Advice to a Friend

How do you prove a negative?  A professor once told me that you can’t… that to engage in such a debate will make you look insane. Let me ask you another question on this fine evening … how do you prove you’re not crazy? I get it.  We’re all a little weird. It’s just a matter of how high our freak flag flies. The problem is when someone describes you in a way that you can’t effectively disprove.

Usually, the purveyor of perceived personality problems is a narcissist … we’ve all encountered them, whether a colleague, boss, family member, significant other, an ex, and in this day and age, political figures.  If you think you can beat them at their own game, you’re wrong. It’s what they do, and they are really good at it. They have perfected their art. The only way to win is to not play.

You see, the worst part is, the more you try to defend yourself, the crazier you sound.

They’ll idly complain to their friends, “I was late coming home after work and she flipped out on me, started calling me all kinds of names.”  Well, that sounds like you are certifiably nuts with an out of control temper, right?  He won’t tell the rest of the story, though: he was late every day for a week, and you found his social media open with a stream of inappropriate messages to a coworker discussing their ongoing relationship and the so-called “dates” they’d been on that week.  Yet, when you try and explain this, you sound like a stalker with jealousy issues. Turning a situation like this around on the innocent party is a manipulation tactic. It’s a power play. It’s gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a favorite ploy among narcissists to control their victims.  It’s an abusive tactic that causes self-doubt, making the victim question their own memory and even reality.  Sadly, it works all too well. The term Gaslight comes from a film of the same name where a husband gradually made his wife think she was crazy.  Among the ploys he used was to constantly tell her friends and family that she was nuts, sowing the seeds of doubt and thereby giving her nowhere to turn.  Narcissists use gaslighting effectively in relationships and are usually unable to let go after the relationship ends.

Their need to control the narrative extends to their social circle, but it’s not enough to get others to believe your crazy. The successful gaslighter will make you question your own sanity.  Nothing sounds crazier than a sane person who has been driven to think he or she is insane fighting to prove they are, in fact, sane.

There isn’t really a way to argue the point without adding to it.  No matter what you say, you will sound insane. Which is kind of the point.

“I’m not crazy.”

“I never did that, I swear.”

“That’s not what (or, how) it happened.”

“He’s the crazy one.”

“I never said that.”

“Everyone wears tinfoil on their heads when using a microwave.”

Gaslighting in a relationship is very real, and make no mistake, it is a commonly used form of emotional abuse.  If your partner is making you feel that you can’t do anything, that you can’t accomplish anything, that you have no friends, that you have to walk on egg shells to keep from being criticized, or that maybe, just maybe, you really are crazy, let me be clear – get out. It won’t get better; these people are the sick ones, not you.  If you feel like you have no confidence around your partner, that you are never right, and that nothing you say will matter anyway, something is wrong. Love should build you up, not tear you down or make you feel less than.

Get Out.  Now.  If you need help, call a hotline.  Not all abuse leaves physical bruises you can see; some leaves a lingering scar on your mind and spirit.

Maybe you are a little crazy, like putting ketchup on pancakes crazy.  Our nutty quirks keep life fun.  If you are the victim of a sanity smear campaign, though, just let it go.  The only way to win this game is to not play.  Don’t drive yourself crazy proving you aren’t.

As for the tinfoil hat and the microwave?  I may or may not believe that alien technology radiates from the microwave on the “high setting.”   The voices in my head said so, and they haven’t steered me wrong yet.

The Classic Battle

One day early last week, on Facebook, I posted a picture of a male actor – you would know him, he was amazing in that thing about the thing (won an Oscar!), with an even more amazing body – posed provocatively, wearing only a micro-Speedo.   I was very pleased at the way the picture focused on his … um, attributes. When I posted the picture, I was hoping to get a bunch of likes and exploit the man, you know, as you do.

Right about now, there are two groups of readers.  Half of you wonder where the picture is, and the other half said, “Well, now, that just isn’t right.”  Okay, so there is also a third group, comprised of members of both groups, who are trying to bleach the picture of the Speedo out of their brains.

Of course I didn’t really post any picture like that.  But I have to wonder; were you more outraged over the idea that I would exploit someone for “likes,” or was that outrage brought about because it was a man?  Men don’t commonly get exploited and paraded around for their bodies instead of their talent; that is a privilege usually saved for women.  In fact, it’s expected.

I belong to a Facebook group that focuses on films from the “Golden Age of movies.”  The ground rules are simple: be respectful, no politics, no religion, and discuss classic era movies.  Shouldn’t be too hard, right?

In any group, there is bound to be the one who pushes the rules to the limits.  In this group, one guy not only pushes the limits but crosses them over and over, to the giggling joy of his caveman supporters.  He continues to  post pics of actresses in their most sultry persona and one, he even cropped to be sure her breasts were on clear display… in fact, it was just her breasts, so if he hadn’t mentioned who the actress was, there’s no way you would know. Unless you’re a breast aficionado.

