musings, psychology

The trauma of sending and receiving “feedback”…

This morning, I’m thinking about the word “feedback” and how much I dread hearing it. One would think it wouldn’t be a bad thing to get feedback. Feedback doesn’t necessarily have to be positive or negative. It’s just information about how someone is doing.

I had to give someone negative feedback last night. I didn’t enjoy doing it. I don’t like to confront people, even when it’s sometimes necessary. I would prefer people to have common sense and basic respect for others. Unfortunately, some people don’t see the big picture and need to be called out. I woke up at 4:30am and that conflict from last night was the first thing I thought of.

Then I remember myself, back in 1996, when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. The director of training for the 1996 Volunteers was a guy I’ll call Don (not his real name). For some reason, Don didn’t like me. I don’t know exactly why he didn’t like me. Somehow, I managed to step on his toes. And one day, he said, “I need to give you some ‘feedback’.” Then, he proceeded to tell me off in a way that was very humiliating and upsetting. At that time in my life, I was not really equipped to take his comments with a grain of salt. I felt personally attacked and pretty worthless when he was finished with me.

I have never forgotten that word, “feedback”, ever since that day in 1996. That was a period in my Peace Corps service when it felt like everything was falling apart. I was trying to do the right things, but lacked the assertiveness and confidence to make valued contributions. I was not a “go getter”, and unbeknownst to me at the time, I was pretty hampered by depression and anxiety. So although I really did want to do something good and useful, my attempts were a bit bumbling. I seriously thought about quitting my service because I felt useless.

Looking back on that time, I feel anger for 24 year old me. I wish I’d had the maturity and the backbone to stand up to Don and give him some feedback of my own. I had mostly forgotten about Don until a few weeks ago, when my former colleague, Matt, suddenly passed away after having been hit by a car in Brooklyn. It so happens that there’s a Facebook group for former Armenia PCVs. I sent a request to join, but when no one accepted me hours later, I decided to withdraw my request. I figured I wasn’t welcome there. And then I noticed that Don was one of the admins. I also remembered that Matt had once, quite explicitly, told me that Don didn’t like me.

Those old feelings rushed back when I saw his name and I realized I didn’t really want to connect with him, or some of the other people from that time in my life. Obviously, I didn’t fit in back then, and maybe I don’t fit in now. I don’t seem to fit in most places… even in groups I actually run!

Case in point… In 2017, when we still lived in Stuttgart, I started a food and wine Facebook group. I did so because, at that time, there weren’t any groups for that specific interest in the Stuttgart military community, even though they had groups for just about everything else. Back then, it was easy to go to different restaurants and gourmet stores. Bill and I did so most weekends and I would write about our experiences in my travel blog, which got to be somewhat popular.

When I first started that group, it was pretty active and useful. But then in late 2018, we had to move to Wiesbaden. I didn’t want to close the group because I had friends in it, and at that point, I thought we’d be visiting Stuttgart somewhat often. I predicted at least twice yearly visits to see the dentist. But then the pandemic struck, and we weren’t able to travel so much or dine out… and the group became a bit stagnant, even though we were doing a lot of drinking.

There’s a woman in my group who claims to be a wine expert. She started a group in Stuttgart, but remains a member of my group. She often directs people in my group to join her group, and organizes wine sales, which she freely advertises in my group. I mostly have been pretty laid back about moderating my group because I don’t like it when people micromanage others, especially on social media. Besides, I don’t have a problem with people involved with food and wine sharing information about things like wine sales. But a situation came up last night and I found myself offering some feedback. It made me feel uncomfortable, even though I felt compelled to speak up.

A woman in the group I run asked about restaurant recommendations in Stuttgart. The two places she asked about are places I’ve been. I offered my opinions. Next thing I know, the leader of the other group was pimping her “foodie” group in my group– telling the person who had asked about restaurants that she should join her competing group for more “relevant” help. It wasn’t the first time she’d made a comment that was kind of critical about my group. One time, someone asked about wine shops and she asked what city they were in, adding that the fact that my group addressed two cities made things “confusing”. That struck me as disrespectful and rude, because there was no reason why the “wine expert” couldn’t just act like a member of the group and simply answer the question without publicly directing the person to join the group that SHE runs, or simply appreciating the unique features of my group.

