Perfection is Overrated

I know I’ve been a bit quieter than usual here lately. No excuses really, just life getting in the way. But I figure you’ve had enough downtime from my tirades, so I’m determined to get back into the game on a more regular basis. Lucky you. Today felt like kind of a rant-y day, so again, lucky you!

Being a huge animal lover, there’s always been something that I just don’t understand. How is it that we can continue to encroach on wildlife and then wonder why they end up in our space? As humans continue to cut down tree after tree, painstakingly eliminating the vital forests of our planet, people somehow act surprised when a bear, deer, or alligator stumbles into your backyard. If we keep destroying their homelands, then we’re going to have to come to terms with having animal neighbors. And not in the “we’ll just kill them all” way that we’re doing now.

Well, I’ll admit, I don’t really want a bear sniffing around my house, but I’m also aware that not pissing it off and simply chasing it away with a few loud noises will do the trick just fine. Aside from those adorable little trash pandas, which most people call raccoons, animals don’t typically want to go through your trash. And honestly, raccoons would probably not have to dumpster dive either. They, like all animals, would rather survive on the natural bounty provided by their native habitats.  Those same exact habitats that are being wiped out by, you guessed it, us humans. We create the problem and then complain about the problem we created. Oh, but those darn little critters, right? Deer tearing up the flower bed, opossums in the trash, squirrels stealing stuff from the garden… to hell with these pesky pests, right? Let’s all just ignore the reason these animals are forced into an urban lifestyle in the first place.

Here’s an idea. Maybe the space we are trying to evict them from was never our space to begin with. To them, we’re the pests. Consider the Merriam-Webster definitions of the word pest.

  • A plague.
  • Something resembling a pest in destructiveness.
  • Someone or something who annoys, aka a nuisance.

Humans appear to fit the mold quite nicely.  Considering the pollution and war we brought to this planet, and our constant failure at caring for it, we are arguably the most destructive plague in history.

Destructiveness? That little chipmunk dug a hole in your flowerbed because some lumber company just cleared out 20 acres of its habitat for that new development down the way. Shame on that rodent right? What was more destructive, the golf ball-sized hole under your chrysanthemums or wiping out an entire forest? Perfect lawns. Perfect gardens. Perfect perfect perfect. Animals apparently have no place in this façade of perfection.

A nuisance or something that annoys. The third definition of the word pest is pretty much exclusive to humans, gnats, houseflies, and mosquitoes. If you asked me to name 5 things that I find utterly annoying (aside from gnats, houseflies, and mosquitoes), I’m almost positive they would all be human-related. Let’s try.

  1. Being cut off while driving.
  2. Being placed on hold for longer than 5 minutes.
  3. Cold pizza and warm wine.
  4. Most movie remakes.
  5. People doing TikToks in the grocery store in front of the frosted shredded mini-wheats I have a coupon for.

Before you even argue with me, I get it, I do.  You don’t want potentially life-threatening animals near your home, especially if you have children around. But if you live out in the country, this is just a part of life and you need to learn how to cope with it. Preferably without killing the animals who don’t realize that your home is now smack dab in the middle of what used to be their exclusive space.

If you’re closer to town and you’re dealing with pesky little critters like groundhogs and snakes, there are things you can do to safely deter them from certain areas of your property while still allowing them to, you know, live. If you’re a victim of chipmunk abuse, just pull up Google and look for natural and safe deterrents from these highly hostile, albeit teeny-tiny, monsters. That was sarcasm, of course, chipmunks are cute and harmless, but here, I’ll even do you one solid and give you a link to get started. Or, hey, here’s a novel idea, you could do what you’re always expecting everyone else around you to do… share.

Instead of worrying about the perfect lawn or the perfectly organized flower bed filled with ornamental flora, why not sow wildflowers and plants that attract and feed the wildlife you share this space with? Why not make your garden an oasis for all manner of creatures who, frankly, deserve to be here as much as you do? Instead of finding ways to oust them, find ways to grow your empathy and coexist with the animals.

We have destroyed the majority of the natural habitats that used to grace this planet right along with most of the animals who called those habitats home. It’s now up to us to maintain what is left and to ensure that the wildlife can stay wild and healthy. It’s a ridiculously easy thing to do once you get past the whole “mine mine mine” mindset.

I Just Wanted to Look at Some Memes

There I was, just scanning my Facebook feed for some funny memes and humorous tidbits to help me survive the week. But what do I find instead?  My friend posting about how an owl came down into her yard to tear apart a squirrel. With photos. Cause, you know. Wildlife. Another friend posted about seeing a dog get hit by a car. No context, no lead up to the story, just blam, there in your face as you’re scrolling through your newsfeed.  Oh, and a friend of a friend (cause Facebook just loves to introduce you to new people you have absolutely nothing in common with) whose post you’re not even interested in shows up as well: “here’s a picture of a dead cat I saw down by the bridge,” and that’s it. No lesson to be learned, no particular warning to others, except for maybe if you’re going down to the bridge, you might see a dead cat. Not even to raise money or awareness for a cause, just “hey, dead cat everyone. Heads up.”

