There are so many things that make people smile. I bet you could think of a thousand and three of them if you really had to! Well, meet Lisa Birnbach, Ann Hodgman, Patricia Marx, three “authors” who took that bet as a team and lost.
Lisa, Ann, and Patricia published 1,003 Great Things to Smile About in 2004, seven years after they wrote 1,003 Great Things About Getting Older and two years after 1,003 Great Things About Moms. Which is crazy because it means that after publishing 3,009 ideas, anyone looking at their life’s work would say, “Those old ladies only had one idea.”
Much like the disorganized thoughts of the authors, I’m going to go through 1,003 Great Things to Smile About randomly. Not that anyone would know since Lisa, Ann, and Patricia don’t number the entries in any of their 1,003 Wet Mental Coughs books. But I promise I did not make up a single one of these. Let’s start smiling.
This is the perfect one to start with because at first glance this seems cute, right? A book of 1,002 more of these would be adorable right up until the existential pointlessness was too great to ignore. It’d be a perfect work of art demonstrating how fleeting moments of pleasure with no purpose makes you nothing. You’re a houseplant mindlessly turning toward sunlight.
But let’s step back from the cosmic despair of this book. Imagine you saw a cookie shaped and decorated like a little shoe. Aww. You love it. Now some fucking asshole walks up and goes, “There are some great cookie-cutter shapes out there!” as if the source of your joy was recent innovations in the cookie cutter consumer market. As if your smile came not from the tiny, crispy shoe you can eat but from how making them is easier than ever thanks to all those shapes out there! Not only does this entry from 1,003 Great Things to Smile About fail to inspire happiness, but any hypothetical stranger saying these exact words they chose would destroy any cookie joy you were already feeling.
So let’s be clear, before we go any further: This book is so bad at its easy, easy job that if you ever smiled at the specific things it mentions, you won’t anymore. And more bad news for smiles: the next entry is just “Bleach.”
Yes, that’s the whole thing.
You know that relatable feeling when you find your keys? What if I told you I wasn’t going anywhere with that? That my words were leading to no second point or analogy, and the idea of a smile you might get from finding hypothetical keys was the whole thing! Where are you going!? My friends Lisa and Ann and I have over one thousand more!
It d-doesn’t have to be keys! Maybe you found an umbrella!
The closest thing this book has to context is when Lisa, Ann, or Patricia follow a train of thought through their brain. Like maybe an entry is “The Eiffel Tower” and the next one is “baguettes.” You, if you’re being generous, can put the puzzle pieces together and realize, “One of these ungifted writers is trying to tell me they remembered France.” But there were no clues for this one. “We’re number one!” suddenly appeared in the middle of generic life experiences and names of TV shows. What? How? Maybe they included some clues as to why anyone would publish hundreds of their brain’s saddest misfires?
That was fast.
Okay, it looks like these women also get bitten by a lot of diseased wild animals.
I say 1,003 Great Things to Smile About offers no context, but that’s not entirely true. A slightly different version of this entry is on the back cover. “Your son remembers your birthday… and doesn’t reverse the charges!” is the first example they show to potential customers. What does this mean? Well, it means they take for granted you have a son currently away at college and you’re both using phone technology from several years before the book’s publish date, but it also means they were trying. Someone went in and tinkered with this, and maybe other entries. This isn’t an Alzheimer’s patient noticing things as a nurse rolls her to the sunroom. This is three professional writers and their publisher doing their best. Try smiling now.
The lanyard is not imperfect. What more do you need!?
Smile! The flowers can see you!!!
After reading more, I’m not sure all these entries were meant to go in the book. Some of these might have been phone messages for the other authors.
And some of them might be their dying words.
If three old ladies want to rate which woman is prettiest and be happy when their opinion is validated, that’s fine. Not fine, but pathetic beneath any contempt. Here’s what is worth mentioning, though: according to Google, Miss Idaho has never won Miss America or Miss USA. Lisa, Ann, and Patricia are so out of ideas they’re writing down fabricated memories of beauty pageants they didn’t watch. I came here to make fun of lame, saccharin tidbits, but this is like watching a very special chimpanzee get thrown into an incinerator by a lab assistant who doesn’t know how to say, “Me, alive. Me, can think” in sign language.
What? You goddamn idiots are on the record rooting for Miss Idaho! You wrote it down in your fucking book! In a hypothetical situation you made up! Not only do you openly love the Miss America pageant, you create actual false memories of times you enjoyed watching it! Fuck you! I hope the next one is an actual nice one so I can calm down.
God fucking damn it! Just one genuinely happy thing! Please!
W-what? Look, I don’t know what’s going on. I ran this page through the scanner because I didn’t think you’d believe me if I told you one of the entries in this book about great things to smile about was, and I quote, “That horrible guy at the bar just sent you a drink.”