I didn’t really want to call her out and offer any “feedback”. I don’t enjoy conflicts, and really just want my group to be a place where people can relax and share information without any drama. But I guess she just touched a nerve… that “disrespect nerve” that so many people seem to hit, where they act in an inconsiderate or tacky way toward me and I’m expected to just shut up and color. So I very directly asked her not to “pimp” her group in my group. She came back with an “explanation” as to why her answer wasn’t disrespectful to me and then invited me to join her group, which she has done before. She didn’t even really acknowledge how she came across to me, but instead kind of “gaslit” me, explaining that what I can see– plain as day– isn’t what I’m actually seeing.

I don’t want to be in her group. I have a lot of reasons for not wanting to join. The main one is that I lived in Stuttgart for four years and I saw how the groups were down there. There is a different dynamic in that community… lots of young people from different military branches. There are TONS of Facebook groups in Stuttgart and, in my experience, they get very “high school” in a hurry. Some people get on power trips and some people really enjoy stirring up shit. I was overly involved in the Stuttgart groups back when I lived down there. They caused me a lot of stress and drama, which would inevitably get me into trouble. I’d always want to process the stress by writing about it, which invariably upset some people in the community. Up here in Wiesbaden, I don’t have a need to do that because: 1. there aren’t so many groups up here 2. I know very few people in this area and 3. I’m only a member of one other group in Wiesbaden besides the one I run. So I don’t run into the high school bullshit that often erupts in military centric Facebook groups, and it’s been nice.

Another reason I don’t want to join is because being in her group would make my group kind of redundant. But maybe that’s her plan. I’m not really interested in competing with anyone… but I do think it’s very inconsiderate to promote other groups within a group, especially when there’s no need or request for it. There’s no reason why people in my group can’t respond to that question about Stuttgart without having to be publicly directed to go to another source. The least she could have done was send the person a PM rather than blatantly advertising her group. It’s like going to a McDonald’s and telling everyone in line to visit the Burger King next door.

The original poster came back and explained that she’s going to be leaving soon, and wasn’t interested in joining another group. But just now, the “wine expert” left a comment about another group in my group. I just left her a stern comment letting her know that I wasn’t going to ask her again. Next time, I think I’ll just remove her and spare myself the stress.

My hands are actually shaking right now… because I feel like maybe this shouldn’t be a big deal. I don’t want to be “territorial”, especially on social media. But it obviously is a big deal to me, because my knickers are legitimately in a twist. I don’t want to be a micromanager, but I also don’t appreciate being trampled. I made it pretty plain that promoting the other group isn’t cool with me, but she completely ignored what I said.

Maybe it’s time I retired that group and moved on to other things. I can still visit places and write about them, and the legitimately interested can read about them. Or maybe I just need to remove her and let anyone who wants to follow her vote with their feet. I don’t know. But I feel kind of nervous and sick to my stomach, the same way I felt when I got “feedback” from Don, even though I am the one offering feedback this time. Being assertive is hard for me.

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overly helpful people, true crime, YouTube

Creeps like her? My unpopular opinion regarding Debra Hunter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know a lot of people, particularly in the United States, think jail is the end all, be all of punishments. For some reason, a lot of us LOVE to see people rot behind bars, for the most trivial of infractions. Many Americans seem to enjoy it when someone gets the book thrown at them, and a lot of us are slow to forgive, unless the situation involves a pretty celebrity of some sort. But, I wonder how many rank and file Americans would like it if some stranger videoed them in the act of having a bad day, and took it upon themselves to put that moment or two on social media? Would they say to themselves, “I deserve the death threats and the nasty phone calls, letters, and text messages from thousands of people around the world.”? Would they say, “I was a jackass, and my kids totally deserve to be ostracized and harassed by their peers because of what I did.”? Would they be completely fine with losing their job, as well as their spouses losing their job, based on something that occurred outside of work hours? My guess is that the vast majority of people would not. And I haven’t even mentioned the hate mail and vitriol people who have the misfortune of sharing the name “Hunter” have gotten in the wake of this fiasco. Several innocent people have had to make statements that they weren’t involved in this incident.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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complaints, condescending twatbags, modern problems, sexism

I really enjoy bitching about things…

This morning, I find myself with a touch of writer’s block. When that happens, I often go to my original Google version of this blog to find inspiration. I did write a few posts on the old blog that are chestnuts… or evergreen… or whatever. At the very least, I can find book reviews that I can repost, although I’m slowly running out of those.

I am working on reading a book right now, but as usual, I keep falling asleep before I can make too much progress. I probably should invest in a chair for reading, rather than reading in bed. Nowadays, I drop off at the drop of a hat if I’m lying down and comfortable. I have really excellent Comphy sheets on my bed, too, which makes for prime sleeping conditions. I don’t work for the company or get any kickbacks. I just really like the sheets, which I discovered on a visit to a B&B in Goshen, Virginia.

