Every question is a trap.* At least, this is the rule in our house. For instance:
“What did you do for lunch?” (real question: in the last 3 years, have you done anything I’ve told you to do in terms of eating protein, and budgeting lunch money?)
“Was that on sale?” (real question: how many hours did we work to buy that frivolous item I now have to wash/vacuum/store?)
“Did you clear the dishes?” (real question: why was the dog standing on the table when I got home?)
“How’s it going” (real question, if asked around 5pm: will dinner be ready or can I pick up Thai food?)
I’m sure Mr. Halfstory is wondering why I’ve been extra crabby (note I used the word “extra”) and more bleary-eyed than usual. Shamefully, I can blame it on bad British television. At a loss for my next book, I’ve been couch-sitting into the wee hours, watching Mistresses on BBC America, which, as the title suggests, is not the high point of morality. My only excuse is I’m older now and it’s immensely satisfying watching fictional people throw their lives in the tank within a 45-minute time slot. The Son brought me back to reality, posing his own question several mornings ago, turning to me in hooded, sleepy irritation and yanking out one earbud: “what is your deal?” (real question: Please never speak to me again and can I have some money?) That’s when I realized it was time to put away the remote and return to the civilized land of chapters before slumber.
I’m reading Penelope Lively’s How It All Began, a jaunty, insightful book about aging, marriage, problematic societal norms (a forgotten cell phone triggers a crisis, for example), all sorts of relationship dilemmas. Everything tails off from one minor accident. Normally, this kind of book irritates me; I walk away thinking every gesture I make will impinge on a stranger’s life work. Seriously. But I like this book. It has quick, sharp chapters and reads just a bit like a TV drama (ahem, see above), but it is obviously more well-written and thoughtful. Also plausible. I had no idea who Lively was, nor did I have a clue as to her body of work, so it was refreshing to approach it in complete ignorance. I highly recommend this process. It’s nearly impossible to do that, so jaded are we by the constant exposure to everything, 24/7 (I don’t even like typing that term).
I also found two gems in a used book store: Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers, forward by Walter Hoving, copyright 1961. By Tiffany’s I mean Audrey Hepburn’s Tiffany’s. It’s a spare book, with whimsical drawings in black and white, along with thoughtful and expert advice. Here:
The other book is The Language of Flowers, illustrated by Kate Greenaway. Tuberose means “dangerous pleasures.” Peach Blossom means “I am your captive.”
*I must credit this statement to my friend Anita, whose household is the blog that writes itself.