with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: niceness

Old Person Poll: Is this parentally-cohabitating couple relatable or ridiculous?

by SweetMidlife
If you're living in someone else's house almost free, you better get to cleaning this, and the bathroom, and start dusting, and shut up about it.

If you’re living in someone else’s house almost free, you better get to cleaning this, and the bathroom, and start dusting, and shut up about it.

Leslie here! I have the day off, which gives me time to read stupid stuff other people are posting rather than work on my own novel, because doesn’t that make sense!

In my Web wandering I happened upon this XOJane “It Happened To Me” column by a young lady who, at 25, finds herself living with her boyfriend at his parents’ house. They’re “broke college grads” although it isn’t clear how much time has passed between now and college, and can’t find jobs lucrative enough to get their own place. So they’re enduring having to be really quiet during sex, and not being able to grope each other out in the hallway, and having to have the mom who lives there and pays the mortgage remind them to clean the bathroom.

Because it’s sad, you guys! If they didn’t live with his folks, they wouldn’t be able to pay their car payments.

And eat out at nice restaurants. And go on vacation. They’re practically living on the street! Can you imagine? They can’t help but spend their rent money on trips, because they’re Americans, you know?

Pardon me while I slap my eye out of my forehead because it rolled way up there and got stuck.

As many of the posters let this young lady know, many people, including both of the women who write this blog, have found themselves living with relatives in their young adult years – us, right after college – and find it sometimes a little hard to exert yourself as a grownup when you’re not making the house rules. And what those posters – and we – would have to say about it is this: Suck it up, save you cash and get the heck out as soon as you can, or thank the adults who own the house for their generosity, don’t eat out or go on vacay so you can either move out faster or pay even more rent, and then shut up about it.

Maybe that’s just me. What do you think?

 


The weird, friendly adventures of a black Christian lady looking for a Hanukkah menorah

by SweetMidlife
And behold, a menorah grows at Marshall's.

And behold, a menorah grows at Marshall’s.

“Happy Hanukkah!”

Over my shoulder as I (being Leslie) rush out of a fancy chain home decor store here in West Palm Beach, I hear the very sweet and apologetic clerk, who has just explained that her establishment is the latest on my crossed-off list of places that do not carry menorahs. This is my fifth Hanukkah season with my husband, who is Jewish, and the beautiful candle holder that his late mom got us for our wedding seems to have vanished in our last move, or in the ether, or with a tiny Jewish group of Borrowers who also seem to have stolen the mate to every one of his socks.

Because we already had one – or used to – I have never had to go shopping for a menorah before, and foolishly believed that in an area whose populace that no less an expert than Jason Alexander described as “a preponderance of Jews” would be a hotbed of menorah-hood. That it would be the Menorahhood.

Oh, foolish silly Goy.

I am not Jewish, but I am a wife, so in the last five years or so I have become our household’s procurer of most holiday and special-occasion paraphernalia and accoutrements, including wandering into Judaica stores looking for seder plates, making Passover reservations, ordering matzo ball soup en masse, hunting for High Holiday tickets and, as today, driving around the greater West Palm Beach area looking for a menorah. When I first began these errands years ago, I braced for the weird looks – and boy, did I get them! – at the red Afro’d black woman wandering, confused, through the Kosher cookbooks, looking like the loser in a very specific scavenger hunt.

But you know what always wound up happening, on those trips and today, on my menorah hunt? Everybody, pretty much to a number, was awesome. Welcoming. The guy in the Judaica store could not have been more helpful. The ladies in the various delis looked bemused but walked me through the rugelach and smoked fish dips with patience and kindness, because it was clear I was out of my depth.

And today, two separate clerks, the aforementioned lady at Restoration Hardware and the one at chi chi stationary store at Paper Goods, said “Happy Hanukkah” to me. And it made my heart grow a gazillion sizes. Understand that I am a Christian, and my celebration of Hanukkah is because of my husband, who in turn goes to Easter services with me. It’s also a nod to the Jewish roots of my own beliefs.

The ladies at those stores do not know this. I assume that I look different than the other people who have come in looking for menorahs and candles and stuff. But they listened to what I wanted and greeted me accordingly, and it was sublime.

