complaints, healthcare, politics, rants, social media

I get angry when people use the anger emoji inappropriately…

Apologies in advance for this post, because it may be upsetting to some readers. I don’t mean to upset people. This post is meant more of a reminder to be considerate.

Earlier this year, I found out that some people take what I write much more seriously than I ever realized. It was funny how it happened, too. This person reacted inappropriately to one of my posts. I shared a viral photo of someone and she said I looked “great”, mistaking me for the person in the picture. I probably should have just laughed it off. That’s the (unsolicited) advice people usually give me in such cases. Unsolicited advice also tends to piss me off. 😉

I ended up venting about that incident in this blog. My former Facebook friend (also a relative by marriage), who had been so complimentary of a picture that wasn’t of me, read the post, got offended about my vent, and blocked me. It’s not a big deal. I don’t miss her, since she pretty much proved to me that she’s not a real friend, anyway. What I feel is more disappointment than anything else.

What puzzled and upset me most about that exchange is that it started out perfectly innocently. With no malice whatsoever, I shared something I liked, and thought was important. My former friend reacted inappropriately and mistook the person in the photo for me. Instead of excusing herself, she just “laughed” it off… which made me feel belittled and disrespected. After a lifetime of that kind of thoughtless treatment from so-called loved ones, I got kind of mad about it, so I processed the disrespect by writing about it my blog. I naively figured that was better than telling her off on Facebook. She read my post; and the next thing I know, I’m an even bigger asshole to her. Oh well. I guess our family reunions will be more awkward from now on. 😉

At the risk of sounding like an asshole again, I’m going to write a similar post today. Once again, I’m feeling kind of disrespected and need to unpack it this blog. If you see yourself in today’s post and feel offended, please know that I do feel your pain. But I’m writing this because I was offended, and my feelings count, too. This is just my way of processing stuff. It helps keep me sane. The alternative is me either bottling up my feelings or ripping someone a new asshole in a more public setting. So I’m warning you now… don’t keep reading unless you can handle the truth.

Still with me? Okay… here goes.

A few months ago, a college friend of mine was in a really terrible car accident. She was very badly hurt. Her mom and a cousin posted a little bit about the wreck when it happened, but they never really followed up on my friend’s progress after that. They kind of left us hanging about her well-being. I kept checking my friend’s Facebook page over the summer, wondering how she was doing, but there was never an update.

Yesterday, two of my friend’s family members shared a crowdfunding post on her behalf. With their post, they included a rather disturbing picture of her right after the accident, which I’m sure was shared as a way of provoking shock, sympathy, and emotion. Personally, I’m not a big fan of taking photos of unconscious, intubated people who are hospitalized in intensive care units, and then sharing them publicly. But, under the circumstances, I guess I can understand why my friend’s family did it that way. They really need financial help, hence the GoFundMe post. A dramatic photo of someone who is grievously injured, hospitalized, and on the brink of death, is much more effective for fundraising, than a photo of someone who is conscious, somewhat healed, dressed, and sitting in a wheelchair.

I decided to donate some money. I know that people who are dealing with medical crises need financial assistance, and at this point in my life, I’m in a position to help. There was a time in my life when I had no money and people helped me. This is my way of paying it forward, and I do it with Bill’s blessing.

Although it kind of made me cringe to do so (mainly because of the scary, dramatic photo), I also shared the GoFundMe post on my Facebook page, because my college friend and I have mutual friends who might also want to help her. I know sometimes people stop following other people on social media, but still think of them as friends. It’s happened to me a few times. 😉 Maybe some of our mutual friends still follow me, but don’t follow her anymore. That’s probably unlikely, though, since she has never been a particularly frequent poster on Facebook and probably annoys people less often than I do.

Minutes after I posted the GoFundMe, I got an “angry” emoji reaction from someone who doesn’t even know my friend. This person didn’t explain why they were angry, so I was left to wonder about it. Were they angry at my friend’s family for asking for money? Is it because her insurance has run out and she’s being “kicked out” of the rehab hospital? Were they angry because she got t-boned by a 19 year old who broadsided her? Or were they angry at me for sharing the post and messing up their feed? I really don’t know, because they never explained.

I asked what was wrong. I didn’t get a timely response, so I deleted the post. Or, at least I thought I deleted the post. Then I made a new post, this time with a little more information about my friend.

Later, I got another “angry” emoji on that post. It was someone else who doesn’t know my friend, but works in the healthcare field. This person decided to leave a rant about how “greedy” rehab hospitals are, and how they can’t just kick her out if she has nowhere to go. That may be the truth, and as someone with a background in social work and public health, I certainly do know there are people who are trained to assist in these situations. But that post wasn’t the place for her rant.

I was also irritated that she had left an angry reaction on a post I thought I’d deleted and reposted, as a means of getting rid of the first angry reaction. But looking at it more closely, I realized that she had commented on the first post, which evidently wasn’t deleted after all. So now there were two inappropriate angry emojis. I started to respond to the rant, but then decided to try to delete the post again.

Imagine my unpleasant surprise this morning, when I woke up to two more angry reactions on the first post, which I thought I had deleted but clearly it hadn’t disappeared from my timeline. One person left a comment that I didn’t read, because I was further pissed that–

1. People were not keeping in the spirit of the post, which was simply asking for help for someone who really needs it.

2. There were a bunch of aggressive orange emojis staring back at me, when all I was doing was trying to help a friend… someone I actually know offline.

3. Twice, I had tried to delete the post, but people were still inappropriately responding to it.

Meanwhile, the new post I put up, edited with a request not to leave rants about the healthcare system, went completely ignored. I wondered if anyone could even see it. In fact, I just took it down, because I don’t like looking at that frightening photo of my friend, and I can see that other people have donated. I don’t want to feel angry today, especially while looking at people’s orange emojis on a post that was meant to do something good for someone else.

