The other day I visited Aunt Ofelia at the Retirement Home for Active Snark Questers for the monthly luncheon. Aunt Ofelia has a long history of searching for the elusive snark and believe she has been successful numerous times in capturing the attention of snarks. Aunt Ofelia is a bit birdlike herself, with glittery eyes that see everything, and a sharp wit. Her tales are always peppered with salty antidotes and advice.
I took my place beside her at the luncheon table while she scrutinized me with those sharp eyes and asked, “My dear, why are you dressed plainer than a peahen today?”
I replied, “I have a business meeting later this afternoon and am trying to appear dependable, austere and professional, Aunt Ofelia.”
“What you are doing, my dear, is caging yourself into a category. How are you going to attract snarks if you don’t allow yourself to shine?” Shining is something Aunt Ofelia understands, at least from the amount of rhinestones on her shirt and the big, blingy jewelry she is never without.
“It is an important meeting.” I reply.
“Of course it is, but you must allow something of yourself to shine through. Let me give you some advice, caging yourself based on the opinions of others is a terrible prison to place yourself in. Not only will it drive snarks away, but anything else you quest for. I understand snarks come in many varieties, with many likes and dislikes, but they do not allow themselves to be caged by words and opinions. They don’t judge people, but can sense when one is surrounded by invisible bars, and fearing being caged, avoid these people. No amount of sparkly bling, delicious food or amazing drinks will lure a snark to a person surrounded by a cage.
It was at this moment that our food arrived. It is nothing like the usual bland cafeteria food served at senior centers. The Retirement Home for Active Snark Questers hired a nutritionist and chef and each meal is individually created for each person living there. I’ve never been disappointed in a meal I’ve had there and neither has Aunt Ofelia. We eat our lunch before Aunt Ofelia speaks again.
Today's luncheon is served family-style
“There are so many cages we allow ourselves to be placed in.” She sips from her coffee cup that has a cheeky saying on it, and for a moment believe she has forgotten what she was going to say, but her bright eyes sparkle with intense thoughts, and I know she is going to share those thoughts. “I’ve heard it all, constraints we place must place on ourselves, rules and guidelines all formed by the opinions of others, the collective “they or them”, although no one has ever met “they or them”.
“It has always been quite horrific to hear that women of a certain age should or shouldn’t wear this, classy people don’t swear, you will never get a job looking like that, oh you spent the day at a spa getting massages, how selfish and self-indulgent of you, or my favorite (her voice drips with sarcasm), You are just trying to keep up with the Joneses. Who the hell are the Joneses, they come from the same ether of despair that produced “they and them”.
Aunt Ofelia leans forward and whispers, “Wearing white after labor day is no longer a stonable offense. It doesn’t matter because I’ve always worn white in the winter or whenever I damned well felt like it. I’ve certainly never dressed based on my age. As much as I enjoy wearing dresses, it just makes more sense to wear pants on cold days, or when traipsing around trails and don’t want to get all scratched up by vegetation.”
“That does make sense, but what about dress codes and uniforms?” I ask.
“Well, we do have to work if we want to eat, and sometimes that requires a certain level of conformity. Snarks don’t judge us for that, they understand the necessity. It is what we wear in our free time that matters. Dress codes have relaxed over the years too, thankfully, but I really have no idea what “Business Casual” is. Don’t tell anyone but I secretly love Hawaiian shirt day.” She gives me a conspiratorial wink.
Dress codes really have changed over the years. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/05/history-of-business-casual/526014/
Fun fact: Snarks actually like Flair buttons and find them as a great way to share snarky and often sarcastic statements and inside jokes.
Flair buttons from a snark with excellent taste in music.
“What about people that can never get a job if they look or dress a certain way?” I ask.
“Well, there are all types of jobs a person can have, and there are some that allow a person to express themselves however they want.” Aunt Ofelia stares at me again with her bright eyes. “I believe you spend most of your time working at home and the costume of choice is usually jammies or a t-shirt and leggings.”
“That is true.” Most of my work is done creating in the home office and it is o.k. to be comfortable.
Some of the leggings I wear when working at home.
