Writing Can Get Pretty Ugly

*Note:  I write a weekly opinion column for the Kansas City Star. Some of the stuff I muse about is a little more political in nature than I what share on this blog and by that I mean in the past I have written about education reform, health care etc. Because of this I get emails where people disagree with me, which is totally appropriate and welcome. This recent column was in regards to people who feel free to write to me about my looks – because that’s how you disagree with a woman right – by disparaging her appearance? Ugh. I’m sharing this column on my blog because I believe it has a message that will resonate with a lot of you.

 

I don’t get a ton of emails from readers of my Kansas City Star column hating on me but I get enough that I’ve been able to classify them into categories.

There’s the people that can’t grasp the concept of self-deprecating humor and therefore think I’m an idiot. There are the people that like to write me six paragraph emails on an almost weekly basis with the theme of, yep you guessed it, that I’m an idiot. There’s the people who disagree with me on a topic and use this as an excuse to take out all their life frustrations on me and then there’s my favorite – the people (all male based on their email signatures) that like to tell me an idiot AND that I’m unattractive.

These brings me a special joy because I’m in awe of how any man could have the hubris to believe that I care about their opinion in regards to my looks. As an advanced middle-aged female giving a hoot and holler about what any man thinks about my appearance ended about four decades ago.

How some dudes could conceive that telling me I’m unattractive or fat is going to be the coup de grace of my existence makes me laugh. Also, what makes these men presume womankind cares about their opinion on our looks?

Haven’t we as a society gotten past that just a wee bit? Sure, based on social media you could think that that answer to that question is a great big NO.

But don’t be fooled by all those filters and sexy posts by women on Instagram who are living the “like my post and link in bio” lifestyle. Most females today care more about than own judgment way more than what any guy thinks. Plus I think we’re raising girls today to have what I call self esteem swagger.

I’d like to believe that my father was a pioneer in this trend. Almost every day of my life he told me I was smart, beautiful and strong.

When I was in high school he drove me to school in the mornings and the entire seven-minute drive consisted of my dad telling me how amazing I was. It became a running joke between us. I called it “Dad’s morning pep talk.” He called it “telling it like it is.”

I would greet his soliloquy with rolled eyes and share that he was “full of it” but the man knew what he was doing. To this day if I’m having a crisis, large or small, I go back to what he told me on those drives to school.

This is why when men send me disparaging emails I feel sorrow and it’s not because they think I’m a “fatty” or “could use some work” but because based on my father and role model they’re failures as human beings.

I worry about any man who could write me, an aging female with no illusions about becoming an AARP super model, to call me out on my looks. What kind of man, husband, father are you that you can email a woman and attempt to tear her down by commenting on her appearance?

If you’re doing this to me, a total stranger, than how must you treat the women in your lives and what kind of damage are you doing to their mental health?

My dad’s name was Bob. I’d like to suggest that before you hit send on that next hate filled email you think about your legacy or as my husband likes to say during any big family decision ask yourself, “What would Bob do?”

 

 

 

Dear Snarky – I’m Being Shunned For Bringing Cupcakes to a School Party

Dear Snarky,

 I’m being shunned at my son’s elementary school due to having the “audacity” to bring mini chocolate cupcakes to the first grade Halloween party. I never received the link to the online sign up sheet for food and didn’t know that sweets were not allowed at the party. I only brought cupcakes because I didn’t want to show up empty handed.

 Now, the anti sugar Nazis are furious and suggesting that I’m a bad mother because I dared to bring a dessert to a Halloween party. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t Halloween all about the sugar? Now, I’ve been told by the two room moms that I’m not allowed to volunteer or sign up for any party duties for the reminder of the school year.

 I cannot express how angry this makes me. What course of action do you think I should take because this is total bull shit?

 Signed, Cupcake Mom

Dear Cupcake,

You have to pick your battles. Ask yourself are cupcakes the hill you want to die on? If your child is only in the first grade you have a L-O-N-G time to spend with these mothers.

