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Reflections January 2013

Agelessly Yours

A New Year, A New You?

By Karen White-Walker

Sometimes I say I'm a teacher when really, I'm a sub, one step above a janitor, but what's wrong with that? Those eagle-eyed cleaners can spot obscure places to scrub that I would never ever notice. To me they're geniuses.

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J.D. Salinger wrote about it back in the 1940s, and writers are still exhausting the same old, same old theme — the hypocrisy and phoniness of people. Everybody, including myself, wants others to think we're far more than what we really are. Why is that? A man drives a garbage truck — good, honest, hard work that pays well — and what does he call himself when asked? A sanitation engineer, of course. A wife and mother stays at home cooking, cleaning, and caring for tomorrow's generation and she's nothing less than a domestic engineer. Why are titles so darn important? Why do people exchange their $20 bills for $1 ones, so that when they whip out their money it looks like their pockets are really stuffed? They're stuffed all right — with too much ego.

One woman confessed to me, "I once took an Armani label, sewed it onto my clearance dress so that it was highly visible, and went to my husband's office party."

"And who hasn't in their lifetime poured cheap crummy wine into a Dom Perignon bottle when entertaining?" asked one man.

"Not I, because any wine connoisseur would take one sip and immediately know that it's not top shelf," I pointed out.

"Not if that bottle is only for show and it's a BYOB party," replied the cheap old coot.

Oh, what we don't do to deceive. And really, it's all for naught, because cultured, refined people have a presence about them. It can't be emulated; it has to be acquired by years of exposure to things many of us aren't privy to. I know one person who will only converse at his family reunion with those who have gone to college — and here's the pathetic part. In 1954 he flunked out of high school. Poor darling, maybe he wants an education by association, and for others to think, "Birds of a feather...."

Starting the first of the New Year, I'm not inflating the facts. Not once am I going to imply that I'm a syndicated columnist, because did you know if you're in more than just one paper you're considered syndicated? So two or 20, what difference does it make? There I go, pretending it doesn't matter, but deep inside it does. Sometimes I say I'm a teacher when really, I'm a sub, one step above a janitor, but what's wrong with that? Those eagle-eyed cleaners can spot obscure places to scrub that I would never ever notice. To me they're geniuses.

There was once this “real” teacher who left me her lesson plans on the inside of a matchbook, that's how much thought and attention she gave to her classes. But on the day she was being observed her lesson plans read like a PhD thesis. There was an objective, a structured plan to implement it and a sound conclusion. The next day, with the principal out of the room, back to the good old one-inch by one-inch lesson plans.

Can you stand to hear about one more person even phonier than the wearer of a bogus designer's dress, the wine dumper, the principal pleaser and myself? No, you say? Well, I guess I'm really on a roll, so stay with me here. Years ago when I was working in a bookstore, the manager would cloister herself in the mornings in the back room, and we girls would never see her again until quittin' time. But just let the company's vice-president arrive for that one yearly inspection and there's Ms. Recluse, parading out on the floor, all smiles like she was running for public office or something. She actually forgot herself and assisted a customer searching for a book; she knelt down to retrieve it and then it happened! She plopped sprawled out on the floor and couldn't get back up, and now we, her customer-friendly workers, were all smiles and determined not to help her out — God forgive us. Basically we women all had a compassionate nature, but there's something about a fake that just doesn't bring that trait out in you.

Be real, be true, be kind, and be gutsy enough to be all those things, and not only will it be a good year, it will be a gentler and much better world.

Footnote: We did end up helping that manager up — it's called a conscience.

 

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