Tag Archives: coping mechanisms

Who’s Useless?

I saw a meme the other day that defined the laundry cycle as wash, 45 min.; dry, 60 minutes; fold and put away, 7-10 business days. That would be optimistic for me and my husband. We are useless people.

We started calling ourselves that when we were so exhausted at the end of the day that we were physically and emotionally unable to cook. So we turned to what we called “Useless People Meals” – ones that come in a box or bag or tray and only need to be microwaved. We eat them in the trays they come in or share them out of a single bowl since we are also too useless to wash many dishes. Paper towels are our napkins, and I’m sorry to report that we have been known on occasion to use paper plates and plastic cutlery. At least the plates are biodegradable.

We took another step towards uselessness when we found the perfect furniture for us – a coffee table that magically rises upward to become a dining table and an end table that swings out over the sofa to make a tray. With these in place, we can happily watch TV while we eat. (We still have meaningful conversations, mostly over who will be the next chef to be Chopped. But I digress.)

As noted above, laundry is another place to practice uselessness. All our clothing is wash-and-wear. We don’t even own an iron (or if we do, I have no idea where it’s gotten itself off to). If we ever do find the iron and would actually need to iron something, we’d have to lay it on the coffee table, which would also magically transform into an ironing board. Much easier just to toss a garment in the dryer with a dryer sheet or a damp washcloth.

I admit we’re useless. We want to skate through life doing as little physical labor as possible. And there are a lot of products designed to make life easier for people like us. The meal kits that are so popular nowadays are not for completely useless people. Some of them require actual chopping and cooking. The most recent one we tried, though, had ready-prepped meals that were microwaveable. And since we didn’t know what any of the delivery meals would taste like when we ordered them, there was something to be said for not spending much time preparing them.

But there are those who mock and deride what they see as completely useless practices, gizmos, and packaging.

They are wrong. My husband and I may be slackers, but some inventions actually make life easier for people with disabilities, who are not useless but merely incapacitated in some way. Imagine a person with rheumatoid arthritis trying to shell an egg or peel an orange and suddenly those egg-cooking gizmos and individually wrapped, already-peeled oranges in vending machines make sense. It is ableist privilege that makes people view such innovations as useless.

Even some of what my husband and I think of as for the useless would actually be great for people who are handicapped. Our “useless people coffee table” makes perfect sense if you think of someone who uses a wheelchair. And our “useless people” heat-and-eat meals are dandy for people who do not have the physical stamina to stand at a counter or a stove, chopping, mixing, stirring, straining, and all the other steps that are needed for a simple plate of spaghetti.

So we’re right to call ourselves useless people, but wrong to call our time- and step-saving practices and devices useless. The tools themselves are immensely useful and many people who use them, unlike us, are not useless at all. More and more, as the Baby Boomers age and we face illness and mobility issues, we will need to use those sock-puller-uppers and canes that stand by themselves and grippers to reach the stuff on the high shelves or on the ground. Whatever the need, it seems some clever soul has come up with a fix or a work-around.

I guess what I mean is that my husband and I are useless because we take advantage of these helpful tools just because we don’t want to do the work. There are those who use them because they need to and we will likely join them someday. At least we’ll have the tools already in place.

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Lies We Tell About Bullying

girl wearing black and white striped dress sitting on stair
Photo by Zun Zun on Pexels.com

Being bullied has taught me a lot over the years. Lessons learned in childhood run deep and last long. We learn to not be noticed. That we must try to fit in. That certain people and places and situations are hazardous. That being different is a sin.

But it is not only the things that children do to one another that cause harm. Some of the things that adults say to children about bullying hurt the most. These remarks may be intended to help the bullied child, but at times they do as much damage as the bullying itself.

Chief among the responses to bullying that adults come up with is “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This is a profound lie, as any bullied child knows. Oh, there are sticks and stones, even literal ones. As a third-grader I had rocks thrown at me and countless children have experienced physical bullying – pushing, tripping, hitting, and more.

But words are more than capable of hurting just as much. There are forms of bullying other than physical – emotional, social, racial, sexual. But these forms of bullying are much less visible than the physical kind. If the grown-ups responsible for the care and well-being of the child don’t see bruises or bloody noses, they may think no harm has occurred.

