Saturday, March 27, 2010

Know Your Skill Set!

Coming to you live from my hometown today. The historical site where I skinned my knees, wore my braces, and took my SATs. All painful experiences that might explain why I left. I'm here visiting my half-sister. She's fourteen (I'm rounding up on her behalf) and while I'm here to cheer her on in volleyball, I'll also try to start arming her for the battle that lies ahead. Because if there's a state of being more confusing than that of being a teen girl, I'd hate to see it.

I think the sparkliest jewel of wisdom I have to impart to her is always be yourself. Knowing who you are is of course an intregral part of this plan. Because becoming who you think someone wants you to be is a slippery slope. Most slopes are.

It may start with something as innocuous as professing to like Pepsi instead of Coke. Because that's what HE likes. But then the next thing you know you have to sacrifice seeing the new Sandra Bullock romantic comedy because you pretended to like action movies and now it's Saturday night and you're going to see Rebel Ninja Cowboy Soldier Bounty Hunters from the Eighth Realm of Destruction, Part 2.

And before you know it, you're a freshman in college and you meet a cute boy who mentions that he likes rollerblading and says, "Do you rollerblade?"

"Oh yeah, I love it!"

"We could go sometime. Friday?"

"Sounds great!"

Then cute college boy departs and you're left with forty-eight hours to A - come up with a pair of rollerblades and B - learn how to use them. You find a girl on your hall that has rollerblades, and in a stroke of semi-luck, they're only a half size too small. She lets you borrow them, but doesn't have time to give you a private lesson. But that's okay because how hard can it be? You rollerskated as a kid.

You find out exactly how hard it is when you're teetering around the student center with cute college boy and realize you have no innate sense of balance and in order to prevent breaking your face, you cushion your triple sow cow dismount by catching yourself with your hands and you sprain your wrist. (The left one, hypothetically.)

So, little sister, just tell him you like Coke and let the chips fall where they may!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Digressing Diatribe on a Great Discovery

A few weeks ago, I found an old friend from college using that most powerful of investigative tools: Facebook. It’s more than a small wonder that I did that, because when these social networking sites first started cropping up and catching on, I was an outspoken detractor of them. A hater, if you will. My thinking was that those sites were for tweens and teens (and adults that wished they still were one of those), and that communicating via internet was handicapping people’s true social skills. Like maybe someone is all outgoing and chatty, making friends easily on Facebook, but run into that same person at the theater and they can’t even piece together a full sentence or hold eye contact! And then there are those out there “reconnecting” with people that they never even spoke to in school and wouldn’t have even recognized if they sat by them on an airplane. My feeling is if we didn’t have anything to say to each other sixteen years ago, when we saw each other in study hall every day, we probably don’t now either. And I also firmly believe there is something to be said for not being able to revisit past mistakes in the form of ex-boyfriends and old frenemies.

But, after countless adult friends touted the wonders of Facebook, I eventually caved in. It’s no secret that I’ve never been one to resist peer pressure. And it’s no secret that I’ve often been the one doing the pressuring. (See Heather 1990-1999, for the best examples) And while I still believe some people abuse Facebook and it does lead to social retardation in others, I can admit when I’m wrong about something. I like that I can keep track of friends and more distant family members that I don’t live very close to and haven’t seen very often in the last decade, but still care about. I enjoy hearing about their adventures, seeing pictures of their children, and learning about their careers. I don’t need to know what they had for breakfast every day, but you have to take the good with the bad. And, I appreciate its usefulness in finding someone like my friend, who I hadn’t talked to in over ten years, but was very close to in college. Getting married, moving from state to state, and all around different directions of our lives led to us losing touch, but we shouldn’t have let that happen. I shouldn’t have let that happen with a lot of friends. And ten years ago, regretting we lost touch would have been the end of the story, but now it doesn’t have to be and I guess I have Facebook to thank for that. And it’s been helpful in directing people to this blog.

So, all that to say, I think Facebook was a great invention. It would help if people obeyed some basic rules, like don’t tell us what you ate for lunch unless it was something exciting like the ear off a live pig, married people shouldn’t friend anyone who has had their tongue in your mouth, you have to have one actual friend for every fifty you have on Facebook, and we could dial it back on the descriptions of your child’s vomit. I’m okay with knowing they did it; I just don’t want to know what menu items from their lunch were in there. Unless it was the pig’s ear.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Dose of Reality

Is there a way out of this “reality” mess we’ve gotten ourselves into? Not real reality. Not the reality of high unemployment rates, or the reality of the ongoing “war on terror”, or even the reality our collapsing social security and health care systems. I mean the Reality TV mess. The reality of Dancing With The Stars. Are so many stars forced into dancing because we no longer tune in to see them act? And I’m not anti-Reality TV, just wondering if maybe we’ve let things go too far when there’s a reality show of Tommy Lee Goes To College!

