with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: celebrity

On bullying, ball players and not defending mean as the status quo

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

I am not the sports expert, in a way that would make me understand the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito bullying scandal with the Miami Dolphins. The family expert would be my husband, a former high school soccer player and the decorator of our “Jersey Room” featuring the sartorial splendor of the Baltimore Ravens and Baltimore Orioles, as well as ┬áthe University of Maryland. I have never been in a professional locker room, or even a collegiate or high school one – the only thing I’ve ever done that qualifies as athletic is running, and that’s in the slowest sense of the word. The only locker room I’m in is at L.A. Fitness, and nobody’s trying to bully you as much as they want to get dressed and go home.

So let me be the first to say that no, I do not understand the intricacies of NFL culture, or the toughening that it takes to put yourself in the line of men who are trying to hurt you for hours, week after week. I can’t tell you what that does to you or what you have to tell yourself to throw yourself out there, because I couldn’t do it.

But I do understand bullying. And when people think that the fault lies with the people who “let themselves” be bullied and not the people who go out of their way to bully people, we have a serious problem.

In other words – if you’d stop bullying me, I wouldn’t have to stop you from bullying me. You have the choice not to bully me. So don’t. It’s that simple.

It happened to me in school, in different ways, several times, from bigger or more popular kids calling me ugly and ridiculing me in the hall because I was weird, to being called a racial slur every day for weeks by a middle school classmate who eventually pressed a stapler into my hand when the teacher left the room, to having a high school classmate (who happened to be a football player) sitting behind me for weeks, calling me “White Girl” because he said I acted white, and threatening to beat me up until I reported it and he was switched to another classroom. Most of the time, the system protected me. Sometimes I just sucked it up and walked faster. Maybe the kids who did that had emotional issues that propelled them. But it sure wasn’t my fault that they did it to me.

As an adult, I understand the factors that make kids mean to each other, and why kids who feel helpless might take that helplessness out on other kids who seem weaker – Jonathan Martin’s former high school coach has said it didn’t surprise him that such an eager to please, talented kid would be an easy target because he isn’t going to necessarily say anything.

So, yeah, maybe a grown man, particularly a big man who makes his living based on his physicality, should be able to say “Back off me.” Maybe he should be able to settle it himself. It seems crazy to take it. But if that guy is in an environment where the younger players are expected to take a certain amount of abuse that’s meant to be harmless, and he takes it for a while to get along, it’s harder to stop it when that crosses the line to extortion or possible threats and harassment. There are conflicting reports about how close Martin and Incognito may have been and how voice mails that appear to be threatening could have been taken out of context. We don’t know.

All we know is that there is obviously a culture that says “It’s OK to go a little rough” and then has problems setting limits, that some players feel comfortable forcing others to give them money, and those players not in power go along with it maybe thinking something worse will happen if they don’t. Do they have to be in that environment? No! And that’s why Martin left. He decided to remove himself, which is what a man – an adult – does. So why is he being called a wimp? He tried to take it and he couldn’t. Where are we as a culture that we look at this situation and say “Stay and be harassed?”

Here’s the things. Kids, and apparently adults, can be mean. And the more power they get, the more they know that no one is going to stop them, they can get meaner. Telling a victim, “Well, it could be worse, shut up about it” is the same twisted logic I was supposed to follow last week when someone stole the case off my phone but left the phone. Wasn’t it better than them stealing the phone? ┬áSure. But you know what would have been even spiffier? THEM NOT STEALING ANYTHING. It wasn’t OK .

Look, people are going to be mean to you sometimes. Life is not going to be fair. Crappy things are gonna happen and sometimes you have to suck it up. And hard things really do sometimes toughen you. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

The problem I have is when the status quo protects the thing that’s trying to kill you.

The Shark Tank of your mind: Are you in or out?

by SweetMidlife
How would you tell them what you’re worth?

I was making dinner in the other room, watching the pasta and making it sure it didn’t spill over and ruin my fancy pan, making sure the cat didn’t dart into the room and get scalded with her greedy people food-hunting self, and making sure my husband had something to eat that doesn’t resemble scorched ick.

In this room, I was watching a rerun of this kid completely talking his dream of putting bikini-designing software into malls into the ground, as the entrepreneurs of “Shark Tank” ripped him to shreds. This brave lad and his chum-colored aspirations were in the hands of people who just want to know how much money he was going to make them, and even if he got an offer – which he eventually did – the question he had to ask is how much those aspirations are worth.

What he was worth.

