A little word to the wise

And this is thanks to this article at WaPo not long ago.

I’ve refrained from writing in this blog about politics as of lately, and with good reason. I’ve expressed my thoughts and predictions on the unfolding of events to some close friends and they turned out correct – and that’s all I’ll say on what’s going on right now.

However.

This article really, really needs to be read.

Why?

Because this is law catching up to technology, and this is the law finally confirming what we, the children of the Internet and social media from its inception, have been saying all along:

Never put anything online that you don’t want in a court of law because this recent court decision gave social media the same weight as verbal testimony and/or police statements.

The court case is public record, so you can look up the full text at your own leisure, but know this: the Twitter posts were used as a basis for the decision. This is a major, major, major event in jurisprudence and should, for sure, be taken seriously.

For too long people, people got away with shit because “Oh, it’s just social media.” How many vitriolic comment threads did we read on Youtube, magazine articles, news articles, etc. and if we report them, half the time the result is, “Well, it’s just social media.”

It’s not. It really is not. What you say online is just as much weight as saying it in a courtroom, and that court decision solidified it.

Just like right now, they convicted a 14-year-old for inciting someone to suicide over social media, they now also used someone’s tweets as evidence and/or basis for legal decisions.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, and this is a lesson I have learned early on as a teenager back in the era where LiveJournal was the only social media available: do not say anything online that you don’t want biting you in the ass later.

Too many times there’s stories of cops busting people who put up pictures of drugs, etc. on their Facebook page. Every time I see that, I laugh at the utter stupidity of these people. Facebook is the world’s megaphone and the general principle of the Internet is once you’ve put something public, it’s out there forever. If you are trying to brag about how you did something illegal? Don’t. Put. It. On. Social. Media. You’re just begging to be arrested.

As a certain someone who’s all over the news is learning now.

And yes, the case of the teenager inciting suicide is a salient reminder to always, always consider the consequences to your words. The saying “sticks and stones may break my bones…” blah blah blah, is bullshit. Sorry, but it’s bullshit. Too many kids dead because of something their peers said and did proves that it’s bullshit. If you never had that happen to you – great, but then were you one of the kids who were the tormentors? I’d bet that either that, or you watched and did nothing. Just because you and your peers suffered through it with no recourse back then does not mean that this current generation is obligated to do the same.

Words have weight. Words have consequence. And the US courts just served up a nice long reminder of that.

K.G.

NYC Awaits! (CapJazz people, for you)

If you are on CapJazz this year, and checked your email, then you probably know the host hotel has been announced. NY Hilton, which is on Sixth Ave and 54th.

I know the area. It’s about three blocks from the Iridium. You’re not quite in Times Square, but you’re just about there.

This newsletter is good news. Means that the systems behind the scenes are running more or less as I predicted, and the lineup will begin coming together more smoothly after the Fest, which is the weekend after the long one coming up. Patience. We got this.

We should also hear more about the reservation system improvements, as such, after that as well.

But for now, I would like to take a second to welcome my friends from out of town to the city I call home for over two decades.

Here’s some survival tips for your trip:

Rule #1: please take the yellow cabs.

I don’t use Uber on principle. Lyft is great, but here it’s just not necessary. We have ample taxi service and/or livery cabs in the outer boroughs. Sorry but not sorry, but the app-service taxi is really, really not necessary here, especially if you’re in Manhattan. If I’m in a city with plentiful local taxi service, I’ll always take the local taxi service. Yeah, sometimes you’ll hit every pothole, but luck of the draw. Most of our cabbies are decent, hardworking guys who know this city inside and out.

There’s a flat rate to/from JFK and Newark Airport; it’s a bit ‘up there’, but I promise you: it’s less than the surge price surprise you might get.

Info at the Taxi and Limo Commission is here: http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/html/passenger/taxicab_rate.shtml – rate is $52 plus extras. It’s a bit pricier coming out of Newark.

I second wholeheartedly what the newsletter has said about the LaGuardia airport: avoid it if you can manage to. It’s being renovated right now, and I think it’s going to go on for a while. It’s a pain to get to or from also. JFK is bigger, more efficient, and serviced by ample lines of public transit (which I don’t recommend if you have large suitcases, because cumbersome), but it’s soooo much easier to get to or from it.

Which brings me to…

Rule # 2: Please know the unspoken rules of public transit, if you’re taking any.

Couple of tips:

  • Swipe the Metrocard at your walking pace; it takes a second to get it right, but that’s the trick. Just hold it as you walk through the turnstile and it should do it.
  • Do. Not. Block. The doorway. I’m guilty of this in rush hour and get elbowed – rightly – for it. Let folks off the train.
  • Seats are first-come and first-serve. Courtesy is at a premium, please do not count on it. Just being realistic here.
  • The empty train car during rush hour is empty for a reason.
  • When in rush hour, please avoid public transit and/or walking. Trust me. You will get mowed down otherwise.
  • Don’t make eye contact if you don’t have to, and please, please don’t get frustrated if you’re held up in a tunnel “by a dispatcher” or “due to an investigation”. This system is 100 years old and it is starting to show.
  • Don’t give to panhandlers. There’s one on every train. But I learned the hard way after I gave some soup to a girl who was appealing to everyone to “please have a heart” and then looked back to see her disposing of that soup, untouched, still in the bag, into the nearest trash can.
  • Pay close attention to the weekend service changes. Download the iTrans NYC app (Apple, Android); it keeps you posted on the reroutings and which lines go express instead of local and vice versa. And yes, they’re a pain. Yes, sometimes you can’t use a line altogether. See above as to how old the system is… and please know it’s what we rely on. This is why we don’t own cars here…

 

Rule #3: Please do not eat at chain restaurants!

Seriously. I mean it. This is a city almost infamous for its cuisine. We have a Restaurant Row where you can very literally eat every cuisine around the world. Please don’t make like a tourist and eat at Olive Garden when you have Intermezzo in Chelsea. And Red Lobster is only good for its lobster pizza, but you will find better, tastier seafood at the Grand Central Oyster Bar (it’s expensive, but well worth the price). If you’re going to spend money on food, please spend it on good food. Compared to everything this city has to offer, chain restaurants are an utter waste of time.

Since I know a lot of my CapJazz friends are reading this (Jackie, Kathy, LaVonna, Faye, I see y’all!) I propose a gathering at one of the spots I will suggest below. If any other CapJazzer is reading this, send me a Facebook PM and I’ll be glad to include you in the plan-making. We had a delightful brunch on board 2015 CapJazz – if you were there, you know it.

