Friday, August 30, 2013

Theory 15: “Tailgate etiquette” is not an oxymoron.

Over many years, I observed every type of behavior—from southern chivalry to northern aggression. I’d like to give a shout out to my buddy “Mint Julep” for prodding me to write about tailgates! Mint Julep and her husband actually treated Tall Child and me to a private plane ride to Tuscaloosa to watch Tennessee take on The Crimson Tide. What a great day! I’d like to thank all my friends for this blog’s fodder, even you Alabama fans.

Tailgaters travel a spectrum from calm, civilized, linen-draped tables and guests of The Grove (Ole Miss) to sweltering, sweat-soaked, foot-stomping 2-bits, 4-bits cheering fans in The Swamp (Florida). Tall Child and I built our own little Tennessee Tradition; we hosted season after season of great tailgate parties. For many years, we even held an annual kick-off party at home to fire folks up for the tailgating (and SEC football) season. We started in Lot 9 with the in-laws, and then we moved to G-10 (a multi-level parking garage beside Thompson-Boling arena) and gathered up family and a few more friends. I loved snagging the top corner spot over the garage entrance. We could cheer in UT fans or harass the opposing team. Once, Delicious and Big Booty J helped organized a huge TN vs. Georgia tailgate party. Delicious draped a giant Georgia flag over the railing. It was upside down. We never told her. Alongside the upside-down flag, we dangled a stuffed bulldog on a long rope and tormented Georgia fans as they rolled through. I saw this idea when I was in Athens, GA with the UT band. A couple of trumpet players sat on the sidewalk as we waited to enter the stadium and every time a Georgia car cruised by in the molasses slow traffic, the boys threw the stuffed bulldog under its wheels. We cracked up as Georgia fans of all ages fumed as they crushed their own mascot. Finally, we found the supreme tailgating spot in Knoxville: a flat paved rooftop above a one story building – no cars, just thousands of square feet with huge crowds and a view of the stadium and the river. Those parties were the best. We even hired live bands for the big games. Yes, tailgating gets rowdy, but there are rules. Tailgate etiquette is not an oxymoron.

So, today, I present you with a list of tailgating rules. Tailgaters, be gentle toward one another. You have many games and years ahead of you.

Rules for the host/hostess (per the always succinct and ever gracious Tall Child):

Never run out of beer or food.

Beat your guests to the tailgate spot. Tall Child explains “The head guy has to be the first one there.”

Invite a lot of people.

Rules for tailgaters in general:

If the host offers to haul your stuff, drop it off per his instructions and be punctual.  If you drop off a cooler, make sure it’s packed and it rolls.

Designate a driver. Run-ins with the Po-Po take away from the spirit of the party. If you do get arrested, do it before we take pimento cheese out of the cooler.

"C ome here, boy!"

If you have a big car and a parking pass (lucky), don’t roll up solo! Offer rides.

Bring a chair. If you don’t, don’t take the last one. If you don’t bring a chair and sit on a cooler, if anyone makes eye contact with you, get up.

If you invite a female northern friend to a southern tailgate, give her the dress code. Girls in the south wear party outfits to football games. Staples include big earrings, feminine blouses and skirts or dresses, high heels or cowboy boots. G.R.I.T.S., if you travel outside the SEC, do a little research before you pack. Tall Child and I tailgated with Indiana friends at Notre Dame. I showed up in a skirt and they wore sweatshirts. I froze. FYI – That was one of my favorite tailgates ever! The ND fans were laid back, friendly, and most didn’t even go in the stadium.

Speaking of clothing, Tennessee fans, pick a shade of orange and stick with it.

When it comes to neighboring tailgates, remember the old poem, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Respect the invisible boundaries. But, if you lose your Southern Comfort cool and attack a nearby tailgater by force, take a lesson from my cousin Roscoe’s division one performance. Sharky was throwing football with a friend. He missed his catch and the football landed in a neighboring tailgate. Some jerk threw Sharky’s ball way out into the parking lot. Roscoe strolled over, picked the guy up, wiped his tailgate table clean (with the guy’s body), dropped him, and walked away calmly. Well played, Roscoe. You are still Sharky’s hero!

The good ole' days.

Keep a sound friend to food ratio. A-Boo says, “Don’t’ bring half a tray of pinwheels and nine friends.”

Don’t expect the host to think of everything and accommodate your friends or coworkers, whom he’s possibly never met. If you invite extra people, entertain them. Don’t leave all the conversing up to your hosts. Be a mini-host! All are welcome. Help them feel that way.           

If you are a slow roller (show up two hours before game time “really tired from the night before”) don’t call the host and ask if he needs more ice. Uncle Trout says, “When is the last time you ever heard anyone say We have got too much ice?” Just bring it.

