humor, music, social media

Oscar the Grouch never invited anyone to his trash can…

The weirdness of the past nine months are starting to get to me somewhat. Last night, I was feeling “cheeky”, as the Brits would say. Although I haven’t personally suffered as much as a lot of people have, I have been feeling kind of “tense” lately. Little things bug me more than they might usually, not that I’m a particularly laid back person to start with.

I always get a bit nutty during the holidays. When I was growing up, the holidays were always fraught with expectations that were never quite met. As I became an adult, the holidays became downright unpleasant. For several years, my eldest sister hosted our family gatherings in her house. I can remember a lot of fights with my sisters and tense moments with my parents, especially my dad.

The last time I spent Christmas with my family of origin was in 2003, just after my sister Sarah had her son, who turned out to be the last grandchild. Imagine that. My parents had four girls. You’d expect there would have been a lot of grandkids for them. But nope… My sister Betsy had two kids, a girl and a boy, Becky never married, Sarah had a son, and Bill and I couldn’t have kids thanks to his vasectomy. The older I get, the more I think that might have been a blessing. Family life has become surreal these days. I feel kind of divorced from mine.

Add in the shitshow that 2020 has been, and this year’s holiday season is even weirder than usual. So I had a good laugh when I ran across a funny video by Sandy and Richard Riccardi, a talented couple on YouTube and Facebook who make funny parodies of popular songs. A lot of their material is political, but sometimes they do songs about common situations that come up in everyday life. I think the first song I ever heard by this funny duo was a song called “Unfriend Me”…

Listen all the way to the end for the punchline.

Since Trump came on the scene, this couple has come out with some very amusing songs about him, as well as some of the current events that affect everyone. I like a lot of their stuff, but I don’t always love what they do. Like, for instance, I wasn’t a big fan of this song…

Yeah, I know… I know… but I am so fucking tired of hearing about it.

To be clear… I get that the masks are necessary for now. I’m just really fed up with some how people feel emboldened to constantly clobber people over the head about them. I hate the aggressive, belligerent, and obnoxious hashtags, and in your face slogans like, “Wear a damn mask!”. I don’t think those types of messages are helpful. They certainly don’t inspire respect or compliance.

Yesterday, I was reading a Facebook thread started by true crime author Kathryn Casey, who wrote that she had sent away a couple of maskless workers who had come over to do work on her house. The workers mocked Casey’s husband when he asked them to wear masks while they were working. A thread ensued, in which people were congratulating Casey for sending away the maskless workers and hiring a different company. Casey’s choice to fire the workers would have been alright with me, but accompanying those comments were others that were hostile and aggressive. One lady wrote about how she was tired of how non mask wearers were so “belligerent”. Then she wrote, “Wear a damn mask or stay home!”

Another lady wrote that she was tired of people telling her to “wear a damn mask or stay home.” She explained that she has an eating disorder, lives in a remote area where grocery delivery is unavailable, and has a medical problem that prevents her from wearing a mask. None of her friends or family have offered to help her, so she’s been having to deal with people getting up in her face about her lack of a mask for what, I assume, is a real medical problem.

A third woman came along and, in a rather haughty, holier than thou tone, asked what the woman’s medical problem was. She included a news article (which is what everybody seems to use to cite their points these days) and claimed, per the news article, that there are very few medical problems that actually prevent a person from wearing a mask. This woman added that maybe she could see it if the woman with the eating disorder had a burn on her face or something. But otherwise, she felt the lady with the eating disorder was full of shit– despite not knowing her or her personal situation.

I couldn’t restrain myself from commenting. I feel like a lot of people aren’t really giving this issue much consideration. If I sit here and think about it, I can think of several medical problems that might make wearing a mask difficult or impossible for some people. Just off the top of my head, I’m remembering the two men I’ve met at different times in my life who were literally missing parts of their ears and had trouble using their hands due to injuries they’d sustained in wars. Then there are people who don’t hear well, have speech impediments or breathing problems, deal with severe anxiety or PTSD issues, or have trouble with their vision.

But most people don’t stop and consider people who really do have legitimate problems with wearing the masks. They just say, “Wear a damn mask!” If someone doesn’t or can’t comply, they think they are entitled to an explanation regarding another person’s private medical situation. And they think their opinions about another person’s circumstances have merit, and they are entitled to weigh in, even though they don’t know the other person from Adam and aren’t any more knowledgeable about the pandemic, or public health issues in general, than the average person is.

