When I was in the second grade, our class put on a presentation of Mary Poppins. My part was “Narrator #3”. Story of my life. I remember that as we prepared for that play, we learned songs from Mary Poppins. One of the songs we learned was called “The Perfect Nanny”.
Here are the lyrics:
Wanted a nanny for two adorable children If you want this choice position Have a cheery disposition Rosy cheeks, no warts! Play games, all sort You must be kind, you must be witty Very sweet and fairly pretty Take us on outings, give us treats Sing songs, bring sweets Never be cross or cruel Never give us castor oil or gruel Love us as a son and daughter And never smell of barley water If you won’t scold and dominate us We will never give you cause to hate us We won’t hide your spectacles So you can’t see Put toads in your bed Or pepper in your tea Hurry, Nanny! Many thanks
Sincerely, Jane and Michael Banks
It seems like a lot of people are taking it upon themselves to apply for the position of “nanny” these days. And I’m not talking about working with children, either. I’m afraid that being behind a computer screen emboldens a lot of people to lecture others, particularly about their personal choices.
This morning, I read an interesting article about top dressage riders protesting the use of helmets instead of top hats in competition. I was interested in the article, because I used to own and show a horse myself. My discipline was “hunt seat”, which required the use of a hunt cap. In the 1980s, a hunt cap was a hard hat covered in velvet or velveteen. When I first started riding, they didn’t all have chin straps. After a few years, harnesses were required. I pretty much hated them, but eventually got used to them. People who rode Western had cowboy hats with no protection.
These days, riders wear huge bulbous helmets that look more like something you’d see on a motorcycle. I’m sure they have saved people from catastrophic, life altering injuries or death. But they are aesthetically less appealing and may or may not be very comfortable to wear. I don’t know if they are or not. I’ve never tried one on, myself. I do kind of miss the look of the velvet hunt caps, even if they aren’t as safe.
In any case, a large number of expert dressage competitors hate the helmets. They don’t want to wear them. They have sent a petition to the powers that be, demanding that they be allowed to keep their top hats for the highest echelons of competition.
According to Dressage Today, the petition reads:
“The top international dressage riders would like to make a formal demand to the FEI to keep the option to use the top hat in international competitions for Seniors. There has never been a serious accident at an international dressage competition, and the riders believe there is no reason to change that for senior competitors at CDI4*/5*, Games and championships on Grand Prix level.
“The top hat is an essential part of the identity of dressage. The dresscode makes us unique and we feel very strongly that the top hat remain as optional to use, but only at the highest level of competition. For awards ceremonies, the use of protective headgear can remain mandatory.
“It should be noted that there are other disciplines that are not required to wear helmets, and we feel that this inequality is not warranted. We urgently request that the FEI add this matter to the agenda for the next General Assembly, and change the rule accordingly. We believe it is the right of each individual rider to choose between the use of a top hat or protective headgear. This right cannot be revoked.”
As I have written several times in my blog, I’m not a big fan of people telling others what to do. I hated seatbelts when I was growing up. I’m not too fond of them now, but I comply with the law because it’s easier and because if I don’t, the car and Bill both turn into Pat Boone. I could choose not to comply and probably get the stink eye from Germans… and maybe a stiff fine.
Same thing goes for face masks. I hate them, but I comply with regulations. And I truly hope that either an alternative is designed or the COVID-19 virus is vanquished enough so that they become unnecessary. I find the masks depressing and uncomfortable and I can’t wait to see them gone. I don’t put masks in the same league as seatbelts and helmets. In any case, I don’t presume to tell other adults what to do. Nobody likes a lecture, and lecturing people is mostly a waste of time, anyway. All they do is piss off others.
I had to go read the comments on the Facebook post about the top hats. It was like reading another article about mask protesters. People were saying things like, “Wear the damn helmet!” And the other side came back with, “Don’t tell me what to do!”
I’m sure it makes people feel better to tell off those who aren’t following the rules. Personally, I like to think that adults are capable of making their own decisions. I feel this way about voting, too. I may completely disagree with your choices at the polls, but I figure you have your reasons for voting the way you do. I doubt a lecture from me is going to change your mind, and it’s none of my business anyway. I wouldn’t want you to lecture me about my vote… and as someone who sometimes votes third party, I sure have been on the receiving end of a lot of those kinds of comments.
