Friday I'm in Love. . .With The Katydids

Ironflower's real name was almost Katherine. Which probably doesn't explain the almost spiritual connection I feel to the Katydids, the female, Kate-named improv troupe that created, writes, produces and stars in the show Teachers, but I feel compelled to point it out anyway.

Because while I was totally cool when I ran into Siggy Flicker from the Real Housewives of New Jersey at Trader Joe's this week, I would absolutely fan girl like an idiot if I ran into any of the Katydids there.

Fortunately this will never happen because none of them live in NJ.

Quick note about the Siggy sighting, for those of you into #RHONJ: She is almost as short as I am when she's wearing Ugg slippers at Trader Joe's. She shops FAST. Only me and the guy at the checkout seemed to recognize her. She did not cry or complain about Margaret while she was there. 

Anyway, the Katydids are super cool despite not living in NJ.

Teachers ended its second season (on TV Land) last Tuesday, but I'm pretty sure you can watch it On Demand or online if you would like a break from all the stuff I normally post about.

I don't think you have to be (or have been) a teacher to appreciate the show, but since half the people who read me are anyway. . . .


Goren Is My Sacred Cow

I was sick last week, which means I searched for and watched Law & Order marathons. My all time rankings for Dick Wolf shows look like this:

1. Law & Order: Criminal Intent
2. Law & Order: SVU
3. Law & Order
4. Every abruptly cancelled iteration of Law & Order
5. Chicago P.D.
6. Chicago Fire
7. Law & Order: True Crime
8. All the ones I've never watched.

Since Criminal Intent is my favorite, I've pretty much watched every episode several times. Last week they showed the episodes where Goren goes to therapy. His cruel mother is dead, but he still can't speak ill of her to his therapist.

I know I've seen the episodes before, but for whatever reason, this time that idea really struck me. It was all I could do not to wake the kids and tell them that it was okay for them to complain about me to their future therapists.

I mean, I doubt any of them will go on to become emotionally unstable, professionally successful police detectives who must go to therapy to keep their jobs, but I don't know that for a fact. And of course, it's not only Dick Wolf characters who go to therapy. Chances are good that at least one of my kids will need some help some day.

And while I sure hope they don't have to go to therapy BECAUSE of me, I also hope that if they do go they feel free to bitch about all the times the tooth fairy was several days late. Or how I wore antlers to chaperone the school holiday party. Or all the times I yelled.

I want my kids to know that I'm not a sacred cow, especially with their therapists. Most especially after I'm dead.

I want my kids to understand the difference between criticism and disrespect, between loving acceptance and worship, between acknowledgement and responsibility.

I'm not entirely sure how to do this, although I'm tempted to have them just watch all the Goren episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent  with me so we can properly analyze all the issues Goren and his mother have. I suspect, though, that this would be fodder for their own future therapist visits and would probably have the terrible side effect of making them not appreciate the awesomeness of Goren as a character.

I'm definitely NOT okay with that side effect.


Shut Up About My Teenage Girl

It's practically a cultural norm that teenage girls are terrible.

Their tastes are insulted on the regular - think about your perceptions of "boy bands"  and other things popular with teen girls.

Heathers and Mean Girls, movies that I adore, are, in essence, movies about how cruel teenage girls are.

Chances are good that if you find a woman who hated high school, she will blame her female peers for her torment. Hell, I didn't hate high school and I've still said shitty things about teen girls, based solely on a few bad apples who are probably also terrible as adults (I don't know for sure, because I'm not friends with them on Facebook) and the stupid things I did and said as a teen. 

The first articles that popped up when I typed "Teen girls" into Google all had to do with the pressure teenage girls get to send nude pictures of themselves. The top news stories included one about a pastor who was APPLAUDED BY HIS CONGREGATION for confessing that he molested a teenage girl and one about a series of murders of teen girls that remains unsolved 50 years later. 

I had to scroll nearly to the bottom of the results page to find an article detailing what a mess the teenage brain is. (If you have a teenage girl, or a future teenage girl, I highly recommend reading the linked article). 

Couple that mess with the pressures of school, of boys you may have crushes on demanding your naked photos or other things you're not comfortable with, your dearest friends also falling apart, a society that alternately dismisses you or sexualizes everything you do and the confusion of figuring out who you are as a person. . . .

It's actually amazing that teenage girls aren't worse. 

Do you remember the Fierce Five? They were the teen girls who won gymnastics gold at the 2012 Olympics. Three of them have since come out as survivors of sexual abuse from their fucking team doctor. They were being molested at the same time as they were winning the Olympics.*

Can you imagine the kind of emotional strength it takes to do that? 

The kind of emotional strength it takes to act in a movie and be on set with your abuser. The kind of emotional strength it takes to survive and become a high school valedictorian. So many teenage girls are fighting demons we can't imagine, while maintaining their image on Instagram and their grades and their jobs/sports/hobbies and sometimes even freaking parenting. . . even though their brains are not fully developed and this is often when mental health issues first arrive. . .

and we want to call them mean or terrible or silly?

Teenage girls are amazing. Especially the ones surviving today.

I've described my teenage self as a "terrible human being" more than once. And yeah, compared to who I am now? I was pretty spoiled, thoughtless and clueless. But it's not like I was selling heroin to elementary school kids or beating up old ladies. Judging my teenage self - or any teenager - by my adult standards is unfair, to say the least.

Ironflower turned 13 last month (yeah, I can't believe it either). She likes Mean Girls and Heathers and loves to point out when she's being a stereotypical teenager. She's more Daria than Quinn, at least so far, which makes it easy to forget that when we make comments about teenagers, we're talking about her too.

But you can bet that she, and all the other teenagers and almost teenagers we love, remember our comments. They will always remember how we talked to them and about them.

*Since my first draft of this post, Simone Biles - the most amazing gymnast in the history of ever- has also come out as a survivor of that evil doctor's abuse. I am in awe of her strength. I am also horrified. If this is what happens to our most celebrated teens, what do you think is happening to regular teens?


It Doesn't Matter What You Think

I have a lot of thoughts about Aziz Ansari. I have a lot of thoughts about Grace, too.

But mostly I have thoughts about what consent means, or should mean.

(If you're not sure what I'm talking about, allegedly feminist comedian Aziz Ansari and 22 year old Grace - not her real name- went on a date a while back. Grace feels he assaulted her {Her account, painful to read, is here} and he has apologized for misreading her signals.)

My first thought, when I saw the article linked on Twitter, was, "Not Aziz, dammit!"

But I read the article anyway, because of course I did.

It made me sad.

When I was Grace's age (and younger), it was sort of a given that a guy would always be trying to push past whatever boundaries you had in place. And it was the girl's job to repeatedly say no, or move the hand away, or whatnot. And if it got really annoying, you left. (And if he didn't let you leave, or ignored your no, then maybe it was assault but also what were you doing in his room in the first place?)

By those standards, this story is not one of assault.

I keep reading comments about how she didn't leave, how she didn't repeatedly say no, so of course it wasn't assault.

And I'm inclined to agree, given my own experiences and my realization that while it sounds like Aziz is both clumsy and gross, he is not Harvey Weinstein.

And yet.

If we define consent as not actively saying no, Brock Turner is not a rapist. And Brock Turner is definitely a bigger rapist than Aziz Ansari.

If we define consent as not leaving immediately, we blame every person afraid to run out of their boss' or potential employer's office.

Grace seems baffled that Aziz Ansari misunderstood her non-verbal cues and lack of affirmative consent. I find this heartening in one way - it makes me think that when Grace has hooked up with her male peers, they have respected non-verbal cues and looked for affirmative consent.

