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Neko

Monday, January 31, 2005

Does practice make perfect? 


No, of course not. Surprised?

How many times in your childhood were you goaded into continuing to grind away at something by an adult telling you that it WAS so? Heck, you've probably heard it dozens of times as an adult, too... but did you ever stop and think about it, ask yourself if it was true, if it COULD be true?

Most people "practice" the things they do all throughout their lives; with the obvious exception of very simple, trivial tasks, have you ever seen anyone become PERFECT at ANYTHING? The finest cook has the occasional meal that doesn't turn out. The most experienced gardener sometimes plants their bulbs at the wrong time. The most skilled mechanic can miss an easy fix and waste hours pursuing fruitless avenues. The idea that we can ever become perfect at any of our skills is a LIE, and the background messages, that we can and should keep pushing forever if we haven't achieved perfection, and that maybe we haven't tried hard enough if we're NOT perfect at those things, are AWFUL burdens to lay on our children... and ourselves.

What about the idea that if we practice we'll keep getting better? If that were true, we'd have to eventually become perfect, which isn't possible, so the cold hard truth is that no matter how long you practice, or how much you want to achieve a certain level of skill, if, as is nearly always the case, you set your sights on an exceptional degree of competence, you're doomed to be disappointed... unless you have the REAL key to success, which is TALENT.

You can pound away at your piano for the rest of your life, but without talent you'll NEVER achieve greatness; people who ARE greats in the field of music all talk about trying an instrument as kids and showing amazing skill right away... yes, they HAVE practiced like maniacs since then, but their starting point was already beyond where you'll ever get if you don't have their talent. You can take art classes for 50 years and never be more than a marginally competent illustrator, but a 6 year old with talent will pick up a pencil and draw something better than you could ever dream of; again, practice WILL greatly enhance their abilities, but the practice is IMPROVING their skills, not creating them out of thin air.

This train of thought got started when I was watching Joel Osteen's sermon tonight; he said something truly earth-shattering... that if you're trying to do something, and it's always a struggle, it's not meant for you to excel in that area, and you should give it up. When have you EVER heard anyone say that you should GIVE UP trying to gain a skill? What people USUALLY say is, you guessed it, "practice makes perfect"; no one ever even HINTS that we should just accept that we've gotten as far as we're ever going to with that skill, that we're wasting time and effort that could be better spent working on something we CAN excel in, or at least in learning something new... but why DON'T we say that, when more often than not it's the TRUTH?

I'm NOT saying that you should be a quitter, or not strive to be the best you can be in areas that matter to you, or that you should even consider giving up on anything that's bringing you joy; I'm just making the revolutionary suggestion, that, religious implications aside, Osteen is RIGHT... that sometimes, you need to accept that you're never going to get any better at something, and let it go in favor of new horizons. There's no failure in understanding that it's time to give up; as Osteen also said, the only failure would be to live out your life so caught up in the things you DON'T do well that you never discover those things that you WOULD have done well.


Sunday, January 30, 2005

"Magnificent Obsession" 


I saw this Rock Hudson classic for the first time tonight; I wasn't paying much attention at the beginning, but then it took a totally unexpected turn... it got METAPHYSICAL. An unhappy rich man meets a man who creates lovely art, and that man tells him that the ability to make the art came from something he was taught by a friend... something that "turned on" his talent in the way that turning on a lamp creates light.

He describes it as working as if our potential was the power plant, and all we had to do was decide to tap into it in the way we tap into electricity by switching a lamp on; the way to do THAT, he goes on, is to start doing good deeds for people, doing them for no gain, in secret, and NEVER allowing payback... and that this causes good things of all sorts to come to you. Doesn't that sound like my descriptions of how radiating positive karma brings good things to you? And isn't doing selfless good deeds the most powerful way to generate positive karma? This hit so close to home, and was so unexpected, that it gave me CHILLS.

Why would secrecy be necessary? He explained that, just as the insulation around the copper wires coming from the power plant keep the electricity from dissipating, the secrecy kept the power that they were trying to access from dissipating. This makes sense, as various religions teach the importance of giving help or charity privately, so as not to gain glory for yourself or shame the recipient; this keeps the giving real, and insures that one is giving from the heart rather than for ulterior motives... and this would also keep the karma positive.

The artist, who appears throughout the movie to nudge the unhappy rich guy into following the best path (as soon as you become willing to learn, a teacher will usually appear), cautions his new friend that this can't be done halfway; you have to be willing to totally give yourself to it, and once that happens you'll get so caught up that you'll never leave the path, that you'll become obsessed by it... hence the title of the movie.

He also warned that, although the path could give you great power, it also carried risks... and that one of the first people to follow it died on the cross at age 33.

WOW!!

You totally open yourself up, learn to give in the purest sense, seek chances to do good, and the resulting spiritual and karmic rewards... actually, the spirituality itself seems to generally become the greatest reward-I've been seeing that myself.

No, I don't usually seek enlightenment in 50 year old movies, and it seems unlikely that the writers were trying to provide it... or were they? In any case, I've needed a jump-start, I asked for one, and this was it; I still have goosebumps on my arms, I kid you not. Many deeply religious folks feel like they're drawing power/strength/courage from their deity; dodging the deity issue, could they in fact BE drawing power BECAUSE they believe? Can belief itself be the pipeline to our deeper power, or to power all around us, or both? Is the selflessness and submission involved in circling one's life around a deity conceptually similar to the idea of doing good, putting the emphasis on others and not yourself, and giving up the glory, in the same way that prayer is conceptually similar to meditation and other sorts of focused thought? Is dedicating yourself to a greater power or to a greater good the same thing on a karmic level, or a biological level, or both? Is it really that simple?

My first new spiritual epiphany of the year-YES!! :-)


Saturday, January 29, 2005

The war on women's bodies 


I don't think that's too strong of a word: WAR. Think about it:

When did we decide that a woman's body shouldn't have HIPS? Hips are NOT indicative of a failure of willpower, they're indicative of being a member of the gender that gives BIRTH; a woman has a naturally wide pelvis so that she has room for a baby to develop, and pass from her body, without killing her or the child. The hips of a woman are a wonderful thing, closely tied in with the miracle of childbirth; why then are they vilified?

When a woman gives birth, she gets a belly; even from years of swelling and stretching every month during her menstrual cycle, she'll get a bit of a bulge... and this used to be seen as proof of her fertility, and made her MORE desirable, not less. Why then is a woman these days expected to have, not just no tummy, but the sort of washboard abs that aren't even natural on a MAN?

Visible muscles of ANY sort are simply not natural for the female body; women in so-called "primitive" tribes, who do hard physical labor every day and don't have much fat, do NOT get the kind of muscles we see on too many much-looked-at female bodies... so why are women supposed to knock themselves out trying to GET those sorts of muscles? Why is even the most basic element of the female body, smaller muscles covered by a layer of fat, making her body SOFT, no longer acceptable?

A woman has to have a certain minimum amount of body fat in order to get pregnant, or to keep menstruating and thus prevent her from experiencing menopause symptoms; it is NOT healthy for a woman's body to be super-lean, even if she has muscles... but you wouldn't know that from the size and omnipresence of the diet industry. We idolize genetic freaks with size 0 bodies, and deprive OUR bodies of nutrients, including whole categories of calories, in order to force bodies for which this size is NOT natural to shrink... and shrink... and balloon back up... and shrink... and balloon back up... all in pursuit of a ridiculously unrealistic shape.

How about body HAIR? The current trend is for a woman to have NONE, which can mean having to remove the hair from most of the surfaces of her body, including the most sensitive areas; let's see some of the men who complain about just shaving their faces do THAT for a few weeks, so they can understand what they're asking for, and maybe this one can be changed.

A woman's SKIN isn't even acceptable anymore; unless she's a woman of color, or otherwise naturally "tan," she's expected to darken her skin one way or the other, to cover "flaws," look thinner, and feed into the falsehood that being tan is "healthy." The creation of self-tanners will save us from many cases of skin cancer, but they also, sadly, mean that a woman is now supposed to have that golden glow year-round.

Is there a woman in America who doesn't bemoan the size of her butt? Along with the hips, a woman is SUPPOSED to have a pronounced butt, and I think that most men actually prefer a butt that does NOT look like a man's... but, a protuberant rear end makes clothes harder to cut, harder to make hang right, so we have designers to thank for creating this insane ideal of a woman with no more butt than a boy.

A woman's legs are under fire, too, not just to be thin, but to NOT have the curvature that is, again, totally natural for them to have; when designer jeans became a big thing, they got models with straight stick legs like a little boy's to wear them, and we've been stuck with that ideal ever since.

The worst problem of all is of course with breasts:

1) Breasts are made of FAT, so the idea of a fat-free body with big boobs is sheer lunacy

2) Breasts do NOT come in the hemispherical shape of implants

3) Breasts beyond a certain size SAG, they do NOT jut out from the woman's upper chest

4) Breasts of any size have a natural "hang" and slope to them, they do NOT bulge out in the shape a pushup bra creates

5) Breasts are supposed to exist, and be seen as lovely, in ALL sizes

6) Breasts that could fit in classic champagne glasses used to be the ideal in France, and small breasts have been preferred in Brazil for decades (breast REDUCTIONS are the big thing there), just off the top of my head, so it is NOT natural to only see huge breasts as sexy

7) The very idea that women are supposed to have bags of silicone or saline surgically implanted in their bodies to look "hot," and that men are supposed to fondle these flesh-covered fake bags and get a thrill, is one of the things that future generations will look back on this era with the most horror about

If a woman doesn't starve herself, exercise like a fiend, rip out her body hair, self-tan, and get implants, then, unless she's one of the VERY few who are blessed with naturally "perfect" bodies, she'll be considered totally unattractive... and, worse, FEEL unattractive.

