Friday, June 23, 2017

Marrying your stepchildren... part three

I probably shouldn't write about this again, since it tends to attract people who feel the need to chastise me for my opinions.  I'm going to do it anyway because it's on my mind.  And since this is my blog, I feel alright in writing my thoughts here.

Yesterday, the Today Show featured yet another story about a man who "proposed" to his girlfriend's daughter.  Some readers may remember that I'm not a fan of guys who "propose" to their potential stepchildren.  For some reason, it's always men doing this to women with little girls.  Although I'm sure there are cases where potential stepmoms "propose" to their potential stepsons (or stepdaughters), I have yet to see a case like that featured on a media outlet like the Today Show.  I have also never seen a potential stepfather proposing to a potential stepson.

Anyway, this time it's Grant Tribbett doing the proposing to his girlfriend, Cassandra Reschar, and Cassandra's 5 year old daughter, Adrianna.  According to Reschar's account on The Knot's How He Asked, after popping the question to Cassandra,

“Grant got back down to propose to my daughter,” Reschar wrote. “He said, ‘Adrianna, can I be your daddy, to promise to love and protect you for the rest of your life?'"



Meanwhile, Cassandra's friend, a professional photographer, took pictures of the touching event.  Cassandra shared the photos on The Knot and then the Today Show picked up the story.

Not surprisingly, there was a flood of comments on the Today Show's Facebook page from people thinking this was "the sweetest thing, ever".  There were lots of memes and gifs depicting happy tears.  People were posting that this is what a "real man" does.  I understand why people think this is very touching, although I personally don't agree.

I've noticed these "proposals" to kids usually involve jewelry or a special gift of some sort. What little girl wouldn't want a new necklace or ring, especially if it's "special"? It certainly makes it easier to excite the child and get her on board with the new family dynamic, right?  It also strikes me as being more than a little bit manipulative.

But my main beef with this trend is that it promotes a fairytale "happy ending".  Fairytales generally have no basis in reality.  Let's face it-- unfortunately, a lot of marriages don't end up lasting.  I'm not saying Cassandra and Grant won't stay together.  I'm simply saying that it's definitely not a given.  There could come a time in the future when they'll split up.  If they split, what will become of Grant's promise to Adrianna?

Perhaps Grant intends to legally adopt Adrianna.  If he does, then maybe he really can keep his promise to love and protect her forever.  If he doesn't adopt her and this couple splits, there's a good chance he won't be able to keep his promise because he won't have any rights to a relationship with her.  Hell, even if he does adopt her, there's a chance he won't be able to keep his promise, although with the legal rights that come with adoption, he stands a much better chance than he would without them.

I shared this post on Facebook with the comment that I must be one of the few people in the world who thinks this annoying trend of men proposing to their stepdaughters-to-be is a bad idea.  I also commented that I didn't dare share my feelings about this on the Today Show's post, because I knew it would only invite a hailstorm of people shaming me for not being caught up in the romance of the moment.  But-- here's the thing.  A parental relationship, especially one involving steps, is not the same thing as a marriage.  Moreover, a man asking for a child's permission to marry the child's mother and/or "be their daddy" is disingenuous, especially when it involves special jewelry or another type of gift.  

What if the child says "No, I don't want you to marry Mommy."?  Will the couple really take the child's feelings into account?  Will the adults actually allow a child to overrule their decision to get married?  Although sometimes kids are absolutely right when they have misgivings about their parents' choices in partners, the fact is, it's not the child's decision.  In the vast majority of cases, they have no control or say over the situation and it's wrong to make them think they do.  

This particular story makes me think that Adrianna's biological father is not in Adrianna's life now.  If he's not in the picture and Cassandra and Grant are serious about letting Grant "be the daddy", I hope they plan to make it legal.  If Grant is truly going to be Adrianna's daddy, then he will need the legal authority that comes with that responsibility.  That way, if the couple later splits (and I'm not saying they will-- just saying that divorce is VERY common), Grant will have legal rights and responsibilities toward the child.  He has a better chance of being able to honor his commitment.

Besides the obvious legal and logistical issues that could arise from "proposing" to one's stepchildren, I think using symbols that are traditionally intended for marriage as a way of including a stepchild is inappropriate.  I wrote this in my second post about this trend:

Marriage is not the same thing as step-parenthood. Marriage is a different relationship that involves sexual relations and a type of intimacy that is hopefully very different than the relationship a stepparent has with a stepchild. A marriage proposal is supposed to be a serious thing and one that most people hope will be special and come once in a lifetime. Stepfathers who present rings to their stepdaughters, in a way, kind of pre-empt that special moment that may come later in the child's life, when she is a grown woman. Some people might argue that these types of proposals aren't really serious. If that's the case, why film them and put them on the Internet? In fact, why do them at all?


I also think that publicizing these proposals is a bad idea because, again, there could come a day when the relationship falls apart.  Since a lot of stuff stays on the Internet forever, these types of proposals can one day lead to a lot of hurt.  

Personally, I am a lot more impressed with stepparents who commit to taking care of their stepchildren on a daily basis with no expectation of accolades or attention.  I also think that it's best when stepparents have a basic modicum of respect for the child's other natural parent, even if that person isn't necessarily a good person.  The fact is, half of the child's DNA comes from the other parent and that is a very strong bond.  Many people want to deny that DNA matters, but I have seen that it often really does, for good or ill.  

I know that people are going to do what they're going to do.  My ranting about this practice won't change anyone's mind, nor will it change the Today Show's practice of glorifying this trend.  And, for all I know, this proposal will lead to a long and happy marriage.  I do hope that Grant and Cassandra have a good life together and Adrianna gets to call Grant "Daddy" for the rest of his life (or hers, depending on who dies first).  

I hope this romantic "proposal" works out for them and doesn't eventually lead to heartbreak.  But I also think that more people should consider the potentially negative scenarios that can come up later.  What seems like a sweet, romantic, heartfelt gesture can later turn into something heartbreaking, like betrayal.  When kids are involved, I think it's best to stay grounded in reality and not indulge fairytale endings.  Adults have a responsibility to look after the best interests of the children in their care.  That means keeping it real and being honest.  These "proposals" to kids are, to me, not always honest and they're usually more for the adults than the kids.  

Lest anyone think I don't know what I'm writing about, let me remind everyone that Bill "adopted" his former stepson (non-legally).  He promised to be "Dad" to former stepson and even paid child support for him after the divorce.  That decision ended up leading to a lot of heartbreak for Bill when it became clear the relationship was entirely about money and stepson went back to calling his long absent bio father "Dad".  Now that Bill's daughters are adults (who may or may not have been legally adopted by #3), they remember that Bill is their dad.  One has even made tentative steps toward reconnection.  So much for their "everyday daddy", right?  I can't help but have this cynical perspective about these scenarios because I've seen up close and personal what can actually happen in these situations.

Remembering Lisa Steinberg...

For some strange reason, I was reminded of a song from my youth yesterday.  I've already blogged about "Dear Mr. Jesus" on my music blog, but that was a pretty short entry.  I think it was short because besides being associated with very depressing case of horrific child abuse, "Dear Mr. Jesus" is an overtly religious song that kind of gives me the creeps.


Someone set this song to the Sims 2...  The group is called PowerSource and the soloist is six year old Sharon Batts.  They were from Bedford, Texas.

Anyway, "Dear Mr. Jesus" was popular in 1987 or 88, although it was originally recorded in 1985.  I used to hear it on morning radio right around Christmas 1987.  It was constantly played around the time that six year old Elizabeth "Lisa" Steinberg was in the news.  Her illegally adoptive father, disbarred former criminal defense attorney, Joel Steinberg, had beaten her on November 1, 1987.  Steinberg was under the influence of crack cocaine when he struck the little girl.  For hours, Lisa was left in the care of Steinberg's live in partner, Hedda Nussbaum, who finally sought medical help for the girl when Joel Steinberg went out to party with some friends.

