communication, complaints, dogs, narcissists, overly helpful people, rants, religion

Damn this inappropriate comment Stau on the information superhighway!

In the German language, the word “Stau” refers to the inevitable traffic jams that form, especially on the Autobahn system. Bill and I have been in a lot of Staus over the years. They are almost always annoying and frustrating, especially when we’re miles from an Ausfahrt and we both have to pee. They shut down movement and flow. They waste time. They piss people off and put them in sour moods.

Today’s title was inspired by a classic song by James Taylor and my own experiences in Staus all over Germany.

I’m reminded of the term “Stau” this morning, having experienced a communication breakdown on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard. Before I get into the specifics of what happened, I want to make it plain that this post isn’t a plea for advice or “wisdom”. In fact, unsolicited advice is what led to my decision to write about the “comment Stau” in the first place. I hope that anyone who reads this will take a moment to think twice before trying to be an “overly helpful person” and offering hurting people unsolicited advice. When it comes down to it, unsolicited advice is basically criticism. I don’t need criticism right now.

If you read yesterday’s posts, you know that Bill and I lost a very special family member yesterday. Our dog Arran had some kind of catastrophic medical event on Thursday night. We consequently decided to send him to the Rainbow Bridge yesterday morning. Arran was a big part of our lives. Naturally, I shared the news about him on a few sites. In retrospect, maybe that was the wrong thing to do, since there are a lot of assholes in the world and every time you share something online, you run the risk of running into one or more of them.

I shared a post on the Recovery from Mormonism (RfM) site yesterday, because I’ve been posting there for over 20 years. I don’t post very often anymore, because Mormonism doesn’t really affect my life anymore. But I do have a few friends on that site, even though there are quite a few people there who I think have some legitimate issues. That site also attracts many trolls, though the moderators do a pretty good job of enforcing the rules.

Someone left me a really kind comment about my tribute to Arran and his name’s association with Scotland. I left a rather lengthy reply, since she seemed genuinely interested in the origin of his name. I explained how we came to acquire Arran and why we gave him his name, after a beautiful island in Scotland.

Then I got a very mean comment from a troll. I didn’t copy what the person (I’m assuming a male) wrote, but the gist of it was that the quality of the board was going to hell because of “off topic” posts like mine, and no one gives a fuck about my “stupid deceased mutt” (he literally used the word “fuck”, albeit with a different spelling.).

I’ll be honest. I was legitimately stung by the callousness of that person’s comment to me. I actually cried when I read that troll’s cruel words. It was like a hard slap to the face. I wanted to return fire with a well aimed kick straight to the troll’s balls that would leave him doubled over in extreme pain and unlikely to want to ever utter such blatant disrespect to me again. What can I say? I have my own anger issues, and when it comes to outright abuse, I am very saturated. I don’t tolerate it well at all.

My first impulse was to lash out in anger. But then I figured that behind every troll, there’s a hurting person who expects to get attention in the form of angry comments. That person clearly wanted a response, and I was inclined to give him one, but not in the form he expected. So, instead of rightly telling the person to go fuck themselves, I wrote “You know, you could have just kept scrolling. Sorry that you’re hurting so much that you feel the need to be mean to me.” Then I reported the troll’s comment.

I hoped that would be the end of it, but alas, the site’s resident “overly helpful person” decided she needed to chime in. I’ve posted about my issues with the overly helpful on more than one occasion. It seems like every messageboard has one. It’s that person who feels the need to make themselves feel better by trying to micromanage other people, being meddlesome, and inserting themselves in places where they have no business. I think a lot of that kind of controlling behavior has its origins in people who were raised in chaos. Of course, understanding where that behavior comes from doesn’t make it any less irritating.

I don’t actually know much about the person who felt the need to intercede. What I do know is that she’s very active on the site. Other people have implied that she’s really smart, and might actually have an important job (but I don’t know when she has time to work at a job, since she’s apparently always on RfM). Judging by my own interactions with her and observations of her behavior, I would assume that she thinks she really smart, too. She likes to get into arguments with people and show off how “smart” she is. While I absolutely respect intelligent people, there is a fine line between being really smart and allowing that intelligence to show itself naturally, and trying to appear smarter than one actually is, and looking foolish.

In any case, she left me a comment indicating that the person is a troll and is posting crap all over the place. Then she advised me to ignore him.

My response was that yes, obviously, the guy is a troll. However, I am a real person, and his comment legitimately caused me pain. His words made me cry. I don’t know the person behind the screen. For all I know, he’s a twelve year old kid in his mother’s basement. Or maybe he’s a 35 year old man with a twelve year old kid’s maturity level in his mother’s basement. Or maybe he’s a sadistic pervert. I don’t know.

I simply wanted to issue a reminder to him that there’s a person behind the screen who read those words and they were hurtful. And instead of lashing out with anger and profanity, I wanted that person to get an even-keeled comment that addresses their need to attack, expressing sorrow for the obvious pain they must be in to feel compelled to share it so stunningly with perfect strangers who are obviously already grieving.

