Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Scarlet Letter N

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A public service announcement, because it is long overdue:

The word “really,” as a comeback, is not witty. It is not funny, nor wry, nor ironic, nor even pleasant to hear, as people seem to insist on delivering it with a pinched nasal whine.

I’ve noticed people using it lately as an expression of incredulity, like so:

“And my boss said I’d have to come in early, and I said Really?”

Listen. This is not a bon mot. It is not a stinging rejoinder. It is not in any wise clever, though I suppose I understand why people would think so, as audience members always seem to respond to this zinger with an ironic little laugh. (Except for me. I am the audience member responding with stony silence.)

I have been needing to get that off my chest for at least a year.

I am not opposed to the vernacular, and in fact have been known to embrace it, especially when it comes to the fine art of vulgar language. Sometimes it is cathartic to dispense with carefully-reasoned discourse in favor of naughty words. In other cases it is literally imperative. I find myself completely unable to mention the Tea Party without modifying it with “fucking.” I relish the precision of my de rigueur oral speech as much as I relish the liberating thrill of swearing like a sailor. I also enjoy peppering my speech with idioms and cliches and other casual contrivances.

It’s just irritating to hear a perfectly banal word being bandied about as though it were witty repartee.

This is, of course, a losing battle. Despite my PSA, delivered absolutely gratis, no strings attached, my chances of positively effecting change are approximately zero– less than zero, actually, if we’re being honest. I suspect my high-handed culture lesson will piss off at least one person, who will then retaliate by incorporating “really” into his or her personal arsenal of comedic one-liners.

My little rant here is symptomatic of my complete inability to hold a casual conversation. Two recent examples:

Gentleman at bar: So what are you doing here?
Me: Frankly, I’d rather be reading.
Gentleman: Reading?
Me: You know. Like with a book.
Gentleman: Ah. [Pause.] Literacy is important.
Me: …..

(Honestly. What was I supposed to say?)

Different gentleman at same bar: Can I dance with you?
Me: Good grief, you haven’t even spoken to me. How do you know I’m not an crack addict or a fascist or someone who kicks puppies?
Gentleman: Uh…
Me, relenting slightly: Sorry, sorry, I just get tetchy when people try to hit on me without even hearing two words come out of my mouth. Try again. Tell me something about yourself.
Gentleman, puffing up chest: I like death metal!
Me [aside]: Oh, that’s just precious.
[Aloud]: Try listening to baroque sometime.
Gentleman: “Broke”?
Me: Ba-roque. Style of classical music. Listen for the consistent rhythms and precise meters.
Gentleman: Uh…

And this, of course, is symptomatic of my complete inability to hang out in bars. I get really rankled when people try to assess me based on how I look, which rather misses the point of bars: you’re supposed to go there and sit about looking attractive and acting approachable, two key points of bar-hopping that always escape my mind. Nerding it up is unlikely to win you any points, which is difficult for me, as I cannot seem to open my mouth without searing a giant red letter N on my chest.

Ah well. It’s nearing bedtime now, so I’m going to go do some reading. You know. Like with a book.

Maturity

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Hi. I’m back.

Prepare to be not dazzled! In a perfect world I would break my silence with a triumphant return, with a dazzling gem of wit that made everyone realize just how much they had missed my writing.

That is not going to happen this evening. The sad fact is that I haven’t felt like writing anything recently– and that’s not the worst of it. I haven’t even felt like reading this past week. This is like a fish not being in the mood for swimming.

But tonight, for the first time in a long while, I did not recoil at the thought of posting something here. I am about to perish from fatigue and by every reasonable accont I should be drifting off to sleep right now, but since I’m kind of in the mood to write something I am going to seize the opportunity, quite without prejudice regarding the astonishing absence of creative ideas that are springing to mind.

So I’ll pick a softball topic to ease myself back in. I’ll aim for a dazzling gem next time. For now, let me note that I turned thirty last week.

I am really, really happy about this. I never did get the hang of being a twenty-something. From what I understand, I was supposed to be spending my twenties having lots of casual sex, with perhaps a regrettable but blessedly short marriage thrown in for good measure. Also, I was supposed to be slowly declining from the apex of my physical beauty.

As it transpires, I missed out on the casual sex scene, I never came remotely close to marriage, and I kept getting hotter. Granted, this wasn’t all that hard to do, as I was ugly as a child and merely nondescript during my college years. But these last few years I have been progressively developing a more pleasing form, and also my wardrobe has become more interesting, and also I met Hairdresser Jeff. Assuming this trajectory continues, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t, I should rival Helen of Troy by the time I’m seventy.

And, as far as I can tell, I’ve been an adult my entire life. As a child, the grownups would euphemistically describe me as mature, because it’s awfully mean to tell a little girl that she acts like a boring old woman. There was this one time in the third grade when, in a practical lesson on how to balance a checkbook, all the kids were given monopoly money and a catalog of toys to peruse. At the ripe old age of eight I decided to horde my fake money and not buy any of the imaginary crap in the catalog.

Fiscal conservativism at the age of eight. It’s a crying shame. The joie de vivre gene totally missed me. This was also the year I decided to stop watching cartoons (I felt that the contrived plots and stereotypical characters were insulting to my intelligence, though I didn’t have the vocabularly to articulate it that way), and the year that I started reading the paper each day.

This level of psychological sobriety is unnerving in a child. I was a total wet blanket. Allow that child to age a few decades, however, and suddenly her financial maturity and discriminating consumption of media and goods becomes admirable. I have finally reached the age where my wet-blanket-ness is an asset.

But, like someone half my age, I can still get by on three hours of sleep. Which is what I did last night, because I stayed up too late, as I was engaged in some casual sex. Or in solving a logic puzzle. (Only one of these explanations is correct, but I will permit my readers to select whichever they prefer, along the lines of the Choose Your Own Adventure model.) Due to last night’s dearth of sleep I am now quite ready for bed. Regular blogging updates should resume forthwith, however. Stay turned for the next decade’s worth of dazzling gems!