book reviews, family, mental health, overly helpful people, psychology

Repost: A review of When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People…

I originally wrote this review for Epinions in 2006. I am reposting it here as/is. I had reposted it on the original version of this blog, but that post included a time sensitive anecdote that is no longer relevant. So here’s the review on its own, as it was originally written fifteen years ago. Maybe this book is still as helpful as I found it back then.

I realize that since the holidays of 2005 have already passed, this review of Dr. Leonard Felder’s 2003 self help book When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People: Surviving Your Family and Keeping Your Sanity might be a tad tardy. On the other hand, the month of January has always seemed to me to be a time custom made for personal change. With the idea of personal change in mind, consider the following questions. Do your relatives make you crazy at family gatherings? Do they harangue you about the way you look, your job, your marital status, or your place in life? Do you find it unbearable to spend more than a few hours with your family? Do you feel like you’re out of the loop when it comes to important family decisions? Do you dread the holidays because it means you’ll be expected to hang around your family for long periods of time? If you can answer yes to one or more of these questions, Dr. Felder’s book might be a big help to you.

Dr. Leonard Felder is a Los Angeles based licensed psychologist and co-author of another family oriented book, Making Peace With Your Parents. I had never heard of Dr. Felder prior to finding this book, but he’s appeared on Oprah, CNN, CBS’ The Early Show, NBC News, A.M. Canada, National Public Radio, and ABC Talkradio. I discovered When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People quite by accident. I got an email from Barnes and Noble alerting me to a large post holiday sale. I’m a sucker for sales and I’m always looking for new books. I managed to pick up a brand new hardcover copy of this book for about $4. Considering the fact that I’m a public health social worker by training and someone who has a hard time hanging around my own family, I figured it would be a fine addition to my personal library. Having just read When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People, I can understand why Felder is so popular. He has an easy to understand, conversational writing style that I found easy to relate to. He also offers advice that is both easy to follow and practical, while still reminding his readers that they can’t control other peoples’ thoughts or emotions, but they can control how they react when relatives start to pluck their nerves.

Dr. Felder uses interesting and realistic scenarios to get his point across to his readers. I often found myself nodding my head as I recognized some of the situations that I’ve found myself in when I’ve dealt with my family. For example, I have three older sisters who are driven career women. All three of my sisters keep themselves looking beautiful and polished most of the time, as they pursue their lofty professional goals. I’ve often caught a lot of grief from my family because I’m more of a housewife than a career woman.

I work as a freelance writer on an occasional basis. I’m more comfortable in sweats with my face unpainted and my hair unstyled. My lifestyle works for me and my husband, Bill, but that doesn’t always stop my family members from harassing me about the fact that I’m not like them. Consequently, I often find myself avoiding family get-togethers and hating every minute of them when I can’t avoid them. I love each individual member of my family, but not when we’re all together and personalities start to clash. Dr. Felder offers constructive ideas on what to do if you have a sister who is narcissistic and obnoxious, or a father who gets on your case about your employment status, or a mother who picks on you about your weight. He also offers assurance that family troubles are not unusual. There’s no reason to feel like a freak because you can’t get along with the people who created you. It happens to a lot of people. Dr. Felder’s book offers hope and a chance to make those visits with family more bearable and constructive.

One thing I did notice about When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People is that it does seem a little bit skewed toward those of the Jewish faith (which I am not). Dr. Felder is himself a Reform Jew, so he sometimes uses examples that will be more familiar to those who share his religious preference. However, I will note that Felder is careful to explain whenever he includes a cultural term with which his audience may not be familiar. For instance, when he uses a Yiddish term like mensch, he explains to his readers who may be unfamiliar with the term that mensch is a Yiddish word for “good person”. Felder’s explanations make the book accessible to everyone, but they also reveal that the book is slightly bent toward people of a certain culture. It’s only natural, though, that writers tend to write best when they focus on writing about what they know; Judaism is certainly something about which Dr. Felder knows.

When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People is divided into ten chapters that are dedicated to certain common issues. For example, Felder devotes whole chapters on dealing with religious disagreements, family battles about food, weight, clothes, and appearance, getting past drugs, alcohol, and other addictive behaviors, and relatives who are just plain intolerant. At the end of the book, there’s an appendix as well as a list of suggested reading and sources. I was happy to see that Dr. Felder suggested a book that I read and reviewed last year on Epinions.com, Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood inside the Fortress by Mary Edwards Wertsch— an excellent book for people who have family in the military.

The 2005 holiday season is now a memory. If you’re currently breathing a sigh of relief that the holidays are over because you found hanging out with your family stressful this past year, I urge you to read Dr. Leonard Felder’s book, When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People. Even if none of the scenarios in this book apply to you, you may find yourself comforted at least in the knowledge that you’re not alone. There’s no need to feel badly just because your family makes you crazy. As Dr. Felder points out in his book’s title, it happens to the very best of people.

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Standard
condescending twatbags, healthcare, overly helpful people

Asshole detectors…

Yesterday, I read an article on The Atlantic entitled “Are Outdoor Mask Mandates Still Necessary?” Written by Derek Thompson, this piece was exactly what it sounds like… an article about whether or not people should be forced to wear face masks when they are outside. Here in Germany, we aren’t obligated to wear a mask outdoors if we can “socially distance”. I have noticed that despite the rather anal retentive and uptight rule following stereotype that seems to dog the German people, folks here are not too jazzed about wearing masks 24/7. I never see people wearing them when I’m walking my dogs through the neighborhood, although people do wear them at bus stops because it’s required.

Thompson included statements from respected public health experts from around the world, explaining why the zero tolerance/100% enforcement attitude could backfire in getting people to comply with the rules. Thompson wrote:

Requiring that people always wear masks when they leave home, and especially in places with low levels of viral transmission, is overkill. As mentioned, the coronavirus disperses outside, posing little risk to people who are walking alone or even swiftly passing by strangers. In fact, almost all of the documented cases of outdoor transmission have involved long conversations, or face-to-face yelling. The risk calculation changes if you’re standing in a crowd: Some uneven evidence suggests that the Black Lives Matter protests last summer increased local infections. But that’s an easy carve-out. States can end blanket mandates and still recommend outdoor masking by anyone experiencing symptoms, or in crowds. (Extended conversations pose their own risk, but when people are vaccinated, the odds of viral transmission are probably somewhere between microscopic and nonexistent.)

Outdoor mask mandates might also turn people off from obeying better rules. “Given the very low risk of transmission outdoors, I think outdoor mask use, from a public-health perspective, seems arbitrary,” Muge Cevik, an infectious-disease and virology expert at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, told The Washington Post. “I think it affects the public’s trust and willingness to engage in much higher-yield interventions. We want people to be much more vigilant in indoor spaces.”

Makes sense to me. If I’m alone in the woods or swiftly passing someone on my walking route, I don’t think wearing a mask is as important as it would be if I was in a huge crowd of people who are shouting. Also, there are quite a lot of people who just plain resent being “nannied” and “nagged” by others. If we let people exercise their free will in less risky areas, they may be more willing to cooperate when they’re indoors. And yes, to me, it makes more sense to wear a mask when indoors with strangers than it does out on the street, when you can be far enough away from people not to risk sharing germs.