I can see why dressage riders like their top hats. Maybe someone will come up with a design for a top hat that is safer than the old version, yet provides the same aesthetic. I do miss the velvet hats in hunt seat. They looked very elegant compared to the big helmets of today, although I will admit that the helmets are easier to keep clean and probably last longer because they can withstand the elements better. In that sense, they’re more practical, as well as safer. But I don’t begrudge those who like the old way. They have their reasons for feeling that way, and they should be heard without being ridiculed, insulted, or shamed, as long as they present themselves in a respectful way.
If you’re being rude as you present yourself, then all bets are off when it comes to the response you’ll get. That’s why I felt okay about telling that guy to go fuck himself after he accused Bill of being a “bad person”. If he had not been insulting first, I would not have responded in that manner… or at all, for that matter.
Just like Jane and Michael sing in their song about the “perfect nanny”, people don’t like to be scolded and dominated, nor do they like to be force-fed things that are unpleasant, even if it’s “for their own good.” I think it’s best to let people draw their own conclusions and hope they’ll make the smart choice.
As Patrick Starfish would say, “Good morning, Krusty Krew.” This morning, in contrast to yesterday morning, I am actually itching to write something of substance. Before I get cranked up with today’s post, I want to thank those of you who took the time to listen to my musical offerings yesterday. I truly appreciate it when anyone listens and comments on my recordings. I don’t put them out there very often because I hate making videos and I never know how they’re going to be received. But it does bring me great joy to sing songs and share them with others. So if you took the time to click on my channel, thank you very much. It means a lot to me, even though I did lose one subscriber on YouTube (bwahahahaha!). It’s okay. I’ll stay humble and stick to my day job.
Now, on with today’s controversial topic, which I hope readers will read and consider with an open mind.
Yesterday evening, I came across two news articles that caused me to react in different ways. After thinking about both of these issues, I realize that they’re two pieces of the same “puzzle” that faces everyone on the planet today. The first article that upset me was in the Washington Post. It was a piece by Robin Givhan about how face masks are “here to stay” and have now become a fashion accessory which may, very soon, become as essential as undergarments. Givhan writes:
Fashion always finds a way. Human beings are undaunted in their search for ways to stand out, to communicate, to thrive in a treacherous environment. And so the face mask — once purely functional, once perceived as an exotic accessory — has evolved at breakneck speed into something more.
It’s more essential because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that Americans wear a mask when interacting with others. It’s more aesthetically pleasing. It’s also a more complicated cultural proposition. And, of course, the face mask is political because both the president and the vice president have refused to wear one on highly public occasions and because some protesters have insinuated that masks are un-American.
As the country moves toward reopening, masks are assuredly part of our future. And in some ways, their evolution is the perfect encapsulation of how much life has changed in a blink of an eye — and how challenging, both intellectually and emotionally, it will be for us to go forward.
I have written in previous pieces about how, personally, I don’t like seeing face masks being normalized and turning into fashion statements. I realize that I can’t stop them from evolving in such a way. Some people like wearing them and feel safer with them with them on. However, count me among those who have no desire to be mandated to wear a face mask for the rest of my life. In fact, I don’t even like that the masks are being pushed on everyone via peer pressure. I would hate to see them become like seatbelts, which most everyone is compelled to wear nowadays.
When I was a child, seatbelts were entirely optional. I have many memories of riding without them in those days, lying in cargo areas in my dad’s many vans or riding in the back of pick up trucks. At one time, my dad had a Volkswagen pop top camper, which had a bar across the ceiling that we had to push to get the camper top to go up. I used to swing on that bar like a monkey when I was a kid. It was very unsafe and unthinkable today, but great fun back then. I don’t regret the experience of swinging on that bar as we cruised down the interstates.
Now… as a sensible adult, I understand why all U.S. states and many developed countries require people to wear seatbelts. New Hampshire, the one seatbelt law hold out, currently doesn’t require seatbelt use for adults, but does require people under age 17 to wear them. It also looks like New Hampshire will soon require seatbelt use for everyone. However, generally speaking, I am opposed to “nanny” laws in principal. I think people should wear seatbelts because it’s the smart thing to do, not because they might get a ticket. I also wear one because if I don’t, my husband turns into Pat Boone.
