Category Archives: self-image

From the Not-So-Secret, Not-So-Closely Guarded BOY’S Manual.


Burt Reynolds cover of Playgirl magazineThere’s an old joke that goes:

Why are fewer copies of Playgirl sold than of Playboy?”

Why?”

Because all a girl* has to do to see a MAN naked is ASK.”

SO true.

Sometimes, a girl has to finagle NOT to see the poor shmoe naked, as in:

  • Shaking hands at the door of a date that HE thought went a LOT better than it did…
  • The more merciful: Offering a cheek for the kiss, instead of the handshake…
  • The less merciful:I’m sorry, I’m busy Thursday. Yes, Friday, too. All weekend. Why don’t I let you know?
  • The downright cruel:I don’t THINK so. Thanks, though.” Slam. And, if the door is thin enough, the aforementioned shmoe might even hear the snickering.

The difference between men and women? (Well, ONE of the many?)

While he may mourn for a few days when she doesn’t call, he will NOT, as women will, agonize over WHY she did not call, because he ALREADY KNOWS.

He’s done it himself, in all likelihood.

Most boys have.

“I’ll call you.”

The three nicest – or the three most suspicious – and, too often, the three most horrendously echoing words ever heard pinballing in a waiting person’s mind, ever to fall from a careless mouth.

(This is not counting “I love you,” which is a whole other essay of “he said/she said” unto itself.)

cell phone number padHe says: “I’ll call you.

She hears: “I’ll call you.

He means one of three possibilities.

Possibility Number One:

He means:

Whoa Nelly, You Are The One, in which case. I don’t want to fuck it up by calling you too soon.”

She waits. Thinking mistakenly they are speaking the same language, which you will see they are not.

Possibility Number Two:

He means:

It was OK. Maybe I WILL give her a call sometime. Unless, maybe, tonight’s night works out pretty cool. I dunno. Hey – is that a roast beef hero?

She waits.

Possibility Number Three:

Hey, DUDE, what ELSE was I supposed to say? I WASN’T going to call?”

She waits.

And waits.

What women don’t understand is this:

WHEN MEN DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY,

OR,

WHEN MEN HAVE SOMETHING THEY’RE AFRAID MIGHT MAKE THEM OR SOMEONE FEMALE UNCOMFORTABLE OR (YIKES) UNHAPPY —

OR,

THE TERRIBLE POSSIBILITY EXISTS THAT TEARS MAY SPROUT FROM LUSHLY MASCARA’D EYES…

Something paralyzes their vocal chords more effectively than any cobra strike or sneaky pygmy blow dart.

Men shut down completely.

They practice avoidance. They become as unreachable as an Arctic research base. They return calls and/or texts as frequently as a sports agent.

Girls: take the not-so-subtle hint.

Cut your losses.

Move on.

Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men"This is, in Boy-Talk, their (yes, cowardly) way of saying: “I can’t HANDLE the truth.”

Even if it was going GREAT?

For some reason, it’s not going great anymore, and unless you’re prepared to start breaking several of the stalker laws in these United States, snag yourself a possible restraining order and even, perhaps, an arrest?

Fuck it.

He’s not worth it. No one is.

Move on to someone in whom you trigger the feelings outlined in Possibility Number One.

Even if you don’t feel the same? It’s good for your ego, at least temporarily.

Just don’t forget the MOVING ON part. Remember it’s HIS cowardice, and society’s hundreds of years of hammering into male heads that they MUST NEVER DEAL with feelings against you, NOT your own self-worth, that silenced your cell.

THAT last bit of cheering-up is in The Secret, Closely-Guarded Girl Manual, remember: It’s not YOU, it’s HIM. So you KNOW it’s true.

* Men and women are referred to here as “boys” and “girls” deliberately – because when it comes to relationships, we ALL turn into teenagers.

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You just don’t think of principals as black.


You know, the same way you just don’t think of women as your boss, or Asians as doing much besides pulling rickshaws, or Mexicans as anything but fruit-pickers or housecleaners. YOU know. Isn’t everyone who COUNTS… just like me?

