You Like Me, You Really Like Me!

As many of my darling readers know, this is the first blog that I have ever felt gave me any kind of purpose and I have been so encouraged by the comments I have received and inspired by the blogs I follow.  A writer for life, I rarely share my work with people, but through WordPress, I have found that I should have been doing this a long, long time ago.  I love knowing that my words have reached dozens of countries around the world.  Simply put, I can’t stop now!

Today I received some fantastic news that has me grinning like a Cheshire Cat.  I have been awarded my first blogging honor by the fabulous folks at Mother Sugar.

*squeal*

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A Love Letter To Richard Simmons

Dearest Richard,

You have been a part of my life since my mother ordered your Sweatin’ to the Oldies VHS tapes so that she could work out in the living room without needing to get a baby-sitter to hit the gym.  To a five-year-old me, I was eager to join her.  How could I not?  It looked like so much fun with the colorful outfits, the great music, and the smiles on each of the dancers’ faces.  I knew every word, every song, every routine—still do.  Even now more than two decades later, I still catch myself going through the exercises when I hear songs like “Locomotion,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “I Get Around” much to the embarrassment of those around me. Continue reading

Rethinking Stranger Danger

If any of you out there had a protective mother like I did, you were taught from a very early age not to talk to people you didn’t know.  Those people were called strangers and they were very, very bad.

As the only child of a single mother, I was well-versed in what to say when someone I didn’t know came up to me and said, “Come here, little girl” (NO!) or “I work with your mommy and she asked me to pick you up from school today” (What’s the password?).  We spent hours role-playing and I’m pretty sure that I would have passed any of those hidden camera investigations Dateline produces about stranger danger.

Case in point: a story from my childhood.  Granted, I should forewarn you that I don’t remember this at all, but the story has been told many times over the years and I can attest that, in all likelihood, it did happen as it’s written.

Around the age of four or five, I went to the bank with my mom.  She had finished up and we were heading toward the exit, a rambunctious me skipping a little ahead.  When I reached the door, an older woman politely held the door open for me and uttered those famous last words: “Come here, little girl.”

That was all it took.

I stopped dead in my tracks, looked up at her, and yelled, “NO!” just my mom and I had rehearsed dozens of times before.  I ran back to my mother and took her by the hand quite proud of the way I had handled the situation.  Afterall, she could have snatched me right then and there.

My mother, on the other hand, was horrified.  I guess her frequent warnings had stuck with me and now she was paying the humiliating price for it.

It was well into high school that I felt comfortable speaking with new people and that was mainly because I worked as a waitress and had to speak to them on a daily basis.  Despite the fact that most folks I know would classify me as a “people person,” I still have a hard time meeting others in a social setting.  Maybe deep down in my psyche, I’m still worried about being kidnapped.

I’m envious of guys like Hawkeye who, quite literally, makes friends wherever he goes.  Then again, maybe I could do the same.

In the last week, I have been contacted by several people I don’t know.  Strangers, if you will.  They have come in various forms: a bullied girl I once reached out to online, another who found my lack of inspiration inspirational, men seeking my affections in the world of online dating, and still others who I knew of, but did not know personally.  And I have learned something from these vastly different characters.  Each of them I might never met in “real life,” but if I hadn’t had the interactions I have had, my life would be missing something.

The thing is, even people you don’t know can have a positive impact on your life.  I am so glad to have shared even the briefest of sentences with these men and women.  I have been flattered, thanked, intrigued, encouraged, amused, and last but certainly not least, inspired.

You see, as I grew from a child into an adult, I learned that not all strangers are bad.  Some are welcome additions to our lives, while others are simply there to add a little color to our stories.  I once spent an unforgettable night exploring Las Vegas with an Irishman who stumbled into me at Planet Hollywood.  Would my life had been better if I had decided to walk away as he tried to converse with me?  I don’t know, but I do know I had an incredible evening seeing the Strip through the eyes of someone from another country.

