The Cat in the Car

Is it true that all cat owners have lost their minds—or is it just me?

We choose cats because they’re supposedly less work than dogs. Cats are independent (which means they almost always come with an attitude). Cats don’t need as much attention as dogs to stay happy. Like introverted humans, they’re happy with alone time. You think they’re less demanding than other pets, until you have one, that is.

And then we do outrageous things that our cats didn’t sign up for in any way shape or form. We might dress them up in little socks or costumes. Or buy them harnesses and take them for walks. Or… ahem… put them in cat carriages so we can push them in a stroller while we walk.

As a cat owner, I can testify that we are all, in fact, at least a little bit crazy. Some of us more than others, if I’m being completely honest. It’s me. I’m some of us.

Well, the other day, I did something a little bit crazy for my evil feline friend, the ne’er-do-well. To be fair, this was my daughter’s big idea, not mine. I really don’t want to take any credit or have any part in this whatsoever… other than, you know, putting the plan into action so to speak. The ne’er-do-well is really my daughter’s cat, after all, and I think her fondness for humanity may stop there. I’m certainly not included in that benevolent bubble, that’s for sure. To say she is spoiled is an understatement. Of course, I mean Holly (aka the ne’er-do-well) and not my daughter. Um, yeah, right, of course Holly.

So, what was this grand adventure, you ask?  A car ride.

It may not seem like a huge deal, but this car ride was Holly’s first time in the car where a visit to the vet or a household move wasn’t the final destination. Instead, we stopped at Starbucks for a Puppuccino… for our cat. Did I mention I haven’t seen my mind in a while?

Usually, Holly is content riding in her crate. Well, content isn’t exactly the word, but at least she remains civil. It’s all we can ask for, really.  But this time, my daughter’s big idea was to let her roam around the car so she could look out the windows and enjoy the ride. And by all appearances, she did enjoy the ride. She LOVED the Puppuccino. Yeah, I know. I did mention a certain someone was spoiled, remember? It’s up to you to figure out which one.

And hey, who knows, maybe this will create some good karma for me. I mean, I know that Holly has been plotting my demise for quite some time—hopefully, that Puppuccino will make her think twice.

These were taken as we were parked outside of our building… Holly sat/was held quite contentedly and out of the way in my daughter’s lap for the actual ride.

A Reflection on Mornings

My phone buzzed from across the room. And it buzzed, and buzzed, and BUZZED.

I cursed the alarm for waking me up, myself for putting it too far away to hit the snooze button from my bed, and the universe for creating a concept as off-putting as mornings.

After five minutes of mental grumbling, I began to fear the abrasiveness of the next alarm which would inevitably arrive in five more minutes. Then my eyes closed, again. Drifting back into sleep, I wondered about my hungry cats, the banality of my work week, and a strange desire for candy.

WONK-WONK-WONK. Shit. I fell asleep again.

With groggy eyes, a cloudy brain, and a stiffness in my body that takes too much time to shake off, I shuffled across the room turn off my alarm.

Without this system, I would never get to work. Without the need to get up out of bed to turn off my panic-inducing alarm, I simply wouldn’t.

I hate mornings. With a passion.

I have never been a morning person, and I never will be. And that’s okay. Unless you ask me right after I wake up. Then, nothing is okay.

After feeding my two cats and two dogs, I empty the cat litter, pick up after the dogs, and wonder why I have so many pets. Oh, that’s right, I love them, and they add meaning to my life. It’s a lot easier to remember that after I’m fully awake, which won’t happen for another hour at least. I don’t know why people say that having pets helps with stress. It doesn’t.

I’m late for work. Again. No matter how early I wake up, something always eats my time and gets me off schedule—a sick dog, an escaped cat, an imploding house.

I may have mentioned that I live in a condo, which means I have lots of neighbors. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I just personally can’t stand having nothing conversations. You know, small talk. You listen to someone talk about nothing, respond with a limited acknowledgement of the nothing, and then you might go back and forth about nothing for a while, before exiting the conversation and never thinking about it again, because there was nothing to think about in the first place.

Did you feel the pain of reading that sentence? That’s how I feel during nothing conversations.

Yet, somehow, I have them every day. And it’s always in the morning.

