Tagged: miami

The Short, Sad Life of Vibrator Girl

Vintage Wahl Electric Vibrator Circa 1940s (Image via Ebay)

I don’t recall how the discussion of vibrators arose. Only that it came up while I was riding home on a sweltering school bus filled to the gills with students of every age – as is often the case with private, parochial schools. A popular, older boy named Jerry mentioned that someone had a vibrator and his comment was received with fits of laughter from the more mature kids, all of whom were crammed into the last few rows – because the back of the bus was, is and always will be the coolest place to sit.

As a fifth grader at a new school, I was anxious for friends. Especially older friends. One’s market value could easily be assessed by how many older kids you knew. Particularly if those older kids didn’t give you noogies or shoot spitballs at you. And making people laugh was a good thing. Bill Cosby made people laugh. I could hear the audience roaring in the background when I listened to my father’s copy of Bill Cosby Is A Very Funny Fellow Right! on our record player. Fonzie made people laugh every time he told someone to Sit on it! And everybody loved Lucy, including the band leader with the Cuban accent thicker than my yet-to-be-tweezed monobrow. Being funny could garner me significant clout, particularly if the people chuckling were old enough to grow wispy mustaches or wear bras. Their laughter was my clue that something about vibrators was humorous. But what?

The Family Vibrator Looked A Lot Like This One (Image via Etsy)

Fortunately, I knew all about vibrators. Our family shared a heavy one with a rounded, spaceship-style head the size of a large bagel and used it to massage the kinks in our muscles. After a long day at work, my dad would often say, “Cristy, go get the vibrator and rub it over my lower back, would you?” It worked wonders on my calves after a Saturday afternoon of riding my bike non-stop through the neighborhood. My mom stored it in one of the drawers of her nightstand, so technically I considered it to be her property, but I was permitted to use it whenever the need arose. As I balanced my small frame sideways on the edge of the bus seat, my book bag and Tupperware lunch bucket resting on my knees, I pondered why the kids around me considered vibrators so darned amusing. I supposed ours was funny looking in a way, but its appearance had never made me giggle out loud. Then again, if you used it on your neck and spoke at the same time, your voice sounded a bit like a robot. Perhaps that’s what all the fuss was about.

So without hesitation, I loudly announced, “My mom’s got one of those!”

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The Bitch Is Back…And Shinier

By Comparison, My Shiner Was Just A Little Glossy (Image via Wikipedia)

So the other day, I got a black eye. The first one I’ve had since I was ten years old.

In 5th grade, I made the grave mistake of standing too close to an exit door at school. It was one of those enormous, heavy duty numbers with the long, horizontal bar across the inside that had to be pushed with two hands in order to open it. The kind with absolutely no warning sign on the outside, cautioning you that young boys liked to charge full speed down the hallway towards that bar so that the door would slam open and flatten the face of anyone attempting to open it on the other side. It is remarkable that my nose wasn’t broken. It is not remarkable that a boy named Bubba received a detention – and a severe Indian burn. After all, there’s no cautionary call like there is in golf or warfare to alert the innocent that they are about to be bombarded with pain. The twittering of the birds outside had drowned out the squeal of Bubba’s sneakers against the commercial grade linoleum flooring as he lumbered towards me and my once perfect nose. He was clearly at fault. I was the victim. Though Bubba attempted to garner sympathy from his friends by complaining about the punishment I’d later inflicted upon him, in the eyes of our peers, his slightly-inflamed wrist was a mere slap on the, erm, wrist when compared to my swollen nose and a shiner the color of grape jelly.

Indian Burn Being Administered On The Wrist. Prostitutes Often Administer These In A Different Location If Not Paid Promptly. (Image via Cracked.com)

After all, black eyes were not the norm at my parochial school. Any self-respecting, God-fearing parent made sure to beat their children in places that were covered by their uniform. It would have been unseemly for a kid to show up at school with a hand-shaped bruise across their cheekbone or a cigarette burn on their forearm. Those parents clearly didn’t care about the image such reckless wounds promoted. These were the days of corporal punishment – both at home and in the principal’s office, but it was generally agreed upon that bruises and belt marks were best reserved for the buttocks, lest people know that your child misbehaved regularly. Denial wasn’t just a river in Egypt; it was piped into the water supply throughout the country. If you couldn’t see it, it never happened. We were all perfect children…who tended to sit very gingerly.

Yo, Adrian! I Got A Boo Boo! (Image via wildsoundmovies.com)

Sadly, as my accident was witnessed by several of my classmates, I wasn’t given the opportunity to maximize the popularity quotient that accompanies a serious injury by concocting a brilliant story about how I’d suddenly come to resemble Rocky Balboa more than Kristy McNichol. Not that I didn’t spend an entire evening in my canopy bed dreaming up exciting tales about how I’d obtained my painful shiner. In one fantasy, I’d chased down a mugger who’d stolen a little old lady’s purse. Though he’d surrendered the bag to me without a struggle, the far-sighted, ancient crone had beaten me in the face with her cane when I tried to return her pocket book – an early case of my poor self-esteem rearing its ugly head.

In another, I was attacked by a desperately jealous Dionne Warwick after she overheard me singing her hit, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” from my room (because her limo was always driving through random, lower middle class neighborhoods in Miami). As I trilled, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa… ,“ my song was cut short by one of the diva’s rhinestone encrusted platforms crashing through my bedroom window, striking me square in the eye. This fantasy was quickly discarded since none of the kids my age actually listened to Dionne Warwick. Had I chosen to offer this story up to my classmates, they likely would have blackened my other eye just for knowing the words (or simply “whoa-ing” as was the case here) to a song from our parents’ mortifying generation.