Many of my Facebook friends of several religions have recently pondered the downright nasty response they have gotten from some strangers who have received their sincere “Happy Holidays” and spit it right back at the giver, to strike a blow for the War on Christmas. I can see standing up for your beliefs, but don’t be nasty about it. (Those people, no matter how fervent their Christian beliefs, are being bad citizens and, if you think about it, not exemplary Christians, because we all know the best way to interest people in your beliefs is to take their heads off when they say something nice to you and can’t tell if you’re Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, atheist, Druid or otherwise. But go on being outraged. That’s such a good look on you. Said no one ever.)

So I loved that these women wished me the happiest version of the holiday that corresponds with the thing I was looking for, because that makes sense, regardless of my appearance, or of fear of insulting me – it wouldn’t make sense for me to be insulted, but you’ve met humans, so you know they sometimes take operatic-level offense to the stupidest thing.

I wind up finding not one but three different menorahs in the most random of places – the stockroom at a nearby Marshall’s, where a nice clerk was about to discount them and put them on display. She, too, doesn’t blink an eye when I happily swoop in and grab one, because a sold menorah is a sold menorah. When I light the candles tonight, I’ll be grateful for my family, and the joining of two cultures, and for the resilience that the holiday celebrates, as well as for people who understand that what these holidays have in common is Divine love and the love we’re supposed to show to each other.

And that’s something to be happy about.


Amy Poehler and the myth of being nice

by SweetMidlife

yes please

This is Leslie, and I would like to talk to you about a four-letter word, one I have been sometimes proud to be called, and, at other times, wanted to slap people about the face in a vigorous fashion should it be tossed in my direction.

Nice.

I do not mean the, well, nice definition of nice, which is cordial, courteous and personable. I mean the kind of “nice” that really means “pushover” or “selfless to the point of martyrdom” or “always willing to acquiesce to the requests of others, no matter how last-minute, unreasonable or inconvenient, for fear of people thinking you’re not nice.”

This kind of nice – and if you’re human, and almost certainly if you are a woman, you may have had thrust upon you – is almost a dare, a velvet cudgel that in the most sweetly inescapable way says (always smiling) “Can you do me a favor?” or “I know this is last minute but” or “I hope I’m not putting you out but” and then proceeds to put you out, all the while making it almost impossible for you to say ‘no’ at risk of the asker and other people not liking you anymore.

Amy Poehler has no use for such idiocy, and that attitude is all over the refreshingly blunt “Yes Please,” a combination memoir/life manual where she covers everything from her discovery of improv comedy to her “comedy wife” Tina Fey to the joys of faking inappropriate behavior with Justin Timberlake. But a recurring theme of the book, which I’m almost done listening to on Audible.com, is that you don’t owe anybody your dignity, and if a request is intrusive, unreasonable, presumptive or just something you don’t want to do, you get to say “No” and move on. And screw ’em if that’s not OK.

Poehler is probably most famous for playing  Pawnee, Indiana’s sincere-to-a-fault, people-pleasing public servant Leslie Knope on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” and she’s clear that she’s just acting – “I’m not that nice,” she writes candidly. And she’s not talking about being purposely rude as a mission statement, but about not allowing other’s expectations to color her life, in a way that a lot of us – especially, I think, women – have been raised to believe trumps all, even our own plans. You’ve been there, every time you’re asked to be on a church committee you know you don’t have time for, or that sweet last-minute request for bake sale items when you’ve gotta make dinner, or that “quick” favor of an errand that’s really not that quick. And you want to say “No.”

But you’re so nice.

From not accepting screenplays rudely dropped in her lap while she’s sleeping on a train (“It’s called ‘I Don’t Know Because I Threw It Away'”) to just saying “No” when strangers approach her on the street to ask her a question (“Nobody needs to ask me a question”), Poehler writes of the sometimes painful road to realizing that the older you get, the less it matters what other people think of you. And if people thinking you are “nice” is more important than the stuff you gotta do, you’re a sucker.

Poehler doesn’t exonerate herself from her own idiocy and the importance of being nice, as in a good human being, when it’s about owning your own stuff: In a particularly painful passage she talks of inadvertently mocking a real-life disabled woman in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch that she assumed was fictional, because she was busy getting ready for the show and just never checked with her writers to find out. When she gets an emotionally charged letter from Oscar-winning actor Chris Cooper and his wife Marianne, who directed the movie the sketch mocks, that mentions that the young lady was actually watching the sketch live, she attempts to rationalize her behavior by deciding they’re overreacting, that it wasn’t her fault, and then throws the letter away. It’s not until five years later that she attempts to contact the Coopers through mutual friend and director Spike Jonze, and hears back that they were disappointed it took so long and don’t need an apology at this late date, but offer contact info for the young lady she hurt. (She receives a gracious note from her.)

