Friday, July 8, 2016

In Response to Ayelet Waldman’s “I Told My Daughter to ‘Be Nice to the Fat Girls’”

As a child, I acquired most of my education on the big yellow bus. The two particular experiences shaped me in ways I still struggle to define, but their influence— like indecipherable whispers —are an indelible part of my psyche.


The sing-song taunt “Mother-f*cker, two-balled b*tch, every time I look at you, you make my ti##ies itch” set my cheeks ablaze for three consecutive days. Dawn, a sixth-grade bully, delighted in my silent fluster as she peered over my three-seater to deliver a string of vulgarity before an audience of our peers. On the third day, everything changed.

Dawn giggled as she reprised her taunting tune, “Mother-f*cker…” my ten-year-old knuckles clutched my umbrella’s plastic J-hook handle as everyone’s stares bore through me. I seethed, “Enough!” She continued and I conjured the only threatening phrase I could muster, compliments of every parent since the dawn of motor vehicles — “Don’t make me turn around, Dawn!” More giggles. More taunting. More clutching.

Before the bully could cut me down with continued humiliation, my knees sank into the stiff vinyl. Face to face with my tormentor, five little fingers balled into a fist around my red umbrella handle, I exploded, “I told you to stop!” I was screaming. I was raining blurred- red- blows upon Dawn.  

She slunk down and pressed herself against the cold steel panel, curled into the fetal position- a pile of tears, snot, and hair.I couldn’t stop.

“Please!” Her friend, Renee, squealed from across the ridged rubber aisle. Her panic broke my rage. I slumped into my seat, heart racing, hands shaking, ears ringing, eyes darting. The bus driver smirked at me through the long driver’s mirror. My stomach sank.

When we pulled up to Mountain View North Elementary, I was sure I’d be hauled to the vice principal’s office. My body stiffened as I passed the driver and descended the steep bus steps. But nothing happened. Nothing but mostly quiet bus rides. I hated the fear in Renee's eyes. No take backs.

Throughout my life, I’ve been in three physical schoolyard fights. All in elementary school. Dawn was my first. As for the other two, two boys on two separate occasions called my mother fat. Once in a classroom. Once on the bus.

Self-conscious of my own appearance, filled with self-loathing, such a slight against my mother would not stand. They could say what they would about me, but I drew the line at my mother. For one reason or another,  I was hyper-protective of Mom. Maybe that’s what I told myself to rationalize my physical release.

Each encounter was not so much a fight as a rage induced attack— none of them fought back.
I never got in trouble for any of the attacks. Crazy.

Looking back on the bus (or each altercation for that matter), I’m struck most by the bystander inaction, including the bus driver’s supportive smirk.

No one told Dawn to stop when I was visibly distressed by her harassment. No one told me to stop when Dawn was visibly distressed by my thrashing. It took Rene’s delayed plea to snap me out of my enraged trance.

Maybe no one took the incident seriously. Girls are so often called catty...their hurtful bickering a popular punchline… their physical altercations blunted by the term cat fight. How much damage could a ten-year-old do to a twelve-year-old?

Maybe no one said anything to Dawn because she wasn’t hurting me. How was she to know that she inflamed an already oozing sore?

Consciously, I knew no matter how ugly or fat I was, neither of those things could cause spectators an allergic itch. On a very subconscious level, though, I was humiliated because her chant reinforced what I already believed—  my appearance was so offensive, that I should not exist.

An early bloomer, I was rounder than my peers, a fact of which I was frequently reminded. Big- apples. Brownie- points. Lard- ass. Thunder- thighs. My physical appearance was up for comment. A constant source of scrutiny. My body was a public verbal dumping ground. I hated it...the scrutiny and the body. So on that day,  Dawn paid the price. That day, in that moment, she was all of them.

Maybe no one acted because Dawn was known as a problem… and lower-income. In a way, she was my Nelson. She, too, was one of the others… another reason I recall the event with shame and remorse. Does otherness degrade violence?