One post I had the misfortune of stumbling upon was about two doves that came to someone’s yard to drink, but as the post was sure to point out, only one flew away… and frightened no less. “I mourn with you, Mr. Dove.” Someone commented, being sure to detail the demise of the unlucky bird who was abruptly snatched up by a hawk with dinner plans. Why? Why do people feel the need to share such awful stories with such (seemingly) glee? Oh, sure, these folks ostensibly post these horrible encounters because they’re just sooo sad, but then in the comments, they sure seem to love talking about the thing that has made them sooo sad.  Well, what about the rest of us, I ask you?  Now, we’re burdened with these images that we would very much prefer not to be burdened with, thank you very much.

So, the county historical society decided to post pics of local hunters with their “prizes” – real dead geese – in hand as a “story” on Facebook. There wasn’t any historical anecdote behind the photos, just proud hunters proud of the fact that they had killed something. I mean, why? I get that people hunt, but I’m not sure why they feel the need to showcase the dead animals to the unsuspecting public. I mean, it’s no problem if you’re part of a wildlife group or hunting organization, you expect these sorts of things to be shared, discussed, and what have you. In that case, more power to ya! Share within your own communities all you want! I encourage happiness, morally, ethically, and legally (mostly) of course. But I don’t want to see this kind of stuff in my public feed. That’s why I don’t belong to hunting groups and the like. It wasn’t some sort of ground-breaking story either, and call me old-fashioned but shouldn’t a historical society be posting, hmm I don’t know. Historical things maybe?

In the case of the former, is it like a “misery loves company” sort of thing? With the latter, I cannot even begin to understand the “pride” behind killing something and then pushing photos of said achievement onto the unsuspecting masses. Here I am scrolling along, looking at memes and AITA posts, and then…BAM! A story about a mutilated dove and a dead goose, staring me right in the face. Talk about a buzz kill. But seriously, how have we become so jaded, so numb that it doesn’t even cross our minds that, hey this stark, and startling, photo/story/video might just be upsetting to some folks, maybe I should keep it to myself or maybe, you know, share it somewhere designed for content like this, where folks are expecting it. It just seems like society is all about shock value anymore and those who rail against such random awfulness are labeled “snowflakes” and worse. When did compassion and empathy become bad traits to have?

Some people have a difficult time coming across such things. I’m one of them. It’s the randomness of it, the incongruity of it all, that jars a person. Society as a whole has become an unsympathetic glob of the worst kind of voyeurism.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I really need to find some funny memes.

 

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Seeing Red

So, just recently I had the pleasure of watching the movie Turning Red. I’m sure you’ve probably at least heard the name as it’s been in the news quite a bit lately. It’s an animated coming-of-age film by Pixar (subsidiary of Disney) that tells the story of Meilin “Mei” Lee, a confident, average, dorky 13-year-old girl who struggles with being her mother’s obedient and perfect daughter amid the pandemonium that is adolescence. Her protective, and oftentimes overbearing mother, Ming, is never far from her child, which is a rather unfortunate reality for the teenager. School isn’t even a safe haven as Ming often shows up, keeping an embarrassingly close eye on Mei. On top of maintaining her honor roll grades, navigating relationships, and valiantly trying to to meet her mother’s impossible expectations, Mei Lee turns into a giant red panda every time she has strong emotions… which, as a 13 year old, happens quite often.

Overall, it’s a great movie, I really enjoyed it, and I plan on watching it again. There were a lot of cringe moments in the movie, which went along beautifully with the story, and, if we’re being honest, encapsulated the awkwardness that is being a teenage girl extremely well. I may be a few summers removed from my youth, but not so much that I don’t remember being a 13-year-old girl or what the household was like when my daughter hit the teenage years.  The movie was spot on.  And, if you’re a fan of kids’ movies (like me!) or you have young kids of your own, this is probably a movie you all would enjoy. I highly recommend it.

This brings me to someone else’s opinion on the film. Now, I don’t have any problem with people who aren’t into this kind of thing. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who wouldn’t find this movie, or any kids’ movie, enjoyable at all. Different strokes for different folks, right? But when you’re a globally recognized company with a verified YouTube account and claim to be “the go-to source for today’s information and updates on new movies, tv shows, games, and celebrity news and gossip,” that’s a different story.

According to CinemaBlend’s managing director, Sean O’Connell, it’s a niche film. Now, to be fair, after having read his original review, I thought surely this O’Connell dude must be an old white guy. I was wrong. He’s a middle-aged white guy, and it shows.  So, according to this middle-aged white guy, Turning Red is relatable to only a select few, namely the film director’s friends and family. This so-called managing director goes on to add that “some Pixar films are made for universal audiences. ‘Turning Red’ is not. The target audience for this one feels very specific and very narrow. If you are in it, this might work very well for you. I am not in it. This was exhausting.”  You can check out the drama here. If you ask me, his opinion is shite, um, less than credible. He put his foot in his mouth and then shoved it in as far as it would go while saying hmmm, this tastes delicious.

