As with all As Seen On TV! products, I was blown away by the revolutionary new baking craze that is sweeping the nation. Bake Pops. Yes, I know. It’s mind-blowing. Cake on a stick. ON A STICK! Certainly, a nuclear physicist or Nobel winning scientist was behind this invention. What are Bake Pops, you ask? Seriously? You don’t know? Some of us clearly aren’t reading Wired, Newsweek, Time, Popular Science or Woman’s Day. Bake Pops are small round cakes with a stick inserted into them so that they can be dipped in frosting or chocolate and decorated to your liking.
No more eating cake off a plate. Talk about a nuisance. If I had a dime for every time someone turned to me at a party and said, “Cristy, I’d rather have a root canal than eat this slice of carrot cake off a plate with a fork. What a hassle!” To begin with, you’ve got to have napkins, forks, and plates available – and in an economy like ours, that’s just not a given. I can’t tell you how often I’ve simply fallen to my knees and sobbed upon discovering that Wal-Mart was out of plastic forks…again. Have you any idea how embarrassing it is to ask your party guests to eat cake with their fingers? Their nails become sticky with frosting and then they need extra napkins. Like you’ve got plenty of those to go around. It’s not like paper just grows on trees. Suddenly, you’re a friggin’ napkin ATM machine.
As a civilized society, we’re expected to multi-task – particularly at parties. Despite the fact that everyone – our families, our employers, our friends, our Facebook friends, our LinkedIn contacts, our fellow bloggers, our Twitter followers, our co-workers, our former co-workers whom we avoid because they left under less-than-favorable circumstances, and people we pretend to like at Starbucks, but just so they don’t spit in our pumpkin lattes – expect us to be able to do more in less time, we still only have two hands and ten fingers (unless you’re a carpenter, in which case, make that eight or nine fingers).
If there’s one thing there’s never enough of at parties, it’s chairs and tables. This is assuming you attend good parties. Now if the guy at work who picks his nose and keeps his boogers on a piece of notebook paper in his top desk drawer invites you to a party at his mother’s house, there is a chance that they’ll be plenty of places to sit and tables upon which to rest your paper plate. However, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, so the odds are that you’ll be standing around trying to juggle your plate, fork, and napkin in one hand, with your cell phone tucked under one armpit and a glass of punch in the other. And maybe Larry from down the street, slipped a little something into that punch. Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge. Which means you’ll be tipsy. Or sloshed.
As you know, this is when things spin out of control. Melanie, that fabulous hair stylist you’ve been dying to get an appoint with, is there and is willing to work you into her schedule. Scraping your cake to one side of your plate with your fork, you set your cup of punch next to it. Then, withdrawing your cell from your armpit, you attempt, one-handed, to enter Melanie’s contact information. But you’ve had more than a few sips of Larry’s mysterious brew. Your balance is a little off. The hand holding the plate shakes from the added and poorly-distributed weight of the punch glass, and the pink liquid splashes onto the freshly-mopped, tile floor. Your phone rings in the middle of entering the appointment date and time into your calendar and, as you struggle to answer it without having to re-enter the information, you slip on the spilled punch and fall. Landing on your back, you watch in horror as the plate flies into the air, then plummets towards your head. When it’s all said and done, you’ve got a plastic fork in your eye and your hostess is pissed off because of all the napkins you’ve used to sop up the blood. But thanks to Bake Pops, that will never happen again.
Nor will Granny break her good hip in the inevitable frosting slip ‘n fall accident. Every year, thousands of elderly people slip on icing at their grandkids’ birthday parties. Most will die in the hospital of pneumonia – a common complication. Is serving a cake the size of a coffee table worth Papa Joe lying cold and dead in a grave? Is writing out “Happy Birthday, Amber” on a pink cake with a unicorn theme worth the loss of fourteen more years with Nana Gertrude? I don’t think so. Preserve a future for your children with their rambling, incoherent and crippled elders by purchasing Bake Pops. You can dip them (the Bake Pops, not their elders) in pink chocolate and sprinkle them with silver (inedible) snowflakes for little Amber next year. It’s almost like the real thing. Not quite. But then, how will your children ever experience feeding their grandparents by hand – and wiping the baby food and spittle off their mouths – unless you convert to the new Bake Pops revolution? Would you deprive your parents of their second childhood? I think not.
Of course, every hostess is worried about one of her guests choking to death because, in an attempt to emulate the Man vs. Food host, one loser will try to cram an entire slice of cake into his mouth at once. Nothing’s worse than having to explain to the paramedics, the medical examiner and the dead idiot’s wife that the deceased inadvertently killed himself because he thought he could top the portly Travel Channel television host. ”Watch me while I cram this entire cake into my mouth within the next two minutes!” he’d cried triumphantly. For the last time. Don’t let this happen to you. Why spend unnecessary hours being questioned by detectives, comforting the dead moron’s widow, and paying a cleaning crew to clean up the urine and other fluids that tend to ooze out of a body upon death when you can simply buy Bake Pops? It’s impossible for a drunken guest to squeeze an entire slice of cake into his mouth at once because Bake Pops are bite-sized.
In addition to preventing permanent disfigurement and death, this amazing new product will also help you avoid committing many of the dreaded, social faux-paux associated with cake serving and cake eating etiquette. For example, cutting the cake. Who does it? The birthday girl, the hostess, the guy with the Bowie knife in his sock? Do you begin cutting in the corner or, in the event that you’re serving the classic bikini cake, do you start with a nipple for the birthday boy?
How do you determine cake slice size? For example, do you give a translucent slice to the fat girl? What do you do if the fat girl passes her skinny piece to Nicole Ritchie (What? She doesn’t come to all of your parties? That’s ’cause you haven’t been serving Bake Pops!) and asks for the chunky, corner slice you’ve just plated – the one with all the frosting and three blue rosettes? If you were serving Bake Pops, this would never be an issue. Bake Pops are all the same size. Unlike cake slices, Bake Pops can be exactly the same. Not different, but equal. Yes, equal. If you choose, your Bake Pops can all be the same color, with the same sprinkles and the same number of rosettes. Or, if you’re planning a tea party, the vanilla Pops can be richer and taxed at a lower rate than the chocolate Pops…but that’s totally up to you.
A generous company, Bake Pops isn’t only committed to preventing blindness, saving lives and promoting portion-controlled diets, it is sincerely committed to recycling. In light of this fact, here are some other great ways in which you can use Bake Pops’s patented “stick” to bring even more efficiency, safety and enjoyment into your life.
1) Egg Pops: Tired of chopping your hard-boiled eggs using one of those uber-complicated, one step, egg slicers? Why not insert the Bake Pop stick into your egg instead? Save yourself all that sweaty, difficult, single-step slicing and let your teeth do the work for you! That is what your chompers were designed for.
2) Potato Pops: Try grilling these babies along with some New York strip steaks at your next pool party. Dip them in sour cream and chives – and your guests will be talking about them over the water cooler on Monday. Watch out! They can be a little warm in the middle.
3) Brussels Pops: Tell your kids that they’re cabbage-flavored lollipops – and serve them with plenty of butter. Kids love butter. And at their age, cholesterol really isn’t an issue, now is it?
4) Onion Pops: Talk about the perfect pre-date appetizer for your teens. No one’s gonna get pregnant at this Homecoming Dance. And no cooking required! Looking for a twist? Try it with a bulb of fresh garlic. Your eyes will burst into flames just trying to read a Twilight novel.
5) Poop Pops: For us dog lovers, we know nothing satiates our canine’s appetite more than another dog’s feces. Or, if your pooch is into the exotic, try using kitty poo – the litter tastes just like vanilla sprinkles to them! Don’t forget – nothing compliments an ass-kabob like a little au jus dipping sauce. Rover will lap it right up.
6) Soylent Pops: Looking to keep your carbon footprint as small as possible? Why not dine on your like-minded, green counterparts who, instead of dedicating their bodies to science, dedicated them to sustenance? To keep the cycle-of-life turning – and as green as possible – consider nourishing another human with your flesh and celebrate in the knowledge that no paper or plastic products will be used in the serving of your dead, cooked corpse.
7) Salt Pops: Why should a cow enjoy the ease of a salt lick whenever it wants, when you’ve got to concern yourself with seasoning your food or salting the rim of your margarita glass? Why rip open teeny tiny containers of salt or struggle with the hardened white mass stuck inside the restaurant shaker when you can carry your own discreet salt pop everywhere you go? What – you want to do shots? No problem. Lick your Salt Pop, slam that tequila and then suck on a slice of lime. Easily shared, Salt Pops will make you the favorite drunk at the bar.
For more information on Bake Pops, tune in to your favorite television station late at night when advertising is cheap or check out the demo on You Tube: Bake Pops Demo. Your kid’s eye could depend on it.
This will be my shortest post ever. Except for Savannah Glasses – which I won’t even provide a link for because it’s just a photo and an excuse for not writing. Why so short? It’s very late. I’m extremely tired. I’m not funny when I’m sleepy. Actually, I am funny, but it’s because I snore and, according to my husband, it’s an entirely different kind of funny. More like You Tube funny. I hope he doesn’t read this post. Look, if you see a You Tube video out there entitled: “Hilarious Female Blogger Snoring Like a Water Buffalo” – don’t watch it. But flag it for inappropriate content. And send the poster a nasty, threatening email.
The relative briefness of this post will likely be a relief for many of you who have become accustomed to my marathon blogs – one of which, by the way, was read by a runner while competing in the Boston Marathon, but he couldn’t finish it in time – my post, not the marathon. But I don’t think he was a very fast reader. Just ’cause you have thighs of steel and can move them as rapidly as a hummingbird’s wings doesn’t mean there’s anything snapping and popping up there in your gray matter. What, you ask? Am I ever going to get to the point or will I pen 2000+ words on the shortest post I’m ever going write?
The ever-so-kind and most recent recipient of The Versatile Blogger Award, ksnapped - who also loves shiny and sparkly things – has nominated me for…The Versatile Blogger Award. I’m simply verklempt. In less than a month, the wonderful wordpress.com blogging staff and/or community has seen fit to Freshly Press me (which made me no thinner, but smoothed out some of my cellulite), and award me both the 7×7 Link Blogging Award and, now, The Versatile Blogger Award.
As with the 7×7, these awards are essentially the chain letters of the blogging award industry. Still, I never win anything. Even my husband dissuades me from buying lottery tickets because my luck is abysmal. So, secretly, I’m thrilled. On the outside, I’m jaded and sighing over the fact that I have to do this again so soon. Don’t you want to kill me right now? I would. What a total ass, huh? Go ahead. Seriously. Do it. If you do, I’m done with the post. Done. I’m free. Maybe I’ll be reincarnated as one of Ricky Gervais’ pets. No takers? Pussies. My offer is rescinded.
1) Add the Versatile Blogger Award to your post. Done
2) Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog. Done
3) Share 7 completely random pieces of information about myself. See Below
4) Include this set of rules in your post. Done
5) Nominate 10 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award in this post. See Belower (I know it’s not a word, but it should be.)
6) Notify each of the nominees by posting a comment on each of their blogs. I’m going to cheat here and send them all an email if possible. Why? Because then I can send ONE email.
