In the Blink of a Year

March 7, 2011

Remember when a year sounded like a lifetime?

Vaguely.

I recall being a child lamenting the eternity I had to endure until summer vacation. The teacher laughed and said, “Just wait until you’re grown and a whole year passes in a flash.”

Since I’ve understood her sentiment for a while now, I thought I had a better handle on the disappearance of time.

And then I saw this:

Hi Dorothy!

Ah #HaimUp.

For those of you not versed in the language of Twitter, the # is a hashtag and the “Up” is a play on the word TweetUp.

The Haim is for the one and only Corey Haim, whose death brought together a ragtag group of friends for a very unusual evening.

Corey Haim died on March 10, 2010.

On March 11th, this happened:

Justine and I had decided that tribute needed to be paid.

In the span of less than a day, we wrangled a venue, delicious eats from the one and only Ramon De Leon, and the bevy of everyone’s favorite Chicago Twitter personalities.

What we didn’t plan was the traveling Roshambo tournament, which sauntered into the pub and hypnotized us all.

Who knew there existed traveling roshambo tournaments?

Who knew that Rock/Paper/Scissors was called roshambo? Of course you did. Congratulations. Know-it-all.

I shall never forget the sight of Laser Fists, Danimal, and the Blazin Asian competing with fury or the sound of the roaring crowd chanting “One-Two-Three-THROW!”

Sami took this and should've been in it.

Laser Fists!

I think it tipped the event from fun and silly to legendary. To me, anyway.

And that’s what I was doing a year ago.

I had no idea that in the blink of a year, I would move away from my beloved Andersonville, commit to launching Push m3dia full-time, buy a house in the suburbs, gain a bunch of weight (pffft), and be ten weeks away from the most meaningful accomplishment of my life. So far.

I’m eager to see what the next year will bring.

I’ve made a lot of plans, but the unexpected is the stuff of legends.

I’m ready for it.

“One-Two-Three-THROW!”

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Am I Racist?

January 20, 2011

To preface, no one has called me a racist.

I was involved in a benign discussion on Twitter that got me thinking about the ever expanding usage and application of the word. To reiterate, I was not called a racist and no one was wrong or right in this scenario, in my opinion.

It was simply a conversation that I wish to share here.

Cast:

Me – Ordinary joe. A nobody with an overdeveloped sense of justice, a wicked love jones for the power of words, and a big mouth.

Guy entitled to his opinion – A smart, civically-engaged man.

Innocent – Poor guy whose tweet I found amusing and retweeted. Related: from Alabama, as am I. NOT to imply that anyone is guilty, only that Innocent did not engage further.

It begins with me giggling at Innocent’s tweet:

Guy responds with this:

I prickle, but attempt to diffuse:

Yes, I could have simply ignored it, potentially avoiding more Twitter Fatigue. But I didn’t. Neither did Guy:

I find the generalization of generalizations a bit unnerving. I believe that context should always be considered. So I push, as I am wont to do:

Now, of course I don’t believe Guy hates Alabamians and I’m 100% sure he had no idea that Innocent and I are from Alabama. I offered this unfair accusation to equate with his. And to be funny. Guy does not seem amused:

Guy is absolutely correct. Unfounded claims add nothing to discourse.

But the other part of this really gets to me. No one chooses to believe anything? They just believe? Um.

Our beliefs are informed by experience, education, cultural and environmental influences, and myriad other outside forces.

One isn’t born believing in or doubting God or rooting for the Detroit Lions. Our parents, friends, teachers, clergy, or even strangers serve to form our beliefs until we, hopefully, choose to research and explore the foundation of those beliefs in order to strengthen them or to create new ones.

All by choice.

But by now it’s late, it’s bedtime for me as well, and I’m trying to embrace the notion that I initially ascribed to him in my mind: “Dude, lighten up.”  So I attempt to diffuse again:

Guy kindly tolerated my silliness:

To Guy’s credit, he hasn’t yet blocked me, which I greatly appreciate because I hope this leads to the discourse he referred to and surely values as much as I.

Racism is evil. Identifying and ending racism is everybody’s job.

First, I get it.  Generalizing about any race as superior or inferior is, at the basest level, just plain incorrect.   Generalizing about any demographic as any one charactistic is probably incorrect.  Case in point, an earlier tweet by Guy:

Should someone reprimand him for generalizing about vegetarian girls? Of course not.  Also, blind people do go to movies. But whatever word might be used to connote discrimination about vegetarian girls and blind people probably does not have the immense power of the word racism.

The accusation of racism can destroy careers and reputations in an instant. To bandy about this term is to diminish its meaning. Paul Wachtel posits that “for some people it has lost its impact, lost its power to shock, to evoke guilt or revulsion. A term that once referred to the most deplorable and shameful of traits and actions has been extended to include virtually universal human characteristics and to include within its purview practically everyone in our society.”

I believe it is prudent to apply the term carefully and responsibly.

Second, it was a fucking joke. On Twitter. Jokes can absolutely reflect racism and be hurtful. This one seems pretty harmless to me.

I hope Guy will see this and not be offended. Perhaps he will choose to weigh in. I welcome his feedback and yours.