My elderly next-door neighbor loves nothing conversations. I still haven’t been able to find a way to politely exit the conversation early on (and trust me, I’ve tried), so I usually end up getting caught in a 20-minute long exchange that drains me emotionally and makes me (even more) late for work.

My most effective strategy so far has been to leave my condo like a teenager sneaking out to a late-night party. I used to be good at it, but apparently one grows rusty as one gets older. No matter how quiet and careful I am, I often meet a worse fate than nothing conversations — the creepy old guy down the way.

On some days, I’m unlucky enough to get zinged by both of them.

Once I finally get to the car, my morning still isn’t looking bright. I’m already tired physically and emotionally. From my frenetic morning chores, my neighbors, and my impending doom. It’s in this state that I take to the streets, which is where you can see my true morning colors.

I’m an introvert with road rage.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in kindness, consideration, patience, human decency. I consider myself to be a person with values that enact positive change in the world.  Just not on the road where the assholes apparently live. And what makes it worse is the fact that every time I drive to work, it’s the morning. I think I may have told you how I feel about mornings.

Once the morning passes, socialization is a hell of a lot easier. But I won’t lie to you and say everything is all wine and roses. Oh how I wish there was wine… wouldn’t that make the morning go by much more pleasantly! But, yeah, no. You see, my office consists of characters from The Office except way less funny and more exasperating.

It’s a miracle that I can get through one eight-hour day without needing bail money, let alone an entire week.

It’s not that I don’t like working with others. I do. Sort of. Okay, well, not at all, but, I can work with others just fine, thank you very much. It’s just that my office is filled to the brim with overconfident type-A personalities who are more than happy to tell you the right way to do things even when they have no idea how to do said things. Yeah, thanks for the advice Dwight, but no one asked.

So, after a jam-packed day of Zoom meetings that could very well have been emails requiring no human interaction whatsoever, I inch closer and closer to my sacred wind-down time.

I always notice that my evening drive has a lot less rage than my morning drive. Once I get home, I tend to the pets again; giving everyone dinner, taking out the dogs and the cat litter, emptying and refilling the water bowls, and then I can finally focus on myself (Masked Singer and Great British Bake Off here I come!). And look at that. No bail money needed!  For today at least.

But as Scarlett said, “after all, tomorrow is another day.” And with it comes, you guessed it, a morning. Ugh.

 

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.

The People of Zoom

Ah, the world of Zoom. It is as mysterious as it is straightforward. An app I had never before used in my life has now become a word I use on a daily basis. And, as it goes in all aspects of life, Zoom features the good, the bad, and the… interesting.

I have to say, Zoom is a great platform for remote meetings, webinars, and training. It’s also become a useful and unexpected tool for keeping in touch with family and friends. We see people on the screen who we’ve just chatted with over the phone, who we used to see every day in the office, and who we wish we could catch up with over face-to-face coffee.

And for some reason, the remote platform of video-calls seems to accentuate all the quirks in our friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. In the closed environment of the office, where we used to spend seemingly countless hours, we got to know our co-workers as the ones who were loud-chewers, frequent break-takers, or early birds.

With Zoom, we get to know our co-workers in a more personal way from the comfort of our — and their — homes. Just as typing from behind a screen provides some level of anonymity, a meeting via Zoom seems to give the participants a certain level of comfort that allows eccentricities to shine.

There’s always the one who uses the quintessential Zoom feature of an artificial background. And companies (like Disney, Fox, and Nintendo to name a few) cater to these green screen loving individuals with custom Zoom backgrounds from iconic movies, video games, and TV shows. Now you know who in the office is a die-hard Game of Thrones, Bob’s Burgers, or Frozen fan.

There are the ones who fall asleep. The one who left their mic on and is snoring audibly to an unappreciative audience. The one who wakes up *gracefully*.

There are the foodies. The one who eats chips (again, with the mic on). The messy one. If you thought loud chewers in the office were annoying, try listening to it on surround-sound. Oh, and there’s no looking away from the view either when their camera is set six inches from their face. Lovely.

There’s the one who takes the floor and talks the whole meeting even though they’re not the scheduled presenter. The one who arrives with a 500-page PowerPoint, ready to share every last excruciating detail.

