condescending twatbags, Ex, memories, narcissists, nostalgia

“Dick”… a man who doesn’t know dick! On not “suffering in silence” anymore…

Last night, I was on Facebook, reminiscing with fellow Longwood University graduates about a wonderful professor we all knew. In my case, she was the very first Longwood professor I met when I came to orientation during the summer of 1990. I was immediately impressed by her optimism and enthusiasm. She was friendly and fun and dynamic, and it was all 100% genuine. She really set an exciting tone for me during those early days at Longwood. I’ve never forgotten it, or her. She was the first of MANY excellent professors I had in college.

For many years, this professor taught speech and theater. I was an English major, but I had double minors in speech and communications, so I did end up having her for one of my classes. I always remember her to be a wonderful, kind, and energetic role model.

A little 90s era mood music for people like “Dick”…

During my junior year at Longwood, I had this professor for a course called Interpersonal Communications. It was a large class, so after class began, she decided to split it into two sections. She wanted me to take the later section, which was co-taught by a teaching assistant. I had a conflict, though, because I was also taking voice lessons in the music department, and my lessons were scheduled during the time the other section was being held. Voice lessons were arranged privately between teacher and student. Obviously, my Interpersonal Communications professor had looked up everyone’s schedules, saw that I didn’t have another scheduled class, and figured she could just stick me in the other section.

I don’t remember why we did it this way, but I ended up attending both sections of the class. On the days I had my voice lessons, I went to the earlier session. On the other days, I went to the later class. It worked out fine, and I got an A in the class, although I wonder what would have happened if I’d had a job or some other commitment… but then, it was Farmville, Virginia in the early 90s, and jobs weren’t that plentiful in those days.

This professor’s class was always interesting. I remember she had people come in to speak to us. One day, a physical education professor, notorious for being a very tough grader, came in and told us about how he and his ex wife had lost a child to leukemia. I didn’t have this P.E. professor myself, but I remember my friends talking about how difficult his class was. When I heard his tragic story about how he’d lost a child and it ruined his marriage, I saw him in a very different light.

The professor also told us a lot about herself, and her history. I distinctly remember her talking about her first husband, the father of her sons, and how he was a severe alcoholic. My father was an alcoholic, so I empathized a lot with her story about her ex husband. One day, I wrote in a paper about my father and this professor gifted me with an insightful book about how to deal with alcoholics. I ended up passing it on to my mom, and she was so very grateful, because the book was helpful to her. I also remember going to this professor’s home one Saturday, along with the rest of our class, and being treated to a wonderful home cooked brunch. I still remember her delicious breakfast casserole.

Suffice to say… I have some very warm and fuzzy memories of this professor, and my college, where I got an excellent education in a supportive environment, and found so many lifelong friends. The professor is still living, but is currently in a nursing home/assisted living housing. Her health is declining. So we were all in this Facebook group, remembering her, and I was really enjoying all of the stories and memories… Someone shared her mailing address so people who love her can send cards to her.

And then, he showed up…

There’s one in every crowd, isn’t there? That person who just has to come in and shit on everything. That person who has to break wind in the middle of a room where there’s nothing but good vibes, sunshine, and fresh air. I’ll call him Dick, because frankly, that’s what he is. But that’s not his real name.

I kind of knew Dick when we were students at Longwood. We were both involved with the radio station. It was an activity I had really enjoyed and had a knack for doing. My junior year, someone nominated me for music director of the station. Dick was also nominated. He had ambitions to work in radio. I probably did too, although I don’t have the same kind of overbearing, domineering personality that Dick has.

I remember that Dick had rather forcefully inserted himself in the business at the radio station. He used to lecture everyone about the FCC regulations, warning the disc jockeys about not playing music with swear words, lest we get a “$50,000 FINE!”. I don’t remember why he was lecturing people, as at the time this was happening, he didn’t have any kind of official authority. We were all volunteers anyway.

I also remember that he was constantly ordering people to play new music instead of whatever they wanted to play on their shows. A lot of the music he wanted people to play, quite simply, sucked. But he was bound and determined to be in charge, and was trying to force everyone to do things his way, even though the station only had ten watts of power and could only be heard within a six mile radius of the school. He wanted to take over, come hell or high water.

I remember that Dick set his sights on vanquishing me in our mutual bid to be music director. He harassed me when I was on the air and complained about me to the station manager. He got his male radio station friends to gang up on me, even blatantly getting them to publicly endorse him during our meetings. His friends were popular and into music, but they were otherwise slackers who didn’t really give a shit about their educations.

I had worked very hard at radio, taking time slots for shows that no one else wanted. At one point, I was on the air from midnight to four in the morning on Saturdays. I did those shows because I truly loved radio, even though I’m not naturally a night owl and people weren’t always listening at that hour.

And then Dick came in and RUINED it. I have not forgotten that, nor, if I’m honest, can I say that I’ve forgiven him for being such an insufferable control freak and shitting on an activity I enjoyed so much. I’m not very good at forgiveness.

I couldn’t stand Dick, and since I was not as resilient or assertive back then as I am now, I ended up quitting the radio station so I wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore. I regret that I did that now. In fact, even then I hated to do it. Unfortunately, once the radio station was overtaken by Dick and his cronies, I just couldn’t stomach it, or him.

Of course, today I would politely tell Dick to go fuck himself. Therapy is a good thing.

I never forgot Dick…

So last night, there we were, posting our memories about this beloved Longwood professor. In comes Dick.

Do you know what that asshole did? He related a story of his own about the professor. He’d had her for a class. Because she was a very caring and engaged teacher, one day she pulled him aside and asked him why he wasn’t participating in class. And Dick wrote that he told the professor he’d already read all the books she’d assigned when he was still in high school. He related this story in a smug, superior way, as if we should be impressed.