In that case, Poehler needed to have been “nice,” as in be an adult, and she acknowledges it. She even admits that sometimes in her candor, she lets that “niceness” urge put her in unfair situations, like the “creepy guy” producer who, unable to talk her into re-recording an entire speech that the tech crew messed up, asks her for a hug to make him feel better about being wrong, she submits, even though she doesn’t hug back, because it’s easier than saying “No.”

A great man I know named Pastor Dave Pinckney once told me that it is Godly to say no sometimes, meaning that you can’t be of any use to anybody, heavenly or otherwise, if you’re too overbooked to do your job well. Being “nice” or making people think you are isn’t worth screwing it all up. I’ve been there. Amy Poeher’s been there. And we both know that sometimes, the nicest thing, to yourself, is to say “No, please.”


“Parenthood”‘s Kristina Braverman: Maybe she’s just a bad parent?

by SweetMidlife

images

SPOILERS! IF YOU WATCH NBC’S “PARENTHOOD” AND HAVEN’T SEEN LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE YET, DON’T READ THIS IF YOU DON’T WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENED.

Leslie here!

I have just a relatively scant eight month’s experience as a parent, versus 43 years being parented. But my folks were awesome, and they imparted to me, by example and by drumming it into my little head, that it was their job to prepare me for the world, because the world was too busy to worry about preparing for me.

“Parenthood”‘s Kristina Braverman really sucks at that.

NBC’s family drama, now finishing its last season, follows the extended Braverman family and their various domestic and romantic situations, and I find most of those situations relatable, which is to say that I want to alternately hug them and pop them upside their stupid heads. Kristina (Monica Potter) triggers my popping reflex more than anyone else, both as the mom of a son with Asperger’s and as the administrator of a new charter school for kids with behavioral issues, including her son.

For the non “Parenthood” devotee, Kristina and her husband Adam (Peter Krause) have made Max so much the focus of their lives that you would be forgiven for assuming that their other two kids were kidnapped by wood sprites and being held for ransom that’s never gonna come because MAX IS HAVING A PROBLEM. And girl, Max is always having a problem, and his parents (and maybe the “Parenthood” writers) might think that his Asperger’s-related traits – he’s incredibly, sometimes uncomfortably literal, doesn’t recognize social cues or other people’s emotions and is detail-oriented to the point of being rigid – are the reason that he’s often a pain in the butt.

Nope! I am not a disability expert and I don’t meant to speak definitively about it, but I love many people with them, and know that disabilities alone don’t make you a jerk! Parents who don’t set boundaries for their kids in the name of protectiveness and letting them be their own special selves make you a jerk! And that’s what’s happened to Max. Adam and Kristina – specifically Kristina – have a good track record of explaining to their extended family (and by extension to the audience) some of the things they might expect from Max. But they’ve done a poor job of explaining to Max that even though it’s not fair and he didn’t ask to have Asperger’s, that he has to try to see things from other people’s perspective, to be responsible to other’s feelings, and that there are social expectations of him that no one who doesn’t love him is gonna think is cute.

When Max pitched a fit because he couldn’t use a printer that his aunt Sarah had rented on her own dime for an important work project at the exact time he wanted because Sarah needed it, Kristina expected her to apologize for upsetting him because she couldn’t keep to his schedule, rather than saying “Max, I know you’re disappointed and that Aunt Sarah is using the printer when you’d been told you could, but she’s the adult, it’s her rental for work, and you’re gonna have to suck it up and deal.” When they didn’t it was disappointing, because they not only disrespected a relative who didn’t have to let him use her stuff in the first place, but because that doesn’t do that boy any favors.

And last night, when Max found his crush Dylan kissing another boy, he marches into his mother and principal’s office and demands the kid be expelled. That doesn’t happen, but when Max then passes around a flier detailing the other kid’s supposed crimes still insisting on that the kid get kicked out of school, then starting a fight with hin. Kristina’s response should have been to immediately discipline him, call the other kid’s parents and had a talk about, telling him in no uncertain terms that he was wrong and that he can’t lie about other kids because they disappoint him.

