“I am not a salty clam” and other affirmations
May 10th, 2015
Every so often on the Facebook I’ll see a status like this:
I’m super stressed right now, guys, but times like this make me realize just how blessed I am. I have this great family, these great friends, this high standard of living, this job, this dog, etc.
These statements always strike me as myopic and shallow appraisals of a common situation. Sure, many people in the world aren’t that blessed. But you are. So what are you going to do with that blessing? Throw on a pasta and putter around for 45 minutes?
With this blog, I’m contributing my take on the “wake up and smell the roses” moment. Instead of reveling in my capacity to enjoy clean drinking water and multiple pairs of shoes, I’ve penned down three things that have come up this week and proved a source of personal pride. To avoid being too self-serving, I’ve tempered each claim with something annoying I do that I’d like to improve or change. So here it goes.
1. I don’t wear sweatpants.
This one’s a meatball right over the plate. I wrote this poem recently that will hopefully elucidate my stance:
Why I Don’t Wear Sweatpants
They trick you into thinking
you can go out in public.
A phone, wallet, keys, a tube
of chapstick between two
slack pockets. The weight
of possession palpable
as its mass. They sag.
I prefer pajamas.
A trip to the store
or the ATM, maybe, but otherwise
they stay indoors. There is no fooling
And I hate to invoke the classics
but Baudelaire once wrote through fashion
we become our ideal selves. I do not feel ideal
when wearing sweatpants.
And what of appearances?
It’s a look.
It says I haven’t showered.
It says I am not clean, or, I should be
home somewhere with everything I need.
Whenever I wear a nice, form-fitting shirt to work, I feel 15-years-old again at a cousin’s wedding. No matter how many times I look in the mirror throughout the day to remind myself that, yes, I have stubble, a strong jawline, and a decent haircut, as soon as I turn away, as soon as I am left with my ego and my self-image, I am back at Max Bress’s bar mitzvah in 7th grade, sitting alone at a table.
I am wearing a blazer and bad shoes. As “Cotton-Eyed Joe” comes on, another boy approaches and asks me to hold the four screw-top Carmex containers he brought with him in a sandwich bag. “Thanks, I like to have extras!” he grins as he skips away to the dance floor. Making his rounds, one of the caterers notices my glum expression and says “long night?” (in my mind he looks like the guy who played Hesh in The Sopranos). I nod. Christ. Instead of trying to touch girls’ boobs I was keeping an eye on some weiner’s spare lip balm.
Even though I can fill out a suit these days, it still feels like it’s floating across my shoulders, suspended by some force that may be my body but isn’t me. I like to dress up. I pretend I have a shrewd, discerning fashion sense. As in, I don’t wear shirts that make me feel like a yearbook photo. And I’m never buying another pair of red pants again.
2. I am not a salty clam.
Recently I wanted to organize an AmeriCorps kickball game. Who doesn’t like kickball? It’s a sport for everyone: you don’t have to be tall or athletic, it accommodates big groups of diverse people with few restrictions, you can make up the rules as you go, you can play almost anywhere, and you can drink while you play. With an AmeriCorps team of about 20 strapping young men and women, I assumed the idea would be welcomed with applause and rousing cries of “yes!” and “alright!” and “hmmmmmyeah!!!” – or at least quiet mumblings to that effect.
My fault was not in assuming everyone would be onboard: there are always detractors, but mob mentality and charisma can win over even the most negative nancies. Rather, I left the announcement to my boss, the lovely and tactful Jeri, who is more diplomatic (I might say tepid) to the point of asking us to raise our hands if you would like to play kickball? – kickball is not a question, Jeri.
There was a flare of hands, as I expected, then a low moan: sharp inhales and strange, noxious hisses became audible from a corner of the room. “Yeahhhhhh….kickball….” The salty clams had awoken. “Oooooofff” “Errrrrrrr” “Ummmm…how about a kiddie pool, and a margarita…?”
A kiddie pool and a margarita?? Who are you?
I’m not giving up on this kickball game. I can’t. But I am consistently dismayed when I meet people who don’t even entertain the notion of hanging around for a beer after a long meeting, gathering around a card game when they’d otherwise be dicking around on their phones, doing anything that interrupts the normal rhythm of things. When the opportunity to say ‘no’ is offered, the clams form a chorus. If the salty clams of the world had their way, no fun would happen. Industry would collapse; fruits would rot on the vine. There’s a reason we pluck clams from the ocean and eat them before they open their goddamn salty mouths. It’s because they smell bad and make us sick.
I am not a salty clam. But,
I chirp at people. Let me explain. I do that thing where you suck both corners of your mouth back quickly into your jaw to make a little chirpy sound. You know what I’m talking about. It’s gross. It’s the sound of small pockets of saliva-threaded air being rapidly retracted into your throat. It’s also a sound I associate with failure: “*chirp* yeah, that sucks…” is a universal response to a story that you have absolutely no interest in hearing more about.
I chirp at teachers in the hallways of my school. When you see the same people several times a day, it’s a bit cloying to constantly say “hello, Libby!” But I like to make eye contact, to acknowledge. I go in for the curt head nod, and the chirp just slips out, an involuntary reflex. In my head it comes out as “yikes, we’re walking by each other again, aren’t we…”
Should I snap both fingers and give em the guns? Can I restrain myself to just a passing nod? It’s been months at Health & Science School, years of life, and I haven’t resolved this. How can I downplay the tension and still be approachable? How can I resist habit and the simple pleasures of my throat?
3. I enjoy cooking.
I’ve become a Pinterest guy. I never thought I’d become a Pinterest guy.
Since my biggest qualm with food blogs/online recipes is how much fluffy kitchen narrative finds its way down the scroll bar, I’m just gonna say that I take pride in my willingness to cook. I baked my first sheet of cookies last week. Banana bread is forthcoming.
This video I made is half-relevant, and hopefully, amusing.
I still haven’t figured out how to shave. I use a beard trimmer for stubble, often. At Freddy’s I buy the cheapest, flimsiest razors they have, and nick myself constantly. Interviews are the worst. I’ll take a quick glance in the mirror, decide my shadow is just a tad too scruffy, then whip out the razor with five minutes till I need to get on the road. Never a good idea.
My roommate, the immaculate Jake Ayres, uses a cute little horsehair brush to apply his shaving cream.
If you’ve ever eaten a meal with me, you can probably imagine how I shave.