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When old age knocks, HIDE!

Mari' EmeraudeI decided a long time ago when the time came, I would refuse to enter my twilight years with any sort of dignity and grace. If I had to go in, I would go in kicking and screaming all the way. Now I just wanna be carried!

It’s not that I’ve given up on my youth; it’s just that I’ve become more comfortable in my middle age. It’s the little things like talking to myself that bring me the most pleasure. I rather enjoy talking to myself in the mornings. I’ve found I’m a pretty interesting person. I just never gave myself a chance to listen to me!

Oh, I suppose the hardest things about aging are the physical changes we all must endure. I remember as a young girl the vanity we put ourselves through spending hours primping, preening and shaving. Today I don’t see the need to shave anything above my ankles, which is just as well because my TOES seem to need it the most. As for my eyebrows, I don’t even know what happened here. They have all but vanished. I try drawing them on like some of the trendy teenagers seem to be doing, but my hands shake so badly they look like they were applied with a jackhammer.

When I part my hair, my comb tends to find an even BIGGER part on the other side. In order to be freed from the ever dreaded “comb over,” I must pull my hair back into a sporty ponytail. The only thing about that is one has to literally stand behind me to see that I indeed have hair. Perhaps the hardest reality check was that I kept thinking these lines and wrinkles were just due to me sleeping on my face all night and that they’d dissipate as the day wore on.

Unfortunately that was in March — it’s now November.

— Mari’ Emeraude

Mari’ Emeraude is a writer and poet from Denver, Colorado. This essay is an excerpt from her book, Even God Hates Spinach.

If I had a nickel for every Twinkie

Laurie OienMrs. Bell was my first grade teacher in 1969 and I remember about a handful of things. I remember reading Dick and Jane books, square dancing in gym class, my crush on Tommy and the unforgettable era with the Twinkie.

I looked forward to lunch time. We’d line up at our classroom door and while clutching my metal Archies lunchbox, I would wiggle in line to get close to Tommy. Somewhere between Dick and Jane stories and doing the dosey doe in gym class, he never noticed my adoration for his 6-year-old baby face and big brown eyes.

I always looked forward to lunch time. Not sure if it was because we were getting a break from Dick and Jane or the anticipation of flipping open the lid of my lunchbox to reveal the goodies inside. Every school day I’d flip open my lunchbox to survey inside a sandwich, some kind of fruit or veggie, milk and a pack of Twinkies.

It all started out pretty exciting. As soon as I saw that twin pack of yellow sponge cake with the cream peeking out of the inside, I knew I had arrived to lunch time euphoria. I didn’t even notice brown-eyed Tommy sitting at the next table.

Every single school day I’d line up at the classroom door for lunch, flash a smile at Tommy and flip the lid to my lunchbox. I was never disappointed. There they were, beaming their golden glow, day after day and lunch after lunch.

It was at the end of the school year that I started to realize that all of Dick and Jane’s adventures were sucking the life right out of me. Not to mention, the dosey doe and my Twinkie lunches were starting to lose their golden charm. Then to make matters worse, I found out Tommy was moving away.

I sulked on the last day of school as I knew it would be my last time smiling at sweet brown-eyed Tommy. I certainly wasn’t going to miss Dick and Jane and I knew it was time to take a break from the Twinkie lunches.

Summer break went by quickly and I started the second grade in Mrs. Johnson’s class. It didn’t take long for me to scan the classroom hoping that Tommy had had a change of plans, but no such luck. It wasn’t until Mrs. Johnson announced that it was lunch time that I felt a switch in my focus. We lined up at the classroom door and with my new Scooby Doo lunchbox in my clutches, I knew this was the best time of the day.

We single-filed down to the cafeteria, and I plopped down at the lunch table anticipating to see those chocolate cupcakes with the white swirly loops on top. I flipped the lid and to my surprise there snuggled behind a bologna sandwich was a pack of…you got it…stinkin’ TWINKIES!

