Rudeness Begins at Home

As a baby boomer, I was raised in a time where personal technology didn’t exist. There were land lines, rotary phones; always black with a long curly cord. If you wanted to call someone, you dialed the operator first, gave her the number, and she got the call through. Also, no one I knew ever had more than one phone in the house.

In my house, I had to earn the privilege of using the family phone. I was ten years old before I was allowed to answer the phone. When I was given that right, I  was taught answer it in this way: “hello, Bullock residence; this is Jane. May I ask who is calling?” It was impressed upon me early on that the phone was not a toy.

Play time meant being outside playing tag, statues, Red Rover, checkers, marbles, dolls, climbing trees and making mud pies. Adults held all the cards, and you did what you were told. Kids had chores to do before they could go out and play, and at that time kids minded their elders and were taught manners, deportment and how to grow into a responsible adult.

If you got in trouble at school, you got in trouble at home as well. Kids were taught at an early age to toe the line OR ELSE.

But the biggest offense I can remember was being rude to someone, especially to an adult or older person. Parents told their children in no uncertain terms that adults were older and wiser (sadly this was not always true) and deserved our respect. And no kid I knew ever dared to talk back to their parents.

Needless to say, times have changed. Rudeness has become a sad normal, and it still shocks me to see how prevalent it has become. I can’t count the times I’ve heard grammar school kids shout obscenities to each other, and to teachers.  Rudeness has become so ordinary and accepted that often we don’t even realize the consequences of it until it is too late to change.

There are many ways of being rude, too. Years ago, I was in a doctor’s office for a physical. The nurse asked me all the usual questions, and then took down my height. Then, when she put me on the scale, she said, “Good GRIEF!!! Do you have rocks in your pockets or something? You certainly don’t LOOK that heavy!”

Well—didn’t that just make my day. I have to wonder whether people are intentionally rude or if they just plain don’t know any better. In the case of this nurse, I think she was trying to give me a compliment. It back-fired hugely.

I believe that, if we grow up in a household where everyone is rude and sarcastic, we accept that as normal. It seems sad that the usual response in traffic when you slow down to let someone else go ahead, the person behind you blasts their horn because you’ve caused them maybe a 5-second wait.

I think that rudeness is mainly frustration and wanting to be heard. By being rude to another person, it gives the one being rude a temporary feeling of ‘there! I got MY way for once!” I wonder if rudeness comes from not being listened to as a child. Maybe this is why so many people have a “me first, and the hell with all of you” attitude.

But there’s an upside to this; we can choose not to be rude. Habits can be hard to break, but it can be done. I decided a long time ago that changing my outlook on rudeness made my own life better. I began to believe that rudeness is just a habit, and that many times it’s an automatic response, meaning nothing.

The Southerners have a wise and gentle way of excusing rudeness which I appreciate. I lived in the Carolinas for a while, and admired this technique. It was as simple as this: when someone said or did something rude to another person, that person on the receiving end would say, “Well, *bless your heart!”

Over the years I’ve found this response will cut the rudeness right out from under someone. They can’t get mad, really, and they are not getting a rude or spiteful response to keep their fire stoked. So they inevitably just grumble off to be rude to someone else. For the time being, problem solved!

*This is common Southernese for “well, f*ck you!”

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The Songs of Our Generation

I watched a Great Performances offering the other night, featuring the iconic Joan Baez singing “Forever Young.” I was a fan of hers back in the ’60s, when we all longed to be long-haired singers of meaningful folk songs. Listening to her now, her voice has mellowed and grown richer with age and experience. She was one of the reasons I took up singing and guitar playing.

Then there was the folk trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, who became more voices of my generation. How I loved them then, how I still love their songs today, and how I remember Mary (who sadly succumbed to leukemia in 2009); a slim white flame of passion.

There was also Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Donovan, Cat Stevens, Gorden Lightfoot, Petula Clark, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Creedence, Judy Collins, Neil Young, Pete Seeger, Gene Pitney, Arlo Guthrie and so many, many more.

We define our generations by the music of our youth and coming of age. In our minds back then, ours was the best music ever written. We go back in time when we hear a song from that era, and in a flash, we are teenagers again.

