complaints, condescending twatbags, memories, mental health, Military, reviews

“Who cares what they think?”

This morning, Bill and I decided to take a day jaunt to the French ville of Bitche. I will admit, part of the reason I wanted to go there is because the town’s name tickles me. But I also wanted to go because a friend of mine went there a few years ago, before she moved to Hawaii. She mentioned that the town was militarily important. I told Bill about it, and he decided he was interested. So today, we went, and we had a fabulous lunch and walked around a bit.

On the way to Bitche, I recalled an incident from 2009, when we were forced to leave Germany a year early, because one of Bill’s narcissistic ex bosses decided to fuck with our lives. Not only did we have to leave early, we also spent four uncomfortable nights in a government hotel that is now, mercifully, defunct. On top of that, one of our dogs was dying of prostate cancer, but he wasn’t quite ready to go to the Rainbow Bridge. I was upset for a lot of reasons, most of which having to do with my not feeling like I was in control of my life. I mean, we weren’t even “allowed” to choose where to spend our last few nights in Germany, and the hotel where we had to stay was not very conducive to our needs. So I wrote a review of the place on Epinions.com

I really don’t think I was that harsh in my review, although it was clearly a mostly negative report. Below is a repost of what I wrote for Epinions in 2009.

God willing, my husband Bill and I, along with our two beagles, Flea and MacGregor, will be checking into a hotel in or near Atlanta, Georgia tomorrow afternoon. After spending the past few days at the Hilltop Hotel at Robinson Barracks near Stuttgart, Germany, I can’t say I’m sorry to be switching venues. In fact, I think I would have been happy to switch venues within Germany, if we’d only had a choice in the matter.

A captive audience

Hilltop Hotel is a hotel specifically for people who have business with the U.S. government within the Stuttgart area. It’s located on Robinson Barracks, which is a U.S. government installation; therefore, the general public can’t access this hotel. On the other hand, military and government employees must use the Hilltop Hotel and other government run facilities if there is space available. The Stuttgart area currently has three such facilities; a fourth one is under construction. When Bill and I first came to Germany two years ago, the three government run hotels in Stuttgart were booked solid, so we spent six weeks living in a German hotel very close to where Bill worked.

When it came time for us to leave, there was space available on the “pet floor” at Hilltop Hotel. I was not too pleased about this development, mainly because Robinson Barracks is located quite a distance away from the other three military posts in the Stuttgart area. Robinson Barracks is a pretty area, but it mostly consists of housing, an elementary and middle school, a post office, and a small “CX”, which is a combined commissary and post exchange. There is a bus that runs to the other installations, all of which are at least 30 minutes away. Unfortunately, I have two dogs, and they’re not allowed to ride the bus.  Our cars are currently on different ships bound for the USA.

Our room

Bill and I checked into the Hilltop Hotel on Tuesday, September 8th. I was in a foul mood because we’d been working all day to clean up our German house. I was tired, sore, and hungry. We took the elevator to the fourth floor, where all the other pet owners are assigned, and took a stroll to room 404. My mood worsened when we opened the door and I got a look at the bed we’d all be sharing. Covered with a cheap floral spread, the bed looked pretty small. It’s supposedly a queen, but really felt more like a full… especially with our two beagles on board.

I looked around the room and took everything else in. There was a wall unit with a microwave, coffee maker, small refrigerator, television, DVD/VCR player, and a telephone (which didn’t seem to work very well). The television carried local German channels, as well as Armed Forces Network (AFN) satellite channels, a couple of BBC channels, and a few other British stations. Curiously, there was one channel that appeared to be Polish and aired Polish commercials, yet broadcasted programming in English. There was also a DSL connection located near the TV. A cord reached the small, beat up desk located next to the door.  A small clock radio sat on the desk, while a safe, iron, and ironing board were located in the closet. A ceiling fan capably circulated the air and made the tight bed space a little more bearable.

The rooms at the Hilltop Hotel have a lot of storage space, probably because a lot of people end up spending weeks at this hotel as they do temporary work in the Stuttgart area or wait for housing.  Because we were in a “pet room”, our room was not carpeted. Instead, it had a faux wood-like floor covering. Actually, I liked that, since the lack of carpeting was easier on my allergies.  The decor is strictly early 80s “country” style… cheap, tacky, and kind of depressing.

The bathroom

The bathroom had a shower, sink, a hairdryer, and a toilet. Housekeeping had thoughtfully left us a little basket of cheap toiletries with soap, shampoo, and lotion. A small mending kit came in handy when I found a splinter in my finger. When we first checked in, there was only one full sized towel in the bathroom.

I found using the shower and the toilet rather annoying for different reasons. Though the shower had excellent water pressure, it also had a small seat in it that cut down on the space available for standing up. Every time I took a shower, my elbow hit the tap, inadvertently knocking it either to an unacceptably hotter or colder temperature. I found the toilet annoying because of the way the bowl was shaped. Unlike the usual “shelf-style” toilets one finds in Europe, this toilet seemed to be rather shallow and narrow. Consequently, every time I took a dump, I had to use the toilet brush to scrub the residue from the side of the bowl where it would invariably end up sticking in a disgusting splatter.

Sleep

Bill and I found the bed in our room very uncomfortable. We are used to sleeping in a king sized bed, so the bed felt very small to us. But even if it had been a king sized bed, the mattress felt too hard. Consequently, my back was killing me for the duration of our stay.  I think this problem was also exacerbated by the horrible chair at the desk, which was very uncomfortable and not particularly functional.

Eats

There is no restaurant on-site, though there is one next to the hotel that is open five days a week. Breakfast is included with the room and is served in the lobby. It’s typical continental fare– bagels, muffins, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, juice, coffee, and hot chocolate. Be careful to look before you eat. Bill opened one carton of yogurt and found a couple of spots of penicillin growing on the lid.

The restaurant next to the Hilltop Hotel serves edible food to go. The best meal we had from there was the roasted half chicken with fries. However, we had a couple of less tasty meals from there, too. One night, Bill brought me what appeared to be a “fish and chips” inspired meal. The fish looked like it had been baked to the point of almost being burnt on the bottom, then frozen. It was still pretty cold in the middle when it was served.

Other facilities

One nice thing about the Hilltop Hotel is that there’s a laundry room on the ground floor. There are five or six washers and dryers and they can be used free of charge. A vending machine dispenses laundry detergent, fabric softener, snacks, and drinks, as well.  In the lobby, there are books, videos, and DVDs available to borrow.  I also heard a rumor that Lifecycle exercise equipment was available in the hotel, but I never sought it out.

There’s a little outdoor area next to the hotel where folks can smoke or have a little picnic. Each floor has a kitchen, though one must go to the front desk for a key. There’s a storage area in the bottom of the hotel where guests are encouraged to store excess luggage. And parking is free.

Service

I thought the housekeeping service did a good job. We didn’t ask them to service our room every day. On the days we did have them clean, they did a thorough job. At the very least, they emptied our trash cans every day and exchanged our towels.

I thought the service at the front desk was less impressive. First off, Bill was supposed to pay up front for our stay. When he tried to take care of that, the clerk had computer problems. The next morning, he went down to pay, and the clerk charged him the wrong amount. A different clerk seemed to have a terminally sour disposition. When my key card stopped working one afternoon, I went to the desk with my dogs to get some help. The sour clerk was on the phone and refused to acknowledge me, until my dogs started freaking out at the sight of other dogs. He shot me a dirty look. I shot one right back to him. It was only at that point that he got someone to help me. When Bill tried to call me, he asked that particular clerk to connect him to our room. The guy ended up hanging up on him instead. Only one of the three clerks we encountered was truly helpful and good natured.

Prices

Most people who stay at the Hilltop Hotel are there on the government’s dime and paying the current per diem rate. The government is paying $68 per night for us to stay in our double room. There are also a couple of extra charges for pets. We had to pay a “deep cleaning” fee of $30 for our room on the pet floor (the fee is higher for carpeted rooms on the lower levels). Each pet also costs an extra $3 a day.  Both key cards have to be turned in at check out.  Losing a key card results in a $20 fee, which I think is totally ridiculous.

Auf Wiedersehen

I really wish our last few days in Germany could have been spent in a nicer and more authentic hotel. I think the Hilltop Hotel could use a little refurbishing and shudder at the idea of having to live there for weeks on end. Alas, like so many others, Bill and I are at the mercy of the U.S. government when we travel on government business. Thankfully, the lodging at our new post in Atlanta doesn’t allow dogs, so we get to stay in a Hilton. Hopefully, we will find a new home quickly and start settling in… at least until our next move.

For more information: http://www.stuttgart.army.mil/sites/about/hilltophotel.asp

FYI: The Hilltop Hotel has now mercifully closed.

As I was reading this old review today, I was thinking that it was obviously kind of peevish. However, it wasn’t really a hatchet job or anything… I mean, I was pissed off about having to move, sad about losing Flea, and annoyed that we had to stay in a government run hotel that was inconvenient and uncomfortable. But I have certainly read worse reviews.

My write up went mostly unnoticed until about a year later, when someone– I am assuming a woman– decided I needed a good dressing down for daring to air my opinions on Epinions.com. She left me a rude, chastising response that made a lot of assumptions about me as a person. The comment made me very angry, so I wrote a rebuttal. In retrospect, I probably should have ignored the comment. If I got it today, I probably would have. But what can I say? I express myself through writing. I vent through using my words. So I wrote a rebuttal to the woman’s comment that was pretty caustic, which I also shared on the original version of this blog.

As I reread the comment I wrote, which basically took apart the woman’s critiques bit by bit, I realized that the casual reader might think I am a massive bitch. Or maybe, I’m just a little “crazy”. Below is what I wrote:

 My comments are italicized while the original commenter’s are in bold.

Wow… I’ll be honest. When I first read your comment, it really made me mad. But I’ve calmed down now, so allow me to take a few minutes to address your points. 

To complain about the furnishings is a bit snobbish. The toilet seat issue and the shower being too small…

My complaint about the shower wasn’t that it was too small. It was that there was a seat in it that took up space and made it difficult to take a shower. My husband and I are both short, average sized Americans and we both had the same complaint about the shower. As for the toilet, my comment wasn’t that the seat was too small, it was that the toilet was too shallow. I have never seen a toilet like the one at the Hilltop Hotel and it was a consistent issue for us. 

It surprises me that you think I’m a snob for expecting a basic level of comfort in a hotel, even if the government is paying the tab.

wow…I’ll be nice!

Your comment wasn’t in any way nice, though I do appreciate that you didn’t elect to add more undeserved snark to it.

I have been around the military for 20 years.

So what? I’ve been around the military for my entire 38 years of life. That doesn’t make either of our experiences any more valid than another person’s. Everybody’s different.

I have always seen those who are spoiled by our American ways, to be the first to complain. Come on now…this isn’t the Hilton…

Oh, so now you’re assuming that I’m a spoiled American, just because you’ve seen a few of them in your day? You don’t even know me. It so happens I’ve lived in three different countries, twice with the military, and once as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was in the third group to go to where my Peace Corps assignment was, so it definitely wasn’t cushy “American style” living. We had no electricity during my first year, and though I was lucky enough to have running water, a lot of my colleagues did not. I spent two years heating up bath water in a metal bucket on a kerosene heater, doing my laundry by hand, and reading novels by the light of an oil lamp. So yeah, I know very well that not every hotel is like a Hilton.

And the fact that the government is paying is irrelevant, especially given the fact that the government wasn’t doing us a favor in this regard. We stayed at the Hilltop Hotel because the government was forcing us to move, not because we were on a vacation. For $68 a night plus pet expenses, I certainly do expect that the furnishings will be somewhat up-to-date and comfortable, or at least utilitarian. That you would actually chastise me for expecting American style accommodations when, in fact, I was staying in an American run hotel is especially ironic. I probably would have been much happier if we had been in a German hotel.

the governments paying, why are you complaining??

Why aren’t you using basic proper English grammar and capitalization? Didn’t you go to elementary school? 

I realize most people are trying to profit from their reinbursement…if thats the case, then sorry for you.

This is an extremely offensive and totally baseless remark. While it may be true that some military folks try to profit off of per diem TDY payments, my husband and I aren’t in that category of people. But even if we were, it would neither be your business nor your place to make this comment. The fact is, a lot of people in the military use that extra money to make ends meet. It’s certainly not up to you to criticize them for doing that.

You made your stay miserable because you expected everything to be like America.

I beg your pardon? Who are you, Sylvia Browne? Again, you don’t even know me. You don’t know what my expectations or experiences are. You don’t know what the circumstances were during our stay. What a thoughtless remark this is.

Did you venture out to eat?

How could I? We had a rental car and my husband was using it for work purposes. And the hotel is not exactly close to the gates of Robinson Barracks.

There are so many wonderful restaurants in the area…some right there in the vineyards and they allow dogs inside!!

There are wonderful restaurants in Germany? No kidding! I lived in Germany on the economy for two years and had many opportunities to dine in some excellent locally run restaurants. But during my stay at the Hilltop Hotel, I had my dogs with me. While some dogs do great in public places, mine do not. Moreover, one of my dogs at the time was dying of prostate cancer and wasn’t up to hanging out with us in a restaurant.

I did stay in the room with my dogs, but it wasn’t because I had an attitude problem. It was because I did not want to leave them alone to bark and howl. I felt it would be inconsiderate to do that because I knew it was likely they would disturb other people in the hotel. But, according to you, I’m an ugly American and a snob because I was dismayed that there wasn’t a good restaurant nearby where I could get a good meal and still stay with my dogs to prevent them from bothering others. If I had gone out to eat and let them howl, I bet you would have chastised me for doing that, too.

I prefer diving right into the local culture…it makes the stay so much more fun… 

So do I. And believe me, the three times I’ve lived in other countries, I dove into the local culture and surrounding cultures with relish. I learned a lot and now I make money writing about my experiences. I certainly don’t need you to preach to me about this.

and who cares about the size of the toilet, the bed, the old beat up desk….

I do. And so do a lot of other travelers, especially when they’re spending their own money on a place to stay and/or having to do business. Since I make money as a writer, a decent desk is important to me. 

Moreover, a lot of people have read my review of this particular property, which leads me to believe that many people want to know what they’ll be getting for their money at the Hilltop Hotel. I’m surprised you’re not among them… or maybe you are? How else would you have found this review?

those things wouldn’t matter if you didn’t sit in your room and pout about them. 

And once again, you’re making an incorrect assumption about what I did, how I feel, and what kind of person I am. Let me remind you again that you don’t know me. Please stop acting as if you do. It’s giving me the creeps!

*** 
Since you’ve elected to leave me such a didactic comment, allow me to leave one for you. In your attempt to shame and belittle me for writing truthfully about my negative experiences at the Hilltop Hotel, you come off as a complete busybody… you know, the type I’ve often run into in my days as an Army wife. Wait– you’re not one of those? Pardon me. 

If I were to judge you solely based on your comments here, I might guess you are not very well educated, a bit of a gossip, and never actually ventured very far beyond the gates of the American bases in Germany… But, in fact, I don’t actually know you, so it would be terribly unfair of me to make that assumption about you, wouldn’t it? Especially since my assessment of you based on your comment might very well be incorrect. 

I can see that you’re a driveby, so I don’t expect you’ll ever read this comment, let alone respond to it; but I do think your incredibly condescending attitude is very unfair and every bit as snotty as you claim my review is. Believe me, if we’d had the choice to stay somewhere more conducive to our needs, we certainly would have. And then I never would have felt the need to write this review and make this unfortunate and hopefully brief connection with you. 

The next time you feel inclined to offer such personal comments about a complete stranger, I hope you’ll take a minute to think about it and focus on what the person said, not on what kind of person you think they are. And then, by all means, feel free to f*ck right off. 

