Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The C Word

My daughter and I were on our way to a school board meeting where the elementary school band was the entertainment.  She sat in the back with her instrument, looking out the window and bobbing her head along to the song on the radio.

It was a new hip-hop song that we both like, so I turned it up and we sang along to the parts that we knew, and pretended not to notice that half the words were bleeped out. 

Then, because I’m that mom, I turned it up all the way and we put on our gangster faces and threw our arms and hands around like rappers do, you know, like part interpretive dance/intimidation tactic.

The song ended and I smiled at her in the rearview mirror.  She blurted, “I can’t rap.”

She was surprised, and more than a little bit exasperated.  She was disgusted with herself for not having this gift the way I get disgusted when I see people spit on the ground.  She was disgusted with herself, a young girl born and raised in the suburbs who was on her way to play the French horn at her school’s board meeting, wearing a band T-shirt tucked into black dress slacks. 

I wanted to say, Dude.  Look at you.  Look at me.  You are obviously not born of rapper stock. 

But instead I said, “I can’t either.” 

Despite years of hearing “Can’t is a four letter word” and “Remove Can’t from your vocabulary” from well-intentioned but ultra-idealistic educators, I have learned as an adult that “I Can’t” is a valid declaration.  I have learned that, unless I am willing to throw myself into intense study and practice, there are many things that I just can’t do naturally.  This discovery comes after a lifetime of doing things that I love and finding out that I suck at them.

And I’ve learned to give up those things, or at least own my sucktitude.   After all, we can’t all be perfect at everything.  What would Beyonc√© do?

For one thing, I used to sing in high school and in church choirs, but I am just not good at it.  I have a decent level of musicality, but I have a thin, reedy voice that dies if I spend too much time talking at a normal level, let alone belting out songs. 

Then there's dancing.  I took dance classes for 10 years.  Ten.  Plus a few years of adult classes.  And no one's coming around to pay me to dance for them.  Ahem.  I’m okay keeping up with a beat, but watch out if I get into producing a complicated movement or series of steps.  And by watch out I mean stand back because you are about to get hurt.

As for playing sports, I can't.  I'm just so awkward.  I can’t even run down the street in a straight line.

I can't bake either.  Every batch of cookies is questionable.  I can’t quite figure it out, nor can I predict what kind of disaster is lurking within each ball of dough or bowl of batter.

Landscaping and gardening are not my strengths.  I can’t get our yard to look nice no matter what I try.  It is a conglomeration of ugly shrubbery and trees.  Some are dead and others haven’t grown in years.  Once I pitifully tried to grow peppers and tomatoes.  We used to have an Easter lily that only bloomed in July.  Each year I spend hundreds on flowers, only to watch them struggle under my terroristic black thumb.

My ironing skills?  Laughable.  Most of the clothing I iron looks worse after I had my hands on it than if I had just let it stay wrinkled.  As an aside, do you know that there are about ten different ways to get scorch marks off of clothing?

There are other things I can't do, but I can’t remember them right now.  Remembering things that I should is just one more thing I can’t do.

It’s okay.  Like I said before, I've learned to own my weaknesses, and not let them get to me.  I've found that I enjoy watching others do the things I can't more than I ever loved doing them.  What's more, I know what I can do, and do those things happily, like love my family, provide a comfortable home, laugh at myself, and write a decent blog post.

Okay, that last one is hit and miss.



  1. Andrea, your blog posts are awesome and I completely love them. Here are more reasons why your blog - and really you - are awesome.

    First, the word "suckitude." I am a firm believe in the coinage of new terms when the situation warrants and I applaud you in this effort. I intend to use this in regular conversation as much as possible.

    Next, your blog - and again, clearly, you - are not afraid to be brutally honest and that is refreshing in a world where most people just want everyone to think they are what they present on facebook or whatever other thing is out there. I go by the theory that I am me and this is it - what you see is what you get. Not that I don't strive to better myself where necessary, but at least I can't pretend to be anything else.

    Finally, I love your spin on the "can't" dilemma. I don't think I agree with the "strike can't from your vocabulary" thinking. Do I want to hear my daughter say she can't do something I (and she)know she is fully capable of doing? Of course, not. But you can't take can't out across the board. My incredibly wise mother always said, "Half of being smart is knowing what you're dumb at." How true...and how much more it makes sense the older I get. I am not good at math. Period. And what's more, I don't like it. Therefore, the Hub is in charge of finances. Period. And the list goes on. I don't think there's anything wrong with being honest about what you do or do not know or can or can not do. If you want to change it? Go for it. If that doesn't work? So be it.

    OK, I've pontificated long enough - sorry. Just really loved your words today.


    1. Wow, what a great comment!

      I really appreciate your appreciation of my realism. I have been learning throughout my life that I am a horrible actress and cannot be anything other than myself, which is always a crap shoot on if I will offend a person or not.

      I'm so glad that you get me!!

      Thanks again. Your comment is a bright spot in my day. :)

    2. I have often been accused of being a pessimist; I prefer realist. Happy to be a bright spot anywhere...I am usually the caustic one in the dark corner. :)

    3. It's why we get along so well. Realists unite!! Or at least meet in the corner.

  2. You are awesome. And I lost it over suburban rapping. But beyond that you're right. Even I know it's bad to declare that I'm abysmal at math, well, I AM terrible at math. Just god awful. I hate it and can't do it. So what if girls need to be encouraged to do more math and science stuff! THIS girl is horrible at it. If a teacher sends homework expecting me to help my on daughter she is SOL.

    Ah, that felt good.

    1. Thank you!!

      Look at it this way: maybe your daughter will become better at math and science because you are not able to help her with it, so she has to figure it out all on her own.

      At least that's what I tell my own daughter. So far, so good. Math and science are her two favorite subjects.

  3. Na - I love your blog posts. Your comments crack me up too. :-)

    My dad played french horn in the symphony - that was his job. He can't rap either.

    1. Thank you!!

      I don't think french horn players are made to also be rap stars. Just a hunch.

      And yet something else we have in common. The french horn, not the rapping. You might actually be pretty good at it.