World Class Empathy

I’m not bragging, but I have a rather large capacity for empathy. Is it greater than yours? Maybe. Do you empathize with waiters of demanding people? Homeless folks in winter? NFL kickers who blow a win? Me, too; that’s child’s play.

Do you empathize with a candle’s life who was cut short because of your faulty wicking abilities? Do you feel bad when—because of your mistakes—a recipe goes awry and has no future with your family? Do you feel sorry for the rarely used Kelvin filter on Instagram? Does your heart ache for the remote control batteries who’ve performed flawlessly for six months, and who are now being thrown (with force) into the trash, while being called hurtful names? Nah, didn’t think so.

Most of you know I Talk To Fruit (and a good many of you do, too), so none of this should be too shocking. Let’s rip off that bandage.

I feel bad for my clothes and shoes that never get to go on vacations. I worry that the chosen ones act haughty in the closet or drawers when I’m not around, “Hey, Old Tee, have fun working in the yard today? *snicker* Hey, Old Jeans, how was that quick run to Kroger for the forgotten tortillas? *snort* Hey Too-Big College Sweatshirt, have fun painting? *high-fives vacation tee buddy* What—you don’t want to ask me if we had fun in Italy? Nope, you’re good?”

I hope this doesn’t happen, but I worry that it does. If I think too much about any of the lucky pieces acting superior when I’m not around, then I start fixating on ways to keep them separate—maybe some zoning in the closet to cut down on intermingling? I know the ones left behind don’t think life is fair. I know they wonder why they have to clean the pool filter and go up in the attic. Most of them have had their time in the sun, and been able to get out-and-about at some point in their lives, but I still worry about their self esteem.

Side Note: Now I’m wondering if my work clothes exude an air of importance, too. If I hear as much as a whisper about it, I’ll march them straight out to the garden and dig up an old potato. Don’t test me, Dress Clothes—don’t.test.me.

BBQ. Even though it’s loved by millions, I wonder if it fixates on the few of us who don’t care for it? Does my ambivalence towards ribs and barbecue sauce and potato salad bring it down and make it question its very existence? I feel like I need to show it some love occasionally, so its insecurities or possible feelings of unworthiness aren’t on my conscience. I want BBQ to enjoy its massive fan base, but I feel like maybe it can’t fully immerse itself in congratulatory gaiety because it knows I’m out there … never even considering it an option.

Harry feels the way I do.

Harry feels the way I do.

When I see a lady’s bra strap twisted on her back, I want to fix it. When I see a belt loop that’s been missed on a guy’s pants, I want to tell him. When I see the clasp on someone’s necklace butted up against the charm, I want to point it out. Why? Because all these things want to be pretty and do their job—and by no fault of their own, they instead, spend the day off their game. It’s especially unbearable if they see me see them in disarray, and watch me walk away. I worry about the message that sends them in regards to their importance in this life.

Side Note: I have a confession that doesn’t align with the previous confession. I’m very reluctant to I don’t tell people when they have something in their teeth or in their nose. I know, I know—lower your voice. I’ll answer your questions calmly. 1. No, I don’t want you spending the day like that. 2. Yes, I’d want to know. 3. No, I don’t think it’s OK to say nothing, but that’s what I’m going to do.

kwiig teeth

Oh hey Kristin, you have … there’s … you have … such kind eyes.

I feel bad for things that do such a good job—such a solid, thankless job—and because they’re not flashy, they go unnoticed … until, that is, they don’t do their job.

Think of the anger directed at such priceless items like water heaters, washers, dryers, refrigerators and car batteries. It’s shameful the names they’re called once they meet their Maker. A sorry S.O.B. and a stupid P.O.S. Where was the praise for their solid performance hour after hour, day after day? Did you offer even one ‘attaboy along the way, when it functioned a thousand times without incident?

How about your body? You love your pretty eyes and strong forearms, but have you admired your kidneys lately? No. Revered your thyroid? Doubtful.

Imagine a few hard-working bodies meeting up for a beer after their owners are asleep. Every part is sitting around, exhausted from putting in their thankless time for the 7000 day? 18,000th day?

