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Archive for the ‘Should I Even Be Talking About This?’ Category

Unfriending Facebook

In Should I Even Be Talking About This? on April 13, 2016 at 12:13 pm

A lot of people still feel like kids around their parents, regardless of age.They slip into old roles- like assigned seats- despite being full-on adults. The same thing can happen with old friends, and it’s surprising how those roles are as easily worn as a 70’s wrap dress or a soft pair of sweats.

Facebook and other social media sites make it even more pronounced- sans nuance, no one can be sure about intent- sarcasm comes out mean, humor comes out mean, mean comes out funny, and on and on. (Fact: people fall for ‘The Onion’ everyday regardless of how preposterous the headline)

After taking a year long break from Facebook, I decided to re-up one day on a whim. Maybe I was being too hard on poor FB? I mean- everybody’s on it, right?

Soon, very soon, I was back on that black cloud. There’s something- an ‘essence’ or ‘vibe’ that makes it a downer. Of course, this vibe doesn’t kick in right away-otherwise there would be no Facebook. Rather-it builds up slowly, and comes on silently- like being poisoned with carbon monoxide through a tiny hole in the duct system. It takes a while, but by the time you’re sleepy, it’s too late. You’ve been poisoned.

On Facebook, everyone’s talking, but no one’s saying anything. Old friends demonstrate why they are old friends with rampant, raw racism (so much of that! Apparently, many of my middle and high school friends were hiding white hoods in the back of their closets! Hand to god, it’s shocking!) twisted politics (example: people who get any kind of government assistance complaining about other people getting assistance, people who don’t have jobs posting anti-Monday sentiment and all manner of blatant hypocrisy) Exhibiting the spelling skills of second graders (often while simultaneously  bragging about the local school system) Posting platitudes that I,  far from a genius, can mentally pick apart in two seconds (“Follow Your Bliss’- what if mine is hookers and cocaine?) along with photos of food (the eternal wtf?) not to mention the incessant humble-bragging (as if no one is cracking that code!).. it’s all such nonsense! I thought we were better, smarter and a hell of a lot more humble than that. I was wrong.

(I imagine if there is any real FB honesty it’s in the private messages people write behind each others backs, or the lurking on a mutual’s page with intent to pick it apart)

Facebook pages are curated like museums-and even though this seems ridiculously obvious to some of us, an incredibly large number of people buy into it! Some even  suffer from gnawing jealousy and/or obsession with certain ‘friend’s’ Facebook pages. To be clear: this envy is of lives that don’t even exist in the first place! Sadder still is the sweeping human instinct to actually curate a fake existence in a conscious attempt to make others feel less than. Social media has turned what was once deemed a character flaw into a sport. Keeping up with the Jones’s can now be mainlined every day, creating ‘junkies’ for the  edited, virtual world others are creating out of sheer spite. How difficult is it to cherry pick the sizzle reel, while hiding the untoward? Easy Peasy Lil’ Weezy!

Why does human nature propel people to knowingly try to inflict pain upon one another? Why would anyone want to be the source of someone else’s misery? Jealousy-if that’s what you’re going for (and you are!) feels bad! Why do so many people want their pretty (posed, airbrushed) pictures and (leased, debt-incurring) possessions to make other people feel like shit? Isn’t that a nasty sentiment? Do you feel like I do- that if we could get to the bottom of what drives people to be like this, we could improve the human condition by leaps and bounds?

I know a few people who regularly check the pages of those who make them feel ‘less than’. They buy into the hand picked Facebook ‘stories’ posted by calculated ‘keep-up-with-the-Jones’-types. They come away from these sessions depressed and slumped over. They can’t seem to stop this self-inflicted habit. Why? There is such power in not ingesting the poison! Don’t drink the Kool-Aid! Stay away! Not to mention, privacy is the real precious gold- and it is becoming as rare as the Hope diamond!

Facebook is the long-winded Christmas letter that won’t stop arriving. A boon for the blowhards, an albatross for those who buy in.  I say- if something makes you feel bad, feels inauthentic or is mean-spirited, leave it alone! Life is too short to spend it engaging with toxic people who want you to feel bad about lives they are inventing! It’s all smoke and mirrors! Block Facebook, the news, the political maelstrom, the frenemies- stop letting this negativity color your life and your mood. Stop inviting it into your day-to-day!

Then- and only then, can you appreciate your  life and the good things in  your own backyard. And who isn’t happy- relieved even!– to be the kind of person who doesn’t have to rub someone else’s nose in the dirt to feel good about yourself? Or feel compelled to post scenes from your (edited) life onto social media to validate your (invented, cropped, filtered) existence?  The world needs more people who are rooting for other people, not bashing them! And we all need a break from ridiculously fragmented, out of context narratives, written in poison pen, for spite,  these frenemies coiled up on your ‘friends’ list, waiting to strike.

 

 

Alicia Silverstone – The Kind Mama Parenting Methods: Kinda Nuts!

In Angreads: Reading Mixed With Anger, Books, Celebrities, Should I Even Be Talking About This? on April 24, 2014 at 11:47 am
I can hear the photographers and assistants:

I can hear the photographers and assistants: “Move up slightly, Alicia- we want to be able to read his tattoo”

I would have thought that no celebrity could make me roll my eyes more (while simultaneously making me nauseous) than Gwyneth Paltrow. Gwyneth has literally invented a new level of snobbery with her pathetic attempts at sugar-coating a nasty divorce with her tailor-made ‘conscious uncoupling’ from her husband (don’t even get me started on him) Even regular vocabulary is not good enough for Ms. Paltrow. The word ‘divorce’ had to literally be changed, so as to apply to her elitist self.  Never before has anyone put more time and energy into curating a false front, and that’s huge-because the competition includes every Facebook post, Christmas letter and Brooklyn Hipster Mommy blog in the universe.

