- We raise our eyebrows to the heavens. Translation: Seriously? Have you lost your mind? What were you thinking? Have I taught you nothing?
- We close our eyes in weary defeat like we’re headed to the Appomattox courthouse. Translation: You have messed things up so badly that we can’t bear to look you in the face anymore. (Sometimes this is accompanied by fingers in our ears and a la-la-la-la-I-don’t-hear-you refrain like we’re monks seeking Nirvana on a mountaintop.)
- We cross our legs and swing the top foot in a rapid-fire motion like we’ve been mainlining caffeine since dawn. Translation: We can barely remain seated because a situation close at hand would be much improved if we got up and handled it, which we are sorely tempted to do, even though we know no good will come of it.
- We raise a pointer finger imperiously to the sky, a la Miss Clavel speaking to Madeline. Translation: Depends. Several possibilities here. Could mean: “Something is not right” in nun-speak. Can also mean: “I’m about to impart life-altering words of wisdom. Someone should really write this down”. Or it could be an all-the-way-across-the-room, modify-your-behavior-this-instant warning to children we have reared better than that. Rest assured, our children know what the finger means.
- We make “pfffing” noises with our lips. Translation: We are actually scoffing at your point of view. This is a more grown-up, sophisticated version of the classic raspberry.
- We roll our eyes. Translation: Your suggestion is too ridiculous for words. It is beneath us to discuss this again. We’re already on record—more than once—about this, and you are STILL wrong.
- We lean our heads back, close our eyes, and cross our arms. Translation: We Shall Not Be Moved. Think Mount Rushmore. We’ve DECIDED. Learn to live with it if you can’t love it. Whatever it is. Doesn’t matter.
- Hand on the hip. Translation: A verbal smack down is nigh. Somebody has it coming, probably had it coming for a while, and is about to get it. Prepare for incoming. Duck and cover, join forces, or get the heck out of the way.
- We tilt our head coquettishly to the side. Translation: We might be listening to your point of view. Truly. Or we might be mentally contemplating the many important things your mama apparently failed to teach you.
- We open our arms wide to you, extend both hands decidedly in your personal space, or reach up to kiss you on the cheek. Translation: Southern women are very touchy-feely. If you are not, you need to suck it up. You might be rewarded with pound cake. You should hug us back like you mean it. Bonus: If you pick us up off the floor in a bear hug and swing us around like we’re six-year-old girls again, you get homemade whipped cream with that.
Tag Archives: lists
- I will exercise every day. (As long as my favorite exercise outfit is clean, my best friend is free to exercise with me, and I don’t have to take another shower.)
- I will eat only healthy foods. (As long as they are covered in chocolate.)
- I will improve myself in some way every month. (Provided I do not have to read any self-help books, go to any counseling sessions, watch any instructional videos, or listen to smug, skinny, well-adjusted salespeople.)
- I will separate myself from negative people. (Is this child abandonment?)
- I will read the books I didn’t get to last year. (As long as someone else can do my work, wash clothes, run errands, and take care of my children.)
- I will prioritize my life. (I will not spend half a day making homemade cupcakes for children who will lick the icing off and throw the cupcake away.)
- I will spend more time with my dearest friends. (Instead of listening to mere acquaintances blather on about their ex-husbands.)
- I will plant an herb garden. (As long as I don’t have to water it or fertilize it or anything like that.)
- I will find one good thing in every person I meet. (Even if I have to admire someone’s handwriting.)
- I will be kind to animals. (Even if I hold up rush hour traffic for a tortoise.)
- I will encourage my friends in every new venture. (Even if it is a totally ridiculous idea, and everyone knows it.)
- I will be more adventurous. (I will run with scissors and gas up the car after the warning light comes on rather than with half a tank.)
- I will try a new hairstyle. (Surely there is some style out there that screams: “There is a woman in here underneath the mom attire!”)
- I will clean out my attic. (And stop pretending my husband will ever get to that.)
- I will balance my checkbook properly. (How hard can three-digit subtraction be?)
- I will be more tolerant of other people’s views. (Even if they are obviously uninformed idiots.)
