Category Archives: etiquette

Why My Mother Wins

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Why My Mother Wins

If you’re like me and let’s all bow our heads and pray you aren’t, your mother engrained certain behavior, preferences and prejudices into your supple, young psyche—two adjectives which describe nothing about me at this point in time.

I’m not talking about manners as your family saw them, because, aside from please and thank you and stop hitting your brother even though he started it, most manners are created by societal guy named Norm.

Family dynamics rule the day when it comes to customs and regulations in every household. My mother, for instance, considered using the word “Pop” the Midwestern term for soft drinks, instead of the vastly superior term “soda” to be déclassé and forbade us to use the noxious term. My mother had grown up in Pennsylvania where the term soda is the preference. The trouble is, we grew up in Chicago where I the word pop on the streets.

I went along with my mother because, when we’re living in a closed environment, we figure our parents know what’s up, given the amount of time they’ve spent on earth compared to you, as a child who sprung from the parental loins.  Yes, I found that term slightly nauseating as well and will forbid my son to use it in the future.

When we’re about 12, we realize parental superiority is nonsense and that we, at 12 measly years-old, know everything important that needs to be known and consider our former concept of normal to be —how to be diplomatic?—A steaming ball of crazy, a conception which usually vaporizes at about 21-years-old, but, in my case, is right on.

For instance, my mother and her mother called green peppers mangos throughout my childhood.  I don’t remember when I realized this was wrong, probably when I learned to read the sign over the peppers at Jewel which clearly stated “Not Mangoes”.

But, I digress and return to my original premise which is; my mother is more peculiar than your mother and I can prove it.

When I was a child and my mother monitored my bathroom habits, she felt the need to create words other than poo-poo or pee-pee, et.Al. for feces and urine because, in her eyes, what our body considered waste, my mother considered rude to talk about, even during potty training, which, in the real world, necessitates discussion when you’re two.  (I probably didn’t need all those commas, but I have nowhere else to put them, so I’ll just leave them there for now.)

So, the words my mother created, much like mangos for green peppers, had a definition outside of the context used by the majority of society.  (Did you get my societal norm joke yet?) When I came out of the bathroom, my mother asked me if I had wet or done something special.

I know what you’re thinking, talk about creating a sense of accomplishment far beyond what is necessary, did she also keep little trophies in the cabinets which were bestowed upon you for breathing and sleeping?

Nope. My mother was neither touchy nor feely. My mother was and is a no nonsense woman, unless you call referring to green peppers as mangos nonsensical, and why wouldn’t you?

Still, while I was young and impressionable the phrase “something special” meant what the rest of the world called poop, nonsensical or not

So what? I’ll tell you so what. Some time ago, a major religious figure died in Chicago. I am not a practitioner of his faith, but this is Chicago, so Catholic news leads, even ahead of cat videos.

I was half watching and half updating my Facebook page in a way that would make me appear more normal than I am, when I fell into peels of laughter, proving my quest for the norm was unsuccessful.  Why? A priest was discussing his last conversation with the soon-to-be-late religious figure just before the fellow, who usually wore a decorative hat, found out if God is what he expected or is, instead an angry woman with a celestial rolling pin.

At that dramatic point in time, according to the non-hat-wearing religious figure, the dying leader requested that the aforementioned priest, do something special for him.  Get it?  It was hilarious!

I laughed so hard that crossing my legs became a necessity and my husband demanded an explanation which consisted of him glancing at me, raising his eyebrows and going back to what he was doing because me amusing myself is not an unusual occurrence in his life, and my explanations never seem to justify my level of my mirth…to him.  My son gets the same treatment.  We’ve contacted Amnesty International and we thought they’d be more sympathetic as they laughed as well, but nothing has come of it.

I live in fear of sitting through a eulogy where the speaker makes a comment such as “Hubert brought a little something special into every home he visited.”  I’ve also shamed myself when servers have told me they have something special on the menu.  Even Oprah would send me into peels of laughter when she announced the show was sponsored by a certain airline whose slogan was, “Something special in the air,”.  That probably should be Dave Matthews slogan as well.

Now, I’m making a pretty big assumption when it comes to family weirdness and I’d love to hear your stories as well, I’m sure you all have something special to share or maybe you don’t. Maybe your family is the one and only normal family in the land.  In any case, until you are further notified, my mother wins.

Having said all of this, I want to apologize for the included sentiment at the top of the page.  It is an example of why my life is more difficult than yours and not representative of feelings about you, my valued readers, or reader, as is often the case..  You’re not something special. You’re welcome.

Why You Should Shut Up and Why I Already Have

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Why You Should Shut Up and Why I Already Have

The act of being alive affords many questions which will, if history is any indicator, never be adequately answered. Questions like: Why are we here? (on earth, not the Internet. We’re on the Internet because there’s nothing on TV. The End.) What is the meaning of life? (and I’m not talking about the Monty Python movie) and why do so many people fail to understand that Cilantro tastes like feet?

shut-up

All of the preceding questions will, no doubt, plague the thoughtful denizens of humanity until Kansas is the last ocean front property or until we run out of Oreo’s, whichever comes first, but as far as I’m concerned, there is one question that supersedes the others, one question that is so deeply mysterious that no amount or quality of think tanks will ever be able to even crack the surface of this mystery inside an enigma. And that question is: What the hell is Gwyneth Paltrow thinking?

