In search of story

August 1.22: Coping, but barely


Did you ever not say something you should have said? Good. Then you will understand the following.

I cannot do math in my head. Dad had his master’s degree in mathematics and, I suspect, wondered if I’d been switched at birth and where his real daughter was. My math persecution complex began early in life.

Some years ago, I was checking out of a hardware store apparently on the heels of someone who couldn’t do math in his head, and the cashier huffed to me about that inferior being. This is what I thought but didn’t say: “I can’t do math in my head either! But I can play Bach’s Little Fugue in G minor like nobody’s business, with both hands cavorting over three manuals, and my feet flying over the foot pedals, and having a grand old time doing it — and not once has it occurred to me to get all huffy about those who can’t!”

Mind you, dear reader, if I tried to play the Bach today, I’d fall off the bench and break several bones, but that doesn’t change the fact that I could once. It was exhilarating, and I’ve never met a single number, in or out of my head, that came close to being such fun.

(This harrumph was the result of reading Dan Antion’s blog post about the way retailers try to rope us into buying, with the inarguable position that math-in-the-head is our best defense against their wiles. In no way was his post huffy, but it reminded me of my to-now unsaid say. Yes, thank you, I feel better.)

11 thoughts on “August 1.22: Coping, but barely

  1. Maureen, I can’t do math in my head and just barely on paper. Can’t play anything on the piano either! I used to be able to carry a tune and harmonize beautifully, if I do say so myself, but not any more! It never occurred to me to belittle someone who couldn’t carry a tune.

    Like your dad, my dad was a whizz at doing math in his head! He also did the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink because he never had to erase! Good grief!

    But I have to admit that there have been a few times when I should have left something unsaid and didn’t! Sigh…Live and learn.

  2. Thanks for the chuckle. Indeed, I also know the feeling of saying what I shouldn’t have said — I’m even better at that than I am at not saying what I should have said. (Did you follow that?) Any crossword at all is anathema to me, but the NYT in ink?? No way! Yet here’s the thing: you could sing AND harmonize! Definitely a skill not everyone has! When anyone tries to huff at you about not doing math in your head, you should ask that person to start singing “Lida Rose” so you can harmonize.

  3. When this came up in my email and I saw the musical notes, the absolute first word that popped into my head was hieroglyphics. I never could read musical notes, and I do not have a musical bone in my body. I can, however, do some basic math in my head. I call it my one ‘super power.’ Your super power would definitely be music. 🙂 I love the header shot. I saw some beautiful butterflies over the weekend, took multiple shots, and none of them are worthy of using so I applaud you or your photographer friend for that capture. Happy Monday, Maureen!

    • Sometimes we get lucky with the camera, and this was one time, for sure. This is not a recent photo, however; this was a former garden. Rabbits have bulldozed my zinnias here, and I’ve seen only one butterfly so far this summer. I’ve noticed recently that there are very few birds too. This is a little scary. As for super powers, I suspect each of us has at least one, but only some are valued by the world at large. Your sewing is most definitely a super power! You really have the power to make things that are beautiful, not just with needle and thread, but with your garden. Well, it’s what your blog says. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a correlation between quilting and math in the head. I did laugh at your comment about hieroglyphics. It’s something of a miracle how those squiggles transform into living sound, isn’t it? Happy Monday to you too, Judy!

  4. Growing up, my best friend lived in the house behind me, and she practiced piano every day and hated it. I was so jealous. She taught me to play the ever popular “Heart and Soul.” I played the right hand, and she played the left. What a thrill that was, so you playing Bach sounds wonderful!
    I can do math in my head, but don’t ask me to put it down on paper. Ain’t happenin’.

    • So math happens in your head but not on paper? That’s total hocus-pocus to me. I readily admit, however, that math is almost as dismal for me on paper as it is in my head. Ah, the “ever popular” music of “Heart and Soul”! I trust she taught you Chopsticks also. Your poor friend, practicing every day! ICK. I hated everything about piano except playing it! But I knew that math had the status, and it didn’t occur to me until later in life to object to that. Bach should have status too!

  5. There is nothing worth getting into a huff over, Maureen. I’ve been waiting for this unsaid say to get said since you said you would say it here. (How’s that for a sentence). I fear I’m going to get in trouble by hinting that by playing music, you are doing math in your head (and much better than I ever could). On the flip side of the harrumph, I was once made fun of in a meeting because I did a bit of (what one person thought was) complicated math in my head.

    Thanks for shouting out my post better than I could imagine. I hope you have a great week.

    • I’m sure it WAS complicated! But shame on anyone who tries to make fun of someone who does math-in-the-head. It just goes to show how much we all wish we could do it. As for math in music, yes, I’ve read about such mysteries but there’s no way it has entered into my life with keyboards. My brain would collapse. And I loved the unsaid-say sentence — I laughed out loud, which proves what an English major I am! Thanks, Dan!

  6. The music looks scary to me, especially with the sharps scattered around it. I’ve always felt more affinity for flats, which may be down to my northern accent. But I completely agree as so often. I have always found it irritating to be challenged “you have a degree in xxx and can’t do yyy?” My sweetheart can’t do maths in his head either. He recently calculated out loud that he’d walked over a million miles in Britain. That sounded a lot, so I rechecked and it was more like 5,000. Still a decent number, just moseying around!

    • That’s so interesting! I’ve heard others through the years express a preference for one or the other, sharps or flats. Your theory about preference being related to origin is as good as another, I’d suppose. I swear Bach was ever changing his mind about what key he was in in any given measure. He dared us to become complacent. You’ve got it exactly right about how people want to exclaim how preposterous it is that one can do xxx but not yyy. Math-int-the-head seems to be the universal standard for reasonable intelligence, and HMPH on that. As for your sweetheart and his moseying, I’d say that moseying is a fine art and you both very likely have it mastered in the miles by the thousands.

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