Goggles

Each of my children own a pair of goggles, and I hate them so very much. 

Most of the children who frolic at the lake where we are spending many of our summer days are wearing goggles, and I despise every pair. 

I did not own goggles when I was growing up. As far as I can recall, no one did. One weirdo owned a clip that pinched his nose shut, but that was it. We all learned to open our eyes underwater - in pools and lakes and even the ocean - and then we moved on. Life was simple. We donned a pair of swim trunks, perhaps remembered a towel, and jumped into the lake. 

I watch these kids - mine included - fidget and fuss with these damn things constantly. They adjust, clean, remove, and replace. They ask parents to tighten or loosen. They become upset when water sneaks through and touches their precious eyeballs.  

It's insane. 

Yesterday I saw a kid crying because he forgot to bring his goggles to the beach. He told his mother he couldn't swim because of this. 

Simplicity. This is what I prize above most things.

It's why I've never owned an umbrella.
It's why I threw out all of my ties.
It's why I wear the same pair of sneakers almost every day of my life.
It's why I've never owned a watch or a single piece of jewelry save my wedding ring. 

Simplicity. Streamline life by requiring as little as possible to get through my day. 

It's why I don't own goggles. It's why I wish my kids didn't own goggles. Every item added to your life complicates your life in some way, so unnecessary and burdensome items like goggles should be avoided at all costs.   

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The problem with crossword puzzles

I've never done a crossword in my life. Like Sudoku, I hated the idea of working on something that yields nothing in return when I'm finished. 

Yes, my vocabulary might improve, and I'll exercise my brain a bit, but I could just read a book instead and get all that a story or nonfiction title has to offer in addition to those vocabulary and brain benefits.  

But Elysha introduced me to the New York Times crossword app, which has short, daily crosswords that are timed. 

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Timed means that not only is accuracy under scrutiny but also speed. 

Timed means completing one can be turned into a competition.

I like competition. I like competition against myself, and I like to compete against others, including Elysha. I also like the fact that Elysha is indisputably better at completing crossword puzzles than me. Her times are often half of my own, and I have yet to beat her. 

Recently, she asked how long the latest crossword took me to complete, and when I said, "Almost four minutes," she responded with the sweetest, "Oh..." possible. 

I like this. I love to chase a frontrunner.   

So for the past month, I've been doing the daily New York Times daily mini crosswords. The first crosswords of my life. It always takes less than five minutes, and I've admittedly learned some new words along the way.

It's also been fun, and I'm improving. This morning I completed the puzzle in 1:01.

I have yet to crack one minute, which Elysha cracks almost daily.

But I have a complaint. As a newcomer to this world of crossword puzzles, one aspect of these puzzles is complete and utter nonsense:

The two word answer.

Like today, for example. The clue was "On the ocean." The answer was "At sea."

This is nonsense. Balderdash. Hooey. Poppycock. Malarkey.  

I understand that the two word answer might seem normal if you've lived with crosswords for a long time, but as one who just arrived in this new world and has an unvarnished, objective view of the landscape, I'm here to report that two word answers are lazy, sad, shortcuts to real clues. 

This is a crossword puzzle. Not a crosswords puzzle. One word crosses another.  

Every time a crossword creator writes a two word clue, an angel's wings fall off and the once- righteous being plummets to the depths of hell. 

Two word answers are the worst. 

And this is not sour grapes. I've gradually grown accustomed to the stupidity of the two word answer in the same way I had grown accustomed to the stupidity of the Electoral College and laugh tracks. Two word answers are not delaying my crossword completion.

They are just tearing at the fabric of my soul. 

Northeast School is a stupid name for a school. Three times over.

I drove by Northeast School in Vernon, CT the other day. Lovely little school filled with teachers who are undoubtedly doing an excellent job, but Northeast School?

With the opportunity to name a school after any of the people in the world worthy of recognition, the town of Vernon decided to name their school based upon its geographic location in town?

That is sad.

Even worse, there are THREE schools just in Connecticut that are named Northeast School. Bristol and Stamford also chose to name schools based upon where they are situated in town. 