I love this show something fierce, not just because of the excitement of watching experienced business people and young shiny dreamers alike become instant millionaires, or in some cases, crashing and burning on a pyre of nerves, bad planning, worse presentation skills and sometimes fatal hubris, but because it makes me think about my own dreams and aspirations, and what they would be worth to investors.

I’m not sure what product I have to sell, other than myself – I would be the perfect spokeswoman, pundit, morning host and general dancing monkey for pretty much anything that isn’t immoral or fattening. I can also write, speak and dance a mean quickstep, given enough time and powerful enough Spanx. I’m funny and pithy and have a cute husband and a twin. I have cool hair.

I do not think that Mark Cuban and Daymond John are headed to my house right now to make me a cash offer to invest in me being me. But even imagining that this is a possibility gives me good practice for quantifying my worth, fiscally and otherwise. I have been at my current job for more than a decade, and when I negotiate my salary, which I am wont to do from time to time, it’s helpful to be prepared – What am I asking for? How can I prove that I am worth it? Is there a fixed number in my head, and am I willing to either come down off it, or be willing to give even more effort or time in exchange for my employer meeting it?

At the same time, I – and you – need to ask yourself that in your relationships, personal, professional and otherwise. Do I tell my current or potential partner verbally that I’m worth a lot but prove that I undervalue myself by letting them treat me badly? Is the price I pay for the expensive haircut too much for what the quality of the cut and the general foo-foo of the salon? Do I tell the stylist that it’s OK to treat me like a throw rug when they make me wait but I stay, pay and tip them anyway?

On “Shark Tank,” the negotiations last about six minutes, although I’ve been told they can last for hours. So we don’t see all the nuances, but we get the basics – what is being offered, what it’s going to cost both the entrepreneur and the investing Shark or Sharks, and whether they can agree. The ultimate test of the worth of the deal doesn’t come till much later, when it can be quantified whether either side made money.

But the risk, to me, is the important part. What is the entrepreneur willing to gamble or give up? What percentage of their business and profits? What amount of control? There are people who won’t agree until the Sharks promise not to, say, move production from Alabama to China, or who want their packaging to stay intact.

What is it worth to you? What are you worth to you, and to other people? And can you back it up and be proud of it?

Five Minute Friday: “View”

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!


“Meeting you with a view to a kill”…

Almost 30 years later, I know that those Duran Duran lyrics don’t really mean much beyond “We are the richest, most awesome and popular band of the day and we got asked to do the latest James Bond theme, and we’ve got to write the name of the movie into the song. It makes no sense, but then again ‘Union of The Snake’ and ‘The Reflex’ weren’t Shakespeare either, and that check cleared, so….Here’s your song!”

That song was sort of a wake-up for me, in that it was the first time I remember acknowledging that the things I was obsessed with were maybe really ridiculous, and still not caring. There is a 13-year-old girl trait that means that you take everything seriously and I took Duran Duran way seriously, arguing the brilliance of their hair, their global, racy videos and the words that sounded glamorous to me, mostly because they came out the mouths of really hot guys.

But the first time I saw the video of “A View To A Kill,” where the band members were gleefully, cheesily running around the Eiffel Tower fake-chasing Roger Moore and Grace Jones around like they were in the movie, my competing thoughts were “They’re so hot!” and “This is really kinda stupid.” And I thought “Wait, I think something Duran Duran did is stupid? Do I still like them?”

And then I thought “It’s OK to like stupid stuff. And I don’t have to justify it. I can just like it.”

That’s a view to learn from.



“American Idol” judges – You don’t get to be over it.

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

Since I graduated from the University of Maryland 20 years ago (yikesy biscuits!) I have had four jobs – one of them a four-month gig selling hideous Gen-X grunge knockoffs at a mall, the other three at newspapers, including the one for which I currently work. At the previous three jobs, there inevitably came a moment where it was time to move on, because in each case I’d gotten a new position – which I’d applied for because it was just time to move on.

In all cases, I gave two weeks notice and then continued to come to work, as scheduled, until I turned in my ID card, turned off my computer for the last time and walked out the door. And in those two weeks, I continued to work as if I was not leaving, because I was still drawing a paycheck, and because it was not fair to the recipients of my work, whether they were readers or buyers of bad grunge fashion, to slack just because I was out of there.

In short, even if I was internally over my job, I never acted as if I were over it, because until the last word was typed, I still had a job.

Which brings me to Randy Jackson.

For some time, the lone original “American Idol” judge has been floating along on the strength of his production credits and that time he was in Journey, and the stream of many nonsense words that he uses to describe the performance he has just seen. Every once in a while he made some sense, which should not be shocking given his musical pedigree, but was nonetheless because of his seeming inability to just express a simple opinion in English. Or Spanish. Or even frigging Elvish.

