A few days ago, I changed the settings on my Twitter account. I felt the need to take those steps because I was getting inundated with disrespectful, mean-spirited comments from right wing trolls. I don’t have a problem with people who disagree with my opinions. The world would be a be a very dull place if everyone was in agreement all the time. But, even if some people find me obnoxious, I don’t deserve to be called vile names by strangers on the Internet.
I’m certainly not an idiot, but I was repeatedly called that by strangers on Twitter. People made fun of my handle, too, claiming that I am an actual “knothead”, simply because I’m not a conservative and I believe that women should be able to determine whether or not they wish to be pregnant. No, I’m not a “knothead”. That was what my abusive dad used to call me, after he called me “fat”, “retarded”, and “bitchy”. I use it as a nickname, because it’s my way of reclaiming a pejorative. But I am actually pretty far from being a “knothead”, and I’m certainly not a “knothead” simply because I support a woman’s right to choose.
I wonder if this is how these people are offline, when they are face to face with others. Do they routinely call other people “stupid”, “idiotic”, or “dumb”? Do they radiate smug, self-righteous, hateful behavior toward random folks they meet on the street? I think the Internet has made a lot of people uncivilized and mean. Even though these people are complete strangers whose opinions shouldn’t matter in the slightest, my mental health takes a beating when people spew that toxic shit at me. Yes, I know they’re only words, but life is tough enough without unhinged, clueless, and just plain awful people invading my space and insulting me simply for expressing myself. I refuse to give them an audience, or consider their words, when they are nothing but garbage insults.
After I got a shit ton of very personal insults from perfect strangers, I decided that I needed to sharply reduce the noise from Twitter. I turned off the multiple daily emails I seemed to be getting. I limited who can reply to me. For the past few days, it’s been pretty calm… almost too calm, actually. Twitter could be a great place to find things to write about, think about, or even share humor. But it sure is a bizarre place at times. Some people are better at dealing with the craziness than I will ever be.
For instance, Mama Doctor Jones (MDJ) has been getting a lot of heat lately. I admire the way she handles it, even as she’s in a challenging career that is being assailed by the right wing zealots in the United States who want to interfere with how OB-GYNs do their jobs.
I originally only followed MDJ on YouTube, but discovered her on Twitter when I started using my Twitter account more. I am impressed on many levels by what she does, but I can also see that there’s a significant downside to being popular on the Internet. She has to deal with so many hateful people! Take, for instance, the below tweet she shared…
— Mama Doctor Jones | Danielle Jones, MD, FACOG (@MamaDoctorJones) July 7, 2022
MDJ lives in New Zealand, having moved there some months ago. She’s presumably settling in with her neighbors, sharing a well known American snack with them. It went well, and she chose to share her pleasant experience with her followers. There’s nothing at all about the above tweet that should have been the slightest bit controversial. And yet, it STILL went south, and not because of a pro-birth American conservative taking aim at her. This time, it was a freakin’ kiwi who came at her!
Granted, MDJ was a teensy bit snarky in her response, probably because it’s frustrating and irritating when someone just wants to share something nice and gets attacked with negativity.
Then it gets even more bizarre… Keep in mind, this nasty exchange began with a happy tweet about Rice Krispies Treats! What the fuck! I’m surprised MDJ gave this person the time of day.
It got even worse, as the conversation went from Rice Krispies Treats to Monty accusing MDJ of “abandoning” the country that gave her “opportunities”. But, as MDJ is from Texas, her ability to do her job without the threat of incarceration for treating her patients properly is in peril. I can’t blame her for moving to New Zealand. Not only is it a beautiful country, but it’s also a place where MOST people seem to be kind, compassionate, and sensible. “Most” is the operative word, of course, as Monty continues to show that there are rude and disrespectful people everywhere.
So where is your loyaliity. What country gave you your opportunities. So the country that gave you your position now is a “shit show”. That says more about you being disloyal than it does about your country.
I totally agree with MDJ, although I didn’t leave the USA because I necessarily thought of it as a “shit show”. When we left for Germany, it was mainly because it was the only place where Bill was being offered work in a timely manner. He retired from the Army with no job lined up, and we had bills to pay. The contractor in Stuttgart came through with work, and we were fine with moving, because we loved living in Germany the first time. We also wanted to get back the year we lost having to leave Germany early, thanks to Bill’s narcissistic wartime boss who got us yanked out early to satisfy his own selfish needs.
We neither expected nor planned to be here for as long as we’ve been here. We certainly never thought we’d be going on eight years of life outside of the States. When we left, Obama was still the president, and things were a lot more normal than they are now. Granted, there were still too many shootings and too many anti-choice religious zealots who worship the conservative viewpoint no matter what… but I never could have imagined in 2014 that the United States would turn into what it is now.
I think, if I had children, I would NOT want them to be raised in the current version of the United States. It’s become a place I don’t recognize anymore. So we’re happy to stay out of the USA, for now. I’d love to go back sometime, if it was a place where I felt safe and respected, and I thought we could live as well there as we do here. But I don’t feel that it’s like that anymore. It sounds like MDJ has come to a similar conclusion. She’s still somewhat gentle with Monty, who is very hateful to her…
She just keeps on keeping on… Obviously MDJ has more energy and patience than I do. She also has more patients. 😉 I admire her very much for her level headedness and good humor.
I know there are people from my past who can’t relate to me anymore. All I can tell them is that being in other places changes your perspective. Living in other countries is so life changing and educational… it expands boundaries and broadens mindsets. More people– especially Americans– should do it. Maybe if they did, America would somehow become the fantastic place it’s hyped to be. But I’m afraid the American Dream will always be just a mirage to me. So… while I don’t know if I’ll be gone from there forever, I don’t mind being gone for now.
America really isn’t that great. It was never great… and it’s gotten much worse in the eight years since I was last there. It seems like the shittiness that spews from there is spreading in terms of violence, and just plain rude, uncivilized behavior, and discourse. And every time I have an unpleasant interaction with someone from my homeland, I’m reminded why I’m glad to be out of there… for now, anyway. I do think that MDJ’s Rice Krispie Treat Twitter altercation is a reminder, though, that mean, inconsiderate people are everywhere… and if they could fly, Twitter would be an airport.
