I’m Offended. Here’s Why You Should Care.

My birthday is coming up and the craziest thing has been happening: I’ve been telling people I’m turning a year older than I am actually turning. Either it’s the old age, or the fact that my husband just turned that age (he’s a year older than me). But I’ve been doing it.

The fact is: I was born in 1982, which makes me – what I like to call – a late stage millennial. I’m like an older millennial who can see some of the ridiculous shit us millennials are doing, all while doing it. And loving it.

Like avocado toast and blaming the financial problems we millennials face on the crippling behaviors of Baby Boomers. Or using mason jars for drink ware. Spending my time reading labels, and breastfeeding my kids well past two (and in public!).

There are also, though, a lot of millennial things I can’t get on board with.

Millennial men’s haircuts, I can’t stand. Right now my husband is sporting a hairstyle that makes him look less like a Nick-the-film-editor; and more like David, the wanna-be goth who wears black lipstick and works at my local Starbucks as a barista. (It’s awful, and sorry David – I hope you can forgive me.)

I also cannot do the whole MLM candles, essential oils, and workout programs thing. The thought of taking forty-five selfies of myself a day, and posting story after story on Instagram in which I just sit there and talk – all in an effort to sell something – is …undesirable to me. That isn’t to say there’s anything against people who do it (and in fact I find myself envious of the people that can take so many photos and videos of themselves while I have to take 537 shots before finding an angle that suits me).

It’s just not my jam.

The conflict I really have with myself as an older millennial is the being offended thing. It is so typical of me as a millennial to get offended by things to such the degree that I do. (And isn’t that just the mark of our era: to always find a reason to feel offense at something someone else said/did/posted?)

And yet… I completely get it (the being offended).

Yesterday someone’s post on Facebook so severely offended me that I told literally every person I talked to about it for the rest of the day.

Today I was at Target and found myself feeling offended no less than four times.

Then tonight I made the error of going online, and …well…

Basically, it happens a lot.

The thing is: if you spend any time scanning the comments sections of online, you’ll see that it is hot topic now to not only get offended by things, but also – on the flip side – call out anyone that takes anything personally. Honestly, it makes me a little sick (or maybe offended, how meta would that be?) to see how crass people can be about it.

I get it: some people have taken it way too far. Like over the edge of the cliff and halfway down the river in the ravine far.

But also, in other instances, I think a lot of people have missed the point.

Take today, for example. It’s April Fools day, and while there have been a myriad of dad jokes and corporate brands having a good time posting dumb shit on the Internet for us all to enjoy, there have also been some steadfast reminders going around about what is too far.

One of those things that goes beyond clever and turns into just, plain crass is the ever-predictable fake pregnancy announcement. What better way to fool your family and friends then by posting a faux memo for the entire world to see that you have a bun preparing itself to fly out your lady hole. Then on April 2nd you let the truth be known that your womb is, in fact, still childless, and everyone had a good laugh. Right?

No. Just no.

I guess if I’m in my 50s and everyone’s going through menopause, it has the potential to be silly. But I’m 36, almost 38 (scratch that, 37) and a fair number of people in my group of peers has lost a child, miscarried a pregnancy, or had a tremendously difficult time getting pregnant. And while those people may all have a sense of humor, I often wonder if for everyone that thinks it’s silly, there isn’t someone quietly hurting as a result of the insensitivity of the whole prank.

I’ve been saying this for years: fake a marriage, fake a gigantic Amazon delivery. One year we put candy melts on brussel sprouts and fooled my husband into thinking they were cake pops. Awesome!

But don’t fake a pregnancy.

The best equivalent I can think is going up to a friend whose Grandma died on March 31st, and saying “my grandma died – APRIL FOOLS SHE IS ALIVE!”

I’m not one to take life so seriously, but I know when the time for jokes is over and the time for compassion begins. It seems that others are starting to figure it out as well, because this time, I saw an article going around about this very topic: how not funny the April Fools pregnancy announcements can be to some people.

And as usual, the comments proved how awful humanity has become.

The comment that I read on one of the postings that stuck out the most for me summed up perfectly what is wrong with the our culture (or at least one of the things):

“When are people going to understand that it’s not my responsibility to worry about what everyone is offended by?”

Who the fuck said anything about being offended?

From there I got sucked down the comment hole, in which I read heinous reply after heinous reply, all from the likes of women named Candy and Monica, with big haired profile pictures and those stupid cause filters laid over the photographs, quite obviously meant to cover up their total and utter lack of humanity. Yeah you are really passionate about lupus, but don’t give a fuck about people’s feelings, Tiphani with a ‘ph.’

That’s when it hit me: it’s super cool to make fun of millennials for always being overly sensitive to people’s sensitivities; and yet a lot of the time, what we are talking about are actual matters of human compassion.

The same woman who says it’s not her responsibility to worry about what others feel (because that’s what that comment is saying) is the same person that will drive by a homeless veteran and call him a drunk. It’s a weak viewpoint, weakened mostly by narcissism.

This is where things get dicey. Because you don’t want to be one of those people who’s just up in arms about everything. But also, you need to be compassionate towards others: even if it doesn’t affect you. And it’s dicey only because there’s a fine line between the two, one that is incumbent on all of us to walk along carefully.

So I’m pretty offended, obviously, about this whole issue. April Fools. Fake pregnancy announcements. Being offended. People saying people are offended too easily. Millennials.