We know that we look ridiculous when one of “our” songs is on the radio, and we sing along with the music and tap our thumbs on the steering wheel to the beat. We don’t even care when a car load of kids drives up beside us at a stop light and laughs at us oldsters bopping away.

Our music is in fact, our own time machine. Whenever I hear the Stones’ “Honkey-Tonk Woman,” I am back at college, dancing on a crowded floor with everyone singing the song with me. In that song, I am young again with so much ahead of me.

However, I keep my ears open to some of the new music today. I have fallen in love with Adele, Lady Gaga, Sam Smith, Imagine Dragons, One Direction, Green Day, and many more. The only music of today that I just can’t understand or appreciate is rap.

While rap music is undoubtedly the “folk songs” of this generation, it’s just too “in your face,” rude and loud for me. It feels intrusive, abrasive and non-musical. Just my two cents. Ah well, these may be the anthems of the young today as our music was for us. Much of it back then drove our parents nuts as well.

Oh, the times they are a-changing, but the music we love remains the same. May we always in our hearts be forever young.

Holey Jeans!

Is it me, or is it flat-out nuts to pay good money for a pair of ripped jeans? I know that this is back in fashion again, but I can’t understand the appeal.

When I was growing up, there was a guy in town who called himself a *beatnik. His name was Ralphie, and for a dollar he would “break in” your new and stiff jeans for you. If he could fit into them, he rolled around in the mud, slid down rocks, and so on to soften up the jeans.

But today you can buy jeans that are “pre-weathered.” It wouldn’t be so bad if you could buy them for $5, but they go anywhere from $24 to $300 a pair. I don’t get it. Seriously, this is a fashion statement I personally could live without.

Even my six-year old granddaughter doesn’t get it. Her mom came downstairs in a pair of jeans with one 2″ rip in the knee, and she shouted to her grandmother to sew it up. This, coming from a kid who always turns up the bottoms of her leggings, wears a different sock on each foot and sports two headbands. Now that’s a look I can appreciate for both style and originality.

But expensive ripped jeans? Have we really come to this? In college we used to bleach our jeans in Chlorox, embroider flowers and peace signs on them, and sometimes rip out the knees.

Ah well, I guess it’s just another sign of the times….in my day, it was bleach and embroidery for jeans. Now, it’s expensive designer “distressed” jeans. (The price alone distresses me!)

Yup, like the old song says, ‘everything old is new again.’ What’s next, I wonder—wearing our underwear on the outside of our clothes?

*Beatnik was a media stereotype prevalent throughout the 1950s to mid-1960s that displayed the more superficial aspects of the Beat Generation literary movement of the 1950s.

Refrigerator Tales

Mom had a refrigerator that she got around the same year the Crankee Yankee was born. When the ‘fridge turned 65, she reluctantly gave it up and bought a new one. It of course had all the fancy-schmancy new features; ice cube maker, door storage, a larger freezer and so on. When I asked her how she liked it, she sniffed and said, ‘oh, that’s your father’s domain now. He’s bonded with it, so he can deal with it.’

While that still makes me laugh, it makes me think of refrigerators in general. What a wonder it is to have one, to be able to keep food fresh, to have ice when you want it, and so on. We’ve come a long way from having to stash our food in a snow bank and hope that the bears don’t get to it before we do.

Even the most modest of today’s refrigerators come with nifty shelves where you can stash your sauces, dressings, condiments and so on. They also come with a lot of space. While this is good, it is also a hazard. If you are anything like the Crankee Yankee and me, you may stash stuff way in the back of the refrigerator and then forget all about it. These items eventually turn into science projects and I am usually the one who cleans them out; YUCK.

These days there are refrigerators that will let you know what food item is going bad, and probably will shoot it out at you once it expires. I don’t think I want that close a relationship with a ‘fridge that smart. I’d begin to feel that it would start judging me and even make some snarky remarks behind my back.

I once read a story about a demon who had a refrigerator in which he enjoyed food from centuries past; nothing ever went bad in his demonic ‘fridge. Which makes me think of one of Stephen Wright’s monologues in which he says: “I once went to a restaurant where the slogan is ‘Breakfast Any Time.’ So I ordered french toast from the Renaissance.”

Makes you wonder if that came from that old devil’s refrigerator, doesn’t it?

 

 

Ah, Change!