Sigh. And here we all were, thinking it was 2010, not 1910.

movie poster, original 1975 Stepford WivesMy daughters have been complaining about school here in Stepford.

Not the daily four hours of homework, although that has certainly put a damper on our typical wandering around, exploring the world, talking-to-strangers kind of things my two daughters and I tend to do.

Not the quantum leap in difficulty this new California school has presented them with, loading them with academics far beyond what they were accustomed to in New York, a few months previous. They’re fairly smart kids. They pick up things fast, and besides, we’ve always done something I now know has a name: “afterschooling.”

While my two sisters “homeschool,” a tradition that sends a frisson of horror down my spine, for so many, many reasons, I instead send my kids tottering off to public schools. In this way, no matter what they learn (or don’t learn), they at least get a taste of real life – as in: showing up every day; dealing with other humans your age and thereabouts who range from the mind-staggeringly stupid to the much-smarter-than-you-are; and teachers (much like the bosses to whom they will someday report), who also range from the mind-staggeringly stupid to the much-smarter-than-you-are – only the proportions are different, and I’ll refrain from giving my personal opinions here.

<Insert extremely loud throat-clearing>

So public school has its place. I was always sort of against private school, because of its exclusivity. It sort of – well, it TOTALLY went against the whole reason I sent my kids out in the world to begin with – private school creates an imaginary oasis of cookie-cutter sameness.

Play-Doh Fun FactoryIt’s sort of like a school-shaped version of that Play-Doh® toy, where you shove in the neon-colored goo, push down the lever with one hand, get your little plastic knife ready in the other, and squirt out slice after slice of the same brightly-colored shape.

Perfect, if you want to create a bunch of automatons in Izod® polo shirts, marching in lockstep into mortgage brokerages to buy McMansions in (sometimes, for variety) gated communities, razing more and more of the landscape in the furtherance of making every place, everywhere, look exactly like the same three or four house plans – all of which boast half-circle windows.

half-circle windows(Ever notice? What IS it with the damn half-circle windows, anyway?)

Everything the same. Like, you know, milk. The same four blonde popular girls. The same one ethnic kid. Maybe Indian. Maybe Asian. Maaaybe black. Maybe.

If the school is lucky, that kid has siblings, and then they have more than ONE token.

Otherwise, the school is all-white, all-perfect, all-C+ or better.

The athletics department is better funded than the arts, of course, because heavens, who wants Jack or Brittany to grow up to be an ACTOR, my GOD…

In the New York area where we came from, in our old, historic neighborhood, the Board of Education redistricted the neighborhoods in a labyrinth that looks like suspiciously like scribbles on the city map. The effort was to get the poorer kids out of the oldest schools – the ones with the crack pipes in the playgrounds – and into the better, bigger, newer schools where my kids attended.

It worked. In fact, it worked so well that my kids, who look as white as snow, despite their mixed heritage (their paternal grandfather was half-black, and their maternal great-grandmother was Jewish) were actually in the minority.

Mocking Shane DawsonTherefore, my oldest daughter can speak ghetto better than YouTube’s Shane Dawson, and can swear in Puerto Rican almost better than I can. In fact, if I were to record her voice and play it for you here, you would never in a million years believe she was white.

So when one of her classmates in her new, nearly all-white, affluent, sunny California, blonde, blue-eyed school, made the following comment, you can just imagine.

School chum: (as if divulging information like: “you know, the principal is secretly a man”) “You know, three years ago, we actually had a BLACK principal.”

Daughter: (as if hearing “the principal is a principal.”) “So?”

School chum: (with a “duh” tone in her voice) “Well! You just don’t imagine a principal as being BLACK, that’s all.”

Daughter: (too dumbfounded to speak.)

My kids love the stories Rudyard Kipling wrote: Rikki Tikki Tavi, The Jungle Book – but the one story I’ve yet to tell them is the one fairy tale Kipling himself bought into: the one of “the white man’s burden.” You know: the burden of the so-called civilized, “enlightened” white man to bring his own bullshit down, nice and hard, with weaponry, when necessary – onto aboriginal and indigenous peoples.

The sort of nice way of rationalizing the British Empire’s habit of wandering around the globe, stumbling upon some grassy spot, and planting the Union Jack flag, and claiming it for King and country. THEIR country, that is.