Okay, let’s start with the “very specific target audience” and these are his words, not mine. The target audience, ok? So the lead is an Asian girl, and Asians alone make up nearly 60 percent of the world population. But ok, that’s just the main character. Who relates to the main character of a story anyway right? Well, the lead, as well as her friends, are all female. Wait a minute. Females? That’s like half the population, right? But for the sake of Mr. O’Connell, managing director, let’s continue. The movie is about kids, primarily young teens, and who knows how many of them exist out there in the world. I’m sure someone has the stats, but I’m guessing it’s a lot. Alright, that does it. Mr. O’Connell, managing director and middle-aged white dude, I’m going to need to see your credentials, because clearly you have no idea what you’re talking about.

So yeah, perhaps the movie’s reach isn’t such a narrow niche after all. Not to mention, that literally everyone can relate to this movie unless you somehow skipped your entire childhood. We can ALL relate to the nerves, the anxiety, the crushes, and most of us can relate to the mother who loves us but will also accept nothing less than perfection. Like I said before, it really is a coming-of-age film. Who hasn’t come of age? I mean, who can’t understand what a young person goes through?

Similarly, Luca is a film about a young boy who experiences an unforgettable seaside summer on the Italian Riviera filled with gelato, pasta, and endless scooter rides. Stay with me here for a minute. So, Luca goes on these fascinating adventures with his newly-made best friend, Alberto, but things take a mysterious turn once Luca’s deep-dark secret comes to light. The fact that he is a sea monster from a world that exists just below the ocean’s surface. Oh, and so is Alberto. It’s a great movie, don’t get me wrong. It even had a similar storyline to Turning Red – a coming-of-age tale where a young person is not all they appear to be. Both stories have a suffocating mother, and both kids want the freedom to be who they are and explore the world. It’s a well-loved movie, in fact, it was rated 4-stars by CinemaBlend. Of course, the leads were all males so therein lies the difference. Mr. Managing Director could relate to a movie about a boy-who-turns-into-a-sea-monster. A. Sea. Monster.

In regard to Turning Red, a few conservative critics have even gone as far to say that the film deals with topics that aren’t suitable for kids. Like periods and girls having crushes. *GASP* I know, right!?  I’m scarred for having watched it.  Scarred, I tell you!  You know what’s a-okay with these conservative critics though? Killing Bambi’s mother. Killing Nemo’s mother. Killing Elsa and Anna’s parents. Killing Tod’s mother (Fox and the Hound). Killing Quasimodo’s mother (Hunchback of Notre Dame). Killing Koda’s mother (Brother Bear). One word, Mufasa. Hmmm… there seems to be a pattern here. Even Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben died in the streets, just the same as Batman’s parents. What else? The hanging of Clayton in Tarzan. Sid, the sadist in Toy Story. But a story about a young teen girl getting her period and experiencing her first crush just isn’t suitable or relatable viewing material.

Here’s the kicker. CinemaBlend called Turning Red unrelatable as compared to other animated films.  What the hell are they even talking about it?  Do they mean Finding Nemo, where the lead is a fish? Or Luca, where the lead is a sea monster-boy-hybrid? Or perhaps it was Finding Dory, oh wait, that was about a different fish. It was probably Toy Story. No, wait, that’s not right either. All the leads in that one were toys. Now I know they couldn’t have been referencing the movie Cars because they were all actually cars. CARS. I love Wall-E, it’s one of my absolute favorites, but even this one is all about AI and robots. The humans in Wall-E are secondary characters at best.

So, what I’m getting out of all this is that CinemaBlend can relate more to a FISH or a TOY than they can a Chinese GIRL. I happen to love Shrek, also a fantastic movie. Soundtrack is phenomenal. It’s a film that CinemaBlend gave 4.5 stars, maybe because they relate more to ogres and donkeys than humans? Misogyny and racism has always played a role in non-kid films, but here you go folks, puffed up old middle-aged white men want to keep girls out of kids’ movies because they’re unrelatable.

A Cheerful Christmas Story, Or Not

Time for a rant. So, my daughter and I were at the local grocery store the other day and we saw this little girl, maybe 5 years old. Well, first we heard her. We didn’t see her till later. And that would be because she was in the walkway at the end of the cash registers on the floor. You really couldn’t see her unless you looked for her or were say, trying to leave the store (since she was blocking the walkway). You could certainly hear her though.

Being the time of year it is, it was about Christmas. Of course, I mean, it had to be, right? She was repeatedly yelling that she wanted presents for Christmas and for Santa to visit her – all in that whiney little voice that only a child’s own mother can tolerate. I was a little late to the party here, but I gathered from the cashier that this precious little light of mirth had demanded candy or whatever and her mother said no. Not only that, but the mother had chosen to pour a healthy amount of salt in that wound by additionally threatening that Santa wouldn’t visit unless she behaved. Bad move, mommy. That bold-faced lie unleashed the kraken hiding within her doe-eyed daughter turning what may have been a manageable tantrum into full on Krampus fodder displaying itself for all to see on the floor of this grocery store.