Today I reposted a 2017 era article from my original Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife blog. That post was written in a time of blissful ignorance of what awaited the world just three years later. In 2017, I was inspired by reading about young people who were critically ill and forced to accept medical care decisions thrust upon them by older people. Most of the cases of the youngsters in that post suffered from cancers of some kind, but a couple of them had other medical problems.
In several cases, the young patients’ parents were religious or wanted to try a more “natural” approach to healthcare. The parents were taken to task by medical professionals who wanted to override their decisions. In one case, the patient was a 17 year old young man who was deemed mature. He didn’t like the chemotherapy that was prescribed to treat his Hodgkin’s Disease, so he tried to refuse it. Doctors sought to force submission by legal means. In the end, the young man’s case was the inspiration for “Abraham’s Law” in Virginia, which allows older teenagers and their parents to refuse medical care or choose alternative therapies.
It amazes me now to read about these controversial cases involving young people, especially given that COVID-19 wasn’t on the radar at the time. Nowadays, the term “medical freedom” is a hot topic, as people fight over whether or not vaccinations against the coronavirus should be mandatory for all who can safely take it. On one hand, there’s a group of people who want to be able to make all medical and healthcare choices for themselves, although a lot of the people in the anti-vaccine group curiously draw the line at abortions for other people. On the other hand, there’s a large group of people who fear the rapidly spreading COVID virus that has, so far, killed over 650,000 Americans and well over four million people worldwide. That group believes that people should be required to get vaccinated.
Although I am all for vaccination and I do believe that the vaccines are saving lives, there is a part of me that empathizes with those who don’t want to be forced to take it. I don’t think it’s smart to skip the vaccines. Many of the arguments I’ve heard against the vaccines seem to be mostly based on misinformation and conspiracy theories. A lot of people worry that there will be terrible side effects to the vaccines. Or they know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy whose balls shriveled up and fell off after the first shot. Personally, I think those arguments are pretty lame. But I also genuinely don’t like the idea of forcing people to do things. I wish those kinds of rules weren’t necessary, and more people would cooperate simply because it’s the right thing to do.
And I’ve also read about many conservative radio talk show hosts who have either gotten very sick from COVID or have actually died. There was a news story just this morning about a conservative talk show host named Bob Enyart, who had spread false information about COVID-19. He got sick and died. Enyart was vehemently against vaccine and mask mandates, and last year, he successfully sued the state of Colorado over mask mandates and capacity limits in churches. Enyart was all about making choices for his own health, but as a very vocal opponent of abortion, he apparently didn’t mind making healthcare choices for other people.
Curiously enough, Enyart was a Christian pastor, and he once gleefully read the names and obituaries of people who had died of AIDS while he played “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen. What a charming man… huh? As Mr. Enyart was the 5th conservative radio talk show host to die of COVID in the past six weeks, perhaps the Queen song is appropriate theme for him and his ilk.
This morning, I ran across an interesting thread in the Duggar Family News Group. Someone, yet again, compared the COVID vaccine and mask mandates to seatbelt laws.
I have mentioned before that I don’t think the COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates are the same as seatbelt laws. I mean, yes, I can see how people would make the comparison, but I don’t think it’s a very accurate one. When I was a child, I hated seatbelts and would only wear them if I was forced to… and generally that only happened when my dad was feeling controlling. In those days, a lot of people didn’t wear seatbelts. They weren’t as comfortable as they are today. Thankfully, as time has passed, the technology behind them has improved. I doubt we will ever be rid of the damned things. In any case, seatbelts are kind of different from masks and vaccines, as they don’t involve being injected into someone’s body, nor do they impact normal living and communicating as much as face masks do. You only wear them in the car. They don’t interfere with speaking, hearing, seeing, eating, or breathing.
And before anyone tries to tell me that masks don’t impede breathing, let me just stop you right there. I know they don’t. But some people do find wearing them oppressive, and the anxiety that comes from that might impede breathing. There are some people who can’t wear them for whatever reason… not too many, I will admit, but there are some. Likewise, some people can’t wear seatbelts for whatever reason. A lot of times, the reason has to do with being very obese, but sometimes it’s because of an injury or an occupation.
The point is, I don’t think seatbelts will ever go away. However, many of us hope the masks will go away, if and when the pandemic ends. Personally, I don’t see the pandemic ending happening unless a lot more people get vaccinated. But even though I think vaccines are an excellent idea and I would strongly encourage people to get the shot(s), I also feel uncomfortable with government mandates on things like medical care. Because, there are people who can’t or shouldn’t get vaccinations, for whatever reason. I also understand that some people are genuinely concerned about government overreach. Their concern isn’t entirely unfounded, although some of the arguments I’ve read are pretty ridiculous.
One thing I don’t think is helpful, though, is being rude and insulting to those who disagree. I don’t like the dogpile approach to trying to change minds, either. The above photo was shared in the Duggar Family News group, and it did invite contention. One woman posted this:
I remember when this page was about snarking on fundamentalist Christian families on television rather than promoting the divide of human kind based on personal choices they make for what they put in their own bodies.
That comment led to this response…
The original poster was offended by the image. She expressed her dismay that a total stranger would wish death on her. Then, a big, long thread of comments ensued, with the vast majority of people name-calling, hurling insults, being sarcastic, and typing “all knowing” responses at the original poster. Her response, rather than being convinced, was to dig in her heels and respond in kind. Then, she either got booted from the group, or left on her own accord.
So… what exactly was accomplished by this contentious exchange? Not much, that I can see. I think a more respectful and friendly dialogue might have done more to foster group harmony. Maybe no one’s mind would have changed, but at least there would be listening and constructive communication going on, rather than flaming and hair flip rage exits. No matter what, I don’t think it’s appropriate to wish death on people simply because they disagree with you. On the other hand, I do understand the sentiment and the frustration behind such responses. I will also admit to occasionally being a hypocrite when I get pushed too far. I’m human, after all. I do try not to start out with abuse and insults, though.
