By Wendy Reid Crisp,
Editor-in-Chief of GRAND magazine,
and author of “When I Grow Up I Want To Be 60”
Yesterday, I left work early, went home, and crawled under the covers. It was a cold and rainy, typical for California’s northern coast. I was feeling whiny.
I’d met my husband, John, for lunch at the pizza shop, and was munching through an over-cheese Hawaiian when I looked up at the clock — 12:40 — and suddenly remembered that I had had a conference call scheduled with the management team of my biggest client in San Francisco. For 12:30.
Immediately, I said something profane and loud and several older, more subdued patrons perked right up.
“Call them on your cell phone,” John suggested. Specks of pepperoni were in his beard.
“The batteries are dead,” I said. There was a moment of silence as my husband tried to avoid the inevitable.
“Let me use yours.”
“It’s in the truck.”
The truck was outside, in the drizzle that finds its way past scarves and collars and drips down your neck, gotcha! Weather wuss.
Once I had the phone, I couldn’t see the numbers very well. Getting ready for work in the morning, I hadn’t been able to find my glasses, the good ones; I was wearing an old set, two or three prescriptions back. Squint, furrow brow, hurry! What’s the number? Panic. 7 something? 6? I’ve only had the job for seven years, it’s not as if it were, you know, important, like number of my best friend from high school, which I’ll never forget.
Oh! Whew. There’s a mutual acquaintance who knows the number and I know her number by heart because it’s weird and easy. Hurrah, she answers.
Now, I’m back in business. All that’s necessary is to call the CEO of the company who, with his management team, is sitting in an office waiting to talk to me on the phone in a brainstorming meeting that was called a month ago – at my convenience.
“Hello, I’m an idiot,” I said, and the client said, “No, you’re not, you’re just late. Let’s get started.”
“Well, uh, I’m at a pizza place with my husband and it’s noisy and I’m sitting by the door and there’s a draft. It’s raining. And noisy, music is on, and pans are clattering…oh, and I can’t take notes, because I don’t have paper and pencil. And I can’t see very well.”
The CEO suggested rescheduling. Tersely. I returned the phone to John, The good pizza was all gone, and it was still raining.
A local artist we know strolled in to chat.
“How are you?” he said, and I said, “I’m cold and wet and it’s still fall and I’m tired of the rain already.”
“Are you whining?” he asked.
Which has brought me, finally, to the point of this discussion.
Yes. I was. So what?
Whining doesn’t deserve it’s bad rep: it’s simply, in tire terms, a slow leak. It’s not dangerous, you don’t spin out of control, and you can go a long way before any real damage is done – a slow-leaking tire can get you to safety, to a gas station, to home.
Whining is healthy. The “to complain” definition is, not incidentally, the second definition; the first is “to utter a high-pitched plaintive or distressed cry.”
Whining is a cry for help, “high-pitched” or “distressed,” according to Merriam-Webster, both words being code for “woman.”
A whiner is a damsel in distress.
My, how times have changed: there was a time when a D-i-D would magically summon the attention of the Prince – always a courageous fellow who was willing to give up his money and entitlements for the love of a good woman.
“I don’t feel well,” I said to John. “I think I’m sick. That must be why I forgot the conference call.” The slow leak had accelerated; the whine was beginning to have stinging eyes and shaking voice – it was morphing into a weep.
Aha! Bugles, flags, the thundering of hooves. The intergender literary line was crossed and my plight was moved from post-modern fiction back into Arthurian epics.
I was rushed home, tucked in, served tea, hot soup and, later, squash and something with cherries that was well-intended.
The Prince fended off telephone calls, preheated an electric mattress pad, kept the dog on the right side of the bed.
And he found my glasses.
I went to sleep and when I woke up, I said, “Is it still raining? It’s so cold. And damp.”
“Don’t whine,” John said, and I said, “Why not? It works.”