Have a nice life. 

I don’t know what made me decide to put this exchange on the original blog, but sure enough, that post also invited some rather ironic criticism from the peanut galley. Two years after I posted the above, the blog commenter wrote this:

Umm-??
That seems like an AWFUL lot of time and energy to spend on responding to comments by – as you point out- someone you don’t even know/who doesn’t know you.
Honestly made my head spin:(

You seem like a nice woman. Why waste your words and your time??Who cares what they think?
I’m reminded of the saying” When you argue with fools….”(you risk looking like one):S 
Just sayin….

I don’t know the above poster. To my knowledge, he or she only visited me once, and it was ten years ago as of yesterday (seriously, the above person commented almost exactly ten years ago– why did this pop into my head today? Cue the Twilight Zone theme.). However, I was thinking about this today… and it struck me as kind of ironic. I wondered what made this person decide to offer their two cents on my blog, when they obviously didn’t enjoy the post. Also, the post they were commenting on was two years old, and the one that inspired it was three years old… Why take a moment to write a comment to me when you haven’t even bothered to notice when the post was written? And why tell me I’m wasting my time responding? Aren’t they kind of doing the same thing I did?

I thought about responding to this person with an explanation, but decided to leave them this retort:

You’re right. 😉

Obviously, the person didn’t see the irony of their comment. I mean, if you don’t like my post, and it makes your head spin, you can just keep scrolling, right? “Why “argue” with fools?”, and all. But, ten years later, I would like to answer the question that person asked. Why waste my words and my time?

Well, I “waste my time” because it’s mine to waste. And I “waste my words” because I am a writer, and writing mostly brings me pleasure. Not everyone enjoys what I do, but I genuinely enjoy writing… even when it’s just me “telling off” a rude, driveby commenter. I knew the above person wouldn’t be back, but I still felt it was prudent to leave a comment in case someone else decided to chime in. No one else did, by the way, because Epinions went defunct in 2014. Again, by the time that person commented about how my rebuttal made their head spin, my Blogger post was already two years old. That “wasted time” and energy was long gone by then. And what would I have done to pass the time if I hadn’t ranted? Masturbated? Mowed the lawn? Cleaned the lint out of my belly button? Are any of those things more productive than writing a snarky rebuttal? I don’t know…

I like to preserve these kinds of posts, though, because they remind me of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. For example, if I had gotten the above comments today, I probably wouldn’t have been so hacked off. But in 2010, I was still an Army wife, and I was a bit angry and frustrated about a lot of things, not the least of which the judgmental and critical attitudes a lot of servicemembers and their spouses have toward each other. I also don’t like it when people tell me what to do, especially on my own space.

Anyway, my answer to “who cares what they think?” is, in reality, I don’t so much. But I don’t like being lectured by people, or judged. And the reality is, that poster from ages ago, was really offensive. I knew it wouldn’t matter if I responded, but I just felt like I had to. Today, I don’t think I would feel the same way. I am not the same person in 2022, at age 49 as I was in 2010, at age 38.

But also, in 2009, when I wrote the original review, I was legitimately feeling upset about a lot of things. The crappy hotel was icing on the cake. We were leaving Germany a year early, and it was our favorite duty station. The “job” Bill was going to was pretty bogus, even though he was requested by name. It turned out to be bullshit, although it ended up working out for us in some ways. Bill learned how to brew beer, and we found our sweet Zane. But that move also set off the next three moves within a five year timespan. That was rough on us. On the other hand, if we hadn’t left Germany when we did, we might not be living here now.

I’ve come to realize that things tend to happen for a reason. And that move, as painful as it was, happened for a reason. It led us to where we are now, which isn’t a bad place. Still… it would have been nice if we had been allowed to choose a better hotel that suited our needs instead of the shitty one at Robinson Barracks. And then I wouldn’t have written my rebuttal to that person, who had been at the hotel five years earlier and had a better time… and proceeded to try to “school” me on Army life. Seriously? What a fuckin’ asshole. And I know it’s unfair of me to stereotype, but I totally know the type of “spouse” she is… a busybody who makes themselves feel better by belittling others. At least my initial review was mostly about the facilities, rather than a personal attack. Then, to have some other person belittle me further for responding, on my personal blog, no less, was especially rich. What makes that person think I needed or wanted their advice?

Anyway… as Dr. Phil would say, it’s just one of my psychological sunburns. But the good news is, my physical health may be about to decline, so these types of “trivial issues” that strangers like to tell me I should “blow off” may soon become less important to me.

I did get a nice comment from my friend, Smorg, who was a fellow Epinionator and occasional blog reader. She wrote this:

I was tempted to check the ‘funny’ button, but I guess I was looking more for the ‘incredulous’ button instead. :oP That’s a downside of internet comments, it seems… The anonymity it allows makes it easy for people to let their Mr. Hyde side out. 

We get a lot of that from supposedly sophisticated opera fans on youtube opera clips. It still amazes me sometimes how some people can presume to deduce so much into an opera singer’s personal life just by listening to a 2 minutes clip of her singing an aria as an opera character. :oP 

Sometimes we all have gotta vent a little… Just like Visuvius or Etna or St. Helena… so that we can look serene and beautiful the rest of the time (that’s my excuse, anyhow). ;o)

And I wrote this in response:

This post was not really meant to be about the inane commenter as much as it was about how I processed the comment. I don’t usually “go off” in comments the way I did with that Epinions commenter. I think what set me off is that she (I’m assuming it was a “she”) came across like some of the stereotypical spouses I used to run into a lot when I lived on an Army post. To be frank, I don’t really fit in that well as an Army wife, even though I grew up a military brat.  

Anyway, the Epinions poster’s comment was just very personal and insulting and yes, very presumptuous. And yet, I get the feeling she really was trying to be “helpful” and edifying. So I decided to respond in an over-the-top way, even with the knowledge that she would probably never come back to read what I had to say. I have to admit, it was actually kind of fun to respond to her, even if the more adult reaction would have been to just let her stupidity stand for itself.  

Oddly enough, this particular blog post has mostly been ignored until just a few days ago… when yet again, someone felt strongly enough about it to join Blogger just to set me straight on MY blog, no less! Hey… it’s my time, my energy, and my image on the line. If I want to go off on someone, that’s my business, right? In all seriousness, I am grateful when people read my blog and leave comments, especially since this blog is mostly me blowing off steam.

Yeah… although I would probably not bother to respond the same way as I did in 2010 or 2012 today, I do sometimes feel like blowing off steam, as we all do sometimes. And the Epinions commenter has just made me realize how glad I am that I’m not in very many of the military Facebook groups anymore. That kind of snarky and derisive attitude is very prevalent in the military community, and it’s very damaging. But that’s a thought for another post, on another day…

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celebrities, communication, condescending twatbags, music, overly helpful people, social media

An innocent birthday greeting goes horribly awry…

Yesterday, as I was enjoying the fact that it was Friday, I ran across a post by famed singer-songwriter Janis Ian. I recently started following her Facebook page again after an incident in 2019, in which an overbearing twit shamed me for a rather innocuous comment I made. Okay, so on the surface, it was kind of a violent comment, but it was in response to someone else’s comment, and was pretty obviously not meant to be taken literally. This guy chose to come at me, instead of the person before me. I got annoyed and responded to him, and Janis Ian, herself, left me a response, which I decided not to read, because I was irritated and didn’t want to be compelled to respond further. I think it happened during one of Bill’s TDYs, which always cause me stress and aggravation. You can read about that incident here, not that it’s all that exciting. Actually, that post is a bit nostalgic, since it was posted before the plague.

After that minor spat, I decided to take a break from Janis Ian’s page, because, even though I enjoy her music, I find her a little bit hypocritical at times. Some of her followers are also a little too rabidly “woke” for my taste, too. I don’t like aggressively obnoxious people on either side of the spectrum, who insist that their opinions are the only “correct” ones. Life is stressful enough as it is. I probably comment once or twice a day on pages that aren’t my own or a friend’s, mainly because I don’t like arguing with strangers. During the pandemic, I have noticed that more and more people want to fight with others. It’s as if many of us have lost all concept of basic civility and decorum. I think that may be one major reason why so many people are freaking out in public.

So lately, I’ve been following Janis again. I enjoy most of her memes. I think she has a good sense of humor. A lot of her songs are beautiful. But every once in awhile, she reveals a part of her personality that, I think if I knew her personally, I wouldn’t like very much. I ran into that yesterday, when I saw that she had posted a sweet birthday greeting to Roberta Flack, who turned 85 yesterday. Yesterday was also my eldest sister’s birthday, so that’s probably why I noticed.

I’m sure Janis Ian was being very sincere when she wished Roberta Flack a happy birthday. It should not have been a controversial post at all. But, when Janis wrote her greeting, she commented that Roberta is now “85 years young.” One of her, probably ex followers by now, took her to task for writing “85 years young” instead of “85 years old”. The follower wrote that she found the use of “young” instead of “old” very condescending and made some other comments that were a bit chastising in their tone and, no doubt, offensive. I do remember the woman’s parting shot was something along the lines of, “There’s nothing bad about getting old. It’s better than the alternative.” There was more to the post, but I didn’t bother to get a screenshot, nor did I leave any comments myself. I was just observing.

Allow me to state two things from the upshot. First off, I kind of agree with the poster that substituting the word “young” for “old” is potentially condescending and ageist. I remember a wonderful and wise rant by the late George Carlin that addressed that very thing (see the video below if you’re curious). He was talking about how many Americans have a tendency to substitute soft, flabby euphemisms for things that are potentially offensive or unpleasant. And one of his examples was substituting the word “young” for “old” when mentioning someone’s age. The poster who took on Janis Ian yesterday was echoing George Carlin, and as far as I’m concerned, George was often right about a lot of things. Or, even if he wasn’t right, he often stated things that invited more consideration.

I tend to agree with George on a lot of things, including using the word “young” instead of “old” when describing a person’s age.

And secondly, I agree with Janis Ian that it’s annoying when you try to post something on your very own Facebook page or blog or whatever, and some rando comes along and criticizes you for how you express yourself, your opinions, and whatever else. A lot of times, they completely misconstrue, miss the point, or project their own shit on a situation and turn it into something it shouldn’t be. As a blogger with authority issues, I run into that situation myself all the time!

My whole life, people have told me that I’m inappropriate, rude, obnoxious, offensive, or any manner of other adjectives, often for just speaking my mind or stating the truth as I see it. As a woman growing up in small town southern Virginia, as the youngest sibling of four, and as the daughter of a mentally damaged alcoholic with PTSD, I have been on the receiving end of a lot of negativity regarding my looks and personality. Many people have criticized me for being myself. Even my own grandmother found me annoying, and she even made a crack about how Bill’s “charm” was rubbing off on me. Both she and my dad (her son), hated things about me that I can’t control, like my laugh. Too many people have tried to silence me and squelch my natural personality, instead of just scrolling by or considering for a moment why I am the way I am. I used to let it depress me, but now I tend to speak up… and if I’m honest, it also gets me down, too. Can’t lie about that. By the way, who I am isn’t actually all that bad… if you get to know me. But I know I turn off a lot of people, so… 😉 Most of the time, I don’t bother anymore. I am what I am, and if you don’t like it, you can keep scrolling.

Anyway, part of me felt for Janis, because I’m sure that it’s especially irritating for her when people try to tell her what she can and can’t say or do. She’s an artist, and has made her living expressing herself beautifully through words and music. And she’s a person, first and foremost, so she should be allowed to post what she wants on her space without being taken to task by a random person. That part, I don’t disagree with at all. It was what happened next that caused me to pause for a moment.

In the wake of receiving the chastising response about using a potentially ageist euphemism, Janis issued a sharp retort to the person who commented, sarcastically “thanking” her for telling her how to express herself on her page. She added a bit more snark, which I thought was unnecessary, especially since Janis insists that people be respectful and civilized on her page. Being snarky and sarcastic, while certainly understandable, is not respectful. People don’t like hypocrisy or double standards.

A bunch of followers piled on, praising Janis for her thorny response. Some followers added more abuse to the poster who had chastised Janis for substituting the word “young” for “old”. It became very negative in a hurry. And then, Janis wrote an insulting second post that basically invited the first poster to have a look at Janis’s latest album cover and compare it to the poster’s profile, and then see who was aging better… (or something along those lines. Again, no screenshots, just memory). I thought that second post was completely hypocritical and unnecessary, even if I understood the irritation behind it. Janis Ian is human, as we all are. However, she is also a public figure, which gives her a certain power and platform that regular people don’t have. And if she’s going to insist on civility, she really ought to practice what she preaches. Otherwise, there’s a double standard.

I noticed a few posters were sticking up for the woman who had expressed her opinions to Janis. It was only two or three– one was a man, who made perfect sense to me, but was immediately accused of “mansplaining”. He wasn’t mansplaining, in my opinion. He made the valid point that Janis Ian, as a famous person, has more power than the average commenter has. The first woman had just made a random comment that might have been ill considered, but was basically harmless. Janis responded with venom, in spite of her policy that people be civil on her page. Then the few people who stuck up for the rando were piled upon by some of Janis Ian’s more rabid fans. That compounded the problem, and of course, was not civilized at all.

It was getting pretty nasty, and I was getting a bad feeling about it. I could see Janis’s point, but I could also understand the first woman’s comment. Yes, she probably should have just kept scrolling, but it’s Facebook, and people chime in with inappropriate stuff all the time. It’s usually best to take a breath and respond with kindness before snark and defensiveness. I’m not saying I always do that myself, but I’m not a public figure (in spite of what some of my blog commenters seem to think– this is NOT a popular blog). And I do usually try to be civilized, even if I fail sometimes.

I quit paying attention to the drama after a few minutes. What can I say? Dr. Phil circa 2014 was calling… So I clicked off of Janis Ian’s page, but had a brief discussion about what happened on my own page. One of my friends, who is in the music business, wrote that she had actually met Roberta Flack and found her to be a delightful lady. We bonded a bit about that, since I have some fond memories of Roberta’s music from my childhood. That’s one of my fond memories about my dad. He used to play her 1973 album Killing Me Softly, when I was really little. The songs stuck in my head until many years later, when I purchased it myself.

This song, especially… stuck in my head since about 1975 or so…

This morning, I woke up to find this post by Janis Ian. I guess I missed out on even more drama, because she ended up deleting the post that had prompted the post I saw this morning.

I hear you, Janis… but the other lady also had a point, though it was stated in a rather abrasive way. And when you responded with snark and sarcasm, you violated your own policy.

I commend Janis for asking her followers not to chime in with comments about how “great” she is, telling her she’s “right”, or personally attacking the other person or anyone who defends the other party. That doesn’t help. I appreciate that she took a moment to consider what happened and address it rationally with her followers. I think she’s sincere when she writes that she wants to encourage civility. She’s usually assertive when she insists that people “keep it clean”, but I notice that when you prick her, she bleeds, too. That just makes her human, as we all are. But there is no reason why that thread should have gotten as ugly as it did. It was a birthday wish, for God’s sake.

I think it probably would not have escalated if Janis had simply thanked the woman for following and commenting, and then, in an assertive way, explained that using “young” instead of “old” was not meant to be offensive to the elderly (if it really wasn’t, that is, which I am sure is the case). It was a simple birthday greeting to a legendary musician who has reached a grand age. And then Janis could have politely reminded the woman that it’s her page, and she would appreciate it people would allow her to express herself without unnecessary criticism. On the other hand, I completely understand why she was irritated. Nobody likes to have their words picked apart, especially by a perfect stranger. At the same time, it appears that both of these women were triggered for different reasons. I can relate to both of them. It happens to me all the time.

