art, controversies, modern problems, musings

“Legitimate artists” and the value of their work…

Welcome to Sunday, y’all. I’m going to try to keep today’s post short, simple, and non-controversial. Yesterday’s post was a rant, because I was really angry and emotional for a lot of reasons. I’m less so today, because when it comes down to it, some people just aren’t worth the energy. Or, at least to me they aren’t. Maybe they are worth the energy to others. I’m sure plenty of people wish I’d drop dead. Other people think I’m incredible. It’s kind of like art, right? What one person likes, another person hates. There’s no accounting for taste.

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos about so-called constitutional “auditors”. These are people who get involved in police interactions as a means of testing their knowledge of the laws and finding out if they respect rights outlined in the Constitution. I see there are Brits who also do these videos. Personally, I don’t think I’d want to do that kind of stuff, even for YouTube, because I don’t enjoy unnecessary or unpleasant confrontations with people. However, I do think the videos are interesting and informative. They’re also very popular, as I’ve noticed a lot of people are making them. I’m sure that makes it harder to be a cop, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. Some police officers do get off on power trips and need to be brought back down to Earth.

Today’s post isn’t about those videos. Rather, I would like to address an attitude that I saw promoted by an officer in Richmond, Virginia. An auditor confronted him and said he was an “independent journalist”. And the cop basically made some snarky, dismissive comment about how the journalist was just going to put something up on YouTube.

The guy on the far right in the glasses basically dismissed the person who made this video. He doesn’t see the value in the auditor’s creations.

As a blogger and occasional music creator, I’ve often run into the dismissive attitude demonstrated by the cop. A lot of people don’t think what I do is “legitimate”. Former tenant, who was stalking my blogs for four plus years before she departed this life on her own terms, once made a very disrespectful private comment to me about what I do. It was not surprising that she had secretly harbored a disdainful opinion of me, as she was monitoring my activities and, apparently, reporting my activities to our former landlady, as she also insisted on her privacy being respected. However, I did find her discounting attitude disappointing, hypocritical, short-sighted, and depressingly typical.

Former tenant claimed that she didn’t see any value in what I do, yet she was apparently watching me obsessively. Obviously, there was some value in my activities, if only that she and ex landlady and ex landlady’s daughter could sit around, gossip, and laugh about it, right? At the very least, they got intel from it… or insight… or maybe even something to talk or laugh about that might have even made them feel better about themselves.

Former tenant had once claimed that she liked reading about our adventures and seeing photos, especially of the old neighborhood she and her husband had lived in before they abruptly moved mid tour. If that’s the truth, then there was value in my activities. If it wasn’t the truth, I guess she was lying to me, as she was sanctimoniously lecturing me about my occasionally “problematic” content. Or… she wasn’t lying, but just wanted to be mean to me because she thought it was her place to define what constitutes creative pursuits. She didn’t see the value in what I was doing, and didn’t have the integrity to just go away and leave me alone. It didn’t occur to her that maybe other people valued my “work”, and they get a vote, too.

This morning, I noticed that Janis Ian was on a tear about the author, Flannery O’Connor. She had recently used one of O’Connor’s quotes as her “quote of the day”. People in the comment section were up in arms about it, because Flannery O’Connor had some objectionable personal beliefs that many modern audiences would find distasteful or just plain wrong.

This quote apparently caused a bit of a shitstorm.

Janis Ian claims that she doesn’t support censorship, and she writes that we should separate artists’ personal lives with their works. This is what she posted on her Facebook page:

Re the discussion about Flannery O’Connor’s work, a note of clarification – I wouldn’t have intervened if the discussion had centered around her work. However, it quickly became involved in personalities (mostly hers), her letters, her journals. Those were not her work. Her work lies in the short stories and novels she left us.

As an artist, I will always stress that there is a marked difference between the life of an artist, and an artist’s work. Discounting or banning an artist, or refusing to engage with that artist’s work, because you disagree with their personal life, politics, or behavior, is something I find absurd.

Like every artist I know, I hope to live up to the best of my work – and know I never will. What do I want my art, and that of artists I admire, to do when someone experiences it? I want them to feel elevated. I want them to have cause to think, and reflect, and be moved, for good and for bad. Mostly, I want to make them FEEL something.

I believe most artists think this way, though it might not be conscious.

I won’t change the words of another artist to suit the times, or peoples’ perception of what is hurtful to them. I am resolutely against changing a single word or image or movement in any piece of art; instead, I expect people to take it in context, look at it historically, be educated by parents, teachers, and themselves (indeed, educating yourself is an obligation, IMHO, because most people don’t have the luxury of parents, teachers, society teaching them all they need to know).

If you are on this page, keep in mind that civility is expected. Snarky comments are removed and, after a certain point, that profile is blocked. Rudeness is not tolerated and yes, I define what is rude. And co-opting a quote to discuss an author’s personal beliefs because you disagree with them is not okay.