Don’t ask anyone to watch your stuff while you go into the stadium. Stay with it or prepare to sacrifice it.

No moral authority allowed! Party at your own risk!  Keep in mind that the presence of children and bosses change the dynamics of any party. If you bring either, take care of them. Don’t let children sit right in front of the big screen TV that other grownups bought and hauled. Don’t tell adults not to smoke, curse, yell, or drink. The tailgate is their domain.  If you bring your children, bring your children food and drinks. Trust me. Diet Coke, cranberry juice and orange juice have a different purpose under the tent and they certainly don’t belong in sippy cups. Ooh, and keep your young’uns out of the Jell-O. This ain’t Morrison’s Cafeteria and most hosts don’t pack stomach pumps. If you roll up with a baby stroller, make sure there’s a 20 pound bag of ice in its bottom basket.

Please use hand sanitizer before you hit the sandwich platter.

Don’t ask anyone, “Do you have room in your cooler for this?” Most will say yes, because we are nice and want you to have a good time. However, it’s better if you just bring your own cooler. Even Sharky packed his own tiny cooler of Gatorade, Doritos, and fruit snacks. Good little southern boy.

Our buddy “Renaissance Man” often cooked gourmet breakfasts of pancakes, bacon, and sausage on his griddle for the early-bird setup. Then, he’d cook huge extravagant lunches of low country boil or chili for the whole crowd. If you have such a kind chef in your crew, offer to bring ingredients or give him cash. If you eat by the pound, pay by the pound!

Smokers – step outside the tent area to smoke. Non-smokers, don’t fuss at the smokers. It’s an outdoor party.

Speaking of atmosphere, hosts (hostesses) actually go to a lot of trouble to organize the food tables. We spread tables with ironed cloths, use “real” plates, decorate with flowers, hang battery-operated chandeliers, and designate areas for drink mixing, salty snacks, and sweet treats. Please don’t slap grimy purses, fuzzy coats, empty bottles, and trash on our pretty Southern Living September issue inspired tablescapes.

Cousin Fuzz, a dedicated Vol fan and thoroughbred tailgater, reminded me to address a particular party phenomenon: the folks who stagger up to tailgates where they know no one. She calls them “stray cats.” Fuzz says, “Stray Cats, you are welcome. It’s cool for you to drop in, but know your role. Stay on the perimeter. Make friends and mingle. Just like the yard-apes, you should never sit front row at the big screen. And, whatever you do, don’t touch another man’s vodka.”

Singletons and married folks, tailgates get tricky sometimes. All kinds of things can go wrong in the heat of SEC rivalry. Don’t offer to keep your friend’s husband company while she goes into the game. Instead, go with her. He’ll be okay after a little nap.

If you wear heels, bring flip flops, too, because heels, vodka, onion dip, and standing in Auburn heat for six to 12 hours makes pretty little feet hurt. Plus, at some point in the evening, you’ll hear “Dixieland Delight” and feel the urge to clog. You don’t want to shuffle-step-ball-change barefoot on dirty concrete littered with charcoal dust and pointy bottle tops. That’s just not lady like. Also, take it from me; it’s not cool to clog if you have to hold on to a chair, a person, or the tailgate tent post to stay upright for your butter churn. Some of us need to do our clogging earlier in the day.

When it’s time to go into the stadium, some tailgates pack up. HELP. Don’t just set your drink down, check your tickets, and walk off. If yours is a late-night post-game tailgate, remember that your host may have been in that parking lot since as early as 5am. HELP. Bag chairs, haul stuff to his car.

Sunday morning (as soon as you recover), come and get your nasty cooler.

The most important rule of all is simple for most but oh, so, difficult for some. Please please please please please please please BRING YOUR OWN BEER!

A couple of years ago, some rich donor gave money to the UT School of Engineering to construct a giant educational building. They dynamited our dynamite tailgate spot. I cried. Tall Child used that and a terrible season to hang up our tailgating cleats for now.  I am forever thankful to every person who ever came to my tailgate – no matter how you behaved and whether I knew you or not. Thank you for creating some of the best weekends of my life (especially the ones I barely remember).

Tall Child in his element.

Tall Child and I have passed the Tennessee Tailgating Torch to the younger crowd and hope they deliver their friends and families a great season. We wish you safety and success as you cheer on the Volunteers. Do not feel compelled to carry on our traditions. Create your own. Which reminds me of Theory 16: People erroneously think they can do other people’s jobs.

See you next post. Until then, think outside the barn.

Go Big Orange!
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Friday, August 23, 2013

Theory 14: People try to force things to be what they just can’t be.

