Monday, September 22, 2008

Etiquette and Awkward Situations

When I think of awkward situations I usually think of silence. You know how it is. You're at a dinner party and the subject of conversation strays into uncomfortable waters. We all know we're not supposed to talk about politics and religion in polite company, but somehow we can't help ourselves and before you know it someone has inserted their foot firmly in their mouth. Pained silence ensues.

I've been in a few situations like that. I've been the source of a few situations like that-- though thankfully not too often.

But what do you do when something really weird happens?

Public outbursts are really awkward in my opinion. I've seen a couple of strange ones at the grocery store. Usually it's a customer that has decided they've been slighted in some way. One time I saw a woman go ballistic because she thought someone cut in line. I stay away from those people.

But sometimes there are situations that you can't gracefully exit from. Here's my personal example. I was at the bookstore last week. I like to wander around the big corporate ones because when I'm done I like to get a chai tea and then sit in the coffee shop area and read a magazine. When I get a laptop I'm sure I'll hang out there even more-- just for the silence. But, let me tell you, it wasn't silent last week.

I did my usual wandering bit and that often involves walking down the aisle toward the coffee shop a couple of times. I noticed a guy sitting right on the aisle-- not because he was remarkable, he was just sort of in my line-of-sight. He was a normal looking guy, wearing a polo shirt and slacks; basic business casual. He had a pile of books and a laptop on his table and seemed to be studying something. No big deal.

So I go over to get my tea and I hear the guy start talking. At this point I assumed he was on the phone. It sounded like he was having a conversation with someone about work and a job interview he'd had recently. Normal, loud-voiced bad cell phone manners. I get my tea and go sit down. He's still talking pretty loudly and I look up to see what's-up; you know, maybe give him a little eye contact and let him know he's talking a little loudly. Then I notice I don't see a cell phone. That's odd. I look to see if he has an ear bud. Nope. Speaker phone? Uh uh.

Apparently he's carrying on a conversation, loudly, with an imaginary companion.

Then he gets up and heads over to the counter. He orders something and then starts telling the cashier his story-- loudly. Something about a job interview. He tells the room that he was the best qualified but that the interviewer didn't see it that way.

I can't imagine why.

As this is going on, another customer makes eye contact with me. A college-age guy was sitting behind our loud talker and starts mouthing to me I thought he was on the phone... I quietly laugh and nod, telling him I thought the same thing. My new acquaintance then picks up his stuff and comes over to sit by me before the bookstore whack-job comes back.

We kind of look at each other uncomfortably and confer over the other guy's behavior. Our conversation mostly consists of do you know what he's talking about? and he's not actually talking to anyone is he? I find out that my new companion isn't from the States and doesn't speak English with total fluency--so he's really baffled. I try to let him know that not all Americans are crazy.

The guy then comes back to his seat. He's facing me and my new friend, so we can't really continue our conversation. Mr. loud talker then resumes his conversation with his imaginary companion-- even louder than before. Everyone in the place is pretty uncomfortable by now.

This is when my danger signals start lighting up. This guy might be totally harmless- but then he might not. We may be seeing this guy unravel before our eyes. I don't know if the guy is schizophrenic or something like that-- though his well-put-together appearance makes mental illness seem less likely. He just seems like someone who has lost his grip and I don't really want to wait around and see what exactly that means.

I feel a slight obligation to the young man who has come to sit by me, but not enough to put myself in personal danger. We kind of trade a few looks, but we can't really talk. I can't concentrate on my magazine, and I'm pretty sure no one else can either. So I decide to bail. I take out my keys and show them to my buddy and he nods. He gets it. He even says, very quietly, good idea. So I take that as my cue and leave.

But I still felt like I should have done something more to make my new foreign acquaintance feel at ease. I'm not sure what I could have done, but I hated the feeling that I was leaving him in a lurch. Maybe he left right after me. I certainly hope so.

I can say for sure that nothing came of that whole bit of awkwardness. There was no news story that day about a rampage in a book store. Thank goodness. But I still think it was good thing that I left. I don't think wanting to be polite is a good enough reason not to heed your instincts in a strange situation. And odd incidents like that remind me that for all of our beliefs in a civilized society, there isn't much more than good manners keeping people from doing bodily harm to each other every day. I mean, think of how often you'd like to smack that rude co-worker, but you don't.

Oh sure, we make snarky comments about people we don't like, but not to their face. Because we're polite like that. And we usually don't carry on loud, one-side conversations in public because that's just weird and it really makes people uncomfortable.

