I’d like to know who added me to the email list for the defeated. Last week I was given reasons I must try online dating now and this week I was asked, “How low is your self esteem?” It isn’t whether I suffer from a lack of self-esteem, oh no. This survey assumes my self-esteem festers in a subterranean viper den of self-loathing. The question is how deep is my snake pit. Here is a smattering of the questions:
1. How much do you dislike yourself?
It’s hard to be objective in this situation, so I find it helpful to step back and try to see me through someone else’s eyes, preferably George Clooney’s. On a good day, if I were a recently widowed Mr. Clooney with cataracts and a sinus infection, I’d squint at me and think she’s not half bad. With a good personality and the right accessories on her arm (such as myself, George Clooney) she’d be okay.
I could live with that.
Another way to gain perspective while I’m trying to calculate how much I dislike myself is to think about those I really dislike, like Pablo Escobar, Joseph Kony and Heather Bresch, the Mylan CEO who jacked the price of the EpiPen and gave herself a gazillion dollar raise. Compared to the animus I have for those creatures, I dislike myself almost not at all, except for when I eat too many potato chips and yell at Aaron Rogers on TV.
2. How inadequate do you feel compared with others?
Which others—the people in Denmark who are thought to be the happiest folks on earth? Compared with them I don’t feel inadequate so much as aggressive. I’m competitive by nature, so the Danes just make me want to work less, play more and binge watch The Vikings. That’ll show ’em.
Who are the others then, to whom I should compare myself—celebrities who “have it all” or millions of Sub-Saharan refugees without food or clean water? I suppose I could keep it close to home and stack myself up against my next-door neighbor, but how do I know she isn’t battling mental disease, a broken heart or cancer? She may have won the lottery, bought a yacht and written this decade’s Harry Potter, but I sometimes laugh so hard tears roll down my face, and I’ve never seen her do that.
A better question than ‘how inadequate do you feel compared with others’ is ‘why the f*ck are you comparing yourself to anyone else, snowflake?’ Knock it off already.
3. How difficult is it for you to express yourself in company?
Like where, in an Apple Store overrun with customers, when I yell “ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?!” as the clipboard guy tells me I am 87th in line for an appointment with a genius, it’s 9:03 in the morning and the store’s only been open for three minutes?
Or does the question refer to something less shrieky, such as making a suggestion in a business meeting, drawing personal boundaries when someone steps on my rights, or sticking up for myself when people are rude and inappropriate?
Like a lot of you, I always have the absolutely perfect comment, comeback, retort and clever bon mot for every awkward situation—an hour after it would have been perfect to say it—usually while I’m driving home with the radio on.
The rest of the time I use little tricks to overcome fear, uneasiness and anxiety when I need to express myself in front of others:
*I think ahead thirty years and ask myself whether I will even remember this moment, and if I do, which will I regret more, having stood up for myself or having remained silent?
*I consider the worst that is likely to happen. It is rare for anyone to jump up, point at a person and say, “That is the stupidest idea ever!” What do we fear then? We are afraid of what people will think. Holy smokes, there is no way to control that, and better yet, there is no way to really know what another human has rattling around in his brain.
Example: Kreckel in HR may look like he wants to throw personnel files at you for suggesting Casual Fridays and flex-hours, when in reality he is wondering whether the people at One-Hour Martinizing think it’s weird he has a human-sized squirrel costume dry cleaned twice a week.
*I picture Kreckel in a squirrel suit.
4. How much do other people tend to dislike you?
Shit tons, of course. You can’t go around exuding self-confidence in your car on the way home from a sales meeting or boast to your cat you have just made a perfect grilled cheese sandwich and not expect there are going be haters.
The thing to remember is that it really has nothing to do with you or me, and everything to do with them. Why on earth would the Swedes despise the Danes when the Danish are the chillest people on the globe? One’s got killer meatballs and massages while the other does world-class pastry. They’re all beautiful, speak at least five languages and excel at math, so what’s the beef? The Danes are too quiet on public transport. Seriously. It’s a real thing.
