Thursday, December 12, 2013

Well... Bless Her Little White Heart

As you can probably tell from the title of this post, I am in what my mother would have called, "a shit-disturbing mood."  Sorry.  But, at least it is a jovial shit-disturbing mood.

Anyhow, Megyn Kelly of Fox News made some amusing statements this morning (I think it was this morning) concerning Santa Claus and Jesus being white men.  The whole thing kind of made me chuckle.  If I were as cute and perky as Megyn, I wonder if somebody would pay me a large amount of money to say amusing things on TV.  I bet I would be good at that sort of job.  Perhaps I could go on "The View."  You don't seem to need to be quite as cute and perky to go on "The View." 

But, Megyn's amusing statements are not the subject of this post.  I only mention Megyn and her editorializing because they remind me of an anecdote from my young adulthood, which I will now recount for your entertainment.

My father's mother (my Nana) passed away when I was 12 years old.  As she and my grandfather lived across the street from us, my mother kindly took it upon herself to have Grandpa over for dinner after Nana's death.  Every. Single. Night.  Except for Sunday nights -- because that's when he went on dates with his various girlfriends. 

I hope it doesn't sound like I'm complaining about my grandpa coming over for dinner.  Every. Single. Night.  Except for Sundays.  I'm really not.  It's just that he was EXCEPTIONALLY opinionated.  And he listened to the news 24/7.  (Thank God that there was no Fox News at the time.)  And he was a rather outspoken individual, at least to his relatives and friends. 

Grandpa hailed from Italy.  In the village where he lived, children were required to attend school through the third grade.  Grandpa didn't make it that far.  He played "hookie" most every day, as he explained it to us.  He was also -- naturally -- a Catholic.  Went to church each Sunday, without fail, his entire life.

So, one day, Grandpa came over -- as per usual -- for dinner.  He sat down at the table and loudly announced to the family, "Now they're trying to say that Jesus was a Jew."

My two sisters, my father, my mother, and I all looked up at him.  I said, "But, Grandpa, Jesus WAS a Jew."

"Huh," he replied.  "I always thought he was Italian."

"Why did you think that?" my father asked.

"Well...  The Pope is always Italian,"  Grandpa remarked, the logic of his thinking impeccable.  (Mind you, this was before the days of John Paul II).

"But, Grandpa," one of my sisters said, "didn't you notice in the Gospels that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and traveled around Galilee and Jerusalem and such?"

"Oh, I never pay attention to that," answered my grandfather.

I did not ask him -- and I have often wondered -- what it was he was thinking about during all those Masses on all those Sundays for 80-plus years. 

So, thank-you for the memories, Miss Megyn.  Bless your little white heart. ;-)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Holiday Card

I have had a love/hate relationship with Holiday cards over the years.

Note: I call them "Holiday" cards because I often send them to people of different faiths, who don't all celebrate Christmas.  So, don't get your undies in a wad over me calling them "Holiday" cards.  That is not the point of this post, anyway.

What, you may legitimately ask, is the point of this post?

The point of this post is to talk about an aspect of Holiday card giving and receiving that I have reflected upon a great deal throughout my life.

A person who sends Holiday cards usually has a list, which is often composed of people who send cards in return.  Great attention is paid to who does and who does not reciprocate in any given year.  If someone does not reciprocate, he/she frequently gets axed from the Holiday card list the following year.  Tit-for-tat, Christmas style.

Of course, I realize that not everybody does this.  Some people don't keep a Holiday card "score."  But, many people do.  And here are my thoughts about that.

First of all, I don't think that anybody should feel pressured to send Holiday cards, at all.  You should only do it if your heart is in it, if you enjoy it.  Some people simply don't have the desire to send out Holiday cards.  And that's just fine.

Some people also don't have the time to send out these cards.  Hey, if you have to choose between reading a bedtime story to your child or attending to your boxes of Hallmark products, I don't blame you for choosing the former.  People's lives are incredibly hectic these days.  If you want to focus your Holiday time and energy on your immediate family -- making it special for them, and only them -- more power to you.

Financial constraints can be another reason why some people don't participate in the Holiday card tradition.  It is an expense that may not be worthwhile for a particular individual or family.  Again, perhaps your limited funds could be better spent on that special someone in your life or on your children or on your parents -- instead of on stacks of paper products and postage.

There are also people -- many people, I believe -- who find themselves in less-than-ideal states of health around the Holidays.  Individuals may find themselves trying to cope -- come December -- with physical illness, emotional exhaustion, depression, horrible sadness, loneliness, feelings of being overwhelmed, spiritual dryness.  The arrival of the Holiday season leaves many people at the very end of their ability to deal with life.

So, before you do your Holiday card score-keeping, it might be wise to consider these things.  That person you are about to axe from your list might just be the person who could use that Holiday greeting most of all.  You really don't know -- when all is said and done -- why somebody didn't send you a card this year or last year or any other year.  The reasons could be complex.  The reasons could be hidden from view.  The reasons could be private.  The reasons could be painful.  And the reasons could be exactly why you need to keep that person on your list this year.  You never know -- it could be the single most important action you perform this December.   Holiday cards and Holiday gifts are just that -- gifts.  They are things to be GIVEN -- without consideration to what is given in return.

And that person who has never sent anybody a Holiday card, EVER?  Well, consider sending that person a card, too.  You just might make someone very happy. ;-)


Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Gift Memories

I pretty much suck at Christmas shopping.  I tend to get stumped for ideas.  And I worry A LOT about getting the correct sizes.  Hence, I tend not to buy a lot of clothing items.  Actually, I don't really buy many Christmas gifts.  And I tend to keep them fairly simple.  For example, my kids receive two or three relatively simple gifts from me.  And then I stuff some cash in their stockings.  My husband usually wants something music-oriented.  This year, the music-oriented thing is a mind-boggling electronic gizmo that seems to require "additional accessories."  My mind started spinning around when I looked at the web page.  So, I told him to go ahead and order it for himself.  I will intercept the package when it is delivered, wrap up the gift, and put it under the tree.  As far as gifts for other people, I will get one for my hubby's mother.  My sisters each receive a Fontanini Nativity piece from me every Christmas.  And my husband's siblings usually draw names, so that each of them is responsible for buying one present (a brilliant idea, since there are five of them).

Anyway, as I perused Amazon this morning, trying to choose surprises for the people on my Christmas list, I started thinking about being a little girl.  I used to get SO very excited about Santa Claus's visit.  I drove my poor parents practically out of their minds every December.  One reason I drove them out of their minds was because my favorite Christmas show was "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer."  If you have ever watched this show, you know that a gigantic snow storm practically ruins Christmas for the ENTIRE world, and that it is only Rudolph's shiny red nose that saves the day.  I absolutely loved this show, although I am convinced it was designed by stoned hippie people to turn 4- and 5-year-olds into totally neurotic and cynical little beings.  I mean, after all, Christmas is practically ruined.  Rudolph is totally bullied by ALL of the other reindeer.  And Santa is a douche.  When I think about it now...  I mean... WHAT KIND OF CHILDREN'S CHRISTMAS SHOW WAS THIS, ANYWAY???  Was it written by acid-dropping, 60's era, Communist atheists?  It must have been.  And this show -- even though I loved it -- made me a nervous wreck about something happening that would completely destroy Christmas; and so I badgered my poor parents every day throughout the whole month of December about whether or not they thought Santa would arrive according to plan.  Inevitably, he did.  And he brought with him delightful toys constructed by elves who I think moonlighted as gaffers and set-decorators and script-supervisors on "Laugh-In."

So, what toys did Santa bring during this hey-day of my childhood?

Well, these were some of my favorites:

1.  The Spyrograph.  This was a set of plastic circles and pins and pens.  You pinned the circles onto paper (I think there was some kind of pad that went under the paper).  You then used the pens to turn the circles (which pivoted around the pins).  This combined action of pen and pivoting circle caused wondrous patterns to unfold onto the paper.  At least on the TV ads.  In real life, the pins kept popping out, causing the circle to leave its proper orbit on the paper, thus ruining your hoped-for artistic masterpiece.  This was a toy designed by disciples of LBJ to cause both children and parents to permanently turn against the corrupt, unregulated, capitalistic system.  This toy is the reason for Obamacare and the government takeover of the American car manufacturing industry.

2.  Thumbelina.  This was a doll designed to look like a newborn baby.  I thought she was adorable.  My mother thought she was ugly.  And I had to fight like the dickens in order to convince her that Santa should bring me one.  I am, though, very stubborn, so I emerged victorious from the battle.  I loved Thumbelina.  She was tiny and scrunched-up looking (like a brand-new baby); and when you pulled a string, she would squirm around.  I suppose she was a bit ugly -- to some people, anyway.  Why would a company mass-produce a rather homely baby doll, you may wonder?  It was Planned Parenthood.  It was part of their advanced-marketing scheme to get all of us girls on birth control pills as soon as we started menstruating.  "Don't give those little girls beautiful, round-faced, rosy-cheeked baby dolls to play with," those Planned Parenthood peeps whispered amongst themselves at their top-secret meetings.  "Give them authentic-looking, homely baby dolls.  Baby dolls which squirm around in an annoying fashion.  Then we'll get their business in ten years.  He-he-he."  Actually, I bet if you did a study, the girls who took birth control pills in the 80's were probably the ones who hated Thumbelina, while the girls who got married and gave birth at a young age loved that funny-looking little doll.

Anyway, moving on...