Thompson continues:

Julia Marcus, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, spoke with several male mask skeptics last year for a piece in The Atlantic. When she explained that masking wasn’t as important outdoors, the men became more amenable to wearing them indoors. By connecting rules to reasons, she got them to see the value of covering their nose and mouth when it actually mattered. Last week, Marcus told me that she’s baffled by the notion that the best way to get people to wear masks inside is to mandate that everybody wear one when they’re alone outside. “We don’t recommend condom use when people are enjoying themselves alone to get them to wear condoms with their sexual partners,” she said.

The argument that outdoor mask mandates create a warm and fuzzy feeling of social solidarity confuses a personal definition of etiquette (“I think my mask makes everybody feel safe”) with a public defense of population-wide laws (“everybody should wear a mask everywhere, because it’s the only way to make everybody feel safe). Masks send all sorts of messages to all sorts of different people. To some, they’re beacons of safety; to others, they’re signs of imperious government overreach. As Marcus argued, mandating a public-health tool that’s not needed can drive away people who might otherwise be on board with more important interventions. “I think there’s a proportion of the population that believes restrictions will last indefinitely,” Marcus said, “and they are probably one of the hardest groups to keep engaged in public-health efforts.”

And I also liked that Thompson considered that not everyone has the same reality. A lot of people– myself included– are lucky enough to have backyards or balconies. But many more people are not so fortunate. In our previous house, we lived next to a large naturepark. But we didn’t have balconies or a yard with a functional fence, where we could let the dogs out free. The fence at our last house was more of a decoration, and would not have allowed us to safely sit outside with the dogs untethered. I know a lot of other people in Germany simply live in flats with no private spaces at all. As Thompson says:

Finally, mandating outdoor masks and closing public areas makes a show of “taking the virus seriously” while doing nothing to reduce indoor spread, in a way that often hurts the less fortunate. To deal with its COVID-19 spike, for example, the Canadian province of Ontario instituted a stay-at-home order and closed many parks and playgrounds. “These policies are made by people who have yards,” Marcus said. “If you live in an apartment building and have no yard, and are required to wear masks at all times outdoors, you never get to be maskless outside. And then, where do people gather maskless to socialize? Inside their homes”—where the risk of transmission is higher.

I thought Thompson’s article was fair and balanced, and the information within it was reasonable. I especially appreciated the comments from Julia Marcus, who came right out and said that there are people (like me) who worry that the mask mandates will turn into an indefinite rule. Allowing for some easing of the rules outside gives people hope that we won’t have to tolerate these rules forever, and that will make it easier to keep being vigilant. A lot of us just PLAIN don’t want to live this way for the rest of our lives, and we resent other people insisting that this is the way it HAS to be from now on. The fact is, many people feel that this is NOT how it should be. We should be working hard on a solution that makes mask wearing obsolete for most people. Or, at least that’s my opinion… but it seems like more and more people, especially in the United States, feel like only one opinion is the correct one. Anyone who disagrees is automatically an “asshole.”

One thing I take comfort in, at least here in Germany, is that it’s pretty obvious to me that people here are not going to accept being forced to wear face masks forever. In fact, I have noticed that even rule loving Germans are starting to rebel. There have been more protests lately, especially as Angela Merkel has pressed for stricter lockdowns. People are really getting tired of the crisis and they’re becoming more apathetic and lax.

I know there are people in some countries that are forced to wear veils whenever they are outside, but the rest of the world isn’t the Islamic world, where those kinds of oppressive rules are okay. And Thompson then ends with this uplifting conclusion:

Hyper-neuroticism is a mitzvah during a pandemic. But we really don’t have to live like this forever, and it’s okay for more people to say so. We can learn to look at a well-populated beach and not see a gross failure of human morality. We can see somebody unmasked in a park and not think, I guess that one doesn’t believe in science. We can walk down an uncrowded street with a mask, or without a mask, or with a mask sort of hanging from our chin, and just not really worry about it. We can reduce unnecessary private anxiety and unhelpful public shame by thinking for a few seconds about how the coronavirus actually works and how to finally end the pandemic. Let’s tell people the truth and trust that they can take it. Let’s plan for the end of outdoor mask mandates.

BRAVO! And let that be the FIRST step in eventually ending ALL mask mandates, because COVID-19 will be under control, like most infectious diseases usually become after time passes and science advances. Or, at least that’s what I think we should be aiming for. That’s what makes the masks different from seatbelts, which I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of, at least in my lifetime.

I felt pretty good as I read Derek Thompson’s article. But as I finished reading about how there’s a weird dichotomy between hyper-neurotic mask police types and vehement anti-maskers, I had sinking feeling that there would be tons of comments left on the magazine’s Facebook page. Sure enough, I was right. So many people, clearly folks who didn’t bother to read, left comments regarding this article. And one person wrote that non-maskers are his personal form of an “asshole detector”. Behold:

At this point I think of them less as masks and more as asshole detectors. Even if the chances are small, it’s the very least you can do for your fellow man. How damned privileged is our society that this is a hot button issue? If it happens to save even a few extra lives, it’s worth it. Buck up buttercups.

Seriously, dude? I think YOU are an asshole for taking this attitude toward your fellow man, especially as you pat yourself on the back for being so “considerate” as you judge people you don’t even know. And I think people who comment on things they haven’t read are assholes, adding unnecessary and uninformed noise that everybody else has to wade through.

and…

I live in southern Georgia and literally no one wears masks in stores, etc. All asshole behavior. I literally got into a verbal argument with a man that refused to stand on the 6 ft marker on floor in grocery store check out line. No mask. Even the clerk was like, “Sir, stand back!” It’s like the non-maskers get off on being a bully.

Why get in an argument with someone? Just get away from them. Arguing with a stranger is “asshole behavior” too, isn’t it?

There were more comments like that, along with the usual chorus of people writing things like “just wear the damn mask”, which I find pretty offensive, myself. I don’t think it helps compliance when you swear at people. In fact, people who swear at perfect strangers are probably assholes, right? I actually feel like telling them to go fuck themselves, but because I’m a lady, I don’t do that. 😉 Instead, I just think it to myself… and if I get angry enough, I vent about it in my blog.

I mean, I do wear a mask if I have to. But I go out of my way not to be in situations where I have to wear a mask, or deal with assholes who take it upon themselves to determine what perfect strangers are or are not doing as “asshole detectors”. Here’s one that made me laugh…

But it doesn’t matter. Wear the mask. It’s not an inconvenience in any way. It’s the least difficult thing that has ever been asked of us to do collectively. Articles like this only lend credence to selfish, broken people. Wear the mask until the pandemic is over. Simple. And until then, STFU.

Dude… to some people, it truly IS an inconvenience. You may not think it is, but they do– and they get an opinion and a vote, too! And telling someone to STFU, sorry, is also “asshole behavior”. You don’t get to tell people to STFU, simply because you claim to agree with the opinions of “experts” and you assume they don’t. There are all kinds of people out there who really are experts, and most of them have more balanced, fair, informed, and sensible opinions than yours. This lady had a sensible comment, in my opinion…

As a biologist, I can confirm that masking while outside was only suggested if you would be less than six feet from others (the transmission distance for errant coughs, sneezes or loud talking); it was never required by science to mask all the time outside. I carry or wear it and put up/on as I approach others on a path etc. ps I would warn against dining inside until one is vaccinated: the author’s point about the indoors being highest risk is valid.

