Etiquette / Advice

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.

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.

 

 

I forgot my birthday

Well, technically I haven’t forgotten it yet this year, but most years I do indeed forget my birthday.

If a robot sings Happy Birthday on Mars and there's no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?

If a robot sings Happy Birthday on Mars and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?

So.

For people that don’t forget their birthdays and want to celebrate, there is apparently a group of killjoys roaming the earth that would ban self-hosted or self-organized birthday merrymaking:

“But modern Western culture is predominated by a belief that the individual is owed recognition, accolades, respect, honor and gifts for reaching certain life milestones and if friends and family won’t do it, then they feel justified in taking matters into their own hands to make sure they are sufficiently and deservedly honored.  Humility is a dying character trait.”

Or … people like excuses to party and a birthday provides the perfect excuse.  Using one’s own birthday as an excuse to party is not inherently honoring oneself, because that’s not how birthday parties work anymore.  Birthdays are fantastic excuses to drop everything and party – just by virtue of the fact that there are 365 possible days a year for people to have birthdays and only around 10 or so of those days are official holidays, there’s a good chance that any given person’s birthday falls between established holidays.  It’s a nice deviation in the routine and a break from reality.  Similar to how a beloved patron saint’s feast day works in certain cultures.

Yes, etiquette supposedly forbids hosting a party where people bring you gifts.  But somehow hostess gifts are okay, as are wedding gifts.  It is true that certain types of people cannot move past the idea that “birthday party” = “bring me presents,” and I agree that such an attitude and expectation is very childish.  And yet they still accuse those of us who do not expect gifts of being childish, as if they simply cannot believe that people would throw a party and not expect gifts.  Cultural norms change, and sometimes for the better.

In my circle, when it’s your birthday it’s your turn to host everyone.  That’s how the reciprocation of hospitality works for us.  As a result, I have been to many self-hosted birthday parties but never to one where the birthday person receives any sort of gift.  The only exception is a hostess gift (which authorities agree is allowable) if they are hosting a party at their house with all the planning, decorating, cooking, and alcohol that it entails.  Etiquette calls for reciprocation of hospitality; if you take your turn on your birthday because everyone takes their turn on their birthday, what does it matter?

Answer: It doesn’t.

But because that would limit our ability to be judgmental and haughty, we can’t possibly look at it that way.

TL/DR: Cultural norms change.  It’s a thing; look it up.


Some other choice quotes:

Poor commenter Athena (not me!) asks:

“I’m holding a wine tasting party for my birthday, and I’m paying for everything. Am I consigned to eHell?”

My response:

It depends on who is on call the day of your Judgment.  If it’s someone from a generation or two ago, you are certainly doomed.  To be safe, you should avoid planning any sort of social event or even leaving the house (except for work and limited grocery shopping) for a full 30 days before and after each birthday or half-birthday, lest any intentional or unintentional frivolity be seen as shamelessly honoring yourself.  It does not matter that you are paying for everything or that you do not expect gifts.  Anything you plan in the vicinity of your birthday shall be deemed to be a “self-hosted birthday party” and you shall be found a “selfish gimme-pig.”

On the other hand, someone from our generation (say, ages 20 – 40 or so), will likely have much more sense.  They would tell you not to give it a second thought and go have a blast.  It’s your birthday, after all, and you clearly do not have the expectation of being “honored” or being showered with gifts – what could possibly be wrong with having a good time and sharing the occasion with whomever you want?

UPDATE:

I was totally joking about the “no events 30 days before and after” bit, but commenter Daphne contributed:  “just don’t call it a birthday party, and better yet don’t have it on or near your birthday.” (emphasis mine)  So what I said in jest apparently people are actually saying in seriousness.

Commenter kingsrings says:

“And now awaiting all the comments on here disagreeing with admin, crying foul over her opinion, and naming all the reasons why it’s okay to throw your own birthday party. I predict that the biggest counter-argument will be that it is acceptable practice in other countries to do that, so it’s okay.”

