Monday, April 30, 2012

The Bald, Skinny, White Guy with the Big Moustache

That seems to be the only person we are now allowed to poke fun of without being called a bigot, a racist or a bully.

Of course I do not condone meanness, (well unless it’s REALLY funny), but why is everyone so politically correct nowadays?

Why can’t I make fun of someone who did something funny?  Why does everything have to be analyzed?  Why, if an individual has a specific trait, it will be deemed as if someone is making fun of him for that reason and not for the joke?

Here is a typical example:  In my former life when I worked in Manhattan, if I arrived at work at 8:59, I thought I was early.  If I opened my office door at 9:00, I actually thought I was on time.  However, come 11:55, I was putting my lunch in the microwave so that I can eat no later than midday.  And you better believe I was taking my entire lunch hour.  This nonsense of working through lunch or skipping lunch altogether was not my cup of tea.

Now what if my manager had said, “You know, Myra, I notice that you are never early for work, yet you are never late for that date with your fork.”  Nobody would blink an eye because I’m considered normal weight.

But can you imagine the trouble she would have gotten into if I were 100 pounds heavier?  Why does that statement have to be tailored for different sized people?  Why can’t it be true for anyone who doesn’t miss a meal?

And since alcoholism, addiction and obesity are considered illnesses, the field of what people can joke about is being narrowed constantly.

If a man makes a little joke about a woman, he is instantly called a misogynist.  Now there are some things a man should NEVER call a woman…… Rush Limbaugh.  However, if a joke is funny and not mean-spirited, it deserves a laugh.

For instance, my brother told me this joke, must have been nearly 30 years ago, and to this day I still think it’s the funniest thing I ever heard.

A man is walking down the road with a box of saltfish on his head.  He passes a blind man, and the blind man says, “Good morning, ladies.”

Tell me that’s not funny!  No one can take offense to that.  It’s not saying that in general women smell; it’s just implying that any woman can relate to an aquatic moment or two.

I guess the problem arises when folks generalize.  Like not all black people are habitually late.  I have sisters who will show up 30 minutes early to an event and feel as if they are running behind.  Are you kidding me?

We also cannot assume that every white person is interested in bungee jumping.  I might not know them personally, but I’m sure there are a lot of them who would not even consider anything remotely close to that.  And trust me, they do not all go into a strange, empty house and call, “Hello, is anyone there?”

Now there are times when a joke is too soon.  I would really lay off the blonde jokes for a while after that model walked into the plane’s propeller and lost an eye and an arm.  If she were fine, maybe it would be okay; but there is nothing amusing about that at all.

And there are some things that will ALWAYS be too soon.  A couple years ago my neighbor complained to me that her son is always getting dogs then doesn’t want to clean up after them, leaving her stuck with the task.  Then she exclaimed to me, “Does he think I’m a few shades darker than he?”

Ouch!  What could I have said to that?  “Well don’t expect me to do it?” 

And a few years ago, in my other life as a door to door investment salesperson, a prospect said to me, griping about his tenant.  “You know, sometimes it’s better to rent to a black person because they keep your place clean.” 

Double ouch!! 

On both occasions I simply said nothing.  It’s not my job to teach grown people to be sensitive.

Now at my neighbor’s party when the plastic chair just broke under a guest, would it have been funny if it were a skinny person?  Maybe a little, but this woman was overweight, and the chair just crumpled under her.  Look, it might have been defective from the get go, but it was damn hilarious.  The only thing that made people not laugh out loud was the fact that she didn’t fall.  But then again, I always laugh when ANYONE falls.  And it wouldn’t have been mean – it just would have been funny watching it happen.  That’s all.

And, make no mistake about this:  I’m not sticking up for the white man.  After all, he runs the world.  He is in charge of everything and clearly doesn’t need my help.  I just refuse to participate in the hypocrisy.  Not to mention, I’m black.  I’m a woman. I’m an immigrant-------without a British accent.  If anyone knows what it feels like to be disenfranchised, it’s me.  I’m just saying that we cannot be so sensitive to every little thing, especially when we do not care about other people’s feelings, yet protect ours to the core.

