Friday, December 26, 2014

Children's Social Etiquette in Decline

What's the etiquette on loud kids in public these days? Is that still a taboo, or are we now allowing this as a society? Are we letting it slide, like how marijuana isn't a big deal anymore, or you can say the S-word on cable TV after 10:00 pm?

It seems like children are louder and more obnoxious than they were 20 years ago. Or maybe I'm getting more curmudgeonly. Or more likely, both.

I'm getting less tolerant of the increasing number of children who shriek, scream, cry, kick, throw things, and shout "NO!" at parents who do a half-assed job of getting their kid to calm down.

When I was a kid, it was a social taboo for kids to misbehave in public. Nowadays, it seems the grownups who weren't allowed to be brats as kids are delighted to let their own kids be brats.

Meanwhile, people who don't appreciate having their quiet evening out spoiled by obnoxious brats aren't allowed to ask the parents to keep their kids quiet, because we're somehow questioning the parents' abilities.

Actually, we're totally questioning their parenting abilities, because they suck at keeping their kids quiet.

I was recently at a Christmas Eve service at church where four kids, all old enough to know better, were constantly shrieking and crying, demanding their parents' attention. A mom or dad would take the child out for two minutes, bring them back, only to take them out again because of more shrieking and crying.

It was more than distracting, it ruined the mood of the evening. There's nothing like hearing "O Holy Night," when you hear some kid across the sanctuary shriek "I WANT JUICE!"

And apparently, yelling "HEY KID, SHUT THE HELL UP, I'M TRYING TO HEAR ABOUT JESUS!" is distinctly frowned upon.

Or so I've been told.

Is it that the standards of acceptable behavior have changed? Is society allowing children to make an obnoxious spectacle of themselves? Or is there some new philosophy that allows little Caitlyn and little Jayden to loudly express themselves in a safe and nurturing space with helicopter parents who use phrases like "nurturing space?"

When I was a kid, we weren't allowed to run around after dinner. We sat until everyone was finished, which given the thoroughness that my dad chewed his food meant sitting until breakfast.

Even now, at 71, my dad chew each bite of food 50 times. I know this, because I counted, since there was nothing else to do except watch him chew and chew and chew.

And chew and chew and chew.

And chew and chew and chew.

Once, he only chewed his food 45 times, and I said, "what's your hurry?"

If my dad spends 30 minutes at each meal, he's spent roughly 4.45 years chewing his food.

(Seriously. I worked it out on a spreadsheet.)

I mention this to say I understand the drudging weariness every kid feels when they have to sit at the table and wait for everyone else. I know the agony of watching the clock actually move backward as your parents literally and figuratively eat into your only free time for the rest of the day.

I was just as impatient as their kids at that age. But that didn't mean I was allowed to get away with that kind of behavior in public, or at home.

We weren't allowed to leave the table, we weren't allowed to play games, and our parents didn't think it was necessary to keep us entertained every second. We learned to sit politely and wait until everyone was done.

My wife and I had the same expectations for our own kids when they were little. No getting up, no playing, no climbing in the booth. When we went out to eat, they sat quietly and colored before and after they ate.

My favorite part of going out though was when a nearby child would misbehave, and my kids would stare in wide-eyed disbelief at the little miscreant, as if he had just taken his pants off and sat in his dinner.

Maybe I am getting less tolerant as I get older, but I don't see why we can't expect children to behave themselves in public. Or why parents won't remove their loud children from a restaurant, church, or movie theater until the latest outburst is under control again.

I promise not to create my own spectacle by hollering at those parents and their miscreant children. But believe me, when I get home, I will write a strongly worded newspaper column about it! That'll show 'em.


Photo credit: Emran Kassim (Flickr, Creative Commons)

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
---

Like this post? Leave a comment.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Seven Secrets to Successful Marriage

Last week, my wife and I celebrated 21 years of marriage. Twenty-one years of ups and downs, good times and hard times. If our marriage were a person, it would be old enough to drink.

If it had been through what we've been through, it would want to.

Don't get me wrong, it's been a great marriage. I couldn't be happier. Not without a large influx of cash. Life is difficult sometimes, but we've managed to weather the storms.

In fact, our marriage has lasted 20.5 years longer than some people thought. Several of them expressed their concerns (butted in) that we (I) weren't right for each other (her), and that something sinister (my secular upbringing) could cause difficulties (send her sobbing back home to her parents).

But we've persevered, thrived, and supported each other as we raised a family and pursued our dreams. Unlike our holier-than-thou detractors, however, we haven't had to deal with extramarital affairs, addiction to pornography, or embezzlement. (And I was the one they were worried about!)

Not that I'm still bitter, 21 years later.

I was recently asked how we've managed to stay together this long. I thought about that, and came up with our seven secrets to a successful marriage.

Tip #1: Say "I love you" every day. My wife and I say it at least once a day, and usually several times. We say it when part ways each morning, and again when we go to bed at night. It grosses out our kids that we're always this mushy, so we like to squeeze in a couple gooshy "I wuv ewes" at dinner. Their pained groans make it totally worth it.