3.  The Dawn Doll.  This was sort of a small version of the Barbie Doll.  Same dimensions, but more petite.  Dawn had amazingly perky breasts, a tiny waist, sexy little hips, long legs, and luxurious brown hair that reached her perfect little bottom.  I had no doubt in my mind that I would look exactly like her upon reaching the magical age of 16, so I loved her with joyful abandon.  And she had great clothes.  Although, being that they were such tiny clothes -- with tiny snaps and hooks and eyes and arm holes and leg holes -- I constantly required the assistance of one of my parents to dress and undress her.  She was, accordingly, not my parents' favorite.  Why -- you may be asking yourself -- would the toy industry find it necessary to create this mini-Barbie-like-creature?  Well, remember, these were the days when people were buying up The Pet Rock by the bucket-load and hanging multiple strands of multi-colored beads between the rooms of their houses in lieu of doors.  All I can say is this:  POT IS DANGEROUS.  HEAR ME ALL OF YOU PRO-LEGALIZATION PEOPLE.  OBAMACARE COULD BE FUNDED COMPLETELY BY ALL OF THE MONEY SPENT ON AVOCADO-COLORED FORMICA IN THE '70'S.  A CLEAR MIND IS A VALUABLE THING.  JUST SAY "NO."

4.  The Barbie Country Cabin.  This was the most awesome toy in the world (as long as you had adequate Barbie dolls to go with it, which I did).  It looked like a little suitcase.  And it unfolded into a wondrous little cabin.  There were bunk beds with plastic sleeping bags, cabinets, a kitchen table, chairs, dishes, pots, pans, and a coffee pot.  I had wonderful times playing with this.  I used to pretend that there was an outbreak of a terrible disease and my Barbies had to hole up in this cabin in survival mode.  Come to think of it, I was playing Zombie Apocalypse when "Rick" and "Darryl" were just babes in their cribs.  Actually, this makes me wonder if some future TV executive -- playing in the sand at the park -- overheard me talking to my friends about my game -- as we played in the sand at the park -- and stole my idea.  Lesson:  copyright your children's imaginary friends. 

5.  The baby buggy.  One year, Santa Claus brought my two sisters and I each a baby buggy.  Sitting in mine, as I found it on Christmas morning, was an absolutely GORGEOUS (non-Thumbelina) baby doll, the kind that must have caused those Planned Parenthood minions much grief and many sleepless nights.  The buggy also contained a delicate, sterling silver charm bracelet, with a little silver Scottie dog attached to one of its links.  I loved all three of those gifts, and I still have the doll and the bracelet.  I think, though, that I probably had the most fun with the buggy itself.  My sisters and I used to pretend our buggies were Barbie high-rise condos.  We outfitted these condos with furniture made of infant receiving blankets.  We would fold and roll up those tiny blankets into sofas and chairs and rugs for the Barbie condos.  Our Barbies wore fabulous clothes and had fabulous parties in their fabulously furnished baby buggy condos.  Our Barbies also endured many "earthquakes" in their high-rise abodes.  My sisters and I would carefully arrange our dolls on their receiving-blanket furniture and them -- wham! -- right in the middle of their hip and edgy party, a HUGE earthquake would strike.  We would shake the buggy madly, causing ultimate destruction.  Of course, I could not allow this to be done to my own personal buggy.  So, we used my sister Diana's buggy.  Gina -- even though she was the youngest -- was sly enough to realize what her eldest sister was up to and refused the use of her buggy for the purpose of natural disasters.  Diana, though, being always sweet and agreeable, was quite cooperative about letting her buggy be the scene of the devastation.  Eventually, whenever she pushed her dolls in this buggy, it would sway madly from side- to-side, as the springs were shot to hell.  I am not quite sure if she has ever really forgiven me for this whole scenario.  But, she is getting married next summer, so I'll buy her a nice wedding present.

So, as I fondly remember these gifts, I would like to extend my best wishes for the Holiday Season to all of you -- however you may celebrate it.  And may you receive all the desires of your hearts.  And may you find no (pet) rocks in your socks.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Berkeley Intercultural Holiday Festival

"Ryan.  I am a Jewish boy.  I don't know if I can be one of the Three Wise Men.  Lightning might strike."

"Quiet, Seth.  Or we'll miss the directions."

"Look, Ryan.  Just because you have a crush on Rebecca does not mean I should be doing this."

"I don't have a crush on Rebecca.  She's just a friend.  And I'm helping her out.  So -- PLEASE -- be QUIET."

Yep.  There we were.  Seth and I.  At the First Berkeley Intercultural Holiday Festival.  Where the Jewish kids enacted the Living Nativity Scene; the black kids lit the menorah, spun the dreidel, and cooked latkes; the Christian kids donned Kwanzaa attire; and the atheist kids read aloud from "The Collective Works Of Ted Cruz." 

And -- yes -- a girl named Rebecca did have something to do with us being there.  But, not because I had a crush on her.  Okay.  Maybe I had a little crush on her, but that really had nothing to do with it.  Besides, she was dating one of the Oakland Raiders.  And you just don't mess with that stuff, if you value your health. 

This is the thing.  We're both architecture majors -- Rebecca and I.  And she's great -- really smart, creative, artsy, kind, compassionate, a free-thinker.  And beautiful.  Yes -- beautiful.  And she came up with this idea of the Intercultural Holiday Festival.  It's not really associated with the university, per se.  But, a lot of the students wanted to participate.  And Rebecca asked me if I would design the structure for the Nativity Scene.  She wanted it to be a bit avant-garde.  So, I designed a stable set into a hillside.  And I fashioned it all out of biodegradable/organic/recyclable materials from the university's food service.  There really wasn't straw available, of course.  But you would be amazed at what you can do with cardboard boxes and a heavy-duty shredder.

Rebecca also asked if Sandy and Kirsten's new baby could play the infant Jesus.  "Well, I guess so.  Although, she is a girl," I told her.

"Like it matters, Atwood," Rebecca replied.  "She's just a few months old.  Nobody's gonna notice.  And it's not like there's a whole lot of babies to choose from around here." 

So, that's how Kirsten ended up showing my friend Sam how to hold a new baby.  Sam was playing Joseph, and Rebecca had decided that it was about time to have a Nativity Scene in which Joseph holds the baby.

I know it all sounds a bit ridiculous, a bit disrespectful.  As accepting as he is about all things Berkeley, even Sandy had his doubts.  But, you know, it all came off beautifully.  In spite of the initial chaos, the atmosphere ended up being quite peaceful.  And everybody learned something -- about another culture, another faith, another way of looking at the world.  And in viewing our differences, we also saw our similarities.  We saw the things that bring us together.  We realized that everybody has a heart-felt need to be heard, to be cared for, to be loved.  We learned that respecting another's beliefs doesn't have to diminish our own -- whether in a family or in a country.  Maybe if we respect another's sincere beliefs, that other will respect ours as well.  And -- maybe -- that is a way to peace.

As I ate my latke and gazed upon Mary, who was bemusedly watching Joseph try to keep the swaddling clothes from slipping off of a fussy "Baby Jesus" -- sheltered as they were in a "cave" made of dozens upon dozens of industrial-sized egg containers, welded together by compost -- a real feeling of contentment filled me.  Until -- UNTIL -- Seth's camel (courtesy of the San Francisco Zoo) decided it was time to gift us with some organic material of its own making.

So -- whistling "Jingle Bells" to myself -- I hustled off to get the shovel.

Happy Holidays!    


Monday, December 2, 2013

Dear Cardinal Dolan...

I wish you would speak a bit differently about "marriage equality."

For example, I wish you wouldn't say that the Church has been "outmarketed" on the issue.

Since when did the Church become about "marketing"?

The Church is supposed to be about teaching; its message an invitation.  That's what I was always led to believe, anyway.

To be fair, you have said many things about the issue of marriage equality.  This is just one of them, and I don't want to blow it out of proportion.  But, I am becoming more and more concerned about how the Church is handling this issue.  So, when I saw this word -- "outmarketed" -- I just felt like responding.  I don't mean any disrespect.

First, here is a little story.  My daughters, who are both young adults -- who have both been educated at institutions of higher education which have the Mandatum -- teach high school students who are preparing for Confirmation at our parish.  They have told me that the majority of their students -- who attend both public and Catholic high schools -- have come into their class believing that the Church hates gay people.  Now, these are students who have been raised Catholic, who have (supposedly) attended Mass and CCD classes and/or Catholic schools all during their childhood.  And they think the Catholic Church hates gay people.  This should not be blamed on "Hollywood".  This one is on the Church.  These kids have been sitting in your pews and in your classrooms for years -- and they think the Catholic Church hates gay people.  Of course, my daughters are quick to straighten them out. 

And this is why I believe that the Church has put the cart before the horse in its teaching.  People -- including Catholic people -- don't understand why the Church teaches what she does.  And they don't understand that the Church also teaches the concept of free will.  Nobody is to be forced to accept her ideas.

What do I mean by "putting the cart before the horse"?  What do I think should be different in the Church's approach?

Basically, I think it should be emphasized -- first and foremost -- that God loves ALL people.  Unconditionally.  It should also be emphasized that the Church puts forth her ideas respectfully -- respectfully inviting people to consider them.  There should be no "marketing" campaign.

Secondly, the Church needs to teach her theology of sexuality from the roots up.  Right now, she's got everybody's attention on individual leaves.  People aren't seeing the tree as a whole.  People do not understand that the Church's theology of sexuality springs from her understanding of the Trinity and how this understanding can be reflected in our human relationships.  The Church believes in the Father and the Son, who have an eternal relationship of love.  The Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from this relationship.  The Church teaches that marriage should mirror this Trinitarian relationship.  The permanent love of the husband and wife is what brings forth (at least potentially) the fruit of children.  It should be explained to people -- starting with the ones in the pews and religious education classes and Catholic schools -- that these basic ideas are the roots from which all of the Church's ideas about sexuality spring.  These are the roots from which the Church derives her teachings on divorce, contraception, masturbation, premarital sex, extramarital sex, polygamy, and gay marriage.