But of course she didn’t, leaving Max feeling justified to escalate things by making a creepy kidnapper collage of photos of Dylan, interrupting her lunch to declare his love for her in front of her friends and refusing to stop when she asked until she blew up and told him she was never going to love him and to go the heck away.

You should have seen me – I was literally standing over the TV, just knowing that this – THIS – had to be the moment where Kristina would be forced to be a parent and a daggone administrator by, as clearly as she good, telling Max that what he did to Dylan bordered on harassment, that while owning and relating his feelings is not only important but a few breakthrough for him, that he can’t force someone to feel the same way, and that when they ask him to stop, he must. But noooooo. She hugs him (a breakthrough for the touch-averse Max) and tells him that she’s proud of his candidness, but that he’s not in trouble, at which point I yelled some non-friendly words at the TV because come on. The Bravermans operate on the assumption that Max’s issues compel him to act a certain way, but they never seem to fill in the other piece, that he, like all humans, is responsible for the way that those issues affect other people. Not telling him this is not protection. It’s setting the stage for him to one day get punched in the mouth, or worse.

Max isn’t the only Braverman family kid whose shenanigans don’t get called out nearly enough. Adam’s sister Julia and husband Joel are going through a divorce, and their daughter Sidney, already a screamer-yeller, has gone straight into bullying classmates and losing her crap all over the place. Her reaction to her family crisis is understandable, but her parents’ response is to try to explain to the parents of the girl she terrorized how hard things were for Sidney, who has just given a snotty fake apology and run to the car without accepting any real responsibility for anything.

The victim’s dad, however, wasn’t buying it, telling Julia and Joel that he didn’t really care what Sidney’s problem was, as long as they were spilling over on his kid. This is what I want to see somebody – anybody – say to Adam and Kristina, and to Max, that things being hard for you doesn’t give you the right to take them out on other people, and that if Max proposes to not live in a cave, he’s gonna have to work that out.

I guess this affects me so much because I see all around me, in the newspaper I write for, the TV I watch and in the malls of the world, the philosophy that the world is supposed to conform to everybody’s wishes – that it’s OK for kids not to say “please” or “Thank you” because they’re “shy,” or that it should be alright for kids to bump into you in the mall, or be rude to strangers, because they’re “just kids.” No, they’re not. They’re future adults, and if the people in their lives don’t impress upon them their responsibility to check themselves enough to not cause harm to others, no one is going to like them. Many people are going to want to punch them.

And it won’t be a TV show.


Kids at a restaurant? Yay or nay?

by SweetMidlife

rice dish saia

Leslie here! As a professional food and cocktail writer and gal about the Internets, as well as someone who is semi-newly hanging out with a loud one-year-old person, two stories recently caught my attention. Both were about the politics of taking a little person to an eating establishment not specifically meant for them.
My husband and I have a pretty standard rule – we take the munchkin to nice but not incredibly fancy places, and the moment he gets loud, we plug that pie hole with a binky or a sippy cup. If that doesn’t work, one of us takes him out. And if that doesn’t work, we get the check, get some take out boxes and get the heck out. Nobody wants to be around a culinary cryfest so we treat them like a chemical spill – contain, contain, contain.

Though the stories are written from two extreme (and both entitled) positions, they make me replay every dinner I’ve ever had in my mind and wonder whether I should be hiring a food taster to guard myself against servers irate when they see a stroller.

The first was a clearly ridiculous story on Salon.com http://www.salon.com/2014/10/11/fine_dining_with_my_infant/
about a writer who took his young daughter to Michelin star-rated restaurants in London, while on a work trip with his wife. It’s self-absorbed navel-gazing disguised as social experiment, because while he’s aware of the potential annoyance to other diners paying upwards of $100 for their meals, to the staff and even to his sometimes irritable daughter, he goes anyway, mostly because he wants to go, and because that’s more important than anyone else’s discomfort. That guy sucks.

On the other end of the spectrum are some of the comment writers on Jezebel’s story about whether you should bring babies to bars or brunch. http://jezebel.com/when-can-you-take-your-baby-to-brunch-or-the-bar-a-gui-1649061833

The bar thing seems to be self-explanatory – if you’re at a restaurant that has a bar, and you’re sitting at a table and your kid is well-behaved and there aren’t crazy drunks about, I don’t think it’s a problem. If it’s a bar, bar, like you’re sitting at the bar with your baby and you could sit elsewhere, or there’s no food and you and Junior are just drinking…well, don’t do that. That’s bad.