The overly helpful woman came back and pointed out that I was just giving the troll “fuel” and feeding his “sick impulses.” And I should just let the moderators deal with him. I didn’t respond to her directly, but I suppose I could have mirrored the same fucking observation to her. She didn’t need to insert herself into that interaction and offer me criticism on my retort. I’m a 50 year old woman of average intelligence who doesn’t need her help in deciding how to address other people when they insult me. Her comments were patronizing, unnecessary, and out of place. And they shut down communication, just like a good, old-fashioned Stau.

Revealing that the initial comment made me cry isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that I have a heart, and a soul, and people who hurl abuse at me do damage. I didn’t feel anger so much that the person indicated that they felt my post was “inappropriate”. It was that they referred to Arran as a “stupid deceased mutt”. He was so much more than that. Reading those words enraged me, because they were completely uncalled for and cruel. And if that cowardly person had said that to my face, I probably would have slapped him HARD across the mouth, if he was lucky. And then I probably would have gotten arrested.

What’s more, obviously a few people did care, and said they enjoyed the tribute. I hope they were being sincere. If not, their choice to humor me is on them. Everybody else can do the decent thing and just keep scrolling, rather than kicking a person when they’re down. I can’t imagine that the people running that messageboard really mean to shut down communication. Those kinds of critical comments, especially when they’re spiteful and mean, make people not want to post anymore. I’m sure thinking I might not post again after that incident.

I do my best not to engage the “overly helpful”. I seem to have something in my personality that brings them out of the woodwork. I suppose it’s a sign that I need to work on not caring about what other people say or think… but again, prick me and I bleed. My feelings are raw because we just lost a big chunk out of our hearts. Arran was a part of our lives for over ten years… half our marriage! And while his passing wasn’t directly related to Mormonism, having him in our lives was a big part of Bill’s recovery from Mormonism. So maybe my post there about Arran’s death wasn’t so off topic, after all…

The troll chastised me for not posting about “recovery from Mormonism”… but Arran had a lot to do with our recovery. I wasn’t a Mormon, but the religion has touched me nevertheless, because of Bill, and because of his younger daughter, who is still active. Fortunately, she seems to have picked up the good parts of the faith instead of the toxic ones, that still show themselves among recovering people, including the “overly helpful” woman who feels the need to butt in on every fucking thing anyone posts there.

Hurting people hurt others… and toxic behavior is contagious. I tried not to be contagious when I addressed the troll’s obvious pain, rather than just advising him to go fuck off and die. But if I’m honest, he can do that, too. 😉 I won’t shed any tears for that.

One last thought… and this one has to do with Arran.

When we lose our dogs, we usually get “signs” from them. I mentioned yesterday, that when we were on our way home from the vet’s office, the 1991 song “Shiny Happy People” by R.E.M. came on the radio. I’m not the biggest fan of R.E.M., and I see no reason why that song would be particularly meaningful, as it was about the behavior of Chinese people after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. It’s kind of a sarcastic song about “shiny, happy people” carrying on after a bloody tragedy… as communism promotes Utopia that can’t really exist as long as humans are the way they are.

Bill commented on “Shiny, Happy People” as we pulled into the driveway, and said he felt it was a sign from Arran. Of course, Arran’s time was long after that song was a hit, and it’s not like we play a lot of R.E.M. at our house. But then last night, as we were raising a glass to Arran’s memory at the wine stand, there it was again. The song “Shiny, Happy People” was playing in the kiosk… the second time we heard it that day. And then I realized it came from an album titled Out of Time. I dunno. It kind of makes sense. But maybe I just need to get out more.

Also… the steps I so carefully purchased for Arran just arrived. Guess we’ll hang onto them. Maybe they’ll come in handy.

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celebrities, communication, overly helpful people, rants, social media

The utter futility of trying to direct conversations on social media…

Last night, after our “mandatory fun” party in Mainz, Bill and I were on our way home, and I noticed a Facebook post by singer-songwriter Janis Ian. To be totally frank, I probably shouldn’t follow her. I like her music and respect her talent, but I often find her abrasive and hypocritical to her followers. A year ago, I even posted about this… The below status update is from me on February 11, 2022.

I was annoyed because Janis Ian had wished Roberta Flack a happy birthday, and one of her followers called her out for being kind of ageist. Janis responded by insulting the woman who had chastised her. Granted, the woman’s comments were kind of annoying. Basically, she was upset because Janis wrote that Roberta was “85 years young” instead of “85 years old”. The woman wrote that using “young” instead of “old” in that context was offensive. Janis, who often requests that her followers be civil and respectful, responded in a way that I thought was pretty rude.

A couple of my friends weighed in on my observation. I see I also blogged about this incident a year ago.

However… I can see why Janis gets irritated. She is the master of her social media presence. Lots of people follow her. She makes requests that they conduct themselves in a certain way. People ignore her. That is very annoying. It happens to me, too. And when you have kind of an “artistic temperament”, it can be even more annoying. Creative people often have issues with mental health problems, learning disabilities, trauma, or any other manner of challenges to their psyches. I’m not saying ALL artistic/creative people are like this, but if you look at the people of the world who have talents in the arts, you find that they tend to experience some things on a more intense level.

