July 4, 2013

WILLIAMS: Having a built-in excuse


---- — I know it sounds strange but, in a way, my current lifestyle suits my person-ality. I mostly just stay home and take care of Mom. She isn’t up to going out much and it isn’t safe to leave her alone. My friend, Jan, bless her, will always come and babysit so I can go out to lunch or to the grocery but I don’t want to take advantage so I try to call on her as seldom as possible.

And it’s not that I don’t have the urge to get out of the house more but the way things are also provides an excuse to not do things I don’t want to do.

Once when John was in college, he brought home a psychological test that was designed to tell you how you reacted in conflict situations. I don’t remember the different modes of handling conflict anymore but I do recall how I scored.

Even before I took the test, it answered the question it was meant to answer. I hate doing these kinds of tests. I hate them because I never turn out to be the kind of person I wish I was. So I avoided the test for as long as I could, avoidance being one of the modes.

But John kept pressing. “Come on, Mom,” he’d say, “come on and do it.” John can be very persistent. So finally I accommodated him and took the darn test. (Accommodation being another mode).

What I wanted to score high in was assertiveness, competitiveness. I barely registered on those scales but I was practically off the chart in Avoiding and Accommodating. Tell me something I don’t know!

I came home once with what the ad said was a full-blooded Lhasa Apso. A Lhasa is a little furry dog, exactly what I wanted. The dog in the ad was a larger, short-haired, with the features of a hound. Did I take it? Yes, I did because the owners were so happy to be finding their dog a good home, I didn’t want to let them down.

Back when I used to be much poorer than I am now (very poor as opposed to moderately poor) and I suspected my checking account wasn’t looking very good, I’d hide my bank statement under back issues of Rolling Stone and Ms. I could always convince myself that my financial woes could solve themselves if I just gave them a little breathing room.

I’ve done so many things in my life that I didn’t want to do to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. When my friend in South Carolina proudly served me an authentic Charleston meal of she-crab soup, fried okra and squash pie, I ate every bite with a smile on my face. I once choked down raw squid wrapped in seaweed on the “Jim Gerard Show” while muttering, “ummm, delicious.”

I’ve told hair stylists I loved the cut that made my head look like a pea sitting on my bowling ball-shaped body. I have seen countless movies I didn’t want to see, served on numerous committees I didn’t want to serve on and drunk endless drinks I didn’t want to drink. Now, I just say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’d dearly love to go to the movie/join the bowling league/give the keynote address/serve on the committee – but I can’t because of Mom,” and people are sympathetic, rather than offended.

Vicki Williams is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached through the newspaper at