The QOTD (Quote of the Day) is for discussion. Not whether the author or their views are likeable.

In the spirit of the discussion, then, I found this interesting article on line. https://dspace.calstate.edu/…/121/completethesis.pdf…

A good and absorbing (though long) read for anyone interested in O’Connor and her work.

Additionally, as someone pointed out, there is a huge difference between “racism” and “prejudice”. For what it’s worth.

I have written about Janis Ian a few times on this blog. I want to make it clear that I highly respect her as an artist. She’s written and sung some beautiful songs. I think she’s smart and funny, and she deserves all of the accolades she gets. However, I also think that sometimes, she’s quite hypocritical. She writes in the above post that she doesn’t support changing artistic works to suit the tastes of modern audiences. But then, she also lays down very strict rules about what people can post as a response.

Janis Ian writes that she doesn’t see Flannery O’Connor’s letters or journals as artistic works. However, there are many artists and academics who would beg to disagree with her. Personally, I disagree, because I know there’s an element of creativity in blogging. There’s also creativity involved in writing letters. Maybe it’s not the same significance as writing a novel or composing music, but it’s still a work of art, in a sense.

I’m very proud of some of my blog posts. I wrote one a couple of years ago that I reread this morning. It was titled “The Red Scare”. It started off being about how, back in 1981, people were terrified of a Soviet invasion. By the end, I had segued into a discussion of puberty, with a dash of musical theater. It sounds like the parts wouldn’t connect, and yet they did. I thought it was a really creative and interesting post, although it’s definitely not one of my most popular. My most popular posts tend to be about true crime, which I find a lot less creatively challenging.

I’m sure someone like Janis Ian wouldn’t find what I do very significant, artistic, or creative. Hell, the troll on RfM yesterday took a big dump on my post about Arran. And yet, that incident inspired yesterday’s blog post. At this point, it has just one “like” and five hits, and yet I’m rather proud of it. I like the title, and letting my feelings out in a rant can be very liberating and even fun.

I was legitimately angry and upset when I wrote that post, and yet I don’t regret writing it. Maybe someone out there in Internetland can relate to it. Maybe it would even change someone’s life. I will never know. A few people did tell me that my video tribute for Arran made them cry. That accounts for something, doesn’t it? Isn’t the point of putting stuff out there to make someone think, or feel something, or maybe even change in some way? Isn’t that what art on all levels is about?

A person named Laurel left a comment for Janis that I found very interesting:

The Tennessee Williams Estate agrees with you. When we staged 2 of his one act plays, we asked about updating the word he used to refer to black people, and were told no, and that if any actor chose to replace that term with a more modern one, the production would be fined for any instance of a changed word. They felt the term was appropriate in the time the play was written, and carefully chosen for the overall “lyrical” flow of the various passages. And I personally did not disagree with their choice or their reasoning. 

Art is not necessarily meant to comfort; it is more often meant to disrupt thought patterns, open minds, and sometimes even disturb for effect. Creators often edit numerous times to find the perfect word to fit THEIR visions. If it disturbs you, well maybe that was the intent.

And yes, an artist and that artist’s art are 2 very different things. Most artists are imperfect. Their art may reflect that.

Apparently, Laurel then left a couple of follow up comments that Janis didn’t like. She wrote this:

“tone it down. I’m hiding both your responses.”

So… Janis Ian doesn’t see all writing as “artistic” or creative. But then another commenter wrote this, and Janis heartily approved:

“there is a huge difference between “racism” and “prejudice”. 50+ years ago in Dallas a friend of Mexican descent taught me the difference between: bigotry (racism), prejudice and discrimination. He spoke from experience. I’ve shared his wisdom many times since then. It has helped me put a lot of things in perspective. Mainly: we all have prejudices (in favor and against many things); we can legislate against discrimination (an action) but unfortunately not bigotry (a belief).

Janis wrote: “so stealing…”

The commenter misunderstood Janis and wrote, “sorry I missed the mark there. Your last comment in your post took me off on a nostalgia tour. Thanks for the memory – I’ll try to do better in the future.”

Janis clarified, “I’m not sure what you’re referring to? I’m stealing what you posted, to use later!”

And the commenter wrote, “lol. I get confused so easily any more. Feel free to “steal”.

From that exchange, I take that sometimes Facebook comments can be “works of art”. Or, at least they can be so good that Janis Ian wants to “steal” them to use later. But someone else writes something that she doesn’t like, or uses a “tone” that she alone finds objectionable, and then it has no value and “censorship” is okay.

The troll who left me the mean spirited comment on RfM yesterday really hurt my feelings and, I’m sure, meant to make me feel terrible. Or, at the very least, they didn’t care about my feelings, even though it was clear that I was mourning a huge loss and expressing myself on a “recovery site”. Make no mistake about it. I still think that person is a massive fuckwad and I’d happily fantasize about rendering them sterile with a well placed drop kick to the gonads.