Not all of the actresses he ummm … discusses … are from the classic era either. A cropped, very risqué photo of Catherine Zeta Jones, who is truly a lovely woman (inside and out from what I understand), was duly submitted for inspection and I don’t think she was even born in the classic movie era, let alone acted in any movies from that time-period.  His pics, as no doubt intended, elicit the usual responses from other men, suggesting graphically what they would like to do to the women, among other lewd comments.  The moderator keeps deleting the posts, but somehow the guy is allowed to remain.

Finally, a female member took a stand against this sorry excuse for classic movie discussion.  She made a post about how she’s tired of seeing it, that it’s disrespectful, goes against the rules of the group, and stop being assholes basically – though she was very nice and polite about it … more so than I would’ve been.  Predictably, her post was met by a bunch of men jumping on her saying,  “Just block the guy, choose your battles, it’s not important, get over it, scroll past it, let it go, grow up, stop being a snowflake,” and  complaining that she was “on her soap box,” and that it wasn’t a real problem so why complain, etc.  One guy, who I guess was trying to “help,” said “Agree with the concern, and more, but believe part of the solution is to stay calm and positive. Just breathe.”

As is the norm, although the post she made was calm, cool, and anything but hysterical, she was, quite literally, accused of being hysterical and over-reacting.  The reactions came, of course, from men who have never had to battle these types of attitudes and comments personally; in fact, these same guys are the very culprits who keep feeding the caveman’s posts in the first place.

I am sure there are lots of good guys in my group, too, just like in real life.  Most likely, they stayed quiet throughout all of this to simply keep clear of the scuffle – just like in real life.  The women, as could be predicted, came out in full force to support the female member’s post, rallying around her in true “girl power” form.

The problem is, this idiot guy and his rude followers probably genuinely don’t even perceive a problem.  But come on! Why on earth should a woman have to block someone, scroll past lewd pictures, or just suffer sexism silently? I mean, this question is relevant every day of our lives, but especially in a freakin’ group meant for classic film discussion of all places!  Then, God forbid, a woman has the spiritual fortitude to confront the men and call them out on their overt sexism … well, then she’s down-played, ignored, ridiculed, and gas-lighted.

Sexism is real, and it plays out nearly every single freakin’ day in women’s lives. Women are taught to ignore it, deal with it, cope with it, and never act on it or they’ll be perceived as “over-reacting” or being “hysterical;” it is, after all, just boys being boys.  When can women unite and finally say, “Enough is enough?” If not now, when!? Sexism is so pervasive that it shows up everywhere and anywhere, even in an innocent group on Facebook that was formed to discuss classic movies.

Granted, this is a small group on Facebook.  Alarmingly, though, Facebook tends to be an interesting and realistic mash-up of the real world. Meaning, the people who are your Facebook friends or fellow group members are representative of a small microcosm of who you would find on the street every day.

Frankly, I think I need some new friends.

So You Got a Dog

Okay, so you guys have had a free pass from my rants for far too long. Brace yourselves. What brings this one on, you ask?  Well, long story short – dogs.

I saw an ad for a dog someone is trying to rehome for $100. The dog has been with the family for a little over a year. Supposedly he came to them neglected and abused and they had wanted to provide him a forever home. But, BUT, now he’s just too much. Too active for their busy schedules. You know how things go. Oh, he’s a great dog.  Doesn’t mess in the house, doesn’t need to be crated any more, excellent with kids, presumably up to date on his shots, etc. Great dog. Simply a great dog. It’s just he no longer fits into the scheme of things for their family. You know how things go. Shit happens.

So after writing this wonderful ad for him online and posting it on several different boards along with the requisite adorable (and he is adorable) photos and receiving numerous comments of “Oh he’s wonderful…” and “I’d like to have him, but…” and “Check out this rescue if you can’t find a home…” and “I’d like to visit him…” and “I would love to have him…” and the like, the owner responds somewhere in-between: “He’s such a sweetheart. I don’t know. Going back and forth on whether or not to just keep him. I can always just get rid of him later if it still doesn’t work out.” With a cute little smiley face emoticon and everything. Seriously, what the hell?

Either you want the dog or not. I mean for God’s sake. Is he a family member or not? Is he too much? Or is he great? Does he fit into your schedule or can you make time?  Yes, yes, it’s a big decision, I know, I know. But for fuck’s sake, MAKE IT. Make the decision instead of leaving this dog’s life in limbo, because sure as anything if you decide he’s great now you’ll keep him, and next week he’ll suddenly be “too much” again, and here we go, back up on the online local town boards.

