And so, I suppose, my Summer of Reckoning continues. Woke with the sun and the birds and my cat with the great gimlet eyes. Meditated, plaited my hair, and hightailed it to the Grand Army Greenmarket, where my friend and I oohed and aaahed over big bushy fennel and chard and sweet bumpkin lettuces before buying as many as could fit in our earnest canvas bags. Over avocado toast and iced almond espressos we counted our blessings and sins even if he’d eschew such Christian-derived language, never mind the neotheist intent. I got back to my car just in time: I’d read those pesky Brownstone Brooklyn parking signs incorrectly—it’d take a law degree to master their myriad mastipulations—and the tow truck was already digging its talons into my Sadie’s fender when I arrived. (So No-Park Slope to tow when it wasn’t even a tow zone; can their officials find nothing else to do?) I cajoled, I cried, I bribed, I prevailed. And thus Sadie and I ducked back home together, howling along to Aretha as the city came to its inevitable boil.
My Jewish grandmother had a penchant for big words that began with “I”—so much so that I often wondered if her vocabulary class stopped before the letter “J.” Imminent. Immense. Impetuous. Inimitable. Indubitable. Inimical. Her favorite was insipid. She used that word a lot, always spitting it out with so much relish that it sounded like another of the Yiddishisms she brandished, frequently at my sister’s and my expense. (Look at those goyishe noses! They look just like their shiksa mother’s! ) Lately I keep flashing on it because it’s such a perfect term for what I find irksome about our culture right now. The emoticarnage, the tremulously hyperbolic headlines, the LOLs, the fake-it-til-you-make-it selfies, the definite article-laden titles for spouses and children (The Princess! The Heir! The Hubs!), the kooky animal videos sent to me by suitors who, in another generation, might have demonstrated the good sense to send flowers or chocolate. The proliferation of fake-earnest catchphrases like “can I just say?” “I can’t lie,” and, my least favorite, “so many feelings.” Not to mention the largely accepted tendency to deliver statements in singsong or as questions?
Though I embrace the particular cuteness of any being who tries hard un-self-consciously, I’ve always eschewed preciousness; never had much patience for aw-shucksiness; and would rather people say it than spray it, as the expression used to go. All this niceyniceness is enough to make a kind girl run to snark, at least in this seemingly endless winter. My grandmother was largely regarded as a pill—always picking, never hugging (hers was a hard life)—but she had a knack for calling out, er, mishegos. More and more I catch myself donning her navy pumps, fake furs, and smeary red lipstick, figuratively and literally. Because, really, insipid is the perfect word for these times. She was insightful, nu?
In the house where I grew up, the sports radio was always blaring, the TV too, and everyone talked over each other and through everything else at the top of their lungs. I learned to read and do my homework in that racket but promised myself I’d be a silence worshipper if I managed to grow up. And in fact these days I do insist on living alone and uphold quiet as more glamorous than champagne sipped upon a velvet divan. But the truth of the truth is that whenever I want to get any big writing done I have to work in the noisiest environment I can find: a house full of screaming kids, a bustling coffee shop, my noisy stoop. If I ever want to finish my book I probably will have to set up a desk in the middle of Times Square. Old habits don’t die hard; they don’t die at all. We just find a rhinestone-studded collar with which we may tame them.