WARNING! This blog post may be controversial. I know this could pit holiday purists who say things like, “Don’t put your Christmas lights up before I’ve had a chance to choke down Aunt Deedee’s dry Thanksgiving turkey” against those who say, “But I love Halloween and need to put out my skeleton family walking their skeleton dog in August.”
I’m willing to stand up for what is right and say, “Chill, bitches!”
When it’s mid-September and you already have all your giant inflatable spiders out, I feel like you’re wishing my life away. Just stop it! You’re pre-celebrating at everyone else’s expense!
Side Note: When did all holiday décor become inflatable? Last year, walking through the neighborhood, we passed a front yard filled with deflated reindeer. It looked like the aftermath of a Christmas Eve massacre.
Please know, this is not me saying, “Bah, humbug!” I love the holidays. But it would be nice to not feel as if we’re all rushing through September and October to get to the juicy stuff.
Let’s start with Halloween, since it’s the gateway to the Holiday corridor. Halloween has become huge. Originally a one-night, pagan event started by the Celts, it’s now celebrated in countries worldwide. And it’s the second biggest commercial holiday in the United States. Sherry Kuehl, writing in the Kansas City Star says, “According to the National Retail Federation, last year more than $10 billion was spent on costumes, decorations and, of course, 5-pound bags of snack-size Snickers bars.”
Here in the U.S., Halloween has also been mashed up with Day of the Dead. You need to know that Mexico’s Día de Muertos is not Halloween. It’s a beautiful holiday honoring loved ones who’ve passed, keeping them alive in our hearts and welcoming them back home with love and a sense of humor. Halloween had similar roots here. But Americans have an uncanny ability to commercialize the beauty and sentiment right out of a spiritual celebration, turning it into cheap kitsch. (Not that I don’t own plastic fangs.)
While I don’t go as over-the-top as some, I do enjoy the creative pageantry of Halloween. When I lived in NYC, the Halloween parade in Greenwich Village was a must. Imagine a sea of smart, interested and interesting people, many with access to professional costume designers. Then, in Park City Utah, I found guilty pleasure in the annual Halloween Dog Parade. Here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, if you’re not up for a good golf cart parade with all-out commitment to themes ranging from Beetlejuice to the Flintstones, and people throwing Mardi-Gras beads and cheap chocolate, I don’t want to know you.
But, but, but—when you start putting all that shit up before Labor Day, I say No. The agreed-upon line for pre-holiday decorating should be, at most, a month out. And that’s me bending.
Thanksgiving is the holiday where we look forward to being with family and simultaneously cringe at the thought of being with family. This holiday gets a little less pre-play than the other biggies. Maybe that’s because it’s sandwiched in the middle of the two bahemouths. Right between folks deflating their bleeding snowmen and inflating their politically-correct little people in red lederhosen. Still, I saw my first giant inflatable Turkey on October 5th. I call fowl! (Yes. I went there.)
Side Note: I’m against any animated versions of anthropomorphized cartoon animals joyfully inviting me to devour them. The message is too conflicting. “I’m delicious. Make my day by ending my life.” (StarKist’s Charlie The Tuna could be the poster boy for this cause.)
The mac daddy of all holidays in the U.S. is, of course, Christmas. In my purist universe, New York City got it right. At the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, after all the bands and giant balloons of Spiderman and Snoopy, comes Santa on his sleigh saying, “I gave Thanksgiving its due. It’s had its time in the spotlight. And now, what you’ve all been waiting for...” Santa is a gentleman. That is, until he hits the egg nog too hard. Then, all bets are off and someone’s waking up with a soiled fake beard as their park-bench pillow.
Sudden Revelation: Could the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade be the impetus for the explosion of inflatable lawn decorations? Hm.
But not everyone takes their cue from Macy’s Santa. We’ve barely choked down our pumpkin-spice hot-dogs when some guy with reindeer horns is on TV trying to sell us tires. “Ever wonder how Santa’s sleigh gets good traction on snow-covered roofs?” The Christmas ads now start in September, when the back-to-school ads are still running. Backpacks, binders, eggnog and Blitzen.
Side Note #3: Homemade eggnog lasts 2-3 days if stored at 40 degrees or less. Store-bought eggnog lasts 5-7 days within opening if it has been refrigerated. Canned eggnog lasts 4 to 5 months and around 5-7 days after opening. Safety first!
When proprietors start playing Christmas music in their stores and I’ve yet to enjoy the annual Thanksgiving “homemade vs. canned” cranberry sauce argument, I walk out. (BTW, just put out both kinds of sauce.) Life is short enough as it is. I don’t want to rush things. I’d like to be free to slow down and relish as much of it as possible.
We’ve all heard people say, “Wow, this year flew by.” We may have even said it ourselves. Why? I contend it’s because you’re planning out your sexy cat costume in April. Isn’t there something that’s actually happening in April that you could be enjoying?
Prevailing wisdom says that we should try to live in the moment. Be present in our lives. Focus on what’s happening now. Feel it. Be in it. Stop worrying about things that haven’t yet and may not happen. How can we be present when we’re planning who shouldn’t sit next to whom at the Christmas dinner table in May? And how can we truly enjoy the holiday we’re in when we’re already celebrating the next one?
Yes, there is value in the fun of anticipating. But anticipation is allowed to be fleeting. It doesn’t need to be in the form of lawn ornaments that force your neighbors to leap months ahead.
So I’m asking nicely. Please allow me and the rest of us to enjoy today without pushing next month on us. And if you just can’t face September without fake cadavers and god-forbid “candy corn,” maybe you could limit yourself to putting them out inside your home, and have them seep onto the lawn until October.
Tangential pet peeve: Black Friday. It feels more like we now black out the entire month of November for people begging us to buy something. On Amazon, Black Friday starts weeks before Thanksgiving. And, of course, there’s Cyber Monday and now, Cyber Week. As someone who is shopping-averse, I do not get the mania. The thrill of the hunt? I’d rather watch my three-year-old TV while wearing my 12-year-old jeans and 10-year-old T-shirt. (Let’s not get into how old my underwear is.)