All I could do was sit and stare pitifully into my lunchbox. Honestly, there just may have been a tear forming and a gagging reflex thwarting in the back of my throat.

It didn’t take long for the cafeteria lady with her blonde bouffant hairdo to notice that I had a disturbed look on my face. Her tall thin frame sauntered over to me and she asked, “Sweetie, is there a problem with your lunch?”

“Oh, no,” I sadly responded. “I was just thinking…if I had a nickel for every Twinkie I’ve gotten, maybe I’d have enough to hop a bus outta here to go see Tommy!”

I have NOT had a Twinkie since.

— Laurie Oien is a wife and mother living in Minnesota and determined to uncover the second half of life with zest and zeal. She has a background in marketing and accounting for the last 25 years and recently discovered that one can’t live by adding machines and numbers alone. Therefore, she created a humorous lifestyle blog. Laurie has been a contributor to Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and Midlife Boulevard. She’s also a featured author in the anthology, Feisty After 45, released by Mills Park Publishing. Laurie blogs at A Square of Chocolate.

The chips fight

 

Sarah EstimeI just had a moment, but I’m okay now. Still, I’d like to vent.

My husband eats everything. I feel like I’m always hungry because he not only wipes out our fridge, he also likes to do clean sweeps and is constantly pitching soggy salad I really don’t mind eating. I mean.. what else am I gonna eat, right? I always expect the one thing I look forward to at the end of the day to not be there when I get home, but I have yet to become inured by my everlasting disappointment.

Since we conceived this crying one-year-old, I’ve been very controlled about what I eat. I’m not a big meat eater, so I force-fed myself protein the entire 41 weeks. I’m also in the service, so I had to prepare for a PT test in which salad and more protein were my best friends for a year. I get chips here and there, but not a one piece touches my lips due my husband’s apparent need for them.

Whatever. Who needs chips when trying to attain pre-baby weight anyway? Two nights ago, I discovered (again) that my chips were gone. I made a joke about it, which prompted him to get a new bag. Fast forward to today. On this day, I had broccoli and a protein bar. On my way home, I was getting a hunger headache so I thought, “Hmph, I kinda want some dip.” I wanted creamy, cheesy, jalapeño dip a neighbor of mine made one Super Bowl, which I skulked her Pinterest for, salivating over the sinfully smooth recipe snapshots.

I get home with our son, who seems to also have a black hole of a tummy and just cries to be fed nonstop. I decide I’m gonna let him cry because I’m sick of eating convenient things like protein bars or gross things like soggy salad in order to tend to everyone else. I very carefully prepare my dip so it could bake in the oven while I try to satiate our insatiable son.

My ears were ringing but I’m thinking, At least I’ll have dip! The boy was fed, my dip was done, and I look in the cupboard to.. NO CHIPS. I just about lost it. Husband is still at work, so I’ve already cleaned up the Diet Cokes I smashed open in our backyard (that shut the baby up). I rushed to the BX and grabbed $50 worth of junk food I’ve stored in my trunk. The baby pooped up his back, so he got a wonderfully soothing bath, although he cried all the way through it. I finally sat down and had my dip.

Plus, now I have a secret stash.

— Sarah Estime

Sarah Estime is an aircraft mechanic in the Air Force. When she’s not working her day job, she’s composing  literary fiction. She’s been published by the African American Review, O-Dark-Thirty, Burner Magazine  and Pif Magazine. She currently writes for Blogcritics and Litro Magazine.

Tooth or Consequences

 

Jerry ZezimaIn one of my favorite Three Stooges shorts, the boys are dentists. When their first patient comes in, Shemp puts on a pair of Coke bottle glasses that render him practically sightless. Then he pries open the hapless man’s mouth, grabs a pair of pliers and, while Moe reads instructions from a book titled Carpentry Made Easy, proceeds to extract a tooth in a painfully funny scene that makes me glad I don’t have a dentist like that.

So you can imagine how I felt recently when I walked into my new dentist’s office for my initial appointment and saw, on the TV in the waiting area, an episode of — you guessed it — the Three Stooges.

