Archive for the ‘Stories from Childhood’ Category

An Open Letter to Michael Bay

March 20, 2012 4 comments

First, you came for the Transformers, and I did not say a word. Sure, I loved the cartoon as a kid, but I was willing to overlook a cinematic faux pas. But then Revenge of the Fallen happened. And then Dark Side of the Moon. That sound you hear? That’s my childhood WEEPING, sir.

Here’s one thing I don’t get. You take a franchise with a built-in fanbase (everyone born between 1972 and 1990, toss in a few cartoon-stragglers for good measure) and you WRECKED it. Not only that, but you took on (and maimed) Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th – two of the scariest movies from my childhood. When I saw the originals, I didn’t want to go near a bed for weeks. And if I saw a girl jumping rope, I was compelled to recite the Freddy Kruger rhyme. I never wanted to go to summer camp, either, because WHAT IF THERE WAS A HOMOCIDAL MANIAC? In short, those movies were effectively frightening.

But now, sir, you’ve come for the Turtles. Yes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I watched the cartoon religiously as a kid. I spent my spare time trying to master how to draw a turtle’s head. I had the action figures. I played the videogame. I wanted to BE April O’Neil. In short, I loved the Turtles, those lovable little guys who fell into some mutagen, only to transform into odd-pizza-eating, smartass superheroes trained by a wise rat-man named Splinter. Their archenemy is Shreddar, and his line, “tonight, I dine on turtle soup” is classic.

Yesterday, I read that you’re going to alter the origins of the turtles. Bye bye, green slime. Bye bye, sewer lair (I’m assuming). Bye bye MUTANT. Now, we get…Turtles from Outer Space! Instead of “tonight, I dine on turtle soup,” we’re getting, “tonight, I dine on alien!” Not quite as effective and definitely not as memorable.

I hate to point out the obvious, but that’s a totally different movie. That makes the turtles neither turtles nor mutants. You’re left with Teen Aliens. And, let’s face, that’s a tale best left for the Syfy channel, with its campy lineup of Space Monkey and Squirrelemming vs Velocishark. I’m SURE that Shannon Doherty is available, and she has just as much range as the people you generally cast (I’m looking at you, Shia).

Mr. Bay, I don’t understand you. It seems, though, that Hollywood can’t quit you – despite the fact that you keep willfully murdering sacred childhood relics. I get that it’s important to keep things fresh and new. I understand that telling a story isn’t always easy. But I’m starting to worry that you’re going to remake every movie, or show, I’ve ever loved. I can see it now.

  1. The Godmother: A Corleone Saga. Set in the future. “Leave the laser. Take the cannoli.”
  2. Gone with the Wind: The Teenage Years. We follow a Carrie Bradshaw-esque Scarlet as she fends off suitors and pines after Mr. Wilkes, whose first name we don’t know. “As God as my witness, I will never go shoeless again!”
  3. Cheers. Except this time, Sam and Diane are vampires. The patrons are zombies. And occasionally, Buffy the Vampire stops by. “Where everybody knows your name, and occasionally tries to eat you!”

Those three things? Make about as much sense as turning the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into aliens. I don’t know if you’ve hit your head recently, but a concussion would explain this kind of decision. Perhaps you’re consumed by complete terror, after receiving a strongly worded demo song from Michael Bolton, in which he chronicles how you stole his hairstyle.

I don’t know what the deciding factor was, but quite frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. I just want you to stop ripping apart the things I loved from my childhood. You know what might be a good example of what TO do? The Muppet Movie. The Muppet Movie was an updated version of the Muppets that EVERYONE loved, without bastardizing it. It stayed true to the heart and spirit of the Muppets themselves. No one decided that Kermit the Frog should now be a parquet. No one tried to fry up Ms. Piggy in order to create more tension in the storyline. And no one decided that it might be cool if they turned the Muppets into aliens.

Please, Mr. Bay, STOP. It’s one thing to be innovative and fun. It’s another thing to figuratively shit on person’s childhood memories. Plus, that’s really not polite.

