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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly - There's Empathy Then There's Thievery

Our school librarian received an urgent phone call right around lunch time on a Thursday. "Your house is on fire," the voice on the other end exclaimed. With that, she slammed down the receiver, grabbed her purse, ran to the office to announce her immediate departure, and flew down the hall out the doors to the parking lot.

I work in an elementary school and by nature it is filled with estrogen. So of course, it is a grand incubator of female behavior patterns. News of the disaster traveled quickly up and down the corridors, in and out of classrooms, until every teacher buzzed about it in hallways, beyond closed classroom doors.

As soon as she caught wind of it, one teacher ran out, hot on the librarian's heels, saying, "I can't let her be all alone when she sees the damage."

Another teacher, in response to the news, remarked, "Oh that is just terrible. But thank goodness it didn't happen at night when she was asleep."

A third colleague, teary eyed and weeping, said, "My students keep asking me why I'm crying. I told them it's because I'm so sad. I just called my burglar alarm company and made sure my fire alarm is connected to their system so that if my house catches on fire the firemen will get there fast. It's just so scary when you think about it. And I left my cat in the laundry room this morning. If my house did catch on fire, I worry about what would happen to my cat. I should put a note on my door when I leave home to let firefighters know to try to save my cat." She shed more tears and blew her nose and went on and on.

There is empathy. There is sympathy. Then there is downright thievery.

It's funny how the very women who shun thrift store fashions, are the same ones who crave hand-me-down drama. They latch on to another person's crisis and make it their own tear-filled, fate changing, woe is them, life altering meltdown. In essence, out of fear that they will never have their own perfect storm of attention demanding drama, they steal another woman's crisis right out from under her.

How to spot 'em:

Sympathizers: They keep a distance, and are known to give a pat on the hand accompanied by a platitude such as, "Dahlin', everythin' will be fine. You all will be just fine." Casseroles and hams often come with the reassurance and are used as a barrier between the sympathizer and the scene.

Empathizers: These women come to your house, clean it without judgement, and sit in the bathroom with you while you cry until the well runs dry. No empty words cross their lips. They don't just bring a meal, they dish it up and serve it to you to make sure you eat. Empathizers never fear your pain.

Thieves: These ladies pat your hand, bring a casserole, and take your tissues. Before long, they've got themselves so worked up about all the what ifs and how they narrowly escaped such and such, that you're comforting them with, "Sugah, it'll be alright. You hang in there."

Which one are you?

Think about it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Floaters, Bombs, and Easter Bunnies

My 9 year-old son plopped down beside me on the sofa this afternoon. I guess because we were deeply engrossed in the televised Master's Tournament, he felt like he could float one out there. I don't mean a smelly one like he normally floats. I mean one designed to catch his parents off guard.

"You know those chocolate rabbits y'all put in our Easter Baskets?" His question drifted into the airspace. I was only half paying attention, and his father didn't even know anyone else was standing alongside the fairway on the 10th hole in his imagination.

So again, "Hey, y'all know those chocolate rabbits you gave us?"

That time he got our attention. "I don't know what you're talking about," his daddy answered. "We didn't give you any chocolate rabbits," I replied. "Why would we, with all the candy the Easter Bunny brought?"

He ignored us and continued. "Well, they don't taste like real chocolate. I think the Easter Bunny must shop at Wal-mart, like y'all."

As he does with his normally smelly floaters, he dropped the bomb and promptly left the room.

And I'm left to wonder if it's sneaking suspicion or if he knows a thing or two about the Easter Bunny.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My Fortune is Changing

Although I'm old enough now to anticipate the general idea of what my paper fortune will say, I still love the surprise of pulling that slip from the crumbled cookie and reading, You have great mountains to climb and valleys to travel or Nothing is as precious as the voice of a friend or Seek your treasure in large portion.

But my fortunes, they are a changin'. I can tell by the way they end. In my twenties, I read my fortune aloud and tagged on in the bed. Reading, You will know your success by the sound of the cheers . . . in the bed or Let no insult take your pride . . . in the bed or A person's hands reveal his heart's intent . . . in the bed, makes twenty-somethings giggle.

In my thirties, with the arrival of children, I had to tame my wit. I ended manufactured fortunes with in the tub. Saying, Mind your own matters and let your neighbor mind his . . . in the tub or When the sky falls may your sun rise . . . in the tub or Avoid no opportunity for self-discovery . . . in the tub, makes pre-teens laugh and teenagers blush.

Aah, but now I'm in my forties and obligated to dress my age and cultivate wisdom, neither of which has stopped me from cracking open a cookie full of fortune. Some of my best lecture lines delivered to my children come out of Chinese cookies; probably because, these days, I attach an entirely new tag: in this recession. Announcing, Hot air makes balloons rise, but men fall . . . in this recession or The calling that has sounded will not be the last calling . . . in this recession or Bow to your foe with humility, but never close your eyes . . . in this recession, garners few chuckles.

It only shows my age . . . in the bed, in the tub, and in this recession.