I don’t have a lot of revenge fantasies.
It’s not that I’m such a goody-two-shoes. Well, okay, I’m a little bit of a goody-two-shoes. I believe in the power of Being Nice.
That’s how I was brought up. “Be Nice” – said absolutely everyone in my family.
And, as a corollary – “Don’t wish bad things to happen to anyone.”
Because everyone you know – including those who are mean to you – is someone’s kid. Or parent, or loved one. And if something bad did happen, then you would also be hurting people who don’t deserve it.
Which is why I don’t have much in the way of revenge fantasies.
What I have, though, are apology fantasies.
How I would love the people who have wronged me to see that they have wronged me. And to come and say they are sorry.
Here are the people I would like to hear from:
– The fifth grade teacher who bullied me into tears on a daily basis
– The boy who made fun of me in front of the whole class in 7th grade and introduced me to the feeling of public humiliation
– The friend who fixed me up with a nice guy, and then decided she would take him for herself
– The man I fell madly in love with who forgot to tell me he was married
– The boss who decided that if she made my life miserable enough, I would quit; who forced me into counseling for what she called my “psychological issues” but which the therapist described as symptoms of severe workplace abuse
– The boss for whom I had worked my ass off for twelve years, who saw the above happening and never lifted a finger to help
– The man who I forgave and forgave, thinking he would eventually see how sweet and wonderful I was, who told me finally that I was just not pretty enough for him
– And there there was…
I just can’t think of anyone else.
That’s it I guess.
Wait a minute.
There are over 7 billion people in the world. I am 65 years old.
And I can only think of 7 people out of 7 billion over the course of 65 years who owe me an apology?
Well, for crying out loud. That’s about as insignificant as you can get.
All my enemies can fit around my dining room table, and there would still be room for me.
So forget about it. Forget about apologies.
Let’s have dinner instead.
Pass the potatoes.
I love to write.
I love being able to create a world of my own. I love telling stories. I love the feeling when I come up with just the right word or phrase.
I love writing. I love what I’ve written. All of it. The good and the not-so-good. The words are mine and I find great pleasure in them.
And I also love being read. I love an audience. I love making someone laugh. Or touching someone with a heartfelt paragraph.
Of course, when something gives you this much satisfaction – and bliss – you do if for the sheer joy of it.
Recognition is secondary.
But oh, I will confess, I have an egocentric little piece of my brain that would love to be famous for something I have written.
And it has happened!
And not just in my little corner of Connecticut. Last week I became an international sensation.
On August 10, someone who logged on as “Your Friend” commented on my blog,
“You made it to a finnish newspaper”
And this “friend” added a link.
Oh boy, I thought…perhaps they have picked up one of my best blogs – maybe the one about visiting a nude beach (I still get hits to my blog from that one), or maybe one of the posts about my sweet puppy, or one of my pieces about being happier as I age. Or maybe the one I am most proud of – my essay on living with childlessness.
So with great anticipation, I clicked on the link.
And there it was. My tweet from a few days earlier.
Yes, my Olympic tweet.
A fortunate photographer had captured two of the German Field Hockey players standing side by side, and their names delighted the most tasteless and silly the of internet world.
And out of the probably hundreds (or maybe thousands) of the crassest of tweets, Finland chose mine!
What an honor!
I thought about the enormity of my Finnish fame for a few minutes.
Then I googled:
Nancy Roman Butt Fuchs
And OMG, my fame was everywhere!
“Kindisch” — Ja, I sure am.
And the U.K.
And dozens right here in the old U.S. of A.
Can you imagine?
Maybe I am famous all over the world right now!!!
My Dad would be so proud.
Thankfully, I did not use my maiden name.
The political conventions are over. They have left me with sleepless nights and high blood pressure. And there are so many days to go of increasing nastiness and vicious side-taking.
I worry. I want us all to be okay.
I am from the Woodstock generation, after all. I thought – for a very short time – that we could all love each other.
But I will get through August.
I will find some serenity in the simple pleasures of high summer.
Here are 31 of my joys that will help me (and I hope you) get through the next 31 days.