And this guy also has reasonable thoughts, in my view…

I agree with this. The problem with outdoor mask mandates with fines for noncompliance is it becomes something law enforcement can selectively enforce. Look at what Miami was doing. They passed an ordinance that said everyone had to wear a mask at all times indoors or outdoors even when social distancing is possible. Miami police basically set up mask traps and stood outside supermarkets just waiting for people to come out of the store and take the mask off or wear it under their nose so they could ticket them. A woman was walking through an empty parking lot without a mask and was ticketed. Someone was in a barbershop and pulled his mask down for a few seconds to take a drink of water and a police officer happened to be walking by and that person was ticketed. I think a reasonable person would agree that this enforcement was overreach. I get the seriousness of the virus, but you have to give people a little breathing room. If a person is walking in an empty parking lot or on a back residential street and is not wearing a mask, but has a mask with them in case he or she comes to a situation where he or she can’t socially distance, then I don’t see the problem.

Sounds to me like Miami has found a great way to fill its coffers by oppressively fining people over mask wearing. Glad I don’t live there, especially as hot as it gets.

It baffles me that so many people have gone to such extremes on this issue. It should be perfectly okay to hate wearing a face mask. It should be okay to say it out loud, and hope for the mandates to end at some point. It should be alright to expect and fervently hope that we’ll get to a point at which this nightmare is either ended or mitigated. Otherwise, why go on living? I HATE living this way, and I don’t have it as bad as a whole lot of people do. Telling people that they don’t have the right to their feelings is toxic, and labeling them as “assholes” because you make assumptions about their character based on their masking habits is extremely limiting and offensive. Obviously, people who feel this way about other people are assholes themselves. Are there really people out there who think the whole world should be expected to accept living like this from now on? It blows my mind! As long as people are complying, what’s it to you, anyway?

I particularly love it when people compare mask wearing to wearing a seatbelt, or they compare going outside maskless with drunk or reckless driving. It’s absolute lunacy. I think, if seeing someone’s bare face outside in a sparsely populated area makes you compare them to drunk drivers or reckless people, you should simply do your best to avoid them. That’s what I do when I see someone on the road who drives erratically. I let them go ahead and get away from them. I don’t fan the flames by flipping them off or cursing at them through my window. Doing that in Germany can get you a pretty stiff fine, actually. It’s against the law to insult people or shoot the bird at them. Seems like doing one’s best to avoid problems is the better way to get through life. But… that’s just me.

Sigh… I really think Derek Thompson’s article is a good one. It gave me hope to read it. And, if people had taken the time to read it, they’d find that he consulted “experts” before he shared his thoughts. He’s quoted a Harvard educated epidemiologist, for Christ’s sakes, yet so many people feel the need to claim that Thompson is being “irresponsible” by giving people hope that things will get better! I would certainly listen to Julia Marcus of Harvard Medical School talking about COVID-19 and mask wearing than I would some jerk commenting on The Atlantic’s Facebook page.

Anyway… if you read all of this blog post and don’t think it’s an “asshole detector”, I thank you. I really think these hyper-vigilant, hyper-neurotic, nagging mask cheerleaders are how we wind up with right wing nutjobs like Marjorie Taylor Greene and straight up narcissistic creeps like Donald Trump in charge. There needs to be balance in all things… and that includes mask mandates. But maybe I’m just an asshole who needs to STFU. If you honestly think that about me, I hope you will take it as a cue to find someone else’s blog to read. 😉

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condescending twatbags, mental health, overly helpful people, poor judgment

You just used that word… and I don’t think you know what it means.

A couple of days ago, I was feeling a bit angry and depressed. I was sitting here alone, reading the local news, and there was an item about Angela Merkel’s latest desires. Mrs. Merkel wants to allow the federal government in Germany to employ an “emergency brake” lockdown for all of Germany. Normally, each individual state’s leaders make decisions for how things run. But because vaccination rollout has been excruciatingly slow here, and people are continuing to get COVID-19 and overrunning the hospitals, Mrs. Merkel and some of the public health leaders in Germany feel that this is a necessary move.

Germany has been in some form of “lockdown” since early November 2020. Apparently, closing everything and trying to restrict people from being in contact with each other has not been effective in slowing down the latest COVID-19 variants. Neither has forcing everyone to wear medical grade face masks. So, as each month passes, the end of the lockdown keeps getting extended. At this point, the estimate is mid June when we can have some semblance of normalcy.

Meanwhile, I watch as my friends back home are getting vaccinated and enjoying a more “normal” life. Actually, I think things have been relatively normal in the United States since the beginning. It’s just that Americans aren’t being allowed to come to Europe willy nilly, and vice versa. I still think Germany has handled the virus a lot better than the USA has… but the incredibly slow vaccine rollout is quite disastrous. Making matters worse is the fact that Bill and I were supposed to be getting our shots by the end of May. A large shipment was sent to German military installations for that purpose. But apparently, they’re Johnson & Johnson vaccines, and the CDC has just recommended holding off on using them until they can be investigated, since several women developed rare clotting disorders after being given the shot.

I was already in a crappy mood for a lot of reasons. The main one is that Bill is gone this week and will be gone for more than half of May on business. He hasn’t been vaccinated, yet he’s allowed to travel for work purposes while I sit here alone with my thumb up my butt– not literally, you understand. And I’m also pissed off because of some recent upsetting news we got regarding a close family member. Bill and I had a private chat about those matters. I finally had to ring off, because I was tired and in a really foul mood, and I didn’t want to talk anymore.

Just as I was about to go to sleep, I got a private message from another family member. This family member is a bit older than I am, and never seems to want to let me forget it. She also seems to assume being older means always being wiser. In her case, I don’t think it does.

Private messages are annoying under most circumstances, but since it was family, I indulged my relative. I was pretty upset after having read the news about the longer lockdown, Bill’s work schedule, and the news about our family member. She wanted to know why I was so irritated, so I explained. As usual, this particular family member starting giving me unsolicited advice, forgetting a number of things… like the fact that before too much longer, I’ll be pushing 50, and I’ve actually had some training in counseling and related subjects.

She immediately started telling me what she thinks I should be doing, even though I never asked for her opinion and was really more wanting to vent than seek advice. I really would like to have someone to talk to… someone who sees me as an equal and is willing to listen, rather than just offer unsolicited suggestions. She doesn’t seem to realize that most competent people don’t want advice or suggestions; they want insight and support.

On that night, I needed a friend, not a pseudo-therapist… especially not one who seems to think I’m naive and incompetent. I know I’ll always be a “squirt” to her, but I really am a grown adult, and I eventually assured her that I AM pretty competent in most things. I’m just fed up, most of all with this fucking COVID-19 lifestyle and Bill’s constant work schedule, as well as the fact that HE can travel for marathon work trips, but we can’t have any fun. It’s making life a colossal bore, and a drag, and I’m starting to hate being here… and my life in general.

Yeah, I know that sounds a lot like pathetic whining. Maybe, to some people, that’s what it is… After all, the bills are paid; we live in a comfortable house; and for now, we have our health. But being locked down, thousands of miles from home, sucks. Telling someone who is feeling upset to “buck up” or “calm down” is not really the best solution.

