So You Know–Memorial Day Edition

Today I’ll be answering questions provided by Candace at Revenge of Eve from her So You Know series of fun questions!

This Week’s Questions

  1. What is your favorite part of summer?
  2. Do you swim in bodies of water that are questionable? Like where you cannot see the bottom – lakes, ponds, the ocean… if so, what’s is your fear in doing so?
  3. What is the average temperature (Fahrenheit) of summer in your area?
  4. Do you have access to a pool? If so, is it your own private pool or a complex pool?
  5. What ocean is closest to you?

Fun, fun! My favorite part of summer is the sunshine. I have extreme seasonal obsessiveness (irrationality) triggered or exacerbated by the short days of winter. Come summer, all is well, and my life is great! It’s a wonderful feeling of relief!

Yes, I LOVE to swim in lakes and the ocean. In fact, I prefer an ocean with a sudden drop-off just a few feet past the shore. I get bored by oceans that walk out forever without dipping.

Hmm…. I’m going to say highs in the low nineties?

No, and I wish I did. This is very frustrating–there’s a quarry you can swim in nearby–that’s right, a freakin’ rock quarry. It’s so much more awesome than the average built-in pool. Here’s the problem: it’s an exclusive club. You have to live within a certain radius of the pool, and my dad’s address is just outside the limits. In theory, we could beg a neighbor to sponsor us, but geez. It’s frustrating!

And there are no other really cool pools nearby, just the standard, crowded, indoor, rectangular kind. However, this summer, we’re going to get a cheap kiddie pool for our Newfoundland to stomp around in in the backyard. We might also take her wading in a nearby creek.

The closest ocean? My goodness, I think I’m equidistant from the Atlantic Ocean to my east or the Gulf of Mexico to my south (which I know is part of the Atlantic Ocean, but the point is that it would take the same amount of time to drive in either direction). I live in Louisville, KY, by the way! YAY for fun questions about summertime!

Who doesn’t love the beach?

Dear Annie: You recently wrote that an adult daughter was wrong to discard her mother’s pantry food without asking her first — even food that had expired. What do you think about the current trend of girlfriends and wives discarding their boyfriends’ and husbands’ outdated clothes?

I read an article in a major newspaper by a fashionista advising women to throw or give away their male significant others’ unfashionable clothes — without consulting them first. An example given was cargo shorts. Then I saw this happen on a popular television show. The wife attempted secretly to discard her husband’s beloved but unfashionable shorts. It was meant to be funny.

What do you think of this practice, Annie? What if a boyfriend or husband did the same (to his girlfriend’s or wife’s clothes)? What if a fashion writer advocated such? I think there would be an outcry. Why is it OK for women then? Isn’t this a double standard? You’re an influential person; please speak to this trend. — Worried Cargo Shorts Owner

Dear Worried Cargo Shorts Owner: If this is indeed a trend, no one is wearing it well. Going through someone’s closet and discarding his or her items without asking is wrong, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter if that person is your husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend — or anyone else with whom you feel close enough to take such decisions into your own hands. In fact, respecting boundaries becomes more important the closer the relationship is.

We can try offering our significant others some fashion feedback, but that’s about the extent of it. Loving someone means loving him or her as is, extra pockets and all. (By the way, according to Harper’s Bazaar and several other fashion news outlets, cargo shorts are one of 2018’s hottest fashion trends. Go figure.) (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Raise your hand if you think we should all throw away other people’s stuff.

That’s what I thought. Here we have Annie Lane once again fielding an easy pitch. Her comfort level with these questions is so low as to be embarrassing sometimes. “Dear Annie Lane, is it okay for other people to throw away something I like and use?” Well, gee, let me think about it.

A more nuanced answer would discuss how television shows are a poor reflector of good values. Hour-long dramas used to be wholesome, a la Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and Touched by an Angel. Then Seinfeld came along and made wholesomeness seem uncool. Then there were a lot of hour-long dramas filled with snark. (“Ramsey, where’s that paperwork?” “Have you looked under your wife’s fat ass, Patrick?”) Fortunately, the snark phase seems to have passed. But then a slew of shows came along in which the main characters–the people we’re meant to root for–were immoral scumbags. Breaking Bad comes to mind. And another show my dad watches called Queen of the South.

I’m not saying that people were inherently better back when television was wholesome. Those “wholesome” shows promoted outdated values like spanking kids and prejudice and other weirdness. The whole point is that television can’t be seen as promoting good values.