Aziz is something like 15 years older than Grace so it's entirely possible he missed the affirmative consent movement during his college years. It's also entirely possible that as an Emmy winning TV star in his late 30s, he presumes the consent of every young woman who agrees to go out with him. If #MeToo has taught us anything, it's taught us that powerful men often assume consent from all the less powerful women in their orbit. 

Grace's shock and inability to advocate for herself in the moment will feel familiar to anyone who has been assaulted. And yet those of us who grew up in places and times where no had to be explicit, repeated and occasionally accompanied by running out the door, it's hard to understand why Grace felt so violated by Aziz's creepiness. 

Consent should never be implied, nor should it rely on anyone to yell no. In an ideal world, partners would be attuned to and invested in their lovers' non-verbal cues every single time. But we don't live in an ideal world, so when we talk to our kids about consent, we need to talk about what happens when they find themselves with a creep. 

Because of this story and my own experiences as a heterosexual woman, I know I'm looking at consent through a certain lense. But affirmative consent and strong self-advocacy are important for kids of all genders and sexualities. 

In the end, it doesn't really matter what you or I think of Grace, Aziz and their horrible date. What does matter is working to prevent dates like that and worse. 


#Shithole Country

There are now almost as many articles describing Trump's racism as there are about why Trump voters still support Trump. And there are still swaths of people - including Bernie Sanders - who will tell you that Trump and his supporters are not racists.

Those swaths of people are lying. Perhaps even to themselves.

Those swaths of people really enjoy quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as they swear Trump is not racist because he hired Omarosa and Ben Carson. They will even cite Trump recognizing today as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to point out how he's not racist.

Fun fact: If you judge a person by the land of their birth, or assume the content of their character because of  where they were born or what religion they practice? You're just as racist as if you judged them by their skin color.

And if you fucking announce that you want immigrants from Norway instead of El Salvador? You're racist.

And not in that funny way from Avenue Q, either.

If you spend a lot of time on Breitbart (which is doubtful if you are reading this blog) or watching certain Fox News shows, your definition of racist is probably very different than mine. Breitbart, after all, has a tag called, "black crime" to rile up their readers - who claim the tag is "not racist".

Trump, alleged leader of the free world, does spend time on Breitbart and Fox News. He's also 71 and the son of a man arrested at a Klan rally. He doesn't read. He's never served in the military, studied abroad, interned, worked for minimum wage, moved to a new city or done anything to expand his cultural knowledge. Of course he's racist.

I used to think he was racist in a way that I call "privileged racist". You know, the kind that doesn't see skin color - or acknowledge that people of color have challenging experiences solely because of their skin color that white people can't imagine. But now I suspect Trump's racism is deeper and more global.

The Daily Stormer, Nazi wannabe paper of record, was right about something back in 2016: Trump is their candidate.

At this point, I'm more comfortable with the Nazi wannabe who openly says he loves Trump because of his racism than all of the people who tell me Trump isn't racist. Those who don't or can't see Trump's racism never share this King quote with me, but I think it's more appropriate:

Of course, as Trump runs around calling other countries shitholes (Trump fans should read that "as Trump runs around talking tough") and insulting our friends, I'm finding it harder and harder to view the silent people as good. 

Fox host Jesse Watters says this is how the forgotten people talk at the bar. I know Fox thinks "forgotten people" is code for the white working class. . . but it's really code for racists of all economic levels. In fact, I've heard talk like this from way more white middle and upper class people than I've ever heard from working class people. Exhibit A, Fox talking blonde Tomi Lahren, who make more money than most of us do.

If they aren’t shithole countries, why don’t their citizens stay there? Let’s be honest. Call it like it is.

I guess Tomi (and Trump) don't realize that people immigrate FROM the US as well - does that make us a shithole?

But Tomi, just like The Daily Stormer, is also right about one thing: Call it like it is.


Friday I'm In Love: This Post Wasn't Sponsored

This post has affiliate links. Because I'm posting about something I actually like!  You are free to ignore them. Keep in mind, though,  that Jeff Bezos will not miss the nickels I will earn if you buy through me, but I'll be forever grateful. 

