Monthly Archives: April 2010

Stop Arguing

I can appreciate a good argument. I’ve actually been involved in one or two. But many people “win” arguments simply by frustrating the crud out of their sparring partners with maddeningly unfair comebacks. There are 3 techniques I find especially annoying:

1) If you are going to debate fairly, you have to have a rebuttal for the specific points that your partner brings up, not just random or vague feedback.

Sally: “You can’t tell me not to wear this halter top to school because you always wear blouses that accentuate your cleavage. In fact, I’ve overheard you telling dad that you swear you get more sales that way.”

Mom: “All right, then! You can go out and make the money for this family! Consider me retired!”

Huh?

John: “So you’re saying that the company is demanding that I greet every customer with a knock-knock joke or else I’ll get fired? What about Bob? He doesn’t even know what a joke is and he got a raise!”

Boss: “Bob has been an excellent employee and he deserved that raise. Also, he has exquisite handwriting.”

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2)  Simply stating the opposite of what someone says is not an argument.

Rupert: “Your deli sandwich reeks of bad meat.”

Donny: “No it doesn’t.”

Myrna: “Eating an entire kilo of chocolate eggs in one sitting is a good way to recapture those extra pounds you’ve been meaning to gain.”

Bette: “No it isn’t.”

Okay.

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3) Deflecting attention elsewhere is irrelevant, and you know it.

Klaus: “I’ve been meaning to tell you that I greatly prefer when you keep your legs shaved.”

Cathy: “I’VE been meaning to tell YOU that your breath smells like carrots. And I hate carrots.”

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I’m just saying that I’ve noticed some people use these tactics because it stunts the argument and then the lack of anything reasonable to use as a response ends up frustrating the other person completely. Arguments are “won” based on last word spoken. I would try using this approach if I had absolutely no idea how to support my point of view. Or, if I was unconscionable. I’m onto you guys…

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Really Bad Decisions

You know when people in your life do things that are just really poorly thought out and you wonder if you should say something? Like, say, your best friend goes back to her jackass boyfriend after suffering terribly the first time around and all you can think as you hear her gush is, “Really? No joke?  How is it possible to be so stupid?”

Although I am often amazed at how foolish people can be, it’s hypocritical to highlight that stupidity in others, given how dim I can be. However, as I’ve often said, I feel better knowing my friends or family would say something if they really thought I was messing things up. And they’ve proven that they will.

I say to heck with something being none of my business! I mean, people tell me things for a reason. Just like I tell people things for a reason. I don’t think it serves any purpose to coddle and make like I support a decision I secretly find abominable.

I’m not saying you have to divulge your opinion at every opportunity, of course. Case in point: I went shopping with my mom recently and she tried to buy me jeggings (jeans as leggings). I said a polite “No, that’s okay!” and directed her attention to something else. If she had pushed it and bought them for me anyway, I would have tried a firmer tactic. But still, if she thought they were nice, I don’t need to burst that bubble. Plus, clothes are mostly inconsequential, so opinions are not always needed. Unless, of course, someone is about to make a fashion ass of themselves. Like, if I took out my bubblegum pink miniskirt from 5 years ago that was too young for me then and thought it deserved a revival, I hope someone other than my husband would take me aside and gently, but assertively, tell me NO (the mister is a fan of any short skirt and therefore his opinion is of no value in this area).

However, significant life choices often need to be mediated by another person who is not emotionally involved in the decision being made. If I knew someone who was buying into an investment deal that I had good reason to believe was a disaster I would probably tell them why I wouldn’t do it.

I appreciate the expression “It’s none of your business”, but I wonder where one draws the line. Like I said, I want people’s feedback in my life and I have a right to take it or leave it. At what point is anything really none of anybody’s business?

Also, could I get away with jeggings?