But, at the same time, that person’s mean comments provided fuel for yesterday’s post… which some people may value on some level, even if it’s just to laugh at me for making the effort to write it. Also, it’s not lost on me that some people might have agreed with that person’s very mean comments. So maybe I shouldn’t have reported them. In fact, I could have probably turned that person’s post into a plea for sympathy and gotten even more views on Arran’s video… if that was my ultimate goal. It wasn’t my goal, by the way. I don’t share things just to get likes or views.

When it comes to published works, I agree with Janis Ian that it’s wrong to “edit”. In fact, I don’t like cancel culture at all. I think people should have the right to decide for themselves what is, or what is not objectionable to them and vote with their wallets. I also think that people should have the right to make their own rules in their own houses, so to speak. At the same time, there does seem to be a level of hypocrisy in the idea that some “offensive” writing is okay, and some isn’t. And so far as some people’s ideas of what is, and what is not “offensive”, is somehow better than other people’s ideas are… well I think that’s how we end up with extremist loudmouth assholes like Donald Trump in the White House. People don’t like to be told what they can or can’t say, think, or believe. They will vote for those whom they think will protect their right to be an asshole.

I do kind of like how Janis handled this person, though…

Vote with your feet… or your wallet. But you’re not always going to be able to do that, so getting all high and mighty about what people like or dislike is kind of futile… and hypocritical.

Meh… well, I guess I’m glad that most people don’t value what I do. I don’t think I’d want people to “expect more from me”, just because I made a living creating things. Everybody’s human, and everybody’s shit stinks. Whether it’s former tenant being rude and dismissive about my creative pursuits, while also obsessively stalking me… or Janis Ian telling people not to judge artists by their personal lives or support censoring them, as she censors and steals people’s posts… or commenters feeling that their decision not to buy things made in China as they also pay taxes to governments that have policies that harm people… Or a cop thinking an “independent journalist” isn’t a “real” journalist, and there’s no value in what they do… Some people would beg to disagree, right? And some people think that in order to be “legitimate” as an artist, one must be formally employed by someone else. Some of those independent journalists on YouTube are actually making enough money to live on, though.

People are always going to be offensive and inappropriate on some level. Sometimes, I’ll admit I get upset about stuff, but then it leads to a good rant that might make people think or feel… or even just laugh. I think as long as people learn and grow from their experiences, that should be our focus. I think we should all keep creating, whether or not someone else thinks it’s a valid pursuit, or the creator is a “decent person” whose views should be promoted.

But isn’t it nice that we can still disagree? For now, anyway. And isn’t it nice when people are doing something constructive with their time? It reminds me of the trash scavengers/dumpster divers in Texas who used to raid people’s trash for metal they could turn in for money. To them, that was a job that actually helped them keep the lights on, even if some of us didn’t appreciate them rifling through trash we were throwing out so they could make a living off our discards. Some people think certain art is “trash”. Other people think that same art is “brilliant”.

And no matter what you might think of what I do, I still think of myself as a writer and a singer. You gotta start somewhere, right? Lots of people like me didn’t become “legitimate” until they were already dead. Think about it. πŸ˜‰

ETA: So much for keeping this post short and non-controversial. Oh well.

Standard
communication, social media

The old American double standard…

The featured photo was shared on Janis Ian’s Facebook page. I think she might want to consider if maybe she, herself, falls into the “easily offended” category… And before anyone comes at me, I hasten to add that I know I can be a bit prickly and easily offended about some things myself. I am human, after all.

Some years ago, I heard George Carlin talk about what he referred to as “the old American double standard”. His exact words were:

It’s the old American Double Standard, ya know: Say one thing, do something different. And of course this country is founded on the double standard, that’s our history! We were founded on a very basic double standard: This country was founded by slave owners who wanted to be free.

As I sit here on a Monday morning, eyes barely cracked open after a busy few days, I’m remembering George’s wise words. In fact, I was talking to Bill about them this morning, as I read a scolding Facebook post by Janis Ian. A few days ago, as I was eating Quiche Lorraine in Ribeauville, I noticed a post Janis put on Facebook. It was a quote. For some reason, even though she is a critically acclaimed songwriter, Janis Ian likes to post quotes by other people. And somehow, when she posts quotes, the comment section goes south, and she ends up chastising someone and/or closing comments in apparent disgust.

One of the contentious posts on Janis Ian’s page. She turned off commenting.

Janis had posted the above quote that some people thought was misattributed. Someone left a comment pointing out that she was “spreading misinformation”. The person’s remark was a little bit rude, and Janis responded in a rather pissy way. I happened to agree with the commenter that people should be more careful about sharing quotes and making sure they are attributed to the right person. In fact, one of my most popular posts is about how people misattributed a quote to Betty White that she specifically stated she never said, and never would say in a million years.

