communication, complaints, condescending twatbags, Duggars, rants, social media

“I’m not in need of correction from you, lady…”

Fair warning… for many people, this is going to be a really petty rant. Some readers will doubtlessly think it’s much ado about nothing, or that I’m being childish or silly. It’s fine to think that, but just so you know, I really don’t need to be corrected. I understand that the more mature beings in the world will probably think I should be posting about world peace or another lofty topic. And maybe that’s true… but it’s not what’s on my mind today. I’m often petty, obnoxious, and easily annoyed… but I own those characteristics. They’re part of what makes me “me”. I grew up with the message that who I am isn’t okay… and now that I’m 50, and realize that I won’t ever be changing. I’m working on living with myself. But you don’t have to live with me, so if I write something today that makes you think I need “correction”, “advice”, or anything else remotely resembling “special help”, I would like to encourage you to go write about it on your own blog and leave mine alone. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So here’s what happened…

Yesterday, I was on the Duggar Family News page on Facebook. The page’s moderator posted about the Duggar Family’s annual Christmas celebration. A few days ago, I had noticed how extremely cute John David and Abbie Duggar’s daughter, Gracie, is. I even wrote about it in a recent post. It’s not that I don’t think all of the other Duggar grandchildren are cute. I just think Gracie is at a really sweet and expressive age, and she obviously mugs for the camera. She is especially adorable right now, in my opinion.

She is so CUTE. This is not the photo I commented on, by the way.
What a doll!

So I typed under the picture, “Gracie is so adorable”, or something along those lines. Nice, positive, kind comment for a child who probably can’t read, and wouldn’t be on that page, anyway, right? Several others agreed with me and signaled by hitting the “like” button. I didn’t mention her brother, Charlie, who is a beautiful baby, but to me, not as obviously cute as his big sister is. When he’s older, I’m sure he will give her a run for her money. Besides, everybody gushes over babies.

Early this morning, I opened up Facebook and noticed that I had a notification from someone I don’t know. Usually, one can tell what Facebook notifications are in reference to, but in this case, there wasn’t a clue. I had forgotten about the Duggar Family News post I’d made, and never thought it would be controversial. But there it was… Someone named Donna tagged me with the comment, “So is Charlie.”

What am I to make of this comment? It would be one thing if she’d just posted it without tagging me, making it clear that she was expressing her own opinion and not criticizing my comment. But she responded in a way that made it very likely that I would see her comment. And while I can’t be absolutely certain, since she’s a total stranger and I didn’t have any non-verbal cues to offer a hint, my guess is that her comment was meant to be pointed. How dare I comment on one child’s cuteness in a photo, and not the other child’s “equally” adorable visage? What is Charlie? Chopped liver? Give the lad a participation trophy, at least. Give me a break… he’s a BABY, and he’s not reading that page. I am sure his feelings wonโ€™t be hurt.

I’ll be honest. My first instinct was to respond to Donna with snark and sarcasm, because that seemingly corrective comment legitimately pissed me off. I know a lot of people would laugh about that โ€œover-the-topโ€ reaction, too… which makes it even worse. Because this was a genuine reaction I had to something that, in the grand scheme of things, really doesn’t matter. It’s just some busybody feeling the need to correct a perfect stranger’s innocuous opinions on Facebook, right? I have no idea why my comment triggered her enough to tag me with a response. For all I know, she’s just as irritated as I am. We all have our hot buttons.

There was a time when, indeed, I would have dashed off an inflammatory response to Donna. But middle age, years of psychotherapy, social work training, and the fact that I hadn’t been drinking, collectively gave me the gift of restraint and composure. I took a moment to consider if I wanted to make an actual reply, or even just leave a “laugh react” or “anger emoji”.

I very quickly decided that I didn’t really want to get into it with Donna over such a non-issue. I figured any response I would make would simply make me look bad, even though her comment was unnecessary and kind of disrespectful. So I deleted the notification and didn’t respond to Donna’s “correction”… at least not on Facebook. I’m sure she means well, but I don’t really want to get in a pissing match with some “biddy” I don’t know. Especially over something so inconsequential and… well, petty.

Since this incident has made me think for longer than a moment or two, I’ve decided to write about it today. Maybe other people can relate. I do feel slightly self-congratulatory for not taking Donna’s bait. I scored a “little victory” with that one, even if I am now posting mental spew in my blog. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Fewer people read my blog than my Facebook page, though.

If I had been in a more engaging mood, how could I have best responded to Donna? I thought about it as I drank one of Bill’s expertly brewed cups of coffee, fixed just the way I like it. What can I say? My husband is truly wonderful. So let’s see…

There’s the positive approach. I could have acknowledged Donna’s “correction”, either in a sincere and apologetic fashion, or in an over-the-top, sickly sweet, passive-aggressive way…

  • “Of course, Charlie is cute, Donna. Thank you for the correction. May I have another?”
  • “Yes, he sure is scrumptious, Donna. Shame on me for not acknowledging it properly.”
  • “Oh, I’m sorry for the oversight. I’m such an ignorant clod. Charlie is also adorable.”
  • “Whatever would we do without you, Donna, to keep us straight when we comment on the Duggar grandchildren? We wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings… even if they can’t yet read, and wouldn’t be on this page, anyway.”
  • Or… just a plain old “Yes, you’re right, Donna. He is cute.”

Or, there’s the negative, confrontational, unfriendly approach…

  • “Speak for yourself, Donna. I don’t need your help.”
  • “Why did you feel the need to tag me, Donna? You think he’s cute? Good for you.”
  • “STFU, Donna.” Or my personal favorite, “Oh fuck off, Donna!”
  • “Trying to make yourself feel useful, Donna? Glad I could help you out.”
  • “Actually, I don’t really think he’s adorable. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.”

