communication, condescending twatbags, stupid people, travel

“I’m really sorry about your head injury!” ;-)

The featured photo is a screenshot of a “laugh reaction” I received from some poor soul who is humor challenged and probably has brain damage. Based on the person’s handle, I assume that the person comes from southwest Florida. That explains a whole lot, actually… I’m sure DeSantis benefits from his or her largesse… This is not going to be a particularly “nice” post, so consider that before you read it.

It’s already just past noon on Sunday, a full week after we arrived home following a long vacation. I don’t usually spend a lot of time on Cruise Critic, because I don’t do a lot of cruising. However, when I do cruise, I will sometimes visit the message boards and share my experiences, while gleaning wisdom from other travelers.

Because we cruised on Regent Seven Seas on our most recent voyage, I’ve been visiting that board more often than my usual boards– SeaDream Yacht Club and Hebridean Island Cruises. But, although we really did have a good time on Regent Splendor, I think the experience just drove home to us that we much prefer smaller cruise ships. In fact, being on Regent Splendor made me realize that maybe I’d like to do another SeaDream cruise at some point. So, in the interest of solidarity with fellow SeaDream fans, I started a thread about wanting to go back to a smaller ship.

A decent discussion ensued, albeit with comments from people who haven’t been following that forum for as long as some posters have. About ten or twelve years ago, someone started a very popular thread about “cheating” on SeaDream by using other cruise lines. It got so popular that SeaDream actually used it for their own personal blog (which I’m not sure still exists). I referenced “cheating” on SeaDream, and one of the newer posters– likely unaware of the old joke– reassured me that I wasn’t “cheating” on SeaDream, just trying out different products. Fair enough, and I didn’t bother to explain.

But then some posters got into a discussion about how crowded ports can get when there are a few ships docked. One person– someone who apparently thinks a whole lot about money over all else– commented that the communities who are served by cruise ships “love” it, because it means a lot of cash gets flushed into their economies.

Frankly, I don’t think that’s always true. Yes, an influx of money is a great thing for a lot of people, especially in economically challenged areas. However, I have read about some places not liking cruise ships at all. For instance, in Norway, there’s a campaign going on that actually shames cruisers for being “parasites”, and not taking a “proper holiday” in the countries they visit. Many cruise companies pay “slave wages” and don’t pay taxes to the countries they visit.

Norway, in fact, is going to ban most cruise ships by 2026, unless they meet stringent environmental standards that most ships won’t be able to meet. When we were there, I noticed most cars were electric. The train we took from Oslo to Bergen was also electric, as are the cruise ship/ferries run by Hurtigruten and Havila.

Venice, Italy no longer allows large cruise ships to dock in the city. Instead, they have to dock in ports nearby. It’s because the large ships damage the fragile ecosystem around Venice and make it more likely that the city will be destroyed sooner, rather than later.

Bill and I also had a rather hostile experience when we visited Carriacou, Grenada, back in 2011. I had never heard of the place before we visited there, so I had no idea of how difficult life is there. There we were, getting off our fancy “mega yacht”. I believe I was even wearing a SeaDream baseball hat, because I neglected to carry a hat in my luggage and my poor white skin and blonde hair were taking a beating. In fact, I remember being VERY sunburned on that trip.

We decided not to take the offered excursion, and instead, walked around the town, which was very depressed looking. We stumbled across a museum, which gave us something to do, but was also very interesting. We walked around, looking at the artistic impressions of what had happened to the people on that island. I distinctly remember seeing a painting of a Black person shackled to a tree. It made me feel awful to see that, but I’m sure that was the point. Looking at art is a great way to learn about history, especially the ugliest parts.

There was another white couple in the museum at the same time we were there. They looked like vegan backpackers who slept outside. The man had dreadlocks, and the strawberry-blonde woman, who had a British accent, was very freckled. I remember her asking the young Black woman behind the counter about the history of the island. She was very interested, and the lady was explaining it well. I was glad to overhear what she was saying, in spite of my SeaDream ballcap.

The woman behind the counter was not nearly as engaging with us. In fact, she seemed downright hostile. We decided to buy one of the wood carvings hanging on the wall. She sold it to us in a distinctly unfriendly way. I left that museum feeling depressed and unwelcome… which I probably was, come to think of it. I’m sure that woman thought she knew everything about us… or our “type”. I could excuse that reaction in her, to an extent. It probably is demoralizing to see well fed white people touring an island where people are obviously struggling.

I have never forgotten that experience, and I’m reminded of it every time I look at the carving we bought at the museum that day. It was a good reminder to me that not everyone appreciates holiday makers/cruisers/people with money, especially when they are loudmouthed Americans. We did have a different, more positive experience later, when we bought another carving from a guy who was whittling wood by the pier.

When the person on Cruise Critic made the statement about how locals in the ports love it when cruisers come to town, I was reminded of that day in Grenada, and the bad vibes I got from that woman. My mom, who also visited the Caribbean more than a few times, also had experiences with people that were kind of unfriendly. It occurred to me that maybe we do look like assholes to them. Anyway, that was a humbling experience, although it also made me not ever want to visit Carriacou again.

