Monday, November 24, 2014

Patriotism and Partial Nudity

             As a young man I excelled at managing the resources of others.  My downfall seemed to be my inability to manage my own.  As an adult I have definitely sharpened my skills; however, some lessons were hard to come by.  I would love to tell you that I was one of the noble poor, those who possess the gift of delayed gratification; those who, when given resources, use them wisely.  Full disclosure, I was of the less than noble poor; those who want so desperately to have things that when given access to anything, use them as if they were commonplace.  I considered my lack of royal birth as ample delay in any sort of gratification.  I say this to give the backstory for a time when I was publicly humiliated by a fashion choice made without good use of limited funds.  I am referring to the incident at Opryland, bastion of family values, overpriced soda and country music. 
                I was a trumpeter in the band from fifth grade until my sophomore year in college.  A band nerd to be sure; however, trumpet players are the studs of the band, if you will.  It is the only time I thought I was a stud; let me have this one, people.  Our high school band (Tylertown, MS) was an exceptionally talented group of people and we had been invited to compete in the Strawberry Festival and Parade in Humboldt, Tennessee.  In order pay for this trip we had to panhandle.  And by that I mean sell magazine subscriptions and candy bars to the townspeople or county folks as Tylertown was the only town in the county.  Each member had to sell a specific amount to pay for their trip and any money earned above that was returned to them for spending money on said trip.  I was a ‘champeen’ seller and paid for my trip plus received a refund in the triple digits so I was stoked, do you hear me?
                My parents had put back some money assuming, I imagine, that I would eat more Snickers than I sold.  When I told her of my bounty, my mother informed me that I could use those funds to buy a new outfit or two depending on the cost.  I was even more stoked; new clothes and a new place to wear them.  Look out Humboldt!
                If I were giving my 1987-self some advice, I would have said to buy khaki shorts and 2-3 polo style shirts to have more options and, seemingly, more clothes; good solid wardrobe staples.  Unfortunately the 16 year-old Dusty was all about a trend and poor choices were made, both in the immediacy and in retrospect.  My poor mother tried her best to nudge me in the right path, but what I chose I was amazing, y’all.  One outfit was purple, orange and black jam shorts with an orange scrub-style top.  Yes, like nurses wear.  It was a ‘thing’ back then in Southwest Mississippi.  The other outfit was a shorts and top set (don’t judge me) that was white with little light blue, pink and red nautical flags scattered both port and starboard. 
                So, fast forward to the really long bus trip where I don’t remember who I sat beside, I do recall that Angela Hall reclined her seat into my space.  Of course I said nothing as I am too polite and she could have easily bested me at fisticuffs, were they to ensue.  We arrived, competed in the marching festival, lost the grand prize by one-half a point and headed to Opryland to get as crazy as you can get at a family-oriented theme park with eleventy-seven chaperones and a band director who was suspicious of you because of your “smart mouth”.  Of course, in those days ‘crazy’ to me meant eating two corn dogs and not feeling guilty.  I was not a wild child, people.  All the insanity came in one 18-month period when I was 25ish.
                Feeling all nautical, I had decided to christen Opryland in my white outfit.  I was standing near one of the rides chatting with my peeps, as I do not ride rides lest I barf in public, when a strange girl (and I mean strange in the sense that I didn’t know her, not due to any outward abnormalities) walked up behind me and said, “Nice underwear.”  Before I could stop myself I said, “Thanks” because I will take any compliment offered.  When I looked down to see why she would have mentioned my unmentionables, I noticed for the first time that day that you could, in fact, see the light blue tightie-whities (tightie-bluies?) I was wearing.  How no one in my group had noticed or pointed out the fact that you could see right through my ensemble I do not know.  I realize that my body does not inspire anyone to compose poetry or take chisel to stone but c’mon, these were supposed to be my friends; my fellow band nerds.  In response, I did the only honorable thing which was hastily untuck my shirt, flee the scene to seek solace in yet another corn dog and pray for sweet death to take me.
                Although I sweated enough for 17 people in the summer heat, I did not perish beneath the awning of the corn dog stand.  One of my roommates did, however, lend me his Walkman and cassette single of Shirley Murdock’s “As We Lay” to ease my humiliation.  These items had been purchased the day before at Sam Goody because Clark Sauls was rich, y’all; richer than me, at least.  Side note, Mr. Sauls was also the best-dressed boy at my school.  He had actually bought not just a cassette single but two additional entire cassettes!  I had to tape songs from the radio to have anything to listen to in my mother’s car and that was only while using the 8-track/cassette adapter we bought at the truck stop on double-clearance sale because nobody had a car old enough to still have an 8-track tape player except somebody's Pee-paw and apparently he already had one.
             The next day, we visited the Opryland Hotel and I was determined to not only mitigate the exposure from the previous day, but to ensure mass amnesia.  I didn’t know how, but “Entertainment Dusty” was going to need to make an appearance.  Entertainment Dusty was my alter-ego who did a one-man show whenever he needed to feel loved, was caught in an embarrassing situation, felt uncomfortable, felt at a disadvantage socially or simply wanted to hear someone laugh.  Generating laughter is my super power and something that makes me smile on the inside.
             We were trying to figure out how to enjoy hanging out in a hotel where we weren’t actually staying and I decided to give a tour as I suddenly remembered tour guides walk backwards.  This would solve the problem of possible exposure if, for some strange reason, my orange, purple and black jam shorts somehow became see-through.  Having never been to the Opryland Hotel, but very skilled at simply making things up on the fly, I started to point out the many details of the hotel’s d├ęcor. 
                “And we’re walking, we’re walking, please note the lovely mural to your right.  It was not painted here, unlike most murals.  It was actually imported from Uruguay and Canada at the same time, by the same artist.  Yes, that’s unusual and no, I don’t know why.  What can I say, artists are finicky.  And we’re walking, we’re walking, also note the decorative sconces that are supposed to invoke a sense of patriotism through their intricate curlicues.  They were imported all the way from Dunwoody, Georgia.  Imported means ‘not from here’.  Georgia is not Tennessee.  And we’re walking.” 
                After a half-hour or so, we came to a ballroom and I got distracted watching the staff decorate for a function.  Suddenly an elderly voice said, “Is the tour over?”  It was only then that I noticed there were 8-10 older people walking along at the back of our group who had mistaken me for an actual tour guide.  So I did what any self-respecting fake tour guide would do; I finished the tour and dropped them off in the lobby just in time to catch their bus.  I can’t disappoint my public, can I?
                And that is all I’m saying for now.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pink Shirts, Black Hearts, White Souls

