Marriage Advice You Don’t Want, Part II

The Fightin' Roos of Marriage Destruction University!

Last time I posted to the Fanfreakingtastic blog, I talked about divorce, Marriage Destruction University (Home of the Fightin’ Roos!) and slicing meat. If you didn’t read it, please check the previous installation of Marriage Advice You Don’t Want, Part I before reading Part II.

If’n you don’t want to read a whole blog post, here’s a quick recap. If you’re right, than your spouse is wrong. Your spouse starts off Being Wrong about little things, but eventually, it turns into something else. Your spouse will internalize the message that He/She Is Wrong. This is bad news bears, you guys. You don’t want this. Seriously. You don’t want your spouse to feel that you think that He/She Is Wrong and certainly not because you’re super stoked about Being Right on a bunch of petty issues.

Also – if you feel like You Are Wrong, if you’ve internalized that message – watch out. Resentment is around the corner, if not already present. We know we are meant for better things than to be made to feel that we are wrong.

But here’s the deal.

Sometimes Things are Wrong.

When things are going in the wrong direction, there’s the temptation to “be kind” and not name the wrongness for what it is. I put “be kind” in quotes because it’s not kindness at all. Compassion may be a contributing motivator, but ultimately it’s fear that’s driving that bus.

Mike Birbiglia, a comic I’ve long admired, made a movie called Sleepwalk With Me. It’s well worth watching, especially if you’re a comedian. (Totally beside the point of this blog post – every time he speaks directly to camera it is a genius act of storytelling, moving the narrative forward and addressing a problematic protagonist. Super well done.) But I digress. Aside from being an inventive indie film about comedy, Sleepwalk With Me also beautifully captures the problem of “being kind” in lieu of being honest.

Another honest Mike I admire is Mike Tyson. After his recent press conference in which he confessed to falling off the wagon, Iron Mike sat down with Annoying Matt to address his sobriety and other issues. From the 2:50 to the 4:30 mark in this video Mike Tyson pretty well sums up everything I want to say in this blog post. I’ve long marveled at Mike Tyson’s amazing gift for honesty. It’s not an area I excel in, so I find it fascinating, as well as inspirational.

Anyway. Enough of honest celebrities and back to personal observation.

Here’s a thing, a general rule of thumb, if you will. The harder something is to say, the more it probably needs to be said.

Here’s another thing. You can’t reshuffle the deck until all the cards are out on the table. You can try and try and try and try to start over again, but if there are cards held back, you’re never going to play a fair game. It will be weighted to one side or the other – it will a rigged game. And that is an exhausting game to play. It’s exhausting for the person holding back the cards to keep the game straight and it’s exhausting for the person who doesn’t have all the cards and can’t figure out why the game isn’t working.

There are a lot of reasons to hold back cards. You might be afraid you’re going to hurt your spouse’s feelings. You might be afraid you’re going to make problems even worse. You might be afraid of your spouse’s anger. You might be afraid of your own anger. You might be afraid that talking about it will lead to exposure and then judgment from others. There are countless things to be afraid of – in yourself, in your spouse, in the possible future of your marriage, in how the outside world will view you.

Guess what, though? If you’re holding back cards, you’re already hurting your spouse’s feelings. You’re already making problems worse. You’re likely already being judged and you’re headed toward some pretty epic fights.

Which takes me back to my first point. Be kind. Not with quotes around it. Be kind for real. Part of being kind is being honest. Being vulnerable. Being like Mike Tyson. There is nothing that makes one more vulnerable than putting all your cards on the table. Because you’re holding them back to protect yourself, ultimately. You may think you’re protecting your spouse, or your marriage, but you’re not. You’re protecting you by trying to control the outcome.

Along with being right, I was a big believer in knowing the right way things should go. If they were going in the wrong direction, I was going to steer them straight. Even if it meant taking a ten pound wrench and forcing the stuck wheel in the direction I felt it should go.

Growing up, my mom used to say to me, “Let go and let God.”