I have never liked “nannyism”, especially in laws. However, I understand why “nanny” laws are often necessary. Many people, when left to their own devices, will not do things that are in their own or the public’s best interests. I have always hated wearing seatbelts myself, but I do understand why they’re necessary. I also have a husband who will turn into Pat Boone if I don’t wear one. So I do comply with that rule.
Even though I fucking hate face masks, I comply with that rule, too. However, I hope someday it will no longer be necessary. And I had no issues whatsoever with getting vaccinated against COVID, because as a student of public health, I know the theories behind vaccines and have seen concrete evidence that most of them work. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to learning new information, nor does it mean I’m not aware of potential risks from certain vaccines.
Below is advice given to people during the Spanish Flu pandemic. I agree with most of it, although I don’t think it matters whether or not someone “obeys cheerfully”, as long as they are compliant.
My late beagle, Zane, was a prime example of a dog who didn’t do well with vaccines. He had mast cell cancer (immune system cancer) that eventually progressed to lymphoma. He was allergic to at least one vaccination, and would get tumors when he had others. I actually think some people over-vaccinate their pets, and some of the encouragement to vaccinate is due to the revenue vaccines generate. Dogs with mast cell tumors should not get any unnecessary vaccines. I’m a little concerned about Arran, because he is due for a rabies shot next month, and the rabies shots can stimulate mast cell tumors. Arran has also had mast cell tumors, though not to the same severity Zane had. Because of Zane, I have some sympathy for people who are against vaccines, even though I think their reasoning is wrong in most instances. We don’t vaccinate people like we do pets, anyway. We certainly don’t get as many shots as they do.
Although I do believe in vaccine efficacy, I am not one to run out and demand the latest and greatest shots, nor do I get every vaccine available. For instance, I’ve never in my life had a flu shot. I would get them if I spent more time around other people, though. COVID-19 is different, at least right now. There’s hope that the virus will eventually weaken and become less dangerous, as flu mostly did. But at this point, it’s not getting better. Many people are getting sick and dying, and from what I’ve read, COVID-19 is a pretty nasty way to go.
I do think sometimes we need laws to protect ourselves and each other from those who lack insight, perspective, and wisdom. On the other hand, I agree that people should be free to make choices, whenever possible. Either way, medical freedom doesn’t do a damned bit of good to anyone who is dead. So I do hope that those who are against vaccines will wise up and get with the program. I understand wanting to wait and see how other people do with the shots, but time is running out… I have read too many sad stories about people who waited too long and got sick. There are too many stories about orphaned children, and bereaved spouses, siblings, and parents. And too many people are becoming downright mean and NASTY toward total strangers. I wish we’d all remember that when it comes down to it, we’re in a community. And being in a healthy community requires compassion, responsibility, and solidarity.
That being said… sometimes people DO need protection from crazy beliefs. Case in point, an old Mr. Atheist video I came across yesterday. Religion and politics make people do stupid things, even to their children. So while I am mindful of the so-called slippery slope when it comes to government overreach, I also think some people need to be saved from “freedumb” ideas.
A few months ago, someone in my husband’s family friended him on social media. It was someone my husband hasn’t had a chance to get to know well, so Bill was excited to be Facebook friends with the person. But then, a few hours after friending Bill, the person abruptly unfriended him with no explanation whatsoever.
Bill was non-plussed. What had he done to offend this person? Bill hardly ever posts on social media, although he has admittedly become a lot more politically and socially liberal than he used to be. He also makes no secret that he’s no longer a believer in organized religions, particularly Mormonism. That means he freely curses, drinks alcohol and coffee, and laughs at ribald humor. Did the person look at Bill’s page and decide it was too “raw” for him? He didn’t know.
Although Bill was a little bit sad that this person he’d wanted to know had unfriended him with no explanation, he eventually figured it wasn’t him with a problem; the person who’d unfriended him had the issue. Life went on, and he pretty much forgot about the incident until it was brought up again by a mutual relative.
The mutual relative said that the person had decided to unfriend Bill because of Ex. The person realized that by having a connection with Bill, Ex would possibly have a connection with us. So Bill was unfriended, not because he was “offensive”, but because the other person wanted to spare Bill from offense by keeping Ex out of our sphere. And I suspect, it was also because that person likewise didn’t want any trouble from Ex.
I appreciated hearing that explanation, although I wish the person had thought to send Bill a private message or an email to let him know that the unceremonious “unfriending” wasn’t because of something Bill had done. Bill is a kind, empathic, and thoughtful person, so the truth is, he is a bit sensitive about being liked by others and not wanting to upset or offend them. But then again, when it comes to social media, I guess a lot of people feel that no one really owes anyone else an explanation. That’s one aspect of social media that I don’t like very much. Many of the “friendships” aren’t very authentic, and a lot of them have replaced what used to be “real” relationships with other human beings.
I was recently unfriended by two people with whom I had once hoped to be offline friends. I wasn’t that surprised by their decision to delete me, although perhaps because I’ve spent over half my life dealing with people in person, it still stings a little when “unfriending” happens. I had a feeling the people who unfriended me found me annoying… and the truth is, I found them a little annoying, too. But I realize that in the long run, in very few cases do I end up truly missing the people who leave my Facebook realm. After the initial ego shock of seeing the friend count go down, life goes on and I forget about them.
The people I do tend to miss are those with whom I actually interact or have ever known offline. Failing social media relationships and inevitable “unfriending” is even harder with family members because, if I’m honest, it makes me think they don’t like me at all. And the more I lose touch with people in my family, the more I think the situation is personal, and will be permanent. Thanks to Facebook, I don’t even feel that comfortable thinking about going to the family homestead for a reunion anymore, mostly due to politics and religion and social media behavior. I just assume my family would rather not see me, which makes living in Germany very convenient.