                When I was growing up we had two sets of clothes; school and church and never the twain met.  That is until the fateful night we attended the Jay Strack Youth Revival in Paris, Texas.  We were going to listen to Brother Strack talk about Jesus on a personal level specifically for the teens.  It was to be at the football field of Paris Junior College where we would, just a year later, watch Kerry Von Erich wrestle.  It was also where, two years later, I would take Driver’s Ed with a teacher who taught me very important and specific skills like how to maneuver the Braum’s drive-thru and how to independently practice parallel parking at the post office while he was inside mailing things for his wife.

                I was unsure what led me to do it but I was feeling a bit rakish when I decided to pair my only-for-Sunday-school pink oxford button down with my Wrangler jeans.  I also used the only-for-Sunday-school belt that had come with my only-for-Sunday-school light gray dress pants; a striped number with shades of gray, blue, pink and white.  I still wore my grey fake ostrich boots as these were the only other shoes I had save for those shoes that, while called tennis, were never used for such an activity.

                To say this caused quite a scandal is to overstate it in respect to the adults.  I don’t remember anyone noticing much of anything, but the siblings and cousins who were near my age were shocked and thought I was straight running crazy.  Especially since I had taken the belt and for some reason turned it around to where the buckle was in the back; thinking, I suppose, it looked cooler.  I have since seen that in a number of magazines and fashion shows, but I can assure you I invented that look in 19 and 83, people.  Seeing as how the only magazine I was privy to at that time was the Bogata Baptist Church Sunday Bulletin, I feel sure I didn’t copy that look.  It must have been divinely inspired. 

                I can tell you I received quite a number of looks when we presented to the stands to take our seats.  I feel pretty sure it was my outfit and not the fact that there were so many people disembarking from one vehicle.  My mother, brother, sister, two aunts, five cousins, a grandmother and I all fit in the Chevy Suburban back in the days when seat belts were unused and as many children as could fit would be stacked in the “back end”.