While it may have once been pivotal to our safety, speaking to someone new does not necessarily mean you will be abducted from your parents and wind up a cautionary tale.  It can introduce you to wonderful experiences, ideas, and personalities that you may not have had the chance if someone didn’t make the first move to strike up a conversation.

Though I would hardly recommend throwing caution to the wind and encourage my readers to forget common sense and speak to everyone that comes their way, I would say that there is something amazing when strangers become friends.

After all, we were all strangers to each other once.

Bullying Beyond The Schoolyard

Does bullying ever really end?

Sure, recent teen suicides and murders have brought the issue of bullying to the forefront of society prompting celebrities to release PSAs, kids to wear those rubber bracelets in cause-specific colors, and zero-tolerance policies set in place in schools across the country.

But what happens when we get out of school?  Who/what protects us then?

Last night, a best-selling author took to her Facebook page to publicly crucify Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.  Again.

This is not the first time she has done this nor, I’m certain, will it be her last.  The majority of her readers joined in to rip apart Brad and Angelina, calling them skanks, homewreckers, phony, smug, pompous, and a variety of other not-worth-repeating adjectives.

However, this time a fellow follower decided to call the author out.  This brave reader posted her thoughts defending the couple and their humanitarian efforts and calling the author’s choice to denounce them as unacceptable.  She vowed to stop purchasing/reading her books.

The author was pissed.

She posted the following in response to her once-loyal reader:

K—, I’m really sorry I offended you so much.  I treat my Facebook page like a conversation with friends. and everything we do here is in good fun.  If I thought my comments would hurt Angelina and Brad or impact them at all, I would never post them.  I am 100% sure they don’t care what I have to say about them—nor do they care that you have rushed to their defense.  I have never picked on the weak or the powerless.  I make it a point to be kind to all the people in my life—regardless of their status, etc. I happen to think Brad and Angie are smug and self-important (they won’t marry until gay marriage is legalized??  Like we’re all going to write our congressmen and women so that they can get married? etc.)  I think it was insensitive of them to pose as a married couple with children just weeks after his divorce.  I could go on and on.  I don’t really see why you’d bother to post this remark or announce a boycott of my books on MY PAGE.  You don’t have to be here.  In fact, I think your comments are more biting toward me than anything I said about her.  I never called her skanky.  I never called her goth.  I said she was smug.  She is.  I wish you all the best and again I’m truly sorry if I upset you and that you read these threads with such a serious, heavy heart.  It is supposed to be fun.

After the author’s response, this poor girl was met with dozens of cruel comments from other fans calling her everything from unstable to a hater to hyper-sensitive. The backlash was completely ridiculous and entirely uncalled for and yet they praised the author whose original hatred started the whole thread.

I challenge this author to find what is so fun about criticizing people who you’ve never met in a public forum and then to encourage other followers to join in on the hatred.  Plus, I would love to know how she is “100% sure” that Brad and Angie wouldn’t care.  If I were being condemned on the internet by a woman I had never met, you better believe I would care.  And I would be hurt.

I could spend hours dissecting her response and the contradictions in it, but would I be any better than her if I did?

While I have my own opinions on the Brad-Angie-Jen triangle, I’m not going to put them out on the internet for all to read.  Sure, I like one of the women more than the other, but I would never stoop so low as to discredit and mock the other so openly for three reasons:

  1. I wouldn’t want someone to do that to me,
  2. I don’t want to seem like a complete idiot who doesn’t really have any clue as to what I’m talking about, and
  3. It’s really just not worth my time and effort.

Sure, I buy the new issue of US Weekly every time I do my weekly grocery shopping and love to read about what’s going on in the celebrity world, but I know that every opinion I have has been shaped by the media.  The stories and photographs are carefully placed by publicists and who knows what is real and what isn’t.  I don’t know any of these people individually and I certainly don’t believe everything that is written or said about any of them.

I guess what I’m trying to say with this post is that though we may think we know someone based on their image or reputation, we have no idea what they’re going through and we shouldn’t pick at whoever it is we think they are.

People thought it was fun to tease Tyler Clementi until he committed suicide.  Is that what it will take for people to refrain from posting hatred all over the internet?

I certainly hope not.