Or I could have been really passive-aggressive and just laughed, posted a “?”,… or used an obnoxious rolling eyes GIF to get my point across to her.

But as I had just opened my eyes, I didn’t feel the need to engage. I didn’t want to spend precious energy… especially since Donna is probably sleeping right now, anyway. I get the sense that she’s the kind of person who would wake up in a few hours, see my comment, and feel the need to “set me straight”. And then, hours after I was over it, I’d be invited to an online melee, which probably would have included other people who don’t know either of us. Life is too short for that shit. You gotta pick your battles, if you want to stay sane in this world.

On the other hand, maybe posting a “?” and inviting her to explain herself would be satisfying on some level… but I don’t like to be deliberately obtuse. I think I know what she meant by her comment. She was just “fixin’ it for me”… the petty bitch… tryin’ to hook me into a scuffle. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I guess I’m just left kind of puzzled, though. Once again, a perfect stranger is looking at my innocuous communication from a seemingly negative, corrective way– like the people in my wine group who insinuated that I’m a “Karen” because I had the โ€œaudacityโ€ to complain about a legitimately bad experience we had in a wine shop in France. Sometimes, it’s appropriate to be negative, but I don’t think our culture likes to admit it anymore. If you aren’t “positive” and inclusive all the time, you’re a problem, and need correction from others.

Then, there’s my dysfunctional, reptilian response to Donna’s “correction”. It comes from a lifetime of being the youngest child in a family where my presence wasn’t really welcomed or valued. For most of my youngest years, I was repeatedly criticized, corrected, and told, in no uncertain terms, that I wasn’t making the grade. I’m sure if I were to point this out to my family members, they would deny it… and again, that would be a perfect example of the problem. Because even if, in their minds, they weren’t overly critical of me, that was the message I constantly received and internalized. And now it’s a trigger, because I have come to realize that I do have worth, and my opinions matter to someone– even if it’s only me… and maybe Bill.

When someone leaves what appears to be “correction” for me, especially when it’s on something that is really innocuous, or of little actual consequence, I have a tendency to get very annoyed. I’m not referring to “constructive criticism”. Sometimes criticism is necessary for growth, for safety, or to become proficient in something. That kind of criticism is much less irritating to me. No, it’s petty criticism over things that don’t really matter that bugs me the most. Nobody likes to have their opinions corrected, especially on a “public” forum like Facebook. No one likes it when some smartass on Facebook posts, “Fixed it for ya!” in response to something they’ve written. It’s just diminishing, discounting behavior that is meant to make people feel small. And while getting annoyed over that behavior is legitimate, it’s also doubly bad to express that irritation, because that is, in and of itself, PETTY behavior. It really should not be worthy of any response whatsoever, but yet, I still feel compelled to express all of this so early in the morning. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m sure a good therapist could help me figure this out, sometime.

There’s one other observation I would like to make. I was quite agitated about Donna’s comment when I got up, but by the time I’d finished breakfast and was draining my second cup of coffee, I had almost forgotten about it. If it weren’t for a silly exchange I had with my cousin regarding this incident, I probably would be posting about something more hard hitting and consequential today. ๐Ÿ˜‰ See? It really doesn’t matter at all… It’s a minor blip in the day, now forever immortalized in my blog. And now I can smile and hold my head high, as I fold laundry and change the sheets on my bed… two chores that do need attending to, and will actually matter in my life.

So… not today, Donna. I’m not taking the bait and getting into a ridiculous online pissing match with you. I don’t agree with you, because I do think Gracie is cuter than Charlie is, at least right now. I don’t need you to correct my post, and I’m not going to validate your correction with any direct response– negative or positive– that gives you the opportunity to engage further with me and attempt to make me feel bad about myself. I am going to ignore you (except, of course, in my blog, which is not for you). Find someone else to play with. ๐Ÿ˜€

Off to go tend to my chores now… Have a great Tuesday, y’all.

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communication, musings, social media

Dining on fresh food for thought, and not “incorrecting” people…

I woke up this morning to an interesting post by Father Nathan Monk, a dyslexic former priest and author who has an impressive following on Facebook. This is what he wrote:

I think this makes a lot of sense.

Naturally, the above post attracted a lot of feedback. Many people made points that I thought were entirely valid, even if they didn’t agree with Father Nathan Monk. Some people protested that abortion is always a terrible thing, but a private decision that is sometimes necessary to make for one’s own well being. Some were on Father Nathan Monk’s side, and congratulated him for his words of wisdom on an experience that he will never personally face. Still others pointed out that the word “abortion” has wrongly been turned into a bad word that needs euphemistic language to get around the taboo with which it is associated.

Personally, I agree with Father Nathan Monk that abortion isn’t a dirty word. I’ve even written about that topic in this blog. But I also agree with people who have emotional responses to the term. Some people have no emotional connection to abortions. They don’t see it as anything other than a medical procedure. While many people associate abortion with tragedy, others have experienced immense relief after having one. Some have experienced gratitude that the procedure was available to them when they needed it. Reactions to the abortion experience run the gamut. No one’s reaction is “wrong”, because everyone has their own story.

As it so often happens in comment sections on Facebook, some people got on a soapbox, and the topic segued a bit into discussion about other societal issues. As the discussion developed, I noticed some tension. Some people took issue with other people’s opinions and felt the need to “correct” them. I especially noticed it when someone used a term that another person found objectionable. More than a few of them responded to other posters with condescension, hostility, and criticism, rather than measured consideration. I noticed that many people chimed in on comments that were directed to other people, and they often did so with a certain haughtiness. And some went into ass kissing mode, although overall, I agree with what this person wrote…

Dearest Father Nathan Monk I totally support your comments.