Combine this with Tip #2, always tell each other good-bye. A nice hug and kiss with an "I love you" for good measure. Never leave the house without saying good-bye. And don't shout it upstairs either, as you're on the way out the door.

Our unspoken fear is that one of us won't make it back from wherever we're going, and we don't want the last thing we said to be "don't forget the ointment for the dog's butt!"

Now that I think about it, "At least I remembered the dog's butt ointment" would make an awesome gravestone epitaph.

Tip #3: Hug and kiss each other once a day. This is easier to do when you're younger, because you can't keep your hands off each other. The trick is to keep doing it when it gets a little easier to keep your hands to yourself.

It's also fun when kids get icked out by parents showing public displays of affection. The more you do it, the louder they groan, which means you should do it more. Because grossing out the kids is all parents ever really want out of life; mashing our faces together to do it is an added bonus.

Tip #4: Never fight about money. Easier said than done, right? After all, the number one thing married couples fight about is money. But we have found a fair and equitable solution. Since I'm so terrible with money — and math — my wife is in charge of family finances. She tells me when I can't buy stuff anymore.

Then I do it a little more until she tells me that I absolutely cannot, without risking death at her hand, spend any money whatsoever. Then I hold off until payday, when I assume everything's okay, until she tells me otherwise again. It's worked for the last 21 years, and I'm sure her sleepless nights a few days before every payday are completely unrelated.

Tip #5: Decide whether you want to be happy or right. I have learned, through much trial and error, that you can't be both. If you're in an argument, you can go and go and go until you're right, but you won't be happy in the end. Or you can just apologize, even if it's not your fault, end the argument, and be happy.

Is it fair and just? No. But if you're happy, you don't care. If you're right, I hope that brings you more comfort than the couch does.

If you're one of those people who is only happy when they're right, get used to being alone, because those people tend not to be in relationships very long.

Tip #6: Argue. No, seriously, argue. I knew a couple who swore up and down that they never argued. Not once. They were two of the most miserable people I'd ever met.

Healthy couples argue occasionally. They have fair exchanges, they vent their emotions, and when they're done, they make up. They fight fair, give each other a chance to speak, never ridicule, insult, or bully. They wrestle with an issue until they resolve it, and then get on with their lives.

Unhealthy couples bicker and argue all the time, or they never get upset with each other. In either case, seek counseling.

Tip #7: Something about listening or some such thing. I don't know, the game's on.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
---

Like this post? Leave a comment.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fine, Have a Passive-Aggressive Christmas!

A recent blog post on ScaryMommy.com, "Passive Aggressive Gifts For Kids of Parents You Hate," got me to thinking about the holidays. Christmas is a time of love, family, peace on earth, good will toward men (and women), except for those we really don't like.

Of course, we're not supposed to say things like that, but that doesn't mean many of us aren't perpetually annoyed at certain people in our lives. Like the "friends" who pretend they're overjoyed to see us, but when we're out of earshot, trash us to anyone who cares to listen.

They're the ones who insult us in a way that we're not really sure if we should punch them or thank them — "Have you been losing weight? It's about time, I was beginning to worry about you. Your pants finally fit well."

These are the people we're supposed to be kind to, because it's Christmas. We don't want to, we really just want to drink too much egg nog and tell them what we really think, but they're family, so we can't. Instead we fret over family gatherings and friends' parties, which can ruin the holidays.

This is where being passive-aggressive helps: you get to stick it to the people you don't quite like without actually coming to blows.

In keeping with the Christmas spirit, let me give you a few pointers to help you abide by the spirit of Christmas, or at least the letter of the law. Follow these carefully, and you'll get the one thing you really need: plausible deniability. As in, "what do you mean, milk chocolate isn't vegan? It's made from chocolate!"

1) Give their kids gifts that make a lot of noise or leave a big mess. ScaryMommy.com recommends toys like an electronic voice changer. The fun will last until the battery dies, or his parents snap and smash the thing with the minivan. Glitter and Moon Dough (a never-drying knockoff of Play-Doh) are great for messes that will never truly go away.

2) Give a basic starter kit to a much larger activity. For example, give a Thomas the Tank Engine train to a three-year-old boy, and his parents will curse you for the next seven years as they buy every toy, clothing item, accessory, and DVD about the little British steam engine and his pals.

Similarly, give adults a beginning jewelry kit, home brewing kit, or the first book of a 24-book series. Better yet, make it the seventh book, so they're forced to go back in both directions.

3) When extended family visits, serve everyone the same foods you give to that one diet-restricted person in your immediate family. If you or your child is lactose intolerant, only serve soy egg nog and almond milk hot chocolate.

But don't offer these same arrangements if someone in their family has a diet restriction. Ask them to bring their own food to accommodate their stupid kid's stupid potato allergy.

The same is true for those relatives who insist their precious snowflakes can only eat organic, free-range, grass fed foods. Serve mac-and-cheese with cut-up hot dogs as a side dish. Put the mac-and-cheese in Christmas tree shaped dishes, and use the hot dogs as Christmas balls. Then, no one can complain about the food, because they would be complaining about Christmas.

