Fake Men and Angry Women

Last month I opened a parody account on Twitter, spoofing a well-known male politician’s name. In *3 weeks* I garnered 35% of the followers it took me a year to get with an account using my own name. Fake Man is averaging 10,000 views a day – totally smoking my Real Name’s views, due to his being liked hundreds more times a week with a clearly fake male name than with a real news woman’s name.

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My latest tweet under Fake Man’s name was simply ‘Interesting Read’ in response to a linked article at the end of a *28-post thread* by the original poster. I received 16 likes off of 2,900 views, and one retweet off of a stupid throw away compliment. Why in the name of all that is logical would ANYONE retweet ‘Interesting Read’??!!!

Suddenly, one liners Claudia couldn’t get an inch of traction on have become an endless flow of positive reinforcement for Fake Man. I’ve had to turn the Twitter notifications off of my phone at night because the continual pinging was waking my husband and I up.

The best part? I’m tweeting EXACTLY the same things as before, but in the last 3 weeks not 1 person has called me angry, stupid, crazy, old, ugly, fat or bitch. You cannot BELIEVE the amount of abuse an opinionated woman who won’t be bullied takes on the internet. A fake man gets far more respect than a real woman.

 

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The ‘go-to’ phrase for insecure men is that I’m angry. I bet I’ve heard, “You’re an angry woman,” every day that I post in earnest as myself on social media. It is – almost without exception – men possessed of a certain attitude that women aren’t as smart as men. Any good point I make based in fact must be made because I’m angry, not because I’m smart. Therefore, they can dismiss anything I say – thus preserving their bubble of past-its-expiration-date testosterone.

Women almost never accuse strange women of being angry – they prefer bitch, cunt or cow – and being accused incorrectly of harboring anger is something insecure men latch on to. For whatever reason (chauvinism, anger at equality, projection or intimidation) these men unconsciously reproduce the dynamics of being in an argument with a partner, not a stranger. They take it from casual to personal in 3 seconds flat. They beat their chest and pronounce their superiority and attack like a screeching baboon flinging poo. I would find it even more hilarious than I do if it weren’t so damn pitiful.

I look at these keening men who are clearly battling an inferiority complex and wonder at the women these wretched souls deal with on a daily basis. So often I am utterly grateful I don’t have to deal with them in any fashion in real life. I feel bad for the women in their personal circles, but feel deep empathy for the women I will never meet who must deal with these Rageaholic men in a professional manner.

Because that’s what it is: Rage. Pure, unadulterated rage.

Joe Knab Bullying

These tiny men are enraged that they have to share, or observe simple manners or treat women as equals.

You see the problem is they *don’t* see me as an equal. My approaching them as such causes such fury as to make them apoplectic and my laughing makes them reckless.

There is a sad little man on Facebook (a friend of a friend and a retired cop) who borders on the frightening now because it seems he is obsessed with me. He seeks me out on her posts to hurl invectives and he becomes unhinged when I refuse to be cowed by his pathetic behavior. When I grow bored with his antics and stop responding, this lonely little troll comes and shit posts on my page. Yes – a man who wore a gun for a living cannot grasp boundaries and believes it’s his right to harass me ad nauseum because I dared to answer him as an equal. I cannot imagine how this awful man abused his power over the decades as an officer of the peace.

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He is only one of dozens of angry impotent men I see every month who project their Rage on any woman foolish enough to imagine herself an equal. This trend really took off in earnest in 2015 when bigots and sexists got permission to let their freak flag fly by Trump. “Grab ‘Em By The Pussy!!” was their rallying cry – and Oh! The sweet relief of finally being reassured that you ARE the biggest, brightest boy and it’s okay to threaten those mean scary girls until they get back in their place.

A tremendously well written, well thought out piece by Sara Robinson for Rewire stopped me in my tracks as I read it last night. You should read it, too, because Robinson nails it completely:

“This is something most women know in their bones, but which most men don’t have to reckon with to nearly the same degree. This is the truth Margaret Atwood got at in one of her most famous passages: Men are afraid that women will laugh at them; women are afraid that men will kill them. Robert Heinlein put the same idea another way: “Never frighten a little man. He’ll kill you.” Women learn young—as a matter of basic survival—that if you so much as crack a grin in the direction of a fragile man, you put yourself in grave danger. You may possibly provoke him to violence so brutal and so disproportionate that you could end up beaten, sexually assaulted, or dead. And in his mind, you will have had every bit of it coming, since your disrespectful laughter is the one thing in the world that can deflate his sense of masculine control and power in a matter of seconds.”