Furthermore, I know you are a gifted wordsmith but for a moment I’m going to take full on offense at the cretin level witlessness of the individual who took it upon themselves to *correct* your wording.

Dear Sir or Ma’am I suggest that you desist lecturing a published author on their use of words. You can take your insulting remarks and trot right off the end of that short dock over yonder. Yeah that sketchy one that’s probably going to dump you right back into the swamp of self-righteousness that you seemed to have crawled out of at some point.

Sheesh people. Give it a rest with the gatekeeping.

Alrighty. I’m done.

Carry on my friend. And my deepest apologies if I’ve crossed a line.

After the above comment was made, someone else wrote this:

On a related note, I saw a stand up comedian a few months ago give a great response to unwelcome corrections:

“Thank you for incorrecting me”

Apparently, that quote was from comedian, Steve Hofstetter. I have never heard of Mr. Hofstetter, but maybe I need to look him up and see if I find the rest of his observations so astute. People do have a tendency to “correct” other people when they disagree with them. I think there’s a certain arrogance in assuming that one’s perspective is absolutely the only “right” one. As I mentioned up post, everybody has a story, and those stories can affect how people view things that aren’t cut and dried. It’s a barrier to communication, and ultimately, learning new things, when people come at others aggressively for saying something they assume is wrong, or just “politically incorrect”.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Years ago, I was part of an online messageboard for second wives and stepmothers. In that group, I sometimes used to post about how Mormonism had affected our step situation. It was a valid issue, as within Mormonism, there is a strong emphasis on spreading the faith and encouraging people within a family of maintaining their common belief system. For example, Mormons typically exclude non believers from their weddings, which usually take place in a temple (though some have civil weddings and then do the religious ordinance later). Mormon temples are only open to people who have “temple recommends”. The only exception is when a new temple is opened, and there’s an “open house”, which is for a set period of time. So, the fact that my husband’s daughters were converted and raised LDS, and Bill had left the faith, was a legitimate issue within the family.

There was a Mormon woman in the group who used to get very offended when I dared to bring up this topic. She insisted that I was being disrespectful to her. She claimed that I “misunderstood” and was confused by her religion, and that my “negative” comments were destructive to her. She was not receptive to “hearing” what I was trying to communicate. Instead, she focused on what she thought was my “bashing” her religious beliefs. In short, she basically labeled me a bigot, because I said something negative about her religion that she found offensive. She wasn’t willing to see it from my perspective. She just wanted me to shut up and color.

Honestly, I don’t give a shit what people’s personal religious beliefs are. It’s when your beliefs affect other people’s lives that I have a problem. The fact the Ex had decided to convert to Mormonism and raised Bill’s children LDS was a real problem that affected us, because Bill and I aren’t LDS. To be fair, I don’t think Ex is LDS anymore, either. But, back when the girls were still kids, the fact that they were LDS caused issues, because their perfectly good father was portrayed as “less worthy” simply because he didn’t have the same religious beliefs they had. It didn’t even have to be Mormonism that caused this problem. The girls could have been raised Orthodox Jewish or Muslim or Jehovah’s Witness, and that could have been an issue. I was simply trying to point that out, and being specific about how the LDS religion caused steplife issues for us. This should have been okay in an online support group for second wives and stepmothers, but instead, it was a “taboo topic” that I was strongly discouraged from discussing because one person found it “offensive”.

For the most part, I think people should be heard, even if they say something that seems “wrong” on the surface. And if someone does say something that seems “wrong”, it would be really excellent if more people would simply take a deep breath and hear them out… or at least try to respond with civility, instead of rudeness and snark. Being self-righteous and condescending is not how you win hearts and minds. And if you’re not trying to possibly change someone’s perspective, what’s the point of making a comment? Especially if you’re so insufferable that they block you.

A few days ago, I made a comment to someone about how most Americans have no idea of what we tolerate. They haven’t lived anywhere else, and they’ve been fed a bunch of horseshit about how “great” America is. I wrote that if more Americans experienced living in Europe, they might be outraged by what is normal here, and not normal in the United States. I was going to specify Germany, but I realized that there are a lot of countries in Europe that offer affordable healthcare, childcare, and education. As it was Facebook, I didn’t want to make a list, because that would make my comment too long and convoluted.

I then got a somewhat hostile comment from someone in the Czech Republic, who groused about how Europe isn’t so great, because medical care in her country isn’t “good”. I hadn’t addressed this person, but she chimed in on my comment to someone else, so I explained further. I don’t think I did so in a condescending way. I simply explained where I was coming from, and she came back with swear words and rudeness, as if I had insulted her intelligence. Her point was that not all European nations are created equally. My immediate reaction was “duh”, but that’s not what I wrote. Instead, I posted that I had originally considered writing only about Germany, but realized that much of the continent is similar and I didn’t feel the need to type out the countries for a Facebook post. I added that I did that because I didn’t want to wind up in a rude exchange with a stranger. Then I finished with, “but I see that’s happened, anyway. Have a nice day.” I was surprised she didn’t come back with more snark. I probably shocked her by calling her out for being unnecessarily offensive.

One of the things I really love about my husband is that we can have conversations about anything. He’s thoughtful and considerate, and he hears what I have to say as I flesh out a thought. He doesn’t react with indignation, or break out the red pen, wanting to “correct” my opinions. He doesn’t always agree with me, but he’s always willing to listen. I think we’re both better off because of that. We learn new things, and dine on fresh food for thought. Just as a new food can be exciting and interesting, so can a considering new perspective. But it’s hard to access that “fresh food for thought”, if you are preoccupied with correcting someone else for their opinions that don’t align with your own.

