No Insignificant Choices

17 Feb

 (Another “Big Mama Speaks” Column)

Do you know what I’ve discovered?  The poor choices you make in your teens can derail your life into your twenties, and the poor choices you make in your twenties can kick your ass until your forties, and Lord have mercy on the poor choices made in your forties, because they may just end your life.

I wish someone had told me when I was in my late teens/early twenties to guard the gift of free will as if it were the fairy tale goose that laid the golden egg in my life.  If I had known how significant one’s choices are when I was in my junior year in college, I would have chosen differently when some ersatz Black Panther and his white SDS counterpart said, “We know we’re next door to Kent State and it’s only been two months since the Kent State Massacre, but let’s keep this protest movin’ across the country by taking over the Administration building on our campus.   Eleanor, you and the sistas are assigned to make a boat-load of fried chicken for the brothas so that we can hol’ up for a while once we’ve barricaded the doors.”  Without missing a beat I would have said, “Hell to the no, Negro, I’m going home to take a fucking nap because this could derail my scholarship and my future!”  Instead I ended up being surrounded by a SWAT team of angry white men with rifles while my bowels lost all control, and fried chicken went flying into the air and cascaded down upon the heads of my fellow revolutionaries like deep-fried hail as I threw up my arms in hysteria (“Jesus, Jesus, Lord have mercy, don’t let the po-po kill my sorry-ass”) as the police yelled:  “FREEZE!  WE WILL SHOOT TO KILL IF YOU MOVE!”

Photo by J. Tomczyk//”Big Mama Speaks” Hideout


Because I am so interested in the concept that there are no insignificant choices, this week I decided to publish my second advice column as “Big Mama,” but I’ve asked my readers to send in questions that only pertain to poor choices and how they have changed their lives or the lives of others.

Dear Big Mama:

Last year I attended an ATO fraternity party at a college in West Virginia.  One of my drunken frat brothers fired a bottle rocket out of his anus.  This action so startled me that I jumped back and fell off the deck and hurt myself.  I’ve chosen to file a lawsuit against my frat bother and my fraternity because the choice to “fire bottle rockets out of one’s anus constitutes an ‘ultrahazardous’ activity?”  Do you agree with my decision?

Signed:  My-Ass-Still-Intact

Google Image

Dear My-Ass-Still-Intact:

Boy, I don’t even know where to begin since you and the ass-rocket propeller don’t seem to have the brains you were born with!  What would possess someone to do something like that?  Whatever happened to fraternity boys lighting a fire to their farts like in The Farrelly Brothers’ Dumb and Dumber?  That was bad enough, but sticking a rocket up one’s ass?  WTF!

But Big Mama’s not here to judge.  You asked for advice, so advice I’m going to give you: fuhgetabout it!  How drunk did you have to be to fall off a deck from an ass-propelled rocket?  You’re not telling Big Mama the whole truth—I can feel it.  Don’t blame that dumb-ass fraternity brother for your inability to stand up on your own two feet.  Blame yourself for not picking more intelligent friends and a better fraternity.   ATO guys were the “animal house” even in my day.  I can’t imagine anything has changed.


Dear Fat-ass Black Mama (who would never be able to wear my clothes, thank God!):

Everybody suddenly hates me and I don’t know why.  All I did was make a choice to tell the truth about some chubby-ass singer and now everybody’s all over my ass.  My Tweeter feed has blown up with hate tweets, Anderson Cooper has put me on his RidicuList and attacked me on his show, and some writer has started a blog to boycott Chanel.  “C’est quoi cet argument foireux”?  How do I get these people off my back?  These chubby people are your kind of peeps.  Tell them to stop torturing me.  My philosophy as a designer is that “no one wants to see a curvy woman,” anyway!

Signed:  Put Upon in France—Your Majesty, Karl Lagerfeld

Google Image/Getty Images

Karl—you bleached, designer blowhard:

You know exactly why I and every other woman around the world want your head on a platter: you’re an arrogant asshole.  You verbally attacked that sweet baby, Adele, and for what?  What did she ever do to you except bless you with great music?  Who died and made you God?