So readers, do you jump the season or wait to celebrate? I’m curious to know where you land on this one.
Cheers, happy holidays and stay careful-sh,
Buckle up. We’re about to dance on the edge of TMI.
I promise to do my best to not get too intimate and present pictures you can’t unsee. But there are lessons to be learned here.
The topic is underwear. I was never one to care a lot about fancy or sexy underwear. Just not that kind of gal. My rules for underwear were simple:
1) Don’t bind.
3) Don’t peek out of my jeans. (Apparently, I broke that rule just yesterday as I put my carry-on luggage into the overhead. All apologies to Delta passengers flying from New Orleans to Boston.)
A million years ago, when I was doing standup, I had a set about ladies’ underwear. The premise was that underwear is classified based on size. Tiny little size-2 women wear panties. Panties are cute and sexy and lacy and let you speak in a little baby voice when you think it’ll help you get what you want. Mid-size gals like me don’t get to enjoy all the perks of panties. No high voices for us. We wear undies. Undies are much more utilitarian. You can play basketball or throw the discus in undies. (Two things I’ve done.) They do come in a variety of colors, so we have that. And anyone who shops in the plus-size section is forced to purchase plain ol’ underwear. No cute voices. No rainbow colors. Underwear has elastic made from old bungee cords and the fabric is unmilled cotton from Russia. Deal with it.
Side Note: That stand-up bit was years ago. Since then, Victoria’s secret is that she’s stopped being an exclusionary bitch and now wraps her arms around all of us. Women of all sizes now get a variety of fun, sexy choices. (I still don’t pick them. I still don’t speak in a baby voice.)
I never had a problem being in the undies category. It’s who I am. I never felt like sexy panties would change anything in my romantic life. My theory: If your partner needs to see you in sexy panties to remind them to take advantage of how your parts work, maybe you should just keep watching Jeopardy.
Perhaps I should confab with Mr. Parker on this? Well… Eh. Why?
But as I go through life, I’ve needed to add a rule or two to my undies requirements. The first addition came back in high school. I used to get dressed in the dark. Why? I took the early bus to school because I played sports. (As previously noted: Utilitarian undies can play sports.) I also shared a bedroom with my sister, who didn’t take the early bus, and I didn’t want to wake her up. Getting dressed in the dark was no big deal, but one morning I broke from my jeans tradition and chose white linen pants. I still don’t know why. So, I grabbed white undies, pulled on the pants, and went on my way. (Note: I did not scamper on my way. Scampering requires panties.)
By halfway through the school day I was noticing that people behind me were laughing. No idea why. Finally, I went into the girls’ room and looked at my backside in the mirror. There was my answer: visible through the white linen pants in thick navy letters across my undies were the words, “Bottoms Up.” That begat rule #4: No words on my undies. My ass is not a bumper-sticker.
So, four rules. Fine. But I recently realized that my standards have slipped significantly. Here’s what happened. It was time. I needed more undies and happened to be in a Walmart. (No hating.) I honestly don’t remember why we were there. Mr. Parker no doubt needed to buy some thing to fix a thing so he could make a thing. As I wandered the aisles, I passed packages of undies. Ten pair for 15 bucks. I thought, Dare I? They were solid colors. Not nice solid colors. Sad solid colors. Colors that likely had trade names like Band-Aids and Broken Dreams. But who was going to see them? Mr. Parker? Screw it. He signed the contract years ago.
The next decision was style. Bikinis or briefs? Hmm. Bikini sounded like they might be treading dangerously close to panty-shaped. What did “briefs” mean? I wasn’t looking for something underwear-size. But brief sounds…undie-ish? Not too big, right? I threw caution and 15 dollars to the wind.
When I got home and opened the package of briefs, I selected a color from the rainbow of disappointment. Let’s call that color Spilt Tea. Pulling them on, I saw there was nothing brief about them. Oooh, no. They just kept rising up. Past my navel, above the rib cage, approaching the boobs. If I put arm holes in them and hunched over, I’d have a bathing suit. Oh my shit!
Still…If I folded them over so they didn’t rise up and out of my jeans, it would be fine, right? I mean: 15 dollars.
Flash forward and we were visiting friends for a long stretch. Long enough that I needed to do a load of laundry while we were there. No problem. But the next day, my host came to my room. “You left underwear in the dryer. Here.”
Oh, shit. Panic. My mind raced. She said, “Underwear,” not “Undies.” I started praying, Please let it just be the pair with the holes. Not the Walmart Mega Briefs. Please, God. Not the Walmart Sad Sacks.
I need to back up. I had made another rule the last time we moved. My plan was to throw out anything with a hole in it. Start fresh. So, rule #5: No holes. I broke that rule immediately.
Back to panic at my friend’s house. The pair she’d found was not from the Walmart Misery Collection and it had no holes. Just a pair of lime-green undies. No harm, no foul. No having to think about the conversations my friend would be having with her husband about my sad secret life as a toothless grandmother on Skid Row.
I’ve now revised my list of undie requirements. Deleting all previous rules, I’ve whittled it down to one:
1) Have some damn dignity.
Turns out my dignity costs more than fifteen dollars. So I ask you, panties, undies or underwear? Do you have rules? Do you keep a clean pair in your purse, just in case?
Cheers and stay careful-ish,
Here’s my bottom line:
I just can’t express the complexity of how I feel about your dead dog with a simple [Crying Emoji]. Or any of the other six Facebook emoji options. Or, the one Instagram heart option. And I’m never using LinkedIn’s purple hand with a heart rising from it.
Because it’s almost never that simple.