This means you can do two things. One, not volunteer at the rest of the parties but absolutely show up for your son or two take a stand so these moms know not to mess with you for the next 12 years and lord help me but I’m leaning towards this one because these moms need to simmer the hell down and learn to reign in their control issues. Their kid’s elementary school is not their personal fiefdom. #getalife.

Admittedly you should make sure moving forward that you’re up-to-date on your emails, apps, etc related to school events but you shouldn’t have to cower in fear around these mothers or kiss up to them because you dared to walk into the school bearing cupcakes. This means one thing – go over their heads. Yep, talk to the teacher the real boss of the classroom.

Explain what happened, express your desire to help out and ask if there is anything the teacher needs assistance with. Then resist the urge to tell the two room moms where they can shove their “no volunteer” edict and focus on making your child’s first grade year wonderful.

If you have a question for Dear Snarky – advice with an attitude – email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com. 😉

Dear Snarky – How Can We Tell a Family Member Not to Run for Public Office?

Dear Snarky,

 My niece announced to the family that she wants to run for public office and quite frankly a lot of us think it might just be the worst idea ever. She’s young, has no experience and has problems handling a day job. It’s so bad we have an over under on how long she’ll last at each job she gets

 I admire her enthusiasm and her wanting to “be the change” but I think she needs to at least volunteer on a political campaign or stay at a job longer than three months before she just throws herself out there.

 Our biggest worry is that she got some insurance money from a car accident and she wants to spend it to fund her campaign. Anyone in the family over the age of 30 told her she needs to use the money to pay off her college loans.

 Do you have any advice on how we can get her to change her mind without creating major family drama?

 Signed, Worried & Concerned

 Dear Worried

 Lately my solution to most of my letter writers has been to tell them to mind their own business. But today I’m not going to do that. I’m going to tell you to get involved. This is the mom of young adults in me talking but your niece needs to hear that she should be very conservative with how she spends that insurance money.

I’ll give her huge props for no wanting to blow it on designer handbags or a sweet new ride and wanting to run for office can be a noble endeavor but she still needs to very seriously ponder  spending that money to self finance a campaign.

Handling your niece with love and  respect (i.e. don’t talk down to her) suggest that she needs to enlist a firm to do an exploratory study on her running for office where everything from her chances of winning to how much money and time she’s going to have to invest to be considered a contender will be examined.

 This should be a g-i-g-a-n-t-i-c eye opener and I’m betting it’s not the amount of money that’s required that’s going to make her reconsider but the time that she’ll have to spend. Based on her employment record I’m guessing, umm how can I put this nicely, that she gets bored easily and once she sees the amount of effort and the hard and sometimes very tedious work it takes to get elected to almost any office she might cool off on this idea.

If she doesn’t be positive and wish her luck. Maybe this is her calling and she’ll surprise everyone.

If you have a question for Dear Snarky – advice with an attitude – email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com. 😉

Team Spirit

I confess to being a nervous and some might say irritating football fan. I blame it on the fact that I’m a mother because all I want is for everyone to have fun and not get hurt. So basically, the same mindset I used for cheering on my kids back in their kindergarten soccer days is how I watch football.

For hardcore college football fans (my husband) this can be problematic. My desire for each team to have a “good game” is not what he wants to hear especially when he’s watching his beloved University of Texas Longhorns.

My whole “good game” ethos came to a head last month when U.T. played K.U. These are the kind of games I love because I enjoying cheering on both Texas and Kansas. In my mind there’s not a loser because while my husband went to U.T. my son is a K.U. alumnus. So it’s just a day of “Yeah football!”

I also had a secret I wasn’t sharing with anyone. I was clandestinely rooting for K.U. I can’t help myself. I love an underdog and while in full confession mode the fact that my husband has yet to get over K.U. beating Texas in overtime back in 2016 is something I find hilarious. I’m not kidding if I want to irritate him I just mention the game.