Um – yes.  That’s how it works.  Interesting that even though etiquette is a collection of culture-specific customs, we have people arrogant enough to insist, “Customs be damned – everyone must do everything in a way that makes sense to ME and MY culture.”  We’re not talking about universals of natural law (ex. slavery, human sacrifice), we are talking about culture-specific, morally neutral customs.

In fact, commenter Goldie says that in her country, “As an adult, you were EXPECTED to throw a birthday party for yourself and invite people, especially if it was a big milestone like 30, 40, 50 and so on. People would be hurt and confused if a friend of theirs skipped out of throwing a birthday party – you kind of owed them a celebration.”  RJ adds: “Living on Crete for a time I discovered that Greek people celebrate their Saint’s name day not their birthday: Dimitri would celebrate on St James, Costas or Cristina on St Christopher’s day. But no invitations were issued! Friends were expected to know all the saints’ days and to know that on Christopher’s day Costas would of course be ready to host guests.  Costas would therefore prepare a feast and hope his friends turned up to the party!”

From the admin:

“The first question you should be asking yourself is, ‘Why do I need a birthday party after the age of 18?’ You and others appear to have this unrealistic and selfish expectation that the world owes you a party and if your cretin friends won’t do it, you’ll take matters into your own hands to make certain you get the requisite party marking some age milestone. The second question that apparently no ever asks themselves is, ‘If I consider my birthday that important, why have I not considered the feelings of others in regards to their birthdays and taken the effort to host a party for them?’ ”

To answer the second question first, everyone knows their own birthday.  It’s administratively easier to plan something for a date you already know.

To answer the first question, of course no one “needs” a birthday party; no one is arguing such. Also, no one “needs” to socialize with friends or “needs” to host a dinner party or “needs” to meet coworkers for drinks. There are a host of things that no one “needs” to do and yet we do them anyway because they provide enjoyment to all involved.

What bothers me is that the specific prohibition from hosting a party (that presumably everyone would find enjoyable) on one’s own birthday lends far more weight to the idea that a birthday is “special” somehow than any party could.

From the admin again:

“There are 364 days and 51 other weeks in which to gather friends together to offer them hospitality yet quite a few commenters appear to have deceived themselves into believing they must have an excuse to entertain friends, in particular using the occasion of their own birthday.”

Yes.  That’s how it works when times are lean and money is short. like it has been for a lot of people these last few years.  You do need an”excuse” to do anything financially beyond the bare necessities.  Goldie adds, “I guess maybe because we grew up with a shortage of everything, people weren’t throwing parties for their friends just because, for no reason. It would’ve been weird.”

As much as I ordinarily hate the phrase, it applies here: “Admin, check your privilege!


Final thoughts –

It’s also pretty amusing to flip through the comments and watch people talk past each other on this issue.  In reading these conversations one would never guess that the point of communication is to convey ideas toward a goal of mutual understanding.  Apparently the goal of communication is a trial by combat in which one bludgeons the other person with the same words and phrases over and over until they walk away out of frustration.

I’m just glad I don’t have to put up with anyone like this in real life.

How to talk to clients: intermediate

(Content warning: moderate sufficient profanity)

For those of you that have mastered the skills in the elementary course, now it’s time to step it up: this time I am going to give you some tips on how to communicate diplomatically.  I am joined today by More Charitable Athena (MCA) who more accurately represents my true professional persona.


Scenario 1:

When the client gives you a supporting schedule that has no relation whatsoever to the area you are trying to audit:

Don’t say: Your stuff is fucked up.  Fix this shit before you give it back to me.

Although this is probably the most accurate thing you can say, it is ultimately unhelpful.  Mainly because if it were obvious to your client how fucked up their shit is, they would have fixed it before they gave it to you.  So you have to point out specifics about where and exactly how much their shit is fucked up.

Also, the aggressive phrasing can be a bit off-putting.  They might get defensive, cry, or worse, complain to your boss about what a big meanie you are.  Bosses are notoriously unsympathetic to client misstreatment of their employees, so if that happens you’re really screwed.

Instead try: I am having some difficulty with this supporting schedule you provided (point out at least two or three specific things that don’t work).  Could you please prepare a reconciliation between the supporting schedule and the account I’m looking at?

