As soon as he paused, I knew I was not going to get what I wanted from that question.
“Uh, I don’t know. …What does that mean?”
“It’s in this song by Brad Paisley. Haven’t you heard it?”
Of course he’d heard it. The man, not raised in the South as I was, loves country music nonetheless.
“Yeah, but I haven’t really listened to the lyrics. I don’t know if it’s good or bad.”
“It’s good, obviously!” I cried. “The Mona Lisa? One of the most beautiful paintings in the world?”
“Okay, but I don’t know the lyrics.”
“Really? Humph.” I crossed my arms, disgusted.
“Mama, I feel like the frame that gets to hold the Mona Lisa,” my eldest boy said in sympathy and some fear.
“Thank you, Berto. I’m glad at least you do.” I threw a dirty look at my man. “Even he knows it’s a good thing.”
Of course I should know better. My husband is completely lacking in the ability to dissemble for the mere sake of romance. It’s a good thing, but there are times when I wish he would talk pretty to me like some hero in an Austen or Bronte novel. Or a Brad Paisley song.
Once when my husband and I were newly engaged, we had plans for a big date night, but when he arrived, I could tell by the look on his face he was too tired to go anywhere. So I decided to amuse myself the best way I knew how. I asked him a provoking question inspired, as we women sometimes are, by a foolish magazine article I had read.
“Which feature of mine do you like the best?” I asked him, eager to hear the reply.
I give him points now for not groaning aloud.
“I don’t know. What do you mean?” he responded wearily.
“Well, do you like my hair? My mouth? What?”
“I don’t know,” he repeated.
At this point, I became exasperated. “How about my eyes?” I asked, pointing him in the right direction. “My eyes are nice, right?”
His answer could only have come from a very, very weary man.
“You wear pretty eye make-up sometimes,” he said.
I’ll never forget the warm and fuzzy urge I had to hit him over the head with my makeup bag.
“You have got to be kidding me!” I fumed.
“I like all of you,” he responded hotly. “It’s not any one thing. It’s the whole package.”
My man may not know how to speak sweet nothings, but he has no problem having a little fun at my expense, like the time he pretended to get a running start in order to shove my gargantuan foot into a sneaker — at the shoe store.
Or the time when I was shopping for new socks after my third child, and I couldn’t find socks for my shoe size. Until I did. That’s when I discovered I was now wearing the extended sizes. That evening I laughingly asked my husband what I would have to do if my feet continued to grow with pregnancy — buy the extended plus sizes?
“No,” he said. “We’ll just cut the toes off.” Then he laughed himself silly.
“I am not a wicked stepsister!” I shouted after one of his little jokes.
“No, you’re my big-footed Cinderella,” he responded gallantly.
I can just picture how that fairytale might have played out if I had been in Cinderella’s shoes. The King would have adjured the Duke to find “the big-footed gal who wears these size 10s!” And my stepsisters would have been petite little things with size 6 1/2 feet. When the Duke showed up, they would be surreptitiously stuffing the toe of my slipper with tissue just so they could claim my Prince. But no dice. I’d have my other glass slipper stashed in a duffle bag over my shoulder.
I heard another Brad Paisley song recently. It has a beautiful chorus:
To the world/
You may be just another girl/
But to me/
Baby, you are the world!
I dare not ask Matthew if I am his world. He would likely reply, “You’re part of my world. Arizona. Maybe a slice of Texas.”
As for that whole Mona Lisa misunderstanding, my husband listened to the lyrics and later texted me this:
I am the frame that gets to hold the Mona Lisa, and I don’t care if that’s all I ever do. 😉
I texted back: That’s all I wanted to hear.
And I tried to ignore the wink at the end.
— Hillary Ibarra
Hillary Ibarra has had several humor pieces published on Aiming Low and humorwriters.org. She is a mother of four who dreams of playing the banjo, living in Jane Austen’s childhood home and writing for more than spam artists and 50 loyal readers. She is the mysterious blogger at No Pens, Pencils, Knives or Scissors. In her spare time she likes to threaten to sell her children to the zoo, and their little dog, too.
