How to be Popular

1 Jun

A presumably young writer wonders as to popularity and where to get some of it…

Colon D:

While you may hear many of your friends and classmates discussing popularity (often in hushed tones slightly out of earshot), be assured that their acceptance is not needed to advance in life.

I’ve spent many years in many different fields over the course of my life and I’d like to think that popularity, or my lack thereof, had nothing to do with my eventual success and even more eventual forced retirement.

When I arrived along with the rest of my platoon in Korea, our drill sergeant informed us that we were all equals and that nothing in our life up to that point mattered, whether it was Johnny Sanderson’s high school football records and paternity suits or James Cullen’s lifelong bed-wetting habit and stamp collecting. From now on, he informed us, we’re a unit.

His words stayed with us. As we went from battle to battle, we found that we had no time left between dodging bullets and infections to dwell on our high school escapades. Our short R&R periods were no different, as we took the much-needed break time to catch up on our mail, which usually consisted of Mom’s recipe for Raisin-Plum-Applesauce Cake or Dear John letters from our high school sweethearts. Needless to say, Johnny received the lion’s share of the latter along with several important-looking letters demanding funds for diapers/bottles/antidepressants/trips to Mexico.

The long and the short of it was: when the halcyon days of school are over and life begins dealing off the bottom of the deck, the last thing on your mind will be the fleeting thrills of popularity. Once life got ahold of Johnny, he went from being the homecoming king to a hollow shell of a man in less than 6 months. As for James? Well, the constant whine of incoming shells did nothing for his bed-wetting, but the trip abroad gave his stamp collection a huge boost.

Take care and all the best. Everything in life has a way of working itself out, usually in a way that will be both completely unexpected and ridiculously expensive.


Clifton L. Tanager


43 Responses to “How to be Popular”

  1. elizabeth3hersh June 1, 2010 at 10:41 pm #

    First, and what a honor it is!! Lovely post, Clifton. Absolutely touching, poignant and lovely. What a refreshing and sensible point of view you offer. I look forward to reading many more posts. Like Capitalist Lion Tamer, you take your readers on a journey. I would write more, but then I risk not being first (sorry, I’m very competitive). Thank you for sharing with us!! It is, indeed, an honor!!

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 1, 2010 at 11:19 pm #

      Elizabeth –

      How fortuitous! I was just getting ready to take a brief nap (which would be the nine hours of sleep I get between 7 pm and 4 am). I need to be in bed soon if I’m going to be in any shape to handle my morning routine:

      1. Stare bitterly at the clock.
      2. Urinate.
      3. Steal my neighbor’s paper.

      Since the first two items on this list can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, I like to be well-rested. My neighbor is a heavy sleeper and is rarely up before 6 am.

      Thank god for the paper. Do you have any idea what kind of dreck is shoved on the air at 4 am? I haven’t the slightest idea myself, thanks to a misunderstanding with the cable company whose cable I was “borrowing.” As it stands now, I only receive Telemundo, which can be entertaining in short stretches but is rather draining after a couple of hours.

      Thanks very much for the kind words. I will try to stay focused on both my effervescence and sensibility. I’m looking forward to both of our returns to this blog later this week.

      • elizabeth3hersh June 2, 2010 at 1:25 am #

        Clifton, I am delighted to learn we have some things in common! Newspapers, nine hours of sleep and urination! I could not live without a newspaper! Years ago, I subscribed to three newspapers and it took me the entire morning to read them all. I relished every word (well, not every word as I skipped the sports section). Call me a news junkie. I love to read the far right, the far left and every delicious word in-between (in spite of leaning decidedly clockwise). As I learned in elementary school, there are the laws of physics and everything else is opinion. If I don’t get nine hours of sleep, domestic tranquility…depixelates (is that a word?…if it is, it’s not to be confused with depixilated…my guess is that you can easily differentiate the two). Urination? At least (!) twenty times a day (long story). I’m guessing I spend just as much time as you do on that task…perhaps we are both ‘spurters’…I simply get mine over with in a more expeditious manner. Overall, I think a solid foundation as been laid between blogger and bloggee (I’m really taking liberties here with my vocab).