If people can boo an entire nation for not being rambunctious dolts on a train, what chance do you and I have? Unless we are flaming a-holes who go around smacking people with trout, stealing their lunch money and financially raping Americans who are deadly allergic to bee stings and peanuts, chances are there is nothing we can do to alter whether, or how much, anyone dislikes us.
5. If you do badly at something, do you believe it’s all your fault?
Who should I blame if I can’t parallel park for shit, sink a 40-foot putt to save my soul or style my hair to look like it does when the hair stylist does it? Is Ford at fault when I roll up onto the curb? Are the folks at Titleist responsible for every six-putt? Does David at Hive Salon intentionally arrange my tresses to look like a million bucks knowing full well I will never as long as I live be able to replicate it? (Yeah, he does. I am so onto you, David.)
The question itself mitigates personal responsibility, and suggests instead that we are all just perfect and wonderful, and if we fail at something it cannot possibly be our own fault. But if that were true, then who’s to blame for failure? It doesn’t just happen, like shit, or jowls.
Several years ago when I was a freelance producer for an ad agency in Los Angeles, a young account executive screwed up a massive list of telephone numbers that were supposed to match 100 commercials I was editing. When I caught the mistake and realized it was going to put the agency tens of thousands over budget, my first thought was to devise a plan whereby we could work into the wee hours and over the weekend, something, anything, to make up for the mistake and not cost the company additional money. The account executive had another idea.
“Who can I blame?” she asked as innocently as a newborn lamb that can talk.
Self-esteem? It’s a soul-killer. Give me integrity any day, snowflake.
An article entitled 8 Reasons to Try Online Dating Now appeared in my inbox today. If you’ve known me for ten minutes, or at any time during the 20 years I lived in Los Angeles, you squeal with sick delight at the thought of Pam Ferderbar + online dating.
I know dozens of you have met your soul mate online, and I salute you. I am not salute-worthy. Following are the alleged reasons I should try online dating now, and my first hand justifications for rejecting those reasons.
1. Expand your circles.
The assumption the authors make is that without online dating we would be stuck associating only with coworkers, friends, family and people we meet at a bar.
My coworkers, friends, family and even the pirates I meet at bars do not come close to the level of quirkiness (i.e. mental illness) that I have “enjoyed” in my online dating forays.
EX: A man who described himself as being “tanned and athletic” showed up for our brunch date the human equivalent of a raison; wearing cut off short shorts, flip-flops and half his teeth. He hadn’t mentioned an eating disorder in his online profile, so I was unprepared for the surgical precision with which he cut an omelet and toast into perfectly rectangular “soldiers”—his word, stacked them and then placed a napkin over his head, behind which he consumed the “soldiers.”
When the check arrived it was revealed that he had left his wallet in his other Daisy Dukes, and also did not consider a 20% tip to be adequate.
As I excused myself to go to the ladies room, where I assured him there was an ATM from which I could extract additional tip funds, he asked if after breakfast I’d like to go to the King’s Road Park in West Hollywood to make out, assuring me, “It has lots of secluded areas.”
I suggested he wait five minutes and then get the shovel, duct tape and latex gloves out of his trunk and wait for me in the parking lot. When he covered his face with his napkin so as to resume brunch, I fled through the kitchen.
2. Practice the art of the first date.
The authors remind us that we should have a practice job interview before the real deal, so why not hit the ol’ batting cage of dating, as well? For starters, potential employers have something I potentially want, namely—a job.
Oh, I might be interested to learn my online date considers a parole officer his best friend, has a very nice collection of human femurs and was once mistaken for Danny Trejo, but I don’t think my social skills in these situations require any extra sharpening. A cockeyed smile accompanied by the hair on the back of my neck standing on end happens instinctively when any person holds forth on the hobby of human trophy collecting.
3. Learn more about yourself.
The article says online dating helps us define what we’re looking for in a partner. If by that they mean online dating helps to illustrate in the most concrete way possible what I do not want in a partner, then right on. Woot!—online dating.
Some things I do not want, that I never would have imagined were even a thing, were it not for online dating, include but are not limited to:
- human trophy collecting
- men who require their food be pre-chewed
- men whose first words upon meeting me are “you do not have a submissive bone in your body”
- men who are lesbians (Not LGBTQ people, I’m talking about men who have no desire to be a woman in any regard whatsoever except for the part about having sex with women, and feel the need to come up with a clever way to tell me that because, who knew?)
- Italian billionaires who need to borrow $1000
4. Take control of the dating process.
The advisors assert online dating gives people a leg up in terms of who, how, when and where we date. My dating process begins with a phone tree.
- I text my friend Sheryl with the date’s coordinates and ETA half an hour before the date. Sheryl will then apprise whichever friend lives closest to the target location and that person shifts into standby mode.
- When my date pulls up I snap a pic of his license plate and text to Sheryl, who then relays the info to Beverly, a veteran law enforcement figure who subsequently runs the plates.
- Once inside the restaurant or coffee place I ask my online date to hold the day’s newspaper with the date visible, stand beside a door (to indicate relative height), and smile for the camera. I then have fifteen minutes to text the pic to Sheryl. If possible I am to include a snapshot of the guy’s driver license.
- If I miss any deadlines the ladies launch the phone tree action plan, deploying someone to my last known location. Mina puts on a pot of coffee and bakes a nice coffee cake while Susan commences printing flyers. Sheryl heads over to my house to let the dogs out then they convene at Minas because that is where the food is.
Assuming I haven’t been murdered or bored to death, I join the girls as soon as my date mentions “hard time,” “mistaken identity” or that he is the Fruit of the Loom leaf.
5. Don’t break the bank.
The folks with “8 reasons” asked me to think of all the nights I was at the bar buying drinks and hoping to meet the right person, then went on to assert I could go online for a fraction of the cost. Ha.
If I sense a diversion will be necessary so that I can run out a back door while my date is distracted by a small fire or celebrity sighting (“Hey, is that Danny Trejo?!”), I insist upon buying the coffee, lunch or dinner.
One time, at Peet’s Coffee and Tea, as I reached for my bag, my date became incensed that “a lady” would dream of paying for her own coffee on a first date. (I was absolutely positive there would not be a second date when he mentioned his mad taxidermy skills as we waited to order.)
We drank our coffee and he asked when he could see me again. Rather than my usual m.o., which would be to say, “Just call me,” and then never answer the phone or return his calls, I decided to put on my big girl pants.
I began, “You are a very nice animal stuffer, but I don’t think we have any chemistry and we should probably just…” He cut me off and berated me. “You’re nothing special! You shouldn’t have let me pay for your meal! You’re one of those meal bandits!”
I have heard of them—women who use first dates as their personal meal plans, but I hardly think an iced latte places me in their dubious company. Given the brow beating, I wish I’d ordered a scone and a pound of coffee to take home.
6. Screen for what you’re looking for.
The article’s authors tell us we can screen for religious preferences, politics, height and even eye color.
Yeah, sure, I can check the boxes for a 6’2” Scandahoovian Lutefisk chef with blue eyes, blonde hair and a job with Greenpeace, but apparently there are invisible boxes I’m also checking. Boxes such as multiple personality disorder, fondness for stretchy, revealing pants along with an aversion to underpants, women hater, and dude who keeps his dead mother in the basement.
7. Have fun!
The writers tell us dating doesn’t have to be a drag. It can be fun looking at profiles and entertaining the possibility of meeting someone wonderful. Know what else is fun? Looking at villas for sale in the south of France, or an entire cook book dedicated to savory soufflés.
I can entertain the possibility that I will one day be queen of the Cote d’ Azur and bake the world’s fluffiest egg dish wearing a bikini and tiara, but I’m frankly better off going to Mina’s for coffee cake in my sweats.
8. Why not?
(See numbers one through seven.)