My situation doesn’t call for “toxic positivity” or invalidation, nor do I need an overly helpful person to suggest that I do things I’m already doing… like creative pursuits. My relative told me to take an online guitar course. Does she honestly think I’d be dumb enough to buy a guitar and not learn how to play it somehow? It’s like the morons who tell an infertile couple to consider adoption… as if that idea had never crossed their minds! And does she really think, as someone with advanced degrees in social work and public health, I need someone to tell me about narcissists and empaths? That would be like me telling her about her chosen field… which I will admit I know nothing about.

So anyway, all of this was the usual par for the course bullshit, when my relative dropped a bombshell. She’s been reading up on narcissists and narcissism, apparently not understanding that she’s a touch on the narcissistic side herself. She was telling me the usual spiel about narcissists, as if I had never read a single book or watched a single video about narcissism, let alone had many personal dealings with them. And then she said, “I really think you and I are empaths.

Well… I had to stifle a giggle at that. I wanted to respond truthfully, by saying “You just used that word… and I don’t think you know what it means.” Seriously. I love this relative very much… but I don’t think she has much insight into what an empath is. I also don’t think she has much personal insight as to what kind of person she is.

I think I am capable of empathy. I can definitely try to put myself in someone else’s shoes. I try very hard to see all sides of a situation. But I am definitely NOT an empath… and she is even less empathic than I am. How do I know this? Because I have been on the receiving end of MANY tirades from this particular relative. I’ve known her my whole life, and I’ve seen her lose her shit many times. One time, we were in a city park in Madrid and she got very angry with me for taking too long to find a newspaper. She’d had to pee, and didn’t speak Spanish. Silly me… I though at her age and with her world experience, she would be able to handle going to the potty by herself. But no… and she totally went off on me and called me a “motherfucker”. That is NOT the behavior of an empath.

This relative also has a habit of “glomming on” without much situational awareness… and will ask favors, yet show very little consideration. Like, for instance, the time Bill and I had dinner reservations for my birthday, and she asked me to drive her to a doctor’s appointment because she was going to be on Valium. I told her about the dinner reservations, but she assured me she’d be done in time. On the way home, she wanted to stop at a restaurant for dessert. I was worried about the time, but she promised she’d get the dessert to go. Next thing I knew, we were sitting in a booth. That is NOT the behavior of an empath.

She can be very manipulative and will throw epic temper tantrums when she doesn’t get her way. I’ve witnessed her being rude to wait staff and store clerks, as well as men who try to be overly friendly to her in bars. And she’s also been rude to me on many occasions. When we were a lot younger, she was occasionally legitimately abusive to me. I remember being verbally and physically abused by her, before I got big enough to fight back. She is capable of being an extreme bitch when the situation calls for it. There have been times when I’ve marveled at her ability to be a bitch… and, I must admit, even admired it. She’s not one to be fucked with by anyone.

On the other hand, she’s a lot of fun and has a great sense of humor. She’s also very smart and talented. She can be contrite and sympathetic, when the mood suits. When she’s in a good mood, she’s a delight and HILARIOUS. I do love her. But an empath, she is most definitely NOT.

However, in fairness, like I said, I’m not an empath, either. And that is not a bad thing. Empaths can often end up being taken advantage of by self-centered types. I do have a big heart and am fully capable of being empathetic to people. But that does not make me an empath. That’s a good thing, though, because Bill IS an empath. I think it would be disastrous if both of us were empaths. My being less empathic is good, because it balances out his tendency to be overly forgiving and kind.

I wanted to correct my relative’s thinking, but realized that if I did, it would probably lead to an argument. She thinks she’s an empath, though, and she’s wrong. And if she really thinks she’s the type of person who is constantly thinking of others and putting their welfare before her own, she’s also a bit delusional. She is definitely not one to take on other people’s problems. I have never seen her cry over someone else’s misfortunes. If anything, I think she’s on the other side of the narcissism spectrum. One time, I described a traumatic incident she and I had to my former therapist. He actually used the term “narcissistic” to define the behavior she had displayed to me.

Truly empathic people are unique and somewhat rare. My husband is an empath, and he attracts narcissistic assholes like his ex wife and his war time boss like flies on shit. These folks can smell it on people– those who will put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own. Bill will bend over backwards for almost anyone, is very slow to anger, quick to forgive, and has a “red line” that is way further down the line than mine is. He is genuinely a kind and compassionate person who almost never raises his voice and feels extreme remorse whenever he hurts anyone, even if just by accident.

Neither my relative, nor I, are like that. I will fully admit that I don’t have much regard for people who are disrespectful to me. I don’t go out of my way to be nasty, but I don’t have tons of sympathy.

I think Bill comes by empathy naturally. Both of his parents and, I suspect, his daughters are also very empathic people. They want to please others and they have overdeveloped superegos and guilt complexes. That’s why Ex runs roughshod over them so easily. Bill fully admits to this, too. It’s not that he’s spineless. It’s just that he hates to disappoint people, wants to make them happy, and genuinely feels for people. But he’s come a long way in his people pleasing ways and has become more assertive, which is something empaths must learn to do or be sucked dry.

My relative has no problem telling people off, taking legal action, or making people feel shitty. I know this, because she’s done a lot of those things to me. I haven’t been sued by her– at least not at this point– but I wouldn’t put it past her if she felt it was necessary. That is not the action of an empath!

I do think I am more empathic than she is, though… and although I could have told her to STFU the other night, I indulged her need to advise me on what she thinks I need to do. And last night, when Bill messaged me, I told him about it and we had a good laugh. Because he also knows that she’s not an empath. And he has frequently told me that he’s glad he married me instead of her… although I think it would have been funny to see how this relative would deal with his Ex, former tenant, or the land bitch from Hell. 😀 My guess is that she would not have handled any of them with much empathy.

Anyway… I wish she’d have a little more empathy for me and stop trying to give me unwanted advice. I’m not 12 anymore. And I wish Mrs. Merkel and her minions would get their acts together so we can all have our lives back.

Standard
overly helpful people, true crime, YouTube

Creeps like her? My unpopular opinion regarding Debra Hunter.

Yesterday, I read the trending story about Debra Hunter, the mom in Jacksonville, Florida who was caught on video last summer, berating a clerk at a Pier 1 home goods store. Heather Sprague, the woman who decided to video Hunter, claims she had listened to her verbally abusing the clerk about an item she had wanted to return, but apparently hadn’t brought with her.

When Hunter noticed Sprague filming, she gave her a “double bird”– that is, both middle fingers in their locked and upright positions. Then, obviously very angry, Hunter said, “I think I’ll get real close to you and cough on you, then, how’s that?” Sprague was one of the few people wearing a face mask in public at the time, since this incident occurred in June 2020, before face masks were required. She says she felt spittle on her face as Hunter then stormed out of the store.

Sprague is a mother of ten and has been treated for a brain tumor at the Mayo Clinic. Because of her delicate health condition, and that of her children, some of whom have special healthcare needs, Sprague claims she had to search frantically for a COVID-19 test. They were not widely available at the time, so she spent some time feeling very anxious. It cost her $150 to be tested. The results were, fortunately, negative.

Ms. Hunter has had her day in court, and Judge James A. Ruth sentenced her to 30 days in jail. Hunter also got six months probation, a $500 fine, must have a mental health evaluation and attend anger management counseling, and she must repay Sprague for the COVID-19 test.

After reading the many outraged comments people had about this case, I decided to watch the entire proceedings on YouTube. It was about a three hour video. One of the reasons it took so long is because there were technical difficulties, as the proceedings went on via Zoom.