Then, to the rest of us, he wrote that Longwood isn’t a prestigious school like the University of Virginia or Rutgers University (Dick is from New Jersey). And that none of his employers ever cared that he went to Longwood.

Before I knew it, I posted “You were a total jerk in the 1990s, and I can see that nothing has changed.”

Someone else asked him what he was doing in the group, since he had such disdain for Longwood. Clearly the rest of us love the school, even if it’s not the most prestigious university. And, actually, Longwood is a pretty good school, especially for teachers, although there’s a lot more to a good college experience than reputation and acceptance rates. My husband, Bill, is a graduate of American University, which is a well-known, prestigious school. But he marvels all the time about the wonderful experience I had at Longwood, and the fact that I still know professors and fellow graduates almost thirty years post graduation.

Dick’s self-congratulatory post about how “above” Longwood he is, especially in a thread about a wonderful teacher, was bad form and totally out of place. It reminded me of something Donald Trump would do.

Maybe Longwood isn’t for everyone, but it’s a fantastic school for many people. Dick has no right to come in and take a dump on other people’s good memories about a beloved professor with his negative, pompous, arrogant bullshit.

Dick responded to me. He wrote, “I don’t remember you at all.”

I’m not at all surprised that he doesn’t remember me; and, in fact, I am relieved. So I wrote, “Good. I’m glad you don’t remember me. Let’s keep it that way.”

This morning, I noticed that Dick’s comments were deleted. I hope he got deleted from the Facebook group, too, since he obviously has such a low opinion of our alma mater. What a narcissistic asshole!

Although maybe it was wrong for me to call Dick a “jerk”, it was obviously something he needed to hear. Or maybe it was just something I needed to tell him. I know I wasn’t the only person who couldn’t stand him back in the day. Based by the reactions he got last night, I’ll bet I wasn’t the only person who was shocked by his comments about our teacher. I’m sure a lot of people were suffering in silence.

Obviously, Dick hasn’t matured beyond who he was thirty years ago. But I have done a lot of growing… and I have Longwood, in part, to thank for that. It’s too bad Dick wasted his time at such an “inferior” school for his prodigious “gifts” and “talents”. Wish he’d gone somewhere else.

And now for a somewhat related segue about narcissism and how the universe allows us to fix recurring situations…

Bill and I have both noticed that sometimes, the universe gives you a way to fix wrongs from the past. Last night, I got a chance to tell “Dick” that he’s a jerk. I wouldn’t have ordinarily called him a jerk. Ordinarily, I would have used more profane language. But, because I was commenting in a thread about a wonderful Longwood professor, I decided to keep my comments rated PG. Yea for self-control! That’s something of which impulsive narcissists don’t have much!

Bill and I have had a lot of dealings with narcissists. Each time we deal with someone who is narcissistic or has a “high conflict personality”, we get better at handling or flat out avoiding their bullshit. Slowly, but surely, we’ve found ways to deal with difficult people more effectively, and in a healthier, more assertive manner.

It started with Bill’s ex wife. She is an extreme narcissist, and Bill’s years with her have severely affected us both. We still talk about her, although not nearly as much as we used to, since we’ve managed to process and completely recover from the damage she wrought on Bill. She still comes up today, though, because Bill has been talking to his younger daughter. Bill’s daughter is still extremely affected by her mother’s narcissism. She still talks to her mom, so she still gets injured by her. And then there’s all those years she spent growing up with her mom treating her like a possession/servant, rather than a separate human being who should have been allowed to be a child.

Bill and his younger daughter were kept apart for many years, so every time they Skype, they have a lot of ground to cover. The Ex inevitably comes up in every conversation… and with every conversation, new and shocking things are revealed. Last night, as I was reeling from “Dick’s” nerve, Bill was hearing the latest about his ex wife, and how she continues to use and abuse the people closest to her– especially the people she’s birthed. And she apparently HATES #3, but stays with him, because otherwise she’d either go on welfare or– horrors– be forced to work!

We really shouldn’t be shocked by Ex’s shenanigans, though. She’s just doing what all narcissists do. They behave in shockingly self-centered and inappropriate ways, leaving more reasonable and empathetic people with shaking hands and nausea, or maybe just a sick sort of amazement and head shaking at their incredible nerve.

I shouldn’t be so shocked when I hear stories about how, when Bill’s two daughters were growing up, they’d spend hours doing the laundry, folding and delivering the clean clothes. Ex would address the girls while looking at her cell phone. The piles of laundry would be sitting on her bed, and Ex would say, “Well, this is all fine and good, but you should be putting the clothes away for me, too.”

Younger daughter, to her credit, refused. She and Ex butted heads about a lot of things, because even though younger daughter is as kind and empathic as Bill is, she’s not a doormat. I saw this tendency in her when she was a child, and I remember telling Bill that I knew she and Ex would fight a lot as she came of age. At the time, I thought younger daughter was like her mother.

I knew she’d eventually get in touch with us, and I dreaded it, because I figured she’d try to manipulate us the way Bill’s former stepson had. But it turns out that, actually, younger daughter is a very good person who, underneath all of her empathy and kindness, has a backbone and a limit to what she’ll tolerate. And she very wisely got the hell out of her mother’s house as soon as she turned 18.

Unfortunately, older daughter is now 30 and still cleans her mother’s house, does the laundry, babysits her younger, severely autistic brother, and languishes with student debt that her mother forced her to take out and share the excess with the household. Older daughter doesn’t get along with the 18 year old daughter Ex has with #3, and she told Bill’s younger daughter that she was so happy because she’d gone into her sister’s room to change the sheets and suddenly realized her sister was at college.

Yes, it’s a shock that older daughter, who has a college degree and life skills, is still enslaved by her narcissistic mother and changing the sheets for her younger adult sister. But you get what you settle for, right? Ex’s daughter with #3 is allowed to go away to college, because she stayed in state, and Ex can exploit her student loans, just like she did with Bill’s daughters. But Ex didn’t want younger daughter to go to BYU… in fact, she even told younger daughter that she hadn’t turned out the way she was “supposed to”. She wasn’t supposed to go to BYU and marry a guy from Utah. She was supposed to stay close to Ex, so Ex could keep using her for doing chores and getting narcissistic supply.