For Christmas, my Dad (thanks, Dad!) got our family an Echo Dot . The kids were very excited to be able to ask Alexa things, because they love harassing her at my parents' house. (I have a very bad habit of anthropomorphizing Alexa. I've been known to thank her.) It was nice to just ask for the weather and top news headlines, instead of getting sucking into the morass that is my phone and all of its various notifications and distractions.

 Quickly we all embraced her ability to keep track of our every growing grocery list, especially since we could just yell things to her while we were in the middle of cooking.

But it was Hot Guy demanding that she play "Rhinestone Cowboy"  to torture the kids that made me fall in love with the Echo Dot . Alexa explained that if we had Amazon Music she could play us the whole song, but since we didn't, she'd play us an excerpt. Immediately I investigated Amazon Music.

Now, probably all of you reading this have many cool music apps and/or already know about Amazon Music but we. . . .did not. We still have CDs. We just got rid of our stereo last year. Sometimes we try Pandora, but for years most of my music enjoyment has been in the car. When I was in a car with Sirius Satellite Radio.

Anyway. I knew nothing about Amazon Music, despite having been a Prime Member since 2004. I quickly discovered that because I'm a Prime Member, I can pay $3.99 per month for a vast, ad-free, music library that I can play on the Echo Dot and from my phone in the car and from my iPad and. . .

I was able to impress seventh grade girls by telling Alexa to play Imagine Dragons.

I was able to make playlists so easily and with so many different artists that I finally stopped missing mixed tapes.

I was able to listen to it from my phone during my commute to work in the car that doesn't have satellite radio.

I don't think I realized how much I missed listening to music until I was able to do it again. I apologize for writing a post that seems like it's sponsored.

It's totally not. I just really like my Echo Dot and Amazon Music. And I thought I'd try to see if I could still write about something I actually like. During one of the other times I regularly blogged, I did a series called "Friday I'm in Love" to focus on the happy (and to pay tribute to one of my favorite Cure songs, obviously). I'm considering doing it again.

I just doubt I'm going to find something I love as much as my Echo Dot every single week.


There's No Value In This Post

That feeling when you send a blog post out into the world and there's a typo in the freaking TITLE.

This what I have not missed about blogging.

I have a bunch of automated crap for sharing my posts, because that was the accepted wisdom back  in the olden days. I have no idea if it still is, but I also have no idea anymore how to stop any of it. Which sucks, because this probably won't be the last time I have an embarrassing typo.

I'm so much better at proofreading and editing other people's stuff than I am with my own. Of course, it helps that someone ASKS me to look at their stuff, whereas I'm usually in such a hurry to get to the next task that I often hit the publish button prematurely.

Perhaps I do need to look at one of those "How to Create a Successful Blog in One Month" pins that keep showing up on my Pinterest feed. Hopefully they include a reminder to proofread before hitting publish. The last time I looked at one, the first suggestion was to make sure to "offer readers something of value in each post" and the second was to "give them the information they need".

Further investigation revealed that successful bloggers don't consider laughing something of value, nor do they consider learning which people are pissing me off to be information they need.

(Have you guessed who's pissing me off today yet? I promise that you won't have to click through 27 ads to find out!)

I'm not saying that I'll never give advice, or that I haven't given advice, but this idea that every post has to include valuable information. . .

that's what has gotten the blogging world to a place where people are sharing recipes for chocolate chip cookie dough HUMMUS. Which is obviously a crime against hummus, chocolate chips and humanity. No to mention an obviously desperate attempt to create something of value for readers.

I've also seen a blog post about how to organize your yogurts by date in your fridge. Anyone who needs this information is way too disorganized/uninterested to accomplish it and those of us who do stuff like this don't need a blog post to tell us how.

I blame The Pioneer Woman.

