Splinters In Your Ass

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My greatest fear is nothing that anyone who does not know me would guess and would never probably appear on the top twenty list of most people and yet for me, it’s almost crippling. “Only boring people get bored,” is often quoted, yet widely attributed with no one, it seems, certain of its origin. Being boring or bored is something which has driven me since my first cognitive thought. It’s such an ordinary trait or instinct; such a very average and plebian affliction from which to suffer. Not for me, thank you very much, no. I will always find curiosity in life and the world and books and cultures and languages; in all things intellectual, and even in physical challenges. I will never let anyone or anything render me boring and thus potentially bored. The only thing I could imagine to be worse than being rendered boring or bored would be to lose my sense of humor and my ability to see the absurd, even in situations that are otherwise unsettling.

And yet. Somehow I have become just that and perhaps more, the irony being that it has been imposed upon me by the collective, unrelenting narcissism of others. What? Let me attempt to explain.

I used to be – before I was harassed to within an inch of my sanity and forced out of my job by an over-sexed slob with extreme tendencies and the simplest of minds – an interesting person. My great and first love is geopolitics; not that crap Americans consume from Cliff’s Notes-like snippets in USA Today; no, the real deal. Jane’s Defence, Foreign Affairs, per Concordiam, three English language foreign newspapers every day plus Правда. The way the world is really connected and works versus how people perceive it fascinates me and always has. I would also spend at least an hour a day – usually in the evening – practicing Russian so as not to lose it, and brushing up on French because though it’s easier, it’s also less engrained in me due to the manner in which I learned it.

When I traveled, even for work, I sought out the interesting aspects of life and society, even in the most otherwise seemingly bland locales. Museums, monuments, restaurants, landscapes; anything unique I could photograph, describe, remember or just add to the catalog of information in my head upon which I call when I engage in conversation with interesting people.

Interesting people.

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Oh, The Lies They’ll Tell – I

Why am I so angry? I can’t imagine, really. Part of it couldn’t be their lawyers, could it? Not that they’re effective enough to actually get under my skin, but rather because they’ve proven themselves to largely be ineffectual liars. Liars who not only lie to official bodies, but also to their peers whom they’ve known for thirty years. Yes. I think that’s part of it. 

Why do they do it? Why do lawyers lie? Well, in my experience, it’s usually only for two reasons: One, they think they can get away with it; they’ve been getting away with it for so long that they’ve settled into a pattern defined and informed by a toxic blend of complacency and arrogance. And if no one challenges them, or at least not substantively, well, why not? Throw it all at the wall and see what sticks. Two, because they have nothing else; absolutely, positively not one leg on which to stand. Interestingly, the attorneys who currently represent Land O’Lakes in my action against my former boss fall into both of the above categories, but also seem to have an almost frighteningly thick layer of gullibility icing layered on top of their very particularly ornate fabrication cupcake.  

In their response to one adjudicating body alone, they told almost nothing but lies. “The complainant confirmed she had received and read the employee handbook,” (approximation). Umm, no. I can clearly be heard saying not once, not twice, but three times in a row on the recording of the interview with their – cough – “investigator” that I never saw any such document, let alone acknowledged or signed it. Of course, maybe she didn’t hear my response because she was too busy asking me how to spell “WPP.” Well, usually W-P-P. But I digress. That’s just a single example, one of eight manifest lies they told, in writing, despite what I actually said which is recorded for the entire world to see. If need be. But then they also claimed I delayed the interview when it was, in fact, they who stated their “investigator” was “out of the country” and could not make the earlier date we had requested. Tsk, tsk. How do you walk without tripping over your nose?

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Public vs. Private

This phrase of opposition has been going through my head a great deal lately, but not in one singular way or as a descriptor for one singular contest. For me, right now, it represents something both internal to me and external to the world, each at the most opposite extreme of life’s spectrum.

This may be the most free-flowing thing I’ve written yet, and though I rarely spend even an hour on the posts I write, this, I fear, will take a form with far less structure even than those which came before.

It wasn’t the break-in at the Watergate that undid Richard Nixon and his team; it was the cover-up of it which followed thereafter. Let’s start there. The break-in was private, the cover-up, both – an act of collusion between the perpetrator, his lawyers, and their cohorts. The downfall was public and historic and ended them all.

“Be nice,” he said. Be nice. What does that even mean? I think I’ve possibly written about it before, or if not, my close friends and family have certainly heard me say it plenty: ‘nice is an act you put on for the benefit of the perception of others; good is what you either are or are not inside. I’ll choose good.’ Putting on a fake smile, waving my hands, animating my emotions and contorting my face does not, to me, hold any modicum of ‘good.’  It’s fake, nothing else. “Nice” is public, ‘good’ is private. I have always chosen private.