“They are my heroes,” said Dr. Anthony Fazio, who was not, thank God, wielding pliers, a hammer or any other tool the Stooges might have used to treat a patient on his very first visit.

“I save those for subsequent visits,” added Dr. Fazio, who doesn’t need to use laughing gas because his delightfully skewed sense of humor puts patients at ease and actually makes it fun to go to the dentist.

Dr. Fazio, who wears glasses (“Where are you?” he joked after I had settled into the chair), has been clowning with patients since he opened his practice in Medford, New York, in 1998.

“I took over from Dr. William J. Tinkler, who’s 88 and is a funny guy himself,” said Dr. Fazio, adding that Dr. Tinkler was his dental school teacher at Stony Brook University, where Dr. Fazio now teaches. “We put on a show every year at the school and Dr. Tinkler gets up and tells jokes. He’s another one of my heroes.”

Dr. Fazio, 46, is married to Dr. Lynn Travis, herself a Stony Brook dental school graduate.

“We put down roots in the community,” he deadpanned.

“You know the drill,” I responded.

“You shouldn’t have said that,” countered Dr. Fazio, who, fortunately for me, didn’t need to use one.

But he did need to regale me with stories of his dental adventures, such as the one he called “The Ventriloquist and His Wife.”

“The patient was this very stately gentleman,” Dr. Fazio recalled. “I asked him what I could do for him and, without missing a beat, his wife said, ‘He hates his teeth and needs new dentures.’ I asked the man what he didn’t like about them and his wife said, ‘He doesn’t like the color. And he can’t chew with them.’ Whatever I asked the man, his wife answered. Then I said to him, ‘That’s amazing.’ He was puzzled. I said, ‘You are the best ventriloquist I’ve ever seen.’ There was a hint of a smile on his face.

“I priced a new set of dentures at $2,000. Then I asked the wife if she would be in the room during the treatment and she said, ‘Of course.’ So I said in that case, the dentures would be $4,000. I said, ‘If I have to talk with your husband and you, it will cost double.’ She got huffy and said, ‘I never!’ On the way out, her husband said to me, ‘Have a nice day.’ It was the only time I heard him speak.”

Then there was the young woman who practically did a burlesque routine in the office.

“She was very attractive,” Dr. Fazio said. “I had to check out her occlusion, so I took a piece of typing paper, placed it between her teeth and said, ‘Would you please grind for me?’ She started to gyrate in the chair. I said, ‘No, no, no! I meant that you should grind your teeth from side to side.’ She started to laugh and said, ‘Sorry, I thought it was an odd request, but you’re kind of cute and I figured, what the hell, why not?’ She’s still one of my best patients.”

I could never compete with her, but Dr. Fazio said I’m now a good patient, too.

“You’re memorable,” he noted.

Maybe it’s because I share his appreciation for old movies, posters for which fill the walls. One of the films is “Dial M for Murder.”

“The M doesn’t also stand for molar, does it?” I asked tremulously.

“No,” Dr. Fazio said after hygienist Margaret Skladanek had done a terrific job of cleaning my teeth and office manager Lisa Rugen had set up my next appointment. “But it could stand for Moe.”

As I left the office, the Three Stooges were still on.

“At least you don’t have any carpentry books in here,” I said.

“I’ll get one in time for your next visit,” Dr. Fazio replied. “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows BestLeave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Don’t lock your in-laws in the closet

Anne BardsleyThe holidays will be upon us shortly. I know first hand how stressful things can be when the in-laws come to visit.

If they mention that they’d like to stay for a few days, take a deep breath, smile and grab a bottle of wine. This is not the time to tidy up the attic. You can’t just stuff them away. Do not put them in the basement either. Remember, holidays are about family, although they do seem to bring out the absolute worst in people. I know this because I watch the Hallmark channel and not a single episode resembles our family.

