Go get it at TueNight ….
Here’s a useful new word to describe that guilty feeling you harbor for, like, forever over some small, shitty thing you’ve done. It comes from a “Wait But Why” blog post about a guy who’s Grandpa bought his kids Clue, the board game, and was super excited about introducing it to them. They watched him set it up, listened to what was probably a boring recitation of the rules, then disappeared as fast as they could when they got a better offer from some neighborhood kids.
“He pictured his father sitting there at the table, now alone, with all the cards and pieces laid out. He pictured him waiting for a little while before accepting that it wasn’t gonna happen today, then collecting all the pieces and cards he had laid out, putting them back in the box, and putting the box back in the closet.”
Here is where I would insert my own Cluey moment but I can’t come up with one. That’s OK., I’m just glad to have a word for this “weird kind of sad.”
These days, Facebook seems to be mostly a collection of our obvious observations and rhetorical questions, repeated over and over and over again.
“I can’t believe how much she’s grown!” (said of any/all children who have grown up) and “Where does time go?” (answer: it doesn’t “go” anywhere it just disappears, only to be replaced by more time). These days, there are photos of snowdrifts with obvious captions (“brrrr…” and “so cold!”) and of our president (“such an idiot”). I agree that it is, indeed, cold outside and that Donald Trump is the worst kind of asshole. But that doesn’t mean I need near constant reminders of these facts.
All of this is better and more humorously said in The New Yorker essay, “Oh, Look, Some Time Has Passed!” by Kathryn Kvas. You almost don’t need more after the headline and this purposefully stock-y looking Getty photo of an ethnically diverse trio of women laughing their heads off over lattes.
Even so, I’ll quote this paragraph, so perfect: “But, really, I had so much fun hanging out this time! Maybe once some more time passes we’ll do something fun like this again. What do you say? I bet some stuff will happen by the time we get around to doing that fun thing, and then we can reminisce about how much time has passed since we talked about doing that thing that we’ll do! And then I bet that even more time will pass after we do that fun thing, and then some more time after that. And then we’ll keep talking about the passage of time over and over again until so much time has passed that we’ll stop existing as physical beings altogether!”
Families are just a kind of tribe and, as such, have their own languages. Sometimes we say things to each other, quoting something or someone, and the listener will say: “what’s that from?” Meaning it sounds familiar (or familial) but she can’t place its origin. Even explaining this makes me wonder if it would make sense to anyone outside my family (hello, Janet!) Or, conversely, I’ll use a family-understood phrase, only to baffle my non-family audience. Once I said, apropos of I can’t remember, “I’ll be nappin’ like a baby by lunchtime.” And then to the baffled listener I had to say: “That’s not a thing, I guess?” When I told this story to Lily, she laughed, and understood, but also couldn’t place the phrase. Consider this a lexicon to a tribal language. Perhaps you have your own?
- “That’s the slightest thing to do to a baby!” Said anytime you object to something someone has done. Origin: unknown.
- “Tired as a person.” Said of dogs, usually. Origin: unknown.
- “Although not in my garden…” While this sounds specific to horticulture, it can be used as an all-purpose prevarication. Origin: Block Island, circa 2009, because it came up after many hours of playing Apples to Apples.
- Loving or hating something “to bitsies, bodies and bones.” Translation: a lot. Origin: unknown.
- “Family dance!” Said when one family member makes a ridiculous suggestion of what the family might do together. Origin: Jamaica, circa 2008, when Steve suggested the four of us dance together at a reggae bar. Teenagers were aghast.
- “You gotta get the money!” Said when someone needs to wrangle funds that are rightfully theirs. Origin: Brooklyn, circa 2015, when Lily was ripped off by her Air BnB guests.
- “Sick as a pig.” Said when you’re sick. Origin: maybe Lily or Oli as a child, misstating “sick as a dog.” Or maybe it’s a British thing, read in a book.
A man by the name of Joe Clark—clever, Southern, a school teacher—says this is the definition of eternity. He was quoting someone, although he didn’t say who. Turns out, it’s Dorothy Parker, as verified by the The Paris Review, which goes on to call baked ham a “professional leftover.” Even better.
“It’s not just that hams are big—they were even more massive in Parker’s day than they are now—or that a little of the salty meat goes a long way. It’s also the fact that a ham goes immediately from a thing of festive beauty (cue pineapple rings, scored surfaces studded with cloves, glistening patina) to a professional leftover. It goes very gentle into that good night. And, because it is cured, and because it can be used in so many ways, and because you can always, always scrape more meat off that bone—well, you’re really never justified in throwing it away. It’s with you for eternity.”
What isn’t really?
File this under things people say that need not be said.
Another: “It is what it is.”
And: “Mistakes were made.” This passive-voice non-apology comes with the unsaid disclaimer “but not by me.” And today I learned this is the actual name of an actual book, by the psychologist Carol Tarvis: “Mistakes Were Made But Not By ME” (emphasis hers).
This is something my dad would say: perfectly fine, perfectly good. This would describe, variously, a bruised apple, an expired pint of milk, a dinged-up pair of skis that were bought secondhand, made by an off brand using a bad font.
Perfect and fine are good words, describing good things. But together, coming from him, they connoted the opposite. Not ideal but eat it any way. Maybe spoiled, maybe not but drink it anyway. You’re lucky to be skiing at all, so what if the skis are from Sears.
I tell my daughter a story about how I felt on the ski mountain with my family. My Dad would make ham sandwiches that we would stuff in our ski suits in the morning, along with peanuts, left in the shells. The peanuts were for staving off hunger so we wouldn’t have to buy the overpriced food at the ski lodge. We’d eat them on the lifts, dropping the shells into the woods below. At some point, we’d clomp into the lodge in our off-brand ski boots, extract our skiied-on sammies from our ski suits and eat them, while looking longingly at the girls with their ski-lodge chili, with their fashionable skiwear, with their smooth ponytails (this rankled me, in particular, because my hair was frizzy). We felt, somehow, that we didn’t really belong at the same tables as the chili buyers.
When I had kids of my own, I bought the ski-lodge chili and the ski-lodge cocoa as well, and felt vindicated and deserving of my seat at the ski-lodge table. But in my mind, “ski lodge chili” is still a catchphrase for something that’s close, but out of reach. Something I can’t have. Another word, meaning the same thing: Friendish. Something your friends have that you don’t have. Examples: the freedom to pour dubious but not bad-smelling milk down the drain; plastic baggies with the little zippers, not the foldover flaps; swimming pools; central air.
First a rebuke, then a rallying cry, now a t-shirt.
Hell hath no fury like a woman silenced. Like Trump’s Nasty Woman putdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s rebuke (and silencing) of Elizabeth Warren last night only fanned the flames of female fury. Here‘s how it went down: Warren began to read a letter from Coretta Scott King’s feelings about a prior Jeff Sessions’ appointment. McConnell objected to both the reading of the letter and to Warren’s history of outspokenness, even after she is asked to stop talking. Then came the line.
“Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Instantly, this has become a rallying cry for women in government, in the workplace and in relationships to “persist” in the face of would-be male silencers. Writes Heidi Stevens for The Chicago Tribune:
“Just keep talking. Keep your pauses short. Maintain your momentum. No matter if he waves his hands, raises his voice or squirms in his chair, you do you.”
Or push back. “Bob, I wasn’t done finishing that point. Give me one more sec.”
Sometimes the floor remains yours; sometimes you get rebuked and silenced by your colleagues.
But you say what needs to be said. And here and there, you inspire a rallying cry.
“Nevertheless, she persisted.”