This latest match up started out with U.T. quickly scoring but Kansas was plucky and they looked good. My husband though was not in the best of spirits when U.T. was only up by a couple of points at the half.

His mood was so dismal I had to retrieve the lucky U.T. pom poms and commemorative Darrell Royal football. I also perkily suggested that I could sage the house to cleanse out the negative energy. This earned me a look that would have scared most people but it just spurred me on.

Since I didn’t have any sage I got the pumpkin spice broom I had recently bought at Trader Joe’s and started waving it all over the family room giving extra special attention to the television. I would share what he told me I could do with the pumpkin broom but it’s not suitable for print.

As the game progressed things got worse. Texas barely pulled out a win. One would think this would make a UT fan happy but for my husband the score was a tragedy and worse a “harbinger of what the rest of the season held.”

In an effort to make up for the pumpkin spice broom performance I dedicated myself to becoming more educated about Longhorn football. This is where I went down the rabbit hole known as Burnt Orange Nation.

Not only could I not stop reading but I became obsessed with the comment section. Someone who goes by the name “Sir Horns A lot” is now my spirit animal. “Sir Horns” explained the season in such a way that way I felt like I was partaking in a master class on Texas Football.

The comment section also embolden me. Yes, I signed up and started commenting – a lot.

Currently, I’m enjoying weighing in on such topics as team endurance, defensive strategy and recruiting where UT could take a lesson from KU’s Les Miles who with a lot less resources (i.e. not coaching at a huge university that is currently spending $175 million for a “stadium update”) has put together a strong team.

See, didn’t I sound like I knew what I was talking about? I think I’ve graduated from football fan to insightful comment section analyst who may or may not be going by the name “Pumpkin Broom.”

Dear Snarky – Help! My Co-Worker is Already Christmas Crazy

Dear Snarky,

 I have a co-worker who’s insane. She is pathologically obsessed with Christmas. On October 1 she decorated her cubicle, started burning some awful smelling pinecone scented candle and has some sort of plug in air freshener that reeks of candy cane. She also plays Christmas music non stop and every morning reminds all of us how many days there are until “Santa is here.” Prepare to be shocked because this woman isn’t some old lady. The psycho is still in her 20’s.

 I’m not the only one in the office that she’s annoying. Her Christmas B.S. is the topic of most conversations and not in a good way. Is there anyway to get this woman to calm the F down about the holidays?

 Signed, Turning Into a Scrooge

 Dear Scrooge,

 If this was a Hallmark movie your co-worker would be named Miss Merry Christmas and she would melt the heart of the office Scrooge and they would fall in love and live happily ever after OR Miss Merry Christmas would turn out to be the daughter of Santa Claus sent to your office to spread the joy of the season very, very, very early.

 But since this isn’t a movie here’s my advice that’s a lot less fun. One – I’m assuming you can’t go to H.R. and grumble about a co-worker’s holly jolly attitude but what you can do is complain about the scent explosion in the office. A lot of people are highly scent sensitive and that means the candle and the air freshener could be a health concern.

 Now on to the holiday music – quit sulking, grow up and ask her to turn it down and if you don’t have headphones put those on your Christmas list. All the other stuff from the cubicle holiday décor to the countdown till December 25 is, I feel, a way for this young woman to get some attention.

 I suggest instead of letting yourself get turbo annoyed, and I’m sure this is all very annoying, I’m not trying to downplay that, you could compliment her on her Christmas mojo and maybe she can be the office holiday party planner. I have no doubt it would be a rager. Perhaps all this young woman is looking for is validation. Give it to her and see if that helps her chill out.

If you have a question for Dear Snarky – advice with an attitude – email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com. 😉

The College Admission Dumpster Fire

Colleges need an overhaul. Let’s start with the expense. A four year degree from an in-state school can now cost more than $100,000. Once upon a time going to a public university in your home state made college affordable. I don’t see anything economical about a six figure tuition bill.

Another thing that needs a reset are the machinations kids and their parents feel they’re required to go through to increase  the chances of getting into a “good” college.

