People Are Not Smarties

People Are Not Smarties

This morning I am thinking about Smarties.

To all appearances I am “an old woman”. When I was a young woman, upon seeing me, I would have thought, “old woman”. In our culture “old woman” and “lady” are pejoratives, but not for me. The young, and many males who would be considered “old men” may minimize what I know, what I feel, how I see the world… but they are wrong to do so. They are foolish to do so.

Often, when I first meet new people, they assume much about me, based on my age, my weight, my clothes, my vehicle, my smile, my friendliness. This I know because, if they are required to interact in a sincere fashion, beyond the superficial, they become angry that I am not who they decided I should be. Some people have narrowed their world down into dismissive and comfortable categories, and anything that is outside their personal sorting system causes them distress. They react, in negative ways, when their expectations are not met. They seem to want a comfortable world where everyone fits into their sorting scheme. But people are not Smarties, and can’t be sorted with same precision and success.

Most of the time though, I am not faced with the need to be sincere with people, as most people prefer superficial pleasantries. I am happy to oblige them.

The old saying, “you can’t judge a book by its cover” applies in spades to “old women”.

Baba yaga be damned.

Thanks Teri for pointing this out!
“In the US, “Smarties” is a chalky, tart, stackable candy that comes in little plastic wrappers. (This candy is called “Rockets” north of the border.) In Canada, Smarties are candy-coated chocolates – sort of like unlabeled M&Ms that come in dark blue boxes.”

My Mom left for Florida this morning, wishing her a safe journey. In her eighties, she still drives down by herself, and back again. I hope I inherited her genes!

Yesterday I made the last two panels for the cafe curtains in the living room. It took me all day! For some reason I felt very resistant about getting the work done. So I talked myself into doing just a little bit at a time. First, take measurements and estimate how to cut the material. Long break. Then, press the material, pin, and cut. Long break. Then, measure, pin, press, and sew first seam. Long break…. and so it went, all day long. They were completed just after dark. Just in time for a looooong break!

I’ve had a busy day today. I had oatmeal for breakfast, broccoli for lunch. I will have potatoes for dinner, and probably a bit of cheese, and some corn. I snacked on yogurt and clementines. I have been drinking only water.

Attila broke the news yesterday that the microwave at our country house had just stopped working. He thought he might drive to town to get a new one, but did not get around to doing that. So today I went shopping for a microwave oven. Funny, I would prefer not to shop at WalMart, but really, the choices at the two other stores I went to, Canadian Tire, and Home Hardware, both locally owned, were far more expensive, and not nearly so nice.

I ended up spending a little bit more than I had intended, $20.00 more actually. I purchased a Panasonic brand microwave, made in China. Do they make microwaves in North America any more? I am hoping this microwave lasts a decent number of years! The first microwave I had was a Panasonic, and it was still working when Attila and I moved to the country house ten years ago, it was 20 years old at that point. Finally one of the fancy functions on it went, and we needed something smaller anyway, so we bought a smaller one. That is the one that stopped working this past week.

Since Tank and I were out anyway, I stopped by the gas station to fuel up. Tank cannot use the cheapest grade of gas, Tank needs premium stuff. So that is what Tank got. The bill was hefty. Now Tank is ready for the trip back to the country house. The mileage, and the amount of gas purchased were duly noted in the little notebook that I am keeping handy by the driver’s seat. I will make note of the mileage and fuel costs for the next while, so we can estimate Tank’s fuel efficiency.

The house next to ours was for sale for the longest time. The young couple who own it couldn’t sell it, the real estate market is very, very slow right now, as Attila and I well know. He was transferred out of the area. Today they moved out, the rented truck arrived early in the morning. As I was leaving to shop for the microwave oven I spoke to them, briefly. They intend to come back, and are renting out the property. The new residents were to move in tomorrow.

When I came back from my shopping trip the moving van was gone.

A few hours later a young man drove into their driveway, got out, checked out the house, stood on the front porch texting, then drove away.

A few hours after that a truck with a trailer arrived and the moving in began. The renters are young 20 somethings, could be two fellows, could be a couple, could be a couple of couples. Lots of their friends were there, cars parked up and down the street, lots of loud laughing and chatting. Time for something new in the neighbourhood!

Worldly Distractions


Date: 3:00 PM EST Sunday 30 November 2014
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 100.9 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 8.5°C
Dewpoint: 5.3°C
Humidity: 80%
Wind: S 33 gust 45 km/h


“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.”
Ursula K. LeGuin


  1. My dad, now 75, still drives down to the States each winter and also drives out here to Saskatchewan from BC. He will be inspired by your mother! And so will I, on his behalf.