Socially or emotionally bullied children are often told “Don’t be so sensitive.” And it may be true that less sensitive children do not feel the effects of cruel words as drastically. But the underlying message is that there is something wrong with the bullied child – excessive sensitivity. And this is not something that children can change about themselves. It’s like telling a person not to be so tall.

Another piece of advice commonly given to bullied children is, “Just ignore them.” If becoming less sensitive is impossible, even more so is ignoring bullies. Bullies are in-your-face. It’s almost impossible to ignore insults and injuries, derisive chants or laughter. Humiliation is not something that can simply be shrugged off. Bullies rejoice in having an audience for their abuse. It’s beyond hard to ignore a room or playground of kids (or teens), all of whom have witnessed your victimization.

Similarly, bullied children are told, “Other people’s opinions don’t matter.” Again, this is a lie. Of course they do. The opinions of a child’s peers control whether other children feel safe being friends with a bully’s victim. Their opinions determine whether a child will be lonely or despised, or will develop self-esteem. Bullies affect the opinions of other children and make the circle of bullies and bystanders wider. Other people’s opinions make wide ripples.

Bullied children often hear, “Toughen up.” Again, this is an assignment given with no clue as to how it is to be accomplished. It may even be misinterpreted as tacit permission to become a bully too. After all, bullies are tough. And the saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” may come into play. Naturally, this only expands the number of bullies and can victimize other children. A bullied child who becomes a bully may experience not a sense of empowerment but a sense of guilt.

Another common reaction to bullying is to encourage or even to coach a child in fighting back physically. This has little chance of working if the bully is physically larger than the victim and takes a lot of practice if it is to work at all. In addition it teaches children that violence is an appropriate solution to a problem. If the bullying has been emotional or social rather than physical, the bullied child is also likely to get in trouble for striking back in a literal manner.

The problem is that the bullied child is not the problem. He or she does not need to change or be changed. The bully is the one who is demonstrating unacceptable behavior and needs to be stopped. Bystanders are bullying enablers and need to learn how to support and intervene instead.

There are no simple solutions to bullying, which will likely continue as long as children are children, though with awareness of the problem and concerted efforts on the part of adults, it may someday lessen and be less acceptable and less accepted.

But whatever the solution is, it is clearly not to tell the bullied child lies.

How to Write When the Muse Takes a Hike

We’ve all had those days when we simply turn away from a blank screen (or a blank piece of paper, if you’re a traditionalist) and say, “I just can’t write today.” And we’ve all had those passionate days when writing draws you to your keyboard and sucks you in and you can’t not write.

But what about those in-between days? Those when you think of writing and simply say, “meh.” How do we find inspiration or motivation or something to get us writing on those days?

There are the traditional motivators: deadlines and schedules. I’ve used both myself. (And most writers cherish the quote from Douglas Adams, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”)

In fact, for my blogs I use both. I have a loose schedule in which I start writing on Wednesday and have a hard deadline of Sunday by noon to post them. Those have worked for me. But if I haven’t written anything by Friday, I get nervous, and that motivates me. Or it makes me consider reposting or repurposing an old post or one from the other blog. And repurposing is a form of writing.

But there are also less traditional motivators. Here are a few.

Boredom. This is closely related to avoidance of worse stuff. If there’s nothing happening in your life or in your house (I can hear all you parents laughing), don’t waste your time on tedious household chores. Sit down and write. Unless you’re writing ad copy for funny-looking tables, writing is not boring, or at least not as boring as, say, ironing. The ironing will still be there when you’re done writing. Believe me, no one else will do it. And no one else can do the writing.

Faking it. This has worked well for me when even the writing is boring (see ad copy, above). Pretend to write, just so that anyone walking past your desk will think you are writing. Write just one sentence. I’ve found that if I do that, I pretty much know what the next sentence should be. Before I know it, I’m writing!

If you really want to get some writing done, set out to write the first paragraph. Either you will realize what the next paragraph should be or you will realize that the paragraph you’ve written shouldn’t be the first one. Maybe it needs an intro. Maybe it should come later in the piece. By the time you’ve shoved it down, paragraph by paragraph, you’ll find where it goes, use it as the conclusion, or dispense with it altogether.

Reading. Read with attention and intention. Read something by your favorite writers and try to see the “bones” of their writing. Highlight whatever it is you’re struggling with, be it description, dialogue tags, or first-person narration.

