Norway memories

When I was packing for Oslo, two years ago, I discovered I was out of my favorite lotion. I am a lotion hound and I knew I’d be using bunches of it when I made it to Norway. So I went out and bought a tube of something I had never tried before. I had always wanted to try it and it had similar ingredients to another lotion I very much liked (but couldn’t find) so I figured it would be okay to splurge and buy the big tube.
Big mistake, really, the lotion made my skin break out with acne. It had a very specific scent too which wasn’t unpleasant but just odd to me. When I got back to the states I decided that big honkin tube would sit in my half bath and be good for HAND lotion only.
Now its been two years and every time I use that lotion, I think about Oslo.
For the rest of my life, Burt’s Bees Radiance smells like Norway.

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Its not racist to be against the Syrian refugees

I kind of wish people would stop using the term “racism” and “Racist” when referring to the Anti-Syrian prejudice. Its xenophobia and christian nationalism or maybe just religious intolerance at its finest. I understand that racism has become the most heinous crimes against society ever and i”m not here to debate that judgement at all (I will delete you if you start that discussion in either direction) but it bothers me to mislabel the problem. Muslims are not a race. Syrians are not a race either. People of Middle Eastern heritage are not a race either. They aren’t even an ethnic group per se.
I think its time to recognize that religious intolerance and xenophobia are heinous crimes against society too. That’s all I”m saying. We do not have to dilute and distort the word “racism” in order to recognize how bad this shit is getting.

the differences are inside but important nonetheless

One thing I’ve been noticing more and more as I’ve gotten older is the divide between people who raise children and people who don’t. (This is absolutely no judgement or commentary on the value or worth of either group or their choices)

People not raising children seem to have this odd (to me) glamor attached to them and how they live. Many of them spend their free time doing fun things or romantic things or admirable things like vacations, road trips, going on dates, engaging in hobbies and charity work. It’s nice and fun to read about but its mostly a foreign thing for those of us raising children not because we can’t or don’t do those things but because we can’t or don’t structure our lives around those things. Our priorities are obviously different, as they should be. But what I’ve noticed more and more is a sort of shiny happiness that comes from the confidence of being kid-free. People who raise children are constantly questioning themselves, those around them and their purpose. People who raise children spend an enormous amount of energy just trying to believe they are “doing the right thing” which kid-free folks don’t have to spend even a nano-second worrying about. Not to say kid-free folks don’t have anxieties and worries and self-doubt, of course they do that’s the human condition, but people who raise children often mire themselves in the self-doubt of epic cultural proportions.

If you are kid-free and you feel unconfident, you worry about yourself, your image, your social standing -whatever metric you use to gauge your internal worth. You don’t spend any (or much, I guess) time worrying about any of those issues on behalf of another person. You do not wonder if people are judging you based on how you spoke to your best friend the other day. How your co-worker is dressed does not make you particularly embarrassed as a reflection upon your work ethic. Nothing that others do (with some exception for SigOths) really makes you lose sleep worrying about how YOU will be judged. Your self-doubt and recrimination revolves solely around your own actions and your own decisions on behalf of… you. Because of this, it seems as if kid-free folks spend far less time grinding away at the most mundane tasks of life with as much grim determination as people who raise children. We can both decide not ot clean our bathroom floor and it might bother you for a moment or two here or there, but you made your decision to do other things besides clean your bathroom floor and you go about your life. If I choose not to clean my bathroom floor it generally isn’t a matter of opting for something more fulfilling or interesting – it usually is a dire choice I make fully aware that I end up looking bad and will be judged by someone somewhere for being bad at a host of other aspects of my life: my parenting, my housekeeping and my dedication to being an adult in general. If a kid-free person forgets to pay the electric bill, that’s considered pretty flakey and roommates may be pretty ticked about it becuase its a huge inconvenience. If I forget to pay the electric bill, I could be investigated for being neglectful of my children’s needs.

