Hi, reader pals. Fun news. HuffPost Live discovered us and has invited me to join a panel discussion on whether Millennials (those born in the 80's and 90's) really are the most stressed-out generation of all, as a new study implies. It was this blog post that caught their notice. So feel free to check it out if you haven't before, and if you want to watch the live discussion, it'll be airing on the HuffPost Live website at 3pm Eastern Time this Monday, February 11th. Here's the link you can follow to watch: http://huff.lv/YjOwmZ If you catch the discussion and you've got something to say, definitely take to the HuffPost comments, and in the meantime, if you're a fan of this blog, share share share the news! The more the merrier. You guys are a great community of readers and I always look forward to hearing what you have to say.
If you’re in your twenties, April, May and June could be combined into one 91-day month and renamed “Wedding Blitz”. If it’s not your own or your friends’ weddings, your friends are giddily departing for bridal-party weekends. There’s hardly any room left for the smug and bubbly “my hubby is the best in the world!” anniversary posts from the girls who had their wedding a few years ago.
As every advice-column reader knows, weddings are ripe territory for everything that is wrong with humanity. The bride senses any disappointment that could tarnish Her Special Day faster than the Hubble Telescope can spot the moon. The wedding party is secretly smoldering about the amount of time and money they were forced to invest in useless satiny get-ups and shoes that will never, ever match any other outfit. And that’s not even counting all the people who aren’t even there, but who are offended because they weren’t invited. Finally, all the happy guests are waiting for the interval after which they may begin to feel resentful for the delayed, insufficient or non-existent thanks that accompanied their wedding gift.
I felt a lot of pressure on this point. I had two bridal showers, one a surprise. The day after the wedding, my husband and I sat down and opened wedding gifts for about two hours straight. I was exhausted before I even began the thank-you notes.
My worst thank-you note moment occurred the first time I used a gorgeous, expensive blender we’d received on our wedding day and it struck me that I didn’t remember thanking anyone for it. I got out my master list of gifts and givers and desperately scanned it. There was no blender on it. I searched the box the blender came in for a note or a tag but came up empty.
Please, please, if the giver of this blender reads my blog, identify yourself and I will dispatch a thank-you note, five years late.
But what I really want to share with you today, friends, is proof that wedding mania hasn’t pushed the human race to the brink of hell. Sometimes, a thank-you note is not a source of stress, errors and resentment.
In April, my husband and I attended the out-of-town wedding of one of my former co-workers who has remained a friend.
I was feeling guilty, because after I paid for our accommodations, our budget was so tight that month that I didn’t have money left over for a decent wedding gift. So I wrote a nice message in a card for the bride and groom. There wasn’t even a gift card in the envelope. Just my well-wishes.
But several weeks later, this is the note I got in the mail:
Take note, brides.
I’m sharing it as an antidote to everything that’s wrong with the world. Despite last week’s controversial interview, I haven’t given up on marriage. But my friend just restored my faith in weddings, too.
Click on this comic to read Alaina's recent original poll, "Is Smoking Insufferable?"
Announcing an exciting first for Alaina Mabaso’s Blog! Brad, my younger brother, frequent provider of blog material and occasional comment-realm dissenter has agreed to respond to my recent blog about cigarette smoking.
I have smoked on and off for about 6 years. Currently I’m off, and have been off for about 10 months. I’m pleased to report I have decided to stay off cigarettes, and that they have never been an addiction for me. Although I do believe an occasional smoke is quite enjoyable and nowhere near the end of the world. I was a 4-5 a day smoker for many months, for really no other reason than that they were just ‘there’, and it was instant gratification, which is usually mentally unhealthy. In the past, I don’t know why I’ve started up again after quitting for a number of months. After each cigarette-free interval, I feel significantly more healthy. You get your wind back, the dark circles fade, and the Alainas of the world release every grudge they may have had against you.
When it comes to smoking, both smokers and nonsmokers should be categorized and make to wear labels. This would prevent any altercations.
Here’s the category breakdown as I see it.
Category 1 Smokers
Category 1 Smokers are those who love smoking and have no intentions of quitting. They don’t care about the health of others or their own. They are category blind. Some are just plain selfish, and others are in need of mental therapy, because they justify their habits by saying “everyone dies someday.” They may smoke while pregnant, or they may smoke through illness. They are weak, and at the same time they are convinced that they are stronger than the rest. They feed off others and lean heavily on society, and will most likely never see the light.
Category 2 Smokers
Category 2 Smokers enjoy smoking but know they would be better off if they could just kick the habit. They understand the health risks, and have no problem changing their routine slightly to appease the non-smoker. In fact they prefer to know if they are being a bother to anyone. These folks tend to quit cold turkey when the time comes. Ask a Category 2 Smoker for stick. They will hook you up with a smile on their face.
Category 3 Smokers
Category 3 Smokers have a cig before bed, or a couple per week. They smoke on their own time, and usually in private. Most people don’t know they occasionally light up, and they smell like a ‘normal’ person.