I wish Facebook would allow people to disable things like reaction emojis, comments, and gifs on serious posts. Far too many people are careless, situationally unaware, or just enjoy being trolls. Then they leave reactions that cause negative reactions in me. And, while I totally agree that the healthcare system sucks, and my old friend shouldn’t be threatened with being “kicked out” of rehab due to losing her insurance coverage, that post was NOT the place for a soapbox rant.

I should also mention that I’m not aware of the specifics of her case or the local laws where she is, nor do I know what type of facility she’s in. As I mentioned before, her family wasn’t very forthcoming with information in the weeks that followed the accident, not that it was anyone else’s business. But, because I don’t know the specifics, I can’t really speak to whether or not what the rehab hospital is allegedly doing is “legal” or standard.

However, I DO know, from being a social worker with a health administration background, that people in my friend’s situation pretty much always need financial support, regardless of what kind of insurance coverage they have, or what the official “rules” are. And that was the spirit I had when I initially shared the post for people who know and care about her.

If you can’t or aren’t interested in helping, just keep scrolling. It’s not that difficult. Leaving inappropriate angry reactions and rants isn’t useful to anyone. And leaving the first angry reaction is basically an invitation to other people to follow your lead, which is obviously what happened in this case.

I don’t want to tell people what to do… and God knows, I don’t want to tell anyone to “refrain” (hate that word) from doing anything. But I do wish people would be more thoughtful and considerate, and not make things about themselves. I’d love it if Facebook would let us just share things without allowing reactions or comments, so this kind of thing doesn’t happen.

On a side note… I noticed that my friend and her family members are folks who wholeheartedly support(ed) the orange overlord who is about to be booked in Fulton County Jail this week. I wonder if this situation might help them realize that everyone needs access to affordable healthcare, and that asking your friends and loved ones to send financial support is kind of akin to taking welfare– only instead of applying for government assistance, you’re playing on people’s emotions and hoping they’ll be kind and open their hearts and wallets.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind helping my friends when I can. But we all need access to healthcare that doesn’t break people financially and put their loved ones’ livelihoods in jeopardy. It really is for the public’s good that decent, affordable healthcare be a human right. I know my friend never thought she’d be in a horrific car accident right after she took a vacation to Hawaii. Now, according to her family, she’s homeless and about to discharged from a rehab hospital she evidently still needs. That shouldn’t happen in the United States in 2o23.

So ends today’s rant. If you feel like blocking me because of it, have at it. I just hope it inspires some consideration in a few people.

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communication, complaints, condescending twatbags, rants, slut shamers

You really don’t need to comment either way…

On this date in 2012, I took the featured photo in Cologne, Germany. We were on our very first “hop”, which took us to Germany, Austria, and Luxembourg. I spotted this sticker on utility equipment and snapped a photo. It fits today’s topic perfectly.

Happy Sunday, folks. It’s another pretty, late spring morning here, and already 69 degrees Fahrenheit, which is pretty nice. I know it’s hard to fathom to those of you in the southern United States, but it’s still a bit chilly in Germany. I don’t look forward to the hot, un air-conditioned days that are coming, but right now, the weather is getting more pleasant.

Our Nordic holiday is rapidly approaching. I have experienced Scandinavian and Baltic countries in the summer, and I know that it will behoove us to bring layers. I remember the first time we went to Norway, back in June 2009, and we both had to buy warmer clothes. Bill got two sweaters, and I got a hoodie and a sweatshirt. I loved the hoodie and was pretty sad when I lost it after our 2014 “hop” to France and Germany from Texas. Perhaps I’ll find a new one when we’re up there.

I’m kind of glad we’re going up north next month. I probably won’t be wearing a bathing suit in public. Maybe I’ll wear one on the cruise ship, but I’ll bring a robe with me. Actually, one thing I’ve noticed and really enjoyed in Europe is the less judgmental and shitty attitude people tend to have about other people’s bodies. This is especially true in Germany, where there are a lot of health spas in which being nude is a requirement. I’ll admit, as an American, it was hard for me to embrace the idea of being nude in a “public” place. However, once I did it, I found the experience very liberating. Nudity isn’t a big deal here, so you see all kinds of people at the spa. All of them are there for themselves, and it’s not a big deal if you don’t have a bikini or Speedo worthy body.

Yesterday, a friend shared the below post on Facebook. I liked it, so I decided to share it, too.

I added the comment, “Yup. Zip it.”

Now… I’m going to clarify. Personally, I don’t objectively think that every body is necessarily beautiful. However, I do believe that (almost) every person has basic worth. I do think that we should show basic respect to people, and do our best to preserve their dignity. I completely agree with the original poster’s statements that people don’t need to make comments about other people’s bodies, positive or negative. You really don’t need to comment either way. I honestly don’t see why people feel emboldened to make such personal comments to people, especially when they are total strangers.

A lot of my friends saw the above post and liked it. However, I did get one comment that I’m afraid has given me something to write/rant about this morning. It was actually a little embarrassing on many levels. A family member, seeing the above post, wrote this:

You look GREAT💕

In fairness, this family member is related by marriage. She’s married to my dad’s first cousin (my first cousin once removed– Granny’s nephew– and the son of my fabulous late Aunt Estelle, who was hilarious). She has known my parents for years, though, because she’s from the Tidewater area, and used to patronize my parents’ business. One time, we went to our annual Thanksgiving shindig and she was there with cousin Jimmy. She didn’t even know Jimmy was my dad’s cousin, and asked us what the hell we were doing there!