Father-in-laws seem to be more agreeable. They have learned to go with the flow. If the flow is calm, they can emotionally float down the lazy river. If times are tense, they can surf the currents. Oh, to be a father-in-law!

Mother-in-laws have the ability to create a fast moving whirlpool of emotions within seconds with a single statement. “That’s not how I make my award-winning stuffing,” she might say, while smirking. Father-in-laws can sense that the lazy river is turning into a cesspool. This is when they usually decide to check the football score. It’s a universal thing.

Your mother-in-law can be a great friend or a miserable foe. Now that mine is gone, we get along famously. Ten years into our marriage, I realized I just didn’t understand her. When we first met, I thought she was very snooty. She gasped when I plucked a small, ripe strawberry from my dessert glass. When I popped it in my mouth, she almost fell off her chair. Her face said, “Son, this girl has no manners!”

What I learned later was that she was poor growing up and her dad raised her. He sent her to etiquette class so she would know how to be a proper lady. She did act like the queen on many occasions. I was more like Cinderella.

She wanted to be close with me. She told me so. A week after our honeymoon, she came over to help me garden. Pitchfork in hand, she told me, “We will be friends. We will be close. My mother-in-law was horrible. You and I will be close,” she repeated. She scared me. I like to keep peace and this looked like a demanding friendship. I smiled at her and nodded.

I later realized that in her mind, she was losing him to a woman she didn’t think was a perfect fit for her, or her son. She wrote him a letter telling him so before we were married. I never saw it. Scott burned it.

She needed a higher-class woman to maintain her need for proper family. Money was very important. I didn’t have money, but I did have two sons, ages three and six. The three-year-old had just learned the word “damn” and used it as often. It did not make a great first impression on the queen.

I also learned that she never felt pretty growing up. She thought she was the ugly duckling. She was a very attractive woman, but this belief burned deep. I learned that she needed attention to feel good about herself. Once I understood her, we got closer. Compliments filled up that empty space in her soul.

I am not Mary Poppins, and it was not always a nice relationship. In retrospect, I couldn’t be myself around her. I always had to step it up. My house was never clean enough. Five kids, a huge dog and running our business from our dining room equals some mess. Get over it! Take the white gloves off now! (There’s a little spark of the real Anne coming through.)

Like children, I believe mother-in-laws should come with a mandatory manual, Mother-In-Law 101. It would make great reading on the honeymoon!!

Chapter one: How to make me happy.
Chapter two: Things you should never say or do in my presence.
Chapter three: I’m still his mother.
Chapter four: He can always come home to me.
Chapter five: How to get my family recipes, even though you are an in-law (yes she told me that). My father- in-law got me her family macaroni and cheese recipe.
Chapter six: We both love the same man. Accept it. Let’s have lunch.
Chapter seven: I will love you.
Chapter eight: You will love me.
Chapter nine: You aren’t so bad after all
Chapter ten: You will miss me when I’m gone.

I just realized I am a mother-in-law now. If my son-in-laws ever write a manual on me, I will lock them in my basement. I’ll feed them gourmet meals and make sure they have cable channels. I will bring them freshly, fluffed towels and expensive shaving cream. Naturally, I’ll give them my official manual.

After all, I want them to love me.

— Anne Bardsley

Anne Bardsley lives in St Petersburg, Florida, with her “wrinkle maker” of a husband and two spoiled cockatoos. She’s still recovering from raising five children. She is so happy she didn’t strangle them as teenagers as they’ve given her beautiful grandchildren. She is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles: Musings on Marriage, Motherhood and Menopause. She blogs at www.annebardsley.com.

The night Poopsie came to town

Laurie StoneNone of us know when we’ll be tested in life. Some tests are big. Some are small. A test my husband Randy will never forget came on a June night in 1995 involving several confused neighbors, two police cruisers and a Chihuahua named Poopsie.

That late afternoon I’d brought Poopsie home from the pound. Our two little boys, ages 5 and 2, were ecstatic. “We have a doggie!!” Patrick and Paul shouted, jumping up and down.