ETA: Many apologies, since I have already bitched about this particular complaint on the new blog… the original re-run repost is not exactly the same as this one, but it does include the same screenshots and basic story. Oh well. Maybe I’ll think of something totally fresh later.

Anyway, I came across a rant I wrote back in the summer of 2017. Looking back, that summer was pretty traumatic for a number of reasons. It wasn’t as bad as the summer of 2014, but it was a pretty tough time. One day, I got irritated because some guy, long gone from my friends list, had shared a fake meme. I wrote a post bitching about it. Note– the post was not specifically about the guy, it was about the practice of sharing falsely attributed memes. A lot of people don’t care that the deep thoughts they share on social media are bullshit. Some have rationalized that it’s the thought that counts, not the person who came up with the thought. Personally, I vehemently disagree. Especially when people falsely attribute things to the late George Carlin, who is one of my idols and whose wisdom has gotten me through some shit.

No… George never said this. And you shouldn’t imply that he did.

The guy who had inspired my rant shared the above meme, with the comment “Carlin pulled no punches.” I kept seeing this meme on my timeline and it annoyed me. So I decided to write about it. Former friend read the vent and got pissed off at me. He left a nasty comment on my OH Facebook page and blocked me. Then, he posted the article on his page and I soon had a bunch of right wing mental giants from the Deep South hitting my blog, racking up ad revenue. A mutual friend sent me a private message letting me know that he was riling up all his Trump supporting friends over this vent. From my original post:

Both times I’ve seen this meme featuring George Carlin, I’ve hidden it.  Why?  Because I am very certain that George Carlin never said this.  It pisses me off when people put words in George’s mouth, especially since he’s dead.  I loved and respected his work and I’m absolutely sure he never would have said anything like this.  Carlin’s comedy celebrated obstruction and fighting the establishment.  He was a champion of resistance and bucking authority.  It’s wrong to attribute these words to him or to insinuate that he said them by using his picture with someone else’s words.

Even if I agreed wholeheartedly with this meme’s sentiment, which I don’t, I would not agree that it’s okay to claim that these are George Carlin’s words, especially when there is ample evidence that they aren’t.

I went looking to see if Carlin had, indeed, said this. I found evidence that, apparently, GMTA. Morgan Freeman supposedly said it, too.

Hmmm… naw, I don’t think Morgan said it, either.

I went on to explain why this practice irritates me so much. From my old blog:

I’m sure many people think I’m being anal retentive about this issue.  They wonder what the harm is, especially since so many folks seem to think this is a good thought.  Well, I’ll tell you what the harm is.  The harm is that George Carlin and Morgan Freeman are legends, but they are (or were) also people.  A person has the right to free expression and freedom from being used to promote someone else’s agenda without their permission.  My guess is that people make these memes because they think Carlin or Freeman have the right persona to drive home this particular sentiment.  But what right does one person have to use another person like that, even if the person being used is (or was) famous?  And even if the person posting the fake meme is simply being a provocateur? 

Mr. Carlin is no longer alive to defend himself when someone falsely uses his likeness to express their ideas.  And while many people think this quote is excellent, the person who actually came up with it should be the one who gets attributed, not a random famous person who may or may not have even agreed with it.  

I continued searching for more evidence of who actually came up with these words. And I found these memes…

Jeez! Everybody was saying this in 2017!

And I continued with this idea, which I felt was neither unreasonable nor particularly offensive:

There is nothing wrong with sharing ideas or quotes on Facebook or other social media.  I just think that if you’re going to use a meme with a quote, especially when you use a famous person’s image, you should make sure the person pictured is the person who should be attributed.  You can still spread an idea by posting something like this…

What’s wrong with sharing something like this? Are people really swayed by a picture of a famous person like Carlin supposedly saying the same thing?

Maybe your plain meme won’t get as many “likes” or comments, but it will at least be honest and it won’t be stealing someone else’s famous image to promote an idea or agenda.  As someone who is camera shy and writes, I know I wouldn’t want my image used with someone else’s words, no matter how profound they are.  I’m sure most normal, non-famous people wouldn’t.  

I’ll never understand why some people assume that a famous person won’t mind when a stranger thoughtlessly spreads a Facebook meme using their image with someone else’s words.  Especially when it’s common for people with financial means to sue when someone uses their likeness without permission.  And especially since many famous people make their living by being paid promoters.  No one likes to be ripped off, right?

