People on Facebook have been doing Throwback Thursdays. I post my blog on Thursdays. So I'll combine the two for a lazy week in some throwback photos from my wedding, honeymoon and early marriage (since Tom and I will soon celebrate our 32nd anniversary.) Above, we get a rice shower from guests including Michael Rathgeb, Betsy Rathgeb Snyder (mostly hidden) and Liz Greenaway Armstrong. The wedding party includes Katie Rathgeb Wagoner, Mary Laverty Funke, Susan Knott Kiren, Don Dossa, Phil Koren and John Rathgeb.
We're in the net under the bowsprit of the Flying Cloud, traveling in the British West Indies.
I'm hoping to get a photo of Tom looking this relaxed again once he retires.
We dressed as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald for a costume party.
Even a wordsmith has her limits. Some words just make me cringe.
Yes, there are words that make nearly everyone cringe because they are so loaded with hate and history: racial and cultural insults so offensive that they have their own euphemisms, like the n-word. And lately there have been so many jokes about the misuse of "literally" that I doubt there's anyone left who uses it without knowingly scraping the nails across the blackboard.
But beyond those choice words are a personal list of cringe words. I should pity them because most are perfectly good words, but misuse and overuse have turned them into the aural equivalent of the People of Walmart. Avert your ears:
Factoid. So many people use this to mean "a little fact" that they're not even aware that it is actually the opposite: something untrue that is presented as fact. Ever since I learned this from an ace copy editor, the word's misuse has been grating.
Hero. Jeez, who isn't a hero these days? Are we all so in need of attention that even a basic kind act is called heroic? Related to this is warrior. It's a job description, folks, not necessarily someone more elevated than the rest of us.
Gourmet. Now used as an adjective instead of a noun, the word today describes everything from food truck fare to kitchens to sandwiches that simply substitute arugula for iceberg.
Auteur. Oh, puh-lease!
Real-estate speak. The industry offers us many examples of tired and nonsensical words, "luxury" and "maintenance-free" (ha!) among them. But the one that makes me cringe is villa. Yes, the third definition in my dictionary is "a rented holiday home," but to me a beachfront rental is hardly the country estate of definitions one and two.
Made-up food words. Spam may have been the first, but things really revved up with Pizza Hut's Priazzo in the 1980s. Now we are overrun with Crispitos, Flatizzas and, worst of all, Any'tizers. (Please insert trademark symbols so that I am not sued here.)
Weird. I used to like this word, and when my sister would call me weird I considered it a compliment. But advertising has done it in. Here's one weird tip for making a cringe word: overuse.
Finally, there's a word that shouldn't make me cringe but does: Christian. How it encompasses so many meanings and assumptions, so much baggage and hypocrisy! I am speechless when asked, "Are you a Christian?" I'm never sure if the real question is "Do you go to church?" "Do you believe in Jesus Christ?" "Do you behave as Jesus did?" or "Do you belong to my club?" And boy, do I get strange looks when I say, "I can't answer that."
I'm not saying that these cringe words should be banned. (Well, maybe Any'tizer.) It would be nice, though, if we would sometimes think about what words we choose to use.
I've been taking yoga classes since December, but it's probably not going to last. I like the classes, but I just can't get into the culture. I refuse to go out and buy a special mat and special pants (beach towel and Tom's gym shorts are fine by me), and I haven't learned all these special terms for things, not even the one for those wonderful last 10 minutes when you relax everything and the instructor puts a hot towel over your eyes. I have yet to look up what "Namaste" really means. Maybe they're telling me to go buy yoga pants.
This is a familiar story for me. I went to college in the 1970s but did not live in jeans, attend even one frat party or smoke pot. I was a restaurant reviewer but couldn't embrace all the foodie virtues of source snobbery and celebrity chef worship; if someone made a great hot dog from questionable ingredients, I still said it was great. I made a lousy employee but thrived as a freelance contractor, following my own uncorporate rules: I don't do meetings; performance reviews are bullshit; mission statements are the ultimate in bullshit.
It's a wonder I'm still surviving. But yes, there I am on the fringe. Being an outsider isn't second nature for me; it's my primary nature, born of the days when I was the last kid picked for the team, the one girl who wore a dress instead of a trendy pantsuit for the field trip, the woman who wore flats instead of heels because they were more comfortable.
There were always, however, advantages to being on the fringe. I became the yearbook editor, able to chronicle our class because I was just a step apart from it. My restaurant reviews spoke to the average folks who just wanted a nice night out, and they thanked me for it. My period of living on North Caicos was easier because I expected to be an outsider, not embraced.
It's possible that a lifetime of being an outsider, on the fringe, is what finally led me to being a writer of fiction. Or not.
I have a friend who willingly signs up for all sorts of kamikaze exercise classes of the kick-boxing, boot-camp ilk. She loves it all, embracing whatever masochistic culture she gets thrown into. My reaction would be more on the lines of the following:
No pain, no gain? No, pain means, "Stop that! Right now."
Embracing it, she's losing some weight and maintaining good health (when it's not too painful). Dissing it, I'm going my own way while learning about the experience through her.
We both win!
Maybe I'm a fool. Maybe no one cares about island life, which is my primary fiction topic. Maybe everyone prefers to manufacture their own vision of what it is to live in a place where palm trees, beaches and the sounds of waves are a given.
Yeah, they figure they know all about it. Margaritas on the beach, from a battery-powered blender. Jimmy Buffett music with a Jimmy Buffett message. All is well, no worries, no shoes, no shirt, no problem.
No one wants the likes of me telling them that island life is still real life. That people are people, with maybe a local cultural twist. That the setting is merely a nod toward our humanity.
Maybe it's a dumb idea to be writing stories about island reality. Who cares about the sunstruck women who want to keep overdevelopment away from their island homes? Or about the father who wants to keep the family land in the family? Or the young girl who sees the sea as her only future?
It's very strange to be writing about simple island life in the midst of such a complicated American society and a complicated publishing world. Sometimes I think that no one cares about my concerns: How does the betrayed woman reconcile with the lover of her husband, or how do the religious man and the atheist remain friends?
But somehow, the small number of people, of readers, who will care isn't all that important. I need to explore these things. If you're interested, come along.
This blog by Jody Rathgeb has changed several times over the years and currently focuses on island living. It is also posted on Facebook as Beyond the Parrot Paradise.