Thirdly, the Church hierarchy needs to remember that people have free will.  This is part of human dignity.  Put forth your teachings, but do so respectfully and charitably.  And then remember that people are free to choose whether or not to agree.  And then -- MOST IMPORTANTLY -- treat with love and compassion those who disagree.  Don't make them your opponents in a "marketing campaign" or in a "culture war".  The people who disagree with the Church teaching on the issue of marriage equality are still our brothers and sisters, made in the image and likeness of God.  They are not our enemies.  In fact, in many ways, they probably do feel hated by the Catholic Church.


Because we seem to be forgetting that these people do love each other.  They make commitments to take care of each other.  They have children.  They are families.  And you are making them feel as though their families are under attack.  They are legally married, yet they fear you will take that away.  (Because you would, if you could.)  They have children, but both parents in a same-sex marriage aren't allowed to be the adoptive parents of a child that they are raising together.  So, when you accuse the LGBT people of being "aggressive" in their marriage equality campaign, they probably are.  And, perhaps, some of it may be unfair.  But, some of it isn't.  Because they are PROTECTING THEIR FAMILIES.  I would protect my family.  Now you may say, "But, you have a legitimate heterosexual marriage and family."  And, yes, I do have a marriage of which the Church approves.  But, if I was a non-Catholic lesbian, legally married to a woman in California, and we had children, I would pretty much feel under attack by the traditional marriage folks.  I would want to be left alone, with my wife, to raise our babies.  I would not want to constantly have to worry that somebody from "on high" was going to declare my marriage null and void.  So, I might get a little "aggressive." 

So, please, Cardinal Dolan and all you Catholic leaders, remember that you are dealing with human beings who love each other and are raising families.  Think about how you sound to them.  Think about how you make them feel.  You are not in the "marketing" business.  You are in the business of bringing the love of Jesus Christ to people.  And -- yes -- that involves teaching the Church's philosophy of sexuality.  But, please do it a little more thoughtfully and charitably and wisely.  And remember that not everybody is obliged to agree with you.  Maybe we need to make room for that.  Maybe we need to figure out how to live our faith while -- at the same time -- allowing others to make their own life choices, according to their own philosophies.  Maybe we don't need to do all this fighting.

I will just end with a few stories.

One of my daughters, in a job she held for a while, worked with a gay couple -- two men, who had been together for many, many years.  One of them was ill (not with AIDS).  She told me how much fun they were, how nice they were to her (even knowing she was a traditional Catholic), how they had such wonderful senses of humor, how the well one took such good care of the sick one.  She was impressed with how they cared for and loved one another.  She was impressed with their commitment.

This daughter also had a male boss who was married to a man.  He knew she was a traditional Catholic.  They got along famously.  He was a wonderful boss, and he always had her back.  She, for her part, respected his relationship as he viewed it.  Some of her friends got on her case for referring to her boss's husband as "his spouse".  "We're not for gay marriage, so you shouldn't be referring to these people as 'spouses'," was the basic message of my daughter's friends.  "Well," she told them, "this is his relationship.  And I am going to respect that."  I was (and am) very proud of my daughter.  She understands her faith, she is living it, she is sharing it.  But, she is not pushing it on people.  She is respecting people's right to make up their own minds about things.  And she realizes that these gay
married couples are good people, with whom we can have positive relationships.

I know couple of other gay couples.  One lives down the street.  They are the best neighbors you could possibly have.  And they are always nice about my dog peeing on their lawn -- a rare thing in suburbia.  Another one of these couples we know socially, through mutual friends.  They are two men who have been together for a very long time.  They are well-educated, smart, hard-working, funny, and kind.  I spoke to one of them for a long time after the recent DOMA ruling.  I hadn't known all that much about the issue.  But, after talking to him, I came to see why they had been feeling discriminated against.  It was sort of an eye-opening conversation.

To conclude, I know you are doing your best, Cardinal Dolan.  I know you are under a lot of pressure.  I don't mean to be disrespectful.  I get concerned, though, when I see how the Church speaks about gay marriage.  I think it can be done better.  After all, Jesus did say that His Kingdom is not of this world.  So, perhaps, when we say "Thy Kingdom Come," it is not about getting Washington D.C. to conform to all of the Church's ideas.  And I -- and many people I know -- are tired of all the fighting.



Saturday, November 16, 2013

Men At Weddings

I love weddings.  Don't you? 

And I love to see young men at weddings -- the groom, his best man, the ushers, and all the young guys who comprise the family and friends of the young couple.  At the ceremony, they are all so tidy and well-groomed and splendidly dressed.  And respectful.  They politely escort the ladies to their seats, stand up straight, fold their hands, wear earnest expressions while the minister dispenses wise marital advice, cry a few tears during the vows.  Such gentlemen all these young men are.  It is so nice to watch.  Gives me hope for the future. 

But, then comes the reception.  And the alcohol.  Don't even get me started on the after-party.

Please don't misunderstand me.  I love parties.  I love beer and wine and old fashioneds and Manhattans.  I am no tea-totaller.  I serve alcohol to my kids and their friends.  (No worries.  Everyone is 21 and over.)  I am no enemy of revelry and a bit of tequila-induced cheer.

But, I also grew up amongst more than my fair share of alcoholics.  My parents were moderate drinkers, but a few of their friends and relatives were not.  And it was pretty awful to grow up with.  I often didn't really understand why I had to be around these people.  I loved a lot of them, but it truly was not pleasant when they drank excessively on a regular basis.  And -- I admit -- this experience left its mark on my soul.  I hate it when people get drunk.

And that is frequently what I see at wedding receptions.  A lot of drunk young men.  The respectful, well-groomed young men from the ceremony kind of morph into something that's rather the opposite during the reception.  Some of them even seem to think that intoxication is the main goal of the whole occasion.  That's the impression they give, anyway, when you hear them talk and watch how they behave.

I'm probably sounding here a lot like that abolition lady with the hatchet.  That's not my intention.  But, you know, a wedding -- though joyful and happy and festive -- is also an occasion that should be at least somewhat dignified.  ALL THE WAY THROUGH.  Not just at the church. 

I think this is especially true for people who consider a wedding and a marriage to be of a religious nature, or Sacramental.  There is a lot of talk these days about marriage rights -- who should have them and who should not.  And there are a lot of religious people who tout the "one man-one woman" idea, and heavily criticize those of other viewpoints.  A lot of religious folk say that same-sex marriage endangers the institution, that it endangers family life.  Many religious individuals -- especially Catholics -- also frown upon contraception.  Many of them believe that you should be open to a baby from the minute you get married.  They say that they believe in strong and life-long marriages that nurture the many children they hope to have, or hope other couples will have.  I have heard young religious guys cheer each other on when they find out that their pals have baby #2 or #3 on the way.  You would think they were attending a sporting event.  (And it's kind of cute, actually.) But, if you are a religious guy and you diss gay marriage and/or brag that your second baby in two years is on the way and/or discuss your admiration of Judge Scalia -- all at your friends' wedding reception -- at least be sober.  Otherwise, you look really hypocritical.  And kind of ridiculous.  If I were an LGBT person, I would not be impressed.  I'd think, "And these dudes believe they are 'protecting' marriage and ensuring the 'safety' of family life? Ha!"

Of course, I know many people who have gotten drunk -- or whose pals have gotten drunk -- at their weddings and have gone on to have very successful marriages.  And I have attended many weddings where very few guys drank to excess.  And some people get married without judging the marriages of others.  And I probably sound like a douche in this post.  But, when I see people who pride themselves on their devotion to their faith, on the purity of their faith, on their knowledge of their faith getting shit-faced at their chums' weddings, it kind of rubs me the wrong way. 

Now, where did I put my hatchet?

Oh, here it is.  Next to my Jim Beam.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Audition, The Interview, The Performance -- A How-To Post

Because I really know about these subjects.


Not exactly.

But, that has never stopped me from writing about stuff before.

Please know that I mean this all in good fun.  I am no expert.  I have been a SAHM for 25 years, after all.  I'm the furthest thing in the world from a career coach.

So, here goes.

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, between 5th and 6th grades, I auditioned for the part of Dorothy in the summer school production of "The Wizard Of Oz".  I got it, too.  And, incidentally, so did the other two little girls who were auditioning for it.  The drama teacher was such a sweet man that he couldn't bring himself to choose just one of us.  So, he chose all three of us and divvied up the scenes.  Who, you may ask, got to sing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow"?  ALL of us.  For that particular scene -- the highlight of the play -- there were three Dorothy's onstage singing their hearts out.  But, ya know, I still had to audition.  So, there's that.

The second thing that "qualifies" me to discuss this topic with you is that I used to sing a lot with my sisters.  We performed at church and in high school shows and at family holiday parties.  I don't suppose we really had to audition much for these affairs.  I don't really remember.  We may have had to audition for the high school shows.  And -- lest you may misunderstand -- there was A LOT of pressure involved in these performances.  You see, I am the oldest of the three "Argenti Sisters" -- Marla, Diana, and Gina.  You may think the fact that I am the oldest resulted in my being in charge, but you would be wrong.  My youngest sister -- Gina -- was in charge, because she was the best musician.  She still is.  And she was quite the task-master.  One time, she actually kicked Diana for hitting a few wrong notes.  That's right, Gina KICKED Diana.  There we were, singing along, Gina strumming on her guitar, when Diana hit a few wrong notes.  Gina's foot suddenly swung out and nailed Diana in the shin.  Needless to say, there was a bit of a girl fight that resulted.  But, in the end, the show went on.  And Diana didn't hit any wrong notes.  So, if you don't think I know about the pressure of performance?  Believe me, baby, I KNOW.