Head: So how was everyone’s day?
Chorus: Eh, pretty good.
Brain: I’m wiped out. Tina worked 18 hours today while taking calls from Jake’s school, because he put bugs in Sadie’s pencil box—so she was all over the place mentally, and is barely asleep now, so keep it down.
Butt: Laney talked shit about me all day—no pun intended. She tried to squeeze into some jeans from last year, and then talked bad about me to every friend who would listen. It really bummed me out.
Eyes: Waa-waa, Michael’s been talking smack on me since he turned 40 in April.
Retina: (interrupting) Shut up beautiful Caramel Eyes, he’s not talking bad about YOU, he’s talking bad about ME. You get complimented almost daily. It’s me he’s treating like crap, because he needs reading glasses.
Lips: I guess I should count myself among the lucky, Bette seems to like me. She keeps me hydrated and lets me in on all the gossip. And best of all, she ditched her boyfriend with the constant stubble—I hated that lumberjack.
Hands: Pretty good day. I was cold a lot—couldn’t seem to shake the chill, but all in all I had a good day.
Liver: Hey guys, I can only stay a minute; I’ll be working overtime tonight. Maddie went to happy hour and got into some tequila, so I’ve got my work cut out for me.
Sphincter: Dani just doesn’t get it. She was taking a Buzzfeed quiz today and it asked what body part was her favorite and she said her lips. Guys! She said her lips! She never gave me a second thought—I wasn’t even in the running! That’s a girl who just doesn’t understand basic biology. You wait, one day, when I’m in a bad mood, I’m gonna show her once and for all why answering anything other than sphincter is a bad, bad move.
Heart, Lungs, Large Intestine: Chill out Sphinc, we’re way ahead of ya. You are truly important, but we’re vital and Chris has never once talked about us like he talks about his pecks and calves. You just have to get over it.

causeapplause

Fanny packs. The one and only thing wrong with fanny packs is their name. It saddens me that these poor, handy bags had their life cut short because of a detrimental naming mistake. I feel just as badly for me as I do for them. Imagine if that convenient delight had a cool name like “hip sling.” They’d still be enjoying the limelight, and we’d still be enjoying a life with both arms and hands.

I don’t know a single girl who doesn’t wish it was acceptable and cool at certain times to wear a hip sling—Disney, the zoo, a movie, etc. I want to find the person who said, “fanny pack!” and explain what they’ve done to us. I simply must know how the word “fanny” ever even came up in the first place. Even “waist wallet” is better than fanny pack, and waist wallet is super bad. Crossbodies and messenger bags are terrific, because they keep you hands-free—it’s as good as we can hope for thanks to the fanny debacle—but they start making one side of your body hurt after a while, because they’re not balanced. Poor hip sling. Poor me. Curse you fanny pack namer!

As worked up as I am, I need to move on. I’ve got appliances to brag on and a tumbler of water that needs ice to feel sassy.

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Nip Tuck

Cosmetic surgery is overrated. While smaller noses and bigger boobs have their place in society, neither contribute directly to the mission of creating a harmonious, cooperative world. A co-worker with calf implants won’t make the work day easier, but you know what will? A co-worker with common sense implants. Enter: Character Surgery.

Imagine the possibilities.

A little nip here for tempering those passive-aggressive tendencies; a little tuck there for improving a woeful sense of humor.

Doctor: What brings you in?
Girl: Oh Doc, it’s my level of self-importance. It’s reached an all-time high.
Doctor: I see. Tell me what you’ve noticed.
Girl: Well, for starters, my selfies have become a real problem. I used to come up with clever ways of getting a selfie posted—under the faux self-deprecating guise of ‘this is what 3 hours of sleep looks like,’—but now I just post them without shame. I’ve even started hashtagging this fact.
Doctor: What do you mean?
Girl: Like I’ll hashtag #shamelessselfie or #overgrammer or #selfiesaturday, when I know it’s Friday.
Doctor: I see. We can fix that.
Girl: Good. I knew I needed help when I was making fun of someone’s selfies the other day and people were looking back at me in total silence and with big eyes. It was a real turning point for me. I even took a selfie to commemorate the moment—and because I love how blue my eyes get when I’m about to make tears—and posted it on Instagram right away.
Doctor: Did you post an explanation of the image you shared?
Girl: Just a simple hashtag #thesebabybluestho
Doctor: I see. Well, I believe we’re looking at a pretty minor procedure with no overnight stay.
Girl: Really? Even though I’ve noticed that things in my life no longer mean anything to me if I don’t post them?
Doctor: Oh. Well, now we’re looking at a moderately invasive procedure—requiring a full week of at-home recovery and drainage bags.