Enough is enough, sir. Put the CRAZY down, and back away from the turtles.


Alison, a child of the 80s

The Frog Prince: Muppet Theater

March 6, 2012 18 comments


I am a dork. A geek. A card-carrying member of the Goofball Squad. I have no qualms about this. I don’t pretend to be a smooth, polished, non-Shakespeare quoting “normal” person. Normal is, relatively speaking, a myth. And, to quote the Aunts from Practical Magic, striving to be normal rather denotes a lack of courage. So there. The Aunts have spoken.

I’m a fan of everything from Labyrinth to Florence + the Machine. I secretly want red hair, but I don’t know if I’m brave enough to do it. Henna is tricky, and I’m slightly terrified I’ll end up on the Strawberry Shortcake end of the spectrum. (That happened to a friend of mine in high school. Then, it faded to bright orange. I may have teased her about being a traffic cone. MOVING ON…)

I have an uncanny habit of loving things that no one has heard of. For instance, the MUPPET version of the Frog Prince, which I taped off of the TV as a child. I still have it, complete with a self-made label rendered with masking tape. The tape also includes Raggedy Ann and Andy and a smattering of random cartoons, one of which is called Happy Valley.

The Muppet Frog Prince is a freakin’ wonderful movie. Cheesy, Muppet-y goodness abounds, and there is a song sung in a jumble. You see, the Princess has been cursed! She cannot say, “I want to be the queen!” No, instead, it comes out, “I want to queen the bean!” Try not to laugh at that. I DARE YOU. In my eyes, no other version of the Frog Prince will do, because once you’ve seen Kermit swimming around a pond singing, you cannot go back. It’s impossible. Nothing but Muppets will do.

However, as most people I know haven’t seen this classic (and I no longer have a VCR), I tend to get odd looks when I accidentally quote from this movie. Because I am, as previously confessed, A DORK. At one point, the Muppet King makes a joke, and his steward instructs the crowd, “Polite chuckle!” They chuckle. The King balked, offended, and the steward amends his statement, “Polite chuckle, building to riotous laughter!” At one point, he instructs the crowd, “Large cheer!” The crowd of assorted Muppet peasants oblige.

I say ‘large cheer’ a lot. I could also sing the entire song the Princess (Melora) sings to Robin (the Prince, in Frog form). I won’t. But I could.

To make a silly story short, this tale isn’t on DVD. It’s for sale on VHS, but I don’t own one anymore. I want this, damn it, on DVD:


Surely I can’t be the ONLY person to have seen and loved this movie. I refuse to be the Last Unicorn, as it were. So, humor me. Tell me if you’ve seen this. Tell me what obscure random thing you loved as a kid.

Musings, Myths, and the Time of Not-Pink Hair

November 2, 2011 7 comments


When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actress. I had a slight obsession with old school Hollywood hairstyles (think Veronica Lake), which didn’t suit me (I had bangs at the time). As a natural ham, I didn’t know what stage fright was, and I was always out to make people laugh. I remember playing pretend on the playground, an elaborate backstory plotted, and saying things like, “But my character is really UPSET right now. Why don’t you get that?”

Okay, so maybe I took it a little seriously. Perhaps I should have been doing Shakespeare. (Side-note: there’s a plastic skull Halloween decoration at my house. Please ask me if I did a scene from Hamlet. “Alas, poor Yorick…” *ahem*)

After that, and before that, I wanted to be a singer. This was, no doubt, due in no small part to my complete love of Jem and the Holograms (it’s showtime, Synergy!). If I could’ve, I would’ve dyed my hair pink in a heartbeat. Never mind that I, as a child, could not sing well if my life depended on it. Neighborhood animals would flee. A rake on a chalkboard sounded better. Which does nothing to explain the fact that I sang all the time, oblivious, and there are some REALLY embarrassing pictures of me singing Madonna songs into a maraca. (Ohhh, you’re an angel. Ohhhh, you’re angel…) Sure, I learned how to sing. I taught myself, which was no small feat. At some point, I’ll record an a capella song for you all. Right now, I have allergies, which would not sound pretty.

