Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Why you gotta be like that?

I hear it a lot. Why you gotta be like that? Why are you so mean? Well, I wasn’t always mean. It’s an evolution; or de-evolution. I don’t like to write a lot about myself because it’s like speaking about yourself in the third person, which I really hate. Mike is arrogant like that. I do like to share my thoughts, but not all about me. But blogs are all about personal thoughts, and sometimes personal stories. This is my personal story.

So why do I gotta be like that? I’m gonna go with humor is my defense mechanism. I’m pretty quick with my words. It’s not that I don’t think before I speak. I just don’t censor the flow. I love to speak whatever comes to mind because it’s honest, and sometimes it’s funny. The words are also sharp, and sometimes cruel. Why? Well, many reasons.

Growing up, I was, to be honest here, fairly unattractive. I knew it. Wasn’t my fault. It just was. I wasn’t Quasimodo. Children didn’t turn in terror, but I never got the double-take. Not once.

I was 5’1” until I was 13. Then I had my growth spurt. Made it all the way up to 5’5”. I weighed 112 pounds in high school. So I wasn’t much of an intimidator. Couldn’t fight and had no interest in pretending that I could. Guys picked on me because I was an easy target, in both appearance and size. But, if I could keep them laughing, I wouldn’t get my ass kicked. I wasn’t a wimp either. Everyone has their pain threshold. I learned the bigger guys lacked self-confidence, too. So mine began to grow, not when it came to girls, but with my wit. See, these same guys who thought they could kick my ass, would start out with the insults. I learned I was quicker. And if I completely humiliated them the further the back and forth went, the less confident they became. And they ended up walking away. Usually. I wasn’t wearing Kevlar, just verbal confidence. No one wants to look stupid in front of everyone else. It’s like kryptonite for bullies.

That kind of defensiveness doesn’t turn off. People aren’t looking to kick my ass today. In the world of karma, my past insults mean I’ve got it coming back to me three-fold. And I welcome it. The difference is I’m no longer insecure, it’s almost always in fun and it’s usually coming from people who like me.

But everyone was self-conscious growing up right? Absolutely. But it was more than getting picked on, or picked last in every pick-your-team situation. I also had to deal with the humiliation of rejection from girls.

We’ve established I was a short dude. I had curly/wiry hair that had no real style. Mom told me I should let it grow naturally into an afro. When I was a kid, the only image I had of a white guy with an afro was from the show Room 222 (see picture above).

I guess I thought it would turn red too, so I ended up blow-drying it straight, trying to look like everyone else. Trust me, it didn’t. I also had braces for four years, nearly all of high school (and we’re talking the metal clamp style that surrounds the entire tooth…Jaws from the Bond flicks…original railroad tracks) that also pushed out already oversized lips. I had the prerequisite glasses (can’t see more than six inches past my nose). Oh yeah, and because of a tube in my ear, I had to wear a bathing cap whenever I went in the water. I also couldn’t swim. Took lessons twice but they never really took. Take a breath. Compose yourself. Then I’ll continue.

So, I think we’ve established why I had zero self-esteem.

I still made friends. I wasn’t a total introvert. Actually, I loved to make people laugh. And self-deprecating humor prevents real embarrassment. If I made fun of myself before someone else got the chance, I had the upper hand. And I was laughing with you at me, instead of just you at me. Do it long enough and you start to get pretty good stripping other people down.

I had plenty of friends, and many were female. Not girlfriends; friends that were girls. They would say “Oh, I like you as a friend. You’re like a brother to me.” Looking back, if I was like a brother I would have pounded on them constantly, ignored everything they said, and embarrassed them at every opportunity. But they didn’t really mean as a sibling. They meant not interested. Until I got to college, I rarely put myself out there because I was a realist and I was petrified of rejection. So on that rare occasion I would mistake kindness or laughter as a potential romantic reaction, once in a great while I would pursue it, timidly, with disastrous results.