Is she really that much of a creep? People should watch Ms. Hunter’s testimony. She doesn’t sound like a narcissistic creep to me.

Once again, I find myself disagreeing with the masses about this case. I read gleeful comment after delighted comment that Debra Hunter is going to go to jail for a month. I read many people condemning her character, based on headlines. I read that Debra Hunter and her family had received many death threats related to this incident, and her children were forbidden from playing with their now former friends. Ms. Hunter and her family are now pariahs, and now she will be going to jail for up to 30 days.

I know a lot of people think this sentence is entirely appropriate, and Debra Hunter and her family deserve being thrown to the Internet lions. It’s become very trendy for people to take it upon themselves to film total strangers and upload the videos to social media. Oftentimes, the videos– just a minute or two of someone’s entire life– lead to fifteen minutes of fame for the uploader and years of public ridicule and condemnation for the person being filmed AND their families. Debra Hunter has children too, and they are suffering because Heather Sprague decided to insert herself in a situation that, frankly, was not her affair.

I watched the incident from the video that Heather Sprague uploaded. While I don’t condone Debra Hunter’s actions at all, and I do think most of the punishment she received is appropriate, I don’t think she should be going to jail. It was a very short interaction she had with Sprague and, honestly, one that really didn’t need to happen. Heather Sprague, who claims to be medically fragile and has many children who are also medically fragile, CHOSE to meddle in a perfect stranger’s personal business. It seems to me that if Ms. Hunter was really that out of control, the store manager or perhaps even law enforcement should have been called– especially if Ms. Sprague is a cancer patient with small children at home. I mean, seriously… it’s Florida. She’s lucky no one pulled out a gun!

Many people were saying that Ms. Hunter’s decision to cough on Ms. Sprague was especially heartless, since Ms. Sprague has had cancer. But– if these two women didn’t even know each other, how could Ms. Hunter possibly know anything about Ms. Sprague’s medical history or condition? Yes, it was absolutely wrong for Hunter to lose her temper and cough on another person, particularly during a pandemic. But in June of last year, COVID-19 hadn’t yet wreaked the havoc that it since has worldwide. It was still very much a “novel” virus, and people in the United States were blissfully unaware of what was about to come. At that point, Ms. Hunter probably didn’t realize how dangerous coughing on someone is. The vast majority of us alive today have never before lived through a pandemic the likes of COVID-19. It was new territory in June 2020, and even as angry as Hunter was on that June day last year, I doubt she would have taken that action months later, when it became clearer how dangerous COVID-19 is.

As it turned out, Hunter didn’t have COVID-19 anyway, so while coughing on Sprague was rude, disgusting, and potentially dangerous, it wasn’t a murderous action. But people are still calling what she did “attempted murder” or “attempted manslaughter”. To that, I say “bullshit”. Yes, it was absolutely wrong for her to cough on Ms. Sprague, but I feel quite certain that Ms. Hunter’s intention was not to kill anyone. She was just really angry and having a very bad day, as we all do from time to time. And if Sprague hadn’t been filming her with the apparent intention of shaming, ridiculing, and destroying her life on social media, she probably would not have been on the receiving end of Ms. Hunter’s cough.

I don’t think Debra Hunter’s actions in June 2020 were appropriate. She was extremely angry that day, and according to Ms. Sprague, Hunter had been going off in the store for about fifteen minutes. Friends and colleagues who testified on her behalf in the above video claim that this behavior was out of character for Debra Hunter. Her husband testified that the two of them had been trying to build a house and had run into significant problems with the contractors who were building it. Then, their rental house caught on fire and they lost a lot of their personal possessions. If what Ms. Hunter’s husband says is true, I can understand why Ms. Hunter was upset. No, she certainly shouldn’t have been taking out her stress on the Pier 1 clerk, nor should she have lost her temper with Heather Sprague’s busybody proclivities— but I can see that she was under a lot of stress. And, not knowing the story behind why she was trying to return the item to Pier 1, I don’t have a clear idea of why she was projecting her rage on the sales associate, attracting Ms. Sprague’s attention.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I really don’t like this trend of people videoing strangers and making them go viral. I think such an action, while probably very satisfying for the person filming/judging/meddling, as well as the people who watch the videos, can have serious second and third order negative effects that don’t fit the “crime”. Everybody has bad days, and not a single one of us can be defined by the worst thing we’ve ever said or done. Is it really appropriate to destroy someone’s reputation and livelihood, as well as that of her family’s (particularly the children’s) just so someone can get fifteen minutes of fame?

I would have been much more impressed with Heather Sprague if she’d intervened by being kind. Perhaps if she had interjected by asking Debra Hunter if she was okay… or tried to help her calm down a bit. She mentioned Hunter’s child being there, doing the “potty dance”. Maybe Sprague could have redirected Hunter’s attention to the child, rather than whipping out her cellphone. If she really felt the need to intervene in this situation, she could have done so with a spirit of wanting to be helpful, rather than being judgmental. Now, thanks to Heather Sprague’s brand of “help”, Hunter’s children are being ostracized and may suffer psychological effects from this incident. Hunter will be going to jail, where she might be exposed to COVID-19 and, frankly, it’s doubtful that punishment in jail will rehabilitate her in any way.

I know a lot of people, particularly in the United States, think jail is the end all, be all of punishments. For some reason, a lot of us LOVE to see people rot behind bars, for the most trivial of infractions. Many Americans seem to enjoy it when someone gets the book thrown at them, and a lot of us are slow to forgive, unless the situation involves a pretty celebrity of some sort. But, I wonder how many rank and file Americans would like it if some stranger videoed them in the act of having a bad day, and took it upon themselves to put that moment or two on social media?

Would they say to themselves, “I deserve the death threats and the nasty phone calls, letters, and text messages from thousands of people around the world.”? Would they say, “I was a jackass, and my kids totally deserve to be ostracized and harassed by their peers because of what I did.”? Would they be completely fine with losing their job, as well as their spouses losing their job, based on something that occurred outside of work hours? My guess is that the vast majority of people would not. And I haven’t even mentioned the hate mail and vitriol people who have the misfortune of sharing the name “Hunter” have gotten in the wake of this fiasco. Several innocent people have had to make statements that they weren’t involved in this incident.

I will agree that Ms. Hunter didn’t seem overly concerned about Heather Sprague’s welfare. But, I would submit that Heather Sprague wasn’t too concerned about Debra Hunter’s welfare, either, when she took it upon herself to make her Internet infamous. I’m truly sorry that Heather Sprague was so terrified that she might get COVID-19 from being coughed on… but this was a situation that she could have avoided by simply minding her own business or, barring that, asking someone in authority to get involved. And if I were someone who suffered from a brain tumor and had medically fragile children to care for, that is what I think I would have done. Or, I would have alerted someone who could have intervened without as much personal risk. I’ve heard many people say that anyone who is medically fragile in the age of COVID-19 ought to “stay home” and avoid the risk of catching the virus. Seems like that advice could apply to Heather Sprague, too.