But, in this case, another celeb took a shot with her custom-made pool cue, and sent Gwyneth soundly off into the left pocket with a loud ‘crack!’. That celebrity would be Miss Alicia Silverstone, a wealthy, pseudo-hippie (this means her ‘hobby’ is re-enacting hippie lore, much like some do with the Civil War, only with lots of money to cushion her lifestyle, unlike most authentic hippies)

Alicia- and her perfectly posed husband and child, has gifted us with her child-rearing guide. In it she makes common-sense suggestions such as encouraging children to defecate in the backyard. For real-(and even though it is insanely ridiculous, you know some dimwit will follow suit! She’s against diapers (What a punch in the gut to working parents, daycare centers and babysitters everywhere. And people who Alicia has no idea exist: The Nanny-less.)

Another thing she’s against: vaccinations. No surprise there. Maybe her offspring can start a health epidemic and call it a ‘trend.’ How ironic would it be if human beings are wiped off the face of the planet by celebrities’ non-vaccinated kids? (Somewhere Chuck Palahniuk is writing that book) It would be just desserts for all of the ridiculous celebrity worship we have going on in this country. Imagine an entire civilization brought down by the Kardashians (even more than we are now)

What credentials does Alicia Silverstone have when it comes to child rearing methods? Well, for one, she was in ‘Clueless’, a fun movie that makes me nostalgic for when I used to like her. She was also in two Aerosmith videos. She wrote a vegan cookbook that Oprah ‘oohed and ahhhd’ over (long after Oprah jumped the shark, now she’s The Goddess of ‘Look What I Just Bought!’) She’s also been so ‘yessed’ to death by her people that she believes she lives on an intellectual plane that rivals the current leaders in science, health, psychology and philosophy.

Lest any of us forget that she pre-chewed her child’s food before spitting it into his mouth, and proudly pimped it on Youtube, feel free to Google it.I can’t even stand it when my food touches other food! On my plate!

Alicia claims she can ‘cure your thyroid condition’, erase the need for any medicine ever,  lower your risk of contracting cancer, and cure infertility. What this does (besides make me very uncomfortable) is set up a scenario, in which should she get seriously ill (and isn’t she just asking for it?), she will need to enter the hospital through the back door (looking both ways for TMZ) or wearing a Burka like Giselle- at- the- Parisian- plastic surgery- center. Then, do you know what she’ll  do? She’ll pay through the nose for the finest medical care western medicine has to offer. And later claim eating kale was what ‘cured’ her.

If this woman was your neighbor and not a famous person, chances are you would take another route out of the neighborhood-however inconvenient- just to avoid her.

There is a video on YouTube about her book (@Rodale Books), which opens with some mellow guitar playing and stars Alicia (imagine being held hostage in Starbucks during a poetry reading by someone wearing Birkenstocks, trying to ‘heal’ you)

Here you are privy to ‘directed to look as if they aren’t directed’ clips of her perfect, high-end hippie aesthetic. It’s as if ‘Real Simple’ and ‘Organic Living’ magazines melded, then came to life. She’s very pretty- stunning even- but she has always been a card-carrying member of the good genetics club. I don’t think that eating  carrots grown in organic soil can take too much credit.

Did I mention she also refers to her uterus as a ‘baby house’ in the promotion, with nary a smirk.The clip ends with a very personal invite: “C’mon- let’s go make a baby!” Alicia- we barely know each other!

In the book, she uses words like ‘yumminess’ and ‘chi-chi’ and ‘hoo-ha’ (what? no vajay-jay?) and advises women to steer clear of tampons. (Personally, I would build a statue in honor of the inventor of the tampon and bow before him or her)

There are few things as fascinating as the celebrity ego. To imagine a person with no credentials (or, to be fair, even with them) thinking they’ve found the key to parenting- in this case because she’s ‘been in the movies’, speaks to the insanity of someone whose ass has been kissed for a lifetime. The very essence of Alicia’s advice is: revolve your life around your kid and his fascinating every move (he’ll be devastated to discover the rest of the world doesn’t care about his free-range poo, or his ‘feels’ unless they’re playing to his celebrity mom)

A celeb’s ego is as distorted as a fun house mirror, and just as disturbing. That entire industries have thrived on that audacity (movies, music, publishing houses, etc) is a testament to our dwindling social I.Q. (Snooki-yes,that Snooki…wrote a book!) But I guess if you get your parenting advice from movie stars and people on television.. you get what you deserve.

RE: Alicia Silverstone – The Kind Mama Parenting Methods.

I’m So Busy … Not Talking To You

In Should I Even Be Talking About This? on April 10, 2014 at 1:41 pm

For years I’ve been pontificating (I admit) about how ‘fake busy’ everyone always implies they are. Like I’ve always said: there wouldn’t be so many discussions about Game Of Thrones, Mad Men, Awards Shows, Magazine Articles, Best-Sellers or Movies if everyone was really as busy as they say they are. Not to mention the constant Facebook and social media updates.

We make time for what we want to make time for. Always. Constantly. And ‘somehow’. Despite that imaginary back-hand against the forehead, collapsed on the couch after sixteen hours from all of this ‘busy’. ‘Busy’ is what we say to get out of things, to stay out of the fray, to actually enjoy the quiet moments of life – something frowned upon in this rah-rah go-get-em society where everything is great but nobody’s happy. “Busy’ is the equivalent of someone claiming they’re not a ‘phone person’ when really they just don’t want to talk to you. 

Stop sounding so proud of ‘busy’….because, on the off-off chance it IS real, it sounds like a nightmare. It sounds like the only place you will ever be alone is in sleep. And why would you be bragging about that?

 

App-titude Test

In Should I Even Be Talking About This? on March 28, 2014 at 7:52 pm

I just finished an article in The Atlantic (Mar.’14) about Roboshopping (spell check keeps flagging the word, it’s new) Evidently, Wal-Mart has a new app for the Smart Phone, which is described like this:   ‘the app knows to turn on this thing called Store Mode, which surfaces in- store capabilities: Where is a product? Where is your shopping list? Where is the local ad for the store this week?’  (As of yet, no pictures to google map the particular children making the shoes for two cents an hour in foreign countries, but I trust a Wal-mart competitor is working on it)

This app is no different than a million other apps and electronics that ‘assist’ us each day. We have the Smart Phone that acts as a portable computer, GPS and lifeline- a myriad of electronic know- it- all at our beck and call. They serve as a kind of ‘external hard-drive’ for our brains.