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The town of Vernon is actually guilty of naming all of their schools poorly. Instead of honoring a Connecticut luminary or perhaps an underrepresented or unrecognized war hero or civil rights activist, the town named all of their schools based upon simple geography: 

  • Rockville High School (a section of Vernon)
  • Vernon Center Middle School
  • Center Road School
  • Lake Street School
  • Maple Street School
  • Northeast School
  • Skinner Road School

Vernon, CT isn't the only town guilty of wasting this opportunity. Many schools, streets, and other structures bear meaningless, oftentimes geographically oriented names. 

I just happen to be driving through Vernon recently. 

Naming a building or a street or any other public structure is an opportunity to bring recognition and praise to a person deserving of celebration. A town or city should be excited about the chance to honor someone deserving. 

Squandering an opportunity like this is just dumb.

Boy and bear

You know what's even more overhyped than a partial eclipse?

The panda. I know I sound like a curmudgeon, but every time I see the panda at the National Zoo, I can't help but think, "Yup. It's a bear. Black and white, but really, just another bear." 

My friends find bears wandering in their suburban backyards all the time. Larger, more impressive bears than this solitary, bamboo-eating machine. 

Even Charlie wasn't all that impressed.

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Check your privilege at the door

Few things annoy me more than unacknowledged privilege. People who complain about social safety nets while enjoying ample safety nets of their own.

For many, the unacknowledged safety net is the presence of a prosperous family. A childhood filled with stability, opportunity, and advantage. Private schools. Outstanding medical care. Travel.

It's the knowledge that financial ruin will not result in homelessness or destitution. It's the gift of a college tuition or the downpayment on a first home. A sizable inheritance. A job with a parent's company when all else has failed.

This is an enormous safety net that exists only though birth. It is not earned and is often conveniently forgotten as the people who enjoy these safety nets complain about the taxes that fund the social safety net for those who didn't win the lottery at birth.    

I recently listened to a man at a wedding who has lived with his mother for almost a decade complain about those who can't pick themselves up after financial disaster.

I listen to a former classmate who works for his family's business complain about Americans who who can't find a job or the taxes they pay to fund healthcare and Social Security.   
 

I hear to people wonder why so many folks end up in dead end jobs while displaying a diploma in their office from a prestigious college paid for by their parents. 

I hate this so much. 

Trump, for example, loves to tout his business success. He portrays himself as a self made man. A guy who used hard work and intelligence to amass a fortune. 

Yet when Trump was asked how his father helped him in business, he said, "My father gave me a very small loan in 1975, and I built it into a company that’s worth many, many billions of dollars.”

Trump's "very small loan (which he has lied about repeatedly) included:

  • $14 million dollars in initial loans
  • A $1 million trust fund
  • Another $7.5 million in loans ten years later

Additionally, as Trump’s casinos ran into trouble in the 1980's, Trump’s father purchased $3.5 million gaming chips, but did not use them, so the casino would have enough cash to make payments on its mortgage — a transaction which casino authorities later said was an illegal loan.

Trump also attended Wharton School of Business on his father's dime, and after graduating joined his father’s thriving real estate business and he relied on his father’s connections as he made his way in the real estate world.

This is not a self-made man. This is a man who enjoyed enormous financial privilege early in life but prefers to ignore that in favor of a personal narrative centered solely on hard work and clever business transactions.

In fact, economists have determined that had Trump simply invested his father's loan in an index fund, he would be far wealthier today

Not only is Trump not a self-made man, but he failed to beat the market over the course of his business life. 

He's less than average. 

Before you start complaining about the social safety net, public schools, government supported healthcare, food stamps, and the like, be sure to take a long, hard look at your own life and what safety nets you have enjoyed and may still enjoy. 

Winning the lottery at birth is a great thing, but not when your blessings prevent you from seeing and understanding the plight and needs of those less fortunate. 

I stand opposed to applauding when the people responsible for the source of the applause are not present.

We watched the fireworks on the front lawn at Central Connecticut State University last night. We had a lovely time. The night was clear and cool. The kids were silly. The fireworks were spectacular.

When the final booms sounded and the finale was at last over, people across the lawn applauded.

I don't support this. I don't believe in applauding when the person responsible for the applause is not present to hear the applause.

I think it's weird to applaud a fireworks show launched by people more than a mile away. 

