‘Tis The Season For Unfriending

It’s that time again where we see the true colors of our friends and family on social media—political season. I’m not talking about those who disagree with your points of view, I’m talking about those who can’t utilize social graces and respect for yours. I do love a debate—an intelligent, mature one.  When someone choses to resort to name calling and disparaging remarks, it’s a clear sign of their inability to cleverly discuss what they believe in. I don’t debate with these people as they are clearly not open-minded or reasonable.

Generally, I choose to not post anything that will draw too much attention, especially negative. What makes this wrong is that I’m not utilizing my feed as I want, therefore giving away my agency to others. It’s not because I don’t want to have a discussion, it’s more because I don’t want to end up “unfriending” should things turn as ugly as they sometimes do. As far as someone else’s feed that becomes increasingly offensive to me, there’s an excellent feature on Facebook where I can still be friends and unfollow them—or “snooze” their feed for 30-days. This, however, doesn’t stop them from seeing or commenting on my posts. Therein lies my dilemma. 

I guess what I’m wanting is the respect I give to other’s opinions and posts to be reciprocated. I scroll on by if I don’t like what you’ve posted and should I make a comment, it isn’t about the person, but about the post. If what they posted isn’t true, then I may say so and why—if I choose to bother. My feed is one of light-heartedness, family, and the occasional disenchantment. I can’t post everything that disappointments me as I would become too grizzled. But, you can be sure that I have researched thoroughly anything I choose to post. We’ll call that responsible sharing.

The reality is I will probably be discouraged at some point by what I see and will do what I must—if unfollowing doesn’t do the trick. This isn’t about being too sensitive, it’s about making my feed into what I want. We don’t have to like the same things to be friends and I’m always up for an affable debate. In the end, I will continue to show respect, support, and friendship to those who choose to share their social media with me. And, I will demand the same from those I choose to share mine.

“We should behave to our friends as we would wish our friends behave to us” 

Aristotle

We’re Teaching How to Think, Not What to Think

The school year has started and like many kids in our COVID-times, our daughter is enrolled in virtual school here at home. What she hadn’t anticipated was that we were going to take an active role in teaching her about things outside of her daily school curriculum. Some of these things include learning about history—with a focus currently on Florida’s history. We plan to read about and visit many landmarks and historical sites within a day’s drive. She has participated in a webinar on finances now that she has her own bank account. She will learn how to budget her money and keep track of her spending and saving. We have also added the Woman’s Movement given it’s the 100th anniversary of 19th Amendment. It’s important that she understand how far her gender has come. I want her to have an appreciation for the women who came before her and how they laid the foundation for future generations. They did this by pursuing not only what they wanted from life, but battled against those who saw to oppress them. 

We are currently reading And Yet They Persisted: How American Women Won The Right To Vote by Johanna Neuman.  We take about an hour of time together each night, taking turns reading and discussing things along the way. The writing is a bit advanced for a sixteen-year-old, so we utilize the dictionary frequently to ensure a clear definition of terms. I’ve come to realize that although I know the meaning of these words, sometimes I’m unable to clearly define them for her in a way she will understand. This is also where Michael comes in as he easily provides concise definitions and examples—he’s usually sitting off to the side listening as we read. Another thing we do is frequently pause to ensure our daughter understands the material. This takes up a lot of time, but it’s important for her to comprehend what she’s reading. Needless to say, we are all learning. 

Part of our learning experience is watching lectures—which we did today. The speaker was Johanna Neuman, who authored the book we’re reading. This creates an opportunity for discussion and better understanding of the points the writer is trying to make. Our daughter does seem to have an appreciation of the privileges and rights she enjoys because of the woman who came before her—more so now. Unlike her great-great-grandmother, she gets to have an education that includes more than learning to sew. She can be a pilot, a scientist, or even a president—of our country or of her own company.  One thing my daughter said today was her inability to comprehend how anyone can be sexist in this day and age—a frame of mind that would consider excluding women from what they want to do. I feel exactly the same and delighted she doesn’t feel like her possibilities are remotely limited.

She recognizes women are still working today toward total equality. She does, however, need to take a moment to process that when I started working in the business world back in the early 90s, I couldn’t wear pants to work. Women were only allowed to wear dresses or skirts—and required to wear pantyhose. My legs itch just thinking about it now. What’s also a challenge for her to understand—from both our reading and what she witnesses—is that there are some women who are good with the limitations a patriarchal society. They accept those rules and willingly play by them. The key point is for our daughter to appreciate that everyone should be free to live how they choose—even if she doesn’t agree.