Um,” native peoples would – at first – politely protest, from their existing dwellings. “Have you lot happened to have noticed that we’re already peacefully, happily living here? That we’ve even named our country, have our own laws, government, etc? You Brits wouldn’t mind shoving off, now, would you?”

“Sorry, chaps, can’t do that. White man’s burden, you know. You don’t know it, what with all your extra leisure time, your happy life, your low impact on your environment, and all that, but you aren’t like us, and you need to be.

Er,” responded aforementioned natives, growing a bit irritable. “Says who?”

Well, says us British invaders,” would proudly proclaim the British invaders.

Natives, now thoroughly vexed, would hold up spears, or what have you, and repeat: “All right, then, that’s quite enough of that. You’ve worn out your welcome, now: shove off. We really don’t give a donkey’s behind what you say.”

At which point, yon British invaders would smile – sort of creepily – stick out their shiny red-coated chests with the bright gold buttons, and hold up their superior weaponry, like muskets and cannons. “What does your donkey’s behind think about what our gunpowder has to say, mate?”

At which point, most natives got blown to smithereens, or assimilated, rather like Star Trek’s The Borg Collective, a hive mind nemesis whose slogan was “Resistance is Futile. We are the Borg. You will be assimilated.” Borg victims were then basically turned into mostly cyborg, emotionless organisms whose minds would join the single mind of THE Borg, whose aim it was to crush out the individuality of the entire rest of the universe, etc.

History, obviously, duh, repeats itself.

Sorta Borg. Sorta Stepford, if you think about it. (Does anyone, actually, think about it, except for me?)

There’s this thing about history: if you don’t learn from it, you’re kinda doomed to repeat it. I KNOW this, because I’M not the one who came UP with that saying. So SOMEONE must be thinking about this stuff. Why isn’t it working?

Welcome to sunny Northern California. It’s not exactly golden here. It IS very very nice. But the color is more of a very, very …. white. Not a vanilla white, really – sort of a Stepford white.

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La La La La Lasik…


Mr. Magoo

I don’t know how many people out there recall the lovable Saturday-morning cartoon gentleman Mr. Magoo, but for those of you not as addicted to YouTube YouTube as I am, his gimmick is that he’s blind as a bat.

(For those of you who’d LIKE to get to know the old codger better, here he is in an old black-and-white beer commercial. You know, back in the good old days when kids’ cartoon characters were deemed perfectly suitable for, you know, beer.)

ANYWAY: While navigating some really ridiculously stupid outdoor steps the other day – put together, I swear, by someone who REALLY either wants a lawsuit, or wants NO visitors, ever – they’re unlit, and all different sizes – it’s like they’re booby-trapped or something – my oldest daughter runs up to me, as I’m slowly navigating down the perilous path.

What are you doing?” I say, a little irritably, as she gently takes my elbow, as if I’m elderly or something, and she’s helping me across the street.

Er, well, I dunno,” she says, non-plussed. “You ARE a little hard of seeing, you know.

Hard of seeing. Hmm.

Never quite thought of it that way.

I’m Ms. Magoo.

Elizabeth Williams Bushey with multiple=That’s when I thought to myself – not for the first time – or the hundredth – or the hundredth thousandth – wouldn’t it be nice to actually SEE out these eyes of mine?

Not just CONTACTS, which are a drag, really, sticking your finger in your eye, and not being able to fall asleep on the couch watching television, or reading a book in bed. Do that, and wake up with holes in your cornea, or at the very least, your eyes stuck shut.

But rather, really open up your eyes and SEE, when the dawn breaks, you throw off the blankets and stretch into the day.

I’ve never experienced that feeling.

You know: waking up and being able to actually SEE past my hand. Or even actually SEEING my hand. Clearly, I mean. I wonder what that would be like?

Maybe I need that LASIK surgery.

screen shot from Six Million Dollar Man: bionic eyeYou know: the one where they actually slice up your eyeballs? Make them better, stronger, etc? (Insert intro from 1970s hit TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man)

I used to be afraid of it – and I used to be right – because the whole trick of it was to find a doc with experience, otherwise you could end up worse off than you started.

