Category Archives: nostalgia
The doldrums is a nautical term for the belt around Earth’s equator where sailing ships can get stuck on windless waters for days—an apt metaphor even in landlocked Vermont.
For those who get in serious doldrums after the holidays, you’re not alone. In the 70s, as the tree splintered and shed, we’d beg our mother, “One more day!” Understanding, she’d consent to leave it up. I still suffer while boxing up decorations accumulated over 50 years, many hand made by beloved people now grown—or gone. It physically hurts and I go down.
My theory on the plummet’s severity is this: a combination of most humans’ inability to make transitions easily, plus the nostalgia of where one was 5, 20 or 30 years ago—or even just pre-COVID.The holidays are an annual plunge into sentimentality that wrecks some people for a while. After all the togetherness, even if at times fighty, many have to part with beloved people we wished we still lived with, or near, now miles or oceans away. Add to the emotional soup that sometimes we can tell when these people have had enough of us, or vice versa.
There’s something about that pre-holiday hustle and year-end philanthropy. I love the craft sales and transformation of everything from garlanded gas stations to tricked-out buildings. Carols evoke a simpler time. In truth, there were untold disasters and wars and far more domestic abuse back then, fueled by widely accepted over-drinking (think: the “hilarity” of Red Skelton’s drunk character; Dean Martin crooning basted). But hear the first couple of bars of O Holy Night and smell that balsam fir and you are swept back into your own (hopefully abuse-free) childhood or a dreamy image of happier times before you were born. When the decorations left up too long start getting dusty and something—anything—to look forward to seems a long way off, it’s easy to to go into a death spiral.
So last week after a Covid exposure, for the very first time I decided to wallow. None of this Yankee toughie bootstraps crap. No health-giving exercise or efforts to cheer self or others. Just a marathon of self-isolation, sorrow, and mourning.
It was not at first intentional. After leaving family to return to Vermont, I drove and cried until distracted by old radio interviews with Desmond Tutu (an evolved human, yet strikingly down to earth). But then Christmas music came on and sunk me anew, thinking of this very drive I had taken countless times with my now-gone mommy. Once home, I carried inside only my freezable belongings, got in bed, and let it rip. I cried over everything. Loves, parents, pets, houses and friends lost forever. Strangers who got stuck home alone for the holidays by cancelled flights. Refugees. Great people who died in 2021. Awful situations endured both by people I adore and by complete strangers. Sad pieces of fiction I read that never even actually occurred. I ate nothing but old foods around the house. Slept, woke, ate garbage, cried, slept. And you know what happened?
I’d love to say something profound here. But basically….nothing. Nothing happened. I didn’t come up with a grand epiphany. I didn’t resolve to start a new career or humanity-saving nonprofit, invent a climate change solution or clever movie plot. Nothing came of it. As Yukon Cornelius says, “Nuthin’.”
If you bottle it up and never let it out, you’re in trouble. That’s called being repressed. Although I did ask a male friend how he deals with the deaths of his legendarily party-throwing, smarty parents within weeks of each other. His answer: “I keep that locked up deep, deep down inside.” Hell, maybe that’s the right approach.
The virus and supply chain madness factored in. Due to Covid exposure, I couldn’t leave my apartment for a week upon returning home — Xtreme solitude rarely boosts mental wellness. As for the supply chain, disappointing in December was the lack in stores of favored holiday items, e.g. the annual “limited edition” cookie by Pepperidge Farms’ called Snowballs®. They were only on Amazon—for $19 a bag. A year without Snowballs® is like a year without…Snowballs®. And this year I didn’t get into preparations or meticulous wrapping the way I once did. Threw things into bags with tissue paper. No hand-drawn gift notes. No Christmas cards. I skipped movies I watch yearly. And all of that, while freeing, ultimately felt crummy. Next year I’m going back to overdoing it. Obviously, that’s the answer. So there’s the epiphany.
At this time of year I usually suggest one of three things.
- Make a list of what you got done in 2021. You’ll be surprised.
- Make a list of intentions for 2022, before it gets frittered away.