Lisa spent days languishing in Saint Vincent's Hospital before she died of her injuries on November 5, 1987.  Officials noticed that both Nussbaum and another illegally adopted child, Mitchell, both had signs of physical abuse.  Nussbaum was not prosecuted for the events leading to Lisa's death because she agreed to testify against Joel Steinberg, who was convicted of first-degree manslaughter.  He spent about sixteen years in New York's Southport Correctional Facility, a "supermax" prison, because it was presumed he was at risk of other inmates attacking him.

Joel Steinberg was paroled in June 2004.  His illegally adopted son, Mitchell, was returned to his biological mother.  In 2007, a judge upheld an order for Steinberg to pay Michele Launders, Lisa's birth mother, $15 million.  Launders had initially hired Steinberg to find an adoptive family for Lisa, but he chose to keep the girl and raise her as his own.  He never filed paperwork to adopt Lisa or Mitchell, so he was not legally their father.  As of 2006, Steinberg had moved to Harlem and was working in construction.  He still claims his innocence.

I was a teenager when this case was in the news; and it was in the news every day for weeks.  The tragic child abuse case made "Dear Mr. Jesus" an especially timely entry to popular music.  Americans seem to have a high tolerance for schlock, especially if there are religious overtones.  That song was very syrupy and it struck people right in the heartstrings.  I cringe when I hear it now, although it does force me to remember this very tragic and high profile case. 

Hedda Nussbaum was a former book editor who was well-educated.  She and Steinberg were considered upper-middle class.  And yet, she took his abuse, which was so severe that she needed extensive plastic surgery to repair damage to her nose.  When she called for medical help, she initially claimed that Lisa had choked on food and her bruises had come from falling while skating.  It was later determined that the child had been lying on the bathroom floor for at least ten hours before Nussbaum called for an ambulance.  

It's hard to believe that this fall, Lisa Steinberg will have been dead for thirty years.  I remember when this case was news, seeing Hedda Nussbaum's tired, defeated face in magazines and on television.  Nussbaum's plight brought new attention to "battered women's syndrome" and domestic violence.  I also remember seeing Lisa's picture.  She was tiny, unkempt, and looked so scared and traumatized.  How awful it is that her short life was filled with so much trauma.

The details of this case are shocking and depressing.  It's hard to believe this couple was so easily hidden behind the veneer of respectability.  And yet the two innocent kids illegally adopted by them were living in filth and regularly being subjected to Steinberg's monstrous abuse.  I really think it's too bad Steinberg was released from prison.  At least Mitchell, now known by a different name, was able to escape Lisa's fate.  I read that in 2004, around the time Mr. Steinberg was released from prison, he was headed for college.



Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hand-me-downs...


I was so blonde in 1979!

My mom sent me a birthday card.  In it, was a Valentine's Day "card" I made for one of my dad's old Air Force buddies.  I drew it in blue ink on legal paper, which is now faded.  I can't say much for my artistic talents or handwriting... or even my spelling.  But I did glue the above picture to the "card" and my dad's buddy kept it all these years.  When my mom went to visit him and his wife, they gave it to her and she sent it to me for my birthday.  

In the picture above, I was seven years old and sported quite the bowl cut.  Back in those days, Dorothy Hamill's hair was all the rage.  I actually hated my hair like this, but my mom made me get my hair cut short.  Looks like I'm missing my front teeth, too.

I see I'm wearing a dress that belonged to my neighbor, Sarah, who lived next door to me when I was six and seven years old.  Sarah is Canadian and now lives in British Columbia.  A few years ago, I found her on Facebook and we reconnected.  I remember when I was a kid, I inherited a bunch of clothes that belonged to her, including one of her old swim team bathing suits.  I remember it was a red tank suit with white racing stripes down the sides.

Sarah's clothes were probably my only "hand-me-downs" because my sisters are so much older than me.  When I was born in 1972, they were 8, 11, and 13 years old.  So even though I was the youngest kid, I got most of my own clothes.  Some of my clothes ended up in my cousin's closet.  She grew up to be a lot taller than I am, though.  




As you can see, I really liked Dave a lot!

It doesn't seem like it was that long ago that I was seven.  Now I'm a lot older than seven.  Time really flies.  It's funny to see this innocent side of me now.  


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I lied...

Yesterday, I promised that today's topic would be lighter.  I totally meant to write a lighter post today. But then I saw the footage of Philando Castile being shot while stopped for a routine traffic violation last summer.  Supposedly, Philando Castile also matched the description of someone who was wanted for a crime.  It turned my stomach.

One of my Facebook friends is a police officer and he has a lot of opinions.  I actually really like him although we often disagree.  I wasn't surprised when my friend defended Jeronimo Yanez for killing Philando Castile.  For some reason, the jury acquitted this police officer for his outrageous actions.  There must be some evidence that isn't being made public because from what I saw in the videos, that cop really fucked up badly.

Mr. Castile did have a weapon.  He did inform the officer that he had the weapon and he was licensed to carry it.  Seconds after Mr. Castile told the cop that he had a weapon, we hear Yanez shout at him not to reach for it as he simultaneously fires seven rounds into Mr. Castile, right in front of his little daughter.

Amazingly enough, Yanez justifies his actions with this beaut of a quote:

“I thought if he’s, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five-year-old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front-seat passenger doing the same thing then what, what care does he give about me?”

This so-called police officer was concerned about Castile's daughter's health because Castile was allegedly high on marijuana (which, I understand, doesn't tend to make people violent as a general rule).  So then he blows her father away with seven shots?  And she's sitting there watching it.  I wonder what kind of lasting damage witnessing that act of violence will do to that poor girl.

This video is clearly biased toward Mr. Castile and it's graphic.  


The girlfriend is obviously in more control than the so-called cop is.

And here is dashcam footage.


The cop totally freaks out.

Intellectually, I can understand that police officers have a difficult job and they put their lives on the line every day.  I still think this particular cop fell way short in what he was entrusted to do.  One of the things I like about living in Germany is that there's not as much violence here.  That includes the police.  Bill and I have witnessed them in action.  They do a lot of talking and de-escalating.  I'm sure that is mainly because most people don't own firearms.  To get a gun in this country, you have to undergo a lot of training and expense.  It takes time and effort.  This is certainly not the case in the United States.

I am generally all for showing respect to police officers.  But I must say, watching these videos made me feel outrage I don't often feel.  I think the jurors got it wrong.  I don't say Yanez went to the car intending to kill Castile, but he was clearly not in control and he made a fatal mistake.  He should be punished with more than just being fired.

I can hear the police officer is totally freaking.  He should be freaking.  He should be haunted by what he did for the rest of his days.  And we should all learn from this.    




Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review of Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz

Hello again!  I've just gotten back from our whirlwind long weekend in Belgium.  Today happens to be my 45th birthday.  I have spent all day in an aging SUV, hurtling down various high speed freeways and avoiding traffic jams as much as possible.  It was kind of hellish, trying to get back to Germany today.  However, as bad as today's journey was, it paled in comparison to the journey so many others took to and through Germany back in the 1940s.

I don't know why, but it seems like I always read about the Holocaust at this time of year.  I just recently read The Pharmacist, a book about an ethnic German Romanian pharmacist who was corrupted and became a Nazi.  A couple of days ago, I finished Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz (2013) by Shlomo Venezia (Venezia also includes an interesting commentary about why so many Jewish people have places as their last names).  This may seem like a very heavy topic to be writing about on my birthday, but I wanted to get my thoughts down before I forgot too much... although honestly, this book was so gripping that I'd be hard pressed to forget much about it.

I've read a lot of books about the Holocaust, but none that have quite the perspective that comes from Shlomo Venezia, an Italian Jew whose family was rounded up and deported from Athens, Greece and sent to Auschwitz.  Once they arrived, Venezia's mother and sisters disappeared, almost certainly gassed immediately.  In exchange for some extra bread, Shlomo Venezia agreed to be a member of the Sonderkommando.  He had no idea what he was signing up for when he agreed to this special duty; basically, it was his job to help remove the corpses from the gas chambers and burn them.

This book, written in interview style, covers what it was like for Venezia to carry out his grim duties. Although he had relative comfort compared to other prisoners, he was there to see fellow Jews sent into the gas chambers.  He heard their screams and saw what they looked like after they were murdered.  He watched his colleagues raid their bodies before they were dispatched to the crematoriums.  One guy lied about being a dentist and was tasked with removing gold teeth from the corpses.  He found the work relatively easy at first, but then it grew more difficult as the bodies stiffened.