But all the way in California (of course, now that I’m here in California, wouldn’t you know?) I just heard about some docs in New York who are pretty darn skippy good at it. At the Stahl Eye Center, with locations in Manhattan and Long Island, N.Y., they have doctors are graduates from top universities such as UCLA, John Hopkins and Yale. Their 35-year record is pretty good, too: they meet or exceed the norm for the surgery – and it’s independently verified, which is cool.

And, being in quite enough pain, thank you, having been literally run over by a truck on November 28, it’s nice to know the procedure is (a) virtually painless, and (b) the recovery is in a couple of hours, with most patients seeing clearly in a day or so.

Makes a girl want to fly back east, is what it does.

SEE what I mean?

(Little joke there. Very little.)

Because it’s not about vanity.

It’s about booby-trapped stairs, and independence, and not having to worry about losing glasses, and most of all? Not having to worry about worrying daughters.

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He wishes I were his ninja girlfriend.


Ah. If only I were available; and if only he were HIM, which he’s not, since HE is not HERE, and HE … well, that’s another blog post, and frankly, none of your beeswax, anyway.

Still. It was nice – I think – being called a ninja.

Considering when I met him, I was shouting: “You suck!” at him.

I had an excuse. The house in which I live here in California is a virtual palace: in addition to all the black leather furniture, the stone floors, the decks festooning every outdoor wall, and the pool house – which houses, ha-ha, not only an in-ground pool and Jacuzzi, but also a pool table – AND an arcade, an air hockey table, a fuzball table, and other fun-fun-fun activities…

… but also the crappiest television service I’ve ever endured.

This would NOT be so terrible if I did not have two daughters, 13, and 10, who live with me in tranquil nowhere, and when they are bored, expecting me to be “Julie McCoy, their cruise director,” because apparently horses to ride, miniature horses to visit, three and half-acres (with a pond) to stroll around on, and the aforementioned Pool House of Joy are not QUITE as entertaining as, say, iCarly, or SpongeBob.

So there were actually two gentlemen – and gentlemen they were, indeed, to suffer such abuse at the hands of a tiny, leather-clad loudmouth, when all they really did was politely inquire:

“Excuse me: may we ask what service you use for your TV?”

Which triggered extreme wrath indeed, and the following blast, when I spotted their spiffy little “DirectTV” shirts.

“I have DirectTV, and you SUCK,” I said.

Loudly.

Maybe, kinda, too loudly.

To their credit, they were shocked and dismayed, instead of outraged and defensive, which, also frankly, (apparently Today’s Word Of The Day) would have been MY reaction.

The tall, blonde DirectTV guy, about six feet, six inches tall – putting him at about a foot and a half taller than myself,  bent slightly over me apologetically, with a dash of defensiveness.

“Well,” he said, “all you had to do was call 1-800-DIRECTTV.”

Still enraged, I stared back, eye to, well, chest. “How would I KNOW that? Is it on the screen, at night, when it would be a smart time to LET me know? When I might be inclined to order? Like I said. You SUCK.”

His babyface fell.  “You can call them right NOW,” Blonde Jock suggested helpfully.

“YOU call,” I dared him, crossing my arms over my chest.

Charmingly, he took my dare.

“I will,” he said, pulling out his flip phone.

And he DID.

(Later, the ex-footballer confessed, after we became Lifelong Friends For Five Minutes, he’d always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance. “Good choice,” I advised him, “You’ll get laid for the rest of your life.”)

Between the two of them, we got my service upgraded to the next level, easily and quickly. The only potential glitch was the customer service phone rep was Southern, and started out a little brusque, but that was easily dispatched when I laid on the Georgia sugar: that is, calling him “sir” (he was obviously older than I was) and deliberately mentioning my other home in Rocky Plains.

Amazing how things go smoother south of the Mason-Dixon line when you’re “from around there.”

It WAS funny watching the DirectTV Duo listen to me switch up accents quicker – and way better – than Angelina Jolie or Meryl Streep.

