Score.

“Four score and seven years ago” is a phrase that is familiar to many (though increasingly fewer in overall percentage, as time goes on) as part of the opening line of the Gettysburg Address. There’s no way I’m turning this into a history lesson about the Gettysburg Address, or the events surrounding it in time, so if you’re curious, crack open an Encyclopedia Britannica.

Four score and seven years is equal to 87 years. Obviously, a score is equivalent to a span of 20 years. I say it’s obvious, but I’m not sure it is. I’ll just go with this, and say that it is obvious, because only geniuses read my blog. (That’s you.)

My 20 year high school reunion is coming up next month. It’s hard to believe I graduated that many years ago, but then, it seems like I’ve lived so much more than 20 years of time and experience. Have I crossed into a new block of storage, and disconnected from my early life’s feelings?!

If you’re curious, the answer is no: the 20 years of changes in the Bumfuck Egypt Class of ’99 is not something that has made it onto my radar of interest, beyond shredding the idea for an article. I don’t think I’m currently in touch with anyone from my class, and if I am, I don’t remember who they are.

If you’re one of my classmates, and you’re reading this now, I’ve forgotten you. Do better.

I’m not saying none of my classmates were cool. There are a bunch of them who I actually have interacted with in the past decade, maybe even in the past five years. My class was very small, and our school was stuck in the backwoods, so the people who did make it out of there, have long gone. I don’t even know how to inquire about the reunion, aside from contacting the school directly, but I don’t actually want to go that badly.

I’ve been toying with the idea of contacting my class president (who was a close buddy of mine, and would probably pick right up where we left off, if I ever saw him again) and asking him to hook me up with a live microphone during the reunion, so I could sneak in through the back door, and do an impromptu roast, before quickly exiting without any classmate interface.

I wonder how smoothly that would go? Matt says it wouldn’t.

I have other ideas.

It’s not like they can suspend me, or ban me from events I don’t even want to attend. They can’t fine you or arrest you, just for being hilarious in front of people. I don’t see how it could go badly.

Matt says I’ve alienated friends before, during times of differing opinions, and that I run the risk of pissing someone off.

Please, Matt. Please.

If I want to get up there, and say, “Hey, 20 years since we graduated. That means only 15 more years until they start to think about replacing our textbooks,” I should be able to say it. It’s no secret to my classmates, that we were being taught from archaic text, while science was growing in complexity and discovery all around us. They know that.

How many times did I open an active textbook, to see someone’s name in it, and find out they were dead from old age? More than once.

“It’s not funny that they have a very serious lack of funding for curriculum because of the exorbitant overspending around athletics at that school. Some schools just don’t get money.”

When I was in school, the policy around academics was re-written, so that the Senior basketball players who were failing Chemistry could still play ball. The prior policy was that you couldn’t fail anything, or sports and extra-curriculars were off the table for you. But then, they had to account for the jocks who literally had nothing else to rely on. They couldn’t lose them. What would they do? Who would play basketball?!

I’ll tell you what they did. They decided that more basketball practice was what those guys needed, not more study time. If the school loses sports money, there will be nothing left to spend money on. Solid logic, for anyone who knows what it’s like to be the principal of a shitty class D school.

Just so you know, if you write an article about how stupid that is, and then have it submitted to the school paper for distribution, you get in trouble.

My high school prized preppy rich kids who wouldn’t dream of questioning authority, and the jocks happened to fall into that category, almost entirely for the most part. Not many athletes were non-preppy kids, or vice versa.

My group of kids was their arch enemy, and some of us (myself excluded) fell into the middle of that Venn diagram, making them Cool Athletes. I was not a cool athlete, but I did know some. They were always talking about how the Preppies weren’t that bad, and I wondered if they said the same thing to them about us. They called us the Crunchies. The Preppies and The Crunchies. The new Sharks and Jets.

To think that nobody changes after high school is a weird concept to me, and a good movie idea. Sure, it’s probably been done in different iterations, but I think there’s more to it. I think there might actually be truth to it, in some areas of the country. Prom King and Queen get married, and their kids marry the kids of the Prom King and Queen from the next school over, and so on. Or the Arts kids just stay close with each other forever, and nobody ever stops being interested in what everyone is reading for at the moment.

A lot can happen in the course of 20 years. In my case, everything significant in my life has taken place within the past 20 years since I graduated high school. High school is very much a thing of the distant past, for me. It’s so far gone, that it doesn’t even seem like it occurred in this life that I’m currently living.

And in a few short years, high school will be a thing of the past for my kids as well. That shit scares me. I wanted them to be able to enjoy teenagerdom so much more, before the searing pain of life comes showering down around them. I wanted them to do all the things I didn’t get to do, and regretted not doing.

My childhood and teen years were fairly uneventful, and the things that were meaningful, were few and far between. As an adult, I have had the disenchanting experience of discovering that meaningful doesn’t always equal great, and that great doesn’t always equal positive.

As I said up there, I didn’t do much as a teen, so I watched a lot of movies and TV, or had music on constantly. In movies, you always see the part where the characters are at their high school reunion, and it’s supposed to be funny, and everyone looks almost completely different than they did, and for some reason, everyone still worships the high school hierarchy that causes them to feel intimidated by the “popular kids” still.

I’m no expert on society (or so I’d have you believe), but I think that when people grow up, they stop giving a shit about who was the King of the school. Once you’re out of there, you see it as the pre-school for life that it really is. Even if I did see someone as “better than me” or “cooler than me” in school, I seriously doubt I would give a shit about that now. Clearly, high school doesn’t determine success in life. I see a lot of jocks pumping gas around here.

But at the reunion in the movies, the asshole jock is still the King, and everyone is still intimidated by him, and they all still think he’s the coolest. And the most popular girl in school is still the hottest chick around, because somehow, none of the other women managed to ever become better looking than her, which is really what matters, isn’t it?

Side note: I’ve written an article on this topic before, and after revisiting it, I decided it was mean. Not intentionally mean, but it certainly came across that way, and it didn’t reflect how I truly feel, so I’ve done away with it, and integrated it into this one. You all know how good I am at finishing things, so here we go. Back to the thing.

Examples of why I think high school kids – WHILE AMAZING TO STUDY SOCIALLY – annoy me: 20 Years Later Edition.

This particular current(-ish) event was a banquet at my son’s school last year. I would like to stress again, that all of these kids are cool as fuck, and they’re smart, and driven, and they embrace fun in everything they do. Pretty good crowd, right?

Allow me to set the scene of said banquet: in the room, there were 20 tables. Each table sat 8 people. It wasn’t going to be a very big event, so when my family of 4 arrived, we just chose a table and clustered ourselves around one half of it. Another family of 4 could sit on the other side, or 2 families of 2, or a family of 3 and a family of 1.

There was only a total of 8 kids there at the time. Do you think they all sat at the same table? Of course not, and I wouldn’t expect them to. Let ‘em spread out. That didn’t bother me, but here’s where my first example begins: as the other students started arriving, the sitting students would scream their names, as if they hadn’t seen them for like, THREE WHOLE HOURS.

And one by one, these kids were verbally invited to “The Cool Table” at the front of the crowd, leaving the rest of us peasants to feel collectively excluded, like some old people at the back of that rock show you like s’damn much.

Honestly, I didn’t even know that “Cool” shit still existed. I mean, I had my suspicions, but this was weird. How is it The Cool Table, if everyone is sitting at it? Wouldn’t that just be A Table?

And what about the fact that MY table WASN’T The Cool Table?! I mean, my family is hysterically funny, and we have THE BEST dinner time conversations. If our table isn’t The Cool Table, then I don’t want to be cool, I guess, and it’s my choice, not because they said I wasn’t.

The Cool Kids started taking the chairs from the other tables, while those people were up at the buffet, WHICH WAS AMAZING. The buffet, I mean, not the stealing of chairs. That was pretty annoying, because they took 6 of the chairs from our table while we were gone, and we had to steal them from other jerks from Less-Cool-But-Still-Pretty-Cool tables.

It wasn’t my proudest moment, but I have principles, and I was not about to eat a whole plate of delicious meatballs while standing up. Those kids thought I wouldn’t be that lazy, but they obviously underestimated me.

Now, I know what you’re saying: “Well, my kids don’t do that stuff.” And I would say to you: shutup and stop lying to yourself. Just because your kids aren’t doing these particular things, doesn’t mean they aren’t acting like little shitheads when you’re not around, and they’re allowed to be “cool.”