But what effect does not having to think and trusting machines will do it for us, have on our life? With so much of ‘our’ knowledge being stored off-site (rather than in our brains) will our minds suffer the way bodies can, from complete lack of exercise? Would a massive power outage knock us out like a blow to the head, rendering us helpless?

Back in the not so distant day, we had to do all of this stuff for ourselves. We had to make our shopping list, get directions to places by asking someone (and write them down by hand) go for hours (sometimes days!) without seeing our friends because there was no way to access their humble-brags and Instagram’d meals like we can now. We’d sit at red lights and waiting rooms with zero entertainment-which could lead to thirty seconds- sometimes 30 minutes – or more!- of self reflection (Yes, this observation is the current equivalent of our parents saying they had to walk to school in the snow. With no shoes.)

We had to pace up and down grocery store aisles without a phone -whereas, with phone I notice people indulge in the most personal conversationsrather than face a moment of their own social discomfort! Now your inability to deal with radio silence is my problem– as in ‘Hey,  lady- by- the- rice: good luck at Evelyn’s appointment at the clinic on Tuesday. I hope it’s not that, either!” And man in the cookie aisle: I don’t know why they didn’t close on the house yet, either. It is almost April!’

People wear their phones like social armor, shielding themselves from any feeling that might be caused by a lull in the moment, or- god forbid- interactions. It sometimes seems like the person yapping on the phone in public thinks they look ‘popular’- yet all I can think is that they must be really insecure if they can’t just do the task at hand, and save us all from their personal life which always sounds so lame. (There is a difference between taking a quick  a call, and saying ‘I’ll call you when I get out of the store/office/restaurant.’ Normal people do that. It’s the upside of cell-phones. Oh- and a quick text works as well) Social media is a crutch for the awkward, and evidently, we’re all awkward but not willing to feel it. We will do anything rather than feel the thing.

This reminds me of a scene The Office, where Michael Scott and Dwight go on a business trip, using a GPS. They follow the directions exactly, and Michael, after being told to ‘make a right’, drives directly into a lake, because the GPS told him to, and he insisted on following it to the letter.

‘The Machines know!’ he yelled.

But  how much of the information that we trust is pure, and correct? After all, information is only as good as it’s source, and I doubt any of us really know whether or not the information we are privy to is accurate or free from ulterior motives. If an app tells you the nearest gas station is Shell- when there’s a BP right next to it, did Shell pay for the placement? Is Wal-Mart making shopping so easy that going to Target and having to ask an associate where the linens are will become a major inconvenience- a two second interaction that will ruin our whole day?

Does anyone else notice that ‘social media’ makes us the least ‘social’ people ever? Will brick-and-mortar stores eventually close down in favor of online shopping, leaving UPS and Fed-Ex drivers to be the only ones left roaming the land, like cowboys in the old (television show) west? Will social interactions become as rare and lonely as tumbleweeds? After all, if we already can’t risk looking each other in the eye, why bother venturing out at all?

With so much of our know-how stored off-site rather than permanently in our brains,- what will  happen when the system goes down, or is corrupted? Without spell check, will we even be able to correspond on paper? (True Story: I actually wrote an old school thank you card recently. I used a word I wasn’t confident of spelling, and pushed on it with the tip of the pen expecting to access Spellcheck.)

Without GPS will we be able to navigate our surroundings? I’m not one of those doom and gloomers about the future either- I love the new convenience that the internet has made possible. It’s just that in the back of my head, I wonder what the price will ultimately be, for all of us. How dependent are we on electricity (seriously, our entire lives are dependent on electricity) and spoon-fed information whose sources we don’t even question? Because now, when we fire up our laptops and phones, we’re turning on the lights to our day-to-day lives. I don’t think many of us could do it on our own anymore. And ‘ off the grid’ may as well be outer space!

The Oscars Blow/2014

In Should I Even Be Talking About This?, Television on March 4, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Thoughts on The Oscars 2014: thank god it’s over. As usual, I didn’t watch, but feel subjected, regardless.  The Oscars (to me) are overblown, empty hype, the fawning over of a bunch of rich, privileged movie stars, who do none of the heavy lifting in their ‘vehicles’ (movies)

They (generally) don’t write the material, they don’t struggle to sell or finance said movies, and they aren’t the characters in these movies! They are paid insane amounts of money (as though they discovered the cure for cancer-except-oh wait- those people don’t really get paid…)

They aren’t even necessarily good people, or nice people, or people who would give any of their fans the time of day (though the fans can’t seem to compute that). Instead, people will sit there on this particular Sunday night, gazing dreamily at movie stars while they are congratulating the hell out of themselves- as if they haven’t already gotten enough praise to cover a million people’s allotment in the ‘real’ world. I just don’t get it.

This year- something fascinating happened. Believe it or not- and I don’t want you fainting or anything, so maybe sit down before you read this-evidently, the most popular of the popular kids (because if life mimics high school- and it does- the Oscars are the equivalent of not being invited to the prom, but watching the kids who were have the time of their lives as you sit home) -wait for it-………THEY TOOK A SELFIE!!! (*sponsored by Samsung*)

OH MY GOD!! I KNOW!! IT’S AMAZING! A SELFIE!  

I don’t know  how one wraps their head around this: famous people, who have been photographed non-stop for years, agree to act like- well- their fans…..and take a picture of their favorite subject, which is themselves!!! This sent the fans into a frenzy of disbelief- causing sheer Beatles-coming-to-America mania. Not surprisingly this precious selfie was the reason Twitter blew up (literally) as the stay-at-home peasants audience went crazy in a rush to be first responders on the scene at Twitter. 

