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Tag Archives: loss

“This Is Us” and the importance of rituals, even if they seem weird

by SweetMidlife
Perhaps taking a Purple People Eater to a sports bar every week seems weird to you. But that's weird that you think it's weird.

Perhaps taking a Purple People Eater to a sports bar every week seems weird to you. But that’s weird that you think it’s weird.


Leslie here! Lynne and I don’t live close to each other, so our Monday-morning quarterbacking of TV shows is part of our enduring togetherness (We also like talking, and seem to like talking about the same things, so we’ve found maybe the only other person who will endure in-depth 20-minute dissections of one episode of “Survivor.”) “This Is Us,” NBC’s next-level “Parenthood”-like exploration into emotional manipulation, is not one of those things that no one likes but us. EVERYBODY likes it, and cries about it, and then goes on Twitter and cries so more. Fans like us all seem to agree that it’s one of the best new shows this season.

But there’s something a lot of us can’t agree on, and that’s Toby, the too-enthusiastic love interest of Kate, a gorgeous, talented but insecure young woman who lets her lifelong struggle with her weight (and the baggage of her mother’s apparently early disapproval of it) make her hide her considerable light under a basket. Toby, who she met at a weight support group, initially seems like an encouraging factor in Kate’s life, pushing her out of her comfort zone to, say, use that gorgeous voice to sing to the folks at his aunt’s retirement home, or be chauffered around LA and be a star, like her sweet, pretty, famous twin brother.

But increasingly, Dude’s behavior has bordered, at best, on overbearing and at worst completely and insufferably creepy. He’s right that she throws herself into her brother Kevin’s life at expense of her own, but he seems to be mad that she doesn’t choose the whims of him, a guy she’s known for a week at that point, over her twin brother who also happens to be her employer. (He is, however, right that stalking and then accepting a job with his ex-wife is cray.)

On Tuesday night’s episode, Toby steps up the overbearing behavior to a disrespectful level, by ignoring something sacred to sports fans – the game day ritual. Honestly, it’s rude to ignore someone’s gentle but emphatic refusal to change the way they do something that means more to them than to you, no matter what it is. But when it’s about sports, whose personal importance is usually tied to deeply-seated details like national and regional identity and family tradition, you need to step off. I have a friend who broke up with a guy once for that same thing, and honestly, Toby deserves the same.

I feel strongly about this because I am related to, by blood and marriage, people with very strong sports rituals, that seemed quirky and inconvenient until they let you inside of them. My Granddaddy Streeter would retreat down the hall to his bedroom after dinner and lie in the dark to silently listen to Baltimore Orioles games on the radio. If we were very quiet, we were allowed to sit there with him, quietly bonding over strike-outs and home runs and the sparkling crack of the bat. It seemed like an inheritance. And anyone who ever met my late husband Scott knew that he had as many sports-related rituals as he did Ravens Jerseys, including buying football magazines before the NFL draft to study the upcoming picks, and then before the season to do his fantasy draft. He also brought a dancing Purple People Eater doll we called Purpie to every Ravens game he watched at Kirby’s, our local Ravens bar, and made it dance at every Ravens touchdown. It was fun, it didn’t hurt anyone and it was cool to have a thing.

Kate’s thing, apparently, is watching football by herself. That should be enough explanation, and she doesn’t owe anyone else more than that. But Toby decides that if he doesn’t get her motivations it must be sad, because Toby seems to need to worm his way into every part of her life in some supposed attempt to break her out of her shell. So he won’t accept “No” for an answer when she declines his invitation to watch a game together. Because Toby’s appointed himself Kate’s personal confidence guru, he can’t give her credit for choosing to do things he doesn’t get, because he doesn’t allow her the autonomy to know the difference between stuff she does to hide and stuff she does because she just wants to. She’s a person, not a project, loser.