Wouldn’t it be cool if Botox could fix little nagging things that sometimes hinder good relationships? You’d make an appointment (hopefully with a Groupon) and 30 minutes and one syringe later, you’d be a much better listener.

Oh, I'm sorry—did the middle of my sentence interrupt the beginning of yours?

Or we just don’t listen at all, because, you know, the game is on and the Twitter feed is fast.

What if a few cc’s of Juvederm could curb your woe-is-me outlook? Botox parties would take on a whole meaning. You could invite that one friend who is late to everything and talk her into an injection for punctuality. You and all your lady friends would roll up to that party and sip a little Pinot while perusing the menu. Each party-goer would simply figure out which characteristics applied to her (with a little constructive wine-induced nudge from a true friend), and check the corresponding box to indicate “help wanted.” The menu might look like this:

botoxparty1

And one for the fellas:

botoxparty

I used to tell all my friends, “Hey, if you’re ever with me when there’s an accident and I have to quickly go under the knife, tell the doctor to fix my nose!”

Side Note: My nose has had a few major collisions with spherical objects—the best/worst happened when I played college basketball and was defending a very tall, super mean Jamaican girl (I tell you her nationality only so you can picture her accent when imagining all the means things she yelled at me for no good reason.) Anyway, I was guarding her and she was looking to get the ball up the court. She enjoyed expending the least amount of energy possible, so she cocked her arm back—Payton Manning style—for a full court pass. The timing of my jump was so immaculately perfect that I full-on intercepted the pass WITH MY FACE. Actually, it was less face and more nose. A direct hit. Please take a moment to note the velocity necessary to pass the ball full court.

But if Character Surgery was an option, I’d tell my friends that if I’m in an accident—and need surgery and can’t speak for myself—to tell the doctor he is under strict orders to also fix my sensitivity to external noises. I’d come out of surgery with repaired ribs, a new nose, and blissfully unaware of nearby chip eaters, loud breathers, change jinglers and pen-tappers. I’d never notice anyone’s bracelet scraping the desk back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, as she used her mouse for eight hours in the cube next to me. Thank you, Character Surgery!

If Character Surgery was a real thing, I could imagine this conversation and similar:

Girl 1: I feel like Abby is never at work.
Girl 2: What? Why? I see her all the time.
Girl 1: Well, she’s always posting pics from places other than her house.
Girl 2: You mean like … restaurants … on the weekend?
Girl 1: Yeah, and other places, too.
Girl 2: Like concerts at night … or something after work?
Girl 1: Whatever, she’s always … at … places. And I can’t believe she doesn’t get fat. She’s always eating … food. And like, posting it.
Girl 2: That’s not even true—I follow her and she just posts once in a while!
Girl 1: Yeah, but it’s ALWAYS this great food.
Girl 2: Right, but it’s like 1-2 meals out of probably 21 meals a week!
Girl 1: Right, but she’s not a whale like I’d be.
Girl 2: But how do you know the other 15 meals aren’t apples and salads or something? Should she post a picture of her oatmeal or cottage cheese? Do you want an Instagram of her workouts? A pic of all the donuts she passed on?
Girl 1: Whatever, it just makes me feel bad and hate my life. She’s always eating and on vacation.
Girl 2: Girrrrrl, you gotta get something for that. You should try that procedure Lisa got last month. She said she was back at work the next day with no swelling and couldn’t believe she suffered so long with these ludicrous thoughts.

