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.”
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?
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.
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.”