I can be pretty cranky sometimes (especially when I’m hungry). I have a sister who’s an artist and can be extremely cranky and snippy, too. I’m sure there are even tempered artists in the world… but I haven’t met a whole lot of them. And I can see why Janis gets annoyed when she specifically posts about something and clearly points out the conversation she hopes to have, and people don’t bother to read before they comment, or they just flat out ignore her.

Below is last night’s post, which apparently caused Ms. Ian to sigh a lot…

When I stumbled across this post, all but one of the comments were about Madonna’s distorted face. Janis wanted to have a discussion about the “Nazi” looking outfit Madonna was wearing. Personally, it looks less “Nazi” to me than Dominatrix. But I didn’t watch the Grammys, so I didn’t really see it in context. This also isn’t a subject about which I personally care that much. I would rather talk about Madonna’s tragically bad surgery, frankly. I didn’t comment on Ms. Ian’s post, though. It was more interesting to see how many people ignored Janis’s comments about Madonna’s outfit and just wanted to talk about her age and her bad cosmetic surgery/Botox attempts.

Below are some comments people made, along with Janis Ian’s rather peevish “cut and paste” retort. I’m not going to edit the names out, because Janis’s page is public, and you can easily go to the post and see this for yourselves.

And this was Janis’s frustrated comment, beseeching people to read more carefully before they comment. On this, I agree with her. I get annoyed when people chime in before reading, too.

I think most people are in such a hurry nowadays. They don’t take time to read and digest before they offer a view. That can be very frustrating to other people, especially those who have a bent toward leadership. Maybe it would be more effective if Janis Ian wrote a song about this topic. People might listen more carefully then, although some would probably still misinterpret. Besides, Janis has said she can’t sing anymore. Or, at least she can’t sing and sound like “herself”.

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about something I read in the Irish Times. It was about a woman who got very publicly fat shamed at a restaurant. Although I have experienced that kind of shaming myself, and could relate to the post because I’ve been where the author was, that post wasn’t about me. I wasn’t looking for advice, consolation, or anything of that nature. I simply wanted to have a discussion about what happened to that woman, in that article. But I did get a comment with advice for me…

I thought it was a little ironic, since the commenter mentioned how annoying it is to get unsolicited advice, particularly about something as personal as one’s weight. And yet, there was unsolicited advice in the comment. I kind of felt like the point of the post was entirely lost… which was a little discouraging. Perhaps the answer is to write very short posts with simple sentences to discourage skimming.

On the other hand… as annoying as this particular phenomenon is, I don’t think it’s ever going to go away. People are often going to miss the point because they aren’t necessarily focused on the person who sends them messages. They are focused on themselves, and their reactions. Or they feel like they should be “helpful”, even if no one is asking for assistance. Sometimes, all that’s wanted is just a simple discussion.

I feel like that’s an easier thing to request on a blog than on Facebook. Certainly, it’s easier to request that on this platform, which has maybe a couple hundred visitors a day, than Janis Ian’s Facebook page. She has many thousands of followers from many different walks of life, cultures, and countries. So many different perspectives are represented. I think it’s a lot to expect people to respond in exactly the “right” way. But I understand that the desire for that is still there… It probably feels a bit like pissing into the wind.

Well, I think I will wrap up this post. My new VESA monitor arm is here. Time to see if I can get the new computer up and running. The one I’m typing on now… possibly for the last time on this blog… has been annoying me all morning. But I do hope this post gives people some food for thought. I agree that trying to direct conversations on social media is very difficult or impossible. Maybe it’s like herding cats. But I also agree that people should read and think for a moment before they post. Chiming in without thinking first is often unwelcome and, frankly, kind of insulting and rude. However, I also know that most of the time, that kind of thing is actually more of a thoughtless action than anything else. It has a lot to do with people’s own egos on both sides.

I still think I need to unfollow Janis, though. I did unfollow a couple of other problematic public figures this week. Who knows? Maybe that will result in cheerier blog posts from yours truly.

Edited to add… the expensive VESA arm I bought was a complete piece of junk. Bill and I wasted a couple of frustrating hours trying to get it to function. I have ordered another one. It was significantly less expensive and, I hope, much more functional. Meanwhile, I have had a new computer for days now, and I can’t fucking use it yet.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, overly helpful people, pests, social media

“… and that’s OKAY…” Very glad you think so, lady.

I had kind of an annoying experience yesterday. It was early evening, and I was binge watching Audit the Audit videos on YouTube. They’re very addictive and educational, you know.

While I was watching the videos, I was sort of half-assed looking at Facebook. At some point recently, I started following a chef/author called Culinary Anarchy. He’s kind of entertaining and snarky. He posted something that made me pause…

Sometimes, this is true. Sometimes, it’s not.

I get that the good chef posted the words “generally speaking”. But then he wrote, “I’ve run this page for over a decade now and this is the case more often than not…..”

I know… I should have just kept scrolling, but I couldn’t help but remember that cursed day in August 2008, when I first got on Facebook. At the time, I didn’t have many good pictures of myself. We lived in Germany at the time, and I didn’t own a cell phone. I didn’t need one, because those were the early days of the iPhone, and no one ever called me… Free, public WiFi wasn’t yet a thing (especially in Germany), and we didn’t want to get tied down with a cell phone contract. Turns out that was a good plan, since we didn’t quite make it to our second anniversary during that first stint. As it was, Bill had a really cheap phone that was very primitive. I finally got my first iPhone in 2009.