Category 4 Smokers
There is almost no need for Category 4. These smokers might light up once every couple of months, because a friend offers them one, and because they’ve had a couple drinks by the time the generous Category 2 Smoker offered a cig (Category 1 Smokers never share). The Category 2 Smoker is thrilled to pawn off an occasional cigarette on a Category 4. The Category 2 usually feels very guilty smoking alone, so Category 2′s and 4′s get along quite well. But steer clear of the ox and enjoy your wontons.
Here are the categories of non-smokers:
Category 1 Non-Smokers
Category 1 Non-Smokers despise anyone who smokes for any reason or at any interval. They are category-blind. They are quick to anger, mentally unstable, have skewed vision, and it’s their mission in life to make a massive stink, paying for commercials where people line up body bags outside corporate tobacco company buildings and clutch megaphones feverishly with the anti-smoking symbol tattooed on the plastic rim. If they put that sort of heart into some other line of work, they would make six figures twice over, create charitable foundations and solve world hunger. Jerks!
Category 2 Non-Smokers
Category 2 Non-Smokers try to avoid smokers and smoking whenever possible. They are very agitated by Category 1 Smokers, but they also keep their distance from the Category 1 Non-Smoker. The Category 2 Non-Smoker is opinionated, but typically chooses to bite his or her tongue unless unnecessarily provoked. Watch out, because the Category 2 Non-Smoker will argue with unwavering confidence and wisdom. Category 1 Smokers and Non-Smokers will quickly realize that they have bitten off more than they can chew by arguing with a Category 2 Non-Smoker, and they will usually turn to anger and insults because they know their logic may be flawed.
Category 3 Non-Smokers
Category 3 Non-Smokers are aware of the laws and know the health risks, but are neither here nor there in the great debate. They go to concerts with their friends who puff, puff, then pass. The Category 3 Non-Smokers always pass, but don’t begrudge the recipient of the pass. He or she has more important things to worry about. Similar to Raymond, everybody loves a Category 3 Non-Smoker.
All this is not to say that, for example, a Category 1 Non-Smoker may cross over into the realm of the wise Category 2 Non-Smoker, but I really don’t have the room, time or desire to go into half-categories, though they probably do exist. No, there are no quarter categories – get outta here with that crap.
Alaina, as annoying as it is to your overactive olfactory factory, you’re almost out of luck with your smoking neighbor. He’s got an irrevocable right to puff that thing almost anywhere he wants until the day he croaks (literally). If he is a Category 2 Smoker, then you may have a chance to free your apartment of smoke, but at the risk sounding like a Category 1 Non-Smoker. If he turns out to be a Category 1 Smoker, then sticking to your Category 1 Non-Smoker guns is absolutely the way to go. Asking him to change his habits is a risky call. Flip a coin, and then have your husband do the asking if it lands on heads.
The categories balance each other out. Since Category 1 Smokers exist, there must be Category 1 Non-Smokers to retain equilibrium. But as soon as a Category 2 Smoker has a run-in with a Category 1 Non-Smoker, then a verbal D-day will most likely ensue, and it’s completely unnecessary. Category 1′s should be barred from debate with Category 2′s, and vice versa.
For those who are not familiar with recent roles my brother has played in this blog’s content, feel free to click on the pictures below.
A recent story in the news spotlighted a high school in Rhode Island which graduates less than half of its students. Just over half of Central Falls High School’s students are proficient readers, and just 7% are proficient in math. The Superintendant and the school board asked the teachers’ union to make some changes, including paid tutoring and two weeks of paid teacher training in the summer, as well as eating lunch with the kids once a week. The kids in Central Falls could use the help – most of them are very poor and many struggle with English as a second language.
The teachers’ union refused the changes. So the school board voted to fire the Central Falls High School teachers.
The aftermath rippled through the national media, culminating with President Obama citing Central Falls in a speech on education and declaring, “If a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn’t show signs of improvement, then there’s got to be a sense of accountability.” He surprised many by provoking teachers’ unions, a longtime Democratic stronghold. The question is gripping the country. Should teachers’ pay and status be tied to their students’ success?
I saw a cartoon commenting on the controversy. In it, a goonish, drooling kid with a finger up his nose holds a textbook upside down, a pencil through his ears. “Would you want this person to determine your salary and benefits?” the caption asks.
I admit, I am renowned in my circles as what my mother calls a “child scrooge”. I often find the behavior of kids noisy and disconcerting. But I found that cartoon’s implication repugnant: that kids struggle at school because they’re cretins, and the teachers can’t do anything about it.
I get a similar feeling about a story that’s closer to home: troubling incidents in Philadelphia known as “flash mobs” – late night swarms of hundreds of teenagers who sometimes just block the traffic, and sometimes do worse, like assaulting bystanders and looting stores. Amidst the furor to arrest the troublemakers and charge them with adult crimes, and the handwringing over the dark side of the social networking sites supposedly behind the gatherings, I’m anxious over something different. Do hundreds of city parents either not know or not care about where their kids are late at night?