Then there was the time that I talked my best friend into trying out for the pom-pom girl squad in high school.  And no, we did not "hang" with that crowd.  Not at all.  The pom-pom girls and the football players sat at the tables in the middle of the quad at lunch.  My best friend and I sat on the steps which surrounded the quad.  I was basically a nerd in high school.  Totally.  I wore no make-up, styled my hair back so it wouldn't get in my way during chemistry lab, had no clue about fashion, studied all the time, and got A's.  This is not to brag.  I was just too scared to talk to a football player.  What would I say to him?  I had no idea.  The mere thought of speaking to a football player made my heart race.  So, I studied.  It was default mode.  And because I studied out of fear of talking to a football player, I got straight A's.   If I could have figured out how to talk to the football players, I probably would have gotten C's.

So, why in the hell did I talk my best friend into trying out for the pom-pom girl squad?  I really don't know.  Sometimes, I just get these crazy ideas.  They just pop into my head.  And it just so happened that, one day, I heard the announcement that there would be try-outs and it just seemed -- in the moment -- like the thing to do.  My friend thought I was nuts.  And she was probably right.  But, for some reason known only to her, she went along with me.  We dutifully went to all the after-school practices.  We practiced and practiced and practiced.  There were bruises all over the backs of my thighs from attempting to force myself into the splits.  It was exhausting.  And I have to tell you -- I came to truly respect and admire and hero-worship pom-pom girls.  If there are any pom-pom girls reading this, I bow down to you.  You are amazing.

How did the real pom-pom girls react to my friend and I trying out for the squad?  They were actually quite lovely about it.  A little mystified, perhaps.  But, lovely.

Anyway, the big day came to actually try out in front of the judges.  Who were the judges?  There was the school dance teacher, who was also the head coach of the pom-pom girls, and a few other teachers.  My friend and I went into the room.  We were ready.  I felt calm in mind and body.  We began.  All was going well until -- until -- we made a mistake.  There were two pom-poms in a little pile on the floor.  I was supposed to pick one up and pass it to my friend -- all the while shaking my booty in some fashion -- and then pick up the other one for myself.  Well, I accidentally picked up both of them and handed them to my friend.  Then we sort of panicked.  Then we sort of blew it.  Completely and totally.  Needless to say, we didn't become pom-pom girls that day.  My friend was pretty embarrassed.  I, too, was embarrassed.  But, I have a policy.   Do you know what it is?  "Never let them see you sweat."  Hold your head high, baby.  Especially after a major mortification.  Smile, breathe, and hold your head high.  And try to walk away without tripping over a curb or crashing into a trash can.  Dignity.  Always dignity.  Oh -- one other thing to remember after a mortification such as this one -- be genuinely happy for and sincerely congratulate the victors, and spend more time doing those things than feeling sorry for yourself.

So, I guess that's the first part of my advice.  When you screw up in an audition or an interview or a performance -- which we all do -- have some perspective on yourself.  Have a little humility.  Learn from the experience and move on.  And behave graciously -- toward those who have given you the opportunity, toward those who are judging you, toward those who have beaten you out.  Why?  Because -- first and most importantly -- it is the right thing to do.  It is what a person of good character does.  Secondly -- and I don't mean this to sound self-serving, though it probably is -- behaving graciously will get you remembered, in a good way.  Behaving graciously might lead to another opportunity.  It may seem like a cliche, but how you behave in defeat truly does say more about you than how you behave in victory.  It might show some important person that -- hey -- you just may be somebody to take a chance on, somebody worth working with.  So, don't be a douche in defeat.  And don't go to the bar after your bad experience and whine to your pals about how it wasn't fair or somebody wasn't nice, because it will get around -- especially if the type of work you do is done in the midst of a relatively tight-knit community.  Maybe your trusted friends will keep your confidence, but people in bars have big ears, and somebody just might hear you complaining.  Okay.  I admit it.  We all need to whine, sometimes.  So,  if you need to whine, go home, pour a Dr. Pepper, and let your dog have an earful.  There is an exception to this drinking and whining at the bar, though.  If you are already wildly successful in your field, you may drink and whine at the bar to your heart's content.  Everyone will just think you're eccentrically cool. 

So, that's basically it for my audition/performance portfolio.  As I got older, the arts side of my life kind of faded away and the "more serious" work side began.  Thus, I had job interviews.  Frankly, I have really only held three jobs in my life.  The first was as the cashier in the hospital gift shop.  I began that when I was 16 years old and worked at it through college.  I didn't have to interview for it, though, as I was hired on from the ranks of the candy-stripers.  I had been a candy-striper for a couple of years, but then left.  I told everybody I was leaving because I wanted to get a paying job.  This was a lie.  The real reason I left was because I volunteered as a candy striper in the ER, and this dude who worked there as an orderly turned out to be a perv and he kept coming onto me.  I didn't know how to handle it, so I quit.  When everybody wondered why, I made up the thing about wanting a paying job.  I was too humiliated and embarrassed to tell anybody about the perv.  (And I completely understand all you ladies who have been sexually assaulted and don't want to come forward.  There is just something about it that makes you want to hide.)  Anyway, as the lie that I wanted a paying job began to get around, the pink lady who was in charge of the hospital gift shop offered me a position there on the weekends.  Usually, volunteers staffed the gift shop.  On the weekend afternoons and evenings, though, they had a paid person, because there weren't enough volunteers who wanted to work those hours.  I didn't really want the job, but my mom made me take it, because the pay was actually quite good.  As it turned out, it was a great job and got me all the way through San Francisco State University.  And the perv never bothered me again.  I guess that was because there weren't any supply closets in the gift shop.  Well, there was one supply closet, but the door was always open and you could see right in.

My next job was as a loan clerk at a credit union.  I interviewed for this position just a matter of days after a horrible break-up with my fiance.  The opportunity came up kind of suddenly.  I didn't own a dress at the time (see above remark about my fashion sense), so I borrowed one from my sister, Gina.  I typed a little resume on a piece of paper about an hour before the interview was to take place.  I went into the interview without any idea of what a credit union was or what a loan clerk was.  I was not nervous, at all.  I didn't even really think about whether or not I wanted the job.  But, I had been raised to always do your best, in any and all situations, so I sat politely with my knees together and answered the questions without saying "uh" or "like" -- too much, anyhow.  I think the wonderful lady who managed the the loan department must have been kind of desperate, because she hired me on the spot.  It was a lovely job.  My co-workers were kind and funny and smart.  I met many interesting people.   I learned a lot about finance and money management.  And I learned that sometimes, an opportunity really is all about luck and timing.   Or serendipity.  Or Divine Providence.

My last job was as a high school science teacher.  I taught biology and general science.  It was a job I really wanted, and the district I wanted to teach in was fairly competitive.  They hired -- mostly -- Stanford graduates, and I was coming out of SF State.  I did know some people, though, because I had gone to high school in that district.  I admit that I sought out those people and gave them my resume directly, so I landed an interview.  This would probably all be illegal now.  But, connections still do help in most fields, as I understand.  And I did get the job.

And I sucked at it.  Absolutely sucked.  If you want to know all about how I sucked at that job, you can look back and find my blog post entitled "I Was Ben Sherman."  I think I wrote it this past spring.

All in all, though, I learned a lot of lessons.  I learned, first of all, to be honest with myself about my abilities when seeking a job.  I learned that -- for me, anyway -- it was best to project an open, interested attitude in an interview, without projecting desperation.  And without feeling desperation.  When it comes to getting a job, you do want to want it.  You want to be confident.  You want to have a certain spirit of competitiveness, but you want to be a good sport about it and realize that there are others who sincerely want the same job and who might beat you out.  And you need to be fair towards those individuals; you want to wish them well.  After all, if you are in the same field, you may end up working with some of them, at some point.  They may end up offering you opportunities.  Or one of them might marry your sister.  So, when approaching an audition or an interview situation, I would suggest being calm, being quietly confident, and having a little bit of a sense of humor about yourself.  Bring energy to the situation, but not too much adrenaline.  And if things go awry, smile and be gracious.  Thank the "powers-that-be" for the opportunity they have given you.  And then go give your dog an earful.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

That Scarlet "A" Thing Has Never Really Gone Away

Have you read "The Scarlet Letter"?  I'm assuming you've at least heard of it, so I'm not going to recount the whole story here.  The main character's name is Hester Prynne, and she gets caught committing adultery with some dude.  As a punishment, she is forced to wear a scarlet "A" on her  breast.  She is scorned and derided and ostracized by her community.  Meanwhile, the dude basically gets off scott-free, as I recall.

I read this book in one of my high school English classes.  The teacher was a 60's-era feminist, so she really hammered home the idea of how the book was an illustration of sexual inequality.  I didn't really think of myself as a feminist at the time, although I probably was, more or less.  When I was in high school, you basically didn't count as a feminist if you were a church-going Catholic, who wanted to eventually get married and stay home with her kids.  The things is, I also believed women should go to college and have a profession before getting married and having kids.  I thought women should be paid equally for equal work, and not be barred from professions based on gender.  And I really felt for Hester Prynne and the way she was screwed by the culture of her time.  I was quite thankful that I didn't live in such a chauvanistic, discriminatory, unjust society.  Not that I thought adultery was at all a good idea.  Not that I was planning on ever committing adultery.  But, I hated to think of women being treated in such a way.  I hated the double standard.  I hated the lack of mercy.  "I'm so glad I live in such an enlightened era," I thought to myself.

Boy was I wrong.

We still have our version of the scarlet "A".  We still have the double standard.  We are still a people who accuse, who judge, who scorn, who publicly deride and shame women, especially for what we consider to be sexual missteps.