                During the sermon, I felt a tug at my heart.  Jesus was calling, y’all, and I was determined to answer.  During the call to prayer, I began to stand to move down the bleachers toward the prayer leaders when my sister grabbed me by my fashion-forward belt buckle (you remember it was in the back just above the Wrangler patch) and wouldn’t let go.  I quietly asked her to stop pulling on me as I was simply heeding the call of Jesus, as sinners should.  She told me to sit down as I was not leaving her sitting by herself on the row; we were behind the adults as this was not our first rodeo, both literally and metaphorically.  One cannot be thumped in the back of the head for whispering or giggling or doodling (not that we did those things) if the thumpers were in front of the intended thumpees.  No flies on us.

                Using all the strength I could muster while trying to walk sideways, I wrenched myself from the black-hearted grasp of my sister and fled down to where the prayer warriors were waiting to talk to those who felt Jesus calling.  Well, not so much fled as walked as quickly as you can in cowboy boots on metal bleachers without disturbing anyone in communication with the Lord.  Baptists have been led to believe that while Jesus is both omnipotent and omnipresent, He is apparently hard of hearing as we don’t make a peep in church, y’all.  Not a peep.  We leave all that hollerin’ and whatnot to the others, which is everybody else from Methodists on down.  To clarify, hollerin’ means any noise outside of the one Deacon who is allowed to say “Amen!” but only at the appropriate time in the sermon, which I assume had been agreed upon prior to Sunday morning.  I always imagined that Deacon and the Preacher practiced on Saturday nights.  And I only refer to color of my sister’s heart as I had been taught in Sunday School that your heart is “black with sin” prior to giving your life to Christ; after that you heart and soul are as white as snow.  I had to assume my sister was in the throes of the devil himself to try to stop me from meeting Jesus down front, which is what we call the altar.

                Once I made it down front, I remembered that I had already been saved in the 4th grade after watching the movie “Like a Thief in the Night” at Parkview Baptist Church in Tallulah, Louisiana.  With that revelation, I simply re-dedicated my life to Him and after a number of teary-eyed hugs, much like a sorority girl on bid day, I made my way back to my family.  They were gathered around my little brother who was upset.  Apparently he had also felt led, at whatever tender age you are in third grade, to follow me down front.  However, he had been unable to break my sister’s grasp and was therefore resigned to an eternity in hell so my sister wouldn’t have to sit alone on a row that contained at least a dozen other souls, but none she "knew". 

                My mother assured my brother he would not perish eternally and scolded my sister who did not feel led to apologize.  While that was happening, my grandmother, Mama Dot, noticed my outfit and said, “Look here, son, you’ve prayed so hard you turned your belt around!” and proceeded to move it to where the buckle was in the front.  Then she gave me little side hug and we piled back into the Suburban.  What could I do?  Back then angst cost money and I was broke, plus I loved my Mama Dot to Reese’s Pieces, so I left the buckle where it was and decided to focus on more pressing matters.  I had to figure out how to save my sister's soul.  I looked over at her, sitting in the middle seat sulking and eyeing me condescendingly, her black heart beating away as if it was as pure and white as mine.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The only cell phone in the 80s was Jesus

