“The construction ‘on account of because’ outrages every grammatical law,” says Gary Cooper as Professor Potts in Ball of Fire. But I understand why Barbara Stanwyck, as the whimsically named Sugarpuss O’Shea, needed that mouthful of words to explain that he was a “yum yum“ and that’s why she was “wacky” for him. Sometimes stating the reason why we feel a certain way doesn’t cover the complexity of the emotion.
I’ve had to explain several things, if only to myself, with that “on account of because” contortion lately. For example, I met a dear friend for lunch at Neiman’s this week, something we’ve done regularly for years. It felt so good and kind of normal just walking through the store, except for the masks. At the restaurant, I ran into a girl I went to high school with, which made it even better. (I don’t hesitate to say “girl” in this context on account of because she was a girl at that time and on account of because everybody I went to school with does not age—at least not in my mind.)
After lunch, I walked to my car enjoying the slight coolness in the air and remembered there was a risk of frost that night. Suddenly, I couldn’t trust this Texas spring on account of because the weather tried to kill us all in February and now might be coming back to take out the new plants replacing the ones that died two months ago.
I stopped at Merle Norman on my way home, eager to replace the mascara that I’d been making do with for quite some time. Over the many years I’ve been a customer, I’ve gotten to know the owner, and we probably would have had a big hug after such a long time but couldn’t on account of because of COVID.
Unfortunately, she got it from her husband in February after he got it at the hospital where he was nursing COVID patients. He got sick first, then she did, then the polar vortex hit. Their electricity went out for three days, their pipes burst upstairs, and by the time the weather allowed them to get out, she had to be hospitalized for nine days.
She assured me her recovery was almost complete, although she has permanent lung damage from the infection she experienced. She seemed relieved when I told her that everyone in my household is fully vaccinated and wondered aloud what is wrong with these people who refuse to get the vaccine.
All enjoyment around getting a new mascara disappeared as I realized that COVID isn’t over on account of because the virus is still out there, some folks won’t get vaccinated, some folks will never be fully recovered, and some folks will continue to grieve the dead for years to come.
As I went to our bedroom to tear down from my day, I turned on the television before pulling a fresh kaftan out of the closet. Some announcer was discussing the verdict in the Chauvin murder case and the convictions on all counts. My reaction was neither relief nor pleasure. It was more like “Oh, this is the path we’re going to take.” A couple of minutes later, I allowed myself to feel good about the decisions, if only on account of because actual pain was avoided that many would have experienced otherwise.
This is may be a critical point today, but it may not prove to be pivotal in the long run on account of because there’s still sentencing to be done, appeals to be filed, and no fundamental change made.
Back to the movie. Sugarpuss decides to show the professor what “yum yum” is, and it goes something like this. “Here’s yum.” Kisses him. “Here’s the other yum.” Kisses him again. “And here’s yum yum.” Deep, long kiss, causing the professor to fall over backwards and take Sugarpuss with him.
The warmer weather, the vaccines, and even the verdict are all just singular yum. We need the other yum. Maybe then we could put them together and get yum yum.
I’m reminded of something that Lupe Velez said about Gary Cooper, who was her lover for a scorching hot minute back in the day. She barely hit five feet tall, and he towered over her at 6’3”. While she acknowledged that he had the most, shall we say, equipement substantiel in Hollywood, Lupe bemoaned that Coop didn’t have the derriere with which to push it.
And Lupe was absolutely correct on account of because we never get to yum yum without the right kind of ass.