Stupid Games. Stupid Prizes.

This post was originally written way back in 2014.  I thought it was worth revisiting. Not because the show in question was re-aired recently but because in a general conversation I was having with someone this week, they mentioned that they’d like to travel to another country and they gave the exact same answer mocked in this very postBefore you roll your eyes at me and make excuses for them, you should know they live in the United States just like me. I weep for the future as we descend ever deeper into the plot of “Idiocracy.”  

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Family Feud, Where Facts Need Not Apply…

Sometimes the best way to win a game isn’t by swinging for the fences every time. Occasionally getting an answer “wrong” turns out to be the best way to the top of the leader board. It’s called strategy. Having trouble thinking of the kind of game that would reward not getting “correct” answers? I have one for you that my daughter and I would absolutely demolish if we ever got picked to participate.

Family Feud.

Not only are our minds deep, vast reservoirs of completely useless information, but we also understand how stupid the human population can really be. That’s really the key point that would give us an edge on the show we love to binge-watch. You see, Family Feud is not based on correct answers, it’s based on what other people think are correct answers.

If you’ve ever watched TV since the 1970s you’ve probably caught a show or two and know how it’s played. But just in case, here are the rules: 100 people are surveyed on pointless questions (If your house caught on fire what would be the one thing you’d save? What are the most relaxing things to do on vacation? When you get on a plane what is one of the first things you do? On a scale of 1 to 10 how pretty do you think you are without makeup?) On one episode I saw, five (yes, five) of the 100 people answered a question thinking Hawaii was a separate country. The question was this: Name an exotic country?

Now it bears repeating… five people (presumably Americans) out of 100 thought Hawaii was a country.

So you see how my daughter and I might etch out some wins. To succeed at Family Feud, you can’t simply give answers that make sense, because as it turns out, not all of them will. What you want to do is give answers based on what you think 100 people off the street might say. Doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong, just that someone said it. For instance, name an exotic country. Answer: Hawaii. Yeah, we know that’s not true, but according to the survey that doesn’t matter. A wrong answer can garner you $20,000 and a brand new car.

And this is our strategy for winning. Don’t presume that everyone roaming around out there isn’t grossly misinformed about the world they’re living in. Sad, but profitable.

Petty is as Petty Does

If I’ve heard it from one teacher, I’ve heard it from 1,000 “Wendy, you’re an underachiever!”  Or “You have so much potential, what is wrong with you!?”  Well. Those teachers would be eating crow today. For today, I achieved a feat almost unheard of in modern times. Are you ready?

I got kicked out of a Murdoch Mysteries discussion group on Facebook this morning. I know, I know, don’t all of you applaud at once… my ears, they’re aching! I don’t blame you for being awe-inspired though, it’s an impressive achievement, if I do say so myself.

Murdoch Mysteries is a show set in late 1890s to early 1900s Toronto. It’s a terrific show, I highly recommend it. My erstwhile Facebook discussion group, not so much.

I’ve always thought that Facebook was full of cliques if not clichés and there is nowhere that this more evident than in Facebook groups, regardless of the topic.

While boasting a large-ish following – and despite a name that implies participation (Murdoch Mysteries Discussion Group), this particular group allows just a small band of people – admins and presumably the admin’s friends – to post or otherwise participate in the commentary. Others are routinely muted or the post deemed off-topic or conversations simply disappear. I get that some group admins can feel an overwhelming sense of power given their seemingly complete control over their realm and its citizens. They smite members and create arbitrary rules on a whim. And yes, I also understand that it’s “their group, their rules.” I suppose I just assumed that a discussion group would have some form of … discussion.

Today, someone who is tight with the admins was bashing the members, as a whole, for constantly asking “when will the show be available in my area!?” A question that they can “basically google themselves if they weren’t so freakin’ lazy.”  It’s an annoying question, I’ll give them that. But bashing members is “against the rules” and besides, it was a stupid, self-serving post. There. I said it.  Anyone else, and it would’ve been gone almost before it hit the interwebs.

My comment of “How does a post like this help to further the discussion of Murdoch Mysteries?” was deemed, you guessed it, bashing a member.  Hence my ouster. It was really kind of funny, actually. The OP (original poster) immediately – but immediately – tagged her friend, the admin, and well, there you go. Tattling, adult-style.

