advertising, business, fashion, music, nostalgia

I used to think Victoria’s Secret was “luxury”…

This morning, I woke up to an article in The New York Times about Victoria’s Secret, that famous underwear purveyor that once beguiled me in every mall I ever visited. The article, which I’ve linked and unlocked, was about how Victoria’s Secret is trying to “rebrand” due to rapidly declining sales and a diminished reputation. A new documentary called Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons has come out on Hulu. I haven’t seen it, because I’m not currently subscribed to Hulu, and would have to use a VPN to see it, anyway. The documentary consists of three parts, and is all about how Leslie Wexner took a brand that was originally a small chain in California and turned it into a huge business run by men objectifying women.

I haven’t shopped at Victoria’s Secret in over twenty years. There are a few reasons for that. For one thing, I’m too old and fat to wear their lingerie. For another, it’s been many years since I last thought of anything at Victoria’s Secret as worth buying. Back in the early 90s, it was kind of a cool place to shop, with dark, mysterious boudoir inspired interiors. Everything was in drawers, as if I was going to my own dresser. They sold lovely perfumes and soaps, silk and satin underwear, terry cloth robes, and really comfortable sleep shirts with cool patterns and in bright colors. I used to LOVE their sleep shirts, which were long sleeved, with a breast pocket, and satin edging around the collar. I never bought a Victoria’s Secret bra, because they all had underwires, and I hate underwires. Plus, my boobs were just too big.

Jax is awesome!

Then, as the 90s progressed, the store’s interiors brightened up, and the merchandise became crap. A lot of what they sold was not only poorly constructed and overpriced; it was also really ugly. And then I got way too old for their demographic, which seemed to target younger and younger girls. Like a lot of people, I was both amazed and horrified last month when the Tik Tok singer-songwriter, Jax, put out a song she made for a pre-teen girl she babysits named Chelsea. Chelsea had gone to Victoria’s Secret to buy a bathing suit for a pool party, and a “friend” told her the suit made her look too “fat and flat”. So Jax made a song called “Victoria’s Secret”, which went viral.

Wow.

I have to say, I think Jax is a super talented songwriter. I don’t really care for the autotuned sound, or super plugged instruments, but there’s no doubt she has major writing chops. I just listened to another song she did last year, and it actually made me really emotional, even though it’s very modern pop and I usually hate that style. What can I say? I’m old, and I like to hear real voices. But I just listened to the below song, and it legitimately made me cry. My husband is just like the man she’s singing about; we actually have that relationship. I think Jax is going to have a big career. And yes, now I see that she was on American Idol, but I’ve never watched that show in my life, and couldn’t now, even if I wanted to. Sheesh, now I feel like I’ve been hopelessly out of touch with current events.

This is so sweet. I bet it becomes a wedding staple.

I think another reason I was turned off of Victoria’s Secret years ago was because Tyra Banks made a name for herself with that brand. I used to watch Tyra on America’s Next Top Model, a show with which I had a love/hate relationship, much like I did for 7th Heaven. Tyra used to talk about how her voluptuous figure was welcomed by Victoria’s Secret, and yet I read many comments on The New York Times article about how limited the sizing has been since I quit shopping there in the 90s. I guess it got really bad. I have never been particularly thin, but when I was a young woman, I could easily buy stuff at Victoria’s Secret. They must have sort of quietly phased the more inclusive sizes out, only to bring them back now in a bid to save their brand. Although I watched Tyra’s antics on ANTM, it wasn’t because I liked or admired her. I just found her to be a narcissistic trainwreck. I liked ANTM for Paulina Porizkova, Andre Leon Talley, Jay Manuel, and most of all, Miss Jay (J. Alexander). And I enjoyed watching the contestants, some of whom had very compelling stories. Renee Alway, anyone?

Tyra, back in the day.
Hoochie? The music reminds me of porn.

Did normal, regular people actually wear the stuff Tyra was modeling? I don’t know. I remember when I was in my late teens and early 20s, they had polyester string underwear with bright colors and juicy patterns, but they also had plain silk bikinis that I really liked and wore all the time. I see the above video, especially toward the end, Tyra wasn’t super skinny. But it sounds like the brand eventually became less size inclusive, to the point at which anyone who wasn’t super small couldn’t wear their stuff. And even those who could wear it, didn’t get to wear it for long, because it would fall apart. Then Jeffrey Epstein was in the news, and it turned out that Leslie Wexner was buddies with Epstein. He ended up stepping down from his post as chairman and chief executive of Victoria’s Secret, probably because not only is he ancient, but because the brand was liable to be canceled… On the other hand, Donald Trump also hung out with Epstein, and he hasn’t been canceled yet. So I don’t know.

I used to have a Victoria’s Secret sleep shirt that looked just like this. They had lots of stuff in bright colors, with seemingly luxurious fabrics. (eBay listing)

I remember even before I shopped at Victoria’s Secret, they had a mail order catalog that had really beautiful stuff in it. There were velvet “pyjamas” (spelled with a y, Brit style), lovely lace nightgowns, even fashionable sportswear separates that were classy, elegant, and tasteful. A former friend of mine’s middle aged mother (at the time) used to get the catalog and I would look at it, amazed by what they were selling. It really did give off the appearance of being a British company with a posh London address, but the truth is, Victoria’s Secret has always been all American. It was originally founded in Palo Alto, California, by Roy and Gaye Raymond, who expanded the brand to five stores before they sold it to Leslie Wexner in 1982. Wexner moved the company’s headquarters to Reynoldsburg, Ohio, where it remains today. So much for London, eh?

