Tito and the Internet

I’m 38 years old. In the last 17 years, I have learned a pretty valuable lesson, and it’s one that contradicts conventional wisdom:

It’s probably best for me to just drink alone.

As we all know, alcohol lowers inhibitions. For me, that sometimes means a New Year’s Eve that extends entirely too long into New Year’s Day and involves a significant amount of someone else’s saliva, but that’s not why we’re here today. The other thing it means is that I am much more likely to say what I think. I don’t say it unkindly. But I am much more likely to translate thought into expression. Whereas, in situations wherein I have not had a martini, I just don’t speak.

Or type.

So, alright, amendment: It’s probably best for me to just drink alone and not log on to the Internet.

Now, before you make assumptions: I didn’t get drunk, I didn’t get into an argument, and I didn’t damage a relationship of any kind. No regrets, Coyote. I merely answered a question with respectful and careful honesty where I otherwise likely would not have answered at all.

As opposed to just, you know, quietly moving along in my Facebook travels. Which, perhaps, would have been the better decision.

The irony of this, of course, is that I am frequently the person who says out loud to the people who appear in social media places on my laptop, “You know, it’s okay to just take something in as information and then go about your day. You don’t have to offer your opinion EVERY BLESSED CHANCE YOU GET.” It’s just that this was an area in which I have a certain amount of expertise, and the question was posted by someone who also has a certain amount of expertise, and he seemed a little proud of something I thought was just nauseating.

I did not say that.

I can be diplomatic even when I’ve had vodka. I’m actually really good at it.

Wait… is braggadocio at odds with diplomacy?

Anyway, the point is, I should not be online when Tito has joined me on the sofa.

And we won’t discuss who should join me on the sofa, instead.

Advertisements

Turns Out I Don’t Like Most People

Every so often, I get salty about stupid people. Or selfish people. Or ignorant people. And I know that I can sometimes be one or two or all of those things as well. But when I see it on prominent display, it frosts my cookies.

Stupid
Sunday:
A girl of indistinguishable age walks across a gas station – a gas station, I say – with a lit cigarette in her hand. When she arrives at the door to the convenience store, she stops and thinks twice about taking the cigarette inside. Then she puts it down on the sidewalk, carefully. When she comes out a moment later, she picks it back up and puts it back in her mouth.

That’s like five kinds of stupid right there.

Selfish
Congress. There. I’m done.

Ignorant
Beware this most of all, said the Ghost of Christmas Future. I have actually found lately that ignorance is often combined with selfishness. It’s a handy formula for maintaining one’s willfully narrow-minded way of thinking. Today’s mental rant was touched off by a guy on Facebook saying that there are too many people claiming they have emotional and mental illness, and they should just realize that: 1. they’re not in danger unless they’re in grave danger and 2. that worrying doesn’t help anything. (Yes, he numbered them.)

Well, asshole, let’s explore the ways that comment is insensitive and clueless.

Yet when some people tried to do that, he refused to budge. He even said his statement was merely an observation, not a judgment. I think that’s part of the problem. We know Americans are not so good with the English. Grammar, spelling, and definitions are often lost. Maybe it’s a problem of just not understanding definitions.

I choose my battles. I argued with my mother when she insisted that most of the people on welfare are black, because it’s flatly false, and she asked if I declared it false because I say so. “No, Mom, it’s wrong because the US Census Bureau and Department of Labor say it’s wrong.” She didn’t believe me, because she didn’t want to. It was inconvenient to her narrative. It was also amazingly ironic that “most of the people on welfare are black” because she says so.

That’s the kind of stuff that’s really been bugging me lately: people who refuse to hear all the facts because doing so would ruin their personal narrative on how things are. They’d rather justify their ignorance than be informed, justify their hatred than be open. They think other people are foolish for buying into the “myth” that the “media” espouse. They’ll take one singular fact and just hang on tight, while ignoring all the other facts that put theirs in context.

So I’ve decided to forcibly maintain some ignorance of my own.

I will insist that the invention of fire was a)  not an invention, but more of a discovery, and 2) not that big a deal.

I will deface any vehicle with one of those fish-with-feet decals on it because it so blatantly disrespects Jesus.

If I see someone walk into a door, I will blame the door manufacturers because they were union workers and therefore were probably lazy and didn’t do their jobs right and caused the incident.

I will unflinchingly believe that John Grisham is the best legal thriller writer out there.

I will refuse any assertion that there’s even one single doctor who’s not trying to make a buck from the pharmaceutical companies, and I will therefore refuse all medication until I’m on my death bed, at which point I’ll blame the doctors for not diagnosing me properly.

