I’m a terrible person. If Jennifer Aniston had married me (which would have been creepy because she doesn’t have a penis), when we finally divorced and I posed for photos with Angelina Jolie (not nearly as creepy because I’m pretty sure she does have a penis), she would have told the press in that whiny manner of hers that I have a sensitivity chip missing. Blog success came early, along with the accolades that often accompany this lowly profession (erm, if profession means something I do to while away the hours after I’ve completely emptied my bottle of Ketel One each morning) and, as a result, I’ve been
uninterested remiss in acknowledging and responding to some of the lovely awards that have been bestowed upon me by my fellow bloggers.
ignorant: (adj) lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated
stupid: (adj) lacking intelligence or common sense; can’t be fixed
dumb-ass: (adj) see stupid
– Oxford Dictionary
A couple of weeks ago, while celebrating my 1,000th subscriber, I hosted a contest in which my readers could post topics for me to write about. Though many intriguing suggestions were submitted, the clever and insightful blogger, Wandering Voiceless captured my interest by proposing that I pen a tutorial on “How to Deal With Stupid People When They Don’t Know They’re Stupid.”
Initially, I was puzzled. Are there stupid people who know that they’re stupid? You know, ones who don’t wake up one morning and say to themselves, “I shouldn’t run for President just because Pa did it; I’m a dumb-ass.” If so, I’d like to photograph them and, perhaps, write an entire book – a tome, if you will – dissecting the psyche of the stupid animal who possesses the self-awareness to recognize just how stupid it is. For years, I’d always assumed that, by definition, stupid people are clueless to the fact that they’re stupid. That’s what makes them stupid as opposed to ignorant, a condition which can be cured with information and a few episodes of The Rachel Maddow Show. And, as my grandmother never actually said, but it sounds folksy to say, “You can’t fix stupid.”
Case in point, the other evening my hubby and I were meandering around downtown investigating every nook and cranny of the most historic section of the city that we have recently decided to call home. A serial photographer, I was snapping away at the most banal things: chained doors, abandoned fast food bags crumpled in the dying light that seeped through an abandoned, spiderweb-draped shop window, local street art, and a turn of the century building constructed of coquina stone. A few yards ahead of me, a car pulled up and parked on the side of the road.
Since we were standing directly across the street from a small, fenced park where the homeless tend to accumulate on its shaded benches during the day (known by locals as the Hobo Gardens), I hesitated, curious if the vehicle owner was the as-yet-unseen person who chases the vagrants from their zoo-like existence in this little corner of respite, before locking the gates each night. God forbid, a transient dude should fall asleep on one of the benches. In the dark. I mean, it’s not like the City didn’t give him all day to catch up on his sleep. And I’m pretty sure they provided him with lavender-scented eye masks to block out the searing brightness of the sun. But like most urban outdoorsmen, he’d probably wasted his daylight hours in conversation with his homeless buddies or weaving dead palm fronds into rosebuds to sell to the tourists.
Allowing an intinerant to enter into REM sleep at night in an unlocked park that is entirely avoided by non-housing challenged locals during the day would certainly be a travesty. Clearly, the highest and best use of such a space is to snap a Master lock on it and force the drifters to wander the streets as shadowy figures who can then be enjoyed by downtown bar patrons. After all, when you’ve just finished off a few yards of Guinness, what better than to take a swing or two at a ragged, old man with spittle in the corner of his mouth who is enjoying a conversation with the three other voices in his head? Big fun, I say.
Moreover, by forcing the homeless to roam the darkened streets, our city is providing a once-in-a-lifetime adrenaline rush for many of the tourists visiting from places like Dubuque and Wichita and Billings, who rarely are assaulted by a request for spare change accompanied by the aroma of cough syrup mixed with the eau de parfum of general stankiness. In fact, it is said that many visitors return home with gallant tales of near death experiences which invariably involved the tourist tossing bills or coins at the bare feet of a transient – who, as per their description, was likely black, male, 8 to 9 feet tall, angry and foaming at the mouth – then running as the drifter chased them down a back alley, pounding his chest and bellowing, “Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the blood of a Caucasian man.” Hey, moments like this are what vacation memories are made of.
I began to wonder what a person would say in order to extricate the vagrants from their little Garden of Not Eatin’. Dragging a billy club along the fence, would the Evictor-in-Chief evoke the memory of every prison movie ever made before sneering, “Git yer bum asses up and moving. This ain’t no Holiday fuckin’ Inn.” And he’d be right. The park is much nicer than a Holiday Inn.
Or would he approach the men and their assorted knapsacks and overflowing plastic bags with fear in his eyes, but the law on his side? “C’mon guys. You know, it ain’t up to me. Look, don’t make me pull out my cell phone. I’ve got 911 on speed dial.” When they ignore him, does he whip the flip phone out of his pocket, point it at them threateningly and say, “The safety’s not on. And once I dial the cops, that call will be recorded for quality assurance.”
Perhaps he’s read about Pavlov’s dog and has trained the park’s transients to simply haul their aching bones up at the rattle of his chains and lumber towards him, drooling like a lesbian at a sorority pajama party, their hands extended in anticipation of the small bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 he gives each one as they exit Vagrant Village. Regardless, this is a person tasked with a stupid job by stupid senior government employees who are told what to do by stupid politicians who think that locking up a lovely park at night makes my community better and safer. And I doubt any of the parties involved have a clue that they’re stupid.
However, after taking several more photos, no one emerged from the parked car. My husband strolled away to examine the old lettering on the side of a building, leaving me standing alone on the sidewalk. As I rounded the corner of the building, a young man wearing a knitted winter cap in 85 degree weather (I’m Stupid Clue #1), a tee shirt and plaid grandpa shorts hung so low the most experienced limbo dancer couldn’t squeeze between their hem and the asphalt (I’m Stupid Clue #2) jumped out of the car, skate board in hand, and began serenading me in a brash, intoxicated voice. “How can I get just one fuck? How can I get just one fuck? I guess it’s got somethin’ to do with luck…” (I’m Stupid Clue #3)
At this point he leaned towards me, dropped his skateboard and stretched out his arms, as though he was preparing to lunge at me, but I deftly sidestepped him, turned around and crooned, “But I waited my whole life for just one…,” before spinning back around and walking away. Behind me, I could hear his friends howling with laughter. The woman whom skater boy had figured was so white-bread that she’d shrink from him like a penis at the sight of a butcher knife could not only finish the lyrics to his crappy rendition of the Femmes’ “Add It Up,” but clearly wasn’t intimidated by the miniscule lump in his Scooby Doo boxers, either. Hell, that song had been my mantra when this kid’s mother was still smoking pot and giving out free hand jobs under the high school bleachers. I was tempted to return and inform him that until a decade ago, I’d regularly worn combat boots, but then I remembered my niece’s response when I’d told her the same thing in an effort to prove how cool I had been in my youth.
Me: Of course, I know who Jack White is. I used to wear combat boots practically every day of my life.
My Niece: (incredulously) Why?
Okay, now who’s stupid? It was a momentary lapse, I swear.
When I found my husband a moment later inspecting a chunk of exposed coquina shell, he asked, “What was that about?”