Even if I could somehow tune out all of the next day yapping. I could have predicted some of the things that were bound to happen, as they do every year, even though I don’t even watch. The day-after coverage is brutal, the shrapnel impossible to avoid, like it’s being dropped from above by an army of drones.  Here are the things guaranteed to happen:

Jennifer Lawrence trips (it’s a tradition) and Jennifer Lawrence is hungry (never has an actress gotten more mileage out of admitting she eats, nor has anyone been able to stay as thin as she has considering what she claims to eat. Only Lorelei and Rory Gilmore have that magical eat-but-don’t gain ability- and they’re fictional!) One can only wait for her to someday gain some weight, and see how hilarious  and ‘down to earth’ it will all be then. Have fun with that, Jen.

Then, one of the blessed ‘stars’ will actually address a civilian in a civil way- and it will be interpreted as the sweetest, most amazing act of kindness ever in the history of the world. Isn’t it great when people who get their asses kissed all day, every day decide to acknowledge the peons for the cameras?

This year Will Smith RECOGNIZED a camera-man!- amidst excited commentary on Twitter like: “Will Smith recognized the camera-man!”- followed by blizzards of exclamation points. I can only imagine this is thrilling because the peasants-I mean, viewers believe (wrongly) that they, too, might someday be acknowledged by Will Smith. They will not.

Several of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelors will show up to the Oscars with their mothers. At this point it’s a jaded stunt, but this too, will be gushed over as the sacrifice of the century- after all- they could have taken anyone! and they chose mom! Or maybe it’s the greatest  dating loophole in the history of Hollywood. A way to keep dating a slew of women without letting them become aware of each other, or  giving one of them too much power, or having to designate a single one as ‘special’ or an effective way to remain in the closet.

Speaking of gimmicks: this year’s gimmick was the selfie- but also the infamous pizza. There is something about seeing rich and famous people eat cheap food that sends viewers into a frenzy. It’s like that tabloid feature ‘Movie Stars: They’re Just Like Us’ come to life. I’m sure none of it was planned, as from what I hear it was totally off the cuff-and thank goodness the pizza place could hop to it for such a large order. And think of all the free advertising for the pizza joint. You just can’t plan stuff like that out. And America went to bed spent and happy after watching their ‘friends’ live on the edge like that. Look! They chew! They swallow! They recognize pizza! Just like me!

Then comes the God/ Dream speeches: We will hear all of the winners ad-nauseum speak of how, if you have a dream- you can and WILL achieve it. This will be told to you by people who have hit life’s lottery, but they leave out that these dreams will be realized for roughly as many people as actually win the lottery. (The Powerball!)

Of  course these stars believe in dreams and that God is looking out for them! Because it appears they are favored! They have  been awarded adulation, riches and often symmetrical, physical perfection. They will hold up their lives as examples of what you can achieve, rather than admit that the life they are living is a freak accident that even they can’t explain. And like: Phew! I could have just been average! The horrors!

If you’re gullible, you might measure yourself against them, rather than appreciate all you actually have.  Hopefully, you won’t recall these bastions of hot air during a hard time in your own ‘regular’ life, wondering what happened to your big break. Always remember: these people are not a reflection of you, they are a reflection of themselves. Period.

Along with having to listen to big stars ramble on incessantly- (Matthew McCONaughey claims the hands of God are on him every day-which must be why babies die of cancer-because even ‘God’ is busy hobnobbing with celebs on the red carpet! And despite having God’s magic balm being rubbed upon him daily by The Man himself, McConaughey reveals that his own true hero is….himself!) Could not one single person call this egomaniac out?

People were laying praise in heaps to the host of the show, Ellen Degeneres. It seems Ellen is the greatest hostess ever. (She is also ‘the greatest human to ever walk the earth’ according to one Twitter feed) Her ability to maintain that down- to- earth vibe,  mixed with the ‘I’m cute  and confused-as if just roused from a deep sleep’ schtick is admirable for someone who just bought a forty million dollar house.( It’s almost like she’s one of us!..psssst: she’s NOT!) 

All that being said, I imagine there are probably five people in the United States who don’t like/watch the Oscars. I am personally ‘so grateful to God!’ for making me one of them. Wait till you hear the speech I’m writing about it. Oh wait- I’m not famous, so I’d better not bother. You’ve already stopped reading.

IN PRAISE OF TECHNOLOGY/PRINTED 5/16/15

In Should I Even Be Talking About This? on January 28, 2014 at 2:35 pm

When you get to a certain age,  Facebook postings (besides the bragging and ridiculous platitudes) seem to focus on how much better life used to be, how lucky we were to grow up before computers, texting, Twitter and Snapchat, and how our music was superior to today’s. Few people show any respect to the present day, and I often wonder what world I living in .The way I remember it, is despite the abundance of green grass and high tides, most of us couldn’t wait to move on and get to the next level. No one seemed as content as they now claim they were with their 20/20 hindsight. Everyone had ‘plans’…and none of them included taking in the perfection we claim we lived in.

It seems like nothing is good enough anymore to people of a certain age- it’s one big complaint. No one considers that every single generation since the beginning of time has made the same asinine blanket statements (things were so much better back when did XYZ….) and it sounds like nothing as much as sour grapes and resentment about growing older, about the spotlight no longer being on you. Waaah!

I understand that most people have a warm, nostalgic feeling about the ‘old days’- the cars they drove, the clothes they wore and the music that served as a backdrop to high school, first loves, parties and hot summer nights.

What I don’t understand is why anyone thinks their cars, clothes and music are any more important, better, or more revered  than their kid’s cars, clothes, etc. Sure, I prefer a ’69 Charger to a flashy Fast & Furious Tuner any day of the week, but I don’t expect anyone younger than thirty to agree with me. My cars aren’t the backdrop to his/her life. And that’s the only difference. That it’s not about me.

I personally prefer physical books to the Kindle, yet I have a Kindle, because I understand the world forges ahead, and I’m willing to bend a little to keep up.  I still prefer the books, but the Kindle is gaining-especially when you add in Netflix (which rocks!) My generation complains about technology-even while they invest in it. Does my generation believe they have some kind of lock on ‘real’ fun, music and style?