Again, I do think it’s important to get quotes both correct, and credited to the right person. As a highly acclaimed songwriter, it seems to me that Janis Ian would agree. I mean, how would she like it if someone made a meme using a line from “At Seventeen” or “Society’s Child” and attributed it to Carole King, Joni Mitchell, or Janis Joplin? My guess is that she wouldn’t like it… and if someone dared to share it on her page, she would call it out. Below is one of the more civilized exchanges on the post in question. I cut and pasted it, because the poster and I agree that there’s a bit of a double standard going on here…

I didn’t comment on the post myself. I’ve followed Janis’s page long enough to realize that she doesn’t always concede gracefully. I continue to follow her, though, because she’s often funny. I also appreciate that she appears to do her own social media, something I find refreshing and interesting. I like her music. However, I have a feeling we probably wouldn’t get along if we were to meet offline somewhere.

This morning, I was reading her page again, when I noticed this:

Do people really stop to read up on the people whose quotes are shared online? My guess is that most of them don’t… just like they don’t read news articles before commenting on the headlines.

I don’t know anything about H.L. Mencken, but I do know something about Sunday School. I was forced to attend for years. I didn’t find it to be particularly awful, since I grew up in a mainstream Presbyterian church, but I do know that there are a lot of toxic religions out there that do a lot of damage to people. I’ve written about quite a few of them in my blog.

On the above post, I noticed a lot of people were sharing their experiences. Some people were agreeing with the quote from Mencken. Others were apparently offended that Janis Ian was posting about religion. Some pointed out that Ms. Ian is Jewish, so what would she know about Sunday School? I think that could be a valid point. I could also understand why some people felt offended by the quote, since they are, themselves, religious.

I didn’t find the quote offensive, but I do think how people will take it depends on their own perspective, and there are so many of them to consider. And unfortunately, there are a lot of jerks on the Internet who get off on trying to pull “gotchas” on people. On the other hand, sometimes people are simply trying to prevent misinformation. If, for instance, I posted that Dolly Parton wrote the “Star Spangled Banner”, I would expect people to correct me. If I truly believed she wrote it, maybe I’d get a little pissed off by having my pride insulted by a well-deserved correction. But in the long run, it’s better that I know the truth, right? That way, I don’t look foolish later, telling people something that is obviously wrong.

I think there’s a fine line between being a jerk trying to make someone feel small, and honestly trying to give credit where credit is due. And while I agree that some posters were less than gracious in their comments on Janis’s page, I also think that Janis isn’t always as even-keeled as she could be. I’ve noticed that she has a tendency to scold people, sometimes when I don’t think they necessarily did anything to warrant such a response. It’s possible she does this because she’s a sensitive, creative, artistic person. Or maybe she’s a little narcissistic, as narcissists are often the type to shame and scold. Either way, it’s an aspect of her online personality that I don’t particularly like very much. Like I wrote up post, if we were to meet offline, I sense that we wouldn’t like each other. But then, if that turned out to be true, and Janis didn’t like me much, she’d be one of many people. πŸ˜‰ I’m the kind of person people tend to love or hate. πŸ˜€

A recent post by Janis… I see her point, but her point is one of many that could be presented…

Janis Ian often posts quotes by people she apparently admires, even if they weren’t “good people”. I actually applaud her for discouraging the ever popular “cancel culture” that a lot of people think is justice today. People are complicated and complex, and sometimes brilliant people say and do shitty things. It shouldn’t necessarily negate everything else they do in life. On the other hand, if you’re going to post something for public consumption, chances are good that someone is going to be contrary or inappropriate.

If you’re a famous person, it’s even more likely that someone is going to take a dump on your post. I know it’s annoying. It even happens to me sometimes, and I am not famous at all. But one thing I would like to ask Janis is, why is it up to her to decide what should, or should not, offend other people? If someone is offended by Picasso, shouldn’t they be free to state that? Isn’t that how productive discussions in free societies get started? Wouldn’t it be better to just take a breath, validate the person’s viewpoint, and then try to have a civilized chat about it, rather than just dismissing them as being “too easily offended” and scolding them for being “argumentative”? Why post this stuff if it just leads to exasperation and shutting down the comment section?

I will admit that the comment sections on my own blog are set to shut down after a certain time. I don’t do that on the travel blog, because most of the stuff posted there isn’t controversial. I do it on this blog, because sometimes people find old content and try to stir up shit on subjects that are old news. I don’t get enough productive comments from people on old content to justify leaving comment sections open, although I’m always open to re-evaluating my policies. I prefer to let my regular readers be the ones who comment, though, and they usually do so on posts when they’re new. Troublemakers and spammers hit the old stuff.

I try not to be hypocritical, and while it can be hard, when I’m wrong, I do try to admit to it. I’ve been wrong about a lot of things. I’ve also been right about a lot of things. I think it’s best to try to stay open-minded about most topics, although I can agree that sometimes people can be so open-minded their brains can fall out. Or, that’s my opinion, anyway.