My choice spots are:

  • Kabooz’s Bar & Grille aka the Home of the Great Appletini. It’s inside Penn Station, Amtrak concourse, 7th Ave side, hang a right at the Krispy Kreme and past the pizzeria, (please bear with me here!) and there is really no losing dish there for food. Appetizers alone can make a meal. Best. Wings. In. City. Great sit-down restaurant, and yes, I know the owner… and manager… and waitstaff. Big tables are a bit limited, so we’d have to occupy a whole section. MENU: http://www.kaboozs.com/
  • Houndstooth Pub. Just up the street from Penn Station at 8th and 37th. Happy Hour is until 7, heavy-handed drinks, food is OK. They have two large rooms that can be booked for private parties, and there was music in that place too, but not sure how private-party booking will work. HINT: they’re part of OpenTable.com MENU: http://www.houndstoothpub.com/
  • Trattoria Bianca. Italian/American cuisine, serves as one of the two in-house restaurants for the Wyndham New Yorker hotel, on 35th and 8th. Oysters, prix-fixe dinner is also pretty good. Sometimes pricey, but worth it. MENU: http://www.trattoriabianca.com – also on OpenTable.com
  • Toyama Sushi. Normally I have my sushi in Brooklyn, but this is my Manhattan pick. 35th and 5th Ave, just off the train. MENU: http://www.atoyamasushi.com/
  • Intermezzo. Chelsea, just a quick train ride downtown. Italian place, tiny little trattoria with amazing (and a bit pricey) food. MENU: http://www.intermezzony.com/

Of course, we can do the tried-and-true routine of “walk down the street and see what’s interesting”. Seriously: that’s how I discovered some of my favorite places. I found Kabooz by accident coming home from the post office across the street from Penn on the 8th ave side. Same with Trattoria Bianca; I stumbled onto it when I was hankering for oysters. Houndstooth and Toyama I have history with; I shot some good music at Houndstooth and worked in the building just above Toyama for 5 year. Intermezzo I found while on LivingSocial.

Seriously: there are no losing places for food in NYC. Explore, and you are not apt to be disappointed. The smaller the hole in the wall, the better the food, that’s the general rule.

For my CapJazzers – if you want, any of these places or any other you may find and suggest is A-OK by me. We can even go to Brooklyn Heights (quick train ride away) and have a quick meal at the Heights Cafe after a walk down the famed Brooklyn Promenade. I dormed around the area, and there’s a pretty great park by Brooklyn Bridge as well. I’l start up the chat in a couple days.

 

Here’s my thing, though. Because I live here, and because I don’t have a car, my perception of transit to pier is a bit skewed, so take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt.  NYC is an extremely walkable city, but please note that it’s seven avenue blocks to the pier and then three down. The pier is on West Side Highway and 51st Street. Because I know we have a shuttle, I gotta tell you: please. take. the. shuttle. Suitcases.

However. Massive however: please account for traffic. NYC traffic is the stuff of legends. Last time I tried to drive crosstown, from Midtown to West Side, it took me a half-hour at least. There will be about 3,500 of us, and I do not know how many of us are locals to NY overall. While I’m no fan of lugging suitcases down a street any more than the average person, it may well be the best way to get from the host hotel to the pier. Cabs are at your service, which I recommend, and I recommend sharing cabs as much as possible.

Pier does have parking; if you connect with New York-area cruisers who have vehicles, it may be worth carpooling? I do not know; you tell me.

Myself, I’m cabbing it up. No car here, and I am not about to rattle up the subway with my big suitcase and camera. If I want my back to remain intact, cab it is.

All I’m saying is, don’t discount walking to pier.

I’m also saying, check out Yotel on 10th Ave as an alternate hotel. It’s much, much closer to the pier, but I cannot vouch for the price. There’s a Marriott Midtown West, around 10th and 47th Street.

Of course, everything I’ve written before in The Experienced Jazz Cruiser’s Guide to Jazz Cruising applies. Pack with care, and remember that comfortable walking shoes in NYC is a must. I mean it: forget style. September in NY is humid and hot; any shoes other than sneakers and flip-flops will equal to blisters. Not fun.

See everyone in just a few months!

K.G.

Electronic Archives

So I finally made the decision to turn over one of my laptops to my brother. I bought it back in 2012 and it has been my road dog, my photo center, my writing station, my baby for about as long. There are memories both good and bad affiliated with that machine.

But here’s the thing: it’s a 10-lb 17″ behemoth that my back, with its busted lumbar, cannot handle anymore, and it’s five years old.

It’s worth next to nothing, if you don’t count the sentimental attachment, but I don’t count it too much. Bottom line is, I can travel with my big baby’s 15″ slimmer, lighter sister just as easily.

But before I turned it over, I had to purge five years of living on that machine off it.

Lord, what have I discovered.

Do you know what five years of “Let me bookmark this, I’ll look at it later” looks like? Especially when you lack the time to ever look at it again? Memories are a funny thing. From one old-time journal entry to an old Buzzfeed list with recipes for snacks in a cup (I’ll gladly try the quiche one tomorrow, because breakfast), to an ancient Livejournal post on sick systems (googleable, and very good reading still), it’s all the things you never think about and all the things you wonder what you buried.

It’s not knowing that your music collection was backed up and re-backed up, so you have thousands and thousands of the same files and have to delete it a hundred times over.

It’s remembering that this was the computer where you stashed the screencaps you were looking for a year ago.

It’s remembering twenty more copies of photos that you know you already have, and among them being a gallery that you once had a small stroke because a corrupted file transfer made you think you lost it all.

It’s more data than I can think of readily, but it’s certainly data that I knew I wanted to keep, in part, and delete in a larger part.

Here’s the thing: for all the memories that have amassed on this hard drive – which is still getting its wipe cycle done, because CCleaner’s feature for wiping free space takes a small eternity), cleaning it felt damned great, not just because I get to consolidate and keep some stuff I thought was lost, but I get to get rid of a lot of shit that served as a reminder of things gone by.

I think it’s painfully obvious that I’m a sentimental person. And I will not lie, I am. I am the girl who kept concert ticket stubs from shows I’ve attended six years ago. I keep every boarding pass from every cruise I take. But when something difficult is finally at an end, I will dispose of everything that reminds me of that time, or of that person.

When I graduated high school, I shredded every diary I kept through that time. I kept a diary from when I was 14 forward, sometimes electronically, and often on paper. What I put on the blog is only what I like to share with other people, but my innermost thoughts were on paper. After HS was over, those thoughts were a living reminder, every day, of that period. I couldn’t handle having them. So… into the shredder they went.

These days, I don’t dispose of things so easily,

I can’t dispose of the painting that’s gracing my wall, even though I had a falling-out with the artist behind it. I don’t put thought into patching that fallout, but the painting was something I commissioned and received in much happier times. If the artist and I ever speak again, great, but it’s not a thought that comes to me when I look at the metal-print that hangs between my windows.

There’s another computer that I’ll probably be disposing of, an ancient Netbook, on account that it doesn’t run much, or well. But dispose of it – not likely. It is a reminder of the great times traveling with it. Austin, TX, Newport Beach, CA, DC, 2 CapJazz cruises… I’ve written one of my books on it. But unfortunately, it’s simply not a usable computer anymore. Battery has long died, and Windows Vista is not a usable system.

How many years pass by on these computers, and how many things do we remember when we have to consolidate and/or dispose of a them? How many moments do the bookmarks dredge up?

For the older folk who keep their memories to photo albums, keep mind of this: the Internet is indeed forever.

K.G.

Yes, it still holds true.

We all re-read, you know that. And this time, I spent a long time going back through Leslie Bennetts’s The Feminine Mistake.

