How Are YOU Celebrating Labor Day?

how are you celebrating labor day

Julia Roberts Wants Money, You Guys.

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BOLD FLAVOR Country

Ferguson. The beheading of James Foley. The shocking death of Robin Williams. The inexplicable popularity of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The news has been filled with depressing stories the last few weeks. And while the media has saturated everyone’s sad receptors, they can’t affect the people’s need for BOLD flavors.

Say WHAAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTTTTTTT???????????????????????

Unlike those corporate media shills behind most of what you read, watch and listen to, the corporate shills at Chili’s know that you want BIG, BOLD FLAVOR. And DAMMIT, they’re gonna shove it down your gullets–whether you like it or not. (Probably not.)

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Promising “BIG, BOLD FLAVOR INSIDE,” the monstrosity in your visage is the result of several bad decisions–from the licensing of your mediocre uncle’s favorite restaurant name and logo, to the third-party manufacturing assassin (Bellisio Foods) contracted to combine several unholy chemicals and bits of plastic in the BOLD box, to the food’s name and unwitting customers that purchase the grotesqueness that will detonate in their stomachs. (In my defense, I had a coupon for a free one.)

And everyone lost. EVERYONE. Would you consider THIS to be a victory for anyone involved?

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At this point, the only BOLD thing visible from my jaded point of view was the dupe job done on consumers (me). I knew that I was not going to experience fine cuisine, but the extent to which Chili’s sucked up to those actually expecting their taste buds to be tickled by the flavors they love (?) in a convenient, frozen option was as disgusting as the hard bits of chicken contained within.

I won’t bore you with the laborious details of the cooking process, the mediocre, questionable flavors hyped as BOLD, or the strange spiciness that could not be traced to any specific seasoning(s). The takeaway from this ill-advised excursion into BOLD FLAVOR country can be seen on the back of the box.

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It’s like Chili’s is DARING you to either give the product the Mystery Science Theater 3000 snark treatment or saddle up to the worst pandering since the XTREME!!!!!!!!!!!! marketing panic of the ’90s. “LIVE BOLD” by ingesting the “most outrageous taste sensations” to be dreamed up by a multi-million dollar corporation eager to take your money in the most absurd way possible. Satiate those “adventurous taste buds” by sending them “on a flavor mission” to the toilet in the blandest, yet most excruciating journey since the newest Taylor Swift video assaulted your senses. Lament the “BOLDEST” of “Bold Flavor” that you even pretended to crave as its aftertaste lingers long after you wondered whether the life mistakes that led to the intermingling of tongue and mimicry of “cajun-style” were just. For “more LIFE” might have happened, but the build-up to that BOLD nature might be the biggest letdown of all if it was anticipated to meet any of those objectives.

Oh marketing. May you always be the pathological liar friend of the corporate dickbag.

 

“Writer Needed For Support Community for Affluent Individuals”

money fight

Image courtesy of keithrlaskey.com

Being wealthy and being oblivious may not be one and the same, but the wealthy can be oblivious, and being oblivious can come from having class advantages.  Anyway, these glimpses into the aloofness into the human psyche came from two sources in the past 12 hours, and in a time where foreign war zones were mirrored in Ferguson, MO, and the US economy is still struggling to climb back to pre-recession numbers, it’s still shocking to see such moronicness.

The first, an “UNPOPULAR OPINION” column from XOJane.com writer Jessica Slizewski, chided college-goers about being fiscally irresponsible for not attending school near their homes and living at home. She takes learners to task for wanting to study liberal subjects and rack up student loans, and she pats herself on the back for not taking out student loans. Here’s an example of her crass chicanery:

I distinctly remember asking my friend how he would pay off the roughly $70,000 debt he would incur to obtain a major in Ancient Greek and Latin at a liberal arts college in the Midwest. His answer? A simple shrug and flippant “It’s not something I have to worry about right now — hopefully they’ll be forgiven by the government.” Now that he’s still waiting tables four years after graduation, I’d say it’s well past time to start worrying.
I can’t pretend I completely understand how these people feel after the fun is over and the repayments begin, but I can say that I really don’t feel bad for them.
Why not? Because I worked hard to avoid taking out loans. My wonderful parents and grandmother helped me pay for my education, but in the end, it was a few decisions I made that saved me the burden of borrowing money I would never have been able to pay back. Unlike the majority of my friends who went to schools less than an hour from their parents’ homes and chose to live on campus rather than commute, my college roommates were named Mom and Dad. I chose state schools that were half, sometimes one-quarter, of the cost of the schools my friends were attending and worked a part-time on-campus scholarship job in addition to full-time hours at my retail job.

*slow clap*

The second reminder of the high horse mentality that affects the naive came in the form of a Craigslist ad seeking a writer to ghostwrite blogs for wealthy Portland community members hoping to document the plights of being rich. ESSENTIALLY, they want someone to scribe “WAAAAHHHH, I’M RICH!” 