Believe me, they’re doing just that. And they’re good at it. No matter how great you think your kid is, I guarantee there is someone whose nerves they love to work on. Maybe it’s you. Who knows.

Some people like to say, “When you were their age, you did that too,” and to some extent, they’d be right, but I wasn’t even remotely excited about anything my peers were doing in the 90s, so they’re also kinda wrong. I mean, I remember being annoying, but everyone is. Everyone is annoying, including your kid, remember?

But there’s a difference between being annoying, and being an experience that everyone has to live through. So maybe yours is not screaming at the top of their lungs, to welcome a peer to the table in the most extravagant way possible. Maybe they’re the peer that is being showered with those feelings, making them believe they are extra special, just like everyone else who walked in.
Maybe yours is wildly unpopular, and would die to feel the acceptance that others so freely give away. Maybe yours is like me, and realizes that, after you graduate high school, shit changes. Prom King and Homecoming Queen don’t translate well on a resume, and certainly not when it comes to keeping yourself alive.

My high school experience was full of days that I swore I had wished away hard enough, but seemed to drag on forever. Every day was a struggle, in and out of school, and graduation day seemed like an eternity in the future, to the point where I couldn’t even decide what that would look like. I just knew high school was not what I thought life would be like. So my master plan was to laugh through as much of the bullshit as I could, which as it turns out, is a lot.

And as soon as I graduated, life got real, and that shit wasn’t pretty.

I was back at the starting line of life, with everyone else, even the popular kids, and the century was turning. The next generation was already being born, and technology was changing the way we perceived each other (and life).

Like many of my classmates, I became a parent, and then the internet taught us how to be the right kind of parent, and we took those tips (sometimes from people who weren’t parents, and had no education on the topic) and we ran with them.

We kept checking back, to make sure we were doing what everyone else was doing, and NOT doing what everyone else thought was wrong. It changes all the time. One day spaghetti is the best thing for kids, and the next day, it causes brain death. We could no longer afford to make the mistake of not being in-the-know.

Spaghetti doesn’t cause brain death, so if you’re not one of my regular readers… I exaggerate sometimes. Go ahead and feed your kids spaghetti. Or don’t, I mean, I’m not your kid’s parent, so that’s just some advice you can take or leave. I feel like they won’t die without spaghetti, but I’m no doctor.

Innovations in social media and personality branding, as well as unrealistic hyper-active parenting woes, as well as the deadly peer scrutiny and judgment, have all created a monster. Kids are being held to impossible standards by their peers.

They feel the need to change. They feel the need to chase perfection. They feel the need to fit a mold. They feel the need to replicate what others admire. It’s just an image, based on the heavily edited photos and videos they see online and on television and in magazines, and we know this, but girls and guys alike are all susceptible to it.

That’s right. It isn’t just the ladies who are feeling the pressure. It’s everywhere, and if they aren’t adhering to the latest tweet or post from a major influencer (which is a fucking job now), they can expect to be rejected everywhere in their physical life. Guys too.

That’s something I find annoying, and new. I didn’t have to deal with social media when I was in school, so maybe that’s why I think things are so much worse now. Remember, I thought high schoolers were annoying before; there is nothing new about this. The part I find new, is the immediate broadcast of every feeling and reaction people have, before they have the opportunity to process the emotion.

A minor tiff between friends, once easily solved by a little time and space, can easily escalate to someone’s entire life being ruined, because social media allows us to share our feelings (about a person or event) across a wide net of people. The bigger the audience, the more people to share in that view, and the faster that immediate reaction turns into a group opinion.

I’m not sure how I would have made it through high school, if I had to deal with social media. Could I have shut it out, as I claim it to so easily be done? Who knows?

I do know one thing I could have benefited from, that would have changed my whole experience. It’s something that my son’s high school sees as a basic need, and that’s faculty support.

I never had any teachers or counselors or mentors telling me that they believed in me, or saying anything about my potential. I didn’t know I could do it. I didn’t work toward any goals, because nobody ever told me there was anything to work toward. Nobody cared what happened to me, as long as I was doing what I was told. A mentor could have really helped me see what I was capable of achieving.

My son’s high school is full of that type of thing, and it’s so beautiful to see it everywhere. These kids are nice, even where exclusion exists, and the teachers really care about what the students’ lives are like. They invest the time in getting to know them, and they encourage them, and rally around them, not just for the students themselves, but for the ripple of positivity that it causes.

There are infinitely more clubs and organizations, and there is so much talent that is being proudly shown in so many ways. At my school, anyone who showed pride in a talent was quickly torn down, until they didn’t believe in themselves anymore. We had no band. We had no clubs. We had a shitty drama department that was student-led, and poorly supported by the school. The teachers just waited to get out of there each day, and interacted minimally with the students. No interesting courses were offered, and we only had two foreign languages: French and Spanish. When I began foreign language, they only offered French.

My school was full of people who were not informed of their potential. To see my son going to a school that celebrates hard work, is a blessing to me. It doesn’t mean there are no challenges or downsides, but to have peers and faculty believe in you is a powerful thing. I don’t think I ever had that, anywhere.

Looking back, I don’ t know what that would have changed, because I eventually did just stop expecting anyone to believe in me, and learned to believe in myself. 20 years later, I only regret not caring more about myself, or subjecting myself to criticism more. It never occurred to me to care what others think, and I’m sure I wouldn’t feel any differently now, just because it has been 20 years.

I used to hate school, mostly because of the school itself. I have no problems talking negatively about it, because it was a terrible place that didn’t value education, and didn’t recognize the important role of a student/teacher relationship (not that kind). It made me hate the idea of school. It made me look at it as a waste of time.

But time is valuable, and if students are expected to respect teachers’ time, then teachers need to reciprocate that same thing in students. Students should automatically assume that their time is also valuable.

You know what happens when it isn’t? They grow up bitter. They grow up thinking they can’t lean on others. They grow up to write articles about how shitty their high school experience was, and that it taught them how unimportant goals and dreams and confidence and talent and determination and self-actualization were.

I know I’m doing myself a disservice by not going to the 20 year reunion, because of the fact that it’s in my writing wheelhouse to analyze situations like that, and relate them to measurements of time, and break down society’s affect on people I used to know. I should go, even if I can’t roast my classmates. Though, that would absolutely be a deal-maker.

But in the end, my time is just too valuable to waste another minute of it in that school.

1999 and forever!

-jg

Concatenation Nation

cause and effect. intent vs action. will vs outcome.

Just because you have a good heart about something, doesn’t mean you can project that positivity in any way upon what comes next. (In fact, Word doesn’t even recognize the word positivity at all, so there’s that). There are countless examples of this type of cause and effect throughout history. I don’t have to name them specifically, I’ll leave that to you. But think of the pain, loss, betrayal, and chaos imparted in myriad ways, all riding on the tail of a comet made of altruism and benevolence.

How can we know when our well-mannered actions are going to be offensive? By waiting for the effect? Does that teach us anything? Make us more knowledgeable on how misconstrued intent can make us look like an asshole? Rarely, do people realize that you can’t ever know how someone will react to what you have said or done, until it has transpired. And at that point, it doesn’t matter how honestly you can claim ignorance or sympathy. What’s said is said, and what’s done is done, and you get to watch your intentions get filtered through that person’s brain, through their emotions, and then morph into whatever follows. You did that, good or bad. That was you.

I sound like Mary Poppins. I believe she also said, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” as she poured medicine down the throats of freckled British kids who just didn’t want to clean their fuckin room. Did she think that old school cough medicine was going to get them cleaning, or get them more obedient? I think about what I know about cough medicine, which is A LOT, and then I think about when Mary Poppins was supposed to have taken place, and I know that cough syrup was loaded with the good shit. Way to go, Mary Poppins, you pusher.

What’s that you say? That’s a bible quote (it’s not a bible quote) and you’re not religious, so it doesn’t relate to you? Well maybe you’re a woman or man of science? Newton’s Third Law states that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” I always wondered why it had to be an opposite reaction (ex: why can’t a good intention end in a good reaction, and vice versa?) and, how can you measure the reaction as being equal or unequal? What is the quantifier? I know, I know, forces come in pairs, blah blah blah. I want to see the force.

Show me the forrrrrce!!!

Basically, if you do something, something will happen. What they don’t tell you is, when you do nothingstuff can still happen. I’ve tried it. I just stayed at home for three days, and then two days later, my boss said, “hey, don’t come in on Monday” like I even was gonna.

