When I was in college, finals time was filled with events for us to attend, typically as ways to de-stress. The one that stands out most was moonlight breakfast because it was my favorite–a free late-night breakfast served in the cafeteria–but I know there were plenty of other things. And this is a pretty common thing across college campuses. Paul’s sister Emily, who’s actually going to my alma mater, spent some time the other day playing with dogs they brought to campus. I’m jealous. I would’ve been all over that in college. Hell, I’d be all over that now.

Because 2016 isn’t done destroying everything yet, we had a funeral to attend today for Paul’s uncle’s dad. Afterwards, a member of the family hosted everyone for lunch, as is pretty typical, and we ended up at a table with some people from his side of the family we didn’t know. Paul’s dad happened to mention something to me about talking to Emily and hearing about the dogs, and the woman’s reaction was kind of…strange.

She started off by saying that kids who attend things like that weren’t “raised right.” When I explained they’re just little events throughout the week to help the kids de-stress, she said that they need to learn how to handle stress on their own. I was starting to get kind of irritated with her attitude about the whole thing at this point and made the point that it’s not the sort of thing where the events aren’t some sort of crutch, they’re just events and tools, really.

The conversation shifted after that, and had it not, I don’t think it would’ve gone so well. But I was surprised by how strongly she felt about it, and I’m confused as to how de-stress events that are usually pretty simple got conflated into essentially coddling–she didn’t use that word, but it was implied. It was as though in her mind, the school holding any sort of event at all to help with stress was going too far, especially given her comment about students needing to learn to manage stress themselves, but it’s not like these events stop them from being able to do that. Really, they’re nothing more than opportunities for them to de-stress on their own, especially for kids who might be stuck on campus without a car and little to no money to go out and do something otherwise. The school isn’t holding their hand and guiding them through how to handle the stress, it’s merely providing an opportunity for them to actually do it. I’m sure the kids who went knew damn well they’d enjoy it and didn’t need a university to tell them that, and I don’t see it as being much different than being an adult coming home to a pet after a long day.

Even if it were a matter of providing some guidance on how to alleviate stress, I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all, particularly if you’re taking young adults who aren’t quite out in the world yet and are teaching them healthy ways of doing it. I understand the importance of people learning how to cope on their own, but some people turn to terrible, unhealthy ways of doing that, and there’s nothing wrong with giving these kids a little nudge in the right direction. It’s not coddling, it’s not babying, it’s not “PC culture,” it’s not that kids these days are wimps who can’t handle anything–it’s a good, helpful thing to do, especially if you end up with kids abusing drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism who might carry that into adulthood. Guidance isn’t a bad thing.

I went to some of those events in college myself, and I appreciated the opportunity to go to them because it got me out of my dorm and at least out doing something else. And here I am, a functional adult who does, in fact, know how to handle stress despite my school holding those events. I rarely get stressed these days as it is, and when I do, I know what helps with it. I even know that if I get too overwhelmed or I just need a little push, I can schedule with my therapist, but I’m gonna guess that people who have a problem with puppies on a college campus probably have a problem with people seeking professional help, too.

The whole thing was blown completely out of proportion, really. I think part of the issue may have been that Paul’s dad specifically said “service dogs,” so I think maybe she misinterpreted their role on the campus and the purpose of the event and thought that it was a little more serious than it actually was.

I also find it kind of funny that someone got as worked up about de-stress events as she did. Maybe she could benefit from them herself.

Man, wedding planning is annoying. With how quickly venues book, I keep feeling like I’m in a rush until I get this thing booked. I have to keep reminding myself that worst-case scenario, we can get married on a Friday–the venue we liked is free pretty much every Friday next summer. I just get antsy when I don’t hear from people as quickly as I’d like, and I obviously have no idea what to expect or what’s the norm here.

But the good news is we did get in to look at a venue, and we really liked it. Barring some catastrophe, it’s the winning venue. The way their booking works is you can put your name down temporarily for a date and you have so long to decide, but they never really take you off unless someone else wants that date. Then they get back in touch with you and you have 24 hours to decide, at which point they send you the contract. You have some more time to mull that over before it’s all final. So we’re in for a request for June 3, and we’re just waiting to here if the couple who wanted it first still want it. In the meantime, I realized that’s one of my cousin’s birthdays and I’d rather not get married on someone’s birthday (or anniversary), so my plan has been to call and ask to put in for another day. Problem is Paul and I have both been working late every day and haven’t been able to call before they close, so I might send a quick e-mail to at least make some progress.

Like I said, though, worst-case scenario is a Friday wedding, which I’d be okay with. It would also eliminate the possibility of a Catholic wedding, which is a convenient excuse, as far as I’m concerned. I mean, I’ll have to hear about it for the rest of our lives from Paul’s mom, but you can’t make that woman happy. Nor should you waste your time trying.

Our tour was at 3 on Saturday and lasted a whopping half hour, and we had Jukebox the Ghost tickets for 9, and they were close enough to each other that there was no point in going home and going back out that way. Initially, I thought, “Damn, don’t want to do those things on the same day,” but I also didn’t want to have to wait another week to go, especially after being dicked around for like two weeks by another venue–which still has me irritated, thinking I could’ve had this whole booking a venue thing done a good bit ago. So I said, “Fuck it, we’ll cram it all into one day,” and that was that.