Or read something serious and look for quotes that make you think. Then write about what you’re thinking. Agree or disagree; just write. Read a headline that makes you angry or puzzled or skeptical. Read the article and write a reply to it. Read the newspaper and write an op-ed. If you like, you can call this research, even though it looks to your family or your co-workers like you’re loafing.

Introductions and cover copy. Writing the preface to a book, even one that doesn’t exist yet, will (or should) give you a sense of the theme of the book. So what if you re-write it after you’ve finished the book? It’s a way to get started. Writing the cover copy or inner flap description can make you realize what you need to be writing. Say the cover copy you write says, “A suspenseful thriller that follows in the footsteps of Tom Clancy.” That can make you realize that what your book needs you to write is another suspenseful or thrilling scene. Or that you need to read more Tom Clancy (see reading, above).

Bad writing. You ought to know bad writing when you see it. It’s all around. Say to yourself, “I could write a better short story/blog post/advertisement/headline/sitcom script than that.” Then go do it. Even if that’s not the style or genre you usually write in, do it anyway. You’ll be exercising your brain and writing muscles. And at least you’ll be writing something, not staring at the blank screen or paper.

The future. If you want to be a published writer, you have to write. It’s not enough just to want it. You’ve got to do it. Every time you sit down and write will get you closer to that goal. Remind yourself of that dream and write, dammit! Even if what you write isn’t very good yet, there’s always the next draft, or your writer’s group, or the example of your favorite writers to encourage you.

At first, you may have to trick yourself into writing. But your writing may go more smoothly the next time. And the next time. And the next – until at last you summon the muse or the passion takes over. You know, the way you’ve always heard writing should be.

 

 

 

When You Have a Cold: Some Unsolicited Advice

Say you’ve got a cold or a light touch of the flu. Then keep far away from me. You feel awful and I don’t want to feel awful too. I know you don’t want visitors, but here I am. And at least I’ve brought a gift: a few suggestions for entertaining things you can do while you suffer in peace and quiet. Except for, you know, the coughing and sneezing and assorted other noises you’re making yourself. Relative peace and quiet, if you know what I mean.

Drink tea. It really doesn’t matter what kind, since you can’t smell it anyway. Earl Grey will smell just like jasmine. Peppermint and Irish Breakfast, the same. And if you want to, you can use it as the base of my father’s restorative tonic, which consists of tea, bourbon, and horehound candy (tea optional). Or boring old lemon and honey, if you insist, though my father would not approve.

Cuddle large, fuzzy cats. Even if you’re allergic to them. You’re already sneezing as much as humanly possible, so you have nothing to fear from dander. Bonus: A large, fluffy cat makes an excellent substitute for a heating pad or hot water bottle.

Read. Or pretend to. Actual reading may distract you from how miserable you are (unless you’re reading Les Miserables). Pretend-reading will encourage people to keep their voices low, plus it doesn’t matter if you fall asleep with the book elegantly displayed on your chest. (Make sure it has a classy dust jacket, even if the book inside is Fifty Shades of Grey. Which I don’t recommend, unless it’s for pretend-reading. It may lead to barfing, which may be in your future anyway.)

Eat chicken soup. Tell everyone that you need it for the fluids and the electrolytes. Egg drop soup is an especially good variety, since if you can’t convince someone in your household to make it and bring it to you, you can always convince the Chinese take-out down the street. Nibble saltines daintily, or the little fried things that look like Chinese tortilla strips.

Hit the Nyquil. And I don’t mean the non-drowsy kind. Sleep through as much of the cold as possible. Warning: Do not mix Nyquil with Southern Comfort or the bourbon-horehound mixture (see above). You’ll barf and you may be doing that already. Also, don’t mix Nyquil with cough syrup, which can cause unintended psychedelic effects and more barfing.

Squash tissues. Let them blossom all around you in a protective ring that no one will want to cross. If you try the ones with built-in lotion, don’t use them to wipe your glasses before actually trying to read (see above).

Call the doctor. Don’t go see the doctor. You’ve got a virus and there’s nothing she can give you for it. Just ask how long it is until you can get an appointment, then rest assured that your cold will be over before that. Unless you start making a sucky, moist kind of wheezing sound when you breathe. The advantage is it will keep people even farther away from you, but the downside is that you may have pneumonia, which is even less fun than a cold.