I will make no exception to my general rule that a dog is better than a cat at all times. Even though I have a cat, but not a dog.

I will swear Attila the Hun was railroaded.

It’s gonna be great. I can’t wait to spout off stupid, inane, thoughtless drivel that I can vehemently defend with arguments such as, “F— you.”

******

I strike.

Or rather, my blog does.

At some people, at least.

Fransi at weinstein365 has very graciously called my blog worthy of the Very Inspiring Blogger Award and gifted me with a logo I will display, as required, on my blog, as soon as I figure out how the hell to do it. I would like to note that my blog is not merely inspiring. It is, as Fransi has declared, very inspiring. Are you inspired? You totally should be inspired. Can I get some fanfare music over here?

One of the rules of the award is to state seven things about myself. So, little by little, my blog reading friends, you are learning more and more about me. The next seven things I release unto you are as follows:

1. When I was six years old, I was nearly kidnapped, but my friend Lori and I ran away from the guy in the truck who had been reported to be following children in the area after he slowed down and said something to us.*

2. I have a disturbing weakness for Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies despite my avowed loyalty to Tastykake products.

3. I find the ocean to be the most accurate metaphor for the human soul – turbulent, dark, powerful, placid, soothing, raging, dancing, warm, cold, life-sustaining, life-ending, drawing forward and then pulling back, rocking and lulling and easily moved by forces beyond its own control.

4. I used to have a recurring nightmare that I was in my kitchen and all the cabinet doors stood open, and the knobs on the stove all turned by themselves. I would close the cabinets and turn off the stove burners and they would all fly open and turn on again. It was terrifying.

5. I have been to two psychics in my life. One of them was freakishly right about everything he said and has increased his fee by 800% since I saw him. The other one was either way off or I’m in big trouble.

6. I am so boring that I have been struggling to come up with seven interesting things about myself for like 20 minutes.

7. Since my previous Seven Things, in which I said I wanted a black or chocolate lab or a Rhodesian Ridgeback, I have expanded my selection of dogs to include boxers. And I  like the name Oscar for a dog, but if it’s a boxer that might be a little too obvious. Especially since a hoya is a dog and Oscar de la Hoya is a boxer. In which case I might have to go with an American Staffordshire Terrier. Imaginary dog owning is hard.

*Totally possible that I dreamed this.

Mother-Daughter Dances

My mother and I have had a fight over something on Facebook.

I know.

Alright, so here’s what happened: Sister 3 posted a picture of a television in the fitting room at Nordstrom. I, being the oldest and longest gainfully employed sister, commented: “What the h are you doing in a Nordstrom? I’ve had a job for 19 years, I still can’t go into a Nordstrom.” A cousin and an aunt piled on, chiding my college-aged sister even though we all knew she wasn’t actually shopping at Nordstrom, which she clarified when she said her friend was trying on a dress. I stopped teasing her because I know she gets a little sensitive about being the youngest and having been given more than the older kids got when we were her age by virtue of the fact that my parents had finally reached a comfortable financial standing and there were must-haves that didn’t exist when I was a kid. But my cousin sort of kept poking at her, which happens when you’re part of a big Irish family.

And then… my mother commented.

Her side’s German.

You need to know something about my mother and Facebook: wherever this woman goes, conversations die. People are just commenting along, having a good time, being blithely humorous or perhaps vaguely inappropriate and then BOOM. My mother takes a joke literally and ruins it, or decides to argue a point, or gets defensive about something that isn’t about her, but makes her feel targeted nonetheless (comments or jokes about brunettes, Germans, Catholics, short people, etc). She gets kinda hostile. It makes people uncomfortable. Like, I’ve gotten phone calls. “Did I make your mom mad?”

Or sometimes she tries to be funny. My mother really isn’t very funny. The Germans are not a funny people, commonly. But you can’t point that out to her because she gets all snippy about how eeevverybody likes the Irish better. She resents it.

Anyway, the point is, she comments on Facebook and everything grinds to a halt.

Most of the time I don’t comment after my mother because she’ll take anything I say as either an argument or an attempted public upstaging. Neither of which it would be, because I learned somewhere around 17 years ago not to do anything that could even seem like that. But that’s how she takes it anyway, so I usually debate: If I don’t reply, will she feel ignored? If I do, will she get mad? I wind up typing something out, re-reading it, thinking about it, trying to find words in it to which she might take offense, re-writing it, repeating this process twice and then just skipping it altogether. Phone conversations are carefully considered, too, but it’s a little easier that way because there’s the benefit of inflection, redirection and distraction. The down side is that it’s instantaneous; there’s less time for editing.

