How Euphemisms Keep Life Surprising

April 18, 2014 § 28 Comments

Sometimes, it’s better not to spell out the exact thing you mean. In that case, it helps to use words that put a fuzzy-sunrise filter on the issue instead.

There really should be a "euphemism" filter.

There really should be a “euphemism” filter.

Euphemisms can be a real life-saver in social situations when you don’t want to hurt feelings or offend anyone. You know, like how “she was a bit tipsy” is a cute way of saying “she got so hammered, she tried to use a Sharpie as lipstick.” Or how “unfortunately” is a polite way of saying “fuck you,” as in, “I would love to come to your party, but I’m busy that night, unfortunately.”

Euphemisms can also be useful for maintaining the element of surprise. For example, if I see a movie, and you ask me how the movie was, and I say, “It was… interesting,” and then you go to the movie and discover that it’s about robotic, bloodthirsty aliens time-traveling back to the gunslinging days of the wild wild west, well, didn’t I do a nice job of not spoiling the plot?

Perhaps nowhere is euphemism quite so powerfully employed as in the real estate business. I’ve discovered this lately while doing some house-hunting, and I’ve quickly learned to decipher what some terms really mean.

  • “Old-world charm” = “the doorknobs come off in your hand”
  • “Sold as-is” = “asbestos in the walls and a skull of indeterminate origin in the attic”
  • “Cheery and bright” = “crayon on the walls in every room”
  • “Very open floor plan” = “oven and shower in the living room”

Also, “Tudor-esque,” “Spanish-style,” and “Italian countryside, right here in the city!” all mean “a bastardized cross-cultural mashup owned by a person with delusions of grandeur whose initials you’ll find permanently rendered in the ironwork over the driveway gate.”

Perhaps the very best, though — I mean the super-duper-totally-awesome best — is “historic property with original fixtures.” Do you know what that means?

It means the house comes with a rustic yet convenient murder station in the basement.

I shit you not.

I shit you not.

Wait, what? you say. Yes. Let’s take a closer look at what I actually found in one home I visited.

Now, I know I'm a city girl. So maybe I'm not used to seeing the accoutrements necessary for chopping wood or killing chickens or any number of completely normal activities that happen in some homes. But come on. You can't tell me that wouldn't stop you in your tracks.

Look, I know I’m a city girl. So maybe I’m not used to seeing the accoutrements necessary for chopping wood or killing chickens or any number of completely normal activities that happen in some homes. But come on. You can’t tell me that wouldn’t stop you in your tracks. Also: Yes, I do very much regret not posing with the ax for some additional photos, but there’s nothing I can do about that now.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with having a large, petrified stump in one’s basement. I am, however, questioning the decision to carefully ACCESSORIZE IT WITH AN AX and LIGHT IT UP WITH A SPOTLIGHT. Like, welcome to this lovely home that hearkens back to a gentler age… a time when gentlemen wore hats… ladies held luncheons… and recalcitrant staff had their limbs punitively removed in the basement.

It’s just… interesting. That’s all I’m saying.

“Moms Are Nuts,” A Love Letter to Our Funny Mothers

April 10, 2014 § 18 Comments

Do you have any hidden/weird talents that are just waiting for someone to call them out? I bet you do. Like, maybe you walk around every day, hoping that just *once* someone will say, “Hey, Mike — do you happen to have a great impression of Beaker from the Muppets?” so you can finally do your Beaker act for an audience. Something like that.

Well, several months ago, I got that call. Amy Vansant was putting together a humor anthology called Moms Are Nuts. Much to my surprise and delight, she had invited me to contribute an essay to the collection (more on that in a sec). Anyway, we were chatting one day about the book, and she said, “We haven’t settled on a perfect cover yet. I just wish I knew an artist who could, like, bring a bunch of peanuts to life and make them have a little conversation.”

Me: “I’VE BEEN PRACTICING FOR THIS MY WHOLE LIFE!”