Use Vick’s Vapo-Rub. You won’t be able to detect the scent because your nose is busy with something else (snot), but other people sure will, encouraging them to keep a respectful distance. If you don’t have Vapo-Rub, try Ben-Gay. Bonus: Nice warm feeling on your chest. Note: If you use either Vapo-Rub or Ben-Gay, do not cuddle the large, fuzzy cats (see above). Unless you want to look like Bigfoot. Just sing “Soft Kitty” instead, or insist that someone else sing it to you.

Whine. Punctuate with coughs and sneezes. Again, the goal is to get people to leave you alone. If this isn’t working, move on to even more disgusting symptoms. Keep a bucket by your bed, just so people get the idea that you could use it at any moment.

P.S. I’ll give you one guess why I wrote this. If you don’t get it right, I’ll start whining. And coughing. And sneezing. And barfing. Just bring me some egg drop soup and leave quietly.

You wouldn’t want to catch what I’ve got.

 

 

 

Looking for Work Is a Job Itself

It’s not that I’m unemployed. It is, rather, that I’m underemployed, as the saying goes.

It’s not like I haven’t been here before. When my husband and I first married, we paid for our wedding reception food with food stamps (think of that what you will). A peaceful Saturday morning was standing in line together at the unemployment office. (This was way back when you had to show up in person.)

Since then I have lost the ability to work full time, or in an office. Or even in a burger joint where I’d be required to stand all day. My skill set is solidly in the field of writing and editing, and those I can do from home, on my own computer and schedule. In my pajamas.

A freelancer’s life is iffy at best, though, and recently I’ve experienced a downturn in clients. The economy is to blame, I suppose. Or the recent eclipse. Or Mercury being in retrograde, for all I know. I am looking for new clients and more work from my old ones. I am looking for other sorts of telecommuting jobs, and even part-time outside work that seems to be within my modest-at-this-point physical and mental capabilities.

I pursue these avenues every day.

(This process is hindered by the fact that all the job search engines are lousy. When I say I am a writer, I get leads for technical aerospace writing and service writers for car repair shops. When I say I’m an editor, I get invitations to become a driver for Uber. True story.)

I did get a small gig writing a children’s story, with the possibility of writing four more if I’m picked out of the pack. That would be good, and would at least pay the cable and the electric so I can keep writing.

And while I’m searching for more possibilities? When the days stretch out with nothing happening and the sofa calls my name?

I blog. I work on my mystery novel. I house-sit. And I take surveys.

Admittedly, none of these pursuits brings in mortgage-payment-sized money. The surveys bring in a couple of dollars a day, which is pitiful, but helped with a getaway my husband and I booked before the finances went belly-up.

(My husband is still working, but his wages alone aren’t enough to pay all the bills. We need both of us, a situation familiar to millions of people in the U.S.)

And we’ve instituted cutbacks. We typically spend way too much on food and now must revisit our newly married days, when we subsisted on mac-n-cheese and tomato sandwiches. It’ll be good for us, I tell myself. We could both stand to lose some weight.

I’ve applied for some of the most unlikely jobs as well as the more likely ones. I’ve even applied to write for Cosmo, for God’s sake! And writing greeting cards, which I once swore I would never do.

Security is nowhere in sight.

Working at home is great. Looking for work from home is not. But at least I don’t have to go buy a suit for interviews. It would take months of surveys to raise enough money for that.

 

Survival Tips for Deadly Boring Meetings

Deadly boring meetings are one of the hazards of office life. They don’t actually take your life (most of the time), but they can make you wish they would. (There have been stories about office workers who died in their cubicles and went undiscovered for days, but these are largely untrue. No matter how rancid the office refrigerator smells, a decomposing body surely out-ranks it. Though too-energetic air conditioning can delay the process. But I digress.)

One meeting that I was in was so memorably boring that I became fascinated with the ear hair of the man sitting next to me. I couldn’t imagine how the individual fibers got so long while escaping his notice as well as his ears. They weren’t just protruding from inside his ears; they had migrated to his earlobes and whatever the technical term is for those folds and channels of the ear. I thought that he might be turning into a werewolf and that, being within chomping range, I would be his first victim. Needless to say, I didn’t pay much attention to the agenda.