I’m not sure if this relative knew me when I was growing up. She probably saw me a few times, since my parents’ business was run out of their house. However, she hasn’t seen me in person since 2014. Moreover, it’s pretty obvious if you actually READ the post before reacting or commenting, that I am not the original poster. Anyway, I wrote this response, with a laughing reaction (though I kind of wanted to post an orange, angry reaction):

Uh…. That isn’t me.

My relative posted this:

🤣😂🤣oooops!

If my relative knew me better, she’d know that I never wear bikinis. I probably should wear them, since it’s easier to go to the bathroom if you have a two piece bathing suit. But when I do wear bathing suits, I prefer to wear one pieces. Anyway, I responded thusly:

When I go swimming, I’m usually nude. Plus, I could never grow my hair that long.

And this is the truth. In Germany, when I go swimming, it’s often at a health spa, and a lot of them are nude. So when I swim in Germany, I do often go swimming in the buff. When I’m not in Germany, I don’t wear bikinis. And I have never had long hair like the woman in the picture has. My hair simply won’t grow that long. I’ve tried.

My relative wrote:

I did notice her hair is longer than yours usually is!

Right. And did you also notice that she’s got darker hair than mine has been in years? She probably has a “better” figure than I have, too (although tastes differ). 😉 I was a bit perturbed and it was later in the evening, so I made one more response.

She’s also a bit younger.

People should be able to go swimming or whatever and not have people comment about their bodies. I like how it is in Germany. Nudity isn’t a big deal here, so you see people of all shapes and sizes, especially at wellness spas. Nobody cares. It’s very liberating.

This was my main point. You don’t need to make a comment of any kind about other people’s bodies. You don’t need to reassure someone that they look “great”. You don’t need to compliment them, nor do you need to tell them they’re too fat, too thin, or need to wear a bra, shapewear, or a girdle. Just let them live in their own skin in peace.

If you must comment, try to pay attention to other things, like whether or not they look happy. Stop focusing so much on the external appearances of other people– especially those you don’t know personally. Most of them won’t care about your opinions either way, and by keeping your mouth shut, you avoid embarrassing and traumatic situations with strangers.

My relative still didn’t get it. She posted this…

You could pass for that age…whatever that may be!

Well gee… thank you. But a compliment on my looks was not what I was hoping for when I shared that post, as much as I appreciate being complimented. It’s not that I don’t like being told I look young, or beautiful, or whatever else. I do like hearing sincere compliments. Sincere is the operative word, and really, compliments should come from someone whose opinions matter to me.

I did visit the original post, just to see what other people’s reactions to it were. Naturally, there were many comments about how “obesity isn’t pretty”. Some were from mansplaining males who expect women they deem unattractive to cover up. Some were, sadly, from women who harped on what’s beautiful and “healthy”. Others posted backassed things like, “I wouldn’t do it, but good for her.” A comment like that tells me that you’re trying to be “nice”, but you still disapprove. The woman in that photo doesn’t require your approval or your opinion. Just zip it, and mind your own business.

Everybody has a story. You have no idea what’s going on in that woman’s life. For all you know, she might have just lost a lot of weight. Or maybe she just gained a lot of weight. Maybe it’s the first time she’s been to the beach in years. Or maybe she visits the beach every day, and it’s her happy place. Who are you to intrude on her business with uninvited comments about her body? Why do you think she, or anyone else, should care what you think about her body? You’ve got your own body. Pay attention to that, instead.

I’ll be honest. I don’t like it when people make comments about my body. They almost never make me feel good, even when they’re positive. When they come from men, they make me feel skeevy. When they come from women, they make me feel bullshitted. And no matter what a person does, there’s always going to be someone who is critical. Even if everyone was an “acceptable” size for aesthetic purposes, there would always be someone out there with a criticism or a backhanded compliment. Seems to me that people really ought to just STFU about other people’s bodies and mind their own business.

Last weekend, I took some photos with Bill at a street food festival we attended. They turned out really nicely. Below is the photo currently serving as my profile picture.

Maybe I look “pretty” in this photo, but I would much rather someone say that I look happy.

One friend left a comment that I really appreciated. She wrote, “Great picture!” That’s really all anyone needs to say, if they say anything at all.

I know not everyone shares my opinions about this subject. My thoughts on this probably come from being raised by people who were very image conscious and constantly criticized me for not looking “good” at all times.

I can remember my dad grabbing me by the head and forcibly combing my hair as he claimed it “looked like a rat’s nest.”

I can remember my mom looking at me with disdain and saying, “Why don’t you go put on some makeup?” Alternatively, when I got dolled up, she’d pull out the camera for a photo… as if it was such a rare and momentous occasion that it demanded to be preserved for posterity’s sake.

I can remember both of them giving me endless shit about my weight when I was a teen and a young woman, even as I flirted with eating disorders. My dad called me names. My mom tried to bribe me with new clothes, as she pleaded with me to lose weight. It made me feel unloved, ugly, and unworthy, and eventually led me to depression bad enough that I saw a psychiatrist, who also fat and appearance shamed me (but did at least find the right antidepressant).

It took years after that to stop going on starvation diets as I constantly made derogatory comments about my body to anyone who would listen. I’m sure that was as tiresome for other people, as it was not helpful for me. I don’t want to go back down that road.

Years after my last appointment with that psychiatrist, I asked for his notes to be sent to me, because I needed to give them to the Army for an EFMP screening. I made the mistake of looking at what he wrote about me. He made quite a few comments about how I wasn’t losing weight, and how I looked “garish”. I guess he felt my clothes were too “loud” for being my size (about a 14 at the time). He gave me medication that was supposed to be used for migraine headaches and seizures for an off label use– it caused appetite suppression. He was obviously very disappointed when it didn’t cause me to lose scads of weight. (This experience, by the way, is the main reason I don’t go looking for people’s opinions about me or this blog. I’d probably rather not know.)

I already had little trust or regard for doctors at that point in my life, mainly due to the very disrespectful and traumatic way I was treated by an Air Force OB-GYN at my very first gyno appointment. When I read those notes by a psychiatrist, who was supposed to be helping me with depression, I trusted them even less. That doctor’s notes should have indicated things like whether or not I was appropriately dressed, or adequately groomed for the occasion. Comments about my weight might have been fair enough, but only in terms of my health. My personal makeup and clothing style should not have factored into my records at all. Using the word “garish” to describe me was completely inappropriate. I think he had a bias against people he deemed to be “too fat”, and felt entitled to share them with patients who came to him for help.

When I was younger, maybe I would have appreciated fake compliments about how “good” I looked over rude comments about body image. But today, at almost 51 years of age, I’d much rather people just focus on what’s important… and what’s important is NOT what my body looks like. Because if you think about it, people who body shame are basically expecting everyone who doesn’t meet their standards to just hide away somewhere until they’re more suitable for public view. That’s not a fair thing to ask of anyone. Moreover, most of the people who make those kinds of comments aren’t exactly hot shit themselves. 99.9% of the time, you really don’t need to make a comment at all… just zip it, and leave the person alone to enjoy their lives. By keeping your mouth shut, you will keep them from experiencing unnecessary trauma, and you will keep yourself in good karma. Just my thoughts.

And… just to end this post on an amen, the wonderful singer, Jane Monheit, posted this on Twitter in 2019:

I would also add… please don’t give people unsolicited advice, either. Especially on something as personal as their body image. If someone wants your advice or input, they’ll ask for it.

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animals, communication, condescending twatbags, dogs, healthcare, overly helpful people, social media, Virginia

Some people have forgotten how to be civilized…

I had a couple of interesting communication related experiences yesterday. One involved an online exchange I had with a stranger. The other involved an observation I made in a matter of seconds as I passed a playground.

A few days ago, I noticed that someone on Facebook had written that they had been born just as smartphones were coming on the market. They wanted to know what life was like before smartphones were invented, as they were thinking of ditching their phone. I noticed one person wrote that we all watched a lot more television in those days, which I will agree is true.

It occurred to me, after I read that person’s post, that I spent a large portion of my life without the Internet. When I was growing up, we had to talk to each other in person. While I definitely had some uncivilized moments back in those primitive days, I also think I learned basic decorum that some people are missing in today’s hyper-connected Internet world.

We used to have to talk to each other in person, or maybe write a letter. We had no email, Facebook, or Twitter. Our circles of contacts were much smaller than they are today. Consequently, most days, we didn’t find ourselves in a pissing match with a stranger. Last night, I found myself being invited to such a match… and after it was over, my head was spinning! How did I get to this place?

Two days ago, The Atlantic shared an article titled “When Did People Start Brushing Dogs’ Teeth?“. It was an interesting piece about how, in the past, most people didn’t clean their dogs’ teeth. Nowadays, veterinarians encourage dog owners to use canine toothpaste and toothbrushes and have their dogs’ teeth professionally cleaned. The author of the article, Kelly Conaboy, married her personal experiences as a dog owner with somewhat recent history. She wrote:

The supposed ease of the finger brush is an attractive prospect for those facing both a new daily task and a new source of guilt. My friend and I both are dog guardians for the first time in our adult lives, but we agreed that, growing up, we didn’t remember being told to brush our family dogs’ teeth, nor did we remember thinking it was a task we were neglecting. We didn’t even remember ever seeing dog toothbrushes or dog toothpaste for sale. My friend looked into my eyes and asked a question I could tell she’d been mulling for some time.

“Were we always supposed to brush our dogs’ teeth?”

I grew up in the 80s, and we had dogs during that time. I don’t remember the vet ever telling us to brush our dogs’ teeth. Hell, my very first paying job was working for that very same vet. The subject never came up during that time.

Years later, when Bill and I were newly married and had moved to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, our “higher speed” Northern Virginia vet recommended dental care. Our dog at that time, Flea, really needed a dental in the worst way. We couldn’t afford to have his teeth cleaned until Bill went to Iraq, and we got a temporary boost in his pay. While Bill was deployed, I had Flea’s and his sidekick, MacGregor’s, teeth cleaned. I believe it was about $1100 for the two of them. Flea lost four teeth; they just fell out of his mouth. Miraculously, we weren’t charged for that.

Our finances are much better nowadays, so our dogs do get routine dentals done. I have tried to brush their teeth, but my dogs have never been too cooperative with that particular chore. Arran was particularly resistant to things like toenail trims and teeth brushing. Still, I can see the value in doing it regularly, if your dog will allow it. And now, dentals are a must, even though we didn’t used to do them.

Conaboy’s article is very interesting, as she explains that yes, we probably should have been brushing our dogs’ teeth all along. But, you only know what you know. As time passes, most people become more knowledgeable and wiser about things. So, if you didn’t know about the importance of doggie dentistry in the 80s, you might know now, right? Know better, do better (as much as I hate that cliche).

The Facebook reactions to that post ranged between approval and mockery. Lots of people assume canine dental hygiene is just a scam to help vets pay off their student loans. For the life of me, I can’t understand why so many people would begrudge veterinarians making money so they can pay their bills. Some people act like everyone should work for free, as they also lament communism and people expecting things “for free”. Even if doggie dentistry was a money making “scam”, why would people in a capitalist society have a problem with that? If you don’t want to get your dog’s teeth cleaned, no one is forcing you. It’s just a recommended service.

Personally, I’m a believer in doggie dentals. Noyzi had his first one last summer and is due for another. We just need to make the arrangements. Arran really needed one before he passed, but obviously, it wouldn’t have been wise to put him under anesthesia.

I decided to comment on the article. I do not think what I wrote was at all controversial.

Imagine how you’d feel if you didn’t clean your teeth. I don’t brush my dog’s teeth daily, but he gets regular dentals. It helps prevent chronic diseases and makes his breath stink less. 

They’re paying a lot more attention to horses’ teeth, too. Call it progress.

I got maybe 19 likes for my comment. Cool, huh? But then someone named Laurie wrote this seemingly snarky comment to me. And it wasn’t about canine dentals, but about my comment regarding horses.

horses get their teeth filed once a year to remove rough edges. Believe me, nobody is brushing horses’ teeth!

I was surprised by her response, because nowhere did I make a statement indicating that horses’ teeth are being brushed. I wrote that they’re “paying more attention to” them (which they are). So I responded.

I didn’t say they were brushing horses’ teeth, I said they were paying more attention to them (aka floating them).

Laurie comes back, tagging me with a link to a National Geographic article about Mongolian horse dentistry that’s been around for hundreds of years.

I probably should have just left it alone, but this is a phenomenon that genuinely puzzles me. Lately, I feel like people are just waiting for a reason to come at other people with criticism or discounting comments. I didn’t get the sense that Laurie was trying to be helpful or conversational. It felt like she was trying to pick a fight, although it’s possible that I took her comment as more aggressive than it was intended to be. So I wrote:

Is there a reason why you’re picking on me? What is so controversial about what I posted? I don’t need a link from National Geographic. It’s not that important.

Laurie wisely (or perhaps cowardly) didn’t respond again. I honestly didn’t see why she needed to confront me about my first comment regarding horse dental care. I grew up around horses, and I know for a fact that, back in the day, veterinarians didn’t routinely float their teeth unless there was a specific need for it. The procedure did exist, but it wasn’t like an appointment with the farrier every six weeks. It was only done when it was clearly necessary.

I don’t spend time with horses anymore, but I do know that nowadays, equine vets are floating a lot more teeth than they used to, just like today’s small animal vets are doing a lot more dentals. That was my point. Did Laurie miss the point? Because I never claimed anything about horses getting their teeth brushed. I even wrote that my dog doesn’t get his teeth brushed, even though I probably should see if he’ll let me do it (Arran wouldn’t, so I never got into the habit). The main idea of my comment is that companion animals need dental care, too, not that every animal should get daily tooth brushing.

Laurie probably didn’t read the article, because it’s behind a paywall. She probably also didn’t read my initial comment very carefully before she decided to respond. I took a peek at her profile. There’s a picture of her riding a horse in what appears to be three day eventing. So she’s a “horse person”. I also see that she lives in Clifton, Virginia, which is a Northern Virginia suburb. I spent several years of my life living in Northern Virginia, so I have personal experience with the stereotypical type of person who tends to live there. I’ve also been around plenty of “snotty” horse people who have more money than brains or class.

Certainly not every person from NoVA is an asshole; but there are probably a lot more assholes per capita living in that area, than there are in other places. They can’t really help it. Northern Virginia is a place where it costs a lot to live, there’s a lot of traffic, and many people have powerful jobs. Based on her profile, Laurie appears to be a “somebody”, and since she’s involved in an expensive sport in an area where it costs a lot to live, she’s probably a bit of an asshole. I don’t know for certain, of course. We’re complete strangers. There was a time when I never would have had a conversation of any kind with Laurie, unless I happened to meet her at a horse event. But, since I don’t ride horses anymore, the chances of that ever happening would be pretty slim.

For all I know, offline, Laurie is a total sweetheart, but based on our unfortunate interaction yesterday, I came away with the impression that she’s kind of a bitch. She may feel the same way about me, because I didn’t just acquiesce or ignore her when she crawled up my ass about the intricacies of equine dental care. Instead, I pointed out that I never claimed people were brushing their horses’ teeth. Then I confronted her for “picking on me”. That, in and of itself, is probably annoying to her. She probably didn’t expect me to confront her in kind about her comment. But then, I was genuinely perplexed as to why she felt the need to bust my chops about my original statement. There was nothing snarky or rude about it, yet Laurie felt compelled to issue a “gotcha”. And I, in turn, felt compelled to call her out for trying to do that.

It was a rather uncivilized and unnecessary exchange, wasn’t it? It occurred to me that Laurie wasn’t coming at me from a place of friendship or cordiality. She was wanting to issue a correction, without knowing a thing about me, and apparently, after not having read very carefully.

I understand that most people wouldn’t think twice about this interaction. Some people may be reading this thinking that I’m neurotic for taking the time to write about it. The truth is, I AM a bit neurotic. That exchange happened to hit one of my “psychological sunburns” (as the damnable Dr. Phil would put it). My whole life, people have been telling me to “shut up”, discounting my opinions or experiences, laughing at me, or otherwise trying to belittle me for just being myself. As a middle aged person, I am no longer willing to just let things go. I probably should be more laid back than I am, but ignoring these types of people, who try to make themselves feel better by crapping on me, makes me feel helpless. So now, people who do what Laurie did– especially when they’re overbearing women– tend to get the business end of my retorts.

Something similar happened the day after we lost Arran. I posted about it. A troll on RfM left me a really mean comment about Arran. I confronted the troll, and promptly got a “talking to” from “Lot’s Wife”, a poster who seems to insert herself in every controversy and offer her fifty cents. “Lot’s Wife” is a person I’ve come to really dislike, and she’s a reason why I don’t really visit RfM much anymore. She reminds me a lot of an “overly helpful” person I used to run into regularly. And now that I think about it, all women who treat me that way remind me of one of my sisters, who used to criticize me for everything from the way I look, to the way I laugh. I’m sure these types are battling their own neuroses and psychological sunburns, but then their neuroses seem to bump into mine! I guess I can, at least, turn these interactions into thoughtful blog rants, right?

The main thing is, though… most of these people probably wouldn’t behave this way offline. Or, if they did behave this way, they’d probably tone it down significantly. It’s a lot harder to be aggressive, or even assertive, to people who are staring you in the face. Laurie also probably wouldn’t have misunderstood my comment if we’d been talking to each other in person. We both would have had non-verbal cues to guide us and inform our responses. It probably wouldn’t have been nearly as negative an interaction.

I miss in person interactions with normal, nice people. It seems like the older I get, the less often I interact with actual people, rather than online profiles. And the pandemic made things worse, and eroded people’s social skills, including mine. I wrote about that last year, when Bill and I got our COVID-19 vaccine boosters and I was super cranky because we got to the site too early. I found myself feeling less “nice” when someone in person witnessed our exchange and chimed in “helpfully”. I probably wouldn’t have reacted that way in the past, when I had more practice talking to people in person.

And now… on to the observation I made while passing a German playground…

Yesterday, it was cold and sunny outside. I took Noyzi for a short walk. As I passed the little playground in our neighborhood, I happened to witness something that struck me as rather profound.

There were about two dozen little kids on the playground. I think there might have been two or three adults supervising them. A little girl, maybe four or five years old, fell down. She started crying, and didn’t immediately scramble to her feet. Instead, she laid on the ground wailing for a moment.

The adults did not come running, as they might have in the United States. Instead, another little girl, maybe the same age or a little older, came over to the kid on the ground, offered her her hand, and helped her to her feet. The first girl stopped crying and slowly got back to playing with her friends, running around the playground. The entire incident took less than a minute or two, and yet the simple civility of it blew me away on several levels.

First of all, when I was that age, I don’t remember being supervised that closely on a playground that wasn’t attached to a school. We kids would go to the playground, but there wouldn’t necessarily be any adults around to watch us. Sometimes there were, sometimes there weren’t.

Secondly, when I was a kid and something like that happened on the playground, I don’t remember other kids coming over to help the fallen kid to their feet. More often than not, they’d just stand around and laugh. I didn’t see any kids laughing at the girl who fell down, but in my day, I’m sure they would have. At least, if they were American kids. Today, an American adult supervising the children would have probably run over to the girl to see if she was alright, but in my day, we were pretty much expected to get over it by ourselves, as appears to be the case in Germany.

What the little girl did yesterday struck me as remarkably mature and civilized. I’ve noticed a lot of that kind of basic civility in Germany. Like, for instance, the time I was forced to stand on a train leaving the Frankfurt Airport while holding curry wurst. The train lurched, and I almost fell, which would have caused me to spill the snack all over the place. A German lady very calmly grabbed the curry wurst before I ended up wearing it. My first reaction was annoyance, but then I was grateful. It really was a kind and thoughtful thing to do. Her reaction was to be helpful, rather than critical or mocking. I’m sad to say, I don’t see this instinct as much among Americans, especially online.

I’ve even noticed this among Germans online. When the dog we hoped to rescue in 2020 got loose and we were trying to find him, I noticed many Germans were happily sharing our Tasso flyer. Very few were writing mean comments about how irresponsible I was after the dog escaped his pet taxi. I even got some really kind private messages from strangers that were genuinely helpful and consoling.

Conversely, I feel like Americans often just want to tear people down, especially when the other person is a stranger. Or they’re “fake nice”, as they’re ripping each other to shreds privately.

This doesn’t mean that all Germans are mature or polite. I’ve been yelled at plenty of times by Germans in person. It’s just that I’ve found that most people here seem more willing to see other perspectives and they don’t immediately react with snark or rudeness when someone has a different viewpoint. I feel like more people here are more likely to offer a hand to help someone up, rather than pointing and laughing at them. But, of course, some exceptions apply. See any story about my ex landlady. 😉

Anyway… just some deep food for thought on Wednesday, which is a light chore day for me. I guess my interaction with Laurie the veterinary dental expert is proof that virtually ANYTHING can be controversial on the Internet.

Carry on…

ETA: This morning, I woke up to find a notification from Laurie. I chose to ignore it. 😀

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lessons learned, memories, nostalgia, sports

“Come give your Uncle Charlie a kiss, baby!” Eeeew…

Happy April Fools’ Day, folks. I was originally thinking maybe I’d write something in the spirit of the day… like falsely post that I’m finally pregnant, or Bill and I are divorcing. But then I realized that I generally find April Fools’ Day annoying, at best. I mean… sometimes, the jokes and stunts are relatively amusing, but I mostly think silly fake postings about major life events are kind of stupid.

I will admit that it’s funny when Ritter Sport comes up with gross sounding chocolate combinations. Below is a screenshot of what they did in 2019…

Who says Germans aren’t funny?

Euro Wings also had a funny April Fools’ joke today…

Okay, so this is a good one, too, I guess.

And some time ago, NPR had a pretty good joke about people who don’t read before they react or comment. I used that joke at another time during the year, and sure enough, I got someone… Then, I promptly blogged about the phenomenon.

But I don’t want to write about April Fools’ or the inane shit I’m going to see as my fellow Americans wake up and start posting their crap. I posted last night that I think more Americans should zip it. And I stand by that opinion. 😉 You readers might think I ought to zip it, too, but since this is space I pay for, I’m going to preach on with my bad self. 😀

So what about that title, then? What’s it about? Well, it’s about a 1979 era gymnastics video I watched on YouTube yesterday. I love to watch old school gymnastics, which were less about powerful tumbles and more about artistic expression. I also find the former Soviet Union fascinating.