Anyway, because he’s a pushy bastard, Toby does his usual public declaration thing that’s seeming less and less spontaneous and more and more like bullying, when he makes a homemade invitation to a supposed football party at his place, and passes it to Kate across their weight loss meeting. Nothing says “I respect your boundaries:” like involving a bunch of other people in it, particular because he assumes correctly that she’s easier to coerce when other people are watching. So she shows up, reluctantly, to his house, and he and the random friend he’s also invited yap through the whole thing and actually pause the game to keep yapping, so that Kate almost misses a touchdown.

So she bails, as you do when you aren’t having any fun at an event you got badgered into in the first place. Toby shows up at her house demanding an explanation, because how dare she not find his pushiness charming! So she explains that football, particularly Steelers games, was her family thing (she and her twin were conceived in a sloppy bar bathroom during the Super Bowl), and that they always watched together. Then she explains that they still do, in a way – her father Jack (whose absence in the show’s present-day scenes was, until now, a mystery) has passed away, and she sits with his urn and watches the games.

There are writers who think this is a sad cry for help, which seems awfully judgey. Everyone’s rituals are not yours. Everyone’s life is not yours. People keep their loved one’s ashes for a reason, and as long as they aren’t smoking, eating, or having untoward relations with them, I don;t know what is weird about silently enjoying an activity they would still be enjoying were both still alive. I was sometimes annoyed by his insistence on always having to watch Ravens games, even if we were traveling and it was a pain in the butt to find somewhere broadcasting them. Sometimes it seemed selfish. But he asked for one afternoon, once a week, for like four months, to be in his element, and it was OK with me, because he gave so much of himself to everyone else.

The people who love you should respect, if not completely understand, the things that are important to you. If they don’t, they don’t deserve you. Sorry Toby.

The Wisdom of Babies and Household Appliances

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here! We haven’t written in about a week. Sorry about that.

So, here’s something.  It’s a life/God lesson thing. Here it is.

My baby boy just turned 8 months old, and every day is so much  fun, as he learns new stuff. We’re mastering how to crawl forward (as opposed to the backwards scoot he was doing) and pull up on stuff and walk around it. Soon, I know, he will be walking on his own, and then, as my Grandma says, the fun will begin. But I am having fun NOW, watching him discover the world around himself with a new focus.  There are some things, though, that he is focusing on now in a way that he doesn’t like. He’s beginning to develop more of the separation anxiety that babies get around this age, so he notices more when we leave the room, and this does not make him happy. Another thing he has started to notice and not like is loud noise.  When he was really little, he would play in his swing in our kitchen or sit in his high chair while I made dinner, and that sometimes included using the food processor or (my favorite) the Magic Bullet. Alex used to just swing away happily, not really paying attention to the proceedings. About a week ago, though, I put something in the food processor, started up, and the kid freaked out. He got this really startled look on his face, paused a second and BAWLED.  It was shocking and scary to me, too, and we assured him that we were there, and that he was okay.

I made a smoothie this morning in the Magic Bullet, and it happened again, and I reassured him, and hugged him. It didn’t matter that Alex didn’t used to mind the noise. Currently, he’s scared by it. Of course, eventually, he will get used to the sound as we continue to make the smoothies and chop the onions, and it will not bother him at all, and he will actually try to chop things we don’t want him to. But for now, it’s enough for him to know that we are there for him, and that we will stick with him until he is okay.

That’s like us, isn’t it? I am in my early-40’s, and I’m grown. Or so I think. I own a house, and a car, and I have a career as both a Mommy and a teaching artist. I have a cute husband (hee). I have travelled. I think that I know a little something. But even in my older (and obviously sometimes delusional state), I find that I don’t know it all. Things that I thought I had a handle on now make me anxious. I have a kid! I have to child-proof stuff! I have to think about retirement! Marriage is work! I have aches and pains in places that I didn’t last week!  I’ve lost a parent, and now am made more aware of the advanced age of other loved ones! Things that weren’t scary are scary now. But just like we’re not going to stop using the food processor, these scary things are things that I have to face.  And that’s when I remember that God is with me. And He’s holding my hand and telling me that even though things are alarming now, they will stop soon. And even while they go on, He is with me, and he is telling me that things are alright. Because just like smoothies have to happen, sometimes scary things do too. What a difference having a good parent (or Parent) makes, right?

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