I’m not kidding; this is how I talk to my mother.

On my sister’s Facebook page, under the picture from the Nordstrom fitting room, after I’d made my comment and my aunt and cousin had followed, my mother posted a snarky sentence, passive-agressively reprimanding her sister-in-law and myself. Lest you think I might be oversensitive, I offer as proof the fact that my aunt texted me: “Did you see what your mother said on FB?” But could I say anything back? Nooooo. And neither could my aunt. My 47-year-old aunt.

This is the problem with parents being on Facebook. Aside from the fact that you constantly have to edit yourself because “my mother is going to see this,” they have so much power to just jab at you, poke you, infer meaning where it is not implied, and yes, reprimand you publicly. They can do all that plenty in the confines of a home filled with maybe 30 people at a holiday gathering and you might be able to respond, but in black and white on the internet, you can’t say anything back without creating even more of an awkward situation in front of whoever is reading it.

Social networking should not, by and large, be a mother-daughter meeting ground. It winds up just another forum for judgment and awkwardness. Oh, moms, don’t deny it. Moms judge kids on everything they say, particularly in a public forum. Moms are ashamed or embarrassed when kids of any age say something moms don’t like. It’s just a reflex or something. Moms judge, and they check up. I’m pretty sure that’s the whole purpose of mothers “friending” their children.

Or is that just my mom?

And it’s not like you can not friend your parents when you learn that they’re on Facebook. They’re going to request your friendship, and you have to accept. You can’t not accept. And if they don’t request your friendship, they’re clearly waiting for you to request theirs, because now you know they’re on Facebook and if you don’t request their friendship they’ll take it as yet another way that you never call and you never write.

And you sure as hell can’t defriend them unless you’re just shutting down the whole operation.

I wanted to defriend my mother when we had this run-in. Her snarky comment bothered me– enough that I felt I needed to address it rather than let it go as I normally do. So rather than reply to her in front of everybody, I sent her a private message telling her I was concerned and didn’t feel that the reprimand was necessary, since sisters just tease sisters as part of the deal.

I got a nasty reply.

I tried again, respectfully. And got another nasty reply.

A wise person might leave it alone at this point, but I was hurt by her approach and wanted to make that point. Still respectfully. (So many drafts.)

The reply was less nasty but largely dismissive. And then I let it go. It’s been years since my mother and I had a real argument like this one because I mostly just let things go, and I’m sure she’d say the same. Thanks to Facebook, we have a new platform on which to dance around each other.

And I still don’t know what a college kid is doing trying on a dress at Nordstrom, but whatever. I have seriously bought one item of clothing at a Nordstrom, it was a black dress, it was way too expensive but it looked good and I told myself that it I just wore it to every party, event, funeral and wedding for five years, it would pay for itself.

I’m four years in.

Legends In Their Falling

Remember when Janis Joplin died?

I don’t, but take my larger point as I set it up for you, please:

Today the world learned that singer Amy Winehouse had been found dead in her London flat. She was 27. And almost instantly, the cyber-verse was alight with cynical commentary about it. So far, Scotland Yard has not ruled on a cause (one can only assume that, had it not been shuttered, News of the World would have immediately begun hacking into her cell phone to find out what she last said and to whom she last spoke). But the conventional wisdom is that she died of a drug overdose, or drank herself literally to death.

I’ll go along with the theory.

A lot of who we have come to regard as amazing talents died at 27 from drug and alcohol problems. Hendrix. Joplin. Belushi. I wonder… if there had been Facebook and Twitter then, would everyone have been so cynical?

You can argue with me that Winehouse is not a name that belongs in the above group. You might be right. Frankly, I don’t know her stuff well enough to say for sure, although I do know she did have a great deal of talent, and a tortured soul: two things required for admission to that club. And I would remind you that Joplin’s biggest hit, “Me and Bobby McGee,” wasn’t released until after she died, at 27, with the whiskey-and-smoke voice of a woman who had lived far beyond her years. In “Just Kids,” Patti Smith waxes both plain and nostalgic about seeing Joplin in the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel, a relative unknown but for the artists’ circles in which they both traveled. She was nobody then. A rebellious girl with attitude and a gift not everyone cared to hear.

Like Amy Winehouse.

