Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Artisanal Excuses



"Artisanal: pertaining to or noting a distinctive and classic art or product made in small quantities, usually by hand and using traditional methods."

When I was a freshman in college, I met a nice-looking senior on the quad. Actually, he was the friend of my former boyfriend, once removed. We shared an hour-long conversation. We made out, a little. When he told me he'd been accepted at the U of I School for Dentistry, my first thought was, yuck. My second was, I don't care, you're really cute. Or maybe I have that order reversed. In any case, we mainly talked about foreign films. Wrapping up the conversation, he mounted his bike and asked for my number, which I wrote on a sheet of notebook paper.

He never called. Which was fine; I had three dates a day, we all did, and somehow squeezed in a class now and then, if there was nothing better on offer. We fell in and out of interest or infatuation in less time than it took to eat an Arby's.

A semester went by, and by chance, I ran into him at the library. He looked embarrassed and said, "Oh hi, I meant to call, but my dog ate my papers." The explanation was longer than that, something to do with having safeguarded my number between the pages of a textbook, in between chapters pertaining to the root canal and diseases of the gums, I suppose.

This was my first exposure to the Artisanal excuse. Something hand-crafted, clumsy and homely, certainly with a long proud history, probably practiced alone, then in company; refined, added to and subtracted from over the years. Based on tradition, yes, but improved with a personal twist.

"Give me a kiss," he said, "and tell me I'm forgiven."

And I thought, fuck you, Doctor Cavity, go suction someone else's spit.

The reason this sticks in my mind, resists the mental floss of sweet forgetfulness, is that recently an English professor friend of mine outlined some rules for new students, including, something to the effect of, "If you miss class, for god sake's, don't tell me that your grandmother died."

Well, I found this a complete shocker. You mean others have encroached on the grandmother excuse? My grandmother-excuse, which I've effectively trademarked? My poor grandmother, who fell on the sword more times than I ever made it to French class? My grandmother, the one who died before I was born? Damn these poachers. I invented the grandmother excuse. Molded, crafted it, year after year, spun it on the wheel, adding pigment here and there, bringing up the grain to a rich patina, worthy for all my future jobs.

Well, that's life, right? A narrow aspect for invention, and likely someone beat you to it.

I don't lie, much, but only because my lies have a very irritating habit of coming true. I'm not religious, don't believe in Karma -- and yet, if I call work and say my tire is flat, it will be flat, or the battery dead. If I say I'm sick, I get sick. On and on, my lies have proved unforgiving.

So I only hit on the already dead relatives. They've never complained. And now, usually, if there's some commitment I can't meet, I say, "*I just don't want to." It's a very unpopular response. On the upside, I'm healthy and my car starts.

30 comments:

  1. I read this because I thought it was going to be about hand crafted cheese or bread. Don't you like how everything is "hand crafted" nowadays? Everything at McDonalds is hand crafted some way or other. Anyway, I've gotta run. Going to a party tonight for my Grandmother's Bar Mitzvah!

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  2. Grandmas get Bat Mitzvahs, Mr Earl. Sheesh! You must think we're really gullible.

    My go to beg-off is, "No, thanks, that doesn't interest me." I mean it sincerely and there's no rancor.

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  3. I can't say my dog's Bar Mitzvah because everyone knows my dog had his Bar Mitzvah years ago.

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  4. Three dates per day??? I went to the wrong college!!!

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  5. I feel so vindicated, because Grammy only died twice. Or thrice, if you count the time Mother penned a note to school, killed her when the family spent an extra week in the Bahamas.

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  6. Creative and effecting lying, excuse making, etc, is a craft that some people are really good at and others never master. I'm one who was never good at it.

    That must have been a fun college you went to...

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  7. I have to be honest and say that I do believe in karma..bringing up the already dead relatives cures that dilemma...sidebar: I will never forget what my mother said to me when my bro and spouse died ' don't u feel guilty for what u said'... meaning: she thought that the heated discussion i had w/bro played a part in his on duty encounter w/a sicko and the bad vibes I had at the time w/my spouse also playing a part w/his accident... my mother was very superstitious... anyway, I told her, I don't walk on eggshells, that the discussion and bad vibes had not a darn thing to do w/what happened to them... she was great w/giving/trying to give guilt to others.. I also shocked her when I told her I had no regrets with whatever I said or did in life. And yes, honesty works for me all the time...