Also, I remember I didn’t pay my phone bill once, and the shit got shut off. You want to know a convenient time to have your phone turned off? Pretty much any, as far as I’m concerned, but when this example happened, I wasn’t quite in that mind set. I am now, and now I just wish I could afford the hassle of living without my phone. One day, the internet will go bye-bye, and we’ll be alright again. It’s just a matter of taking the choice away. I’ll be okay with that.

But you know what’s going to happen before the internet goes bye-bye? A whole mess of shit. And actions and reactions, and causes and effects are all going to be broadcast to the world, for all to see, and then you can all have your own reactions to that, and it’ll just keep grinding on that way, and oh yes, it will be televised.

The decline, that is.

The decline that was brought on by the good intentions of convenience. The convenience of the internet makes us think we need it, because it introduces micro-conveniences, one by one, until you have a whole pile of conveniences stacked up, all interwoven together, and it keeps you from leaving. It’s like strapping yourself down with bungee cords, until you can’t move. Sure, with one or two or three bungee cords, you could probably still get away. But once you have ten or fifteen of those fuckers, you’re probably not going anywhere. That’s the internet. Don’t fight it.

Or, do fight it. We’ll all watch it, streaming live on the internet. Hell, there’s a whole demographic of folks out there, who would pay to see that. There’s money to be made in everything, including the horrific effects of good intentions.

Good intentions such as wrestling. I mean, the people need to be entertained, don’t they? It’s the will of the people to be entertained, and the line of willing entertainers is not only neverending, it’s highly competitive. Why not let them fight it out? We like watching a fight, don’t we? It’s entertaining. Those are some good-ass intentions. 

One of my favorite ways to recognize cause and effect, comes in the form of expressing appreciation. I was raised to defy the value of people as anything but pieces of shit that didn’t matter. My father did a terrible job of teaching me how to behave around people, and he was way too strict to allow school dances or games, sleepovers, parties, school clubs, or trips to the movies or dinner with friends. He did a wonderful job, on the other hand, of teaching me to hate everybody, and to search for the fault in others; preferably the fatal flaw that could eventually be used to destroy them if I felt so inclined. I was not asocial, but quite literally anti-social, meaning I was against people… period.

As I’ve gotten older the effects of my father’s influence on me have worn off, and as a result, I have discovered what kind of person I am. I reflect on times when I brought people (who cared about me) to tears, because I didn’t fully realize they were a person – just like me. I feel shame and embarrassment when I think of how cruel I was to others, and so, I have worked consistently (though not completely) to be a better person.

People often get lost in their own shortcomings, and their biggest failure is the failure to recognize when they’ve done something good. But the flip side of that coin is, the lack of positive reinforcement. When you feel confident about something, and everyone’s reaction is underwhelming or non-existent, it becomes difficult to feel inspired to persevere.

I try to have the reverse effect on people, and overwhelm them with positive reaction to their work. Of course, no matter how hard I try to be friendly and eloquent, it’s just gonna come off as creepy sometimes. For example: I am not above writing an email to someone, to let them know they have affected me in some way, whether moving me to tears with a musical piece, or catching my eye with a photograph they’ve taken. A poem, or a piece of philosophy. An act of kindness I witnessed. And most of the time, these people don’t know me. They’re just getting a message from a complete stranger, about something they may not have put much thought into. I think celebrities get this all the time, just for being famous. Why should a regular person feel strange about getting an unsolicited Attaboy from me? I’m pretty great. And safe. Believe me, I don’t want to come kidnap you. I’m way too lazy for that.

But I will gladly freak out 100,000 people (give or take), if I make one person feel like they’ve made a positive ripple in the world. People need to know those moments exist. They need to feel like their presence on this planet is making a difference. There are plenty of opportunities that people will jump at ferociously, to point out the ways you’re fucking up. I say, as long as Participation trophies are a thing, surely we can spare a few words to let someone know they didn’t fuck up. This action rarely results in someone feeling worse about themselves, I promise.

I saw a young man give a speech about diversity at a rally a few months ago, and even before hearing that he was an aspiring journalist (yesssss), I was really feeling the connection to his speech. He spoke about the things that made him stand out, some of which I share, as if they were badges of honor in a world that doesn’t recognize that kind of honor. That kid is going into a field that will eat him alive, and he couldn’t have looked more confident. 

On another fairly recent occasion, I watched a young lady perform as Rizzo in Grease, and her rendition of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” was so emotionally charged, that it brought tears to my eyes. I saw it three times, and I cried each time. She was it. I bet that wasn’t an easy thing, and she was next level. I said, “giiiirrrrlllll…”

There’s an anchor on the morning news, who is consistent as hell  with her impressive wardrobe, and every day, I would see her and say, “look at that dress!” This woman had a fashion sense that I found to be more sophisticated and pleasing to the eye, than most people in our area could ever dream of. She most likely put a lot of thought into her attire, and I felt she deserved to hear some positive feedback on her style. So I sent her an email. (Most of my surprise appreciation comes in the form of something they can re-read, and feel good about more than once.) I don’t watch TV anymore, but she still wows ’em, I bet.

None of those people had any idea that I felt such a connection to what they were doing, and very likely (and understandably) were freaked out by my sudden praise. But it didn’t deter me one bit. Being freaked out is just another form of surprise, which I told you I was doing to people.

I wrote an email to my 3rd grade teacher, last year, because I just had to apologize for being such a little fucking shit when I first moved there. He was the first teacher I had in that school system, and even though he had a reputation for being a hard-ass curmudgeon, I still had no problem testing his patience (he failed). I was constantly disruptive: telling jokes, talking back to authority, and aggressively daydreaming to lure him into the idea that I wasn’t paying attention, only to “snap out of it” in time to answer his question correctly. Other students weren’t yet at the level I was, and I knew that, so I was also a show-off.

I was a dick. Like I was saying before.

So, I wrote the teacher an email to apologize, and to let him know that I appreciated that he had dedicated his life to educating children, and that surrounding yourself with 200 kids every day is a ding-dong move, if you value your sanity at all. I think he already knew that part, though. That age (3rd grade) is terrible, especially for boys. They have endless energy, and they want to scream it in your face, so you know about said energy at all times. That’s also the age where kids want to be a dick for no reason, and I’m trying to tell you that I was no different.

I’m different, now. I’m not a little shithead anymore. I’m way fuckin taller.

I appreciate when things look nice, when they smell nice, when things work out smoothly, when people are polite, when people are genuine, when something sounds pleasant, when someone has gone out of their way, when my time is not wasted, when I know I’ve done the right thing. I think recognizing these things has caused me to not be the person I used to be. I value kindness and simple things, even when it makes me look like an old corny person that I used to think was lame (and now know, isn’t).

I no longer feel the need to make myself look attractive, and rarely look closely at myself in a mirror. There’s no reason not to, but there’s no real reason to. It is not so important what I look like; I’m just happy my body is cooperative from day to day. Even that isn’t guaranteed, but as long as I can impart my will on the working parts to compensate for the broken parts, there’s not really anything wrong, is there?

I no longer strive to get the upper hand on people, or make myself look “good” by making someone else look bad. That competitive nature was hammered home in my childhood, and I used to delight in my victory being a lone one. This has caused me to try to understand where people are coming from, and think about what I could do to help, if anything at all. Sometimes, it’s nothing. Sometimes, it’s nothing to me, but everything to them.

I no longer value getting things handed to me easily. Not that I’ve ever had anything handed to me, but I no longer wish for that. Hard work has been more of a reward than anything else has been. I don’t think about taking away from someone else, to be able to have something they don’t have, because things aren’t important to me.

People are important to me.

Time is important to me.

Those are the two things which change us throughout life, and shape who we are. And once either is gone, you don’t get them back. Appreciate somebody, before it’s too late to tell them. Far too often, people think of what they should have said, after they can’t say anything. Don’t wait for that moment. Make the Aha Moment happen now. Cause some effect. Ripple that shit.

-jg

P.S. please don’t go stalking people, and sending weird messages. That’s not the kind of surprises I was talking about. I can’t express enough, that you have to choose how you approach people. Your intentions may be innocent, but there are more factors than just that. Consider how that person is going to receive your praise. I have changed my outlook to catch the things that evoke true emotion, and then present my appreciation in a safe way. Just to be clear.

 

 

 

Your Chocolates Would Have Been Discounted, Eventually.

You think you’re soooo special, don’t you? Just like everybody else. How can everyone be special, if they’re all doing the same thing? Of course, I’m referring to my least favorite annual tradition: Valentine’s Day, AKA Love Day.