I happened to catch this video that featured some of the greats of that era– Nadia Comaneci, Emilia Eberle, Kathy Johnson, and Elena Naimushina. Sadly, Ms. Naimushina died suddenly in 2017, but in 1979, she was about 14 years old. She was a great gymnast, so she was interviewed by American sportscaster, Charlie Jones. Charlie Jones was born in 1930, and died in 2008. In 1979, he was pushing 50.

At about two minutes into this video, with the help of a Russian translator, Charlie Jones interviews young Elena Naimushina. Then, he becomes inappropriate…

At about the 2:36 mark, Jones says “Every pretty girl that I interview, always kisses me right here on the cheek.”

Elena laughs as the translator does her job. Then, after a shy giggle, she says “That is something that you can look forward to after the competition.” Then Jones and Elena share a laugh… har-dee-har-har-har!

I was actually a little shocked as I heard Mr. Jones request a kiss from the young gymnast. But then I remember the 70s, and how kids were often pressured to let adults kiss them. Eddie Murphy had a whole 80s era routine about it.

“She got a mustache!”

To Elena’s credit, she managed to handle that awkward moment with grace and charm. Still, it was pretty creepy and inappropriate. Of course, that shit would never fly in 2023, especially given the whole Larry Nassar scandal. I guess it’s just crazy to realize that I was seven years old in 1979, and this kind of thing was quite common. Old guys would not hesitate to ask for intimate gestures of affection from kids. It happened to me a lot when I was coming of age. It was an especially common thing to see on games shows like Family Feud, especially back when Richard Dawson was the host.

Eeew…
OMG!
“My lovely wife Karen… her equally attractive sister, Jan… Jan’s husband Randy, who’s not so good lookin’, and our sweet niece and their daughter, Jill. Jill is 12 years old.” Then Richard asks Jill if she has a boyfriend. EEEEW!

Nowadays, people wouldn’t necessarily assume that Jill prefers males. Or that Jill is, in fact, a female herself… By now, Jill is probably someone’s grandmother. And, of course, today we’d worry about spreading COVID-19.

Isn’t it interesting how times change? At what point does a person stop being considered “young”? Does it happen at a certain age? I swear, it seems like yesterday that I was a teenager. Now I’m getting old enough to live in a retirement community!

I do think it’s a good thing that requests for kisses and comments to twelve year old girls about boyfriends are best left in the past. But watching these clips, posted when I was a child myself, are a reminder that time marches on, customs change, and things that once used to be okay to say or do can eventually evolve into something very taboo. And that’s no April Fools’ joke!

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communication, complaints, dogs, narcissists, overly helpful people, rants, religion

Damn this inappropriate comment Stau on the information superhighway!

In the German language, the word “Stau” refers to the inevitable traffic jams that form, especially on the Autobahn system. Bill and I have been in a lot of Staus over the years. They are almost always annoying and frustrating, especially when we’re miles from an Ausfahrt and we both have to pee. They shut down movement and flow. They waste time. They piss people off and put them in sour moods.

Today’s title was inspired by a classic song by James Taylor and my own experiences in Staus all over Germany.

I’m reminded of the term “Stau” this morning, having experienced a communication breakdown on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard. Before I get into the specifics of what happened, I want to make it plain that this post isn’t a plea for advice or “wisdom”. In fact, unsolicited advice is what led to my decision to write about the “comment Stau” in the first place. I hope that anyone who reads this will take a moment to think twice before trying to be an “overly helpful person” and offering hurting people unsolicited advice. When it comes down to it, unsolicited advice is basically criticism. I don’t need criticism right now.

If you read yesterday’s posts, you know that Bill and I lost a very special family member yesterday. Our dog Arran had some kind of catastrophic medical event on Thursday night. We consequently decided to send him to the Rainbow Bridge yesterday morning. Arran was a big part of our lives. Naturally, I shared the news about him on a few sites. In retrospect, maybe that was the wrong thing to do, since there are a lot of assholes in the world, and every time you share something online, you run the risk of running into one or more of them.

I shared a post on the Recovery from Mormonism (RfM) site yesterday, because I’ve been posting there for over 20 years. I don’t post there very often anymore, because Mormonism no longer really affects my life. But I do have a few friends on that site, even though there are quite a few people there who I think have some legitimate issues. That site also attracts many trolls, though the moderators do a pretty good job of enforcing the rules.

Someone left me a really kind comment about my tribute to Arran and his name’s association with Scotland. I left a rather lengthy reply, since she seemed genuinely interested in the origin of his name. I explained how we came to acquire Arran and why we gave him his name, after a beautiful island in Scotland.

Then I got a very mean comment from a troll. I didn’t copy what the person (I’m assuming a male) wrote, but the gist of it was that the quality of the board was going to hell because of “off topic” posts like mine, and no one gives a fuck about my “stupid deceased mutt” (he literally used the word “fuck”, albeit with a different spelling.).

I’ll be honest. I was legitimately stung by the callousness of that person’s comment to me. I actually cried when I read that troll’s cruel words. It was like a hard slap to the face. I wanted to return fire with a well aimed kick straight to the troll’s balls that would leave him doubled over in extreme pain and unlikely to want to ever utter such blatant disrespect to me again. What can I say? I have my own anger issues, and when it comes to outright abuse, I am very saturated. I don’t tolerate it well at all.

My first impulse was to lash out in anger. But then I figured that behind every troll, there’s a hurting person who expects to get attention in the form of angry comments. That person clearly wanted a response, and I was inclined to give him one, but not in the form he expected. So, instead of rightly telling the person to go fuck themselves, I wrote “You know, you could have just kept scrolling. Sorry that you’re hurting so much that you feel the need to be mean to me.” Then I reported the troll’s comment.

