It’s become a commonplace observation that women often get called a ‘bitch’ for doing exactly the same things that earn men a reputation for strong leadership. It’s a good observation. Whatever the mental twists and turns that explain this tendency, there is something about gender that seems to skew perception of assertive behavior, making roughly the same conduct objectionable in women and laudable in men.
The problem is ubiquitous. If you think you are an exception, then you probably aren’t. It isn’t necessarily a function of conscious bigotry and political commitments to support feminism don’t in and of themselves resolve the matter. I expect many well-woke folks have caught themselves grumbling at that bitch over there even as they admired this man over here for behaving in roughly comparable ways. (I expect many more never caught themselves doing this at all.) It’s a latent bias hard-wired into the social patterns of our daily lives and reinforced by countless layers of stereotyping and gender-based norms, many of which don’t come with obvious red flags telling us, “this way lies misogyny!” You have to think your way out of this kind of bias.
And then you probably have to do it again.
…and (you get the idea.)
One thing that does bother me about the observation in question though, is that it’s practical significance is usually taken as obvious. When this observation is made, it is usually made in the service of getting us to reconsider harsh evaluations directed at assertive women.
“Okay, fair enough,” I usually find myself thinking. But I think there is at least one other implication here that doesn’t get near enough attention. If perhaps a lot of us should rethink our condemnation of misbehaving women, I think it’s at least as important to consider that maybe a lot of us are far too easily impressed by obnoxious behavior from men. Perhaps, we need to get a lot better at telling the difference between a man showing great leadership potential and one who is simply acting like an asshole.
Moni: honey if a man shot at me and I died, would you avenge me.
Me: mmmm …maybe.
Moni: you wouldn’t avenge me?
Me: I’d step in front of the bullet.
Moni: But suppose you don’t get there in time, would you avenge me?
Me: What did you do to this guy anyway?
My father served in three wars. He didn’t see action until Korea and Vietnam, but like so many young men from his generation, on graduating from high school, Dad signed up for service in World War II. He spent the balance of that war as as an airplane mechanic working on Corsairs.
Dad had plenty of war stories to share at the dinner table. He had more stories from boot camp, then anything else, which is saying something, because his actual war stories were pretty amazing. Of course, Dad spared us the worst of it. Being the youngest, I was probably spared more detail than my siblings (though I did know what every one of the weapons in my green soldier pack could do by the age of five).
Sometimes, Dad would just tell jokes. Jokes he and his buddies had swapped over the years. I remember one of them. It seems so corny now, but I used to laugh and laugh. It was definitely my favorite. I’m sure, a lot will be lost in translation here, but I’ll try to convey it as best I can.
A young recruit shows up to boot camp late. He goes to get his gun and the man in charge tells him, he’s too late. They are all out. Not knowing what else to do, the man breaks off the end of a broom stick and says; “See here kid, whenever they tell you to shoot, you just point this stick at the target and yell “Bangity-bang-bang!”
Kid says ‘okay’, but what about a bayonet?
Guy takes one straw from the end and ties it to the end of the stick and says; “Okay, so whenever they tell you to stab something, you just point the stick like so and yell “stabbity-stab-stab!”
So the kid goes all the way through boot camp that way. He thinks he might have the idea, but he’s really hoping he’ll get the real thing soon.
Only he doesn’t. The kid’s unit gets rushed out for the invasion, and he gets all the way to Normandy and he’s still got his broom-stick in place of a gun. The kid tries to tell somebody, but they just push him into the landing craft. He actually storms the beach with a broomstick in his hand.
And then he sees a German (Dad, might have used a different word), and he doesn’t know what to do. the German is shooting at him. So, in desperation, the kid points the stick and says; “bangity-bang-bang!”
And the German dies.
Kid can’t believe it! But he’s surrounded by Germans, so he tries it again; “bangity-bang-bang!”
The next one goes right down.
So, the kid just keeps doing it; “bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang!”
…and the German soldiers go down every time.
He storms a German machine gun nest and kills a bunch of them saying “bangity-bang-bang!” Then one charges at him. He doesn’t know what else to do so he points the end of the broom-stick at him and yells; “stabbity-stab-stab!” The guy falls right down.