This difference in emphasis puts the perspective of each class towards a very different schema in life. If I want to go to a party, or do some purely “grown-up fun” kind of thing, there’s planning, scheduling, and many avenues for guilt, anxiety and worry- not over the planning of the thing itself but of whether one is WORTHY of doing such a thing. Kid-free people rarely have to decide if going to do something fun is “okay” they generally have to decide if they can afford it with their time and money and maybe energy. Social standing, personal esteem do not really enter the picture.

For this reason, kid-free folks who embark on some minor event of frivolity often have a glow of absolute unfettered freedom that comes with recreational enjoyment being “the norm” rather than an unsual event one has earned the right to do. Because there is little to no social or cultural price to pay, kid-free folk seem to be enjoying life far more and more often than people raising children. This is not a bad thing, but it does create a divide between the two groups. Watching documentation of my kid-free friends traipsing off to yet another fun grown-up gathering full of adventure and self-actualization means I feel a gulf between us as basic citizens. They smile for the camera in a way I don’t think I’m even capable of without heavy planning and inebriants. The look of total immersion in their enjoyment is a look I doubt I will have for a very long time. And as a person who raises children, I do not bemoan that fact – I do raise children and thus everything I do in life, at least right now, has an impact on other people who are less capable of dealing with the ramifications of my decisions. Pictures of myself enjoying life sans kids are always more guarded, more careful and yet more desperate than pictures of kid-free folks.

Bullying through exclusion: looking for the middle ground

Imagine having your child lying in your lap sobbing because her own friends were hurting her feelings during her birthday party. That’s a special pain.

“what’s going on baby? Why are you so upset?”
[long involved tale of being excluded over and over] “…and then they told me I wasn’t their friend!”

[struggling to stay calm and sane] “oh honey… it’s your special day..”
“YES AND THEY ARE JUST MAKING ME FEEL NOT SPECIAL AT ALL”
*heart breaks and breaks and breaks*

There’s no pain quite like comforting your child when their feelings have been hurt, especially when they were hurt by people they love. It’s a unique kind of tenderness fused with white-hot rage tempered by the knowledge that your rage will ironically hurt your child even more were you to act upon it. I have spent many a night holding a sobbing son while he wondered why his dad did not show up, so this is not a new situation for me. I already know that to be comforting as a mom, all I have to do is hold my child, stroke their hair and murmur soothing words.
In order to help them heal, however, I need concrete answers to their questions and solutions to their pain… which I cannot realistically give.

This is the problem of peer exclusion.

Believe it or not, peer exclusion is part and parcel of bullying. As defined by psychologists and developmental specialists, peer exclusion (past the age of 5) is both a part of bullying and a form of bullying on its own. Some studies suggest peer exclusion and ridicule (without accompanying physical abuse) is more common among female peer groups. In any case, it is an aspect of bullying that has very little attention. Much like verbal an psychological abuse, however, peer exclusion merits attention right alongside “regular” bullying. The effects of this type of bullying are just as damaging and can have longer-lasting effects.

But how do we tackle this? How do we, as parents, approach something that straddles the line between self-formed identity and subtle cruelty?

The question is how do I give my child the respect as an individual to make her own social choices while instilling in her the values of being open-minded, tolerant and gentle with other people’s feelings? How do I teach her “include others” while teaching her “don’t be an emotional doormat”? While I want her to be loving and accepting of everyone, I don’t want her thinking that she is wrong to have preferences. I want her to see the shining light of humanity within each person while understanding that not everyone is a good person. I want her to learn love and tolerance and forgiveness, but I don’t want her thinking its her obligation to tolerate all behavior or forgive all trespassers. Just how do we define “accepting” anyway? Where do we draw the line at “other people making choices” and “other people being mean”?