The fact is, it’s just as easy to demonize kids and teens for problems that involve them as it is to demonize any group of people when you face an issue with an us vs. them mindset. Of course, the problems involving kids are numerous. Recently, I shopped in a department store with my mother. There was another mother-daughter pair nearby, although that daughter was about 22 years younger than I. As I quietly combed the racks of denim, the 4-year-old’s wails rose like the relentless chatter of a cicada plague over a sleepy forest. “Mommmy! Mommmy! Mommmy! Mommmy!” she cried. “I’m tired! I want to go home! Mommmmy!” She oozed out of her stroller and collapsed on the carpet. It was beyond irritating. But as I faced a sea of “perfectly slimming” jeans and khakis, I knew that I felt just like she did. Perhaps the only real difference between the four-year-old and me is that she has yet to master accepted social inhibitions, like the one that keeps me from weeping and prostrating myself like a squid washed up on the floor of the mall.
A wonderful banjo player gathers a small crowd in the train station – but only the two-year-old is dancing. A 9-year-old boy hears a long-winded speaker say she will conclude shortly. “Finally!” he moans, audible to all present. Don’t we all sometimes wish we could start a dance party in the train station or whine loudly and roll our eyes when someone drones on too long? Kids’ behavior reminds me not of their bizarre differences from my adult self, but of our native similarities – before the unfettered expression of those universal human joys and exasperations are ironed out of us by politeness.
Maybe it’s just my skeptical personality, but I’m constantly surprised by the trusting nature of small children. Recently a friend asked me to supervise his little girl while he stepped out of the room. The child promptly tumbled and hit her head. She had never met me before, but when I picked her up she burrowed into my lap. This is, perhaps, something else we lose or suppress as adults: a native desire to trust and rely on others emotionally and physically. For most people, this trust is replaced with a wariness of others that emphasizes our autonomy and intellect as adults. But if we connected more to that childlike faith in others, we might realize that the bad, ungovernable, unteachable qualities we see in kids, whether they’re failing math or running in a flash mob, are human traits we all should have some responsibility for.
I don’t think kids are challenging to teach because they’re kids, a different species from my adult self. I think they’re challenging to teach because they’re human beings whose inhibitions and personal accountability aren’t in place. What could be more challenging than molding someone else who has all the same human failings you do – unmasked by your practiced patience and tact?
I rode the bus last month with a mom and her daughter, who was probably about three. The child slumped sideways like a rag doll in the large seat. “Sit up! Sit up the right way!” Her mother said. The child faced forward and stuck her legs out in front of her, her ankles reaching just beyond the edge of the grown-up seat. It reminded me of kids in school. They might get specially sized desks and chairs, but school is still an eight-hour workday. If I can’t wait for five o’clock, how does an eight-year-old feel?
The little girl on the bus clutched a wrinkled McDonald’s bag. She plunged her hand in for a French fry. “We don’t eat that on the bus!” Mom swept the bag away. The child immediately gave into some of the most acute grief I’ve ever seen at close range. She slumped as if she had received a fatal wound in battle and sobbed into the seat. I considered moving to higher ground as the snot coursed down her chin. Couldn’t mom just cede the fries for the sake of everyone else on the bus?
“Are you going to have a tantrum now?” the mother asked.
“No,” she wept.
“Well, are you going to close your mouth?”
“Sit up properly! Right now!” Mom was returning to basics.
Through her paroxysms, the girl hauled herself upright. “I want my friiiiiiies!”
“We don’t eat them on the bus.”
It took only about six blocks for the tempest to wane. The little girl wiped her tears, crawled into the next seat and wrapped her arms around her mother. I heard a faint crinkle of paper and the mother seized a small, questing hand. “You’re trying to reach those fries!” The child squealed in delight at her own cleverness as the mother wiped her nose on an unworn sweatshirt.
Children are as stubborn and whiny and wily as…well, as any grown-up person is tempted to be. Would I like someone to order me not to eat my very own French fries? I’m human – of course I wouldn’t like it. But I’d probably yell and cry about it only if no-one had ever taught me I that shouldn’t. One of our most important jobs as adults is to inculcate in kids the sensibility and the accountability that makes the grown-up world function. The 15-year-old in the flash mob is not the only one who is responsible for his behavior. The lessons on sitting up straight, not eating on the bus and shutting your mouth may accumulate agonizingly (for all involved) on a hundred tragically French fry-less rush hour buses, or (as we can hope becomes a reality in the American education system) in a million classrooms where the extraordinary people who choose to teach persevere for their students, seeing a class full of young human beings, not a problem demographic for which adults are not responsible. Those insufferable kids aren’t aliens. They’re people who just haven’t learned what I’ve learned.