- Corn on the cob
- Johnny Mathis singing “Wonderful, Wonderful” or “Misty” or “Chances Are” – or just about anything
- “The African Queen”
- My dog’s smile
- Chocolate ice cream
- Lobster rolls
- The last page of a great book, knowing another is waiting for me
- Dozing on a comfy lounge chair
- My cat’s frown
- Riding in the convertible on a starry night
- Sharing pretzels with the seagulls on the beach
- Pedicures with lavender polish
- Country fairs
- James Taylor
- Eau de Chloe
- Tomatoes still sun-warm eaten right from the garden
- Beaded sandals
- Putting on warm dry clothes after spending hours in a wet bathing suit
- Iced coffee
- Bronzing powder
- Buying my mother scratch-off lottery tickets
- My husband calling me Angel
- Little boys on bicycles with baseball gloves hanging from the handlebars
- The smell of charcoal and steaks wafting through the neighborhood
- Clean smooth sheets
- Blueberry picking in the late still afternoon
- Putting on Paul Simon’s Graceland and dancing while I dust the house
- Cheeseburgers with a side of Ruffles
- Toddlers (and grown-ups) running through the water sprinkler
- Black-Eyed Susans
I’ve written lately about a few little mysteries that have bugged me for a long time.
Some important – like I NEED some answers concerning the assassinations that changed our lives.
And another from my childhood – the Betsy Ross tale of the five-pointed star – that I was able to solve in a few minutes, now that we have Google. (Of course, it took me much longer than a few minutes to duplicate the solution.)
So here’s the last in my little series of unsolved mysteries. And in addition, I get to pay tribute to a sweet woman that I knew for a short time back in the 70s.
In 1976, I got a job.
This may not seem like a big deal, but getting a job in 1976 was no easier than it is right now. I was 25 years old, a BA in English, living with my parents, earning pocket money by tutoring a kid in math. I searched for months for a real job. The economy was not exactly booming, and although I was well-educated, I had no real skills. I finally (accidentally) used my lack of experience to get a job. In the job interview, I responded with frustration to the perpetual remark that I was overqualified: “I am not overqualified, I am over-educated. I can’t really DO anything!” The interviewer laughed so hard, he gave me the job.
And so I became a clerk for a health care program. The company was funded by a grant from Medicare, using Medicare funds to cover services for the elderly that were not currently covered… to see what might be cost-effective, and how Medicare might evolve.
Mostly, I typed purchase orders and filed medical papers. But I was actually pretty smart in my over-educated way, and soon I began to assume more responsibilities. Supervising some of the work, and trouble-shooting issues with Medicare reimbursement. I liked it. And they paid for me to go to grad school and I ended up as an English major with an M.B.A.
Another woman was hired shortly after I started. Her name was Rose.
Rose was my mother’s age. In fact, she was exactly my mother’s age – she realized that she had attended elementary school with my mom. My mother remembered her. She said Rose was a sweet little girl who was painfully shy.
She still was.
It took her months before Rose spoke at work. She did her job quietly and carefully. She wore unassuming clothes and an unassuming demeanor. But in time, all the clerks at the company (all all the nurses, social workers, and executives) came to see that she was smart and kind and interesting. She didn’t speak much, but when she did – it was always worth listening.
Rose had not had a easy life. Her folks were desperately poor, and not the best parents. She’d been belittled and made to feel unattractive and had married a man who did not treat her well. She had tried very hard without success to have a baby, and she and her husband finally decided to adopt. When the adoption looked imminent, her husband left her. The adoption fell through. She had been alone ever since.
Rose kept her head down as she worked. She covered her mouth when she laughed. She had the most reassuring manner when dealing with our elderly clients. They often called just to talk with her. “I can give them five minutes,” she’d say. “I might be the only person they talk to today.”
She had three pairs of shoes, in exactly the same style. Thick flat loafers. Black, brown, navy.
I had been working with Rose for a few years – and grown to love her like the precious woman and gentle surrogate auntie she was, when late one afternoon she confided in me that she was having man-problems (as she called it).
She had met a widower – (I can’t recall how) – and he had been repeatedly calling her and asking her out. She repeatedly turned him down. But he kept calling.
And the day before she told me this story, she had come home from work to find him sitting on her porch. You might be thinking ‘Oh, no…a stalker!’ but it was not exactly like that.