Dionne Warwick - Don't Sing This Song Too Loudly Or She'll Cold Cock You (image via rateyourmusic.com)

Without a juicy explanation about my shiner, I had to be content with a slight peak in peer interest which manifested itself in an invitation to sit next to Wendy Swipe at lunch and being chosen 6th for kickball during P.E. – which, as it turns out, was a personal high for the rest of my education. Not much of a reward considering I had to be a “mouth-breather” for a good week which, after the novelty of my black eye wore off, became a reason for students to kick the back of my chair and demand that I stop breathing so loudly. Nor did I enjoy the endless poking. Nothing like a kid’s dirty fingernail stabbing you thirty or forty times a day just millimeters from your eyeball, then hearing the inevitable question, “Does this hurt?” I’m certain there is a reason why the words purplepoke and pain  start with the same letter. P must be the long lost, evil twin sister of the letter D (death, devil, divorce, Dokken).

This time around, however, things would be different. As part of the moving process, my husband and I returned to our previous rental home the day after we moved in order to give it a proper cleaning before turning the keys back over to the owners. After spending hours dusting baseboards, filling nail holes, dismantling the chicken coop in the living room, carting the Iron Maiden and wax-soaked altar out to the curb, freeing the imprisoned servants from the basement and hosing down their community urinal, I finally attacked the refrigerator. After emptying the contents, I sat down cross-legged on the floor and proceeded to remove the door shelves, one by one. My friend, Anthony, retrieved two shelves from me at a time and washed them in the sink, while I wiped away the remnants of frenzied moments with my true love, A1 Steak Sauce, from the inside of the refrigerator. As Anthony requested the remaining two shelves, I easily grasped the first from my seated position, but the butter compartment shelf eluded me. Stretching vigorously – because standing to reach something too high to touch while sitting on the kitchen floor is officially against my religion, just as arranging the throw pillows on the sofa properly is against my husband’s – my fingers finally stroked the cool plastic shelf. Pushing up against its white underside with my fingertips, I managed to dislodge the object of my desire, but like many things in life, I could not capture it.

But my face did.

The Butter Compartment Shelf - Remove While Standing And With Extreme Caution (image via Cristy Lewis)

I won’t explain the physics for you, mostly because I never actually took physics, but I can assure you that a hard piece of plastic with the heft of at least a pound or so falling at a high rate of speed towards the cheekbone of a short-waisted person hurts. A lot. Kinda like being hit in the face by a large steel door driven by a fat kid named Bubba. The fact that I am extraordinarily short-waisted is critical here because were I long-waisted, I would have been much taller in my seated position and either (a) would have easily grasped the butter shelf in my hand, completely avoiding said face catch, or (b) my face would have been much closer to the subject shelf thereby reducing the velocity at which it was plummeting when it struck me.

This Would Have Never Happened To Gisele (image via stylenews.peoplestylewatch.com)

It was only after I successfully pried the butter compartment from my eye socket, that I realized standing would be inevitable, as I now had to reach the icemaker to obtain chunks of ice for my swelling cheekbone. Yes, the iconic bag o’ peas were packed away in a cooler. The slab of raw steak had been consumed the week prior. Anthony, bless his heart, stopped washing long enough to laugh his ass off at me. At which point, my husband entered the kitchen to find me blubbering  incoherently about the horrendous ache that was streaking through my eyeball like a lightning strike – though all he could make out was “Wine! Get me a damned glass of wine! I’m in pain, goddamned it!”

White Wine - Tylenol In A Glass (image via thestir.cafemom.com)

Once he’d run across the street to borrow a corkscrew, he quickly poured me a glass of unoaked chardonnay – oh, don’t tell me you clean an empty house without a bottle of wine handy – then said soothingly, “Bitch, I done told you twiced!” But he hadn’t. My man had not  told me twiced, he’d not told me onced, he’d not told me thriced, he’d not told me…erm, I’m not sure what comes after thriced, but he had not ever warned me, “Be careful. You’re a klutz and the refrigerator shelves will fall on your face the way rain falls in the Amazon.” Okay, he may have mentioned my klutziness in the past, but the concept of shelving hailing down upon my head had honestly never been discussed.

Nor had Anthony warned me. As the straightest gay man we know with a penchant for worrying and cautioning everyone about every possible catastrophe (If you swallow a watermelon seed, a watermelon will grow in your stomach!), he never once voiced any concern about  me not being long-waisted enough to really look good in a bikini or to reach the butter compartment while seated in a lotus position. Still, as I wailed that my facial collision with G.E.’s butter shelf of steel was definitely going to “leave a mark,” Anthony attempted to console me.

“Honey,” he said, “that’s what makeup’s for.”

“No,” I retorted, “my regular face is what makeup’s for. Do you realize how hard I have to work to just look this good?” My husband shuddered slightly. He sees me first thing in the morning. Well, he did once. He quickly learned that it’s best to look away because staring at my bare visage before I’ve coated it with putty a dollop of Loreal’s Visible Lift Line-Minimizing Makeup is kind of like staring directly into the sun. It burns and has been known to cause permanent blindness. “Now I’m going to have to contend with covering a shiner,” I continue. “There isn’t a foundation thick enough. I’m going to need spackle and primer and one of those rubber skin prosthesis.”

It’s just a shame that this disaster occurred on the last day of March instead of the last day of October. Had it been Halloween, I could have turned lemons into lemonade by converting my black eye into a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills costume – you know, the blonde one who also “done got told twiced” not long before her estranged and abusive husband got the payback he deserved committed suicide.