Have you ever seen porn photos from long ago? To today's eyes, the women look chunky, flabby, pasty, pot-bellied, lumpy, hippy, and not too impressive in the bust; to men of that time, they were hot stuff. If you get to thinking that women have made alot of progress in the past century or so, look at some of those pics, and compare them to pics of today's porn queens, and try to figure out how women went from being sexy just by virtue of being female to being sexy only if they spend half their lives working on it... and how women's bodies went from being effortless objects of desire to men to instruments of torture to the women themselves.


Friday, January 28, 2005

Positive paternal memories 


There aren't many memories of my father that are anything but grim, but today something very different has been floating around in my mind; for all his constant proclamations as to my utter worthlessness, once I reached age 12 he never again used any of his dictionaries, encyclopedias, or his thesaurus... when he had a question about something covered by these reference books, he'd call out to ME to tell him whatever it was he needed to know. He never praised me for the ability to give him information that was in fact always accurate (even though I was only a kid), never credited me with knowing more than he did about these things, never acknowledged this bit of value I possessed at any time... he never even said "thank you." Still, looking back at it, the countless times he asked, "How do you spell...", "What's the meaning of...", and "What's another word for..." constitute clear proof that, despite all his advanced degrees, not to mention his hatefulness towards me, he understood that my grasp of the English language was not only superior to his, but so accurate that he trusted my answers to be the final word in his business writings... which, looking back at it, is flat-out astonishing.

There were also a couple of more involved interactions between us in this area, both when I was pre-college age. In one of them, he and my mother were downstairs and I was upstairs in my room, when he called up to me:

Him: Do you know the word "hirsute"?
Me: Yes.
Him: How do you spell it?
Me: H-i-r-s-u-t-e.
Him: What does it mean?
Me: Hairy.
Him: Where did you learn that word?
Me: From a Star Trek novel.

I could hear him declaring triumphantly to my mother, "I told you so!! I told you so!!", and I picked the phrase "Star Trek" out of what he said after that, but I never found out what exactly he'd told her, or what the topic had been... neither of them had any interest in scifi, so "the great vocabulary in Star Trek novels" as a line of conversation, especially between people who never discussed anything more profound than baseball scores, just doesn't make SENSE, although it does SOUND like that was it.

The other interaction came when the 3 of us had seen something on TV that showed someone having endured some sort of social disaster (I can't remember what):

Him: He was really embarrassed.
Me: He was worse than embarrassed.
Him: He was humiliated.
Me: He was worse than humiliated.
Him: What's worse than humiliated?
Me: Mortified.
Him: ... Mortified!!

At which point he gave me a look that, were he anyone else, I wouldn't hesitate to call "impressed."

The funny part about this, and you knew there had to be one, is that my vocabulary has caused me TROUBLE with nearly every man I was ever involved with; if I had a dollar for every time I had to drag out the dictionary to settle a disagreement as to spelling, pronunciation or meaning, I could retire... and nothing makes a man pissier than being conclusively proven wrong in this way. Why is it that the man who despised me would always accept my assertions about words, but men who were trying to get into my pants have been relentless in DENYING those same assertions? I think that book is right, and men really ARE from Mars, lol.


Thursday, January 27, 2005

Sexual confusion 


I read and hear alot about people's sexual values and desires... and I'm confused.

It seems like every study of people in relationships, whether of men or women, shows that a solid majority of them want to have sex more often... but, if more than half of each gender feels that way, aren't some of them in relationships with EACH OTHER? How can BOTH people in a relationship want more sex? Don't they ever TALK?

When they do studies about who's cheating on their partners, despite the fact that some people deny that they're cheating when they clearly are, it's always 65%-75% of people who admit to currently being cheaters; how is this POSSIBLE?!! How can as many as 3/4 of the people I encounter all be cheating?!!

A Cosmo web poll showed that 44% of single men expect women to have sex with them by date 3; who are these men who answered the poll, that nearly HALF of them want sex with women who are almost total strangers, and expect the women to have sex with THEM? What do they base this expectation on? Do they think that buying 3 dinners, assuming that they paid for all 3 dates, means that they've BOUGHT the women's sexual favors? And who are the women that these men have been going out with, who've been going along with this plan? If you just want sex, go for it, but if you're dating that's supposed to be leading to pursuing a relationship... and sex too soon complicates things, creates strong emotions before it's appropriate, and blinds the partners to what they're actually like, preventing accurate judgments about compatibility from being made.

There are alot of men complaining about not getting oral sex... and alot of men who admit to not giving it. No commentary necessary.

Condom use has been dropping, with women less likely to demand their usage, and men more likely to push to not have to use them... all while STD's including AIDS continue to be VERY real dangers. Unless you're in a long-term committed relationship and have both been tested, what POSSIBLE excuse is there to not use condoms? If the woman doesn't insist, why would the man risk sex with her? If the man tries to refuse, why would the woman risk sex with HIM?!! Even if you ARE in a relationship, what if you're being cheated on? How many stories do we have to read about people who got infected by cheating partners before we wise up?

Women have been pushed from every quarter over the past 30 years or so to be more sexual, but we're STILL being called sluts, or worse, if we ARE openly sexual... and the sexual aggressiveness of younger women has been causing impotence in young men in ever-increasing #'s. So, what's a women supposed to do, just never say no, and cheerlead the guy about how hot he is and how much she wants him, so that he feels like he can always ask and get some? Gee, for some reason that does NOT feel like progress.

If, on the other hand, a MAN has lots of sex, and/or is openly sexual, does he ever get a word of criticism? Equality, yeah, right.

If aliens were to land and ask us why we're so weird about sex, what could we tell them? Why is it so HARD for us to find someone to have it with who wants it with US, have a kind and frequency of sex with them that we'll both like, take all appropriate measures to combat pregnancy and disease without any drama, and then not cheat? Sex used to be something the woman endured from the man as payment for him providing for her, and to get children, and THAT was terrible, but the more sexually free women get, the more NEW problems pop up; are we, as a species, simply incapable of creating a culture in which more than a tiny % of people are having the sort of sex life they want?


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Dealing with the all-too-common cold (and flu) 


Winter's in full swing, and it seems like everyone is sniffling and spewing germs, so here are the things I've found that help me keep the misery down to a minimum:

1) Echinacea: this is an herb that I read about a few years ago, that has actually been proven to boost your immune system. I was skeptical even after reading about several different studies on it, but I used to get sick all the time, so I tried it... and it WORKS. If I begin taking it when I first start feeling "off," I can prevent the virus from taking hold nearly 100% of the time; my family and friends take it now too, with the same sort of results. If you don't get it early enough to beat the virus, take it anyway, as it'll reduce the severity and shorten the duration; do NOT take it prophylactically, though, as it only boosts your immune system for a week before your body acclimates to it. You can find echinacea in most drug and general stores; check the label, and get the kind where the dose is ONE tablet, as that's the kind with the active ingredient more concentrated, and avoid the kind with goldenseal added-it can cause intestinal distress, and doesn't give any added benefit.

2) Ibuprofen: most of the symptoms of colds and flus (even congestion, amazingly enough), can be improved by taking Advil or something similar... take the generic if you can find it, as it's just as good and much cheaper.

3) Zinc: like so many other medical discoveries, this one was stumbled across by accident-a little girl being given zinc for something (I forgot what) refused to swallow the pill, and it dissolved in her mouth... and her cold vanished. The most potent way to take zinc is in lozenge form, but they taste so filthy that I can't stand it, so I take it in tablet form (get the chelated kind), and it still works.

4) Vitamin E: this has been shown to help with all respiratory ailments.

5) Vitamin C: this one you've probably been hearing about for years, and it's still a good one (get the time-released kind)

6) B-complex: illness stresses your body, and that destroys your water-soluble vitamins, so it's a good idea to replace all of them (C and E are the others).

7) Garlic: used as a medicine in nearly every culture other than ours, it's been shown to contain powerful anti-viral properties.

8) Spicy food: the chemicals that cause heat stimulate your immune system and clear your sinuses.

9) Chloraseptic: not only will this numbing spray cool your sore throat pain, it'll greatly reduce the urge to cough... I figured this one out long ago, and now it's being officially recommended.

10) Petroleum jelly: if you're blowing or wiping your nose, dab some on after each time, and your nose will never get red or sore.

Other than that, the standard advice to get plenty of rest and fluids still holds true; hot liquids will help with congestion, and if you choose soup you can fill it full of garlic... yes, your grandmother's advice about having chicken soup when you're sick is still good. :-)


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The stupidity of evil 


We hear about so much evil in the news every day that we get the idea that evil is this unbeatable force, but it's NOT, because it's fundamentally flawed; my standard line on this one is that evil is, at its base, stupid, and that it's fortunate for the human race that this is so. For example; crime experts tell us that nearly every murderer leaves something at the scene of the crime and/or takes something away, and that this is what leads to many of them being captured and convicted. Think about it; how STUPID do you have to be to KILL someone and then leave your sunglasses behind (I saw that one on TV today), or to take the gold chain off of the victim and wear it in front of the COPS, and then leave it behind at the police station (from the same murder case)? Considering that murder can lead to decades in jail at the very least, wouldn't it make sense for the killer to PAUSE a moment before leaving the scene of the crime to be sure that they haven't left anything behind, and resist the urge to take any souvenirs with them? Of course it would... but that's not the way it happens, because evil apparently blocks some of the ability to reason things out.

Smaller-scale evil works the same way; how many times have you heard about someone who's cheating on their partner who got found out because they had the receipt for something they purchased for their new honey in their pocket, or left their cell phone bill showing countless calls to that person out on their desk, or went to dinner with them somewhere that they KNOW their friends also eat at, or, the classic, came home with lipstick on the collar? Would it be so hard to hide anything incriminating, give a little thought to where it would be safe to be seen in public, and avoid being a cliche by not letting a lipsticked mouth near your neck until you took your shirt off? Nope... but that's not how people operate when they're behaving in evil ways.