When I started writing publicly more than 12 years ago, I chose to remain private, using the shared name of my two grandmothers, Belle. I even chose the last name of my maternal one because I feel it has grace and goodness, as did she; in fact, the photo icon on my Twitter profile is my grandmother Belle. It was my pen name and nothing more, though it did provide relief to me, an outlet by which I could say what I thought and felt away from the industry in which I worked, an industry itself still riddled with misogyny. Everyone close to me knew and knows; my sister, best friend, son and favorite uncle all follow me on Twitter. The NBA team I love does as well, and I’ve often gone back and forth with writers from large papers discussing aspects of my technical expertise in digital. So I’m sorry, but it was no real epiphany, Tiphany, and it certainly was and was never meant to be “inescapable” who I am. 

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The Shame Game

They’re a $13B company. I’m one woman.

They have their in-house counsel and two external law firms. I have one law firm and two lawyers within it.

They hired and paid for a “third-party, independent investigator.” She used to be a shareholder in their firm and just like their external counsel, is being paid by them. She was and is a risk assessor, nothing more or less, and one whose bias hung from her like a cheap slip from an ill-fitting dress. 

They said I “delayed and obstructed” my initial interview. We had requested the week of January 2nd. They replied saying their “investigator” was “out of the country” that week and offered January 11th.

They said I gave them my statement “piecemeal.” I had forty-eight hours to respond and gave them a fifty-five-page document complete with emails, texts, and commentary

They said I had changed my story. We gave them a second document of twenty-eight pages five days later. I’d had to make a decision so quickly about filing my claim that I’d needed to come to terms with sharing the more grotesque details. I changed nothing; what I did do was added detail I’m sure they found shocking and difficult to defend.

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At What Price Silence?

“A woman is like a tea bag. You can never tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

Silence. It happens for so many reasons. Writer’s block, death, speechlessness, imposed. I have not written in almost three months and not doing so has undoubtedly inflicted upon me more inward contemplation, self-flagellation, and despair than I would have otherwise suffered, so practiced am I at dealing with any of life’s curveballs by expressing my thoughts and feelings in writing. My lack of writing has, to be fair, been more so a combination of a few factors rather than any single one. I’ve been going through something about which I, for a long time, only told my immediate family and closest friends, and even to them, I did not impart the most grotesque of details; I wasn’t ready to talk about it yet, though I have alluded to it in some prior blog posts, albeit in veiled terms. In addition to my own reticence, due to ongoing legal wrangling, I did not want to jeopardize any position or disclose any information that might negatively affect the outcome. Then Thursday happened. Now, I simply no longer care.

Context:

I will still, to protect myself and the integrity of the ongoing legalities, not entirely expose the details of my situation, though I feel not only that the man in question deserves public humiliation, but feel as strongly that the company who employed him and who is now spending a small fortune on limiting their exposure deserve public derision and ongoing – if not permanent – devaluation of their brand. There simply is no excuse for the human resource failure and entire lack of oversight that led to his hiring in the first instance. No reason except that like many industries, the one in question is male-dominated and misogynist, but in this one, they’ve all known each other for years – or even decades – and as a result, are all seemingly admitted to this particular club on the basis of “what you know about who you know” rather than merely the less insidious, but still offensive “who you know.” It’s a case of inclusion via mutually assured destruction based on the “you stab my back, I’ll stab yours” mantra.

I wrote about this culture way back in May of last year, but the person to whom I sent it to for review told me that even by my standards, it was harsh, and indeed parts of it were. The part which remains relevant, and especially to the issue at hand, is below.

Excerpt from ‘Shut Up and Play:’

I’m good at what I do. Even people who loathe me will – I think – begrudgingly admit that I know my stuff, and even in some aspects, extremely well. But unfortunately, this isn’t enough, being exceptional at what you do. It’s also the one thing that good, decent, honest, hard-working parents never think or know to teach their children: sometimes skills don’t matter and you just have to shut up and play the game.

Neither of my parents was university educated and in fact, both of them came from below average economic situations. What they did have, though, were incredibly strong families with bible hewn morals and unwavering ethical standards. They were also examples of work ethics that almost no longer exist today, at least not in the main and not for anything today’s society would perceive as being “worth the effort.” They taught us as literally as one can possibly imagine that all we had to do was work hard every day, strive to be the best at what we do and that everything else would fall into place.