A sample:

The focus of the community is providing psychological support for the problems money brings — family tensions, unfulfillable expectations, boredom, etc. To do this you must be intimately familiar with the problems faced by wealthy people.

I wanted to punch my computer to make the ad stop.

But then I got a better idea: humor. Why not make fun of this insipid shit?

So I responded to the Craigslist ad with a serious inquiry–mixed with quotes lifted from the XOJane.com article.

TADAH!

I am interested in the ghostwriting position for the affluent community. I have a writing background from years of professional experience, and I have a moneyed ancestry.

My father is…a Wall Street banker. I’m…a member of the so-called “1 percent.” Because I was lucky to have been born into wealth, my wonderful parents and grandmother helped me pay for my education. I attended a private university in the middle of a cornfield with a tuition price of about $36,000 a year, and I shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of that. Like many in the community I imagine,  I graduated college without student loans.

You might be asking why I would want to take a low-paying Craigslist job. It’s not for the money; I have more than I need. I also have plenty of time on my hands.  For too long, we have been made to feel ashamed of our advantages. And you shouldn’t feel that you’d done anything differently. I can bring pride to these newsletters, as I do not have qualms about my advantages. Neither should the similarly wealthy.

I’ve had the traditional leisure activities like drawing, but a few were rather unusual — beekeeping, winemaking, beer brewing, and pretending to make merkins out of the hair the dog was shedding. I guess that’s what happens when you opt for the cheap route.

ut this writing opportunity is a challenge: to channel my knowledge of my peers into something relatable. While I’m not even going to pretend to feel sorry for my friends who moan about the financial crunch, it doesn’t mean that we can’t feel that you get what you pay for.

I’d say it’s well past time to start worrying about offending the 99 percent because I can’t pretend I completely understand how these people feel, but I can say that I really don’t feel bad for them. We need to talk about how WE feel, and I can do that for you–

I can provide references and samples upon request.

 I can only hope that the wealthy and the unpopular were equally represented in their repugnantness.

Why CAN’T We Talk About Racism?

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Image courtesy of sfgate.com

Yesterday afternoon, 18-year-old (or 17, depending upon the source) Michael Brown was shot 10 times and killed in a Ferguson, MO apartment complex by Ferguson police. Witnesses say that the unarmed man was shot in two rounds of gunfire–some time after Brown reportedly shoplifted from a local store. The reason for his death has not been released.

But the stories go beyond the death of another unarmed black man. If you were to go solely on media coverage, the murder was not the focus of the story but the “outrage” of the “mob” angry at Brown’s death. A Google search of “ferguson police” yielded nine articles talking about the community reaction before a link that actually discussed what happened to the young man. The supposedly unruly “mob” dissipated into candle vigils.

Officers from 15 departments, totaling somewhere between 80-100 members, were dispatched sometime after the second round of gunfire. While the cops brought in their defenses, Brown’s body reportedly remained covered on the ground for four hours. St. Louis County Police spokesman Brian Schellman noted that the overflow was to “protect detectives and to ensure that they could reach the scene.”

A community as well as a nation wonder where that same protection is for millions of innocent African Americans. And we’ll continue to want for that safety, even if no one else wants to figure out how to attain it.

***

I often joke about the disingenuous cries of America being “post-racial”–the term seared in my brain after MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews used it to describe the nation after Barack Obama was nominated President of the United States in 2008. I can list the names of blacks unjustly killed, the fact that millions of people of color suffer from institutionalized and societal racism, and that whatever incremental improvements in civil rights made over the past 40+ years are slowly being rolled back as most Americans do nothing.

But we can’t talk about that. Because we are too uncomfortable and/or unwilling to have these conversations.

A good example of this discomfort lies in three words: social justice warriors. This term is used derisively by others (anti-social justice warriors?) to describe people (often people of color of both genders) on social media discussing issues of racism and sexism in the world. The word “justice,” what I know as determining just conduct or determining rightness and lawfulness, has been given a derogatory tinge, and those putting word stank on it are those that do not want to talk about race or gender issues. Basically, the message is that what is important to you is stupid.

Some won’t shut down talks of racism or sexism by using “social justice warrior” like how a racist uses the word “Jew,” but they’ll use other ways. Websites like Mother JonesRacialicious and The Root examine plights affecting people of color in worldwide events and pop culture through essays and articles, and while they can stray into hyperbolic shrieking (not unlike most other websites), they provide viewpoints and provoke discussions not often had in our multiculturally fearful society. To a vocal portion of the population, these posts and their surveys of race and sex are unnecessary explorations that should not be had. A common tactic is to deliberate the need to even bring up the issues, to contend the purpose of the discussions, to think why there is the need to drill down deep into the origins and explanations of why a behavior or action is racist and/or sexist, and to discredit the source and the conversation. It’s like having a conversation with a selfish child unwilling to talk about anything other than what they want.