Even on the rare occasion that someone plans and executes a crime flawlessly, they generally do the stupidest possible thing; commit the crime AGAIN. I heard a mind-boggling example of this on the same show the prior examples came from; a doctor gave a female patient a shot to immobilize her and make her drowsy and confused while he raped her, and, to keep the finger of blame from pointing to him when they did a DNA test on him to compare with the DNA obtained from the semen on her panties (stupid, STUPID, why didn't he wear a condom?), he saved some blood from a patient, put it in a plastic tube, implanted the tube in his arm, and, when they took blood for the DNA test, that's the blood they took. It worked; he got away with it, and the whole town sided with him and thought that the poor victim was a liar. The smart thing to do would have been to quit while he was ahead, but instead, he pulled the exact same drug-and-rape thing with his 13 year old stepdaughter; the girl told on him, and, when he tried the blood in the tube trick again, he foolishly used blood that wasn't fresh, the technician who withdrew it spoke up about it, and they forced him to submit to having hair and inner-cheek-cell samples taken for extensive DNA testing... and he was CAUGHT.

That the man only got 6 years in jail for raping a woman and a little girl, and that people from the town were saying AFTER he was convicted that they'd STILL go to him for treatment if he was available, and so would their families, only goes to show that stupidity it NOT limited to evil people.


Monday, January 24, 2005

I am the squirrel whisperer!! :-) 


There's a little squirrel who started visiting my house last summer, and who's recently been semi-hibernating in my back yard; he's very likely the most spoiled creature on the planet. Every day, he gets filtered water in his own water dish, walnuts, peanuts, several sorts of veggies, the occasional apple or grapes, birdseed dropped on the ground by our equally spoiled avian visitors... and leaves from all of my surviving plants, lol. He makes off with enough food each day to feed a dozen squirrels, but he's not fat; he's dug up the area around our patio to create storage for all of it. Most people would be displeased with their landscaping becoming tunnels and mounds and general mess due to a rodent, but we're so besotted with this little guy that OUR reaction to seeing him hard at work at his excavating is to exclaim, dewey-eyed with adoration, "Look, he's digging-isn't he DARLING?!!" On a less infatuated note, as long as he's just rearranging OUR yard, he's not at risk of being caught and relocated, or WORSE; he's already been relocated several times due to his destruction in neighboring yards, and he keeps coming back, but the last time he was so THIN that I think they're taking him progressively farther away, and if they get him again he won't survive the journey back... or, they'll decide that he's been more trouble than he's worth and just kill him outright. What's an ugly yard compared to his LIFE?

The reason we've come to love what objectively is a major pest is that he's shown again and again how SMART he is (all those stories about how it's impossible to keep squirrels away from wherever they want to be make perfect sense to us now), and because he has loads of personality; for example, the larger birds eat on the ground under the feeder along with him, and, periodically, we'll see him eye them speculatively... and then CHARGE into their midst, scattering them like a small child might do. I'm sure he wishes that he could chuckle as he casually goes back to eating the seeds.

From the moment he first arrived in our lives, I've naturally been DYING to pet him, even though he's a wild animal and I knew that it was probably an unreachable dream. His cleverness and courage have always given me hope, though; he quickly learned that initially-scary sounds like the phone, doorbell and air conditioner led to no harm, and consequently ignored them, and he'd occasionally show up when one of us was outside, and quickly figured out that we weren't dangerous... he wouldn't come right up to us like he would with the birds, but considering the size differential, his willingness to come within a couple of feet was pretty impressive. We've been luring him ever closer to the sliding glass door so that we can see him better, by putting his favorite treats gradually nearer, and by talking to him so that he'd be aware of us and lose any fear of our movements behind the glass; he's long been indifferent to whatever we do in the house, and doesn't even blink when camera flashes go off.

My husband reported a few days ago that our little angel had run up to him several times when they'd been on the patio together, and I decided that it was time to try to get him to come take food from me. Now remember, I'm HUGE compared to him, and he's a wild animal on the business end of the food chain; nevertheless, the FIRST time I held out a peanut and called to him, he ran right over and, after a few false starts, came and took it from me!! I was ECSTATIC. After several successes with this, I tried putting a walnut on the palm of my hand to see if he'd be willing to trust me that far; although this required him to be right where I could, in theory, grab him, he went for it without hesitation. We had a few incidents where he got a little confused between what was food and what was my fingers, which isn't surprising since my fingers SMELLED like food, but he never actually bit, he just gave a little nibble, and quickly decided that I wasn't edible.

I was overwhelmed when he became comfortable enough to put his tiny paw on my hand and half-climb onto me to reach the nuts rather than going to where he could grab from the side; he'd sit, or even stand, right next to my hand, eating his walnut and looking up into my face, trying to figure me out... he can certainly tell that the non-stop stream of noise is coming from me ("What a good boy, what a precious baby, my little love bug," etc), he can see me moving and smell me, but I think I look so bizarre to him that he doesn't quite know what to make of me. He'd always back off when my hands started moving to get him more nuts, but he was watching me closely, and quickly figured out where they were coming from (bags by the door), and his little mind has been churning madly. Because the sounds from my opening of the screen door were scaring him, I tried leaving it open a little, with me sitting next to it, so that I could just stick my hand out with food when I saw him, but after a couple of times of looking away for a moment and looking back to see him standing RIGHT THERE in the opening, looking in at me and the nuts, I resigned myself to having to just get him used to the sound, which he has. He hadn't forgotten where the nuts were, and I had to watch him VERY carefully when I was moving in or out of the doorway, because he started trying to get around me to make a grab for the gold... oh, he was backing off when I shifted position to block him, but not very far.

Last night, I told my husband that I was going to try to work up to petting our little sweetheart; he thought it would take a great deal of time and effort to get a wild animal to accept that sort of thing, and I thought so too, BUT: As if in response to my thoughts, today the squirrel started eating straddling my hand, and I very carefully tried moving my fingers to stroke his belly fur; he didn't even FLINCH. I gradually became bolder; he seemed not to care. Within a few rounds of walnuts, I found myself, to my utter amazement and delight, PETTING him on his back and sides as one would pet any domesticated animal; I stopped short of petting his head, as even a cat or dog may react badly to its head being touched if it's eating, but other than that it was normal petting, and, although he didn't react as if he was enjoying being petted (I'm still hoping), he showed no signs of distress whatsoever.

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOO!! :-)

Perhaps I'm easily pleased, but I found this willingness of his to let me touch him to be the biggest thrill in AGES. The down side of it, though, is that he's now totally unafraid of my hands, and, when I have to reach into the bags for more nuts, he tries to push under or climb over the arm I put up to block him from coming into the house; since having a possibly panicking wild animal racing around all my breakable collectables would NOT be a good thing, and, since his instinct would be to run up the Christmas tree (yes, it's still up, so shoot me) with its many expensive ornaments, and then possibly to make the jump to the nearby shelves full of fragile items, I've got to rethink how I'm feeding him... which means that I'll probably have to go outside, shut the door, and freeze my butt off sitting on cold concrete while I let him climb on me and feed him that way. Don't get me wrong, it'll be well worth it; I just wish it wasn't winter.

The only flaw in the actual petting experience today was that my husband wasn't here to see it; he picked the wrong day to be out of town. When he got home, he was greeted with, "He let me pet him!! He let me pet him!! He did the cutest thing in the history of the world and YOU MISSED IT!!" He was pretty bummed out, especially since now he'll have to wait until next weekend to see if I can do it again... and, to see if the squirrel will take food from HIM.

I've always been unusually good with animals, but today's pet-a-thon will remain one of the best critter encounters ever. I want to end this post with a note of caution, though, because I know that some of you will have squirrels and such hanging around where you live, and may now be tempted to see if you can duplicate my success; I hope that you CAN, but please, PLEASE, keep in mind that a wild animal is NOT a pet, that it may act in unexpected ways, that it might bite or scratch you, and might be diseased even if it looks healthy... so be CAREFUL. Also, for the animals' safety, take a few minutes to find out what's best to offer them to eat BEFORE you try to feed them; human food can make them sick. For squirrels, only raw, unsalted nuts are ok; for peanuts in the shell, be prepared to crack the shells for them until they figure out what to do. And last but far from least, keep in mind that once you lure a wild creature in, you can't make it leave when you want it to, and that it may cause some damage as it eats, builds a home, or just plays around; if all of this pales in comparison for you to being able to interact with a little piece of nature, as it does for me, best of luck-I'll keep my fingers crossed for you. :-)


Sunday, January 23, 2005

Dinner out 


If my husband and I hadn't already known that we were destined to be together, the way we manage a dinner out would be proof:

The place we went to tonight gives every table baskets of little hunks of crusty bread covered in melted garlic butter; we each had a piece, and it was REALLY tasty, so I dragged the basket over to my side of the table and ate it all. My husband smiled goofily at me.

We got tostones (fried plantains, a Puerto Rican and Cuban delicacy), and were still crunching happily when the salads came; I don't care for veggies, so I ate the rest of the tostones while my husband ate lettuce. I gave him my tomato and onion; he gave me his cucumber. I picked out the carrot shreds and gave him the rest of the salad.

The meals came; I pushed my bowl of black beans over to him, making a mental note to NOT get into any enclosed spaces with him later that evening. I carefully spread out my carne con papas (beef with potatoes) to see what each chunk was while he started vacuuming up his entree; every time I turned up an olive, I exclaimed, "Ew, gross!!" and tossed it onto his plate. I tried one of the potatoes; it was icky, so I tossed THAT on his plate. I scraped all the sauce off of the meat pieces, ate a few bites, then got tired of it and decided to wait until the next batch of tostones came; my husband was still eating steadily. The waitress brought him a new Diet Coke; I took it, and gave him what was left of my old one.

