Though the life of a spinster aunt is mostly fluffy and carefree, there are certain unpleasant situations wherein the Auntly Directive explicitly calls for taking the wind out of people’s sails.
Sail de-winding has gotten a bad rap, as it has been embraced as bloodsport over the years by various do-gooders and buttinskis. Remember “tough love”?
“I hate to take the wind out of your sails, Son, but your Marilyn Manson marijuana lifestyle frightens your mother, so we’re having you arrested.”
Sail de-winding has also been wielded for the greater good — though to little avail — by dudely scientists and professional skeptics:
“I hate to take the wind out of your sails, my godly friend, but there is no scientific evidence whatsoever to support the hypothesis that when you die your disembodied consciousness will float up to the clouds to be reunited with your loved ones. Also, you’re stupid.”
It has been complained about in various Nick Lowe songs, too.
But let’s be clear: it’s spinster aunts who invented the practice of foisting truth on overstimulated people who don’t want to hear it.
That’s right. Our specialized lobes can detect a self-destructive folly at 200 yards. When our peeps’ sails have wind in them, and we perceive that this wind is perhaps a bit gusty for this time of year, and that it is composed not of wholesome breezes but of farts and sordid delusion, we cannot hold our tongue.
I recall the time my pal Solange Pettigrew called to cut me in on an exciting business proposition. This frabjous business, she effluviated in breathless tones, was going to liberate her from the daily grind and transport her to a world of more or less incessant travel to exotic lands. It could do the same for me. She explained that all I had to do was buy my own personalized ‘travel website’ from her, whereupon hordes of internet travelers would flock to it and I would make a fortune. In her mind’s eye she had already purchased a steamer trunk full of hula skirts and was getting her groove back with a hunky cabana boy. I had never seen her so happy. Clearly I needed to step in.
So I protruded the spinster proboscis and immediately detected in her sails the whiff of a wind most foul. But how? This woman has a master’s degree in common sense from Stanford, for chrissake. She couldn’t be that obliv–
Oh, but she was. Solange Pettigrew had in fact gone grossly agog. So forthwith onto my auntly shoulders fell the stinky task of informing the poor sap that this travel website deal was no gilded Jetway out of meaningless corporate drudgery, but was actually a Ponzi scheme.
Did I want to be the one who brought her life’s young dream crashing down like the housing market upon her dewy brow? Certainly not. I’d rather have been given a root canal by a sweaty dentist. But according to the Spinster Code, failure to place these person-to-person calls on the clue phone is not an option. Sail de-winding is the only ethical course.
Which brings me to my chum Sukey, who is an inveterate bargain hunter. One of her endearing qualities is that when she finds a hot deal, she cannot rest until she has alerted her entire acquaintance to the bonanza. I often get this call from Sukey:
“Get down to $aver$ immediately! Wahoo is only 99 cents a pound!”
Let us all feast like kings on wahoo, right? Wrong. I’m the one who says, “Wahoo for 99 cents? Where’d it come from, the dumpster behind Whole Foods?”
While driving around yesterday Sukey stumbled across some women on the side of the road selling “1200-thread-count Egyptian cotton king sheet sets” out of a beat-up Econoline van for 20 bucks a hit. Sukey bought a set on the spot and galloped home at breakneck speed to call everyone up. She couldn’t bear for her friends to spend another hellish night needlessly tossing and turning on nasty burlap from Bed Bath and Beyond when we could be nestled in luxury coziness from the banks of the river Nile.
“Wait a second,” I said, my wind-in-sails detector heating up. “1200 thread-count Egyptian cotton king sheet sets for 20 bucks? Yeah, and I’m Herman Cain’s baby mama.”
I hated to do it, but my hands, I tell you, were tied.
“Sukey,” I said, “read the label. Read it, and weep.”
Whereupon it was discovered that the sheets had been made in China by indentured wage slaves. Furthermore they were not cotton of Egyptian or any other origin, but microfiber, and most likely weren’t 1200 threads per inch, either.
Hey, I’m just doing my job.
It’s like when I happen to run into the occasional woman who thinks Bust is a feminist magazine. Or maybe she believes that femininity is “natural,” or that “radiant skin” is desirable. Look at her sails! Her bloomy, billowing sails, bloated with hot wind! What can I do? If I don’t take that wind outta them things she might go around the rest of her life arguing that burlesque is an empowering form of feminine self-expression.
So I cram down her neck the truth that our patriarchal social order, despite what she’s been told since the cradle, doesn’t really have her best interests at heart. I explain that she is defined in this social order solely with respect to male interests, and that she is a member of an oppressed sex class out of which she may not opt, and that her success in life is entirely a matter of the degree to which she appeases her oppressor.
She protests. She demurs. She vituperates. She calls me a sex-hating harridan prude.
And then her lobe starts to pulsate. The mascara falls from her eyes. She grasps that, yes, patriarchy is founded on oppression and suffering, that Ponzi schemes and thread-count cons are logical consequences in a world order that is itself the Mother of All Scams, and most horribly of all, that she is both complicit and a dupe in the whole set-up.
Her life is ruined, and she has me to thank for it.*
Trust no one.
* Note: this business about her lobe beginning to pulsate and me ruining her life, it’s all a fantasy. In real life nobody ever believes me.