My Aunt Marta, my mom’s beloved sister and the mother of my four incredible cousins, passed away yesterday. She was 87 and had suffered with late stage Alzheimer’s for a couple of years. Even so, she was always sweet, smiling, loving and gentle.
My cousin Kyle looked after Marta for many years, but was 110% attentive these past two, while the disease robbed her of so much. He never complained. He regarded it as an honor and a gift to do so. They were lucky to have had each other. Dying is an intimate sacrament, whether it takes place quickly or over the course of years.
Looking back at my childhood relationship with Marta, I recall how much fun she was. No matter what was happening in her life, which we learned later as adults wasn’t always rainbows and moon beams, she was joyful around the children—her four and me. I cannot remember young Marta, model-beautiful like Grace Kelly, without a broad smile across her lovely face.
We sat around at my cousin Melanie’s last night, reminiscing, crying, laughing and sharing. We’re all adults, some with children, one with a grandchild, and we’ve been through the wars—bloodied, battered and resilient. We’ve cried on each other’s shoulders and been there to listen when life steamrolled a dream or destroyed what we’d planned.
Last night each of us recalled a time, or many times, we’d given in to our worries, unsure of how to proceed, unsure we’d even survive. When I turned to Marta for advice or just an ear, she would give me a big hug and say, “It’ll all work out, Pammer.” And it always did.
I wonder now whether Marta had some preternatural ability to see the future, or if it was just strong conviction, like, if I believe hard enough that things will be okay for Pam, then things will be okay for Pam. I wish I had that gift/magic/virtue. It would be a very good thing to be able to tell someone who was hurting, afraid, lonely or desperate, with a conviction so strong as to make it believable and real, “Hey, it’s gonna work out just fine.”
Of her many virtues, one especially near and dear to my heart was Marta’s innermost desire to see other people happy. First and foremost came her children, after that it was the rest of the world, from family and friends to total strangers. Marta felt things deeply, and wherever it is that joy, happiness and zen come from, Marta possessed an endless font and was willing to share it every chance she got.
People have been writing and calling my cousins to say what a tremendous impact Marta had on their lives. Some say she was more “mom” than their own mothers. She was my second mom—the person I could trust with my secrets when I couldn’t talk to my own mother. She never let me down. She never judged. She never ratted me out. “It’ll all work out, Pammer.” And it always did.
Marta and my mom grew up very poor, the children of a Czech immigrant whose husband died when the girls were very small. Grandma worked several jobs to make ends meet, so it was literally the girls against the world. They leaned on each other, carried each other and supported each other without question for 87 years. My mom feels like she’s lost a part of herself—knowing Marta and their relationship, she likely feels it was the best part. Marta was like that.
In her eyes, her children could do no wrong, yet they all worked hard to please her because “mom’s smile” was a reminder of all they did right. What a gift to your children—unconditional love and acceptance, but it didn’t end there. It extended to anyone who knew Marta. Being a light, she only saw the light in people. Being love—that’s what she beheld.
I’d like to be that way; uncritical, nonjudgmental, radiating light without cynicism or question. How would that make people feel, not so much about me, but about themselves? I know I felt wrapped in approval—a state of grace that made me want to do better/be better—when Marta talked with me about deep things, important things, silly things and things I can’t even remember any more.
When I am gone, will I have left a mark as indelible and holy as Marta has left on the people who remain behind? It is the most divine, uncorrupt ambition I can imagine—to open my eyes and heart to the light inside of people, to refuse to lose focus in their darkness. I don’t think it was an effort for Marta. It seemed to just be there, natural—always on the surface. But it’s worth emulating because she made people happy, and at the end of the day what could be better than that?
We are grieving, sorrowful and slightly lost right now; a rudder gone missing with the wind coming up. “It’ll all work out, Pammer.” Not today it won’t.
Please support the Alzheimer’s Association.
Seriously. I am getting so old (or the news is getting so bad) that the mere act of reading the newspaper causes me to hear my blood pressure. Literally. The other day I was reading about EpiPen and it sounded like the Quicksilver Big Wave Invitational in my head.
