Our Friend & Nemesis, Freedom of Speech

It’s hard maintaining a blog that isn’t really “about” anything. I have no idea how Seinfeld ran for nine seasons. Maybe it was funny or relatable or something?

As I established in my first post, I (like everyone else!) have a lot of thoughts, theories, and opinions, and sometimes it’s nice to share them in a way that allows for more planning and cohesiveness than a conversation at a bar or a comment on someone’s Facebook wall allows.

Before I wrote and published my last post, I collected all my thoughts and ideas on the chosen topic in the Notes app on my phone. Here is a look at the Notes page for this post. It was created back in February:

notes app 2

I was planning to write a post about fact checking, tying it into the hot topic of “fake news.” I wanted to write about how easy it is for false news to travel and to quickly be considered true and factual. I knew I wanted to throw in some silly anecdotes about One Tree Hill (like when Lucas saw Nate kiss Peyton, but didn’t know it was only because she had won a date with him at some school event). I’d also reference basically every sitcom that has ever aired, specifically Friends and How I Met Your Mother. Sitcoms and teen dramas really love to form entire storylines around shared misinformation and/or misinterpretation of events and people.

I also wanted to talk about how gossip spreads in real life, with a focus on how talking openly and honestly, and doing your own research (using credible sources like scientific studies and your one friend who always “keeps the receipts”) is a great way to sort through the garbage and find the information you can trust. Speaking of keeping receipts, I’ve got to mention the best receipt keeper of our day, Mrs. Kim Kardashian West. Girlfriend took down pop culture’s innocent good girl by exposing her lies in the most epic and most 2016 way ever. Props to Kim.

The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards - Backstage & Audience

Maybe we should also consider the psychology behind the concept of actually choosing to believe certain things. This can be applied to the profoundly personal – sometimes you believe something only because you deeply want it and need it to be true to keep your life together – and to the political – sometimes you may subconsciously (or consciously, I mean, 2016 was a weird year) ignore facts and truths because they don’t support your opinion. Hi, climate change!

These thoughts gathered storage dust in my iPhone until I had an experience that shook things up a bit for me. I was engaging in a Facebook debate (Ugh. I know this is never not a bad decision, but I’m blaming the pregnancy hormones in this case – ah, sneak attack with the fetus announcement there) about Trump’s energy and coal policies, and things quickly went left, as they tend to do during these types of conversations.

Seriously, when will we, as a society, outgrow this phase? Some people (raising my hand!) just can’t scroll past a political debate without engaging and then inevitably cycling through the emotional roller coaster that typically begins with rage and ends with regret (foreshadowing!).

FB debate meme

In a moment of blind rage, I made a petty remark to someone on the opposing side. Wait – posting something on Facebook in a fit of emotion – this all seems so familiar. Maybe my blog does have a theme. The person I was targeting chose to – quite literally – tattle to my husband. This action merely made my eyes roll out of my head and across the floor (harmless – happens multiple times a day), but the context of this tattle tale is what actually made me see red. He told my husband that he was relaying my comment “out of respect” to him (my husband).

Insert record scratch. 

And so a blog post was finally born.

I am an adult. Only I have the control and power over what I choose to say on Facebook, in conversations with coworkers, in small talk with the cashier at Trader Joe’s, or in texts with my mom. My husband does not Nobody owns me or is responsible for censoring me or warning me when I’ve gone too far (though, being the sweet pacifist he is, my husband does try to help me avoid self-destruction). And when I do go too far and shit hits the fan, it should (and does) fall entirely on me to clean up the stinky mess. Ditto for you all!

In my short time blogging (what is this – my 4th post?), I’ve already learned about what it’s like to try and clean up a shitty mess made of my own words. In that situation, however, it wasn’t until after my ill-fated attempt at cleaning up that I realized I wasn’t responsible for the mess. The shit I was trying to scrub away was someone else’s, and it was staining their floors, not mine.