Randy always sounded silly, but at least he seemed to be enthusiastic, even if it was enthusiasm that appeared to be directed by the Evil Emperor Nigel Lythgoe. But this season, especially since his announcement that he wouldn’t be returning next year, he’s seemed oddly disinterested in his critiques, as if he’s already mentally moved onto whatever thing he’s doing next and doesn’t have the time to be bothered.

Wrong. No. Nyet. I’m sorry, Mr. Jackson, are you for reallll?

I was making minimum wage pushing babydoll dresses and bike shorts on cool-obsessed teenagers, but I managed to act as if I gave a bleepity bloop. You are making millions of dollars to listen to people sing and act as if you care. Your job was easier. I don’t give a good happy if you’re over it. Candice Glover and Kree Harrison have worked very hard to get to the finals of “American Idol,” with the vocal demands, the scrutiny, having to sit there and listen to grown millionaires who are supposed to be talking to you take potshots at each other, and that time that the judges tried to convince the audience that competitors The Skinny Girls Angie and Amber were better than Candice and Kree, because they said so, even though their ears were like “Wait…what?”

And you owe it to them to feign some interest. Or – and this is a novel idea – actually having an interest. Since it’s your job and everything. Nicki Minaj, whose time on Idol is also reportedly at an end (Whoopie!!!!), once showed up more than 40 minutes into a live show because she was “stuck in traffic.” With the money she makes, there is no excuse for not making it through the same streets all the other judges, singers, producers, techs and musicians somehow braved. Unless she was being held captive by live monkeys or The Rock had to clear her path through a meteor shower that affected no one but her, there was no excuse not to be on time. Or early. It’s your job.

If I don’t show up to my job, I don’t expect to get paid. If I look bored , or yawn, or check my email while I’m supposed to be interviewing people, I should not get to have my job. And I don’t make Randy Jackson money. Doesn’t matter. If your job is too much for you, don’t have that job.

Apparently, Randy has reasons not to come back next year. Mazel Tov. But as he winds down his time on “Idol” tonight, he better be darned perky. That’s all I’m saying.

Happy SITS Day at Sweet Midlife! Serving up twin realness since 1971!

by SweetMidlife

Nancy the comic strip and a gypsy in a Holly Hobby turtleneck walk into a room. There is much cuteness and nothing much gets accomplished.

OK, so technically we haven’t been blogging that long. There were no blogs in 1971, and there certainly weren’t computers when we met, in a nice warm womb in Baltimore. But blogs are really just communication, and we, Lynne and Leslie, the twins who write this blog, have certainly always done that. It was probably something like “You’re taking up too much room in here,” which isn’t all that eloquent or blog-worthy.

But it was a start.

So here we are, nearly 42 years later, both married but living in different states. One’s a mom. One’s not (yet). One’s a teaching artist, the other a newspaper reporter. Both got married in their 39th year, barely escaping the Spinster Buzzer (which sounds like the legs of a rocking chair going over the tails of many cats.) We’re both kinda goofy, but have a lot to say about relationships, friendships, dirty dishes, reality stars who won’t show up, death, life and cheese.

Interestingly, this used to be a blog about being older brides, and we still talk about the state of relationships that bear the benefit of having (alleged) wisdom under our belts. But weddings are just the candy-covered frosting of the rest of your life, and that’s where we like to be. The cake’s the good part.

So come on in and hang out. Tell us what you think. Give us some advice. Encourage Lynne to finish that framed calendar thing she’s been trying to craft. Make Leslie go to boot camp. Tell us where the good cheese is.

And thanks for coming!

Feeling awesome Friday: Jimmy Cliff’s bright sunshiney day

by SweetMidlife


I had the honor of interviewing Mr. Jimmy Cliff, who I first became aware of at the age of 13 when I saw one of his videos on this ’80s PBS show called “Colorsounds.” Since then I have become an admirer of his music, his acting (“The Harder They Come”) and of his activism.

He’s appearing locally at the annual SunFest festival in West Palm, and gifted me with the most gracious and funny interview I’ve had in some time today. The song above is not the greatest thing he ever did – it’s great but there are others – and it makes me happy. So there.


Your thing of the day: A rock monkey dressed like Gadaffi

by SweetMidlife

Don’t ask why. Just enjoy.

I just got around to watching hair metal movie opus “Rock of Ages” on HBO while doing my Tae-Bo Boot Camp in my living room this morning, because I figured sweating to Poison and Def Leppard went well with Billy Blanks screaming at me for being fat (He didn’t say that, but it was implied.)

