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New and Modern Ways of Becoming Embarrassed August 29, 2011

Posted by Bill in humor, Manners, Uncategorized.
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Today I witnessed a behavior that caused a young woman some embarrassment and thought I would disseminate that behavior in order that others might profit from her mistake. 

The first day of fall semester started at TCC today.  This semester my classes are at Trinity River Campus – the campus by the Trinity River (seems an appropriate name).  Beautiful grounds and so, so buildings. 

Anyway, my morning class was in a lecture hall that was right next to the river.  What is really nice is that the wall behind the instructor is glass – the omnipresent mirrored glass – so that we had a good view of the river going by. 

The first I realized that something else was going by – being a good student and paying attention to what the instructor was saying – was when several members of the class started laughing.  Looking around I quickly realized why.

There was a young woman who had been walking on the walkway between the river and the building.  Before coming in she apparently wanted to make sure she looked her best.   Looking straight into the class she hitched up her blue jeans and checked them out.  Then she adjusted her blouse and worked on her hair before leaving. 

And I must say that she looked good when she walked into our door a moment later.  I hope someone told her why so many people were laughing when she came in.   If not, she must have thought us a jolly class with a witty instructor.  Oh, were that only true.   

As I write this it occurs to me that modern life affords us many new ways to fall into embarrassment that did not exist 100 years ago.  Given that be warned that – whether it embarrasses me or not – I might post some more on modern ways of being embarrassed.


Quid Pro Quo Nation August 3, 2010

Posted by frrobins in Manners, Personal.
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Today I saw an article on CNN about whether or not cash bars at weddings are tacky. What surprised me was the amount of people who insisted that not serving alcohol at a wedding was some serious crime. Their reasoning? If they shell out money for travel, a hotel room, and a gift to go to someone’s wedding, they are entitled to alcohol.

Now I have seen brides and grooms reason that if they serve a lavish dinner at the reception that costs $200 a plate then the guests should bring a present that reflects that amount. I think that reasoning is seriously flawed, reaks of entitlement, and is terribly insensitive. Weddings are not thrown to get as much gifts and money as possible. The couple being married should not expect to break even on it. And if they can’t afford to shell out $200 a plate per guest, then they either need to invite less people or tone down their wedding.

Yet it appears that this attitude goes both ways. In the comments section, several people said that they based the value of their gift on the amount that the couple would be spending on them at the wedding. This made me wonder how they knew in advance how much the couple would be spending. Frankly, it’s rude to ask.

What bothers me is how an event that should be about family and friendship is whittled down to ‘how much is being spent on me?’ Are people really basing their worth on how much people spend on them now? Considering the hard economic times, you’d think people would know better.

Personally, when I got married I did not want to break of the bank on it. I’m rather nontraditional and don’t particularly like weddings. While we served wine, there was no bar, and there was plenty of non-alcoholic beverages available, for free. If some guests were upset that I didn’t go all out for them, then tough. My husband and I didn’t expect anyone to go all out on us. We’d already been living together for years and had everything that we needed. I did not have a bridal shower because I did not think that the wedding should be about gifts and because we did not need a lot. There were friends who came to the wedding sans gift, and my husband and I were fine with that. It was nice to see them. And if the value of your friendship with someone depends on much they spend on you, then you have some screwed up priorities in life.

Several other people made the claim that while the wedding is for the bride and groom, the reception is for the guests, so alcohol should be served. I think it’s time to coin a new term, Guestzilla.

Guests lists range drastically, but planning an event for 50 to 200 people is hard. And frankly, the couple is not going to be able to please everyone. While some people like to drink, other people are uncomfortable around others who are drinking. Should the couple cater to those who expect alcohol, or to the ones who are not comfortable with it? Oh, I get it! There should be two receptions held! One that serves alcohol and another that doesn’t! Do you see how crazy this could get? Or what if the bride or groom has family members who have an alcohol problem, and their drinking would cause a commotion that would make everyone at the reception uncomfortable? This was a concern at my wedding.

While the comfort of the guests should be kept in mind, the couple is ultimately the one throwing the party and has final say in what is served. That means that guests with food allergies, dietary restrictions and needs should be served something that they can eat. Last I checked, alcohol was not a necessary part of anyone’s daily diet. As long as plenty of water and other non-alcoholic beverages are served for free then the guests’ needs are being met. That said, if the couple does decide to serve alcohol, it should be free to the guests.