Sometime following my desire to wow the masses with my stunning vocals, I wanted to be a veterinarian. That lasted all the way into high school, when I discovered psychology and wanted to be a shrink. Until my first year of college was over, and I realized I take everyone’s problems too seriously. A year into seeing patients, I would’ve been a basketcase. So, I changed my major to English, thinking I’d want to be a teacher. (And I was for a little while.) Then, I got into marketing, while writing.

And here we are, today. If I’m being honest, I don’t think I ever truly lost the desire to do any of those things. I can still recite a scene from The Taming of the Shrew that was memorized for class. I do accents fairly well, even a Jamaican one. I have sung in public, at open mic nights, and done well. I may not be a veterinarian, but I know a thing or two about caring for animals. And I’m not a shrink, but if you need to talk, I’m here.

Otherwise, yes, I WILL correct your grammar. And the writing thing should be self-explanatory. All in all, I think these different facets of my personality make me quirky. Sure, I’ve been known to burst into a song from Evita, or toss out a quip from The Princess Bride, or throw out some terms I still remember from Psych 101 (“you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken crap.” No, sir, you cannot. Best professor ever. Trust me.)

Life is never a straight line. It doesn’t matter if you change your college major three times, or not at all. College doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s important to learn as much as you can. It’s also important to get a buffalo chicken wrap and garlic fries whenever possible. (Sorry, college flashback. *drools*)

Every time I’ve tried something new, I’ve learned something. Even the things I’ve screwed up spectacularly. Even the times I’ve made a grade-A, Falstaff level fool out of myself. Nothing is without merits. Mistakes and ventures, adventures and bouts of minor insanity, are how we learn and grow.

It’s never too late. It’s never too early. It’s never anything, but opportune. I’ll tell you something that I wish I understood sooner: what you want is never stupid. It’s never silly. Figure out your goal, and go get it. If you don’t try, you’re not just holding yourself back – you’re holding your potential in.

PS. I still want to dye my hair pink, only in streaks. Someone talk me out of this…

Halloweens Past

October 28, 2011 2 comments

Growing up, Halloween was a sacred occasion. Every year, I’d decide what I was going to be about six months in advance. Then I’d change my mind fifty times, only to go with the original costume.

My costumes were always awesome. How do I know this? My mom made them, sometimes from scratch, but always with love. I was a lucky kid.

So, in honor of the upcoming holiday, I went through old photos of Halloweens past. It wasn’t just a look at old costumes; it was always a walk through the past. I saw pictures of people I hadn’t thought about it ages. I remembered silly things I’d forgotten. (Not, mind you, the Halloween that wasn’t. Who could forget that?)

Let’s start at the beginning, when I born (sorry, David Copperfield). My nurse dressed me up as Tinkerbell. I think I look like a ballerina, but I was only a couple of weeks old. If my finger had glowed, I would’ve been ET.

Next up, we have me ACTUALLY in a Tinkerbell costume. I also should point out that I wore this outfit, randomly, around the house. I was sad when it broke.

(Yes, that is a wand in my hand.)

(This is me as a cat. It took my mom FOREVER to paint my face. Or it felt like forever. I was an impatient kid. Also, notice the posing. I was a ham.)

(She-Ra, Princess of Power — probably my favorite costume ever. I had gold boots! Also, that is totally a slip made into a dress.)

(A Punk Witch! I distinctly remember this Halloween. The glasses made everything look funny, and I didn’t understand why my mom wouldn’t let me carry my cat in the basket. As part of my costume. Because that wouldn’t have been heavy. Noooo.)

(Batgirl!!!! My mom handstitched that costume, utility belt and all. This was the costume I wore to the Halloween in which No One Trick-or-Treated.)

(Clockwise, I’m Queen Mab, Scarlett O’Hara (complete with hoop skirt), a gypsy, a Flapper, and Guinevere.)

Obviously, this isn’t every Halloween. I’m missing the time I was a movie star (old school, with a fur coat that I borrowed from my grandpa. Where did he get it? I don’t know), my Geisha girl outfit, and the time I was a 1950s housewife. There were pearls.

