Parental Guidance NOT Suggested

You’re at the grocery store picking up food for the week, or maybe taking a nice walk through the park. Then all of sudden, out of left field, you hear some rather, well, um, colorful language. How do you react, or do you even react at all? What do you think of people who use profanity in public? Are they bad people? Chances are if you ever happened to be shopping at the same store as me, when I find out my favorite cereal is sold out, you’d already know that I’m one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not like Samuel L. Jackson telling everyone how fed up I am with all those damned snakes on a plane, but I’ve been known to let some choice words slide a time or two.  I try my best to keep it toned down to “suitable for all ages” if there are kids around, or more importantly, my mother. However, as I’m quick to point out, I’m not perfect.

When you think about, people who curse certainly aren’t any less intelligent than someone who doesn’t. Not to mention, they’re arguably healthier and happier, or at least a lot better at blowing off steam.

So, then why is it that people are so concerned about profanity? I understand that there should be some societal consideration when out and about amongst people (ugh… people). If I heard a couple of F-bombs being dropped while a lot of others are in earshot, I would certainly wonder what the hell heck was going on.

Is it only because of how “it looks/sounds” or is there something more there?   It just seems like we have our values mixed up sometimes. We worry too much about the wrong things if you ask me. Everyone was so up in arms about the J-Lo and Shakira half time show during the Super Bowl, but these same people are fine with the seductive hamburger commercials that air during the game and the cheerleaders who were arguably wearing less than J-Lo or Shakira. Apparently, the FCC got complaints… people claimed their “eyes were molested” by the show and they had to shield their children’s eyes.

Even crazier than that is the fact that an Ohio pastor wants to sue the NFL for claiming that its ‘near pornographic’ tendencies put his soul in jeopardy of burning in eternal hellfire. Yeah, cause that’s the reason he’s going to hell. To some, this might seem a bit crazy, but if it doesn’t, try this out for size… the evangelist thinks a settlement of $867 trillion would be fair compensation for the NSFW halftime performance. Always follow the money, folks.

For those complaining to the FCC, do these same people cover their kids’ eyes during the commercials?  Or when the cheerleaders are onscreen? Do they complain about the Victoria’s Secret banners in the mall?  Or prime-time television shows? What about video games? Do these strict parents even know that their kids are probably playing Grand Theft Auto 5 on XBOX or PlayStation, and believe me, some of the stuff you see and hear on that game, whew!

Okay, sorry about that slight detour, let’s get back to people who dislike bad language in public. Do they get equally as frustrated or angry about the current rhetoric filling our daily news? Or do public personages get a pass?

For a lot of people, I guess it could come down to context. For example, two teenage friends walking down the street talking to each other, “hey man did you watch that ‘@#$%’ game last night?” “Yeah, my team was a ‘@#$%’ show, we really ‘@#$%’ sucked.”  I could see how one might find that a bit offensive, especially if there were young kids around. Though really, I doubt there’s anyone of any age who wants to hear that conversation, even me (hey, I’m nothing if not contradictory).

On the other hand, maybe someone fell down the steps coming out of the post office and let a few choice words fly in pain. Could that be overlooked due to the context? I know if I hit my shin by accident, or you know, if my cereal was out of stock, parents might want to cover their kid’s ears, because It’s gonna get pretty PG-13 pretty quick.

Send in the Clowns

It’s been a long week… hell, it was a long week on TUESDAY, now it’s just ridiculous.  At least tomorrow is Friday and that’s almost as good as it actually being Friday.  However, it’s been the kind of week where you dream of throwing it all to the wayside and running away to some small town in the middle of nowhere, preferably with a beach view… or a mountain lake. Or the Eiffel Tower. I’m good either way.  While pondering my lot in life and Googling airline tickets to Paris during my lunch hour, it occurred to me that my life could have been very, very different.

When I was kid, my father always threatened to sell my brother and me to the circus when we acted up. Didn’t most harried parents? Being a parent myself, I can’t say as I blame him. Fortunately, for my brother and me, our mother would chime in, using her gift of persuasion, and rescue us from the circus life. I’m betting she hesitated a time or two over the years though.

This got me thinking. When I was a kid, I would have probably been great in the circus! As a kid, I had no fear, especially when it came to being adventurous. Go ahead, stuff me into a car with a bunch of clowns, I could have swung with the amazing flying trapeze artists, maybe get launched out of a cannon across the big top. Oh yeah, kid me would be more than ready and willing for the circus life. But adult me? Not a chance.