Bill’s younger daughter recently told him that she’d wanted to invite him to her wedding a few years ago. I’m assuming she would have invited me, too, although I don’t know for sure. In the end, younger daughter didn’t invite Bill, because she wanted to avoid drama with her mother. Here it was, younger daughter’s wedding day. She should have felt free to invite whomever she pleased. It should have been her day. But she was more concerned about her narcissistic mother’s feelings and, ultimately, her mother’s behavior. So she excluded Bill, even though I can guarantee he would have been a better behaved guest at her nuptials.
I don’t fault younger daughter for doing that. I might have blamed her some years ago, before I got to know her better. But I don’t feel that way anymore, because we’ve learned more about what happened during the many years in which she and Bill were not allowed to communicate. Younger daughter grew up in an environment where she was compelled to either do what her mother wanted, or suffer dire consequences. It took a few years outside of that environment for her to relax a bit and make decisions for herself.
Younger daughter didn’t even initially tell her mother about her decision to talk to Bill. Even though younger daughter is a grown woman with children of her own, and her mother lives on the other side of the country, she knew there would be trouble. So, instead of telling her mother that, as an adult, younger daughter has the right to live her life as she pleases, she maintained the false reality for a bit longer.
I can relate to younger daughter’s angst on a much smaller and less personal scale. When Bill and I first moved into our current home after leaving the toxic and abusive environment of our last, it took me several months to be able to relax and enjoy the current, healthier living situation. I kept expecting our former landlady to come over and yell at me for something, or give me a look of disgust, disdain, or disapproval as to how I live my life. I was suffering from a mild form of PTSD that had warped my thinking and reality a bit.
The truth is, ex landlady was working for us. We were paying her a lot of money for the privilege of renting her house. I should have simply reminded her of that fact and demanded that she show me basic respect. But that’s easier said than done when you’re dealing with an immature, irrational, narcissistic person. Because, as you quickly find out, narcissists can out-drama most normal, healthy people, and there will be hell to pay if you don’t play their games. So innocent, decent, well-meaning people are “punished” and have to suffer in favor of the narcissist’s need to stay in control. One of the punishments I actually enjoyed, by the way, was ex landlady’s penchant for the silent treatment. Those were actually the best months of our time with her in our lives. Remember, it’s not a punishment to be shunned by an asshole. 😉
Bill and his daughter now talk somewhat regularly. She calls him “Dad” instead of “Bill”, and she lets him see his grandchildren on Skype. She didn’t give in to her mother’s demands that she forget about her father and accept a poor substitute in Ex’s third husband. Frankly, that’s more than Bill had ever expected or hoped for, after his disastrous attempts and failures to co-parent with his ex wife.
But when she speaks to her mother, younger daughter has to listen to Ex complain about how #3 (younger daughter’s stepfather) “misses” her and wants to see “his grandchildren”. Not once has younger daughter ever heard from her stepfather expressing these bereft feelings. Sure, we’ve seen #3 post the odd social media post about how he thinks of Ex’s brood of five as “his kids”, but in reality, it’s all a big facade. In reality, he doesn’t show a lot of regard for Bill’s daughters or former stepson. He’s clearly much more interested in his own kids with the Ex than he is with her other children.
It was the same thing back in 2006, when Ex tried to get Bill to sign legal papers so #3 could adopt Bill’s daughters. He heard from Ex that #3 “loved” Bill’s girls as his own and wanted them to legally be considered his children. Never once did #3 ever personally speak to Bill about the prospect of his legally adopting the girls, just as he’s never spoken to younger daughter about his so-called “love” and affection for younger daughter’s children and thinking of them as his grandchildren.
That’s all a bunch of wishful thinking/fantastical/bullshit that Ex continues to promote. It’s a false narrative of the truth. Unfortunately, it’s easier for the healthier people to continue to tolerate that crap from Ex, than call her on it. It’s easier for younger daughter to nod and smile than tell her mother, in no uncertain terms, that Bill is the father of younger daughter, and younger daughter’s children are Bill’s grandchildren, not #3’s.
Despite Ex’s best attempts to replace Bill with her third husband, her efforts have failed with at least one of Bill’s two daughters. I’m proud of younger daughter for refusing to give in to her mother’s demands that she forget about Bill, because Bill truly loves both of his children and never should have been denied access to them. Denying him access caused a lot of damage that could, and should, have been avoided. And if Ex were a decent person and a responsible parent, she’d understand that it’s wrong to hate her exes more than she loves and respects her children. But, unfortunately, she’s a very toxic person. She’s selfish, delusional, and disrespectful. And because of that, and her propensity to be “dramatic”, good people are punished.
Bill can’t have a social media connection with his own daughter or his son-in-law. Why not? Because it would cause drama with Ex. Either she would object to it, or she would try to exploit the connection somehow. So, even though Bill is by far the healthier parent, he has to be “punished” as a form of protection– both for younger daughter and her family, and for Bill and, to a lesser extent, me. (I’m sure Ex reads this blog, though… and I don’t actually care.)
I think younger daughter is, like me, a bit of a truth teller. Truth tellers are the ones who don’t buy into the fantasy. They don’t fall prey to cognitive dissonance. They see things more clearly than others do, and they tell the truth. That tendency can make them unpopular in a sick family system, particularly when it involves someone with narcissistic tendencies. A truth teller can be a “buzz kill”. Their demands to adhere to reality can really be a downer for someone who would rather fabricate more palatable (to them) lies.
Ex would like to pretend Bill never existed, or, at the very least, see him punished for not continuing to accept her abuse. She suffered an ego blow when Bill agreed to her divorce ultimatum. The ego blow worsened when he found someone else to love him and, clearly, lives a much better life now. She’d rather not face reality and take responsibility for her mistakes. She’d rather make Bill the bad guy and punish him, and she tries to make other people punish Bill, too. But younger daughter is a truth teller, and she doesn’t accept that false reality.
I’m waiting for younger daughter to get fed up with Ex’s demands and tell her mom the way things really are, and how they’re going to be, regarding her children. She may never do it. The reality is, it’s hard to give up on your own mom, even if she is toxic and crazy, and even though there are so many other people in the world who are healthier and kinder. Ex is still her mom, and she has a special place in younger daughter’s life. Plus, younger daughter truly is a lot like Bill. She’s legitimately kind, considerate, and decent.
