Virtually Dumped

Due to the rise and surge of social media, our personal lives have changed so dramatically in the last five years that it is difficult to remember what life was like pre-Facebook, Twitter or in this instance, WordPress and the blogosphere. Ahh, the unique joys and sorrows of virtual friendships… So easy to make and even easier to break.

If you’re active at all in social media, you’ll know to what I referring when I mention getting dumped virtually. Although the one-sided, electronic break up is bound to happen from time to time—not unlike a real break up—it stings a bit when it does occur. You wake up one day without a care in the world, log on to your social media site of choice and voila! You realize you’ve one less “friend” or “follower” than you had the night before.

In the case of Facebook, I’ve learned to no longer care if and when this happens. I don’t tweet, so I can’t speak to the Twitterverse arena of the issue, but I DO blog and I think it is safe to say that in the world of blogging, losing a virtual follower can often leave a bit of virtual mark. It is especially ouchy if the ex-follower in question at one time featured you and your blog on their personal page.

Sad to say, I was dumped from a fellow writer’s blogroll a week ago. And being the neurotic, obsessive person that I am… I took to Google to see if there were any articles floating around in cyberspace devoted to the matter. There were not. Perhaps I, clearly the MOST neurotic, narcissistic, obsessive blogger IN THE WORLD, should be the one to write one, lest another pathetic dumpee similar to myself takes to Google in search of some e-comfort?

What I DID find, was a general article on “getting dumped” — you know, like in REAL LIFE. To be fair to the writer of that article and the inspiration for this post, here is the address: http://fearlessmen.com/getting-dumped/. After reading it, I realized that perhaps there are some similarities between the REAL and the VIRTUAL types of dumping. Thus, the following are the reasons given in the article for why a person may have been dumped in the real world, accompanied by a few “personal thoughts” pertaining to the cyber realm.

1. BoredomOK, so maybe my posts don’t scratch where you itch. I am who I am. Deal with it. Well, I guess you did. You dumped me. I’m sorry if I didn’t sufficiently entertain you.

2. Too Needy / Too ClingyUmmm… Perhaps my creation of this post is enough to illustrate this one? I hope you don’t mind that I wrote it. I really wish I knew how you felt about this one. Maybe I shouldn’t even post it? What do you think? I miss you.

3. Too JealousWhy do you always comment on THEIR stuff and not mine!? You NEVER comment on my stuff! You must think they are cooler/hipper/smarter/prettier/skinnier/wittier/more interesting than me! Why am I not good enough for you!?!?

4. Trying too hard too soon OR not trying hard enoughAre my comments and observations too lengthy or too short? Are there too many or too few? I soooo wish I knew so I could change and make this all better. Then again, sometimes I don’t really care what you think.

5. Lost Interest / Ran out of infatuation / Honeymoon is overPerhaps you’re tired of what you initially thought were extremely astute, brilliant and hilarious observations… and have now grown weary of repetitive entries about Spanx, wrinkles, alarm clocks, ill-fitting clothing, aggressive driving, rude people and a freakishly-abnormal fear of insects. Is that it? Was that the one that put you over the edge?

7. Chemistry / Different Directions / It isn’t what you or he/she thought it wasAlright, so maaaaybe I wasn’t what you expected me to be. But please don’t give me the “It’s not you, it’s me” bit because I know, baby, it was me. Otherwise I wouldn’t be the one sitting here in sweats and a dirty t-shirt with the remote and a wad of Kleenex in my lap, watching Beaches and putting my thighs in serious jeopardy with this quart of Ben and Jerry’s.

Sometimes, Appearance IS Everything

Despite the fact that I do not have a “boutique” bank account, I do enjoy occasional boutique shopping. Every now and then—even for a Budget Boutiquer like me—I find that they are often the perfect place to find well-made and unique items to spice up the wardrobe.

But boutiques can be tricky. Not because of their shameless overpricing but rather their interesting employee/customer dynamic. Just ask Julia Roberts’ character Vivian in Pretty Woman. Do you remember the iconic scene? She arrives in her (a-hem) “street clothes” at a high-end boutique on Rodeo Drive with Richard Gere’s limitless credit card in hand, only to be swiftly sized up and turned away by the store’s snotty staff.