In the most recent example of my child being excluded, I sat with her for a while, soothing her sobs until we could talk. She sat up and I said “maybe you need to find someone else to play with. If people aren’t letting you have your special day, then let them go”
I could tell this idea pained her: she wanted to enjoy everyone at her party, even if they refused to enjoy her. These were her friends- kids she’d grown up knowing. Some of them she’d known in the crib. These were people she had dubbed her favorites; its why they’d been invited to the party to begin with. But what I couldn’t make her see was that sometimes friendships form between your friends that you are not a part of and that soemtimes means you get left out. True, good friends will be happy to let you back in, find ways to include you, but sometimes kids just don’t want to do that… or they don’t care.

She went off to play with someone else… a relatively new friend and we continued with the party.

…until the next episode happened. It just so happened I was there for it and I was able to intervene in a way that made the whole situation very clear. I told the repeat offenders that they were guests in our house and they were there because Lil Miss wanted to spend time with them and that if they were not going to include her in playing with her toys that she got for her birthday, I’d be happy to call their parents and have them taken home. The kids in question looked at me completely stunned. One of them tried to explain why they needed to exclude her and I interrupted with no uncertainty. “I don’t care what your issue is with her, you are NOT going to take her toys, push her out of her room and not let her play. Make your choice” Suddenly all kids involved decided that perhaps playing with her was not such a bad thing after all. Ten minutes later they were all having a great time. Mind you, these are kids who, when playing with Lil Miss all alone have absolutely no problem playing with her and often ask for her company. This is how I know this isn’t just making social choices. This is about deliberate exclusion.

Sadly, this is not the first time this has happened to Lil Miss. And though similar situations have arisen at school, her teacher has assured me that she has intervened whenever possible – because its already well known that Lil Miss is easily upset by being excluded. Which makes her a prime target for bullying by peer exclusion. So this isn’t just something I talk about because I think “those uncouth kids…” this is a real problem that could dog her throughout childhood and beyond. This is an issue of self-esteem and fear of rejection. But its not something I will sit by and blame my daughter for. Yes, she needs to learn how to stand up for herself in a reasonable manner that shows she will not be manipulated. But its the other kids who are either unwittingly or cruelly choosing to exploit the biggest emotional pitfall she has right now and I won’t stand by and make her think its all on her to fix that problem. I’m not going to turn my head and make her believe that she’s overreacting to a make-believe problem. I’m not going to gas-light my own child just because other kids are being mean but not using actual violence. I’m going to speak up for her whenever I can and teach her to speak up too. Hopefully through our unified efforts, she will be ready by high school to shrug off the deliberate efforts to provoke and hurt her. Because I can see that coming a mile away. Conversely, its always possible that she may decide to go on the offensive and do the same to others to prevent it happening to her. I hope our talking and modeling together she will not go that route either. I hope I can raise her to understand the difference between being careless with someone’s feelings and being cruel.

I hope I raise her to understand how important it is to speak up, whether its for herself or for someone else.

still figuring things out on this intarwebby thing

i want to keep in touch with my friends. I want to hear what they have to say. I want to know what’s going on in their lives and how they feel and if anything is going on that they want me to be a part of.

That’s why Facebook is so important for me.

BUT…. its turned into a place of very little appeal now…. its

soapbox
ranty
snarky
scary
sad
and self-congratulating

None of which would be a big problem (gawd knows I am those things too) except those qualities have become the only times it is not superficial. All the news is sad and scary and angry-making. Or else its cute kitties and puppies. Once in a great while its inspiration-porn which is uncomfortable.

Mostly its just a daily outrage machine. Which isn’t to say the subjects brought up aren’t important but I can’t get behind the exhausting barrage of competing culture-wide problems.

I’m more interested in knowing how everyone’s doing but most of what I get is everyone hiding behind the liberal cause de jeur.

One of the reasons I still love Livejournal more than facebook is because when we were ALL on Livejournal we had more categories and thus we could be friends with more than one type of person. I was in political groups, social groups, parent groups etc
Not to say we didn’t get into arguments, dear gawd of course we did, but they happened mostly on the group pages. Most of us reserve our personal page for personal things. The political posts were not as frequent or common. Because when we posted to our page, we took our time, thought it out and assumed we were addressing all our close friends.

