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Top 5 Dating Tips (aka How To Avoid Losers)

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Dating, like dealing with customer service, using the remote, and getting on a plane, was easier in my 20s. I’d meet a guy; in a bar, at work, in a dorm or in a cockpit (true story) and zing zang zoom, we’d be dating. There wasn’t much at stake and there was little baggage accumulated. Everyone was pretty much in the “same place” developmentally and it was all pretty much harmless fun. Yes things got real and often fraught, and sometimes ended in his and her tears. But the sheer volume of single people in their 20s meant a helluva big drawing board to which to return. As long as someone was unmarried there was very little that was suspect in a potential date. Not employed to his full potential? Well who is in their 20s? Living with roommates and/or in a hovel? Hey, these are early days. Unless one wrestled with mental stability, there really was nothing to hide from a potential date. Fast forward to your 40s and beyond and it’s quite a different tableau. Internet dating and messy lives have nudged us towards self-marketing that borders on deceit. We put our best face forward. Sometimes it’s a vaseline on the lens version of ourselves (a la Cybill Shepherd in every close-up of Moonlighting; by the way if you get that reference, this article is for you!). We leave out the less attractive aspects of our biographies, or we simply choose to forget. The dating pool gets significantly smaller as we age, unless you’re a dude over 75 & then yowza the world is your oyster once more. But for everyone else the pickings get slimmer, as so many former singles are happily (or not so happily) Noah’s Arking their way through life. And unlike in our 20s, we are not all equal now. It’s true and there’s no point in grousing over it; older men like younger women. So it is written, so it will always be. (If it helps, employ the serenity prayer from time to time.) This fact slenderizes the options even further. It is tempting then to overlook certain quirks or niggling details or even that little voice in your head screaming; “RUN!!!!” The more we’re attracted or intrigued, the more muffled that poor exhausted voice becomes, until it’s just as small & muted as Dustin Hoffman pounding on the church glass (Elaine, Elaine.) If you won’t listen to your own little voice, maybe you’ll listen to my big booming bossy one! Resolve dissolves, but commandments do not. So it is written…

1. Help From The IRS

Have you ever noticed that there is no box to check for “separated” on your tax form? That’s because it is legally meaningless. However it does mean many things to many people. Some people see business travel as being “separated”, others consider their separate vacations as a change in marital status. Suffice it to say, there are all kinds of ways to be separated and it’s key to know which version works for you. If the wife has publicly left the marriage (in a juicy embezzlement/infidelity scandal) and is gearing up to be her married boyfriend’s 4th wife, chances are she isn’t coming back (oops, have I said too much?). But separated ain’t divorced, and it’s going to get messier before it gets neater. Caveat Emptor dear reader, caveat emptor.

2. Professions Are Not Accidental

After a certain age, professions are just as much about personality as they are about credentials. It’s kinda like when dogs look like their owners. Do people choose dogs that look familiar or do they begin to take on the characteristics of their dogs over time? Either way, don’t be surprised when the lawyer likes to talk (a lot!), or when the professor is happiest with disciples. If you’re looking for a good conversationalist you might want to avoid dating anesthesiologists. If you’d like to be seen as something more than an audience member on a date you might want to forgo actors. Oh I’m sure there are many many actors capable of very healthy and wonderful relationships and utterly devoid of narcissism. I look forward to meeting one some day. It is more likely that you’ll find yourself listening to the actor’s monologue over dinner, a dinner at which he appeared 15 minutes late without an apology. There’s also a chance you’ll run into him a few weeks later and he’ll have no idea who you are, having never really “seen” you at all.

