communication, Ex, family, narcissists, psychology

“Don’t lose touch with the important people in your life…”

Good morning, everybody. I had quite an interesting dream in the wee hours of the morning, just after Arran woke us up to be fed, at about 4:00 AM. Somehow, I managed to get back to sleep, and I soon found myself in a weird place in Asia, with Bill. I dreamt that we both got COVID, but it wasn’t a very bad case. We were over it quickly, and soon entering a familiar building, as in I felt like I’d been there before, or seen it before. It was deja vu in a dream. I don’t remember much else, except that I do know that the actor/musician/Facebooker Robbie Rist was also in the dream. He had bought a portable storefront building, which he’d had delivered to Key West, Florida. This is some random stuff, I know. I’m not sure where it came from. Maybe it was the tequila I drank last night.

It’s Thursday, which means I have to vacuum. I did some furniture rearranging yesterday, too. I moved our new wine/riddling rack into our dining room, and rolled away a kitchen cart that had served a purpose in our previous house. It’s now sitting in our foyer, next to another kitchen cart I bought for that house. In the old house, the two carts fit. In this house, they don’t fit so well and look out of place, although we do need the cabinet space and drawers they offer. We don’t have enough dedicated storage space in this house. German homes don’t usually have closets, which is a real pain.

I’ve always hoped to have my own house that I might make my own somehow, but we’ve moved so many times over the past twenty years, that it’s really hard to arrange that. So I have a hodgepodge of stuff, some of which has been in storage in Texas since 2014 and is probably in bad shape, thanks to the intensity of Texas heat. The storage facility is supposed to be temperature controlled, but that might not mean anything in a state with the power grid Texas has.

Somehow, I always figured I’d be living differently than I do, with connections to people and maybe a connection to one or two places. But I finally got the military nomadic lifestyle I missed out on by being born so late in my dad’s Air Force career. It’s not always a bad thing. It gives me a chance to see a lot. Like, for instance, sketchy tweets by a certain ex…

This week, I noticed that Ex posted a tweet with some surface wisdom in it. Part of it serves as today’s post title. She was having an exchange on Twitter with someone… I don’t know if this is a person she knows offline. Knowing her, it’s probably a stranger to whom she’s ingratiated herself. It looks like they have a love of a certain television show as their common thread. The person Ex was tweeting to is not a native English speaker, and a couple of weeks ago, she wrote that she had just said goodbye to someone. Ex had responded at the time, writing that her “best friend” had died a year ago, and she “[doesn’t] yet know how to live without her”.

Then she added another comment that gave me pause: “Be brave; everything will be ok. If you are more than friends… chase him down and pounce on him like a Tigger, though!!!!”

Yikes… for one thing, I cringe at the name, Tigger. You see, I once had a college roommate who went by that nickname. She was extremely loud, dramatic, and obnoxious– even worse than I am. She had super long, thick hair, and she used to swing it back and forth everywhere, dropping long strands of hair all over our dorm room. She was very much an attention seeker who was kind of fake. She also wasn’t much for showering, for some reason. Mary Beth, if you’re reading this, you know exactly of whom I write.

My ex roommate, Tigger, and I didn’t get along, and I’m sorry to say that my experience with her left me a bit traumatized, to the point of being kind of put off by a different woman I met a few years later who really reminded me of her. I wasn’t very nice to Tigger, or the other woman who reminded me of her. I did eventually apologize to the other woman… which was a shock to her. I genuinely felt badly about my annoyance, since it really wasn’t her fault that she bore such a strong resemblance to my ex roommate. And yet, I was also left legitimately scarred by my living experience with Tigger in college. In fairness, I probably traumatized Tigger, too. We just didn’t mesh at all. I do try to do better now. I don’t spend much time with people anymore. Anyway, that has nothing to do with Ex, except that it’s kind of strange that Ex would use that character– Tigger– to advise her online friend… It’s very cringey.

Oh my GOD. I’m more like Eeyore, myself. That’s probably why “Tigger” and I didn’t mesh.

For another thing, Ex kind of did what she advises her “friend” to do. She tracked down Bill in the late 80s, after her first husband ran into him on a military flight from Germany to the States. Ex, #1, and Bill all went to high school together, so they knew each other before the Army. When #1 told Ex that he’d run into Bill, she found out where he was in Germany and showed up on his doorstep with ex stepson, who was a toddler at the time.

Ex gave Bill the rush– pouncing on him, and taking advantage of his kind nature, inexperience with women, and vulnerability. She bowled him over with positive regard, attention, and manic energy. Next, she convinced Bill that #1 was an abusive asshole. Bill believed her, and decided to become a “white knight”. It didn’t occur to him, back then, that one day, she’d falsely tell #3 that Bill had abused her, too. We’re still dealing with the aftermath of Ex’s decision to chase down Bill and “pounce” on him like Tigger. (eeeew)

Anyway, Ex’s online friend thanked her, then praised her for being “so sweet”. Then she offered Ex her friendship, since Ex’s bestie had died, adding that her friend who had said goodbye was more like a brother to her. He left to make a better life for himself, so she accepted that he needed to do for himself.

It took Ex over two weeks to respond to her new online “friend”. But, when she finally did, this is what she wrote:

I understand that… you can still stay in touch! Don’t lose contact with the important people in your life, even if you only talk to them once in a #StrawberryMoon.

This advice doesn’t seem unreasonable. But then I ponder what Ex has actually done in her life. She’s divorced two men, having falsely accused both of them of horrific abuse. She’s forced her children to change their surnames and denied them access to their natural fathers. Two of her children have moved far away from her and actively avoid talking to her. One of her children doesn’t even call her “mom” in front of her kids, because she doesn’t want her mother to influence her children. And, based on Ex’s Twitter handle, it looks like she doesn’t even know that her latest grandchild has been born.

