Posts tagged ‘relationships’

May 11, 2015

#92) An open letter to the small businesses of America

Dear Small Businesses of America,

I would like to take this opportunity to respectfully request that you get your shit together.

Not all of you, of course. Some of you do everything you can and as a political independent who favors decentralized economies and who has several friends who own small businesses, I admire your collective efforts to provide top quality goods and services. Many of you are pillars of your communities. Some of you, however, have been disappointing me lately.

Without naming names it’s hard to provide specifics, but let’s just say this: if I walk into a restaurant and see a long line being slowly served by dour-faced employees, I’m marching my sorry ass across the street to the chain store where bright-eyed servers address me by name. Yes, it’s a bit Stepford-y, but when it comes to lunch, I’m happy to settle for a skin-deep experience if it’s pleasant (and more importantly quick). When I walk into your liquor store, I’m doing it because odds are you have beers other than Bud Light. Looking down on me because I haven’t read your wine blog doesn’t add to my experience and though I have to bite my lip to say it, more and more big boxes are jumping on the craft beer bandwagon.

Look, I get it. Owning a business is fucking hard. Democrats want to tax and regulate you into extinction; Republicans talk a great game about supporting small business but when the rubber hits the road they can never seem to get out of bed with the Fortune 500. Serve loyally and faithfully day in day out and no one notices; one off day and it’s all over Yelp. It’s not reasonable to expect that you will have the same enthusiasm five years in as the day you opened. All I’m asking is that you put your best foot forward.

I think of my favorite small businesses as friends. As a heterosexual male, getting my hair cut is simply an errand to check off the to-do list, but thanks to the Den and JH Color Machine, it’s now like getting to hang out with friends (with beer). Though I no longer live near Olives Gourmet Grocer (you may remember them from #30) the family-like vibe exuded by the store makes me want to go out of my way for their terrific Cubano.

Even good friendships have their ups and downs and most good people will forgive imperfections. We want the friendship to work, just as we want to see the little guys succeed. Some friendships just aren’t meant to last though, whether because of little things or the big things. If you forget your customers’ names, the clerks at the big store down the street will remember them, even if it’s just because corporate has ordered them to read your credit card.

Sorry to rant; remember I’m here for you.



September 21, 2014

#86) Facebook and the NFL: When sucking doesn’t matter

Everyone’s pissed off at the NFL. Everyone’s disgusted with Facebook. Everyone will be watching the NFL this Sunday and letting Facebook know about it.  Yes, despite–or perhaps because of–their efforts to alienate their fan/consumer bases, Facebook and the NFL aren’t going anywhere.

We hate them but we can’t look away. It’s more than the car-crash-staring instinct; it’s a true love-hate relationship. Nobody hates Myspace or baseball. You can only hate something or someone that you once truly loved.

We started loving football in the 1950s and 60s. Football looked better on television than baseball.  Baseball expanded, diluting the talent pool and bringing the game to cities where it didn’t have a chance, such as Miami*. Free agency meant that baseball teams no longer stayed together. World Series games started too late but the Super Bowl was always on a Sunday and the whole family could watch it. With far fewer games than any other sport, each one was an event. We’d anticipate them and spend Monday talking about what those damn Steelers should have done differently. The NFL became so big that it thrived even without a team in the country’s second biggest market, Los Angeles. Rotisserie leagues in baseball became a thing, but NFL fantasy leagues became a bigger thing.

We started loving Facebook in the late ’00s–April of 2008, to be precise, when it officially became the #1 most visited social network site. Myspace had shown us how easy and fun it can be to put together an online scrapbook of photos, websites, songs and pithy quotations, but it had become too messy and impersonal. Facebook made connecting with that kid you used to beat the crap out of (or perhaps vice versa) back in 8th grade simple and easy. Facebook translated better to smartphones.

Then, to use Facebook relationship status terminology, it got complicated. Facebook faced questions about the privacy of its users’ information. Naysayers pointed out that it was losing ground to Instagram and Pinterest. The user experience started to seem more about getting into political arguments with virtual strangers than reuniting with long lost friends. In the NFL, Janet Jackson happened. Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress happened. Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson followed. Yes, it got complicated.

Or did it?