This man had said to her, “I am a really nice man, and I like you very much. So I think maybe you should give me a chance. But if you say no to my face, right here in person, I won’t call you anymore.”
And Rose told me, “I said okay. And we went out to dinner. I think it was a mistake.”
I said, “What if it isn’t?”
And Rose gave me one of her rare smiles that was open and not shy, and made her plain features quite beautiful.
And it was not a mistake. Within the year, she and Tony were married.
It was not long afterwards that Rose was diagnosed with cancer. Tony cared for her through her illness that progressed with an unfair vengeance. She died within the year.
I wish the story had a happier ending, but I guess it is happy enough. Rose and Tony had found each other. At least for a little while, Rose received and felt the love that she deserved.
Before you think that this story is too sad, I want to share one of the best laughs I ever had – and it was courtesy of Rose. She and the other clerks processed Medicare claims, which we sent to the Social Security Administration for payment. This was long before computers. The claims were batched by type (Dentist, Home Health Aide, etc.) with a cover transmittal sheet listing what was attached. It was my job to review the batches before they went out. I would correct any errors, and also let the clerks know of their mistakes.So that we could improve our rejection rate. Because of course, the Feds would not pay anything that was not perfect. Paperwork was Everything. (still is.)
So one afternoon, in reviewing the batches, I saw that Rose had attached a gynecologist’s bill with the ear, nose and throat doctors’ invoices.
I said to her, “Rose, this guy is not an ENT. He’s a gynecologist.”
And she said, in her tiny voice that rarely rose above a whisper: “He’s a specialist. An ENT-H. Ear, Nose, Throat, and Hole.”
That’s my Rose.
I promised you a mystery. Here it is – a little mystery that Rose left me:
A year or so before she met Tony, she told me that she had an idea. A simple one. She had invented something. It was a new box for tissues. Not just a cover, or a different way for the tissues to pop out of the box, but something completely original.
“It’s ingenious,” she said, blushing from her own tiny rare immodesty. “I’m going to get it made and sell it to Kleenex. “It will make a fortune.”
But Rose never made it, as far as I know. And she never revealed what her innovative idea was.
I think about it every now and again, as I reach for a tissue. I think it is a shame that Rose didn’t get to see the success of her invention.
Maybe it was nothing.
I tend to think it was the most wonderful, earth-shattering Kleenex box the world will never know.
HOW I WON THE DANCE CONTEST
PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING
In 1965, the local radio station threw a block party.
The AM station, WBIS, was insignificant and unpopular. Their claim to fame was that the actor Bob Crane had started his career there.
The Hartford stations WPOP and WDRC were the stations everyone listened to.
But my best friend Doris and I had discovered something cool about the local station. They gave away little prizes all the time. We’d listen on Saturday afternoon. It was “name that tune” or “be the fourth caller” and you’d win a key chain or a pen that wrote in two colors. We loved those trivial prizes. We’d walk downtown to the radio’s shabby studio over the five-and-ten and collect our frequent winnings.
So we were excited about the block dance.
We spent hours fringing our cutoff jeans to the exact three-quarters-of-an-inch that was the optimal fringiness.
The party was held on a Friday night in June. The venue was the parking lot at Mafale’s Plaza, which was not so much a plaza as an appliance store with a laundromat.
But it was a warm beautiful night, and the turnout was pretty good.
Doris and I had rehearsed a few dances. At fourteen, I would have rather been dancing with a boy, but I figured that if I got out there on the dancefloor/asphalt, the boys would see what a good dancer I was. It didn’t quite work out that way. (But it did turn out to be a pretty good strategy during my nightclubbing thirties.)
So Doris and I danced together all evening.
And just like we expected, the DeeJay gave out prizes. He’d call out, “Hey, Blond Ponytail Girl with the pink blouse and the tall boy – come on up to the turntable. You’re the winner of this dance!”
There were tee shirts and Pepsis and records.
Doris and I danced every dance. Except the slow dances – and it killed us to sit those out, but we had some tiny bit of pride.
Round after round, the DeeJay would call out. “Curly-Hair Girl in Blue” and “Purple-Dress Lady” and “Bald Guy in the Hawaiian Shirt” – and couples would go get their prize.