Dawn wasn’t my last bully (and I’d be lying if I said that I was never guilty of bullying). But the size that earned me much mockery was also the thing that kept physical threats at bay. I looked like I could hold my own. And I mastered a stony stare… or what my mother calls the Yolanda face. My grandmother could stop time with her steely glare. I call it a subconscious coping mechanism.

The red umbrella incident wasn’t my last school bus lesson, though it was the most sudden and violent.

The next lesson, too, was delivered in the form of a vulgar nursery rhyme. The rhyme didn’t taunt me, it made me laugh. Made.

I was reminded of this particular rhyme after spending the better part of the morning at an auto shop perched on a spinning stool, feet dangling from either side, alternating heels tapping its metallic rungs. Back unsupported and sore. In the background, a talk showed chatted about Ayelet Waldman’s essay ( click if you'd like to read Waldman's essay).

I eyed the middle-aged man sitting across from me in a more comfortable chair, his legs, too, spread wide, inadvertently laying claim to the free comfortable chair to his right. In another seat, a young woman with legs crossed at the ankle, thighs glued at the knees, worked feverishly on her laptop.

Our varying postures flooded my memory with the adolescent rhyme along with its choreographed hand motions. More finger motions, really.

Over the roar of the yellow and black monster, my girlfriend and I reached across the aisle to initiate our song and dance.

Our ring fingers and pinkies pressed to our smooth palms, secured by our thumbs, with our index and middle fingers curled at the joint, pressed firmly together to mimic legs- “Some girls sit like this…”- crossed index finger over the still curled middle finger- “some girls sit like this…” returned index finger to its original position and spread the two fingers apart- “but girls who sit like this…” - index finger took a bow and the middle finger stood at full salute- “get this...” punctuated with a snap - “like that!” The taboo content cued our high fives and raucous laughter.

For one reason or another, I could never sit comfortably with my knees smooshed against each other. And my feet fell asleep whenever I crossed my legs. Suffice to say, I (for a time) learned to live with pins and needles. All the youthful practice earned me was varicose veins.

I internalized the song’s subtext. I was conscious of how I carried myself and believed any unwanted or unseemly attention I received was a product of my public presentation. Victim blaming at its finest.

Sadly this subtle girl-hate continues in the form of dress codes and other discrete practices and comments that teach girls that their appearance dictates a perceived value. Bare shoulders and thighs, open legs- these affronts warrant disrespect and pain. Shame. Boys remain helpless victims of little Lolita’s lure. This mindset silently condones cat-calls, rape culture, and worst of all- self-deprecation—we are engaged in a dangerous reality, not a game, that disempowers each gender.

My current posture claims more space. How unladylike. How insulting. To my knowledge, my adult comfort has yet to be mistaken for an invitation.

How absurd that a catchy rhyme exists to shame girls. How absurd that it works. How absurd that the slut-shaming and victim-blaming it endorses is the stuff of finger- puppet- theater.

Luckily, I got off the bus of body- shaming, slut- shaming, and victim- blaming. Luckily, all of these ailments have become the stuff of social media platform’s calls to action. Luckily, just by having conversations about these social issues we’re coasting down the road toward empowerment. But we have to expedite the next stop- a stop that moves talk to action and truth to power.


Friday, December 11, 2015

Hope In The Headlines This Holiday Season

I come from a family of gift listers. When I was a wee- one, my list was short and practical-- I told my mother that I would settle for Toys R Us. Cute, but hardly heartwarming. In a holiday season gone mad with consumerism, it's hard to see the true spirit of giving buried below the holiday shopping frenzy. But there is a growing number of glorious glimmers that show people can be pretty amazing. Two moving examples come from children.

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United Airlines was recently featured on ABC news for hosting a fantasy flight to the North Pole for seriously ill or recovering children. Sandwiched between stories of potential hate crimes and hypodermic needle attacks, a  little boy summed up the best of humanity.

