Confessions of a terrible person: The Facebook edition

Note: This post was written a year or so ago, when the events were still fresh.  I waited for a while to post this because I didn’t want to risk hurting anyone who was close enough to the situation to be able to see through the name changes.  Why post it at all?  Well, this issue comes up from time to time on Facebook and I think it’s important for people to realize how they come across and what they can do instead to communicate their priorities more effectively.

I love Facebook – I really do.  Because of Facebook, I keep in touch with my siblings, high school classmates, high school church friends, college classmates, former coworkers from the military and my old job, acquaintances that I would REALLY like to get to know better but we haven’t found the time to get together, my stepchildren from my first marriage, and many others.  Without Facebook I would never be able to stay in touch with all these people, see pictures of them, see pictures of their growing families, or read what they are thinking, feeling, and what’s going on in their lives.

But that doesn’t mean I like everything I see on Facebook.

Here’s the deal –  I like pictures, I like funny things, I like commentary, I like opinions, I like reading that you’re proud of yourself / spouse / kid, I like silly Buzzfeed quizzes.  I like a lot of things; I happen to think I’m pretty chill about most of the stuff that people post.  I DON’T like spam, I don’t like “copy and paste this to your status for 1 hour if you care about (insert miscellaneous cause here),” I don’t like disgusting pictures, I don’t like “you won’t BELIEVE what happens next!” clickbait, and I DON’T like incessant updates spewed at the general public about things I don’t care about.

So, on my Facebook for the last few weeks / months / honestly-I’ve-lost-track, I’ve been seeing a couple friends in particular spamming with regard to a particular cause.  I’m talking status updates, pictures, a hashtag – they were both sharing directly from a particular page someone created called “Team Jim and Pam Halpert” as well as writing status updates with the #prayforjim hashtag on their own.  Since my friends themselves were spamming their own status updates, NOT just from the page, I can’t unfollow them without missing all the things from them that are the reason I enjoy Facebook in the first place.

I finally decided to click around and see what the fuss was all about.  After a few minutes of clicking and scrolling I saw a reference to chemotherapy.  Okay, so some guy I don’t know has cancer and for THAT my Facebook feed has been clogged to hell and gone with “Pray for Jim!” #prayforjim, and the like.  Seriously?

Lest I sound like a jerk (a lost cause already, I know), there is a polite way and an obnoxious way to invite people to care about your cause.  There is a reason that even not-for-profits with the most urgent needs don’t rent large loudspeakers and constantly entreat us all out loud to donate; what I am venting about here is the Facebook equivalent of loudspeaker chatter.  Much more effective would be an approach that is the Facebook equivalent of being in a room with invited guests and talking about the things you invited them there to talk about.

But how do you do that?

Great question – glad you asked.

Do what my friend Katlyn did when Seth died (story here) – she created a page “In loving memory of Seth,” and invited everyone to the page.  If you wanted to talk about Seth, share pictures, find out when and where the memorial service was, you could like the page.  By “Like”-ing the page, you were opting in to having things about Seth in your feed.  Only the invite to the page was public and it was the one thing that hit everyone’s news feed.  If you didn’t know Seth that well or if you had other priorities (not gonna judge you for that), you don’t have to see it.

This creates a safe space for people who want to talk about nothing but Seth, all day every day.  Like maybe his sister or his mom – they kinda didn’t have much else on their minds at the time, and understandably so.  So they can receive a steady stream of support without harassing anyone and everyone.

So – if you want me to care about your random cause or random person, invite me to “like” the page.  I won’t do it, but I will appreciate what this means to you and I will definitely send some thoughts and prayers your way.  And then this part is critical – DON’T BOTHER ME AGAIN.  Not until there’s an actual significant change.  Like if the person is healed / cancer-free / back from a deployment / home from the hospital / whatever.  Or if the person dies, in which case I will express my condolences and pray for their soul.  To recap, I should see this random posting from you exactly twice – 1) the first time to let me know what’s going on; and 2) the last time to let me know that either the crisis is over or it’s a moot point.

So this morning, as usual, I am scrolling down past a funny picture (lol!), a baby picture (so cute!  Congratulations!), a Buzzfeed quiz (lol!), three political statuses (I don’t quite agree but I appreciate the thought you have put into your position), and YET ANOTHER #prayforjim.  I rolled my eyes in irritation before I noticed that this one was different – “Pray for peace as Jim goes to meet his King.”

Oh.

Jim of #prayforjim and Team Jim and Pam Halpert died.  Well, now I really feel like an asshole.  Deep sigh.  Never mind – I take it all back.  I guess I’ll just shut up now and finally #prayforjim.

To my boss on my last day

 

I remember the day it first hit me that I had a stupid, silly, embarrassing schoolgirl crush on you.  I don’t remember exactly when it was, but I do remember thinking to myself, “What the fuck is wrong with me?”

After my last day working for you I came home and cried.  Once again, here I am thinking to myself, “What the fuck is wrong with me?”  And now we’ve come full circle.