Anyway… it’s Saturday, and already past noon, so I think I will close this post and get on with the day. It can’t be easy to be famous, especially if you have an artistic personality. No wonder a lot of famous people have people to run their social media for them. I don’t envy that part of being well-known and successful at all. On the other hand, one thing I’ve learned is that you should never ask of others what you are, yourself, unwilling to do. That will only lead to trouble.

Standard
mental health, psychology, rants

I didn’t even know this was a thing…

Living in Germany for seven years has taken me out of the loop regarding certain American cultural mores. Like, for instance, Halloween etiquette. Germans are catching on to Halloween, but by and large, it’s not really a thing here. I do remember years past, when Bill and I were living in the United States. We would carve a jack o’ lantern (poorly) and wait for kids in cute costumes to ring the bell and yell “trick or treat!”. When we lived on Fort Belvoir, we would get dozens of kids on Halloween! But now, if we buy candy for Halloween, we mostly end up eating it ourselves.

Anyway, a friend of mine has three sons that she worked very hard for… When I say she “worked hard”, I mean it took a lot of effort for her to get, and stay, pregnant. She finally had a son and twin boys, and she’s really into raising them. We became friends at a time when I was also hoping to become a mother. I didn’t work as hard at it as she did, though.

One of my friends’ children has autism. I don’t know how high on the spectrum the lad is, but I do see his mom posting a lot about autism and the causes associated with it. Yesterday, she posted this image.

Wow… I wouldn’t have even known what to think if someone rang my bell and had a blue pumpkin bucket.

I think I had dimly heard of the teal candy bucket for kids with food allergies. I don’t think I ever knew anything about the blue buckets for people with autism. Either way, if someone comes to my house trick or treating, of course I’m going to give them candy. I can’t imagine why someone would give a person a hard time on a night that’s supposed to be about fun. I don’t even care if it’s an adult who’s got their hand out, looking for a sweet. Who cares? I also would never fat shame someone on Halloween– I do remember a few years ago, some woman getting in the news because she handed out fat shaming letters to fat kids on Halloween instead of giving them candy. That sucks!

But again, it’s been a long time since I last was expected to pass out any candy on October 31, and many of the places we’ve lived in the States haven’t been conducive to trick or treaters, anyway. In Georgia and North Carolina, we lived way out in the boonies and didn’t have many neighbors, and we never got Halloween visitors. So this is an issue I probably would have stayed ignorant to, if not for my online friend with a child who has autism.

I probably took more interest in the above post because I also recently got into it with a woman who is mutually friended to a lady I met on the Recovery from Mormonism message board. The woman who argued with me, took offense because I disagree with banning the word “retard”. I don’t think people should be using that word as an insult, but to ban it outright is a bridge too far, in my view. It has other meanings besides the insulting one.

In the course of that argument about why she thinks the word “retard” should be forbidden, the woman told me that one of my comments was “stupid”. I took that as hugely hypocritical and ended up blocking her, because she was being offensive and wasting my time. It seems to me that if a person doesn’t want to be insulted, they shouldn’t be insulting to others. But again, she said she has autism, and maybe people with autism lack the ability to practice what they preach. I honestly don’t know. I am ignorant on that topic.

I will totally admit that I don’t know much about autism. I probably would have known more if Bill had been able to raise his older daughter, who is reportedly on the spectrum. But the fact remains, I don’t know too much about this phenomenon… only that when I was growing up, we didn’t hear about it nearly as much as we do now. I’m sure it existed, and there were probably many undiagnosed people who had it and were trying to function in a world made for neurotypical people. Things seem to have been a lot more black and white when I was a kid.

Nowadays, it seems like everyone feels like all of the people in the world should automatically change their way of thinking and doing things. Many people seem to be loudly and aggressively demanding that change. Not surprisingly, they’re being met with resistance by people who don’t like to be told what to do. I’m not saying the change isn’t necessary. It often is. But expecting everyone and everything to change on a dime is unrealistic and unfair. Aside from that, people are going to occasionally fuck up and say or do something insensitive. That’s life.

I appreciate the people who feel the need to be educators and activists on the autism issue. I don’t mind being clued in on things I don’t know about. But I am a little bit confused about some things. First off– do people want special treatment or consideration because they have a certain disability? Or do they want to be treated like everyone else is treated? It seems to me that if they want to be treated like everyone else is treated, it’s not realistic to also expect special treatment.

If someone wants to be treated like everyone else is treated, autism or other issues must be irrelevant. Declaring a need for certain considerations means that a person isn’t like everyone else is. That doesn’t mean they’re not worthy of respect. It simply means that the person has special needs that need to be accommodated and, in fact, they aren’t like everyone else is. What’s wrong with that, as long the differences are handled with kindness, discretion, and sensitivity?

Secondly, do people want complete privacy? Or do they want special consideration because they have a certain condition? If they want privacy, how can they expect special consideration for a medical problem? If I don’t know anything about someone’s health challenges, how can I know what their needs are? How can I address them?

Take, for instance, the exchange I had last week with the woman who argued with me over disagreeing that the word “retard” should be banned. When she responded, she immediately qualified her first statement by saying, “I have autism.”

I thought to myself, “So?” So you have autism. Does that mean I don’t get to have an opinion about this? Like I said, I don’t know much about autism, but I do know that having it doesn’t mean a person has a poor intellect. Should I have felt sorry for her for having autism? Does it give her license to speak to me in any way she pleases? Or should I treat her the way I would treat anyone who aggressively attacks my opinions?

The woman who argued with me clearly was articulate enough. Do people routinely call her “retarded”? If so, that’s definitely wrong. But she’s obviously not someone with a slow intellect anyway. Based on what little I could tell about her, she should have been capable of understanding my point without attacking me and calling me “stupid”. We should have been able to have a calm discussion without her laying into me aggressively and sarcastically. Or is that not possible with a person who has autism? I honestly don’t know. If being unable to be respectful is a feature of autism, I hope someone will tell me. But even if it is a feature, how would I even know that a random person has autism if they don’t tell me? And if I don’t know, how can I give them special consideration?

I think everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and basic respect. That means giving people the benefit of the doubt if they disagree. Just because someone doesn’t share your views, that doesn’t necessarily always mean they’re a bad person or even in need of “education”. They might just have a different perspective, and maybe it’s one you’ve never even considered. Also, opinions aren’t facts. Everyone has a right to their opinions, but they should not be presented as facts.

My favorite color happens to be blue. When I was a child, I probably would have loved to have had a blue pumpkin as my candy bucket. And my mom, who wasn’t up on all the childhood trends, even in the early 1980s, probably would have bought it for me out of sheer ignorance. I would expect that if I went door to door looking for candy on Halloween night, the people in my neighborhood wouldn’t have given me any shit about having a blue pumpkin, but not having autism or some other disorder. It would not have been their business.

The comments on the original post about the blue pumpkin got pretty heated. I noticed some people were lauding the post, but others took huge issue with it. Things got pretty wild. Have a look.

Like I said, I don’t know much about autism. My guess, based on the above comments and my recent interaction with someone claiming to be autistic, is that people with autism are very sensitive about some things. I can see that none of the people commenting above have any issues with their intellects. They are all writing coherently and correctly. But they’ve all aggressively dog piled on this woman who disagreed with them, albeit in a rude and profane way, and are now engaging in some of the behavior that they were initially denouncing. I’ve seen similar behavior in other online discussions, particularly in military circles. I find this kind of behavior disturbing, and I highly doubt much came of this discussion, other than some raised adrenaline.

It seems to me that being kinder and less antagonistic would net better results than being accusatory and insulting… Yes, the first poster was wrong to say the post was “full of shit”, and she was wrong to write “only an idiot”. But then the mob descends upon her, questioning her parenting skills, saying she’s a poor example to her child, and making sweeping assessments of a perfect stranger’s character. It seems very hypocritical to me. What would have happened if most of them had responded in a calm, kind, and understanding manner, rather than resorting to lecturing, shaming, and insults of their own? But again, maybe this is a part of autism that I don’t know anything about. People with autism get to be shaming, but other people have to be “respectful” toward them.