We all have our parenting style and I’m not (fully) criticizing what this mother did next. I’m just saying that it’s not something I would do and leave it at that. So, the kid is screaming full blast and this mom, rather than step away from her conversation with the cashier, decided instead to proclaim to the child, “NOW, Santa won’t visit or bring you presents unless you get up off the floor.”  Right.

Well, you would have thought that she’d sent an electric shock straight through the air to this child. The little girl splayed herself across the floor with flailing limbs that resembled an 80’s break-dancer and her voice reached a pitch of whine that I thought only possible in a machine shop. And, almost impossibly (but I swear it’s true), her repeated demand that Santa must visit her and must bring her presents, got even louder. It was truly a sight to behold.

Unfortunately, the first possible collateral damage entered the scene in the form of an elderly woman who had had enough and had decided that no matter how curious she might be to see if this demon girl’s head was going to start spinning she’s got other things to do and tried to make her way out of the store. She had to gingerly make her way past this kid without having a leg taken out from under her and breaking a hip. Wonder what Santa would’ve said about that!?

And the mom of this lovely floor ornament? Well, the mother, to her credit, was not the least bit fazed or concerned, certainly not enough to become a proactive participant in this wild scene. In fact, you’d barely know she had a child at all. Instead of physically removing the child from the aisle so the elderly woman could get by safely (which would have been the LEAST of my kids’ problems had this been them), she simply continued repeating her mantra… “Santa won’t visit unless you get off the floor” from the relative safety of the checkout line. What kind of idiotic bribery is this? Good grief, the parenting skills that people use today! Oh wait…skills imply talent or useful abilities. Scratch that. Good grief, what passes as parenting these days! Is this one of those feral children I’ve heard so much about?

I mean, really? Let’s do a little play-by-play. First the girl misbehaves. Next, mom pulls out the Santa’s Watching card. So of course, the girl’s natural reaction is to throw herself down on the floor. Santa’s watching after all, right? Magically though, now Santa visits tantrum throwing kids just so long as they don’t throw their tantrum while flailing about on the floor or take out the elderly woman trying to exit stage left. Oh wait. Okay, well, just so long as you don’t take out the elderly woman, you’re golden. Talk about a bit of holiday spirit perversion. I think Santa would be appalled if he knew he was being used in this manner. I’ve always had a thing for Krampus and I think this may be why.

I wish I could be a fly on the wall of that household when the natural dynamic of this mother and child hits the teenage years. Now that should be a party! Bet Santa’s invite to that one gets lost in the mail.

Blast from the Past

In my old neck of the woods, they have some classic, high-minded, quality journalists on Facebook that keep the community informed and offer helpful tips on how to stay safe. You know, the kind of journalism straight out of the 1950s. Headlines that drag one’s memory back to a time when wives met husbands at the door with a cocktail and doe-eyed kisses, all while balancing delicately on heels and happy pills.

If you can’t feel the sarcasm dripping from these statements, let me share with you their recent report that inspired it. See if you can spot the informational gem in question.

aa first alert redacted

Yes, ladies, close those blinds! Be sure to spend your sun-filled days and early evening hours in a dark hole of false safety. While you’re at it, strap down those boobs, keep your skirts floor-length, and never (but never!) go out at night! Men just can’t help themselves, apparently, and it is your responsibility to not be their next victim! 

What is perhaps most disappointing is that this band of merry journalists are themselves, women.

I was not alone in taking offense at this headline. Several readers, all women, of course, complained. Unfortunately, most of our comments were deleted or hidden. Silencing the voices of the dissenters, the bedrock of quality journalism.

Admittedly, my first comment, made directly to the post, may have been a little snarky:  “Men, here is your reminder to not be a perv and exploit women!” There, fixed your headline for you. Do better, Anne Arundel First Alert.” 

Yeah, perhaps I could have gone a little easier on them, but I am just so sick and tired of seeing these passive headlines.

Turns out, quite a few others made similar remarks.

Someone mentioned how wrong it was to victim blame, and AA First Alert came back with: “We’re not victim blaming at all, and the article does not infer that. But the fact remains, if the blinds or shades were drawn, there would be nothing for the Peeping Tom to peep at.”

Hmm… sounds a little like victim-blaming to me. How dare that woman open her blinds to the beauty of the world outside? Doesn’t she know there are creepy, uncontrollable men lurking in the bushes? Could she not think about them for once!?

wont-somebody-please-think-of-the-children-think-of-the-children

I crafted a more intelligent response to that particular comment and posted this: “As journalists, you should understand that words matter, words have power. Your headline calling out the victim is disappointing. Victim blaming and putting the onus on women to control men’s behavior is misguided and wrong, to say the least. Women should be able to simply exist, especially in their own homes, and men should be able to control themselves.”