“Well if you don’t want to leave, then don’t,” I hear you thinking.  Yes, yes, I know – no one is forcing me to leave.  When I really thought about what I know about you, I didn’t expect you to understand.  I wanted you to understand, because I care what you think of me.  I hoped you would understand, because we understand a lot of really random things about each other.  We think a lot alike, which is one thing that made our professional relationship really fun.  But you also have a ruthlessly self-interested streak, so you shut down long before you even started to see it from my perspective.

When I first told you I was leaving, you sat on it for a day and then came back to me – “Should we talk about this?”  I was not expecting that at all.  I don’t know if you realize how perilously close you came to changing my mind over the next two weeks.  Or maybe you do but you don’t care because I didn’t actually change my mind.

When I thought about how much I wanted to leave, I didn’t fully trust myself because I was afraid my irritation was blinding me to all the reasons I should stay.

But when I thought about how much I wanted to stay, I really didn’t trust myself because I was afraid my feelings were being influenced by how I felt about you.  Remember that stupid, schoolgirl crush I mentioned earlier?  Yeah, that was a real pain in the ass.

It was a lot to work through, which was hard enough, but the hardest part was working through it alone.  Sure, I had my husband and a few friends to talk to, but their perspective on accounting career issues is so limited.  The one person whose advice I really wanted was the person sitting across the table from me.  For obvious reasons, that was the one person whose advice I couldn’t have.

So, I figured if I can’t trust some of my feelings, then I really can’t trust any of them.  It had to come down to intellectual reasons only.  And that conclusion was unmistakable:  I had to go.  Oh, I fought it for a while.   A long while.  Not that you looked terribly closely(*) but I’m told the weight loss was fairly obvious.  That’s how hard I had to hit the gym just to stay sane while I was both getting my work done and accepting the inevitable.  I also lost a lot of hair because agonizing indecision is ever so much fun.

But the biggest thing I was afraid of?  Telling you.  I knew that it would be the end of our friendly professional relationship, and I really, really, really didn’t want that.  So the real reason I lost the weight and the hair?  You.

A year from now I’ll look back and laugh at myself, but the fact remains that today I feel like crap.  Thankfully I only have to keep myself distracted this weekend before I can throw myself into my new job on Monday – I expect to be overwhelmed, which will help more than anything.

I wish you nothing but the best.

I will never forget you.

(*) Which is more than fine, really.  Honestly, if you had said something, I would have wondered if I was in the office or out at a certain client-which-shall-not-be-named.  You know the one.


 

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

anigif_enhanced-13108-1448862653-2

Thanks for reading; I feel better now.

We will never speak of this again.

A Valentine’s Day love story

Or, more accurately, a meditation on my feelings.

I am in love with my coffee.

Mmmmmm .... oh yeah baby ....

Mmmmmm …. oh yeah baby ….

That first sip of dark-roast divine delight sets my tongue alight with flavor and heat.  I feel the warm glow slide down my throat and enliven my entire body.  I feel the invigoration of the caffeine flow through my veins as I reflexively flex my biceps – I can take on the world!  Or at least this audit.

copeco.com

Yeah! Go me!

The same excitement as kissing a naked lover with wet lips.  The same comfort as being curled up in a blanket with a spouse.

first love wattpad

Wait, what?!  That wasn’t what I wanted!  A little morbid, don’t you think?

true love mirror-of-my-soul

That’s more like it!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Funny-Motivational-Quotes-7 rapidlikes

Happy Valentine’s Day!

In honor of Valentine’s Day and all the cynical things it represents, I am going to share my best date cancellation story: I once had a guy cancel a date because he was being detained by military police.  No lie.

Here’s the story:

Once upon a time I was stationed at the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, California.  And the earth was without form and void …

Like this

Like this

Hold on a second – that’s the wrong story.  I’m sorry everyone!  I need to go yell at the interns.  Please stand by.

Insert smooth jazz here

Insert smooth jazz here

Okay, now that I have the right script, where were we?

I believe we’ve already established where I was, so the next thing I should tell you about is when I was.  When I arrived in the middle of the year 2000, DLI was what was called an “open post.”  There were no guard stations and there were many easily accessible ways to come and go, in the form of both roads and walking paths.  Many of us were more interested in the walking paths since we didn’t have cars.  In fact, I had a particular favorite perpetually open gate in the border fence which was useful for greatly shortening my weekly grocery walk to Safeway.

Now, if you have a passing familiarity with military installations, you’re probably thinking, “Why would you go buy groceries?  What was wrong with the chow hall?”  Great question – I’ll tell you.  I found dirty dishes in the “clean dishes” pile.  Not once.  Not twice.  Three times.  After the third strike, that was it – I started buying my own groceries.  Plus the air being vented out of the chow hall always smelled like decaying food garbage and spoiled dairy, which wasn’t super comforting.  I have to tell you, though –  what I really didn’t understand was why more people didn’t buy their own food.  Anyway – I digress.