I guess my main point is that opinions run the gamut. As my favorite uncle, Brownlee, used to say “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one.” I know he didn’t come up with that quote, nor did he come up with the follow on… “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one, and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks.” I think that’s pretty accurate, don’t you? I just wish people who claim to be open-minded and desirous of discussion would take a moment to examine their own behaviors before pointing out other people’s bad behaviors. Because chances are, the speck you’re trying to remove from someone else’s eye is obscured by the plank in your own. And yes… I know that’s a concept that comes from the Bible.

Maybe I learned something in Sunday School, after all. Praise be!

Standard
communication, complaints, language, rants

No… Betty White didn’t say that vaginas are tougher than balls are…

A few days ago, I reposted a rant I wrote in 2014. In that rant, which was originally composed on December 30, 2014, I went off about how annoyed I get when people want to “correct” each other’s opinions. At the end of the rant, I included a popular meme that included Betty White’s visage and the quote, β€œWhy do people say “grow some balls”? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.” I also shared the original source(s) of that particular joke, which actually came from two comedians– Sheng Wang is partially credited, but it appears that he “borrowed” the joke from Hal Sparks, who did a hilarious routine on Showtime back in 2010. Have a look.

This guy has some comedic chops. Why don’t I know more about him? And why is his material being attributed to someone who has publicly said that she would never have said such a thing?
From Snopes.

When I reposted that blog entry from 2014, I didn’t know that Betty White would die just two days later on New Year’s Eve, 2021. And in the wake of her death, people are, once again, sharing incarnations of that meme with the misattributed quote about how tough vaginas are. I’ve already seen it a few times, and, well, it bugs me.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you shouldn’t be surprised that the practice of misattributing quotes to celebrities bugs me. It’s especially irksome to me when the person who is being falsely attributed to a quote is dead. When a person is dead, he or she can no longer shield themselves against people who put words in their mouths.

In November 2012, Betty White was interviewed by reporter Michael Cragg for The Guardian. Even back then, the infamous vagina quote was being credited to Betty White. Cragg even begins his story with that quote before setting the record straight:

Why do people say ‘grow some balls’? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.” If you happen to look this quote up, you’ll see it attributed to notoriously sweet 90-year-old TV great Betty White. Only those words never passed her lips, and she’d quite like people to bear that in mind next time they see fit to quote it at her, as I have just done. “That’s what I hate about Facebook and the internet,” she sighs. “They can say you said anything. I never would have said that. I’d never say that in a million years.”

I know many people loved Betty White, and that funny quote sounds like something she could have said. I can practically hear her Golden Girls character, Rose Nylund, saying that. But she didn’t say it, and has said she never would have. She plainly said, “I never would have said that. I’d never say that in a million years.” And yet, ten years later, people still share that quote as a means of “honoring” her. Is it really honoring someone when you pair their visage with someone else’s words? Especially when that person has repeatedly and publicly stated that they’ve been misquoted or misattributed?

Betty White joins a long list of famous people who have been credited improperly for things they’ve neither said nor written. How many times have I seen George Carlin credited for writing The Paradox of Our Time, an essay that sounds a little “Carlin-esque”, but was actually written by Dr. Bob Moorehead? George isn’t the only one who has been wrongly credited with writing that essay. It’s also been credited to the Dalai Lama and an unnamed Columbine student. Obviously, many people think it’s a wise and thought provoking essay; that’s why it continually gets shared. But if people really think it’s such a great piece of writing, why not give credit where credit is due? Credit the real writer, Dr. Bob Moorehead, not George Carlin or the Dalai Lama. Take a minute to double check before you share, too.

Most of us have never met the celebrities we admire so much. I think that’s a good thing, since heroes often don’t live up to their images. I have a feeling Betty White was just as sweet in person as she seemed to be on TV, but I don’t know that for sure. She was an actress, and it was her job to be someone she wasn’t– to convincingly play a part on screen so well that people believed they knew her.

I think it’s important to remember that most of the things Betty White said while playing a character, were things that professional writers wrote for her scripts. She played parts that were initially created by someone else, and brought to life by her talent. So when Rose told a St. Olaf story, that wasn’t just Betty– that was also the person who wrote the script.

Even if that quote about the toughness of vaginas sounds like something Rose Nylund would say, we should remember that Rose Nylund wasn’t, in fact, Betty White. Betty was Betty White… and when she wasn’t playing a part, she was herself. And the vast majority of people who know her name and have seen her work, never actually knew Betty off camera. It probably was annoying to her that so many people assumed they knew her well enough to put words in her mouth, so to speak. But, in the Internet age, I’m afraid that is an occupational hazard, as she noted in her article with Michael Cragg of The Guardian.

I do hope that by sharing this post, maybe a couple of people will reconsider sharing that meme– funny as it is. The lady just died two days ago. I’m sure there are other things she actually said that could be shared instead of the “tough vagina” meme that appears to have been inspired by a couple of somewhat less famous comedians. Why not give Hal Sparks or Sheng Wang the credit? They would probably appreciate it, and since they are presumably still living, they can actually use the associated fame.