I once had a News Director come over a conference room table in a wild fury – with Human Resources and a Union representative in attendance – because I pointed out with a smile during a contentious meeting his multiple egregious spelling errors in a ‘Company All’ email. Look: Apologizing for the ‘incontinence’ you caused someone is fucking funny no matter who you are. Unless you are a rage-filled impotent little man absolutely terrified by a laughing woman. I will say that his physically threatening me was a main factor in the state finding in my favor that ‘any reasonable person could not continue working under such hostile circumstances without fear of reprisal,” and granted me extended unemployment benefits when I quit.

This morning in a freewheeling thread with 33 posts a man’s jabbing at a poster was tolerated without comment, while I was called ‘angry’. For what it’s worth? I have been hit by a bus AND I have Hashimoto’s – so my question was only 33% smart assery.

Angry Woman 1

Who ARE these men so addicted to fury at women? These insecure masters of projection who know deep down that they will never have the control over others they so desire, and who so shrilly demand that women acquiescence to them through fluttered eyelashes and muttered demurral?

Why do they imagine it’s their RIGHT to cruelly dominate women in conversation and the work place, in act and deed?

Any woman who DARES to resist and speak up the same way a man would in the same situation is labeled ‘Angry’ and attacked, often by multiple male strangers – weak Omega wolfs emboldened by the pack mentality who materialize out of the woodwork to provide a mealy-mouthed echo chamber of Rage.

If Angry Woman does not show immediate submission to the Omega she is to be ground down and bullied until she knows her place. If she cannot be properly tyrannized into submission she is labeled Crazy – the ultimate sentence of Excommunication for worshipers at the Temple of the Perpetually Enraged.

A Crazy Woman’s facts needn’t be taken any more seriously than you take her. Who cares about *facts* when a good Ad Hominem attack coupled with a bullshit Straw Man argument are ALWAYS good for dismissing stupid Wimmin.

Rageaholic Math: Sexist Character Assassination + Putting Words In My Mouth = I’m Crazy

Uh-huh. Got it.

My experience isn’t singular, and one has to look no further than how shamefully the most powerful women in the country are treated.

Senator Kamala Harris was spoken to appallingly during Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate Intelligence Committee hearing regarding his lying about Russian contacts under oath. Harris – a self-possessed brilliant woman of color who is a former a prosecutor and the former Attorney General of California – was described as *hysterical* by Fox pundits after dispassionately pressing the current Attorney General to cite which policy or law prohibited him from answering every question that was put before him that afternoon . This was Harris’ wheelhouse as a prosecutor & AG, yet she was unsuccessful in getting Sessions to co-operate because she was interrupted and chastised by Senator John McCain and Republican Committee Chair Senator Richard Burr. Sessions ridiculously claimed Harris’ behavior made him nervous – dog whistle for ‘The Pushy Black Woman Is Scary!!!”

Burr was simply repeating his performance of a week previous when he interrupted Harris’ questioning Rod Rosenstien about his role in firing James Comey. She was chastised both times for her aggressive behavior, and I’m surprised Burr didn’t tell her to act more ladylike and that she’d be a WHOLE lot prettier if she’d just smile once in a while.

Perhaps you think Kamala Harris WAS being too pushy. Well, then why were her male counterparts not interrupted or prevented from speaking when they asked the SAME questions using the same vernacular Harris did?  Democratic Senators Ron Wyden, Angus King and Martin Heinrich were allowed to ask tough questions and make snarky remarks – and The Good Old Boys demanded that only The Angry Woman know her place.

Afterward, Heinrich, Wyden and King spoke up for Harris, saying she’d done nothing wrong and she was being subject to an unfair double standard. Unfortunately, these statements were made to the press and on social media; they were not entered in the Senatorial Record, where it belongs.

Harris’ treatment goes hand in glove with the most stomach turning, cringe worthy treatment of Senior Senator Elizabeth Warren as she used her time to read a 1986 letter by Corretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr, detailing Attorney-General-Nominee Sessions’ horrific and well documented Civil Rights record over the decades – a letter which would have allowed Warren to point out that Sessions was too racist for even the Reagan judiciary and his appointment was rejected resoundingly.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used his power to exercise a little known rule to allow the GOP majority vote to silence Warren. Warren protested by continuing to read and her mic was cut off. McConnell thought his on-camera finger wagging diatribe meant to humiliate an equal colleague was a brilliant stroke. Instead, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, She persisted” became a rally cry for women across the country.

McConnell Nevertheless She Persisted

Imagine that, Senator Pearlclucther – a WOMAN staring at you unblinkingly, nonplussed by your attempts at intimidation. It must have made his blood boil and caused him to work his mouth like was gumming a piece of lettuce, right up until Elaine Chao put him back on his feet and reassured him that men ARE the Big Daddies in control. You know Elaine – Mitch’s wife and the utterly unqualified 18th Secretary of Transportation in Trump’s cabinet. A position tendered only when McConnell refused to throw his support behind PEOTUS. Elaine is undoubtedly thought of as ‘one of the good ones’ on SO many levels.

A majority of Congressmen are AGHAST and offended that female Senators intend to do their job and expect the same respect and courtesy from their male counterparts as they are required to give. These men are holdovers from a day when slapping your Secretary’s ass was A-Okay, and they are positively flummoxed that these Crazy Women won’t back down and aren’t subservient. It is a downright affront and assault to their very Maleness that these inferior females Don’t. Know. Their. Place.

If you think the whole damn GOP isn’t full of ugly men like this, kindly remember that not ONE woman was included in the committee to design Trumpcare, nor was there ONE concession made to female needs in the Whip or reconciliation processes. It was just one giant ‘Women are chattel who belong to us and whose physical needs are unimportant – They have no Personal Agency or Self Determination and do not even get to decide when they have children’.

There is a bottomless well of terrible behavior to draw upon: Sean Spicer verbally attacked reporter April Ryan (a WOC) when she shook her head ‘no’ at his direct contradiction to his own statement made days before, and one that Spicer was peddling as today’s version of the truth. He dressed down Ryan in a shocking fashion, flexing his power. Bill O’Reilly took it a step further and mocked Congresswoman Maxine Walters’ hair, asking if she was wearing a James Brown wig instead of addressing her real concerns and points – because terribly executed Ad Hominem attacks never get old.

What do you expect from a party who decided to bet the farm on the phrase ‘Grab ‘Em By The Pussy!!’ and who bats nary an eyelash when POTUS ogles and paws the First Lady of France? (Yer Honor! Look what she was wearing! She was in such GREAT shape – Beautiful!) Is it any wonder the First Lady of Japan spent 2 hours at the G-20 dinner seated next to Trump pretending not to understand a word of English when she is perfectly fluent?

The example has been set at the top, and is flowing down like some noxious champagne pyramid, filling every glass with a bubbly mix of chauvinism and cruelty. Men who chafed at having to display a modicum of control around women have been released to wallow in a perpetual Rumspringa of Misogyny, drinking deeply from the Cup of Rage.

The public push to control women is worse now than it was when I first became aware at 16. The anger and hatred and need to punish women is horrifying and palpable. Women have fewer rights and health care options now than they did in the 1980s – and goddam if I wasn’t FURIOUS at how few rights I was ‘granted’ then.

Here’s the thing, though: I had some wonderful male mentors who taught me from the earliest age that my opinion mattered. Norman Lear indulgently squandered 10  or 15 minutes with me every week or so when I bum-rushed his personal assistant – wait no! I joyously ran across KTTV from the commissary, ignoring my mother’s protestations, leaving her arthritic knees behind flights of stairs. Dashing across the lot at full speed and into the building where his office was I took the stairs 2 at a time, swinging around the corner to see if Norman’s door was open: If it was I waved at his assistant, and galloped across his office to throw myself into his arms. After our hug I would sit across from him and tell him about life on the set, school and the stories I was writing. He always made me feel like what I had to say was important, and encouraged me to write. At the start of the 2nd season a top of the line IBM Selectric auto-correct type writer was in my school room when I got to work one morning. That was a big thing. To this day I remember the solid weight, the way it vibrated when I turned it on and how it responded to the words in my head that came out my fingers. I could write and make mistakes and change my mind.

That kindness has given me an art, a craft, several livelihoods and the way to express myself almost as fast as I can talk.