I have seen face masks being compared to seatbelts. I don’t think they’re the quite same thing. Riding in a car without a seatbelt has always been inherently dangerous. Being in public without a face mask has not. Moreover, facial expression is a big component in effective communication and identification. A lot of things can’t be feasibly done in public if a person is wearing a mask… things that bring joy, like eating, drinking, lip reading, and smoking (although smoking is not something that brings me joy) or playing woodwind instruments or horns. Although speaking and singing are possible while wearing a mask, they aren’t as easy to do. Breathing isn’t as easy to do while wearing a mask, either.
I imagine that when summer is fully upon us, people who don’t routinely wear masks will realize what being forced to wear one at all times could mean. The thought of it really depresses me, especially since there is still some debate as to how helpful the masks really are. Face masks in 90 degree weather sound like a recipe for a lot of sweat, smelling of one’s own bad breath, and possible tan lines, not to mention kind of a creepy dystopian feel to society in which we won’t be allowed to see each other’s smiles in every day society.
I was a bit perturbed after reading Givhan’s article about how masks are becoming a fashion statement, especially since so many people commenting seem to be all for it being a permanent fixture. I don’t think a lot of people have thought about it very deeply. I intend to resist that trend as much as possible and only wear masks when I absolutely have to in order to avoid harassment or legal trouble. I posted about it on Facebook and my friend Sara, who is a nurse at the Mayo Clinic and has to wear a mask all day, fully agreed with me that wearing masks full time should be a no go. Especially since the coronavirus epidemic hasn’t been an issue for that long. Some people are now pushing for laws… and I know that I’m not the only one upset about the prospect of face masks being as necessary as underwear. In fact, another article drove home the idea that requiring face coverings at all times could be a very slippery slope.
Just before I was about to go to bed, I noticed a news item posted by a friend in California. A man in Santee, California went into a grocery store wearing a white, cone shaped hood. The San Diego Union-Tribune referred to the hood as a “KKK hood”, which it probably was. However, the man was not identified by name by the newspaper. In fact, other than a picture of the guy demonstrating his choice to wear the hood, along with shorts, t-shirt, and shoes, not much information about the man was provided at all.
I shared the article on Facebook, and a few friends automatically labeled the guy a racist. And, to be honest, he probably IS a racist. However, there is no way to know for sure. I suspect the guy wore the mask to make a point about the requirement to wear face masks. The rules are pretty broad right now. Your nose and mouth are supposed to be covered. The white hood accomplishes that. Because a hateful group of racists have co-opted the white, cone shaped hood into a symbol that immediately identifies one as a white supremacist, it’s taboo to wear a hood that looks like that in public. This guy chose to wear one anyway. He technically followed the rules by covering his face and mouth, but he did so in a way that was sure to offend other people.
I brought up the fact that since I’ve lived in Europe, I’ve noticed the Confederate battle flag being flown or otherwise displayed in various places here. When I’ve shared my observations with American friends, they almost always react with shock and dismay. To many Americans, the Confederate battle flag (which was actually only one of many used by Confederates during the Civil War) is ALWAYS a racist display. I grew up in the South and saw that flag all the time while growing up. Hell, when I was in South Carolina going to graduate school, there was a Confederate battle flag on top of the Statehouse. It was later relocated to the grounds of the Statehouse, where it stayed for years before it was finally put away for good. Yes, many people see that flag as a racist symbol, but others still insist that it’s about southern pride and a spirit of rebellion.
I once had an Italian Facebook friend. I guess we’re technically still friends, but he left Facebook last year, claiming that people didn’t want to engage in healthy debates with him. I’m sorry he left, especially since we have lost touch. Although he could be very obnoxious and even kind of mean at times, I liked the perspective he presented. He is an intelligent and articulate guy, and I miss getting his input on some topics. One time, he explained why it’s not really uncommon to see the Confederate battle flag displayed in Italy. That flag doesn’t have the same connotations to many Europeans as it does to Americans. A lot of people in Europe see that flag as only a symbol of southern rebellion. In fact, there’s a Harley Davidson garage located not two kilometers near where we live, and they proudly fly the Confederate battle flag. I’ve also seen it on a cab driver’s bumper in Ireland. To many Europeans, it doesn’t stand for racism like it does in the United States.
