Emotionally Repressed Party Chatter

I’ve often been called uptight. I would tend to agree. I understand uptight people in movies. Everyone else thinks they’re the villain, emotionally rigid, or deranged. They just seem sensible to me. This comes, no doubt from a long line of, as Noreen calls them, “Uptight white people.” There are times, however, when the uptight problem turns into a self-abuse spiral. When I go to a speaking engagement, party, or conference, I spend the following day pondering what I may have done that was offensive. I typically have two primary offenses (there are probably many more, but I can only manage two).

First, I meet people who I have met before, but don’t recall them. I’m always careful to introduce myself, even if I’ve just been onstage, and say something such as, “It’s nice to see you, I’m Sean,” or “I’m so glad you’re here tonight.” Most people go with the flow and manage a pleasant conversation. Of course, once in awhile somebody challenges me, “You don’t know who I am, do you?” I know I’ve offended them, but the problem isn’t that they aren’t important, it’s that I can’t remember my own family member’s names.

My other problem is turning my back on somebody. I’ll be carrying on a conversation, and in the middle be interrupted by someone else, usually by yanking on my collar. I’ll turn to acknowledge them, and then, the other party feels that I have simply become bored and turned away. Once again, it’s a brain problem. I have a true talent for deep focus on one subject, but I can’t juggle more than one conversation. So, if I have turned my back on you, it is a reflection of my growing senility, not your company.

I was taught a few simple rules by my grandmother who seemed to live only to practice correct manners.

1. No one ever wants to hear, “I know your face, but who are you?” If you can’t recall someone, the best approach is to say something harmless, “That is a really fantastic tie.” Hopefully, he or she will say something to trigger your memory.

2. Alternatively, no one wants to be accused, “You don’t remember me. Do you?” Instead, if you see someone out of context, or haven’t seen him or her for some time, provide some information, “Jane, it’s so good to see you. I’m Peter Meriwether. We met at Alice Thornton’s club.”

3. Never provide unsolicited advice. It is rarely if ever wanted, even by hyperactive attention seeking children.  It is one thing to lean in quietly and say, “Jack, you might want to check your trousers’ zipper.” This is helpful and a friend will always appreciate the heads up. It is quite another to say, “Thomas, your family may have been in politics for generations, but let me give you some tips on the correct way to campaign.” This type of advice only reads as bitter, condescending, and unpleasant, regardless of the intent.

4. When the conversation dips, these are three comments to move it along: “Tell me about your garden. I hear it’s incredible,” “Now, what brought you to Darien (or wherever you are),” and “Would you consider your taste to be traditional or contemporary?” These are all safe subjects and give a platform for conversation. “Did you know your hair is thinning?” is really wrong.

My Uptight White People

Car Trouble

Today is my birthday, so it seemed fitting to post something from the year of my birth, 1964. Yes, 1964 had the New York World’s Fair, Mary Poppins, LBJ’s landslide election, and the arrival of the Beatles at JFK. But more importantly, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte was released. This was a follow-up to the hugely successful Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Bette Davis plays an aged southern debutante who is nuts. Olivia de Havilland is her kind and gentle cousin who has come to care for her. After de Havilland throws the back-woods maid, Agnes Moorehead, down the stairs. It becomes clear she’s not so gentle.

Charlotte is great to watch if you need tips on life. If the maid is to annoying, shove her down the stairs. If you are driving and your passenger won’t stop yammering, pull over and smack them senseless. I won’t ruin the rest of the film, but there are many other great suggestions including how to use an ax properly, what to do with heavy planters on the balcony, and how to dress after driving a relative insane.

 

Happy, Happy, Golly Gee, Glad Game

My friends and family are typically in awe of me. Every so often, someone approaches me and says, “You’re the nicest designer in the business.” Or a friend may read something that says that I’m the eternal optimist, always doing good for the industry. They aren’t in awe because they are impressed. As I’ve been told at family dinners, “Really? Really? People actually think you’re nice? That’s unbelievable.”

Yes, there is a side of me that tries to play the “Glad Game” from Polyanna, but I’m not a blithering idiot. I don’t walk around the world with a smile on my face and only good in my heart. I admit it here. I can be cranky. I sometimes like off-color jokes. I have a twisted sense of humor. At last year’s Academy Awards there was a salute to horror films. When a gruesome and violent scene from Halloween was played, I laughed. When Bette Davis was kicking Joan Crawford, as she lay helpless on the ground in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, I laughed. Unfortunately, I was the only person laughing. Angry glances were sent my way from others in the audience.

Therefore, it is logical that I love, love, love the title cards for Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time. One of the absolute smartest people in the world is Fred Seibert. Yesterday, Fred sent me his new book, Original Cartoon Title Cards: From Frederator Studios (Volume 1). There are too many fantastic images to share at once, so I am starting with the Adventure Time cards. How can you not love the sad evicted characters lost in the cold, the disemboweling of a cartoon character, or the aftermath of an angry tantrum? Disturbing and wrong, yes. Genius.