Of course, the joke’s on them (and their commission checks) later in the day when Vivian returns to the same boutique dressed to the nines in couture and loaded down with bags and boxes after spending obscene amounts of money at OTHER retailers… showing (and telling) them what a HUGE mistake they’d made in judging her earlier.

Now, I don’t own an outfit like Vivian had at the beginning of the movie. Trust me, no one wants to see THAT on ME anyway… but I have experienced a watered-down version of some similar treatment. A year ago, I visited an adorable boutique in a nearby small town. And while I browsed, dressed in jeans, sneakers and a fleece pullover, gently sifting through the $400 cashmere sweaters and equally expensive accessories… not one person in the store spoke to me. I left without buying anything.

This past weekend my parents came for a visit. On one of our excursions, I decided to take my mother to the boutique. Although the items inside were far more expensive than she or I would normally spend… I thought she might enjoy picking over the pricey offerings. After all, it never hurts to browse and one never knows what one might find hiding on the sale rack.

However, before we went inside I warned her that, in my experience, the sales staff was not so friendly. “Apparently,” I told her, “I didn’t fit their ‘idea’ of who should be patronizing their business when I showed up the last time. Don’t be surprised if you feel like Julia Roberts when you go in here.” My mother just shrugged. Now that she’s retired, she doesn’t let things like the obnoxious dissing by snobbish retailers bother her. One can only hope that such an attitude will rub off on me one day.

Much to my surprise, when I walked through the doors of the place (bracing myself for another cool dismissal) the sales woman practically tackled me once I was inside. I was looking at some colorful, all-weather, rubber boots and admiring them when she pounced. She asked what size I wore, demanded that I remove the boots I was wearing and try these new ones on. “They’re Danish, you know.” She said launching feverishly into her sales pitch while jamming my stocking foot into one of them… “They are VERY well made and worth every penny!” And she went on and on pointing out all of the features of these super trendy boots.

“Uh-huh…” I muttered while half-listening to her and subtly turning a pair over in my hands to get a look at the price tag on the bottom. $300. Yikes. I thought. “That’s a little too rich for my blood. Especially for something not made from an animal.” I admitted to her, setting them back on the shelf. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder… What in the world was the difference between my treatment a year ago and today? And I continued to wonder… that is until she inquired about the boots I was currently wearing.

“Well, what kind of boots are THOSE?” She asked, accusatorily and aggressively thrusting her pointed index finger toward my feet. Even as I KNEW that SHE already KNEW what kind of boots I was wearing.

To which I sheepishly replied, “UGGs.”  Referring to my somewhat costly, tall, fold-over, cable-knit sweater boots. They are my favorite fall and winter wardrobe item — a brand name splurge I afforded myself last season and by far the most expensive footwear I own.

Irritated that I’d turned her down, she smacked her lips and quickly snapped at me with the following… “Well, if you can afford THOSE boots… surely you can afford THESE.” It was precisely at that moment that I walked away from her, stunned at such a brazen attempt to get me into her fancy, Danish rubbers! How dare she try and bully me with my very own boots.

I guess I learned what the difference was. No matter your backstory… Appearance (to some people) is not only everything… It is the ONLY thing.

A Penny For Your Thoughts

So I’m thinking about taking the plunge. Or thinking about thinking about taking the plunge. Or thinking about putting together my own focus group to think about thinking about taking the plunge. Obviously, I have a few details to work out first… but I am beginning to investigate <gulp> trying to get published. I realize that it is no longer enough to sit around day-dreaming about becoming a real writer who has a summer home in Maine and sits daily on a balcony overlooking the Atlantic pondering Life while dressed in ivory, cable-knit, turtleneck sweaters, sipping cappuccino from a mug made by a local artisan potter. Can you tell I’ve given the matter some thought?

No matter how misguided or overly-romantic my thinking about becoming a best-selling author one day — it’s most likely NOT going to happen if I don’t attempt to do something about it by putting myself out there. And the notion of being “out there” is as frightening as it is thrilling.

One the one hand… the idea that a real literary agent might consider my writing worthy of publishing gives me goose bumps! On the other hand — rejection sucks. And I know that rejection is a M-A-J-O-R part of being a would-be writer. Rejection, I understand, is as reliable as the sunrise in the world of publishing. You will get rejected again and again and yet, in order to be successful one day, you must keep peeling yourself up off the proverbial pavement and try, try again.