    I hope your new neighbours bring a happy new friendship.

  2. I will tell her Kate, she will be tickled! Mom is a going concern, she runs circles around me, always has!

    Thanks for the good wishes re the new neighbours Kate! They are very busy moving in tonight!

  3. For those not from Canada who might not know, Smarties are akin to M&Ms.

    Good for your mother, driving all the way south on her own! DH’s dad turns 80 in less than a month and he still gets around pretty good. He and his partner still go on cruises and trips. I hope DH and I do as well in our later years.

    I too am realizing that people are starting to see me as an old woman. I’ve caught my being talked down to a time or two by service people. Makes me more than a little peeved. It was bad enough to be somewhat dismissed by some as ‘just a woman’ in my younger years, it’s definitely not better to have not only my abilities but also my intelligence and education dismissed simply because I’m beginning to look like someone’s grandmother.

  4. They don’t have Smarties in the USA! How do they survive!!

    I began to notice subtle changes when in my mid-forties. It grew more pronounced as time went by, and it extreme now. I am learning to take advantage of it when I can.

    Example: Yesterday Terra and I went to Canadian Tire. She bought the things on her list, and I only wanted to buy two bags of sugar. She went to the self-serve checkout. My sugar was in her cart, so there I was at the self-serve checkout. Here is the thing, I object to the self-serve checkouts and want them to hire real live people to do the job. I want people to be employed, and I want people to deal with, not machines. It is an economic and political issue as far as I am concerned.
    So, back to the story. I told Terra I wasn’t going to use the self-serve and that I simply would forego my purchase. A female employee, a younger woman, heard our interaction and offered to help the “confused old lady” with the technology. Well, I could have gone into it, but what the hell, I smiled benignly and let her ring my stuff through for me, assist me with payment, bag the item, and cheerfully see me on my way.
    The clerk thought she had helped an old woman who didn’t understand technology, Terra thought I was afraid of the machines, and I didn’t care what either of them thought.
    What I thought was, hey, that company just had to pay a live human being to process my purchase! That is what I believe in! Mission accomplished!

    This sort of thing goes on day after day!

    Don’t you just love it when some young male computer nerd talks about something being so easy his “grandmother could understand it”! Who do they think invented this technology in the first place!

  5. Maggie, I literally laughed out loud at your story of the self-service check out and pushing the company to pay a live human being to process your purchase! That’ll have me smiling for quite a while!

    DH and I have used the self-service checkouts when there’s little option. I end up having to walk him through using it as I’ve remembered their idiosyncrasies better than he has. Ironic, that, given he’s the computer/software person. 😉

  6. NORA

    Wow, your mother is still driving by herself from Florida to Canada and she is in her eighties. I am floored.

    I find since I recently started to handle projects in installments it goes along better. I don’t tire as easily or bore as easily.

    I am not thrilled about shopping Walmart either but with our budget it is what has to get done.

    I am interested to hear if Tank’s efficient.

    New neighbors….I hope they are considerate and nice. I always dread new apt. neighbors because it has been almost always hell. Right now we are so fortunate all the quirks have been worked out with them.

    I used to think when I was in my fifties that by the time I got into my sixties I would have resolved all my angst about getting and looking older. I have not. I do not like the process that leaves me almost invisible to others. Losing definition here and there in my body and face. I wanted to age gracefully but it is not happening. Too much stress and it shows. Oh, well…….

  7. Teri, the first time I used a self-service, as you have described, there is sometimes little choice, I flubbed it with my experimental approach. The machine itself made all kinds of noises that demanded a human attend to it. That was my lucky break, I discovered the power of old age, for she assumed I was too old to “get it”, and I made my point with the mother corp, human employment. Ever since, I have either avoided the machines, or gone into a my “save me” mode at the self-service. It is amazing how quickly a human shows up when something goes truly wrong there.

  8. Nora, you describe so well how aging has been evolving in my life too! Although I mourn the loss of my physical youth, I love how you phrased it as losing definition, I am deeply disturbed by the loss of my emotional and intellectual personhood. I think aging gracefully requires a respectful environment, as well as an inner acceptance. Acceptance is not an intellectual decision, not in my case at least. Acceptance seems to be a complex net of body, heart, mind, and soul. I think it might be much easier to deal with the loss of physical definition, if I were surrounded by people who saw, and valued, who I am as a person. Who wants to be an icon!

    Well I guess people who want fame want to be an icon, so I answered my own question, :).

  9. It hasn’t taken *old age* for me to disappoint people. I’ve struggled with that element my entire life, so it seems. By writing the following, I’m not looking for compliments. Gah. It’s just been the truth of my journey – the assumptions made of who I am.