As I write this actress Felicity Huffman prisoner #77806-112 was just released from a federal correction facility in Northern California. Her crime was paying $15,000 to have her daughter’s SAT score enhanced and I’m talking richly enhanced. According to documents filed in the case Huffman’s child’s score jumped a whopping 400 points above her PSAT performance. I don’t think this math problem is on the SAT but that works out to Huffman paying $37.50 per point.

At first glance change appears to be in the air. Earlier this month the ACT (a college admission standardized test) announced that in 2020 they will be introducing “scoring reforms” that will allow students to retake select parts of the test (English, math, reading, science or writing). In the past a student had to retake the entire test and couldn’t zero in on the one or two areas where they wanted to improve their score.

Based on my social media feeds there was parental jubilation that this change was happening. There were also people posting that if back in the day they had been allowed to only retake one section instead of the entire ACT they probably could have gotten close to a perfect score. (Please note I was not one of these people. I could have taken the math section 50 times and that score wouldn’t have budged much if at all.)

I was excited by this news for all the future test takers until I did more research and my head began to feel like it was going to explode. First, apparently there’s no limit on how many times you can take the test. Then there’s something called “super scoring” where you take the best score of each section you’ve retaken. When I got to the part about all the different scenarios on how to improve your score from paper testing vs. computer testing to something called “total focus recall” I was in pain.

That intensified when I read articles how the “scoring reforms” were all just a ploy by the ACT to make more money from the anticipated torrent of retesting. (Today it costs $68 to take the ACT. Add in another $52 for the writing test. No word yet from the ACT on how much they’re going to charge for “individual section retesting.”)

Educators were also pointing out that the ability to repeatedly retake sections of the ACT was going to hurt economically disadvantage students who can’t afford the cost of test taking to infinity and beyond. Several shrewd high school counselors fearlessly announced that it was just giving parents (Note they didn’t say students.) another tool to work the system.

After I took two Advil it made me glad my kids were out of the ACT and SAT game. It’s gotten crazy. When did the college process become so complicated? And are parents responsible for the craziness? It’s gotten to the point where parents act like their kid’s ACT score is also their parenting score?

The college process needs a reality check and it should start with telling kids that it should be less about where you go to college and more about what you do once you get there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Snarky – How Do I Tell a Friend She Has an Instagram Filter Addiction?

Dear Snarky,

 Is there anyway to tell a really cute friend that she is over editing all her photos on social media? I get it we all edit our photos for Instagram but the goal is to look better not like a completely different person.

 She’s not been very successful dating and I’m totally sure it’s because once people see her in person they’re like “Who are you?” People have trouble getting past her image on social media compared to reality.

 My boyfriend has a cousin who I think would be perfect for her but I would like for him to see the real her not the layers of filters she is on Instagram. What is the nicest way to tell her that she needs to be herself more and lay off on all the fakeness?

 Signed, Insta Addict

 Dear Insta,

 You’ve come to the right place for advice. As the mother of a 19- year-old I know all about what I call “filter abuse.” I’ll see my daughter’s friends on Instagram and not even recognize them. That said, filter abuse is not limited to the young and already beautiful a lot of women my age seem to be going full Benjamin Button and by that I mean aging backwards on social media.

 Now, here’s a surprise for you – I think there is no shame in the filter game. Come on it’s social media. If people are too goofy to realize that a whole lot of photo editing is going on then I worry about their cognitive brain function. Seriously, if a guy is surprised someone looks a little different than their social media photos than consider him way too dumb to date.

Using myself as Exhibit A – please note this business photo that was taken of me. My skin hasn’t looked this smooth since I was five. I barely recognize myself with my wrinkles and my constant companion – “Lady Jowls – vanquished. Now, compare that to the real me and you have a case of filters gone mad. Do I apologize for this photo? No, because I’m assuming people are intelligent enough in 2019 to know that I’ve been attacked by a “healing brush.”