The same holds true for movies. As much as I may enjoy a movie, I've never applauded at the end, and I think it's weird when people do. None of the actors, producers, directors, or grips listed in the credits are present in the theater at the end of the film. 

None of them can hear your applause.

Applause of this nature has always felt like an affectation to me. A means by which people attempt to elevate an experience beyond its earthly confines. It feels false and cloying to me. 

I don't like it.

If you must applaud at the end of fireworks shows and movies, then I suggest you consider applauding at the end of books as well, or at least at the end of my books. The only difference between applauding at the end of fireworks or a movie and applauding the end of one of my novels is that reading tends to be solitary in nature, whereas a fireworks show or film are enjoyed by many people simultaneously. 

But does this mean that you are applauding because you're in the presence of others, or are you applauding because you feel authentic and heartfelt appreciation for what you just experienced?

If it's the former, then applauding at the end of movies and fireworks shows just got even worse. Now you're applauding simply because other people are applauding as well. You're applauding because of social pressure. You're applauding because others are applauding.  

That makes no sense. 

If it's the latter, and your applause is a signal of genuine heartfelt appreciation, then applauding at the end of a book, TV show, song or even a podcast that you especially enjoy only makes sense. Right?

Why applaud a film but not a book if the presence of others who are also applauding is irrelevant? 

You must either fully commit to applauding entertainment of all kinds that you enjoy or stop this silliness forever.   

My humble opinion. And insistence.

Boys in skirts

It's been done before under similar circumstances, but every time it happens, I feel great joy and hope for the world. 

A short-sighted, authoritarian school regime arbitrarily decrees that shorts are not permitted in accordance with the school's purposeless dress code. At the same time, the school maintains that skirts, which are essentially shorts without legs, are perfectly acceptable.

In response, boys arrive to school the next day donning skirts of their own to highlight the stupidity of gender-based dress codes.

In this case, it was the boys of Isca Academy in Exeter, where temperatures reached record highs. The boys had asked their teachers if they could swap their long trousers for shorts and were told no – shorts weren’t permitted under the school’s uniform policy. 

Then this happened. It's it fantastic?

As is often the case, the school officials reacted slowly, clumsily, and stupidly to the situation, saying that they were prepared to think again in the long term.

Shouldn't they always be thinking in the long term?

The headteacher, Aimee Mitchell, said: “We recognize that the last few days have been exceptionally hot and we are doing our utmost to enable both students and staff to remain as comfortable as possible."

No you're not, Aimee. "Doing your utmost" would have meant saying yes when the boys asked to wear shorts because boys wearing shorts is no big deal. 

Mitchell added, “Shorts are not currently part of our uniform for boys, and I would not want to make any changes without consulting both students and their families. However, with hotter weather becoming more normal, I would be happy to consider a change for the future.”

You want to consult the students, Aimee? Do you really think there is a significant numbers of boys who oppose the relaxing of the dress code? 

And since these boys came to school in skirts, can't we rightfully assume that their parents were aware of their protest and supported it as well?

How about just doing what is right and just? Eliminate your gender-based dress code and allow boys to expose their legs in the same way that girls can. When it's a matter of common sense and justice, leaders take immediate action. 

What I'll never understand is how shorts have become second class citizens in so many parts of society, despite the fact that they are nearly identical to skirts. It makes absolutely no sense. 

Imagine a school in 2017 where girls were only permitted to wear skirts, regardless of temperature or personal preference? What might the reaction to that kind of gender-based dress code be?

Is it any different than a school (or anyplace) where boys are only permitted wear pants? 

A summer camp has adopted my restriction on commenting on physical appearance, and I'm thrilled.

For more than a decade, I've been refraining from commenting on student's physical appearance, both negatively or positively. It's a policy I explain to parents and students at the beginning of the year, and it's one that my students have always appreciated.

My reasons are many.

  • There are far more important qualities in a child worth commenting on than the way a student looks. 
  • Children often have little control over their appearance. Choice of clothing and hairstyle is often dictated by parental preference and the family's income level and hardly represents any true fashion sense. 
  • Comments on physical appearance - even when positive - create a culture where physical appearance matters.
  • Comments on physical appearance are often skewed by culture, age, sex, and personal history.  
  • When you compliment on a little boy's suit or a little girl's dress, you risk unintentionally and unknowingly insulting the little boy or girl whose family can't afford a suit or dress. 

