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Updated: Feb 3, 2022

By Jillian McWhirter:

When you’re an infant, you don’t know you have birthdays. Then it dawns on you: birthdays mean cake and gifts, so you can’t wait for the next one! Then you’re a preteen and the birthdays slow until you’re a teenager. But, then you become a teenager, and not much has changed other than getting into a few more fights with your parents. Time passes and you’re eighteen, you can move out; but you decide it’s not so bad at home after all. But wait, you’re twenty-one, and you can go to Vegas and then college and after that . . . well, what can I say? Get a job, and your birthdays come way too fast. The older you get, the faster they come. It seems the faster they come, the more you want to slow them down—but you can’t.

August is my birthday month—a summer baby creeping near social security. I have entered the reflective years of birthdays.

“Am I where I want to be in my life? Did I find happiness on the way, and how much time do I really have left?”

I think about who I’ve become, the little things in my personality that have made me, me. We are all different, and as my mom told me, “That’s what makes the world go around."

For my birthday month, I thought it’d be fun to share a little secret with you about who I am. Who doesn’t like a secret, right? You see, I say Jillisms.

What’s a Jillism, you ask?

Well, you won’t find it in the dictionary. It’s an action all on its own that Wikipedia hasn’t found yet, a word my husband created after he first met me some twenty-five years ago. (Who’s counting, right?) You see, I think differently. I look at something and see it differently than most people do. And for those of you who do the same thing, welcome to the club!

One of the first Jillisms is when my husband took me to Lake Tahoe for the holidays. We boarded the plane, rented a car, and drove into the city to find a hotel. They have skiing and gambling in a very small area. Who wouldn’t think of booking a room before they got there? My husband, that’s who. He has a terrible habit of winging vacations. I felt like Mary on Christmas Eve looking for a room to give birth. My husband is Jewish, so he couldn’t really connect to anything but my frustration. Hotel after hotel was booked. Then I looked up and saw this amazing hotel. It was tall, huge, and I knew they had to have an empty room for us. I nudged my now-frustrated husband and pointed at the luminous hotel ahead of us. It glowed in its beauty.

“Try that hotel,” I suggested.

"Which one?" he asked, confused.

“That one. It’s called the Happy Holidays Hotel. They have to have a room for us.”

“I don’t see a hotel called Happy Holidays,” he said, looking around.

“Yes, that one. There's a huge sign on top of that hotel. It’s called Happy Holidays!”

My husband broke out in laughter. “That’s the Harrah's Hotel, and that was the first one we went to. We’re just coming from the other way, and you can see the sign wishing us Happy Holidays. The hotel’s not called Happy Holidays.”

Another Jillism?

This time it was when a good friend took me to see Neil Sedaka in concert. He was amazing to say the least. Afterward, we were hanging out, and another friend mentioned that Neil Sedaka was Jewish and went both ways.

“Oh, he’s Christian and Jewish?” I asked.

Yep, that's a Jillism.

There was the time my husband played tennis with a friend who reminded him of Anwar Sadat—which threw him off his game.

"Now, who is Anwar Sadat?" I asked.

“You don’t know who Anwar Sadat is?”

“Honey, you know I don’t read the sports pages.”

My husband explained who Anwar was and told me that he only ate one small meal a day. I asked how long Anwar had lived.

"Oh, around mid-fifties."

I thought a second and then said, "Well, if he'd eaten better he might have lived longer.”

My husband gave me that look I had grown to know oh so well. “Only if he ate bullet-proof vests,” he replied.

Those were just a few of many Jillisms. Our little treasured memories that make us laugh today. I don’t say them as much as I used to, and I miss them. Maybe I'm just finally growing up. And yes, Virginia, we’re all different, and we all have wonderful contributions to the world.

So, when you’re with someone who may see, think, or feel something different than you, just remember what my mom said:

"It takes all kinds of people to make the world go around.”

Raised in Mississippi, Jillian McWhirter moved to Paris and New York to pursue modeling before moving to Los Angeles to start her film and television career. She has written numerous feature film scripts and has published over thirty educational books that are used by health and safety organizations all over the United States.

Read Elizabeth Gracen's interview with Jillian McWhirter here.

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