- I will spend more time having fun. (And less time feeling guilty about that.)
Don’t get me wrong. Sharing is good. Generally. If you open a tin of mints next to me, I want one. If you crack open a bottle of bubbly, top off my glass. If you find a way to turn on your television without using two remotes, seven button-pushing steps, reading glasses, and profanity, I want you to share that miracle with me like it’s the next coming of the Lord. Most of all, if you figure out how I can eat anything I want without gaining weight, I want you to share that like breaking news on CNN. Although there are innumerable examples of sharing that I approve of whole-heartedly, the list is equally long for things I wish you’d keep to yourself. For example:
- Unless you are movie star beautiful, I don’t want to hear the nitty-gritty about your sex life. I don’t care if you’re straight, gay, or something in between. Unless this is a story I can enjoy vicariously, I do not want the intimate details describing your fun. There’s nothing in that for me. Make expressive faces to get your point across. Use euphemisms like Yowza! Boy, howdy! or Yummy! Trust me. I can keep up. I have a stellar imagination. You don’t have to spell it out. I prefer romance to straight-up porn, which is just icky.
- The same goes for your labor and delivery stories. Been there. Done that. Three times. I know how the plumbing works. Luckily, those memories fade over time, which explains how some of us got suckered into doing that more than once. It’s not a walk in the park, for sure. It’s true that some experiences are worse than others, but, generally speaking, it’s doable. Otherwise, we’d all quit doing it. (Pun intended.)
- Please, please, quit sharing horror stories about your ex. He or she may actually be The Spawn of Satan, but surely there was a time when you felt differently, right? For the sake of those perfect 45 minutes or 25 years, give it a rest. Share his or her fatal flaws on a need-to-know basis after the first anniversary of your divorce. A year is enough time to vent; isn’t it? Three years? Five? Pick a number, whine at will for that period of time, and then move the heck on. Don’t let your ex ruin another minute of your post-ex life!
- Limit the photo sharing extravaganzas starring your children, grandchildren, and pets. This is such a common problem it is a cultural cliché. I think the advent of smart phones has tripled the temptation. There is nothing worse than been trapped next to someone who is determined to share—not one or two—but NUMEROUS iPhone albums.
- Be stingy with details about your recent surgery or medical ailment unless it’s something truly horrific or unusual—like you were struck by lightning or bitten by a shark. Those stories I’d pay to hear. I don’t need a blow-by-blow account of your gall bladder surgery. I just want to know how you’re doing right now, and if I can help you in any way. I don’t enjoy fighting off waves of nausea as we discuss your bodily functions.
- Please don’t share your little children with me when I’ve paid to participate in an adult activity—like eating in a nice restaurant, taking an exercise class, or getting a haircut that’s going to cost me an arm and a leg. I’ve lived through my baby years, and I made my children behave in public. You should, too. (If you don’t know how to go about this, ask me or another bossy mother. We are here to help.) If you can’t or aren’t willing to reign in your little terrors, please stay home with them or get a sitter. However, if you have a really cute lap baby with you, please let me hold him or her for a few minutes before you leave because that would be fun for me.
- Please don’t share your germs with me. Duh. It seems like a common-sense call. If you are sick, stay away from the rest of us! You may think you are indispensable, but I assure you that you are not. Take a break and be sick. I’m constantly amazed that we don’t allow anyone to be sick anymore in this country—either because of finances, convenience, ego, or the fear of losing a job. That’s just wrong.
- Please don’t share your political views, religious views, or other strongly held opinions unless you are really interested in an open-minded exchange. If you genuinely seek that, I’m open to a lively debate upon occasion, but if that’s not you, I will undoubtedly find you tiresome and exhausting and make up an excuse to move my fat fanny elsewhere.
- Even if I genuinely adore you and am proud of every accomplishment your brilliant, gifted, exceptionally talented children have chalked up this week, please bear in mind that my own may be serving up just the opposite sort of week, so keep the bragging to a minimum. I want to be happy for you all the time. I really do. Alas, I am only human. I have lovely manners, but sometimes I slip up. Don’t tempt me.
