life in the garret

Addressing people by their names is one way to show them my esteem and consideration for them and it usually makes them feel good. Addressing them by a wrong name however, always drives me into the depths of mortification and of self-worthlessness.

I used to be quite good at this practice (addressing people by their right names) until I reached a certain age.
  • Last weekend at my dear father in law’s funeral, I kept mixing up my mother in law’s and her twin sister’s first names. One is Juliette and the other is Paulette. And they’re not even identical twins. (I don’t even have the excuse of being a newlywed as I’ve been married to her son ZH for 26 years.)
  • On Monday, I went up to a co-worker whom I had met only once to thank him for a writing a helpful email. I said, “Stephen, thanks so much for your message. It really helped resolve bla bla bla…” After a polite silence he said, “I’m sorry, but my name is David.” Oh the hazard of working in a multinational corporation.
  • It’s a long-standing habit of mine to call all my close male friends (and some female) “Darling”. It’s an affectionate term of endearment that conveys my fondness for them while my brain attempts to remember their names. Yesterday, I inadvertently called ZH “Darling”. He said, “But don’t you remember that I’m ‘Chéri’?”
Sometimes it’s best just to call everybody “Um.”

It was a rare Monday morning when I woke up feeling very efficient and organized. The previous evening I had everything from clothes, handbag, mid-afternoon snack prepared to beat the start of week confusion. I was feeling on top of the world. Breakfasted, showered, dove into jeans.

… And got stuck. What, STUCK? My trusty old black jeans for all occasions – fat days, skinny days, PMS days and even paired with odd striped tops because there’s nothing else clean to wear? STUCK?

Yes, STUCK. They wouldn’t even get past my calves. This is was highly irregular. Usually after a wash, the jeans are snug fitting but if I can hold my breath and yank them on and do some advanced yogi contortions I can generally stretch them back into shape. But not this time. They steadfastly refused to get past my ankles. Morale sank to my knees. Or rather to my ankles, where the denims were lodged. Took a deep breath, searched the closet for another pair and left for work with a sinking heart and apocalyptic images of carrot sticks and celery stalks and gray low fat yogurt in the coming days.

Later, I went through all the jeans I had. They all more or less fit which made me optimistic. Then I approached the dreaded black pair again with mental excuses at the ready – water retention, bad circulation, Monday morning hallucination… but still no dice. Still stuck at the calves. I yanked them off and hurled them across the room with a blood curdling howl. ZH popped his head cautiously inside the door. “What’s wrong?”

“Damn jeans won’t fit.” He picked them off the floor. “These ones? But I just washed them for you.”

“You did what?”

“I was washing a bunch of my gym clothes so I threw these in with them. All dark clothes go in a dark load, right?” He looked at me with the proud look of a grade-schooler who just mastered his multiplication tables.

“Did you use warm water or cold water?”


“Put them in the dryer after?”

“Yup. ” “High heat so they would dry faster,” he added helpfully.

Deep within my being rose another scream, longer and louder than the last with hysterical sobs and hiccups and beating fists as if to bring down the wrath of God. He instinctively retreated several steps.

“Honey,” I said when I finally recovered myself, “thank you for washing my jeans.”

Deep breath. “But next time, use Cold Water. And Woolite. Turn them inside out. Low Heat in the Dryer. Or even better , Hang them on a Hanger to dry.”

I patted him gently on the shoulder. “It’s OK, your intention was good.”

Now all I have to do is find a skinny 12 year old girl to give the jeans to.