When asked about his Christmas list, he didn't rattle off a list of games or toys; instead, the boy, with a thoughtful expression, exclaimed he "want[ed] to be good and happy forever." Cue the waterworks.

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The boy, surrounded by Santa, Minions, Batman, and other famed favorites, saw through the stuff, saw through the celebrity and wished to be the best person he could be for the rest of his life. I'm not ashamed to share that I got tears in my morning coffee. Safyre Terry's story, too, kept the Kleenex flowing in the O'Donnell household.

Safyre Terry, Liz Doddler told People Magazine, lost her entire immediate family along with all of her earthly possessions in a tragic 2013 fire.Doddler also shared that Sfyre only survived the flames because of her father's love-- he embraced her to prevent her from breathing the hot air.

This Christmas, all Safyre asked for was some contact. On the Safyre Schenectady's Super Survivor Facebook page, created by Doddler, her aunt posted Safyre's Christmas wish- Christmas cards to fill her Christmas card tree. The post went viral after Kevin Clark, with permission of Doddler, shared it.

Two years after she lost more than most adults could handle, she just wants people to reach out and, for a fleeting moment be part of her life. Naturally, the response was overwhelming. Safyre, in a Facebook video, thanked everyone and reported that her tree was full-- beside her, the tree and a box brimming with cards.

Safyre reminds us that small gestures matter, listening matters. Her humble request reminds us that heartfelt gifts that require some time and personal attention mean far more than anything we can pull off a rack and wrap.

This holiday season, here's to hoping that we all remember what draws us to join the herd of mall-goers or Amazon deal hunters. Stuff is easy and sometimes stuff is even nice, but stuff doesn't add up to love. We can give each other stuff any time of the year, so why not make a point of sharing our best selves as an act of love, whatever that looks like, with friends, families, and anyone else we encounter?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Tis The Season For Friendly Fire: 5 Pithy Retorts To The Couple Question

The holiday season- a time of family gatherings. What can be better than catching up with distant loved ones, eating until it hurts,  and spending hours talking over each other until the dueling monologues climb to a crescendo of cackles? No, there's no bow big enough for such delights. 

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At times, the family banter can feel more like an interrogation and there is one question every unmarried male and female family member can count on: is there somebody special in your life? A variation of follow up comments:  I'm going to give So And So your number, you're perfect for each other; don't worry, you'll find someone someday; I don't get it, you're so wonderful- how could you still be single  only (unintentionally) add (unintentional) insults to (unintentional) injury. 

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It's fair to say both men and women encounter a variation of this inevitable exchange, but men are more likely to be patted on the back for playing the field while women are more likely to be cautioned about the dangers of their ticking biological clocks. But the truth is- people will couple when and if it's right for them... because being single is pretty fantastic.

When I was in my twenties, if anyone told me that I would find my match at thirty, thanks to Billy Madison and an internet dating profile, I would have gulped my Appletini and strutted back to the dance floor shaking my head. No way... this was too much fun.  Plus, I watched far too many people couple because college was over and they thought that getting serious was the next step in some ill perceived series of steps to achieving authentic adulthood. No, I could "pay my own fun and pay my own bills."

Don't get me wrong, I cannot imagine (nor do I want to imagine) life without my incredibly patient, handsome, hilarious husband, but it took meeting him to change my mind about single life. That's probably why every other relationship before him failed... I wasn't going to give up absolute independence for the sake of satisfying some silly preconceived notion of happiness. 

Blending lives is a big deal...sure a person can still remain independent to an extent, but a person's partner, too, has the right to a say. Having a partner means considering how simple vacation, dining, other recreational, professional decisions will affect that person. Few people that pre-emptively couple practice this behavior or resent having to practice this behavior; consequently, 42- 45% of marriages end in divorce (IFS). 

Photo Credit: Popsugar

Even though I'm now married, I still cringe whenever I hear people dismiss or pity the glories of singledom. When I look back on it, I wish I corrected people when they dug into my couple status. 