                I have always have been linear, in thought and design preference.  As a child, I loved coloring inside the lines, even making the lines darker to establish a better contrast.  I loved wearing stripes but only in the proper direction, which is vertical.  Horizontal lines on anyone but a stick figure add pounds and nobody needs that, least of all me.
                One particular shirt that I loved had horizontal stripes.  That means I had to have been in sixth grade, the only time in childhood when I wasn’t chubby.  I distinctly remember this shirt had tan, red and white stripes of varying widths and I loved it, mostly because it was new.  New clothes were a rarity and this was Garanimals, y’all.  You know the kids clothes where you found corresponding tags to ensure the top and bottom matched; monkey to monkey; hippo to hippo; lion to lion.  This was my first exposure to color-coordination and from the love that I had for this shirt, I can assure you it was monkey or at least lion.  No hippos for this newly thin child.  No, sir.  We bought this directly from McRae’s in Battlefield Village over the bridge in Vicksburg, Mississippi.  My grandparents’ farm was literally beside the Mississippi River; almost not in Louisiana. 
              In my family you got clothes when school started, plus an outfit for Christmas and an outfit for Easter and that was it.  This must have been my Easter outfit as this particular memory was of a summer at my grandparent’s farm.  We spent every school holiday and summer on that farm from birth until my grandfather died and they moved to East Texas.  This must have been that last summer between fifth and sixth grade, as I had just started realizing that I wanted to look cute all the time, regardless of location or activity; at church, on a three-wheeler; in the back of a bean truck. This was a new thing for me.  Prior to this school year I wore whatever I was told and didn’t think anything about it.  But something had happened when I turned 11 that awoke the slumbering preppy inside me.
                I had been specifically forbidden to wear this shirt outside to play.  This was back in the day when children were awakened at dawn each morning, fed and hustled outside into the yard to ‘play’ until dark; dark-thirty if you were brave.  Then you were pulled back into the house, bathed, fed and put in bed.  Children were to be unseen and unheard, which was fine by me.  ‘Seen and heard’ children had to do all manner of unpleasant things associated with work.  Now, I don’t know what compelled me to put on the shirt because I knew I would get caught.  My mother had the first wireless communication system which was God tapping her on the shoulder and pointing out our misdeeds.  I don’t know how else to explain her omniscience.
                My sister had specifically requested my presence on a three-wheeler ride which was a rare treat indeed.  Shontyl, two years my senior, was not known for demonstrating affection for other children.  She treated us as if she were some benevolent dictator; acknowledging us from a distance until assistance was needed and then summoning us from her spot on the trampoline behind the butane tank.  That she specifically asked me to ride with her should have filled me with suspicion and foreboding but I was a stupidly trusting child.  The only thing that kept me from getting kidnapped is that kidnappers couldn’t have found my grandparent’s community, Alsatia, with a map, because it wasn’t on any maps that weren’t configured in crayon on  left-over construction paper from Vacation Bible School.  Alsatia consisted of a store, a church, a feed mill, an abandoned steam shovel and seven or eight farms with inhabitants who prayed for just enough, but not too much, rain.
                For some other unknown reason, also accompanying us on this sojourn was our cousin Dodi who couldn’t have been more than three or four at the time.  How she ended up on the back of the three-wheeler with us has been lost to the mists of time.
                Like every country family worth its salt, we had a daredevil among us and that was my cousin Jody.  Jody had many talents and habits, most of them death-defying.  I don’t know if it was due to his size (at the age of twelve he was 6’2” and wore a size 12 shoe) or lack of fear but I can report that by the age of nine he had flipped his mother’s car in the ditch and had somehow captured and killed a water moccasin which he threw onto the trampoline at my sister which was the only time she ever left her perch.  She summarily ran into the house screaming, “Jody’s not a Christian!” but his punishment didn’t slow him down one bit.
                His talents extended to three-wheeler driving tricks.  I still don’t understand the physics of this but he could drive full-speed down the road and make a 90 degree turn without slowing down; simply downshifting the gears in some way.  I must have seen him do this 300 times.  Apparently my sister was determined to show him up but I was unaware of this plan when I climbed onto the three-wheeler behind her, wearing the forbidden striped shirt.  It dawned on me that our lives were in danger as she failed to slow when we approached the corner of the cotton field nearest the ditch.  I very calmly screamed, “Slow down, you’ll kill us all!” She roared back, “I can do anything he can do!”  Whether she was referencing Evel Knievel or Jody, I wasn’t sure and it really didn’t matter.  All I knew was that I was about to die.  More importantly, I was about to get my favorite shirt muddy.  There had been a blessed rain and the ditch was full of muddy water, not to mention possibly snakes and typhoid and whatever else resides in water that is the color of asphalt due to the fertile deep-brown earth in Northeast Louisiana.
                Without any further communication, she commenced to down-shifting which did not go as planned.  She, I and the three-wheeler all headed to different parts of the ditch; I made contact half in and half out of the water.  Unfortunately, the half that was in the black dirt water was the half covered in the previously pristine Garanimal top.  Always good in a crisis, I had the wherewithal to throw Dodi clear of the water and Jesus very nicely helped her land without a scratch.  She proceeded to caterwaul as if she had just been thrown from a moving vehicle, which she had, and I leapt up to see what I could do, hoping that my Christian charity might reduce the punishment I was preparing to endure.
                My Aunt Perri had been walking between her and Mama Dot’s house with a baby bottle and had seen the wreck.  She screamed, threw the bottle over her shoulder and ran the eighth of a mile to where we were, followed by my Uncle Ronald, mother and, of course, Jody.  Aunt Perri immediately picked up Dodi, hugging and asking why she was crying.  Dodi’s response, “I lost my gum” was not met with what she believed to be an appropriate response so she continued to cry.  Uncle Ronald came and retrieved the all-terrain vehicle from the muddy depths and, as politely as he could, asked my sister, “What in tarnation were you trying to do?”  She replied, “Well Jody does it.” 
              Jody’s derisive laughter was stopped only by Uncle Ronald’s response, which is floating around lost in my memory because that was the summer we we forced to work in the fields hoeing cotton.  Yes, you read that right; child labor was alive and well in Louisiana, people.  We had to chop johnson grass down with a hoe!  For at least a week, if not two; okay, maybe just one.  And, yes, my sister chopped down everything for a half a row because she didn’t see any fluffy white cotton balls.  And, yes, we sang “Tiny Bubbles” and “Whistle While You Work” throughout the day.  And, yes, we were paid and used that money to go to Critter’s Creek Water Park.  And, yes, we got to stop for breaks every couple of hours.  And, yes, we got snacks and drinks at each break.  But it was brutal, y’all.  Brutal! 
               I don’t know if my memory has softened due to sunstroke but all I remember is walking back to Mama Dot’s house and trying to avoid eye contact with my mother and knowing that Jesus had already told her I ruined my good shirt.  When I finally looked up she gave me that look and shook her head and then smiled and gave me a hug and said, “Well, I don’t know what you’re wearing to church tomorrow.”
                We never did find that baby bottle.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Did they have Frito Pie in the New Testament?