Bill doesn’t mind talking to his daughter about Ex. They need to compare notes. That lessens Ex’s power, since younger daughter can get information for more credible sources than her mother, who lies and twists the truth to suit her agenda. Yes, it keeps Ex in our sphere, but we get better at dealing with her and laughing at her ridiculous antics, rather than getting upset by them. Just like last night, instead of suffering in silence when “Dick” stank up the room, I called him a jerk for hijacking our thread and making it about himself and his alleged superiority. Honestly… was he expecting us to be impressed by that? I’ll say it again. What a narcissistic asshole!

And, those of you who read my protected post from a couple of days ago, might also realize that I dealt with a similar troublemaker, who was stirring up shit in my wine group, by kicking her out and blocking her. I didn’t give her a chance to cause more trouble. She was literally making me feel physically ill with her toxic bullshit. So I kicked her out, dusted off my hands, and now, things are a lot more peaceful and stress free for me… and probably others who had suffered in silence.

I’m certainly not perfect. I have a lot of neuroses and complexes. I have a lot of hang ups that stem from my “troubled past”. I continue to work on them, though, and I think I’ve made some progress, even if it’s not always obvious to my readers or other people.

Maybe I shouldn’t have called “Dick” a jerk, but it sure felt good to do that, rather than suffer in silence. He needed to be called out for his self-important comments about how Longwood was “beneath him” and a kind, caring professor, who’d regarded him and her job enough be concerned about him, was “unworthy of teaching him”, since he was so well-read, skilled, and talented and belonged at a “better” school.

Likewise, I don’t have to suffer in silence regarding Ex… or toxic people in my wine group who don’t know how to behave like good citizens, rather than stirring up shit and sabotaging what I’ve built. There was a time when I might have let the troublemaker in my wine group shut me down, just as I once let Dick shut me down. But those days are over. I’ve evolved. Clearly Dick and his ilk are the same jerks they were 30 years ago.

And now, that we’ve learned and evolved, Bill and I can help younger daughter free herself from her mother’s craziness, too. What a good feeling that is.

Standard
psychology, rants

For shame!

As Germany is about to enter yet another partial lockdown, I’ve been looking for more ways to occupy my time. I decided to hang out in a Facebook group devoted to fellow graduates of Longwood College. I specify Longwood College because that was the name of the school when I attended. It is now known as Longwood University, and it’s changed quite a lot since my day. Those of us who were Longwood students before all of the insane building projects like to hang out there and reminisce about the old days.

Things have been pretty slow in that group lately, save for the frequent posts by one guy who has managed to sell Longwood College swag. Someone complained about the frequent sales posts. She said the group wasn’t intended to be a sales site. I have to admit, she’s right. But it’s not entirely the seller’s fault, since people did want him to start selling the Longwood College branded merchandise. He supposedly went through a lengthy licensing procedure in order to get permission to sell the stuff.

Now… I don’t actually care too much about the sales postings. It’s easy for me to scroll past them. But I did agree that things in the group had gotten kind of dull. A couple of months ago, I started a thread about Erin McCay George, a woman who used to be the editor of the college’s newspaper, The Rotunda. She ended up murdering her husband for insurance money and is now in prison. She also wrote a book about what it’s like to be in prison. For several days, that was a hot thread. No one seemed to take any issue with it.

Yesterday, I started a more innocuous thread about the State Theater’s roof collapsing during the spring semester of 1994. But then I remembered another “true crime” case involving a fellow alum. The trouble was, the case was about a man who is in prison for viewing child pornography. Although no one seemed to have a problem with chatting about a female murderer who is in prison, it somehow felt potentially icky to bring up the case about the guy who’s in prison for viewing kiddie porn.

People asked me to “spill the tea” about the case, so before I posted the details, I wrote that the crime was pretty yucky. I didn’t mind sharing what I know about it, but I advised anyone who had an issue with it to say so. No one did. In fact, I got more pleas to “spill the tea”, so I did. Bear in mind that this case is over ten years old and was all over the news in Texas back in 2009, 2010, and in 2016. In fact, one can even read very interesting legal documents about the case online. They are readily available to everyone. I also wrote about the case on my old blog.

So, without naming the guy explicitly, I wrote about the case in this group. Then I provided a link to a FindLaw article about his case. Sure enough, I got a shaming comment from someone who was “disgusted” that I would open that can of worms. I wrote that was why I posted a warning as the initial post. The story of the crime was in the comments. She could have scrolled past. She chose not to.

She pressed on that I shouldn’t have shared the story and implied that I should be ashamed of myself. My response was, “Why? No one had a problem with my post about Erin George, who MURDERED someone.” At least in this case, no one died.

Then someone else joked that no one should tell me anything “personal”. And I wrote that this was a news story that was covered extensively in Texas. It wasn’t confidential information. Moreover, I didn’t even write the guy’s name, although I did share a link about the case. It would be one thing if this was something secret, rather than just taboo. But it wasn’t a secret, nor was it even new news. Some people are interested in true crime. I certainly am.

Even if this case was not about someone I knew of in college, I would have found it very interesting, mainly due to the way he got caught. Basically, he hired someone to house/dog sit and did not lock down his computer. She helped herself to the computer, claiming that she was trying to rip music from one of his CDs (which investigators later found no evidence of her doing). She found his stash of child pornography and then went to the police. Granted, this happened in 2009, but it’s still amazing to me that someone with a habit like that one wouldn’t be more careful.