I must admit that part of me is reluctant to reveal another seven personal things about myself. After all, you know what a private person I am. I hate to talk about myself, my past, the terrible dresses my mother made me wear, my addictions, my dead dog, my hatred for people who can be witty at a moment’s notice, my dislike of sonnets, and my love of little people. So, of course, sharing this kind of information gives me the heebie-jeebies. But, as always, I am willing to suffer for my art.
1) I used to play the flute, but the only thing I ever learned to play well was the theme song to Mork and Mindy. This comes up often at parties. “C’mon, Cristy. Na Nu, Na Nu. Take me back to Ork,” but my time as a flautist is over. Stop asking, Robin. Williams. You can’t go back in time. Take the rainbow suspenders off, you hairy freak.
2) If I wasn’t already happily married to my true love, I would marry Jimmy Stewart. Yes, I realize he’s dead, but that wouldn’t stop me. I’d dig up his corpse and use whatever scientific means possible to reanimate his lifeless body until we could consummate our relationship. Nothin’ wrong with zombie love.
3) The first poem I ever wrote was entitled, “Punk the Skunk.” Even as a young child, my future was paved with combat boots, ripped fishnets and black eyeliner. Sometimes, I wonder if my father is The Clash. Not any particular member. The whole band. (Sorry, Mom!)
4) I’m pretty sure these awards were started by identity thieves who troll our blogs for personal information so that they can answer security questions proffered by our banks and credit card companies. I’m gonna make it easier for them. My birthday is July 4, 1776. My mother’s maiden name is Doe. My best friend’s last name is Kardashian. (I think I just lost a little bit of my soul by writing that.) My husband and I met at a naked car wash. My first car was a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Alloy Gullwing and it sucked because I really wanted a new car. Oh, and my Social Security number is 111-11-1111. Really. Hello, look at my birth date! You know I had to be like the first person to get one…ever.
5) I voted for President Obama. I’m going to vote for him again. That’s not a joke. Remember, during the last election, when conservatives used to make fun of our President’s first name? “What the hell kinda name is Barack?” At least our President isn’t named after a lizard or something you use to remove a hot pan from the oven. Talk about throwing stones at glass houses.
6) When I was a senior in high school, I told Judd Nelson he “f**king sucked” after he was rude to a friend of mine and made her cry. I’ve since forgiven him for the incident. I haven’t forgiven him for getting a crew cut or for the film, Lost Voyage. Floppy hair works for exactly two actors: Hugh Grant and Judd Nelson. If you have the floppy hair gift, it is a sin to mow your tresses as though they were grass. Judd, you’ve been warned. Don’t make me blog about you again. I’ll curse you out. You know I will. I’ve done it before.
7) My first 45 record was “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder. Yes, I picked it out all on my own. I was six or seven. A little white girl with soul. This makes me cooler than almost anyone. Not hip, but cool. If your first 45 was by Hall & Oates, don’t even respond to this post. I mean it. I’ll curse you out. I cussed out a movie star when I was seventeen. I have no fear.
1) Gemini Girl in a Random World - Talented writer. Brilliant. Clever. Gorgeous. Recently Freshly Pressed. All words that describe me…and my blogging bestie, Stacie Chadwick. Okay, maybe some of them describe just Stacie – and not me. Be an Accuracy Nazi why don’t you! Check it out or I’ll cuss you out. You KNOW I’ll do it. Especially after you were all up in my face about not being gorgeous and brilliant and clever.
2) Jasper Writes - He’s English. He’s a lawyer. He blogged about the law in a Family Guy episode. He’s insanely smart. Just read it. His most recent post will make you hungry. Don’t read it while grocery shopping or if you’ve just gone swimming. Wait at least a half hour.
3) The Chronicles of Creepy Pants - Ever wonder what the creepy, but strangely funny guy in the cubicle next to you is writing about? You. Better read this ’cause you might be sharing a fridge – and a stapler – with this dude.
4) Retention - Seriously funny. If you don’t know what steampunk is, put on your hipster glasses and read this blog. It will heal your arthritis and works wonders on hemorrhoids.
5) You’ve Been Hooked - One bellman’s stories of life in the hospitality trenches. You’ll laugh so hard you’ll wet your fanny pack.
6) I Can’t High Five - Another very recently Freshly Pressed blogger, this chick cracks me up with her irrational fears of mashed potatoes, nose whistling and high fiving. Congrats, girl! High five! Erm…I guess not.
7) Today in Heritage History - Don’t be fooled by the name. Their logline is “Smart. Funny. And Almost True.” I can’t do this post justice with a description. Just trust me. (How does a lawyer say fuck you? Trust me. But I’m a recovering attorney, there’s a difference.)
8) Listful Thinking - Another recently Pressed chick (I don’t recommend losers, people), this blogger will keep your sinuses cleaned out of snot. I’m not sure what that means, but I think it means that water will shoot out of your nose because you’ll be laughing so hard and the boogers will be rinsed away with it. Think of her blog as a Neti-Pot. Which means who really should plan on drinking slightly saline, filtered water when you read it. She’s how I’d write if I was hip. Which I’m not.
9) The Book of Alice - This mommy blogger who shares short, pithy stories about her adorable four year old daughter, Alice, will become addictive. She’s that miniature Snickers or Lifesaver you need at 3:30 in the afternoon. Just a little fix and you’re good for the rest of the day. Also, she’s the kind soul who awarded me the 7×7 Award. Payback’s a bitch!
10) Live Clay - Even though she recently won the 7×7 Award as well (and hasn’t done her required 21 things yet…tick tock, tick tock, Clarice), I’m nominating this funny, talented, artistic chick for this award because I figure she can kill two birds with one stone – and just write one blog post accepting both. And she deserves it….blah, blah, blah.
Alright, folks. Now you have no excuse to do anything but read blogs for the rest of the day. No more of this whiny, But nobody’s writing anything good lately. Waaaaaa! These bloggers are worthy of your valuable time. But they’ve gotten enough of mine today. Off to pen the Great American Blog Post! Or maybe do some dishes and laundry. Or shower. I should shower.
I was a private school kid. Before you go there, I wasn’t that kind of private school kid. There were no limousines or drivers or designer bags or ivy-covered walls or disheveled teachers in tweed who lived onsite and inspired me to seize the day. In fact, I was a scholarship kid – which meant that 99% of the kids enrolled had more money than I did, but I was smarter than all of them. I raised the school’s overall standardized testing scores, won spelling bees for them, and served as my classmates’ verbal and physical punching bag – all for discounted tuition. Possessing a photographic memory and a passion for reading the World Book Encyclopedia at dinner, I knew I wasn’t normal. I quickly discovered that there wasn’t a single kid in my class who, as their mom served them meatloaf, thought to themselves, “Hmmm. I bet the R volume would be good with beef.” But I wanted to be normal. I so wanted to be.
Unlike the previous parochial school I attended, this one didn’t require the wearing of uniforms. Having spent every school day of my life in a blue plaid jumper paired with a light blue blouse with a Peter Pan collar, I was desperate for the opportunity to dress like the public school kids who waited for their bus on the opposite side of the street each morning. I pictured myself in bell bottom jeans, a crocheted halter top and bright yellow, patent leather platform heels. Because flat-chested – make that concave-chested – ten year olds don’t look at all ridiculous in see-through halter tops and neon platforms. Had my new school actually allowed pants and skimpy tops, I might have given Jodie Foster a run for her money and found myself a taxi-driving, psychotic boyfriend.
Little did I know that this small freedom would be my downfall. Despite the fact that I’d been no less of a geek at my previous school, my uniform had shielded me in a way. We’d all looked alike and I’d managed to hide my ginormous brain – under a hat -but the kids thought I was just very fashion-forward. It made me look like Jughead, but no one ever suspected that he was smart, did they? More likely, the kids just didn’t care at that age. There’s something about puberty and hormones that transforms children into the fanged and winged raptors of Satan. I’m convinced that the case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde was really just delayed puberty. Think about it. Linda Blair was 12 when she pulled her spinning-head trick in The Exorcist. Right around the advent of puberty, Jodie Foster began turning tricks, Brooke Shields got herself naked and lost on a tropical island (on purpose, I bet!) and Scott Baio started saying stuff like, “Wa, wa, wa.” That’s not even English. That’s the secret language of Lucifer.
Unfortunately, my transfer to a non-uniform school coincided with puberty for many of my classmates. This was not the case for me. Puberty was a distant promise like the destruction of the Berlin Wall and colonies on Mars. Though the students weren’t forced to dress alike, there were rules and plenty of ‘em.
FCS DRESS CODE
1) FEMALE STUDENTS MAY NOT WEAR PANTS. This is not in all caps to emphasize the importance of this rule; this is actually how it appeared in the rule book. In truth, pants were allowed if the temperature was 45 degrees or below at 6 a.m. in the morning. Swear to God, this was also in the rule book. In these cases, slacks or courderoys were permitted, but absolutely no jeans because the Highway to Hell was paved with Jordache. The problem with this rule was that I grew up in Miami. It’s never that cold – and if it is, the entire family is in shock and fighting for space over the oven burners trying to warm their fingers and ward off frostbite. No one leaves the house on a chilly day in Miami. What was the school thinking? We could have died just trying to get there.
2) The Hem of the Skirt or Dress Must Measure Two Inches or Less from the Middle of The Knee. If you’ve read my earlier post, 5 Reasons Why God Loves Short People Best , you already know how unfair this rule is for a taller-than-average girl who’s built like Lurch and is so thin that her shadow is often mistaken for a crack in the sidewalk to be carefully side-stepped (no one wants to break their mother’s back…unless puberty has set in). Fortunately, the no-uniform rule opened up a world of fabrics to me so I was no longer putting a strain on the tartan-weavers in Scotland who worked day and night trying to create enough fabric to cover my endlessly long thighs.
3) No Bare Shoulders, Cleavage or Midriffs. Though a rule about no cleavage shouldn’t have seemed necessary for fifth graders in the Seventies, remember that I was growing up in Miami. Latino girls are like crocuses; they bloom early. My best friend was Cuban and she must have been a C-cup by the time we were in sixth grade. I didn’t even own a training bra yet. Heck, I still played with Barbies and I hadn’t yet removed the red bathing suit on my Ken doll to find out what was underneath – because I was afraid I’d go to Hell.
All the rules aside, my entrance into this new school necessitated a new wardrobe. As I was a scholarship student, my parents weren’t financially prepared to take me on a shopping spree at the mall. No, the wardrobe-buying process would have to be thought out. K-mart, as an option, was quickly discarded because the clothes would have to be extremely well-made and sturdy, in order to last all year – and into the next, if possible. After all, I’d lived in two uniforms per year for the previous four years. My parents had no intention of filling my closet with dozens of new outfits. Only a few dresses would be needed. A talented seamstress, my mother also planned whip up a few designs for me to “wow” my classmates with. Because nothing says, “Wow!” like hand-made clothes when you’re ten, right? I was so excited.
For about five whole seconds…but it all drained away as my mother pulled the car into a parking spot in front of a store called, Polly Flinders. Can we just start with the name here? What fifth grader in the Hip and Happenin’ Seventies wants a wardrobe manufactured by a company that sounds as though it makes pantaloons and petticoats. Worse, I’d already had a Polly Flinders experience.