Here are a few pithy retorts you can borrow this holiday season when the dreaded couple question arises:

1. I'm still saving- the average cost of a divorce is $15,500; it would be irresponsible to start something that I wasn't prepared to finish.

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2. I'm currently holding auditions, one martini at a time.

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3. Well, I'm hoping that scientists work out the kinks in cloning soon; I can't wait to wake up next to David Beckham every morning. Alternative: ... I can't wait to wake up next to Emilia Clarke every morning. Or substitute whatever celebrity you deem dreamy. 

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4. That's a really big question...have I met anyone special? Well, by today's standards- isn't everyone special? Theoretically, every time I step into the world, I meet lots of special people. Let me freshen up your drink for you.
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5. What? Sorry, I'm having trouble hearing you. I've been out celebrating all month... my ears are ringing from all of the fun clubs, bars, and conversations I've been enjoying. Nope... still not getting it. Oh well, cheers!

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Dave Grohl vs The Muppets' Animal Means Everyone Wins

Tonight, Dave Grohl takes on The Muppets' Animal in an epic drum battle, which means we all win! The internet is abuzz with chatter of Grohl's appearance of tonight's episode of The Muppets, "Going, Going, Gonzo," and with good reason. For many viewers, both have incredible nostalgic value.

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Photo Credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/Getty, PhotoGroove/Alamy

Children of the 70s and 80s revelled in The Muppet Show- a hilarious variety show format, featuring the cream of the celebrity crop. The show was such a success it produced two equally fun movies.Even the children of the 90s were served a helping of Muppets magic with The Muppet Babies and new Muppets movies, including a 1992 adaptation of Dickens', A Christmas Carol. It seems the Muppets are part of nearly every American viewer's childhood repertoire. Watching The Muppets (2015) puts many of us back in that place of innocence and happiness.

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For people of a certain age, Dave Grohl has ties to a more angst-ridden period of their lives-- adolescence. Nirvana was a breakthrough band-- 90s era teens had a new soundtrack... it was gritty, it was, at times, sardonic, and it was honest. Sure, other bands played music similar to Nirvana, but the band had an unshakable IT factor. Like lots of teens of the time, I shed my keds for Docs and cornered the market on flannel. So much for bucking conformity.

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Tonight, two wonderful worlds will collide when Animal, drummer for the Muppets' Dr. Teeth and Electric Mayhem, battles Dave Grohl of Nirvana, Foo Fighters, and Them Crooked Vultures fame (the list of his contributions goes on and on).

The moment I first saw Dave's lanky body hunched over his drums with his long hair in his face, he reminded me of someone-- I just couldn't place it. The moment he started to punish his drums, I knew who he reminded me of- Animal. It was perfect.

Since Dave went on to play Animool in The Muppets (2011), I'm guessing I'm not the only person to make that association. Animool was the drummer for the Moopets, a sad cover band fronted by Fozzie Bear after the Muppets parted ways. Hilarious on all counts!

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The association, though, also speaks to the general spirit of drummers, possessed by the percussion-- it moves through them and they thrash it out.That's the magic of Animal. Shoot, only one character rivaled Animal's influence in my book, but her body of work is far more modest and her audience far more narrow. One word- Watts... no one made me want to pick up drum sticks more. Man, when I think of her, I still want to take up the task.

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Now Dave is a grown up- kids and all, but he plays harder now than ever. He's never taken himself too seriously, one of his most endearing qualities-- just look at any number of his early Foo Fighter videos. Or check him out as Beezleboss in Tenacious D's Pick of Destiny.

Maybe fatherhood inspires him to tangle with The Muppets... maybe he was inspired by Animal... maybe he even sees a little of himself in Animal- whatever his reason, I'm grateful this is finally happening.

 I've been lucky enough to see Dave perform live on multiple occasions, the most recent experience being the Foo Fighters 20th Anniversary 4th of July Bash in Washington, DC. His love for his craft and fans is genuine and infectious. I'm a sucker for an underdog, and he had to overcome numerous obstacles after Kurt Cobain's tragic death. But here he is, grounded, successful, playful, animal. I, for one, can't wait for tonight's battle between two of my all time favorites.