Claudia and Norman

Oliver Hailey really taught me the hard basics of how to write and put in the work you must do to make a piece original and polished. Oliver allowed me to join a writing class with 7 other students – two of whom were Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly. Need I mention the level of wit required to keep up with that class, which was held at the Debbie Reynolds Studio? I was 15 and was doing a dual enrollment in High School and Community College. Oliver believed in the value of my writing and my ability to tell of a story, and he never let me off easy. I remember with absolute clarity the first time I nailed a short story and the class gave me actual respectful applause instead of just nodded heads. I cannot tell you the personal power that gave me – it is a compass I carry with me as I write: A burden that nags me into making a piece, a paragraph, a sentence or even a word be exactly right and to always *Pay Attention*  and to write in sequence – not matter how long that takes.

Greg Mullavey taught me about timing, NEVER denying a premise and allowing another performer to have the last word.

Martin Mull (probably doesn’t know it) taught me to believe in my comedy, to commit to it completely, and to develop a 1,000-yard gaze with a nod – A shield I carry with me always and wish I’d taken out of my armory sooner.

Claudia Gridiron 2002 2

 

 

There were men who hired me in radio *because* I could match the worst people wit for wit – Bruce Kamen being the most loved. He told me the thing that some General Managers would hate would be the very thing others would love – but to stay true to myself always. In other words: Don’t change your stance for the paycheck. It is advice that allowed me to leave Talk Radio with my dignity, and move into News with a good reputation – plus one HELL of a reference.

I would have walked across coals for Mickey Luckoff, the greatest General Manager of the greatest Radio station in the United States for 35 years (voted by our peers). Under his management at KGO I was part of the News Team that won 4 Associated Press Mark Twain Awards and 5 Edward R. Murrow Awards.

It bolsters me to know that there are men everywhere who are allies and accomplices to Equality.

Here’s the thing, though: I didn’t feel like I could tell my truth on my own blog about the abuse I take online without also acknowledging there were positive male influences in my life. I wanted to head off the “Yeah, but… Is she a man hater?” questions at the pass.

I love men. I’m married to one. I gave birth to one. 5 are my brothers, and I can count on more than 2 hands the number I consider dear friends. (Why, some of my BEST friends are male…)

It doesn’t change the fact that too many men are raging assholes who mean harm to women and too many men won’t stand up to their dickish behavior, chalking up online harassment toward women as inevitable and innocuous. It’s not.

Online Harassment of Angry Women is meant to silence the smartest, strongest and most outspoken among us. It’s nothing any of us should put up with, and I am so proud of all of my friends who brook no bullying on their timelines – and that includes me when I’m being an asshole. We all make mistakes or act like a dick and we *must* be called on it and admit it (admitting before being called is preferable) or it never changes.

Guys? If you see a another guy acting like a dick towards a woman and you don’t call him on it you’re not minding your own business – you’re enthusiastically encouraging dickish behavior. If a woman looks like she’s handling herself just fine and you don’t add a voice of encouragement? You’re part of the problem and a voyeur. Nothing ever changes until the majority stands up for what’s right.

I won’t hold my breath that folks will suddenly see the light and be counted among the righteous. That’s why we’re where we are.

As for me? I will Resist to my dying breath – a proud Angry Woman. It would be an honor to be scolded, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, She persisted”

 

The Frogs Have Come Out To Play

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There is quite clearly a link between the election and a sudden rise in cyber-harassment, which I have personally experienced. In the four days after the election I received more hate-tweets and garbage posts on my Twitter feed that I have in the previous 7 years combined.

My FaceBook wall has been rummaged through by Trolls, Frogs and hateful, spittle-flecked shrieking strangers who tell me to grow up, get over it and to leave the country.

‘Frogs’ is my label for the hate-filled Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) mostly found on 4Chan who are proudly racist, bigoted, homophobes that think women who have been raped have been done a favor. They are open Nazi supporters who use Pepe the Frog as their mascot: An image designated by the Anti-Defamation League as a hate symbol alongside swastikas and burning crosses.

In short: The people who embrace this image are Trump’s red meat base.

Frog is my ‘Fetch’, and I’m trying to make it happen.

It is not a pejorative – because it’s based on something people have control over: Their embrace of hatred, and the willingness to disenfranchise marginalized minorities and women.

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A no-longer-silent dog whistle was blown when Trump was elected, and now the Frogs think the internet belongs to them.