Welp. That didn’t go over well. After deleting mine and other comments, they edited their above comment to exclude the But… statement. Talk about journalistic integrity, right?

A male reader commented, “The ‘woke’ women on this page (insert eye roll emoji in place of a period) Taking someone’s wording with good intentions and twisting them to some delusional opinions.” Guess who loved this comment (and others like it)… yep, you guessed it. AA First Alert.

first alert another screen shot

It’s extremely disheartening to see a group of women who are unwilling to grow beyond their own ingrained biases, even more so when they put themselves out there as a voice for the community. It is not unreasonable to expect better from people who are reporting the news. Yeah, I know, I know, I’ve given up on expecting anything better from the likes of FOX News, but still. 

Instead of addressing their own internal misogyny and striving to grow as journalists (which would’ve been an excellent take on their part), they simply deleted the naysayers. I had hoped this group of local aspiring journalists would take misogyny, bigotry, and hate in hand and do better for the community they claim to represent.

Instead, it appears they can’t think past the cliché, pandering clickbait headline. Until they do, they have no hope of becoming credible journalists. 

Have a Glass of Wine with Your Whine

Motherhood is hard. I don’t think anyone would argue that fact. It is a demanding, multi-faceted, over-worked, and under-appreciated, sometimes soul-crushing job. Of course, I know it also brings with it the most profound joy, connection, and love – blah blah blah – so save your comments. I’ll repeat it for those in the back, motherhood is hard.

This shouldn’t be news to anyone. Apparently, this was an unexpected consequence for one woman who decided to write a post for the blog called “Love What Matters.”  It’s not a long read, so please, hop on over and give it a gander. It will also help the below make a lot more sense.

Now, I have a few issues with what Ashley has shared with us, not least of which is the fact that she wrote this under her own name, using photos of herself and her child, so clearly no anonymity was intended. She’s just putting it all out there for the subject of her diatribe, her “very good friend,” to see. But let’s start with the classic debate between stay-at-home moms and working moms. Why do we still argue over who is more deserving of sainthood? Here’s a hint. It’s none of us.

She insults working mothers by claiming, “My job literally never ends. It is 24/7. No hopping in the car, driving to work, clocking in, doing my 8 hours, clocking out.” Oh yeah, cause that’s the fantasy we’re all chasing. She continues with her vision of a working mom, “…driving home to my kids and being with them for 2 to 3 hours for the night routine and then putting them to bed.” As if bedtime is ever that easy. Please.

Does she think a working mom’s job does end? *insert maniacal laughter here* For those who may be wondering, no. No, it doesn’t. And frankly, it’s disheartening to see a mother using this tripe to belittle other mothers. I’ve been both a stay-at-home mom and a working mom at various times in my life, and they are equally fucking hard. Let’s end that tireless debate and put it to rest. Something we all wish our kids would do at a decent hour every evening.  

Then there is the focus of her essay, her “very good friend” going to a bachelorette party. I mean, how dare she!?  I understand the feelings of jealousy, especially coming off such a tough week.  “…near the end of what seemed to be one of the hardest, most tiring weeks of my life as a mother and wife.”  I also get the feelings of hurt that this friend didn’t make it to the writer’s wedding. Although I feel like we are missing a lot of context with that one.

First off, if you choose to have a destination wedding, you don’t have the right to get mad at anyone for not coming. It’s a big commitment, a big ask. People have to take time off work, use their vacation days, spend untold amounts of money to come to a celebration centered around you. Not everyone has that luxury. Maybe this friend wanted to be at her wedding but couldn’t afford the price tag or the time off work. Perhaps now she is in a better financial position to take time off, and it just happened to be for another friend’s bachelorette party (arguably way more fun than a wedding) that was closer to home.

The writer says her friend deserved this trip. Then be happy for her. Don’t write a blog post complaining about how selfish she is to share her deserved adventure with a good friend. It sounds to me as though her friend thought she’d be interested in the photos and what was going on, not lording it over her. Obviously, the writer did not appreciate it.

Ashley questions her friend’s loyalty and commitment to their friendship, but that sure seems like a stretch. On the other hand, Ashley seems almost hateful when talking about her “very good friend,” telling all and sundry “Don’t be that friend. Don’t be rude, don’t be selfish and only think about you.” The lack of self-awareness is strong here, don’t you think?

I get it. The writer had a rough week with her kids. I get it, I do. Unfortunately, that happens in parenting. A lot.

One of the valuable lessons I have learned in life is that if you need something, you have to ask for it (or demand it in some cases). Few people are going to step in and offer help where they don’t think it is needed. People aren’t mind readers. If you need a break from your kids, don’t wait for a friend to offer. Ask directly, plead your case of needing a night away, offer to order them all pizza, and give up your Netflix password for the night. In that case, you’d probably find a willing friend.