If you’ve heard of it in about 2006-2007, you probably remember it caused an uproar among women, because this book very solidly called out stay-at-home wives and pointed out that when a woman decides to stay home and give up working, she’s compromising herself financially for the long term as a tradeoff. Yes, some language in the book is pretty harsh, but I find the message is 100% true, though. Even today. Hell, especially today, if you consider the current legislative onslaught.

Ladies: rely on yourself first. That was the message I got out of The Feminine Mistake, and it’s a message that cannot be overstated, especially right now.

Bottom line is this: no matter how in love you think you are with your husband, and no matter how great the marriage looks now, if you decide to “opt out” of the workforce and stay home with the kids, you’re doing so at your own risk. Why? Simple reason: the days where a man can work, support his whole family on one salary, and get a gold watch and a nice pension for his retirement are long, long past. Survival on one salary is impossible. Even two salaries probably won’t be enough. If any such a situation survives now, it is extremely uncommon. Jobs change. Money changes. And you usually don’t think about it, but your husband can die, or leave you, or get injured to the point where he can no longer work.

And what, pray tell, will you do then, when you had X years out of the workforce, which translates into an X years experience gap, with skills that are very likely to be outdated? Any job you will get, if you will get one, will be paying you at least 30% less than what you would’ve made, had you stayed in the workforce.

What Leslie Bennetts did, in 2007, was compile exhaustive data with statistics, interviews, and analyses, of what happens to women who opt out of the workforce and what their lives turn out to be. While, granted, a lot of the snippets in the book focus on the wives of high-powered professionals, there is a distinct pattern across all economic divides among the women who lose their husbands as a source of income, whether through death, divorce, or health issues: their lives are in a state of upheaval and some of them never, ever get back up to the same or similar standard of living. Why? Because, in opting out of the workforce, they also completely destroyed their future earning potential, and decimated their self-sufficiency as a chaser.

This is not an easy admission for me to make, but if we look at the bigger picture, it’s plain that we have not yet come so far as a society here in the US where women can exit and reenter the workforce without difficulty. I hate to admit it, but such is the truth. Like it as not, when an employer is looking to hire, they’re looking to fill the empty seat with someone experienced, who knows what they’re doing, and whose learning curve on the job is minimal. This is rarely going to be someone who’s not young and/or already employed. An older woman coming off a divorce, a mother trying to reenter the workforce to sustain the family after a hiatus – far more difficult to reenter for them than a man who’s taken two months off for family reasons. This is part of the ‘mommy tax’ that people talk about, but in reality, this is a woman tax: you don’t see this happen with men who exit and reenter the workforce. From the minute that a woman is hired, if she’s below a certain age, her employer is already wondering how long she’s going to stay before going on maternity leave. Whether or not they will admit to doing so is something else. As such, women are paid less, and it’s not uncommon for a pregnant woman or a new mom – or a woman taking extended leave for any reason at all – to be pressured into quitting by any number of means.

Just FYI – asking questions about family status during an interview? Not legal. And the fact that it’s not legal now is a recent development. Doesn’t mean some employers still won’t ask.

There’s a million ways to pressure someone into quitting. Harassment, low pay, penalizing for any number of ridiculous reasons, constant nitpicking, creating a stressful and hostile work environment – you name it, it’s been probably done. It’s all done with the same end results.

I take a very active interest in mothers’ rights int he workplace because it determines women’s rights in the workplace as a whole. While I know I will never be a mother, and ensured that in every degree possible, mothers’ treatment also comes down to non-mothers’ treament as well.

But Bennetts highlights the big picture effect of opting out on every level, not just financial. Power dynamics. Effect on the kids (which, I might add, is absolutely the opposite of what people like Dr. Laura Schlessinger assert). So on, so forth. And it is absolutely required reading for every woman who is about to get married and/or is thinking about staying home with the kids.

Here’s my personal opinion, and yes, I’m aware that it’s going to be unpopular: if you’re going through the trouble and the financial outlay to get a college degree, do not waste that enormous investment by not working at all. Yes, I’m saying it in those terms, and I’m not mincing the words. What you’re doing by choosing the stay-at-home route is basically cutting yourself off at the knees and wasting the money paid for your tuition. Like it or not, education isn’t free, and unless your parents have a tuition fund (not likely, if below a certain income line), you’re stuck with loans – which, from my own saga, you know are next to impossible to be rid of by means other than repayment. Whatever fulfillment you may have by staying home with the kids has a very serious long-term impact on your financial future. You will never earn as much money as someone who keeps working through having kids, and because you have no absolute guarantee of your spouse staying with you or earning enough money to be the sole breadwinner, or of the economy permitting your spouse to work for as much money as they’re getting right now, then you really have no plan for the future at all, even if that future is as little as a year down the line. Unfortunately, few marriages are lifelong in this day and age – what’s the divorce rate now? 60%? – and like it as not, but faith in your spouse alone is not enough.

And not to mention, when you’re opting out of the workforce, the rest of us have to pick up the slack. We know this: that’s how it works in a team. When one teammate pulls out, we all buck up and do it for the team. But the greatest pet peeve we have is when we do not get promoted on merit, but because “she has a family to support” will get more consideration than hard work. Know this: we will never mind putting a little more in for the team, but severely mind when you, the mom, think that we’re not entitled to the accolades and raises that we earn while we’re covering for you, whether we’re covering it for the months you’re on leave or for the X years you’ve opted out for. You cannot have it both ways. If you’re not putting in the work to get ahead in the workplace, then you don’t get to bitch about those of us who do.

Motherhood is a choice. Should you make that choice, you also make the choice to accept the consequences.

I won’t even begin on the fact that employers need to give the childfree the same perks as they give the childed. That’s a different debate for a different time.

The fact remains is that a woman cannot rely on an outside source for financial support unless that source is her own hard work. At least, not consistently. And unfortunately, exiting the workforce without consideration for future skills is a career death-knell. Unless one freelances and/or develops skills that can be marketable towards future endeavors, survival in today’s world isn’t promised if one off-ramps from their job. The on-ramps are few and far between.

The fact that I don’t have and never will have kids plays in my favor. No, I don’t think it’s fair that mothers are penalized for wanting to become mothers, I definitely do not accept that there should be a wage gap for motherhood and womanhood, and I definitely want to see a better global leave option across the board – parents, non-parents, singles, couples, everyone But mothers also need to stop and think that, while the world stays as it is, their choices have consequences too, and no amount of, “But I’m a mom!” is going to be enough to override that.

When employers hire, they want skills and marketability. Like it as not, shuttling the kids to school is not a job skill, and you don’t get a gold star for doing the very things you signed up voluntarily to do. Being a mom is not enough to re-enter the workforce and expect the same salary and flex as when you exited. You have to actually demonstrate that you can work the same as your competition.

Not ragging on mothers here – just telling you how it is. And, unfortunately, with the current “administration”, the odds of this situation improving are scant.