Maybe the above point annoyed the guy. Most famous people aren’t going to bother suing some random Facebook user over sharing a fake meme. Unless they’re like Richard Marx, or something. I understand he’s pretty uptight. Anyway, this post really upset my former friend, who felt like I had insulted him deeply for writing about this phenomenon. I never named him, nor did I specifically invite him to read this post. But he sure got upset about it. The next morning, I found the below photo and an angry comment from him.

Wow… BUTTHURT!

So I wrote another post, but that time, I DID call him out, not by his name, but by his behavior, which I thought was really childish:

So… yesterday I wrote a rant about “dishonest memes”.  It was inspired by a meme I’ve seen floating around featuring the late, great George Carlin.  I mentioned in that rant that I’ve seen that meme at least a couple of times and, when I see it, I hide it.  When I saw the meme posted yet again, I felt the need to write about it here on my blog.  I figured that would be better than getting into a Facebook argument with the person who posted it.  Those can get long and contentious.  Not as many people read my blog as they do Facebook. 

I will admit that had the person posted the meme featuring Morgan Freeman using the same words, I probably wouldn’t have been as bothered and likely never would have thought to write my rant.  George Carlin is kind of sacred to me.  He’s helped me get through some rough times. 

Anyway, this morning, I awoke to find the person who inspired yesterday’s post had unfriended me.  He left me a comment on the link to the rant on my Overeducated Housewife page.  It was yet another picture.  I like pictures!

Truthfully, this person was not someone I interacted with much anyway.  I’ve never met him in person.  I suspect we have different political leanings, so we didn’t do much communicating on Facebook.  If this person happens to read this follow up, please allow me to apologize for apparently offending you by indirectly calling you out.  It’s (almost) never my intention to be hurtful, although I know sometimes I am.  But I will not apologize for expressing my thoughts on my blog.  

I don’t think I’m necessarily wrong to write about the things that bug me.  That’s what blogs are for.  Moreover, misusing George Carlin’s memory is annoying and offensive to me.  It occurs to me that if we were real friends, you’d know that and actually care.      

I get my ideas from all sorts of sources, including friends, family, and anything I see on social media.  Most of the time, I try not to name people directly, unless they are famous people, people named in the media, and/or certain relatives.  I did not name this person, but he obviously read the rant.  I can only assume, based on the above picture comment he left me, that he was annoyed by it…  just as I get offended by people who carelessly take liberties with George Carlin’s memory.  

It’s okay.  We all get butthurt over different things.  If someone had vented specifically about me or something I did, I’d probably be annoyed and offended, too.  If they were an actual friend, I might care enough to talk to them about it.  Or maybe not.  It’s clear this person wasn’t an actual friend, though, so it’s probably for the best that he dropped me out of his universe.  Moreover, that post was not actually about him, but about the practice of sharing fake memes.     

The funny thing is, one thing I do know about this person is that he likes to write.  I “met” him on Epinions, which was a place that was full of opinionated people writing product reviews.  I didn’t like his Epinions nickname because of my phobia of mushrooms (his name was a play on fungus), but I did like his reviews.  In fact, I think he was even on my Web of Trust for a long time.  One thing I miss about Epinions is that it was a place where one could make money for being articulate and opinionated.

Anyway…  to anyone reading this, if you ever happen to find yourself the subject of this blog, I hope you realize that on some level that you have served as an inspiration to someone.  Sometimes people inspire others in a positive way.  Sometimes the inspiration is borne out of something negative.  Either way, inspiration usually leads to creativity and sometimes creativity leads to genius.  I’m certainly not saying anything on this blog falls into the genius category, but writing it does help keep me sane.  

As usual, this incident ended up fathering a bunch of posts, including one I wrote on “uppity women”. Not knowing the former Facebook friend that well, I still came up with the idea that perhaps he saw me as “uppity” for daring to bitch about his practice of sharing fake memes and falsely attributed quotes. I did point out that he’s one of many people who does this, and I know that my blog isn’t going to make a significant dent in the problem. And, in fact, in 2021, this is not really a problem worth writing about. We definitely have much bigger issues these days.

But in the third post that was partially inspired by that incident, I wrote this:

A former Facebook friend took issue when I wrote about my dislike of “dishonest memes”.  He happened to be the catalyst of that post, although I was not writing specifically about him, per se.  That post was about anyone who shares memes or essays wrongly attributed to people.  I have written about that phenomenon before; the person who inspired the first post is a female friend who, fortunately, wasn’t upset or threatened by my decision to express myself.  We’re still friends today.    