You probably haven’t seen “Rock of Ages” either, because apparently NO ONE did in the theater, and now that I’ve seen it on cable, I’m glad it just cost me the pennies it takes out of my cable bill. It’s crazy to me that a movie can suck, with all that hairspray, gleefully cheesy tunes and a ridiculously chiseled Tom Cruise in buttless chaps drinking bourbon in a fur coat that would make a Russian mob wife cry.

I think it’s that the movie took itself too seriously – it’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” people. Get over yourself.

The other thing is that most of us weren’t aware that the best actor in the thing, besides Cruise, was Mickey the baboon, who plays Hey Man, the personal monkey assistant/enforcer/sidekick of Cruise’s stoned-out rocker Stacee Jaxx. Apparently, Cruise thought Jaxx needed a monkey. I can’t argue with that.

But by the end of the movie, Hey Man has proven that we ALL need a monkey, particularly a monkey dressed like Gen. Muammar Gadaffi. I cannot tell you why this is happening, other than it occurs in a scene where Jaxx has come back to the club where he started to claim his proper place in rock, like a conqueror. So of course his monkey has to be dressed like he’s taking no guff…like a Libyan dictator.

Don’t think too much. Just enjoy.

Stuff going through my mind while working out: How can you be back when you were never here before?

by SweetMidlife
Seriously, I know him. I like him and he always remembers me. But his lyrics confused me while working out this morning and now it’s in my head. Seriously, I know him.

Thing running through Leslie’s head this morning while trying to dull the pain of a killer workout this morning and trying not to cry:

“‘Ice Ice Baby'” is a kick-butt gym song, but what did he mean ‘Ice is back with a brand new edition?’ That was his first song! Where was he back from? Rolling in his 5.0? You have to have been here before you’re back! What’s going on? And while I’m sweaty and insane and beginning to lose feeling in my arms, what the hey ho was with ‘Backstreet’s back?’ I know they were back from Europe, where they were more popular first than here at home, but why release a single subtitled ‘Backstreet’s Back’ when nobody ever missed you in the first place? I know I’m not the first person to ever ask this question, but I can’t breathe and I’m starting to see spots and stars and stripes and Sam the Eagle from ‘The Muppets’ and they’re all laughing at me because I now can’t remember the alphabet and my legs are mad at me for existing. But much love, Ice. Seriously. Much love. Also seriously…why can’t I breathe?”

Self-awareness is good: The ballad of Abi-Maria on “Survivor”

by SweetMidlife

There are a lot of things wrong with me – my car is messy. I fall asleep in my eyeliner. My timeliness record is so bad that I have sometimes shown up early for things and stunned people, because it was like seeing an elephant fly, as is THAT’S JUST NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN.

But there is one thing I pride myself on, and that is my sense of self-awareness. I have not always had this – My father once listened to a tale of something hideously obnoxious I’d done in my youth that I thought was so fricking clever at the time, and said “It’s hilarious to me that no one ever tried to shoot you.”

In my 40s, however, I try to always listen to my words and watch my actions and say “What does this look like to other people? Am I watching the faces and body language and really seeing how this is being received? Or am I letting my ‘Tell it like it is’ blind me from seeing that I look like a jerk?”

I have been reminded of this every Wednesday watching Abi-Maria, the so-called blunt Latina on “Survivor,” bully and paranoid her way through the competition until being voted off to the surprise of absolutely no one last night. I look back on Richard Hatch’s brilliant game play in Season 1, when this was all new and shocking, because his plan was to just be as obnoxious and ruthless as possible, all the while acknowledging and owning his ruthlessness. He didn’t whine about people not liking him, because he wasn’t playing to be liked. And he was smart enough to know he wasn’t going to be.

Abi-Maria, however, wanted to be liked – WAS STUNNED THAT SHE WAS NOT LIKED – all while she was berating people, turning on them, lying the most blatant, stupid and obvious lies ever, and basically making her presence toxic. She made an alliance the first day with RC, and agreed to share the clue to the whereabouts of the Immunity Idol, but found it on her own. But when scheming Pete, in order to break her alliance with RC, planted the clue in RC’s stuff, Abi freaked out on her and accused her of all sorts of biblical and medieval betrayal, when…and this is important…she had already technically betrayed RC by finding the Idol without her. When RC, who had never actually done anything, tried to reason with her, Abi refused to listen.