The brunch thing is funnier – Jezebel’s readers tend to be young, and seem to believe that brunch is exclusively for the hungover and sexy whose heads can’t take the noise your baby might make. And that’s hilarious, because brunch is also the provenance of the after-church crowd, or people taking their grandmas out, or just hungry people who like omelettes. Look, Drunkity McGee – we’re already keeping the babies out the bars. You don’t get to claim another meal. You chose to be in public hungover. Not my problem.

I understand that some parents suck as much as that guy who took the baby to the five-star restaurant, in that they refuse to discipline their kids. The complaints in the Jezebel comment section were about not wanting other people’s rugrats kicking their chairs, or running through the aisles acting stupid, and I agree. But there are adults at that same place doing the grown-up equivalent – talking really loud on cell phones, blocking the aisles and being jerky. Why don’t they get the automatic stinkeye?

A few months ago my husband and I were invited on a culinary walking tour of a local shopping area. I asked the coordinator if we could bring the kid, and since she’d met him and knew he was chill, she said OK. But when I rolled up with the stroller, I got some outright nasty looks – one particular couple wouldn’t even meet my gaze when I tried to smile at them. And in that moment I wanted to smack people like Five Star Father who foist their ill-behaved offspring on everyone else, because they make it harder for us non-idiots to do anything.

The evening went pretty well – Kid is usually awesome as long as he’s eating and occupied, and the couple of times he even looked like he was going to blow, one of us rushed him out of there. We got to the next to last tour stop and decided it was bedtime. As we got up to leave, Mr. Stink Eye come over to me to shake my hand.

“I have to apologize,” he said sheepishly. “When we saw you come up with the baby we were like ‘Oh, no! The rest of us got sitters so we wouldn’t be around our own kids, and now we have to deal with someone else’s?’ But your baby was really sweet and quiet, so we’re sorry about that.”

That was really nice of them, but it made me a little weary, because why wouldn’t you think my kid was a jerk, if you only run into other kid jerks? Then again, are you going into this assuming that my kid is an interloper?

What do you guys think?


Say What? Saturday: The five things I swear I’m getting done today

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

It’s Saturday, the one day no one really wants to have a “to-do” list, but whose scheduling fluidity lends itself to doing stuff. And not the stuff I like to do on Saturdays, which include eating leftovers and watching “Blue Bloods” reruns.

OK…I admit it : I’ve already done those things, which leave now the non-fun stuff. So in the tradition of accountability, here are five things that I need to get together today. I want y’all to hound me about this and say “Leslie, did you deal with that well-dressed teddy bear yet?” And hopefully I won’t say “Yes” and be lying because y’all don’t live with me and how would you know?

dishes

1) Calling the dishwasher repair guy. To avoid this situation.

boca

2) Evicting some of these unemployed animals from the “gated community” of the kid who hangs out with us, because of overcrowding.

scarf bear

3) Putting away my laundry and random clothes that are squatting on my couch, including this scarf I just bought, modeled by the lovely and talented Sweater Bear.

rental car

4) Cleaning out this rental car so that I can return it to the shop where my husband’s car is sitting all ready to bring home, so I’m not throwing stuff in bags at the car lot because tacky.

me

5) Going to my Crossfit class so I can keep looking like this and not like a black Oompaloompa.


But did you even read the book?: On Internet comments and derailing

by SweetMidlife
Don't be this guy. Don't derail the train.

Don’t be this guy. Don’t derail the train.

Leslie here!

Say you went to a book club meeting, all ready to discuss the juicy ends and outs of the novel you just read. One or two folks sheepishly admit to having started the book but not finishing it, but assure everyone else that it’s OK to talk about spoilery details because they understand that the discussion is about this particular book, and because they enjoy conversation and also wine and cheesy things.

But then someone new shows up – and this person is often invited by the friend of a cousin of someone who doesn’t usually show up. New Nancy hasn’t read the book. She’s only kind of heard of it. She definitely heard of one with a similar name, and she read a third that kind of relates. Probably. But if you think for a second that Nancy’s utter lack of knowledge on the topic is gonna stop her from jumping in and trying to run the discussion, well, you’ve never been on the Internet, have you? Because Nancy got questions, girl. She needs to know, more than Marc Anthony. Tell her, baby girl, cause she needs to know.

