The Fantasy Christmas vs. Reality

This is my idea of the perfect fantasy Christmas. First of all, no one asks me if I’m “ready for Christmas” before Christmas Eve, and we spend a lovely, restful Advent the way it should be spent, in waiting and quiet preparation. Christmas begins a few days early with a Tree Fairy who comes on the winter solstice and erects and decorates a gorgeous tree in our warm and cozy home, which is maintained by the Housekeeping Fairy. My husband Bob and I don’t have to disagree over where to get the tree, which tree to choose, who forgot to label the good and bad lights from last year, which is the side of the tree to face forward, how best to string the lights, etc. Once the tree arrives, we spend very evening prior to Christmas Eve by a real fire in the fireplace reading old-fashioned Christmas tales like A Christmas Carol.

On Christmas Eve, neither of us has to work. I make egg nog (my great-grandmother Wood’s recipe). We each have a small bowl of oyster stew (which Bob doesn’t hate) and a glass of egg nog before we head over to spend a few hours at our friends’ Christmas Eve open house in Intercourse, PA. Then, we walk to a beautiful, centuries-old church for a midnight mass, for which my husband isn’t the least bit responsible. This church is located somewhere in England. The service is one of Lessons and Carols, the carols led by the Vienna Boys’ Choir, and the sermon is one that inspires us to discuss it all the way on the walk home. Once home, we each pour ourselves a glass of egg nog and exchange one gift before going to bed by candlelight.

On Christmas morning, we get up to discover a raging blizzard outside. We light the fire and open the Christmas stockings Santa has filled for us, and he knows us well, having delivered mostly books and candy. Then, we sit down to a breakfast that includes stollen (one can only hope it is made by Sharon Stiener, who gave many a delicious stollen to the Michie family when I was growing up). By noon, the snow is still gently falling, but it is nice enough to join family members and best friends at someone’s brownstone in NYC for a roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner prepared by someone who loves to cook such feasts and doesn’t consider it to be a chore at all. For dessert, there is pecan pie made by my mother with plenty of whipped cream. Afterwards, everyone takes a walk up 5th Avenue to view the shop windows and to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. Bob and I return home to exchange another gift over glasses of egg nog, on this, the first day of Christmas.

During the next eleven days of Christmas, Bob and I spend lots of time visiting family and friends, eating delicious food, telling great stories, laughing uproariously with those who have similar senses of humor. We spend the rest of the time in front of the fire and tree reading books and eating candy we’ve gotten as gifts. Each night, we exchange one gift with each other, twelve in all. The only exception is New Year’s Eve, when we enjoy a festive ringing in of the New Year with James and Elizabeth at Red Sky Restaurant in Southwest Harbor, ME. On the day after Epiphany, the Tree Fairy comes and takes down the tree, carts it away, and promises to be back next year.

That’s the fantasy, which is a vast improvement over Christmas 2014. Christmas 2014 went as follows. I began to get sick in the middle of the night Dec. 2 – Dec. 3. For the most part, I stayed in bed on Dec. 3 and thought I was much better on December 4 when Bob and I went to see the Tedeschi Trucks at the Keswick Theater in Glenside. By the afternoon of Dec. 5th, I was feeling lousy and feverish again, but I had to cashier at the church bazaar for a couple of hours on Dec. 6th and had to be at church on Dec. 7th for the Christmas play practice (I was one of the Magi). I thought I was finally feeling better on Dec. 8th and went to work. The rest of the week is a bit of a feverish blur. I made it to the one and only Amish wedding to which I’ll probably ever be invited, but I had to miss my favorite work event (the library volunteer tea) on Dec. 12th, by which time Bob was getting sick, and that day we also found out that a dear member of our congregation had died.