Now, when it comes to abortion, I can certainly understand why many people find it a sad and abhorrent thing. I understand why some people, having had an ectopic pregnancy that necessitated termination, can’t bear to think of that action as having an abortion, even if that is technically what happened. But I can also see how someone might find abortion liberating and even exhilarating. Father Nathan Monk’s post spells out how it can be a huge relief for someone to have an abortion. It should be okay for people to be honest about their feelings without fear of being shamed. We should be encouraging respectful communication, rather than trying to squelch things we don’t want to hear or read. Imagine how much more interesting life would be, if we could consider things that are “taboo” without feeling ashamed or threatened with censure.

I imagine that we might even have fewer Trump supporters if more people could stop themselves from being holier than thou toward others. I suspect that a lot of people like Trump because he’s not “PC” and doesn’t insist that people be “PC”. I think a lot of people like it when a loudmouth jerk like Trump says what they’re thinking, without any shame or hesitation whatsoever. This isn’t to say that I think people should be going around being deliberately offensive, but more that people might not be so compelled to be deliberately offensive if they felt heard and understood, even if the other person disagrees. A basic level of respect can be a great lubricant for productive discussion and– dare I say it?– a broader perspective on life, a keener intellect, and a more interesting existence outside of an echo chamber.

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communication, condescending twatbags, dogs, Germany

Pre-emptive and defensive bitchiness is not the best advertising strategy…

This morning, as I was waking up to a brand new day, I scanned Facebook and noticed a post by someone in the local pet group. She has a ten year old Jack Russell terrier that she wishes to rehome. She wrote that the dog is good with kids and other animals, but has allergies that require medication. Fair enough. But then I saw the last sentence of her ad, and it kinda gave me pause…

We are looking to re-home our 10 year old Jack Russell terrier. She is great with kids and other animals (we have two cats and two children). She is house trained and super sweet. She does have allergies and requires medication. Gets motion sickness in cars. And please donโ€™t pass judgement if you donโ€™t know the reason why she is being rehomed. I donโ€™t have to explain my reasons and get approval from anyone.

Um… first of all, people are going to pass judgment, and they are going to infer things. You can’t avoid it, even if you say “please”. And secondly, when you pre-emptively leave a defensive comment like “I don’t have to explain my reasons and get approval from anyone,” you kind of put off a difficult, bitchy vibe. I would hesitate to contact the person who wrote this post, because based only on that post, she doesn’t seem like a pleasant person. She’s asking people to consider taking in a dog who is already ten years old and has a couple of issues. She’s the one who is asking— other people aren’t necessarily clamoring to take the dog. In the long run, she may actually be doing someone a huge favor by offering them her dog, but at this point, she’s the one who needs help. She should probably consider that fact and behave accordingly.

I’m sure she has good reasons for rehoming the dog. I truly do try not to judge people who need to find new homes for their pets, unless they are egregious assholes about it. Every single one of our dogs in the past twenty years is with us because they were rehomed. And every single one of them has been wonderful, unique, and loving. Each one has enriched our lives immeasurably and taught us new things. We’re better off for having shared life with them.

I don’t consider someone inherently bad or guilty simply because they can’t take care of a pet. Shit happens. Sometimes, rehoming an animal is the kindest and most responsible thing a person can do. But when a person ends their request to rehome a pet with a pre-emptively defensive statement, it’s a bit of a turnoff. I don’t think it helps her case.

On the other hand, I can understand why someone would make a pre-emptively defensive statement like that one. People– especially in our overseas military community– can be immature and judgmental. Drama erupts for the stupidest of reasons, and that can have terrible effects on one’s mental health and self-worth. Believe me, I know about this firsthand. But if you’re asking someone to take your ten year old dog with allergies off your hands, and you leave a hostile statement demanding that people don’t “judge” you before you explain yourself, you kind of ask people to judge. And believe me, they will… whether you like it or not. But maybe some will skip leaving rude comments, even if they’re thinking them, or blogging about them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m not in the market for a new dog at this point. We still have Arran and Noyzi, although Arran will likely be crossing the Rainbow Bridge before too long. I don’t know when, or even if, we’ll be looking for a new dog. Given that we don’t know when we’ll be leaving Germany, and the high costs and hassles of moving pets, we may decide that one dog is enough for now. But if I were looking to take in a new dog, I would probably see red flags in the above ad. Because I think if you’re asking someone to take in another living creature, you really need to be upfront and honest about why you need to rehome them. And your attitude should be one of hopefulness, rather than defensiveness.

We had an experience about nineteen years ago with a woman who had found a cute little hunting beagle on the side of a country road. She named him Flea (after Fleagle, the dog in Banana Splits), and offered him for adoption through a beagle rescue in Northern Virginia. This woman lived near Richmond, Virginia, so the dog she was offering for adoption wasn’t really known by the people at the rescue, who were mostly in the DC area and Maryland.

Flea had been found in Chester County, very flea and tick infested and sick with heartworms and Lyme Disease. The rescue had given the woman money to treat Flea for his infestations. She had gotten the Lyme Disease treated, and had the first part of the heartworm treatment done– a labor intensive affair that required an overnight stay at a vet hospital and a month of crate rest. However, she neglected to bring him back for the second part of the treatment. She never told us that she didn’t get the second part of the treatment done. That was totally shitty on her part, since the second part of heartworm treatment is a lot less painful and invasive than the second part is. It just consists of the dog taking a big dose of ivermectin, or a similar drug, to kill off any baby worms that survived the first part of the treatment. My guess is that she was either too busy, or needed the money for her own purposes. Sad for Flea, and for us.

We adopted Flea, and at the time, we were pretty broke ourselves. We did have him tested for heartworms, and the test was positive, but the vet said that sometimes dogs might still have positive results right after they get treated. She wasn’t concerned, so we didn’t worry about it.

We still have that couch, complete with stains made by Flea when he had cancer.