There were times when Venezia would run into people he knew.  One time, an uncle grew too sick to work and was sent to the gas chamber.  Shlomo had the opportunity to talk to him before he died.  He reassured his uncle, knowing that he was lying, but trying to comfort him in his last moments.  He gave him an extra piece of bread.  And when he died, he and his colleagues were able to say a kaddish for him before he was cremated.

Venezia was also in a position to see some things that other survivors could not have seen.  He witnessed a baby that survived the gas chamber only to be shot in the neck by a Nazi.  He saw a mother and son evade the gas chamber for a couple of days, hiding in tall grass.  They were eventually found and murdered.  He saw some prisoners try to escape, unsuccessfully, of course.

As the war drew to an end, the members of the Sonderkommando became dangerous.  They had seen so much.  The SS wanted to exterminate them before they could reveal all they knew.  Venezia had to use his wits to escape the situation and survive so that he could tell the tale of the horrors of Auschwitz.  While it must be a living hell to have those memories, we are fortunate that he is able to share them with the world.  I think we still have a lot to learn from the horrors of the Holocaust.

I won't lie.  This book is pretty depressing and often shocking.  And yet, it's fascinating and unbelievable... unbelievable that I now happily live in the country that produced most of the monsters who were capable of such horrific acts.  One thing I have noticed about Germany, though, is that its citizens fully recognize what happened and are very ashamed of it.  I have had some interesting conversations with Germans in my two times living here and many times visiting.  I even met one guy who was a POW in the USA.  Still, even having had those conversations and read so many books, it's hard to even fathom the horrors that went on during World War II.

Shlomo Venezia's account is stark, unflinching, dispassionate... and it's often very depressing and horrifying.  I still think it's valuable reading.  We really do have a lot to learn from what happened in the 1940s, especially given what is going on in Washington, DC right now.

I highly recommend Inside the Gas Chambers.  Be prepared to be shocked at the cruelty people are capable of... and heartened by the smallest acts of kindness and humanity.

Tomorrow's post will be on a much lighter topic.  I promise!



    

Saturday, June 17, 2017

In Belgium!

It took all day to get to our present location of Alveringem.  I rented us a huge old house that dates from 1670.  The dogs were warmly welcomed after their long ride.  I awoke this morning to the smell of beer brewing and the sounds of chirping birds and hooting owls.  I hope to have some new travel posts up today or tomorrow, but for now, I just want to enjoy where we are.  This town isn't particularly notable-- at least that I know of.  I think I chose it because it's not far from the beach, Ghent, or Bruges.  

Still... as much as I can vegetate at home, I'm tempted to do it here, too.  While it's currently cool outside, this place has a swimming pond that is also home to two fish.  We may have to try it out.

I think it'll be nice turning 45 here.  I'm a little leery about July, since July often sucks.  But right now, it's June... and I'm sitting in a beautiful old house with good WiFi.  And we were even visited by a cute little critter.



Good thing the boys didn't see this bunny!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mormon girl, age 12, shares her testimony about being gay...

Edited to add:  Natually, the church leader who shut Savannah down is now complaining about his privacy.  And the guy who posted the video is getting threats of Mormon Hell for sharing this.

And, of course, she gets shut down.  I will give the leadership credit, though.  They let her say a lot before they excused her.


Way to go, Savannah.  You are very brave.

I have never been to a Mormon church service, so the constant din from babbling babies is a little strange for me.  At my church, parents put their very young kids in the nursery.  I used to help in the nursery, which I was glad to do if it got me out of a sermon.  In my church, we didn't have fast and testimony meetings.  People didn't get up and bare their souls.

I'm not sure what will happen to Savannah's testimony as the truth about Mormonism is revealed to her.  Perhaps she will stay in the church and try to change it.  Maybe she'll leave it.  I don't know.  I just wanted to publicly offer my support.  That is one very brave young lady and she deserves accolades for what she did.  She's bright and articulate and will go places, especially if she gives up the shackles of the LDS church.

I realize that recently I have some new readers.  I hope these words aren't too shocking for some of you.  For a long time, most of my readers were ex Mormons, who are only too happy to read what I have to say about the church.  My husband is an ex Mormon.  He's a wonderful guy, but was treated like shit by many church members when he and his abusive ex wife divorced.  Later, the church was used as a parental alienation tool.  The end result is that my husband is only now reconnecting with one of the two daughters he lost to divorce and the stupidity of Mormonism.  And sadly, we're not even certain that the daughter who contacted him is sincere.  

I don't like Mormonism.  But I must say it's awesome that Savannah had the opportunity to say what she said.  They should have let her finish, but I'm very impressed that they let her get as far as they did.  I am guessing it was sheer shock, but I'd like to think some progress has been made.  And it will have to be made if the church expects to survive.

Bravo, Savannah!  I hope you get all you dream of and more.  And, if you are as smart as you seem, you won't let a manmade creation like a church tell you whom you should love.  

Incidentally, this is not the first time a Mormon has been publicly silenced.  Behold... a guy who speaks out about Prop 8.


Again... the Mormons don't want to support gay marriage.  And they don't like to be criticized.




Racist white people who lack empathy...

Last night, I watched a movie I hadn't seen in probably thirty years or more.  The film was called Carbon Copy.  It was released in 1981 and starred George Segal and Susan St. James.  It also featured a young and talented Denzel Washington, who was making his film debut.  I used to watch that movie on HBO all the time when I was a kid, though I didn't understand it as well back then as I do today.


A trailer for the film, Carbon Copy...

I was moved to purchase Carbon Copy because it had a very catchy theme song that I got stuck in my head.  With music by Bill Conti and lyrics by Paul Williams, the bouncy tune was definitely an ear worm, if not a bit dated.  Having watched the film last night, I can honestly say I enjoyed it.  It's basically a satirical look at racist white people and the stupid things they say and do.

The story begins with Walter Whitney (Segal) in bed with his frigid wife, Vivian (St. James).  She's not into him and he's frustrated.  He gets out of bed and we immediately see that he lives in a fabulous mansion in fictional San Marino, California.  Whitney is a wealthy ad executive and has all the trappings of success.  He has a pretty wife, a beautiful home, a well-paying job.  But money doesn't buy everything.

Walter's wife is a snob.  His stepdaughter, whom he apparently adopted, treats him with contempt.  His father-in-law is his boss and treats him with condescension.  Even his job was handed to him with strings attached.

One day, Walter gets a blast from the past.  A young black guy named Roger Porter (Washington) shows up at his office asking for him.  He mentions that he's the son of Lorraine.  Lorraine is a dear friend of Walter's, though he hadn't seen her in many years.  Walter's face lights up at the mention of her name.  He asks his secretary to send Roger in for a visit.  Roger comes in, parks his ass at Walter's desk and drops a bomb on him.  He's actually Walter's son!

At first, Walter doesn't believe him.  I wouldn't believe him, either, since Roger/Denzel doesn't look like he's biracial; but hey-- it's the movies, right?  Roger then convinces Walter than he is his long lost  17 year old son and his mother has just died.  Walter, being somewhat decent, decides he has to help Roger.  He brings him home after pitching the idea of hosting a black kid to his racist wife.

Both Walter and Vivian are extremely ignorant, condescending, and racist to the point of ridiculousness.  They wrongly assume Roger is a high school dropout who has no idea how civilized people live.  They serve him fried chicken and tell him he'll be attending the Presbyterian church, even though Roger says he's a Baptist.  They force him to stay in the garage instead of their home.

Then, when Walter and Vivian have an argument, Walter tells his wife he's really Roger's dad.  Vivian's reaction is extreme, to the point of needing a doctor and a minister.  In short order, Walter finds himself tossed out on the street with his son.  He's abandoned by his friends, his family, even his doctor, lawyer, and minister.