I love the idea of being someone else for a day. I love the drama of it all. Hell, I even love all the glitter, even though it is still EVERYWHERE six months later, like sparkly beach sand. I don’t know if I have an absolute favorite costume. For different reasons, I love them all.

Of course, I also love the candy. *wink*

Fears, Growing up, and Closet Vampires

October 26, 2011 5 comments


When I was a kid, I wasn’t afraid of anything. Well, not anything. At one point, I was convinced that there were vampires living in my closet. The door had to be shut, and my neck had to be covered at all times while going to sleep. I’m not sure I should admit that, but there you have it: I was afraid of Closet Vampires.

But this isn’t about that. This is about what happens to us when we grow up. At some point, in small or large ways, we lose that Thing that lets us jump blindly into anything. In some instances, that’s a good thing. As an adult, we’d look pretty stupid jumping off the shed roof, trying to fly. (Not something that *I* personally did, mind you.) But in other areas, losing that Thing holds us back.

The past few days, I’ve been thinking about that. I’ve realized that certain things terrify me, illogically, and without cause. I don’t say these things out loud, because it’s silly. I know that I can get past them, but now it’s like I have something to prove. To myself, not other people.

As a kid, I was a goofy ham. Put a video camera in front of me, and I turned into a comedian. Hold out a camera, and you’d get a ridiculous big grin. Also goofy. Somewhere along the line, I stopped being so completely silly and hamish. (Not a word, I know. BUT IT SHOULD BE.) Don’t get me wrong, if I have to speak in front of a crowd, I generally do it well. I can do it. But it’s not the same reaction. And I find that puzzling. I can’t figure out when that happened.

I’ve given speeches. I’ve sung in front of crowds. Hell, I’ve sung in hallways. I love doing it, but that fearlessness is missing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m generally still the first person to leap in and do what needs to be done. I will recite Shakespeare on command (specifically, Puck’s ending speech). I love making people laugh. (See the video of me giving a toast at my best friend’s wedding. It’s on Facebook.) But I’m afraid screwing up or looking silly. I push through it, because that’s what you do. Face the fears. Tell them to bugger off (same goes for writing, and I will ask you to remind me of this while I’m pen-deep in edits, trying to figure out where the commas should go).

I want to get back that small piece of me that didn’t know to be afraid of looking silly. Except, I’m not entirely sure where I left it. But I’m going to figure it out.

What parts of your personality have fallen by the wayside?

Magic Unicorns, Hugging all the Animals, and Other Memories

October 17, 2011 16 comments

When I was a kid, I was sick a lot. There were weeks spent lounging, pathetically, on the couch in the family room. There is pictorial evidence of how pathetic I looked when I was sick. No, that will not make it onto this blog. Suffice to say that once, I had pneumonia, and the medication I was given for it turned my tongue black and fuzzy. This was at Christmas. I resembled a small, brunette Crypt Keeper, whose tongue had turned into a demonic muppet. It wasn’t a good look for me.

Where was I? Right. Sick kid. So, my mom used to rent me a lot of movies to keep me occupied. When she wasn’t looking, of course, I’d sneak off the couch and onto the floor, where the cat (that I was allergic to) would lie on my stomach, purring contentedly. What? Try keeping me away from something cute and flurry. I dare you. *wink*

This was, of course, back before DVDs, during the Dark Ages of VHS and *gasp* VIDEO STORES. There was a local video store about five minutes from our house, run by a couple. Mrs. S was the sweetest woman alive. Mr. S, however, was a bit…off. He ran the register is the store section (it was a combination convenience store and video store). Imagine walking up to pay for your things and spying an adult man with a piece of printer paper TAPED to his shirt. He rarely used scotch tape, mind you, but favored duct or electrical tape (that latter did not stick well). Anyway, scrawled in marker on this homemade sign would be the lotto jackpot total. And the price of a lottery ticket. Without fail, Mr. S would ask, at least three times, if my mother wanted to buy a lottery ticket. Never in my life has my mother ever bought a lottery ticket. But let me tell you, it was really difficult to keep a straight face.