Posts that make me question the existence of any ‘self-awareness’ are the ones about technology. First off- they are posting these opinions about technology on technology. The difference between an opinion on music and one about technology is that the old fogeys who condemn rap and hip-hop in one fell swoop, while they wax poetic about The Who and Pink Floyd, don’t listen to rap and hip hop, but judge anyway because it’s not about them (nor-and this is the most important thing- does it want to be!) 

On the other hand, the Boomers who condemn technology actual use that very technology to denounce it. The two cancel each other out, no?

There is a plenitude of posts that declare ‘Kids These Days Don’T Know What This Is!’ while showing a Pinterest culled photo of a cassette or VHS tape. The statement is intended to sound like the current generation is missing out on something, but here’s the thing: who cares? I didn’t have a Victrola, and I spent zero-point-zero seconds thinking about my ‘missing out’. But do any of us ‘boomers’ not have a cell phone? GPS? Satellite? If technology is so bad, why are we tethered to it, just like the kids you bash (and raised, by the way!)

I have dismal memories of walking to school on cold New England winter mornings back in the day- feeling tired, gloomy and self-conscious- wrapped up in all kinds of teenage angst. I had no choice but to deal with it. It was raw. I didn’t have a phone to text anyone with, or a Tumblr page to rant on, or an Instagram account where I could  look at the latest photos posted by Peter Frampton, the cast of Saturday Night Live, or my best friend.

Instead, I had to stew in those depressing feelings of anxiety and insecurity. I walked across busy streets with carloads of people staring at me, while my nose-hairs froze, feeling humiliated about being physically evaluated, on my way to a place I hated. (In the grand scale of life-big deal-but in my teenage reality head: BIG EFFING DEAL!)

Some people would insist that those mornings made me a better person, but I don’t agree. I had plenty of discomfort in my teen years, I didn’t need thirty minutes to dread every single day. I would have given anything to  have some form of technology- say an i-Pod. Having something to engage in while I trudged to school would have released some of the pressure of feeling unbearably awkward. (Even pretending to text would have been a relief) And once I was actually at school? Being able to text someone while being surrounded by the ‘Heathers’ like cliques? It would have been godsend! It would have been supportive. A lifeline!

I think underneath all of the nay-saying about kids with their eyes glued to their i-phone screens, or  constantly listening to music on their Beats headphones is a kind of jealousy that we weren’t privy to those kinds of escape hatches. We had to be by a radio, or record player, or cassette deck to hear our music- and even then we had to listen to a lot of crap on an album  before we got to the actual songs we liked. We had to be in front of a television at a certain time to watch our favorite shows- and if we missed them, it was a four month wait until re-run season.

(Forget about what you had to endure on a lame show like ‘Ron Kirschner’s Rock Concert’ just to see a cool band, at the very end, for three minutes. I still hate that he always did that! Some old guy, so unhip, completely square, always mired in the mainstream yet in charge of my rarely seen hard rock bands, whom he obviously despised! Waves ‘special’ finger!)

We had to dial our friends phone numbers by hand at home, and wait them out if we got a busy signal- sometimes for hours. If we got lost on the way to a party, we were usually out of luck – we couldn’t  enter street names into the GPS/phone and get precise directions to the location. If our friends weren’t at one hang-out, we had to literally drive to another one, fingers crossed. Many a story came from these situations (sometimes being lost leads to a better place) but wouldn’t many a story also come from making it to the party, or meeting up with our friends after all? Everything is a story. No one is ever going to run out of stories! Hating technology is like hating cars- you have every right, but I’ll believe you more if you don’t drive one!

Sometimes I see a kid out to dinner with her parents who doesn’t look up once to engage with them, but she also doesn’t end up in a fight with them, or spend the dinner being criticized and berated. Not everyone has a supportive family. Again-for the people in the back: NOT EVERYONE HAS A SUPPORTIVE FAMILY! I would have loved to have that option. I also love a smart phone in a waiting room, or any public downtime rather than just waiting impatiently. Where’s the lie?

I’m not for texting every time you feel a feeling – I think it’s good to stop and feel that feeling (and sometimes cry-and cry hard!) but so much of our teenage life was spent being bored, uncomfortable, picked on,  insecure or angry-and given the choice- wouldn’t we have liked to fill that time with distractions? I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, just that it’s preferable. And I think if people were being honest they’d admit they are a little jealous- of technology and of youth. And they need to separate their feelings of technology from their envy of the people who just happen to have way more time left on this planet.

Last Dance For Mary Jayne/Part 1/15/15

In Should I Even Be Talking About This?, Writing on January 15, 2014 at 9:08 pm

I didn’t believe my mother was dead.

I thought of all of our fights, how angry we would get at each other, just seething, dripping anger- and now it all seems so trivial. You hear this all of the time: Don’t fight with your loved ones, you never know when the last time you’ll see them is. You hear it ad nauseum, but it is so hard to put into practice. In the heat of the moment, when your anger sizzles, it seems like you and this person are here to stay for infinity, in fact the leaving would be the good part. Terrible thoughts. I wished I could take them back, or at least apologize for my part in these rows. As Elizabeth Strout put it, in The Burgess Boys: ‘And it was too late. No one wants to believe something is too late, but it is always becoming too late, and then it is’

This isn’t to say that my mother and I fought all the time- far from it. My mother was my one true champion. Other than my husband and son, she was the one person who had my back. She pointed out my strengths, glossed over my flaws, and she truly wanted the best for me. I didn’t come from a family that was close- in fact, once my ‘original’ family was broken up by divorce when I was just eleven, there was a step-mother a new brother,  and relocations , even side chicks.  Families morphing into different families- like television shows being re-cast, only to fail in the ratings. None of these combinations even remotely worked.(And I didn’t even blame the step-mother: How can you possibly love new, half-formed kids anywhere close to how much you love your own flesh and blood? It’s not possible) During it all, my mother was there to let me vent, and always took my side.

The last time my mother came to visit me, I met her at the airport, taking for granted that this was just another visit from Mom. Happy-but not over-the-moon: I’ve always been a little put out by overnight company. Throws my routine completely out of whack- even when I adore the guests.

