Smartypants

It’s humbling, this recalling the dumbest thing you ever did. It’s what I was doing yesterday, in telling about the time I targeted a bunch of vulnerable people just to get the laugh god forgive me. 

That’s how we all were in my family: anything to get the laugh. My cousin Sheil and I practically had a stand-up act at summer camp so funny we were be about people. It was like if you took Robin Williams and divvied him up, pouring his wicked wit into the bodies of two smartypants 15-year-olds. Our whole section of five cabins would gather around to watch us work.

Our two moms had done just this kind of thing before us. We all did it in our family: imitate accents, postures, get that slight speech impediment of yours down cold, sum up anybody’s essence with one witty phrase.

Witty, maybe but kind of M-E-A-N too.

Mostly mean in fact.

One college summer we managed to get actual jobs in the city and rent an apartment, sublet to us by four B.U. students who’d gone home for the summer. It was a weird and dingy place but we made it our own; gathered up the Playboys from behind the couch, threw out the bottle of dark-yellow something-or-other in the back of the fridge, took tweezers to the curly human hair lodged in the freezer’s three-inch icepack. (Lots of things in that apartment didn’t bear dwelling on.)

Sheil was gorgeous with long blonde hair and it wasn’t long before she was getting asked out. One poor lad who took her to the Red Sox game walked her all the way back to the door of our apartment, earnestly grasped her hand and with a puppy dog’s pleading look asked “Can I call you sometime, honey?”

“Honey?!” I hooted . “HA HA HA he called you ‘honey’! And he ASKED if he could call you!” we laughed and laughed at the guy, only because, instead of being faintly cruel and offhand like most of the boys you got out there on the dating scene, he was kind and gentlemanly.

We didn’t wise up for at least five more years when, out drinking with our two dates after some football game we got called on our behavior. There we were running our mouths in the old way; really getting on a roll. Then my date who later became the husband I call “Old Dave” in these posts, a man who never in all the years I have known him has even uttered a crude word much less a curse said, “You know you guys, nobody likes a smartass.”

And didn’t that gave us something to chew on! So now I never do impersonations anymore much less think up funny epithets for people the minute they leave the room. That reminder picked me straight up and set down firmly in the Kingdome of Niceness.

Some of my old are disappointed in my dullness and maybe you don’t like me much either but I like you! Honest I do! In fact, um, can I call you sometime…. honey ?