Meeting Place

When I was growing up, our house was the one where all the kids in the neighborhood would congregate. It was a meeting place, a drop off spot for bikes, a checkpoint for organizing the next set of adventures, and a lounge for just relaxing. If my mother ever had a problem with the steady stream of scraped-kneed kids filing in and out of the front and back doors, she never said anything. Or if she did, it was never loud enough for us to hear at any rate. We just lived in a time and place where you could literally yell out the window for someone to come over and they’d be skipping up to the porch 30 seconds later.

Not quite the case when my kids were growing up. Their friends weren’t always in shouting distance. Sometimes a car was necessary to get them where they needed to go. But they did have a few neighborhood friends in walking distance, and for those few, I kept the same policy as my mother. They were always welcome in the house and could always return there after their daily shenanigans through our unsuspecting neighborhood were done.

It was important to me to let them know their friends were always welcome. I mean, so long as their friends weren’t mini drug-dealers-in-training or something…which they weren’t as far as I know.

I will say that there were ulterior motives to letting my house be a meeting spot. I could eavesdrop on the latest juicy gossip. Not only is gossip just fun to listen to, but it also gave me important insights in to my kids’ lives that they might not be comfortable sharing with me directly. Then, I could use these slivers of information to better my parenting. I could support them in ways where I might otherwise be lacking. There are so many pros here and very few cons. It wasn’t always cost-effective having an extra mouth or two or three to feed, but hey, the local dollar store always had cheap snacks and these were passed around to the crew while they were visiting so that everyone had a little something to keep them from starving.  It’s not like they needed a full buffet or 7-course lunch platter.

Not everyone shares this parenting outlook. I recently found an article written by a mother who is simply tired-tired-tired of having her kid’s friend over every day in the summer. Apparently, she feels taken advantage of for the “free babysitting.” Now I’m assuming this kid is not a toddler, I mean, he shows up at her house on his own in the middle of the day, which means he has to be old enough to navigate the neighborhood on his own – so I’m not really sure how much “drop everything I’m doing and watch the kids like a hawk” kind of babysitting this mom is really forced into doing. Oh sure, the kid may be taking up space in her house, but is he really taking up that much more of her undivided time?

When the doorbell rings, this put-upon mom claims her son looks at her funny because his friend is there yet again. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the deer-in-the-headlights look from her son is because he knows his friend was just there and shouldn’t be there again today – I think it’s because he knows his mother is irritated because it’s likely she doesn’t hide her irritation well.  If you ask me, she’s the one feeding that energy, not the neighbor kid.  Or at least, that’s just my opinion (without knowing any of these people…just a wild guess, mind you).

And as the mother states herself, she wouldn’t even think of sending her kid to his friend’s house. My question is, why the hell not? I mean, flitting around the neighborhood, hitting up friends to see who is home, and hanging out is what summer vacation is all about. Plus, when he’s out of the house she would get a little time for R & R (which she so obviously needs if you ask me). Maybe when the friend comes over, she can say, hey, how about you guys go to YOUR house today? I bet they’d love that (so long as he’s not actually trying to escape his own house for some very real, very sad cause…in which case, all the more reason he should be allowed to hang out).

These kinds of spontaneous friendships are special. Instead of trying to squash them, we should be encouraging them.

 

Complimentary Insults

Are you familiar with “blocking” on Facebook? It’s a special filter you can set up on your profile that can, as Facebook works it, “prevent them [certain people you choose] from seeing things you post on your profile, starting conversations with you or adding you as a friend.” Normally, blocking happens when someone gets super pissed off at someone else. It’s a pretty severe move.

I can count on two fingers just how many times I’ve been blocked on Facebook, which I do like to pat myself on the back for just a little. It means I’m “playing nice” for the most part, or at least not angering others enough that they starting trying to do social media’s version of Eternal Sunshine. Overall, it’s an indicator that you like me, you really, really like me…sorry, channeling a little Sally Field there a minute. At any rate, just so you know, I can play well with others (gasp! It’s a shock, I know.) and generally endeavor to do just that.