I could go on and on. 

Beginning this year, I've extended my policy to include all people save my wife, children, and mother-in-law. Except for these four people, I refrain from commenting on the physical appearance - positively or negatively - because I want to live in a world where physical appearance is less important than a person's actions, words, and deeds. 

Not everyone thinks these policies are brilliant. Quite a few find them unrealistic and fruitless. A few have pushed back hard on my position. To my knowledge, no one has adopted my policy for themselves.

Until now. 

My friend, Kathy, recently sent me information from Eden Village Camp where one of her cousin's sons is working as a Counselor in Training this summer. The camp has a policy called BodyTalk which states that campers are not permitted to comment on anyone's appearance whether positive, negative or neutral.  

They explain their rationale in great detail on their website, but one section that I liked a lot was this:

If you tell me “You have great hair,” for a minute it might feel nice and I might feel a certain kinship with you and obviously it’s not the end of the world. But physical compliments are still judgments on our appearance. This time the verdict was positive; next time it might not be. The scrutiny adds pressure on me to provide an encore, to spend time grooming my hair tomorrow too, so as to continue receiving approval. I might privately hate my hair and wonder whether you actually really like my hair or just want to bring attention to it, or if I’ve received many such compliments I might be concluding that my hair is important to making me valuable. I might wonder why you never compliment my clothing. If others witnessed the compliment, those people might be thinking “I wish my hair looked like that! Maybe I should get it chemically treated,” etc. In short, it’s a whole lot of mental noise. And that’s just for a compliment!

Bonding via appreciations is great – we encourage more meaningful ones, like specific ways in which someone inspires you or a time you noticed someone doing something kind.

I encourage you to check out their webpage that explains the policy in full. It's a reasonable, rationale, and respectful way of running a summer camp, and frankly, it's the way every school in America should be run as well.

Teachers may not be able to control the comments that students make about each other, but they can certainly control what they say to children themselves. There is absolutely, positively no reason for a teacher to make a comment on a student's physical appearance ever. It's purposeless, potentially harmful, and completely non-productive.  

If you'd like to read more about my thoughts on the subject, here are some previous pieces stretching back almost a decade:

Stop complimenting students

Don't compliment students. One kid's compliment is another kid's insult. Restaurant staffers also take note.

My brand new, completely unrealistic, possibly supercilious goal that you should try, too.

Teachers: Stop commenting, positively or negatively, on your student’s physical appearance. It’s only hurting them.

Complimenting an item of clothing is the lowest form of compliment

A strong opinion on the onion volcano

I'm just going to say it:

The onion volcano that a chef creates at a traditional hibachi restaurant is seriously overrated. 

Flammable oil poured into a stack of concentric onions rings and lit on fire?

Had I done something similar to this at Scout camp (and I did), I'd be holding fire buckets for at least an hour as punishment (and I was).

Do nearly the same thing in proximity to a dozen or so patrons at a hibachi restaurant, and everyone around the grill goes nearly orgasmic.  

Are we so starved for entertainment that we find flaming oil burning from the top of an onion cone something worth of our verbal exultations? 

I really don't think so. 

Demanding "a seat at the table" doesn't strike me as very demanding

I recently heard someone arguing for "a seat at the table" for the members of her organization.  

"A seat at the table" has always struck me as the marginal end of what you should be striving for if you're hoping to affect change.

Nothing wrong with it, but oftentimes not exactly a game changer, either. 

A seat at the table doesn't guarantee much more than the opportunity to listen to everyone who already had a seat, and when you finally have a chance to speak, no guarantee that anyone will listen. 

Perhaps instead of fighting for a seat at the table, you should attempt to upend the table instead.

Then again, "a seat at the table" may just sound too much like an endless string of meetings to strike me as very useful.

I never want a seat at the table if it means another meeting.

This correction could only be found in a New York Times wedding announcement

I'm not a fan of the New York Times wedding announcements.

Based upon some number crunching by The Atlantic, it's clear that these announcements amount  to lists of white people who graduated from Ivy League schools, work as Congressional staffers, and/or work as elite attorneys.

Not exactly scintillating reading.

Not exactly folks in need of any more attention than they're already received in life.