Whenever she’d say that phrase, I’d feel myself exhale, letting some tension go along with it. There’s a lot of stress out there for people who are right and who are responsible for making sure things go in a righteous direction. I mean, that’s a big deal, you guys. But I did get the concept of letting go, at least on a smaller scale. It wasn’t until my third semester at Marriage Destruction U. that I got the idea that it applied to the big stuff, too. That it wasn’t my job to steer the whole wide world and everybody in it – just me. That my job was just to be kind and kindly honest. My job was to take all my cards and put them on the table, face up, knowing there would be ramifications for those face-up cards, but knowing that it was the right thing to do. Most importantly, it was my job to let go and let God and have faith in the outcome – even if it wasn’t the one I wanted.

(On another note, I confess to spending an inordinate amount of time looking at pictures of fighting kangaroos. Choosing just one to adorn this blog post was the hardest decision I made today.)

Marriage Advice You Don’t Want, Part 1

Marriage Destruction University's mascot, "The Fightin' Roo!"

Usually this blog is about song lyrics or wacky adventures or funny observations. Less often, it is about a dead cat or a dead dog or a dead horse. Today, we head off to uncharted waters to talk about a dead marriage. Sounds like fun, right? I know I’m excited about it. Chance of amazing? 100 percent.

For somebody who Facebooks the heck out of her life, sometimes Twitters and could be considered something of a social butterfly, I am a pretty private person. You can talk without saying anything, my friends. Don’t wanna brag, but I’m pretty good at it. An inconsequential chatter artiste of sorts. Anyway, point is, Evan and I aren’t together anymore. I know you’re like, “But, you’re together all the time on the Book Face…” And I’m all, “Yeah, we’re still friends. Yeah, a lot of people think it’s weird.” So anyway. There’s that.

So, you know how sometimes a kid goes off to college and they come back and they’ve obviously had a conversion experience because all this new information has been forcibly jammed into their brain and now they’re a zealot who won’t shut up about all they’ve learned?

I’m totally like that, you guys. I’ve just stayed quiet. Nobody likes zealots. Nobody likes advice. I don’t like advice. Moreover, advice doesn’t do anything. Nothing changes until it is ready to change. And maybe you don’t need to change. Maybe you’re golden. I don’t know. What I am trying to get at it is, this is about me. And catharsis. Catharsis I am foisting upon you because you’re my friend. If you’re really sweet, you can nod and smile and say, “That was really good advice. Thanks, man.”

Basically, I feel like I have four pieces of advice to give. Here is Marriage Advice You Don’t Want, Part 1.

So, during my first semester away at Marriage Destruction U. (Mascot: This Kangaroo) I learned the meaning of some advice that was given to me years prior. My Uncle Frank, who was a deacon in the Catholic Church, and a man who performed a lot of marriage ceremonies and counseled a lot of couples, sat me down after I got engaged. “Carrie,” he said, “I want to give you some advice. I want to tell you the most important piece of advice I give all the couples I counsel.”

“Okay,” I said, feeling like I really didn’t need any advice at all. (I was 26, you guys. I already knew everything. Duh.)

My Uncle Frank then said, “Be kind to one another.”

So help me God, what I thought but did not say was, “Yeah…but sometimes Evan’s wrong…” (I know, I know. Right now you’re thinking, “Hmmm…maybe this divorce isn’t as surprising as we first thought…”)

While I did not verbalize my first thought, I did offer a more diplomatic rebuttal to Uncle Frank’s advice. He, very kindly, I might add, insisted on his position, repeating, “Be kind. That’s the most important thing. Be kind.” The conversation lasted awhile and it made a big impression on me. The advice struck me as inherently radical as well as incorrect. It struck me as somehow dishonest and passive. Being brutally straightforward struck me as more important than being kind, as well as the importance of sticking to one’s guns when one is right. You can’t allow yourself to be railroaded, don’t you know. You have to be tough and strong and fight for what’s right. Also, I was right a lot. Like, all the time. It was one of my better qualities. I wanted to show it off a lot.

But there was also a deep unease within me. I had a lot of respect and love for my Uncle Frank, a man with a lot of hard won wisdom. On a certain level, almost conscious but not quite, I intuited that if Uncle Frank’s advice was right, then I was very wrong, indeed. Hence my need to vociferously defend my position and why that conversation stayed with me. It happened ten years ago, now. My Uncle Frank is no longer with us. But I remember where I sat, where he sat, what he wore, what time it was, and all that was said.