Instead of going Christmas caroling as planned, after play practice on Dec. 14th, I accompanied Bob to a little party for the baby he’d just baptized, did a quick grocery shop, then collapsed and slept all afternoon before leading the youth group’s Christmas party. I stayed in bed all morning on the 15th, then got up to do stuff before I had to be at work. Feeling a bit better on the 16th, I went Christmas shopping. I thought I was finally on the mend, energy coming back, and I crossed a lot off my to-do list on Dec. 17th before Bob and I went to see “Annie” at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center, where we have season tickets (it was superb!). Yet again, that set me back. I was able to work on the 18th, but since Bob was also very sick, and he had to officiate at the funeral on Friday, we had to postpone seeing one of the kids of the church perform at the Christmas extravaganza at The American Music Theatre. Sometime during that week, I made the decision that I wasn’t going to bother with Christmas cards this year.

Friday arrived, and along with it came a pain in the right side of my chest, which didn’t make sense. It felt like a pulled muscle, but my cough had been getting better, and unless I’d coughed very hard in my sleep without waking up at all, I couldn’t imagine how I’d pulled a muscle. Both Bob and I were sad and somber and sick, preparing for the funeral. Then, just before the funeral, Bob received more bad news. Our next door neighbor, another dear member of the congregation, had died. By this point, Bob was sicker than I was, so I’d taken over the task of walking Clare the dachshund in the unpredictable warm/cold weather, the sort of weather that pneumonia, according to legend, just loves. I made it through the funeral, which I didn’t realize until I was in the midst of it was our first funeral since my father died over the summer. It was hard. I almost left. After the funeral luncheon, Bob collapsed for the afternoon before getting back to work on Sunday’s service. I didn’t. I felt my energy coming back.  I got more stuff checked off my to-do list. The next day, Dec. 20th, I did some more Christmas shopping and went to work before an evening of pizza-eating and cookie-baking with the church youth in preparation for the Secret Santa party they were hosting after church the next day.

Church and the Secret Santa party rang in the true spirit of Christmas. I was feeling more energetic than ever. The chest pain seemed to be going away. Bob was still sick as a dog, but he visited the grieving family next door, and a funeral was planned for Christmas Eve morning. I worked on Dec. 22, had an annual mammogram appointment on Dec. 23, and was feeling much better that day, finishing my Christmas shopping and greeting my brother-in-law when he arrived. I attended the final dress rehearsal for the Christmas play that evening. By the time I went to bed that night, though, I realized my cough was coming back, and the pain in my chest was still there.

We, somehow, made it through another funeral and luncheon on Dec. 24. Then I spent the rest of the day wrapping presents and making egg nog, and feeling very sad, as I got in touch with my siblings, about the first Christmas without my father. I couldn’t even listen to The Messiah (one of his favorites), which I usually love to do on Christmas Eve. The early Christmas Eve service was great fun with the Christmas play a success. My brother-in-law, Bob, and I came home to discover that Clare the dachshund had managed to get upstairs (despite a gate) and had eaten half the fudge I’d had bought and wrapped as a gift for Bob (earlier in the day, she’d found and eaten some special sugar I’d gotten him for his stocking). An online search revealed that if it were going to kill her, she would’ve died immediately, but that she would probably be sick. She seemed okay, though, and there was no time to stay with her. We headed off to the annual Christmas Eve party we attend and then to the late-night service, by which point, I realized my cough had come back with a vengeance.

Bob and I arrived home from the late night service around 12:30 to discover that Clare had thrown up all over the living room, including on one of the chairs. We had to clean it up and strip the chair covers off the chair and get them in the wash before we could even think about going to bed. We fell into bed around 2:00 a.m., and around 5:30 a.m., I woke up feeling sick as a dog myself. Soon, I developed  a migraine, which ruined any idea of gift exchanges on Christmas morning, as we planned to meet family for lunch in Lititz — a half-hour drive away — at 12:30. I was in bed until 11:00, when I rallied. The headache was gone, but not the cough. Still, we managed to enjoy a lovely Christmas dinner, before coming home and collapsing in bed, yet again. Christmas gifts were exchanged in the evening (stockings almost forgotten) before another night in which Emily was sick as a dog, coughing uncontrollably and losing her voice.