By now, we were all great friends; I’d pulled out my iPhone with the graffiti cover for admiration, as well as my ever-present Leatherman, for further admiration. (Blonde Jock is planning to get the iPhone soon, as was intrigued with my mirrored privacy cover.)

And, of course, anyone with a penis is always intrigued by a genuine Leatherman.

(If you don’t know what the Leatherman tool is, http://www.leatherman.com/)

ANYWAY…

After show and tell, the conversation turned to the fact I’d just been run over by a truck, which was true.

“So, you’re like, a ninja,” said one of them, in an impressed whisper.

Ninja? Aren’t ALL moms?

“I wish you were MY girlfriend,” he said, in a sort of awestruck tone. “Or that you could train my NEXT girlfriend.”

Thinking this would be a good time for me to mount my white steed Silver and “Hi-Ho” off into the sunset, since any time any conversation veers even remotely into the territory of “can I have your number?” or “girlfriend” or even “what’s your name?” I tend to get a bit skittish, I laughed and said there was fudge calling me at the front of the store (which indeed there was) and waved good-bye – where, in fact, the sistah selling the chocolate pound of wonder and delight even walked me to the very front of the line. How cool is that?

Ninja?

Nah. Just a woman, following the Secret, Closely-Guarded Girl Manual.

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Thou Shalt Kill, But Not Cuss


Hello, my name is Elizabeth“Jesus Christ is a name, not a swear word.”

This fat-stacked headline was red-lettered boldly on the back of the semi that I cannot help but assume was trying to introduce me to the aforementioned Christ Himself in person, by way of steamrolling my puny convertible to smithereens as I was being forced onto the California Freeway last week.

Perhaps the publicly reproachful driver felt, as he muttered words of encouragement to himself, foiled in his efforts to separate my soul from my body, that perhaps I was a pro-choice supporter, and he could feel sure that another in The Crusade might tag me later – and I’d plummet downward, instead.

Jesus! That was close!” I said to my beautiful assistant, Lacey, my passenger.

Although the driver could not hear – he was, by then, far ahead of me, blowing the doors off California’s law against truckers driving faster than 55 mph – it DID give me some satisfaction to say it.

The trucker DOES make a point, however, that I’ll wager he himself is too ignorant to know he’s making.

Words – particularly names – have enormous power.

Take my own. You might as well. There are an awful lot of Elizabeths out there.

So many, in fact, Elizabeth Stone wrote a Lives column in the New York Times Magazine about an online gathering of Elizabeths in May, 1999 – an article which obviously caught my eye – and I, obviously not being shy, wrote the New York Times to tell them, and they, obviously tickled by my response, even published it.*

[READ THE LETTER AT THE END OF THIS POST.]

(So: on my tombstone, or in my obituary, someone PLEASE mention that I was at least ONE time published in The Grey Lady?** Thank you. Much obliged.)

To carry on:

Unlike the many Liz, Lizzie, Bess, Libby, Bitsy, Bette, Betsy (the Elizabeth who birthed me is one), Belle, Beth, Bettina, Eliza, Lisa, Liza, Tibby, and the list goes on ad infinitum, I myself prefer: “Elizabeth,” the anglicized form of the original Hebrew name “Elisheva,” meaning “my G-d is an oath.”

What “my G-d is an oath” means, though, I’m not sure.

People, when I introduce myself, nearly always try to be kind of smooth, and say: “So… do you go by ‘Elizabeth,’ or…” Then they trail off, sort of expecting me to fill in one of the above nicknames.

(Sometimes, though, they just insert the horrid “Liz.” Which is not horrid, of course, on some people. Just horrid on ME.)

Which means I have to jump in quickly with: “Yes, ‘Elizabeth.’ It’s a few more syllables, but I’m worth it.”

(Actually? My good friends, and even my oldest daughter, call me “Tish,” a nickname I got dubbed with by someone whom I love with all my heart – but that’s another story.)

I’d often heard rumors that medics, in efforts to revive someone, will call their name, but I’d dismissed it until I’d reluctantly found myself headed to the Emergency Room with yet ANOTHER concussion (I’ve been told that if I were a pro athlete, I’d be forced into retirement.)