There's actually a website designed to a searchable database of nearly 60,000 NYT wedding announcements from 1981 through 2016 that allowed you to plot n-gram frequency and visualize trends across 30+ years of nuptials.

The website creator's goal: The New York Times’s wedding section is a perfect natural experiment designed to answer the question: What do the world’s most self-important people think is important?

All you have to do is watch how phrases like "Prospect Park," "magna cum laude", "hedge fund," and "met at Harvard, Yale or Princeton" have soared in popularity in the last 10-20 years to know who you are dealing with in these announcements.

While this correction from an October wedding announcement is certainly not indicative of every New York Times wedding announcement, I suspect that it could only happen in a New York Times engagement announcement.

If you forbid jeans at your place of business, you're not thinking straight. You might even be a coward.

Although there is no formal dress code at the school where I teach, staff members are allowed to make a $1 charitable contribution on Fridays in order to wear jeans.

Having no explicit dress code, I'm fairly certain that if I wanted to wear jeans every day, I could, but I'm not ready to rock that boat. I'm not so attached to jeans (at least not yet) that I feel the need to wear them every day.

That may change someday, but so far, I'm happy to give my dollar and wear jeans on the day that has been assigned.

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But if we were to look at this issue objectively, reasonably, and absent the stupidity of conformity or tradition, you have to ask:

What exactly makes my jeans any different from the khaki pants, corduroys, or dress slacks that I wear on any other day?

Is it the denim? Is the material designed by Levi Strauss many years ago so clearly unprofessional in its blueness or elasticity or durability that it can't be worn in a professional setting without the offer of a charitable payment? Is denim so uncouth or unkempt that employees wearing jeans are incapable of appearing professional to potential customers and clients? 

Or is it the fact that those long haired, rock-and-roll types are wearing jeans as they shake their hips onstage and play their electric guitars, and as a result, the wearing of jeans automatically confers the sense moral degradation and societal breakdown?

That may have been true in the 1960's when old people were stupid, but I don't think this perception applies today. 

Is it perhaps the rivets? The stone-washed texture? The way that denim encapsulates a person's ass or thighs?

Or is it simply because James Dean popularized jeans in the movie Rebel Without a Cause, and as a result, wearing jeans became a symbol of youth rebellion during the 1950s, and that reputation has remained in place ever since? 

I think it's probably that, because objectively, there is little difference between the jeans and the and the khaki pants or corduroy slacks that I wear. In fact, there's nothing objectively different between denim and any other fabric.

I suspect that the only thing keeping people from wearing jeans every day at the workplace are the old people in charge who are stuck on tradition and conformity and unwilling to examine their world through an objective, logical, and clear lens.

These are the rules followers. The lemmings. The cowards who would rather perpetuate some misinformed, illogical, nonsensical stereotype about a fabric and the people who choose to wear it rather than standing for what is right and logical and sensible.

I suddenly find myself wanting to wear jeans every day of my life.  

My problem with honorifics

I'm not a fan of titles, which is a nice way of saying that I really, really hate titles. 

Let me explain. 

I have several good friends who have earned doctorates in a variety of fields.

Some are actual medical doctors. If a person is having a heart attack on an airplane and the flight attendant asks if there is a doctor onboard, these are the people who can rightfully stand up and offer assistance.

Others possess doctorates in various non-medical fields: education, public policy, sociology, literature, mathematics, and more. These are folks who remain in their seats during the onboard medical emergency, keenly aware of the limitations of their doctoral title. 

Some of these people make use of their doctoral title in professional settings.
Some use it in personal settings, too.
Others do not.
It was years before I learned that some of my friends had earned a doctorate.  

Here is my problem with titles like these:

A title like "doctor" is a signal of exceptionally hard work and great academic accomplishment, but it also quite often coincides with the opportunity to engage in this level of academic pursuit. These are intelligent, dedicated individuals who in most cases benefited from parents who supported them at some point during the pursuit of higher education. These are people who were sent to college by their mothers and fathers. Dropped off at the dorms with futons and small refrigerators and desk lamps. These were folks who had some or all of their college education paid for by their parents.

There is a lot of research on the socioeconomics of doctoral candidates that support this assertion

Doctoral candidates tend not to be people who were forced to work 40 or 60 hours a week while attending college just to feed themselves and keep a roof over their heads. While their accomplishments are no less impressive, they have almost always been earned alongside a certain degree of unwavering familial support.