I’m joking about the actual focus group. But I do, however, covet feedback from my readers as well as the guidance of my fellow writer friends… especially those of you who have been or are headed down the road yourselves. I’ve heard it said many times that one should write about what one knows. For many years I’ve been compiling essay type writings both in journal form and here. And I’ve had, for about three years now, a few novel ideas (literally, no pun intended this time) that keep bouncing around in my brain, refusing to let go.

But the essays are something that I have NOW. They are largely written and I feel that it might well be time to put some sort of collection together and just get it out there. Here is where you, dear readers, come in. I would sincerely like to know what types of writings / entries / posts that you have enjoyed reading the most in addition to your thoughts regarding the collection of essays itself.

Were it not for you, I’d still be scrawling notes in margins and filling up journals — my writing never seeing the light of day. So I have all of you to thank for your encouragement and the incentive that you provide me in keeping my virtual pencil sharp. Please—if you feel so inclined—lend me your thoughts on the matter… It would be more welcomed and appreciated than you know.

My Flag (Pin) is Bigger Than Yours

Not to worry. You can keep reading. I’m not going to go there. I’m not going to get political and my hope is that by the end of this post—aside from those who know me personally—many readers will not know which side I am casting my vote for three weeks from today.

I simply find it amazing how, in our 24-hour news cycle, there are so many little things that seem to matter an awful lot. While watching the first Presidential debate between Governor Romney and President Obama, I noted a rather curious difference between the two candidates… and I’m not talking about their stance on tax cuts.

Right out of the shoot as they shook hands and took to their respective podiums, I noticed that there was a significant difference in the size of the two men’s lapel pins. President Obama wore his standard pin that he can be seen wearing on most occasions while Governor Romney adorned his navy suit with a much larger one.

And I knew… I KNEW that this variance would make it into the news somehow. If you don’t believe me, a quick Google search on “Presidential Lapel Pin Size” will prove otherwise. Anyway, in addition to the actual issues at hand regarding the future direction of our nation… the implications of the flag pin differential were being dissected the following morning just as I suspected.

Now, I personally don’t care about pin size, hair thickness, eyebrow shape or tie color… but the media thinks that I might. So they tell me. Along with A LOT of other things that really won’t matter in the long run. However, I’m not blaming the media for this. They are merely delivering to us—the collective “We the People”—what we seem to enjoy celebrating so much these days… Division.

It is such an easy trap to fall into. In fact, it is a cinch what with all of the commercials, the scare tactics and the cleverly and strategically shrouded truth, to begin bickering amongst ourselves about who is right and who is wrong. All the while we keep forgetting that we share the real estate and overall status of what lies within the boundaries of this nation.

Recently, while at dinner with some friends I got into a somewhat heated discussion with one of the men about the issues, the candidates and our personal differences. And during one of the debates, I sunk to putting biased comments on Facebook about the candidate who I did not prefer. In doing so I got responses from friends who happened to disagree with me, and the conversation inevitably descended into petty, misguided frustration and anger.

It was then that it struck me how “not worth it” all of this political volleying really is. And I took my slanted comments down and replaced them with the following:

“Had a momentary lapse in judgment last night and began participating on here in “debate talk.” I forgot that the consequences of that lay not in discovering who disagrees with you but in learning what everyone else thinks. I don’t WANT to know what everyone else is thinking. No one is going to change my mind — a mind I’ve made up for myself. The only thing the participation in “debate discussion” invites is division between me and people I otherwise call friends. I’m going to try to hold my breath (and my opinion) for another month and then silently express that opinion in the polling booth — the most powerful and effective forum of all.”

The comment garnered a rather large and favorable response from both my Republican and Democratic friends and family, proving my theory that before we were political rivals, we were friends and family who, at the end of the day, stand beneath the SAME flag with the SAME colors and the SAME number of stars and stripes. And that’s what is getting lost in all of this bitter fighting over the details… the remembrance, above all, of our sameness.

Online Survey Says? You’re Wasting My Time.

Leaning across the table the Applebee’s server lowered her voice as well as her gaze. She wanted us to know how very serious she was. “Listen.” She began. “I am this close to winning the contest around here for the most customer surveys completed and I just need a few more.” My friend and I looked simultaneously at one another in shock and disbelief that this woman was actually attempting to strong-arm us into taking an online survey like this.

