Sometimes I imagine little cartoon bubbles over people’s heads when they’re speaking. The bubbles indicate what they’re really thinking and feeling—the gritty subtext of their seemingly innocuous statements. Here are four statements I hear a lot, and my translations of what they really mean: “With all due respect…” - A favorite for commentators and “experts” duking it out on political talk shows. Translation: I’m about to tell you why you’re an idiot for daring to voice such a misguided opinion. “It’s too early to talk about that” - A popular phrase for politicians. Translation: We’ll address that when hell freezes over, or the special interests stop donating to my campaign. “I’m not prejudiced, but…” - A well-worn prelude to any outrageously offensive racist, sexist, or homophobic comment. Translation: I can say whatever I feel like about “those people” since I’ve made it clear I’m not prejudiced. “The bottom line is…” - Go-to for attorneys who don’t want to give a “yes” or “no” comment about whether they believe the 242 accusations leveled against their client. Translation: I can’t admit my client is a sleaze ball because he’s paying me top dollar to defend his sorry ass. I’d love to know what you think about my list. Do you agree or disagree? Any phrases you suggest adding to my list? I’m always up for adding to my collection!
Wishing all of you a beautiful Thanksgiving! Holidays invariably put me in a reflective mood. Here’s what was on my mind during my travels yesterday: The train ride between New York and Boston is a mere four hours long, but the distance I travel between my son’s Manhattan household to my mom’s Cambridge apartment seems so much greater. With my mom, I have no choice but to confront end-of-life issues up close and personal, even as I celebrate the blessing of new beginnings in my son’s family. My son and beautiful daughter-in-law gave us the best Thanksgiving gift we could possibly imagine—the news that they are expecting their second child, a baby sister or brother for three-year-old Milo. Milo is an absolutely joyful child—full of energy and imagination. He is on the go from early morning until bedtime, serving his “customers” ice cream from his “ice cream shop,” dancing to his favorite Spanish song, and playing endless chase games. For Milo, every day is exciting and new. Spending three days with him was magical. And now, as the train speeds to my next stop, I’m headed to see my beloved mom. Her dementia continues to progress, yet not so completely that she doesn’t mourn the loss of who she once was. I often think of that old Woody Allen line: “It’s not the idea of death that bothers me. It’s the hours.” I have a different, less funny version: "It’s not the idea of death that bothers me. It’s losing [...]
My students think it’s hilarious that my ancient phone is a flip-top. I get the feeling they wouldn’t be surprised if I pulled out a Smith Corona typewriter from my book bag. Clearly, I’m a strange visitor from another planet… or maybe a time traveler who hasn’t yet figured out the ways of the 21st century. I readily admit I’m a technophobe, a non-digital native stuck in my own time warp. But part of my ambivalence about upgrading my phone has to do with my concerns about how addictive they appear to be. It isn’t just my interactions with my college students who struggle to get through 75 minutes of class without peeking at their phones. When my grand-daughter started kindergarten and I was in charge of picking her up, I was not only excited to have time with her but looked forward to getting to know some of the other parents and grandparents waiting in the hallway to pick up their little ones. There was just one problem—they were all buried in their phones. And when I’ve team-taught sexuality workshops for youth, the minute I’ve been up to bat in leading a segment of the session, it’s not uncommon for the other adult facilitators to pull out their phones and “check out” from whatever we’re doing. My teeth grind every time I think about what kind of a message this sends to our youth participants, but hey, these are volunteers. The other day, I had [...]
When I first read Gary Chapman’s best-selling The Five Love languages, I was fascinated. He argues that folks have predominant ways of expressing love for their mates: gift giving, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. If we can understand our mate’s preferred “love language,” we can do better at appreciating their caring expressions, and be less likely to be disappointed and dissatisfied because our preferred love language is different from theirs. I immediately pegged my husband as an “acts of service” guy. He expresses his love in all five ways, but there’s no question he’s constantly doing things for me—thoughtful things. Whether it’s cooking me delicious meals, cleaning the house if I’m on deadline, or packing my lunch when I go off to school, he is the King of “acts of service.” I admit it—I am incredibly spoiled! Also incredibly grateful. And madly in love. Truthfully, I think I must be a glutton for love, because giving and receiving in all five love languages is a rush for me. But hey, I’m a writer, so words are particularly special. Not surprisingly the best parts of the lunches my husband packs are the love notes he tucks inside. I save them! In fact, I think I must have saved every love note, card, or letter of appreciation I’ve ever received from my husband, my children, and even my students. There are boxes of them! They hold my treasures, my life, my heart. So, if there are [...]