Now, my feelings aren’t particularly hurt due to my ejection from the group. It’s not the first door to hit me in my… well, you know what, and it won’t be the last. Although, I assumed it would be over something a bit more dramatic and worthwhile. I disappointed myself in that regard.

 But it does leave me with one burning question:  Does high school ever end?

A Treacherous Tale, or The Infamous Grocery Store Run

These days, a day in my life is pretty uneventful. With quarantine keeping most people, including me, at home as much as humanly possible, I only leave the house for the bare essentials. And even then, I try to get things delivered to my house when I can.

Over the past several months, I’ve become accustomed to doing my grocery shopping online and opting for curbside pickup. When I’m feeling extra lazy, I have them delivered. Whoever thought up free grocery store delivery is a freakin’ genius. At first, I was skeptical about having other people pick out my produce, but it is seriously the best idea. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should.

I’m telling you, when I opt for curbside service I get my food with minimal or no human interaction. That’s great for me as someone with social anxiety. Being in crowds makes me excessively nervous, and my crowd anxiety has only worsened since COVID-19 started. Oh, and it’s super convenient. I love it. LOVE. IT.

Well, with the holiday season upon us, a lot of people must be treating themselves to the relaxation and relief that comes with not having to do the weekly shopping. I assume this is the case because no curbside appointments were available anywhere, and I was forced (forced, I tell you!) to go to the store and actually do my own shopping last week. Can you imagine!?

I hadn’t picked up an item off the shelf in who knows how long. Did I even remember how to shop? I wasn’t entirely sure.

Back in the day (aka before quarantine), I used to organize my list, create a plan of attack to be as quick as possible, and execute my shopping trip with stealth and speed. I would even draw out a rudimentary map of the specific store I was visiting to make my visit that much more efficient. My grocery shopping skills today are a bit rusty.

As I prepared to leave the house, I realized I might not be ready. When I arrived at the store, I realized that I may never be ready to shop in person again. As I searched for parking, my anxiety turned to irritation. There were no spots. When I found one, guess what was there? A collection of rogue carts.

Finally, I found a place to park my car. As I headed into the store, I saw that my list was a mess. I hadn’t organized it because I never have to when I picked up my groceries. Frozen foods, produce, snacks, and canned goods all fell on the list willy-nilly wherever they felt like it. It would have to do — it was too late.

The store was packed with people, which is the worst possible scenario if you ask me. I can spend an hour max in the store (or in any crowd for that matter) before my patience runs out. Forty-five minutes if I’m being honest. Okay, fine, thirty minutes tops and then what I euphemistically call “my window” has slammed shut.

This trip was also the worst. It seems that I hadn’t been to the store in so long that they changed all the aisles around. I mean, why? Just why? I had no clue where anything was. On top of that, it seemed like the ‘COVID-19 panic’ of 2020 hadn’t subsided because basic items were out of stock.

Settling for the worst choice dish soap is one thing, but not having any toilet paper is another. As an aside, what the hell is up with hoarding toilet paper during any and every crisis from snowstorm to pandemic? I mean, come on, people!

Halfway through my trip, one of the wheels on my cart started to stick. Pushing the cart became such a pain that I abandoned a quarter of the items on my list. Although to be completely truthful — that wasn’t the only reason.  When I ended my trip in the dairy aisle, it seemed as though I had missed all those items along the way.

See, you laughed earlier, I know you did, but this is exactly why I always have a rudimentary map and plan of attack. Except this time. This time, admittedly, I was wholly unprepared for the grocery store chaos. My trip was now approaching that hour threshold, with not much to show for it, and I was not about to walk back and search for the errant foodstuffs on my list.  Any recipes with those ingredients would just have to adapt.

Luckily, I found a somewhat short line. But there must have been some trouble with the register or with the customers (spoiler alert, it was the customers) because it seemed to take an eternity. My anxiety became even worse as I stood in line listening to the monotonous beeps, chatter, and rustling of the grocery store.

Once I could finally escape, I pushed my wonky cart out into the open air — and rain. Great.