In the second grade, I’d received one of their dreaded dresses for my birthday. I call it my Patriotic Pilgrim Dress. Blue with red and white smocking, its ginormous white collar ended in two sharp points, much like vampire fangs. God forbid my mother should buy me a dress that wasn’t the same color as my school uniform. With my buckled school shoes and 15th century hair style, the only thing needed to complete my look was a tri-cornered hat and a musket. The Patriotic Pilgrim Dress still fresh in my sponge-like memory, I wrinkled my nose and cringed when my mother announced, “We’re here!” My refusal to move from my fetal position on the front seat, along with me sobbing, “Oh, God. Not here! Please, I’ll be good,” apparently gave away my distaste for the idea of shopping at Polly Flinders. But my mother said it was this or nothing. The thought of attending school in my skivvies was a threat sufficient to make me scurry from the car.
Clearly, the store catered to the Toddlers and Tiaras crowd as tiny, frilly dresses with (you guessed it…crinoline petticoats) filled the front of the shop. The skirts were so full and so short, I wasn’t sure if this was pageant hell or the only ice-skating costume shop in all of Miami. Before I could ponder them more fully, Mom grabbed my hand and dragged me down the sole, narrow pathway through the center of the store, away from the cheerful, hand-smocked confections and towards the sober Laura Ingalls Wilder dresses for girls who hadn’t yet hit puberty, but had lost every bit of Shirley Temple cuteness they ever possessed.
Why is puberty relevant here? Smocking. Nearly everything manufactured by Polly Flinders was smocked and waistless, with decorative white Peter Pan or Pilgrim collars and sleeves that are gathered at the wrist and finished with lace. Now a flat-chested girl like myself could retain the image of childhood in a dress like this – granted, childhood in the Victorian era, but I looked like a kid, nonetheless. Once boobs entered the picture, however, you had yourself a maternity dress. And no one at a private, Christian school wanted their grade school students looking – erm – knocked up, if you catch my drift.
Not only were the dresses just plain ugly, the entire shopping experience was both depressing and mortifying. Chrome rounders of smocks were tightly crammed into the poorly-lit room like a twelve pack of soda cans, clearly intended to wean out any kid with boobs whose mother was intent on purchasing her a Polly Flinders’ dress. Scattered along the path were the bones of puberty-ridden girls who’d gotten stuck between the rounders and had never made it back out. Why hadn’t their the mothers gotten similarly mired, you ask? They were taller. Their boobs skimmed the tops of the racks.
My mother announced we would be buying four dresses. Mentally, I had one goal. Please don’t let any of them be blue. Nothing blue. Because I was taller-than-average, I needed to try them on because Mom was no longer sure of my dress size and we had to be certain that I didn’t violate the two-inch hemline rule. Here comes the mortifying part: the store had no fitting rooms. NO FITTING ROOMS. Okay, this may be fine when you’re five, but not when you’re ten, going on eleven. Especially not when you aren’t wearing a training bra to hide the boobs that you don’t yet have. Or when you’re wearing your Wonder Woman underwear. You’d think my mother would have warned me. At least told me to wear a bathing suit.
“Can’t I try it on over my clothes?” I asked, as Mom sifted through a rack filled with dresses my size.
“No, I won’t be able to tell if the dress fits right in the shoulders.”
“But it’s supposed to be loose so I can grow into it. That’s what you always say.” It is what she always said. Except for that day. No, not on the Let’s-Get-Naked-In-Front-Of-Everyone-Day.
My mother was losing her patience. “Just try it on,” she demanded, shoving a shit brown dress with a Pollyanna collar at me. “No one is watching you. There’s nothing to see, anyway.”
Thanks, Mom. Drive that point home why don’t you. By now, my only goal was to get out of the store as soon as possible. See, there were BOYS in there. Even though it was a store that catered to girls, mothers often brought all of their children with them, males included. Quickly, I slipped on and off every dress as instructed, my eyes tightly shut. I guess I thought, If I can’t see the people staring at me, maybe they can’t see me. This is a philosophy my cat believes in vehemently. Apparently, though a scholarship student, I wasn’t much smarter than a tabby named Dinsworth.
“Do you like this one?” Mom asked.
“How ’bout this one with Holly Hobbie on the collar? It’s blue. You love blue.”
“Uh-huh.” No, you love blue. I love not being naked in public.
“Oooh. This one’s nice!” That dressed turned out to look a lot like what Heidi would wear if her dirndl was made from a brown, patterned, Seventies hotel carpet. Did I mention that, after blue, brown was my least favorite color?
So exactly how did Polly Flinders destroy my life? Simple. I showed up on the first day of fifth grade, Holly Hobbie shyly shielding her face with a bonnet on the collar of my – ugh – blue dress, and I was quickly targeted as an outsider. How? Was my gigantic brain on display? No, I’d worn a scarf. Still, my inherent geekiness was immediately obvious. Why? No one else was wearing a dress. Not a single girl in the class was wearing a dress. Not one. Neither were any of the boys, but it was a very conservative school. Apparently, dresses were for little girls with ringlets who wore frilly socks and patent leather shoes. The fact that I was wearing the ugliest dress ever sewn didn’t improve my situation. It became abundantly clear that any girl who wasn’t a complete dork wore skirts. Every day. Skirts were grown up. Skirts were cool. Denim skirts were The Holy Grail. So why couldn’t I just wear skirts? Two reasons:
1) I only had one skirt. Exactly one. It was not denim. To wear it every day would have been as ostracizing as wearing ugly dresses four days out of the week.
2) My mother refused to buy me any more skirts. She claimed that since I had absolutely no hips to speak of, to look at, or to identify under a microscope, that skirts were NOT appropriate. They would slip right off my body and I’d be walking around school in my Wonder Woman underwear. Funny, that didn’t seem to bother her at the Polly Flinders store. This begs the question: why did I have a skirt at all? No good answer for that. It had an elastic waist and, despite my mother’s fears, never once just slipped off my hips and collapsed into a red, flowered puddle around my feet.
Surely, I must be exaggerating. How could an entire class of girls convince their parents to let them wear skirts every single school day? Don’t forget, most of these girls were starting puberty – unlike me. As Lucifer’s newest minions, they had already mastered parental mind control, and spent their evenings slaughtering the bunnies and raccoons that lived beneath Florida’s palmetto bushes, then – drenched in blood – danced around bonfires, celebrating their kills – and training bras.
Once identified as a freak, I’m afraid that I only made things worse by offering to write my essay on “The Ark of the Covenant” in rhyme, and by being the only kid in the entire class to complete all the books on the reading list. The final blow may have been bringing a few of my pet grasshoppers to school so that my classmates could also enjoy the thrill of watching Southeastern Lubbers metamorphosize over the span of several months, shedding their exoskeleton approximately five times. Who wants to learn The Hustle or how to French-braid when you can do that?
Had I not been wearing a Polly Flinders dress that first day – and 4/5 of the time after that – perhaps the kids would have overlooked my other quirks. Maybe I wouldn’t have become mesmerized by the molting and reproductive cycle of the Romalea guttata and would have gone to a slumber party or two, instead of sitting at home, burning through all the books on the friggin’ reading list. I guess we’ll never know. Still, I hate you, Polly Flinders. And one day, I may just write a rhyming poem about it.
Many of us are guilty of this. You know what I’m talking about it. You’ve done it. I’ve done it. A lot of my friends have done it. Heck, I do it all the time. The other day, on the way to a funeral, I did it in the car – multiple times. Why? I dunno. Boredom? It was, after all, a long drive. Anxiety? I was, after all, going to a funeral. Narcissism? Oh, yeah. Of course, that’s it. After all, I’m a blogger. We’re all a bunch of self-absorbed sociopaths who don’t care about anyone else but ourselves. It’s all about me, me, me! Right? Is that what you’re trying to say?
Okay, I guess I could have involved my husband. He was in the car. Driving. Also bored. Anxious to be meeting everyone in my entire family – at once. I suppose I could have shared my attention with him. That’s what you’re thinking. Except he hates for me to do that kind of thing to him when he’s driving. He puts on this extremely tense, unsmiling face every time I attempt it. He says it distracts him. It could cause him to have an accident.
So I take photos of myself instead. No, not naked. Wait, what did you think I was talking about? Perv!
I was talking about the coy photos I take of myself. The ones that are shot from peculiar perspectives so that my chin looks like an acute angle in a geometry text book, and my eyes are the size of ostrich eggs. The ones intended to make me look waifish, like Kate Moss back in the day. Yeah, I hear you. There is no angle out there capable of making me look like an emaciated super model. Okay, what about elfin? For you literary types, how about a Dickensian orphan? Still don’t know what I’m talking about? Does this help?
Yes, I realize the hoops and frilly jacket make me look like an orphan who fell off a pirate ship. Why are you so judgmental about poor children who are all alone in the world? Vagabonds who are manipulated into stealing for a living. Innocent souls forced to labor 18 hours a day in a workhouse. Not working for you, huh? How about this, then?
Don’t you dare think a dirty thought about her. Yes, she is lovely. Yes, I wish that Orlando Bloom was single and really a long-haired, towheaded elf named Legolas Greenleaf who would marry Kelsey so that she could live in a fabulous Tolkien-esque fantasy world. And we’d be in New Zealand right now, hangin’ with Peter Jackson and Frodo, filming The Hobbit. Still don’t see it? Okay, I’m pulling out the big guns. My friend, Vivian, is the queen of the shot-from-above photo. In fact, she can make her chin virtually disappear. She’s perfected this technique by practicing – a lot. And if I looked like her, I’d take my photo all day long, too. Naked. That was for the perv who asked earlier.
This brings up those photographs people take of just a portion of their face – like the other half of their cheek is a State secret requiring security clearance and a pat down by a guy in a black suit wearing a suspiciously large wristwatch. My friend, Transman, who records his life as a transgendered dude on his blog, The Adventures of Transman , also likes to take photos of this nature. I’m pretty sure that if you visit Wikileaks, the other half of his photo is now available – and someone’s going to prison over it. You can’t just release that kind of thing willy-nilly! The plans for of a U.S. nuclear arms facility could be tattooed on Transman’s other cheek. Or the recipe for Krispy Kreme doughnut batter. Or the lyrics to Johnny Cash’s last original song – yet to be recorded by anyone.
Partial portraits seem to be all the rage with the advent of Facebook, Flickr and cell phones that not only make and receive phone calls, but take photos, whiten your teeth and poach a perfect egg – simultaneously. I’m a big offender in this category as well. What? You never noticed my Gravatar pic?
The above photo is one I took the day of the funeral – with my cell phone. I was wearing glasses for three reasons:
1) I think they make me look smarter. As the first person on the paternal side of the family to graduate from not one, but three, institutions of higher learning, there is a lot of pressure on me to live up to that image and appear to have earned those degrees. I suspect my relatives know that sexual favors and envelopes packed with greenbacks delivered to the appropriate people at matriculation were also involved, but I like the delusional little world I live in. The one in which I play a genius and Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory, people!) is my best friend.