You can get in on the fun by watching the below video and by watching the full episode of "Going, Going Gonzo," at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on ABC. You can also share your favorite Muppet memory in the comment section.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Unapologetically Amy: Amy Schumer's Sexy Twitter Photo Is Everything

Only 6 hours after Amy Schumer tweeted an untouched photograph of herself, it received 22,000 likes and was retweeted 7,000 times. So what's all the fuss? Why so much love for comedy's current It Girl?

Her simultaneously self ingratiating and self deprecating comments may hold the key to the photo's viral appeal. The not so subtle subtext of the tweet disempowers social media trolls and presents to the Twittersphere a self possessed portrait of success.

The photograph appears almost candid, which is probably its intent. The visible lighting fixtures and marking tape, Schumer's coy caught of guard semi-smile- all highlight the idea that finished photos fail to provide viewers with the whole picture.

Amy Schumer unapologetically embodies the adjectives, "beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless" and appears fully aware of the paradox that such an amalgamation creates. She shows viewers that laying claim to only one of those adjectives is to also present an incomplete picture.Such is the life of a woman. Look at her face... does she looked concerned? So why should the rest of us be?

Schumer isn't shy about sharing her views on beauty standards and the toll those standards have taken on her. While promoting Trainwreck, a film she wrote and starred in, she gave an emotional account of her struggle with body image in the entertainment industry (Entertainment Weekly). But she is anything but a crybaby. She is anything but a victim. In fact, her painful struggles foster some of her funniest material.

She famously mocked her curvaceous physique on Ellen, joking about everything from the confusion her arms cause in L.A. to the pitfalls of sitting courtside at a Lakers game. If you have a few minutes, give yourself the gift of laughter by watching a clip from her appearance here:

If you haven't seen her 12 Angry Men parody on Inside Amy Schumer (season 3), you have yet to experience her full genius. The 12 men must determine if Schumer is "hot enough" to be on television. Her "potato face" remains under scrutiny for the entirety of the episode, pointing to industry double standards and the absurdity of measuring an entertainers value, or anyone's value for that matter, by her looks. You can purchase the video for $1.99 here. It may be the best $2 you ever spend.

Inside Amy Schumer, Season 3 drew attention to many ridiculous elements of being a woman in the entertainment industry, including age double standards. With the help of comedy dynamos Tina Fey and Julia Louis Dreyfus, she satirizes the fate of women over 50 in television and movies. You can watch the UNCENSORED skit here:

Amy Schumer is just what stand-up, television, film, and social media need. Not only is she unafraid to call out an industry fixed on promoting a myriad of damaging double gender based standards, but she is also unafraid to share with the world her entire self. So what if she veils the pain with laughter? So what if her "crass" humor is "unlady like"?

More people are finally recognizing the stupidity of the entire affair. Shouldn't we all be able to laugh at our flaws and at the perception of our flaws? Shouldn't we all evaluate why we gauge certain physical or personality attributes as flawed in the first place?

I admire Amy Schumer for putting herself out to the world for scrutiny. Not many are willing to use themselves or their fame to address social injustice. More than that, though, I love her for showing girls and women that being comfortable in your own skin, no matter its approval rating, is the sexiest, most intriguing quality of all.

Don't forget to share you opinion by answering the poll question in the upper right hand corner. I'd love to hear your thoughts, too, so feel free to share your insights or questions in the comment section.

The Walking Dead Season 6: 6 Universal Truths, Part 1- The Value Of Plans

Season 6, Part 1 of The Walking Dead reinforced 6 universal, sometimes ugly, truths that I will explore over the course of 6 articles. The Walking Dead Season 6 Midseason Finale left a number of conflicts in limbo until February. Luckily, the show gave fans plenty to digest as they pine away for its 2/14/16 return.