When September 11, 2001 happened, the post virtually immediately went from open to closed.  Very, VERY closed.

Do not enter

Do not enter

By mid-morning, all buildings were locked down.  One entrance per building was guarded by active duty personnel and all other entrances were blocked.   National guard units were mobilized and began arriving that evening.  By the next morning, guards armed with M-16’s manned every post access point.  The line of vehicles waiting to enter by the one open entrance stretched all the way down the hill and into downtown Monterey.

In short, it was absolute madness.

The one silver lining was that we were now perpetually in a state of “battle-readiness” which meant that we got to wear this uniform every day –

bdu abu afpc.af.mil

Comfortable AND functional!

and we got to skip the usual once-a-week dress-up day where we wore this –

blues afpc.af.mil

Uncomfortable, ill-fitting, 1940’s design.  No identifiable redeeming qualities.

After about a month of no successful or attempted terrorist attacks on our proud installation, they grudgingly agreed to open a second entrance.  Now there were TWO WHOLE WAYS to get on and off post.  Joy!  Notably absent from our new, relaxed, anything-goes attitude toward post access was my favorite pedestrian gate that took a good 20 minutes each way off of my walk to Safeway.  Bummer.  Oh well.  It’s not like I didn’t sign up for this.


Q: Didn’t you say this was a story about a cancelled date?

A: You know, a story is no good without a proper background.

Q: That doesn’t answer my question.

A: I’m getting there, okay?  Patience!

63525908


One day in October, the unthinkable happened.  Good unthinkable, that is.  On my way home from class, one of my male Air Force compatriots named Vik fell in step next to me, started up a conversation, walked me back to my building, and then asked for my phone number.  The next day, he called me and asked me out for that Friday night.  With racing heart and fluttering stomach, I said yes!

I mean, up until this point I seriously thought that this sort of thing only happened in the movies.  But it happened in real life!

No that's not what happened but I really was THIS excited!

No that’s not what happened but I really was THIS excited!

So Friday morning came and Friday afternoon came and finally FINALLY Friday evening came.  About an hour before we were supposed to go out, I get a phone call.

Remember these?

Remember these?

“Hi – Athena?  Yeah, it’s Vik.  Listen, I won’t be able to take you out tonight.  Jake(*) and I are being held at the guard shack until they can get ahold of the First Sergeant(**) so we’re going to be here awhile.  I’m really sorry about this – I’ll make it up to you as soon as I can.”

Not quite sure what I was hearing, I thanked him for calling me and hung up the phone.  I didn’t see him all weekend.

We had a Monday morning ritual called “formation.”  It was called “formation” because all the Air Force personnel arranged themselves (i.e. formed up) into rows and columns in pre-determined groups.  At 7:00 sharp we were called to attention (Flight – tenHUT), turned 90 degrees to the right in order to face the flag (right HACE), and ordered to salute (present ARMS) while reveille played.(***)  After reveille finished, we were put back mostly the way we were (or-der ARMS, left HACE, pa-rade HEST).


For reference:

Attention

Attention

Present arms

Present arms

Parade rest

Parade rest


From the left, the guide-on bearer and the formation commander began marching toward the middle platform in front of the assembled squadron.  That was normal.  What WASN’T normal was Vik and Jake marching behind them.  They reached the middle and stopped.  Plunk, went the flag, and the formation commander addressed us all in a booming voice – “SQUADRON!  Ten-HUT!”  First the low thunder of over a thousand pairs of boot heels snapping to attention, and then silence.  The unnatural silence of over a thousand airmen at attention – not even the sound of breathing.

Again, from the left, the TSgt who usually addressed us every week began walking toward the platform in the middle.  When she reached the middle, she called, “At ease!”  Instantly, the sound of breathing and hushed chatter was all around.  “Good morning!” came her chipper voice.  For the next few minutes, she went over whatever communications were required that week, and then when she finished, she said, “And now Airman Jones and Airman Waverly would like a few minutes to talk to you all.”(****)

I see.

Picture your favorite articulate, intelligent, easygoing college professor calmly explaining a very important foundational concept in a conversational style to help the knowledge calmly settle into your mind, and you know exactly what Jake sounded like as he took the mike and explained to us all that it was very important to not jump the border fence and to only use the two post entrances that were open.  He continued to explain that it was also important to listen to the guards when they tell you to stop.  Vik then took over and added that the guards had M-16’s and that they were authorized to shoot if they thought they needed to.

Wow.  Okay, then.

We gave them the obligatory round of applause and that was that.

Vik caught up with me later and explained that Friday after class, he was heading to Safeway to buy some flowers and things for dessert to “try to be all romantic.”  He ran across Jake heading in the same direction, so they decided to go together.  Upon seeing that the pedestrian gate was closed, Vik thought they should use the open gate, but Jake said, “Why?”  There were no guards around, the fence was not that hard to climb, and it really was a big time saver if you’re walking to Safeway.  Jake won.  He went first.  As Jake was climbing down the other side of the fence, the two patrolling guards saw from the nearby road.

“STOP!!! HANDS UP!!! DOWN ON THE GROUND!!!”  Vik sensibly realized he had no other option, so he complied.  Jake dropped to the ground and bolted.  Well, wouldn’t you know – guards are equipped with radios as well as guns so within a few short minutes they had Jake, too.  Shortly after they were taken to the guard shack, Vik did the polite thing and called to cancel our date.

Sometime between when the First Sergeant came to retrieve them and Monday morning it was decided that in addition to extra duty, Vik and Jake ought to address the squadron to help make sure no one else “embarrassed the squadron” like that again.  So they did.

And that is the story of the date that got canceled because the guy was being detained by military police.  At gunpoint, no less!

Funny-Motivational-Quotes-7 rapidlikes

Not quite this bad. Almost, though.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


(*) Jake was another Air Force guy that I knew from my language class.  He was a tall, strong, softspoken free spirit of a gentle giant.  So he was a bad influence, of course, but he was a great guy so we all loved him.

(**) For those not familiar, the First Sergeant is a MSgt or above (E-7 – E-9) whom, among other things, deals with personnel issues.  Such as when personnel are apprehended by guards, for example.

(***) Side note: after being jolted awake by reveille more times than I care to count, I have realized that anyone who has reveille as their ring tone is a sick fuck.

(****) Airman Jones = Vik and Airman Waverly = Jake

Dear Prudence 12/28/15

Dear Prudence:

Last year, with the help of family and friends, I extricated myself from a physically and emotionally abusive marriage. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I understand that I’m lucky to have had relatives who were able to help me with legal fees and moving expenses (I’m on a payment plan and have repaid almost all of it by now), but now my family members make unreasonable demands for personal information about me, require I check in with them about decisions I’m making for myself, and have implied that I shouldn’t spend money on certain items (necessities like rent) until I’ve paid them back. They’ve gone so far as to repeatedly call and text me when I’m at work until I drop everything (even leaving meetings!) to answer whatever their questions may be. They make hurtful comments about how my past judgment was clearly not the best to have ended up in a relationship with an abuser and I can’t be trusted to make decisions for myself yet. They also say that I’m ungrateful, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve worked hard in therapy to understand how important boundaries are to recovering from past abuse, and this dynamic feels unhealthy for me. I’m hesitant, however, to be rude to family members who likely saved my life and seem to really be doing this out of a misplaced sense of caring. How do I balance my obligation to their generosity with my obligation to myself?

Dear Letter-writer:

I had a very similar situation when I lived with my parents after leaving my abusive husband.  Suffice it to say, I had a terrible relationship with them when I was a teen and that parent-child dynamic was recreated for as long as I stayed with them.  It was so bad with my parents that I actually went back to my husband because at least I was an adult in my own home when I lived with him.  A miserable, desperate-to-be-treated-like-a-human-being adult, but an adult just the same.  So don’t do that.

I agree with Prudence that you seem to have moved from one abusive situation to another.  That’s really unfortunate, but I think that overall you are on the right path and there’s not much to be done about your situation right this second.  You can try setting boundaries in the way Prudence suggests, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t go well.

I hate to suggest this because it sounds so, so fucked up, but channel those skills that helped you keep your head down and bide your time before you left your husband.  Use them here to de-escalate and evade.  You mention that you’ve almost paid these people back, so you don’t have to do this for very long.  Once you’ve paid them back, move on with a completely clear conscience.  If necessary, cut them off completely.

These are people that appear to have bought into some of the myths about abusive relationships, such as the idea that any and all abusive situations can be avoided, and if you did get sucked in to a toxic marriage it’s because you have “bad judgment.”  This is just a way of psychologically insulating themselves and reassuring themselves that what happened to you could never happen to them because they have “good judgment.”  Once you get some distance from them, try to forgive them by thinking of them as people that simply have no clue.  They have no idea how abusive dynamics work and that’s a good thing because they have experienced a version of the world that is closer to how it was meant to be.

But that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them.

I’m sure they mean well, but meaning well doesn’t magically make them not abusive.  You can’t make them see how grateful you are, and you can’t make them see that they are treating you horribly.  The only thing you can do is limit your exposure.

 


 

Dear Prudence:

We’ve had a string of (really) bad roommates, but recently a good friend moved in with us. He’s amazing. He makes delicious coffee for us every morning. He cleans up. He’s a great guy. He moved in with us because he just ended a five-year relationship with his fiancée. Since he’s recently single and my roommate, he’s very much off the table, but this past weekend we got drunk and hooked up. He confessed to me that he’s had a crush on me since the moment we met and that it’s hard not to kiss me every single day. I have a crush on him too.

We’ve talked and decided that this is a recipe for disaster, yet we can’t seem to stop flirting with each other. Is there any amicable solution here other than finding another new roommate?

Dear Letter-writer:

Wait – what?  No!  Honestly, you create more drama with the constant dance of we-shouldn’t-but-we-really-REALLY-want-to than you do by just going for it.

My questions for you right now are:

  1. Who’s this “we”?  If by “we” you mean yourself and a significant other, than you have some soul-searching to do on a much deeper level than wondering what to do about a roommate you hooked up with.
  2. Do you actually like him or is he just someone available who happens to like you?  I know you’ve known him for a while and he hasn’t been single until recently so it might be a difficult question to answer, but give it some thought and see what you come up with.
  3. How compatible are you two and for which type(s) of relationships?  A fuck buddy relationship?  A friends with benefits relationship?  A temporary dating relationship?  A long-term relationship?  Marriage and kids someday?  What boundaries are you comfortable with and what expectations do you have?

The best way to handle this will depend on how you answer the above.  I’ll be honest, I’m very biased in the “go for it!” direction, but I think if you sift through the questions I suggested, the right answer for the two of you will present itself.


 

Dear Prudence:

After three lost pregnancies, my husband and I are expecting in June. We’re very excited! I’m normally a very affectionate person, but I’m having anxiety about the possibility of random strangers reaching out to touch my growing stomach. I think it’s terribly rude to touch someone in a vulnerable and sensitive place without asking, and I would never dream of doing it to another woman. If this happens, which I assume it will, how should I react that might get them to think twice about ever doing it again?

Dear Letter-writer:

Congratulations!

Seriously, though, why is touching pregnant women a thing?  And who actually has this problem?  I mean, I’ve heard from enough women who have suffered through having their pregnant bellies touched by strangers – clearly it happens to a lot of people, but I’ve been pregnant three times and never had anyone touch my belly.

What’s wrong with me that no one wanted to touch me?  Do I look mean and scary?  Do I give off an out-of-my-way vibe?  I just think it’s ironic that I’m the one person who wouldn’t care about being touched, and yet I’m the one person it doesn’t happen to.  Weird.


Dear Prudence:
My husband and I have been together for seven years now. We have a fantastic relationship except for one thing: We don’t know how to fight constructively. We don’t fight terribly often, but when we do, it goes a little something like this: One of us brings up something that upsets the other. The other takes it very personally and becomes defensive. A loud argument ensues. Feelings are hurt. One storms off to another room, and we ignore each other for a couple of days until we just quietly decide to act like nothing had happened. I know this is unhealthy, but he refuses to go to counseling because he says he’s already worked on changing himself, so now it’s my turn to work on changing. Until I do, he won’t even consider counseling. We’re at an impasse because I firmly believe I’ve tried to change my own behavior, and if it isn’t satisfactory, then the only thing left to try is counseling. And even though I will admit that he’s worked hard over the years to rein in his anger issues, I honestly don’t see any changes in the way he handles our arguments. Since we can’t seem to reach an agreement, counseling seems to be the only reasonable next step. He seems to think it is a waste of money and we need to figure this out on our own, but this clearly hasn’t happened.
What do I do? How do I convince him that counseling would help us sort out our feelings and give us better tools to argue without ruining several days on end? There are times when I feel so weary I want to throw in the towel, but I love him, and I made a vow for better or for worse.
Dear Letter-writer:
Oh boy.  I feel you.  My husband likewise disdains counseling, and what was really frustrating is that we were required to do some premarital counseling before our convalidation … and he completely wasted the opportunity.  And yet, there’s a handful of issues that just keep coming up over and over and result in a big, blowout fight on average about once a year.  It gets so ugly – mean things are said, and then he walks out and leaves me SO ANGRY.  At one point we got as far as starting to hammer out the details of our divorce before he came to his senses.  It’s just an awful feeling.
To answer your question – how can you convince him to go to counseling – I don’t know that you can.  Here’s what I would suggest instead:
  1. Go ahead and go to counseling alone, if only for the self-improvement aspect.  I’ll be honest, he’s being a bully and fighting tooth and nail to avoid looking in the mirror.  Because improving yourself is uncomfortable, so naturally the woman has to do it, amirite?  At the very least, you owe yourself a better you.
  2. Find a new hobby.  Something that will fully occupy your time and attention next time you and your husband aren’t speaking to each other.

Now, those are just my suggestions to get by in the here and now.  Do not treat these as a permanent solution.  The purpose is to give you a bit more space and a bit less friction while you figure out the big picture.  Do not treat these as a permanent solution.  Got it?  Good.

So what now?  Well, you need to monitor what happens over time.