                I know that most people only show the shiny, happy side of themselves on Facebook.  And I know that I find myself doing somewhat the same.  I am not one to air dirty laundry, should I actually have any, but I am also loath to admit when things aren’t working out just as I had planned.  But to the 99 of you who actually read this blog, I have been truthful about more than I probably should but not so much outside my comfort zone.  And the outskirts of my comfort zone is where I currently reside.  And I’m not so much unhappy as confused.

                Of the talents I have, the one that served me well throughout high school and college was the ability to present a portrait of self-confidence so successfully many thought I was arrogant.  Most people who knew me during that time never realized I suffered from almost crippling self-doubt and monstrous self-loathing.  However, my innate need to be successful pushed me to achieve whatever I thought I needed to impress the most people and secure my place at whatever table I had deemed the most appropriate.  Many tables were admittedly shallow, but I wasn't looking depth, y'all, just acceptance.

                Through many years of struggle, I have finally accepted all of me.  Just like John Legend, I love all of me.  And although my curves and edges are less curvy and sharp than before, they are still more than I would like but I am a work in progress, which is annoying to someone (like me) with less patience than is helpful.

                The one thing that I have always clung to, even when I hated everything else about me, is my intellect.  To be sure, I am not one of those geniuses on the TV show ‘Scorpion’, but I would like to imagine that I am intellectually superior to Katherine McPhee, or at least her character, Paige.  And while it won’t win me any Guinness World Record designations, my IQ has served me well enough to get me where I’ve wanted to be.  And that verb tense is part of what is making me tense.

                To give you a bit of back story, I have worked in Prosthetic and Sensory Aids for the Department of Veterans Affairs for 14 years.  I have worked at every level in my field and I have achieved more than I ever thought possible considering my background, but I am ready to take the next step in my career.  I am ready to make the leap to Associate Director of a healthcare system; my boss’s job.  I have had the opportunity to serve as Acting Associate Director for a combined total of around 6 months in the last two years and I loved every minute of it.  This position plays to my strengths of lean management and strategic planning.  I’m good at it and I think I’m ready; my boss, my mentors, my friends, my peers, all think I’m ready.  Everyone thinks I’m ready except apparently God.  Well, He hasn’t actually said what He thinks and that’s what is frustrating.

