I’m Not Just Whistling ‘Dixie’ (or much of anything else)

I was driving with a friend a while ago.  For no particular reason, she asked me if I knew how to whistle. “Of course”, I said. “Let me hear” So I pursed my lips and started to whistle.  All that came out was air.  I made a half-dozen more attempts scrunching my lips and contorting my mouth every which way.  Just the sound of air. I made a feeble joke that evidently, someone had broken into my house, passed on my wallet and the electronics and decided instead, to steal my whistle.  I abandoned any pretense of being fun company and spent much of the remaining drive trying to get some sound to come from my poised lips.

I had learned to whistle as a young boy. I can remember being awfully proud when I “got” it.  It was a milestone. I was never able to master the two-fingers-in-the mouth-hailing-a-cab kind but still,  I could get some kind of melody going. Now, there was nothing. Nada. Zilch. Incidents like this often take on greater meaning for me than they probably should.  As I’m getting older, I see every loss of a previously-owned ability as the onset of something very serious.  I racked my brain for some memory of anything I may have read suggesting that the loss of one’s whistle is the first sign of a stroke, Alzheimer’s, Lou Gherig’s disease (what did they tell Lou Gherig he had?) or some other disaster that is approaching me—- or more precisely, that I’m approaching.  I couldn’t retrieve any information that seemed relevant so with a feeling of relief, I accepted that this wasn’t a condition symptomatic of some impending downfall.

In the days that followed, I spent hours trying to re-learn how to whistle. I blew with wet lips, then with dry ones. I stood in front of my bathroom mirror moving my mouth every which way.  My tongue was finding places in my mouth that heretofore were available to only my most intimate partners. From so much time in front of that mirror, I started to know every beauty mark and line on my face. I  certainly could have done without that.

I’ve even taken my problem to my office.  Everyone has a suggestion. Blow harder, softer, do this or that with your tongue, imagine you’re______fill in the blank. So, I’m often at my desk with my lips puckered . Instead of presenting the dignified image needed for my business,  I’m sitting there looking like I’m selling kisses at a country fair.

Although I’m making strides, I  still haven’t regained my full whistling IQ.  Every once in a while I’m able to get some notes out and I think I’m on my way to a full recovery.  And then, there will be a day when all I get is air and saliva.  I’m learning to live with this lessening of my capabilities.  But I worry that this is just the start of a gradual loss of some of the abilities that were so important to me while growing up.  So now, I find myself really hoping that no one asks me if I know how to skip.


me trying to eat, drink and whistle....all while looking goofy

me trying to eat, drink and whistle....all while looking goofy

me giving it the good old college try .....and still looking goofy. (apparently, the trauma of losing my whistle has turned my hair white)

me giving it the good old college try .....and still looking goofy. (apparently, the trauma of losing my whistle has turned my hair white)


9 Responses to “I’m Not Just Whistling ‘Dixie’ (or much of anything else)”

  1. David Says:

    Is that really a picture of you???? I must be in contact with a different Neil Stein. The one I know has short, dark curly hair. Or did 30 years ago. And by the way, I can still whistle (a bit); and I have a few years on you.

    • ironicman Says:

      dave….i dyed my hair for the photo. thought it would make the blog piece just that much more poignant. what price art!
      as for you still being able to whistle…..you always were precocious.

  2. Rob Says:

    This is funny stuff, Neil.

    If you get a chance, check out my father’s blog: http://lloydmintern.wordpress.com/

  3. Jane Says:

    I teach both piano and voice and I may be able to help. I believe “recession” is key here. But no worries! You might consider a visit to a cosmetic oral surgeon for some plumping. This may not be necessary, Neil. Usually, you just have to put your bottom lip forward more (and just blow)… and then you turn yourself around, (that’s what it’s all about).

    • ironicman Says:

      thanks for the tip(s) jane. when you said ‘recession’…i thought you were talking about my hairline and was wondering what the hell that had to do with my whistle.
      not to be immodest, but i think my lips are ok. and i don’t want to put my lower lip any moe forward….too reminiscent of my childhood pouting pose (my sister could chime in here).
      i think this lost whistle may just my star of david to schlep.

  4. Ray Habib Says:

    I can see you are really getting into this blogging thing. Now you are adding pictures! What’s next? Sound!

    • ironicman Says:

      ray…what a great idea! and in a perfect world, the blog would have a track of me whistling in the background. but as you know (now), that’s just not in the cards.

  5. ed Says:

    Today I used the word ‘thereupon’ for the first time in my life. In an e-mail to a mortgage processor.

    Nothing to do with whistling, just thought it was cool.

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