By the time the tour ended and taking into consideration travel time and my desire to get to concerts when doors open–at least for general admission–we had a solid four hours to kill, which was doable. So we started with an early dinner at Bahama Breeze, which neither of us has ever been to and we chose mostly because it sounded beachy and fun. It was also delicious. So another like hour and a half killed.

Then we went to the mall, at which point I realized a store we’d wanted to visit was actually in a different mall. But hey, we still had plenty of time to kill! So we dropped off recycling and went to the second mall, which was conveniently only like 15 minutes from the venue.

I was looking for hiking pants–they’re waterproof with pockets, unlike 99% of most other athletic-type pants they sell for women. The goods news is I found some. The bad news is they were 100 bucks, and I’m not willing to spend that. I’m not spending that much money on pants to wear in the woods. Nope.

So we left for our concert and were actually there early. We were early for our tour in the afternoon, too. Someone please give us an award. Positive reinforcement!

Jukebox the Ghost was pretty much amazing. Probably the best show of theirs I’ve seen, and they’re one of those bands that you don’t think can actually get much better live. But they did it.

It’s a shame, though, that they consistently have rude fans show up to their Pittsburgh shows. Last year, when they were here on Valentine’s Day, I had to spend the whole show next to a girl who made fun of people around her the whole time. This time, things seem mostly okay, but I’m pretty sure I caught girls behind us mocking Paul’s dancing. I’ll be the first to admit he’s a godawful dancer and will be getting professional lessons before we wed, but that doesn’t mean I’m okay with watching someone mimic him. It’s rude.

And then I watched the same fucking thing happen with a separate set of people. There was this girl in front of us who’d been dancing pretty hard all night. Honestly, I loved it. Enthusiasm like that is always really fun to see, and I love seeing people who are just truly having a good time–which is also why I get so irritated with people making fun of others in general, especially with Paul, who has depression and is getting to escape that for a couple hours. But there was this group of three people–two guys and the one guy’s girlfriend–who near the end of the show started inching their way over. Which is a concert pet peeve of mine in itself. Don’t just shove your way forward for people who have been standing in a spot for hours. It’s rude. But something about him looked shifty, like he was trying to do more than just dick everyone out of their spots. And I was right. He got right up next to that girl and because of the way she had her head positioned, she didn’t see, but her mimicked exactly what I was doing, and I shot him a glare, which I think he saw. And I think the girl’s friends saw what he did, too, because someone who was with her tapped her on the shoulder and pulled her back, and after that, she was a little toned down with her dancing for a little bit. She did ultimately move to the other side. I was actually gonna tell her she could stand in front of us and to dance her little heart out. The best part is, the girl the two guys were with looked when she saw her move and looked at me and shrugged, like she couldn’t understand why she’d moved. Did you not just see what your boyfriend did to her? Are you really confused as to why a girl would move away from people who not only crowded into her space but made fun of her, too?

What kills me about this is they weren’t exactly good, normal dancers, either. It’s one thing if you’re the type to just stand there and bob your head, but it’s another if you shame someone for doing what you yourself are doing, too.

The thing is, making fun of someone at a concert is, like, one of the top dick moves in the universe in my book because it’s so pointlessly malicious. You’re singling out people who are having a good time and just purely letting go, taking in live music, and enjoying yourselves. Why is your reaction to be rude? Don’t get me wrong, I love the people-watching at concerts and I’m guilty of pointing people out to, say, my mom, but it’s never to make fun of them or make them feel bad–I’m usually genuinely entertained and enjoying their energy. I love seeing people dance at concerts, even if they look like jackasses. I don’t understand what possesses someone to prey upon that. If that’s what you’re gonna do, do us all a favor and stay the fuck home.

On Rape Jokes and Disrespecting Your Own Followers

A while ago, I found this great site that sold some nerd-related apparel that I really, really loved. Naturally, I made it a point to like their Facebook page–a lot of smaller sites like this one will post their coupon codes up their, and coupons are great. Now, the Facebook page also had a healthy dose of memes and the like, but things took a turn over the weekend, to the point the I’ve decided to leave the page and take my business elsewhere.

They posted a brief comic strip in which Neo from The Matrix is told to choose the red pill or blue pill and after choosing wakes up, having been raped by Bill Cosby. How delightful!

When it comes to rape jokes, I tend to lean on the side of no, especially in this case. Jokes made at Bill Cosby’s expense I get, but this was a little more explicit. And naturally, it started a mess of arguments and fighting on the page, the bulk of it being disputes about what is and is not offensive. Women were speaking up and saying the post perpetuated rape culture–which I’m inclined to agree with–men and women were both accusing people of being too sensitive and easily offended, and women claiming to be rape victims themselves were on all ends of the spectrum, from those who were uncomfortable with it to those saying the women who had a problem with it didn’t speak for them. Basically, the usual for an internet disagreement of any type. Swap out the subject matter and it happens on all social media daily.

Thing is the tone os immense disrespect was, quite frankly, astonishing. I’ve said this before, but I think the knee-jerk reaction of “people are too sensitive and easily offended” is unfair at best, dismissive at worst. I think every single one of us has had moments where we’ve been surprised by what offended someone, but we also all have our own soft spots and weaknesses that others might not get. Whenever someone expresses discomfort or hurt at something, even if it’s just an internet meme, we have a responsibility as humans to at the very least take a step back and listen to what they’re saying. If you do that and disagree, fine, but it’s better than invalidating someone’s feelings.