Real Housewives' Taylor Armstrong - Her Husband Won't Be Telling Her Anything Ever Again (image via Radaronline.com)

Anthony shook his head solemnly, then said, “That’s just not true. God created makeup to make women look less disobedient.”

And there it was. My life had come full circle. Just as the welts from childhood beatings at the hand of my father wielding a leather belt were hidden beneath the skirts of my plaid uniform so that others wouldn’t know how naughty I was, my shiner would now be concealed by makeup so that people wouldn’t know how stupid I was. I mean, if you’re hiding a shiner, it’s only because you done been told twiced. Right? Someone who’d never been warned at all shouldn’t have to hide their injury. I mean, it’s not really their fault.  It’s an Act of God, if you think about it. No bitch should feel shame for getting a black eye when she hadn’t done been told twiced.

Perhaps I could turn this around. Perhaps I didn’t need to bear the brunt of the guffaws that were likely to come. Perhaps I wouldn’t have to endure the rolled eyes and the constant whispers: Why didn’t she listen? I hear her husband done told her twiced. Tossing my ice into the sink, I smiled smugly to myself as my cheek puffed up like a Pepperidge Farm pastry. A little while later, the doorbell rang, announcing the arrival of our property manager, Theresa, who was accompanied by a potential tenant. “Cristy, this is Beverly. Cristy can tell you how great the neighborhood is, how family-oriented it is. Right, Cristy?” she crooned, her voice wavering a bit as she stared at my swollen eye, which had taken on a distinctly lavender hue.

As Beverly extended her hand to me, I shrank back, throwing up an arm protectively. “He done never told me at all. Not even onced. Definitely not twiced!” I shrieked. And they believed me. The outpouring of sympathy was immediate. I didn’t need an elaborate story involving an aging diva and a fabulous shoe. I only needed to state the facts. I hadn’t been warned. And everyone knows that a bitch has gotta done be told twiced before you can take a swipe at her – or allow her stupidity to place her in the position of being struck by falling appliance shelves. There would be no makeup. I would bear my shiner proudly. This time anyway. After all, now I’ve done been told twiced.

(Though I make light of it here, domestic abuse is no laughing matter. If you are being abused or know someone who is, please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. It doesn’t matter if he done told you twiced!)

I Don’t/Couldn’t/Wouldn’t Give A S**t/Flying F**k/ Rat’s A**/Damn (PG-Rated Version)

This Poo-Throwing Chimp Definitely Gives A S**t!

If you’d like to read the R-rated version of this post (the one without all the f**cking asterisks), click here.

As a person who studied literature and writing, I’m troubled by our rampant and incorrect usage of profanity. To be clear, I don’t give a s**t if people cuss, but it’s critical to the further development of civilization that we know what we mean when we say, “I don’t give a s**t.”

Americans are quick to let others know when they don’t care about something or someone. Many a comedian has joked about the fact that we often say, “I could care less” (which isn’t saying much as we typically can care less about most things), when we really mean, “couldn’t care less.”  For example, I couldn’t care less if a monkey throws poo at some random kid at some random zoo somewhere – as evidenced by my use of the word “random.” I’m so uninterested that I can’t be bothered to Google an example of this occurring, even though I’m sure it has. I’m also pretty sure that the victim of the chimp s**t tossing event looked like Augustus Gloop from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  On the other hand, I could, indeed, care less about our inability to express ourselves more clearly when it comes to our interest or lack thereof about practically anything. Most irritating are the popular idioms that express apathy using the words s**ta**, f**k or damn to communicate just how much the speaker doesn’t care. Let me clear – I truly have no issues with profanity, as it’s called by many a Born Again Christian. I abhor censorship, except when it applies to Tea Party members – in which case, it should be applied liberally and to all words spoken – as everything they believe in is pretty much profane in my book.

Michele Bachmann - Stop Talking! I Know You're Just Reading The Phone Book, But It Sounds Like Non-Stop Cussing To Me (Image via Wikipedia)

ANALYSIS

I don’t give a s**t: (Alternative version: I wouldn’t give a s**t) An idiom often used to indicate that the speaker is apathetic about something, this expression is troublesome because it begs the question, Why would anyone give someone a piece of poo? Perhaps the speaker is referring to a specific, valuable kind of poo and, hence, he is unwilling to give any of it away. For example, panda poo is used to fertilize green tea leaves that are eventually sold for $35,000 a pound. Why is the dung of these adorable black and white critters so expensive? Apparently, the panda’s digestive system isn’t the efficient machine we may have assumed it to be and only absorbs about 30% of the nutrients consumed. As bamboo, a plant chock full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and anti-carcinogenic properties, is the primary diet of the panda, it is believed that panda dung enhances the benefits of green tea leaves grown in it.

Other examples of pricy s**t include the poo of the Asian Palm Civet, a cat-like animal that eats coffee berries for their fleshy pulp, then defecates the actual bean that is used to brew Kopi Luwak coffee – which sells for up to $600 a pound. Even your run-of-the-mill cow manure goes for about ten bucks for four pounds – less expensive than coffee, but more costly than sugar. Then, of course, there’s human poo – and you can’t give that s**t away. You really can’t. It’s illegal. Thus, in order to communicate effectively, the speaker should be extremely specific about the s**t he is referring to when he says, I don’t give a s**t. If he really, truly doesn’t care at all about the subject or person and is unwilling to give them anything at all, he could say, I don’t give a panda s**t, and if he cares just a tad more than that, I don’t give a civet s**t. If he’s on the fence, he could say, I don’t give four pounds of fertilizer grade s**t. While I don’t give a human s**t would actually mean the speaker is quite interested, but doesn’t want to admit it.