As the raindrops pelted my groceries, I hoped that the water wouldn’t ruin any of my paper-wrapped products and booked it across the parking lot as fast as I could with my wonky wheel.

After lugging all my groceries into my condo, we were all pretty wet. It seemed an appropriate ending to the day.

What was for dinner, you might be wondering. I’m glad you asked. Cereal.

Reel Life

If you’re anything like me, you love to watch movies. You might even shape your world view and expectations around them, knowing that the real world will fall short, leaving you disappointed and disillusioned again and again. And to cope, you’ll just watch more.

It’s a cycle I’m fully aware of and entirely content participating in.

Sometimes I even try to take advice from movies, but life always gets in the way. Take Under the Tuscan Sun for example. Since 2003, Diane Lane has been convincing women that the solution to their problems is to move to Tuscany. She’s not wrong.

Okay, Diane, I’m in. Yes, I would love to move to Italy and solve all my problems by running away from them. I’ve got half of that down already.

Except, how am I supposed to afford it? Is there some sort of waiting list I need to sign up for?

In the movie (which is based on a book but doesn’t really follow the book like so many other movies based on a book), Diane’s character takes a singles trip after her marriage fails. In Italy, she decides she’s not coming home — ever. The whole time it feels like she’s taking some massively brave leap into uncertainty. But she also seems to have an endless supply of cash. With a safety net made of money, her spontaneity feels a little less risky.

I would love to be casually wealthy — you know, to the point where no one talks about how unusual it is to have so much money in the bank for no apparent reason. And I would love to just up and move to Italy and never come back.

Oh, and if I could have Diane Lane’s looks while I’m at it, that would be great. I mean, come on… the woman is gorgeous and doesn’t appear to age at all.

Unfortunately, the only remote similarity between my life and hers in Under the Tuscan Sun is a cheating ex-husband.

If I did have enough money to visit a foreign country and never come back, I would go to Ireland. And if my life were written and produced in Hollywood, I would ask to have a fairy tale ending like Amy Adams’ character in Leap Year.

Do I want to meet my soulmate in Ireland? Yes, please. Am I going to? Probably not. I’ve never even been to Ireland, and I think getting to the country in question is probably a prerequisite to meeting your soulmate there.

Life just isn’t the same in the real world versus the reel world.  Go figure.

Look at Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. Her character goes through a divorce (do you sense a theme here?) and soul searches across the world — regardless of how much money it costs.

I’ve got the divorce and the soul-searching, but I don’t think I’ll ever have the cash to find myself in Italy, India, and Indonesia. I mean, who does? Well, besides Elizabeth Gilbert, the woman who inspired the movie Eat, Pray, Love.

In the film, our heroine is seen as a brave risk-taker, but the real risk would be to try that trip without a disposable income. I’m not crazy or desperate enough to try that. At least, not yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against our wealthy traveling heroines — hell, if I were in their place, I’d be on a plane tomorrow and never look back.

But it’s just all so unrealistic. I guess that’s the escapism we’re drawn to when we watch movies.

Some movies, like About Time, break the illusion with outrageous elements like time travel. On a basic level, I know we all understand we’ll never be able to travel back in time, but I think it still leaves some of us wishing we could control the event in our lives.

As for most of these other movies, they leave us wishing we had more dough in our pockets. And not the brioche variety. Although now that I think about it, one can never have too much brioche.

Maybe that’s why we watch these movies in the first place. So we can live vicariously through others in a way we never could in real life.

It seems quite depressing, doesn’t it? Acknowledging that life will never be like our favorite movies is no fun. Yet we continually and willingly subject ourselves to these escapist fantasies. What the hell is that all about? Speaking of which, I think it’s time for another good romantic comedy movie binge. I’m nothing if not a glutton for punishment. It’s entertainment, after all.

Crazy Rich Asians seems like a good choice, although I’m certain I’m past the age of marrying into money. Oh, well. One can dream. And I do like to dream.

At least the characters always find their perfect happy ending, even if we don’t.

 

Just Another Day

Don’t you just love those mornings where you wake up peacefully – and rested – before the alarm starts blaring in your face?

I do, too, except I don’t get them often.

My sleepy eyelids resist opening to the harsh sunlight, and I think “the world seems too bright.” Wait. It is brighter. What time is it!? Am I late?