Betty White was a wonderful, talented, blessed performer who was with us for so many years. Surely we can find another funny quote that Betty actually said that we can share among our friends on Facebook or other social media. Or, better yet, instead of sharing quotes that famous people said, why not come up with some of your own wisdom? I’ll bet you can do it if you try hard enough. But… then you might have another problem.

Every once in awhile, I’ll say something clever and original, and Bill will laugh and say, “That’s funny. Who said that?”

And I’ll roll my eyes and say, “I did. Why is it that whenever I say something funny or interesting, you automatically assume I’m ripping off someone else?”

And then he laughs and apologizes, then admits that I can be clever and witty in my own right, too. In fact, he’s said that’s one of the things he likes about me.

I’m not sure why people feel the need to share quotes, anyway… I used to have a Facebook friend who almost never posted his own thoughts. He just shared things other people said. I wondered what the point of that was. Is that something people do in their everyday lives? Do people go up to others and say things like, “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but Gordon B. Hinckley said ‘Conflict grows out of ignorance and suspicion.'”?

I have seen many people use wise quotes online, but it’s not something I see out and about in public, not that I go out in public much nowadays. So why do we do it so often on Facebook? I’m sure some people do it to inspire thought, and there’s nothing wrong with occasionally sharing a profound quote… but I’m a lot more impressed by people who share themselves, rather the stale words some famous person said… or didn’t say. But there’s no pressure to be wise, either. Why not just be yourselves? And let famous people be THEMSELVES.

I know this post makes me sound terribly uptight… and, you know what? I’m gonna own that. We all have our little quirks. This is one of mine. Dead people, especially, can’t defend themselves against false attribution. I will keep complaining about it as long as it’s a problem… which means I’ll probably write another rant on this subject at some point. And if you don’t like it, as Eddie Murphy said, while imitating his drunk stepfather…

“It’s my house…” Yes, Eddie said this, while imitating his stepfather… and I completely agree.

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lessons learned, musings, narcissists

“Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth…”

Special thanks to singer-songwriter Facebooker extraordinaire, Janis Ian, who posted today’s featured photo on her Facebook page a day ago. I follow Janis Ian, but I’m not one to watch her obsessively. I think she’s often funny and thoughtful, but sometimes she’s a little too “woke” for my tastes. I know that comment might annoy some people. I know some people really think it’s cool to be super “woke”. I’m not there yet. I will probably never be there. I am definitely more left leaning than I once was, but I’m never going to be one of those people who is trying to be an “example” to others. Hell, I have enough trouble simply accepting myself as I am.

I do, however, see a lot of wisdom in Janis Ian’s recent “quote of the day” from an unknown source. There have been many times in my life when I’ve been left feeling terrible because of a regrettable exchange with someone. There have been times when I’ve said or done something that has upset or offended someone and have felt terrible about it forever. When that happens, I will self-flagellate, feeling like total shit, and withdraw from others. I think some people get the mistaken impression that I’m being a snob or that I feel like I’m “above” them in some way. That’s really not true at all. I just don’t like to feel like I annoy people. I feel like it’s better to stay home. This COVID-19 lifestyle, in some ways, is a good thing for me. I have a good excuse not to mingle.

From the time when I was a small child, I’ve gotten the message from important people that I wasn’t acceptable or “good”. Now… it IS true that some people love me for exactly who I am. Bill is one of those people. He doesn’t find me annoying at all. He never criticizes my laugh. He doesn’t tell me to lose weight or put on makeup. He doesn’t grouse about the fine layer of dust on the furniture or the fact that I can’t be arsed to get out of my nightgown if I’m not leaving the house. Instead, he’s kind and loving, and he never makes me feel like I’m worthless.

But even though my husband loves me for who I am and that makes me feel good, sometimes I do have trouble with my self-worth. I’ll give you a ridiculous “for instance”. Those of you who have been following me for awhile may know that Bill and I had some real trouble with a previous landlady. This lady seemed to have a real problem with me. She clearly didn’t like me, and seemed to judge me negatively for my lifestyle.

At first, her criticisms were couched in pleasantries and niceties. But, as time went on, she became more hostile and negative. I started to feel badly about myself. I remember feeling anxious, living in her house, as she would come over and I would watch her face as she took in the “appearance” of our house. It’s true, I am not an obsessive housekeeper, but I’m certainly not a filthy person. I don’t spend all of my free time polishing glassware, wiping down baseboards, or using a microfiber dust rag to clean the dust between the pipes on the towel warmer or heaters. I just can’t be bothered to be that detailed. It’s not worth my time. But I do empty the garbage, wipe down the counters, clean the toilets and shower, wash dishes, and do laundry. And I do vacuum, clean up the dog shit, and do other chores as needed.