I found out that blocking isn’t necessarily a bad thing either, though. The first person who ever blocked me was a now ex-in-law who was really better off blocked anyway. That particular instance of childlike behavior (and not on my part) made for a very welcome respite in my life that I have enjoyed ever since.

But recently, I got blocked a second time and this one isn’t going down so smoothly. Oh, I won’t dwell on it for long and the so-called punishment is not likely to change my behavior. However, it did have me shaking my head.

The person who blocked me is someone I thought I knew well – as well as you can know someone you’re only friends with online (and yes, online friends are still friends). We were more than just casual acquaintances even if our conversations were limited to text and emails. In fact, I had supported her through numerous “life is crazier than fiction” issues over the past two years.  I was there for her through a neighborhood bullying problem that got so bad she had to move out of the home she had just moved into only a few months before. I gave her a shoulder to lean on when her pets died. More importantly I stayed true to her when she was blindsided with a completely unexpected divorce.

After being there for her through all that—personal turmoil, death, the disintegration of a marriage—this person blocked me on Facebook. Do you want to know why? The reason she blocked me was over…wait for it…rehoming fees for pets.

You heard me right. Rehoming fees. I’m not using slang that you’ve never heard of. I’m talking about rehoming fees as in “an amount asked for by a pet owner or rescuer when they are adopting or readopting a pet to a home.”

Before going any further, let me say that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, it’s what makes the world go round. But, is it too much to ask that opinions are formed after doing a decent amount of research and communicating with experts who have been in rescue or in the field doing investigations? I’m sorry but if you’re not going to put in the effort to understand why you have a certain stance, if you’re basing your opinion on nothing more than air, you put animals at risk and that frankly, is unacceptable. I’m sure you can see where this is going. Well, you would be wrong.

You might think that because I am a) pretty passionate about animal welfare and b) able to be a teensy bit hot-headed when I’m on a good rant, that I was rude or sarcastic when arguing my case to this former friend. Fair enough. But you’ll be happy to know that that wasn’t the case in this instance.

I coolly and calmly provided my friend with verified information, links, research, and encouraged the person to write her paper — which was her intent for this whole mess — on the truth, rather than simply stick to her baseless opinion out of stubbornness. I won’t even get into the fact that she started claiming industry experts were of the same opinion as her (not saying I’m always right, but…) which was purely and simply a falsehood.  I gave her a good out, but she didn’t take it. Instead, she labeled me an “activist” of the wood boring variety (because I came out of the woodwork just to argue – ha!)  and summarily blocked me, giving me no chance to respond to her ridiculous claims. Isn’t that always the way?

And you know what, I’m okay with that. Oh, I’m not an activist.  But I don’t necessarily consider it the horrendous and belittling insult she meant it as either.  What I am is an advocate.  Hell, I’m proud to be an advocate. Her attitude towards me doesn’t change the truth or skew any of the concrete facts. She can keep her faulty beliefs and maybe one day she’ll be unable to avoid the fact that she’s telling a lie. God help the animals who get hurt in the process though.

And seriously, in hindsight, maybe this whole “being nice” thing is just too damn overrated.

 

common sense

Yes, Online Friends Are Real Friends

I don’t think that being in the same room with someone automatically makes them closer to me. Closer physically, sure, but they don’t have more access to my emotions or my vulnerabilities because they can step on my foot. So when someone says that there’s a difference between “real” friends and “online” friends, I call baloney. Is geography really the main determining factor between whether someone can technically be a friend? In my opinion, and I believe the opinion of many others who are getting more and more comfortable with applications such as Skype, absolutely not.

Both of my kids have friends in other states and countries that they’ve never shaken hands with, but they talk on Skype, share their lives with each other, and have forged close bonds because of this. The fact that they haven’t been able to high-five over a completed level of Halo hasn’t diminished anything. Because they’ve only conversed via video chat doesn’t make them less of friends.