        Since you used the colorful and slightly naughty word dreck, I’m going to close with mazel tov on your new and entertaining blog! Can’t wait for the next post!

      • Clifton L. Tanager June 2, 2010 at 7:15 am #

        Elizabeth –

        Feel free to take liberties with your vocabulary. I often do and it’s brought me nothing but joy and the occasional suddenly-ended conversation.

        There’s nothing like a newspaper (especially a “borrowed” one) to kick your day off right. The internet just isn’t the same, what with its flashing links, popovers and its abject failure to leave my fingers black once I’m done with it.

  2. Scott Oglesby June 2, 2010 at 1:46 am #

    Congratulations on getting your very own digs Clifton, it couldn’t happen to a more well deserving, and well heeled guy. –I’m not sure what well heeled means but I thought you’d like it.

    I agree with your advice one thousand percent. These kids just have to do what comes naturally and they’ll always be happy. For some; an easy gate, a rebel smile, and a touchdown pass come easily. And with those things come the blondes, brunettes and the ‘burnouts’ giving you tons and tons of really good, really free drugs. But some find it much easier to sit in a dark basement and pick at their pimple scabs, weep softly and plot revenge while making pipe bombs.

    And who is anybody, much less the DEA (on one side) or the ATF or FBI (on the other) to say what or who is right?

    • RubyTwoShoes June 2, 2010 at 4:28 am #

      You are in luck Scott, because I do know what well heeled means. I googled it the other day because I wanted to use it in the context of really, really great footwear, turns out, it means being prosperous and wealthy, which doesn’t seem as fitting as the footwear definition to me….

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 2, 2010 at 7:20 am #

      Scott –

      Thank you very much for the kind words. I’m not sure what “well-heeled” means either, but I like the “cut of its jib” and will be using it at regular intervals from here on out.

      (I’m also not sure what a cut jib actually resembles, but I’d like to think it has something to do with Mamie Van Doren in a tight sweater.)

      Your words on the subject of popularity couldn’t be more true. If the youth of this nation (and many other nations I’m sure – I’m looking at you, Greece and South Korea) would just deal with the hand that fate dealt them, they’d be a lot happier, less stressed and ready for a long, faceless career with a large, faceless corporation.

      As for the various government entities you’ve mentioned? They haven’t been popular in years.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 2, 2010 at 7:21 am #

      Ruby2Shoes –

      I’m glad you have somewhat cleared up the mysterious “well-heeled” phrase. I would have put my money on expensive and flashy sneakers myself. I think that, given its apparent relation to money, it could still be applied to overly-expensive and multi-colored footwear.

  3. davehambo June 2, 2010 at 2:45 am #

    Dear Clifton, as well as being touchingly humurous to those of us who have been through life’s little turbines, this would make an excellent article for all mid-teenagers to read. Except of course that those who would benefit the most can’t do that, read I mean; shame really?

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 2, 2010 at 7:26 am #

      Dave –

      I’m sure you’re right about the mid-teens. Even if they did have the proper training in the finer English arts, I think the use of words such as “recipe,” “stamp collection” and “halcyon” would have thrown them off the trail.

      This says nothing for the link of this piece, which may seem perfectly reasonable for someone our age, but to the mindset of today’s youth look as long as any chapter of Moby Dick. In fact, it would probably be dismissed instantly with “TL:DR.”

      I know you’re a man of acronyms, Dave, so if you’re not familiar with this one, you’ll have it nailed down within mere minutes.

      Thanks very much for the visit.

  4. davehambo June 2, 2010 at 7:38 am #

    Dear Clifton, I googled TL;DR and rather wish I hadn’t; strange place out there you know?

    All the teen sites I have just cruised through, and done my standing at GCHQ no good/harm at all in the process, assume you know what the abbrev. means, I don’t.

    So, best guess “Too Long; Do Review”?