As of this writing, Facebook is ranked as the second-most visited site in the world according to Alexa. The NFL saw a 7% increase in viewers of the first Thursday game of this season compared to the first Thursday game of last season. We may say that Facebook is dead and that the NFL only cares once its sponsors pull out. We’re going to watch anyways. According to Alexa, we’re going to spend an average of 27 minutes per day on Facebook this month. Some of us might even call 911 if we can’t log on. No number of poorly handled press conferences or allegations of privacy violations can change that.

It’s not that we buy in in spite of the fact that the NFL and Facebook suck. It’s not that we buy in because they suck. It doesn’t matter if the NFL and Facebook suck or not. We’re married to them. Myspace was our high school crush whom it was easy to leave when things didn’t work out; Facebook is our spouse.  Facebook and the NFL made good impressions on us when it counted and continued to not suck for long enough to convince us to spend the rest of our lives with them. Yes, some of us might get divorced–we all have the friend who has actually followed through on their plans to swear off Facebook and goes to the park on Sunday to feed the ducks while the rest of us watch ball–but most of us won’t. Years of marriage has taught us that fighting usually leads to great make-up sex.  Besides, is it really worth it just to have to file all of that paperwork and decide who gets what? We’ve all got better things to do.

Like watch the New York Jets and post about it on Facebook.

*Yes, I know the Marlins have won the World Series twice. Nobody gives a fuck.

December 13, 2013

#66) Embracing the Suck

Nancy Pelosi may be smarter than she looks.  In response to the latest federal government budget deal, the House Minority Leader encouraged her Democratic colleagues to “embrace the suck.”

What exactly does it mean to “embrace the suck?”  In this context, it’s about accepting circumstances and moving forward, acknowledging that things won’t always work out as you want.  In the political world, it could be interpreted as recognizing that while there will always be partisan bickering (and intra-partisan bickering), the job of all elected officials is to make America better. It can also refer to non-politicians who don’t see eye to eye but must work together: corporations; sports teams; musical groups; even friendships and marriages.

The use of “suck” as a noun may have its origins in the Marines; the phrase “welcome to the suck” was used frequently in the film “Jarhead.”  The suck is a situation that, well, sucks, but can also bring people together, as in the Marines.  While the suck might not be enjoyable while it’s going on, surviving it creates a bond among those who have experienced it.

The suck can definitely create positive results.  The tensions between John Lennon and Paul McCartney produced some of the Beatles’ best music.    Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant may hate each other, but they each won more rings together than separately.  The suck can also create personal growth and often those who overcome it can inspire others with their story.  If there was no suck, we wouldn’t enjoy the great moments of our lives.

Will Pelosi and her colleagues on both sides of the aisle embrace the suck?  Will the two parties start working together more efficiently and amicably in 2014?  There’s no way to know for sure, but in its own way, Pelosi’s phrase is a small step in the right direction.   Hopefully the suck will become an obstacle which both parties will work together to vanquish and not remain a response to a less than perfect situation.  All of us have to deal with the suck, regardless of our background.  Help in handling the suck can sometimes come from unlikely places.

April 5, 2012

#40) Learning from idiots, part 5/How not to complain, part 1: Samantha Brick

I don’t hate Samantha Brick because she’s beautiful.  I don’t hate her at all; in fact, I like this latest internet phenomenon, not because I agree or sympathize with her, but because she has provided some good life lessons.

For those of you who haven’t been online in a few days, Samantha Brick is a British woman who recently published an article about how tough it is to be beautiful.  She points out that she’s never been asked to be a bridesmaid because she’s more attractive than most of her friends; she’s lost out on promotions because of other female co-workers’ jealousy, and so forth.

Needless to say, there’s been quite a backlash, to say the least.  In fact, one might say that Brick’s fate is parallel to that of Alexandra “Asians in the Library” Wallace (remember her from last spring?) in that at best, she is ridiculed; at worst she is hated.  But unlike her American counterpart, Brick’s plight has some pretty good teachable moments.  The problem wasn’t entirely the point that she made: it was how she made it.

Right or wrong, Brick ‘s essay was based around an idea: sometimes, “having it all” isn’t as great as it seems.  In the right hands, perhaps it could have been developed into a piece that made readers open their eyes instead of roll them.  Brick’s problem wasn’t that she complained.  It was that she complained without any kind of humor, without taking any kind of responsibility, or without any kind of solution or elevation.