Instead of proudly proclaiming that your kids never stay with Grandma, thereby solidifying your martyrdom, ask Grandma if she’s up for some time with the kids. Assuming Grandma isn’t a freak or otherwise unable to care for children, both kids and Grandma might just have a blast enjoying each other’s company. 

Tell your husband that you are on the verge of committing yourself, and it’s time for him to step up and keep the kids for a night. They’re his kids too, after all.  Grab a box of wine and crash on a friend’s couch.

Hire a babysitter for a two-hour dinner with your husband. Or work out a babysitting swap with a friend so you can get some couple time on a regular basis. As a mother, I can attest to the healing power of something as simple as a meal without young children. Even if the dinner is at Denny’s or someplace designed for a smaller budget, it can do wonders for the soul.

Lastly, why the hell is this in a blog called “Love What Matters”? This post is not about love. It is about resentment and blaming others for one’s own lot in life. It is a complaint about the life choices this writer made. She is transferring her frustration and contempt for these choices onto her friend, who was probably just trying to share the joy of her own life. I’d be willing to bet the writer has sent numerous happy pictures of her family to this friend. Hopefully, the friend received those photos with more grace than hers were met with.

 

Behind the Lens

Some traditional cultures believe that taking a picture of a person can capture their soul. Looking at our culture these days, I couldn’t say they are wrong. But at least we have a say in when and where our picture gets taken. Right? Wrong.

When you go out, do you expect your image to grace the lens of a stranger? Women, do you strap on your bikini and head to the beach knowing that an array of men you don’t know will be taking pictures of you? When you look in the mirror before you leave your house, do you inspect your face and body and wonder how you will be portrayed through a stranger’s camera? If not, you’d better start, because apparently, this is a thing. Now, I’m not talking about situations where people record something for the greater good, I’m speaking here of photo-stalking random women at the beach, at concerts, at the mall for God’s sake.

Some of you might argue that, hey, you’re in a public place… no expectation of privacy. Yeah, I get it.  But I imagine that the thought of a stranger taking our picture without our consent is horrifying for most of us.  Despite the public nature of the location, it’s an invasion of privacy that is just downright creepy.

In this age of camera phones and social media, it can be uncomfortable to be in a crowded public space. One never knows who is recording what. I watched a spectacular young woman on YouTube confront two older men on a beach in Florida. Florida, amirite? She caught the men taking pictures of random women in bikinis, then outed them in front of the crowd. She swiped through his photos, yelling at him to delete the images of women he didn’t know, to which he quickly complied. I think we all owe this brave young woman a round of applause!

Unfortunately, this is not a new experience, creepy men thinking they have the right to take a photo of whomever they choose. In fact, my ex used to do this very thing, especially at concerts. He and his friends would secretly take pictures of the girls there and then pass them around. Now, my ex and his friends weren’t teenagers, someone so riddled with hormones they couldn’t think their way out of a paper bag. I’m talking about grown-ass men in their 40s. Secretly taking photos of attractive young women they did not know.

I once invited my ex’s cousin to a community music festival my ex went to every year. Of course, my ex got angry with me… something he did quite often, but in this case, I couldn’t figure it out at first. I thought he liked this cousin.  Then, I realized, this cousin and his gosh darn ethical ways would inhibit my ex’s photo-stalking of young girls. I will confess that upon finding some of these photos and realizing they had been shared, I spoke with the wife of the guy who was on the other end of that text message thread.  She wasn’t happy.  When word got back to him, my ex, the gaslighter extraordinaire, berated me, telling me that I had embarrassed myself and that the wife thought I was pitiful for being offended. Because everyone takes photos of young girls at concerts, then passes them around to their friends with comments about the young girls’ bodies. Everybody does it. And everybody knows that everyone does it. Apparently, I was the only one who didn’t know. Apparently, I was the only one who would take offense or get angry at such a thing. Hey, if gaslighting were a college major, my ex would have graduated with honors. I mean, he’s my ex for a reason.

Maybe taking pictures of random young girls is common. Perhaps sharing photos with your friends of unsuspecting women out on the town or bikini-clad at the beach, or, you know, simply trying to enjoy a freakin’ neighborhood concert, is something that does occur often. But you know what? It doesn’t change the fact that it’s not okay. IT. IS. NOT. OKAY. The men taking these pictures are not typical men (and if they are, then I’ll swear off the gender for good). They are disgusting, perverted, privacy-invading creeps. There, I said it. And I’m not sorry.

Predatory behavior from men is far too common. Unsolicited catcalls, inappropriate texts, aggressive confrontations and pick-up lines, uncomfortably explicit stories with coworkers; these are the ways that men force their sexual preoccupation into our lives. Many people (primarily men, but I’m sure some women) would argue that it’s not bad behavior. It’s just a case of “boys will be boys.” Newsflash, asshole: boys will be boys is no longer an acceptable excuse for predatory behavior. Period.

I’m telling you men, you’ve gotta get your shit together, and if you want to screech “not all men” then bear the burden of your gender and call out this predatory bullshit.