Asian Palm Civet - C'mon, You Know You Want My S**t! (Image via Wikipedia)

1)      I couldn’t give a s**t: An alternate to I don’t give a s**t, this expression implies that the speaker can’t afford to care. Perhaps he’d really like to, but he has no panda poo or civet dung to offer. Likely constipated, this person can’t even eek out a chocolate channel chewie of his own. Studies indicate that one utilizing this expression is worse off than a person who doesn’t have a pot to piss in, as the latter can still urinate, even though he doesn’t possess a container in which to store his tinkle.

2)      I don’t give a flying f**k: (Alternative version: I wouldn’t give a flying f**k) Implicit in this idiom is that fact that the speaker is unwilling to relinquish a flying f**k – that’s just how uninterested he is. Prostitution is often referred to as the “oldest profession,” demonstrating that some form of value – whether it be monetary or in goods and/or services – has long been attributed to f**king. Wired Magazine looked into the sex trade in early 2011 and determined that your typical streetwalker earns $75 a transaction, while escorts garner twice as much for their services. Upscale escort agencies may charge a john upwards of $4,000 – half of which will go to the call girl. Unfortunately, the cost of a flying f**k was not addressed; however, I’ve crunched the numbers myself and here’s what I’ve come up with:

Tandem Skydiving or Flying F**k? (Image via Wikipedia)

A tandem skydiving experience runs approximately $300, so if you were able to locate a tandem instructor who was also a prostitute, I’d estimate the entire flying f**k would run you approximately $3300 unless an agency was involved, in which case, the price would likely double. Even though the average call girl charges only $2000, a flying f**k is decidedly kinky – and extra pervy sex always costs more. Plus, I factored in additional monies for the sheer danger involved and the fact that your prostitute would have had to become certified in skydiving. Of course, she’s going to pass that expense on to you. And it’s not like skydiving hookers are hanging out on every corner, cooing to johns, “Hey Baby, wanna flying f**k?” Now if you’re sentimental and would prefer that your flying f**k experience involve someone you actually love or care about, both of you would need to become certified skydivers  – at a cost of $1500 to $2000 each, not including gear rental and jump costs. In the end, you’re looking at paying close to five grand to experience a flying f**k with your significant other. If heights make you, erm, nervously flaccid, add in another $50 for a doctor’s visit and a Viagra prescription. It appears that the meaning of I don’t give a flying f**k makes perfect sense as flying f**ks are innately valuable – and really shouldn’t just be given out willy nilly.

On the other hand, if your definition of a flying f**k involves two half-dressed people in a cramped bathroom on a plane at 35,000 feet, it may not be all that expensive. Jet Blue regularly offers $57 dollar one-way trips to places you’d rarely want to go, but if you’re antsy for a flying f**k, shelling out a few hundred bucks for you and your partner to board a plane headed for Omaha may just be the ticket. Then again, if you’re a celebrity or just incredibly good looking, you could cut the expense in half by seducing a flight attendant – but there’s plenty of risk involved there. You might get the fugly B crew or a bunch of virginal Bible Thumpers on any given trip – and jacking off by yourself in a bathroom the size of a closet isn’t the same as doing the nasty with a 21 year old, former-beauty-pageant-contestant-turned-flight-attendant-named-Bambi. If joining the Mile High Club was that easy, there’d be an International Mile High organization, conferences, lapel pins and a New York Times Bestselling How-to Book.

Okay. Apparently, There Is A Book (Image via dfarley.com)

3)      I couldn’t give a flying f**k: Again, this expression suggests that the speaker either can’t afford to give a flying f**k (particularly the pricier skydiving flying f**k), is unwilling to attempt a flying f**k by jumping out of the penthouse of a large skyscraper as it would most likely end in certain death as opposed to orgasm, or is simply afraid of heights.

4)      I don’t take no s**t: This is the idiom of an extremely proud person – someone unwilling to accept handouts of s**t from anyone, whether it be panda, civet or human in nature. If this person wants s**t, he’ll make it himself. If this means binging on an entire pot of chili, half a dozen bags of Lay’s and entire chocolate cake in one evening, that’s alright. He wants no charity, even if the only s**t he can produce is his own and utterly worthless. Unable to be bribed with the promises of the riches that come with possessing Panda dung, it is unlikely that this person is employed as a politician, local government employee or within the legal profession.

Rick Santorum - Got Panda S**t? I'll Take It! (Image via Wikipedia)

5)      I don’t give two s**ts and a flying f**k: Avoid this person at all cost. They are not interested in anything you have to say and will never share their s**t with you. And you’re certainly unlikely to convince them to give a flying f**k.

6)      I don’t give a rat’s a**: (Alternative version: I wouldn’t give a rat’s a**) Again, we are faced with an expression that challenges us to determine the value of something – in this case,  a rat’s a** – and ascertain why so many people are unwilling to give their rats’ a**es away. Despite extensive research on my part, I was unable to find a value assigned to a rat’s bunghole, nor did I find a market for real rat tails, as opposed to the decorative ribbon of the same name. On the whole, however, there’s definitely a demand for rats worldwide for use as food, pets and laboratory test subjects.