As the years unspooled, that conversation, seemingly an independent agent within my own mind, worked it’s way through my resistance. After about eight years, it emerged victorious over my previously held opinions. But by that point, an awful lot of damage had been done.

What I eventually realized is that being kind is a deeper form of being right. Make no mistake, there are things worth standing up for in your marriage. Absolutely. But not the petty crap. Here’s the other secret. It’s almost all petty crap. Over and over again, life presents two paths – you can be right, and tell your spouse that they sliced the meat incorrectly because they should go with or against the grain or at an angle or however it is you think it should be done, or you can be kind, and tell your spouse thank you for slicing the meat.

We are hardest on the ones we love the most. It’s human nature and that’s not going to change. The people closest to us are the ones who are going to take the shrapnel. That’s what they signed up for. It’s what you signed up for. You can’t eliminate it, but you can soften it, by creating the habit of being kind, instead of being right.

True Story

This photo expresses the level of class displayed by my mother on a daily basis.

As a heads up – this story probably shouldn’t be read by people who are easily offended or who have a high opinion of me. Also, if you have a high opinion of me, I am sorry to inform you that you have been tricked. I am not the classy dame you think I am.

This story begins with a gentleman familiar to readers of this blog. A gentleman named BOTASTIC. While BOTASTIC will always remain in my heart, and I love him dearly, my earlier depiction of him left out some things. Lots and lots of things, actually. You see, BOTASTIC is not the classy gent you think he is. BOTASTIC is, in fact, a world class chain puller, and a sometimes user of salty language.

Additionally, for this Actual Real True Story, you need to be introduced to the character of my phone. It is an iPhone. It hates me. I hate it. The stupid sensor doesn’t work, so my face is constantly hitting mute, hitting speaker, making conferance calls, writing emails. You name it, the right side of my face does it. Who knew the right side of my face even had fingers. But apparently, it has, like, a million, given how many tasks it accomplishes in a two minute phone call.

Finally, there is my mom. Please read about her here. My mother is, in all ways, a complete and total classy dame, one who has never used salty language in her entire life. Out of deference, I have always followed her lead whilst in her company. Because while I may not be a classy dame, but I am a.) not an idiot and b.) genuinely respectful.

You may already see where this is going.

So, I am having a verbal slugfest with BOTASTIC. He is pulling my chain with wild abandon, and I am yelling at him. More to the point, I am yelling at him with salty language. My phone beeps, and I look down. It is my mom. I decide not to answer. I am too busy yelling at BOTASTIC.

The right side of my face, though, has different ideas. “I am totally going to answer this,” says the right side of my face, and it does so, without telling me.

This guy is more representative of my own class level.

And so I wind up yelling this: PUNK A** M*********** not at BOTASTIC, but at MY MOTHER. MY CLASSY, CLASSY MOTHER. I YELL THIS. AT HER.

There is silence.

Mom: Whaaat????

Me: (sheer panic) I was talking to Bo! I was talking to Bo!

Mom: My daughter talks like that?????

Me: Bo was pulling my chain! Bo was pulling my chain!

Mom: I don’t care if Bo was pulling your chain, you don’t talk like that!

Me: I’m sorry! I’m sorry!

Mom: Well look, I am only calling you because I felt guilty I hadn’t called you back yet, but I am busy, and apparently, so are you.

Me: I am so sorry!

Mom: Talk to you later.

We hang up. I call BOTASTIC back. I explain to him both what occurred, and also his responsibility for this incident. BOTASTIC, who is a consultant, by the way, then says, “I think this is good. I think this is an opportunity for greater honesty, greater closeness, with your mother. I think this is going to lead to a high point in your relationship. I think you’re going to reach a new plane of understanding.” As previously mentioned, BOTASTIC is a PUNK A** M***********.

That night, my mom invites me to a movie. You better believe I am there with bells on the next day. I get to my parents house, and my dad, who is a lot like Santa Claus, gives me a hug and goes into his typical spiel. This is his spiel, by the way: “I want you to know how proud I am of you, how special you are to us, and how much I love you.” I am deeply, deeply surprised by this reception.

My dad leaves the room, I look at my mom, and she mouths the words, “I didn’t tell him.” And then she smiles a deliciously wicked smile.

Which just goes to show, my mom might be classy dame, but I know where I got my naughty streak from.