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  8. I was on a jury a while back where a woman was charge with making death threats against her ex's family. She went on a long rant, which he captured on tape, naming off all his relatives she was going to kill. Only problem was, at least half of them were dead.

    I think your English professor friend should at least allow for the possibility that grandmothers actually do die. But he should definitely require a death certificate.

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  9. You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to fool PJ, Earl.

    Chieftess, forget U of Santa Barbara, in my experience, the biggest party schools are in the midwest. Or, I should say were.

    Pat, like I said, when I lie, something usually goes wrong.

    That's a healthy attitude, KBF.

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  10. I'm with you on the fibbing. If I say I'm sick when I'm not, I inevitably get sick. Must be a guilt thing.

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  11. @K: Glad u think its a healthy attitude.. my mother was appalled.. she was the queen of guilt..no wonder she had such low self esteem issues..sadly, she tried putting them on me..

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  12. I do believe that when my 3 oldest sons were in high school, Grandma Skaarsgaard died at least 17 times, once from an igloo collapse. She was our connection back to the homeland of Greenland, you see. My maiden name gives us credibility on that issue. Once, when he slept through a math exam in his first semester, my second son pleaded having been in Scranton for his mother's birthday, because his mother was depressed that her first son had left for college. (It was my birthday.)

    The Wall Street Journal had an op-ed recently, written by a professor, who was advising students not to tell their dear Grannies about their grades, because it was his experience that 17% of kids who were struggling in his class had grandmothers who died during the semester, presumably due to their stress over their little darlings' difficulties in college. I cut the article out and mailed it to my college professor son.

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  13. That is brilliant. (And you know, I've never met an igloo I could trust.)

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  14. Good thing you don't lie, Karin. Your nose looks just fine as it is, longer would look funny.

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  15. What is it about grandmother's funerals? My 4 male cousins took the day off work to attend theirs, but as she'd requested a simple cremation with no-one there (because she was bitter about no-one bothering to come see her in her later years), there was nothing for them to go to. Still, they felt cheated out of a day off work and lied. No artisanal excuses from me - I don't want to tempt fate.

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  16. Thank you for making me laugh and entertaining me while I waited in the hot sun for the bus.

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  17. Karin, I'm with you. To say "I just don't want to" is much more simple for sure!

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  18. Now Bellis has me wondering -- why did I never say "My grandfather died." He was just as dead as my grandmother. Deader, even; longer, anyway. Does this mean the death of a grandfather is afforded less sympathy than the death of a grandmother? And that when a grandfather dies, the grandchildren rarely attend the funeral, but instead beg off, claiming they're cramming for midterms?

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  19. Girl, you are a tough one.
    Hey, you might have married a Dentist. An asshole but a doc. Teeth done for free? I agree though. Forgetaboughthim!

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  20. The problem with artisanal excuses is that they take too much time and effort. But "Artisanal Excuses" -- Ha! Love that term!

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  21. Just keep it vague. Or change the subject entirely. Or lapse into Italian.

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  22. "I'm sorry, I can't make it." Nobody ever asks me why.

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  23. Your Altadena NeighborSeptember 28, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    Hah! I hope I never become a grandmother because it sounds very painful.

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  24. I wish I could pull this off! I have never been able to lie on my own behalf so I don't even try. I can tell a convincing fib if it's for a good cause, like a surprise that will make someone's day. For the sake of my sanity I have learned to say "No thank you" when invited to do something for which I have neither the interest or inclination. Sometimes I have bonafide alternate plans, and sometimes I have nothing planned and want to keep it that way.

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  25. "Oh I wish I could, but I don't want to." One of the many important lines that I learned throughout my years of watching Friends.

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  26. Karma is a krock. Shit Happens. Like "artisanal"

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  27. Sharon, I'm rather smitten with Kaori's wording. It's subtle. Kenny Mac, on the other hand, favors the blunt.

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  28. Hysterical. How'd I miss this?
    I think in one of Isak Dinesen's stories the sisters only tell lies as excuses of events that couldn't ever happen--precisely not to tempt fate.

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