And yes, I clearly have way too much time on my hands.

If you have a blog or a website, you’re probably utilizing tools to monitor and analyze the traffic to better understand and grow your audience.  My friend Leyla wrote a great post about Using Analytics to Get the Most From Your Blog Posts this time last year and revived it today for an anniversary run.

As Leyla aptly outlines, these tools can help you to understand where your traffic originates, which ads are effectively driving traffic, and what content keeps them coming back.  The keywords section resonates with me this morning.

Keywords tell you which words or phrases were searched that led an eager, motivated surfer to your little corner of the web.  These are illuminating because they can tell you objectively how your content is perceived.

Or they can tell you that you’re fat.

I woke up to this rather shocking slap in the wordpress this morning.  This juicy nugget of analytics tells me little about my blog’s reach but it did deliver.

Initially, I obsessed (as I am wont to do) over the reality that someone recently encountered me at a happy social function, possibly engaging me with a smile, a hug, and promises to catch up one-on-one over lunch only to be thinking behind glassy eyes, “Dang, Felicia has gained some weight.”

What boggles my mind is that this person was motivated to actually SEARCH for information behind this weight gain.  What did this person expect to find?  A reason perhaps, or a discussion thread devoted to the topic. God forbid.

And then something wonderful happened.  I started laughing.  You would think being faced with the words that women fear more than death would give me a moment’s pause to blush or cry or vomit or something melodramatic.  Truth is, I was contemplative and then I was laughing.  And this reaction delights me.

I was too chicken to participate in Rachel‘s brilliant No-Makeup Week campaign for all the usual excuses.  It stands to reason that being called fat would appeal to the same ingrained self-image issues and cripple my confidence for at least a few minutes.  But it didn’t and here’s why.

I come from immigrants.

I grew up on public assistance.

I know people who are hungry right this moment.

I will never, ever complain about having too much food to eat.

I love and I am loved in return.  And I always try to be kind.  These things make me who I am.

So thank you, anonymous searcher, for the morning laugh and lesson.  This concludes my attention to the matter.  I have gained some weight and I think I look fantastic.  I will obsess no more.

And besides…you’re ugly.

When women suffer professionally at the hands of men, figuratively, we yell sexism.  But at the hands of our sisters, what should we yell?

I once attended a panel discussion for and about women in a particular industry.  It isn’t pertinent which industry, only that the speakers, the moderator, and most of the audience consisted of women.

I don’t recall the question, but in response, a panelist shared an anecdote about the time a man took credit for her idea.  The crowd went full-on rhubarb in collective, sympathetic agreement and the conversation degenerated into a Men-Hold-Us-Back extravaganza.

I’m sure the brave males in the audience were regretting their decisions to be progressive.

I recall thinking these women would be better served defending themselves from women and men alike.

Equal opportunity, and all that.

I was so fortunate to have fantastic, mentoring bosses when I first started working.  I’ve written about great lessons from Andrea and will write about Sam (a he-mentor. Gasp.) very soon.  As a result of these positive experiences, I wasn’t really prepared for what I have witnessed.

Jan* used to show up at work crying about her boyfriend who had a drinking problem.  She would insist that we keep the door locked because he might storm in and hurt her. Once, she said she was scared to go home.  She put her work on my desk because she was too upset to do it. She would wail, “Don’t you understand!?! I’m homeless!  I HAVE NO HOME!”  It was always something.  By the way, Jan was 45, and I was 23.  I have to believe that you were expecting the opposite.

I never said anything negative about her behavior.  I tried to take the high road and simply put the work back on her desk and walk away.  She in turn told our boss that I was being unprofessional.

Huh?

Years later, another situation found me navigating landmines.  A new lady boss, Jane*, came in to the department and told me behind closed doors that she felt her male boss was deferring to her male counterpart too much.  She needed me to help her gain respect in the department.  She wanted to be sure that she spoke for our team in meetings.  The projects I worked on should be presented by her.  The traveling I had done for a year would be done by her from now on.  It was better for our team this way.

I was naive.

I knew I’d been had when I overheard her telling her boss that I simply didn’t participate and didn’t want to travel anymore and that I should be demoted.  Ohhhhh.  When I quit the next week, the head of HR wanted to know why and I simply said that things had changed in the department. It was just time to move on.  I thought I was being professional, taking the high road.  Leaving gossip and emotion out of it.  A year later, I found out that she had told everyone she’d fired me.

Here’s the thing about the high road.  It’s bullshit.

I’m convinced that the person who invented this concept was an asshole who wanted honorable people to keep their mouths shut so that he/she could travel more freely on the low road.

These are two separate issues, hence the two titles.  Both make me wonder what I could have done differently, but since I can’t do anything differently, I’ll just ready myself for future attacks.  Nowadays, I understand that it’s possible and necessary to stand my ground and defend myself without sounding overly emotional and defensive.  My side must be heard and must be conveyed effectively.  All in all, excellent learning experiences, both.

Oddly enough, I’ve never had an equally diabolical experience with male colleagues or bosses.  Yet.

*names have been changed to protect the lame.

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