Change is hard, no getting around it. Oh, how we would love to just stay as we are and not have to face the changes in life! It starts early on, too. When major changes come into our lives as children, they affect us profoundly.

We have a new granddaughter who will soon be four months old. Her big sister, Ava, at five years old, has been a major player in getting things ready for the new baby, helping Mom and Dad, and just generally being in love with the idea of having a sister.

All well and good until the baby came home. While her parents had always made Ava an integral part of the preparations, having an actual baby in the house was perhaps not what she had envisioned. While Ava was (and is) a spectacular big sister, fetching clean diapers, blankets, etc., it was a life-changer for her.

Sometimes she cries, ‘my mom isn’t paying attention to me!’ It is always kindly explained to her that the baby isn’t a big girl like her who can do things for herself. That in fact, when Ava was a baby, she received the same love and attention. But isn’t this like us all?

Don’t we all want all the attention and love there is for us? Don’t we want things to stay the same? And doesn’t it upset us when there is major change? No amount of crying, stamping our feet or howling at the moon will change this fact: Things. Will. Change.

Change is and will always be part of our lives. We don’t have to like it, but it makes life a lot easier when we come to accept it. Often it’s hard to see the good in the change; we are so busy being uncomfortable and irritated by it that it takes us time to accept it and see its benefits.

In looking back over my own life, I can now see that the changes I went through (or suffered through) were in fact for my benefit. I won’t bore you with each and every one of them, but I can say truthfully that each change made me better and set my feet more firmly on a good path, that is; the right path for me.

When I was married to my first husband, I realized quite early that this man was not who I thought he was. The evidence for that had been clear to see right from the beginning, but I was 36 and thought it was ‘time’ I got married. I conveniently overlooked a lot. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say it was not a match made in Heaven.

Ten years later when the divorce went as smoothly as anything of this nature does, I felt like a tossed salad of emotions: angry, sad, hurt, furious, lonely, stupid and scared. I had a great deal of emotional support from my parents and close friends, which started me on a way to recover.

When I finished beating myself up for what I felt was a huge and messy mistake, I forgave myself (eventually). When I started to move on, I began to see my lost marriage for what it had been: the wrong people at the wrong time. Had I stayed in that mess, I wouldn’t be who I am today, or being with the completely right person for me, my much-loved Crankee Yankee.

Change comes at its own time, like it or not. While change can be uncomfortable, it ‘grows’ us in a direction we might not have taken if left on our own. One of my biggest changes to date was losing my mother to cancer last December. One of the sturdy posts holding up my life came crashing down, and I felt off-balance, adrift, and unanchored. It was as if the North Star had suddenly winked out, never to be seen again.

Death, too, is a change. It is a transition from what was to what is. While that dearly loved person is not with us in physical form, you can bet your last dollar that that person is near us in spirit. While we may grieve our own way and in our own time, there is a level to it that tells us that it is ok to go on living.

It’s ok to laugh at a good joke, feel the sun on our faces and smile, have lunch with friends, let in the sheer goodness of our own life and breath. None of this takes away from the one we loved and still do love.

I can hear my mother’s voice as clear as day: “snap it up and move on, already! I’ll see you later on. Move it!” As usual, she is right. Evidently, my mom’s inherent bossiness does NOT change!

Change comes to us all, so embrace it for what it is, move on and keep your eyes and hearts open to miracles. They are all around us.

 

The State of Manners Today

When I was 10 years old, I had a dear friend, who, when I met her, was in her eighties. I loved to visit her and listen to the stories of her youth, her family, her career and the highlights of her life. “Churchy,” as we called Miss Gladys Churchill, was what you’d call a “grand lady.” She introduced me to a time older than I knew, where proper manners were part of everyday life, and any etiquette breeches were simply inexcusable. She had a rocking chair I loved, and would unconsciously rock as I sat and listened. Sooner or later, she would say, “Dear, would you mind not rocking? It makes me a little queasy.”

I remember being shocked that what I was doing bothered my old friend. Of course I stopped rocking at once. I began to wonder what else I might be doing without thinking that might bother someone else, or be considered rude. I think of her so often, and wonder what she would think of the world today. Manners seem to be a thing of the past, and feel  as distant as the dinosaurs.