Aside from werewolf-watching, though, there are plenty of activities to keep you alert – or, more importantly – looking alert during those agenda-setting meetings, pre-meeting meetings, meetings, and post-mortem meetings (especially appropriate if someone actually has died of boredom), not to mention stand-up meetings, which will be mercifully short if there is a quorum of women wearing high heels. (I mistakenly typed “high hells” there, which is a slip you don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to figure out.)

So what can I recommend to keep you breathing in and out while that guy from IT rattles on about bandwidth and the CEO decides bandwidth actually means how much work she can get out of each of you? Take up a new career. Here are some suggestions.

Take up poetry. This has the added advantage that you look like you are actually taking notes. Of course, you can always draw boxes and weapons on your legal pad or play Candy Crush with the sound off on your tablet, but your arm and hand motions will give you away. No, you should be writing down actual words. Pay attention to the office smarty-pants and write down words he uses like “deleterious” (and other words of three or more syllables). By the end of the meeting, you’ll have some serious free verse. Maybe you can even get it published!

Take up sculpture. There are usually paper clips and coffee stirrers available at every meeting. If not, BYO. Then twist and sculpt away. This has the advantage of keeping your hands busy so you don’t strangle anyone. After a bit of practice, one man I know was able to make a recognizable figure of Don Quixote and a windmill. (OK, we were in a bar and they were margarita stirrers, but the idea is the important thing.) As the meeting ends, subtly slide your sculpture in front of someone else’s chair. If you’re caught, claim that you have a more appalling nervous habit (I recommend rhinotillexomania) and your therapist suggested you try this instead.

Take up musical theater. This is one of my favorites, and can also be made to look like you’re taking notes. Take any musical you’re particularly fond of (I like The Mikado), and recast it using only the people sitting at the table. Would the CFO make a good Pooh-Bah? Would the comptroller do well as Katisha? Then imagine them playing the roles. Afterward, you can recast it with the worst possible employee playing each role. (A variant of this is to recast an old musical with current actors – Kevin Kline and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Man of La Mancha, for example.)

Take up psy ops. This is just plain fun, although it doesn’t result in any notes on your pad or tablet, so perhaps you might combine it with one of the other techniques. Stare attentively at whoever’s speaking, but focus your gaze not on her eyes, but slightly above her left ear (aim for the tip). Or at the knot on the marketing manager’s tie. This can cause distraction – even actual twitching – and no one can tell that you are doing anything. (I understand this is an actual interrogation technique meant to throw the subject off balance.)

You could, I guess, go back to Office Bingo and mark off squares when anyone says “synergistic” or “incentivized” or “skate to where the puck will be,” but when you all yell “Bingo!,” at the same time, the game is over.

Team Eating

I’ve never been any good at team eating. And I’m not referring to those idiotic competitions to see who can eat the most hot dogs in under a minute (which I believe are individual events anyway). Not that I think I would be any good at those, either. I belch too often to get any kind of rhythm going.

A group of friends eating at a restaurantNo, where I fail is at business dining. Oh, I can make it through an isolated lunch or even an occasional dinner. It’s the day-to-day eating events that leave me stymied.

The company lunchroom is as terrifying to me as a high school cafeteria. I never get to sit at the table with the cool kids or even the audiovisual club. And since a tuna sandwich takes approximately three minutes to eat – maybe five, if you have carrot sticks or yogurt, there’s no good way to stretch it out.

You’d think that my usual strategy – bringing along a book – would allow for some first-class work-related eavesdropping. But no. People get suspicious if you don’t turn the pages, and any book worth its tiny paper package of salt will prove distracting right before the team eaters get to the really juicy stuff – and I don’t mean ripe peaches.

If the lunch culture at the office (and here I’m not referring to yogurt) involves dining at local establishments, the problem is even worse. Even if you want to be a team eater, only the truly pathetic will attempt the “Can I come too?” ploy. It works, in the sense that hardly anyone has the meatballs to say no, but it only leads to groups of employees hustling out a fire door that’s not near your desk the next time.

If you’re a brave soul and decide to eat out alone, trusty book in hand, you may encounter the horror of sauntering into a restaurant where a tableful of your co-workers have already gathered. At that point the only thing to do is nod politely while the other diners pretend their mouths are full and wave a cordial fork in your direction. If you’re a grump, you can hope they flick salad dressing in someone’s eye.