You may have gone on to say that on the same day your dog died [Cry Emoji], you finally landed that great new job [Thumbs Up Emoji], which was right after your partner said your mother-in-law would be moving in [Mad Emoji], but that you kinda felt obligated to say okay because she’s recovering from chemo. [Caring Emoji]
I’ve been struggling with this for some time. We now live in a shorthand world. Someone shares what’s happening in their life and we—not wanting to slow our roll but wanting to acknowledge them in some way—click a quick emoji onto their pain or success.
But life is messy. So where are the messy emojis?
Where are the emojis that say, “I’m truly sorry your basement flooded but seeing your hamsters floating by on the laundry basket was kinda funny, even if you can’t focus on that while looking at your wallet-draining plumber’s bill.”
Or the emoji for, “I’m glad you’re happy to be back with Brad, but we all know that in a few short weeks we’ll be raising a glass to you for kicking him out…again.”
I’m often confused as to how to respond to someone’s sad story. If I use a [Heart Emoji], will they think I love their plight? If I use a [Care Emoji], will they think I’m being melodramatic?
Then there are the times when a friend makes an attempt at humor and totally misses the mark. Do I click a supportive [Laugh Emoji] and move on? Will someone see it and think, “That’s what Honey now deems to be humor? I expected more. [Shame Emoji]”
What if someone already wished Elaine a happy birthday with a [Balloon Emoji]? If I also say, “Happy birthday [Balloon Emoji],” I worry that I’ll look unoriginal and lazy. Which, of course I am if I’m using an emoji. That is, unless Elaine just got a boob job and I post nothing but [Two Balloon Emojis]. Now that’s thoughtful post.
Because again, we don’t want to get too involved. So we pick the closest emoji and move on.
Or we grab some combo of previously agreed upon initials like, BUMP (Bring Up My Post) that really say, “Here’s what I’m thinking, but I don’t deem you worth the time to actually spell it out.”
And, when I’m on the receiving end, I don’t always know what someone’s shorthand pile of letters mean. So, I waste my time deciphering their response that only took them two seconds to bang out so they can move on to their next friend who’s posting about pinkeye and a new poodle.
Now I’m left killing ten minutes figuring out that AFK meant, Away From Keyboard. Really? Are you? Then what did you type AFK on?
I’ve learned that BOLO is “Be On The Lookout.” BEG means you have a Big Evil Grin (Note: If you’re a friend of mine, I just assume you have a BEG). NOYB is None Of Your Business, which I don’t really appreciate. I’m not nosy. If I ask, it’s because I care. You’re welcome. I learned from my nephew that POS means Parents Over Shoulder. And that SMH is short for my constant state of being, Shaking My Head. Please know that any time I click an emoji I’m also SMH. Read into that what you will.
But we don’t all come to the same conclusions on the meanings and those handfuls of letters, and that can get us into a jam.
Even LOL can be misconstrued. Case in point, the friend of a friend’s mother. She’s a woman of a certain age, and all her life, LOL had meant Lots Of Love. Most people now use it as shorthand for Laughing Out Loud. So, here’s this woman typing LOL any time her friends speak of an aunt that just passed, a dog that fell into a well, or a a diagnoses of prostate cancer. While prostate cancer is highly survivable, do you really want to be LOL’ing?
“Sorry to hear about Grandpa Joe’s knee replacement surgery. But they can do wonders with prosthetics these days. LOL!”
“Really? Well FUOL!” (F*ck You Out Loud)
Have we all forgotten how to use our words? Or are we just so busy that a yellow circle with a winky eye is good enough? New house? [Wink Emoji] Survived a car wreck? [Wink Emoji] Met your long-lost brother after thinking you were an only child? [Two Wink Emojis + SMH]
I myself am totally guilty of the “Look at me being a good friend” by giving you a shorthanded response.
But, I won’t just [Care Emoji] something heavy. Particularly if it’s about someone passing. I always try to take a moment and say something. Not a platitude, but something about the person. Like:
“I’m [Brain Emoji] of you in your [Clock Emoji] of [Tear Emoji]. Please know I’ll always remember that [Clock Emoji] at the [Beach Emoji] when Martha made me [Laugh Emoji] so hard that [Milk Emoji] came out my [Nose Emoji]. SMH. [Three Heart Emojis]”
I leave you with this. I was talking to Mr. Parker about all things emoji and LOL, and he mentioned the LOLcats. What are LOLcats, you ask? It simply stands for LOL Cat. (And no, not Lots Of Love.) Do a search on LOLcat, and the memes look like this:
Cheers and stay careful-ish,
P.S. Please emoji me your response to this post. [Heart Emoji] [Praying Hands Emoji]
Lately I’m learning a lot about myself.
More specifically, I’m learning how I look to the marketing algorithms in social media. And it’s far from flattering.
I’d already been thinking about all the ads I get served repeatedly. What do they say about me? About my age, weight, gender? About my socio-economic status and my phobias?
Let’s imagine that I didn’t have a big ego. (It’s hard, I know.) Instead of writing this blog post, I’d likely be booking a therapy session.
The first ad that I noticed I was seeing with too much frequency is for FreeBird boots and shoes. This one didn’t trouble me. I’d found the boots years ago. And while I’ve never bought a pair, I did like their unusual style. And every time they have a sale, I consider breaking down and making a purchase. Score a point for the algorithms.
The next two ads are much more concerning.
The first is for Wall Pilates. What does Wall Pilates say about me? A) Social Media thinks I’m out of shape. B) It doesn’t think I can afford to pay for a bougie Pilates class in a fancy studio. Are either of those things correct? Let’s move on.
The other ads I kept seeing are for [insert drum roll here] stool softeners! And not just the products. Did you know there’s actually a category for stool softener coaching? Me neither.
What is stool softener coaching? I got served a video with a nice lady very matter-of-factly sharing instructions on the best body position to “make things happen.”
But there’s more. Without getting too graphic, she shared choice tips like, making a “Moo” sound while pushing can help. No shit. (Yeah, I went there.) Clearly the internet thinks I’m all backed up. Or at least I’m at the age where I might be hangin’ with Jamie Lee Curtis talking about “yogurt.” Again, let’s move on.