While the white hood and, especially, the swastika are definitely taboo in Europe, as they are in the United States, I would imagine that those symbols, when taken to a place where they have no meaning at all, would not inspire outrage. When it comes down to it, they’re just symbols, and they only have the meaning that people give them. Personally, I think we should pay more attention to the racist attitudes that actual people have rather than the symbols used to promote those attitudes. It’s also not lost on me that when those symbols are presented, they identify those who have those sentiments. That makes it much easier to choose not to associate with them… although a lot of them are simply ignorant, and their ignorance doesn’t necessarily make them horrible people. At least not in my opinion.
Back when football player Colin Kaepernick was regularly in the news for “taking a knee”during the “Star Spangled Banner” to protest racism, a lot of conservatives were upset because they saw his actions as disrespecting the American flag. Curiously enough, “God”, the popular Facebook page, even referred to the American flag as a “piece of cloth” and the national anthem as just a song. I remember blogging about this subject, and to make my point, I included the photo below.
So anyway… all of this led me to conclude that the guy who walked into the grocery store in his white hood is possibly more of a pissed off Trump supporter, rather than a flat out racist. He’s pissed off because he resents government overreach, and he sees having to wear a face mask at the grocery store as a violation of his personal liberties. He may also be pissed because Trump may very well (hopefully) get his ass kicked during the elections this November, and that may mean more left swinging laws. Remember, Trump and Pence don’t willingly wear masks, either, and Trump has gone as far as to encourage citizens to rise up against their state governments and demand that restrictions be lifted so life can get back to “normal”.
So instead of grudgingly wearing a regular face mask like a good citizen would, he decided to cover his face in a different way. He wore a white, cone-shaped hood, which to many people is an extremely horrifying symbol of racism and hatred. He made a lot of people very uncomfortable. However, he wasn’t violent and didn’t physically hurt anyone, and after being asked repeatedly to remove the hood (and probably what was his nose and mouth covering), he did comply. He paid for his items and left the store without incident, although local law enforcement is “looking into the matter”. Santee, California reportedly has a “checkered past” when it comes to racism, and its mayor has gone on record to denounce the hooded shopper’s actions.
It occurred to me that ultimately, the white cone hat guy was expressing himself. Granted, he was expressing hatred, disrespect, and disdain, which are ugly, antisocial expressions. But when it came down to it, he was expressing himself, which in the United States, he still has the right to do. Then I thought about it some more. Judging by the photo in the news article, I’m about 99.9% certain this dude probably is a racist on some level. But– is it possible he wasn’t? What if he was just a smart assed troll trying to rile people up? What if he was from another country and wasn’t aware that the hood would offend (highly unlikely, but technically possible)? Maybe someone paid him to wear the cone shaped hood on a dare? Not knowing anything about the guy, I can’t know for sure what his story is, although I think it’s perfectly reasonable to assume he’s a racist. Or maybe he’s just a frustrated, pissed off American making his feelings known in the most offensive way he can think of, not unlike when Melania Trump wore her “I really don’t care, do U?” jacket. I am certainly not condoning that the man chose that way to express himself… but I can see how that explanation could be a possibility.
The fact that the man wore the offensive KKK-esque hood into the store, technically complying with the order that he cover his mouth and nose, may seem like a bad thing. But, as I sat at the breakfast table talking about this with Bill, I concluded that his actions were not necessarily such a bad thing overall. Because it’s getting people thinking and talking about this issue. If face masks do become the law for the foreseeable future, people are probably going to have to come up with some guidelines. The guidelines aren’t going to suit everyone, and it may take some time to come to a consensus. By then, maybe a vaccine will be created and we can move beyond this pandemic without forcing another nanny law on the populace.