I briefly related that story on my Cruise Critic thread, and someone wrote that it was good that we went to those places, since they increased “awareness”, that would maybe inspire cruisers to offer help. The cynic in me thinks that’s a long shot, although I do know some folks with money are also generous with it and donate to charity.

I mentioned that maybe I’m more sensitive to people’s local reactions because I was in the Peace Corps. I added more to the comment, trying hard to be even-handed about it because I didn’t want to start an argument, even though I kind of disagreed with the idea that locals love cruisers because of money. And while my comment about the Peace Corps might come off as “humble bragging” or whatever, the fact is, that experience DID make me a lot more sensitive to how locals react. I can’t help that. I was simply stating the truth about how I changed after I spent two years in a developing nation. Excuse me for living.

As expected, someone thought my comment was just hilarious. They left me a laugh reaction. I was left a little puzzled, since I didn’t write anything that I thought was obviously funny. Since I wasn’t being funny, I was left to assume that the person who left that reaction is either intellectually disabled, or completely lacking in manners and decorum.

I like to think the best of people, so I figured that they probably have a head injury of some sort. That made me feel some pity for them, instead of irritation at the inappropriate reaction. I briefly considered calling them out with condolences for their obvious head injury and the suffering it’s causing for everyone in their midst… but I figured that would only escalate things. It’s tempting to fight rudeness with counter rudeness, but in the interest of being a more evolved person… 😉 (that pesky humanitarian streak I have, thanks to my life changing experiences in the Peace Corps), I decided to simply ignore the slight at the source and just rant about it here, instead. Few people will read this.

I get that people– especially the types who sail on luxury cruise ships– don’t like it when there’s a hint of “wokeness” afoot. To be honest, maybe it is hypocritical of me to notice the unhappy locals when I take cruises. After all, if I really cared about the locals, I wouldn’t have even gotten on a cruise ship, right? Especially an all inclusive luxury vessel like SeaDream I. I’d donate the money we spent on the cruise to UNICEF or CARE or something similar.

Maybe this is a sign that I shouldn’t cruise on SeaDream again, after all. Wouldn’t want to rub elbows with people who not only resent me for taking a vacation on a luxury ship, but also resent me for mentioning that I was in the Peace Corps. Those same people, by the way, usually don’t mind telling me what THEY do for a living… and implying that they have lots of wealth, as they flaunt their wives with obvious “bolt ons” and facelifts. But, what can I say? SeaDream offers a really nice product, and we do genuinely enjoy our cruises with them, even if some of the other passengers can be jerks.

People are always looking for reasons to tear other folks down. They usually do it by making judgments about the external. Since we can’t usually see each other on Internet messageboards, that leaves people to judge what others write in their posts and assume things that aren’t necessarily there.

The truth is, I am rather “proud” of my Peace Corps experience. It completely changed my life and my world view, and it really was a challenging thing for me to do. But I’m not going to tell you that I joined the Peace Corps because I had visions of saving anyone but myself. I certainly didn’t join because I thought I’d save the world, nor do I think I actually did that much for the cause. I joined because I was trying to find a pathway into meaningful employment. I didn’t end up finding that from my Peace Corps experience, but I did learn a lot. I did come away from that experience with a tendency to pay more attention to how Americans look outside their own habitats. And while some people might not believe it, I think my Peace Corps experience made me into less of an asshole than I might have otherwise been. 😉

Take that comment as you will, since I know a lot of people think I am an asshole. Most of them, like that “brain damaged” laugh reactor on Cruise Critic, and that judgmental local woman in Grenada, don’t know a fucking thing about me and would never deign to try to know anything about me. That’s because most of them are focused on themselves, and to a lesser extent, people in their immediate orbits. But, I’m also not going to tell you that I don’t have that problem, too. I think we all do, to some extent. For the vast majority of people, it’s simply part of being human. Especially the ones who have lots of money.

That’s just my opinion, of course. It’s good that I have a blog for moments like these.

No good deed goes unpunished. I was trying to do something good when I started that Cruise Critic thread. I guess I fucked it up by just being myself. 😉 Lesson learned.

Maybe I should look into booking a trip where I don’t have to interact with anyone else. I seem to be a complete failure at relating to other people. And to the jerk on Cruise Critic with the “head injury”, here’s something to make you feel better… Take two of these and don’t call me in the morning.

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complaints, rants

Repost: You don’t buy a candy bar for the wrapper…

This post originally appeared on the Google version of this blog on June 12, 2017. I am reposting it as/is, because I think it makes good sense. The featured photo is one of me from around 2017. I look prettier in that photo than I do on a daily basis, in spite of the scowl on my face.

I have never been the type of woman who turns heads with my looks, even when I was young.  Since I’m getting older and fatter, I probably never will turn heads, at least not simply because of what I look like.  Should this make me sad?

Apparently, some women still base their self-worth on whether or not men notice them.  I read an incredibly airheaded article this morning by Eve Pollard, a British woman who evidently used to be quite attractive to men.  She’s enjoyed a successful career in journalism and probably should be very pleased about that.  Sadly, it seems she’s now “invisible” to men.  They don’t notice her or wolf whistle at her anymore.  She’s 71 years old.

In the article, there is a picture of Ms. Pollard.  She is still blessed with good looks.  At age 71, she still has a bright smile and dresses attractively.  I would never guess she’s 71.  Would she turn heads at a construction site?  Probably not.  But who in the hell wants to be whistled at by a bunch of construction workers?

