Pay attention. I am not kidding. Really.

Tag: boasting

TRULY – boasting never pays off.

photo of antique pie tin with "Home Made Pies" embossed on it

(Just stick with me. I promise it’ll make sense.)

You remember how I squealed on Hubby in the Tackle Box Teddy story? As he read that painful episode from his teen years, it reminded him of a later episode (when he should’ve been old enough to know better) and – believe it or not – he suggested I tell the tale to the world. Can you believe it? Well! I couldn’t flip open my laptop fast enough. (Apparently, some people prefer even bad publicity to no publicity.) So here’s

…yet ANOTHER tale
which illustrates
that boasting
just NEVER DOES PAY OFF.

Sometime in his late twenties and early thirties, Hubby developed a baker streak. It was during that inauspicious era when sourdough anything had become popular. Some enthusiastic sourdough-er gave us a sourdough starter batch, which I planned to ignore until it stank and then throw it out. Hubby, however, took up the challenge and decided to become a sourdough baking wizard. (Did I mention he rarely set foot in the kitchen at this stage of life?)

After introducing him to the stove, oven, and of course, the eminently useful Joy of Cooking cookbook, I left him to it. After conferring with the other women in his life who did know about these things, he spent his Saturday mornings – with our boys pitching in – trying his hand at sourdough pancakes, sourdough biscuits, sourdough cookies, sourdough pizzas, sourdough breads, sourdough cakes, and sourdough pie shells.

It was that last one that tripped him up, but I’m getting ahead of my story. (See, the photo above is already beginning to make sense, isn’t it?)

All fall, he honed his sourdough baking skills. Developing productive new skills is almost always a good thing. Boasting about it? Rarely ever a good thing. After the whole Tackle Box Teddy debacle, as I’ve said, you’d think he would’ve learned this lesson but then I couldn’t be telling this story if he had, now could I?

That was a year when we would travel the 1100 miles back to spend Christmas with my family in Indiana. Every time we talked with my parents on the phone that fall and early winter leading up to Christmas, he bragged on his sourdough whatever – but especially on his sourdough pie shells.

After listening to way too much of his braggadocio, I decided to let him fall on his own sword. I decided not to tell him about my father’s pre-Prevention-reading days and the days before our trek down the path of culinary austerity, which were well before he entered the family. I decided not to tell him what he had no way of knowing – that my mother was the meanest pie-baker for miles. Her tender, flaky crusts filled with her perfectly sweetened apple fillings had disappeared in seconds at family reunion dessert time.

Meanwhile, clueless Hubby kept on with the endless bragging.

A day or so after arriving at my parents’ home, Hubby realized he’d remembered to bring the sourdough mixture, but not his pie crust recipe. “Oh, well,” said The Braggart, “I can remember most of it.” You’re way ahead of me, aren’t you? If you know anything about baking, you know that remembering “most” of a recipe is a recipe for unpleasantness at the table.

On the Day of Disaster, overconfident Hubby entered my mother’s kitchen and announced he was making his very own Famous-Amos, sourdough, cherry pie and could she please get out all the necessary accoutrements and then get out of the kitchen? Those were the last questions he asked, bless his heart. From there on, he had things wonderfully under control. No need to ask silly questions about liquid-to-flour proportions, differences altitude makes in baking, pie dough handling, or anything else. No siree. He was on it.

After a while, though, the determined set of his mouth told me perhaps his “most” recipe wasn’t working out so well. Didn’t care. I went on about my business. Several more minutes passed. Mother, artfully keeping a sly eye on his progress, whispered to me, “If he doesn’t stop pounding and stretching that crust, it’ll be tougher than a boot!”

Not to worry, Mother. I’m sure that no matter what happens, most of us will enjoy dessert immensely.”

By the time the dinner hour arrived, there was a feverish feeling in the air. Everyone around the table – except Hubby – knew what was coming after the main course: a totally inedible dessert. We couldn’t wait! After clearing the table, Mother set the pie, pie server, and dessert plates in front of Hubby so that he could do the honors (knowing full well she didn’t have the muscle required to wrestle concrete from a pie pan).

As he began to cut, Hubby’s expression changed from smug self-satisfaction to mild concern to all-out panic to gritty resolve. Now everyone knows the first piece of pie is the hardest to get out. This pie’s first piece was, well, harder than most. Hubby sawed and hammered and whacked and chiseled until he had the first piece on a dessert plate.