And the thing with rape jokes–especially one so visual and explicit–is that it’s not a simple matter of offense. It was an image that certainly could’ve and I’m sure did remind some women of their own rapes. Maybe it triggered a flashback or panic attack. These are the kinds of things we have to keep in mind, and that’s why one of the biggest offenses I saw in the comments was a man who reposted the comic every single time someone took issue with it, which to me reeks of immature, careless, and ignorance. Again, this isn’t merely an issue of someone disliking the content, it’s an issue of some women being forced to relive a traumatic experience because someone thought it was funny, and I can’t imagine how that must feel. When I was discussing this whole thing with a friend who’s been raped, she asked me to show her the comic, and it was rough enough even to me that I felt the need to warn her before I sent it to her. It should be a red flag as to the kind of content it is when people feel the need to warn each other before viewing it, especially considering it’s something that’s meant to be funny.

At the same time, I get where women are coming from when they say, “I’m a rape survivor, I find this funny, and you don’t speak for me.” True enough. But the women speaking out do speak for someone, even if it’s just themselves. Everyone handles things differently, and power to the women who are able to laugh at such a comic and move on–I mean that sincerely. But not all women can do that, and it’s not fair to ignore their thoughts on the matter or suggest they’re somehow in the wrong for what bothers them and for choosing to say something about it.

It would be one thing if that was the extent of it–and if it was, I probably wouldn’t have cared enough to post about it. But the thing is, the page admins/business owners themselves got in on the discussion, and I was amazed and disgusted by what I saw play out.

I watched these admins publicly shame, insult, make fun of, and disrespect almost anyone who dared take issue with the post. I understand defending your stance, but the extreme to which they took it just seemed so childish and downright nasty. It almost would’ve been better for them to say nothing if they wanted to stand by the post rather than defend it in such a mean, immature way. Their attitude about the whole thing is one of the reasons I’ve decided not to name the page or business–they seemed to thrive off of people telling them they were leaving the page, and they painted them as rude partypoopers and praised the people who were on their side. I felt that should they see this post, I’d become another person to openly mock on their page and they’d take my dissent as a kind of badge of honor.

What surprises me the most is that this is coming from a business–people looking to make money off the very people they’d just offended and insulted to the point of driving them elsewhere. And that was what bothered me more than anything. I may not have liked the fact that they posed the comic in the first place, but that alone didn’t lead me to spend my money elsewhere. Nope, it was the disrespect shown to their own page’s followers, to people disagreeing with them and rather respectfully explaining why. The immaturity shown in turning that dissent into a joke. The carelessness of all of it.

I might’ve even let it slide if not for the fact that this is not the first time I’ve seen this happen on this page. I can’t remember the exact circumstances at this point, but there was an incident where a transgender individual took issue with some word choice. And rather than listen and make amends, nicely defended themselves, or respectfully disagree, they did something very similar to what happened over the weekend–they made fun of the person publicly on the page, let the page’s followers join in, and completely dragged them through the mud.

I believe in a “three strikes” type policy in a lot of areas of life, but I was so disgusted my this second offense that I didn’t want to sit around and watch strike three happen. There’s no need for that kind of behavior, there’s no excuse for it, and I’m certainly not going to reward them for it by giving them my money.

I also wasn’t the only person put off by this. I noticed a few comments sarcastically wishing them luck with business, and I interacted directly with another woman who shared my views almost exactly and went so far as to say she questions what their customer service must be like if that’s they way they treat people.

Take heed, businesses–you don’t have to agree with every single person you interact with online, but you should still be respectful. How you treat people sends a message, and when you treat people poorly, it’ll lose you business.

Hope you enjoyed mine while it lasted.

Adventures in Internet Assholery

I guess it started late last week.

There’s an ultra conservative, popular Twitter account whose retweets make their way into my feed every so often thanks to a Donald Trump parody account I follow. I’ve replied a few times–she’s posted some pretty blatantly ignorant things about things like Black Lives Matter. Then she posted some things personally attacking Hillary Clinton, specifically making jokes about her having cankles and being bid on by a hog farmer in Iowa.

Now, these are the kinds of things I don’t think are appropriate when discussing politics, and one of the reasons I love Bernie Sanders so much is because of his refusal to attack his opponents like that, especially when we have people like Donald Trump finding ways to insult Rosie O’Donnell in political debates. These statements not only cross lines, but they contribute nothing. They say nothing about an issue, and I actually think they say more about the person saying them to begin with than they do the politician. Don’t get me wrong, I think we’re all guilty of it at some points, but there’s a difference between letting something slip and relentlessly attacking an individual. There’s also a difference between what one says in private conversation and what one says publicly on the internet, but that’s a separate issue. Sort of.

The point is, I said something about it–two replies to two tweets, one about the cankles and the other about the hog farmer. My first tweet said disagreement was fine but personal attacks like this are rude and disrespectful, and the second said the Tweeter was just being mean. Like I said last week or so in a somewhat related post, I’m a believer that it’s not right to sit silent while people are nasty on the internet.