I have noticed that in the wake of that post, many people from the Deep South are now stalking my blog.  They repeatedly hit the post about Dishonest Memes and the one I wrote yesterday.  I’m intrigued by their interest in those two specific posts, which are really not that earth shattering.  It appears the posts are being shared among friends and family and these folks are looking for some kind of action on them.   

The funny thing is, the person who inspired my post about dishonest memes had originally expressed admiration for George Carlin’s policy of not “pulling any punches”.  Many people loved Carlin for telling it like it is and expressing himself.  Of course, a lot of people did not like Carlin.  My dad was one such person.  He found Carlin disrespectful and vulgar, especially when Carlin would denigrate the government, the Republican party, or the military.  He would get very offended by Carlin’s use of profanity.  Perhaps he thought George Carlin was “uppity”, too.  What right did Carlin have to criticize the government?  How dare he express his ideas in such vulgar and outspoken terms?  

It now occurs to me that by publicly shaming and condemning me for bitching about him and his practice of sharing fake memes, former friend made me bitch even more. I wonder if that was intentional on his part, especially since he sent his friends and family to follow my blog. Their hits probably contributed a few pennies to my Google AdSense account. I continued:

My dad had the same disdain for me whenever he thought I was getting too big for my britches and needed to be taken down a peg.  He would tell me that nobody cared about my opinions and that I had no right to say things that he deemed offensive or rude.  In short, I needed to be reminded of my station as a lowly female, and not a very attractive one at that… How dare I express myself?  In his opinion, I needed to keep my mouth shut and my legs crossed.

I’m baffled as to why it’s okay and even admirable for George Carlin to “pull no punches”, but it’s not okay for me to do it on a little read blog?  Is it because I’m not famous?  Is it because I don’t have a penis?  Is it because my comments are somehow “out of line” or wrong?    

My dad, who died in July 2014, put on a uniform every day for over twenty years, in part, to preserve my right to express myself.  However, he didn’t appreciate it when I said things he didn’t like.  He didn’t want to hear someone like George Carlin or Hillary Clinton be outspoken.  I think my dad loved the idea of “free speech and expression”, especially to certain privileged segments of the population, but he didn’t necessarily love the practice of it…  unless it was something he wanted to hear.  I don’t think that’s necessarily an uncommon position, by the way.  I often get angry comments from people who don’t like some of the things I write.  I, too, get annoyed when someone says something I don’t like.  I fully admit to being a hypocrite.  It’s just another one of those things I have to work on in my life.

One of the reasons I love most of George Carlin’s comedy is that he often made a lot of sense.  He enjoyed pointing out double standards and hypocrisy and got a huge kick out of pissing off people who take themselves and others a little too seriously.  I think we all do that from time to time– myself included.  

You folks who are stalking my blog should know that I appreciate the attention and the hits, but there’s really not much to see here.  I only expressed my opinion, which I feel very fortunate to be able to do, since I live in a free society.    

I don’t know if I come across as “uppity” to everyone… I know a lot of people, especially military and certain southern folks, think I do.  My own father thought I did.  But anyway, I really am just an “overeducated housewife” and I don’t have much more going on other than writing my blog, making music, doing housework, reading books and looking after my dogs.  

So I will keep on writing… though not on this subject.  I’m done writing about “dishonest memes” for now, so it may be time for you to move on to your next channel on the Internet.  Or stalk me if you must.  I profit from the attention.

Of course, now it occurs to me that I lied, since I obviously wasn’t done writing about “dishonest memes”. There I go with the hypocrisy again! I do enjoy bitching about things, though. I suppose I could have bitched about the latest mass shooting in the United States, and maybe I will do that, once I learn more about it. I haven’t gotten around to reading the details yet, though. Don’t want to spoil the whole day with more bad news… which includes the fact that Germany is now going to be locked down until April 18th, because according to Mrs. Merkel, we’re in a “new pandemic”. I’m beginning to think we should all just put ourselves out of my misery. I feel like this is never going to end. At least the TDY from hell is over, and I don’t have to bitch about that anymore.

But now I can bitch about the fact that I spent an hour writing this and I’ve already complained about this before on this blog… right down to the same anecdotes and screenshots. It’s not exactly the same, as the first rerun is shorter and includes some new content. But it’s pretty similar. I do wonder when Facebook was named the place where people feel the need to be inspirational or provide words to live by for other people.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, rants, social media, stupid people

“No means no”… being assertive is not a crime.