And everyone, bride, groom, parents, and guests should examine their reasons for having/attending a wedding. If you’re throwing a wedding expecting to break even on gifts, then elope. And if you’re attending a wedding just to get free booze, then stay home. And while you’re at it, think about the value of the relationships with your friends and family.

No Winners in Follicle Fight January 18, 2010

Posted by Bill in Current Events, Manners, Schools.
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Here in Mesquite, Texas, we have a 4-year-old who has been serving  in school suspension since November. Every day he takes his classes alone in a library with an aide to supervise him. So what has Taylor Pugh done to be forcibly ostracized from his class? Is he a behavior problem? Does he hit other children? Bite? Say bad words? Show up late for class?

Um… no. Taylor’s heinous offense is that he has long hair. The Mesquite Independent School District has a very strict dress code that includes guidelines that boys’ hair MUST be above the collar. Taylor’s parents tried putting the hair in a pony tail but that didn’t satisfy the school. They tried putting it in a top knot and that didn’t satisfy the school either. The school district counter offered by ordering the boy to wear his hair in corn row braids that would keep it off his shoulders. The parents say that braiding Taylor’s school so tightly causes his scalp to bleed and they won’t do it.

Now both sides have dug in, and neither one is going to budge. The school district says  they are going to impose stiffer penalties if Taylor doesn’t comply. Mom and Dad say they are going to appeal to the Texas Education Agency (my guess is that they won’t get anywhere with such an appeal. this is Texas, after all.) And in the middle of it all you have a 4-year-old boy who spends his school days in isolation, missing out on what is one of the most important aspects of school for a 4-year-old– socialization.

Public sentiment here in Texas is pretty much of the law and order type. Rules are rules and kids need to be taught to obey rules, dammit. That’s why we send them to school in the first place. Bloggers and posters in response to the online articles have commented that the parents look like trailer trash and/or “tattooed hippie biker dudes” and have no business having kids in the first place. Some posters have posited that the little boy is probably gay, and if he isn’t, the parents will turn him into a queer if they don’t make him get his hair cut. One poster commented that since the criteria to be admitted into the preschool program in the first place meant that the family either didn’t speak English or was on welfare, they should shut up and be glad their kid is getting to go to preschool for free.

I have been a kindergarten and preschool teacher and to say that kids go to preschool to learn to obey rules is a vast oversimplification of everything that is involved in preschool/kindergarten education– and it is wrong. Kids don’t go to preschool to learn to obey rules- they go to learn how to work and play with others, to acquire essential language, verbal and math skills, as well as gross motor and fine motor skills. They go to get the building blocks they need for learning to read and they go to start learning how to function in a classroom environment in which they will be expected to sit quietly and pay attention to a teacher for much of the day. They go to learn how to follow directions and how to behave in an orderly fashion and how to use their indoor voices and to walk, not run in the hallway. And apparently in Mesquite, they go to learn that gender roles require that boys have short hair.

Generally I tend to go along with school rules, but I’m having a hard time with this one simply because it IS such a stupid rule. Do we really want to teach our kids that blind adherence to authority is a good thing? If that is the case, then we certainly should NOT be praising America’s Founding Fathers because they knew a stupid rule when they saw one and rebelled against it. Nor should we be praising the abolitionists or people like Rosa Parks or Oskar Schindler and Miep Gies.

Yes, I’m playing the race card and the Holocaust/Hitler card because the same principles apply. Blind adherence to authority leads to things like My Lai, leads to the torture of Iraqi prisoners, leads to people doing things they shouldn’t simply because they were following orders.

Still, it’s a long way from a little boy refusing to cut his hair to soldiers blowing up a village in Viet Nam. Yet, I can’t get beyond the fact that this really is a stupid rule. The Mesquite District points with pride to the fact that the rule has been on the books since the seventies. That, in itself, might give them a clue that it’s time to revisit it. A lot of things have happened since the seventies. For instance, when I went to school in the seventies, girls weren’t even allowed to wear slacks (unless the temperature dipped below ten degrees).

There is no evidence that strict dress and hair codes improve academic performance and/or student behavior. What evidence there is is mostly anecdotal for either side. The few studies that have been done show little to no correlation between dress codes and substance use, behavioral problems and violence. 