This must’ve hit a nerve. A day or so later, I woke up to find that she had publicly replied to me.

I have mixed feelings on the art of the public reply. I’ve seen it used by celebrities against trolls, but there’s something about it that’s very, very deliberate, especially having been on the receiving end of it now. Sometimes, it’s appropriate, and it can be a good way to address something that’s worth letting your whole feed see. A good example of that was an actress that I follow was recently accused of slut-shaming for criticizing girls who think dressing provocatively is the only way to be sexy–and for the record, I agree with her statements and disagree that it was slut-shaming. But said actress defended herself by linking to tweets and replying to them publicly in her feed, which had the advantage of all her followers, including those making similar arguments, being able to see what she was saying as opposed to her saying the same thing to God knows how many people had similar opinions.

In my case, though, I felt like it was done solely as an attempt to shame me because there was no real need for it otherwise–plus it was done two or three times. It’s also worth noting that my previous tweets over the course of maybe a few weeks or days actually disagreeing on specific issues went ignored, so I find it interesting that the comments that got her attention and were deemed deserving of a public shaming were ones questioning her character.

Now, her replies themselves were interesting. Remember, this was only about personal attacks–I had not responded to something that, say, blamed Clinton for Benghazi. In fact, none of the tweets I responded to had anything to do with Benghazi or actual politics or policy, and although I admittedly didn’t follow her and only popped in when I saw retweets, I never once saw anything discussing the actual issue. Just personal attacks, mostly criticizing appearance. But guess what I got ripped for? Thinking a murder deserves respect and not caring about children. And I still don’t understand what that one was about.

The thing is I’m not even saying one has to have respect for Clinton, or even speak well of her in private. Or even publicly, necessarily–what I’m saying is that joking about a female politician having cankles and being bid on by a hog farmer isn’t okay. It’s unnecessarily mean, for one thing, and it contributes nothing at all. If someone really cares about an issue, that’s what they should be speaking about, not attacking someone, especially if you want to be listened to and taken seriously. Otherwise, you’re just intentionally perpetuating negativity for no other reason than to just do it.

The backlash I got from her followers was admittedly mild–of the thousands she has, I got maybe around 20 replies, and most weren’t personal attacks. In fact, it was more like if you cloned my dad and gave each clone a Twitter account. Sure, there was one guy who told me I could “go to prom” if I was “a good girl” and that I needed to grow up, which is funny considering the tweets I’d criticized weren’t the kinds of things mature adults should say. Most of it was just trashing Clinton, partly out of an assumption that I support her. One man called her my “precious Hillary,” plenty called her a liar, another said she needs to be in prison for murder. More than anything, though, it was packed with assumptions about what I believe and stand for. Being a Clinton supporter is a pretty obvious one, but it’s kind of amazing how many people think speaking out about rudeness means you don’t care about any other issues. Plenty of people suggested that I don’t care about the Americans killed in Benghazi. I do. But like I said, my tweets and the tweets they were replying to didn’t have a thing to do with Benghazi. Not a single mention of Benghazi was to be seen, in fact, until the attempt at publicly shaming me. One man even went so far as to ask me “why the selective outrage” over this and not the dead Americans.

I wasn’t outraged–that was an assumption, too. I’ll grant that being limited to 140 characters can make tone hard to convey, but two pretty calmly worded tweets are hardly outraged. In fact, I’d say the true outrage came from this woman and her followers.

I touched on this before when I talked about Cecil the lion, but it’s perhaps even more relevant now–me sending out two tweets out of the thousands on my account over the years can hardly be called “selective outrage.” Two tweets are not representative of everything else I’ve had to say, on Twitter and elsewhere. Me calling out someone’s rudeness does not mean that’s the only thing I care about, and the implied moral superiority coming from those who suggest otherwise is really frustrating. My attention was on that subject in that moment, and I said two things and didn’t think about it again until I woke up to 20+ notifications. This does not mean other things don’t matter to me, just like people talking about Cecil the lion doesn’t mean they don’t care about other issues, either.

When I told this guy I was gonna block him, he criticized me for being “unable to engage in discourse,” but that was kind of my point all along–this was not discourse. Attacking me and making assumptions about what I care about is not discourse. Attacking a politician’s appearance is not discourse. The closest thing I got to proper discourse was someone who sent me screenshot from an article about a book about Clinton, discussing the way she spoke to her staff. Now, if it’s true, it involved lots of yelling and swearing at them, which I’m not okay with. But the excerpt’s point was less “she’s rude to her staff” and more “sometimes she uses cuss words, therefore she is unfit to be President.” And that’s just a ridiculous thing to say. You mean to tell me every other candidate in both parties is a saint who’s never so much as uttered a “damn”? Hell, Bernie said it in the middle of a debate, and it got the biggest cheers of the night. Swear words have zero impact on one’s ability to lead. I’m more concerned about policies and respect for people.

I found two things upsetting about this whole mess. For the most part, I wasn’t really upset by anything said to me, with the exception of the assumptions. But I was bothered by the fact that so many of the tweets I was mentioned in got favorited and retweeted. Even though they weren’t that bad, it was really, really bizarre to see people actually enjoying seeing this play out.