2) They are slightly tinted and protect my eyes. I have perfect 20/20 vision and I’d like to keep it that way for as long as possible. Did I mention that I’m 43. And have perfect vision. Jealous much?
3) The frames are thick, black and totally nerdy. Translation: I think they make me look like a hipster. As I foolishly revealed earlier, I’m 43. Looking hip at this age is becoming increasingly difficult. I’d get a blue Mohawk – because everyone knows that anyone with a Mohawk is hip – except I have really large ears that stick out. A lot. This is why I can communicate with bats. And yes, they want to suck your blood, but it’s bad for P.R. Anyway, I digress. The Mohawk is a hair style that tends to emphasize large, prominent ears, and it’s really hard to feel hip when some teenager is sniping behind your back, “That’s what you’d get if Marge Simpson and Barack Obama made it.”
Regardless, I don’t think the glasses worked for their intended hipster purpose. Why? As soon as I posted the me-in-glasses photo as my blog Gravatar, another blogger, Gemini Girl In A Random World asked me if I wanted to be her blogging “bestie.” Now, that was truly a nice thing to do. However, I think that she was subliminally influenced by my photo, which I can’t help but notice makes me look a tad bit like Mayim Bialik’s character, Amy, also of The Big Bang Theory. What does that have to do with Stacie Chadwick wanting to be my “bestie?” Everything. Amy is obsessed with Sheldon Cooper’s neighbor, Penny, and refers to the girl as her “bestie.” It’s practically her catch phrase. Coincidence? Perhaps. I’m certain Stacie would say that the two things are completely unrelated. But like I said…it’s subliminal. She doesn’t realize that it’s the glasses and the unflattering photo that drew her to me and to use the word “bestie.” Still think I’m crazy? Check out this photo of Mayim Bialik as Amy:
Now imagine her without the lower half of her face. If you need to, you can scroll back up and take a second look at my photo. It’s uncanny, I tell you. By the way, Stacie Chadwick is now my blogging bestie. She swears my resemblance to Amy has nothing to do with it.
So whatever happened to the full frontal portrait? And what is it in our society that is bringing about its demise? Drought, disease, war and global warming can safely be ruled out – and that’s a concern. Normally, everything can be blamed on one of these four factors. Thus, we must look outside the box. Or perhaps, inside our very souls.
Why would any of us want to hide part, but not all, of our face? Have we compartmentalized the visage above our necks in the same manner we have our bodies for years? Shoulders: slumpy. Tits: perky. Abs: non-existent. Hips: child-bearing. Butt: bootylicious. Legs: very long. Feet: hidden by non-existent abs. For millions of years, it’s been completely acceptable in many cultures to hide certain body parts. In fact, in most cultures, it’s required. If the fire department ever had to knock out a wall in your home in order to remove you from it – and nothing was on fire – it is preferred. Even public beaches have an unwritten canon by which one must abide. For example, if you think you look good in an itsy bitsy thong bikini - and your clothing size is higher than the average age of a kindergarten student – beach etiquette says, “Uh-uh. No way.” Butt floss is perfectly acceptable under clothing, but flossing in public is considered rude. And, no, the spray tan you got before you headed down to Florida doesn’t make you look any thinner. Being tanorexic doesn’t make you anorexic. Unless it was applied by Dumbledore himself, it’s essentially paint, not magic.
Few cultures require the covering of the face. If they do, it is usually for religious or modesty reasons, not because millions of women don’t like their shriveled upper lips or think their nostrils are too bulbous. If a person is unhappy with their facial appearance, it is the custom in some societies to change the offending feature or features with plastic surgery. The results are generally pleasing, thus making it unlikely that the person will feel the need to hide his or her face.
Of course, there are always exceptions. And in some cases, society, as a whole, may wish someone would hide part or all of their face – despite them having had plastic surgery. The fact that the person refuses to do so suggests a strong need and desire to keep the facial features revealed, if at all possible.
So the question remains why someone would not photograph their whole face. The following possibilities remain:
1) They have deep, permanent scars from a werewolf attack. A full frontal portrait would both reveal the scars and serve as a manner in which to identify a serial killer who murders once every blue moon. Okay, every full moon, but blue moon sounded so poetic.
2) The person is actually Two-Face from Batman and he’s trying to find love on Match.com. Even comic book villains need affection. Except who’s gonna answer your ad when your profile photo looks like this:
I don’t care how much you claim to love romantic walks on the beach, gourmet cooking, giving foot massages or socializing with super heroes, most single girls out there are turned on by a little mystery. And if they can see what’s wedged between your molars even when your mouth is closed – technically, anyway – it can be a deal killer. While most women appreciate a sinewy man, none of them want to actually see the sinew. Yes, there’s a difference.
3) The person is hiding a deep-seated duality (i.e. split personality) and displaying both sides of their face in a single photo is like making them face (Ha! A pun – it’s like I’m pun-ishing you. Oops, I just did it again. On purpose.) the reality that two people are living in a their single brain. This is akin to two people sharing one of those tiny Ikea store dioramas that masquerade as examples of apartment living. Someone like Mel Gibson. For years, he seemed like your typical Hollywood actor: charming, normal, Jew-loving and Holocaust-believing, but it turns out that once the star has a few shots in him, he morphs into a bigoted psychopath who no longer believes in history. From the photo below, it appears there may be yet another personality swimming around in that space between his ears.
4) The person held the camera too close to their face when they took the photo, resulting in only a partial portrait. The result is regretted, but they didn’t take another shot, so they post it anyway because they have low self-esteem and aren’t the perfectionists they should be. I know. This theory is extremely unlikely.
5) They have short arms…and thus held the camera too close to their face when they took the photo, resulting in only a partial portrait. Since God loves short people best, they are forgiven and the discussion is closed.
6) They have a deep-seated hatred for one specific facial feature, but are too deep and non-superficial to ever consider plastic surgery. They probably live in Portland, Oregon. Their favorite song is by Phish. It is also likely that they are over-educated, liberal and poor. The reason that they’re poor is because they spend all their money on organic food and that shit is pricey. Thus, they suffer through their pain and compensate by taking only partial portraits of the facial features they like. Bragging about the fact that they will never be the kind of idiot who’d get Botox is a pastime.
7) They think partial portraits look artsy, edgy and hip. And they are…if you’re artsy, edgy and hip. Me. I’m 43. We’ve already had this discussion. This is my attempt to look all of the above.
I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking I look like a corpse. If I wanted to act, this could be my headshot for my audition as Dead Hooker Number 3 on CSI: Special Victims Unit. Either that or a mannequin – a really creepy one that comes to life when its owner is asleep. One that has a knife that flashes in the candlelight. (Don’t ask me why they have candles lit! It’s ambiance.) My eyes are all glassy and I’m working the Clockwork Orange lashes. If I was humming “Singin’ In The Rain,” you’d all be running your asses off right now.
If you’re 19 and gorgeous, you can pull the partial portrait off. You can also wear a plaid shirt and let your hair just hang and not wear much makeup – and look perfect. If she had a pair of thick, black nerdy glasses on, Kelsey would be the ultimate hipster. If she was dating the lead singer of The Decemberists, she’d be a legend – and she could borrow his thick, black, nerdy glasses. Instead of mine. That’s a lie. She doesn’t borrow my glasses. She lives in another state. She’d probably like me to buy her a pair of thick, black nerdy glasses, but her birthday isn’t until August. And she’s hip enough as it is. Anyway, I really want her to end up with Orlando Bloom.
Likewise, the partial photograph works well for women well over 19 who are also stunners. Again, my friend Vivian is a perfect example. I’m not sure why she chooses to hide any part of her face, but it does, indeed, serve to make her look hip. Which is probably why she dates a much younger guy who’s an artist. And she hangs out with really hip, artsy types. And goes to lots of hip, artsy events. Okay, I hate her. Not really. Hate is a strong word. I reserve that for Will Wheaton. If you were Sheldon Cooper’s best friend, you’d understand why.
During that car ride I mentioned earlier, I tried to take an eye photo. I wasn’t trying to copy Vivian because I hadn’t yet seen the above photos, but I was still very desperate to appear hip. My attempt wasn’t quite so…well, cool. Perhaps because it came out blurry. Now, there are a certain number of fuzzy, yet hip, photos out there. This isn’t one of them. In fact, the first thought that popped into my head was Cyclops – as viewed by a person who doesn’t have 20/20 vision. Like me. Jealous, yet? Hey, I gotta work the one thing I got goin’ for me. The eye shot also accentuates the Tammy Faye Baker mascara I was rockin’ that day. What? Doesn’t everyone get super dolled up for a funeral?
When it became clear that my eyes are scary as opposed to hip, and best hidden behind thick, black, nerdy glasses – even if they make me look like Amy Farrah Fowler – I decided to focus on the lower half of my face. My lips, after all, are generally considered one of my best features. Naturally full and always balmed or glossed, I’ve often been accused of having them enhanced. Which is funny because I was going to have anything enhanced, there are so many other places I’d start. But I guess I’m a bit Portlandia in my attitude towards plastic surgery, so I’m all natural. Still, the fact that people have thought my lips were fake does raise a red flag. Do people say that when your lips look gorgeous…or Real Housewives of Orange County-esque. This photo answers that question.
Lord, I look like I’m auditioning to become one of the Jolie-Pitt clan. Angelina…you can have a full-grown child with big ass lips like yours, but you don’t have to get pregnant. And I’ve already been to college. And I’m already married. With cats. You could have grand cats. And I’m weaned. Very important to know when a potential child has lips this big. And open. Like I’m ready to suckle. So gross. No wonder that perv asked me if I took naked photos of myself. Okay, to make up for scaring you with my photos – several times – I offer you my version of an apology. Remember those plastic surgery freaks that society wishes would cover up, but refuse. Wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t have to see full frontals of them? Just for you folks…
The day I was Freshly Pressed, the gifted author of The Book of Alice - an utterly charming blog about parenting by the mother of an adorable toddler named Alice – bestowed upon The Paltry Meanderings of a Taller Than Average Woman , the highly-coveted 7×7 Link Blog Award. After gushing and blushing appropriately, I came to realize that I was now expected to do something. What, you ask? Hire Brad Goreski (screw Rachel Zoe and the toothpick she rode in on) to select the perfect couture gown for me to wear to the awards ceremony? No. Write a sanctimonious acceptance speech in which I take credit for killing Osama bin Laden and inventing paper clips? Uh-uh. Polish my golden statuette? Nope. Apparently, I don’t get a shiny trophy to set on my fireplace mantle – which is a good thing because then I’d have to go out and buy a fireplace. With a mantle. This blogging thing is getting expensive. But I do have to do something. Twenty-one somethings to be exact:
1) Reveal seven things about myself that you don’t already know (a.k.a. PART ONE);
2) Link seven of my posts to the following categories: Most Surprisingly Successful, Most Underrated, Most Popular, Most Beautiful, Most Helpful, Most Controversial and Most Pride-Worthy (a.k.a. PART TWO); and
3) Bestow this tremendous award – and responsibility – upon seven other bloggers and share with you why I believe they are so deserving (a.k.a. PART THREE).
