I’m not an expert on much, and frankly anyone foolhardy enough to take life advice from me would be well advised to have a sturdy liver, legal counsel on retainer and a reasonable tolerance for extended visits to Betty Ford. Nevertheless there are several subjects on which I feel entitled to make rather free with advice, and on occasion I do — cooking (or not cooking as the case may be), aesthetic and sartorial choices, driving in the city, effective child rearing, grammar and language to name but a few. Well now that I think about it, that’s more than a few and really it’s not the whole list either, but never mind, let’s continue.
Since at the moment the temperature on the east coast is roughly equivalent to that of the surface of the sun and I am really REALLY cranky as a result, I’m feeling inclined to offer up a few unsolicited corrections to erroneous, even egregious, behaviors that are irking me. Obviously I understand that we all have room for improvement, and I am no exception. In fact, constructive criticism (“Pizza again? Is it too much trouble to put the wine bottle down and make dinner?”), helpful tips (“Try getting out of bed before noon if you want be able to sleep at night.”) and polite suggestions (“Perhaps if you chose gazpacho for lunch instead of a third Bloody Mary, you might feel a bit perkier in the afternoon.”) routinely come my way. I give all fair consideration before disregarding them and doing exactly what I feel like at the time. I may be a slattern but I’m no hypocrite.
Anyways, in the spirit of helping my fellow man and with the goal of blowing off some steam, here are a few suggestions I feel the reading public could benefit from. Feel free to forward them along to acquaintances in need of a gentle shove.
Underwear ≠ outerwear
I know, I know, I’ve pointed this out before, but clearly the message is not getting through. Witness the following photo I snapped last night on the New York City subway. At least I’m pretty sure I did. Given the number of margaritas with beer chasers that accompanied the rather festive evening meal, the details are a bit hazy, but how else to explain this photo in my phone?
Now, granted, it was hot — I mean searing, hotter than the hinges of holy Hell down there. But I was dressed and most of the other travelers were, too. Were we comfortable? No, but we were decent, and that’s the crucial issue here. We should all try and look decent.
Happily the front of the garment offered a bit more coverage than the back if my recollection is correct. But really in what galaxy is this an acceptable way to leave the house? Does no one own a mirror anymore? What is going on? I really would like to know, because I’m having a very hard time understanding the thought process/life perspective that allows a person to take a look at herself thusly attired and say, “Okay, looking good. Let’s go!” So ladies, please, I am begging you, check your back fat before you step out the door. And for the love of God, invest in a slip.
Your tense makes me tense.
Though I understand the linguistic evolution behind Americans’ misuse of complicated conditional verb tenses (I’ll spare you the grammar lecture, so don’t say I never did anything for you), it still irks me to hear someone say, “If I would have known your were coming I would have baked a cake.” In case you are wondering, it should be “If I had known you were coming I would have baked a cake.” Or in my case laid in a supply of decent rye so we could sit out on the terrace like civilized people and have a refreshing Sazerac or three in this dreadful heat.
What chafes me even more is to see this erroneous verb tense published in an article about writing, as I recently did in Writer’s Digest. Yup that’s right, a magazine about writing, for writers. I’d share the quote with you, but I set the issue on fire (with my MIND) in a fit of pique.
Similarly, there’s the convoluted, hopelessly nonsensical “I would have liked to have done that.” It should be, “I would have liked to do that,” meaning that in the past you would have enjoyed something you didn’t do. Alternatively, you could say, “I would like to have done that,” meaning that in the present moment you wish you had done something you did not do and wish it was among your past experiences. What you cannot do is mash the two together into a grammatical Frankenstein and hope no one notices or cares, at least not if I’m in earshot.
You see, it’s not the death of the English language, but its slow torture and frequent maiming that drive me to drink. Admittedly it’s a short trip, but still, you take my meaning.
And don’t even get me started on “Does everyone have their paper?”
There’s a good reason you never used that Flesh crayon.
You’d fight with your sister over the Midnight Blue, pinch your best friend to get your hands on Forest Green, bite your brother to loosen his grip on Chrome Yellow, but that nasty Flesh-colored crayon stayed in the box untouched, as sharp as the day you whined and begged until your mom agreed to buy the 64-color crate with the handy sharpener on the back.
Why? Because it is the ugliest color in the universe that’s why. Worse than red-brown, chartreuse and mauve combined. It’s nasty, folks, and it should be illegal. At the very least, if –hypothetically — your next door neighbor were to paint the back of her house and all the masonry in the yard this dreadful shade, she should have the decency to sell the property to a nice gay couple who’d paint it a tasteful ecru.
I’m all for letting the freak flag fly, but really, this is just too much.
Well, I’m feeling better now. Any pet peeves you’d like to share? Have at it, my friends.