Thursday, April 28, 2016

That's What Friends Are For

Supposedly, Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield first used the word 'etiquette' in its modern meaning

Facebook is a big deal and everyone from your mother’s boarding school roommate in 1946 to the former student who now sells you your weekly Malbec at the local liquor store has a profile. What began as a printed directory (a university “face book”) for college students to get to know each other at the start of the academic year is now a worldwide multibillion-dollar social media business, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg. (My son, kind of an old-fashioned guy, still won’t friend me because I’m not a college student.)

In keeping with a multibillion-dollar business, Facebook has a seven-page Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to which to adhere. There is a separate webpage to cover Data information and collection and yet another for Community standards, i.e; how to report harassment, dangerous organizations or criminal activity. But nowhere is there any mention of etiquette. I suppose I’ll have to do it.

1. When you see a picture of an adorable baby or a puppy cuddling a kitten, the correct response is “Awww...” not “Awe.”  If the baby is eating the kitten, you may be in awe, but even then it is not the appropriate comment. Try, “Sweet Mother of God, keep that stuff off of Facebook!”

2.  Facebook is for your personal use and not a forum for all the people in the world who disagree with you. It is, however,  a very public forum and you and you alone are in control of that. This means that if you post your opinion, someone, probably a “friend” is going to come along and comment on it. If you enjoy such banter, post away. If you don’t want such nonsense mucking up your perfectly reasonable observations on politics, women’s issues or religion adjust your privacy settings accordingly. That’s what they’re there for and that’s what makes your Facebook page personal.

3. Back to the personal use thing: I once posted an announcement about a contest I had lost, but that I was happy to have been a part of it. One of my “friends” came along and added a comment that she had won the very same contest! I thought it was a little tacky, to say the least. I’ve seen this over and over again--people jumping on someone else’s bandwagon to promote their own good fortune. Good for you if you are finding success. But that’s what your Facebook page is for; don’t blab it all over all your friends’ pages. Really. Have some class.

4. And speaking of minding your own business, there’s nothing more irritating than being a part of a conversation thread about, say, your community’s conservation efforts and having two or more participants begin a whole other conversation about their vacation plans. Or their mother-in-law’s hiatal hernia surgery or any other off-topic subject. Again, this is what your own page is for, or better yet--pick up the phone and call, text or email them personally. We community minded sort aren’t really interested in poor Mildred’s reaction to anesthesia. Seriously. 

5. One of the great things (or creepy things depending on who’s looking) is being able to see all the beautiful and stunning pictures people post of their new homes, their exotic vacations, or their adorable grandchildren. It’s one of the things I love about Facebook because it has allowed me to reconnect with many family members and old friends. I especially love seeing that all my former high school classmates look as old as I do. (Most of them, there are a couple of women I am definitely going to stay away from when the cameras come out. They are stunning.)  I enjoy clicking through four or five pics of sandy beaches, beautiful blue eyes peeping out from an Easter bonnet or a family sitting down to a sumptuous meal at Christmas or Passover. What I don’t enjoy are a hundred of these pictures. Sometimes there is a little +97 in a box to indicate what you’re getting yourself in for, but I guess sometimes miss it. There I am, twenty minutes later, still looking at your damn beach house. I get it. You’re lucky. Put your camera down.

So, there you have it . . . a few guidelines on decorum and good manners to help everyone continue to be friends on Facebook. I’m sure other issues will come up from time to time and I promise you I will bring them to your attention.

I just want to be a good friend. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

It's only human

A pissoir with three stalls, Paris, ca.1865
I was talking to a couple of women the other day, who I will not identify because we were talking about peeing. The topic was where and if you can “go.” (For the purposes of this essay, we’ll just use the word “go” to differentiate from simply peeing. I’m polite that way.)

Anyway, I said that I can go anywhere--public, private--if there’s a seat with a hole in it I probably won’t have a problem . . . suspicious smells and flimsy locks notwithstanding. But even the lack of a lock won’t stop me if I really have to go. Holding the door closed or securing it with my purse strap usually does the trick. The other two ladies did not share my comfort level with this process. One of them said she could pee in most bathrooms but that’s it. The other one said she just saves it all up for home. I pictured myself knocking down pets and small children on my way to the bathroom if I tried waiting all day.