I guess in a few parts of the book, Lisa, Ann, and Patricia forgot what they were doing and accidentally wrote things that don’t make you smile? Is it only one of them who is confused? Is it Patricia? Because unless Mabel O’Nobody is a better Blanche than Julia Roberts these are objectively bad things, only maybe worse, because I think these are jokes about objectively bad things. It was already the most depressing book on happiness before they started being depressing sarcastically. But this!? These jokes? If you were writing a movie where the twist was the main character not knowing they were in Hell, these lines would all be too obvious as clues.
I don’t understand!!!! Three of the one thousand and three things are this frustrating interaction with a church bazaar customer! Do these women feed off the suffering of everyone who’s ever read their book? Which is to ask, are they feeding on my suffering alone? If so, I hope you’re enjoying the feast, you dusty fucking minotaurs.
If my theory is correct, right now, Lisa, Ann, and Patricia are in some nursing home workshopping early ideas for 1,003 Fun Eats to Do On a Place and they just got a surge of energy from how much I hated this one. “Ahh, yes, a reader got to the one where all we typed was ‘Yea! You got a red gumball.’ Taste of his fury with me, Lisa and Patricia! Delicious.“
Well, sure. If you had to list a thousand all-time great smiles, one of them would be the time you found your husband’s vintage pornography collection…
… and another would be the time you realized a sitcom’s title was more than a name. It was a revelation.
Maybe they’re onto something. Gilligan’s Island. Maybe these women barely experiencing life while the nursing home’s television idles on ancient reruns really have this whole happiness thing figured out.
One endearing quality of Lisa, Ann, and Patricia is how they are never right. Not only about what makes people smile, but also about everything. They managed to live hundreds of years each and gain no wisdom along the way. For instance, they each saw a media trend of hit shows requiring minimal creative staff and no talent budgets and agreed, “No industry would have an incentive to maintain thi– is that gumball red! YEA!”
“Purple M&M’s, maybe?” asked Patricia to no one. The stupid cow shrugged as she hit enter.
A dark force rippled as Patricia pulled “Kiehl’s lip balm now comes in three tints” from her musings notebook and entered the words into her manuscript. The same words would appear clawed on the inside of the chest cavity of a child nine thousand miles away. “THREE TINTS OF BALM,” he would whisper, though up until that moment, Kikongo had been the only tongue he knew. “THREE TINTS OF BALM,” he would die saying, long before anyone with answers would arrive.
I guess this one’s fine. Three moist coins in a bus station is three moist coins in a bus station.
Oh, good, one of them found another umbrella.
I guess we’re at the “what if you actually found jewels” stage of ideas. Look, I know these women aren’t therapists, and they have no obligation or qualification to give real mental health advice, but I’m not sure an imaginary sapphire meets the book’s implied standard of “a thing,” much less a great one to smile about. This is like telling someone starving in a life raft to picture food. It’s very literally barely better than waiting for death.
So they’re taking home lost items they find in cabs, scrounging change from payphones, fantasizing about sudden jewels, and now they’re rummaging through their receipts for rare pennies? It seems like these women really needed this fucking smile book to work out. And I know how this makes me look, but thinking about how unlikely that was is giving me my first smile.
This one surprised me. Judging by her writing, I would have pictured Patricia’s daughter as more of a Second Windmill than a Sancho Panza.
W-what? I was watching my middle school daughter perform in a play and now I’m eight? And Fabulous Sancho’s grandma has decorated the outside of our house? As a reader, it seems like I shouldn’t have to be doing this much work to make the author’s extremely specific (probably false) memories relate to me.
Yes, Ann, we all remember how you introduced this groundbreaking style of nail treatment to America. Who can forget how the local salon’s sign used to say “Regular Manicure: $25.99, Completely Novel Manicure Ann Has to Name Because It Hasn’t Been Invented Yet: $35.99.”
We get it, Ann. Your deep knowledge of industry secrets like staple foods and popular retailers are what made you into Shady Graves Retirement Village’s most dynamic trendsetter.
Oh, Lisa, you bitch!
Ha ha ha she knows, Ann! She’s telling everybody!
Ann, you’re not fooling anyone! You think your friends believe you spent $1400 on a purse? The one filled with gift certificates and filthy change? The one you were holding when you asked the bus driver if there were any “coin stores” on the route “that are looking to buy rare pennies”? Even Patricia knows it’s a fake and she has spent the last seven hours typing the idea “Stickers.”
Oh my god, here goes Ann with this story again. The time she wore a sweater for Esther’s boutique flyer.
“They said my daughter could have modeled, but um, been there, done that, girls. The life of a model is harder than you think. Gosh, I guess it was 1972? If I remember, it was for a boutique flyer photoshoot? Very avant professional. I had to stand in a sweater in front of a roll of paper, they call it a paper-roll, but here’s the thing: it was almost 70 outside. Ha, not exactly sweater weather. The man, ‘photographer’ is what we call him in the industry, had me do some different smiles, sometimes not smiling… Anyway, I just don’t want my daughter to have to go through all that. I was there for almost an hour and I had to get my own snacks.”
