Thursday, July 22, 2010

Whiney Wilma

My Dad called me "Whiney Wilma". It was a sure fire way to get me to at least stop for a minute and reconsider my tone of voice, to have a moment of self-reflection. Am I whining? How's my posture? Am I in fact bent over in mock beggar pose? Am I stretching out the syllables of my requests and turning them up at the end. "I don't waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaant to go saaaaaailing!" and these were the kinds of things I remember whining about most. I didn't want to go do some family activity like sailing or hiking. I wanted to watch TV or sit on the carpet and make my barbies walk around in high heels and kiss each other. I realize that this made me a brat.

Another great way to give me pause in the midst of a fit or pout session was to say, "Hey, Lindsey if you're not careful a seagull might poop on your lower lip." I loved this, as much as it screwed up my pout session by making me smile. I loved the play on the usual "Watch out or you'll trip on your lower lip." This was the Northwest version and often suited the situation perfectly: I'm dragging my feet, making my 4-5 yr old body as heavy as I can, Dad is holding my hand so that as he attempts to walk like a normal person across the boardwalk at Martin's Marina to the boat, I'm making it really difficult to make much progress without noticing that someone in the scene is not happy, seagulls squeal and circle above always threatening to pelt a person with white splashes flecked in brown.

I remember standing in the driveway of our house on Donnelly Drive, holding my two carpet bags, one with clothes and travel necessities and the other stuffed FULL of barbies, barbie gear and barbie catalogs that I would pour over, imagining the sensation of slipping tiny shoes on tiny feet. Ahhhh, something about wedging a rubber foot into a white high heel gave me this incredible sense of satisfaction. It was better than pulling sleeves over their stiff plastic arms, perpetually stuck doing "the robot", their fingers getting stuck in the lace of wedding dress sleeves, better than running one of the completely out of proportion Barbie brushes through a sleek fall of hair, better than slamming Barbie bodies together so they could "sex", better than positioning a Barbie in the Barbie elevator in the cardboard Barbie mansion and yanking the chord that enabled the up and down elevator action so hard that the faux white wrought iron elevetor shot through the roof of the dream house, flinging the Barbie across the room. I felt finally satisfied. We were going to go on one of our long sailing trips (probably 2 days) but I could hang because I had my gang of barbies, all crammed together in one pink and blonde orgy.

At this time we still lived "In Town", which is a term we only started using when we moved "out" to the country when I was six. We lived in a neighborhood called "Woodsmuir" in Lacey, Washington, but we would only ever say that we lived in Olympia, because no one wants to be from Lacey. The houses in Woodsmuir must have been built in the 70's because every house in my memory had that bizarre honey colored, chunky looking shatter proof glass in the front doors, the glass that both my brother and I obliterated: Chris first by shoving our giant wooden rocking chair down the flight of stairs and me second by pushing the giant Indian Guides drum down the same flight of stairs each of us doing this at the same age (3 or 4) but 4.5 years apart. Plus shag carpet in at least one room of every house, and dark earth toned paint jobs or rough wooden shingled roofs and it was the 80's.

Chris went to elementary school with a boy from the neighborhood named Wally and Wally had a little sister my age named Wilma. Wally and Wilma will always be burnt into my mind as sort of one and the same, the male and female version of a child-trope: reddish-brown straight hair cut into a bowl, a face full of freckles covering pale, moony skin, and thick glasses, really thick glasses, the kind that magnify the eyes and make the wearer look like their eyes are drowning or that they're just always sort of moist. Wally and Wilma always seemed moist. They've become the kind of kids that would have perpetually runny noses. I can see Wally running his nose along the entire length of his sleeve and then snorting the remaining snot back into his nose, looking up at you, having no idea that what he's just done is super gross. I have no idea if Wally ever did this or if he even had runny noses on a regular basis. Wally them had the kind of voice that is just annoying by nature and poor kid could never do anything about it, at least not til puberty. His voice was naturally whiney. Ridiculously, Wilma's voice has become a low monotone, equally bizarre but on the extreme opposite end of the spectrum from her brother's. Which is probably not true either, but that is who they've become for me. They were nerdy too. I recognized them as having nerdy qualities from watching "Revenge of the Nerds" many many times, but I don't remember Wally and Wilma being especially smart as I knew nerds were supposed to me. This disturbed me because at this time in my development I was learning to categorize and they weren't fitting my newly acquired category: Nerd. Wally was maybe the kind of kid that would know a lot of random facts and tell them to adults without noticing when they'd run through their patience. Wilma seemed actually a little slow, or at least kind of dense. Granted we were five but all I remember her doing is standing, peering through her impossibly thick lenses, mouth maybe kind of hanging open and not really responding to whatever I was excited about.

My brother and I played with Wally and Wilma, not a lot, we weren't super buddies with them but we did play with them because we were nice kids and Wally and Wilma were nice kids too, and Wally was a little weird so that made him fun. I should ask my brother for details. It's hard to tell if this is a retroactive memory or a true memory, but I feel like Chris and I knew even then that life was going to be a little rough for Wally and Wilma, because that's how life as was for nerds, so we should be nice to them and play with them. We learned from the Revenge of the Nerds movies to have sympathy for people like Wally and Wilma. Maybe our Mom explained that they were a little different but...I don't know. I don't want to put words in her mouth.