Now, PART ONE is simple. I know thousands of things about myself. Billions, really, since I’m not a Creationist. PART TWO was a little trickier until yesterday. See, the day I won this award, I only had five blog posts – and one of them barely counts because it’s just a photo, followed by an excuse for not having written a real post. Now I have a few more and that should make my responses a little more interesting. PART THREE was also a challenge because I hadn’t had the opportunity to read many blogs yet – and I’m not one to run around, handing out 7×7 colored stars willy-nilly to random people just ’cause they’ve got a catchy blog name and know about RSS feeds (which I don’t!)
This first part has got to be my favorite. Why? Because I’m going to pretend that I’m completing the “20 Things You Don’t Know About Me” questionnaire that’s published every week in US Magazine, but I’m going to stop at number seven. Not really, but I’m going to keep the other thirteen in my jewelry box until the tabloids come a callin’.
1) My first crush was William Shatner. I was five. I can prove it and that makes me cooler than all the hipsters out there who have suddenly discovered my man, Bill, in the last few years. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Seth MacFarlane.
2) Though I’m sure my cats all know my actual name, I think they call me “Food Lady” when I’m not listening. But they spell it “Fud Ladee.” At least that’s how they write it on my birthday cards.
3) When I was in high school, I’d planned to have seven children. As it turns out, I have no kids, but I’m very fond of dwarves and little people. Also, I’d consider renting someone’s child on occasion in exchange for blood or a spare kidney, should the need arise.
4) I saw Stephen King tonight at the movie theater. This is the second time we’ve passed through one another’s orbits. The other time was at Barnes & Noble. I thought about talking to him that night, but what would I say? “I’m batshit terrified of clowns and it’s all your fault.” Like he’s never heard that before.
5) I’m the direct descendant of the second and third people (and first married couple, ever) to be put to death for witchcraft in America. So don’t piss me off ’cause that magic shit might be genetic.
6) If I was filthy rich, I’d pay someone to ride a horse up and down the cobblestone street in front of the fabulous London townhome I’d own every night until I fell asleep. The sound of horses’ hooves on stone is like rain to me. Oh, and the rider would be naked except for a thong and a sombrero. That last part’s just for kicks.
7) My husband and I sleep under a red, plaid blanket emblazoned with the Hogwarts coat of arms every night. It’s soft, it protects our pretty comforter and the cats like to knead it. I like Harry Potter. There, I’ve said it. I’ve read all the books and own all the movies. I identify with Hermoine Granger. Butter beer is amazing (especially served up with a butterscotch garnish) and one of our cats looks a lot like Mrs. Norris. Wanna fight about it?
Most Surprisingly Successful: Why I Hate Witty People I’d have to say that this is my most surprisingly successful post because it was catapulted from absolute obscurity to the front page of Freshly Pressed without warning. In fact, I wasn’t really sure what Freshly Pressed was, how one made its pages or if I even wanted to be there. For the record, I’m no longer confused about the latter; it was an awesome ride and I definitely would love to be there again. People keep finding this post and identifying with it in one way or another (apparently, there are an awful lot of unpopular witty people out there) – and that is just Wilde. Ha ha. I did it. I inserted a pun and there’s nothing you can do about.
Most Underrated: In Search of ”The Holy White Man” This post was actually doing pretty well until I was Freshly Pressed, and then Why I Hate Witty People kinda stole its thunder. I’m wondering if people think that this is some spiritual piece about my search for Jesus. It’s not. In fact, Jesus is ruled out early on. And, for the record, I’m not searching for him. I’m agnostic. But there may be a Holy White Man out there – a “being” to whom my friend’s aunt used to pray and call by this incredibly racist name – and I’ve got some theories about who this dude could be. And it’s not Chuck Norris. Ever since he endorsed Newt Gingrich, he’s become a pussy in my book.
Most Popular: Based on the sheer number of hits and “likes,” Why I Hate Witty People remains, without a doubt, the most popular post on my blog so far. That said, my page Copyright Stuff has garnered a surprising amount of interest. People, it’s just basic copyright language. It says that you don’t get to steal my stuff and, if you do, I get your first child’s kidney. Why so interested? You planning on stealing my stuff? Has your firstborn been annoying the heck out of you and only has one kidney? Erm, that’s murder, you know. Bloggy don’t play that!
Most Beautiful: I suppose if I was a really arrogant little twat, I’d say my About Me page is the most beautiful – because it features a photo of…well, me. But, honestly, people, the photo of me with my recently-deceased Uncle Danny in Farewell, My Favorite Redneck is much cuter, so check that out instead. Oh, yeah, I guess it’s also my most beautiful post because it is my heartfelt tribute to my favorite redneck, Daniel Drymon, whom I’ve known and adored since birth. If you want to see a sliver of who I am and where I come from, this is the best set of window blinds to peek through. It’s also an opportunity to discover what a groovy guy my uncle was…even if none of the stuffed dead animals in his living room agree with that notion.
Most Helpful: Considering the number of sauce addicts who have admitted their problem in the Comments section alone of my post, Hittin’ The Sauce Hard, I’ve got to assume that I’m helping my readers with this one. Admitting you have a problem is the most important step, right? Writing this post helped me come out of the pantry as well. Now that people know about my little problem, they’re going to ask that bottles be removed from tables at restaurants and they’ll raise an eyebrow the next time I order a filet mignon. I suspect I will also receive a number of spoons for Christmas next year. Didn’t get that last reference? Then read the post, silly. In the meantime, I’ve got to run to the store. I hear there’s a BOGO on A1 Steak Sauce at Publix!
Most Controversial: Without a doubt, 5 Reasons Why God Loves Short People Best seems to strike readers in the very marrow of their bones. It can’t be helped that some people’s bones are longer than others. Dozens of shrimpy, little half-pints have taken the time to comment on why they disagree with my belief that the Christian God loves them in the same way he loves the Jews – they’re His chosen people. They’re His favorites. Likewise, lots of lovely, lanky tall people with their ankles exposed to the elements also commented that they agreed heartily with this proposition, though most seem happily inclined to remain the minions of short people, forever handing the squatty ones jars of mustard off the shelves they can’t reach. Actually, I seemed to have garnered a number of both tall and undertall readers with the post – and I’m grateful. Like I said earlier, I’m quite fond of dwarves and little people.
Most Pride-Worthy: Ever created something so heinous, so awful, so painfully bad that you know it will never bring joy to another human being (Kathy Hilton – now’s your time to speak up!)? Back in college, I did such a thing when I wrote – against my will, I might add – the sonnet, “How Ironic,” about my dead dog, Daisy. In my post, The World’s Worst Sonnet About A Dead Dog Ever , I discovered that I now understand, though still loathe, iambic pentameter, and that I can make people happy by sharing with them the most God-awful sonnet ever written. Ever. Anywhere. Think Ishtar. Think Gigli. It’s the literary equivalent of Lindsay Lohan lying drunk in a ditch. It’s Tara Reid with her boob hanging out of her dress. It’s Megan Fox’s man thumbs. You can’t look away. Why does this make me so proud? Because by dissecting my sonnet – much like a science class frog pinned to a slab of black wax – I’ve been able to determine exactly what makes it so bad, make a few people giggle in the process, and dissuade others from embarking on such an endeavor. Thus, my excruciating poem has now brought joy to others in it’s own ugly little way. Sniff. Makes a momma proud.
Can I just point out, here and now, that I am officially more qualified to become President than Rick Perry? Okay, moving on…
Here are the seven bloggers whom I have determined, solely on the basis of talent, favoritism, political-leanings, ability to trill the letter R and other important criteria that have slipped my mind, are worthy of the 7×7 Link Blog Award. These blogs are not listed in any specific order – other than the amount I was paid by everyone who made the list. Not in advance. These bloggers don’t even know they’ve won this award yet. I’ll send them their bills later.
The chain letter of blog accolades, the 7×7 Link Blog Award was created by someone, sometime after the year 2000-ish (probably) to honor those who apparently blog. I personally think it should be renamed the 7x7x7 Blog Award or the 7×3 Blog Award or the 7 Cubed Blog Award or the 21 Things You Now Have To Do Blog Award, but regardless, you seven bloggers are now: IT!
1) Gemini Girl In A Random World : This sharp and witty blog is the creation of Stacie Chadwick, my new Blogging Bestie. In it, she posts about life as a mother of three, the wife of a man who is learning the art of non-verbal communication, and being the groovy Gemini that she is. I like it because, in addition to being HIGH-STERICAL (she lives in Denver and that was pun number 2) and extremely well-written, this dual-natured Gemini Girl regularly takes me down memory lane to visit the likes of skating rinks, the original Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter lives on, my friend), Charlie’s Angels (again, the original), and Melrose Place. Andrew Shue, sigh. Also, her blog made my husband laugh. And that ain’t easy, lemme tell you.
2) The Shared Brain of Baggott, Asher and Bode : As I’ve already admitted previously, I’m a blogging newbie. Not only did I not blog, I didn’t really read other blogs – except this one. I was turned on to the alternatively hilarious, literary, twisted and compelling voice of author Julianna Baggott (and her alter egos: Bridget Asher and N.E. Bode) by a mutual friend and became immediately hooked. Though I’ve never met her personally, I’m convinced she lives in a Willy Wonka-esque factory manned by Oompa Loompas who are all incredibly prolific writers. No one can write this much, this well, raise a veritable army of children, and teach – creative writing, no less – at Florida State University (Go, ‘Noles!). Read this blog. More importantly, pre-order Baggott’s new post-apocalyptic novel, Pure – due out next month and bound to be the next Hunger Games.
3) The Adventures of Trans Man : This is a brand new blog by an extremely prolific and talented author whom I am proud to say I’ve known for well over twenty years. When I knew him eons ago, he was a woman. Now, he’s not. This is about his journey and it’s a must-read for everyone. Everyone! Yes, you over there reading your Bible. And you, the one with the question about what’s between Chaz Bono’s legs. I’m not even being funny, here. Trans Man knows what you’re thinking, has heard it all before and, now, in his witty, addictive, compelling voice is going there. This is a rare opportunity to actually understand an incredibly brave man who made the decision to be true to himself – so he could be a better person and a better parent. Yep, he’s got kids. And he’s single, ladies…
4) Jumping In Mud Puddles : Looking to reminisce about someone else’s childhood because yours sucked? Join Vickie as she explores, with plentiful humor and jocularity, her idyllic past as a fascinating, but domineering, color-inside-the-lines kind girl who hated her remedial reading group, probably has mercury poisoning from regular exposure to Mercurochrome, and was secretly-tranquilized by her mother – daily – because she was hyperactive. I thank God my mom didn’t know her mom. If she’d known she could drug me legally, I’d have slept my way through elementary school. Try not to pee your pants when you read this because, if you’re like me, your mom never remembered to send you to school with an extra pair of undies either.
5) Bringing You Beirut : This blog chronicles “the adventures of an English girl in Lebanon” and is luxurious in its language and sensuous in its imagery. Blogger India is well-educated and her work as assistant to her calligrapher boyfriend, freelance journalist, translator and babysitter have given birth to some of the most interesting perspectives of a beautiful and exotic country. Until I became familiar with this blog, I never processed the fact that Lebanon has snow – and skiing. Don’t expect an over-processed travel journal, here. These are the real life experiences of someone experiencing all the true flavors of a foreign country – savory, sweet and bitter.