I was not a Mac user until around 2011, and my HP computer didn’t have an internal camera on it. If it did, I didn’t know about it. And even if it did, I really didn’t know how to take selfies. I also didn’t like it when other people took pictures of me, especially when they were unflattering and the photographer insisted on sharing them. One of my pet peeves is when I’m trying to eat dinner or something and some photographer wants to take a photo and sell it to me. I mostly find having my picture taken kind of mortifying.

So, for the first couple of years that I was a Facebook user, I didn’t really use pictures of myself on my profile. I think the first time I used a photo of myself was in the summer of 2009, when we went on a Royal Caribbean Baltic cruise (our first cruise, and the only one we’ve ever done on a big ship). On that cruise, the photographer did get a somewhat decent shot of Bill and me. We bought it, and I took a picture of it, because I didn’t have a scanner. That served as my profile pic for awhile. I think I used another selfie in 2011 sometime, when I bought my first Mac, and discovered the camera function.

I remember some friends being kind of excited by that photo. One friend wrote something along the lines of, “It’s you. It’s YOU! You’re lovely!” I was dressed up because Bill and I were going to an event in downtown Atlanta. Some people in the state of Georgia had organized a fundraiser for the country of Georgia. We thought it might be interesting, so we went. And I took that opportunity to take a new selfie.

Slowly, over the years, I got braver about taking selfies. For the longest time, I wouldn’t use my phone to take one, but now I’ve finally figured out how to flip the image so I don’t look deranged. So now, there are more photos of me available for people to look at, if they are so inclined to do that. But I still don’t go out of my way to have my photo taken, and I wouldn’t say I change pictures very often. Mostly, it’s because I hate putting on makeup.

Recently, I started videoing myself for my YouTube videos. I still can’t bear to watch myself on camera, but I’ve been told it’s better for engagement. It’s also a lot easier to make videos with a video recording, rather than using still photos. I can just take the whole thing and paste it in, rather, than adjusting for timing and putting in transitions. I much prefer not having to put photos in videos on my creaky iMac, which will be retired in the coming days, as I just ordered a new computer yesterday. Adding still photos tends to make my machine freeze.

You may have gotten the idea by now that I don’t think of myself as particularly appealing to look at. I feel self-conscious. I still don’t use the video function when I make recordings on SingSnap. I don’t like doing video calls with people. In fact, I don’t even like making or receiving phone calls, anymore (that wasn’t always the case). And I have also come to dislike most chat, too… even with Bill. In short, I’ve become kind of a reclusive curmudgeon.

Anyway, when I saw that post by Culinary Anarchy, I decided to comment. I wrote this:

I did it because I was ugly.

I was actually kind of being facetious. I know I’m not an “ugly” person, at least not in the physical sense. I don’t actually think there are a lot of truly “ugly” people in the world, literally or figuratively. But I didn’t feel the need to explain that to the peanut gallery.

It didn’t take long before someone left me a response. I actually liked what this guy wrote.

…that’s my current dilemma. Hit a certain point in my life where I don’t even wanna look in the mirror so I don’t post selfies much anymore and I don’t wanna post old pics of me.

Yes… this guy totally gets it. There comes a point in your life when you don’t want to be reminded of what time has done to your face and physique. It has nothing to do with being stalked or stalking other people. Some people also just don’t feel the need to put it all out there, regardless. Even in this age of social media saturation, some people still like their privacy.

So then I wrote, “I don’t photograph well and it took a long time before I learned how to do selfies.”

If I can control the camera, I can avoid the half lidded, half blinking look, half dozen chins, big zits, gin blossoms, wrinkles, or whatever else is distressing for me to look at. Maybe that’s vain of me, but life is tough enough without that burden, right?

There were a couple of kind and complimentary comments, which I appreciated, but wasn’t necessarily fishing for.

And then came the comment from that person… you know the kind– the person who assumes too much. Here’s what she wrote:

as my kid would say, you look normal.

Most of us look normal and not like models or social media influencers and that’s ok.

Ahem… Maybe it’s me, but I found this to be a pretty obnoxious and presumptuous comment. Where did this person get the idea that I hoped to look like a model or a social influencer? Especially since I now have a photo of myself on my profile. I obviously overcame my hesitation, right? But even if I hadn’t done that and was still using a picture of a grey heron as my profile pic, would this lady be assuming I want to look like a model? Or I was being stalked by someone? The point is, some of us don’t like how we look in photos, and we’re all too aware of not looking like models.

So I wrote this:

Yeah, I eventually got over it. Never expected to look like a model or a social influencer. I just didn’t want to cringe.

I noticed that I certainly wasn’t the only one who posted that I didn’t use a profile picture of myself because I felt “too ugly.” So I don’t know if Culinary Anarchy’s theory necessarily holds up as much as he assumes it does. Still, I was a little irritated by that woman’s comment about models and social influencers. I know… I have an ego issue. Prick me and I bleed. The older I get, the more people bug me.