About a week ago, I was visiting with my niece, a great young woman in her mid-20s. She’d said something that made me think about this topic.
Me: “What ads do you get served on social?”
Her: (Thinking) “Plushees, glitter goo, bird-related items [she’s a big fan of ornithology], and underwear.”
Me: “Gee, I get served ads for underwear.” (Pretty sure I didn’t actually use the word, “Gee.”)
But while she was getting served ads for cute, little camisoles with matching panties that display fun and sexy designs, I was getting ads for bras in battleship gray that helped in the fight to keep your back meat from bulging out your armholes.
Trying to console me, my niece confided that her undies are rather uncomfortable. All I could say was, “So is my self-image.”
This morning, I asked my husband, the famed Mr. Parker, what ads he gets served on social media. He thought and said, clothes, hats, and boats. That all made sense. He’s a big shopper, loves his hats and has sailed boats across oceans. Three more points for the algorithms.
Wait. He remembered that The Platform Formerly Known As Twitter is sending him ads for A) improving his dog’s behavior, and B) women’s clothing.
For the record, we don’t have a dog. And in over 25 years together, I’ve seen him try on my shoes exactly once. (Alcohol was involved.) Algorithm fail. Unless there’s something I don’t know. Where’s that therapist?
But back to me. (Remember: big ego) The online algorithms clearly see me as a woman of a certain age who’s out of shape, tight for cash, and can’t poop or control her boob-related back meat.
It’s a grim day to be me. But only if I buy into an algorithm-driven view of how best to market to Honey Parker. I do not.
For the record, I am indeed a certain age. What I’m not is a certain expectation of that age. I could always be in better shape but, for the amount of fun I have, I’m doing just fine and all my bills are paid. Lastly, I used the ladies’ room for its intended purpose (today), and my rack and back meat are under control.
Note: I still haven’t bought those boots and now I won’t. (Hello, polarity response.)
Your turn. What ads are the algorithms sending you? Are they getting it right?
Cheers and stay careful-ish,
This is how it goes down...
A call comes in to 911. “My wife is on the floor. I don’t think she’s breathing…No. I just came home and saw her on the kitchen floor.”
Later, at the police station, “I went for a drink with friends after work…I don’t know. An hour, two maybe…Yah, right from the office…Should I be talking to a lawyer?”
Too late. He’s said too much. A security camera at a gas station shows his green Jeep Wrangler going by at 5:23. That’s between the time he was at work and the time he’d met co-workers for drinks.
When he later claims to have misspoken back at the station, and that he’d swung by the house to pick up a fishing lure to show to Ted from accounts payable, he’s asked if he’d talked to his wife while he was in the house. “No, she hadn’t come home from work yet.” But the camera on their Ring device shows his wife getting home at 4:30. Seems there was a power outage at her office and the boss let everyone go early.
His story starts unraveling and the truth finally outs. He’d gone home after work to find his wife there. She was going through his computer and found his porn sites—the one’s he’d promised to stop spending money at. The two got in an argument and she threatened to leave him. She was going to tell everyone and take the kids. He couldn’t let that happen.
Okay, I just made up that scenario. But if you watch true-crime TV, you’ve seen this pattern. A lot.
A crime is committed, the clues mount, the lies are uncovered, and the killer gets caught. And all I can think is, How should they have played it? How could they have gotten away with it? What were their other options?
This is the effect of all the true-crime stories we’re exposed to. The TV shows. The podcasts. The reels. I do watch a fair amount of it. And it’s desensitizing. It all becomes just another puzzle to solve. Something to post. “Hey, I got Wordle in three, and figured out who bludgeoned Alice Smith before the first commercial break.”
I’ve wasted precious time thinking things like: Where would I have disposed of that bloody sock? Or would I have burned it? No. Burning leaves a mark and a smell. Get rid of it. Put it in a bag with dirty diapers. No one wants to search a diaper bag, right? Shit, I don’t have an infant. Who on the block has a baby? No one. Wait. Hold on. The litter box. Crap. I don’t have a cat any more. But Vickie does. Hm.
Now, I know that Mr. Parker will read this and I don’t want to make him too nervous. (Okay, maybe a little uneasy.) But he knows I enjoy my dose of true-crime media, and it’s hard to watch that stuff and not think about the logistics of achieving criminal success.
Look, he’s safe. I know that they always look at the spouse first, so why even? I’m also keenly aware that by writing a blog about how I’d get away with something, I can now never get away with anything.
But a lot of us love playing at true crime. It could be a board game. It should be a board game. True Crime, from Parker Brothers. Tagline: “You’re dying to play.” Or, “Would it kill you to try?” Or, “The only game where losing means hard time.” But, wait. There’s more: True-Crime—Felony Edition. Comes with one call to an actual lawyer.
Pick your game piece from: the bloody hatchet; length of rope; hand-gun with the serial number filed off; plastic bag; vial of poison; or a guy named Bubba in a ski mask. Move your piece around the board. The first person to get past the police, around public opinion, and through their trial to freedom—winner, winner 5-star dinner! But beware the nosy neighbor with insomnia, the jilted lover, and the prosecutor with something to prove. Otherwise, you could end up going on the lam for three turns. Pull the hung jury card, and you have to start over. The online version even lets you dodge the law in real time.
I do worry that all this true-crime watching may be making potential killers smarter. Have all the law-enforcement secrets been handed out like a what-not-to-do list? I can’t be the only one who now knows to cover my shoes so my sole prints can’t be traced, and not to use a credit card when buying my 5-gallon jug of acid.
There is some solace for me in the fact that I love my husband and I’m pretty sure he loves me. Plus, neither of us could tolerate anyone else’s quirks long enough to cheat. There’s just not a lot of motive. I don’t have gambling debts. I’m not worth millions (yet). Oh, and I’ve never publically shamed anyone on social.
