It’s Not Me… It’s You

the_jerk_store-208x300In 37 years I still haven’t managed to figure out that some people are simply NOT worth my time or energy. They will never be kind no matter how many cheerful “Good Mornings” or “Hellos” I waste my breath on uttering day after day after day. Being a friendly and outgoing person myself, I offer everyone I meet the benefit of the doubt by being nice to them. Call me crazy — that’s just how I was raised. However, as I age, I am learning (not nearly fast enough) that there IS a limit. Or at least there SHOULD be a limit on the quantity of niceties I offer up to someone who is—for lack of a better, KINDER term—an @$$hole.

As was discussed recently on a CBS news program, @$$holes are growing in number. I’m sure this doesn’t come as a shock to you wherever you are. I’m sure that in the last seven days you have most likely crossed paths with an obnoxious tailgater or cutter-offer in traffic, a jerk who line jumped you at the register when your arms were busy juggling 12 cans of cat food, a value bottle of shampoo and an unusually large loaf of frozen garlic bread, or an office mate or acquaintance who could not return a greeting to save his or her miserable life. If you’re out there in the world, then you’ve most certainly run across one if not ALL of these characters at some point in time.

There will always be jerks in the world. I get that. But the one thing I truly have a problem with is dealing with the @$$hole(s) who KNOW you and yet REFUSE to be civil. When nothing bitter, sour or otherwise distasteful has transpired between the two of you—how can it when you’ve never even spoken?—yet you’re the recipient of endless cold shoulders, dismissive actions and downright rudeness. What do you do with THESE people? Seriously. I’m asking. Inquiring minds want to know. I want to know what others of you do when dealing with this particular individual in your own lives.

I know the whole “It isn’t you, it’s them” routine is the standard issue response to this question, generally. So please don’t give me that one (plus I already used it in the title). Because I can repeat that to myself until I’m blue in the face, pumping up my morale momentarily and feeling all I’m OK, You’re OK about the whole thing… that is until the very next time one of us veers into the other’s world. And I am dumbfounded once again at their blatant disregard for the other human being in their midst. “HELLO!?! ARE YOU BLIND!?! WERE YOU RAISED BY WOLVES!?!” I end up screaming inside my brain before rolling my eyes and muttering obscenities under my breath as I stomp off in the opposite direction.

I am not asking to be best friends. I don’t want to know what you’re buying your kids for Christmas or what color ornaments you hung on the tree this year. I don’t even want to know whether or not you’re having a good day. All I’d like is the simple acknowledgment that you and I are indeed occupying the same space on this spinning blue marble called earth at this very same moment in time. A nod, a smile, a simple return of my greeting… Is that too much to ask? Hell. I’d even settle for a grunt of recognition. At least then I’d know you had a soul.

Acting My Age?

Why is that young girl trying to fire roast tomatoes in her mother’s kitchen? And why is she alone? Shouldn’t an adult be nearby supervising her activities? Why can’t she just play with an Easy Bake Oven like a normal girl? Why is that boy so concerned with upcoming Black Friday flat screen TV sales? Isn’t he too young to get credit anyway? Shouldn’t he be playing video games or pushing around a Tonka truck or something?

These are just a few of the questions I find myself asking on a regular basis during the daily barrage of television commercials. For some reason, I see children everywhere… acting as adults. They’re buying furniture, cars and carpeting. They’re calling for an exterminator or trying to figure out what to do about their leaky roof or their 401k. And I can’t help but want to scream: “YOU’RE TOO YOUNG TO WORRY ABOUT THIS $#*@!”

Or am I just too old?

Within the last five years or so I have discovered that the characters on TV, whether on the news, starring in the commercials or playing that of a leading role have all gotten dramatically younger. REALLY. They are younger. Start paying attention if you don’t believe me. They used to be older than me. The people playing moms and dads LOOKED like moms and dads — they most certainly didn’t look like ME. The people playing doctors and cops and attorneys LOOKED like mature doctors, cops and attorneys.

And I always looked up to them. Literally and figuratively. They were taller, wiser, grayer, more experienced and well versed in the ways of the world. They had to make the big decisions like where to invest their money, when to sell the house, from whom to purchase car insurance. All I had to do was be young and not worry about such things.

Which is why I find it so shocking that these roles are being played by people who not only resemble me… but who are YOUNGER than me! Near as I can tell, this problem is only going to get worse. TV people stay the same age forever. But I will keep on pulling away and pulling away. One day I suppose the women in the osteoporosis / arthritis / adult diaper commercials will look younger than me. Perhaps by then I won’t be quite as shocked. That or I’ll be too tired to care.

I guess it’s true what they say about staying 18 forever… in our own minds. And that’s probably a really good thing. Because no matter the number of candles on the cake or lines in the mirror we should always be too young to see ourselves and our contemporaries actually acting our age.

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.

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.

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.

Honk If You’ve Had Enough

There is a certain commercial on TV these days that I have fallen in love with. It’s for an interesting new feature on the Nissan Altima. When filling the tires with air, the car will honk its horn at you once optimum pressure has been reached so that you don’t overfill.