This is all perfectly normal to US, but we get some odd looks every time we eat in public, surrounded by people eating only, GASP, from their own plates. This effect is magnified when we eat at Asian restaurants, as then we're sharing plates of food, and everything has to be divided up so that HE gets all the stuff I don't like, and *I* get all the goodies; this means that there's a steady stream of mushrooms and peapods and such flying across the table... usually onto his plate, but sometimes onto his hand, at which we both snicker, especially if the food's HOT (sometimes, he'll even PRETEND that whatever hit his hand was hot, and that he's in ridiculously extreme agony, just to make me laugh). It also means that, although we both order cashew chicken, only one of us GETS it... because he puts all the cashews on MY plate. At the Thai restaurant, we get 4 spring rolls, but they're my favorite, so my husband will only take one, and insist I take his 2nd one; he likes burned stuff, so I'll examine the sate to see which ones have the most charcoal, and those are his. If there's anything I can't identify, I have HIM try it; if, as is usually the case, it's something I won't eat, I'll pick out all of it and give it to him. If I notice that an errant water chestnut has found its way to his plate, I retrieve it. We crack each other up, but we've had waitresses yelp "What are you DOING?!!", so I'm guessing we must look pretty strange to outsiders; we're used to that, though. :-)

I honestly couldn't tell you how we ended up with this weird interactive method of eating together; neither one of us has a history of this sort of thing, and it's not like we ever saw anyone else doing it, lol. My husband was always happy to eat anything I didn't want, and always offered me anything he had that he thought I'd like; somehow, over the years, that turned into something out of an old slapstick comedy, which probably looks more like a food fight than anything else, but is actually... now that I think about it... love in action. You know that scene in "Lady and the Tramp" where he rolls the last meatball over to her side of the plate? That's a little lower-key than what we do, but the thought is the same; it's part of how my husband provides for me, through the most basic and essential means... food. He literally takes his own food and gives it to me so that I can enjoy my dinner more, and is happy to eat the leftovers knowing that I've had a good meal.

My husband isn't big on romantic gestures. He's a slob. He's scatterbrained. He's disorganized. He can't dress himself. He can't remember to flush the toilet more than 20% of the time. BUT; if I commandeer the tasty food and eat it all, he'll beam at me as if it's the happiest moment of his life... and one of the most important lessons of MY life has been that THIS sort of thing is what we should judge a person's worth as a romantic partner by. If there are any ladies out there bemoaning the lack of roses and candlelight from their men, and wondering if they're REALLY loved, take my advice; go to a Chinese restaurant... and order the cashew chicken.


Saturday, January 22, 2005

Why does junk food taste so GOOD?!! 


If healthy, low-calorie foods were tasty, there'd be no problems with weight in America, and we'd all be getting the full spectrum of nutrients with the attendant health benefits; sadly, these foods are NOT the best-tasting choices available, and in fact many of them taste downright BAD to people whose tastebuds are used to the yummiest stuff there is... junk food.

It's all the fault of our biology and our success as a species. We're genetically programmed to seek out and prefer to consume certain things:

1) Salt: crucial to survival but tricky to get enough of in a world without processed food and the Morton company, salt is so important that we have a whole set of tastebuds devoted to it, and the inborn urge to eagerly consume anything that tastes salty

2) Fat: since every gram of fat has 9 calories compared to only 4 for protein and carbs, fat was the best bet in the days when we had to forage and hunt in order to eat, and were often on the brink of starvation... it's also necessary for the absorption of certain nutrients, and that made it doubly necessary for us to slurp up any fatty foods we encountered

3) Sweetness: in the times before medical science and Imodium AD, the dreadful diarrhea that a person could get from eating UNripe fruit was no joke, especially for kids, who can become dangerously dehydrated very quickly... so, we have a set of tastebuds to alert us to sweetness, and a preference for sweet things, to predispose us to eat RIPE fruit, which is safe and healthy

Not coincidentally, modern foods that contain these 3 elements seem extra-tasty to us, and, also not coincidentally, these same things are the basis for all junk foods. Unfortunately, we do NOT have biological mechanisms for dealing with the excess consumption of foods full of fat, sugar and salt, and the omnipresence of food resulting from our astounding success as a species means that we can gorge ourselves on foods that nature never intended for us to eat in large quantities, or at all, and have all sorts of health problems as a result.

If science could figure out a way to make pizza, ice cream, chocolate and cheeseburgers taste bad, and broccoli, fish, rice cakes and spinach taste GOOD, we'd all be effortlessly thin and much healthier. I can't even imagine getting my nutrients from food instead of pills, or not being hungry all the time because the foods I liked weren't too high-calorie to eat more than a little bit of; it sounds like paradise, but... could there BE a paradise that didn't have cheesecake and Fritos?


Friday, January 21, 2005

The irritating emailer RETURNS 


I originally posted about him on 12-3-04; he's a depressed, lonely, friendless guy who I met on a forum and got buried in emails from... emails that went on and on and ON about his sad and boring life, and contained no inkling of interest in ME or in being my friend. Although this is typical of depressive behavior, and I know he doesn't know any better, and that no one else in the world was talking to him, and of course I felt sorry for him, I finally got fed up and pointed out the problems with our "relationship" and his behavior, and issued an ultimatum; change his ways or stop writing to me... with the expectation that he'd never write to me again. I didn't hear from him for a long while, and, as I posted on 1-11-05, I assumed that he HAD in fact gone stalking off to find new people to bore and alienate... but, to my amazement, he has written to me again!! :-O

It broke my heart a little to read his letter, because, although it's clear that part of him is still trying to believe that his behavior is ok and I'm an old meanie, he DID make what for him must be a gargantuan effort; he actually asked me a few things about myself, and did NOT add a monologue about his @#$%^&* woodworking projects. He's obviously desperate to hold onto the only person who's talked at length to him in who knows HOW long, but... but... but *I* really do NOT want to get caught up with him again, because he's like a black hole sucking up my time and energy, and even if he IS making an effort, he's still a bottomless pit of neediness and misery, and I already put in YEARS dealing with people like him, and... and... sigh.

It would be so easy to just brush him off, to block him from my inbox or tell him that I'm not willing to make any more effort for him, and no one who understood the situation could judge against me... but I just CAN'T. I'm not a wimp or a doormat, and I've got a titanium spine, but I KNOW what it's like to be all the way at rock bottom like he is, and I can tell him how to improve his situation if he'll listen to me, and it looks like he's willing to give it a try, and even to attempt to be a true friend to me, and... I can't turn my back on him. I can't reject someone in need who's shown a willingness to accept guidance on how to behave, even though it must hurt what little pride he still has; it just wouldn't be RIGHT, and I'm guessing that the karma would be especially bad.

AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!


Thursday, January 20, 2005

The need for affection 


If you've ever had pets, or watched the Discovery channel, you know that the higher mammals show affection to each other; male, female, young, old, they all do it, and the nuzzling, licking, and grooming allows them to form and maintain bonds with each other, bonds that are crucial to their survival. The most advanced mammals after us, the great apes, spend a great deal of their free time doing this sort of thing, and they're not doing it to impress the scientists watching them from the bushes; they do it because it's instinctive. So why don't WE act that way... don't WE have similar instincts?

Babies need affectionate touching so much that those that don't get any can suffer from "failure to thrive"; it's as if something in their tiny bodies decides that there must not be anyone taking care of them, and shuts them down. Little kids are always wanting to be picked up, held, sit in your lap, get in bed with any family member, hug, kiss, or just hang on to someone's hand or leg... kinda sounds like we DO have the same instincts, doesn't it?

So, what happens to us? Once a child gets past a certain age, we start telling them that they're "too big" to be picked up, or sit in a lap, or do any of the other perfectly natural affectionate things that they were doing before, and from then on we train our kids to touch, and ask to be touched, less and less... until, one sad day, the instinct dies out, and they don't even want to be hugged or kissed good-bye anymore, and that's about it for physical affection until they're old enough for their hormones to kick in.

The sexual instinct is VERY strong, and, because sex is physical, it indirectly satisfies much or our natural desire for affection, so affection for its own sake all too often becomes a distant memory; using sex as the only form of meaningful contact among adults is NOT one of the better aspects of "civilization," let's face it. We HAVE gotten better in recent years, as there's alot more hugging and even kissing between friends than there used to be... at least, there has been when at least one of the friends is a woman-men are still too afraid of the stigma of homosexuality to show each other affection in any way other than punching each other's shoulders. Still, we're a long, LONG way from the level of friendly interaction that many animals enjoy; doesn't it seem like life would be happier if we COULD hang out in groups and all show open affection for each other?

Would it be so hard to show a little bit more affection for our loved ones, and even our "liked ones"? Being less eager to teach kids to be stiff and serious rather than to seek closeness would help, too. Elderly people who no longer have spouses are often starved for touch, especially if they rarely see their family; the sorry treatment of our elderly people in America is a whole other rant, so suffice it to say that you can give a REAL boost to any senior citizen that you care about by giving them some hugs (but don't force kids to hug an unfamiliar relative if they're uncomfortable doing so-that's not fair). If you have a romantic partner, affection can seem like a ticking time bomb that can explode into sexual contact at any moment; since affectionate couples tend to be happier, agree to start cuddling more for cuddling's sake... and, if you have kids, make sure they see some of this going on, so that it'll seem like the "right" way to have a relationship, which of course it IS.

Affection can't be automated, mechanized, computerized, digitized, processed, packaged, preserved, or done more quickly and efficiently; that's what makes it so lovely. Can we take a break from our desire for instant gratification and our passion for technical gadgets and try to fan the flame of our instinctive desire for affection? I dunno; I'll try it if you will.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Adoption 


In America, we have many thousands of kids waiting to be adopted, and many thousands of people who want to adopt; is there any sane reason why these 2 groups can't be joined together, getting those poor kids out of grim government facilities and into loving homes?

You hear alot about how this or that thing that's currently run by some level of gov't should be privatized... but can you think of anything more important than our nation's children? It just wouldn't be possible for any company or group of people to do a WORSE job with adoptions than is currently being done, so how about giving some folks with an ounce of common sense the opportunity to wipe out the endless and difficult process currently in place and come up with a way for parents and kids to hook up before the kids are too OLD to be adopted any more?

Prospective parents would of course still need to be checked out, but some of the current disqualifiers should be eliminated, so that every possible non-criminal person who wanted to adopt could do so:

1) Single parents; this one has already been eliminated in some areas, but should be eliminated in ALL states... while few people would deny that a child would be better off with 2 parents instead of one, no one can deny that one parent is FAR better than NONE.