However, she’s the type of person who would do those extremely anal retentive cleaning chores on a regular basis. I would see her expression darken when she noticed a pile of leaves that was left unswept. One time, I watched her aggressively shovel snow off the driveway. I had made a walkway for the postman, which was what was required, but since I wasn’t going anywhere and was feeling sick, I put off shoveling the whole thing. She came over, unannounced as usual, and got visibly pissed that I hadn’t done the whole driveway. I could feel her radiating disapproval. Naturally, that made me feel bad, because I don’t like to disappoint people. I resolved to make sure the driveway was perfectly shoveled after other snowstorms, even if I was sick.

Another time, she read me the “riot act” when she saw a “dust bunny” consisting of Arran’s hair that was caught in the doorway. She yelled at me that the hair was “encrusted”. Of course it wasn’t, and it took maybe two seconds to wipe it up. I hadn’t noticed it because it really was insignificant, but she saw it and freaked out. Then she screamed at me about it, and even mentioned it in an email to Bill. She asked him at one time if we’d like her to find us a housekeeper, nastily adding “Don’t you want to live in a clean house?”

Wow… I’ll tell you what. The very LAST thing I would want is to hire a housekeeper that she found for us. Especially since it later became very clear that she wasn’t respecting our privacy. Aside from that, she wasn’t living in the house, so I didn’t feel that I needed to keep the house cleaned to her standards. Especially since we were paying her too much for the “privilege” to live there. And also, the house wasn’t that clean when we moved in, but then she and former tenant were “buddies”. I guess she got a pass.

Now, a lot of people might tell me that I should just ignore those comments, but I genuinely felt bad when she’d send Bill emails about my deficiencies as a housekeeper. I felt terrible and, at first, very ashamed, when she would yell at me for things that she felt weren’t “up to snuff”. I didn’t know what her standards were when we moved in. If I had known, we certainly would not have taken that house.

But, at least at first, I really tried to do things more to her standards. I dutifully cleaned the white plastic panels on the new doors she’d had installed. They were exposed to the elements and doomed to become discolored at some point, but I knew she wanted them to look nice, even if no one would care about that but her. She asked me more than once to clean them off regularly, so I did. I would attempt to clean the windows in the living room, so she wouldn’t freak out about the nose prints left by our dogs. I would try to be presentable, at least when I knew she was coming. And I tried to be cordial. For a long time, I was as pleasant as I could be, even when she inconvenienced me by showing up randomly or was intrusive.

One day, she reached the end of my patience by screaming at me in the living room about an awning that had collapsed on my watch. It was seventeen years old. I had pointed it out to her that the thing was leaning. She had her husband “fix” it. It appeared to be repaired, so I used it a few times after he did the work. On one very hot day, a gust of wind blew, and the awning collapsed.

Fortunately, I was not sitting under the awning when it collapsed, although ex landlady claimed that the fact that I wasn’t sitting under it was a sign of my “gross negligence”. She immediately blamed me, and yelled at me in my own home, not just for the awning that she failed to have properly repaired, but also for the fact that one of the electric rolladens was not properly installed and would not go down. She claimed it wasn’t working properly because I didn’t use it often enough, even though a repairman later said it wasn’t installed correctly. She had no thought at all for the fact that I could have been seriously injured or perhaps even killed if that seventeen year old awning that she hadn’t fixed properly had fallen on my head. Instead, I was the one who was “negligent” for using a supposedly “fixed” awning on a hot day and not being able to predict the wind.

It may be hard to believe, but I did feel bad that the awning fell on my watch. I knew money was an object for the landlords. I was sensitive to their not wanting to spend money. I didn’t object when she had her husband fix it instead of a real repairman. But I was not willing to accept the claim of negligence when I used something that was part of the house on a hot day, as she and her husband had actually said was appropriate use. All I did was unroll it. I wasn’t hanging on it or playing on it or anything like that. And sorry, I can’t predict the wind. I don’t think I’m “negligent” for not being under the awning when it suddenly fell. I think I am damned LUCKY. So is she.

After that exchange, Bill asked her not to speak to me about her concerns. That seemed to piss her off even more, since apparently I made for a convenient scapegoat for her frustrations. But she did leave me alone, for the most part, probably because she could tell I was frighteningly close to losing my shit the last time she yelled at me. I think she could also tell that I could easily match her in intensity and nastiness, if I was really pushed to go there.

It may seem hard to believe, but I genuinely felt terrible when things went wrong. By the time I left that house, I really felt pretty awful. She had done a good job making me feel “guilty” about how “terrible” I am. Even though I was LIVID by the way she treated Bill and me– especially me— the truth is, her comments made me feel bad about myself. I wondered if she was right that I’m a shitty housekeeper and a lazy, worthless person. She didn’t actually say those words to me, and yet that was the message I got– repeatedly.

It took weeks in our current home before I finally felt comfortable. I was anxious for so long, expecting her to come over and complain about some aspect of my housekeeping that displeased her. I knew that she was not our landlady anymore, but yet I expected our new landlord to be like her. I dreaded talking to him because of her. She did real psychological damage to both of us. She falsely accused us of theft and trashing her house, and when Bill asked for a fair accounting of why she was keeping most of our security deposit, she became hostile, nasty, and really laid on the shame and guilt in an attempt to get him to back off. It was absolutely infuriating, especially since Bill is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and is generous, respectful, and fair to a fault!