And after the first couple of comments about the book by the people who actually read it, she’s off. Sure, she doesn’t know anything about it, but the plot doesn’t make sense to her. Are you sure that’s what it was about? Really? Well, she doesn’t quite believe you, even though she’s with a roomful of people who have read it, who are holding the book and can show her evidence. In her expert experience as whatever she is, she’s suspicious. OK, maybe you’re right. But can you take time right now, in the middle of the conversation, to break it all down from her, from the beginning? Like, tell her the whole plot, and also the history behind the story, and the writer’s background? Are you sure about that?

So, the people who came because they thought they were having a talk about something they all knew about and were invested in, they have to stop and play Yoda to someone who inserted themselves into the discussion. What really blows is that if Nancy didn’t read the book and seems hostile to anyone who suggests she should..then why is she there?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how derailing works. It is the word equivalent of Snidley Whiplash tying Nell to the railroad tracks – the train stops and somebody dies. It can happen in conversations, in book clubs and in Bible studies, and most certainly on the Internet. If you’ve ever been on a comment thread on any page, anywhere, you’ve probably seen it – that insistence on either rerouting a conversation you just showed up to in the direction you want it to go, or shutting it down completely just because.

Sometimes derailers truly have a question that they believe people in this particular discussion can answer, assuming them to maybe be experts on the subject – often race, gender, politics and religion. Often they feel so strongly about one piece of what you’re discussing, and only want to discuss that point, and insist that you focus only on their argument because that’s the most important thing. And sometimes, they’re trolls who just like blowing stuff up like railroad tracks in a western. Whatever their motive, they either start fights or chase away anyone who actually wanted to discuss the stated topic. It doesn’t matter how many ways you try to answer the question and move on – they’ve got another one. It doesn’t matter that they can just Google the topic if they have need to know more. You opened a door now, boy, and they’re coming through it with every random thought they’ve ever had even distantly related because THEY GOTTA KNOW RIGHT NOW.

Derailers also fit into the Sweet Midlife’s tried and true BoBo’s Cousin theory of parties, which holds that the person most likely to act afool at your wedding, graduation shindig or book club is the person with the least emotional connection to you. It’s just a party to them, just another opportunity to make sure other people explore the wonder that is them, and they don’t give a crap about your real attachment and investment. They’re just being them.

I’ve run into derailers on message boards and on my own Facebook page. I like a good discussion, as long as it doesn’t get personal. But it’s frustrating when someone insists on either asking side questions they already think they know the answers to, or which aren’t going to be solved in one discussion, or just aren’t what we’re talking about. During threads about Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, some people kept insisting on black-on-black crime. Isn’t that the real problem? Well, it’s a problem, we’d say. But it’s not the problem here, and crimes aren’t interchangeable. But they kept on poking and sometimes we’d just end the thread because it wasn’t going anywhere.

Something similar happened during discussions on my page and others about the New York Times piece that cast “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” showrunner Shonda Rhimes as the mythical “Angry Black Woman,” a racist trope that is not evidenced in Rhimes’ work. The discussion was about the inaccuracy of this and other parts of the piece, but too many people chimed in to wonder why they’ve never heard of that stereotype, and if it were real, and if we all weren’t just blowing this out of proportion, and could you tell them more about it. Their insistence on being educated on something that couldn’t possibly exist if they didn’t know about it was condescending, insulting and beside the point. I wanted to strangle those people.

Yet…I’ve been them – not maliciously, but I recognize it. I can remember Bible studies where I felt the conversation could benefit from my knowledge and insight about some tangent. I’m sort of embarrassed now to remember how clever I thought all my little brain nuggets where, when I was a big ol’ bore, probably. This isn’t an excuse, but I meant well. I was always plugged into the topic and the conversation and really thought I was adding something to it, even if I was hogging all the air. (Sorry everyone!) But at least my comments were about the book, Biblical or otherwise.

I love discussions, and try to make sure that I am as open to being educated and challenged as I expect others to be. But here are a few things I try to keep in mind when commenting:
– Why am I commenting?
– Does my opinion need to be heard in this situation, or have other people eloquently already said what I was going to say?
– Am I really commenting on the subject, or something adjacent that’s going to take the discussion somewhere only I care about?
– Am I listening?
– Do I know what I am talking about? Have I seen the movie, been to that city? Have I read the book?