As for you – stay out of your friend’s business. How she wants to look on social media is none and I mean none of your concern. You are just going to stir up a whole lot of drama and hurt feelings and I’m hoping that wasn’t your intention all along.

 

A Psychological Study of School Pick Up and Drop Off

There are many things in this world that perplex me like how did jackfruit become a culinary trend? Have you tried cutting open a jackfruit? I swear brain surgery is probably less labor intensive and gooey.

The mystery of the jackfruit, though intriguing because I believe it has an alien back story, is no match in the bewilderment department for the enigma that is school drop off and pick up. Why is it so hard for parents to grasp the fundamentals of delivering and retrieving their kids to and from school?

I, with much gratitude, have not had to endure a school drop off and pick up line in three years. But, for my friends with younger children lately the school drop off rage has been intense. Because I fancy myself a social scientist  (not a busy body thank you very much) I decided to observe three school drop off lines at three separate schools.

My mission was to gauge if the situation has gotten worse since my school driving days or were these parents just being drama queens. I’ll honestly tell you I was totally thinking drama queens because there’s no way school pick up and drop off parental stupidity could have descended even lower. It was in the caverns of  of hell during my tenure and I was adamant that it had nowhere to go but up.

I was wrong.

Frankly, I don’t even know where to begin. I’m still a little shaken by the whole experiment. I think my biggest take away is that people’s reading comprehension skills have taken a serious hit.

That’s the only polite explanation I can come up with for a large swath of adults not understanding signage that plainly states “no parking,” “beginning of drop off/pick up line,” and “pull forward.” These are not even sentences but three and four word directives at a first grade reading level. Surely parents should be able to understand their meaning.

But to blame the whole school pick up/drop off quagmire solely on reading skills would be a mistake because the real issue is psychological. To fully understand the issue you have to probe a parent’s brain. Why, for instance, are some parents adamant about not pulling forward in the line?

In the name of scientific research I asked one mother who was not pulling up this question and she made a face while stating in a very unpleasant tone that she was waiting for her kids.

I queried back with, “But couldn’t you wait for your kids pulled up a little further in the line?” This earned me a window being rolled up in my face.

I didn’t blame her because I knew I had hit a nerve. Her car was perched almost perfectly in front of the school’s front doors and there was no way she was going to let her babies (full disclosure this happened at a middle school) walk any further than they had to.

Which takes us to another layer of a parent’s psychological make up. Why do we get our kids fitness trackers, $300 Apple watches and sign them up for loads of sports activities and then swoon at the thought of them having to walk more than 20 yards to the family car?

Armed with my research I went home and tried to formulate a reasonable explanation for the seemingly growing number of parents who freelance with the established school pick up/drop off protocol. The only thing I could come up with is that for some parents the “rules never apply to me” must be a family motto.

The best suggestion I have is that they get those feelings emblazoned on a bumper sticker so the rest of the parents know who to avoid every morning and afternoon.

(For more education on this topic I urge you to read this highly formative guide for the school drop off and pick up procedure https://snarkyinthesuburbs.com/2011/03/25/10-steps-to-a-successful-school-drop-off/)

Dear Snarky – My Mom Needs to Quit Wearing Sexy Halloween Costumes

Dear Snarky,

 I need help with my mother. I swear she thinks she’s Jennifer Lopez and by that I mean at 55 she is very proud of her body and loves to show it off. Every Halloween she goes all out with the sexy costumes. This Halloween she is wearing a costume that is a replica of the iconic dress J.Lo wore where she’s almost naked.

 My problem is she’s planning on wearing it to a Halloween party hosted by my boyfriend’s parents. I told her that costume was not appropriate for this kind of party and she told me I was just “jealous.”

 Seriously, she can’t show up to meet my boyfriend’s parents for the first time in a costume where she’s that exposed. How do I get her to wear something that at least covers her chest?

 Signed, Distressed Daughter

Dear Distressed,

First, let me say I’m not into body shaming nor am I the Fashion Police. In fact, the only style crimes that get me really ticked off are adults wearing P.J’s on a plane or people who wear shorts and flip flops to church weddings.

