Tag Archives: Holly Golightly

The World Wide Living Room


All modern etiquette can be boiled down to; the world is not your living room. There is a very thin (practically invisible) membrane between our public and private lives these days. For some situations this transparency is positive. Many topics that were once off limits for discussion in polite and even impolite society are now fair game. It’s challenging to view this as anything but on the whole a good thing. People are much more aware of the symptoms and treatment options for breast, colon and ovarian cancer in no small part because of our comfort level sharing intimacies. For every pee stick photo we’re subjected to, we know that more women (and perhaps men) have a better understanding of fertility and reproduction. It’s difficult to find fault with our newfound comfort level of what was once shrouded in secrecy.

However there’s sharing and then there’s sharing. No doubt we’ve all been subjected to one-side of a phone conversation that contained the most personal and gruesome details. Never again do I wish to share a commute with a woman describing; “the itching and burning but no bumps.” Nor do I want to enjoy my salad while a baby gets his diaper changed at the next table. (And yes, it happened in close enough proximity that I know for a fact it was a boy.) I’d like to ride on public transport without the fear of someone’s frappamachocino landing in my lap. I’d really like to never again sit through any performance at which the audience is; texting, updating their status, talking, eating, drinking, playing with plastic bags, or performing personal hygiene. And while we’re on the subject; hair is not a toy. It is not to be played with in public, especially over my dinner plate.

Truman Capote told us volumes about Miss Golightly when he described her as “idly, publicly combing her hair” at a table at “21”. It was a clue because it simply wasn’t (and shouldn’t be) done. It’s unsanitary, and in a world in which people clip hand santizer to themselves, you would think that went without saying. But if the world is your living room and there no longer is such a thing as public space then why not polish one’s nails on an airplane? Why not walk down a crowded city sidewalk while typing and assume the rest of the world will clear a path? Why wouldn’t you spend an hour in a Holocaust exhibit with a wailing baby strapped to your front? How could any of these behaviors affect anyone else? After all you’re in your living room.

But see the thing about the planet is that it’s finite. We’ve known this for some time and have maneuvered our social ways to fit that schema. We’ve always had a sense of personal space and of the personal. There was a time when proper people did not dine in public. The act of eating was seen as far too intimate to be done in front of strangers. Private dining rooms and draped banquets were created to ease the discomfort. It’s quite a leap to changing a dirty diaper on a restaurant table, no? This transition did not happen in a vacuum. As we’ve become more liberated in what we share, our lives have become more regimented. Most of us follow rules and procedures our ancestors couldn’t even dream/nightmare. Where they might summon a doctor to their home when feeling ill, we must perform an acrobatic act to rival the Karamazov Brothers to navigate healthcare and insurance. We spend more time pressing “0” in a vain attempt to speak to a human; a human not reading from a script. We fill out forms, choose passwords and codes, and follow follow follow the rules. We reboot, recharge and wait for installation to watch a television that used to just plug into the wall. Is it any wonder that we simply resist any more rules and constraints?

When we’ve had enough (and that occurs almost daily) we just want to break free. However it’s possible to feel free without being hostile. And make no mistake; ignoring the existence of others is a hostile act. Acting as if other people are not entitled to the same resources is a hostile act. Invading people’s physical, auditory, olfactory or visual space is a hostile act. Learning to share is the very first lesson we are taught. Sharing means acknowledging that others exist and we don’t in fact wear an invisibility cloak. The key is to differentiate our impulses from our conscious behavior. Is it easier for us to change a dirty diaper whenever and wherever we’d like? Yes in fact it is, but do we really want to be someone who (literally) poops on the world? Is that what we want to put out into the universe? Is that what we want our children to emulate?

Is daily life sometimes a wicked pain in the bum? Absolutely, but each time you leave your living room and step into the light step into the day, there’s potential for positive interaction. It would be silly to ignore that opportunity.


Posted by on April 1, 2013 in Cultural Critique


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You (version 6.1)

We are our stories. Some of us scour ancestral records looking for the ‘truth’. Some of us pick and choose what elements best tell our story. Some of us (a la Holly Golightly) create our own stories. But in the end we are our stories.
Whether we cling to family names and lore or change our names and run from the past, we are saying the same thing to the world; we are who we say we are. It often helps us to find our footing in the world, these narratives. Perhaps Mr. Romanoff never would have opened a successful restaurant if he didn’t claim a royal title. Perhaps Dale wouldn’t have won friends and influenced people had he not changed the spelling of his last name; giving the impression he came from a more distinguished family. People have been changing their names for as long as they’ve been changing their stories. Often for reason of life and death, but also for the pursuit of happiness.
We could argue the definition of happiness but we agree on what happiness isn’t; misery. There is much research on the resilience of human beings. There are people who have withstood the most horrific and miserable of circumstances and not just survived but thrived. There are other people who shatter like antique glass under much less harrowing ordeals. Why? If we are all made from (very) similar biological stuff, why is there such a discrepancy in our resilience? It would seem there is little correlation between optimism and resilience. Someone in the throes of anguish doesn’t bounce back because they believe the sun will come out tomorrow. It must be more about self-definition. A person having a strong sense of themselves can separate (not disassociate) from their circumstances. They can walk through hell and keep walking. A person who defines themselves by external stimuli (including the manner in which they’re treated) believes that hell is their new mailing address.
If this is true how do we help ourselves (and others) create a strong sense of self. The very first way is the stories we are told or tell to to the small. Children with a sense of ‘where they come from’ have a better sense of where they’re going. If their creation was mainstream/traditional the storytelling is pretty straightforward. If there is anything that veers slightly from “when a mommy and daddy love each other very much they want to be close as possible…” children must be told in an age-appropriate manner. The way we tell these stories is as important as the stories themselves. No parties should ever be demonized as children can do simple math (if my biological father was an evil son of a bitch what does that make me?) Having a sense of one’s ancestry creates solid roots on which to grow.
Beyond our narrative of origin what can help make us strong? External rewards are often kryptonite to a strong sense of self. Awards, honors and trophies are based as much on others’ performance as they are our own. You can’t win any kind of accolade unless others lost. The only way to feel accomplished is to accomplish something; at any age (ex. riding a 2-wheeler, taking the bus unescorted, learning to drive.) Finding things that we’re good at is one of the more rewarding ways of bolstering a sense of self. When we know we’re good at something (ex. raising ferrets, making goulash, painting murals, investing money, etc.) it matters little what others think and thereby diminishes any inclinations we might have towards external definition.
In the end we are exactly who we say we are. We decide how to pitch our own story. If we cull our life stories, most of us could create a compelling Lifetime move script. But to what end? (Have you ever watched one of those films?!) What do we gain from being the lead in a bad made-for-tv-movie? Why not go back and look at what happened in between the hardships and tell that story? Whatever happened, either despite it or because of it made you who you are today. More importantly you are still here. It’s never too late to reframe or update your story. No one is keeping track of how many versions there are.

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Posted by on March 25, 2013 in Childhood, Well-Being


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