People are often and oddly guilty of trying to create the all-powerful, in-your-face-to-nature oxymoron: outdoor living rooms, indoor grills, luxury camping, rain-free weddings. I hear the trite phrases on HGTV, “light and airy,” and “bring the outside in” and think if you want light and air, you can find it in your yard, which is already outside. No need to bring it in. Go HVAC! It is so odd to see a squirrel nibble an acorn in front of a plasma TV. What’s up with eating outside? I’ve never been able to balance a plate on my lap, and certainly can’t do so while swatting flies. Tall Child refuses to dine alfresco – even at restaurants.

Delicious won’t camp.

She must have air conditioning. She is no princess. As a matter of fact, she and my father kept The Crippled Beagle Farm house (where she still lives) cool with a window unit air conditioner and warm with a kerosene heater and space heaters. Because such heaters were dangerous, I’d crank mine up full steam as soon as I got home from school. At bedtime, I’d layer on a sweatshirt, sweatpants, flannel nightgown, and tube socks (Tall Child, if you are reading this, please calm down) to survive freezing nights in the holler. When I woke, I could often scrape ice from the grooves in my wood-paneled walls. Delicious is tough and does not complain, but she does enjoy creature comforts. She, Pooh (my daddy) and I tried to camp once – way up on a hill on our farm. Well, we didn’t sleep too well on our Walmart sleeping bags under Pooh’s tarp cover. Partly due to bugs, partly due to nature’s stone-riddled mattress (Good Ole Rocky Top), mostly due to our beagles’ excitement over having rack buddies on their turf. They licked and slobbered and snuggled us right off the hill. Delicious declared, “Pioneer women and men roughed it and went through heck to learn all these lessons and create a better way to live. I will never camp again. It would just be disrespectful to the pioneers.”

Motorcycles can’t be cars: Four wheels are twice as comfortable as two wheels.

Ladies, think of all the stuff we absolutely need with us at all times. Where do you stash your handbag if you are a motorcycle mama? I have seen motorcycles far away from home. Remember, I grew up in Pigeon Forge so I scanned license plates my whole childhood. And, if you are wondering, Ohio and Alabama tour-ons are the worst drivers in the Smoky Mountains. Not judging, just observing. As a child, I marveled at how motorcycle people drove 8+ hours through unpredictable weather, by choice. They packed on extra compartments and often dragged cute little motor-cycle sized campers behind them. Delicious and I could never do it. We could never ride motorcycles because when we go on road trips the best part is talking all the way and sharing boiled peanuts. Neither would be possible or safe on motorcycles. One of us would have to ride Andy/Barney style in a sidecar. Not happening. How would we pass the peanuts? Plus, I don’t want my rear end four inches from I-40.

Delicious and I pack heavy duty make-up bags. We could share a duffel bag for our uniforms. For day: miracle-ish swimsuits and gracious cover-ups. For night: colorful blouses and Capri pants. Evening wear: pajamas. But jewelry and make-up are a different deal. Jewelry: We take it all (most isn’t real) but we’ve been collecting earrings since the early eighties. At home, I store jewelry in ice trays in a deep drawer. As Delicious says, you just never know what kind of earring mood you’re going to be in. So, we pack it up and haul it all with us! Make-up bags and hair products: We don’t have big hair, but we have big products. Like many teachers, we are paranoid about lice, so we employ an arsenal of mousse, gel, and spray (Delicious likes Aussie). Trust me folks, cooties are real. I’ve seen them. We “spray down” each morning to create a dome (figuratively and literally) to protect ourselves and are not about to tempt fate on the road.

We need a car. Plus, Sharky and the Gnome are typically in tow.  Also, I can promise you this, as much as he loves me, Tall Child does not want me straddling him from the back, “log fluming it” with my mouth right at his ear from here to Hilton Head. And there is NO way he’d let me drive. He can barely shotgun it in Big Red without passing a non-existent kidney stone. We’d never make it on two wheels.

Outside can not be inside. No matter how much money you spend.

Imagine the scene: A majestic doorway opens, a crowd of adoring friends and relatives stand and turn in awe of an angel in white. The angel’s newly tiny waist is announced with trumpeters. She is pulled through perfectly positioned white chairs covered in pastel fabric, in rose-dotted rows, under an enormous white canopy the size of a ballroom. The air is fresh. A breeze lifts her perfectly curled (and planned) tendril. She feels like a million dollars. She’s got a man full of promises and she is skinny and the weather is perfect. She has fooled Mother Nature! She is unstoppable!

But, do you know what happens outside? Thunder! Lightening! Rain! Bugs. It’s your parade, but it’s going to rain on your parade. You might want to take the parade inside.

And, guess what, usually, there’s a really nice ballroom right behind the tent.