Ms. Pollard has been married for 38 years and she says he’s still “interested”.  If that’s true, why does it matter if other men don’t notice her?  Why are so many women so wedded to their appearances as a source of self-esteem?  Eve Pollard has what a lot of women would envy… a career, children, a loving husband, and at age 71, good health and looks.  Why did she feel the need to write about becoming “invisible” to men?  And why did I waste time reading such nonsense?

It’s pitiful and pathetic.  I would have hoped someone of her advanced age would have matured at some point during those years.  I really enjoy Brits, but I’ve found that they are an awful lot like Americans in many ways.  And in some ways, they’re even worse, especially when it comes to silly subjective bullshit like whether or not a person is considered “beautiful” as they age.

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post about a guy Bill and I met on a cruise.  He was from England and he seemed okay at first.  We chatted with him a bit.  It soon became clear that he’s an asshole.  One night, I was in the piano bar singing to Bill.  We were the only ones in there besides the piano player.  The British chap walked in and his mouth dropped open.  Then he said, I kid you not, “Now I can see why you’d love her.”

Really?  He must have seen the shocked expression on my face, because then he came over and hugged me.  It was very embarrassing.  In the first post I wrote about this subject, I went more into detail about that trip.  I don’t want to do that again in this post, except to say that his comment was a reflection of an attitude a lot of men have…  really, a lot of people have… about women they don’t think are “hot” enough to be out in public.  It’s as if it’s our duty to look good for them.

I can remember at least two occasions when I was in college– and supposedly at my prettiest– when guys who usually treated me like shit, actually complimented me on my looks.  One guy was someone I’d known in high school.  He used to get really drunk and manhandle girls.  I remember one of my hallmates was really tiny and this dude got very drunk and demanded that she go out with him.  He stood in the hall, absolutely plastered, screaming at her to pay attention to him.  He actually picked her up and tried to carry her off somewhere before another male friend intervened. 

One night, I got dressed up, fixed my hair, and put on makeup. Sadly, it was because I was meeting a guy, who ultimately didn’t think I was “hot” enough, either. Anyway, the perpetually drunk guy from my high school and college said to me, “Oh Jenny, you look ‘E’!” “E”, for your edification, was a euphemism some of the guys I knew had come up with for the term “eats”… as in, “That woman is ‘good eats’.” The drunk dude actually meant this as a compliment. And he said this to me after I had witnessed him getting piss drunk and carrying off women as if he was an out of control caveman overcome by lust and the women would actually enjoy this treatment. How gross.

Another time, it was a big black guy who was in our choir.  He didn’t like me.  He thought I was obnoxious and told me straight to my face that he thought I was “rude”.  He didn’t even really know me very well, but clearly thought I was too loud and opinionated and had no issues telling me so.  On a choral trip to New York City, we happened to go to the same Broadway show.  I had put on a really flattering navy blue dress.  I look good in blue.  I fixed my hair, wore jewelry, applied makeup, and wore matching navy heels.  And this guy, who generally had nothing good to say to me most of the time, said “Wow.  You actually look good tonight.”  Really?  So the rest of the time, when I’m wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I look like warmed over shit?  And you feel entitled to say this to me without a shred of shame?  And you think I care about your opinion?

The funny thing is, it wasn’t like this guy was a looker himself.  He was quite obese and bald.  He wore sweats all the time and actually sweated in them.  He had an ungracious personality and probably bad breath, to boot.  And, for some reason, he thought I’d care that he thought I looked good when I dressed up to go see a Broadway show and had the audacity to tell me so. 

I do have a funny memory about this guy.  One time, we both attended a show at our college put on by a hypnotist.  He was called up on stage and apparently was very vulnerable to the powers of suggestion.  The hypnotist had him dancing to an unheard tune with wild abandon.  Later, it was very clear that the guy was embarrassed that we’d seen him being put under by the hypnotist, who had succeeded in making him act like a fool.  Serves him right.   

Listen…  when you’re a college student going to a school where there is no strict dress code, you aren’t necessarily going to want to dress up for class.  I remember when I was in school, I had to save up quarters so I could wash my clothes.  That meant I’d wear things that were easy to wash and dry… not pretty navy blue dresses that required dry cleaning.  Why would I want to wear heels if I have to walk to different buildings around campus to get to class?  I did that one day, fell down some steps, and ended up with torn panty hose, skinned knees, and a sprained ankle.  That was certainly attractive.

I get wanting to be pretty.  I just think if you’re going to be pretty, you should do it for yourself, not for wolf whistles from horny, clueless men who have no idea what’s inside of you.  I read a very wise comment on a different article yesterday.  It was written by a guy who, I’m sure, is a high quality specimen.  He wrote, “My granddaddy always said, ‘You don’t buy a candy bar for the wrapper.  You buy it for what’s inside.”  You know what?  He’s absolutely right… unless, of course, you’re diabetic.  Then you should probably buy celery.