I am -- as you may have guessed -- thinking of Miley Cyrus.  Do I think she should have done that whole twerking thing?  No.  But, she's certainly paid for it.  We've certainly branded her with today's version of the scarlet "A".  What is today's version.  It's the scornful Tweets, the mean internet comments, the blog posts of self-righteous mothers, the constant replaying of the whole incident via television and You Tube, the joking (yet not kind) remarks of popular radio hosts.

And do we hear anything about the man in the striped suit?  Do we hear any criticism of the individuals who participated in planning Ms. Cyrus's act and who gave it final approval before it was aired?  Miley was not alone in this.  She had plenty of company.  And her company was most likely media people who were older and more experienced than she.  Are any of them paying a price?  Maybe they are.  But, they are not being continuously and publicly ridiculed.

Miley is also quite young.  She's not even 21 years old yet.  There are some who feel that age is not an excuse.  There are those who feel that they would never do such a thing, even if they were 20 years old.  And, perhaps, they wouldn't.  It has been my experience, though, that one should "never say 'never'."  I think about being 20 years old.  I think about the stupid things I did.  I think about the stupid things I might have done, if given the opportunity, especially if those I trusted to advise me were cheering me on.  I think that I was very fortunate -- and I think many of you were also probably very fortunate -- not to have been celebrities whose every move was being watched by people ready to pounce and publicize.  Age is, perhaps, not an excuse.  But, it is a reason.  Young people often have poor judgment.  They do dumb things.  We should allow them to learn and recover from these missteps.

Ben McKenzie recently did an interview with Riki Lindhome.  She is an actress who has a large body of work, but I most recently saw her in Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing."  She and Ben have known each other for many years, so the interview she did with him was especially insightful and heartfelt, on the part of both of them.  They just sat in her living room and drank wine and talked about their experiences "coming up through the ranks."  Ben discussed being a young celebrity, who achieved pretty much overnight fame playing one of the main characters on "The O.C." when he was about 24 or 25 years old.  He spoke a little bit about how being a famous Hollywood person at a young age can affect you.  He remarked on how -- as a young celebrity -- he had to take time to reflect and decide if he was living the kind of life he believed in and being the kind of person that he truly wanted to be.  Of course, that kind of reflection is something we all have to engage in from time to time, throughout our whole lives.  But, I think young people are more prone to exercise poor judgment -- especially in an atmosphere such as Hollywood -- than older people.  Older people have experiences and more fully-developed brains, which enable them to better see the consequences of their actions than young adults.  And part of the reason that we older people tend to have better judgment than our younger counterparts is because of our past SCREW-UPS.  You learn from your screw-ups.  Hopefully, at least.  And if you are fortunate enough not to have your very worst screw-ups recorded and played ad-infinitum on the internet, then count your blessings.

My youngest child is just about the same age as Miley.  He would probably not be prone to twerking.  But, if he should falter and misstep, I think about how I would want him to be treated -- with a little compassion.  Yes, I'd sit him down and give him a good talking to.  I would attempt, in my role as his mother, to take steps to ensure that he would use better judgment in the future.  But, I wouldn't want him to be repeatedly and publicly shamed.  I mean -- for Heaven's sake -- there's all this talk about bullying these days.  There is a major crusade against bullying.  And that's a good thing.  When I think about it, though, the way Miley is being treated could be considered bullying.  And we've all heard of some of the extremely tragic results of young people being bullied, haven't we?

And to all the moms who say chiding, mom-like things to Miley -- via various means of social networking and such -- trying to make her ashamed of herself, trying to teach her a lesson, I would like to remind you that you are not Miley's mother.  And part of the reason that motherly correction works is that it is filled with a mother's love for her child.  Motherly correction -- however well-intended -- does not work in the absence of mother-love.

So, let's think a little about Hester Prynne and her scarlet "A".  Is that the kind of people we really want to be?  Because maybe -- shamefully -- we still are.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Creating A World With Cinematography

My oldest daughter has a good friend named Julia Swain; and I am privileged to call Miss Julia my friend, too.  She and my daughter met while in college, studying all things media.  Julia has worked in media for a long time -- on projects ranging from shorts to television to feature films.  She is now enrolled in UCLA's MFA program, with an emphasis in cinematography.  And do you know how hard it is to get into that program?  It's only the best of the best, baby.

Now, Julia is not only amazing with the camera, but she is a cancer survivor and an all-around kick-ass young woman.  A really good woman.  A woman of excellent character and a work ethic second-to-none.  She is also a lot of fun.

I have had the wondrous good fortune of having Julia shoot projects in my home.  Such an amazing time it is when Julia shows up at your door with bags full of camera equipment and her infectious enthusiasm and beautiful smile.  She doesn't even complain when I fed her hot dogs for dinner.  Craft services -- Marla style.  I also had the honor of being an associate producer on one of her films.  And I hope to collaborate with Julia on many other future projects. 

Julia has even been on the "SouthLAnd" set.  I pretty much had to be peeled off the ceiling when I found that out.  (And if you have read my blog at all, this does not surprise you in the least.)  I don't know if she met any of the show's cast or crew, but I bet if Julia sort of accidentally wandered into the trailer of Mr. Ben McKenzie himself, she would not get in trouble.  Not at all.  In fact, she would most certainly walk out of that trailer with a deal to work as DP on his next indie film.  Such is the impressive nature of Julia.  And she would make him look awesome in that indie film.  Tall even.

Julia has caused me to think a great deal about the role of the cinematographer in a TV or movie project.  I never really thought about this before.  In the past, when I thought about cinematography, I thought of the camera operator aiming the camera at the actors and turning it on when the director yells, "Action!" (I wonder if directors actually yell, "Action!" or if that's just a stereotype intended to mislead us naive fans.  And after we are misled, the directors probably sit around laughing about how we civilians think they yell, "Action!"  Perhaps, instead of yelling out this important directive, they just pronounce the word with great authority.)  Anyway, back to cinematography.  Nothing to it, I thought.  Just know the right button to push and what hole to look through.  Boy, was I ignorant and bone-headed.  My apologies to you, Julia, and to all of your camera-wielding friends, too.  Because what I have discovered, as I have paid more attention to Julia and her work and the work of other cinematographers, is that they know how to use their cameras in such a way as to actually create a world in which the actors bring their characters to life and enact their story.  The creation of this world is, of course, a collaborative effort on the part of the many individuals involved in a project.  But, the cinematographer has a unique and vital role to play.  Her abilities are crucial if the world inhabited by a particular story is to have an authentic, believable feeling.

For instance, a little over a month ago, my daughter Bridget and I were traveling from San Diego to Ojai.  En route, we passed the Redondo Beach Pier, where much of the television series "The O.C." was filmed.  I know a couple of lovely ladies who are huge fans of that show, but who live much too far away from SoCal to ever have an opportunity to visit the locations.  So, Bridget and I decided to stop and take some pictures to send their way.  I had never been to the Redondo Beach Pier before, so after I parked the car, Bridget and I began to wander around, looking for sights that seemed familiar from the show.  And we discovered much more than we had anticipated.  We found the diner -- which we had expected to find.  We saw the building that was used as The Bait Shop.  We discovered the route in which Ryan famously rides Marissa on the back of his bike, accompanied by Seth on his skate board.  We also happened upon, which was a huge surprise, buildings which had served as Sandy Cohen's office and the family planning clinic.  We also felt that we recognized other spots on the pier as being used in the show.  In short, we found the pier to be a resource of many of the show's locations, but locations which were not necessarily supposed to be near each other in the world of "The O.C." 

First off, hat tip to the location scouts in finding this goldmine of a place.  We realized that many scenes in various episodes of the show were filmed at the Redondo Beach Pier, which must have simplified the logistics involved in shooting.  I suppose several scenes could have been filmed at once at different points on the pier, being that it is an absolutely huge place, assuming the scenes involved different characters.  Or, prep for one scene could be done at one part of the pier, while shooting was happening in a different spot.  I am just guessing here, though, as my grasp of television production is essentially null.  But, what I was struck by was the creative vision of those who were entrusted with finding the locations for "The O.C."

What especially struck me, though, as my daughter and I meandered around the pier, was the talent of the cinematographers who worked on this hit show.  I really know nothing about photography, but some things stood out to me.  For example, I thought about Ryan, with Marissa on the back of his bike, Seth zooming along beside them on his skateboard.  As I looked at the pier, I realized the scene had to be shot in such a way that certain things surrounding the pier wouldn't be visible.  The show also had to be shot so that it wouldn't be obvious that the various locations were basically in the same place.  The diner, The Bait Shop, Sandy's office, etc., had to seem like part of the same community, but they had to look like they were at least somewhat geographically unique from one another.  This would involve careful camera set-up and conscientious attention to what was in each shot, so as not to include background scenery or other visual cues that would give away the fact that these places were physically so close together.  Additionally, "The O.C." stands for "Orange County."  And the show was supposed to take place in a very affluent area of Orange County known as Newport.  But, the Redondo Beach Pier is not anywhere near Newport.  In fact, the pier does not exude any sort of air of wealth or privilege.  Yet, the cinematography for the show was accomplished in such a way that the relatively lowly locations on the pier were transformed into an upscale and glamorous fictional world -- a very believable upscale and glamorous fictional world.

So, I salute you, Julia.  And I salute all of your talented colleagues.  Thank-you for applying your talent, your abilities, your time, and your energy in order to perfect your craft -- a craft that enables us viewers to enter into and believe in these amazing worlds you create.  These worlds are valuable places -- they educate, inform, entertain, and edify.  We would be poorer without them.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sleepless In Austin (Girl Version)

I hope this is not like plagiarizing.

Anyway, a little while back, some dude calling himself "Sleepless In Austin" wrote a blog post in which he chronicled all of his requirements for a new girlfriend.  My guess is that he is probably still single.  The ways of love, though, are hard to figure out -- so, you never know.  I mean, sometimes a guy who you think for sure would have gotten married by now is still totally girlfriendless, while another guy -- who you think that no self-respecting female would touch with the proverbial 10-foot pole -- is honeymooning in Hawaii with his model wife.  But, I digress.