After we’d had him for a few months, we decided that Flea badly needed a dental. And he REALLY did– his teeth and his BREATH were atrocious– when he finally got a cleaning, four teeth fell out completely on their own. Fortunately, the vet tech at the hospital where we were going to have the dental done noticed that there was no record of his ever completing heartworm treatment. She called the animal hospital where the first part of the treatment was done, and they verified that the treatment was never completed. Sure enough, he was still very infested with heartworms. Going under anesthesia to have his teeth cleaned could have killed him.

Flea and MacGregor loved Germany, too.

We tried to contact the woman who had rescued Flea. She ghosted us. We contacted the rescue. Bill, who is usually very mild mannered, was very upset. We had just lost our first rescue dog, who came from the same rescue, to a mysterious and rare mycobacterial infection. We’d only had him for sixteen months when he died. Now here was Flea, heartworm positive, and us with no money to get him treated. We had been led to believe that Flea was cured, and now we felt “lied to” by this rescue. I think our vet quoted us about $850 for treatment, which at the time was prohibitively expensive for us. Bill was extremely pissed, and understandably so.

Fortunately, the rescue was willing to pay for Flea to be treated at their usual vet hospital, located some distance from where we lived. They were wonderful about coordinating the treatment, and we got him all fixed up.

Flea and MacGregor in Germany, circa 2008 or so. Flea is the one not looking at the camera.

We had Flea for six years, and he was an awesome character who was even more temperamental and crotchety than our sweet Arran is. Flea was certainly difficult at times, but I adored him, and I never once regretted taking him into our home. We brought Flea to Germany the first time we lived here, and he helped us break the ice with our neighbors, because he loved their toddler aged son. He was exceptionally good with children; especially little boys. One day, he saw their child and moaned as he strained to go meet the child. That was when they started talking to us! Flea was a true canine ambassador. Their little boy even named his stuffed dog “Flea”.

Flea and MacGregor with Bill in our first German house, back in 2008 or so.

I think Flea would have lived longer if he hadn’t had untreated heartworms for so long. Ultimately he got prostate cancer, which was diagnosed by our old vets in Herrenberg (Germany), and like Arran, he proved to be quite a fighter, lasting four months with just palliative care. We brought him back to the US with us, and he died two months later in Georgia. A month after that, we adopted Zane, whom some of you know. But imagine what Flea could have achieved if his heart hadn’t been damaged, or the woman who rescued him had leveled with us and, at least, told us that he’d only been partially treated for heartworms. We could have had him treated sooner, and he might have been with us for longer than six years.

God, I miss these two… they were such characters! MacGregor, in particular, was a star!

I’m not saying that the person offering up her dog is definitely or deliberately being dishonest. She probably has perfectly valid and reasonable reasons for rehoming her dog. But making a comment like, “I don’t have to explain, and I don’t need approval” makes me think she might not be as honest as she should be, and has an attitude that might make asking about the dog difficult. That could mean unpleasant surprises, like the one we discovered in Flea. Or worse, maybe she’s the type to smile as she hands you the leash, then ghosts you when problems arise. While pre-emptively making a statement to forestall negative comments and judgment is understandable, especially in the military community, it also raises some red flags that would warn me to steer clear. Just sayin’.

Aside from that, there are already enough unpleasant interactions to be found on social media. I don’t need to have one in person, too. I think those who know us, know that we try to take really good care of our dogs. But I wouldn’t contact someone whose very first communication to me is one that is bitchy and defensive, even if it’s a post for everyone to read. I would hope this lady would consider that protecting her ego is less important than finding a really excellent home for her dog to spend her last years, hopefully never to need rehoming again. It’s the least she can do.

Standard
communication, complaints, condescending twatbags, rants

Just WTF does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

Well, it finally happened. I now have a topic to discuss today that isn’t about the Duggar family. Prepare for an epic rant.

Years ago, I was a big fan of Mad Magazine. Unfortunately, I was introduced to Mad by the neighborhood pervert, who had a son who was a few years older than me. I suspect the pervert’s son was the Mad Magazine fan. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. I’m just glad he gave me something to look at besides the men’s magazines he usually showed me back when I was a wee lass. Even though I can’t look at a copy of Mad without remembering the Home of the Whopper (as the neighborhood pervert occasionally referred to himself), the fact remains that it was a funny magazine, especially when I was an adolescent. And after all these years, I have managed to maintain my adolescent sense of humor.

Not that anyone really appreciates it…

Back in the early 1980s, Mad Magazine did a parody of public television telethons. I don’t remember exactly what the spoof was about, but I do remember that Big Bird was a participant. The clever cartoonist had drawn Big Bird as he would have been on Sesame Street, introducing the letter for the day. In that particular article, the letter for the day was “P”, and Big Bird introduced it by saying “P stands for ‘prance’ and ‘pad’ and ‘punch’ and ‘puss’ and ‘please’. As in, ‘I’m going to prance over to your pad and punch you in the puss if you don’t please give us money.'”

The eleven year old version of me thought that was just fucking hilarious. I remember laughing my ass off, mainly because I didn’t know that the word “puss” is not akin to the word “pussy”. I had a grand time picturing Big Bird prancing, let alone prancing over to someone’s “pad” and punching them. And of course, because I had never been exposed to the old fashioned word “puss”, and was picturing Big Bird punching someone in the pussy, I laughed even harder.

My laughter is distinctive, and some people find it irritating. My parents were among those who criticized me for the way I laugh. My dad especially hated it, and would tell me I sounded like a cackling witch.

Anyway, after I read that article in Mad, my mom asked me why I was laughing so hard, so I told her. Her response was to get annoyed with me and crankily inform me that the word “puss” refers to someone’s face– hence the expression “sour puss”. In fact, she had a distinctly sour puss as she edified me with that information. I still thought the mental image of Big Bird prancing to someone’s pad and punching someone in the pussy was hilarious, and continued to laugh like a banshee. Years later, I still think that mental image is funny, and I occasionally still laugh about it.

