Blast from the Past

In my old neck of the woods, they have some classic, high-minded, quality journalists on Facebook that keep the community informed and offer helpful tips on how to stay safe. You know, the kind of journalism straight out of the 1950s. Headlines that drag one’s memory back to a time when wives met husbands at the door with a cocktail and doe-eyed kisses, all while balancing delicately on heels and happy pills.

If you can’t feel the sarcasm dripping from these statements, let me share with you their recent report that inspired it. See if you can spot the informational gem in question.

aa first alert redacted

Yes, ladies, close those blinds! Be sure to spend your sun-filled days and early evening hours in a dark hole of false safety. While you’re at it, strap down those boobs, keep your skirts floor-length, and never (but never!) go out at night! Men just can’t help themselves, apparently, and it is your responsibility to not be their next victim! 

What is perhaps most disappointing is that this band of merry journalists are themselves, women.

I was not alone in taking offense at this headline. Several readers, all women, of course, complained. Unfortunately, most of our comments were deleted or hidden. Silencing the voices of the dissenters, the bedrock of quality journalism.

Admittedly, my first comment, made directly to the post, may have been a little snarky:  “Men, here is your reminder to not be a perv and exploit women!” There, fixed your headline for you. Do better, Anne Arundel First Alert.” 

Yeah, perhaps I could have gone a little easier on them, but I am just so sick and tired of seeing these passive headlines.

Turns out, quite a few others made similar remarks.

Someone mentioned how wrong it was to victim blame, and AA First Alert came back with: “We’re not victim blaming at all, and the article does not infer that. But the fact remains, if the blinds or shades were drawn, there would be nothing for the Peeping Tom to peep at.”

Hmm… sounds a little like victim-blaming to me. How dare that woman open her blinds to the beauty of the world outside? Doesn’t she know there are creepy, uncontrollable men lurking in the bushes? Could she not think about them for once!?

wont-somebody-please-think-of-the-children-think-of-the-children

I crafted a more intelligent response to that particular comment and posted this: “As journalists, you should understand that words matter, words have power. Your headline calling out the victim is disappointing. Victim blaming and putting the onus on women to control men’s behavior is misguided and wrong, to say the least. Women should be able to simply exist, especially in their own homes, and men should be able to control themselves.”

Welp. That didn’t go over well. After deleting mine and other comments, they edited their above comment to exclude the But… statement. Talk about journalistic integrity, right?

A male reader commented, “The ‘woke’ women on this page (insert eye roll emoji in place of a period) Taking someone’s wording with good intentions and twisting them to some delusional opinions.” Guess who loved this comment (and others like it)… yep, you guessed it. AA First Alert.

first alert another screen shot

It’s extremely disheartening to see a group of women who are unwilling to grow beyond their own ingrained biases, even more so when they put themselves out there as a voice for the community. It is not unreasonable to expect better from people who are reporting the news. Yeah, I know, I know, I’ve given up on expecting anything better from the likes of FOX News, but still. 

Instead of addressing their own internal misogyny and striving to grow as journalists (which would’ve been an excellent take on their part), they simply deleted the naysayers. I had hoped this group of local aspiring journalists would take misogyny, bigotry, and hate in hand and do better for the community they claim to represent.

Instead, it appears they can’t think past the cliché, pandering clickbait headline. Until they do, they have no hope of becoming credible journalists. 

The Comment Section [insert eye roll here]

If the Trump era taught us anything about social media, it’s that people feel free to say whatever they damn well please so long as they can say it with their fingers from behind the protection of a screen. For a while, Facebook felt like an ongoing skirmish at the Mason-Dixon Line. Family members and old friends jabbed at each other across the line before retreating back to their sides unscathed. Shame the same can’t be said about the relationship, though. The space seems to have mellowed a bit (or maybe I’ve just unfriended and unfollowed enough people that I now have a curated page with little political chicanery). Unfortunately, this does not filter out ignorant, annoying, self-righteous commenters responding to benign posts and memes.

There’s always a person who responds to celebrity posts, whether positive or negative, with “who?” As if a person can survive in the present-day First World with social media and screens flooding our eyeballs everywhere we go, and not know who these people are. They act like they’ve never heard of Michelle Obama or Sandra Bullock, Oprah Winfrey or George Clooney. As if we’re going to believe them.  Of course they KNOW who they are. They just want to appear nonchalant and uncaring because they think it somehow belittles the celebrity and adds an attractive aloofness to their personality. The reality is that it makes them look like an ass. No offense to donkeys. I like donkeys.