I think we can all agree on how this started. It started with the Mother of American Reality TV – Survivor. And just so you can see me straddling the fence (not barbed-wire, I hope) I will admit that I love Survivor. Sometimes. I can’t handle twenty straight seasons of anything, not even my own life. I didn’t watch Survivor from the beginning. I was skeptical. Not because I knew it would lead to Pimp My Ride and The Simple Life, but because I thought the casts of Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond were doing a great job. Why would I want to watch regular guys get progressively filthier while risking their lives when I could watch Dr. John Carter, played by the clean and handsome Noah Wyle, saving others’ lives? But at some point, feeling unfulfilled after Dr. Doug Ross’ disappearance from ER, I gave it a shot. And along with a few other Americans, I liked it.

But it didn’t stop there, did it? Suddenly, guys like Frasier and Ed had to call it a night because the world would rather watch carefully chosen idiots eat cockroaches, trade spaces, live in a house with a bunch of strangers, and not parent their own children. And maybe there was a need in American culture not being met before American Idol, but what was lacking that we needed full access to Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica or Ice Road Truckers? And why do housewives in Cleveland, Ohio need to watch housewives in New Jersey? ABC is already paying the ones on Wisteria Lane to entertain them.

The problem is more and more shows seem to be catering to niche markets, like Project Runway, Ghost Hunters, 19 and Counting! Let’s hope 19 and Counting is a niche market. And then there are reality shows that could help Americans, like The Biggest Loser or What Not to Wear. But I’m afraid that the majority of Americans aren’t watching for inspiration. They’re watching for entertainment, clothed in Wal-Mart tracksuits, and eating a sleeve of chocolate chips cookies as they do so.

Friday, March 19, 2010

March Madness!

Despite what you may believe, March Madness is not about Early Bird specials at Kohl’s or no interest financing from Ashley Furniture. I mean, it is about that, but not entirely. It’s also that time of year when males of all ages (and some enterprising females) around our great nation can assess their IQs by the gold standard of testing that is the College Basketball Playoff Bracket. There are office pools, online pools, family wagers of who will be responsible for all springtime automobile washing. The tournament is also known as the Big Dance, only it turns out Cinderella isn’t an understated, overworked beauty with crafty mice for friends, and instead is a bunch of corn-fed boys from a little known school in Kentucky or somewhere.

But, if you were to ask my mom about March Madness, she would tell you it’s when Jesse James, husband of Sandra Bullock, was reported to be cheating on the Oscar winner. I, of course, wasn’t aware of this national crisis until my mother showed up last night with a grieved look on her face and said, “Did you hear about Sandra Bullock?” And I thought, Oh no, Sandra Bullock died! That’s horrible! After pausing far too long, while I considered the tragic ways she had died and assured myself that certainly America’s sweetheart wasn’t involved in drugs, Mom says, “Jesse’s been cheating on her.” I suppose I looked relieved, because then Mom added, “Don’t you think that’s awful!” I had to confess that, “I thought you were gonna say she died, so I’m just glad she’s got her health.”

At this juncture, I have to point out the ridiculousness of discussing celebrities as if they are second cousins or neighbors who live down the block. But it’s not only my mother who is guilty. And, yes, I can admit my own periodic involvement in this misdemeanor. I can’t even begin to tell you how many conversations I overheard about our dear friends Jon and Kate Gosselin. But, the point is, I’m not sure a guy like Jesse James being an adulterer is newsworthy. If we have khaki pant, polo shirt wearing men like Tiger Woods creepin’, then what are the standards for biker guys who are divorced from adult film stars? My mom goes on to say, “How could he do that? Did you hear how she talked about him in her acceptance speeches during the awards season?” Because in Hollywood, nothing is more binding than heartfelt words during an acceptance speech? What about marriage vows? Don’t those count for something?

At the end of the news hour, after the upsets (noun not emotion) in the Big Dance have been announced and the list of the unfaithful has been rehashed, you might just hear something about the medical reform bill that is slated to be voted on this Sunday. Also, known as the “compromise” health care plan. Because when you’re talking about 940 BILLION dollars, it’s always a compromise!