I’ve never met you nor have I worn your clothes.  (You’re right; my fat ass couldn’t fit in a thing you design.)  I have worn Chanel perfume, of course.  However, I feel as if I know you, because you’ve been described as a 78-year-old shrunken prune of a “mincing pantomime dame of couture” and as “Karl, King Bitch of the catwalk.”  (I’ve met so many people like you in the theater world.)  Who are you to say that (and I quote) “the thing at the moment is Adele.  She is a little too fat, but she has a beautiful face and a divine voice.”  Who asked for your opinion?

I’m not callin’ off the attacks of anybody because I don’t feel sorry for you.  Everybody knows you “bat for the other team” and what “floats your boat” are slender hips and no breasts.  That’s your prerogative.  But Lago, here is a news flash:  you design for women and most of us have sizable tits and round asses.  The true beauty of a woman lies in those curvy hips you hate and those breasts you once contemptuously joked about when you said: “What does an old woman have between her breasts? Answer?  ‘A navel.’”   We were designed to sustain life, something you couldn’t do if your life depended on it.  One of those curvy women gave you life—be grateful.  I hope the women of the world hound your heroin-chic ass into the ground.  And you know what:  living well truly is the best revenge.  The six Grammys, the 95% spike in the sales of Adele’s songs, her picture on the cover of Vogue, and her response to you about being “fat” is so “priceless.”  Adele made the right choice to choose herself and her values over your misguided judgment.

NOTE TO FANS OF BIG MAMA’S ADVICE COLUMN:  Let’s Boycott Lagerfeld products until he gives a sizeable donation (I mean seven figures) to a foundation that deals with Anorexia Nervosa. 

“I’ve never wanted to look like models on the cover of magazines,” Adele told People. “I represent the majority of women and I’m very proud of that.”

“I’ve seen people where it (physical image) rules their lives, who want to be thinner or have bigger boobs, and how it wears down on them,” Adele told British Vogue. “And I don’t want that in my life. I have insecurities, of course, but I don’t hang out with anyone who points them out to me.”


P.S.  Karl, my heart towards you has softened a bit.  I don’t know if it is going to help your cause with the other Chubbies-R-Us on the planet, but I did some research about your mother and I am beginning to understand why you’re so weird:

  • “When a pre-pubescent Karl Lagerfeld informed his mother that he had been sexually molested by a man, her response was ‘It’s your own fault – look at you!’ Mama Lagerfeld apparently took the stance that Karl’s dress and demeanor encouraged such attention and stoically said no more about it.”—Shine Anthony-Dharan/Culturekiosque


Dear Big Mama:

I just heard that my picture, which was always featured in a place of honor in most black homes in the early 70’s, has been removed from your living room wall.  I’ve also heard that many of my white peeps no longer believe in the “Camelot” era of my presidency.  You are a child from that era, Big Mama.  What happened?  If I were still walking amongst you people, I’d give you all a call and find out why you no longer hold me in high esteem.  But since I passed on years ago, I need a champion to course-correct my downfall in your eyes as well as others throughout the nation.  Will you find out for me why the tide is turning?  I was the “first black president” in the hearts of the Negro before Bill Clinton ever was.  Remind your people of that.  My presidential legacy means everything to me.  Besides, I hate it when everyone doesn’t adore me.

Please advise.  Anxiously awaiting your reply.