I just watch true-crime TV, devise my well-informed plans, and go to bed with a hatchet under my pillow.
Do you watch true crime? If yes, what have you learned to help you get off the hook. Or, better yet, to not get caught at all?
The game was Battleship. Milton Bradly brought it to market almost 60 years ago, in 1967. Before that, it had been published by different companies dating as far back as the 1930s, as a game played with paper and pencil.
Later, in 1979, Battleship was one of the first games to get produced as a computer game. Flash further forward to 2012, and there was Battleship, the action movie. Distributed by Universal Pictures, it stared Liam Neeson, among others. I mean, really: How do you blow shit up without Liam Neeson?
But I’m drifting away from the point of my upcoming rant.
Recently, I was visiting my brother in the great state of Maryland. He and his wife had recently redecorated their living room. You can see where this is going. No? Well, wait. There’s more.
After going through a wall unit they were getting rid of, they’d come across a stack of old games, one of which was Battleship in its original box.
With a bit of devilish glee, my sister-in-law said, “Honey, you have to see this.” Out came the box. At first, seeing the vintage art made me smile, then…
Oh, my hell!
The illustration on the box lid depicted Dad and Son in their sweater vests and crisp white collars playing the game of Battleship at a dinette. Son calls, “G-4.” Dad holds his head, “It’s a hit!” Oh, the drama of suburbia in the 60s.
But wait. There’s more.
If you look way off in the background, behind dad and son, you can see into the kitchen where mom and daughter are contently washing dishes, happy they’ve freed up time so the males can enjoy a moment of to play. Thus is the way of society and they have fully embraced their Stepford Wife’s (and daughter’s) place in it.
Wow! Think about it. This was only one or two generations ago. How did any young girls grow up to be independent thinkers and pro-active doers?
Am I reading too much into this box lid?
Perhaps. Perhaps dad had made dinner from scratch for the entire family. Perhaps a Thai-Polish fusion thing he’d been wanting to try, with vegetables from his garden that he’d had fermenting for the last three months. Perhaps.
Or maybe dad and son did the dishes the night before while mom and daughter were free to enjoy a game of Global Thermal Nuclear War. Maybe.
But probably not.
I remember back when I was working in New York advertising. One of my accounts was Parker Brothers’ Nerf. This was decades after the creation of the gender prison of the Battleship box. I still had to fight to get girls in on a Nerf gun battle. The thinking? “It’s a toy for boys. They won’t want it if they see girls playing with it.”
Major head shake.
In Milton Bradly’s defense, they changed the Battleship box art three years after its original issue, in 1971. In this version, two clean cut kids, a girl and a boy, play at a table with a plain blue background. Are they at home? In a church? Detention? Some creepy guy’s basement? In this antiseptic version, Girl calls, “G-6.” Boy holds his head, “It’s a hit!”
Virtually the same dialogue as the original box lid, save the “G-4 turning” into “G-6.” Is that a coded message? Does it mean, “Fear not, Girl has already finished the dishes”?
And where are Mom and Dad? Did the sight of his wife with a dish towel make Dad too excited to sit with his son and tiny plastic ships one more second? Is he now launching his own torpedoes? (Yes, I went there.)
So much to be learned from a seemingly innocuous game-box lid. Such a flash from my past with more messages than I’d remembered.
I’m curious: What did you glean from this static moment in the lives of these total strangers from board-game history? I'd love to get your comments.
Cheers and stay careful-ish,
Not that these are necessarily songs where I can’t hit the notes. Maybe I can. Maybe I can’t. That’s not the point.
Perhaps it would be more correct to say: Songs I shouldn’t sing. Or, more more correct: Songs I shouldn't perform.
Here’s how I started down this particular rabbit hole. I was home sick and scrolling through reels on Facebook. I wish I could say that I was scrolling on Instagram. That would be slightly cooler. But I want to keep things real between you and me. So, here I sit, uncool but honest.
I came across a video of a woman in her 20s with a big bass guitar. She had an interesting look and a pastel green bass, so I stopped. Then she started playing Stevie Wonder’s hit song, “I Wish” from Songs In The Key Of Life. It’s about wishing to relive childhood. Super. Love that song.
The woman with the bass began singing, “Looking back on when I was a little nappy headed boy.” I immediately wondered why she didn’t change the words to “...little girl.” I’m 99.9% sure this person was never a little boy. Yes, these things happen. But you’re gonna have to go with me on this one.
It always bothers me when someone covers a song and doesn’t change the obviously incongruous words to fit them. It creates a believability issue and takes me out of the song. When I was in a band (don’t ask and don’t look for videos), I’d always change the words so the song fit me. And not just for the listener. If I was to sing Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire,” I wouldn’t sing, “I'm driving in my car I turn on the radio. I'm pulling you close you just say no. You say you don't like it but girl I know you're a liar…” I’d change it to, “You say you don't like it but BOY I know you're a liar…” How hard is that? Zero percent hard.
SIDE NOTE: I wouldn’t sing that song anyway because it sounds like a true crime podcast waiting to happen. Like the singer is a repeat sex offender forcing themselves on someone who wants out of the car the second the singer’s back is turned. RUN! RUN!!!
Back to Stevie Wonder. I asked myself, How would I sing the song, “I Wish”? First line, “Looking back on when I was a little nappy headed boy.” So, nappy? Doesn’t seem to fit for a little white girl. I would change that to, fuzzy. As a kid, I had zero interest in how I looked. My long curly hair was often unbrushed and in the humidity of a northeast summer, “fuzzy” is a kind word for how it looked. So, first line, “Looking back on when I was a little fuzzy headed girl.” That works.
Next line. “Then my only worry was for Christmas what would be my toy.” I’m Jewish, so I’ll need another edit. “Then my only worry was for Hanukah, what would be my toy.” It adds an extra syllable, so I sang it several times to figure out the best way to squeeze “Hanukah” in there as smoothly as possible. A little funky, but fine.