And you should care for the same reason I do: the world of Candys, Monicas, and Tiphanis lacks the thing that makes us who we are. Our humanity.

I Just Don’t Care Anymore

Nope. I just don’t.

I just don’t care anymore.

I don’t give a fig.

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For far too long, I’ve cared far too much. I’ve worried about what people thought of how I was dressed. I agonized over how people considered my hair, my make up, my outfits, the way my ass looked in those pants. I concerned myself with what people thought about things I said, how people responded to ideas that I had, and whether or not I’d offended anyone with my honesty and unrelenting logic.

For hours, I would ponder why we weren’t invited to something. When people came to my house, even for the quickest of moments and most mundane of reasons, I would clean for hours. And hours. And hours. Because I’d worry about what they thought of how I kept my home.

All the while, no one cared one single bit in the same way when it came to me.

No one ever cared how they appeared to me. How they dressed, how their hair or makeup was, how their asses looked in those pants. They didn’t care about how their houses looked when we came over, they never asked why they weren’t invited to something we hosted, and they certainly didn’t care about how we took things that were said to us.

At least they didn’t act like it.

Today my husband and I were talking about some recent, family-related Internet drama. People saying things that are so out of line and direct and just plain nasty because they, quite clearly, don’t care about what others think; then when I say even the remotest and most inoffensive of things, an Internet shit-storm erupts. In light of this, my husband said something so perfect, so true, I almost felt like crying that someone finally recognized the situation for what it is. He said: “Heather, why does everyone else get to say whatever they want, but you and I can’t?”

Because I’ve always cared too much, and they knew it.

The burden of all this caring has weighed on me far too much, though. It’s stressed me out and made me miserable. At some point, I must have realized this on a subconscious level; or more likely at some point I realized that no matter what I do and how much I care, there’s always going to be something wrong and someone unhappy because you just can’t make everyone happy all the time, and more importantly because I wasn’t being true to myself.

So I realized this and the figs began falling from my caring tree.

At first it was just that I didn’t give a shit about what clothing I wore or what make up I had on in specific places. Then most days of the week I stopped wearing make up altogether. I don’t like wearing make up, why am I doing this?! I started asking myself, with my hair everywhere and my yoga pants and tank top reaffirming this new decision.

And then I did this year’s Christmas shopping. I typically agonize over what to buy people. I want them to appreciate the gifts, have use for the gifts, and also be impressed with the intuitive sense I had to get them exactly what they needed or wanted without having to be told. Ridiculous? Um, yes. I still did it, though, because I cared too much.

This year, however, the number of fucks I gave over what we gifted for Christmas was correlative to the number of hours I spent agonizing over it all.

Zero. I spent zero hours. Well, 0.25 to be precise: in just fifteen minutes, I bought gift cards online for everyone and the entire affair was over. Let me be clear: I gave 0.25 fucks about Christmas giving, when every year in my previous 33 years I’ve given all the fucks I had to give.

When I realized that was when I really accepted that I just don’t care anymore. At all.

I don’t care what people think of me or how I look or what I do or what my hobbies are or how I am as a parent or what I wear or how my hair is styled or what I have to say or what I think about any given topic, and I don’t even care about whether or not other people like me or include me in their bullshit. Nine times out of ten I wouldn’t want anything to do with it/them anyway.

11251777_994838043886455_3284857635056924981_nBy the same token, I don’t care about how others look or what others do or what hobbies other people have or how other people parent or what other people wear or how other people style their hair or what other people have to say or what other people think on any given topic. I’ve been feeling this way for a while now without really realizing it, and now that I do I can see how much less stressed out I am.

I mean my stress level has gone from absurd to “wow, she’s super chill.”

When I was in high school, people used to think I was high on weed pretty much all the time. Now while I did partake in my fair share of pot smoking (what high school kid in the Midwest didn’t?), the times I did were few and far between. The reason why people thought I was high all the time, really, was because I just didn’t care back then. I did what I wanted, said what I wanted, wore what I wanted, and owned who I was. I was relaxed all the time, and loved my life to the point of contentment.

If getting back to that means people assume I’m high all the time, or drunk at every occasion, or – what they’ll all actually assume – just completely insane, well that’s the way it is. Guess what? They can think whatever they want, I know what’s true and that’s really all that matters.

What they think? I just don’t care anymore.

Am I Destined To Live In the Ghetto?

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I ask myself often: do I live in the ghetto? No, not really. I live in the suburbs.

But as time has gone on, and we’ve moved from one nice area that turned out to be not-so-nice, to another, I’ve come to realize something: the suburbs may be synonymous with the ghetto.

We moved on June 1st to a condo owned by my husband’s family. It was purchased for him and his brother, and as a general investment, when the community was first being built about ten years ago. They’ve had a slew of renters coming in and out for several years. Eventually he and his brother, and their various roommates, moved out and got married, and they had a family friend renting for a few years.

But as we recently found ourselves in the position of having to either (a) pay rent beyond our means in our prior apartment to stay in town near family, or to (b) move back to the city of Los Angeles (where my husband works) – we all realized that it was time for us to occupy the condo.

We really had no other choice if we wanted to stay close to our families, or should I say if our families wanted us to stay close to them.