The “Wear a damn mask” slogan, in my opinion, is too aggressive. Those who truly don’t care about others will simply ignore it. Those who can’t comply will just feel worse than they need to about something beyond their control. And that harsh directive just adds to the overall dehumanized, dystopian, and downright creepy vibe in the air this year. It’s very depressing to me. Although personally, I don’t have it bad at all, I often think of the relatives I’ve recently lost and think they’re lucky to have escaped this living hell. The future seems bleak, and the constant anger and polarization only makes it worse. It makes me want to check out.

I can’t be the only one who feels like this, so I decided to respond to the woman with the eating disorder. I wrote that I was sorry she was having a hard time and I hoped it would get better for her. And I find it rich that people are complaining about belligerent “anti maskers” while they make aggressive demands like “Wear a damn mask!”, and aren’t willing to consider why people legitimately can’t or won’t wear a mask. I added that I won’t ask her what her health problems are, because they are none of my business.

Frankly, if I see someone who isn’t following the rules, I just stay away from them, if I can. I don’t automatically assume they’re selfish assholes. While I’m well aware that there are selfish assholes out there who simply don’t want to comply with the rules, it’s less depressing to me to assume the best about people whenever possible. Or, at least I like to tell myself that.

After that little exchange, I was feeling tense. But I ran across another funny, snarky song by the Riccardis. This one was called “Braggy Christmas Letter”. It had nothing to do with any of today’s most annoying and pervasive topics. I just thought it was funny, so I shared it.

I don’t get too many of these. It’s probably because I don’t go to church.

I had a good laugh as I listened to this song. It reminded me of how, about fifteen years ago, I ran across a family Web site created by a Mormon doctor in Wyoming who, by all images, seemed to be living the perfect life. I remember this guy had every single braggy Christmas letter he’d ever written posted on his site. He’d been divorced, but he even included the letters he’d written while he was with his first wife. I remember sharing that site with people on RfM, who are very familiar with “braggy Christmas letters”. While I don’t think the Mormons have cornered the market on this particular habit, I do think churches that promote a “prosperity gospel” message– ie; if you’re doing really well financially, that means God is smiling on you– prompt certain religious people to send these types of Christmas messages, even if they’re stretching the truth. It’s the whole, smug “seriously, so blessed” vibe that, on the surface, may seem harmless, but can make other people feel really small and devalued.

I didn’t think the above video would be controversial, but somehow even the most innocuous things can become that way. Why? Because everyone is different and sees things differently. Apparently, some people like getting “braggy Christmas letters”. I’m sure they have their reasons for feeling that way. Maybe they genuinely like reading that others are “seriously, so blessed”, with expensive houses, fancy cars, perfect figures, and fat bank accounts. I guess they’re above the petty, snarky people who poke fun. Or they like to appear that way.

I don’t mind getting newsy letters that contain positive news, especially when they aren’t mass produced. But there’s a big difference between a friendly letter with happy news in it and a letter that seems meant to make other people feel insignificant and second rate. The letter Sandy Riccardi is singing is the latter type, and I can’t imagine being happy to receive one of those, especially if they come every year like clockwork. I wonder if the people who were being contrary on that thread actually listened to the song before they commented. Or maybe they just wanted to feed their own egos by being contrary and “above” the snark.

So I got even more tense and grouchy… and Bill, who is always game to make me laugh (and it’s not hard to do), said “You know, Oscar the Grouch never invites anyone to his trash can.”

To which I responded, “But I invited you, Bill. How do you like the smell?”

And then we both laughed.

There was a time when most people had real conversations with people face to face or, at least, on the phone. Nowadays, a lot of us connect via social media. That can lead to a host of communication problems that range from everything from misunderstandings to people feeling emboldened to be mean or smarmy because they’re behind a screen. Some folks also feel that social media is the best place for them to preach or “set a good example” for others to follow. I will admit that it’s annoying to me when people feel the need to check their neighbors and give them unsolicited “special help”. It makes me grouchy.

At the risk of rambling on too long… here’s another example that came along last night. I read a news article in the Washington Post about people who have decided to get plastic surgery during the pandemic. Why? Because they don’t like how they look on Zoom calls. I don’t usually comment on newspaper’s Facebook pages because comments there invite interaction with unusually obnoxious people. But I thought this was an innocuous comment…

I don’t even wear a bra anymore. I figure people can deal with my sagging boobs as well as my wrinkles and jowls. It’s been a rough year.