Humor is important, and you want the laughs to be with, not at you.  Brick doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor about herself; she speaks resentfully of her husband’s suggesting that she “laugh off bitchy comments from other women.”

She also has a double-standard when it comes to responsibility.  Apart from the fact that she apparently has never heard the phrase “you take the good with the bad”, she bemoans being judged “harshly on what I look like”, even as she describes her clothes in detail and seems to take enjoyment in bartenders paying her tab or strangers picking up her cab fare.

The main problem, however, is that, at the end of the day, Brick is really just complaining.  Even if she was ugly as sin, throwing herself a pity party probably wouldn’t have gotten her much sympathy.  Sorry to break it to you, Sam, but you’re not the only person in the world who has problems.  If you want to play the “my life sucks” game, there will always be someone who can beat you at it.  Complaints about life do not a story make; it’s when someone transcends bad circumstances and betters their own life and the lives of others that something has truly been accomplished.  The closest thing to a solution that Brick presents is the clock: she concludes by saying that she as she enters her 40s, she welcomes the “wrinkles and gray hairs that will help her blend into the background.”

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see about that.  I don’t wish Brick any ill will; she could be smoking hot or completely ugly, and my life would be the same.  However, I can’t help but speculate that, for whatever she may feel like she’s learned from the last few days, in the years to come Brick may experience some teachable moments of her own based on two of the world’s time-honored truths: You don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and be careful what you wish for.

January 21, 2012

#37) “Hello, VADGE!” – part 2: Betty Believe It

There’s an old joke: Q. How many militant feminists does it take to change a lightbulb? A. That’s not funny!

Yes, gender-based humor is a tricky thing.  But recently I came across a quote that would have to make even the most testosterone-choked males tip their caps and say, “Well played, my lady.”

Funny, yes.  But worth devoting a whole blog to?  Worth spending time discussing that could be spent on one of my other blogs?  Yes, too.

Why?  Because this is a great example of something that I think is lost on many: that humor is often the best way to make a point.  Most people would rather laugh than be lectured, right?  Yet so many people are completely dry and preachy when speaking their mind.  Humor can be a key element in bridging the gap between any two groups of people who don’t always see eye to eye: men and women, Republicans and Democrats, and Blacks and Jews.

We NEED to laugh; we NEED humor, and it’s not always going to be tasteful.  But in a way, being able to take or make a joke about oneself is the ultimate form of self confidence.  Woody Allen made it hip to be a neurotic Jew; Jeff Foxworthy brought rednecks out of the south and into the mainstream.  And at age 90, Betty White is still bringing the goods.  She can teach us all a thing or two about laughing at, and with, ourselves.

September 30, 2011

#26) “Hello…VADGE!”

Recently we were talking to a friend of ours who had just gotten into a relationship.  She liked this guy she had started dating, but felt he was a little bit passive in some areas…such as the bedroom.  She would be flirty, she was saying.  Affectionate.  A little bit teasing.  And he didn’t seem to be picking up on the signals.

“Look,” said M., “Sometimes you just need to be direct.”  She pointed just below her waist and said, “Hello…vadge!“*

This line has become somewhat of an ongoing joke with us, but it actually, I’ve found, has some interesting implications beyond its blueness.  I’ve come to adapt this crude nickname for female genitalia to stand for anything good that I have that’s right under my nose but is going unappreciated as I bemoan the things that I don’t have.  (After all, I don’t want to catch myself behaving like Kayla of post #25).  “Hello…vadge!” has become a mantra that reminds me that through all of life’s ups and downs there are things for which to be thankful.  Just as I’ve caught myself asking, “Is that all you got me?” I also catch myself resenting not having the successes and freedom I ultimately desire, but ignoring the world before me, desperately pointing to its undercarriage and saying, “Hello….VADGE!”

Another side of this phrase is how it empowers the one who says it.  There are times in life when you just have to be direct.  Don’t ask, don’t get: that’s how the universe works.   Fortunately for our friend, she did ask, although I’m guessing probably not with the exact phrasing that was suggested.  Did she get?  Let’s just say that we haven’t heard her complain about that aspect of her relationship since then.

*I’ve used the spelling I’ve seen used by Sarah Silverman, Denis Leary and several others.  I’ve always been partial to the shorter “vag”, but I can understand why this spelling is more phonetically user-friendly, rhyming with “badge”, “Madge”, etc.