At long last, winter’s grip is loosening and spring is returning. To be honest, there were times when it felt like it would never again edge above the freezing mark here in my little corner of the world. But it is finally warming and as I watch the giant lumps of dirty snow shrink a little more each day, it is nice to know that I have, more or less, survived another winter.
Now, to survive spring.
Spring survival is not nearly as difficult as making it though the weather, but the season has its own set of challenges. Here are three of the most common seasonal hurdles and strategies to handle them, because, as G.I. Joe taught me, “Knowing is half the battle.”
Not all babies are cute. After cocooning all winter with their new babies, new mommies are creeping out of hiding and showing off their new additions. One moment you’re chatting amiably at a meet-and-greet and the next minute you’re confronted with a hormonally poisoned, sleep-deprived woman showing you a kid who will never be mistaken for the Gerber baby*. If you want to offer a compliment but don’t want to lie, what do you do?
Well, I like to panic awkwardly, but that isn’t ideal. It’s better to arm yourself with vaguely complimentary sayings so you can respond quickly under pressure. My all-time favorite is one my mom uses, “Isn’t he something” because the child’s loving mother will generally think that you mean “something wonderful”. Another safe route to take is to simply state the obvious. If the kid has a lot of hair then you can say, “My doesn’t she have a lot of hair.” If the kid is holding your finger with a tight grip, then you can say, “What a strong grip she has.” If the baby is getting fussy because mealtime is being delayed so his mother can show him off to you, then you can say, “Looks like someone is hungry.” Stating the obvious with a smile masquerades effectively as a compliment.
There is no such thing as a non-cheesy graduation card. Try as I might, I just can’t seem to find a graduation card that is not lame. There must be some out there, but I lose patience and give up looking before I ever find one. There is no way in hell I will give a graduate a card about binge-drinking and skipping class in college**, but there are a lot of cards out there sporting that very theme. No, the best you can hope for is something with the fewest treacle-esque inspirational platitudes possible. Don’t worry if the card just says “CONGRATULATIONS” and nothing else, most graduates are looking to see if you gave them cash. Oh, and that reminds me, don’t expect a note of thanks for any gifts or cash you might give the graduate. It is nice when people write thank-you notes, but it seems to happen less and less often so cultivate low expectations. I don’t know if that reflects a lack of manners or a lack of literacy.
Weddings, the happiest day of their lives—until their next wedding. What is it now, about half of all marriages end in divorce? Well, regardless of those depressing stats there’s a steady supply of couples every spring and summer ready to exchange vows at a big wedding, and some of them might even invite you or me to share the moment. Weddings are a minefield of probing, impertinent questions about your love life, reproductive plans, and earning capabilities so it doesn’t hurt to prepare to answer those questions or deflect them. And, just like when dealing with unattractive babies, it also doesn’t hurt to have a few vaguely complimentary things to say to the new couple—which is especially important if you have doubts about the marriage’s likely success. I think the best strategy is to smile warmly and say, with absolute honesty, “I hope you two will be very happy.” After all, we can always hope for the best even if we don’t expect it.
Enjoy spring. Go Joe.
*I am in no way suggesting that a healthy baby is not a thing of beauty. I am suggesting that not all things of beauty are created equal.
**College is too damn expensive for students to spend it drunk and skipping classes. That skipped accounting class is a few hundred dollars that the student or her parents will not get back and may end up paying off for 10 to 20 years depending on how the education is being financed.