Walter and Roger move into a cheap motel, then a crappy apartment and Roger soon finds himself shoveling horse shit.  As he's knocked off his powerful white station in life, Walter supposedly learns something about what it's like to be black.  He realizes that his former life was a very fragile sham-- an illusion of decency and decorum.  Walter develops empathy and appreciation for his son.  He rejects his shallow existence and becomes a much better person.


Funny scene about assumptions some white people make about black people...

Carbon Copy is kind of a silly movie and it makes its points with over the top gags that require viewers to suspend their disbelief.  There were parts of the movie that were actually a little offensive to me today, although they probably wouldn't have been in the less politically correct early 80s.  And yet, after yesterday's post, I realize that it was kind of appropriate that I was watching that movie.  I realized that many white people still have a long way to go.

Yesterday, because I was curious about "Margaret", my very first roommate at Longwood College, I went into obsessed fan mode and looked up her brother.  I wondered if he was anything like her.  Granted, almost 27 years have passed since I was last in the same room with Margaret.  For all I know, she may have evolved into a decent person.  Still, her behavior in 1990 was very strange, even for a stupid 18 year old.  I went looking to find out if Margaret's brother-- also adopted-- was as big of an asshole as his sister was.

Looking at his Facebook page and the page made for their father's business, I can see that Margaret's brother works for their father.  He's got a bunch of public stuff on his Facebook page.  Some of it's fairly innocuous.  Like, for instance, I learned that Margaret's brother-- let's call him Chip-- is a proud father of four.  He's happily married and a Christian.  He loves being Southern and living in the South.

I also learned that Chip is a firm believer in Donald Trump's genius.  He thinks that transgendered people should be forced to use the bathroom corresponding to their genitalia.  He obviously considers himself a "gentleman" and promotes attitudes reflecting conservative values.  He's probably pretty sexist, too.

Further down the page, I find the following...



This one in particular struck me as idiotic...


Chip expresses some very ignorant and rather offensive views about the Civil War and the Confederacy.  I can see that he's clearly very proud of his Southern heritage and he's against the recent moves to get rid of Confederate war memorials.

Having lived in South Carolina myself, at a time when the stars and bars were still flying over the South Carolina Statehouse, I can see where these opinions formed.  To be honest, I am not a fan of trying to whitewash history.  The fact is, there was a Civil War.  The South lost, but that doesn't mean there weren't great leaders from the Confederacy.  Should we still be publicly celebrating them in 2017?  Perhaps not.  But I can understand why some Southerners want to hang onto their memorials, even if I don't agree with them.  They do have a right to their opinions, ignorant as I might think they are.

On the other hand, the Civil War has been over for a long time.  The South is a part of the United States, not an entity unto itself.  And while I'm sure Chip is "nice" to black people he sees face to face, I have a feeling that deep down, he's quite racist.  Maybe that doesn't matter to him.  Since I don't know him, I can only base an opinion on what I can see in the messages he broadcasts publicly on social media.

I read that Chip's father served on some board at UVa. that celebrates diversity.  He also served as a Peace Corps Country Director in Jamaica.  How does that jibe with his son's evidently racist views?  These attitudes don't form in a vacuum.  

I read up on Chip's mother, evidently a woman very proud of her Greek heritage.  She and her husband met on a blind date when she was working for Senator Strom Thurmond.  I happened to be living in South Carolina at the tail end of Thurmond's time in the South Carolina legislature.  Although he was much celebrated in South Carolina, Mr. Thurmond had some pretty racist views, especially in his early political days.  If Chip's mom worked for Mr. Thurmond in the 60s, she probably has some racist ideas, too.  I know that racist ideas often die hard, especially in older people.  On the other hand, maybe she's evolved.  Based on her Facebook page, which also celebrates Donald Trump, I doubt it.  



According to Wikipedia:

During his 1948 campaign, Thurmond said the following in a speech, being met with loud cheers by the assembled supporters: listen (help·info)

I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there’s not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Negro race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.[6]


There was a time when Chip's views weren't that strange to me.  I grew up in Virginia, which despite being geographically pretty far north, is a very Southern state.  I spent time with people like Chip, although I don't think most of the people I hung around with regularly were quite as drunk on the southern pride Kool-Aid as Chip appears to be.  But his attitudes are not unfamiliar to me.  When I was younger, I probably even agreed with them to some extent.  Then I left the country a few times and started getting to know people from other places.  My opinions began to change, hopefully for the better.  I like to think I have a broader mind now than I did twenty years ago, although I'm sure I still have a ways to go.  

It's funny that a silly comedy like Carbon Copy, which was made 36 years ago, is still relevant today. If you watch the film, you can see that it goes to extremes.  Walter Whitney tells his wife he's the father of a black son and, just like that, he gets ousted from his cushy lifestyle.  We all know that it wouldn't actually happen that way.  In reality, Walter's downfall would probably be a bit more like Dan Aykroyd's was in Trading Places, a 1983 film also starring Eddie Murphy.

Trading Places' plot was somewhat like that of Carbon Copy's.  Basically, a rich white guy gets knocked off his pedestal by a black guy.  He ends up living in a way he never thought he would, while the formerly broke black guy takes his place.  It's not quite the same execution, but the message is similar.  Many people have a lot to learn about empathy.  


Trading Places trailer.

Anyway, if you haven't seen Carbon Copy, I'd recommend it.  It's a bit dated and kind of silly, but it does drive home a point that is still valid over 35 years later.  And then, when you're done watching Carbon Copy, you can watch Trading Places, which was a more famous and successful film about the same thing.

As for Margaret and her dysfunctional clan, I think I'm done peeking into their lives.  My curiosity is now satisfied, probably for at least another 27 years.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Whatever became of Margaret, my worst ever roommate?


Longwood College penant... it's now Longwood University!

Sometimes, when I get bored, I go into "obsessed fan" mode myself.  For some reason, last night I decided to look up my very first roommate at Longwood College.  After some determined sleuthing, I found her.  Apologies in advance, because this is going to be a long post.

I mentioned this ex roommate a few years ago, when I discovered that my final college roommate, Latissia, had died of a heart ailment.  It was probably because of my experience with my first ex roommate that Latissia and I lived together.  Latissia had decided to move on campus because she could no longer afford to pay rent off campus.  She ran into a bunch of rejections by potential roommates on campus.  She claimed it was because she was black.  For all I know, that very well may have been the case.  Racism is still alive and well in Virginia.

Truth be told, I didn't want a roommate for my final semester in school.  I like living alone (or with Bill).  But thanks to ex roommate #1, a hideous woman I'll call Margaret, I relented and agreed to live with Latissia.  That turned out to be a good decision.  Latissia was a nice person and a considerate roommate.  I'm sorry she died so young.  She may have had heart disease, but she also had a big heart.

I distinctly remember my very first day at Longwood College.  It was August 1990.  I had talked to Margaret on the phone.  She was coming from Charlottesville, although she had graduated from a private boarding school in Richmond.  Her parents were wealthy.  She and her brother had both been adopted by their attractive and well connected parents.  Margaret's father had graduated from the University of Virginia and had grown up in Charlottesville.  Margaret told me all of this during our first communication, in between asking me what appliances I intended to bring with me and letting me know that she was bringing a 25 inch TV, a fridge, and a microwave.  I also learned that Margaret is exactly 15 days older than me.  That's probably why we got paired by the housing office.

We were assigned a room in Frazer Hall.  At that time, most freshmen were being housed three to a room because Longwood was short on dormitory space.  For some reason, Margaret and I did not have a third roommate.  Frazer was, in 1990, the newest dorm at Longwood.  It had been constructed in 1970 or so and was air conditioned.  Next to it was an identical high rise building called Curry.  Because Virginia summers are insanely hot, in 1990, it was considered a good thing to get to live in Frazer.  More dorms and apartments have since been built at Longwood.  It's probably downright cushy now.

So there I was in August 1990.  I opened the door to my dorm room.  There was Margaret.  She was about 5'10" and morbidly obese.  Besides being very large, Margaret wore braces.  She had frizzy dark hair that had been bleached and badly needed a touch up.  It was pushed back from her face with a padded hairband.  I remember my mouth dropped open at the sight of her.  I know it's unkind to write this, but given the way she ultimately treated me, I think it's fair.  She was downright ugly, both inside and out.