MCA says: Many people who work in private accounting (i.e. our clients) spend all day working in the trees.  They see the bark on one tree, the sap on another, that damn squirrel that ALWAYS grabs those acorns that need to stay JUST SO to put the picture together.  (Their training conveniently neglected to mention that goddamned squirrel, by the way.  They had to figure that shit out all on their own.)  They don’t see the forest because they have more than enough to do with just the goddamned trees.  So when we auditors come in looking at the forest, we need to communicate with them in terms of the trees they understand.

Bonus: When the client gives you the exact same shit they gave you before that’s fucked up in the exact same way and says, “Here you are – I fixed it.”

Don’t say: What in the actual fuck?  This is the same shit as before, fucked up in the exact same way.  Try again, numbskull.

Same pitfalls as above.  Do you want to be right or do you want to be effective?

Instead: Bring your computer over to them and ask, “Can you walk me through exactly how this reconciles these two areas?”

MCA says: I have found that a lot of people don’t know what it’s like to not know what they know.  Sure, THEY know that you have to add these three numbers and subtract 1/3 of the fourth number and multiply by the average internally-assigned acuity code of the patient population because they DO it every month.  But you don’t.  If you ask them to reperform what they did, one of two things will usually happen: 1) you will understand it, too; or 2) they will see that the supporting schedule they gave you is actually wrong and will fix it for real.


Scenario 2:

When the client disagrees with you and you turn out to be right (duh):

Don’t say: In yo FACE, sucka!!  Haven’t you learned yet not to argue with me?  I’ve forgotten more shit than you’ll ever know!

So you know all there is to know about accounting and auditing.  Fan-fucking-tastic.  Is that really where your sense of self-worth comes from?  Has it occurred to you that most people have priorities other than your particular area of expertise?  Look, the unfortunate reality is that while you see how important it is for people who do accounting for a living to, oh I dunno, actually know something about accounting, the rest of the world doesn’t feel that way.  And it shows.  Don’t suffer under any illusion that you’re going to change this.

Instead say: I’ll go ahead and post the adjustment on my end.  Would you like a copy?

MCA says: Most people care about doing their job right, but unfortunately may have been taught some incorrect or expired information.  If you want clients to be more helpful, get good at explaining things.  Talk to them in terms of the trees they understand (see Scenario 1 above) and walk them through how things work.  Draw pictures.  It helps.


Scenario 3:

When the client says to you on Thursday, “Let’s try and get these financial statements issued before I go on vacation next week.”

Don’t say: Well if you would quit having me change little LITTLE things that ripple through 7 workpapers, 2 adjusting entries, and 3 places in the report, maybe this would have already been done.  Don’t expect me to fix your shit and then question the manner in which I fix it.

Instead say: ….

(I got nothin’ here.  Ya just gotta do it at this point.  Sorry.)

MCA says: Can’t think of a positive spin on this one.  Your client’s just an asshole.


Note: This may or may not be inspired by my job right now.  I will admit nothing.

Don’t be an ass at the gym

Monday seems to be the busiest day at my gym, so in light of that I offer the following public service announcement:

DON’T BE AN ASS AT THE GYM

How’s that?  Oh, you think I need to be more specific?  Alrighty then –

1) If you grab dumbbells off the weight rack, don’t do your reps right there where you’re standing.  You’re blocking me from grabbing the specific dumbbells that I need to do my reps, which I assure you are not less important than yours.  Why yes, I will stand diagonally behind you and do the hip jut while I give you the stink-eye in the mirror.  And then I will purposefully invade your personal space as I swoop in the nanosecond you move to grab / put away the dumbbells I need.  Just like I do every goddamned time you do this.  How have you not figured this out yet?

2) If you use a machine, use it and then get off.  Don’t sit there for 12 minutes (yes, I clocked your ass) playing on your phone while you rest for four minutes between your 20-second sets at the lowest possible weight.  There are other people here, and some of us want to use that machine which, as you will observe, is the only one of it’s kind in the gym.

Exception: If you are old, disregard #2.  You are a badass and I am more than happy to work around you.

3) Don’t spray the cleaner out in the middle, forcing us all to breathe it in.  I don’t want that shit in my lungs.  Spray a towel discreetly in the corner and then come over and wipe the machine off.