Then there are the grammar police. Policing other people’s grammar is classist and ableist, and just plain rude. I hate the grammar police. But they do offer up humor once in a while. Using “I would of” instead of “I would have” when correcting someone else’s grammar is one of the more ridiculous examples of someone not quite grasping the irony of their behavior.

What about the people who respond solely with emojis? Modern day hieroglyphics. I haven’t quite decided how I feel about them yet. The advantage is that one leaves out the possibility of a grammar infraction by answering with an image. Perhaps that is the motivation.

I’ve seen them less these days, but there are still occasionally the “pompous agitators.” These are the people who respond to political or social justice posts with long lists of random statistics and references to their training and experiences (whether credentialed or imaginary is anyone’s guess) as facts for their viewpoint. These people may sometimes get the last word. Still, it’s typically not because they’ve used logic to claim the victory. It’s usually just a lack of interest from the others involved or exhaustion from trying to refute absurdity.

Of all the social media commenters, I relish most the distant family members and old friends who comment like you all share heart-to-hearts every week and go on vacations together every year. In reality, you may not have seen or spoken to this person in the last twenty years. The weaving of devotion and depth of intimacy into their comments may be fake or an exaggeration of an old connection, but in this day in age, when there is so much meanness on the internet, a little phony love is better than real hate, I guess.

Behind the Lens

Some traditional cultures believe that taking a picture of a person can capture their soul. Looking at our culture these days, I couldn’t say they are wrong. But at least we have a say in when and where our picture gets taken. Right? Wrong.

When you go out, do you expect your image to grace the lens of a stranger? Women, do you strap on your bikini and head to the beach knowing that an array of men you don’t know will be taking pictures of you? When you look in the mirror before you leave your house, do you inspect your face and body and wonder how you will be portrayed through a stranger’s camera? If not, you’d better start, because apparently, this is a thing. Now, I’m not talking about situations where people record something for the greater good, I’m speaking here of photo-stalking random women at the beach, at concerts, at the mall for God’s sake.

Some of you might argue that, hey, you’re in a public place… no expectation of privacy. Yeah, I get it.  But I imagine that the thought of a stranger taking our picture without our consent is horrifying for most of us.  Despite the public nature of the location, it’s an invasion of privacy that is just downright creepy.

In this age of camera phones and social media, it can be uncomfortable to be in a crowded public space. One never knows who is recording what. I watched a spectacular young woman on YouTube confront two older men on a beach in Florida. Florida, amirite? She caught the men taking pictures of random women in bikinis, then outed them in front of the crowd. She swiped through his photos, yelling at him to delete the images of women he didn’t know, to which he quickly complied. I think we all owe this brave young woman a round of applause!

Unfortunately, this is not a new experience, creepy men thinking they have the right to take a photo of whomever they choose. In fact, my ex used to do this very thing, especially at concerts. He and his friends would secretly take pictures of the girls there and then pass them around. Now, my ex and his friends weren’t teenagers, someone so riddled with hormones they couldn’t think their way out of a paper bag. I’m talking about grown-ass men in their 40s. Secretly taking photos of attractive young women they did not know.

I once invited my ex’s cousin to a community music festival my ex went to every year. Of course, my ex got angry with me… something he did quite often, but in this case, I couldn’t figure it out at first. I thought he liked this cousin.  Then, I realized, this cousin and his gosh darn ethical ways would inhibit my ex’s photo-stalking of young girls. I will confess that upon finding some of these photos and realizing they had been shared, I spoke with the wife of the guy who was on the other end of that text message thread.  She wasn’t happy.  When word got back to him, my ex, the gaslighter extraordinaire, berated me, telling me that I had embarrassed myself and that the wife thought I was pitiful for being offended. Because everyone takes photos of young girls at concerts, then passes them around to their friends with comments about the young girls’ bodies. Everybody does it. And everybody knows that everyone does it. Apparently, I was the only one who didn’t know. Apparently, I was the only one who would take offense or get angry at such a thing. Hey, if gaslighting were a college major, my ex would have graduated with honors. I mean, he’s my ex for a reason.