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Lacking Joy For Cooking

I am not a good cook. I should be, given that I’ve had to do it for 15 years. But I love cookbooks. I love perusing them and looking at pictures and reading the ingredients and wondering if I could make my effort turn out like the photo. I bought The Joy Of Cooking, which is a famous cookbook. It’s been around for several decades and gone through many revisions and apparently loads of chefs reference it in their own cooking. So I thought it would be a good buy. It wasn’t.

Okay, I’ve only tried about a dozen recipes. But every single one of them from barbequed ribs to mac and cheese to cinnamon muffins were BLAND or OFF. I don’t get it, and I can’t really defend Joy. It’s not like the authors haven’t had tonnes of time to perfect each recipe. It’s also not like Joy is a healthy living cookbook, which one would have to buy with the expectation that flavour may be lacking. Joy has no excuses.

Granted, I didn’t follow every single one of the steps in my latest effort, chicken curry. Sometimes I just put all the ingredients in without reading how to go about it. But, honestly, how could those details make such an enormous difference? And why, if I followed every instruction to the letter, did my sour cream muffins end up tasting oddly similar to my kid’s stuffed organic cotton hippo? Except, worse, because the hippo has way more flavour?

Anna and Kristina gave it their stamp of approval so I’m going to stick with it, despite its lack of any photos whatsoever. And I guess the encyclopedia at the back is handy for when I need to know which kind of cabbage works best in various dishes. For all those meals I make with cabbage.

It would be most interesting if someone out there has this book and thinks it’s fabulous. I want to like it, so educate me.

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Not Spoiling Your Kids Can Be Dangerous

My parents were of the opinion that if their children wanted to do something that cost money they had two options: give up something else, or pay for it themselves. This is the reason I never skied until my thirtieth year on earth. Which, for those of you who know anything about the Vancouver area, is a bit shocking – and weird. In fact, I remember being one of three kids in Grade 6 who wasn’t going on the annual ski trip with the class because it was going to cost $70 and my parents refused to pay. Actually, refused is a bit of a strong word. Ever hopeful like kids are, I told them about it and got the expected response: “Well, how much money have you saved?”. With a newspaper route and five bucks a month allowance? Ya, I didn’t get to go.

I understand why they didn’t indulge us in things like that, even though I still wish they had. For instance, if I had learned to ski when I was a child (when one is much more easily taught) I might have avoided the nasty situation that unfolded recently at the mountain.

My husband and I had already become separated from the rest of our group and we were in the process of going down another run to see if we could catch up with them again. I told my husband to stay in front of me so I could follow him and not risk going the wrong way. So away we go, me taking my time to perfect my french fries.

About half way down, the terrain got treacherous on that green run. Moguls are not a novice’s best friend and it took all my concentration to navigate those bumps. I looked up to see a fork in the course. Which way to go? Where was my husband? FUDGE those mounds were freakin’ HARD and I MAY BE OUT OF MY ELEMENT. OH YES I AM FOR SURE. WHERE IS HE? I CAN’T LOOK WHERE I’M GOING AND GET THROUGH THIS SNOW AT THE SAME TIME FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHY COULDN’T HE HAVE GONE A LITTLE SLOWER I THINK IT’S TO MY LEFT WHY DID THEY SAY THIS WAS A GREEN RUN I’M GOING WAY TOO FAST THAT GUY BETTER GET A MOVE ON YES YOU IN THE RED GOD NO I CAN’T STOP NOW.

SMACK! And roll! And skis flying! And everyone on the lift above gasps in a collective “Oh!”. I finally stopped and looked behind me where the man was slowly lifting himself up.

He was part of a group of very friendly Americans. Another man, seeing my distress, whispered, “He’s a little fragile, don’t worry about it.” I stayed for a few minutes, them thinking I was just being concerned, me knowing it was more that I was too garbled to get my skis back on. I finally continued on the run. Because I was shaking so bad I fell again for no apparent reason about twenty feet later and hit my head a bit on the snow. Good thing I wore my trusty helmet.

