Possibly the only thing my daughter, Clementine, hates more than my sarcastic responses to some of her best dramatic moments are my “pithy” sayings. She hates it when, in reply to her question as to why I insist on checking under her bed every time she “cleans” her room I say, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me,” or when, after presenting me with some injury she believes worthy of a school absence I come back with “It’s a long way from your heart.” But, ironically, the one she should hate the most is the one that she has never heard: “You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” And the reason she has never heard it is because whenever she is in the state that most inspires it is exactly when the rest of us are most likely to avoid saying anything to her at all.
Of course–as with most things to do with Clementine–it doesn’t help matters that in this, too, her little brother Clyde is her complete opposite. When it comes to getting what he wants, he is the honey. Take, for example, my most recent trip to the shoe store: even though Clementine was clearly the one who was in desperate need of shoes (the ones she were wearing were so outgrown that her new pair turned out to be a full three sizes larger), I refused to actually get off the couch and over to the store until the day Clyde gave me an adorable picture he had drawn of the two of us standing together surrounded by hearts–one in which the stick figure representing Clyde can clearly be seen to be wearing a brand new pair of sneakers. (Whereas Clementine’s limping into the room with shoes held together by duct tape and growling “You need to buy me new shoes” had no effect on me whatsoever.)
By the same token, Clyde usually fares better in the breakfast department: his cheery “Good morning, best-Mom-in-the-world. What’s for breakfast?” can move me into creating weekday funnel cakes, whereas Clementine’s surly “You forgot to buy milk again,”–bowl of dry cereal in hand–only succeeds in inspiring my return growl of: “Improvise.”
Still, I do sympathize with her: I am well aware that the charm gene in our family is almost wholly gender specific (the women in our family are more likely to be known for our “get the hell away from me” glares than our “come hither” glances). Also, it can’t be easy competing for favors with a pint-sized ladies’ man; although I’ll admit I’m no great shakes in the suavity department myself, that doesn’t mean that I’m not still very much affected by it. Case in point: I may be years away from high school, but that doesn’t stop me from being reduced to a compliant puddle every time the cutest boy in the room sidles up next to me and says, “You look nice. Can I have a cookie?”
Not too surprisingly, Clementine–blessed with a sibling’s immunity to almost all forms of brotherly charm–is completely disgusted by these maneuvers. What is surprising, though (to me at least), is that my husband is as well; not only is he, too, almost completely immune to Clyde’s little overtures, but he also regards Clyde’s playerism with the kind of disdain that only one man can feel for another while he watches him successfully schmooze.
You’d think it wouldn’t be that way, that he would be happy that it is his own son–a member of his own gene pool, no less–who is having such luck, but that’s not the case at all. Then again, it’s probably hard to cheer anyone on while they’re buttering up your own wife–including your son. Especially when success usually means having to share your bed with the interloper yet again.