Margaret had already claimed the bed in the corner of the room.  I took the bottom of the bunk bed.  I had brought a horse blanket that I won in 1988 and draped it over the vacant top bed, so I had a makeshift curtain.  Margaret had also put her huge TV on my dresser.

At first, Margaret was nice to me.  She liked James Taylor, as do I.  She had what was then Taylor's latest album, Never Die Young.  I distinctly remember her playing it, followed by "I Shot the Sheriff" by Bob Marley.  To this day, when I hear songs from Never Die Young, I think of Margaret.  Strangely enough, I like that album despite the negative connection with my least favorite roommate.  

I remember we sat around and chatted a bit.  It seemed like we would get along.  She told me that her mother had just spent a couple thousand dollars on her wardrobe.  I remember thinking the clothes weren't all that special-- certainly not a couple thousand dollars worth.  Perhaps the money went toward the sheer volume of fabric required to make them.  I don't know.  Margaret also told me that she'd been hospitalized for some reason and that had cost her parents a lot of money.  But, she added, they had plenty of money, so it was no problem.  Money, it seemed, was Margaret's main contribution to any relationship.  Money, and food, that is.  Later, when I said I didn't feel like going to the dining hall, Margaret said we should go because that was our dinner.  Then, I'm pretty sure she ordered a pizza.

On that first day, Margaret told me she had traveled a lot as a child and wanted to spend her life traveling.  She was majoring in political science.  Her dad worked a lot in Columbia, South Carolina and had a home there, as well as in Charlottesville.  Margaret had also been accepted into the University of South Carolina.  She had decided on Longwood because, according to her, "Anyone can get into USC."  Then, she said she'd like to go to the University of Virginia, but was willing to "fall in love with Longwood."  Funny that I eventually went on to earn two master's degrees at USC.

In 1990, all new freshmen at Longwood had to take a class called Longwood Seminar.  Freshmen still have to take it today; it was a college orientation course that had been introduced in 1987.  In 1990, Longwood was still a very residential school and most students, even the seniors, lived in dorms on campus.  Most people got to know their roommates and hallmates pretty well.  By the time I finished college at Longwood, I knew most of my classmates.

Longwood Seminar sections were divided by residence halls or, if you were a commuter, you'd go to a section with commuters.  Everyone in my Seminar class was from 9th floor Frazer.  Margaret and I were in the same section.  There was another woman in our Seminar group I'll call Marie.  Appearance wise, Marie was everything Margaret was not.  Tall and slim, she had big brown eyes, adorable dimples, porcelain skin, a giggly Marilyn Monroe-ish voice, and beautiful strawberry blonde hair.  I remember she was striking, very friendly, and popular with the men.  She lived across the hall from us with two roommates.

Somehow, in the very first couple of days of our college careers, Margaret and Marie befriended each other.  Marie was suddenly inviting her new bestie, Margaret, to attend fraternity parties with her.  I stayed alone in the dorm room and went to bed early.  One night during our very first week of school, Margaret and Marie went to a frat floor (we had one in Frazer) and stayed out until about 3:00am.  They barged into the dorm room, turned on the overhead light, and very rudely and unapologetically woke me up.

Although it would have been wise for Marie to go back to her room for some sleep, it became clear that these two bitches intended to stay up and party some more, even though we had classes in the morning.  Later that day, Margaret boldly proposed that I move out of our room and into Marie's, so Marie could room with Margaret.  I remember being absolutely floored at her nerve, expecting me to move out just days after I'd moved into a room that was rightfully as much mine as it was hers.

Naturally, Marie's two roommates also didn't want me moving in with them because, like all of us, they were in a room that had originally been intended for two.  If Marie was moving out, they wanted the room to themselves.  I can't blame them for that.

I remember chatting with the peer advisor on our floor, a nice girl I'll call Samantha.  Samantha's job was to help freshmen settle into college life.  She tried to smooth things over between Margaret and me, but it became very clear that our rooming situation was not going to work.  Margaret wanted to live with Marie and had made it very plain that she expected me to leave.  If I didn't leave, the two of them were going to make it their mission to make me miserable.  I remember Marie made some crack about my dated tastes in music, then very frankly told me how much her twat itched.  I couldn't help thinking that her itching was probably due to her extracurricular activities on the frat floors.

Days into my college career, I went to the housing office, which was overwhelmed with trying to deal with all of the new students.  I explained the situation and they told me I should try to stick it out with Margaret.  I don't remember exactly what I said because it seems to me that it was a policy that freshmen weren't allowed to switch rooms so early in the year.  I probably cried.  I cried easily in those days and I was definitely frustrated and overwhelmed by the situation.

The housing people gave me a list of names of upperclassmen in dorms who didn't have roommates.  They told me I needed to go see if one of them would let me move in with them.  There I was, my first week of college, knocking on doors.  Naturally, none of them wanted me living with them.  I distinctly remember one woman I talked to, a pretty black woman who lived in Curry, telling me honestly, but somewhat kindly, that she didn't want a roommate.  But, unlike the others, who wouldn't even deign to talk to me, she did say that if I couldn't find anyone to live with, I could come back and we'd discuss it.  Of course, having been told to my face that I wasn't welcome, I didn't relish the idea of crawling back and begging to be allowed the dorm space that my parents had paid for.

I went back to the housing office and explained that none of the people on the list wanted to share a room with me.  They said quite firmly that those people were going to have roommates eventually, which gave me small comfort, but still didn't solve my problem.

Then, after a little searching through their files, the housing officer said I could move to the second floor in Tabb Hall.  Tabb was considered one of the "worst" dorms.  It was not air conditioned and had communal bathrooms.  Because of the bathrooms, everyone on that floor was female, while there were guys living on the first floor.  I wasn't too thrilled to move to Tabb, but the housing people did tell me the room I was getting was vacant.  The woman who had been living there had applied to move to another room and supposedly had left.

So, that weekend, the residence education coordinator (REC), an affable guy I'll call Joe, helped me move my stuff out of Frazer and into Tabb, which was across campus.  When Joe got a look at Margaret, he asked me "Was that your roommate?"

"Yes." I said glumly.

Then he said, "Wow.  A little bit of her goes a looong way."

That comment cracked me up!  Twenty-seven years later, I still haven't forgotten it.  Joe later nominated me for some leadership training in Virginia Beach that I unwisely passed on taking.  I'm not sure why he nominated me, but for some reason, he liked me.  I probably should have taken the training.  Maybe my ultimate fate as the Overeducated Housewife might have been changed.

Anyway, I opened the door to my new room, which was smaller and less modern than the one in Frazer.  I was puzzled, though, because the person who was supposed to have moved out clearly had not.  She had gone home for the weekend, though.

I looked on the wall, where she'd taped her schedule.  To my shock, her name was also "Margaret" (not her real name), although she spelled it differently and went by Maggy.  She also had the same last name as the first Margaret, although they had different middle names.  I remember thinking that was a freaky coincidence.

Sunday evening, Maggy came back to find me sitting there in the room she had previously occupied alone.  Although I know she wasn't thrilled with the situation, Maggy made the best of it.  Like Marie, Maggy was physically everything Margaret was not.  She was thin and very attractive, a second semester freshman from Chesterfield who had designs on joining a sorority.  Maggy also smoked.  But unlike Margaret and Marie, Maggy was not mean to me and even hung out with me at times.  Once, she and one of her pledge sisters even took me to her house in Chesterfield.  We were not best friends, but we were mostly civil to each other until we parted ways.  

Maggy joined one of the most popular sororities on campus and her time was taken up with her Greek activities and hanging out with her boyfriend.  Because of her popularity and activities, I pretty much enjoyed a room to myself that fall.  Then, during the Christmas break, Maggy moved into Stubbs, which was the sorority dorm.  She left her crappy black and white TV, which she later tried to reclaim the following year, but never actually picked up.  No one else moved in during the spring, so I had my own room.

As for Margaret, I soon noticed that she stopped attending our Longwood Seminar class, as did Marie.  I later heard that they were constantly partying and had basically given Longwood the finger. A few weeks later, my parents and one of my sisters came to visit me for parents' weekend.  We happened to pass Margaret.  I had told my sister all about her, so when she saw her, my sister immediately recognized her by my description.  She elbowed me and whispered, "Oh my God... is that her?"