                And I know that He doesn’t want it for me right now because this is the first time in my career that I’ve been turned down for a job.  In 16 years in the VA, I have always managed to land each position that I personally wanted and felt led to pursue.  And I realize that sounds a little obnoxious but I work very hard and have put my heart and soul into my career, sacrificing a personal life (moving every 2-3 years) to get where I thought I wanted and needed to be and it always seemed that God was right there with me. I always felt led in a particular direction.  But this time there’s no direction.

                I have applied for quite a number of Associate Director positions in the last year and have not been selected.  I’ve been close.  I’ve made it to the final two on 4 different occasions.  I’ve been flown to cities in other states for a face-to-face and tour of their facilities, but never managed to lock it down.  I’m the Leonardo DiCaprio of the VA.  Wait, I don’t really like him.  I’m the Glenn Close of the VA; multiple nominations, no wins.

                I’ve always prayed for guidance and I’ve always received it.  I mean God never spoke out loud saying, “Dustin, you must go to Alaska!”  He’s met me before; He knows that would freak me out.  But I’ve always felt a push in a certain direction.  And right now all I feel is a tug on my shirt collar holding me in place.  And I wonder does God want me to just ‘be’?  Because that’s a little more Buddha than I imagine He is, but maybe I’m wrong.  He created everything so that means He created Buddhists, so I don’t know.  And goodness knows that I have been prone to mistakes in my past.  Take for example the time I volunteered to drive John Allen non-stop from Ontario, Canada to New Orleans in a gold Ford Tempo, armed only with a cat, a cooler full of Mountain Dew and Nacho Cheese Doritos and the belief that all that No-Doz wouldn't kill us.  But I’ve come a long way.  The late 30-something and 40-something Dustin’s decisions (travel related and otherwise) are far superior to the teenaged, 20 and early 30-something Dustin’s.

                But as much as I’ve accomplished and as happy as I am, my newly- 44 self doesn't know what to do.  And I always know what to do.  I’m the guy with a Plan A and a Plan B and even a Plan C with personal development strategies, lists of associated certifications and color-coded timelines.  I’m the guy who mentors others and helps them map out their future, for pity's sake.  And for the first time since 1998, I’m feeling a little lost and I don’t like it; not at all.  I like it less than I like flourless chocolate cake or the new Michael Keaton movie, 'Birdman'.  I find both dense, dark and unnecessary.

                I’ve always been told and always believed that when God shuts one door, He opens another.  But what am I supposed to do when He’s shutting all the doors?  Do I just sit and wait?  Because God knows me and He knows that is not how I roll.  For someone who is not necessarily swift of foot, I am always in motion, people.  Now I feel like Jonah trapped in that big ol’ fish belly with all the remains of whatever a big fish eats.  Other fish?  Beef Wellington?  Frito Pie?  I am blessed to be trapped in the Bay Area with weather that appears to be controlled by an evil genius with some sort of machine.  I guess we’re lucky our evil genius prefers it to be partly cloudy and in the mid-60s most every day.

                So I guess I’ll just keep praying and keep waiting and maybe eventually I’ll be barfed up on a beach somewhere in the VA system.  If it was good enough for Jonah, it is good enough for me.  I admit, though, I am curious as to where this will be.  I wonder which city God considers the modern American version of Nineveh?

                And that’s all I’m saying for now.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

If Starbucks is bringing out the red cups...

                In 1984, The Dad forever changed our lives when he bought a VCR from the trunk of some guy’s car in The Wal-Mart parking lot in Paris, Texas.  We began renting videos from the only video store at that time, which was the converted garage of a house coincidentally located adjacent to The Wal-Mart.  The first movie we rented was ‘Charlotte’s Web’ which we were able to enjoy after several trips to the video store to learn all about something called tracking.  One fateful day after my sister and I watched ‘Footloose’ for the sixty-fifth consecutive time, my mother allowed us to return to the video store alone.  We walked down both aisles and scoured the racks to see what exactly there was to discover and we stumbled upon a little movie called ‘Sixteen Candles’.  Thus began my love affair with Molly; as in Ringwald, not that weird drug MDMA, which I thought was a Madonna album. 