Hey, we all admire a perfectly delivered outdoor wedding. Which backdrop is better: empty choir seats or a field of wildflowers? It’s just almost impossible to pull off, though. But, when you are in love, you don’t reason well. The worst are the outdoor weddings in the heat of Southern summers. Brides sweat through ceremonies, praying mascara doesn’t run. Often uh-hem, “dehydrated and really tired” grooms and groomsmen pray not to buckle at the knees and pass out in front in the sweltering humidity. Chignons become sticky buns of Aquanet and bobby pins. Female guests look like dwarf stilt-walkers as they stiletto-poke their way over grass floors to and from the food line.

Tents don’t take wind as well as, say, buildings. Once, Tall Child chased a UT tailgate tent down Panama City Beach. Good thing he’s an athlete. He spared the spearing of innocent sunbathers. What happens if your chignon goes sticky bun in the wind. Then the mosquitos get trapped in the Aquanet.

When it was time to marry Tall Child, I was a nervous wreck. Not because I fear speaking in public. I enjoy that, actually. And not because I am shy about professing my Christian faith. And not because I don’t like attention. I love attention. I’m an only child who wears bright red lipstick. No problemo. I was freaking out because I had to be fancy and formal. Delicious gave me half a nerve pill and I coasted through a ten minute ceremony and enjoyed delicious food and all my favorite people at the reception in Tall Child’s parents’ backyard. It was all good. I was even a skinny Size 10! My outdoor wedding reception was perfect. Until it rained. Regardless, we had a sweet wedding day.

I think for our 20th anniversary, Tall Child and I should piggy back ride a motorcycle to the Chimneys Campground, renew our vows under a canopy of poplars, and second honeymoon in a cozy tent or rented camper. 

Seriously, though, to me, there’s absolutely no better time than a super casual outdoor party filled by people with common interests, chowing down on good grub and drinks, which brings me to Theory 15: “Tailgate etiquette” is not an oxymoron.

See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn.

Let's talk! Find me and friend me!

Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Theory 13: As people get old, they morph into the opposite gender.

Delicious loves to “people watch” and often has me cruise her around town in Big Red, whip through Chic-Fil-A for a sweet tea with extra ice and lemon or dream cone and then park in front of Office Depot and Catherines (a clothing store for plus-size women). We enjoy our treats and observe shoppers. We note trends in fashion and trends in form. We often notice how as men and women age, they morph into the opposite gender. Private parts don’t change, but public parts get confusing.

Delicious had a student who said something profound once. He said, “As people age, they become caricatures of themselves.” Sharp noses point harder. Big breasts drag us south. Ears expand. Knees knot.  Our parts over-pronounce themselves and morph from female to male and male to female. Let’s just work our way down the human body, shall we?

Hair: I have male cousins—albeit they are handsome, stage-performing cousins—who get perms and highlights. Do they read Cosmo for tips on bounce and shine like I used to do? Some men pamper every last strand with Rogaine, “product,” and precise comb-over primping. God knows all the hairs on our heads. He’s in good company among many. On the contrary, grandmothers go for short, easy haircuts, and perm their hair up and out of the way. I’m 39 and already ask my Great Clips hairdresser to “Cut my hair so I don’t have to fix it.” Delicious counsels, “When women get real short hairdo’s they need to wear bright lipstick and big earrings so they don’t look like men.” When I was about fourteen, I ruined my grandmama “Fred’s” hair. I used a knitting needle to pull her curly-permed strands through a hole-punched swim cap before I lathered on store-bought peroxide. We tried toner, but to no avail. She just chopped it all off and wore a baseball hat. Her “do” was so short, my uncle asked her if she heated tweezers on the stove to use as a curling iron. Fred, donning her baseball hat and soft Dollywood t-shirt, cruised Pigeon Forge one day when a Yankee tour-on yelled over to her, “Hey, buddy, can you tell me how to get to the Apple Barn?” Fred lowered her voice to a deep gruff, “Just go through the next light and take a right.” The ten grandchildren called her “Buddy” for years!

Faces: I know; broken capillaries cause their rosy cheeks, but it looks like old men wear blush. Women get pasty and have to go for heavy-duty make-up. Delicious told me once, “No matter how much time I spend slappin’ on my war paint, I still look old when I finish.”

Mouths: Men’s full lower lips plop into permanent pouts. Women’s lips tighten to razor thin equal signs when they concentrate and wrinkled bulls-eye rooster butts when they fume. Especially the old ladies who hit the gas station every morning for black coffee, a sausage biscuit, and a pack of Winstons.

Voices: The male voice pitches higher, like a “just over laryngitis” attempt to sound normal. I think some arterial blockage causes it.