2) Age; as long as it's reasonably certain that the parents would live long enough to take the child to adulthood, and are healthy enough to care for a young child if that's what they're asking for, where's the problem? My husband's mother was past 50 when he was adopted as an infant (illegally, of course, given the laws), with his father a little younger, and he received a perfect, golden childhood... the best of anyone I've ever known.

3) Race; yes, it's a nice idea for children to be raised by people of the same race, so that they can learn about their heritage, but the sad truth is that there are far too few non-white people trying to adopt kids in this country, and so a minority child is much more likely than a white child to never get adopted... a particularly cruel form of racism. The point has been made that there are kids matched with parents of races other than theirs who have done things that show that they want to be the same race as their parents, with the conclusion drawn being that such mixed-race adoptions are "bad," and thus that parents should only get kids of their same race, but I've read about white-looking multi-racial kids trying to color their skin with their markers to look like the non-white parent, and we certainly wouldn't dare say that those kids shouldn't be with THEIR parents, so, again, you have to think of the non-existent ideal parents vs NO parents, and let white people adopt non-white kids... especially in the case of the aforementioned multi-racial kids, as most non-white parents won't take a multi-racial child.

4) Sexual orientation; I know, some people claim that gay parents could somehow "make" a child gay, but, if parents could "program" kids with their orientation, how do you explain that nearly all gay kids have 2 STRAIGHT parents, but weren't "programmed" by THEM? Gay parents are every bit as loving as straight parents, and there's no evidence that they EVER try to force their kids to be gay... in fact, the only parents that I've ever heard of that actually try to force an orientation on kids are STRAIGHT parents.

5) People who can't take multiple siblings; yes, it's preferable for siblings to stay together, but all too often they're together at an orphanage because so few people can take in several kids at once, and that's NOT in their best interests. There should certainly be requirements for the kids to be allowed to keep in touch and see each other, which is more than they usually get if they get farmed out to foster homes, but beyond that they should be given the same chance at adoption as singleton orphans.

So, what's left to cause a potential parent to be turned down? As long as they don't have criminal records, aren't living in absolute poverty, don't appear to be hoping to get a child that can work for them for free (I've read about some unscrupulous farm families adopting older boys for this purpose, grrrrrrr), and don't have anything about them that would make it seem as if they couldn't properly care for a child, such as severe mental illness, they should be cleared to adopt, and how long could checking this stuff take? Certainly not YEARS, which is how long the wait usually is to be allowed to adopt currently. Once they were cleared, they'd obviously still have to wait if they wanted a healthy white infant, as the supply is far less than the demand, but if, as is often the case, they'll take children from a wide range of ages, races and even health problems, they should be able to start the selection process right away.

This is the richest country in the world, and NO child should be stuck in an orphanage or foster home as long as there are people who can afford to adopt who wish to do so; it'd sure be nice if some of the politicians who talk big about valuing children and family got together and DID something about all this, wouldn't it?


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

An odd marital moment 


My husband is the sort of man who can take apart and repair complex mechanisms (and even get them put back together most of the time) withOUT the benefit of training or manuals; he just opens things up, takes a look, and figures it out. This exact same man, when faced with a bathroom counter, and the handful of doodads that customarily go there (soap dispenser, tissue holder, etc), is utterly incapable of coming up with ANY reasonable arrangement of the latter on the former, despite having seen such an arrangement 20 times a day for YEARS. He'll put the items down at random in the available space, and then claim that he thought he'd "done it right," despite the fact that the soap is so far away from the sink that no one wanting to wash their hands could reach it, the lotion dispenser's spout is turned into the wall so that no lotion can be extracted without moving it, or all of it is just sitting in a ragged clump in the middle of the bare space, as if attractive placement didn't exist on his planet. For the benefit of the unmarried women, allow me to add here that this is a standard male tactic to keep from having to do part of a task, and, if he's lucky, to be excused from doing ANY of said task in the future; I'm an old hand at dealing with this one, so I'm not fooled, but I was unable to overcome having to take MY time to help him finish up with the bathroom cleaning... until today.

Taking advantage of the bathroom being clean due to the recent visit of a friend, I told him to bring his digital camera in there tonight after dinner; while he fetched it, I meticulously arranged all the doodads in the exact positions and orientations they should ideally be in. Once he was in the room with me, I told him to take photos of every bit of the counter area, from every reasonable angle, so that, the next time he had to clean the bathroom, he'd be able to put everything back where it belongs... and have no further excuses to NOT do it right. Amused at being outmanuevered, he took the photos, and we discussed what sort of printouts he should make; I've gotta remember to get a photo of him in there cleaning with the doodad diagrams taped to the wall for him to refer to, hehehehehe.

Shortly thereafter, he was sitting on the throne, and I went in there to talk to him... yeah, I know, that's sort of gross, and I'd NEVER have thought in a million years that I'd be in the bathroom with someone who was, er, doing that, and I myself always have the bathroom door closed and locked when I'M in there, with barbed wire strung up and a guard dog stationed outside... no, not really, but I would if I could, as I'm NOT the sort of person who accepts company while performing bathroom functions... then again, neither was my husband before we met, lol... um, anyways, I was in there talking to him, and I noticed that the camera was still in there. While he was on the throne. And an idea came to me.

I asked if I could take some photos too, and of course he said yes, so I asked to be shown how to use the camera; once he fooled around with some controls (don't ask, I don't know), all he had to do was show me which of the dozen or so buttons was the right one to push, and explain how to get the autofocus to work. So, I'm holding the camera up to my eye, pointing it at random walls, and reporting on the green #'s, black circle, and red flash that I'm seeing, and he's trying to explain what all of it is... and meanwhile, I'm backing away from him. When I judged I was far enough back, I engaged the autofocus, swung the camera to point at HIM, and CLICK, captured him in all his glory on... well, it's not film, of course, but whatever that thing is in there that pics get recorded on.

I howled in laughter at his belated protest, and he was laughing too because of how I GOT HIM. He showed me the pic, and, figuring I could do better, I took back the camera, told him to smile, and took some more photos of him with a wide and toothy grin on his face. He joked about deleting them all, but ended up promising to print them out for me; since this is the same man who, after an innocent question from me years ago about whether the scanner he had then could be used to scan his butt, demonstrated that yes, it COULD, and printed THAT out, I'm reasonably sure he'll do it. What would be even funnier would be if I could get him to Photoshop in a Santa hat on his head, and presto, there'd be our Christmas card for 2005.

Many years ago, when the first of my friends to marry would tell me about stuff that had gone on with her and her husband, my reply would typically be, "That's GROSS!! Marriage is GROSS!! I'm NEVER getting married!!" As the saying goes, never say never, because now I'M the one with the stories to gross people out with... and I've discovered that it's just this sort of thing that makes marriage FUN. You won't see that in any of the relationship self-help books, but believe me, it's true; if you can be gross with a person, you're probably in synch enough to have a solid relationship. Or, you're both out of your minds; take your pick.


Monday, January 17, 2005

The healing power of friendship 


Do you remember Lifesaver "books," boxes of rolls of Lifesavers candy inexplicably designed to look like chunky little books? I remember the 1st time I got one as a gift, as the result of a gift exchange at school (I think it was 2nd grade); I was so happy and excited to have this little hoard of candy all for myself (I was only rarely allowed to have even a single piece of candy)... that is, until I got it home, and my father threw it out. ALL of it. I didn't get a single roll, I didn't get a single PIECE; it went right in the trash, still sealed in its plastic... yes, sadly, it hadn't occurred to me to open it up and have any, as I hadn't yet learned how to outwit my parents where treats were concerned. Come to think of it, if I HAD thought to open the candy instead of waiting until after dinner to have sweets, I'd probably have been unable to resist having several pieces, and who knows what sort of wrath would have descended on me for THAT hideous crime; I suppose that's the silver lining, although it wouldn't have seemed like much of one at the time.

I received Lifesavers books several other times; once, it was at my birthday party, and that one was in the trash before the last guest's mom had pulled away from the curb, but the other 2 were at other gift exchanges, and I swapped them for non-food gifts with kids with less psychotic parents. I can still see their faces, and the faces of the teachers, when I explained WHY I was trying to get someone to trade with me; the shock with which my father's cruelty was greeted provided me with proof that he really WAS acting in a way far different than a normal father, and this understanding, combined with others garnered from people's reactions to other sick behaviors of his, kept me from falling into the common trap of assuming that I, the child, was the "abnormal" one for seeing my parents as being bad people... and there's another silver lining.

Everyone who's ever heard this story has naturally reacted with disgust and outrage, but to one particular friend, whose terrific parents would never have even contemplated taking something harmless like a box of candy away from her, this theft became symbolic of everything that was taken away from me, or just never given to me, throughout my childhood, and she decided to make it her personal goal to make it up to me; at least once a year since she first heard this story over a decade ago, she has given me a Lifesavers book. I don't know where she finds them, because I've never seen them for sale anywhere since I was a kid, but she manages every year without fail... and she always makes the point that it's to make up for the candy that was taken from me.

THAT is what true friendship looks like... and yes, the fact that someone cares enough to make that sort of effort for me IS healing, even though it's in reference to an objectively minor thing like candy.

Now here's the part of the story that my friend doesn't know; although ANY candy was heaven on Earth to me as a kid, after a couple of decades of being able to have as much candy as I want, I find the basic-flavor Lifesavers that get put in those books to be vaguely icky, and certainly not worth wasting my carefully-rationed calories on... so, although I express heartfelt gratitude each time she presents me with the candy, I don't actually eat any of it-I pass it along to the kids and grandkids of my neighbors. My not being able to actually eat the candy in no way reduces my pleasure in receiving it, or my appreciation for her efforts or her kindness; this lady has taught me, in a way no one else will ever match, that it really IS the thought that counts.