And if not…do I really care?


Dear blogging model: Your dating life is not over at 30

by SweetMidlife
Taken from XOJane.com

Taken from XOJane.com

Leslie here!

If the woman pictured above thinks that she’s an old unlovable hag at 30 who should just stop dating because all the good catches want women younger, less demanding and “less impressive” (her words) than herself, then the rest of y’all might as well pack it in and back your UHauls up to the local pet shelter, because you’re gonna need some cats.

I came across an XOJane column titled “30 Is The New 50: ‘Old Age’ Is Killing My Dating Life” by model/writer Jenny Bahn and was intrigued, because I did a lot of dating between the ages of 15 and 38, when I got married and never, as Carrie Fisher says in “When Harry Met Sally,” never have to be out there again. But I needed to know why a gorgeous young woman living in New York would believe that her age is a problem. Of course, her experiences are her own, and who am I to say she’s making it up, but it didn’t make sense to me. I had to know more.

She tells the story of a disastrous conversation with a 38-year-old upwardly mobile dude she’d dated a few times, where he explained that he was also dating a 23-year-old because she was undemanding and wasn’t looking for anything serious, unlike 30-year-olds like Bahn whose biological clocks are ticking so loud that they’re harshing his fun buzz. (Boo-hoo dude.)

This douche that she calls Alex, who says douchey things about how Bahn is unloveable, speaks a sad truth – women who think they might want a biological family do face time constraints that men who can keep making babies into their dusty dotage do not. And sometimes those men do want to date younger women because they might not want those things yet, or because by the time those men do want kids, the women their age might not be able to. Boy that sucks.

The thing that struck me about Bahn’s reaction to this – that she’ll maybe never find anyone if 30 makes her too old to be desirable by the kind of successful guys she sees herself with in the “brutal” NYC dating scene – was that I kept looking at her photo, where she’s posed melodramatically in a nasty-looking bathroom in front of the serial killer-looking words “Love Me OK Don’t” and thinking “What the heck are YOU complaining about?”

That’s because she’s beautiful, looks five years younger than she is, and would appear to check all the boxes that the average dater, certainly the ones online, seem to be looking for. (I also get itchy because that’s a really nasty bathroom and I worry that she needs a tetanus shot, because if dating doesn’t kill her, them germs might.)

Again, her experience is her own, and I don’t mean to tell her she’s lying. But it made me sad that she seems to have given up at her age, because those of us who have never looked like Bahn and dated for a lot longer than the relatively age of 30 somehow found a reason to live. Bahn admits that she is looking for someone as successful as she is, and, I imagine, on par with her attractive-wise. What I started to wonder is if she’s only dating douches and might want to expand her dating pool. Like, out of Douchetown.

A lot of the comments on the site were from women like me who were older than 30 and didn’t deserve into Spinster Dust the minute the birthday cake was finished, who advised her to take a deep breath and move forward. She also got some nastiness from women in their 20s who took umbrage at her inference that their age automaticaly made them less smart, mature and impressive, as well as a few so-called Men’s Right’s Activists who lurk on women’s sites like this just to remind the readers that yes, they’re undateable hags and no one wants them. Oh, those guys.

I come from the demographic – black women – that is least searched for on dating sites ( ) by men of any race. And when your inbox is collecting dust stats like that can make you feel extra lonely, particularly when you are getting older and do want to have kids, and when you don’t look like Jenny Bahn, or Olivia Pope.

I understand that since I am not a model, whose career depends on people wanting to look at her and think she’s pretty, it wasn’t the end of the world to assume that I couldn’t get every man I wanted. But The thing that I want to tell the Jenny’s of the world is that a) Don’t waste time on people who don’t want you, because they’re not for you and probably dumb and b) you don’t have to be awesome to everyone in the world. Just the right someone.


PJs, tacos and and advice: An ode to my friend Chrissy

by SweetMidlife
This lovely lady has some wisdom for you.

This lovely lady has some wisdom for you.

Leslie here! (the one who lives in Florida)

Several months ago my brilliant sister put out a call for guest bloggers for this here Website, and we got an immediate “Heck, yes!” from one Chrissy Benoit, a longtime friend, chef, Food Network-featured restaurateur and dedicated supporter of the communities to which she serves food, laughs and love.

