Men of Tinder

Tinder, the phone app that allows you to browse photos of humans and decide if you want to get to know them from a short bio, musical preference, brief list of common interests, and four additional photos, is perfect for the lazy slob that I am (at least when it comes to dating).

It is also a treasure trove of similarities. And if you’re someone who likes finding odd/obnoxious patterns and habits in groups of people (totally me) then you’re able to find some interesting commonalities in the truly varied group that is: Men of Tinder.

What you’ll find in photos

  • Fish — I don’t know if all fishermen use Tinder, but certainly a larger than average amount. What I don’t understand is why they think posing with a dead fish is a big draw for the average woman. Is it proving you’re an excellent hunter/gatherer? We’ve got grocery stories, my friend. I can get my own fish.
  • Pecs — Alright, so women are probably looking for dudes that are built. I get that. And on one hand I almost appreciate men pandering to that specific desire. But there’s no way to do a shirtless selfie that doesn’t make you look like a tool.
  • Women — So you know hot women. Great. From a picture it’s hard to judge relationship and context. Those could be pictures of your wife for all I know, or long term girlfriend. I get it. Other women think you’re fun to hang out with. But now you just look like a guy who’s trying to use his popularity with women to lure in other women to compete over him. Gross.
  • Random objects — Tinder man is not in these photos, it’s just random things he may or may not be interested in. Or photos of slogans that are apparently way too challenging to try and write out in the bio.
  • Children — I get it. You’re pandering to our maternal instincts. Maybe they’re your kids, maybe not, but guys look less sketchy when they’ve got a kid snuggled up next to them, right?
  • Cats — Cat guys are the weirdos. I don’t know why. This might just be my impression because I hate cats.
  • Dogs — “My dog is better than yours” is what is always said in a bio when a guy has a photo with a dog. I don’t know why this is a competition. Can’t we just love all the dogs? I get it. You’re an alpha bro who likes winning. You don’t have to win at dogs.

What you’ll find in bios

  • Self-Employed — As one sharp friend of mine mentioned, it’s just code for “unemployed” given how often it appears.
  • Height — Almost always guys include this physical detail in their bios. Also they always blame women for it so apparently we’re always asking about it. Women! Stop. It. Also, all men seem to reluctantly divulge. Like women over 40 being forced to tell their age. “I’m 5’9” because apparently that matters.” Ugh only to SOME women. Stop talking to women who make you feel like crap, I don’t care how hot she is!
  • List of physical assets — This is usually just a list of material possessions of any substantial worth like a car, a house, a good job, etc. Since I never think to ask about these things it makes me genuinely concerned that they’re just responding to the blanket material questions that some women ask. Which, by the way, how is that not just an instant red flag for them??
  • Nothing — If you’ve just posted one photo or several photos but no bio, it doesn’t matter how attractive you may look, or how normal. I a mentally filling that bio in for you and it’s not complimentary. It’s bad. It looks very bad.
  • 4/20 Friendly — A lot of guys are really just looking for pot buddies.
  • Outdoorsy requirements — I’m probably bitter about this because there’s so many attractive outdoorsy men who are looking for someone to go rock climbing with them and I am soooooooooo not that person. If there’s a picture of you happily in a sleeping bag in the great outdoors, I’m fairly confident we won’t get on well.
  • Female requirements — I don’t care if you have specified “I don’t like materialistic women” the fact that you feel compelled to say this smacks of you having at least a certain baseline issue with women. Also the whole “I don’t like women who don’t laugh” I mean geez, did you ever consider that maybe you’re not funny?
  • Whining — This one always gets me. I don’t know a single woman who is lured in with the “I guess women only use this to check out hot guys because no one ever responds to a good guy like me”. Oh sweetie, that’s not how anything works. Sometimes life’s hard and you need to buck up.
  • Life advice — Speaking of handing out unsolicited advice, Tinder men are full of it. Whether it’s a pithy phrase perfect for a motivational poster, or a quote you picked up somewhere to help spur your aspirational living, it’s gross. It smacks of some 80s sitcom Dad handing out wisdom at the end of a half hour episode. That may do it for some, but that’s a really niche market you’re working in.
  • Just Ask — Usually it’s phrased like this “I don’t know what to put here, lol if you want to know something just ask.” This is pure laziness. If you can’t even pretend you’re interesting or thoughtful, don’t make me work to figure it out.

Bottom line: Tinder caters to the demographic that believes in taking good selfies that make it look like you didn’t just take a selfie for a dating app, and those with any amount of writing skill and healthy (over-healthy) self confidence.

All this to say: if you can’t get any hits on Tinder, it 100% has nothing to do with who you are as a person. It probably just means you’re bad at marketing. And to be honest with you? That’s kind of a good thing.

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Rage Against the Sheetcake: Tina Fey’s Delicious Satire

“sheetcaking” has been a recent addition (I think–it was hard to sort through all the google search results of editorials vilifying and heroizing Tina Fey’s recent appearance on a special SNL Weekend Update.) to American vocabulary. It basically means “eating your feelings.” If anyone does know the origins of the term, I’d be happy to learn it.