This denial of minority views is not only self-defeating but toxic for three reasons:

  1. It vilifies those wanting to have the discussion. By questioning the need for talking about picking apart the items of discomfort, it establishes the protester in a dominant position, putting the other person on the defensive–to their disadvantage.
  2. It is essentially burying one’s head in the sand. It inhibits examination and understanding of topics outside one’s realm, essentially preventing one from learning about new experiences and subjects. If we applied such denial to science, we wouldn’t have any of our modern conveniences (smartphones, computers, medicine)–let alone evolution to the point of being able to communicate and function in the world.
  3. It prevents further conversation. By restraining communication that is not in one’s wheelhouse, the story remains the same. Unique viewpoints and stories are eschewed for what appeals to the majority, perpetuating a never-ending cycle of banality–which can be harmful when it comes to important cultural issues.

Their efforts to stymie discourse seem to hinge on topics often seen as progressive–AKA things not affecting them. Like most things in life, the group in power threatened by the rising influence of the minority find ways to belittle and obstruct the views and actions of the outnumbered. Think about how female geeks are accused by sexist guys as “fake,” hating on a popular music act, or any racial issue handled on Fox News: inflammatory rhetoric and a lack of facts are used to continue the narrative of the status quo to the detriment of diversity and inclusion.

***

So what did that long diatribe have to to with the death of Michael Brown? Plenty.

Thousands of thinkpieces will be written about Brown’s untimely and unfortunate passing. Many will take to Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler and YouTube to protest the Ferguson police, the current predicament of how African Americans are seen in America, and how racism is alive and well. Thousands more will decry those discussions and protesters as either “social justice warriors” or worse, wondering aloud why such things need to be talked about–let alone why we should suss out the intricacies (the roots) of the issues at large. And many will be straight-up racists, saying that Brown deserved to die, that blacks should stop forming “mobs” at the slightest predicament, that blacks are violent and probably had it coming.

That is why we NEED to talk about racism, sexism–hell, everything that is holding people back in our society from attaining any semblance of the inclusive society we often say that we are but act like we’re not. Bringing up serious stuff is hard (think about any relationship where one person wants “to have a talk”), but both parties are usually better off for it. And if that means a few uncomfortable conversations as to why Michael Brown’s death is a microcosm of the racism still present in America, then we will all benefit.

Internet Trolls in the Real World

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Courtesy of mrwgifs.com

Have you ever read an internet article and dreaded the comment section that followed? Those poorly-spelled, hate-filled glimpses into the dark recesses of the human soul–complete with racist, sexist, xenophobic, and religious-based attacks on anyone and/or anything that is considered different? Those people are out in the world among the rational, and they are as frightening as their defense of Ghostbusters as a male-only endeavor. I recently had an unfortunate experience with such a piece of human waste.

I write for a local sketch comedy group, and the new season has brought fresh blood for the writer’s pool. One of those eager beavers was a tall, glasses-wearing oaf of a young man, and he quickly made his presence known with his mouth: while the head writer caught people up on new business and the meeting’s outline, the kid interrupted several times with random nonsense as well as calls to read his sketch about a male feminist. (WARNING #1)

The head writer did his best to quell the kid’s inquisitive nature, but it only got worse. We then read new sketches, and the guy occasionally butted in with aimless chatter important only to him as well as odd comments on the scripts (one being that mentioning the paltry Apple MacBook specs would be funny because of the price). And he continued to ramble about anything and everything for anyone within earshot–despite the wishes of the head writer. (WARNING #2)

The floor then opened up to new sketch pitches, and the weirdo shared his idea: a parody of crazy warehouse-sale commercials (eh) where the insane, angry salesman selling mockeries of warehouse sales (getting better) boiled over when his wife interrupts him and proceeds to beat her for several minutes. (That’s it; I’m out of here.)

I was floored. This guy advocated putting domestic abuse into a sketch comedy piece because, and I’m paraphrasing, he wanted to “get a reaction” out of people. (You know what’s a reaction: NOT BEING A FUCKING PSYCHOPATHIC CREEP.) The room fell into uncomfortable silence–the kind of quiet when someone says an awkward thing–for a few seconds, but it recovered in the spirit of positive collaboration: lots of tip-toeing around the elephant in the room by tweaking other aspects of the sketch idea. The asshole was stubborn and talked around the suggestions, making it known that he wanted to get a reaction out of people and rail against the system. (We politely acknowledged that the show was in the vein of Saturday Night Live.)

He again brought up his want for a battered wife focus, and seeing that the elephant was squeezing all the oxygen out of the room, I asked “Is there a way to do the sketch without the domestic violence?” Shit, as they say, hit the fan.