Rat Meat - All The Rage In Cambodia (Image via Reuters)

In fact, in 2008 Reuters reported that the demand for rodent meat in Cambodia resulted in a fourfold price increase to 5,000 riel ($1.28) for a little over two pounds of meat up from 1,200 riel in 2007. Though this price may seem inexpensive to those us paying up to $6/lb for raw chicken breasts, escalating rat meat prices meant that many poor Cambodians were unable to enjoy the “spicy field rat dishes with garlic” that are apparently quite popular in Mainland and Maritime Southeast Asia. Likewise, in West and Southern Africa, the Greater Cane Rat is considered a  pricy delicacy, superior to rabbit meat, that is served in restaurants and raised as micro livestock by locals. Unfortunately, despite exhaustive research, it is unclear as to whether or not the rat’s a** is discarded or eaten. Assuming that it is consumed,  a person hailing from Ghana or Nigeria who says, I wouldn’t give a rat’s a** may have stated such because it would be akin to asking Anthony Bourdain to part with an ounce of beluga cavier or black Périgord truffles. Not gonna happen.

If a young child announces that he don’t give a rat’s a**, then we might assume he has a filthy mouth and needs a sound beating that it’s because kids like rodents and think they make wonderful pets. After all, he’s probably never heard of the Bubonic Plague or read the article about rats chewing off the upper lip of a four week old infant while she slept in her crib in Kansas City. One day, rats will be just one of the many phobias for which he has to take medication to control, but today that boy is just a child who wants a furry white critter to call Whiskers and one more way in which to torture his younger sister.

Pets possess an intrinsic value for the people who love them, regardless of whether or not that translates into dollars and cents. And though the typical fancy rat costs less than $15 – even from a reputable breeder – many rat owners willingly pay thousands of bucks a year to feed, cage and medically care for their “ratties,” as they are called. As a previous pet rat owner, I can testify to the fact that rat fanciers – particularly in adult form – are amongst the most zealous of animal owners. Because their pets-of-choice are often derided as disease-spreading, cheese-stealing, beady-eyed, fanged monsters responsible for everything from famine to making New York City’s sewers uninhabitable, you’d be hard pressed to find a rattie lover who’d give up any rat’s a** in their possession.

Even At The Karni Mata Temple, Brown A**es Are Worth Less Than White Ones (Image via lovethosepics.com)

Likewise, Hindu worshippers of the Indian mystic , Karni Mata, treat the of rats who inhabit the temple that bears her name like royalty, offering them prasads, a candy-like food, in the hopes of sighting one of the rare white rats that live alongside over 20,000 brown rodents. It is believed that the darker rats are the reincarnated souls of Karni Mata’s tribespeople, while the albinos are either Karni Mata herself or her immediate family. As such, it’s unlikely that any Hindu who makes the pilgrimage to the Karni Mata Temple would ever consider offering a rat’s a** to anyone. However, in order to distinguish how emphatic they are about their unwillingness to anger Karni Mata by giving away one of her temple’s rat rumps, it would be helpful if devout Hindus would specify whether or not they don’t give a brown rat’s a** or a white rat’s a**. As is the case in America, white a**es in India are treated with more respect and assigned significantly more value than brown a**es.

Finally, we broach the issue of the laboratory rat. Millions – perhaps even billions – of rats are used to test everything from cosmetics to pharmaceuticals to insecticide. Though most people consider experimentation on animals to be an evil act, albeit a necessary one, few would consider the average lab rat to be worth much. Forget about its a**. However, further investigation reveals that these furry white critters with their Satanic, glowing red eyes have been used for decades to study human disorders of the anus – yes, a** diseases – such as rectal cancer and hemorrhoids. Thus, these rats’ a**es are worth a fortune to the real devils out there: pharmaceutical companies. So when the CEO of Pfizer says, “I don’t give a rat’s a**!” it’s because that particular rat’s a** might be worth a billion dollars in revenue. The irony is that many of us consider pharmaceutical executives to be worth far less than a common sewer rat’s keister.

My Hemorrhoids Are Killing Me! (Image via Wikipedia)

7)      I couldn’t give a rat’s a**: This idiom suggests a plethora of reasons for the inability to offer up a rat’s cornhole. Perhaps the speaker is a follower of Karni Mata and is fearful of angering the incarnation of the Indian goddess, Durga. Maybe he’s a Preparation H sales rep – and a**es, along with the rats’ a**es that help improve his product line – are his business. He could be one of the few highly-specialized veterinarians out there with a focus on rattie rectal cancer or he might be reluctant to give up his family’s dinner at the Rat A** Café in Ghana. Either way, rats’ a**es are a lot more valuable than you probably ever thought possible, so think before you offer to give one away.

8)      I don’t give a damn: (Alternative version: I wouldn’t give a damn) Depending on your religious affiliation, damning can be a serious business. In fact, many people believe that being damned involves some sort of eternal punishment in a broiling pit of heat and misery (a.k.a. Miami in August).  This statement suggests that the speaker can’t be bothered to damn the subject. Perhaps she believes the person is already damned and further damning on her part would be redundant (i.e. “I’d damn John Mayer to Hell, but he’s such douchebag, Satan’s already got a lava-lined armchair just waiting for him”) or she’s concerned about karma and is simply content to hold her tongue. Perhaps the best example of someone really meaning it when they said, I don’t give a damn, is Rhett Butler’s final words to a whiny and pathetic Bella Swan from Twilight Scarlett O’Hara in the film, Gone with the Wind. By walking off into the fog after replying to Scarlett’s whimpering question about what she should do and where should she go with the classic parting retort, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” Rhett Butler left with viewers with little doubt about the fact that he didn’t care if Scarlett rotted in Hell, or in her delusional world in which she returns to Tara and dreams of Rhett coming back to her – and giving a damn.

Scarlett O'Hara - Rhett Doesn't Give A S**t If You Rot In Hell Or Not (Image via Wikipedia)

9)      I couldn’t give a damn: Widely utilized by those who are unable to damn someone because they are atheists, agnostics or just pussies.