In any case… I think the original poster, who’s been threatened with “banning”, should bow out of that group and find one that is less hostile. It doesn’t appear that she’s very welcome there, which is a shame. Maybe she DOES need to be educated. At the same time, the folks in the autism group are certainly right to try to educate people, but there’s a way to do so that won’t be alienating. Other people have the right to their opinions, too. And it’s hard to get anywhere in a discussion when it devolves into namecalling and insults. There’s no reason in the world why people in that group should have said such personally insulting things to a total stranger, even if the original poster did initially come off as rude and offensive.

And if people don’t want to be “outed” for having autism, perhaps they shouldn’t be using it as a pass for being so hostile and insulting to other people. I get wanting to be respected. Everybody wants that. But just because a person has autism or some other issue, that doesn’t give them the right to expect special consideration and engage in hypocrisy, particularly in an online interaction. I’ve found that people often mirror back to you what you put into the world. Besides that, everyone has challenges and difficulties. I don’t have autism, but people have been mean to me, too. I try not to let it get me down for too long.

That being said… anyone who knocks on my door on Halloween is welcome to candy, regardless of their age, weight, costume, or whether or not they say “trick or treat”. Because I don’t need any more presents for my ass.

Standard
condescending twatbags, language, overly helpful people, social media

No, I’m not gonna get on the word “ban-wagon”…

In May of 2013, Bill and I were sitting at a train station in Venice, Italy. We were waiting to catch our ride to Florence on Italo, a then brand new private Italian train company. As we were waiting, we heard an announcement in Italian about a train that was significantly delayed. The pre-recorded announcement did not use the word “delay”. Instead, it included an Italian incarnation of the word “retard”, used as an adjective.

Bill turned to me and said, “Now you see… there’s an instance in which the word “retard” is used in a completely non-offensive way.”

I have never forgotten that conversation, especially as more and more “woke” types feel the need to outright ban certain words from the English language. I am all for avoiding deliberately insulting others, especially those who suffer from any kind of intellectual disabilities that are beyond their control.

However, as I realized when we were at the train station in Italy, words have many nuances, usages, and definitions. Some words are inherently offensive, and almost always used in a hurtful way. And sometimes, people deliberately take offense at the use of a “taboo” word when absolutely no harm is intended. That causes problems that could just as easily be avoided if the person would simply be more mature and stop being willfully ignorant.

It’s been many years since I last used the word “retard” in the taboo way, although I will admit that in the 1980s, it was a word that was flung around on playgrounds and school busses with the greatest of ease. It was also used in plenty of 70s and 80s era comedies, both on television and in the movies. I can think of two films off the top of my head– very popular movies that still remain popular today–in which characters use the word “retard” as an insult.

Today, those films would probably not be made with the word “retard” used as an insult, although I would not be surprised if some incarnation of the word “douche” was used in its place. Personally, I find the word “douche” offensive for several reasons, but I’m not campaigning to have it banned. In many cultures, the word “douche” just means “shower”, and is perfectly useful and non-offensive. So rather than trying to get the word “douche” banned, I simply avoid using it myself.

As a lover of language, I can’t quite bring myself to jump on the “ban-wagon” when it comes to any word, even the ones that can start riots. I never think of words as things that should ever be banned, even when they are deemed very “offensive”. Instead, I am more concerned about context and the attitude behind the use of language. And yes, that means that I think words that people routinely campaign to have struck from the language are sometimes acceptable to use in certain contexts. To avoid being offended, it’s up to people to grow up and not be deliberately obtuse. Otherwise, they’re doomed to stay butthurt.

This morning, someone shared the below post on Facebook. If I had already had my coffee, I probably would have just rolled my eyes and ignored it. But instead, I left a response. Basically, I wrote that the word “retard” is only a slur if it’s used as an insult. There are other ways to use it that are totally neutral.

I knew I might regret leaving that comment, but the friend who shared this is usually a very understanding person. I figured she’d get what I mean. Besides, while I understand people being aggravated by insulting, demeaning language, I am aggravated by people who presume to tell me what I can or cannot say or write.

I think people should be responsible for their own use of language; most of them don’t need the language police to remind them to be “politically correct”. Frankly, I’m fed up with people who use social media as a place for that kind of soap box activism, particularly when all they’ve done is shared someone else’s viral post. Facebook was originally supposed to be fun, wasn’t it?

No, thank you, I won’t be teaching anyone that the word “retard” is worse than the word “fuck”. That’s someone’s “absolutely ridiculous” opinion… at least in MY opinion. I still get to have one, right?

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before someone came along and tried to school me about how the word “retard” is never acceptable. This person wrote that it’s no longer used by professionals and it’s outdated, etcetera, etcetera.

My response– simply because I was feeling stubborn and my verbal restraint reflex was somewhat “retarded”– was that yes, in fact, sometimes the word “retard” is perfectly acceptable and unoffensive. That word has other meanings besides the insulting one. The word “retard”, when used as a verb, means “to slow or delay”. That was how it was used at the train station in Italy. No one got offended when it was used in that way. I can think of other ways the word “retard” can be used that shouldn’t cause offense to anyone.

The person who challenged me came back and posted that she’s got autism. Actually, I believe she wrote that she’s “autistic”, and has an “autistic” child. I was a little surprised that she put it that way, since I thought the emphasis was supposed to be on the person rather than the condition. Like– I thought it was more politically correct to say, “I have autism” rather than “I’m autistic.” But I am not in that world, so I don’t know, and I wouldn’t presume to tell someone who is in that world how they should refer to themselves.

Besides, I don’t think of autism as something inherently good or bad. My husband’s older daughter is supposedly on the spectrum, but we know she is a brilliant artist and she’s proven that there’s nothing wrong with her intellect. I don’t know if she’s sorry she has autism. She no longer speaks to Bill. But, based on what I know about her, she’s got plenty of things going for her besides the condition of autism.

I responded to my friend’s friend that I was sorry that people have used the word “retard” in an offensive way, and that she is offended by its use. But I am not going to be told that I can’t use a word that I know is perfectly acceptable in many situations, simply because some group says it’s “offensive”, in and of itself. That’s wrong.

The challenger then asked me to use the word “retard” in an unoffensive way. So I wrote something along the lines of, “I see no reason to retard the development of languages by banning specific words.”

She then wrote that my answer was “stupid”. There was more to her comment, but I quit reading, because she made it clear that respectful communication and education weren’t her goals. Instead, it appeared that she wanted to disparage my intellect by referring to my answer as “stupid”. That’s brilliant, isn’t it? I guess she didn’t see the irony. She’s lecturing me about not ever using the word “retard” because it’s disrespectful and hurtful, but then she uses the word “stupid” to describe my comment and, based on her perceived tone, my intellect.

I truly didn’t want to get into a pissing match with this person, since I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me. If she did know me, she might be surprised by how “not stupid” I am, at least compared to the average person. Even if she did still think I’m stupid after meeting me, that would obviously be her uninformed and incorrect opinion.

I realized, however, that my time would probably be wasted trying to continue the conversation. As I didn’t want to get into a legitimate argument, I wrote “So now you are insulting me. That’s very nice. Have a good day.”

Normally, when a person writes “Have a good day.”, that means they’re done with the discussion and are politely trying to bow out. I figure that’s a more respectful way of leaving the conversation than telling them to “fuck off” is. But, as this person says she has autism, I guess she didn’t pick up on the social cue. She came back and wrote, “Feeling insulted, huh?” then continued with more insults…

I guess, if I were going to assign an emotion to how I felt about her response, it would be “annoyed” or maybe “puzzled”. It does seem strange to be preached at by a stranger about not offending people with intellectual disabilities by calling them “retarded” (which I never did), and then, in the next breath, having that same person refer to my comment as “stupid”.