    The marketing façade of my countenance, my book jacket if you will, has always been deceptive. I’ve always been very pretty, attractive. There were years I most definitely was eye candy. And it never meant a whit to me. Inside my beautiful flesh, resided a studious, serious nerd. It wasn’t until my early 40s that my inner voice emerged and started to splash the world with tsunami force. I also honed my humor, which over the years has served as a coping mechanism.

    There is a point to all these seemingly braggy self-observations. Over and over and over again I‘ve disappointed people who assumed I was someone or something that I wasn’t.

    High-ended people with different value systems than mine have gravitated toward me my whole life. I used to naively think I’d finally *arrived* but it never failed… very quickly I disappointed because of misapplied assumptions. Nope. Nothing about me says “Housewives of Beverly Hills*.

    So, growing older with droopy jowls and an even droopier ass doesn’t faze me in the least. I’m no longer a traffic stopper and am glad for that. I like melting into a crowd, and was able to do that for many years until I had to start dragging my oxygen around. *laughing* Like a cowbell, the clanking of my stride announces my arrival.

    In all my years, I’ve never been needy. I am now. It’s been a difficult edit to my life. My book jacket looks much different than I’d hoped – and only because of my limitations. Unlike my past, people can make safe assumptions, and the only reason I’m okay with that is because I have become needy. But like you wrote – people judge the whole of me by my disabilities. Because I’m too tired, too ill, I‘ve let go and let it become their problem – their stupidity, lack of discernment. GRRRRRRRR.

    Yikes. Too much yakking. Love.

    P.S. Bravo for Mom and her road trip! Fabulous!

  10. Reenie, boy did I laugh out loud when you said, “It hasn’t taken *old age* for me to disappoint people.”!!!! I didn’t read the rest of your comment for a while, because I was puttering around the house laughing away to myself over that one sentence. Well said, very well said!

    I was never a traffic stopper, but was pretty in a healthy farm girl sort of way. Because I was sort of pretty, the attraction of my intellectual abilities was enhanced, and that is the kind of unwanted attention I received. It meant less than nothing to me, as you have described.

    It is interesting that you bring up being good looking, as you quite obviously still are. I think that when we experience being pretty, or beautiful, or having large breasts, or some other trait that superficially attracts males (or females, you mileage may vary, my new favourite saying), we can afford it no value. Here is how I came to that conclusion, another story, sorry:

    I worked as an office administrator for a number of years, and the woman who sat in the same office with me was arguably the homeliest woman on the planet. She was not deformed, nor had she been in a terrible accident, she had worn that face since birth. It cut deep, I could tell. She took a lot of her frustrations out on me, but I understood why, and set strong boundaries on how much she could unload my way. I watched all day long, for years. The men in the office treated her differently than they treated the other women, very differently. She wasn’t exactly “one of the boys”, because that is seldom if ever truly possible. Her personality was sardonic, gruff, and she would attack other women with great subtlety and perhaps hatred. She “jollied” the men though, and they were polite to her, if not friendly. She was the second most depressed person I have ever met in my life, profoundly, deeply, chronically depressed. She had a loving husband, but that did not seem to mediate her experience of being a physically unattractive woman. I don’t think I ever fully understood, her, but I could sense that she found no escape from the damning influence of her own face. So that is why I think a pretty woman can afford to dismiss looks as unimportant, but an unattractive woman cannot.

    *Arriving”, as you so aptly put it Reenie, has a high cost of entry, which includes fulfilling the projected expectations of people with different values. Unless of course you share their values, then your off to the races… but then that is not the sort of person I would like to be stuck in an elevator with.

    I hear you loud and clear about the “needy” situation. I have had times in my life where I was needy, real need, desperate need. During some of them, there was no one there for me, no help came, and I will never know if that was a blessing or a curse. It taught me that although love is strong, kindness exists, compassion is powerful, all this exists in “pockets” of decency, and one is very lucky to find those pockets. When I find those pockets I do whatever I can to keep them strong, to feed what goodness and light I can into them. One small voice for humankind, that is me. Perhaps it is all of us.

  11. Loved your response – sorry I’ve been slow to return. House was inundated with people. Phone ringing. Good heavens.

    I appreciated your story so much about the co-worker. It 100% true. Of note, it’s always been easy for me to dismiss my appearance… but quite honestly, I’ve never thought about how the alternative would’ve affected me.