Maybe taking pictures of random young girls is common. Perhaps sharing photos with your friends of unsuspecting women out on the town or bikini-clad at the beach, or, you know, simply trying to enjoy a freakin’ neighborhood concert, is something that does occur often. But you know what? It doesn’t change the fact that it’s not okay. IT. IS. NOT. OKAY. The men taking these pictures are not typical men (and if they are, then I’ll swear off the gender for good). They are disgusting, perverted, privacy-invading creeps. There, I said it. And I’m not sorry.

Predatory behavior from men is far too common. Unsolicited catcalls, inappropriate texts, aggressive confrontations and pick-up lines, uncomfortably explicit stories with coworkers; these are the ways that men force their sexual preoccupation into our lives. Many people (primarily men, but I’m sure some women) would argue that it’s not bad behavior. It’s just a case of “boys will be boys.” Newsflash, asshole: boys will be boys is no longer an acceptable excuse for predatory behavior. Period.

I’m telling you men, you’ve gotta get your shit together, and if you want to screech “not all men” then bear the burden of your gender and call out this predatory bullshit.

Why Bash the Bangs?

Okay, so I know I’m a little late to the game on this one. But come on, who criticizes Halle Berry?  The woman is incredibly talented, ridiculously gorgeous, and known worldwide as a fashion icon. And, more important, she’s a whole person, entitled to live her life as she sees fit. Yet perfect strangers think they should have a say in her hairstyle. Her freakin’ hairstyle.  The negative comments people make say more about them than they do about Halle Berry.

So, in case you missed it, like I almost did, she showed up at the Oscars in a beautiful gown and fresh haircut. Her hair was described as a fresh bob with short, deliberately uneven bangs. People on Twitter had a field day posting unflattering ‘look alike’ photos. Bored petty gossips all around the country found time to waste on judging her new do. Seriously, people with no fame credentials to their name or any iconic piece of fashion in their closet saw fit to mock the look of a multi-year recipient of one of People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People. They mocked her over bangs.

93rd Annual Academy Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 25 Apr 2021

Photo by Chris Pizzello/Pool/Shutterstock Halle Berry arrives at the Oscars 93rd Annual Academy Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA – 25 Apr 2021

Halle Berry was the first African American woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress. Sadly, almost two decades later, no one has followed in her footsteps. She has won several awards from various organizations (like the Golden Globes, the Emmys, and BET) for her acting skills. These awards complement an incredibly long list of movie and TV roles. She is the Spokeswoman for Revlon, has her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and gave birth to her first child at 41 when most mothers are sending their kids off to high school or college. She is 54, incredibly fit, and still killing it in Hollywood. The woman is a powerhouse.

Where do these people get off? What laundry list of talents do they possess that gives them the illusion they should have any kind of say? Scratch that. Why do people feel justified in critiquing people’s looks at all?

As a society, we do this disproportionately to women. Men seem fine walking down the red carpet in any version of a tux they feel comfortable. Women are the ones pressured to dress like peacocks, strutting such and such designer, gawked at, fawned over, and critiqued right down to the bangs.

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Photo by Chris Pizzello/Pool/Shutterstock Halle Berry arrives at the Oscars 93rd Annual Academy Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA – 25 Apr 2021

How could they wear that color or dare to show that much skin? What audacity they have to wear that dress? Have they gained weight? Lost it too quickly? Dyed their hair, had a facelift, wore the wrong damn designer. Everything is up for critique.

With social media, petty insecure people all over the world can now throw their opinions together into a pool for everyone to read. It’s like one giant train wreck after another, and people can’t get enough.

There’s always someone to judge, someone’s flaws to hash over so that those who desperately put up a front that they’re “better than” can transfer their own lack of confidence onto another. Perhaps it offers them a respite from their own damning self-talk, but at what cost?

Are we so damaged as a culture that someone as wonderfully talented and beautiful as Halle Berry can’t even cut her hair without a deluge of public criticism and shaming? I mean, honestly, the woman is a goddess on Earth. She could shave her head and wear a sack, and she would still be a goddess on Earth.

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Photo by Chris Pizzello/Pool/Shutterstock Halle Berry arrives at the Oscars 93rd Annual Academy Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA – 25 Apr 2021

X is for Xenophobia

Here I am, spilling more tea about my book club. Hey, my daughter taught me that phrase and I’m going to use it whether I completely understand it or not!

As you know, I recently got kicked out of a Murdoch Mysteries group and quite frankly, I’m not sure how I didn’t get kicked out of my book club today.  And this time, it would have been a proud moment.

This was posted by a member:

I have a petty pet peeve. Just started a book and there it is again.  Characters with impossible to pronounce names.