However, when Dad accused me of being a "Whiney Wilma" I knew that I did NOT want to be that. I'm sure he wasn't referring to our neighborhood Wilma (Woodsmuir Wilma), although I wouldn't put it past him to have made some crack about she or Wally somewhere along the line. I knew that being a Wilma was not good, just by its placement in the phrase "Don't be a Whiney Wilma" or by his use of that mock mopey baby voice. I'm sure you know the one. "Oh, I'm sorry, Whiney Wilma." Of course I loved the alliteration too: Whiney Wilma. Weak, wimpy, wet (moist), wonky, weird, wussy whiney woman. Bad. His invocation of the icky, myserious Wilma archetype both cracked me up and reminded me that I was not that, that I was expected to be something else.

We Boldts were bright, attractive, clean, healthy, athletic, successful, upstanding, well rounded and productive middle-class citizens or at least that was the expectation, or my received expectation. I was five so I was mostly pretty nuts and if I was five then my brother would have been nine and half. While he had a leg up on me when it came to behaving like a civilized human just by benefit of age, he and his friends were still peeing on each other in the showers at swim practice and he was still terrorizing his little sister, me.

We were not underdogs as my Mom would later call that societal dezignation when explaining to me why that she worried about my desire to always "champion the underdog". She inferred that this meant that I had internalized the idea that I was an underdog too.

I felt like my compiled idea of Wilma a lot of the time then and still do sometimes especially around people that appear to be bright, attractive, clean, healthy, athletic, successful, upstanding, well rounded and productive middle-class citizens. Especially on the bus after work, 5 or 6pm, when my hair has flattened, my posture slumped, my clothes stretched from the day's activities so that they hang wrong, sitting next to a pretty blonde girl who somehow still gleams, whose hair still has that just brushed look, whose clothes still fit, who has somehow managed to go about her day with her feet wedged into high heel shoes. I sit up straighter, think about how people think I'm pretty, how productive I'd been at work that day, take stock of myself, find myself lacking in some way and slump back against the window of the bus. I scratch my head in the way I know makes me "look like a crazy person", as my Mom says, and imagine myself first as a frumpy, runny-nosed kid, then as a growling, slobbering beast wreaking havoc on the pretty, pastel city outside my window.

The only other instance of "Wilma" that rivals Whiney Wilma in my memory comes from the Where's Waldo books. I know, Wilma Flintstone, but really, who cares? What a doormat. Bleh.
I received my first Waldo books in the early 90's, when I was about 7 or 8 after we had moved out to the country. In his later books, Waldo has a girlfriend named Wilma. She's kind of hot. She's tall and skinny like Waldo with these great black framed cat eye glasses that always make her look like she's smirking a little bit. She wears the same striped shirt, skinny jeans and striped beenie uniform. I knew that Waldo was supposed to be a sort of nerd (goofy, skinny, glasses-wearing) but he somehow carried none of the social stigma or moistness that Wally and Wilma or the characters in Revenge of the Nerds had shouldered.

Waldo and Wilma were the proto-hipsters for me, right down to the striped shirts and black framed glasses. Their nerdiness somehow slipped off the edge of pitiable outcast and over into cool. DUH. Ironic hipster nerdiness, right? Remember though that this was the early 90's when these books came out, just as Nirvana was making it cool to be weird.

If you're not familiar, Waldo is this bewildered goof who keeps finding himself in situations in which he is lost in a disorienting crowd of people and/or barbarians, vampires, etc. The publisher entreats you, the reader, to help him find his glasses, his shoe, his socks, his scroll (?), himself. You may pity him to an extent but there's also something compelling and brave about Waldo. I could relate to him as a beleguered sensitive artist type lost amidst a world of homogenous wackos. The homogeneity changes with each page but nonetheless Waldo never fits in, until the last page (of the first book) when he finds himself in a two page sea of Waldos and it's our job to find the real Waldo, the one missing a shoe. Wow.

I would later find myself attracted to just this type of man. First the character "Trent" in MTV's chartoon show "Daria", then in the real person of my best friend Julia's older brother's friend Peter, a skinny, hapless musician with terrible posture and an incredible ear for pop music who I harbored an unrequieted crush on for most of highschool. I remember a certain photo I took of him wearing a black and white striped long sleeved shirt. Sheesh. My current boyfriend, Steve? Forget about it. A blond version of Waldo, with that perfect "Aw shucks" charm that just kills me. Do I sometimes have the urge to sheperd him through life? to help him FIND himself? Yes, admittedly, I do. Do I imagine myself as the Wilma to his Waldo? I am now, that's for sure.

Where is Waldo? Where is Wilma? Can you spot them a in the Castro Theater at a screening of "Metropolis"? Here they are at an outdoor music festival. Here is San Francisco, can you find Waldo? Can you find Wilma? Can you find Wilma's keys? Can you find Waldo's beenie?

Okay, that's all a little too perfect, and maybe a little cute, but shoot, if I have to choose a Wilma to associate with, I choose the sexy one with the goofy boyfriend. Yes, please. That Wilma doesn't have to whine to get what she wants. I also realize that Whiney Wilma is alive and well hanging out in my psyche ready to stick her giant petulant lip out for a seagull to poop on should things not go my way. One Wilma leads to another. There can be no might, sexy Wilma without first the grumpy, pouty Wilma whose only recourse is to drag her feet and make a scene.


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John Sakkis said...

i think i've cried a little reading everyone of these posts so far...

love em.

C-Boldt said...

We didn't live in Lacy. Woodsmuir is in unincorporated Thurston County.

So chin up.

Steve Orth said...

I'm here. I love you.

Anonymous said...

Judge not a book by its cover.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .