No Offense…

In the spirit (no pun intended…honest!) of Halloween, I feel the need to vent a little about costumes. When I was a little girl, which really wasn’t ALL that long ago, I don’t remember having to worry about my costume offending anyone.  It was hard enough trying to decide between a cat (for the third time) or a princess, or come up with some good reason why I shouldn’t be the pumpkin that my mom thought was so adorable, but I thought made me look pudgy.  (My best reason, which was entirely true, was the elastic on the little stem hat cut into the back of my ears and under my chin).  Now kids and adults alike have to worry about what group of people they are unintentionally mocking in their costume choices.  While I understand the need to be sensitive to different cultures and current events, it has become a bit ridiculous.  It is like trying to walk across a floor strewn with glass shards and eggshells.  There are only a couple of safe places to step.

Thinking back on some of the costumes I wore, I must have unintentionally offended SO many people, though some of the fault would be my mother’s (sorry mom). I was a Native American (and actually, that was still during the time when we used the term “Indian”), a nerd, and a Chinese girl.  I believe I went as a hobo one year when the weather was rather cold and nasty, and I was a pirate once or twice.  As a child and preteen, Halloween was a day that I could have fun and dress up.  I never thought that I could potentially offend anyone’s religious beliefs by being an angel or a devil.  The bunny rabbit, black cat, and leopard I dressed up as possibly offended animal rights activists.  The cute little hula girl costume I was so excited to wear most likely was not culturally accurate, but what 10-year old thinks of these things?  I was just so excited to dress up and get candy, and that grass skirt was so cool!

I think our culture has become a little too politically correct. Can’t we have one day when we don’t have to stress out over other people’s sensitivities?  Now I’m not saying that it is ok to mock anyone’s physical attributes or situations in life, but really…dressing up as a granny is not disrespectful to the elderly.  Growing old is a fact of life.  Personally, most times, my costume choices were because I liked what I was dressing up as.

Let’s get something straight. Nine times out of ten, dressing as a ghost is not meant to mock the deceased or the unnaturally pale.  The soldiers, cops, firefighters, nurses, and doctors knocking at your door are not conforming to gender biases.  These could be people the children look up to or maybe aspire to be once they are adults.  And yes, maybe we are not culturally accurate and more research should be conducted when dressing up as a Native American, a Swiss yodeler, or a Spanish senorita, but I would like to think that we could be flattered instead of offended that people are intrigued enough by different cultures to dress up this way.

I could go on in my ranting, but I believe I have a solution to the stress of choosing a costume. In order not to offend anyone, my go-to costume this year is me.  I am the only person I can offend with this costume, and frankly, I really need to stop being so sensitive.  It’s just a costume.

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Shut Up and Read

Sometimes I think that reading and writing are exponentially better than verbal communication. Now I know that the written word certainly has its drawbacks (hello…no sarcasm font), but hear me out on this. Some people are “blessed” with the “gift” of gab…let’s call them Gabbers. What Gabbers might not realize is that some people don’t view it quite so much as a gift. As a writer, I am all about the details, but as a listener…please, PLEASE, PLEASE just give me a straightforward story. All I really need to know is a starting position, a couple defining moments of the story, and the end result, which hopefully has a point. If you are telling me about the chipmunk that you almost ran over when it darted out in front of you on your way to Target, I really don’t need to know that you dried your hair in record time that morning; that you wore this cute little gray cowl-neck sweater dress that you had to buy when you saw your best friend’s sister wearing it in red on Monday, or that you were thinking about making tacos for dinner later. All I need to know is that you were driving, a chipmunk darted out in front of you, you jammed on the breaks, and the chipmunk went on to harass more unsuspecting drivers. The story should take 2 minutes tops, not 10. If such an above story were written communication, however, I’d have the luxury of skimming over the unnecessary details and skipping right to that glorious finale in record time.

Because people are not remotely like books at all, I would look exceptionally rude if I was engaged in a conversation and suddenly said, “I’m sorry, but can we do this conversation thing another time?” and walk away. If a conversation were a book, you could just mark the page/dialogue to pick up again later.  You would not lose your spot, and you would not have to hear the same thing over again. Unfortunately, you can’t put a bookmark in someone’s mouth. I can’t imagine that sliding a bookmark (no matter how pretty) between a person’s flapping lips, would be deemed socially acceptable, funny though it might be.

Picture 10.13.15

After all of this, however, I certainly acknowledge and embrace the fact that holding actual conversations with people is enjoyable as well as necessary. There are certainly moments in life when you need people, and that comforting look or gesture can do wonders for a weeping soul. For all of a book’s merits, it can’t smile at your joys; it can’t hug you back; and it certainly can’t wipe that tear off your wet cheek.

Yes….I’m Buying 10 Sticks of Deodorant

One of the benefits of on-line shopping, besides not having to change out of your comfy flannel pajama pants and warm hoodie to brave the arctic blasts of winter, is the lack of a human cashier. Now I don’t mean to sound rude or anti-social, nor am I trying to eliminate anyone’s job, but I do have a pet peeve involving some cashiers…they can be SO DARN NOSY! Yes, I’m depositing all of the objects that I want to purchase on your conveyor belt or counter. Yes, there is no hiding what I am buying. Yes, I am a human being who might help end your boredom, however, why do some cashiers find it necessary to make a comment about one or more, or all of the items a person is purchasing? What makes this bottle of Tylenol, that box of Kleenex, or that bar of soap SO interesting that you have to comment about each item you scan? Sometimes I feel like someone must have stuck a, “Please make unnecessary, and possibly embarrassing, comments about every item I am buying,” sign on my forehead.

I was in a certain bookstore some time ago buying some of my favorite tea and a book. All I wanted to do was buy said items, get in my car, and go home. Unfortunately, I saw that I was next in line for the chatty cashier who thinks he’s auditioning for a spot on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” There is nothing funny about the tea I am buying nor the book I am going to read, yet he just finds it all so hilarious. I try to hide my derision, fight back the eye roll, grunt a couple times before finally being allowed to pay and get the heck out of there. Full confession…one time I returned a book back to the shelf because Mr. Comedian was the only one at the checkout.

My mother has experienced this as well. She recently took 6 bottles of her favorite wine up to the register to purchase. Now my mom is certainly no lush, so these bottles will last months. There are perfectly good and innocent reasons for buying 6 bottles of wine at once: a large party, multiple gifts, grabbing a bottle or two for oneself as well as some friends, or simply stocking up since the wine is on sale, as was the case with my mom. So there was no need for the cashier to comment, “WOW…you must really like this wine to be getting so many bottles.” I suppose it’s not such a bad comment, but it was also completely unnecessary and none of the man’s business. To a sensitive person, it may even appear that he is insinuating some type of drinking problem.

I am sure that most times, these third degrees are all in an effort to be friendly and provide good customer service, but frankly, I’m good with a smile. A simple “hi” is completely acceptable. Anything more than that I can start to get a little uncomfortable and a little annoyed. I can only imagine how mortified I would be if I had to buy bulk toilet paper. In such cases (or in all cases, really) God bless self-checkouts!