Of course, not everyone thinks the idea of Big Bird punching someone in the pussy is funny. I probably still annoy people, too, even when I’m doing something as innocent as laughing at a ridiculous mental image. For some reason, a lot of people seem to think I’m an asshole, even when I’m seriously not trying to be an asshole.

So what’s that story got to do with today’s title? Keep reading, and I think it will be clearer. Or maybe not. My mind works in strange, tangental ways.

My old friend, Jamie, posted a couple of pictures of himself yesterday. He currently has long hair. I’ve never known him to have long hair, because I haven’t seen him in person in many years. When I knew him offline, he had short, conservatively styled hair. But we have known each other since we were very young, having graduated from the same high school and worked at the same amusement park for a few summers. Naturally, neither of us still looks the way we did in the late 80s, early 90s.

Anyway, Jamie has long hair now, and he wanted to know if he should wear his hair up or down for the occasion of attending his son’s graduation. I’m assuming the young man has just finished college. I didn’t have an opinion on Jamie’s hair or how he should wear it, although I am impressed that he apparently still has so much of it at his age. Instead, I was struck by the rather dour expression on his face in his pictures. I didn’t remember him to be so somber looking when I knew him offline. So I posted, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” That’s a song from Annie, by the way, and it was intended as a lighthearted joke.

Some time later, a mutual friend of Jamie’s took me to task for making that comment. She might have been surprised to know that I actually hesitated before posting it, because as a woman, I don’t necessarily like it when someone suggests that I smile. But I figured Jamie and I have known each other for a long time and he wouldn’t be offended. It never crossed my mind that anyone other than him would raise an objection. I certainly never thought I was going to be confronted about COVID-19 when I posted it.

When Jamie’s other friend initially came at me, I figured it was because she’s apparently a woman, and like a lot of women, she doesn’t like to be ordered to smile. But no… somehow, she got the impression that I was making a statement about mask mandates and COVID-19. She left me a second comment about how she lives in New Mexico, where mask mandates have been reinstated, and is fully immunized and boosted and wears masks and yadda, yadda, yadda. I was initially confused by her laundry list of COVID-19 prevention tactics. Then I got a bit irritated.

I should add that it was late at night when I saw her comments. I was about to go to bed, having enjoyed dinner and libations. And I just didn’t get how she took my statement as being about the fucking pandemic, or why everything has to be about the goddamned pandemic. I never mentioned COVID, vaccines, masks, or anything. I just made a simple comment about Jamie’s joyless expression. It never even crossed my mind that his smile would eventually be covered by a face mask, although I’m certain it probably was. But somehow, this lady seemed to think I was making a statement about the pandemic when I was just reacting to pictures posted by an old friend.

So I responded to her that I live in Germany, am fully vaccinated, have an appointment to get a booster, and mask mandates never went away here. I also have a master’s degree in public health and another in social work. And I’ve known Jamie since I was about 17 years old, and was just kidding.

I didn’t add this, but I could have also told her that my comment had absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with COVID-19. And I don’t know how she conflated a comment about smiling to being about masks, especially since prior to my peevish response to her comment, she didn’t know a fucking thing about me. I also didn’t add that, given my background, of course I understand how serious the pandemic is. Of course, we’ve never met, so she wouldn’t have known before I told her. But my initial comment wasn’t even about the pandemic. She read a lot more into it than was really necessary.

She came back with “Good to know.”

WTF? I’m not the one who was being rude. She chose to engage me, by chiming in with an inappropriate and nonsensical comment. Why can’t I add a simple response on an old friend’s Facebook status without some stranger assuming the worst about me and putting words in my fingers? I don’t even know this person from Adam, and she doesn’t know me! She might as well have come up to me on the street and started talking about thermonuclear physics, or something equally as irrelevant.

This isn’t so much a rant about the clueless woman in New Mexico with a Ph.D. who works for the Army, as it is that trying to communicate on social media just sucks. People have lost the ability to be civilized. We all sit behind computer screens and deliver the snark first and ask questions later. I’m as guilty of it as anyone is, I guess. We all seem to read more into things than we should, or we make erroneous assumptions that someone is being rude. Or we put words in people’s fingers– make assumptions about points they never even made. We don’t simply take things at face value. I see it in comment sections all the time, which is why I try hard not to respond in them. Too often, making comments ends up being involved in a pissing match with a complete stranger. No thanks.

Communicating with someone online can sometimes be downright weird, especially when you compare it to talking to someone in person. Imagine having an in person chat with someone you know, and suddenly your friend’s mutual friend, a total stranger to you, suddenly butts in to your exchange with a completely irrelevant comment about socks or something. That’s what it’s sometimes like to communicate with an old friend online. But, of course, communicating online, especially on a public forum, is NOT like having an in person conversation, precisely because total strangers and outsiders to the conversation can butt in with something off topic.

Maybe I am perturbed right now because I really miss offline communications, and actually getting to know people. It annoys me that I wind up interacting with complete strangers just so I can exchange a few words with a legitimate old friend from back in the days before the Internet.

I suppose I could have simply ignored her. Maybe next time, I’ll just do that. Ignoring her doesn’t solve the issue that has so irritated me this morning, though. On the other hand, maybe if we have occasion to interact again, she might have a better understanding of who I am before she pops off with something completely useless and irrelevant. Or maybe not. My guess is that she’s already forgotten about me and our unpleasant exchange.