I could connect with relatives from Italy that I had heard about my whole life but hadn’t met, I could follow my brother as he travelled the world, see what my friends from high school had been up to for the past 30 years, and I could follow my kids in pictures wisely spending my tuition money.
Today, however, I think Facebook is so annoying that I find I am yelling at myself for even looking at it. I decided it was time to kick my ridiculous habit.
I had a plan.
I started off checking Facebook once a day and not every single time I had a down moment. I wondered if I would I miss out on useful information like “50 things lemons are good for,” (how come mixing with vodka wasn’t on the list?) and advice that I “should create something that inspires someone.” (Does making dinner suffice?). I’m now down to checking it every few days.
After a week there is quite a bit of useful information that I missed…said no one ever.
So I’m scrolling.
Am I at a disadvantage because I don’t know what the color of my personality reveals, what the first letters of my name mean, if I’m a vocabulary genius, a medical savant, what my name means in German, what I would have been in a previous life, what the first word I see in a word gram means, who my sweetest friend is, (none of my friends are sweet; that’s why they’re my friends), and if I want to tell my brother he’s the best brother ever (I do, but I don’t need Facebook).
Why is there so much food on Facebook? If you have cooked it yourself and are including the recipe, I’ll read it and sometimes prepare it. If you sipped an awesome drink and have the recipe (Hippie Juice was one of my favorites), I’ll print it out and try it. But if you’re taking a picture of food just served to you while sitting in a restaurant, I’m scrolling.
And then there are the incredible amount of selfies.
There’s a reason Disney has banned selfies-sticks from their theme parks.
Thankfully I have friends who post selfies that I LOVE: in a salon getting color put on their hair hoping for that natural look (hilarious), selfies with muddy and bruised bodies from an arduous bike race (love it), sweaty and sunburned from a workout (perfect), camping in the rain (not a good hair day, but brave because you look so bad!), bleary eyed from studying around the clock (brings back memories), a melt-down selfie after your favorite team has lost, again (priceless).
For these, I stop scrolling.
But when I see perfectly coiffed and made up selfies of only one person, and that’s YOU, I’m scrolling.
What exactly is the rule for posting your face everywhere on social media? If you like it on Facebook, do you also need to heart it on Instagram? If you get 55 likes on Facebook but only 15 on Instagram of the same picture, does that mean people changed their minds or does it just mean they find you annoying?
Why, I ask, do you need people to say that they love your face (stunning!), your make-up (so pretty!), your eyelashes (to die for!), your lipstick (amazing!), your hair (gorge), your brows (so full!), and your hair (I want that color!)?
I don’t know why!
And those words of wisdom that I don’t know how I ever survived without? Did you know that a mother is always a mother, she never stops worrying? (Really?) Did you know you should treat someone like you want to be treated? (OK, I’m still working on that). Did you know that you shouldn’t take anything personally? (I’m Italian. I take EVERYTHING personally). Did you know that God is there for you in your darkest moments? I didn’t know any of this!
THANK YOU, Facebook!
If you’re posting pictures of your family and life events, grandchildren being born, graduations, engagements, weddings, first day of kindergarten, last day of high school, the college drop-off, first drive behind a wheel, flags on Veterans Day, a loved one remembered, vacations taken, sunsets, sunrises, how to do a proper plank, nature shots, pets, pictures of grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great grandparents, family reunions, weight loss, personal journeys, mountains climbed and conquered…
For this I will stop scrolling.
— Tracy Buckner
Tracy Buckner contributes periodically to the Observer Tribune Newspaper of Chester, N.J., and blogs for the New Jersey Hills Newspaper, serving Madison, Chatham and Chester, N.J. She enjoys writing about the slow decline and vows to go down kicking and screaming. You can see read other pieces and sign up to follow her on her blog.
As many do, I’ve made a fall bucket list to help identify some of the must-do activities that come with autumn, but instead of being overly aspirational, I’m keeping mine realistic
1. Visit an orchard and go apple picking. Have ethical conundrum about enjoying (read: eating) apples in the orchard. Opt for cider donuts at orchard.
2. Go on a hike once the leaves start to change. Make it a long hike to compensate for the donuts. Forget that the sun is setting much earlier now and hustle back to beat darkness, because the spooky movies this time of year make the dark woods seem even scarier than usual.