Perhaps it’s my time in Germany that has made me find this practice of making people Internet infamous so distasteful. Here, people have the right to be forgotten. Even people who are accused and convicted of crimes have the right to anonymity. Media outlets don’t always print people’s full names, nor do they show their faces, if they have been accused or convicted of a crime. Now, I don’t mean to imply that this is necessarily how it should be everywhere, but I do think there is something to be said for letting people live down their past misdeeds and get on with their lives. I don’t think the trend of making people go viral is fair, nor is it practical. Because, eventually, people who screw up, need to be able to go on with life. They need to be able to find employment so they can support themselves. They should be able to redeem themselves, so the rest of their lives aren’t completely fucked up forever.

Uninvolved people who take it upon themselves to film strangers behaving badly are basically acting as judge, jury, and executioner when they upload that stuff to social media. I think, if a person films something that is criminal, it’s more appropriate to give that footage to authorities, rather than taking it upon themselves to put the footage on YouTube or Facebook. Frankly, I won’t be surprised if people start suing these meddlesome folks… or much worse, someone gets shot for pulling out a cellphone.

One more point I would like to add. Judge Ruth reasoned that he sentenced Debra Hunter to jail because he hadn’t heard her express remorse to Heather Sprague. He seemed to imply that she wasn’t sorry for what happened. Personally, I disagree with his assessment. I listened to Debra Hunter’s testimony. At about the 1:30:00 mark in the video, Hunter’s lawyer invites his client to speak on her own behalf. She tells the judge that she’s already written a letter and won’t put him through listening to her points again. The judge interjects and tells her it’s “her day” in court. She speaks about how her three children have suffered because of what “she did”. She sounded genuinely sorry to me, and even said she could empathize with the parents who stopped letting their kids play with Hunter’s children. The judge even told Ms. Hunter to slow down and relax, because she was clearly very upset. At 1:40:00, she legitimately starts to sob. And yet, so many people, reacting to headlines, are calling her a narcissistic monster who should lose her kids and rot in prison. WTF?

I have had lots of dealings with real narcissists… and they don’t behave like Debra Hunter did in her hearing. I would encourage those who think she’s a monster to actually listen to her testimony. At 1:48:00, Debra Hunter actually says she deserves what she’s getting… in contrast to what the judge said, I did hear her mention Ms. Sprague and how this affected her, again at about 1:48:00. She mentions that there has been a “lot of fallout” for Ms. Sprague and her family. At 1:50:00, she apologizes to Sprague and mentions the letter of apology that she sent to her soon after the incident.

The judge says that due to the length of Ms. Hunter’s tirade and the fact that there was saliva that came from the cough, she deserves jail. Well, as we’ve learned since last year, saliva and spittle is a thing when we talk, breathe, sneeze, and cough. Even if Ms. Hunter hadn’t coughed, there would have been saliva droplets. That is the nature of things pertaining to the oral cavity, and why we’ve all been forced to wear masks for the past year. I’m not saying the cough was appropriate. It wasn’t. I’m saying that there would have been saliva regardless, and this occurred at a time when we didn’t know as many of the facts about COVID-19. Again– if this incident had occurred this year, I doubt Ms. Hunter would have done what she did, and she might have been wearing a face mask, anyway.

I know my opinion is unpopular. I expect some people will feel the need to correct my opinion in the form of strongly worded comments. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably already know how I feel about people who feel the need to directly “correct” people’s opinions. I just don’t think, in this case, the punishment is appropriate. Yes, Ms. Hunter should have been in much better control of her emotions. I do think she needs some help from a mental health professional. I do think it’s right that she pay a fine and reimburse Heather Sprague for what she spent on the COVID-19 test. I think community service and probation would also be appropriate. But we have so many people in jail, and the fact that the Hunter family has endured almost a year of “venom” (at 2:50:00) from the court of public opinion is already a heavy punishment.

And that venom hasn’t just affected Debra Hunter. It’s affected her business, her family, her children, and friends, as well as perfect strangers with the last name Hunter who have gotten hate mail and death threats, or had their businesses negatively affected by Sprague’s decision to film. That’s a whole lot of punishment delivered to uninvolved people for something that, prior to Facebook, would never have been international news, and probably would not have affected so many people besides those directly involved in the incident.

My guess is that most of the people– completely uninvolved strangers— who are calling for Hunter’s head on a platter would NOT like it if they got the same treatment for similar behavior. Anyone who thinks this can’t happen to them is fooling themselves. I’m sitting here reading this and listening to the actual court case in GERMANY, for Christ’s sakes. Think about that.

I wish Debra Hunter well and hope she and her family can move past this incident without too much trouble.

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complaints, overly helpful people, rants

I make no apologies for occasionally being an asshole…

This morning, as my eyes were opening to another Friday, I checked my Facebook notifications. I noticed I got a comment from someone I don’t know. It was in response to a comment I made five days ago on a conservative friend’s meme.

I usually try not to comment too much on other people’s political posts. The reason why I have that policy is because I’ve found that I don’t enjoy getting sucked into arguments with people I don’t know. I also think it’s kind of rude to try to impress my opposing views on someone else’s page. I’d rather do that on my own page or on my blog. But I couldn’t help myself… because not only did I disagree with the meme, I also got triggered by poor spelling.

Come on, now. It’s “your”, not “you’re”. And I am SO SICK of people invalidating other people’s views by employing shame!

My response to this meme was “*your… and many people hate him for good reason.” When my friend wrote that she hadn’t written the meme and knows the difference between “you’re” and “your”, I explained that one of my pet peeves is when something is supposedly shared as “wisdom”, but isn’t even properly written. Ordinarily, I do scroll past, but sometimes I slip.

I think this particular post was about Trump, although this same friend also posted how disgusted she is that people are “celebrating” Rush Limbaugh’s death. That post has, at this writing, swelled to over 119 comments, with some people trying to justify their negative opinions and feelings, and others shaming them for having and expressing them. A healthy smattering of “I wasn’t his biggest fan, but…” comments were also included.

This morning, I noticed the comment I made on the above post five days ago got a response from some confrontational guy I don’t know. He wrote:

Hate who and what good reason?

And my response was, “You should have asked me five days ago. 🙂

I don’t like it when people revive stuff that died ages ago. It’s like having a conversation with someone and, a few days later, having some uninvolved stranger ask me about it. I also don’t like it when some stranger confronts me for my response to a friend. Dude, I wasn’t talking to you, and if you wanted to address my thoughts on Mr. Trump, you should have done it before the discussion effectively ended days ago.

I think this guy was just feeling energized and wanted to stir up some shit. My hunch was confirmed when I noticed his comments on the aforementioned Limbaugh thread. I did not comment on that thread myself, but I can see that it generated a lot of controversy. Most of the comments were made by women, and most of the women are quite intelligent and articulate. Naturally, intelligent and articulate comments from women sometimes invite dumb commentary from mansplaining men. One lady wrote this:

I adore you, but I don’t think it’s fair to condemn people that hate Rush and celebrate his death. This is a man who celebrated the death of gay people from AIDS on air with whistles etc. That is just one example of his heinous behaviour. Some people are entitled to their hatred of him and that is a good and healthy thing. My brother in law is gay and men like Rush have attacked him intending to cause harm. So no pity, no sorrow or sympathy for him and his family. He had no sympathy for other people’s families when he mocked and celebrated their deaths. Everyone has a story and we shouldn’t judge before we know it.