In addition to being a regular adult in control of my own words, I am a writer – this is a dangerous combination. I’m also an atypical writer, in that nobody asks me or pays me to write anything. I choose to publish my writing on my own, and I have no editorial oversight board nitpicking to decide what ultimately ends up on my blog. Still, I don’t want to be sued, so I have to be careful about how I share experiences and anecdotes that involve real life people. (I also keep all my receipts.) If I want the 8 people who read this blog to know who I am referencing in a story, I will make the facts glaringly obvious. I may even run the post by these people first (Hi, Husband! Thanks for approving the story above). If you’re worried about being called out in someone’s totally under-the-radar blog, imagine how John Mayer or Harry Styles must feel (another Taylor reference for you all).

Freedom of speech seems to be a tricky thing lately, doesn’t it? You can now be accused of being too politically correct and killing the free speech vibes, but you can also directly quote someone and then be accused of spreading lies to promote your own agenda. (Hey guys, stop wondering if the latter example is you – that was a political reference).  News outlets (constantly rushing to be the first to publish something and – surprise – sometimes skipping the fact checking) are so often having to redact statements and make corrections. Our friend the 1st Amendment is going through some trying times!

Redactions and corrections sometimes come too late, and the misinformation has already impacted the opinions and decisions of countless people. We saw this happen with the UVA rape article in Rolling Stone, as well as when Monica borrowed money from Joey and he thought it was for a boob job. It can happen when your great aunt shares misinformation about Planned Parenthood on Facebook and it can happen when you think you see your friend’s boyfriend’s picture on Tinder and text her before double checking the profile.

speech meme

With great privilege comes great responsibility. The 1st Amendment grants us a really powerful right (well, technically a few rights) – one that affects our lives in innumerable ways. I don’t have any advice on how to best wield this privilege in your public life. Just kidding, I obviously do – stop posting articles from fake news sites and please proofread all your work e-mails before sending. I also have some wisdom to share about freedom of speech and your personal life. To avoid hurting others, check your sources and always think before you speak, text, or post. Yes, a simple principle our parents and teachers tried to instill in us for years, but still so, so tough (see: every anecdote I’ve ever shared about my personal use of Facebook). To avoid hurting yourself, know your values and principles, and let these guide your interactions with others. Don’t let someone else tell you what your words mean, be picky of whom you allow to speak on your behalf, and don’t ever feel like you have to defend the words of someone else if you don’t agree with them.

The 1st Amendment (okay, and social media) gives you power to share through your words, but you give power to your words.

may the odds

Donald Trump is Regina George & I Am Cady Heron

mean-girls

Forgive  me, but I’m going to start with a tired cliché of sorts:

Sometimes, in the midst of an odd experience, you end up learning something about yourself and about life.

This happened to me at the intersection of my personal experience with the historical (I think we can already call it that) 2016 election and my intimate relationship with the 2004 classic cinematic feature, Mean Girls. And for the purpose of this post, I am going to assume you have seen this incredible masterpiece at least three times. Just in case you haven’t (are we even friends IRL?) – Mean Girls Plot Summary

Last Thanksgiving (2015), I expressed my concern over a possible Trump Presidency. My father assured me that there was no way he would even win the nomination. He laughed at me for being so worried! If this had been a scene in a movie, there definitely would have been some ominous music playing during the fade out.

I cast my vote early, on a random work-from-home day in late October. It felt amazing. I saved my “I Voted” sticker with a dream of framing it and putting it in my future daughter’s nursery. You can roll your eyes here. I am, too. In my college-educated, Journalism degree mind, in my bleeding liberal heart of hearts, I truly did not believe that Trump would win the election. I thought Pussygate had pretty much sealed the fate for Our Queen HRC. How could people in 2016 America vote for a reality TV star who campaigned on a platform of islamophobia, xenophobia, sexism, racism, and classism?  Ninety-six years after the 19th amendment was passed, the glass ceiling was finally going to be shattered, and the shimmering pieces would fall all around a crying Donald Trump, human equivalent of cargo pants that zip away into shorts (credit: Every Description of Donald Trump).