Change isn’t wrought overnight. While I align myself as a feminist,  in no small part because the world hasn’t changed to the extent that would allow a woman to work and thrive as a feme sole, I don’t ignore reality. Whether or not I like it, I have to keep working so I can sustain myself, seeing as life had proven to me egregiously that I cannot count on outside support. My mother is retired – I’m the one in the supporting role, so the employers’ line of thought that only mothers with children have a life/family is absurd, and that’s something I have to battle against. The illusion that a husband is a magical panacea both financially and in other avenues of life is precisely that: an illusion. After all, 60% of marriages – confirm the stat, please – now end in divorce, which fully shatters the idea that a man is even close to a plan. It may’ve been the case before I was born. But right now? No. It’s not. And it probably never will be again.

But we can hope, and we can work for a more equal world.

K.G.

 

Truly can’t wait…

 

…to get on CapJazz Cruise again.

 

Seriously, though. I need to be on the water.

Look. What happened last year has happened, and if there’s anything I can say about CapJazz is that it’s the one production that has always been resilient. So far, I’m seeing good signs. CapJazz’s Cuba cruise seems to have gone off without a hitch (jealous a fair bit, wish I could’ve gone, but tax season comes before adventuring). The lineup for the Fest is astoundingly good, but I am not sure if I’ll be able to go – many reasons. But the lineup for the cruise has remained fairly static since they announced Gladys Knight and Robert Glasper after the initial offerings of Will Downing, Jeffrey Osborne, and India Arie.

I’ve already seen people complain, and again – I get it. I’ve seen them call it a disaster already, but on this I’m raising my eyebrows.

People. I love you all, but again: please take a step back and look at this from the other side. Perspective goes a long way here, and first thing to accept is that this isn’t going to happen on our schedule. The production took a major hit last year, and they’re doing all they can to ensure this doesn’t happen again, and that. takes. time. and. effort. So if the lineup is slow on the reveal, then that’s what it’s going to be. We control exactly none of how this comes together, apart from the annual surveys of whom we’d like to see on the cruise.

What’s really important as far as this cruise is concerned? To me, it’s being able to see the artists I want, and I think the same applies to a lot of everyone attending. It’s also the systems behind the scenes running as they should. And after last year, that’s extra important. If they’re going to take their time and set things right, it’s best to wait.

Some wondered if the cruise will even take place. I say that concern is likely unfounded. The contract for the NCL charter has been signed for three years; I have every confidence that the ship is going to sail as scheduled. Who else is going to be on it… no bloody idea.

And frankly, at this point, I can tell you this: even if the artists on the lineup are just what we have so far, I am still going to have a great time. That’s why I go on these cruises in the first place: to work my photo magic, to enjoy the music, to enjoy my friends’ company, and to just enjoy being away from the rest of the world for a week.

I don’t know what’s going to happen after this year; I don’t work for CapJazz, and even though my theories are proven right about 90% of the time, I am not going to speculate on this. I want Cap to succeed; I want them to stick around, I want to see many, many more cruises and events out of them, and attend as many as possible. This has always been a fantastic production that jives right with my love of music and zest for life and adventure, and the six amazing years I had on board that boat carry more weight than the one questionable year.

For myself, I just want to be able to sit on my balcony and watch my hometown of NYC sail past me as we pull out of the port.

K.G.

On Enabling

This has been on my mind the past few months, and really, I think it’s time I did some writing on it.

As we’ve seen in multiple iterations, public and otherwise too I’m sure, let me just posit this statement:

Nothing is worse than an enabler.

Perhaps a little hyperbolic, but think about it; we’ve seen this too many times. Someone’s behavior is horrible, or their opinions are utterly vile, or they’re an extremely obvious hypocrite and/or liar, and there’s always someone who’s going “But they didn’t mean that! You’re just being mean to them! You need to back off them!” when in reality, no, no one is being “mean” to anyone, but everyone is roundly tired of having to tolerate that person’s crap.

Sound familiar? Seen it happen a few times? Maybe in the news?

Tell that to an enabler, though. The enabler will bend over backwards to excuse someone’s actions, no matter how godawful they are. They will go to hell and back for that person – not because that person deserves that kind of support, but because the enabler is of the mind that the person they’re protecting is incapable of being wrong. No criticism can ever be permitted of whomever they’re striving to protect, and the slightest naysay will be tattled back with a hefty dose of indignation mixed in. They will make people step on eggshells, lest anyone actually step up and shatter the illusion that the person whom they’re protecting is nowhere near like what their enabler believes them to be. The enabler would lash out against anyone who would criticize, even if that criticism is roundly deserved, because heaven forfend anyone paints the person as less than what the enabler believes them to be. Never mind if the criticism is deserved, never mind if there’s hard evidence to back said criticism – none of that will sway the enabler.

We see it a lot in two dynamics: friendships or marriages that last several decades with one person changing to beyond recognition (and I use the term change only in regards to perception as opposed to actual change), and parents refusing to believe allegations of abuse from their children to favor the abuser.

The source of the former is understandable, and I fear it is inevitable time-wise. When you know someone for a number of years, you really, really want to believe that you know them best. You want to believe the better of that person. But that’s also exactly the quandary: when you know someone for a very long time, you don’t notice the small and subtle changes in that person. Maybe they were that person a number of years ago. But what they were then and what they are now are not necessarily the same thing. It gets increasingly difficult to see someone for who they are the longer you know them, because if you still hold to the image of them at their best from however long you’ve known them, you will remain blinded to their true colors as time reveals them.

Worse part of it is if the person knows full well that they are still seen as who they once used to be. It’s so, so, so easy to take full advantage of a situation where the person knows you still see them as who they were a decade ago, and remain blind to the painfully obvious truth that they are not that individual anymore, and perhaps they never were that to begin with.

 

It’s infinitely worse in a longtime marriage. “But he just changed overnight!” said every wife whose husband suddenly up and left after a number of years. No. That’s not correct. No one ever changes overnight, and more to the point, no one changes who they are at the core. They just reveal it. No one suddenly wakes up to know that the person they’ve married is suddenly nothing like they knew at the beginning. In fact, there’s very likely a history of this same pattern of behavior, which the wife didn’t know about or (and this is facepalm-worthy, but these things do happen) chose to ignore it in favor of “We can make this work” or “I can change him.”

But worse, they’ll go, “Well, that’s what it is” – no. No no no, and no. “That’s what it is” is no excuse at all. What does it say about you if this is what you’re willing to tolerate? What does it say about the person you are if you excuse away anything with “That’s what it is” and never once stop to say, “This is just not right”?

This is what people don’t really think about when they enable someone’s bad behavior. They don’t ever ask how they, themselves, are seen when they do that. Here’s a hint: when you’re an enabler, whether knowingly or unwittingly, it says nothing good about you at all.

And I won’t even start on the parents who don’t believe when their child tells them that there’s abuse going on. This happens too many a time and each time it does, my hackles go zero to spiked in no seconds flat. To say nothing of the abuse itself and the lifelong damage it inflicts onto the child, what does it do to that child when they go to their parent, looking for protection, and find that the parent blames them for the abuse? Or worse, doesn’t believe them?

Whether or not you believe it, this happens every day.