- Books: Greenlights; A Girl’s Guide to Missiles; Life (Keith Richards); Boys in the Trees (Carly Simon); Good Habits, Bad Habits; Olive Kitteridge, Olive Again, and Oh William; Mobituaries (Mo Rocca); Dodging Energy Vampires; A Girl Named Zippy; All The Light We Cannot See; The Power of Now; How To Be Alone; Joyful; Elevation (S. King); and my personal favorite, A Man Called Ove. Email me for a personal recommendation for you. That’s my gift.
Good repression, good wallow, or good New Year with light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
You might have time to watch this musical mindblower. Truly astonishing. It prompts more questions than it answers. What are your questions?
In modern tymes, it is difficult to avoid corporate jargon invented by management smoothies who write books. This invasive lexicon trickles down via Meetings and Presentations to people that have not read the books. Like a parasite, it penetrates each Host and rewires his brain, implanting annoying phrases and replacing perfectly good words with bogus ones, such as “utilize” for “use,” and “impact” (as a verb) for “affect.” A “platform” is always “robust” — when a number of other adjectives would suffice. A “problem,” apparently a dirty word, is reduced to a “challenge.”
I’m not sure why corporate language is grating, but it makes my friends insane. I suppose it’s because the speakers of this terrible language are parroting management smoothies — instead of using their brains – because they think it sounds more sophisticated. Yes, that’s what it is. Dumb, over-repeated phrases are Downloaded, Integrated, and Utilized by the speaker to sound more articulate or techy.
Thinking outside the box, pushing the envelope, and being on the same page, now 20 years old, cease to amuse. But the newer ones, often hyphenated, remain rich. The white space. Multi-tiered. Value-added. Portal-based. Drill down. Impactfulness. Granular.
Hilariously, a founder of Silicon Graphics invented Buzzword Bingo, to be played surreptitiously at meetings where it is likely that speakers will deploy buzzwords or arcane business concepts rather than supplying actual information. Bingo card squares come pre-loaded with corporate jargon, and you get a dot each time some silly lingo on your card is spoken in the meeting. The various ways to announce that one has achieved BINGO are mouth-watering. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in such a meeting, mercifully, but I’d suggest alternate mischief wherein contestants randomly combine buzzwords in nonsensical ways to jar deeply tranquilized meeting-goers out of their fog, e.g., “Drilling down to multi-tiered value-addedness was impactful,” or “His low-hanging fruit is right in my wheelhouse.”
The Corporate BS Generator, a fun online pastime, takes 2 “corporate” adjectives and randomly pairs them with a noun. Synergistic, results-based solutions. Top-down, client-driven transparency. Go ahead, make your own. What’s more fun than spewing twaddle?
I asked some of the brilliant cynics I call friends for their most despised terms. Their choices:
From CT: Alignment – when all divisions of an “enterprise” need to buy office furniture in the official corporate color palette. Branding – see above regarding the color palette. Re-branding – new colors.
From VT: Silos (not the farms). Organic (not the food). Cross-pollination (not the bees).
From NY: Reaching Out – “I thought I’d reach out” rather than “I’m contacting you.” Disintermediation – eliminating the middle man. Multi-sourcing – code for outsourcing. Business Development – a.k.a Sales. Market Development – a.k.a. Marketing.
It makes me wax nostalgic about another form of invasive language, one I welcomed as Host, probably because I was an unsuspecting child at the time. It remains a part of us. Yes, television advertising.
Wessonality. Certs with Retsyn®. Figurines (“Crunch crunch crunch crunch crunch.”) “I’m Rula Lenska.” (Alberto V05). Kind of wow, kind of now (Charlie!). “She conked out, but her hair held up,” (Final Net). “…and my dress is vivid red,” (RCA). I miss the flagrantly untrue, now-illegal product claims (Mark Eden’s “bust enhancement”) as I miss TV in general back then, when snow shoes were always falling out of closets, people were routinely shot out of cannons, and “the old switcheroo” prevailed.
For good or bad, they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Now TV shows are based on doctored “reality,” and the ads are all for prescription medicines (“side effects may include new body hair, sleepwalking, swollen tongue…”), or class-action lawsuits (“Were you or a loved one exposed to…THIS?”). Just as Fab detergent had an intoxicating secret ingredient (lemon-freshened Borax), today the power of suggestion secretly leads us by the hand to litigation and a cascade of daily pills. Well, at least the car commercials remain. A comfort. Until they start driving themselves.