3. Visit a corn maze. But first, give my phone to a family member so I don’t panic and become one of those crazy people who makes headlines for calling 911 while lost in said maze.
4. Watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” Yell at Sally that she should not get roped into a boy’s delusions and should go out and do her own thing, especially if that involves friends and fun.
5. Bust out the sweaters, cardigans and anything else with long sleeves that allow me to hide the fact that I do not now, nor will I ever have, Michelle Obama’s arms. This alone is reason to rejoice, and makes it easier to enjoy #6.
6. Make pumpkin waffles on a weekend morning. Actually, go to restaurant that makes delicious pumpkin waffles. Remember that I’m supposed to be eating fewer carbs. Reconsider my order. Then decide that I’m also supposed to eat more vegetables and pumpkin is a vegetable, although pumpkins are related to the melon family. Wonder if pumpkins are actually a fruit. Decide that, either way, pumpkins are healthy, and so the waffles must be a healthy choice. Plan on pumpkin pancakes next weekend.
7. Carve pumpkins. Try really hard to not be a little grossed out by the insides of the pumpkin.Decide the mess-free, no-carve options are best. (I know, I’m weak.)
8. Watch others jump in leaves and be proud of myself for saving the co-pay that would be required for the resulting doctor’s office visit if I did it myself.
9. Decorate for autumn and Halloween and not feel lame that I opt for cute, not-scary decor.
10. Acknowledge that we are a family that loves sweets and accept that buying the Halloween candy early doesn’t mesh well with our efforts to eat healthy. Decide to wait until last minute. Cave a week before that.
11. Plant bulbs for spring, then curse silently when animals eat them. Again. Wonder if the fact that you’ve done this multiple times makes you insane.
12. Make soup, like corn chowder using corn from the farmer’s market. Make peace with fact that my daughter really doesn’t like soup and it just means more for me.
13. Ignore eye rolls from my family member when playing “Monster Mash” before Trick or Treat starts. Because it’s a great song — one day of the year.
14. Mutter under my breath about early holiday displays and wonder why retailers and others fails to appreciate the fabulousness of fall.
— Shannan Ball Younger
Shannan Ball Younger is a writer living in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and teen daughter. She blogs about parenting at Mom Factually and about weathering the hormone hurricane at Tween Us on ChicagoNow. She grew up in Erma’s home state of Ohio and was thrilled to attend the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in 2014. Her essays can be found in the anthologies, My Other Ex and The HerStories Project. She was part of the Listen to Your Mother Chicago 2013 cast, and her work has appeared on The Mid, In the Powder Room, Mamapedia and elsewhere. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
I saw myself running around a lab in a white lab coat. I loved test tubes and mixing chemicals. But no one ever gave me a chemistry set. There was always that KABOOM! factor. So I made up for it. I mixed and burned household chemicals. Everywhere. The kitchen. The garage. The porch. Every chance I could. I guess I was subconsciously looking for that missing KABLOOEY! and a mushroom cloud.
My mother wanted a doctor in the family. She saw the white lab coat, too, but added a stethoscope. Test tubes, flasks and volatiles meant nothing to her. It was easy to disappoint her.
I considered being a veterinarian, but the dog had other ideas. I readjusted my goal to animal groomer. I trimmed the dog. There were chunks of fur everywhere. She looked like a bumfuzzled monkey with a buzz cut. Every time I approached her with scissors, her panicked brain told her to flee. And she did. She didn’t come out from under the bed for three days.
My grades were good, but they weren’t going to get me into MIT or Harvard. Why bother when you can’t afford it? I took all kinds of aptitude and standardized tests. I went to the school guidance counselors to find out what I didn’t know I wanted to do, but that got me nowhere.
I couldn’t see myself as an office manager, a secretary or any kind of office worker. I had no coffee-making skills. I hated water coolers. And I couldn’t type. I just couldn’t see myself in business, although I did like to give people the business.
My high school homeroom teacher thought I should put an end to all of this and just pick something, anything. But nothing special, because I was a girl. He avoided this sexist label when he said, “Maggie, you’re good, but not that good.” I guess that was because I was worth only 77 cents on the dollar. So off to a state university I went. It certainly wasn’t any of those big-name, very expensive Ivy League schools.