The same guy who confronted me about my comment had this to say to the woman who defended those who disliked Rush Limbaugh and are glad he’s dead. He wrote:

Have we become so polarizes that we no longer offer grace to those who repent publicly. He apologized and said that that was “the most regretful thing Ive ever done. “He was on radio waves 3 hours a day for 30 years. Of course, he, like anyone else, is going to say something regretful. Can you honestly say that you didn’t say something 20-30 years ago that today would be considered hateful? More than that, have you ever been offered the gift of forgiveness? Maybe I’ve got you all wrong. Maybe you are the shining jewel of perfection in this sea of scum and villany in the world…idk..maybe you’ve never had to have been forgiven. But if you have, maybe, for the sake of unity, stop celebrating the death of human or promoting it. Hatred only produces more hatred.

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. There is a HUGE difference between saying something regrettable once or twice 30 years ago, and saying regrettable things EVERY DAY for over 30 years. Apologies are all well and good, but they are absolutely meaningless if the bad behavior continues. I don’t think Rush Limbaugh ever seriously repented. He still said a lot of really offensive and fucked up shit that hurt people. As someone who clearly honors the “good book”, the dude who was shaming those who were cheering about Rush’s death might want to remember that age old proverb from the Bible. You reap what you sow.

Personally, I didn’t follow Rush Limbaugh. I remember hearing his program at my granny’s house and my father watching his show on TV in the 1990s. I could barely stand to listen to him, so I didn’t pay attention to, and consequently wasn’t affected by, the more inflammatory things he said. Other people did listen, and a lot of them didn’t like what they heard. They were hurt and offended by Rush Limbaugh. Conversely, some people loved what Rush said, and are genuinely sad that his life is finished.

I think both groups have the right to have and express their opinions. I’d want and expect people to respect my right to have and state my own opinions. I can’t, in good conscience, want and expect that for myself and not for others. I can understand why many people legitimately hated Limbaugh and are glad he’s dead. I can also understand why others loved what he had to say, even if I disagree.

In yesterday’s post, I wrote that I am not in any of the groups Rush openly mocked. One of my readers corrected me, saying that as a woman, I am in a group Rush mocked. She says he was a misogynist. She’s probably right about that, but when I made that comment, I meant that I’m not in any of the groups that Rush had a special habit of tormenting, like homosexuals and people of color. But then, I do call myself the “overeducated housewife”, and I realize that Rush probably would have ridiculed me for that. Lots of people do. In yesterday’s post, I included a video of Rush insulting a woman he considered “overeducated” as opposed to “intelligent”. I disagree with Rush Limbaugh that the woman wasn’t intelligent, as well as educated, but kudos to him for sort of understanding the term “overeducated” as I view it.

I have gotten LOTS of shit from people about the name of my blog, especially in the military community. Many people in the military community like to laugh at those they think of as “butthurt”, although they don’t seem to like it so much when they get labeled and laughed at the same way. They also like to make fun of anyone who doesn’t fit the norm. God forbid you’re an intelligent woman who went to graduate school and dared to marry a man in the military. The people who are offended by my blog’s title probably hate people like me even more than they hate so-called “dependas“.

Smart women can be most threatening to men in the military culture because they’re not as easily controlled or impressed by them. And despite their bravado and the hot air they spew about their service, I have found that underneath that exterior, a lot of them are closed-minded cowards. For instance, instead of actually talking to me and finding out the origin of my blog’s name, these narrow minded folks will simply make assumptions about the kind of person they think I am.

They’ll assume I’m arrogant and disdainful, looking down on them for not going to college. They will hate me for existing and having a voice. They have no problem trying to put me in my place, sometimes aggressively, and with hateful, misogynistic language like Rush Limbaugh’s. And then, when I respond in a way that ends up embarrassing or humiliating them, many of them do, indeed, get quite “butthurt” about it. I’ve been blocked by them so many times! It’s not just the men, though. Some of the women hate me, too. Not only do I have three degrees and work as a “housewife” (horrors), but I also never managed to have any children! I’m also fat, not particularly pretty, probably a lousy lay, and I don’t put out very often. So what the hell good am I? (/facetious)

The people who have given me a hard time about the name of my blog are mostly folks who haven’t stopped to wonder why anyone would call themselves “overeducated”. For those who do wonder about that, here’s an explanation of why I titled my blog “The Overeducated Housewife”. I am a housewife. I have three college degrees. I don’t need three college degrees to do what I do every day. I am literally overeducated for my lot in life.

People have pointed out to me that it’s “impossible” to be overeducated. It may surprise them to know that, in theory, I agree with them. The name of my blog wasn’t meant to be taken so seriously or literally. And I never thought it might cause annoyance or offense, because when I first started writing it, I didn’t share it with others. The title was meant to be taken tongue in cheek, and was just something I came up with one day. I’m not the first or even the only person to call a blog “the overeducated housewife”, either. However, I probably am the most persistent and prolific one.

I was cleaning the toilets one day in March 2010. We were living in Georgia, and my husband was still on active duty. We had only just moved to Georgia, having come from Germany, and I knew we would soon be moving again, as Fort McPherson was going to be closing. I knew our time at the next installation, which turned out to be Fort Bragg, would also be short. So there was really no reason to try to get my career launched, because I knew I might spend months job hunting, only to have to move yet again.

As I squirted blue toilet detergent into the commode and commenced to cleaning and disinfecting, it occurred to me that I’d spent seven years in college, fully expecting to launch a paying career. Then I fell in love with a soldier, married him, and commenced to moving multiple times. It would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for me to launch a career in the field I trained for in graduate school and still be with my husband, so I eventually decided to just be a housewife. Then I started writing, which is what I’d wanted to do in the first place. I don’t make a lot of money doing what I do, and some perspective challenged people would say I don’t really have a job or even a “purpose”. But it’s all worked out fine, even if it’s not what I planned for myself.

If I had known that I would be vacuuming and scrubbing toilets instead of being a public health social worker, I certainly would not have gone to graduate school. Not that I regret the experience, mind you. I learned a lot, proved to myself that I could do it, and had some truly excellent experiences. But I would have preferred to save the money. It seems like I wasted a lot of time on something that didn’t come to fruition in the way I hoped it would. On the other hand, I can’t truthfully say that I don’t use that education. So maybe it wasn’t such a waste.

I think the guy who called me out and took another one of our mutual Facebook friend’s friends to task is a bit “perspective challenged”. It’s obvious that he’s one of the people who liked Rush Limbaugh’s messages. Or, even if he wasn’t a Rush Limbaugh fan, he feels compelled to check and correct the thoughts, opinions, and behaviors of other people. He’s obviously uncomfortable letting people be who they are. I wonder why that is.

It may be time to close this post, as I’ve pontificated quite a bit already. However, in the interest of annoying those who don’t like that I get “hung up” on comments and like to criticize me for that, I’m going to relay another story. I hope you’ll bear with me, even though this part probably warrants a new post.

This morning in my Facebook memories, I noticed a post that got quite contentious. It was from seven years ago, when Bill and I lived in Texas. He was just a few months from retirement and we were about to experience one of the worst summers of our lives before we finally moved back to Germany. At that time, I was still kind of fixated on Mormonism and resentful of people who felt it was their duty to “correct” other people’s morals.