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about how I don’t apologize for occasionally being an “asshole”. Looking back on it, I think I should amend that title. You see, I was raised in an environment in which I was somehow taught that being assertive is an affront to other people. I’m not sure where it comes from, either. My mom and my sisters are all assertive people. My dad was, too. But I was the youngest, raised by a southern, conservative, religious, Air Force veteran who insisted that I needed to have “respect” for him. I am naturally a bit obnoxious and outspoken, and as a child, I often got chastised for being myself. I think the end result is that, as an adult, sometimes I hesitate to stick up for myself when it’s perfectly fine to do so. Sometimes, I even feel guilty for “talking back”.

In that “asshole” post I wrote the other day, I wrote about two incidents in which I found myself at odds with conservative white men on Facebook. The first incident was regarding a guy who, five days after I posted a response to a friend on her Facebook page, decided he needed to confront me about my comment. When he demanded an explanation from me, I responded “You should have asked me five days ago.”

Most people would understand from that comment that I am not interested in engaging. But this guy is clearly pretty dense. Because he came back with a snarky comment, not taking the hint that I wasn’t going to be arguing with him. Again, my response was very clear. I wrote something along the lines of, “I have zero desire to talk to you. Leave me alone.” Most people, having been firmly asked to leave someone alone, will back off and find someone else to bother.

That wasn’t enough for this person, though. He continued to try to engage, and asked me why I had responded to him. And I asked him, “Why did you? I responded to this thread days ago. Just let it go.” Again– clear as day. I was saying “no” to him. He engaged a fourth time and I wrote, “Give it up.” After the next comment, I finally hit the block button. I don’t actually like to block people, but sometimes it’s necessary. And yes, I realize I could have just ignored him, but that would leave him free to keep tagging me in posts.

The sad thing is, he probably thinks he’s “won” by being so annoying and disrespectful that I finally felt the need to force him to leave me alone. If that’s how he gets his kicks, I guess I’m happy to oblige in helping him. I have to wonder about guys like him. Why can’t they simply respect another person when they clearly ask them to stop harassing them?

Before I blocked him, I took a look at the guy’s page. People always do this, don’t they? You get into a scrape with someone and you check out their Facebook page just to see where they’re coming from. From a few seconds of looking at his page, I learned that this gentleman is conservative politically, lives in the Midwest, and is divorced. If this is how he treats strangers on the Internet, I can see why he’s divorced. He clearly doesn’t have any respect for other people. I suspect that he doesn’t respect women, especially. Anyone who isn’t a Trump supporter ranks even lower.

It might have been fun to resort to insulting the guy, but it was clear he was playing a power game with me. And I didn’t want to play. I made it very clear that I didn’t want to play, even before the temptation to resort to insults arose. I didn’t want to waste time and energy coming up with clever insults against someone who obviously doesn’t respect me as a person. I can see on the other thread he engaged in, he doesn’t respect other women, either.

Next thing I knew, I was ruminating about what kind of upbringing this guy must have had. What was his mother like? Where did he learn this habit of trying to force women into arguments with him, demanding that they defend their opinions when they’ve made it abundantly clear they aren’t interested? Is he like this when it comes to his offline relationships, too? Does he demand that his romantic partners engage with him, even when they’ve made it very clear that they want to be left alone?

This clearly applies to sexual assault and rape. It also applies to interactions online.

Maybe that might seem like a stretch to some. Men who are very overbearing and insistent toward women, hectoring them in an attempt to force them to interact, may only be that way in a verbal sense. But as I sat there pondering this person’s disrespectful actions toward me, I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d go as far as to assault a woman for saying “no” to his advances. Assuming he’s not gay, I wonder what he does when she says she’s got a headache or isn’t in the mood. Is he going to keep nagging, whining, and badgering until he finally tries to take what he wants by physical force?

I suspect what this guy really wants is attention. He might even be horrified that I wonder if he’s capable of rape. It seems to me, though, that if a woman clearly says “no” and a man keeps poking, it’s not that much of a leap to assume that person has serious issues with boundaries, much like rapists do. If someone can’t respect a person who clearly asks to be left alone, even if it’s just online, what are they like when the objects of their attention are within an arm’s reach of them? Hopefully, they are a little less bold about “reaching out” in that case. I still wonder, though.

Maybe I should have asked him if he has boundary issues offline, too? Imagine the reaction I would have gotten if I had asked him if he makes a habit out of ignoring people who ask him to stop bugging them. What if I’d thrown in an insane or accusatory comment about sexual assault? He probably would have reacted with outrage, and there would have been a huge shitshow, which no doubt would have attracted a lot of lurkers and comments. But I suspect that would have only made me look unhinged and caused offense. I think it’s a fair question, though. If someone explicitly makes a reasonable request to be left alone, and another person refuses to honor that request, it says something loud and clear about the person who won’t take “no” for an answer.