I had one rude crazy woman go to my FB page and assume my post about a rude crazy woman was about her. She became incensed – took a screen shot. Demanded… I’m not sure what. But, she seemed to think that screen shot was something valuable. It seemed an oddly appropriate metaphor to what has been happening on Social Media these last few days.

I’ve been physically threatened posting in a general forum, being told my mouth was writing checks my ass couldn’t cash – when I was reciting facts. (not ‘truths’)

I’d call them Poor Winners – but that  would imply that there isn’t REAL violence going on right now across the country.

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Regarding my Twitter account, some quick research shows that this is a targeted attack to specific high traffic websites. Yesterday I tweeted 10 times (before the shitstorm – and NO I’m not proud I fed the trolls), yet I received some 50-odd tweets back regarding an original post on that had only received 60 views  in 12 hours. (96 views 24 hours later) That site? The New York Times. The Tweet for which I received the second biggest hate-spew was to USA Today, whence I was told to delete my account, take benzodiazepine, fuck myself and leave the country.

Yesterday’s provocative tweet?  “Yay for Gerrymandering and Voter suppression”, in response to an article about our deeply divided nation that is half conservative and half liberal, but nearly all levels of government are run by the GOP.

That’s pretty normal for me – I’ve been tweeting like this for years with a collective yawn by the internet. Yet, amazingly I’m getting all kinds of negative attention, and the only thing that has changed is the President-elect.

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This morning I got up to find a ‘friend’ of a childhood friend has tracked shit on my wall because he didn’t agree with an opinion that I left on my friend’s page – FWIW she and I are horrified at the results. He felt the need to mock and belittle a total stranger. There was no attempt at dialogue or even arrogant fact reciting. It was just pure vitriol: Being an asshole for the sake of being an asshole. I’ve had it happen with at least 5 total strangers in 4 days.  Not to mention said crazy woman above.

I had a peer seek out my page to start an argument after I walked away from her utter lack of compassion regarding my taking Trump at his word when he promises to end the ACA, and with it my pre-existing condition exclusion. After telling her in great detail how this would mean bankruptcy, divorce (sign away assets to get Medicaid) or become a medical refugee, her sentiments (if not exact words, because I refuse to bugger myself by going back to that awful conversation to quote her exactly): Your insurance is not my concern.

I refused to engage further with someone who could reduce that situation to: Not My Problem.

I decided to unfollow her for a few weeks until things calmed down – that way she wouldn’t see my posts, I wouldn’t see hers, and we could go back to being civil. Instead, she decided to take the fight to me by seeking out my page to read what I was writing so that she could be offended.

As is habit with these folks, when faced with something they don’t like they change the subject at the top of their lungs. I don’t play the Red Herring game, though.

Her Waterloo was a post where I said that Trump voters fucking OWN the KKK Victory Parade celebrating Trump’s victory. Without irony – this woman who supports a candidate that blames all Muslims for the actions of a few – took umbrage at holding people accountable for voting for a man who campaigned on racism, bigotry, homophobia and misogyny.

She refused to defend any of the dozen or so direct Trump quotes that show what a horrible shit-bag he is – including the one where he pretends he doesn’t know what the KKK is. She sidled right up to an Ad Hominem attack, and decided calling the *conversation* stupid was more diplomatic than outright calling *me* stupid. She then did the most adult thing she could think of to do – she unfriended me.

That should be a comfortable meeting the next time we show up for the advocacy group we both volunteer for and donate to. With her being in a position on the board I don’t worry at all that she’ll be punitive. Nope. I don’t worry that the woman who couldn’t let a disagreement go and needed to turn it into a full-fledged drama complete with unfriending will hold a grudge.

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I don’t ever remember the trolling ever being this bad. These hate-filled pus bags have been emboldened and their racist, bigoted, anti-Gay MRA agenda has been validated. They emulate the bully they voted in.

Not everyone who voted for Trump is a Neo-Nazi -But, they ARE totally okay with belonging to a group that not only tolerates, but encourages them.

The hate speech will continue because Trump refuses to say during his 3 am Rage-Tweet sessions: “I don’t want the support of the KKK and renounce racism and bigotry.”

He’d still have 72 characters left to tell us how big his hands are or “Grab Them By The Pussy!!”

But, he won’t – and that’s why the Frogs have come out to play.

It’s going to be a long 4 years.

“I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. … I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.” Trump on the Klan 2/28/16

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Grab Them By The Pussy!!!

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In February of 1994 I spent an evening with Orville Redenbacher’s hand welded to my ass against my will.