Shrugging my shoulders, I replied, “Just some stupid ass serenading me in the street.” It was obvious that the aforementioned stupid ass didn’t think he was stupid. He and his friends, I’d surmised, found him to be amusing, much in the way my orange tabby finds rubber bands endlessly entertaining. And my cat is stupid. We love him, but he’s a dumb ass. Everyone knows it…except for him. Just last night, while our other two felines – both infinitely more intelligent than our short bus kitty – were hanging out by the water bowls, one of them rolled her eyes and exhaled a deep purr before saying, “I caught Dumb Ass eating one of the fake plants. Again. I mean, there’s fresh fucking basil growing in a pot in the living room window and he’s chewing on a plastic cactus.”
“Well, at least he didn’t keep you awake last night licking the outside of the kitty litter bag,” the other cat replied, twitching his whiskers. “If he pulls that shit again, I am so gonna bite him on the nape of the neck and dominate his ass. Fucking retard.”
Considering that the plastic cactus in question has more bite marks than all the characters in The Twilight Saga combined, it’s apparent that stupid isn’t an affliction that can be easily cured. Trial and error has zero impact on those impacted by this disease.
As I thought about the subject of stupidity even further, I began to realize that stupid people not only fail to recognize their own stupidity, but they assume that everyone else is stupid. For example, yesterday afternoon, I’d traveled to the beachside town where we’d lived until recently for a doctor’s appointment. After having lunch with a friend of mine, I’d stepped out into the bright afternoon sunshine, smart phone in my hand. For those of you who’ve read my most recent post, you may recall that my husband and I recently met a couple from Atlanta who chose to move to this particular beachside town because they believed it to be so safe. For the record, they also turned out to be pretty stupid.
I’d just made it to my car, when I was accosted by a hysterical woman with bleached blonde hair, smudged makeup, wearing hootchie mama shorts and a tank top sans bra stretched across her ample bosom, accompanied by a disheveled, tattooed, middle-aged man who smelled like a Mexican restaurant dumpster in mid-summer on the last day of a long, holiday weekend. “I just lost my iPhone!” the woman screeched, pointing a dirty fingernail in my direction. “I have to use your phone to call it.”
This was one of those moments in life in which I wished I’d had the time to order a coffee and sit down to ponder all the reasons why my phone would never, ever be released into the custody of Ms. Hootchie Mama Hot Pants. However, as the ho-with-no-phone was demanding the use of mine asap, I only had time to consider a few:
1) iPhones are expensive, but the color of this chick’s brittle tresses appeared to have been achieved by soaking the bottom ¾ of her hair in a sink filled with Clorox;
2) Neither of these folks looked like Mac users, though I was pretty sure they were using something that began with the letter M;
3) If Tits Mountain was to be believed, she’d already lost one phone. Why in the hell would I trust her with mine? Let her start with something small. Something no one would miss if it were misplaced. Like an infant.
“I’ll call it for you,” I replied, as my fingers curled themselves tightly around my phone. “What’s your number?” Tits Mountain’s face drew a blank.
“Okay, I’ll run over there and listen for it,” she finally said, trotting across the street and stopping at the corner. Her friend reached out his grimy, crusted hands, seemingly very anxious to hold my phone – as if it would make the iPhone reappear or, even better, turn into a naked breast.
“The number?” I repeated. Again, the man reached for my cell, his index finger actually stroking its corner this time. Clearly, he believed that his touch would magically relax my iron-clad grasp on my Android. Like I said before, not only do stupid people not know that they’re stupid, they think everyone else is stupid. However, the chances of me allowing him to dial a single digit on my phone at that moment was up there with the odds of Tori Spelling winning a Pulitzer for her 17th memoir entitled, MasturbaTORI. Taking a step away from him and the pervasive stench of rotting refried beans, I waited patiently. Finally, the man rattled off a seven numbers.
As the phone began to ring, Mr. Grabby Hands leaned towards me, greedily eyeing my phone, his fingers twitching like an amateur poker player’s eye. Ms. Hootchie Mama Hot Pants watched from across the street as I lifted my cell to my ear, then she proceeded to run around in several small circles on the sidewalk – not unlike a dog locating the best patch of grass upon which to squat and poo – before throwing up her hands in frustration and dashing back across the street towards us. Apparently, she believed – or wanted me to – that she’d lost her iPhone somewhere in the four foot radius of that particular corner. I mean, you never know. Perhaps she had an invisibility app on her iPhone? Maybe she was beta testing the iPhone 5 for Apple and the new phone was so slim, it was possible to lose it in a hairline crack in the sidewalk? I almost asked her, “Where was the last place you saw it?” but I had the feeling the answer would involve a motel that charged by the half hour or the discarded mattress lying next to the dumpster behind Mi Pueblo Restaurante.
When it became clear to Dumb and Dumber that the phone would have to be extracted from my hand with the Jaws of Life, they quickly dropped the charade, half-heartedly thanking me for my help. Within seconds, they approached a group dining outside – not more than three yards away – who, having just witnessed the World’s Lamest Scammers Ever Getting Hosed, picked up their steak knives and shook their heads. After unsuccessfully hitting up two biker types on the sidewalk with the same story, the couple finally admitted defeat. As I drove off, I passed them strolling hand-in-hand down the street – headed in the opposite direction of the corner where the alleged iPhone had been lost.
I couldn’t decide what was worse: that these grifters thought that I would fall for their scam, or that they continued to press forward with the hope that others in the immediate vicinity would not see through a story as transparent as a cheap dry-cleaning bag? Clearly, these were stupid people who thought everyone else was more stupider and, like George Dubbya, figured that we would misunderestimate them too.
So as it stands, I have failed Wandering Voiceless because there is no tutorial for dealing with the stupid. There are things in this life that are simply immutable. Sarah Jessica Parker will never have a petite, up-turned nose. Anderson Cooper will never marry…a woman. Kim Jong-un is never going to appear on the cover of Playgirl.
What you can’t change, you must accept. So stop sending dictionaries to New Jersey Real Housewife, Teresa “Ingrediences” Giudice. Don’t waste your time arguing with Trump about the validity of President Obama’s birth certificate. Desist with the petitions to have Ann Coulter lobotomized.
Unless Stupid is the name of your new puppy, you can’t fix stupid.
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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.
As a taller-than-average woman who has studied – and envied – the privileges enjoyed by those who are limited in physical stature, it has become overwhelmingly clear to me that God loves short people best. I’m not saying He hates tall people, but we’re definitely God’s middle child.
His eldest are average-sized people and they’re beloved because they’re just so normal. It’s as if God sighed in relief when he discovered that His first kid turned out just right – not too short, not too tall. No one was ever gonna call this kid beanpole. He’d never be stuck in the back row of the class photo. “How’s the weather up there?” would never be the first question asked of God’s eldest by absolutely everyone he meets for the rest of his life.
