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Kicking It with Phyllis Diller


Last updated 7/29/2021 at 2:21pm

Elizabeth Youngman Westphal

Special to the Village News

With each passing decade I am more and more inclined to disregard the “Hints from Heloise” columns.

As the years fade, I often recall my dogged dedication to her columns. I read “Hints from Heloise” because like me, she was an Air Force officer’s wife. Who better to emulate than a successful military wife? Or so I thought when I was a young naïve bride.

It is only now that I see the error of my ways. If I could, I would change the whole course of my life. Had I not followed Heloise’s advice and instead listened to the sage instruction offered by Phyllis Diller, certainly my life would have turned out differently.

Phyllis should be praised for her insight. She knew the true secret to housework. She proclaimed, “Cleaning your house while your children are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.” What awareness!

Oh, silly me. I loyally followed Heloise’s syndicated column everywhere we were transferred. I believed her capable and therefore shadowed her guidance. It was my cock-eyed devotion to Heloise, I now regret.

For certain, Heloise knew how to economize. She made me believe that family meal planning could be an art form worthy of pursuit.

Had I listened to Ms. Diller all those years ago, I would have learned how to avoid kitchen woes. Diller said, “Eat out.” Admitting her cooking was so bad “…my kids thought Thanksgiving was to commemorate Pearl Harbor.”

On the one hand, it was Heloise who knew how to remove accidental stains left by her children, but it was Phyllis who knew how to remove stains before they happened. It was she who encouraged us to send our kids to eat at the neighbor’s house.

While Heloise knew how to remove red wine stains from shag carpet after a rousing party, Phyllis’s ability to knock back a drink before it could hit the rug is now the skill I salute.

Heloise’s column covered answers to every possible situation from gardening to child rearing, personal grooming, cooking, and household management; she even offered marital advice like “never go to bed mad.”

But what I didn’t know then, and were I to do it all over again, Phyllis Diller would be my go-to-girl for marital advice. She recommended “never go to bed mad, stay up and fight.”

And looking back, that seems like a better way to solve discord.

When it came to housework, Phyllis was a genius. “Housework can kill you, so why take the chance,” further noting she had “18 years of ironing buried in the backyard,” because, admittedly the only time she enjoyed ironing was when she “accidentally put gin in her steam iron.” Again, who knew?

As I ponder the time wasted cleaning the house, making the beds, dusting the furniture, going to the grocery store, bathing dirty kids, followed the next day by re-cleaning the house, re-making the beds, re-dusting, yada, yada, yada, only to start it all over again and again every next day, I wonder what it is I might have used this valuable time to do had I not been plagued by these repetitive chores?

At this age when “getting out of bed in the morning is becoming a career move,” I find I rely on Phyllis’ wisdom for the future. I hope “…my kids (to) have all the things I couldn’t afford. Then, I’ll move in with them.”

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at [email protected]


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