Of course, just last week the term went viral. I saw friends on both sides of the political spectrum share the video. Some accepted its sly lampooning of white privilege with good humor, some took it seriously as a riotous emblem of the current esprit de corps and accompanied the post with hashtags like #fuckyeah. Others took it seriously as a direct criticism of either themselves or their political perspectives and dismissed it as tone-deaf at best, a flagrant indulgence of white privilege at worst.

Throughout the week as I watched the drama, horror, conflict, pathos, and ugly demonization meted out on those who stated almost any opinion at all develop out of the horrendous events at Charlottesville, I struggled with what to feel, how to feel, and if there was anything to share in it. Sometimes, as I commented on Katrina’s recent post, I’d just rather listen. But then, as she discussed, staying silent, too, became a problem. Here is the list of items about me that contributed to my sense:

1-My family on both sides emigrated within this century. I’ve got no familial connection to either honoring or denigrating early America and the choices thereof. Of course, I now bear all the privileges of an American, so there’s not point in saying I’m not involved at all, but there’s a sense of removal, certainly. The furthest east my relatives have ever lived is Michigan, which would have been both Union country and wild frontier during the times before and after slavery. The Netherlands–from which most of my family emigrated–certainly contributed to the slave trade during its heyday, but any real connections to the industry are lost to time.

2-I’m white. I’m white-white. Not only am I white, I’ve grown up in one of the whitest areas of the country. I could count on one hand the black kids at my high school. Hispanic students were more common, but still a vast minority. I can think of one South Asian student, and he was adopted. I now live in Seattle, one of the least diverse–not for lack of trying–cities in the nation. This predominantly white experience wasn’t through any lack of trying to experience culture, or any desire to be removed from other cultures, just because there was very little available.

When I moved to San Francisco after college to teach school, white students were in the minority; my classes were filled with Hispanic Americans, Indian Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans. Middle school students notice cultural differences, but I did not see a lot of racist actions. The most racist thing I ever heard was a complaint about attributing a fart to someone on the field trip bus; “It smells like curry!” I loved how my students brought culture to conversations, and how being different seemed to be simply and easily accepted. All the same, I couldn’t fail to notice that the teaching staff was predominantly white (also female–another conversation for another day). I did during the last year of my time there actually see firsthand a gang-related conflict go down at a large church youth event. I saw kids punching each other; girls screaming with their hands buried in each others hair, I pulled fighting students apart and held a girl’s hands behind her back to keep her from scratching her opponent’s eyes out. It still feels like a strange, underwater nightmare. I remember shooting incredulous looks at my fellow youth staffers as we separated instigators and spoke to the police.

3-I’ve been in the South only a handful of times. I know racism and militant neonazism exist; I’ve watched the editorials and movies. I’ve read about these groups occasionally, heard firsthand accounts of how violent racism is still alive and well in the South. I’ve rarely if ever experienced it or seen it firsthand; I feel distinctly unqualified to make judgements. I can unequivocally condemn Nazism as a damaging ideology. But it makes no difference to the people involved in it. It doesn’t change hearts or minds. It doesn’t seem to help anyone for me to rant and rave.

Watching Tina Fey dig into an American flag sheetcake felt at once enlightening and…therapeutic. I watched it again, and I thought, as many people did, of Marie Antoinette’s famous words prior to the French Revolution; “let them eat cake.” Words used to define wealth, privilege, and ignorance. A phrase that has gone down in history as a damning foreshadow of the thoughtless pride that lead to the downfall of the ruling aristocratic class in France.

As the news covers more and more examples of the widening chasm between rich and poor Americans, the loss of the middle class, the evermore pride-filled flagrant indulgences of the wealthy, from Kardashians to Trumps to NFL players’ ridiculous salaries (yes, I said it, Hawks fans), parallels to pre-revolutionary France are often made. Fey’s play on that richly-weighted metaphor was both deeply resonant and challenging. It was one of the things that let me know both that a) it’s ok to feel at a loss, unable to do anything really valuable, and b) that inability to understand firsthand what all of this means doesn’t preclude me from saying something about it.

In case anyone misunderstands, Nazism is evil. Neonazism is evil. Those who embrace these ideologies are at best misguided, at worst sold out to an evil ideology. Anti-fascists who respond to violence with violence are wrong. Slavery is wrong, and white supremacy is wrong. As a Christian, actually, pursuit of the supremacy of any one person or race over another is wrong. White privilege may not be directly my fault but it is in my power and in my responsibility to be a part of changing it. While I’m still learning what that looks like, maybe this is a start.

My friend Corrie recently wrote the following challenging words to her audience, regarding still more recent conflicts about memorials to the US Civil War:

“Compassion must be lived out loud. You *cannot* say “All lives matter” and yet insist on keeping monuments and flags representing only one kind of life at the brutal cost of others….You *cannot* say a piece of concrete is worth more than the pain of your neighbor. Pain must not be mocked. And when you do, perhaps with catty memes or retweets, you are actively participating in deepening an already painful divide. If one part of the body hurts, it all hurts. When was the last time you listened to anyone who mocked your pain or said it didn’t matter?

It matters to me. There, I said it. Now let’s eat some cake.

 

Now Is the Time to Overreact

I’m a woman. So I’m no stranger to overreacting.

I mean, I’m a woman, I’m no stranger to being told I’m overreacting.

And overreacting is bad. It’s not reasonable is it. It’s not rational. Zeal is way out. Overreacting is passe. We hear things, snippets of things, small ideas or words and think these things:

  • That’s a minority opinion.
  • Everyone knows that’s crazy.
  • They don’t mean it.
  • There’s a kernel of truth.
  • Listen to the other things they’re saying.
  • Give them another chance.
  • You didn’t hear it right.
  • You’re misinterpreting.
  • Maybe he’s a racist, but he’s a nice guy otherwise.

So we let behavior slide, and we let words slide because we don’t want to make a big deal out of something that is “probably nothing”. And we have been doing this, culturally, for years and we have done it most profoundly harmfully to minorities in this country.

Here’s the things I have myself though in response to racism around me:

  • I don’t want to get into politics with him.
  • He’s an idiot, of course he thinks that.
  • This isn’t the time or place.
  • I don’t know enough about this to say whether he’s wrong or right.
  • I probably am overreacting.
  • Maybe I’m just a bleeding heart liberal.
  • I’m just too focused on the one side.
  • I wasn’t there, how can I really know.

My lack of zeal is the problem. My willingness to let things slide is the problem. My stance toward casual racism is in part what contributes to an entire country having a casual approach toward racism. And it’s easy to be casually racist, because it requires you to do nothing but think and act defensively. To remind yourself when you hear about racism that

  • It’s probably not how it actually went down — the media skews things in favor of minorities.
  • They’re making things difficult for themselves.
  • If they’d just focus on keeping their heads down and doing work this wouldn’t be a problem.
  • It’s not like I have it that much easier.

This is an absence of zeal. An absence of love. An absence of empathy. This is selfishness. This is apathy. This is complacency. This is rationalizing.

I’m a good protestant. I believe in total depravity. And because I believe in this wholeheartedly, it is my job to work against it with every fiber of my being, in my own self and in the world at large.

There are too many Christians who believe in “tough love” to minorities. The old adage “pull yourselves up by your bootstraps”. They believe that minorities ought to put in a little effort and try a little harder to earn the support — financially and otherwise — from the Christian community.

This is completely against the saving grace of God and the state he found me in when he saved me.

We are not to reach out to the oppressed because they earned it, they deserve it, or they’re worth it. We are to reach out to the oppressed because we are to show the love of God to whomever we can.

Sin is easy. Sin is the natural default. Doing nothing is easy. Doing nothing is the default.

Be zealous. Be loving. Start in your small circle to take the important stance that racism in all its forms and colors is not okay. It’s sinful.

It is when the majority of people do nothing, that insanity is free to reign. This has been shown in history time and time again and in every age the human reaction is the same.

  • I’m probably overreacting.
  • It’s probably going to pass.
  • This isn’t that big of a deal.

Please, overreact to racism. Please overreact to ideologies that inflame violence, incite hatred, and beget pain. Things pass only when we take a stand against them. Things only become unacceptable when we say they’re unacceptable.

I’m terrified of what my friends and neighbors will think of me being so passionate about this topic, isn’t that tragic? I’m afraid of what they’ll say about me.

But if I’m being totally honest, I’m more afraid of what the future will say about me if I don’t stand up and speak up for what’s right. I’m afraid for the people who will get crushed under the wheel of my apathy. I’m afraid for the people I could have helped, but didn’t because it didn’t affect me. I’m afraid of the way history will remember me if I’m okay with what’s happening now. I’m afraid of the history we’re creating because we’re unwilling to overreact.

Don’t Always Be Like a Lady

I had a physical therapy appointment this week, got new instructions on how to properly build muscles in my legs. My therapist’s parting words were, “when you stand up, don’t have your knees together. You’ll want to keep them shoulder width apart.” I’m sure he thought this was a simple trick to help build muscle in my legs, but for me it was revolutionary.

As a girl, from the second you start wearing dresses you are told to keep your legs together. Standing, sitting, reclining, legs should be together. I remember when I found out that the ladylike crossed legs position wasn’t good for blood flow. I felt irritated that I’d have to instead keep my knees together because it took so much more energy and focus then simply crossing your legs.

When you get a hip replaced these instructions are even more seriously followed and you learn not to cross your legs at all because it’s bad for the replaced joint. But it wasn’t until today that I realized that sitting like a lady was bad for me either way, replacement or not.

My first reaction to my physical therapist’s announcement was “It’s going to look so indiscreet if I’m wearing a dress! And it’s going to look so mannish if I’m in pants!” Can you believe this was my very first reaction to my therapist’s simple advice? How would it look to someone else. I hadn’t realized how ingrained my concepts of femininity were with my every day movements.

In my head the concept of femininity was the overriding value — at least initially — trumping my own health and mobility.