zd

Doctor: Well, Kacie, everything looks good. If you don’t have any questions or concerns, we’ll see you back here in one year.
Kacie: Great. But actually, I was wondering if I could get a referral to the Character Surgery Clinic on Westchester Ave.?
Doctor: What’s going on?
Kacie: I came across a quote from Betty White recently and it said, “I don’t know how people can get so anti-something. Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much.” It hit me pretty hard. I’m so exhausted from my anti-everything ways that I can’t keep my outrage straight. Is it Chick-fil-A I’m disappointed in? Am I for or against them? Can I have a chicken biscuit or not? Is it Target or Walmart whose policies worked me up into a frenzy last month? Which NFL team didn’t even request the video surveillance of Rice knocking his fiance out cold and then dragging her body off the elevator? Anyway, I want that procedure they’re offering because I just need to take care of my own affairs like Betty suggested.

I just see so many benefits of Character Surgery. Do you know someone who turns everything into a political discussion and creates a negative divide any time possible? That person is a real gem and delight, huh? Wouldn’t it be nice to send ’em in for a little day surgery?

opinion

Have you ever wondered if you’re a bad judge of character? Have you noticed that you fall hard and fast for people (platonic or romantic) you’ve just met or that you love-love-love a person/friend/co-worker, but then aren’t even speaking in six months? Do your relationships and friendships start out super intense and exciting, only to end poorly?

Then you, my sweets, might be a bad judge of character. But that’s OK in my perfect world—where Character Surgery exists—because you’d be able to fix that little flaw with a local anesthetic and a few stitches.

Perhaps not the best judge of character.

Maybe since we all have so many character flaws and such fluctuations in moods and circumstances, there could be a rule. The rule could be that once you’ve been told something three times, by three different people, you have to get a Character Surgery procedure.

August 2012: “You drive like you own the road, Dan.”
October 2013: “Danny! You don’t own the road, you know.”
May 2014: “Daniel, there are other drivers out here—stop acting like you own the road!”

Boom. Bang. Character Surgery. You did it to yourself.

See how quickly we could shape this place up, with just a few well-placed rules? A harmonious, cooperative world, People … are you with me?

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I’m Not That Picky

It’s not a secret that quite a few things in this life bug, bother and baffle me. We’ve united in furytwice. But the other day, I was chopping up pickles for tuna sandwiches—and making absolutely certain to keep the butts (where the stem had been) out of the mix, for people who are particular about such things—when I realized that it really all balances out. Meaning, there are lots of things I don’t mind at all, that others simply cannot abide. I noted this fact as I popped the butts of about 15 baby dills in my mouth, while doing a happy food dance.

Maybe I’m not as picky as I once thought. Let’s swan dive into some examples.

I don’t panic over banana strings, because I’m too busy eating them. They’re called phloem bundles—but I just call them “part of the banana”—and they help carry nutrients to the entire fruit. So while you’re delicately removing them with grouchy, pursed lips, my fully nourished body has moved on.

bstrings

I also don’t mind extreme heat. I was born and raised where it’s routinely over 100 degrees in the summer—and I like it. In fact, I like it to be so hot it’s hard to breathe. Bring it. I prefer dry heat, but I’m not that picky. I also love the deliciously crippling heat of saunas and steam rooms.

Side Note: My mom loves steam rooms, too. One time we were at a spa in Arizona and decided it was time for a good steam. The room was rather large and looked a lot like this:
steam room
Ours was brighter and appeared welcoming. Other women were already in the middle of their terrifying experience steam, so we found a spot and sat near each other. Our moods were good as we anxiously awaited purification. We were quietly carrying on about something—more than likely the location of our next meal—when all of a sudden, the loudest, eeriest, most horrifying sound came surging out from below the benches. I’d liken it to Darth Vader’s breathing, but about three minutes longer and maybe how he’d breathe if he had fingernails and someone was pulling them off, one by one, with needle-nose pliers. Right when the sound started, I jumped out of my skin and held both palms up high to show I wasn’t armed, then turned to look at my mother—who I thought would always protect me—but I couldn’t see her. I couldn’t even see my own body. WHERE WAS MY BODY?! It was like a thousand angry cumulus clouds had filled the room. The sound, plus the absolute blindness—and truly not knowing if something had gone awry in the bowels of the generator—had me disoriented and confused. Just when I was about to assume the fetal position and re-invite Jesus into my heart, the steam stopped. I could sort of see the door, and soon, a few faces even came into view. I looked to my left and my mom was sitting straight up, bug-eyed, with both hands on her heart. Once we made eye contact and blinked hard a few times, we died out laughing. Then we held each other and promised to never let go. Then we remembered food was next on the itinerary, and the joy was back.