“Pleeeeeeeze…” she continued. And I honest-to-God kid you not, this is actually what she said next: “Go online and fill out the survey on the back of your check and you will receive a free dessert on your next visit! Though, more importantly(insert lengthy pause for added drama) … you will be helping ME receive a cash bonus when I win!” She gushed while silently making a clapping gesture with her hands.

I wanted to make a hand gesture of my own, but refrained. Instead, once she turned her back, I crinkled the check into a little paper ball, stuffed it in my purse and said in awe: “Okaaaaay. So THAT just cemented the outcome of the already slim odds of my EVER filling out that survey. How about you?”

Remember when online surveys were something that happened occasionally at the register in retail stores when your number came up? It started out being a “special” thing in which you were “randomly chosen” to participate and you “might” win $50 worth of store credit or something like it. It was actually kind of worth the effort back then.

Now it seems that EVERYONE is doing it EVERYTIME you go to the register ANYWHERE. (And yes, I DO feel the need to use an excess amount of superlatives here.) Retailers, casual dining establishments, fast food restaurants and auto shops (to name few) offer surveys that pretty much guarantee you WILL get something for free if you sacrifice the time to go online and take them.

I never take them.

Much like my previous post, perhaps it is the sheer inundation of these things that makes me dig in my heels in refusal. It’s annoying enough to get one piece of paper handed back to me with my minor purchases… what am I supposed to do with two or three random slips of paper? For crying out loud, if I saved it all, I’d have enough survey paper to cover my living room walls.

How about, instead of giving me a free dessert, car wash or $5 coupon — you save us both some time and a couple of trees in the process. After all, if I had oodles of time to sit down, log onto your website and take endless online surveys, why am I showing up at your speedy and convenient drive-thru window?

What’s next? I can’t help but wonder. Perhaps hospitals will begin offering a free angioplasty with a completed survey for every $10,000 you or your insurance company spend? You laugh now. But somewhere, as you’re reading this… someone is getting paid to figure out just HOW to make that work.

Fifty Shades of Nay

“No, Joanna. That right there. That is specifically the reason why I don’t want to see that movie. Because everyone (including you) keeps telling me how great it is and how I HAVE to see it and I MUST see it and the world will end if I DON’T see it. Well, the fact that everyone is pushing so hard for my watching this movie is reason enough for me NOT to see it.”

That was a paraphrased quote from a friend who, for their privacy and protection, shall remain nameless for the remainder of this post. But who, nonetheless, used to annoy me with what I perceived to be outlandish curmudgeon-ness over anything deemed popular by society.

This person used to call the behavior “pushing back.” Pushing back against the “vast majority,” pushing back against the “mainstream,” pushing back for the sake of being “different” or in my opinion, “difficult” was this individual’s M.O. And it bugged the crap out of me. That is, until very recently.

It all began with Twilight and was later solidified by The Hunger Games. Not the books or movies per se… but the whole damn kit and caboodle. The books, the movies, the magazine covers, the posters, the commercials, the Late Night / TMZ television fodder about the minutia of the everyday lives of the actors, writers and directors, the fact that it was “newsworthy” that LeBron James was reading The Hunger Games in between championship games… It was all too much.

Thus, I began, ever so subtly to “push back” myself. I would not—under any circumstance—read those books, watch those movies or be drawn in by the over-hyped drama and frenzy that seemed to have raptured so many — including the genius that is one Lebron James.

As the title suggests, there are a few other things (not nearly fifty — though given time I’m sure there could be) over which I have begun to dig in my heels — just because I am either A. tired of hearing about them, B. I personally don’t “get” or C. simply because I can.