So the kid just keeps going, all through D-Day; “bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang!”
And the Germans just keep right on falling down.
Except this one big guy.
That one German just keeps coming.
The kid points his stick and shouts; “bangity-bang-bang!”
The German keeps coming.
The kid points the stick at him up close and yells; “stabbity-stab-stab!”
And the German just walks right over him.
And as he does, the kid hears “tankity-tank-tank!”
I can’t really remember when I created my first profile on a dating website. It’s been a very long time since I was active on any them. What I do remember was how conflicted I was about doing it, and how that made every step of the sign-up process really irritating. When my chosen username kept coming up as already used, and adding digits didn’t seem to help, the result was a username that reflected my irritation. (No, I’m not posting it here.) I told myself I would change the name later, but I forgot. Soon, the first question I received from any women I contacted was about the name. For a time, I entertained the notion of changing it, but I soon realized something. The women I actually connected with found the name humorous. Those who didn’t like the name weren’t going to stick around long anyway. So, if my sarcastic username was a deal-breaker, it was probably just as well that the deal was broken anyway. It was a useful lesson, one that served me well, I think.
Another lesson, I don’t think I really got at the time was just why I found the whole thing so irritating to begin with. Oh, there can be lots of reasons to be nervous about dating sites (or dating in any context), but at least one of them would be this, it’s hard to tell people about yourself. Really hard! Of course, doing so for the purpose of making a personal connection ups the stress level considerably. So, in retrospect I really think a good deal of my discomfort was probably normal. Internet dating begins with a whole bunch of writing, writing about yourself, and that is bound to make people uncomfortable.
It’s been a long time since I’ve scanned the pages of any dating sites, and even longer since I did so for reasons other than idle (possibly morbid) curiosity, but a few of those thoughts that formed in those odd days of trying to find a match are still with me. I could tell a few horror stories. Hell, I’m probably featured in a few horror stories myself! More to the point, I keep reflecting on all those profiles from back in the day. They were an education of sorts. I may or may not have gotten the lesson right, but whatever it’s worth, I thought I’d share a few observations on those profiles.
Note: Just about all of my observations would relate to the early 2000s, which is when I was on these sites. If things on the net-dating scene are now different, well then get off my lawn anyhow! (Age happens.) Hell, I don’t even know if people are still doing this. I think so. Anyway…
First and foremost, it’s hard to escape the notion that most dating profiles aren’t all that accurate. Most seem to see this as a reflection of dishonesty, and I can certainly think of a few women who may have deliberately misrepresented a thing or two on their profiles. Mostly , I think the problem is a bit deeper than that. The vast majority of us (both men and women) aren’t all that sure how to describe ourselves. We may have a notion or two in mind, but these rarely stand up to scrutiny. If someone describes themselves as ‘outgoing’, they probably have a vision of a certain kind of context in which they really will be outgoing. What they don’t think about is the many contexts which will find them sitting in the corner quietly. That’s not even all that much of a problem for most people, not until they meet someone who thinks they are outgoing because they specifically said they were on a profile designed to help you figure out whether or not you want to meet them in the first place. Thus, ordinary human frailty comes to look like outright deception. Now multiply this by countless other descriptive themes and you have plenty of cause for suspicion, frustration, and general noncallbackalation.
The pattern that always stood out for me was pretty simple; time and again, I found that women had not described themselves in their profiles so much as an idealized version of the person they wanted to be. I really don’t know if men do that same thing on these sites (or if we have some completely different and possibly more irritating quirk), but I certainly saw this self-idealization in a good number of the women I met. In particular, I remember someone who had one of the most positive profiles I’d ever read. I’m not normally a sucker for warm and fuzzy sentiments, but I couldn’t help smiling when I read this woman’s profile, and it wasn’t just the ten-year old photo. She really seemed to capture a sense of what it meant to wake-up with hope and carry that hope with her all day. A few weeks after we began making phone calls, I found myself thinking this person complains more than anyone I know. Hell, she complained more than I do! (…and that IS saying something.) She wasn’t the sunny positive person in her own profile. If anything, she was chronically depressed, and probably had been all of her life. None of the positive themes in her profile made it into any of her communications with me. So, had she lied? I don’t think so. I think that bright and happy source of positive energy she put in her profile was what she truly wanted to be. That she wasn’t that happy person was sad, and I found the difference rather jarring, but I could never really hold it against her. Like so many others, she had imagined herself in terms of aspiration.