That’s it. That’s the post. She came on to complain about hard to pronounce names. Now, you might be thinking ahhh, the fantasy and sci fi genre can certainly have some unusual character names!  But, no. She’s reading a book with Russian characters and she hates their names because she can’t pronounce them, and she can’t be bothered to Google a pronunciation. Her solution? To just give them completely new names. Simple easy to pronounce names, names that she feels are befitting her narrow-minded view of the world … um, I mean, reading enjoyment.

The frustrating thing was, as is so often the case with social media… the comments. Not all, but I’d say 90% of the comments were in agreement and the number of people who simply rename characters or give them nicknames because they’re too freakin’ lazy to learn something new was astounding.  This is a reading group. Reading. Group. Presumably this is a group of people who want to expand their horizon via the written word, but alas, no. They apparently have no desire to truly open their minds or expand their world view or tread anywhere outside of their own bubble.

Here are a few of the like-minded comments:

I hate this too. WHY do authors do this? They should be writing to their majority audience, not just a specific few.

I just make up my own pronunciation. Doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong, all it does is identify the character. I have too many books to read to be looking up names and who cares how they’re pronounced anyway?

I make up my own names: ie: Laghoire [sic] becomes Lori. (It should be noted that it’s Laoghaire – a name with Irish origins. Apparently remembering how to spell a name is equally too much effort, much like Googling the pronunciation.)

I just come up with my own pronunciation and go with it. Authors need to do better.

I won’t even read a book if the names are too ridiculous or if I don’t know how to pronounce them. It’s definitely a pet peeve.

It’s so annoying to stumble over the name again and again. A book should flow so you can get lost in it… writers should use names that everyone knows how to pronounce and if they don’t, I just make up a name that starts with the same letter and read it that way!

If I can’t pronounce a name in a book, I just give them a name I like and then that is who they are the rest of the book.

I just give them different names. LOL! Life is too short to worry about pronouncing someone’s name.

I won’t get a book if I read the synopsis and the names are too crazy.

I make up my own version of the name which is usually better anyway.

It annoys me too so I just give them a similar name that I can pronounce. I just read a book with main characters from Nigeria and I didn’t even try. Buy a vowel for god’s sake. 

I size those long Russian and German names down to some four-letter words. I assign them names like Bob, Billy, Hank and use those nicknames all thru the book. Muslem [sic] names are even worse.

I just make a sound up in my head and go with it for the rest of the book.

Bob, Billy, Hank instead of Mikhail, Fyodor, or Piscine. A fucking arbitrary sound instead of Aiofe, Itumelang, or Adaugo. Yeah, I mean, that seems legit.

Mispronouncing names or words that you’ve only read is one thing… I personally do that quite often. Okay, fine, all the time. But once you figure out the correct pronunciation – and let’s be clear, you should figure out the correct pronunciation, you say it correctly going forward. No, it’s not that. It’s the adamant refusal to even try to learn how to pronounce these names that I find so maddening.

The original member who ignited this firestorm of xenophobia came back later to rebut comments – mine included – that called her out on her pet peeve. She claims to be “incredibly inclusive” and “loves diversity” but she’s lazy, so what?  “… but I can’t be bothered to try and figure out what the author means or how to pronounce some of these god forsaken names they come up with. So, I’m lazy. Who cares?”

There’s lazy and then there’s lazy but I’m sorry, this is waaayyy beyond lazy.  There are elements of xenophobia and racism as these readers minimize entire cultures and heritages in an effort to remake the world – even a literary one – to fit into their fantastically small bubble of existence.

Why do I find it hard to believe that these people limit their “pet peeve” to the fiction section of their lives?

So yeah, I didn’t get kicked out. But long story short, I need a new book club. That 90% statistic? I didn’t like those odds.

“Names have power.” — Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

“Mutilating someone’s name is a tiny act of bigotry.” – Jennifer Gonzalez

“If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.” – Uzo Aduba

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.

A Walking, Talking Goddess

I love movies. I may have mentioned it before. And to most of us who love movies, the name Sophia Loren is one that carries weight. Even if you don’t know any of her films or anything about her, you certainly know the name. It’s up there with Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Gene Kelly as a name that conveys an expectation of greatness, because that’s what Sophia Loren is, she’s one of the greats. And she’s one of the few remaining legends of the classic Hollywood era still gracing our earthly plane.