I hoped that would be the end of it, but alas, the site’s resident “overly helpful person” decided she needed to chime in. I’ve posted about my issues with the overly helpful on more than one occasion. It seems like every messageboard has one. It’s that person who feels the need to make themselves feel better by trying to micromanage other people, being meddlesome, and inserting themselves in places where they have no business. I think a lot of that kind of controlling behavior has its origins in people who were raised in chaos. Of course, understanding where that behavior comes from doesn’t make it any less irritating.

I don’t actually know much about the person who felt the need to intercede. What I do know is that she’s very active on the site. Other people have implied that she’s really smart, and might actually have an important job (but I don’t know when she has time to work at a job, since she’s apparently always on RfM). Judging by my own interactions with her and observations of her behavior, I would assume that she thinks she really smart, too. She likes to get into arguments with people and show off how “smart” she is. While I absolutely respect intelligent people, there is a fine line between being really smart and allowing that intelligence to show itself naturally, and trying to appear smarter than one actually is, and looking foolish.

In any case, she left me a comment indicating that the person is a troll and is posting crap all over the place. Then she advised me to ignore him.

My response was that yes, obviously, the guy is a troll. However, I am a real person, and his comment legitimately caused me pain. His words made me cry. I don’t know the person behind the screen. For all I know, he’s a twelve year old kid in his mother’s basement. Or maybe he’s a 35 year old man with a twelve year old kid’s maturity level in his mother’s basement. Or maybe he’s a sadistic pervert. I don’t know.

I simply wanted to issue a reminder to him that there’s a person behind the screen who read those words and they were hurtful. And instead of lashing out with anger and profanity, I wanted that person to get an even-keeled comment that addresses their need to attack, expressing sorrow for the obvious pain they must be in to feel compelled to share it so stunningly with perfect strangers who are obviously already grieving.

The overly helpful woman came back and pointed out that I was just giving the troll “fuel” and feeding his “sick impulses.” And I should just let the moderators deal with him. I didn’t respond to her directly, but I suppose I could have mirrored the same fucking observation to her. She didn’t need to insert herself into that interaction and offer me criticism on my retort. I’m a 50 year old woman of average intelligence who doesn’t need her help in deciding how to address other people when they insult me. Her comments were patronizing, unnecessary, and out of place. And they shut down communication, just like a good, old-fashioned Stau.

Revealing that the initial comment made me cry isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that I have a heart, and a soul, and people who hurl abuse at me do damage. I didn’t feel anger so much that the person indicated that they felt my post was “inappropriate”. It was that they referred to Arran as a “stupid deceased mutt”. He was so much more than that. Reading those words enraged me, because they were completely uncalled for and cruel. And if that cowardly person had said that to my face, I probably would have slapped him HARD across the mouth, if he was lucky. And then I probably would have gotten arrested.

What’s more, obviously a few people did care, and said they enjoyed the tribute. I hope they were being sincere. If not, their choice to humor me is on them. Everybody else can do the decent thing and just keep scrolling, rather than kicking a person when they’re down. I can’t imagine that the people running that messageboard really mean to shut down communication. Those kinds of critical comments, especially when they’re spiteful and mean, make people not want to post anymore. I’m sure thinking I might not post again after that incident.

I do my best not to engage the “overly helpful”. I seem to have something in my personality that brings them out of the woodwork. I suppose it’s a sign that I need to work on not caring about what other people say or think… but again, prick me and I bleed. My feelings are raw because we just lost a big chunk out of our hearts. Arran was a part of our lives for over ten years… half our marriage! And while his passing wasn’t directly related to Mormonism, having him in our lives was a big part of Bill’s recovery from Mormonism. So maybe my post there about Arran’s death wasn’t so off topic, after all…

The troll chastised me for not posting about “recovery from Mormonism”… but Arran had a lot to do with our recovery. I wasn’t a Mormon, but the religion has touched me nevertheless, because of Bill, and because of his younger daughter, who is still active. Fortunately, she seems to have picked up the good parts of the faith instead of the toxic ones, that still show themselves among recovering people, including the “overly helpful” woman who feels the need to butt in on every fucking thing anyone posts there.

Hurting people hurt others… and toxic behavior is contagious. I tried not to be contagious when I addressed the troll’s obvious pain, rather than just advising him to go fuck off and die. But if I’m honest, he can do that, too. 😉 I won’t shed any tears for that.

One last thought… and this one has to do with Arran.

When we lose our dogs, we usually get “signs” from them. I mentioned yesterday, that when we were on our way home from the vet’s office, the 1991 song “Shiny Happy People” by R.E.M. came on the radio. I’m not the biggest fan of R.E.M., and I see no reason why that song would be particularly meaningful, as it was about the behavior of Chinese people after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. It’s kind of a sarcastic song about “shiny, happy people” carrying on after a bloody tragedy… as communism promotes Utopia that can’t really exist as long as humans are the way they are.

Bill commented on “Shiny, Happy People” as we pulled into the driveway, and said he felt it was a sign from Arran. Of course, Arran’s time was long after that song was a hit, and it’s not like we play a lot of R.E.M. at our house. But then last night, as we were raising a glass to Arran’s memory at the wine stand, there it was again. The song “Shiny, Happy People” was playing in the kiosk… the second time we heard it that day. And then I realized it came from an album titled Out of Time. I dunno. It kind of makes sense. But maybe I just need to get out more.

Also… the steps I so carefully purchased for Arran just arrived. Guess we’ll hang onto them. Maybe they’ll come in handy.

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