family, funny stories, humor, language, memories

The unusual glory of being a “cusser”…

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?”

I treasure my true friends, and their clever offspring…

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.

Once again, I feel compelled to share this classic song by Paul Thorn, who expertly sums up how I feel about some people who are my kin…

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.

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Germany, silliness

Greetings from the Schwarzwald… where pan pipes are considered soothing.

Yesterday was a very busy day. We woke up early, with plans to go to Stuttgart and see our dentist. We were long overdue in seeing our dentist, Dr. B. It had been over two years, mainly due to COVID-19, and the inability to travel with ease coupled with conflicts of schedules. Originally, I had planned for us to stay in Stuttgart, but our favorite hotel was totally booked. Then I remembered how much I liked visiting The Black Forest when we still lived near it. So, even though our hotel is 100 kilometers from our dentist’s office, I booked us in a very nice resort for four nights. But we spent most of yesterday in our old stomping grounds.

I am pleased to report that I had a good checkup. Bill was not as lucky. He’s been complaining about his teeth recently and, sure enough, as the dentist was probing, one of Bill’s fillings fell out. Bill has to come back to Stuttgart next week. He’ll just take the ICE train and do a one day visit. We both got very thorough cleanings that were much needed and appreciated. My gums are a little sensitive today.

After our dentist visit, we had a hearty lunch at a steak joint. Then we met someone in my wine group who was going to be picking up corks. I collect corks from our many bottles of wine to give to the crafters among us. After chatting with the lady from the wine group, we headed back to the hotel, spent a little time at the pool, and then I hung out at the bar, while Bill talked to his therapist online. It was a little strange sitting alone in the bar. This resort is loaded with German couples and families, most of whom don’t seem to speak English. I caught the bartender glancing at me, probably wondering where Bill went.

Over the sound system, they were playing music from the 80s and 90s. We’re talking Celine Dion, All 4 One, Boys to Men, and Phil Collins. It was actually a little depressing. For one thing, those songs were all hits when I was a lot younger. As I was listening, I was reminded of my 20s, when I was younger, healthier, and probably prettier, although you’d never know it by my non-existent love life in those days. I had images in my head of going to bars and feeling invisible and broke.

Add in the fact that while this hotel is very pretty and has old school charm, it’s also a bit dated. And so, I felt almost like I was in a time warp, accented by the outfits some of the people were wearing. Not that I can talk about that myself…

This hotel also pipes annoying Muzak into the halls and restaurant. It’s basically a step up from the horrible Muzak my dad used to force me to listen to on our car trips. Bill and I were eating breakfast and “Careless Whisper” by Wham came on, only it had been softened into a soothing version of the original. And that arrangement included pan pipes!

Who in the hell wants to listen to pan pipes in an 80s song about breaking up? It reminds me of the time I heard a Muzak version of “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns n’ Roses.

I know… I know… who pays attention to the music piped into restaurants? I do. I’m obviously not the only one. I am a frustrated musician. Every time I hear pan pipes, I’m reminded of Zamfir. He used to be on ads in 80s and 90s, selling his pan pipe versions of the day’s hit songs. It made me want to tear out my hair.

Yikes! This gives me chills.

In college, I joined Sigma Alpha Iota, which is an honorary music fraternity for women (as opposed to a sorority). Pan pipes are part of SAI’s insignia. Members have pins they wear that have pan pipes in the middle of them. I appreciated being a sister of SAI, but I’ll be damned if I will willingly listen to pan pipes by choice. I’d rather visit the dentist, as long as he doesn’t play Zamfir’s greatest hits during the exam.

As Bill and I were discussing the pan pipe infused hit song, “Careless Whisper”, originally made famous by George Michael, somehow our conversation morphed into chat about patient privacy. Germans actually have a very interesting approach to privacy. Bill was lamenting about how our dentist, who was trained in the United States and is half-American on his dad’s side, doesn’t have any qualms about talking about other people’s issues. HIPAA does not exist in Germany. So Dr. B will tell Bill about my teeth, and he will tell me about Bill’s teeth. He doesn’t bat an eye… and in fact, he speaks loudly enough that anyone in the waiting room can hear him.

But… people who commit crimes in Germany are often not publicly named. Here, there exists the right to be “forgotten”. They don’t go in for canceling people. So, if someone commits a crime, he or she can do time and then try to rejoin society. Read a newspaper about a crime and you’ll see a photo of the alleged perpetrator, face blocked by a binder and first name and last initial used instead the whole name.

Germany also has an annoying Data Privacy law, which requires Web sites to state upfront that they use cookies. Every time I hit a site in Germany, I get a pop up that tells me about cookies… and any site that doesn’t want to comply is unavailable over here without the use of a VPN.

I’m sure there’s more to the privacy law than pop up ads. A few years ago, when I was having issues with quitting Hello Fresh, I read that if I wanted to make a big stink, I could remind them of the data security law to light a fire under them. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that, although there was a lot of swearing involved with getting them to completely delete my account.

Anyway, no one screams about HIPAA here, because there is no such thing. Our dentist will happily talk about my last remaining baby tooth, which will turn 50 next year, should I live that long and it doesn’t get abscessed or anything. He’s probably told his other patients about it. Every time I see him, he mentions it. I think he said that prior to meeting me, the oldest person he had ever met with baby teeth was about 35.

Yesterday, as we were driving back to the Black Forest, we passed by our former digs… or, actually, we didn’t go by where we lived. We just passed the town, and where we used to turn to go home. It was a little surreal. We spent four years there. It was mostly a good time for us, except for dealing with our former landlady, who seemed determined to paint us as people we aren’t and make us pay for things that weren’t our responsibility. That experience kind of soured me a little… I would have preferred to have left on much better terms, as we have in almost every other living situation we’ve been in as a married couple. But I guess this kind of thing happens sometimes.

I tried to appreciate how truly beautiful the area where we lived is. It really was a naturally beautiful place. Where we are now isn’t nearly as idyllic, although it is also an attractive area. It’s just that the Black Forest is extraordinarily beautiful, even at the edges, which was where we lived. I miss being able to take off on weekends and be in the forest, where there are stunning views everywhere you look. And it’s nice to be back down here… Germany is different in this area than it is where we are now. God help me, if you were to ask me where I feel more at home in Germany, I’d have to say the Stuttgart area… as whacked out as it can be on many levels. I do love it here… and it’s great to be back. I hope we can do some more short visits. I guess if COVID keeps up, we may keep traveling within Germany.

Well… Mr. Bill has come back to the room. He’s excited, because the sun is out, and he wants to go for a walk. I suppose I owe it to myself to take a walk and exercise my old bones. It would be a good idea, since today is high falutin’ culinary day. We have reservations at two fancy restaurants today, since there are weddings tomorrow. So I’ll stop here… and try not to get too upset over the news… or pan pipes arrangements in piped in music from the 80s and 90s. The Schwarzwald is beautiful… but it probably appeals most to people of a certain age. Alas, I am reaching that age.

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