Jeannie Z
Jeannie Z was my first foray into dating, or attempting to communicate romantically with the opposite sex. 8th Grade. Middle School. I was 13 years old. With the description above, you should have a fairly humorous picture of me in your mind. When I get a scanner, I’ll post real pictures through the years. It’s great fun.

Jeannie was a sweetheart and a friend. We talked, we joked, we had the same teachers, and living near each other, we also rode the same bus, often together. We really were friends. One Friday afternoon we were having a very pleasant conversation on the bus ride home and in a moment of insanity I went for it. Not physically. With low self-esteem comes absolute fear of physical contact with anything other than a pillow. I regretted it as soon as the words left my big-ass braces-enhanced lips, but I asked her to go with me – the 1970s teen version of going steady. She froze, then asked to have the weekend to think about it. I was dying inside. The weekend was going to totally suck.

But it passed and I found myself sitting in homeroom on Monday morning, freaking. I pretended to forget about everything but didn’t play off cool very well, so I became engrossed with the desk, or my papers, or the clock or something. I wouldn’t look at Jeannie. There’s no freakin’ way I was looking at Jeannie. Would she let me down easy? Would she make it quick and painless? Would she toy with the idea for a day, then dump me? Well it wouldn’t be a great story if she was kind, would it? Our seats were in a squared U with my seat directly across the room from hers. When I finally got the courage to look up, I saw she was talking with three of her friends, all girls. All were giggling. All were looking at me. Great! Charlie Brown was Hugh Hefner compared to me. This went on for probably two minutes but it felt like years.

I’m now completely flushed and horrified. I’m never putting myself out there again. It gets better. One of the girls she’s talking to walks across the room and stops right in front of my desk. I don’t remember her name, but she was the shortest girl in the entire school. Let’s call her Witchie Poo. I lift my head and without missing a beat, Witchie Poo says “Jeannie says no!” She laughs out loud. Jeannie and her friends laugh out loud. In my head, the entire world is laughing out loud. She goes back to the coven and I’m shell shocked. Why I’m not a misogynist to this day escapes me. I guess I’m a romantic at heart and didn’t assume all women are like Jeannie. Of course others would be; luckily most would not.

I’m not going to bore you with more stories. Let’s just say I dated very few girls through high school; any I did were either friends or bored of me quickly. Plus, little self confidence isn’t very appealing. I wouldn’t have dated me in high school. I smoked too. Loser.

I get to college. I fill out a little bit. I lose the blow dryer and let the curly hair grow naturally, not into a gimongous afro but more like a rock star (think Roger Daltrey). I lose the glasses and get some contacts. I'm by no means a stud, but I finally build some confidence. College was good. Knowledge is good - Faber University Motto. I'm rambling again. So it wasn't all bad but it took forever to get there.

Looking back, hey, what can you do? Learn from it. Laugh at it. Or be bitter. I'll take a little of all three. I’ve lost a lot of my hair and it ain’t coming back. I’ll never be 6’ tall. I won’t even be 5’7”. I could wear boots but I’d look like a kid clomping around in Dad's shoes or Mom's heels. Yep, sounds like another blog story...

But the defensiveness never leaves you. And the pre-emptive strikes of sarcasm, cynicism and humor continue on. These days they’re good natured, and not meant to cut to the quick. Unless you truly are an ass, or evil, or think you’re entitled to something and others are not simply because you’re you. Then you get what you deserve, though you may not be in the room when I slam you. I’m kind of a coward like that. Oh yeah, I talk about people when they’re not in the room, but if you’re reading this I can guarantee it’s not you.


This particular blog will grow over time. I apologize if it's not funny to you. It's cathartic jotting down my pet peeves.

Using the wrong word
  • Schizophrenic. Why does everyone use the word schizophrenic when they mean multiple personalities? Roses are red, violets are blue, I am schizophrenic and so am I. Schizophrenia is “a psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with the environment.” It might even include hallucinations and delusions, but it’s not Sybil! (Who’s Sybil? Look it up.)
  • Literally, Figuratively, Virtually and Ironically – misuse of all; would literally take too much time to list examples. Those of you who can appreciate this don’t need the countless examples. You have your own.