Let’s face it. Sometimes a problem is not a challenge; it is a bloody problem. It may not be fun or solvable. I had so many “challenges” outside my “sphere of influence” recently that in the ocean I was momentarily afraid of my own shadow — thought it was some kind of ray, poised for attack. My advice: when the going gets that rough, get yourself on a robust platform that can withstand the weight of a cannon, get a cannon, climb inside it, ask someone to spark that baby up, and just get the hell out of there. Good day.
*This title written before Harvey hit Houston.
** Cannon photo credit and interesting column here.
I don’t think I can improve upon this old St. Patty’s Day post. It pretty much says it all.
But if you follow me on Twitter (@uvgvt), I’ll retweet the cement mixer parade in Burlington. It’s what we dew.
I don’t know where to begin in trying to make sense out of 2016 for Dear Reader. In my current state of beleaguered puzzlement I am unqualified. It says something about this past year that so many watched Gilmore Girls (fanciful escapism), and guests who said they were coming to our holiday party simply didn’t show (boggled torpor…or home watching GG).
Observing actual, known stars in the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movies this year, these oeuvres normally populated by actors you’ve never heard of, I had to wonder: desperate for work or, like most of us, just trying to contribute something positive in a world gone mad while wearing a corrective overblouse* to conceal unsightly swags of waistmeat?
What a year. The departures of Prince, Bowie, Shandling, Frey, Ali, Wilder, Cohen, Palmer, Zsa Zsa, Michaels, Princess Leia and her funny mom, and Wessonality ~ and that’s just the celebrities. Olympic swimming shenanigans and women’s gymnastics gold. Refugees tossed about the globe. The Cubs. A female announcer at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade gushing at a Victoria’s Secret model on live television about what an “honor” it must be to wear the Fantasy Bra. Women my age everywhere trotting around in stilettos – an orthopedic surgeon’s dream. Throw in, oh, the election and its aftermath, with the promise of a completely bizarre year ahead, and you have undiluted global befuddlement.
Now I’m not a strict party voter. I vote for the seemingly best candidate. Some of my truest friends are republicans, libertarians, anarchists, apoliticos, and members of the blissful ignorati. I’m not that smart myself. I had no answer when a young person asked at Thanksgiving, “Are there any vegetarian republicans?” I don’t know. Are there?
I don’t trouble myself with politics much because it’s evidently out of my control; at my advanced age I don’t fret about the uncontrollable unless it involves immediate family or friends. I’m old. Not old-old. Not Crazy Old Duffer with a limited range of movement old, not bumbling around Mr. Magoo old. Just tired old. Not-that-hopeful old. Old enough to speculate about some great feat I might accomplish, or imagine some sooper piece of good fortune that might come my way, ponder this notion briefly, and go, “Nah.” I’m pretty much just trying to avoid pain at this point.
Old. I embarrass myself with antiquated references. At work I mention interoffice mail, pneumatic tubes, or Telex… at parties I’ll bring up Schweddy Balls, Lemon-freshened Borax or the Hooterville Cannnonball, exclaiming hilariously, “Book ’em, Danno,” or “Where’s the beef?” while lurching around the buffet like an old jalopy, the young people rolling their eyes — Where’d you dig up this old dino? — as their parents laugh heartily, if not without a certain flushed derangement, at my archaic allusions.
A friend is using paper flash cards to get through school; she has to make them because flash cards are digital now. You can’t find a taxi, what with the Uber takeover, which I wouldn’t mind except I can’t figure out the Uber app half the time. Is a car coming? Did I order one? I can’t tell. I can’t even see my phone.
One excuse for our escalating idiocy is that we work long hours and are routinely exposed to an excess of information. There’s little free time. We end up doing everything too fast. Emails I send are definitely not carefully read by their recipients; if I ask 3 questions, I’m lucky to get 2 answered. I think I read things carefully, but I guess not. I saw in an office notice that some employees will be “executed” where it really said “excluded” (seemed harsh). I interpreted a bulletin board’s “selectboard meeting” as “skateboard meeting” (more fun!). I misread a newspaper headline, Signs of Natural Resources on Mars, as Signs of Human Resources on Mars. (Did they find, like, on the planetary surface, an HR pamphlet, Respecting Other Martians in the Workplace & Grooming Guidelines?) I think I remember everything. Yet a friend insists that “chocolate bedroom antics” is something we discussed recently with big laffs. Zero recollection. Old.