Breasts: Bras are mini-prisons. When women age, they become more comfortable with the way they look. Their priorities shift upward as their parts slide downward. Women want to be comfortable, dang it. They toss their bras to the floor and relax. May I suggest that their newly endowed husbands pick the bras up and try them out? I get self-conscious around man-boobs. Men, you could wear a “squeezer” (the label my buddy "Suspenders" gave to skin-tight camisoles that lift up and smooth out all the bumps).

Waist: The glass blower of nature and aging morphs female hourglasses into cylinders. Delicious swears she can wear her pants backward and no one can tell. We girls lose our rear ends. The round parts shift up and away from the spinal cord to settle like waist-high storage compartments. Like little hip seats for grandbabies! Men have this problem, too. I don’t know where their rears go, they just disappear one day. Call 911! Somebody stole Tall Child’s behind! I guess that’s why old men don elastic waistband pants. No more zipper flies and sexy Levi’s. Or, is the elastic meant to accommodate the cafeteria fetish? Meat and three at the early bird 4:30 pm special in buffet pants: it’s a no fly zone! Home in time to conquer Sudoku and enjoy a hot cup of decaf as they watch The Wheel.

Feet: Women kick the heels and finally, finally, finally wear comfortable shoes. The damage is already done with varicose and spider veins, but who cares? They can run(ish) with the wind! Men wear sandals. Sometimes with socks.

Clothing in general: Young women freeze. Old women roast. Young men roast. Old men freeze. I visited Delicious’s old Corinth Baptist Church (Georgia). The sweet, southern house of God ministered to one-hundred-some-odd congregants each Sunday morning. In many of the rows, dark blue and plaid throw blankets, meant for the men, lay across worn arms of aged pews.

In general, women expand and men reduce. That’s why I married a much taller Tall Child, so I’d have room to grow. From up there, I’ll hopefully look small, even if I am wide.

Body hair: Male stubble becomes spotty. Their skin smoothes to reveal soft purple-dappled forearms, calves, and ankles. Maybe it’s menopause, maybe it’s hormone replacement, maybe it’s just tough life experiences manifesting physically, but women get spiky. The next time you see an elderly woman, get close enough to inspect her chin. She won’t have a 5 o-clock shadow, but she’ll have what my Granny Wimmie called “whiskers.” This lovely new growth begins at middle age. I am on the constant lookout for rogue hairs on my body, which is why I’m armed with tweezers and a Bic razor everywhere I go. Especially in my beach bag. I forgot to shave under my arms once and, four hours into a 4th of July party at a country club, stretched in front of the mirror and thought, “Who are those little boys? Oh, no! They are my underarms!” Big Red and I get lots of ‘friendly’ honks at red lights. Look, I’m a busy working mama, I tweeze when I can. Ladies, just face the music. You are morphing. Lather up and shave like a real man/woman!
Now, the changes aren’t just physical.

Old men get feminine in several ways. They go to the mall, ostensibly to accompany their wives, but I see them jiggle and snooze in massage chairs with giant drink cups. Women simplify. They carry the same handbag year round and wear pretty much the same outfits all the time, like uniforms (shopping outfit, babysitting outfit, church outfit, party outfit). Men gossip at barbershops and convenience stores. They become hypochondriacs and worry about family relationships and obsess over the weather. Women take over bills. Men grocery shop. That takes some training. My dear retired father-in-law heard Bop say, “I’m out of baking soda.” He jetted off to Kroger and came back with a cereal-sized box of baking soda, bragging on his bargain-hunting conquest. Women stop cooking. Men get sappy and corny and much less aggressive. Women take risks. No joke. YESTERDAY, Sharky, the Gnome and I were parked and an elderly lady pulled out of the spot beside us and cut to turn way too closely to us. Instead of backing up, she slowed to 3 miles per hour and stared me down, as if to say, “I know you think I’m going to hit you, but watch me work magic little girl.” It. Took. Her. For. Ev. Er. Sharky had time to hop out and witness and swears she came within an inch of Big Red’s brush guard. Women drive, and men ask to stop to go the bathroom. Women play golf and men go to Bible study. Men answer the phone.

Once, in a gentle, yet wordy domestic dispute, a rightfully mad Tall Child joked, “If you were a man, I’d hit you right now!” Well, Tall Child, it’s just a matter of time. Just remember, when you start doing the grocery shopping, don’t forget my shaving cream.


All this talk of hot vs. cold, dressing up vs. dressing down, and gender roles reminds me of Theory 14: People try to force things to be what they just can’t be.

See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn.

Let's talk! Find me and friend me!

Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Theory 12: Bicycle guys are selfish and make other people late for work.

Readers, I warned you in my first post that I will vent from time to time. Delicious cautioned me not to write this theory because (and she is probably right) I will certainly offend some folks by griping about bicycle guys.  I like to complain in detail, so let me be specific so as to identify who “bicycle guys” are and who they are not. They are the guys who ride bicycles at rush hour, on the road, in school zones, in the way, and make us all nervous and late.  They are not the men and women who ride in parks and on back roads, on weekends or at night, for exercise or pleasure.  They are not the college students who choose frugal speed and efficient parking with bikes vs. cars. 