The gap between our own character and that we hope to have can be a problem, but how much of a problem it is varies. Some people have a constructive relationship with their ideals. It shapes their actions in meaningful ways, and they seem at least to move toward those ideas over the course of their lives. Others have long since relegated their idealized self to a kind of fantasy life. They don’t even hope to achieve that version of themselves, and they cannot even begin to think about what it would take to become a little more of what they would like to be. Here, I’m thinking of a woman who billed herself as a writer in her profile. She was working on her life story. When she shared the first page of that story, it contained more grammatical errors than I could count, to say nothing of poor stylistic choices, vague word choice, and a generally incoherent narrative line. Hell, I make plenty of mistakes in my own writing. So, I try not to cast too many stones, but this was just way too much. Her response to polite suggestions told me everything I needed to know about her project. She couldn’t even begin to grasp questions about how to tell her story. Spelling and grammar were beneath consideration, and she didn’t get any questions about stylistic choices. In her mind, that story was so compelling that she didn’t need to worry about the craft of telling it. Anyone who might bother her with such things clearly didn’t get it.
…and I didn’t.
…really, I didn’t!
Yes, the world is full of wanna-be writers (guilty as charged), but this one wasn’t even on the case, so to speak. Her idealized self wasn’t even an ambition. It was an indulgence. Like the depressive woman with a sunny profile, I could hardly blame this lady, though I did think for awhile about what it said about her approach to life. Being a writer for her was about getting away from the daily struggles of life, a chance to imagine herself as someone else for awhile, someone with more to show for all her struggles than she had at that time. To actually take seriously the task of writing her life story would make that too into a struggle. As much as she needed to be writing a book, she needed that writing to be free of hard labor. And thus, the appearance of a lifelong ambition within her profile turned out to be a lot closer to naming her favorite television show. Sometimes profiles are like that; information just shows up in the wrong places under the wrong labels.
One thing that came to jump out at me more and more over time was the number of pointless descriptions that never seemed worth reading. So many lay claim to being open minded, down to earth, and intelligent in these profiles. Almost everyone tells you they have a good sense of humor, even a great one. It gets frustrating to read such things, especially when the rest of the profile contains absolutely no hint of any of these qualities. When you see counter-indications, the whole thing just gets sad.
Somewhere along the line, I recall going through my own profile and taking out any direct descriptions of my own character. I don’t think I included many of these claims to begin with, but I do remember making a conscious effort to get rid of any that I might have been boring enough to write in the first place. I figured the old writing idiom that you should show people instead of telling them also made a good rule of thumb for dating profiles. If you want someone to know you have a good sense of humor crack a joke. To show that you can appreciate humor, explain what you like about your favorite comedy. Want someone to think you’re intelligent. Tell them what you think about something important to you. As to down to earth and open minded? …I got no suggestion for these cliches, other than simply dropping them. The point, is that people will decide for themselves whether or not you are smart, good looking, humorous, or anything else. It just doesn’t work to tell them these things. So, just like you put your best picture in a profile in the hopes someone will find you attractive enough to want to chat, I reckon you do the same for character. You put things in the profile to display the character you hope you really do have. Whether or not that works will be a judgement your prospects make for themselves.
…which of course brings us back to the first problem, knowing yourself. It really is the tricky part to these profiles. I don’t say this in order to set up internet dating as a voyage of self-discovery. (Blech!) Really, I think the lesson here is a lot closer to a kind of humility. Most (probably all) of us don’t really know ourselves all that well. This is another reason to be a little restrained about your own self-descriptions. It’s also a reason to be a little compassionate when you discover the difference between the profile and the person you are actually meeting. That difference is going to be there. So, I figure we should try to be a bit generous whenever we notice it in a dating profile.