The point? Right. They had a variety of movies I could never rent anywhere else. One was The Magic Pony. Another was my favorite: Unico. Unico was a manga cartoon, before I even knew what that was, about a tiny unicorn. It is also the first appearance of Hello Kitty, which is pretty neat. Anyway, it is about as cheesy awesome as it sounds. Unico is all about being kind and making friends. I know this because I recently got the sequel on DVD. (Don’t look at me like that. I don’t care if I am twenty-nine. You can’t take away my cartoons.)

And I watched it last night. The little unicorn just wanted to be nice to everyone. He wanted to be friends with anyone who crossed his path. He was out to do good and get hugs. After watching it, I realized that between a childhood of that movie and the CareBears, it explains a lot about me. I can be tough when I have to be. I have a spine. I get angry.

But my default is always to be nice. It’s always to hug a lost dog or cat. (Rescued the neighbor’s dog TWICE last week. Poor old thing was tottering toward the road.) It’s silly to think that cartoons influence children in such instrumental ways, but I really think that affected me. Even She-Ra and He-Man had morals at the end of the cartoons.

Which got me to thinking about today’s cartoons. Admittedly, I don’t watch a lot of them, but I wonder if that moral-of-the-story bit has fallen by the wayside. If it has, it strikes me as a bit of a shame. I think kids need that, especially with the rampant lack of parental influence and presence that is so prevalent these days. (Sweeping generalization!)

Watching the sequel to Unico made me a little nostalgic. I kind of have the urge to dye my hair pink, slap on some star earrings, and sing. (Jem, anyone?) But I suppose if I do that, it’ll have to wait until Halloween. Until then, I’ll be over here, watching a tiny magic unicorn and remembering that time I had to walk twelve miles, uphill, in the SNOW, barefoot — just to rent a video. Which then incurred late fees.

Ten Years

September 11, 2011 7 comments


Right now, I’m 28 years old. I make exquisite pasta with vodka sauce. I have a BA and MA in English Literature. I write. I can sew on a button or stitch up a broken seam.

Ten years ago, my cooking skills were limited. I was in my first semester of college. I didn’t know what I wanted to study or how I could get out of taking math classes. Anything that needed stitching went straight to my mother.

Ten years ago, I still had bangs. I laughed too loudly. I streaked my hair purple. I didn’t not know who Michelle Cliff or Neil Gaiman were. Ten years ago, I was 18. I was sitting in history class. US I, with a professor who was nothing short of awesome, even though history isn’t my favorite subject. He owned horses and was a little rough around the edges. He wore suspenders and a beard that rivaled that of my 7th grade science teacher. Both resembled Grisly Adams.

There was this guy, Jason, who I’d gone to high school with. He walked in late, and he said, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” He’d heard it on the radio on his way to school. The strange part was that we didn’t react to it. At that point, no one knew anything other than what he’d said. We didn’t know that it wasn’t a small plane. We didn’t know that it wasn’t an accident. We had class. Toward the end of it, the professor switched on the tv. A second plane had hit the tower. From that moment, I don’t remember much. Bits and pieces.

I got out of class and frantically called my mother. That’s what you do. You call your mom. Or your dad. Your brother or sister. Your boyfriend or girlfriend. When the world is coming down, you reach out to the people you love the most.

When my mom picked up the phone, she was crying hysterically. I could feel my heart in my throat. I kept asking, “Where’s Dad?” He sometimes had business in NYC. It took her a good five minutes to tell me that he wasn’t in the City that day. He was supposed to have been, but by some twist of fate, he was safe and sound.

I asked her why she was crying. Then, I remembered my Godfather worked in that building. She couldn’t get a hold of anyone. She didn’t know if he was alright. She hung up to call someone else. I called a girl who was my best friend at the time. Or I thought she was. (For the record, she wasn’t.)