Once again, I caveat that, technically, none of this is any of my business, and I probably shouldn’t be looking at this stuff… Except I do, because Ex really doesn’t lose contact with “the important people” in her life. And by that, I mean she stays in contact with the families of her exes, even if she doesn’t talk to the exes themselves. However, when she “hoovers”, it’s not because she genuinely wants to be friends or family. It’s because she wants or “needs” something. Because I pay attention to what she does, I often catch her doing stuff she shouldn’t be doing, especially to people in Bill’s family.

For instance, Ex got in touch with #1’s family in 2009, when she decided to get ex stepson back in touch with his “abusive” father. She did that, not for generous or altruistic reasons, but to get back at Bill for allowing me to write her an email that gave her a severe narcissistic injury. In that email, I pointed out that she regularly emotionally abuses her children by forcing them to divorce their fathers. So, she retaliated by talking ex stepson into secretly changing his last name to what it was originally, and getting him in touch with his “real” dad, who never paid child support after Bill “replaced” him. Ex stepson was found out, and that resulted in his losing out on most of the last year of “child support” (for a 21 year old), and destroying the relationship with Bill. Actually, that was his choice. Bill would happily talk to his ex stepson anytime. Also, I suspect that the relationship would have been ruined, anyway, since it appears that ex stepson was only interested in money.

More recently, she got back in touch with Bill’s bereaved stepmother, showing up at her house with Bill’s long lost older daughter in tow, as well as her daughter with #3. She wasn’t there just to visit, though. She was there because she wanted money and “stuff”, even going as far as giving SMIL packaging materials so she could box up things to send to Ex– “to pass down” (or sell on eBay). Ex doesn’t have any shame, and she never forgets a previous source of supply. So she always shows up again, somehow. I feel pretty certain that if I were to divorce Bill or die, she would try to make nice with him. She is very practiced at trying to get back into people’s good graces, even when she’s practically blown up proverbial bridges with dynamite!

I know I shouldn’t be surprised that Ex knows what the “right” thing to say or write is. She’s always willing to “make amends”. It sounds wise not to lose touch with the “important” people in one’s life. And her two ex husbands, no doubt, were important people in her life, so she doesn’t lose touch… even if she doesn’t actually speak to them. Like most narcissists, she uses other people to do the dirty work. She stayed in touch with people in #1’s family and used him to hurt Bill when he dared to defy her orders. And she’s stayed in contact with Bill’s stepmother, so she can keep tabs on Bill and exploit her for money, material goods, and narcissistic supply. You can bet it will happen again, as long as these folks allow her any contact.

I could ignore her, like I did for years… but either way, she really won’t be ignored. As long as younger daughter is talking to Bill, she will be around… So like it or not, we will have to stay vigilant. Kind of like June in The Handmaid’s Tale.

“You will never be free of me.”
“You don’t deserve to make amends to anyone.”

But she also stays in touch with celebrities… and she has no shame about asking them for stuff, too…

…could you please share with anyone you think might be interested in helping us. Our next expenditure will be a service puppy’s training. I found a place to get a puppy (I hope), but need to pay $12k for the training! Och aye!!!! Our needs are great & friends few.

and

Can you help Autistic wanderer NEEDS fence on the Generosity Network? Every little bit helps!

and

Congratulations on this honor! Coach Sam, could you please, please, please, recommend a point of contact at the conservatory for my daughter who wants to do a study abroad in acting and learning to do more types of voices?

and

Puppy breath is the BEST!!! I cannot wait until we can afford to get a service puppy for my autistic son!!! I know it will be life changing. I just know it!

I really hope she doesn’t get a puppy. I know what happens to living beings who are under her care. They all end up abused and eventually discarded… then hoovered. Fortunately, I also know that most of her big ideas are either overcome by events, or usurped by other shiny passions and whims. That gives me some comfort about the puppy, but it doesn’t change the fact that she’s sketchy as hell. When she tries to “stay in touch” or “make amends”, it’s never for friendship or familial love. It’s because people are tools for her agenda. It’s a chilling thought, isn’t it? Makes me cringe.

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advertising, LDS, religion

Repost: Selling church…

I was looking for some old commentary about the Duggar family yesterday when I ran across this post from August 24, 2016. It made me cackle as I read it, so I decided to preserve it for posterity’s sake. The post actually has little to do with the Duggars, but it is about religion, and how religion can screw up people’s lives on many levels. I tagged the Duggars, though, because at the time I wrote this, Jessa Seewald was pregnant with her second child, who went on to be named Henry. I commented that I hoped the second baby would have a name less obnoxious than “Spurgeon”. I guess the name Henry is less obnoxious indeed, so kudos to Jessa and Ben for that.

Every once in awhile, someone in our local Facebook group will ask about where to go to church.  Germany has many churches, of course, but most of us in the local Facebook group are English speakers.  A service conducted in German is not so useful.  Many people attend services on one of the local installations.  Not everyone has access to the installations, though.  And some people are looking for a specific type of service.

I had to giggle yesterday when a newcomer asked where she and her family could attend services.  She has three kids and wants to find an American style church that will be good for them.  Her family is not affiliated with the military, so they have no access to the installations.  And they are Methodists.  Well…  sure enough, there were quite a few folks who were willing to sell their church.

There are always folks from the two Baptist churches scouting for members.  The first time we lived here, we were invited to a Baptist church by a woman who was a lapsed Catholic.  Bill and I don’t attend church.  He’s too scarred from being Mormon and I just don’t give a shit about church that much.  I think Bill is actually a lot more spiritual and potentially religious than I am.  I’ve just never really cared too much about attending church one way or another.  I see church as a place to go for socializing and sometimes pretty music.  A good minister who isn’t too boring is a huge plus.

This is a picture of the closest thing my family has to a “family church”. My dad and his siblings were raised in this Presbyterian church in Natural Bridge, Virginia. I, too, was raised Presbyterian, but it hasn’t seemed to have stuck.

Someone also mentioned a church near one of the installations that is Pentecostal/Assemblies of God.  I knew a lot of folks who were involved in that faith when I was growing up.  I’d say it’s not much like Methodism.  Methodists are rather mainstream and moderate.  The AoG and Pentecostal folks struck me as being a lot more like holy rollers.   

One person mentioned an English speaking Anglican church.  I think if I were inclined to attend services, that’s the one I’d want to go to.  But the original poster says she’s wanting an American style church and my guess is that the Anglican church would not be very American.

And yes, sure enough, there was a plug for the local Mormon ward.  The folks who were plugging it touted the excellent youth program and said a person can be as “active as they want to be”.  It was all I could do not to comment that there is a HUGE difference between Mormonism and Methodism.  One brave soul did ask the question and I know he knew the answer:  “Is there a significant difference between your faith and the Protestant faith?” 

One of the LDS ladies selling the Mormon church advised him to visit one of the official church Web sites for information.  Right.  Because we can’t have people finding out the non whitewashed version of what Mormonism is all about, can we?  The person who advised the guy to visit LDS.org or Mormon.org took pains to empathize that Mormons believe in Jesus Christ and is a Christian faith.  She also mentioned “instantaneous friends”.

Now…  here’s one thing that maybe the LDS apologist hasn’t considered.  Real friendships aren’t formed “instantaneously”.  Real friendships take time to develop, and must be nurtured.  “Instant friendships” are most likely going to be assigned friendships.  Assigned friendships are almost always fake.  The LDS church is pretty much rife with assigned friends.  Home visitors, visiting teachers, Relief Society, and everything else…  They will be friendly until you start asking uncomfortable questions.  Aside from that, it may be pretty damaging for young women to be told that if they engage in sexual contact before marriage, they are akin to chewed pieces of gum or shattered vases.

The apologist also emphasized that newcomers are “welcomed”.  Maybe that’s so, at least the first time a person shows up to a meeting.  But if he or she starts coming regularly, there will be pressure to be baptized.  There will be pressure for the newcomers to get on board with the status quo– look the right way, dress the right way, drink the right liquids, pay the right amount of tithing…  I highly doubt that a person who comes to meetings for the three years a typical military tour lasts will simply be encouraged to attend casually.  Mormonism requires big lifestyle changes that the entire family is pressured to embrace.

And yet…  this is what the apologist says…

“…you will find a very welcoming group of individuals and families who simply wish to share the hope and happiness they find in following this faith.

If that’s true in Stuttgart, it would be the first time I’ve seen a group of Mormons take a laid back approach to their faith.  You’d think that people who are sincere about wanting to sell their church would want to be honest and upfront about what attending would mean.  And if they have nothing to hide, then why can’t an investigator take the time to read multiple sources to help them make up their minds?  Even if there are a lot of people with axes to grind posting about Mormonism, it seems to me that a person with strong faith and conviction could easily overcome those obstacles.  Moreover, if there are a lot of people with axes to grind, maybe that should tell you something about the church itself.

I guess I can understand being a member of a church you love and feeling like everyone misunderstands it.  On the other hand, if you expect people to join your church, you should be open to allowing them to make an informed decision.  Mormonism and Methodism are not much alike.  They have different beliefs.  The newcomer looking for a new church should do her homework for her own sake, and that of her kids.  I did notice, though, that she knew something about Mormons.  She responded to the one guy who asked about “significant differences in beliefs” and told him to “Google Mormons”.  I guess she got the message.

On a different note, yesterday I listened to a very interesting discussion/interview conducted by a guy who interviewed a woman raised according to Bill Gothard’s principles.  It was quite eye opening and really put a different spin on fundamentalism.

This guy, Chris Shelton, usually talks about Scientology, but in this video he talks to a woman who was raised in the Quiverfull movement.  Crazy stuff!

Edited to add in 2021: originally, I ended this post with my comments about Jessa’s second pregnancy. But since she’s now had four kids and is living in her sex pest big brother’s old house, I figure that commentary is no longer relevant. I think I’m just glad that I don’t care about going to church. Seems like it can cause a lot of problems for people. I wonder if Josh Duggar would have turned out more normally if he had been raised in a home where he was free to talk about sex. Maybe he wouldn’t have been normal in any case, but I really don’t think fundie Christianity and its many rules and regulations, as well as its clearly misogynistic bent, helped matters at all.

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book reviews, funny stories

Brotherhood… and sisterhood… and a reposted book review.

This morning over breakfast, I was telling Bill about a former friend of mine… a guy I knew in college. We met when we were freshmen at what was then known as Longwood College. He lived on first floor Tabb, which was the only all male floor at that time that wasn’t associated with a fraternity. I lived on second floor Tabb, which was an all female floor. Both were dedicated to freshmen students and supposed to be “dry” halls.

This former friend– former because a few years ago, he took me on in a comment section when I dissed Donald Trump, and it ended on a rude note– went on to pledge one of the fraternities on campus. The frat he joined no longer has a place at Longwood. I believe they got kicked off campus because of hazing, so their chapter is now “inactive”. However, in the 1990s, they were known as sort of the everyman’s fraternity. The “nice” guys were members. Their parties were the most welcoming to all comers. That was as opposed to some of the other brotherhoods at Longwood, who seemed a bit more discerning as to who could come to their chapter room and dance to ear splitting 90s era music while sipping flat Beast.

One time, my former friend was talking about another fraternity on campus, known as Alpha Chi Rho– AXP. He asked, “You know what AXP stands for?”

I shook my head, because I didn’t know the Greek alphabet at that point.

“Assholes expecting pussy!” I must admit, we shared a big laugh over that joke. Sadly, there was an element of truth to it, although I think that could have been said for most of the fraternities at Longwood.

Former friend once took me to task for referring to his “brotherhood” as a “frat”. I asked him what the big deal was, and he said, “You don’t call your country a ‘cunt’, do you?” At that point, I had more of an understanding as to why so many of the women at Longwood seemed brighter than some of the men. I don’t think fraternity shortened to “frat” is quite the same as country shortened to “cunt”. But at the time, I didn’t feel the need to correct him on the point. It didn’t seem important to try to correct his thinking, as we were “friends”… even though this guy, now the father of a couple of daughters, used to run his hand, uninvited, up my thigh just to see how I would react. One time, he did that, and I involuntarily smacked him right on the dick. It wasn’t the last time, either. I can think of at least twice that he tried something pervy with me and wound up doubled over, calling me a “bitch” because I protected my own honor from his probing fingers. He was kidding around, but my reflexes didn’t know that.

I never joined a sorority at Longwood, although a lot of my friends did. I did join an honorary music fraternity for women, which was a lot cheaper, made fewer demands on my time, and was less intimidating. Consequently, I didn’t have much of a social life in college… at least as it pertained to dating. Looking back on it, I’m kind of glad I didn’t date in those days. I think it spared me a lot of heartache.

In fact, the older I get, the more I think trying to connect with people ends up being a waste of time. It’s like panning for gold, finding people who are true friends. So many people turn out to be temporary contacts, and the breakups can be brutal. Or, they can be heartbreakingly mundane. Someone just fades out of your life, forgotten like an old toy. One they they’re your friend. The next day, they’re gone.

Although I never went “Greek” myself– unless you count Sigma Alpha Iota, the music frat for women– I have always been kind of interested in Greek culture on college campuses. But then, I think I look at those groups as kind of akin to fringe religions, which readers of this blog may notice I find very intriguing. I wouldn’t want to join a group like The Way or the Jehovah’s Witnesses myself, but I do find them interesting to observe and study.

Back in 2004, I even read a book about Greek life, and reviewed it for Epinions.com. In the interest of preserving as many of my book reviews as I can, below is the review I wrote May 2, 2004, of Alexandra Robbins’ book, Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities. As usual, it appears here as/is. I seem to remember that some people weren’t too happy about Robbins’ characterizations of their sisterhoods. In that respect, the sorority members aren’t unlike the disgruntled members of religions who get angry with outsider opinions about their faiths. I see Robbins has also written about fraternities. I might have to read and review that, just to be fair to all the brotherhoods.

It’s not easy being Greek: the truth behind sororities

I’m a graduate of Longwood College, which is now known as Longwood University, where four national sororities were founded: Kappa Delta, Zeta Tau Alpha, Sigma Sigma Sigma (Tri Sig), and Alpha Sigma Alpha. Greek life, that is membership in a sorority or fraternity, was very big at Longwood when I attended. I have little doubt that being Greek is still a very important part of life on the Farmville, Virginia campus where I got my undergraduate degree.

I vividly recall the hullabaloo surrounding Greek rush at the beginning of each semester. My freshman year, I lived with a woman who rushed Kappa Delta. Kappa Delta was full of pretty women– KD ladies, according to my ex-roommate, who were among the most popular women on campus. When she had accepted her bid, her big sisters had decorated our door. Every time I walked into the room, I felt like I was walking through a throne. The whole door was covered in signs and decorations with KD colors and symbols all over it. And then my roommate was a pledge and she constantly went to parties, got involved in philanthropies and fundraisers, and spent all of her free time studying about the sorority and its mission. I witnessed firsthand some of the experiences Alexandra Robbins writes about in her 2004 book Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities.

I remember wondering at times if being in a sorority would be fun for me. I did join a musical honorary fraternity for women and we did a lot of the same stuff the social sororities did, only our dues were less expensive, membership was based on GPA and the number of music credit hours we had, it wasn’t as time consuming, and there weren’t any parties (though there was also a men’s music fraternity). According to Robbins, being in a social sorority is a major endeavor. First and foremost, there’s the significant investment of time and money. Sorority ladies pay dues that generally cost several hundred dollars a semester, and they are expected to attend meetings and ceremonies. If they miss those ceremonies and meetings, they might be fined, even if they had a good reason like work or school. According to Robbins, there’s a strong emphasis on looking a certain way and always behaving in a way that would reflect well on the sisterhood. There are mandatory study periods because many sororities have a minimum grade point average that sisters are expected to achieve. All of this sounds pretty positive until Robbins reveals the darker, more secretive side of sorority life.

In order to write this book, Robbins had to go undercover at an institution she calls “State University”, posing as a nineteen year old woman during the 2002-03 school year. She had the help of four sorority members: Vicki, Amy, Caitlin, and Sabrina (not their real names) who agreed to risk their memberships in the sororities in order to help her with this project. Vicki was a member of “Beta Pi” (not its real name) and the other three volunteers were members of “Alpha Rho” (not its real name). Sabrina was the lone black member of Alpha Rho. Robbins writes of Sabrina’s experiences of being in a white sorority, where the sisters insensitively made racist remarks in her presence. Caitlin, the daughter of an overly involved mother, was the vice president of Alpha Rho who had been date raped by a fraternity member after a party. Vicki was the pretty, blonde, California girl who looked the part of a Beta Pi sister but had so far disappointed the other sorority members by being too shy and reluctant to socialize. And Amy was another “girl next door” type member of Alpha Rho whose twin sister had died. According to Robbins, Amy was looking for a sisterhood that might help ease the pain she experienced with the loss of her biological sister.

As Robbins acted as a “fly on the wall” watching these four women over the course of the school year, she found out that most of the stereotypes surrounding sororities were actually true. Robbins claims that she witnessed eating disorders, racism, drug and alcohol abuse, psychological abuse, violence and extreme promiscuity. Worse, the abuses were inflicted by attractive, intelligent, otherwise successful women. Robbins balances these sordid stories with interludes about related news items related to sorority women, articles about hazing, date rape, and drug and alcohol abuse. She interviewed several hundred sorority members from campuses across the country, emphasizing that Greek life is most important in the South. It’s taken so seriously that some parents hire rush consultants in order to guide their daughters through the rush process and into the “right” sorority.

Robbins includes an interesting chapter on black sororities, comparing them to the white sororities– one institutionalized part of college life that is still quite segregated. She also includes information about local sororities, that is sisterhoods that are not part of a national panhellenic group. One black woman Robbins wrote about started her own sorority having been twice rejected by the white sororities. The woman claimed that she wouldn’t have fit in with the black sororities and that had she become a member of a black sorority, the sisters wouldn’t have accepted her because she didn’t “act black”; yet the white sororities wouldn’t accept her because of her skin color.

After I read this book, I found myself glad that I didn’t join a social sorority. I had, and still have, a lot of friends who were members of sororities, and I witnessed what happened to some of them after they joined Greek organizations. Most of the women were very nice, but as they became more involved with Greek life, they were a lot less involved with their “independent” friends. It was interesting to read Robbins’ accounts of the peer pressure she witnessed. Robbins also includes a lot of information about so-called secret rituals. If you’ve always wondered about sorority passwords, secret ceremonies, or symbolism, you may really enjoy the section of the book where Robbins removes the shroud of mystery.

The fact that Robbins does include secret passwords and information about secret rituals may be very offensive for those women who are members of sororities. Part of what makes the sisterhoods “special” is the emphasis on secrecy. Robbins destroys that secrecy with her expose, although I have to admit that I found the information interesting. On the other hand, I did wonder why she felt the need to include it in this book, especially since those secrets are part of what makes sorority life attractive. It was almost sad for me to read about the secrets that are held sacred by sorority women. Robbins also didn’t make it clear how she got away with being “a fly on the wall”, since she obviously didn’t join either of the sororities she wrote of. I would think that the sisters would have gotten suspicious, even if most of the contact Robbins had with the four sisters she was keeping track of was via instant messenger.

Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities is well written, thorough, and fairly well researched. For those who are not familiar with the great deal of jargon associated with Greek life, Robbins includes a glossary, but she also does a good job defining the elements of Greek life in the book itself. I found Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities an interesting read, although I doubt I’m a more enlightened person after reading about the sordid affairs that go on in sorority houses across the country.

Robbins concludes this book by writing her suggestions of how national sororities could change for the better. I was glad to see this, since so many expose type books write only of the negatives and yet don’t include any information about how the negatives could be made positive. She emphasizes the need for more “adult supervision”, something I found curious since college students are supposed to already be adults.

Robbins also believes that all women who rush should get into a sorority, a suggestion that I fear would defeat the purpose of sororities. After all, many people join Greek organizations so that they can be a part of something “special” with people who are like them. While I understand the reasoning behind this suggestion and actually agree with the sentiment (that Greek organizations are elitist), I doubt this suggestion would go over well. Robbins writes that the national offices are always interested in making more money and yet they are particular about who can be a member. This is another reason why she believes that sororities should be more open to all college women.

This book wasn’t entirely negative.  Robbins does include information about some of the positive aspects of sorority life, such as forming enduring friendships and business connections outside of college life, although the overall emphasis in this book is the negative side to Greek life.

I believe that Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities might be useful for high school senior girls and their parents, however I also believe that what is written in this book should be taken with a grain of salt and balanced with other sources. If you aren’t looking to go Greek but just want to read about sorority life, you might enjoy reading this book as well. Go to Amazon.com to order this book, though, and you will see many negative ratings contributed by indignant sorority members who are upset that Robbins has attacked an institution that they hold sacred. Still, I believe her account was fair, even if it was shocking.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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complaints, rants

Being “canceled”…

As someone who grew up in the 70s and 80s, it’s been a surreal experience to go from having in person relationships to online relationships. I remember when I was dating Bill, I told my mom that we’d met in a chat room. My mom was horrified. She thought it was so weird. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t tell her what kind of chat room it was. 😉

Nowadays, a lot of people meet and even become friends online. Some people never meet in person. Others are people we once knew offline, but then continue a relationship on the computer. I think communication has really changed significantly with the development of the Internet. In many ways, it’s made people a lot less civilized than they once were.

Take, for instance, my experience yesterday. On Wednesday, I had shared an article about Mike Pence, who was talking to Kamala Harris at Joe Biden’s inauguration. I remarked that Mike Pence had really redeemed himself in my eyes over the past couple of weeks. I said I thought he had a hell of a lot more class than Trump does. I thought some of my more conservative friends would appreciate the nod to Pence, but I immediately got backlash from so-called friends about this statement.

One of them got so pissed that she eventually blocked me, having also criticized me for saying I was going to buy a Donald Trump toilet brush for my bathroom. My remark to her, when she said she wouldn’t want anything “Trump” in her house was, “Luckily, it’s not your house.” I was totally kidding when I wrote that, but apparently, it struck a nerve. In my defense, I read her comment back to me yesterday morning, while sitting on the toilet and before I’d had my coffee. Maybe she thought it was rude for me to say it wasn’t her house, but I think it’s rude to criticize people’s shopping choices– *shrug*.

For context, we were discussing my new Angela Merkel citrus strainer, which Bill was using to make me a celebratory cocktail on Wednesday night. I have started collecting funny household items, particularly if they involve politicians. I also have a Margaret Thatcher nutcracker, and Soviet Matroyshka dolls that feature all of the former leaders up to Yeltsin. I had commented that the only Trump item I would want is a toilet brush. I wouldn’t want the toilet paper, since I don’t want Trump’s image that close to my genitals. However, I think he’s perfectly useful for scrubbing shit residue from my toilet. It was a joke, anyway.

Yes, I finally bought one… I need a new one anyway. I also used to have a Michael Vick chew toy before Arran destroyed it.

I can only assume that I got “canceled” because this person, whom I once knew and greatly respected offline, is gay. Mike Pence is famously anti-gay, and when he was Indiana’s Governor, he had no regard for anyone identifying as LGBTQ. Many homosexuals suffered under his regime. I don’t agree with, or condone, the way Pence has treated homosexuals. I suspect he does it because of his deeply religious nature. Like it or not, most religions are against homosexuality. I don’t think being anti-gay is Christlike behavior myself, but as we all know, lots of people have different views and don’t care what mine are.

Whether or not anyone wants to believe me, I actually don’t give a flying fuck what someone’s sexual orientation is. I have several gay relatives, one of whom has become somewhat close in the past few years. My sister-in-law is a lesbian who has been married twice to women. I also have a fuckload of gay and lesbian friends, all of whom I value. I don’t give a shit what anyone does in their bedroom, as long as the people participating can and do consent, and there aren’t any pets or livestock involved.

The person who canceled me yesterday was someone I had considered a friend, but clearly it wasn’t so… she didn’t value my friendship at all. I say this because this one incident involving my comments about Mike Pence upset her so much that she very quickly dropkicked me out of her Facebook sphere. She did so, even though I reiterated repeatedly that I didn’t vote for Pence, and wouldn’t vote for him. I simply recognized that instead of going along with Donald Trump’s criminal QAnon gang, he’d followed the law and probably spared us a bloodbath. And then after that, he was the only representative from the Trump administration who attended the inauguration and acted like a mature and civilized human being. Maybe it shouldn’t impress me that he did his job, but it really did. I see nothing wrong with stating that.

I used to not have any appreciation whatsoever for Pence, so the fact that he’s gone up a few notches doesn’t mean that I love him. The bar was set very low, so any positive regard that came from the past couple of weeks still doesn’t negate his actions of the past. And I truly thought I was being nice when I made that comment on my own page. I certainly didn’t imagine it would turn into a controversy. Perhaps it wouldn’t have gone so far south if I hadn’t used the word “redeemed”. But it was late in the evening; I was feeling emotional, and had enjoyed my evening wine.

I bring this up today because I’ve been really disturbed by the phenomenon of cancel culture. People don’t want to discuss things rationally anymore. We have arguments, and if someone disagrees, it turns into a hair flip and a “Fine, we’re done!” attitude. I know that this wouldn’t happen so quickly if folks were face to face, but it’s hard to do that right now, thanks to the pandemic.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. Last summer, when Mary Kay Letourneau died, I got into an argument on RfM with someone who called me a “rape apologist” because I expressed condolences to those who had loved her. The woman who called me a rape apologist insisted that having any positive regard or empathy for Mary Kay Letourneau meant that I condoned her actions against her former student, Vili Fualaau, who later became her husband. Vili was at Mary Kay’s side when she died. He is also now a grown man, and obviously didn’t consider his former wife his rapist, even if the law and society say she was.

While I agree that what Mary Kay Letourneau did was very wrong, she did do her time in prison. And even though she went to prison, Vili Fualaau was waiting for her when she got out. They were married for twelve years, divorcing only because Vili wanted to start a marijuana farm and couldn’t legally do so with a convicted felon as his spouse. My thinking is that whatever I might think of Mary Kay Letourneau’s actions are secondary to what her victim thinks. She paid her debt to society, and she clearly had people in her life who loved her, including her ex husband. Although Mary Kay is dead, those people are still left behind and were grieving their loss. They deserve respect and sympathy, even if Mary Kay, herself, might not have.

The same thing goes for anyone convicted of a crime. Very few people have no one in the world. Very few people are so awful that there isn’t someone who appreciates and loves them. So when I express sorrow for someone who’s done bad things dying or being injured, it’s not just for that person. It’s also for the innocent people who love them regardless of any negative things they’ve said or done. I feel like I should be allowed to do that without being labeled, chastised, or canceled. In a different era, I probably would be. Or, at least I might have a chance to explain, right?