Promptly, and to the extreme embarrassment of everyone – except, of course, me – I dropped like a stone, right at the nurses’ check-in station, galvanizing everyone into action.

Although I recall little of the actual dive downward, I DO remember two things:

A sharp pain in my chest where a cruel nurse helpfully twisted my skin sharply to revive me – which, although it certainly focused my attention, even THAT didn’t pull me out of the fog I was in – until I heard the nurse ask one of my kids: “What’s her name?”

Naturally, in standard kid-fashion, I heard the kids go: “What?”

As if the nurse has asked instead:

“What is the cosine derivative of x minus the square root of pi?”

“Her NAME,” the nurse asked again. “What is her NAME?”

“Oh,” they said. “Elizabeth.”

In their defense, I think they had to stop for a moment and remember my name isn’t actually MOM.

When the nurse started barking “Elizabeth! Elizabeth!” in that demanding sort of way, it really DID pull me back. Sort of the same way your own grownups do when you’re a kid and you get the call from your bed: “Get up! The bus will be here any minute.”

Calling my name brought me back from Neverland in the oddest sort of way that confirmed the rumor: it turned out to be a sort of Dr. Jekyll experiment on my own self that left me with a “Dang! It’s TRUE!” feeling, wondering what ELSE I’d heard that might ALSO be true.

Jesus Christ! There’s a whole world of weirdness out there to discover!

Hopefully, though, I won’t have to get concussed or run over to find them all out.

# # #

* Where Everybody Knew My Name

Published: Sunday, May 30, 1999

Elizabeth Stone’s Lives column (May 9) on the on-line gathering of Elizabeths reflected perfectly the trend for small groups to coalesce on the Internet based on hobbies, interests or random commonalities like names. The Internet, vast as it is, seems to spark a small-town quilting-bee longing in many users.

Of course, there was another reason Stone’s column caught my attention. I’m also an Elizabeth. Maybe I’ll send her an E-mail.

Elizabeth Bushey
Middletown, N.Y.

** “The Grey Lady” is the nickname journalists have for the prestigious, much-revered New York Times.

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French Kiss First, Introductions Later.


Welcome to California.

golden_gate_bridge

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

If all your contact with the outside world is mass media, or, say, you’re an alien from space, seeking information about earth, and your research dart on the globe hit the USA, and you began, sensibly enough, with mass media –you would surely presume the only places IN America were…

New York, and California.

Because EVERYTHING on television, in movies, etc., is located in: you guessed it. NY or CA.

Naturally, when the opportunity flung itself like a blob of goo to head west with my two daughters to the flipside of mainland America, I figured: hmm? Why not see life as the extraterrestrials – I mean, Californians – do?

I kid, I KID.

Actually, this time I DO kid, because if you happen to be reading this…

WAIT.

Don’t you just HATE when writers write: “If you happen to be reading this?

Talk about “author intrusion,”* which, of course, I’m doing now in a MAJOR way, but for some reason, I am egomaniacal enough – or feel strongly enough about this point – to have the nerve to think I can get away with it.

Duh. Of COURSE you happen to be reading this; if you WEREN’T reading this, you wouldn’t be READING this: the author’s SENTENCE that says, so very stupidly, “if you happen to be reading this.”

Why THANK you, Captain OBVIOUS.

(How do you spell “AAUGHHH?”)

I can’t STAND it when people don’t give other people the credit for the most BASIC intelligence. Or when they refuse to exhibit the most basic intelligence of their own, and simply swallow and regurgitate clichés.

Sorry. That’s just not thinking “out of the box.”

(That’s a joke. I am SO hoping you all got that….)

::-::-::

Anyway, tirade over, now that I’ve “intruded,” my job as a writer now is to suck you so hard back into the work that you forget about me again. So: forget me, move on without me, save yourselves….

To get back to Californians: if you’ve been wondering where all the nice people in the world have gone; if you’ve lost your faith in humanity, you’ve been betrayed, you can’t seem to find a kind soul in a cold-hearted world, no matter where you look…

<can you hear the swelling orchestral strings…?>

Get your ass to northern California.

InvaderZimWthoutStripesSomeone, I don’t know who – Invader Zim?