We needed comfort.

We needed comfort.

I’m guessing this isn’t common, but I like to listen to songs on repeat. If I fully and completely love a song, I can literally have it on repeat for several days. However, I never re-read books—ever—even ones I dearly love. I have zero desire to re-read a story I’ve already fictitiously experienced. I’m sure these two things don’t jive, but it’s my reality. I also never re-watch movies. Wait—that’s not true. I forgot about Dumb & Dumber. And Tommy Boy. And Knotting Hill. Oh, never mind; I was younger then. These days it would feel like such a waste of precious time to re-watch a movie.

And now I’m probably going to make some of you mad. So if you have a short fuse or feel defensive over your slothful ways, you might want to go stand by that sink of dirty dishes and count to ten. Here goes.

I enjoy cleaning. The house, the garage, the porch, the car. I love trimming trees and pruning hedges. I like putting away clean laundry. I like taking out the trash. I like sweeping off the patio. Certain tasks are more rewarding than others, and I especially delight in the ones where I can see marked improvement and revel in the visual appeal of orderliness. A cluttered space is a cluttered mind, so I love making—and keeping—things neat.

Order creates harmony and happiness in my brain synapses, so cleaning doesn’t feel like a chore to me.

Side Note: This is one of the many reasons I’d find driving a tractor or running a lawn service more fulfilling than wordsmithing Hello Kitty dresses. Plowing a field, mowing, landscaping—something where I can see progress—satisfies my being on a cellular level.

Side Note For The Side Note: My friend text the other morning and said she stopped to fill up on her way to work and saw a bunch of lawn guys jump out of a truck. She found herself looking at them longingly, like TAKE ME WITH YOU. She also has a good job—the kind we’re supposed to want—but there she was, looking dreamily at the crew and wanting to jump in the back of the pick-up with her own bag of Takis. She thought I’d think she was crazy, but I told her, “Shut. Up.” the way I do when she texts me pics of good food, because, I. KNOW. AND. I. WANTS.

This plus this equals YES PLEASE.

This plus this equals YES PLEASE.

Hand in hand with cleaning is this: organization soothes my soul. I love the satisfaction I get from changing a light bulb, putting new batteries in a flashlight, charging my Fitbit and cleaning out a junk drawer (I’m almost totally positive I don’t need the gas bill from 2012 or those tiny, random screws or 2-year old lip balm I never liked to begin with.) I love adding new passwords to my master file and feeling like I have my affairs in order. Disorder weighs on me—I can feel it physically. I have approximately umpteen thousand trillion photos and videos saved across 3 hard drives and the Backblaze cloud—and they’re mostly organized by date and event—but I also have lots of duplicates because of edits and photo albums. It soothes me that they’re safe, but weighs heavily on me that they’re not fully organized the way my brain wants them to be.

Side Note: At any given time, if someone thinks I look off my game and asks what’s wrong, it’s probably just that I need to organize the pantry or pack for a trip. Nothing is wrong, I’m just mentally tidying up—which often times presents itself as a serious face.

Please don’t get physical with me, but I also love waking up early on weekends. I know that’s not popular, but for me, it just means I have more time to do things I love. An extra hour or two allows me to make the most of every minute not spent at my work computer. If I’m asleep, I’m just dreaming of life, but if I’m awake, I’m actually living it—and that makes me happy.

I drive 40-45 minutes to work each day—each way—and I don’t mind it at all. I listen to a lot of audiobooks. Reading is fuel to my soul and my commute allows me to get through exponentially more books than I would if I just read before bed. I actually look forward to getting in my car each day, so I can get back to my story.

audible

I know many people who just hate certain words. I have to say that, while I completely and irrationally despise the word “tasty” … I’m not as passionately disgusted by “moist” as a lot of people I know and love. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it or use it, but I don’t run away plugging my ears either.

