Ask Red & Black

What do you think of “ugly sweaters”?

FULL QUESTION: I know it’s become a holiday tradition, but what do you think of “ugly sweaters”?


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Given I love comfy and casual sweaters and sweatshirts (and Black probably thinks they’re all ugly), your question made me realize I don’t have any holiday-themed ones. I’m not sure about the history of ugly sweaters or if they even existed when I was growing up, although you might argue that some of the holiday sweaters Andy Williams wore on his holiday TV specials met the definition. Regardless, I first remember seeing them when my girls were very young (that’s almost 20 years ago!), and while I know they’re supposed to be “ugly”, and some of them definitely are, I think many are just fun and festive.

Of course, I have to mention the ugly sweater scene from the first Bridget Jones movie when Renee Zellweger’s character goes to a holiday party at her parent’s house. After her mom “forces” her to change into a very unattractive (translation frumpy) Christmas dress, she sees the back of what seems to be a very attractive man, and then he turns around. It’s Colin Firth (who was known as a bit of a “heartthrob” at the time after appearing in the TV mini-series “Pride and Prejudice”), but her excitement turns to borderline disgust because, you guessed it, he’s wearing an ugly Christmas sweater. (As an aside, I thought both the sweater and Colin were rather cute.)


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What I find amazing is Red does not have a holiday sweater, and I do. And, although it could be described as “ugly” or “tacky”, I bought it because I found it most amusing. I heard about the company, Tipsy Elves shortly after its successful pitch on Shark Tank, and it got coverage in business publications. When I got on their website, I thought the “adult” red cardigan sweater with white snowflakes and deer was hilarious, as when you quickly looked at it, it was just an ugly sweater. However, if you looked more carefully, you would see the deer were, uh, mating.

I will not get into the business aspects of ugly sweaters, or how ugly sweater competitions and parties continue to grow the trend. But, at the risk of sounding warm and fuzzy (another thing you would expect of Red, not me), ugly sweaters remind us that the holidays are supposed to be festive and fun, and even though the sweaters may be ugly … they can remind us of the beauty of the season.


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I know what “black sheep” means, as Black was the black sheep of the family, but I’ve never heard the term “black swan.” But I’ll bet Black knows, as she’s always reading and researching unusual things.

Although it makes me wonder if it has anything to do with the movie "Black Swan," a psychological thriller about the intense and highly competitive world of ballet. It starred Natalie Portman (she won the Oscar for her performance) as a ballet dancer named Nina, who becomes obsessed with perfection after winning the lead role in a production of Tchaikovsky’s "Swan Lake." But the more she strives for excellence, the greater the psychological and emotional challenges. And although it’s not one of my favorite movies, the performances and cinematography were outstanding.


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Interestingly, in describing the movie, Red was very close to explaining the concept of “black swan,” as the movie showed how Nina’s obsession blurred the line between reality and fantasy, and how unpredictable (or improbable) events can change everything.

Recently, the phrase “world of black swans” was used in reference to the current banking situation and in the context of a world where unexpected events happen that have major implications/consequences, often disrupting the status quo and challenging our assumptions about the future. That makes you realize using traditional methods of predicting the future may no longer work. Or, at least, may require a greater emphasis on being prepared for the unexpected.
Last year Red “ran away” to New York for Memorial Day weekend, but since she was just in New York for Mother’s Day, she’s looking forward to her “usual” three-day week routine (see below). And Black? Some things never change, including how she celebrates holiday weekends …



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One of the best things about holiday weekends is having an extra “weekend” day, especially as most weekends are spent on personal things I can’t get done during the week, so can be just as exhausting as the week itself. But I always try (but don’t always succeed) to get some “ me time” by escaping to my local AMC movie theatre , even if it’s more for the popcorn than the movie.

This year, since I have some airfare credits that will expire, I’m going to take advantage of the extra day and visit my oldest friend (from 5 th grade!) who lives in New York. It’s strange being an empty-nester and taking a mini-vacation on my own. It seems like only yesterday, when my girls were much younger, that Black would take us (and her stepdaughters) to the Hyatt Hill Country in San Antonio, so I know that holiday weekends can provide lifelong memories!


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I love three-day weekends as instead of having two days when I can work uninterrupted, I have three. Some might think I need to get a life, but I have passion projects that bring me joy, so I am doing what makes me happy. And, I have a standing “appointment” at 3 p.m. every Memorial Day to observe the National Moment of Remembrance.

It is important to remember that Memorial Day weekend is more than just a holiday weekend (and the “unofficial” start to summer). Memorial Day honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. A day to put aside politics and think about patriotism, and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.


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Growing up, I was aware of the Kentucky Derby because I’d watch golf every weekend with my dad, and there was always talk about it. We’d usually tune in just in time for the race, but we didn’t know much about thoroughbred horse racing, nor really cared to learn. Fast forward a few decades, and my love of movies made me see how dramatic and inspiring horse racing can be.

In terms of the Kentucky Derby, the movie “Secretariat” captivated me with its truly extraordinary story of a horse that overcame the odds to not only become the first winner of the Triple Crown in 25 years but also to become one (and to many, the) greatest racehorses of all times. But my favorite horse racing movie is “Seabiscuit,” as it’s a story of perseverance and sheer determination that never ceases to amaze me. Seabiscuit never competed in the Kentucky Derby because it’s only open to three-year-olds, and he didn’t start his career until he was five, so I can only wonder how he would’ve done.

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There is much tradition associated with the Kentucky, yet I am always amused by all the “hoopla” around this historic sporting event, to the point where it seems as if the race is just a two-minute interruption from Kentucky Derby parties where people dress up and drink mint juleps. (Who knew a drink could have such a fascinating history?)

And, people may disagree on the greatest Kentucky Derby winners. But, there is no denying there are many life lessons on display – never stop believing in ourselves (Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery, never gave up on him, even when others doubted his potential), the importance of teamwork, working hard, overcoming adversity. However, Rich Strike, the surprise 2022 Kentucky Derby champion, who beat the odds (I have always found the most fascinating part of horse racing to be understanding the odds because it involves math and statistics), is the horse that really got me thinking