She’d seen the news, too. She couldn’t believe it either. We hung up, quickly, but I remember finding it strange that everyone’s reaction was identical. She was several states away, but our campuses were rendered the same: everywhere, there was silence. People were huddled around every available tv. CNN was on. You could hear a heartbeat in that silence. No one knew what to do. No one knew what was going on.

We tried to carry on, like normal. Classes weren’t canceled. I was supposed to attend one in an hour. The hour passed in a minute. My mom finally called to tell me that my godfather was okay. He got out. He was safe.

I told my professor that I had to go home. She seemed to understand, although nothing had sunk in, then. No one knew what to do or say. Follow the routine. Teach. Learn. It seemed to be some kind of refuge. Something to focus on.

Then, all classes after mine were canceled. I drove home. So did my brother. I can’t remember if my dad came home early from work. I want to say yes; I’ll have to ask him. I remember him being there when I got home, but that could be a trick of memory.

My brother stopped on the way home and bought groceries. Just in case. No one knew what was going on or what might happen. There was smoke and silence, screams and sobs. Anger and tears. Fear. That fear was so real I half-expected to find it waiting like a monster in my closet.

The irony of having been in a history class when that tragedy happened never escaped me. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on Jason’s face when he told us the news. The next history class, our professor apologized for his lack of reaction. He didn’t understand what had happened. He would never have kept class in session if he knew. He was only human.

Ten years ago, this is what I saw and what I knew. This was where I was. I cannot believe it’s been ten years.

It feels like yesterday and forever ago in a single breath of memory.

I Want to Know Who Your Heroines Are

August 24, 2011 6 comments

 “Everyone thought I was bold and fearless and even arrogant, but inside I was always quaking.”  — Katharine Hepburn

The first time I saw Katharine Hepburn, and knew who she was, was when I saw an interview with her on tv. I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember how amazing she was. She was witty. She was remarkably self-possessed. She had such confidence and grace. It was uncanny. I was impressed.

Of course, I made sure to watch all of her movies. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for me. I was raised on a steady diet of Abbott and Costello, Casablanca, National Velvet, and anything with singing and dancing. To this day, I cannot see a lamppost without swinging around it like Gene Kelly. At least I don’t have a horribly high fever while doing it.

Anyway, Hepburn left an impression. I admired her greatly. I still do. Because she did exactly what she wanted with her life, despite the difficulties inherent to her time. Plus, she unabashedly wore pants and mouthed off to Barbara Walters, who annoys me. Asking her what kind of a TREE she is? Really? *rolls eyes* So, it’s a win-win.

Hepburn, of course, had a fairly tumultuous personal life. It wasn’t quite to the level of the divine Ms. Taylor, but it wasn’t without difficulty. For one thing, Spencer Tracey (the love of her life) was married and Catholic, which ruled out divorce. He was also, by most accounts, a bit of a drunk. Not exactly the kind of person you hope your daughter will love, but love is a strange, unpredictable, and completely unruly creature. She stayed with him until the end of his life and did not attend his funeral out of respect for his wife and children.

Think about that. The man she loved and cared for had just died, but she had enough strength of will and respect for her dead lover to abstain from his funeral. I can’t imagine standing in her shoes and making that choice. Now, you can argue that the whole arrangement was silly, that she was basically living with a married man, but facts are the sun-blanched bones of things. They are not the whole, living picture.

I know a decent amount about Katharine Hepburn. Audrey, too. And even Elizabeth Taylor. I adore Ava Gardner and would’ve loved to have sat down with these women for a drink. These actresses weren’t just actresses. They were icons. They had style and grace. No one, to my knowledge, has a wardrobe malfunction or blacked out in a trashcan.

Cut to today. What passes for celebrity? Paris Hilton, whose acting talents are those of a shiny, wooden dummy? Or Kim Kardashian, who does what, exactly? Look pretty? Let’s not forget Lindsay Lohan, who once upon a time was amusing (I loved Mean Girls and The Parent Trap).

