I’m ashamed to say this, but swearing is one of my many shortcomings as a human. I cuss like a sailor. Always have, and probably always will, although I’ve mellowed somewhat in my old age. Although deep down, I am a lady, to most people, I come off as crusty as a crab cake. I don’t even like crab cakes.
Despite my cranky, bitter, and petty demeanor, I still have quite a few true friends who have known me for many years. I made a lot of those friends in my freewheeling college days. College was a pretty good time for me, although I spent those years fairly hampered by social anxiety and depression. I still managed to have a great time at Longwood, despite those handicaps. I left that school with lifelong friends and mostly good memories. It was a really nice place to go to school.
One of my friends is a woman I met during the very first week of our freshman year. In those days, Longwood College (as it was then called), had its bookstore in the basement of the much venerated Ruffner building. The bookstore wasn’t that big, so one often had to stand in line to get in there at the beginning of each semester. It was a chore that could take awhile.
I was standing in line, waiting for my turn to load up on overpriced textbooks, and somehow struck up a conversation with the striking redhead standing next to me. She was a fellow freshman, dressed in denim shorts, a t-shirt, and a beautiful cardigan, which was very stylish in 1990, although curiously, I would imagine it would have been hot as hell to wear that during a typical Virginia August. It’s also possible that my memory of what she was wearing isn’t quite accurate, although I do know she loved colorful cardigans and pearl necklaces. What I do remember very clearly is that I noticed the redhead’s well-coordinated, stylish outfit and her brilliant red hair. She was friendly, confident, and funny. Her name was– and still is– Donna, a fitting name for her that means “lady”. Donna is very ladylike and hilarious, to boot.
We stayed friends throughout college and shared a suite during my traumatic sophomore year of school. We were both English majors; she also majored in Spanish. She joined Sigma Alpha Iota, the honorary music fraternity, and I was her big sister. We were both members of Camerata Singers, which was Longwood’s auditioned choir that included a lot of liturgical, classical, and Broadway music.
I lost touch with my friend after we graduated. Then, one day in 2006, I got an email from her. It was out of the blue. She had included an adorable picture of her then three year old daughter, who was pretty much her clone. Donna’s daughter has the same flaming red hair her mother has. Not long after that, Facebook became a thing, and we reconnected that way.
This morning, as I looked at Facebook memories, I was reminded of something really funny that happened eleven years ago. My old college friend, Donna, was having dinner with her super bright and funny daughter. They had the following conversation:
Tonight over dinner, [her daughter] C says, “Your friend Jenny is a cusser!”
Me: “What are you talking about?”
C: “Your friend Jenny on Facebook. She’s a cusser.”
Me: “Why are you saying this?”
C: “Because every time I get on the computer, your Facebook page is up & she posts pictures that have the F-word by them. She’s a cusser.”
My friend continued…
Okay, so I just scoured your wall & I only saw one picture with the “f-word” near it & it was posted by [our mutual friend] Chris. HE’S the cusser! LOL!
It really is sad how she ended up a crack-baby & all. Especially since I never did any crack.
Donna is a dear friend, and we’ve known each other since 1990. Her daughter, C, is now a student at our alma mater, Longwood University. I’m sure she’s making her own hilarious memories at our school. Every year, on November 7, I see that funny post from 2012 and have a good laugh. What’s even funnier is that as of 2012, C hadn’t yet met me in person.
In 2014, just a few months after we moved to German, Bill and I flew home for my family’s annual Thanksgiving reunion. We were there to memorialize my father, who had passed away in July of that year. The memorial service was held in November so more people could attend. That’s also why I got married in November, although it turned out we couldn’t get married over Thanksgiving weekend. We probably should have done the deed in October. The weather would have been nicer.
Anyway, on that trip to Virginia, we met up with my college friends, Joann, Donna, Donna’s husband, and their hilarious eleven year old daughter, C, who had correctly identified me as a “cusser”. She was just as cute as she could be! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting her. As we were about to finish our visit, I said “Do you really think I’m a cusser?”