Then I started blubbering. Furious at my husband for leaving me and feeling sorry for myself, I inched the rest of the way down the considerable length of the hill. When I finally met up with my husband much later I was calmed and rational enough not to cuss him out. It’s not his fault I can barely make a pass at one step up from a bunny hill.

I’m just saying that the collision didn’t happen because I didn’t see the guy. It happened because both he and I were terrible skiers who probably should have learned how to ski in our childhood and maybe that would have helped to avoid such an experience that was both painful and totally embarrassing. Maybe parents should think of THAT next time they deny their children luxury.

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Robert Is No Edward

I don’t understand the appeal of Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen. I know, I KNOW, Robert is a god with ideal bone structure and a perfectly tousled yet over-geled coiffe. But apart from his appearance, is he really the right one to play THE Edward Cullen? I’m sure they could have found some other young gun who doesn’t make me giggle every time he delivers a line. He sure is good at STARING INTENTLY, but I don’t really want an Edward whose best acting moments happen when he doesn’t speak.

In the Twilight book series (for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, you can stop here as this will not interest you – also, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?) Edward is perfect. He is not only amazingly good-looking but he’s also brave, omnipotent, smart and moral. But perhaps the most attractive trait about Edward, and the basis for most of the descriptions of his character, is that he is supremely confident. He is self-assured, interesting and oozing with machismo. So for him to show up in the Twilight movies as anything BUT all those things is truly disappointing. The movie Edward is insecure, apprehensive and…lame. In the books, he walks with the cool of a man who’s been around the block a few times and the authority of someone well beyond his years (which, of course, he is). In the movie, his uncertainty renders it nearly impossible to believe he’s almost a century old. I don’t think I’m supposed to feel embarrassed for the hero, you know?

See, what I think happened is all the teenaged girls fell in love with Edward in the books and projected that love onto Rob. I think they would have projected the same love onto just about any actor. Because, like the hero in any good romance, every girl wants to be with Edward and anyone who plays Edward must also be worthy of this adoration. Robert is probably a good guy in real life, and maybe even a good actor in any other role. But he’s no Edward.

Which brings me to the rest of the horrendous casting for these movies. All the Cullens are supposed to be like Edward: perfect sub-human specimens. But Alice is annoying, Carlisle is creepy, Rosalie looks anything but natural as a blonde and Jasper seems to have an uncomfortable staring problem. I think the only characters well-cast were Esme and Emmett.

But do I ever look forward to Eclipse.

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Everyone Should Own A Crappy Car

I’m not trying to sound like an old curmudgeon, but I’m not sure kids these days know the value of a dollar. In my day, way back in the nineties, minimum wage was five dollars an hour and the hot ovens at Pizza Hut made sure you earned every penny. Oh, the minimum wage job. Do kids even bother with those anymore? A coworker of mine said that one of his kids’ friends was making $25/hour to babysit. Babysit! Is he KIDDING? That’s an outrage! Oh sure, but it was for two children. And they were twins. And the parents didn’t even leave any good snacks. Well. I STAND CORRECTED.

I just think everyone ought to pay their dues, you know? There’s a lot of truth to not being able to appreciate something until you’ve had to work for it. Of course, some people will just sail through life and never experience any hardship. But I don’t begrudge them. My theory is that God knows they can’t really handle anything more, that their character isn’t strong enough to endure very difficult circumstances. But as a friend of mine used to say about her trials, “FINE. I won’t ever find the man of my dreams or get that great job, but at least I have loads of character. THAT’S ALMOST AS GOOD.”

My personal (and practical) belief is that every person should, at one time in their life, own a really crappy vehicle. One that embarrasses you in front of your friends, that makes banging sounds when you round a corner, that requires prayer every time you put the key in the ignition and that takes mighty biceps to turn the wheel.

I’ve had a couple of crappy cars. First, my grandma’s old  ’79 Malibu that could fit fifteen of my friends and only had AM radio. Then, the ’83 Rabbit that I had to enter through the passenger side and that, over the course of four years had every part replaced. EVERY PART. Then came the ’93 Golf (I was moving up in the world) that couldn’t keep out the rain to save its life. But I guess that’s my fault since I didn’t specifically pay for that option.