Suggestion for 2017: tune out and slow down. Do less. Device less. Pay attention in conversation. Go to the movies. Read a magazine. Sort a drawer. Take a nap. Love. Do one thing at a time. You might actually remember it. Good day, good luck and – let’s hope – good year.
*Nod to Zora
Twitter handle: @uvgvt.
When I’m not puzzling about our political climate, pondering which mosquito-borne illness is most likely at a particular time of day (West Nile by night; Zika and dengue by day) or fretting about The Really Big One, I’m contemplating the flip side of everything for dear Reader. And as I peripatetically examine Vermont’s many splendours, I collect observations and nuggets of solid gold for your reading pleasure in our dark modern tymes.
Such as this gem during a holiday weekend, from a doctor I met lakeside: “My research is online. Google me.” I’ve never heard the verb Google with me as the object of the verb – brilliant! Let’s say it a lot. The world is a mess. We could use the laffs.
The Olympics upon us, I am unable to wax desperate about world affairs. The sweat of many nations* diverts us, joyfully. From the opening ceremony to the first “On your mark!” to the extinguishing of the torch, we are riveted by the athletes’ discipline, costumes, and youth.
Observation: when I started watching the Olympics (first televised in the US in 1960) in 1968, the athletes were all older then I. Now they’re all younger. Much. And very different from me. As the official slogan for the first Olympic and Paralympic Games in South America says: A New World. A new world I can no more fathom than I can navigate. The technology alone…there are many, many things now beyond our control. With everything from the car to the toaster computerized, we can’t fix anything that’s busted. Our children and grandchildren know more than we do, for the first time in the history of the world. We’re in a weird place because of it. I’m pretty sure that when we were kids, everything was our fault. We were in the way, we were noisy, we broke things, we cost a lot. Now, as adults, everything is our fault. We destroyed the planet etc. etc.
A term we non-Olympians hear only every 2 years is Degree of Difficulty. As my father would agree, the Degree of Difficulty in just plain living has greatly increased in our part of the world in recent years. We are assaulted by information and images of extreme wealth and extreme poverty, and exposed to waves and rays of all kinds. There is too much bad news televised, too many climatic disasters, too much violence and economic upheaval boggling our beans — and that’s not counting the disappearance of products we loved, the prevalence of fakely famous “celebrities,” and horrible fashion trends. No wonder we can’t sleep.
Can’t sleep? Hell, stay up till midnight every single night watching the O’s. It’s where the degree of difficulty is measurable and finite, unlike in the rest of life. It’s the only place you’ll hear caldron in a non-pagan setting, the term aquatic stadium, and podium as a verb, e.g., ”I plan to podium.”
When life’s degree of difficulty proves too much and you hit the wall, achieving the unfortunate state that psychologists call learned helplessness, just pack it in. Leave the dishes in the sink, the bills unpaid, kick up your feet, and turn on the tube. Gaze at the beautiful youth of earth’s many Lands with their crazy-good feats and grace and energy, with compelling close-ups of their unashamed thrills of victory and agonies of defeat.
And the sounds! The parallel bars. The diving board. The thwaks and panting. The excited sportscasting and cheering of the fans will rouse you. You’ll see people going absolutely nuts because they won the bronze. And with today’s high def TVs, you’ll feel like you’re cycling right along with them, swimming underneath them, vaulting through the air alongside them, or falling off the balance beam despite your finest efforts. It’s like when Bugs Bunny was chasing the mechanical rabbit lure at the dog track. You are right there with them. It’s virtual reality and it sure feels good. We have to take advantage of what slim benefits Modern Tymes offer, indeed.