Another email mystery solved by the Best Friends Cyber Senior Squad.
This one is a good reminder that these aren’t ordinary old ladies, but actual lunatics.
How did they know the secret way my twin and I ask each other if we’ve ever fucked a fish?
Great news, ladies: big-ass thongs (if you’re into that). It’s weird to me how this is the only qualified entry in the entire book. They take for granted I have a daughter, I’m eight, my son forgets my birthday, I have a secret twin, and I’m a model with too many umbrellas (and counting!), and yet here, when they tell me about giant panties, they’re like, “We don’t want to make any assumptions about your underpants, senator ostrich-owning dentist recovering from rabies.”
Oh yeah, we need to be open to the possibility that when they say “thongs” they might mean the shoes, not the panties. After all, these are women who mark the eras of their life by achievements in panty hose history.
We should also try to keep in mind they are in one of the later stages of dementia.
“Guess how many! No, three! It took me three days to remember the name of Debby’s first husband! And it was Geoff! With two f’s! Can you believe it! He was named after another Geoff. Anyway, a lot of great cookie-cutters out there these days, right? And don’t get me started on all the tints of lip balm. Or better yet, do! Ha ha ha, you know, I’m actually glad Debby and her new husband whatshisname couldn’t make it! What a couple of bores! Oh, did I show you the umbrella I found in a taxi? I know, ‘you bet I wish it was a sapphire,’ right? Again, I want to say how glad I am that the boring couple couldn’t make it so it’s just us fun people.”
This is the Yiddish word for “prostrate” Patricia learned from a dildo instruction manual.
No one knows how her aunt died, but she was found with dozens of tiny hand marks on her neck and all she left behind was her antique china doll.
The debate is settled, sorbet lovers. Sherbet lovers, go buy 1,003 Canoe Gunnels For Fucks Who Are Wrong About Ice Cream to read more.
Maybe one of them has a twin who secretly knows what this means.
Jesus Christ, what? Do I remember watching a fucking cow pee!? Patricia, all you had to do was name a few hundred experiences more interesting than seeing a cow pee on a fourth grade field trip and you fucked it up.
I think this one is a fart joke Lisa couldn’t quite bring herself to tell. Which is weird since she seems okay talking about watching her uncle gator.
“Ann dear, do you remember when we were writing that smile book and I could barely tell the passing gas in church joke? What!? We’re still writing it!? Oh, well then we should put one in about how it’s nice to smile about remembering fart jokes you almost told. And that story Patricia tells about when the cow, you know, just blasted a bunch of kids with a stream of piss.”
I’m sort of worried the next entry is going to be, “The time you remembered remembering the memory of an aborted fart joke.”
I was not expecting this one. What did you do, Lisa?
Lisa, whatever the shit you did, it seems like you really dodged a bullet.
So I think I’ve figured them out. Lisa is a criminal maniac going through the trash for things she can sell. Ann is a basic bitch narcissist who peaked in high school, back when high school was called “communing with the Great Fire.” And Patricia has the mind of a 5-year-old girl in a fabric store.
I didn’t mean it as a compliment, you dingbat.
Sure, why not? Pick one. I love this entry because I honestly don’t think you can do less than this. If you were given the task of listing great things, vaguely referencing the planet’s most famous great things is the smallest amount of effort you could make toward that end. This is like gunneling a canoe and not even gatoring its Afikomen.
Every 72 hours Patricia and Lisa have to watch Ann “find” her old photo albums and “rediscover” how good she looked with bangs.
Right, and then she rediscovers Fresca.
If you want an idea of how long it took these women to put together a book where each of them had to list about 334 objects or concepts of any nature, this one about bangs finally growing out appeared 8 pages after the one where Ann rediscovered bangs. This lets us establish a timeline.
So over the course of an elderly woman getting a haircut and then letting it reclaim her bangs, Lisa, Ann, and Patricia got 32 entries done. Which means this book, this thoughtless piece of shit book, took them… oh no. 13 years and one month to complete.
Thirteen years well spent, I say. They really came up with a lot of fun, relatable human experiences. What’s next, an amniocentesis diagnosis?
Oh my god.
I’m not crazy about how much of this book has turned into a list of the Grim Reaper’s near-misses.
Lisa, what did you do to Walt Disney?
Hold on, let me look up Walt Disney’s height and width.
You know when your son is both not with you and stupid? 🙂
Well, Lisa, Ann, and Patricia, if my baby-sitter knows how to take care of kids and she tries when she writes a book, that’s two things she does better than you.
This article is brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme: Gellaho, the pansy sapphire cow fart of our Idaho. That’s the nicest thing we ever said about anybody.