I tell you what… I probably would have been less annoyed if the woman hadn’t ended her comment with “and that’s okay.” I think of strangers telling me “and that’s okay” as the catchphrase for the “overly helpful.” It’s as if she thought I was angsty and needed her consolation or reassurance. Actually, I think she needed a hearty “Fuck off and die” or something more colorful like that…

Back when I first posted my original selfies, I had a few “overly helpful” people on my friends list. I was a lot “nicer” in those days, so I was pretty tolerant of their irritating attempts to boost themselves by offering lame observations or attempts to be unsolicited “helpers”.

Overly helpful types of people tend to act like other people need their sage wisdom to get through life. They offer unwelcome advice, play “devil’s advocate”, or armchair psychoanalyze. In fairness, a lot of us do the armchair psychoanalysis thing, but it’s pretty annoying when people are bold enough to do it, unasked for, to someone else’s face. Feeling comfortable enough to do that, especially to someone one has never even met in person, often indicates a lack of respect.

Respect is a big deal to me. I spent too many years not being respected by people who supposedly loved me. So now, if someone is disrespectful to me, I tend to form a negative opinion and remember it for a long time.

So then I asked my friends this question:

Why do people feel the need to make assumptions about total strangers based on innocuous Facebook comments? I said I didn’t have a FB profile photo for awhile because I was “ugly”. I then explained that I don’t photograph well and once lacked selfie skills. Some person accused me of wanting to look like a model or a social influencer, then helpfully added that most of us don’t look like that, “and that’s okay.” 🖕

Nah, I never expected any of that. I just don’t like cringing at my visage.

That question invited more compliments and protests about my self-evaluation of my appearance. Again, I was genuinely asking the question, not looking for compliments. Okay, I was also annoyed and venting a little bit, too.

So I finally wrote this:

I think Bill is a handsome man, but he had the same problem I had. I am good at taking his picture, though, because I love him and make a point of catching his best features. Most people who photograph me (Bill included), get my multiple chins, cellulite, and beer gut. 😉 I just don’t want to see that in a photo of me. If I want to see that, I’ll look in the mirror. 😆

It’s true. I am legitimately very good at taking pictures of Bill. It’s not exactly an easy thing to do, either. He’s a very good looking man, in my opinion. However, he often doesn’t photograph well, because he’s camera shy and self-conscious about his appearance. He also has sensitive eyes and blinks easily. I have figured out a way to get him to look his best. It usually involves my telling him a dirty joke and making him laugh, then having laser sharp reflexes. Even with that method, sometimes I fail and catch him mid blink or slouching too much. I delete those photos, which he appreciates. I have gotten some pretty great shots of him, much to his mom’s delight.

Alas, Bill hasn’t caught on to using that trick for me. Or maybe he’s just better looking than I am. 😉 However, I have noticed that some of the best photos of me are the ones with him in them. He genuinely makes me smile, so I don’t look fake. When I take a selfie and try to smile, it often doesn’t look right, because it’s too posed. Lighting is also important. I look best in natural sunlight.

I know some people think all of this sounds vain… and maybe it is vain. But since I probably look at and notice my profile picture the most, I figure I should have one that doesn’t offend me. It doesn’t mean I want to be a model (Jesus Christ, really?). I have no desire to be a social influencer (and I’m 50 fucking years old, so that ain’t happening.) What other people think of my visage is really none of my business. I just don’t want to look like Ziggy. I’m much less concerned about my friends laughing at my photo at home, than I am about having to face that reflection myself.

… and that’s okay… (BARF)

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condescending twatbags, Military, overly helpful people, sexism, social media

“Virginia Military Institute routinely turns out bullies and domestic abusers…”

Here’s another post for the “stupid shit I learned in the comment section of a newspaper” file. I got so fired up after an exchange I had in the comment section, that I just had to write another blog post today. So here I am, venting my spleen. If you came here to read this and then straighten me out, just know that I agree with you that it’s bullshit that VMI turns out abusers. My father, uncle, and several cousins are VMI graduates. At least two of my aunts and an uncle were employed there for many years. I know about the culture at VMI. I am also an Air Force brat and former Army wife… although my husband still works for the Army, so I’m still in the culture.

Apparently, I’ve been living in the Twilight Zone, though… unaware of what REALLY goes on in the military and at military colleges. Why? Because I didn’t condemn a photo shared by the Washington Post in an article about the 25th anniversary of allowing women to attend. I will admit the photo is shocking. I have run out of free articles, so I can’t unlock this one for my readers, but if you click the link, you can see the alarming photo. It’s a picture of 18 year old Megan Smith of Colorado, who was one of 30 brave young women who matriculated at VMI in 1997, when it first admitted women. She’s tiny, and surrounded by several large young men who are screaming at her. This is a scene that has played out at VMI since 1839. My father went through it, as did my uncle, and at least four cousins. Most of them went on to serve as officers in the military, although my dad was the only one to stay in long enough to retire with full benefits.