When I was a college freshman, I majored in engineering. I was confused. I thought life’s problems could be solved with an equation or algorithm. I was on my way to class one day and as usual, I was late. As I approached the engineering building, a grounds custodian stabbed a piece of paper with his pointy trash picker upper and said, “Do youuu know where you are going?”
My first reaction was to huff and puff. I was running uphill. No easy feat on a hot, humid, Gainesville day. I stopped dead in my tracks. What the hell does he mean? Does he think I’m lost? Is his question a philosophical one — is he asking if I know where I am going in my life?
Then I looked him straight in the eye and replied, “Hey! You ought to get that thing a turbo charger!” He looked at me, puzzled. He had no idea what I was talking about. I said,” You know, for your pointy trash picker upper!”
He said again, “Do youuu know where you are going?”
How would I know? I was just a freshman. Did it really matter? I just kept going.
And I’m still going. With no special destination except for the usual one, six feet below and pushing daisies.
To quote Lewis Carroll: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”
— Maggie Millus
A published writer of several science textbooks, Maggie Millus writes humor and blogs at Barmy Bottom Hollow “Me? Issues? I don’t have any issues, but a lot of other people sure do!” When she’s not writing about neighbors, her husband, her mother, her daughter or her nocturnal, insomniac dog, she muddles through the sweaty crankiness and eccentricities of life in the South Florida heat and humidity.
This doesn’t really have anything to do with Sarah Palin. I’m glad she’s still up north keeping an eye on the Russians, and I’m happy that she checks in periodically just to make sure that we know that she still hasn’t made the team.
She and Tim Tebow (whom I like very much) are pretty much the same: as hard as they try, they aren’t good enough to be the leader of the third string (according to some people) or even worse, actually make the third-string team. Ouch.
It’s been fun watching Donald Trump and his disciples irritate about 60 percent of the registered voters across the country while the brain surgeon just looks around and wonders, “Where do they find these idiots?” At least if Palin was thrown into the mix, it would give us something else to look at other than the pinched expression on Ted Cruz’s face or the ferret that crowns the Donald’s head and tries to keep his ego in check.
I discovered after doing a two-second Google search that Trump has the same answer for any possible question that he could be asked. Himself.
1. How will you fix the immigration problem? Donald Trump can fix anything.
2. How will you bring back the economy? Donald Trump will sell off everything.
3. How will you defeat ISIS? Donald Trump can defeat anyone.
4. How will you beat the other Republicans? Donald Trump will give everyone a cabinet position.
5. How will you defeat the Democrats? Donald Trump can buy anyone, and the Donald is really like most of them.
See what I mean? I think I’ve heard those answers before, but the ferret must be working because he hardly ever uses his name in the third person anymore.
I think that’s because he, like a lot of other Americans, have spoken proper American for so long that it actually now makes sense.
And that’s my problem, too: I speak proper American, and it has done nothing lately but get me into trouble.
Proper American is not the same as proper English. I use too much slang in my everyday vocabulary and after years of too many “had beens,” “fixin’ to’s” and “ain’t gonna’s,” my language (or lack thereof) has spilled over into my writing and is causing me and the people (Niamh!) (Gina!) around me needless amounts of headaches.
I think I can do better, but honestly I think I need a complete overhaul. I need to strip everything apart and start with the basic person, place or thing.
I’ve been advised to read several different books and that’s what I’m going to do. My pal, Gina Barreca, says that writing is serious business and until you treat it as such, you’re just wasting everybody’s time, including your own and that’s doing a disservice to everyone.
I was going to use the combination of improper words listed above in one last dramatic incorrect sentence, but my new habits are already beginning to take over.
Just wait ’til all y’all get a looky-loo at my new book. Gianetta says it might just be the best thing she’s ever written…
— Gianetta Palmer
Gianetta Palmer lives in the North Georgia Mountains and is the author of Reflections On A Middle-Aged Fat Woman and Scrunchie-Fried. She recently finished her first novel and blogs regularly on her popular website. Visit her at www.middleagedfatwoman.com. Or on Twitter @mafatwoman.
