Monday, March 10, 2014

Maryism: a strange and unusual happenstance, or a normal life event strangely told?

We all have our quirks and idiosyncrasies.  They are part of us, and we often don't even realize that a certain behavior or mannerism is part of us.  But others notice.  And with us or without us but in the company of mutual friends (or enemies, I suppose) these idiosyncrasies are pulled up enjoyed anew.  Imagine for instance former students at a class reunion endearingly imitating the voice and mannerisms of some childhood teacher. 

Some people have a knack for noticing and quantifying the mannerisms of others.  And they can be quite entertaining when their mimicking abilities are showcased.  Others of us remain the brunt of the imitations and so must learn to laugh along.

I've written before about how my friend, Lisa, and others of my friends from my young adult years think I'm prone to having very strange things happen to me.  I argue that I simply re-tell and appreciate normal things in a funny manner so that life is more laughable.  And probably it's some combination of the two.

Now combine the above thoughts to get to the point of this post.  None of us really notice our own idiosyncrasies as much as others do.  And my friends find certain of my life stories as being typically "Mary" stories.

Last time I wrote, I posted a photo and a story about how I didn't know the woman in the photo was me.  To me, it was just kind of a funny story.  But to my friends, it was apparently one of those Mary-isms. 

My friend Kristi wrote on my facebook,
I think the not-so-old not-so-gray Mar IS what she used to be!
"Hmmm," thought I, "I suppose she means that I am so dingy.  But I could take it to mean I have always looked old."

That she was likely referring to my dinginess was verified when I heard from my friend, Lisa, via e-mail. 
Well, well, well. . . dear Mary.  People really don't change do they. Oh seriously, I laughed so hard at your picture confusion.  "That older lady."  Awesome."
And then she proceed to compare this story to a couple of my other oft-recalled Mary-isms
That story is like a combination of the "freaking out at whose strange hand was in your bed. . . oh, . .that's mine." story and the "who's attacking me in the middle of this street. ..oh that's my purse." story. "

When I posted the above quote for Kristi, since I knew it would make her laugh, she replied
"Please, don't EVER change. We love you so much just the way you are.
After which Joe recalled another of my crazy stories,  
Don't forget being attacked by a piece of hamburger. I thought she was going to crash the car.
And I laughed too at this interchange.  More for the fact that my friends think of such things as Mary-isms. 

And it reminded me of a story from my young adult years that I don't think I've ever written about. 

The first year Joe and I lived in Mankato, we met some friends from our Madison days for a winter retreat that the campus ministry in Madison was sponsoring.  Since not everyone knew each other at this occasion, the planners started the event with a mixer. 
(When I told Elsie this story a year or so ago, she was a bit confused and informed me that people don't do mixers anymore.  She laughed more at my use of such a word than she did at my story.  So for those of you who don't know what a mixer is, it's a little game or activity designed so that unacquainted people at a social function to visit and get to know each other a little bit.  

The mixer at the retreat was some sort of match the person with their story activity.  We all had to write something about ourselves that nobody else was likely to know.  These stories or factoids were then mixed up and distributed, one story to each attendee.  The challenge for each of us was, by visiting with the individuals in the assembly, to match the story we had been given with the person who wrote it.

OK, my first difficulty was to find a story that neither my handful of best friends who were at the retreat, nor my husband of three years, would know.  I mean, really, these people knew EVERYTHING about me. 

So I dug.  I stretched my imagination way back in my history.  And I drew out and shook off a little phobia of my childhood. 
I knew for a fact that I'd never told any of my friends about this, because it was so strange.  And kind of embarrassing.  And trivial.
I didn't ever clip my little toe nails.  I was always afraid that there was so little holding them on that I'd rip one off it I tried to clip it.  I don't know what ever happened to these pinky toenails.  Whether they simply wore off.  Or eventually tore off.  Or what.  But I went years without clipping my "pinky" toenails.
And that's what I wrote.  Almost in the same words as I wrote above. 

I was glad to have my life factoid chosen and written.  I was probably the last one done.  But after the stories were mixed up and handed out, I eagerly began to mix and mingle in the crowd to find the person whose story I had been assigned. 

Suddenly, from across the room, I hear this cackle of amusement.  One of those bursts of laughter that just explode out of a person.  Someone had approached one of my girlfriends with my "Mary story", and that girlfriend  KNEW!  INSTANTLY!  She knew it was me. 

And so it went.  Each of my girlfriends would read this story that this other attendee was passing around and crack up at the silliness of it, and the typical Mary-ness of it.  Pretty soon this dumb story of mine had kind of taken over the event.

But again, the funniest part of it was that they could tell simply from my retelling.  "Who else would ramble on like that, Mary, telling us all about how you don't know what happened to those toe nails?  You couldn't simply say, 'When I was young I was scared to clip my pinky toe nails.'  Then we wouldn't have known who wrote it.  But you!  You had to make a big story of it.  You can't even tell a story without being Mary."
But as I think about it, this particular incident gives more credence to my assertion that my retelling is what makes otherwise mundane life stories  into Mary-isms, more than that my life consists of one strange and unusual occurrence after another.


That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

I love you, my girlfriends and my husband.  You know who you are.  Thanks for teaching me and reteaching me how to laugh.

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