Quite frankly, if I were in the circus now, I would be… well, to say the least, bad at everything. I’m afraid of heights. I’m not quite sure how that happened. Well, maybe not heights, but if and when you fall, I’m afraid of that sudden stop at the end. I have severe social anxiety, as I think I’ve mentioned before, so I get tongue-tied when put on the spot… so being a hawker wouldn’t exactly be my forte.  I’m horrible at guessing ages and weight, often erring on the higher end. I’ve been smacked more than a few times because of it too. But I swear, she looked like she was a very attractive 60-year-old, how was I supposed to know she was 31? I mean, honestly. So, running the guess your age/weight booth would be a recipe for disaster and likely result in needing bail money.

I’m not a fan of being the center of attention, in fact quite the opposite. So “gather round everyone, and step right up” would be great, until the crowd stepped right up and I would spend the next 10 minutes hyperventilating into a bag. The show must go on, they say, but I’d need a few minutes or an hour to collect myself first.

Being a clown would be horrible. First of all, clowns are creepy to a lot of people, so you’re always dealing with that vibe. Add in a curmudgeon with anxiety issues and bad make-up skills, and I’d either be making kids cry or giving clown-fearing adults a new conversation to share with their psychiatrists. Aside from that though, I’d always wonder, are they laughing because I’m so incredibly funny or are they laughing because I’m an abject failure as a clown? My self-esteem wouldn’t be able to handle it, I tell you.

I could care for the animals and feed them, but I don’t agree with keeping animals in cages. In a lot of cases, the animals are abused so that they’ll perform tricks. First day on the job would be, “local crazy woman sets free the entire animal population from visiting circus.” And then bail money would be required, yet again, and that would be a whole ordeal.

My balance has also seen better days, not saying I’m very clumsy, but I’m kind of very clumsy. Riding a unicycle on a tightrope would probably either be a messy one-time event or an all-day excursion depending on if there’s a safety net or not.

The pattern seems pretty clear here.  Either my health and mental well-being would be in jeopardy or bail money would be needed for … well, any number of reasons.

Oh! You know what though? I do love food, especially cotton candy and popcorn, so I could be a food tester. I’d EXCEL at being a food tester! It would have to be in a quality control capacity though, as working at the booth would probably result in a loss of profit for the circus. I’m up to the challenge to see if I can eat my weight in cotton candy. Hmm… maybe that could be a side show act!? Looks like I found my circus niche after all.

Sense and Sensibility and Snark

I’ve often thought of starting an advice column. You don’t need a degree for common sense, right? Sometimes I think that too many degrees, certifications, and the like can actually keep common sense at bay.

Is your mother-in-law a nosy cat intent on destroying your marriage to her saintly child? Kindly tell her to go to hell, or not so kindly. Your choice. Probably not at Christmas or anything, but December 26th is a good day to do the deed. Co-worker trying to destroy your life?  Ask them what you did to make them hate you. Get to the bottom of issues!  Then, in the most professional way possible, tell them to kindly fuck off.

I’m inspired by people like Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren (who were sisters). They gave sound advice to thousands, if not millions of people.  Ann once said, “Know yourself. Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you’re wonderful.” I love this!

And while I am duly impressed by the likes of Dear Abby, Dear Prudence, and Ask Amy, I wouldn’t be fluffy with my advice. Oh no, my advice column would be more of the snarkier variety. Honest yet blunt… caring yet, well, um, blunt. Blunt with a side of snark. That’s my motto!

Is your significant other cheating? Give that low-down, lying schmuck the boot! Kick ‘em to the curb, I say! You deserve better!

Old high school classmate filling your Facebook inbox with essential-oil business opportunities? Block them! So what if it’s your husband’s sister!?  Block that pyramid scheming, MLM-spewing huckster! You don’t need that kind of stress in your life!

Just think, if I wrote under a pen name, there would even be a chance of that crazy ex-relative of mine writing to me and I could tell them to stop being such a self-absorbed narcissistic prat with too many cats!

Naturally any money I made would go towards extensive liability insurance, but it would be sooo worth it.

Are you a good person stuck in an awful situation? Write to me and let me help you sort it out! You see, there’s no room for unbiased perspectives in my column. I would stick up for the letter writer, always. Everyone needs someone on their side. Unless of course, they were an obvious asshole, in which case I would let them know in no uncertain terms that they’re the problem and should maybe find a mirror for some deep introspection.

I imagine myself firing away on a typewriter (they still make those, right?) and sending common sense advice out into the universe, making the world a better place.

I probably wouldn’t tell anyone about my column. It would be my secret, hence the aforementioned pen name. I would simply enjoy the fact that anyone I passed on the street might be someone who wrote to me. I might even hear the person behind me at Starbucks telling a friend about the wonderful advice they’d received from Miss Anonymous Snarky McSnarkpants… it was just the kick in the ass they needed to change their life!