I won’t go into the sexism that played a role in the portrayal of HRC throughout the election and beyond. You can look that up for yourself, if you’re so inclined. Our local Tampa Bay Times published a great, non-partisan piece that covered a good chunk of her history of public service (Read it here).

When Trump won, I was devastated. And then I latched onto a really depressing theory…

For 8 years, we had a black president, and during this time it wasn’t like racism disappeared. It’s just that racists didn’t really advertise their racism outside of their own racist circles – obviously I am white, and do not experience everyday, systemic racism the way POC do. I’m not naive. (Highly recommend this piece: My President Was Black – The Atlantic, but you’ll need an espresso machine nearby – it’s long). For 8 years, we had a president who stood up for women and women’s rights. But sexist, misogynistic people were still around. For 8 years, we had a president who campaigned for equal civil rights for our LGBTQ friends and loved ones. But, for the most part, homophobic people weren’t introducing themselves saying, “Hi, I’m James, and I really care about where you put your penis/vagina/mouth/fingers and it personally affects me and I think you’re subhuman and are probably going to hell. How about this weather we’re having lately, huh?”

You get the point.

After Trump was declared PEOTUS, people started worrying about an increase in hate crimes. Would blatant displays of all those awful -isms become commonplace? I thought so! All the “’deplorables” now had a reason to believe that their thoughts and beliefs were validated. They had a president elect who bragged about grabbing unwilling women by their pussies, who stereotyped and discriminated against Mexicans, Muslims, and African Americans, and who didn’t understand or care to understand the plight of the working poor (let’s pause to recognize that many working poor actually voted for Trump – ah, the joy of voting according to party lines). These people would no longer feel the need to hide or blur their shitty opinions of their neighbors, their fellow Americans, their fellow human beings.

I let my own shitty opinion of these people be known. I cried to my husband. I rage-typed angry texts to my friends and family. I posted a lousy Facebook status expressing my anger and sadness (I have since hid this from my timeline, but you can find it at the end of this blog post). I was an angry person, and I was thinking (and sometimes saying) cruel things about other people. I was not fun to be around.

Remember when Cady Heron first came to her new school and was a sweet, smart, and kind teenager? About halfway through the movie, it starts to become clear that she isn’t just obsessed with Regina George – she actually idolizes her. And as Cady finds herself in line to essentially replace Regina as the Queen Bee, the audience realizes that Cady has become just as self-centered, rude, and cruel as Regina had been. Janice Ian said it best –

“…you are a mean girl! You’re a bitch!”
janis

In an effort to highlight the worst characteristics of Trump and (a portion of) his supporters, I didn’t realize I had begun to adopt some of those very same characteristics myself. I was Cady Heron trying to take down Regina George.

I’m thankful it didn’t come to the point where my husband, mother, or friends had to tell me I had become a mean bitch. I was running one night after the election. I was obviously still full of rage, so I was running faster and further than usual (so, still not very fast or far). On my way back to my car, I saw a guy eat shit right in front of me. He looked like he literally tripped over his feet. How embarrassing! Poor guy! I laughed and said to him, “I’ve been there!” I hadn’t, though. I’d miraculously managed to avoid ever tripping over myself and falling in front of all the beautiful people on Bayshore. But I knew that my time would likely come. One day I will be down on that concrete in front of passing cars and other runners, and I hope someone nearby says something to make me feel a little better.

Today I try and focus on projecting only positivity from my own tiny space in the world. It isn’t easy. I’m still angry, and I’m definitely scared for our future, but projecting my dark feelings onto other people isn’t going to help anyone, and it sure as hell isn’t going to make me feel any better about the current situation.

If you ever feel like the Queen Bee or the desperate new kid, remember that your role could change at any moment, and you probably won’t enjoy the feeling of being on the other side.