Dec. 26: I had to miss our annual breakfast at Waffle House before my brother-in-law headed home. I  stayed in bed all day, with no voice, pretty much hating Christmas 2014 and hoping I’d be well enough to go to the American Music Theatre show on the 27th, the one we’d postponed last week. Silver lining: I was! And now I’m in vacation mode. We leave tomorrow. A first: every room in our house looks (as my father would say) like the Devil had a fit in it. I’m leaving it, and will deal with it when I get home.

May I Be Boring and Talk about “Serial”?

I’m going to do this in bullet fashion, because my thoughts are all over the place with this recent obsession of mine. Not sure yet whether or not there will be spoilers, but probably there will be.

  • Okay, first things first. Is having a husband who just seems to refuse to be the least bit interested in Serial grounds for divorce? Is there anyone else out there suffering from this breach-of-wedding-vow behavior? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that the traditional wedding vows speak of staying true in sickness and in health. If someone is sick with the inability to stop thinking and talking and dreaming (yes! I did dream about it) about Serial, don’t you think it’s a spouse’s duty to find out everything he can about this obsession by, say, you know, listening to an episode or two? In fairness to said spouse, there’s hope. He did, just today, tell me that he’s very interested. He just wants to have the time and space to devote to it. Then again, he’s a minister. As any minster’s wife  can attest: that time and space will never come. Not even while on “vacation”. It will come, maybe (hope springs eternal!), when he retires. By then, I will have forgotten all about this season.
  • I came to Serial late in the game. Don’t get me wrong. I love This American Life (how else would so many have discovered my hero David Sedaris?). I love other NPR shows. Okay, I (mostly, except for some of its annoying quirks — a subject for another blog post) love NPR. Still, I mainly listen to it while driving around in the car. Sometimes I bother with podcasts when I’m in the middle of something really good, get to my destination, and can’t finish it. Serial was all podcasts. I’m lazy. I couldn’t just tune into it while driving around, and I’d much rather pick up a book — instant gratification — than bother with finding and downloading podcasts. Then again, I hate doing housework, and there is NOTHING  better to distract me while cleaning, doing laundry, dusting, etc., when I decide it absolutely MUST be done (once a month or so) than listening to something interesting. Thus, I decided to download Serial during one of my “my shoes are sticking to the kitchen floor” moments. By then, we were already 8 episodes in.
  •  I am not a binge anything. I’m not a binge eater/watcher/reader/listener/whatever else one can binge on-er. If you don’t believe me, here’s some evidence: despite loving the first two books, I still haven’t read Mockingjay. I’ve only watched one season of Downton Abbey, which I also really liked, and I probably need to clear out some Christmas cookies left in the freezer from last year to make room for this year’s cookies. Nevertheless, I downloaded the first 8 episodes and found all kinds of housework to do that I normally wouldn’t bother with. I listened to 8 episodes as quickly as I could, which, luckily, wasn’t quickly enough not to be on episode 11 before I had to wait for the next episode, which (wouldn’t you know it?) happened to be the last. I had to wait 6 whole days for the finale. (I applaud all those of you who went week-by-week. How on earth did you do that?) I have to admit that while listening and being interrupted umpteen million times by things that made me have to stop, I more than once found myself longing for those days when I had a 45-minute-one-way commute to work.
  • Talk about longing. I also found myself longing for the days when I spent 8 1/2 hours in the office every day with like-minded people. I’m sure there would’ve been plenty of talk of Adnan, Jay, the weird Mr. S pursued and dropped just like that, etc., were I still standing around water coolers with such people.
  • Because I’m busy working on a novel, I’ve been doing a lot of research into sociopathy, which when I was in college, we were taught was the new term for what was once known as psychopathy. My research has led me to understand that today the two terms have evolved, although many in the field still don’t distinguish between them. Others do. Both disorders are classified under the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth edition) subject heading of “antisocial personality disorder”. I’m finding more and more that I fall into the camp of those who make a distinction. If you’re curious and want a really nice, succinct description of the difference between the two, as I’ve come to understand it, you can read this. Anyway, all this leads me to wonder: who could be labeled a sociopath or a psychopath in this series? A couple of times, Sarah Koenig, our reporter/storyteller wonders if she’s dealing with a very convincing psychopath (okay, I guess this post is going to include spoilers, so if you haven’t yet listened to the podcast, read further at your own peril) in Adnan. Personally, I don’t think so. At one point, she tells us that no one in prison with Adnan believes he is a murderer. They all like him. I know psychopaths are notoriously charming, but I also know, from my research, that most of them don’t wind up in prison. Prison is a place where I think psychopaths would easily be identified by their fellow inmates. They would’ve learned to see through the charming facade of someone who’d been there for 15 years.
  • Jay is the one described by friends as someone who lied all the time. Now, he might just be a pathological liar, but lying is also a key component in identifying sociopaths and psychopaths. I have a sneaky suspicion that Jay is a sociopath. He’s definitely presented as someone who shows a disregard for laws and social mores; and friends describe him as someone who could have violent outbursts. And from what we’re told, he didn’t seem to care too much about Hae’s death. He seems a little scary to me. I’m willing to go one step further and say he might be a psychopath, because he seems to be the sort who’s studied others’ emotions and knows how to mimic them, the way, for instance, he cried during the trial. I can’t decide because I can’t quite decide if Hae’s murder was unplanned or planned.