Suddenly rushing from peace to panic, I check the time. I’m late. Again. I roll my eyes instinctively. What else is new? Now that I’m rushing to get ready for work, I’m sure that everything that can go south will go south. You know, Murphy’s Law and all that.

Even putting on pants feels like a nightmare, and yes, I am wearing pants. But hey, at least there’s coffee.

Apparently, the Keurig is in a mood today, because it seemed to say “yeah, you thought there was coffeeas it malfunctioned. Again. Instead of receiving the large cup I desperately needed, the machine offers me an uber small cup that tastes (and feels) like a gelatinous espresso.

The concentrated dose of caffeine in that elf-sized cup of Joe motivates me to get out the door, finally, where it’s raining? Seriously? After running back inside to fetch my umbrella, I rush to the car – that needs gas. I could’ve done it yesterday on my way home, but I naively thought Oh, I’ll get it in the morning. Procrastination always comes back to bite me, but somehow, I still haven’t learned. At this point, I probably never will. And I’m okay with that.

Except when I’m running late for work in the pouring rain, the car’s gas tank is nearly empty, and I’ve only just realized I left my lunch on the kitchen counter.

I let out my anger on the road… as usual.

The Keurig’s makeshift espresso from this morning gifts my coworkers with a second-hand buzz that may cause some serious suspicion over my substance intake. With a fast-talking attitude and fidgety movements, I barrel through my work with superhuman speed and a not-so-mild caffeine-induced anxiety.

It sure made the morning meeting pass quickly; I’ll say that much. Although that may be due in part to my lack of attention – which I only realized when I was unexpectedly called on. Instead of answering the question with any form of coherence whatsoever, I was instead dealing with a series of traumatic high school flashbacks. George Washington! No? Oh, wait, 42! Mesopotamia! The Battle of 1812! Wait, what were we talking about again?

Well, once that was over with, I remembered my lunch sack, sitting sad and alone on the kitchen counter. I guess I have another lunch date with the vending machine while Holly, the ne’er-do-well, is no doubt snacking on my tuna salad sandwich. The vending machine isn’t the best date, though – it ate my money, again. I think it was even hungrier than me this time.

As the crash from this morning’s coffee begins to seep its way into my psyche, I am less than elated to run into Karen coming out of the ladies’ room. I’ve done my best all morning to avoid the office gossip as best as I can, but when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.

I just want to shout NO KAREN. I’m not interested in Kathy’s marital problems. And you shouldn’t be either.

Even though I did my work with the speed (and disregard) of a tornado, I managed to leave work late. As the last one out, I set the alarm behind me.

And as soon as I heard the click of the lock as I shut the door, I realized I left my umbrella on my desk. It is now pouring rain, and my car, having also been one of the last to arrive, is not nearby. Just go back in and grab the stupid umbrella, I hear you say. Ahhh… you see, while my employer trusts us enough to set the alarm, they do not trust us enough to have a key to get back in once we leave. But as someone who loves to see the positive for every negative, I think at least I won’t need a shower.

Once I got home, I was finally able to have a home-cooked meal… even if I did burn it. Last time I summoned a full-on demon, so this is still a step up from that one.

The rain must have been worse than I thought because the internet went down. It wouldn’t be an issue, except for the fact that I began a very serious Friday the 13th marathon yesterday. Without the tools to finish my binge, I suppose I’ll read instead. Not a bad alternative.

Or so I think until I realize halfway through chapter 5 that an entire section of the book is MIA. Don’t ask me why or how, there are no answers here. And no mid-book chapters either, apparently.

Well, I read on, hoping context clues and even some small leaps can help me navigate my way to the ending. After chapter 10, I realize that missing section must’ve been pretty important because I have no clue what’s going on anymore.

I sigh, putting the book down and feeling like that might just be the best metaphor possible for my life.

Shutting the Book on Bookstores

I have to share something devastating with you. You might want to sit down for this as you may be as shocked as I am.

The Barnes and Noble at the Inner Harbor, Baltimore has closed its doors for good. I know, right!? I can hardly imagine it. What used to be a multi-level oasis of pure happiness is now an empty building full of lost hopes and dreams.

photo credit: tripadvisor

photo credit: tripadvisor

photo credit: tripadvisor

No more new book smell. No more window shopping for little gifts and trinkets. No more reading in the aisles. No more meandering through row after row of the written word.