I feel sad for her. I think she felt like she had to apologize to Bill for “dissing” him at her wedding because of what she knew her mom would do. The fact is, it was her wedding day, and she should have had the right to do whatever she wanted. It should have been entirely her choice as to whom to invite. But Bill completely understands why she felt she had to exclude him, and he can handle it. That’s why he’s the better parent, and he has to suffer for it.
I hope that someday, younger daughter realizes that she has every right to do what she wants and needs to do for herself and her family, even if it causes her mom to bring the drama. I hope that she gets to the point at which she realizes she doesn’t have to tolerate that abuse anymore. If Ex wants to be dramatic, she can do it without younger daughter in attendance. Younger daughter is a grown woman with allies… and she can choose to opt out of the drama. Once she realizes that, maybe she can stop “punishing” the good and healthy people in her life by excluding them.
Back in 2004 or so, there was a show that used to air on ABC Family, or a similar network, that I used to watch on occasion. It was a “feel good” show called Home Delivery. The show’s formula was basically about people with hard luck stories having their dreams come true. The show featured several attractive hosts who would be there to present the fairy godmother treatment to the lucky person with a compelling sob story. I remember Home Delivery to be kind of an annoying and cloying show that appealed to hitting people in the feels. I would watch it because, frankly, I didn’t have anything better to do.
I remember one episode was about a young woman who had “severe appearance deficits”, as George Carlin might have joked. I don’t remember what the exact issues with her physical appearance were, but they were obvious and she dealt with a lot of mean behavior from others because of it. I think they may have been caused by a medical problem. In any case, I remember she loved the song “Don’t Laugh at Me” by country singer Mark Wills. I had never heard the song before I watched that episode, but I remembered Wills’ song, “I Do (Cherish You)” from a wedding at which I performed (not that song– it was played at the reception). Alas, the marriage didn’t last, and the bride has since wed twice more, though I did catch her bouquet and was married myself a couple of years later.
I am one of those folks people love to laugh at, which is probably why I have such a wicked looking resting bitch face. I’ve spent many years being ridiculed, particularly by so-called loved ones. I think that may be why I developed a sharp wit… or so people have told me, anyway. There was a time in my life when I wasn’t very quick with my words. I have an older sister who used to make me cry all the time because she would belittle me. This sister, like several others in my family, is also very witty and funny, although I think she has a tendency to be kind of mean. One time, when we were on somewhat good terms, I asked her how she got to be so quick with put downs. She told me that she’d learned from an early age to cut people down before they cut her down. It got to the point at which she would slay people with a clever barb before they knew what hit them.
I noticed that another one of my sisters also has this trait. She can be deadly with her words when she wants to be, although I don’t think she’s quite as quick witted as my other sister is. The eldest sister is above everything and not particularly funny… except for the rumor that she’s somehow morphed into a Trump supporter. I feel like she’s a victim of body snatchers! This sister, like me, was a Peace Corps Volunteer. She also has a doctorate in public health, speaks several languages, and was a ballerina for years. But she’s drunk the Republican Kool-Aid. I feel like we switched places. I used to be more conservative and she was more liberal. Now, the opposite is true. I blame my brother-in-law.
That song by Mark Wills popped into my head last night. I was reading a story about how over the past COVID-19 year, people have become extremely unruly on airplanes. I think I read that in the ten years prior to the pandemic, the FAA had dealt with some 1300 complaints total. And over the past year, with the new rules and face mask mandates, there’s been a lot of rebellion. According to that article, they’ve had 1300 complaints and counting– just since FEBRUARY.
As usual, commenters were all clamoring about how we should show no mercy to the rule flouters. Throw the book at them and toss ’em in jail! Zero tolerance! Let ’em rot with the child molesters and murderers! I understand the outrage and the sentiment, but I wish people would stop for a moment and think about what they’re suggesting.
I happen to believe that jail is an overrated punishment that is mostly ineffective at best. So I commented something along the lines of “Jail isn’t the best punishment for every crime.” That’s all I wrote. I didn’t write anything about not punishing offenders. I didn’t even express any sympathy for the rule breakers, although I can kind of understand why some of them cracked. I just wrote that I don’t think putting people in jail is the best way to handle the problem.
Do you know that at last count (because I quit looking), there were at least five laughing responses to my comment? I don’t know what was so funny about it. It was a simple statement, and like I said, it’s not like I expressed a wish for the misbehaving people not to be held accountable. I just think putting people in jail for every single offense is wrong-headed and does more harm than good, particularly in a pandemic. And, perhaps because I’m extremely irritable and stressed out right now, I lashed back at a few people who decided they needed to school me with lengthy diatribes about why we can’t let the rule breakers “run roughshod”.
The first response I got was a comment about how we should just execute people so they won’t reoffend. That response was stupid, and I said so (note– I didn’t “laugh” at the guy or call HIM stupid). The next two were from women who both kind of gave off an extremely shrill and neurotic vibe. I wanted to tell them to calm down and hear me out, rather than “laughing” at me and verbally vomiting the same tired script we’ve been hearing all year about how to deal with pandemic rule breakers.
To the first commenter, I wrote that I never said we should let the rule breakers go unpunished. I said that jail isn’t the most effective way to deal with people who break the rules. The lady had said the rule flouters would “learn a lesson”, but I think if she did her research about recidivism, she’d find that a lot of people who go to jail end up reoffending. Moreover, jail sentences don’t just affect the offender. They can have a bad effect on society as a whole. Locking up people costs money to taxpayers, and makes it more difficult for the offender to support themselves and their families. A jail experience can have a devastating psychological or even physical effect on a person… or it can have no effect at all. Again, plenty of people who do time end up going back to jail.