Sunday, January 16, 2005

A sad lesson from TV 


I missed alot of the sitcoms that ran while I was growing up, because my parents dictated what was on TV and they weren't interested for the most part; as a result, I never saw "Full House" until recently, when it started coming on late at night when I was on the computer in the family room. I'd heard about it, though, and it was always described as being so wholesome and clean-cut that it was almost sickening; having seen a fair chunk of episodes now, I have to agree for the most part... and that makes one element of the show particularly dismaying.

There's a girl in the show, Kimmy, who's always dressed a little oddly, and says some strange things, and is thus set up to be "weird"; despite this, she's the best friend of the oldest girl of the family, DJ. Since the latter is beautiful, the friendship is totally unrealistic, but that's not where the real problem is; the problem is that, in this family where everyone is supposed to be so sweet and sensitive and nice all the time:

1) The kids trash-talk Kimmy behind her back, and the adults not only don't correct them, they AGREE, and laugh along.

2) The kids trash-talk Kimmy TO HER FACE, and the adults not only don't correct them, they AGREE, and laugh along.

3) The ADULTS trash-talk Kimmy behind her back, even in front of the kids, for whom they SHOULD be setting a good example.

4) The adults trash-talk Kimmy TO HER FACE, as if part of being a paragon of virtue is picking on a CHILD.

I don't know what horrifies me more; that the writers for the show felt that it was perfectly fine to portray all the members of this idealized family as gleefully joining forces to mistreat Kimmy, or that, in all the many reviews and mentions I've seen of this show, not one person ever made reference to it, much less pointed out that it's just plain WRONG.

There's an echo of this attitude in an otherwise excellent show, "Everybody Loves Raymond"; the older brother, Robert, is always treated like dirt by the parents, because Raymond is the favored son by a WIDE margin... and this is always portrayed as something we're supposed to be AMUSED by, rather than something we should feel bad about. Robert is always shown as being VERY hurt, and looking miserable, from his parent's behavior, and he's a sweet and kind person, so, even though he's an adult who could choose to absent himself from the situation rather than a little girl who'd have to give up her best friend to escape being sniped at, it's STILL a grim commentary on our culture that people think this is FUNNY.

A kid looks and acts a little "off," so that makes it ok, and entertaining, for everyone around her to ridicule her? A man is unusually tall and a little shy and awkward, and thus his parents treat him like something the department of health found lurking behind a garbage pail, and THAT'S supposed to be ok and entertaining? What does it take to get it through people's heads that weirdo-baiting is NOT a sport, and that it's just as cruel to laugh at that as it would be to laugh if someone was teased or slighted for any other reason?

What lesson do kids learn from watching this sort of thing going on on TV... especially if their parents are laughing?


Saturday, January 15, 2005

The BWA 


One of my oldest and dearest friends is African-American... except she rejects that term, and prefers "black," so that's what I'll use in this post about her, although usually I use the more PC term. Anyways, she's coined the term "BWA," which stands for "Black Women's Attitude," and she describes it with the following comparison:

A white couple is sitting on the couch. The man asks the woman to go get him a beer, and she says, "Sure, honey."

A black couple is sitting on the couch. The man asks the woman to go get him a beer, and she says, "What's the matter with you, is your leg broken? Get up and get it yourself, and while you're in there get me a soda."

The 2nd example, as you've guessed, is the BWA in action... cool, huh? :-)

My friend has nothing but contempt for what she sees as the wimpiness of many white women, and she considers it her duty to educate everyone about what the PROPER attitude for women is; it's her firm belief that most of the relationship problems of white couples are due to the women having too submissive and agreeable of an attitude, which leads to there NOT being equality. She stresses the importance of NOT being a man's servant or mommy, of making him fetch and carry for himself, and of making sure he's making some sort of effort to look after his woman... and yes, she's over 40 and has been single for years, lol, but she DOES make some good points.

I'm proud to say that *I* embody the BWA, at least to the extent that a non-black woman can; my friend has told me so, and also says that this is part of why we can be such close friends... and I think my being able to have a successful marriage despite not having a submissive bone in my body gives HER hope that this can work long-term other than in theory.

Women of all colors have come a long way in the last 20 years, but we have a long way still to go to be TRULY the equals of men, in their eyes as well as our own; since women work as hard outside the home as men do, it's time for men to work as hard INside the home as women do... and that extends to who should be fetching drinks, which should be whoever thinks of it first, just as is the case when it's 2 friends sitting on the couch.

If you're a woman, the next time a man asks you to do something he should be doing for himself, channel the BWA and get him to stop seeing you as his maid. If you're a man... be afraid, be very afraid. ;-)


Friday, January 14, 2005

The importance of feedback 


How do you know what sort of behavior will be considered acceptable in any given situation? From the time you were a tiny child, you were given negative feedback when you behaved incorrectly; I don't mean just scoldings from adults, I mean being teased or laughed at by your peers if your behavior was immature or otherwise foolish... or just outside what your peer group expected of you. Even whether your behavior got smiles or frowns influenced you; frowns, shock, puzzlement, and a variety of other reactions showed you if you were acting improperly. Even more subtle things, body language cues that you didn't even notice consciously, told you whether you were acting "right" or "wrong"... and all of this together taught you how to automatically chose the correct actions, words, tones of voice, and even your own body language for every situation.

Unlike machines, we're not "programmed" forever, though; for example, if you visit another culture for even a week or 2, you may find that you're a little bit "off" when you come back, because you've absorbed different behavior patterns... you may even have picked up a little bit of an accent. Parents who stay home with the kids all day often report not being able to talk easily to adults anymore. People who go to prison have many problems readjusting to life "outside," one of which is having to re-learn how to handle normal social exchanges. Even worse than "reprogramming" from a different situation, though, is the absence of ANY input; people who don't interact significantly with others rapidly lose the ability to behave "properly."

This can lead to more than just not being able to surf along with the right body language; people can even forget what constitutes normal behavior in ANY area... and this can lead to the odd behaviors and attitudes of depressives, who are often very isolated, having little or no social contacts, and, in more severe cases, not working either, and so having NO interaction with human beings other than superficial things like dealing with grocery store clerks and waiters. Once they start being puzzled by why people act the way they do, and unsure of how to respond, they start avoiding social situations, and the problem escalates until they can't even carry on a normal conversation... and this can lead to them being isolated and lonely FOREVER.

Do you know anyone with no friends? Is there any confusion in your mind as to WHY they have no friends? They're probably perfectly nice, but they talk too loud, or don't know how to have social give and take, or they drone on in a monotone, or otherwise just put people off. If it's YOU with no friends, even though you're nice to everyone, this is probably what's happened to you; fear not, it CAN get better, if you're willing to make the effort... I know that, because *I* did it.

As a kid, I was so weird, and thus so socially isolated, that I got to college having no social clue whatsoever; I had to make a conscious effort to observe people and learn to imitate them, to learn social dynamics through sheer memory power and analysis... and I learned that much of it is ugly and unfair, and I've CHOSEN not to adopt some of it, but I AM able to socialize effortlessly in any situation, and people find my toughness and outspokenness entertaining (it doesn't hurt that I can do a fairly clever off-the-cuff standup routine under any circumstances-people will forgive you anything if you can make 'em laugh). Anyone can learn to do it the same way I did, as long as they don't sabotage themselves by believing that they CAN'T.

If an out-of-synch person can't bring themselves to make the effort, they'll end up like the one whose heartbreaking post that I read on a forum inspired this essay; they described their inability to understand what was going on in social situations, and to figure out what to say and how to act... and how desperately lonely they were as a result. Or, worse, they could end up like the "irritating emailer" that I've written about a couple of times recently, who's not only clueless but has convinced himself that it's the badness of everyone on Earth OTHER than him that's the reason he has no friends and can't get a date. Or, worst of all... they could end up like my parents, who, with no real friends, and very little interaction with the rest of the family, became more and more sick and twisted in their thinking, thus forcing me to live under conditions that were farther and farther from the norm, not to mention the acceptable; my mother's sister has told me several times that the greatest regret of her life is that she wasn't around when I was growing up, because it's clear through hindsight that my parents DESPERATELY needed another adult to be involved in their lives day to day, one who could have made an issue of it whenever they were being unfair or unreasonable, or just plain psycho.

If you think you're suffering from lack of feedback, there's no way around it; you have to force yourself to interact with people and learn consciously what's right and wrong by watching what they do and how they respond to you. If you know someone who's like this, find a way to tell them... and offer to help them learn, by being honest (but kind!!) with them about what's "off" about them, and even offering to roleplay with them to allow them to practice socializing. And, if you're a parent, and there aren't any adults who are around you and your kids, seeing how you're raising them, the sorts of rules and standards you impose, etc... no matter how great a job you THINK you're doing, or how high your kids' grades are, or how clean they keep their rooms... find some other parents to network with, just to be sure. AND, if your kids don't seem to be social successes, and they seem to be lonely rather than lonERS... you know what to do.


Thursday, January 13, 2005

Doctors, GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR 


I called the friend I mentioned in yesterday's post, meaning to start prompting her about her health, only to find out, to my intense dismay, that her sweet elderly mother (who recently arrived there for a long visit) was suffering from a headache so bad that she could barely move... and it turns out that she's been having several such headaches a day on and off for MONTHS. Concerned, I asked what the doctor had said, and was disgusted to learn that, although they'd put her through all sorts of tests, including an MRI, they had no idea what the headaches were or what to do about them. Unwilling to accept that this was something unknowable and thus untreatable, I asked my friend to describe the headache episodes; she said that her mother would be fine one minute, and then suddenly be slammed back in her chair from a stabbing pain. I asked if her mother had reported this pain to be on one side of her face, particularly behind the eye; puzzled but playing along, my friend asked her mother and reported back that yes, that was where the pain came, and how had I guessed that? Fighting mounting rage at how the doctors had missed something so basic, I told my friend that what her mother had were cluster headaches... and of course, this possibility had never even been MENTIONED to her mother.