Adding to my moan this morning are a couple of other things. First off, I somehow managed to break the business end of the Type C thunderbolt cable for my iPad. I don’t know what happened, but the end managed to come loose and now it no longer works. So I had to order a new cable, and that cost me some euros. I ordered early in the morning and Amazon.de said the replacement would get to me today. But, I see that it will probably get here tomorrow, which sucks because Saturday is the one day of the week I might hope to get out of the house and do something fun. Sundays in Germany are often pretty dead… at least if one wants to do any shopping or anything. Delivery people here don’t always leave packages like they do in the States.

And then, another person– someone I don’t know offline, but “met” through Epinions– decided to add a rude comment to a discussion my friends and I had a couple of days ago about Josh Duggar. This dude felt the need to post “YAWWWNNN…” on that topic.

My response to him was to “keep scrolling.” I mean, if you have nothing of substance to add to a discussion on someone else’s Facebook page, and you think what they’ve posted is boring, why not just move on? There’s no need to leave a rude comment that does nothing more than irritate people. Again with the uncivilized behavior, right?

That guy has a tendency to be a grouch sometimes, but he’s not the worst offender. In fact, he rarely chimes in on things on my page. He probably has better things to do than hang out on social media. Given that, he doesn’t need to leave a random comment that he thinks my discussion is boring. But at least he’s not like …tom… Some of my regulars know all about …tom…

…tom… could not resist leaving insulting comments to any and all topics. He was another person I “met” on Epinions. I never liked him much, but decided to try to give him the benefit of the doubt. After awhile, when he would leave those kinds of rude and useless comments, I would respond with profanity. Usually, I would tell him to “fuck off” or “go play in traffic” or something like that. I will admit that’s not very civilized behavior, either. I mainly did it because he was such an insufferable jackass, and it was sometimes fun for me to be unabashedly profane when he asked for it. Remember, I wasn’t on his page; he was on mine.

One day, I finally got tired of the bullshit and kicked …tom… off my friends list. That was kind of sad for me, because he gave me a lot to blog about– or at least vent. On the other hand, trying to have a meaningful conversation with him was a complete waste of time. He would chime in on things, often without having the slightest notion of what the discussion was about. He would leave rude, critical, condescending comments. He had no respect for me, so trying to be friendly with him was not productive. And while cursing is something I do as if it’s my job, I don’t feel good about swearing at people. Not unless I know they enjoy it. I don’t know how …tom… felt about being asked to “fuck off”, but he once told me he wasn’t “unfriending”, even though he seemed to find my page so worthy of criticism. So I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Maybe that’s the solution. I should just tell people who annoy me to “fuck off” and use my block button. Not caring about how other people perceive me might even be the key to happiness. Another key to happiness is to stop trying to engage with strangers, especially those who make assumptions before they know any facts. And maybe someday, I’ll log off of social media altogether and simply read books, like I did in the days before I joined Facebook. It doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

People need to learn to come at people where they live… or simply shut the fuck up.

And just to bring this topic back around to where it started before I seemed to go wildly off on a tangent, I’d like to announce the letters for today. Big Bird says, the letters for today are “F” and “U”. As in, “feeling fed up”… and of course you know what else. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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communication, politics, psychology

We should all listen to each other more…

This morning, I read a headline in the Daily Press, the newspaper that serves the Tidewater area of Virginia, the place where I was born and raised. The headline was about Virginia’s gubernatorial race. This year, Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, will step down as governor, and someone else will take his place. The newspaper was reporting on how the Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, “dodged” a question about vaccination, which drew criticism from Democrats.

I know a lot of people hope to see Glenn Youngkin beat the Democrat candidate, former Governor Terry McAuliffe. This is because a lot of people from Virginia don’t like Ralph Northam, or Democrats in general. A lot of people don’t like Mr. McAuliffe, either. I come to this conclusion based on comments I’ve read online, but also because I am from Virginia and I still know a lot of people there. Plenty of folks think Democrats are just plain evil. On the flip side, plenty of people also think Republicans are evil.

Even though Virginia’s political leanings have recently shifted from red to blue, there are still many Republicans in Virginia, particularly in the area where I grew up. And, just as they might choose a favorite sports team, people in Virginia have a tendency to choose sides in politics. I suppose it makes things simpler for them. On the other hand, it also makes our society more divided. I’ve noticed that people will often write off people solely based on their political preferences. There’s little thinking or discussion involved.

I didn’t read the article in the Daily Press about the governor’s race. Doing so would have required turning on my VPN, since the Daily Press, like so many other U.S. based newspapers, has made itself unavailable to readers based in Europe. We have a pesky data privacy law over here with which a lot of American papers can’t be bothered to comply.

I did, however, read some of the comments on the Daily Press article. Someone lamented about how anti-vaxxers were selfish and rebellious. Below is a screenshot.

Good lord! The comment about banning vaccines and masks comes from someone who lives in Tennessee, for Christ’s sakes!

I had to laugh at the guy who called Biden’s administration a “pos” (piece of shit), and wanted to know if the commenter he was responding to would jump off a bridge if Biden asked him to. Did this guy have the same mindset in January 2021, when Trump called on citizens to storm the Capitol? Are most people really like this? Do they really have no ability to think for themselves? I mean, there are some conservative ideas that I can get behind. And there are some liberal ideas that I like. Why does it have to be “either/or”? Why can’t we work together to make policies that suit the majority of people? Are there any moderates left in the world? Or are they all just keeping quiet?

Lots of people are in legal trouble right now because they listened to Donald Trump and “jumped off his bridge”.

I attempted to tell Bill about the comments I was reading, but he suddenly interrupted me with thoughts of his own. Granted, they were thoughts that were on topic, which was a plus. However, it was pretty clear that he hadn’t really been listening to me. A few seconds after I started speaking, he began formulating a response. In doing so, he missed part of my message.