I was a talk show host at KHOW in Denver. There was a cross-promotion at the station with Redenbacher and it involved an in-studio interview, and both of us doing personal appearances at the Wyncoop Brewery (Governor Hickenlooper’s place).

When I met Orville he was in a gray suit with a white shirt and the iconic bow tie. I went to shake his hand – he was in his 80s – but he grasped my hand and pulled me forward in the tiny studio, looking for a hug. Surprised, I complied, and found the old coot’s hands all over my ass, and he tried to kiss me. I fended him off, and we did the interview. He flirted with me during the commercials.

Before he left he gave me his phone number and told me he’d love to have me come visit him in San Diego where he lived. He gave me a grin and pinched my ass. I was flabbergasted. Folks at the station ribbed me for the handsy old perv’s behavior – made me feel bad that Redenbacher has harassed me.

That evening at the event I was prepared, but since it was a joint appearance I couldn’t separate myself from him. When I showed up he did another grope-hug, trying to kiss me on the mouth, and put his hand on my ass. There it stayed, rubbing circles and occasionally squeezing my toned 30 year old ass. I really didn’t know what to do. He was a powerful, famous man who was an important client to the station. So I let him rub, pinch, pat and squeeze my ass the whole time.

When the appearance was over and he’d made me promise to call him in San Diego I felt like I needed a Silkwood shower. I disentangled myself from his 17 arms and gaping maw and went to gather my coat and briefcase.

Suddenly Orville’s grandson, who had been traveling with him, was looming over me. “Don’t even THINK of calling Grandpa.”

“What?”

“I saw you all over him and saw him give you his number. We screen his calls. We keep him away from gold diggers,” he snarled. He said again for emphasis, “Don’t even THINK of calling grandpa.”

I was stunned. The old octopus had been all over me for hours, and yet his grandson saw ME as the aggressive party. The obnoxious shit stood there and tried to gaslight me through physical intimidation.

I never called good old Orville. But you can bet your sweet ass I saved his phone number. I have it in a book that served as my phone book from my teens to my 30s. I kept it to remind myself that I hadn’t dreamed the whole disgusting episode.

Remember – this is REAL. It is happening to your sister, your mother, your wife and your friends. It’s time to change the paradigm.

#SexualAssaultIsReal #NotOkay

Patient Zero

Germ

When did people stop covering their mouths when they cough? When did they stop teaching their children to cover their mouths?

And most important – is there a polite way of asking someone to stop spreading their germs?

I was in the doctor’s office last week and watched a little girl of perhaps 4 years-old, with her mother and grandmother, tear about the waiting room with nary a word from them.

She climbed around the room, walking on chairs with her dirty snow boots. That not being enough, she stood with her filthy boots on the play table for little children, stamping her feet all over it.

The crescendo came when she started coughing like a TB patient, just hacking away, no hand over mouth, her maw wide open, sharing all her germs with everyone in the room.

What was I supposed to do then? I let it go because I didn’t know what to do. I finally figured it out when she came over to me with a, “Who are y– hack! Hack! Hack!!” right in my face.

“Excuse me,” I said, covering my mouth hoping to stop the invisible germs. “Excuse me… Your daughter is sick and I don’t want what she has. Can you please call her back?” I asked.

You’d have thought I kicked the little germ-filled urchin. The furious gaze I got from her mother was almost enough to stop me in my tracks. Of course the mother did nothing to stop her daughter, but she did give me the evil eye. The little girl coughed on me again.

“I’m serious. I don’t want to get sick. Please call her back,” I said to the seething mother. To the child I said, “Honey, I don’t want to play. Please go back to your Mommy.”

The little germ bomb raced back over to her mother, not perturbed in the least.

“Stay away from that mean old lady,” the idiot mother said to her daughter, “she’s not nice.”

Yes, that’s right. Because if I don’t want to get sick that makes me not nice.

Your failure to follow simple hygiene and manners is a reflection on me.

That little girl is hardly the only one I see spreading their germs with the whole wide world.

In the supermarket the other day I saw a man sneeze into his hand, and then put that same hand back onto the shopping cart he was pushing. I guess that was better than the woman in the deli who didn’t bother with her hand at all. (For the record, unless you have a tissue, the elbow is where you sneeze while in public)

On the same trip to the store I had a woman doing the smokers hack on my back the whole time I was in line to check out, never once covering her mouth.