Signed:  Jack, your favorite President until Barack

Google Image/File Photo

Dear President Kennedy:

So you’ve heard about Mimi Alford’s book, Once Upon a Secret: My Hidden Affair with JFK.  I knew you were no angel, but I had no idea that you were a “dog,” Mr. President.  I’m not thrilled with this ex-intern’s lack of conscience and/or lack of morality in the way she chose to handle this scandalous revelation and her affair with you, but you’re the one who was the President and she was only 19 years old.   Even though she didn’t accuse you of rape, from the details of her account of your sexual interaction with her, I certainly do.  And the thing that is beyond the pale is the cruel and degrading way she says you made her service other men while you watched, not to mention the drugs she says you allegedly made her take.  After the release of Ms. Alford’s book, the media rehashed a slew of information about all the women you had affairs with (10—at least one claiming to have aborted your baby) while you were challenging us to reach for nobler causes by asking “not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”  I know what you could have done for your country and your wife:  kept your one-eyed monster in your pants.  I personally believe that a man’s character does influence his choices; and if you disrespect your wife that way, what in hell would you do to me? Your serial adultery calls into question your ability to have chosen wisely as a leader.

So that’s it—I’m over you.  I can’t speak for all the other black folks in the country, but when I was in my late teens there were only three pictures that graced the walls in all the black homes I knew:  Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr., and you, Mr. President.

Your picture’s in the trash!


Photo by J. Tomczyk/Author

I am discovering that free will is a bitch.  It’s arguably our greatest gift from God, but it’s also volatile because, if not properly harnessed with self-control and humility, it runs amok and can wreak havoc that is irreparable.  The ability to choose is the impetus of our greatest ambitions and our worst holocausts.   Most, if not all of us, make unwise choices, at one time or another, which can slide into addictions through food, gambling, drugs, alcohol, shopping, video games, pornography, sex, work, exercise—just about anything that causes a physical and psychological dependence in order to cope with a life we feel we can’t handle.  On Saturday, February 18, 2012, one of our greatest talents will be laid to rest.  A lot will be said about her struggles with drugs and alcohol, and many people will be blamed for her demise.  Knowing what I know about life, Whitney didn’t die the night before the Grammys; she died the day her choices made her lose control of her actions.  No matter who else is culpable in her final demise, no one put a gun to her head to abuse drugs and alcohol—those were her choices and they were a bitch.

If we can teach our children, early on, how significant it is to guard their choices in life, we will have done them a great service.  Whitney’s decisions robbed a daughter of a mother, stole a daughter from a mother (Hell is having one’s children die before their parents do), destroyed the bonds with real friends, and cratered a once in a lifetime talent.  This is a “screamingly” teachable moment if we all remember that our free will makes us capable of choosing just about anything that can destory our destiny and our humanity, and that only by the grace of God go us all.

Whitney Houston (1963-2012)

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on February 17, 2012 in Uncategorized


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44 responses to “No Insignificant Choices

  1. composerinthegarden

    February 17, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    All I can say is – “Wow!”

    • etomczyk

      February 17, 2012 at 10:38 pm

      Thanks Lynn. This one was a really hard one because I knew the “end game” was to eulogize Whitney Houston. After a week of research and listening to her music, I was so sick at heart, all I could hear in my heart was “what a waste,” and that got me thinking about choices. As a musician (as I know you know), I can’t even fathom what it would be like to have the gift of a lifetime and my choices destroy that instrument. So sad.

      • composerinthegarden

        February 17, 2012 at 11:39 pm

        Eleanor, I know; Whitney had the voice of a century and I still can’t express how I feel about this tragedy.
        BTW, I love the pic of you in your “hideaway”!

      • etomczyk

        February 18, 2012 at 12:17 am

        I know what you mean, Lynn. It’s really a very, very sad situation. My heart goes out to her daughter.

        Isn’t that hideaway a great pic? It’s a delightful place. Cheers!

  2. Sondra

    February 17, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    It sure is about choices…well Big Mamma ps. Jack is in the trash too! what a horrible disapointment

    • etomczyk

      February 17, 2012 at 10:39 pm

      Thanks Sondra. Yeah, ol’ Jack has turned out to be a reall low-life. Good grief.

  3. Barbara

    February 17, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    I finally subscribed. I have been following your comic wisdom and continue to agree with you POV. You are an enjoyable storyteller and I appreciate your talents. Thank you once again.