…or anywhere else for that matter.
It should go without saying that none of my comments here should be taken in the spirit of authority. Like many I found internet dating to be a rather frustrating experience (which, I suppose, makes it an awful lot like ‘regular’ dating’). I met a few women this way whose presence in my life was a genuinely positive experience, but the majority of contacts were disappointing to at least one of us. So, these aren’t the pro-tips of a champion internet dater, not by any means. They are just the observations of a rather awkward fellow who happened to do this for awhile.
A couple random observations:
- When speaking to women about their profile pics, I found an awful lot of them favored one of their least attractive pictures. If there was a pic that I particularly liked, it was often one she was thinking about deleting. There is probably an interesting lesson in there about self-perception and physical beauty, but I wouldn’t be too quick to suggest it applies to women only. In my case, the pic I liked the best (or hated the least) was the one that almost cost me a few replies. Some pic I hardly thought twice about was usually the one they liked. Guess maybe it’s hard to tell what others really find attractive about yourself.
- It’s easy enough to see that people may not want to meet too quickly. Lots of reasons to take it easy! In time, I realized that meeting up too late could be an issue as well. Actually, the process of meeting seemed to involve a few stages; a transition to email, another transition to phone conversations, and finally a meeting (with perhaps a second one and so on). I think the transition to phone and then to actually meeting can come too late in the dialogue. The issue here is imagination. You just can’t read too many messages without imagining all the rest. You fill in your sense of the other person with a voice, a sense of body language, intonation patterns, etc. In the context of dating, this too gets filled with hope. You imagine their voice a certain way, their gestures, the way they look at you when they speak, and countless other things. So, if you’re not careful, the person you meet won’t be able to compete with the one you’ve imagined while messaging back and forth. …and of course, visa versa.
- Kids are fine, but they don’t belong on the first date. …and you will probably regret making an exception. (At least I did.)
- People often make multiple contacts on dating sites, partly because most contacts come to nothing. If someone stops responding, there is a good chance that they have begun seeing someone in real life. That may sting, but it probably shouldn’t. More to the point, the transition to actual dating is full of hazards. So, if you wait a week or two, there is a good chance that things will have already gone south and she may be free again. She may even be wondering how to re-initiate. Whether or not that is a prospect worth following depends on a lot of variables, but sometimes it’s worth considering.
- Lots of people put way too much stock in personality tests.
- Shirt off and/or posing with guns or weights may work on some women, but the ones I met sure did spend a lot of time griping (and laughing) about men with that in their profile.
- I figured it was always best to meet in public for an event planned to take an hour (lunch, dinner, or drinks work just fine). Optimism regarding a first meeting should take the form of leaving time open afterwards, NOT committing yourself to spend hours together at some event from which neither of you can easily escape.
- I once said to one date; “I can be nice to anyone for an hour.” The next woman I met put that claim to an awful test. …speaking of self-awareness!
- I met a couple women who circumvented many of the problems mentioned above by letting someone else write their profiles for them. This might have injected a little more objectivity into the narratives, but in the long run, I don’t think it was helpful, because their descriptions didn’t carry their own voice. I just had to get that much further into an exchange with them before I gained a sense of their approach to things. …which may be an important lesson in itself. People don’t really learn about each other by collecting a set of facts about them; they do it by interacting, by seeing and hearing the other person in action. What you communicate about yourself, or what others may say about you, will never be quite as important as how you say it, and that only works if you yourself are willing to be the one saying it.
I don’t like the shape of Illinois. I don’t know why, and I don’t mean anything against Illinoisians, but there is just something about the shape of that state that just seems wrong to me. Chicago lake is kinda cool, but that’s just the upper corner. Anyway, I don’t like the shape of Illinois. I just don’t.
I don’t dislike the shape of Illinois nearly as much as the shape of Wisconsin though. In fact, I feel kinda guilty about Wisconsin. Looking at that state makes me feel kind of like a bully. It’s strange, because I don’t think I’ve ever really been mean to Wisconsin. Still, I do feel I owe the state an apology. Something about the shape of it makes me feel that way. I don’t know why.