Her delusions about people’s loyalties, as well as her inability to see how she came off, made her deliciously watchable. My favorite part is when she blamed her tribemate’s dislike of her on her Latin directness. Girl, don’t blame your suckiness on your heritage. Blame it on your suckiness. She spent time plotting against everyone, for any reason, loudly and in their faces, and was then stunned when, say, one of those people didn’t include her in an reward. Why should he? You openly suck, yet can’t tell that other people can see you sucking.

During the tribal council, she let loose on that guy who didn’t bring her along on his award, Michael Skupin, calling him a moron, maybe because she felt that by making herself unlikeable, the others might want to bring her along with them to the finals thinking that no one would vote for her, giving them a clear shot to the money. What she had not considered was that she’s so repellent, they might want to give away a clear shot at a million dollars just to not have to deal with her. No her is better than a million dollars.

I would hope that Abi is watching this show now going “Geez, I was a jerk.” Everyone else knows it. But it’s more important that she does.

Yay middle-aged guys! Slow and steady wins “The Amazing Race”

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here with some yay!

I admit to being a somewhat self-focused rooter-for-er, which is not a word but which you totally understand. When I was little and there was, like, one black girl in every beauty pageant, I pulled for her. Or for Miss Maryland, since that’s where I was from. Or, as time went on, the highest-ranking girl who hailed from Maryland, Ohio, Florida or Pennsylvania, the states where I had lived. Or Arkansas, where my parents were, and which was like a second home.

Apparently these loyalties weren’t all that binding. But I had a pattern. A pattern-ish. Anyway, this scattershot logic has bled into my reality show viewing, where I will usually root for the minorities, be that racial, gender, national origin, sexual orientation or socio-economic, unless they’re jerks. I will not root for a jerk. This became a problem this season on my beloved “The Amazing Race” where one team initially seemed to hit all of my buttons – Natalie and Nadiya, Sri Lankan identical twin sisters who were loud, crazy, scrappy and super-close in that way you can only be with someone you’ve shared a womb with. I totally get that relationship, and since Lynne and I could never get cast on this show and do our own version of brown crazy twins, we felt The Twinnies were gonna be our spiritual doppelgangers. And since they were younger and fitter, they probably wouldn’t fall off anything like we would’ve.

Not so much. The Twinnies turned out to be completely un-self-aware, shifty, blithely homophobic thieves with appallingly bad game plans for people who can’t keep their mouths shut. They picked up money that another team had dropped and split it with someone else, which wasn’t actually illegal, but still shady and dishonest. They were obnoxious. I withdrew my twin love, and my brown people love, and my girl love, and my human being love. Was done.

And towards the end of the race, they had an incredibly dismissive and condescending way of referring to “Fabulous Beekman Boys” Josh and Brent, a couple whose adventures as gentleman goat farmers has garnered them a Cooking Channel show. They called them “The Gays,” which is not only ignorant but less than what I’d expect from people who’ve likely spent their lives being dismissively called “The Twins” or “The Sri Lankans” or “those brown girls.”

They also seemed to believe that – maybe because of their age, or their relative fitness level, or because they hadn’t won any other legs of the race, that the Beekmans were some sort of irritant hangers-on that they just now noticed were along, sucking up air from the more worthy competitors, including the Twinnies, young University of Texas couple Trey and Lexie, or charming Chippendales Jaymes and James. So they had no problem openly suggesting an alliance with the other groups within earshot of the Beekmans, and then telling them basically that they were waiting for them to lose, or get lost, or just disappear so that someone who deserved it got the million dollars, even though still being in the running means they deserved it. It was so much entitled claptrap that I wanted to scream.

So then I picked a side. The middle-aged underdog side. And it’s not about them being gay, or on TV. I came to love the Beekmans because they tried so hard. Because they loved and supported each other, even as they bickered. Because they stayed in an alliance with another, seemingly stronger team who were clearly using them as canon fodder, until it became no longer advantageous for the Beekmans, who had not forgotten that they were in a race and didn’t owe it to anybody to lose. And even though they felt bad about it, as human beings, they did what they had to do. They’re pluggers. They got tired. They got frustrated. But they kept running.

That’s what being this age does to you – you can either give up and assume that all the good stuff is for the younger ones, the hotter ones, the ones who don’t fall asleep on the couch at 7:30, or you can keep getting up, pack a heating pad and some Aleve, and say “Why not?” That’s something I live by. I saw them win and say that they wanted the money so that they could pay the mortgage on their farm so they could spend more time together, and that made sense – I am an old lady in love, and all of my wealth fantasies involve being able to be with my baby more. I completely get it. I get them.

And I’m glad they won. They probably needed a lot of Doan’s pills afterwards. But they were chilling with their money and their Doan’s, so that was probably OK.

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