A lot of people thought it was funny. But then I got this response, which sounded like something my mother might say…

I choose to care about my appearance because if I look good, I feel equally good!

(My mom did actually say that shit to me when I was a teenager, dirty and stinky from hanging out at the barn all day, or simply not wanting to dress up and put on my face. Mom likes wearing her makeup. I don’t. What can I say? People are different.)

So my response was…

Here… have a cookie. Or a Coke and a smile… and then, kindly STFU. You do you, and I’ll do me, mmmkay?

Most of us are legitimately guilty of being smug sometimes, and inflicting our self-righteous, superior bullshit on others. Sometimes I do it myself, although I try to be conscious of it. I mean, you might say I did the same thing to the woman who was harassing the lady with the eating disorder about her reluctance to “wear a damn mask”. But I doubt the lady with the eating disorder will offer me a cookie, especially as I dwell in my trash can of grouchiness.

One last note: I think my landlord’s grandsons think I’m grouchy. They rang my doorbell yesterday while I was binge watching The Crown. I thought they were delivery people. I opened the door; the dog was barking; I wasn’t dressed; and they were speaking very quietly in German. I didn’t understand or even hear them very well, so I said I didn’t understand and closed the door.

In my defense, in Jettingen, I used to get visits all the time from all manner of people wanting to sell everything from many kilos of apples and potatoes to religion or charities. The visitors came in all shapes, sizes, and ages. I had not met my landlord’s grandchildren, so I didn’t know who they were.

They rang the bell again, and my landlord asked me if I wouldn’t mind fetching their ball, which had gone over the fence. I felt pretty bad, and I noticed that one of the boys was cowering under our front stoop. I got the ball and tossed it to my landlord. Then I noticed he’d left us a wheelbarrow full of firewood. Later, I spotted their ball in the backyard again and felt another pang of guilt. I guess the kids were too afraid to tell me the ball was back in my yard. I tossed it over the fence for them. Hope they find it.

I’m really not a bitch most of the time… I’m just on edge, as we all are. Hopefully, next year will be better.

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modern problems, social media

I look like I have the measles.

Pay close attention to the wording of today’s blog post title, “I look like I have the measles”.

Now, pay close attention to what I am about to write. I look like I have the measles. Notice, I didn’t write that I actually have the measles. I wrote that I look like I have them.

Yesterday morning, right after I woke up, I experienced a pretty violent fit of coughing. This happens sometimes early in the morning, just when I’m getting out of bed. I have cough variant asthma, allergies, and experience occasional gastric reflux. All of these conditions can bring on fits of coughing which sometimes get bad enough that I vomit. When I vomit, often early in the morning, it’s usually before I’ve had anything to eat. Consequently, I sometimes wind up dry heaving, which makes the episodes more violent than they might otherwise be. The fragile capillaries in my face break, and I look flushed and spotty, as if I had the measles. This condition lasts until the bleeding is reabsorbed and the tiny bruises heal.

That is what happened to me yesterday. I was sitting at the table drinking some water when I started coughing. I don’t know if the coughing was caused by asthma, allergies, or acid reflux. It doesn’t actually matter. What matters is what happened after the coughing subsided. Suddenly, I felt that dreaded sick feeling of nausea. I knew I was about to lose the little bit of water I had been drinking as I was waiting for my coffee and had my sudden coughing fit.

Sure enough, I hurled, then retched violently a few times with a completely empty stomach. Next thing I knew, my face was all red, my eyes were bloodshot, and the puking episode was over. I ate breakfast and went on with my day, only with red spots all over my face and neck.

Incidentally, I would not want to have the measles. And yes, I have been vaccinated against it more than once.

I know better than to look at myself in the mirror after one of these spells. I did catch my reflection yesterday afternoon and saw my face with its tiny red polka dots. It reminded me of the way the kids on The Brady Bunch looked during the measles episode. If you watch the episode, you see the children look flushed, with little red spots. I have never actually seen anyone with the measles. Most everyone in my age group was immunized, so I don’t remember any of my friends ever having that particular typical childhood malady.

Having just looked up images of measles versus images of petechiae (which is what I have), I did kind of look like I had the measles yesterday. Or, at least, like I had a whole lot of red freckles. Today, my spots have faded a bit, and I’m feeling okay. But I still look a little spotty. All I can do is wait for the tiny bruises to go away. I’ll be fine in a day or two, until the next time I have to throw up, which could be anytime.