  • A few things have stuck out with me: 1. Adnan seemed genuinely surprised when Sarah and her producer were able to reenact Jay’s story of the murder and had time to do it. He was certain that would be the key piece of evidence proving he couldn’t have done it. Either that’s because he didn’t kill Hae, or it’s because he did but not that way, and he knows it’s a loophole that could get him off. 2. Adnan told Jay, in court, he was “pathetic”. Sarah just seemed to skim over that, but I think it’s an important clue. Why did he say that? It could be Adnan was upset with Jay for framing him. It could be that the two killed Hae together, and Adnan is upset with Jay for not owning up to his role.  3. If Adnan killed Hae, the only motive is a “crime of passion”, which means it’s highly unlikely that he would have plotted to the degree necessary to commit this crime, especially if he’s not a psychopath, which again, I really don’t think he is. Jay, on the other hand, who, if he is a psychopath, doesn’t need any real motive at all. Maybe he was upset that Adnan was such good friends with his girlfriend and maybe Hae had done something that annoyed him (she’s been described as someone who could be annoying at times), and he decided to get revenge on Adnan by killing someone he knew Adnan probably still loved, even though they’d broken up, someone he didn’t like much himself. If he was a psychopath, he would’ve plotted details carefully, and this does seem that it could’ve been a very carefully plotted murder. He had Adnan’s car. He had Adnan’s cell phone, which makes it possible for him to “butt dial” someone only Adnan would call, at just the right time to make such a call very suspicious. Psychopaths think about such things. It’s why so many get away with murder, why our prisons are not full of psychopaths, like people think they are.
  • Let’s forget who did it, though. Sarah’s right. Despite everything that makes me believe he’s innocent, Adnan might not be. This podcast was a wonderful case study in how faulty our criminal justice system is. I know a lot about this because the first church I joined as an adult was deeply invested in prison ministry; I’ve edited quite a few books on the topic, especially when I was a multicultural studies editor; my sister Lindsay used to teach art in prisons, and I learned quite a lot from her; and I’m just generally interested, reading books and watching movies that address the issue. When I was in my twenties, I was a death penalty advocate. I’m not anymore. Not because I think a psychopathic killer deserves to live, but because I know how faulty our system is, and I know how many innocent people wind up in prison, on death row. I also know how many people wind up in prison who really belong in rehab centers or under psychiatric care, or who just need to be given gainful employment so they don’t have to resort to stealing. I’m hoping that, as Serial keeps going, it will become a show that really examines these cracks in the system. We got a taste of that during this first season — the ex-cop who’s busy trying to change the way suspects are interrogated, the U.Va. law professor who has students reinvestigating cases, the juror interviewed who didn’t understand why Adnan didn’t take the stand, didn’t defend himself if he was innocent, etc. I want more stories that shine a light on how, despite the ideals we claim to hold, most people are “guilty until proven innocent” — whether by cops or jurors or just society as a whole.
  • At one point, Adnan very poignantly discusses how hurt he is that the people in his community turned on him so easily. Having no evidence, whatsoever, until the day his ex-girlfriend winds up dead, most of them easily seem to accept the fact that he’s the sort of guy who would’ve plotted down to the last detail her murder, that he could be such a cold-blooded murderer. It’s sad, but I’m not surprised at all. This is life in our society. I’ve witnessed it in school environments.  I’ve witnessed it in work environments. I’ve witnessed it in the small towns in which I’ve lived. Someone, for some reason (probably because he or she is a sociopath) decides to spread malicious gossip about someone else, and despite the fact that that person has never shown any sign of being the sort who would cheat on her husband/beat his child/torture cats, whatever, the next thing you know, everyone is shying away from that person and keeping eagle eyes trained on him or her, looking for verification (and they will find it. When you look for something like that, begin writing and believing that story in your head, you will turn the most innocuous actions into proof) that he or she is the devil incarnate.
  • This particular episode of Serial could also be an interesting case study in the hierarchy of American racism. I find it fascinating that this program was becoming a huge hit during the same period of time when this country has been shining a light on racial bias and prejudice in our legal system. One could make the argument that, in this case, Jay, being black is considered more “American” than Adnan, the Pakistani American. Therefore, he was more believable. I know I’m not the first to wonder what this case would have been like if Adnan had been white. I also wonder what it would’ve been like if Hae had been white. Interestingly, it took place before 9/11, which made me wonder if things (not sure how they could’ve been, but they probably could’ve) could have been much worse for Adnan.
  • So, what will season two be? Will we continue with Adnan (for the record, I don’t think the serial killer theory will go anywhere. That serial killer seemed to be raping his victims, and Hae wasn’t raped. Also, why on earth would Jay have collaborated at all with Adnan if Hae had just been the victim of some random serial killer? The DNA evidence might, though). Will we continue with this case, or will we get a whole new case? I’m hoping for the latter, with updates on Adnan as they become available.

