Do You Itch to Be a Twitch

by Billy Gard

In an episode of Flipper, Bud’s dad began dating an “upper class” girl who owned an apartment highrise. Bud was petrified that he was going to marry up with her and move away from their beach-side house to a “life of elegance”. She was obviously overcivilized by her economic status and out of touch with nature. She acted like she was on fire when flipper splashed water on her. But ever since she jumped in the water fully clothed to save Bud, she became a heroine to him - not for saving his life, but because she was willing to get wet. Bud's words to her "You know, you're a real twitch." The dad pointed out to her that she had just gotten the highest compliment, meaning she was an ordinary girl.

There is a whole philosophy, a whole attitude which is crammed into this one word “twitch”. It is pregnant with a meaning that can be expanded into an entire document. And that is what I am trying to do here.

What is the profile of a twitch? To give you an idea: He is easy to get close to; he even lets you slap his back, mess up his hair, give him a noogie, and even wrestle him down. He lets the wind blow on him, the rain fall on him, the sun shine on him. He swims a lot, sometimes in the winter, sometimes with all his clothes on. He goes barefoot ALOT, and sometimes topless, often going around in only a bathing suit. He drives a motorcycle for most of his transportation. The experience of driving a car reminds him of wearing a coat and tie. He climbs on rocks and when someone says that makes him look like a kid, that makes him smile and look even more like one. He camps with a tent. He almost always has a bandaid on somewhere. He plays a lot, at least enough to be told he is not acting his age. He stays in humiliation’s way by being in a happy mood so much. If he encounters a puddle, he splashes in it. If he doesn’t want to get wet he jumps over it. He generally has nothing in his pockets, because something would fall out while he is upside down. He seems afraid of the television; he says it will make him quadraplegic. And, by all probability, even though he lives each day like it could be his last, he will live to be 90 and then die either in a climbing accident or of skin cancer.

Contrast this with the other kind of person, the prig: He has a well-inforced “personal space”. He is a walking lawsuit waiting to happen should this space be invaded. He keeps his hair set with gel. He probably is wearing a tie most of the time. He is too old to play. He would die of embarrasment if attention is called to his cheerfulness. It is a fate worse than death if he does something and people laugh. If he swims, it is in a pool, only to swim laps, and probably with a bathing cap and booties. Of course a car is his locomotion, for motorcycles “aren’t safe”, and are too much like an excuse for adults to have a toy. His furniture is arranged so they all face the TV. He stands on the boardwalk and watches the swimmers have their fun. If he does hike, he wears high, stiff hiking boots and thick pants to protect himself from the outdoor air. He camps with an RV and a power-generator, so he doesn’t ever have to miss Jeopardy. In the middle of the night he uses slippers to go walk to to the bathroom - bare feet are that bad. You can almost swear he genuflects before reading the up-to-date government warnings on product safety and health risks. And worst of all, for him the ultimate failure is a lost opportinity to cure a twitch.

The more known words often describing a twitch are rustic, cheeky, pedestrian, cozy, dowdy, elvish, and by antagonists late bloomers (as if hoping for a “recovery”), rough, even redneck. Prigs, on the other hand, find themselves being called sophisticated, dignified, refined, safety-conscious, prudent, and by antagonists stuffy, pedantic, judgemental, even “lawyerly”.

The same perfect model of “dignity” that teaches people never to play or be too much in a good mood also encourages us to stay dry, stay clean, stay warm, stay safe and stand tall. We miss out on all the fun doing all of these. You can’t go out in the rain in a bathing suit and splash in large puddles, because you learned “to come in out of the rain”. You can’t crawl through culverts or underbrush or even sit on rocks because you “just washed your hair and can’t do a thing with it.” You cannot go swimming in cold water or let wind blow on you without your sweater because you will “catch pneumonia.” You cannot go anywhere or do anything requiring climbing, crawling or ducking because your height which gives you your adult dignity would be deemphasized.

Women really get the short end of the stick in the prig culture. None of us men can truely know what a bad hair day is. And we call women “dogs” if they don’t wear makeup. The fact that they may feel way cleaner and indescribably free has no hearing. It doesn’t matter if women who wear spiked high heels invariably cripple themselves for life; somehow the “tomboys” who don’t wear them are still without excuse. I’d make a terrible woman; I'm thrice the age at which I was supposed to stop climbing trees, and I still haven’t.

I was surfing a web page devoted to barefoot hiking, and they described coming upon hikers wearing high, heavy hiking boots and rain gear on a sunny day. If they are dressed to climb Mount Rainier, what are they doing in a city park on a nicely groomed trail? They are dressed like the parks are what they should be (wilderness) rather than what they are (gardens). I err in the opposite direction. Why do people so consistantly want to protect themselves from contact with nature which they came to enjoy? I guess it is to guard against the adversities of getting sand between your toes, or having grass stains on the bottom of your feet, or the real bummer of all: getting your feet wet. Anyone knows that gives you pneumonia.

Studies have appeared even in the regular newspapers citing that being too clean can be bad for you, and I believe that. Nature not only doesn’t provide the sterile environment we seek, but will in all her mercy defeat our attempt to create it, which can be seen in the case of antibiotics. We are very sheltered people. So when we are hit with a gust of wind or splashed with water, we catch a cold. We have sensitive skin as well. We find the bare ground to be too “loud” on our bare feet. We turn to jelly if it gets too hot, and get chilled when it gets cold. We are not only too clean, but too dignified. We embarrass easily at the idea of playfully expressing joy. We were designed to live closer to nature than we do. Only this can explain the widely-shared penchant for heading out into the back country and “roughing it”. We also were designed to practice better health than we do as well, by a balanced diet, periodic fastings, and a positive attitude such as is presently banished to the world of fairy tales. When in good health, the body benefits from the weather and the slight impurities of the real world, and strenghens its resistance to infection.

My commentary would not be complete without mentioning an emergence of the “therapy syndrome” in our current culture. The experts who are placing themselves in charge of our lives are caught between the need to civilize us and the discovery of the healthfulness of the primitive. So to keep their hand in it, they continue to push their head-banging rock, yellowed-down indoor lighting, high heels, and minimizing of locomotion, while religating the use of healthful things like Mozart, full-spectrum light, barefoot walking and exercise to therapeutic “sessions” that we set aside special, preferably supervised, blocks of time for. But instead of listening to theraputic tapes designed to produce the “Mozart effect”, how about playing music by Mozart instead of rock music in stores and coffee houses? Instead of sticking a theraputic fluorescent “light box” in your face for 30 minutes a day, how about putting in lighting with this magic color? Instead of barefoot stepping exercises to overcome the pain from high heels, how about just going barefoot period? Instead of working out at the gym, how about resolving never to outgrow play to begin with, so that fitness ceases to be a concern let alone an expense?

At a world music performance, a man explained that the trilling yelp often heard in Mexican music saves him a hundred dollars in therapy treatment.

In this document I mentioned many areas of life where you can practice your twitchcraft. I have other documents that go into the individual areas at length, such playing as grownups, being cheerful, and a day in bare feet. This list will probably continue to be added to as long as I skip on this earth.

Assignment: try each of these for a whole day:

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