I wasn’t around when Joplin and Hendrix died (I was for Belushi). But if the collective consciousness of cultural memory serves, they were regarded more as up-and-comers than entrenched legends then. Hendrix might have been a little more established; he’d already done the National Anthem on his guitar. But we tend to sanctify the dead after they’ve gone. We don’t know what legends they would have become if they had lived beyond their late 20s. They could have flamed out and been forgotten. It’s the romantic tragedy of their deaths that catapulted them to their culturally contributory fame, really. Though their talents and heft of legacies varied, the same could be argued for all who have died too soon: Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Patsy Cline, Robert Mapplethorpe, even John Lennon. They were sainted in death. In life, they might have wound up merely played out.

We live in different times now, certainly. In the convictional chaos of the 60s and the experimentation that lived through the 70s, it was easy to find depth and poignancy in the gone-too-soon nature of an artist’s death. Did those not belonging to the chaos – those standing outside that particular cultural fire – not regard those artists’ deaths in the same way? At the time, I’d venture the answer is that they didn’t. But now, they probably see it differently, with the glow of history surrounding it and the knowledge that they were part of that revered and reviled generation, whether they were at Woodstock or not. Now, in the digital age, news travels even more quickly than it did then, and universally– to those who don’t share the convictions of the ones who bring them word. Our reactions, now, seem to skew farther toward the wry than toward the gut-wrenched. Amy Winehouse probably won’t be a legend in death. But it would be nice if we valued her life a little more.

——–
Featured image from burgernoodle.com

If You’re Not the Doctor, You Don’t Need To Know

Thank God my friends did not tweet the birth of their child.

Brad and I have been super-close for a decade. I wrote a whole ode to our friendship in a post back in April. We’ve seen each other through all kinds of drama: work, family and relationship-oriented. We’ve spent countless hours on the phone. We Facebook IM every day before I go to work and email each other once I get there. There’s absolutely nothing romantic between us; we’re just lucky to have each other as friends.

Yesterday, Brad became a daddy for the first time. His wife Carrie delivered baby Max after about 24 hours of quasi-labor followed by the real thing.

And not a word of it transmitted on the internet, until after little Maxwell arrived.

I knew Brad and Carrie would never go for the social network method of childbirthing, because neither one of them have the stomachs for that. Neither do I. A coworker has told me more than once about the person she had to nix from her online life because he was offering up regular transmissions about his wife’s dilation, effacement and station. The fact that he did this made my co-worker pretty sure he had some other significant character flaws.

Nobody wants to know that stuff.

Seriously.

Or at least, so I thought.

I spent Tuesday night with minimal sleep, waiting for a message on my phone (I had been promised a direct message, as opposed to learning about the child’s birth via Facebook, which I would have tried to be a big person about, but would have definitely hurt my feelings). I had dreams about it. When I got up in the morning I had to check the phone to make sure that Brad hadn’t actually called me and told me they were worried that the baby was breech, and that I had lost track of reality in some fuzzy sub-alert state (indeed, it was just a dream). Hours and hours and hours went by. Brad had told me around midnight that the doctors were going to induce Carrie because her contractions weren’t regular enough, and by noon I was wondering if they had done it right away or let her sleep for a while and then did it, or what. It could be hours and hours, I told myself.

I had flashbacks to when my sister was in labor with my nephew. That was hours and hours, though not as many as Carrie. The whole time, I was resisting the urge to pick up the phone and send a text: “Update???” Read: “Um, yo, bro-in-law, that’s my sister you’ve got there trying to squeeze that kid out, so if you wouldn’t mind letting us know if she’s still alive, that’d be great. Thanks.” But I didn’t do that. Delivering a child is sort of a hurry up and wait situation and no anxious father-to-be and exhausted, pained mother-to-be need to be bothered in the process. It’s an experience that’s between them. Much like the conception. They’ll tell you when the kid is here. Leave them alone.

So I left Brad alone, which I had promised I would do; he was already in a high state of agita with his in-laws and his mother at his house. They drive him crazy on a totally normal day.

It’s this “Leave Them Alone” philosophy that resulted in my tremendous annoyance when, hours and hours into this whole delivery effort, I found that some other people – mutual friends – did not share my viewpoint. I had decided it wouldn’t hurt if I checked out Carrie’s Facebook page to see if anything had been posted that I missed. I wouldn’t post anything, of course; I just wanted to see if there was an update. She and Brad had posted nothing, but a small cadre of friends had.

“What, no update in the middle of labor? We’re waiting!”

“Yeah, we’re waiting!”

“You should be keeping us posted!”

“Get the drugs!”

People. Are you kidding me with this?