This speaks to the second thing I found upsetting, which is the fact that these people all thought personal attacks are okay, that only one woman–and if I remember right, the only woman–saw the same problem I did. People not only seem to think nastiness is acceptable, but they’re willing to defend it and rationalize it. Well, to a point.

See, the thing is that people were quick to come at me but backed down when I defended myself. I didn’t respond to all of them, but of the ones I did, I believe only one kept going at me, and that was the guy who accused me of the “selective outrage.” Not a single other person had anything else to say to me. In fact, when I went back through to block people for my sanity, I found that one man in particular had already blocked me–and I hadn’t even replied to his comment. He actually blocked me either right before or right after he tweeted at me. How cowardly can you be?

This wasn’t the only internet nastiness I’ve dealt with over the last few days, but as this is long, I’m gonna cut it off. But I’ll say this–the matter of people backing down when you defend yourself was not unique to Twitter or this issue, nor was the idea of disrespect and personal attacks being both acceptable and justified. I noticed another trend, which is that most of the nastiness, though admittedly not all, comes from and is defended by men. Most of the people agreeing with me? Women. Huh.

On the next episode(s?) of “Adventures in Internet Assholery,” we delve into trigger warnings, Caitlyn Jenner Halloween costumes, and paid maternity leave/taxes.

On Livin’ in Sin

It never really occurred to me to be grateful for my parents’ leniency and open-mindedness until, well, now.

Okay, that might not be entirely true–the gratitude started creeping in when I got my first real tastes of Paul’s mom’s overbearing tendencies. My parents and my friends’ parents were pretty similar my whole life. They may have differed on some details and my parents were a little more steadfast when it came to their rules, and I’ve often said I had a “heathy fear” of them. I knew if I fucked up, there would be consequences, but I never felt like I had to lie or hide things. Until Paul, I never met anyone who truly had strict, difficult parents. My dad’s attitude was, “You’re over 18, you do what you want.” Paul’s 25 and his mom still coddles him. One of the other things I’ve often said is that my parents raised us with the knowledge we’d have to survive on our own day, but Paul’s raised him with the hope he’d never need to.

One of the things that came out of family catch-up sessions at the wedding last weekend is the fact that one of my cousins somewhat recently moved in with her boyfriend, who she’s been seeing for I guess close to two years now, maybe longer. My mom was actually the one who told me, and she told me my aunt’s not happy about it. From the rumblings on Twitter, I wasn’t the only cousin to find out from her mother–but my mother does seem to be the only one who’s not upset by her daughter livin’ in sin.

Like I said, I was never really grateful for that until now.

Paul and I expected blowback from his mom when he moved in with me, but by some miracle, it has yet to come. We still expect it to be thrown in our faces one day when she’s in a mood and yelling about something else, but for now, all we’ve heard is, “I’m not gonna say anything.” Which is admittedly still sort of a passive-aggressive way of expressing her disapproval of the situation, but I was just glad that was all we got, with the exception of statistics about higher divorce rates among couples who lived together first. Because nothing says, “I support you as a couple” quite like, “I’m afraid you’ll ultimately get a divorce if you live together first.”

My dad told me maybe once that he’s “not happy” about it, which I found to be hypocritical. I was conceived out of wedlock.

But this did make me a little nervous that my mom was displeased. But when I asked one night–with a little alcohol in me–she gave me some variation of “I don’t care.” She actually said she prefers it to me living alone. She didn’t say this outright, but the implication is that she worries about me less.

Apparently, this is an attitude unique to my mom in the family. As much as I’m grateful for it, I feel bad for my fellow cohabitating cousins. I don’t know if they’re hassled about it regularly, but I feel bad that they’ve had to hear the little bit they have. For one, it was “I give wedding gifts, I give shower gifts, but I don’t give shacking up gifts” when my cousin told her that her boyfriend’s mom bought them silverware. For another, when she said, “It is what is,” her mom replied, “And it ain’t what it ain’t.”

I get why they disapprove, especially with our Catholic upbringing and Catholic families. What I don’t get is why if one girl from each of the families–and in two of those families, the only girl–living together is such a scandalous thing. But there’s also a level of it that treads over into telling someone how to live their life. And even if it’s a parent telling their adult child, it’s still an adult child. And at this point, the three of us are in our mid-20s, working, supporting ourselves, and in long-term relationships. At least two of us have said outright we don’t feel like we need to get married to solidify the relationship, but I’ve admitted I’m open to doing it, mostly because I know Paul wants to, although the thought of actually planning a wedding sounds like a whole lot of shit I don’t want.

Of course, having been together for years at this point, people keep asking when we’re gonna get married or why we haven’t get married. And I never put much thought into this until one of the cousins pointed it out, but it’s kind of a rude question to ask. The way she put it, there isn’t a deadline. The way I see it, five years doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready for marriage, especially if you step back and look at where the couple was in their lives at various stages in that five-year relationship. For Paul and I, that’s meeting at 19 and 20, respectively–we both celebrated our birthdays the summer we started dating. I turned 21, he turned 20. That meant my senior year of college was the first year we dated. That meant that even after I graduated, he still had another year to go. That meant that I was going out into the workforce. And the way things worked out, it also meant two moves–one out of my parents’ house and into Pittsburgh, then out of Pittsburgh and into my current place. And then it was Paul’s turn to graduate and go out into the world, his turn to move out, which brings us to now. There may have been points where getting engaged would’ve been feasibly, but not actually planning or holding a wedding. Honestly, looking back on all of it, there’s not a single good point until now where both of our lives were in the same place, where we would’ve been able to focus on wedding planning. And I’m sure if you ask most married couples if they thought we ought to get married in the midst of any of that, they’d have said no. But suddenly, if you ignore all that and look solely at the amount of time we’ve been together, that’s all that matters.