What do you say to people? “Thanks for the unsolicited germs, I appreciate it,” hardly seem like that’d be received well. “Ewww… Kindly cover your mouth,” wouldn’t go over much better. Mostly it’s because people who see no reason to be minimally polite don’t appreciate it when you tell them to stop being selfish and filthy.

They’re the same people who see no problem coming in to work when they’re sick. “I don’t want to waste a sick day. I can get through it,” is the most common thing you hear.

What the hell? That’s what they give you sick days for: When you’re sick you stay home so you don’t infect the whole office. They’re not to save up and use as hooky days.

It is the height of selfishness to come into work sick. I’ll bet you half the people reading this have done so. “I’m not so bad,” comes the rationalization. “I’ll just keep to myself,” goes the logic.

That, of course, ignores the whole notion of how germs operate. It’s not just a matter of staying in your cubicle, because germs don’t respect cube farms and their imaginary walls. It ignores how you put your hand on the door knob to get in the building, it ignores everything you touch in the break room, when you used the copier and when you just coughed into the air around all your poor unsuspecting co-workers.

I had a boss who used to come in sick, pretending the whole world would grind to a halt if she wasn’t there to be condescending and bullying. I remember her having the flu and sitting in her office with the door open. Her wracking cough could be heard all the way across a busy news room. It was so loud and deep in her chest that sitting a good 40 feet from her made me uncomfortable. She got at least half a dozen people sick in the first week, and then complained when she was short on reporters.

The horrible example that my former boss set rubbed off on her employees, who came into work while sick and infected the healthy. As a result the whole newsroom ended up getting the flu, one by one. The situation got so bad that the General Manager ended up calling an industrial cleaning company to disinfect every surface in the news room and the coffee room, and leave us with a 5 gallon bucket of industrial grade sanitary wipes to continue disinfecting surfaces over the next several weeks.

This was all brought on by a person who ostensibly had the sense enough to be out in a position of authority. What chance does a little kid have if their parent won’t teach proper manners and hygiene in public?

So, it brings me back to my predicament and original question: Is there a polite way of asking someone to stop spreading their germs and cover their mouth? Because every time I ask I get treated like I have a stick up my ass.

It’s the same dynamic for whenever you want to put a stop to someone’s bad behavior that affects you personally. The people who are acting rudely (or against the Social Contract) don’t want to be told that their selfish behavior is impacting someone negatively because then they have to examine their actions. Examining their actions might lead to the vague notion that they could act like a better person and that’s way out of most people’s comfort zone.

If anyone out there has a better idea I encourage you to share with the class. Otherwise I’ll have to stick with the anemic, “Please don’t cough on me,” and suffer through Patient Zero being offended at my audacity.

In the meantime – stop going to work sick and infecting the healthy. And you – over there – cover your mouth. Please.

This, That and Renewing Social Contracts

New Years Eve 2015

One thing about writing is that it forces you to look at things more deeply. What I’ve discovered over the last month is that it’s very easy to find negative things that people are willing to share. That limitless ability for the negative is, in fact, very limiting for a writer. Negativity begets negativity and it leaves little room for solutions.

It’s so easy to find unbelievably stupid things on Facebook or Twitter, and I don’t want to have to go looking for them anymore.

To put it another way: I’d rather stub my toe in surprise at the idiocy of some people’s vitriol rather than grab a hammer and smash my toes with it by looking for ugly things on purpose.

So, in the spirit of the New Year and new beginnings I’m tweaking the format and presentation of my blog.

I’m no longer limiting myself to the things I’m too polite to put on your wall. I’ll still do that, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a whole big wide world out there to be dissected, and I mean to get to it.

With a new direction comes a new name: This About That.

I appreciate anyone who’s made it this far, and hope you’ll indulge me as I tinker with the format, and try to get it to where I want this blog to be.

Enough, then, on the house keeping.

Let’s get on with this, shall we?

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New Years is always a time to take stock about things (no this isn’t going to be a listicle). I want to talk about Social Contracts and how important they are to civilized life.

What is a Social Contract? The short version is that it’s the moral and political obligations we, as citizens, have with each other and the state to form the society in which we live. It’s basically what makes us behave and what makes a society liveable. Some are laws, others are rules and manners.

