Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Guilty Pleasure

Guilty Pleasures

          While it is somewhat embarrassing to admit, one of my guilty pleasures is watching The Bachelorette (and the Bachelor).  I’ve watched quite a few seasons of these shows over the last few years, and every time a season ends, I swear I will never watch it again………… but then I do.  I’ve concluded that it is sort of like gawking at an accident scene.  No matter how horrible it is, you just can’t make yourself look away. 

          I’m trying to understand what it is about these shows that attract me.  My biggest complaint is how horribly artificial the romantic situations are, and yet, even knowing that, these people somehow think it is going to work for them.  The stats are against them of course.  Many couples who find each other on these shows don’t stay together for long once the shows end.  There are notable and now famous exceptions, but most of these “hot romances” can’t make it very far beyond the airing of the season.  There is no way someone can legitimately fall in love while simultaneously “dating” 10, or 6, or 4, or 2 people.  Well, ok, maybe 2 people, but no more than that!

          Another complaint I have regularly as I watch each season is the element of audience manipulation created by crafty editing and artful producing.  Previews of next week’s episode seem to give away almost too much….. until you actually watch next week’s episode and find out that the preview scenes were not accurately reflecting what was really going on.  And while I’m on the topic of producers, another big issue for me is not knowing how much of what happens is scripted or set-up by the producers for effect.  How much control do the producers really have?  Maybe the guy was PAID a bonus to keep the drama queen on for one more round of dates?   That is something most normal audience members will probably never really know, so by watching we are setting ourselves up to be manipulated.  Sadly, it works. 

I think part of the attraction for me is the game/contest element of the show.  I get to pick matches, and then see if the young lovers agree.  What do I win if I guess right?  The satisfaction of knowing that I really AM a good judge of character?  (Yeah, right! Let’s go with that one.)
         I feel bad for the families that have to get pulled along on the roller coaster ride with the contestant.  Especially those families who actually get included in the home-town dates – they have to open up their homes and their lives to the scrutiny of millions, only to have their son or daughter not make the cut. 
        Well, all I can say is that as this current season of The Bachelorette winds down, I’M NEVER WATCHING THIS STUPID SHOW AGAIN!  (And do you think Ryan might be the next Bachelor?) 


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yeah, no problem!

Yeah, no problem!  

          I realize that I am going to sound at least old-fashioned, if not down-right curmudgeonly with this complaint, but I can live with that.  At some point in the last 10 years or so, someone decided that it was appropriate for clerks, wait-staff, and everyone else who works with customers to stop using the words “you’re welcome” after someone says, “thank you”.  In their place, it is now evidently appropriate to say some variation or combination of, “yeah”, “uh huh”, “sure”, “ok”, “no problem”.  Most often, it seems, I hear 2 of these in combination. 

          Whenever I hear this, I want to stop time and lecture this clerk that the proper response to “thank you” is still “you’re welcome”.  I really don’t understand when and where this changed, but I have a feeling it is connected to our society’s general shift towards less formality in all aspects of the culture.  Perhaps it is a generational thing.  It seems to me that few parents teach their children formal manners any more.  I’m sure many parents still teach “please” and “thank you”, or children at least get that in Kindergarten, but the training in politeness seems to stop there. 

          I’m not suggesting we go back to a time when formal rules governed much of what happened in “polite society”, and when young people actually took training in etiquette,  but “no problem” just seems a little TOO informal to me.  It feels like I’m being told “Hey, it’s no problem that I refilled your drink.  It’s not like I had to go out of my way, or anything.”  Um, no, that’s your JOB. "No problem" carries an attitude no matter how it is stated.   Saying “you’re welcome” is a simple acknowledgement of being thanked and appreciated, and it doesn’t carry an attitude. 

          I will be traveling to New Hampshire soon, and I’m going to pay particular attention to the responses I get to my thanks-giving to see if I notice any patterns in age, or regional differences.  This is definitely a shift in society that I do not like, old-fashioned curmudgeon that I am, thank-you-very-much!


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer Daze


          Today is one of the Ohio days I wait all winter for:  a glorious summer day with temperatures in the low 80’s, very low humidity and a nearly cloudless sky.  It is a day when there is nothing that HAS to be done inside - no deadlines looming, no appointments pressing, no expectations that I be anywhere or do anything other than what suits me at the moment.  It is for days like this that I wait anxiously through the grayness of December, the extreme cold and snow-cover of February, and the rains of March and April (and this year May).  There are relatively few of these days in my life, but probably more for me than for those unlucky enough to only get 2 or 3 weeks of vacation a year.  This summer it feels like I have more of these days than in previous years, but that may be my imagination or misremembering; or maybe it is accurate because this summer I have fewer responsibilities than I’ve had in previous years – the time of my life that I find myself in, perhaps? 

          It is on these days that I want only to sit on my patio in the shade of my patio tent, with a book I am enjoying, and read, surrounded by colorful blooms, chirping birds and small furry animals snacking under the bird feeders.  I fully realize it is a luxury to have the freedom to do only this if it is what suits me.  At times, a small morsel of guilt creeps in.  I say to myself, “shouldn’t I be doing something productive rather than just sitting here reading a novel that isn’t for school?”  Then I remind myself that relaxation and leisure are productive.  They are restorative.  This is balm for the soul.  Just as the body needs sleep each night to rejuvenate itself, likewise the soul needs rest and relaxation – a lack of responsibility and a lack of “doing”. 

          As I’ve enjoyed my patio and lovely yard this summer, it has occurred to me how different this experience is from the patio and yard of my childhood.  Growing up with my parents, I always lived in the suburbs in a single family home.  The houses always had yards of at least .5 acre or more, with trees and bushes.  The houses also always had cement patios, usually with patio furniture including an umbrella.  Yet, somehow these patios were never inviting to me.  As I think back on it now, I realize that the culture of my family did not relish the environment of the shady outdoor space where nature could be seen and enjoyed.  My family didn’t seem to pay particular attention to the large variety of birds that might visit a feeder or the squirrels or chipmunks that might sneak up to grab a quick drink from the birdbath.  In fact, while we did have flowers on those patios, there were never feeders or birdbaths, and all bugs, birds and “critters” were strongly discouraged from entering the “people space”.   They were unwelcomed intruders that might eat a precious flower blossom or poop on the patio!

          The culture of my family said to me that nature is to be kept separate because it can be dirty.  The 2 houses I lived in from ages 7-18 both had patio doors, but they were “French doors” rather than patio-style sliding glass doors.  The glass windows in them were kept covered, lest the sunlight shine in too much and fade the carpet or upholstery.  The accompanying screen doors were seldom left open because they would let in small bugs that might hide in the draperies and make black marks….. and of course, Gypsy thieves could easily cut their way through a window screen to get in.

          This year, as I consider the prospect of moving to a new home, I realize how much of a priority this inviting outdoor space is to me.  This has become an essential part of my home – of my actual living space.  It is now hard to imagine ever living anywhere that I cannot walk out of a large clear glass door into an outdoor space where I can sit leisurely and enjoy multicolored flowers, a multitude of song birds, and bees walking around on blossoms.

          Today, as the shadows in the back yard lengthen and then disappear with the sunset, I will watch the fairy lights come on, one-by-one, and appreciate this inviting, luxurious space and the fact that I have reached a time in my life when I am able to enjoy it.