I’m just glad I didn’t settle for one of those guys who only wants a pretty wrapper.  My Bill is the only one whose wolf whistles I would ever care about.  And frankly, he’s too classy to whistle at me, anyway.  This is a guy, who last week, when I tripped over a dog toy and temporarily stunned an ankle and skinned a knee, made a special trip to the store to buy me a compression wrap.  I didn’t ask for it and ultimately didn’t need it, but he valued me enough to think of what I might need and bought one for me anyway.  He would have wrapped my ankle personally, too. 

Life is too short to spend a lot of time worrying about whether random people think you’re “pretty”.  What they think of you is probably none of your business.  I think I’m more attractive at almost 45 than I was at 25.  I don’t look that much different now than I did back then and I’m a lot more together and less neurotic.  Enjoy your life… all stages of it… and fuck worrying about your looks when you’re in your 70s.  The best people– male or female– are the ones who value what’s on the inside and would rather buy a candy bar for the candy, rather than just the wrapper.  😉 

Yeah!
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lessons learned, nostalgia, silliness, TV

Life lessons from The Love Boat…

I love watching cheesy TV shows from the 70s and 80s. I especially enjoy watching them when I’m laid up in bed and in need of comfort. Although I’m mostly over the virus that kicked me in the butt all weekend, I was still a touch under the weather for most of Monday. I did experience sort of a second wind later in the day, but not enough of one to call myself “well”. I managed to find the energy to wash all the bed linens and turn on the robot mower 😉 , which I forgot to check on, and later found stuck in the corner of the backyard. I even summoned the energy to walk the dogs in the afternoon, which they both appreciated. But then I came back, hurled, and spent more quality time on the toilet.

Yesterday, I watched The Love Boat, an Aaron Spelling/Douglas Cramer television show that aired on ABC throughout most of my childhood. Someone on YouTube uploaded a bunch of episodes from the 1982-83 season and I found myself glued to them for most of the afternoon. Although most of the plot lines were completely ridiculous and implausible, it was still kind of fun to watch. There are even a few pearls of wisdom within the episodes.

Yes, I did have to suspend belief when I watched the late Eva Gabor (born in 1919) playing the mother of a teenaged boy in the early 80s. It was a bit jarring to see Connie Needham (born in 1959), playing the fiance of her mother’s ex boyfriend Gene Barry (born in 1919), only to have her mom steal him back. I’m sure Alan Hale, Jr. and Bob Denver, both of whom were best known for their roles on Gilligan’s Island, had a great time on the show. It’s a trip to watch the crew members romancing the passengers as they live in huge, sumptuous quarters that I know are not the reality for actual cruise crew members. But still, I remember yesterday afternoon, actually stopping in my tracks to ponder when Dr. Adam Bricker (played by Bernie Kopell) said something unexpectedly profound. Or, at least I thought it was profound when he said it… I wish I could remember what he said at this moment, but alas, the thought has passed. Oh well, next time, I’ll make a note of it.

It’s always a treat to see Charo perform. Seriously– Charo is a very talented entertainer, especially when she plays guitar. She was a staple on The Love Boat, though, and I don’t think I ever need to watch her sing “Physical” again. My respect for Charo came when she was on The Surreal Life around 2004 or so. Even though that was a silly show, Charo showed everyone that she’s a lot smarter than anyone ever gave her credit for in her heyday, and she can REALLY play guitar.

Granted, this is supposed to be tacky and obnoxious, but it kind of goes beyond the pale. Charo later said she “cuchi cuchi-ed” all the way to the bank! I think I see a little Las Vegas era Tina Turner in this performance.

The Love Boat also did a couple of on location two-parters during that time period that were fun to watch, especially since Bill and I have been to some of the places they went. In 2013, we did our last SeaDream cruise from Rome to Athens, which included pre-cruise stops in Venice and Florence. The Love Boat, which usually focused on cruises to Mexico, went to Italy and Greece. They did one two-parter based on an Italian cruise, and one was based on a Greek cruise. I noticed they had some pretty high ranking guests for those episodes, too. Both specials made me want to travel! I have wanderlust anyway, but COVID-19 has made it more intense.

I’m sure all of the footage for the Italy and Greece episodes was filmed at the same time, production costs being what they were. I came to the conclusion they were filmed at the same time because I noticed that Lauren Tewes’ hair was the same “Sun-In” bleached blonde in both of the specials, plus they used the same footage of a TWA plane taking off. Forty years later, I’m amazed that people in the 80s thought that orange hydroxide look was attractive. Lisa Whelchel, who guested on the Greek special, had the same bleached hair with brassy overtones. It was pretty ghastly. As I watched the show, I realized it was work for everyone involved. But it also looked like a lot of fun to film.

I know this is a common phenomenon, but it seems like life was a lot more fun in the 80s… I know it probably wasn’t, for many reasons, but I was a kid back then. Actually, looking back on it, the 80s were hard for me, personally, because that was when I was growing up, and I didn’t have the greatest childhood. But we had all these feel good TV shows that were light entertainment. The Love Boat always had happy endings, with people falling in love, getting married, or discovering a new path in life. The staff on the ship was caring, friendly, and always invested in seeing that everyone had a good time. The Love Boat and Fantasy Island were great shows to watch on Saturday nights when I was growing up– at least until we had The Golden Girls, which was a much better show on all levels.