Some people in the group were grateful that I shared the story, salacious as it was. The one woman who “shamed” me eventually got swept up in trading insults with one of the more vociferous posters– the one who had complained about the many sales posts. Meanwhile, I was left perplexed that she’d tried to make me feel small for sharing a story about a ten year old news item. Yes, it was a negative story about an alum, but I did take the time to warn those who didn’t want to read it. And why should the shamer feel she has the right to dictate what people post about if something is not explicitly against the group’s rules? Just like I have explained in response to complaints about my blog, I can’t know what will or won’t offend individual people. I suspect more people were interested in the story– again well reported in the news– than upset by it.

I ended up explaining once again that I knew that some might not think the story about the pedophile was an appropriate post, but if someone who only wants to read positive posts doesn’t heed an explicit warning that a topic might be icky, that’s kind of on them. Even on this blog, I post explicit warnings when I’m about to get raw, raunchy, or inappropriate. Those who were offended by the post after reading the warning need to take responsibility for themselves. Moreover, I don’t understand why it’s okay to post about a murderer, but not a pedophile. No, it’s not a happy topic, but I explained that it wouldn’t be. She had a choice to avoid the topic entirely, but instead decided to call me out.

I have a problem with “shamers”. I’ve found that, so often, people who shame other people have an agenda. They have a momentary spark of self-righteous pleasure. It makes them feel better about themselves for being “above” another person. But the problem with that mindset is that as you point fingers at someone, chances are, a few fingers are pointing right back at you.

Take, for instance, last year, when a certain person sent me a private message “begging” me not to drag a mutual acquaintance through the mud on the Internet. She tried to appeal to my sense of shame in an attempt to silence me, even though Bill and I were victimized by the person she was protecting. The “certain person” who tried to shame me was very vocal about her desire to be “private” in her own life, yet she disclosed to me that she was sharing, and probably gleefully discussing, my personal business with the person she didn’t want me to “trash”. She’d write “supportive” comments to me on my blog, deleting them after she knew I’d seen them, although she didn’t delete all of them, and yes, they were used as evidence against the person whose honor she was defending. All the while, they were sitting around having a fine time reading my blog. Granted, it was a public blog, but I think she knew perfectly well that she was stirring the shit pot and being massively hypocritical. I think she was hoping that Bill and I would take the heat for shit she did and never took any responsibility for doing. And yet I’M the one who should be ashamed? I don’t think so.

In the back of my head, I knew what she was doing. But when she actually came right out and admitted it, and then tried to make ME out to be the asshole, that was just too much disrespect. I’m definitely not the one who should be ashamed about what happened. All I did was write the truth. It wasn’t a flattering look, sure, but abusive behavior rarely is. The person who was being protected tried to take advantage of us and ripped us off. We suspect she’s done it to other people who didn’t hold her accountable. We took legal action and prevailed, and we’re about to put the last nail in the coffin. Shit’s going to get even more real, as well it should. It would be a bigger shame not to address what happened and do our part to protect other people from someone else’s abusive, predatory behaviors.

Should I be ashamed for pointing out that things aren’t always rosy? Should I suffer in silence when someone treats me badly? Asking someone to be silent when they’re being abused is in itself abusive behavior. Shaming someone for being open and honest is shady behavior. I’ve had enough of that kind of treatment. I’m not going to take it anymore, especially from liars and cheats.

As for the woman in the alumni group, I have no idea what motivated her to try to shame me. She probably should know that I have no shame. I’m the same woman who made up a song called “Big Pink Dildo” to the tune of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”. I’m not sure what her goal was… did she expect me to delete the thread? Apologize? I explicitly gave her warning. She could have practiced some self-control and accountability. Not everyone is a docile, genteel, “class act” like she is. What gives her the right to try to dictate what other people say and do? What gives her the right to speak for others when she chastises people for communicating things she thinks are “inappropriate”? She’s one of over 1860 people in that group. She should only speak for herself.

As for the “certain person” who tried to shame me into being silent and has stalked my blogs for years, KINDLY GO FUCK YOURSELF. Your efforts at advocacy for our mutual acquaintance made things a hell of a lot worse than they needed to be. If you had simply minded your own business and not done your level best to try to help your “friend” screw us, your “friend” would probably not be in the situation she’s in. Moreover, your intel gathering skills need lots of work. You obviously misjudged us.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it is appropriate to call people out. But nine times out of ten, shaming is not about righting a wrong. It’s about one person temporarily feeling better about themselves for humiliating another person. Was the woman who called me out really upset with me for posting about a pedophile? Would she defend the pedophile’s actions? My guess is that I actually have more empathy for him than she does. The fact is, as awesome as Longwood is, there have been some pretty bad and, dare I say, fucked up things that have happened there over the years. I have never seen anyone have a problem with those topics– Erin George the murderer, the fire at Dr. Sprague’s house that killed her, the murder of Dr. Debra Kelley, her estranged husband, their daughter and her friend, and the murder of a local antiques dealer, just to name a few. We’ve discussed these things at length with no shaming. Why is a pedophile different?

Standard
nostalgia, true crime

Juicy threads!

I belong to a Facebook group that is dedicated to us old fogies who went to Longwood University when it was still Longwood College. I love nostalgia groups. I have a really long memory for obscure details and I like to share them with people who can add to them or are amazed by them. Yesterday, I really got on a roll and started three threads in that group.

The first thread was about the Tea Room at Longwood. It was basically a “fancy” restaurant for students. For five bucks, you could have a steak dinner… or something like that. I only got to eat there once. I didn’t know it existed for most of my time there. I was in a music fraternity for women (Sigma Alpha Iota) and a regional representative came to visit our chapter. We took her to dinner at the Tea Room. I remember enjoying the experience.

Sadly, a few years after I graduated, the building the Tea Room was in caught on fire. They rebuilt the Rotunda, but I don’t think the Tea Room survived. A bunch of people had memories of it, though… and lots of people like me didn’t know it existed. I’m glad I had my one chance to try it. Longwood actually had good food in the 90s, though.