In experiencing this heartbreak, I wonder who else might be coping with the closure of their favorite store. Who else has lost a cherished brick and mortar place of business where they could physically purchase joy in the form of art, books, or other cultural goods?

We’re all aware that as our world shrinks down to the size of a laptop, we have become increasingly geared towards technology as online storefronts replace physical ones. Ecommerce is the big buzzword. Our lives, more and more, are lived through social media rather than tangible experiences.

So, are we, as a society, eschewing tangible books for mass-produced TikTok soundbites, YouTube beauty vlogs, and online shopping? Has Amazon finally killed the bookstore? And are we going to hold Jeff Bezos accountable?

Or can the death of the bookstore be attributed to the increasing availability and convenience of ebooks and audiobooks? Did technology like the Kindle usher in the slow demise of books as we know them?

Over the last twenty years or so, I have seen bookstore after bookstore close down. At first, it was the small, independent shops… between the big box stores and Amazon, they just didn’t stand a chance. Now, apparently, even the big chains are feeling the heat of our melting society. It’s disheartening, truly. I think of the 1998 film, You’ve Got Mail, where Meg Ryan plays a boutique bookstore owner. Her little shop struggles against the competition of the corporate Fox Books company and ultimately, her bookstore fails. Barnes and Noble is like the Fox Books of the real world. The irony that we’ve come full circle in this scenario is not lost on me.

Speaking of You’ve Got Mail.  Meg Ryan’s character falls in love with the owner of the company that ruined her beloved business. What’s that about anyway?? Even if he is Tom Hanks, I just don’t get it. It’s a good movie, but that resentment should feel more realistic. And it would read more like a tragedy than a romance.

Online shopping was already a huge business.  As we continue our lives through the pandemic, more and more people turn to Amazon and other ecommerce stores for their shopping. While some small bookstores remain afloat, will they be able to survive?

Bookstores, as you might have guessed, are one of my favorite places. They live and breathe creativity. The paper, the stories, the shelves, are all embedded into the very fabric of that magical place. It would be such a shame to know them only as a memory.

 

Do Not Disturb

Have you ever noticed that people are usually content to sit quietly and leave you in peace – until you have headphones in. Suddenly, your earbuds are like a beacon to those around you, begging for them to interrupt your music or podcast session for pointless conversation.

Perhaps you’ve encountered a similar scenario: you’re on the bus or waiting for public transport and decide to relax, unwind, let the sweet sounds of music carry you away while you wait. You close your eyes as you listen. You’ve just settled into the rhythm; your stress levels have started to decline when you feel that dreaded sensation – the annoying tap-tap-tap of a stranger’s finger on your shoulder. You open your eyes and see the stranger peering at you, uncomfortably close to your face, and gesturing for you to remove the blessed buds from your ears. You try to mask the annoyance on your face, maybe even swallow a bit of rage as you oblige, and force a polite, “Yes?”

“What stop is this?” They ask. Your eyes slide up to the sign directly above their heads, and you inwardly sigh as you reiterate the same information that is clearly stated mere feet away from their line of vision. As they nod at you, you gingerly place your earbuds back in place and desperately try to find the feeling of peace you just had.

Maybe the scenario has been slightly different, but we’ve all been there, right? At one time or another, we’ve all been enjoying our fleeting moments of solitude only to be interrupted by some well-meaning (or not-so-well-meaning) stranger who simply must speak to you. My favorite is when they make a big deal about interrupting you just to ask “whatcha listening to?”

And ladies, I’m sure we can all appreciate those times when a not-so-gentleman beside us has relentlessly tapped our shoulder in what can only be described as a concerted effort to annoy us into removing our headphones, only to try out his best one-liner, usually of the negging variety.  I have yet to meet a woman who fell in love on the 7:05 train to Newark. Especially when the unwanted suitor just interrupted Agatha Christie.

Or, you’re at work, just trying your best to get through a hectic day without becoming a headline or needing bail money. You’re there in the break room, you’re obviously at lunch, and you’re trying to get in a few chapters of that audiobook you just started and lo and behold… in comes the coworker with boundary issues.