…has scooped them all up in a giant net and deposited them HERE.

Of course, the New Yorker in me wants to warn you: I’ve only been here a few weeks, so they COULD be putting on an devastatingly good show (California, Hollywood, Oscar…), and I SHOULD keep checking my back for knives…

But honestly, if these folks aren’t genuinely nice, then I’ve landed where Ira Levin got his idea for The Stepford Wives, because everybody – and I do mean everybody – walks around with a light step, a friendly smile, and an open outlook.

This is either the Cosmic Galactic Nexus of Benevolence, or these folks are gobsmackingly realistic test robots for Disneyland’s newest animatronic attraction.

They’re cheerful and concerned for others in a state with a bigger unemployment problem and more housing foreclosures than New York.

And, unlike New York – and particularly unlike, say…oooh, I dunno, GEORGIA, they are warm and inviting to strangers. Even strangers who come from scary and disreputable places like New York. No one here has prejudged us at all.

oscar-wilde-ph

Oscar Wilde

(At least not to our faces, where it counts. As far as I’m concerned, I’m with Oscar Wilde. Let people say whatever they want behind my back; I’ll worry when they STOP talking.)

These folks are even charming and positive in an area located less than – well, my guess would be, less then twelve inches from the Sun.

I can’t seem to figure it out. We aren’t any closer to the equator (although maybe we’re WAYYYY higher. As in, we’re astronauts. Californunauts.)

When they say “sunny California,” they aren’t just whistling Dixie.

(Side note: having made a side trip on the way to visit family in Rocky Plains, Georgia, I know what I’m talking about when I say “Dixie,” too.)

The sun is so strong here I carry a bottle of water around with me nearly everywhere I go, wishing I could haul a tank around, like someone on oxygen. I never realized what a deliciously humid state New York actually was.

oldwomanSomeone PLEASE let me know what moisturizing cream I need. I’m going to look about 45 years old in about 45 minutes. In another 45, I’ll look 90. As it is, the jar that used to last me six months is half gone.

In fact, Californians are SO friendly, that in a recent trip to a music store (I was rescuing a guitar I’d discovered that had been criminally abused) I got to joking with the owner, who began to tease me – and then somehow, things got a little weird.

Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably caught on: I’m not someone you want to DARE.

Play chicken with me? You’re pretty much guaranteed two totaled cars.

So when I jokingly said: “Well, then, I’ll just have to get one big, fat, sloppy kiss,” never in a million years thinking he would take me up on it – for no one in their right mind in New York would take that phrase as ANYTHING but, er, symbolic, when the music store owner said something along the lines of me not having the nerve…

… Well, what could I do? Apparently, he was calling my bluff – or thought I was bluffing. I had my entire state’s reputation to defend.

It was only later, perusing my copy of The Secret, Closely-Guarded Girl Manual, that I remembered that those of us with a little too much tomboy in them have to be wary of dares and the like, and that boys will steal kisses when they can, particularly from impulsive redheads.

So I called his bluff back, and dashed over boldly right behind his workspace, again, never dreaming his own oncoming car would not swerve.

Yet swerve he did NOT, and put his arms around me, and kissed me like Bogart kissed Bergman in Casablanca.

Yipes.

Careful to keep my New York cool, I then shook his hand and said:

“How do you do? I’m Elizabeth. And your name is?”

“Larry,” he said. “Welcome to California.”

::-::-::-::-::-::

Author Intrusion (also sometimes called, literarily, “authorial intrusion” – I don’t know why they like the extra two syllables, but professors sometimes do…) is explained nicely here, at about.com:

Have you ever read a book where the author suddenly jolted you out of the storyline with a comment that just doesn’t flow with the rest of the work? That’s an authorial intrusion. Sometimes it works, but only when it’s done by a master storyteller/writer.

Authorial intrusions are of substantial length (not just a brief aside in a novel) and they are addressed to you (the reader).

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The Girl on the Left.


awkwardEtiquette: Useful. Nice is only a side benefit.

Oldest daughter, exasperated, from backseat, to me: “Mom? MUST you narrate EVERYTHING you see? As if it’s your business in the first place?”