This particular greeting card “holiday” has been long hated by me, ever since I was a smart-ass kid with no Valentine cards in my (expertly crafted) Valentine box. I hated it when I was in my first relationship in my teens, and I hate it as a 38 year-old woman in a committed partnership. To betray myself every year, I graciously receive chocolates from people who love me, and I eat them (the chocolates, not the people), and it’s a tradition I plan to uphold for decades to come.

But I won’t spend my money on anything that is marketed toward love in any way, on or around February 14th. Love is such a huge part of consumerism in this country, that I wouldn’t be surprised if the current generation of “First Loves” equates love directly with money spent. I have seen this be the case in many individual relationships (and fucked up people who are happy to admit it) and the more DeBeers and Hallmark and Victoria’s Secret make you think “more money = more love”, the more difficult it will become to find those remaining lost souls who still believe in true love, even without money.

I know, I’m just making shit up.

Basically, corporate America wants you to spend your money, and they have plans to go for the jugular when it comes to casting aspersions on your relationship.

Didn’t you get her chocolates and flowers the first year you were together?

It’s been a whole month and a half since Christmas… it’s time for the measurement of how much you love her.

How much do you really love your wife???

It’s usually aimed at the dudes, when it comes to the buying of chocolates and flowers and stuffed animals and jewelry, but it doesn’t work that way for the ladies. When you’re a woman, the gift for your partner is actually something that you buy for you to wear, for them.

I know you ain’t lost. The ladies are expected to go pick out some slutty lingerie, to display upon themselves as the present to their companion. That’s the gift. The woman’s body is the thing, and the lingerie is the wrapping paper that you are secretly trying on while she’s at work. Do what you want. Some people like to keep the gift box for future use, and you’re clearly no different.

I always thought it was super strange, to be someone’s gift, as an object for them to use. It has made me shudder since before I ever even had sex, and it makes me feel like a prude for not understanding the “logic” behind the gesture since being sexually active. It just feels weird. I don’t like to feel like I have only one specific purpose, and I don’t like to be vulnerable to someone’s desires, especially ones I may not have correctly anticipated.

Here’s your present! It’s my body! You’re in control of my movements and choices, now.

I am not sure my body would be a good gift like that. It has a few issues. I’d have to get some slick fuckin gift wrap for that present, and it still wouldn’t be exciting. Mine would be more like this:

Surprise! Yeah, I know you look shocked. This is your present! My body! Good luck.

Speaking of giving your body to your lover for Valentine’s Day, AND speaking of chocolates… there is apparently this dude named Magnus, who will take a mold of your asshole (outer portion only, I think. I don’t know for sure how far you can take it, with the right kind of money AKA love), and then he makes chocolates out of the casting of your sphincter.

For you to eat.

This Valentine’s Day, tell that special someone, “Eat My Ass.”

I should mention that he typically has them made in the shape of the butthole model they used for the prototype, but you can have special sessions in his apartment if you want. That’s not something I’m going to pay for. If I’m going to be ass-up in some strange dude’s apartment, I’d better be the one getting paid.

So the chocolates look strangely real. They might not freak you out, but I think if they were like, chocolate with any sort of liquid center, that would be a wrap for me. A cordial cherry would have me running for the hills, after the winter I’ve had. Okay, it’s not my aim to ruin chocolates for you, so picture one of those fancy soaps that are all delicate and detailed in their shaping. Molding can work that same way. They look a bit like those Chocolate Orange slices, really, but it’s supposedly a tight pucker that makes them look suh damn good.

Anyway, since I’m already giving a major shoutout, I may as well link his site www.edibleanus.com and yes, that’s real. He apparently didn’t want to leave any mysteries as to what he sells (I understand he goes through authorized sellers, so you might be redirected to lovehoney.co.uk; be prepared for that). As you can see, I wasn’t joking about the Chocolate Orange slices. Mind you, if you order from the website, you will be eating someone else’s starfish. Just to be clear.

Completely changing the subject altogether, there is a tradition in Japan (just stick with me, here) that began in the mid 1950s, and it’s a Feb 14 day just like Valentine’s. Except for a few things.

So, it starts on our traditional Valentine’s Day, Feb 14th, when women are forced/pressured/made to buy gifts and chocolates -called giri choco, or obligation chocolate– for the men they fucking work with. Not just guys they’re dating, or guys they can actually tolerate, but regular dickheads at work. It’s such an obligation, that they have extra shitty “ultra-obligation chocolate” called cho giri choco, which is reserved for the extra shitty coworkers you absolutely can’t stand. It’s still chocolate; just lower quality.

It gets worse. You may have noticed that I didn’t mention the part where the men do anything for that whole entire day, while the women of the company come in to work, and lay candy at their feet before continuing to work for less money. That’s because men “can’t” return the favor until a full motherfucking month later, on March 14. We’ll talk more about that in a second. I want to talk more about this workplace chocolate thing.

If I had to give chocolates to the males at my workplace, you’d better believe there would be some homemade ipecac chocolates being given, and subsequently eaten, and very immediately barfed up. No one would ever know I was the culprit, because of their sexist rules about every guy getting candy from every female. They’d have to shut that shit down, and I’d be a hero. Because that’s how I feel about forced relationships with coworkers, whether male or female. You don’t get my candy just because you’re a dude. Of course that was a brainchild of the 1950s!

And while we’re on the topic of gender, I’d like to know how the Japanese tradition addresses the issue of transgender, gay, and asexual people. Women are forced to give chocolate to men, regardless of their relation to them, and then a month later, the men have their gyaku choco, or reverse chocolate. And no, it’s not a promise to all women that there will be chocolate in their future.

No no. The men are forced to give chocolate to females, yes, but ONLY the ones they’re interested in dating (or are already with).

Let that one soak in.

The men get a choice, which… bully for you, men. At least you don’t have to give everyone the wrong idea that you’re interested in them. But what if you want to give chocolate to someone of your own gender? Can you? Are you then allowed to not give any chocolate at all on gyaku choco day? And how does the female-led choco-shower on giri choco day make you feel? You feel dirty, don’t you?

Speaking of dirty, Japan also has this “spa resort” where you can soak in steaming chocolate water. Just like you always wanted, you dirty girl.

When I was researching this asshat chocolate thing, I was pleased to see that a chocolate company had recently campaigned for women to boycott Black Thunder, which is apparently a popular candy, and not a porn star. How could I have known that? Word on the street is, they want the ladies to just start buying the chocolate for themselves, instead of the usual repayment to men for all the help they have given us women all year, because women just need saving, and men are the only ones who can save us.

I like the idea of the boycott. Anything that involves more chocolate for myself, I’m on board with.

The part that made me laugh, was their reasoning behind the campaign. It seemed perfectly fine in its obvious message to buy ourselves some chocolate, but they couldn’t leave it alone. The company took out full-page ads, because they so badly wanted to make sure everyone knew that “Valentine’s Day is a day when people convey their true feelings, not coordinate relationships at work.”

Well, we almost had it. I just can’t get behind the idea that people save their “true feelings” for one day out of 365, and either don’t show any feelings at all, or just show false feelings for the rest of the time. Or, most of the time. It did say “a day,” to be fair.

They convey their true feelings, not coordinate relationships at work! Workplace relationships are for other days of the year. Not this sacred one that is about love, and nothing else! Not revenue, not profit, not consumerism and demographics, not manipulation of the economy, and definitely not a weird mind trick being played on society. Just love.

So the ladies are buying themselves the chocolate at full price, and eating it in front of their coworkers who don’t get shit. Good. What the fuck is the deal with women being pressured to please the men they work with, so the guys can pick and choose which women are worthy? That’s fucked up. I’ve worked with some assholes, and I most definitely wouldn’t spend my money or my time, in trying to please them. I wouldn’t even buy them discounted chocolates at the end of the month. Not even if they were 90% off. I’d still just eat them, because to me, chocolates never go bad.

Imagine even having to do that. Imagine all the years women were stuck having to go out to the store to get candy, while thinking about all the dickheads they work with, and bring it back to their homes, while thinking about all the dickheads they work with, just knowing that they have to include every. single. one. Even the abusive ones, the ones that are on a constant ignorant power trip, the ones who have ten fingers to point at everyone else who is to blame for everything, the ones who go out of their way to embarrass you, and harass you, and make your life a living hell, just because they’re a natural piece of shit. And you have to walk up to them the next day, with the candy, and probably a smile, and you give them the fuckin candy, and you go back to doing your job, because that’s the real reason you’re even there to begin with.