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 2, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

      Dave –

      You’ve got it half right. “Too long; didn’t read.” It’s a handy way of telling someone that despite their best effort to present a well thoughtout argument, you lost interest somewhere between the first and second paragraphs.

      This, of course, won’t stop this same person from ranting at length at what they perceive to be flaws in what little they did read.

      Incredibly annoying.

  5. Donald Mills June 2, 2010 at 5:54 pm #


    Congratulations on an excellent first post and a healthy dollop of sensible (if unsolicited) advice. I’m sure we’ll all benefit tremendously in the days and weeks to come from your considerable wisdom.

    I likely would have been slightly less generous in my response to our young Irish friend Colon D. I would have been sorely tempted to point out that using all those damned question marks suggests that he is whiny, desperate and innately needy. Those are all ugly qualities to possess, Clifton, and generally frowned upon unless you’re professional athlete, actor or aspiring politician. He’d be wise to stop that practice, stop asking so many damned questions and limit his use of punctuation to a period, em-dash and a back pocket comma (in case of emergency).

    In my view, he’d also be wise to forget his dreams of popularity and just hope that he can squeeze through life without drawing too much attention to himself and becoming the target of what I’m sure would be highly justified ridicule. But that’s perhaps more advice than he might have been looking for.

    A great start Clifton. I’m already looking forward to more.


    • Clifton L. Tanager June 3, 2010 at 6:55 am #

      Don –

      Thank you very much for the kind, if slightly brutal words (fortunately directed at someone else) and for the visit.

      You do raise an excellent point. This presumed youngster has had no training in the deployment of punctuation, leading him down a dark alley filled with question marks, exclamation points and the occasionally mistyped “1.”

      Colon D, no doubt of Irish descent, would do well to take your advice and live a life in shunned solitude, briefly punctuated excessively by presumptuous questions and faint sobbing.

  6. Fundamental Jelly June 2, 2010 at 6:40 pm #

    An auspicious start Mr. Tanager (this is the high brow version of “Great Job”). Given the current state of the world, unsolicited advice from yours truly is probably sorely needed.

    I see that you and Elizabeth have a shared love of micturition. I must say the Avodart commercial of four men in their fifties riding bikes and stopping to pee all the time is a fav.

    I wish you success and popularity…even more success than, say, a group of ‘activists’ running a naval blockade.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 3, 2010 at 6:58 am #

      Fundamental Jelly –

      That was the impetus for this blog: advice sorely needed but never asked for. It’s what my parents did best and I can only assume their parents did it as well.

      As for the micturition, it’s really more an obssession than a love. And I too remember that ad and its effect on my future purchases. I honestly thought the bicycle was the key element, but it has done nothing to stop my unsteady flow and instead has added a rather uncomfortable chafing when not directly assaulting my nether regions with metallic blows.

      Thanks for the support, FJ.

  7. sandwichmaker June 2, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

    Mr. Tanager,

    I originally stopped by just to ask if you happened to have any grey poupon, but after reading your magnanimous words, I felt compelled to tell you how impressed I am with your thoughtful advice.

    To tell you the truth, I think this may be the first time I’ve ever been envious of somebody who served in the Korean War. Now I see that those who came out of it alive, did so with more than just anger issues and a plethora of shrapnel in the cutis and subcutisa.

    I do have one question, though. When you say you served with James Cullen, are you referring to James Cullen the American Chemist? The only reason I ask is because if it
    was the same James Cullen, it would then make sense as to why, after 60 years of doing experiment after experiment, the only thing the guy succeeded in creating was Martin sulfurane (aka. a type of
    dehydrating reagent).

    …Er, what can I say, my two big passions in life are condiments and chemistry.

    Anyway, seeing as it’s dinner time I should probably go eat myself now, but I just wanted to let you know that I
    look forward to more of your wisdom-distended advice.


