The Idle American: It’s Beginning to Sound a Lot Like Christmas…


There is much noise in the world, some of it pushing Christmas carols--and other worthwhile sounds--to the side of the road. In spousal conversations--whether interest in what the other is saying is sincere or feigned--we are prone to smile and/or nod, either of which may be sufficient to get couples back in sync on topics that are interesting to both. My aged Uncle Mort--always on the quest of helping humankind while providing relief for an ever-shrinking bank balance--is excited about his latest “invention.” He’s convinced that it may save marriages and extend friendships. He’s proposing a double-pocketed leather holster that will serve a dual purpose, hanging from men’s belts and ladies’ purses, keeping smartphones and battery-powered toothbrushes close at hand….

Mort gives* his long-suffering wife Maude credit for his latest gimmick, one that he thinks may be popular in record time. Married for almost 90 years, Mort and Maude’s conversations have largely been with each other in their modest home down in the thicket. He has often noticed that her attempts to start conversations occur at the precise moment that he commences to brush his teeth. He usually hears little during such moments when battery-powered toothbrushes make sounds akin to dentists’ drills or even pavement-piercing jackhammers a block or more away. Maude’s question the other morning caused him to turn off his toothbrush, partially because she had asked it three times before her yelling led to his “smartening up” with a “Yes, dear” response….

She wanted to know if he intended to “gussy up” for the senior adult Christmas luncheon at church. “Gussy up?” He hadn’t heard the expression in years, but her mention of it served as a reminder that in our ever-growing, open-collared men’s world, whatever “gussying” we’re doing--if

any--isn’t ascending. Its trajectory is decidedly downward. I know what she meant. For many decades, I’ve been given neckties accented by Christmas scenes. Most of them are marred by dropped food, so the red and green colors of Christmas are barely dominant over the yellows, oranges, purples and blacks. I wear them during the Yuletide season; that’s usually when Brenda says I am “gussied up.”…

It seems important to take a Googling sideroad. I was set to wondering about the origin of the expression. It turns out that the first use likely occurred in Australia, early in the 20^th century. A famous novelist used it to describe a “foppish dandy.” Huh? Consult Google further if you want to know more about “foppish dandies.” Numerous vague definitions are cited. If Google claims “gussying up” to run in tandem with “foppish dandies,” so be it. I’ll decide that I am indeed “gussied

up,” merely by wearing both a necktie and sox. This’ll probably satisfying my wife of 56 years….

Brenda’s specific* instructions about my luncheon attire weren’t discernible above the roar of my battery-powered toothbrush. That’s why I have moderate interest in the holster Uncle Mort is designing. With it, I’ll have my toothbrush at hand, not only to use for multiple brushings, but also for drowning out sounds I’d sooner not hear. In the adjacent holster pocket will be my smartphone, handy for both real and pretended uses. The only downsides I can see is that there’ll be one more item to lose and another one to keep charged. Before we finished our phone conversation and exchanged greetings of the season, Mort asked me if I knew that the ordinary toothbrush may have been designed by someone living in the swamp. “If the guy had lived in any other part of the state, it would have been called a “teethbrush,” he opined, roaring with laughter. That’s his story, and he’s sticking to it….