The second thread was about French Pool. In my day, French was a dormitory, but I guess at one time, it was a gym, and I believe right now, it’s a computer lab. When I was at Longwood, French had racquetball courts and a pool. Other people said that it also had a basketball court, but I don’t remember ever seeing that. I do remember swimming in French Pool one time. It was an indoor pool, but there were garage doors that opened so that you could get some outdoor weather. The pool at the Natural Bridge Hotel and Conference Center was also like that, back in the day. And, just like the pool at Natural Bridge, they also closed the French Pool.

When I was at Longwood, the French Pool was kind of on its last legs. It was often closed. However, it was a really pretty pool– very old school, and kind of small. I read that Longwood got rid of its other pool, which was in what was known as Lancer Hall when I was a student, but is now called Willett Hall. I remember swimming in the pool at Lancer Hall when I was a freshman. A friend of mine was a lifeguard there. We used to go in the evenings and I remember doing flips off of the diving board (which I figured out how to do quite by accident). That pool also had a natatorium, which allowed people to watch swimmers from a window under the water surface.

I guess the pool has been drained because it looks like the college is going to open a new convocation and events center and the old pool is obsolete, having been opened in 1980. Hopefully, they will include a pool, since I doubt people want to have to go to nearby Hampden-Sydney, a private men’s college, to use their pool, or rent an apartment off campus to have pool access. Especially since the “Hamsters” can be a bit snobby about Longwood. The funny thing is, when I was at Longwood, you had to pass a swimming test in order to graduate or take a swimming class and pass it. Now they don’t have a pool? WTF!

And finally, there was more talk about Erin McCay George, whom I have written about a few times on this blog. Erin George, author of the book A Woman Doing Life: Notes from a Prison for Women, was editor of the school newspaper when I was at Longwood. She abruptly left school before graduating. Word on the street was that she left because she was caught embezzling money intended for the newspaper to fund a trip to England to meet her boyfriend, James George. She met James George on the Internet when it was still in its infancy.

I posted about how Erin had run a couple of really controversial stories in the paper that had the whole campus outraged. I wrote about that in this post, which includes links to two posts I wrote for my original blog about how I came to realize that Erin had written a book about prison life that is now being used in a lot of criminal justice classes. Anyway… after reminiscing with people who were at Longwood at the time and knew Erin, I’m beginning to think that the spicy newspaper stories from 1992 that so upset people on campus were, in part, intended to be a distraction from what she was doing with money that she had allegedly stolen from the student newspaper.

Longwood had, and probably still has, a strict honor code. Lying, cheating, and stealing were not tolerated. Since she was evidently creatively using college funds to enhance and advance her relationship with her British boyfriend, it could be that the scandalous news stories were intended to shift focus from her alleged illicit activities to the content of the newspaper. Or maybe it wasn’t…

Erin went on to marry her boyfriend and then, just six years later, shot him in the head at point blank range for $700,000 in insurance money. She was eventually sentenced to 603 years in prison. Of course, she won’t serve that many years because it’s impossible, but I think it was mainly passed down to ensure that she is never released. Parole was abolished in Virginia in 1995, although some convicted felons can be released from prison early if they meet certain requirements and if they committed their crimes when parole still existed. Erin committed her crimes after parole was abolished.

Anyway, it’s clear that a lot of people didn’t remember the newspaper scandal in the 1990s and even fewer knew that Erin was in prison and had written a book. I reconnected with someone who was at Longwood when I was and knew Erin, explaining that Erin had a friend in one of the few eccentric English professors at Longwood during that time, a man named William Woods. I had Mr. Woods for a couple of classes. He was a lot of fun. I seem to remember that in the early 1990s, when this was going on, Mr. Woods was obsessed with Madonna’s Sex book, an expensive “coffee table” book that was full of erotic images. At the time, it was considered very risque.

I remember Vanilla Ice (Robert Van Winkle) was popular then, and Madonna had dated him. I think some of their sexy pictures were in that book and Vanilla Ice broke up with her over it. According to a Huffington Post article about their relationship, Vanilla Ice said of Madonna to the British tabloid, News of the World,

“She was older than me and a great lover… But I broke up with her after she printed that book because I was hurt to be an unwitting part of this slutty package. It was disgusting and cheap. We were in a relationship yet it looked like she was screwing all these other people.”

Since Mr. Woods was supposedly Erin’s ally, and he was so fascinated with Madonna’s Sex book (as well as the Price Club), I wonder if maybe he influenced her to dedicate an issue of the Rotunda to “safe sex”, which included the free distribution of condoms in the paper. Of course, at that time, one of the fraternities at Longwood also used to have an annual “safe sex” party, which included t-shirts one could buy. I believe that fraternity was eventually kicked off campus for hazing. That’s just speculation from yours truly. I really don’t know where the truth lies. Still, so many years after all of that happened, I kind of wonder if the prosecutors who worked to bring Erin to justice ever looked at her time at Longwood, which led up to her relationship with her victim and his ultimate untimely demise. Looking back on that time, it’s clear that trouble was brewing years before it culminated in murder.

I read a couple of old news articles about Erin George’s case and they implied that she confessed to the murder, claiming that George would not give her a divorce. According to those articles, one of her former cellmates said that Erin told her that her husband, James George, “had it coming”. But looking at the evidence– George was buying insurance but backed out because he was a smoker and it would cost too much– and two days later, Erin falsified his signature on paperwork and paid the premiums with a secret account she had… and then claiming that it was “normal” for her to sign his name on stuff since she “handled the business in their relationship”, I can’t help but think of Bill’s ex wife. Bill’s ex, a narcissist who abused him, also “handled the business” in their relationship, to disastrous results.