I started getting restless, as her plane had already arrived from New York.  I’d watched  what seemed like a hundred passengers  spill into the arrival area- everyone but her. A woman stood directly in front of me, and I looked around her trying to  find my Mom. I remember thinking ‘Gosh, Lady- can I have some personal space here?’ until  the woman cleared her throat in a familiar way and said my name. The ‘woman’ was my mother. She’d lost about 40 pounds, and her cheeks were hollow. Her white-blonde hair was up in a neat bun. She wore a tan trench coat over dark jeans and bright white Keds. She looked tiny. None of this seemed right- I’d just seen her a few months prior. “Oh, Lee-Lee!” she said, hugging me- realizing I hadn’t recognized her.

“Mom???” I was shocked. “What happened, Ma? You’re  so skinny!” I said, alarmed.

“I know- finally!” she said, laughing. She handed me the hardcover book in her hand, telling me I’d love it. Books were our thing. My mother sent me shipments of books- two, three, sometimes four at a time, all current, all hardcover. She made me promise to never send her any books: ‘They’re so gosh darn expensive, and I get them on sale, she’d say! Spend your money on your family!” I pretended I didn’t know she wasn’t buying the books on sale. Sometimes a receipt would flutter out of one of the books, and I’d be surprised at how much she spent.  Since she insisted I not buy her books we sent each other bookmarks as well- writing things on them, personalizing them according to our likes. Mom liked Marilyn Monroe, nautical designs, the Cathy cartoon (I would explain to the salesperson ‘This is for my mother’- like he or she really cared, embarrassed that they might think was the Cathy fan) My mom sent me : Leopard print, crescent moons, black cats and bookmarks advertising book stores. I never ran out of bookmarks or books, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s still the best way to live, crammed in with books.

“Mom- is something wrong?” I asked, opening up her unbuttoned coat like a curtain, and seeing her much smaller body, bordering on frail. Mom was 58, far from old, but she seemed to have aged tremendously in the face, and had lost so much weight since last year, when I’d visited her in Connecticut.

“Look at my nails, Lee Lee!” she said, pulling away, holding out one hand and hoisting her purse onto her shoulder with the other. She was standing guard above the N.Y. Giants duffle bag she’d carried on by placing a bright white ked on either side. No criminal mind could outsmart this woman, no sirree! If you were in the market for pastel turtlenecks, coral based lipsticks and enamel brooches, look elsewhere, pal. You weren’t swiping her stuff.

She fanned her fingers in front of me, showing off ultra long  fingernails painted coral, which matched her lipstick. “Wow!” I said “I love them! Acrylics?”

“Yup! I splurged. I figured: What the hell?” she said, laughing. I loved long nails- even when every fashion magazine and maven said they were tacky and a ‘Don’t’, I still really liked the way they looked. The few times I tried acrylics they incapacitated me, and I couldn’t do the simplest of things. I kept trying them, but when I had to drive to a friend’s house and have her zip up a beautiful dress on a night I suspected I was being proposed to, that was it for me and fake daggers. So I was relegated to admiring them on others. I reached down and picked up her Giants bag, hoisting it up, surprised at the weight of it, quickly adjusting to hold the strap with both hands, the book in the crook of my arm. My own purse zip-lined down my arm, landing on the bag. A comedy of errors. I sighed and readjusted everything, while Mom laughed.

“C’mon- let’s go to the car..” I said, and we walked through the fancy Palm Beach International terminal. Mom whistled, long and slow:”Boy, This airport is really something else!” she said. “Fancy Schmancy!..I wish we had something like this!”

“Are you kidding?” I asked, scrunching up my face “I looove the New York airport! It’s so  much more…..epic!”

“Yeah, well, ‘epic’ you can have , missy!” she said, rolling her eyes. My mom rarely traveled, so her opinion of airports wasn’t exactly based on experience. She had flown down to Florida when my son was two. Before that,  the last flight she’d been on had been shortly after my parent’s divorce, when she went to Lake Tahoe with her  single gal pals in search of  Tequila Sunrises,  mustachioed men and conferences on women’s lib. I was twelve at the time. And here she was, gushing about the airport like a seasoned traveler. “Just look around!” she said, “everything is so clean! There’s no pushing or shoving, or any of those ‘outta my way’ people, like back home, where everyone is in such a gosh darn hurry!” Mom shook her head. The way she said ‘back home’ made me long for the days of living up North.

“Well, you know- a lot of the population down here is elderly, so they can’t really hurry…..you know…what with osteoporosis and all!” I laughed with the pure joy and disconnect of someone well under forty, someone who wouldn’t have to deal with aging issues anytime soon, if ever.

We drove to the house my husband and I had recently bought, our first. She loved it. She made a big fuss over her grandson, now 9- marveling over everything he did, wore and said. She stalked him like the paparazzi taking pictures and ambushing him with hugs.  She  claimed a white plastic chair out by our kidney shaped pool, where she’d sit and smoke her Salem’s, sometimes starting as early as 5 am. My mother didn’t start smoking when she was 33. (who does that?) She soaked up the sun, and was soon as brown as a chestnut. It was overall a fun, stress free visit.

But there were still moments when she drove me nuts. She was always washing dishes (fine-have at it!) but I started noticing a film on the glasses, a dullness to the plates. After several days, I finally spoke up and asked her if she knew what that was about. She admitted she couldn’t find the dish detergent, and hadn’t asked me about it, assuming I was out. In a way, I could understand- I had taken to using a fancy glass bottle with a pouring spout as my clear dish liquid container. But it was right there next to the sponge. I pointed this out to her. It was an idea I’d gotten from Martha Stewart (whose advice could only lead to no good) But if in fact, I was out- why wouldn’t she ask me to get some from the store five minutes away? She shrugged  her shoulders.

“Didn’t you see  this bottle, right here?’ I asked her, holding it up.

“Yes, but I didn’t know it was soap”

“What did you think it was? Right there next to the sponge?” I asked.

