The one of the few times I disagree with Michael Baisden

One of the articles on this morning’s newsfeed digest was that “friends with benefits are the worst idea ever”. No joke, that’s the article name. Google it.

Oh, what-the-fuck-ever. Give me a damn break. Just because one “scientist” didn’t have hers work out, she suddenly claims the entire idea is crap. It’s rare that I see bullshit of such a degree, and it’s also rare I disagree with Michael Baisden, who’s a big fan of claiming that ‘in the meantime sex’ takes away from you finding The One.

The ‘article’ is nonsense, in no uncertain terms. And while I find that my opinion and Michael Baisden’s usually run in a similar vein, I firmly disagree with the mentality of all about finding The One, which Baisden often talks about right after he says “Be honest with yourself about the sort of person you are and what you look for in relationships.” Well, what if that person doesn’t believe in The One and has a pretty excellent time of friends with benefits, and has absolutely no desire or need to seek out anything more involving than that? What then?

Personal experience: one of my best relationships was not a relationship at all! And guess what: it was a friendship with benefits, where the benefits lasted for six years and the friendship endures to this day for now the eighth year running. And the guy and I know very well that, had he not met his current girlfriend, whom he adores and is happy with, we would’ve had another six years, and six more thereafter. But you know what – life had other plans. I’m happy for him; he knows my adventuring spirit only too well and knows I’m just as happy singled as he is coupled. This is what the friendship of the friendship with benefits works like. And how did he and I work this out? We discussed it from day one. A lot of interesting things happen when you talk about something thoroughly: including but not limited to actually working on things and sustaining a great friendship, with or without the benefits.

And yet, it’s all about “the one”. Yawn. And friends with benefits is the “worst” idea. Ho-hum times two. Really, people. If you’re going to be honest with yourselves, that’s awesome, but please don’t publish a BS “study” about how something that works for people other than yourself doesn’t work. It undermines your own credibility, and not to mention, pisses off quite a bit of folks.

I’ve written time and again about how I will not start a relationship until and unless I have something to bring to the table apart from being a workaholic and how I absolutely refuse to have my personal life take precedence over the rest of my life. Readers mine, if you only knew the giggles I have when I explain to other people that my personal life is not and never will be a priority. Seriously. They all wonder what’s wrong with me that I’m single at nearly thirty years of age and childfree, and they all wonder how it is that I’m not miserable and pining for a may-yun, because the mere idea of happiness on one’s own is outside their comfort zone. Oh, good gravy, folks, please pull your heads out of your inner Puritan. Single doesn’t mean celibate. And my FWB – who is still every bit as good a friend now as he was before the benefits even started – has been the sole normal relationship on my personal record. If it didn’t work, and if it’s such a terrible idea, then those six years wouldn’t have been anywhere near as fantastic as they were.

Don’t put an opinion up and label it science, folks. Doesn’t work that way.

Plus, there’s one huge, major benefit to a friendship with benefits: trust. What you may not consider is the incredible amount of trust you’re placing in your friend to satisfy your needs without the emotional quagmire involved in such a situation, and the likewise trust your friend is placing in you as well. A friendship with benefits takes an amount of trust that is very rare to see and takes a huge amount of effort to develop, build, and sustain, and if the situation is handled well and discussed thoroughly, that trust only builds further. If the friendship is sound, and if you trust each other, and actually discuss what you’re setting out to do, then believe me when I say that you will have a vastly further understanding of not only each other, but yourself. You learn a lot about trust when you are in a FWB situation.

Bet that never got considered in those “studies”.

K.G.

Because “God’s plan”?

According to some people whom I’ve seen commenting in regards to the 29-year-old who had decided to end her life after being given six months thanks to Stage 4 brain cancer. I won’t link the articles, you’ve already seen them.

But some of the commentary pissed me right the hell off.

Because “God’s plan”, and apparently cancer doesn’t matter because “you’re not God”, and therefore it’s A-OK to live out six months in debilitating pain and being drugged up to high hell because, again, it’s somehow better than actually dying on your own terms, because God.

Fucking A, use some common sense, people. Put your Bible aside for a minute and use the brain that your own God has given you, and THINK.

The girl has BRAIN CANCER. Her death is effectively INEVITABLE, and is coming much sooner than she’d like. We all want to die at an old age in our own beds and be surrounded by loved ones, but sometimes, that death comes a lot sooner than we’d like it to. And this girl is actually choosing that death: surrounded by loved ones, in her own bed. The only problem people have is the fact that she’s actually doing it herself and ending her life before cancer ends it for her in vastly different conditions.

And you will find that she will have my full support in doing so. None of us control where we’re born or how, or whom to. But we are given a life that is ours – ours and no one else’s – to control. And if you are in her shoes, and you know that death is coming a lot sooner than you’d like, it is your right to control how that death will come.

I’ve watched people die. Some slowly, some not so slowly. I saw my grandfather, who never bounced back from a bypass surgery. I saw my boss, who had terminal cancer eat away at him and the high-end painkillers wrecked his common sense as he approached the inevitable. I had a cousin, who went through extremely aggressive chemo to battle her pancreatic cancer, and who ended up dying anyway, miserable and sick in a hospital – and she was 27. I’ve been to nursing homes, and you have no idea what it’s like inside one of those places. I truly hope you won’t have to find out. I cannot handle being inside a nursing home most days because death is, literally, everywhere in that place.

But that’s the reality of death. We don’t talk about it because none of us want to face our own mortality. But guess what: you will have no choice. If you’re reading this and you’re breathing, you have no choice whatsoever in acknowledging that you are mortal and you will, eventually, have to die like everyone else. And if you had inoperable cancer, you have even less choice than most. But again: you can die in pain and in a hospital, or you can die in your own bed, surrounded by people you love – it just might require a decision on your part as to how to go. And it’s the idea of that decision that people are shrinking away from.

Guess what: death comes for everyone. But if it’s coming sooner than you’d like, you have the choice – in Oregon, at the very least – to control on what terms it will come.

She hasn’t asked for cancer at 29. She definitely hasn’t asked for a tumor that was inoperable and effectively incurable. She’s dying one way or the other, and she’s dying a lot sooner than she wanted to. But there’s one major thing she’s doing and that’s what people have a problem with: she’s choosing the way she’s going to go.

Somehow, the idea of making a choice, an active choice, is something people are vastly not okay with.

And the main thing people are saying that she has to live out “God’s plan”. Seriously?! That is just outright insulting, and it makes me question the empathy of people saying that. How is it God’s plan for a 29-year-old to have an inoperable brain tumor? How is it God’s plan that she should spend six months in agony before dying? How is that, in any way, shape, or form, the sign of a merciful and benevolent God?

They’re advocating prayer in the commentary to the articles. Prayer is fine, and a very nice gesture, but at the end of the day, the only person who will feel better is the person who’s doing the praying. Prayer is a placebo; it makes a person feel like they’re doing something without actually doing anything. You can pray for someone who wants to get a job, but sending their resume out somewhere does a whole lot more than appealing to a deity. That’s just fact, people. Get mad all you want, but I’m sure that if I had the flu, your prayers would have much less effect on me than hot tea, NyQuil, and chicken soup.

God’s plan… I’m sorry, but I cannot swallow those words. The fact that people pull that out in the commentary just galls me to high hell and back. I just cannot possibly fathom how people can pull out God’s plan to somehow talk someone out of a decision that is their own and no one else’s, and how God’s plan is somehow encompassing an inoperable brain cancer. The logic breaks on it. Faith is faith, but let’s face it: her decision to end her life in the face of a much worse death is her right. Don’t quote God or the Bible on this. Just think about it this way: what would you do in her shoes?