The last dance of the night was the big hit of the year – The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”. Almost everyone had already gone home.
The DeeJay called out, “Hey, Skinny Little Girl and your friend – Come get your prize!”
That was US!
And the Deejay gave Doris a tee shirt and he gave me the 45 single:
Perspective is Everything.
By that last dance, everyone still dancing in that parking lot had already won a prize. We were the last dancers left who hadn’t won anything. The DeeJay took pity on us.
But that’s not the way we saw it.
To Doris and I, the last dance of the evening was the BIGGEST EVENT.
We won the FINAL ROUND.
The DeeJay saved us till the end so we could be the GRAND PRIZE WINNERS.
Yes, Perspective is Everything.
(Originally published in 2012)
I’ve been through a lot of election cycles.
I don’t remember Truman (though I was alive during his presidency) and I vaguely remember Eisenhower as president… not as candidate.
The first election I remember is Kennedy’s. I was nine. I remember how excited the nuns were back in 1960 – with a Catholic running for president. The sisters still wore their black habits back then, and were not allowed to adorn them in any way. But every nun at my parochial school wore a Kennedy campaign button pinned to her (usually enormous) bosom.
And every election after that…LBJ, Nixon (2), Carter, Reagan (2), Bush, Clinton (2), W. (2), Barack Obama (2).
So this is the FIFTEENTH election for me.
I am no novice. But I am still shocked.
Campaigns have gotten much longer and much louder and much much nastier. It is certainly not original for me to say that Campaigning has overtaken Governing in the way politicians spend their time.
And because of the ubiquity of the internet, in some ways we are more of a democracy than ever. Because EVERYONE can campaign.
All your friends, your family, your favorite websites – it is no longer just at the dinner table that folks are arguing over politics. It is EVERYWHERE. It is CONSTANT.
Sometimes it is thoughtful. But most of the time it is crass.
I have very low blood pressure, both physically and temperamentally. It takes a lot to get a rise out of me. But the last few weeks have had me aggravated and angry and my blood is throbbing in my ears.
I got into a Facebook pissing match last week with a good friend. She posted a meme that was easily disproved, and I was determined to do so. But I could not. The more data and sources I supplied to discredit her post, the more staunchly she defended it. In the end, I only convinced her of one thing: that I am an asshole.
I have regretted the argument all week.
And yesterday I took a pledge. I posted it on Facebook not only to my friends but to the general public. I see some spots where I could have expressed myself more eloquently, but it will serve the way it is.
It may not tone down the rhetoric. But I feel better. And perhaps my blood pressure will return to somewhere closer to its normal ‘I-faint-if-I-stand-up-too-quickly’ level. And I will survive until November.
I did not have a lot of boyfriends when I was young. I was a little self-conscious and nerdy, and could not figure out how to connect with boys, although I wanted to. But now and then, in my teens and twenties, I managed somehow to find myself with a boyfriend.
I met Lee when I was 19.
He broke my heart.
But not in the way you imagine.
We met twice before we connected. The first time I saw him – or rather, he saw me – was in the parking lot of the local movie theater. It was pretty late at night, because it had been a double feature – “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” Both those films had been released many months before, and that’s why they were paired up as a bargain – but can you imagine a better double feature ever? Can you even imagine a double feature? But that’s what you still got occasionally in 1970.
But I digress. (Yes, I know… so what else is new?)
I was at the movies with my mother and my sister. And afterwards, as we went to our car, a couple of kids came over – not from the movie theater, they were walking from the other direction – and asked for a ride. We turned them down.
A few days later, I went for a walk in the park. I never walked in the park to visit with nature. No, I always went looking for a boy. From the time I was 15 until I was 35, I strolled the park in search of a boyfriend. I thought that would be a nice place to find a nice man. I only succeeded one time in all those 20 years.
There was a bunch of kids hanging around by the pond. One boy came over to me. He had long, rather stringy hair and ancient jeans that were raggedy where they dragged on the ground. Just like my jeans.
He said, “I know you. Outside the movie theater. You wouldn’t give me a ride.”
“I was with my mother. Do you think I would let my mother think I pick up strangers at midnight?” I replied.
“If your mother wasn’t there, would you have picked me up?” He asked.