About a month ago, I was pulling into the drive and parking my car when a crazy-looking, middle aged man approached me and my daughter getting out of my SUV. He was shaking – noticeably – and started screaming at me about how he didn’t like my driving before I even got out of the car. He went on to tell me that my garden on our patio offended him, and – just who did I think I was trying to make the rest of the neighbor’s patios look dumpy compared to my nice set up. Was this guy serious? I still don’t know. I did not engage him in a fight, I simply tried to calm him down and assured him that I drive much slower than I should need to, in a community where my kids and friends have almost been hit twice, already, by crazy drivers. And that we have only the best intentions with our admittedly nice things.

11872302_851094782623_7718313065513953767_o11921727_851094378433_5672761055234370595_oHe wasn’t having it though. For him, this confrontation was not about having a reasonable discussion – it was about the fact that he thought we were renters, just like all the other people that have come and gone through this, the family home. It was about the fact that he felt he needed to threaten me with his supposed-HOA credentials. And, I can only assume, it was about the fact that the guy clearly gets off on accosting and harassing young women in parking lots.

I finally gave up, and just walked into the house as he continued to scream – crying much harder than I should have been.

Naturally, as any blogger will do, I took my upsettedness to Facebook. I talked about the incident on my page, and about how the man brought me to tears. Many expressed sympathy, some talked about the actual issues in my community with me – something everyone should do, because no place is perfect. Then one friend (as she always does), asked “why does this crap always happen to you?” In response I answered a question with a question: “because we keep moving from ghetto to ghetto?”

I never said this was the ghetto.

I never said this place was a dump.

I never actually said anything, other than that I was accosted by a middle aged man in the parking lot, and that it upset me. I cracked a jokey question about ghetto behavior seeming to be everywhere.

(As anyone with any experience with others knows, anytime a white girl such as myself refers to something as “ghetto,” she is referring to a behavior, not necessarily a place.)

The response and the gossip that followed, however, turned into something I could have never – not in a million years – expected. It wasn’t about whether or not I was OK. It was about me saying I lived in the ghetto (which I didn’t ever actually say), me talking trash about my in-laws on Facebook (which, obviously, I would never do), me being ungrateful that we are “allowed” to live in and care for this home (didn’t realize that staying close to family while my husband still commutes 100 round trip miles a day for work, paying the monthly mortgage amount, and caring for the place as if it were our own was an allowance)…and so on and so forth…

So reported my husband, it eventually got to his parents and now – naturally – the gossip wheel left me feeling deflated and bullied, and looking like an asshole to his mom and dad.

All I really wanted was to come home and not be yelled at by a strange man.

Since then, there have been several more incidences:

-We received a letter in the mail that we had violated the HOA’s rules by screwing things into the front door and patio walls (there are no HOA rules about this, not to mention the things hanging are done so with removable, outdoor mounting tape).

-We received another letter in the mail that our plants were not sitting on proper drainage plates when set on the ledge around the patio (there is an HOA rule about this one; however, there absolutely are proper drainage plates under my ledge-lining plants, which I can’t say the same for our neighbors – some of whom are actually on the HOA).

-Someone has stolen and/or destroyed at least 75% of the plants on our patio.

-We saw someone in the middle of the night, just a few nights ago, creeping onto our porch at 4:15 in the morning, and pouring something into our plants (I was wondering why my last crop died suddenly and unexpectedly in August).

-The list goes on…and on…and on…

However, I don’t feel as though I can talk or post or say anything about it to anyone, because the results of me saying anything disparaging about people around here are: gossip, outright lies, and harassment from people that (a) don’t even live here themselves, and (b) should be loving and supportive.

Today – the doozy – I opened the garage door to take my daughter to tennis, only to find the wife of the guy that accosted me standing there. She yelled just like her husband did, that I am not allowed to open my garage like that. I said “like what?” and she replied “have it open unless you are coming and going.” I responded “um, I’m taking my daughter to tennis…I am literally in my car and we are literally talking as I have halfway backed out of the garage. By the way, are they doing anything about getting some speed limit signs up in this drive?”

She told me that the speed with which people drive through the community is not the HOA’s problem.

My daughter got into the car and we drove off, closing the garage door behind us. I saw that the woman had moved on to another victim: our neighbor, who she apparently finds reason to illegally tape record.

Yes, the HOA woman had climbed into the bushes of our neighbor, and was leaning into the balcony to tape record a conversation going on inside. When we got home from tennis, I saw her out by the school next to our complex. She was yelling at the crossing guard about the position of her chair, where the volunteer sits waiting to make sure children safely cross the street.

Finally I realized that I couldn’t take it anymore: I had to talk about this. I had to share about the experience on my Facebook page. I had to write this blog about it.

Not only because this experience is just another in a long list of behaviors that are not-so-nice, in a community that could otherwise be a very good one; but because lies and gossip should not dictate whether or not I speak out about what I think to be right and wrong.

A lot of people may not like that I say this, but the suburbs – at least in my experience – are ghetto.

This isn’t to say that there are are only trashy communities in the suburbs.

This isn’t to say that there are only terrible people in the suburbs.

Actually, quite the contrary: the suburbs are often much more beautiful than the city, more well-kept. You find better landscaping, and often better neighbors in suburbs.