“To be honest, it looked like vodka” she answered quietly.

Oh my God! Did my mother think I had a full bottle of vodka at the edge of the sink with a convenient pouring spout attached? That I was swiggin’ it down like Neely, from Valley Of The Dolls?  And if she did, why wouldn’t she say something?! Needless to say, that ended my foray into Martha-land. I immediately went back to the Palmolive Green in its plastic squirt bottle, and my glasses and dishware once again sparkled. And I suppose a mom who minded her own business was a blessing as well…..as long as she wasn’t in charge of the dishes.

Last Dance For Mary Jayne: Part 2: 1/14/15

In Should I Even Be Talking About This?, Writing on January 14, 2014 at 12:16 pm

My mother spent a week in the sun, and then, just like that we were back in the airport, bidding goodbyes and promises to call. I don’t remember, but I was probably relieved to have my house back after company, which is my usual M.O. She loved the sun, and decided on that visit that she was going to move to Florida once and for all, where she would garden and soak up the sun like a sponge. She had no fear of the sun, or sun-damage, and unlike me, would spend as much time in it as humanly possible. I’m convinced that had she been given the chance to migrate south, she would have drained the sun of some of its power, and perhaps set global warming on it’s ass. And  shares of old school Bain de Soleil would have gone through the roof.

It all changed when my younger brother called me one morning from Connecticut, the middle of the week, asking me if I’d heard from my mother or knew where she was. I was in Florida, thousands of miles away, so no-  I hadn’t. He went on to explain he’d just seen her on Sunday when he took her grocery shopping.(She couldn’t drive because of her epilepsy) She had left a shopping bag in his car and he was trying to return it. He became alarmed when she didn’t answer the door on Monday night. It was now Wednesday. No one in the family had seen or heard from her. I think we all know where this is going.

Later  that day, my brother enlisted the help of the landlord to open the apartment door- and this is where they found her- slumped over in a chair, dead for days (we still don’t know exactly how long….medical examiners gave a three day window. The official date of death was the day after she’d been last seen alive- the day she’d been shopping with my brother, January 21)  Obviously, this was a horrible thing for him to discover and go through, and was the very thing one worries about when a parent lives on their own. It’s the worse case scenario we all dread, but ultimately hope won’t really happen to our family, or us. And the very thing we all live in fear of: dying alone and having no one notice our passing. She was fifty nine years old. The only thing that could have made this story sadder, would be if she’d owned the proverbial single-lady cats, who’d be hungry and becoming feral as they circled her body on the chair.

My brother called me from my mother’s house to break the news. Of course, when I saw her number flashing on the caller I.D., I breathed a sigh of relief- see, it was all a big misunderstanding, like an episode of Three’s Company! I knew my brother was over-reacting. Everything’s fine, now!. I could hear my mother laughing about the mix-up. “Oh, you goonie-birds! Stop worrying about me! I’m fine!’ she’d giggle. She was constantly being baby-sat and second guessed by  friends and relatives because of her illness, and heaved sighs of discontent at us regularly over all of the interference. This was just another one of those things: An adult woman (with epilepsy and prone to gran maul seizures) does something out of her routine and everyone freaks. She probably took the bus downtown. Even though it was the January, and the  dead of winter, the roads slippery with black ice, and below zero and why would she, especially since she was loaded up with supplies from her Sunday shopping expedition. But it had to make sense in order for my mom to be okay.

“She’s dead!’, my brother told me in an urgent, high-register voice. ‘I told you something was wrong!”

He was distraught, and on the verge of tears as he gave me the assignment of calling our other brother with the news. I immediately dialed him at work and blurted it out, and his reaction was similar to mine: ‘What? Are you sure? No- that can’t be’ then the sound of a dial tone as he hung up abruptly. He told me later he ran out of his office and through the parking lot outside, literally trying to outrun the bad news. Meanwhile, I went into a low-grade shock, and tried to recall the last phone conversation I’d had with her: were there any clues? Did she say anything telling? Chances are it was focused on my son (her’ boo-ba-lah’) and her impending move south.

I made quick, halting calls to my husband, and made arrangements to fly north.  I missed the winter, and meant to visit Connecticut in the bleakest month (January) to experience not so much the biting wind and icy snow- as the cozy feeling of sitting beside the fireplace,  gently blowing on a a cup of Swiss Miss- looking out the window as snow fell like confectioners sugar. But it took the loss of my mom to make that happen and I thought of how many times she played the part of sacrificial lamb. Always taking less for herself so that we would have more. Even in death. I stood in my living room that day, tugging on my hair and rocking back and forth on the balls of my feet, staring blankly out the sliding doors towards the plastic chair my mom favored, wondering why, if sitting by this pool again was all the woman wanted out of life, couldn’t it just be afforded to her?

Last Dance For Mary Jayne: Part 3: 1/14/14

In Should I Even Be Talking About This?, Writing on January 13, 2014 at 12:08 pm

My brother  (an Irish twin, just ten months my junior) -who lived near me in Florida, picked me up after we’d both hastily packed what few winter clothes we had in carry- on bags for the trip up north. We’d made hasty travel arrangements and were short on time The day was full of surreal moments…carrying a long, gray winter coat through the airport’s open-air parking garage in the 80 degree sunshine (in two hours I’d need the coat, which seemed unthinkable in the current warmth) exchanging glances with my brother over our shared experience, all various takes on defeatist glances, sad eyes, shrugged shoulders and random sighs. Being rushed was somewhat of a godsend-it kept us busy, as we hopped from counter to counter and pushed through the airport. I noticed every mother and child with a diamond-sharp clarity, and marveled at how casual they looked, as if to say: of course I have a mom! Doesn’t everyone? Because that was me, yesterday.