Granted, The Love Boat definitely jumped the shark around the time they kicked Lauren Tewes (cruise director Julie McCoy) off the show because of her cocaine addiction and other issues, but it always featured old movie stars alongside up and coming stars of the 80s. It was great fun to watch when I was a kid, and probably more fun to watch now for entirely different reasons. I could imagine someone turning it into a Mystery Science Theater 3000 type of show, where there are snarky comments made for every ridiculous scenario, cheesy band number, or godawful evening gown. Also, I noticed all the women wore dresses no matter what, many of which were pretty frumpy and uncomfortable looking, even if they weren’t having dinner.

As a child, I was oddly enchanted by evening gowns and fancy events. It’s probably because I used to love reading fairytales. I also used to love watching beauty pageants, not because I believed in evaluating women by their looks, but because I loved the evening gowns. I liked the colors and designs. But times change, and just like The Love Boat and silly shows like it, beauty pageants have also gone out of style. Even Miss America, which was probably the most prestigious pageant, has changed its focus more toward promoting scholarship and community service than beauty. I think that’s a positive thing, but I must admit that as a kid, I loved the glamour of 80s television. It was fun to revisit it over the past couple of days, watching The Love Boat, a televised intellectual equivalent to empty calories.

Having now been on some cruises myself, I now realize that there’s a price to be paid for wearing fancy duds, and not just at the cash register. I have a few sparkly dresses, but I don’t wear them well. I find them uncomfortable, and I never want to spend a lot of money on dresses that I won’t wear more than a time or two. Consequently, I don’t really look smashing in an evening gown. Even if I had a really cute figure, I think I would rather just wear a nightgown with no bra, rather than a hot evening dress that is always too long for me and heavy with sequins. And that is exactly what I did yesterday, as my stomach and intestines launched into a few more revolts. I did feel markedly better yesterday, but I wasn’t quite all the way…

Well, I’m happy to report that today, I feel 100% better. I have a spark of energy, and I managed to eat a banana, toast with butter, and drink two cups of coffee with cream without feeling like I needed to puke. I’m sure there will be some residual crud from the virus my body seems to have vanquished, but I think I’m on the mend. It was the first time I’ve been sick in ages. In fact, I don’t remember the last sickness I’ve experienced since moving to Wiesbaden. I was sick more often in Stuttgart, probably because Bill was always traveling to Africa and exposing me to exotic pathogens.

One thing I’ve learned from being sick for the past few days is that I needed a reminder that I don’t enjoy the experience of sickness. In fact, perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is that I definitely don’t want to catch COVID-19. I have no idea how I got this stomach bug, which I’m guessing is less contagious than COVID is. But being sick for the past few days has SUCKED, even though I was somewhat functional the whole time. Maybe if this bug has done anything, it’s renewed my resolve to stay healthy.

Will I watch more Love Boat today? Maybe… I was watching the second part of the Greek two-parter when Bill got home. He worked late last night and stopped by the store to get me some OTC meds and food. I might watch the second part, just to finish. I could tell I was getting better, though, because as the day wore on, I was getting more tired of the lame storylines. I may need to view something with more substance today, if I choose to watch television at all. It’s amazing the boost one gets when that initial post-sickness energy surge hits.

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expressions, lessons learned, musings, YouTube

“You should never meet your heroes…” or should you?

A couple of days ago, when I was watching the movie, Camp, I was reminded of a famous saying. “You should never meet your heroes…” ostensibly because the reality of who they are will always be a disappointment. The character, Vlad, actually says those words when he runs into his hero, Bert Hanley (played by real life musician, Don Dixon), who is rip roaring drunk. Vlad idolized Bert Hanley for being a great musician and songwriter, but he didn’t know that Hanley was a cynical drunken asshole. And he was disappointed when he found Hanley, who was supposed to be directing the camp, completely bombed. Adding insult to injury, Hanley vomits on Vlad as he tries to help him up. Real class.

I ran into that quote myself a few weeks ago on the Cruise Critic messageboard. I was reading SeaDream Yacht Club’s board and joked that I really wanted to meet a regular poster named Jim Avery. And another regular poster wisely pointed out, “You should never meet your heroes.” He’s probably right. I’ve met a few people on SeaDream cruises who were posters on the messageboard. Some of them legitimately turned out to be people I wish I’d never met. I love SeaDream cruises, but I have to admit that it’s a line that attracts a fair number of entitled twits. In all fairness, though, some of the other passengers probably think I’m a twit, too. Especially when I’m in the piano bar. 😉

Some of the people on SeaDream probably think I’m not unlike this guy… I even have a similar physique.

I do love being on a SeaDream cruise, though. I haven’t been on one since 2013. I honestly thought we would eventually do another cruise with them, but Bill was going to be retiring in 2014, and I wasn’t sure what his employment prospects were going to be. Also, I knew that he would likely be starting a new job with limited vacation time. Then we ended up moving to Germany, and the rest is history. We have done three more Hebridean cruises, though, and Hebridean is as expensive as SeaDream is. I booked those cruises because of the themes and itineraries… and unfortunately, thanks to COVID, I’m not sure when we will be cruising again. So I will probably never meet the famous Jim Avery. I might be better off for that, since he might turn out to be a mean spirited jerk. Or maybe he won’t. Maybe I would think he’s funny and witty. I may never know.