    • etomczyk

      February 17, 2012 at 10:41 pm

      Hi Barbara. Thank you for subscribing to my blog. I’m really touched and honored that you would do so. I truly appreciate your encouraging words and support. Take care.

  4. Hudson Howl

    February 17, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    ‘Guard your choices in life’, there is no better advise and should be shouted aloud from mountain tops. But for me the water becomes murky. Just so much to think about and factor in to the equation. Good choice vs bad choices. Is there a difference between choices and with decisions we make? Who among us has not been put down and minimized for choices we have made despite doing so with the best of intentions. But there is always that little nagging voice inside saying “Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes”.

    I think your going to receive some interest comments on this. As we all struggle with choices we have to make in life. The problem with choices, once you make them you feel like you have to justify them, sometimes at the expense of others. Yes, ‘Guard your choices in life’ but have compassion for others.

    • etomczyk

      February 18, 2012 at 12:11 am

      Hudson. Thank you so much for your “poetic” and well thought-out comments. You’re so very right about “guarding your choices in life but have compassion for others.” Hopefully, that is what I conveyed in the last two paragraphs about Whitney Houston–but by the grace of God go I. One of the reasons I started the story with a glaring “false move” of my own was to demonstrate that the mistakes in life come to all but how we choose to handle them and learn from them determines the road up ahead. I think the water is “murky” for us all if we are honest and genuine. The only time I’ve met people for whom the water wasn’t murky were self-righteous know-it-alls. We all see through a smokey glass and have to try to do our best with the bits and pieces that we are priviledged to see.

      As always, your comments are always so wonderful. ET

  5. Maggie

    February 17, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    I remember you talking about choices many times when our kids were young! I even put the comment you made to me one time,”The Choices You Make Today Can Affect You for The Rest of Your Life”, on my refrigerator and used it to talk to my kids often!! Yes that free will stuff has gotten a lot of us in trouble and I have wondered many times why God would have given it to us!! Being a puppet might have been better!”. Hmmmmmm. Not really!

    • etomczyk

      February 18, 2012 at 12:15 am

      Maggie, it does seem like I’ve been thinking about the consequence of choices for a very long time. Maybe it is because I’m beginning to see the totality of my own. All the best. ET

      • Maggie

        February 22, 2012 at 2:16 am

        Maybe if I had a do-over, I might have chosen a drug like xanix to keep me “peaced out” during those stressful years taking care of my mom and teens at the same time! Does getting a do-over mean we would be better with our choices? Those times led up to a heart attack and open heart
        surgery…,so I can only go forward thinking about changing
        My inability to handle stress and make better choices less I end up an addict like the rest of my family! Keep talking about choices… This generation so needs to hear about it and we all need reminders along the way!! Hope you and WW are well!!

      • etomczyk

        February 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm

        Maggie. Yep, a do-over would be a chance to respond deferrently to circumstances if we could take back the hind-sight we have now. But, of course, no one can do that so it is a moot point. But one can always dream!

        Although we do have the ability to learn from the past living today and that’s pretty cool. That’s what my goal is as I waltz into eternity and that is to make better choices today because of the lessons learned yesterday. We’ll see. Cheers to you and J.

  6. Sunshine

    February 18, 2012 at 1:24 am

    Your words, “If we can teach our children, early on, how significant it is to guard their choices in life, we will have done them a great service,” is a keeper!

    • etomczyk

      February 18, 2012 at 6:06 am

      Sunshine. I personally would love a do-over as a parent. I did talk to my children (they are adults now) about choices but I didn’t go deep enough. I would have focused less on what grades they were making in school, did they do their homework, their messy rooms, or the drama of high school and focused much more on showing them the reality of the significance of choices played out around the world (good and bad). The problem with being a parent is that our children “zone out” to our warnings about a subject like this unless it is an object lesson demonstrated a gazillion different creative ways so that it drills deep within them. If they catch the vision about choices in their youth, it will influence everything about their lives, including homework, et al.