And I would take my drink and walk home, smiling to myself. I’m a hero.

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.

The Golden Age

The Golden Girls is one of my all-time favorite shows. Even in reruns, I love it. I love the repartee, the relationships, and the zingers that flew like confetti at Mardi Gras. But there is one thing that bugs me about it…

Articles about the show go on and on about these “elderly” women and how they’re roomies living together in death’s waiting room. When The Golden Girls show started, the characters were not that old.  The actresses who played them weren’t that old either. Rose (54), Blanche (53), and Dorothy (53) were only in their mid-fifties.  Sophia was 80. I’m in this age-range (think Rose, not Sophia) and I certainly don’t feel elderly. Sharing a house in a warm climate with a trio of besties as roommates sounds pretty damn cool to me, but the way they frame their “old age” really bothers me.  I mean, these brilliant women were just hitting their stride.

I read an article recently that suggests this show was about death and how these elderly women were just hanging out in death’s waiting room, waiting to die since life was apparently over for them. WTF?? If you read through the whole article, you’ll see that the writer equates these women with being on death’s door, and that the characters are devastatingly lonely because apparently all their family and friends have passed on… I know this came out in a different time but come on!

In an article simply listing “14 things you never knew about The Golden Girls,” Buzzfeed gives the backhanded compliment: “A group of elderly ladies, still in the prime of their life…”

Elderly.  Pffft.  These women were in their early to mid-50s – they weren’t 110!

I will say that their outfits and hairstyles probably did contribute to the age factor though. But even then, they dressed stylishly for the time.  An interesting interview with the costume designer of The Golden Girls revealed that they had a significant budget for clothing because the creators/producers were intent on making the female characters fashionable and high-end chic. Rue McClanahan even had it written into her contract that she got to keep the clothes. There definitely wasn’t any thrift store shopping on that set!

I guess you could argue that The Golden Girls characters were made to seem old despite their deliberately trendy appearance. The actresses and by extension, their characters, were victims of their time. Par for the course in a Hollywood where women weren’t allowed to age “well”… even in their own sitcom. I’m not sure that has changed all that much even today.

Because the article mentioned above annoyed me so much, I looked into the show’s history a little deeper and found that the creators specifically wanted to make the sitcom not about age. And for the most part, it wasn’t. This show talks about way more. You hear different perspectives of love and relationships. The writers were also brave enough to pull the audience’s heartstrings and open the viewers’ minds with progressive topics like social justice issues, LGBT rights, male privilege, the HIV/AIDS virus, suicide – all while making us laugh… and sometimes cry.

Quite an undertaking for a quartet of elderly women languishing in death’s waiting room.

The Dinner Dilemma

Don’t you miss it? That magical experience of childhood known as the dinner table. Not impressed? Neither was I … back then. But I sure wish I had one of those tables now, of the magical variety that is, not the useless one I currently own.

I mean, as a kid, most of us could just rock up to the table at dinner time and have food, just waiting for us, prepared by somebody else and bought with money from somebody else’s pocket.

Now, here we are. Look at us. Just look! We’re adults without a magic dinner table. Oh sure, you can still rock up to that lackluster piece of furniture in your dining room, but all you’re going to find is an empty surface and a gurgling stomach, served up with a cold side of pity and despair. This is the real world, folks.

I don’t know about you, but one of the biggest struggles I face in everyday life is the question of what I’m having for dinner. Yes, breakfast is technically the most important meal of the day, and granted, I sometimes have breakfast for dinner… but dinner seems to be the most difficult meal of the day.  Or at least, it is in my household.

It’s not even about deciding what to have for dinner, although that’s hell in itself.

What do you want for dinner?

I don’t know, what do you want?

I don’t care. What do you want?

I don’t know, I just know I’m hungry.

Me too. What are you hungry for?

I don’t know… how about you?

For most of us, you can’t just play a rousing version of the “what do you want for dinner” game and end up on the “lobster and steak” space. Oh no, you have to take your bank account into consideration. One of the most devastating and shocking realizations of growing up is discovering just how much food actually costs. Now you understand why your mother was always harping about eating everything on your plate. She was worried about your health sure, but the money!  Good grief, the money!

Say you can afford the food you want. Good for you. This just means you’ve earned the right to create a weekly menu and accompanying shopping list. Then a trip to the grocery store across town, which is a real treat, isn’t it? Made even more so if you have kids. Lugging everything home and putting it all away is a physical and mental test, if you ask me.

Ahhhh, but there is a bright side … you get to sit down and order a well-deserved pizza because who the hell has the energy to make dinner after all of that!?