Amy: “Oh, so are you saying you could…”

Me: “I’M ALREADY ON THE WAY TO BUY MORE HOT GLUE!”

And that is how this scene unfolded:

nut scene

The world of nut-styling is not as glamorous as many may believe.

Which leads us to this book cover:

cover

Moms Are Nuts is a collection of humor pieces by some hilarious writers (plus me) about the wonderful, weird women who raised them. As you can imagine, it was important to represent a diverse group of mothers, grandmothers, and mother-figures.

photo 1

The photo shoot was lots of fun. In fact, the camera kept rolling on set between takes, which enabled us to capture some rather tragicomic outtakes on film. (More from the blooper reel here.)

photo 2

Anyway — I could not be more delighted to be included in this collection alongside some really funny people. Fellow contributors have written for Comedy Central, The Tonight Show, US Weekly, VH-1, and The Onion, and include actors, stand-up performers, and alums of comedy programs such as the Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade. Critically acclaimed comedian Abbi Crutchfield contributes, as does comedy writer Gloria Fallon, plus some of my Internet friends, such as Nancy Kho and Wendi Aarons, and… well, there are 26 total. Here, you can see the list on the back cover:

backcoverI contributed the chapter, “Cursing With Style.” People have asked before if I’d publish that piece, and I’ve always meant to look into it… Thankfully, Amy came along and took care of it, so now it’s available in print for the first time. (Remember, kids: Never do work yourself if you could wait for someone else to do it for you.) 

Indieoramazon_250x250

You can buy it right here, right now. (In a few days, there will also be a button to purchase from Parnassus Books, so you can flaunt your indie-bookstore pride!)

 

Moms Are Nuts makes a great Mother’s Day gift for anyone. It’s not about being a mom, it’s about having a mom. Many of the writers — dudes and ladies included — are not parents. But we all have beloved moms who are wonderfully colorful characters.*

Here’s a link to the official press release. I’m really tickled to be included in this project. Thanks, Amy and the Moms Are Nuts team!

 

* * *

(* As always, a special thanks to my own mom. We’re just like those Proctor & Gamble commercials where the mamas get up early to help their little Olympians lug their skates and get to practice on time, but with cursing instead of skating.)

 

Three Bloggers Making a Splash

April 7, 2014 § 6 Comments

When I Blink:

(This post is reblogged from Wordpress.com…What a nice little nod! I’m going to check out these other sites, too. Thank you for the kind support, WordPress.)

Originally posted on WordPress.com News:

We often say that blogging is about community. The blogs we feature today show just how big that community can become. From award-winning essays to creative infographics, these stories connected with audiences the world over.
Mary Laura Philpott , an author and the editor of online literary magazine Musing , often reserves her funniest material for her blog,  I Miss You When I Blink .
mary laura philpott

Mary Laura Philpott, in a photo taken by her son.

Last month, she wrote a piece for the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, “Raising, and Understanding, the Class Clown,” where she talked about humor, parenting, and how both she and her son use laughter to cope with stressful situations.


Kenan Malik, who blogs at Pandaemonium, teaches, writes on culture and politics, and is a presenter on BBC Radio 4. In a blog post published last Fall, In Defense of Diversity, he discussed the recent history of…

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A Funeral for Will Gardner

March 27, 2014 § 27 Comments

OK, first: Are you fucking kidding me?

Along with many fellow fans of The Good Wife, I am currently in a state of shock. Like, time is moving really slowly right now, and I can’t feel my face, and all I can hear is this buzzing sound, and there’s blackness seeping in at the edges of my vision.

I no longer remember the moment it happened, because I think my mind has blocked it out in sort of a self-preservation way. I do remember thinking that if I’d had some donuts, that might have helped. That’s nonsense, obviously — donuts can’t change anything — but who can explain the strange thoughts that pop into our heads in traumatic moments? Realistically, even if I’d had donuts, I’d probably have been so angry that I’d have thrown my donuts, and they’d have hit the wall and then landed on the floor, which is always covered in dog hair, and then I’d just have been sitting on the ground, sobbing, holding hairy donuts and screaming out to God for answers.

I keep wondering, Could I have stopped this from happening? What if I hadn’t watched this week? Would it still have happened? I know that’s magical thinking, but the brain goes through some pretty desperate acrobatics in search of stable footing in times like these.

Anyway. I have a lot of shit to get done today, and I can’t keep wailing and gnashing teeth. I need closure. So for everyone else in the same situation, I invite you to join me for –

A FUNERAL FOR WILL GARDNER

First, we’re going to gather in an elevator together to swap fond memories of Will. Memories like these:

Then, probably at least one of us, maybe more, will have to go outside and yell and punch a door. This is OK. Don’t hold it in. Does anyone need to vomit? That is also OK. Sometimes the body reacts to tragedy with attempts at physical rejection of the upsetting news.

There will be a service. Someone in fancy garb will say something in an attempt to soothe our souls. We won’t remember.

After that, we’ll gather ’round for more stories and memories. Even the ones that are tough to revisit.

Then we’re going to have funeral snacks. Spicy crackers and deviled eggs, that sort of thing.

Someone will tell more stories:

At this point, more than a few of us will be drunk. This is excusable. Where I come from, the greatest liquor expenses of one’s life are weddings and funerals. Go ahead and drown your sorrows for a little while. That’s right, here — have another. You want to what? Take off your Spanx and throw them in the kitchen trash? That’s fine. You get comfortable, honey. It’s OK.

As the evening winds down, we’ll re-live just a few more moments from the past:

Then it will be time to go. We’re all going to do our best Alicia Florrick one-manicured-middle-fingered-hair-tuck-behind-the-ear, put our shoulders back, and wipe the mascara from under our eyes. We’ll take a deep breath, get up, smooth our tasteful and expensive outfit, and start walking. Because now we must move on.

Amen, dammit.

 

This Is Madness

March 21, 2014 § 9 Comments

I like basketball fine, but I’m not, like, freaking out about it. 

madness

Most people I know, however, are completely consumed with their brackets right now. What that means is that for a few weeks, there’s this little pocket of time in which I can pass undetected through the world, doing pretty much anything and getting away with it. Don’t believe me? Try doing any of these things at your house or in your favorite sports bar between now and the first week of April and see if anyone even looks away from the game to notice:

  • Light your arm hairs on fire one at a time with teeny tiny matches.
  • Dress your dogs up like midget wizards and send them running through the room riding little brooms.
  • Fill your cheeks with tiny origami birds and blow them out of your mouth at 10-second intervals.
  • Surf down the banister on roller skates waving a British flag in each hand.
  • alright alright alrightPerform Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar speech on helium.
  • Leave, rob a bank, come back, pile all the cash up on the floor, spray it with spray-glue, lie on it and roll around, get up with the bills stuck all over you, and march into the room eating a bag of nacho cheese popcorn like a money monster.
  • Load a water gun with chocolate syrup and use it to write the complete poems of Emily Dickinson all over the ceiling.
  • Hot-glue tiny suction cups to your fingertips and knees and climb up the windows of the TV-watching room from the outside.
  • Moonwalk across your coffee table / the bar wearing only a single silver glove.
  • Sit down on the sofa / a bar stool while the game is on and then commence waxing all the hair off your body using jumbo bandaids.
  • Play “potato baseball” by throwing hot tater tots at the blades of the ceiling fan while it’s on.

tots (Note: Not an exhaustive list)

See? As long as you don’t stand in front the TV, you can do anything.

So if you, too, find yourself lacking proper concentration on March Madness, come on over and let’s have some fun. You bring the tater tots.

About Humor, via The New York Times

March 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

Hey, funny people.

Many of you crack me up in the comments on this site — which makes me think you might appreciate this, so I’m going to share. It’s an essay I wrote for The New York Times about humor: where it comes from, how we develop it, and how it helps us get through life. I’m turning off the buttons and comments here, but feel free to click over and visit it there if you’re so inclined: 

NYT Column

I was a tiny bit nervous about this, because I almost never write about my kids. I feel strongly about their privacy. Plus, they have so many stories to tell in their voices (not mine) one day. So this is unusual territory for me; but I wrote it because it’s been brewing in my head for quite some time, this thought on humor.

My little guy is one of the most wonderfully complex human beings I’ve ever met, and I’ve learned so much from him. He did read the article, and he’s cool with it. (He’s also a total pre-teen and has angst about being teased at school, so please, if you happen to know us in real life, don’t mention it to him. He’d be all, “GAH, MOM, GROSS, STOP TALKING ABOUT ME, GO STAND OVER THERE.”) We had a sweet little discussion about this in which we got all real and vulnerable and deep. Then we made some armpit noises and went on with our day.

Anyway. Thanks for the support, friends. Back to the usual jackassery next time.

First Look: The Life Lessons of Spring 2014

March 5, 2014 § 22 Comments

You know how this goes. The new season’s magazines land in the mailbox, and lo, we are blessed with important and enlightening images. Let’s jump right into what the latest fashion ads have to teach us about living, shall we? Take note.

* * *

1. Be Unpredictable

For the last 100 years, Chanel has been the standard of classic chic. Little quilted leather bags on chains, tastefully boxy tweed jackets, elegant Hepburn-esque sheaths. Well, you can’t stay the same forever. That’s boring. Chanel has decided to mix things up this season, and we all should, too.

Look, I’m not 18 anymore. I realize I may just be too old to understand what’s happening. Is this kind of a “concept” thing? Like, “Homelessness is a rainbow is too many bags is Pebbles Flintstone” – like that? I don’t know.

Look, I’m not 18 anymore. I realize I may just be too old to understand what’s happening. Is this kind of a “concept” thing? Like, “Homelessness is a rainbow is too many bags is Pebbles Flintstone” – like that? I don’t know.

* * *

2. Embrace Your Face

Designers are reaching out to women with a message of inclusion and acceptance by putting faces on everything. Eyeballs on shoes, foreheads on dresses, lips on skirts. The meaning of it is this: Don’t be insecure about your face. Your face is beautiful. Your face is so great that you should replicate the image of your face and wear it multiple times on your body. Get up in everyone’s face with your face. And when that happens, we’ll finally understand each other and attain world peace.

The fun part is that when you open your closet – BAH! – there’s a big face staring at you.

The fun part is that when you open your closet – BAH! – there’s a big face staring at you.

* * *

3. History Repeats Itself – Might as Well Accept It

I don’t know how to tell you this, so I’m just going to come right out: Crop tops are happening. Again. It’s a new thing, but an old thing at the same time. You know how you pat yourself on the back sometimes for putting old habits behind you? Yeah, stop patting. The fact is, what happened before will happen again. Your stupid past is about to be your stupid future. It’s just a matter of time.

Crop tops. You can’t stop them from happening. You can only close your eyes and pretend you don't see them.

Crop tops. You can’t stop them from happening. You can only close your eyes and pretend you don’t see them.

Actually, I would wear this Dior situation here. The only skin exposed is up a little higher than the midriff. What’s that body part called? The solar plexus? I don’t mean to brag, but I actually have a super-sexy solar plexus. Some people call it the “solar sexus,” because it’s that hot. (No, they don’t.) Anyway. Sign me up for this outfit. I like it. Ladylike, but kinda bitchin’.

Actually, I would totally wear this Dior situation here. The only skin exposed is up a little higher than the midriff. What’s that body part called? The solar plexus? I don’t mean to brag, but I have a super-sexy solar plexus. Some people call it the “solar sexus,” because it’s so sexy. (No, they don’t.) Anyway. Sign me up for this outfit. I like it. Ladylike, but kinda bitchin’.

Damn, I would wear these too. Somebody put these on my birthday list.

Damn, I would wear these too. Somebody put these on my birthday list.

* * *

4. Trying New Things Won’t Kill You

This is probably the biggest change of the season. As we’ve discussed multiple times before, the reigning show-off-the-handbag position has been front and center and low, right over the ladygoods, for several seasons now. Well, guess what? No more. Look at all these gals, breaking out of the old routine. Freeeeeedom. Here, let’s trace the evolution of this crotch emancipation:

Here you can see she’s starting to pull away from the groin area a bit, signaling the dawn of a new era.

Here you can see she’s starting to pull away from the groin area a bit, signaling the dawn of a new era.

This is the traditional lounge-on-a-chaise posture, but instead of the usual bag-on-the-vag placement, the gesture is more relaxed. See how the bags are starting to drift afield a bit more?

This is the traditional lounge-on-a-chaise posture, but instead of the usual bag-on-the-vag placement, the gesture is more relaxed. See how the bags are starting to drift afield a bit more?

Check out the raven here. She’s got her rainbow-snake bag at her KNEE. Shit just got real.

Check out the raven here. She’s got her rainbow-snake bag at her KNEE. Shit just got realer than real.

Whoa. You can even place your purse up near your chest like a shield, right before you go fight some baddies at Thunderdome. I’m thinking chest might be the new crotch, people.

You can even place your purse up near your breastbone like a shield, right before you go fight some baddies at Thunderdome. I’m thinking chest might be the new crotch, people.

Lupita’s like, “Remember that time I magically transformed everything at the Oscars into fairy dust and light and sunshine and cookies with my mystical loveliness and grace? That was fun. Now watch: I can put my purse all the way UP HERE.” And she can. Because she’s Lupita.

Lupita’s like, “Remember that time I magically transformed everything at the Oscars into fairy dust and light and sunshine and cookies with my mystical loveliness and grace? That was fun. Now watch: I can put my purse all the way UP HERE.” And she can. Because she’s Lupita.

Check out my spirit animal, Nicole Kidman. See? I’m telling you, chest is the new crotch.

Check out my spirit animal, Nicole Kidman. See? I’m telling you, chest is the new crotch.

* * *

5. Take Your Cues From Nature

Here’s what hot right now: plants. Leaves, petals, thorns, bark, stems, etc. All over the place. As colorful and as textural as you please. What does it all mean? It means be yourself. Life is a garden. Thrive where you’re planted. Reach, like a sproutling, for the sky. Blossom into your true self. From the tiny acorn grows the mighty oak. Don’t be like poison ivy and transmit a substance that makes others itch. Plants: They’re a metaphor.

As you can see, these are edgier florals, not old-timey flower patterns. Because flowers have been around forever, but old things are gross and let’s all go shopping.

As you can see, these are edgier blooms, not old-timey floral patterns. Because flowers have been around forever, but old things are gross and let’s all go shopping.

Take it as far as you want.

Take it as far as you want.

OK, don’t take it too far.

OK, don’t take it too far.

* * *

6. Life Would Be Easier If You Were a Fanning Sister

No deep symbolism here. Just pointing out that if you were Dakota or Elle, you’d be rolling in it right now.

Rolling. In. It.

Rolling. In. It.

* * *

7. Expect the Unexpected

You think you know how life is going to go, but you can’t predict the actions of other people. That’s the thing. You might think you’re just going to go into the ladies room and relax and touch up your lip gloss in peace, but no. There’s some strung out girl you knew from high school sitting in front of the damn mirror. You couldn’t have seen that coming. But now you have to react. And that’s what life does. It surprises you. Sometimes the surprise is good. Sometimes it’s bad. Sometimes it’s someone’s butt in the sink.

That awkward moment when you’re like, “Hey, Missy, I need to wash my hands. Could you move your ass? Missy? Um. Sooo…Are you OK?” Good times.

That awkward moment when you’re like, “Hey, Missy, I need to wash my hands. Could you move your ass? Missy? Um. Sooo…Are you OK?” Good times.

Know someone who deserves to have a great spring? It’s as simple as following these examples. Pass it on.

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