I absent-mindedly picked up a birthday card that my wife had recently received. It was a cutout of a full-length William Shakespeare.
The inscription inside read, “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.”
In Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra,” Antony is supposed to have uttered those words to his beautiful and beloved Cleopatra.
English lit is strewn with “pretty talk” by poets and novelists from an earlier age. Did people actually talk or write in such exotic hyperbole? I wonder.
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What is the language of love among today’s young people? I wonder how many young swains whisper to the objects of their affection, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” and proceed to do so.
Dr. Albert Edwards, the late Scottish minister at Raleigh’s First Presbyterian Church, once described how a young man proposes in Scotland.
The boy holds her hand, looks deep into her eyes and whispers lovingly, “How would you like to be buried with my people?”
I still smile when I recall an incident involving a friend’s 14-year-old son who was attending his first prom.
As is often the case with boy-girl relationships at that age, there was the usual group of wallflowers sitting in chairs against the wall, hoping some of the shy males gathered in a cluster nearby would muster the courage to ask them to dance.
When one of the girls finally walked up to my friend’s grandson and asked if he’d like to dance, he blurted, “No, sorry. I gotta go to the bathroom!” and took off.
Ah, the age of innocence is so refreshing, so fleeting.
In a favorite “The Andy Griffith Show” episode, there is Goober, awkward, shy beyond imagination, nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rockers, about to go on a rare date.
Andy and Barney have drilled him on what to do and say.
But as he sits on the couch with Helen’s out-of-town, equally shy cousin, Goober breaks the embarrassing silence with something like “You sure got pretty teeth.”
In today’s culture, when someone runs out of conversation on a first date, a rarity indeed, he or she can always whip out the ever-present iPhone and start texting for help.
A friend e-mailed the good news as soon as it was official.
“Thanks to our state legislators your wife is now among the one percenters!” he messaged.
No, as he clarified, my wife is not among the millionaires and multi-millionaires who constitute the richest 1 percent of Americans. She is among the state’s retirees who are receiving a 1 percent salary increase in their pension.
For her, that comes out at $27 per month! Before taxes, of course.
“Well, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” some of you may say. “Be grateful.”
“After all,” my bringer of big news continued, “the monthly salary increase will allow her to treat you to dinner and one of those calorie-stuffed, mouth-watering ‘Thunder from Down Under’ desserts you love at the Outback.”
He’s right. But I need to make it clear that the $27 monthly raise is not a gift. My wife earned the income boost by teaching English and public speaking for 10 years in Greensboro and Raleigh, plus 32 years doing the same at N.C. State University.
I hope our legislators won’t think the recipients of their largesse ungrateful if they don’t flood their offices with thank you notes for their generous gesture of confidence and appreciation.
Food for thought
I recently came across a Mark Twain quote calling attention to the fact that American currency carries the motto: “In God we trust.” Somehow, I’m surprised that it still does.
“The motto is a lie,” Twain said. “If this nation has ever trusted in God, that time has gone by. For nearly half a century almost its entire trust has been in the Republican party and the dollar – mainly the dollar.
“I recognize that I am only making an assertion and furnishing no proof,” he continued. “I am sorry, but this is a habit of mine; sorry also that I am not alone in it; everybody seems to have this disease.”