Not into sport? Volunteer or hang out with the YP’s.** Despite the hideosity of the man bun, with its possibly samurai provenance, and their disinterest in anything awkward or random***, the YPs are lovely beings of light, so polite and “Howzitgoing?” and “Tell me what’s good!” and “You’re fine.” With them, bigotry and bias and dependence upon fossil fuels will vanish. Miraculous inventions and ways of thinking will solve climate change, restore the polar ice cap, correct water problems, feed the world, and repopulate vanishing species.
But for now, dear Reader, give up. Recline on the couch and win the bronze. Leave the future to the YPs. Google yourself silly. Everything will be okay. Good vaulting and good day.
DON’T TRY TO GET PEOPLE TO DO STUFF THEY DON’T WANT TO
It’s like throwing water on a grease fire.
SOMEONE YOU KNOW LOVES CHEESE
Show up with a wheel of cheddar.
CAKE BY THE OCEAN
Pretty baby, if they play that song one…more…time….
*Nod to Jon Hayman
***Nod to Adam Gopnik on “The Moth”
A cherished friend left our plane recently, taking his himness with him. His passing leaves a vast hole we look into and ponder. Am I living life as richly as he? Do I spread joy like that? With whom will I now discuss the peculiar appeal of sherry? Prince was not the friend, but he’s also left a giant void.
Fact is, in your 20s and 30s you’re pretty much the same. In your 40s you begin changing. In your 50s: boom. You’re different, inside and out. I told a friend, “Suddenly we’re older than the parents of school children.” His response: “Way older.”
Earth too is rapidly changing, her creatures with it. The YPs (young people) — my lord — they’re self-assured, clever, upbeat. And TALL. Especially the girls. Like herds of longhaired gazelles. Their male panther counterparts greet each other with, “Hey bro, what’s good?” or, “Tell me what’s good.” One parent says that because the world is so screwy, they specifically request good news. I like it. I like them.
As Kanye designs ugly velour tracksuits and Teletubby-like outfits and Taylor Swift’s haircut eclipses real news, I feel like an old dino. But as a Baby Boomer, I am not outnumbered. I enjoy baffling the YPs by singing, “I’m so glad we had this time together,” or the theme to Gigantor. The YPs are like, “Huh?” – a “word” my generation considers gauche, much as our parents did the word “like” as used here.
Try dropping pearls such as “the old switcheroo”; “Oh, Miss Crabtree”; “Your muffler: fix it!”; or “The agony of defeat.” These and the hook used in Vaudeville are lost on the YPs, akin to our parents’ referencing Your Show of Shows. We can’t memorize phone numbers and we know little about social media, gaming, graphics, or the actors with three names, but we remember like yesterday how every time Rob Petrie opened a closet, a snowshoe fell out.
It’s a lot of work to avoid becoming hopelessly out of touch. My chiro’s daughter said recently, “Mom, instead, could you wear, like, leggings and boots?” So twice a week she does. When did pants become foolish? Our mothers didn’t want us to wear pants in public; now our kids don’t. Hell, we fought to wear pants. I’m wearing them. Corduroys, painters pants, cigarette pants … bring it awn. Let’s bring back knickers. Bloomers.
Alas, we’ll have to keep up or give up – in planned communities, retirement villages, or facilities designed for people who can’t climb stairs. Considering this is depressing. But mostly we don’t think about it. Like old jalopies, my People have seen a lot of road and have hit some motherless potholes. So we’re kind to each other. We still see each other as we were: vibrant, sexy, hilarious, relevant. Who cares how the rest of America sees us? Our People’s opinions are what matters, right?
And we’re losing our People. With them goes our inside jokes, our shared memories, who we are. So with the (still many) friends yet here, we toddle off into the future. We’ll floss our receding gums to Physical Graffiti and snort about wattles, jowls, Portosan® waiting line etiquette, air raid drills, Mystery Date, fake ID’s, and Match Game ’76 as we MacGyver our walkers. We’ll know we’ve become pathetic, but we’ll have the sun and the moon and each other. We won’t have to be 5’11”, we’ll be the right height to see each other without hurting our necks. We won’t need mirrors, we’ll have our People’s chortling visages to reflect our own. We won’t even need our minds any more; we have what a friend calls his “external brain”: the smart phone. Or whatever that device evolves into by then. Some sort of implant.