Why am I writing about this today? Well, there are a couple of reasons. One– I am really tired of reading and writing about COVID-19. I’m so tired of it that I find writing about the measles sort of refreshing. Two– I am tired of writing about politics, even though there’s plenty to write about. For instance, I could go off about how Trump buddy Michael Flynn, who was just pardoned for his fuckery, is now calling for Trump to impose martial law and have another election. Seriously? Fuck that guy! The election is over, and TRUMP LOST. Yes, I could rant about that, but I don’t want to today. And three– I want to make a point about people who don’t read carefully. If I was still an English teacher in Armenia, this topic could have made a very interesting lesson for my students. I’ll share it with you readers, instead.

Several people who saw my Facebook post left me comments indicating that they think I have the measles. I never wrote that I have the measles. I wrote that I LOOK LIKE I have the measles. There is a difference. The first person who commented is a nurse. She wisely left me a question mark, which gave me the opportunity to explain what happened. Then she responded appropriately that only time heals bruises caused by vomiting.

However, even after I clarified in the comments what the problem really is, other people still responded as if I had written that I actually have the measles when I only wrote that I “look like” I have them. One person asked me if I had been vaccinated. I responded in the affirmative. At first, I was confused as to why she’d ask me about whether or not I’d had a MMR. Then I realized that she was under the impression that I have the measles, when I had clearly commented that I did not.

This particular issue is not really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. Some people misunderstood me. But what I’m trying to point out is that people often hastily respond to things without reading carefully. I can certainly understand why that is. People don’t feel like they have the time or inclination to wade through hundreds or thousands of responses, yet they still want to chime in.

However, if the people who commented on this thread had taken another second or two, they would have had a better idea of what was going on. Maybe they wouldn’t have felt it necessary to comment, or they would have responded differently. In this case, it wasn’t important. In other cases, it just might be.

I find the subject of communication very interesting, although I’ll admit that engaging in it can be frustrating. Social media has made it much easier to be a poor communicator. First off, you have the devices themselves. Computers, phones, iPads, and the like are distracting, and many people are constantly skimming, playing games, and reading in a half-assed manner. So even if you’re speaking to someone offline, chances are they are distracted by their phone and will miss about half of what you’re saying to them.

Then there’s the phenomenon of people simply reading headlines or statuses and not reading anything else. This happens all the time on news sites. I’ll stop on a story by The New York Times or the Washington Post, for instance, and the comments sections will be chock full of crap. From spammers to people who reacted to headlines rather than reading, there’s a lot of shit to wade through. And so many people will be taken in by “click bait” and leave an uninformed response. Then, when someone calls them out for not reading what they’re commenting on, they complain about not wanting to pay for a subscription. To that sentiment, I ask, “Do you work for free?”

And then there’s the fact that people are often forming responses in their heads even as someone is speaking or writing. Do you ever notice this when you’re talking to someone in real life? You’ll be having a discussion with them and they’ll interrupt you, which is a sure sign that they weren’t listening to what you were saying in the first place. This happens when I’m talking to Bill. He’s used to being in a fast paced environment with Type A people, many of whom are men. He’s learned that if he wants to get a word in edgewise, he has to be willing to interrupt. I sometimes get exasperated and say, “Will you PLEASE let me finish? When you jump in like that, you’re proving that you’re not even listening and we’re both wasting our breath and valuable time.” To his credit, the last time this happened, I pointed it out, and Bill apologized and realized I was right. It’s a bad habit, but I can understand where it comes from, especially in our hyperactive culture where we’re constantly being bombarded with information.

Or someone you’re communicating with misconstrues your meaning or intent, because they weren’t actively listening to what you were saying. This also happens in written communication. People are eager to wade through quickly, so they miss important nuances– like, for instance, I wrote that I LOOK LIKE I have the measles, but don’t actually have it. So there’s no need to send get well wishes, although maybe I might want to do something about my asthma, allergies, and acid reflux issues so I might stop occasionally vomiting in the morning.

On the other hand, I suppose I could have thought preemptively, and made it clear that I don’t actually have the measles in the original post. Or I could have simply kept this episode entirely to myself, which would probably be the smarter thing to do, anyway. I guess I was just making conversation, which seems to be a lost art in this era of social distancing and online communications. But at least this incident gave me something besides politics and plagues to write about today.

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