The point is that this insomniac Austinite made me laugh so hard with his post that I thought I'd spoof it.  I know you're probably not supposed to tell people that you're spoofing something, but being that I'm married and all, I just wanted to make everything perfectly clear.  This is a joke.  It is humor.  It is just for fun.  Fun for me, anyhow.

***So, I give you ---> Sleepless In Austin (Girl Version), A.K.A. Sleepless In Southern California:

I like to be with a man.  This much is true.  I don't like to be alone.  I'm not very good at it.  I like all the things about being with a man.  I like eating and going for drives, although not in immediate sequence, because then I get car sick.  I also don't like eating sushi with a guy.  Well, maybe I do like eating sushi with a guy, but I just don't know it.  The thing is that I have a biology degree, so when I think about sushi, I just think about parasites.  So, forget sushi.  Sushi is a deal-breaker.  The only way that sushi would not be a deal-breaker is if you are Ben Sherman and you bring your gun on our date and give me plenty of saki and do all the driving, because I don't want to be arrested for drunk driving on our date.  Getting arrested on our date would be a deal-breaker.  Unless you bailed me out of jail.  Or broke me out.  Breaking me out of jail would definitely make up for the getting arrested part.  Although, then I would have a hang-over and having a hang-over would probably cause me to throw up in your car, so I should probably just stick with sushi being a deal-breaker.  Besides, Ben Sherman is fictional, so there's that.

I do like being with a man, though.  Besides eating and going for drives, I like hiking.  But, not if it's too hot and not if the surroundings are too dry-looking, because that is just depressing.  I like going to the beach, but only if the man does not complain about the sun and getting burned.  A man who fusses about getting skin cancer is a deal-breaker.  I mean, go ahead and put on your sunscreen, but for heaven's sake don't fuss about it like a girl.  BE A FREAKING MAN about the sun.  I also like watching sports with an enthusiastic man, but not if he talks about a particular game for DAYS ON END afterwards.  When the game is over, it's over.  Get over it already.  My favorite sport to watch is swimming.  I realize most men aren't into that, but if you expect me to watch your football, you can watch my swimming.  And when my favorite sport is on, you get to make the snacks.  When your favorite sport is on, I'll make the snacks.  Fair is fair.  But, don't try feeding me any of those wasabi peas.  Wasabi peas are a deal-breaker.  And if you EVER make fun of my favorite beer being Bud Light, that is a deal-breaker.  Besides, Bud Light puts me in a romantic mood because it's just enough alcohol and not too filling.  So, you should be grateful that Bud Light is my favorite beer, because I can be very sexy.

As far as sex goes, I like it.  But, you'd better not be all pushy about it.  Being pushy about sex is a deal-breaker.  Hey, I'm not saying you shouldn't try to get me interested, but being pushy is the biggest turn-off in the world.  I also like hand-holding and kissing.  But, I do not like being slobbered on.  Being slobbered on is a deal-breaker.  I was once slobbered on by one of the hottest guys ever to be seen on the face of this good earth, but all the long wavy blonde hair and muscles and golden skin couldn't make up for the slobber, so that was that.  He called me for weeks, but it was to no avail.  So, guys, do yourselves a favor and learn to kiss without slobbering.  THINK about kissing before you actually try to land one, for pete's sake.  Watch some movies and TV shows that contain good kissing and study the techniques.  Practice on your arm.  Whatever it takes.  Do not show up on a date as a novice kisser.  And if you are a novice kisser, keep your tongue in your mouth while you practice your lip work.  Same goes for actual sex.  Study up before actually trying it out.  And I am NOT talking about porn.  Some women may disagree, but porn moves are not what most of us ladies want.  If you want to know what most of us ladies want, go read some of those bodice-ripper novels that can be found in the back of your grandma's closet.  Your grandma ain't no fool. 

Tattoos and piercings.  Talking about sex makes me think of tattoos and piercings.  Because I think tattoos are rather sexy, but there are some conditions.  For instance, you should not appear to be clothed in them.  That is a deal-breaker.  If you are naked, people should be able to tell that you are naked.  If you are naked and I can't tell because of all your tats, that is a deal-breaker.  Also -- tattoos on your arms are only sexy if you have sexy arm muscles to go with them.  Like Cam Gigandet.  (Google it, boot.)  So, if you're going to have tats and you don't want it to be a deal-breaker, then lift some weights.  At least four times a week.  As for piercings, I don't mind them in the ear.  But, the naval or the nipple or the nose or the lip?  Deal-breaker.  I have to admit, whenever I see someone with a nipple ring, I have this perverted inclination to yank on it.  YUCK!!!  That is SO PERVERTED!!!  But, it's true.  I probably wouldn't actually do it, but you never know what might happen in the heat of passion.  So, if you have a nipple ring, either remove it or stay the hell away from me, if you have any sense of self-preservation.

Hygiene.  Talking about yanking on nipple rings naturally makes me think of infections which naturally makes me think about hygiene.  Hygiene matters.  Even if you can totally rock a silk shirt, it don't matter if you don't shower.  And use deodorant.  And brush your teeth.  And floss.  And SHAVE.  For god's sake, what is it with all this neck stubble I see these days?  Either shave or grow a beard.  A REAL beard.  Like the kind Commander Ryker sported in "The Next Generation."  I mean, these days I'm seeing all these guys -- even hot guys -- walking around with all this stubble on their cheeks and chins and necks.  What gives?  All this does is show true laziness of character or a real misperception of what is attractive or an actual effort to appear less attractive.  I guess if you are a hot celebrity man who is chased about by young females, then maybe there is an appeal to trying to make yourself less attractive by sporting week-old neck hair growth.  But, if you wear Ray-Ban aviators along with the neck hair, you are just sending mixed messages about your desire to appear desirable.  So, in the interest of transparency of intention, which is only common decency, either shave and wear your Ray-Ban aviators -- or -- grow a real beard and wear your Ray-Ban aviators -- or -- sport your neck hair in combination with a pair of cheap Walmart-brand sunglasses.  Also, if you grow a beard, COMB IT.  Not combing your beard causes little beard hairs to fall out onto the kitchen counters.  Do you know what this looks like?  It looks like there are pubic hairs all over the kitchen counters.  And pubic hairs (even the appearance thereof) on my kitchen counters is a DEAL-BREAKER!!!

Lest I am sounding shallow by talking about such things as sex and tats and piercings and facial hair and hygiene, I do want to assure you that I am interested in personality.  There are all types of personalities that I like.  Many kinds of people are interesting to me.  But, it is good if you know how to string words together in a way that makes at least some kind of sense.  In other words, don't be a Tea Party Republican.  You can be a Republican.  That's okay.  But, be a NORMAL Republican (does anybody out there remember what that means???).  You can be a Democrat, too.  Democrats are cool.  I especially like Democrat men in ponytails and jeans.  Communists can be especially sexy, although I would argue a lot with a Communist, since I actually am a Republican.  So, if you are a Communist, that might not be a total deal-breaker, as long as you like to argue and you have at least some sense of humor.  And long, wavy hair.  A Democrat or a Communist might be able to get away with sporting some neck stubble, too -- as long as he also has a good body and intense, thoughtful eyes.  Please don't think that I'm saying here that a Democrat and a Communist are in any way the same thing.  I know that they are not the same thing.  I mean -- for land's sake -- I'm NOT Rush Limbaugh.  It's just that Democrats and Communists have this sort of sexy earthiness about them that Republicans just can't manage to pull off.  And if you are a non-Tea-Party Republican who wants to date me, do NOT try to pull off a pony tail.  Because everybody knows that Republican males cannot pull off pony tails.  But, also try to avoid looking totally stuffy.  An ideal Republican man has an excellent upper body and knows how to rock the following look --> dress shirt, open collar, no tie.  An ideal Republican male also shamelessly drives a totally spotless, big, bad-ass, carbon producing car, recognizing its value as the perfect place to make out with a woman.  But, if you are a Republican, you must also have a good sense of humor about the liberal, hippie, wanna-be cage dancer side of my personality.  If you don't have a good sense of humor about this, and if you cannot tolerate my opinion that there should be a single-payer national healthcare system, then you are not for me.

And -- reflecting on the value of a sense of humor -- you should definitely have one.  Because, hey, life's short.  And because penis jokes are funny.  (But, only if told by somebody with skill in telling penis jokes.  If you don't have the gift, don't tell penis jokes.  Telling penis jokes without skill is a deal-breaker.)  You need to be able to laugh, though -- at life, at yourself, at me, and at the Tea Partiers.  ;-)


Friday, October 25, 2013

Having Some Balls In Life -- Or, Note To Self

I have generally been known to be a careful and conscientious person.  I like to have my ducks in a row.  I don't really take risks -- big ones, anyway.

But, on the other hand, it's important to live your life.  Ya know?

Do you have a passion?  Do you have a dream?  Or even a simple goal?

Sometimes, you've just got to go for it.

Of course, go for it sensibly.  You must think about whether or not it is a reasonable passion, dream, or goal.  You must consider whether or not it is actually achievable.  It is also a good idea to gather some advice from a few people you consider to be knowledgeable and trustworthy.  In short, you must think your idea through and make sure you have (or can morally and legally obtain) whatever may be necessary to carry it out.

And you must be willing to work hard, to be dedicated, to persevere.  You have to have not just a little bit of determination and self-discipline.

And you need to have a plan -- a plan which you are actually willing to carry out, and not just write down on a napkin and shove in a drawer somewhere.

But, if you are sensible and organized, and if your plan is at least relatively reasonable, why not give it a try?  Because you only go once around.