Of course, that’s not really foreign to women, is it? How often do women, in search of beauty or femininity, harm their own bodies? We could go all the way back to ancient practices of foot binding or killer makeup made with mercury, but that isn’t necessary. Hair removal fits the bill nicely, given that hair is a protective layer on every human body, particularly around the pubic area, and that hair removal can and often does lead to infection. We could talk about risky surgeries people undergo to modify their appearance, or eating disorders.

The quest for femininity and beauty doesn’t have to be toxic, but we continue to make it that way ourselves. We often sacrifice our own health and well-being for the fleeting sensation of physical perfection, or the approval of others.

To be honest with you, for me, losing muscle around my legs is too high a cost for being ladylike. Maybe I won’t come off as refined at the next cocktail party, but I’ll certainly be a lot more comfortable.

 

The Petty Way of Life

Today I opened a new pack of gum and tried to pluck out a piece, but was rewarded only with the paper tearing. I tried this three or four times until I had a small pile of gum wrapper confetti on my desk, and still no gum. In my head I angrily composed a letter to the gum company about how hard is it to supply consumers with gum they can access and chew on? Would it kill them to make chewing gum the ONE SPOT IN MY DAY THAT WASN’T AWFUL?

Obviously I realized I was on a real tear (pun!) and was being overly dramatic and ragey before I got around to looking up a complaints hotline. In my head I simply added the hashtag #firstworldproblems to my rant and moved on.

But I’ve been thinking about all the little things in the day that can truly ruin what’s going on in life. How absolutely absurd that is, but almost unavoidable. Mostly it happens when I’m conditioned to enjoy myself.

I was staying at a hotel the other week when a series of small annoyances happened. Let me list them as these slights are too fresh to be forgotten:

  • I found a large ant crawling across the carpeting and had to kill it.
  • The lamp next to the couch was out.
  • One of the lamps in the vanity over the sink was out.
  • Housekeeping was bothering me at NINE AM (ON A SATURDAY)
  • The WiFi cut in and out and I couldn’t finish my Bollywood movie (Diwali) and had to watch the REAL TV. (It honestly took me about ten years to figure out where the mute button was on the remote too. I kinda forgot how those things work.)

In the end, when I checked out of the hotel I didn’t mention any of these problems at reception. One, they didn’t ask. And two, I’m petty, but I’m not so petty that I want other people to actually know I’m petty.

But in the moment, on Saturday night, let me tell you something. I was almost incensed. I was so upset that I couldn’t even go to a damn hotel and have a nice time. What? Is it so much to expect my hotel to be insect free?? To have all light bulbs functioning?? To have actual working WIFI???

I don’t have to go to a hotel to be angry about small things though. I can’t be the only one who stacks things on a shelf or on a table and expects them to stay in that exact pose no matter how precarious. I can’t be the only one aggressively bending book spines because the pages turn each time I get up to get myself a snack and I can’t be bothered with a bookmark. Am I the only one, perhaps, who gets pissed when a car going the speed limit keeps me from getting to the light right as it goes yellow and they COAST through while I sit there fuming?

And the longer the day goes on and the more the small problems of the world add up the angrier I get. At almost literally everything.

But if you want to know the truth, having arthritis is a lot like living with a bombardment of petty problems.*  Let me show you what a real average day is like for me (and please, auto-immune conditions are varied enough that you shouldn’t use me as a template for any of your auto-immuney friends).

  • Wake up achey because I turned over weird and now my arm aches for about thirty seconds.
  • Consider sleeping in because I’m still tired. Realize this is exactly how I felt yesterday and we made it through that day so what makes today special.
  • Take out my mouth guard and realize my jaw hurts when I open and close my mouth for about five minutes.
  • Get out of bed and have trouble walking for about three steps, maybe because I just woke up, but also maybe because the bones in my feet can’t remember what it feels like to have my weight on them.
  • Walk into the bathroom, hate my hair because I slept on it weird (this is not arthritis, but I mean, come on, it’s pretty damn irritating)
  • Walk up the stairs to my office, feel a twinge in my foot and panic that I’m going to be limping all day and everyone will ask what’s wrong and I’ll have to say “you know, life.”
  • Sit at my desk and rotate my shoulders, hear them pop, continue working.
  • Feel my wrists ache, consider putting braces on, decide it’s too much work.
  • Open those lever handles on the doors between the hallways, get mildly angry each time because my wrist doesn’t bend like that, but what are you going to do? Stop going through doors?
  • Carry a full water glass and tea mug back to my desk, get stopped halfway and stand there trying to converse and simultaneously wonder how long I can hold these items before I drop them both.
  • Rotate shoulders again, stretch, feel a weird pain come down my arm, decide it’s nothing.
  • Discover my thumb is having a bad day. Try to coddle it without appearing to.
  • It’s 2:30. Tired has crept back up, but it creeps up on everyone so there’s no reason to mention it. Get tea.
  • It’s now 4. I’m acutely aware of my wrists, but I’ve only got an hour left. This is fine.
  • Try to plan a mental meal, realize I don’t care what I’m eating tonight because I’m actually exhausted. Remember I still have errands to run.
  • Drive home? Road rage.