What’s so entertaining about the commercial is that it depicts a sort of goofy-looking but average guy going through his life and hearing a horn honk every time he has done “enough” of something. When he’s trying out a new handshake, putting on cologne, making a move on a girl and betting too much at the blackjack table… he hears a honk and knows when it’s time to stop.

But the actual reason I love the commercial so much is that I can’t help but imagine how great that feature would be in REAL life! Here are just a few of the areas where I thought that concept would be ideal…

  1. When I’ve said / shared enough
  2. When I’ve eaten enough
  3. When I’ve put on enough perfume (or self-tanning cream or hairspray or make-up or coats of nail polish)
  4. When I’ve worried enough
  5. When I’ve stared long enough
  6. When I’ve baked / boiled / microwaved <insert any type of food here> enough
  7. When I’ve called / emailed / messaged enough
  8. When I’ve spent enough
  9. When I’ve trimmed my bangs enough (Ladies, can I get an AMEN on this one?)
  10. When I’ve stayed long enough

Of course, I made the number 1 mistake of over-sharing and telling my thoughts to Lee about the whole thing and now he “honks” at me before I ever even open my mouth. See… where was that horn when I needed it?

A Productive Revelation

Although I find the 6 a.m. alarm to be extremely unsettling — it doesn’t take long to remember why it is so rudely and obnoxiously invading my dreams. I have somewhere to be. My day has structure and meaning again. And it is a good feeling. I am employed… at least for now.

As a freelance graphic designer, the position is a contracted one. Meaning that it will come to an end when the workflow shifts and the company no longer needs me. But it is employment nonetheless and a paycheck and experience and a source for networking as well as a means to generate additional items to place in the portfolio.

However, after seven months of NOT working, it is a stark change when compared to my typical non-structured day of snoozing until I feel like it, noontime bagel eating, bad TV watching and mind-numbing internet surfing. So far (albeit surprisingly) my nostalgia for all things lazy has not overshadowed the joy I find in being productive. I know. No one is MORE shocked than I am at this startling revelation.

It seems I expend vast amounts of mental energy imagining and writing about what it might be like to NEVER have to work. To live a life of leisure and of privilege. To NEVER interact with others… that is, unless I want to. But thou shalt never underestimate the positive power of productivity. Here are just a few things no one ever tells you about going BACK to work…

  • That coffee tastes and smells so much better in your work mug than in your cups at home.
  • That the idle chatter of co-workers can be much more entertaining than Lifetime television.
  • That slipping into a great pair of heels boosts more than your overall height.
  • That too much time spent alone with bagels, bad TV and one’s own thoughts is a dangerous thing. (See previous post)
  • That leaving the house miraculously helps you to pinpoint precisely where you are.

Understanding that my time in this new role is most likely limited… I’ve got to follow the advice of 38 Special and Hold on Loosely. Yes, I know that reference dates me a bit. Please stop doing the math, I’m trying to make a point. Like willing oneself not to fall too deeply in love with a warm, squiggly puppy you realize you cannot keep — I must hold my affection for my new (temporary) lot at arm’s length.

And hopefully—when all is said and done—I will have been reminded of where I am, where I’m going, all I have to offer and how great it feels to be a participant again. Even if that means getting up at the unnatural, ungodly hour of 6 a.m.

Breaking Bread (or Beignets) in New Orleans

Technology has, undoubtedly, shrunken our world. Day after day, year after year our world grows smaller and smaller as the opportunity for simultaneous, spontaneous and continuous interaction grows larger and larger. It is no longer an accomplishment of note to be “in touch” with others all over the globe 24/7.

But I believe that no matter the amount of unbroken digital and virtual contact we may have at any given time — it will never replace the genuine sense of community and closeness that can only be derived from the good, old-fashioned practice that is the breaking of bread.

A little over a week ago I had the rare privilege of contacting someone who has—over the course of the last year—become a close virtual friend. I “met” Paige here on WordPress when we both began blogging around the same time last summer. Our stories almost mirrored one another in a way that only happens once in a great while… and a kinship was formed.

Lee and I made a rather snappy decision to head south to New Orleans one day and with my bag already hastily packed with the most humidity-friendly garments I could find… I was emailing her the very next. She called me when I was somewhere between Montgomery and Mobile and we made plans to meet for lunch in the French Quarter the day after next.

I was still absorbing the sights, sounds and smells of the very unique Crescent City when I heard a small voice behind me calling out my name. Pictures can only do so much to help identify a person and in a Sunday afternoon crowd in Jackson Square… it can be a little tricky to spot a pixelated pal. It was Paige and her boyfriend Caleb and although we had never before met in person, I felt like I already knew her.

We picked up our conversation wherever we’d left off when last communicating online but bits of disbelief lingered about the fact that we were actually, literally sitting across from one another and speaking rather than typing our thoughts. Although our afternoon together was too short, I was infinitely grateful that the stars had aligned just so for that brief period of time.

And I was reminded that yes, technology HAS made it possible to sit behind this computer of mine for hours on end and connect with wonderful people all over the world… But it is also possible to occasionally get out from behind my monitor and keyboard and hop in the car or board a plane and meet those same wonderful people face-to-face.

Thank you Paige and Caleb for showing us a wonderful time in your fabulous city!  You can check out her blog at: http://sideoftheleaf.wordpress.com/