Thursday, February 19, 2009


There is a popular cable show where the hosts have a special expression when something amazing, usually good, happens…they look at each other and one of them says, "Shut UP!"

My dad used to say in his succinct way, "If you have nothing to say…shut up."

My mother phrased it as "If you have nothing to add to the conversation…shut up." Or if we were in polite society, she would say it to me in French. I know it was French because when I repeated it to my high school French teacher, I got detention for a month.

Mom also had "The Look" that said shut up in great, big CAPITAL LETTERS, italicized, bold, underlined.

My brother would roll his eyes and say SHUT UP Pea Brain. (His favorite pet name for me.)

My early years were steeped in mastering the art of shut up. So you can believe me when I say I am very, very good at it.


Most of the time. Really.

OK, there was that one little, tiny incident at a business conference where I provided some audience participation to a strictly rhetorical question. Even though the audience was appreciative, Chris's boss was not amused by my contribution. But the speaker, I think he was chairman of some big Swiss bank, kissed me on both cheeks when we met later that evening.

OK, so I have lapses. But I am not entirely without other social aids. Oh, no. I have the Voice Inside My Head. It's the Immodium to my diarrhea of the mouth disease, if you will.

Allow me to illustrate. I will be about to say something monumentally stupid when...

ViMH: "Shut up Barbara"

"Why? I have something *** to say [ *** amusing, clever, poignant - you fill in the blank]."

ViMH: "It's not ***. Just shut up."

By now I am practically twitching in the effort to open my mouth. "But it's really, really ***," I argue.

ViMH: "No, it's not. Trust me."

"Puleeeeeze!" I whine.

ViMH: "NO! Shut UP Barbara!"

And on it goes until the ViMH wins. Usually wins...

Unlike the other evening when I said to a complete stranger at a perfectly lovely pool party,

"Oh my God, what happened to you?" looking at what I thought was a large bruise and she replied,

"It's a birthmark."

I prefer white wine with my foot, thank you very much.

A few weeks ago, the contractor working our Maine house emailed pictures of the snow storm. He said the house looked like a frosted cake.

No kidding!