A Tragedy in Two Acts

So, if you’ve been keeping up on the trending news lately, this rant should come as no surprise.

In case you missed it though, here’s the gist:  a woman accompanied by her dogs went walking in the forest by her home in Colorado. She didn’t return home and hours later, her boyfriend found her dead in the woods.  Colorado Parks and Wildlife Service (CPW) showed up, determined that a bear had killed her and immediately started a search for the offending animal(s). They found the nearest bears – a mother and her yearling cubs, and killed them on the spot. Now at the time, they had no idea if these were THE bears or even whether or not the woman had actually died from an animal attack.

And here’s the rant: why do people assume we should just inherently have control over everything? Why is it that when people venture into the habitats of animals, we think we should have absolute control over that habitat and every living creature in it? And if for some reason, a wild animal says hey, fuck you… we respond by killing it. This woman was not in her home. She was in a forest in an area of Colorado that is no stranger to bears. Bears live in the forest. I thought everyone knew this.

When CPW killed the mother bear and her cubs, officials hadn’t even determined the cause of the woman’s death.  As far as I know, those results are still pending. Maybe she died of a heart attack, and the wounds occurred postmortem. Maybe it was a bear attack, but not these bears. In either case, it’s possible that these three bears were simply opportunistic rather than killers. I mean, black bear attacks are exceedingly rare, and it’s not like humans are their natural prey. In fact, black bear attacks are so rare that this woman’s death is the fourth fatal mauling in the state of Colorado since record-keeping began in 1960.

For argument’s sake though, let’s just say it was a bear attack and it just so happened that these three bears were the culprits.  The woman was in the woods… where bears live. Maybe she came across the yearling cubs and the mother bear attacked. Maybe the woman’s dogs went after the bears and the woman paid the price. Regardless of the scenario, the woman was in the woods… where bears live.

As much as I feel for the woman, her boyfriend, and her family, it boggles my mind that humans have the audacity to hunt down and kill something that was, until a human entered its habitat, minding its own damn business.

We will never know what truly happened out in the woods that day, and I am sincerely sorry for the death of this woman no matter the circumstances. But I hope it can be a reminder to others that the forest is the realm of wild animals. They live there. Remember to respect that. The world is full enough of tragic stories.

Assholes Out to Dinner

Even in the age of plastic and pay apps, there are some people who still like to pay for everything in cash. I know, I know, hard to believe… but it’s true.

Some people like the cash-only method because it’s easier to budget when they can see what they have right before their eyes. You can better live within your means if you know you only have $80 in your wallet to last until the end of the month.

Well, a couple I know exclusively uses cash to pay when they go out to eat.  For them, it’s not a budgeting tactic. It’s a means of payment that they reserve solely for eating out, and I do believe there is method to their madness, so to speak. I think they do it as a way to show off to other people. They want the servers, the cashiers, their friends, and even complete strangers in the restaurant to know that they’ve got money. They hear those dollars screaming, “We’ve got it! We’ve got cold hard cash! Look at me and admire it!”

If they lived in Hollywood, their attitude might fit right in. But they’re eating out at places like Cracker Barrel, so I’m not entirely sure why they feel the need to brag. Don’t get me wrong, I like Cracker Barrel as much as the next person, but it’s not exactly an exclusive hang-out. And this story will confound you even more when it comes to the way they show off. It’s not with a fancy Tesla or a Gucci bag.

This story is about 41 cents. Yep, you read that right.

Well, as you know, the past year has seen a major decline in dining out due to COVID. This couple, however, still sits down to eat at restaurants on a regular basis. I know. But what can you do?

This story I’m about to share was told out of frustration. They were upset and angry. They felt victimized and desperately needed to share their story with anyone who would listen. The whole mise en scène had an air of “How dare they?”

Basically, the restaurant where they had dinner didn’t want their waitstaff or cashiers handling money because of COVID. They were asking customers to pay with a card the customers could put through the machine themselves so that the staff didn’t have to touch it – a contactless purchase. No big deal, right? Wrong.

This couple? They refused. Absolutely not. There was no possible way they could pay with their card (even though there was every possible way they could pay with their card). Since the couple insisted, the cashier says, “okay, fine, we’ll take your cash.” I’m sure a huge eyeroll was also in the offing, but really, who can blame the cashier at that point.

Here’s where that 41 cents comes in. The bill was $38.59, and the husband – who was in line while his wife wandered into the merchandise area of the restaurant – wanted to pay with $39. Well, the restaurant (along with the rest of America there for a while) was experiencing a coin shortage – also due to COVID. So, the cashier asks, can we round your bill up to the $39 and donate the 41 cents to a local charity. Other patrons were usually happy to oblige. I mean, right? Who wouldn’t? Pennies add up after a while and charities are hard hit right about now.

Well, the husband felt truly put out at this point… I mean, the audacity of a cashier asking him to donate 41 cents! Just FYI, his wife later concurred, but that goes without saying. He was indignant and loudly – but loudly – proclaimed this was stealing. Stealing.