Extras:
My FB post, published at 1:02 AM on November 9th:
We can support each other through this, but I don’t believe we should feel we have to be or should act as if we are a “united nation” of citizens. We are not. We are divided.
I saved my “I Voted” sticker and planned to frame it to remember and honor the time I helped elect the first female president. I hoped to remember the time that love and acceptance triumphed over hate and exclusion. I am still going to frame it, but now it will serve as a reminder that the fight is not over.
I plan to spend the next four years with likeminded people as we do all we can to help turn our country in a progressive, brighter, and more promising direction. It’s not too late to be on the right side of history.
We owe it to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, our immigrant families, our Hispanic and black neighbors, our Muslim communities, our poor, undereducated, and disabled, and to women and girls everywhere. We owe it to our teachers and students, our doctors and scientists, our small business owners and homeowners.
We owe it to our environment and to the planet we call home.
We owe it to our children.
Make a difference while sitting on your ass at home or at work. Peep this list of great organizations you can donate to:
Donate – Every Dollar Counts

Anchovies & Pikachu

greek salad
The best Greek salad I’ve ever had. Enjoyed this in Mykonos with a side of bread and the Nectar of the Gods (a freddo cappuccino). Would share on Grub Street Food Diaries.

Guys,

I recently spent an embarrassing amount of time reading Grub Street Food Diaries. Have you ever gone down this rabbit hole? It’s amazing! I really love reading about what other people eat. I also get a kick out of the people complaining in the comments section about all of the vegetarians featured in the series. A meal lacking in dead animal is probably not American enough or something?

Anyway, I thought about documenting what I eat in a week and making that a blog post, but then I realized that I may be in the minority in that I truly enjoy reading about what other people eat. It is highly unlikely that anybody would care to read a detailed report of my eating habits (spoiler alert: I eat a lot of things on toast and I’m loving the plantain chips from Trader Joe’s). It’s a tad narcissistic to think someone would care to read such a thing, isn’t it? Also, I’m a vegetarian, so I would probably bore and/or piss off a lot of people.

As most things do, this topic brought me back to a lesson my dad taught me when I was a kid. I had a habit of a) commenting on what other people were eating and b) giving everyone at the table a detailed rundown of what I was eating and how. Examples:

Dad puts anchovies in salad.
Me: Ew!

Me: I’m going to eat my chicken first, and then save the baked potatoes for last. I like to keep my carrots separate.
Dad: We don’t need the play-by-play, Tanya. Just eat your food.

When I would make comments about his food choices, my dad would say things like:

  • I don’t comment on your food, so don’t comment on mine.
  • Commenting on other people’s food is rude.
  • You’re not eating it, so why do you care?

Do you notice anything about those statements? First, he is absolutely correct! Commenting on others’ food is rude, and what somebody else eats really is not your business. Why do we all care so damn much about the decisions that other people make that have no effect on our own lives? Of course I’m speaking about headline issues like gay marriage and birth control, but there are countless other life choices that come under judgement outside of the political sphere, in our private familial and social circles. These are the life choices of the people we personally know and care about – our family members, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.

Our strong opinions and emotional reactions to these types of life choices are complicated. Certainly whether your daughter chooses to be a stay-at-home or a working mother isn’t your decision to make, but you may argue that it’s a decision that does affect you, because it affects your child and your grandchild. What about your friend who is engaged to marry a person that you don’t think treats them well? You care about your friend and genuinely want what is best for him or her, but does his or her decision to marry this person have such a strong impact on your own life that it warrants your friend taking your opinion into consideration? These situations are quite complex, and the factors vary depending on the people involved and the dynamics of the relationships.

Let us take a step back and touch on the quick, surface-level types of judgments we pass on a near daily basis. Why do I care that the person next to me in a fitness class isn’t following directions properly? Their form doesn’t have an impact on the quality of  my own lunges (which I perform with perfect form, of course). Why did I get so angry at the hoards of people playing Pokémon GO at the park? I had to run around them, and I hate running already, so those extra strides made my tough run even more horrible. But really, why should I care how they choose to spend a Monday evening?

I catch myself passing judgement on other people’s decisions often, and I struggle between trying to justify my opinions and convincing myself that my opinion holds no importance in certain instances. Sometimes though, in those moments when the spiritual force is with me – when I’m at at peak yogi –  I am able to self-reflect and be honest with myself about why I care abut this specific person’s specific decision.