Made-up Words

  • Athleticism. I believe it’s a made-up word that means athletic display, but I swear Al Michaels used this word once on Monday Night Football when he was struggling for filler and it just slipped out. Now it’s part of every sportscaster’s lexicon. That and “brilliant display of grit, determination, heart, etc.” I Googled the word and found out Edith Wharton used the term in her novel The Age of Innocence published in 1920. So it’s not Al’s fault, but it still sounds made up to me.
  • Irregardless. Regard means consideration. Regardless means without consideration. Irregardless means you’re a fricking moron.
  • Preventative. It’s really preventive, like preventive maintenance. The reason it’s actually a word? Because Americans toss in extra syllables all the time so the word becomes a “variant”. On the other hand, argumentative is the word and argumentive is the variant (which no one uses). Sometimes I really hate the English language.
  • Supposably. Supposably there’s no “b” in supposedly.
  • Warshington. Supposably, there’s no “r” in Washington either. Actually, there are many words where people add r’s that don’t exist (perserverance, sherbert, prostrate when they mean prostate) and drop r’s that they shouldn’t (defibulator, Febuary, libary, vetinarian, and prostate when they mean prostrate).
  • Heighth. As in, how tall? There’s length, width and heighth. No, it’s height. If you’re dyslexic than “heigth” is acceptable, as would be “aks”, like “Aks me about our specials.” Otherwise, you’re not a very good listener.

One-Trick Ponies (Words with one use– try to use them in another context)

  • Striations. Grooves or scratches, used in forensics to match bullets to a gun. You hear it three times per CSI episode (any CSI). So how about: “I miss my old LPs but the striations would wear after time." Just doesn't work.
  • Veritable. Only used with plethora, also a one-use-only word. “There is a veritable plethora of candy corn available at half price on November 1st.”

Words that simply annoy me

  • McMansion. You can’t afford one of those either, so quit talking about them.
  • [Insert Anything Here] Whisperer. The movie was The Horse Whisperer. People still replace Horse with something else and think it’s funny. It’s not. Perhaps you should consult an Idiot Whisperer.

If Pat Robertson spoke alone in the woods, with no one there to hear him…

we’d all be much better off. The dude is becoming certifiable. It’s not his fault. He believes he hears the voice of God. I’m sure he’s hearing lots of voices, but I’m pretty sure none are the voice of God. If one of them was, He would probably say something like, “Pat. Please shut the F up. You’re embarrassing Me and yourself. Most importantly, Me.” So he’s making the shit up, and it’s getting nasty. Really nasty.

But, I will not repeat the insanity that has come out of his mouth recently, because that simply gives it consideration, which is really undeserved. If every time Pat Robertson spoke, and the world (especially the press) would ignore him, then his hurtful, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, nonsensical super-mega-Christian rants wouldn’t cause the hurt or embarrassment that they do; nor would they be repeated over and over and over, extending their life and reach. His words would simply float away into the ether, where they belong.

And if he keeps judging, condemning and threatening people, I believe he’ll be in for a very rude awakening before the pearly gates (which by the looks of him is probably pretty soon)…if he ever makes it to the gates. Keep it up Pat and you will not pass Go or collect your $200, and will head directly to Jail. I mean Hell. Hey, no worries, dude. You’ll have Martha Stewart to keep you company one day. It will be a good thing.


Yeah, I know it sounds cute, even contrived. I’ve heard the term before so I won’t take credit coining it, but I like it. Erase racism. I have many opinions on the subject, most of which boil down to: I have no tolerance for racism. There is nothing anyone can say that will justify their feelings of separation, segregation, elitism or full blown prejudice to me. Not when it’s based on hate of other people, or simply because of who they are.

