New Thoughts On Old Words


It’s been an odd few days.  Here are some new thoughts on old words.


Ironing.  My favorite Aunt Mary is all crippled up from her diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis and numerous other ailments.  She barely leaves the house.  When I called yesterday and asked what she was doing, she said, “I’ve been ironing all afternoon!”  When I asked why she needed to iron anything anymore she was taken aback.  “Because when it comes out of the dryer it’s all wrinkled!” and then continued to explain the importance of proper attire and doing one’s hair, regardless of whether or not you’re leaving the house. (I listened, and agreed, having not showered in 2 days.)  Ironing is important.  So is taking a shower.

Afghanistan.  A friend just returned to the U.S. after a long deployment to Afghanistan. We spent the better part of a day discussing the culture there, and the Pashtuns, and how the men take prepubescent boys as lovers but don’t consider it pedophilia or homosexuality. It is out in the open. It is accepted.  It is a sign of prominence and power and wealth.  These same men show up at American clinics and ask for instructions on how to impregnate their wives, and when told how to do it they are sickened. Women are so very filthy.  (you can read more about this here)  Of all the things I’ve worried about during these last few years about the war there, this wasn’t on the list.

Journal.  Let’s say your mother keeps a journal.  And let’s say she says, “I’m leaving you all my journals, but you must promise me that you will not look at them until after I’m gone.”  When she dies one week later, you find that all of her journals (shelves of them!) are blank.  Is it just me, or does this seem particularly cruel?  Yet from this blankness, Terry Tempest Williams has written an entire book … about voice.

Not Speaking.  Most of my family members do not speak and are often said to “not be speaking.”  In the past week, however, we’ve had a family crisis and the emailing and text messaging and Facebooking (is that a word??) are all in high gear, and in the highest gear amongst those who continue to “not be speaking.” I’m pondering the rationality of this.  And in case you’re wondering, I’m right in there with them.

Guilty Pleasure.  Can you continue to call something a guilty pleasure if you feel zero guilt?

Book Club.  Is it still a book club if most people don’t read the book or discuss books?

Common Decency.  I’m trying Pilates (emphasis on “trying”).  The Pilates instructor told me that several women are wearing itty-bitty tennis skirts when they come in for one-on-one instruction.  At first I was sure she was kidding, but she said she’d had 4 women that very day with their hoohas hanging out and that this was …. well …. disturbing.  I admit I know very little about Pilates, but I do know that if you’re sweating and you’re upside down and someone is pulling on your legs, stretching them to and fro, you need to wear PANTS.  Spandex PANTS.  Common decency!  And seriously, how can you not know when your hooha is hanging out.


That’s all I’ve got for today.


28 thoughts on “New Thoughts On Old Words

  1. Jess

    Ironing. I used to do it because I’m cheap and did not want Tim to take the shirts to the cleaner. Then I went back to work and started writing in earnest. Now he takes the shirts to the cleaner and I pretend he doesn’t.

    Afghanistan. I’ve got nothing.

    Journal. Forget tearing down your childhood home, this is the story that needs to be written.

    Not speaking. My aunt – a very close friend, someone I had lived with and loved but who was too emotionally unstable to attend my wedding has not spoken to me since she did not receive an invitation. She claims she never told me that she would not come anyway because she did not want to ruin my day. Says she never said that…I’ve been married 16 years as of this week.

    Guilty pleasure. I taught my children that every weekend afternoon, quiet time is from 1-3(ish). Mom and Dad will nap, and you can do what you like, as long as it’s quiet. The phones are turned off. It’s lovely.

    Book club. I don’t want to be told what to read. I get all resentful and pissy.

    Common decency. I am a middle school teacher, so I can’t wear anything even remotely revealing because the boys can’t think straight. This is not narcissistic or egotistical; I’m 42, and of average attractiveness, but boobs generally derail the boys, and if an outfit accents them, attention and learning goes out the window. I dress modestly out of self-preservation and in order to keep their attention. But in a good way.

    That’s all I’ve got for today.

    1. Teri Post author

      Thanks for a great laugh, Jess! And I can’t even imagine the complex thought process for a teacher (middle school or high school) of what’s “appropriate” attire. LIke there isn’t already plenty to think about, not the least of which is getting your own kids to the bus and not forgetting your lunch.

  2. Jess

    I’m putting up a new post inspired by your bookshelf post. Give me 20 minutes, then come on over to

  3. Tulasi-Priya

    Loved this post. I love how you took ordinary words and gave them a funny or sobering twist. Here’s my take on a few:

    Ironing: pressed clothes just feel better on your body. But that doesn’t mean I always bother.

    Afghanistan: Keeping young boys as sex slaves was also a common practice amongst the higher classes in ancient Greece. And all of Western culture is based on that?

    Book club: the only point of a club is to have fun. Don’t give it another thought.

    Common decency: When I’m exposed to much cleavage, I call it being “booby-trapped.”

    1. Teri Post author

      Booby-trapped! Dear lord, I love that. Apparently the women come to Pilates with those too — without bras and in slinky little tops. Ewwwwwww.

      If my husband ever saw me get out the iron and ironing board he’d think I’d fallen and hit my head.

      Afghanistan …. *sigh* It’s interesting how they don’t consider it homosexuality OR pedophilia.

  4. Tulasi-Priya

    ON second thought: I’ll reserve judgment on the Afghans (and the Greeks). Salacious facts are always exaggerated and repeated more than the whole story is, and it’s virtually impossible to get the whole story in the media. I doubt that the prevalence of boy sex slaves is any greater in Afghanistan than it is amongst the wealthy and powerful anywhere else. And I’ll count men who consume child porn in this country among the rapists, since it’s virtually a certainty that if they could get a child sex slave, they would.