Truth Number 1: Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans (John Lennon)
This truth dates back further than Lennon’s 20th century song and Robert Burn’s 18th century epiphany, “The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Gang Aft Agley.” And so it goes. Here it is the shiny new 21st century, and the Grimes Gang still hasn’t learned its lesson.

Rick and his group thought they found the Promised Land once they stumbled from the darkness of Terminus into the light of Alexandria. They were willing to do whatever it takes to fight for this new home. As always, Rick has a plan… many, many plans. But he isn’t the only one.

The first half of The Walking Dead’s Season 6 begs the question, is a plan’s value, contingent on its success, or is it measured by the comfort it provides along with its other residual effects despite some form of its eminent failure?

Plan #1:  Lead the herd away from the Alexandria community – failed.
Rick's plan to leave Alexandria with a large team left the community vulnerable to a Wolf attack. The unforeseen attack spurred a series of life altering events, beginning with a simple blast of a horn. Just like that, it is clear control is an illusion.

Daryl splits from the group, endangering himself, Sasha, and Abraham. It costs him his trusty bow and motorcycle. The three ultimately reunite, but now the trio must confront the likes of Negan and his heinous Saviors. This bodes well for no one. It would not be surprising if only two of them survive the initial encounter. The question is, who will die first at the hands of Negan?

The horn lures the herd to the walls of Alexandria, which eventually collapse under its weight, fostering a second round of destruction for the safe zone.  But Rick’s got a plan for that, too… that is after he somehow slips unscathed from a camper surrounded by walkers. No wonder he has illusions of grandeur.

Is it possible that the herd could have been rerouted by some other random distraction and Rick's plan to lead it away, ironically, is the very thing that drew it to Alexandria?

Plan #2: Operation Walker Guts—failure imminent.
Rick has the survivors in his care cover themselves in walker guts, meander through the herd invasion (reminiscent of Carol masquerading as a Wolf in the first Alexandria attack), and get to the armory.

Sam’s panic, I mean what child WOULDN’T panic under these circumstances, point to another failed plan, compliments of Rick Grimes. He's done it before with Glenn, the luckiest Walking Dead character in show history. That plan failed when it began to rain, ruining Rick's disguise, which nearly cost him and Glenn their lives.

He refuses to surrender, an admirable trait, but how long will it take for him to learn that it’s impossible to control everything? How many people have to die before he realizes that he can’t fix everything? Is it vanity or determination that pushes Rick's plans?

Plan # 3: Maintain the status quo at all costs- failed

For months, Deanna and her Alexandrians managed to continue life as usual during the zombie apocalypse. Residence were naïve to human and undead dangers that lingered just outside their walls.

The walls they built were strong and would presumably keep the ugly reality at bay, allowing the Alexandrians to restore civilization. Life in Alexandria was business as usual—school, work, entertainment, traditional family.
But the universe had other plans, so the walls came tumbling down. Maintaining the status quo instead of training for worst case scenarios left the Alexandrians open for defeat. They had no idea how to defend themselves—Deanna didn’t even know a head wound was necessary to kill a zombie.

Even as the herd infiltrates Alexandria, Sam munches on cookies and sandwiches, listening to old 45s. And his mom, Jesse, makes survival a game of make-believe. How is this kid supposed to stand a chance in the new world?

Don’t worry, Deanna bequeathed new plans to Michonne before her samurai style death scene. Michonne seemed softened by Deanna’s vision, something that may be a detriment to her safety.

Goals are good, so long as she doesn’t lose sight of the inevitable outcome. Everyone needs something to live for beyond survival; otherwise, what’s the point. But it seems plans are a means of temporarily avoiding madness and defeat in the post-apocalyptic world.

Plan #4: Burn, Baby Burn- failed
Glenn, the group’s moral compass, sees Rick’s plan falling apart, so he concocts one of his own. His plan is to burn a nearby building to attract the walker herd away from its course to Alexandria.