Whew. Six more to go.

When all seven dessert plates of cherry concrete had been distributed, the fun began. Mother gamely took her first bite, tried to down another, and thereafter, picked at the remaining stone-like mass. My much younger sister took one bite and asked to be excused from the table. Witnessing all this, I tried to choke down a small morsel and decided it just wasn’t worth risking my teeth. Once our sons saw their very own mother abandon the sinking ship, they mutinied, too, and quietly slipped out of their seats and slithered into the living room.

Now, never let it be said that my father didn’t know how to play the game. Not only was he able to hew a bite-size piece from the rocky stuff, he managed to chew his first bite and – here’s the amazing part – swallow it. After the obvious effort it took to swallow it, he said, “THAT is delicious! I believe I’ll have another bite.”

Of course, the next bite was a process that took just as long as the first bite process. It, too, had to be hacked off the mother ship, speared with his fork, and then chewed and chewed and chewed, and then bravely swallowed. After the second bite, he proclaimed, “My, that’s tasty!”

And on it went – long after my sister, my mother, our sons, and I, and – yes – even Hubby had given up and left the table. Hubby slunk off to the family room and pretended to watch the evening news. Our sons hung out safely in the living room. Mother, Sis, and I did the washing up, and cleared the table, except for my father’s dessert plate and fork. We turned off the dining room lights and left him to it. Every ten minutes or so, from the darkness, we all heard another, “Well, this IS superb pie!” or something to that effect.

After his final bite of cherry concrete, my father (who by now you know was The King of Understatement) pushed himself back from the table and stood up to announce to anyone still within earshot – once again – “I believe that is the FINEST cherry pie I have EVER eaten.” And with that final pronouncement, he walked quietly (though a little stiffly, since he had a bellyful of concrete grinding down a few hapless cherries) to the family room.

Pay attention.
Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for:
the first pay-attention point.

Understated comeuppance is sometimes – though not always – more effective than beating someone over the head with an “I-told-you-so.” In fact, in certain circumstances, it can be THE most effective Boast Buster there is.

And, as you’ve just read, someone in that house desperately needed more than a wimpy serving of comeuppance. My father, ever glad to oblige, administered a walloping dollop of comeuppance with a master’s hand. I’m telling you, it was a performance worth the suspense and the waiting. 

But hey, there’s more –
a second pay-attention point.
BOASTING CAN HAVE
LONG-LASTING CONSEQUENCES.

The next year, my parents and sis made the same 1100-mile trip, traveling the opposite direction, to spend Christmas at our house. Christmas morning dawned, and the gift orgy began. My seemingly innocent little sister (egged her by her parents, no doubt) handed a small package to Hubby.

Why thank you!” said The Braggart. (Here’s a third pay-attention point I’ll throw in for free: don’t thank the gift-giver for a gift until after you’ve opened it.)

He opened the beautifully wrapped package to discover – yes! – an antique pie tin (the very one you saw at the beginning of this blog post). As you can see, it states demurely, “Home Made Pies” – just what every sourdough baking wizard needs.

photo of worn Teddy with tartan bow and antique pie tin

Yessir. It’s the Dynamic Duo of Boast Busters.

While Hubby’s sourdough baking phase has long since passed (thank goodness), his pie tin (given a full year from his ruinous boasting fiasco) finds its way to a prominent place in our house from time to time. This happens for the same reason that Tackle Box Teddy has to make similar appearances: when you-know-who needs a not-so-subtle reminder of how boasting really never, ever, ever pays off. And it works – for awhile. 

red box with white text: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” – Proverbs 27:1, NIV Bible

Hoo, boy. I’ll say!!!!! Just ask you-know-who.

 

red box with white text: “Boasting begins where wisdom stops.” – Japanese Proverb

Don’t you just love that Japanese pithiness?

©2016, Teresa Bennett

Boasting: Never a Good Idea

photo of fishing tackle box filled with lures

Boasting and tackle boxes just go together.

Remember that high school episode when a girl (who wasn’t the least bit cute) stole your boyfriend (the one you kinda took for granted, seeing as how you were cute and SUCH a catch) – and you didn’t even see it coming? What a shocking, tear-filled, angst-ridden experience that was!

