Monthly Archives: April 2015

Call Me Irresponsible

Very few people are perfect, not even those who broadcast that they have no biases of any kind. I’ll bet that a fair amount of those sorts of folks say incredibly rude and hurtful things about some other group. I believe, though, that our entire character cannot be boiled down based on one Facebook comment or tweet. Because so many things breeze through our news feed, it’s become easier in our busy lives to say “that guy’s a racist” or “look at that bigot” or “she’s fat.”

A few days ago, news reports buzzed across the internet of a controversial picture of Michael Buble, taken in Miami by his wife. He was posing off to the side, looking directly at the camera. Left of center, a young woman appeared to be ordering at a counter and we only see her from behind. Buble uploaded the photo to Instagram, accompanied by a handful of hashtags that included the following: #myhumps, #babygotback, #hungryshorts. Probably out of fear of being perceived as rude, his final hashtag was #beautifulbum.

As I’ve babbled on through nearly every blog post, I have body image issues. Most people do, even if they won’t admit it. A lot of people say that they don’t care about what other people think, but I bet if anyone took a picture of your ass, mocked you, and then it spread all over the internet, you probably would be mortified. I know I would be. In the last few days, I’ve wondered who this woman is. Was she upset that Buble took her photo and shared it without her knowledge? That it wasn’t just Michael Buble commenting on her rear – it was also his wife; she took the picture! Would it have made a difference to her if he had said something flattering?

Because I usually give people the benefit of the doubt on social media, I thought a little bit about Michael Buble. His celebrity gives him a little more leeway in some respects, but it could also potentially backfire, too. I’ve never been a huge fan of his necessarily, but from now on, I will always associate his poor judgment to upload that picture with his name.

In the interest of full disclosure, I made a not-so-nice comment on a friend’s picture the day after the Buble picture made the rounds. A very nice friend of mine snapped a photo of a man wearing a woman’s bikini and carrying a purse in Times Square. “Did he just come from WalMart?” I wrote, calling out the well-known site, The moment I hit ‘post’, I regretted what I said. The image of Michael Buble’s goofy face, mocking a young woman’s behind, flashed into my head. I realized I was no better.

I could have removed the comment. In the world we now occupy, where every word that comes forth from our fingertips is parsed and weighed for its degree of sensitivity, some people would excoriate me for being a horrible person. They might state that this is my opportunity to model proper internet etiquette by stating that I erred in my judgment and I would be removing my comment. I believe this would imply that I thought they were jerks and that I was also a jerk for having made a WalMart comment to begin with.

This led me to consider the type of guy my friend is. We are acquaintances, but I know he is active in his church and community, is successful in his career, and has a wonderful family. Dare I consider the possibility that he might be a horrible human being for sharing this picture? If so, who would I be to point my finger in the face of the comments and sanctimoniously elevate myself on some Zuckerbergian pedestal?

With the venomous tone that social media has taken in its effort to be the arbiter of righting every perceived wrong in the world, so much of the fun seems to have been let out of my use of social media. Every status update, uploaded photo, and comment goes through my internal screen, considering whether I might upset anyone. Will atheists be irked by my references to my Catholic faith? Will people in unhappy relationships be angry that my husband and I appear to like each other? Is someone’s blood pressure rising that I don’t really see the allure of Trader Joe’s? Or Joe Biden?

After deliberating for a couple of days, I opted not to delete my comment. It does not condense my entire humanity and what I stand for. The fast pace of social media has shaped a belief that an entire dossier on someone’s psyche can be developed, based on whether she clicked a thumbs-up button.

Michael Buble has brought joy to millions of people all over the world with his music. He seems like a nice and respectable guy and covers lots of Frank Sinatra’s songs including “Call Me Irresponsible”. So if you’re going to call Michael “irresponsible” for using poor judgment on social media, you’ll have to call me that, too.

You’re Never Too Old to Set New Goals

Yesterday, I ran my longest race – the 10K Cherry Blossom Run in Branch Brook Park in Newark, NJ.  I kept the tunes flowing to drown out the sound of my labored breathing and the strikes of superstar runners all around me.  I kept cranking up the volume as I heard the cheers at the finish line growing closer.  I knew it was there in the distance, but if I focused on it, I feared the road would feel much longer.  I don’t usually have that eye-of-the-tiger, “you got this” mentality.

Intellectually, I know I can do this, but during the race, I started to fray at the edges.  By the fourth mile, the weight of my legs felt heavier with every step.  On a quick walk break, I texted Sam that I was “losing it” and was “delirious”, which was so misspelled that auto-correct didn’t even bother.  How the hell does Dean Karnazes do 100-mile marathons?  Boy, the Cathedral bells sound beautiful this morning!  Is that a dead skunk I smell?  Sam had crossed the finish line before me and came to cheer me on.  I kept my head down as we ran together the last quarter-mile.  I squeezed my eyeballs hard to restrain the tears.  When I saw that my finish time was better than I expected, I bawled.  Sobbing and shuffling across the finish line, I sniffled with tears of pride as I thanked the nice lady who gave me a medal.

As I’ve grown older, it’s been harder to accomplish goals.  Adult responsibilities vie for our time as we battle decades of intrusive self-talk.  Sometimes, I’ve decided giving up is easier than combatting the yelling in my head.  But lately I’ve been feeling nostalgic about the upcoming anniversary of an accomplishment.

During my freshman year of college, a family hardship forced me to leave school unexpectedly.  It felt like the world collapsed on me.  After the initial shock, I refused to roll into a ball, even though attending community college often made me want to.  My dream was to leave the town I grew up in and get a college education, even though I would be the first in my family to complete one.  It took me over two years of letters (the kind you write on paper, slip into an envelope, and drop into a blue box with an eagle on it) and telephone calls to figure out how I was going to get into a college I could pay for on my own.  At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur, I was at the mercy of using what is now called a land-line which was frequently out of service due to my mother’s difficulty keeping up with her bills.  During those periods, I’d stockpile pocketsful of change and walk to the convenience store at the corner to call admissions, financial aid, and the registrar at the University of Pittsburgh, all while cars idled behind me in the parking lot.

Soon after my twenty-first birthday, I rented a 20-foot U-Haul truck with my car on a trailer behind, and drove six hours, alone, out to Pittsburgh to the roach-infested efficiency apartment I rented from a lady who had lipstick on her teeth.  At first I didn’t know a soul until I connected with a friend from high school who was also a Pitt student.  It took me two hard years to finish my degree there.  Without support from my family, most days felt like a struggle.  For a long time, I drowned in self-pity.  It felt like students all around me spent their days playing Frisbee on campus, studying abroad, and going to parties, all while their parents kept their money flowing.

So when I recently decided to move my career in a different direction, I set a new goal.  On Sunday, May 3rd, I will run my first half-marathon in Pittsburgh, to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of my graduation.

I will celebrate those years of struggle.  I will celebrate every cockroach in my apartment.  And every day that I had to work with a lecherous guy who made comments about my appearance.  And every time I chuckled seeing Handyman Joe Negri from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood walking through the music building.  And every time the bus downtown made the turn that showed the spectacular Pittsburgh skyline and I felt so blessed to be working toward something I so desperately wanted.

Some people achieve enormous goals, but accomplishing a degree from the University of Pittsburgh felt like climbing a mountain at times.  I’m sure parts of the half-marathon are going to feel that way, too.  I will call on that focused and fearless young woman I once was to mute the volume on my inner critic.  I can guarantee that I could probably fill all three of those Pittsburgh rivers with tears of joy when I cross the finish line.