Why is it that as soon as you put on headphones, you’re suddenly much more popular than you were five minutes ago sans headphones?  I mean, it’s like you’re wearing a sign that says, hey, interrupt me, no, please go ahead, I’m not doing anything at all here like listening to a book or letting the music calm my frayed nerves or really, anything at all important… I mean, honestly, I’ve been waiting here impatiently for someone to notice that I have my headphones in, so really, go ahead. Interrupt me.   

Sometimes I have to wonder, are these people actually that eager for human interaction that they would force themselves into your world of earbud bliss? Or do they find some enjoyment in seeing your stunned face as they yank you out of your reverie?

Let the masses hear my plea: if you see someone with headphones in, whether they’re on the bus, in the break room at work, or walking through the park, for the love of all things good and holy…

DO NOT DISTURB.

Life With No Regrets

I know I’ve mentioned my book club a few times, but much like my family, they offer so much material! The other day, a member asked a question that I personally had a very hard time answering. Other members were ready with a quick retort – most in the affirmative, which, once again, left me shaking my head… since you know, it’s a book group.  I know you’re frothing at the bit to hear the question, so here you go. They asked, “What books do you regret reading?” I know, right!?

I felt as though they might as well ask, “What air do you regret breathing?” I was, however, in the minority. Apparently, people regret reading quite a bit.

Now, you might be thinking of those heavy books, the ones that stick with you for life. And I mean emotionally weighty—not those insanely thick, must-have-on-you-at-all-times textbooks we got in school. I mean the ones that you carry in your heart. The ones that put you in a bad way if you think too much about them. The ones where you learn about the harsh realities of the real world.

The ones where the dog dies.

Even though these books don’t make us feel warm and fuzzy inside, they have value. They teach us something. Maybe we learned about the atrocities of WWII; the holocaust, the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the Japanese concentration camps in America. As horrific as it is to accept, we learned something about humanity in all this history.

Or maybe the heavy book taking up space in your heart is fiction. Maybe the main character, the little girl you were rooting for, the girl burdened with unimaginable pain and sadness, the girl who shows compassion and strength, the girl who feels so real, dies at the end of the book. And you are heartbroken. And you are so moved by this, you are sobbing and letting tears run down your face and onto the pages. Reading can transport us into worlds where we are free to feel and express our emotions — good and bad.

How can you regret anything that makes you feel? Makes you learn. Makes you open your mind. Makes you grow.

Now you might think, “Well, what about a book you hated? One that was just bad.” Ahhh, but that wasn’t the question. This was a question of regrets. Bad writing is bad writing, but even then, regret reading? I don’t think so.

Reading, no matter what it might be, helps us to engage critically with ideas. Reading informs us in so many ways—not just by presenting facts like those heavy textbooks from a soon-to-be bygone era. It helps us to practice forming our own opinions. It gives us the gift of expanding our language, our imaginations, and even our aspirations.

No matter what the book is about, who it is written by, or what genre it falls in, reading a book is like taking a walk. By the end, you’re somewhere else. And even if we didn’t enjoy the journey, we saw something new.

So, instead of having an answer in my book club discussion, I only had another question: Can you really regret reading a book?

What Women Want

Take a look at any men’s health magazine the next time you’re in the grocery store. Notice the sheen of sweat that seems to be perpetually glistening on their skin, as if they’re in desperate need of a shower… or two. Admire the outrageously formidable, perfectly-formed pecs and cartoonishly rounded biceps. Drink in the sight of over-stimulated veins stretching across their forearms. Think ‘The Hulk’, but on steroids. This is every woman’s dream, right? Yeah, no.

This so-called ideal body type is being forced down men’s throats by other men. Just watch any superhero or action movie… the leads with biceps on top of biceps on top of biceps in some twisted homage to Popeye the Sailor Man, back muscles that you didn’t even know humans had, and abdominal muscles so defined you could count the muscle fibers. Women don’t admire the over-the-top superhero bod nearly as much as men do. It’s a power fantasy written by men for men. Being ripped isn’t appealing merely because they’re “more attractive” as a man; it’s more appealing because more strength equals more power.