For the record, this is a cliffs notes list. I gave you the moments in an average day that I recall. But right now, because I’m deliberately thinking about this, I’m aware that my elbows ache, have been for awhile now, I think. I’m aware my one shoulder which is NEVER happy is currently unhappy, and that my thumb wants to act up even though we’ve talked about this and we had a deal. I’m thinking about my feet in an uncomfortable/but more comfortable than anything else position, and I’m wondering about the damage I’m furthering in my wrists because I’m not wearing my braces. I’m also wondering about that whole exercise thing. Because body and I agreed we were going to do that, and now body’s like “oh I’m tired” which is true EVERY day, but who’s being a baby now?

It’s all minor, it’s all petty. And most of the time, I don’t even realize I’m in a bad mood because my body hurts until I’ve been harsh to half a dozen people.

On top of all that, I still have energy to get mad at gum wrappers and traffic incidences, people who lack my verbal precision (because I am 100% the best communicator…), and general workplace grievances too stupid to mention.

Everyone’s got their own set of personal petty that keeps coming up, that takes energy to address that isn’t acknowledged verbally or publicly. Maybe it’s even something they think shouldn’t matter to them, shouldn’t affect them. And yet it’s always there, always ready to preemptively ruin a day that you were going to be SO GOOD at. And of course, that adds to the frustration that you’re not handling life well at all, and shouldn’t you be? After all, you’re __ years old, you should know how to do this by now.

But here you are, having a tantrum because the damn door won’t stay fucking shut and WHO MADE THIS ANYWAY WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS TO ME. That’s it. Fine. I’m burning my apartment down.

Petty problems are simply the result of unmet expectation. I expect my hotel experience to be completely luxurious. And if it’s not? Rage. I expect my day to go by unruffled. And when it’s not? Rage.

When it comes to my health…I may have had arthritis for eighteen years, but I’m chronically surprised that there’s always that smidgen of pain. This isn’t how life is SUPPOSED to be, you know? Everyone else is healthy (I know this isn’t true), everyone else is living a life where they don’t have to think about these things, but I have to?

So if you’re wondering why the rants section of this blog is so large, it’s probably this.

I’m sure there’s a better way to handle this. Zen, or yoga or whatever, but to be honest with you, I can’t bend myself into those poses.

 

…time to write another blog.

 

 

*Literally I just mean this for me. If you’ve got arthritis or something else and you mind that I compared arthritis to petty issues in the day, don’t worry, I just mean my arthritis. I don’t mean yours. I don’t know what yours is like, obviously.

Relating Gone Wrong

Because we live in a media saturated environment where all opinions are weighted equally until popularity makes one opinion greater than the other, one person greater than the other, we live in a time of poor relating.

Critical thinking and holding your tongue have always been hard for humans. Both require genuine effort. But today it seems as if no one is exercising either ability, so why bother trying it out ourselves?

Recently I attempted to help a friend by sharing my experiences and it resulted in a bad conversation for both of us. Fortunately for me it was just a bad conversation, but for her it was an exchange she carried with her to the end of the day and had to overcome by discussing with a more sympathetic partner.

It’s not the first time I’ve messed up my part of a relationship, and it’s most assuredly not going to be the last. But I’d like to share with you my personal list of no-nos when it comes to how we respond to those who are struggling.

  • “I Win” — I’ve talked about this one before, but it’s any person who hears the issues of another person and says “that’s nothing, I…” and proceeds to illustrate that they’re better than you because of what they can handle and because of who they are now as a person. Winning is the one of the worst tendencies of childhood that gets translated to adults. I hear this one particularly when I say the words “I’m tired”. In our busy-ness oriented society “tired” is a key word to start winning the conversation.
  • Full House Syndrome — This is my neat way of saying “wrap up the problem and put a bow on it.” It’s when someone tries to solve your problem in 30 minutes or less. It’s when people moralize your struggle “for the greater good” or tell you to “look on the bright side”. Neither of which are helpful. Though sometimes helpful is watching an actual episode of Full House.
  • Cosmetic Sufferer — We disguise these as “First World Problems”. Or what I like to consider “inconveniences”. These crop up when I’m annoyed, and they build throughout the day. They’re not actual problems, just an excuse to be in a bad mood and complain to someone else for a little bit of unnecessary sympathy.
  • Self-Inflicted — I have a good friend who does insane things like run 100 mile marathons and scream at mountain lions in the wild to make them go away. She’s incredible, really and I’m always awed by her approach to life. I’ve also appreciated that she doesn’t share a walking chronicle of her injuries that result from her constant harrowing activities. If you’re going to put yourself in harm’s way, on purpose, because you want to, and as a result –surprisingly– you got injured, don’t whine about it. If it was your idea to swim jellyfish infested waters naked for four hours, I don’t want to hear about how often you got stung and isn’t that just the worst. It is the worst because you’re an idiot, not because it happened.
  • Any Opportunity — When I was a kid my sister got glasses. I was so jealous. I wanted glasses. Glasses were cool (she’s my older sister, everything she did was cool). So I lied about how I couldn’t see the chalkboard (yeah, I went to school when there were chalkboards). Truly I couldn’t see the chalkboard but it was because Kelly’s head was in the way. And then I proceeded to lie during the eye exam until I felt guilty and started telling the truth and didn’t get glasses until I was in my 20s and at college — not because I read too many books but because I watched movies on my laptop which was placed on my stomach as I lay in bed. Good times.