Let’s be honest, Sophia Loren was, and still is, a goddess. And I’m not just talking about her looks here, though I’m not poo pooing them either, as she’s always been elegant to the point of envy for many people. But she’s also a goddess of life. Loren has won so many awards she’s probably had to buy them their own apartment. She arguably launched the celebrity perfume/cosmetics trend in 1980 with her perfume, Sophia.  She wrote an autobiography, raised children, and held down a highly successful movie career that took her all over the world. Did I mention her charity work?

But wait a minute, I’m sorry, my mistake. I forgot that none of that matters and she is evil incarnate. Why, I hear you cry? Did she murder someone? Nope. Did she go all Mommie Dearest on her kids? Never. I bet you’re thinking that she ran over a pile of puppies while laughing maniacally à la Cruella De Vil… not a chance.

Hold onto your hats, folks, cause this is tragic… the horrific offense committed by Ms. Loren is (*deep breath*) that she dared to not shave her armpits. Result: Sophia Loren is CANCELLED! Because a hairy armpit on a woman is just disgusting, right? Uh, wrong! Though not according to a group of gender biased, (and presumably follically challenged if they’re so horrified by naturally occurring body hair), people in a classic movie Facebook group I belong to. I repeat. A classic movie group. You know, the kind of group that you’d think would appreciate the talented Ms. Loren. But alas, it seems their appreciation is predicated solely on her falling into line with their expectations which, apparently, do not include bodily autonomy.

Here, let me give you some context. Cause I can already see that you don’t believe me. I mean, it is Sophia Loren, we’re talking about and I don’t blame you for assuming anyone in their right mind would automatically consider her perfection itself.

Someone posted this article to the group where it immediately – but immediately – provoked a tirade of abuse against this intelligent, beautiful, talented, and fierce woman, reducing her to the sum of one of her body parts, her armpits.

By the comments of “ewwww,” “disgusting,” “yuk,” and worse (so, so much worse), you’d swear Ms. Loren had spent her days stalking the hairiest men she could find and digging around in their shower drains to find some soggy, matted locks she could glue onto her shamefully bald flesh.

Newsflash: Women are hairy! Get over it! And while you’re busy getting over that hump, keep on going because right next to it is another, much fluffier hump full of women who choose to remain au naturel. I know, right!?  How dare we!?

One gentleman jerk even commented on the post saying if she was with him, he’d make her shave it.  Make her.  Make. Her. You know, because this pillar of society clearly has a line of Sophia Loren like women outside his house, desperately hoping they’re deemed smooth enough to be worthy of the god like body he probably assumes he has. Not that I know this guy, but how much are we all betting you could braid his back? But he and hundreds, (and I mean hundreds), of other commenters had the gall to say that Sophia Loren needs to shave in order to be sexy.

And really, that’s just one issue that women in society have faced for countless centuries. We are judged by our appearance and whether we are deemed “doable” enough to be acceptable members of the human race. But why does body hair on women cause such visceral outrage? People are genuinely horrified at the sight of a hairy-legged woman. They recoil on the subway if a woman raises her arm to reveal a fluffy pit, like they’re dirty for having naturally occurring hair. Yet a man who was graced with a ripe coat of sprouting follicles all over his body doesn’t have to bat an eyelid of shame.

How many times have we been in a pool, alarmed that a bear has entered the shallow end, but upon closer inspection realize it is, in fact, just a human male? But no one says anything to him, he’s allowed to just be him. But hey, if he’s happy, leave him to it, he just shouldn’t then turn around and comment that Sophia Loren is disgusting. We are all far too obsessed with telling other people how they should keep their bodies. And body hair on women is no exception.

Here in the U.S., society has molded us to view body hair on women as disgusting and offensive, to the point we feel it is more than acceptable to shame women, including Sophia Loren, for having it. There’s a running stereotype that European women embrace their body hair more freely (which I hope is true), and Sophia Loren is Italian, but I’d even go so far as to say that over the years body hair is slowly becoming more embraced by women everywhere. The rate of acceptance, however, is a lot slower.

In 1999 Julia Roberts was torn to shreds by the press for attending the premiere of Notting Hill with unshaven armpits. So, instead of the press reporting on a talented actress who was at the top of her Hollywood game at that time, she was reduced to endless debates about women and shaving. Today, it’s less likely she’d suffer such a tirade over a bit of hair but, obviously, as proven by the classic movie Facebook group, not impossible.

