Kanye West: Total Douche -or- Media Mastermind

I was watching the Grammys this week and, like many of you, I was horrified by the behavior of one Kanye West. Now, there has been a lot of backlash out there about his frequent theatrics and, likely, narcissistic tendencies, but for some reason this man continually needs to come to the defense of Beyonce anytime she loses a Grammy award. The public response has included an amazing open letter by Garbage frontwoman, Shirley Manson, where she takes the high road and asks Kanye to cut it out (https://www.facebook.com/shirleymanson/posts/10152927970266387) and a Buzzfeed.com post depicting all the reasons why Beck should have beaten Beyonce in the Grammy race (http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/why-beck-beat-beyonce?bffb&utm_term=4ldqpgp#.kdYwjmRvqz) – this does not include the myriad of posts I have read calling Kanye a number of not-so-polite names.

I am coming at this from a different angle – is Kanye West a total douche or is he a media mastermind. Since Sunday night we have been talking about nothing Grammy-related without an in-depth discussion of his ridiculous behavior. He has found a way to keep himself topmost in our thoughts. If it is true that there is no such thing as bad publicity, this man has hit the motherlode.  If he would rather be vilified than forgotten, he is one happy camper these days.

There are some fortunate and unfortunate consequences of Kanye’s behavior:

  1. Winner: Beck. OK, Kanye totally douched him out of his big moment at the award show, this is 100% true. But, and this is a big but, the controversy surrounding this situation has exposed Beck and his music to an audience who may have been previously unfamiliar. He (though not exactly a media-whore by temperament) is benefitting by his name in the media and the sympathies of a Kanye-sick nation.
  2. Loser: Beyonce. Don’t get me wrong – she did absolutely nothing wrong. Kanye keeps stepping up to defend this grown woman who is doing just fine on her own. She is reportedly happily married, amazingly talented, enjoying motherhood, widely successful, and absolutely gorgeous. She does not need Kanye fighting her battles. His behavior only weakens her. She is strong on her own.
  3. Loser: Kanye. He may be a talented musician – this is somewhat subjective and likely depends on your musical preferences, but, by this point, I am not sure anyone even notices this anymore. He is a “character” not an artist.

Can we make this man stop? Nope. Absolutely not. Unless the award shows are going to start having bodyguards positioned around the stage to stop non-winners from storming the stage, he will likely continue to act like an ass. Really, the only thing we can do is ignore him. Consider him like a bully on the playground. Tell him, “No”, set the limit, and then ignore him and hope he will go away.

As Fame ↑, Common Sense ↓

Have you ever wondered where the line gets crossed for celebrities? You know the line where they cross from being “regular” people making “regular” money to becoming someone who doesn’t bat an eye at a $3000 handbag. They jet set around the world, wear expensive and designer clothes (even when designed to look casual and inexpensive), drive luxury cars, and live in humungous houses. Most of these people (but not all), were born average people who lived in average houses or apartments and had parents who made ends meet working more typical jobs.

You may wonder what made me think of this – well, it is something that has bounced around in my mind for years, but, recently, it was Gwyneth Paltrow who has received a lot of media attention for a recommendation for a “V-steam” she made on her GOOP website or in its newsletter. Now, from what I can gather, this is a relatively inexpensive indulgence (I think it was something like $25), but to families making ends meet, $25 to have your vagina steam-cleaned (seriously) seems the height of idiocy.

I read a lot of magazines largely geared toward a female readership. Often within the pages, there is a section dedicated to celebrity product recommendations (either direct or indirect). These can include anything from food products or beverages, makeup and skincare, clothing and accessories and/or furniture/décor. Rarely are these items anything a typical reader would ever be able to comfortably afford. Now, I know there are a percentage of readers who might simply enjoy learning some intimate detail about their favorite celebrities without ever hoping to purchase those items themselves, but I have to think there are those who are actually seeking product recommendations. Do these celebrities understand most people cannot manage $145 for 0.5 oz of La Mer eye cream?

Do you think this is a gradual process? Do they start out feeling comfortable and confident with a $30 purse from Target only to move onto a $150 bag from Fossil? Are there Coach bags and Michael Kors on their way to Louis Vuitton and Berkin handbags? Does your average celebrity marvel at the cost of her clothing (even though she can afford it or gets it for free)?

What do you think? How does it happen?

Paranoia… paranoia…Everybody’s coming to get me!