Side Note: One time, my sister and I were discussing words we dislike and most of the usual suspects came up (ointment, panties, goiter), and then she said, “I HATE the word duvet.” I just laughed like, “Duvet? You hate duvet? You actually have an opinion about duvet?” She got more and more worked up the more she considered this “obnoxious” word. I was becoming weak from laughter when my niece—just as serious as her mom—chimed in, “I can’t stand the word “elsewhere.” I decided they were two peas in a pod—just two peas hating-random-words-they’d-have-a-hard-time-escaping-in-this-life in a pod. Just two ointment-hating peas in a moist, tasty pod.

Sorry, I’ll go now. But not before I share the greatest comment section of all time—please enjoy all 2,800 and thank me later.

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Patience Cards™

T: West, can you spare a few Patience Cards™?
Me: Sure, what’s up?
T: My mom called and they’re having issues with their router. She asked if I could come help my dad sort it out.
Me: *sympathetic silence* Please take what you need.
T: I wouldn’t ask, but I just loaned my sister my last two PCs™ because our cousin needs help with her resume.
Me: What’s mine is yours. I have nothing in the foreseeable future that necessitates any, so take ’em. Godspeed.

Patience Cards™ were born out of a desire to be patient with people you love. … keep reading

The Thoughtful Olympics

I love thoughtful people.

To me, it’s one of the best qualities a person can have, so it’s not surprising that most of my favorite people are very considerate.

My idea of thoughtfulness goes well beyond the usual stuff. It’s a given that you should consistently do the remedial stuff: pick up after yourself, say please and thank you, hold doors open for people, remember and acknowledge people’s birthdays (especially people you love), never miss Mother’s Day or Father’s Day (not only because it’s inexcusable but it’s also disrespectful to those who’ve lost a parent and don’t have the utter luxury of celebrating it).

These are absolute-no-brainer-givens, among a multitude of other non-negotiables (like not interrupting people when they’re talking—even if you’re certain your story is better or more exciting. Life isn’t a contest to land on the best version of every story ever told, so be thoughtful and let people talk).

rude

But there are many other—perhaps more creative—ways of being thoughtful.

1. When you cross the road in front of Target, cross it in a straight line. For the love of all that is good and right in this world, do not make cars wait as you saunter across at an angle. This involves such simple math that even I understand it—the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Cars are waiting on you. I’m waiting on you. And now I’m doing angry geometry in my head. Your walking angle is thoughtless. Given the extra time I have on my hands, I’m deducing a few things about you as I wait.

  • You think it’s your world and we’re all just passing through.
  • You are controlling (just because you can make people wait, lest they plow you over, doesn’t mean you should).
  • You are passive-aggressive, long winded, inefficient and take the circuitous route to tell the simplest of stories.
  • You and I cannot be friends.

2. Be less descriptive when ordering at Subway. Professor Detail, look behind you. There is a line of people—likely on their short lunch break—trying to get in and out with a turkey melt on flatbread. Here is the interesting thing … if you want most of the veggies, you really don’t need to list them all with the addition of an adjective.

“Purple onions, black olives, green peppers.”

While colorful, three of those words are unnecessary. In fact, if you want 3/4 or more of the veggies, just say, “Everything but onions and olives” because again, we’re not just passing through your world; we’re actually hungry and on a schedule, too.

3. Don’t bring Whataburger into an area where people might be hungry. There are two known camps out there—one faction thinks Whataburger smells like a steam room of construction workers and the other thinks it smells like Heaven on a platter. Personally, I’d scale every wall to get to it—even if I’m not remotely hungry—but that is neither here nor there.

With one inconsiderate move, you’ll upset everyone—the ones with the sensitive noses, the ones trying to diet and the ones who already ate at Subway and are unable to rewind time and make a more scrumptious decision. You can’t win with that thoughtless move, so please eat your Whataburger somewhere void of humans.

