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.

jeans.jpg

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. 

If you have strong feelings about cargo shorts, then you are probably an infantile jackass.

I was surprised to see that a junior high newspaper editorial staff apparently took over The Wall Street Journal last week, publishing a infantile piece on cargo shorts in their esteemed pages.

The thesis of the piece is this:

Cargo shorts are ugly, and men who wear them are stupid and ugly. 

Seriously. That's their thesis. It's also the type of sentiment expressed by junior high school cretins who think that a classmate's choice of clothing is reason for ridicule.

This piece was paragraph after paragraph of petty, cruel nonsense, reported as if this matters in any way and absent of any condemnation for the critics of cargo shorts, which is all this piece should really be. 

Note: 

Relationships around the country are being tested by cargo shorts, loosely cut shorts with large pockets sewn onto the sides. Men who love them say they’re comfortable and practical for summer. Detractor say they’ve been out of style for years, deriding them as bulky, uncool and just flat-out ugly.

Detractors? Do you mean snobby jackasses who think that everyone should dress exactly like them or be derided for their alternative views regarding fashion? These people aren't detractors. They're disgusting, small minded, useless people who clearly loathe themselves and their life.  

Or how about this paragraph?

Fashion guru Tim Gunn said in a 2007 interview with Reuters that cargo shorts were the least fashionable item of clothing in his closet. British tabloid Daily Express called cargo shorts “a humiliation for any man over 21 and should be sold only after proof of age has been presented.

Humiliation? A person's choice of shorts is worthy of feelings of humiliation? I think that declaring any item of clothing to be humiliating should be the real cause for humiliation. This is not junior high. This is real life, where people get to wear whatever the hell they want without the self-professed popular kids saying mean things. Shut the hell up, detractors.  

This might be my favorite part of the piece (which means it's the part I hate the most): 

Jen Anderson, a 45-year-old freelance writer in Brooklyn, N.Y., said she used to tease her husband gently about his fashion choices, until he made a purchase that crossed the line: denim cargo shorts. That was “just too far,” she said.

Through what Ms. Anderson described as “strong mocking,” she convinced him to return the shorts. She said she doesn’t like the idea of being seen in public with her husband when he’s wearing cargo shorts, which make him look like “a misshapen lump.”

“It’s a reflection on me, like ‘How did she let him out the door like that?’ ” she said.

Despite Jen Anderson's advanced age, she has apparently not advanced in terms of maturity since junior high. Her husband's appearance is a reflection of her? Does she really believe that friends and colleagues determine her worth as a human being based in part on her husband's choice of shorts?

If so, who is she spending time with? Reality television celebrities? Fictional characters in John Hughes' films? Victims of traumatic brain injuries? 

Did Jen Anderson marry a toy poodle? An online avatar of some sort? What kind of sick and twisted lunatic looks at a person's clothing and makes any kind of assumption about the person's spouse?

People like Jen Anderson, apparently.

She 's worried that people will wonder "How did she let (her husband) out the door like that?"

Did Jen Anderson marry a toddler? Does her husband have no backbone? Is he on a leash? Must he scratch the door or ask permission to exit the home? Does she dress him everyday in the same way I choose my four year-old son's outfit on a given day? 

Is she really worried about what people will think of her based upon her husband's cargo shorts?

Actually, I think she is. I also think that is a fairly pathetic way of living beyond high school. 

Last bit of awfulness from the piece:

GQ magazine last summer wrote that cargo shorts with slim pockets are acceptable, but not if “they look anything like the ones you picked up at the mall when you were trying to dress like a cool kid in middle school.

I was so happy that GQ took the time to inform us about what is acceptable and what is not. Why they are the arbiters of what people can wear without being ridiculed by the likes of Jen Anderson, Tim Gunn, and Daily Express is beyond me. I suspect that few people give a damn about what GQ finds acceptable, and those that do aren't worth the pages that the magazine is printed on. 