Me? I’d do the same thing. I’m healthy, yes, but I’m her age. What if that were me? What if that were me given less than a year to live?

It’s basic compassion, people. Pulling out the God’s plan line only makes it obvious that you lack basic compassion and being sanctimonious has never, not once, substituted empathy. You’re not better because you’re justifying your stance with religion.

Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, render unto God what is God’s. Remember that verse? Her decision is hers. She’s already on the way out; let her at least have that much.

K.G.

Trials and Tribulations of Traveling, The Series – 2

Oddly enough, I’m thinking of a Sex and the City episode of Season 6, when Charlotte York was getting married to Harry Goldenblatt, and the entire wedding seemed to go the way of Murphy’s law. Wine stain, check, glass can’t get broken, check, spilled pearls of bracelet nearly causing a fall, check… and Carrie steps in to say, “Maybe the worse the wedding, the better the marriage!”

Now, how does this relate to traveling, you may ask?

Similar principle: the more stressful the pre-cruise prep, the better the cruise!

I will not, ever, fault Capital Jazz, let me just say. There’s a reason that they’re the cruise series that I’ve been with since 2010; they are very! spot on with everything they do.

So when I didn’t get my travel-pak email, which should’ve arrived this past Friday, I didn’t panic, but now, with only ten days to get through before I have to fly, I’m getting more and more antsy.

Again: it’s not CapJazz’s fault at all. I called them up, and come to find out, this wasn’t the first time that this thing happened, nor was I the only one. My friend Kathy, who is joining me this year on the boat, got hers just a few hours after I called, and I made sure to inquire for the both of us. So I know, with all the faith I put into the crew of CapJazz, that all will be OK.

What I feel right now is a combination of everything I always feel before I’m about to take off on the cruise. “Did I pack everything?” “Am I going to get X, Y, Z done before I fly out? Is everything going to be OK with A, B, C?” Anxiety of getting things done, the unbelievable excitement of being aboard that cruise – never fails! – and the stress of getting everything lined up.

And I’m discovering, yet again, that there is a price to pay for early prep, and I was afraid of this: my camera bag has A Problem. Oy vey.

I packed up the cam bag last night. I had one final shoot on Saturday, dumped the memory card, then disassembled the rig and plunked it all into my lovely backpack, and wrested my laptop inside. My big laptop. I’m now starting to get second thoughts as to how I’m going to do this, because while this laptop is designed for exactly the sort of transit that I prepped it for, the minute I put the combined thing on, my back said, in no uncertain terms, “WTF is WRONG with you?!”

…..yeah, problem.

This is the thing: I can comfortably carry the backpack as it is, and once I pass security, I’ll stow the kit and caboodle in the overhead (and woe to the fool who thinks I’ll check my camera). But between that point and the other point, it’ll certainly be, well, interesting. I have had a back injury before, and while I lift weights (and people too), I cannot carry heavy things for a prolonged period of time. It’s a good backpack for exactly the configuration I’ve set up but, unfortunately, it doesn’t quite feel as effective as it ought to be. And the last, last thing I want is have to go case-shopping right before the big trip.

Thing is, I can just as comfortably take my usual computer bag (also a backpack) and pack the messenger bag with my camera stuff. Either way, laptop goes in the bin, cam bag stays with me.

But not a discovery I wanted to make 10 days before fly time!

Well, you know what they say: when the going gets tough, the tough get creative. I have complete confidence I’ll be able to get this together, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t stressing. I like having things lined up well before it’s time to depart, and this is nowhere near the definition of “lined up”.

But again, the only person to blame for this? Myself. I have to take responsibility where it is due. I’ll test-drive the other backpack, and if that’s a more comfortable way to go about it, then I’ll go with what works.

K.G.

Bending Rules on NaNo This Year

I know this will catch me flak from quite a few people in the writing circles, but for the good of my books, this has to be done.

My NaNo novel for this year will be a continuation of the one I started last year.

Please hold your fire with the rule that you have to start a new novel every year. A lot of authors just will never tell you if their draft took them two years. So what I’m doing isn’t radical, but it’s just a step-away from my own adherence to that rule.

Why?

Simple reason: I could not, for the life of me, find the time to finish the draft clean before today, and if by October 1st I’m not done with the first draft of the prior year’s NaNo novel, then I can call it a hopeless cause. Usually, by Oct. 1st, I have a completed first draft of the book I’ve started the prior November; that is always the case with every other part of The Index Series. But unfortunately, this year just got straight-up crazy-busy, and I couldn’t manage to set aside the time for writing. Usually, I’d even write at work, during the slow days, but this job, unlike my other job, is very demanding. Not a bad thing, but if you’re trying to finish a book, it’s a detriment.

I will see what I can input between now and Nov. 1st, but I am aiming for a total wordcount of 130,000 words. I have 63,138 words written now. Whatever I write to hit 130K will put me over the finish line for NaNo.

The most important thing for me is to finish the draft. I think that unless I release the screenplay version of Book 1 that I’ve been planning to do, or Book 5 (which I too have to finish editing!!!), I will be breaking my annual-release streak that I had going since 2009. Granted, this year was more of a re-release (considering new cover and edit job on Book 1), but still. It feels almost like I’m stepping away from where I started with it.

Really. I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo for 8 years so far, and won it each time. And that’s great; it got the story that I want written out of my system. But I want to keep writing and write it smart, as well as write it. What’s the saying? Work smart, not hard. I want to work smart on this, and since I do the best of my writing in November, then I figure that the best way to do this is to do this when I write best. So two NaNos it is.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, I refer to the National Novel Writing Month. Eight years I wrote my ass off for a month, of these came seven and a half books, of which four are out and available for sale. And if I didn’t follow my friend Candice Watson’s advice in actually going for NaNo in 2006 and writing my first book, none of that – hell, none of a lot of things – would’ve happened.

K.G.

When You Work Yourself to Death…

Literally.

You may or may not heard about this incident in NJ, but there was a woman, not long ago, not too much older than myself, who died in her car while napping between shifts.

Discussion of this on Daily Kos; link here.

The comments I’ve read so far about this are varying from horror to victim-blaming. Yes, there are people out there who blame Fernandes’s death on her “poor life choices” – really? She chose this sort of a life? Good grief, that has to be the single most stupid thing I’ve heard. There’s no one on this green earth who will voluntarily choose to work three jobs, and in the end leave themselves so tired that they forget to turn off their own car and consequently die. No one chooses this.

But no, wait, someone does: employers. Employers, like Dunkin Donuts, who wouldn’t give Fernandes full-time hours at one location, and instead forced her to work three different locations for the same lousy minimum-wage pay. A minimum-wage pay that, according to some folks, we don’t need to raise because hey, someone can survive A-OK on $7.25/hr!

You’ll have to forgive my laughter; I simply cannot believe that someone can be so idiotic as to claim that a wage of $7.25 is survivable, especially with this cost of living. Myself being an accountant, I laugh all the harder because I’m very familiar with the costs of living in the NY-NJ-CT tristate area, and the fact that people claim that someone can survive in NJ for $7.25/hr is just plain out-and-out ludicrous to me. I have to laugh at this idiocy, because really, that’s all that it is.

The woman effectively, essentially, worked herself to death, and if you, my darling readers, believe that you’re that different from her, or that far behind the same fate, you’re kidding yourselves.

Yes, I’m saying it.

Unless you really do make enough money to where only a third of your paycheck goes to your rent or mortgage, you are not far behind Maria Fernandes in the ranks of people whose work basically works them to death.