God’s youngest, though short, immediately climbed the ranks of popularity because she was the baby of the family. And everyone knows that small things are cute. Infants are cute. Puppies are cute. Kittens are cute. Hello Kitty erasers are cute. Gnomes – you got it, cute. Roaches, you ask? No, roaches have too many legs to be cute. You probably think a six-legged baby is cute. Freak! Go read your latest issue of Chernobyl Cuties and get your rocks off – this blog is not for you. Anyway, so God is totally entranced with his youngest bundle of compact joy, and even though she eventually hits 5’1”, has three illegitimate children and becomes a meth addict, she remains adorable in His eyes because she’s the baby of the family. And everyone knows that the baby can do no wrong. Nor can anyone ever put Baby in a corner. At least not if Patrick Swayze’s around.
That leaves us with gargantuan, taller-than-average people. The forgotten middle children. There’s a syndrome named after us, you know. Taller-Than-Average-People-Who-Wear-Shorter-Than-Average-Pants Syndrome. It’s incurable, but treatable if you know anything about hemming and don’t mind your trousers being cuffed in an entirely different color and fabric. Think of it as a fashion statement. For a short time (no pun intended), we were the babies of the God family, but we quickly grew into long, gangly things resembling weeds, roots, seaweed, ganglion cysts, intestines, Bridges to Nowhere, tapeworms and Lindsay Lohan’s hair extensions. Once we did, God quickly procreated again with some nameless vestal virgin and a petite baby was born, it’s teeny-weeny, dimpled everything eclipsing our lankiness forever.
History of our conception aside, you may be wondering how I know, for certain, that God loves short people best. Hence, here are:
THE TOP FIVE REASONS WHY GOD LOVES SHORT PEOPLE BEST
1) MINIONS– Ever been strolling through a grocery store when, out of the blue, a munchkin-sized elderly woman with one of those walkers with tennis ball feet suddenly asks you to hand her the expensive bottle of mustard that’s stored on the very tippy-top shelf? Of course, you have. And you did it. Graciously. If you’re a really nice, tall person, you may have even offered to help her acquire a few other grocery items that were placed out of her reach. However, she likely declined you because a few other tall ass suckers already helped her.
What you didn’t realize is that, at that moment, you became one of her minions. That’s right. You did her bidding. For that split second, she controlled you completely. And remember, it was expensive mustard. That shrimpy Blue Hair was hardly destitute. She bought Apple stock when a Macintosh was still just a raincoat. She could have hired an assistant to help with her shopping, but she knew that a tall person like yourself would quickly cave upon hearing the opening line she used to lure you into her web of slavery. “Oh, dear,” she purred seductively, “I’ve always wanted long legs like yours. You wouldn’t mind helping me reach that jar of…” But she had you at “wanted long legs like yours.” You were sucked in like a stream of particles circling a black hole. And in space, no one can hear you scream.
2) PETITE SECTIONS: Ever seen a “Tall” section in a department store? No? Bet you’ve seen a Petite section, though. In fact, practically every major designer has petite versions of their clothes for their pint-sized clientele. If a tall chick is lucky, she might find a few pair of “long” length jeans if she gets there just as the department store opens and she’s willing to search through 8,000 pairs of denim – most of which are marked with the words regular or petite. ‘Cause we’re not regular, folks. We’re not normal. And we don’t get a sophisticated French sounding word like petite to describe our overall lankiness. Don’t forget, a tall girl in search of jeans will have to be prepared to fight off all the other ginormous girls who also arrived at the store early so that they wouldn’t have to wear another pair of cropped pants – or worse, another skirt – next weekend. Which means a tall girl must be fit and capable of taking down a chick who can nail a windmill dunk over Shaquille O’Neal with her eyes closed.
There are likely a few of you out there who will be quick to point out that there are “Big and Tall” shops in nearly every major town. Yes, we have our own stores – because you short and average people won’t allow us big and tall freaks to shop at the mall like the rest of you. Hell, no! It’d be like letting the bull into the china shop. Our larger-than-average frames would stretch out your sweaters and bust your zippers. “Omigosh, Molly. I was totally gonna buy that cute little black dress, but a six foot chick tried it on first and now it’s got tall cooties.” It’s also worth noting that most of these stores cater to men. I’m not a man. I’d consider becoming a man if it meant I could buy a pair of jeans without having to beat up the local female volleyball team to get my hands on them, but then my husband would divorce me – and I’d spend the rest of my days depressed, wearing too-short sweatpants and stained concert t-shirts, which would negate the necessity for the jeans in the first place.
3) SCHOOL DRESS CODES – Why are short people so darn cute? In part, it’s because their clothes are smaller than ours. I don’t mean that their apparel is proportionally smaller than tall people’s, but unfairly smaller than ours. This trend began with plaid jumpers and skirts in private schools. I’m sure any of you who attended such a school are familiar with the traditional rules:
– Your skirt may not be shorter than your fingertips; or, in the alternative;
– The hem of your skirt may not be more than two inches above the middle of the knee.
The first version of this rule would have prevented me from wearing any clothing produced post-Edwardian era for the entirety of my parochial school education. I was tall and skinny. Really scrawny. I made Kate Moss feel like she needed to go purge. My torso was the size of a Tootsie roll. You know that expression, “Her legs went all the way up.” Well, mine went up to my chin and my fingertips scraped the floor when I walked. If you look at old photos of me, my hands are often curled into fists. It’s not because I was angry, I was just trying to prevent my fingertips from getting calloused.
The second version of this rule was no less unfair. When your femur can be used as a ruler by which to judge the length of an Olympic sprint, there isn’t a skirt in the world that’s going to land within two inches of the middle of your knee. They don’t manufacture that much plaid in Scotland. Apparently, they do weave it in South Carolina and eventually, a jumper was created long enough to cover most of my thighs. Having trouble picturing this in your head? Okay, imagine Jack Skellington from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Got that in your head? Now, replace his goth black suit with a blue, plaid parochial school jumper and squash a long brown wig with bangs onto his bald head. For kicks, you can fold his bony fingers around one of those Tupperware lunch boxes. I had one for about five minutes – until an average-sized kid threw it out the bus window. I still hate you, L.J. – just in case you were wondering.
My point is that my arms and legs were not in proportion to the rest of my body. This isn’t uncommon in taller-than-average people. Sure, Victoria Secret model, Gisele Bundchen’s got a long torso with a tiny waist and huge natural breasts and billions of dollars and thicker than average hair and no visible acne scars – but she’s not normal. Everyone knows she was grown in some Brazilian laboratory and that there’s a button under all that luxurious, naturally-highlighted hair which reveals her bot brain. In fact, if you pour water over her head while her bot brain is exposed, she’ll do The Hustle. You know. The dance. From the Seventies. You’re not that old? F**k off!
But short people are typically well-proportioned. Their knuckles don’t usually scrape the floor. Their hip bones rarely impede their breathing by pushing against their tracheas. So their parochial school plaid skirts are in proportion to their bodies and, as such, look cute. Even sexy. You know, like in a Britney Spears’ video – who, by the way, at 5’4” is officially shorter-than-average. Bitch. My skirt, on the other hand, looked liked a nostalgic Coleman tent for a family of eight.