But what about the people who are perfectly capable of earning a doctorate or other title-conferring degree but did not have the opportunity to do so because of life circumstances?

Take my friend, Amy, for example. Amy is a woman who was raised by a drug addicted mother and an abusive father. She taught herself to drive at the age of 12 so she could bring her mother to the grocery store and force her to buy food for herself and her sisters. Her childhood was filled with uncommon struggle and an unacceptable level of neglect and abuse. 

When Amy was young, she was shot in the head and survived. She earned a large settlement as a result of the shooting that she intended to use to pay for college only to discover that her mother had spent the money on drugs. Seeing no other way of paying for college, Amy transformed herself into an outstanding soccer player and earned an athletic scholarship to Sacred Heart University. She graduated with honors and began a teaching career by day and working at night as a waitress and bartender in order to pay off student loans and eventually fund and earn a Master's degree.

Working two jobs while attending college is an incredibly difficult thing. I know. I did it myself.  

Amy taught alongside me for several years before rising to the level of vice principal. She is currently home with her first child and expecting her second, but someday in the not-to-distant future, she will be the principal of a school. She has no doctoral degree and may never have the opportunity to earn one given her life circumstances, but is Amy any less deserving of such a title?

I don't think so.

In fact, she might be more deserving of a title than anyone I know. 

Honorifics and titles rarely tell us much about a person. They are capital and lowercase letters and bits punctuation that we place ahead of a name as a moniker of some significance, but truthfully, they mean little when it comes to taking the measure of a person.   

I know some remarkable people in possession of doctoral degrees. I know some wholly unimpressive people in possession of them well.   

And while their title may indicate a certain level of education, they are also often indicators of stable childhood homes, loving parents, a certain level of socioeconomic upbringing, a absence of debilitating injuries or diseases, and much more.

This is why I hate titles. People mistake them as meaning something. Worse, they leave people like Amy without a much deserved title.  

This TED Talk by Regina Hartley speaks to this issues well. I highly recommend it.

This is a thing.

Nordstrom is selling ordinary stones wrapped in ordinary leather this holiday season.

I'm not kidding. 

They describe it as "A paperweight? A conversation piece? A work of art? It's up to you..."

I would be more inclined to call it a moron detector.
A lunatic locator.
A "get a life" warning.

The stone, which is "sure to draw attention wherever it rests," retails for $85 and is SOLD OUT. 

As of this morning, the stone has one review on the Nordstrom website. It reads:

Artistically, this product is inspiring. It reveals it’s beauty to those who observe, respect and adorn it with carefully chosen materials to enhance it’s surface. Rocks, like fond memories are to be passed on as a keepsakes for generations to come.

A smaller, $65 version of the stone is also available for those of you who have only partially lost your minds. 

The next time you are feeling alone, lost, hopeless, or like a failure, take solace in this:

There are people in the world who paid $85 for a stone. At least you aren't that stupid.

Worst Halloween treat ever

When I was a kid, a woman living on our street gave out plastic bags of Chex mix on Halloween. Even though we knew that it would be Chex mix, we stopped at the house every year for the same reason that some people slow down when driving by car accidents.

Bearing witness to the horror is sometimes unavoidable.  

I did a lot of egging of houses and people in my childhood, but surprisingly, I never egged that lady's house. Perhaps even back then, I was judging people's actions based upon intent instead of results. 

However, if she had given us chocolate covered Brussel sprout, which Mark Sparrow will be giving out this Halloween, I might have burned her house down. 

But toffee-covered onions?

Hilarious. 

Why should I experience unnecessary minor pain? Because I choose not to be soft.

In a piece entitled Pain Is Silly! Be Prepared With Your Own Mini-Pharmacy, Slate's Mark Joseph Stern writes:

I live in the 21st century. Why should I have to experience minor pain? The miraculous pharmaceutical developments of our age have created a treatment for virtually every ache and malady. The vagaries of our regulatory system allow us to purchase many of these treatments in bulk, over the counter, for very little money. There is no good reason to leave the house without a cure for what might ail you in a few hours. And that is why I carry around a portable mini-pharmacy with me everywhere I go—and you should, too.