Me, non-plussed by this surly teenaged dismissal: “Why, yes. Yes, I do.”

Oldest: “You’re the only one who can even SEE them.”

Youngest, cheerfully, having had the foresight to pipe up earlier:I call shotgun,” and therefore sitting in the catbird seat, immediately to my right, now pipes up: “I can see FINE.

No words are necessary. The heat alone from the backseat is enough.

Words come, anyway.

Oldest: “Why do you even CARE about them, anyway?”

Me: “Because it SUCKS to be the girl on the left.”

Youngest: “I don’t know what you’re talking about at all.”

Oldest (still furious, about my car-to-car meddling, and the whole shotgun thing in general, since she knows quite well she’d completely understand what I was talking about if SHE COULD JUST SEE FOR HER OWN DAMN SELF): “ohKAY, why does it suck to be the girl on the left?

I grin, happy at last: my chance to give a short lecture on the nature of awkward situations. (It has to be short, the girls know, because we are headed for the bank, which is coming up just a few turns away.)

The car in front of me has three people in the back seat: on the left, there is one brunette ponytail. In the middle, there is a blonde ponytail, who is being bear-hugged, and generally molested by, a burly boy – probably a footballer – on the far right.

This jock is so into his blonde ponytail that he keeps nuzzling his squeeze – and is ending up squeezing the girl on the left ever-over, ever-closer to the left-side passenger door. She doesn’t turn her head, not once, not ever. She is graciously bearing this indignity; why, I do not know.

I myself would have given them a good shove back, and suggested they find a room or something. Well, maybe not “find a room,” since that’s pretty cliché.

Perhaps instead I would “accidentally” drop my purse, lunging forward towards that endlessly annoying hump in the middle, knocking them BOTH toward the RIGHT side passenger door. When they both responded: “HEY!” – as if “how dare you interrupt our foreplay?” I’d smile apologetically, while at the same time planting my ass just a little further to the right, with my big fat backpack/purse/knapsack, or what have you tucked to my left, in between the passenger’s side door and myself.

Cozy but effective strategy for flipping the awkwardness back over onto THEM. My, aren’t we ALL awfully close now? Still want to kiss her, quarterback, now that I’m practically on her lap?

If THAT didn’t send the intended message across, I’d wait till the next big smooch, break out my math homework, and tap the blonde ponytail on the shoulder right in the middle of tonguing it.

Hey, Brittany, did you understand what Mrs. Meyer was talking about when she ran through that binomial theorem today, because I’m TOTALLY lost? Mind taking a look at my notes for a sec, and seeing if they make ANY sense to you, because I’m about to have an EPIC FAIL here.”

Then hold aforementioned binder right up to yon spit-covered face, with innocent smile.

Basically, you get the strategy: incredibly annoying politeness until the people you’re being annoyingly polite to either catch on that they’re being ludicrously rude, and stop, or just stop out of sheer annoyance. Either way, what can they say to you? You’re being incredibly polite.

The beauty of politeness. Don’t let anyone tell you that politeness, etiquette, good manners, is to make other people feel BETTER. That’s just a side benefit.

Etiquette is for one main thing only: So you ALWAYS know what to do in any given situation, without being embarrassed. That’s it. It’s almost as practical as money. Which is why most people who’ve had money for a long time have good manners.

It’s not really snobbery. It’s sensible.

Best of all? YOU can do it, too. Just keep reading this blog, and I’ll learn ya.

My daughter, of course, at 13, could not rest at letting me be right.

What if she didn’t mind?”

Me: “You think the girl on the left ENJOYED being squeezed over while the two of them sucked face?”

Oldest, grasping for straws: “Maybe she’s a lesbian.”

Me:In that case, she’d have to be a pretty CHARITABLE lesbian; don’t you think otherwise she’d be jealous?”

Oldest: “Maybe she IS a charitable lesbian.”

It DOES take all kinds to make a world. My oldest COULD be right. The one thing I DO know? At 13, the one thing Mom isn’t, is right. About anything.

For everyone else? Take my word for it. If you ever find yourself The Girl on the Left? Try etiquette.

Ah, etiquette: the most effective way to be obnoxious and get away with it.

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