      Thanks for stopping by. When I get a moment to breath, I’ll head over to your place and see what you’ve been up to these days. Cheers!

      • Sunshine

        February 18, 2012 at 8:33 pm

        Now you opened another can of worms about parenting. Sheesh. I understand totally about do-overs! It took me a long time to realize how we approach things in life now, is usually how we will do in the future. So, the teen who is running around partying without a care or responsibility placed on them usually has a harder time once they become an adult to transition into a mature adult.
        No worries Eleanor . . . life happens with all of us and blogging supposed to be fun and yah, it’s cool! I love reading your ahem, subtle posts on things and life! 🙂 ~peace!

  7. Kimberly

    February 18, 2012 at 1:55 am

    Great words of wisdom…every second counts!

  8. Connie

    February 18, 2012 at 5:57 am

    Ah, to live life backwards would be….what? Different? Glorious? Would we be wiser? Remember how “smart” and “wise” we were when we were in our 20’s? (Notice that I have six words that start with w’s!) If words had calories I’d be obese for all the words I’ve had to eat from that time in my life. I don’t think people that age take advice very well. But all our choices, both the good and the bad, make us who we are today. Frankly, I wouldn’t trade that for anything. You and I have worked hard to become the people we are, mistakes and all. What worries me is not learning from my poor choices, not being honest and continuing in self-deception. Microscopes have knobs for coarse adjustments and fine adjustments. I would hope that the consequences of our choices allow us to make both kinds of adjustments in our own lives.

    • etomczyk

      February 18, 2012 at 6:15 am

      Connie. Such a pleasure to know you’re reading my blog. Thank you so much for your insightful comment. You’re so, so right. It is that “messiness” of good and bad choices that make us who we are. I, too, have the fear–no the nightmare–of not learning from my poor choices and continuing in self-deception. It is one of the reasons I took a good long look in the mirror when I turned 60 and “adjusted the knobs” of everything that was out of focus from our youthful journey together. I wish it had happened sooner.

      Always a pleasure to hear from you. All the best to you and yours!

    • morristownmemos by Ronnie Hammer

      February 18, 2012 at 7:40 am

      Sometimes I hear the question,”What would you do differently you had the chance?” I always think, “Before I undo and redo tell me what would happen if I made those changes.”


      • etomczyk

        February 18, 2012 at 5:30 pm

        Ronnie, ain’t it the truth! But as Aslan says in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: “. . .no one knows what might have been.”

  9. morristownmemos by Ronnie Hammer

    February 18, 2012 at 7:43 am


    Your posts are one of the most enjoyable and thought provoking ones on wordpress. I would like to nominate you for the Kreativ Blogger Award. Just mention me and my post on your post along with the 10 thongs we don’t know about you and your suggestions of 10 new nominees.



    • etomczyk

      February 18, 2012 at 5:41 pm

      Hi Ronnie. Thank you so much for nominating my blog for the Kreativ Blogger Award. I am honored and truly appreciate your generosity. All the best! ET

  10. Lindy Lee

    February 19, 2012 at 7:41 am

    Another really great post, etomczyk. Thank you…

    • etomczyk

      February 19, 2012 at 3:38 pm

      Lindy. Thanks so much. That’s saying something coming from such a wonderful poet. Cheers!

  11. aFrankAngle

    February 19, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    There you go again. Dressing up with all your bling, sitting you in a nice chair that’s in a nice home, and preachin’ about life – oh – and telling it like it is! Very good points about free will and the role in each of our lives. But if someone would have told us about free will during our 20s, would we have listened?

    Just so happens that I have a post ready on the same topic, but just not sure when it will go up – but you’ve got me thinkin’. Great post E-Tom.and hi WW … btw … how is your fried chicken? 🙂

    • etomczyk

      February 19, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      Hi Frank. Actually the picture of me working is in a hotel room on one of my hide-aways where I went to write. And no, twenty year olds never listen; therein lies the rub. I wish I could go back and talk to my twenty year old self. I’d smack me upside the head faster than I can blink.