And they may return the favor, a month later. But only if you’re worth boning, of course.

This Valentine’s Day, if I’m going to be around a bunch of assholes, they’d better be made of (or holding) expensive chocolate.

-jg

I Was Almost Vinced.

Last week, I learned the meaning of the word “vincible” in more ways than one. Obviously, I looked it up in the dictionary, and wasn’t surprised to see it there. It literally means the opposite of “invincible,” which we all know, means you can’t be vinced.

I also learned the definition the hard way, by getting into a car accident. It’s worth mentioning that everyone survived, so, this isn’t that kind of invincibility (or vincibility, as it were) story, you can relax. It’s more about realizing that you’re human.

As of the day I am writing this, it has been a week since the crash, and I have experienced a metamorphic transformation of sorts, in those seven days. Nobody ever expects an accident, and when you get into one, it happens so fast, that you can easily get lost in the true events of what you’re experiencing. You ask “How did that happen?!” which is a fair question to ask, unless you were doing something risky and it just caught up with you. In that case, be your own detective.

Not only do you wonder how it happened, you can actually block out the details of what happened. One minute, you’re driving, and the very next moment, you’re spun around in a ditch on the other side of the road. If you were rear-ended, it can be extremely unclear, and you’re left with unanswered questions because the other driver probably isn’t going to want to incriminate themselves for the sake of your peace of mind. Sometimes, they’re an old couple, who you run over to check on, and they’re grouchy fuckin dicks to you. Or, it’s a redneck who wasn’t paying attention while driving way-too-fast mph on a back road in the winter, and they tell the insurance company that it was your fault. Or, sometimes it’s an extortionist who wants to make a quick buck on an insurance payout, and isn’t afraid to lay low for awhile to prove how useless injured they are. In any case, even if they’re nice, they aren’t worried about you, as much as they’re worried about themselves. But feel free to call them for an interview, if you think you’ll be able to figure some shit out. I wasn’t so lucky.

This was my second accident with my son in the car, and I’m grateful beyond all that is powerful in the universe, that he was not hurt in either one. This one was a bit less intense, but he was a champ throughout the whole thing, and has been ever since. The thing I haven’t been able to shake, is the feeling that, if we had collided one second sooner, my son could have been killed. I don’t know what I would do without him in my life, but if something happened to him because of my inability to protect him, I would struggle with being able to recover and cope. Again, I am so thankful that he is okay, and that he isn’t also caught up in this line of morbid thought that I can’t seem to get out of.

Another thing I have been struggling with, is the fear that everyone is going to come out of nowhere and hit me. I can’t check both ways enough times before pulling into the street or turning a corner. I can’t slow down enough, or allow enough space between myself and other vehicles. I know it’s normal to feel this paranoia after a crash, but I feel like it’s becoming ingrained in me. I am always a cautious and attentive driver; I never text and drive, I don’t look at my phone at all, I watch my mirrors and blind spots, and I minimize my interactions with other features in the car. I have impeccable reaction time, and have always been able to work around the poor planning and neglectful habits other drivers. I do well with rotaries, highway traffic, crazy drivers, construction, darkness, inclement weather, and distractions from my passengers. I can drive for long distances without falling asleep, and even though I’m a terrible navigator, I can follow direction. So, being in the mindset that I need to be even safer than that or we’re all going to die, is so unhealthy. Matt says the more I think about it, the more distracted I’ll be. I do know this already.

Perhaps the oddest piece of this puzzle, is that, no matter how hard I try to relive the crash, I cannot figure out where those old people came from. They weren’t there, and then they were. They were not there, and appeared in the same space as me, at the same time, and my car fell apart, while theirs was virtually untouched. Not a scratch on it. And not only that, but neither of them were hurt even a little, and they didn’t call their insurance company, or talk to mine. Didn’t even give their names. Which leads me to the conclusion that they weren’t real.

Maybe I’m just trying to compensate for my momentary lapse of perfection on the road, but I have been so confused about their existence, that I can think of no logical explanation to account for their involvement in the accident. There was nobody on that road with me, in any direction, and it was broad daylight, bright sunshine, no distractions. I didn’t just imagine this; my son is also perplexed by the fact that they literally came out of nowhere. This is some Unsolved Mysteries shit, at the highest level. Someone needs to open an X-File, not an insurance claim!

When your car becomes worthless, it’s what they call a Total Loss, which means your car has sustained more damage than it could ever be sold for again. I think mine was already at that point, prior to the accident, but if someone thinks they want to give me the Kelley price for it, then I’ll take it. It certainly helps, when you have no idea how you’re going to get around all of a sudden. If you’ve ever been one of those people who doesn’t have multiple working vehicles, ATVs, boats, snowmobiles, and motorcycles in their garage, you know the struggle. In my area, everyone has 450 trucks and cars in their yard, but you can’t borrow one for a few days, because that person needs those cars to sit there, in case all of their other vehicles somehow mysteriously stop working at one time. You figure your own shit out, but don’t forget… they’re there for you if you need anything. Just ask.

Since the accident, I have driven over 400 miles, and I may as well be walking on eggshells. The anxiety I feel over the responsibility to keep my family safe has been great. Not great, as in good. Great, as in MASSIVE. I have a brand new car, and every sound is making me obsess over whatever the worst case scenario could be. I hate that feeling. I feel like I already live my life that way, ruled by irrational fears, due to traumatizing experiences in the past. (I am aware of what PTSD is, thanks) I just want to be able to shut out those thoughts, so I can be happy and enjoy life while it’s going well.

But the dilemma is, if I relax, I might miss something or neglect to act somehow. I know I’m vincible now, and that I have to rely on more than just my instinct; I have to be mindful in every second. How can I just sit back and enjoy life, when I am responsible for so much? I don’t have the “working” job, I have the job where everyone’s well-being rests in your hands. They eat, because you shop for food, cook the meal, and feed them. They go to school and work, because you take them and pick them up. The bills are paid, because you call the company when there’s a problem, and when there isn’t, you are making sure that things remain problem-free. The laundry is done, because you took care of it between other tasks. The appointments are scheduled around each other, however plentiful they may be, because you pay attention to the packed schedule, and ask what everyone is doing, or needs. Teachers and counselors stay informed, because you keep them in the loop. Unspoken issues get attention, because you notice that something isn’t right, and you dig. It’s not a paid job, but it takes from you. You end up being the one who pays, because the worry and responsibility of being a parent at home is a lot to bear.

That is, if you love and care about your family. I don’t know, some people don’t. Some people let all of the responsibility rest on the child(ren). Some parents don’t even like to be considered a parent. They want to be the Best Friend. In my opinion, a Best Friend would offer to do my dishes once in awhile, or clean up their shit around the house. Might be why I don’t have a best friend (just kiddin, Matt!)

I’ve learned about the fragility of life, and how easy it would be to just stop living, if we don’t take the time to care and consider. Even when you think nothing is happening, even when you think you’re not in danger, even when you think you’ve taken every precaution… it’s important to realize that we are not invincible, and that we are constantly surrounded by circumstances that we don’t even notice. Circumstances that can change your life greatly (great, as in massive). Even the most cognizant of people can miss something, and everything can be taken away in that instant.

But don’t forget to relax.

-jg

p.s. nothing heavy next week, I promise! I will come back swinging, whatever that means in the writing world.

 

No FOMO, or A Summer Without Facebook

Just after el cinco de Mayo of this year, I closed my facebook account. I didn’t just deactivate it; I shut that bitch down for life. I remember that it was right after el cinco de Mayo, because one of the last things I posted was a story about hearing French people say the phrase “sink-o duh my-o” while telling each other their plans for the ‘holiday‘ upcoming. Not many people of Mexican ancestry up here, but everyone was celebrating, thinking they were being supportive of some sort of Mexican Independence.

El sigh.

For the final couple of weeks on the ‘book, I was simply going through the motions: waiting to close the account, because I had already gotten myself super amped up about it, and I just generally hate anticipation. When I decided I was leaving, I gave my friends and family 2 weeks to provide their contact information before I fell off  the planet facebook. I didn’t even want to stay on for those 2 weeks, and several times, I’d considered just closing it anyway and saying “fuck the 2 weeks!”

