“Mom & Dad, you raised me too smart.” That e-mail this week from Kid got our attention. Was it like Bill Gates’ off-spring complaining that their inheritance was too large? No, our daughter was simply discovering ONE of her “cross-eyed bears”.
Kid wrote: ….sometimes I think of really good references in situations but I can’t say them because I know that no one would understand them.
Case in point: Molly has been tweeting about how annoyed she is that they haven’t plowed her Kansas City street yet but then she just tweeted this: “I take it all back! A plow went through our neighborhood 10 minutes after I called the Public Works Dept. I did it! Power to the people!”
I wanted to say ‘Well aren’t you just a regular Norma Rae”, but I knew no one would understand because no 22 year old makes that reference. This also happens anytime I refer to a decision as being like Sophie’s Choice…..
I replied: My dear, you have just met ‘a cross-eyed bear’ with whom you will spend the rest of your life. (NOTE: “cross-eyed bear” = cross I bear …. duh!)
1,000s of adults read my columns – average age estimate 50+. With any given column MAYBE 25% get my obtuse / obscure cultural analogies. Those 25% love them. The other 75% crinkle their brows and say “huh?” Readers ebb and flow in/out of that 25%. Those who have seen the movies Roadhouse and Lonesome Dove tend to score higher on average.
I’m sure Dennis Miller deals with the same issue.
Remember that poem I gave you a few years ago about “songs, poems and paintings …. because they makes me happy”. Keep tossing in cultural similes to accessorize your conversation so long as “they make you happy”.
It will always be easy to fool others into thinking you are dull. It is much more difficult to try and fool them that you are sharp.
Along Life’s road you will meet the occasional wayfaring stranger with a wink and a knowing nod. Such wayfarers will also have “a cross-eyed bear”. An obscure simile could be the secret password that will bond you with a special friend.
In retail marketing, the merchant must communicate clearly with his customers. Otherwise he has a warehouse of unsold goods. That’s not your dilemma. If you REALLY want to bumfuzzle people sprinkle in Greek / Roman / Norse mythology. YeeeeHaa …..
For the 18 or so years that Kid was under our roof, we always had our cultural, literary and cinema AK-47 on rapid fire. I never purposely lost a round of Jeopardy to her. Much to her frustration. Hellfire, I use obscure references when I’m talking to Annabelle The Cat who is also quite a fan of Lonesome Dove.
Coincidentally, I met recently with my publisher concerning my next book scheduled for release this summer. I will be working with a new editor who is in her mid 20s. She gave me a blank stare when I mentioned Cliff Claven ….. uh oh. The same look Kid gave me over Christmas when we were discussing the original True Grit movie and one of its co-stars – Glen Campbell. No clue …. ouch.
Amanda (my editor) not knowing Cliff Claven was OK. My target market is not mid-20s young ladies with minors in linguistics. Good thing, huh. We agreed that I would be the judge of how obtuse I want to go with my obscurities. A reference to Cliff with the word “Cheers” in close proximity would solve the quandary for most readers.
Loyal readers such as Prince Albert who have never seen Godfather, Animal House or Caddyshack do present a special challenge.
I could not stop using my obscure references any more than I could get paranoid about my special spellings of certain words. Over ten+ years I figure I’ve run off the puckered butts who get uptight about such stuff.
I did admonish Kid about the phrase “too smart”. That is waaay too faux-intellectual for my taste. I prefer to say we just raised her “in a certain way” …. her and her cross-eyed bear.
I once wrote a song
that no one sang’
I once wrote a poem
that no one read,
I once painted a picture
that no one saw,
and I wondered ….
why did I do these things?
then one day
I sang my song
and I read my poem
and I saw my picture
and I knew why
and I was happy.