Falling Down on the Job

When this story came out in the November 19 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, I was appalled and saddened to hear there was a report of a young woman who’d been gang raped at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at The University of Virginia, but I wasn’t surprised. That’s sad, isn’t it? The University of Virginia is my alma mater. I am someone who loved the four years she spent on those hallowed “Grounds”, as we call them. I received an excellent education, the best kind, the kind that inspires one to become a life-long learner, as was the intention of the school’s founder Thomas Jefferson. Yet, I wasn’t surprised to hear a story of a gang rape reported by a national magazine at said alma mater. Disappointed, yes, because I would hope things had changed a little, but surprised? No.

When I began my undergraduate career in the fall of 1982, the university had a reputation, one it apparently still holds today, for being one of the best “party schools” in the country, and what I remember most about my first-year (students are called first-year, second-year, etc. as opposed to freshman, sophomore, etc.) orientation on our all-female hall in my dorm was a focus on keeping ourselves safe in this party atmosphere. We’d been sent very fancy invitations from many of the fraternities welcoming us and inviting us to parties at their houses during that first week of school. We were warned about this tradition and its word play. The boys were targeting us, the first-year students, ostensibly to “meet” us, but it was a “meat market”, a time for them to check out the “first-year meat”. We were advised to be very careful, not to go to parties by ourselves, to stick with each other, not to walk back to our dorm alone. We were even advised, long before anyone talked about date rape drugs, to watch our drinks. No one used the word “rape” when discussing the fraternity brothers, but it was stressed that a drunk fraternity boy just might not take “no” for an answer, might take advantage of us, if we weren’t careful. (Rape was what a “townie” might do to us on the way back home from a party, again if we weren’t careful.) Protecting ourselves, of course, was all up to us. No one, to my knowledge, was going around telling the fraternity boys not to “take advantage of” us.

I, with plenty of friends in tow (I’d listened well to all those warnings), did venture out to the fraternities during those first few weeks of school. Yes, there was free booze. Yes, there was good music and fun dancing. Yes, there were cute guys. But I soon realized that the overall scene wasn’t for me. I remember going into one fraternity house that was jam-packed, wall-to-wall people, and someone felt me up and down. You have to understand that it was so packed, I couldn’t even turn around to get any clue as to who had done it. I was so happy to find my way back out the door into the cool night air. By the time I was a fourth-year student, there were only two fraternities whose parties I would attend and that was mainly to listen to the bands that came to play there.