In my opinion, we are all one race: human. (Until we boldly go where no one has gone before – I’m a sci-fi geek. It could happen!)

I’ve never met a black, white, red or yellow person in my life. I’ve met lots of brown, tan, mocha, pink, almond, cream blends, but never straight primary colors. Crayola does a better job of providing skin tones. Come on, who didn’t use peach, atomic tangerine or burnt sienna crayons when they were coloring people when they were kids? Actually, I used blue violet, silver and forest green just as often. Yes, I always colored within the lines. Anyway, I’ve got a lot more brown in my skin than I do white. The older I get, a variety of new colors seem to be appearing in my skin (something to look forward to kids). My long-winded point: we are all of color.

According to the US Census, I am a Roman Catholic Caucasian male of the following nationalities: Italian, Greek, English, French, German, Irish, Welsh, Scottish. I am trying to learn about all eight of my countries, and the family that came from each. Yes, they’re all European. Because of the kinship I feel with so many people, I’d also like to think there is some Native American, Latino, African, Island, Asian and Baltic heritage, but I haven’t traced my full family tree yet (AKA really found out who slept with who over all these years). I can guarantee this list will grow.

I think it’s important to celebrate our differences without excluding others. It’s important to know your roots, your ancestry, your history, your family, your faith, where you’ve come from, and your traditions to be part of something bigger than yourself. It’s also important to share all of those things with as many people as you can. And there’s the key. Embrace what makes you different, and share it.

I have learned so much about “other” people by sharing meals, talking to their grandparents, attending milestone events and religious ceremonies, celebrating holidays, and simply talking about things. My roommates and I used to celebrate Christian and Jewish holidays together. I was honored to attend the Passover seder (meal) with the family of my best friend (Victor) shortly before his grandfather's passing - also my first (and last) experience with horseradish. I've attended weddings and funerals from so many different faiths and cultures, including my own, and I've learned something every time.

I've also been fortunate enough through family and work to leave American soil and experience lands, languages and cultures in different countries. At first I was nervous, going off into the unknown, but now I can't get enough. Travel is something I now cherish when given the opportunity.

I'm rambling now. If we step out of our comfort zones once in a while, share our differences, and celebrate them together, maybe we won’t feel the need to separate, or fear, or even hate.

Just my thoughts. Sorry if it’s too bleeding heart. No I’m not. Kumbaya.

Monistat Products - Why Are There Three?

First, let me just say I don't have a yeast infection. Also, I'm not aware of anyone around me suffering from a yeast infection, though it probably wouldn't come up in conversation. That's not my point. McNeil-PPC produces three different products for treating yeast infections: Monistat-1, Monistat-3 and Monistat-7. Each refers to the number of days of treatment. Huh? Would you like to be relieved of your symptoms in a day, 3 days or a week? "It's not so bad, really, and that Monistat-1 is sooo expensive. I'm a woman. I'll tough it out." That can't be it.

I thought, first there was only Monistat-7, and it took 7 days to treat and heal. And then with innovations in medical science, or perhaps FDA approval in stronger doses, they were able to knock it out in 3 days, and replaced Monistat-7 with Monistat-3. And then finally, miracle of miracles, it now just takes a day. But that can't be right, because the old 7 and 3 products would have gone away. But they're still on the shelves.

Tough-Actin Tinactin doesn't make three different products for jock itch. And if they did, I can guaran-damn-tee you, there is no man on the planet that would ever buy anything other than the fastest. Admittedly, I have no clue on the subject of yeast infections because I'm a man, and I'm stupid. More importantly, why does this bother me?

[POSTSCRIPT: A simple visit to the Monistat site would have told me it's all about the concentration of the dosage. Yes, yes. And I could stop and ask for directions when I'm lost, but I don't, do I? I'm a man. I prefer making easy things difficult. :-)]

Bumper Stickers & Ribbon Magnets

Today, people have bumper stickers on their cars from the 2004 election. If your candidate won, congratulations. And thanks for that. Really. If your candidate lost, get over it. Move on. Either way, scrape it off – Windex and a razor should do the trick.