I think of so many people whose homes I’ve been in that were genuinely dirty and cluttered far worse than mine ever was. I think of all of the people I know who would have blown up with profanities at ex landlady the first time she yelled at them. I think of the people who would think nothing of paying rent late, or not at all. And then I think to myself… “I’m the worst tenant she’s ever had? Really? She’s been lucky.” Karma will fix that.

What she was doing was egregious bullshit… and I can’t help but wonder if we’d been less “nice” and “kind” about her blatantly disrespectful behavior, maybe she might not have so blatantly tried to take advantage of Bill’s good nature. Like, maybe if I’d given into the instinct to yell back at her, she might have not been so totally horrible to us, and we might not have had to sue her. Even after a settlement was reached, it still took months and a nastygram from our lawyer before she finally gave us our money.

But we were both trained to accept abuse. I have a much lower threshold than Bill does, but I still have the capacity to overlook bad behavior in the interest of keeping the peace. Maybe that’s not a good policy. I have already told Bill that I don’t ever intend to tolerate that kind of living situation again, but the truth is, sometimes you kind of have to… a lot depends on money, doesn’t it?

Now I am mostly recovered from that experience, aside from some residual anger. There are scars, of course, and I think it’s a pretty fair bet that I won’t be forgetting her. But I realize now that her apparently very negative opinions of me don’t necessarily reflect reality, nor do they apply to how others see me. No matter what, I have basic worth, just as everyone does. Even the worst people in the world usually have at least one person in their lives who love them on some level. And that is as true for me as it is for most people.

There have been other instances in my life where I have left a situation feeling awful about myself. I recently wrote about ghosts of traumatic Christmases past. One of the reasons I swore them off is because so many of them left me feeling horrible. I had to detox from the toxicity for days or weeks, ruminating about the dramas that would erupt among so-called loved ones. All I ever wanted was to live in peace, on my own terms, and as my authentic self. If other people can’t stand me, so be it. But so many people want to change their friends and loved ones, not recognizing their worth and uniqueness. If one has a conscience or any sense of shame, this can be devastating to one’s self-esteem and self-image.

I think this is a skill that is essential for living, learning to accept oneself for being a unique person and having basic worth. But, as we’ve seen, especially since the pandemic started, people are really BIG on judging and shaming others. Judging and shaming people, lecturing them, and not trying to empathize with them is a great way to alienate them and cause them to be even more entrenched in their beliefs. A lot of the judging behavior comes from frustration, of course. In terms of the pandemic, we’re all tired of hearing about sickness and death, being subjected to restrictions, rules, and talk of overwhelmed healthcare facilities. Many people are truly frightened, especially those who have lost loved ones and friends to the sickness.

I’ve read so many comments from people who say that they have no more empathy. They have no more patience. And when someone dies of COVID, especially if they were unvaccinated, some of them even LAUGH about it. I guess I can understand why people feel like that and act that way, but I don’t think that attitude does anything to change behavior or inspire cooperation. People tend to focus more on their egos and injured pride than the frustration and despair that drives some of the more judgmental behaviors. I’m as guilty of that as a lot of people are, although I try not to be that way. I just don’t think it helps. We’re all human, though…

I’m even sure that, on some level, our former landlady believed the lies she told herself. Or maybe, from her perspective, we really are filthy, dishonest, thieving, unhygienic people who don’t respect other people’s property. But no one else has ever said that about us. And our current landlord has cheerfully told us we’re welcome to stay as long as we want. That’s a nice vote of confidence.

I felt good yesterday when I fixed the faucet in the downstairs bathroom all by myself. It was easy to do. But as I was doing the work– descaling the tap with white vinegar and removing the calcium buildup that had blocked the spigot– I couldn’t help but think of the way the landlady made comments that were intended to make me feel small, negligent, and incompetent. I know that they weren’t a reflection of reality. It was gaslighting, intended to make me more inclined to accept her abuse and her assessment of me and my “shortcomings”.

Fortunately, I’ve already been through therapy. πŸ˜‰ It’s hard to believe we paid over $2000 a month for that treatment from the former landlady. We should have “fired” her after the first year. Life is short. Lesson learned.

Quote Investigator says that Twitter user debihope apparently constructed this popular quote, which has been falsely attributed to Sigmund Freud and William Gibson, among others.

So… if you take anything valuable from today’s post, I hope it includes the idea that other people’s apparent negative views of you might not be rooted in reality. In fact, they may be their attempts to train you to accept their abuse. Take their comments and opinions for what they’re worth… definitely with a grain of salt. Do what you can to protect yourself, and protect your sense of self-worth. After all, as Janis Ian shares in an unattributed quote, “Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth…” Wise words indeed. Don’t forget them.

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