Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I Just Can't Understand

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: We were talking about the most recent round of primaries last night (Don't worry, this isn't another blog about politics!) and in the course of the conversation, I uttered the phrase, “I just can't understand why people would vote for that man!”

To which my son replied, “Yeah, but you can't understand why Hollywood made three Transformer movies.” (Really, why? And with Shia LeBeuof?)

Ross chimed in, “You also can't understand why I take milk in my tea.” (True. With apologies to Britons everywhere, the appeal utterly escapes me.)

Thinking about it, I realized it's a very frequent response for me. “I don't understand” is different from “I can't believe.....!” The latter is shorthand for, “I can absolutely see why she did that, I'm just amazed she has the ovaries to do so.” The former is reserved for items and events that I can perhaps comprehend on a purely intellectual plain, but completely fail to connect with emotionally. So in Ross's tea example, I can list practical reasons for adding milk to tea – to cool the drink or to cut the astringency. But I could no more explain to you why anyone on the real world would dilute perfectly good tea with a shot of lactose than I could lecture on quantum mechanics.

Obviously, having invested that much thought on the phrase, I had to come up with a list of things I Just Can't Understand.

I just can't understand...

...wearing high heels in Maine. In winter.

...eating gluten-free unless medically proscribed.

...naming your daughter Neveah. Really, parents. Haven't you ever heard of the Supreme Court Justice Test?

people who don't read. What are they doing with their time? Nothing good, I bet.

...shag carpeting. I mean, try to recreate the mindset of the manufacturer who first thought that was a good idea.

...vegetarians who eat quinoa burgers and soy dogs. “I won't eat meat, just stuff that looks and tastes like meat.”

...people who wear shoes or sandals in the beach. Not when it's March or the when the sand is burning hot – people who don't like the feel of sand on their feet. My own dear husband is one of these sad folk. Some nights I lie awake, troubled by this.

...plastic fake flowers. Also most lawn ornaments, especially those bend-over people. Some homeowner has to make the effort to put those beauties up and then stand there by the curb and think, “Gosh, those puffy sheep and the silhouette of the man smoking a pipe on the side of the house really look swell!”

...minimalist modern interior design. A Saarinen table and a group of large plastic s-curves do not make a good dining experience.

...jeggings. owners who don't spay or neuter. Unless you're going for Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club, you don't need to breed your dog. Your cat will not miss the experience of pregnancy. 8 out of ten humans, if they could get a kid some other way, would not miss the experience of pregnancy.

...friends who meet up for lunch or dinner or drinks and then keep checking their phones. I'm pretty sure you can't all be cardiac surgeons waiting to rush to the hospital as soon as the donor heart arrives.

Finally, I just can't understand... how Thomas Kincaide, the Painter of Light (TM) made millions selling oil paintings that look like oversized greeting cards. And not good ones, like Hallmark, but the cheap ones you pick up at the drugstore when you're in a hurry. Smh, as the kids text these days.

How about you, dear readers? Anything you Just Can't Understand?


  1. I’m with you, Julia, on not understanding people who don’t read . . . they have no idea what they’re missing.

    I can’t understand the whole “me first” thing, especially when I’m driving and seventeen drivers feel compelled to pull in front of me and then slam on their brakes because the light is red. I mean, really, you had to be in front of me just to wait for the light????

  2. Oh I love Love LOVE your list, Julia! And I'm onboard with every single one of them.

    - People who've eliminated "all white" foods from their diet in order to lose weight
    - People who buy 5-7 dollars on a cup of brewed coffee when it costs about 30 cents to make it at home
    - People who tell mystery writers, "I don't read those kinds of books, but..."
    - People who stand in the supermarket checkout line and talk on their cell phone while the cashier is checking them out - aka treating people like non-people
    - People who ride their bikes two abreast in traffic

    This is fun. I could go on and on, but I can't understand people who just go on and on...