Plus perspectively speaking, the bald, skinny white guy with the big moustache has feelings too!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Outsource This

First let me just say this before anyone gets any misconceptions.  I love my children….a lot.  I love them more than just about anything or anyone else in this world.  Well, except for my husband.  That is the right thing to say, right?  But seriously, I love them equally (infinity & beyond), but of course differently.

And I would do just about anything for my children.  I would give them just about anything.  Except for my retirement fund!  As annoying as Suze Orman is, and she can be a tad bit annoying…..just a tad, she is definitely right about not investing in your children’s education before your own retirement.

I see people in their 60’s working their fingers to the bones because they deferred their retirement for their children’s education.  Look, if I’m doing that, they better be able to retire me in a year or two after they have completed their studies.  Just saying.

But back to my children!

I enjoy hanging with them.  I enjoy playing sports with them, sans the fighting, of course.  I enjoy singing, dancing and exercising with them even though I am constantly laughed at due to my lyrical skills, graceful moves and precise coordination.   

I enjoy travelling and experiencing new things with them.  I enjoy our conversations because it’s amazing how much I learn from them.  It’s amazing how much my perspectives have changed because of them.

I enjoy reading their books so we can discuss them; and I enjoy when they are reading and pause to share a joke or factoid with me.  

I enjoy watching TV with them, especially politics because so far, they are on their way to becoming lovely little liberals.

I enjoy teaching them.  I enjoy explaining life to them, although the last time I was ready for a major lecture, my eldest coined the moniker Martin Luther Queen.

I enjoy helping them with their homework.  Well if it’s Math or Grammar.  Please do not come to me with Phonics.  I don’t know if it’s a long a or a short a.  Again, I’m Antiguan.  All of our a’s are long and hard.  Heck even our o’s sound like long and hard a’s.

I even enjoy cleaning with them because not only does it make things lighter for me, but we make it fun.  And I’m hoping that they will never see cleaning as a burden.  I enjoy cooking with them (well, when they are not trying to burn the house down). 

I enjoy doing so many things with them.  I think they are funniest kids in the world; and they are the coolest and wittiest I ever met.  The only other child funnier is my Mini Me Niece.

However, as much as I love and cherish these kids, I’m ready to call it quits.  Not ready to stop being their parent.  Ready to stop parenting them.

Listen clearly, well read carefully.

I’m tired of parenting them.  I’m tired of being a referee for their fights.  I’m tired of trying to please all three of them at the same time.  I'm tired of cooking or making sure that they eat every day. I’m tired of constantly cleaning up after them.

I’m tired of being Captain Obvious.  Seriously, do I have to remind anyone to hang up a damp towel, wring out a wet washcloth, lotion ashy bodies, brush teeth, pack schoolbags, clean toothpaste from the sink, tidy rooms, put dirty clothes in the hamper and not on the floor next to the hamper, throw away empty containers,  put items away or handle DAILY chores?

I’m just tired of saying the same thing every single time.

When they were babies, it was all new, fresh and exciting.  Now, sometimes it can be the most stressful part of my life.  I used to look at grown people who still live with their parents and think, “Wow, they are really strong to be living at home still.”  Now I say, “Damn, those are some strong parents to have those annoying kids still living with them.”

As annoying as it is telling an 11 year old what to do, can you imagine what a nuisance it has to be parenting a 24 year old or God forbid a 35 year old?  Just shoot me now.  I would not be able to do it.

So I say, since we are outsourcing everything, why not outsource parenting.  And no, I don’t mean hiring an illegal immigrant, sorry, undocumented immigrant, to babysit when you work.  I don’t mean sending the child overseas to the grandmother because of bad behavior or scheduling issues. 

I don’t know how as yet.  I just know that we are a country that exports the tedious jobs, the monotonous jobs, the mechanical jobs, the rudimentary jobs.

So perspectively speaking, there has to be a way to outsource this.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Only When You Become They

I was 11 when my mother died tragically and suddenly from injuries sustained in a traffic accident. 