I would like to propose a few alternatives to the idea that cargo shorts should be an item of ridicule: 

  1. Why not let people wear whatever the hell they want and leave them alone?
  2. Why don't we all grow up past our infantile junior high school sensibilities and let our fellow human beings look and feel they way they want without comment?
  3. How about finding a real problem to worry about other than a man's decision to wear shorts with large pockets?
  4. Why don't we all stop worrying about what the likes of Jen Anderson think of us when we leave the house?
  5. How about we embrace and perhaps even celebrate diversity of appearance in all its forms? Even if that diversity comes in the form of cargo shorts?

I don't own any cargo shorts, and therefore, I don't wear any cargo shorts, but if you do, happy news!

I don't care. I probably won't even notice. 

If you wear pink and green cargo shorts with three dozen pockets and an upside-down No Parking sign woven on the ass, I don't care, either. If you are happy, I am happy for you. 

And if Tim Gunn or Jen Anderson or GQ anyone else tells you that your cargo shorts look dumb or ugly or are a source of humiliation, you can tell them to go to hell. Or tell them to go back to high school, where we were supposed to have left that nonsense behind.

Here is an idea: Just as you are about to open your mouth in criticism of another person's clothing choices, stuff an apple in your mouth and silence yourself, because you are more akin to a pig than a decent human being.  

Staging your home for sale is stupid and self-destructive. Kind of like lipstick. We must end the insanity.

My friends are selling their home. Moving away. It's miserable.

As a result, they are in the process of showing their home to would-be buyers, and part of that process is staging the home. Flowers on tables. Real and/or plastic fruit in bowls. Flowers on a side table. A second set of towels to replace the used ones in the bathrooms. 

And of course counters and desktops are cleared, toys are hidden away, a tablecloth is added to their kitchen table. Flower beds are maniacally weeded. The grass is cut to perfection. 

And my friends are only doing the minimum. Many staging guides online suggest hundreds of other tactics, often costing thousands of dollars. There are now companies that will stage your home for you, rearranging your furniture to make the house look bigger and adding furniture, lamps, vases, and other items from vast warehouses of home goods.

All of this in the service of making the home look more attractive to would-be buyers.

Here's the thing:

We all know that these houses are being staged. We know that the lack of clutter and clusters of fruit and flowers are not real. We know that bath towels are never as fresh as they appear in a home for sale. We know that children rarely make their beds. We know that paper-free desktops and dish-free drying racks are only found in the homes of the most compulsive people. We know that flower beds without weeds and refrigerators without magnets are unrealistic. 

And yet we allow this farce to continue. Sellers continue to present unrealistic and false projections of their homes, and buyers agree to continue to allow these fabrications to influence their purchasing decisions. 

I have an idea:

Let's just all agree to stop spending money on creating these falsehoods and instead agree to look at hones that appear like real homes. Absent of bowls of fruit. Complete with damp bath towels and cluttered countertops. Littered with Legos. Why don't we all agree to look at homes that look like real homes and not catalog-versions of homes that do not exist in real life?

Sellers will save money and perhaps pass these savings onto buyers. Buyers will get a true sense of what the house looks like when people actually live inside it. And ridiculous staging companies will stop stealing our hard-earned dollars to provide temporary lamps and momentary love seats to our already furnished homes.  

Staging a home is kind of like wearing lipstick.

We all know that you're wearing lipstick.
We all know that your lips aren't actually that shade of red.
We all know that you painted your mouth in hopes of making it look prettier. 
You're not fooling anyone. 

Staging is the same thing. When we walk into a staged home, we all know that it's a lie. We all know that the fruit and fresh bath towels are nonsense. 

If both parties are aware of the con, end the con.

Gender reveals: Another example of "Not every thing needs to be a thing"

Gender reveal shenanigans are pretty stupid on a couple levels.

First, they are stupid just because they are stupid.

Your doctor tells you that you're having a girl, so you plan a party. You bake a pink cake with white frosting. You send invitations to friends and relatives who have much better things to do that day. Your guests gather around the cake and watch you slice, revealing the pink interior and therefore the gender of your future child. People pretend to cheer. They shake your hand with false enthusiasm and wonder how long they need to linger at the party before leaving. 

If you need this kind of attention, try stand-up comedy instead. Or ballet. Maybe learn to joust so you can perform in the local Renaissance fair. Do something where the public attention you so desperately crave is part of the deal. Required, even.

