This is the time of year when I like to offer a few mea culpas along with my season's greetings.
I find that a Yuletide serving of mistakes, misjudgments and regrets is a good side dish to any overdose of cheer. It clears my palate, not to mention my slate, so that I can get ready to toast the New Year.
I realize that it is slightly early to round up the errors of my ways for the year, but I plan to spend the last week of 1984 in a mistake-proof environment. I will be somewhere where the Ministry of Truth will never find me. So before it is all dropped into the memory hole, I want to confide, share and amend my thoughts for the past year.
To begin with, there was the tale of two political "Kathys." I managed this election year to attribute the words of Republican Kathy Wilson, head of the National Women's Political Caucus to the surname of women's rights activist and Democrat Kathy Bonk. They are both still speaking to me and no, all feminists do not look alike.
So much for the easy stuff. The misjudgments are always harder to confess. First of all, I am the one who said back in March that if a woman wanted to be nominated for vice president she would have to run for the office. Oh me of little faith. I take consolation from the fact that I was nowhere nearly as wrong as Richard Nixon when he said sagely, "Mondale will bow toward the women, say he's considering one, will interview them and so forth and will not take one."
After the Bush-Ferraro debate I also made the cardinal mistake of using real numbers. When George offered to "help" Gerry in that debate, I said "there must have been 50 million female spines that stiffened." I heard from at least 26 women with spines that remained flaccid. Therefore I correct my count to 49,999,974 female spines.
Speaking of female anatomy, I was relatively benign in my judgment about the "moral turpitude" of Miss America. When Vanessa Williams lost her crown for dropping her clothes, I described her photo session as either naive or exhibitionist but in any case only "one hour in her life." That was before the second set of photos came to the light. Two trips through the F-stops may not make it a habit, but it's more than an accident.
If I was too lenient on Miss Williams, I think I was too severe on Dr. Seuss. In commenting on his "The Butter Battle Book," I regretted the non-ending of his fanciful fable of the nuclear-arms race. I thought it was scary to leave kids wondering which of the characters would drop the doomsday weapon first. Several of my correspondents convinced me that the open ending was to prompt open discussion. Okay, I will reconsider as long as no book goes on the market wthout an adult attached.
While we are on the arms race, Randall Forsberg, the freeze founder, made a reasonable complaint about my description of her in a June column as a "former English teacher." It made her sound as if she had just turned from parsing sentences to planning arms policy. Teaching is the generic female profession, but Forsberg hasn't been one for more than 15 years. Fair enough.
Lest you think it is easy to be fair, however, I give you the reader who took umbrage at a casual reference to witches in a review of John Updike's book, "The Witches of Eastwick," as "full of dank, unsatisfied disruptive powers. . . ." This did not sit well with a California witch who complained (to me, and probably to the ACLU) that, "Witchcraft has gotten a lot of bad press from the Christian community. . . . We are not mythical hags or poisoners or otherwise as characterized in your column." No offense intended.
Finally I wrote acolumn this year in which I thought I collected the very worst of the political sports metaphors for 1984. I was wrong. The real worst was culled by The New Yorker out of the mouth of Sen. Lawton Chiles: "It's like a football game. . . . Mondale can't get the ball back with one big play. But the American people love a horse race. I would advise him not to knock Reagan out." Blessedly, Coach Chiles did not tally up my 1984 errors. I did it myself. And now on to the new season. Copyright (c) 1984, The Boston Globe Newspaper Co.