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The Exclusionary Arrogance of Western Feminisim

Re-posting from January of this year

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fem·i·nism

ˈfeməˌnizəm

noun

the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.

If the above is the simple definition of feminism, the women marching across our country today — and indeed in major Western cities across the world — are not feminists in the true sense of the term. As many before me have asked without reply, what rights are there from which we as American women are restricted? Again perfectly manifesting the left’s inability to see irony in any of their deeds or words is the fact that they, as women, are being allowed to freely march in cities across our nation unrestrictedly, despite the fact that doing so greatly inconveniences many who simply wish to go about their day or earn a living unimpeded, and also alienates those of us who are secure enough in our ability to steer our own ships that we shun such efforts wholesale.

If this march was stirred because of fear of losing funding for programs such as planned parenthood — and I can think of no other single perceived women’s issue that was discussed during the campaigns — then these women are selfishly appropriating that as a singularly female issue, ignoring the fact that men, too, are offered services by PP, and only further highlighting the narcissistic vapidity of their effort. But why bother with an inconvenient truth when baseless hyperbole is so much more effective for their cause.

Also asked of those participating in and defending #womensmarch is why they do not apply similar zeal, resources and attention to the legally and culturally oppressed women in countries around the world who not only do not have the equivalent of something like planned parenthood, but who cannot even turn to authorities or even family members in the case of rape or assault because their societies are conditioned to immediately cast them as Jezebels who brought said offenses upon themselves. Freedom of speech for any sex is likewise illegal in many of these same countries, the combination thereof creating the most toxic environment possible for the most vulnerable amongst their populations. Yet my gender marches, shouts, cries and inspires celebrity outcries and support for an entirely imaginary lack of rights in our nation. Which brings me to this:

What exactly is it that Katy Perry, America Ferrera, Chrissie Teigen, Madonna, Julia Roberts and others who have more than ample resources do with their time when they are in other countries that has made them so willfully blind to true oppression of women? One not need go far to witness it, and quite contrarily, one would have to go somewhat out of their way to ignore it, even and perhaps especially in the finer hotels of that most frequent destination of left luvvies, London. I lived there for 8 years and go back almost every month; I saw a frightening example of it over the course of those 8 years and witnessed it again as recently in September of last year, and when I am reminded of it I am both frozen to the core and heartened by the fact that I am protected by the passport I carry, by grace of birth, which is a shield these women cannot employ.

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The Ties that Blind

Re-publishing this from the original writing on February 4 of this year.

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We are imploding, self-devouring and it’s only a matter of time, it feels before we are required to wear badges which denote our political affiliation of choice. Race is no longer as dividing a topic as politics — despite the fact that we can choose not only our affiliation but how we approach and manifest it — but we are not given the ability to choose the color of our skin. I was brought up in a city that is majority African-American, yet I am cotton ball white, blonde hair, green eyes and all. I never, though, really give it much thought. In the city of my birth we are blessed to have things which unite us like our NBA team, music, food and spirituality; of course, we are different and thank God for that. I’ve always felt that our city is more interesting and — unlike that bastion of white hipsterness in the center of our state — possesses a soul and a heartbeat all its own because of not only our African American population, but because of the similarly, wildly diverse influence of the considerable Jewish, Greek and Italian communities with which we are blessed. I read on the Twitter profile of someone last night who was tweeting about our team during their game (yes, OUR team), something along the lines of “Memphis born. Wherever I go, Memphis always.” To understand that, I suspect you would have to have been born here or at least have lived here for a large part of your life. I’ve lived all over the world, but Memphis is home. It is inexplicable, gut-wrenching, liberating, unique and at times frustrating. The first time I came home after moving to London almost 20 years ago, I remember flying over my alma mater on the descending flight path, as so many planes do, and the tears welling up uncontrollably and without warning in my eyes. I could not wait to get out of here, both as a child and in the early years of adulthood, so this unconscious reaction to returning to the city which I now recognize holds my roots — the true source of my spirit and fire as an individual — took me by surprise and caused me to question all that I had thought I knew of my home’s influence on me as a person.