Wonder if, when she has a quiet moment, Anna regrets being a “super fan”…

This topic comes up, in part, because Katie Joy on her YouTube channel, Without a Crystal Ball, did a video about how Anna Duggar was a “super fan” of the Duggar Family, back in the day. Katie Joy talks about how Anna admired the Duggars, having seen their public persona. She was dazzled by their images. I wonder if she now thinks the reality of being a Duggar is anywhere akin to what she imagined when she first saw Josh and his family. Especially now that it looks like Josh is going to be heading for prison soon. Maybe he’ll manage to get off, but I have a feeling he’s going to be wearing a striped uniform soon.

Then again, sometimes the opposite is true, and you should meet your antiheroes because they’re not nearly as bad as you think they are. You think someone is a real jerk, and it turns out they’re the opposite of being a jerk. Reality is often unlike what we think it is. I’ll give you a real life example.

For years, I thought Bill’s daughter was as hostile as her mother is. I was angry with her for a long time, mainly because she and her sister rejected Bill and refused to speak to him. It pissed me off that a man who is as kind and loving as Bill is, was being treated the way his daughters treated him. I was tired of people giving them a pass for that behavior.

But then Bill started talking to his daughter again, and he started to learn about what was behind that seemingly cruel behavior. And now I know I was wrong about Bill’s daughter, and fully admit that I was wrong. She’s turned out to be a very resilient and empathic person, much like her dad is. She is the very opposite of her mother. It had only seemed like she was a mean and judgmental person. The reality is, she’s not like her mother at all.

This week, Bill’s daughter wrote to Bill expressing her worry and dismay at seeing the crisis in Afghanistan. She wanted to know Bill’s thoughts on the situation. Bill explained to her that he never went to Afghanistan; he did his time in Iraq. But he has many friends and colleagues who served in Afghanistan, and they are devastated by the news. It’s heartbreaking to see that all of the time, money, effort, and lives spent on Afghanistan have seemingly gone to waste.

Bill’s daughter has decided to do what she can to help. She says she’s learned how to say “Hello” in Farsi, which is lovely, although Bill wrote back to tell her that most Afghans speak Pashto or Dari. She says that she knows that it means a lot for people to hear their language. Bill’s daughter is even putting together hygiene kits for refugees. She’s turned out to be a very good person, in spite of everything. She’s finding out that her dad and grandmother, both of whom were demonized for years by her mother, are actually excellent people who love her.

I often wonder what it’s like for Bill’s daughter now. She missed knowing Bill and his mom for most of her life. She was told many lies. Now she’s old enough to seek the truth, and she’s been brave enough to do it. I’m sure that as exhilarating as it is to know Bill again, there’s been a lot of pain. It’s not easy to find out that your mother lied to you, took advantage of you, and was completely abusive and horrible to so many other innocent people. Bill’s daughter has children of her own, and I know she wants to protect them from her mother. That’s got to be hard, especially when so many people have bought into the false story.

I have also gained more respect for Mormonism. I still don’t like the doctrine and I think it does a lot of damage to people who can’t fit into the mold. A lot of people have been harmed by people in the church. But Bill’s younger daughter managed to find good influences in the church, and some good hearted members helped her escape an abusive situation. Granted, she could have found help elsewhere, but in her case, it was the church that helped her. Going on a mission humbled her and broadened her horizons. She started to see perspectives that had been kept from her for so many years. In her case, the church actually helped her grow. It filled a need for her like the Army filled a need for Bill.

Now that I think about it, the Army has also damaged a lot of people… like those who fought or died in Afghanistan for what seems to be naught… But was it really all for naught? I read that some Afghan girls on a robotics team were rescued from Afghanistan. If not for the war in Afghanistan, would they have been rescued? Would they have ever had the chance to study robotics or be on teams that were successful in North America and Europe? What about the other girls who got the chance to go to school during our twenty years in Afghanistan? If not for the war, what would have happened to them?

What about the people who were born because of the war? There were romances between Afghans and Americans. Surely, there are people who exist now because we went to war, just as many people died because of the war. Those relationships help bridge understanding of the cultures. They add stories to the collective… and everyone does have a story. The war seems like it was a huge failure on many macro levels. But on micro levels, maybe it wasn’t. I’m reading about people in Afghanistan defying and protesting the Taliban, despite their fearsome reputation of being brutal in the face of defiance. Would they be doing this if not for the war? To be honest, I think Afghans are the only ones who can save their country from the Taliban. It can’t be up to any other country.

I think sometimes we get lost in what appears to be, rather than what is. It happens when we worship an image over what’s real. Or when we assume we know the truth about something when we really only have some of the information. The situation in Afghanistan looks very bad right now. I can’t deny that. But there are always other perspectives and other ways to look at things. Every new situation brings with it new opportunities. Hell… Bill’s daughter is using the situation in Afghanistan for inspiration. She’s learning a few words of a new language in hopes that maybe somehow, she can help someone. Maybe she will be an actual hero to someone, rather than a hero based on an image, reputation, or facade.

Maybe a lot of people view the United States as “heroic” on some level. And sometimes the USA is heroic. But more often, it’s comprised of fallible people who are living life as best they can. They look to their heroes for inspiration. Sometimes, that view is much better than reality is. And sometimes reality is better than we’d ever hoped or expected.