So when I finally got my one-year-old Acura several years ago, it was heaven. I have never once crossed my fingers before turning over the engine. I never monitor the hood for smoke. I don’t have to roll down all the windows in the middle of winter to de-fog. I stay dry EVERY TIME IT RAINS. I love it.

Now my husband and I have another, newer car that better accommodates a child. And I promise you I am still grateful each and every time I can listen to music and use the A/C. I have not once pretended to tie my shoelaces at a stop light.

Those rich babysitters will never really understand that, will they? Poor kids. In a few years I’ll be selling the Acura and by that time it, too, will be an education on wheels. The parents of my future customer can thank me later.

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How Much Money Do You Have?

I won’t tell you how much money I make, publicly. In private, though, you can ask me and I’m likely to divulge because I just don’t think it’s a big deal. Some people believe talking about money is tacky, but I wasn’t raised that way. And I figure if you’re asking, I have the discretion to know why you’re asking. Meaning, I can gauge if it’s to gloat, or just for curiosity’s sake.

My family is very open about money, maybe too much so. My dad would boldly inquire about someone’s salary and not think twice about how it might offend (but then he’s Danish, and we all know how they are). Money is not necessarily important in our family in the superficial sense, but it is a topic that most readily comes up at the dinner table.

I don’t know if people are put off by our openness or not. I think most of my family is fairly discreet when we engage with others, but that’s largely because people are so often squirmy about financial matters. I once knew a guy when we were both in our early twenties and working our way through school who bought a twelve-year-old Tercel. I looked over the parking lot as he pointed it out and commented about how clean it looked and how good it was that he’d finally found a car to his liking. I then asked how much he’d paid for it. Big faux pas, apparently, because he stopped short and primly stated that he didn’t like telling people that kind of info. I was kind of stunned – I didn’t really know how to respond. I mean, we were both poor students and it was clearly not a new Lexus. What’d it put him back, like eleven hundred bucks? Which unflattering conclusion was I supposed to have made with that knowledge? Would he have been equally cagey if I’d asked how much he’d paid for the chicken pot pie he’d eaten for lunch? I still don’t know.

See, when we’re all just starting out in the real world and we’re establishing our careers and finding out who we are, we have a lot to prove. And admitting you don’t make as much as one of your peers reflects poorly on you because, as we all know, the less you make, the less valuable, intelligent, and interesting you are.

But when you get older and everybody’s evening out and you realize that all your cohorts have their hardships and virtually nobody gets an easy ride (except that guy who won the lottery) and reality sets in, you stop being so hung up about it. You stop believing that your paycheque is directly related to your self worth. I mean, we all want more money and it’s easy to get full of ourselves if we get it – but we understand that it’s essentially a crap shoot. What isn’t a crap shoot is how GOOD you are with money. In my mind, that is something one can be proud of.

One thing I’ve definitely learned in my adult life is that compensation is very often not directly proportionate to one’s skills set. And it’s certainly not always the smartest folk who earn the big bucks. Yes, we should all work hard, be resourceful and educate ourselves. But that does not in and of itself determine who becomes financially successful. I think it’s largely a matter of what’s supposed to happen in the Grand Scheme of Things. All things being equal, two people can work similarly hard and achieve two very different outcomes. However, you can bet that the one who becomes successful will say that it’s because he is exceptionally bright and worked his fingers to the bone. Like Andy Rooney said, the more successful you are, the more likely you are to believe you deserve it.

I don’t think it’s weird to not want to publicize what you earn. And really, those who make good money might want to consider their audience, and their intent, before they disclose something like that. That said, if I’m having a down-to-earth conversation with somebody I trust and they ask me about it, I’ll tell them. However, my lips are sealed if I’m asked how much I forked over for my nine-year-old silver bullet with the cracked windshield and slow-leaking tire.

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