I am a Grizzlies fanatic, often flying home from cities distant to make it to important games and always finding a way to watch, regardless of where I am in the world. I am also, as my son would tell you, at times embarrassingly passionate, yelling at refs for what I see as biased calls or scolding our players for blowing a screen or squandering a full shot clock with an attempt at a 3 when everyone knows your strength is defense (Ahem, TA). When we sit shoulder to shoulder, as close to floor level as we can get, I never give a thought to the tone of the skin of the person sitting next to, in front or behind me; the only thing I notice is whether or not they are wearing the colors of my team or if they are an opponent import who is likely to wish me dead by halfway through the first quarter. We are not black, white, yellow, purple, gay, straight, whatever — we are Grizz fans and largely, we are Memphians. The same sort of dynamic can be seen in some of the best restaurants in town or in the church pews of any number of congregations, and it does not necessarily depend on generation. My son’s generation, I am proud to say – though rife with liberal faux righteousness – is as color blind as any ever born. My 70-year-old mom, born in rural Tennessee to a father who freely made use of the N-word, truly believes that Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and Mike Conley are her kids, despite her being a size zero white woman. I can tell you that she would, without hesitation, throw me over for any one of them on any given day and would nag them to within an inch of their lives with her motherly orders just as she has me every day of mine. She would also, it must be added, give a kidney to marry me off to Vince Carter. I am not saying we are immune to divisiveness or that it isn’t more prevalent for or to others than it is to me; I’m saying that there is a sense that the toughness that comes from having been brought up in a place like Memphis, — and the reputation we have amongst outsiders who have never spent time here — gives us the bond of a siege mentality; “Memphis vs. Errbody,” as our growl towels and t-shirts proudly state. Prejudice exists – I’m not denying that – but the transcendence of it is possible, if only momentarily, and it is often in spite of all other obvious attributes that would otherwise divide.

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The Poison of Pretense

Or What Happens When The Polite Right Meets the Loved-up Left

I woke up this morning to the news of the lovely candlelight vigil on the campus of the University of Virginia. Concerned that their opposite-viewed peers would not be able to see during their protest over the presence of a Confederate statue, a group of civic-minded individuals gathered to help light the way. In the end, there was some amount of discord but mostly because the fumes from the torches were a bit overwhelming and things got a bit crowded and heated. Nothing at all out of the ordinary, just some high-spirited, start-of-term camaraderie. As you were.

Isn’t that what happened?

No. But why tell the truth when pretending is so much more convenient and digestible? Of course, no news outlet actually covered the events of last evening in anything remotely resembling the summary I just provided above, but would it be so unbelievable if one had? Twenty years ago, yes. Today, no.

I was brought up in the South; not the polite, “butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth” South, but the ballsy, say it like it is, don’t waste anyone’s time, don’t make an ass of yourself, don’t whine and never, ever let the neighbor boy borrow your quad bike South. A South that is all but gone, replaced slowly, almost imperceptibly over a number of years by the “polite” South whose habits and graces are built around religion, manners and the ever-present concern of the perception of “the right thing” to say or do. “Isn’t she a sweet little thing” is commonly known to mean, “What an insipid little dumbass.” Of course the more infamous and widely known, “Well bless your heart,” basically means the same thing, but is far more wide ranging and can be anything from, “Oh sweetie, your husband is gay. You know that, right?” To “Even a plastic potted plant has a higher IQ than you.” But why don’t we just say it? Because it wouldn’t be “nice;” it’s “just not done.” Or my most derided, “How would that look?” Well, the truth, as it was once known, used to not only be done, look just fine and be nice, but it made for a far more efficient and straightforward way of life.

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They Say It’s Your Birthday

Yep, I do. I’m forty-eight years new today and consider that, on balance, I now spend only about twenty-five percent of my time being naive and neurotic as my second greatest accomplishment after my son. If you read this blog (and if you don’t, well, you’re already here so you’d may as well) you know that I’ve parted with my expensive things, moved to a village in Wales and have generally rediscovered what it’s like to simply not give a damn, and it’s lovely. It’s so lovely, in fact, that I have a difficult time getting fired up enough to find topics about which I am passionate enough to write. Maybe this is what Eminem meant when he said that once his struggles were over, his creativity deserted him. Now that I’m not part of the stress-hewn populace of the never-ending marathon to who can be most frayed in the good ole U S of A, I’m just not that pissed off anymore. About anything. So yes, Em, bro – I got you. We’re just alike, you and I. Well, except for the upbringing, addictions, crazy mom and misogynist lyrics. But the loss of good material and the pale skin thing I can totally relate to. We must at least both share an almost constant need for SPF 50. But I digress.