The prestige of having a problem is intoxicating. You wonder why there are high drama people in the world? Because having a problem gives meaning. It’s why we have hypochondriacs too, it’s validation. It means people have to listen when you talk.

A good way to tell if you’re a suffering opportunist is to ask yourself “did I consider this a personal problem before I heard someone talk about it?” Or did I perk up and think, “if I rationalize this, I’ve experienced the same thing!”

Being left out — even being left out of suffering — increases feelings of isolation, abandonment, uselessness. It’s natural to want to get in on the angst, it’s also bad for you as a person and bad for society.

  • “I Understand” — I’m prone to this one especially. “I hear what you’re saying about getting kicked in the nuts and I totally know what that’s like as a woman because one time I…” If it hasn’t happened, you don’t know. If you didn’t struggle with it, you don’t know. You might have an idea, you might have heard other accounts, but “I understand” quickly takes all the power from the sufferer in terms of owning and experiencing their suffering in their own way. I’ve noticed that “I understand” is more prominent among white people, male people, and American Christians when it comes to a marginalized segment of society voicing frustration, fear, or concern. Let’s be clear on this. You can have all the facts, you can know the full history, and you still won’t have the experiences. You can’t know.

There are plenty of people who have a hard time living in this world because that’s what got handed to them upon their arrival in this world. Others got every benefit known to man and have encountered many challenges as a result of that “privilege” as well. Life affords every human challenges and obstacles. Everyone understands suffering in their own capacity.

So make sure you give people the chance to express it in their own capacity, give people the space to feel their hardships. Suffering is universal and pervasive and the least we can all do is recognize its presence without trying to moralize it or make it all about ourselves.

Tall Girl in the Photo

I come from a tall line of tallish women. One of the most common refrains I remember from my 5’9” grandmother was on the subject of height. She’d refer to a pair of short male twins in her small school in rural Colorado and how they could never see over the crowd. I can’t imagine there were many crowds to be found in rural Colorado , but she’d actually go so far as to pantomime being short and having to look through people and not over them. Nevertheless, her story would end with “always be proud of your height”.

My mom and her younger sister are both over six feet tall and my sister and I both come in at the reasonably tallish height of 5’9”. My mom never made a fuss about physical appearance at all.  When it came to her daughters, the only thing she ever tried to cure me of was slouching. You stand tall, you put your shoulders back, and you be proud of your height.

Not always the easiest advice to follow particularly in the awkward middle school years in which you ARE a head taller than most of the girls and all the guys. That’s the last place you want to be someone who stands out, and yet there you are, trying to be proud of your height as you display your latest bad haircut, unkempt eyebrows and newly discovered acne patches. Also, show me a middle school girl who doesn’t feel that “shoulders back” is synonymous with “breasts thrust forward” and is therefore completely mortified by any such show of confidence like proper posture.

But my mom was always a giant who didn’t mind being a giant (as a teen she wasn’t excited about her height, but she only went so far as fudging the math. For years she’d claim to be 5’12” just to seem not so giant), and so I got over being a lesser giant fairly quick. I also had a “short dad” (5’10”) who was never phased or censorious of the tall women in his life. Despite wearing alarming platform shoes to his wedding, I’ve never seen him embarrassed of his size in relation to my mother. It simply wasn’t an issue.

The only times I’m ever embarrassed of, or note my height as an inconvenience in any way, are when I’m in a group photo with only women, and when I hear any man say “I’d never date a girl taller than me”.

The group photo phenomenon shouldn’t exist which is why it’s so maddening. You’ll know what I mean after I describe it, and if you’re tall, you already know exactly to what I’m referring. In girl group photos you have several critical factors at play. 1) no girl wants to be in the front. 2) we somehow think it’s bad etiquette to reference if someone is actually shorter or taller than us. Rearranging is a minefield of polite innuendo. Inevitably what results is a front row of shorter women squatting so that the women in the back are still visible.

Of course, they shrink down so much that the row behind them is also forced to squat so as not to stick up and out of the photo, ruining it for everyone. What results is row upon row of squatting women who now look like some kind of overdressed cheer squad doing a routine in their spare time. Or as if the gravitational pull of that square of pavement is stronger and they’re helpless to resist. We’re in an age of selfies AND group crouch which is like being in an age of Ugg boots and short skirts.

The secondary phenomenon of “I’ll never date a woman taller than me” is only maddening because tall girls have a firm paranoid, and not entirely wrong belief that short women are a hotter commodity than tall women. We could go into a million reasons why this a belief, why it’s true, why it’s paranoid, but it’s long standing enough that I don’t need to defend the belief, you just need to know it exists.