Overall, my gym is pretty awesome.  We have people of all sizes, shapes, ages, and levels of fitness there, and people are usually pretty good about being considerate and working around each other.  If we can just tamp down on these inconsiderate habits, the place will be even more pleasant.

How to talk to gay people (a primer)

Opening

Firstly, say hello.  Similar to straight people, most gay people begin their conversations with a greeting.  Common variants are “hello,” “hi,” “yo,” or very rarely, “greetings and salutations.”

Before you proceed, check for eye contact.  Eye contact is a common signal among gay people that a conversation has begun.  If you have not succeeded in making eye contact, DO NOT PROCEED.  As a conversation for gay people is an encounter involving two or more people (i.e. more than just you), you have no conversation if you have failed to gain their attention.  Don’t take it personally and simply try again another time, just like you would treat a missed connection with a straight person.

Next steps

Next, you may ask any of several small-talk type questions, such as “How do you know (insert mutual friend here)?” Or “How long are you visiting the area?” or even “What lovely weekend weather we had!  Were you able to get outside?”  Most gay people are reasonably well-versed in social customs, in a proportion likely similar to straight people.  That’s why they are called “social customs,” because people who are members of society are generally aware of them.  Even gay members of society.

Caution: Similar to straight relationships, gay relationships may be complex or a sensitive subject, so it may be a bit forward to ask directly about their partner or their family. Instead, share a comment or a story about your own significant other and if they want to share, they will respond in kind. You may then follow up with more specific questions about their family.

Caution: As with many straight people, politics and religion are generally not good topics for small talk.  Even if you think you’re safe with a comment like, “How ‘bout that Supreme Court marriage decision?  I bet you’re super excited!” be aware that, like straight people, gay people have nuanced and complicated views.  Respect their depth and diversity of thought just as you would a straight person’s thoughts.

After that, anything goes! Be sure to explore in more depth any shared interests or other things you have in common. You may already know how to do this from the conversations you have had with straight people.

Conclusion

Finally, say goodbye before you go. Similar to straight people, gay people like their conversations to have a definite end.

TL/DR: You talk to a gay person the same way you talk to a straight person.

Bonus guide: How to talk to transgender people – Go back to the beginning of this post.  Replace every usage of “gay” with “transgender.”

TL/DR: You talk to a transgender person the same way you talk to a straight person.

Note: This silliness inspired by a piece advising us all on how to convert “the gays” to Christianity.  The piece was titled “How to talk to the gays,” and this post was the first place my brain went.

Helpful hints for life

Free of charge!  Provided by your friendly neighborhood blabbermouth blogger.

– Theoretically salvation is accessible to people who lack the intellectual capacity for logic.  After all, Christ did die for ALL men.(*)  So if you have faith and that’s all you have, fine – go on about being your bad self.  Just don’t break any civil laws and don’t hurt anyone and we’ll be cool.  That said, don’t pretend you have logic and history on your side, because you don’t.

– And don’t pretend you’re being attacked and persecuted when someone invites you to logic and you fail miserably.

– If you don’t know how to logic, methinks you ought to think twice before trumpeting about the superiority of your education.

– I know it’s scary when someone challenges the foundation of what you think and believe, but you really ought to be able to answer and explain how and why you believe what you do.  Even if that answer is, “Let me get back to you – I read up on all this once upon a time and it’s not fresh in my mind anymore.”

– Obviously you don’t owe me or anyone else anything, but if you issue a challenge like “prove me wrong” and then someone does just that, well then you have some work to do.  Work that involves something other than “Well I wasn’t talking to YOU anyway.”

(*) Despite what the new Eucharistic prayer says effective 11/27/11.  I refuse to believe that English-speaking Catholics all converted to Calvinism.


FAQ’s:

Q: Da fuq?  It almost seems as if you’re directing this at someone specific, but I see no names or links or anything – why is that?

A: Why yes, this was inspired by someone specific!  How very perceptive.  Unfortunately, as you may have picked up, this person fails at logic, so I can guarantee you all of the above will be completely lost on them.  And they do seem like a sweet kid, so I don’t really want to be mean and hit them in the face with it.  I’ll just vent here and leave it be.