There was, above all the others, Nora. Because of our shared history of kidding around, I could make her break up across a conference room just simply by lifting an eyebrow at the right moment in a boring business meeting.
Robin was a pitch-perfect parody of a Southern belle, slyer than me by a photo-finish. We’d batter each other with witticisms like two club fighters, then collapse after the final round, exhausted.
Next was Nina — the improbably big-boobed ballerina with the Hungarian intellectual DNA. She’d talk my mouth dry as we bantered back and forth.
But these are all, to paraphrase Dorothy Parker, a feminine wit who was second to none, The Women I’m Not Married To. My wife is a Presbyterian — you will search in vain at your local library for The Big Book of Presbyterian Humor, and not because it’s checked out. There isn’t one, and probably there never will be.
There is something about a man who can’t keep himself from kidding around that is attracted, then repelled — like those black-and-white Scottie dog magnets — by his wise-cracking female soulmate.
You may recall the “Seinfeld” episode in which Jerry meets Janeane Garofalo and becomes infatuated because she seems his distaff carbon copy. The two break up when they realize they could never live together — it would be like sharing an apartment with your doppelganger.
Evidence of this strange plus/minus polarity dates at least from the 19th century. In the 1860s Mark Twain met two cousins, Harriet Lewis Paff and Olivia Lewis Langdon. Paff got the point of Clemens’ every joke, high or low, but Olivia could not “see anything to laugh at in the wittiest sayings” unless Harriet explained them in detail. Harriet finally gave up after realizing that her “quickness at seeing the point of a joke and the witty sayings that I had considered almost irresistible were simply nothing in comparison to my cousin’s gifts. Mr. C evidently preferred her sense to my nonsense.”
Dave Barry, one of the few American males who actually makes a living writing humor, sometimes injects his wife into one of his pieces. It is clear when he does so that she’s not amused by him.
Dorothy Parker, a bespectacled bookworm, is evidence of a corollary of the rule I’m postulating. A woman with a wisecrack for every occasion, she was unlucky in love, and was the author of numerous aphorisms that expressed the mordant view of romance she developed as a result, including her most famous, “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”
Perhaps it’s the search for the toughest audience in the world, the way Sir Edmund Hillary wouldn’t be satisfied until he climbed Mt. Everest, just because it was the highest mountain in the world, that makes men seek out women who give them a blank stare after they’ve delivered the punch line of their favorite knee-slapper, the one about the priest, the rabbi and the lady snake-charmer who walk into a bar.
All I can say is, to the fraternity of males I’m talking about, of which I consider myself a member in good standing, there are four words that act like Spanish Fly, a verbal aphrodisiac on us. Try them next time you find yourself seated next to the life of the dinner party, the guy who’s cracking one joke after another, keeping everybody in stitches:
“I don’t get it.”
— Con Chapman
Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer whose works include The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, 10 published plays and two novels, Making Partner and CannaCorn (Joshua Tree Publishing). His articles and humor have appeared in magazines and newspapers including The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe and The Christian Science Monitor.
It began on a typical Saturday morning, with Kevin downstairs watching a soccer game he’d recorded the night before. In the next room — and this is key — the boys eat breakfast while discussing their “who-gets-to-play-videogames-first” strategy.
Having just showered, I’m upstairs getting ready to blow-dry my hair. The moment I turn the hairdryer on, my younger son (“P”) pops his head in the bathroom.
“What’s up, P?” I ask.
“Can I play video games? I did all my chores,” he explains.
P bolts downstairs to turn on the PS4.
Hairdryer on. Three seconds go by.
“What’s up, T?” I ask, already knowing where this conversation is headed.
“No fair!” he whines. “Why does P get to play video games first? I did all my chores, too.”
“Because he asked me first, I guess. Why didn’t you just ask Dad? He’s downstairs watching the soccer game.”
T replies, “Oh, I didn’t see him.”
Didn’t see him, he says.
Didn’t notice the TV blaring in the room right next to the kitchen where T just came from.
Didn’t hear Kevin yelling, “He was OFFSIDES!”
And that’s when it struck me — Kevin was wearing his invisibility cloak.