4) SYMPATHY– Short people evoke sympathy because being undertall is viewed as a deficit of some kind by average-sized people. A deficit, you ask? You mean, in the same way that being tall is a negative? No, not at all. Half-pints are viewed as being helpless with big, fluttering eyelashes and a need for consolation and protection. They’re the Scarlett O’Haras of height – who, by the way, was about 5’3″. Tall people are the brash, obnoxious, aggressive Rhett Butlers, which means they aren’t often viewed as being feminine (fine, if you’re a guy, but really annoyingif you’re not) and they’re considered threatening to the frail, oh-so-fragile-I-might-just-disintegrate-at-the-touch-but-as-God-as-my-witness-I’ll-never-be-hungry-again Southern Belles out there.
How do I know this? My aunt is short. And she loves to point out exactly how short she is compared to the rest of the family. Why? Because when she emphasizes her tininess, our relatives invariably console her with compliments about her other attributes. “Well, at least you’ve got boobs!” or “But your boobs are huge.” or “Are those real? I mean, they look real.” What? She’s got two rather impressive attributes. Nevertheless, when I’m around her, I find myself buying into the scam and also pointing out her limited physical stature – because it’s nicer than just saying she’s a bitch. As a short person, she likes to claim shyness and quietness (sorry, I just vomited in my mouth) as her virtues, but the truth is that she’s got the biggest personality – and mouth – in the room. And that’s saying a lot in our family.
The other day at a family function, my aunt noticed a need for chairs on the porch. I suggested that we haul out the kitchen chairs, and proceeded to lift one and carry it in the appropriate direction. My pint-sized aunt, on the other hand, wandered around aimlessly, doing absolutely nothing, while me and my average-sized husband moved all – yes, all – the chairs. They weren’t heavy chairs. By their very nature, kitchen chairs tend to be lightweight. But she didn’t lift one. Perhaps she’s just too tiny? Too delicate? Maybe her green velvet gown weighed her down? So much for the whole, As God as my witness, they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill, as God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry again. Apparently, her folk won’t starve, but they’ll have to sit on the floor. Unless there are tall people around, in which case, she has her minions, doesn’t she?
5) THE TOM CRUISE EFFECT – If there’s a perfect example out there of someone who simply doesn’t deserve to be a leading man, it’s Tom Cruise. Yeah, spare me all the talk of how hot he was in Top Gun and Risky Business. Scott Baio and John Stamos both graced many more covers of Tiger Beat than Cruise did at the time – but you don’t see either of them starring in Mission Impossible 12. Why? Because they can’t act? Possibly (particularly when we’re talkin’ about Chachi, here), but neither can Tom Cruise. C’mon – when your most famous catch phrase is “I feel the need, the need fer speed,” you’re not an actor, you’re an action film animatronic robot.
And, may I point out, neither Scott Baio, nor John Stamos is CA-RAY-ZEE! They didn’t jump on Oprah’s couch or scare the Beckhams away from Los Angeles or call Matt Lauer glib or insist that “psychiatry should be outlawed” on national television. But, then, lots of famous actors are nuts. The question is: Are they short? Scott Baio is 5’10” – average height for an American male. John Stamos is also average at just over 5’11’’. Tom Cruise’s height, on the other hand, is a closely guarded secret. Supposedly, he’s at least 5’7”, but it’s rumored that he may be as tiny as 5’4”. Either way, he’s short. Petite, even. But he’s a star. Why?
Ever pissed off a height-challenged person? They get quite indignant about it. For example, Cruise is currently slated to play Jack Reacher, the 6’5” protagonist in the big screen adaptation of Lee Child’s One Shot novel. Of the criticism regarding his, erm, stature as an actor to play the role, Cruise admitted, “Firstly, I’m very sensitive to it. This is Lee’s book and Lee’s character. Him giving me his blessing is what made me do it. If he hadn’t then I wouldn’t have done it.”
Just like with my aunt, no one wants to argue with a short person. Why? Ummm, maybe because the first thing they do is play the short card – something a tall person never does. Need an example? When Davy Jones’ (The Monkees, people. C’mon!) producer reminded him that they were on Take 7A of the classic, “Daydream Believer,” Davy’s response – on the record, no less – was predictably, as a tiny person, “Okay. I mean, don’t get excited, man. It’s just ’cause I’m short, I know.” Yeah, we’re excited – i.e. really pissed off – because you’re burning up studio time – which, by the way, has absolutely nothing to do with your height. (Or your lack thereof. Davy Jones was 5’3”.) It also has nothing to do with the fact that this will turn out to be the only hit Monkees’ hit that you sing lead on, and you’re taking forever to do it!
Likewise, people coddle short people. It’s acceptable to make fun of tall people, but not short ones. Maybe this has something to do with dwarfism or little people or whatever – but, for the record, I think that little people and dwarves and midgets are freaking awesome. I mean, they’re not just short. They’re much shorter than what is considered “normal” or “average,” and that’s totally cool. Us tall people get them. Even if we’re only 5’10” and female, we get them. There’s no groovy tall range, so we appreciate those in the non-groovy short range. The last interesting tall celebrity person of record was Andre the Giant – and he’s been dead for 18 years. We have no representation. So we relate to our “little people” counterparts who also have few role models. We’re ostracized by the mainstream media – as are they, for the most part – and by run-of-the-mill short people, like Tom Cruise. That said, we don’t coddle them. We don’t treat them as “special.” That would be offensive. And these are people who understand that term and demand that we treat it – and them – with respect.
But your standard short person wants special attention. They love the word “petite” and revel in being compared to notoriously itsy-bitsy celebrities like Dolly Parton (approximately 5 feet even), Christina Aguilera (5’1.5”), Eva Longoria (5’2”), Jennifer Love Hewitt (5’2.5”) or Jessica Simpson (5’3”). They also love comparisons to the size of their boobage and, for some reason, short people seem to have a lot of it. Obviously, we’re talking about women here. Men don’t like to be referred to as being “short.” If this is unclear, re-read the Tom Cruise section or Google anything about Napoleon’s need for overcompensation. Of course, you do have a few undertall celebrities with balls the size of Jupiter – like Al Pacino (5’7”) and Robert Downey, Jr. (5’8”) – both of whom are super hot and at least 6’5” horizontally, I’m sure. I doubt either of them would care if you propped your elbow upon their head as long as your breasts were at eye level.
However, if you so much as bump up against my aunt, she’ll raise a hissy fit, pat her hair as though you’ve ripped out clumps of it with the bent corner of your sleeve, and insist she’s no leaning post. Fortunately, as a taller-than-average person, you know the secret password: bethedevilsminion. To calm her ranting, you ask my aunt, “Can I get you a can of soda…off the top shelf of the pantry?” She’ll acquiesce, of course, and you’ll hand it to her and be on good terms again. As long as you can tolerate being a minion, that is. But sometimes, minions revolt. And this is what you short people out there need to worry about. Because I’m biding my time, along with all the other taller-than-average-people out there who don’t find you cute at all.