First of all, there’s a reason neither Carrie nor Brad had posted anything on their respective pages about Carrie being in labor. There was no mention of it on the pages at all until our friend and former co-worker posted that first one. But he goes and posts it and now everybody sees that Carrie’s in labor. Which means everybody chimes in, sends messages, sends texts, whatever. Because people think it’s all about them. And they apparently never think of the possibility that something may have gone wrong, that something tragic may have happened. It didn’t, thank God, but it always could, and then they’d feel like total jerks. And they would be right.

I mean, who posts on a laboring woman’s Facebook page that they want an update? Basically all you’re doing is broadcasting personal information to hundreds of people she didn’t want to be informed. She’s not going to see the page until at least the next day. She doesn’t exactly have her laptop in the delivery room, or her smartphone in her hand. She’s sort of preoccupied with trying to deliver a child and then trying to wrap her head around the fact that this little bundle is here and needs her for everything and all of a sudden she needs him for everything, too, and the nature of her marriage and her life has just completely changed. She’s got some stuff to digest. So she maybe doesn’t want to be answering Facebook messages right now.

As for Brad, maybe there aren’t many of us who truly know how he is in major life-changing situations. His anxiety level is high on a regular basis, but he’s really good at hiding it, so maybe the circle of those who know not to make this crazy life-changing situation any more manic is fairly small. But as one of the people who does know this, I feel the urge to protect him from the mindless people who don’t.

I found myself drumming my fingers on the keyboard, dying to post something snarky under all these people’s idiotic musings, something zingy and pithy, directed at them, in hopes that they would get how stupid and thoughtless they were being.

But… I took a deep breath and employed the Thumper Rule instead. If you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say anything at all.

Brad was going to be annoyed enough at them later, though he’d let it go because he’d be holding his newborn son when he read the messages.

We could talk about them after.

Finally, at 4:30 or so yesterday afternoon, I got a text informing me that one of my dearest friends in the world was now the father of a healthy, 8 lb 12 oz boy named Maxwell. I yayed out loud at work. Which was awkward, because at the time, I was on the phone with a co-worker friend who was telling me about how his neighbor’s home had been robbed.

“So these kids just came in in the middle of the day, broke a window and got in–”

“OH YAY!!!”

“…Yeah, I’m gonna assume that’s not in response to the robbery.”

Oops.

I spent the rest of the day checking to see if pictures had been posted… and they were, here and there. I won’t post them in this entry because he’s not my kid and I don’t have the copyrights to him. But he’s beautiful, and he’s got his eyes wide open most of the time, it seems. Much like his father, he appears to need entertainment.

This morning, while I was still practicing the Leave Them Alone, This Is Family Time philosophy, Brad sent me a text and a picture of little Max, wide awake and ready for action. “This is one alert dude,” Brad told me.

“How are you?” I asked.

“Good. I cried for about 20 minutes,” he said.

I loved that text. It told me so much about our friendship and his life in those few words. It made me cry to read it.

We exchanged a few more messages – everything went really smoothly, Carrie’s hurting but doing okay, they’ll go home tomorrow (the hospital has a minimum two-day stay at $750 a night – and I think that’s just the room rate). I know we’ll talk soon, and I can’t wait to meet the little guy.

But I’m so glad the whole cyber-universe didn’t have to read about Carrie’s cervix.

Well done, Brad and Carrie.

————
Featured image from gawker.com

The Age of Bighair-ius

I don’t know what’s going on in the universe, but an awful lot of my friends are posting horrific high school era pictures on Facebook these days. And tagging me in them.

Make it stop.

First there was the picture from 8th grade graduation. I was old for my age, and we didn’t do the cap and gown thing at my school, so I was wearing a pastel, floral dress with a gathered waist and pouffy short sleeves. It was tea-length. I had a perm (which was required of me from 2nd grade – yes, 2nd grade, thanks Mom – until I was in college). In addition to the perm, there were the curled and feathered bangs.

Hideous.

I showed the picture to a co-worker. She laughed hysterically.

Yet, somehow, some of my classmates looked worse. There was this one guy I went to school with, Joe. Poor Joe, at the age of 14, couldn’t say his Rs. He wore heavy-framed squarish glasses in a particularly unattractive shade of brown. He was wearing a sportcoat at our 8th grade graduation. He looked like a 45-year-old nerd at the age of 14. Sad.

He’s my Facebook friend now, married with two children, and I often wonder if he ever learned to say his Rs, but I can’t, like, ask. (I have searched for videos of him, in case I could hear him speaking. Nada.)