Stay tuned for Part Two of I Don’t/Wouldn’t/Couldn’t Give A S**t/Flying F**k/Rat’s A**/Damn – which will likely be called something else entirely and will likely be posted next week, unless I decide that I don’t give a s**t/flying f**k/rat’s a**/damn, in which case it’ll be posted whenever I feel like it.

If you decided to read this with all the asterisks and you’d still like to read this post or share it without them, the R-rated version is available right here or you can just scroll down a little and you’ll come right to it.

I Don’t/Wouldn’t/Couldn’t Give A Shit/Flying Fuck/Rat’s Ass/Damn

This Poo-Throwing Chimp Definitely Gives A Shit!

As a person who studied literature and writing, I’m troubled by our rampant and incorrect usage of profanity. To be clear, I don’t give a shit if people cuss, but it’s critical to the further development of civilization that we know what we mean when we say, “I don’t give a shit.”

Americans are quick to let others know when they don’t care about something or someone. Many a comedian has joked about the fact that we often say, “I could care less” (which isn’t saying much as we typically can care less about most things), when we really mean,I couldn’t care less.”  For example, I couldn’t care less if a monkey throws poo at some random kid at some random zoo somewhere – as evidenced by my use of the word “random.” I’m so uninterested that I can’t be bothered to Google an example of this occurring, even though I’m sure it has. I’m also pretty sure that the victim of the chimp shit tossing event looked like Augustus Gloop from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  On the other hand, I could, indeed, care less about our inability to express ourselves more clearly when it comes to our interest or lack thereof about practically anything. Most irritating are the popular idioms that express apathy using the words shit, ass, fuck or damn to communicate just how much the speaker doesn’t care. Let me be clear – I have no issues with profanity, as it’s called by many a Born Again Christian. I abhor censorship, except when it applies to Tea Party members – in which case, it should be applied liberally and to all words spoken – as everything they believe in is pretty much profane in my book.

Michele Bachmann – Stop Talking! I Know You’re Just Reading The Phone Book, But It Sounds Like Non-Stop Cussing To Me (Image via Wikipedia)

ANALYSIS

I don’t give a shit: (Alternative version: I wouldn’t give a shit) An idiom often used to indicate that the speaker is apathetic about something, this expression is troublesome because it begs the question, Why would anyone give someone a piece of poo? Perhaps the speaker is referring to a specific, valuable kind of poo and, hence, he is unwilling to give any of it away. For example, panda poo is used to fertilize green tea leaves that are eventually sold for $35,000 a pound. Why is the dung of these adorable black and white critters so expensive? Apparently, the panda’s digestive system isn’t the efficient machine we may have assumed it to be and only absorbs about 30% of the nutrients consumed. As bamboo, a plant chock full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and anti-carcinogenic properties, is the primary diet of the panda, it is believed that panda dung enhances the benefits of green tea leaves grown in it.

Other examples of pricy shit include the poo of the Asian Palm Civet, a cat-like animal that eats coffee berries for their fleshy pulp, then defecates the actual bean that is used to brew Kopi Luwak coffee – which sells for up to $600 a pound. Even your run-of-the-mill cow manure goes for about ten bucks for four pounds – less expensive than coffee, but more costly than sugar. Then, of course, there’s human poo – and you can’t give that shit away. You really can’t. It’s illegal. Thus, in order to communicate effectively, the speaker should be extremely specific about the shit he is referring to when he says, I don’t give a shit. If he really, truly doesn’t care at all about the subject or person and is unwilling to give them anything at all, he could say, I don’t give a panda shit, and if he cares just a tad more than that, I don’t give a civet shit. If he’s on the fence, he could say, I don’t give four pounds of fertilizer grade shit. While I don’t give a human shit would actually mean the speaker is quite interested, but doesn’t want to admit it.

Asian Palm Civet – C’mon, You Know You Want My Shit! (Image via Wikipedia)

1)      I couldn’t give a shit: An alternate to I don’t give a shit, this expression implies that the speaker can’t afford to care. Perhaps he’d really like to, but he has no panda poo or civet dung to offer. Likely constipated, this person can’t even eek out a chocolate channel chewie of his own. Studies indicate that one utilizing this expression is worse off than a person who doesn’t have a pot to piss in, as the latter can still urinate, even though he doesn’t possess a container in which to store his tinkle.

2)      I don’t give a flying fuck: (Alternative version: I wouldn’t give a flying fuck) Implicit in this idiom is that fact that the speaker is unwilling to relinquish a flying fuck – that’s just how uninterested he is. Prostitution is often referred to as the “oldest profession,” demonstrating that some form of value – whether it be monetary or in goods and/or services – has long been attributed to fucking. Wired Magazine looked into the sex trade in early 2011 and determined that your typical streetwalker earns $75 a transaction, while escorts garner twice as much for their services. Upscale escort agencies may charge a john upwards of $4,000 – half of which will go to the call girl. Unfortunately, the cost of a flying fuck was not addressed; however, I’ve crunched the numbers myself and here’s what I’ve come up with:

Tandem Skydiving or Flying Fuck? (Image via Wikipedia)

A tandem skydiving experience runs approximately $300, so if you were able to locate a tandem instructor who was also a prostitute, I’d estimate the entire flying fuck would run you approximately $3300 unless an agency was involved, in which case, the price would likely double. Even though the average call girl charges only $2000, a flying fuck is decidedly kinky – and extra pervy sex always costs more. Plus, I factored in additional monies for the sheer danger involved and the fact that your prostitute would have had to become certified in skydiving. Of course, she’s going to pass that expense on to you. And it’s not like skydiving hookers are hanging out on every corner, cooing to johns, “Hey Baby, wanna flying fuck?” Now if you’re sentimental and would prefer that your flying fuck experience involve someone you actually love or care about, both of you would need to become certified skydivers  – at a cost of $1500 to $2000 each, not including gear rental and jump costs. In the end, you’re looking at paying close to five grand to experience a flying fuck with your significant other. If heights make you, erm, nervously flaccid, add in another $50 for a doctor’s visit and a Viagra prescription. It appears that the meaning of I don’t give a flying fuck makes perfect sense as flying fucks are innately valuable – and really shouldn’t just be given out willy nilly.

