“Man-oh-Manischewitz!” is one of the standard catchphrases in the Webner household.  It’s an all-purpose comment that may properly be used in a variety of situations to convey surprise, delight, or satisfaction, or even as a deft substitute for a minor obscenity.  (Another oft-heard statement in Webner House is “one man’s family,” usually muttered with a sad shake of the head and heartfelt sigh while looking at a mess created by the dogs.)

Every successful relationship or team has these kinds of verbal stand-by references, whether they be secret nicknames, punchlines from old, long-forgotten jokes, a lyric from a song that was popular during college, or the tag line for ancient TV commercials about really tooth-curlingly sweet kosher wine.  You could reasonably argue that such utterances are, in fact, part of the reason why the team or relationship is successful in the first place.

These comfortable catchphrases usually provoke an inner, if not outer, smile among the members of the circle.  They reflect a deep and lasting familiarity and tradition that makes people feel special.  Often they have been used for so long that the first relevant use of the phrase has been lost in the mists of time — although in our case we can reasonably guess that one of us blurted out “man-oh-Manischewitz!” after taking a good slug of an adult beverage that unfortunately turned out to be too strong, too sweet, or otherwise unpotable, everyone laughed, and it became memorialized in the family lexicon.

“Man-oh-Manischewitz!” is a pretty good catchphrase that has come in handy over the years, and it’s also part of a very interesting story with an Ohio connection.  If you’re looking to develop your own family traditions, I commend it to your attention.

Striking A Proper Real Life-Virtual Life Balance

Lately lots of people have been talking about Pinterest, another new form of social media and on-line interaction.  Pinterest allows participants to explore and develop their interests in different topics — food, home decorating, body art, and the like — by “pinning” news articles, pictures, video, and other items to their “pinboard” for other people to see and comment upon.  Family members and friends have used Pinterest to plan weddings and vacations, share their views on books and TV shows, and find special articles of clothing.

photo-95My Pinterest friends sound like they become almost obsessed with browsing other people’s “pinboards” and filling up their own with interesting and exciting content that reflects well on them.  Similarly, we’ve all got friends who spend a lot of time posting things to Facebook, or blogging (guilty as charged), or playing fantasy sports, or doing the countless other social networking activities you can do on-line.  This shouldn’t be surprising; the internet is a constantly changing, interesting environment that puts the whole world at your fingertips and allows for all kinds of communication.  All of these nifty on-line interaction websites also can allow you to reconnect with high school and college classmates and faraway friends and keep track of how they are doing.  But when does the attraction of the internet pull your home life out of balance, leaving you tapping out a Facebook message or chuckling at a YouTube video while your spouse or girlfriend or children or friends sit idle for hours?  How do you strike a workable real life-virtual life balance?

People have always engaged in solitary activities, like reading a book or playing a musical instrument or jogging, but obsession with on-line activities seems to have special risks.  Studies suggest that people who spend lots of time on-line often struggle with depression and sleep disorders and tend to neglect their need for physical activity and in-person social interaction.  And, of course, the on-line world, with its anonymity and ability to create weird, fake relationships such as the one that has humiliated Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, involves all kinds of potential personal, financial, and criminal hazards that would never be presented by reading a library book or knitting on the sofa while your spouse watches a basketball game on TV.

We all need to figure out when to step away from the computer.

The “Bootsie, Winky & Miss Maud” Test

When Kish and I lived in Washington, D.C. back in the ’80s, one of the hot restaurants in town was an eatery called Bootsie, Winky & Miss Maud. Seriously.

The name probably tells you everything you need to know about the place.  It was the era of the Yuppie.  Bootsie, Winky & Miss Maud was targeted to appeal to just about anyone, so long as they had two X chromosomes and were over the age of 30.  It was the kind of place where you would take your Mom and your maiden aunt during their visit to the Nation’s Capital.  Over the tastefully decorated tables, small talk was made, happy chit-chat and talking with hands was everywhere apparent, and polite laughter rang out.  As I recall it, the menu included delicate salads, delicate quiches, delicate sandwiches cut into quarters, and light desserts.  I think every dish — even desserts — featured asparagus.

So, what to do when your lovely wife suggests that you try a restaurant called “Bootsie, Winky & Miss Maud”?  How to respond when every meat-craving fiber of your being knows to a mortal certainty that there isn’t likely to be a cowboy cut ribeye steak or a baked potato as large as a small dog on Miss Maud’s menu?

Why, I went, of course — admittedly after a small bit of manly grumbling — and enjoyed Kish’s company and, ultimately, the atmosphere and the quiche as well.  I ended up being glad I had the experience, although I’m not sure we ever went back.  And then, when it was my turn to pick the restaurant, I chose Bullfeather’s.

Love — Or “Political Compatibility”?

A study recently was released that indicates that a compatible “political ideology” is one of the strongest scoring factors that people look for in deciding who will be their spouses.  The only factor that gets a stronger score, according to the study, is how often the individuals in question go to church.

I’m a bit skeptical of this study — and not just because my lovely wife of 29 years and I do not share the same political views.  The study notes that political compatibility is a more important factor than matching physical characteristics, such as body shape, height, and weight, or matching personality traits, like introversion or impulsiveness.  That may be true, but so what?  Do you know anyone who selected their mate because they shared similar looks?  I don’t.  In fact, I think those would be pretty darned weird selection criteria.  Why would I want marry someone who looked like me (God forbid!) or acted like me (even worse!)?  It may simply be that “political compatibility” scored better than criteria that scientists apparently made up for testing purposes but that no one uses in real life.

Kish and I aren’t exactly at opposite ends of the political spectrum, but we do have different views.  It’s not a problem, and I think one reason for that is that we just don’t consider politics to be that crucial.  It certainly isn’t as important as other qualities that you would want in your spouse.  Anybody who is limiting their range of potential partners because of political views is being very short-sighted — and also isn’t recognizing that political views can change over time.

Incidentally, the study also says that parents play a strong role in shaping their kids’ political views.  In that respect, too, the Webners are out of step.  Neither Richard nor Russell agrees with me on politics, either — yet somehow we all manage to get along.