Ah well… like anything else, Victoria’s Secret was based on a mythical image that never existed and was pushed by men looking to make money and objectify women. And a lot of people bought into it. I know I did, when I was a lot younger, but in those days, it was not as trashy as it is now. I’m obviously not the only one who thinks so, either— this link goes to another blog post that actually shows the kinds of stuff they sold, back in the day. It was much nicer and classier; some of it would be great to wear even today!

An ad that currently appears on Victoria’s Secret’s Web site. Hmm…

It’s been years since I last went to an American mall, but I remember even when I did that regularly, being totally turned off by how Victoria’s Secret had changed. Gone was the mystery and elegance of the early 90s, and it was replaced by gaudy, sleazy, poorly made junk. And now, it appears that it’s being marketed more to young girls who don’t yet have boobs, if I am to go by Jax’s video. It sounds like the bean counters have finally wised up– maybe a little too late– and realized that bigger women have a lot more money than most prepubescent girls have, and there are a lot more of us looking to buy lingerie than there are skinny modelesque women. Those women probably wouldn’t want to shop at Victoria’s Secret anyway. So now they’re more size inclusive, but a lot of what I’ve seen isn’t appealing at all.

I’m happy with my cotton Jockey underwear, that I usually order from Amazon. My husband doesn’t mind, because he’s not a shallow fuck like this guy who commented on The New York Times’ article.

the whole reason. We men buy lingerie for our partner; the marketing is to look good for the man.. and definitely those fatties are not our standard of beauty (I’ll bet this guy is a pro-birther, too)

I’m gonna get cooch stains on the underwear, anyway, right? Might as well get some that are practical.

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communication, condescending twatbags, family, healthcare, history, law, politicians, politics, true crime, Uncategorized

Granny’s notes give me perspective on the past…

I had an interesting Thursday, and not just because it was my day to vacuum the house. It was interesting because I did some thinking, and even became a little inspired. My Aunt Gayle sent an email containing a document written by my Granny years ago. The fifteenth anniversary of her death is approaching next week, so Gayle sent out “Granny’s notes”, which was basically a brief history of Granny’s long and fascinating life. Granny was born near Natural Bridge, Virginia and spent most of her life there, though she did have some brief sojourns to other places. She was the fifth of ten children, and the last of the children to die, at almost 101 years of age. Had she lived just 54 more days, she would have made it. But it was time for Granny to go, as she had obviously witnessed a whole lot in her life. I can’t imagine what she would think of what’s happening today.

My grandmother was born at a time when women couldn’t vote, and were thought of as little more than property to their fathers and husbands. She died in the age of the Internet. In her lifetime, she bore nine children, and outlived two of them. She saw a man walk on the moon. She watched cars take over horses and buggies. She traveled to England to visit my parents, my sisters, and me, stopping in Scotland and Ireland, to walk on land where her ancestors lived. What would she think about the way women’s rights are being rolled back today? Granny was a conservative lady, but she was always very smart and practical, and she had a sharp mind until the bitter end of her life. I don’t know what she thought of topics like homosexuality or abortion. I suspect she was more progressive than some people would have liked to have given her credit for being. I say that, knowing that she was born and raised in Rockbridge County, which is a very red part of Virginia.

When I got my aunt’s email last night, I thought of a woman I “met” on 23andMe. She and I are first cousins twice removed. It turns out my Granny’s brother, Ed, had a fling with a young woman who had come from Longwood University (then known as the State Teachers College) to Natural Bridge to teach school. Ed and the young woman conceived a baby girl, whom they surrendered for adoption in Roanoke, Virginia. The girl was adopted by a couple from Roanoke and grew up there, while Ed went on to marry another woman and have a son. I seem to remember hearing that Ed’s son died when he was still in his 20s, although that happened when I was still a glint in my dad’s eye. Ed died a few years before I was born.

The woman I “met” is the daughter of Ed’s “illegitimate” daughter (to use an antiquated term), who was given up for adoption. She is in her 70s now, and has a half sister. They live in Maryland. I hadn’t been chatting with her lately, mainly because after we exchanged information, there wasn’t much else to say. But Granny’s notes changed everything. I immediately contacted her on 23andMe and told her about the document, and asked her if she’d like me to send it to her, since Granny had written about her parents and grandparents– and they were also kin to her. She enthusiastically agreed, so I forwarded the document to her.

Then I thought about the rest of this woman’s incredible DNA story. Her mother had grown up in Roanoke, apparently unaware that she had been adopted from a couple in Rockbridge County. When she became an adult, she moved to Washington, DC to work, and there she met a young, dark haired man who worked for the Ecuadorian Embassy. They had a fling, and sure enough, she got pregnant. When she told her mother, her mother snapped “Just like your real mother!” That’s when she found out she wasn’t her mother’s natural child.

Unlike her biological parents, to include my great uncle and his girlfriend, my cousin’s mom chose not to give her daughter with the “Ecuadorian” up for adoption. So she grew up not knowing her dad, but assumed she was half Ecuadorian, since that was where he was from, and he definitely looked and acted the part. Many years later, when she took her DNA test, it turned out that actually, he was Ashkenazi Jewish! I guess his family had moved out of Germany to Ecuador as a means of avoiding Hitler.

Of course, it’s not lost on me that had this all happened years later, Ed’s girlfriend could have chosen to have an abortion, and I wouldn’t have this novel worthy story to tell. And the truth is, I don’t cheer for abortions. Personally, I like the idea of choosing life over an abortion. But I am against forcing women to give birth, because there are simply too many reasons why having a baby might be the worst decision. And so, I read stories about women who made that tough choice and agonized over it, or even laughed about it, as Alison Leiby has, having written a comedy show about her choice to have an abortion before Roe v Wade was overturned, and women’s rights became even more threatened than they already were.