I brought up some info on WebMD about cluster headaches and read it to my friend, who translated for her mother (who understands very little English); any doubts that any of us might have had were eliminated as her mother confirmed that everything discussed applied to her. My friend kept breaking in to thank me over and over for pointing this out to her, so that her poor mother would FINALLY be able to get treated, and her mother expressed her relief also; she's very stoic, but she has been really miserable and hadn't had any hope of relief. I emailed my friend the URL's of the articles I'd found, and told her to print them out and take them to the doctor, so that they didn't get flustered and not communicate clearly; more than enough time has already gone by without the proper treatment being given, and I don't want there to be ANY chance of the doctor not seeing what was going on. My friend said she'd call around and find a doctor to take her mother to tomorrow, and that she'd keep me posted on how things go... let's hope that whoever they take her to knows how to treat the headaches without having to read the WebMD printouts, sigh.

Every time I talk to someone that has a "mystery ailment" that doctors have failed to diagnose that *I* can diagnose in a couple of minutes (and yes, I'm always proven right), it makes my blood boil. We put our trust in doctors, we literally put our lives in their hands, and you can hardly pick up a magazine or turn on the TV without hearing a story about how some poor sick person went through a dozen doctors without getting diagnosed or properly treated... and, when the person is a woman, there's usually going to be some prescriptions for tranquilizers in there from arrogant male doctors who like to save time by assuming that any female complaint that doesn't come along with an arm cut off or other glaring physical problem MUST be their favorite catchall ailment, "female hysteria."

I can see a doctor not being able to hold every rare ailment in their memory, and maybe not being able to read about EVERY new medication or treatment, but American doctors are consistently missing even the most basic diagnoses, and clinging to outdated treatments and less-effective, sometimes potentially dangerous drugs rather than taking the time to make sure that they're doing the best they can for their patients... and with every doctor having computer access, there's absolutely NO excuse for them to not be able to do at least as well at research as *I* do.

If you or someone you love has an illness that either hasn't been diagnosed, or whose diagnosis has led to a treatment that's ineffective, or to NO treatment, go to WebMD and do a search for the major symptoms; do NOT trust the medical community to be doing right by you.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A friend's birthday 


A friend of mine has a birthday coming up soon, and, with the preparations starting to be made, it prompted me to take a look at her and her life... and it sorta scares me.

When I met her about 15 years ago, she was fairly slim; then, she married a moron, decided that she had to eat as much as he did even though he was a big man (don't ask me why, she just came up with that out of the blue), and, as you might expect, ballooned up to VERY overweight in the year they were together. She exercised and lost a decent amount of weight after he left her, and maintained that long enough to get a new man; then, she started gaining it back, in large part because she stopped exercising... and then they got married, and she started gaining faster... and then she started taking some of those diet pills that eventually got pulled for causing heart attacks, on which she lost weight only to regain it once she was off the pills because she wasn't exercising or eating right. THEN, she had a kid, and the woman who had a trim, lovely figure 15 years ago is now a virtual BALL, with no muscle tone and who knows what sorts of nutritional deficiencies from her poor eating habits and refusal to take vitamins; with a career and an active toddler to care for, she declares herself unable to exercise or eat right, EVER, with no end in sight. She's in her late 30's now, and already has to take medication for high blood pressure; she has diabetes, thyroid disease (which she's already had problems with) and heart trouble in her family... what's her health prognosis? How could she let herself turn into a health crisis looking for a place to happen? This is an intelligent, college-educated woman, who's read all the same articles on health and nutrition that I have throughout the years; what's made her so careless about her health?

I know, it's easy to be in denial about this sort of thing, until that first heart attack or whatever gives the wakeup call... but she's let herself go in the areas that women usually care about, too. She's the only woman past 30 I've ever met who uses NO moisturizer on her face; she airily informed me that yeah, her skin was dry, but she scrubbed off the FLAKES in the shower and that was good enough. Between this, and her utter contempt for sunscreen (which leaves her burning her face badly at least once per summer, despite all the warnings about skin cancer), her skin is rough and coarse, and deeply lined FAR in excess of her age; I'm afraid that she's going to take a good look one day, freak out, and the next thing I know she'll be getting lifted and peeled and who knows what, at great risk, to try to make up for years and years of neglect.

She's also prematurely graying, and has gotten more and more careless about touching it up; she used to care about that, about not looking like an old woman, and now it's as if she can't be bothered... as if she still sees the same young woman she used to be when she looks in the mirror, not the woman who looks a decade older than she is. Granted, how her hair (or face) looks is trivial compared to the risks she's taking with her health, but it seems to be part of an overall attitude of "so what?" about her physical self, as if, once she got married and it turned out to be "for real" (as opposed to the earlier one that was a thankfully short-lived mistake), she could treat her body any old way and it wouldn't matter.

And it gets even worse; her finances are a wreck, too. Although she and her husband make good $, because they bought a ridiculously large house with a gigantic mortgage, always have payments on 2 expensive cars because they give a car up for a newer model as soon as it's paid for, or even before, and they're always "treating themselves" to trips, they sometimes don't have $ for essentials; how can a couple that earns into the 6 figures between them run out of $ for FOOD, or to buy things for their child? Needless to say, they aren't saving one penny towards retirement, or their kid's college education, or even for emergencies, like if one of them loses their job; they're one missed paycheck away from hunger and homelessness. They have such a mountain of debt that, unless they win the lottery, they'll NEVER get out from under; they'll hit retirement with debt and social security checks.

The sad thing of it is, none of these problems are uncommon in America today; most Americans are careless with their health, are overweight, and have disastrous finances... it's just so freaky that someone close to me, who was a kid hanging out at heavy metal shows with me, and who KNOWS better, has become one of the sort of people that dismayed articles are written about, you know the type, "Americans Getting Fatter Every Year," "Americans Don't Exercise," "Americans Don't Get Proper Nutrition," "Americans Abuse Credit"... if I'd been a little less fanatical, a little less anal, about these sorts of things, once I got married, would *I* have gotten lazy and careless and ended up like her?

I've sat here staring at the screen, feeling bad, for half an hour, and I've decided that I'm going to give her an added gift for her birthday; I'm going to try to get her to change some little piece of this... her health is probably the safest one to go for. Her father died of heart disease, and I'm going to talk to her about how easily she could end up like him if she doesn't exercise and eat better; she'll resist, but as her friend I HAVE to be willing to face her with the hard truths. I don't want to be crying at her funeral in 10 years, wishing I'd tried to help while I had the chance; I'm going to try to help her NOW.

Is there anyone in YOUR life who sounds like my friend? If so, make it a belated new year's resolution to try to encourage them to start making things better; they may get cranky with you, but the good karma will make it worthwhile.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Bad behavior online 


One of the people I contacted the first day of the year turned out to have bought into some pitiful conspiracy theories; as is usually the case with this sort of deluded person, he wanted to suck ME into his fantasy world, and the 1st thing he told me, as "proof" of his nonsense, was that a certain sort of journalism course was no longer being taught at ANY accredited college in this country, in order, supposedly, to keep people from learning how to do research... I did a search, and, as you might expect, in a few seconds I had proof that MANY colleges were offering that exact sort of class, including big ones like Harvard and Yale. I pointed this out to my friend, and his response was that he'd specified that no ACCREDITED college was offering these classes; MY response was that these colleges WERE accredited, and why had he ignored the reference to Yale and Harvard, which he knew perfectly well ARE accredited? This man, who had been writing me at least once a day and gushing about how happy he was to be talking to me again, has not written to me since; does he think that by not deigning to reply, that somehow negated the fact that I'd disproven the core of his conspiracy idea, or is he just too embarrassed to contact me again? I may never know; either way, it's pretty darned rude of him to just vanish like that.

Remember the "irritating emailer," who I ranted about on 12-3-04? He behaved badly enough on the forum we were both on that he had to leave; as too may clueless people do, he put up a bunch of weird, unpleasant posts to get attention, and then, when people responded in the normal human way, he pronounced himself the victim and all of them bad people... sigh. He made an issue to me about how people needed to BE friends to earn the friendship of others, and, with no further risk existing of him causing me problems on the forum, I told him that yes, it WAS important to BE a friend to earn friendship... and that HE needed to learn that more than anyone on that forum, because he'd been inundating me with endless emails full of paragraphs of details about his woodworking projects, although I'd made it clear that I know nothing about tools and such, with the rest being an endless wah-wah-wah about his self-created problems... and no hint of interest about ME, my thoughts, my feelings, my LIFE, and that this was the OPPOSITE of treating someone like a friend. I declared my unwillingness to continue being his wailing wall unless he started showing evidence of wanting to actually form a friendship with me... and HE hasn't written me ever again either, lol; I don't know if HE was too embarrassed, too, or if he's told himself that I'm another one of the terrible people in the world who won't engage in one-way emotional exchanges with him... at least I'm finally RID OF HIM, and of his UNfriendly emails!!

Then, on the forum we'd met on, a newbie engaged in classic troublemaker behavior; she churned out a bunch of posts, insulting people left and right, and then, when folks started responding, and FAR more politely than she deserved, she went crazy, posting all over the forum that she was being attacked, victimized and threatened, that she was being singled out and persecuted, and that, and these are 2 VERY clear signs of a troublemaker, (1) she had been made so ill by the horrible treatment she'd received that she'd had to start taking medication, and (2) she "knew the law" and would take legal action against the forum if people didn't stop disagreeing with her and protesting her many nasty comments. As always, people who'd SEEN the entire hooraw and SHOULD have known better started apologizing to her and trying to make her feel better... BUT, some people DID, miraculously, stick to their guns and keep reminding her that SHE had started it, that HER behavior had been insulting and offensive from her first post, and that SHE therefore was the one at fault and had nothing to complain about. WOOHOO!! After half a decade online, I see a glimmer of hope that people are catching a clue!! :-)


Monday, January 10, 2005

The tragic misuse of " 's" 


If you're writing about more than one cat, what word do you use? If you said "cat's".......... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!

When did we as Americans forget how to do a simple plural? Why have we collectively decided to add an " ' " before every "s" when we make a plural, as if adding that extra character somehow gave us added benefit? This is NOT an alternate spelling, it's WRONG, plain and simple, and it drives me CRAZY... especially since I've seen it so often now that I sometimes automatically pluralize with " 's" even though I know better-I HOPE I catch them all in the editing phase of posting, sigh.