Proxy filings, which are the papers submitted to shareholders before an annual stockholder meeting, show that from 2007 to 2015, Mylan (manufacturers of EpiPen) CEO Heather Bresch’s annual pay went from $2,453,456 to $18,931,068. Let me do the math for you. That’s a 671% increase. During that same time the company raised the price of an EpiPen from about $55 to $320, a 461% bump.
Apparently, more and more people require the life saving medication in the EpiPen, so really, what better time to jack the price than when more and more people on the very verge of death need your product, and your CEO can’t make ends meet on $2.5 million a year? Does it sound like the breakers at Waimea between your ears? It should.
I haven’t forgotten that derpy piece of doo Martin Schkreli and I hope you haven’t either. When he bought the license for Daraprim in 2015, an antiparasitic medication that allows millions of people with compromised immune systems not to die from certain common infections, the parasite CEO jacked the price 5,556% (from $13.50 per tablet to $750.00).
What I don’t remember from the media explosion surrounding the Daraprim price hike was that in 2014—just one year earlier—Schkreli’s company acquired the rights to the drug Thiola, which is used to treat the rare disease cystinuria. Before we tell ourselves, so what? Rare disease = who cares, consider this:
Schkreli raised the price of a single pill from $1.50 to $30. Are you sitting? Patients must take 10 to 15 pills per day. Because cystinuria is rare and relatively unknown, nobody paid much attention to what Schkreli was up to, except of course people whose daily meds went from $22.50 a day, or $657 per month, to $450 per day, which is $13,500 a month or $162,000 per year. (Bear in mind this genetic disease produces “stones” in the bladder, urethra and kidneys, which any medical professional will tell you is ten times more painful than childbirth. Thiola prevents the stones from forming.)
Schkreli should have been dragged into the spotlight then and publically flogged and smeared with poop like he was over the $750 Daraprim pill, but we let him and thousands of similar reprobate CEOs slither into the one-tenth of one-tenth of one percent in the conscience-free zone known as corporate profits.
When we talk about numbers so high they cause altitude sickness, it occurs to me that the scum perpetrating these price ‘improvements’ on behalf of the shareholders are still people…ish. I suppose it is possible that Schkreli was born without a mother—a slimy embryo festering beneath a rock, which then crawled out under the cover of night and hatched in a boardroom full of vultures who crowned him King A-hole.
Unconscionable greed has become all too common. Like quietly gaining an ounce here and there until you wake up one day and can’t get your ass into your jeans, as long as corporate gluttony doesn’t personally cost us a new pair of True Religions, we let it slide. But we all know someone with an allergy so devastating they need to carry an EpiPen, and now we’re all lit up over a lil 461% price hike.
I have a theory. Shocker alert, I know.
Normal humans experience a harsh, unfavorable reaction to greed at an early age, which colors the way in which we behave toward our fellow man and the world in general. Or maybe we are just born with a conscience. Either way, the following story illustrates a life lesson I learned at the age of 8, about gluttony, greed and guilt.
When I was little we lived with my grandma. Grandma Rose came from Czechoslovakia, where they apparently lived on wild mushrooms and butter cookies. Grandma’s sister Josie sent wild mushrooms from the old country disguised as gaily-wrapped gifts to circumvent the scrutiny of U.S. Customs, which drove my dad insane.
“You have to tell her to stop sending that crap! Who knows what’s in those mushrooms?! She could be sending a bug that wipes out the nation’s entire food source!” My pops is prone to wild hyperbole, but I didn’t know it at the time. I just used it as an excuse not to eat the sautéed shrooms that Grams cooked up right after the “birthday presents” arrived in the mail.
Gram’s butter cookies were another story. I would have crawled over my dead grandma to get at those tender morsels. I suspect now she incorporated some form of Czech crack cocaine into her recipe. They were irresistible to me, so much so, in fact, that they had to be hidden. But I was no ordinary child. I was a super sleuth when it came to those addictive delicacies.