My blogosphere buddy, Kitchen Slattern wrote a rebuttal piece in response to this post from the perspective of an undertall person. Although many of you liked my post, Kitchen Slattern’s was just published by More Magazine. You know, a website with some serious readership. And editors. Not that it makes her opinion any more right or valid, but I must grudgingly admit that she’s a gifted, hilarious and clever writer. Why else would I follow her blog every day? Still, in the interest of fairness and because Kitchen Slattern offers some awesome cocktail recipes – along with sobering, and not-so-sobering, wisdom – on her blog, Kitchen Slattern, I’ve decided the right thing to do is to include a link to the domestic diva’s article. Did I mention she references THIS post in it? Makes me love her even more. Anyway, read on and be impressed (I’m not saying you have to be convinced…):
While I was studying poetry in college, I was forced to write a sonnet. Forced, you say? Was a gun held to my head? Did a professor surreptitiously slip a pinless grenade into my palm, step back cautiously and demand, “Write the damned sonnet!” No, but my instructor did string my GPA up by the neck with a thick noose and threaten to kick the desk out from under my GPA’s feet if I didn’t write the stupid thing. Even though I write free verse. Exclusively. Rhyming is not one of my super powers. People who’ve heard me attempt to rap know this. My instructor didn’t care. You apparently can’t be a well-rounded poet unless you master the sonnet. Kinda like those chefs who think you can’t truly call yourself a cook unless you can boil water. Snobs.
For those of you who have never written a sonnet, you’re lucky bastards and I despise you. That said, hang in there with me even if you’re not a huge poetry fan because I’ll be humiliating myself in a big way in just a few paragraphs. For those of you who have written a sonnet and who have also successfully repressed “the rules” of sonnet-writing, let me re-awaken the slime-dripping, fang-baring monster that likely haunted your every dream throughout the semester you were enrolled in Poetry 101.
Shakespearean Sonnet Rules
For my purposes, I will be referring exclusively to the Shakespearean (or Elizabethan) Sonnet.
1) A sonnet must consist of exactly 14 lines.
2) Each line must have exactly 10 syllables.
3) A sonnet must consist of exactly three quatrains (four lines) followed by exactly one couplet (two lines).
4) The rhyme scheme in a sonnet must be exactly as follows: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.
In English, this means that in the first quatrain, the first and third lines must rhyme and the second and fourth lines must rhyme. Same goes for the second quatrain, but it’s critical to note that the rhymes must be unique from the first quatrain – C and D can’t rhyme with A or B. Same goes for E and F and G.
Note: We haven’t even made it through all the rules yet, but the word exactly has already appeared FOUR times. Starting to see why sonnets and Satan both start with the same letter?
5) Each line must be written in iambic pentameter.
If your response wasn’t “Huh?” or “I only speak a little Spanish,” then you’ve clearly written sonnets before – and enjoyed the process. Before things get ugly, you should just muddle on over to the Mensa website because we won’t tolerate any of that Shakespearean-sonnets-are-the-bomb attitude here.
If you’re still going, “What the hell is an i-am-buck pentacle,” then you’re in the right place. First you have to know what an iambic foot is. Though it sounds like something a podiatrist would diagnose and prescribe a brace for, it simply means an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. da-DUM. Iambic pentameter consists of five iambic feet in a row: da-DUM-da-DUM-da-DUM-da-DUM-da-DUM. Or for those Dirty Dancing fans out there, remember that scene where Patrick Swayze tries to teach Baby rhythm by tapping his chest in time with his heartbeat? ga-GONG-ga-GONG-ga-GONG-ga-GONG-ga-GONG. Yes, Swayze was a hunk and his heart was a master of iambic pentameter. Basically, this is just one more thing that you have to worry about when writing a la Shakespeare – if the correct syllables aren’t stressed in the proper order, your sonnet’s pretty much crap.
So why did you need to know all this? Why did you read this far without anything really, truly funny happening? Because I am now going to share with you the World’s Worst Sonnet Ever! It’s horrible on so many levels, but before I go into detail, I will simply allow you to read it and let it speak for itself.
By the way, it is also my sonnet. Yes, I wrote it. Twenty-two years ago. I am responsible for this flaming pile of poo. Thus, there is absolutely no need to try to console me or assure me that the poem isn’t shit in your comments below because I fully recognize that I have made the world a far worse place by writing all 26 lines of the following sonnet. What? Twenty-six lines, you say? But I thought a sonnet had 14 lines. There you go…you’re already discovering why this is:
The World’s Worst Sonnet Ever
When I saw her, she was shrunken hollow
her body pressed to the back of the cage.
Eyes enormous, spittle wetting the hair
beneath her blond muzzle, six months of age.
Driving her home, our pygmy Lassie peed
on the plush velour seat and my bare skin.
I laughed. She shrank further inside my arms
and froze, ears perked, a doggy mannequin.
She learned to sit, roll over, beg and jump
on command. She could climb up my knees, legs,
elbows and shoulders to the top. Her paws
on my head, eyes open, ready to beg.
She never learned how to play dead until
last week. It took fifteen years to teach her,
fifteen years of loyal love and wet licks
on my hand, as I softly stroked her fur.
Every girl’s dream come true was my Daisy,
even as she aged and became a weight
upon our shoulders, a burden to scorn,
a family member we grew to hate.
Alone I cry as Mother speaks of cysts
which invaded her body like Martians,
feeding it death as they grew in numbers,
her life chained to a grave by Lilliputians.
Daisy plays dead now like an Oscar nominee
As she lies wrapped in sheets beneath our dogwood tree.
I’ll give you a moment to recompose yourself. Take a second. Wipe the vomit off the front of your shirt. And, you, stop ROFLing all over the carpet. Nobody really ROFLs. An LOL would have been satisfactory. Have some dignity, man!
Yes, I wrote this poem about my dead dog, Daisy. I remember trying to write the darn thing about at least ten other topics like flowers and forests and unrequited love because that’s the kind of crap that sonneteers, as they were called, wrote about. But let me clue you in – these aren’t things I spend much time writing about. Really? But that seems so unlike me, right? I’m all about spending 14 lines of poetry to describe the curve of a rose petal and the sharpness of its thorns as they pierce my fingers – and metaphorically, my heart. Here, let me hand you a bucket. Keep that thing handy, would ya?
As the author of such gems as “Amputee,” “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar” (about a transgendered person involved in a standoff with the police), and “Upon Seeing Jesus Christ in the Dollar Store,” flowers and unicorns rarely find their way into my verse. Since I detested – no, loathed – all the rules and sonnet regulations, I found the only way I could get through the process with an ounce of sanity was to pen a poem about something I actually cared about. In the process, I ended up with the worst tribute in honor of a beloved pet ever written. In fact, it’s so God awful that Daisy now haunts me like Jacob Marley, weighed down by the forged steel links that the Lilliputians used to chain her to the grave. She claims that if I don’t repent my poetic sins and buy some lame dogs a turkey that they can rip apart at Christmas, I’ll die forgotten and alone. As if my sonnet hasn’t already assured that fate.
Why My Sonnet Sucks
1) It’s Bad! You read it, right? It’s just bad. Really bad. So horrendously bad that it’s the Lindsay Lohan of poetry – a train wreck so terrible that you just can’t look away from the carnage. You’ve got to re-read it again and again to reaffirm that it’s as heinous as you initially thought. Don’t do this to yourself. It doesn’t get any better and you’ll get acid-reflux from all the puking. Or rug burn if you’re one of those people doing the whole ROFL thing.