Well… I guess it’s time to wrap this up. Arran and Noyzi are breathing on me, hoping for a walk. The sun is finally out this week, so I guess I better take advantage before the weather turns shitty again. Have a happy Friday.

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lessons learned

“Now I can see why you’d love her…”

Today’s post is somewhat of a rerun in that I’ve written this story before. The last time I shared this tale was about four years ago. I had added it in conjunction to a video I’d seen about gay black men who said they had trouble dating outside of their race. But today, I’m just going to rewrite the story on its own, mainly because it has nothing to do with the dreaded “c-word” that is on the lips of everyone right now. You can decide for yourself whether or not you think it’s a happy or a sad anecdote.

Back in November 2011, I was 39 years old. Bill was 47. We had decided to take our second cruise on SeaDream I in honor of our ninth wedding anniversary. It had been an eagerly anticipated vacation. In those days, we had little time or money for traveling, especially SeaDream style. SeaDream cruises are considered by many to be in the luxury category. They’re mostly all inclusive, with a heavy emphasis on good service and food, an open bar, and exotic locations. SeaDream cruises are mostly marketed to couples. There are no programs for children and, although families can and do sail with SeaDream, it’s really more of a romantic cruise.

This particular cruise was in the South Caribbean. It started in Antigua and ended a week later in Barbados. Our first SeaDream cruise had been in April 2010, starting in San Juan, Puerto Rico and ending in Charlotte Amalie in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I was excited about our second SeaDream cruise, because the first one had really bowled us over in a big way. This was also only our second time in the Caribbean together, so I looked forward to exploring new places.

Antigua is incredibly gorgeous! But my skin paid a price.

Before we got on the ship, Bill and I spent a couple of days in Antigua. Antigua has stunningly beautiful beaches, which I loved. It also has incredibly strong sunshine, which my pale skin doesn’t love. We spent one day on Segways and another on an “extreme” circumnavigation tour around the island, after which some of us jumped off the boat and swam in the deep blue water of the Caribbean Sea. Despite using a lot of strong sunscreen, I got a terrible sunburn complete with blisters.

Prior to our cruise, I had been posting on Cruise Critic. A man wrote that he would be joining us on our cruise and wanted advice on what to pack. I answered him, and once we got on the boat, we met him. I’ll call him “Dick” (obviously not his real name). He was from England, and told us that his wife had just died of breast cancer, so he was taking this trip alone. I initially felt a bit sorry for him, especially given that besides a large family group led by an overbearing guy with a mustache that resembled a gigantic brown caterpillar, this cruise mostly consisted of couples.

Our anniversary cruise got off to a good start. We saw some familiar faces from the last time we sailed with SeaDream. The weather was great, and SeaDream’s two identical vessels seem custom made for the Caribbean. Bill and I befriended a couple of other British couples. There was also a group of friendly Norwegians whom I thought were great fun, although Dick didn’t like them at all. He repeatedly complained about them being loud and obnoxious. I liked the Norwegians, though. They were gregarious and nice, and not at all snobby, unlike the large group of Brazilians who were on our first SeaDream cruise. I remember one of the bartenders on SeaDream had complained about the Brazilians, because they stayed up all night, got very drunk, and basically took over the cruise with their antics.

Over the course of a few days talking to Dick, he told us a bit about himself. He was fairly good looking and obviously had a good job that paid enough that he could afford SeaDream. I remember Dick had very intense blue eyes and silver hair. Though he was a bit paunchy, he carried it well and probably didn’t have much trouble meeting women. He was also kind of witty, intelligent, and charming, if not somewhat cocky and rude.

As an example of his rudeness, Dick actually wondered out loud how it was that Bill and I could afford to be on SeaDream, since Bill was at that time still in the Army. He also called his wife a “cow” for “dying on him.” I heard him make other comments that indicated that he had certain standards when it came to his women. I didn’t take his comments seriously, because I am already married to a great guy and not looking to impress anyone else. Still, I was kind of shocked that Dick claimed to be mourning his dead wife, yet he repeatedly called her a cow because she’d had the gall to get very sick with cancer and die. In retrospect, that should have been a clue that we should have stayed away from him.

One thing I hadn’t done during our first SeaDream cruise was visit the piano bar. Instead, I participated in a horrible karaoke session led by a guitar player who wasn’t very enthusiastic about the job. I was pretty much the only person who sang. I ended up meeting some great people after that show, but I was grateful that they didn’t offer karaoke on our second cruise. It was legitimately terrible, with few songs to choose from; those that were offered were of poor quality. The experience was not made any better by the reluctant guitar player, who clearly would have preferred playing his instrument to spinning badly produced pre-recorded tracks for shy cruisers.

As I discovered on our second and third cruises, it was far better to go to the piano bar, where a friendly Filipino pianist named George would play music and sing. The bartender would bring out non-stop drinks and people would lose their inhibitions and join in on old pop songs. It was a lot of fun.

On the first night of the cruise, Bill and I went into the piano bar just after dinner. We were the only ones in there, mainly because no one else had yet discovered it. I was feeling a little shy, but decided to sing a song for my husband, who had generously paid for our anniversary trip from his meager Army officer’s salary. As I was singing to Bill, Dick happened to be passing. He walked into the bar, eyes widened in surprise and mouth agape. Then he looked at Bill and said,

“Now I can see why you’d love her.”