One day, walking home from school, when I was maybe five or six blocks away, I smelled butter cookies. I’m sure I was quite the vision, bloobing down the street (I wasn’t, uh, slender) with drool spattering off my face like a Basset hound.
When I got home my mom and grandma were in the back yard hanging laundry, and the house was mine to turn upside down.
Grandma lived upstairs in a converted attic apartment, and that is where the baking and subsequent hiding had usually been done. I excavated the usual spots—under the bed, beneath the linens in the linen closet and behind the sofa—nada.
Taking a great breath, I stood before the door to the furnace room. As the apartment was a converted attic, rooms in the four corners had sloping ceilings where the roof met the floor. The furnace room was one such claustrophobic place. In addition, having come from the old country where apparently people had use at some point in their lives for balls of twine, scraps of soap, piles of newspapers and heaps of “recksis,” which is what Grams called rags, the furnace room was a tidy but formidable collection of all things horrifying.
The creepiest thing was the furnace itself. It looked like the kind of contraption you’d be asked to crawl inside by a witch, and then cooked. It was a sick green, all big clanky metal parts, and it seemed to breathe and have eyes. But there were butter cookies in there. I could feel it.
I gripped the doorknob and went in. I pulled the string for the light bulb, tried not to look into the jaws of the green demon in the middle of the room, and I engaged my highly developed sense of smell. I couldn’t tell—the rags, soap, newspapers and furnace oil confused my olfactory function. This mission was going to be strictly visual ops.
There was nothing under the newspapers or rags. I took a deep breath and looked under the furnace—nothing. I will say it was spotless in there; not a dust bunny or speck of lint. Then I saw it—a cookie tin wedged waaaaaaaaaay in the corner, where the roof met the floor.
I dropped to my belly and crawled forth like a soldier making her way under barbed wire. Trouble was, I wasn’t svelte like most soldiers, and my belly prevented me, by about five inches, from reaching the damn thing. Grams was skinny like an Eastern European beanpole, so stashing something back there wouldn’t have been a challenge for her.
I used my toes to propel me forward, burrowing and scratching like a truffle-hunting swine until inch by excruciating inch I finally was able to snatch the shiny metal box. In a reverse thrust sort of maneuver I used my tippy toes to de-wedgify myself enough to sit upright and rip the blessed lid off. I was drooling and could almost taste the first cookie when an insect the size of pterodactyl flew out. The box was filled with Czechoslovakian forest mushrooms.
The things was so frickin’ huge it created a draft as it swooped past me.
“RAAAAWWWWHHH!” it screeched as I grabbed a broom with which I had hoped to kill it, but it flew out the door to the airing porch, and was gone. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t swallow. There would be no crops. We would have no food. I had just unleashed Armageddon on West Allis, Wisconsin and possibly all of North America.
That night at dinner I was unable to eat. Having never missed a meal in my entire life, my folks noticed the untouched food on my plate. I’d also never been speechless and was usually a chatty Cathy. Not this night. I stared dumbly at my smoked pork butt with burnt lima beans, a staple in our house, and I envisioned a world without lima beans. One would think that might have brightened my outlook, but when you ain’t got lima beans, you ain’t got any beans. Armageddon.
Did you find the butter cookies?” my mom asked, her voice oozing suspicion. I looked at her with great cow eyes and shook my head. “Then why aren’t you eating your dinner?”
My great cow eyes filled with tears. I couldn’t keep the horrible secret another second. “Daddy! We’re all going to starve! I opened a box in the furnace room and it was full of mushrooms and a huge bug flew out and got away. Call the police. I am ready to die for my crime!”
My parents were silent. Then my dad burst out laughing. It had been a sham, his predictions about pestilence and the demise of our crops. My dad is a law-abiding citizen and it drove him crazy that no one was doing the “right” thing by declaring those packages of mushrooms to U.S. Customs. There was no Armageddon. The police weren’t going to haul us to jail. My pops had made it all up. It was bullshit.
I learned two things that night. #1, Gluttony and greed are bad and should be avoided at all times. And #2, All warnings to the contrary, drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll were going to be very, very good.
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