The first article I referenced in this post is about how the face masks are becoming “fashion”. Well, fashion is frequently distasteful. That’s part of the reason fashion is a thing, just like any art is. Art isn’t always beautiful or simple. Sometimes, it’s ugly and offensive. And if we want to mandate face masks for people, we should probably be prepared for those who will use their masks to make their feelings known through offensive fashion statements. I know a lot of people got a kick out of Mindy Vincent, the lady in Utah who made a face mask out of cloth that had penises on it. Plenty of people found that funny, especially when she told people that if they could tell her face mask has penises on it, they were too close. But other people, no doubt, were offended by it. Mindy Vincent has been selling the masks and has reportedly donated a lot of money to charity. That’s probably a good thing, depending on the charity. Some people would probably criticize her for that, too… or for the charity she’s chosen to donate to. The nice thing about America is that we can still have these thoughts and discussions… at least for now.
It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of the hood wearing guy and whether or not his stunt will have any legal repercussions, especially if we do have to wear the fucking face masks from now on.
The other day, Retro Wifey on Facebook shared a photo of a small child in a baby carrier from days of old. I don’t know when the picture was taken, but my guess is that the baby in the photo is now at least as old as I am. When I look at what passed for safety in the 70s, and then compare it to the current day hysteria over child safety, I’m amazed anyone from the era prior to, say, 1990, ever grew old enough to reproduce. Nowadays, kids have to wear helmets, padding, and seatbelts for everything, on pain of investigation by child welfare authorities or the police if parents don’t comply.
I grew up with parents who were religious about wearing their seatbelts. However, they were not very strict about making me wear them. Why not? Mainly because I hated the damned things and would cry, complain, and generally drive my parents (especially my mom) crazy when they made me wear them. My dad was much stricter about making me wear seatbelts, but even he was inconsistent and usually only made me wear them when he was either in a control freak mood or wanted to punish me.
In 1988, Virginia adopted a mandatory seatbelt law for front seat passengers. It was not, and is still not, a very strict law. Enforcement was secondary, so you’d have to be doing something else illegal to get yourself stopped before police would levy a $25 fine on you for not buckling up. Over 30 years later, Virginia still has a lenient seatbelt law. Cars back then were also more lax about letting people choose for themselves if they wanted to make safety first. They didn’t have all the sensors and alarms they have now– just a five second reminder that buzzed when you turned the ignition. 1988 also happened to be the year I turned 16, and I remember being quite pissed that this oppressive law was passed the year I got my license.
It took a few more years before I became “good” about voluntarily wearing a seatbelt, even after it was the law. I’m short and busty, so they always seemed to hit me in the wrong places. Then, I met Bill… who is laid back about most things, except for when it comes to car safety. I often joke that I think seatbelts are for sissies, but if I don’t wear one, Bill turns into Pat Boone. On my old blog, I used to write about this phenomenon rather frequently, mainly because Alexis got the joke and we both thought it was funny. Alexis has always been my most consistent reader, so sometimes I cater to her. We have both read a lot about Pat Boone and his family, too— an odd thing, since Pat Boone was a sex symbol way before either of us would have found him remotely appealing or relatable. He was always OLD to me, and Alexis is about 22 years younger than I am. Turns out we both read books written by members of Boone’s family, or by Pat himself.
I am at least old enough to remember Debby Boone and her 1977 hit song, “You Light Up My Life”, which was originally used in a film by the same name and sung by the late, obscure singer Kasey Cisyk. But I didn’t know who Pat Boone was until I heard him sing on a 1978 Lassie movie, which also featured songs by Debby. Then I remembered Robin Williams making jokes about him on Mork & Mindy, implying that he was strict and straight-laced.
When I was a senior in high school, I read Starving for Attention, a book written by Cherry Boone O’Neill, Pat Boone’s eldest daughter. I was taking a psychology class and had to read a book about a psychological disorder and report about it to my classmates. Cherry Boone O’Neill, who suffered from anorexia nervosa and bulimia for about ten years, was born in 1954 and happens to share the same birthday as Bill. She was a people pleaser and felt great pressure to make her parents proud. Boone often brought his four talented daughters with him on his tours, where he could keep an eye on them. Cherry felt pressure to be thin, in part, due to her father’s fame and her own show business career. So, she developed anorexia, which I’m sure also helped her feel like she regained some control over her overly supervised life as a young woman. Pat Boone was a notoriously strict father who believed very strongly in corporal punishment and laying down the law. He watched his daughters like a hawk and would not hesitate to discipline them for any infraction of his many rules.