And then, there are the yellers. Just today, I had a Zoom meeting. Suddenly, one attendee turned away from their camera to yell at someone the rest of us couldn’t see. They yelled “I’M ON THE PHONE!” to the person who was apparently trying to talk to them, as well as our entire meeting. We’re all still sporting headaches from the ungodly volume of their voice.

Yelling on Zoom calls should be outlawed. And for that matter, being the loud talker on the remote session is not a desirable trait. One loud member, and everyone has to turn down the volume on the whole meeting.

But is it better to be silent than loud? There’s always that one person who keeps their mic and camera off, leaving the rest of us wondering if they’re even attending the meeting at all. Are they paying attention… or off playing golf? We may never know.

Maybe they’re too embarrassed to reveal that they — like many other people — didn’t bother to get dressed for work again. In the beginning, as we navigated the world of remote work, we kept up with our professional, business-casual digs. Now, we’re lucky to see brushed hair and shaved faces.

As time goes on, more and more People of Zoom decide that it’s adequate to show up in pajamas or gym clothes with bed head, sweaty clothes, and unruly facial hair. I mean, hey, they showed up, right? And at least we can’t smell them through our computers.

While the People of Zoom show their peculiarities in full swing, providing cringe-worthy views and disagreeable noises, the Pets of Zoom are something I always look forward to.

The true VIP of any meeting is the cat or dog that wanders into view. Feline friends who feel the need to sit directly on the keyboard or dangerously close to the camera are a wonderful distraction for observers, and in my book, furry friends are always welcome — in the office or the Zoom call. No matter what the call is about, a good doggo or floofy cat makes everything better. If Zoom were exclusively for watching pets, I might feel a bit differently about the whole thing.

During this pandemic, so many of us have turned to Zoom as a safe way to socialize and continue our lives and our work. It’s a great tool, and I am thankful for it. But I still have an aversion to office meetings.

Whether we hold them in the office or remotely over Zoom, meetings can — and should — be done via email. It saves time, energy, and patience.

 

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.

Snob Appeal

During the trying times we find ourselves in, I find myself dreaming of doing things that were once so commonplace. I look forward to going to the movies again, for example. I eagerly await the day that I can go to a live concert. And oh, what a day it will be when we can dine at our favorite restaurants again! When the dust has settled, a nice dinner in the spiffy part of the city will be the first order of business.

There’s nothing quite like a dinner out on the town. The anticipation of the evening, the elegant clothes, the ambiance of the restaurant, the tiny portions – wait, the tiny portions? Maybe that’s not exactly a highlight. Come to think of it, the elf-size portions are the worst part. Why are we paying exorbitant amounts of money for such teeny scoops of food on oversized plates? That’s why I prefer the taco truck at the park … good food and lots of it.

Some of these Michelin Star restaurants are really giving folks the run-around with their menu. First of all, they’re serving people fish eggs on crackers and charging $125 per plate. What the hell? And people willingly order this dish, night after night. It’s amazing to me. Not to mention, it’s highway robbery.  I mean, these patrons do know it’s fish eggs, right? I find that hard to believe since they eat it with such relish. Well, maybe not relish, but they do seem to enjoy it. Seriously though, I’d bet good money that a lot of them only order fish eggs to give the impression of being aristocratic – just to fit in with the crowd around them. 

If only there were a way to conduct a social experiment and put these guests to the test. Invite them to the grand opening of a high-end restaurant but serve them low-end dishes, at premium prices, of course. With enough fluffy words and high enough prices, I’m sure we could convince people to pay top dollar for not-so-top-dollar meals.

That’s it! That’s my next business venture! I’m going to open a restaurant and call it “Paradox,” serving a high-class atmosphere with low-class cuisine. We’ll tell everyone that the most exotic ingredients are being used to create the unique dishes at sky-high prices. People will eat it up – literally.

Now, what dishes to serve… Mac n’ Cheese will become “Pasta du Fromage.” Peanut Butter and Jelly is now “Blitzed Nuts and Lingonberry Compote Crostini.” And “Crumbled Japanese Kobe Beef and Pasta with a Creamy Mushroom Sauce” is, you guessed it, Hamburger Helper. It’s perfect! And can you imagine the profit margins?

