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.

Comedic Fragility

You might know Drew Carey from his 10+ years on The Price is Right. Or you might recognize his name from his big break, The Drew Carey Show, which aired from 1995 to 2004. For me, his name brings to mind the nostalgic improv comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway?

With great comedians like Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie, and Ryan Stiles, Whose Line Is It Anyway? is an iconic American television show that aired in 1998 featuring Drew Carey as the host. The show experienced a reboot, which is still airing today, with Aisha Tyler as the host and starring the same comedic mainstays of Brady, Mochrie, and Stiles.

With fond memories of laughing through the night, I revisited some of the old episodes from the 90s recently, expecting hilarity and wistfulness. Instead, my most profound emotion was disgust. I usually can’t get through an episode without at least rolling my eyes and at worst, cursing at the screen. My main issue, to be honest, is Carey’s blatant homophobia (we’ll save the racism and misogyny in the show for another rant). During the 90s, it’s likely that few people found this problematic. Hopefully that’s not the case in this day and age as we see things with a lens of awareness that we didn’t have in the 90s.

I found it especially troubling considering Drew Carey’s previous relationship (and brief engagement) to celebrity sex therapist Amie Harwick (who tragically passed away in February 2020). You would think that he would be an open-minded or sexually liberated man. This is apparently not the case – at least when we look back at his former actions.

To be fair, the content I touch on is 20 years old, give or take (depending on the season). I’m not implying that Drew hasn’t – or couldn’t have – changed. He could be looking back at his behavior and self-reflecting and reaching the same conclusions I am right now. Or maybe he already has. Or, maybe he hasn’t. We won’t know unless he tells us.

And now you might be thinking – this was 20 years ago – why does it matter now? Trust me. It matters.

We can’t forget history. And yes, that’s exactly what this is. History doesn’t only exist in outdated textbooks and museums. The media that raised us is cultural history. In looking back we can learn valuable lessons and move forward. If we ignore it, we learn nothing.

So, yeah, this is a half-rant half-analysis about Drew Carey’s behavior on Whose Line Is It Anyway? and why it matters 20 years later. This is gonna be a long one, so you might want to take a seat and get comfortable.

If you’ve ever seen the show, you know that things can get out of hand quickly. If you haven’t, here’s the gist. The general format goes like this: Drew reads a card with a prompt. The comedians follow suit accordingly, improvising a comedic sketch. Sometimes these prompts are rather ridiculous like one that asks Colin to act as a dating contestant who is “having passionate secret affairs with Wayne and Ryan’s shoes but must decide between them.” See how things quickly rise to hilarity?

Working on an improv comedy show together, the comedians do their best to stimulate laughter – in the audience and their cohorts. For these guys, getting someone to break character is a huge comedic success. As a quick aside, the main comedians, Colin Mochrie, Wayne Brady, and Ryan Stiles, have been working together in this sort of format since the British version of this game aired… which they all starred in before it was reconstituted for a US audience. Their history together presumably solidified a comedic relationship and also provided ample knowledge on how to make each other laugh.

Sometimes, the best ways to startle each other involve kissing, butt-grabbing, or even licking (the face, people, the face). Which in one extreme case was followed by a comedic show of Ryan swallowing an entire can of Altoids that in turn created hilarity when it just about set his mouth afire (well, they are the curiously strong mints).

All the performers have planted a smooch on each other at one time or another (especially Wayne Brady and Colin Mochrie).  And all the men on the show seem comfortable enough in their masculinity to touch or kiss another man without “jeopardizing” their sexuality or having their “manhood” called into question. That is, everyone except Drew Carey.

Drew often jumps into the final skit of the episode or manages to get pulled into the performers’ antics before the episode is through whether he wants to be or not. He tries to be a team player, but the fact is that he’s just not as funny or witty as the featured comedians. I think a part of this is that he doesn’t feel comfortable on stage – and it shows. Add to that, he seems to be an insecure man whose toxic masculinity prevents him from unlocking his potential.

Whenever Drew finds himself the target of a kiss or a touch of affection from another performer on Whose Line, his reaction is painfully predictable. He withdraws, and quickly. He literally runs away, and sometimes he removes himself from the skit entirely.

