Cissie and Ada. Remember them? Cissie Braithwaite and Ada Shufflebottom. Although both Les Dawson and Roy Barraclough have long passed, anyone of a 'certain age' must remember the infamous sketches between the two. The first drag act I ever saw (not that anyone I knew considered it drag, of course), Cissie and Ada, housewives from Northern England, were long-time friends and neighbours, known for their love of gossiping over the garden fence and their frustrated loyalty to their husbands. Famous for their stoical pursed lips and vigorously hitched bosoms, Cissie and Ada became a favourite of the British public during the '70s and '80s. Cissie was the posh one, or so she thought. Always with her dyed hair and red lippy, she nonetheless befriended her neighbour, the more down-at-heel, Ada. In one sketch, when discussing a trip to Greece and Ada's husband's dislike of travel, Cissie asked Ada if they'd seen the Acropolis. 'Seen it?' Ada replied. 'We were never off it! All that foreign food.'
Cissie is a 'grass is greener' kind of person. She always wants the next mod con, the latest fashions, the foreign holiday. And it would be easy for Ada to have a touch of FOMO (fear of missing out) if it weren't for the fact that she's secretly content with her lot, despite her moaning.
If you remember them you'll know that they were infamous for 'mee-mawing'––exaggerated, silent mouthing of words, generally words which they considered too near-the-knuckle to say out loud. Being born in the north-west of England, I have a heritage rooted in industrialisation, the land of 'dark, satanic mills' as the hymn Jerusalem liked to put it. Imagine trying to talk above the thunderous racket as bobbins shot back and forth along mechanised looms in the multitude of cotton mills that stood proud in the northern landscape. Mee-mawing was a habit of millworkers who wanted to chat above the clatter of the looms, impossible using only the voice, so the exaggerated mouthing aided lipreading, and it became useful in daily life when discussing more 'delicate' subjects where words just couldn't be said aloud. Both me and my husband grew up surrounded by women mee-mawing, although we didn't know it had an actual name!
As a teenager, I was hugely gullible when it came to advertising, particularly when those adverts featured hair conditioner. With each new product that entered the market expounding promises of 'weightless bounce and volume' and 'mirror shine', all to the groove of an 80s rock guitar, I'd hurry down to Superdrug to buy myself a bottle with that week's earnings from my Saturday job. I wanted to look like I'd 'just stepped out of a salon' (thank you Salon Selectives), and my hair was waist-length so, in truth, it needed all the help it could get. I would look at those models with their big hair and tiny waists, and wish that my hair was big in the right way rather than looking like a nest of angry vipers. But there was no bottled miracle that was going to tame my unruly horse hair. Not that it stopped me trying. Never, in 30-odd years of having long hair have I ever found a conditioner that will 'do it all' and leave me looking like the girls in the adverts. And that is not a challenge to you, dear reader, to search one out.
That said, gifts are one of my love languages, so...
As time has moved on, the deception has migrated from photographs and movies to advertising, and now, in these days, to social media where we can project ourselves however we choose. It's easy to look at the lives people present and wish that our own resembled them. I, for one, am easily drawn when I see weight loss before and after pictures, photos of beautiful holidays in beautiful places, newly redesigned homes, or trips to theatres and museums. (Or big, shiny, well-behaved hair.) I imagine the people in those photographs to be far happier than I am, more content, healthier, fulfilled (with silky, easy-to-brush hair), and I realise how easy it is to covet the things and opportunities other people have. I see how effortless it is to find someone who's having more fun than I am, especially if that's my attitude. I constantly fall into the 'if only' trap and imagine I'd be somehow happier if I had all those things.
How arrogant of me to think that better is always waiting for me. 'If only I can make it through this month.' 'If only I can be two dress sizes smaller.' 'If only I can get that amazing job.' If only... All this assumes and misses out on what is real right now. And how ungrateful of me to ignore the blessings I have. When I am able to pause and reflect on my own blessings and actually appreciate the good things in my life, I realise I don’t need to be comparing myself to anyone or waiting for something better to come along.
I'm not convinced the grass IS greener on the other side but, even if it is, that doesn't mean it's better for us. The enemy is the master of disguise, and we're more likely to be seduced by something that looks beautiful and appealing than by something that has no enticement at all. Before we know it, we've cocked a leg over that fence and leapt into the trap.
Have you ever made a ‘grass is always greener’ decision? You know, looked at what you had and thought, like me, that you deserved better? Better job? Better house? Better friend? Better…? Well this brings to mind the story of Abram and Lot, at a pivotal moment in their journey and a decision has to be made: to trust God or to trust self. Abram chooses to trust God, to believe what God has revealed as good, and God shows himself in incredible ways. Yet Lot chooses self, and this decision is ultimately disastrous. Whilst Abram looks through the eyes of God, Lot can only see what's around him. Both decisions were tied up with stuff. Grass is greener stuff. And when life becomes about stuff, about envy and covetousness, it captures and enslaves us. The truth is, God has given us everything we need for today if we trust him to do just that.
So what do you think? How do you identify with this story from Genesis 13? Are you trusting that God will come through on his promises, just as Abram believed, knowing that you need to do what God sees as good, not what you believe is good? Or are you like Lot, thinking that you have to look out for number one, that maybe God knows and sees you, but you don’t know that He cares about your circumstances? It's interesting to recognise that, despite the consequences of his decision, God still faithfully rescued Lot through Abram. God didn't let Lot down despite his 'if only' decision-making pattern.
There's so much more that could, and likely will, at some point, be said about all of this but, until then, remember this: The greener grass across the fence may be due to a septic tank issue.