Sure, the guests who dine at the restaurant may tilt their heads and say, “Hmm, this seems familiar,” but do you think they would speak up about it? Absolutely not! They would never shatter the illusion of their posh lifestyle, especially in the presence of their posh peers. They would never risk upsetting the ostentatious status quo.

So many people pay for bragging rights rather than the product. What do I mean? People would rather pay for the overpriced tuna casserole at my new restaurant and post about their experience on social media than potentially miss out on the latest craze. They pay through the nose to make sure they stay a card-carrying member of the “in” crowd and experience the finer things in life. The thing is, they don’t fully enjoy the finer things (remember… fish eggs); they just want them because their peers do. They have FOMO – Fear of Missing Out, and it’s an expensive condition to have.

This sad truth makes me wonder if our “follow the crowd” instincts as humans are even meant for survival anymore. To me, it seems that our current culture takes advantage of it, and rather than benefiting us, it leads us to a place of nonsense – full of fish eggs and empty wallets.

Breaking the Chain

We’ve all seen the dreaded posts on our Facebook timelines:

“Like this photo or get ten years of bad luck!”

“Share this post and pass on a hug – I bet most of you won’t!”

“If you don’t comment and share this picture, all the evil of Pandora’s Box will fall on your head!”

Not to date myself, but… gag me with a spoon.

I thought with the death of sending letters through snail mail, the extinction of chain letters would also come about – wrong! Oh, so very wrong! It feels like the age-old tradition of chain mail has mutated into chain posts, chain comments, and chain messages – and it’s quickly spiraling out of control.

Recently, the trend has been to “test” your friends with these asinine posts. “Look at those who take the time to read to the very end and comment,” they all say. “Those are your true friends!”

Are they? Are they really your true friends? Is this how you judge the quality of your friendship?

What if you’re stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire? Are you going to turn to the people who commented on your Facebook post, and nobody else? What about bail money? Are they going to send you bail money? Or better yet, be right there in the cell with you after a weekend of debauchery.

What about this scenario: you need someone to talk to because you’re having a hard day. Your friend can see that you’re struggling, so they approach you and ask what’s wrong. Before you say a word, you hold up your finger and open the Facebook app. You check your post and see that this person never commented on it. “Sorry,” you say. “You’re not a true friend that I can confide in. You never commented on my “if you’re a true friend” post from this morning.”

None of us (at least, I hope none of us) would screen our friends like that in real life. So why subject our friends to that screening process on the internet?

Attention – that’s why. People love to get the likes, shares, comments, and conversations around their posts. They feel good when people notice them, and it’s completely fine to want to feel noticed. Until it’s taken it to this unhealthy level.

I recently came across this post on my Facebook timeline:

Too. Far. It used to be an annoying fad, but now it’s crossed the line.

To be clear, the person who made this post was not recently (or ever, as far as I’m aware) diagnosed with cancer. Why on earth would they want to worry their friends in this way? Someone very near and dear to me died from cancer. I mourn his loss still… it’s fresh in my heart, like it was yesterday. I have loved ones who have lost their battle. I have more who still struggle against cancer daily. I’m sure we all know someone. Cancer is an insidious disease that touches just about everyone in some way or another. Just because it’s common doesn’t make it fair game for ludicrous social media posts.

Do you know what a real friend would do if they read this post on your timeline? They would stop reading after the very first sentence. Their heart would leap into their throat, their stomach would twist into knots, and adrenaline would start rushing through their veins. They wouldn’t comment; they would be too busy picking up the phone to call you and ask if you were okay or if there was anything they could do to support you. That’s what a real friend does in a time of crisis – they reach out in real life.

If they made it through the whole post, heart in their throat, only to realize it’s a “trick,” a true friend might still reach out… if for no other reason than to slap you silly for posting such a ridiculous thing.

I understand that we love our social media. I understand that many jokes and pranks will be circulated with a few hundred thousand clicks. But please, for the love of all things good and pure, think before you post. Don’t mislead your friends and family with attention-seeking fodder, just to give yourself a nanosecond of happiness when someone comments on your post. And do not ever joke about cancer.

Try posting something worth sharing instead. You really want to raise awareness and honor those who have battled cancer in the past? Go to the Fuck Cancer organization – post their message on your Facebook timeline, and make a real difference with the content you share with your “true” friends.