3. Less Filling, Taste Great

Whether in person or on-line we’ve all become pretty adept at selling ourselves. It can be quite advantageous to all parties to put one’s best foot forward. However, actual misrepresentation will bite everyone in the ass. Any advertiser worth their fee will make sure they understand their product before launching a campaign. I’m not suggesting swami level enlightenment here; just a good long look in the (full-length) mirror. There’s nothing wrong with keeping a few irrelevant details to oneself. Does any date really need to know about the skinny-dipping and wedding crashing of your (I mean, my) past? But it’s best to get the major stuff right out front. Saying you “don’t see well at night” isn’t an accurate representation of stick wielding, sunglass wearing, golden retriever assisted, blind. We’re all differently abled in one way or another. However I’d like to know that I’ll need to help my blind blind date to the door of the restaurant. (I’d have noticed his condition sooner had I not been mesmerized by the calloused grooves in his guitar playing fingertips. So what does that leave, just three senses?)

4. Linkedin = Match.com v.2

Have a first date with anyone. Seriously. As long as it’s in a public place and one friend knows where you are and what you’re doing; throw caution to the wind. But before you get serious or sleep with someone, do a bit of research. There’s simply no excuse for not Googling. If your potential bed buddy has no digital footprint be wary. As cold shower as it sounds, check out his/her Linkedin profile. Does it sound similar to what you’ve been told? Does it appear to be written by a 5-year old with one-sentence job descriptions devoid of capitalization or punctuation? You might be about to bed Peter Pan or be arrested. Are there discrepancies with dates and schools? Are there a lot of very brief stints? It’s probably not a game changer but the more you know…

5. Actions Are Deafening

People tell you an awful lot about themselves right off the bat. What they say is important, but it’s their actions that we really should be listening to. If you meet someone at a party, and not once during the hours long conversation do they offer to get you a drink, they’re probably not entirely adept at adult situations. If a date buys you a lovely dinner and then leaves you on the street to hail your own cab in the dark, he probably thinks his wallet can do all his heavy lifting. If a date lets you hail your own cab because he’s too busy figuring out whether or how to kiss you, he’s probably rather limited. If it all sounds confusing and embarrassingly retro and anti-feminist, try thinking of it in a non-sexual way. How do you and your friends treat each other? How do you expect to interact with people when there’s no sexual charge present? Now transfer that to a dating situation. Don’t you want to know a friend got home safely? Do you tell a friend they look fab and/or you had a great time? During a first encounter with a fella I find myself noticing the lack of a drink offer or other borderline boorish behavior and think of a recent incident I had. A married couple, two very tall and imposing gorgeous men, took me to the theatre days after I had broken a toe. They continuously surrounded me The Bodyguard fashion in the crowded, congested, toe crushing theatre. Out on the street, one stayed with me as the other ran two blocks, jumped in a cab and rode it to me. I will always love them.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2015 in Cultural Critique, Dating

 

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I Got Another Puzzle For You*

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Software has been developed to assist school principals in policing the online behavior of students; online behavior outside of school facilities and hours that is. Pointing out the folly of such a pursuit or the obscene waste of resources of such an endeavor is disheartening. As our public education system is eroding in rigor and well roundedness, do we really need yet another distraction? At what point are we Willy Wonka warning of yet another bad decision with hushed weary intonations of; “No. Stop. Don’t”?

The notion that a child’s behavior outside of school is the school’s business/problem is absurd. Unless the school is part of an orphanage it is not the school’s problem. The very idea that there could ever be any software program that could police all the children, in all electronic realms is simply science fiction. Children do stupid stuff. Kids can be mean. How they do this stuff is beside the point. Generations ago principals did not police finished basements, railroad tracks, bowling alleys and soda fountains. No doubt some principals at some point have cleaned graffiti off a bathroom wall, but they didn’t crouch in a corner ready to pounce upon the scribe (or at least I hope they didn’t.) Most of us of voting age were either bullied, a bully or a mix of the two at one point or another. It’s what kids do. Siblings torment siblings, classmates tease classmates, and kids terrorize neighbors (Boo Radley anyone?) It’s not nice, it’s nothing any adult is proud of, but it is part of growing up.