This is why I love Frasier. The program tries to at least make Frasier’s pompous acts justifiable in the context. For example, speaking of throwing things away, there’s a running gag about how Frasier hates his dad’s special chair with a passion.

Frasier tries to tolerate is as well as he can. But in one episode, he accidentally sets fire to it and hurls it off the balcony. (You’d really have to see it to appreciate how that could accidentally happen.) His dad gets upset, so Frasier bends over backward to have an exact replica made. (“I tracked down the upholsterer, and once I got them to admit they designed that upholstery…”)

I guess Frasier has the right level of moral ambiguity for me.

In other news, I was talking to the guy I like a few days ago. He’s been with family at the beach, so we were exchanging beach stories. I told him my story about how Mother got lost at sea. She took us to the beach when I was nine, rented some of those huge rafts, and went out on one. Then she kept waving at me and my little brother. Being polite children, we waved back. She waved again. We waved back. She waved again. We waved with more enthusiasm.

This went on for several minutes until our aunt approached us and explained that Mother couldn’t get back to shore. Not to worry, our aunt assured us–she’d called the coast guard and help was on the way. My brother and I weren’t too concerned. We’d been out in the water about as far away as our mom was and knew it wasn’t that hard to get back in. Sure enough, Mother drifted back to shore long before the coast guard could show up.

The guy I like had this response: “Oh, gee, your mother… wow.”

And that was a moment of awakening for me. I’d always remembered her getting lost at sea as being mildly humorous. But it wasn’t–it was a deliberate attempt to traumatize me and my brother. It simply failed to have the desired effect.

Later that same week, she asked me to buy her a Coke from the condo. I think I’ve written about this anecdote before, so I’ll get to the point: I got distracted by something really odd and just barely missed her burning off the skin on each of her fingers in the condo, something I knew would’ve traumatized me if I’d witnessed it.

So you have to wonder. As someone who gives the benefit of the doubt, a nonbiased party might say, “Of course your mother wasn’t trying to traumatize you by getting lost at sea.” But then why’d she follow that up by “accidentally” burning herself?

I have other memories of that week as well. At one point, Mother got enraged over nothing and spanked me. (She must not have burned her fingers badly enough, even though she certainly played the victim when the terrifying burn accident happened.) My older cousin was along for the vacation, too. I’ll never forget the look my cousin gave me after my mom spanked me. It clearly said, “Is Aunt Becky insane?! What the hell’s wrong with her?” I didn’t have an answer.

I think my older cousin got spanked by her parents, too, but maybe she got spanked for a “reason” such as misbehaving, and not because her parents tended to fly off the handle and attack the nearest outlet. (That’s what my parents always did. I was often in the wrong place at the wrong time; but also, if Mother needed to unleash her inner badness, she’d search me out and engage me in a power struggle. There were only so many ways to stay off her radar.)

I also remember Mother getting a bad sunburn on her left forearm because she was driving all week with the car window down and her forearm on the ledge.

Other than her constant drama, it was a great week. Who doesn’t love the beach?

I’m sexy and I know it.

Dear Amy: I’m flying home with my girlfriend over the Thanksgiving holiday to meet my family.

In recent days, as my mother and I have talked on the phone, she has brought up Thanksgiving and the prospect of meeting my girlfriend, saying, “I hope you’re not making a mistake with her.”

For background, I recently left a religious order because I met this young woman and wished to pursue a relationship with her. Mom tried to encourage me to stay in the order.

Today on the phone, she mentioned that a girl I grew up with was visiting my parents and said she wanted to see me. Mom said I’d be visiting for Thanksgiving and invited her to come back and visit while I’m home.

Mind you, this whole trip is so my mother can meet my girlfriend.

What should I do? Should I talk to my mother about her inviting another girl to the house while I’m trying to introduce her and my father to my girlfriend?

— Upset Guy

Dear Upset: Your mother is giving voice to a thought that nearly all parents have about their kids’ partners before they meet them. Her mistake is saying this out loud, because it comes off as distrustful and rude.

However, given the complication of your leaving a religious order to be with your girlfriend, you’ll need to understand that you are giving your parents a lot to handle. Presumably, your mother was never expecting to one day greet and host the woman in your life. You probably thought about leaving the order for some time before making your decision, but your mother needs time to adjust to it.

Right now, your mom has one job, and that is to remain as open as possible during this period, so that she can greet your girlfriend warmly and get to know her. Remind her, “Mom, I need you to stay open-minded and positive. I’m doing great, and I’m very happy.”