As I sneak up on fifty from behind and hope that it does not notice that I have somehow managed to go so far untouched by things most others suffer from age, I have chosen to do so in a way so as not to anger the gods that have allowed me to remain largely preserved, and I have also become more reflective. I’ve thought a lot lately about how I ended up this way; here, metaphorically and practically, in this space metaphysically and in Wales geographically and how it is that I managed to survive given how many people I’ve pissed off along the way. You see, if it weren’t my birthday this entry would instead be entitled, “Parents, Teach Your Children Well,” except that it would be a caveat emptor to doing so too well, as my parents did. My parents = two of the most decent, honest, hard-working people who ever lived. Period. But they were also, I’m afraid, incredibly naive, and in bringing my sis and me up with certain beliefs or standards, also set us up to be almost constantly at odds with something or someone or the universe at large. So as I scrape the bottom of nearing fifty, it occurs to me that an alternative parenting guide might have just made my life a bit easier, made me a bit more patient and calm, and would have kept me from being able to anger people who otherwise have the temporal constitution of the Dalai Lama himself.


Revised Parenting Lesson 1:

My parents, for example, when it came to honesty and hard work repeated such trite phrases as “it doesn’t matter what you do, do it better than anyone else.” Or, “as long as you work hard and do your best at whatever you choose, life will take care of you and we will be proud.” And then there was “take pride in your work and be sure you know your job better than anyone else.” Or the most often conflated and abused, “hard work pays.”

This is why I am good at what I do; I do work hard and I do try to ensure that I know more about my given field than anyone else, or at least better than the clients who pay me their hard-earned money to instill upon them skills they do not themselves possess. It is also why I, almost daily, want to reach through a phone line or across a sales counter and strangle customer service representatives at almost any number of companies. Because I know an increasingly astonishing amount more their goods or services than they do, and I also seem to care more despite being their customer rather than someone who is – I don’t know – paid to work for and ‘service’ the needs of said company’s clients. So no, mom and dad, other children were not taught the same standards we had instilled in us by you and if you really wanted to help us, you would’ve said, “hard work pays, but there are also lots of idiots out there and the real world is a minefield of laziness and willful ignorance wherein yes, you will excel, but only because your competition is so entirely unprepared, uninformed and stoned on sugary treats their parents let them have but of which we deprived you in place of spinach which made your neurons super-connected and has made you this hyper-efficient nerd ball of excellence. But you also be occasionally tripped up, blown off course or even blown to bits by one of these idiot-mines, so never go anywhere without your bullshit repelling flack-jacket. And a really good and loyal attorney.” But they didn’t, so here I am. Warning you to do so for yours.

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Lonely or Alone

And if the night runs over
And if the day won’t last
And if your way should falter
Along the stony pass it’s just a moment
This time will pass

~ U2, Stuck in a Moment

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Bono has been quoted as saying that he wrote the song Stuck in a Moment about an imaginary argument with his late friend Michael Hutchence, an argument in which Bono would have been trying to cajole him or “slap him around the head a bit,” to talk him out of committing suicide.  I wonder how many people know how it feels to wish they had said or done something – or even known – about someone close to them contemplating the most final of actions.

I have never spoken about the suicide of my friend earlier this year. I was standing at baggage claim at DC’s Reagan National Airport texting back and forth with my very best friend of more than forty years, talking nonsense, really, interspersed with tidbits about my godkids or when I would next be home to visit when out of the blue one of the texts popped up unceremoniously and like every other before it except that it said, “Oh my God, Wagner killed himself.” I didn’t skip a beat. I closed the text window and called my friend and said, “Why are you just now telling me this?” To which she replied, “I literally just found out the second I told you. I’m sorry. I’ll find out what I can and let you know. Are you coming home?”

No. I wasn’t going home.

In retrospect I suppose what I was experiencing was shock of some variant; I didn’t feel anything. I got into the Uber as I always did – almost every week in the same spot – and road in silence to The Jefferson, was handed the key, made my way up to the suite to which I’d been upgraded – my favorite, they know –  threw my things on the floor and went about my evening as though nothing had happened. Except that it had. I changed into my running clothes and left the hotel taking a right heading down toward the White House and the mall beyond. When I returned I retraced my footsteps back to my room, went directly into the bathroom, disrobed, stepped into the oversized shower and as soon as the water hit me, I came undone. I cried so convulsively I could not stand and instead ended up sitting on the floor of the shower for what seemed like an hour, but I had and have no concept of the time that passed. When the water began to run cold and the well of my tears had seemingly run dry, I stood, turned off the water, wrapped myself in a towel and then a robe, took my usual place on the large, stuffed-mattress bed, ordered my dinner and went back to work.

My emotional fallout from his death and from the utter wrongness of it by virtue of it having been choice remained in that shower, in that cube, washed down the drain with the sweat of my run and collective grunge of my travel as though it never happened.

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