One in a Million

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Homage to Popularity

My Distinction

If I should need some camouflage, should want to truly blend,

I’d better watch my persiflage and learn not to offend

By wearing last week’s trendy style, my hair too short or long,

Or failing, yet, to reconcile which Party’s Right (or wrong)

To run the government; which church is favored most by God,

How not to leave you in the lurch when I have been a clod,

Appalling with my social gaffes, faux pas and frightful fouls;

I may accept I’m built for laughs, but using the wrong towels

Or forks or traffic lanes, That Word in company unfit—

I hope I don’t seem too absurd as-is, but that’s just it:

My imperfections, my unique design as Me, are such

As might make me appear a freak if I am Me too much.

But, truth be told, while I may work to fit in with the rest,

I hope you won’t think me a jerk for liking myself best!

I will blend in, keep pace, behave, up to a point, to please,

But lest you think me fashion’s slave, I think it a dis-ease

To seek conformity and bow to other people’s rules

When I’m quite nifty anyhow, and others may be fools.

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Fingerprint Beats Homage

Duck!

Yep, someone’s sneaking up on you. Or some thing is just about to get you. It’s really inevitable that stuff is about to happen and make you the punchline of the universe’s joke. That’s how it works. In fact, in a plus-perfect moment of synchronicity, despite my having written this post several days ago in preparation for posting on the 8th of September, I had a brain hiccup and completely forgot to press Publish on the appropriate day. So here I am giving you a two-fer in recompense. Pardon my pratfall!photo montageThe nice thing is that we’re all generally in line for the same sort of treatment, so when such craziness happens, the embarrassment of it all is rarely going to linger for long; soon enough, something silly will happen to somebody else in the room and the pangs of self-consciousness will be turned to sympathy for his or her plight, the mortification of being the center of derisive attentions muted by seeing them passed right along to another poor dupe. That is also how it works.photo montageI’m not saying that I enjoy being the buffoon of the moment, mind. In the space of the last few days I managed to both fall off a shallow curb (only a near-miss, as I was able to convert the tripping into an awkward but deep curtsy to the people nearby) and trip forward up a step onto a hardwood floor, whose grain will soon be emblazoned on my knee in a variety of flamboyant purple colors by tomorrow, all while injuring nothing more seriously than my scant supply of dignity. And I’m not proud of this lack of grace, merely cognizant that it’s not limited strictly to me and the joke that remains in strangers’ minds has a lot more to do with the hilarity of the situation than it does with remembering what unknown fool performed the ignominious stunt that so brightened their day.photo montageI’d love to think it possible to overcome and avoid all future Incidents of ridiculous stupidity and clumsiness simply because, once experienced and noted, they can be put to rest, but that is decidedly not how it works. So what I need to overcome and avoid is letting it get to me. I am bound by history, odds and my very nature to slip, fall, make egregious errors and squeeze a minimum of ten smaller mistakes into every day I’m alive, but nothing says I have to be defined exclusively by my failures and flops. Every once in a while I can work to turn such things to entertaining advantage. Who knows, if I pay attention, I might even see the little disaster coming and be able to duck in time to miss it and let it hit someone else for a change.

A Whisper in Your Ear, My Dear

graphite drawingFriendly Advice to a Feckless Youth

The true Reckless Endangerment

is seldom what you’d guess:

not often quite so obvious

as acting under stress,

thus putting others in harm’s way

for physical duress;

more likely, it’s just saying things

much better left unsaid

about your girlfriend’s hairstyle, or

about great-uncle Fred,

who is your mother’s richest

relative and, shortly, dead.

It’s bad enough your note on Fred

will cut Mom from his will,

and likely keep you from her own

good graces longer still,

but there’s your girlfriend left to calm.

Let’s hope the bitter pill

of your ill-thought hairstyle remark

won’t make her wish you ill.graphite drawingWhen Ladies are Dancing

Patterns of elegance, synchronized moves,

Footsteps as fluid as flowing in grooves

Down sides of a fountain afloat with champagne,

They leap and they glide and they dance the refrain

As though they were ageless and weightless as light,

Each gesture, each pattern, each detail so right,

So proper and grace-filled, expressive of joy—

Intimidate wholly the poor sidelined boy!