But every now and then someone forgets the rules and the rest of us are left shuffling our feet and wondering what we should do. My rule of thumb? Run.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator

Okay, this is too funny to pass up. According to the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator my name is:

Speck Backfire Palin

That sounds about right....

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Conversation Overheard in the Backseat of my Car Today

4 year old son: Look Mommy, the sun is going down.

8 year old daughter: **eye roll** This sun isn't going down [thinking to herself this kid is an idiot] the planet is rotating...

4 year old son: **looking at sister like she's lost her mind** Look Mommy, the sun is going down.

Me [in front]: **giggling**

8 year old daughter: **exasperated** The sun doesn't go down [you know she wants to say dammit here. You just know it.] the planet rotates!

Me: **snorting**

4 year old son: Oh look, the moon is going up.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Gosh. Should I post about the family again? It gets old but sometimes I need to vent somewhere and this has been a good place for a sympathetic ear.

I haven't heard much from my family for last couple of months. My brother went back to school so he could teach in Thailand and as far as I know he's working. This is a good thing since he won't have to rely on handouts from my parents anymore. I don't know much more than that. I think he and my parents haven't been getting along real well since he's moving again to gain some space from them. At least I think that's what's going on.

So I get an email from my mom a few days ago. I guess she tried to send it a few times but she always sends the emails to the wrong email address (why I'm not in her contacts list I don't know) and she drops a few hints here and there that there is something going on. She says she's happy that my brother is working because that takes the financial stress off of them. (Hellooo, took $100k from him. You should still be giving him money).

And then she says that they won't be able to make it home this month after all....


What does come "home" for a visit mean exactly? Was she still under the impression that she and dad were going to be staying with me?

Oh yeah. After I told her that my son and I might have Asperger's she decided that everything I had said to her before was a delusion brought on by my afflicted brain. Or so my brother told me.

So what did I do? I panicked. I freaked out because I didn't want my mom to think that I had an open door policy. I felt like I had to make things crystal clear so that there wouldn't be any future misunderstandings. So I sent her an email that was basically a here's the deal kind of thing. I basically said-- no more lies, I don't appreciate having a potential diagnosis used against me, and if you're going to send me back another nasty email because I'm sticking to my stance of you can't stay with me then don't bother to write.

I didn't cuss at her. It was reasonable. I thought.

Then I get an email from my brother saying why can't we all just get along? Yes, a loving guilt trip from my brother. The one who calls me at 1:00 in the morning to rant and rave about my parents. The one who pokes a stick at the hornets nest and then wonders why there's a bunch of angry insects buzzing around. The one who told me his wife doesn't speak to my mom anymore. Oh, and then he adds a happy little post script that says my mom is "shaking" she's so upset. If I had a dime for every time my brothers had her in the same state while growing up..... But I guess he learned to sling guilt with the best of them and think none of it will blow back on him.


I sent a reply back to my brother that basically stated the same thing I said above. I told him that I didn't think it was fair that I only get little bits of information here and there and then I'm expected to draw a whole picture from that. I told him that I thought it was b.s. that I have been expected to be the dutiful daughter my whole life but when I finally decide enough is enough and stand my ground I'm made to feel guilty about it. Naturally I haven't heard back.

Thing is, my family has never been particularly loving. **I'm going to divulge a little bit of uncomfortable info here** I was molested by my oldest brother (not the one in Thailand) when I was a kid. I don't remember when it started, I'm guessing around 4 or 5 (I think I've repressed most of the memories, though I have always remembered a few specific instances) and I made him stop by the time I was 9. I never told my mom what happened when I was a kid. I'm sure you've all heard about the shame and embarrassment that goes with this kind of thing, and it's true. But when I was 27 I told my mom what happened because she had kicked my brother out of her house, with his two sons. I was worried about the kids and I wanted to do what I could to make sure that custody was transferred to their mother.

So what does my mom do with that info? She decides to tell everyone in the family what happened -- without my permission-- just to make sure they were good and angry at him and would take her side in the whole argument. Yep. That's my mom. Throws me under the bus no matter what. The subject was pretty much dropped after that. She got what she needed out of it so now we can move forward as if nothing happened.

Between that incident and the way she has turned the whole Asperger's thing against me, I think I'm pretty justified in not trusting my mom. I haven't had this discussion with my brother, but I don't expect him to be particularly sensitive to my feelings. No one in my family ever is. It's been pretty much a life of shit rolling down hill and I'm the one who catches it all.

I feel like I'm at a fork in the road. On one side is my family-- chaos, heartache and pain. The other side is no family-- peace.

How sad is that?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

If Sarah Palin Were a Democrat...