In a world as diverse as ours, she has to accept that everyone will have a different perception of how life should be lived. Even those who grow up with the same parents have children with opposing views, so how can one expect the various cultures of our society to conform to one viewpoint? What we offer in our home is the right to discuss absolutely anything and learn from both sides of an argument. We want her to understand that ignorance of an opposing view is a sure way to lose a debate. The advantage to any discussion is knowing about all sides, not just what you believe. One must appreciate the complexities that create an individual’s point of view—whether that be upbringing, education, or experience. She must also be receptive to learning from others and find value in a difference of opinion.

In the end, she will have to decide for herself how she wants to live her life. She will discover on her own what causes she wants to fight for. Our job as parents is to ensure she is armed with a diverse education that will enable her with intelligent thought. This education includes the reality of the world she lives in and its history. 

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” 

― Margaret Mead

Misstaeks Happuhn

We live in a world of take-out meals right now and we are no exception in our house.  I do cook about 90% of our meals, which is no problem for me since I love to cook. However, there are times when only a restaurant-made meal will satisfy. 

In the past when we did venture out to grab a bite, we rarely (if ever) utilized the drive-thru. It doesn’t matter if we are getting a hamburger or a cup of coffee. We get out of the car and go inside—if we are getting food, we’ll usually eat there.  Besides, there’s always a possibility that something will be wrong with your order and you’ll have to get out of your car anyway. It doesn’t happen ALL the time, but it happens.

On Sunday, we decided to pick up some barbecue to take home and ordered a family feast online—pulled pork, a whole chicken, garlic bread, and two sides—French fries and baked beans. Once our order was brought out to our car, I decided to place it in the back, which would also allow me to check that everything was in order. I opened the containers, with the exception of a round, taped container and one styrofoam box at the bottom. The smell of the fresh, hot fries in the top box overwhelmed me and I got distracted. 

Once we arrived home, twenty-minutes later, we discovered the one box I didn’t check had a bag of donuts. There was no chicken, no pulled pork, and the taped container I thought was baked beans was barbecue sauce. I knew the restaurant had been very busy with Easter Sunday because the employee mentioned it. I was actually blaming myself for not checking the last container, but the reality is it wasn’t my fault—or was it? 

We drove back up there after I called and the rest of my order was waiting for me. They were apologetic and thanked me for my understanding. I smiled graciously and thanked them as, oddly enough, I was more angry with myself; however, I did check everything this time before walking out the door. On the drive home my disappointment was appropriately placed with them for not recognizing that the one bag they handed me originally could have in no way held my entire order—it was easily a two-bag situation. Additionally, someone else was missing their donuts. That’s borderline criminal, if you ask me. The good thing is that I let it go and enjoyed my meal.

We all have to remember, people are not infallible and we shouldn’t be upset when mistakes are made. We are all trying to work together with this situation our society is facing. The one thing I didn’t do, nor have I ever, was yell at or berate a person for getting my order wrong. What purpose does that serve aside from confirming you’re a jerk? Everything can be handled with a smile and letting the person know a mistake was made. More often than not, compensation is given when this happens anyway. And, I got free Hot Bag O’Donuts with dipping sauce! Well, they didn’t mean to give it to me, but whose complaining? Certainly not my daughter who likened the donuts to yummy churros. 

In the end, I felt full and satisfied with my meal. I WILL go to the restaurant again. I will check ALL of the containers before driving off. And, I will continue to treat people how I want to be treated should I make a mistake. 

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I am pretty sure that if one were to look at social media, you would assume humanity itself is the one with a life-threatening virus. Let’s define humanity a la Merriam Webster:

Compassionate, sympathetic, or generous behavior or disposition—the quality or state of being humane; the quality or state of being human; the totality of human beings—the human race. 

My perception of things is nothing new, and honestly, I do spend some of my precious time viewing comments from those who angrily express their opposing views. It’s a comedy, shit-show as far as I’m concerned. This is just my humble opinion, but I am confident I’m not alone. With more people stuck in their house with the stay-home order, people seem to have more time to peruse the internet. The effects of feeling cooped up are rearing their ugly head on even the most innocent of posts.