Hustling to get Sharky to school and myself on to work, I met up with a stranger on two wheels every stinkin’ morning for several years. The original Bicycle Guy routinely showed up on the narrow, two-lane (no shouldered) Lyons View Pike.  Sharky I became so frustrated, I considered penning an editorial piece for the local paper.  Look, I’m a fan of exercise. Not necessarily a participant, but still, a fan. (See Theory 5: Play a sport, even if you suck at it.) I admire people who rise early to work out. But, I wanted this Bicycle Guy to get out of my way! I hated starting my day with a string of menacing moments and thoughts like, “Geez, I want to pass him but what if he turns? Geez, I wonder how much sweat is in those shorts. ”

I never want Sharky or the Gnome to be disrespectful toward grown-ups, but this guy wore us out. When it was safe, I swerved quite dramatically around Bicycle Guy (so he’d notice) and nodded to Sharky, who then yelled out his backseat window, “Grab a napkin, ‘cause you just got served!”

So, cyclists, if you are reading this, please understand and take this message to heart because I really am afraid I’m going to hit you with my car. Not on purpose, of course! I won’t lose mental control and just run you over. I actually have several friends who bike for sport. I love to see their scenic Facebook and Instagram photos from atop Smoky Mountain overpasses and curves of The Dragon. Call me ignorant, and do forgive me. I am just trying, like many drivers, to understand and—what’s that weird bumper sticker I see all the time? COEXIST? (in ethnic hieroglyphics) safely. Bicycle Guy, please consider the following observations, conjectures, and questions:

  • Like most mothers, I can never drive with two hands. When the Gnome screams for a French fry, I must deliver. When Sharky smarts off, I pinch him. When Gnome drops his sippy cup, his book, his toy, his blanket, I lean back and reach blindly (eyes on the road) and sweep the crumb-y gooey floorboard until I retrieve all the above. Heck, I serve dinner in my car, affectionately named Big Red.

  • You are putting a lot of trust in strangers and their vehicles. My year 2000 SUV is running on love and duct tape these days. Once I even held the driver’s side door on the car, in the rain, for several miles to a service station.  That door was like a 9-year-old’s loose tooth, hanging by one strong wire. My arm was sore for days. Last year, Big Red and I survived three winter months sans wiper blades.

  • Drivers and their vehicles have issues beyond your control. We have bad brakes, bad alternators, loose belts, slick tires… We could be arguing, reading, eating, drinking, asleep…

  • Your outfits are distracting. My old 4th grade teacher used to sing a song that went, “Keep your mind on your driving and your eyes on the wheel, because the girls are in the backseat with Fred.” I can’t keep my eyes on my driving when your muscles flex round and round in neon in my line of sight. Why do you wear neon in the daytime? Do you wear sunglasses at night? What’s really bad is when your neon top doesn’t match your neon bottom. I’m from Pigeon Forge, but still, come on! Also, what’s up with the padded man Spanx? Are you trying to avoid chafing? Makes sense, but why not cover your man Spanx. Is this an aerodynamic goal? How much time can you really shave off with that get-up? If you bike to work, does that mean you walk into your office sporting man Spanx? You’ve already made countless people late for their jobs, and then you expose your colleagues to a middle-aged body bulging out of sweaty Speedo shorts first thing in the morning. If I saw that, I’d drop my donut!

  • Do you stink all day? You must be physicians, because banks don’t have showers and there is no way a teacher is going to take his clothes off at school. We hope. Is this how we get staff infections from minor surgeries?

  • Your bike weighs around 25 pounds. Big Red weights 4,164.  You do the math.

  • Why does your hat have a tail?

  • Why don’t you ride on greenways and mountain trails? This is East Tennessee! Think of the views, the hills that could build those thighs and glutes, the wildflowers… Be a man! At nine years old, I stood up and pumped my maroon and silver bicycle all over The Crippled Beagle Farm, balancing her through rutted pit and tar roads dotted with box turtles and American Bullfrogs. I dodged sunbathing beagles and cow patties. I grazed barbed wire fences to avoid Delicious’s ever-threatening tetanus shot.  My skillful steering and command of the two-wheeled vehicle took me to shady spots where I would lie on a beach towel to enjoy my Swiss Cake Roll, Coke, and Sweet Valley High book. I just don’t understand why you have to absorb a whole lane on Lyon’s View or Kingston Pike or Cumberland Avenue.


Which view do you prefer?