    There’s a person in research at Vanderbilt. She has a condition where her face has continents of blotchy red and her lips are cartoonish large and bright red. It’s quite unattractive. Yet, she’s always happy and smiling and engaging and happily married and dressed up as a cheerleader for Halloween. I’m in awe of her. I know another woman who works for the local university. She travels around the country a lot – development, perhaps. Meets with the wealthiest alum to raise money. Years ago she was in a horrid accident. Her face is a jigsaw puzzle seamed together. She radiates confidence and grace. Again, I’ve always been in awe of her.

    I know I’m entering dangerous territory here – I love that their lights shine so bright – but did society place different expectations on them? Has society given them a hall pass? I wouldn’t be so full of praise for them except they have conquered unattractiveness. I do think our world is becoming a better place regarding this issue.

    An aside to my personal choices – long ago I was no longer attracted to *pretty boys*. I want a face with character and history! A face with a story.

    If I stomp into offensive territory here, please toss my comments into cyberspace. xo

  12. I’m sitting here fascinated by this discussion – and I’m not so sure what it says about me. You see, I’ve never really thought about or gone through any of this. I think I was always kinda middle of the road in looks, never thought about being attractive or not. I just did the things I needed to do in my life and that was it. Oh, except that I was conscientious of my front teeth. They had large, obvious fillings in them and that bothered me. I wouldn’t give a full smile because of them. Took me until this year to get them fixed but now I feel much better about my smile. 🙂

    I’ve never been attracted to pretty boys, though I can see what others may find attractive. I’ve always loved the faces with “character”, the unique and sometimes rugged faces.

  13. Reenie, this interaction is one I find very, very interesting!

    What comes to mind immediately is the difference between the woman in my story, and the two women you are describing.

    The woman I worked with was born with her face, it was hers, given at birth, a permanent feature during her formative years of personality development. It has been the real “her”, the deep down real her, all her life. What people react to negatively is not something external like a condition, or an accident, it is her very own healthy face.

    The women you describe have definable external reasons for their appearance, The first has a condition causing her facial disfigurement, an external force, not the real “her”, the deep down real her. The condition is “ugly”, she is not.

    The woman who was in an accident again has disfigurement due to an external force, not the real “her, the deep down real her. The accident caused the issues.

    Both of the women you describe, it seems to me, are battling external forces, the “other” that affects them. They are courageous and incredible in dealing with the visible difference that were imposed upon them.

    Yes, “pretty boys”! Perhaps I should not admit it, but I have never been attracted to “pretty boys”, my weakness has always been “smart, kind, and funny boys”. I was aware of who was considered to be cute by the girls and women around me, but I’ve honestly never felt any attraction.

  14. Teri, what I immediately thought of when I read your comment was… Tonka trucks! LOL

    I read what you are saying, about not thinking about being attractive, and wonder what that would have been like! It sounds pretty good to me, I have to admit.

    I like what it says about you.

    I was made all too aware of being attractive in my younger years, and hated it. For example, I hated, at the age of 12, wearing the type of clothing that every other Grade 8 girl was wearing, passing a construction site on the way home from school with my younger brother, and having a bunch of grown men throw me kisses and call out sexual innuendos, that sort of thing. If that kind of thing had not existed in my life, I would have been very grateful!

    From my perspective being attractive was a bit like being a target.

  15. LOL! Tonka trucks. OMG, that the childhood enjoyment of a 5 year old should define me! 😀

    I can remember two times in my life where I too was noticed by “men” in such a way that caught my attention. Both times was roughly when I was in 11th grade, so about 15 years old. One time I had boys/”men” barking at me like a dog. That hurt. The other, walking past construction and having a few men whistle and one guy ask me a question. (I walked away very fast, totally unnerved.) That encounter made me feel good about myself, though I found it conflicting.

    See? Even with that, my experiences were mixed – and limited.

  16. Reenie

    It’s almost 3 pm CST and I’m finally having my first meal of the day. Oy. So will return.

    Before then, I want to *shout out* Teri, you rock! And are exceptionally beautiful. xo

  17. Oh, but OTOH to say I’m limiting my contact with men to those occasions is very unfair of me. After all, DH is my 3rd marriage.

    ExHusband1 was my university sweetheart. (I didn’t have a high school sweetheart. Didn’t start dating until I’d graduated high school, at the age of 16.) We fell for each other and started dating, just the normal every day thing you see with young people. When we met, I was 17 and he was 22 and in graduate school. I loved him very deeply but turned out that he was physically abusive when stressed, and we went through a lot of stress in those young years. It took me a long time to grow up but after about 15 years I divorced him.

    ExHusband2, he was Canadian and 13 years younger than me. I’ll never understand that relationship as I feel maybe I’m missing some crucial information about it. I don’t know, maybe he was gay and just wouldn’t admit it to himself. He was a virgin when we met but in short order he wasn’t interested in me anymore, physically or emotionally. He had a lot of problems, including panic attacks and sleep disorders. (He once thought/dreamed that I was a sarcophagus and tried to pry me open!)