Not many people responded with their information, but they all seemed like they couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. Ones that said “please don’t go!” haven’t talked to me in the past 4 months, and those that said “don’t lose touch” have barely replied to my correspondence outside of facebook. (I guess those were threats, after all.) That’s not to say none of them have talked to me, but it’s clear that facebook makes you think you have a lot more friends than you actually have. On the contrary, you probably have a ton of *ahem* friends who are curious about what is going on in your life, but don’t want to get involved in any capacity, other than bystander. That’s more like it.

A lot of people who do see me in real life, have uttered the phrase “oh, you’re not on facebook, nevermind” to the point of exhaustion. Yes, I am the outlier, and thereby, require other forms of communication in order to stay in the proverbial loop, as it were. It doesn’t mean I am incapable of understanding what is happening to people, and can even be told/shown in the exact same manner as if I were a facebook onlooker. Simply show me, or tell me. Just like a computer. Or a kindergarten class. But, you know… me.

I used to share a lot of lengthy and opinionated posts (no, it’s true), which turned into this blog, and I used to share a lot of photos, which turned into google photo sharing, and I used to get bothered by shitty articles and sourceless stories, which turned into being bothered by my general news search. Some might say I’m making lateral moves that don’t mean anything. To them, I say, “Remember Cambridge Analytica?” (and then I disappear into a cloud).

I mean, sure, someone is probably still spying, but it ain’t facebook. I’m not taking quizzes and bumping polls and registering for this-or-that-side in some stupid faceoff about candy or the color of a dress… AKA Profiling Myself For Free. I don’t care to argue about my political beliefs anymore, or argue about whether I should be trying to understand the current racial atmosphere, or get into arguments about *anything* with people who probably aren’t even real, because facebook isn’t real to me. It doesn’t exist, that is, until I try to look up a business, and their only fucking web representation is their facebook page. Why would anyone limit themselves in such a way? My favorite blogger changed her platform to facebook posts, which devastates me, because now I don’t get to read it. In times like that, I want to miss facebook, but then instead I just don’t.

Another thing that I don’t understand anymore, is how the over-all organization of your life on the facebook platform – dates, concerts, baby showers, birthdays, political gatherings, holidays, educational institution details and dates, career specifics, area of location, photo documentation of your family’s upbringing – makes anything easier. I used to think it was convenient, but in reality, it’s just a nice compact version of everything about you, sold to the highest bidder. It’s a social media platform, not a government file (well, it is now), so why are people trying to get so intimate with everyone, that even the most distant connection is one worth letting into your innermost circle?

Matt has asked me several times if I miss facebook, or if I wish I had it back. The answer never changes, and I wouldn’t even be thinking about an answer if he wasn’t bringing it up, because I literally never think about it. I hear people say “Did you see on facebook…” and I immediately interject “nope” but then they start pressing to figure out what the problem is, like my computer malfunctioned somehow, or I just was “too busy for facebook” somehow, or facebook must have malfunctioned somehow because I hadn’t seen it yet.

Nothing is wrong. I haven’t seen it. I’ll never see it. I don’t want to see it now, or tomorrow. If you have a photo to show me, show me the fucking photo. Not the facebook post.

ANNNNND… And and and… I don’t want you to do that move where you “share your phone” in some ridiculous side move where I get to see you scrolling through your feed for 3 minutes in order to find the picture. I didn’t like that when I was on facebook, and I don’t like it when it’s your crap.

Not that your stuff is crap. I’m sure it’s great.

So, not having access to the many “good times” people have been checking into, or the books and drinks they’re enjoying, or the articles they thought were shareworthy, has given me some perspective on life. Perhaps a selfish perspective, but one that I’m willing to live with. I don’t have to worry about who likes my photo, or my rant. I don’t have to see other people praising the disgusting things I hate about society. I don’t have to wonder if I’m living a life that is better or worse than anyone else’s. I don’t feel as anxious, I have been much less skeptical because I can choose what news to read, instead of following a prompt based on my scrolling, and I don’t feel like I’m being constantly judged for what I say.

Which brings me to the most serious part of my fexit. I write things sometimes, and have opinions sometimes, that aren’t regarded as “awesome” by some people, and that’s something I am okay with. But other people aren’t okay with it, and they react. Truth is, there will always be people out there who don’t agree with what you’re saying, but social media has created a breeding ground for hate to flow freely and, seemingly, without consequence. Everyone can see what you’re doing and saying, far beyond when you have said it or done it, and just because 250 people have “liked” your comment, doesn’t mean you’re in good company. I’m sure there are a million pieces of shit strangers out there, who completely agree with what you’ve said, but the one person who takes offense to it, could be someone who you care about and truly affects your life. Facebook has created a platform for people to do and say things they wouldn’t do or say in real life, if faced with those same circumstances. Bravery can soak into your bones and make you feel invincible, but once you bring social intelligence into the physical interaction, I guarantee people will act completely different. People have already started acting different, but for the worse. The 2016 election kicked everything off, and facebook is the reason we have the president we have now, and thereby, many of the societal problems we have now.

Wait, don’t go.

If you disagree with that statement, I am going to bet my first child that you are still on facebook (and like it), but let’s say for shits and giggles that you aren’t.

You’re not on facebook, and you’re so very woke to the drawbacks and breach of privacy, and you read all about the Zuckerberg hearings, and you actually followed the election outside of facebook,… and you also happen to be of the opinion that the election was clean and fair, and not carried out via facebook. For this to be the case, you would have had to completely ignore the very word “facebook” in the news for the past 3 years, as well as any relayed information given by facebook account holders, even if you trust them.

I can tell you, to witness firsthand, the galvanizing of people who think the way the president does, was terrifying. These are people who, prior to the consequence-free zone of facebook, were ashamed to take their beliefs public, because the established collective morality tells us to be socially intelligent, and our brains tell us how to act (or not act) when in a physical confrontation. Well we can remove that stigma, because the president has glorified some of the most divisive and abusive behavior, and has reinforced the idea that you don’t have to ever answer to anybody, and you can take whatever you want. I watched hate groups form on facebook at an alarming rate, between 2014 and 2017, and people really stood behind the messages.

Also on facebook, as with other social platforms, if you express an opinion that goes against someone else’s, they will rake through your profile for something to hurt you with. Some people actually go after others, because their exchanges become so intense. And if they can’t get at your profile, they’ll google your name until they find something else. People have committed suicide because of facebook. People have lost their jobs. People have been stalked and killed. People have been separated from their children.  Imagine that in a real situation: when you’re having a heated argument, the person gets to start rifling through your things, and reading your journal, and going through your phone and computer, and screaming obscenities at you the whole while. They threaten you with physical harm, they threaten you with murder, threaten your family with murder, tear down your looks, your family, your job, your place in life, with no basis for it, other than the fact that you disagreed on ONE THING.

I act completely different now, and I feel like that’s a good thing. I know there were times when I let my reactions to someone else affect how I treated people around me. I think back on that, and I’m like “What?” People are still doing it right now on facebook. I also know there were times when I tried to connect an ordinary app to facebook, and it asked for access to my personal information, both on my computer and my phone, among other unreasonable requests. People are still accepting that request right now on facebook. I remember getting friend requests from people without names or faces that I recognized, and deciding I didn’t really want strangers having a full view into the details of my life. People are still happily and excitedly accepting those requests right now on facebook. A friend is a friend is a friend (even if they’re a bot or a spy).

Unfortunately, facebook has created a monster in that way. Vanity has taken over our interests, more so than anything in the past has, and has dumbed down our vision of what society is. We yearn for more approval, more friends, more likes, more requests to follow, more affirmation. Often, that is the only point behind a post. Nobody is dolling themselves up, taking a selfie, face-tuning themselves, and posting the photo cropped all to shit, unless they were looking for compliments. Next time, just show the fishing pole in the photo. It will bring less confusion. Or, how about #fishingnotfishing.

I’ve discovered the difference between those who call themselves my friend, and those who are just looking to call people ‘Friends’. The reason people send/accept friend requests, is so they can reach more people, because when you reach more people, they can see all of the great things you’re doing that are reflective of your real life I swear, or the totally selfless act you’re performing solely for someone else’s benefit and not for your own karma points no way, or that amazing update about your efficiency at doing laundry AND going to the gym AND tanning…all in the same day! How else would people you know (as well as those you don’t know, as well as the bot accounts, as well as the marketing spies) know about all of those highlights, if not for facebook?!

