In an earlier post, I mentioned that my family is my ultimate reality check. In most cases, this is true, but in certain scenarios, like the one that I am about to unravel for you, it is not.
To recap, my family has no problem telling me about things they find wrong with my appearance:
[In at Target dressing room, wearing a spandex skirt my mom forced me to try on]
Me: MOM this skirt is entirely too tight around my ass. I look like a hoe.
Me: What is so funny?
Mom: I can’t even focus on how big your ass looks in that skirt because I am too distracted by how pale your legs are in contrast to the color of the skirt.
Or creating worst-case scenarios in response to my medical issues:
[On the phone with my dad after a visit to the dentist]
Me: The dentist says that I have larger-than-normal gaps between my gums and teeth.
Dad: Your dentist is an alahmist (“alarmist” pronounced in a Brooklyn accent).
Me: Why? It’s the truth. She said that I need to buy a special air flosser or else I will have to have a deep cleaning done by a periodontist.
Dad: Have you told Z about this yet?
Me: No, why?
Dad: Good, don’t.
Dad: Because we don’t want to cause a ruckus over something like this. If Z finds out about your gums, he may think that you are defective or something…and he’ll leave you.
Me: Yes dad, clearly this is exactly what would happen. Who’s the alarmist now?
Or even convincing me that I am hopelessly, socially inept:
[After my paranoid pothead roommate in college threw away my flip-flops and ate all of my food from the fridge]
Adam: You need to stop being such a bitch.
Me: SHE THREW AWAY MY PROPERTY AND ATE $100 WORTH OF GROCERIES
Adam: Just stop holding grudges. You sound like Dad. This is why you have no friends.
Me: I have friends.
Adam: Animals don’t count.
Yet intellectually speaking, it could not be more of the opposite. While they fully acknowledge that my stories are oftentimes exaggerations of the truth, for some unexplainable reason, my family doesn’t tend to question my book smarts, probably because our intellectual interests don’t particularly overlap. My dad likes radium physics, my mom is obsessed with History Channel specials on the ancient Egyptians, and my brother is my brother. I don’t question them and they don’t question me. We are masters our own domains. If I start talking about something that none of them know or care about, my knowledge is unquestionably accepted as the truth. One time, I spent an entire family dinner pronouncing Contagion as CUN-TAJ-EE-ONN and no one said a word. Sure, I knew how to properly pronounce the movie’s title, but it was just more fun to let it roll off of my tongue incorrectly. I liked the sound of the word more. So I continued to do it, and nobody seemed to mind. It’s not like I was hurting anyone…except apparently myself.
You see, I can handle having pale legs, oversized gums (that would apparently make me an undesirable mate?), and friends that are exclusively dogs, but I cannot handle the idea of being stupid. I have many fears in life – B.O., becoming allergic to bagels, people close to me dying, having my face mauled by hoard of rabid sea turtles leaving me ugly and decrepit – but one of the biggest ones is appearing stupid.
In the midst of trying to uphold my familial role as the type-A super daughter and my family’s willingness to pigeon-hole me into that role, I somehow became unable to handle any sort of opposition to the infinite store of knowledge that my family has convinced me that I have within me. Even my friends in college tell me that part of the reason they love me is because my stories are usually about 60% true and my impressions of people all sound like Eric Cartman. They, like my family, know better than to disrupt me with nonsensical things like the “real facts” when I am on a roll. All in all, the very people who I lean on for support also happen to be the ones who have bound me to an intellectual wheelchair, that is, until Z.
It all started one day when I was watching a re-run of How I Met Your Mother. I used to hate this show because of its use of canned laughter and largely obnoxious characters (with the exception of Marshall, played by Jason Segal, but he still gets points taken away for being in love with Lily, the most annoying redhead to ever walk the planet), but the show has six complete seasons available on Netflix so it is perfect for those days when I just need background noise to drown out the sounds of my own gluttony.