6) Kitchen Slattern : This blog is written by a pro. Though she claims to be a mere “housewife, mother and writer who lives in Brooklyn,” I suspect she’s been Freshly Pressed more times than the shirts in my husband’s closet. And he likes to iron. A lot. As a person who finds my corkscrew the most useful tool in my kitchen, I don’t read a lot of food or cooking blogs. C’mon – I eat A1 out of a bowl with my finger. Wine is good if it costs less than 10 bucks and even better if it’s Buy One Get One Free. However, this blogger had me sold the moment I discovered that Martha Stewart makes her “ass ache” and that she recommends being drunk before you tackle cleaning the bathroom. This is funny stuff, folks. She’s my kind of broad.
7) Live Clay : Few bloggers are truly talented in multiple arenas, but Laura Bruzzese is an accomplished artist – both with a brush and a potter’s wheel, a writer and… a creator of funeral urns. If only I’d known about her when my dog died all those years ago. I could have named my sonnet, “Ode on a Canine Urn.” A single mother living in New Mexico, Bruzzese’s experiences raising a teenage daughter, coupled with her artistic eye that always seems to be seeking out the unique and beautiful everywhere she travels (most recently, Haiti) makes for intriguing, substantial posts that both charm and inspire. She’s also developed a method for making her three young nieces WANT to clean. Compete to clean. If there’s only one reason to read this blog (and there’s thousands), that’s it!
That wraps up the 7×7 Link Blog Awards presentation. Ladies and gentlemen, start cracking on that list of 21 Things You Must Now Do. I’m gonna watch It’s a Brad, Brad World and try to forget that this post took me at least twelve hours to write. Congratulations…suckas! No, seriously. Congrats. It’s apparently a really big honor. Truly. Thank you again, The Book of Alice . Erm, I think.
Okay. I’ve got a huge confession to make. Lately, I’ve been hitting the sauce. Hard. I do it alone, during the day, when my husband’s at work. I do it at night after he’s drifted off to sleep so that he won’t notice the smell. I’ve gone through so many bottles in recent months, I’ve taken to hiding them in the bottom of the garbage can under vegetable cuttings, instead of rinsing them and disposing of them in the recycling bin. I’d be mortified if the neighbors found out.
I’m not a desperate kind of addict. You’ll never catch me dumpster-diving behind a Ruth Chris Steakhouse holding nearly-empty bottles up to my lips, trying to suck out the last few drops. Now, I’m not above filling my shopping cart with the long, slender bottles if the store has a Buy One, Get One Free sale – which doesn’t happen very often – but I’ve got no choice. It’s an expensive habit. The stares I receive from other shoppers is, of course, embarrassing. You can practically hear them thinking, “Leave a bottle or two for the rest of us, would you.” That said, they are standing there, waiting to buy some as I clear the shelf with a broad sweep of my arm, so they’re not exactly innocent. Perhaps they’re more casual users. Maybe they only use it “socially.” That’s how I started. But when you start stocking up during sales, the bottles call to you during the day. Just take a nip. A little bit won’t hurt. No one will know.
As you would expect, my esophagus no longer likes me. The stuff burns on the way down even though I’m careful to hit the sauce very slowly. But sometimes, I just crave it. I can’t control myself. When I imbibe too much, it causes my tongue to crack into angry crevices like a parched desert at midday. I’m not sure if it’s the sodium content or the vinegar, but A-1 Steak Sauce is harsh stuff – straight, anyway. And I’m not talking about a few drops on a piece of steak either. That’s strictly for amateurs. I eat it out of a bowl. Off my finger. Oh, please. Like you never wiped up an awesome bit of sauce with your finger and stuck it in your mouth. It’s not like I don’t wash my hands first. And I don’t have cooties. Anymore.
My relationship with sauce – not just A-1 – is long and enduring. Some would say it’s unhealthy. For the most part, I view food as a “sauce delivery system.” This may sound strange, but it’s not exactly a new concept. Back in 1996, the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the tobacco industry revealed that cigarettes contain chemical additives that promote addiction to nicotine. At the time, Jeffrey Wigand, a whistleblower and former V.P. with Brown & Williamson, indicated that cigarettes were considered by the tobacco industry to be “nicotine delivery systems.” This was a revelation of Sixty Minutes’proportions and Big Tobacco got sued. And they lost.
Tonight at dinner, my friend insisted that burgers are just a “ketchup delivery system.” I was shocked to hear her use a term so familiar to me – and one that I was already writing about. Even more shocking was the fact that my husband chimed in and claimed that cake frosting also has a delivery system. When prodded to reveal the nature of the system (i.e. cake, cupcakes, brownies), he responded, “Frosting.” Ah, so what he really meant is that a spoon is a “frosting delivery system,” since he’d never use his finger because he thinks that’s gross. By the way, I’ve never seen my husband actually eat a can of frosting. If you remember from earlier posts, this is the guy whose favorite shirt reads “I Make Stuff Up.” Then again, perhaps he’s doing it while I sleep. Hmmmm.
Regardless, I know I’m not the only one. Still, for years now, I’ve felt ostracized, hiding my secret from friends and family. Hiding? Really, you ask. Yeah. Picture the scene: several friends have joined us at our home for something meaty I made in the crock pot because that’s where food comes from…at my house anyway. As I gather up the empty plates, the inevitable question is proffered, “Dessert? We’ve got ice cream.” All heads nod and, a few minutes later, I serve bowl after bowl filled with Breyer’s vanilla – the kind with the specks in it. Then I join them with a bowl of A-1 and my finger. The dribbling of caramel and pouring of chocolate sauce stops momentarily as all eyes quizzically focus on the contents of my dish.
One friend – we’ll call her Molly – puckers her lips and makes her stern face. “Are you eating a bowl of chocolate sauce? Do you know how many carbs are in that?” She shakes her head, eyes my waist significantly, then shares uncomfortable glances with the other dinner guests. As this is an imaginary dinner party, I immediately jump up, turn into a huge, hairy monster and eat Molly whole…except for her hands. I take the time to dip each and every one of her fingers into the bowl of A-1 before I crunch them down.
Assuming I restrained myself and didn’t eat Molly, the dinner might have continued in this manner. Smiling awkwardly, I say, “Molly, you crazy bitch, you. Just like I’d never tell anyone about your third nipple, I would never eat a bowl of chocolate sauce. That’s just crazy talk.” After Molly bounds out her chair, presumably running towards the bathroom for a good cry, the rest of the crowd begins to demand to know what it’s the bowl.
“Is that some kind of tofutti ice cream, you got there, Cristy? Looks like it’s melted a bit.”
“No, it smells familiar. George, don’t you think that smells familiar?”
“It’s pudding, isn’t it? She’s eatin’ pudding. Now there’s nothing wrong with that. Ummm, it is diet pudding – right, Cristy? Regular pudding’s got a lotta sugar in it, you know.”
My veins pulse and my muscles begin to bulge, ready to split my clothes to shreds (except for a few strategically places bikini-esque loin cloth pieces) as my body begins the process of turning into the huge, hairy monster, so that I can eat stupid Pudding Girl and suck the A-1 from her fingers. However, just in time, I take a sip of my perfectly prepared dirty martini (shaken, not stirred) and manage to relax sufficiently to reverse the process. Waving my free hand in front of my sweat-dripping face, I say in a hushed voice by way of explanation, “Perimenopause.” That’s one of those conversation finishers. Usually.
But these dinner guests – they’re not the sharpest crayons in the box. Think about it. If you were going to debut your bizarre food habit, would you do it in front of clever, insightful people who’d spend the evening discussing what Freud would make of your obsession and then blog about it the next day? I think not. You invite your Tier 3 guests – the kind who would somehow mistake A-1 Steak Sauce for melted tofutti. The kind who grew up next to a nuclear power plant and has an extra nipple - and a prehensile tail she’s never told you about.
“Perry-men-all-pause?” one man with an accent thicker than the tires on his John Deere repeats, confused. “You mean like when that Governor tries countin’ to three.” Okay, I might have invited a few relatives.
“No, forget it. Look, it’s A-1 sauce. In my bowl. I like the way it tastes, okay. ‘Variety is the spice of life,’ right?”
“You mean the steak sauce?” I nod. “The stuff you put on steak?” I nod again. Does this really need clarification? “The stuff in the brown bottle that you put on beef?” Oh, Lord. It’s gonna be a long night.
“Yes. A-1 Steak Sauce,” I state firmly. “The stuff you put on any kind of beef you could ever think of. Ever. You don’t even have to mention all the kinds of beef because, I assure you, they’re included.”
“Yes, even London Broil.” The next person to name a cut of beef dies.
Having returned to the table by now, Molly’s eyebrow shoots up as she self-consciously pats down a small, suspicious bump in the middle of her stomach. “Didn’t you dip the roast beef we had tonight in that stuff?”
“Yep, I did. Is it warm in here? Anyone want me to turn the air-conditioning on?”
Molly shoots me her stink eye. “You poured it over your veggies too, didn’t you?”
As I walk over to the thermostat to turn the air on full blast (Shoulda’ worn a band-aid over that third nipple, sweetheart!), I reply, “Yep. And now I’m gonna eat a small bowl of it with my finger for dessert.” As I punch the temperature button lower and lower and lower, I glance over my shoulder at Molly. “Got a problem with that?” She crosses her arms against her chest and shakes her head.
Pudding Girl, on the other hand, still won’t quite let it go. “Have you got a piece of meat swimmin’ somewhere in that sauce?”
“Nope. I’m eating it plain. I’m a purist.” That should shut them up. How do you argue with a purist about anything? It suggests that I’m a connoisseur. That I’m an expert. And, in reality, I am. I don’t ever wander into flavored A-1 territory or settle for HP Sauce or (shudder at the thought) buy a store brand.
But that doesn’t stop Pudding Girl. “Why don’t you use a spoon?” Granted, it’s a fair question.
Everyone around the table nods and I swear, I can read their minds: After all, you weren’t raised in a barn. Nope, I wasn’t…because there weren’t a lot of barns in the suburbs of Miami.
So why don’t I just use a spoon? It is, after all, a neutral, non-caloric delivery system. It could serve the same purpose as my finger. The answer is simple. A-1 is some caustic stuff, let me tell you. A-1’s second ingredient is distilled vinegar and the fourth is salt. Know what a paste made up of vinegar and salt does? It removes lime deposits from chrome sink fixtures. It also kills grass, cleans rust, polishes brass, and removes mineral deposits from shower heads. If meat condiments were whiskey, A-1 Sauce would be moonshine – 150 proof easy. You don’t just shovel this sauce down your throat – or you might not have one come morning. A delicate teaspoon delivering a stream of A-1 sauce down between the tonsils, unimpeded by taste buds, is no different than swallowing a gallon of lye. The finger, unlike the spoon, doesn’t serve up a dangerous river of sauce; the finger is coated in a thin layer of A-1 that can be licked cautiously. Your tongue absorbs the brunt of the blow, much like it does when you eat a bag of Salt & Vinegar potato chips. Much more subtle than a spoon, the finger is a measured sauce delivery system. If fingers weren’t more subtle in every way, people would type with spoons now, wouldn’t they?