    • Clifton L. Tanager June 3, 2010 at 7:02 am #

      Sandwichmaker –

      Thank you for the visit but I’m afraid that I am all out of Grey Poupon thanks to an unexpected (arent’ they all) carjacking. It’s not so much the Rolls Royce that I miss (it was a leased vehicle) but the trunkful of condiments that will be hard to replace.

      As to the Korean War: it was unpleasant but I like to think that I made it out with most of my more forward emotions intact along with most of my digits and limbs. I seem to have suffered some extensive nerve damage so I’m really not too sure on the last part.

      You may be right about the no-longer-young James Cullen. I lost touch with him after the war thanks to a lack of effort on both our parts. He may be this chemist you speak so highly of, and the dehydrating agent only makes sense given his rather moist upbringing.

      Thank you very much for the well-researched comment, SM and I hope to see you again very soon.

  8. Mahfooz Hasan June 3, 2010 at 3:18 am #

    Some great bit of advice there. Would come in handy for a young writer like me, although I am not entirely worried by popularity, rather the lack of experiences in many things.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 3, 2010 at 8:54 am #

      Mahfooz –

      Thanks very much for the kind words. The beautiful thing about the written language is that when properly and carefully arranged, it can grant you an entire lifetime of experiences within just a few sentences.

      Good luck with your writing, Mahfooz. Check back here often for more timely advice.

      • Mahfooz Hasan June 7, 2010 at 4:14 am #

        Thank you for the advice.

  9. thestuffinbetween June 3, 2010 at 5:18 pm #


    Last but not least, I have actually been trying to post for two nights but have been too groggy to give it enough attention. And I wasn’t about to say, “TL;DR.” So having finally read your post, wide awake during the day, I am very impressed. You should write this in a longer version as a Commencement Address for high schools. It is so true that once you get out into the world, nerds rule.

    Great post, Clifton!

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 3, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

      Stuff –

      Thanks very much for the visit and comment. I doubt I’ll be giving any commencement addresses anytime soon, thanks to a long-standing feud with most of the alumni at Kansas St. There was a lot of stuff said several years ago, most of it horrifically slanderous and most of it by me.

      However, I may follow in Bill Cosby’s footsteps and go from college to college picking up undeserved honorary degrees in return for hopefully boosting their enrollment. In fact, I should probably fire off several letters of intent to do just that. They haven’t asked but that’s never stopped me before.

      • thestuffinbetween June 4, 2010 at 6:37 pm #


        That was the best laugh I’ve had all day.

        It suddenly dawned on me that I had been a great “Dear Ann” and “Dear Ann” fan when I was young and there has been such an advice void in my world for the last several decades. I’m looking forward to your future pearls of wisdom and also to hearing about the types of problems that our fellow bloggers might be having these days–I’m sure many of us face a lot of the same issues … but then again maybe not!

        Thanks again, Clifton.

      • thestuffinbetween June 4, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

        *Dear Abby even (not Dear Ann twice)….

      • Clifton L. Tanager June 4, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

        Stuff –

        Thanks for the comparison to both Anns and the singular Abby. I’m flattered and I hope that I can live up to their long-standing success in the advice field.

        I’m not sure what problems we bloggers face having just started myself. I’m sure they’ll present themselves when I least have the time, energy or internet access to deal with them.

        Until then…

  10. jammer5 June 4, 2010 at 9:18 am #

    Pleasant surprises come in many shapes and forms. What that has to do with your new site, I have no idea, but it still sounds good, regardless.

    Excellent story, Clifton, and one that reminds me of the time I arrived in DaNang, Vietnam, in the mid sixties, the years, not the temperature. I was fresh, mostly, out of high school and was indeed shaken by the contrasts between those semi-memorable high school days, and the then current times of ducking mortar shells.

    Drinking heavily of beer made in the forties help put everything into perspective: don’t drink beer made in the forties in the mid-sixties.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 4, 2010 at 9:38 am #

      Jammer5 –

      Nothing changes your life faster than a few deadly projectiles, especially those fired by the enemy. The great days of drinking, carousing and being “on the make” are suddenly far behind you, replaced with ducking, covering and, well, I guess there’s still a fair amount of drinking.