If all else fails, and he’s forced to lock lips with another comedian, he slaps his palm across the other man’s mouth, creating a barrier of “safety” for his lips. Clearly, the social stigma surrounding men kissing infiltrated Drew’s brain.

Okay, so you might say, he just doesn’t like being touched… but this behavior isn’t repeated with female guests or the women they pull from the audience. Just his male colleagues.

Time and again he’s shown that that it’s not just his expected participation that has him rattled. He becomes visibly uncomfortable watching the other comedians get cozy. And he feels the right to voice his discomfort freely.

In one scene, the actors form a sort of dogpile, and in the style of the Whose Line handbook for humor, it gets a bit sexualized. Wayne Brady climbs on top of guest Greg Proops and Drew almost loses it.

Attempting to disguise his disgust with humor (unsuccessfully, I might add), Drew tells Wayne, “the way you straddled Greg there, you almost gave me a heart attack. You guys had – his legs were wrapped around you.” And Wayne explains to him in return “it’s for the scene, dude,” as if it were a reoccurring point of contention between these costars.

Why is Drew so appalled at sexualized male relationships? And you might think well, maybe he’s just a family man, he wants to keep his shows clean. Well, he had no trouble with sexualizing his eccentric female nemesis Mimi Bobeck on The Drew Carey Show. His issue isn’t sexuality – it’s homosexuality. And that’s where the problem is.

Why, for so long, has it been an acceptable opinion that there is something inherently wrong about homosexuality?

And why does this opinion, in media, seem to present specifically towards male homosexuality? Female actresses and comedians aren’t similarly ridiculed as their male counterparts for same-sex affection.  Even in everyday life, it’s deemed more acceptable for women to hug, kiss, or generally touch each other. It means they show affection, give support, or display friendship.

Why is it that men giving each other physical affection causes a stir, turns heads, is labeled (with negative connotations) gay? Don’t get me wrong. I know we live in an increasingly progressive society, but we still have a long way to go. Members of the LGBTQ+ society experience more freedom in America now than ever. But they are also still deeply oppressed. And that’s why we need to talk about it. That’s why we need to talk about Drew Carey on Whose Line and why his comments, actions, and behavior reinforce toxic masculinity, heteronormativity, and homophobia.

What’s so wrong about being gay? What’s so wrong about being straight and kissing another man for improv comedy or any other reason, for that matter? For Drew, he probably can’t name it. It’s probably a feeling of disgust and discomfort in the pit of his stomach (or the depth of his psyche) that tells him: being gay is wrong.

He clearly believes that it’s wrong for other men, and it’s wrong for him. At least in these historical episodes of Whose Line.

News flash. Being gay is okay. In fact, it’s awesome. Being straight is okay. It’s awesome too. Being straight and resisting heteronormativity is necessary. We can’t let ourselves fall into these boxes – these cages – that have been built for us by society.

Relying on social ideas about what makes us a proper man or woman is futile. It makes us insecure in our identities. It forces us to judge others unjustly. If you care too much about not seeming gay, you’ll end up looking like Drew Carey: an unfunny homophobe.

If you want to resist heteronormativity, go your own way. Do what makes you happy. Show love and affection to the people who are important in your life (so long as they consent), regardless of their gender.

Analyze what you feel and why you feel it. If someone makes you uncomfortable because of their sexual preferences, behavior, or looks, think about what that says about YOUR values.

That goes for you too, Drew. I wish that you had overcome your insecurities a long time ago. Whose Line would have been better without your comedic fragility and homophobic commentary.

Outdated Ideas

It’s been a while since I ranted, so I figure it’s due. Lucky you, right? As is often the case, anything to do with animal cruelty can send me off on a tangent. So, humor me as I climb up on my soap box to hopefully open a few eyes… or at least, start a conversation.

From centerpieces to carnival prizes, animals are increasingly exploited as a novelty or decoration. The direct physical abuse and killing of animals is an issue at the forefront of many people’s minds (as it should be) but there is an entire world of cruelty that is mostly ignored, or, if we’re being honest, doesn’t even register to most people as abuse.