I’m just saying that there is a common thread that the suburbs of any major metropolis are known for, and that is the suburban sense of entitlement. People in the suburbs often pay more, so a lot of them – read a lot of them, not all – think they can tell other people what to do. They don’t give a fuck about who sees them acting however they are acting, and on that note they often believe that what they do is the right thing (even when it’s sitting on your front lawn with no shirt on guzzling beers). They think they own everything – the streets, the neighborhood, other people’s patios – and that they can tell others what to do.

Again: a lot of, not all. But enough for it to have earned suburbanites a reputation.

In the city, this is one of the biggest complaints people have about the ‘burbs. Everyone is up in each other’s business, and everyone wants to tell others how to live. And this, well this is ghetto. It’s unsavory to act so trashy, entitled, arrogant, and self-centered.

Of course then in bigger cities, you do have true ghettos. Like the Jewish ghettos during WWII, where minorities are segregated into run-down, slum-like districts that have been gentrified for years to keep the bad behaving the way they do because they have no other choice. So between the slums of the gentrified inner-cities, and the truly trashy behavior of a fair percentage of suburbanites, we are stuck. There will always be a chance that someone will act ghetto in a place that is otherwise nice. And we’ve all seen what happens to Hilldale in Back to the Future – there will always come a time when the newest and nicest community becomes the next gentrified, slummy neighborhood.

This of course leads me to believe that: yes, I am destined to live in the ghetto. Until some of these attitudes change – until people are willing to talk about the issues, and not bully those who want to make a change; until people put a stop to gentrification and change their attitudes about what they are and are not entitled to do and say – we all are.

Funniest_Memes_only-in-the-ghetto-will-you-find_7759Oh, and for the record, there’s a lot of stereotypically ghetto shit going on around here all the time too. Like the weekly ghetto cardio, i.e. some random guy running down my street being chased by the police. The random shopping cart that occupies parking space #210. And the tumbleweave that’s been in the grass across from our garage for going on two months now. And we live in the *nice* area of town.

We Need To Talk About Cecil

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I was called an idiot over social media today. Facebook. Comments. Big surprise.

I had commented on one of the hundreds of articles shared this week regarding the death of Cecil the Lion. If you don’t know what happened – i.e. you live under a rock – Zimbabwe’s, and perhaps the world’s, most beloved black-maned lion, Cecil, was shot with a cross-bow by a hunter that paid roughly $55,000 for one of his routine hunting excursions.

The details and the truth of how Cecil – a radio collared animal – was killed and beheaded are still to be uncovered, and the bullshit needs to be filtered out. The dentist who fired the shot, from Minnesota, claims that he was unaware it was Cecil, and that he believed he was paying for legal hunting led by professional trappers. But the semantics are muddied, and I’m sure it’ll be a while before everything comes out.

Today, news has broken that the many cubs Cecil fathered will likely fall the same untimely fate as their father; but not by the hands of poachers, rather the animal kingdom. As I scrolled through my Facebook feed this morning, I counted no less than fourteen shared articles explaining to us laymans of the world how the cubs will likely be killed by the new head lion of the pack, to assert his dominance as well as to bring Cecil’s bitches into heat (you know, so he can spread his own seed around the pack). One analyst actually referred to it as “like an episode of Game of Thrones” – as though we Americans are too stupid to understand a concept without it being analogized with a popular television show.

Not a single, however, called it what it is: what happens in nature.

What we do know is that the world has lost its fucking mind, yet again, over someone that has hunted for sport – more so now, I believe, because Cecil was so beloved. The man has had to close his dental practice for the safety of his patients; and the world of social media commenters has joined in the demand that he (the dentist) be poached in the way that Cecil was.

People have called him everything from murderer to limp dick, and Jimmy Kimmel broke down crying on air last night as he asked the dentist if erectile problems were the reason for hunting poor Cecil.

Some are even calling for the United States government to break its own laws and extradite the guy back to Zimbabwe; even after hearing from lion protection groups that the guy didn’t do a single thing illegally, at least as they can tell now; and it was the two “hired professionals” that had acted wrongly.

So before I go on, lest I befell the same sort of Internet mayhem as anyone else not clearly on the side of the majority: I think that poaching is wrong. I think that even legally hunting innocent animals is – at best – questionable. I am skeptical that selling licenses for hunting exotic animals goes back into a financial reserve to preserve endangered species, as many of the African governments claim.

To be clear: I think it was terrible and tragic that Cecil the lion was killed. And, I hope that the truth to what happened, and adequate justice, is found.

But, on the flip side, I am horrified by the way the general population is handling its feelings about this.

1. There are a lot of other animals and people dying unjustly every day, and no one gives a single fuck about them.

For every cause, there are twenty like it that go undiscussed. I know, I understand that.

This was like when people were doing the Ice Bucket Challenge, and all sorts of analysts and fundraisers came back and said “hey…hows about you guys spread some of that love over here.” The truth to the matter was that – logically – every dollar donated to ALS was a dollar not donated elsewhere; and while every cause needs funds, the love should – from a philanthropic standpoint – be spread around a little more evenly. That’s the problem with overly popular campaigns: they make things less equal, and more like capitalism.

There is no such thing as capitalism in social causes.

The same goes for this outrage of the death of Cecil the Lion. People – if they really cared about the social good of both human as well as animal society – would be spreading their outrage a little more evenly.

They would be calling out the murderers in positions of power who continue to commit genocides on a daily basis.