He laughed.”Okay. How about now? I am not a stranger any more, since now we’ve met twice. I could use a ride home.”
And so I gave him a ride. Only it wasn’t exactly to his home. I dropped him off at a group home, a big falling-down Victorian house only a few blocks from the theater.
“So you didn’t really need a ride the other day,” I commented.
“Not really. I just wanted to see if you would.”
And we started hanging out together.
His real name was Leon, but he thought that was an old man’s name, and he wanted to be groovier than that.
Lee didn’t really live at the group home – they just let him sleep there once in a while when he was on the outs with his mother. His mother was from Poland; I had the impression that she was a war bride, but I’m not sure that’s true. What’s true is that Lee’s mother was a very angry woman. I only saw his dad once or twice; he had an apartment in a not-so-nice part of town, having moved out of their middle-class ranch home a few years before.
Now that I am older, I try to see the situation from his mother’s point of view. But it’s difficult. Everything Lee did was terrible/bad/wrong. His mother seemed to do nothing but yell in her broken English for him to get the hell out of her house. When I was with him, she’d yell the same thing at me. And once, when she came home unexpectedly and caught us mildly fooling around in his bedroom, she chased me out of the house, brandishing scissors.
Then there was Lee’s dad. Lee told me about a time when his mom had kicked Lee out of the house, and he went to his father’s place and asked if he could stay there for a while. His father gave him a fifty and told him to go to a motel for the night. That’s how he ended up sleeping at the group home once in a while.
My own parents were always very nice to my rare boyfriends, including Lee. My mother would make Lee tea with honey, which he loved. My father liked to talk sports, and although Lee didn’t seem to know a lot about sports, we’d sit and watch a game once in a while with my Dad.
I’m not sure what drew me to Lee. He was not handsome. At best, he resembled Neil Young, and I thought that was nice, but certainly not good-looking. He didn’t wash his hair enough. He wore the same clothes for days on end. He never had any money.
He was passingly smart – we both ended up attending night classes at a nearby college – but he was no great genius either. He rarely did any school work, and didn’t take the same courses I did. But he talked about the world with some knowledge. And he spoke very sweetly to me.
He didn’t ask much from me. Not money, not sex, not drugs. Mostly he liked to come over to my house and hang out. (Young people then did a lot of ‘hanging out’ – I think they still do.)
We had met at the very end of the summer of 1970, and mostly just ‘hung out,’ often with a small group of other long-haired hippie kids, throughout the fall and the beginning of winter.
My birthday is in early February. My parents were on a well-deserved vacation, and I was staying with my sister in her roommate-filled apartment. So I planned myself a little 20th birthday party. Nothing crazy. About 10 friends in my parent’s basement. Soda and snacks and just a little bit of cheap wine. It felt stupendously exciting though, because I was breaking the rules.
And Lee showed up that night – with another girl in tow. Yeah, just like the old song, “It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To.” I had had no suspicion that he was seeing anyone else. I was mortified. The party ended early, and I threw away all the food in a dumpster behind the supermarket the next morning.
My parents returned a few days later. When I told my mother that Lee and I had broken up, she said, “Well, then, why is he here?” And there he was, standing at the kitchen door.
I let him in, and my mother put the water on for tea, and then disappeared upstairs.
Lee and I sat at the kitchen table, both staring at our mugs.
After a long while, I said, “Why did you do that? In front of everyone like that?”
And Lee said, “I didn’t have the courage to break up with you – so I needed to make you hate me.”
“But why do you even want to break up? What’s wrong?”
And he said something pretty amazing.
“I knew because it was your birthday, you were thinking about having sex with me. You hinted about it. And I didn’t want to. I’m still a virgin,” he admitted. “And it’s stupid, but I want to be really in love before I do that.”
“And you are not in love with me?” I asked.
“I’m really sorry. I feel like a rat. I am a rat,” Lee said.
“Yes, you are.”
“But I want to tell you the truth… why I’m a rat.” Lee started to cry. “I mostly like you because I like your house and your family. It’s so nice here. Sometimes when I’m here, I pretend like I live here. I pretend like I’m your brother and your mother and father are my mom and dad.”
And that’s how he broke my heart.
I was a typical gullible kid.