Moving on. “Even though we sometimes would not get a thing…” Here we have a real problem. There was never a time when we wouldn’t get something for Hanukah. Never. I remember one year, my mother was totally over trying to come up with eight days of gifts for three kids. (If you didn’t know, Hanukah lasts eight days and little kids often get a gift each night.)
That year she decided to take a left turn. On the first night of Hanukah, we were each presented with a basket containing eight envelopes that had our names written on them. In each envelope was money. Every night, we’d pick one of our envelopes to open and see how much was in it. It might be a five dollar bill. It might be a ten. I think the biggest envelope had fifty dollars in it. (Don’t quote me on that.)
Basically, my mom had turned Hanukah into a gameshow. And even though we all knew that the total amount we got at the end of the eight days wouldn’t change based on what order we opened our envelopes in, it was suspenseful and exciting. Looking back on it, I believe my mom’s idea was genius.
But it left me with a problem. How to change that line of the song? “Even though we sometimes would not get a thing…” Hmm. “Even though we sometimes, wouldn’t get OUR thing?” Meaning, not what we had wished for. But I don’t think I love that solution. It makes us sound, ungrateful. Maybe, “Even though we sometimes, didn’t want to sing?” No. We never sang the one and only Hanukah song we knew. How about, “It was always hard to wait, for the opening?” Maybe. What kid doesn’t have a hard time waiting to open a wrapped present? (Or a mystery envelope full of an unknown amount of cash.) I’m going with it.
Next line. “We were happy with the joy the day would bring.” We just hit a hard stop. Why? Jews just aren’t that happy. My family usually ended up arguing at Hanukah, and every other holiday. It’s how we communicated.
And if there was nothing new to argue about, someone would bring up some slight from five or ten years earlier. Something like, “Remember? We were just sitting there at the table waiting for your family to show up. Waiting and waiting and the brisket got so dry. It was like the Sahara. Remember? Then that damn brisket strand got caught in my teeth and I had to floss it out and I lost a crown. Remember? And what dentist is going to see you on a Friday night? Do you remember that?”
Full disclosure, that is not an actual story from my youth. But every true story I thought of had the potential of getting one of my relatives upset all over again and I just don’t want to take the chance of starting a “thing.”
So, what did that leave me with for lyrics? My version of “I Wish” is now:
Looking back on when I was a little fuzzy headed girl
And my only worry, was for Hanukah what would be my toy
It was always hard to wait, for the opening
And we were always irritable, cause that’s a Jewish thing
Bottom line, I just shouldn’t sing that song. It would be a lie. A big one. There is no amount of word changing that would make that song fit the true narrative of my life. And if I did change it to fit my life, I could only perform it in the Catskills.
Now that you know how the game is played, what song should you never perform?
Cheers and stay carful-ish,
Stand back. Here comes one of my Great Pet Peeves Of Our Time.
And it’s not the phrase, “pet peeve.” I’m over that one. Finally.
LASTEST PET PEEVE: Pajama-Wearing Airline Passenger.
Why does this person think it’s OK to walk through an airport and onto a plane in their sleepwear?
OLDER PET PEEVE: Flip-flop-Wearing Airline Passenger.
While this is also a problem, I must admit, I have a foot issue. So that one may be on me.
Still, I know in my heart I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to see some guy’s funky, toes flopping around out there with crud under the nails and obvious, unaddressed fungus issues.
But back to the pajama peeve o’ the day. Here’s the explanation I’ve heard from people who try to justify their choice to wear pajamas in the airport and onboard. Ready?
“I just want to be comfortable.”
The “I’m comfortable” statement begs the question: How uncomfortable are your regular clothes?
What kind of stiffness-inducing mega starch are you using in your weekly laundry?
Do you insist on buying all your clothing two sizes too small?
Are you making sure that you’re inserting each of your legs into a separate pant leg?
Have you tried removing the hanger from your shirt before you putting it on?
How great a hardship would it be to wear, say, loose jeans and a soft, brushed-cotton shirt for those in-flight hours?
Somehow, you made it through all your school days and working days intact. There was no breaking into a biblical, Job-like full-body rash, no erupting in a festival of pustules and seeping wounds, no spontaneous bursting into flames.
Hmm. What about those remote work days?
Are too many people no longer working in a group setting? Could this burgeoning pajama problem be a COVID leftover? Did we get so used to lounging around the house all day that we just can’t go back to legit, respectable, adult clothing? Where athleisure wear and Jeggings just gateway drugs?
PROFESSIONAL DECORUM SIDEBAR: I’ve been a remote worker for years. Long before COVID, and I’ve been making it a point to get dressed for work every day. My one hard-and-fast rule: Never take a business call without a bra on. I say nothing to a client until the ladies are locked and loaded.
So, I’m calling bullshit.
I call bullshit on the “I work out of the house and live in my pajamas” excuse.
I’ve never seen people in PJs while out to dinner, at a concert, in an art gallery, going into a parent-teacher meeting, waiting to get a root canal…I could go on. But you get the picture.
Why have some people decided that air travel is a place where being respectful and respectable don’t matter? You’re spending several hours locked inside a tube with over a hundred of your fellow human beings and you say to yourself, “I know. Pajamas!” And yes, how you dress DOES reflect the respect you have for yourself and for those around you.
“But I don’t care what I look like.”
If you don’t care what you look like, why did you brush your hair, put on makeup, and make sure your little ducky travel pillow matches your little ducky slippers?
“But I don’t care what people think.”
Really? Then why do you get bent out of shape when someone makes a sour face at your “Goodnight Moon” getup?
“You’re judging me!”
Yes I am. And no one likes being judged. But it’s impossible to not make first-impression judgments. We all know we do it. And when you see people on the plane walking down the aisle towards your seat, aren’t there some folks you hope will just keep on walking?
You’re not basing those judgements on their inner self.