All those times, thousands upon thousands of times, when the boys came to me for help or permission or protection (from each other), they sought me out — even though Kevin was within arm’s reach. Why? They simple didn’t see Kevin.
The invisibility cloak masked Kevin like Harry Potter trying to escape the clutches of Voldemort. It veiled him from the always-needing-me Muggles so they’d walk right past him in search of me.
It all became so clear now. The verbal battles I refereed, the split-decision judgments I rendered, the permission-granting wishes I delivered like anticipated birthday gifts. All these petitions from my kids occurred — not because I was their favorite parent, as I had begun to believe — but because of Kevin’s covert presence in the house. I had been duped by Dad’s magic.
Wait a minute…those times when Kevin claimed he “didn’t see” the laundry basket at the bottom of the stairs waiting to be carried up, the garbage bag waiting to be taken outside or the cat vomit waiting to be cleaned up, it wasn’t the ol’ invisibility cloak trick, was it?
Damn, Kevin even used his magic on me. He’s good.
— Lisa Beach
Lisa Beach is a recovering stay-at-home mom and homeschooler who lived to write about it. Her blog, Tweenior Moments, offers relatable insights about middle-aging like a fine wine: down-to-earthy and complex, medium-bodied, with a hint of sarcasm and a smooth-but-wrinkled finish. She lives in Florida with her husband, two teen boys and one really fat cat. She’s a blogger and humor writer about middle age, parenting, family life and all the baggage that goes with it.
Alas, this entry has no actual association with “conjunctions” — I just liked the rhyme.
It does, however, have everything to do with a wardrobe malfunction of the highest Janet Jackson-like order.
Society agrees that clothes look better on women with breasts that are above the belly button and roughly the same size. Gravity and nursing babies had worked their mammary magic (dark magic) and where once there were breasts, now there were just two parcels of skin sagging so low they must be trying to communicate with the ground.
Since my girls hadn’t looked up in a long while, I finally broke down and bought some of the wonder inserts that bra shops had been attempting to sell me for a decade.
“So simple,” they proclaimed!
“They fit easily in your bra, and you can adjust them however you want,” they promised.
“You can wear them with a bathing suit,” they purported.
That last proclamation I was especially dubious about. I never attempted that.
I had enough problems wearing them with clothes.
When we lived in Japan, some of my male friends and I occasionally played racquetball together. One cold winter day, after playing a particularly grueling point, I was adjusting my goggles when I noticed the guys all gathered around an object on the floor.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed one of the men bending down to pick something up from the floor. All of a sudden, I realized what it was.
My wonder insert and any self-esteem I might have possessed had somehow popped out of my sports bra onto the racquetball court floor.
I had a few choices.
I could do the frantic “NOOOOOOOOOOOO” lunge across the court and snatch it from his hand.
I could channel an Oscar-worthy performance by asking, “What in the hell is that?”
I could grab it and ask, “Do we need to baste this?”
Seriously, they look just like chicken breasts.
I could run out of the room, mortified (this wouldn’t require any acting), never speak of the situation again, and put down my racquet forever.
Or I could choose the most awkward possibility of all, and walk up to my friend, grab it from his hand, and mumble, “I think that’s mine.” I went this route and would like to report that I spoke it in a confident, breezy manner, but I am fairly certain my voice cracked and that I was looking at my feet.
The three men looked befuddled. An interminably awkward silence followed during which we all stared at the floor, while I tried to problem solve what to do with the offending item burning a hole in my hand and my soul. There was no place for belongings on the court, which meant that a walk of shame would be required to get to my bag.
My options were limited. I could turn my back on them and attempt to rehouse the fowl-like accessory. I could attempt to jam it in my sock until the game was over.
Thankfully at that moment, epiphany struck. I had pockets! I was going for “casual” as I shoved the boobie wad in my pocket. I fear though that my frantic jerky motions screamed “panic.”
The game continued without any further incident. The story lives on, retold every time my girlfriends and I get together, in that oral tradition that has existed for centuries where only the profound tales (or most mortifying) survive.
— Darla Rakoczy
Darla Rakoczy is the mom of two almost-grown humans, an Air Force wife, speech pathologist, avid reader and gypsy who chronicles her adventures in a weekly blog, Glamizon Life in the Desert.