Which brings me to my next point… One of the reasons I didn’t want to engage with this guy is because he was pestering me on a mutual friend’s page. I don’t know the boundary challenged guy at all. I also haven’t met our mutual friend offline, but she and I both like horses. That’s how we have a connection. We “met” on a second wives and stepmothers Web site we both used to frequent. I don’t pay much attention to most of her political posts, but the one that I did comment on had triggered me because of a grammar error. Otherwise, I let her post whatever she wants to about Trump and Limbaugh, without any input whatsoever from me. I’m mainly interested in her ponies, goats, donkey, and horses, and that’s about it.

Boundary challenged guy probably knows her personally, and they obviously have a stronger bond. I don’t feel comfortable having pointless arguments with mutual friends on other people’s Facebook pages. I figure that kind of drama should be hosted on one of the involved parties’ pages, unless the “host” gives their express permission. Also, it was pretty clear to me that his mind is made up on matters involving conservative politics. My mind is also made up. You will never convince me that Donald Trump or Rush Limbaugh have done great things for America. So there’s no point in having a discussion. But really, when it comes down to it, I don’t owe anyone an explanation for my opinions. When I say “no”, I mean it.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not still sometimes hard to say it. I still sit here after a confrontation like that and ruminate, asking myself “WTF?” I mean, if I had known that leaving a comment for my friend was going to result in an uninvited correspondence with one of her friends, I surely would have kept scrolling. I find myself scrolling a lot lately… which makes me wonder why I haven’t ditched Facebook yet. I stick around for the people I know around the world who I enjoy keeping up with. But every year, with every unpleasant or unnecessary negative interaction I have with some stranger online, I wonder again if keeping up with my friends is worth it. Then I contemplate kicking more people off my page. 🙂

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memories, mental health, true crime

I wouldn’t want to go back to high school… would you?

Yesterday, I was binge watching the third season of Cobra Kai. It was a YouTube Premium show, but now it’s on Netflix, which makes it nice for me. Now, I don’t have to wait for it to show up on iTunes. Watching the third season of Cobra Kai led to my having some rather vivid dreams this morning, but happily, they weren’t nightmares. I was actually kind of afraid I would have bad dreams, because the last episode had many snakes in it. I don’t hate snakes… I think they’re misunderstood. But I would not want to fall into a snake pit, either. Yikes!

Anyway, as I was watching Cobra Kai, I noticed an article that was being re-shared by The Atlantic magazine. It was originally posted July 6, 2016 by Jeff Maysh, and it was titled “Why One Woman Pretended to Be a High-School Cheerleader“. I was intrigued, especially since in 2016, we neither had Donald Trump as president nor any worries about COVID-19. I figured it was the perfect thing to read as the headlines grow more alarming.

Maysh’s story was about a woman named Wendy Brown, who in 2008, decided to pose as a high school student at Ashwaubenon High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Although many of us would like to forget our high school years, Wendy Brown had wanted a do-over ever since she’d quit school in the early 1990s.

Wendy had two children, Joey and Jaimi. At the time of Wendy’s strange trip back to high school in Wisconsin, her children were enrolled in a high school in Nevada, where they were being cared for by Brown’s parents, Joe and Judith. Joey, named after Wendy’s dad, was conceived when Wendy Brown was a high school student at Harold L. Richards High School in Illinois, where she was on the track team. When Wendy started throwing up after races, her mother suspected she was pregnant. Sure enough, she was, and she delivered her son on her 17th birthday. Her son’s father abandoned them both, and Wendy’s school career abruptly stalled.

Three months later, Wendy got pregnant again, this time by another boy. Her daughter, Jaimi, was born nine months later. High school had been a misery for Wendy, and she’d never managed to finish. Besides being pregnant when she was a teen, Wendy also had a speech impediment that caused her to mispronounce words her r’s. Instead of saying “rabbit”, she’d say “wabbit”. Other kids made fun of her.

Making matters worse was the fact that Wendy had siblings who did comparatively well in school. She had a younger sister named Jennifer, who was a social butterfly and a cheerleader. She had an older brother who was a football player. Both got through high school unscathed, while Wendy floundered. She was very jealous of Jennifer, who got to wear the school’s black and gold colors on her cheerleading uniform and seemed to have a great life.