The kid was immediately defensive, saying that he didn’t want to do the sketch if he couldn’t have his spouse slams, and insisted we erase all notes of the idea. (We had no problem with that.) We foolishly thought the weirdness was behind us, continuing the meeting with new sketch pitches. Meanwhile, Creepy Longpsycho made his discontent known with odd mumbling and playing “noise” sounds on his smartphone (and admitting to searching for “noise” videos). When I pitched an idea about a Men’s Rights Activist harassing people on the street to peddle his group’s pleas, the idjit said (paraphrasing) “I’m just mad because you guys shit on my idea.” (He added that people with such hateful thinking like Men’s Rights Activists should die, which didn’t help the argument that he was a disturbing person.) He then excused himself from the meeting.

Again, we foolishly thought we were safe from the jackass’s tantrums, fleshing out the pitches, but he stormed in minutes later, saying that he had to use the bathroom. He did his business, stormed out and slammed the door behind him. We all looked at each other in confusion and, after the head writer cracked a joke, we got back to the business of writing non-edgy comedy that didn’t involve woman-beating.

***

One thing that I wish we had done was better explain why domestic violence was not funny. Despite noting that we didn’t want to make people uncomfortable, this was lost on deaf ears. And perhaps the kid had not known someone who had been abused or experienced the effects firsthand. I know that it took being close to someone that experienced rape before I understood a shred of the damage that sexual assault inflicts–physically and emotionally.

Later that night, I thought about the dickhead that derailed the meeting in spectacularly uncomfortable fashion. How did that guy come to be the person he was: an angry, anti-status quo advocate of anti-comedy at the expense of another gender? Society is no help, as sexism is widely ingrained in nearly everything we read, watch and listen to. Immaturity could be a culprit, as teens and 20-somethings are still figuring out their viewpoints and their voice in the world–though that voice shouldn’t be used to announce one’s acceptance of abuse in the name of humor. Maybe he had attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)–the inability to pay attention for long periods of time, being impulsive, and restlessness.

Or maybe the guy had a combination of one or more of the above afflictions in combination with being a d-bag. Some apples end up rotten despite the picker’s best efforts, and like Chris Rock said, “Whatever happened to crazy?”

The head writer assured us that the jackal wouldn’t be invited back to future meetings, which is a relief. But what about those other assholes with similar mindsets and propensities for anti-people views with a way to voice said musings? In a way, having internet comment sections lets them release their emotional pressure valves, though I don’t support such behavior in the first place. There will always be jerks in the world, be it online or in the flesh, and one without a way to voice their hate is one less person to inflict hurt.

Mutual Friends

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Image courtesy of The Daily Banter

Having relationships with people–family, friends, romantic partners–means spending time with their friends. This can be a double-edged sword: being friendly with a guy or girl that shares the same interests and has a tolerable personality might net you a new pal to hang with; getting lumped together with a dud dude or dudette, and you’ll dread any and every digression you deal with. (Ds!)

I’ve been lucky to have made good friends out of mutual acquaintances. When I moved to Phoenix nine years ago, I knew two people–both from college. Through one of my work friends (now one of my best friends), I met several of his colleagues through his church. I’ve been able to depend upon their friendship (and vice-versa, I’d like to think) as we’ve bonded, and we’ve shared many life events in the process. They are dear to me and more patient with me than I often am with myself, and for that, I am grateful.

Then there are those mutual acquaintances that have made less-than-appealing impressions, those that make you wonder if that saying “birds of a feather flock together” makes you wonder about those qualities in your friend that you cherish. These are situations and people that I don’t want to encounter.

A recent get-together with friends introduced a sibling to the dynamic, a cordial and opinionated guy that was comfortable making his thoughts known. I was chatty with him, thinking it would make him feel more at ease around strangers, but I think he got TOO comfortable; during a heated game of video game Bocce (it happens!), a mistake on my part led to him shouting “You idiot!” This statement stung; a rough few emotional weeks filled with self-doubt and general depression about my basic contributions to life seemed to audibly confirm how others perceived me. I sat on those feelings for the rest of the night, not wanting to make an awkward mountain into a maladroit of a molehill. (I texted my friend the next day to inform him that I found his brother’s statement to be rude.)

Another set of gaffes came from the best friend of a mutual friend. Over the course of several years, said best friend of mutual friend (a jittery guy that was not shy about being his crass, jittery self) made displeasing comments about acquaintances and colleagues, expressed out homophobic remarks about a mutual coworker, and professed his lust for a then 16-year-old actress. My opinion of him was low.

