Monday, May 28, 2012

Rude People Suck...the Joy Out of Life

I have a real problem with rude people. It seems silly to let some asshat stranger suck the happy out of my day, yet it happens with increasing frequency.  I'm totally open to suggestions for dealing with these gems of society. Perhaps you've encountered them as well.

The Driver from Hell:  This particular perp is rampant in the DC area.  We've got loads of people in powerful, stressful positions (or perceive themselves to be) and in an awful big hurry. Driver from Hell commandeers his vehicle as if en route to perform brain surgery on dying infants. Really he's going to Starbucks for a venti caramel frap, extra whip.  His message is clear: "I'm important. I'm in a big damn hurry. I'm gonna pile drive up your exhaust pipe until you cave to my vehicular bullying and change lanes." He weaves in and out of lanes, tailgates, cuts you off, speeds up at yellow lights and generally behaves like Mario Andretti on crack.  His grille hovers about six inches away from your back bumper. At seventy miles per hour. Apparently he was sick the day they taught blinker usage in driver's ed. That police car that always appears when you're just a smidge over the speed limit?  Never around when this egomaniac is on the road.

The Aggressive Shopper:  The Costco in Fairfax on any given day might as well be downtown Manhattan at noon.  Every time I go I vow it's the last time but find myself back for 300 Gatorades, 1,000 rolls of toilet paper and a feed sack of those addictive pita chips.  It's wall to wall shopping carts and Aggressive Shopper has an important agenda (she has a tanning salon appointment) and we are all just obstacles in her way. She's the one who steals the parking spot you've been patiently waiting for the octagenarian to back out of. She's the one loudly complaining in the returns line when she doesn't have a receipt and they won't give her cash. She's the one behind you whose cart keeps nipping your heels but clueless because she's got her big ass sunglasses on, she's texting with one hand and swinging her fake Louis Vuitton on the other, knocking down merchandise as she goes.  When a new register opens, she's the one who races from the back of the line to be the first one there. She's a gigantic selfish jerk and I always need a stiff Coke and one of those horribly delicious fried churro stick things after I've dealt with her.

The Obnoxious Sports Fan:  This one really gets me.  Probably because they are so blissfully unaware of the damage they leave in their wake, mostly inflicted upon their own children.  Obnoxious Sports Fan can be identified by numerous traits, all equally nerve-grating and offensive.  Most of us past third grade get it that good sportsmanship - on the field and off - is the cornerstone of advanced civilization.  Not this knuckle-draggin' fella. With no regard whatsoever for the eardrums, much less the sanity, of those unfortunate enough to be seated around him, he blasts his armchair-quarterbacking brilliance for all to hear.  Nobody is safe. Referees, coaches, opposing fans, players on both teams (especially his own kid), the poor time clock guy and the scoreboard keeper are all subject to his blustery vomit .  He was an assistant coach or maybe even actually played a game in his youth and therefore is armed with just enough sports knowledge to entitle him to boom his hair-trigger opinion straight into your inner cochlea at close range.  He looks like he'd get winded walking to the don's john behind the bleachers, yet he screams at his kid to run faster, hit harder and "LOOK ALIVE!!!"  Pretty certain he wouldn't look too alive after 5 minutes of water aerobics, much less an entire football game.  Obnoxious Sports Fan has the power to make me want to roundhouse kick him in the teeth and feel no remorse.  Clearly, I have a problem.

Rude people are everywhere and they appear to be multiplying.  Rudeness, like poison ivy, spreads quickly and causes an annoying and uncomfortable situation for those exposed, yet the source remains oblivious.  We're setting ourselves back thousands of years if we let these Neanderthals with no regard for anyone else but themselves take over.  Problem is, short of stooping to their level, I'm at a loss for how to stop them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Parents: Relax...But Get That Diptet First

Why is it that so many in my generation have become complete freaks about parenting?  I'd like to give part of the blame to the book "What to Expect When You're Expecting", Baby Mozart, Baby Einstein and all that other hype we were told was "best" for our babies. We were somehow led to believe if we did everything perfectly we'd produce perfect little people.  Well, last time I checked our kids are pretty much just as flawed as every other generation of human beings before them.

God bless my mom for not laughing out loud when I was pregnant.  I'm certain she laughed behind my back.  In 1967, Mom was told by her obstetrician to "calm her nerves" with the occassional glass of sherry and to rely on putting us in the playpen for a few hours for her sanity.  I remember being horrified by this information when she first shared it with me, but now, years later I find it hilarious and somehow...wise. When I was expecting I felt completely evil for indulging in a rare glass of wine and was convinced I was a spineless slob for caving to cravings for drive-thru french fries. My oldest is lucky he wasn't born with a little red cardboard sleeve around him emblazoned with the McDonald's logo.

The message was clear in the 90's: parents were directly responsible for their children either becoming the next genius philanthropist or the next Jeffrey Dahmer.  It all hinged on pre-natal diet, exposure to classical music, and toys that stimulated the brain.  Using a playpen was pretty much child neglect. Everything I heard and read was that my children's minds and bodies needed stimulation and I was directly responsible for it.  So I stuck them in bouncy seats, johnny jumpers and rotating thingies that had mirrors, buttons, and bright alphabet letters and numbers.  We went on jaunts to the park, the petting zoo, museums and the library. I felt overwhelmed with the weight of making sure my sweet little boys didn't turn out to be complete morons or worse, felons.  It was information overload with all the rules to follow to be a good parent and ensure my boys grew to be productive members of society. I felt like poor Ed in Raising Arizona. "He's gotta have his diptet!!"