Look at your schedules. Look at how much time you spend per day doing things in relation to work. Look at how much time it takes for you to get home. Look at the stress you have on you when you get home. Do you stop by the bar as soon as you leave work, just because you can’t take another minute of it and you’ll scream if you aren’t medicated/liquored up so you don’t care as much? Do you see your family/SO/friends/pets anywhere near as much as you should because you’re working all the time? How much time do you spend in your apartment? How much food in your fridge has to get thrown out because you’re not around long enough to cook a meal?

You’re fast on your way to ending up just like Maria Fernandes.

She was working three jobs and was paid so little at all of them that her apartment, which was $550/mo – a miracle in the tristate area – that she was behind even on that rent. Plus car payments. Car insurance. Basic food, hygiene items. And she couldn’t even get a night of sleep, because hey, someone had to work and pay the bills.

And yet, some brain-dead geniuses believe that she “made poor life choices”.

Choices? What choices did she have?! All she had was “survive or die”. And in the end, the stress of trying to survive so got to her worn out to the degree where she forgot to turn off her car.

And really, all Dunkin Donuts had to do to make her life a little easier was pay her just three more dollars per hour, on a full-time basis, at one location. They call her a model employee at all three of the establishments where she worked, but they refuse to name how much they were paying her. They could’ve paid her more; it’s not like they don’t make the money to do so.

But no, no, that eats into their profit margin, and in our “free market” (ha!) economy, we can’t have that!

Minimum wage came about as a result of relentless union strikes and lobbying about a hundred years ago, and for as long as the laws mandating a federal minimum wage existed, there have been attempts to repeal it. Even today. Why? Minimum wage is nothing more than the employer saying, “This is what the government forces us to pay, because we’d pay even less if we could”. Don’t roll your eyes, folks: it’s true. For those of y’all working the office jobs, compare your salaries to what the equivalent was about 10-15 years ago. You’ll find that the difference is actually very scant.

I have a Bachelor’s and 7 years in my work field. If I had a Bachelor’s with no experience, I’d get…the same $30,000/year that I actually got 7 years ago. If that were the case back in 2004, I’d still get the $30,000, but that 30K would actually maybe cover a studio in someone’s basement. Salaries hadn’t changed, but cost of living went up exponentially, because everyone with money in their pockets is lusting after more. Never mind that the ‘more’ comes on the backs of people like you, me, and Maria Fernandes.

San Jose increased its minimum wage to $15 and the growth of the city jumped. Why? Because people had more money to spend, which in turn created more revenue, which in turn encouraged employers to hire. It’s called a reinvestment cycle. If you so much as opened an eye in high-school economics, you’d probably know this.

But apparently, it’s a concept that eludes the general public, and it’s evidenced by the commentary on articles concerning Maria Fernandes.

“She was so hardworking!” – yeah, you don’t say! But apparently no one told her, or you, that working too hard can lead to an early death.

What no one tells you is that you can work your entire life through and you will find, when you’re finally retired, that you have spent your entire life at your job. Just because your job is in an office doesn’t mean that you won’t collapse at your desk one day because the stress short-circuited your body. You can afford your rent and cost of living, but you already know that your salary won’t go up anywhere near as fast as the cost of living. How long until you’ll take on a second job, or freelance on the side to keep bills paid up?

You’re only one step away from being Maria Fernandes. One lost job, one unpaid bill, one enormous unexpected expense – and you’re working two or more jobs and sleeping in your car or at your lunch break.

And if minimum wage was eliminated, how much do you think you, or anyone else, will be paid?

This is indentured servitude, folks. When your job barely covers your realistic living expenses, and you’re working more than you’re sleeping, I truly fail to see how it’s any different from indentured servitude, apart from the paycheck and the tax withholdings.

Being hardworking is no longer enough – it used to be, but it isn’t. Employers also need to be willing to pay – actually pay – a living wage. And apart from Costco and Trader Joe’s, I’ve seen next to no employer willing to do that.