There is a quote that is often attributed to Joseph Heller (author of Catch-22) –“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”

I am a runner, no… wait, that is a little bit of an overstatement – I am a jogger. There are few things that make me as happy as a sunny morning jog out in nature. I was bopping along this morning enjoying a gorgeous Southern California Sunday morning when a little bird happened into my path. He (I decided it was a “he”) was a cute little blue bird. He landed about 30 feet in front of me on the path. As I continued my run, he became nervous as I neared and flitted another 10 feet down the path. You can imagine what happened as I came closer… This recurred repeatedly for nearly a half mile before the bird ultimately got a bit smarter and flew away somewhere not directly on my path.

Being the over-thinker that I am, I wondered if this bird somehow perceived me as a predator, if it felt as though I was stalking him and not just that we were on the same path. I think we do this in our lives. We give intentionality where (maybe) there was none. Think about it – how many times have you been on the freeway and had someone cut in front of you? Are you likely to feel they did this TO you and it was ON PURPOSE? Hey, they could be totally terrible people or it could have been an honest mistake – you might have been in their blind spot. Have you ever been left out of some social gathering and assumed they did it on purpose? What a bitch, right? Could be… or it could have been an oversight or there might have been some reasonable explanation.

What does attributing intention matter? Well, if we are intentionally slighted, our response might be hurt or anger or sadness. We are a victim in the interaction. It might cause us to see the world a little more negatively. So, I see it this way – maybe we have a choice. We can choose how we interpret and react to these situations. The outcome is the same – you were cut off or left out, but, maybe, you can feel a bit better about it.

You CAN and WILL survive the end of your relationship.

I hope this doesn’t sound heartless… I really do hope it doesn’t, but you need to know you will survive whether or not your relationship does. I say this coming from a place of a happy marriage of almost 16 years. I think it would monumentally suck if he was to leave me, but way down deep, I know I would survive it. Why? Well, I’d survive it because I would have to. I have a child. I have a job. I have friends. I have family. All of these things are things that would help me to get through and also would be reasons to make myself get through it.

You might be asking why it is important to know this about yourself. Well, if you feel the loss of a relationship would be something you couldn’t bear, it might cause you to act in a certain way. When you feel something HAS to work, you probably start to feel a bit desperate. This changes the way you behave.  You will do or say anything to maintain the relationship even if it is not in your best interest. Think of all the horrible things people have put up with in relationships: infidelity, abuse, neglect, substance abuse issues, criminal activities, I could keep going, but now I am just depressing myself. You need to know there is a line that if crossed, means you are out. You need to know that, though it may suck (big time), you could get out if you needed to. You would also survive if they used the escape hatch on your relationship.

This doesn’t mean, by any means, you are less committed to your relationship – I have no plans on going anywhere – just that you will not stay “no matter what.”  You can and will leave if the relationship becomes unhealthy and/or dangerous. If they leave you, you will find a way to move forward and rebuild your life. You can and will survive this.

Finding pleasure in the effort, not in the results.

I was recently sitting with a client discussing why he wasn’t making progress on his goals – he has many of them and they are fairly clearly defined which might make them more achievable, but each week he comes to see me and has made absolutely zero progress on his goals. For a while, we talked about the importance of breaking his goals into smaller, more manageable pieces. We talked about how they need to be quantifiable, so he will know when his goal is complete (i.e., writing 3 blog posts per week). We discussed the importance of not having too many goals operating at the same time – you really CAN spread yourself too thin. We talked about it. You know what we didn’t talk about? Fear.

Fear about what happens once your goal has been reached and is now outside your control. I know a little about this – I wrote a book last year (Life Lessons for the Teenage Girl: Quotes, Inspiration and Advice for Women by Women, Morgan James, 2013). For the longest time, my goals were to make contact with various famous/successful women, research specific sections or work on writing certain chapters. I could control whether or not I accomplished these goals. Do you know what I couldn’t control? What would happen next. Would anyone actually buy the book? Would they think it sucks? Was I wasting a crap-ton of time and energy?

I realized this is what was going on with my client. He was so focused on whether or not people would like this final outcome, he couldn’t get anything done. We need to change the way we look at things. It isn’t about the results, but, instead, needs to be about the process. You goal is about completing the process to the best of your ability. If no one likes it – OK, that sucks, but it doesn’t change the fact you accomplished your goal.

Here are some examples:

  1. A client told me he was always afraid his girlfriend was going to leave him someday. We talked about the importance of knowing he was doing everything he could to be a great boyfriend. He could not control her feelings, only his actions. We can never make anyone stay with us (at least not legally), but we can know we’ve done everything we could.
  2. My book. Hey, it may suck. I don’t think so, but you might. I cannot control how you might feel about the book. All I could do was my best to make it good. I can’t control the outcome, only my efforts.
  3. I have a number of high school seniors in my life right now (both professionally and personally). College applications are all submitted now and all they can do is wait for the acceptances/rejections. I have had a number of conversations about how they have now done everything they could to submit strong applications (grades, extracurriculars, essays), but it is now out of their control. Satisfaction needs to be found in the process.
  4. I have mentioned a few times that my daughter is a dancer – she dances in competitions with her studio. All the kids can do is go out and do their best (and hopefully enjoy it). The results are completely in the hands of the judges. Whether they like your music or costume or dance style or your face all impacts on how well you fare in the competition. Enjoyment needs to be found in performing, not in winning.

This is a long, perhaps drawn out, way of explaining we need to find our satisfaction in our efforts. Too much in life is out of our hands for us to be able to rely on the outcome for our pleasure. Learning to be proud knowing you have done the best you could will carry you farther than inconsistent trophies, raises, promotions or praise.

Super Bowl Commercials: Winners and Losers

These are placed as ranked by Ad Meter which rates viewers responses to various commercials. I might have rearranged them a bit and added/dropped one or two, but no one asked me.

  1. Budweiser, “Lost Dog” — Ad Meter rating: 8.10

Let’s be real – Budweiser knows how to pull the heartstrings. Cute puppy being cared for by gigantic Clydesdales – it’s a gimme. Hot farmer doesn’t hurt…

  1. Always, “Like a Girl” — 7.10

I really like the idea of this commercial. It sucks that women were even making fun of running or throwing “like a girl”. It was a “nice” commercial.

  1. Fiat, “Blue Pill” — 6.87

I don’t mind admitting my initial concern this was a commercial for Viagra. I have nothing against Viagra per se, but I really didn’t want to see a commercial for it – ageism? Loved when I realized it was a car commercial. Clever.

  1. Microsoft, “Braylon” — 6.74

I love the story. I love that Microsoft was working to help this little man – at least I think that was what they were implying. Not sure if this makes me want to buy a computer or not, but it does give me squishier feelings for Microsoft than I may have had before. I think I am being manipulated. Oh, wait – they are commercials – of course I am being manipulated.

  1. Doritos, “Middle Seat” — 6.71

Who hasn’t wanted to pull out this bag of tricks to avoid having someone sit in the space-invading middle “bitch” seat on an airplane? Cute idea. Nice twist at the end being forced to fly next to a baby – potentially one of the nine circles of hell.

  1. Dodge, “Wisdom” — 6.64

At first, they shared very positive, sage (kinda boring) advice. Just when my attention started to drift away, they got twisted and funny. What a great idea to show another side of centurions. Great tie in.

  1. Toyota, “My Bold Dad” — 6.59

OK – I may be slightly biased toward this one. I am a mom of a little girl and I chose a really amazing dad for her. I was weepy within a few seconds of this commercial. It really pulled at my heartstrings. I loved how they showed the dad always being there for his girl and what a subtle twist of having her enter the military instead of the more expected college drop off.

  1. Coca-Cola, “Make It Happy” — 6.50

I really love the idea of changing digital interactions from negative to positive. I have to admit I am not 100% on board with this commercial – it fell a little flat for me, but, again, I really liked the concept.

  1. Nissan, “With Dad” — 6.47

I am a little ashamed to admit that I didn’t really get this one. I understood the dad travelled for work (as a race car driver) and that the son and mom missed him throughout the years. Not sure I knew he quit to be home with his family though…

  1. McDonald’s, “Pay with Lovin’” — 6.45

OK – McDonald’s – don’t sue me, but I don’t eat McDonald’s. I have allergies and try to eat pseudo-healthy, so McDonald’s is not on my go to list. (I will admit that while I was pregnant, I craved McDonald’s sundaes with wild abandon). Despite all of that, I liked this commercial. It made me feel slightly warm and fuzzy about McDonald’s. I even found myself thinking about stopping by the fast food restaurant on my way to work this morning. I didn’t, but they definitely mind-melded me!

And I could not forget:

The Hall of Shame

The Nationwide Dead Kid Commercial

Oh Dear Lord! This commercial was absolutely horrible. It was so bad, I immediately started talking with friends and family on Facebook and Twitter as soon as it was over. So… the kid never got to travel or get cooties or get married… because he died in an accident. This is the Super Bowl people! What a downer. Someone (or a lot of someones) needs to be fired. I wasn’t planning on contacting Nationwide for my insurance needs anyway (I am all good in this department), but now they are permanently associated with a dead kid in my mind. No thanks.

What do you think? Am I full of crap?

Internet Shaming

I am not all about shaming fellow parents based on their parenting decisions as a rule – we have all been there and have all made some not-so-great choices here and there, but I do have to question when a parent chooses to post those decisions on the internet. Have you heard about the dad from Missouri who posted the note sent home regarding his 8-year-old second grader’s lunch? (You can read the article – and letter – here, if you are curious: https://gma.yahoo.com/dad-posts-meddling-note-sent-home-teacher-over-215755494–abc-news-parenting.html). Supposedly a cafeteria worker reported to the little girl’s substitute teacher that the little girl had four chocolate bars, a bag of marshmallows, Ritz crackers, and a pickle in her lunch. The teacher did not believe this was a healthy enough lunch and wrote a note home requesting the child bring a healthier lunch to school the next day. Now, I see a lot of overreaching here on the school’s part here:

  1. She is a substitute teacher. While she is still a concerned adult in the child’s life, the teacher should have been the one to contact the parent when the teacher returned to the classroom. This sub did not know about any existing agreement that might have been in place or how best to interact with the family.
  2. When contact was made, it should not have been accusatory – the implied message in this note was that these parents suck at providing an appropriate lunch for their child.
  3. Finally, it was assumed that what the cafeteria worker reported was 100% factual. I’m sure she was busy working and may not have been able to watch this kid the entire time.

The father (a physician) noted the child also had four pieces of ham and a piece of string cheese – no sandwich because the family does not eat much bread. OK, here is where I go after the parents a bit. We have all made questionable parenting choices – my daughter’s own lunch (and dinner and breakfast) has been far from nutritiously sound on occasion, but I don’t post about it on the internet as if I am doing the right thing. I am often embarrassed when these situations occur and I would hate for anyone to know about it. (Who hasn’t had the occasional “frozen yogurt for dinner” kind of night?). The father also comments that his daughter is a very independent second grader and packs her own lunch – well, maybe this is a sign she could use a little more guidance. I think it is great for kids to take on responsibility, but, perhaps, she could be selecting from a more limited pool of available options – i.e., which type of fruit to take or what type of lunch meat.

There are better ways to address the teacher/school/principal/school district than to post a letter on the internet. It seems to me the school, though misguided, well meaning. Is this a new thing we are doing as a society now? Are we posting other people’s mistakes for the world to see rather than dealing with the problem directly? Oh crap, did I just do that? What do you think? Who was out of line?

Rationalizing Death

Have you ever noticed how we try to rationalize death? It’s as if we can control it somehow if we can explain it away. If I can understand why it happened, I can somehow avoid it happening to me and mine. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really work. If you read my post from a few days ago you know that a little girl who was competing at the same dance competition as my daughter, Charlie, passed away suddenly after suffering an asthma attack at the competition. (https://psychobabblechat.com/2015/01/27/a-little-girl-died/) Her passing has impacted my daughter, her friends, and our family in a variety of ways, not the least of which is my daughter’s current awareness that children really do die. This made me think about my own somewhat similar experience from my own childhood. When I was in junior high, a classmate was diagnosed with some form of cancer. I don’t remember what type, but within a year or two, Jackie (Hebeka, I think) had passed away. From what I can remember, she had been out of school for some time before she died. I went to the visitation with some friends to pay our respects and I remember it being a surreal experience. It was an open coffin and she was just a kid. But I also remember thinking, “Well, she had cancer and I don’t have cancer, so I am OK”. It was really important to me at the time that I know I was OK and not going to die.

My daughter had the same reaction. See, Charlie has asthma – an extremely mild form of asthma, but asthma nonetheless. You should have seen her face when I explained that this little girl had passed… from asthma. She immediately asked if the little girl had severe asthma (I assured her she had) and asked for reassurance that her own asthma was mild (I again assured her it was). Isn’t it amazing how it is our natural inclination to try to explain death and, often, try to use that explanation to provide comfort that we (are our loved ones) are safe.