                You know I didn’t want to date her and before you go there, no, I certainly didn’t want to be her.  I just wanted to be her best friend.  I was certain if we ever met it would be kismet.  Kismet, people!  And I shouldn’t have been surprised.  I’ve always loved me a ginger.  Ron Howard, Sarah Rue, Holland Taylor, Eric Stoltz, Karen Gillan (from 'Dr. Who', not the awful 'Selfie'), Seth Green, Prince Harry, Domhnall Gleeson (but only in “About Time” and maybe “Harry Potter”).  But my all-time favorite red-head is definitely Ms. Ringwald. 

                And as Molly and I have grown up together, she has shown me many things both true and good (and sometimes sketchy) but that’s to be expected, right?  It’s only life, after all. So I shall share with you my list of the things I’ve learned as Molly Ringwald’s imaginary best friend.

  1. Always choose a preppy over a hipster (‘Pretty in Pink’).  I don’t think anyone in their right mind want to end up with Jon Cryer, even those of you who keep that stupid “Two and a Half Men”   on the air.
  2. You are not your circumstances (‘Pretty in Pink’).  She was poor and her Dad was drunk and looked vaguely cigarette-y but she was strong and brave and introduced me to thrift-store chic.
  3. When you get a chance to live abroad, do it.  As she is fluent in French, she moved to France, married (and later divorced a French dude) and even made movies in France.  I don’t want to do that but I wouldn’t mind moving to London, where I’ve been told I am fairly conversant in their language.
  4. Bad boys may seem to be exciting but it always ends poorly and usually with you losing good jewelry (‘Breakfast Club’).  Sexy delinquent is one thing; Judd Nelson looked like he needed a flea dip and a nit comb, y’all.
  5. Dancing on a landing in the library will make you look amazing but is only allowed in the movies (‘Breakfast Club’).  If you try to do it in real life, you will be asked to leave said library and possibly sent to counseling…or so I’ve heard.  Never happened.
  6. Never trust obnoxious rich people...or James Spader ('Pretty in Pink').  I think she may have predicted 'The Blacklist', y'all.
  7. If you feel the need to write a book, write it even if it’s not very good (When it Happens to You).  I didn’t really care for it.  It’s not as enjoyable as say A Gone Pecan, by yours truly.
  8. Always share your discoveries with the world.  Like Fiona Apple.  Molly mentioned Ms. Apple in an Entertainment Weekly article way back in the day.  Whether or not people appreciate this discovery is irrelevant.  Someone has to hold the record for longest album title and she had that one good song, right? 
  9. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up, but you might want to lose the guitar.  Molly appeared in the first season of ‘Facts of Life’ as a character creatively named Molly.  She played guitar as was as feminist as you could be in an upscale boarding school in upstate New York.
  10. Use what you’ve got (‘Breakfast Club’).  Her chest may have been flat but it was definitely dexterous as she used it to apply lipstick.  Just saying.
  11. If you are in a mediocre movie, the least you can do is get married in a fabulous top hat with Alan Alda as your Dad (‘Betsy’s Wedding’).
  12. Besides the birth of our Lord, nothing else good ever happened in a stable (‘Fresh Horses’).
  13. Even nice girls, who avoid most pitfalls, can succumb to the pre-felonious charm of Robert Downey, Jr. (‘Pick-up Artist’).
  14. If you’re going to be something, you might as well be #1.  Ms. Molly topped VH1’s List of the Top 100 Child Stars.  A dubious honor, but an award is an award.  Am I right?  It’s on par with the “I Knew I Would Get This Award” Award I received in college.
  15. Regardless of your circumstances, always look your best.  Even when she wasn’t ‘famous anymore’ she was photographed wearing gorgeous things like Prada coats, which I wasn’t aware was a brand until I saw her in one.  The closest thing to Prada in my hometown was a feed mill.  Yes, I know it’s not even close.  That’s my point.
                    And don’t forget, she taught us redheads could wear pink and introduced us to the wonder that is Annie Potts.  I have also loved and learned many things from Mary Jo Shively but that’s for another blog.  And that is all I'm saying tonight.