I doubt very much that James George refused to give Erin a divorce. I think the issue was, she simply didn’t want to have to deal with him anymore and murdering him for insurance money was the easiest way, in her mind, to make sure he was out of the picture for good. She clearly wanted to split from him, but she wanted to make sure she got paid handsomely without incurring the high cost and personal risk of divorce… and would never have to deal with custody issues, his influence regarding their three children, or the children having a stepmother. But again– just my speculation, having been married to a man whose ex wife was also very destructive (though thankfully not yet murderous– that I know of, anyway) and similarly narcissistic. I will admit that I don’t know anything more about this case than what I’ve read and deduced on my own, based on my own dealings with this type of person. I could be wrong, and I doubt we’ll ever know the real story.

Sometimes, I wonder if I missed my calling as a true crime writer. On the other hand, looking back at Erin George, I wonder if, had she been slightly less narcissistic and antisocial, she might have had a great career as a provocateur or paparazzo. She clearly had little fear of publishing things that would upset people. Longwood, in the 1990s, was a pretty conservative place– though not as conservative as Liberty University, just down the road in Lynchburg, was– and still is.

Posting the link to Erin’s book for those who are interested. As an Amazon Associate, I get small commissions from Amazon when sales are made through my site.

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social media

You can go now…

We had a pretty dull long weekend. Bill had Friday off because of the Fourth of July, but we didn’t end up doing anything special, despite Bill’s best efforts to get me out of the house. However, I did have a good guitar day yesterday, which I wrote about on my travel blog. My travel blog, by the way, is going to wake up again soon, because I have booked a short trip that starts in eleven days. We will spend three nights in the Eifel region of the Mosel Valley, which is about a two hour drive from where we live. There’s a lot of stuff to do outdoors, so I think we’ll be busy, especially if the weather is good. Bill has been a good sport about my stubborn refusal to venture out, although I think he’s feeling kind of tense.

I’ve mostly been trying to stay out of trouble on social media, although I’m still thinking that it may be time to move on from it. Last night, Red Peters, a hilarious comedian who writes and sings funny songs and promotes the songs done by other people, got really pissed off by one of Facebook’s recent censorship policies. He says he’s going to get off of Facebook by September 1st. I can’t blame him, as I was also recently wrist slapped by Facebook over something really stupid. Maybe I’ll follow suit… or maybe not. But one thing is for certain. Facebook may be a way to keep in touch with friends and family, but it’s also the source of a whole lot of annoyances.

Take, for instance, a recent trend I’ve noticed. Sometimes my “friends” send me private messages. The messages are almost never about anything important. They’re often videos or memes that, for whatever reason, they don’t want to post on their own page, and sometimes they send them without comment. Or they put them on their page, but they also send them via PM to their friends. Personally, I don’t like this practice. I understand that some people do it because it’s something obnoxious or controversial and they only want to share it with people who will appreciate it and not start a shit storm. I get that, and I do have a couple of friends who are very civilized, but have a good sense of humor and they know I’ll think something’s funny and even share it for them.

But– I also sometimes get these PMs from people I don’t know that well and/or engage with often. Sometimes, they’re the annoying “pass it on” posts– you know, like the ones that tell you to post what color your bra is (I rarely wear them anymore unless I’m going out). It’s supposed to be for breast cancer awareness, but it’s really just a stupid timewaster that doesn’t really do anything more than irritate people. Below is an excerpt about the bra campaign from a book entitled Online Activism: Social Change Through Social Media:

Yes, I got these messages. No, I did not participate.

Sometimes they’re just memes or videos sent without comment. If the sender is someone I know well and/or have engaged with more than a couple of times, I may have an inkling as to why they sent the message. Maybe I’ll even care enough to ask them. I still think it’s an irritating practice to PM these things, mainly because I think private messages should be reserved for items that really should be kept private and are actually important. Memes and videos don’t generally fall into those categories. Still, I’m more willing to cut more slack to people I know than people I don’t.

Last night, someone sent me this meme without comment:

How should I take this?

The person who sent this is a nurse. We “met” on a site for second wives and stepmothers, and there was a time when we interacted frequently. She lives far away from me, even when I’m stateside, so we have never met offline. Lately, we haven’t been chatting much at all. So last night, when I got a PM from her out of the blue, and it turned out to be the above image, I wasn’t sure how to take it. I’ve repeatedly stated that I’m not on the mask bandwagon. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t comply with the rules, nor does it mean that I don’t take the pandemic seriously. I SIMPLY STAY AT HOME. While I go many days between mask wearings, I also don’t go to places where I encounter people who could be adversely affected by my germs. On the rare occasions when I do go out, I follow the rules. I just don’t like or agree with them. Fair enough?

Lots of people disagree with me about the masks, and that’s fine. I figure that if I’m mostly staying at home, I’m probably doing more than they are to flatten the curve, anyway. The world doesn’t need me to preach about face masks. Plenty of people are already doing that repeatedly and annoyingly. I don’t need to add my voice to the cacophony. I don’t need to cheerlead about the masks, even if they do help slow the spread of the virus. They still suck. Nothing about wearing a mask is fun, and most people have the right and ability to make up their own minds about them. They don’t need my help any more than I need theirs.

Because there was no comment with my friend’s “meme”, and I have no idea if this person has been paying attention to my social media, I wondered if she thought I would like the meme, or if it was a dig. I suppose I could have responded to her. Maybe that would have been the right thing to do. Ultimately, I decided that the face mask meme wasn’t something I care that much about, so I didn’t comment. But since this is a common practice– for people to send unimportant stuff via PM without comment– I decided to ask my Facebook friends why people do it. I don’t PM people unless I have something important to tell them privately, but people PM me all the time. I try to be tolerant, but I must admit I get annoyed, and I just wanted to understand the rationale behind the PM blitzing. Some of my “regular” friends were having a nice discussion with me, with a few people agreeing with me that this is an annoying practice.

And then, I got a message from someone else I “met” on the same site for second wives and stepmothers. This person, who is now no longer a friend, probably interacted with me more often than the person who sent the meme, but we still didn’t talk much. When we did regularly used to communicate some years ago, we often disagreed.