One Word Astray

colored pencil on black paperWe are such fragile, delicate beings. Inside the hard-shelled exterior of coolness, competence, and too-tough-to-care grown-up-ness we are all one word away from elation or despair far more often than we dare to admit. It doesn’t matter so much whether it’s a deliberately critical or slighting remark or it’s a supremely thoughtless slip of the lip. It might be as tiny as that moment when a really marvelous person very simply forgets to say that one little offhand, passing thing that he ordinarily says when he is leaving the library office just as you get in on a Wednesday to turn in your book–but you realize on the occasion that you depend on hearing it to make that moment shine. What power is in choosing or denying discretion and politesse!

Sometimes people clue us in when they’re in grave need of that word of assurance or generosity, but far more often than not, we all play guessing games a whole lot of the time about what others need to hear–or what they really, truly, deeply do not need to hear. It may be merely that the moment is wrong. End of a bad day; someone was passing in the hall and not supposed to overhear. Got passed over for the promotion or raise. Got the littlest sliver in a pinky finger that morning and it still hurts. Some days, darn it, any one of us can simply be needier and more sensitive than usual.

What spurs this rumination? I was asked recently by someone who couldn’t attend it what I had thought about a particular performance and I responded, shall we say, with blunt honesty. I tried to be discreet, making sure that there was no one proximal to overhear, but I know I wasn’t kind. Truthfully, I know it was also strictly my opinion–nearly everybody around was clearly loving the very performance I found directly opposite to my taste and wishes. What really horrified me, though, was not this thing that I obviously didn’t enjoy but that I was so mean as to say so to another person when there was no positive thing to be gained from the commentary by anyone at all. It struck me afterward as spiteful and small. On top of that, I saw an online remark from another person about something that was equally unappealing to the commentator, a remark that was equally opinionated and mean and in a position only to hurt anyone involved who might read it or hear of it. And there it was, fully public and in writing. I was appalled at the inappropriateness and crassness of it. And instantly appalled at how familiar it seemed. I had just done the same thing. Just because it wasn’t made public doesn’t absolve me in the least. I am sorry I said such a thing. It was an expression of a negative opinion that needn’t have been so harshly exposed to light and did no one any good, least of all me now that I regretted having said it.

Sadly, most of us are capable of having peculiarly dimwitted days of insensitivity or have that moment of foot-in-mouth disease at precisely the wrong time with exactly the least deserving or the one least able to let it roll right on by unnoticed. It’s not only surprising how easily we are catapulted to the stars by a little word of kindness or a perfectly modest compliment, it’s downright shocking how easily that tenuous delight and semblance of self-confidence is deflated and demolished in the next instant by so little a thing as, say, another person not confirming the praise. No need for actual disagreement or intentional omission, but the fact of that brief negligence is enough to plummet the last moment’s high spirits back into the abyss.

Are we all really so vulnerable, so shallow? Not usually–but when the moment is just that necessary bit off kilter, even those of us who ordinarily are the most steeped in aplomb, who seem to be marinated in the holy oil of contentment and stability, these too can crumble instantly to dust like stale biscuits. And none of us is wise and sensitive and compassionate and insightful enough to be perpetually attuned to even our own weak moments in this state, let alone others’. So all I can hope, myself, is that I gradually learn to pay better attention to this strange complexity and keep my ill-aimed darts to myself. And beyond it, that I’ll somehow grow much more mature and build a thicker skin, some handy sort of a human chain-mail suit that will, when the day comes that I find I am in dire need, not let me fold up and collapse just from one little puncturing remark but let me know, instead, that it was only one stray and unplanned word. And after all, that the flimsy breakable things that we are have beauty and purpose, too, and even those that made us crack will eventually remember it’s so, if they have any beauty and purpose of their own.