So why do I eat it? It’s so yummy. Just the right balance of tomato and vinegar and saltiness and garlic and citrus. Hello…people put it on their filet mignon. If you’re gonna put anything on filet mignon, I have to assume it doesn’t suck. And I’m an addict. When it comes to sauces, I go through phases. For awhile, it was cheese sauce and there are so many acceptable delivery systems for that, let me tell you. Bar-be-que sauce is lovely and I’m convinced that the only reason God created eggs was so that we’d have a valid reason to eat Hollandaise sauce in public. (And yes, I totally clean every drop of Hollandaise out of the little cup with my finger after my eggs are gone. Okay, I’ve been using a spoon lately because my husband glares at me if I don’t.)
By the way, this problem of mine is genetic – as most addictions are. My mom is one of those would-you-like-a-little-bread-with-your-butter kind of person. Come to think of it, she’s also a would-you-like-a-little-hard-boiled-egg-with-your-butter and would-you-like-a-few-French-fries-with-your-mayo kinda girl, too. When I was growing up, she used to make me cauliflower drenched in a browned butter sauce. Swimming in it. It looked like little brains floating in oily sewage, but it tasted divine. Manna from Heaven – which I still believed in at the time. Want the sauce recipe? Cook about a pound of salted butter until it browns and sprinkle in a few breadcrumbs. I’m amazed I didn’t stroke out by the time I was nine. Now, as you probably know, plain cooked cauliflower doesn’t have a ton of flavor. Thus, this was my first exposure to food as a sauce delivery system and I bought into it hook, line and sinker.
My husband loves my mother’s cauliflower, incidentally. In general, he’s a sauce enthusiast. But the difference between me and Matt is a chasm the width of the San Andreas fault. How so? When Matt finishes a meal in which a sauce delivery system is utilized – let’s say, fettucini alfredo – he leaves the remaining sauce on the plate. On the plate! He has absolutely no qualms about scraping that perfectly good sauce into the garbage can or rinsing it from the plate’s surface and down the drain. He wouldn’t dream about surreptitiously carrying his plate into the kitchen and wiping up those last few creamy, savory drops with his finger. He’d never – and I mean, never – lick his plate clean. With his tongue. I’m not saying I’ve done that. I’m just saying Matt hasn’t. You infer what you like from that, judgment mongers.
Me, on the other hand, I’m a green kinda girl. I drive a hybrid and in order to reduce my carbon footprint, I don’t just throw sauce away, willy-nilly. I’m not gonna feel guilty about starving kids in Africa because I don’t waste my béarnaise, thank you very much. I appreciate my sauce and I show my gratitude by finishing it.
“Ummm, Cristy. Doesn’t A-1 Sauce have an awful lot of sodium in it?” Pudding Girl picks the bottle up off the table and examines the label. “Omigod! There’s like 280 mg per serving.”
“How big’s a serving?” Molly pipes in, shivering.
“A tablespoon.” Pudding Girl eyes my bowl, fear clouding her face. “There’s gotta be at least ten tablespoons in there. Lord, that works out to…to…”
“2800 mg of sodium,” Molly pipes up helpfully, smirking as though she just won the Mathletes award. Yeah, ’cause multiplying stuff by ten is soooooo hard. Puleeze! “Girl, you’re a walking heart attack. Do you know that the recommended daily allowance of sodium is only 2400 mg.” When did she become a freaking nutritional chart? She’s only a Tier 3 dinner guest. She’s got the intellectual curiosity of George W. Bush.
Okay, no. I didn’t. But it’s not like I do it every day. And I’m sure that this whole “recommended daily allowance” thing is averaged. If I hit the sauce hard one day, I’ll just eat plain broccoli for the next two days. Still, Molly didn’t stare at my waistline when she said it.
“Yeah, but how many calories does it have?” I snipe back. I know I’ve won here. Wresting the bottle from Pudding Girl’s hand, I examine the nutritional content chart, then crow loudly, “Ha! Only 15 calories. This bowl of A-1 has fewer calories than that giant spoon of caramel-drenched ice cream you’re about to shovel into your mouth, Molly.” Gotcha there, you three-nippled wench.
Dropping her spoon with a clink that warms my heart, Molly offers me a tight smile. Then, it’s as if the proverbial cartoon light bulb clicks on above her head and she basks quietly in its smug glow. “True, but sodium makes you retain water,” she says slyly, then glances at my waist.
If you’d like the recipe for Molly’s A-1 braised fingertips, just shoot me an email.
This weekend we buried my favorite redneck.
Many people who know me would be surprised to discover that I dearly loved someone who used to scoot across the Everglades in an air boat, not to point gators out to tourists with cameras, but to hunt them (the gators, not the tourists). Their eyebrows might shoot up to hear that I’ve seen a deer skinned and many a hog smoked. My grandfather – who was more of a Florida cracker than a redneck – gifted me with dozens of boar tails during my childhood, without even bothering to clean the congealed blood off the severed ends first. I’d wrinkle my nose, thank him, and then stick them in a drawer until our visit ended and I could dispose of them properly.
You see, I’m Southern. I’ve had kin living in one part of Florida or another for a good 150 years. I take my tea sweet and my grits cheesy. And I don’t have to be drunk for my accent to emerge. Yesterday, at my uncle’s funeral, the y’alls and fixin’ tos started creeping into my vocabulary, and my syllables began stretching out like a long country road meandering through the mountains. This is tough for a loquacious chick like myself – when surrounded by Southerners, it can take me forever just to ask for another piece of pie. My husband doesn’t know what to think about my transformation at these family get-togethers. Suddenly, he’s married to Reba McEntire, but despite this, it doesn’t make him any richer.
I’ve never been a fan of Pentecostal Southern funerals with their open-casket visitations and absence of alcohol. Having visited with Uncle Danny only a couple months before his passing, I was anxious to preserve that happy memory of him and avoid having it replaced by the image of his pale body in a gleaming steel blue box. We’d laughed and chatted that afternoon in November. He’d teased his wife, my Aunt Kay, in the way that people who’ve been married to one another for forty-five years tend to do. As my uncle had quite the sweet tooth, we’d eaten a carrot cake I’d picked up at Publix (to have attempted to bake him a cake might have brought about his death much sooner). It had been a nice day.
Visiting my Uncle Danny in his natural habitat was like visiting the Hall of Mammals at the National History Museum. He’d sit there, sprawled in his well-worn lounger surrounded by his victims: a wild boar with its tongue lolling over its teeth like a thirsty labrador; several eight and ten point bucks – the largest of which served as a hat rack for Danny’s collection of trucker caps and his solar-powered pith helmet; and an otter. Unlike the other animals, the otter was in possession of more than just it’s head and actually stood upright next to a chair, its front paws frozen in mid-air as though it should be wearing a chef’s hat and holding a chalkboard sign with the evening’s specials listed on it.
Mounted on wooden placards around the vintage 70′s paneled living room were at least eight or ten stuffed bass, their mouths gaping, gills frilled, and tails bent in final, desperate swishes. As you perched nervously on the sofa (and who wouldn’t be anxious with a dozen or more dead animals glaring at you, vengeance on their minds), each largemouth bass would watch you, unblinking, with its single, bulging eye. Every fish had a story that may or may not have been true. For my husband, whose favorite t-shirt reads “I Make Stuff Up,” my uncle was an immediate compatriot. Even though he only met him a handful of times, Matt enjoyed Danny’s stories – told in a raspy voice that tuned up into a whine as the story became less and less likely. Like everyone, my husband wasn’t always sure what to make of my uncle’s tales – were they tall or just average in height? But Uncle Danny used to say that there were only three kinds of lies:
1) Whoppers: Lies that were so outlandish that everyone knew they weren’t true. (Know how I caught that gator? I tied Junior to a fishin’ line and told him to go swimmin’ in the swamp.);
2) White Lies: The lies you told others to avoid hurting their feelings. (Nah, those cowboy boots don’t make your ass look big.); and
3) Fishing Lies: These weren’t lies at all.
As sedentary as he was in the latter months of his life (cancer sucks the life out of you…literally), Uncle Danny had always been one of those feisty, mischievous men who was quick with a joke and always up to something. Over the years, he’d operated an auto body shop, raised gopher tortoises (“Mmmm! Gopher soup is goooood,” he used to say) and, finally, ran a plant nursery with my aunt. If he wasn’t puttering around his property, puffing away on one of the cheap Grenadier cigars he stored in a box in his front shirt pocket, or eating breakfast at Granny’s Restaurant as he did every morning, then he was hunting or fishing or being a devoted friend, father and husband.
At the funeral, the pastor shared a story about my uncle that summed up the kind of man he was. There’d been a bad storm. A tree had fallen, ripping gaping holes in the roof of the church. Now, my aunt, she never missed a church service. Sunday night, Wednesday night, choir practice, Bible study – church was and is her life. Uncle Danny – not so much. He had no problem with his wife and son’s devotion to their church but, for him, that was time that could be better spent doing pretty much anything else. However, the day after the storm, the pastor and a couple other members of the church were struggling to remove tree limbs and repair the damage before the rains came again. Suddenly, a ladder banged against the roof and a man’s head rose above the roof line. As the pastor recounted, “This was a man I didn’t know.” But Uncle Danny knew all about him and, more importantly, had been informed that help was needed. So he was there.
On the surface, it may have seemed that Uncle Danny and I were very different people. He was a Tea Party Republican and I’m a bleeding-from-every-possible-orifice liberal. He shot animals with a rifle; I shoot them with my camera. Rural life felt natural to him, whereas I start to break out in hives if I can’t throw a rock and hit someone while blindfolded. He drove a pick up truck with a horn that sounded like a duck call. At least, I think it was a duck call. I mean, how would I know? I drive a hybrid. My ringtone is “So What” by Pink. Uncle Danny watched fishing shows; I watch shows about nerdy physicists who are obsessed with super heroes and video games.
But at our core, we were extraordinarily similar. Both strong-willed, religiously rebellious and prone to humor in uncomfortable situations, I’d swear we shared genes even though he was only my uncle by marriage. At the cemetery, the folding chairs meant for immediate family members were covered in a bright blue faux fur. I kept thinking that if Danny had been alive, we’d be giggling over the fact that it looked as though someone had skinned Cookie Monster and his entire family in order to cover those chairs.
Over the years, Uncle Danny was confronted by many people about everything from his hunting to the manner in which he raised his hunting dogs (outside, in a cage – they’re work animals, not pets) to whether or not he had accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. Up until the very end, this last question was the one which consumed Aunt Kay’s pastor, so much so that his entire funeral sermon focused on Danny showing up fashionably late at Heaven’s Gates, waiting until the last second to become a Christian. While he may have finally done it because he sensed his life had grown shorter than a Kardashian marriage, or to make Aunt Kay happy, I suspect it was the only way to get the pastor to talk about something else. Regardless, much was made of Uncle Danny coming late to the dance, which was a disappointment to me. Though I’m sure it pleased him that his wife and son were certain he would one day see them again in Heaven, I doubt he would have wanted the rest of the congregation to know about his personal struggles with his spirituality. I doubt he would have wanted them to know he’d caved. Because, like myself, Uncle Danny was wholly unapologetic about who he was and what he believed.