They would start online petitions and awareness drives to end death by starvation in their own communities.

Jimmy Kimmel would break down crying on air every time there is a mass shooting, or a race-related death (i.e. he would break down crying nightly).

But this is not what anyone does. What they do is they get really really REALLY fucking upset about one thing; one thing that happens to be really popular to be upset about. Then they go ballistic online and in other forums about it for whatever period of time everyone else in the world goes ballistic about it. Then it all sort of fades away and everyone forgets about it, going back to regular life until the next big popular thing to get up in arms over comes up.

People respond to that criticism by saying “well, you can’t spend all your time mad at the world.” OK, sure – that doesn’t seem healthy. But you know what else is unhealthy? IGNORING PROBLEMS THAT EXIST BECAUSE YOU DON’T WANT YOUR FEELS TO BE IN A JUMBLE ALL THE TIME.

I would never – not in a million years – do a cancer walk or an ALS run and yell as I went through it: “there are several other diseases you people are ignoring here!!” But the truth to the matter is just that: there are several other issues that no one knows of or gives a shit about. At. ALL.

Maybe, just maybe, people need to find the right time and the appropriate place, and start talking about that. They need to learn more and have more of a conversation, on a regular, if not daily, basis.

I have chosen routine Facebook comments. That’ll be totally effective …right?

(I am half-kidding.)

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2. Death threats and public suggestions that a person be murdered make me think we aren’t much further along as a society than the lynchings that when on during the time of the Salem Witch Trials.

Jesus Christ on a piece of toast: we have not come very far as a society.

Mob mentality is still a very real, and very frightening thing. I already knew this, and I hope all of you did too. But beyond that, it isn’t just mob mentality, it’s lynching mentality. We – in America – are so quick to jump to conclusions, judge what we deem the appropriate responses to said conclusions, and grab our flaming sticks to go out on a witch hunt.

Do any of you know how many innocent men, women, and children lost their lives during the Salem Witch Trials because of mob mentality, lynching mentality, and public witch hunts?

There are a lot of times in recent history where tragedies have struck at the hands of others, and it’s obvious what happened and how it should be handled. And then there are other times that the facts are more muddied in speculation, or there are a lot of factors involved that need to be carefully weeded through by professionals before the lynching mob heads out with their guns and flamethrowers.

The most terrifying thing in all of it, though, is that we – as a society – just don’t trust anyone anymore. We don’t trust our governments. We don’t trust our laws. We don’t trust our law enforcement. All of this is with adequate and good reason, and yet rather than try to fix the problems with all of those so that we can trust our governments, and our laws, and our law enforcement again, we’ve somehow decided that none of that will be as good as taking matters into our own hands.

Arming ourselves with our guns. Sending our death threats. Banding together with flames in hand to fix matters without any sort of due process or time to let our emotions cool down a bit.

Ironically, this mob mentality is the state of nature that we created laws to prevent; and we don’t like the state of nature. We don’t like that when a lion gets killed, his cubs will be killed by the next incoming leader. We don’t like that the innocent fall to the hands of those with the bigger and better weapons.

I feel as though we need to remind ourselves that what makes us special in this animal kingdom on Earth is the beauty in our ability to reason, to think and to talk. Death threats, calling people limp dick, forming emotion-driven lynching mobs, all-the-while keeping silent about real and pressing issues going on around us all day, destroys that beauty of the human experience. Open your mouths, and say something reasonable. Open your mouths and talk about all these issues.

Cecil the lion was a majestic creature. All animals, except ones that have me inside their mouths, are beautiful. But human beings are – or have the capacity to be -beautiful too. We, after all, are just animals ourselves.

The Dress is White and Gold, and By the Way It’s Also the End Of the World As We Know It

If I live a long life, I imagine myself to be like one of those old people in the movies – the narrators, the storytellers. You know, they always have one, final story to tell. The movie begins and ends with them. It’s always about the defining moment in their lives, invariably unloaded onto some unsuspecting sap who will sit there and listen to the story no one has ever heard.

Like in Edward Scissorhands – it’s snowing and the lady tells her granddaughter the story about the creepy man-made boy with scissors and sheers for hands. Or in Fried Green Tomatoes, when an elderly Idgie Threadgoode gives Kathy Bates’ character the story personal liberation through her friend Ruth and the Whistestop Cafe.

I would sit there, old as fuck. Rocking in my rocking chair, covered in blankets as the old ladies in those movies always are. Someone would bring me my tea and tell me I need to rest. I would cough and weakly wave my hand – no, no. I have to tell my story. My period story; the story of my time. And most importantly: a story about something outlandish. Life-changing. Defying everything we thought we knew about the world.

If I’m lucky, my unsuspecting victim will pass my story on. Maybe they’ll make a movie out of it in which I am depicted rocking in my chair by a future generation’s Angela Lansbury.

As years have gone on, though, my dream has been shattered by a dearth of material to concoct my noteworthy tale. Will I have a story about a creepy man-made boy with scissors and sheers for hands to tell? Or about my own Whistestop Cafe? No. I won’t. Will I have a tale about the boy who aged backwards, like in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? Or one like Forrest Gump had to tell – that was a whopper.

Nope. I won’t have anything quite as good as any of those, and all the other, movies. And while I am sure I will have plenty more opportunities to find a story, I suspect we have reached our height as a generation and a people. It is evident that it is all downhill from here.