Texas? Now Texas has an interesting shape. You can find all sorts of stories in it’s shape. Those stories may feature men in cowboy hats, but I swear you can see them in the lines that define its perimeter. You can try and tell me I’m wrong, but pardner, you should probably smile when you do.
Nevada seems like one day it oughtta just slide right on through.
If you threw California just right, would it curve around and come back to you?
Alaska is a fist with the pinky extended. I live on the knuckle of the thumb.
I can’t help but think you could pick Virginia up and use it like a club or a baseball bat.
Both Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas, the whole lot of them need butter and syrup. A side of bacon would be nice, but at I don’t see it on the table.
Louisiana is a mug, but I only drink from it on Christmas.
Idaho has diminishing expectations. Either that, or it belongs on a lab beside a fat beaker and a consistently skinny test tube. It’s the odd one that you only use for certain special experiments (probably involving potatoes).
Colorado really ain’t all that hip, but if you lay the state out flat, parts of it do get high.
Utah has a nice place for your thumb and a good broad surface to mix all your pigments.
Washington and Oregon both look like airports to me.
West Virginia doesn’t look all that west to me. Not even close.
You could pick the whole country up by Florida, but if that’s what you’re going to do, I really think you should crook your pinky. Also, sip slowly. Don’t gulp.
I swear Oklahoma has been playing a prank on Texas forever. It’s not really that funny Oklahoma. Seriously, just give it a rest!
I’m pretty sure that Tennessee is a shard of flint. I think I read about it in a story about Thor and some Giant.
New Jersey is all over Pennsylvania. No means No, new Jersey. Not cool!
Massachusetts? No. MassachYOUsettes!
Maine is how that rain in Spain stays in the plain.
Connecticut the end off and that’s how the Island Rhode off.
I did not Michigan. I didn’t even Mish the first time!
New York is always bigger than I expect it to be. I try to remember that it’s bigger than I think, but then I still end up realizing it’s bigger than that even.
I can never find Missouri on a map. Someone always has to show me.
Maryland doesn’t exist. It’s just a conspiracy.
You say Ohio; I say goodbyo.
(I realize this is an incomplete list, but others could probably riff ff the other states better than I can, and besides, this really isn’t the most serious of posts. Except for throwing California. I feel quite certain, it would come back. Yes, it would.)
What makes a Christmas story?
Is it the threat? There always seems to be some threat to Christmas. Someone won’t make it home. Somebody else stole the presents, or maybe someone is going to stop Santa from spreading the presents. Perhaps someone is broke and thinking of taking the short route off a bridge just before the happy holiday. Whether it be a fantasy grinch, a real worldish villain, or simply a natural disaster of some kind, I’d be hard pressed to think of a Christmas story that didn’t feature some threat to Christmas.
Or is it the lesson? Christmas tales always have a lesson. Someone must learn something about the true meaning of Christmas. That true meaning always involves something about giving and/or grasping the value of our loved ones. Not uncommonly, someone in the story learns to shift their attention from material objects (i.e. Christmas gifts) to the other people in their lives (or perhaps the other whos in whoville). It’s a pretty heart-warming lesson.
Makes you want to go ‘awe’!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m as likely to go ‘awe’ as anyone if the story is told well, but there is always something a little too pat about these stories. They can be damned formulaic, and damned trite. And when you consider their connection to one of the most overtly commercial rituals of the modern western calendar, it ought to raise all manner of red flags. Somehow, this holiday, which has been driven by commercial interests for the better part of at least a century keeps generating stories about how the stuff we are supposed to buy on account of it isn’t really what the holiday is all about.
Can you say ‘cognitive dissonance’?
I knew that you could.
(Of course I say it myself having just snuck a few presents under a tree.)
So, anyway, hoisting myself on my own petard here, I still can’t help thinking this particular profundity game is a bit more toxic than most of us care to admit. If it weren’t, then perhaps we could all enjoy a story where the main character suddenly realizes the true value of Christmas really is commerce. He could praise the virtues of conspicuous consumption and even acknowledge the often-competitive nature of gift-giving. He could see in the countless gifts nobody wants a kind of sacrifice to the invisible hand, telling us these white elephants are the price of keeping mom&pop stores going for another year. If the Market is well pleased with our pointless gifts, he allows the stores to stay in business, but if we fail to pay this tribute many tears will follow. Our fabulous Christmas protagonist could fairly acknowledge all of this in a toast before drinking his eggnog. Money is the reason for this damned season. Surely, there ought to be room for at least Christmas story with this as its moral.
