At the End of the Day, I’m Tired

Femme Banale is glad to be back in your company after a short break.

For more than 20 years, I worked as an editor, and like many editors, possess a certain crankiness.* Maybe it’s the banality of enforcing the serial comma. Who knows.

Today I get cranky about the popular expression “At the end of the day.” News commentators use it with gravitas as the preface for telling us what’s really important. Politicians love to use the expression too. One Chicago mayoral candidate recently said “at the end of the day” seven times in less than a minute. Please make it stop.

The old-school language constables Strunk and White would describe this expression as “threadbare” from over use. It reminds me of another such expression from the Rolex 1980s: “the bottom line.” I’m not sure either metaphor works anyway. At the end of the day, I am not taking account of the day’s wins and losses; instead I’m unwinding with a book or garbage TV.

There are more like it out there. What cliché would you like to see sent to language detention?

*Yes, you sticklers, my writing mixes first person and third person. It’s my party…you know the rest.

Librarians Who Don’t Mess Around

Collection management—the technical term for weeding out obsolete books—is an important part of librarians’ work. Sounds like drudgery, right? Well, two public librarians in Michigan have put the fun in collection management with their website Awful Library Books.  Whether you are a bibliophile or not, you have to visit this site,  if only for a good laugh.

Librarians Holly and Mary feature the worst of the worst from their own library collections and those around the country.  What makes their site so entertaining is not only the titles but Holly’s and Mary’s deadpan commentary on what justifies a book’s weed out. Here are some books you’ll find on their site (comments are mine):
•  Macrame Accessories (Lots of groovy photos, including vests for dudes.)
•  How NOT to Kill Your Husband  (Apparently men are too busy and clueless to take care of themselves.)
•  Brainwashing Is a Cinch!  (Just give me 10 minutes with the president!)
•  Make Your Own Sex Toys (This book is available from Amazon in case you’re interested.)
•  Cat Astrology (New pick-up line: What’s your cat’s sign?)

 Inspired by Mary’s and Holly’s tough-love approach, I made the decision to finally discard my 1941 edition of 2002 Household Helps. Below I share a couple gems or “helps” from this book as part of my farewell ritual.

•  SHOPPING TIP—Don’t go on a long shopping trip without first making out a list of things to be purchased, if you would conserve your energy. Don’t shop after you’ve an aching head and jumpy nerves. You will not get good results.

•  LET BOYS PRESS THEIR OWN PANTS—Letting boys press their own suits and sew on their own buttons is an item in training them for self-reliant manhood.

The latter tip evokes a Banale moment: although they didn’t wear suits, the boys here did their own laundry starting in high school. Amen.

The Magical Realism of Regifting

A Seinfeld episode in the ‘90s brought regifting to the fore, in a way validating the practice of passing off unwanted items—often dressed up in rumpled tissue—as gifts. By Femme Banale’s estimation, regifting could be responsible for flagging US production growth. That is, production will not expand in the face of low demand for consumer goods, especially gifty goods. And demand is low because of the invisible and unmeasured supply of regift-ware.

We now live in a new Macondo-like reality with millions of regifts and potential regifts magically multiplying behind closed cabinet doors. Open the door, let the light in, and there they are! The scented candle, the candy and nuts, the wine bottle with the unusual label, holiday potpourri, gift-sets of all kinds.

Regifting holds risk: There’s the risk of recognition or discovery that the gift is recycled material and the resulting dispiritment. But there also lurks a deeper risk—that is, unknowingly regifting an item that the recipient gave you earlier. Let’s call it circular regifting. Femme Banale gives a firsthand account.

It was a casual dinner for friends in which I did indeed receive a scented candle. No surprise there, but what followed was surprising. A flash of recognition passed as one guest handed me a hostess gift; my brain churned to understand. (Cue: psychedelic music, “And somebody spoke and I went into a dream. Ahahahah ahahahahah…”) That’s it! The Christmas present that I gave them two years ago. A cascade of emotions followed: wonder, annoyance, suspicion (Are they messing with me?), resignation (“Thank you”), delight (Gotcha!), concern (Here comes the memory decline), and finally gladness. Yes, gladness.  I was glad to get the item back because I liked this particular item. Through the dubious channels of regifting, the gift made its way back to me.







My Apple Genius

I’m going to marry Liam, my Apple Genius.

Shhh…he doesn’t know it yet. I could tell he was impressed when I referred to my computer as “my machine.” I was going to marry Jared, my first Genius, but I dropped him when he couldn’t solve my keychain authentication problem. The Apple Store guy sent me upstairs to the next level of Genius where I met Liam.

Upstairs two Geniuses checked out my frozen screen. Puzzled, they waved over Liam, clearly The Man. He glided over and like a ninja deleted a bunch of .dlls without even flinching.  My heart went ping! I nodded proudly when one of the other Geniuses said, “Man, that’s what you do.” Thank goodness those guys dispersed, and Liam and I had a few minutes alone to reset my passwords (had to go to the Notes section of my Sierra Club calendar to look them up).

“I have so many passwords that I can’t remember them all,” I said. Liam smiled knowingly. We have so much in common. My fingers flew over the keyboard with dazzling speed and only a few typos.

We shared a good laugh when I told him that in the good ole days we called computer bugs “undocumented features.” Features, ha!  Not wanting to wreck the moment I didn’t say anything, but I had a feeling the reason for my visit to the Apple Store had something to do with a feature. Anyway, this exchange firmly established us as one in the tech world.

Enough shop talk. Did I mention that there’s a bit of an age difference between us? I’m 60 and thinking Liam is 20-something, maybe even 30. Is there a problem?  Look at Georgia O’Keeffe. Or Susan Sarandon. Or Catherine the Great. I could go on and on. I’ve already figured out what I’m going to say to his mother. Age doesn’t matter. We connect on a level outside time and space…well, at least time. Plus, I can pay off his student loans.

“You’re nothing but a Cougar!” she’ll shout.

“Yes, but don’t you see? It was meant to be. Cougar was the name of an Apple operating system.” Or some animal like a cougar.

Flash forward to our wedding. Something old (me), something new (signature wedding cocktail with Jeppson’s Malört), something borrowed (bubble-making machine), something blue (Bluetooth). Oh the fun we’ll have! Who knows, maybe company execs will fly in for a marketing opp. Post wedding plan: We’ll summer in Wisconsin and run a hacking camp.

“Is there anything else I can help you with?” That sly dog. Gotta think of something fast!

“Uh, how do I get the photos from my phone on to my computer?” Bad move. Most of my photos are shots of the sidewalk. But maybe he won’t actually see them. Fingers crossed.

Blah, blah, blah…something about syncing. My attention is drawn across the room.

There’s a gaggle of Geniuses, including Jared, looking over at us smirking.  Hmmm.  It’s nothing short of professional jealousy. Maybe I need to have a word with the manager: “Looks like that jolly band of Geniuses doesn’t have anything to do.” No, be cool. If this were a movie, the background music would be Bonnie Raitt singing “Something to Talk About.”

 Ding. A text from my husband. “At Hot Tix. Do u want to go to matinée of Jersey Boys?” Jeez.

“Liam, listen to me…I’ll be back for you!”