And I know this hectic experience of not being ready isn’t unique to me, obviously. I may not know every detail of my cousins’ lives over these years, but I know they, too, have included school and job changes and moves.

But then there’s the fact that the question of marriage coming from others, at least in this specific situation as it relates to cohabitation, is a selfish one.

Sure, I have no doubt that our families want to see us happy and see marriage as a milestone, but there are absolutely underlying issues. When most people ask me or my cousins about when we’ll be getting married, they’re not asking because they’re anxious on our behalf because they want us to experience it, because they see marriage as a sacrament in the church or a gift or a union or whatever other positive things marriage can be–they’re asking because they want us to get married. And if you think that’s reading too much into the issue, spend five years with a person without even getting engaged and then pay attention to how often you get asked about it and why.

Paul’s mom brings it up more and more these days–at first it was subtle, and now it’s not. The last time it was a very blatant, “Let me see your hand. Do you have a ring yet?” For her, part of it might be the issue of cohabitation. I don’t know. But I know she wants it for her, and I know she’s anxious for grandkids already.

One of my cousins went so far as to say her parents want her to get married just to make themselves feel better so she’s not livin’ in sin anymore. And as harsh as that sounds, I do think there’s some truth to it. Obviously, my situation with my parents is different, but one can’t help but consider why their parents are pressuring them to get married when they’re pretty open about disapproving of cohabitation.

And the thing is, if and when we do start getting married, that’s probably not going to help–sure, my parents won’t say anything to me, but my poor cousins might get a fresh round of anger and pressure, assuming it doesn’t start with two weddings coming up next year.

When it comes to extended-family dynamics of love, cohabitation, and marriage, there are no winners.

On Social Media and Insulting Fans

There’s a good chance I’ve talked about this or similar issues before, but whatever.

Pretty much no one needs reminded that the internet, social media, and Facebook especially can be very negative places. Personally, I’ve done a pretty good job of paring down my friend list and cutting out the biggest offenders, from racists and bigots to a man who personally attacked me for my beliefs to a former classmate who referred to transgender individuals as “shim” or “it” AND said Penn State students deserved settlement money from the Sandusky sexual-abuse case for their student loans to frenemies. But Facebook is still full of people who act like assholes simply because they can, or maybe because they’re just really unhappy and don’t know what else to do. Seriously, I am a firm believer in the idea that excessive complainers and trolls are really just unhappy and are either trying to bring everyone down with them or are just lashing out because they don’t know what to do with their emotions.

But I digress.

Arguing with such people is often pointless and exhausting, but I’m also a firm believer that if you stay silent in the midst of racism or sexism or homophobia or just plain rudeness, you’re only a small step down from the one doing the talking. You’re letting it happen, for the most part, at least in the context of the internet. Naturally, the issue isn’t quite as simple when speaking up might endanger you, and granted, on the internet, things like calling yourself a feminist can get you death threats.

I choose my battles. I deleted all those friends because I was tired of the negative impact their posts were having on me as a person and because frankly, much as I believe we all ought to speak up, it can be really damn hard–not everyone feels like jumping into an argument every time the opportunity presents itself. Whether or not I do so is random. I’m more inclined to, say, jump in and call my brother out on something shitty than I am a distant relative, although my brother is fortunately not that much of an asshole that it’s an issue. Just don’t tell him I said that.

A huge, huge part of why I believe in speaking up is because I would hate for someone to be scrolling through their Facebook feed and be hurt by comments made about their race, gender, gender identity, sexuality, pretty much anything. If they have to see it, I’d like them to see something positive, too, to know that there are people supporting them and that care.

And even though in the grand scheme of things, a dude trolling a band and its fans is very, very minor, I couldn’t just sit by and watch a guy be an asshole today.

I’ve been a fan of local band Punchline for probably more than 10 years now–I remember hearing local DJs play “The World” at middle-school dances, and then in high school, they opened for I think Anberlin at Mr. Smalls theater. They played “The World,” and I was like, “Oh, those guys!” and have been a fan pretty much ever since. So has Brandon. We stopped counting how many of their shows we’ve been to, and my favorite April Fools’ joke I pull every year is that they broke up. He believes me every damn year.

They’re putting out a new album. They’ve been alt-rock/pop-punk up to now, and they said they’re gonna go in a new direction now–like how Mumford and Sons ditched the banjos and went electric, except Punchline ditched their electric guitars and went a little more electropop. I was nervous about the switch, but their newest song, “Tell Me How You Sleep,”  is really catchy and well-done, and I’m pleased and excited to hear more. If anything, I just miss their kind of unique take on pop-punk–I was a fan of their guitars–and I’m wondering how the live shows will be. It’s what happens whenever a band makes a pretty big sound change, honestly. Almost anyone who’s been a fan of any musician knows the feeling. It’s not about disliking the new stuff, it’s not about preferring one era over another, it’s about an adjustment period as a fan.