Any parent who willfully enables or turns a blind eye to the abuse of their child, especially if another family member is doing the abusing, should never reproduce again, nor have anything to do with the child they re-victimized by not believing them. Harsh, but that’s my stance and I’m sticking with it. For all the BS about the boogeyman of stranger danger, the reality is that 95% of all domestic abuse where children are involved is perpetrated by the child’s family. In the 50s – 70s, this was known in socially acceptable speech as “having a funny uncle”. This, however unfortunate and heinous, is not new. Nor is the family banding together to “defend” their favorite family member from the “outlandish accusations” or a “child’s vivid imagination”. Both of these have been, historically, defenses offered by parents who didn’t believe their kids’ abuse was real.

Granted, yes, this could be an extreme example. But the point comes down to the same thing: enabling someone is turning a willful blind eye to who they really are.

The far greater problem with enabling is that other people suffer as a result of the enabler’s inability to stand up to someone.

And that is why I say that nothing is worse than an enabler. I will even go so far as to add that the enabler is just as bad as the person whom they enable. Because their knowledge of what’s going on and subsequent enabling is a tacit acceptance of everything. In fact, legally speaking, this can be construed as participation. There’s a reason that “accessory” is a legal term in prosecution and that people who know what’s going on in a questionable situation and do nothing to stop it are charged as they they committed the act themselves.

Don’t allow yourself to become so tolerant of someone else’s lousy opinions, actions, what-have-you that you forget whether or not tolerating any of that is the right thing to do. No one is entitled to an audience, and no one is entitled to getting away scot-free without consequences to their actions.

More I think about it, the more I realize just how much I’ve let slide over the years. Frankly, that’s inexcusable of me. And I should have never allowed people to walk all over me as they have, and should’ve never kept people around after I discovered some of the opinions they harbor. Enough is more than enough, and personally – life is too short to tolerate people who can’t be bothered to understand the extremely basic rule of life that what they support and what they accept is a direct reflection of who they are.

K.G.

Musings on Exhaustion

Finally, this tax season is at an end.

Not quite, though, on account that the extended returns need to get done before September/October. But the big push has passed, and I am honestly not even sure how I managed it. But I got through it.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my job. I’m fairly good at it; not the best but I’m good at it. For someone who didn’t come out of college with an accounting degree or a CPA accreditation, I am good at what I do. I earned my preparer’s credentials with hard work and experience, and it’ll be the same way I’ll earn my EA accreditation.

But dear gods I am tired. Not just in the usual post-season tired, but this is an exhaustion that’s creeping into my very bones and is making itself at home.

I’ve acquired a lot more knowledge this season, which made work a LOT better, but came to two major realizations:

  1. I absolutely need another pair of eyes working with me.
  2. Being left alone is a job requirement, because I can’t focus worth a damn if I’m pulled in 5 directions at once.

It’s contradictory, but because the nature of my brain is to try and work through as much as I can for everyone, I keep too many things in my head at once, and if someone asks me for help, I shift gears right away to help them. Client needs computer help? Sure, let me pop in via remote access. Sudden notice from a taxing agency? I’ll sort out the nastygram and we’ll fix it. Partner at firm having printing issues? Send it to me.

But that’s how shit slips. That’s how things don’t get completed, with me being pulled 10 ways from Sunday, and I will be the first to say I’m guilty of doing too much. I did get better at catching myself on that, but what I need is a partner, rather than a supervisor. When there’s something I’m stuck on, the first thing I do is try to talk it out loud and make sense of it, but talking to myself is no good way to work in an open office. Thus? I need a partner to work and talk through with.

And being left alone – well, it’s about the interruptions. I don’t mind helping people – I relish it, in fact. I’ve been a go-to person for a while, and as I’m taking on more and more client relations, this translates to my phone/intercom ringing. Which means interruptions. Which means I have to switch gears on a dime. And unfortunately, because prolonged stress and sleep deprivation eats short-term memory first, what does this translate to?

Yeah.

I am sure I won’t get my own office, it’s nice to dream, but no. But I would like to, at least, limit the interruptions, or master a way of controlling them.

But again… dear gods, I’m tired.

This year, I’ve worked three straight weeks through up to deadline. Not even Sundays for a break. We work Saturdays in tax season as a standard, and we expect those – hey, for me, it’s an excuse to have sushi afterwards (not that I need much of a reason; I love sushi). But Sundays are something I consider next to sacrosanct when it comes to the stretch between February and April. That’s the only time I get to sleep, do basic chores like my laundry, clean up, and all-around relax. Not this time, though. This time, it was an absolutely frenzied, frenetic stretch and sleep was, to say the least, at a premium. My short-term memory is shot-to-hell, I’ve taken to writing and emailing about the most basic things just to keep a trail of things for myself. Almost passed out on the subway a couple times from the sheer exhaustion. And let’s be clear on this: in sleep deprivation, the next thing that happens is that I lose chunks of time from my memory. I blank out on hours during the day. I do, do, do, help, help, help… and lose track of time. Or forget cleanly what I’ve done right up until I stop. I’d do something, give it to review, but ask me the same day how I came up with X journal entry… it’ll take me a good 15 minutes before I could answer.

For me, this is not normal. I may be tired as all get-out, but before, no matter how badly I was exhausted, I could always keep track of everything. Maybe it’s the getting-older bit… I was 22 when I worked my first tax season, and that wasn’t much of a preparer capacity, and I had no problem keeping my head straight then. But losing chunks of time? Yeah. That is not normal. Granted, I’m only 31, but even at 31, I would imagine I’m still sharp enough to keep track of things. And it is not pleasant for me to realize that keeping track of things is not something that comes easily to me anymore.

I’m no spring chicken anymore, for sure. Certainly, I don’t have the energy or verve I had when I was in my twenties – if anyone were to ask me to turn around to another city for a gig, the 25-year-old me would’ve said “Sure!”. The 31-year-old me would raise an eyebrow and say, “You’re out of your damn mind.” But I’m noticing changes in my overall energy levels for other things. The long, long walks I’d take through the city every summer – I’d love to do them, but not sure how long I’d be able to keep going, when before, I’d spend hours just walking around and taking in the sights. Getting on the subway is a reflex now, but I’m actually starting to notice how draining it is.

My mom, who spent her entire life working as hard as I am working now, who is now happily enjoying being retired, knows the symptoms and recognizes them. Indeed, and I do too, for I’ve seen them in herself. “Fatigue,” she told me. “And a chronic lack of sleep. You need rest – actual, real rest.”

I wish I could allow myself that, truly.

It makes me think, actually, of Maria Fernandes. She was a girl in Jersey, who made the news when she died in her car. She had three jobs. She took a nap in her car between the jobs – but she forgot to turn it off. And died of the fumes as a result. She worked herself to a state of fatigue that made it hard to remember the most easy things. And that’s what killed her. Whatever the other circumstances in her life were, it boils down to one thing: she was bone-tired. And the effect was the same: lack of sleep. Memory lapse. And… forgetting to do something basic.

It makes me think of the general work culture in this country.

One hundred years ago, the working class had taken to the streets to demand fair wages, basic safety precautions, and the chant of, “Eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, eight hours for what we will!” is the reason that the modern workday is the eight hours that it is today. History, my readers, is the greatest of teachers.