Anyway, this particular episode of HIMYM was entitled “Spoiler Alert.” The premise of the episode revolved around each character’s flaws being made obvious to the other members of the group, thereby ruining everyone for each other (if that makes any sense). It all starts when Ted points out to Marshall that his wife, Lily, makes really loud chewing noises. As a result, Marshall can no longer eat next to Lily without being acutely attuned to her chewing noises – noises that he never would have noticed prior to Ted’s comment. For the remaining twenty minutes of the show, the flood gates of the gang’s flaws are opened: Marshall has a tendency to sing about whatever he is doing, Robin says the word “literally” all the time (and incorrectly), and Barney is forced to recognize a plethora of his own problems, which range from his annoying catch phrases to his occasionally high-pitched voice.
Now obviously, none of these problems would have come out of the woodwork had it not been for Ted, who in my opinion is the WORST character on the show (like seriously Ted, you have too many feelings and no straight woman wants a man that acts like a pussy all the fucking time and Tourette’s blurts “I LOVE YOU” at any given moment to any girl). Ted’s flaw, as pointed out by Lily, is that he corrects everyone. About everything. All the time. He just can’t let anything slide.
Lily: Ugh, this is all Ted’s fault. Ooh, like he’s so perfect, Mr. Corrector.
Robin: What are you talking about?
Lily: Oh, come on, you dated the guy for a year and didn’t notice that most of what he says is correcting you?
Robin: Oh, can you hand me a Kleenex?
Ted: Actually, Kleenex is a brand, this is a facial tissue.
[Flashback: during a movie]
Robin: Oh my God, is Frankenstein gonna kill that little girl?
Ted: Uh, Dr. Frankenstein isn’t in this scene, that’s Frankenstein’s monster.
[Flashback: after having sex]
Robin: That literally blew my mind.
Suddenly, I am struck by the horrible realization that I too am dating a “corrector.” All of these instances come flowing back to me at once, similar to the aforementioned flashbacks in the HIMYM episode.
[Flashback: reading an e-mail forward from Z’s grandfather about Eritrea]
Me: Oh, I had to do a report on the conflict in Eritrea [UR-EE-TREE] when I was in high school.
Z: You mean Eritrea [ERR-IT-TREE-AH]?
Me: No…Eritrea [UR-EE-TREE]…my high school history teacher told us it was pronounced that way.
Z: [pulling up YouTube to type in “pronunciation of Eritrea” and solve the dispute once and for all…YouTube pronounces Eritrea as ERR-IT-TREE-AH, like Z does]
Me: Whatever, Ms. Lambert said it like how I was pronouncing it so it’s not like this ignorance is totally my fault [Of course, when in doubt, blame the authority figure responsible for you.]
Z: Didn’t you go to private school?
[Flashback: watching the news about the bombing of the U.S. Consulate in Libya]
Me: [Not exactly sure what I said, but I basically implied that Libya was considered part of the Middle East]
Z: Um, Libya is in Africa babe.
Me: No, it is part of the Middle East [Okay, I am willing to take some flack here because I was partially confusing Libya with Lebanon in thinking that Libya was physically located in the Middle East; but as far as being considered a part of “Middle East” in the way that it is defined by the Eurocentric perspective of most American school teachers, Libya is often included, along with a few other North African countries.]
Z: [Whips out his MacBook Air and Googles “Libya Map,” to show me where Libya is]
Me: Okay, yeah, so, it may be ON the African continent but that doesn’t mean it can’t be considered part of the Middle East, like Egypt. The Middle East isn’t a continent.
Z: Well Egypt is technically in both Africa and Asia, so it actually does have land in the Middle East…
Me: WHY DO YOU HAVE TO MAKE ME FEEL LIKE I AM DUMB
[Cue crying until I get an apology]
I know that Z does not think I am stupid, nor do I think he is intentionally trying to “zing” me with his corrector tendencies like I am some insolent dog and he is Cesar Milan, jabbing four fingers into my neck to thwart my naughty behavior (TSST!). Yet, when Z corrects me, I find that I become irrationally offended by what is meant to be a well-intended gesture by someone who loves me.