  5. Princess Sisi

    Oh Teri, what a delightful mishmash of fun on this post. Can I hang out with your brain for a few hours? So much going on in there!

    Regarding the hoohas and Pilates. I’m a true believer in Pilates. Maybe it’s the Deutsche Frauen in me, but I love the regimen and making my body imitate a machine. Having your junk hanging out whilst performing a Teaser goes beyond bad form. If I were that instructor I would tell them no yoga pants, no service. (But I have to tell you, I quit going to a very well-regarded Pilates studio here in Portland due to the instructor’s habit of expelling particularly noxious gas. Given the choice of seeing her hooha or smelling her farts, I might prefer the former).

    1. Teri Post author

      No yoga pants? No service, sister! Ewwwww….

      P.S. For the first few weeks I worried that I’d have gas during class….. imagine!!!!

  6. Averil Dean

    My lovely little grandmother always cautions, You mustn’t let yourself go, dearie. Then she casts an eye over me, and usually ends up complimenting my toenails . . . the only part of me with polish.

    1. Teri Post author

      Aunt Mary believes in putting yourself together, even if it’s just to stay home and watch your soaps. She’s has standards.

    2. LauraMaylene

      As a person who never truly put herself together in the first place, the “don’t let yourself go” warning always makes me nervous.

  7. independentclause

    Wait, Terry Tempest Williams has a new book and NO ONE TOLD ME??? Thank you, Teri, it’s clear my bookstore-maven days, when I had read all the books before they were even officially published, are long past.

    And I love, love that you used the word “hooha.” Maybe you can answer another question for me: Is Missouri in the South or the Midwest (from a cultural, not a Civil War designation)?

    1. Teri Post author

      Missouri was the only state to be split during the war. The north and big cities were with the North, the rest with the South. They will all tell you they’re part of “The Midwest,” but those in the southern part of the state (where I’m from) consider themselves southerners through and through.

  8. macdougalstreetbaby

    “That’s all I’ve got for today.”
    That’s quite a lot, Madame!

    Speaking of ironing, one of the happiest times in my husband’s life was when he came home from work and saw me in the kitchen. I was barefoot, pregnant, and ironing his shirts. Thank god, life has gotten back to normal.

  9. Lyra

    I love the care your aunt takes with herself. I wonder where we’d be if we all took such care.
    And Facebook?? Uggh. I have my own family drama currently playing out and can only think that society suffers as a whole with this means of anti-communication. No wonder we can’t solve any real issues when we’re being defused as a culture through such nonsense. The level we stoop continues to be surpassed.

    1. Teri Post author

      It’s shocking to me how much pain she’s in, and yet she keeps herself looking like she’s heading out to a great party at any minute.

  10. LauraMaylene

    I never learned how to iron properly and I’d like it to stay that way. If my life depended on properly ironing a dress shirt, let’s just say I’m screwed.

    Facebook is hell on people who were/are estranged. Even if there’s a slight truce, but things still aren’t normal, why is it okay to act like everything is okay on Facebook? Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

    In a recent online interview, I was asked about my guilty pleasure authors. Maybe I’m all Pollyanna but I don’t think any books should be a guilty pleasure. So no, if you’re not feeling guilty, then it’s simply a pleasure.

    The blank journals break my heart. It reminds me of the elderly blind woman who wrote a book and didn’t know her pen was out of ink. They managed to reproduce it using the impressions her pen made on the paper. I don’t know where I read this. Probably got the link from one of your blogs. I am totally that confused old lady repeated the same stories over and over — including the stories that are really yours.

    No, a book club is not a book club if the book is neither read nor discussed. I’ve been there. It’s called a jello-shot party and should simply be embraced for what it is.

    And finally, these women obviously want their hoo-has to be out and about. Some of us fulfill our need for attention through blogs or “risky” new hairstyles or relationships that go up in flames. Others wear tennis skirts to pilates class and make a spectacle of their hoo-has. Thank god I’m not a pilates instructor. (And pilates students everywhere wholeheartedly agree.)

    1. Teri Post author

      I can iron. I can also unload the dishwasher, but I don’t do that either.

      Even my stepparents send text messages. It’s alarming. My stepfather sends his texts in ALL CAPS. And Facebook has just about lost any and all charm. It’s giving me the icks.

      The blank journals: I’m having a hard time getting past the cruelty of them. I’m also, to be honest, having a hard time with the premise of the book. As much as I adore TTW, I can’t help thinking that only a famous person could get such a book published.

      I think it’s the “club” part of book club that’s actually bothering me. Plus, like Jess said above, I hate to be told what to read, like it’s an assignment.

      Oh, the hoohas of Pilates. I think the instructor should put a sign on the door: “This is not a tennis court!” But she’s nicer than me.

  11. Downith

    Oh Teri, I’m chuckling away at this post. So much going on here.

    I took Pilates classes for three years after a back injury. Durign that entire time frame, I saw no hoohaas.Who knew I had to be grateful for that? I remember when we used to worry about VPL, not VHH… (do I sound old there? Do I?)

    Re guilty pleasures – I will get back to you once I have reached the karmic state of feeling no guilt whatsoever .What’s that like for you?

    1. Teri Post author

      VHH. Hahaha. And the tennis skirts are so very very small now. Ewwwww….

      This week I was watching Dancing with the Stars and The Housewives of Orange County, and thinking I don’t feel the least bit guilty. I’m tired. They’re there, entertaining me. What’s there to be ashamed of?

  12. lisahgolden

    This post itself is inspired. From ironing to Pilates flashing.

    One recommendation, never iron with your hoohah hanging out. Don’t ask how I know.

    P.S. The whole family not speaking thing? I believe we covered this over dinner so I tickled to see it addressed here. And for the record, my father and his sister still aren’t speaking.

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