So, go ahead -- grow a set.  And go for it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Why Y'all Should Take Each Others' Classes

The other day, a college student posted this on social media:

     "Don't take this class if you have any glimpse of conservativeness in you."
     *adds to schedule*

This college student is a very bright young man, a very good young man, a very idealistic young man.  And he goes to an outstanding university.  He's also very witty, and I laughed really hard when I read what he posted.

You might be wondering to what class he is referring.  It is called:  Race and Minority Relations.

I would love to take that class.

Anyway, this young man not only entertained me, he got me to thinking.  And I started thinking that the progressive young people and the conservative young people need to start taking each others' classes.  Maybe some old people -- on both sides of the political divide -- need to be taking these classes, too.  I would love to see Rush Limbaugh have to sit in on Race and Minority Relations -- perhaps with his mouth duct taped closed. 

Those of you who have been reading my blog know that I am a Republican, with strong progressive sympathies.  As a Republican, I have been pretty mortified by my party over the past several years.  Way too much extremism and blatantly crazy ideas going on.  And not just a little bit of fear-mongering, either.  I'm pretty tired of it all.

Those of you who have been reading my blog also know that I am a Catholic and that I have three children -- two girls and a boy -- who are 25, 23, and 21 years old.

So, as a Catholic Republican, I admit that I was not disappointed when my two oldest chose to attend very conservative Catholic colleges.  I wanted them to learn their faith well, and to be in an atmosphere where they would feel supported in their beliefs as they entered the adult world.  The schools they attended were quite good, and they received fine educations.  I did notice, though, that there was nary a Democrat to be found at either of their schools -- not amongst the students, not amongst the faculty, not amongst the staff.  Well... Okay.  Perhaps I exaggerate.  There were probably a few Democrats in the mix.  But, if there were,  I bet they felt they couldn't show up sporting Obama bumper stickers on their cars.  So most, if not all, of the classes my daughters took had a decidedly conservative bent.  And most of the students and graduates of these schools -- at least the ones I have spent time with -- don't think very highly of progressive ideas.  And they probably aren't hanging out with progressives in social settings too much, either -- at least, voluntarily. 

My son's school is also Catholic.  And most people would call it conservative.  There are, though, quite a few progressives there -- amongst the students, faculty, and staff.  Some of the classes are taught from a more conservative angle, some from a more progressive angle.  My son tends to be very conservative, both religiously and politically.  I have been quite impressed, though, at the friendships he has formed at his school with people of varying ideas.  When he arrived home for his first Christmas break, he told me that he was finding that, "If you have a problem, it's really nice to talk to your more liberal friends.  They tend to be much more sympathetic than the really conservative people."  Please don't be insulted if you are a sympathetic conservative person.  I don't mean to be insulting, and neither did my son.  I was really happy, though, that through his exposure to progressives, he was coming to appreciate them.  He was coming to view their ideas in a more open-minded manner.  He was coming to see their opinions, not as threats, but as different ways of looking at the world, to be considered and discussed in a fair manner. 

So, when I saw the statement made by the young man about how the conservatives probably shouldn't take the Race and Minority Relations class, it made me start to ponder my own children's college experiences, which got me to thinking about how everybody needs to start taking each others' classes.  Because, as we all know, our country has become very polarized ideologically.  Everybody is digging in with their own side.  It's almost like trench warfare.  "You progressives stay in your ditch and we conservatives will stay in ours."  And once in a while -- because we've come to view each other as enemies -- we'll lob mortars into each others' trenches.  And these mortars -- while maybe not causing literal limbs to be lost -- do cause injury to our society, to our culture, and to the individuals that make up our society and our culture.

So, I would like to encourage all of you young people -- left, right, and center -- to get out of your trenches and go raise a glass or two together.  Talk to each other.  LISTEN to each other.  I have seen the good effect this respectful sharing of ideas has had on my son.  And I would like to see more of it.  And I believe that if you don't get out there and start mixing with each other in a way that is truly sincere, good-hearted, open-minded, and FRIENDLY, that you are simply short-changing yourselves, our country, and our world.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

For The Older Mamas Of Older Kids

I came across this in someone's blog the other day:

     "The beauty of a big family is that if a mother regrets something she did when she was young and imprudent, she might just have a chance at a redo with a younger child.  The corollary is that I don't have the luxury of doing what some of my friends are doing as they settle into an empty nest.  I can't look at the regrets, confess the mistakes, be forgiven, and relax in the grace.  I have more children to raise."

I don't take issue with what she says about the "beauty of a big family."  But, as the mama of a smaller family, with older children, I have a few comments.

My kids are 25, 23, and 21.  Admittedly, I am not exactly an empty-nester.  My oldest two are girls, and they both lived away from home during college, but returned after graduation.  They still live at home, while working and carrying out their young adult lives.  This is fine by me and my husband.  They are good young women, and are a pleasure to have around.  My son is presently away at college, but returns for Christmas and summer breaks.  He is about as far away from home as he can get without leaving the continental United States, so we don't really see him at all during the times when his school is in session.

I can tell you for sure, though, that even if nobody lived at home during any time of the year, I could never "look at the regrets, confess the mistakes, be forgiven, and relax in the grace."  Okay.  Maybe I could do the first three things on this list, but never the last one.  And I bet a lot of mamas in my position feel the same.  I don't think most mamas can ever just fully "relax in the grace."  And do you know why?

Because when a mama looks at her adult kids -- when she sees their struggles, their pain, their heartaches, their failures, their shortcomings -- she is going to (in part, at least) blame herself.  She is going to wonder what she could have done differently.  And this blaming and wondering is not going to ever completely go away.  It will stay with her, for as long as her children have difficulties in life.  And, let's face it, who doesn't have difficulties in life?  We all do.  So, basically, a mama will never completely "relax in the grace."  She will never completely stop second-guessing at least some of the things she did while raising her kids.  That's the way a mama's heart works, whether she has one child or a dozen.  A mama's heart is a mama's heart.  It is always concerned.  It always feels its responsibility, no matter how empty the nest or how old the children.

Of course, this is not to say that there aren't special joys in being the mother of adult kids.  It's fun to see what your children do with themselves when they grow up.  It's very enjoyable to relate to them as adults -- with adult conversation and activities.  For example, I really enjoy having movie dates and shopping trips and lunches and weekends with my daughters.  And it's great fun when my son regales me with tales of college friendships and escapades.  My kids also have pretty darn good sense, and have been known to give me great advice when I am confused about a decision I need to make. 

In my circle of friends and acquaintances, though, there are many big families.  And, occasionally, there are assumptions made about us mamas of smaller families, whether our children are small or grown -- assumptions that might be just a tad bit unfair.  So, let's not forget that being a mother -- though great fun and quite rewarding -- can be very difficult.  And it can be just as difficult on the mother of a smaller family, on the mother of older children, as it can be on the mother of many.  And mothering -- including worrying and fretting about our mistakes -- really never, ever ends. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ben Sherman's Healthiest "Relationship"...

...with a woman was what he had goin' on with Chickie.

And it had nothing to do with sex or "romance."

And it had everything to do with genuine affection, mutual respect, caring, trust, real friendship, camaraderie, and even a tad bit of actual communication. 

If you don't know this by now (and you should if you have read my blog for a while), Ben Sherman is one of the main cop characters on the wondrous TV show "SouthLAnd."  "SouthLAnd" is my favorite TV show of all time -- the best show since "Dragnet," "Adam 12," and "Emergency" ruled the airwaves of my childhood.  Unfortunately, it was canceled this past spring, after five glorious seasons.  But, it will live forever in my iPad, in my computer, and on my DVD player.  Ben Sherman is played by Ben McKenzie, and nobody could have played the guy better.  Ben Sherman starts out as a young, idealistic, naive cop, who, because of a combination of character flaws and painful circumstances, slides steadily down into one of the Seven Circles Of Hell over the course of the show.  His character arc is brilliant, full of a great number of moral lessons, without being told in an overly moralistic manner.  In fact, the whole thing is often quite entertaining to behold.  As we accompany Officer Ben on his journey, he has many "lady friends" -- kind of like Bond girls.  And he often has more than one "lady friend" at a time.  In fact, part of Officer Ben's undoing occurs when one of these "lady friends" turns out to be a little bit mentally unstable.  This darling, yet problematic, young woman becomes rather unglued when she finds out she isn't the only one Officer Ben is "seeing" (to state it in a polite manner).  Although, other of his "lady friends" seem happy to share him (literally).  Anyway, Officer Ben never develops what one would consider to be a "healthy" relationship with one of his "lady friends."  He never becomes a faithful boyfriend to a good woman.  He basically bounces from bed to bed, sometimes landing in more than one during a 24-hour period.  His relationships with women never really encompass true love or any kind of commitment or even genuine friendship (as in the kind of friendship where you care about the WHOLE person -- spiritually, mentally, and physically).  There is, though, a gal he likes a lot during Season One.  Her name is Daisy.  But, she dumps him unceremoniously for an ex-boyfriend.  Personally, I think this heartbreak is, at least in part, responsible for his ethical demise.  