The fact that the mutual friend of said schlub considered the asshole one of his best friends made me reevaluate our joint bond, and I recognized ugly aspects of his personality with a new clarity. Offhand remarks that were sexist and racist in nature came back into focus, as did off-color jokes about a good mutual friend. The dickbagginess of the mutual acquaintance reflected the unbecoming side of that mutual friend.

It also made me wonder if I was as horrible as those examples that I was surrounded by. Humans are bound to occasionally say awful things and engage in arguable behavior, and no one is perfect. (I wish I could do-over many of the conversations I’ve had in my life–especially between the ages of 7 and 12.) But what if the encounters between mutual colleagues were annoying? Though I would like to think that I’m a good judge of character, what did it say that their colleagues could be friends with frustrating people?

***

I recently took a week-long break from my personal Facebook account due to boredom and discontent. My friends list had expanded to the point where a majority of the accounts were people I had never met or hadn’t seen in more than 5 years, and my news feed was filled with posts that may as well have been from strangers. I found myself increasingly bothered by the indulgence in the worst social media habits that I witnessed, and after months of unfollowing dozens in my feed, I went on an unfriending purge. And I felt terrible about it.

Like those acquaintances that I dealt with in real life, those that I collected on my Facebook profile shared a similarity: they were good people that periodically dabbled in irritating acts. But those behaviors were the only side I saw to them–online sphere or otherwise. I realized that those pesky proprieties (including an abundance of selfies, baby and pet pics, and musings about geek culture) had little meaning to me but might not have been the case to those that had a primary role in their lives. I know that I can’t get enough of the baby pics that my cousin’s family and my good friends post, and I look forward to pop culture musings from certain friends. It’s that “the vital connection is made.” (BOW, bow-bow bow)

***

I’ve probably been that terrible mutual friend on more than one occasion. I’m not the easiest person to converse with because of my shyness, and I might come across as aloof or stuck up as a result. My sense of humor can be goofy, so an occasional riff (like about pop culture or douchebags) might be annoying. I’m lucky that my friends can tolerate me at my best and worst, and I’m learning to apply those principles to others that I come across in my travels. That said, if they admit their longing for an underage person or post nothing but selfies, all bets are off.

Guest Post: A BRO Talks Supreme Court Shit

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In the fairness of giving equal blog time to the less intelligent and less cultured, I am ceding the following blog post to a bro. The bro in question was given the task of deciphering the recent Supreme Court verdict about contraception and religious rights. These are his thoughts.

Bros! BROS. Bros?

So I’m checkin’ out my Facebook feed, right, catching up on the pics my boys posted from this weekend’s rager (I hope my girlfriend doesn’t see them; shit went loco, if you know what I mean!). And ALL these people–mostly family and friends from high school that are all cultural and shit–are flippin’ out about the Supreme Court and something called Hobby Lobby. What the hell is THAT shit? I yelled into my headset. (I was at work.) Usually when my Facebook blows up, it’s either something political or it’s almost UFC Fight Night. And since the fights were Saturday, it’s probably something political. And that shit goes nuclear real quick.

I usually avoid reading up on politics because it’s frankly boring ass shit: some old dude is seeking re-election; the IRS is getting all the money; orange dude John Boner (Speaker John Boehner–Ed.) is all mad at the president again. But the Supreme Court? Those old people in the robes are still around? Why they let old people decide on American shit is crazy; my grandpa is always complain’ about Chinese people, and he didn’t even fight in Korea. But I guess the old people in the robes decided that the guy that owns Hobby Lobby won’t pay for women’s birth control now. I don’t know why they get to decide it, but that’s politics.

My boy Socks (Steve Wysocki) wouldn’t pay for his girlfriend’s abortion, and she was PISSED. They broke up for like a month, but Socks got half a sleeve on his arm proclaiming his love for her, so she took him back. We ragged on him for it, calling him her bitch, but I gotta admit, that’s love, man. So I imagine that Hobby Lobby dude not paying for his lady employee’s birth control pills and whatever they stick up there is like having a million girlfriends pissed because you wouldn’t pay for THEIR abortions. And you don’t wanna be on the receiving end of a woman that can’t get her abortion. Socks isn’t gonna deny his girl another one–believe THAT.

Also, why did this Hobby Lobby guy name his store Hobby Lobby? That’s some nerd shit, rhyming things to be cute. Pause. And he doesn’t sell anything cool! I passed by a Hobby Lobby on the way to the vape shop my boy Swank (Mike Swanson) owns, Legitimate Vape (I don’t get it), and I saw nothin’ but wood furniture and knick-knacks. My aunt would probably love that place, especially if they have the clay statues of smiling black people. Only nerds and aunts love making shit. Though I guess if you can build stuff, you can get glue or spray paint–good for a cheap high when there’s no dank around.