The world seems worsening with miseries, often monetary. Following, dear Reader, are causes for hope: 1. As financial experts report, the market is turbulent during presidential races; after the election, regardless of who wins, the market soars. 2. My hunch is that once the economic inequity that has plagued Earth for so long balances out some, ISIS et alia will wither from lack of interest. 3. As the races and creeds intermingle throughout the Lands, there is ever less fear of Other. The earth becomes more diverse locally, breeding a new level of understanding (the Age of Aquarius, YPs!). When we work or play with someone unlike us, we see them as a person, not a type. This, of course, if there’s any land left after the glaciers melt.
And so, in what time you have left, what do you most want to do? Of your many possible contributions, what is your best choice? What gets your groove on? What will matter in the end? Do that. If you’d like to discuss it over a glass of sherry, ring me up. I’d like that. Good day.
Departed friend, we’ll miss so your wit and empathy, wisdom and cheer. Safe travels.
email@example.com ann.aikens.7 on Facebook. Twitter handle: at @uvgvt.
Some things are perfect. The old tymey songs you sang with your aunt in Bellows Falls, the laughs you had together doing so, and the Easter egg tree on her piano.
No room for improvement.
For decades I bolted out of bed. Now I return from dreamland and marinate in random thoughts awhile. Thoughts like, “I never ran so fast in my life.” That one after a fleeting memory of being in the woods with my rowdy Vermont cousin and his BB gun. Guns were foreign to a suburban girl. My cousin would aim at knots in trees, or critters like chipmunks whereupon I’d yell, “NO!” and give the barrel a shove. Surely kids went blind from those things. Nice toy.
Point is, he once levelled it at a distant object, inhaled, exhaled slowly and murmured, “RUN.” I whispered back what is it? KAPOW. “A hornet’s nest,” he replied. I never ran so fast in my life.
Until the time in our teens when a friend and I were out in the snow at night, as kids were then allowed to be. We thought it a good idea to walk down the hill into people’s back yards. No one had shades drawn. It was pretty interesting. People do a lot of ordinary things at home wearing bad or little clothing. A large, angry man barreled out in his skivvies. “HEY YOU!” I never ran so fast in my life.
When I told my Vermonty college friend, 53, about the bee’s nest, he said without pause, “That’s good fun.” He said it never loses its charm, watching people’s faces as he throws a rock at a nest. Astonished, I asked when was the last time he did this. “Last year.” He’s in better physical shape than most, but still. Well, that’s Vermont for you.
The running memories reminded me of Meatballs, wherein Bill Murray’s pathetic, ragtag camp summer camp unit would certainly fail in a footrace against a rich, athletic unit. For years I’d remembered Murray’s soliloquy as stirring a chant of “We’re number two!” I was wrong. It is, in fact, this chant: “It just doesn’t matter!”
There’s something to be said for lying around thinking thoughts and for enjoying the race when you’re in no position to win. Ours is a competitive society. While I’m all for striving for excellence, and snub the modern “Everyone gets a trophy,” there’s a comparative element that makes people unhappy. Unhappiness does not serve the cosmic soup on Planet Earth.
For example, without sitting on boards or known committees, I have contributed in ways that won’t yield a respectable obit. But my eulogy should be good when I go. And I’d be much happier driving my humble car to a drafty cabin, laughing my face off with my ham-handed monkey boy, than riding in a Maserati with Joe Bucks to an unhappy McMansion and winging dysfuntionally to St. Bart’s. I’m not saying there are no happy McMansionite sports car enthusiasts who totally dig their hedge fund jobs and (accomplished!) families and fancy vacations—because there are—I’m just saying if I had to choose between low-end fun and pricey misery. And that you shouldn’t compare yourself and feel less than. What good in that?
Our high school field hockey team was lucky. We were Title IX girls whose beater, Girls Scout tunic-like uniforms were replaced by smart kilts with turtle necks. As the blue-collar neighbor of rich towns, we’d had no hockey program in middle school thus were three years behind our competitors. But we had mettle and, in spades, humor. On the game bus we’d recite hilariously outdated sexist cheers and make barn noises (our winning football never allowed to speak on their bus). I’d yell during scrimmages to Meg, “Do the crumple!” and she’d collapse realistically, just for kicks. We didn’t have the best record—how could we—but we had the most fun. We somehow made it to sectionals, and lost, but we felt like winners. We’d come a long way, baby.