For instance, she didn’t like that I was vocal about my disdain for Mormonism. She said it was “disrespectful”, although she isn’t herself LDS. I disagreed, since the LDS church was successfully used as a weapon against Bill’s relationship with his children, and that’s a problem that affects many people. She felt that I shouldn’t say out loud that I don’t like Mormonism, out of respect to a Mormon woman who was also in our group. The Mormon woman, by the way, was more than capable of sticking up for herself and her religion, and she did so vehemently and consistently. Besides, I felt that the purpose of the group was to discuss these issues and how they affect “steplife”. Like it or not, a highly controlling lifestyle religion like Mormonism does affect things, particularly when not everyone involved is LDS. But this now former friend felt I was out of line to bring it up, or she felt the way I brought it up was unkind. She had no trouble telling me so, even though it didn’t really change my opinion or behavior. She didn’t seem too interested in seeing my perspective, either.

Anyway, beyond that squabbling, which we hadn’t been doing in recent years, we rarely had much to say to each other, especially currently. Neither of us has a lot of steplife drama anymore. But she still felt the need to add her two cents to last night’s discussion.

She posted: Man, I never wanted to PM unexplained memes so badly in my life….

Again…. not really sure how to take this. So I posted that I would like to turn off the PM function entirely, or make it for certain people, to which she responded with a “laughing” reaction. At that point, I assumed that she was making a passive aggressive dig and trying to stir up shit. I figured that if she has something to say to me, but can’t be bothered to just say it, we probably aren’t really friends. Since I didn’t know how to take her comments, we were never close, and I don’t remember ever being particularly close to her even when we did used to frequently communicate, I decided to delete her.

I felt badly about it for a minute, because I grew up at a time when friends were people you knew face to face, and “unfriending” someone was a serious thing. But back then, being friends with someone was also a more serious thing; that’s why we mostly tended to have fewer of them then than we do now, in the age of social media.

As I recently wrote in a post, I’m getting to a point in my life at which I value quality over quantity. A lot of people don’t like me. Many people decide they don’t like me having never taken the time to get to know me. That’s up to them, of course, and I’ve gotten used to it. I still have some great people in my life who do love me for who I am and don’t mind that I speak my mind. We treat each other with basic respect and give each other the right to be heard. We don’t try to stir up drama on each other’s social media accounts or offline. And when we have something to say, we say it. We don’t do immature passive aggressive digs or make fun of each other. Those aren’t things a real friend does.

I’ve spent most of my life being discounted, belittled, berated, ignored and crapped on by people who don’t have any respect for me, some of whom were supposedly “loved ones”. Right now, things are stressful enough as it is. I figure at this point in my life, I don’t have to tolerate it anymore, especially from people I barely know. And, like I said, I’m getting pretty tired of Facebook, anyway. Maybe after we get our next dog, I’ll ditch it once and for all. Dogs are better and more genuine friends than most people are, anyway.

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Well… that didn’t last long.

A couple of days ago, a friend invited me to join a group for military spouses against racism. I hesitated for about a day before I accepted the invite. It’s not that I’m against fighting racism. I do think it’s a serious problem and I am always open to learning new ways to be a better person. I like being in groups where resources are shared and people can discuss things openly and calmly. At first, it looked like that group might turn into something useful and good.

Nevertheless, I still hesitated joining. I was right to hesitate. In my experience, Facebook groups, especially those involving the U.S. military, tend to degrade very quickly. In the past, I have hung on in those types of groups for much longer than I should have, trying to take what was good and leaving the rest. But I am now at a point in my life at which I don’t want to waste any time on bullshit. While that group started out pretty well, this morning I could see that it was rapidly turning into a shitstorm. 2020 is one big shitstorm on its own. I don’t need any more thrown at me on social media.

In this case, the shitstorm was prompted when an admin posted that the word “picnic” is a derogatory, racist term. I was a bit perplexed by that revelation. I had never heard of “picnic” being offensive. It’s used a lot in Germany. It’s generally a term used to describe dining al fresco, often while sitting on a blanket with a basket full of food.

There’s even a play called Picnic, that I remember being performed at my college when I was a freshman. Longwood University, then called Longwood College, has a long history in the fight against racism. It’s located in the town of Farmville in Prince Edward County, Virginia, the location of one of the worst resistances of massive integration in U.S. history. Prince Edward County is also the location of a well-known fight for civil rights. From the link:

During the 20th century, Prince Edward was the center both of one of America’s worst episodes of massive resistance and one of the bravest moments of the Civil Rights struggle. In 1951, the student-led strike at Moton High School, organized by then-16 year old Barbara Johns, produced the majority of plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education. The public schools, however, were closed for five years beginning in 1959 rather than integrated. And yet it was here also, four decades later, that a majority of voters opted to make Douglas Wilder the first African-American to be elected governor in any state in all of American history – yes, that happened in Virginia.

I couldn’t imagine my racially conscious college putting on a play called Picnic if the word “picnic” is racist. I decided to look up the history of the word to find out if it was, in fact, derogatory. What I found out is that for the past twenty years or so, there’s been an urban legend going around the Internet claiming that “picnic” is a racist term. However, the story about “picnic” being offensive is false. The word was first used in France in the late 1600s. It was first used in English in 1748, and in those days, it had no racial connotations whatsoever.

So how did this rumor get started? Well, it seems that back in the days when lynchings were completely acceptable, some white people would have a picnic while they watched. It was entertaining for them to watch black people being lynched. They’d eat, drink, and be merry. At some point, the word was supposedly bastardized to mean “pic-a-nig”, or so I learned as I read that thread, which eventually swelled to over 250 comments before I finally decided to leave the group. Because some people “picnicked” while lynching people, somehow there were people who felt that the term “picnic” should always refer to the practice of white people having an outdoor gathering involving food while watching black people being murdered in the most horrifying ways.