People never, ever choose this sort of a living, and they certainly don’t choose the jobs they take. It’s not like there’s employers raining down offers on the people in need of work. But there is a paycheck, and if someone is desperate enough to try and make a living, they will take it. It’s not just the lack of jobs: it’s the fact that the pay is completely lousy for the jobs that are there. What does availability of work matter if nothing that’s available pays enough.

No one wants to admit that we are people and not robots, and the people who hate to admit that are usually the ones that got theirs already. We already see what the “I got mine, fuck everyone else” mentality gave us. Now we are also seeing that it costs lives as people all over try to get theirs too, only to find that the carrot on the proverbial stick is half of a baby carrot and barely gives you enough to stop the hunger pangs.

I never forgot what it’s like to choose between a phone bill and a full stomach. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the taste of ramen noodles and cheap Chinese food in my life, either. And too many people forget their own beginnings once they have their ends.

K.G.

Trials and Tribulations of Traveling, The Series

You know what, you guys may as well have a laugh or two at my expense. Seeing as I’ve been on a plane a lot more frequently this year than most others, the likelihood of Murphy’s Law coming into play is that much higher.

That and, because I’m on a plane a lot, you may as well learn a couple things from me as you go.

Mind Your Connecting Flight

Believe me, it’s not as much of a pain as you may think to get a flight with a layover. If you’re a little Joint Challenged, like me – nice way of saying your knees hate you if you sit for too long – then a layover is a welcome, if not a wholly necessary thing. I’ve had a couple of experiences flying directly from NY to CA, and frankly, I’d not care to repeat the experience. JetBlue legroom was good, Delta inflight Internet also, but to be frankly honest, I would have liked to have been on the ground midway through. So I was pretty glad when Delta switched me to a layover flight for the second cross-country go.

But more than that, you have to mind your gates if you’re booking a layover.

I learned this lesson the hard way – ironically, on the last CA trip. What happened was that I had a transfer in either MSP or SLC – can’t remember which – but the fact is, the terminal layout was in a C-shape. Likely it was SLC, then. But anyhow, I got a text as I turned my phone on, of the gate of my next flight. I look out my window and…there’s the plane I’m supposed to board right there at the gate.

Except, well…I’m in the back of the plane right now, and I need to hotfoot it to the other one.

It takes about a half-hour for the plane to empty.

I have to board the next flight in no more than…say…twenty minutes?

…Problem.

I did what any reasonable traveler would do: I tapped my neighbors on the shoulder, and told them, “Look guys, I’m very sorry to do this, but my connecting flight is about to start boarding, and it looks like I have to run across the airport to get it.” They were very gracious about it, and let me pass through – all the better that I had next to nothing for carry-on. I then proceeded to set a land speed record for sprinting across an airport. Seriously; I made it across the terminal from one arm of the C to the other in no more than 10 minutes.

I got to learn the same lesson very recently coming back from Phoenix. MSP-NY leg of the flight. I come off my first plane, come over to chill out and have a meal, and I’m thinking, I’m in the right terminal, yes? And all’s well, yes?

Uh….not really. You see, when you’re tired and flying all day, it’s pretty easy to confuse Terminal G with Terminal C, and if you’re in one and need to be at the other, the last! thing you may want to get is a phone call from Delta Airlines, telling you your flight is going to leave twenty minutes early.

Whoever invented those electric carts needs an award, because if not for a gentleman who drove that thing across the airport, I would not have made it home in time.

This, of course, leads me to…

If it’s worth it, pay extra for it.

Look. I’m not just saying that. Let the above scenario be a lesson to you: if you want to make a connecting flight, or if you think you need to get off the plane earlier than usual, then the first thing you do is plan ahead for it.

I’m not saying fly first-class. We ain’t got that kind of money, honey.