  • Speaking of Lyon’s View, you know there’s a country club on that road, right? I suggest you coast through its parking lot when you have extra time. You will see an inordinate number of white-trimmed blue squares framing stick men in wheel chairs. These handicap spots take up half the parking lot. Hmmmm. An elderly man gets up at 6 a.m. to walk his 20 heart-healthy minutes on the country club treadmill. He then enjoys some cottage cheese and peaches with decaf coffee. He gets in his giant Cadillac and pulls his cataract glasses from atop the visor. And, BAM! You meet. Bicycle Guy, you are putting a lot of faith in geriatric peripheral vision. Is that why you wear neon? Does in glow in the cataract dark?

  • When you exit Lyon’s View and head down Kingston Pike toward campus, do you realize you are in West High School territory? Does the term “Drivers’ Education” mean anything to you? You are basically playing Frogger on wheels with high school freshmen. I teach freshmen. When a student tells me, “Mrs. Bug, I’m getting my learner’s permit today,” I gulp and pray. For all of us. Trust me, you are safer on the greenway.

    How Sharky rolls
  • Do you avoid the greenway to avoid other exercisers? Are there greenway hogs? Walkers, joggers, women behind baby strollers? Dog walkers managing unpredictable runaways? Can’t we all just get along? There must be some rules, some exercising etiquette.  Ladies, make room for the cyclists, please.

I told my dear old friend, Mutah, who is an active mountain biker and often makes 70 mile trips through the mountains about this post and he told me that he and his friends have been “spit at, cussed out, passed way too closely and even hit by cars!” He has a license plate that reminds people to share the road. He explained, “One bike rider was hit by a full 16 oz. Dr. Pepper bottle.” He warned,  “I hope and pray your blog does not make you sound like one of these redneck idiots, but tells people to share the road… the law states that they have to be three feet away from the cyclist.”

They're after me!

I’m just going to have to say to all you bike riders, “Look twice for Big Red and thank God for her brush guard.”

Cyclists, I do admire your courage. I admire your tenacity. I admire your commitment to physical fitness. Actually, often, I admire your physiques, from a safe three-foot distance, of course. Now and then, though, as I check out your toned thighs and big calves, I get an up close shock when I realize you are actually female, which reminds me of Theory 13: As people get old, they morph into the opposite gender.

See you next post. Until then, think outside the barn!

Let's talk! Find me and friend me!

Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

Author website:

Facebook: Theories: Size 12 (See each post, comment, share, and talk directly with others readers and me!) I'd LOVE to hear your theories!

Facebook: Jody Cantrell Dyer
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Friday, August 2, 2013

Theory 11: The only thing worse than teacher fashion is substitute teacher fashion.

A few years ago, I faced reality: the recession. Forced to leave daily domestic bliss behind, I opted to avoid returning to my old career—retail banking—and opted to test the waters of public education. I “signed up to be a sub” in my hometown (not the district where I now teach).

In last week’s post, Teachers are the most entertaining people on the planet, I explained the ways in which teachers engage their audiences. One crucial element in school performance is wardrobe, thus today’s theory regarding fashion. Teachers try. They really do. But keep in mind that ours are not the most lucrative paying careers. And, subs, per day, gross around half what first year teachers do, which ain’t much.

I sat through a long day of substitute teacher training in the top of a “high rise” downtown. The old building appeared to have run out of bricks. When I stepped off the elevator into a 7-foot-tall-hallway, I felt like Gulliver.  The Lilliputian trainer explained that subs grossed $67 a day and that, after taxes, I’d net about $50. Plus (yay me), paychecks fell on the 25th of the month following the month of the day you subbed. For example: Work August 1-3 and gross $201. Net $150 on September 25.  Really? I felt my soul leave my body and hover over the Target-shirted, Belk-capri’d, Yellow-Box sandaled crowd. The tiny man then explained how we needed to dress professionally. He warned that we might have to rush out the door to a job so he advised we lay out our clothes the night before. Then he forced us to watch a gruesome video on blood born pathogens. I assume—and hope I don’t offend anyone by saying this—that many subs come to the job because they need money. I certainly did. I spent $72 on a drug test, background check, and fingerprints. I heard “professional” and I saw “blood born pathogens” and I thought about my substitute teacher wardrobe “keep it covered and keep it cheap.”  I called Delicious (who taught for 34 years) to gripe. She laughed and advised, “Just go to Wal-Mart and get two pair of black britches. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes. Bug, think about what your old teachers and subs used to wear!”

The past: Let us recall some of our favorite teacher duds from days gone by.

Coaching shorts: Coaching shorts made me nervous. There was plenty of polyester around back then. Why couldn’t manufacturers give those men two or three more inches? I lived in fear of my beloved teachers striking The Thinker pose and scarring me for life. 