The weird thing is that I don’t mind being wrong, but I HATE being corrected. You would think the two are interchangeable but they are not. For example, I could be wrong for stealing a subway seat from a pregnant woman (Side note: What if she was just fat in the stomach? I would be insulting her by offering my seat. Plus, men should be offering their seats. It’s only right since they are the impregnators.), and I accept that because it is based on my behavior rather than that infinite store of knowledge that my family has convinced me that I have within me. When Z, or anyone else (but really, only Z so far) corrects me, it is like he is pulling away a small section of my security blanket of smartness.
Thus, when Z decided to be “the corrector” in the middle of a romantic dinner on our recent trip to Portland, the last bit of the false smartness security blanket was leaving me cold, both literally and figuratively.
[Flashback: dessert menu placed in front of us at Andina, a “Novo-Peruvian” restaurant]
Me: Oooo this looks good – the crisp quinoa [pronounced KEY-NO-AH] studded cannolis stuffed with passionfruit mousse…
Z: Quinoa [KEY-NO-AH], babe? REALLY?!
Z: You mean Quinoa [KEY-NWAHH] [Slight look of horror crossing his face: “Maybe she isn’t as smart as I thought?”]
Me: [pausing to reflect on what my answer would be, I mean obviously I know what quinoa (pronounced either way) is; I just never actually saw/noticed the word written down. I have only heard it. With my ears.]
Z: Babe, it’s KEY-NWAHH.
Me: NO! NO! [SHIT SHIT there is no way out I am trapped in the depths of my own ignorance and the horrible realization that my inability to recognize and pronounce the name of this pretentious hipster food group. I am a fake! I don’t deserve to be in Portland or Brooklyn or anywhere that claims to have educated elite! I mispronounced quinoa and now the veil has been lifted and I am revealed for what I truly am! A fake! No use hiding it now. Might as well be Snooki and not even ironically. For real. Someone should punch me in the face stat.]
Z: Would you rather me not say anything and let you go around pronouncing it wrong?
Me: Well, no, but I mean, I never saw the word written down. And you could go about it differently, like sound a little less shocked, maybe? [Or perhaps just never correct me at all because life is just better when you go about it blindly?]
Z: [Shakes head]
Later that evening…
Z: Babe, come here.
Me: What is it?
Z: [Types “how to pronounce quinoa” into the YouTube search box]
Me: Well the middle pronunciation sounded pretty much the same as what I have been saying…
It was horrible. I honestly felt like I was some dead victim’s parents on Law & Order: SVU being taken to the Medical Examiner’s room to identify the mutilated body beneath the sheet, except for me the sheet was the YouTube search box and the mutilated body was my perceived intellect being stabbed a hundred times with the box cutter of Z’s competing intellectual stores. Luckily, things took a turn for the better the following day.
[Flashback: walking past a bush full of small, red berries on our way to get coffee]
Z: I wonder what these berries are.
Me: They look like the ones on the tree in my backyard that I used to eat when I was little. They were so delicious until I had to go to the hospital and have my stomach pumped.
Z: I think they are cranberries.
Me: No, they can’t be cranberries. Cranberries don’t grow in bushes or trees.
Z: No, I think that there are cranberries that grow on trees.
Me: But what about all of those Ocean Spray commercials where you have the farmers wearing the thigh-high boots in a swamp full of cranberries?
Z: I know what you mean, but…
Me: [Googling “where do cranberries grow” on my iPhone] “Cranberries grow on low-lying vines in beds layered with sand, peat, gravel and clay. These beds are commonly known as bogs or marshes and were originally created by glacial deposits.”
Z: Well babe, it looks like you are right. [Totally unaffected and comfortable with his mistake]
Me: Who’s the corrector now? HAHAHA
And just like that, I am a genius again.