In two of the three books written by his daughters that I’ve read, Pat Boone’s penchant for delivering painful spankings and being very strict is candidly noted. In both Debby’s and Cherry’s cases, the spankings continued until they were adults. They were particularly traumatic in Cherry’s case, since she was extremely underweight and had no padding to absorb Boone’s blows. Although Debby and Cherry have both written about their father’s spankings, in Cherry’s case, the bruises were more severe.
The other day, when I saw that picture shared by Retro Wifey, I shared it and posted “seatbelts are for sissies”. A few of my friends posted about the good old days, when kids could lie in the back of a station wagon, completely unrestrained and unencumbered. My dad used to have a bright orange Volkswagen Westfalia with ugly green plaid interior. It was a 1977 model and he drove it for several years. It had a pop top, which was fun for camping in sweltering heat and getting multiple bug bites. I remember there was a bar across the ceiling when the top wasn’t popped up. I used to swing on it like a monkey as my dad drove down the interstate. Nobody cared. Nowadays, if a child dared to do something like that, someone would be on the horn to the police in seconds. Today’s carseats are very secure, so kids can’t get away with monkey style gymnastics in a VW van. They have to be strapped down as if they are about to be executed. A kid swinging on a bar monkey style the way I used to would be caught and dealt with very quickly in all but the most provincial of locations.
Germany is probably even stricter about seatbelt use than the United States is. In fact, Bill became a seatbelt fanatic when he lived in Germany the first time and was threatened with a 40 Deutsch Mark fine. However, I have seen deja vous scenes from my childhood in Italy and Croatia, where things are evidently a little more reckless. Frankly, I would be scared not to wear a seatbelt in Italy. People drive like they’re alone in a big field there, even if there are tight switchbacks on a mountain road.
I mentioned in my shared post that Bill turns into Pat Boone when I don’t buckle up. One of my friends asked me if I could get video of Bill turning into Pat Boone. Actually, I think I would enjoy providing that. I might even get the chance, since we’re about to take a long road trip from Sweden to Germany in our new car. He does get rather stern about it… or as stern as he is capable of becoming. This is a bit crazy, since Bill spent 30 years in the Army, where one would expect easy “sternness”, especially from an officer. But Bill is one of the most easygoing, laid back, kind people I know. He would never turn into Pat Boone about most issues… except if he caught me without a seatbelt. And even then, he probably wouldn’t turn me over his knee and deliver a bruising spanking the way Pat Boone did back in the day. For one thing, it would obviously be very physically difficult for him to turn me over his knee. For another thing, as titillating as that idea might be for both of us, the fact is, it’s not actually something either of us is particularly comfortable with. Yes, we’re a little kinky, but we aren’t that kinky. I might get a lecture… it probably wouldn’t be a very serious lecture, because that would either piss me off or make me laugh.
The new car is a Volvo, so I suspect that even if Bill doesn’t turn into Pat Boone, the new car will. Volvos are notoriously “safe” cars, jam packed with safety features, alarms, and sensors determined to make sure everyone is as safe as possible, whether or not they’re feeling dangerous. Even if I were to –say– decide to ride in the back seat sitting behind Bill (something he doesn’t allow), the car would tattle on me if I misbehaved. The reason he doesn’t want me to sit behind him in the car is because it’s harder for him to make sure I’m not ditching the seatbelt. He wants me up front. If I wanted to ride in the back, he’d want me where he can glance back at me. But in the new car, it won’t matter. I bet he still won’t let me ride behind him, though. If I try to sit there, he’ll turn into Pat Boone and issue an Army style direct order to move to the middle seat. Hmm… maybe I’ll do that on purpose and film it so people can see Bill be “stern”. It’ll be good for a laugh.
So really, I guess when I say Bill turns into Pat Boone, I’m mostly kidding. The reality is, he treats me like a princess. No, not really a queen, but a princess– because if the truth be told, he takes excellent care of me. He’s very considerate, thoughtful, and protective, and only once in a great while does he morph into an Army style disciplinarian. I’m very lucky to have him in my life, even when he turns into Pat Boone… on quaaludes, maybe. Still, I can’t help but sometimes wistfully remember the days when I could readily flit about the car, completely unfettered by pesky laws, law abiding parents, and a safety geek husband.
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