In case I'm not being clear, when we're taking about more than one dog:

dogs = right
dog's = WRONG

The " 's" ending IS valid for its actual, proper usage; showing possession. Thus, if we're talking about a ball belonging to a dog, we'd say "the dog's ball." Where's the confusion here? Why is it so difficult to tell that from making a plural?

The passion for putting " 's" instead of "s" has gotten to the point of screwing up VERBS, too; I've seen many verbs corrupted to, for example, "want's" instead of the correct "wants," and, most horrifically of all, "go's" instead of "goes" and "no's" instead of "knows." !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The one area where things are a little iffy is when pluralizing "initial words"; is it "DVDs" or "DVD's"? The highest authority on this is generally held to be the Chicago Manual of Style, and they said:

"And while it is true that, following paragraph 7.16, we would add an apostrophe to form the plurals of abbreviations having more than one period, resulting in G.I.'s, we prefer GI, the plural of which is written GIs, no apostrophe."

which I found here:

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/cmosfaq/cmosfaq.Plurals.html

So, the plural is formed differently depending on whether or not you put the periods after each letter? This seems silly to me; I was taught to use " 's" with "initial words," which in those days we were ALWAYS supposed to use the periods with, and just because it's become common usage to NOT use the periods any more, I see no reason to alter that, especially as just about everyone does it too... it just looks WRONG to have initials with a lowercase "s" tacked on the end.

I know this isn't the biggest issue with online posting, as there are countless people who spell so badly that you're not even sure what they're saying half the time (you know it's gotten bad when you see perfect spelling and automatically assume the writer is a NON-native speaker of English), not to mention the "hip" way young people use creative spellings and abbreviations for everything such that you don't know what THEY'RE saying either, but... it's gotten so bad that I had to edit several words in this very post that *I* had blindly typed in wrong, and I do NOT want my subconscious confused about something this simple. If YOU'VE been using " 's" to pluralize, please, please, STOP!!


Sunday, January 09, 2005

Becoming a mystic 


There are a slew of things that are commonly done among the deeply spiritual folks of many faiths to achieve greater spiritual wisdom, and, since my ultimate goal is to reach the highest level of understanding, I figured I'd give this stuff some thought and see what I can work on:


1) Using mind-altering substances; this is standard among the so-called "primitive" peoples, and in some Native American "nations," but, as much as I respect their greater spiritual grasp, my guess is that these things bring on hallucinations rather than actual spiritual insights... either way, though, I'm not willing to try them-I won't even drink alcohol or coffee.

2) Fasting; I've been hungry to one degree or another for over 20 YEARS, I've been so hungry that I've been virtually paralyzed by it, and I've never achieved an altered state... which is a bummer, because I'm good at fasting.

3) Meditation; I'm pretty good at this one, too-2 minutes and I'm half asleep... which is great if you're meditating to relax, but useless if you're trying to achieve higher consciousness.

4) Celibacy; I'm married, so, er... ;-)

5) Prayer; I don't have anyone to pray TO.

6) Transcendence through intense suffering; I've seen this one so many times, and I always have a visceral reaction to it, to the way it truly does seem to send people to a different place, mentally and perhaps spiritually... I wish that I could do it, but I'm trapped by the pitiful fear of pain that permeates American culture. If I'd been born 10 years or so later, and to parents who saw me as a unique individual who should be allowed some self-expression rather than as a prisoner, I might have gotten into piercing and tattoos, and then been able to make the leap to, say, suspending from hooks, but I'm guessing that that sort of thing will forever be beyond me; at the rate my bursitis is worsening, I may end up testing this one out involuntarily, but that's about it.

7) Sleep deprivation; another one I'm good at... but it makes me psycho, not more spiritually insightful.

8) Giving up worldly possessions; on the one hand, I'm not as hooked on "stuff" as most people... I've had the same car for 2 decades even though I could have a new one at any time, I wear thrift store clothes even though I can afford designer versions, I only wear ONE pair of shoes, I don't own a cell phone, MP3 player, or any other gadgets; I sound practically un-American, huh, lol? However, I didn't have many toys as a kid, and what little I had was pretty crummy, so now I have a bunch of 'em (mostly collectable-type things, although I DO have some that I "play" with), and won't give 'em up no matter what.

9) Living in poverty; been there, done that.

10) Spending great amounts of time totally alone; ditto.


Sigh... it just doesn't seem like I'm cut out for this mystic thing, does it? Still, I'm stuck with it, so I'll just keep plodding along... and hope that karma will send me a way to accelerate the process.


Saturday, January 08, 2005

Romance=insanity? 


It's probably too soon to have an equal sign in a title again, but oh well. ;-)

Have you noticed that some people feel that first rush of romance and lose their MINDS? They don't even know each other's last names yet, and they're giving each other keys to their houses, the passwords to their email and voice mail accounts, and free access to everything they own. My HUSBAND doesn't have keys to my car, any of my passwords, or permission to touch any of my stuff, so when I hear how nuts some people get it just makes ME nuts.

No matter how much you think you "love" your new honey, and how well you consequently feel like you know them, they're in reality virtual strangers, and why would you let a stranger have keys to your HOUSE?!! They could copy the keys, and, after you break up (which you almost certainly will), they could rob you, sell the keys to someone else who'll then rob you (or worse), they could sneak in and hide drugs or stolen goods on your premises... why would ANYONE take that sort of risk?

And the idea of letting someone use your car, or borrow your laptop, or be alone in the house when they know where your valuables are, is nearly as bad; you wouldn't normally let someone you've known mere days have that sort of access, and just because you're hot for them shouldn't change that.

The one that freaks me out the most, though, is this business of handing out passwords as "proof of love and trust"; with the exception of those very few with hard-core morals, NO ONE should be trusted with passwords, because the temptation to use them becomes overwhelming, especially when the relationship gets rocky. Scarily, some people ALLOW their love interests to read their emails and listen to their voice messages, as further proof of... utter lunacy, as far as I'm concerned. It's insanely easy for them to find out something that, although harmless, is going to make them upset, or suspicious, or that'll come back to haunt you later, but people are inexplicably unable to internalize that normal friendships between members of the same gender contain elements that are dismaying to the opposite gender, and that that sort of thing should thus be kept private from one's romantic partner... and that the possible interactions between friends of OPPOSITE genders that might alarm a romantic partner are endless, and thus even more "dangerous." Furthermore, your friends generally assume that what they tell you is only being heard/seen by YOU, and not your partner, so it's bad form to give said partner a way to get to that stuff. And haven't we all heard horror stories of when relationships break up, and the breaker doesn't change all their passwords in time to prevent the breakee from wreaking havoc?

The relevant word here is: BOUNDARIES. I don't care how close you THINK you are to your love interest, there's no need to give up all of your privacy, not to mention SAFETY, to them... and no valid reason for them to want you to, no matter WHAT they try to tell you, so just say NO to giving out an all-access pass into your life. Oh, and keep the bathroom door closed, too; leave a little mystery, PLEASE.


Friday, January 07, 2005

Home archaeology 


A few days ago, a friend of mine called and announced her intention to come over on Sunday so that we can do our belated Christmas gift exchange, go shopping and go to dinner; this is in general a wonderful thing, but there's a catch... we haven't had anyone over to our house in MONTHS. This wouldn't be an issue in a normal household, but my husband is the worst slob in the history of the world, and I long ago accepted that it's impossible to get him to clean anything up if no one's coming over, and that it's beyond my ability to pick up as fast as he can make messes, aside from my not being a slave and not having signed on to be his maid... so our house has, not just a mess, but layer upon layer of mess in every room and on every surface. Oscar Madison would cringe in envy, trust me.

Needless to say, I can't have anyone come over and not have a place to sit, a bare patch of carpet to walk on, or anywhere they can look without wincing in disgust, nor is there any chance of my adopting my husband's brilliant plan of trying to fast-talk people into meeting somewhere so that no one EVER comes into our home again, as if they'd never notice they weren't being invited to our house anymore, or that we could no longer sit and talk privately (he seriously thinks that's a valid option, what PLANET is he from?!!), so there's only one thing to do; we have to invest the 20 or so person-hours necessary to make the place habitable by people other than us, and I WISH that was a hyperbole.

For the first time in recorded history, my husband is willing to start this arduous process BEFORE the day before the intended visit, so our little archaeology project is well underway; layer after layer of my husband's periodicals, food containers, reeking clothes, tools, and anonymous hunks of equipment are being revealed. There's a limit to how much I can help, as he gets hysterical if I move his stuff, but I'll gather up the trash as long as it's not fungus-encrusted, and in a pinch I'll break out the hazmat gear and tongs and pick up some of his moldering laundry and toss it on the waist-high heap in the study; mostly, though, I have the unenviable task of monitoring a man with an attention span of 10 seconds, and the ultimate goal of sneaking back to his computer so he doesn't have to do anything until the last possible moment, and who, when he IS cleaning, leaves enough mess and dirt behind him that my friend would have to be here BLINDFOLDED to not see it all, and so has to be made to do everything at least twice... which means I have to catch all his lapses in time to get them corrected.

Most people have romantic fantasies about their partner; MY fantasy about my husband is that we could have a 2-part house, one of which would contain all his stuff, and the other part of which would have MY stuff and the "public rooms" that a guest expects to be able to see and use... with a big padlock on the connecting door. His area would be soundproof, so his noxious punk rock "music" wouldn't be audible, it would have a negative pressure system so that the SMELL couldn't get out, an intercom system that would blast my voice loud enough that he'd be able to hear it no matter what, electro-shock thingies on every surface so that I could zap him if necessary, or if I was just bored, and.................. sorry, got carried away there, lol.

Anyways, I hope we're not still cleaning, and screaming at each, other at 1AM, 2AM, 3AM, 4AM, and worse, Sunday morning, so that just ONCE I can have a friend over and have gotten more than a few hours of sleep. Wish me luck.





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