I can't tell you how disgusted I have been of the "coverage" of Sarah Palin over the last few days. I think I had the same reaction a lot of women had when McCain put Palin forward as his running mate in that I thought it might be a cynical ploy to get the Hillary Clinton vote. But then I stood back and realized that Sarah Palin is not Hillary Clinton and it wouldn't take long for people to start focusing on their political differences. What I didn't expect was that the so-called feminist movement is only behind women who have the "right" politics.

Like a lot of people I wanted to know about Sarah Palin. Cynical or not, by putting Palin on the Republican ticket McCain has put a woman in position to take on one of the most powerful offices in our country. It isn't the first time, as anyone who remembers Geraldine Ferraro can tell you. But this has been a very close race. Democrats would like to think that their very polished candidate is going to take the Presidency in a landslide. In most cases the Democrats would be almost guaranteed the office following on the heels of an 8-year Republican administration, but somehow middle America hasn't fully bought into the Obama hype. It may be because Obama said that people who "cling" to religion or guns are "bitter." It could be because his wife Michelle, a Princeton graduate who also has a law degree from Harvard, declared she wasn't proud of her country until her husband was running for President. Maybe I'm bitter, but I remember that statement. Or maybe the Democrats aren't running as strongly as they could because Hillary was such a strong contender that she took the shine off of Obama-- at least for awhile.

Yes, the Democrats have surged after Obama's speech as the convention. And no matter your political inclinations, you have to admit the man can give one heck of a speech. But McCain pulled the spotlight back to the Republicans by picking Sarah Palin as his running mate. After I got over my shock that he did pick a woman I began to think his pick was less cynical than I originally thought. She's no Hillary clone-- not even close. She isn't just conservative, she's staunchly so. I began to think there might be a chance that she would invigorate the conservative base. I began to read stories about her through the online media (Washington Post, New York Times etc.) to see what the general opinion was of her and began to realize something. Feminism only works if you're a Democrat.

I couldn't believe the comments I read about Sarah Palin. They weren't about her stance on abortion-- which I could understand. No, the comments were full of innuendo about the birth of her youngest child. The comments were about her looks and the fact that she had been in a beauty contest at some point in her young life. I read comments by women who referred to her as a bimbo or whore, or worse. I read comments by women who had nothing but scathing remarks for another woman who would dare to seek a career in politics while she had children to raise. Or worse, choose to have so many children. (Don't even get me started on the number of people out there who consider themselves superior by only choosing to have one or two kids but neglect them shamelessly--I saw this often as a teacher) Apparently only Democrat women are allowed to work, the rest of world needs to be home burping the baby.

Then we find out Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. *Sigh* As expected, the comments have only gotten uglier (though points to Obama by his classy--so far--handling of the information). Apparently if a pro-life woman has a teenage daughter that gets pregnant, her pro-life stance must be to blame. After all, we assume, she must not have talked to her daughter about s-e-x. I mean, a pro-choice Democrat woman who talks to her daughter about birth control never finds herself in the same position as Sarah Palin. The approximately 520,000 children born to teenage mothers each year must be a result of conservative values gone wrong. Right?

I have a daughter that I have already broached the subject of sex with. I also talk to her about drugs, smoking and alcohol. Does this guarantee that she won't smoke, drink, use drugs or get pregnant? Absolutely not. My mom didn't talk to me about any of those things and I never drank before I was 21, never smoked, never used drugs and didn't have my first child until I was 30. Could I attribute any of those things to my upbringing? I seriously doubt it. Look at the statistics. 4 kids in the family: 2 high school dropouts, 2 high school graduates: 1 college graduate: 2 had children out of wedlock , 2 did not: 3 had (have) serious issues with drugs and alcohol. No wonder my brother calls my mom every year just to tell her that he voted Republican and therefore cancelled out her vote. I'm tempted to do the same thing.

At the end of the day I could care less if people go after Sarah Palin on her politics. If you don't like her stance on abortion, I get it. If you are against domestic drilling for oil, say so and vote for Obama. If you are anti-gun, I'm happy for you. But if you go after Sarah Palin because she is a woman I am going to get pissed off-- more than I already am. Barak Obama has young children and no one assumes he needs to be home raising them. Why can't we make the same assumption about Sarah Palin? Something tells me that if she were elected Vice President, her husband would probably move to Washington D.C. with her and just maybe, take some time off to help raise the kids. Just a thought.

And if you are rabidly anti Sarah Palin, ask yourself this. If she were a Democrat and strongly pro-choice, would all the "feminists" be so hard on her? I seriously doubt it.

As a woman, this whole thing makes me fume.