If I had written that I thought her comment was “retarded”, what would her response be? Isn’t “stupid” just as offensive as “retarded”? At least the word “retard”, even when used an insulting way, indicates a medical condition that a person can’t help. Stupid just means a person or thing is dull-witted and unintelligent, whether or not they can help being that way. I can’t think of many ways the word “stupid” could be used that isn’t negative.

I wrote something akin to, “No, I’m not ‘feeling insulted’. You’re being hypocritical, and I have other things to do. So kindly enjoy your day, and I will continue to speak and write as I please.” I truly wasn’t “insulted” by her comment, because I would have to care about her opinion to be insulted by it. But I will admit to being annoyed by her comments and her erroneous presumptions about me. Especially, since I truly didn’t attempt to insult her.

Then she wrote some sarcastic remark about how I can keep “offending” people with special needs, but at that point, I used my block button. Because I do actually have better things to do with my time today than argue with a perfect stranger about my vocabulary. Hell, cleaning the lint out of my belly button would be a better use of my time than continuing that unproductive discussion with someone whose mind is currently closed. She obviously didn’t see my point, and wasn’t going to try to see it. Instead, she was hellbent on “winning” the argument, and doing so in a disrespectful, non-empathic way. Still, she failed to convince me, so I guess she can keep fighting the good fight with someone else.

Some people might point out that I probably “asked” for this unpleasant exchange. I would agree with them that it’s mostly pointless to point out these kinds of language discrepancies among friends. A person who would share an image like the one above probably has strong feelings about the subject matter, but hasn’t thought very long and hard about them, and is just looking for likes and loves, rather than actual commentary.

On the other hand, I do get annoyed when some busybody presumes to correct my language. I’m an adult, and fully responsible for what I say and do. If I say something egregiously obnoxious or offensive, it may be appropriate to call me out for that. But I don’t really need my friends to pre-emptively instruct me on the proper way to use language.

Moreover, I think my opinions matter as much as anyone else’s do. I’ve spent my life being told that my thoughts and feelings don’t matter, so I tend to be strong-willed and argumentative about these things, now that I am an adult. I realize it’s hard to be assertive about such things without still inadvertently offending people. Such is life.

I do get irritated when people try to tell me how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking. I think it’s disrespectful to try to read people’s minds, especially when they’re strangers. Maybe I would be happier if I just “let it go”, but I think that people who are able to do that often don’t think about much more other than what’s right in front of them.

Either that, or they’re like that Japanese monk Bill and I ran into a few years ago, who just radiated peace, serenity, and calmness. I have seen very few people like that in my lifetime. I would actually LOVE to be like that monk… although I realize I am ASSUMING he is actually as calm as he appeared. For all I know, he’s got a hot temper.

Perhaps today I will go out of my way to use the word “retard” in non-offensive ways. Of course, around here, most people speak German and don’t speak to me, anyway, so that effort might be lost on them. Also… when it comes to grammar policing, all bets are off.

Standard
family, modern problems, politics

Nothing says “I love you” like a thirteen year old falsely attributed email forward…

I still have a bit of writer’s block today… Well, maybe I don’t have writer’s block per se. There’s a lot I could write about. I just don’t feel like getting into what’s on everyone’s minds right now. I would rather complain about something else. Today’s topic is not as much of a problem as it once was. In some ways it’s a relief. In other ways, it’s kinda sad. The title of today’s post is recycled, but the content is mostly fresh.

I grew up with a large, extended family on my dad’s side. I have three sisters, and we all have the same parents. My sisters are much older than I am, though, so in some ways, they seemed more like my aunts. My father had eight brothers and sisters, and seven of them made it to adulthood. My aunts and uncles each had either 2 or 4 children, so there are 22 grandchildren– 11 males and 11 females.

When I was growing up, I thought I had a really awesome family. And, I guess I do… except for the fact that I feel like I no longer belong. Looking back on it, though, I realize that I probably never really belonged. I used to fight with my younger cousins a lot. Now that we’re adults, I’ve found that I’m a lot more liberal than most of my family members are. I didn’t used to be this way. I used to identify as a Republican. I now realize that was because I didn’t know a thing about politics or politicians. I simply voted the way my family and a lot of my friends did. It took leaving the nest to find my own views. And it’s taken several more years for me to have the conviction and confidence to defend my opinions. Sadly, I think that’s taken a toll on some of my relationships.

At least I’m not getting so many of these anymore. Even my more enlightened family members sometimes sent these.

Today’s blog post title was originally used on a post I wrote in 2016 about certain members of my extended family mindlessly sending me falsely attributed emails that parroted their conservative views. On the original post, I wrote about how one of my favorite relatives, now sadly deceased, had sent me an email supposedly written by the late Andy Rooney. I grew up watching Mr. Rooney on 60 Minutes. He was famously cranky, curmudgeonly, and witty. Sometimes, he had controversial opinions. Still, I couldn’t believe that Andy Rooney would have written an email that espoused the racist views in the email sent to me by my relatives. I checked Snopes, and sure enough, my hunch was correct.

In my 2016 post, I wrote that I was sad for a couple of reasons that I had received that forwarded email. Rooney was a talented writer and expressed himself gracefully.  Would he have really written something along the lines of “It doesn’t take a whole village to raise a child right, but it does take a parent to stand up to the kid and smack their little ass when necessary and say ‘NO.’?” And even if Andy Rooney had written the email and did agree with its sentiments, why on earth would people in my family think I would appreciate or agree with that tripe? I figured they must not know me very well. I wrote:

I could sit here and dissect that email forward for its very hateful messages.  Instead, I’m just going to make a comment to the people who actually know me and follow this blog (or the other two).  First of all, I am not a political conservative.  I don’t agree with a lot of conservative views.  I am probably more of a centrist than anything else.  While I am generally not a fan of political correctness being forced down people’s throats and I place a high value on the freedom of expression, I also appreciate civility and empathy.  I try really hard not to be cruel to people, even when I feel angry enough to be cruel.  While I would never say that I’m a bleeding heart liberal, neither am I a crusty conservative.  And I would never align myself with the attitude presented in the email forward I received last night.

What really surprises me is that the people who forwarded that email to me are a couple of my favorite relatives.  They have always been good to me… probably even better to me than my own parents ever were.  They are genuinely kind to everyone.  I hesitate to send a negative response to them, even in a loving tone, because despite hating the constant forwarded emails, I do love them very much and don’t want to offend them, even though they’ve offended me.  I respect them as my elders and as people who helped make me who I am. 

I ended my post wondering what I should do. I didn’t want to be offensive, but that email was offensive to me. It didn’t speak to me. And while I’m sure I could have crafted a kind response to them and a request not to mindlessly forward conservative political bullshit to me, I’m not sure that would have been received in a spirit of fun or goodwill. I wrote this in my 2016 post:

Part of me thinks it’s easiest to just ignore and delete the emails.  Another part of me feels like I should say something about them.  I’m torn between not wanting to upset people and feeling like I need to call bullshit.  I wonder if it’s worth the hassle and if my saying anything would change anything.  It’s not that I don’t want to hear from my family members.  It’s just that 99.9% of the forwards, even if they aren’t hateful and racist, are just plain useless and/or stupid.

I have heard people say that when you get a forwarded email from someone, you should take it as a sign they were thinking of you.  If that’s true, how am I supposed to take it when I get an email that really doesn’t connect with my beliefs or world view at all?  And it’s not even something my relative wrote from the heart– it’s ripped off crap written by some anonymous identity thieving hack.  If I had received an original email from a family member that contained the same sentiments in the so-called Andy Rooney hack job, I probably still wouldn’t appreciate it much.  But at least I’d know the email was somewhat original and written for me.  I would at least have a sign that the family member was communicating with me personally and not just poking me with rehashed crap that has already been spread to the masses.  What the hell is the point of forwarding shit that has been forwarded ad nauseam for over a decade and identified as not being authentic?