2) Abominable Descriptions and Similes:
- “our pygmy Lassie peed” – Daisy was a Sheltie. You’d think I could have used the word Sheltie and avoided the word pygmy – which makes people think of short Africans, not miniature Collies. And she peed. This may have been the inaugural usage of dog urine in a Shakespearean sonnet.
- “a doggy mannequin” – Really? This was the best I could come up with?
- The entire second octave – Could I have listed more body parts? How did I leave out breasts, collarbone and ears?
- “Alone I cry as Mother speaks of cysts which invaded her body like Martians” – You know those Martian cysts, right? They’re black, can only be destroyed by the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator, and will make you “very angry, very angry indeed.”
- “Her life chained to a grave by Lilliputians.” – What do little people who live in a fictional land have to do with this? Maybe if Daisy had been named Gulliver this would have worked. But then she would have likely had gender issues or people would have called her “Liver Lips.” You can’t put a dog through that just so you can use a word in a poem after she dies.
- “Daisy plays dead now like an Oscar nominee” – Though I’m sure that Meryl Streep can play a corpse like nobody’s business, the hard fact is that Oscar nominees don’t win awards for lying motionless on film. In most movies and television shows, extras and unknown actors play dead people. Dogs who can play dead in the movies may, in fact, deserve Oscar nominations, but the Academy does not yet recognize the contribution of canines to film.
- “As she lies wrapped in sheets beneath our dogwood tree.” – For the record, Daisy wasn’t buried beneath a dogwood tree. It just sounded ironic – or what I thought was ironic at nineteen. I don’t actually remember what kind of tree it was. The truly ironic thing is that it died too. Good dog; bad fertilizer.
3) It’s Not Really A Shakespearean Sonnet
- It has 26 lines and six quatrains – What part of ” a sonnet must have exactly 14 lines and three quatrains” did I not get? Why would I write 12 lines more than I needed to? I must be a masochist. Or maybe I was punishing my professor. You gonna make me write this crap; I’m gonna make you read a lot of it, a whole fucking lot of it. It will feel like it’s never ending, much like the Star Wars franchise. Perhaps the first three quatrains are actually the prequel for the final three quatrains. And the couplet, that was the animated version. You don’t like it; blame George Lucas.
- Use of the word “Lilliputians” put me over my syllable limit – For 23 lines, I stuck religiously to the 10 syllable rule and then I broke it so that I could use the most ridiculous word in the entire sonnet. Seriously, Lilliputians? Sounds like stooped-over, little old ladies who collect Lilly Pulitzer dresses and meet for tea on Worth Avenue.
- Final couplet has 12 syllables per line – Just couldn’t shut up, could I? Drag the agony out a little bit longer.
- My Rhyme Scheme Uses Most of the Alphabet – If you recall, the rhyme scheme should follow this format: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. My sonnet’s rhyme scheme is as follows: ABCB DCEC FGHG IJKJ LMNM OPQP RR. Now I know my ABC’s, next time write a longer sonnet so we’ll get to Z.
- I thought iambic pentameter was B.S. – To be blunt, I just didn’t even try. It was too much work, and it became clear very early on that this sonnet was a box of hardened fudge nuggets wrapped with a decorative Shakespearean ruff. Editing this monstrosity would have been a futile exercise in turd polishing.
So now that I’ve borne my soul naked and bare for you, sharing my most embarrassing writing endeavor with the world, I ask you to do the same. I would love and appreciate your comments on The World’s Worst Sonnet Ever, but I also invite you to share your worst poem – sonnet or otherwise – right here on my blog. Just post it into the comments section. Let’s make this a celebration of suckiness. Let’s make a pact to strive for mediocrity so that one day we may post The World’s Most Average Sonnet Ever.
As I await your responses, I’d like to dedicate this post to my dear friend, Evan, who loves “How Ironic.” In fact, he claims that it’s his favorite of all my poems. Of course, he eats babies for breakfast, lives in Portlandia and thinks he’s a trickster God, so what do you expect? Anyway, yesterday was his birthday. Happy Birthday, you freak!
Now let the comments and sucky poetry commence!
This weekend we buried my favorite redneck.
Many people who know me would be surprised to discover that I dearly loved someone who used to scoot across the Everglades in an air boat, not to point gators out to tourists with cameras, but to hunt them (the gators, not the tourists). Their eyebrows might shoot up to hear that I’ve seen a deer skinned and many a hog smoked. My grandfather – who was more of a Florida cracker than a redneck – gifted me with dozens of boar tails during my childhood, without even bothering to clean the congealed blood off the severed ends first. I’d wrinkle my nose, thank him, and then stick them in a drawer until our visit ended and I could dispose of them properly.
You see, I’m Southern. I’ve had kin living in one part of Florida or another for a good 150 years. I take my tea sweet and my grits cheesy. And I don’t have to be drunk for my accent to emerge. Yesterday, at my uncle’s funeral, the y’alls and fixin’ tos started creeping into my vocabulary, and my syllables began stretching out like a long country road meandering through the mountains. This is tough for a loquacious chick like myself – when surrounded by Southerners, it can take me forever just to ask for another piece of pie. My husband doesn’t know what to think about my transformation at these family get-togethers. Suddenly, he’s married to Reba McEntire, but despite this, it doesn’t make him any richer.
I’ve never been a fan of Pentecostal Southern funerals with their open-casket visitations and absence of alcohol. Having visited with Uncle Danny only a couple months before his passing, I was anxious to preserve that happy memory of him and avoid having it replaced by the image of his pale body in a gleaming steel blue box. We’d laughed and chatted that afternoon in November. He’d teased his wife, my Aunt Kay, in the way that people who’ve been married to one another for forty-five years tend to do. As my uncle had quite the sweet tooth, we’d eaten a carrot cake I’d picked up at Publix (to have attempted to bake him a cake might have brought about his death much sooner). It had been a nice day.
Visiting my Uncle Danny in his natural habitat was like visiting the Hall of Mammals at the National History Museum. He’d sit there, sprawled in his well-worn lounger surrounded by his victims: a wild boar with its tongue lolling over its teeth like a thirsty labrador; several eight and ten point bucks – the largest of which served as a hat rack for Danny’s collection of trucker caps and his solar-powered pith helmet; and an otter. Unlike the other animals, the otter was in possession of more than just it’s head and actually stood upright next to a chair, its front paws frozen in mid-air as though it should be wearing a chef’s hat and holding a chalkboard sign with the evening’s specials listed on it.
Mounted on wooden placards around the vintage 70’s paneled living room were at least eight or ten stuffed bass, their mouths gaping, gills frilled, and tails bent in final, desperate swishes. As you perched nervously on the sofa (and who wouldn’t be anxious with a dozen or more dead animals glaring at you, vengeance on their minds), each largemouth bass would watch you, unblinking, with its single, bulging eye. Every fish had a story that may or may not have been true. For my husband, whose favorite t-shirt reads “I Make Stuff Up,” my uncle was an immediate compatriot. Even though he only met him a handful of times, Matt enjoyed Danny’s stories – told in a raspy voice that tuned up into a whine as the story became less and less likely. Like everyone, my husband wasn’t always sure what to make of my uncle’s tales – were they tall or just average in height? But Uncle Danny used to say that there were only three kinds of lies:
1) Whoppers: Lies that were so outlandish that everyone knew they weren’t true. (Know how I caught that gator? I tied Junior to a fishin’ line and told him to go swimmin’ in the swamp.);
2) White Lies: The lies you told others to avoid hurting their feelings. (Nah, those cowboy boots don’t make your ass look big.); and
3) Fishing Lies: These weren’t lies at all.