I expect such things from Facebook and Twitter as I have seen this behavior for years. What has surprised me most is the people on the Nextdoor social media site. 

“Nextdoor is the neighborhood hub for trusted connections and the exchange of helpful information, goods, and services. We believe that by bringing neighbors together, we can cultivate a kinder world where everyone has a neighborhood they can rely on. Building connections in the real world is a universal human need. That truth, and the reality that neighborhoods are one of the most important and useful communities in our lives, have been a guiding principle for Nextdoor since the beginning.”

I have been a “member” of Nextdoor since 2017. It is broken down into neighborhoods, and expands out even further. However, I can post something solely for immediate neighbors in my condo community, about 250 of the 370 who have created an account. One of the key elements has normally been to be respectful and avoid those topics that create friction: politics, religion, and sexual content.  We have been a light-hearted, helpful group with the occasional frustrations posted—but, they are more often than not extremely respectful.

With what our world is facing today, more people have become hostile, accusatory, dictatorial, and for lack of a better word, bullies. There is name-calling of a degree that even I am amazed by—remind you that I have seen the “best” on Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram. There is a boat-load of misinformation being posted, causing panic and anger. I’m even seeing comments that are clearly to incite even the most gentle of people. 

Whatever happened to scrolling on by? I’m just kidding, people can’t help themselves. I honestly don’t bother to comment when things get heated, now or before. In the end, what good would it do? I’m not going to change anyone’s mind, nor is there some prize at the end that makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. Even the most innocent of comments will have people turn on you anyway. 

I just thought I wouldn’t see it on the Nextdoor site as we know these people—they are literally our next door neighbors! There’s no hiding behind a screen, keeping anonymity because you’re berating the person you used to smile and wave to as you left for work each morning. Bob across the street will avoid coming outside until you’ve driven off now because you called his wife an ignorant, bleeding-heart liberal and adding, “It makes your whole argument even dumber than you.”  Sorry, you’ll have to move now because all of your neighbors hate you…and oh, you’re an asshat.

The posts have gone from “Help me find my cat, Peepers” and “Can you recommend a good lawn company” to “There are terrorists in our neighborhood”—referring to a group of people playing soccer in a local park, ignoring the less-than-ten-in-a-group rule. Never you mind that even though the social-distance rule is being broken, they’re probably your neighbor’s kids. There are ways to protest the activity without being a jerk.

The scary part is that this really is just the beginning of the pandemic for the States and I’m thinking we’re going to see some intense Mad-Max insanity on our social media sites. It’s easy to get angry and lash out with our keyboard. It’s not easy to take those words back from cyber-space, or to look at old Mrs. Willoughby in the face who lives three houses down after you called her a communist.  If we all remember that we are in the same boat, then perhaps we’ll get through this unscathed. Keep your wits about you, neighbors. 

Taking Neighborhood Watch To New Levels

Every neighborhood has a Mrs. Kravitz. If you don’t know who that is, you should ask somebody—or just Google it. What will come up is a character from Bewitched, specifically the original series from the 60s to 70s. She’s your nosy neighbor who is constantly watching everyone and knows more than she should about people on your block. If you don’t know who it is, it may be you. I can accept a Mrs. Kravitz, but I don’t have a name for what we’ve encountered recently. 

What do you call someone who goes through the recycle bins to see if you’re recycling properly? Insane? We live in a condo community and each street has its own set of recycling trash bins. We try to be “green” and maintain a separate bag for this purpose. I understand the ins-and-outs of the process and know what I should throw in—mostly. I found out recently that coffee k-cups are not recyclable despite the indication on the bottom of the each cup. What made me look this up was the manipulative way our neighbor approached us.

The usual salutations were given and the topic of recycling was brought up randomly. “People just don’t know what can and can’t be thrown in the recycling bin…” 

She went on to say how jars and cans need to be rinsed out. That pizza boxes can’t be in the bin if any cheese is left on the box. The Kuerig coffee cups aren’t recyclable. All of these things were recently included in the paper bag we used to collect items and toss in the container—along with junk mail, magazines, etc. This neighbor described our trash and it was disconcerting. 

I knew all of these things (aside from the k-cups), but my teenagers apparently did not. What concerns me is that a neighbor went through the bin to seek out violators to approach. It sounds odd, but we feel, in a small way, violated. I can appreciate the concern, truly, but it felt like she went through my panty drawer. It makes me wonder if she goes through anything else we throw away.

