took to be accused of the crime, I had realized that Michelle and I resembled one another. Perhaps the near-sighted, Mrs. Cupman would believe that Michelle had committed the dreaded sin of slippery, instead of me, I’d thought. My best friend became a mere pawn in my sophisticated game of deception – one to which I might have been new, but one which I inherently understood. Michelle was my scapegoat, and to this day - I swear it happened in slow motion – as if my treason had somehow hindered Time itself. Michelle’s long hair splayed out, fan-like, as she whirled around to face me, confusion in her blue eyes. Behind her, Mrs. Cupman’s head shook back and forth slowly, as if she’d never encountered such a villainous Jezebel. And such a dumb one – considering I was the only girl in the class wearing a slip.

"Goody Osborne Associates With The Devil!" (Image via livingbehindthegates.wordpress.com)

As the realization dawned on me that my lie, coupled with my false accusation, had only worsened my situation, I dropped my eyes from Michelle’s steady, injured gaze and into my lap. I slid my plaid skirt towards my knees. My slip was no longer in sight, but Mrs. Cupman’s vision was also no longer in question. I’d been caught. And if kissing was a capital offense, certainly showing the entire class your slip – something that was, in the Seventies, considered part of your underwear – was worse. Much worse. I half-expected that the black and white linoleum flooring would open up to reveal an escalator headed only one way – down –  to Hell. The other half of me was worried that my class would suddenly erupt in a harmony of hiccups that would last much longer than my friendship with Michelle.

My Ass After Mrs. McCranie Finished With It (Image via beefretail.org)

In the end, it was my rear end that suffered the most. Pentecostals love their corporal punishment. Mrs. McCranie made short work of my poor Granny-panty clad rump. Had my parents been sufficiently angry – the note from my teacher that accompanied me home didn’t help – my butt would have been thoroughly tenderized and ready for roasting. Luckily, as I was a generally honest child, my parents’ bought my story: the slip incident was an accident. I simply hadn’t realized that my skirt was bunched up around my waist. It happens. To prostitutes. And girls on Spring Break. And as I’d never been accused of a school infraction in the past, I’d made a mistake and tried to place the blame on someone else. I regretted it. And I really did.

Though Michelle and I remained friends, it wasn’t forever and it was never quite the same. Not that it mattered. My ballsiness earned me the respect of my classmates and I enjoyed their friendship for the next four years. Yet here I am – thirty-seven years later – relating my guilt surrounding this event to a friend from the blogosphere. For me, the lie isn’t nearly as bad as the betrayal. Michelle, if you’re out there, I’m sorry. Then again, if you’d also been wearing a slip, I probably would have argued that you were the trollop of Mrs. Cupman’s first grade class until the end, challenged my teacher’s vision, and requested a change of venue based on the fact that Mrs. McCraine was biased as she had pulled me away from the water fountain only one week prior using a hank of my hair instead of my collar. Clearly, I would one day become a lawyer and, soon thereafter, would feel really guilty about it.

How Polly Flinders Ruined My Life

Not My Private School. Not Even Close. Not Even A Little. (Image via Wikimedia)

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.

Jodie Foster - What I Thought Was Appropriate Fifth Grade Attire (Image via elle.com)

Jughead "Brainiac" Jones (Image via Wikipedia)

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.

Chachi - "Wa Wa Wa" - That's Devil-Speak For "At Puberty, You Belong To Satan"

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.

43 Degrees In Miami - I Had To Walk To School In The Snow (Image courtesy of Cristy Lewis)

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.

This Jumper Took Scottish Tartan Weavers Seven Months To Make (Image courtesy of Cristy Lewis)

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.

The Patriotic Pilgrim Dress - Makes You Wanna Vomit While Singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" (Image courtesy of Cristy Lewis)

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.

As Soon As I Get Dressed I Got To Go Help Pa Milk The Cow (Image via ebay)

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.

Polly Flinders Dress - Better Not Have Boobs Or They'll Think There Is A Bun In The Oven (Image via Ebay)

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.

Would You Have Been Caught Dead Wearing These - And Nothing Else - In A Store At Age Ten? (Image via fashionablygeek.com)

“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.

The Shit Brown Polly Flinders Dress - Wear It Or I'll Smock You! (Image courtesy of Cristy Lewis)

“Do you like this one?” Mom asked.

“Sure.”

“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?

Can I Get You A Stein O' Milk? (Image courtesy of Cristy Lewis)

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.

My Lone Skirt. Magic Must Be Holding It Up. (Image courtesy of Cristy Lewis)

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.

My Fifth Grade Class Photo - Nary A Dress In Sight (Even I Wore My Lone Skirt That Day) (Image courtesy of Cristy Lewis)

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.

You Like Me! You Really Like Me!

I Got This Instead Of A Golden Statuette

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!)

PART ONE

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.

My Personal Scrapbook Circa 1974 - My Love For Shatner Was Loud And Proud (Image Courtesy of Cristy Lewis)

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.

Pennywise The Clown - The Reason I Didn't Sleep A Wink In 1986. Thanks, Stephen King! (Image courtesy of reelgoddess.com)

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?

Hogwarts Coat Of Arms - Protecting The Lewis Family From Bedbugs and Sharp Cat Claws Nightly (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

PART TWO

Oscar Wilde - The Godfather of Wit

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.

Not "The Holy White Man" I Was Blogging About

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!

Fine! Uncle Danny Is Way Cuter Than Me (Image courtesy of Cristy Lewis)

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!

A1 Steak Sauce - An Addiction To This Could Cost You A Kidney, But That's What Kids Are For

Clearly, God didn't like the tall guy, Robert Wadlow, much. He died at the age of 22.

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.

Megan Fox's Man Thumb - Much Like My Sonnet, "How Ironic," You Just Can't Look Away (Image courtesy of Glamour.com)

PART THREE

Rick Perry "One, Two, Orange."

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!

Stacie Chadwick - My New "Blogging Bestie" and the Gemini Girl In A Random World (Image courtesy of Stacie Chadwick)

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.

Trans Man - Wait Til His Sexy 70s Mustache and Beard Comes In

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.

Burning Cars - A Stereotypical Image You Won't Likely See on Bringing You Beirut (Image courtesy of Usatoday.com

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.

A Kitchen Tool That Kitchen Slattern And I Can Agree Upon

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.


Farewell, My Favorite Redneck

Uncle Danny and Me

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.

Reba McEntire - Or is it me when I've been hanging out with my Southern family members?

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.

Uncle Danny's idea of "Bucks Mounted on a Wall"

My idea of "Bucks Mounted on a Wall"

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.

Uncle Danny Fishing (Photo courtesy of Jason Drymon)

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.

Me know me fur is pretty, but c'mon...

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.

Where Rednecks Go When They Die

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.

Redneck Comedy's Holy Trinity

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.

In Search of “The Holy White Man”

Is this "The Holy White Man?"

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:

Uber White God

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:

God with a wicked ass tan.

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 - Holy White Man or Jabba the Hut Prototype?

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?

The Michelin Man - Holey, White, Manly (look at those guns!) and Unlikely to Mug You

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.

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man - Pray to me or I'll squash your Co-Op.

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:

Zombie - Holey White Used-to-be-a-Man

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.)