I am, however, saying that if Delta or A.A. or any airline lets you have a pick of the Economy Comfort seating, or Business Class and the price is in double digits only…take those. They’re usually situated in the front of the plane, and they are exactly what you need if you are, say, getting into a long-haul trip and you’re expecting to be off the plane fast. For instance, the next cross-country I’m set to take, I’m supposed to transfer in Atlanta. Wouldn’t be a problem, it’s a quick little flight…you know, except the fact that Hartsfield Airport is enormous and I’ll be lucky if I’ll make it to my gate and have the time to grab a pre-flight drink.

And while my seatmate flying home this past trip told me that he can’t possibly imagine planning things out to this sort of a detail, might I remind you fine readers of mine, Murphy’s Law is indiscriminate.

K.G.

Some thinking, and a little Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

    “The pressure of public opinion can do in the town what the law cannot accomplish. There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard’s blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbors, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.”

- Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.

I recommend reading the story, if you hadn’t before.

This is a quote that I often use when people ask me why I say that blood is water-soluble, or why I say that I’d detest having a nice house in suburbia. Though right now, in contrast to Mr. Holmes, there are few people who don’t know the law, there is a huge amount of those who simply do not care, and who use the power of appearances to further their own misdeeds, with no one being the wiser because of said appearances.

Let’s acknowledge unpleasant truths, folks. The first we should acknowledge is that appearances are very deceiving. The second is that they have power. And the third is that the more of a “good” image someone presents, the more likely it is that that person is going to be overlooked in a situation, not given a second thought, because the people around him or her will automatically make the assumption that they’re a geniunely good person and have nothing to fear from them.

Few things are further from the truth of that last, but think on this: if a person was geniunely good, do they need to parade it? Do they need to show off? Do they ever need to justify the assumptions of the public? Do they need to always appear to be put-together, perfect, going to the right locations and saying all the right things?

Which is why I’m always suspicious when something or someone looks a little too polished, a little too good, a little too flawless, and puts on a little too much of a facade of being sweet and charming. It always tips me off that there’s something rotten underneath.

“That’s so negative!” is something I always hear when I explain the above, but I’ve maybe been wrong twice or three times in that assessment.

This is why whenever I see advice columns where the letter writer is wondering why their adult children want absolutely nothing to do with them, I nearly always end up laughing at the letter. They’re all almost formulaic: “I’m a good person, I have a nice house, I gave my children a great education and life, I have no idea why they don’t want to talk to me!” Here’s a guess: it’s very likely you were not such a good person as you advertise in the letter. You were likely treating them like crap and turning it all around to be about you, and making yourself feel good at your children’s expense, so you can pat yourself on the back about being a great parent, unaware of or most likely just not giving a shit about what damage you were inflicting on your own kids’ psyches.

Let’s acknowledge another unpleasant truth: absolutely no one decides to cut contact with someone out of nowhere. That just simply is not the way these things work. No person just wakes up one day and says, “Gee, the birds are singing, the sun is shining, I’ll just go and cut off all contact with my parents now.” No. That’s not the way it works. It is always with a reason. Whatever the reason may be, whatever the other side’s opinion of the reason is, there is always a reason, and to the person doing the severing, that reason is a damned good one.

Let’s also acknowledge this: we’re by no means required to tolerate shitty behavior from people, regardless of whether or not they happen to be blood relatives. Toxic people come in all shapes and sizes, and none of us are under any obligation to tolerate their toxicity. And if we wouldn’t take toxic behavior from people not related to us, then why are we obligated to take it from people who happen to share DNA?

So many times, when we think that we’re just being nice and helping someone, the other side will gleefully take this to mean that your niceness means they can push you to do more for them, regardless of which way that may be, and before you know it, that’s exactly where you are: being used. And of course, when you get angry with them, you’re the irrational one. When you point out you don’t like being used, you’re the bad guy. When you point out a flaw in their reasoning, you’re the one who’s not on their side. Because none of this is about you helping them or being a good person, but it’s about them getting what they want out of you. And when you decide to stop being the source of their satisfaction at your expense, they’ll have no idea why you don’t want to talk to them anymore.