  1. Does he improve over time?  Generally, my husband and I don’t push the same hot buttons more than once. Or twice.  We both work together to de-escalate and avoid the hot buttons when we find ourselves starting to get upset.  We have worked together to get better at not fighting.  Also, my husband does this thing where he will joke about some of the fucked up things we say to each other when we’re fighting – it sounds messed up, I know, but it helps make sure those awful fights have no power over us going forward.  I don’t know what “improving” will look like for you, but that’s what it looks like for us.
  2. Does he escalate over time?  “Over time” is a relative word here, but if this is the pattern, get out.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.  Try a trial separation and tell him why.  It may be a wake-up call for him and he may finally realize how serious this is.  You will find out how much he is willing to do to keep you.  If you do get back together, keep an eye on the overall pattern and make sure the situation is improving.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be improving.  If he continues to escalate after one trial separation, you will probably need to call it quits for good.  No one should have to put up with this behavior, and if he continues to get worse it will only get more difficult for you to take care of yourself.

 

That’s it for today!  As always, your thoughts are appreciated.

 

 

The Problem With Perfectionist Conservatism, Part I of II

Kayla Sue wrote a post a couple months ago talking about “a disturbing movement within the [pro-life] movement that is strongly anti-contraception.”  What she doesn’t get into is how much deeper it goes and why it exists in the first place – there’s a lot going on in the background and below the surface that most visibly manifests this way, and I think it’s worth taking the time to understand where it’s all coming from.

My background, in a nutshell – I was raised a conservative Catholic, I’m still Catholic, and I had a few very messy years in early adulthood.  So I’m fairly familiar with conservative thought and Catholic apologetics, but I’ve had the experience of challenging a lot of my assumptions, sifting through to see what’s bullshit and what holds up.  I’ve worked on seeing what works for me, what works for other people, what doesn’t seem to work for anyone, and occasionally what seems to work for most people.

Now, once you’ve established what’s true and good and beautiful at an individual level, you still have to decide what works for public policy.  And while you have to keep in mind that the way you see the world is not the only way to see the world, I agree with Archbishop Chaput that “A healthy democracy depends on people of conviction working hard to advance their ideas in the public square – respectfully and peacefully, but vigorously and without apologies.”  Unfortunately, this means that for many issues there is realistically no such thing as “live and let live.”

Meet the Perfectionist Conservative

When I say “perfectionist conservative” I am referring to the conservative that is shooting for the moon, social policy-wise.  They want no same-sex marriage, no divorce, no birth control, no abortions, no sex outside of marriage, no single parents and NOTHING LESS IS ACCEPTABLE.  They are unable to prioritize; they want it all at once.  In no way does this represent all conservatives, but as Kayla Sue noted, there’s a bunch out there.  So let me take you inside the mind of a perfectionist conservative, beginning with some baseline concepts:

Human nature – Human nature is corrupt.  Without external constraints, humans will descend into ugliness.  But we need people to behave to minimize the negative impact on innocents such as children.  To get people to behave, we need to make the consequences of bad behavior unpleasant so people will not do those things.  We also need to make unfortunate circumstances unpleasant so people will be sufficiently motivated to do something about it.  Everything is seen through this punitive lens.

Feeding into this, I think, is the way many perfectionist conservatives were raised as children.  Many will wax poetic about how their parents were successful at controlling their behavior with the constant threat of a spanking.  For their own good, of course.  So all they can conceive of for social policy is an environment of punitive control that should be put into place for everyone else’s good, too.

Theology of the Body – Shorthand for the grand unified theory of how our bodies relate to our souls, and based on that, how we should treat our bodies.  Based on a series of talks by St. JPII.  Note: It’s actually on my reading / blogging list because I keep getting referred back to this body of work in my struggles to understand and accept Catholic teaching on sex and birth control.  Widely assumed that if everyone everywhere followed the guidance of Theology of the Body, various social issues would go away.  Specifics include:

  • Sex – An acceptable activity only for married couples so that children have a safe place and stable household to grow up in. Leads to a lot of smug attitude from married conservatives, with an undercurrent of “nah nah ni boo boo” whenever they talk about how people shouldn’t be having sex if they’re not married.  Also leads to a lot of hostility in abstinent single men who are being eaten alive with jealousy that other people are having more fun than they are.  Anyone who has sex outside of marriage is a slave to lust and is party to an inherently abusive relationship, both with their own bodies and with the other person.  Even if you have sex with your fiancée a half-hour before your wedding.  Purity culture addendum: Men have sex because they “need” it; women have sex because they are trying to trick men into loving them.  So women need to deny men the satisfaction of their “need” in order to wrest a commitment (i.e. marriage) out of them in order to satisfy their own need for love.  It’s just the way men and women are; no use denying biology.
  • Birth control – Enables people to have sex outside of marriage without the “consequences” of children. Also enables married couples to continue to selfishly use each other for lustful purposes without the consequences of children.  Note: All that being said, I have to think that the long-term effects of all of us dumping hormones into our bodies en masse cannot be benign.  It would be nice if we collectively could maybe not assume that turning our bloodstreams into artificially-created hormone rivers is necessary and normal.  It would also be nice if young women could go to the doctor for things unrelated to reproduction without being pressured into taking a prescription for birth control pills.