Remember when you pulled an all-nighter for that college exam solely for the anticipated pleasure of setting the curve and a teensy bit of boasting afterward? Remember your roommate, that sorry excuse for a student (who never cracked a book) who beat you by ten crummy points on said exam?

Thought so. I’ll stop right there with my trip down Memory Lane. Like me, you probably have a host of memories like these that you cannot seem to expunge. Fortunately, most of us don’t dwell on them. We hardly ever think of them till some spoil-sport like me brings them up.

Fortunately, they’re pretty confined: they’re very personal experiences. Very few, if any, people in your current life know your old and painful stories. Thank goodness, because that means you won’t hear them endlessly retold.

Family stories, on the other hand, are property held in joint tenancy. Folks sharing the same twisty DNA strands all have “rights” to them. And most families do have stories they like to tell on each other over and over and over. Eventually (in most families), even the chump of the story is able to laugh after enough time passes. Read on for a superb example of family lore – with an easy-to-remember, pay-attention point, of course. Spoiler Alert: it has a most gratifying conclusion.

The Story:
The Surprising Variants
of Fishing Tackle

Once upon a time, there was a Big Brother who had been invited on a weekend fishing trip just far enough from home to make it an adventure. He was to fish on a trout river reputed to supply boatloads of trout to savvy anglers. Topping the imagined fish haul was the company he’d keep. He and his father would join his father’s friend and that friend’s son (also a friend of Big Brother). Four guys doin’ what guys do. Yessiree, it was shaping up to be a testosterone-infused weekend, with a cooler full of fish at its propitious end.

Big Brother had two sisters. The older of the two played it cool. Even though she, too, dearly loved fishing, she would not give proud Big Brother the satisfaction of knowing she would’ve loved to go, too, if she’d been invited and if it wasn’t so much a guy-bonding trip. By the way, this was an exhibit of wisdom-beyond-years: never enter the fray unless you have a decent shot at winning. She knew she had no chance of being invited on this fishing trip, so she did the wise thing: she kept her powder dry.

The younger of Big Brother’s sisters being all of six years younger, didn’t possess the maturity to be coy or wise. She could barely hide her ire that jerky Big Brother had been invited to go somewhere and she had not. She didn’t care that much about fishing; it was the irritating unfairness of it all that set her off. Big Brother got to go everywhere, and she NEVER got to go anywhere!

As big brothers are prone to do, this one boasted and crowed and then boasted some more. He boasted about the special restaurant meals they’d eat. (Restaurants were seldom in this family’s budget.) He boasted about how late they’d stay up. He boasted about how many trout they’d catch. He boasted about how yummy those trout would taste after being roasted over a campfire.

Little Sister silently fumed. She maintained her cool but only just. And then, a day or two before lift off, she suddenly flipped off the Cool Resentment Switch and flipped on the Syrupy Sugar Switch.

  • “I do hope you have a nice time.”
  • “Oh, I’ll bet the weather will be perfect.”
  • “Maybe you’ll catch bunches of fish!”

And on and on.

Mamma was mildly puzzled. Dad didn’t even notice. Big Brother was oblivious, being too full of himself to question the 180-degree reversal. Middle Child, though, quietly observed this new development but kept her theories to herself.

As the intrepid fishermen backed out of the carport, Little Sister stood beside Mamma and Middle Child to wave good-bye. Waving cheerily as they passed, she skipped back into the house to her dolls.

As the day went on, Mamma gave this scenario further thought and began to smell a rat. Pretty sure something had occurred that she might ought to be concerned about, she asked Little Sister, “And why are you so cheerful, Little Missy?” Little Sister innocently answered, “I’d sure like to be in that boat right about now” and continued playing contentedly. Family lore has it that she had that sweet glow of contentment that comes only with the flawless delivery of well-deserved revenge.

Meanwhile, in the boat, it was time to get serious about the manly job of fishing. Dad and his friend put their heads together to decide what the trout would bite on, given the time of year, type of trout, yadda, yadda, yadda. Big Brother and his friend imitated their fathers and opened their tackle boxes to find the same lures.

At this point is when Little Sister’s precocious insight into what winds up testosterone-filled boys had its intended effect. As cocky Big Brother confidently flipped open his tackle box to pull out the correct lure, he found something that didn’t look very lure-ish. At that precise moment, the air explosively escaped from his testosterone balloon. Little Sister, playing contentedly with her dolls 200 miles away, had just poked a big ole fat pin in that sucker.