Everyone scoffs at the mini-pharmacy, which comprises one full pocket of a raggedy old backpack I tote around all day, as it clatters audibly up and down. I have everything in there, but the focus is on painkillers for headaches. Have you ever stoically suffered through a headache? That’s stupid. You should never do that. And if we were friends, you’d never have to. If you and I are ever in the same room, I will happily provide whichever pills you require.

Why should you have to experience minor pain?

How about this:

 The world is getting soft. Too soft. Also overmedicated. Overindulged. Coddled.  

I attended college full time, earning two degrees simultaneously at two separate universities while serving as the Treasurer of the Student Senate, President of the National Honor Society, and columnist for the school newspaper. I did all this while managing a McDonald's restaurant full-time, working in the school's writing center part-time, and launching a small business that is still operating today.

Minor pain? Give me a break.

And I certainly wasn't the only one I knew who was doing everything possible in order to excel. 

I had friends who worked two and even three minimum wage jobs in order to avoid living at home with their parents. I had friends who joined the military and fought in Operation Desert Storm for the sole purpose of paying for their college education. I had friends living three and four and five in a single bedroom apartment to make rent. My best friend graduated from Bryant University (with honors) with a degree in computer science and then took jobs as an assistant manager at a department store and an overnight cleaner at a fast food restaurant for almost a year until he finally landed a job in his chosen field. 

These were not men and women who worried about minor pain. These were not soft people. These were not folks prone to medication in order to relieve a sore back, a wrenched knee, or a stubbed toe. These were individuals who stepped over pain and suffering and sacrifice like it was a meaningless, insignificant nuisance in order to make their dreams come true.

I like Mark Joseph Stern. I read his work in Slate quite often. I listen to him when he appears on their podcasts. He's an excellent writer and an interesting thinker. 

But I am not a fan of this piece, nor am I a fan of his idea of carrying a mini-pharmacy wherever you go or medicating every minor pain you experience. 

In Stern's own words, neither is anyone else.

Ironically, I'm a person who believes in being prepared for almost everything. My years in Boy Scouts drilled this habit into me. The trunk of my car contains a first aid kit, blankets, and an extra set of clothes. My backpack has office supplies that I will probably never use. I stock every type of battery in my home at all times. I have 20 gallons of water stored in my basement in case of an emergency. 

But in a world where children are now wrapped in bubble wrap and treated like China dolls, where playground surfaces are made of rubber and the idea of turning off a cell phone for the duration of a movie is unthinkable, and where young people would prefer to live at home rather than work long hours at terrible jobs for terrible pay, a little bit of minor pain strikes me as something that we could use a little more of in this world. 

There's a lot to be said in favor of toughness. Grit. Tenacity. Relentlessness. Resilience. Physical, mental, and emotional fortitude. The acceptance of struggle and hardship and pain on the road to success.   

There is no room for mini-pharmacies on that road.

Grin and bear it. Accept a little minor pain every now and then. You'll be the better for it. 

Country club dress codes treat adults like children, and yet adults continue to be members of country clubs. I don't get it.

My friend's country club does not allow denim to be worn after May 1. 

Women are allowed to wear shirts without sleeves but only if they are also wearing a collar. 

Men must wear collared shirts, and their shirts must be tucked in at all times. 

These are just a few of the ridiculous rules imposed on members of this country club, which leads me to ask:

Why?

Why can women wear denim on April 30 but not on May 1?

To what purpose does it serve to require men to tuck in their shirts?

Don't the people who established and enforce these rules understand how elitist, sexist, and arbitrary they make their country club appear? Are they blind to the snobbery and exclusivity that they are promoting?

But more importantly:

Why would anyone who is paying thousands of dollars per year to belong to a country club allow themselves to be subjected to dress codes that infantilize their choice over how they present themselves to the world?

Why would someone subject themselves to this kind of treatment?

There are very few times in life when we allow someone to dictate what we wear without paying us for our time:

  • When we are children
  • When we allow our significant other to determine what is appropriate for a specific occasion
  • When we're asked to serve as a bridesmaid or groomsman, pall bearer, or the like 
  • When we join a country club, and when we visit establishments like fancy restaurants that are closely akin to country clubs in terms of their elitism and snobbery

That might be it. These might be the only times when someone requires us to dress a certain way without paying us for that privilege. 