It’s a shame, really, that the media is saturated with people like that – people who might be nice, or whatever, but who seem to lack a certain level of substance. I grew up with the best of both worlds, really. I watched old musicals and movies. I was completely obsessed with My Fair Lady, although as a kid, I couldn’t quite figure out why Rex Harrison talk-sang.

Thankfully, I read a lot, too. I knew every librarian by name, and she (almost always a she) knew me by name, too. These days, I look at the news and realize that I still want to be a Hepburn, either Katharine or Audrey. Just throw in a little of Dorothy Parker and Mae West while you’re at it.

What famous women influenced you as a child? Who does now? (Sorry that this is girl-centric, today.)

“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” — Audrey Hepburn

“I think the main reason my marriages failed is that I always loved too well but never wisely.” — Ava Gardner

“The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”
— Elizabeth Taylor

“I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.”
— Mae West

“Now I know the things I know, and I do the things I do; and if you do not like me so, to hell, my love, with you!”
— Dorothy Parker

The Mashed Potato Kid: Dealing with Someone Who Doesn’t Get it

August 21, 2011 2 comments


What do you DO with someone who just doesn’t get it? Someone who seems like he/she is constantly playing a word association game of opposites, while clearly looking for a winner. You say, “The sky is blue,” and that person says, “No, it’s not. It’s red. The sky is red. Crimson actually.” Any argument or reasoning to the contrary is then met with a barrage of nonsensical defenses, conclusions, and ramblings. It’s like illogical Tourette’s. You say, “No, that’s not it. I simply mean the sky is blue in appearance. Here’s why…”

The person, in response, yells something completely perplexing. Such as, “Parakeet! There’s no reason for mushrooms to wander. It is an issue of privilege, not method. You simply cannot mistake a salmon for anything other than a monkey. I mean, REALLY. How could you possibly misconstrue the facts to claim otherwise. I know these things. And the sky is most definitely the color of rage. MY RAGE. Which I have learned to control over the years, because I am a ninja.”

Granted, the paragraph above is highly fictionalized. But like all good fiction, the heart of it is true. There are people out there like that, who would not know a rational, logical discussion if it snuck up them and said BOO!

Whenever I run into someone like this, I remember this kid I knew in high school. I won’t divulge his real name, but my friends and I once dubbed him The Mashed Potato kid. I cannot remember why, but during lunch, he once explained that something felt just like mashed potatoes in a plastic bag. It sounded completely bizarre then, too – as if we’d become involved in a spy novel, and someone was supposed to respond with, “The fat man walks alone.” Or “Damn the Man! Save the Empire!” Either way.

The Mashed Potato Kid always seemed to get behind of us in the lunch line. He was out there, but we were always polite to him. You couldn’t really have a normal conversation with him. There was one occasion where, I kid you not, he tried to convince us all that he was a Ninja – AND that he could slow his pulse down at will. He attempted to demonstrate this and failed. Talk about performance anxiety…

There were other instances where the unavoidable conversations trailed off into a Jungle of WTF and OMG. Like a Black Eyed Peas song, these conversations were  horrific, a travesty, and pervasive. (Time of My Life, btw, was the last straw.) The MPK seemed to be everywhere, spouting things that just did not make sense. My friends and I did the only thing we could at the time: avoid him whenever possible and be polite to him whenever forced to converse.

Because if you disagreed with him, he became insistent. And honestly, he was a little bit on the scary side. He looked like the kind of person who would keep something scary in his basement, like a clown. Or an alligator. The Ninja Insistence really didn’t scream, “Stable!” or “Harmless!” So, we were calm and polite, always speaking in the tone you’d use to soothe an injured animal. It worked, for the most part, since we only had to deal with him a year or two.

You can’t argue logically with someone who isn’t logical. And you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken crap. But what do you do, as an adult, with someone who behaves like that? Like the MPK, this kind of person is everywhere and rabid with opinions, opinions based on Wonderland logic. And crazy.

My usual method is a several step process.