Marriage – the basis for the family, the building block of society.  We need to encourage strong marriage … by making it supremely unpleasant to be in anything other than a monogamous, heterosexual marriage.  And we need to make it difficult / impossible to divorce, because people only divorce for selfish reasons.  Also, if people do “need” a divorce because of abuse, they need to prove it in court.  Because abusers always leave a neat trail of evidence, and if they don’t then it’s not really abuse anyway.  Also, abuse victims should be able to clearly and logically piece together their stories in a sequential fashion, because trauma isn’t a thing.  If they can’t tell a clear, logical, sequential story in which they reacted to every stimulus like a “reasonable person,” it’s not because of the way trauma messes with your brain; it just means they are lying.  Marriage is also a ticket out of poverty, and we will prove it by trotting out statistics of how middle class and rich people behave and make the logical leap that poor people can become like middle class and rich people by behaving like them, but only in ways that we care about, such as marriage.  Note: No word on whether you can magically lift yourself out of poverty by buying a yacht and a vacation home in the Hamptons.

Family – the building block of society.  We need to encourage strong families … by making it supremely unpleasant to be in anything other than a nuclear family.

Self-denial – Life is not about what you want and it is childish to use “but I want it” as an argument for anything.  We need to be better than the animals and master self-denial and self-control.  Note: A fair point, but too often used as a crutch.  By itself carries no weight, even though it is often treated like it does.

Right to life – the foundation for every other human right.  Liberty, bodily autonomy, equal protection under the law – none of those have any meaning without the right to life as an inviolable foundation.  Touches a lot of specific issues, but for today we are only roping in:

  • Abortion – This is the only issue that is actually a matter of life and death.

Why the inability to prioritize?

You will notice that at the end of a very long section detailing the perfectionist conservative’s opinions on all the things that are wrong with society, there is one small sentence on abortion – the only issue that is actually a matter of life and death.  But that’s not good enough for the perfectionist conservative – they want it all.  At once.  Right now.

I mentioned earlier that one of the defining characteristics of the perfectionist conservative is the seeming inability to prioritize one issue over another, and I think I see two reasons for this:

  • Cultural blend – not so long ago, American culture and Christianity were very intertwined. They still are, but not to the extent they used to be.  Even so, this is why you see a lot of people falling back on Christian theology to explain their recommendations for social policy.  They are unable to separate what every Christian optimally ought to practice with what you can reasonably expect people from a variety of backgrounds to conform to.  So you ask the perfectionist conservative what his non-negotiables are for social policy and he says, “All of them.”
  • Perfect is the enemy of the good – the perfectionist conservative believes that ALL of their pet issues need to be addressed RIGHT NOW or any remaining permissiveness will once again rot society to the core. After all, with the very future of Western Civilization™ at stake, one simply cannot negotiate with terrorists. Note: I give them points for realizing that things are connected to causes, but then I take those points back away for refusing to listen to what actual problems and actual causes are.

 

In Part II we will talk about how the perfectionist conservative sees various social ills, how they want to fix them, where they are wrong, and where they are right.

Cows and Graveyards, Revised

Once upon a time, I went on a two-hour drive through rural Iowa with some classmates, and the girl who was driving taught us all how to play Cows and Graveyards.

Here’s how you play:

  • Divide the car into two teams: left side and right side. Note: It should be decided before the game begins which team gets the person sitting in the middle of the back seat.  It is recommended that they be on the “left side” team, as the “left side” team includes the driver, who cannot really commit to playing since they are, you know, in charge of driving.
  • Each team watches their side of the car.
  • When you pass cows, count them. You must count them out loud, and you must stop counting when you can no longer see the cows.  Cow totals are cumulative.  For example, if you pass a herd of 15 cows and later pass a herd of 10 cows, you have a total of 25 cows.
  • When you pass a graveyard, all your cows “die” and you have to start over.
  • The winning team is the team with the most cows when you reach your destination.

It was a lot of fun!  So naturally I taught my children how to play.

Good times, right?  Wrong.

See, the problem I run into while driving through the Chicago suburbs is that there are no cows.  There are plenty of graveyards, but no cows.  So to make sure we had a playable game while driving to my parents’ house in Iowa, I made some … minor modifications.

General rule:

If you can see it, you can count it.  All animals count – cows, horses, dogs, squirrels, birds, and even musk oxen.  However, the unit of measurement is still the cow.  So, for example, if you count five horses, two dogs, and three birds, you have ten “cows.”

Count modifiers:

Different things you see while driving will either add to or subtract from your total cow count.

Businesses:

Fast food: Some of your cows are hungry and stop to eat.  -15 cows.

Gas station: Your cows are more energized.  +10 cows.

Hotel: Your cows feel better after a good night’s sleep.  +10 cows.

Starbucks: Your cows are more energized.  And Mommy is in a better mood.  +2 cows.

Wal-Mart: Save money.  Live better.  +3 cows.