But the Hobby Lobby dude didn’t want to pay for birth control for his lady workers because it was against his religion? I didn’t know you could do that! I remember my teachers talking about separation of church and statues, which is weird because churches usually have statues of sad women, but then that means that he could not do other shit because he doesn’t believe in it religionally. I don’t know much about God, but if he was as mean as that movie Noah, flooding the world and shit, he was a straight-up dick.

It’s ballsy as hell to ride or die with a dude that would do some Kill Bill shit, and now the Supreme Court is siding with Hobby Lobby dude? That’s gangsta as hell. And now something called closely hung companies can do whatever they want as long as they believe in God. That’s like the best get out of jail free card! Anytime I didn’t want to pay for my employees for something, I could say that God told me to do it! Shit, that’s CRAZY!

But that might not be good, you know what I mean? What if those lady workers don’t want any babies? What if their husbands or boyfriends don’t want no kids runnin’ around? They gotta pay for it because that Hobby Lobby dude won’t. And that shit’s expensive. Have you ever paid for Plan B? I have, and that ruined my fucking weekend; no Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for THIS guy.

So I guess there are political things that are important after all–especially when they deal with God and vaginas. But old dudes should keep their noses out of the vaginas, you know? That’s MY job–UP TOP! Swank owns his own store, so he can call off birth control for his lady employees, but he might want to keep it. He’s hookin’ up with at least two of them, and it’s probably cheaper than abortions. Gotta learn from Socks.

 

The Confidence Conundrum

 

It’s like this captcha can stare into my soul.

I was recently in line at a store, about to check out, when a beautiful woman walked by me, her eyes locked onto mine. As if we were suddenly yanked into a teen sex comedy, time slowed down as she entered my line of vision: her red lips had the slightest, knowing upturn of a smile; her orange curls framing her caramel skin bouncing and swaying; her walk as confident as the decision to wear painted-on jeans.

The exchange was probably five seconds at the most, but it felt like an eternity. Somewhere between year 2 of her tractor beam gaze, I had to internally yell at myself, “SMILE, DAMMIT!” And I THINK I did. But it felt forced, not natural. It generated anxiety, not ease. And the whole time, I wondered when it would all be revealed to be a joke at my expense.

These are my experiences when it comes to interactions with attractive women. More than that, it signifies how I encounter my life.

***

The last time I was home, my mom asked me an interesting question. “What could I have done to help you with your confidence?” she inquired, kind eyes searching mine for an answer to a problem plaguing me for more than 20 years. I had to collect my thoughts, as I like and need to take time to formulate and articulate things for maximum efficiency. (I’m not much of a talker.) Simply saying “yes” or “no” would have been too simple; an explanation was necessary. But which one of dozens could have sufficed?

  • Freshman year of high school, when two seniors befriended me in a year-long prank–including one of them stabbing my hand with an X-Acto knife in art class?
  • My dad and a family friend mocking me for outing my early internet porn browsing?
  • A former high school friend, after my obsessive efforts to rekindle our friendship, sending his goons to my door to emotionally frighten me? (Mission accomplished!)
  • Freshman year of college, being driven off my dorm floor by my former roommate and his friends after I had the audacity to get another room due to his loud late nights?

So I said “no,” letting her know that she alone couldn’t have been responsible for or carrying the burden of my fragile self-esteem. I then recounted an example that I thought at the time would give insight into the genesis of the issue. Upon further glance, it revealed more than I originally intended.

***

It was the summer of 1993. I was enjoying time off after a terrible seventh grade year, my full indoctrination into the Lord of the Flies-like world of teenage society. I was a chubby 13 year old with a Kid ‘N Play haircut, so I was naturally a target for bullying and other derision. My fashion sense for sweatpants and hiking boots didn’t help matters. Having pencil shavings dumped in my hair and a sign put on my back was the worst of the abuse, and being verbally mocked was a common occurrence.

I got word from my friends that the homeroom postings for the pending school year were posted at the junior high. As I couldn’t legally drive at the time (and my parents both drove manual-transmission cars, further ruining any joyriding fantasies), I waited for my dad to get home so I could get my school marching papers. My relationship with my father at the time was degrading; aside from the general teen embarrassment of being seen with their parents, I found myself on the receiving end of his frustration with life via occasional comments and put-downs (with some yelling),  making me feel even worse about myself. (My younger brother wasn’t too shabby at teasing me like it was his full-time job.)

So we pulled up to the school, and I noticed several girls that were instrumental in the collegial torment. I didn’t want to exit the somewhat safer confines of the car, but I knew that my dad would get upset (another typical transaction for thinking independently back then), so I grudgingly slinked out. And as I approached the front doors of the school, the girls locked onto me, launching into verbal attacks not different from what transpired months before. (They were at least consistent.) I soldiered on, got my information posted on the doors, turned around and walked back to the car as their strikes hit my back.