It’s hard for many women to be proud of their height when it’s an actual impediment to their social life. When height is literally the main reason someone crosses you off as a romantic prospect, it’s difficult not to associate your tall stature with a lack of femininity and desirability. What you end up hearing is, “she’s great friend material because there’s no sexual tension with a tree.”

I’m positive this is an unfair synopsis, but it’s what results when people put ultimatums on their dating partners. I’m sure it’s equally emasculating for men to hear from women, “I’d only date a guy who was taller than me.”

Sure, there are legitimate reasons to use this criteria when considering a romantic partner, but at the end of the day, I can’t help but wonder how much of it is conditioned by our own insecurities about what height represents.

So please, take my mother and grandmother’s advice. Be proud of your height (whatever your height) and put your shoulders back and stand up straight. A little bit of confidence does a great deal more for your insecurities than any tape measure. (It also does a lot better in photos than a crouch)

The Review No One Wanted

This goes out to the two people who asked me why I hated La La Land so much. I’m sure you’re regretting that now.

I’ve loved musicals since I saw Singin’ in the Rain the first time as a kid. The singing, the dancing, the sets, the costumes, the actors. I loved everything about musicals and I’ve watched them feverishly since then. Bollywood’s enhanced dramatics are just as irresistible. So when La La Land came out naturally the assumption was that I would love this movie.

Modern singing, dancing, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, what could be there to dislike?

Let me just roll up my sleeves and start at the beginning, the beginning that comes out of nowhere and includes no principal leads. It’s a nice number that tells you absolutely nothing about what you’re going to watch.

Then we meet the two most unlikable leads in a long time. Ryan Gosling is condescending, a know-it-all, and never able to admit defeat or error. What he finds to like in Emma Stone is baffling. It also seems like a role he’s tailor made for. He embodies it too naturally and is so awful that I felt surely he’s familiar with the personality type.

Emma Stone plays an aspiring actress. Despite the fact that obviously at one point in her career she didn’t have to play this role, she embodied this role, it’s tough to see her as the mousey, timid, self-doubter that she plays in this movie. She has several genuine moments of sparkle that remind me of why she’s so likable in all her other movies, but here the spark is only shown as an anecdotal and random trait.

Neither can sing or dance and while the film tries to use these rough edges in a charming way, what happens is parody shtick of all the great classic charming moments of the old classics. The banter in their dances feels forced given the speaking tenor of their relationship, and the romance of their singing and the sets employed feels trite next to the rough, uneven and unremarkable dialogue of their meet-cute and subsequent falling out.

The concept of a modern day jazz pianist rescuing jazz from itself to bring back to dark night clubs would also be charming, if not for the insufferable, arrogant lead. I was so against our hero that I was actively rooting for John Legend’s character who is half-heartedly played as a “villain”. Naturally, in a movie like this the only villains are the leads themselves, but he must of course play the negative catalyst, trying to do something unique with jazz music which makes it an abomination to jazz in general. Naturally.

There are no other side-characters of import or note. None with speaking roles, no good cameos, nothing to distract us from these two ill-suited individuals who we’re just waiting to break up for the entire length of the movie.

There is one charming scene, and that’s it’s ending. It’s a fast montage of what might have been and it gives us a fresh tempo, something to get the heart beating again, and for a moment there’s a small amount of regret that they’ll never be able to have this idealized world they could never have held onto. And it passes and the credits roll.

The costumes were lovely, the sets were creative, the colors were memorable. I’d like to forget all the rest.

I realize that musicals are rare these days, which means that for the most part we’re content with a musical existing and demand no more from it than that. It doesn’t have to be good it just has to remind us of the good movies we watched before, or could have watched if we could stand to go all the way through a movie made before our birth year.

If i want to see an arrogant, insufferable know-it-all fall in love with an ingenue, struggling actress trying to make it in Hollywood, I’ll watch Singin’ in the Rain again.

So thank you, La La Land for reminding me through tepid call backs and shoddy footwork of a true classic, thanks for getting me back to Singin’ in the Rain.

You Haven’t Lived Until You’ve…

I recently watched a snippet of a video where a pensive man crossed mountain ranges and wide open land patches armed with only a backpack…and a camera crew, so that he could tell me that old people near death regret “not living”.

Apparently backpacking the world is “living”. So I guess I’m doing it wrong. Yet again.

My newest least favorite phrase is “you haven’t lived until you’ve…” and fill in the blank with some thing you’re not doing that is ruining your life but you don’t even know how much it’s ruining your life because you’re not doing it.

But boy will you regret it someday.

What’s fun is you can put anything in here, anything that you have actually done. Here’s a short list of things on which you can critique the “liveliness” of other peoples lives.