Quickly whapping the tackle box shut and already sweating profusely, he nervously reviewed his options.

  • He could pretend to be sick and ask to be taken back to the motel. Nah. Dad, not known for empathy, was fixated on a full day of fishing and would just tell him to barf over the side of the boat and get over it.
  • He could “accidentally” dump the whole tackle box into the lake and ask to borrow lures from the others. Nah. Then he’d be minus fishing tackle from now on – not just for a weekend. Even in his panicked state, he realized that was a long-term solution to a short-term problem. It’d taken years and a lot of part-time-work moolah to accumulate his stash; it’d be dumb to throw it all in the drink.
  • He could inch the lid open, pull out the testosterone deflater, and surreptitiously throw it over the side of the boat. Nah. The dang thing would float, Dad would recognize it, and blab to the others.

Big Brother, knowing exactly who had placed the testosterone deflater in his tackle box, decided there was no rational escape from facing the consequences of his insufferable behavior toward Little Sister. He resolutely opened the tackle box, calmly removed Teddy (his trusty bear friend from his toddler years), gave Teddy the little bit of dignity he could by sitting him upright in the bottom of the boat, and acted as if this were perfectly normal behavior for a teenage boy on a guy fishing trip.

By all accounts, this was Little Sister’s stupendous coup de grâce. It gets even better when you start speculating on Big Brother’s explanation, as he feigned shock and surprise. “I don’t know how this got into my tackle box!” and “Of course, I don’t still sleep with a teddy bear!” (As he was an uneducated Philistine when it came to knowing Shakespeare, he probably hadn’t heard about “Methinks thou doth protest too much.”) We can only assume (since he’s not telling) that as he kept up his protestations of innocence, the other three guys in the boat became more and more certain they’d invited a colossal SISSY on their testosterone trip. 

You gotta love this kind of story. And as I’ve said before, I don’t make this stuff up (at least not the basic story outline).* I merely report it.

You’re laughing now, but I’m sure you’ve had similarly humbling experiences that you very much deserved. And you remember it’s never funny when you’re in the middle of it. In fact, just like Big Brother, not only did you fail to see the humor, you were probably just as devastated, mortified, and ready for revenge. The good news is that Big Brother, like most of us, learned to see the humor, tell the story on himself, and even laugh at himself.

What’s the pay-attention point? I should think it would be painfully obvious.

Boasting is a bad habit.
STOP IT!
It never works out well
in the long run.

Family lore ends abruptly at this point of the story. Evidently, there were no serious repercussions for Little Sister. Everyone else in the family probably wished they’d thought of Tackle Box Teddy, and it’s highly unlikely Big Brother received “you poor thing” murmurings of sympathy from any of them.

Lacking familial sympathy, Big Brother was forced to learn a humiliating, pay-attention lesson. Even in his teenage, brain-dead condition, he’d worked out the simple truth of the matter by the end of the more-exciting-than-he’d-planned fishing trip. He’d received what he deserved for his incessant boasting, should forgo revenge, and leave well enough alone.

I, however, never leave well enough alone. (Borrrrring.) Once a year, I give Tackle Box Teddy a well-deserved place of honor under our Christmas tree. Yes, I’m Big Brother’s wife, and I drag out moth-eaten Teddy and dress him in a fluffy, estrogen-laced tartan bow. (I have to put something around the poor thing’s neck to hide the hole created by a botched tracheotomy from yesteryear.) Yes, Tackle Box Teddy is an excellent reminder for Big Brother that boasting NEVER, EVER pays off.

photo of worn teddy bear with large tartan bow

Isn’t Tackle-Box Teddy sooooooo cute?

It keeps him humble. Well, not really. Learning that boasting never, ever pays off turns out to be a slippery pay-attention lesson that slides away from Big Brother from time to time. Occasionally, Tackle Box Teddy has to make a between-Christmases visit to administer some much-needed comeuppance. And it works – for awhile. (One of my many comeuppances came early in our marriage.

red box with white text:

Here’s why boasting is such a very bad habit.

*A semi-admission of guilt: Seeing as how I wasn’t actually present at this party, some of the “facts” may be slightly embellished – or not. Who’s to say?

2016, Teresa Bennett

 

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