The 8th grade graduation photo sparked a flurry of old-schoolmate comments. Fortunately, we were all equally mortified. Except probably for that brat Emily, who was always pretty and looks just sweet and unblemished as can be in that picture. I hope she’s fat and big-nosed now.

Not really.

Oh, who am I kidding? Yes, really.

Then someone posted a picture from what I think was my junior year of high school. It’s my school choir. It was an all-girl choir. You can imagine the hair. There have got to be 40 girls in this picture, all white, all wearing that horrible choir dress, and all with big, curly, mall-bang hair. It’s a wonder we all fit in the picture with our ‘dos.

I showed that picture to the same co-worker and challenged her to find me in it. She couldn’t. When I pointed myself out, she denied that it could possibly be me.

At my voice lesson today, my teacher was talking about a choir reunion her high school is having. She had debated going (for which she would have had to fly back to a town where no one in her family lives anymore), but got out of it when she realized one of her other vocal students is getting married, and the events conflict. Carol is 10 years older than me, but she’s still just as bitter as she ever was about the politics of high school, and the girls she hated then and still hates now. Aside from that brat Emily, I think I’m pretty much over all the issues from back then. One of the things I found myself glad of was the fact that we were all making fun of ourselves in our FB comments. Even the guys in the 8th grade picture were mocking their own outfits, heights (apparently the short guys are still short)… they were wishing aloud that they still had that much hair, or that they were still that thin.

Being a grown-up is sometimes so much better than being a kid. As kids, we mocked others out loud and secretly hated everything about ourselves. As grown-ups, we’ve accepted a lot about ourselves. We mock ourselves out loud and secretly hate other people. Like Emily.

I applied for my passport on Monday. Of course, they had to take a photo. (Of course, they had to charge me $15 for it.) Passport photos are just one step above driver’s license photos, and probably only because the fact that it’s for international travel makes it seem more glamorous. But mine is a mug shot.

No, really. If I die suddenly, go missing, or am accused of a horrific crime, this is the picture that’s going to be on the news. My eyes look funny (which is probably a product of me trying not to cross them; I sometimes think that if a camera is too close to me and I’m actually “posing” for the photo, I come out looking slightly cross-eyed, even though I’m not) and my mouth looks funny (because I was trying not to smile like a doofus). Thank God I remembered to wear something with some color, because that’s the only saving grace. The post office guy who took the picture said it was the best one he’d taken all day. But it was only 11:30am. So.

My hair was pulled back into a ponytail, which, in the photo, is lying limply across one shoulder.

What do I have to do to my hair? Geez.

———
Having to do with nothing at all: today is my grandfather’s 93rd birthday. I realize that I’m very lucky, at 34, to still have a grandparent. He’s the only one I’ve got, and I don’t get to see him much. About a year and a half ago, he had an “episode” (undiagnosed despite a month of trying) – something like a tiny stroke that had no effect except that of paralyzing his epiglottis. That’s the thing what keeps you from choking when you eat and drink. Which means he can’t eat and drink anymore. He’s fed through a tube in his stomach, and for the first time in his life, he looks his age. He sent me a note the other day: “Please don’t send me a gift for my birthday or Father’s Day. I have gifts in my bedroom that I might never use. Please send me cash instead.” I laughed out loud; in my family, flat-out asking for cash is gauche. But you know what, Pop? You were born into poverty. You were given away to someone else to be raised. You served four years overseas in a war. You buried a child. You raised three more. You sent a son to Vietnam (and, fortunately, got him back). You worked every day until retirement. You watched two of your children’s marriages fail, and you couldn’t understand why. You cared for a wife with Alzheimer’s Disease and never broke your promise not to put her in a home, even though we all thought you should. Ten years ago, you buried her. And today, you’re 93, and you don’t want a gift because you know that, frankly, you might die before you get to use it. You can’t even drink an Old Fashioned to toast your years. Today, Pop, you can have anything you want. Check’s in the mail, along with all my love and respect. Happy birthday.

 

 

Am I a Horrible Person? The Debate Continues.

One of my (six) bosses wants to be my Facebook friend.

And it’s even oodgier than that. We kind of hate each other.

Maggie started her job as one of my (six) bosses exactly one week after I started my job as her eventual subordinate. This essentially means that neither of us knew anything about where we were working. You would think that would have made us allies.

Not so much.