Some people correctly pointed out that the word “picnic” isn’t a racist term. They provided the usual links to proof– and the links were good ones, from legitimate academic sources, as well as popular and reputable sites like Snopes.com and Politifact. But the person who started the thread soon became very agitated and, though she was an “admin” for the group, sank into name calling. She repeatedly called one articulate poster a “Karen” (and if you read this blog, you probably already know how I feel about that) and accused her of being “passive aggressive”, a term which I have a feeling she can’t accurately define. I watched her escalate the situation more and more with some concern. Other posters were calling her out for being immature, but she insisted that she was just calling people out for being “racially insensitive” because people were refusing to agree with her that the word “picnic” is triggering and they didn’t want one more word to be considered “bad” due to racism. It seems like people who are against racism would want to see fewer offensive words rather than more words– but here they were, arguing over whether an innocuous word should be deemed “offensive” due to what some people did during lynchings.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you might also know how I feel about burying language and symbols. I understand why people think it’s the right thing to do. It’s certainly easier to ban words and symbols than it is to reclaim them and encourage people to change their attitudes and enlighten themselves. However, it’s been my experience that when people ban words and symbols, new ones tend to crop up. Moreover, by banning a so-called “offensive” word, you still haven’t dealt with the negative attitude that led up to its creation. It’s more like an “out of sight, out of mind” solution that only hides the problem instead of fixing it.

On my original blog, I once wrote a post about an argument I got into with a guy who insisted to me that it’s offensive to use a word like “niggardly” when describing one’s money habits. Niggardly, by the way, is NOT at all a racist term. It has nothing to do with racism, doesn’t have the same etymology as the racist term “nigger”, nor is it even spelled like the racist epithet. The guy who was arguing with me is a teacher, and he has a habit of being very overbearing with his views. I don’t like overbearing people, probably due to my own personality quirks. His “style” was not making me want to change my opinions, yet he kept hammering away at me, insisting that people have the right to be offended by the word “niggardly” because it sounds like a racist epithet. And rather than encouraging people to educate themselves so they won’t be offended when no offense is intended, he thinks we all should just quit using that word. I didn’t appreciate his heavy handed approach. I found it disrespectful and disdainful. It didn’t make me inclined to listen to or consider his viewpoint.

I will grant that there are other words that mean the same as niggardly does. We could all just say “stingy” or “miserly”. It basically means that a person is tight with their money, and there are other ways to say that without using a word that sounds so close to an insult. And frankly, if I were a teacher, I would absolutely encourage my students to choose a less controversial word simply because it’s better to avoid an unnecessary fight with someone who has a less developed vocabulary. However, I would also want them all to know that the word is not akin to the “n bomb”, and that if they see or hear it, they should not take offense if it’s being used properly. It’s not an insulting word, even if it does sound like a word that is very insulting.

I feel the same way about the term “picnic”. If you feel better calling an outdoor gathering involving food a barbecue or a cookout, by all means, call it by those terms. But I also want people to know that if the word “picnic” is considered racist by some people, it’s because it was wrongly hijacked. Its original meaning had nothing to do with racism. And I don’t think it’s right to give bad people the power to change language in that way. Why should we? It’s not the word that’s “bad”. It’s the asshole who is using language to be hurtful and demeaning that is “bad”. Words are neutral.

I’m still with George. It’s best not to hurt people with words, but the words themselves are neutral. It’s the asshole who is saying them that needs to be dealt with, and that’s a lot harder than banning “bad words”. It’s the CONTEXT that makes them good or bad.

I didn’t like the way the admin, who by the time I left the group had been stripped of her admin powers, was insulting and berating people. I also noticed that she wasn’t the only one engaging in that behavior. The attacking and uncivilized behavior was distasteful to me, and some of it seemed like it would cause more problems than it solved. I felt my stress levels rise just reading everything and seeing all of the visuals… and I wasn’t even involved in 99% of what was being shared in there.

For instance, I noticed one member had posted screenshots of an American man who works in a German military town. The guy has responsibilities in a major military facility, but his personal views are on naked display. He used monkeys to make his point– the old “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” illustration, which commonly uses “three wise monkeys”, a concept that originated in Japan. Someone in the group determined that the mere use of monkeys was inherently racist and people were talking about trying to get him fired. While I personally disagreed with what I saw on his page, I also think there’s a fine line between calling out racism and ruining people’s lives by threatening their livelihoods.

There are real costs associated with call out culture and mob mentality. The aftereffects of publicly shaming people and making them infamous don’t always just affect the perpetrators; they also harm people associated with them, some of whom are completely innocent, and cause the problem to get worse. Imagine if the guy they were discussing so fervently has young children. These women go after this guy’s job by making an “ICE” complaint. The many complaints cause the man to lose his job, and his family eventually spirals into poverty that leads to other serious family issues like divorce or alcoholism. The young children grow up in that bad environment, and hear about how it happened. How do you think that might affect how they view military wives, particularly those of color? Will they be grateful that someone took a stand and made the guy pay for posting the three wise monkey emojis, even if what he wrote wasn’t particularly racist in nature? Or will they be angry that a group targeted their father and caused his life to go south, thereby causing their lives to go south, too?

I think most people respond better to kindness, reasonableness, and understanding than they do shaming, insulting, threatening, and attacking. I was hoping that group would be a place where people could have intelligent discussions without fear of being attacked or insulted. Unfortunately, I saw evidence that what was originally intended to be a place for sharing ideas and understanding had turned into the usual military wives Facebook group, with lots of people immediately adopting an adversarial tone rather than taking a moment to collect themselves and giving people the benefit of the doubt. And frankly, I’m just too old, crotchety, and impatient for those kinds of groups anymore. So I will continue to do my best to educate myself outside of that group. It’s probably better for my mental health. Maybe I am a “Karen” after all.

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