Many of the events that ensued were a blur; yet many were unforgettable.  One vivid incident was when a neighborhood kid confessed that he was afraid of my mother’s ghost or as we call it in Antigua, jumbee.

I was hurt. I was upset.  But mostly I was appalled.  My mother was nobody’s jumbee.  So I adamantly let him know that.

But even then, it dawned on me…..wasn’t it just a couple of months ago that I too was afraid of somebody else’s mother’s jumbee.  In fact, for as long as I could remember, up to that point, whenever anyone from the village died, I, like every other child (and probably some adults) would not walk in front of that yard, especially at nights.  And if the person was "evil" while alive, it could be months before we forgot and walked in front of the property again.

You know, I think that's when I stopped believing in spirits, but I must confess sometimes when I'm driving alone in the dark, I say to myself, "What would I do if a jumbee jumps in front of the windscreen?" Although I always chuckle, you know I would put some pedal to the metal and hightail it out of there.

A couple of weeks ago something strange happened.  We were at my daughter’s basketball game, the first playoff game at that, and her team was struggling.  In addition, she was playing sluggishly.  Usually, I sit in the stands and watch quietly, but since my husband wasn’t there being the cheerleader, I took over.  I felt like she needed me.

I shouted, “LET’S GO STORM!”

Next thing I know, my sons are looking at me in dismay.  They said, “It’s STOORM.  Not STARRM.”

First off, I’m Antiguan.  Our a’s are a tad bit strong, long and hard, just a tad.  But I swear I didn’t say it that harshly. 

Secondly, I drove to the school, signed her up, wrote the check and took her to practice.  I can say anything I please.

And thirdly, I was driving.  If they kept that up, they would find themselves walking back home.

But in an instant, I realized I had become that person…….THE IMMIGRANT PARENT WITH THE THICK ACCENT.

When Britney Spears performed seemingly drunk or high at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, Rihanna could not conceal her giggles.  Little did she know that exactly 16 months later, she was going to find herself in the middle of a nasty scandal.

But why do we have to wait until it happens to us to become empathetic to someone?  We should be able to show sympathy to people with whom we have nothing in common, because they are people.  

People with feelings.

Smaller people question how obese people could bring themselves to look like that, to let themselves get like that.  Only when they too are getting there do they understand.

People whose teenage daughters made them young grandparents were gossiped about until the gossipers found themselves in the same situation.

Why do we have to know or love someone who has lost his house or her job to be sympathetic to them?

Why do we have to know or love an alcoholic to be sympathetic to one?

Why do we have to know or love a drug addict to be sympathetic to one?

Why do we have to know or love someone who has a mental disorder to show some sympathy?

Why do we have to know or love someone who is HIV positive to be kindhearted?

Why do we have to know or love someone who is gay to be sympathetic to homosexuals?

So remember, do not judge and be compassionate because perspectively speaking, the person you look down on tomorrow just might be you.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"Dude, where is my $15?"

Months ago, I received a coupon from Dell for being such a good customer.  $15 off a purchase of $50 or more.  The discount portion of my head went off: 5, 10, 15 → 3: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50 → 10.  Wow, 30% off a future purchase of ink!  I put the coupon in the computer desk drawer since I had enough ink.  Although I can be a procrastinator, I’m also known for being cheap.  Well, thrifty.  Well, let’s just say I have a deep connection to my money and don’t like parting with it.

At any rate, I think I have lots of time and extra ink, so I put the coupon in the back of my mind.  For reasons unknown to me, I think the coupon expires 12/31/2011.  I am so sure, I don’t even double check.  So eventually the ink in the printer finishes.  I’m looking through the drawers and realize I have no more ink.  With my old printer, I could take the ink out and shake it to get the last drop.  Not this printer.  It insisted that unless I replace the black ink, nothing will print.  When I grab the coupon from the drawer, I realize it expired 10/31/2011.  Damnit, I’m TWO months late! 