I was immediately annoyed by the interruption and said so. I love Bill very much, but he has a terrible habit of interrupting me when I’m mid sentence. He also has a tendency of speaking to me when I’m engaged in something else, like reading, watching a video, or playing a game. Consequently, I often have to ask him to repeat himself or “hold that thought” until I’m ready to actively listen to him.

I often feel frustrated, because I can’t finish a thought or I get distracted from something on which I’d been concentrating. I have kind of a short attention span, so when people interrupt me, I tend to forget what I was saying. I also grew up in an environment where people didn’t really care what I thought and happily told me so… and in fact, I was labeled “arrogant” when I did express opinions. So, I’m probably even more sensitive to being interrupted than I might otherwise be.

Bill immediately apologized. He knows he has a tendency to interrupt. It’s a habit that gets reinforced in his job, where people are action oriented. He works with a lot of military folks, and they aren’t big on introspection or “soft skills” like listening instead of speaking. There’s a lot of testosterone and posturing that goes on– guys jockeying for leadership. Bill is probably one of the less alpha guys in his office, but he still has this habit of cutting me off when I speak. He doesn’t mean to be rude when he does it. It’s just something he’s learned to do.

It occurred to me that a lot of information and insight gets lost because people are so busy talking over each other. Successful communication depends as much on receiving messages as sending them. If you’re speaking or formulating a response when someone else is speaking, you’re going to miss some of what they say. And whatever you say in response will probably be poorer for it.

After Bill apologized for interrupting me, I said, “What do you think would happen if you consciously made an effort to listen more?”

Bill thought about it for a moment and said, “I’d probably learn more.” Then he told me that listening more carefully was a concept he’d actually talked about with his Jungian therapist.

Then I said, “I challenge you to make an effort to speak less and listen more today. When you’re at work and someone speaks to you, try to make yourself listen carefully to what they say. Do you think you can do that?”

Bill smiled enthusiastically and said, “I can try.”

That’s one thing I like about Bill. He has a really good attitude about most things. He’s slow to take offense and quick to take correction.

I truly am curious about what would happen if people listened more and spoke less. This is a habit so many of us have– myself included. We’re so busy wanting to be heard ourselves that we don’t let others have their say. And then we get offended when they don’t want to listen to us when we want to speak.

It’s not just a problem in conversations, either. It also happens when we read. Here’s an example.

A few days ago, someone in our local pet group posted a comment about heartworm preventative in Germany and asked a question about where to find heartworm treatment for her new dog, who had recently come to Germany from Romania. German vet clinics aren’t like U.S. vets. A lot of the clinics in Germany are just offices, rather than hospitals, where veterinarians can board sick animals. Heartworm treatment generally requires hospitalization. The vet where she took her dog could only test for the infestation; they could not offer treatment, because they don’t have hospital facilities.

I was the first person to respond to the poster. In my first comment to her, I explained that heartworm preventative isn’t widely prescribed in Germany because heartworms aren’t that prevalent here. I wrote that German vets usually only give prescriptions to people if they’re taking their dog to a warmer country. Vets here don’t prescribe heartworm preventative as a matter of course, the way American vets do. More discussion ensued, and we established that she’d need to find a vet with a hospital.

Another commenter came along and tagged me in a comment, “correcting” me for what I’d written about heartworm preventative medication. She wrote that German vets will prescribe preventative if someone is going to a warmer country.

My response was, “Right. I mentioned that.”

I’m sure my response came off as a bit “curt” and “bitchy”, but it always annoys me when someone doesn’t read carefully and then tries to correct another person. If she’d spent more than a few seconds reading more carefully what I’d actually written, she wouldn’t have felt the need to make the point about warmer countries that she’d mistakenly thought I’d missed. Those few seconds spent more attentively reading/listening, could have spared her the few seconds she’d spent “correcting” me, and the few seconds I spent letting her know that the correction wasn’t necessary. It also would have spared us both some irritation.

Why do people do this? I think it’s mainly because of egotism. We want to look smart, accomplished, and helpful. People want to be heard– but they don’t always want to listen. I think Americans, in particular, don’t want to take the time to listen before they respond. They’re always rushing to prepare for things, even though a minute spent listening could spare them five or ten minutes down the road. Time is money, we’re told, so we rush to say something, do something, take action– but so often, if we’d just cooled our jets and shut our mouths, we could have spared ourselves needless grief, time, and money.

Plenty of other commenters came along after I commented on that thread about heartworm treatment in Germany. Many of the people who commented never bothered to read what had already been written. It seems they all assumed they knew better than everyone else who had responded. I ended up turning off notifications for that post. Hopefully, the lady found a vet to help her dog.

This issue of how we don’t listen well came into my head a couple of days ago, when I stumbled across a televised interview of one of the women who wrote Not Without My Sister. The show was aired in Ireland, and proved that some interviewers are terrible listeners.

I found this interview very frustrating to watch.

Notice how the interviewer often doesn’t really let her guest finish her sentences. Part of this may be because of time constraints. Part of it may be because the interviewer is trained to ask questions. But I wonder how much she can be hearing if she’s so busy forming responses and new questions as her guest is trying to answer. As a viewer, it was annoying to watch this interview, because I couldn’t hear all of what the guest was saying.

The above interview isn’t as bad as some, though. I can’t stand watching shows like The View, because there’s a whole group of women talking over each other. It’s hard to get a clear message rather than just noise. I wonder what the point of the show is, if no one can get a word in edgewise, and no one is actually listening to the person who speaks.

Anyway… I hope Bill will remember what we talked about this morning and give my proposal to talk less and listen more a try. I wonder how much more efficient and productive people could be if they’d just stop and listen for a moment. How much information will they get that is not distorted? How much time will be saved because someone didn’t have to repeat themselves? The possibilities are endless.

We really should all listen to each other more. I include myself in that suggestion. I’m going to give it a try. I hope some of you will be inspired to try it, too.

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