“So there are jobs that aren’t in the normal strictures with stringent dress codes. Tattoos and brightly colored hair have become mainstream, leggings a symbol of comfort and self-confidence, no matter what your body type is. Clothing is often a costume, a reflection of what we want to reveal to the world around us, and the impression we want to give others, it is important that our clothing and appearance makes us feel good, without the worry of judgement from others. Avoid the cage of constraint!”
I take a closer look at the coffee cup Aunt Ofelia is drinking from, and realize that while it is pretty, it makes a statement about attitude. “How do you feel about swearing? Some people think it makes you appear tacky.”
She snorts and I suspect there is something more than just coffee in her cup. “My dear, I have made swearing into an art form, and believe I have passed that gift onto you. Snarks have also been known to slip a few swearwords into their conversations, along with implied swearwords, sarcasm and of course, snark. I like to follow the snark’s example. Swearing is a great way to vent, express our feelings and emphasize a statement. We also enjoy using words that mean one thing generally but have evolved into another meaning through slang, and turn around what might be a demeaning label into a statement of rebellious pride while breaking the chains of judgment.”
This is the cup Aunt Ofelia drank out of.
She did add, “Along the same lines though, it is perfectly fine not to use the dirty seven words if you are not comfortable using them in your vocabulary arsenal. There are plenty of other words that also get the point across. We also realize that because of the cages others have placed on themselves, such as societal expectations, they take offense at certain words. If we refrain from saying the F-word at a ladies luncheon, or screaming strong words at our boss because of a ridiculous situation and we want to keep our job, it isn’t because we are caging ourselves, but understand the barriers they have surrounded themselves with are often electrically charged and some words shock them. Words are powerful and with great power comes great responsibility (Voltaire).
“You are correct”, I agree with her after mulling over her words for a moment. Actually it is fun to cuss with class.
The luncheon was over but Aunt Ofelia wasn’t ready to let me leave yet. “It is time for our massages.”
“I didn’t plan on relaxing today Aunt Ofelia,” I say, thinking of my upcoming meeting.
“Sitting at a desk all day or night might look easy and relaxing, but it isn’t great for posture, and no matter what your job is, massage helps relieve stress, improve circulation and sleep, and boost immunity. Self-care is not self-indulgent or selfish and should be a regular part of all of our lives. You need to take some time for yourself.”
Her words are correct, self-care is important, and here are some benefits to taking time out for massage therapy.
Massage is also important as we age, and helps relieve some of the aches and pains, benefits those with dementia, and prevents pressure sores by improving circulation and aids in overall health.
Fun fact: Snark sightings are common at spas, especially ones built around natural hot springs. Snarks understand the importance of therapeutic soaks.
Possible snark sighting at a therapeutic spring
I’m glad I agreed to the massage Aunt Ofelia scheduled for me, and I am feeling much more relaxed, but she had one more subject to bring up.
“You know, I think one of the most insulting things one can say to another is that you are just trying to keep up with up with Joneses. There are so many nuanced layers to this insult, from obvious envy from the person giving the insult, to our own fears of success, fear of showing that we enjoy and appreciate nice things, and a fear to shine. Knowing that snarks are attracted to things that shine and sparkle, dimming our own light makes us less attractive to the snarks and less likely to get their attention.”
I am unsure how to reply to this. Keeping up with the Joneses is considered derogatory, and living that lifestyle can cause financial difficulty, but living that lifestyle and being accused of it are two different things. I realize there really isn’t anything wrong with having nice things and enjoying life. Words are indeed powerful but we should control our own lives, and not let the judgment of others control us.
Some thoughts about the fear of success. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/somatic-psychology/201101/fear-success
Our peignoirs are fun to wear, feel luxurious, and allows us to thumb our noses at the ones accusing us of keeping up with the Joneses.
As much as I enjoyed my time with Aunt Ofelia, it was time for me to go. Thankfully I was well fed, and much more relaxed and confident about the upcoming meeting. I gave her a hug before leaving, grateful for her words of wisdom. Believe it or not, I think I caught a glimpse of a snark on my way out to the parking lot.