Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Improper Poll: Get the Tact, Jack

Tact is a foreign language to me. As someone who grew up in a family which spoke the more harsh Brutal Honesty, I admire the beauty of that other language even if I’m not fluent enough to fully understand it.I learned at a young age that the less I know a person, the more likely they are to speak that other nice language or its even more flowery relative, Bold Faced White Lies.

For example, here are the various responses to the question, “Does this make me look fat?”

Total stranger:  “Are you kidding? You are so emaciated, I think you should gain twenty pounds!  And I really mean it!”

Acquaintance: “Nooo! You‘re so skinny, nothing could make you look fat.”

Friend:  “I’m just not sure it’s really ‘you.’”

Relative:  “No, it doesn‘t make you look fat. You ARE fat. And what you‘re wearing doesn‘t help any, either.”

I sometimes see a dermatologist. I do this because I come from a long line of people who not only speak Brutal Honesty, but also get Skin Things. Some of the Skin Things are merely ugly, but some are dangerous and ugly, too.  So my dermatologist has the dubious job of telling me which is which.

There is something special about my dermatologist, besides his admirable ability to differentiate ugly Skin Things all day. Whereas Tact is clearly not a course requirement in many medical school programs, this doctor has a minor in it.This particular Ugly Skin Thing was on my back, so I waved over my shoulder in its general direction. “See it?” I asked.

Several seconds passed before he replied, “Can you find it in the mirror and point to it?” As I fumbled in the mirror, the translation came to me: Which Ugly Skin Thing are you talking about? They’re all over the place back here!

When I finally managed to identify the correct Thing, my dermatologist hesitated only a moment before giving me the name. They always have a long, official sounding name that means, essentially, “Ugly Skin Thing.” Then he told me they’re hereditary. No surprise there. At this point he spoke one of my favorite lines of Tact, ever. “They’re associated with having lived a nice amount of life.”

Don’t you love it? “A nice amount of life.”  I blinked while the translation sank in. “You mean it’s an Old Age Skin Thing?” I asked. He smiled kindly. I was stunned. At the time I was only in my mid-thirties. Mid-thirties!

He told me it could be removed, then gave a shrug which meant, “But why bother? Who would miss one in this giant field of Ugly Skin Things, anyway?” He handed me a pamphlet which I numbly stuck into my purse, and I slunk out of there.

When I got home, I took it out of my purse and was horrified. The model on the front, in spite of being quite fit and handsome, had lived a much nicer amount of life than I have lived. I would say his amount of life was twice as nice as mine. I was stunned. So I did what any normal person would do. I called my sister. This is because she’s lived a nicer amount of life than I’ve lived, and she’s generally had all of the Ugly Skin Things I’ve had. I described the Skin Thing and gave her the name.

“Oh, I have those,” she said. She told me which relatives had them, too. “Welcome to old age.”

This reminded me. Never ask a medical question of a relative. I will be asking my dermatologist from now on. Maybe I’ll even ask him if my pants make me look fat, too.

Do you have a euphemism that you love?


  1. I don't, except for maybe "age thing," but I think your dermatologist is my GYN.

    About 10 years ago, things that used to be "predictable" were wildly unpredictable. I suspected I had cancer. Some sort of tumor stopping things up.

    No. My GYN looked at my chart and said, "It's an age thing." Yikes! Cancer is sometimes cured. Tumors can be removed. Age is incurable!

    This is too good to be left as a blog post. It made me laugh out loud, which doesn't happen very often.

  2. No euphemism that I can think of now - I'm overwhelmed. But one time I went to an ugly skin thing doctor to check out a growth that kept getting bigger on my breast. He came over to take a look, took his two thumb nails and placed it between the growth and squeeze. Out squirted this squiggly thing and he says, "Just a black head." Talk about wanting to run out of there...

  3. As a teacher talking to a parent, I am always partial to, "I don't think I am helping Johnny reach his potential. Can you think of anything I might try that might be more effective?" You'd be amazed at the ways they suggest I can crack down on their little work-shirker.

  4. I don't think God made euphemisms for the things I've inherited from my mother, like having breasts so far apart they're mostly located in my armpits. Mom said when she was pregnant she couldn't put her arms down for months.
    And I don't think she had a euphemism for the first ghastly digestive disease I was diagnosed with. When I told her what it was, she said, "That's what Grandma Davies died from!"
    So, you're right, don't expect tact from relatives. And I know about Old Age, too. Since my parents died, I'm the oldest person in my immediate family. How did this happen? In my mind I'm 32, can still run and can still dance.
    But thanks for your wonderful compliment about our female Redpoll photo. She is a darlin' alright.

  5. The closer in degrees you are to a person, the looser your lips become.
    I went to the doctor for an UST (ugly skin thing)and she said, "Oh, that's just a harmless barnacle, it happens to everyone as they age." BARNACLE! I'm a rusted vessel. If only my hull was sunk in sand and salt water I wouldn't mind so much.

  6. Guess what! I get to have my bi-annual (he likes me so much that once a year isn't enough) dermatologist visit tomorrow. I'll let you know my latest joyful news.

    Critter Alley

  7. Sioux, I can think of one thing that cures old age: death. So am very glad you had the lesser of the evils!

    Lynn, I'm sorry, but that was so gross and so funny!

    Val, every teacher should memorize that one.

    Kay, I'm so sorry about the "ghastly digestive disease," but your breast description was a riot!

    I don't know about that barnacle comment, Linda, but I was a wee bit happy to hear EVERYONE gets them. That description of yours really floats my boat!

    Pat, sending good thoughts that your dermatologist has nothing but joyful news for you!

  8. This made me laugh out loud! I needed that today, so thank you! The only one I can think of is the one I've gotten for years from teachers of one of my sweet little angels. At parent teacher conferences they describe him as: "energetic" "joyful" "full of life" ... well, you're a teacher, you know! And they are right - he is all of those things!!

  9. I'm guilty of using euphemisms in reports - after all, 'has difficulty concentrating' is kinder than 'has the attention of a fruit fly'! Never forget you're dealing with someone's little darling . . .

  10. Hahahaha! *wiping tears from my eyes*
    Too, too funny. Thanks!


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