How many times have you heard a conversation like this?

Betty:                    “Did you hear about Ben?”

George:                               “No, what happened.”

Betty:                    “He died on Monday.  Heart attack.”

George:                               “Wow. That’s terrible. I just saw him last week and he seemed fine.”

Betty:                    “Well, you know he didn’t take very good care of himself.”

George:                               “That’s true. Poor Judy.”

We are always looking for a reason people have passed away as though this somehow protects us from sharing the same fate. They died because they smoked or drank or sped or didn’t exercise or ate like crap or had cancer… or had asthma. Maybe it is a way for us to focus on the logical side of our brain rather than feel the emotions related to the loss (sadness, fear, anger, etc.). What do you think?

A little girl died

This morning, a little girl died after participating at the same dance competition where my daughter was dancing. She was only 7-years-old and suffered from Asthma which ultimately killed her. Neither my daughter nor I ever met her (at least not that I know of), but her passing triggered a number of insights on my part and conversations between my daughter and I.

  1. For the first time in her life, my 9-year-old realized that children really do die. I think this is something she knew in an abstract kind of way, but for a girl like her, who loves to dance and wasn’t “sick” to die – this was something she had never considered.

Mama insight – I think I was slapped with the same realization. This is something that always happens to someone else’s kid and it happens somewhere else – until it doesn’t and it occurs in your world, even peripherally.

  1. This was a reminder for me not to sweat the small stuff. It’s funny, Charlie called me from dance class tonight to tell me she had forgotten her spelling assignment at school which meant she couldn’t fully complete her homework. We’ve really been working on her independence lately and (a few days ago) I would have been annoyed she wasn’t being responsible in bringing her homework home. We talked through how she could problem-solve the situation and get the assignment done, even if it might be a day late. She was so relieved I “wasn’t mad”.

Mama insight – OK, give the kid a break once in a while. It is important to get homework done and be responsible, but none of these things are “end of the world” kind of things.

  1. It is important to be doing things you enjoy. There will always be responsibilities and “have-tos” that we need to do every day, but it is always important to do the things we love as well. This little girl died way too young, but I am hoping the fact that she was doing something she loves will give some small comfort to her family.

Mama insight – make room for fun. Play, have fun, be silly, enjoy each other. Sometimes we get so caught up in the things we have to do (or think we have to do) that we leave no room in our lives for plain old fun. You never know when your (or your loved one’s) last day might be. Don’t keep putting things off – you might not get a chance.

It shouldn’t take someone’s premature loss to make me re-assess the way I am living my life and how I interact with my child, but I am hoping I can make something positive out of this. They are collecting money to try to help the family pay for her funeral expenses – no family saves money for this (college, maybe, but never a funeral). If you are so inclined and are able, please check out their site and help them out (http://www.youcaring.com/memorial-fundraiser/raniyah-simmons-funeral-expenses/297314), but even if you aren’t able, please take a moment and consider her loss and whether it might cause you to make some changes in your own life.

Will that be credit or debit?

I recently lost my American Express card. Not a major tragedy, I know, but I have to admit I went through a variety of emotions – anger at having lost it, fear someone would find it and try to use it, frustration at the process of cancelling it and requesting a new one (not to mention changing all the things that automatically bill to the card – yoga!), and finally a strange kind of grief or loss at not having it in my hot little hands. Again, I want to acknowledge this is not a major tragedy – no one died and it will be replaced, but the process sucked. I basically went through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief over a bit of plastic! (Here is a sneak peak, if you aren’t familiar with the stages of grief: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model).

Then… an interesting thing happened. I was buying less. See, my American Express is the only credit card I use. I use it for everything – I mean, everything – groceries, gas, shopping, yoga, anything and everything. I didn’t pay attention to what I was spending at all, I would just wait until the bill arrived at the end of the month, stare agape at the balance, and then pay it off. For the past seven days, I have not had my American Express and, instead, have been using my debit card. It was strange, but having to write each of these purchases down in my checkbook made me reconsider them – was it worth it? Did I really need it? Somehow using “real money” made it feel more real than slapping down a credit card.

My new Amex arrived today… I am trying to decide if we will have a new relationship or if I will snap back into old patterns. For now, I am enjoying my new awareness and hope it will continue – would couldn’t benefit from saving a little more each month?