The girl blushed scarlet and hung her head in shame. I laughed and asked for a hug, which she willingly gave me. That day was probably my favorite of the whole visit, since it had been so long since I’d last seen Donna and Joann, and it was the first time I got to meet Donna’s husband and daughter and they got to meet Bill. Sometimes I think if I lived in Virginia again, I might even have some semblance of a normal social life. On the other hand, maybe I wouldn’t, because I’m kind of a recluse most of the time.
It’s getting close to Thanksgiving again. I recently got an email from my aunt announcing the annual shindig, which she blasts to everyone in our humongous family every year. Although I complain a lot about my family, they’re mostly very good people. I don’t agree with most of them politically– quite a lot of them are diehard Trump fans and conservative Christians. But they’re fun to see when there’s a wedding, reunion, or funeral. Despite being a huge family, we’re somewhat close, thanks to the annual reunion at Thanksgiving. Some family members are closer than others.
Lately, I’ve felt like an outcast, but then I live pretty far away now, and have altered my views on religion and politics. I no longer have the patience for long-winded arguments that I used to have, particularly with southern white men who are convinced that liberal politics are the pathway to Soviet Union style communism. I might have agreed with them if I hadn’t spent so many years in Europe, which does have some socialist policies that work pretty well and doesn’t resemble the former Soviet Union in the slightest. Having lived in the former Soviet Union just a couple of years after it fell apart, I feel as though I can speak with some authority about what it was like there. Europe is not like that at all. Since we are related, we all seem to have inherited a penchant for arguing to the death. And some are more insistent about it than others.
In just a few days, I’ll be visiting Armenia, a former Soviet territory, for the first time since 1997. When I arrived there in 1995, it was still pretty Soviet in most things. Today, it’s a lot less like that. Every year, there are fewer people who remember what the place was like when it was a Soviet country. I wasn’t there when it was part of the Soviet Union, but I did go there less than five years after it became independent. And I can tell people I know– especially my conservative Christian southern relatives– that I have yet to see any place like that in my travels, even in countries that have “socialist” leanings. But they don’t listen to me either, because I’m not very religious; I don’t worship Donald Trump; and I am a CUSSER. Somehow, it seems like my love of swearing is the worst of my sins.
Many of my relatives who would argue with me about this are people who have not been outside of the southern United States, let alone “across the pond”. They don’t respect my experiences or education, and stubbornly insist that they’re exactly right, no matter what, refusing to even acknowledge a perspective that differs from their own. They don’t seem to understand that even though I’m a woman who is a bit younger than they are, I’m not stupid, inexperienced, uneducated, or in need of “special help”. I simply have a different viewpoint based on actual things I’ve seen and done.
I find it frustrating to engage in conversations with a lot of my family members, so I keep my distance. And they avoid me because I curse a lot. But that doesn’t mean I’m not fond of most of my family members. I wish them well and would happily break bread with them, if I was in a place where that was easy to do. Maybe there will come a time when that’s the case again.
In July 2014, I discovered Paul Thorn’s hilarious song, ” I Don’t Like Half the Folks I Love”, as my dad was dying. It’s a really perfect description of how I think of some of my family members. I do love them, but I can’t spend a lot of time with them… and yet, I’d like to see them for an evening, maybe… as long as we don’t talk politics and/or religion. Ah– never mind. It won’t happen. But I still wish them well. And I actually do love most of my friends– the ones who know me well, and accept me for exactly who I am.
Anyway… it might be worth it to go home to Virginia again, if only to see a few friends and eat some genuine American style junk food. Seriously… I was looking at the menus of some of my favorite crappy chain restaurants in the States… places where there’s nothing at all healthy on the menu. I certainly don’t need to be eating any of that stuff, but I still kind of miss it sometimes.
November always makes me think of being home in Virginia. I do sometimes miss being “home”. I haven’t seen most of my friends and loved ones in years. I think it’s having an effect on me. I also miss really good southern fried food that will send me into a diabetic coma. *Sigh*… guess I’ll have to settle for Armenian food this weekend. I’d probably rather have fried chicken, American style pizza, or ribs. It’s probably just the hormones talking, though… which will later be silenced by my cranky digestive system. Isn’t it fun getting older? 😉 I think I’ll cuss about it some more.
Incidentally, today is Election Day in the USA… so please go out and vote, if you can.