▪ Halloween. Little kids love pretending to be grown-ups. But grown-ups need to be careful when pretending to be little kids.
You know when you dress up as a princess, a superhero or a cat? That should end by the time you no longer need a fake ID to get a drink. For example, people my age (too old for work study but too young for cremation) should not attempt the “sexy kitty” look. Even those who have attended Zumba classes with cult-like regularity should eschew the black tights and pink nose.
If you’re over 45, putting on whiskers, furry ears and a tail will not make you look like Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry or Anne Hathaway playing Catwoman; it will make you look like Bert Lahr playing the Cowardly Lion.
▪ Daylight Saving Time. Do you have at least one clock in your house you simply don’t bother to change? I have. I have one meant to look like a tiny book that’s been keeping time on my vanity table for years now. It has one of those itty-bitty mechanisms that you have to change with a tweezers, so I leave it alone.
If I’m wielding tweezers while sitting at my vanity table, I’m not thinking about clocks. I’m focused on that chin hair which really does make me look like Bert Lahr. Forget about changing the hour; the years are going by so fast I don’t need to bother with details.
▪ National Novel Writing Month. I was raised Roman Catholic, so the first day of November remains inscribed in my heart as All Saints’ Day and a holy day of obligation. It was, as such, a time to review life and to consider final endings.
But I’ve recently been informed that, for thousands of people (including dozens of friends and students, I was astonished to discover) the first day of November carries with it an entirely secular set of obligations, entirely self-imposed: Those who wish to write are meant to participate in an event known as NaNoWriMo whereupon they are expected to deliver 50,000 words by the end of the month.
They don’t actually deliver the words to anybody in particular, though. Is it a surprise, then, that the primary sponsors of the no-profit organization seem to be self-publishing platforms, self-publishing software manufacturers and producers of various forms of (fairly costly) self-publishing accouterments? NaNoWriMo seems like a kind of literary karaoke, where joining in for fun sounds delightful but where, if you’re looking to be discovered and made famous, you might be going about it the wrong way.
Obligations might help us discipline ourselves, but they’re no substitution for true faith, humble gifts and daily practice.
▪ Impending holiday mania. The very moment that Halloween decorations stop haunting mall staircases and store windows, Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas reindeer stampede into place and set up shop.
“Shop,” of course, quickly becomes an imperative. Whether it’s food for the feast or gifts for the giving, we frantically begin constructing lists. Even if we are not ordinarily list makers, the heady seasonal mix of compulsion-to-consume and fear-of forgetting-one-last-item drives us.
Bad memories can be a factor, too. I once had to make a lasagna using cottage cheese instead of ricotta all because I’d skipped making a list before I went to the store. By the time I cooked the pasta, made the sausage and sauce and started assembling the vast construction that is real lasagna, it was too late. Every store was closed.
It turns out that no amount of fresh mozzarella can compensate for cottage cheese. That was 12 years ago, but I still shiver at the disgrace.
▪ Storm warnings. Everybody likes a little drama, but let’s not overdo it: Meteorologists should not threaten viewers with sturm und drang when they know perfectly well all we’re getting is arts and crafts.
If it’s going to drizzle and flurry a bit, don’t tell us to stay tuned through endless commercials for details of “potentially significant, icy precipitation.” And if it’s going to be really bad out there? Tell us to stay home, dance around the house, make lasagna, write books and get our times right.
Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut, a feminist scholar who has written eight books, and a columnist for the Hartford Courant. She can be reached through her www.ginabarreca.com.