Q: You COMPLETELY lost me when you started making obscure references to Catholic liturgical practices.  I don’t even know what to ask because that was confusing as hell.

A: My apologies – I forget sometimes that not everyone can read my mind.  The long and short of it is that back in November 2011 (if memory serves), the Catholic Church came out with a new English translation of the Mass.  I hated it then and I still hate it now; it has some real issues.  I’m actually working on a post that goes into more detail; if you happen to catch that one hopefully you will see what I mean.

Q: How can logic POSSIBLY lead someone to Catholicism?  Atheism is the one that has logic on lock-down; it’s a known fact.

A: Known fact, eh?  See my post “Sexism is ugly” for clarification on how I feel about “known facts.”

That aside, this is a great question, and it’s really too big to fully answer here.  Besides, other people have done a much better job than I could possibly hope to do.  Like this guy, or this guy or this guy (if you prefer your people to be alive), or many, many others I won’t link to.  Google “Catholic apologetics” if you really want to get lost.

Q: But religion is anti-science!  It’s a known fa … errr … established history.

A: The idea that the universe is a rational, orderly place that can be explored and discovered through logic and scientific experimentation actually came from the Catholic Church.  The idea is that if it is the nature of God to be infinite order, then those portions of His creation that do not have free will must also be orderly.  Such a framework not only allows for but encourages science as a way to better understand God’s creation.  For starters – the guy who proposed a helocentric model of the solar system was a devout Catholic, the father of modern genetics was a friar, and the guy who proposed the Big Bang Theory (the science, not the TV show) was a Jesuit priest.

Q: We’re getting off track.

A: Agreed.  Here’s where I was going with this –

At any given point, keep in mind the following –

– What do I know?

– How do I know it?

– What is the most likely explanation?

– What merit is there (if any) to dissenting thoughts?

That last question is by far the trickiest.  There has always been an issue with false / misleading information and the internet has done a great job at giving EVERYTHING a wider audience, both the good and bad.  But the good news is that, like I said, the good stuff has a greater audience, too!

Here’s my suggestion: do your best to have a good command of what you believe and generally why you believe what you do.  I’m talking the very VERY foundational things.  Do you believe in God?  Why?  Do you subscribe to a particular religion?  Why? Where does authority for doctrine and discipline come from?  How do you know?

If you have a grasp of WHY you believe these foundational ideas, you are better able to engage or fact-check yourself and others when someone challenges you.  Who knows – you might learn something.  Maybe you were wrong about some things.  At the very least you will stretch your brain and learn how to logic better, which is a very important life skill.

Dear Prudence – January 20, 2015

I don’t know how many of you follow Dear Prudence at Slate, but the chat on Monday (here and here) had a few things I want to comment on:

1

Okay, within all the extraneous commentary is buried a little sentence that gets us halfway to the answer: “You don’t even say if your daughter-in-law wants you buzzing around when she gives birth.”

Well, maybe you should ask her.  Your son’s wedding is important, yes, but it will go on and be wonderful with or without you.  Yes, your grandchild will be around a lot longer than the day of his birth (God willing, of course), but labor and delivery is excruciatingly difficult for any woman – is she counting on your support?  If yes, then you are making the right decision to be there for her.

On to the next one –

2

Any or all of a few different things are accomplished by complaining about a spouse:

1) Validation in feeling irritated

2) Venting so when you do approach your spouse later you aren’t angry

3) Enjoying the intimacy of marriage, including the fact that you see all the wrinkles of another person

I think Prudie’s advice is good – give the other women the validation they seem to be seeking.  And don’t think too much of it beyond that – complaining about a spouse isn’t ALWAYS the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad habit some people think it is.

Last one –

3 4 5

This one is a pretty heavy one.  I don’t know what it’s like to raise a special needs child, so to the original letter-writer I say: you and ONLY you know how much you can handle.  You may be wrong about how much you can handle, so I would emphasize what the second poster said about making sure you have resources lined up to help you.