I’ve seen fish – goldfish and bettas – languishing in brandy snifters or decorative bowls that are far too small to support them so that they can serve as a fancy centerpiece for weddings. What an excellent conversation starter! “Why is that fish swimming upside down, Mommy?” They are literally suffocating in their own filth and contaminated water in teeny tiny containers so that drunken guests can have a distraction. Contrary to what pet stores will tell you, bettas aren’t meant to live in small spaces.  And those lovely tea lights floating over the heads of the fish? Oh yeah, you find those in their natural habitat don’t ya know. And what happens to the fish after the wedding? I can’t imagine it’s anything good. But ohhhh, look how lovely the table is!

Fun fact: human attention spans are now shorter than goldfish.

Along with goldfish, lizards are commonly given away as prizes at carnivals. During the run of the carnival, they are left in plastic cages filled with a hundred or more lizards in god-awful heat and not much shade and then are handed out indiscriminately to whoever happens to have good aim. They suffer throughout the carnival season and then go home to god knows what with god knows who. Lizards are not usually “easy keepers” and need specific food, habitats, etc., at an expense … if you want the lizard to thrive, that is. The kids who win these sentient prizes often lose interest in their new pets, as kids are wont to do, and the animals are then left to suffer away in their bowls until they eventually die – slowly – from neglect. Or, they are abandoned in the backyard … I mean, they’re lizards after all, they should be fine!  And those left over after the carnival? Dumped in the trash. Oh, don’t roll your eyes at me as if to say, “Oh no, they would never do that!”  I’ve seen it. The whole process is horrendous and unacceptable.

Another thing that pisses me off is when people decide to rent animals for their wedding or other momentous occasion as photo props, because, you know… aesthetics. Sure, it’s “your day” but what the hell does that have to do with the white caribou posed alongside you in your wedding portraits? Nothing, that’s what.

Specialty businesses allow people to rent everything from monkeys to caribou to foxes (and everything else, and yes, I mean everything: lynxes, macaws, you name it) and forcing them into unfamiliar and frightening situations. Yes, I get it. You read a lot of Dr. Seuss as a kid, but that fox does not want to be in that boat, and Horton the elephant does see and hear who is mistreating it.

Don’t even get me started on “white dove” releases. However, if you have a minute, I suggest you read this article from The Dodo which is much better written than anything I could hope to do.

For the most part, these animals don’t live great lives as the companies that supply them see them only as an income driving tool – nothing more. They are only a means to an end and when they’ve fulfilled their purpose and no longer line their owner’s pockets with money, there is only more suffering awaiting them as they are then sent to auction, or worse.

Of the many possible horrors that await an animal auctioned or sold off after leading a life already so full of suffering, captive hunts (aka canned hunting) is only one example. If you’re unfamiliar with canned hunting, it is a trophy hunt where animals are kept within fenced enclosures where they stand no possible chance of escaping only to be hunted by humans. The animals found at these canned hunting ranches are typically accustomed to humans and are often purchased from private breeders or owners that hold a surplus of animals from zoos, circuses, or the lovely little “animal encounter” businesses we’ve been discussing. Frequently these animals have been raised and socialized around humans their whole lives and are therefore unafraid of humans… even having been taught and encouraged to expect food when they see someone.

My point is, there is a very important conversation to be had about the treatment of animals that goes far beyond their presence on our dinner plates. We need to think about the way we use animals for our own selfish needs, find the wrong in what we’re doing, and actively work to change it. The first step in the process is simply identifying the problem and, unfortunately, that seems to be the hardest part for so many.

“It takes nothing away from a human to be kind to an animal.” ~ Joaquin Phoenix

You’re Not Helping

So, I wrote this entry a couple of days ago but had delayed posting it. Yeah, I know. Should’ve. Could’ve. Would’ve.  But believe it or not, I try to keep my rants to a minimum for your sake as well as mine. Thinking on it yesterday, I decided I would post it today, to follow up on my Social Distancing – Appalachia Style ramblings. I don’t plan on focusing too much on the pandemic in the future, if I can help it (you know, trying to curb anxiety and all that…), so I figured I’d get these two out in close succession. As it happens, late last night, an article on this exact same subject – though by someone much smarter than me, came across my Facebook newsfeed. Ugh. Am I right?  Even though that writer and I have the same viewpoint, we’re very different in how we approach things (i.e., they’re much nicer than I am), so despite the similar topic, I thought I would go ahead and post this anyway. Especially since I hate letting an entry just go to “waste.” However, I am linking to their article so you can read that too if you’d like – just click on the graphic below.