The issue is how children and the adults around them respond to such goings on. Bullying and extreme response to bullying both come from the same place; insecurity. Children are trying to find their way in the world and to feel some sense of control. A bully feels better about him or herself when they lord over someone. Being bullied feels crappy but should not feel like the end of the world. It becomes the end of the world when the bullying is unrelenting and perpetrated by many OR when the bullied is fragile. Fragility can take many guises but should be recognizable to parents. A fragile child does not have close (age appropriate) friends, reacts disproportionately to disappointment, and demonstrates excessive anxiety or (inward or outward) rage. Children who have trouble connecting to their world around them can be devastated by the sense that their world hates them. Children, particularly fragile children, are best served by having their world expanded. Multiple social networks (e.g., scouts, dance class, religious school, relatives, etc.) are an insurance policy against ostracization. Feeling good about one area of his/her life can be the light at the end of the tunnel for a bullied child.

The very idea that a principal should spend money and time trying to police the (often elusive) behavior of children is absurd. If there is that kind of time and money available perhaps we could get the arts back into the school? For decades arts, particularly theater, has been used with vulnerable populations to explore issues of empathy and self-esteem. Prisons and juvenile detention centers have changed lives with their theater arts programs. Children engaged in writing or visual arts projects learn about each other and find common ground. A school experience not based on physical agility or extroversion creates a more realistic environment for children. (Few adults have to make their way through every weekday by being popular.) Bullying and extreme response to bullying is about a response to lack of control. Adding more external control (which has no hope of being effective) completely misses the mark. Strong children are not built with surveillance systems. Strong children are built by a sense of accomplishment and mastery. Schools can play a part in that but to do so they need to focus on education not on in loco parentis.

*Oompa Loompa Song (1971) – Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Childhood, Education

 

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Blaming The Messenger

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Human beings do stupid things; in fact we’re kinda known for it. We are impulsive, petty and opportunistic. (We are also all kinds of wonderful things but those aren’t what get us in trouble.) We make bad choices particularly in our youth. It’s why parents and sealed criminal records were invented. We tend to get better at staying out of trouble and accruing regrets as we age. But if we are doing any kind of living, mistakes will be made.

Recently there’s been some chatter about jerry-rigging the repercussions of our bad choices. This post-behavior regulating centers on the internet. You know, the internet, that thing that apparently not only has changed how we communicate and access information but has changed the very core of human behavior. Not. Nothing about human behavior has changed. The fact that bad decisions can now live forever and be accessed by all has changed. But people have not just discovered; lying, bullying or taking nude photos. Having a naked image of oneself has always been tricky (there’s a reason that prostitutes were often hired by painters.) Since the invention of photography a woman’s (it’s almost always a woman) life could be upended in later years by the discovery of racy photos. Many an aspiring actress has had to survive having early “modeling” photos published upon her newfound fame. The internet didn’t invent disseminating naked pictures. Nor did it create the motive to do so.

The internet did also not invent bullying, or the incentive to do so. It is tempting to say otherwise as reports of bullying have grown as internet usage has. Causation and correlation are very different. Sales of ice cream increase at the same time that sex crimes increase. Eating ice cream does not cause an increase in sex crimes, but both behaviors do happen in warmer weather. The internet has grown in popularity as our lives have become much more external. Our children’s first photos now happen in utero (or pee stick.) Those photos are shared with the world. Our children now “graduate” kindergarten and those photos are shared with the world. They are taught from the very beginning that life occurs with an audience in place. Every action, or inaction is captured in still or moving image. Life is a performance and therefore far more external than it once was. It is challenging to develop a strong sense of self (and hence esteem) when so little is done independently or internally. It can happen, but it is difficult. A shaky sense of self is a breeding ground for bullying. Strong, confident people do not bully. Children with parents who are in control, strong, authoritative and present, know there’ll be repercussions for their nasty behavior. The reported rise in children committing suicide as a result of bullying is sobering. Children with a strong sense of self will be miserable when bullied. But children with an internal life will turn off the computer (as instructed by a parent) and refuse to look at the nastiness. A child with a sense of self will find other outlets and activities outside of the bullying sphere. Do adults have to pay closer attention? Absolutely, but it’s not the internet that’s causing this behavior.