I can understand why people cancel each other. Nowadays, we’re all bombarded with so much information and relationships tend to be wider and more shallow, rather than deep and narrow. We live in an era where it’s easy to become acquaintances, especially online, but it’s hard to become real friends. And so, when someone is annoying or upsetting, we can just change the channel, as it were, or click the unfriend or even the block button. I’ve done it myself a few times, although I usually do it to strangers before I’ll do it to people I’ve interacted with regularly. I usually don’t unfriend people for being offensive unless they are repeat offenders and I’ve asked them to stop at least once. A person I’ve actually met really has to upset me before I ostracize them completely by hitting the block button. I’ve never done it to a relative, although some of my relatives have done it to me. The vast majority of the people I unfriend get dropped because I don’t actually know them or speak to them, they’ve gone inactive for a long time, or they’re dead. I reserve blocking for people who won’t leave me alone, people who are stalkers or creepy, or people who have been deliberately hurtful.

I know a lot of people are perfectly fine with calling people out and “canceling them”, as if they’ve never done anything wrong themselves. But personally, I find it a very disturbing phenomenon. I’m a big believer in allowing people to be heard, even if what they have to say isn’t something we want to hear. Sometimes unpleasant messages have truths within them, and sometimes group think can obscure humanity. For instance, some years ago, I watched a Disney propaganda film about the rise of Hitler. It’s called Education for Death.

This is a pretty interesting film…

At about five minutes into the above video, we see a schoolboy named Hans in Germany being taught about a fox hunting and killing a rabbit. Everyone in the class is all about the fox killing the rabbit except the little boy, who expresses sympathy for the creature. He’s ostracized and ridiculed for having a different viewpoint, so under tremendous peer pressure, he eventually loses his natural regard for the rabbit and joins his classmates in their bloodthirsty enthusiasm for killing. The narrator says sarcastically, “Hans has now come around to the ‘correct’ Nazi way of thinking.”

Now, I am not in any way comparing what happened to me to Naziism. What I’m trying to point out is that respectful discussions and sharing different perspectives are good things. It’s useful and helpful to talk about different views. I see nothing wrong with recognizing something good in someone’s actions, even if that person has been “canceled” or is not politically correct or popular. Like I said, I don’t think there are too many people who are truly all good or all bad. I do think “all bad” people exist, but my opinion is that there are very few of them. And a person should have the chance to redeem themselves, if they can. It’s not a good thing for someone to go through life being hated by everyone.

I also think hating people takes a lot of energy. There are a couple of people in the world that I can honestly say that I legitimately have no regard for at all. I have my personal reasons for feeling that way about them, though, and I don’t expect others to feel the same way I do. Having negative feelings about those people who actually harmed me in a personal way already takes a lot of energy. I don’t have the energy to spare to also hate politicians with whom I disagree. Trump, of course, is a different matter. I probably do legitimately hate him, and I make no apologies for that. But I’m not going to kick people out of my life for disagreeing with me. If I did that, I’d never speak to my family again.

My former friend apparently loathes Mike Pence. She has her reasons for loathing him. I probably even agree with her for feeling the way she does. But prior to the other day, it was not something we’d ever discussed. I can’t say we really discussed it the other day, either, since she quickly got pissed off and split. She just expected me to share her view and canceled me when I didn’t. Or, at least that’s what I concluded, since she didn’t talk to me about what had upset her so much. And I was left realizing that this person I had once respected, and had even told that I respected, had no respect whatsoever for me.

I know some people will tell me I’m too sensitive. In fact, when I posted a thought about this situation, I got a comment from someone who acted as an apologist and gave me advice. Advice was not really what I was seeking, though. What I was doing was requesting that those who are too immature to have a respectful discussion to go ahead and unfriend me now. Because that’s not how I “do” real friendship– at least not with people I actually know and care about offline. And I am not going to let anyone tell me how to think or what I can or can’t say. I’d rather have fewer real friends than a bunch of fakes clogging up my feed.

If I want to commend Mike Pence for following the law and showing dignity at the inauguration, that should be my privilege, especially on my space. Real friends will let me say that and have a rational and respectful discussion if they disagree with me. They won’t flip their hair, call me names, or cancel me for voicing my opinion. And if that’s the kind of person you are, as my ex friend said, “count me out.”

In other news… yesterday, we found out Arran has a mast cell tumor. He has to have surgery on Monday. Here we go again.

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book reviews, politics

A review of Melania and Me, by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff

Just in time for the election, former Melania Trump bestie, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, has published her tell all about what it was like to be friends with Donald Trump’s third wife. As you might surmise by the timing of this book’s release, as well as the title, the friendship has ended, and not on a positive note. In any case, I decided to read Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s book, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady. Melania is the quiet half of the Trump power couple and I was curious about her. Also, I figured I could relate to the author. I “broke up” with my former bestie, too, and haven’t had a best “girl” friend in many years.

So who is Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, anyway?

Before she got tangled up with the Trumps, the author of Melania and Me was the director of special events at Vogue. She lived in New York City and was still working at Vogue when she met a Slovenian model then known as Melania Knauss. When Melania and Stephanie met, it was Stephanie who was better known. Melania was moderately successful, but not really super famous when she caught Donald Trump’s roving eye. Winston Wolkoff writes that when she and Melania first met, Melania was quiet and unassuming, but caring. Or, at least that’s how she seemed.

Donald Trump married his third wife, Melania, in 2005, and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff was there to see the eastern European model shaped into the First Lady she is today. Melania and Stephanie were ladies who frequently lunched. That was the way Melania preferred it, although Stephanie writes that lunching wasn’t so good because it really cut out a portion of the work day. Throughout the book, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff makes it clear that she’s a “work horse”. She works very hard, and has always had to make her own way, in part because her parents had a bad marriage and wanted their kids on their own as soon as possible (something else I can relate to, as my parents had a good marriage, but wanted me to skedaddle ASAP, too). Winston Wolkoff went to boarding school. She’s also the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, and has three much beloved children, one of whom has severe food allergies. She describes herself as a “helicopter parent”, even though she spent a couple of years working for Melania Trump… FOR FREE.