Chrissy wrote about the things that she wished she’d known about getting what you want, a pinnacle she’d seemed to have reached – working for Wolfgang Puck, opening several restaurants in South Florida for herself and others, and a local and national media presence. Her column was a funny, touching reality punch – written by an adult who knows her stuff -about unsolicited advice, the danger of mixing business and friendship and the facet that you might be forever chasing that feeling you thought “making it” would give you. Turns out that “it” is a journey, not a destination, and you never stop the pursuit.

This weekend, Chrissy closes her Boynton Beach restaurant The Little House, a cozy retreat from the ordinary featuring weekend brunches that were discounted if you wore your jammies, savory bread pudding, live music and adoration. She’ll be headed to the Tampa area to put her stamp on an established hospitality company, giving them her energies and ideas. And they’re so frigging lucky, because this is a quality lady. She “gave back” to her community by hiring local kids from that community, by being a role model to women and young people just by being her. She even gave an untested singer a shot to perform on her patio (and paid me in wine.)

Chrissy is testament to the trope that hard work pays off, although you don’t always know what the pay’s going to be. She left Havana Hideout, her successful Lake Worth Latin street food joint, where she cooked out of a food truck before that became the cool thing to do, to open the Little House and inject a bit of old Florida charm and “yumminess,” as she often says, into Boynton. It had a following but not the one it deserved. So she’s moving on, in the most non-bitter and positive way possible. Her biggest concern was not her ego but the staff she was leaving when her doors closed.

And that’s some good humble life advice for myself, who’s always half-joked that if I ever get fired, I’ll dress up in a satin gown like Bette Davis in “All About Eve,” stand on my desk with a martini and tell everyone off. I guess I’m writing this because Chrissy is an example of how you never have to stop wanting what you want, never have to stop working, never stop building on your reputation and never do anything, however temporarily emotional edifying, to mess that up. I’ll miss her. But I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Raising a glass to you, my friend.


The Blonde Vegan, honesty and why we need to get over ourselves

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

I admit that until this morning, I had never heard of The Blonde Vegan, (http://www.theblondevegan.com/2014/07/13/recovery-update-orthorexia-is-no-fun/#comments) but it’s an apparently popular Web site run by a lovely young lady named Jordan Younger. Apparently she embraced veganism in college and jumped into it wholeheartedly, launching this lifestyle blog and even a line of TBV merchandise. She was in turn embraced by other vegans eager to share in her recipes and advice.

That is, until she admitted recently that she had jumped so far into veganism that it triggered an eating disorder called orthorexia, which is a perceived obsession or preoccupation with eating foods considered unhealthy. Jordan bravely wrote that she had become terrified of violating the tenets of veganism, which eschews any kind of animal products, to the point where she couldn’t stop thinking about it. She had mad anxiety and even lost her period. She is in recovery for her issues and proposed to her readers that she wanted to now call her blog The Balanced Blonde, or The Blonde Vegetarian.

I do not use the word “brave” lightly, but it is truly courageous to not only admit that a lifestyle you have embraced so publicly and with so much authority is not working for you, and has become dangerous for you, but to do that in front of a community who has welcomed you into it. Jordan says that she expected a reaction. But she did not expect death threats.

DEATH THREATS. People who are committed to saving the lives and elimination the exploitation of animals would threaten to kill a human being who said that she could for the sake of her mental and physical health no longer participate.

WHAT THE HOLY HOLLY?

There are many things that I am, or have been, really into, including Jesus Christ (still) the music of Neil Finn (still) running (not as much as I should) and hobo-like men who live to suck my self esteem like the dignity vampires they are (not no more.) And I can see myself defending those things, even judgmentally, and wondering why people couldn’t see how cool those things are, even when it was none of my business.

You have to really check yourself, however, when your embrace of a philosophy is so great that you would threaten the life of someone who was no longer an adherent. Because that, my friend, is about you. It’s about your fear of control, maybe, and perhaps your own secret doubts about your belief. Because why else would you be so threatened by someone else’s choices? It’s not your business. This woman openly said “I miss veganism. I still believe in its tenets. I just can’t do it anymore” and they shamed her.

There was even a mostly supportive response from someone who said “I initially was mad at you for leaving veganism and thought you were faking this eating disorder because you couldn’t hack it, but I now see I was wrong.” To admit that you were so far up your own butt that you would attach that judgment to a stranger is really honest. We need to get over ourselves. This young woman needs love and support, not the lint in your own addled head.


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