Well, Dell sent it to me specifically, so I don’t see why they can’t honor it.  Right?  I mean after all it was sent because I was such a loyal customer for over 10 years.  I went on the website and started chatting with a representative.  I explained my dilemma, and he assured me that they’ll be able to help.  Unfortunately I was multitasking, as usual, and the 800 number he gave me disappeared along with the conversation.

I went back on chat and another representative gave me a number.  I called and was eventually transferred to a supervisor who kindly told me that unfortunately the coupon had expired and as much as he wishes he could help me there is nothing that he can do for me.  Well, I’m still learning when to give up, but I haven’t gotten there as yet, so I responded, “Well if you really want to help me, such a loyal customer, you could just give me another coupon.  After all, you are not really helping me by saying no.”

Of course I tried all kinds of strategies, and the blame game was on.  “Why didn’t the other representatives tell me this before?  Why did I have to go through three people to hear this?”  Not even guilt worked.

He kept repeating that as much as he’d like to he couldn’t, and after the sixth time, I realize I’d lost this battle.

But I’d have to find a way to get back that $15!

As much as I tell my kids that in life you win some and you lose some, I was having a hard time coping with the fact that I just basically threw good money away.

And it’s not the fact that I lost money because when I was 19, my church youth group was going on a trip.  I took about $200 or $300 off my account and lost it before my lunch was over.  I didn’t even blink.  I just took some more money off and secured it properly.  After all, losing money is part of life, but holding a physical coupon in your hands that is useless is another thing.

And 30% off ink is a steal of a deal.  First I’m not doing anything extra.  It’s a phone call away.  And the shipment comes to my house.  Second, when I put it on my credit card, it takes at least 30 days before I have to pay, so it is doubly worth the trouble.

Sometimes it gets tempting because everyone likes free or near free stuff.  The other day, some McDonalds coupons came in the mail, and I couldn’t wait to use the 29¢ for medium fries on February 29.  Would you believe it snowed on that day?  All winter, nothing.  Then on that day enough snow came for the school to be closed.  It totally messed up my schedule, and there was no way I was wasting gas to buy fries for 29¢.  So I guess I’ll have to wait until 2016……

Two weeks ago I went to Gymboree because it was time to use my Gymbucks.  Basically for every $50 spent, you get a certificate for $25 to be used in the future for every $50 you spend.  Now you know I’m not going to forget to use a 50% off coupon.  And I whipped out my Gymboree Credit Card and got an extra 5% off.

So I got home, and I’m totally happy with my purchase, and as I’m looking through my wallet, I see a 20% off coupon.  How could I miss that?  Then I start speed thinking.  It doesn’t make sense to drive 45 minutes just for a 20% off because really I’m only saving $5 since my purchase came to $55.  If I had used my 20% coupon, the purchase has to total a minimum of $66.  That would take it down to about $53, then my extra 5% off would take it to about $50 and change.  Because it’s Gymbucks time again, and I’m not getting left behind.

Then I hear my daughter whispering, “El Cheapo is not letting that 20% discount pass her.”  But I explained that it wouldn’t be worth it since the store is so far.  But then I think again, “Hey, that’s an extra $5.”  So by 6:30 pm I rounded up the kids quickly and got in the car.  I drove no more than two minutes then said, “Myra, come on, by the time you get back, it’ll be almost 8:30.  It’ll be dark and you’ll be nervous because you can't see the road, plus you need to get the kids to bed.  It’s just not worth an extra $5 or even $10”……..Well maybe $10 would have been worth it.  At any rate, I reversed and tried to figure out when I can  use that 20% coupon again.

It’s such a fine line between trying to save a penny and going out of your way to save it.  At least I’m not one of those people who drive the extra mile to get cheaper gas.  (You know who you are!)  I did the math.  Let’s say one gas station has gas for $3.699 and another for $3.659.  If you put 10 gallons in your car, you are only saving 40¢ by going to the cheaper gas station.

40¢!  Look, even if that gas is 20¢ cheaper, you are only saving $2 on 10 gallons of gas.  You might think it's a big savings, but is the wear and tear on the car worth more than $2?

Perspectively speaking, it’s not even worth it!