I smiled, trying to avoid my husband’s horrified stare. I have few natural talents but picking out ugly mutts is right up there. And with this dog’s bat-like face and rodent body, Poopsie was no exception. What can I say? There was something sweet in his eyes.

On the spot, we decided to rename him. There was no way we’d have a pet named Poopsie.

My Mom and Dad were there. Things were going fine till that fateful moment someone decided to let Poopsie off his leash. Surely this animal will stay close, we thought.

Quicker than you can say, “Ay! Caramba!,” Poopsie bolted up our driveway, took a left and disappeared into the mist. The adults stood in shock.  Five-year-old Patrick started crying. “My doggie hates me!”

Randy and my Dad looked at each other. “I’ll get the car,” said Randy. My father sighed, “I’ll come with you.”

On the road, a kid on a bike pointed to where he’d seen a yellow dog. Randy and my father parked the car.  To their horror they had to traipse through people’s properties calling for “Poopsie!”  Everywhere they went, someone had seen the dog go that-away.

Hours later, they came back empty-handed and disappointed. My parents left. The kids went to bed, crying.

“Let’s report this to the police,” said Randy. “You never know.”  We settled in for the night, not sure if we’d see Poopsie again. An hour later the phone rang.

“A large Chihuahua’s been spotted by the Merritt Parkway,” said a police officer.

The Merritt Parkway is five miles away. Wow, I thought. Poopsie’s fast. Once again, Randy got into his car cursing the moment he set eyes on this mutt. No dog was found.

He started heading back when a mile from our home he spotted a line of cars creeping along, trying not to hit a small yellow animal trotting down the center. Randy knew this could only be one creature.

Two police cars were parked on the side, watching this spectacle. Randy pulled up beside them. “That’s my dog,” he said. “I’ll try and herd him home.”

With their help, Randy managed to get behind Poopsie, finding himself lead car in this odd 4 m.p.h. motorcade at 10:30 p.m. on a Friday night. Following behind were the two cruisers and an ever-growing line of peeved and confused motorists.

Then came the tricky part.  With our street in view, Randy sped ahead, angling his car so Poopsie was forced left, down our road. When the dog came to our house, Randy again maneuvered his vehicle, coercing the animal sharp right down the driveway. A Montana cattle rancher would’ve whistled in wonder.

At last, Poopsie was corralled. The police officers pulled up behind Randy in our driveway, congratulating him for a job well done.

Meanwhile Poopsie stood watching all this. Randy finally went to scoop him up when the dog bolted, disappearing into the woods behind our house.

By now, even the cops looked dejected. They showed their lights into the trees but there was no sign. “You might want to consider another pooch,” one advised and they left.

Randy came into the house, by now exhausted. It was past 11:30 p.m. “Maybe we could go back to the pound tomorrow,” I suggested. My husband glared at me. All I kept hearing was Patrick’s words, “My doggie hates me.”

Half hour later Randy went to lock the back door and noticed something sleeping outside on our chaise lounge. He stepped out, not believing his eyes. Poopsie had found his way home.

This time my husband didn’t waste a moment. He picked up the animal, bringing him to Patrick’s room. “Look who’s here,” he said to his sleepy 5-year-old. Patrick sat up, bleary-eyed. “My doggie!” He crashed back to sleep.

I looked at Randy and knew my husband had passed a test that night.  He was officially in the club of men who would do anything difficult, ridiculous or heroic for their children. He could officially call himself a Really Good Dad. He had brought home Poopsie.

(Postscript: Poopsie was renamed “Ren” after the equally-attractive cartoon character and was a loyal, loving dog for 10 years. He never ran away again…that we know of).

— Laurie Stone

Laurie Stone writes from the woods of Easton, Connecticu. Her blog, “Musings, Rants &Scribbles,” shares thoughts on growing up, older and (hopefully) wiser. She draws inspiration from her poor, unsuspecting husband of several decades, two grown sons, family and friends (including the furry ones). You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Trouble’s on the menu

Jerry ZezimaWhen I was 16, I got my first job. I was, improbably, a waiter at the now-defunct Parkway Deli in my hometown of Stamford, Connecticut.

