What do you say to someone who asks you a rude or inappropriate question or says something offensive?
That was what several friends asked after I shared my advice on Getting Unstuck from Sticky Situations. What do you say, they wondered, to questions like, “Have you lost weight?” “How much money do you make?” “Is that your real nose?” “When are you going to have children?” and “Did you mean to wear that today?”
Finding the right comeback can be a tricky thing. Assuming you’re unable to ignore the person or just walk away, how you handle inappropriate remarks says as much about your own character as the person ticking you off. And the comeback choices are limited if the insulting person is your boss -- assuming you want to keep your job.
So let’s say you don’t want to handle rudeness with rudeness. For me, that means passing on the two-word expletive that's top of mind when I’m confronted with the rude and offensive. It also means refraining from tossing out overtly snarky lines, such as, “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” or, “I'll try being nicer if you'll try being more intelligent,” or, “I don't know what your problem is, but I'll bet it's hard to pronounce,” or “I see you've set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public,” or “I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.”
Does the headline “How to Explain Bitcoin to Your Dad,” seem ridiculous to you? I hope so, because the headline “How to Explain Bitcoin to Your Mom,” somehow passed muster with the New York Times recently.
If that’s not crazy enough, the explaining to Mom was done via cartoon panels, rather than a traditional story. Obviously, there are lots of graphic novelists doing sophisticated work. But it’s hard not to see the message, in this case, as, “We have to make Bitcoin super-simple – like a cartoon! -- to make it accessible to our most unsophisticated readers. Like, you know, moms.”
Granted, Bitcoin, an electronic proto-currency, can take some explaining. But the supposition that those who haven’t had children are automatically more qualified to pontificate upon it than those who have is ageist to the core. Youth trumps a lot of things, but when you’re trying to explain a somewhat complicated technical matter, youth is of no import whatsoever. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there, a generation younger than I, who can explain Bitcoin perfectly well, to their parents or to anyone else. But their age has nothing to do with it.
I do not have it all. Texas congressional Representative Wendy Davis, despite the recent New York Times Magazine headline, “Can Wendy Davis Have it All?” is not about to have it all any time soon. Anne-Marie Slaughter said, in The Atlantic, that no woman, really, can have it all.
Even Sheryl Sandberg, self-appointed role model for moms who also have big jobs outside the home, does not have it all.
How do I know? Because no one ever has it all. The phrase “having it all,” which I gather used to represent some form of women’s empowerment, has been reduced to snarkery. To admit to having it all -- or wanting it all -- seems weirdly greedy. “Having it all” has come to invite judgment.
When The New York Times asked if Wendy Davis could have it all, they weren’t asking if she could have kids and a rocking career. She clearly does. They were asking if she could effectively campaign on her background as a single mom who once lived in a trailer park, even though her former partner handled the day-to-day childcare and paid Davis’ way through Harvard Law School.
The Times was asking, in essence, if Davis could have two seemingly mutually exclusive things, with the insinuation that it was okay for her to be a trailer park mom or a Harvard-trained lawyer, but not both. (As well-written as The New York Times story is, if you don’t think it reeks of misogynist claptrap, I beg you to read it again).
Happy New Year! We hope you had a fun and relaxing break with family and friends.
As always, the new year has us full of optimism, convinced that this time around, there really are 26 hours in the day and eight days in the week. To stay focused through all the hustle and craziness, we’ve got our annual list of New Year’s resolutions.
The only rule: When we’re tempted to adopt more than a few resolutions, we list them in rank order, cut the list in half, and throw out the second half. A few that we’re considering:
Do one thing this year that we didn't manage last year, and that we’re sort of bummed about. So what if this particular goal won’t advance our careers, improve the home decorating situation, or change the world? It’ll change our world – and that’s enough.
Ditch the frenemies. Life is too short to waste energy on people we think we’re supposed to like but actually dislike. It just makes sense to spend time with real friends and let everyone else go.
Go to the dentist. Twice. I am a certified dentist-phobe, so I make this resolution every year. I have to, or it won’t happen. Woody Guthrie had a similar resolution, back in 1942: Wash teeth, if any. Other “New Year’s Rulin’s” from Guthrie: Write a song a day. Read lots good books. Change socks. Don’t get lonesome. Stay glad. Make up your mind. Wake up and fight.
I love my kids. I really do. But when they left for college, leaving me with an empty nest, I didn't cry, mope or lament the silence in our house. I cheered.
It's not that I don't miss them, because I do -- sort of. I'm still in awe that I now walk into rooms that are exactly the way I left them. I'm happy they're starting another chapter in their lives, adventures I hope will be fun and fruitful. They know they can call on me to help them when needed, and I know I can track them down via text, email and/or video chat (yay technology!) when I need to reassure myself that all is well.
I see their departure as a new adventure for me and my husband, one in which we're readjusting to being a couple, with a whole lot less laundry to do. I probably should be worried that I'm not suffering even a twinge of empty nest syndrome, except that I'm too busy doing other stuff, like clearing out the junk drawer and working, finally, on my great American novel. But I know that not everyone feels the way I do. So I asked other moms and dads how they're dealing with their empty nests -- and if they're crying or cheering.