Go ahead, hit play. You know you want to.....

Shining through the fog of early motherhood, it miraculously came to me that my own intuition was a far better authority than any expert's opinion.  My second child was perfectly happy to lay on a blanket and play with his toes and skip all the activity my older son had reveled in.  I knew by looking into his eyes he was just as bright and just as healthy as his big brother. (Which was a another miracle, considering he pretty much swam in french fry grease in the womb) Trying to stimulate the second one was just plain unfair to who he was as a little person.  That and the fact that I'm basically lazy.  So I began a personal rebellion against the parenting "authorities" and all their confounding rules.  I'm not saying I didn't listen to my pediatrician, but I did begin to take every new piece of information with a grain of salt and question certain practices that went against my common sense. I had a friend call me in all seriousness one day and urge me to stop using night lights in the kids rooms because a new study showed they stunted developing eyesight. I politely listened, hung up and ignored the advice. It was fun to buck the rules and go with my own intuition.  It just felt better, liberating, in fact. I've never regretted it.

I'm not sure how it happened, but somehow my generation seems to have lost basic trust in ourselves as parents. I say this because I slip down that slope myself. We defer to the experts and to others who seem to have it all figured out and sometimes ignore our own common sense.  I think it's the desire to do the right thing and not to mess up.  That's totally admirable, but the problem is life IS messy.  We're gonna mess up.  And so are our kids.  Haven't we all learned from making mistakes, picking ourselves up and moving on?

I'm feeling like clueless Ed again these days as one of my boys prepares for high school and another for college. There is so much information out there about grades, sports, SATs and colleges and a lot of is scary as hell.  I'm hearing a lot of noise from experts on sports nutrition, trainers, test prep classes, which teachers to avoid, which ones to request, which colleges are best and what you have to do to get in to them.  It's overwhelming and exhausting and if I tried to follow all of the advice I would lose my mind.  I love my boys, we all love our kids madly, don't we?  Which is probably why we are all a little insane about parenting them.  But we have to love them enough to let them be themselves, to blaze their own trail, to make their own decisions and to sometimes make a mess of things.

I've made a point to step back and let them learn to trust their own instincts.  They don't need me hovering over them making them nervous or they will always question their own intuition.  They'll figure it out.  And one day when they are parents themselves and seek my advice, I'll be there. Perhaps with a glass of sherry and stories of my struggles to help them laugh at themselves for taking things all too seriously.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Do You Know What Jesus Said About Homosexuality? I Do.

I can usually see both sides of an argument and rarely feel strongly attached to either enough to get into the fray. Until now. The recent controversy over whether or not gay couples should have the right to marry has me compelled to speak up for what I think is right.

I've spent many hours over the past twenty or so years studying the Bible on my own and in the classroom. It began in my late teens out of curiosity, skepticism, and a need to believe in something bigger than myself. Now I study it because it has become a refuge and source of guidance for me. I'm no authority and don't follow it to the letter, but in the marked up, dog-eared pages of my Bible I believe there is Truth. So, when I hear people twisting my religion to justify their bigotry, I take notice.

The Jesus I have studied never said ONE WORD about homosexuality. I find this interesting. I believe it was simply a non-issue to Him. As I wish it was for us.  He did say a great deal about loving thy neighbor, reaching out to those in need, and leaving the judgement up to God.  One of the few times he showed anger was when he observed people hiding behind rules and law to justify their lack of compassion and mercy for others. I also find that interesting.

The Bible does indeed have something to say about homosexuality.  Before Jesus' arrival, in the Old Testament, right along with passages about animal sacrifice. If you are going to base your denial of civil rights to fellow citizens on the book of Leviticus, then you need to take a very close look at what you eat, how you dress, and your own sexual behavior because I'm pretty sure you are breaking some dictates that are very clear about those very things. "Take the plank out of your own eye before you point out the dust in another's." "Judge not lest ye be judged."  Those words are part of the Bible, too.  Are they less important than the words that happen to back up your personal discomfort with homosexuals?

Some argue that homosexuality is a sin. Let's humor that for a second. So, by that logic, it's okay to pass judgement on and deny equal rights to those who sin differently than you? Really. Think about that.  Denying equal civil rights goes against everything we are as a country.  Have we learned nothing from history?  Don't the bigots in the 1960's that were so upset about blacks having the right to vote seem ridiculously backward, childishly fearful to us now?

All the above shouldn't matter, thanks to our founding fathers and the First Amendment.  I love my church and am a follower of Jesus' teachings, but also I have a great appreciation for the separation of church and state.

I'll leave you with the recent words of Clint Eastwood.  'Cause he's the kind of guy I'd like to have my back when the bigoted bullies show up....

"These people who are making a big deal out of gay marriange? I don't give a f*** about who wants to get married to anybody else. Why not?!  We're making a big deal out of things we shouldn't be making a deal out of. They go on and on with all this bullshit about 'sanctity' - don't give me that sanctity crap. Just give everybody the chance to have the life they want."