  1. Attempt to explain whatever’s been misunderstood. Act rational and reasonable. This step usual FAILS.
  2. Be polite, but try and steer the conversation gently away from the nonsense. This step usually fails, too.
  3. Get annoyed and point out every flaw in that person’s argument. Use words so large that the GRE would be proud, if inanimate tests had emotions. This is a fail, because it’s petty and accomplishes NOTHING.
  4. Feel bad for behaving poorly. Vow to ignore this person as best as possible in the future.
  5. Bang my head against the nearest object, like the character on Sesame Street who cannot remember the rest of the song lyrics.

Intellectually, I know that trying to engage in a conversation with a person like the MPK is fruitless. It’s like adding napalm to a bonfire. BAD THINGS HAPPEN. And not the kind that Jace Everett talks about. But I feel like I’m running out of tactics. I’m running out of magic tricks. I’m also running out of semi-clever metaphors.

Tell me some of your coping skills. I KNOW I’m not the only person to encounter this type of person. Teach me your wisdom.

Letters, Old Habits, and Lost Art

July 16, 2011 3 comments

“Please give me some good advice in your next letter. I promise not to follow it.”               ~Edna St. Vincent Millay

 “A few weeks after the worst day, I started writing lots of letters. I don’t know why, but it was one of the only things that made my boots lighter.”
— Jonathan Safran Foer

My friend Andrea and I have started writing letters back and forth. I think the last time I had a pen pal was when I was seven. And, being seven, that didn’t last long.

I have Amy Brown stationary that I love, but never used. I’m using it. I even had to order more. Because some things should be said on pretty fairy paper in purple ink. Even if it’s reminiscing about passing notes in high school — or complaining about the story I have been working on.

I’ve written out cards before – brief notes. But letters? Not in a long time. This is fun, exciting, and really rather refreshing. Because it’s not instant. In this world of fast food, instant coffee (gross, but will do in a pinch), and minute rice – it’s NICE to have to wait for something.

It reminds me of something important: anticipation. How often do we lose that in today’s world, emailing instead of calling? Texting instead of talking? I wonder, honestly, how badly our communication skills will suffer. In fact, the other day I read about schools that will no longer teach cursive.

What…? *blinks* That’s crazy. As a person, you still need to WRITE things. You need to sign your name. Surely, cursive isn’t a lost art. In school, I hated learning cursive. I was TERRIBLE at it. I have the world’s worst handwriting short of an epileptic doctor. (Sorry, Andrea.) I couldn’t understand how to make my writing neat and flowery. I looked at my friends’ handwriting, and I felt like I was writing things out with a pen in my teeth. But I was always glad that I learned it. It was a rite of passage. I was a grown up (ha!). I could write in cursive!

Now, I know the truth. Well, truths. 1. I will never really be an adult. (Says the person who is frantically searching for My Little Ponies on tv.) and 2. I don’t want to be. (Growing up, completely, is for suckers! Cake for breakfast! Cake for all! Thank you for flying Church of England – Cake or Death?) and 3. I have grown too dependent on things like spellcheck and typing.

Halfway through my last letter to Andrea, my arm began to cramp up. There was pain, like an overused muscle. I realized, as I was trying to write the last paragraph, that I wasn’t used to writing that much at once. The letter was not extraordinarily long: a page, front and back. I should not be in pain from that.

I was appalled. It was a lot like being a marathon runner, only to come to find that running around the corner caused me to be winded. I was ashamed of myself, as someone who used to write entirely by hand. (Now, I only write poetry by hand. I can write that on the computer, but I like the feel of writing it out. In pencil. Only ever in pencil.)

I don’t want to lose the art of letter writing. Yes, I can write a damned good email. I will make you laugh. I will tell you that you’re being a twit. I will reassure you. But it’s SO much more fun to do that on fairy stationary, damn it, in purple ink. With PURPLE stamps. I also have fairy address labels, and I love them.

So, if I have your address – and you want a letter – let me know. It might take me a while (and I may have to ice my hand), but I will send you one. I will also apologize in advance for my ridiculous bad handwriting. (And Andrea, your letter goes in the mail today. It was ready yesterday, but I left it on the table when I went out. Drat it!)

What is a skill that you find less prevalent? What art forms do you miss?