4. If I let you and your car in front of me, I really, really need a quick wave from you. Whether it was a logical allowance or I had to go out of my way—and risk making people behind me mad—you’ve got to offer a quick wave of acknowledgment. It’s an extremely simple gesture that goes a long way. When you don’t recognize that kindness in any way, I’m forced to think terrible thoughts about you and your stupid car.

Side Note: The best of the best? When someone lets me in and I wave and they wave back! That’s some sweet harmonious living that gives me chills every time.

simon

5. Paging all drivers who make wide turns. Please take some time and familiarize yourself with your car and get a handle on your turning radius. The two of you can practice together in an empty parking lot somewhere after dinner. And for the love of mankind, if you’re in a little nugget car like a Ford Focus, you never, ever need to take anything wide. Period. No, ssshhh, you don’t—please stop talking.

6. Retail associates … if I track you down and say, “Hey, do you know if you have water bottle filters?” please—I BEG YOU—don’t get a confused look on your face and start guessing. Please don’t say, “Well, if we did, hmm, they’d be over here in the water bottle section.”

Stare.

The simple phrase “if we did” makes me want to challenge you to a chicken fight, pin you down after I win and explain in hushed, aggressive whispers that I know the basics of store arrangement and I’ve looked on all logical aisles and don’t need your patronizing head-scratching guesses.

By no means do I expect every associate to know where every miniscule item is. What I do expect and yearn for—across the board in all of life—is for people to just say, “Actually, I’m not sure. Let me find someone who knows.” Not wasting people’s time is super thoughtful.

Lastly, if we’re out to dinner and I say, “Backhand me if you see me reaching for another bite” … that literally means BACKHAND ME IF I TRY TO TAKE ANOTHER BITE. I wouldn’t have laid down the edict if I wasn’t ready for the fallout. Please be thoughtful and do as you’re asked.

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.

Clouding The Issue With Logic

Do you have a problem solver in your life? No, I’m not talking about someone who tackles the logistics of a trip or troubleshoots a circuitry problem with your garage door opener. I’m talking about the person who—when you say, “Brr, I’m cold!”—suggests you put a jacket on.

You do, don’t you? So do I.

My dad was my first problem-solving specialist. “Daddy,” I’d say, as I slowly rotated my arm backwards, “it hurts when I move my arm like this.”

“Well don’t move your arm like that.”

Stare.

I guess I was hoping he’d say, “I’m sorry, Sweetie” but no, he chose to cloud the issue with sound logic.

Similarly, when I say I’m cold, I’m just seeking camaraderie. Because, as it turns out, I actually know my options for warming up.

camyeah

I used to think it was a guy thing—that they were more hard-wired to be solution-oriented and less inclined to devote time to seemingly idle chit-chat. Most guys never seemed to put much stock in volleying corroborative observations just for the sake of interaction (i.e. I’m tired … Me, too! I’ve been hot all day … Right? Bring on fall. I’m starving … Same here, I must have a tape-worm.)

But lately I’ve come across more and more women who have multiple solutions to my problems.

Me: I’m so sleepy today.
Problem-Solving Guru Girl: Have you had any caffeine?

Me: The weekends just don’t seem long enough anymore.
Problem-Solving Guru Girl: Do you have any vacation days to tack on to the weekend?

Me: I feel like I’ve been so forgetful lately.
Problem-Solving Guru Girl: Are you sleeping enough? Sleep deprivation can really affect your memory. So can low levels of B-12.

My new theory is less gender-centric and more brain-specific. I think people who are literal are the ones most eager to impart helpful solutions.

I’m not very literal-minded, so I tend to think my conversation partner is just wanting to converse—you know, banter back and forth with no real intent to wrap things up quickly. If she says, “Ugh, I so hate Mondays.” I’m pretty sure she just wants to know the feeling is mutual.

By no means do I assume she wants to hear, “You do? Are you unhappy in your job? Have you considered doing something you look forward to rather than something you dread? Do you have an updated resume? One that’s not comic sans?”