When I pick on my husband’s outfit or his food choices (I cannot escape the food theme) he often asks me, “Is that hurtful or helpful?” (Such a teacher, he is!) What an appropriate question to ask yourself when evaluating why you have such a strong opinion about someone else’s decision! Do I care about the Pokémon GO players because I worry that they’ll get hit by a car, or am I just being a mean bully making fun of people who are doing something that I think is lame? (It’s the second one, by the way.)

When it comes to judging yourself for judging other people, I believe that being honest about your intentions is the way to go. You may have to recognize and admit to an ugly trait in yourself (envy is a common one for me!), which can be unpleasant. Still, being able to acknowledge these types of flaws in our character plays up one of our best strengths, and that is the ability to improve ourselves. I may always roll my eyes at the person facing the wrong way in yoga class or at the girl taking a selfie at brunch, but I try to do so while also thinking, “You do you, boo boo. You do you.” and sending them a spiritual high five.

Making decisions that others may not agree with is brave! Being yourself and ignoring snark is brave! If you enjoy anchovies on your salads, you are the bravest of the brave. Please remember to pop a mint after your meal. If you enjoy “catching” cartoon characters on your phone, I admire your dedication and hope you can catch them all. Please look up every once in a while to protect your spine.

pizza bagels
What happened after a night of celebrating a friend’s birthday. Would not share on Grub Street Food Diaries.
* Paying close attention to what my dad ate was worth the mini lectures. My dad makes the BEST sandwiches. I know this seems like an odd “talent” to praise, but it’s really about what you put on there and in what order. Most people think making a sandwich is a quick process and you just throw it together. My dad, though, spends 10 to 15 minutes building a perfect Saturday afternoon sandwich. I like to think I make some pretty ballin’ sandwiches myself these days. Thanks, Dad!

Freddie Prinze Jr.

giantsI was relieved to see that nobody wrote “shut up” or “who needs another blog by a female millennial who speaks in abbreviations” in the comments on my first post, so I decided to write another! Since a handful of people found my writing to be funny and entertaining, I thought it would be fun to share a story about some friends who once thought I was too funny to be on their blog. Or was it that I’m too female millennial? I’ll let you be the judge!*

Five years ago I was working a soul-sucking job that required me to write 100 pages of SEO content about replacement windows each month, and I found that I was starting to despise writing. I went to school to study journalism because I loved writing and hoped to make a living out of it. Alas, I wasn’t diligent enough (or talented enough?) to land a journalism job out of college and Sallie Mae was a-knocking, so SEO it was!**

Three of my coworkers had recently started a sports blog, so I asked if they would consider featuring some of my writing on a regular basis. I pitched “Gameday Girlfriend” as a sort of sassy, tongue-in-cheek look at the experience of women watching sports with their boyfriends. I wrote my first post about baseball, but before it could be posted, a local sports radio personality tweeted about my friends’ blog. Citing their newfound fame and desire to be “taken seriously,” my friends kindly rejected my column idea.

Below you’ll find the intro I wrote about myself for “Gameday Girlfriend,” as well as the first and only post I wrote. It was never published. If you feel uncomfortable with all the mentions of the baseball players’ butts, don’t worry. I’ll be addressing that in my next post, which will focus on my hypocrisy and the F word we all love to hate: feminism.

Before you go on to enjoy the Gameday Girlfriend content below, please read the following disclaimers:
*The coworkers who rejected my idea are three of the smartest, funniest people I know, and we are still friends today. In fact, one of them was mentioned in my first post, as he was one of the friends who encouraged me to start this blog. Blogging is tough. I respect the hard work my friends put into their own blog and I understand why they did not feel comfortable featuring my work at the time.
**I was truly lucky to land that first job, and I am still grateful to everyone at the company that hired me. My managers there were wonderful, and I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without their help and guidance.  I do not regret writing any of those thousands of pages about replacement windows.