Stop turning things like gender reveals and prom proposals into performance art. Every thing doesn't need to be a thing.  

But here's the other reason gender reveals are stupid:

There's no way of knowing what your child's gender is. You can know the sex of your child, but as we now know, gender is much more complex than the genitals that you have been assigned. Cutting into that pink cake is no guarantee that your child will identify as female later in life.

If you're going to engage in this stupidity, you'll at least need to ditch "gender reveal"" and instead call it a "sex reveal."

Or maybe a "Penis or vagina reveal" (though it would probably be more accurate to refer to it as a "Penis and vulva reveal" since the exterior female sex organ is the vulva and not the vagina, as everyone seems to think). 

 Hopefully, you find phrases like "sex reveal" or Penis and vulva reveal"  so disconcerting that you cancel the whole shebang and reveal your child's sex the old fashioned way:

You call your mom. You meet your friend for dinner. You tell your buddy on the golf course. Hang some pink or blue balloons off your mailbox. You post the news to social media. 

Or do what my wife and I did:

Wait until the baby is born. Check for yourself. Then tell everyone.

And if you thought the sex reveal cake was bad - and it is - check out this Mensa candidate revealing the sex of his child via colored chalk and explosives. 

There was a lot wrong with the 1970's, but these two things might have made up for it.

The 1970′s may have been bathed in second hand smoke and disco, and the dominant political figure of the decade may have been Richard Nixon, but people didn't speak about hummus like it was a religion, and travel soccer did not exist.

So maybe not so bad after all.

Thank you notes: Should you send an email or write a note?

A recent Infographic on thank you notes caught my attention:

It's a lovely infographic, but I disagree with the process of decision making that it outlines. 

Instead, I would like to propose my own rules about when you can write an email and when you must send a physical thank you note.

When determining whether an email or an actual thank you note is required, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Is the recipient the kind of inane and pedantic person who would be offended by an email in lieu of a handwritten thank you note?

If NO, send an email. Not only is it more efficient, but it allows you to say more in less time.
If YES, answer the following:

2. Is the recipient someone whose opinions you care about?

If NO, send an email.
If YES, consider sending an email. If you're still uncertain, answer the following question.

3. Is the recipient the kind of small-minded, vacuous person who might underhandedly complain about your failure to send an actual thank you note to people who you know and respect?

If NO, send the email.
If YES, grudgingly send the thank you note.

When these rules are unavailable to you, you can always rely on this one question to arrive at an equitable solution:

Is the recipient a backwards-thinking, arcane traditionalist capable of underhanded, passive-aggressive, prickish behavior with far too much time on their hands?

If NO, send an email.
If YES, send a thank you note. Or better yet, eradicate this person from your life entirely if possible.

I sent an email in lieu of a thank you note about 90% of the time. I am capable to write far more meaningful and memorable things in an email than I can in a thank you note, and I usually do. As untraditional and impersonal an email may seem to some, if done right, it can be far more meaningful and impactful than a small piece of card stock with 3-5 scribbled sentences.

When I send a physical thank you note, it's almost always in situations that still demand a physical thank you note (in response to gifts, for example, though even then, I will send an email to close friends) or when the recipient is likely to be offended by the email and his or her response to the email will be more troublesome to me than the actual writing of the thank you note.  

It should also be noted that if you are a person who thinks that a thank you note sent via email is never acceptable, you should know that you are a dinosaur. You are slowly but surely becoming extinct. You may enjoy your thank you note perch high above the masses, but please know that the world is moving on without you. 

Most of us understand that it's the thought that counts. It's a lesson we were taught as children, and it remains true today. 

 The thought - contrary to arcane and dwindling belief - does not require ink, envelope, and postage to count. 

Wonder Woman's invisible jet is stupid.

The new Wonder Woman film is more than a year away, but a "trailer" was released last week showing the first glimpses of the film.

It got me thinking about Wonder Woman's invisible jet.

I hope the filmmakers abandon this ridiculous concept in this new iteration. While I certainly see the value of an invisible mode of transport, I cannot understand the value of an invisible jet that does not also make the passengers and their belongings invisible as well.