I fully expected some backlash to the song, and I’m sure the band did, too. Not everyone’s gonna like it, especially when it’s so different from what we’re used to from the band. So when I was doing a Facebook scroll-through and saw the post about “Tell Me How You Sleep,” I figured I’d pop in and see what people had to say.

Honestly, it was mostly positive. Some people admitting it wasn’t their thing but wishing the band the best, some polite expressions of not really liking it. But I kept noticing this one dude’s name pop up over and over again, like he just couldn’t stop letting people know how much he disliked it. He started by comparing the song to Owl City–which I personally find to be a strange, almost outdated comparison since I haven’t even thought about Owl City in years and because with the electronic sound so big in music right now, there are so many other more accurate and more relevant comparisons one could make. But whatever. The problem was this guy just kept going, and he was going beyond mere dislike of the song to insulting both the band and their fans. And I couldn’t just let him keep on keepin’ on. It was annoying. It was rude. It was unnecessary.

So as politely as I could think to, I told the guy that he’s free to dislike the song and free to express that but that he was getting a little mean for no reason, that it was a really, really different sound and some people weren’t going to like that but there was no need to continuously leave negative comments. He came back with saying it wasn’t different at all, that it sounds like tons of other stuff out there–which wasn’t what I meant–and that it was an embarrassment to the band. Another guy chimed in agreeing with me, calling the guy an embarrassment to the band’s fans, and the guy said he wasn’t a fan. The post was a sponsored one that popped up on his feed and that he was doing us all a favor by pointing out how bad it was.

I correct him on the point of the sound being “different”–I told him I’d meant that it was different than their previous material, under the assumption that he was a disappointed fan, but that I now saw he was really just interested in insulting anyone and trolling, really. And unless he was being sarcastic, he admitted that and essentially said the band abandoned their previous sound to latch on to what’s popular right now. In retrospect, it was long-winded way of calling them sellouts. And I don’t think any adult trying to have a legitimate discussion about music should be talking of selling out, no matter how roundabout the words they use for it.

In retrospect, it’s also kind of fascinating to me that he makes all these statements about the song and the sound and the band’s intentions as an admitted non-fan who knows nothing of the band’s background or the long post that made the rounds on the band’s social media the other day about the new sound.

But I didn’t think it was right to just sit back and let this guy shit all over a band and their fans. And insulting fans of just about anything is off-limits to me. I think we all get not understanding how/why something could even have fans, but it’s another thing entirely to insult them as people, unless we’re talking about things like fan behavior. It may be a tiny issue, but it’s still rude and condescending and it has zero place in a discussion about music.

The thing is–and I guess in some ways, this isn’t surprising–this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen with music. What’s more alarming, though, is that the last time I was bothered by it, it was actually comments a professional writer made in a professional review of Amanda Palmer, where insults really have no place or bearing. It was an interesting review all round. The writer sounded as though she went in already hating Amanda Palmer and only intended to rip her to shreds from the start, and rip her to shreds she did. But it wasn’t limited to Palmer’s music or even her performance. She actually went so far to say that Palmer’s fans are so blinded by their love for her, so stupid, that they don’t realize her music is actually terrible. Which again brings up the question of why you’re reviewing the show of a musician whose music you hate, but I also fail to see how that opinion of the fans is relevant. In fact, it’s downright unprofessional.

In the end, Punchline’s frontman validated my reasons for speaking up in the first place–he actually sent me a private message, saying he and his bandmate were wondering if anyone would stand up to the guy and thanking me for being the one to do it. It was nice to know they saw it and were maybe a bit uplifted by it.

On a related note, one of these days I plan to write an open letter to a girl I heard making fun of people at a Jukebox the Ghost show.

On the “Protective Dad” Trope

I went back and forth about whether or not I actually did want to write about this, and I’ve obviously landed back on the decision to do it–I basically thought, “Ah, fuck it, no reason not to.”

Maybe you’ve heard about the dad who told his daughter’s homecoming date, “Whatever you do to my daughter, I do to you,” and took a funny posed picture with his daughter’s date. Maybe you haven’t. Either way, this reaction to it perfectly echoes my own.

My first thoughts when I saw an article about it for the first time were something along the lines of, “Ugh, not this overprotective dad shit again. This is weird.”

I think part of me is just bored with it. I’ll be honest, I think the picture itself is actually pretty funny, but I’m uncomfortable with the concept of girls needing protected by their fathers in this context. Sure, women can face a lot of dangers and a lot of threats, but their homecoming dates generally aren’t one of them–and this is never framed as an issue of consent, either. It’s never about respecting the daughter’s wishes, whatever those may be, or respecting boundaries. It’s always about what the father wants and completely ignores the daughter in this situation. Daddy may not want a boy to so much as look at his daughter, but what if she’s into him? What if she wants attention from him? What if she wants to go to a dance or kiss or hug or do more? She’s allowed. Her father doesn’t own her any more than the boy does.

And this absolutely depends on the girl, her father, and their relationship, because no one seems to consider what it’s like actually have your dad play that role.

Personally, I hated it.