And the more people who get to see your perfectly groomed profile (instead of the nightmare you are in real life), the better of a person you actually are, and the more advantages you’ll have in life! You need to have thousands of friends, because that’s what regular people (not celebrities who make money by simply existing) normally have in life, right? A close circle of 2,500 friends you want knowing every detail about where you are, at all times, and what you’re doing, as well as who you’re with? Nobody has 2500 people who actually like them.

I was not serious about that last part. I know there are at least 2500 of you who really love me.

I’m not saying facebook is the only place this happens, but facebook is the only place in my world that ALL of this stuff happens. It’s a fucking app. An app that could ruin your world, and the worlds of those around you. An app that HAS ruined MANY lives. An app that shows us how deep into our vanity we can get, while stealing our identities behind our backs. How is that not ironic? We admire the outer shell so much, that we’re too distracted to notice as our insides get sucked out the back door.

That was a poor choice of wording. But you get the idea.

So, after 4-ish months of being free, the only question that still remains, is this: why would anyone ever go back to facebook? With everything that is already wrong with this world, it seems like walking away from an explosion, only to go back and bask in the nuclear winter. It makes no sense. If you are smart enough to walk away, and take control of your life, what makes you revert back? Is it like one of those brokeback mountain relationships, where you just wish you knew how to quit it? It would be interesting to see a brain scan on someone as they reactivate a new facebook account, after having ditched. I bet that would show some significant mid-brain activity, and probably not much else.

The obvious compartmentalizing of people, exposure of their information, hijacking of their time, and exploitation of their weaknesses, all at the willing hand of the victim, has convinced me that I want no part of it. There is no benefit to being on the platform, and even from the outside, it is clear how quickly and dramatically it is deteriorating the world. I officially have no FOMO.

-jg

Manic Depression Is A Frustrating Mess

There’s a commercial on TV right now, for a medication that targets the “misunderstood side” of Manic Depression, and that is the Manic Episode.

Now, for those who are unfamiliar with Manic Depression, that’s okay. It’s a term that is going away now, with Bi-Polar Disorder being the new moniker taking its place. It sounds a bit more immediate, in my opinion, being that you can go from a high point (in mood or behavior) to a low point within a short period of time, and I always understood Manic Depression to be more of long term thing: weeks or months of “high”, followed by weeks or months of “low” and so on. Now, they’re saying it’s both. Schizophrenia is a completely different thing, though Manic Depression and Bi-Polar Disorder can make you feel like multiple people exist within you at different times. So here we are, up to speed on our terms. I will refer to them by acronyms, from here on.

I have always identified more with the MD symptoms than the BPD symptoms. I think everyone has the capacity to change their mood during the day, based on whatever situational stimuli they have going on. BPD is an extreme version of that, and can be dangerous, depending on the person. I have not ever been that way, outside of the normal heated arguments I (again seem to) think everyone has. I don’t think I ever get overly energetic or “hyper” for lack of a better word, and the only problems I have with sleeping involve my back pain, which is an unrelated issue.

I do, however, experience periods of time where I am creative, and the execution of that creativity is gratifying, and I am motivated to do more, and create more, and clean more, and get rid of excess things, and show people the attention I think they deserve… followed by periods of time where I can do nothing but sleep, and be in a fog, and feel no motivation, and don’t enjoy anything (music, tv, movies, painting, photography, writing, time with family) with no explanation for it. These peaks and valleys are noticeable and oddly predictable, and I always try to take advantage of the peaks while they’re around, because I know I’ll be fucking useless once those valleys come around. So, that’s what I do.

I should mention, I am not currently being treated for MD or BPD. I have taken Psychology and Sociology and Mental Health and Human Development and Philosophy, and I have watched a TON of TV commercials, but I have also talked to multiple doctors about the symptoms. I choose not to medicate for it, because I don’t personally think I need it, and even though my doctors are probably paid by the pill, they agree that a prescription is not necessary. I also am not interested in unsolicited advice that I don’t want and am in no way asking for. So like the medication, don’t fuckin offer it to me.

The TV ad shows a woman making sandwiches, and she gets through a few, and starts thinking “Why don’t I make a shitload of sandwiches, while I have the Mustardayonnaise out?” So she starts making hella sandwiches, and she’s wrapping em in foil, and some sandwiches are all rushed and sloppy, and I think that’s supposed to be a metaphor for how our work suffers in quality on Manic Monday. She makes like 100 sandwiches, at least, and then the camera pans out, and she’s on a fuckin house of cards. I don’t know, I might be mixing up the two ads that are run by this pharmaceutical brand (one is the sandwich lady, and the other one is a fuckin crazy post-it note queen going to town on some shit). Anyway, the message is: “Manic episodes can leave you on shaky ground” or something like that. I think that might be the actual tagline.

When I was watching the commercial, and I saw her being a damn sandwich wizard, I was captivated! “Go, girl!” I yelled at the TV, because I was excited for her progress and her forward thinking. I was impressed by her productivity. I wanted to make a sandwich. I wanted to be her kid. But then they were all weird about it in the ad, which made me feel pretty violated, first of all. I felt like they lured me to the van with the candy, but when I got there, it was just a bunch of candy shamers. I didn’t want to feel guilty for cheering her on, and it was a sick move on their part, to make me feel that way. They started talking about the Manic episodes being “the misunderstood side” of MD.

Excuse me? I’m pretty sure the DEPRESSION is misunderstood as something people can just “snap out of” and “feel better” and “try to look at the positive things” to get through. To compare one to the other, is just ridiculous. Both elements are equally misunderstood, and this medication is only making a bad thing worse! It targets the Manic episodes solely, leaving you with nothing but an indefinite Depressive state, and a laundry list of side effects – including, but not limited to, suicidal thoughts or actions, headache, dizziness, loss of vision, or it may worsen your depression. Why would anyone want to pay for that, much less ingest it, and form an addiction they have to continually pay for, not only out of pocket, but through the insurance plan they also pay for? Are people that opposed to smoking a joint before bedtime and calling it good, that they would rather put themselves through the addiction and financial hardship of a chemical blast to the brain?!

I guess I just don’t get it. I live in a pretty liberal state, so I feel like people should always try cannabis first, before climbing on board the candy wagon. When someone takes a medication for MD or BPD, they aren’t just taking one – they’re taking co-prescriptions with it, and they’re paying for those too. And not only are they paying for them, but they don’t even think about what the “medicine” is doing to them! I don’t understand what needs to happen, for people to realize how beneficial cannabis is, and how poisonous prescription drugs can be. Every day, I read about 20+ new class-action lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, and they’re never in the newspaper or digital news or even on TV news. It’s a quiet class-action settlement that you wouldn’t otherwise know about, unless you were looking for it (or following new lawsuits all the time, like I do). You’ll never see it in the news, because there’s not enough time between prescription drug commercials. If you think your doctor isn’t being paid kick-backs by pharmaceutical companies, you’re one of the people making me laugh right now. Seriously. That level of stupidity and denial makes me laugh my ass off, because I know there is a moron walking around, and it isn’t me.

At this time, I am currently in a Manic state, but that could be because school just got out for the summer yesterday, and that means I get to go to the track at 5 AM now. It also could be that I am 35 minutes from my deadline to post this, and I am still writing. I have been awake for 7 hours, and haven’t eaten, so that’s probably not a great thing, and the coffee will make me crash soon. At least I’ll be surrounded by my kids, so they can pick up the slack.

I don’t think I could afford to take a medication that took me out of my brain, because my kids would probably fall off the face of Shaq’s flat green Earth. In my Depressive episodes, I end up reminding (torturing) myself about how much I love my kids, and how they’ll be gone soon, and making stupid choices, and I want to be there for them, and I want to hear everything they ever have to say… and then when they won’t shut up about dumb things, I scold myself for wishing they would stop talking. I bully myself into participating in a conversation about Lego superheroes or Reader’s Digest, when I’m dying inside and just want to fall asleep to see how much time passes by. I make myself do it. I use it as a reason to never forget what I have. I take the shitty things, and I turn them into silver linings. It’s not easy, and I don’t know how I even do it, but I’m sure that not everybody can do it, and that makes me feel sad too. My sister tells me the same thing about herself, and that makes me feel sad too. The misunderstood spiral goes on.

When I get Manic again, I try to think of ways to show appreciation for people, and I end up flooding my mind with ideas, and get my gears jammed, so I ultimately spend an hour just thinking, and not actually doing anything. Mostly, I just end up cooking a lot, and sometimes if I’m lucky, writing. I haven’t been in a peak for awhile, which is why my writing has been struggling. I promise to try to “snap out of it” really soon, and “just feel better” so perhaps a good upward climb on the ol’ house of cards is just what I need.