Parents who fuck up their children with impunity are nearly always the ones who end up wondering why their kids don’t want to talk to them anymore. Not once does it occur to them that they very well deserve their kids cutting them off, and no one on the outside ever thinks that the kids may be right.

Why?

Because, everywhere in the global society, parenthood is regarded as the ultimate social sacred cow. If a woman is a mother, or pregnant, she is so much more likely to get showered with all sorts of social assistance if she so needs it, and to get all of the social acknowledgments, perks, accolades, what-have-you. A father is more likely to get a promotion at work because, of course, he has a family to provide for, never mind of his actual job performance. And absolutely no one around the parents will ever stop to think that gee, they are just really likely not well-suited for parenthood. No one ever thinks that – not even when there’s a news story about how Joe and Jane Smith’s kid, Lil’ Joe, ran away from home and someone found him all bruised up in the park. And he suddenly clams up and doesn’t say anything when Mom or Dad picks him up. People will, without fail, look at the parents, see that Joe and Jane Smith live in a nice neighborhood, are educated, and go to church every Sunday. And, inevitably, they will conclude, “Lil’ Joe must’ve done something or got into a fight with his little friends.”

Such is the power of appearances.

In this case, Lil’ Joe’s only fault is being born to abusive parents. But of course, who will believe him? Mommy and Daddy both go to church and present themselves as “nice people” to everyone around them, who in the world would suspect that inside the nice house, it’s a completely different environment? Who would believe Lil’ Joe?

See what I mean? Power of appearances. No one ever suspects the people who present themselves in all the “right” ways.

Now, let’s come back to the Sherlock Holmes story. If you hadn’t read it, I will go ahead and give you a quick summary. A well-respectable man, Jephro Rucastle, had hired a Ms. Violet Hunter to be a nanny, and had some seemingly eccentric requirements of Ms. Hunter for her employment, and the pay was a little too good to be true. Violet Hunter came to Sherlock Holmes after she had observed that several things about her job were amiss. Come to discover, she was hired to unwittingly impersonate Alice Rucastle, her boss’s daughter, whom he was keeping locked up in the attic for reasons more or less financial. And no one at all would’ve had any idea, because Violet Hunter resembled Alice Rucastle well enough to fool most outsiders, and Jephro Rucastle himself was an amicable, wealthy, and presentable gentleman.

A gentleman hiding the fact that he’s a complete scumbag, but what else is new.

The point of this story, as well as multiple other stories within the Sherlock Holmes collection, teach an important lesson that people to this day fail to grasp: just because someone is blood family and presents themselves well has absolutely no indication on the quality of their character. 

It’s something that pretty much everyone who was not a family abuse victim or has never known a family abuse victim cannot wrap their minds around. These are the people who bleat, “But it’s your family!“, completely failing to comprehend that by encouraging “reconciliation” (I use quotations with reason), they’re actually supporting putting people directly into the very situation that they are trying to escape. Parenthood is not a sacred cow capable of superseding base psychology. If someone’s not a good person, that will not change, no matter how they present themselves.

There’s a saying I’m fond of in these situations: if an alcoholic is rehabilitated and doesn’t take another drink, it’s simply because he hadn’t lived long enough. People don’t change unless they know it benefits them directly to do so. That’s something that is incredibly difficult to accept, and the blatant disregard of that simple tenet of life I see very clearly in nearly every relationship where one party thinks the other will change for them. People delude themselves every day into thinking that if someone is not a good person, they can be “rehabilitated” by relationships, marriage, children, etc.

That. Never. Works.

And the end result is, more than likely, disillusionment, tears, disappointment, endless “But I thought…” moments, and oftentimes, some years down the line, a letter to an advice columnist, wondering why the grown children won’t talk to their parents anymore.

Remember: you can have a book with the prettiest possible cover, with the worst possible content underneath. There’s a reason the old call to not judge a book by its cover exists. Take that to mind, folks.

K.G.