  3. My Mother gave me tea with milk when I was sick. She called it cambric tea. I do not drink it that way now.
    How can anyone NOT read????
    Entitled people confuse me as well.

  4. Oh, I'm with Ross -- love tea with a little milk! Also love all those veggie burgers, etc. I will not go into the meat industry and what it does to animals, but.... it's bad. So give a veggie burger a fair shot.

  5. Love tea with milk.
    And eliminating all white food works, I have to say. And guilty on the coffee. :-)

    But LOVE this, and I have a little list as well:
    1. Ruching
    2. Asymmetrical necklines
    3. Yes, Joan. Agreed! And drivers who go around a long line to get to the exit and then expect people to let them in
    4. People who cut in line at airport boarding--grr
    5. People who put their suitcases in the overhead racks at the front of the plane and then go sit in their seats farther back. NO NO NO NO! This is so wrong it makes me crazy.

    Happy to keep thinking about this! xoxoo

  6. Very funny Julia, and I can see we all have something on our list that nails fellow Reds:). I kind of like ruching:), and I do love Cafe con leche!

    A couple of things I can't understand in Key West:

    -Tourists who cross on red light and glare at the drivers who have green
    -Girls who walk down Duval Street in teeny bikinis and bare feet (it's filthy, people!)

  7. Oh, Julia - I love you. This is such a great list. I also don't understand heels in snow (I mean - fashion - but really? Snow!). Or milk in tea. Or white foods. And I especially don't understand people who eliminate gluten, caffeine, alcohol, sugar - basically everything that TASTES GOOD - from their diets in an effort to "cleanse" or whatever they call it. Come one people. One doughnut will not kill you!

    I do splurge for a latte every once in a while, but it's not a regular thing. It's a treat. Mostly I make my tea/coffee at home.

    Yes to people obsessively checking their cell phones. It's why I assigned a different text tone to the important people in my life. So when I'm out, I know how "urgent" the message is.

    I also don't understand people who try to make a two-lane street into four lanes. Or swerve around someone trying to make a left because they are going straight and don't want to wait. One of these people nearly caused an accident because there was a very large construction vehicle at the corner and he/she tried to swerve around me just as I started to go straight. Grr.

    Also, cyclists who scream about cars respecting them - and then totally ignore the traffic laws (coasting through intersections, failing to signal, or riding IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD).

    Argh. Thanks for the opportunity to vent! LOL

  8. Possible explanation for quinoa burgers and soy dogs: What else do mustard and ketchup lovers have to use as their favorite condiment delivery systems?

    I do not get paying tons of money for theater tickets, or to a lecture, or a concert, and then TALKING throughout the entire thing. You paid money for it, and so did all the people around you! They paid to hear/see the thing they paid for, not to hear you chat to your friend. Oy.

    People who don't like chocolate are a puzzle to me. They aren't trustworthy, any more than people who don't read. No chocolate and no books in your house? Next.

    I'm with you, Julia, on Thomas Kinkade. There's your mystery, right there.

  9. Milk in tea, Julua? Of course all civilized people put milk in their tea. It makes it less harsh on the stomach when we make it strong.
    And Hank.... My own pet peace is people who put their bags in my overhead space at the front of the plane. It happened on Monday. It was in the second row of economy and my overhead space was full!

    And I really, really can't understand this current election race!

  10. So entertaining, Julia! Thanks for starting my day with a chuckle. I, too, really don't understand people who don't read. I was looking at the books I had in my bed last night as I was climbing in and was thinking how lucky I am that I have so much reading to keep me happy and content in life. I mean, my number one love is my family, but with grown children and the grands living an hour away and my husband living out of town for his job, nobody ever has to worry about me getting lonely or not having plenty to do.

  11. Oh, Julia, I LOVE this.

    Although I do drink milk in my tea, because it's GOOD.
    And I do buy the occasional latte, but it's a treat.