However, I do know what it’s like to have a special needs sibling.  I have a brother with severe autism who is two years younger than me.  I remember being young, playing with my brother, thinking that it’s fine that he can’t talk to me yet because he’s still a baby.  That’s okay, though – I just have to be patient.  He’ll grow and learn to talk and before I know it he’ll be able to play with me.  I waited a long time.  It never happened.

At 30 years old, he can say any of several memorized phrases to express himself, but he doesn’t string words together on his own.  This progress didn’t come easily – my parents’ entire lives were spent trying everything to encourage his development.  Everything was about what he needed and what would help him.  It really did feel like my needs were a distant afterthought, if they were even a priority.

But here’s the thing – I am a functioning adult.  I am not a slave to a developmental disability like my brother is.  At some point I have to say to myself, “Sure, I do feel like I got shafted out of getting some actual attention from my parents, but so what?  They are only human; they can only do so much.  It’s not ideal, but I do have the ability to make up for lost time; essentially, to raise myself as an adult.”  That’s the approach I’ve taken and the approach I would recommend to fellow adult siblings of special needs children.

I hope this letter-writer and her husband are able to decide what is best for their family.


Agree?  Tell me in the comments.  Disagree?  Go eat a rock.  Kidding!  Tell me that in the comments, too – nicely.

Toddler tantrums

Everyone who has not had children knows that toddlers only ever scream or have tantrums while safely at home out of the public eye.  In the event that a toddler decides to start screaming in public, everyone knows that the parent ought to be able to calm the child.  In fact, plenty of parents will jump in here and agree that it’s always possible to calm or quiet a screaming child in public, because children with varying personalities and levels of development are magically all the same in this one regard.  But on the off chance that you fail as a parent and cannot calm your child, well then it is your Sacred Duty™ to remove the child so you don’t risk offending anyone else.

Never mind that you have no other opportunity to get your grocery shopping done or stop at the post office or pick up your glasses – thou shalt not, under any circumstances, remain in public with a screaming child.  It’s the 11th Commandment – look it up.  Why would you think it’s okay for you to finish up your errand?  How entitled are you?

Any parent out in public with a screaming toddler should be prepared (and grateful!) when strangers scold them for their inadequate parenting skills.  They should bow their heads meekly and accept an exhortation to “Go to hell!” as if it were the most benign of blessings.  It is, of course, the parent’s fault in the first place for even HAVING children.  It is further the height of irresponsibility to have children while single and without having at least two forms of backup childcare available whenever you need to go grocery shopping; how dare you inflict your irresponsible choices on me!

“But what does any of that have to do with anything?  The fact remains that I’m here, and my baby is here, and we both need to eat.  When exactly am I supposed to go to the store?”

You made your bed, now sleep in it!  Now that you’ve procreated irresponsibly, it’s on you to rearrange your schedule so that you’re not shopping at the same time that I am.

“But I can’t rearrange my schedule!  I only have daycare during the hours I’m in class, and I only have a very narrow window between class time and when the grocery store opens / closes!  I’m doing homework the rest of the time!”

Well you should have thought of that before you decided to breed.  Your kids are not my problem.  Period.  By the way, your defiant, entitled attitude isn’t earning you any sympathy.

“I don’t need your sympathy – your sympathy isn’t going to do my coursework, buy my groceries, or care for my children.”

*Scoff*  Parents these days.

Sex Advice

Granted I’ve only been married for five years, but in my opinion this is the only sex advice column you will ever need.

Id's Red Book

Has anyone else noticed that most sex advice columns are total bullshit?  Sure, they might sound like they have a clue what they’re talking about, but once you dig a little bit you realize they’re full of shit and just regurgitating the same advice they read on another bullshit site.

For example, (I’ve chopped it down for readability without changing the content too much, you can verify by reading the original here.  I’m not calling out that site specifically, but this type of advice. **Edit, the site has since been removed but I’m too lazy to find another bullshit sex advice column and they’re pretty much all the same anyway**.) here is some advice provided on an actual relationship and sex advice blog here on WordPress:

Ways to spice up your now boring sex life:

1. Dress up. It is so fun to dress up and get into character. Be creative and…

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