To the second one, whose fingers pretty much vomited out the same shrill diatribe as the first commenter’s, I wrote something along the lines of “Americans are much too wedded to the idea that we have to jail everyone who does something wrong. Consequently, we have many, many incarcerated people who are being guarded by folks who, frankly, often aren’t a lot better than they are.” Then I added that it seems to me that if controlling the pandemic is a concern, locking potentially unvaccinated people up in a crowded jail is not the best approach to fixing the problem. Then I added a comment about how it’s sad that people “laugh” at anyone who isn’t parroting the same crap in the comment sections, rather than taking a moment to consider if what they’ve said makes any sense. I ended by wishing them all a good day. A couple of people “liked” that comment.
I don’t know… maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the vast majority of people aren’t thinkers. People have a knee jerk response to so many issues. Someone does something wrong? JAIL THEM! Lock ’em up and throw away the key! Let ’em ROT! To be sure, prisons and jails do serve a purpose. I think they are mostly valuable for keeping society safe from dangerous offenders, although some people who commit egregious, but non-violent, crimes probably should go to prison, too. But not everyone needs to be locked up to be taught a valuable lesson. Maybe it’s my time living in Europe that has made me feel this way, but I really do think Americans are way too enamored with the idea of throwing people away in barred warehouses. It’s sad, ineffective, and inhumane.
Empathy is a two way street. You can’t expect people to have empathy for your situation if your rabid response to them, and their concerns, is to simply lock them up and hope they rot in prison. Jail is not necessarily the best place for people to learn empathy… although I suppose it can and does happen sometimes.
Why are so many people freaking out now, because of the “strip of cloth” they are being asked to wear across their nose and mouth? Well… I think it’s because a lot of them are tired of being told that the “strip of cloth” is not a big deal. Clearly, it IS a big deal to a lot of people. Folks who would have never caused a problem on an airplane prior to the year 2020 are now acting crazy, rebelling, assaulting and cursing at flight attendants, and behaving completely out of character. I think it’s time that we acknowledged that forcing people to wear face masks for hours on end is a problem, and it’s not a sustainable practice. A more acceptable solution must be found and implemented, or these kinds of outbursts will continue. The FAA can keep fining and banning people for life from airplanes, and we can keep throwing the offenders in jail, but eventually that will cost the airline industry, and society as a whole, money that we can’t really afford to lose. Moreover, the job of enforcing the mask wearing will continue to suck and airlines will have trouble finding people to work on their planes.
I’ve found that trying to explain this concept to people is very difficult. I generally don’t try to do that in comment sections anymore, because people have become very rigid in their thinking. And they are quick to “laugh” at anyone who thinks or dares to say anything different. People will dismiss anyone who has empathy for the “anti-maskers” as crybabies, COVIDiots, spoiled brats, irresponsible and selfish, Trump supporters, or science deniers. Speaking only for myself, I can assure you that I’m none of those things. I got my first vaccine last week, and I wear the mask when I must. I will also confess that a year ago, I was afraid the masks were going to become permanent, but this year, my gut feeling is that most people plan to ditch them as soon as they can. That makes me feel somewhat better and more hopeful about the future.
Even Dr. Fauci has said that the masks could become less of a thing soon. He has said that as more people get vaccinated, we should become more liberal about indoor mask wearing. Some people may choose to wear them, and that should be perfectly fine, but the mandates forcing people to wear them will be lifted. Frankly, I believe that once that happens, the FAA will have far fewer issues with passengers attacking flight attendants on airplanes. Instead, they’ll just go back to attacking each other over reclining their seats and being too fat for economy class.
Of course… if someone gets on a plane and does something violent or genuinely puts people’s lives at risk by being disruptive, then yes; by all means, they probably should do some time behind bars. But I don’t think a “zero tolerance– straight to jail” policy is necessarily the best approach to handling every incident or altercation on an airplane. Because, as I mentioned earlier in this post, since February, the FAA has gotten over 1300 complaints about unruly passengers. We have a lot of jail and prison facilities in the United States, but at the rate people seem to want to lock people up, we’re sure to run out of space eventually.
Now… getting back to the title of this post– “don’t laugh at me”. Why was I so annoyed by the “laughing emojis”? Part of it is because, on the whole, I’m generally upset about life right now. But the laughing at me thing has been an issue my whole life. I’m the youngest of four by a lot of years, and my whole life, people have scoffed at me, laughed at me, underestimated me, not taken me seriously, and basically treated me like I’m stupid. Sometimes, I can use that perception to my advantage, but if I’m honest, it gets really old when people feel the need to resort to ridicule and insults. I’m tired of it, and have reached a point at which I’m not willing to tolerate it anymore.
There was a time when I was much more likely to take the blame in a situation in which someone mistreated me. Like, if someone chastised, ridiculed, or humiliated me, I would just feel shame and blame myself. But now that I’m older and wiser, I realize that anyone who resorts to making other people feel bad by being rude or mean to them is the one with the problem, especially if they are a perfect stranger.
Some months ago, a YouTube acquaintance/collaborator I had once respected “yelled” at me because I commented on his video in a way that he didn’t expect or appreciate. He had wanted me to simply praise his video. My comment was short, and had nothing to do with the music in his video, but was more about world events. He proceeded to go “off” on me publicly, lecturing me about the genius of Paul Simon (seriously?) and that I shouldn’t post anything on his videos that wasn’t strictly about the video or the music. I took that to mean that he only wanted positive feedback, which he would then reciprocate with a rubber stamp comment on my videos. Wow. Don’t do me any favors.
I didn’t realize that he’d had this policy. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have posted anything. Or maybe I would have just posted, “Nice job.” or something equally banal. I mistook him for a friend, though, so I didn’t simply praise him. I didn’t insult him, nor did I write anything that was extremely offensive. He’d played “American Tune” and my comment was that America wasn’t looking that great lately. My former acquaintance, who is from Scotland, took that to be a political comment, although I didn’t mention a word about politics. He ripped me a new one. I considered responding, but decided that this was the last straw in a disturbing trend. So I deleted my comment and unsubscribed from his channel. I also temporarily hid the recordings we’d done together and stopped featuring one of our duets, because I wanted to take a few days to process his response to me. They have since been restored. I figure if he wants me to take them down, he can ask.