Glenn splits from the small band of survivors and allows Nicholas some redemption by bringing him along on his mission. Part of Glenn’s plan requires him to mend fences and rehabilitate a coward.

Before the two can see their mission through, they are surrounded by walkers. The two climb to safety while the hungry herd claws at the stranded duo, gnashes its decayed chops. Fear overwhelms Nicholas, who plans to unburden Glenn by shooting himself in the head. It seems Plan #4 has a sub failure—Nicholas corpse crashes into Nick and the two plunge into the herd. He’s a burden even in death.

Luckily, Glenn has 9 lives and manages to skirt danger by pulling himself under a dumpster. Lazy walkers can’t be bothered to pursue him.

Should Glenn have stayed with the group as it made its way back to Alexandria, or did his plan put him at an unexpected advantage of being on the other side of the wall when the herds crashed into Alexandria? Does that advantage alone give Glenn’s original plan merit?

Plan #5: Get Glenn- failed
Maggie and Glenn have been down this harrowing path before and both refuse to give up on each other. Maggie, pregnant and determined, packs a bag and with the help of Eric, sets out to find the love of her post-apocalyptic life.

It isn’t long before Maggie’s plan fails. Deep in the sewers of Alexandria she and Eric are attacked by mushy zombies. Strange that their flesh slides from their bones as she pushes them away, yet their choppers remain strong enough to pose a threat.

She realizes her plan isn’t worth sacrificing Eric’s safety. She realizes her plan may make the rest of Alexandria vulnerable. Better to accept the circumstances, regroup, and maintain hope than to pursue the matter.

Maggie realizes the false comfort and illusion of control a plan fosters. She sees through the farce and ultimately, the Glenn returns to Alexandria. It’s just the circumstances of his homecoming that disappoint. Does this prove that nothing is guaranteed? People are not necessarily rewarded or punished for their efforts to plan and control their circumstances? Does it prove life is a series of random events?

Plan # 6: Pay It Forward/ Every Life Matters- failed
Morgan found his way back from madness thanks to a chance encounter with a forensic psychologist. Once rehabilitated, Morgan so fears returning to his old ways that he refuses to kill under any circumstances-- post-apocalyptic Darwinian code be damned.

When Alexandria is under siege by the Wolves, Morgan takes no prisoners and allows a pack of Wolves to flee. This same pack goes on to attack Rick, leaving him stranded and surrounded by walkers, unable to execute the rest of his plan to redirect the herd of walkers.

Morgan even goes as far as imprisoning one of the remaining Wolves and procuring the Wolf secret medical attention. Morgan is desperate to change the Wolf’s heart, no matter how he resists or taunts Morgan.
Morgan knows his plan will be controversial, so he was determined to wait for the right time…perhaps to unveil a rehabilitated Wolf during an I- told- you -so moment. Too bad Carol discovers his secrets and the plan goes to pot.
Now, the Wolf is free and Denise, Alexandria's only "doctor," is in danger. Denise and Tara share a budding romance, which doesn’t bode well for her given Tara’s track record.

Morgan was so blinded by his mission that he lost sight of endangering his community. But at least it made him feel good… for a little while anyway. Was Morgan wrong to involve Denise? Was he wrong to try to change the Wolf and Rick's hearts?

What's The Point?
So what’s the lesson in the six failed plans of The Walking Dead’s sixth season? Clearly, the only thing people can bank on is no amount of planning guarantees an outcome. Should viewers conclude that plans are dangerous and pointless, or should they appreciate the temporary elixir they provide?

Would the survivors do well to abandon plans and just go with the proverbial flow? What failed plan did you observe?

You can share your insights and questions in the comment section. I invite you to also stay tuned for the next installment of The Walking Dead Season 6: 6 Universal Truths.