As sedentary as he was in the latter months of his life (cancer sucks the life out of you…literally), Uncle Danny had always been one of those feisty, mischievous men who was quick with a joke and always up to something. Over the years, he’d operated an auto body shop, raised gopher tortoises (“Mmmm! Gopher soup is goooood,” he used to say) and, finally, ran a plant nursery with my aunt. If he wasn’t puttering around his property, puffing away on one of the cheap Grenadier cigars he stored in a box in his front shirt pocket, or eating breakfast at Granny’s Restaurant as he did every morning, then he was hunting or fishing or being a devoted friend, father and husband.
At the funeral, the pastor shared a story about my uncle that summed up the kind of man he was. There’d been a bad storm. A tree had fallen, ripping gaping holes in the roof of the church. Now, my aunt, she never missed a church service. Sunday night, Wednesday night, choir practice, Bible study – church was and is her life. Uncle Danny – not so much. He had no problem with his wife and son’s devotion to their church but, for him, that was time that could be better spent doing pretty much anything else. However, the day after the storm, the pastor and a couple other members of the church were struggling to remove tree limbs and repair the damage before the rains came again. Suddenly, a ladder banged against the roof and a man’s head rose above the roof line. As the pastor recounted, “This was a man I didn’t know.” But Uncle Danny knew all about him and, more importantly, had been informed that help was needed. So he was there.
On the surface, it may have seemed that Uncle Danny and I were very different people. He was a Tea Party Republican and I’m a bleeding-from-every-possible-orifice liberal. He shot animals with a rifle; I shoot them with my camera. Rural life felt natural to him, whereas I start to break out in hives if I can’t throw a rock and hit someone while blindfolded. He drove a pick up truck with a horn that sounded like a duck call. At least, I think it was a duck call. I mean, how would I know? I drive a hybrid. My ringtone is “So What” by Pink. Uncle Danny watched fishing shows; I watch shows about nerdy physicists who are obsessed with super heroes and video games.
But at our core, we were extraordinarily similar. Both strong-willed, religiously rebellious and prone to humor in uncomfortable situations, I’d swear we shared genes even though he was only my uncle by marriage. At the cemetery, the folding chairs meant for immediate family members were covered in a bright blue faux fur. I kept thinking that if Danny had been alive, we’d be giggling over the fact that it looked as though someone had skinned Cookie Monster and his entire family in order to cover those chairs.
Over the years, Uncle Danny was confronted by many people about everything from his hunting to the manner in which he raised his hunting dogs (outside, in a cage – they’re work animals, not pets) to whether or not he had accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. Up until the very end, this last question was the one which consumed Aunt Kay’s pastor, so much so that his entire funeral sermon focused on Danny showing up fashionably late at Heaven’s Gates, waiting until the last second to become a Christian. While he may have finally done it because he sensed his life had grown shorter than a Kardashian marriage, or to make Aunt Kay happy, I suspect it was the only way to get the pastor to talk about something else. Regardless, much was made of Uncle Danny coming late to the dance, which was a disappointment to me. Though I’m sure it pleased him that his wife and son were certain he would one day see them again in Heaven, I doubt he would have wanted the rest of the congregation to know about his personal struggles with his spirituality. I doubt he would have wanted them to know he’d caved. Because, like myself, Uncle Danny was wholly unapologetic about who he was and what he believed.
My aunt told me that Uncle Danny had wanted jokes and laughter at the funeral, but I can’t say I heard much of either. At one point, while the coffin was being lowered in his grave, I stood with my family watching solemnly. Aunt Kay and Jason embraced one another, their eyes bleary with tears. For some reason, I felt an inexplicable need to sing “Amazing Grace” in order to break the heaviness of the moment, but I didn’t. I feared that it might be one of those situations in which I started singing…and no one else did. I’d be left trailing off and then everyone would talk about the weird niece who began belting out a hymn at the graveside. You know, stealing the grave-lowering thunder. The fact that I only know the first verse of “Amazing Grace” could have also been problematic.
The most difficult part of the day for me and my husband, however, was it’s start – the open-casket visitation and the funeral. Even though I knew the body in the casket was dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt with a trucker cap resting next to his bald head, it felt as though an intruder masquerading as my uncle was in the sanctuary. I couldn’t look. From my second row seat in the “Family Section,” I could just make out a nose peeking out above the white satin and I didn’t recognize it. When I hugged my aunt and cousin at the front of the room, I averted my eyes from his body, burying my head into their shoulders and focused on squeezing all my love and sympathy into their bodies.
At the beginning of the pastor’s sermon, he mentioned Uncle Danny’s penchant for jokes. Smiling to myself, I felt the anticipation grow inside of me as I waited for the pastor to launch into a few of my uncle’s classics. But he didn’t. “I was gonna tell some of his jokes, but y’all knew him. You already know all his jokes,” he said. But at that second, I couldn’t think of a single one. I still can’t. It’s as if when he died, they went with him into that cold casket. C’mon, just one joke, I begged the pastor mentally. I was certain that one would serve as the chink in the proverbial dike and the rest would come flowing through. I never got my joke, though. Uncle Danny took that last laugh with him.
While we indulged in over-priced Peruvian fare last night, our friend, Jarrod, shared a story about his now-deceased aunt, who apparently was a member of the only Pentecostal church in Florida that doesn’t believe in Jesus. How is that possible? Pentecostals live for Jesus. They eat his body and drink his blood at communion…yet never fail to condemn a healthy interest in vampires as devil worship. To a member of a Pentecostal Christian church, Jesus is – seriously – one righteous dude. A Pentecostal who doesn’t believe in Jesus is like a Mormon who doesn’t believe in ironed shirts and holy underwear. Hello…hard to be a Christian if you don’t believe in the whole “Christ” component, right? I mean, then you’d just be a “Tian,” pronounced shun, so I suppose all you’d do is cut off contact with everyone you know and live in cave somewhere. According to Jarrod, his aunt also dabbled in the New Age movement (She’ll burn in Hell for that for sure!), so this may possibly explain her “off-the-cross” views of Christianity.
Like all good Christians or even the wacky New Age Pentecostals who don’t believe in Jesus, Jarrod’s aunt always insisted on saying grace before eating. Closing her eyes, she’d raise her hands as if she was about to speak in tongues or just “raise the roof” old school style. ” Please bless this food, Oh Holy White Man!” she would cry. Not, “Please bless this food, Oh Holy Father!” or even “Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Thanks for the Grub. Amen, God. ” Nope, his aunt stuck to the physically-descriptive and….erm, slightly racist, Holy White Man nomenclature – at every single meal. Knowing that Jesus didn’t figure into her equation, I was left pondering who exactly this Holy White Man is. Perhaps there is a Holy White Man worthy of our praise and capable of blessing our food who I’m just not aware of.