Do you know what this guy did? He came to my channel and took the time to delete every single comment he’d ever left for me over a span of about seven or eight years. That just told me that my initial response to his public ass ripping comment was the right one. Obviously, he’s an asshole and not worth my time. He probably felt I should be grateful to him for sharing his “genius” with me on our collaborations, but actually, I feel grateful because his shitty behavior only prompted me to learn how to play guitar with more urgency. Because I don’t want to remain in a situation where I feel like I have to be nice to someone so they’ll do me a favor. The truth is, I’d overlooked some of his prior bad behavior because I enjoyed making our collaborations. We like similar music and our voices work well together. But he obviously doesn’t respect me and, I think, was either jealous or using me on some level. I should thank him, too, because last month I posted my first two videos in which I played guitar FOR MYSELF. 😀
This doesn’t mean that I think I’m better than he is, by the way. He is a more skilled musician than I am, by far. I think he’s the type of person who doesn’t want to share the credit. He’d suggest collaborations. We’d do them. I’d post them on my channel, but I noticed that he only posted ONE of our collaborations on his channel. And that collaboration got a lot of positive comments, which he brought up repeatedly in emails to me. I think if I had sucked, he wouldn’t have offered to do more collaborations. I think the truth is, we didn’t suck, but he didn’t want to share the wealth. For some reason, he felt perfectly fine in just publicly ripping on me. I didn’t retaliate by ripping on him in kind, because it was his channel and I respect his right to run it the way he wants (although he didn’t reciprocate in that instance, either). But I did vote with my feet. Obviously, my reaction to his public belittling hit a raw nerve for him to be so petty. I’m sure he’ll find someone else to sing with, while I continue to improve my guitar playing.
Last night, I asked my friends on Facebook if I was really “that funny”. It seems like everybody is laughing at me. A number of people responded. I was kind of surprised by that, since it was meant to be a general and rhetorical statement of irritation rather than a serious question. I was heartened to read some kind responses from people I think are real friends. Many of them are people I have known offline, but a couple are people who only know me from the Internet. I will say that those who took the question seriously are high value people worth my consideration and time. Those who just “laugh” at others… not so much. However, I reserve the right to laugh at people who still champion Donald Trump.
First thing’s first. I hate the term “dependa”. Although many people use the word as a shortened version of the government/military term, “dependent”, it’s actually a shortened version of an insult. At some point, years ago, some genius started referring to a certain type of military wife as a “dependapotamus” or “dependasaurus”, depending on the audience. Eventually, the terms “dependapotamus” or “dependasaurus” got shortened to “dependa”. And now, people use it all the time, sometimes even to define themselves.
Last night, I read an article in The New York Times about people who are getting married and being platonic. They see marriage as a business idea, rather than a romantic one. They find someone they can trust and with whom they can share marital benefits. The person may be more of a best friend than a mate.
I thought the article was very interesting and, for some people, the idea of marrying someone for practical purposes is useful. Most people need or just prefer having companionship in life, and it’s helpful to have someone share the load in terms of some of life’s bigger challenges. But then I went into the comment section and noticed one woman had mentioned people in the military and how the idea of a platonic marriage could be a boon for collecting “dependa” benefits.
I will admit, it was later in the evening and I was emboldened by evening libations, but I commented that people who disrespectfully refer to military family members/spouses as “dependas” are usually not worth listening to for long. The woman who wrote that “laughed” at me, then wrote that she is a “dependa” herself.
My response was something along the lines of, “Good for you. Maybe it’s time you stopped thinking of yourself in such a derogatory way and realized that you have value in and of yourself, rather than as just your spouse’s ‘dependent’.”
And although she “laughed” again, as did someone else, I decided not to read any other responses. I have learned my lesson with that type of person. It’s a beautiful Sunday, and I have better things to do… like pluck out and shape my own pubic hairs. 😉 I know that some people will defend their “right” to claim the term “dependa” with great vigor, much like some people consistently vote against their own interests. My experience comes from years of observation and fruitless discussions with people who love using degrading labels like “dependa” and its more offensive cousins, “dependapotamus” and “dependasaurus”.
Eight years ago, I fell into a very contentious argument on the WTF Army Moments! Facebook page. Someone had posted a photo that said FRG (family readiness group) spouses shouldn’t try to “wear their spouse’s rank”. I completely agree with that, by the way. Spouses who aren’t themselves in the military should not try to claim their spouse’s rank and bully other spouses. Surprisingly enough, there are some people who do that. It’s offensive, tacky, and wrong.
But then I made the mistake of commenting that I think the term “dependents” is demeaning and should be phased out. Well… the negative response I got was nothing short of astonishing! You would have thought I had insulted someone’s mother or something. The group owner demanded to know why I thought the term “dependents” was demeaning. I responded it’s because spouses are competent adults, and in most marriages, adults are supposed to depend on each other. Plenty of military spouses have careers of their own and are perfectly capable of supporting themselves. While it’s true that I, personally, do depend on my husband for some things, he depends on me for things, too. Our relationship is mutually beneficial. And as an educated woman who is fully capable, I don’t think it’s right that capable adults are being called “dependents” by the military.
Shit went down after that. I got accused of trying to “lord” my education over the women in the group. There was a tidal wave of insults, sarcasm, profanity, and sweeping assumptions about my character and life experiences. First, I was told that my education and experience mean nothing. That I’m the same as everyone else (Gosh, I sure hope not, judging by the moronic responses of some of them). Next, I was accused of being, “gasp”, a liberal (horrors)! When I explained that I don’t define myself as conservative or liberal and really couldn’t see where my politics come into this conversation, I was accused of not being experienced about military life.
The fact that I get health insurance from the government was repeatedly brought up as to why I’m a “dependent”. That’s funny. For over two years after I got married, I paid for my own health insurance. I reluctantly gave it up when it became clear that the constant moving we’d be doing would make hanging on to it difficult and needlessly expensive. When I explained that I’ve been around military folks my whole life, first as an Air Force brat and then as an Army wife, the group owner claimed that I would never see life as it really is in the military because I’m “just a dependent”. At that point, I told the rabid person who kept attacking me that she needed to make up her mind. I mean, am I “just like every other military spouse” regardless of my education, or am I someone hopelessly lost in an “ivory tower” and clueless about military life? Someone else added that the term “dependent” is a “fucking IRS term”. It is, but the IRS does not automatically consider spouses dependents, so that point was moot.