    What I don't understand is why women would wear hot pants (at least in my day they were called hot pants. What do they call them now?) Why would anyone think those looked good? Even worse, rompers. And EVEN WORSE, romper hot pants!!!

    I just don't understand the people with big pickup truck who drive up and down our street with open mufflers. Why?? And don't even get me started on the big tire kits...

    And on a political note, I just don't understand people who put up vile political signs in their yards. And I don't mean just Vote for So&So. I mean really hateful things that they must know are going to offend at least some of their neighbors. Are their opinions so important that getting along doesn't matter?

  12. Oh, Susan, not meaning to dis vegetarians. Not to sound like "that guy", but one of my very dearest friends is vegetarian. She and her husband cook mostly south-east Asian or dishes it's easy to leave meat out of. I guess I was thinking of a young woman I know who went vegetarian in college, but then insisted her parents buy these odd "you'll never know it's not meat!" processed foods. I was all ????? because I know there's fabulous real vegetarian food out there.

  13. Oh, Julia. This is priceless.

    So many things I don't understand (and I especially love your explanation for this phrase).

    I started a list here, but it got so long I got embarrassed so I've condensed it to one.

    I don't understand people who think that because I don't share their opinion(s) that I'm the one who is wrong/ignorant/whatever.

  14. I just don't understand how anyone could vote for that man!

  15. Don't get me started on the luggage thing, Rhys. As I keep saying, it's only logical that you put your bag in the place over your seat. SO selfish not to. And it discombobulates the entire departure process, because the people in the front have to go to the back to get their bag. Grrr. I actually asked a person to take his bag down a week ago--I said, sir? could you please move that bag to go over your seat? You've just taken the spot assigned to MY seat.
    And he got really mad. HE GOT MAD as if I had done something terrible Yeesh! But he moved it. With much sighing and disdain. WHo cares. Do it, bub.

  16. Lucy, you like ruching? Yes, the Saks person says it is very stylish and flattering. Sigh. And yes, bare feet on the street. Makes me cringe. I men, not only dirty, but how can that be comfortable?

  17. Thanks for the chuckles--here's a small "I can't understand'--why is drivers' education mandatory? No one pays the slightest attention in class, apparently. People, that little lever on the LEFT side of the steering column has a function. Learn to use it!

  18. Ditto to almost everything, but I love milk in my tea, because my Mom gave us what she called "Pink Tea" when we were very small. (I've always wondered what 'Cambric Tea' was, thanks Gram!)
    I don't understand the current election at all. And my husband is dyslexic, so horror of horrors, I married a non-reader. It's been interesting, to say the least.

  19. I love everyone's list and would include more of yours on mine. I think I'm late to the party, but maybe I can add something no one else has thought of:

    I don't understand:

    People who criticize a friend's taste in almost anything. Clothing, food, books, music, whatever. If there is so little in common, go make a new friend.

    Racism. Period. That being said, I also don't understand why people don't understand and admit their own prejudices. We all have them. Best to recognize and try to grow.

    People who say, for instance, that they hate France, oysters, dogs, cats, Muslims(fill in the blank) when they have never been there, eaten one, loved either or both or even met one. If you haven't tried it, you don't know.

    Driving on the wrong side of the road. England, for all your contributions to everything I can thing of, this ain't one of them.

    Cruise ships and tours of any kind save African safaris (photo shoots only)

    BIG ONE: People who don't read every single possible chance they get. Deb, we had this conversation at LLC, wondering WTF they do in bed, can't be having all that much sex. (Or worse yet, people who read James Patterson, Inc. And think they are reading.) I'm a snob. I prefer well read, and even better "well written" folks. I've been noticing how many of my favorite writers are either from academe or very well educated.