Yes, you read that right. This “hardworking”, “helicopter parent”, “Holocaust granddaughter”, “lady who lunched” did not draw an official salary as she spent about two years thanklessly slaving away for the First Lady, a woman she thought was her “best friend”. She was away from her family in New York, spending her own money on Ubers, lunches at Trump properties, and hotel rooms, helping Melania Trump choose staff members that were not budgeted for, and planning events such as the Presidential Inauguration. Winston Wolkoff complains that she was barely paid anything for her work. She received $480,000 for work she did on the inauguration, which was, on its own, a bit of a cluster fuck. Other than that, zip… as she writes it, anyway.

Why did Stephanie Winston Wolkoff work for free?

She did it for her country, as the old song from Grease 2 goes. Although Winston Wolkoff writes that she was never a voter before the Trump era, claiming she didn’t know enough about politics or the candidates, she decided to vote for Trump in 2016. She did it because Melania was her friend, and because she thought she was being a good patriot by trying to help her friend be a good First Lady.

Through it all, Stephanie and Melania traded texts full of emojis, many of which are included in this book. Melania never had any problem asking Stephanie or anyone else for favors, but when the shoe was on the other foot, she “didn’t have time” (see my post from a couple of days ago). What Melania wants, Melania gets, according to Winston Wolkoff, who writes that she worked so hard for so long that she actually wound up in the hospital.

Want a little whine with your lunch?

While I can commiserate with Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who claims she gave up a very successful, high-powered career for someone she thought was a real friend, I did think she came off as a bit of a martyr at times. Her writing has a somewhat self-pitying, shaming tone that I found kind of off-putting. I don’t doubt that Winston Wolkoff worked her ass off, but it’s not like she didn’t have a choice. She must have known deep down that her “friendship” with Melania wasn’t very genuine and if she ever said “no” to the First Lady, the “friendship” would end. But if those are the conditions of the relationship and one voluntarily settles for that, then one is also complicit in perpetuating the fake friendship. Therefore, one can assume that one’s motivations aren’t as pure as one makes them out to be.

I do understand how it feels to be used and betrayed by someone who doesn’t share the same level of regard for you that you have for them. I also know what it’s like to work for free, seemingly for the greater good, only to have it all turn to shit.

What I don’t understand is why Winston Wolkoff– who is purportedly as family-oriented and successful as she claims to be– tolerated that treatment for as long as she did. But then… we are talking about the most powerful couple in America and perhaps one of the most powerful couples in the whole world. I’m sure that was a lure that kept Stephanie so close to Melania, even though she was never given a contract and had to enter the White House like any flunkie who never got vetted. Yes, she slept in a guest room right over the White House residence, but Melania never saw to it that her friend could get fast tracked past White House security. Best friend indeed.

Winston Wolkoff writes of being relegated to “lawn standing” at Trump’s swearing in. She managed to get a better view only because an official staffer spotted her and got her a better seat. This, even though she had helped plan the event. Melania didn’t care… and in fact, frequently took advantage of her “friend” while dissing her. Melania did send flowers on Stephanie’s birthday, at least until last year or so, when Stephanie finally told her friend, Melania, that she was resigning. After that, it seems their fifteen year old friendship was kaput. Now, all she has to show for it is this book, which really could have been better than it is.

Overall

I have a hard time feeling really sorry for Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, although I guess I can understand on a human level how she ended up in her predicament. It’s easy for someone like me to look at someone like her– close to famous people like Anna Wintour and Andre Leon Talley– and think she should have known better than to get involved with the Trumps (or politics in general). But although she protests to the contrary, that she really was a “true friend” to Melania and other people who helped the Trumps get to where they are right now and were kind of stiffed for their efforts, I have a feeling that the work she was doing was not just out of friendship. Surely she believed she’d get paid somehow. I’m sure she thought it would be more than whatever she makes from the sales of Melania and Me.

Some of the author’s handiwork… Judge for yourself.

I did kind of enjoy Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s commentary on Ivanka Trump (the princess), as well as some of the other Trump staffers. I thought some of her insights into famous gaffes and fashion missteps were interesting, too. Apparently, Melania doesn’t care what anyone thinks and simply does whatever is best for her and maybe her son, Barron, who is reportedly a bit of a prankster.

On the other hand, I also got the sense from reading this book that Winston Wolkoff still has some affection and admiration for her old friend, Melania. At times, she is complimentary of her and seems to miss her, which makes the book a little bit confusing. I kind of got the sense that maybe she hopes she and Melania can bury the hatchet someday and, once again, be besties who lunch. Maybe she thinks Melania will read this book and send her flowers and an apology? Somehow, I doubt that will happen.

Anyway, I’m not sorry I read Melania and Me, but I am glad I’m finished with it. I hope Stephanie Winston Wolkoff has had a nice rest, recovered her health, and is enjoying those three children and her husband that she left over for over a year to work for free, serving the worst U.S. president in recent history (in my opinion, anyway). I do somewhat empathize with her. It’s bewildering when someone you thought was a close friend turns out to be a selfish asshole. But then, when you’re not directly blinded by the magical glare of a shameless narcissistic manipulator, it’s a lot easier to see wolves dressed in baby blue Ralph Lauren frocks.

I think Stephanie Winston Wolkoff and her ilk would do well to read more fables and learn some of life’s basic lessons, starting with this one. Or maybe she should learn the cardinal rule that everyone hears when they fly on an airplane. You have to put your own mask on before you can help other people. Maybe with a little more oxygen to the brain, Winston Wolkoff might have more clarity in determining who her real friends are.

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