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People across the entire United States (and most of the globe) are sailing in the same quarantine boat. The stay-at-home orders are in place for countless communities all over the world. I want to first say that I hope everyone is safe at home. With that said, a lot of people out there can probably relate to feeling anxious and stressed, especially those who have been laid off, furloughed, or just straight up fired. I’ve already heard of a few restaurants that were struggling before the pandemic (little mom and pop style places) that have 100% closed their doors for good, due to not being able to cope with the financial storm that is currently destroying a lot of businesses.

We’re all on edge as we scour the news for information on the pandemic both from a worldwide perspective as well as how hard it’s hitting our own hometowns.  It’s truly a scary time. Our government, as usual, is doing the bare minimum for its citizens while bailing out corporations (again) which adds to the stress that a lot of us are all feeling. And then you have the hoarders and resellers taking advantage during a national emergency and creating a shortage where no shortage would exist if people would just act – and buy – normally. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

I want to talk about the so-called self-help nonsense I keep seeing on social media and in articles I’m viewing online. Take this time to learn a new skill!  Take this time to read your massive “to be read” pile of books! Start your own business! Increase your knowledge! If you don’t come out of this better than you were going in, it doesn’t mean you never had the time before, it means you lack motivation, you lack discipline!  In other words, you’re lazy. Yeah, right.

I get that they’re trying to help by keeping everyone motivated (more likely, they have an online class to sell) but some of these are just taking it too far. It’s disgusting how many posts I’ve seen, and continue to see, that are literally SHAMING people if they don’t come out of this situation with a new skill. Or a new business. The privilege and ignorance are showing.

It’s incredibly disappointing, though perhaps not surprising, to realize that so many people lack the empathy and compassion to understand how negatively this situation is affecting others… those who are concerned about having just their BASIC NEEDS met.

Food. Water. Shelter.

Don’t even get me started on medical care. I mean, maybe take two seconds to understand what it might be like to have no income to pay your rent or buy necessities, or to be otherwise stressed out, given the circumstances.

It’s good to aspire to learn more and to do more, but this really is a traumatic experience on a global scale. Many people are already mourning multiple deaths because of this devastating virus. Most people aren’t productive, or even thinking straight when they lose loved ones, let alone multiple loved ones. It’s also hard to be motivated when your body and mind are constantly worried and stressed to the max.  Some people freeze-up or shut down completely when dealing with anxiety overload. It’s a normal response.

If someone can create, learn, and be productive at this time — AWESOME! But don’t judge others if they can’t.

The Fickle Fragility of Fanatical Fandom

If there is an upside to being sick the past few days – acute bronchitis, by the way – it’s that this downtime has allowed me to catch up on my shows, check out what’s new in my fandom groups, and sleep. Although, if you’re familiar at all with any fandom whatsoever, it might’ve been better had I just slept 24/7… which, trust me, it was already close. I think I’ve slept more in the past four days than I have in the last year.

My weekend perusal of the typical fandom groups left me with a bad taste in my mouth. And it’s not those pickles that might’ve been a bad idea to snack on. Maybe it’s the meds or maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t been able to breathe since Wednesday that has me curmudgeonly, but when on earth did we become a society where being a fan of something now comes with a list of rules and regulations seemingly longer and, apparently, far more strict than the U.S. Constitution?

Back in the not too distant past, it was acceptable to enjoy something just for enjoyment sake and discuss said enjoyment mid nibble of an appetizer at a dinner party and the person you were talking to would either nod in agreement or back away in shock… you know, depending.  If you were lucky, you could while away a happy – or heated – half hour of camaraderie discussing your favorite show or book or comic before people started to stare and you both just sort of wandered off to mingle with other, less geeky, party-goers.

These days, not so much. I mean, you’d think it would be easier to connect to like-minded fans, what with the internet and all, but sadly, no. The aforementioned rules and regulations, of which there are many and most are vague, if widely known at all, come into play and work to kill the fandom rather than build it up.