      Can’t wait to read your post on free will, and my fried chicken making is some of the best in the land–so I’ve been told. All the best.

      • aFrankAngle

        February 19, 2012 at 7:40 pm

        The best-in-the-land chicken means I better come to your area for dinner! 🙂

      • etomczyk

        February 19, 2012 at 10:37 pm

        You and Mrs. Angle are welcome anytime! 🙂

      • aFrankAngle

        February 21, 2012 at 11:55 am

        Hey E-Tom … aka BMSAIUDLUGAW —- that is, Big Mama Speaks and if you don’t listen, you get a whoopin’! 🙂 … which is one of the things I like about you.

        Since I probably won’t be posting this week about free will, here are two past posts from the preE-Tom era to hold you over. Just something to chew on.

      • etomczyk

        February 21, 2012 at 10:01 pm

        Frank. Thanks so much for sending along these two posts. They are excellent (probably because I strongly agree with them both). Also, because they are so well written. Thanks again for sharing, BMSAIUDLUGAW! 🙂

  12. notquiteold

    February 19, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    So good, Eleanor, and so right!

  13. becomingcliche

    February 20, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Spot on, as usual.

    • etomczyk

      February 20, 2012 at 11:35 am

      Thanks Skunk Biscuit. Always appreciate you stopping by. Love your truth or dare blog this week, by the way.

  14. imagesbytdashfield

    February 20, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    OMG!! I had long long ago forgotten about the pictures hanging up in the wall of (poor) black folks. I say poor because at the time those pictures were being rocked on walls everyone I knew, yours truly included, and hung out with was poor or living in the projects and poor. You took me back 🙂

    • etomczyk

      February 20, 2012 at 9:10 pm

      I know. The pictures were the first thing I thought about when I saw an interview with the woman who wrote the “tell all” about Kennedy. Somehow it made his actions really, really personal. I felt personally betrayed. Thanks for stopping by.

  15. aFrankAngle

    February 22, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Glad you like them E-Tom. For sure, the burning of the Jesus statue created interesting discussions.

  16. talesfromthemotherland

    February 24, 2012 at 1:51 am

    Bravo! Love, love, love your writing Eleanor and Mama! Two dynamic voices for the price of one! Love it. I have been thinking a lot about this same topic, this year… choices, action, etc. It’s at the core of all that “letting go” and “change” stuff I’ve been writing about (until we got Busted!). Beautifully written and covers so many great angles. Bravo baby! 🙂

  17. talesfromthemotherland

    February 24, 2012 at 2:02 am

    Oh! And I should add that Anderson Cooper is one of my babes…one of the men in my laundry room (for a blog, later). His ridiculist piece about Lagerfeld was (as always) brilliant! Fool. (KL, not AC). You just hit all the nails here… did I mention I love it?

    • etomczyk

      February 24, 2012 at 9:14 am

      Dawn: I really appreciate your wonderful comments and engageement with my stories. You’re terrific and I am honored that another writer finds me blog worthy. Love your border crossing story, by the way. It was a hoot! Take care. ET

  18. aFrankAngle

    April 17, 2012 at 7:15 am

    Good Morning E-Tom,
    I took me a while to find this post here, but this is the appropriate place for this comment. Above I mentioned I had a post ready about free will. Well, and almost 2 months later, here it is.

  19. An Observant Mind

    April 23, 2012 at 12:34 am

    Ahh..I am still catching up with some of your posts that are on my reader, and as always, I am glad i have kept them – they are ALWAYS worth the read! x

    • etomczyk

      April 23, 2012 at 8:47 pm

      Thanks Karyn. I am so touched that you’re so supportive as a reader. Always love it when you stop by. Thank you.


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