We had one more security checkpoint to go through, when an odd thing happened. My brother was striding as quickly as he could, and urging me on, well out in front of me. I had to wait for my bags to clear. The security guards had walked away from their post after I proceeded through, as there was no one behind me. Rob was pulling away in the distance, irritating me by not waiting. When my things came through, I quickly adjusted my carry-on, purse, and heavy winter coat, and glanced over at the security kiosk, out of which my bag had just appeared on the conveyor belt.  I noticed something sitting atop the the x-ray machine, a piece of paper, maybe a plane ticket? I reached for it, and was startled to be holding a bookmark. I looked behind me and in front, scanning for an owner, but no one was there. It was weirdly quiet, and no one was within fifty feet of where I stood. I took in the words on the bookmark, which read:

‘I AM THERE,

‘Do you need me? I am there. You cannot see me, yet I am the light you see by. You cannot hear me, yet I speak through your voice…..’

And so on and so forth. I froze, then felt dizzy. Bookmarks were ‘our thing’. I’d spent countless hours debating and debunking the existence of God, the afterlife, religious tales, and yet at that moment- as ridiculous as it sounds, I felt my mother was speaking to me. It was shocking. In the distance, my brother let out a two-fingered whistle and implored me to ‘hurry up!’. Though my feet felt steeped in cement, and my heart was drumming with shock I managed to get going. I held the bookmark against my chest as I worked my legs up into a fast walk and caught up with my brother, bags flailing. We were ushered directly onto our plane and into our seats, where  I stared into space, still stunned, until my brother nudged me. Evidently, the flight attendant had been trying to get my attention- it was time to fasten my seat-belt.  Once we were in the air I told my brother what had happened and showed him the bookmark. “Wow” he said, and not much more. He didn’t see it as I did (no big surprise- we’re very different) He hadn’t experienced what I did. It was as if it was our mom (maybe?) was saying ‘I’m somewhere’ instead of ‘I no longer exist’. I put the bookmark in my wallet carefully for safe-keeping, and braced myself for what lay ahead.

Looking back, I can see that the bookmark was a mundane coincidence.  But a tiny part of me will always remember that feeling of- what it would feel like to have my mom reaching out to me in such a personal way, using something that meant so much to us. I don’t believe in God per se (there are just too many awful things ‘he’ neglects to intervene in, including proof of his own existence) and I doubt there’s an afterlife, so I look at the here and now as all there is and no, it’s not sad, it makes sense to me. This is my one shot to live the life I  want to live.

But if I happen to be wrong, (and I’d be cool with being incorrect–after all, who could resist the notion of eternal existence? A forever of me, me, me!) and if there is something in the great beyond, I won’t exactly be pissed off. I’ll roll with it, and chalk my doubt up to using the logical side of my brain, issued to me by said supreme being. And then I’ll ask  why he stopped with the grand gestures, why he didn’t part the sea or turn water into wine during my lifetime, why all the secrets? Why no receipts?

I still have that bookmark and when I run across it I look at it with the curiosity of a spectator at a magic show. Is it special? It is to me.

Life is different without a mother, if you were lucky enough to have one. There will never be anyone who so unconditionally loves me and wants the best for me, no one I can call and vent in that certain way, no one I can ask the questions about my past that only she has the answers to. I still feel a tinge of jealousy towards me friends who still have moms-especially since they can’t possibly properly appreciate them until they’re gone.

Out Of The Woodwork/ 01/06/2014

In Should I Even Be Talking About This? on January 6, 2014 at 1:22 pm

There’s an ongoing debate going on about ‘free speech’ and the rights of cantankerous, old redneck Phil Robertson to gay-bash, and insist ‘black people were happy picking cotton’ while suggesting young girls should be married off at 15 (presumably to old creeps such as himself) He’s got a whole arsenal of backwoods ignorance to impart.

In some ways it’s  funny- like someone’s drunk grandpa in the corner of the room during the family re-union.  No one really worries about him because he’ll be gone soon anyway. I understand Phil Robertson is just your average nut from a reality show (who cares what he thinks?) But still….

What seems to have been lost in the controversy is that once again (drum-roll please…) these are’ religious’ people, who play the  God card quite a bit. Isn’t it alarming how much hate originates from religion? Doesn’t it seem counterintuitive?

I’d like to point out that no one is hindering anyone’s right to free speech. One can say anything one wants to. What Sarah Palin and other right-wingers are really angry about is the reaction to said speech.

They are angry because too many people aren’t high-fiving them and  pandering to gay-bashing, racism, sexism and ignorance.  They’re angry that the world is moving on without them, and that so many people don’t hate, that so many don’t try to hold their thumbs against the necks of people who are different than than them. It pisses them off that so many have come around to accept the differences in the human race, and don’t judge. They simply can’t wrap their heads around it. 

Years ago- in the 80’s, 90’s and beyond- the FCC was on a tear to limit free speech. Howard Stern in particular was singled out as a menace to society and many of these right wingers did everything in their power to shut him down. Eventually it drove him to satellite, and the furor finally simmered down -with terrestrial radio on life support as a result. (How did they NOT see that coming?)

This is an example of conservatives who are only protective of ‘free speech’ when the speech is touting their opinions and beliefs. But they’ll donate money to organizations designed to suffocate the kind of free speech they don’t approve of. Laughable.

Speech is free.  This applies to reactions to your free speech as well.

Speech is free. This applies to reactions to your free speech as well.

There’s another conservative phenomena that takes place when these haters spew their garbage. It happened when Paula Dean was brought to task for her use of the ‘N’ word (did anyone ever think she didn’t use that word?), it happened with Duck Dynasty- even when George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin: the closet racists and homophobes come out of the woodwork and ‘reward’ their ‘hero’ for voicing what they are too cowardly to say (in public). Paula Dean’s cookbooks shot up the charts, Duck Dynasty had record viewers, and even George Zimmerman was gifted thousands of dollars. It may be the best way to tell the real temperature of the country- it’s not what people say, it’s what they do. Haters/Cowards put their money where someone else’s mouth is!

American history proves, time and time again, that it’s the oppressed that always prevail in the long run. The gay bashers, racists, chauvinists, elitists, etc.  will be portrayed in the history books just like the witch burners of Salem were. As despicable, and deplorable.

 

But we must hope the hateful keep talking, the louder and more openly. Far better to know who these people are, than to have them walk silently among us.

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