Through years of patriarchy, we tend to view the world through the male gaze. Habits are changing, but it’s slow, and nowhere is that more evident than reading the comments on a Sophia Loren post where not just men, but women were vilifying her for having some body hair.

When I look at someone like Sophia Loren, the last thing I’m thinking is “hey, if she only had smooth armpits, she’d be a better actress/writer/mother/human” or that having fuzzy ones make her less beautiful, sexy, and vibrant (as if!).  Whether she chooses to shave or not is none of my damn business, and no one else’s either, and it certainly doesn’t impact her goddess status.

Phone Misconduct

Okay, so have you ever been walking down the sidewalk, minding your own business, enjoying a nice hot caramel soy latte? The sidewalk is clearly wide enough for two, three, even four people to pass by each other without bumping shoulders. Yet, it happens. Or almost happens. Someone comes amazingly close to running directly into you and as you dance a side-step to get out of the way, your latte ends up decorating your shirt.

And why? Because the person who caused this coffee disaster (and the reason why you have to keep explaining the stain on your chest for the rest of the day) was looking down at their phone, mindlessly poking at the screen instead of watching where they were going.

This is something I’ve seen happening more and more lately and quite frankly it’s frustrating as hell. Not so much the near collisions that would send my latte flying to the ground, but rather the lack of awareness many people have for those around them. Since when did the person or email or text or game on the phone gain priority over the flesh and blood human right in front of you?

Without noticing the presence of others, without that silent communication that exists when you spot someone else on the street or sidewalk or aisle, there’s only going to be more crashes and basic overall breakdowns in a smooth-running society.

Or how about this… you’re in the check out line at a store. It ought to be going quickly, no-one in front of you is buying anything of substance and the cashier’s on her game. But there’s always that one. That one who can’t put down their phone long enough to deal with the issue at hand, namely, putting their groceries up on the conveyor belt or paying attention to the cashier who’s trying to explain that the coupon they just handed to her expired three years ago.  Oh, okay, yeah, let’s all wait for the ten minutes it takes you to find your bank card because you only have one hand to dig through that cavernous purse of yours because the conversation about your coworker’s drunken fling at last week’s convention being the talk of the office is just that Earth shattering and you wouldn’t dream of setting down the phone for ten seconds. Ugh. Here we go. That’s a chip on your card… insert don’t swipe. No, it’s a chip.  It’s. A. Chip. Putting in that pin and talking can be quite the feat, yeah, I know… chewing gum and walking has the same effect on you, I bet. There you go, you got it. A great deal slower cause you’re distracted, but you got there in the end. Oh, okay. We’re going to do the whole slo-mo thing with placing your bags in the cart are we? Oh sure, offering your phone mate advice on holiday menu plans takes precedence… I mean, of course it does. Silly me. And off they go, with no concern whatsoever for the cashier just trying to do her job or the people they’ve held up in line, because they’re in their own little world still chatting away on the phone.

More interesting than the people utterly engrossed with their phones are the people who have no sense of privacy when they’re speaking on the phone. I’m talking about the people who yell into their phone while on the bus or subway or walking down the grocery aisle so that everyone within 20 feet knows exactly what happened to Rhonda at the foot doctor last week.  And trust me.  We’d rather not know. They open up their personal stories to the public which can become a little embarrassing to the people eavesdropping who don’t really want to be eavesdropping.   I sit there and think, “Wow, I really wish I wasn’t able to hear this right now.” At least that’s the cleaned-up version of what I sit there and think.

Alas, sometimes you’re stuck next to a person who has absolutely no sense of propriety or the concept of low voices. Thus, you’re getting all the details on how Kevin’s dog’s surgery went (the lump was removed successfully I’m happy to say!) and how bad of a kisser Mr. OKCupid was even after four Long Island Ice Teas (how truly awful for you, Judy!).

Inside voices people, inside voices!  And remember — you’re in public. Not only do we not want to be subjected to the gruesome horror story of your facial wart removal, but other people depend on you so they can get where they need to go without incident — so please try to keep those eyes up as you’re strolling along and for god’s sake, when interacting with others, put the damn phone down.

Thank you for listening. I can text this to you as well if you’d like.

