September 7, 2012
Hello. My name is Mary. Allow me to humanize myself.
I was born on a steamy summer day in a bulrush basket underneath the bleachers of Wrigley Field. Shortly before my birth, my hardworking father passed away, and my mom was left alone to support us kids.
For most of my wretched but ennobling childhood, Mom sold peanuts during the day games at Wrigley, and then, in the evenings, after the Cubs lost, she bicycled down to Comiskey to sell Cracker Jacks.
Imagine! Back then, there were no government-subsidized bike lanes. Bike pants had no comfy padded crotch. Toe clips were a luxury of the 1 percent.
Tough times? You bet. But my mom, she plowed through trouble like a bulldozer through concrete.
Once — true story — I found her eating peanut-and-Cracker Jack soup for dinner. I asked her, "Why, Mom?"
And here's what my amazing mother said: "So I can afford to send you little parasites to bleepin' college."
I could — sorry for these tears — go on. About my own struggles. My first boyfriend's rusty car. The tabletop ironing board that doubled as my desk when I got my first job as a writer.
But I'm a private person, and I think I've said enough for you to see the point I am trying to make here today:
I am human. Which means I am just like you, only nobler.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. You're thinking, "If I never hear the word 'humanize' again, it'll be too soon."
My friends, I feel your pain. I know you feel that way because you've been watching the political conventions, or reading about them.
You have heard too many pundits talk about Ann "humanizing" Mitt and Michelle "humanizing" Barack and all those "real people" who have "humanized" their parties. You may have wondered how certain words infest the pundit universe as intractably as bedbugs.
And maybe you've thought, "For crying out loud, what does that mean, to 'humanize' someone? Aren't we all human?"¿
Good questions. And what is it to be human?
Is it, for example, the ability to decipher those squiggly letters on websites that say, "Are you human?"
No. You and I know that being human is far more than that. It'd better be because I never get those things right. And that's what makes me so very human.
Failure, my friends! Failure humanizes!
At least it does as long as you stop sniveling, find your reading glasses and get that sucker right on the fourth try.
You know what also humanizes? Making a joke about your failure.
Laughter humanizes. Crying humanizes. The will to carry on in the face of doubt, defeat and the farce we call aging — that superhumanizes.
Now, I know something else you're thinking: "Why is it that women are always deployed to 'humanize' the men?"
My friends, that question warrants more space than we have, so let's look at the exception: Nobody humanizes Bill Clinton like wily ol' Bill himself.
The opposite of "to humanize" is generally "to demonize." The people we demonize are the ones most in need of being publicly humanized. The rich, the poor, members of the opposing party. In short, the "other."
But I see we are out of space. So back to me.
You may feel I have romanticized, even exaggerated, my life story. Perhaps you feel it would not stand up to the "fact checkers."
But if I have used my life to make a point, to win your hearts or simply to make myself feel good, well, that just proves I'm human.
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