I, myself, have made some strong friendships with people I’ve met online. They care about me and I care about them, even though we’ve never been in the same room. If they were to ask me for help I would give it to them as strongly as if it were a similar friend from around the block. They would do the same for me.

Isn’t that the real meaning of friendship? Not that we share a zip code, but that we care for each other. That we look out for one another. That we offer each other support. Online friend or not, I believe that once you give and receive kindness that’s it—friendship has been achieved.

friends

FB Cleavage (Or with friends like these, who needs enemies)

Riddle me this: What would you do if you were clowning around on the internet, maybe visiting the very popular site Reddit, and saw a picture of yourself posted with lewd comments about you from strangers across the country? The picture itself may not be lewd. It might be a shot of when you were at a baseball game wearing a t-shirt of your favorite team. All that you know is that you did not put that picture on the site and you do not know any of the people who have leered at it. Spoilers: this site gets all of its material from so-called “friends” on Facebook.

Sounds like make-believe, right? You shouldn’t have to worry about anything like that happening because, c’mon, has our society really sunk that low? Oh wait, yes, yes it has. The Huffington Post wrote a report a while back (but I just happened about it recently) about a new page on Reddit called “Facebook Cleavage.”  Its creepiness is very simple. As the name implies it’s a page where anyone with Internet access can view women – most of whom are sporting  various degrees of cleavage or have on short shorts, are maybe just have pigtails, or possibly wearing roller skates, all of the strange and sometimes incomprehensible tropes that men supposedly find desirable – at their leisure and sans consequence. Oh, but it gets better.

These women are not models. Or at least that appears to be the primary goal of the site. I’d venture to say that most of them (upwards of 99.9% of them) don’t even have a clue that their picture is even on this page. How gross is that? What makes it even worse is that if you go to the site you won’t be inundated by images of models laying seductively on the beach in string bikinis or bending over the hood of a car with garden hoses in their hands. No, these are just regular pictures of women on vacation, taking selfies, partying with friends, in a restaurant, wherever. Yes, they’re sexy.  That’s the point.

In short, this page only exists to objectify women who, in all likelihood, don’t even know their photos are on the site. And before you even go there — no, it’s not the woman’s fault for posting a photo of herself in a bikini or taking a selfie shot that exposes her cleavage or god forbid that photo of her and her friends at a party.  It’s one thing when a woman decides to post a photo to her Facebook wall. That’s her choice.  It certainly doesn’t mean anyone and everyone should be able to then steal it and post it willy-nilly wherever they want. But that’s exactly what’s happening.  What I can only assume are mostly guys are now stealing those photos and plastering them on a page meant only to soothe voyeuristic tendencies.

Obviously the pictures can only be posted by friends of the girls (or whoever might be privy to their Facebook timeline), but what kind of “friend” does this? Okay, so did I mention the creepy factor behind this whole venture? If not, now is a good time to bring up the “ick” factor of having these kinds of friends.

The page, in a terribly transparent attempt at decency, has a set of five rules but even that goes down in flames pretty quickly. They are as follows:

1. Find sexy pictures of your hot Facebook friends. Upload the pictures to imgur.com, and submit them here.

2. Doesn’t have to be cleavage. Any sexy pic will do.

3. Don’t post pics that don’t come from Facebook. You will be banned.

4. Only post people of age. Underage posts will be removed. And user banned. Report underage posts to the mods.

5. Please don’t mention real names.

Notice that none of these rules have anything whatsoever to do with getting permission from the girl before you post. Apparently, that’s not anything to be concerned about. I mean really, why would it be?

I have no idea how much traffic this page gets (I’m sure it’s a lot), but just the mere fact that it exists is enough to make me shake my head.  And again, it really makes me wonder just what kind of person would look at their friend’s Facebook photos and decide, “Hey, I know! I’ll steal this private photo of my friend and post it for everyone on the internet to see and ogle!”  With friends like that, who the hell needs enemies?