But by far the worst team eating events are picnics, cookouts, pizza parties, and other mandatory frivolities put on by the company. These may be billed as voluntary events, but believe me, they aren’t. If you do decide to forego the games of water balloon volleyball or bingo (with prizes “donated” by your suppliers) in favor of retreating to a cool, dim nearby watering hole, you leave yourself open to being the object of whispered, eye-darting conversations in the lunchroom for at least the next month. Plus, you’ll have to avoid making eye contact with everyone else who slunk off to the same watering hole.

What’s the solution? Is there a solution? A number of people I know just read their books and ignore coworkers back. Some eat at their desks, though honestly, you’ve got to get out of that hell-cube sometime or you’ll grow corners.

Maybe the best solution is to take a large batch of brownies – they don’t even have to be home-made – and offer them around. Brownies are a kind of currency that buys you a place at the lunch table. Especially if they’re “special” brownies (depending on where you work, of course). Oh, and mix it up. Cupcakes, cookies, doughnuts – anything suitably sweet says, “Invite me!”

Then feel free to dish about someone else who isn’t there. You’ll be a team eater in no time.

I Want My Blankie!

Linus’s security blanket. Radar O’Reilly’s teddy bear. That kid in Mr. Mom‘s woobie (which seems to be where the term “woobie” was invented). (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSVCQ-NmTac.)

What do all these things have in common?

They’re what psychologists call “comfort objects,” or as Wikipedia defines it, “an item used to provide psychological comfort, especially in unusual or unique situations.”Morgenmuffel

But look again at that list. What’s different about one of the names? Radar O’Reilly is an adult, or at least grown-up enough to be a corporal in the U.S. Army. Some of the characters on the show and in the audience poked fun at him, but most understood – Radar was in a strange and dangerous place and needed a comfort object to remind him of his childhood home in Ottumwah, IA.

And Radar isn’t the only adult who needs a woobie of some sort. Alabama journalist Anna Claire Vollers wrote:

Last year, the hotel chain Travelodge polled about 6,000 people in Great Britain and found 35 percent said they sleep with teddy bears. A surprising 25 percent of men admitted to bringing their teddy bears with them on business trips.

So now I have a confession to make: I own an array of comfort objects and sometimes take them with me on trips. Once I even took a stuffed bunny with me to a sleep study. (Let me be clear: It was not a taxidermied bunny, but what I believe are now called plushies. For taxidermied animals as comfort objects, you should check out The Bloggess.)

My habit started in childhood, when I preferred plushies to Barbies. Every year our Easter baskets contained, in addition to candy and fake grass, a plush bunny. One year I won a plush bunny three-and-a-half feet tall in a raffle. It was wearing a blue and yellow checked dress. My mom found the same fabric and made me a matching one.

Now my collection includes, in addition to bunnies and bears, crocheted armadillos, assorted Beanie Babies (including a crab and a spider), a giraffe, Thing One and Thing Two from The Cat in the Hat, and a Raggedy John Denver doll that a friend made me (the little heart on his chest says “Far Out”).

Nor am I the only one among my circle of friends who treasures assorted comfort objects. Two of my friends have plush animals that could be either husky dogs or gray teddy bears (which they call “huskie bears”). Our friend John had a toy bunny (“Lovie”) to sleep with at home and borrowed a bear my mother had made when he napped at our house after Thanksgiving dinner. My sister had a 12-inch square piece of cloth from her childhood that she named “Tag.” She kept it under her pillow at college. Her roommates teased her unmercifully about it, though really it was a miracle Tag had lasted that long.

One friend even received as a gift a plushie called “My First Bacon.” As I recall, it talked, though I’m not quite sure what talking bacon could say that I would find soothing, except possibly “Eat me.” (Like the cake in Alice in Wonderland. Get your mind out of the gutter.)

But now someone has gotten serious about the therapeutic effects of comfort objects. Wikipedia notes:

Inventor Richard Kopelle created My Therapy Buddy (MTB) in 2002 as a self-described transitional object to benefit “one’s emotional well-being”. The blue creature speaks to you when you squeeze it and says any of a number of phrases that include “everything is going to be alright.”