  • Getting Married
  • Traveling to Europe
  • Camping
  • Climbing a Mountain
  • Eating Exotic Foods
  • Going to a Concert
  • Breaking an Arm
  • Getting Stitches
  • Almost Dying
  • Having a Child
  • Catching a Fish/Hunting
  • Going on a Road Trip

You can always come up with your own, though and that’s the beauty of this statement. 1) You get the superiority of having done something that qualifies your life on earth as “worthwhile and well spent”. 2) You get to tell someone else they’re doing it wrong. Who doesn’t love a good condescension?

The added bonus is that instead of focusing on what you can do to make your own life worthwhile, you can make other people regret things they never had plans to do, nor still want to do, but now think they should because they OWE LIFE.

And what if on their death bed this is the moment they look back and thing “why did I not go bungee jumping”?

First of all: Deathbed regrets are usually things that you GET TO regret. It means you’ve made it this far in life and you’re allowed to now say “given I got safely to the end, I wish I’d taken more risks in the middle”, but it’s that middle risky part that hard to determine how those risks would have turned out. It’s that age when fear gets in the way of throwing yourself through space to the earth, perhaps, or trying out deep sea diving.

As one of my favorite comedians John Richardson says, “I don’t understand why people are supposed to get over their fears. Fear is a legitimate thing to stop you from dying.” Getting to your deathbed alive is kind of something to be proud of. Of course, everyone makes it to their deathbed alive…uh oh, rabbit trail.

Second of all: Everyone is different. Don’t make the mistake of transmuting your fears and failures to another human as a way of getting a universal feeling of regret. Some people, no matter how much you may disagree, will never regret not going skydiving, spelunking, or any of a number of activities that could end with some kind of new tropical disease.

Nor are all adventures and new experiences feasible for all people. Just because you were able to enjoy something that changed your life does not mean it’s feasible for the person you’re gushing to about zip-lining through the Amazon. For some, no matter how amazing that may sound, it’s never going to be something they get to enjoy for any number of reasons.

For a lot of us, hearing your story is plenty. Do I want to go white water rafting in New Zealand? No I really don’t. But I DO want to hear about my friend who did. And I want to see pictures. She feels the same way about my movie marathons. (It’s totally the same thing)

You can’t experience everything in life. You just can’t. But there are stories out there from others who have experienced different things in life. Listen to those stories. Take time to hear about how other people have lived and add it to your own life.

Go do the things you want to do, or can do, and then hear about all the rest. Live a life of listening.

 

Communication Kills

I was in high school when I first heard the term “prairie dogging” in a movie. A girl shouted it while sticking her head out the car window. I assumed it meant the act of sticking your head out a car window. I used to think oral sex was talking about sex. Given that oral reports are spoken reports, I still don’t think I’m wrong.

I used “ad nauseum” in conversation the other day — correctly, but when confronted about what it meant all I could think was “it’s the right word for the context”. On the other hand, I’ve been using “non sequitur” wrong for years. Once in high school I ruined an entire ski weekend by holding onto a joke for too long. One friend wouldn’t speak to me for the entire next year.

I’ve chronicled my misadventures with “Netflix and chill” before, so now I’m beginning to wonder: how many things out there are things I don’t properly understand?

This past week I did laundry at a friend’s house and accidentally left my bra there. I texted asking, “did I leave my bra there?” and got a response back of, “yes, I’m wearing it.” I told this story to four different women who all enjoyed the implied punchline. When I told this story to two men their response was “ew gross” and when I explained she was kidding they responded with “well women wear each other’s clothes all the time”.

Speaking is hazardous because speaking implies understanding of your audience, their situation, and your relationship to them. Speaking, at the least, implies you have a good valid reason to be opening your food hole. I’ve heard we get better at this with age. As yet, I’m no walking advertisement for it.

At least twice a week I urge myself to shut up and let other people talk. I realize that my overabundance of words creates an atmosphere of expectation. Now I am EXPECTED to always talk. It is ASSUMED. If there’s something to be said, I will say it, don’t worry. If I DON’T say anything, there’s probably something wrong with me. A glitch in the constant stream of words finding an outlet from brain to lips — hopefully from brain to lips.

If I had to lose a native ability, I wouldn’t mind losing speech. i’d mind losing my ability to hear and my ability to see, my ability to touch, but I wouldn’t mind a tremendous amount about a loss of speech. I think it’d be good from me. I’m definitely someone that should get a severe case of laryngitis at least once a year just to let the people around me have a chance.

And yet. talking is how I relate. It’s even sometimes how I pay attention. If I finish your sentence for you it’s not because I want you to stop talking, I just want to make sure I’m paying attention and keeping up with you. If I crack jokes before meetings it’s to help make the meeting go more smoothly. If you share a sad story, I’ll share one in return — not to make comparisons, but to encourage, to plumb deeper into what’s happening in your life.

Those moments when I say something rude, tactless, inappropriate, awkward, offensive, sarcastic, stupid… I don’t know what to tell you about those. I could blame genetics for some of it. I could blame a sheltered upbringing, if I was really reaching for a reason, or I could blame a dirty mind. But there’s something in me that’s intrigued by the idea of abruptly ending a conversation and ruining the atmosphere for everyone. Well, something must enjoy it. I ruin too many conversations for it to be anything other than deliberate intent.