Originally published on News For Shoppers

Saturday, November 28, 2015

To Cheat, Or Not To Cheat That Is The Question

Chutes and Ladders. Candy Land. Games that rely on the luck of the draw-- players either end up in gliding through Gumdrop Mountains or sulking in the Molasses Swamp . Hungry, Hungry Hippo. The fastest, most aggressive hippo gets to gulp the most marbles and win. Perfection. Players have to race a ticking timer to solve a 3D puzzle before all the neatly placed pieces explode from their  places. 

Simon. The coolest game of all- players memorize and mimic light and sound patterns. It is a game best played in dim light; if a player sits at the right angle, the red, blue, yellow, and green lights could dance on the ceiling... take note, Lionel Richie. 

The game's electronic tones reminded me of the final sequence in Close Encounters of The First Kind, one of the first movies I remember seeing. My mom and uncle, the finest of Trekkies, loved the movie, but the praying mantis like alien gave me nightmares. If I could master the game, though, maybe I could master her language, too.

Little did I know, sitting in the dark, studying patterns, responding in kind the best I could, Simon (along with my other favorite games) was preparing me for adulthood. But was I learning the right message? Should we teach our children that following the rules yields success? 

Movies like Close Encounters showed me that even the most elite in their fields could be flummoxed and had to be adaptable -- the smartest people existed in a constant state of learning, not a state of certainty. Just when they think they've solved a problem, a new variable is introduced and it's back to the drawing board.

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The older I get, the more it becomes clear that adults are figuring out each challenge as they go. The rule sheet is long lost and players do their best to figure out, make up, and reinterpret the instructions with each move. Children and adults alike are just feeling around in the dark, following, for right or wrong, the examples other, presumably more experienced, adults provide. Experts emerge with theories to guide us, but they can't factor every variable, their truth is often subjective. 

We're all just trying to figure things out before they blow up in our faces, doing our best to avoid the task of picking up the pieces and starting again. Try as we may, our success often depends on the luck of the draw-- sometimes we climb, sometimes we tumble. Adults claim they have no time for games, but play may be the key to better living.

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There are nearly ten years separating me and my kid sister, so I got to play a bit longer than other people my age. Games of Operation and Perfection seemed endless, my sister masterfully making new rules to pave her way to victory...cheating sums it up.

But she didn't know she was cheating. She was clever enough to know there was more than one means to an end-- she simply wouldn't be forced into an ill suited means. She knew there was a problem and she needed to solve it. She also understood there would be a winner and a loser... who likes to lose?

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If the tiny tweezers touched the patient's metallic funny bone incision, my sister declared that it didn't count. The red nose flickered and the board vibrated with each buzz as she dug into the cavity and removed the pesky plastic pieces. I rarely got a turn-- she cured the patient her way, so my services were unnecessary. I was there simply to observe the historic moment in medicine.

Against my sister, time became irrelevant in Perfection. If the clicking clock came close to a conclusion, she not so subtly turned the dial back a few seconds to give herself more time. She'd solve the problem in her time and my whining and shoving never changed it. Rules be damned-- she redefined the pathway to Perfection.

It has taken me years to appreciate my sister's rejection of the rules. The only thing her solutions hurt were my ego... I, too, didn't like to lose. Granted, life is more nuanced, more complex, but who is to say that conforming to established expectations and boundaries is a means to success or progress? 

Is it more noble to draw an unlucky card and accept the consequence, or to keep drawing cards until you find something you can live with? Is it better to relinquish your turn when you can't complete a task the way others want you pass the buck and let someone else solve the problem in the name of tradition?
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Now my kid sister is a mom and we sit and play the same games with her children. My niece takes up the torch of defying the sister does her best now to teach her to follow them. Time is funny like that. 

Teaching new players the rules is more about keeping the peace... no one wants to upset the silent agreement. For now, and in instances like those of game play, I chose to call what some call cheating- innovating; I acknowledge, however, there are no absolutes in the contexts of choosing to conform or innovate. But what do I know anyway? I'm just another fumbling adult.

What do you think? Is it better to teach children to follow the rules or to give them an avenue of innovative problem solving? You can leave your insight in the comment section. I'd love to read your point of view.