What saddens me is that this is the same school where my own budding feminism was being awakened. Contrary to what Rolling Stone would have you believe, even thirty years ago, I was busy taking women in fiction courses and psychology of sex roles courses, as well as courses in self insight that were opening my eyes to the plight of women in our society. I was meeting other young women who had been huge supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment (remember that?) and having lively debates about it. It was exciting. By day, my fellow students (male and female) were learning that the strongest, happiest marriages were those in which spouses didn’t divide chores along traditional gender roles. We were watching powerful documentaries like “Killing Us Softly” about the degradation of women in advertising. We were learning that when adults think they’re interacting with male babies as opposed to female babies, they treat them differently. We were constantly called to consider questions about nature v. nurture. But, by night, drunk fraternity boys (and others. I don’t want to say that the only rapists among the student body belonged to fraternities. I’m sure there were those who didn’t) were “taking advantage” of girls who said “no” to them. I’d like to think that in thirty years the culture had changed for the better, that women could be safe there.

I may not be surprised that a young woman might be raped at a fraternity party at The University of Virginia (any more than I’m surprised that a young woman might be raped by a colleague at some Wall Street firm. Rape is something that can — and does — happen anywhere), but I’m not supporting Rolling Stone‘s irresponsible reporting, either. Right now, RS and its reporter Sabrina Erdely are being taken to task by The Washington Post because details of Jackie’s story have been contradicted by others. As far as I’m concerned, the whole article reeks of irresponsible journalism. It paints a portrait of a school where, of course, rape and its cover up would be an issue, its being a genteel (read “backwards”), Southern institution where there are no radical feminists. (Hmmm… I guess it’s just some Old Boys Network in charge of the school’s Women, Gender, and Sexuality Department, then.) The article unfavorably compares The University of Virginia to places like Columbia University and its “mattress-hauling performance artists” protesting sexual assault. Did Erdely and her editors not understand that those “mattress-haulers” at Columbia were hauling mattresses to protest the fact that their rapists were still roaming free on campus and that the administration at Columbia was doing nothing about it? If Erdely, as she claims, was really trying to write an article about the problem of rape on campus, she should’ve aligned U.Va. with Columbia, not set them up as being different. (I wonder if she was shocked by the protests that unfolded at U.Va. once her article was published, at this school where, apparently, there’s no one interested in protesting violence against women).

Rape is, apparently, a problem on campuses all over this country, and what we need to be doing is finding out why, prosecuting rapists, and putting a stop to it, not acting as though it isn’t a problem as long as there are “radical feminists protests” keeping it at bay. It’s also irresponsible to say “Greek life is huge” at U.Va., noting that nearly 1/3 of the population belongs to fraternities or sororities. I wouldn’t call that “huge”. I would say that when 2/3 of a population doesn’t do something, the 1/3 that does is a minority. Greek life isn’t a “huge” part of many of the students’ experience. Also, her description of Phi Kappa Psi overlooking a “vast manicured field” is laughable to anyone familiar with Madison Bowl (“Mad Bowl”), a playing field that has apparently been cleaned up in recent years, but that used to have a reputation for becoming a muddy mess whenever it rained in Charlottesville, which it does frequently, and was home to many a muddy party and football game back when I was a student. She makes it sound as though the house is some former plantation. This is the sort of reporting that annoyed me and that called the entire article into question, which annoyed me even more, because an article about something so serious ought to be impeccable, to have nothing that can be called into question. Instead, I found myself doubting a good deal of it (not doubting that something horrible had happened to Jackie but that aspects of the story were being embellished by the reporter). RS had the chance to give us a groundbreaking article on the problem of rape on campus and blew it.