Dear Blake

Many moons ago, when I started this blog, I thought out in advance a sort of governing code of ethics. I do a lot of ranting, a lot of mocking. There were some ranting stories I wanted to tell, but I felt uncomfortable with them because they were stories about regular joes. Ultimately, I decided I would rant about public figures, Rolling Stone magazine’s various lists, and I’d tell stories where I am the goat, but I would never write a negative story about a regular joe.

And then I met Blake.

Blake who hates water.

You want this? Can't have it.

Blake is a server at an airport restaurant. Ursula (who recently turned 90, by the way) and I went to this restaurant while we were waiting for Evan’s plane to come in. As it turned out, his flight got delayed, which was convenient, as we were at this restaurant for about a month and a half.

We arrived for an early dinner and the restaurant was close to empty. On the menu was a french dip sandwich, and Ursula shocked me by telling me she’d never had a french dip with au jus. So we decide to both order the french dip. Now, it took us awhile to come to this decision, and I start looking around for the waiter who’d seated us. He is oddly absent. (Hint, hint, this will become a theme.)

Eventually, he shows up and informs us they’re out of the french dip. For the best, I say to myself, I should really get the chicken breast and veggies anyway. Blake then informs me they’re out of vegetables. VEGETABLES. So then I order a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, which they can make. Riddle me that, fanfreakingtastic readers. You can make a Philly cheesesteak but you can’t make a french dip and you have no vegetables. So, peppers and onions aren’t vegetables? A french dip is not the exact same thing as a Philly cheesesteak minus said vegetables? Apparently not.

During the conversation wherein Blake informs us we’ve actually time traveled back to late 80’s Soviet Russia, where there is little food and even less logic, Blake starts to give off a real punk kid kind of vibe. I didn’t like him from the first but now I really don’t like him. Before he leaves we ask for glasses of water. He’d successfully delivered cups of coffee when we first arrived, back when we were young and innocent. Ursula has dry mouth really badly, a relic of her past fight with thyroid cancer, and it’s super hard for her to eat without water.

Ursula and I settle in to wait for our food. Several months pass. Ursula turns 91, and it’s sad because no one is there to help celebrate.  Finally, finally, finally, Blake returns with our food. “We really need water,” I say. And then Blake says this, “I’ll get to it when I can.” I then watch him as he cleans off dirty tables, seats people, takes orders, and generally does everything he can do other than get our water.

Two enormous African-American men sit down behind us. They remind me tremendously of Grizz and Dot Com from 30 Rock. They sit in silence, both absorbed by their iPhones. After a certain point, I swivel around in my chair so I can watch for Blake unemcumbered.  It’s been a long time since my last sighting of the elusive Blake, and I don’t want to miss a chance to glimpse this most rare species. When they see me turn around, the two men say, “If you want anything, you best just go get it yourself.” I take it they are regulars.

And there he is! I’ve spotted him! Blake is approaching and I’m ready to reach out and nab him. But another woman gets him first, saying, “We’ve asked for our waters three times now.” Blake raises his hands angrily and says, “It’s going to be awhile.” He leaves, and the woman and I exchange murderous looks. I think about forming a cabal to jump Blake and pummel the water out of him. Because, really, it’s all about the water hate for Blake. He will consent to bring you food, even coffee. But water? The hell are you thinking? Asking for water! IT’S BENEATH HIM. And why do all this people want water, anyway? WATER IS FROM THE DEVIL.

At this point, Ursula has choked down her chicken tenders without water, and I’ve eaten my sandwich. I just want to get the hell out. As he walks past, intent on ignoring us, I shout that I want the bill. We wait for about another six weeks.

He brings us, simultaneously, the bill and two waters.

I hope that it goes without saying that the bill was filled with errors.

A Shortcut to Rage

It's a good thing Diana Ross wasn't included. She had a very short career that didn't influence anyone.

Everybody has their triggers. Bad drivers. Poor grammar. This commercial.

For me, there is no quicker shortcut to a rage high than a Rolling Stone 100 Best Whatever List. This is because Rolling Stone is, in my opinion, the single most chauvinistic institution on the face of the earth. Bar none.