And just by the way, consider the professionals who are working on that plane. You don’t think they’re making judgments about you based on your pajama-jammy-jams? Think again. Would you like coffee, tea or disdain with that?
A few months back, my niece was flying out to visit us. She’s in her mid-twenties and, by all standards of measure, a great person. Two days before her flight, she asked if we’d be stopping anywhere between the airport and home.
Immediately, I knew what was coming.
“I was thinking of wearing my pajamas on the plane.”
My heart sank. This person was one of my own. You better believe Aunt Honey nipped that in the bud. At the time, I just said yes, we’d be stopping for lunch on the way home.
But when I had her on my own turf, there was a long talk. OK, fine. It was a lecture on how to present yourself in public.
And, I’m not talking about putting on the dog. (It’s an old expression. If you don’t know it, look it up.) But if you’re going to be with a group of people, it's nice to not look like you’re shuffling ever closer to performing all the private and anti-social functions one indulges in the privacy of their own bedroom and bathroom. (I’ll be careful-ish enough to not put them down in writing. You’re welcome.)
What does wearing pajamas in public say?
“I don’t care. I put myself first. And I do so in the laziest way possible!”
Is that really what people want to project: “I’m lazy and self-absorbed”?
And yes, that was part of the lecture to my niece. That, along with sections on self-awareness, being intentional, and requiring more of one’s self.
Now, you may be reading this and thinking, “I had no idea Honey was so uptight. Has she not read her own books?”
The answer is, yes. And if you’ll notice, not one of my characters lives in their pajamas. Not even during COVID lockdown. I make all kinds of room in my life for quirky and even questionable behavior. But put on your damn pants.
I will now step down off my pet-peeve rant-o-matic soap box. But remember, when it comes to wearing pajamas to the airport, just say no.
(And pass on the flip-flops unless you’ve had a proper pedicure.)
Cheers and stay careful-ish,
Here’s the deal. Somehow, you get invited to Hollywood’s biggest night – The Oscars.
Oh, my god! Oh, my god! Oh, my god! So exciting!
You tell your friends then scramble for something even close to appropriate to wear. While it’s not really red carpet-worthy, it’s certainly nicer than that sack you deemed perfect for your own wedding. After seven attempts, you get your hair into just the right shape and spray the shit out of it. (F*ck the environment. This is the Oscars.)
Jewelry? You grab grand-mom’s chunky ring that always seemed too demanding to wear before. Perfect. Then you find baubles with just enough bling to seem like something without flagging that they’re nothing.
You slip into the shoes you’ve dubbed “The Bleeders” and You Are Ready.
The cameras flash. Not at you, but that’s okay. You see this celebrity and that. So cool. They truly have their own gravity. You think, This is why they’re stars. After the crush and clamber, you get to your seat and settle in. Get comfortable. This is the Oscars. It’s going to be a long night.
How could you possibly have known just how long?
As you look this way and that to see which potential statue winner is sitting mere rows away, it happens. A huge white screen drops down right in front of your face. Your view is gone. Your line of sight to the stage is now a total white-out.
That’s when you realize you are the lucky winner of the seat behind Tems.
If you didn’t watch the 95th Oscars (and most likely, you didn’t), then you may not know that singer/songwriter Tems (born Temilade Openiyi in Lagos, Nigeria) wore a dramatic, flowing white dress that sported a huge, head-surrounding cumulus cloud of white tulle. Stunning on the red carpet, perhaps. But in the audience? Crazy.
I did watch the Oscars. I usually do. The second I spotted the enormous white mass hovering in the audience, I about lost my mind. Who would do that? For the rest of the night, I devised speeches that would never be spoken. If I was sitting behind this person, what would I say? Because you have to believe I’d be saying something. And I wouldn’t wait.
How do I know this?
One time I was on a plane from New York to London. I was seated next to a young man who started nervously shaking his leg even before we taxied. This could not go on.
Channeling my mother’s attitude of, “I’m disappointed, but I love you anyway,” I gently put my hand on his leg and said, “I don’t know that you’re even aware you’re doing this, but you keep shaking your leg.” He turned to me with contrition in his voice and said, “Yeah. I’m sorry. My mother is always telling me to stop doing that. If I do it again, just let me know.” Problem solved. For six hours, we were inflight friends.
Now, do I believe that Tems would have been equally contrite in her response to a polite request to lower her strategic, couture obstruction?
Sadly, I do not. I fear there is no way this person wasn’t completely aware of what she was doing, as was her designer. In the world of celebrity where standing out and camera time is a win, this seemed an old fashion cry for attention. And it worked.
Even during the show, people began tweeting about the poor woman behind Tems, craning her neck to see anything. By the next morning, it was picked up all over the web. People were debating over her choice. Many cried rude while fans defended Tem, saying that people should be honored just to be seated that close to such a huge talent.
I wonder if Tems would have felt honored to sit behind Meryl Streep if she was wearing the enormous black hood from The French Lieutenant’s Woman. After all, Meryl is a huge talent.
Bottom line for Tems: Mission accomplished. You put yourself first. And someday, when someone else’s goal obliterates your own, you’ll likely feel undeservedly wronged.
For the poor woman seated behind her, as my father would say, Don’t let them shit on your head. Open your mouth.
For me personally, venting to you all has helped. I can now get on with my day and everything I had to put off until I could unload my annoyance at this display of bad behavior and get it out of my brain.
I can now move on knowing there’s one less person I need to welcome into my foxhole. I have limited space in there and that giant white hood just makes you a target.
Today, we are discussing what it’s like to be a Philly fan—specifically, a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles.
NOTE: If you can’t handle disappointment, DO NOT move to Philly.
As you may know, the Philadelphia Eagles lost Super Bowl 57. (I refuse to compute Roman numerals. It’s stupid.) They (the Eagles, not the Roman numerals) scored 35 points and still lost. They were lead by the extraordinarily talented Jalen Hurts, who himself threw for 304 yards, rushed for 70 yards, scored three rushing touchdowns—the most rushing touchdowns by any quarterback in Super Bowl history, just by the way—and Philadelphia still lost.