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I’ve been trained to be “nice”. I grew up with a father who believed in “smacking my ‘little’ ass” whenever he felt it was warranted. Of course, when he did that, he was usually angry and sometimes intoxicated. So his judgment about whether or not physical discipline was required was probably a bit skewed. The end result was that when my father died in 2014, I was kind of ambivalent. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I don’t miss him very much, even though I thought I loved him when he was alive.

Yesterday, Bill and I were talking about his dad, who died last November. I never got a chance to know my father-in-law well. I saw him in person a handful of times. I always thought he was a nice man, albeit a little bit simple. I say “simple”, but that doesn’t mean I think he was “simple-minded”. He was just not one to fuss with complexities. He had a tendency to be nice to a fault, and he let people steamroll him… to include Bill’s ex wife. He didn’t know Bill that well, because he and Bill’s mom divorced when Bill was very young. Bill visited his dad, but due to the nature of visitation, it was hard for them to bond or have a relationship in which there was more than a “vacation” mindset. Then Bill’s mom moved to Arizona and later, Texas, while Bill’s dad lived in Tennessee. So that made it even harder for them to really bond.

Bill missed his father’s funeral, thanks to COVID-19. He did manage to tell him he loved him, thanks to Skype. Bill’s dad’s last words were a request for Bill to be kind to his wife, Bill’s stepmother. The one thing Bill’s dad said to me, during the few times I met him, was that Bill had exceeded his expectations. He said that he hadn’t thought Bill was tough enough to be in the Army. But Bill had proven him wrong. I think he meant it as an expression of pride, but it was actually kind of a backhanded compliment. But at least Bill’s dad wasn’t a believer in physical violence to get his point across, as my father was. I wish they had known each other better before time ran out.

Ain’t it the truth… and it sometimes takes awhile before people get the message.

Nowadays, I don’t get those forwards from my relatives. What ended up happening is that another relative went way too far. And I got really mad and cussed him out. It happened in February 2017, when Bill and I were vacationing in France. My uncle sent a pro Trump/Pence forward to me. Feeling a bit saucy, and more than a little fed up by the constant political bullshit, I sent a polite response. Seriously, it initially WAS polite. I simply wrote back that I wasn’t impressed with either Trump or Pence and thought they both needed to go. In a blog post from that time, I wrote this:

My uncle came back and accused me of being a “nut case”.  He said that in two years, I’ll be “cheering” for Trump.  He assumes I voted for Hillary Clinton.  I didn’t vote for Mrs. Clinton, but I would much prefer her to Trump.  At least she’s competent and knows enough not to act like a goddamn psychopath on Twitter. 

So anyway, being called a nutcase by my uncle pissed me the fuck right off.  So I wrote back to him and said, “No, Ed, I really will not [be cheering].  You need to stop sending me this crap.  Unless you want a verbal ass kicking, you’ll take me off your email list.” 

My sister saw what I wrote and said, “Oh no, now you’ve done it.”  I explained to her that I’m rapidly reaching a point at which I am about to disassociate with people who resort to mean spirited personal insults over politics, even if it’s a family member.  She implored me to calm down, probably realizing that since I live overseas and don’t miss anyone, it would be all too easy for me to simply drop out of the family fold altogether.

He responded and once again called me crazy.  He also said “GET OVER IT!”  Just like that.

I wonder, does he really expect me to just “get over it”?  He knows where I come from.  I have a lot of the same qualities he has.  In fact, being outspoken is what makes me a family member of his. 

Anyway… I wrote back and said, “Ed, I’m warning you.  Leave me alone.  Stop sending me political bullshit.”

He may write back today, after he’s had a few belts.  If he does, I will probably shred him.

As I recall, Ed did send me a few more political emails, but there were fewer of them. And now I don’t get so many anymore, partly because some of the worst offenders are now dead. And partly because I finally got angry and told the still living ones to knock it off. But now I don’t really hear much from them anymore…

Yesterday, I told Bill that I still love my family, but I don’t feel like I can go home again. I don’t think I want to spend a holiday with them like I used to, when I was younger and more pliant. The political forwards weren’t always bad, though. Sometimes, they inspired me to be creative. My uncle sent me the below forwarded poem back in January 2018. Try not to gag (even though of COURSE I honor our vets– I am married to one).

Re: Fwd: Fw: A TERRIFIC POEM /Our Vets.

I’m honored to have the opportunity to pass this well-written poem along.

He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
Telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.

And ‘tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew where of he spoke.

But we’ll hear his tales no longer,
For ol’ Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer
For a Veteran died today.

He won’t be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing,
‘Tho a Veteran died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?

The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Veteran,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.

It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever-waffling stand?

Or would you want a Veteran
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Veteran,
Who would fight until the end.

He was just a common Veteran,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.

For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Veteran’s part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor
While he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage
At the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:
“OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,
A VETERAN DIED TODAY.”

PLEASE,
If you are proud of our Vets, then pass this on.

I was so tired of my uncle’s conservative political forwards that I decided to rewrite this “well-written” poem… I don’t remember if I sent it to him. I probably didn’t, since I was trained to be “nice”.

He was getting old and senile
And his mind was failing fast,
Uncle Ed sat by his computer,
Sending emails from the past.
 
Of politicians he agreed with
And decisions they had made,
Of their exploits within Washington;
Slashing Social Security and Medicaid.
 
And ‘tho to some of his relatives
Ed’s emails were mostly bunk,
They resolved to just ignore them
Cuz’ they figured he was drunk.
 
Sometimes the emails are racist
and often they offend,
And my mood’s a little poorer
when Uncle Ed hits “send”.

He’s worked and raised a family,
And managed his travails;
Yet on the day he passes,
I’ll only recall his emails.
 
Although I’ve always loved him,
his children, and his wife.
I tire of his political bullshit;
which often causes strife.

For many politicians are selfish,
And people think they’re fake,
Others forecast their passing,
And the policies they’ll make.
 
The media tells how their choices
Badly affect the old and the young,
And the way they screw the veterans
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.
 
Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
An uncle who sends political emails
And disturbs his fellow man?
 
Or the ordinary housewife
Whose nerves are worn and frayed,
Fighting hard to still the impulse
that make her words cut like blades?
 
The hapless housewife’s stipend
And the style in which she lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the lack of a shit she gives.
 
About her uncle’s politics,
Republican and all,
His insights regarding morality,
And how America will fall.
 
It is not the lowly relative
With patience, grace, and poise,
Who wins respect and gratitude
When her drunken uncle annoys.
 
Should she find herself angry,
The latest missive on her screen,
Wouldn’t she like to respond,
To his ever-venting spleen?
 
Or would she just sit quietly
Again holding her piece,
As her dad, Ed’s big brother Bill,
Taught Ed’s very clever niece.
 
She’s just a common cousin,
Daughter, sister, niece, and female,
But her life is worth just enough–
To receive masses of forwarded email.
 
For when old men are online,
In the darkest hours of the night,
One never knows what bullshit
They’ll send via kilobyte.

She cannot block his postings
And he will not volunteer,
To stop forwarding ridiculous emails,
That won’t inspire cheer…

Perhaps in a simple reprimand
her response will someday be:
“I’M TIRED OF YOUR FORWARDS.
STOP SENDING THAT CRAP TO ME.”

PLEASE…
If you are sick of mindless email forwards full of conservative politics, then pass this on.

Maybe it’s kind of mean to be rewriting this classic piece of poetry that so touched my uncle’s heart.  However, I think I’ve historically generally been pretty patient with him. At the time I posted this, I asked him to stop sending me this shit a year prior, and yet he persisted.  I might as well have a little fun with it.  After all, a gift for words is something passed down from his side of the family. It’s like being related to a bunch of southern styled Archie Bunkers.

Ah well… We’ll see if and when I ever go home again. Maybe I’m better off over here with Bill. Maybe it’s a lucky thing that I see things more clearly now than I used to, even if my eyes get more myopic and astigmatic by the day. It’s probably true that you can never really go home again. And sometimes, even your relatives don’t really know you.

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