I’m still trying to figure out how being asked to donate to charity was a form of theft. First of all, the restaurant asked for their consent. Second, when you’re going out to eat anyway (which implies you have the funds for said meal) is the exorbitant sum of 41 cents really all that much to get yourself worked up about? Third, the restaurant wanted to give it to charity! It’s not like the cashier wanted to pocket the money, though at this point, she deserved that and so much more.

I imagine that as this scene was unfolding, there was someone with the unenviable job of ushering the other guests around them. They’re saying, “Move along, folks. Nothing to see here. No stealing, just assholes out to dinner.”

So, then, the husband GOT OUT OF LINE to search for his better half so he could ask her to come up with 59 cents so he could pay with exact change. Because he’d be damned if someone was going to get over on him!

This man would rather cause an outrageous scene and dig around the bottom of his wife’s purse for lint-covered pennies and dimes instead of donating a measly 41 cents to charity. And somehow, he is the victim.

Behind this mask-down-around-their-chin-type of couple, a line is beginning to form. The cashier – who just wants to get through her day without getting sick, is waiting uncomfortably, no doubt dreading the prospect of handling dollar bills and sweaty coins in the midst of a freakin’ pandemic from a couple who is clearly careless in regard to said pandemic and society as a whole. And the couple is ignorant to it all.

As they share this story over and over, somehow proud of themselves, everyone else is just shaking their heads at the assholes out to dinner.

Karen’s Trip to Target

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I’ve seen yet another article that tugs at my last nerve. I know. Shocking.

In this blog article, the author, Jennifer, tells us about a trip to Target that she claims was ruined by a Karen. The article is riddled with hypocrisy, self-centeredness, and a generally unkind attitude towards a woman who suffered the loss of her child.

If you don’t want to read the article, the gist of it is that Jennifer goes to Target with her very young daughter, admittedly lets the child trail behind her and then turned a corner where the child is briefly out of sight, when a woman looks “at [her] as though [she] had done something wrong.” The woman says something along the lines of “your daughter is far away from you,” which (the author again points out) was said with “a tone that implied [she]’d done something wrong.”

Already, Jennifer is taking this woman’s actions as an extreme personal offense with an attitude that considers only one person (and spoiler, it’s not her daughter).

I will digress for a moment to say that Jennifer claims her daughter was only two feet away from her. I don’t believe that for a moment. Want to know why?  Jennifer explains: “I have the pitter-patter of her steps imprinted in my heart.”  So, she could hear her child, but not see her child.  Jennifer also states this about the woman: “…she could have simply watched her from afar to be sure she was OK and when seeing the child united with a parent, left it at that.” If the child was just two feet away, why would there need to be a reunion in the middle of Target?

To be clear, I’m not mom-shaming Jennifer (god forbid *insert eye-roll here*) but rather, just empathizing with the woman Jennifer encountered.  There was obviously reason for some concern. I also believe that’s why Jennifer was so offended at a stranger approaching her: she knew the concern had merit.

Once Jennifer hears the woman say, “I had a child who was taken,” her thoughts immediately bounce to, you guessed it, herself. She is overly concerned with her own emotions—not her daughter’s feelings, not her daughter’s safety, not this woman’s profound grief, but her own feelings of discomfort in the situation.

Then, she has the audacity to write that “if what she is sharing is true; silence is the kindest thing I can do in this moment.” Wow. Her invalidation of another human’s experience is automatic. And she truly believes that putting a hand in this woman’s face and saying nothing is the kindest thing she can do.

The blog ends on a note urging readers to “always be kind and sensitive” because her day was absolutely ruined by a stranger who she refers to as a “Karen.” The whole piece is meant to vilify a woman who lived through a parent’s worst fears—losing a child to abduction. If you ask me, there is a Karen in this situation, and her name is Jennifer.

As soon as she found out that the woman had her child taken and likely has PTSD from the horrific experience, the author could have shown compassion (as she urges her readers to do). Saying “thank you for your concern, I’ll keep her close” wouldn’t have been hard to do. In fact, it would have been ridiculously easy. Even taking one moment of consideration for this woman’s pain could have resulted in a very different experience for both parties. The concerned woman would have walked away feeling heard and Jennifer could have walked away feeling good about her day and how she helped a stranger to overcome an anxious moment in the middle of Target.

Instead, Jennifer felt violated that the woman “projected her PTSD” and “mom-shamed” her. She felt strongly enough that she needed to write this entire blog about it.

What is wrong with people these days?

It is so obvious that Jennifer is criticizing this woman for not showing compassion or empathy while at the same time failing to glance at her own reflection. If she were to see herself in the mirror for who she truly is, she would recognize her shortcomings in that department.

Instead of lighting a fire within herself full of distaste, shame, and anger, Jennifer could learn about practicing gratitude for her daughter, kindness towards others, and how to not take everything so personally. If she did that, there would be one less Karen in the world.