The Faults of Facebook

So, here lately, I’ve been thinking about Facebook and social media in general.  While an amazing feat of modern technology that allows news to spread in the blink of an eye, social media also has its pitfalls. There’s the obvious cyber-bullying issue… that’s too great of an issue to discuss in one blog entry. But there is something more insidious at work here. People get lost down the rabbit hole of social media never to return. My ex was – and remains – mired in the faux-emotional muck that is Facebook. The 5,000 close friends, the groups, the pages touting the benefits of the radical survivalist communes you long for (you know, as one does), all of it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy my daily foray into Facebookland as much as the next person. It’s just that so many people are on Facebook and other social media, spending their time trying to impress (aka convince) an online audience that their life is perfect… to get the attention, the validation, and the “approval” they think they deserve.  Many of these rabbit hole divers have family or spouses or significant others at home who would love to be a part of that perfect life portrayed online, but are ignored … because, Facebook.

Some people use Facebook as a time-killer (that would be yours truly), but others live on it as a reality-killer. Or rather, a reality enhancer. It just boggles the mind, truth be told.

Generally speaking, Facebook posters fall into several broad categories.  We all know at least one from each.

The meme sharer:  Also reposts lost pet photos.  This is the person who has such a mixture of friends on Facebook that posting anything at all personally will offend at least a third of them, so they play it safe and post generic memes.  I would … ahem … likely fall into this category. I save my demented mental-meanderings for you, lovely readers!

The vague status: “I can’t believe it.  I’m so heartbroken.”  This generates a flurry of concerned responses from people far and wide, to which the next status update is “Thanks for all the concern, I’m so touched.  I just don’t want to talk about it.”  The obvious question would be, if you didn’t want to talk about it, why the hell did you post anything at all?

The perpetually sick person:  This is the person who posts every sniffle, papercut, broken fingernail or stomach cramp for the world to see.  And no matter how inane the medical “issue,” the support is overwhelming.  “Unreal. I have a hangnail (picture of offending hangnail covered under eight layers of bandages).  And the comments roll in. “Oh, no! (sad emoji) Feel better soon!” “I’m so sorry! (sad emoji) I hope it clears up soon!”

The knower of a perpetually sick person:  “Prayers, please.  My friend has a hangnail.  It doesn’t look good (sad emoji).”

The offender:  Posts deliberately annoying and offensive comments just to get notifications on his phone.  “Clean air is stupid.” “Drinkable water is overrated.” At some point, this person will be placed in Facebook Jail for a week, unable to post, and then brag about it when he comes back.

The sharer of fake news:  No matter what your political beliefs are, fake news abounds.  The sharer of fake news will defend the most ridiculous and unsearched “news stories” as truth.  “Aliens landed in downtown Hollywood today and while wearing kilts and playing kazoos, they spirited away Grauman’s Chinese Theater! The. Entire. Theater. No, really, it’s true!”  Eventually someone will blow her out of the water with the definitive Snopes judgment, and then the circle begins anew as everyone debates whether Snopes is actually impartial.

Perpetual Optimist:  Just wrecked my car, but I saved my fuzzy dice! Life is GREAT!

Perpetual Pessimist:  Just won the lottery.  Great big gobs of money.  Life stinks.

The new reality for many is that social media has become their fountain of validation. They prefer the adulation of hundreds of friends acquaintances people they barely know to the love of their own family. I mean, really, with untold hours spent connected to the internet perfecting their online persona, who has time for loved ones?

I would say more on this, but I gotta go. My notifications just went off and it looks like my friend’s dog’s mother’s uncle has a sprained pinky toe. Boy, I sure hope he feels better soon.  (Sad emoji)

So Many Questions

Today, I called off work because I’ve hurt my back. That’s not what I want to tell you about though. While at the store to get meds for said hurt back, I saw, or rather, heard, something I do want to tell you about.

A woman was at the customer service desk returning a bag of unopened sunflower seeds. You know, the kind that are found in flavors like ranch or chipotle or just plain salted. Was it the flavor that dissatisfied her? No. Were they stale or perhaps outdated? Again, no. So what could be wrong, you ask?

Well, in a word, sunflower seeds. Oh, wait. That’s two words. Still valid.

A lengthy conversation was had, but what it came down to was: the woman does not like sunflower seeds. I’ll repeat. She was returning them because she does not like sunflower seeds. Yet, and here’s where it gets a little confusing, she bought sunflower seeds.  One could presume the woman knows her own likes and dislikes. You know, as one does. But again, I keep coming back to the fact that she — not a husband or child or stealthy purveyor of disliked legumes, bought the sunflower seeds. To be clear, and she was nothing if not clear, she doesn’t like sunflower seeds.

If that’s not emblematic of society today, I don’t know what is.