Maybe when I was younger and had to work in offices where there was a constant stream (pun intended) of bathroom users going in and out of the facilities, I might have been more private about my functions. As I’ve gotten older, the concern that others might know I’m peeing has waned to the point of being almost non-existent. I go in, attend to business, wash my hands and leave. I don’t pay much attention to my surroundings or to who else is in there because their business is not my business. Only recently have I become aware of others in the public bathrooms and that is because some people apparently can’t put down their cell phones even when they are peeing. The first time it happened, hearing another woman talking in one of the stalls, made me a little curious because I couldn’t imagine how two people could fit into that little stall and what were they doing in there anyway? Until I realized the woman was on the phone. That’s gross on so many levels, not to mention having to be the person on the other end, listening to what you can clearly hear. Nobody call me while they’re peeing, please.

But, here’s why I’m talking about this most basic of human functions: It’s a basic function. It’s not a political function or a social function. It’s a basic human function. If you’re a human, you have to go to the bathroom. Just ask Abraham Maslow. Maslow identified a hierarchy of human needs that have to be addressed in order for a person to thrive and grow. On the very first level, before anything else can take place, are the basic needs: Breathing, water, food, sex, sleep, homeostasis and excretion. Basic. That means everyone has to do it and nobody should be able to tell anyone else how to do it. That’s why we have bathrooms in our homes and out in public and everyone knows what to do when they get there.

The so-called bathroom bills that have stirred the latest pot of fear and controversy are discriminatory and dangerous and not in the way you think. Chances are pretty good that if you are worried about your son or daughter, you’ve been listening to some fear-mongers. Most of the people I know go to the bathroom like I do; with little in mind but to pee, wash their hands and leave. This includes the people I know who are transgender. To deny any person this basic human right is, in my opinion, outside of legislation.

Will there be the occasional ass/headline chaser who tries to create fear and panic by spreading stories about the dangers of “letting” people use the bathroom? Of course. That’s because asses live among us in every corner of American life. People act out of anxiety and ignorance because they don’t bother to find out about the other humans with whom we live alongside. It’s scary out there sometimes. I know this. But bathrooms aren’t what we should be scared of.  There are plenty of things we can turn our attention to before we start worrying who is using the bathroom. (And who are the guys writing these bills, anyway? I think I’m more worried about them.) Besides, if you’re that concerned about bathrooms, you can always hold it until you get home.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My Erma entry

Probably either "Clean the gutters" or "the house needs painting"

If there's one thing you can say about me, it's that I can be persistent. (Never mind those other things right now...) I have entered the Erma Bombeck Writing contest the last three times it's been held and each time I have failed to win, place or show. But I have my own blog, don't I? Without further ado, I submit to you my 2016 entry...

Honey Do
You know how ancient cave paintings are assumed to be some meaningful representation of Neanderthal life? A symbolic, historic creation, most likely illustrated by a caveman elder or chief?  I don’t believe it. I think the artists behind all those drawings were cave women. And I think those drawings are the first Honey-Do lists.

That’s right, the age-old Honey-Do List. As in, “Honey, do this. Honey, do that.” That stick figure chasing a wolf? It’s not hunting--this clearly translates as, “Take the dog out.” Images of boar and mastodon etched in stone supposedly for “hunting magic”? Nope. “Pick up dinner on the way home.” And I’m pretty sure the human figures depicted balancing large red discs in their hands is Neanderthal for “Put the dishes away.”

The Honey-Do list placement has to be strategic. (It’s probably why they first appeared on the walls.) If my list isn’t positioned prominently on the fridge, the things I need my husband to do rarely get crossed off. Unless the season changes . . . no sense installing screens in December. Make it too obvious, say, taped to the rear view mirror in the car and you’re being obnoxious. Leave it helpfully on the counter next to the birthday card he has to sign for his mother and it wasn’t noticeable enough: He would have checked the list, but he couldn’t find it.

Even everyday tasks require supervision. On one day alone I returned the kitchen scissors to the knife block after my husband used them to cut duct tape; vacuumed up tortilla chip crumbs from in front of the couch where he sits to check his email; replenished the ice tray after he filled his water bottle; retrieved his hat from the bathroom and returned it to the “hat and glove” basket--purchased specifically for keeping track of hats and gloves, and signed and mailed the aforementioned birthday card. He went off to get a haircut with barely a backward glance at the chaos left in his wake. Was he raised in a cave?

Then there are the days my husband doesn’t seem to need a list at all. One night, he picked up take-out from my favorite Thai restaurant (which I ordered), took the dog out for a walk in the cold winter evening (after I found the leash), and put the dishes away (once I washed them). Afterward, as he “watched” the 11 o’clock news, I covered him with a blanket and joined him on the couch. “Thanks, honey,” he mumbled sleepily, reaching for my hand, “I love you.”
He can get to the rest of the list later.