I’ve always been a literal thinker. When I was a young girl, I used to stand beside my mother’s dressing table and watch her get ready for an evening out. Mom would always say she was going to put on her face, and I didn’t understand how that could be possible. She had a face; why would she have to put one on?
I was usually the last one to laugh at a joke. Mom thought I had no sense of humor, but she was wrong. I just spent an inordinate amount of time figuring things out.
My inability to think conceptually was a hindrance in business. Our company always wanted to be cutting edge, and we could see the latest trends in jargon by reading memos from senior management. Those memos were full of lingo that frustrated me. When I read “think out of the box,” I wondered: What box? Ditto “pushing the envelope”: What envelope? When someone spoke of a sea change, I wondered what business had to do with the sea. I didn’t know what any of those people were talking about. A particular favorite phrase was “going forward,” inserted anywhere in a sentence. Who or what was going forward? That was never specified. It took me years to realize that it meant “from now on.”
For a long time I thought something was wrong with my brain. Everyone else seemed to grasp what I could not.
I was in my fifties before I understood putting on a new face. NOW I get it. I get it every day when I stand in front of the bathroom mirror and dust on the various cosmetics whose purpose is to disguise my flaws or define my features or add color. “Add an expression” isn’t even too far-fetched on some days.
As for the business catch phrases, I do get them now…now that I’m retired and free from the onslaught of those frustrating memos. I now realize they really didn’t say anything.
I still stick with the truth. Writing fiction has always seemed like a magic trick to me. My genre is creative nonfiction, the creative part being in the words I choose, the examples I include, and the descriptions I write.
I’m still the last one to get a joke, always a few seconds behind the others. And I’m fine with that.