by Cathy Allie
I have a friend who always finds the best videos of people dancing and she posts them to her Facebook profile with regularity. She usually just writes, “Let’s hear it for dancing!” or a similar sentiment. And they are the best videos. With admiration in their voices, mutual friends say things like, “Oh my gosh, did you see the tap dancing video she posted?” It’s her thing.
My dad polished his shoes each Sunday night, readying them for work the next week. Sitting in his comfy family room chair, with newspaper spread out below him so as not to make a mess, he burnished the leather to a beautiful shine with an old rag and tin cans of polish. Sure, it was a little bit of habit and an old school pride in being well-groomed, but it was his thing.
We know a couple who are so good at trivia, that it frightens us. They are not the folks who answer Wayne Gretzky for every hockey question because there is a good chance it was him who broke a record. Instead, they are the folks that know it was Gordie Howe, and they know the year it happened. It’s their thing.
My daughter can untangle any necklace, ball of yarn, or Christmas ribbon almost instantly. She can divine the beginning and the end of the snarl with a single look. It’s a scary thing, but it’s her thing.
Some things are a little quirkier. My brother-in-law can be counted on to play a high numbered domino in the wrong place very nonchalantly in some of our wee hours of the morning games, just to see if any of us are still watching. He is not truly a cheater, but he loves to see if he can pull one over on us. It’s his thing.
And along the lines of quirky, a dear friend is the best Haiku writer I have ever known, and as a retired English teacher, yes, I have known a few poets. A much underappreciated artform, her Haikus capture the moment in the allowed 17 syllables. It’s her thing.
The same friend writes her message and signs her greeting cards only on the left when you open it, so the right remains unscathed. People used to frame beautiful greeting cards, and I always figured she wanted me to know what I was framing, with her signature on the back. She has two things, which hardly seems fair.
My young realtor friend literally has the best GIF game I have ever seen. If we are texting, she will answer me with a GIF that has me laughing hysterically. I cannot believe she can do that without practice. How does she know what I am going to write? It must just be her thing.
If you have not guessed by now, I don’t have a thing. I mean I do a lot of things, many of them annoying to family and friends, but I don’t have a thing that is just my thing. And trust me, I have attempted to find my thing.
At first I thought my thing might be a signature look, so I picked red lipstick. “Oh my gosh, look how pretty her lips are in that picture. I love that she always wears red lipstick!” they would say about me.
I took it pretty seriously, researching everything from Chanel to MAC reds, snatching up samples and even enlisting the help of a former student turned makeup artist.
“Look,” she said. “I need to tell you up front that not everybody can wear a red lip. You have to take into account skin tones, how white your teeth are, colors reflecting up from your clothes. White shirts and black shirts give red a chance to shine.”
When she launched into cool and warm tone discussions and the base I would need to keep that red lip at maximum capacity all through the day, I lost interest. Just wasn’t my thing.
I thought always wearing a hat might also be my thing, and some of the frivolous evidence of that still exists in my coat closet. But my ‘the higher the hair the closer to God’ mantra didn’t leave much room in a hat for my hair masterpieces. Another thing set aside.
On the short list of things I have tried out to be my thing are: making last minute unplanned meals from just pantry essentials, pancakes with broccoli and cheese as an example; executing a weekly cleaning routine, where each room of the house gets a swipe on a certain day of the week, which has not worked during COVID, where I am often uncertain of the day of the week and one time even the month; and organizing greeting cards by date to send to family members and friends, surely not my thing when I sent a ‘congrats on your retirement ‘card to someone who had been summarily sacked for misconduct.
Desperate to have a thing, I polled my family. They gave me many answers, the bulk of which I cannot share with you here. But they pretty firmly landed on me turning down the volume on the TV or on the car radio when I am looking for something (likely trying to find my phone, which they also shared was my thing) or belting out mistaken song lyrics. Ugly. Just ugly.
I am going to keep searching—for my phone, of course--- and for my thing.
Cathy is a retired public school English teacher and Public Information Officer.