 Jumpers: If you work with someone who stills pulls on a denim jumper, call TLC’s show, “What Not To Wear.” Please.  Why would anyone lay that much denim across her body? It’s heavy, hot, and flattens all the wrong parts.  And, no matter how hard you try, you’ll never find the right shoes to go with a jumper.

Sweaters that Tell a Story: Common Core standards mandate that teachers use informational text in the classroom. Graphic novels stitched onto wool do not count.
The present: When you wear an outfit to school, it is tarnished. Think Seinfeld’s “book in the bathroom” episode. Teachers and subs are surrounded by dust, ink, paint, chalk, toner, throw-up, etc. And snacks on the fly are messy.

When I subbed, I decided to live the experience full force and not spend a dime. I wore cheap flood-length black britches and v-neck long-sleeved t-shirts from a large retailer. The shirts became pajamas.  The pajamas became dust rags. That’s a solid deal for a $7 “blouse.” It’s the next best thing to disposable clothing. I did not wear a vest. You’re welcome. I haven’t evolved much now that I’m a regular teacher, but I have learned some tricks from my peers.

I taught high school with a woman who “supported” every club in school by buying its t-shirts. Who can admonish a teacher who is rooting for the track team and fundraising for the drama club while fighting cancer, Alzheimer’s, and bullies every week? What a giver. She accessorized with a bedazzled lanyard and I.D. badge.

My buddy wears his church clothes to school every Monday. He just lays the whole outfit in a chair. God first. Laundry second.

 A co-worker confessed that she buys no-iron clothes because sometimes she sleeps in them. Teachers are tired folks.

White sandals. Just don’t. Forget about the calendar. White sandals are always wrong.
Cardigans with a modest sleeveless top are a must. Students in? Sweater on. Students out? Sweater off. Layers combat hot flashes, cold meeting rooms, and exposure to the elements via fire drills. Most importantly, an extra layer keeps you from over-revealing middle-aged body parts.

No joke. I’d like to apologize in advance to my colleagues for my dull wardrobe and
promise my students that I do wash my clothes (actually, Tall Child does). I do not wear the same pants every day – I just wear the same pants every day.

Here’s my back to school wardrobe list:
2 pair black slacks
2 pair gray slacks
1 pair dark jeans – NOT tight, unless I “over tailgate” on fall weekends
5 solid sleeveless tops
5 solid cardigans
School t-shirt. Go team!
Ah, the mixing and matching. Get excited!
I try to live it up through my earrings but by January I usually wear one of  
    two pair: gold loops or silver hoops.
My $10 watch is gold and silver so I wear it every day. Bonus!
Brown flats (man-made, Earth friendly material) Hey, I’m a giver, too.
Black flats
Crocs. Yes. Sorry. They’re animal print. That counts for something, right?

I’m in the first week of the school year and had some down time during orientation today. So, knowing I had to write this post tonight, I quizzed my freshmen students, “What advice would you give teachers on how to dress?”
Here is some of what I heard:

Don’t shop at an old person store.
Don’t wear too much foundation and no mascara.
Yes, please wear lipstick!
Look professional. Wear skirts.
But skirts don’t go with nurse shoes.
Socks and sandals make me sick.
Don’t mix patterns.
Too many clashing colors look bad.
I had one teacher who dressed like Princess Diana, with long dresses and short hair.
Don’t wear old lady perfume.
Don’t dress like students.

I interrupted, “What about the male teachers?” I heard:

I hate when the men teachers are all baggy. Tuck your shirt in and look proper!
Wear khakis.
And Polo’s.
Don’t wear tennis shoes. Wear dress shoes.
We don’t want to see chest hair. I mean, we can’t see it, but we can see the little dots under the shirt.

I remarked, “Wow. Ya’ll really have high expectations!”

One student consoled,Well, you should take a lazy day sometimes. You can wear tennis shoes on Fridays.”

Sweater Vest Romeo looking snazzy (and ready for golf) on Friday

Hey, we educators (subs and full-time) are doing the best we can!  Most of us are parents, hustling to drop off our own children and hurry to work in time to care for other people’s children. Looks are not a priority when you are tasked with educating the next generation. Teachers hate tardiness and we are, by nature, unselfish. This brings me to Theory 12: Bicycle guys are selfish and make other people late for work.

See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn.

Let's talk! Find me and friend me!

Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

Author website:

Facebook: Theories: Size 12 (See each post, comment, share, and talk directly with others readers and me!) I'd LOVE to hear your theories!

Also, visit my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

Thanks, friends!

Facebook: Jody Cantrell Dyer
Facebook: The Eye of Adoption Let's talk books.
Google+: The Eye of Adoption
Google+: Theories: Size 12
Twitter: @jodycdyer
Author website:
Read reviews and/or purchase The Eye of Adoption here: