Archive for April, 2009

Ask Aunt Pittypat

Aunt Pittypat

After fleeing her hometown of Atlanta during General Sherman’s siege, Aunt Pittypat lived out her remaining years in a small town in Georgia.  Now, through the miracle of cloning, Aunt Pitty has been brought back to life, where she is able to fulfill her greatest dream – to advise Southern women in proper behavior.  Unfortunately though, 150 years have passed…

Q:  My brother has recently gone to jail for embezzling money from his employer.  What should I say to people when they ask what he’s been doing lately? 

A:  Well, dahlin’, a Southern girl never airs her family’s dirty laundry in public.   It’s best just to say that he’s gone away to a sanatorium to “rest” for a spell.  A true Southerner understands crazy a lot better than they understand dishonesty or ungentlemanly behavior

Q:  My boyfriend keeps asking me to kiss his sausage but I say that’s gross!  He says he’ll stop being my boyfriend if I don’t do it.  What should I do????

A:  This is quite a perplexin’ question, my dear and I’m not sure where to start!  To be very clear:  A lady does not – under any circumstances – kiss food, unless she wants to end up in the sanitorium with her brother.   For your gentleman friend to request such a thing makes him quite suspect indeed!  Is he, by chance, a Yankee?  They do some rather odd things up there.

Q:  I want to pierce my nipples but my mom says I can’t until I’m 18!  This is so unfair!  Aunt Pitty, what do YOU think?

A:  Oh my!  Peter, my smelling salts!  (Aunt Pitty has fallen into a dead faint.  After a brief interlude, she revives).  Well, let me say your question has left me quite speechless!  Have you been dipping into the laudanum young lady???  Your bosom is a sacred thing, fit for suclking babies but not, I repeat, not for piercing holes into.  Goodness, such a thing could not possibly be comfortable – or becoming.  I fear this practice could do irreparable harm, not to mention drastically impair your chances for marriage to a suitable gentleman.   And how on earth do you expect to cinch your corset properly? 

Q:  I’m a 22 year old woman .  My live-in boyfriend of 2 years wants to get married but I seriously don’t know if I ever want to marry.  What should I do?

A:  You are practically a spinster already, my dear!  If you wait much longer, your marriage prospects will wither and die – just like an unwatered camilia- and this would be a tragedy.  And why, if I may ask, does your beau live in the same house with you?  Is it because his estate was burned down by the Yankees?  Or is he a visiting cousin from afar – preferably a civilized place like Savannah or Charleston?  If he is gainfully employed and a gentleman, there is no reason to tarry.  Please make it a priority to engage the services of your family minister so you can be properly married, and not end up a burden to your poor family.

Q:  When my husband and I are having sex, he wants me to talk dirty to him.  I don’t feel comfortable doing this, but he says he’s going to lose interest in me if I don’t start.  What should I do?

A:  Well, a lady should never engage in gutter talk, nor should it ever be requested of her;  it’s just not done, my dear.  Try telling him what a handsome man he is and how much you admire his intelligence and superior business skills.  If this tactic does not work, try batting your eyelashes and saying “Darlin’ your lovemaking leaves me absolutely speechless.”  If he’s a true gentleman, this should surely be enough for him to consider you the rare flower that you most certainly are. 

stripping away the layers

wallpaper2I’ve spent the past several days and nights stripping the wallpaper in one room of my house.  It’s a chore I’ve done in many other rooms of my home and each time I’m confronted with a different set of challenges to meet and overcome, because once the first layer’s removed, you never know what (if anything) lurks beneath… 

 If that sounds somewhat sinister, then believe me, it  can be.

Scoring, spraying and scraping is a fairly mindless task – one that frees the mind to think about a myriad of things.  I mentally worked through the end days of my last marriage while stripping the painted wallpaper in the upstairs hallway 12 years ago, and pondered what was left of my womanhood while removing 75 years of bad choices in my son’s room after cancer surgery in 1994.  I’ve discovered ancient, crumbling plaster and poorly done patch jobs.   I’ve caulked and patched and primed and rewallpapered and painted my way through every room in my house and thought, thought, thought about life and love and everything in between.  Last night, while fighting my way through one small area of industrial strength glue in the study, I came to this conclusion:  Stripping wallpaper is like deconstructing and examining the inside of a relationship.

The outside layer of wallpaper is intact, waterproof.  Like the facade of a relationship – the face  a couple presents to the world – it can mask a whole lotta nastiness lurking beneath.   Peel it off and you never know what you’ll find.  It could be the clean, smooth wall of serenity or it could reveal what I found this week:  Layers of muck and ugliness (and nearly impossible-to-remove adhesive) stuck to yet more layers of muck and ugliness.  Last week an acquaintance declared me incapable of understanding the deconstruction of her long-term marriage because I, myself, have failed at several of my own.  Yet I beg to disagree.  It takes little insight to understand that a three-decade marriage is not so different from a one-decade marriage – there are  just more layers built up behind the facade. 

Peeling away the layers is hard and people often don’t want to revisit what’s been covered up.  Maybe you quickly slapped some paint over the existing wallpaper just to get the job done with as little effort as possible.   Or maybe you decided to just glue another strata of wallpaper on top of the three previous ones – like adhereing a new set of problems on top of the old, unresolved issues.   Hiding the work you should have done in the first place doesn’t make it disappear, and covering up a problem with a layer of denial only serves to preserve it for later.   Eventually you’ll have to scrape the paint, peel away the layers, dissolve the old glue and expose the foundation if you want to start over.   

Rebuilding is a long, slow process that takes an arsenal of tools, elbow grease and a drive to succeed.  It doesn’t matter if you’re repairing a slightly broken marriage or starting over after an irreparable relationship. 

Deconstruction is laborious.

So everyday I scrape my way through decades of old decisions and ponder this metaphor of layers.  I think about the conversation I had last week and wonder if that person will have the strength to reveal her foundation so she can rebuild her life, or if she’ll settle for sealing over her own layers with more of the same. 

I’ve got a good scraper to loan her if she needs it.

wallpaper3

acquiescence

The older I get the more I realize that the end of my time as a person on this planet is creeping up on me.   The phrase “life’s too short” isn’t  just a cliche anymore and it’s clear that happiness isn’t something I can just continue to hope for. 

People get stuck.  They get stuck in relationships that are unfulfilling.  Stuck in situations they know are destructive.  Stuck in lives that don’t serve them well.     When you’re being dishonored or treated poorly, you’ve already given the other person permission to do so.  You’ve acquiesced, given up some of your boundaries, decided to be lazy about defending your most prized possession – your own self worth.  You’ve let someone else chip away at it and steal the pieces  it until there’s little, or even nothing left.   

I’ve been stuck over and over and over.  When a less than optimal life is all you think you deserve, you’re destined to stay there because nobody is going to ride in, swoop you up and carry you off into the sunset.    Nobody can give you your own unique recipe for rebuilding belief in yourself.   And nobody can force you to realize this: it’s not selfish to be happy.

Being stuck means you’ve caved into fear – fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar.  Fear of failing.  Fear of seeking happiness.  Fear of reaching out and grabbing great, giant handfuls of life and stuffing yourself full with them. 

Getting unstuck forces you to answer this question:   Are you brave enough to save yourself?  Or have you given in to silent acquiescence?

Hmmmm?