      You make a good point about the proper use of beer. Fresh out of the can (or bottle if you’re some sort of a snob) is the only way to go. I’m still trying to make my way through a case of mid-70s “Billy Beer” which I purchased during a rather long post-election bender.

      Thanks for the comment and visit.

      • davehambo June 4, 2010 at 10:29 am #

        My dear Clifton, I ain’t no snob; but proper beer, aka British Bitter, comes in bottles, chilled then the contents poured into an approved tankard and supped with friends, virtual and otherwise…

      • jammer5 June 4, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

        BTW, I get the impression we’s from the same town. If we is, lunch should be on the menu. Email me.

      • Clifton L. Tanager June 4, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

        Dave –

        You may be correct. I’ve always done beer in a can and the bottle has never tasted quite right to me. I’ll amend the offending phrase to “or bottle if you’re some sort of a Brit.” Hopefully, this will work out for everybody.

      • davehambo June 5, 2010 at 1:28 am #

        Clifton; no offence, just a raging thirst at the time!

      • Clifton L. Tanager June 5, 2010 at 9:38 pm #

        Dave –

        No offense taken. I fought long and hard for people to be able to drink the beer however they want, whether bottled, canned or straight from the source via an entertaining “kegstand.”

  11. elizabeth3hersh June 5, 2010 at 12:48 am #

    Clifton, are you ‘too old’ to start a formspring account? Because that would be cool as shit (and I have a million questions to ask you).

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 5, 2010 at 9:43 pm #

      Elizabeth –

      I’m not sure if I’m too old, but it seems to require some sort of rapidfire response, which I’m not sure I’m up for.

      Also, the “Answer” box seems rather tiny, don’t you think? I’m not a fan of acronyms or dropping vowels to save space.

      However, I will keep this idea in my “back pocket” so to speak, where it will join other “to do’s” like “fire off one letter full of righteous indignation to each editor of the New York Times (incl. online presence)” and “fire off letter full of righteous indignation to each member of my apartment complex (incl. staff).”

  12. Dan McGinley June 5, 2010 at 7:08 pm #

    Words of wisdom from One Who Knows, Mr. Tanager, and I mean that in all sincerety (even though that expression is burrowed from the late Hunter S. Thompson). I look forward to showcased experience, biting humor, brilliant insight, and some kind of delicate little finger sandwiches with no sign of crust. One of my best friends spent four years in Korea, adjusting missile fire through geometry and a natural hatred of all things North of South Korea. He signed-on after a judge gave him two choices: jail or the army. And you are certainly correct; things have a way of working out, and now he’s an accomplished machinist and hockey player in the senior league. One night he’s botching a stick-up, and years later he’s working on parts for the space shuttle. *Sigh* Time reveals all. On several occassions. Great post.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 5, 2010 at 9:54 pm #

      Dan –

      Thank you very much for the kind words, no matter which drug-fueled writer might have supplied them. I always like Thompson, especially his abnormal love of weapons and perimeter mines. I think he was on to something there. They (the mines) do keep the dogs off the couch.

      I’m delighted to hear about your friend. People often malign the military for turning perfectly fine inner-city children and the occasional suburbanite into “killing machines,” but you rarely hear about the “killing machines” and “thieving machines” turned into space shuttle mechanics. Thanks very much for sharing that.

      Also: an excellent suggestion on the sandwiches. Those little things are all kinds of great, aren’t they?

      • Dan McGinley June 6, 2010 at 9:38 am #

        They always remind me of fun social events over the years, during dress-up occassions full of lively banter and good cheer. Tasty little devils.

  13. Overconfident Orientalist June 14, 2010 at 1:21 am #

    Tits. Big ones. That seems to work.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 14, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

      O/O –

      Thanks for the visit.

      You know, I hadn’t even considered that very obvious approach. Granted, some teenage males may find that this has quite to opposite effect, but if they really put some effort into it, they should at least be able to lock down a handy nickname or two.


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