Finally, and this one is unique to writers like me, I think: Please don’t share your book proposals with me. I’m begging you. I’m a writer, not a publisher, and there isn’t one thing I can do for you. When you ask, I feel compelled to read and encourage you, and I will either love your book, so someone will undoubtedly publish it, so you don’t need my input, or I’ll realize it’s a terrible book, and I have to find a way to tell you that without hurting your feelings. I don’t want to do either of these things!
What are your comfort books?
I’m not asking you to list your all-time favorite books. I don’t want to know which books changed your view of the world or the people around you. (Well, I do, actually, but not right now.) I don’t care which books you consider “great” literature. BO-RING. I do not want you to tell me that if you were trapped on an island, the only book you’d need is the Bible, even if that’s true for you. And if you list Little Women, I will throw up, but, hey, that’s just me. If Louisa pots your plant, list her book, sister.
I want to know the titles of books you return to again and again over time—for whatever reason. Tell me your reading touchstones—not like Pat Conroy does in his book—but in a list format, so I can write them down and buy them.
When I speak to groups, I am almost always asked what I like to read. I always tell the truth, and I’m a startlingly eclectic reader. It always surprises people. I don’t know why. (Do I look boring?) I’m well educated, so I’ve read the classics, but I enjoy almost every genre if the writing is good. I’m a fast reader, and I need to read every single day to be happy. In fact, immersing myself in a book is my favorite way to beat the blues. I recommend this strategy to all of you. It works; it’s also cheap, quiet, portable, and doesn’t require participation by others.
Post your comfort list in “comments” to this blog post or on my Facebook fan page: Facebook.com/MelindaRaineyThompson. If you’re really ashamed of them, email me. I want the unvarnished truth. I am curious about the stacks on your night table. I want the REAL list—not the books you feel compelled to read for whatever reason. I promise not to poke fun. Much. Read my list. I’m obviously sharing the unedited truth. No need to hide your titles on your Kindle home page!
I’ll go first:
- Beach Music by Pat Conroy. Conroy is THE MAN for me for novels about the South. I think this is the best “brother” book I’ve ever read. I re-read it every couple of years. It’s my favorite Conroy novel.
- Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie. Weird, huh? I was temporarily obsessed with the demise of the Russian royal family in high school. I still like to read about them. Massie taught a history class at Tulane while I was there. I also like books about genetics. We all have our little quirks. I’ll be nice about yours if you’re nice about mine. I have a friend whose IQ is off the charts, and her secret pleasure is reality television which gives me a migraine. Who am I to judge?
- Favorite mystery writer: Mike Stewart. Sins of the Brother, Dog Island, A Clean Kill. Mike writes about my part of the country, and his prose is sharp, clean, and powerful. I am in love with his hero, Tom McInnis, the perfect Southern man. I wish Mike would quit practicing law and write more books. We have plenty of lawyers. Just my opinion, of course, but I’m right.
- Favorite mystery series: The Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series by Julia Spencer-Fleming. What can I say? I’m a good Episcopalian, and the heroine is an Episcopal priest.
- Best beach/bubble bath books: Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels. Fair warning: You have to love vampire lit. I do. So sue me. Add a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups to that, and I’m one happy reader.
- A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness. Witches and vampires for smart people who love history. Written by a professor who managed to achieve commercial success without screwing up her tenure. Amazing.
- Sullivan’s Island by Dorothea Benton Frank. I’m a bit of a Frank groupie. She’s the author I’d most like to eat dinner with. I’ve signed in the same bookstores, and everybody loves her, as far as I can tell.
- Non-fiction: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Depressing but worth it.
- Kiddie lit.: All the Harry Potter books and the Twilight series. Pure escapism and beautiful prose.
Now: Tell the truth about what YOU love to read. I’m taking suggestions! And before you ask, let me just go ahead and confess: Yes, indeed, I read Fifty Shades of Grey—the entire trilogy, in fact, like every other woman in the United States and abroad. I read all three books in TWO DAYS. Oh, my. . . .