Friday, December 10, 2010

I Can't never could

More and more, I’m getting, I don’t know, pissed? Exasperated? Worn out? Here’s the thing – the culture of helplessness that we seem to have developed. It comes up a lot when I’m knitting on the train. Somebody will ask a question about what I’m doing, and inevitably they’ll end with “I can’t do that I just don’t (have the patience, dexterity, creativity).” Can’t. Lord how I hate that word. In fact if James Lipton walked up to me right now and asked me what my least favorite word was, I’d say “CAN’T”. And it’s not that I want everyone to take up needles and yarn. I just want to realize that you could. If you wanted to. Knitting teaches patience. With practice, your dexterity would improve. And there’s nothing like a pile of yarn to turn you creative. Yarn addiction is the mother of creativity. So maybe you’d never be St. Elizabeth Zimmerman, Our Lady of the Clicking Needles. But you could make a scarf. If you wanted to.

I’m guilty too. I’ve always said I can’t grow plants. But thanks to our buddy Washington Gardener, I have a frilled violet named Fred who keeps me company at work, and a sago palm that is one plucky little trooper. Okay. The cilantro died. But I’ll try again! It could work! I can make plants grow! If I want to. But I’m not sure I want to. But I could!

Maybe that’s what hobbies teach us more than anything else. You can. Nothing breeds confidence like success. Or even just knowing you tried. And there are so many things that we “I can’t” to. I can’t cook – so we grab a frozen dinner. I can’t manage money – so we just write checks until the bank takes them away. I can’t handle this situation – so we grab a pill or a bottle of booze to stifle the pain and avoid the problem. Can’t can get you into a lot of trouble.

When I was a kid and I’d try something hard, and try to give up, my Mom would give me that eyeball and say “I Can’t never could.” I had no idea what she meant. I’m starting to. I can. I may not choose to. But, dammit, I can.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I do like Green Ham

Okay, last night – The Grinch at the Performing Arts Center. Now, the Grinch is one of my favorite characters. Not just Christmas, of all time favorite characters. He’s a mean one. I loves me bad boys. But then he’s also a redemption story. And that gets me every time.

But as a holiday show, The Grinch musical starts out a few leagues behind for me. The stage show was written years later than the book or the tv special, and without Theodore Geisel’s assistance. The songs are fine. But just fine. When you compare them to the absolute genius of Dr. Seuss, what wouldn’t come up lacking? They throw in some of those great grinchy neologisms (hoo-honkas, fer instance). But otherwise the lyrics are pretty forgettable. And the performances have to be cartoony. It’s based on, you know, a cartoon. Squeaky voices and broad as a barn. Which is usually a recipe to irritate me. If you’re going to do this kind of thing, you can’t just do it fake. You have to really believe in the over-the-top performance with your whole heart.

And this Grinch goes green, furry balls to the wall. He was just terrific. Hammy as hell, but without the tinge of being ashamed of being a ham that always mars Jim Carey’s Grinch performance for me. I mean, there is absolutely nothing wrong with just going full monty and hamming it up. But any tinge of irony or over-thinking just ruins it. Make 'em laugh. And the Grinch is backed up with a Cindy Lou Who that is just as cute as she can be. Not stage kid cute. Actually cute. And they had the kids in the audience in the palms of their hands. The snow in the theater didn’t hurt. But those kids were just riveted to the stage doings. Me too.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's just not cool.

I think something is starting to bug me about the “It gets better” campaigns. Not that I don’t support them. Not that I don’t believe it. I was bullied for being different in school (it’s not just gay kids; fat kids, goofy kids, smart kids, dumb kids, poor kids, racially or ethnically different kids – they all can be bullied), and I’m living proof that it does get better.

But why is the main onus being put on the victim to bear up? Tough it out. Hang in there, kid, and eventually you’ll have the self-confidence to go out and find the people who love you just as you are. Great. I’ll do that. But if you could get this person to quit making my life miserable, that would be a big help. I didn’t need everybody in the world to love me. And I actually did have enough friends who accepted me, in spite of the opinion of the bullying class. But the taunting, physical intimidation and verbal assaults did make my life a misery. They didn’t have to like me. But it would have been great if they had to leave me alone.

And, compared to some other kids, I didn’t have it that bad. I never came close to wanting to die. But man can I understand that, if you did have it worse than I did and no one seemed inclined to help, suicide would probably have sounded a lot better to a teen than any adult would have liked to contemplate.

So, yes. It does get better. But for those kids out there who are bullying, stop making it worse. Whatever it is that’s making you a bully – low self-esteem, mood disorder, crap rolling down hill – go fix your own life. I’d love to be part of a world where we all like each other, and every person is treated with, not just respect, but appreciation. But that’s not happening any time soon. Here’s the truth though. You don’t have to like the kid who is different. You don’t have to be friends. You don’t have to even talk to them. But as a member of society, I’m telling you - It’s not okay. Bullying is not just part of being a kid. And there’s nothing that gives you the right to make another person miserable, and they shouldn’t have to put up with your damage. Not cool.

TIME: Quotes of the Day