In pretty short order, even though I wasn’t pretty or even a short-order cook, I was fired for what I must admit were two very good reasons: I ate the place out of knishes every day for lunch and, in case you are wondering why the deli went under, I was incompetent.

After a hiatus of 46 years, I recently got back into the service industry by working as a waiter at the Modern Snack Bar in Aquebogue, New York.

I came up with the potentially disastrous idea after my wife, Sue, and I had dinner at the popular family-style restaurant and were waited on by Anilee Bishop, who deserves a medal, or at least a raise, for being my mentor when I returned a couple of weeks later to see if I could drive yet another eatery into the ground.

I arrived at the worst possible time — a busy Saturday night — with Sue; our younger daughter, Lauren; our son-in-law Guillaume; and our granddaughter, Chloe.

“Are you ready to go to work?” asked Anilee, who seated us in the large rear dining room.

“Yes,” I said confidently, promising that I would spare the place the humiliation of having me on staff by waiting my own table.

“If anybody in your family is as tough a customer as you are, you’re going to be in trouble,” said Anilee, adding that she was fired from her first waitressing job for spilling water all over the silk dress of a rich lady in the Hamptons. “It was my first day,” she recalled. “And my last.”

But Anilee, 30, the mother of two toddlers who also has been a photojournalist and studied to be a nurse, is still in the service industry and has been waitressing at the Modern Snack Bar for seven years. She always assures customers that the restaurant’s famous grasshopper pie “doesn’t contain real grasshoppers” and likes to tell “Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup” jokes to amused diners.

The first thing Anilee did, aside from bringing out menus, which I forgot to do (“You’re falling down on the job already,” she said), was to hand me a pad on which to write down orders. Then she gave me an apron with a large pocket so I could store the pad, a pen and whatever else (straws, napkins, extra spoons) I would need to be a competent waiter and, I fervently hoped, earn a generous tip.

“Don’t forget to fill the water glasses,” said Anilee, making sure that I poured water from “the side of the pitcher, not the spout” and that I turned away from my customers so I wouldn’t get them wet.

“Nobody’s wearing a silk dress,” I pointed out.

“This is going to be a long night,” Anilee murmured.

After taking orders (chicken fingers for Chloe, a Caesar salad for Lauren, a turkey sandwich for Guillaume, crab cakes for Sue and a hamburger for me, even though I wasn’t supposed to eat while working), I showed the pad to Anilee, who said, “I’ll have to rewrite this so the cook and the grill chef know what you mean.”

She took me to the kitchen, which is in the back, and to the grill, which is in the front, and translated my chicken scratch (which isn’t on the menu) into official restaurant code.

While dinner cooked, I refilled the water glasses, not only for my table (B10), but for the nice couple, Lois and Barry, at the next table (“This is the best water I’ve ever tasted!” Lois exclaimed) and for three women, Karen, Carol and Karen, at another table.

“We love you!” Carol said.

“Yes,” agreed one of the Karens. “But you really have to pick up the pace.”

Soon, dinner was ready. I didn’t dare try to balance all those plates on my arm for fear that I’d create a scene worthy of the Three Stooges, so I brought them out, one in each hand, and placed them on the table.

“Boneless appetit!” I said.

Then I sat down to eat and remarked on the good service. Because it’s not polite to talk with your mouth full, nobody agreed.

Later, I brought out dessert, which included grasshopper pie for Sue and Lauren (I repeated Anilee’s joke, but again there was no response) and ice cream for Chloe, 3, who chirped, “Thank you, Poppie!”

At least she appreciated my efforts.

So, actually, did Sue, Lauren and Guillaume, who acknowledged that I tried my best. Sue even left me a nice tip, which went into the till for Anilee and the other servers, all of whom work hard and are unfailingly cheerful and efficient.