What I’m saying is that as a society we have reached our apex, so my story will have to be the one about the day the Internet, and subsequently the world, lost their fucking minds over the color of a dress.

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You would have thought something really crazy happened, judging by how people responded to that photograph.

As for me, I saw one person post about it in the mid afternoon, then went about my day. Read a book for several hours, made dinner, and went to my library book club.

When I got home, everyone had gone completely insane. Videos of families fighting over the color of that dress had gone viral. Parody comics were posted. Then the scientific analysis began. “The science behind the dress.” Some people are color blind. Some people have their screens adjusted differently. It’s an optical illusion.

Legitimate news sites were posting serious articles debating theories about that goddamned article of clothing. All within the span of about 12 hours.

It carried on into today, and I have sat in utter disbelief over how an ugly dress has caused such an uproar for several hours. Like, literally, just sitting here – perplexed. In my bathrobe, hair still slightly damp from the shower I took several hours ago. Completely shocked.

How are people so up in arms about this thing?

I only kind-of-sort-of get it when things go viral. The dancing babies and the screaming goats – they’re funny. Glozell’s Cinnamon Challenge and her cereal in the bathtub thing. I understand the heartwarming things that trail their way around the Internet too. The husband with the pink tutu campaign; the kid with cancer that wanted photos of dogs to cheer him up.

I get it, these videos, photos, stories – they are entertaining or heartwarming, or we relate to them. Maybe not so much eating cereal out of our bathtub, but there is still an appeal there. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s there. It’s funny or it means something to us in some strange way.

But the color of a dress? What. the. SHIT?

What’s next? What color is this towel?

We have a set of dark pink bath towels, that are pretty old. I’m fairly certain they came from my father’s home when he moved in with us; nonetheless they are – somehow – still a part of the regular rotation when the towels are changed in all the bathrooms.

Every once in a while, I’ll hear my dad call for someone to get him his brown bath towel. Maybe he’s spilled something and forgotten we have paper towels and cleaning rags too, or he doesn’t realize I’ve changed the towels in the bathrooms and that he is actually – gasp – allowed to use whatever bath towel in the house he likes. He is not limited to his brown bath towel.

But wait a second, I said it was pink. And it is pink, a dark pink – almost like a magenta. And I know this for a fact, because it says “dark pink” on the worn tag.

And yet my dad calls it brown, and on several occasions we have asked the opinions of others, taken and texted photographs for opinions, and gotten mixed responses. Brown, pink, magenta, red…one time my dad said it was dark green, and that is when I seriously started to question his sanity because he had been defending the towel’s brown-ness for years prior to then.

So if I post a photo of this towel, will it go viral too? I mean, yesterday was a huge day for Net Neutrality. Leonard Nimoy died today. But surely the color of a dress or a towel is what’s really important. Right?

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Credit: The Oatmeal

So – regrettably – this is the defining moment of our lives, people. The dress. This is the story I will tell when I am an old lady, rocking in my chair. Surely they will make a feature-length film about it as the recipient of my story will pass the tale on and find meaning in it.

What meaning could there possibly be, you ask? Well when you’ve reached rock bottom, you can only go up from there. Arguably, we are there. The. Color. Of. A. Dress.

So I can see it all now.

The movie will be about the end of an era for humanity. The dress will be symbolic for the crumbling of society as we know it, which it clearly is a sign of. Hopefully someone like Michael Fassbender or Bradley Cooper will be cast as the savior of humanity. Who will rebuild society from its crumbled, intellectual ruins. As the future Angela Lansbury plays me, rocking in my chair, refusing my rest; determined to tell the story of the dress that destroyed everyone’s minds once and for all.

We will rebuild, people. And by the way, the dress is white and gold.

Being Supportive Does Not Always Make You A Good Person

I’ve had to do far too much supporting of others lately, and it has taken a toll on me. Keeping my mouth shut and my opinions to myself has pent up so much anger and frustration within me that I literally want to scream the truth in people’s faces sometimes – am I the only one that sees what is really going on here?

Yet still, I hold it in.

It started about 9 months ago when my brother in law and his wife announced that they were having a baby. At our BBQ. (Because our BBQ was totally all about them.)

Since then it’s been one family event after another that I’ve had to be supportive at. Living only 5 miles from my husband’s family (yes, we basically live in Everybody Loves Raymond) this has been weekly. At some points in the last 9 months, it’s even been daily.

All the while, I just wanted to scream in everyone’s faces the truth – that they were just separated a year and a half ago. That I have vivid memories still of my husband’s brother seeming practically unable to go on with life because his then-ex-now-again-and-pregnant-a-few-months-in wife had left him.

And, more importantly, that not everyone decides to have a baby and POOF is just pregnant. That some people struggle for years only to be unsuccessful at it, and that knowing this is going on with more than one family member, yet still flaunting it around ad nauseum, is at a certain point really shitty of them.

Am I the only one that sees what is really going on here? Hold that in, Heather.

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I could go on and on and on about all the things about this situation my husband and I don’t support, but I won’t. We’ve kept our mouths shut, with the exception of one occasion when we tried to have a reasonable and private conversation about it with his mother. We were told we should be more supportive. Since then, we’ve gone out of our way to be overly supportive of them, because we knew it was what his family wanted. (For that we’ve gotten it shoved up our assholes every way possible.)