Gameday Girlfriend Intro

Tanya grew up in Toms River, NJ, home of the 1998 Little League World Champions…and neighboring town to Seaside Heights, where Snookie and her friends roam the boardwalk looking for “gorillas”. She completed a quick stint at the University of Rhode Island, and then moved down to Tampa to attend USF just as the Bulls football team was reaching its (short-lived) #2 NCAA ranking. She has lived her life as an equal opportunity Gameday Girlfriend, dating Yankees fans, Patriots fans, and even had a whirlwind romance with a Cowboys fan in the second grade.

Today, Tanya is engaged to a Rays/Bucs/Lakers fan, and yes, there will definitely be a post about those pesky Lakers. She herself is a Giants fan, a (bandwagon) Rays fan, and a (bandwagon) Magic fan. She’ll never cheer on a team that employs animal abusers or men who have been accused of sexual harassment. Her current athlete crushes include Matt Joyce and Reggie Bush, and though she isn’t a Lakers fan, she thinks Pao Gasol would be a really chill friend.

Having never played a sport with a ball, bat, or puck, Tanya has learned most of what she knows about these sports by observing, reading, and of course, asking a lot of questions – her favorite being “Who are we rooting for?” She’ll be here to offer tips and advice for the lady friends of “real” sports fans and to share her own observations. If you’re a female who is a genuine, knowledgeable sports fan, don’t hate on Lil’ T, we promise she’s jealous.

The Lost Post

Baseball isn’t my favorite sport to watch. It can be a bit slow, even when you’re at a live game, no? I just want to see when they hit the ball and run, or when someone catches the ball and a player is out. All the tense minutes between each pitch are really boring, and my mind drifts, and I try to talk to my fiancé, and he isn’t listening. He isn’t listening because he is watching the catcher make all those crazy hand signals (near his crotch!) so that the pitcher can shake his head and wait for a new crazy hand signal he agrees with.

A lot of this knowledge about the pitcher/catcher relationship comes from watching Summer Catch, specifically the game that Freddie Prinze Jr. almost blows at the end of the movie, but doesn’t because beautiful Jessica Biel is on his mind, and he obviously needs to go to the major leagues to impress her rich father. I digress.

Now, as much as I find baseball games boring when compared to basketball or football games (all the grunting and body-smashing and dunking!), when I heard that there are still 180-something baseball games left this season, I was pretty okay with that fact. I’m okay with it because I really enjoy the beer at live baseball games, and I really enjoy checking out the players’ cute lil’ butts in their baseball-player-pants both on television, and at live games.

Still, unless the Rays are playing (sigh, I’m a “bandwagon fan”), or the Red Sox are playing (I’m from NJ, so it’s in my blood to hate Boston teams), I need to know, as always, who am I rooting for? All the cute lil’ butts in the world couldn’t make three hours of baseball entertaining if I don’t have anyone to cheer or boo for.

I obviously cheer for individual players who I think are cute. For the Rays, my current crush is Matt Joyce. I didn’t want to hop on the Longoria bandwagon with all the other females in the Tampa Bay area, and Matt Joyce seems less aware of his good looks, and therefore, a better pick for a respectable woman like myself. I also seem to be paying attention when he makes really great plays, while I never caught any of Evan’s. I even named my first houseplant “MJ” after seeing him play a great game last summer. That plant died rather quickly, but I’m sure it had nothing to do with Matt Joyce’s batting skills and cute lil’ butt, and everything to do with me never watering the damn thing.

So my advice to you, my fellow Game Day Girlfriends/Fiancées/Wives/Bed Buddies, is to quit yammering in your boyfriend’s/fiancé’s/ husband’s/bed buddy’s ear, and pick a cutie on the team for which your significant other is rooting for, then cheer for that cute lil’ butt for all 9 (or more, God help us) innings. Of course, if you happen to have your own favorite team playing in the game, you should choose a cutie on that team, even if it’s not your man’s team. Trust me, your date will be so busy staring at the crazy hand signals, he won’t even notice that you’re cheering for the “wrong” team. Good luck and Go Rays!