Growing up, Sam Cooke was my favorite singer. I loved “Wonderful World,” “Cupid,” and “Twistin’ the Night Away.” Just a little bit older and I found “You Send Me,” and “Stand By Me,” and then “Another Saturday Night,” and “Bring It On Home To Me.” Much later, I found, “A Change is Gonna Come,” and I know I’m not original in calling that one my favorite.  These songs are just the tip of the giant canon of work that is the Sam Cooke oeuvre.

So, I’ve spent a good bit of time the last few days listening to Sam Cooke, and I decided he was the greatest vocalist of all time. A day after that, I started to wonder if the man was receiving enough respect these days, so I googled him. And there, at the top of my search results, was a Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Singers, compiled in 2008. I knew – I KNEW – I shouldn’t open it. But I saw Sam Cooke was number 4, and I was curious who they’d put ahead of him. I opened the link. The answer to my question was right there in front of me – Elvis, Ray, and Aretha. For pure vocal talents, I still put Sam first (and yes, I know his range wasn’t tremendous, but the purity of his tenor and the quality of his pitch takes him to number one in my book), but you can definitely argue for Elvis, Ray and Aretha.

And then, I was curious about something else – how many women were on this list of the Top 100 Greatest Singers of All Time?

I knew – I KNEW – I shouldn’t look. I knew what the answer would be. I knew that Rolling Stone lists do not matter in any way, shape, or form. It’s a stupid list! Who cares! And yet, I couldn’t stop myself.

I looked.

And felt the rage-ohol hit my bloodstream like an adrenaline shot.

Debbie Harry. What a loser. She did nothing to popularize the new wave/punk movement.

So, having read the list, I have some questions. Like, where’s Debbie Harry? Where’s Diana Ross? You’re going to put MARY J. BLIGE at number 100, but Beyonce isn’t present at all? That makes perfect sense to me. Where’s Grace Slick? For the record, here are the women who did make the list:

100 – Mary J. Blige, 98 – Stevie Nicks, 95 – Patti LaBelle, 94 – Karen Carpenter, 93 – Annie Lennox, 84 – Darlene Love, 83 – Patti Smith, 79 – Mariah Carey, 73 – Dolly Parton, 60 – Björk, 58 – Christina Aguilera, 51 – Gladys Knight, 50 – Bonnie Raitt, 46 – Patsy Cline, 42 – Joni Mitchell, 35 – Dusty Sprinfield, 34 – Whitney Houston, 29 -Nina Simone, 28 – Janis Joplin, 22 – Etta James, 17 – Tina Turner, 1 – Aretha Franklin

In other words, women constitute 22% of the list. TWENTY-TWO. With only 2 women in the top 20, and 11 in the top 50.

And I’m just so confused, because I thought Jagged Little Pill was the number one selling album of the 90’s, and you’d think that would be worth something, but apparently not. This fact may or may not be ironic. (Don’t ask Alanis Morrisette.)

I also thought that Madonna had the most Top Ten hits of all time, with 37, and love her or hate her, I thought she’d had a pretty enormous impact on pop culture and the music industry, founded her own record label, Maverick, that didn’t exactly suck (See above, Jagged Little Pill) and generally was a generational touchstone. But, she doesn’t have much of a voice, so maybe that’s why she wasn’t in there.

Cyndi Lauper. A completely talentless and totally unoriginal human being. Also, sucks at songwriting.

This must also explain the absence of Emmylou Harris. Oh, wait, that’s right. Emmylou Harris sings like an angel sent down from heaven.

Maybe those women don’t have enough true grit rock. So what about Courtney Love? Rolling Stone couldn’t get enough of her in the 90’s, and Live Through This remains a seminal work. Sure, she’s a rider of the crazy train, but plenty of the people on the list are.  

And what about Cyndi Lauper? And Melissa Etheridge? Joan Jett? Donna Summer? Joan Baez and Ani Di Franco? Or Pat Benatar and Linda Ronstadt? PJ Harvey and Liz Phair? Celine Dion and Carole King? Lauryn Hill and Sade? Brenda Lee and Martha Reeves?

Also – Dolly Parton at 73? SEVENTY-THREE??? Have those soulless bastards at Rolling Stone ever even listened to Little Sparrow?

And see, this is why I shouldn’t even open a link that says, Rolling Stone Top 100 Whatever on it. It always winds up with a lot of question marks and all caps.