But right now, we’re finding ourselves back to that battle. The reality is, a workday does not last eight hours. Commuting time adds on. Overtime. Projects. Deadlines. It’s never this clear-cut or simple. But right now, with equal pay once again a topic of debate, with things like paid family leave being discussed and curtailed… what, then, does this create as far as a culture at work? People are being cut down to just the cogs that they are in the company wheel, and sometimes it feels that nearly everyone in charge in any capacity forgets the very basic, very simple part: these are human beings, with human lives.

It’s a sad state of affairs when people need to remind their own employers that we are more than our jobs.

Don’t get me wrong: I know exactly what I signed up for. My accounting world is what it is; from January to April, I expect every last bit of what I got. Not the whole memory-blank thing, but the working long hours and basically ceasing to exist in any medium outside tax work . If you’ve seen my FB posts, then you know I do a House Rules type of deal right before season gets started: do not call me, do not ask me to do anything non-tax-related, do not at all interfere with me surviving tax season unless you’re bringing wine. I’m sure every single accountant does something similar.

But – I also have a mom, who honestly would like to see me more than once a week, even though we live together, and is Gently Concerned (read: extremely worried) about the whole working-to-the-ground thing. I also have friends, who have, at some point, seen me collapse into a seat somewhere, shaking with exhaustion. Back when things were still good with a friend of mine, he was yea-close to feeding me someone else’s food because apparently, I looked like death warmed over in April of… 2011? And I won’t lie: what about me? I know my coworkers need me, but I need me too. I need me a lot and I feel like I’ve poured from an empty cup for at least the past two years.

And what about my other friends in the industry? Who have children, families whom they don’t see because of crazy hours?

We do it. I’ll tell you this: no matter how hard the season will get, no matter how tempers flare: we grit our teeth and do what we must do. We have to. Because this is what happens when people depend on us. We set aside all of that and we. do. what. we. need. to.

I’m not asking for a vacation – I have vacation days that I can take, that’s hardly the point. I’m asking for the very basic things like not passing out on the subway, and/or to regain my short-term memory. Hidden-object puzzles help with the latter, though. But this is my career – I know exactly what I signed up for. Still, some things aren’t exactly par for the course.

Not that I’m going anywhere. Stressful or not, I enjoy my work. Both the numeric and the creative.

K.G.

Those four little words…

I know it doesn’t sound like it, most days, but the one thing I loathe having to tell people is, “I told you so.”

So remember how I wrote about the San Diego Bayfest?

Since that point, this happened: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/aug/31/bayfest-canceled/

Summary: the fest was postponed until this March. People were less than thrilled.

And now this happened too: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/watchdog/sd-me-bayfest-tickets-20161207-story.html

As of right now, it’s April 17th. I am not sure what all’s gone on in San Diego since then, but I am about 99.9% certain that the event has never taken place.

People. This is exactly why I say: always research who puts on the shows. Because if you dig deep enough, you’re going to find that there’s far more in the cache of history.

People always say, “Give them a chance!” – I beg to differ. Chances are not given equally, and aren’t earned equally. Do you really think that people change, or that a thief ever stops being a thief? Let’s be honest, it’s 2017 now, and while some of us were born at night, it wasn’t last night!

I’ve been told that I’m a “bitter person” just because I always say that people don’t change. Well, if people would stop proving me right in that assessment, maybe I’d not need to say it. Seriously: my reaction is little more than the assessment of the circumstances presented to me. Don’t want me to call you out? Don’t. Give. Me. A reason.

The guy headlining this had a 2004 conviction for fraud and identity theft. This has been stated in multiple articles, and there is record of his arrest at this link. Let things like this be your litmus test of judgment. I know the music business isn’t known for its holiness, but identity theft is not a crime after which a person deserves a second chance. Sorry but not sorry. If I had a business, I have no problem hiring someone with a record, but you better believe I will look twice, three times, at what that record contains. You like to smoke weed? Go ahead and smoke it, just not in the office. You like harder drugs? Not my style, but if you want rehab, I’ll get you into rehab. You drink like a fish? Cheers! But if you’re the cleanest person around and you committed fraud or identity theft, have a great time trying to come near what’s mine. Hell. No.

People always ask me, “Why are you so suspicious of people?”

Because they prove me right. Each and every time, they. prove. me. right. My gut doesn’t lie. When I get the feeling that something’s not right, I listen to it. Without fail, I find out why I had that feeling in the first place.

K.G.

The Reality Divide

This has been brought up by my friend Lisa, and I think I have to address it in depth, especially now. And this is something that I really don’t think I can avoid addressing.

Money, they say, is the root of all evil. I think that in light of the most recent events, we can bravely say that that’s the case. But what money also does is gives someone a peace of mind that people without it – or without a sense of financial stability – can never acquire. What that peace of mind does, in turn, is create a bubble that insulates from the very harsh and very demanding realities of the real world.

In other words… the richer they get, the less clue they have about the world outside their bubble as the money reinforces it. And then they try and “advise” people on how to get to where they are.

You know the tropes: “Work hard and you’ll get anywhere!” “I can do X and Y and so can anyone else!” And, my favorite, “Just start a business!”

But for one major, major flaw: all of them, to a T, ignore the simple fact that not everyone has the same opportunity as they have.

This is the first harsh reality that people of means either willfully disregard or are blithely unaware of. Equal opportunity is a nice idea, but ultimately, it’s not at all what reality is, and whether or not you like it, money is always, always the determining factor. If a person might come from any money at all – a house that’s owned and not rented is still equity and a financial foundation that people who rent just simply do not have – they already have a leg up. If they had a parent who used whatever savings they had in order to set up a college fund, there’s a major leg up, considering the rising costs of tuition. But these things do matter, and right now, in the era of rising costs and a growing chasm of inequality, they matter a whole lot more than the people who are better off even consider.

“You can just start a business!” sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Except the part where businesses require startup capital. As in, money you put out to vendors, suppliers, distributors, etc. up front, before you start making any actual income from your venture. And oh, need I remind you that landlords and utility companies really don’t like getting things like “exposure” or “I have to wait to make some money off my new business” in lieu of money.

This is why I have a huge problem with people who push entrepreneurship as a grand panacea to all financial ills. They don’t understand the very simple concept of entrepreneurship: you can’t make money without first spending money. And if someone, say, doesn’t really have any money to invest in a new venture – with no guarantees of it succeeding, no matter what the prosperity gospel might push – then what good, exactly, is entrepreneurship to them?

Again. Landlords need to be paid. Utility bills need paying. Tell me please, when was the last time that there was any bill paid with “exposure”?

I didn’t think so.

Those who do not have means are very keenly aware of these realities. Or, let’s call them what they really are: responsibilities. Because that’s what life is: it’s a connected chain of responsibilities. And money, or lack of it, definitely reorganizes those responsibilities.

And I’ll say it plainly: people who have any financial backing other than zero have very little grasp of the reality of these responsibilities, or of the real world. Sorry, but not sorry.