I nodded affirmatively.

"She's disgusting!" my sister said.  "And even if she wasn't huge, she'd still be ugly.  I mean, if you lost some weight, you'd be really cute.  Losing weight would not make her look better."

I make no apologies for my sisters' unkind and very frank observations about Margaret and me.  I mean, yes, I know it was a mean thing to say, but what she said was truthful.  Margaret was not only physically unattractive, she was also an unpleasant, inconsiderate, and very entitled person.  She did not have inner beauty to compensate for her hideous appearance.  Moreover, my sister wears a size two and is unabashed about fat shaming.  She's done it to me my whole life.

Margaret eventually left school-- I'm not sure if she was gone after the fall semester.  I later heard from our peer advisor, Samantha, that she had gone back to Charlottesville and attended community college.  Then, after a semester or two, Samantha claimed Margaret's father got her a spot at UVa.  I remember thinking that was pretty shitty since she had pretty much flunked out of our less prestigious school and UVa's standards were supposedly very high.  I do know that Margaret's dad contributed a lot of money to UVa.  It's possible they altered the standards for her.  On the other hand, maybe she just led Samantha to believe she was going there.  I don't know.

I also heard from my former suitemate that they'd all hated living with Margaret because she was very inconsiderate and evidently smelled bad.  The former suitemate, a very snooty sorority girl who sang with me in the college's Camerata Singers, also told me that she hadn't liked me, either.  Fortunately, she only had to deal with living with me for a few days.  After she made that comment, I couldn't help laughing to myself that she'd been stuck with Margaret and Marie.  I also never spoke to her again.

Last night, I got curious about whatever became of Margaret and Marie.  I went looking for both of them and managed to find them.  I learned that Margaret now lives in Dublin, Ireland.  It appears that she often works from home in a three bedroom apartment.  It looks like she currently isn't married and doesn't have any kids.  It's possible that she has at least one ex husband, though I can't confirm it (and don't really care, except to pity the poor guy).  I have seen her listed by at least two other last names.

Margaret's dad is apparently still wealthy and involved with UVa.  I see that his son, Margaret's adopted brother, works with their dad in Columbia, South Carolina.  He is married and has kids.  Amazingly enough, although it's very clear that Margaret's family is very pro-Republican, Margaret's dad was once a Peace Corps country director in Jamaica.  I was blown away by that realization, especially since I was a Peace Corps Volunteer myself and I am absolutely certain that Margaret would have never made it as a Volunteer.  Not only would the lifestyle have been too hard for her, she would not have been medically cleared due to her extreme weight issues.  But then, I also know that many country directors live in plush circumstances and sometimes those jobs are political.  My own Peace Corps Country Director lived and acted like a queen, even though she had twice been a Volunteer herself.

I also learned that Margaret's brother, despite having attended a posh boarding school in Albemarle County, Virginia, got his degree from Midlands Tech (basically a community college in Columbia).  Although I have nothing against Midlands Tech, I am kind of puzzled as to why he went there when his family obviously had the means and was image conscious enough to send him somewhere more notable.  Maybe it was his preference, though.

Looking closely at Margaret's recent pictures, it appears that she may have had weight loss surgery.  She is noticeably thinner than she used to be, but has the appearance of someone who lost a lot of weight very rapidly.  Although we are fifteen days apart in age, she looks a lot older than I do.  It also looks like she might be wearing a wig.  Her hair looks unnatural.  If she had weight loss surgery, that would make sense.  I know hair loss is one side effect of not getting enough protein, which often happens in people who have surgery to lose weight.  It's not that I would necessarily criticize her for having surgery, by the way.  She would have definitely been an appropriate candidate.  On the other hand, it's possible that she lost weight for another reason.  My guess is that she went under the knife, though.
  
I looked at old pictures Margaret had made public.  In her younger days, her mother was a very beautiful woman.  I remember her telling me that her mom was of Greek descent, although she was born and raised in the southern United States.  In the late 60s and early 70s, she definitely looked like a Greek goddess.  She was thin, exotic, and very elegant... again, not at all like Margaret.  I kind of wonder if maybe that was why Margaret and her brother went to boarding schools.  In fact, maybe that was why Margaret turned out to be so shitty.  Maybe her parents were disappointed in her.  I can relate to that to some degree.  Maybe Margaret was treated badly by her family and peers and that's why she was so unabashedly nasty to me.

My experience with Margaret and Marie definitely affected me.  When my final Longwood roommate, Latissia, came knocking on my door senior year, I decided not to give her a hard time about being my roommate.  She moved in and we ended up being pretty compatible.  It was actually a pleasure to know Latissia.  She was a good person with a kind heart.  Margaret, evidently, was not.

I see that as she had predicted, Margaret travels a lot, but it looks like she mostly does so alone to very expensive places in Europe.  Margaret and Marie (whom I also found last night) are clearly no longer besties.  Marie is still pretty, but it looks like she's had a few marriages.  She now lives in Ohio.  Curiously, I see that she both worked for a church (in sales of all things) and managing a bar.  I could see Marie managing bars, actually... and in a Jessica Hahn-ish sort of way, I could also see her working in a church.

As for me, I still have friends that I got to know while living in crummy Tabb Hall.  One of my best friends is a guy who lived on the first floor.  Twenty-seven years later, we're still good buddies.  When we were sophomores, first and second floor Tabb saved a hall in adjoining French Hall (which is no longer a dorm).  We all lived together sophomore year, which was also tumultuous due to my roommate(s) that year.  I doubt I would have made such good friends if I had stayed in Frazer.  There's something about having to share a bathroom that builds friendships.  In fact, I'd say that living in what was supposedly the "worst" dorm on campus probably turned out to be a coup.  I even grew to like Tabb for its convenient location and character.

It occurs to me that I might be sitting in prison today, because I might have been driven to kill Margaret.  She was an astonishingly rude and inconsiderate person who is likely abusive to her friends.  I am pretty saturated with abuse and I doubt I would have been able to stand it for long.  On the other hand, Virginia is a big death penalty state.  Maybe I wouldn't have gotten life.

Anyway... I suppose the point of this long-ass story is that things usually work out for the best.  It all turned out fine and this was probably the way it was supposed to be in the long run.  I'm glad I don't know Margaret anymore, although it's weird that our lives are kind of paralleled.  I hope our lives stay parallel and we never run into each other again.  The REC was right.  A little bit of her goes a looooong way.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Obsessed fan...

I used to be really hooked on The Sims franchise.  I got addicted to the original Sims at a time when I really needed to be focused on other things, like finding work.  But one day, I was in Best Buy or someplace like that.  I saw The Sims sitting there on the shelf and it looked intriguing.  I bought it and quickly got into it.  I bought every new expansion pack as soon as they were released.  With each expansion pack, my Sims could do more.

I think I especially enjoyed the Superstar expansion.  It was fun turning my Sims into stars.  But, as every celebrity knows, there's a dark side to being a star.  In the original Sims outfitted with the Superstar expansion pack, it was the "obsessed fan"...


There he is...

The obsessed fan would prowl lots, overturn trash cans, leave black roses, and just generally act like a nuisance.  Like a cockroach, the obsessed fan would survive any attempt at killing him.  You couldn't even kill him with fire.


He won't go away...

I don't pretend to be a "superstar" myself, but sometimes I get a taste of the obsessed fan on this blog.  I know my young blogging friend, Alexis, certainly has had her share of nuisance visitors.  Until recently, she had a male visitor who would leave strange comments on every post.  This guy, probably at least in his 50s, would make comments that ranged from being very bland and boring to borderline disturbing.  It got to the point at which Alexis's other readers became concerned about her welfare because her "fan" would make statements that were really creepy.  Alexis is a young, pretty, intelligent woman and Chuck was giving off stalker vibes.

I'm pretty sure Alexis still hears from her fan, but his comments no longer appear on her blog.  I'm actually glad of that, because I like reading Alexis's posts, but didn't like reading the obsessed fan's oddball comments.   I rarely interacted with him.  When I did, it was not in a nice way.  Like, for instance, one time he told me about how PETA thinks it's wrong for people to ride horses.  I told him to stop being ridiculous.