Unfortunately, too many men buy into this whole idea that the sinewy, veiny, glistening body type is the only one that women desire.

Sigh…

The women I know don’t want the piles of muscles and veins. And we can do the rescuing for ourselves, thank you very much. We don’t need Johnny Protein Powder to do it for us; we’ve been doing it for years before he came along.

What do women want, you ask? Let’s start with a brain that doesn’t have its cells clogged by creatine. They want your chivalrous (note: chivalrous, not chauvinistic) actions to show how much you care for them, six-packs be damned. Rather than the models on work-out magazines, give us a man with substance.

Give us David Tennant and the Tenth Doctor’s undying affection for those he loves.  Give us Timothy Olyphant from The Crazies, who refused to flee a zombie-infected area without his wife because he was so devoted to her. Of course, I would be remiss not to mention Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. While he may have been an arrogant asshole when we first met him, his heart was in the right place.  There’s a reason why women loved Jim Halpert in The Office. It definitely wasn’t his work-out routine. Laurie from Little Women was aloof and misguided at times, but he was fiercely devoted and loved passionately. I’d take a Laurie over a Hasselhoff any day of the week.

So, men, you want to know what women want? Go ask your women friends who their fictional crushes are. I dare you. You may be surprised at their answers.

 

Keeping Up Appearances

Ladies, we all know that the pressures of society are a considerable weight to bear. Day after day, we get advertisements and marketing ploys shoved in our faces demanding that we look younger, thinner, more done-up than can ever be achieved naturally. If you don’t look good enough, someone is bound to tell you. But careful! If you look too good, it’s bound to be used against you. A zero-sum game played by wannabe winners.

And fellas, you’re not entirely immune either. The media constantly portrays what a “real” man should look like, what he should do, what beverages he should drink (hint: they say it’s beer and only beer). Society maintains that all men should have the washboard abs or swooping hair. They say all men should wear fine suits or rugged jeans – no in-between.

It’s exhausting, isn’t it? Yet we find ourselves falling for these traps, not just in how we judge ourselves but how we perceive others. Ugh, human nature… it sucks.

Here’s the worst part of it all – at the very end, the last stop on the train, the final exit off the road of life, there’s still pressure from society. You would think that we get some reprieve in our last moments above ground. You would think that our own funerals, the celebrations and memorials of our lives, would be the place where societal norms would be laid to rest for a brief moment (see what I did there?).

Nope.

We can’t let our guard down for a minute; death be damned. We need to keep up appearances. We have to make sure we look peaceful and angelic and gorgeous for our grieving loved ones to admire. Otherwise, we are exposed to the dreaded commentary of those in attendance, while we are powerless to change anything.

I can’t be the only one. I’m sure you’ve heard this narrative at funerals too.

“Oh, doesn’t her makeup look lovely!”

“Look what a good job they did on her hair!”

“My, what wonders they did with his face.”

Umm, excuse me… what?

What’s worse, there’s a flip side to that coin.

“Ooh, you can barely recognize him. How terrible.”

“She would have never done her makeup that heavily, this simply doesn’t do her justice.”

“Oh dear, she would have never been caught dead in that dress…”

Honestly, people! Can we not show a little respect by holding thoughts in our mind instead of speaking them out loud? It is possible to do, you know. No, really, it is.

We all grieve in our own unique ways, but this kind of grieving can be done on your own time. The funeral service is not the time to discuss the shade of lipstick chosen or the volume of their hair. They can’t even defend the choices themselves, for Pete’s sake.

Sure, the positive comments are often made to comfort the grieving family and bring some kind words to the fore. And I get it; it’s hard to know exactly what to say to the family or even to the others in attendance. Funeral homes don’t exactly spark the best conversations. But check your “thought filters” before you leave the house, so you don’t end up saying something to make things more morbid than they already are.

I seriously want to know, though: just how good are people supposed to look at their own funerals? Why is there a standard? Have we asked ourselves why we care so much about people’s appearance while their eternal soul is laid to rest? It seems there would be more pressing matters to consider. If ever there was a time in someone’s life, this definitely seems like the time to not be worried about hair, clothing, or overall appearance.

Alas, societal pressure is destined to weigh heavy on our shoulders – right up to the bitter end.