But no. That kind of theme is always at best an artifact of conflict, a viewpoint to be overcome by the end of the story. However important money may be to this holiday, it seems to be equally important that we find something else more important in the whole thing after all.
And with that, we get our Christmas tragedies. Scrooge loses his edge. The Grinch rejoins civilization. And how many sitcoms end their holiday episode in bad sweaters and milquetoast grins. It’s enough to make a grown man want to groan.
So be it!
Even so, the money story may be a bit more profound than simple materialism would have it. In the end what makes money so central to Christmas isn’t the gifts we hope to get. It isn’t even the ones we hope to give. It’s the lives that continue to function because a good chunk of the yearly profits actually did happen after all. So, business owners get paid, and because they get paid, so do their employees, and so on, and so on. We can sneer at the crass commercialism of it all, but if Christmas doesn’t happen, some people really do suffer (and not because they didn’t get what they wanted under the tree.) Money may be a lot more central to this ritual than our typical Christmas story would have it, but then again money is itself a lot more profound than most of us would care to admit. So, perhaps it’s not so bad to see through that crass commercialism of Christmas to something a bit more humane. It’s almost as if all this smarminess is an attempt to work out the actual significance of what we all do to put food on the table.
Of course that just lands us in a new mess. The celebration of love and togetherness that we are left with in just about every Christmas story is of course idealized in the extreme. So, the love celebrated in all these Christmas stories always comes across a bit too pure, at least in the final joyous scenes. But how often does this have anything to do with Christmas as we live it? If for no other reason than the threat of politics at the dinner table, we should all be a little wary of the promise these stories hold out. And if the celebration of togetherness and caring ever jumps out of these stories and into our real lives it often brings a bit of a mess with it.
If Hell is other people – and it is – then Christmas (with its themes of love and togetherness) can’t help but bring a little horror into our lives. Perhaps this is one of the reasons Christmas is so rich. It’s full of contradictions, and those give rise to countless real-life Christmas stories every year. Sometimes they end well and sometimes they end badly. Mostly, our Christmas lives are as mixed as our Christmas narratives aren’t.
Ah well, horror too has its place in the grand scheme of things.
How else to explain fruit cake!
I recall as a child, my mother always planned week’s worth of work. She would bake every cookie imaginable. She would buy enormous quantities of gifts which she would wrap in all manner of beautiful ways. We would decorate the whole house in the most elaborate way. We would sing carols. And so on.
…She usually ended up scrambling to do as much as she could in the last day or three. It was never enough, especially not for her, and that meant Christmas Eve was an especially difficult evening. She was angry and depressed, and for me that meant at least a little phase where I would have wished the whole thing away. That moment always vanished by morning, but it was there.
Mom had one brother. He died on Christmas Eve while building the Burma Road during World War II. He had joined the military after getting kicked out of the house over drinking a single beer, so his death left a special kind of rift in her life, and presumably that of her parents. I can’t imagine how hard that holiday must have been to her. As a kid I really couldn’t.
For my mother at least, Christmas would always be a source of mixed feelings.
I once got to play Scrooge in my Jr. High Christmas Production. I rather liked that Christmas. Seriously though, the opening scenes were way more fun than the closing ones.
In recent years, talk of a war on Christmas has me both amused and irritated. If there is anyone out there who genuinely objects to being told ‘Merry Christmas’, he or she is fairly outnumbered by those clearly upset by the phrase ‘Happy Holidays’.
Much like a horse, I reckon one shouldn’t look a well-wisher in the mouth. Those who keep congratulating themselves on saying ‘Merry Christmas’ instead of ‘Happy Holidays’ do little but show the insincerity of either wish coming from their own mouths.