    And then there’s DH, my soulmate and love of my life. The man who wines me, dines me, and looks for little things to make my day special. For him it was love at first sight. He loved me the moment he met me. For me, it took longer because it was hard for me to believe in him after two failures (and a few others that never went as far as marriage). But now I’m the lucky one, and how very wonderful that it should happen at a time in our lives where we’ll soon be spending all our time together with retirement.

    Though he comes with baggage in the form of SD, when it comes to what the two of us are to each other I couldn’t be happier!

  18. NORA

    I’ve always been a plain Jane and a Tomboy. Used to hang out with the guys more so than women. Early on the guys just seemed more interesting. It’s not like that now!

  19. I would probably have described myself as a Tomboy as well Nora, but not because I hung out with boys, we lived on an isolated farm and played only with each other, my siblings and I. I just did “boy” stuff, like climbing trees, arm wrestling, snowball fights, wrestling, etc. I always prided myself on my physical strength and athletic abilities. I don’t know what I would have done if there had been other kids around!

    “It’s not like that now!” Exactly!

  20. OMG. Let me clarify that I lived on the tennis courts before any other girls did. In that regard, I was a tomboy. All my friends during my teen years were boys and we lived at the courts. I didn’t find the boys interesting, but they played tennis. 🙂

  21. NORA

    I definitely found boys more interesting back then. They went interesting places, had cars or boats, and spoke a different language. I tended to hang out with older guys. Not that much older but older. The ladies were more interested in primping and catching ‘that fellow’. I primped but I was not obsessed with it. I’ve never been. Maybe I should have been! Both my sisters are primpers. Maybe I was adopted or found under a cabbage leaf! I have always been the black sheep of the family. Actually that ends up being a compliment just like “You’re just like your father!” OY!!!!!

    I’ve been on a tennis court twice Reens. Clearly not my thing. I’m not athletic. Not one gene in my body is athletic!

    Maggie, I would have loved to have lived on a farm. I looked forward each year to going to Rochester, NY and spending the summer there at my Uncle’s turkey farm. He had something like 44 acres and over the hill two man made ponds that were heaven. I was in paradise out in the country. Mesmerized by the fields, farms, and animals in the area.

  22. Nora, I always thought of myself as the “white sheep” of the family, just my way of turning the frown upside down when I was a kid. I came to the same conclusion as you did, it ends up being a compliment.

    I find it interesting that you describe yourself as not having one athletic gene in your body. I met a woman while I was teaching at an outdoor school. Her husband was keen on the school, but it was not her cup of tea. The whole outdoorsy experience was stressful and unpleasant for her, and I remember feeling bad that she was having such a bad time. She did however, collect a lot of natural objects and created a beautiful woven tapestry into which they were incorporated. So it wasn’t a total wash out for her!

    I found the farm a lot of work, to be honest. Harvest time was intermittent, depending on the crop, so we had some idle time to enjoy the landscape. What I remember most though was hard work, particularly for my mother. My father worked away, and by law was deemed to be “the farmer”, and all proceeds were legally his, therefore all financial power was legally his. It was not a good situation for my Mom.

    One of my serious suitors, in my senior years at high school, was a boy who was to inherit a huge century farm. He felt I would make the ideal farm wife. In those days farm wives were not entitled to a share of the farm. By law the entire operation and all its profits belonged to “the farmer”, the husband. I knew how hard farm wives worked, and I had no intention of working that hard, and letting the rewards of my hard work be claimed by “the farmer”. I ran, not walked, away from that offer. Is there such a thing as anti-incentive? 🙂

  23. NORA


    You know I hadn’t even given thought to how much work would go into farming because I have never done it. I have just enjoyed the visuals.

    The laws hardly seem fair to farmers’ wives and again I had no idea on this. Makes you wonder. I’m glad because of this you decided to ‘run’.

    When you mentioned you lived on a farm I had not put together it was a working farm. I just envisioned farm land and fun. I’m glad you took time to explain and also educate me about some poor laws!

    Nope not an athletic gene in this body. The most I do is walk/hike.

  24. Nora, place can be known in so many different ways, it is fascinating! Your experience and vision of “farm”, so different from mine, and I am sure there are many other visions of “farm” beyond just our two! Place has always fascinated me. Our sense of place is so contextual, we can be looking at the same thing and have very differing experiences and perceptions.

    Waling is good! I love to go for walks. I don’t find them boring in the least, even travelling the same path day after day; something always changes.

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