I should add that this isn’t an earth shattering issue for me. I know it will never change in my lifetime, and I’m not going to be sending any letters to Joe Biden or Congress, or anything like that. I just think the mindset that all spouses are “dependents” is antiquated, demoralizing, and yes, kind of demeaning. Particularly since it’s also devolved into the “dependa” insult. I don’t understand why people would laugh at me or begrudge me for thinking that. Why can’t we just respect someone’s differing opinions without immediately resorting to insults and character assassinations? Isn’t that why a lot of folks put on a military uniform in the first place? Freedom?
The woman I encountered last night openly calls herself a “dependa”. She may have a very healthy self-esteem. She probably hasn’t given the term much thought. But I have thought about it a lot over the years, mainly because I have the time and energy to do so. When a military wife calls herself a “dependa”, she’s basically lumping herself in with a class of women who are assumed to be fat, uneducated, fertile slobs who are perpetually pregnant, sit on their asses all day, eat bon bons, watch daytime TV, and blow their husband’s paychecks on makeup or Coach bags. They are rumored to have married simply for Tricare benefits and have a tendency to try to “wear their husband’s rank”. And again– it’s almost always women/wives who are called “dependas”, even though many female servicemembers are married to men.
In all my years of living around military folks– first as a “brat” (another term that has come under fire, although not one I have an issue with, personally) and then as a “spouse”– I have run into very few true examples of the “dependa” stereotype. A lot of the women who marry into the military lifestyle are very strong, capable, independent, creative and smart people. Quite a few have been to college or even graduate school, and some– gasp– even have good jobs while they raise children! And then there are also wives who don’t work for money, but do a lot of volunteer work, or homeschool their children… or whatever. How they spend their time or resources is really no one else’s business, anyway, is it? That’s between the married couple, not some random person observing them at AAFES or the commissary.
There are several social media groups that are dedicated to shaming and making fun of so-called “dependas”. While it may seem like good, clean fun to take part in these groups, the fact is, sometimes they do things that are pretty questionable and have real consequences for others. For example, a few years ago, I read an article about a military wife whose Facebook photos were ripped off from her personal page and shared in a Facebook group, where perfect strangers proceeded to make fun of them. I seem to remember in one situation, a plus sized wife was wearing a bikini and dared to post it on her Facebook page. That bikini pic ended up on Dear Dependa, where people were having a field day laughing about it. In another situation, a family’s photos were stolen and posted, where they were ridiculed. Some of the pictures included children.
It later came to light that the person who had stolen the photos was an Army colonel. He had to be asked, and later threatened with legal action, to take down the photos. Here he was– a man entrusted to lead troops, serve as an example to younger, less experienced servicemembers, and make sure missions are accomplished– and he’s hunting the personal Facebook pages of military spouses, copying photos that aren’t his, and sharing them to Facebook groups, where they can be ridiculed. No wonder so many civilians think the military is full of brain dead, uneducated thugs who get off on killing people. That’s not the actual case, by the way… I know plenty of smart, decent people in the military. But guys like that colonel, who engage in online bullying and harassment, don’t do a lot for the military’s image. How can a person like that be entrusted to be a good leader, responsible for expensive equipment and the lives of so many people?
While I know I won’t change anything by writing this post about why I think the term “dependent” and its derogatory bastardizations “dependapotamus”, “dependasaurus”, and “dependa” ought to go, I do think it’s sad that some people think it’s okay to refer to themselves in that way. I doubt many people think about it for long. I doubt the woman I ran into last night would have liked it if I had said something like, “So basically, you think of yourself as just a fat, unemployed, lazy, perpetually pregnant woman who leeches off her husband’s paycheck? Kudos to you for being able to read, at least.” Because, when she refers to herself as a “dependa”, she’s basically saying that the people who make fun of “dependas” should think of her in that way. Like it or not, “dependa” is a shortened version of insulting terms. It’s kind of like referring to oneself as a “bitch” or a “bastard” or something worse.
I want to ask some of these people what a so-called “dependa” could do to make themselves respectable… Would they qualify as fellow human beings worthy of a modicum of regard if they lost some weight and got jobs at AAFES? What about someone like me? I am now a retiree’s wife. Many would say I’m fat. I don’t have a regularly paying job, but I write blogs and earn some money from that endeavor. Am I worthy of respect? Or would they call me a “dependa” simply because of my lifestyle?
Ah, no matter. I know I am worthy of respect. Those who don’t want to give it to me aren’t worth the worry. And those who disrespect themselves by calling themselves “dependa” probably aren’t worth the worry, either. Particularly, when they don’t realize that they’re making things harder for themselves by seeing themselves in that way and emboldening bullies in the military community.
It IS true, in my experience, that people who regularly use that term are not worth listening to for more than a minute. They’re usually the type of people who can’t stand smart, accomplished, intelligent, and articulate women, and they would just prefer it if anyone who doesn’t have a penis just shuts up and does what she’s told. I’m serious. There are some truly vile, misogynistic, abusive people in the military culture, and they don’t care about anyone or anything but themselves, despite the military “esprit de corps” ethos they are supposed to follow. They may seem alright on the surface, but once you spend any time talking to them, you find out they have little to no regard for anyone– particularly women.
And so, when a woman calls herself a “dependa” and actually defends her “right” to refer to herself in such a way, all I can do is shake my head in dismay. I just think it’s sad. Surely, she’s better than the “dependa” stereotype. Or, I would hope so… I would at least hope that, deep down, she thought of herself in kinder, more flattering terms. I would really hope she has more self-respect. The vast majority of military wives truly are worthy of, at the very least, self-respect and dignity. If you don’t have respect for yourself, it’s hard to ask others to have respect for you. Just something to think about… especially if you’re a military wife reading today’s post.
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