When thinking about this one, I am often reminded of the year I spent teaching at an orthodox Jewish private school. The folks at that school said ‘Happy Holidays’, and yes, that was a generous choice of wording on their part.
You never really know when you are the one to be tolerated.
I still remember the year my older sister made up a decoration that said “Pax et bonum” (Peace and Salvation) This was to go at the top of our tree instead of our star. We had a really great star that projected all these cool colors all around the room. I really loved that star.
I was a bit of a shit about the whole thing.
More than a bit actually.
One of my favorite Christmases ever was the one we celebrated on Easter Sunday. My nephew was serving in Iraq that year, and no-one in the family was the least bit interested in celebrating the holidays until he came home. So, we literally gathered around a Christmas tree and unwrapped presents on Easter Sunday.
I’m even a bit more fond of the Christmas we all agreed to forgo presents entirely and went as a group to Molokai instead. I wish every Christmas could be like that. Oh there was plenty of drama that Christmas, but it was drama that played out in Molokai.
Molokai makes everything better.
When I worked at an animal shelter, I recall that we tried to discourage people from getting pets as Christmas presents, at least not without giving the recipient a chance to choose the pet. Too often, pets given sight-unseen on Christmas day ended up back at the shelter not long afterward.
No-one is surprised when a blind date goes badly. Think about that next time you hand someone a puppy and expect them to bond for life.
Speaking of my time at an animal shelter, I once had to dress up as Santa Clause at a Petsmart. The idea here was to pose with people’s pets for pictures. This is a pretty regular thing as I recall, but I always thought it a very bad idea. These animals are already in a strange environment. Now you want them to sit on the lap of a guy with a fake beard and fake hair, gloves, and a wild outfit?
Damned lucky I didn’t come away with scars!
Speaking of the war on Christmas, people sometimes wonder what atheists say instead of Merry Christmas? This one mostly says ‘Merry Christmas’. Some folks think it odd to say ‘Merry Christmas’ when you don’t literally believe in Christ. They oughtta love Thursdays.
My girlfriend tells me there is a benefit to dating a gringo. Her (Mexican) family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve. We typically celebrate Christmas on Christmas Day. This makes it possible to be with both her family and that of her boyfriend when the actual celebrations take place. This doesn’t work so well when her family is in Los Angeles and mine is in Freeport, Texas.
She is an extraordinarily patient woman.
Her boyfriend can be a bit of a shit though.
More than a bit, actually.
Ah well. That’s enough random Christmas stories. Someone recently asked me about my favorite Christmas songs, so I’ve attached a few videos. All that said…
Merry Christmas everyone!
So, I just turned my boots over, banged them together and held them out a moment. You didn’t fall out. In fact, you were nowhere to be seen, and neither were any of your relatives. I haven’t seen a bug in months, but I still want to thank you for staying out of my boots. That was kind of you. I mean, it would have been quite an effort for you to appear in my footwear today, so I suppose you must not have been too put out by this whole thing, but still I want to thank you. I like my boots way better when you stay out of them.
This was also true when I lived in Arizona, and when I lived in Nevada, and when I lived in Southern California. When I lived in Chicago, you didn’t seem a likely guest, but checking for you was also a way to check on the roaches. So, it was just as well that you weren’t there either. I checked every time I put on my shoes.
I first started thinking about you when I was little. Mom told me that she found you in my shoe. Or maybe it was one of your relatives, a great uncle perhaps? She wasn’t entirely sure, because you might have been a vinegaroon. That’s what she said anyway. I always wondered about the name of that bug. Do you know him? Well anyway, it was either you or him that Mom found in my shoe. …or a distant ancestor to one of you I suppose. She seemed quite excited about the whole thing. This may seem judgemental, but she really didn’t think any of your belonged in my show, and she was particularly concerned that you in particular should stay out of there. So, she wanted me to check and see if you had dropped by whenever I put stuff on my feet.