Plenty of niche blogging, including parent blogging, has been informational. Even if that information was just, "Oh my god, my 1 year old bangs his head.  And my pediatrician said not to worry about it! But I totally am!" It was relatable, not authoritative. Except for The Pioneer Women.

She did all her amazing recipes and homeschooling and whatnot fantastically, without swearing or admitting flaws or telling any funny stories. She did not have opinions on very many things - certainly not politics or even pop culture controversies.

And now it seems that so many parenting - excuse me, now they're lifestyle - bloggers have turned into aspiring Pioneer Women. And by aspiring, I mean that they copy her tone and style and habits so they too can write cookbooks and appear on The Food Network.

Or at least write sponsored posts for Ziploc.

Which would be fine, except that it feels like they believe this is the only way to blog, and the only reason to. At least, that's the impression I get from the advice they post for newbie bloggers.

And that advice? Well, I'm so glad it didn't exist when I started blogging. I never, ever would have blogged if I'd had those expectations laid out to me when I was a new, isolated, overwhelmed mom who liked writing. Their advice on not getting too personal, on not swearing and on how to "make your blog brand-friendly" is such a turn off for me. So are many of their blog posts, to be totally honest. 

But I read blogs for fun, not for directions on being the perfect homemaker, so what do I know?

Other than I've never enjoyed reading The Pioneer Woman. I did enjoy this woman, however. And this one. And this one.

Huh. It's almost like humor does have value. 


Whoops, You Fell Down the Idiot Hole*

You may not remember, but a couple of years ago a mom made the news because all 7 of her kids got whooping cough. She, of course, was against vaccines. Her children infected her baby niece, who wasn't yet fully vaccinated. It was terrible for all of them, and now this mom is pro-vaccine.

I hate this whole story.


Even the part where she learns a valuable lesson and evolves on the issue.

I know I'm supposed to applaud her evolution, which she blogged about extensively.

But I'd rather use my hands to slap her.

Imagine, instead, if this woman refused to use car seats because she grew up just fine without them. And then, she got rear-ended in traffic and all of her children were injured because they weren't in car seats. And then she ran around promoting car seats. Still impressed?

How about if she let her kids smoke because she had a grandma who smoked like a chimney and lived to be 90?

How about if she claimed that racism didn't exist because no one in her (white) family had experienced it or perpetuated it?

Ok, I'm exaggerating. About this particular woman, anyway. Although I always wonder about the anti-vaccination parents who use car seats. Why do they believe the car seat studies and not the vaccination studies? Car seat companies operate for profit, just like pharmaceutical companies, after all. And I'm probably jinxing myself here, but we've gotten sick way more often than we've gotten in car accidents. And the fight to buckle Hugmonkey into his car seat back in the day was a daily thing, unlike getting vaccinations or even getting sick. How odd then that there's no anti-car seat movement. (At least, not one I can find with a quick Google search)

But this is not meant to be a post about vaccines**, exactly. It's meant to be about people who cannot properly evaluate information unless it happens to them. The whooping cough mom admits to dismissing peer reviewed scientific studies in favor of "natural" mom blogs to justify her anti-vax stance. But then those evil medical experts saved her children's lives so now she believes what they've been saying to her for years. Seriously?

That's like taking my advice on time management  over some expert's, then being saved from financial ruin by the expert hiring you. But you never would have teetered near financial ruin if you had just listened to the expert in the first place.

In other words, random people on the internet do not know more than the CDC, or the Mayo Clinic, or even public health reporters at the Boston Globe. Believing the people on your favorite forum over experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics puts you in the same idiot hole as people who believe The National Enquirer over the The Philadelphia Inquirer.

*Yes, this post could have been titled, "Fuck You, Whooping Cough Mom". I predict that most of my posts in the near(ish) future could be titled, "Fuck You, so and so" and be perfectly apt. But finding creative ways to say "fuck you" is going to become my new favorite hobby.

**If you want to argue with me about vaccines, read this first. And then just don't. I'm not going to change my mind.