At this point, I don’t really care whether or not the details of Jackie’s story are true. Do I believe what she claimed happened to her could have happened to her? Yes. I also believe something did  happen to her, as does her former suite mate. Do I believe there are plenty of silent and scared young women out there at universities and colleges all over the country with stories of rape who aren’t telling them? Yes. Do I believe we have biases at our institutes of higher learning, biases that warn young women to beware strangers on the street but to assume their classmates are safe? Yes. Do I believe we live in a society that tells a woman it’s her responsibility to protect herself from rape, rather than telling a man it’s his responsibility not to rape? Yes.

Rolling Stone fell down on its job. I’m hoping The University of Virginia doesn’t. It has the chance here to come out as a school that accepts what’s been going on for years and to make a change, to be a role model, to take rape seriously. Rape is a crime. It should be handled in a court of law, not by a university. Rapists belong behind bars not in classrooms with their victims. The first school to take a real stand on this issue, to have “zero tolerance” reactions to sexual assault, could make history. We talk about honor at The University of Virginia. It seems to me, at this point, that the honorable thing for my alma mater to do is to lead the way in the fight to stop the sexual assault and degradation of women, regardless of whether or not a pop culture magazine has published an inaccurate article. I hope it does.

5 Things You Will Never Hear Me Say

I know. “Never say never.” This blog post will probably come back to haunt me when I’m 80, but right now I’m sticking to my principles. You can call me behind the times. You may think I am terribly uncool, but here are a few things that, with the exception of right here and now, you will never hear me say (see me write/type):

1. “Let me google that.” I was appalled when people began using “google” as a verb. I know, it probably seemed so trendy and cool back in 1999, but my first thought was, “Ew!” Am I the only one who thinks it sounds a bit obscene, like something that has to do with some dirty old man. Probably that was the point, because the tech world has to be edgy, but still. Even worse, though, it shows how easily Americans can be brainwashed by corporate branding. Way back when most of today’s Google employees were still in diapers, I was using search engines to search the World Wide Web. (In fact, I was actually using the precursor to search engines. Anyone else remember Archie and Gopher?) I liked Webcrawler. I still like Webcrawler. I also like Dogpile (my search engine of choice, although, again, horrible name. Alfie the dog is cute, though). Google (I use it when it’s up and convenient, like when I’m at the library doing a quick and uncomplicated search) isn’t my search engine of choice, but even if it were, you would always here me say, “Let me look that up online” not “Let me google that.”

2. “It was a hella (fill in the blank).” How lazy have Americans become that we can’t be bothered to type or say “hell of a” or even “helluva”? It’s one more syllable, people. It’s not like you’re being asked to type our or pronounce a 10-syllable world. Or have I lost people here? Everyone does still know what a syllable is, right?

3. “I’m going to go see Bruce Springsteen at the Metlife Stadium.” I’m sorry. I know they tore it down and built a new one, but it is not and never will be “The Metlife Stadium.” It’s Giants Stadium, in the Meadowlands, right there on the NY/NJ line in East Rutherford, NJ. I’ve seen many a show (yes, Bruce Springsteen included) there, as well as a few football games, and I refuse to call it by an insurance company’s name (especially since I just had to look it up in order to remember what insurance company it is). I take it one step further, though: I won’t call any stadium by its corporate sponsor’s name.

4. “I just took a ‘selfie’.” Okay, yes, I have, a couple of times, taken a picture of myself in order to update my online profiles. I even took one for this blog, but that one was really of Bernie and Clare not of me. “Selfie” is one of those too-cutesy words that, for the most part, make me cringe. I think it’s a sign of how narcissistic and infantile this nation has become that we have to go around taking endless photos of ourselves and calling them something that sounds like it belongs in the nursery rather than in adult conversation.

5. “I’d like a nonfat, decaf soy chai latte.” Please! What’s the point? Why not just order some cardboard blended with water? I’d like coffee with cream. If I’m hungry and feel I need a little fat and protein to go with my caffeine, I’ll have a full fat latte. If it’s after 3:00 p.m., I’d like black tea with milk, please. If it’s after a delicious dinner in a nice restaurant, I might forego dessert in favor of a cappuccino. That’s it. Plain and simple.