At least I think so. I’m sure at some point I believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, although I can’t remember when. I certainly remember pretending that I did, since my parents told me quite sternly that kids who don’t believe in Santa (or who ruin it for their baby brothers) don’t get any presents.
But I figure when I was really little, I must have truly believed – since I believed enough in King Kong to have some pretty scary nights when I was sure I saw the Kong’s big paw reaching into my bedroom window. Yeah, right after the Empire State Building, I was sure he was heading for 58 Center Street in Bristol, Connecticut.
But on the other hand, I had some strong inclinations toward a healthy skepticism. One of my favorite expressions was “Really?” (which was the 8-year-old version of “Bullshit!”)
There were a bunch of things that kids often believed that earned my scorn:
Noah’s Ark. A big Ark Park is opening in Kentucky, and that is what brought all these memories back in the first place. Bible or no bible, I never thought this story was anything but a fairy tale. If God is all-powerful, and can destroy the world and all the evil in it, why couldn’t he just kill all the assholes, and not have to kill all the animals except 2 of each?
And how about the fish? How come they got a break?
On the other hand, I did believe that Jesus changed the water to wine at that big wedding. Even by 8 years old, I had been to a couple of weddings and saw that grown-ups needed wine in order to loosen up. But they didn’t need much. It was almost like they just needed the suggestion of wine. I was betting that Jesus simply TOLD them it was wine, and they had a much better time and were much better dancers.
Salem witches. Those townfolk thought witches had great magic, and so they threw the accused in the water, all weighted down, figuring if the witch was real, she would save herself. So when these poor women died, didn’t the townsfolk ever start to think….”Uh-oh. We are killing a hole bunch of innocent people here, so maybe this system isn’t really working”?
And how about if they had a real witch, and she stepped out of the water? With her witch powers still intact? Wouldn’t she be a little mad? Wouldn’t that be a little dangerously awkward?
So the conclusion was obvious, some poor ladies died, but there were no witches, or the good townspeople would have given up that activity real fast.
On the other hand, I wholeheartedly believed in ghosts. I may never had seen one, but they were out there as surely as King Kong was about to put his foot through my windowsill. I believed that ghosts liked to jump out and scare people. If you believed in them, you wouldn’t be quite so terrified, because you would sort of be expecting them, and that would spoil all the ghost-fun, so ghosts saved their jumping out for people who DIDN’T believe. They’d get more bang for the buck that way. So believing was a kind of insurance.
Superman. Oh, It wasn’t so much that he could fly, and lift up buildings with his finger and all. What I thought totally ridiculous was that no one recognized him because he put on a pair of glasses. Come on, Lois, doesn’t Clark remind you of someone?
And how about that cape? Clark Kent had his Superman costume on under his clothes. What the heck… (I didn’t say WTF until I was a teenager… and every moment since)… did he do with the cape? Tuck it into his underpants???
On the other hand, I could believe that Superman had x-ray vision. I have x-ray vision. It’s called imagination.
Your face will freeze that way. My Grandma used to warn me about crossing my eyes or making funny faces. I loved Grandma but I knew that was just nonsense.
And how did I know?
Channel 3 on Tuesday nights.
Nobody made more faces than Red Skelton. Not even all three Stooges put together. And yet, at the end of the show, when Red got all sweet and serious, his face went back to a regular face. Grandma watched that show. How did she not notice?
On the other hand…
Oh my God, for the last year or so, I wake up in the middle of the night and I can’t move my eyes. Sometimes it is just the right eye. Or sometimes just the left. Once in a while it is both. They are just STUCK. Takes me several minutes to get them out of whatever corner they are stuck in, and free them to look in a different direction. Sometimes I have to pee with my eyes looking away from where the toilet paper is.
My husband says I am dehydrated. He’s big on hydration. He might be right. I maybe need to lubricate my eyeballs better. But I’m 65 years old. I am already up in the middle of the night peeing. I don’t necessarily want to do that more than once (or twice) a night.
My eye doctor said she never heard of such a thing. She doesn’t see anything wrong with my eyes or the muscles that move them, and I can roll them easily enough in her office, and all the time around certain acquaintances, so I shouldn’t worry about it.
But Oh Grandma! I’m sorry. I’m sorry I ever doubted you.