An actual conversation from a Doctor Who fan-discussion group:

Random Doctor Who Fan: Oh, I love Doctor Who, I’m such a fan!

Twatty McTwatterson: Oh, you’re a fan, are you?

Random Doctor Who Fan: Erm, yes.

Twatty McT: Riiigght, well, have you seen every single episode ever made… twice?

Random Doctor Who Fan: Well, no, I really only like the newer ones.

Twatter Von FuckFace: Alright then, that’s not really a true fan then, is it? Jumping on the bandwagon only when it gets cool. Cooler, of course, I mean cooler.  It’s always been cool. But YOU, you’re not a real fan, are you?

Random Doctor Who Fan: I think as long as you really enjoy something and watch it weekly you can be a fan.

Asshat McPedantic: Yeah, well I bet you can’t even tell me…

and proceeds to fire off a bunch of very specific, if not obscure, questions about the show and if the new person to the group can’t answer them in what the self-appointed inquisitor deems to be an acceptable amount of time, then clearly they’re googling the answer and therefore not a fan.

I mean, yikes, right?  But as I’ve sadly discovered, this sort of possessive fandom does not begin and end with Doctor Who.  People experience it constantly with whatever they are a fan of. It does seem to be most toxic in what we might term “geek” culture though *cough cough* it does happen in sports as well. I know, I know, perish the thought.

Speaking of geek culture, both Marvel and DC are filled with fans so driven by their passion for the genre that they are adept at channelling that energy into very positive ways through fanfiction, cosplay, Comic-Con conventions and the like. But equally, there’s a serious division in this world between the, for lack of a better term, regular fans and those who class themselves as the super fans (ha!). They almost seem to have formed a cult-like existence believing that they are the purest form of fan, and they alone have the right to the characters of these comic universes. Only like the movies? Not. A. Fan. There is just no room for posers, people.

Just take a look at what happened with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. We’ll call it Jedi Gate – The Star Wars enthusiasts bat shit crazies lost their minds over the Asian heritage character of Rose. The racial abuse and toxic harassment got so bad the actress Kelly Marie Tran was bullied off social media by these hateful creatures. And what’s even worse is the studio apparently listened to them because, after building her character up to be something important to the franchise, she hardly featured in The Rise of Skywalker. The worst thing a major movie studio can do is give in to these snivelling keyboard cowards over-the-top fans. It sets us back decades each time they do, and it encourages this harmful sort of bullying in the name of fanatical fandom.

My first love – books – aren’t even immune.  Technically, this is a play, but still. Harry Potter fans are where you might think there’s some quaint British-inspired relief from this sort of behavior. But, oh no. When the West End/Broadway production came out, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Potter fans speculated for months on just what the story would be about. They all posted about what they wanted from the play, you know, as one does… and when they didn’t get it, the outrage was, shall we say, palpable. From the casting (gasp!) to the storyline, people were pissed. In a franchise where tolerance, empathy, and inclusion are the mainstays of the literary universe, it was shocking to watch the fandom, or at least portions of it, crash and burn by their own hand. Those members of the fandom who were apparently personally offended at the play, deemed it “not canon.” True fans, indeed. Pfftt.

How have people become so obsessed with these franchises that they seem to have an unhealthy possessive sense of ownership over them? The only people that own these ideas are the people who came up with them in the first place, and the studios that own the rights. That’s it. After that, you get what you’re given and if you don’t like it, fine, you have a right not to, but you can express that without threatening an actress for playing a part, for God’s sake. If you do like it, great! But you also don’t get to appoint yourself the bouncer of fandom, deciding who gets to make it past the velvet rope.

Essentially, I feel the world is interesting because we are all different. We enjoy the same things differently, and our unique personalities mean we can be fans to different levels. Love the Doctor Who classic episodes or just the Tenth Doctor? Still a fan. We can be faithful to the original Star Wars movies only or embrace them all. Guess what? Yep. Still a fan. Just started watching your newest favorite series on Season 4? Still. A. Fan.

And if you want to call yourself a super fan, go for it; have fun. That’s the whole point. Just don’t humiliate or bully others for not living up to your version of a “fan.” There are way too many exclusive spaces in our world as it is, fandom (of anything) should not be one of them.  Repeat after me: I am not the fandom bouncer.