Imagine this scenario. You have a friend, and you know your friend’s parents are sending her money regularly. Her bills are always paid – that’s if she even has to write the checks herself. The friend doesn’t have to worry about how to make a living, and you two often have great outings, and great times. But – you have to work. Sometimes you get a project and you get long hours. “But can’t it wait?” your friend will ask when calling you for an impromptu night out midweek.

“No. I have a deadline.”

“But can’t you put off that deadline?”

“No, because I need this job.”

“But maybe you can start a business? It might take a while to get exposure, though, but you can start a business and then you wouldn’t need to work such long hours.”

“I have bills.”

This conversation, or something like it, takes place every day, and kids of parents who don’t have money have to actually explain to their peers, whose parents basically finance their lifestyle, that no, it’s not possible to start a business when one is 1) in debt with student loans, 2) without savings or any sort of capital to put into that new business and 2) with bills to pay.

Because – not joking – some people just do not understand just how severe those responsibilities are, simply because they don’t have them for themselves.

Seriously. We are in our thirties right now. I don’t think we should have to explain the concept of responsibilities and commitments to people, but because our more-moneyed peers can’t understand the very basic bit that responsibilities actually require time, effort, and commitment well before a good time does.

It’s a reality disconnect that we have so far seen play out in the past few months. Look at every. single. legislation that was aimed against people who are struggling. Student loan protections have been rolled back, because screw college grads whose first jobs barely pay a room’s rent. Wage debates are still ongoing because some people who are in legislature – nearly all of them people with serious money – just can’t grasp that a wage is supposed to be something that people can reasonably survive on. And let’s not forget the colossal waste of money that “drug testing for welfare” has turned out to be. Spend over three million dollars to catch one person, as what happened in FL. It does nothing at all to make people less poor, but gee, “they just need to work harder”.

I’ve tried bringing this up before, and I’ve heard some gems, most of which along the lines of “You’re just jealous! Work a little harder and you’ll have some money, so stop complaining.”

Bullshit. And few things are more offensive than anyone even remotely implying laziness on people who are already working. As a lot of people on public assistance actually are, because gee, you probably forgot that costs of living have more than doubled while wages remained stagnant, which makes for a very fun mathematic disparity when you add some things and subtract others.

I work two jobs, if you consider my photography venture is every bit as much work as my Day Job. You want to tell me to work harder, then I suggest you be the one to cut me a pretty hefty check. Please note that assholes are nearly always charged a fee on top of their usual fee for my services, and this is not negotiable. You want to act like a jerk? Open your wallet.

Here’s what a lot of people fail to understand too: no one is jealous of rich people.

I know, I know. Hard to believe, especially considering that there’s not a single poor person who hasn’t once wondered what they’d do with a little extra cash. But really… those of us who have managed to get to some sort of stability after coming up from nothing – or less than nothing, if student debt counts –  and even those of us who are not so fortunate are not at all jealous of people with money.

In fact, rich people, we feel very little towards you at all. Except for one thing, and it’ll surprise you:

Pity.

And here’s why: who are you and what will you do when the money runs out?

All that entrepreneurship won’t last forever – assuming there’s even capital or savings to start a business and/or keep it running. No one has the energy to keep a hustle going 24-7, with or without employees. Money always runs out, especially wealth you inherit, and double on top of that for money that someone other than you has earned that either you spent or someone else has been spending on you. What if your spouse decides that they had enough of supporting you and get up and leave? What if you have a health catastrophe that basically wipes out everything you’ve got? What if someone else’s entrepreneurship turns out to be a gigantic Ponzi scheme and all that money you put up, maybe even your whole life savings, for their business is gone with no hope of getting it back? Then what will you do with yourself?

My guess, if you’re wealthy, that’s your personal götterdämmerung. Look it up if you want to know what it means. But if you don’t want to look it up, I’ll tell you in plain English what it means: you’re finished.

Let’s be very frank about the realities of the world: at the end of the day, it’s all about the ways in which you are useful to other people. It’s about your real-life skills – be it knowing how to balance a checkbook, run an office, be a listener, or perform a surgery – and whether or not your skills are up to date. And maybe it’s just me, but I find that people who come from inherited wealth, who do nothing with themselves, and who voluntarily disconnected themselves from the reality of the world are pretty much useless.

When parents say that they want to “give their children everything we’ve never had”, I want to scream in frustration. Every time that this is done, the parents are robbing their own kids of the necessary skills of empathy, perseverance, and fully appreciating the value of what’s around them, whether a dollar or another person. Not a single one of these skills, which in this vile obstacle course that we call a world right now are pretty much essential for qualifying as a decent human being, ever come without the following three things: 1) struggle, 2) disappointment, and 3) pain.

Nothing positive can ever be fully appreciated without some seriously heavy negative to put it in perspective. That’s just a fact of life.

So when parents set their kids up to never have to struggle, they’re actually giving them a huge, massive handicap in the real world. By ensuring their kids won’t have to struggle, the parents are making sure that their kid never has to deal with reality. A losing proposition, because reality has a very, very funny away of catching up.

Ultimately, those of us who do have to struggle have very little mercy for those  who don’t. Simply because struggle teaches a certain set of survival skills that the wealthier side will never know, and when chips are thrown down and it’s down to what you’re capable of, money doesn’t really match skill. Never has and never will.

The only thing that is really apt to grind my gears is having to actually teach our peers – and too often, our elders – the very basic parts of life such as compassion, responsibilities, and priorities. The fact that these things have to be explained – is the real part that grinds on a lot of people. Not just me – anyone who’s ever had to struggle, anyone who’s ever had to work like a dog for any financial security, we are all sick and tired of having to explain to people how things are and what they are. This shouldn’t have to happen. If people’s money removes compassion from the equation, then I’m sorry, but what good is the person, overall, as a human being? Sorry, but not at all sorry to posit that question. If someone’s compassion, understanding, empathy, etc. are removed by a few thousands of dollars, what good is the person, on a basic human level? What use is a human being who can be easily bought into not being human on a basic level?

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the answer to that.

K.G.

Looks like I do have to say it…

So. There’s a FB post going around right now, in regards to mental health awareness. Post goes like this:

“How often do you sit at home and wish someone would ring you and suggest, well anything rather than these 4 walls? How many of you have had a night out planned, or arranged coffee with friends and suddenly “these 4 walls” seem the only safe haven because it’s the only place you don’t have to pretend you are ok, so you cancel. Or when you are invited out you tell them how terribly sorry you are but you’re already booked up that weekend, when you are actually just really busy holding it together in your safe box. And so the first problem starts, all by itself , people stop asking you and the isolation that at first wasn’t true becomes your only truth.
Please don’t give up on your friends, ring them, go round, even when they don’t want you too, because they really do they just don’t know how to say it. Everyone says: “If you need anything, don’t hesitate, I’ll be there for you”
I’m going to make a bet, without being pessimistic, that out of my Facebook friends that less than 5 will take the time to put this on their wall to help raise awareness of and for those who have mental health difficulties. You just have to copy it from my wall and paste it to yours (hold down on this post and you will be given the option to copy… then go to your status and hold down to paste).
Please write “done” under my comments when you do! I’ve done this for a friend for Mental Health Awareness!!”

Now, I’ve studied psych on college level since I was 14. And that post is some BS.