Megan Smith is now married, and works as a European Patent lawyer in the South of France, near Marseilles. She was extensively interviewed for the article, and several photos were included of her during her time at VMI. I didn’t get the sense that she blamed VMI for any trauma. In fact, she outright stated that everyone was being treated in the same way. I’m sure some of her male Brother Rats were not much bigger than she was, either, and they were getting screamed at, too. I would also bet that learning how to deal with high pressure verbal confrontations has served her well in her law career.

I don’t think I would have enjoyed VMI myself. Personally, I don’t like being screamed at or berated. I would consider it verbal abuse. But that’s me… and I know that many people who have gone through VMI came out of it absolutely LOVING the school. My dad worshiped VMI. He was tickled pink that I got married there, even though Bill isn’t himself a graduate. Thousands of people went through exactly what Megan Smith went through at VMI. Many thousands more have endured the same treatment in basic training for one of the services or at other military colleges. Or… maybe they’ve gotten it in other training. I’ll bet many a physician has gone through their share of abuse during their internships. For some people, it’s a rite of passage. For others, it’s traumatizing. But isn’t it nice to be able to choose which path one wishes to take?

Well, some guy named Kent decided to take me on. He claimed that the type of training at VMI attracts psychopaths and abusers, and then sanctimoniously lectured me about how just because it’s “tradition”, that doesn’t mean it’s not damaging. I will agree. To some people, Hell Week and being on the Rat Line probably is traumatizing and damaging. But that’s not everyone. If you think about it, my two years in the Peace Corps might have traumatized some people. I grew from it, but others might not have been able to hack it. Not everyone is cut out for the Peace Corps. Not everyone is made for military life. It is what it is.

When I didn’t agree with Kent, he started to mansplain, which immediately turned me off. I can’t stand people who try to lecture me, especially when they make assumptions about who I am, what I know, and how I think. So I told him I didn’t appreciate him trying to tell me what I do and don’t know, especially since we’re strangers. Then I advised him to have a good day. Most people would naturally take that to mean the conversation is over, but not Kent. He came back with two more paragraphs of the same drivel. So I wrote, “I said I was done. You are not very respectful yourself, are you?” (In fact, I would call it abuse)

He came back with another two or three paragraphs that were rude, dismissive, and insulting, complete with sarcasm and lecturing. I guess he didn’t realize that as he was lecturing me about abuse, he had become rather abusive himself. So I blocked him.

Then I got a comment from a woman named Sherry, who told me that abuse always comes from the military. I told her she was wrong. Then she laugh reacted and wrote, “You must have never been in an abusive relationship.” That comment was surprising. It was if she almost would have hoped I had been abused by Bill. Like, it’s a negative that I have a good marriage! And no, I haven’t been involved in domestic violence at his hands, but he was in a domestic violence situation with his ex wife, and she was the aggressor. She was NOT in the military. He’s not the only one, either. He’s known people in the military who were abused by a spouse who wasn’t serving. I didn’t respond to her comment, other than to ask her not to make assumptions about people she doesn’t know.

Then I got another comment from someone named Diana, who also felt I needed schooling. She was basically respectful, but once again, I failed to understand why so many people seemed to NEED to correct my opinion. As if being browbeaten and harassed by a stranger in the comment section of a newspaper is going to make me “see the light” somehow. She lectured me about herd mentality, and how it leads to abuse, after I had already bid her, too, a good day.

So I came back and wrote that I think the VAST majority of people commenting on that article didn’t read it, because it’s behind a paywall. They are reacting to a shocking photo. Most of them have zero experience with the school. I am writing as someone whose uncle actually renovated the barracks for the women in 1997, as he was in charge of the physical plant at the time. No, I didn’t attend VMI, but I have many relatives who either worked there or went there. And I have firsthand experience with the school and its graduates. I would not pay to go to VMI. It’s not for me. BUT– I did go to Longwood University, a coed school, where I experienced unwelcome and inappropriate interactions with people sometimes. But you know what? I have experienced that multiple times in multiple situations. Unfortunately as much as we’d like it not to be so, sometimes abuse is part of life. And part of life is learning how to deal with it and move on.

I also explained to Diana that I have both a MSW and a MPH, so I know something about abuse. I don’t need her to explain it to me, nor does she need to tell me about “herd mentality”. I just wanted to make a simple comment as someone with some applicable ties to the school. My comment doesn’t give people license to preach at me, diagnose me, or make erroneous assumptions about my life experiences.

No one is forced to go to VMI or any of the other military colleges. No one is forced to stay there if they hate it. No one is forced to join the military or be a police officer or do any other job they don’t like. Frankly, I think that learning how to cope in stressful situations is a good thing. At least if someone goes too far at VMI, something can be done about it.

Moreover, that exchange really, once again, reminds me why Donald Trump got elected. People don’t like to be lectured by people who don’t know what they’re talking about… or make assumptions that you don’t know what YOU’RE talking about. My father was a VMI grad, and he was a veteran. And yes, he was abusive to me at times. But I think he would have been that way regardless. In fact, I was telling Bill that I think that if my dad hadn’t joined the Air Force, he would have been worse. My dad’s drinking and abuse didn’t get especially bad until he was in business for himself, facing the stress of making enough money every month to keep the business going. Granted, the PTSD he suffered in Vietnam didn’t help, either. But he also had PTSD from being raised by an abusive alcoholic. That wouldn’t have changed if he had gone to a regular college and stayed a civilian (not that he necessarily could have in the Vietnam era).

Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if everyone felt compelled to say the same thing as their neighbor says? Or think the way their neighbor thinks? I don’t think any of my comments were that out of line. They were based on a lifetime of actual experience with people who legitimately know VMI intimately, and my own personal experiences, not just a news story and a shocking photo. It makes me sad that people feel like they need to correct other people’s opinions and make assumptions about them, especially when they are total strangers. I just wanted to leave a comment, for Christ’s sake. But I guess that’s another lesson that it’s better to keep quiet, lest you get sucked into stupidity.

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celebrities, communication, condescending twatbags, music, overly helpful people, social media

An innocent birthday greeting goes horribly awry…

Yesterday, as I was enjoying the fact that it was Friday, I ran across a post by famed singer-songwriter Janis Ian. I recently started following her Facebook page again after an incident in 2019, in which an overbearing twit shamed me for a rather innocuous comment I made. Okay, so on the surface, it was kind of a violent comment, but it was in response to someone else’s comment, and was pretty obviously not meant to be taken literally. This guy chose to come at me, instead of the person before me. I got annoyed and responded to him, and Janis Ian, herself, left me a response, which I decided not to read, because I was irritated and didn’t want to be compelled to respond further. I think it happened during one of Bill’s TDYs, which always cause me stress and aggravation. You can read about that incident here, not that it’s all that exciting. Actually, that post is a bit nostalgic, since it was posted before the plague.

After that minor spat, I decided to take a break from Janis Ian’s page, because, even though I enjoy her music, I find her a little bit hypocritical at times. Some of her followers are also a little too rabidly “woke” for my taste, too. I don’t like aggressively obnoxious people on either side of the spectrum, who insist that their opinions are the only “correct” ones. Life is stressful enough as it is. I probably comment once or twice a day on pages that aren’t my own or a friend’s, mainly because I don’t like arguing with strangers. During the pandemic, I have noticed that more and more people want to fight with others. It’s as if many of us have lost all concept of basic civility and decorum. I think that may be one major reason why so many people are freaking out in public.

So lately, I’ve been following Janis again. I enjoy most of her memes. I think she has a good sense of humor. A lot of her songs are beautiful. But every once in awhile, she reveals a part of her personality that, I think if I knew her personally, I wouldn’t like very much. I ran into that yesterday, when I saw that she had posted a sweet birthday greeting to Roberta Flack, who turned 85 yesterday. Yesterday was also my eldest sister’s birthday, so that’s probably why I noticed.

I’m sure Janis Ian was being very sincere when she wished Roberta Flack a happy birthday. It should not have been a controversial post at all. But, when Janis wrote her greeting, she commented that Roberta is now “85 years young.” One of her, probably ex followers by now, took her to task for writing “85 years young” instead of “85 years old”. The follower wrote that she found the use of “young” instead of “old” very condescending and made some other comments that were a bit chastising in their tone and, no doubt, offensive. I do remember the woman’s parting shot was something along the lines of, “There’s nothing bad about getting old. It’s better than the alternative.” There was more to the post, but I didn’t bother to get a screenshot, nor did I leave any comments myself. I was just observing.

Allow me to state two things from the upshot. First off, I kind of agree with the poster that substituting the word “young” for “old” is potentially condescending and ageist. I remember a wonderful and wise rant by the late George Carlin that addressed that very thing (see the video below if you’re curious). He was talking about how many Americans have a tendency to substitute soft, flabby euphemisms for things that are potentially offensive or unpleasant. And one of his examples was substituting the word “young” for “old” when mentioning someone’s age. The poster who took on Janis Ian yesterday was echoing George Carlin, and as far as I’m concerned, George was often right about a lot of things. Or, even if he wasn’t right, he often stated things that invited more consideration.

I tend to agree with George on a lot of things, including using the word “young” instead of “old” when describing a person’s age.

And secondly, I agree with Janis Ian that it’s annoying when you try to post something on your very own Facebook page or blog or whatever, and some rando comes along and criticizes you for how you express yourself, your opinions, and whatever else. A lot of times, they completely misconstrue, miss the point, or project their own shit on a situation and turn it into something it shouldn’t be. As a blogger with authority issues, I run into that situation myself all the time!

My whole life, people have told me that I’m inappropriate, rude, obnoxious, offensive, or any manner of other adjectives, often for just speaking my mind or stating the truth as I see it. As a woman growing up in small town southern Virginia, as the youngest sibling of four, and as the daughter of a mentally damaged alcoholic with PTSD, I have been on the receiving end of a lot of negativity regarding my looks and personality. Many people have criticized me for being myself. Even my own grandmother found me annoying, and she even made a crack about how Bill’s “charm” was rubbing off on me. Both she and my dad (her son), hated things about me that I can’t control, like my laugh. Too many people have tried to silence me and squelch my natural personality, instead of just scrolling by or considering for a moment why I am the way I am. I used to let it depress me, but now I tend to speak up… and if I’m honest, it also gets me down, too. Can’t lie about that. By the way, who I am isn’t actually all that bad… if you get to know me. But I know I turn off a lot of people, so… 😉 Most of the time, I don’t bother anymore. I am what I am, and if you don’t like it, you can keep scrolling.