Facebook has gone beyond being a big cocktail party and turned into an sort of online state fair – everyone has a booth where they simultaniously sell their wares AND hawk their views AND hob-nob with friends and family. If you’re close you get to visit behind the booth and everyone plays musical booths all day long in some sort of complicated square dance that involves more steps and rules than I can keep up with.

I’m so tired. I just want to talk about how we’re all DOING. I don’t want to stand on a soapbox and scream any more (well, okay maybe every now and then?) I just want to explore each other and feel close again, not what was the latest violation of decency in the news today. I pretty much know all my friends and family’s political and social views.

Maybe that’s part of the problem – there’s nothing left to LEARN anymore.

Tinder: the good, the bad and the vain

SO in my quest to enter the modern world of dating, I joined Tinder. Two things prompted this decision. My ex had met his fiance on Tinder and I had heard a few other stories from people about starting actual relationships via Tinder. I really didn’t believe this was going to happen for me, but I was curious as to how Tinder really worked. So I joined. I put up a profile with several headshots and a basic run-down of myself. I mentioned my height first, being a super-geek next and the fact that I am absolutely not looking for hook-ups. I went in with NO expectations.Then I began the great swipe-fest.

DISCLAIMER: My search parameters are set to men and women but there was a ratio of men to women of about 50-1 and many of the women’s profiles I saw were very vague about whether they were looking for a romantic meeting or a purely social one. So I only swiped-right a couple of women. There were SOME women who were clearly looking for hook-ups and I swiped-left on all of them. So all of the following is based on my experiences with men.

Here was my criteria:

SWIPE-LEFT

  • no profile information (its a hook-up)
  • no picture (what are you hiding? Its the modern age, you can upload a selfie in .005 seconds, no excuses)
    over 5’11” (purely a practical matter)
  • frowning (wtf dude)
  • REALLY bad lighting (C’MAN)
  • flashing “I’m a wannabe gangstah” signs (I bet you work for FedEx, amirite?)
  • posing with dead animals (no, I do not care that you caught a big fish or shot a deer)
  • posing with beautiful women (what are you looking through Tinder for? Is that supposed to make me feel competitive or something? Newsflash: most women will just deflate and feel inadequate. How would you like it if I put up a picture of me cuddling someone who looks like Vin Diesel? You’d think that’s what I expect to find, that’s what)
  • picture of dog in pic pool (I am not looking to date your dog no matter how much you love him)
  • pic with tiger (yes, there are a LOT of pictures with tigers. I do not know why but I have my suspicions)
  • pic with expensive car/watch/boat/champagne (I do not care about how rich you pretend to be or how rich you actually are)
  • pic in obvious foreign location (you travel a lot. that means you’re not around much. I do not have the luxury to travel a lot right now)
  • corporate headshot (seriously? you can’t take a damned selfie in your natural habitat? Oh wait, maybe that IS your natural habitat. Yuck)
  • pic with sport-team love (MAYBE you’ll find a woman who adores your sports team but honestly I don’t think that is a good basis for a relationship)
  • profile stressing travel (see “pic in foreign location”)
  • profile stressing outdoorsy/sportsing/workout stuff (I’m disabled and trying to get my health back up but for now I can’t keep up with someone who wants to hike the Appalachian trail)
  • profile marrying the word “woman” with any of the following: Classy, sexy, special, or real (I might think I am all of those things but I have no idea if you’d agree with me. That bar is too vaguely high for my tastes besides its so FUCKING CLICHE)