Yesterday, I wrote about Alison Leiby’s op-ed in The New York Times titled “Please Laugh About My Abortion With Me”. I still think it’s an article well worth reading. I found it very thought provoking, and I think she’s very BRAVE to have written it, given how completely horrible and closed-minded some people are about this topic. For those who missed yesterday’s post and don’t want to read it, here’s another link to the unlocked article.

I noticed that a lot of people on Facebook were commenting on Leiby’s op-ed, but it appeared that very few had bothered to read it. It was behind a paywall, so that’s to be expected. Still, it’s disappointing when someone writes a piece that is thoughtful and interesting, and the masses– who can’t or don’t want to pay for a subscription– feel the need to make irrelevant comments about it. So I posted that I thought Alison Leiby’s excellent op-ed was “thought provoking”, and it’s a shame that few people appeared to have read it. Others who had read it gave me likes, while a few obvious pro-birthers gave me laughter.

Naturally, it wasn’t long before a guy named Steve decided to engage me. He immediately wrote a mocking post to me, asking what part of Leiby’s post I thought was thought provoking. His comment was full of the usual tripe about how Leiby is obviously an uncaring, irresponsible woman who made a poor choice in sexual partners and then cold-heartedly KILLED her baby. I laughed at that and wrote, “Didn’t read the article, huh?” Because I knew that if he had, he would find out that the piece was not about Alison’s decision to have an abortion, but rather how she had processed the experience, the difficulty of discussing abortion with others… and yes, LAUGHING about it. She’s a comedian, so tackling difficult topics with humor is literally what she does for work.

Steve came back at me with more hostility, accusing me of not having read the article, which I actually did. And then he demanded that I defend my pro-choice opinions to him, which I don’t have to do even when people ask me politely, let alone make demands. But I decided I wouldn’t be engaging him at all, when I noticed that in his snarky retort, he referred to me as a “chick”. Imagine that. I’m 50 fucking years old, and this “pro-life” man, who doesn’t even know me, just called me a CHICK! I’m not even a fellow human being to him. I’m a baby chicken who happens to have a uterus (for now, anyway). My Granny used to take care of “chicks” on her family’s farm. And then he expects me to have a thoughtful discussion with him about a topic as complicated as abortion is? I don’t think so.

“Duck you, Steve.”

My response was more or less, “I can answer the questions, but I am choosing not to, because it’s obvious to me that you just want to judge this woman’s very personal decisions. The fact that you just referred to me as a ‘chick’ gives me a pretty good idea about what you think of women. I couldn’t be less interested in interacting with you. Please leave me alone.”

To his credit, he did stop tagging me. It’s a good thing he did that, because if he hadn’t, I could have commented on the fact that not only does he dismiss and dehumanize women by calling them “chicks” when they’re being serious, he also doesn’t respect them when they say “no”. And this overbearing habit that some men have of not hearing the word “no” when a woman says it, is precisely why a lot of women need to seek abortions in the first place!

Fortunately for Steve, he did hear me when I asked him to leave him alone, and he complied with my wishes. Not every guy offline or on social media is even that respectful, so I guess I should be grateful that he knocked it off when I requested it. But it was quite clear to me that he hadn’t read the essay and was betting that I hadn’t, either. Then he had the nerve to try to demand that I interact with him. I wonder if he was ever like that on his dates.

Is Steve like this guy?

Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on ol’ Steve, though. It probably didn’t occur to him that calling me “chick” would trip him up on his path to the idyllic Land of Mansplaining Sanctimony. Like a lot of people, he failed to think ahead. Failure to think or plan ahead, is another reason why some women want or need to have abortions. It’s natural that this happens, and as Steve has proven, it’s not just the women who have this issue.

It occurs to me that Granny, who was a very strong, intelligent, wise, and hardworking woman who bore nine kids, probably had to deal with that kind of shit from men all the time. I know she had to deal with my grandfather, whom she had said was the “nicest man” when he wasn’t drinking. The trouble is, he was “always” drinking, and had a legendary temper. Or so I was told by his son, who was my dad. By contrast, Granny wrote in her notes that her own father was very quiet and gentle. Being married to “Pappy” must have been quite different to her, just as being married to my gentle husband is different for me. Like Pappy, my father was often very nice and kind, but he was also a severe alcoholic who could be brutal. Thankfully, he wasn’t physically abusive very often, although it was often enough.

I think about women who are still, even in 2022, when we have laws against domestic violence, trapped in horrific relationships with men who won’t take no for an answer. I think about women who are on their way to financial freedom, or finally have the achievement of a lifelong dream in their sights, or maybe can’t keep any food down because they have severe hyperemesis gravidarum, or any other medical issue, just wanting to make their own private decision about whether or not to be pregnant. If I had gotten pregnant with Bill’s baby, I would have been very happy about it. But if I had gotten pregnant after being date raped at a fraternity party, not so much (and no, that never happened to me, but it could have). Likewise, I served in the Peace Corps, where female Volunteers have been known to be sexually assaulted. I personally knew of one person who was raped when I was serving in Armenia. She didn’t get pregnant, but if she had, she would have been required to get an abortion at her own expense, or leave the Peace Corps.

And guys like Steve want to frame a narrative about how anyone who wants or needs an abortion is just some loose, slutty woman with no heart or morals, who “got herself pregnant” because she was “irresponsible”. Same guy wants to call me a “chick”, as he demands that I engage with him. I’ll bet he was expecting me to write something coherent and sensible, too, even though he degraded me by calling me a slang barnyard term for a young woman. It’s crazy! Why should anyone waste the time or energy?

That brings me to some other news that has come out this week. That ten year old Ohio girl who was raped and had to go to Indiana for an abortion resurfaced in the news, after certain right wing pundits theorized that her story was a hoax. And then, Indiana’s attorney general, Todd Rokita, was allegedly “outraged” that the girl’s doctor, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, allegedly hadn’t reported the abortion— except she HAD, and the story is absolutely true. See below.

I’ll bet that jerk, Rokita, hasn’t even apologized for his mistake, and decision to smear the good doctor’s name. She did a great compassionate service to a CHILD who was raped, not once, but TWICE! No ten year old is, in any way, prepared to have a baby! But Rokita isn’t about to humble himself. Instead, he’s “gathering evidence” to see if he can still nail Dr. Bernard for doing something that was obviously medically indicated. Guys like Rokita just want to put doctors and nurses in prison, don’t they? Misogyny is still alive and well in our country. I wish there was more empathy and decency!

At least in Ohio, some of the politicians are showing some remorse for their mistakes, having initially cast doubt on the girl’s story. But you know how remorse is, when it comes from a politician. It’s often pretty hollow. And Ohio is a state where a MALE legislator wanted to make properly treating ectopic pregnancies ILLEGAL. He wanted to plug and play non-viable embryos– technology that doesn’t exist. What makes me especially sick is that these dumbasses aren’t even learning from their mistakes. Ohio’s MALE attorney general, Dave Yost, was among those who doubted that a ten year old could get pregnant. Yes, they can, and this is one major reason WHY abortion should be allowed… and frankly, kept PRIVATE. There’s no reason why the whole world should have to know about this girl’s hellish torment, even if she is anonymous (for now). This is something that should have been kept confidential and dealt with by medical personnel, social workers, and law enforcement. It should not be a political football. And for Christ’s sake, she should not have had to go to another state to get an abortion done! Way to prolong and increase her pain, Ohio!

Some people, unbelievably, think that poor baby should have been FORCED to birth— and they have even said they would have “hoped” she would come to understand why birthing her rapist’s baby, when she’s ten years old, is the right thing to do. Naturally, it was a MALE lawyer named Jim Bopp who said that. That shit regularly happens in developing countries, not the United States! And even those countries are reevaluating their draconian positions on abortion.

So, you see, we still have a long way to go… in spite of the great wisdom in Granny’s notes and the great progress she personally witnessed in almost 101 years of living. I truly do wonder what she would think of how things are today. Reversing Roe v Wade has opened a huge Pandora’s Box. I really hope we can get this mess straightened out for the women of the future. But at least I know it won’t affect me personally. I haven’t had a period in about two months. I think very soon, Aunt Flow will finally become a guest from my past. And I thank God for that on so many levels.

In other news… Ivana Trump suddenly died yesterday in what appears to be very suspicious circumstances. It was curiously announced by her most famous ex husband, Trump, who disseminated the news on Truth Social, his very own social media platform. It seems curious that she died so suddenly, weeks before Trump is expected to announce another run at the presidency. But I’m sure the details will come out soon enough. Maybe it’s a coincidence, like Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide was. I know that many idiots will still happily vote for Trump, even though it’s very obvious that he’s a liar, a cheat, and unhinged to the nth degree. I think the people who keep supporting him will eventually find themselves on the wrong side of history. I think if he wins again, it will be a disaster. Hopefully, the saner people in the Republican Party will keep him from running for the Republicans. They already know he can’t be controlled… and I’ll bet he’s paid for MANY abortions.

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ethics, law, true crime, Trump

Ghislaine Maxwell gets sentenced to 20 years in federal prison…

Thank God for other items in the news besides Donald Trump’s January 6 shenanigans and the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m pretty tired of thinking and writing about abortion. And I’ve been tired of Trump for years now. Nevertheless, if Ghislaine Maxwell hadn’t been delivered a prison sentence yesterday, I could still write reams about abortion and Trump. There’s still a lot to be said and written about both subjects. But I won’t be opining about those two tired topics this Wednesday morning. Today, I’m going to write about what I think of Ghislaine Maxwell’s punishment. So here goes…

Yesterday afternoon– I think it was afternoon in Germany, anyway, Ghislaine Maxwell, former British socialite and ex girlfriend of sex offender extraordinaire, Jeffrey Epstein, finally got sentenced for her role in Epstein’s disgusting crimes against young women. Ms. Maxwell was accused of sex trafficking young women. She befriended beautiful young girls who hoped to become models and lured them to Epstein’s lair, where they would be forced to engage in sex acts with Epstein and his powerful and wealthy friends.

Jeffrey Epstein had been awaiting his own trial when he allegedly committed suicide in jail back in August 2019. Many people questioned whether or not Epstein wasn’t actually murdered, since many high powered people were his friends and stood to lose a lot if he testified in court. How powerful were these people? Well, they included people like Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Kevin Spacey, Itzhak Perlman, astronaut John Glenn, many US senators, and our very own loser ex “president”, Trump.

In 2020, I watched Netflix’s revelatory documentary about what went on in Epstein’s fancy homes in Palm Beach, Florida, London, England, New York City, and his private island in the Caribbean. Ghislaine Maxwell was in the thick of it, and she presented a gentle, friendly face to trusting young women who were looking for a big break. Instead, they were used and abused by Epstein and his depraved, corrupt buddies. When I think about the metaphorical snake pit those women faced, filled with slimy narcissistic scumbags, it makes me cringe with revulsion.

Ghislaine Maxwell orchestrated much of the abuse, funneling girls and young women into the vortex of Epstein’s inner sanctums, victimizing them as she smiled and pretended to be their friends. They would trust a woman before they’d trust the lecherous middle aged men who wanted to use them for their own sexual gratification. Now, those women are living with the aftermath of that abuse, and Maxwell knows that she will be in prison until at least her late 70s. She must also pay a $750,000 fine.

Maxwell was arrested in July 2020, and she’s been sitting in a Brooklyn jail cell the whole time, as her case has slowly ground through the court system. Now, it’s time to get down to business. She didn’t get the five years her lawyers asked for, and she didn’t get the 30 years prosecutors wanted. She might not die in prison, but her life as a socialite is over. As she learned her fate, Maxwell addressed her victims, claiming to empathize with them, and telling them she hoped her prison sentence would bring them “peace and finality”.

I read about this case last night, as many people were still reeling from the Roe v. Wade decision, and learning about Donald Trump’s horrible conduct on January 6, 2021, as Cassidy Hutchinson testified about Trump’s incredibly narcissistic and abusive behavior. Trump was a friend of Epstein’s, and I know of at least one person who described what he did to her at Epstein’s home. A lot of people are quick to deny Hutchinson’s testimony about January 6, and they doggedly defend their man, Trump. I have little hope that Trump will ever face punishment for his crimes against people. But at least they got Ghislaine. I think 20 years in prison and having to pay a huge fine is fair. And in spite of how terrible her crimes are, I hope Ghislaine Maxwell is treated humanely while she does her time in prison.

Someone in the Facebook comments wrote that Ghislaine Maxwell should spend all 20 years in solitary confinement. Against my better judgment, I wrote “That would be inhumane. She needs to be punished, not tortured. America should be above torture (even if it isn’t).

A few people liked my comment, but at least two people gave me grief over it. One seemingly outraged woman asked me if I would feel the same way if it had been one of my daughters who was victimized by Ghislaine Maxwell. To that, I responded “Yes, I would. I don’t condone torture. Twenty years in solitary confinement would be torture.” A man tagged me in his angry comment about how much Maxwell should suffer. I wrote to him that he was entitled to his opinion, but I disagree with it. I don’t ever want to get to a point at which I think torturing other people is okay… even if I completely understand the sentiment behind those thoughts. Solitary confinement, even just for a couple of weeks, is considered inhumane and akin to torture. I am not okay with that.

Once again, I’m left sitting here scratching my head at the logic of some of my countrymen. So many people are happy to excuse Donald Trump for his egregious and well documented crimes against people over his long career as a businessman, politician, and “star”. A lot of them would be absolutely delighted to see him elected president again, even though he boldly admits to having no control over his sexual impulses, abuses his employees, cheats his creditors, and demonstrates an attitude that he is ABOVE the law. But some of those same people want to torture Ghislaine Maxwell. The mind boggles. Maybe it’s because she’s a woman, and women aren’t supposed to be “monsters”.

I remember a couple of years ago, when Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman were in the news for their fraudulent actions of trying to buy their daughters spots at prestigious universities. I read so many comments from “outraged” people who thought they should just ROT in prison for decades. What Loughlin and Huffman did were not crimes of violence. Yes, their crimes were dishonest and unfair. Yes, they abused their great privilege and wealth. They needed to be held accountable, and they were. But plenty of people felt that their sentences were too light, and they should be locked up for years.

I remember when 18 year old Skylar Mack went to the Cayman Islands and flouted the COVID rules there. She got caught by the police, and faced incarceration as punishment. At one point, she was sentenced to four months in jail, and some Americans were complaining when her family members tried to get her sentence reduced, which it eventually was. I wrote about her case several times in this blog. A few people wanted to tell me off for not wanting Skylar to rot in jail. My response is that I don’t see how locking up an 18 year old for two more months in a hellish Caribbean jail, potentially traumatizing her for life, would be justice.

Ghislaine Maxwell, of course, is no Skylar Mack, Lori Loughlin, or Felicity Huffman. Her crimes were much worse than theirs were, and she really did legitimately hurt people. So yes, she needs to be severely punished, and it’s entirely fitting that she spend a couple of decades locked up. But even though Maxwell’s crimes against young women were horrific, we are not much better as a society if our response to Maxwell’s crimes is to punish her using methods that are considered cruel by most civilized members of the global community. The United States is supposed to be a first world nation. Americans, as a people, should be above torturing people.

There’s another, more selfish reason I don’t condone torturing Ghislaine Maxwell. And that’s if, by some circumstance, I ever end up on the wrong side of the law, I would not want to be tortured. I wouldn’t want torture for my friends or loved ones, if they ever got sent to prison. I don’t think abusing people delivers good results for society, especially if there’s a chance that a person in prison will ever be released. I don’t want to see that person so completely shattered that they can’t recover. Not only is it not good for them, or their friends and loved ones, it’s also not good for everyone else in the world, who might be victimized if they go off the rails. Abuse has a terrible effect on people. It makes them angry, jaded, and potentially violent. I don’t think that angry, jaded, violent people, fresh from incarceration, are safe to be around. People should be able to recover from their mistakes. Otherwise, why go on living? And what would they have to lose, committing more crimes against other people?

I don’t think there are many truly evil people in the world. As long as someone still has a shred of humanity within them, we should have some respect for them as human beings. Every one of us would want the same consideration. And, as people who haven’t committed serious crimes, we should be at a level at which we can grant basic mercy, even if someone has done something really terrible. Of course, I write this as I’ve also read many comments from people who think anyone who has had an abortion should be jailed for life. It’s probably hyperbole when people say or write these things. I still wish people would stop and think for a minute when they express this kind of vitriol. At best, it’s unhelpful and unrealistic. At worst, it promotes barbaric ideas that put the United States in the same company as Middle Eastern countries where prisoners are routinely tortured and denied basic rights.

But I do understand the outrage… and I do agree that Maxwell should suffer the consequences of her actions. I think that will happen. Ghislaine Maxwell has spent most of her life pampered and cosseted, cushioned by extreme wealth and privilege. Prison will not be pleasant for her. We don’t need to make it worse for her by locking her in a hole for twenty years. That’s extreme, and it would make her go insane… and then we would be obliged to treat her mental illness, although the reality is, she would probably be neglected. And then there would be people who would actually pity her… which she probably doesn’t deserve at all.

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Duggars, Ex, narcissists, psychology, Trump

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear…”

This morning, I’m reminded of the popular saying that serves as today’s post title. It’s a lesson we’ve learned again and again. The universe will give you opportunities to learn lessons. In our case, we have apparently needed to learn more about narcissists and narcissism. And we have had several teachers who have appeared. It’s only been recently that we’ve been learning the lessons and changing our approaches to dealing with these types of people.

Yesterday’s post turned out to be more popular than I was expecting it to be. I’m sure part of the reason it was so compelling is that it included a somewhat “sordid” true story. Even three years on from our last move, it still made me nervous to share that post. It occurs to me that some people might read my posts and think I’m just whining. Maybe I do “whine” more than I should. It would be nice to have more of a “get on with it” attitude about more things.

I have what Dr. Phil would call a “psychological sunburn” about certain issues. That means I’m unusually sensitive about some things. In my case, it’s dealing with abusive people. I’ve mentioned before that I feel “saturated”, especially when it comes to verbal abuse. I just can’t abide it anymore. I don’t willingly engage with people who are like that, and writing helps me process it. I realize it probably comes off as a little “off-kilter” to some people, although I also know that some people can relate and appreciate these posts. So I keep writing them.

Narcissism is a hot topic these days. Spend a few minutes on YouTube and you’ll find so many videos about narcissism and narcissistic people. Some people are as tired of hearing and reading about narcissism, as I am of hearing about the pandemic. I don’t know why others are so interested in narcissism, but I know I am, because I’ve spent a lifetime being subjected to the general fuckery that can come from being around abusive and exploitative people. It’s a lot to unpack.

The first time I ever heard the term “narcissism” was when I was a senior in high school. I was taking a psychology class, and my teacher was the kind who loved to show “made for TV” movies to demonstrate certain psychological disorders. We watched the 1989 film Small Sacrifices, which starred Farrah Fawcett and was based on true crime writer Ann Rule’s excellent book. Fawcett portrayed Diane Downs, a woman who shot her own children and then claimed that she was carjacked. I remember my teacher saying that Downs had narcissistic personality disorder.

At the time, I thought nothing of it. I was seventeen years old and really didn’t know a lot about the world. Hell, at that time, I didn’t even realize that my father was an alcoholic, even though it was pretty obvious. I was used to seeing him drink excessively, and was accustomed to the erratic and sometimes scary behavior that resulted from his drinking, PTSD, and depression.

It never occurred to me that, years later, I would marry a man whose ex wife was extremely narcissistic, or even that her shockingly abusive behavior, as egregiously selfish and damaging as it was, would be something that a couple of my friends would also experience with people in their lives. I started to look around and realized that I was seeing narcissism all over the place.

When I started to realize how common and pervasive narcissistic behavior seemed to be, I wondered if maybe I was imagining it. Like, maybe I was akin to a physician in training with a little knowledge, suddenly seeing the signs and symptoms of a disease I’d just learned about in a class. I do have degrees in social work and public health, but narcissism isn’t something we necessarily learned about in school, except when I took an undergraduate course in abnormal psychology. I did very well in that class, but I am certainly no expert.

I started learning a lot more about NPD years ago, when I watched my husband’s ex wife treat my husband like literal shit. I was absolutely dumbfounded by the disrespect she showed toward him and his family, and ultimately, her children. I couldn’t believe her nerve. I was very surprised that so many people let her get away with the things they let her get away with, like denying Bill access to his children and telling outrageous lies about him to everyone, including his own parents and the children. Then I learned more about the physical and sexual abuse that occurred, and saw the proof of it.

I knew there had to be something very wrong with Ex, because her “reasons” for her actions didn’t make any sense to me. They did not fit the man that I knew, and have now known, for over twenty years. She made claims that he hates women and was abusive to her. And yet he has never as much as raised his voice to me, let alone a hand. He’s literally one of the kindest, most gentle, and agreeable people I’ve ever met, in spite of his long career as a soldier.

At first, I thought maybe Ex had borderline personality disorder. I read a lot about it and realized that her behavior ticked a lot of the boxes. But people with BPD are usually somewhat treatable, if they realize they have a problem and want to get help, and they aren’t as cruel as Ex is. Ex has been hospitalized on a few occasions, and I’ve seen her spouting off about dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which is a treatment used for people with BPD. However, her behavior doesn’t seem to change, and there are still many signs that she’s got other issues– namely with narcissism. I have studied narcissism for years, and I am convinced that’s her main problem, at least at this point in her life.

Of course, it’s also certainly possible that she has both disorders. Sometimes cluster B personality disorders do overlap. Or maybe she’s got another problem entirely. I can only guess, based on what I’ve witnessed, heard about, and experienced in my years with Bill, and my own educational pursuits.

All I know is that when I started to read about narcissistic personality disorder, Ex’s behavior started to make a lot more sense, and was much less shocking. In fact, once I learned about personality disorders in general, Ex started to become more predictable. While it was still terrible to observe, and awful for my husband, who was denied contact with his daughters, there was something almost comforting in knowing that it wasn’t just our imagination that she was so incredibly controlling, and shamelessly self-centered and hurtful. Indeed, later when Bill started talking to his daughter, she confirmed that she was treated as badly as he was. Younger daughter recently announced that she’s expecting another baby. She wrote that she was much more nervous about telling her mother than telling Bill. Bill always reacts with kindness. Ex doesn’t.

Some might wonder why I write so much about Ex. To that question, I can only answer that it helps me process and unpack. People often assume she’s a normal person and I’m the problem. I would like to ask people who automatically assume that I’m the problem, to stop and think about what they would think, and how they would feel, if they were married to someone who was DENIED access to their own children by the other parent. I would expect a loving parent to want the other parent to be involved, if only for the sake of the children, who deserve to have access to their parents and should not be saddled with an unnecessary stigma of being the child of an abuser.

If there was a legitimate reason for the other parent to be denied access, there should have been documentation as to why that was necessary. But in Ex’s case, she was apparently married to two men who were not fit to be fathers to their children. She denied her first husband access to their son, and only helped them reunite when it suited her toxic agenda. She did it solely to be cruel and punitive to Bill, who was asserting himself because his former stepson was quite obviously using him for money. When Bill busted the young man for hiding the fact that he was changing his name and didn’t bother to tell Bill, but kept accepting child support from him (at age 21, no less), Ex suddenly decided that the young man should be in contact with the man she claimed was “crazy” and “abusive”. And now we know she said the same things about Bill, although as his second wife, I can attest that he’s not the one who is “crazy” and “abusive”.

Once I learned more about narcissism, I found out that a lot of people are dealing with narcissists in their lives. I wonder how that is possible, since it’s supposedly a “personality disorder”. But then I realized that one doesn’t have to have NPD to exhibit those behaviors on occasion. Narcissism seems to be an epidemic in western society. In fact, it seems to be somewhat celebrated and even normalized in American culture. Obviously narcissistic people are the ones who often end up being “stars”. They often have powerful jobs and lots of prestige, or they have a lot of money. But then you look at their personal lives, and examine things they’ve done to get ahead, and you realize they aren’t people you’d necessarily want to know.

Donald Trump, to my mind, is a VERY obvious grandiose and malignant narcissist. He’s had a string of unfaithful marriages and business failures. So many people who have been associated with him have ended up in trouble with the law, ranging from his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to people who invaded the Capitol building last January. There are many stories of him abusing women and being racist. He doesn’t seem to care beyond the superficial for anyone, except maybe his daughter, Ivanka, whom he’s said he would like to date. He’s been friends with the likes of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, as well as Steve Bannon. And yet, we made him President of the United States, and many people– some of whom I consider decent and basically intelligent– are still fooled by his icky, superficial and totally fake charm. They see his selfishness and crazy behavior as strengths.

It was my husband’s ex wife who made me realize how dangerous Trump is. Once I started studying narcissists and saw how these people put on public faces, but are toxic nightmares behind closed doors, I realized how terrible Trump as a leader is. And then I saw the proof of it in the aftermath of the 2020 election, which thank GOD he lost. I only hope that he can’t run again, because I’m not altogether sure he wouldn’t win. And if he wins, God help us all, because he would have no reason whatsoever to curb his behavior. He wouldn’t be able to run for another term and would be even closer to the end of his life, anyway.

But Trump is an extreme example of a narcissist. The truth is, they’re everywhere, and that’s why so many people are obsessively reading about them and watching videos about their behavior. Most of them don’t reach the terrible extremes of Trump. Most are probably not even as extreme as Ex is. I would say most narcissists are mainly just what we’d call inconsiderate assholes. They aren’t necessarily dangerous, but they are very unpleasant and toxic to be around. Some go to more extreme lengths and are incredibly dangerous and harmful, particularly to innocent people.

I look at Josh Duggar, whose trial is set to begin tomorrow. This is a man who was lecturing the masses about family values several years ago, as he was meeting and brutalizing a sex worker, cheating on his wife, and apparently, viewing illegal pornographic images. I have never met Josh Duggar, but he definitely has a lot of the signs of NPD, and he’s been raised in a culture where his selfish, destructive, abusive behavior is tolerated and even celebrated.

Meanwhile, since he’s been caught with illegal images that were described as the “worst of the worst” that experienced investigators have ever seen, Josh and his equally narcissistic father, Jim Bob, have been doing everything they can to get out of being held accountable for this behavior. Hell, Jim Bob is even running for public office again, even though his son is probably about to go to prison. Go figure that decision, except that Jim Bob is also extremely controlling and self-centered. Why should we care about these people? By all rights, we shouldn’t, but their story is compelling, because they have that yucky charisma and charm that a lot of narcissists have. I only hope that this time, they finally get held accountable for the things they do.

I come by my fascination with narcissism honestly, because it has affected me personally. I know that I’m not alone. I really think our culture has a lot to do with why this issue is so prevalent. Sadly, narcissists really hurt people, and they cause damage that is not easy to overcome. Whether it’s dealing with an abusive ex spouse who uses children and other people to maintain control, or it’s just a boss or a landlord who lives to make someone’s life hell, or it’s a person who is running the country and refusing to play fair, narcissists do a lot of harm to decent people. And I think the high number of books, videos, and blog posts about this subject only show that many students are ready, so the teachers have appeared.

Now… I’m going to dive back into my latest book by Les Carter, and I hope tomorrow, there will be a fresh book review. I’ve got several new books that I’m dying to start reading, but I can’t tackle them the way I used to. I hope everyone has a great Monday.