My aunt told me that Uncle Danny had wanted jokes and laughter at the funeral, but I can’t say I heard much of either. At one point, while the coffin was being lowered in his grave, I stood with my family watching solemnly. Aunt Kay and Jason embraced one another, their eyes bleary with tears. For some reason, I felt an inexplicable need to sing “Amazing Grace” in order to break the heaviness of the moment, but I didn’t. I feared that it might be one of those situations in which I started singing…and no one else did. I’d be left trailing off and then everyone would talk about the weird niece who began belting out a hymn at the graveside. You know, stealing the grave-lowering thunder. The fact that I only know the first verse of “Amazing Grace” could have also been problematic.
The most difficult part of the day for me and my husband, however, was it’s start – the open-casket visitation and the funeral. Even though I knew the body in the casket was dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt with a trucker cap resting next to his bald head, it felt as though an intruder masquerading as my uncle was in the sanctuary. I couldn’t look. From my second row seat in the “Family Section,” I could just make out a nose peeking out above the white satin and I didn’t recognize it. When I hugged my aunt and cousin at the front of the room, I averted my eyes from his body, burying my head into their shoulders and focused on squeezing all my love and sympathy into their bodies.
At the beginning of the pastor’s sermon, he mentioned Uncle Danny’s penchant for jokes. Smiling to myself, I felt the anticipation grow inside of me as I waited for the pastor to launch into a few of my uncle’s classics. But he didn’t. “I was gonna tell some of his jokes, but y’all knew him. You already know all his jokes,” he said. But at that second, I couldn’t think of a single one. I still can’t. It’s as if when he died, they went with him into that cold casket. C’mon, just one joke, I begged the pastor mentally. I was certain that one would serve as the chink in the proverbial dike and the rest would come flowing through. I never got my joke, though. Uncle Danny took that last laugh with him.
The definition of wit arose in a discussion I had the other night over beer and hamburgers. As a general rule, I’m against wit when meat, cheese and hops are involved as the effort is rarely remembered the following day since the recipients of the wit are either still stewing in their cholesterol-induced brain swell or just hungover. I, personally, have yet to ponder someone’s witticism from the night before while my head is dangling over the porcelain throne, so I’m assuming no one else does either.
Truth be told, I’m rarely witty whether or not beef and Budweiser is being consumed. Why, you ask? Clearly, I’m a mammoth of intellectual funny-isms or you wouldn’t be reading this blog. The problem is that I’m slow to wit. I come up with clever epigrams approximately fifty-one minutes after the witty comment would have been appropriate. Granted, my observations are often much more adroit than the retorts made by my compatriots at the time, but they’re late. Way late. Running-out-to-the-24-hour-pharmacy-in-the-middle-of-the-night-to-buy-a-pregnancy-test late. This is fine if you’re writing a column or posting on Facebook, but I suspect that my friends may wonder if I’ve hired a ghost writer exclusively for those purposes because in person, my comments often tend to invoke the nervous laughter that is only uttered when others are uncomfortable or feel obligated to do something other than stare. You know what I’m talking about. Pity laughter – the awkward chuckle often heard in funeral parlors as friends and loved ones discuss zany things the deceased used to do when they weren’t so…well, dead.
Until recently, however, I’d always thought I was witty. Like everyone, I would have, on occasion, a particular good evening. During these rare events, droll observations would drip off my lips like drool off a St. Bernard’s muzzle. Strangers would contemplate inviting me to dinner parties in the future. I basked in the glow of my sheer cleverness. My friends, on the other hand, would shrug and finally credit the alcohol. When I was having an off night (which in reality was a typical night), I consoled myself with the knowledge that I would write something incredibly astute and hilarious at a later date. Something that would be published. Something that would one day appear in quote books or, alternatively, quote websites or quote clouds as physical books will probably be extinct by the time I’m dead – and everyone knows the most surefire way to be included in a collection of quotes is to be dead first.
But back to the other night. A typical night, I might add, made even more typical by the fact that I was dining with a woman who has more degrees than a thermometer and was educated in Britain, the Birthplace of Wit; a gay man (Oh, step off your PC soapbox – if a gay man could carry a child in the uterus he doesn’t have, he would also be the Birthplace of Wit!) and my husband, perhaps one of the funniest people on the planet. I didn’t have a chance in hell. And they were talking about France and things that are French. If I was Sarah Palin, I’d tell you that I’ve been to France. But the truth is that I had a two hour layover in the Charles de Gaulle airport on the way to London. I did buy a baguette with brie on it and some Loreal hair conditioner, but I don’t think that truly constitutes having experienced the City of Lights. Unless, as I pointed out, you’re Sarah Palin – and then you wouldn’t have to buy a sandwich or hair products. You’d just claim you could see the Eiffel Tower from your First Class seat and go back to reading your magazine, the name of which would escape you.
My gay friend lived in Paris for several years, and my uber-educated friend is one of those artsy-types with an obsession for obscure European facts. My sole comment during this portion of the conversation consisted of something like, “What do you expect? They’re French.” This is my go-to statement when chatter turns to things francais because it applies universally. Doesn’t matter if you’re discussing the French’s attitude towards their politicians’ mistresses, their penchant for smoking from the time they can sit upright in a pram, or their insistence upon putting mushrooms in absolutely everything they cook. The easiest response for one who can’t come up with something witty is to simply chime in, “What do you expect? They’re French.” Following said statement with a knowing chortle is completely optional.
Grateful as I was when the discussion turned away from French cinema, I was disturbed when it turned to the topic of wit, generating a lively debate surrounding the word’s definition. Now, I’ve always ascribed to what is generally considered to be the most common definition of the word – at least according to those silly books that collect such information, a.k.a. dictionaries – and they define wit as “the natural ability to perceive and understand; intelligence.” As I have been perceiving and understanding things since I was knee-high to Tom Cruise, I was confident that I fit the bill. Hell, I possess a very expensive advanced degree and I’ve never failed a test in my life. Okay, that’s not completely true. I actually failed my first driver’s test, but I was set-up and, anyway, I totally aced the written portion. As I was saying, arbitrary tests that don’t involve operating something with a carburetor concede that I qualify as an intelligent human being. Then again, poop-throwing in chimps is considered a sign of intelligence, so the bar can’t be all that high.
Our dinner companions – my husband excluded as he does have to live with me – insisted that wit involves a timing component, and argued that if brilliance doesn’t strike as swiftly as lightning, it might as well not bother to strike at all. Granted, some dictionaries list “quickness of perception” or an ability for repartee or banter in their definitions of wit. But it’s never the first definition. It’s not the primary definition. Heck, on one website, it was subsection (d) of the third definition. Regardless, it was the meaning of choice for my friends. (And may I point out here and now that my gay friend is the same friend who once erroneously claimed that The Osmonds outsold Sonny and Cher in their heyday, so his perception is clearly warped). But, as former employer of mine used to say ad nauseum, “Perception is everything.” You can’t be witty in a vacuum. Wit requires an audience. In my case, I thought an audience of people with nothing better to do than read my meanderings was sufficient, but that evening I was informed that it was not the same. Apparently, in the Aesop fable, wit is the rabbit and the old adage of “slow and steady wins the race” doesn’t apply. My humor is the turtle and muddling along at a consistent pace just doesn’t cut it. Wit isn’t a marathon; it’s a sprint. If I can’t swiftly enunciate a zinger or amuse dinner guests with banter worthy of a Nora Ephron film, I might as well don a dunce cap and resign myself to eating Taco Bell in dark room by myself – maybe with with Carrot Top if I’m lucky. Actually, I think I’d rather eat alone. At least I’m funny on paper.
For days now, I’ve wallowed in this pit of dullard despair until someone recognized by millions as being remarkably witty – in fact, he’s paid quite a lot of money to be witty – appeared to take up my case. In a recent HBO special, comedian Ricky Gervais suggested that Oscar Wilde, the Godfather of Wit, also suffered from Dilatory Epigram Syndrome. When asked by a customs official if he had anything to declare, Wilde famously stated, “Only my intelligence.” Gervais suggested that the retort had probably occurred to Wilde sometime after an earlier encounter with a customs official. You know, one of those, “Damn! I should have said this!” moments. I know those moments well. Really well. Not on a first name basis well, but on a secret-birthmarks-that-no-one-else-knows-about well. According to Gervais, once Wilde had that moment, he stored it up and waited, crouched like a spider ready to attack. Please ask me if I’ve something to declare, he would think to himself. And finally, someone did. Wilde declared his genius. Then he died. Now he’s got entire books of quotes devoted entirely to things he allegedly said or wrote.
This may shatter many people’s perception of Wilde as the erudite dinner guest who spit out impromptu witticisms the way Americans spit out haggis into their napkins in a Scottish pub. If his initiation of a clever comment was machine gun rapid, I’ve always fantasized Wilde’s voice as luxuriously slow and languid. When he opened his mouth to speak, I imagine the guests’ forks would hover inches below their mouths because whatever choice bite was to emerge from Wilde’s lips was certainly tastier than anything on their plates. However, Gervais’ view suggests that the playwright and poet may have practiced his quips religiously in his state room, pacing the short length of the carpet reciting the verbal gems he would deliver should the appropriate question be offered. Perhaps he scribbled down all the things he wished he’d said at the previous evening’s dinner party into a little notebook, then rattled them off as soon as the opportunity arose again later in the week.
During the Victorian era, the issues of politics, English society, literature and the arts, and religion were popular topics in dining and drawing rooms all over Britain. It would have been easy for Wilde to anticipate future conversations and arm himself accordingly, loading his quips like bullets into a pistol and pulling the trigger whenever appropriate. When the subject of the Americas or politics was broached, he could rattle off, “Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people, by the people, for the people,” a statement which would have signaled uproarious laughter and tittering at any Victorian table. If the topic turned to fellow playwright, critic and frequent dinner guest, George Bernard Shaw, Wilde may have been well-prepped when he slung this backhanded compliment: “Bernard Shaw is an excellent man; he has not an enemy in the world, and none of his friends like him.” In a closed society, self-described by Wilde as one in which one only “has either to feed people, amuse people, or shock people…” in order to be admitted, amusing the cream of London society would have been a priority in order to ensure his continued success, both socially and financially.
So to those friends of mine whose synapses fire away quickly over appetizers, leaving the rest of us behind in a haze of smoke and clever diatribes, I say,” Erm…hold on second. It’s right on the tip of my tongue. Just give me a second. No, really. This is going to be hilarious.” Forget it, I’ll get back to you in about fifty-one minutes and when I do, prepare to die. Or maybe you’ll just blush or giggle or get a little embarrassed because I did it in print. Online. And everyone who knows me also knows who you are, so it kinda sucks for you, really. But I will do it. I’ll be witty and you’ll rue the day you ever said I wasn’t. The slow and steady spirit of Oscar Wilde inhabits me. Can I say that it’s a little uncomfortable because he was a large man? An awfully large man.