I wanted to like her; she seemed fun, but also take-charge. She wore great shoes, but man, did she make bad fashion choices for her build (if you have rolls, do not wear spandex and tank tops. Ditto if you’re management. Hello?) And within two weeks of her starting the job, she had me in her office, talking to me about being a strong woman, and something about “we wish sometimes we were stronger in our personal lives, with men,” and then some sort of warning about not being “too” strong at work.

I had no idea what she was talking about. And this was just the beginning of the fun I was going to have with Maggie. That was one of about, oh, ten meetings I’d unwillingly have in her office, all of them unpleasant and one of them featuring her calling me “bitter, angry, closed-minded and closed-off.” None of which are true. (Well, wait: none of which had been true, up until that moment, when you’d better believe I shut down and got pissed but still stayed professional and calm). None of which are professional critiques. All of which made  one of my other (five) bosses tell me later that the meeting left him wanting his mommy.

Let me point something out, here: as you might imagine if you’ve read most of my posts (the ones that aren’t Music Mondays or articulations of my surprise at realizing who Osama bin Laden was before he became Osama bin Laden), you know that I have a pretty strong personality. When I started this job, in September of 2008, I pulled back on that a lot. It wasn’t that I wasn’t being myself; it was that I knew it was time to be a higher version of myself, a better listener, someone willing to learn from people who were better at what I did than I am. My new job was essentially a promotion in my business, and I knew that, despite a lot of experience, I had plenty to learn from this place and these people.

Maggie wanted me to be firm in what I wanted for my projects, but when I was, she got mad. It seemed to me, over the course of a year, that she was never happy with anything I did. If I said black, the answer was white. If I said yes, the answer was no. If I took charge, I should have backed down; if I backed down, I should have taken charge. She walked out of meetings that were created for her when I started talking. I would hear her across a room asking someone who did something she liked, finding out it was me, and falling silent. I couldn’t figure out which end was up. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I changed approaches; she changed approaches, and then called me inconsistent. Before long, she hated me, and I had no idea why she tensed up when I so much as opened my mouth.

Awesome.

Then I found out she had been keeping a list of real and perceived offenses and mistakes. She wouldn’t let me see it. She wrote up a two-page memo for my personnel file and nearly got me fired. She told me that I should consider taking a “reassignment” (read: huge demotion) “so that at least you’ll still have a job.”

I hated Maggie.

But then something happened. Maggie got cancer. She’s in her mid-40s and she wound up with Hodgkins Disease. I hated Maggie, but nobody deserves cancer, and I lost a young uncle to leukemia ten years ago, so my heart went out to her. Her first round of treatment worked. Then the cancer came back. More aggressive this time. So now, she’s having a bone marrow stem cell transplant. My uncle had one of those. It worked; he was producing his own healthy stem cells. But his body tried to reject the transplant, and anti-rejection medication is very hard on the organs. He died of multiple organ failure. I was there.

I didn’t tell Maggie this, of course. Seems mean.

She goes into the hospital, in my town (I live 45 miles away from work) Thursday. I told her she and her family should feel free to contact me any time they might need something in the coming weeks, since none of them are familiar with the city.

Then it happened. She requested to be my Facebook friend.

Aw, hell.

I have a policy against being Facebook friends with my (six) bosses. It’s just not a good idea, to my way of thinking. I also have a very strict No Bitching About Work On Facebook Policy, because it’s annoying when people complain about their jobs on Facebook, and because I don’t want to derail any future plan I may have. So I’m not worried about that. But still.

But… she has cancer.

My uncle had cancer.

She’s having a bone marrow stem cell transplant.

My uncle had a bone marrow stem cell transplant.

I’m being guilted into being Facebook friends with one of my (six) bosses. I feel like my uncle will haunt me if I don’t accept the request.

Ugh. Cancer sucks.

I haven’t hit the “confirm” button yet. I’m trying to figure it out. I’m sure she requested the friendship because it would be an easy way to contact me when she’s in the hospital and in the weeks afterward when she’s still in town recuperating. But I gave her my personal email address, too, and she told me that she or her family would call me at work if they needed something. Do I have to be her Facebook friend, too?

With Maggie, the answer is yes.

Unless it’s no.

Crap.