The yellow ribbon magnets have replaced today’s bumper sticker: Support Our Troops. Originally, someone would tie a yellow ribbon around a tree to show loyalty to a loved one, typically as a welcome home for a soldier returning from war. Yes, the Tony Orlando song made it famous. Today, they’re magnets. And that’s cool, if it represents true support for the troops. If it says “Go Steelers”, you’re a jackass. For two reasons.

I guess if I was cool, I'd have a baller band that would state my cause (like Susan G. Komen Foundation, LiveStrong or One), or perhaps my favorite team. I'm not cool.

I don’t have bumper stickers all over my vehicle talking about my kids, my candidates, or my favorite political action commitee. If I did, I would have only one sticker that would say this:

If you really want an opinion, get to know the driver first.

Death To Air Quotes

“Air Quotation Marks”

I don’t know who started them, but they won’t go away. Overuse of air quotes is rampant. If they were used when actually quoting someone, it wouldn’t be so bad. But normally they’re used for emphasis. He really [air quotes here] “pissed” me off. What the hell are you quoting pissed for? It’s not a quotation. It certainly isn’t original. It’s not a buzz word or catch phrase. You’re attempting to emphasize a word with sign language. And you’re using the wrong punctuation. It should be italics, or bolding or underlining. Maybe even an ellipsis. But it’s not quotes. So how can you perform proper punctuation visually? Well, you could slant your body to the side every time you speak a word with emphasis for italics. For bolding, puff your cheeks like a blowfish. For underlining, you could drop flat on the ground for titles of books or movies. If that's too physical, carry a stick and place it under your chin every time you underline.

And here’s the anal side of me. If you are going to quote, it’s one quotation mark before the word or phrase (curving counter-clockwise) and another (curving clockwise) at the end. It isn’t a quote during the word, hit upon each syllable. If you’re going to attempt punctuation while speaking, I’d recommend Victor Borge’s phonetic punctuation method, made famous on Sesame Street ® -

Gift Giving in the New Millennium

The perfect gift would be remembering that special, one-of-a-kind expensive item she picked out eight months ago, that you forgot about as soon as you passed the shop window. Those gifts just don’t happen.

Gift giving is hard. Wrapping is a pain. But it still makes you feel pretty good when the receiver appreciates your thought and you nail it.

Today, the easy gift is a gift card. It says, “Hey I know you would like something from this store but I couldn’t figure it out.” It's not straight up money, so it will go towards a gift instead of bills. It’s a little limiting though. It’s like saying. “Here’s some money, but you can only spend it here and it has to be in the next 12 months.” That’s right. Just like most rebate forms don’t get mailed in by consumers, retailers count on people forgetting about their gift cards – so they expire.

So maybe just giving cash would be better, but that says “It wasn’t worth my time to go to a store, let alone think of a gift for you, so here’s some cash. Enjoy.”

But that’s not the laziest. A check is even lazier. That says “It wasn’t worth my time to think of a gift, go to a store, or visit a bank, so here’s a check. You go to the bank and get the money, then go to the store and pick something nice out for yourself. Yeah, I could have gone to an ATM, but my bank is miles from here and the ATM at the grocery store charges a fee. You’re worth 25 bucks, but not 26.50.”

If you opted for the check, you might as well take it one step down. Mail the check. Now you’re saying “It wasn’t worth my time to think of a gift, go to a store, go to the bank, pay the foreign ATM fee or spend time with you, let alone a thought. It’s your birthday but I’m really busy, so I just mailed it to you. Probably late. Maybe your postal carrier can celebrate with you because I don’t have the time.”

I guess if you’re mad at the recipient, don’t sign the check. Then they need to bring it to you first, before heading to the bank (probably for a second time). But that would also mean you would have to see them, which you were probably trying to avoid by mailing the check in the first place. Your call.