According to the dictionary of slang terminology, a Pollyanna is a person who is gullible, optimistic, and annoyingly perky. That would be me. People are always asking me what I’m smiling at. I don’t have a reason. I’m usually not aware that I’m doing it.

When my son was a teenager, his favorite criticism of me was, “Mom, it’s not normal to be so !&#*!*&! happy all the time.”

Like any other Pollyanna, I assume that everybody I meet is a very nice person. If they later prove not to be, I am shocked and disappointed.

It took me a long time to accept that real life is not like those old Western movies, where the bad guys always wore black and the good guys always wore white so that their character was immediately recognizable.

In his book, “It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On it,” Robert Fulghum wrote, “The line between good and evil, hope and despair, does not divide the world between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ It runs down the middle of every one of us.”

This explains those news stories in which a criminal’s mother , tears streaming down her cheeks, says, ” My Johnny is not a monster. Johnny is a good boy!”

Johnny might be a serial killer, but he was good to his mama and always remembered to feed the cat. People are complicated.

Sometimes I tire of my reputation as a Pollyanna. I just might turn into one of those people who seem determined to suck the joy out of life; the kind of person who would stand in a crowd of awe-struck tourists on the rim of the majestic Grand Canyon and sneer, “Bah, if you’ve seen one big ditch, you’ve seen ’em all.”

Yessiree, from now on, I’m turning over a new leaf. I’m sick of being labeled gullible, optimistic, and perky. My new descriptive adjectives will be “cynical, pessimistic, and crotchety.” I could hardly wait to try out my new personality.

“Did you hear that?” I asked my co-worker. “I guess I told him a thing or two.”

“Who,” she asked.

“That last customer,” I answered. “He was so rude. But I fixed him. Did you see that dirty look I gave him?”

“That was your dirty look? You were smiling at him.”

“Yeah, but I think he could tell I didn’t mean it,” I said.

“You invited him to your house for dinner!”

“Well, I’m not going to serve him any dessert.”

“Yes, you will,” she said.

“Okay, but no whipped cream on his pie, and I mean it!”

I saw my next opportunity to demonstrate my new aggressive, take-charge personality when I spotted a door-to-door salesman walking up my sidewalk.

Knock, knock, knock. “Hello, Ma’am,” he said. “I’m trying to work my way through college by…”

“No!” I barked. “Hit the bricks, pal! Get lost!”

“But if I could just show you a few samples of the magazines…”

“I said beat it, Buster! I don’t need any magazines! …Oh, don’t look so sad. I’m sorry. Maybe I’ll buy just one. No! Never mind! Scram before I call the cops! Wait. Did you just say you were putting yourself through college? Okay, I’ll take just one, and that’s it. I mean it! Sign me up for Guerilla Warfare Monthly, but that’s all. And maybe Airline Pilots International Review, but that’s it. And maybe the Erotic Dancer’s Quarterly and the Journal of Brain Surgery. Just those four, though, and I mean it. I’m no pushover of a Pollyanna.

“How short of college funds are you? I’m just curious. Really? That much? Here’s a few hundred bucks for tuition. Is there anything else you need? Not that I care. I’m no Pollyanna. You got kicked out of your dorm? Well, I guess you can use our spare room, but just for one semester, and then you are out of here, and I mean it!

“Laundry day is Saturday and supper is served at 6 p.m. sharp. Don’t be late or you won’t get any dessert. Here are the car keys to get to class. Your car doesn’t look reliable. Drive carefully or I’ll be forced to cancel your insurance,” I growled. “And pull those droopy pants up!”

Hmph! I guess I told him a thing or two. I wonder what that teardrop tattoo on his face means.


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