In terms of inviting your childhood friend — this invitation might be your mother’s way of throwing a wrench into the proceedings. It could also be her way of indicating that she understands you are no longer committed to the religious order. Remind her, “I’ll be home with ‘Sasha’ and I’m not particularly interested in seeing this other friend while we’re home.” (c) Ask Amy

Lord above, don’t bring the girlfriend home to meet the family. Wow. Bad family. Yeah, I’d devote myself to protecting the girlfriend from this trainwreck of a mother. I think Ask Amy is being very naive with her advice here.

“I hope you’re not making a mistake with her,”? And Ask Amy brushed this off as being the sort of thought we should keep to ourselves. Um, YES. There’s no excuse for the mother to have said it; and when you add in her pressure for the letter writer to get together with someone else (who may be from the same religious order–who knows?), you’ve got a shamelessly toxic mother.

See, this is why no one’s ever thankful on Thanksgiving. Pass the damn turkey.

Dear Amy: I am a 62-year-old woman. I am still attractive and (blessedly) wrinkle-free, due to being on an aggressive slew of hormones, anti-oxidants and telomerase-enhancing drugs. (I’m using all the latest technology).

Because I am (apparently) unattractive to men, no matter what I do, I take solace in the few close but platonic relationships I have with a few men.

During a recent walk on the California beach with my friend “Martin,” he pointed out one beautiful nubile young woman after another, and then described his male reaction to them.

Martin also indicated that I should slim down. (I’m not overweight).

As a middle-aged woman, I am used to being marginalized, but I think that, during the last three years, the problem has become acute. I’m not invisible: I’m reviled and demeaned, both by employers and single men. These days you have to look like a porn model to even get by.

Short of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on plastic surgery, I don’t know what I can do. I feel that something that was optional years ago is now a necessity: a complete body makeover.

I have become extremely depressed about the situation. Were it not for my loving father, who left me with enough money to live on, I would be out on the streets.

I am still in excellent health. But if people (both men and women) feel my looks are “off,” they will say so!

Short of moving to a desert island and waiting for death, what are we supposed to do?

— Wrinkle Free and Upset

Dear Wrinkle Free: You already live on a desert island. You’ve put yourself there, and your obsession with looking youthful in order to attract and hold the male gaze will keep you there.

If men are so awful, then why are you so desperate for one? Why not simply step off of this terrible treadmill, and decide to spend the rest of your life cultivating inner beauty?

Inner beauty comes from your intellect, your character and your interest in the world and in other people. This sort of beauty does not require expensive procedures and products, and it does not fade.

Take some classes or music lessons. Join a book group. Volunteer. Learn to meditate. See a therapist. Find some nice women to hang with. Or move somewhere less shallow.

Here is a passage from the recent obituary of Kathy Kriger, a former diplomat who founded “Rick’s Café” in Casablanca, Morocco, when she was in her late-50s (she died at 72):

“‘If I’m honest, I always thought I would find a man while following my dream. That didn’t happen,’ she said cheerfully. ‘Instead, with Rick looking over my shoulder, I found myself.'”

I hope you find yourself, too.

I like and appreciate Ask Amy’s advice here, but I have a few things to add.

This letter writer mentioned the beach, and she also has shamelessly shallow friends. It’s possible she lives in LA, in which case, this one tiny part of Ask Amy’s advice becomes major:

Or move somewhere less shallow.

Yep. I’ve heard that in LA, if you’re not buff, tanned, toned, swimsuit-ready, and in possession of perfectly coiffed hair, then you’re a nobody. And the thought occurs that if you were born and raised in such an environment, you might come to think it’s the norm for everyone everywhere to have such an attitude.

In fact, that’s the whole premise of the sitcom Hot in Cleveland. Three older women are travelling from LA when they get stuck on a layover in Cleveland. Much to their surprise, they discover that Ohio men still think they’re hot. Not only that, housing is affordable! So they all rent from an older woman (Betty White’s character) and reinvent their lives in Cleveland. I definitely think this letter writer needs to watch the opening episode at the very least.

Speaking of great sitcoms and the tragedy of the appearance-based LA culture, I used to love watching Everybody Loves Raymond. There were two boys on the show who played his twin sons. Sadly, after the show ended and they became adults, one of them killed himself. And the only reason his family gave was that he was unhappy being small. (I guess being a twin and sharing a womb makes you smaller than the average guy?) I read that and was heartbroken. All he had to do was move out of LA! So tragic and horrible.