Monday, June 1, 2009
On weeding other people's gardens
HALLIE: The other day I walked by the local branch of my public library and there, growing under a yew bush by the sidewalk, was a seedling of an ailanthus tree, aka ‘weed tree.’ Never mind that this was not my garden, not my problem, I had to stop and yank its little roots out. It was all I could do to keep myself from going after the nearby dandelion and burgeoning milkweed, too.
I know, I know, life’s too short to be weeding other people’s gardens. But I can’t help myself. I can’t let a grammatical error go by during a newscast, either. Oh, no, I have to correct the anchor person right then and there. Never mind that they can’t hear me.
More things that are none of my business but that I am constitutionally unable to ignore: corn kernels stuck to my husband’s chin (no, I cannot wait until after dinner for you to wipe it away), sleep grungies in my daughter’s eye (never mind that she’s a grownup), an open drawer or cabinet in someone else’s house (closed is so much tidier)…and and and.
“Meddling” or “helping”? Do I think I'm making the world a better place? Are there things that you, too, simply cannot keep yourself from "correcting"? Any hints on how to stop myself?
JAN: I can honestly say I've never in my life had to resist the urge to weed someone else's garden. My problem is more having to force myself to weed my own garden. Other people's grammatical mistakes do make me crazy, but it's just to rude to correct them. I think I am probably the worst in this area, with my poor daughter. I am pretty relentless about stopping her overuse and misuse of the term "literally," and before she took up Pilates I constantly pulled back her shoulders and told her to stand up straight. I also lecture about money. She's amazingly good-natured about this, god bless her.
HALLIE: Did I say I weed my OWN garden? I am a haphazard gardener, at best--but that doesn't stop me from weeding someone else's.
RHYS: I have never tried to weed someone else's garden either. If you saw what was growing on my hillside, you'd know that I don't often get to mine. I think I'm only guilty of meddling/helping when it comes to my children, especially the two that are now out of work. It's so easy to say, "Have you thought of... why don't you..." and they remind me that they are adults and don't need my advice. We can't stamp out that mothering instinct, even when they reach their thirties.
But one last thing, Hallie, grammatical errors drive me mad too. How many newscasters these days get lay and lie mixed up? Or use words like irregardless.
Ugghhh. That's because grammar is no longer drummed into kids in school. It worked much better when nuns walked around with a ruler in their hands.
RO: OMG, rulers on hands...I'm having flashbacks and I only went to Catholic school for two months in the first grade. Hallie, please feel free to come and weed my garden. This year I've been in "throw mulch over it and maybe it will die" mode. Faster than handweeding.
I'm a terrible meddler/commenter - particularly when no one can hear me. From "why did the director spend so much time on that scene" to "fine, you're one car length ahead of me, jerk, now where are you going to go?" to "lose the flip-flops, honey, you're not at the beach." Mercifully, these comments are generally spoken at a safe distance from anyone's ears except my husband's, and he wisely ignores me, although we sometimes joke about how wonderful things will be when I assume my rightful place as Queen and can control these miscreants.
Bad behavior and grammatical errors will also be duly noted, but I'm most likely to want to smack someone around for the flagrant and repetitive usage of "I was like.." spoken into a cell phone by someone walking in front of me too slowly for my liking. (Wearing flip-flops makes it worse.)
Perhaps I should carry a ruler until the crown and sceptre thing comes through?
HALLIE: Crown and sceptre--great idea! Order up six sets. Oops make that 5. I think Her Royal Rhysness is already equipped.
ROBERTA: I totally, actually, thoroughly relate to the pulling-the-shoulders-back thing, only I torture my husband. And he's taking pilates so he should know better! And he does this thing where he picks his nails too--he doesn't shred them, he just makes a little clicking noise that drives me bonkers. Luckily, he's otherwise a gem and he's gracious about my nagging.
I also have a thing for noticing bad manners in kids--fortunately I mutter about this to myself. When did it stop being right to say please and thank you, and call parents Mr. and Mrs. instead of their first names? And about being the queen, we used to tell our kids that all these manners were important for the day they got invited to lunch with the queen or at the White House. My stepson did get to have lunch at the WH, and got a big kick out of reporting how well he behaved.
HANK: Meddle? Okay, how about this. Today we were at the Botanical gardens in Brooklyn, (roses galore, photos to come), and it's pouring down sun. Ninety degrees, maybe. Pouring down sun. And there are MOTHERS with BABIES in STROLLERS with NO HATS. (Babies with no hats, not strollers with no hats, I know,I know Hallie, don't wince at me.) I was all I could do, I tell you, all I could do, not to go up to them and say--hey sister, You are RUINING your kid's life and skin.
I didn't, but should I have?
And did you see that photo of Tom Brady on a bicycle, with his son in a back carrier? The son had a helmet, but not Tom. Stupid! He gets over his knee thing, and now is inviting a head injury. Maybe I'll just give him a quick call...
HALLIE: Please, someone, save us from ourselves! What do you think? And please, do NOT point out any spelling and grammatical errors in this column...