I kid, of course. The real mystery of the ages is why do people go to musical performances to have conversations? Have they not heard of restaurants or even living rooms or cars?

Since every written question is rhetorical, by virtue of the lack of human give and take, known as conversations, I will answer for all of you who do not talk at performances. No, they have not heard of these places, nor have they heard of peaceful lakesides, or church where apparently talking is now considered in vogue and-spoiler alert!-the topic of a future rant.

Maybe talkers, (who will be heretofore referred to as Yapsters) think people wander off of the street, decide to become musicians and begin to make a pleasing sound (unless they’re Yoko Ono) with no forethought or sense of accomplishment, when, in fact, they start picking out tunes on the piano as toddlers, tenderly banging their fists against the ivories looking for that next new sound, which will most likely be closer to the cry of raccoons in heat than Gershwin and notice how I didn’t reference Yoko.

For the next ten years, aspiring musicians will be forced to attend lessons, ignoring the pleading teachers and parents who warn said children, if they don’t become rock stars they will have no way of earning a living. (At least that’s what I told my kid.)

Finally, after many student musicians who aren’t meant for the stage have drifted off to concentrate on their acne, those who remain will realize that musical instruments attract members of the opposite sex (or same, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Trademark: Jerry Seinfeld,) and will pour their hearts and souls into learning to play, sing and move around the stage without tripping or looking like Joe Cocker (unless you’re Joe Cocker, in which case, have you taken your medicine?), finally rising from their basements and garages to take the stage in some dingy bar or coffee-house, throw back their heads and let their dreams spew out (this is only for metal heads and those band members who accept every drink bought for them,) only to find that the majority of patrons have attended, not to hear the artfulness of the performers musical expression, but because they’ve left their home in order to start a thousand sentences with the word, “Dude.”

This isn’t only the case with rockers or folk singers, but Barbershop quartets and opera singers, although those at the opera start conversations not with “Dude” but “My Good Man”. In any and all cases, Yapsters not only feel free to gab, chat and generally exhort one another, much to the dismay and/or indignant fury of those who left the house in order to hear the wonder of a human being with the ability to use the same 8 notes (except, once again for Yoko, who has apparently discovered her own musical tools, hitherto unheard by man nor beast) to make a myriad of melodies with instruments and vocal performances, that are so pleasing to the ear as to soothe the savage breast. (Yes, its breast. You have the quote wrong and, once again, the soothing part doesn’t apply to Ms. Ono, bless her heart.)

These talents, and I’ll give you that the word “talent” can be used very loosely in some cases, are everyday occurrences to Yapsters. After all, music plays while they ride in elevators, shop in malls and watch Honey Boo Boo, so what’s the big deal, seems to be the “thinking”. The world owes them a soundtrack and they have no sense of reciprocity. So I will explain this in a patient and respectful way, so that, once and all Yapsters will understand. (They won’t, but since I’m here…)

Here’s the deal: Shut the hell up. When you’re in the elevator, shut the hell up. When you’re watching TV, even if it’s something so f!@#cked up that somewhere Shakespeare is weeping into his hands, shut up! Give yourself the chance to intake rather than output from time to time, or at least at the local bandshell when groups of bent old men, who look as if they’re concealing backpacks by wearing them under the fronts of their shirts and have been practicing for a year for this night where they can achieve warm applause for singing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” mostly on key in three and 3/4 part harmony.

Shut up at orchestral presentations and piano recitals. Shut up for the ballet and the young man who only knows three chords but is trying his best on open mic night. Shut up for Yoko. You heard me. You knew what you were getting into when you came so shut up and take it.

And while I’m at it, and this is for your own good, shut up for Stand Up Comics because they make a living with their mind and they will not fail to use it against you in the most tortuous way. Think Braveheart but painful.

Make your kids shut up at the movies. When they ask why they have to be quiet when all the other kids are yapping, explaining that the parents of the other kids are Yapsters and Yapsters are the only group it’s ok to throw things at, then proceed to demonstrate this.

Shut Up! Be Quiet! Pipe Down! Zip your Lip! Shut your Pie Hole! Or Your Cake Hole (Your preference) Dummy up, Dummy!

Pretend you don’t have anything earth-shattering to share (and you don’t. Let’s just face facts), until the lights go up and the applause goes down and then you can alienate your friends and family with your constant chatter on a one-on-one basis which is how nature intended, where face to face, we can all contemplate the age-old questions, such as Why Are We Here?

Answer: Because no one publishes my blog posts so you have to be here in order read them. Next question? Ask me when the show’s over.

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