Throughout her 20s, Wendy drifted through dead end jobs at discount stores like Walmart and K-Mart. She waited tables and worked in fast food places. She’d even worked as a stripper as she migrated from state to state. Stripping turned out to be her longest lasting paying gig.

Freshly married in June 2006, Wendy and her new husband went six months before domestic violence became a problem. In Cass County, Illinois, where Wendy was living when she was first married, the police were frequently called to their home to break up their fights. Wendy’s husband would lose his temper and knock out all of the windows in the home.

In 2008, the pair moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin, while Wendy’s kids moved to Nevada. Wendy had an old friend who lived there and she thought maybe she and her husband could make a fresh start. They rented a small apartment near Ashwaubenon High School. Wendy could hear the football team practice. She was sad that her children weren’t living with her anymore, and was feeling hopeless. That’s when she got the idea to go back to high school, posing as a fifteen year old kid and prospective cheerleader.

Wendy was a very petite woman who could pass for fifteen. She weighed just 103 pounds and easily fit into junior sized clothes. She put on a girlish speaking voice, styled her hair the way kids in 2008 did, and bought herself a new bookbag. She enrolled in school by herself, telling the guidance counselor that her name was Jaimi and her mom was “hard to reach” when she was at work. The counselor apparently took Wendy (posing as Jaimi) at her word, and for a several weeks, Wendy went to classes and even tried out for the cheerleading team, which she made. She also got into a choral group, in which the teacher noted her unusually “mature” singing voice. It was hard for Wendy to get used to being called by her daughter’s name, Jaimi. One time, a teacher called on Wendy three times before she realized she was being addressed. The teacher chalked it up to Wendy “daydreaming” because she was new.

Wendy Brown’s ruse was destined to fail. She got busted for truancy when she didn’t return to school after her first day. One of the principals called the school where Wendy had noted she had studied previously– the school in Nevada where her daughter, Jaimi, was a student. The staff there informed Ashwaubenon High School’s associate principal that Jaimi was in school in Nevada. The principal called the real Jaimi’s grandmother, who explained that her daughter, Wendy, had a history of committing identity thefts. Meanwhile, Wendy had posed as the manager at her apartment building and ripped off a security deposit from a prospective renter.

In the end, Wendy wound up being found not guilty “by reason of mental disease or defect” to a charge of identity theft. She was subsequently committed to the Winnebago mental health facility in Wisconsin for three years, having been diagnosed with bi-polar II disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and two personality disorders. While she was locked up, Wendy was diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent chemotherapy and two surgeries, all alone. She also divorced her husband and earned her G.E.D., but was not able to get her certificate until after she was released from the psychiatric hospital where she was incarcerated.

Apparently, all she’d really wanted was a “do-over” of her high school years. And although this case was very embarrassing to the staff at Ashwaubenon High School, no real harm had been done. No one at the school wanted to speak to Jeff Maysh about this case, though. Sadly, Wendy’s children were also estranged from her, as of 2016, and Wendy had yet to meet her grandchild.

There’s more to this story, of course, and you can read it for yourself. I was left kind of flabbergasted when I read it. I suppose there are times when I kind of miss high school a little. Those were simpler days, and I spent a lot of them hanging out with my horse. On the other hand, they weren’t the happiest of times for me, and I didn’t have a particularly enjoyable experience in high school. I mean, on one hand, it’s kind of exciting because that’s when you start making plans for your future. You have your whole life ahead of you. On the other hand, it’s also when a lot of youngsters are insecure and immature, and if you’re not “popular”, it can be a lonely time.

Me in high school, aged 17… That hair is killer.

I also would not want to go back to living with my parents. Wendy Brown didn’t do that, of course. She would fake being a teen by day, then go home to her depressing apartment and be a wife to her abusive husband. But the idea of going back to high school, even if I could do it as an actual teen, doesn’t really appeal to me much. The only thing I might have done differently was take some different courses and study music. But if I had done that, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Things might have turned out very differently. Maybe they would have been better. Maybe they would have been worse.

Anyway… I don’t know why The Atlantic is currently sharing these old stories on Facebook. I’m glad they did share that one, though, because it was a nice distraction from politics yesterday, and I’ve only been a subscriber for about a year. And it gave me a reminder that I’d rather be 48 than 15 again, even though it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that I was in high school. I think today’s students have it a hell of a lot worse than I did. For one thing, we didn’t have school shootings. For another, COVID-19 wasn’t a thing, either. Neither was social media, for that matter. I think Facebook probably makes high school much worse.

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