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Biden, politicians, politics, Trump

“Joe Biden sucks…”

Yesterday, I noticed a complaint on social media about gas prices. It was posted by Republican Idaho gubernatorial candidate, Janice McGeachin. At this writing, according to Wikipedia, McGeachin is currently Idaho’s 43rd lieutenant governor. And based on the gas receipt she posted, and her snarky jab at Joe Biden, she thinks Biden is to blame for higher fuel prices.

Um… is Joe Biden really responsible for this? Seems like a cheap shot based on emotion rather than facts.

Now… don’t get me wrong. It sucks to have to pay a lot for gas. Over here in Europe, we’re well acquainted with high gas prices. Here, you pay by the liter, and it’s a lot more expensive than what you pay in the United States. That’s why Americans who live in Europe under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) are entitled to buy gas on military installations and/or use coupons at participating Esso stations, where they get a substantial break on fuel prices.

I remember in the late 90s and early 00s, just before 9/11, gas hovered at around 99 cents to $1.10 a gallon. It was a blessing for me, since I was in grad school and had little money, but had to do client home visits in my car. You’re damned right I’m glad gas didn’t cost then what it costs now, even in the US.

But– can we really blame Joe Biden for higher gas prices? According to multiple sources, the answer to that question is “no”. There are a number of reasons why the price of gas has gone up. One major reason is that the demand has increased as people leave lockdown and go back to commuting or leisure traveling. Another major reason is because there’s less fuel available because people weren’t working. It’s the same reason why, when you go to McDonald’s, you may be facing a skeleton crew and things take longer. People are expecting things to be like they were pre-pandemic. But things aren’t like that, and probably won’t be like that for a good, long while, if ever again. Seriously, though… gas has gone up because the demand is up, and there’s less to go around. That’s got nothing to do with Biden. In fact, isn’t reopening the economy what Republicans wanted?

Aside from that, gas prices aren’t something presidents can easily control. According to the CNN link I posted in the previous paragraph, “the price of gas is determined by four major factors: taxes, the cost of marketing and distribution, refining, and the cost of crude oil. Biden’s enacted policies have not currently had a significant effect on any of these four factors.” It surprises and saddens me that as a lieutenant governor, particularly one who would like to be governor, Janice McGeachin doesn’t understand how this works. I suspect that if she does win the governor’s race in Idaho, she may be in for similar treatment, though. People will blame her for shit she can’t control, either.

Which brings me to the title of this post. Some woman, in response to the lieutenant governor’s post, wrote “Joe Biden sucks, and y’all know it!”

I was feeling cheeky, so I wrote “But Trump swallows.”

The lady wrote back something along the lines of, “Ooh, what a creative response!”

To which I wrote, “I could say the same thing about your comment. Besides, Donald Trump DOES swallow. Especially Big Macs and Whoppers!”

If you think about it, we ALL swallow, don’t we? Unless we have a feeding tube or something. That’s a function of healthy living. Does Biden literally suck? Maybe… although he probably doesn’t suck as much as he did as a baby. But that’s true for most of us, too.

Does the commenter mean Biden “sucks dick”, which is what “sucks” used to mean? I don’t know. But I’ve seen no evidence that Biden likes to suck dick. I HAVE, however, seen plenty of evidence that Trump is a lover of sexual conquests and exotic sexual acts. He probably HAS swallowed, in the nastiest meaning of that saying. But then, he’s in good company with other people who have hung around with the likes of Jeffrey Epstein… Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, and plenty of other rich and famous men. There’s no telling what kind of shenanigans went on back when Jeffrey Epstein threw his wild parties on his notorious, infamous, “private island”, teeming with teenaged girls brought to him by Ghislaine Maxwell and company.

There’s no denying what kind of company Trump keeps… and when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.. (thanks, Mary Beth).
“Donald Trump is the Hugh Hefner of the 90s”… Seriously, he probably does swallow.

But even if he doesn’t “swallow” in the sexual sense, he definitely DOES like fast food. And he clearly does swallow that, based on his “figure”. So what I wrote wasn’t a lie. Saying that Joe Biden “sucks”, is probably more of a lie by most counts.

There’s no doubt that Trump likes his Whoppers… is he also the “home of the Whopper” like the pervert neighbor I used to have? The jury is out. This is so embarrassing for the United States.

Joe Biden has been in office for about six months. I’m feeling somewhat better about a lot of things than I did a year ago– at least for right now. A year ago, I woke up every day feeling dread about what new craziness would be in the press regarding Trump. Now, I worry less about Trump and his embarrassing bullshit, but I do worry that someone else is being groomed to “MAGA”.

I get that a lot of people think Trump’s “awesome” and his polices are “great for America”, as one Trump loving friend (who incidentally lives in Thailand) enthusiastically told me this morning. I wonder what my friend is doing in Thailand. I think he married a Thai woman, and he probably gets to enjoy a decent standard of living there… if Trump was so “great”, though, wouldn’t he have wanted to move back to the States during Trump’s tenure? Wouldn’t he have wanted to live in the USA, basking in all of Trump’s MAGA splendor? And yet, he didn’t. He’s been in Thailand for awhile.

I, of course, live in Germany and managed to miss ALL of Trump’s presidency. I haven’t set foot on US soil since November 2014. I have a feeling that when I do go back, it’ll be a shock. And that will be true, even if Biden doesn’t get pushed out in 2024. Lord help us all.

In any case, allow me to state on record that, so far, I don’t think Joe Biden sucks. I do, however, know for a fact that Trump swallows. But maybe someday we’ll get lucky and he’ll fail his swallow test. Perhaps that will keep him out of our hair so we can make sure no one worse picks up where Trump has left off. I think Joe Biden is a decent man, and I’m glad to see someone decent in the White House. Trump is not a good person who cares about other people. That, in an of itself, makes him unsuitable to run anything involving other people, let alone a country.

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