There is one woman, though, with whom Officer Ben actually develops an admirable relationship.  This woman is Chickie.  She is a fellow cop, and she is a bit older than Officer Ben.  She is quite beautiful, extremely in-shape, and totally kick-ass.  She is also very feminine, and has vulnerabilities and heartaches which affect both her work and personal life.  She is a single mother, and does not seem to date, putting her son above her own desires.  So, because of her age and life situation, she is in no way available to Officer Ben as a "romantic" partner.  Thence, she is available to him as an actual friend and comrade.  Officer Ben and Chickie meet, I believe, on his first day on the job.  She observes him taking his first cop "baby steps."  She observes his triumphs and his struggles.  And she offers him support, encouragement, and praise (where praise is warranted).  She also stays his hand occasionally.  For example, when he becomes quite angry with his training officer and another cop, who are "razzing" him, she gets him to back off and encourages him to have a sense of humor about the situation.  Because she is a solid person, because of her experience, because of her respectful and good-natured support of Officer Ben, she comes to gain his respect and trust.  And he gains hers, to a large degree.  Thus, she sometimes will confide in him and share her own insecurities with him.  They are honest with each other.  They are fond of each other.  They treat each other with respect.  They are proud when the other does something well.  And, when it is called for, they gently correct each other.  One of my favorite Ben-Chickie moments is when he is having a "fling" with a lady known in the department as "Red-Head Sally."  Sally, apparently, has had her way with virtually all of the cops in the Hollywood Division.  Officer Ben, however, is unaware of this little fact when this wild lady initially lures him into her lair.  Thus, he is heavily teased by the other cops and regaled with their "Sally stories."  Chickie doesn't cut him any slack, either, calling him "Romeo" and affectionately ribbing him about the situation.  She also lets him know that Sally once tried to talk her into a "threesome."  You should see the look on his face when she asks him if Sally still has the poster of Clint Eastwood on her wall. 

So, as I see it, Chickie basically gets the best there is to have of Officer Ben.  And he, in her, has his best relationship with a woman over the whole course of the "SouthLAnd" story.  No, Chickie never partakes of Officer Ben's legendary abilities in the bedroom, but she gets something better.  She is the recipient of his respect and authentic friendship.  And Officer Ben, from Chickie, receives the most valuable gifts a woman can bestow on a man -- her affection, her care and concern, and her trust.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

No Hate


You see a lot of talk about "hate" these days.  A lot of people feel hated -- on both and all sides of the political and religious divide.

LGBT people often feel hated by conservatives and by people who belong to more conservative religions and by the Catholic Church.

And conservatives and people who belong to more conservative religions and members of the Catholic Church can also feel hated by LGBT people and their supporters.

And, I am not naive, I know that there is actual hatred out there.

So, I think we all need to consider a couple of things.

First of all, nobody should be hating anybody.  Short of that, nobody should be acting in an uncharitable manner toward anybody -- in thought, word, or deed.  I admit, I think particularly of Catholics here, because I am a Catholic and I hang around with a lot of Catholics.  I have seen Catholics who do not even attempt to understand the position of the LGBT community and their supporters concerning gay marriage and gay rights.  I have heard Catholic lay people and clergy express the opinion that the LGBT community wants to discriminate against us and persecute us.  Some Catholics have even said that the LGBT community would make martyrs of us -- not by killing us, mind you -- but, by forcing us to photograph and cater the food for and even officiate at their wedding ceremonies.  These attitudes, though, are not really expressions of hatred.  They are more expressions of fear.  And what I don't like is when influential Catholics stoke this fear with their words and deeds.  Because when fear is stoked, hatred can develop.  Now, to be fair, somebody told me that there was a case where a wedding photographer was sued -- and lost -- because she didn't want to photograph a same-sex wedding.  I don't know the details of this case.  Although, I have the feeling that there were probably some interpersonal missteps along the way.  Perhaps there were some misunderstandings that could have been resolved between the individuals before the whole situation became a legal conflict.  And this leads me to my next point.
Have we forgotten that we can disagree without hating?  Have we forgotten that we can RESPECTFULLY disagree, that we can live and let live?  This goes for ALL people -- religious, secular, conservative, progressive.  It is both fruitless and counter-productive to try to force somebody to accept your view of the world.  It is even more fruitless and counter-productive to accuse somebody or a whole group of people or an institution of hating you because you disagree over an issue -- even an important issue.  The Catholic Church, for example, has a very complex theology regarding marriage.  This theology has developed over 2000+ years.  It is reflective of how the Church views God and creation.  It is not meant to discriminate against anybody.  Are there people who use the Church's teaching to discriminate?  Yes.  And this is not right.  But, it is not the intent of the Church -- at least, I don't think it is -- to have her teachings used to discriminate against people.

On the other side of the coin, it is quite wrong -- and Pope Francis has spoken about this -- to try to force others into your religious views.  Respect for human dignity requires us to actually respect that others do not all accept the Catholic way of looking at things.  The Church also requires us to look at people and situations with compassion.  For example, I am the kind of person who has a hard time being alone in life.  It has always been quite valuable to me to have somebody to share myself with -- spiritually, emotionally, physically.  So, I can easily imagine being a lesbian and wanting to have a life partner.  I can imagine how hard it would be to be denied that, especially in the civil law.  I could understand if certain religions didn't want to perform my wedding ceremony, because of their long-standing theology.  But, I guess I would also feel discriminated against if religions were speaking about me and the person I loved as being harmful to society, especially if we just wanted to live a quiet life in peace.  I would also feel discriminated against if I could be legally married in my state and yet not allowed marriage benefits -- like social security -- on the federal level.  And I suppose having to live with all this lack of consistency in the law -- lack of consistency which would cause me and my spouse actual and concrete hardship -- might make me feel hated.  So, as a Catholic who tries to be compassionate, I put myself in the shoes of my lesbian sisters and have a desire to treat them fairly.

There are some who think that it is the job of Catholics to make the civil law reflect the Divine Law -- at least, the Divine Law as these particular Catholics see it.  The people who think this are not trying to be cruel to others of different ideas.  They just believe that the Catholic version of Divine Law will bring with it what they see as true justice, liberty, and equality.  The problem is, though, that there are too many different people of too many different ideas in our society.  And a lot of those people would feel discriminated against if they perceived that the Catholic Church was dictating how they lived their lives.  People need to be able to make their own choices -- especially about their adult lives -- as freely as possible.  Laws are necessary, yes.  But, a big function of the law -- in my opinion, anyway -- is to keep people from treading on each other unfairly.  We need to be able to co-exist, like that bumper sticker says.  Sometimes, I want to get a Reagan bumper sticker, an Obama bumper sticker, a Catholic bumper sticker, and one of those co-exist bumper stickers, and put ALL of them on my bumper.  Along with my Harley-Davidson sticker.  This is because I am, as my mother always said, a "shit-disturber."

I hope, then, that all of us -- secular and religious, conservative and progressive -- will strive to have more mutual understanding.  I hope that our government will strive to make laws which allow all of us to live lives of peace, according to our consciences.  I hope that people and institutions are not unfairly accused of hatred.  And I hope that where hatred does actually exist, that it is rooted out, in the only way it can actually be rooted out -- by love.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Women Talking To Women...

...can be a blessing.  Or a curse. 

I have learned this during my fifty years.  The hard way.

I have been pondering this topic as I go about my laundry and such this morning because of a blog post I read in the "HuffPo."  I think it was written by a rather young woman.  She looked young in her picture, at least.  In her post, she addressed other young women who are trying to make their way in this wide world -- dispensing her good advice and wisdom for all to absorb.

By and large, I thought her advice was sound.  It had to do with not wearing leggings without a top that fully covers your butt and how important first impressions are and all those kinds of wise career- and relationship-oriented things.

This is what struck me, though, as an older-type broad.  If I was a young woman reading the advice of this other young woman, I would have been reduced to a great state of anxiety about my butt and my pants and the time I talked to that VIP with a wedgie I couldn't do anything about without making the situation more awkward.  I would also be thinking about how many of the pants nowadays -- a.k.a. skinny jeans -- are really not a lot better than leggings.  And I would be thinking about how these modern pants don't fit me well, anyway, because I have always had a rather Italian backside.  And I would be thinking about all the times I had failed and flailed -- educationally, professionally, with people of the opposite sex in clubs -- and I would pretty much just be wanting to go sit in my comfy  bed while watching my collection of "SouthLAnd" DVD's. 

To sum it up, I was thinking about how women can be very hard on other women.  Often without even realizing it.  Often by just trying to be helpful.  And I was thinking about how resentments and misunderstandings can build up between women because of well-meaning, but frequently unwelcome, advice.

As I said, I have learned this the hard way.  Over the years, I have been the dispenser and receiver of all kinds of womanly advice.  I have noticed the effect it has had on me and on others.   And this is what I have figured out.

It is generally best not to give advice unless someone actually seeks it out from us.  And if someone does seek it out, it is best to keep it to a minimum.  It is wise to try to see the situation from the other person's perspective, instead of from our own.  Our lives and personalities and experiences are not the same as those of the other person.   And it is vital to be HUMBLE -- to realize that we as the advice-dispensers might not have all the answers, that we might even be (ahem) WRONG in our opinions. 

Most importantly, though, in dealing with somebody who seeks our advice, it is important to listen and have compassion.  Many times, people can work through their own problems.  The majority of people probably have enough intelligence and common sense to see what the answers to their quandaries are, but it might be helpful for them to have a "sounding board," so to speak.  And if we do feel the need to inject some of our "wisdom and experience" into a situation, we should look at the other person -- really see that person -- in order to discern what effect our words may be having.  We need to ask ourselves if we are really being helpful, or if we are just adding to our friend's burden.

Finally, I would just like to reassure any young women who may be reading this post.  You will recover from your youthful missteps.  You will not ruin your career or a relationship (at least with anybody worth having a relationship with) if you accidentally flash your butt crack to a customer or shoot milk through your nostrils while laughing on a dinner date.  When I think of some of the embarrassing things I did and said while working my first real jobs and going on my first real dates, I still kind of want to bury my head in the sand.  But, life went on.  And -- believe it or not -- bosses can be quite understanding to a new, yet promising, employee.  And good guys will just -- good naturedly and with good humor -- hand you a napkin for your nose.  The important thing is to learn from your mistakes.  And to laugh at them, too.  ;-)