I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, unless I preface my statement with:

“Hey, let me get your opinion”
or
“I could use some advice”
or
“Tell me how you’d handle this”

… then I’m not actually requesting your nifty problem-solving skills. Anything short of the aforementioned prefaces is just the two of us shooting the breeze. It’s not a covert ploy to get advice.

If we’re hanging out and I say, “I’ve been thirsty all day”, you absolutely have to know that—AS A FULLY GROWN ADULT WHO IS STILL ALIVE—I know how to hydrate myself. So saying, “You should get something to drink” simply isn’t needed. Telling me that “unquenchable thirst” is the #1 symptom of type 2 diabetes is overkill. I was just looking for a friend who wanted to make a Sonic run.

Hey, I like solving (real) problems as much as anyone. The difference is, not being very literal-minded, I don’t hear things like, “I need a pedicure in the worst way” and feel I should spring into action with the remedy, “Day spas offer those—you should book one.”

look at me! I've got answers!

look at me! I’ve got answers!

Of course it goes deeper than this, too. I had a friend tell me about going home after a particularly terrible day at work and just letting loose with everything that went down, why it upset her and how she would properly reflect her feelings on Facebook—until her husband interrupted her—not with exasperation, but with … wait on it … solutions.

His suggestions were logical, on point and precisely fitting—but she wasn’t looking to solve a problem. She was hoping to vent. She was looking for a listening ear.

Operative word: LISTENING. Guys, if you can stomach sacrifice a little chunk of time to just nod and actively listen with your eyes, you might escape with uttering only a handful of words. If you can be present and listen, once she takes a breath finishes, just nod and say, “I hear ya. That would ruin my day, too.”

Bang. You will be amaaazed at how quickly she can wrap it up if you just listen and commiserate with a short, heartfelt, “Yeah, that sucks, Honey—I’m sorry.”

Problem Solvers … if you are even half-way plugged into your partner, you will KNOW when she wants advice or solutions. If you don’t see inquisitive eyes or hear something like, “What should I do?” then always, always opt for simply uniting in fury or disgust or shock with her. Save your commercial-grade problem-solving skills for a time when they’re truly needed—like exacting revenge on people who post/pin pictures of animals with baby-talking captions.

even posting in jest makes me despise myself

even posting in jest makes me despise myself

Non literal-minded people … help out your brethren. They’re not trying to upset you by offering up (obvious) solutions, so let them know—before lift-off—if you just need to vent.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “Ok, look. I need to talk, so just let me talk. I’m not asking for a game plan, I just need to vent.” It works. And if, in the middle of your unleashing, they get all Literal-Linda and forget to NOT HELP, shoot them a quick reminder look or press your index finger to their lips. People love that.

ssshhh

ssshhh

The truth is, we all think differently and have unique brains. So in the same way, “You should eat” in response to, “I’m famished” makes me want to hurl a boulder through a window … that same literal-minded person is exhausted by the constant stream of rhetorical banter that flows so freely from my aggravating lips.

Side Note: I think the best, happiest couples are a mix of both types. No matter where we fall on the scale, we all need someone to balance us out. Imagine a world where everyone walked around saying: I’m exhausted. I’m full. My skin is dry. I don’t like to eat broccoli. Ugh, no thank you! But on the flip-side, you can’t have a planet of problem-solvers with no problems to solve.

So, if you’re single, perhaps you should stop looking at what a potential spouse does for a living or how he or she treats the wait staff. Look for your opposite. Somewhere in the middle of your first date, tell them you don’t like your new toothpaste. See if they say, “You should buy a different brand” or “Don’t you hate that?” It might be all you need to know.

Advice To People Who Are Constant Recipients Of Unsolicited Problem-Solving: Be patient and be kind. No one is trying to harm you with help.

Advice To Problem-Solvers: Most people over the age of 3 understand their options for regulating body temperature, quenching thirst, satiating hunger and acquiring rest. For you, in simple terms, that means less trouble-shooting and more nodding … even if in your head you’re thinking, “put a sweater on, drink some Gatorade, eat a corndog, take a nap” … please, just nod and make a supportive noise of some sort.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m thirsty and hungry and need to go tell someone all about it.

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.