Optional rule:

As a practical expedient while travelling on the highway, players may elect to use logos on blue highway signs (i.e. “Lodging next exit” or “Food next exit” signs) instead of looking for businesses from the road.

Medical centers:

Secular medical center: +50% bonus cows.  Because science is awesome.

Religious medical center: +100% bonus cows.  Because science + God is even better.

Catholic medical center: +110% bonus cows.  THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU … to have more cows.

Churches:

Catholic church: +6 cows.

Any other church: +5 cows.

Note: Initially, passing a Protestant church required subtracting 2 cows for embarrassingly bad theology, but my 10-year-old protested, “Mommy, you’re not being very nice to people who believe differently than you.”  Point taken.

Other landmarks:

Water tower: Some of your cows drown.  -10 cows.

Community college or university annex: Yay for smart cows!  +30% bonus cows.

Trains: +1 cow for every train car with graffiti.

Optional and proposed rules:

Optional rule:

When passing a graveyard, instead of all of your cows dying, a number of cows equal to the number of gravestones in the graveyard die.  Useful for those small country graveyards with maybe 20 stones.

Proposed rule:

“Mommy, what about auto parts stores?” asked my 12-year-old.  I don’t know – it seems like we should do something with auto parts stores, but I’m not sure what.

Proposed rule:

When crossing the Mississippi River, all your cows fall into the river and drown.

“NOOOOOO!”

Okay, fine: when crossing state lines, your cows are confused by the new surroundings and get lost.  Lose 20% of your cows.

Proposed rule:

“Mommy, shouldn’t we get +10 cows for passing a barn because the cows are rested?”  You currently have almost 200 cows – clearly you are doing fine.  Why are you lobbying for more?  “I don’t know.  Just ‘cuz.”

The following rule is optional, but if adopted, it must be wholly adopted.  Partial adoption is disallowed.

When approaching a barn, barn-like structure, or a cluster of barns or barn-like structures, if cows are visible from the road, players may elect to either: 1) count all the cows they can see (consistent with the rest of the rules); or 2) use the 10-cows-per-structure practical expedient.  Before passing each newly-sighted barn, barn-like structure, or cluster of barns or barn-like structures, one option or the other must be verbally elected.

For each green highway sign (mile-markers and exit signs don’t count), one of your cows stops to read the sign.  Lose that cow.

(And this is how you know your mother is a CPA.)

(P.S. The above proposed rule was NOT adopted in my car.  I can’t imagine why.)


 

Obviously, you can do whatever you want with this.  If you’re an atheist parent, for example, you may want to flip around the bonuses for the medical centers, or subtract 5 cows for ANY type of church you pass.  Whatever makes it fun!

This is my deadline song and I’m gonna play it

Hi everyone!

It’s crunch time for me at work right now, so unfortunately two things have happened:

  1. I’ve been quieter than I would prefer
  2. I haven’t been reading all your posts with any sort of consistency

Now, #1 isn’t so bad – it’s a big, wide internet with TONS of great things to read.  But I feel kinda bad about #2 – I follow so. many. amazing bloggers, and you all deserve to be read and discussed by as many people as possible.  I haven’t been able to make my usual contribution to your traffic and for that I apologize.

Moving on – depending on how long we have known each other, you may remember my deadline song from last year.  Here it is again (below) for anyone out there that is buried under too much work and needs a little tune to hum; crowdsourcing request for improvements is still open.  If we’re newly acquainted, enjoy!


Deadlines never bothered me anyway
(to the tune of Let it Go)

The lights are on in the office tonight
Not another soul around
With stacks of my workpapers
On my desk and on the ground

My kids are howling ’cause I can’t see them tonight
Couldn’t keep my promise; heaven knows I tried

Don’t stop to think – just get it done
You’ll only make it worse for everyone
Can’t take much more; I don’t know why 
I even try

Fuck it all; fuck it all
Don’t give a shit anymore
Fuck it all; fuck it all
Grab my keys – I’m out the door
I don’t care what my boss will say
I don’t give a fuck
Deadlines never bothered me anyway

It’s funny how my world now
Comes suddenly alight
As I leave my work behind me
And run into the night

It’s time to see what happens next
When I send my boss a nasty text
Fix this, fix that – no not for me 
I’m free!

Fuck it all; fuck it all
What a sweet refrain to sing
Fuck it all; fuck it all
Strike a match to everything
What delight on this beautiful night
As I drive away.

My boss comes in now like a hurricane of flame
With clenched jaw, bulging eyes as he spits out my name
And one thought crystallizes like the frosty air 
I’m getting fired now – and I can’t seem to care!

Fuck it all!  Fuck it all!
You are all a bunch of tools
Fuck it all; fuck it all
Flip the table; screw you fools
I won’t take this bullshit one more day
Never liked that company anyway.


Note:
I actually do like where I work, and I actually would care if I got fired.  Still, I really hope my boss doesn’t find this.  I would never hear the end of it.