What is more noticeable?

A jet flying through the sky at 33,000 feet or a half-naked Amazonian princess with golden wrist band and a lasso flying by in an oddly seated position?

Jigsaw puzzles are a terrible, rotten, no good, very bad gift.

In this holiday season, please remember this one important fact when choosing a gift for a friend or loved one:

Giving your loved one the gift of a jigsaw puzzle is like giving that person a purposeless, meaningless chore best suited for someone who idolizes Sisyphus.

Jigsaw puzzles are ridiculous. Take an oftentimes lovely picture, break it into hundreds of pieces, and expect your loved one to re-assemble it into something less lovely than the original.

What a jerky thing to do. 

And once it's complete?

Stare at it for a few moments (even though the image is already on the box), break it into hundreds of pieces again, and put it away until the next time your loved one is hell bent on accomplishing nothing. 

It's a terrible gift.

Why not just tear a sheet of paper into a hundred pieces and ask your loved one to re-assemble it? Or break a plate? Or invite your loved one to twiddle his or her thumbs for an hour or two?

These pursuits seem just as entertaining to me as assembling a jigsaw puzzle. 

Granted, my opinion may be slightly clouded by the fact that I have great difficulty assembling jigsaw puzzles, but I suspect that I would hate them regardless of my prowess. 

Putting stuff that someone has purposely broken back together has never struck me as terribly amusing.

jigsaw puzzle



There are saboteurs in your organization, purposefully damaging productivity and morale. Here are 16 ways to spot them.

In their new book, Simple Sabotage: A Modern Field Manual for Detecting and Rooting Out Everyday Behaviors That Undermine Your Workplace, Robert M. Galford and Cary Greene, examine the "Simple Sabotage Field Manual,” a guide published by the OSS (the predecessor of the CIA) in 1944 to assist European spies undermine the Axis powers from within.

Galford and Greene examine eight techniques outlined in the field manual that are eerily similar to what often goes on in workplaces today.

Here are the eight tactics the OSS recommended for tripping up an Axis agency from the inside:

  1. Insist on doing everything through channels. Never permit short-cuts to be taken to expedite decisions.
  2. Make speeches. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your ‘points’ by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.
  3. When possible, refer all matters to committees, for ‘further study and consideration.’ Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five.
  4. Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
  5. Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, and resolutions.
  6. Refer back to a matter decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
  7. Advocate ‘caution.’ Be ‘reasonable’ and urge your fellow conferees to be ‘reasonable’ and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
  8. Be worried about the propriety of any decision. Raise the question of whether [it] lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

In my nearly three decades of work in a variety of fields, I have seen these strategies deployed with frightening regularity. 

My own additions to the list would include:

  1. Run meetings and training sessions with PowerPoint decks consisting of dozens of text-filled slides. If possible, read directly from your slides.  
  2. Assemble meeting agendas in reverse order of importance, thus placing the most important item last and ensuring that if the meeting is running late, the agenda cannot be cut short.
  3. At the beginning of every meeting, require grown adults to review (and if possible read aloud) a set of norms - a list of ways that reasonable adults behave decently - thus treating your meeting attendees like poorly behaved children.  
  4. Assign seats in meetings and training sessions, thus reinforcing the idea that you view your meeting attendees like poorly behaved children. Infantilizing your subordinates is a highly effective means of generating discord. Do so whenever possible. 
  5. Open meetings with meaningless "get to know you" activities. Activities that include sticking post-it notes onto colleagues' backs, tossing playground balls to one another, and scavenger hunts are especially destructive to both productivity and morale.   
  6. When responding to email, use "reply all" whenever possible. Add unnecessary people to email distribution lists whenever possible. 
  7. Before sending an email to subordinates, ask yourself: Could I include this relatively simple piece of information on the agenda of my next meeting, thus prolonging that meeting? If the answer is yes - and it almost always is - delete the email and add the information as an agenda item.
  8. Never allow a string of emails to end. Always reply - regardless of the finality of the last email, with anodyne phrases like "Thank you" and "Sounds good" and "I understand." Every additional email sent amounts to productivity lost. 

Have any items that you would like to recommend be added to the list? Please let me know.