Go for the silver. Hell, go for the bronze. Everyone can’t win, for God’s sake. Do your best at things you enjoy. Produce a good eulogy. In my rule book, s/he who laughs the most wins. Laughter is money. Good day.
Best Bumper Sticker of Fall, Seen at Farmer’s Market:
YES WE CANNED.
When parents get involved in their children’s projects, a great inequity is born. I remember my friends’ middle school-aged kids’ projects for Science Fairs. They looked, by God, these trifold standup posters explaining the experiment, as if they’d been published by Random House. The other kids’ looked like, well, coloring books. Except for the ones made by their parents.
Girl Scouting was no different. In the 70s you had the laissez-faire parents like mine, God love ‘em, then you had the competitive superparents. They were troop leaders, usually, and their daughters had 200 merit badges on their sashes. My mom was a troop leader, but not the superparenting kind; more the “Look it up” kind. We had to earn our own merit badges, meaning do the work ourselves. Imagine that! We had to actually read the instructions and carry them out. If you didn’t understand something, in your Girl Scout Handbook or math book, a parent would bark, “Look it up!” without glancing up from the stovetop, martini, or newspaper. None of this coddly, “Let’s get going on it, honey … together!” None of this everything-at-your-fingertips Internet business, no sir, not for us.
What if we had to walk around today with sashes pictographically representing our accomplishments? Rich concept, that. Some people would have lots and lots of badges, some would have a few, and some would turn their nose at the “charade” even if they’d accomplished much. The highly competitive would have extra-long sashes trailing behind them like a royal brides’s train, or folded over repeatedly back and forth like ribbon candy, loaded down with those little embroidered circles of merit (crafted by … the children of the fine sweat shops of Indonesia?) The rest of us could fit our sash under a slender coat.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved earning those badges and sewing them by hand (myself! With the skills acquired in Brownies!) to my sash. I feel for the poor troop leader who ordered them, probably with 27-character alphanumeric codes they had to enter on a form and mail in (CANOE999 … FIRSTAID2704 … ETIQUETTE5328 — wait, did the Boys Scouts have Etiquette??? Certainly not HOUSEKEEPING like the early Girl Scout badge).
I could see this being of societal benefit in modern tymes. Like last spring when the months-old layer of snow melted and there was dog do all over town. It was a minefield out there. Maybe if there had been merit badges involved, people would have been more diligent about poopingscooping (gotta be a great German word for that). This got me — and the crazed nutters I call friends — thinking of incentive-based or generally perverse applications of such badges.
Proposed Merit Badges for Adults in Modern Tymes:
Recycling. Putting The Seat Down. Turning In Lost Objects. Moderation in Facebook Posting. Echolocation. Hoarding. Closet Organizing. Image Consulting. Photo Bombing. Comparative Shopping. Lawn Care. Adult Hygiene. Cell Phone Videography. Social Climbing. Commuting. Unfriending. Rabble Rousing. Lamprophony (look it up). Little Sister of the Moon (Stevie Nicks-esque Wicca skills). Little Brother Annoying. Patent Leather Appreciation. Cyber Stalking. Fast Texting. 50 Shading. Hermitude. Internet Bullying. Cellphone Minute Conservation. Hair Extension Weaving. Sleepover Safety. Bad Boy Dating. Texting Shorthand (u 2 want 1). Throning.
A friend asks, “What about a merit badge called Olive Loaf for those of us in the “sandwich” stage, caring for both children and aging parents?” Another writes: “OMG. I’m going to get a good picture of my sash. I GLUED the SEWING badge on the sash. I think I fibbed to ACHIEVE this number of badges … all glued on for speedy sense of ACCOMPLISHMENT and ACHIEVEMENT.
Others suggested: “How about the Aria Stark badge for when you kill an adversary?” Or “The Donald Trump badge for the girl who sells the most cookies? The theme would be twisted of course to emphasize greed rather than ‘do-gooding’ for a cause. The recipient would be all about the prize she wins.”
Feel free to create your own. Achieve! Good day.
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ann.aikens.7 on Facebook. Twitter handle: @uvgvt.