When I got back in the car, I immediately launched a ramp-up to Sobtown. My dad, ever the compassionate person, yelled at me to not cry, to show them that they didn’t hurt me. Now fighting shame on two ends, I choked back my tears until I got home, where my mom consoled me in the bathroom.

***

In hindsight, that event marked the end of several things in my life: my blind trust in my father as an emotional base; my ability to fully expression my emotions; and any hope of escaping social situations unscathed. My relationship with my dad would deteriorate further–including him lying to my face about his affair–and still troubles me to this day for the fact that I can never fully connect with the selfish man that I once looked up to.

My mom listened to my story (which was shorter than what I wrote above), and she remarked that my dad’s rally cry to be a man and not be upset was something he learned from my grandfather (his father, natch). She wondered aloud if she should have left my father earlier, which probably wouldn’t have helped things. The seeds had been sewn years before those events, and future encounters preyed upon my weaknesses.

As my conversation with my mother took place on Father’s Day weekend, one where I met with my dad for about an hour in a comically strange get-together that will be fodder for my next therapist, I thought about my desire to be a father. My mom remarked earlier in my visit that my brother, my cousin and I wanted to be dads despite the emotional and physical absenteeism we faced with our biological fathers, and that our devotion and compassion would make for better examples for current and future children. I hope I can overcome my own issues to make this happen.

***

The woman that I encountered the other day reminded me of two similar happenings back in college, both involving attractive women saying hi to me, and both ending with a dumbstruck me not being able to respond. I was a sexual late bloomer, not even having a kiss with a girl at that point. Though I summoned up the courage to eventually have a few dates by the time I graduated, my kiss-less streak continued. I was too shy and naive to follow up on clear flirtations from several women, I chased after the wrong girls (as in emotionally unavailable and not attracted to me in the same way), and I had no clue about what I was doing or seeking.

I recognized back in college that I needed help for my trust issues and emotional insecurities, and I sought counseling from on- and off-campus resources. Unlike my commitment to my video games and getting out of college with a degree, my committal to my mental health wasn’t strong, abandoning the sessions after a few tries. (Also, specialists are costly for a college student–even with help from a parent.) I would pick up and put down my efforts to better emotional well-being throughout my adult life with some gains, and I’m currently contemplating a return for a much-needed tune-up. I wouldn’t be surprised if my inability to fully invest in a counselor for an extended period of time is connected to trust issues. (IRONY!)

Those same trust issues have plagued my relationships during my grown-ass man stage. Not being emotionally secure has manifested in doubt in the sincerity of bonds with most of my friends, wondering why they would want to be connected to me. It has popped up in insecurity with the one romantic relationship I’ve had, a long-distance accord that ended (after increasingly bizarre comments and misgivings from her) with her calling it off and connecting immediately with the man she would marry. And I’m still conflicted when it comes to my close relationships–be it with family and best friends. In summary, my shyness, disbelief and mistrust are consistently duking it out.

***

I’m not sure why I wrote this blog entry. I initially wanted to recount a personal story about myself, but it morphed into a more painful deep-dive (a marketing term I hate) into my emotional bedrock. I clearly want to share a bit of myself–not unlike your annoying Facebook friend that posts a daily selfie in a visual cry for help. But maybe, JUST MAYBE, someone will get something out of this–whether it’s understanding why I write what I do, or that it’s okay to seek help for self-esteem. Maybe I want to give my mom a better answer to her question of how she could have helped me emotionally. Or maybe, JUST MAYBE, I want to believe that I can look back at this piece of writing as something along my road to recovery. I guess that would mean that I have a bit of confidence in something that is desperately needed: confidence in myself.

 

#YesAllWomen and Porn Mentality (NSFW)

(Warning: Shit might get gross up in here.)

As a purveyor of social media, I occasionally (okay, USUALLY) come across material that makes me question humanity. One late-night tryst sounded my awful alarm: a dickbag with the Twitter handle @CauseWereGuys (username “Because I’m a Guy,” because you have to double-down on the bro stupidity) posted “When people ask me why I don’t want to have a daughter” with a graphic image of a woman with male ejaculate on her face. Cut to facepalm.

Naturally, this chauvinist thought it was fine to state this (and the visual) for their 1.62 million followers. But the mindset and attitude behind this–and the people that buy into it–are more problematic. I’m assuming that the woman with male DNA on her mug was a participant of sex (willing or otherwise), and her partner knew that she was someone’s daughter or mother. But you can’t focus on that, bro! Gotta get that nut off!