It makes the incredibly wrong, and a fairly insulting, presumption that anyone who wants or needs solitude absolutely must have a mental illness and requires a constant series of check-ins from anyone who thinks themselves a good friend.

Allow me to explain, from experience and from having to deal with this issue repeatedly in multiple iterations:

Not everyone who requires solitude has a mental illness, and when you’re calling constantly, you’re actually being extremely intrusive and you’re exacerbating the issue that they may have, which is that everyone constantly wants something from them, and you’re deliberately ignoring that they actually need some time and some place where they can be on their own, themselves, which your constant phone calls and “check-ins” will hinder. 

Here’s another point that people either ignore or don’t want to accept:

If someone wanted your help, they would ask for it. Stop being a Well-Meaning Wilma and stop trying to constantly fix things and people. You’re not being helpful; you’re being rude, intrusive, and annoying.

I really can’t believe I have to explain this, but apparently I have to. Because people really need to be told this.

We do not need constant contact in order to stay friends. Simply, we don’t. If your idea of friendship depends on constant contact, I suggest revisiting the definition.

I can attest that there are extremely few people for whom I’d pick up the phone, and even then, they know not to call me without there being an emergency, and they ask if they can call before calling me. Why? Because I am actually doing things! I’m probably reading, or ironing, or cleaning, or just spending a bit of time with Mom. Or I might be eating dinner. Or hey – maybe it’s tax season and I’m working long hours! I have actual things I’m doing, and a phone call makes me stop everything I’m doing to focus on the conversation. Because I believe wholly that if a person is talking to me, I owe them the very basic courtesy of listening actively. When someone writes me an email, I treat it the same way: I read and actively read what the person is saying. Same thing in a chat. It’s basic common courtesy.

But according to this sharebait, which borders on asinine in its presumptiousness, I need “checking up on” and someone to call me to “break me out of the four walls”. HELL No! These four walls are my sanctuary and saving grace. You wouldn’t want to see me without me having my alone time, trust me. It’s for your own good.

I live in the busiest city in the world, and work in a fairly stressful career track. I am surrounded by people effectively every. waking. moment. of every day. Being alone is my self-care! It is my mental health awareness. Because when I’m inside my four walls, I can detox, I can do things on my time and on my terms.

And I am certain 100% in the knowledge that I am not alone in this perception.

Come on. I really should not have to explain that the number one component of mental health is having boundaries! I shouldn’t have to explain that having established personal space is essential, absolutely completely essential, to mental well-being. But considering that this sharebait is going around, it seems that I have to make it clear.

Look, people. We have lives. We have families. We have jobs that don’t always cut out at 5pm, or when the shift ends. We have actual busy lives and calling just to “check in” because you’re spoonfed the idea that  alone = lonely = mentally ill is very rude, to put it nicely. It’s intrusive. It’s not helpful.

Before you begin trying to “fix”or to “help” or to “check up on” someone, try this extremely novel idea of accepting them the way they are. Try also this interesting concept that maybe they don’t need fixing. And also, just consider, ask yourself, what are they saying that I’m not listening to? Because there’s a pretty good chance they already told you what they think about it, and you simply didn’t listen, or you deliberately ignored it because you thought that your perception was more important.

I had to tell a friend of mine repeatedly that I am a text-first person. I cannot tell you how many calls I had after telling her that, which went, “I’m just checking up on you, I know you’re stressed” – honey. STOP!!!!! If you know I’m stressed, and if you know me well – and she does know me well – and you know I am around people every day, then why would you knowingly cut into time that I have made clear, repeatedly, that I need for myself? Granted yes, she couldn’t always text. I get that. I will grant that. And of all the phone calls, I purposely didn’t pick up maybe two, for that reason: I do consider the opposite side. But… please have some regard for the person you’re calling. I said to her repeatedly: I’m around people all day, I need to be alone. I need space. I need to relax. And if you’re my friend, then what, exactly, are you showing me as far as respecting my boundaries and personal space?

No matter how much I might love someone, there is a point where they need to leave me the fuck alone. I really shouldn’t have to explain the concept of personal space to people who are older than me by anywhere from 15 to 30 years.

And in 2015, I had to contend with someone who wouldn’t even so much as send a Facebook PM and yet track my every move online for almost a year. Maybe one comment over that time, but more than enough IP hits. And the reasoning that I was given for that is “She’s just trying to be your friend!”

For. Fuck’s. Sake. That is not trying to be a friend, that’s borderline stalking.

Look. I know social media is an odd landscape to navigate, but the basic rules of social decorum apply. The first rule is if you’re trying to be someone’s friend, then start by respecting the person that they are as opposed to outright ignoring it for your own perceptions. If you have someone like myself, who is busy, who has a life, who values communication but sets store on personal space and boundaries, wouldn’t you, I don’t know… just write a message to that person to establish some sort of a rapport? Let them tell you what they want/need/expect from a friend? I am a very open person; I have no problem letting people know what I am like and what I expect from the people around me. It’s really not that difficult.

If you write a message, I answer it, guaranteed. And maybe 15% of that will be an answer you won’t like. But if you call me and it’s not an emergency, and you didn’t ask if you could call, you’re fast on your way to my shit list.

The one thing that I absolutely can’t stand, which the above FB sharebait conveniently ignores?

I cannot stand it when people invade my personal space and don’t respect the boundaries that I have set. “Just trying to be your friend” is bullshit. If you were trying to be my friend, you’d actually pay attention to the person that I am.

I especially love the bit about “go round even if they don’t want you to.” NO. NO NO NO NO. DO NOT DO THAT. Because that’s the fastest way to get your dumb ass arrested for trespassing. I would love for some fool to try and come over to my house… number one, I made sure next to no one knows my home address for this exact reason, and number two, I would so dearly love to hear the sound their arse will make when it makes contact with the concrete sidewalk, after I punt them off my front step. You think I wouldn’t do that? You think that just because you come to someone’s front door to “check up on them” they’re obligated to let you in? Dear gods, people, please check yourself before you wreck yourself, or before someone else does.

People… seriously. Personal space and common courtesy are not a hard concept to wrap your head around. It doesn’t mean someone must have a “mental illness”. It means they like their goddamned space and have certain standards. And if you think something is wrong with them for enforcing this, it says a lot more about you.

Here’s what the people who are on the receiving end of the Well-Meaning Wilmas and the “just checking in on you” and the “just trying to be your friend” really want to say to you, that I’m putting into words right now, because apparently no one else would:

You’re not being helpful.

You’re not trying to be a friend.

You are being intrusive, and you’re making the person you’re intruding upon uncomfortable, and you need to back the fuck off.

And when you get the boot for this, please point the finger squarely at yourself for not listening to them in the first place.

You can’t force this shit. Seriously. If you want to be someone’s friend, first accept the person as is, and then respect that. Converse on their terms, and not on yours. Show some very basic respect for the people that they are, if you want to earn any respect yourself. And never, ever, EVER try to be the Fix-it Fred. Just do not.

Leave. People. Alone. Because that’s what they really need. If they want to get in touch with you, they will call you themselves.

Really, it’s not a difficult concept to grasp.

K.G.