I do understand that ignorance is sometimes the culprit; if someone doesn’t know that something they are doing is rude, that’s one thing. However, once you know that something is rude, there shouldn’t be an excuse to be rude.

Webster’s dictionary defines “rudeness” as:

  1. “discourteous or impolite, especially in a deliberate way: a rude reply”
  2. “without culture, learning, or refinement: rude, illiterate peasants”
  3. “rough in manners or behavior; unmannerly; uncouth”
  4. “rough, harsh, or ungentle: rude hands”
I further define it as:
  1. mentioning something personal about a person that they might not want noticed or mentioned
  2. doing something offensive to others, i.e., picking one’s nose while sitting at the table with others or alone in public, chewing with one’s mouth open (worse, doing this and talking), chewing gum loudly around others, swearing in public, and so on
  3. interrupting people when they are talking
  4. blasting music in traffic or in a neighborhood so loudly that you can feel it in your bones

Before I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, I would get so tired at work that I would go sit in my car at lunch time and nap. During one of these lunch naps I was awakened by a woman rapping loudly on my window; I rolled it down and she said, “you were sleeping.” I said, “I know–that’s why the window was rolled up.” I thought that that was pretty rude. Why in the world would anyone bother a perfect stranger taking a nap in their car?

It comes down to the good old Golden Rule: do to others what you would have them do to you. In the case of the window rapper, it’s possible that she was worried that I might lose my job if I slept in my car too long. She may have been one of those people who feel they can live other peoples’ lives better than they can. But I guess I can file that under “Business, None of Mine” these days.

I am a huge fan of  Downton Abbey, and often in my mind I liken Churchy to Maggie Smith’s portrayal of Violet, the Dowager Countess. No doubt they both would be scandalized by today’s version of manners. But, as with the fall of the Edwardians in Downton Abbey, times change.

Still, I think it wouldn’t hurt to resurrect some of those manners today!

 

 

 

When Did THIS Become OK?

When I first learned to drive, my dad would remind me to be aware of everything that was going on around me. It was, he said, for my own safety and also for the safety of those around me. Driving was different back then. For example, when you saw someone coming up behind you on the highway, you realized they wanted to get by you, and you obliged them. The courtesy was acknowledged back and forth with waves from both cars: “Hey, you’re in a hurry, please go ahead of me.” “Thanks–I appreciate it!” And you both went happily on your way.

Same thing with backing out of a parking space. When you drove into a parking lot and saw that someone ahead of you was backing up, you stopped and let them back up and go. You both exchanged a friendly wave–the previous parker went on his way, and you got to take his spot. Done and done, both drivers happy.

If you happened to drive home late at night, you did not blare your radio, honk the horn or screech your tires while driving through a neighborhood. People were getting ready for bed or were already were in bed. It was considered both rude and selfish to disturb them.

If a young person did something careless which caused a possible danger to themselves (or to someone else), it always got back to the parents. Back then when towns were truly a family community, you all watched out for each other. So if you saw your neighbor’s kid tailgating a bus, you made sure the parents knew about it. And generally those parents were glad you told them, and then took care of the problem at home. There was none of this “MY kid would NEVER do that! How dare you accuse my kid! I’ll sue you!” They made sure that the offending kid understood the danger he might have caused to himself or others.

But those were different times. Today I often feel I’m taking my life in my hands driving somewhere. When did it become ok to do and accept as normal the following:

  • Tear out of a side street inches in front of an oncoming car
  • Take sudden turns without using a directional signal
  • Back out of a parking space without so much as looking first (even if your car has a rear-view camera)
  • Rudely cutting off people in traffic
  • Honking repeatedly for any little thing
  • Swerving into someone else’s lane, then acting as if the other person is the jerk
  • Yelling and screaming at someone to move, move, MOVE
  • Road rage; often deadly
  • Racing cars on a public road

When did this become ok? How in the heck did we all get so dang impatient? Call it ‘road rage’ or just pure selfishness, but who does it serve to act that way? These days I feel as though I am putting my life at risk each time I get on the highway. What’s the big hurry? For some, it’s just a faster race to the grave. There’s a whole lot of stupidity out there, and sadly, it doesn’t look like it’s leaving any time soon….or it could just be that I’m older and crabby.

Take care of yourselves out there, and keep your eyes open.