It’s not the internet that causes people to make false claims about products or services. Fake reviews have existed since there’s been something to review. (“The Epic of Gilgamesh is a must read!!!!!”) Even legitimate reviews are manipulated to sell. Open any old-fashioned print newspaper and you’ll see adverts with blurbs unrecognizable to the reviewer. It’s always been a buyer beware world. Unless a review is authored by a trusted source, it’s safe to assume it’s not all that reliable. Do we really need laws to try and regulate fake reviews on the internet? If it was even possible to regulate false claims (and it’s not) why focus on the internet? There are people promising me instant weight loss, better skin, teeth and hair every minute on television. My newspaper is filled with press releases posing as articles, blatantly selling products, people or places. When did being discerning become something we can regulate?

The internet and social media have changed the speed and range of our communication. Globally we have access to information and entertainment previously unimagined. It’s a little bit archive, a splash of Town Square, a news ticker and an entertainment center. Many people simply have no frame of reference for something so expansive and it is tempting to anthropomorphize technology. It’s a fool’s errand to regulate human behavior on the internet. Technology is ever changing and people will find ways around any awkward measure to regulate. Teaching our children (and reminding ourselves) that nude photos can be embarrassing, bullying is a pitiful behavior of the weak, and liars usually get caught would serve us better.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

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Cheating Cheaters Who Cheat

Have you heard? It’s all over the news: people cheat! That’s right; human beings actually cheat. Next thing you know they’ll be lying as well. (Cheating and lying being close relations of the “I want what I want” family.) All (or most) flippancy aside, we probably can all agree that cheating is hardly news, or new. There’s a good chance that the guy who invented fire was really just the guy standing behind the guy who invented fire and felt the urge to push him into the flame, create a “do you smell something burning” diversion and declare; “My word! What is this I have made? Let us call it fire.” Maybe he didn’t get enough attention as a child, maybe his father dragged his mother around by the hair one too many times, or maybe his cave was in the wrong part of town. But more likely than not, he was just some guy who wanted to be the one who invented fire.

So why in the world do we (feign) surprise when hearing of business, government or humans involved in cheating? Why is it simply cataclysmic when students (from good schools!) cheat? The recent ‘outbreaks’ at Stuyvesant High School and Harvard have sounded alarm bells in the education and parenting community. How could this happen to academically gifted individuals? The assumption is that cheating is not for people who need only work hard to get what they want. Than who exactly is it for? Cheating by any other name is simply a short cut. The notion that people with resources (intellectual or financial) would not engage in short cuts is absurd.

Of course it would appear that these pumpkin eaters are not to blame. Oh no, apparently they can not resist how very easy cheating has become. Evidently (or so the argument goes) the internet causes cheating (and pornography, adultery, obesity, gambling and shopping addiction.) When Harvard students were given a take-home exam they could not resist the sweet siren song of the internet. We must assume then that their parents and grandparents were able to resist the charms of the extensive Harvard library system because, well because Boston is cold damn it. There’s getting an A and there’s staying warm for heaven’s sake. In class cheating has been made all the more tempting with smart-phones. No longer must students burden themselves with the arduous mechanics of passing notes! Just type your question on the phone that has no business being in the classroom. And what of wikipedia?! Certainly there is no way a person could be expected to see that the operative word in “copy and paste” is ‘copy!’

Blaming the internet is fun but it’s also cheating. It is avoiding doing the real work to find the answer. Could it be that there is an increase in cheating because there is an increase in testing? Could it be that once we made every kid an honor student or worthy of a “best snack provider” trophy, we robbed them of an interest in working hard for something they want? Could it be that growing up in a world of leaders who cheat and lie with impunity has an effect on children? Maybe it’s a little of everything or a bit of nothing. But what it isn’t, is a side effect of the internet.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Education

 

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We Got Trouble*

A study has been conducted which examines depression and computer usage.  The researchers evaluated participant’s indications of depressive characteristics and correlated those to computer usage.  People who viewed email compulsively, or viewed a lot of videos on-line also showed signs of depression.  The report concludes with recommendations for a software to alert users of depressive behaviors.  Any intervention or awareness regarding mental illness is a good thing.  But before we start organizing a keyboard awareness day or choosing a color for our ribbons and rubber bracelets, let’s consider this study.