I only really ever remember my dad doing it twice. The first time was when Stephanie’s brother used to work at McDonald’s and my dad took my brother and I through the drive-through, coincidentally while Steve was working. Steve  had a habit of playful flirting–which continued on through college, pretty much–and he said, “Hi, Janelle,” in kind of a sing-song voice as we were slowly driving away. My dad slammed on the brakes and in a husky, deep, mostly put-on voice said, “How do you know my daughter?!”

The second time was in a mall shortly after he got back from Iraq, where we again saw someone I knew who happened to be working. This time, I was in high school and the guy was a slightly older male friend, and we chatted a bit–completely platonically. There was never even a hint of anything between us, and I’m almost positive nothing in our interaction suggested otherwise. But my dad took it upon himself to say, “I’ve killed before, and I’ll kill again.” It was a little funny at the time, but not all my feelings about it were positive.

Like I said, I hated it. Rather than feel protected, I felt embarrassed that he was butting in and apologetic that he was being rude to either my friends or my friends’ siblings. And especially now in retrospect, I don’t even believe he was honestly looking out for me–the way he acted out of character and modified his voice seemed more like a bullshit macho move, a put-on to look like a hardass. Maybe I’m wrong–I can’t read my dad’s mind–but I think it was more of a pissing contest than it was a sincere concern for the guys’ intentions or what might happen between us. I’m not saying my dad didn’t give a shit about me or something, I’m just saying showing dominance was more important.

On top of all of that, I was a shy, insecure teenage girl who, despite never really expressing this at the time, desperately wanted to date. Guys seemed uninterested and I was too shy and scared to make a first move, and even if I was uninterested in both of the guys my dad went into papa-bear mode over, he could’ve easily done it to a guy I was interested in if the opportunity presented itself. And the last thing a teenage girl looking for love wants is her dad poking around and possibly interfering or sabotaging her chances. And unfortunately, for some girls, this sort of overly masculine meddling doesn’t end with the teenage years. It’s also not limited to fathers and daughters, but all you need to do is read around on this blog a bit to get an idea of the other mother/son end of it.

My dad may have kept it to two dudes in my teen years, but my godfather was a little more extreme. I never really dated before my current boyfriend, Paul, and maybe Uncle Clark was just waiting for his chance the whole time. But he threatened Paul over the phone when we first started dating–albeit jokingly, but all my previous points still apply. Paul fortunately saw it more as concern for me, and in Uncle Clark’s case, I am more inclined to take it that way, but there’s a point where the “touch her and you die” joke stops being funny. It stops being funny when your godfather says, “Don’t touch her below the collarbone” without considering that maybe you want your first serious boyfriend to touch you, well, everywhere. It stops being funny when your godfather meets your boyfriend for the first time with a gun by his side while he’s drunk, even if it’s not loaded. It stops being funny when you can’t sit next to each other without being told you’re too close. It’s nice to know people care about you and don’t want to see you get hurt, but it’s frustrating at best when that gets taken to the extreme of your feelings for the guy in question being completely disregarded.

Funnily enough, the guys my dad and godfather deemed in need of a threat were never the guys that were a problem.

When my mom used to complain about my dad–or she used to chime in when I started the complaining first–one of the stories told frequently was a short, sweet anecdote about a dinner my parents had with my dad’s parents early in their relationship. My grandma said to my dad some variation of, “Denise is gonna get tired of the jokes just like I did.” And she did. Whether they should be or not, my parents are still together, and one of her biggest complaints is how everything is a joke. One of my brother’s biggest complaints is how everything is a joke. One of my biggest complains is how everything is a joke.

My dad’s sense of humor can be very childish. He’ll make the same jokes over and over again, and just like his own mother predicted, it gets old. But the more annoyed you get, the funnier he thinks it is, so asking him to stop is useless. It just makes the joke funnier. He likes to see people get wound up and angry, and sometimes, if you snap a little sooner than he expected, he’ll make another crack about you being “sensitive” or “touchy.” He’s one of a very, very few people I’ve ever encountered who just can’t honor a person’s requests to lay off the jokes because they’re getting annoying or hurtful.

I have a former friend I’ve written about a few times who is notorious among our (former) mutual friends for disrespecting women and their boundaries, for being a compulsive liar, and for very clearly using and manipulating women for sex, except almost every single one of us was smart enough to know what he was doing. Not only did I end our friendship over this, but I was once genuinely afraid of what he would do to me if he had the chance.

One of my dad’s favorite jokes is how because this guy is in the military, he surely can’t be guilty of any wrongdoing is a nice guy. And even though my dad knows every single thing this guy’s said and done to me–I’ve made it very clear and even been quite vulgar to get the point across, saying more than once “I thought I’d wake up pregnant with his dick in my mouth”–he still thinks this is an appropriate and funny joke, and I know the more I argue otherwise, the funnier it’s gonna be to him. And don’t get me wrong, this is an entirely an issue of my dad being a downright asshole, but this is exactly why I don’t believe he truly was protecting me when he threatened guys in the past. Maybe the fact that he threatened guys who were not, in fact, threats is pure coincidence, but the fact that he makes jokes about a guy who was a threat certainly is not a coincidence.

So, dads, listen to your daughters and consider what they actually want and what you’re actually doing when you put on the macho, “don’t you dare” act. You may think you speak for them, but you don’t.