    Don't even get me started on grammar. Or gramper. :>)

  20. I don't understand people who, after asking for your advice, argue with you about the advice you give them.

  21. Now, this is serious fun. I read every single item on the list, agreed with half, agreed passionately with some (like the drivers who cut in front of you only to drive 50 feet in front of you for the next 5 miles since there's nowhere to go), and think people have pretty much covered my own. Julia, I'll add that I really don't understand the women in New York city who not only wear high heels in snow and slush, but try to tiptoe through the freezing crud with bare legs and short skirts. And don't get me started on people who have bookshelves but NO books - just knicknacks and photos of themselves....

  22. ..wearing high heels in Maine. In winter.

    Me: ...or any place, at any time, in any weather.

    ...vegetarians who eat quinoa burgers and soy dogs. “I won't eat meat, just stuff that looks and tastes like meat.”

    Me: They don’t taste like meat. The ones that pretend to be meat are vile. The burger shape is a handy way to mix up a bunch of tasty, nutricious things (including Quinoa) into a usable form and fry them up in a pan with mushrooms and such. They’re not really trying to be something else, and they sure don’t go between round pieces of styrofoam. :^)

    (I think those faux things are made for well-meaning friends of vegetarians who don’t know know what else to serve.)



    These are barely the tip of the iceberg. There are so many many many aspects of unfathomable behaviour by apparently reasonable people that I just don’t want to get started.

    Oh, all right, just a few....
    guys who wear pants with the crotch down around their knees (though at least it proves that women aren't the only victims of fashion tricks.)

    People who put cream in their tea instead of milk, the way God intended it.

    ...okay, I’d better stop before I get on a real roll.

  23. Ruching? Jeggings? I've got to look those up. This is fun!

    When it comes to food stuff ... I'm OK with veggie burgers and tea with milk and cleanses ... What I can't understand is when people take any fad too far. Like, thinking that your low-carb diet should include zero legumes. Beans are one of the healthiest foods around! Or saying no sugar, and eliminating fruit. Pleeeeease.

    I have some kids-in-public issues -- I don't understand some parenting techniques. Seriously.

    I have a ton of animal issues -- I don't understand getting a pet and then neglecting it (or worse!).

    Yeah, politics ... There's so much I don't understand that I sometimes wonder how the US hasn't imploded.

    Last but not least, I don't understand tailgaters who apparently can't stand a little room between me and car in front of me -- so they swerve around to shove themselves into that space, forcing me to brake. You're not getting anywhere any faster, dude!

    Oh, and the Kardashians. :-)

  24. I don't understand "smh" or most of these weird text short cuts...after u r 2B 2day w/out I am lost!
    What great fun to think of all the "I don't understands". Thank you, Julia.


  25. Cream in Tea is Yummy - grew up going to my Gramps and Great Aunt & Uncles for Bfast on Saturdays
    Milk still came in Glass bottles with the paper peel off lid and and inch of Cream at the top. She always had a fresh bottle for me to open, that chunk of cream went in my tea

    On the way home, stopped at Library to check out weekly books, got first library card at 4 yrs, our library had a great "kids Library" Don't understand people who don't read books, being dsylexic, I can read a book, but can't remember what I've read, numbers - don't ever ask me to balance something. I have certain words that I have transposed letters in all my life, thankful for white out when I was in school

    cell phone "abuse" in public -unless it's an emergency, wait til you are outside or in your car, what did people do before answering machines and cell phones - you missed calls, Wow !! if you were waiting on a very important call, you stayed home

    Animal abuse and neglect ---People who let their pets run wild--they are defenseless, it's not fair to the poor pet, end up getting hit by cars, attacked. Use a leash is you don't have a fenced yard - same goes for Cats - I don't want them using my garden as a litter box

  26. I don't understand hate. Or superiority. Putting someone else down to build yourself up. What is so hard about sharing? All we have is community. Even in our aloneness we are in relationship.

    I do, however, drink my tea strong with a little cream and sugar. It is delicious. Don't try it with lemon, though.