“You may need a little more training,” Anilee said when my shift was over, “but you didn’t do a bad job.”

“And we’re still in business,” said John Wittmeier, who with his brother, Otto, co-owns the Modern Snack Bar, which has been in the family since 1950. “Even you couldn’t ruin us. But just to be safe,” he added with a grateful smile, “don’t quit your day job.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows BestLeave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Sittin’ ugly

scan0057-1-copyIn the early morning hours, before anyone else is up, while the cat is still stretching languidly in her chair, I begin my day.

In this quiet early hour I can hear the thud of the newspaper being thrown on the sidewalks, the coffeemaker finishing the last few drops and the tick of our clock on the mantle. This is my selfish hour. This is my cherished solitude. I must have it!! This is my time to drink my coffee and absolutely, unequivocally “sit ugly.”

Sittin’ ugly is a family tradition passed on by my 88-year-old Auntie Sue. Her mother did it, she does it and now I do it. I’m sure lots of other people on earth are doing it, but to do it correctly is an art. The art of sittin’ ugly is learned and perfected through years of practice. There are rules of course, and above all, one must respect another’s right to sit ugly. There should be no judgment about sittin’ ugly. The fact is, one just simply does…sit ugly. No judgment, no shame.

Everyone has their own way to sit ugly. But there are guidelines that I find very comforting and helpful to follow. Anyone that is new to the art will surely want to comply. The rules are as follows:

There must be coffee. Preferably freshly brewed with everything extra that you need, (cream, sugar etc.) and of course the favorite mug. I’ve never known a tea drinker to sit ugly, but I suppose it could be done.

1. No talking!! No one speaks to you — you speak to no one. Sometimes it may be necessary to point or grunt especially if you have small children and they absolutely must encroach on your time. But the only talking truly allowed is to yourself.

2. You must sit. My favorite spot is an oversized chair by the window. Above all else, you must pick a comfortable, familiar place to sit. It is always good to be able to put up your feet and have a little table nearby. Your sittin’ area should be away from anyone else who might be awake.

3. You may be asking yourself, now what? I have the coffee. I’m sitting quietly. Now what? The “what” to do part is really up to you. Sometimes I just sit and stare while sipping my coffee. Staring is perfectly allowable and even encouraged. I also read my daily devotionals and have long conversations with God. I contemplate my day and my life. I think. I don’t think and then I may stare some more, all the while continuing to drink my coffee. This part may go on for a long as necessary. One hour is perfect for me.

4. Lastly, about this “ugly” part. Sittin ugly simply means that you come as you are, straight from bed. No primping allowed! One must be one’s self. Tattered nighty? That’s ok! Acne medicine dotted on your face? Beautiful! Scruffy old favorite robe and slippers? The older the better! Sittin’ ugly is actually a supernatural phenomenon that makes you more good looking. The longer time you have to sit, the better you will look and feel. Try it and see!

Sittin’ ugly is my personal time. It is my favorite time of the day. Sometimes I can hardly wait to get up in the morning just to sit ugly. I am always at my best while sittin’ ugly, mainly because no one is speaking to me or me to them. What a joyous, peaceful time! What a perfect way to start your day.  In fact, for me, it is a necessity.

Some mornings my little Auntie will call me and ask, “Honey, are you sittin’ ugly or can you talk?” It is always good manners to ask first in case one is not fit for conversation.

So here’s to “sittin’ ugly,” to having this special time each and every day and to the millions of us who find it necessary for the sustainment of sanity. Here’s to my precious Auntie Sue and all the beautiful ones who “sit ugly.”

— Nancy Malcolm

Nancy Malcolm is a true southern woman, who believes in the southern way. Like, its never too soon to write a thank-you note; everyone should own a deviled egg plate; and good manners often take you where neither education nor money can. And she definitely believes no one ever outgrows the need for a mother’s love. She blogs at sittinuglysistahs.wordpress.com and soulspeak2016.wordpress.com.

Reflections of Erma