  1. Instagram – I just have to ask: Why is it suddenly so cool to have an app make your stunningly-clear, brilliantly-colored, high-quality digital photos look like crappy Polaroids from the 70s? The reason our photos looked like THAT in the 70s was because, aside from going to Sears and sitting for “professional portraits” taken by some over-zealous, obnoxious, balding photographer sweating profusely inside his polyester, powder-blue suit — we didn’t HAVE any other option.
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey – If one more person tells me that I simply MUST read this totally A – MA – ZING and all-consuming series of horribly-written, thinly-veiled-porn-wrapped-in-a-ridiculously-disturbing-storyline, utterly-misogynistic novels which I will apparently NOT be able to put down even for one second after I have picked them up… I am going to punch them.
  3. Kindle (or any e-reader) – OK. I can understand the appeal on this one. Totally convenient, easy, practical, portable, yada, yada, yada. I just prefer to hold a real book in my hands. Call me a hopeless romantic or an old fart, but after staring at screens all day long from the phone to the computer to the television… it truly feels like an escape to retreat into an actual book made of paper, fabric and glue and get lost between the pages.
  4. Skinny jeans (for EVERY body) – First of all, there is no such thing. I don’t care what Old Navy says about how there is a pair out there for every type of body under the sun. I am here to tell you that there is not. The view from the bleachers last Friday night at a high-school football game proved that theory. Some people should not be wearing skinny jeans no matter what Old Navy says. Just watch the commercial next time it’s on. Notice there aren’t any short, round, pudgy, muffiny-toppy-types walking the runway in that ad? I wonder why?
  5. Gluten-free anything – Whether standing in line at Starbucks, at the department store or the movie theater, someone can be overheard talking about it. “So I’ve decided to go gluten free…” or “My chiropractor thinks my back pain is because of too much gluten…” or I think the reason I can’t shake these last 10 pounds is because I eat too much gluten…” (Or it could have something to do with the triple-shot, Venti, double-caramel latte with extra whipped cream in your hand — but what do I know? I’m just an outsider who can’t help but hear you gripe about gluten.) Let me ask this… Where was gluten 10 years ago? I have no idea but I suspect it was just as present then as it is now and yet all of the sudden it is The Great Satan. Have a sinusitis? It’s probably gluten. Car won’t start? Must be gluten. Polar icecaps melting? Gotta be gluten.

Call me a curmudgeon if you wish, but I think I finally understand where my crusty cohort was coming from. The fact that EVERYONE loves it SOOOO much, and is pushing for it SOOOO hard, is sometimes reason enough to say: “Nay.”

Mean Girls

There are few things that irritate me more than getting “the look” from a Mean Girl. I’m sorry, ladies but this one is all on us because I honestly don’t think men do this to one another. In case you’re male, or you are female and somehow miraculously unaware of what I am speaking — let me paint you a picture…

You are in the grocery store, innocently roaming the aisles and minding your business when your path crosses with that of another woman. You look at her face as you pass. Perhaps you were going to nod or smile in recognition or simply keep on walking, when she does something that (if you’re anything remotely like me) causes your blood to boil.

As you are looking at her face, initiating eye contact… You witness her looking at you very slowly, her icy gaze passing thoroughly over you from head to toe. She never smiles at you, never nods. Instead, after she is finished with her visual feast, she walks on by with her nose in the air. You have officially been sized-up by what I like to call… a Mean Girl. Visually accosted for no other reason than you happened to be in cat food aisle at the very same time.

And somehow, this brief encounter with the likes of her makes you begin to entertain all sorts of luscious thoughts about doing harm to the offending female. Suddenly, tossing a few rolls of pressurized pop-and-fresh dough in front of her cart causing her to collide in a panic with a Campbell’s soup display thus sustaining some mild injuries… seems VERY attractive.

Mean Girls come in all shapes, sizes and ages. And I have, throughout my 30-odd years, encountered younger ones, older ones, fatter ones and thinner ones. So apparently there are no sociological or generational parameters on this extremely vexing behavior. Anyone who’s anyone has the potential to be that girl.

Naturally, from time to time I wonder if I have ever been “that girl.” I honest-to-goodness hope that I have never been. There is a tiny seed of doubt, however, because I am a woman who does venture out in public. These seem to be the only two qualifications absolutely necessary for the commitment of this societal sin.

Therefore, I am going on the record and giving you Readers absolute carte blanche when it comes to holding me accountable. If you EVER see me out in public or pass me in the grocery store and I am that Mean Girl who glares and seemingly sizes you up before proceeding on my merry way… I give you full permission to throw some rolls of pop-and-fresh dough in front of my cart. Not only would I deserve it, the unsuspecting collision with some Campbell’s soup cans would most likely do me and my attitude A LOT of good.