Anyway, part of me felt for Janis, because I’m sure that it’s especially irritating for her when people try to tell her what she can and can’t say or do. She’s an artist, and has made her living expressing herself beautifully through words and music. And she’s a person, first and foremost, so she should be allowed to post what she wants on her space without being taken to task by a random person. That part, I don’t disagree with at all. It was what happened next that caused me to pause for a moment.

In the wake of receiving the chastising response about using a potentially ageist euphemism, Janis issued a sharp retort to the person who commented, sarcastically “thanking” her for telling her how to express herself on her page. She added a bit more snark, which I thought was unnecessary, especially since Janis insists that people be respectful and civilized on her page. Being snarky and sarcastic, while certainly understandable, is not respectful. People don’t like hypocrisy or double standards.

A bunch of followers piled on, praising Janis for her thorny response. Some followers added more abuse to the poster who had chastised Janis for substituting the word “young” for “old”. It became very negative in a hurry. And then, Janis wrote an insulting second post that basically invited the first poster to have a look at Janis’s latest album cover and compare it to the poster’s profile, and then see who was aging better… (or something along those lines. Again, no screenshots, just memory). I thought that second post was completely hypocritical and unnecessary, even if I understood the irritation behind it. Janis Ian is human, as we all are. However, she is also a public figure, which gives her a certain power and platform that regular people don’t have. And if she’s going to insist on civility, she really ought to practice what she preaches. Otherwise, there’s a double standard.

I noticed a few posters were sticking up for the woman who had expressed her opinions to Janis. It was only two or three– one was a man, who made perfect sense to me, but was immediately accused of “mansplaining”. He wasn’t mansplaining, in my opinion. He made the valid point that Janis Ian, as a famous person, has more power than the average commenter has. The first woman had just made a random comment that might have been ill considered, but was basically harmless. Janis responded with venom, in spite of her policy that people be civil on her page. Then the few people who stuck up for the rando were piled upon by some of Janis Ian’s more rabid fans. That compounded the problem, and of course, was not civilized at all.

It was getting pretty nasty, and I was getting a bad feeling about it. I could see Janis’s point, but I could also understand the first woman’s comment. Yes, she probably should have just kept scrolling, but it’s Facebook, and people chime in with inappropriate stuff all the time. It’s usually best to take a breath and respond with kindness before snark and defensiveness. I’m not saying I always do that myself, but I’m not a public figure (in spite of what some of my blog commenters seem to think– this is NOT a popular blog). And I do usually try to be civilized, even if I fail sometimes.

I quit paying attention to the drama after a few minutes. What can I say? Dr. Phil circa 2014 was calling… So I clicked off of Janis Ian’s page, but had a brief discussion about what happened on my own page. One of my friends, who is in the music business, wrote that she had actually met Roberta Flack and found her to be a delightful lady. We bonded a bit about that, since I have some fond memories of Roberta’s music from my childhood. That’s one of my fond memories about my dad. He used to play her 1973 album Killing Me Softly, when I was really little. The songs stuck in my head until many years later, when I purchased it myself.

This song, especially… stuck in my head since about 1975 or so…

This morning, I woke up to find this post by Janis Ian. I guess I missed out on even more drama, because she ended up deleting the post that had prompted the post I saw this morning.

I hear you, Janis… but the other lady also had a point, though it was stated in a rather abrasive way. And when you responded with snark and sarcasm, you violated your own policy.

I commend Janis for asking her followers not to chime in with comments about how “great” she is, telling her she’s “right”, or personally attacking the other person or anyone who defends the other party. That doesn’t help. I appreciate that she took a moment to consider what happened and address it rationally with her followers. I think she’s sincere when she writes that she wants to encourage civility. She’s usually assertive when she insists that people “keep it clean”, but I notice that when you prick her, she bleeds, too. That just makes her human, as we all are. But there is no reason why that thread should have gotten as ugly as it did. It was a birthday wish, for God’s sake.

I think it probably would not have escalated if Janis had simply thanked the woman for following and commenting, and then, in an assertive way, explained that using “young” instead of “old” was not meant to be offensive to the elderly (if it really wasn’t, that is, which I am sure is the case). It was a simple birthday greeting to a legendary musician who has reached a grand age. And then Janis could have politely reminded the woman that it’s her page, and she would appreciate it people would allow her to express herself without unnecessary criticism. On the other hand, I completely understand why she was irritated. Nobody likes to have their words picked apart, especially by a perfect stranger. At the same time, it appears that both of these women were triggered for different reasons. I can relate to both of them. It happens to me all the time.

Anyway… it’s Saturday, and already past noon, so I think I will close this post and get on with the day. It can’t be easy to be famous, especially if you have an artistic personality. No wonder a lot of famous people have people to run their social media for them. I don’t envy that part of being well-known and successful at all. On the other hand, one thing I’ve learned is that you should never ask of others what you are, yourself, unwilling to do. That will only lead to trouble.

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