SWIPE-RIGHT

  • something in the picture that makes you look a little “different”
  • actual smiling (there’s a difference and its in the eyes and you can’t fake it)
  • mentioning being a father but NOT putting more than a photo-bombed headshot of your kid(s) in the pic pool (seeing full pics of your children makes me uneasy. we’re looking for a romance, and you’re splashing your kids’ pics on a very public place… that seems entirely too reckless)
  • talking about things you like AND things you do (we don’t all get to do the things we like and sometimes the things we do may seem boring to us but are interesting to someone else)
  • being frank about what you want in a RELATIONSHIP (not a person; people can be so many things at once its intimidating to read a laundry list of vague qualities you are hoping to find)
  • profile reads like you’re happy already but wanting to share your happy life (I don’t want to be with someone who hopes I will “complete” their miserably empty existence)
  • equally okay with doing things “out and about” or “stay home”

I swiped-right on about 50 profiles. Of those, I received messages from four people first. I also sent messages to about six people and about five of them replied. In every single case, the person I was chatting with, asked me to text them on their phone within about three sentences. Not being comfortable with sending my phone number to strangers I managed to demur.(I had a not-great experience doing that with someone from OkCupid. Even though we had talked for nearly a month and realized we weren’t dating material for each other, we decided we were cool with hanging out occasionally. Next thing you know, I’m blocking him for drunk texting suggestive things to me *sigh*) I suggested meeting up with two people. One ended up begging off later (he was here to attend a funeral so I really understood him changing his mind) the other never responded. So my actual contacts with people show that Tinder guys have the exact same problem as OkCupid guys: they don’t have the whatever-it-takes to actually follow through on a dating prospect even when its handed to them on a silver platter. Suffice it to say, I’m not interested in dating someone who can’t get it together to finish a conversation, respond to a request to meet up or even message back. And those were men I swiped-right who had swiped-right on me. So its not like they were repelled by my unsexiness or anything. They already decided they liked me (pic and/or profile) yet could not bring themselves to even say hello (or much beyond that) The one and only guy who managed a good fun conversation and said he wanted to meet was only in town for a few days for a funeral and we just couldn’t get our schedules together. He did text me later to apologize and ask if I was free later which sadly I was not. Ah well.

So all the men I swiped-left? Oy and Vey. Endless streams of “look how great I am” pictures and profiles. It became boring, in fact. And somewhat depressing really.

Overall, I have ascertained that Tinder is in fact pretty much what I expected. I wasn’t interested in using it previously because the notion of finding someone based on a picture was just rather… superficial. And that’s pretty much what Tinder is: superficial. The vast majority of what I’ve come across (and I’m talking about the ones who say they don’t want “just a hook-up”) are braggarts and swellheads. The vast majority of pictures I see are all about showing how superior the subject is in the arena of money, material possessions, adventure and/or looks. I can’t possibly speak for all or even most women but the subset of type of women I belong to and the fact is that we generally aren’t interested in snagging the Most Superior Male on the block. In some ways, that’s a turn-off, in fact. To be with someone who sets themselves up as superior, you feel as if you also must be a superior specimen and face it, most women do not go around feeling superior to other women. Hierarchy and competition is not a common thing among smart, lively women who take command of their sexuality. No matter how awesome we view ourselves (and most of us do) we do not do it relative to other women or by a standard of measurement that society sets out. So my only conclusion is that Tinder is a social meeting place for the most banal, average and superficial folk. Not to say there aren’t women that like, of course there are, but considering the qualities that most men say they are looking for, Tinder doesn’t offer much in the way of choice for women who actually have those qualities. Because women who are bright, lively and take command of their sexuality are generally looking for someone who is in a similar mindset, not someone who wastes energy bragging about their accoutrements of acquisition. The spending of money and the position of power within one’s career does not translate into personal qualities beyond the average, it just indicates that you have been more successful (which implies plenty of luck) than others. But success doesn’t indicate personal fortitude or work ethic or even smarts – just opportunity. Relationships aren’t successful because of opportunity. Matching up with someone isn’t a just a matter of chance, its a matter of matching someone’s projected qualities with your desires, now and for the future. That’s not something that I can judge based on what car you drive, how many fish you caught or how much you love your dog.

Goodbye Tinder. You’re definitely not for me.