I think the whole rules and manners portion of the Social Contract has been sorely tested in the last decade. Most people have become self-centered and egotistical in a way we couldn’t have imagined at the turn of the century. Those unpleasant traits make for unpleasant fellow citizens.

The problem is they don’t see themselves as fellow citizens because the whole world revolves around them. When you think it’s all about you, you excuse any kind of selfish behavior. Because that’s what bad behavior is – pure selfishness.

There are many different ways you can be selfish and break the Social Contract, and one of the biggest ways is being a bad neighbor. Screwing with the place where people live and are trying to enjoy their days off is inviting trouble.

If you live in a condo or an apartment then a bad neighbor is the one who blares their music or TV. They’re the ones who argue and slam doors. It sounds like they’re practicing Riverdance in clogs upstairs. They’re selfish and bludgeon you with the sounds of their life, and think nothing of it.

The suburbs have their issues, too. Take my neighbor, for instance. She did not mow her back yard all summer, and let the front yard go to weeds thigh high. We put up with it until August, when we finally called the city. She ignored the first notice completely. She got around to hitting some stuff in the front with a weed whacker after the second notice, but never raked it up. She never did another bit of yard work this year. It will come as no surprise that she has not shoveled her walk once this winter, leaving the sidewalk covered in ice that people have to walk over to get to the mailboxes.

What motivates her to be such a bad neighbor? She doesn’t work outside the home, so it’s not an issue of never being there to do it. So what’s the problem with just doing the bare minimum to keep it legal? She knows better, and bought a house in a nice middle class neighborhood and then came in and shitted up the place. She liked the way the neighborhood looked, but was just too selfish to keep her house up like the rest of us, and it affects our property values. She is not keeping up the Social Contract morally or legally.

I’ll tell you who else breaks the Social Contract in my neighborhood: The neighbor 2 blocks away who leaves their dog out all day long to bark and bark and bark. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live next door to that poor, tortured beast. Who does that to an animal they love? Who does that to their neighbors? A selfish person who doesn’t give 2 craps about the Social Contract, that’s who.

One of my pet peeves for Social Contracts is driving while texting or talking on your phone without a hands free device. How could you be so selfish? Even where it’s legal you should not be doing it because it’s dangerous. It is morally wrong to put the life of everyone around you at risk while you stare at a 4 inch screen or hold the phone to your ear unable to respond properly to an emergency situation. Yet, I know at least one person who reads this will do this very thing. Why? No respect for their fellow citizens or the Social Contract. The notion that you’re above it all.

You see it everywhere you look: People bring their dogs into the supermarket or pharmacy. I once saw a woman at Walgreens put her dog on the counter and it immediately sat down. She had no idea why I might be disgusted. She was not only clueless, she was absolutely offended at me and told me to mind my own business. As if it wasn’t my business that her dog’s ass was sitting where I was supposed to put my items to be rung up. Staggering selfishness.

If you’ve traveled by airplane anytime since 2001 you will have noticed how aggressively rude and the-world-revolves-around-me-selfish travelers have gotten. There’s a marvelous Instagram account devoted to pictures of passengers who simply can’t observe a modicum of decorum. It’s called Passenger Shaming. Check it out. It’s wonderfully awful, and shows people at their selfish worst.

Another way people behave selfishly is by angrily wearing their politics on their sleeve, and expecting yes-men agreement from all who read it. It seems the more bitterly divided we’ve become as a society the more the Social Contract becomes strained when it comes to partisanship and being polite. Personally, I’m sick of the unvarnished hatred that’s become the norm in this country. People think nothing of putting hurtful, hateful posts about opposing political views on their Facebook wall, knowing full well that many people who read it will be offended. They’re not doing it to change minds and hearts, they’re doing it to be hurtful. They’re violating the manners clause of the Social Contract, by selfishly expecting people to read their offensive rantings and put up with it silently.

The point is too many people are self-absorbed and have adopted the notion that the rules don’t apply to them. The question I have is this: Are you one of them? Are there small ways that you fudge the contract? Do you ignore inconvenient rules? If you do, take a minute reflect on what it means to society when you put yourself first at the expense of others. It encourages bad behavior in everyone.

If you do uphold the Social Contract I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart.

So, at this time of the year – the time of resolutions and fresh beginnings – lets take the opportunity to renew our commitment to being a better member of society. Be the good example others need and know that you’re doing the right thing. Do it for yourself and because it’s the right thing to do. Do it because it makes the world a better place.

Have a great 2015.