 As for your mother I’m afraid you’re not going to get her to wear a nun costume. I think the more you beg her to cover up the more she’s going to want to take the girls out. That said if I had a body that resembled Jennifer Lopez’s I might be inclined to be queen of the crop top.

 I suggest that perhaps the first time your boyfriend’s parents meet your parents is not at this party. Maybe you can schedule a coffee get together so their initial “how do you do” is with your mom wearing clothing and not a costume.

 Remember you’re not responsible for your mom’s behavior or life choices. At 55 years old how she dresses is her business and her business alone. Maybe she’s living her best life.

 As for your boyfriend’s parents if they are going to judge you based on your mother’s Halloween costume than that is just messed up.

 Now as for that  jealous comment it sounds like your mother’s maternal instincts might need a refresh. Her quip was very unkind and leads me to believe that her entire self worth is tied up in her appearance and let me tell you as an aging female that totally sucks.

If you have a question for Dear Snarky – advice with an attitude – email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com. 😉

Hybrid Hysteria

I understand the beauty of a hybrid. When you take the best characteristics from one group and blend them with another, often incongruous, category you sometimes achieve genius. But more often than not these mismatches can be tragic fails.

This is because there are things that are so stellar in their own right that they don’t need to be conjoined with anything else. Barbecue is one of these categories that needs to be left alone. I almost cancelled by subscription to one of my favorite magazines when I saw a recipe for Italian style burnt end barbecue. Mon Dieu!

Hold on to your brisket sandwich because it gets worse. The recipe called for mixing chunky marinara sauce with barbecue sauce. Could anything be more wrong? The only thing these two sauces have in common is a tomato base after that they dramatically part company and need not to be reunited.

The whole thing is an affront to burnt ends. These juicy, yet crispy nuggets of beef don’t need to be insulted with any sauce. They stand alone and on their own merit. To even think about camouflaging their flavor profile with a canned sauce of marinara makes me weepy.

The worst offender in the hybrid game has to be in interior design where one of the latest buzzwords is “modern farmhouse.” The results I’ve seen on TV and in print make me wonder if any of these designers have ever been tractor adjacent or ventured through the front door of a farmhouse.

I say this because in real life a farm house doesn’t usually feature floor to ceiling glass windows that create a retractable wall, cathedral ceilings and stainless steel kitchen appliances big rough to hide multiple bodies or a steer that just won first place at the 4-H livestock competition.

In all these “modern farmhouses” I see nothing that resembles a home based in rural America unless you count the grapevine cotton wreath on the front door. How did the term even come into the descriptive palette?

A better name would be “Joanna Gaines is my spirit animal.” This immediately tells you that every wall of this large home will be covered in white shiplap and feature black accent colors in all of the home’s fixtures.

Can we take a moment now and discuss shiplap? Isn’t it closely related to paneling? The much hated paneling that you always see getting cursed at and mocked in design re-do’s just set at a different angle?

I guess it’s vertical paneling – bad, horizontal paneling – good. Some casino in Las Vegas needs to set the over-under on when shiplap will become just another bad paneling job.

Fashion is just as ridiculous with their mishmashes. Last week I was told that “ladies my age” (Please, can we not with this phrase?) look wonderful in “refined boho chic” ensembles.

I felt compelled to say something to the much younger human who proffered this statement. (It could be because I enjoy educating the youth or might have been because I was still steaming over the “my age” comment.) I began by explaining that boho is short for bohemian and nothing about the word lends itself to refinement. I also added that “ladies my age” don’t want to look like their mothers who were at Woodstock. Nor do we want to pay hundreds of dollars for that flashback to style crimes and egregious grooming choices.

I’m all for the joining of forces (and adjectives) to create something new or improved. But, sometimes we need to let quality stand alone in its majesty and sometimes we need to realize that mishmash is just a mistake with a trendy name.