On the other hand, if your definition of a flying fuck involves two half-dressed people in a cramped bathroom on a plane at 35,000 feet, it may not be all that expensive. Jet Blue regularly offers $57 dollar one-way trips to places you’d rarely want to go, but if you’re antsy for a flying fuck, shelling out a few hundred bucks for you and your partner to board a plane headed for Omaha may just be the ticket. Then again, if you’re a celebrity or just incredibly good looking, you could cut the expense in half by seducing a flight attendant – but there’s plenty of risk involved there. You might get the fugly B crew or a bunch of virginal Bible Thumpers on any given trip – and jacking off by yourself in a bathroom the size of a closet isn’t the same as doing the nasty with a 21 year old, former-beauty-pageant-contestant-turned-flight-attendant-named-Bambi. If joining the Mile High Club was that easy, there’d be an International Mile High organization, conferences, lapel pins and a New York Times Bestselling How-to Book.

Okay. Maybe There Is A Book (Image via dfarley.com)

3)      I couldn’t give a flying fuck: Again, this expression suggests that the speaker either can’t afford to give a flying fuck (particularly the pricier skydiving flying fuck), is unwilling to attempt a flying fuck by jumping out of the penthouse of a large skyscraper as it would most likely end in certain death as opposed to orgasm, or is simply afraid of heights.

4)      I don’t take no shit: This is the idiom of an extremely proud person – someone unwilling to accept handouts of shit from anyone, whether it be panda, civet or human in nature. If this person wants shit, he’ll make it himself. If this means binging on an entire pot of chili, half a dozen bags of Lay’s and entire chocolate cake in one evening, that’s alright. He wants no charity, even if the only shit he can produce is his own and utterly worthless. Unable to be bribed with the promises of the riches that come with possessing panda dung, it is unlikely that this person is employed as a politician, local government employee or within the legal profession.

Rick Santorum – Got Panda Shit? I’ll Take It! (Image via Wikipedia)

5)      I don’t give two shits and a flying fuck: Avoid this person at all cost. They are not interested in anything you have to say and will never share their shit with you. And you’re certainly unlikely to convince them to give a flying fuck.

6)      I don’t give a rat’s ass: (Alternative version: I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass) Again, we are faced with an expression that challenges us to determine the value of something – in this case,  a rat’s ass – and ascertain why so many people are unwilling to give their rats’ asses away. Despite extensive research on my part, I was unable to find a value assigned to a rat’s bunghole, nor did I find a market for real rat tails, as opposed to the decorative ribbon of the same name. On the whole, however, there’s definitely a demand for rats worldwide for use as food, pets and laboratory test subjects.

Rat Meat – All The Rage In Cambodia (Image via Reuters)

In fact, in 2008 Reuters reported that the demand for rodent meat in Cambodia resulted in a fourfold price increase to 5,000 riel ($1.28) for a little over two pounds of meat up from 1,200 riel in 2007. Though this price may seem inexpensive to those us paying up to $6/lb for raw chicken breasts, escalating rat meat prices meant that many poor Cambodians were unable to enjoy the “spicy field rat dishes with garlic” that are apparently quite popular in Mainland and Maritime Southeast Asia. Likewise, in West and Southern Africa, the Greater Cane Rat is considered a  pricy delicacy, superior to rabbit meat, that is served in restaurants and raised as micro livestock by locals. Unfortunately, despite exhaustive research, it is unclear as to whether or not the rat’s ass is discarded or eaten. Assuming that it is consumed,  a person hailing from Ghana or Nigeria who says, I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass may have stated such because it would be akin to asking Anthony Bourdain to part with an ounce of beluga cavier or black Périgord truffles. Not gonna happen.

If a young child announces that he don’t give a rat’s ass, then we might assume he has a filthy mouth and needs a sound beating that it’s because kids like rodents and think they make wonderful pets. After all, he’s probably never heard of the Bubonic Plague or read the article about rats chewing off the upper lip of a four week old infant while she slept in her crib in Kansas City. One day, rats will be just one of the many phobias for which he has to take medication to control, but today that boy is just a child who wants a furry white critter to call Whiskers and one more way in which to torture his younger sister.

Pets possess an intrinsic value for the people who love them, regardless of whether or not that translates into dollars and cents. And though the typical fancy rat costs less than $15 – even from a reputable breeder – many rat owners willingly pay thousands of bucks a year to feed, cage and medically care for their “ratties,” as they are called. As a previous pet rat owner, I can testify to the fact that rat fanciers – particularly in adult form – are amongst the most zealous of animal owners. Because their pets-of-choice are often derided as disease-spreading, cheese-stealing, beady-eyed, fanged monsters responsible for everything from famine to making New York City’s sewers uninhabitable, you’d be hard pressed to find a rattie lover who’d give up any rat’s ass in their possession.