Isn’t the very crux of depression that of an inward orientation?  Are we at all surprised that people who are depressed are not out in the world socializing?  Isn’t the desire to turn on the computer actually a positive sign?  (Versus drawing the curtains and taking to one’s bed?)  Virtual connections are virtual, but sure beat cutting off all contact with the world.  Why would the researches make such a concerted effort to ignore the possibility that increased screen time leads to depression?  I’m not trying to start a rumor or anything, but could it be that they were funded by a mental health software company.

In the end, all this internet sound and fury is reminiscent of the Great Television Scare or Video Game Scourge of years past.  Comic books, dime store novels and packs of sen-sen conjured these same fears once. None of these trends/novelites have the power to ruin.

Depression is an illness it is not an allergic reaction to circumstances.  Do people enter a depressive state due to cataclysmic life events?  Certainly.  But that is a depressive state not depression.  Potato Potahto?  Not exactly.  There are many serious differences between a normative response to sad and/or traumatic events and that of a state of being.  For one thing a depressive state has a beginning, middle and end and a cause.  Knowing there is a cause to feeling so bad is the difference between night and day.  Having your world close in and become gray and fuzzy for no discernible reason is both frightening and self-perpetuating.  Our natural inclination is to move towards pleasure and away from pain.  If you can not see pleasure, if everything you see and feel is dark and thick and unrelenting, you’ve no reason to believe that there is a different world.  The darkness is the reality and it can be difficult to claw your way towards something you can’t detect.

Social isolation can certainly exacerbate depression.  Humans (even the most anti-social of us) are meant to interact.  (As a species we would perish without the desire to mingle.)  However people with depressive tendencies are a diverse group.  Their depression can be triggered or worsened by physical changes (hormonal transitions, illness, sleep deprivation, etc.) by life changes (moving, job changes, marriage, divorce, etc.) by nature (cycles of the moon, seasons, etc.) or by a myriad of other triggers/events.  That said, as an illness whose hallmark is inward focus, forced external interaction can be very effective.  Volunteer work can alleviate symptoms of depression.   It would seem that the very act of doing something for someone else, gives the brain a break from its persevering.

Living in a culture which extols the virtue of self above all else is powerful nourishment for the growth of depression.  If we were to pay attention to all the messaging, we should be painstakingly obsessing over every body part/function and moment in our lives.  We are to chronicle every; party, meal, trip, pee stick, grade promotion, softball game, and sonogram to the world and thereby give us the patina of great significance (Because It Happened To Us.)  We are encouraged not to experience life and its many moments, but to “create memories.”  So much self-consciousness is not good for the self.  Isn’t it a culture of; “your special day” “best snack provider-friendliest-rookie-player trophy” and general sense of entitlement that is far more socially isolating than technology?

When the first books were mass printed, the townspeople were up in arms.  What would happen to communal oral storytelling traditions.  There goes the neighborhood!  The first home radios caused some anxiety no doubt.  Families were now holed up in their living rooms staring at a box.  Little did they know, that box-staring was just beginning.  Television took people out of communal movie theaters (which were/are communal only in the sense of shared germs, smells and noise, not in any actual ‘communing’)  Personal music devices were said to be bad, yet I have never seen a campaign to bring back the boom-box, and I’ve never quite understood how the iPod affects behavior any differently than transistor radios did.

Invention and innovation do not come from the sky to do evil to our land.  They are not the flying monkeys.  Products/progress succeeds because there is a hunger that it satiates.  The fact that consumers represent the population and are thus diverse and include those with mental illness, is expected.  How one behaves, with or without technology will always be a lens into an individual’s inner workings.  Unfortunately it will always be far more tempting to design research or blame which looks to demonize the new and inanimate.  Mental illness, criminal behavior, gambling and pornography obsession are real issues.  Spending our valuable resources to shout; “No, no, look over here, the internet is to blame” does not seem wise.

*The Music Man – Meredith Wilson (1957)

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2012 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

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