The Social Network: Proving Your Old Friends Are Boring and/or Pathetic

-“Anthony just pooped on the potty!”
-“Making dinner and spending the evening with my ❤ 🙂 “
-“Well tonight was his night and he didn’t even show up. Again. All that time and money with lawyers and court and now your not even going to show up and get your kids?”
-“Head hurts. :-(“
-“Molly is doing better her back is almost healed but now Eric is sick again which means another trip to the doctor that the insurance wont pay for. He is a trooper with all these tests and hopefuly well find out soon what the exact problem is we’re just hopping its not cancer.”
-“I try to treat everyone how I want to be treated, but once again someone has hurt my feelings. It gets so discouraging to try to follow Jesus this way. But I will keep walking.”
-“Going out tonight!”
Oh, shut up already.
Am I the only person who has incredibly dull and self-centered Facebook friends?
It took me years to sign on to Facebook. I was razzed by real-life friends while I staunchly defended my position, telling them that I believe Facebook makes it too easy to boil friendships down to 400 characters masquerading as quality interaction simply because of the potential quantity of exchanges. When I finally caved and joined a year and a half ago (because it was apparently the only way I was going to get to see pictures of my godson), I decided I wasn’t wrong, but it was kind of fun to catch up with people and/or see if they got fat after we graduated from high school (they did).
And then a funny thing happened. Facebook made me start wondering if I was a bad person.
The vast majority of my Facebook friends are smart, funny, interesting people. But at least three times a day, I would come across status updates like the ones listed above and roll my eyes.  It’s not that I’m a cold, uncaring person. It’s that I find something undignified in sharing your dramas (like the fact that your daughter’s father just got out of prison and might actually become a part of her life… and the subsequent profanity-laden realization that no, he won’t… and then the apparent hacking of your account so that there’s some sort of status update argument between you and him about his value as a human being, and it’s all being broadcast over a social network). 
Self-awareness, my old friend. Find some.
<Click>  Remove as a friend? <Click Remove From Friends .>
(That’s the only friend I’ve done that to. I just couldn’t take it.)
And if your sad self can’t spell or use contractions correctly, that means more points off for you. (See previous rant.)
Yes. I’m an intellectual snob. Shocker. I mean, I recognize the value of your life and your pain. I do. I just think you probably shouldn’t be telling an entire, you  know, cyber-universe about it.
Don’t get me wrong; Mark Zuckerberg intended exactly this kind of interaction (though I seriously doubt his friend list contains people who write things like, “Haircut, then lunch w/Mom!”) I’m just really disappointed that so many of the people I once thought were interesting have turned out to be totally… well… not. And that people I was good friends with 20 years ago turned out to be fodder for an episode of Jerry Springer.
I know, I know, I’m totally mean.
But tell me you haven’t thought it about your Facebook friends, too.
The corporate beauty of Facebook is that it can be used in whatever way the user him- or herself wants to use it. And those folks at Apple were brilliant to name everything an iSomething. We’re totally self-absorbed these days.  I happen to choose to use my status updates to either make people laugh or make them think. Not everyone has to do that, and I don’t think I’m a better person for my defined purpose. That’s just me. But I really do enjoy learning more about old friends from what they post.
But let’s be honest. If you can’t be interesting, don’t be part of a social network like this. Take, for example, this post:
“The kids are playing in the yard.”
Oh my God, you’re boring. Every update is similar to that one. You. Are. DULL.
Another example:  “I’m speechless.” That’s it. Well, if you’re speechless, don’t post that. It’s intentionally obscure and is meant to bait people into asking you what’s wrong, and I flatly refuse to ask. So pltltlpbltlplpt.
(That’s a tongue-out raspberry.)
I find myself getting kind of disgusted by these people, the people who post these self-indulgent things. And then I feel bad, like I’m cruel for judging people whose lives are much more difficult than mine. For example, the “My Ex Didn’t Come Get the Kids” poster. I liked you in college. I truly do feel bad that your life has come to a point where you have to have an apparently protracted legal battle over custody and visitation of your children, after which their father still fails to behave like a father. It’s’ terrible and painful for you, and for your children. But posting a status update about it? That’s not going to help them or you. It’s just going to send a message to all your Facebook friends that you are angry and seeking validation from literally any and all of the 342 “friends” you have.
My point is, there are people you can and should share these things with. Your entire Facebook friend list? Not so much.
Let’s talk about the self-pity party people. “My head hurts. ” “I’m so sick.”  “I cut my finger.” Who cares?! Put on your big girl panties and deal with it! (And yes, I’m saying “big girl panties” for a reason; guys don’t post that kind of stuff on Facebook.) You’re making yourself look like a big whiner who just wants all her friends to say, “Oh, you poor thing!” Do you not have real-life, non-cyber friends who can serve this purpose? Whine to them.
I hereby declare my Facebook news feed to be a No Whining Zone. I am empowering myself with the right and ability to hide all of you people who decide to feel sorry for yourselves in a public way.
But I don’t de-friend you. There. I’m not so mean.