This blog has its share of lurkers.  I have many regular readers who never leave comments.  That's fine.  It's a little strange when someone finds my blog and reads the entire thing in one sitting.  That's happened a few times, though it's getting harder to do as I add more posts.  I do sometimes get the odd person who gets perturbed by something I write and hangs around for weeks, waiting for me to write something else upsetting.  Eventually, they get bored and move on.

Actually, the worst "obsessed fans" I ever dealt with were in the years I was in graduate school.  I used to write erotic fiction as a means of entertainment.  I had a number of regular readers, most of whom were normal, respectful, and nice.  In fact, I even married one of them.  But, every once in awhile, I'd attract someone who would not leave me alone.  I remember one guy asked me to quit grad school and move to Michigan.  He wanted to start a harem and already had at least one woman living with him.  This guy actually tried to recruit me to join his harem AND pay him rent for the privilege!  No thanks!  

There was another guy who got very upset when he asked to meet me and I demurred.  He sent me several panicked private messages, begging me to understand that he meant no harm.  If anything, the desperation of his messages made me feel more rattled than the initial suggestion.  I mean, given how new the Internet was at the time and the nature of how he found me, it didn't seem safe to meet the guy in person.  And I really wasn't interested, anyway.  I was simply writing fiction as a means of entertainment and sharing it for those who were similarly bored.

A third guy was a German from Cologne who was a committed submissive.  He wanted me to be his dominatrix.  I am not dominatrix material, but he thought I was.  He used to try to recruit me.  I found him very annoying, but I am basically a nice person and couldn't bring myself to go all Domme on him.  Actually, if I had done that, it probably would have made things a lot worse.  He was looking for a woman to degrade him.  I knew, though, that when he told me he had chosen his screen name because of the movie Howard the Duck, he wasn't someone who was going to ring my chimes.  I actually saw Howard the Duck in the movie theater with my dad.  It wasn't exactly an inspiring film.


Yeah... I had a "fan" who was also a fan of a terrible movie.

As far as I can tell, these days most of my readers are women.  But that doesn't mean I don't sometimes attract the odd "fan" among women, either.  A few years ago, I had a regular reader who was apparently schizophrenic and thought Ellen Degeneres was saying mean things to her through the TV.  She spent several weeks stalking my music blog and leaving bizarre and occasionally entertaining comments.  I'm pretty sure I attracted her when I wrote about Richard Carpenter, who was apparently another object of her obsessions.  I haven't heard from her in awhile.  I wonder how she's doing.  If I wanted to, I could probably find out.  She was an even more prolific blogger than I am.  She also has a presence on YouTube.

It's always interesting to find out who reads this stuff.  Most people never comment.  They read one or two posts and move on.  Actually, I like them better than the ones who read one or two posts and proceed to rip me a new asshole, especially since they don't usually understand the context of what they've read.  Most of the time, the people who get upset about one or two posts don't understand the big picture, yet think they do.  They usually don't like it when I respond to them because I'm either pretty quick to set them straight, or I make them the subject of a post.  Or, if they're lucky, I sing a song about them.

Then there are those who read obsessively and never comment.  I have a couple of those right now.  I watch who visits.  It always intrigues me.  Sometimes I know why they're here, but more often than not, I don't.  Either way, they increase traffic... which is not really a bad thing, I guess.  I don't do this for the money, though.  It's mainly something I do to stay sane...

Anyway... in a week, I will celebrate another birthday.  Bill and I are leaving town for the weekend to celebrate my final days of being 44.  I also have eight pounds of coffee sitting in German customs right now.  Thursday is a religious holiday, so the coffee will probably show up when we're not here.  I'll have to send Bill to pick it up in some office closer to where it is right now.  If we'd moved to Italy, this would not be an issue, but Germans love their taxes and imported coffee is one product that gets taxed.  I play by the rules and don't have it sent to my APO, because that is verboten.  So here I sit, waiting for my beans and knowing I'll have to pay a big duty.  Happy birthday to me.    


Monday, June 12, 2017

You don't buy a candy bar for the wrapper...

I have never been the type of woman who turns heads with my looks, even when I was young.  Since I'm getting older and fatter, I probably never will turn heads, at least not simply because of what I look like.  Should this make me sad?

Apparently, some women still base their self-worth on whether or not men notice them.  I read an incredibly airheaded article this morning by Eve Pollard, a British woman who evidently used to be quite attractive to men.  She's enjoyed a successful career in journalism and probably should be very pleased about that.  Sadly, it seems she's now "invisible" to men.  They don't notice her or wolf whistle at her anymore.  She's 71 years old.

In the article, there is a picture of Ms. Pollard.  She is still blessed with good looks.  At age 71, she still has a bright smile and dresses attractively.  I would never guess she's 71.  Would she turn heads at a construction site?  Probably not.  But who in the hell wants to be whistled at by a bunch of construction workers?

Ms. Pollard has been married for 38 years and she says he's still "interested".  If that's true, why does it matter if other men don't notice her?  Why are so many women so wedded to their appearances as a source of self-esteem?  Eve Pollard has what a lot of women would envy... a career, children, a loving husband, and at age 71, good health and looks.  Why did she feel the need to write about becoming "invisible" to men?  And why did I waste time reading such nonsense?

It's pitiful and pathetic.  I would have hoped someone of her advanced age would have matured at some point during those years.  I really enjoy Brits, but I've found that they are an awful lot like Americans in many ways.  And in some ways, they're even worse, especially when it comes to silly subjective bullshit like whether or not a person is considered "beautiful" as they age.

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post about a guy Bill and I met on a cruise.  He was from England and he seemed okay at first.  We chatted with him a bit.  It soon became clear that he's an asshole.  One night, I was in the piano bar singing to Bill.  We were the only ones in there besides the piano player.  The British chap walked in and his mouth dropped open.  Then he said, I kid you not, "Now I can see why you'd love her."

Really?  He must have seen the shocked expression on my face, because then he came over and hugged me.  It was very embarrassing.  In the first post I wrote about this subject, I went more into detail about that trip.  I don't want to do that again in this post, except to say that his comment was a reflection of an attitude a lot of men have...  really, a lot of people have... about women they don't think are "hot" enough to be out in public.  It's as if it's our duty to look good for them.

I can remember at least two occasions when I was in college-- and supposedly at my prettiest-- when guys who usually treated me like shit, actually complimented me on my looks.  One guy was someone I'd known in high school.  He used to get really drunk and manhandle girls.  I remember one of my hallmates was really tiny and this dude got very drunk and demanded that she go out with him.  He stood in the hall, absolutely plastered, screaming at her to pay attention to him.  He actually picked her up and tried to carry her off somewhere before another male friend intervened.

One night, I got dressed up, fixed my hair, and put on makeup.  Sadly, it was because I was meeting a guy, who ultimately didn't think I was "hot" enough, either.  Anyway, the perpetually drunk guy from my high school and college said to me, "Oh Jenny, you look 'E'!"  "E", for your edification, was a euphemism some of the guys I knew had come up for the term "eats"... as in, "That woman is 'good eats'."  The drunk dude actually meant this as a compliment.  And he said this to me after I had witnessed him getting piss drunk and carrying off women as if he was an out of control caveman overcome by lust and the women would actually enjoy this treatment.  How gross.

Another time, it was a big black guy who was in our choir.  He didn't like me.  He thought I was obnoxious and told me straight to my face that he thought I was "rude".  He didn't even really know me very well, but clearly thought I was too loud and opinionated and had no issues telling me so.  On a choral trip to New York City, we happened to go to the same Broadway show.  I had put on a really flattering navy blue dress.  I look good in blue.  I fixed my hair, wore jewelry, applied makeup, and wore matching navy heels.  And this guy, who generally had nothing good to say to me most of the time, said "Wow.  You actually look good tonight."  Really?  So the rest of the time, when I'm wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I look like warmed over shit?  And you feel entitled to say this to me without a shred of shame?  And you think I care about your opinion?