4) Buy clothes that are too large. Not grossly large, but a couple sizes too big. You can say, "I thought this would look nice on you" but the underlying message is "We all think you're this big." Don't get something too big, like an XXXL bathrobe for your petite sister-in-law. She'll recognize what you're doing, and call you out on it. This defeats the purpose of plausible deniability.

5) This one is a double-reverse. Many people with a November or January birthday learned to hate their birthday, because of cheap relatives who would give a single gift to cover both days.

Don't do that. That's not true passive-aggression.

If you want to be really zing someone, give those people two gifts, one for each special day. This makes you look like the cool, awesome friend or relative, and embarrasses the people who cheap out and only buy one. And that's what we really want this season, right?

Ultimately, Christmas is about giving, not receiving; sharing, not greed; love, not hatred. If you're going to be passive-aggressive, try to do it with a little love and kindness so you look like you're actually a kind person. Or can at least claim to be.

Especially when you're picking my Christmas gifts. Just don't get me Starbucks gift cards. Especially the $25 ones.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
---

Like this post? Leave a comment.

Friday, December 05, 2014

House Hunter Haters

Announcer: Welcome to another episode of House Hunters, the show where two spoiled brats search for the "Perfect Dream Home of their Dreams" in a new city with a surprising budget beyond the reach of normal, reasonable people.

This week, Angie and Dylan Baxter want to find a home in uber-expensive Santa Barbara, California. He's a part-time freelance web designer and she's a kindergarten teaching assistant. They have a budget of $750,000, and want to find a spacious home and yard that reminds them of the farmhouses in rural Kansas. Our realtor, Barbara, is on the case.

Barbara (to camera): I specialize in making people's dreams come true, which, despite what the haters say, is a real thing. I've worked in this town for 27 years as a Realtor (notice how I capitalized it there; that means it's important), and I can help the Baxters. Their budget is $750,000, which is the bare minimum you need to break into the Santa Barbara market.

Angie (to camera): I grew up with a big family. So I—

Dylan: —We—

Angie: Right, we want a big house, just like I grew up in. I, I mean, we want to get something with at least five bedrooms and a big back yard, if we ever have a child.

Barbara stares blankly at the camera.

Dylan (sitting in a "meeting" with Barbara and Angie): We got married three years ago and are ready to start the next chapter in our lives. We love exercising and we came out to California, because frankly we're too pretty to stay in Kansas. We have impossibly saved up $750,000, and want to spend our days eating organic vegetables and doing hot yoga in the basement, which we would turn into a yoga studio so Angie could give private lessons.

(Commercial break for luxury items you don't actually need.)

Barbara (to camera): We've looked at 32 different houses, but we haven't found what the Baxters were looking for. He wants something close to his work, which I don't even think is a real job. And she finds something wrong with every single #&@& house! God help me, I don't know how much more of this I can take!

(Cut to the three walking up the driveway of another house.)

Barbara: This house is a 2,400 square foot Arts and Crafts style bungalow. It's the only home ever designed by I.M. Pei, it sits on its own private cul-de-sac, which is right next to the beach. The kitchen was remodeled six months ago, and comes with its own robot chef. The last couple who lived here found gold in the back yard, but had to move before they found it all. And best of all, it's only $10,000.

Angie (said with enough "creaky voice" to register on the Richter scale.): But the fourth bedroom is too sma-a-a-a-ll. And it looks all 50s-ish. Bo-ring. The 50s were big, you know, three years ago, but now they're out.

Barbara: Actually mid-century modern architecture is still very popular.

Angie: Well, not where we're from.

Dylan: On the plus side, I like the mahogany workbench in the garage, and the view is gorgeous. Plus the robot chef can even make kale smoothies. Angie loves—

Angie: —We love—

Dylan: Uh, yeah, we love kale smoothies.

Angie: I think we'd like to see some other houses before we decide.

Dylan: But babe, this one is perfect. And for $10,000? We'd be idiots to pass it up.

Angie: I don't know. I just didn't like the color of the walls in the closet. Plus there was some mildew on the shower curtain, and I didn't like the washer and dryer.

Dylan: Okay, babe. I trust your judgment.

Angie: We want to see some more houses over the next five weeks before we decide.

Barbara: I have to tell you, in my 27 years of being a Realtor (did you hear me capitalize it again?), I've never seen a house go for so little. Not without being a serial killer's house or exceedingly haunted. This is the most sought after house on the market, and I'm amazed there's not a riot of people trying to buy it.

Angie: I think I know a little something about home buying too. I became an interior designer after I helped my mom paint her living room. Plus I read some realtor blogs last night.

Barbara: That's Realtor!

Announcer: When we return, we'll see whether Angie and Dylan choose the Arts and Crafts bungalow, or if Barbara straight up murdered them.



Photo credit: Randen Pederson (Flickr, Creative Commons)

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
---

Like this post? Leave a comment.