-jg

En Garde, Ne Touchez Pas

Nobody has ever really considered me to be their Best Friend. Or at least, they’ve never told me about it. I grew up before the “selfie” thing began, so there aren’t any pictures of me cuddled up to my bestie, or manicured photos of us dressed up and ready to go somewhere fun. No home videos of me and my bff doing something funny or interesting. Those things don’t exist, because they never happened. Nobody ever looked at me that way. Unless you count dudes, who generally felt pretty safe around me, because I was “one of the guys,” which is a phrase I CAN’T STAND. But they weren’t jumping to preserve those fun candid moments in a photograph. They just didn’t do that stuff.

The fact of the matter is, I wasn’t the type to have a bestie, in the traditional way. I found the posing and posturing stuff to be forced, and was uncomfortable with hugs and arm holding and being physically close to my girl friends. I noticed them doing it, when they didn’t notice they were doing it, and I would think to myself, “Why don’t I do that? Why do I want nobody to come near me? Why does it feel weird and unnatural?” I didn’t feel that way around my male friends, because most of our contact was aggressive (shin kicks, arm punches, pushing and shoving, head smacking, etc) so there was nothing out of place about it. It seemed like what everyone did, but at the same time, I wasn’t going to smack my girl friends, so I just cut off the physical contact piece altogether, and thought that was fine.

Guys felt comfortable to me, because I grew up with my older brother and his friends. I also wasn’t particularly girly, I didn’t mind getting hurt or dirty, I swore a lot, I was abrasive and confrontational, but somehow also the funniest person in the room. It was (is) nearly impossible to offend me, and I think I was a breath of fresh air, for the guys in my class. I think they liked when I swore, and when I said things about boobs. That’s not why I hung out with them, though: to make them laugh and want to hear more, though that was a draw, for sure. I liked making people laugh, and it seemed like I was always more successful at making guys laugh, so I naturally gravitated toward that feeling. It had nothing to do with the girls not being fun to be around, because I definitely had a few kickass female friends, who I still love and respect. No, I hung out with the guys because it was just easier. I didn’t have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings, because I grew up when guys were still afraid to show their vulnerability outside of their bedroom. They weren’t offended by my humor, which I KNOW is over the damn top sometimes, and it feels great to not have to filter yourself, and just let shit land. I could just be myself.

I couldn’t do that with my female friends, for the most part, because (in addition to the awkward physical contact) they had some real feelings. We were pre-teen/teenage girls, growing up in a small town, during the aggressive second wave of feminism. I had to pretend to be something I wasn’t – or rather, hide parts of myself that just wanted to be crude and playfully insulting. I used a lot of insult humor, and felt like I was being constantly fed opportunities by my classmates and teachers, and I didn’t want to pass on ANY joke; I wanted to say everything that I thought was clever, and put my wit on display when I thought the timing was perfect. I felt conflicted… I didn’t want to hurt or offend my friends, simply because it felt like it was the wrong thing to do. Even though my jokes were fueled by timing and set-ups, there was seldom any truth to them, and were usually not meant to hurt. Still, I didn’t want to put them in the situation where they had to work out whether or not I was truly making fun of them. It was a tangled web. I did make my female friends cry a few times, and I’m not proud of that, but at the time, I don’t think it mattered much to me. I cared about being funny, and barely stifled the urge to roast everyone at all times.

One friend did consider me their Best Friend for several years, and he happened to be a guy. I look back on our friendship, and I don’t know why he thought I was better than his other friends. I was pretty mean, and didn’t realize I was being such a relentless asshole about it, until probably right now as I write this. We can’t ever see ourselves the way other people see us, no matter how we scale ourselves back, no matter how funny we think we are, or how harmless we think our intentions are. In that same way, we can’t see what others value in us, either. I never thought to ask about my qualities as a friend, and never told him why I valued him. He was a fun and patient person, and that made me feel comfortable to be myself. I wish I had given him credit for that, because the act of not letting myself disappear completely, was probably the most integral part of my upbringing.

When I was a teenager, I once told my mother, after not seeing her for many years, that I didn’t want her to hug me, and that it made me uncomfortable. It broke her heart, and I can’t imagine one of my kids saying that to me, and on top of that, I probably was a fucking dick about it at the time. I was so guarded, that I didn’t know why anyone would be shrouding me in hugs. I thought I was such a rude and abrasive person, that everybody else saw me that way too, and that they all knew that they were all better than me. Like they all saw through my façade of defense mechanisms, and were ready to expose how sub-par I was, at any minute. Why did I feel that way around my own mother? It didn’t make sense. I had gotten so far into my own head, that I felt like I had been rejected by everyone, simply because nobody wanted me to be the traditional “friend” to them. I felt like I was being left out of something on purpose, because I didn’t belong. They went to each other’s houses, and went out to do things on weekends, and went to school functions, and played sports, and took dance, and had all the things I wanted… but I was left out, so I must not have deserved to feel included. It was me, not them. They all liked each other. I let that toxic mindset cause me to reject my mother, which is such a terrible thing to realize.

As an adult, I am still fairly guarded. I’m still not a hugger, though sometimes a person’s vibe can strike me in just the right way, and I’ll hug them. My daughter isn’t a hugger, either, other than with me, which is ironic. I think she’s as guarded as I am, because she has a similarly minimal group of friends, but unlike me, she places importance on having a best friend. Where I wrote off any interest in being a part of that culture, she does want the affirmation and acceptance, and to feel like she identifies with someone. She takes the selfies, and is comfortable with the casual physical contact, and wants to be included, but doesn’t like too much attention. She likes attention, but she doesn’t want the focus to be on her, is a better way to describe it. She uses voices and sound effects and random moves and faces to capture people’s interest, if even for a few seconds. I used jokes and sarcasm to do the same thing. Who’s to say which method is correct?

My son is one of the most personable people I’ve ever known in my entire life; he’s so intelligent and funny, with an incredibly mature and dry sense of humor, and an outgoing attitude that adults find charming. He’s polite in a way that is practically non-existent in this society, always holding the door for someone, or shaking hands with people he encounters, even casually.  He is involved in clubs and organizations, loves to act and sing and play music, and rolls with whatever everyone wants to do. Despite these great qualities, his peers don’t like him. The males like to assert their dominance over him, because he is non-confrontational. The females don’t know he exists, because he’s not an athlete, and that just happens to be the big deal in our area. He also joined his class in the middle of 7th grade, so he never outgrew the New Kid label. It doesn’t help that his sense of humor is so much more elevated than those around him, so the only people laughing are usually the teachers or parents. The kids don’t get it. They don’t realize he’s so funny, so one of his two biggest personality traits misses the mark with them. His other boldest trait would be his intelligence, and his classmates don’t appreciate that, either. The truth is, my son is what you would call a “Know-It-All.” He loves knowledge, and will read or watch anything in order to gain it. He reads copyright information. He studies people throughout history, that you would never think to care about, much less think to memorize their entire life story. He recites timelines, origins, and little-known facts like someone is testing him. He asks everyone’s opinion about everything, all the time. He wants to gather information, and if you don’t have information for him, he’s going to give you information instead. He uses that interest to his advantage, earning Honors in school consistently, and killing the grading curve on tests. He likes to show off how much he knows. In high school, people don’t really like that. They’ll appreciate it much later in life, but right now… not so much.

Therefore, his net of friends is widely cast, but sparsely populated. He will be the first to admit that he prefers it this way. I wonder how much of that confession is a defense mechanism of his own. Like my jokes. Like his sister’s outbursts. We create our own comfort zones, where we get to show the person we want everyone to see, and we acknowledge but still hide our true feelings, and we convince ourselves we don’t want the things that aren’t available to us.

Eventually, we find people who don’t make us feel excluded. We feel like we’re accepted, even without putting on the front. We don’t have to hide the rejection, because it’s not present, and we don’t have to create a comfort zone, because our true personality traits are naturally valued by those around us. The good ones and the bad ones, and we don’t have to make excuses for it. We can be unapologetically US. I think all of my classmates found that in each other, and I just never did, so that’s why I didn’t fit in. I put up the guard like it was my idea. Now, I get to be with people who make me feel comfortable and real, and so, I have stopped hiding my real personality. It’s about living my life, and accepting that not everyone will like it. Those who want to accept me, will. Those who don’t want to include me in their selfie, can fuck off.

 

-jg