The funny thing is, it wasn't like this guy was a looker himself.  He was quite obese and bald.  He wore sweats all the time and actually sweated in them.  He had an ungracious personality and probably bad breath, to boot.  And, for some reason, he thought I'd care that he thought I looked good when I dressed up to go see a Broadway show and had the audacity to tell me so.

I do have a funny memory about this guy.  One time, we both attended a show at our college put on by a hypnotist.  He was called up on stage and apparently was very vulnerable to the powers of suggestion.  The hypnotist had him dancing to an unheard tune with wild abandon.  Later, it was very clear that the guy was embarrassed that we'd seen him being put under by the hypnotist, who had succeeded in making him act like a fool.  Serves him right.  

Listen...  when you're a college student going to a school where there is no strict dress code, you aren't necessarily going to want to dress up for class.  I remember when I was in school, I had to save up quarters so I could wash my clothes.  That meant I'd wear things that were easy to wash and dry... not pretty navy blue dresses that required dry cleaning.  Why would I want to wear heels if I have to walk to different buildings around campus to get to class?  I did that one day, fell down some steps, and ended up with torn panty hose, skinned knees, and a sprained ankle.  That was certainly attractive.

I get wanting to be pretty.  I just think if you're going to be pretty, you should do it for yourself, not for wolf whistles from horny, clueless men who have no idea what's inside of you.  I read a very wise comment on a different article yesterday.  It was written by a guy who, I'm sure, is a high quality specimen.  He wrote, "My granddaddy always said, 'You don't buy a candy bar for the wrapper.  You buy it for what's inside."  You know what?  He's absolutely right... unless, of course, you're diabetic.  Then you should probably buy celery.

I'm just glad I didn't settle for one of those guys who only wants a pretty wrapper.  My Bill is the only one whose wolf whistles I would ever care about.  And frankly, he's too classy to whistle at me, anyway.  This is a guy, who last week, when I tripped over a dog toy and temporarily stunned an ankle and skinned a knee, made a special trip to the store to buy me a compression wrap.  I didn't ask for it and ultimately didn't need it, but he valued me enough to think of what I might need and bought one for me anyway.  He would have wrapped my ankle personally, too.

Life is too short to spend a lot of time worrying about whether random people think you're "pretty".  What they think of you is probably none of your business.  I think I'm more attractive at almost 45 than I was at 25.  I don't look that much different now than I did back then and I'm a lot more together and less neurotic.  Enjoy your life... all stages of it... and fuck worrying about your looks when you're in your 70s.  The best people-- male or female-- are the ones who value what's on the inside and would rather buy a candy bar for the candy, rather than just the wrapper.  ;-)


Sunday, June 11, 2017

I'm becoming a crotchety old hag in my old age...

I've mostly eased up on my anti-Donald Trump rants.  Life goes on and ranting about him does nothing to help the situation, other than temporarily allowing me to feel a little better.  I did read a good article about Mr. Trump yesterday that I decided to share.  The article was entitled "Donald Trump is a Profoundly Incompetent President".  My comment was, "So let's fire the fucker."

Things were moving right along until yet another one of my esteemed family members piped up with this gem of a comment.

Lol..."diplomatic immunity"! As he was elected in a landslide victory there must be a reason. We are learning the "fake news" attempts are costing people their broadcasting careers. What a tragedy.

Okay, now.  Donald Trump was elected in a landslide victory?  Really?  I was tempted to write more, but decided to just focus on that little "alternative fact".  If he really was elected in a landslide victory, many Americans are even dumber than they seem.  So many Trump supporters seem hellbent on clinging to the idea that Donald Trump cares about them and their problems.  The truth is, Donald Trump wouldn't piss down their throats if they were on fire.  He simply doesn't care about anyone but himself and those who can promote his agenda.

A couple of friends commented and my cousin came back with more shit.  

I'm not here for an argument nor push buttons. I am not a thin skinned man and I have been told "I lack compassion", nothing can be farther from the truth. I do NOT agree with the GOP nor the standing Republican Party. I am a libertarian, I believe individual liberties and accountability are the foundation of our constitutional republic...(by the way, it's the ONLY one in the world as such...and a world leader). President Trump won the election fair and square; the recent testimony of James Comey is proof....many will continue to be "a denier".

Actually, I see this morning that he edited his original comment, adding more to it.  The tone of his comment set me on edge.  It was getting close to bedtime.  But, I commented anyway.

Thanks for that. I vote for people over parties. I have never felt so much bitter contempt for a president as I do Donald Trump. He is a total embarrassment.

And my cousin, being a southern, red-blooded, white male who apparently lacks a global perspective wrote this...

I'm not sure why you're embarrassed and knowing wouldn't change the fact he will make "bone head" statements and decisions...they all have. It turns out he's the first to have access to multiple social media mediums and it AMPLIFIES his obnoxious personality. I am a compassionate man. If we play all the cards on the table, I don't believe ANY of the past presidents have been "honest" to the level I prefer. The difference of opinion of all people is what makes our country unique and needs to be respected...I also feel the US Constitution framework must remain to prevent losing our national identity. That may be why I should be "the villain".

I see my cousin completely lacks perspective as to why a woman like me might find Trump repugnant.  So I wrote this...

I am embarrassed because Donald Trump is completely incompetent and he brags about grabbing women by the pussy. People here can't believe we elected Donald Trump. I can't, either. He has absolutely no business in the White House. If you can't understand that, there's not much more to say. And frankly, it's late and I am going to bed, anyway. If you respect Trump, that's up to you. I don't, and never will and no amount of discussion will ever change that. Good night.

You see, even if Mr. Trump won the election "fair and square", he's not suited for the job.  He's not even doing the job.  All I've seen him do is piss off a bunch of world leaders and worry people.  And, sorry, but no one who brags about sexually assaulting women should be allowed to serve in the White House.  I don't care if it was "locker room banter".  It demeans the dignity of the office and, frankly, it's criminal behavior.  

To be fair, I was also not a fan of Bill Clinton's for the very same reason.  Bill Clinton clearly has issues keeping his dick in his pants and disrespected the entire nation when he received oral pleasures from Monica Lewinksy in the Oval Office.  However, Mr. Clinton was at least a competent president and managed to rise from very humble beginnings to where he is today.  He'd had experience in government and was smart enough to know how it works.  He got things done and he had a wife who cared about her position as first lady and was smart enough to get things done.  I certainly did not care for Clinton's sexual shenanigans, especially on government property.  Anyone else doing that would have been fired, and for very good reason.  However, I can look back on the Clinton era and say that, for the most part, he and Mrs. Clinton actually worked.  Trump, on the other hand, spends his time golfing and got where he is due to another man's work.

I know my cousin and his Trump supporting ilk are not going to change their minds.  That's fine, since I won't be changing my mind, either.  I have noticed, though, that the Trump supporters seem to be emboldened lately.  I never considered myself much of a feminist and, at least in the past, have never felt too offended by males boldly asserting their opinions.  But the older I get, the less patience I have for overbearing, opinionated, mansplaining people, especially when they are males.  I used to sit by quietly when they spouted their opinions, but now I answer back.  And when I do, I find that a lot of them can't handle it.  More than a few of them probably think of me as a bitch.  I guess that's fine.  

You know... it really disturbs me that so many of my right winging friends are so quick to forgive Trump for his blatantly disgusting misogyny, gross incompetence, and lack of vision.  So many of these people are my family members.  I distinctly remember how disgusted they were by Bill Clinton and his penchant for curvy, dark haired women with talents for giving blowjobs.  My male Trump supporting relatives have wives, daughters, sisters, and female friends.  Do they really think it's okay that our president was caught on tape talking about molesting women and acting as if he was totally entitled because he's a "star"?  

My disdain for Trump has nothing to do with the fact that he's a Republican.  It's because he's a disgusting thug who lacks humanity and makes my skin crawl.  And yes, it's a total embarrassment that he is the president of my country.  He can't get out of office soon enough for me.  I have never said this about any other president, but it's how I feel about Trump.  And I'm sick and tired of people trying to defend or normalize him.  He's a bastard, plain and simple, and he needs to go.