I had shared an article from the Salt Lake Tribune about a woman named Judy Cox. She was in the news because she’d been shopping with her 18 year old son at the University Mall in Orem, Utah, when she noticed some t-shirts on display at a store called PacSun. Cox didn’t like the t-shirts. She found them “indecent” and akin to pornography. So she complained to the store manager, requesting that they be removed from the window display. The manager told Mrs. Cox that the shirts couldn’t be removed without approval from the corporate office. So Cox decided that she would take matters into her own hands. She bought every single t-shirt, spending about $567. She vowed that she would eventually return them at the end of the store’s 60-day return period.

She was just doing the Lord’s work, I guess.

The photo that accompanied the news article was pretty funny. Judy Cox wore an expression of utter disgust. She looked like someone had just taken a dump in her living room or something. I thought it was funny, so I proceeded to make fun of Judy Cox’s photo. I will admit, it wasn’t particularly mature behavior on my part, but I have never claimed to be a super mature person, especially on social media. A few others joined in and we enjoyed some laughs.

Well… it wasn’t long before we felt the wrath of Papa Smurf. His name wasn’t really Papa Smurf. I just called him that because a lot of us knew him from Epinions.com and he often acted like he wanted to be everybody’s daddy and the voice of reason. If you’ve read my blogs for any length of time, you might know that I disdain “overly helpful voice of reason” types. I may act like an adolescent sometimes, but I already have a mom and dad and I’m 48 fucking years old. If I’m not grown up yet, it’s probably not gonna happen.

Anyway, Papa Smurf, who was visiting my page, wrote this:

Talk about teen kids bullying on a web site. Some of you need to look at yourselves. Just because this woman took an action you may not believe in, doesn’t mean you need to disrespect her in personal ways. Just sayin’.

Horrors! I just got upbraided by Papa Smurf. I wasn’t impressed, so I posted “Thanks for the lecture.”

A couple of other people chimed in, rejecting Papa Smurf’s self-righteous discipline. One person, who had insinuated that Cox had a stick up her ass, wrote “You mean like the sharp pointy stick? I confess I don’t know for a fact that she has one.”

Papa Smurf came back, still a bit butthurt, since his attempt to check us hooligans hadn’t worked and we weren’t suitably chastened. He wrote:

You mean about disrespecting this woman in many ways because she has a different mindset than many of you. No, I don’t believe the ends justifies the meanness. I could respect those who would express why they differ in views in regard to her actions but this petty vindictiveness shows a dark side to our supposed new and enlightened world.

Incidentally, Papa Smurf is a card carrying Trumper and probably mourns Rush Limbaugh. He’s no longer a “friend”, so I don’t know if he is or isn’t a Limbaugh fan. It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if he is upset that Rush died and people are dancing in the streets about it.

I wrote this in response to Papa Smurf:

I’m sure she is a very nice lady when she’s not scowling over piles of t-shirts that she claims are indecent. In the above photo, she genuinely looks like a barrel of laughs. Frankly, all she’s done is draw more attention to the product she seeks to have banned which kind of defeats her stated goals. I don’t see what is respectable about that. I also tend to be disrespectful toward people who presume to tell other adults what is and isn’t appropriate. It’s her choice to waste her money if she wants to, but I don’t have to respect her for it.

And Papa Smurf wrote, “Please spare me. Be well.” (ugh… where’s my violin?)

You would think this would be the end of the shamefest, right? But it wasn’t. Although he kept saying he was leaving, he continued to read and respond to the comments. One person eventually called Papa Smurf out for bullying us with his overbearing shaming and lecturing. Not willing to honor his comment that he’d be taking his leave, Papa Smurf wrote:

…if you read the article you would know she had no plans to keep the merchandise. Upset? You ask. I suppose reading she needs to get laid. Needs beers. Has a stick supporting her and all just didn’t sit right. As you were. Enjoy yourselves. I spoke my mind and now I’m atta here.

(actually, I didn’t say she needed beers… I said she’s a “case”– as in, one needs a case of beer to wake up next to her every morning… I suspect Papa Smurf is also a “case”.)

My friend hilariously quipped, “Aw, c’mon–please *stick* around. 🙂

And Papa Smurf wrote, “I see you fidget to finally read the article. Again bye to all .” (huh?)

I tried to send him off with this… “Have fun riding your moral high horse off into the sunset.”

Another commenter wrote she thought it was funny that Papa Smurf got “chased off”. Papa Smurf didn’t like that, either, so he wrote rather maudlinly:

Chased off? Hardly. I just know I don’t belong at the “cool” table. (yeah, I’d say so…)

Then someone else attempted to validate Papa Smurf’s concerns about how “adolescent” we were being about this subject. Papa Smurf appreciated that, so he wrote this:

Your word, “adolescent,” is definitely a better discription. My point and yours seem to agree in that though we may disagree with someone, there’s no need to revert to “adolescents.” Cheap personal shots to me is disrespectful, doesn’t strengthen an argument and adds to divisiveness. Thank you for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts in a clear thoughtful manner. (He’s thanking her for “stopping by” on my page? Does he go to other people’s homes and thank random visitors for “stopping by? What is he, a sovereign citizen?)

Ooh! A treat for the commenter who was giving Papa Smurf some credence! But it didn’t last long, because I finally got completely fed up and wrote this comment, which effectively shut down the tit for tat mansplaining bullshit:

Oh for God’s sake. I confess I often act like an adolescent and am generally not the most polite person in the world. Anyone who knows me well, already knows this about me. This is my Facebook page, though, and I feel free to post whatever I want on it and make whatever snarky comments I want to make. If you have a problem with that, hit the unfriend button. I guarantee that much worse things about this woman have been said and written elsewhere. As a general rule, I don’t go on other people’s pages and leave them self-righteous comments about the things they post. As rude as my comments may have been, I think publicly shaming someone on Facebook is also very rude.

Seriously… it started out as harmless funny banter about a woman’s over the top reaction to t-shirts that she thought were obscene. Judy Cox took it upon herself for decide for everyone else what is or is not morally acceptable. Who appointed her judge and jury of what is appropriate in fashion merchandising? While she was within her rights to buy up all the t-shirts, I take exception to her attitude that she needs to be the morality police for everyone else. It looks like she fully cooperated with being in the news, too. She’s probably the one who called the media, and it’s obvious that she willingly posed for the above photograph, complete with disgusted scowl. Moreover, her action was futile, because PacSun doesn’t care why she bought the shirts. They care that they got her money, and they no doubt sent a new shipment of shirts to the Orem store. And even if she did return them, all she really did was give them free advertising and make herself look like an uptight busybody. So yes, it was stupid on her part, and her “church lady” fart expression does make me think she badly needs to get laid. But then, I probably need to get laid, too.

Either way, no one wants or needs some random guy to come along to lecture everyone about their thoughts and opinions. Save that crap for your (minor) kids. Papa Smurf has much in common with the guy up post who was appealing to our sense of shame about Rush Limbaugh’s death. You may find it vulgar and disgusting to laugh at people, particularly those who have died. I often feel that way myself. But when it comes down to it, especially if you’re a religious person, your opinions about me are none of my business. God is the ultimate judge. I am not a particularly religious person anyway. Moreover, I guess it’s alright if you think I’m an asshole. I can’t help what you think. You have the right to your opinions, too. Please respect my right to my opinions and spare me the confrontations. I’d rather have a pap smear than be constructively criticized by some random guy who thinks I should be ashamed of myself. My days of tolerating that from anyone are OVER.

Incidentally, Judy Cox eventually had her day in court and PacSun was not charged over the “indecent” shirts.

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