I must have looked shocked, hurt, and upset, because Dick then grabbed me in an awkward, sweaty, and somewhat unwelcome hug and said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” The hug made the situation worse because Dick had gone from a backhanded compliment to pity. He had been drinking, so his inhibitions were lowered. It was a bit embarrassing, but at least we were the only ones who witnessed it besides George, the pianist.

It turned out that Dick was himself not a bad singer. He joined us, and pretty soon, other people came in and sang along, including the rowdy group of Norwegians. The Norwegians took a liking to me and chatted up Bill as they took pictures and videos of me singing. Unbeknownst to me, the Norwegians took pictures of me with my camera. I was kind of mortified by my appearance. I looked pretty terrible. My skin was red and blistered from the sunburn. I was wearing a casual dress that was lightweight, but not particularly stylish. I’m also fat, especially by SeaDream trophy wife standards, and I don’t photograph well under the best of circumstances. The damp Caribbean weather had made my hair a frizzy mess that defied styling. But we still had a really good time, despite Dick’s rude comment that let me know how he really felt about me.

At an earlier time, I might have been horrified by Dick’s comment and the unflattering pictures taken by the Norwegians with my camera without my permission. But then I took a good look at Bill’s face in those photos…

Despite looking like a middle-aged frump, I ended up becoming somewhat of a “star” during that cruise, which was kind of a thrill! We enjoyed a few fun evenings in the piano bar, although I made a point of not going in there every night. Later on during that cruise, Dick got pissed off at the Norwegians and actually challenged one of them to “step outside”, which no doubt would have resulted in someone being kicked off the cruise. This was after he and another passenger, spotting a bar that was unattended, snuck behind it and helped themselves to bourbon. Granted, the booze was mostly covered by the fare anyway, but helping oneself is a no no.

At the time all of this was happening, I kind of excused Dick for his dickish behavior. I figured he was distraught and grieving, and maybe it was hard for him to be on a ship full of couples and a couple of rowdy groups. Now, after thinking about it, I just think he was a narcissistic prick, and I wish I had just told him to fuck off. It later occurred to me that I may not be the type of woman this man “fancies”, but that doesn’t really matter.  In my eyes, Bill is a much better “catch” all the way around than that drunken asshole is.  I’m not sure why he felt his opinions about my looks were really important, anyway. He’s not married to me, and thank GOD for that. Besides, there’s no reason for anyone to pity me. I live an enviable life with a man who honestly loves me for who I am, and not just for what I look like and how I can make him look standing by his side.

On a different cruise with nicer people and no sunburn… Although unfortunately, hours later, I was flattened by a stomach bug, which probably made me look as bad as I did with the blistering sunburn.

Unfortunately, the world is rife with self-absorbed jerks who think nothing of subjecting innocent people to their boorish behavior.  Too many people care what assholes think about them and they allow these shallow fucks the power to alter their moods.  I admit it.  It offends me when people say stupid, hurtful things to me.  As I age, I’m trying to get better at not caring.  

If you aren’t comfortable with yourself, you can send out signals that others shouldn’t be comfortable with you, either.  I really think that’s the root of the issue.  If you don’t love and accept yourself as you are, it’s hard to expect others to love and accept you.  But still, I get why it’s hurtful and depressing to have no control over some aspect of your appearance and have other people make unkind remarks that insinuate that you should care about what they think.  Many of us are conditioned from birth to care what others think of us, which makes thoughtless and rude comments about appearance brutal to hear.

Years later, he still loves me. This year, we will celebrate our 18th anniversary.

It can take time before you can see a person’s inner beauty. Someone whose looks are average or below average may have attractive qualities that don’t immediately meet the eye.  How will you know if the sunburned heavyset lady with the weird hair has a pretty singing voice and a wicked sense of humor if you never deign to speak to her? Incidentally, I’m still not a raving beauty, but there have been times since that trip that I’ve looked a lot prettier than I did on the night Dick insulted me. Not being sunburned, letting my hair go natural, and not being in a humid place really helps. See?

That’s for you, Dick…

There’s a lot more to people than their appearances. Sure, a pretty face and perfect body are attractive, but what if that good looking person is a mean-spirited creep or a self-absorbed bore? Maybe it’s lucky that I met Bill online and he got to *see* my personality before he saw what I look like.  On the other hand, on my ugliest day, I’m still way more beautiful to him than his ex wife was.  And my beauty compared to hers has nothing at all to do with physical looks, but rather with how I treat other people, Bill in particular. We get along beautifully because we like each other, laugh at the same jokes, cooperate in each other’s successes and support each other in our failures. What’s most important is that we truly love each other– the whole package– even when we’re fat, unstylish, sunburned, and have weird, frizzy hair that defies taming. Or, in Bill’s case right now, hair that has been cut three times by his wife, who isn’t a skilled barber…

These Norwegian guys were a lot of fun, though… And I’m glad they were sensible enough not to get into a brawl with “Dick”…

Anyway, I don’t know what happened to Dick. I hope he found himself the woman he truly deserves…

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