I was inappropriately old before I realized that adding the phrase, “Jane, you ignorant slut!” to a disagreement was not a move appreciated in all settings. In my family, the SNL-originated rhetorical move was just something I grew up with. It was perfect for keeping the tone of a disagreement light and laughable.
Now, in almost every other aspect of life, my parents were perfect role models of the proper ways to behave in the world at large. Birthday cards, dinners prepared for sick friends, helping out at the soup kitchen, keeping in touch with family and friends far and near. We’re also a highly educated lot, able to rely on all kinds of fancy words to up the level of discourse.
But the word “merde” (a French potty word) lived above the kitchen sink, on a little wooden plaque embellished with sweet white flowers. And, of course, there was the thing about the slut. And you probably don’t want to engage our family in a conversation about the planet Uranus. Thankfully, perhaps indicatively, none of us are astronomers.
So, imagine our delight as a family when my oldest, who is 4 and loving his invented spelling, wrote a birthday card to my sister Rachel this past December. Smiling from giant ear to giant ear, it read, quite clearly, “Hape Brthda Ahol!”
We’ve adopted this as our new ironic congratulatory slogan, a nice way to laugh at ourselves when times that should be good turn down at the corners. Had to put the cat down a few days before your birthday? Happy Birthday, A-Hole! Got called in to work on Christmas Even? Merry Christmas, A-Hole! (See – it works no matter the holiday). Tossing someone an orange, and whap the birthday girl on the side of the head instead? Happy Birthday, A-Hole!
I endeavor to be every bit the role model to my kids that my parents were to me – and maybe sometimes that means knowing to live in the absurd.