And in only one of these instances are people actually paying large sums of money in order to be told what to wear.

I have always felt that when you allow someone to tell you what to wear without compensation of any kind, you're allowing yourself to be treated like a child. You're allowing someone else to assume the role of Mommy and Daddy. It's one of the reasons why I bristle at every attempt to control my clothing choices in any way.

If you're not paying me, don't even think about telling me what I should wear. 

I also think (as you may already know) that this inane, materialistic, unnecessary focus on clothing and the condescending determination by others about what fashion choices are appropriate are things that should have been left behind in junior high school. 

I think this would be the case if not for a special breed of elitist jackass who thinks they they have the right to tell some that it's not appropriate to wear denim in the summer or that a man must play golf with his shirt tucked in.

You know the type. Just imagine the worst person you knew in high school. The one who wore the most stylish clothing and made fun of those who didn't.

They exist, even in adult form. 

I know these dress codes exist in many, many places. I know that they are commonplace in almost every country club in the world. But I also think that they are the direct result of a a lot of elitist jackasses who are hell-bent on ensuring that their kind of people don't accidentally become confused with any other kind of people. These dress codes serve to denote and separate the members of these country clubs from the heathens outside their pristine walls. They seek to elevate the image of the club and its members above the kind of thing you might see at a less-than-classy public golf course or a less-than-exclusive restaurant. 

I think that these things are decidedly less-than-noble goals, and they come at the expense of personal choice and treating adults like adults.  

The members of my friend's country club (and all country clubs) are adults. Hard working, well respected men and women who pay large fees in order to be members of this institution. They are all presumably successful people by any standard. Yet they allow their physical appearance to be dictated by who?

  • The anal-retentive snobs who run the place?
  • A conservative, stick-up-their-ass rules committee? 
  • The members themselves, who cast sidelong glances at the ladies who dare to wear denim, gossip about men when their shirts come untucked, and turn in their fellow members to whatever parental-like standards squad who is charged with enforcing this nonsense?

I know that most if not all country clubs have dress codes. My friend's country club is not alone in its buffoonery. I have played golf at some of these clubs and conformed to the dress code because a friend has invited me and I choose to respect my friend's wishes and their standing in their club.  

But I think these dress codes are almost always stupid. As adults, we are supposed to be able to wear whatever the hell we want. While I understand a country club requiring members to wear something, the banning of denim or the tucking requirement are examples of a system gone amok.

It's also a system predicated entirely on sexism and gender inequality.  

When women can wear a sleeveless shirt, for example, and a man cannot, the ridiculous double standards and sexist attitudes of the past are proven to be surprisingly alive and well in some corners of the world. 

But even more baffling and disturbing to me is the contingent of people who want to be members of an exclusive country club badly enough to allow nameless, faceless, elitist strangers to tell them what to wear based upon the day of the year and the genitals that they happen to be equipped with at the moment.

Is there no attempt at rebellion?
No effort to force a rule change?
No declaration that "I'm an adult, damn it, and I will wear whatever I want, whenever I want!"

Maybe you're a guy who likes his shirt tucked in at all times, so the rule isn't a problem for you.

Maybe you're a woman who despises denim. 

But still, even if you happen to conform to every inane dress code rule out of personal preference, doesn't it enrage you to think that someone is taking your money and telling you what to wear?

It would enrage me.
Every day I would be enraged.

I am not at the point in life when I can afford a membership to a country club. Perhaps someday I'll be able to, and being a golfer, I think I'd enjoy a membership a great deal. But when and if that day comes, I will be faced with a Devil's bargain, as so many have undoubtedly been before me:

Become a member and dress as I am told. Dress in ways that I do not like. Allow elitism, snobbery, and buffoonery into my life.

I love golf. Truly. And I have always enjoyed the time I have been able to spend at my friend's country clubs. I would like to be a member, but when push comes to shove, I don't think I could do it. 

I'm an adult. When I play golf or sit by the pool or eat lunch on a terrace, I will wear whatever I damn well please, and if that does not conform to the expectations of the elitist, snobbish club officials, to hell with them. 

I'll continue to play with the riff-raff on public courses and swim in public pools, and I will like it.