Even At The Karni Mata Temple, Brown Asses Are Worth Less Than White Ones (Image via lovethosepics.com)

Likewise, Hindu worshippers of the Indian mystic , Karni Mata, treat the of rats who inhabit the temple that bears her name like royalty, offering them prasads, a candy-like food, in the hopes of sighting one of the rare white rats that live alongside over 20,000 brown rodents. It is believed that the darker rats are the reincarnated souls of Karni Mata’s tribespeople, while the albinos are either Karni Mata herself or her immediate family. As such, it’s unlikely that any Hindu who makes the pilgrimage to the Karni Mata Temple would ever consider offering a rat’s ass to anyone. However, in order to distinguish how emphatic they are about their unwillingness to anger Karni Mata by giving away one of her temple’s rat rumps, it would be helpful if devout Hindus would specify whether or not they don’t give a brown rat’s ass or a white rat’s ass. As is the case in America, white asses in India are treated with more respect and assigned significantly more value than brown asses.

Finally, we broach the issue of the laboratory rat. Millions – perhaps even billions – of rats are used to test everything from cosmetics to pharmaceuticals to insecticide. Though most people consider experimentation on animals to be an evil act, albeit a necessary one, few would consider the average lab rat to be worth much. Forget about its ass. However, further investigation reveals that these furry white critters with their Satanic, glowing red eyes have been used for decades to study human disorders of the anus – yes, ass diseases – such as rectal cancer and hemorrhoids. Thus, these rats’ asses are worth a fortune to the real devils out there: pharmaceutical companies. So when the CEO of Pfizer says, “I don’t give a rat’s ass!” it’s because that particular rat’s ass might be worth a billion dollars in revenue. The irony is that many of us consider pharmaceutical executives to be worth far less than a common sewer rat’s keister.

My Hemorrhoids Are Killing Me! (Image via Wikipedia)

7)      I couldn’t give a rat’s ass: This idiom suggests a plethora of reasons for the inability to offer up a rat’s cornhole. Perhaps the speaker is a follower of Karni Mata and is fearful of angering the incarnation of the Indian goddess, Durga. Maybe he’s a Preparation H sales rep – and asses, along with the rats’ asses that help improve his product line – are his business. He could be one of the few highly-specialized veterinarians out there with a focus on rattie rectal cancer or he might be reluctant to give up his family’s dinner at the Rat Ass Café in Ghana. Either way, rats’ asses are a lot more valuable than you probably ever thought possible, so think before you offer to give one away.

8)      I don’t give a damn: (Alternative version: I wouldn’t give a damn) Depending on your religious affiliation, damning can be a serious business. In fact, many people believe that being damned involves some sort of eternal punishment in a broiling pit of heat and misery (a.k.a. Miami in August).  This statement suggests that the speaker can’t be bothered to damn the subject. Perhaps she believes the person is already damned and further damning on her part would be redundant (i.e. “I’d damn John Mayer to Hell, but he’s such douchebag, Satan’s already got a lava-lined armchair just waiting for him”) or she’s concerned about karma and is simply content to hold her tongue. Perhaps the best example of someone really meaning it when they said, I don’t give a damn, is Rhett Butler’s final words to a whiny and pathetic Bella Swan from Twilight Scarlett O’Hara in the film, Gone with the Wind. By walking off into the fog after replying to Scarlett’s whimpering question about what she should do and where should she go with the classic parting retort, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” Rhett Butler left with viewers with little doubt about the fact that he didn’t care if Scarlett rotted in Hell, or in her delusional world in which she returns to Tara and dreams of Rhett coming back to her – and giving a damn.

Scarlett O’Hara – Rhett Doesn’t Give A Shit If You Rot In Hell Or Not (Image via Wikipedia)

9)      I couldn’t give a damn: Widely utilized by those who are unable to damn someone because they are atheists, agnostics or just pussies.

Stay tuned for Part Two of I Don’t/Wouldn’t/Couldn’t Give A Shit/Flying Fuck/Rat’s Ass/Damn – which will likely be called something else entirely and will likely be posted next week, unless I decide that I don’t give a shit/flying fuck/rat’s ass/damn, in which case it’ll be posted whenever I feel like it.

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.

Saving Simone From Hellfire And Brimstone

Most Jews Don't Believe In Hell. I Do And I'm Pretty Sure It Involves Arkansas, A Trailer, And A Guy Wearing A Wifebeater (Image via Wikipedia)

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.

Munchkins - I Knew The Middle Ballerina, But No Jews (Image via wizardofozpictures.com

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.

U.S. Army - Amateur Recruiters Compared To Protestants (Image via http://www.army.mil)

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.

Marie Osmond - Singer, Actress, Object Of Donny's Unnatural Affections (Image via datalounge.com)

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.

One Naked Barbie In A Jacuzzi Can Lead To An Orgy - Keep Barbie Clothed! (Image via theblogocracy.com

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.

Simone's Future - Before Being Born Again (Image via deathmask.org)

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.

My Crib In Heaven. Damn! Makes Me Wish I Still Believed In The Place. (Image via withfriends.com)

“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.

Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction - Don't Fuck With A Black Man Quoting The Scripture While Pointing A Gun At You - Or A Dogmatic Seven Year Old (Image via themarysue.com)

“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.

Shetland Pony - How Else Am I Supposed To Get Around Heaven? Golf Cart? (Image via en.wikipedia.org)

“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?”

A Sapphire and Diamond Tiara - Everybody's Got Their Price And This Was Simone's (Image via internetstones.com)

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.

The Holy Trinity Recliner Set - The Holy Spirit Sits In The Middle Since He's Invisible (Image via cousinsfurniture.co.uk)

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.

I Feared I'd Lose My Head Trying To Spread The Gospel (Image via lanceandjess.wordpress.com)

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.

Fear-Mongering Born Again Christians or Republican Presidential Candidates? (Image via indecisionforever.com)

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.