  27. People who think Rules are made for everyone but them, including racing through residential streets, usually 20-25mph max, flying through at 40-50 mph UGH

    Loud cell phones (and loud people) in public places, restaurants, library, doctor offices, etc

    pants being worn (or falling off) with crotch at their knees - every watch people try to get on a bus or in their cars, good for a laugh, but I really don't want to see their butts or underware

    Rompers are for babies, unfortunately in the 60's became popular gym "outfits" for girls

    girls/women constantly tugging their dress or skirt down, Hello - buy a size and length that fits

    tailgaters, cars swerving around to get to light before you do, wow you gained 20 feet

    cars vibrating down the road, loud music with enough speakers for a concert hall, then add loud mufflers - they will go deaf, but please don't take my hearing away or give me a headache

    Orange cheese - I wanna know what cows are giving Orange milk, Why Orange - ewww

    People who do not control their children in public. They should not be running around restaurants, stores or any public place not intended to be a playground.

    Screaming kids, ok if they are that unhappy, pissed off, whatever, take them outside. I love kids, just not listening to them screaming/crying throwing a temper tantrum in public. Can't decide which is worse, the parent ignoring them or screaming back at them The rest of the world should not have to listen to screaming kids and/or parents screaming at their kids.
    I really do not understand it, acting like that when I was growing up was not an option, you just did not do it

  28. I'm not going to touch tea as a topic again but: I don't understand how people can be so apparently discombobulated by daylight saving when they live in a country with four time zones. Don't they *ever* travel?

    And why do people leave shopping trolleys (carts) in parking spaces instead of returning them?

  29. I don't understand people who travel to foreign countries but don't want to eat "foreign" food or hang out with "foreigners."

  30. Catriona, the cart thing is lazy. Just--lazy. And selfish. And silly, because they;re gong to ram into a car.

    The time zone thing is fascinating. I can time zone the heck out of myself. But when the clocks change? Totally--what did my grandmother used to say: Fershimelt. (fershimeld? fershimmelled?) firshimeled?)

  31. I don't understand mean people, and it seems that this election cycle is bringing out all the meanness. May we all be safe through this.
    Concurring on cell phone abuse. There's a friend I no longer make plans with because of her phone. Once I went to my car and got a book, sat at the table reading. When she called my name twice, I said, "Oh are we talking now?"
    Carts need to be properly corralled, but what I like even better is intercepting someone and taking their empty cart, saving them and the designated cart-herders some time. These seems to happen often at Costco.
    Hank, I think there's also a security issue with the overhead bins. Luggage should be near owners to prevent theft. You were just keeping his stuff safe for him. ;-)

  32. I hope you are planning to use this line in a forthcoming Miller's Kill book:

    "8 out of ten humans, if they could get a kid some other way, would not miss the experience of pregnancy."

    My cats are all neutered.

  33. P.S. My relatives and close friends have been having many conversations lately along the lines of "How can these people want to vote for THAT MAN?"

    P.P.S. Milk belongs in black tea. It does not belong in green, oolong, white, yellow, puer-eh, or herbal tea. Generally speaking.

  34. That's a great list -- I concur on most, although there are few finer things in life than a cuppa PG Tips laced with whole milk. It makes me purr, every time.

    But let me add my two:
    1. Women -- it's always women -- who stand in line, doing nothing, then unload their grocery card, watch the checker ring it up, bag everything and then announce the grand total due: and only then does the woman began digging in her Grand Canyon sized bag, searching for her wallet or check book. What? She didn't realize before that, that she was going to have to pay for it?

    2. How anyone can appreciate the craze for "Mid-Century Modern decor." Or maybe it just doesn't appeal to those of us who are old enough to have grown up with it -- those spindly legs, those hard, seriously uncomfortable sofas, those ridiculously out-of-proportion consoles! It's ugly, it offers no comfort or grace, it all looks cheap! Who could want such horrible things in their home?

    That's it!

  35. Ruching and milk in tea I understand even if I do not adopt either of those items; voting Republican in 2016 I do not. And not reading is the second greatest sin (after the one I just mentioned).