One thing I have learned as a parent is not to sweat the small stuff and to save my energy for the stuff that really matters. That’s one of the big problems in this dispute– both the parents and the school district have picked an awfully small hill to die on.

While I don’t mean to discount young Taylor, what he wants is actually pretty irrelevant here. He is four years old and he probably wants a tricycle, moon sand and a transformer as well. In his life he is going to go through many hairstyles. My guess is that he would probably be content with whatever hairstyle his parents gave him (although seeing the picture of him in the topknot that makes him look like Pebbles Flintstone does give me pause to think.) Reportedly he is growing out his hair to donate to Locks of Love, which is certainly commendable of  him, however he could be given other ways to make a contribution to the needy.

The school district needs to step back and take a chill pill. They need to focus on the factors that ACTUALLY influence student performance and quit fussing about the length of this child’s hair. By spending so much time, energy and money on this, they are missing the bigger picture, which is are they meeting the academic needs of their students?

And Taylor’s parents need to step back and take a chill pill. They aren’t going to win this one. The TEA is unlikely to rule in their favor. No court in Texas is likely to rule in their favor and the US Supreme Court probably would not touch this one with a ten foot pole. Yes, it is a dumb rule. In the course of Taylor’s life, he is going to encounter many dumb rules. You either obey them, fight to change them or go somewhere else. I’ve got news for Taylor’s parents– Mesquite, Texas proudly wears the title of Redneck Capital of the world and they ain’t gonna change this rule because a couple of “tattooed hippie biker dudes” don’t like it. If they do not want to comply with this utterly stupid and senseless rule, then they need to take Taylor out of this school district and put him somewhere else.

The only thing that is clear is that as long as the school district and the parents continue to fight over this completely stupid issue, a four-year-old boy is going to be sitting by himself and missing out on what are some of the REALLY important things about going to preschool. Nobody is going to win this one, least of all Taylor.

For Whom the Cell Phone Tolls October 19, 2009

Posted by Bill in Manners, Personal.
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Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig had to ad lib during a performance of the Broadway play A Steady Rain when some idiot’s cell phone went off not once but twice during the show. Jackman stayed in character as a Chicago cop and merely said, “You want to get that?” Not only did the idiot forget to turn his phone off, he then evidently didn’t realize it was ringing because it continued to go off, prompting Jackman to say, “Come on, just turn it off … unless you want to get up here and tell your story.”

The cell phone owner was evidently very popular that night because it went off again a few moments later. Craig urged the owner, “Come on. Don’t be embarrassed. We’ll wait. Just turn it off.”

Without having seen the video (I’ve tried but the TMZ site is overloaded and they shut the YouTube site down) My guess is the phone belonged to a woman who was scrambling to find it in her purse after it went off.

Kudos to Craig and Jackman for managing to work a rude interruption into the texture of their play. Stars everywhere are having to compete for the attention of the members of their audiences with cell phones, IPODS, TREOS and people who just don’t have the courtesy to stop talking once the lights go down. If you listen to the recording of Tori Amos playing Little Earthquakes at a concert in Montreal, you can hear her stop in the middle and scold some members of the audience who are talking rather than listening.

Bill and I went to see a Neal Diamond concert a few years ago that was completely ruined for us by the guy sitting behind us who loudly screamed along with Diamond on every song, completely drowning out the voice we had paid big bucks to hear.

I have a theory that a lot of this decline in civility started with the advent of videotapes. It used to be that people could only see movies in theaters, or wait several years for them to be shown on television. However, when people started being able to watch nearly first run movies in the comfort of their own home, they could make as much noise as they wanted. If you missed something someone said because your mother called on the phone, no problem. Just stop and rewind. If you wanted to shout out whodunnit halfway through the video, no problem. If you wanted to stand up and dance around the living room while John Travolta and Olivia Newton John were singing on screen, no problem.

Thanks to the ability to watch movies and concerts in the comfort of our own homes, we have forgotten how to act when we are out in public, sitting in an auditorium with other people who have paid a lot of money to see the same show we are seeing. We’re used to talking, listening to our IPODS, dancing, pausing the action, rewinding, restarting and in essence doing whatever we want while the show is playing. We’ve lost sight of the fact that in live theater, there is no pause button.