In order to examine this theory further, it must be broken up into it’s four basic components: (1) Holy, (2) White (3) Man and (4) Capable of Blessing Dinner. The first is the trickiest. As Jarrod failed to ask his aunt to transcribe her dinner blessing before she passed, we can’t confirm whether she meant that the White Man was holy, holey or wholly. However, as Jarrod’s aunt never indicated that she didn’t believe in God (just not his son), little research is necessary to determine that the most conspicuous possibility for Holy White Man is probably this guy:
Considered holy by many and having already blessed billions of meals, Uber White God fits the bill. For years, white people have envisioned the Christian God as an old white guy with white hair and a draped white gown. Are you getting the over-the-top white theme here? It’s like a P Diddy party in the Hamptons. Except for the black people. Anyway, Jarrod’s aunt may have been operating under the perception that the Christian God is white. Logic, however, tells us that this conception of God must be inaccurate. Why? Christians believe in The Bible and it states that “God created man in his own image.” As you probably know, God sent Adam scampering around a place called the Garden of Eden – which it turns out was most likely located somewhere in northern Africa or Iraq. Not Iceland or Greenland or even the Cotswolds. And, uh, back in the day, not a lot of white people in northern Africa. So if man was truly created in God’s own image, he probably had a tan. I’d go so far as to say that he likely had a wicked ass tan. A more accurate rendering of the Christian God probably looks something like this:
Concerned that there may be other worthy Holy White Men to consider, I invested a strenuous fifteen minutes or so doing some Internet research, uncovering several potential candidates. Some are beloved by many. Two have born-and-raised-in-the-Arctic white skin. You could even say that one, in particular, is as pale as a marshmallow. Two of the candidates claim to be male, but as both are a bit, ummm, husky, shall we say, and have a bit of a belly, no one has yet to confirm this fact. Still, I think we should give them the benefit of the doubt. The first has been a part of our consumer heritage since at least 1898, when a rubber and tire manufacturing company ran the following ad featuring a new mascot, O’Galop of Bibendum, the original Michelin Man:
O’Galop possessed a sun-kissed glow that I doubt Holy White Man would have, but he is male and he is holey, as tires aren’t tires without holes. Regardless, Michelin cleared up any doubt for me by revamping their mascot years later, whitening him up – even though tires are black – so that the people who could afford bicycles and, eventually, cars (yes, white people) could relate to him. By dropping the monocle, disposing of the warty Jabba the Hut hangers on, and plastering a huge, trustworthy smile on his face, the Michelin Man became a welcome character on television and in print media. After all, he’s white, he’s chubby – with rolls of fat placed conveniently to hide any threatening genitalia – and everyone knows that fat, white, tire people are jolly and won’t mug you in an alley. Children wanted to hug him, and who wouldn’t want him to bless your chicken cacciatore?
Another worthy of consideration is a fictional character, both beloved for his devilish smile and beguiling sailor suit. Like the Uber White God, however, he is also feared for his sheer size and power; his ferocious temper and willingness to destroy the world’s greatest city at a moment’s notice is the stuff of legends. And Harold Ramis films, specifically the Ghostbusters franchise. I can already hear some of you clearing your throats. “But Cristy, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, of whom I know you speak, is not holey, holy or wholly.” Au contraire. Marshmallow batter is whipped, forming small air bubbles, thus making marshmallows porous and giving them their spongy texture. In fact, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is super holey. For some, another concern may be the fact that Stay Puft was once temporarily possessed by a Sumerian god named Gozer, but let me reassure you that he reformed his ways in the animated The Real Ghostbustersseries and went on to help the Ghostbusters defeat a giant praying mantis. Every diety has his bad days – Uber White God destroyed the entire earth by flood, allowed Jonah to be swallowed by a whale, and let his son be crucified. Crushing a few buildings that were probably going to be demolished eventually by Donald Trump seems trivial by comparison, if you think about it. Of course, the final portion of the analysis is whether or not Stay Puft is capable of blessing your food. I say, “Yes!” Who better to sanctify your sweet potato casserole than the Big Marshmallow himself? There’s nothing like having your food give you express permission to eat it.
Our final contender isn’t jolly, chubby or particularly lovable. However, as previously discussed, Uber White God is not always Mr. Happy Pants either. In fact, many of the more obscure religions are based almost exclusively on the concept of fear, employing tactics like human and animal sacrifice, threats of eternal damnation in a pit of fire, and destruction of the world. I’m sure if you put your research cap on and spend two or three months in the library, you can come up with a few belief systems that practice this type of fear-mongering, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head. Regardless, this particular candidate – though a tad anti-social – is white. Pasty, really. Definitely male – though I can’t guarantee that evidence of this is still intact – and holey. In fact, he’s getting holier by the minute. And despite the fact that he isn’t very gregarious, he is extremely popular these days. Shows, films, books, figurines, comics – you name it – are devoted to him exclusively. As with some religions that have multiple gods, there are many of him. Hordes of him. But rather than overwhelm you with the thousands of depictions that exist, I’ve chosen just one:
As you can see from this photo, this zombie has clearly already blessed his own food. Now, I’m sure some of you reject the notion that a zombie could possibly be Holey White Man because he is no longer alive. He used to be a man, but now he is some manner of the undead. I ask you in response, “What makes a man?” Blood coursing through his veins or blood dripping from his mouth? Neither the Michelin Man or Stay Puft have a heart, a digestive system, a brain or a penis (that we can see, anyway). I’m pretty certain Uber White God doesn’t have a belly button and I’ve never seen beneath that loose gown he wears, so I’m taking him on his word that he’s a man, period. Technically, of all the candidates, this zombie is the only one who was a man in the true, earthly sense. Granted, it looks like it’s been a few weeks since he took a breath (or brushed his teeth), but if he can avoid large artillery or an axe to the head, he’s basically immortal, an important quality in any deity. His power isn’t in question. If zombies were so easily destroyed, no one would be writing books about how to protect yourself in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Brad Pitt would be starring in another boring moving about whatever he makes movies about instead of World War Z. Whether or not you’d ask a zombie to bless your food is a moot point in my book. I mean, if you could keep him at bay long enough, you might. Lord knows, he enjoys his food. Why wouldn’t he want you to enjoy yours?
We may never know the identity of Holy or Holey or Wholly White Man, but I suspect he’d be comfortable if, in the name of not being racist as hell, we just call him Holy, Holey or Wholly Man. Wait, maybe Jarrod’s aunt meant Ho Lee White Man. But only a Chinaman would be named Ho Lee. Nope. I don’t think so.
(If this post pissed you off and you are about to send me a hate-filled comment, please don’t. This is satire. I am not a racist. Jarrod’s aunt may have been as she was real and truly did pray to The Holy White Man. She may have also just been a kook. Regardless, I’m in a bi-racial marriage, and I’ve also known many very nice Chinamen over the years, all of whom were excellent at math. That was also satire. Catching on yet? Don’t worry, you will.)
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.