Actually, I’m not sure I would have been happier to meet a vinegaroon in my shoe either. No offense intended, but I just don’t think any of you guys need to be making a home in my footwear. On that score, Mom and I have always agreed. That’s why she urged me always to check and evict you if necessary. I have to admit I wasn’t always diligent about this protocol, but an unhappy encounter with a beetle was enough to get me on board with Mom’s plans. Don’t worry, the beetle is fine, or at least she was when she crawled off and away from me as I tried to calm down all the hair then standing on the back of my head. I mean, Mom had been talking about you so much at the time, so when I met the beetle, for just a moment I really thought you had dropped in to pay me a visit after all. I’ve since been looking for you pretty much everywhere I go, or at least when I put stuff on my feet.
Honestly, I’m not sure I can remember having ever found you in my footwear, so I suppose I should be thankful that you have respected my wishes and those of my mother all these years. Looking for you has become quite a ritual. I bang my shoes together before putting them on my feet in the hopes of finding you no matter where I am, or even if I already know you aren’t there. I simply cannot do otherwise.
I don’t wish to appear ungrateful. It’s just that I’ve been living at the top of Alaska for six years now and it’s twenty below outside, and I still found myself checking to see if you had dropped in. Despite never having really met, you do seem to have left quite an impression on me. I think about you a lot, really I do. I can’t even seem to put a shoe on without looking for you.
Hugs and kisses,
I still remember with horror the time a young teenager announced that he couldn’t eat spaghetti with my mom’s homemade pasta sauce. Oh I could allow for differences in taste, but his stated reason threw me. It wasn’t Ragù (and by ragu, I do not mean simply a ragù, but rather Ragù, as in the label). It seems that Ragù is what his mom always served, and he just couldn’t enjoy eating anything else. So, this kid was rejecting a home-made meal for a can of pre-made pasta sauce, and at the time that was something I just couldn’t wrap my mind around.
There but for a crock-pot go I, or at least that’s what I told myself, feeling a bit sorry for this poor gyu who had grown so used to pasta made on the fly that he couldn’t even enjoy the real thing, or at least the Wall family variation thereof. Mom didn’t make everything from scratch (or near-scratch, as the case may be), but when it came to pasta, she put in the effort. On that day I was REALLY thankful, because I really didn’t want to go through life with Ragù as my idea of pasta sauce. Even still, I had to admit to myself, I wasn’t entire without similar quirks.
Betty Crocker brownies would be exhibit A here. To this day I do not think I have ever enjoyed a brownie that was not a Betty Crocker brownie. Oh I’ve eaten them, dammit anyhow. I have forced other brownies down my throat and sometimes even managed not to cringe or gag while doing so. I can hardly imagine why these other things share the same name as the brownie you can make with Betty Crocker and a couple of eggs. If I had the chance to choose between any other brownie in the known universe, but without Betty Crocker as an option, well I would rather go without dessert entirely. The only brownies I have ever loved are Betty Crocker brownies.
I have no delusions about this. Betty Crocker brownies aren’t culinary genius. They aren’t God’s gift to tongues everywhere. But to me they are most certainly the paradigm case of what a brownie should be. Show me a better brownie and I will only taste one that’s worse.
Which makes me kinda hopeless, I know.
It’s an odd thing when some manufactured food stuff becomes the standard by which home-made meals are judged complete failures, but it happens. And when it happens, it’s kind of hard to explain to people. It’s one thing to insist on high standards, but when your standard is a package label, you can feel awfully silly telling someone who worked damned hard to cook something from scratch that the result just isn’t good enough for your finicky self. Sill, taste in food is certainly one of the habits we acquire from the world around us. So, it shouldn’t be too surprising to see capitalism leave its mark on our taste buds. And yet, I think the weirdness remains. We aren’t really supposed to prefer some of these things by common reckoning. We’re supposed to eat them, because we can, because it’s easier. Most times, folks assume you’d go for the real thing if it was available.
Sometimes that just ain’t so.
Also my idea of a strawberry shortcake begins with Pillsbury biscuits squashed flat. It’s otherwise normal, but don’t even try to put the strawberries and whipped cream on a spongy cake, homemade or otherwise, because I’d rather just eat the strawberries. When it comes to strawberry shortcake, Mom used biscuits. So, that’s what I want.
Damned silly of me!
I am curious though? Is this just me and that kid? Or does anyone else out there have similarly ironic preferences?