“So NOT fair!”, you might exclaim. And if you did so exclaim, it would be clear: you are NOT from Philly.
But let’s go back a week. No, wait. Let’s go back a season. No, let’s go back to my childhood growing up in the home of my father, Jer (the prototype for “Mur,” if you’ve read my books). Jer was a season-ticket-holding, walking encyclopedia of sports, and a lifelong Eagles fan. (Not an exaggeration. The Eagles franchise was born four years before Jer was.) Being a lifelong Eagles fan also means the man is a realist. But that doesn’t stop him from yelling at the TV every game. Eagles fans are yellers. And we don’t yell things like, “Nice try!”
I remember one rare occasion when I got to go to a game. Jer had season passes, but he usually shared them with clients. It was just smart business. I was not. I was merely a financial drain. But one Sunday, there I was in the stands, surrounded by an angry sea of green and white. We were losing of course, and the mood was belligerent, Philly style.
“You’re a pack of bums!” “What the hell is wrong with you?!” “Stop that son of a bitch!” “Stop him, you fuck!” “Punch him in the fucking throat!”
Even at the tender age of nine, I knew this behavior was more than a bit extreme. So when the man in front of me stood and yelled, “Stab him in the heart!” I chose to go for perverse agreement. I yelled, “Kill his family!”
Yep, that was one step too far even for my heart-stabbing friend. Clearly not understanding that by being an absurdist, I’d pointed out the ridiculousness of his own behavior. He just looked at me, aghast, shook his head (a few rocks fell out), and sat down.
Flash forward to 2006. That’s the year the movie Invincible came out. It stars Mark Wahlberg, who is not from Philly but Boston. And while my money is on Philly in a street fight, at least Boston would go down swinging. Anyway, Invincible is the true story of the Philadelphia Eagles’ walk-on player, Vince Papale. The first time I saw that movie, it gave me the inspirational, feel-good Eagles’ winning moment that I had never actually gotten from my team. So I began a new tradition. I watch the movie every year, right after the Eagles are out of the running. (Sometimes, that’s week two.)
Then, in 2018, it happened. After decades of losing, the Eagles were in it. Carson Wentz was looking like a Hall Of Fame quarterback…until he wasn’t. An injury took him out, along with all hope of winning. Hey, it’s Philly. That’s how we do. A faint glimmer of hope followed by a throat punch and the all-too-familiar big bucket of disappointment. But, no! Wait! Nick Foles steps in and somehow champions the Eagles to their first-ever Super-Bowl win. It was epic. Yes, there were tears. Even people who hate the Eagles were crying on my behalf.
Jump ahead five years. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has overcome a shoulder injury and is going to lead us back to the big game. And because we’d now tasted victory one time in 57 years, we were thinking, “This could happen.” Pht. Silly human nature.
Just days before the game, Mr. Parker and I were flying from Park City to New Orleans. At the gate, we were called to the counter. Seems there was one first-class upgrade available, and we had to decide which one of us got it. Mr. P immediately jumped in, claiming it’s his turn. “You got the last upgrade, remember?” I did not. But once he refreshed my memory (it was on a flight from “Fantastic Puerto Vallarta!”), I thought, Is this chivalry? Is this how a gentleman acts? I could tell by the look on the female gate agent’s face that the answer was, “Don’t suck me into your domestic soup, lady.”
Fine. I had an aisle seat in an exit row and a snapshot of Mr. Parker’s drink vouchers. I’d be fine. Across from me was a linebacker-sized man in an Eagles jersey. I tried a few times to catch his eye, to bond over the birds, but it didn’t happen. So I relaxed with a bourbon rocks and watched a rock-music documentary recommended by a friend. When it was over, I noticed that Mr. Linebacker was watching Invincible. Then I saw it on a few other screens around me. Did I dare watch it? I’d never watched Invincible when Philly was still in the running. Was I playing with fire? Ugh. Life choices. I decided that if I didn’t watch it to the end, we’d all be fine. I hit play.
As we came in for a landing, the cabin lights came up. Mr. Linebacker leaned over and said, “You’re watching Invincible. How do you like it?”
“I watch it every year. I’m from Philly.”
And just like that, instant camaraderie between him, me, and several of the other Invincible watchers around us. There was excitement and (something so rare for an Eagles fan) hope. No dread of the inevitable. It was as if winning once made everyone feel all things were possible, even in Philly. If it weren’t for that fasten-seatbelts sign, we could’ve all burst into high-fives and chest bumps. Damn you, in-flight safety.
Game day. I knew my sister, niece and her fiancé would be with my father. Good. At such an important time, the man shouldn’t have to yell at the TV all alone.
SIDEBAR: My father now watches what we call “Silent Sports.” The sportscasters make him crazy. So he watches sporting events with the sound off. It’s like being in a bizarre, televised sports prison.
Meanwhile, 1200 miles away at our place, we had four friends over and food for 20. Did that make me too optimistic? Well, if you watched the game, you know how it went. Jalen Hurts played a game most quarterbacks will only dream of—and the Eagles still got the big “L.” When it was over, I did what I always do: Shake hands with my old friend, Mr. Disappointment, and get on with my life. This is how we roll. We’re used to it. We’re good at it.
But there was that nagging question. Was it my fault? Did I watch Invincible too soon? Did I jinx my team? Crazy, right? But I never told Jer that I’d played with fire and lost. He’s used to being disappointed by the Eagles. I’m staying mum and taking my shame to the grave. Unless he reads this. Then I’m screwed. I hope I stay in the will.
Honey Parker has been writing, writing, writing for decades, decades, decades. In there, she has also been a standup comedian, a Hollywood screenwriter, a director, and a co-author of edgy business books. Careful-ish is her debut novel. It is the first in a trilogy. It is comedy-ish.