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 ?

7 thoughts on “Smartypants

  1. There is this T.V.commercial which your post today reminds me of, not quite sure if it is still aired. It even became a focal of humor on Saturday Night Live, as skits were choreographed to spin a humorous twist on what is, “warped humor,” or as you rightly say, M-E-A-N fun.

    In the commercial, an elderly person falls and calls out: “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” And, we would, I blush to confess it, laugh hysterically. Thereafter mimicking the scene at home with thoughtless, proud laughter. The fallen then activates an emergency response GPS device hanging on their neck, which summons an emergency medical response, whereupon the victim is then rescued.

    Funny? Not. Old Dave was way ahead of his time.

    Four weeks ago, in my very own dining room, (not elderly) I fell and could not get up. 9-1-1 was called. The joke was on me, as the ambulance delivered me to Summerlin ER, here in Las Vegas. “What happened?” The Doctor inquired as I lay writhing in pain. “I fell..and I..I could not get up.”

    What’s that John Lennon said?

    “Instant Karma’s gonna get you. It’s gonna knock you right off your feet.”

    Oh yes. Nobody… likes a smart ass.

      1. You hope huh? You can hope if you want, but those of us graced to know you will readily attest that you are pretty much and more than kind. I know! Duller? Impossible. Sharper in so many ways.
        If you change-then I’m leaving the building! 🙂

  2. Frank Sinatra in an TV interview was asked about another entertainer whose career and abilities had peaked years before. Frank responded saying something like, “I remember people for the best thing they ever did or when they were at their best.” Thus ending the interviewer’s attempt to have Frank say something mean about a person no longer at the top of their game. I was so impressed with his answer, I mentally recorded it and try to live by it myself. Though not being perfect I have stumbled from time to time ; not living upto Frank’s “way” of always being kind when talking about others.
    We have all heard Frank’s “My Way” a million times and it always brings me back to the kindness and knowledge gained from the above interview.

    As we get older there are more opportunities to sound like a “smart ass” in conversations about people we used to know. For the sake of a “laugh” about someone else, it is one laugh that is short lived, but defines you much longer in the minds of others listerning.

    Plus, Karma keeps score; the last good thing you did is subtracted.

  3. Jimmy Stewart, in the movie Harvey said it best : “If given the choice between being smart and nice, I’d rather be nice!”

  4. I just love you, Terry!! Don’t you marvel that the man you picked to be your “old Dave” has changed you for the good?!! Our family is so much like the description of yours…..always with the humor! And I, also, have to check myself when we get too mean spirited! That is not who I want to be!!

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