Since the encounter, we’ve purchased a security stamp that blacks out our address on envelopes and packages—we even use it for junk mail. We already use our shredder for anything personal, but who knows…maybe she’s piecing that together in her house! 

I suppose I can look at this in a productive and positive way that will help me save the earth more efficiently.

But, it’s weird. Right? 

Retain Your Individuality and Be Yourself

I’m not sure if it’s an age thing or just mind over matter, however I am finding that I am not nearly as judgmental as I used to be—about almost everything. I came across a quote from Gwyneth Paltrow: “The older I get, the more open-minded I get [and] the less judgmental I get.” In my 20s and 30s, I would readily look at someone and sum up who I thought they were and the personality that went with their behavior. More often than not, it wasn’t flattering.

Women have a talent for noticing other females as they walk by. We can tell you what someone is wearing from head-to-toe, with just a glance. It’s not always used for judgment purposes, it’s just something we do instinctively, I think. What I’ve noticed about myself lately is I don’t harbor any cynical thoughts about what a woman chooses to do with her personal style. I have a greater appreciation for how women present themselves and it’s overall admiration. Is that maturity on my part? I’m not sure, but let’s call it that.

I started to think about the reversal of that and the feeling of being judged by others. While we were out this past weekend, I wondered if women looked at me and judged who I am by how I looked. Did they assume that I didn’t have any issues with my weight and have always been a size six—that it came easy for me? That I must not have any children who seem to be blamed for mothers not taking care of ourselves.  That I don’t care about how my hair looks because…well, let’s just say humidity isn’t my friend. Of course, I assume too much and perhaps not a single person even noticed me. However, being a female, I know how women think—not all women by any means, just in general. 

I’m not quite on board with the “I don’t care what people think” school of thought just yet, but I’m working on it. I wonder if someone is judging me for my nose piercing or if they think my breasts must be fake or that my shirt is inappropriately low-cut or my leather pants are a bit much to have dinner at the local taco joint. It’s is a full-blown job being comfortable in my own skin and having these thoughts don’t help. And why should I care what others think?

I shouldn’t.

It’s discouraging and brings down my confidence. We women have enough to deal with and need to feel a sense of camaraderie with those who would understand—judgey-judy doesn’t wear well on anyone. I want to project what I feel on the inside by how I look on the outside. Some days I feel sexy, on some I feel energetic, and on some I feel impossibly introverted. So I will wear the sexy low-cut top, or cut-off shorts with a cute t-shirt—and on the introverted days, I may just stay home in yoga pants and a tank top (but they’ll coordinate!).

My best friend—someone I’ve known since childhood—is enviously comfortable with who she is. It’s the most beautiful thing about her. If she wants to dance in the middle of the grocery store parking lot to a song blaring from a car driving by, she’s gonna dance. If she wants to wear a short, black dress cut down to her navel with high heels to the aforementioned taco joint, she’s gonna rock that look. You will notice immediately that she loves who she is as a woman.

And, she has never been the judgmental type, with always a positive thing to say about everyone—no matter what. The topless, drunk girl at the festival doing cartwheels? “Well, okay then…you go girl!” I love this about her and being in her presence encourages me to be the same. In fact, it makes me feel good about myself. The difference between us is that she may do a cartwheel too, whereas I wouldn’t want the attention it would provide—oh, the judgment. (Just kidding, I wouldn’t do the cartwheel as I did it once a few years ago and thought I was going to die. My insides felt like I stirred everything up with an old, wooden spoon.)

The goal is to not apologize for who I am and not care what others may think of me. The only person I need to answer to is myself. I know this. And because I know this, it is something I will work to correct it as the feeling of being limited for fear of judgment is exhausting. I want to be as comfortable in public as I am at home with my family. 

I do encourage my 15-year-old daughter to be confident with who she is and express her personality however she wants—with age appropriate limits, of course. She’s better than me about not worrying what people will think. I do step in when she is about to leave the house in a shirt that looks like she practiced origami with it before putting it on. However, I let her wear it if that’s what she wants. Maybe it’s a style or maybe it’s laziness, but either way, it’s her choice. Rock that wrinkled shirt!

“Always be yourself. Retain individuality; listen to the truest part of yourself.”

~Marilyn Monroe