Still yet, hold it in.

It has been way more than just that, though. It’s been the expectation to continue supporting my husband’s career even though it is very certainly, and undramatically, destroying our lives.

Hold that in, Heather. Don’t talk about the fact that we’ve got no employer-sponsored dependent health insurance, no retirement, and no raises in years at the Christmas party! That would be unsupportive of your man!

It’s been the measles outbreak – which we were actually exposed to, living in Southern California in a county that has one of the highest numbers of confirmed cases paired with some of the lowest pockets of vaccination rates. We sat there with my mother’s family last month, while friends and family talked about their wariness to vaccinate, as though we are all just supposed to stand by and watch irresponsible parenting run amok in society as a whole, in the name of supporting people’s personal choices as parents.

That was the same day we saw photos of my cousin’s wedding that we never received an invitation to, until a week before the wedding. She texted me and said she forgot to invite me. We were invited, but there were no kids welcome. In the photos, there were 12 kids present at the wedding we did not attend.

Hold it in. Hold it in.

As I have sat here for 9 months brooding and deleting my comments and biting my tongue so hard I need a pint of blood to cover the damages, I quietly – in my head – added again and again to the laundry list of all the times that something should have been said to stop this madness once and for all.

Then, a few weeks ago in a public forum I went nuts on anti-vaxxers. Not emotionally, not illogically. But nuts. Scientifically and morally, yet insane.

I cannot begin to describe how much better I felt.

Now, in the aftermath of that, as weeks have gone on and I’ve been more and more honest, and less concerned about what people think of me and how unsupportive I may come across, I just have to say it. Maybe it will be the thing to end the madness:

Being supportive does not always make you a good person.

Somewhere down the line being truthful and honest became pejorative qualities. Sound advice became negativity, and a sensitivity and attention to the realities of the world, no matter how insignificant any one of them may seem, made you a hater. Instead we should all just hold hands and sing Kumbaya and be supportive of each others’ decisions and endeavors, all the while lying about what is universally true and right and real.

So this morning I logged onto Facebook, because naturally that’s where I get my news. As I scrolled through the feed I saw articles, updates, baby photos, and eventually news from fellow writers.

And then I saw an update about a blogging anthology, which shall remain unnamed, that is going to be published. It’s a sequel, and to be quite frank I didn’t like most of the first one. The update was lamenting not being included, more a statement on that own person’s insecurities and hopes to make it in the blogging world. I didn’t really get that feeling at the news, but I’m a writer, not a blogger.

So me being tired of always supporting supporting supporting when I know that someone should cry BULLSHIT ON THIS NOISE, and feeling more and more comfortable over the past few weeks doing so again, inspired me to just post my own comment on how I was glad to not be included because I didn’t like the first book and prefer to not be included in that kind of book.

As a side, I know a lot of really gifted writers that cannot even sell 10 copies of the self-published books, while cliche and mediocre stuff is peddled and makes it to the best seller lists – there is nothing right or good about that at all. All I said, though, was that I’d rather not be included, as other talented writers should take that as support that there are other, much better, projects out there.

Now, I know it sounded rude the way I said it, though, and I quickly realized that a few of the essays in the first book were written by friends that I did enjoy. So I deleted my comment within a couple seconds. I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings at the expense of me feeling better about being more open and honest.

Of course I did not delete it before the organizer of the anthology saw my comment and, apparently, was insulted – perhaps as insulted as I am by her writing, in particular how much of a bully she is to people she doesn’t like.

But that is all neither here nor there to the central point.

After deleting my comment and moving on with my day, I realized that maybe I shouldn’t have deleted it; and not deleted it because of my own feelings of being insulted. Maybe I should have said the entire truth all along, with everything. As much as other people have a right to be insulted by my lack of support, I have a right to be insulted by their flagrantly terrible behavior to begin with. With the opportunistic anthologies; with the BIL and SIL’s baby; with my husband’s job – with all of it.

Keeping silent about what I know to be universally true and right and real feels so much worse than the backlash of speaking up. And in the end, al that is sacrificed by staying silent is me. So speaking up makes me a hater. I’d rather be an honest hater than a loved liar.

In the end, who is really the good person?

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The Pen Is Not Mightier Than the Sword If It Is Silenced Forever. (On Charlie Hebdo.)

Unless you live under a rock, or the only news you read yesterday was about how many models Leonardo di Caprio left a recent party with (the answer to that is 20…he left with 20 models), you heard about the coldblooded massacre at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris yesterday.

For those even further under a rock, or who have been living on the planet Mars for the past five or so years, Charlie Hebdo is a satirical newspaper that routinely prints comics that are, for lack of a better term, brazen. Other terms that have been used to describe the paper have been: offensive, over the top, outspoken. While not exclusively religious satire, a fair amount of its sentiments are focused on religion. Most recently, Islam.

Back in 2011, the old headquarters of Charlie Hebdo were attacked by fire-bomb and website hack, presumably in response to their prior special edition of the paper which named the Prophet Mohammed as “editor-in-chief” of the paper, with a cover depicting Mohammed. If you know only one thing about Islam, it’s this: caricaturing their Holy Prophet is considered passe. Actually, it’s not even passe (that would imply it was at one time OK to do) – it has never been accepted, and in fact is considered to be of the utmost insult to the core tenants of the religion.