Here’s a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6kSqSzWr0w. It shows a pale blue, bald, pregnant Smurf-like object being cuddled by various people to a background on New Age-type lullabies. One clip even shows it in the mouth of a giant, leering shark, which does not comfort me and does not appear to comfort the shark.

I will stick with my Pirate Winnie-the-Pooh, thanks. Or my plush Puss in Boots that makes a sound like a cat coughing up a hairball and says, “I thought we were done doing things the stupid way.” In the voice of Antonio Banderas, no less.

I guess we all find comfort in our own way, even if some of them seem stupid to others.

 

Is the “Friend Zone” Hell?

Slide1

Men fear and hate it. They see it as a torture device invented by women.

If someone harbors any hostility toward you for “only” wanting to be his friend, he’s probably not the best friend or boyfriend. Your friendship is not a consolation prize – and the idea of being relegated to friend status hinges on the notion that he was expecting more in the first place.

Sadly, there is an even worse response than “sex or nothing.” This is what’s known as the “beta male” movement. According to the Urban Dictionary, a beta male is “an unremarkable, careful man who avoids risk and confrontation. Beta males lack the physical presence, charisma and confidence of the Alpha male.” Beta males see themselves as the “nice guys” that women are never attracted to sexually because they are all pursuing “bad boys” who are obviously wrong for them, if only they could see it.
This reaction turns toxic when it leads to anger at the women doing the overlooking of the betas. The “beta uprising” is a (we hope) theoretical rebellion of the supposedly second-class males in order to – I’m not sure what. Eliminate the alpha males so there’ll be less competition? Punish the women who’ve not had sex with the betas?
Some people claim that the threats of violence that can ensue are fantasies, pranks, or posturing. But Reddit, 4chan, and other anonymous groups and sites perpetuate the concept and provide places for the betas to egg each other on. The Colorado theater shooting and the Umpqua College incident have been claimed as part of the uprising. Even if these claims are untrue, I’ve read the threads on 4chan. They’re truly terrifying and appalling.
 So what’s the solution? Remove the term “Friend Zone” from our collective vocabulary? Socialize women so that they become the willing sex partner of anyone who asks? Or how about socializing men so that they understand that sex is a mutual choice, not a male entitlement? Socializing everyone to realize that friendship – between partners of any gender or gender identity – is a good thing?
I’m dubious, but it’s worth a try.

Color My World

Pencils Abstract Background

I don’t know anyone who admits to coloring within the lines when they were kids. Coloring outside the lines was a sign that you refused to accept the rigid dictates of uptight coloring book manufacturers and compulsive kindergarten teachers. It was a badge of freedom and creativity and, for some, poor fine motor skills. It was how the more inhibited of us let our freak flags fly.

Now coloring books are back again, only this time for adults. Or at least adults who color within the lines. Elaborate rose windows and fantasy castles await, ready to be embellished with wee flower petals or swirled ribbons of psychedelic hues.

These grown-up coloring books are touted as the next best thing to meditation, so I thought I’d give it a try. My brain could use the time off from my mundane-but-still-complicated life. However, meditation (and yoga) are pretty much out for me, as my lotus-sitting days are long past and I need help to get up off the floor. Coloring seemed a reasonable, less physically challenging alternative.

I took up the hobby despite the fact that I gave up needlepoint years ago when my eyes refused to cooperate with close work and my hands began to tremble at the touch of nearly blunt needles. At least, I figured, I couldn’t draw much blood stabbing myself with a pencil.

I began coloring around the Christmas holidays – a mistake because of its sudden popularity. The store where my husband works sells coloring supplies, but he had to fight for the very last box of 72 colors. (I haven’t told him that blueberry, aruba, denim, mediterranean, and tidal wave are all the same shade of blue. Berri, wildfire, rose petal, and terracotta are all pink.)

At last, with 72 pencils and coloring book in hand, I’ve joined the coloristas. My book offers Spirograph-type geometric designs, assorted animals, and a few Rorschach-style shapes. I color them all with stunning inaccuracy and near-random color choices, producing mediterranean owls, rose petal turtles, and pages that look less like a cathedral window and more like the Grateful Dead’s laundry basket.

But I don’t care. It is soothing and sort of creative, plus I don’t have to frame the completed pages or clutter up the refrigerator door with them. They can stay in the book where only I can see my freak flag flying.

I’m certainly not going to show them to any kindergarten teachers.