And this, folks, these people who can’t figure out that an animal is a sentient being, a pet that should be a family member, this is what drove me to advocacy. Sure, the dog’s not being abused, but how much do you want to bet she does a home check on the next new family?  I wouldn’t take that bet.  So who knows where he’ll end up?

Things change and life happens and sometimes you have to rehome a pet. I try not to judge. But what I AM judging is the flippant attitude of “do I want him or don’t I?”  I mean, she might as well flip a coin at the rate she’s going. At least then the dog would have a chance.

E-Voyeurism at its Best…or Rather, Worst?

Sorry folks, time for a bit of a rant.  But hey, it has been a while! Soooo, this entry is about an issue that has been annoying me for some time now.  Maybe it’s me.  Maybe I’m behind the times (See? I admit it!).  But back in the good ol’ days voyeurs (a.k.a. creepers) had to put in some real elbow grease to leer over the private lives of others. There was no Facebook, no Google Images, no online profiles, smart searches, or mutual friends. If a voyeur wanted to drool over some stranger, they had to break out a Kodak Instamatic, hide in some bushes, and wait til the right moment. Not so much anymore.  It’s actually become disgustingly easy to accomplish.

I understand that online “stalking” is a common if not accepted new activity. Employers search for job applicants to make sure their FB page doesn’t have pictures of them doing body shots in Cabo or twerking at a wet t-shirt contest. They have to cover the company’s bottom line and that’s understandable. Or if a woman tells her friend she’s going out on an OKCupid date and can’t decide if the guy is a possible creep or not. That friend can do some online investigative work to see if the DJ with the soul patch is good people or a potential future “person of interest” in a sexual misconduct investigation.

So for research purposes the online check-up of people has its functions. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. This is the internet in case you’ve forgotten. This is the home of trolls, creepers, and shady individuals. In my opinion the stalking has simply gone too far. I’ve come to see just how far some men will go to check out pictures that they really have no business putting so much work into uncovering.

I’m not talking about slowly scrolling through pictures of celebrities. Men are visual creatures and lusting over a low-cut top Scarlett Johansson just wore on the red carpet I can understand, especially if it’s done discreetly and in moderation. It’s just who men are. It’s in their wonderfully twisted DNA. What I’m more concerned about is when men go on Facebook to check out friends of their friends or their family member’s friend, or even their friends’ wives in order to feed their lecherous appetite.

Like, as an example, Random Creepy Guy is at his son’s college graduation where he meets his son’s 20-year old bottle blonde girlfriend. When Creepy Guy gets home he goes on FB, goes to his son’s page, clicks on the girlfriend’s page, checks out whatever photos he can (oh, bikini pics with sorority sisters over spring break!), then starts clicking on the pages of her friends to see what pictures they might have public for his viewing. So in the end he’s feeding on images of strangers that he only found through a loose connection. They’re not Victoria’s Secret models who are paid to have people they don’t know look at them. And they’re not posting lewd photos that one would expect to garner attention. They’re just regular women. If you told them that a man they never met searched for them online and was checking out that shot of them in a pair of jean shorts and spaghetti strap pink top that was snapped at their nephew’s birthday party, wouldn’t that just be flat-out weird?

I’m a fan of moderation in just about everything. Diet, drinking, cursing…whatever. Even porn I can sort of understand since the “actors” (hahahaha) know they’ll be watched and are compensated for it. But this ogling of real-life strangers using the internet as a tool, I can’t condone any of it, especially after seeing how addicted some men can get to the salacious practice. They even go so far as to find out the name of a neighbor so they can eventually have access to their girlfriend’s Facebook information. A fake community friendship all with the strategic purpose of possibly leering at photos of a pretty girl who visits next door.

And it doesn’t stop there either. If Facebook doesn’t automatically give a treasure trove of tight-shirt pics, I’ve seen men up the ante quite considerably. Going through Advanced Searches. Name searches on Google.  Possibly going to the person’s alma mater’s page to gain info on their new married name or place of employment. Some men go through an exhaustive amount of time and energy scouring the internet to find any morsel of information on the pretty girl walking her dog down the street and might be named Betty.

Imagine what they might accomplish if they put that energy elsewhere!

I’m not naïve. I realize that Facebook is inherently a voyeuristic activity…but to me, since these are real people, wives of friends, friends of family members, and friends of friends, this degree of voyeurism borders on being flat-out perverse. I mean, I wonder if they’d have that same mind-set (of it being okay) if their viewing pleasures were public?

I’m certainly not advocating for voyeurs to go back to taking Polaroids of random girls at concerts (something else I’ve seen done which, yup, still creepy).  I see the allure of Facebook stalking because it is just so damn easy, but I wish these people would just consider more seriously what they’re doing. It’s the equivalent of hunkering down in the nook of a tree at midnight to see into someone’s bedroom. Just because it’s the internet (so you don’t have to don that black ski mask and wear latex gloves) doesn’t make it alright.

creeper