Muslim leaders and lay people from around the world had two responses to the fire-bombing: (a) we do take offense to the Charlie Hebdo caricatures, (b) we don’t condone violence in any form.

No religion really has been spared, though – several years back the Pope was drawn on the cover holding a condom, which is when I (a cradle Catholic who never goes to church out of frustration with the Catholic church) even started to question just what is going on with this paper.

When you get down to it, the artists and editors at Charlie Hebdo are – yes – expressing their political and religious sentiments, and moreover describing for the world where their own self-professed atheism lies. Beyond that, they claim to be calling out and setting the stage of shame for the extremest of extremists within religious groups.

Now that we’ve caught up on our history, we can get down to the aftermath of this terrible, ideologically-charged, coldblooded murder yesterday. For the pen is not mightier than the sword if it is silenced forever.

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In the immediate aftermath, candlelight vigils with people holding pens up in solidarity, as well as signs that said Je suis Charlie, were held in support of the 12 individuals tragically slain.

And this is when I started to balk at how people are handling this. On one hand, the murder was an act of terrorism, with no terrorist or religious group taking the credit. On the other hand, it is the terminal silencing of 12 individuals. 12 individuals who I would not say were “asking for it” – I would never say that; but it is undeniable that they were routinely fanning the flames with not only fans, but buckets of gasoline.

The statement Je suis Charlie – I am Charlie – implies that we all are those working at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo. Fan the flames with buckets of gasoline. We all – artists, writers, cartoonists, editors – are just trying to get our message out there in the most effective way we know how. In a way that will appeal to people and make our point, and leave a lasting impression on the world.

I. Am. Charlie.

So will you be publishing this on your blog, or your magazine; your newspaper, or on the corner space you have of your community group newsletter, next week?

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Will you spread your message like this?

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When people criticize you, threaten you, entreat you, implore you, or even sit down with you  calmly – your most trusted advisors and best of friends – and have a conversation about whether or not you are effectively getting your political and religious ideas out there, would you still print this?

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Or when readership is dwindling and the funds are running dry, as was the case with Charlie Hebdo, would you just continue to print again and again these types of images, rather than doing a little bit of personal reflection and market evaluation, to see what will get you out there, rather than silenced?

And more importantly than that: do you really believe this is the best way to express your beliefs?

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The Charlie Hebdos of the world are not what you will ever get here in in the United States. The Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker will never run anything quite like the satires of Charlie Hebdo, for many reasons above all which includes wanting to get the message out there without losing readership.

Does that make the artists and cartoonists and editors at those other papers – not even just American, but all around the world – censored and less real in their statements, because they don’t run caricatures of the Pope giving Mohammed a blow job?

With dwindling circulation and constant pleas for fundraising coming from actual Hebdo headquarters, combined with criticism from virtually every aspect of society – even staunch atheist groups – you have to wonder just how effective Charlie Hebdo’s message was. I’m not talking about whether or not it was right, everyone is entitled to an opinion. I’m talking about how it was said.

Some have even gone as far as to call out the paper for its flagrant hypocrisy, as if the term “freedom of speech” can be used conveniently, even when describing a situation that was previously considered unacceptable – even for an opinion.

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Readership and funding and circulation and whether or not you would actually publish any of this stuff is not the point. Because you are not Charlie, just as I am not Charlie. And in reality, none of us can ever be Charlie Hebdo or the Wall Street Journal or Jim’s Neighborhood Circular if our pens are silenced, for whatever reason.

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More baffling is that people seem to have lost the meaning of “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Suddenly cartoons, again in solidarity, are being published like the one above: of the pen stopping the gun. As if the pen can literally stop violence – stop the madness, stomp out the crimes, and outlive the violent actions that tried to take it down.

That’s not what it means at all.

To say that the pen is mightier than the sword is to say that written words and other passive, expressive art forms are more effective in stating a message than the use of direct violence or malicious attacks. It doesn’t stop violence. It’s just a better way of making your point (presumably because people are left to continue making it, rather than all dead and gone).

I won’t argue that the Charlie Hebdo drawings are on par with coldblooded murder. But I would say that they are more than merely expressive works of art. I might go as far as to say they are malicious, and I would certainly say they are not passive.

So where does that leave us?

Well, it leaves us with 12 people dead. Gone. Their pens broken and silenced, forever.

It leaves us reminded that we live in a terrible world in which killers don’t even care about what they are fighting against, or who they are killing; just how many they can take off before getting caught. Coldblooded, psychotic murdering done just for the sake of murdering.

It has left us confused. Bewildered. Unsure of anything.

We are left with soundbites and snapshots to remember the victims. (“I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees” – a religious sentiment from the slain editor in chief, that has now gone viral and will be applied to every out-of-context situation imaginable.)

There are statistics we have still. Like the Charlie Hebdo circulation: roughly 50,000. Versus the other leading French satire paper, Le Canard Enchaîné: 500,000.

Versus the publicity of this coldblooded murder: millions.

And we are left with the reminder that sometimes it isn’t about what you say, but how you say it.

The pen is not mightier than the sword if it is silenced forever. It is a travesty that those 12 pens, and the countless other pens in recent and ancient history, have been silenced. May they rest in peace, and may their deaths be not in vain but rather in a reminder that expression of your beliefs is effective only if it is heard.