Episode 45 of The Real Life Survival Guide took place at The Annie Mame Boutique at Venetucci Home in Westbrook and just like the one of a kind decorating and gift items found there, the conversations focused on each of us as unique individuals. The vintage dolls lining the store’s shelves might be rare and singular, but they just get to sit there and stare off into space while we have to figure out who we really are and scratch out a few square feet for our own personal space. And even though we are all individuals, we still have to navigate a world filled with others; some call them, “people.” This means raising kids, keeping them safe, instilling a healthy sense of self and if you want to keep the people you know happy, you sometimes have to buy them things. Sadly, another part of being a wonderful and unique person is having to associate with, and be nice to some of the not so wonderful people who inhabit your world. So browse around this episode, pick out something nice for yourself but remember; if you break it, you bought it!
The first topic for conversation was, “How do you create a personal space for yourself in your home? Tony Venetucci said, “It’s all about comfort.” He explained how people have downsized and moved away from cavernous McMansions for smaller, more “comfortable and human scale” houses. Eileen Kaplan has a den that she calls her “Cave” which she created as a refuge when she was recovering from breast cancer surgery. So if you want to find her she’s, “wrapped up like a cigar” on the couch in her cave. Ann Nyberg saw the move to more intimate spaces as a reaction to 9/11 and the recession. She says, “People started to nest” and that they figured out that happiness lies more in relationships than in big houses and accumulating unnecessary stuff. Francine Piscitelli uses her bedroom to get away from it all; she can read, write and watch TV while Bruce wants a bat cave to hang upside down in. I have a personal space to get away to, I call it, “going out to buy milk” but it’s really called, “Lenny’s” and its got two dollar domestic drafts, nice.
The next topic brought us into the world of Socrates and his maxim, “Know thyself.” The question was, “How do you make an honest assessment of yourselves and others? To help answer this, Bruce brought up the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment, which, according to Wikipedia …”is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions”. Bruce divulged that his Myers-Briggs evaluation labeled him, ENFJ or Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Judging. My test indicated that I was, FUBAR (if you don’t know what that means, it’s Army slang, Google it.) When it comes to knowing others Ann said that she goes with her intuition while Eileen senses negative karma and since her illness finds it important to avoid negative people. Tony made the point that as we grow older our tolerance for what we don’t like is greatly diminished. Adding to what Tony said, Duo pointed out that with age he has become better at understanding the “clue words” that people use on job sites that indicate what they really want. I’ve notice with increasing age I tell kids to get off my lawn more often.
During the “Know thyself” segment, Duo pointed out that in Brazil women are judged almost solely on a “booty” scale. With this sort of body judgment in mind, Bruce asked the question, “How do you communicate a healthy body image to your children?” Francine, whose daughter is Miss Connecticut USA, said that she stressed with her children the need for inner beauty, Eileen said that there are much more important things than beauty and Duo thinks exposing kids to sports, music and other activities will make them less obsessed with body image. I told my children that their red hair is beautiful but that the world is a cruel place for ginger kids and that’s why I make them wear Moe from the Three Stooges wigs every day.
The conversation then turned to the question, “How do you deal with a friends’ spouse or significant other that you don’t get along with? The group pretty much agreed that if a wife hates her husband’s friend’s wife, the best answer is avoidance. There will be no double dates or dinner parties, but what do you do when your spouse hates a member of your family? Again, the group came to a unanimous conclusion; they have to suck it up, go to the family function and just deal with it. My wife hasn’t had dinner with her friends in twenty years. Is it me?
In the end, what did everyone learn? What was the episode all about? Eileen said it was about being an “Open person.” Tony said, “surround yourself with people you like and respect…you don’t know how long you’re at the party so enjoy yourself.” Ann said, “It’s about the art of conversation.” Francine found the show to be about taking time away from the world and finding your “happy place.” Duo said the episode was about time and the wisdom that comes with its passing and the relationships that its fleeting nature makes us appreciate all the more. Then he broke open a 40oz bottle of eloquence with the summation that, “Time… distills who you are; it is a crucible of your emotional core that allows you to reach out”.
What did I learn? I learned my authentic self needs a lot of help in every possible way and that if I want to speechify all purty like Duo does, then someone better help me Cyrano de Bergerac style by quoting Robert Frost and Thoreau through an earpiece until the day I die. Until then, I write stuff on the blog for show.