So, OF COURSE my mind went into overdrive with questions. Why is it okay to have sex with a woman, but to not see said woman as someone’s offspring? Why is the image of a woman as a sexual being such a double-sided depiction? And how does this fuel the insane notion of “daddy’s girl” being protected by the shotgun-toting father figure? Lots of questions, lots of supposed answers!

stupid-t-shirt

“CHRIST…”

When the #YesAllWomen hashtag caught on after the troubling mass shooting rampage carried out by 22-year old Elliot Rodger against the “beautiful girls” that never gave him the time of day, many female social media users felt empowered to share their horrific experiences with men–from protecting themselves against potential date rape, to the aftermath of violence. Rodger, a self-professed men’s rights activist, saw women as possessions; the sexually attractive female was his by birthright. He wasn’t alone in that notion, as critics of these female bullies, anti-social justice warriors, and contradictory dicks stuck up for the deceased gunman and/or mocked the hashtag and the women speaking up about their thoughts and beliefs.

Women LITERALLY couldn’t have a day to talk about serious issues facing their gender, what with male assholes having to challenge that. The realization that women faced hostility and violence because of the lopsided viewpoint of gender equality made these He-Men uncomfortable with the fact that: sex has unfortunate consequences; that women are still treated miserably in an ever-prospering world; that men were the majority of the antagonists in the #YesAllWomen posts; and that the fantasies of the chaste woman and sexual harlot were muddied by the harsh realities of terrible actions. And because of that, these keyboard misogynists lashed out, shaming the posters (women and men) that used the hashtag in efforts to silence them and return to the status quo of sexist jokes and “DEM BOOBS DOE.”

Why jerkoffs felt it was not only fine but their right to belittle the true stories of women speaks to the puritan culture that seeps through society as a whole. The idea of a woman being chaste is nothing new; it’s as old as one of the oldest professions, the prostitute. I’m guessing that the old-timey Madonna-Whore complex, the categorization of women as either sexually attractive or merely admirable, is a catalyst of such beliefs that permeate many aspects of our society. The desire to protect a woman’s virtue from sexual acts and consequences can be seen in political legislation (DAMN THOSE WOMEN THAT HAD SEX!), slut-shaming, and fearful men that have to deal with their daughter’s boyfriends.

That latter point in particular is interesting, as the frightful prospect of their little girl being intimate with a younger version of father, the same father that once (or still) has those physical urges to mate with the sexually attractive female, makes them realize two things: “OH SHIT, HE WANTS 2 TAP DAT”; and “I NEED TO CONTROL MY DAUGHTER’S VAGINA.” Never mind that people are going to have sex despite the wishes of their parents, and never mind that those same naysayers once had sex with girls within their age bracket.

How telling is it that the father would most likely NOT freak out if the situation was reversed and girl showed up at his door wanting to take his son out? Here’s the basic, unspoken pep talk between father (Dr. Dre) and son (Snoop Doggy Dogg) as dictated by our culture:

“Wear that pussy out, son.”

Meanwhile, the father in question would probably not be as liberal if his daughter was to be squired about town by a similarly-aged lad:

“That’s MY pussy, junior.”

Sexuality is a tricky subject, and it is an unhealthy organism if popular culture can be believed. We

  • Tease young adults that wait to have sex shame young women if they’ve had sex
  • Culturally high-five guys for how MANY women they bed
  • Peer pressure young women into dressing as sexual objects to fend off horny guys
  • Degrade a women for the physical aspects of her body
  • Shame the women of a negative sexual encounter, let alone ANY sexual encounter (walk of shame, anyone?)
  • MAYBE prosecute male rapists
  • Shrug when men have multiple children with numerous partners and
  • Shame a women with a child out of wedlock (though it’s supposedly not nearly the cultural calamity it once was) and destroy her if she has more than one child with more than one partner.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few. But aren’t these the same things that would be a turn-off of those that equate the virtues espoused in porn to be reality? Don’t guys want to see legal (and sometimes younger) young ladies doing all sorts of sexual shit? Aren’t there millions of bros young and old that look up to male pornstars? Idiots that mock a woman for not “having curves” that are either surgically enhanced or uncharacteristic of most women? Look down upon the same women they lust after? And let us not forget the lady that is Octomom.

The scales are tipped against women, and the last thing anyone should do is to deride their experiences. And we as a society need to make things safer and easier for everyone to not only share their accounts, but to limit the negative encounters. Maybe instead of joking about protecting your daughter with a shotgun, you can educate your daughter AND son to be responsible when it comes to sexual encounters as well as to respect their partner’s wishes. Maybe instead of hootin’ and hollerin’ when dude-bros brag about their latest conquests, shame that frat-douche for treating women like sex dolls. And maybe, JUST maybe, we can not give women guilt trips about their roles in sexual relationships.

More dialogues about the realities can lead to enlightened people (though some people just can’t learn a damn thing), despite the glacial pace it would take to undo centuries of patriarchal thinking. I’d like to believe we can get to a point where having a daughter is not met with fear but with the same sense of pride that culture reserves for its sons. Whenever I have kids, I know I’ll share that honor–even if others tell him or her otherwise.

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