Halloween: now *that’s* scary

Halloween paranoia reaches a new low (high?) in Dear Abby today:

DEAR ABBY: I have always enjoyed Halloween. I like seeing the children in their costumes and, for most of the little ones, it is a fun and magical time.

In our neighborhood, a group of 15 to 20 parents escort their trick-or-treating children from door to door. Sometimes there are 25 to 30 kids. When they approach a house for their treats, the parents remain on the sidewalk, apparently oblivious to what’s going on when the door opens.

We have a small front porch that rises about 8 inches above the sidewalk. The kids push and shove, jockeying for position to get their “loot.” Last year, a 5-year-old fell off our porch. Fortunately, she was not hurt. The parents did not issue any directions to their children to take turns accepting our candy because they were too busy chatting among themselves.

Because of the inherent danger to unsupervised children (and the possibility of a lawsuit if there should be an accident), I will not be turning on my porch light this year — the signal in our area that alerts kids that the home is participating in trick-or-treat.

I hope my letter will remind parents to practice mindfulness and make this Sunday a Happy Halloween! — LIGHTS OUT IN HARRISBURG

Ah, yes, the three P’s of Halloween paranoia: poison, pedophiles, and….porches?

Good Lord.  Now, kids whose parents don’t hold them by the hand and walk them to the door are “unsupervised” and in “danger”?  Their parents not “be[ing] mindful” because they’re standing 10 feet away on the sidewalk, chatting? And a five-year-old fell 8 inches?  Cripes.

Even more disturbing is Abby’s response:

DEAR LIGHTS OUT: So do I, and that’s why I’m printing your letter, which arrived just in time for me to include it in today’s column. Last year your neighbors were lucky the child who fell didn’t break a wrist or an ankle. Parents, when escorting your little ghosts, goblins and vampires, please remain vigilant. Common sense must prevail.

Right. Common sense.  Like, kids can probably walk a few yards on their own two feet–and that hardly counts as unsupervised.  If anything, these kids are probably too supervised: if they were on their own, they’d be wandering in groups of 3 and 5, not escorted in a mob of 50 as the entire neighborhood approaches each house at one time.

And, of course, if the homeowner feels that she or a little hannah montana is in danger of being trampled by a herd of mini justin biebers, she can just shout out, “Hey kids, one at a time!  no candy until you line up to the right, please!”

Lights Out might try a little common sense herself, rather than bitterly shutting off the lights on the entire holiday.

For some refreshing attitudes on Halloween, and, um, life, please check out Free Range Kids.


Amy Dickinson on Apologies

Who better to deconstruct the art of the apology than an advice columnist?

Amy Dickinson spoke on this topic today on NPR’s Talk of the Nation.  The piece was inspired by Ginni Thomas’ recent attempt, via voicemail, to elicit an apology from Anita Hill, who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991.  The show then spins off into emails and phone calls from listeners.  Listen or read a transcript here.

The lesson?  In short, demanding apologies doesn’t work.

I must say–Amy’s been on NPR for years, but I’ve never heard her before…I like her voice–it’s very calm, but firm.

Advice by moonlight

It’s 12:47 at night on Monday (Tuesday?).   Mondays are Mondays, which means it’s hard to get up in the morning, and they are long days, full of meetings, catching up on email, figuring out what I said I’d do over the weekend and didn’t, regular work, and then the highlight of my week, an hour with the kiddles at 826Michigan, followed by pub trivia.

This Monday was enhanced by a ribbon cutting ceremony at the library (a rather moving one at that), the excitement of losing my purse (I think/hope I know where I left it), and a young writer more interested in bolting out the door than crafting his personal nemesis.  So the columns, all in all, were left by the wayside until 12:47 or, by now, 12:50, when I’m tired but not sleepy.

And thus I offer a quick drive-by-fruiting (Mrs. Doubtfire?  Anyone?) of Prudence’s Monday live chat–which I always forget about until 12:47, or, by now, 12:51 on Monday (Tuesday?).

As Prudence says each week, (except, of course, this week when I want to quote it): Let’s get to it!


Yikes.  After reading the first three chat participants, I’m not sure “drive by fruiting” is the best approach after all.  Some pretty heavy stuff in this week’s chat.  Here’s a rundown, anyway, with key quotes included and sassy commentary withheld.  Have a look, if you want to read about:

  • “One of my close friends just announced his engagement to a woman he’s been dating for a few years. We’re happy for him, but many of us can’t shake the feeling that he’s making a mistake. In essence, the woman makes fun of him a lot in front of his friends, and not in a loving way.”
  • “A few months ago, my husband raped me in the middle of the night. He was asleep during the attack, and he believes that it is a disorder called sexsomnia…I feel like I will never be able to get over this and I will live in constant fear for the rest of my life…To make matters worse, I have recently started having an affair, because I needed someone to take away all of the pain….I still care about my husband, and I want to honor the commitment I made to him, but when I look at him all I see is a monster. Is there any hope that I can fall in love with him again, or should I cut ties and move on?”
  • “If you have done whatever you can to get any kind of income and you haven’t been able to find a stable job, do you take it as a sign that perhaps you’re supposed to be unemployed? I’m at my wits’ end, and this is how I’m thinking, more to save my sanity than anything else. What do you think?”
  • I work in a small, close-knit office. There is one “boss” to speak of, but we all work mostly independently. Most of our staff have advanced college degrees. My problem occurs during lunchtime. There have been quite a few times that the “boss” reaches on my plate and takes some food.

Thank God!  Something petty, at last!  From that point on, the chat is all over the map, with the nasty relatives, nosy friends, speech disorders, adultery, boozing, housekeeping (and lack thereof) and lazy co-workers we all like to see.

Not much cheery or inspirational in Prudence this week, I’m afraid.  Tell your friends not to marry jerks, ignore the jerks in your own lives, and do your jobs, everyone!  Happy Tuesday.  Since it’s now 1:08.


Step Up to the (Dinner) Plate!

Here’s another one from my drafts folder, originally written in December 2009, and polished up a bit for you all today.  This one was almost totally done.  Why didn’t I press the button a year ago?  I haven’t the slightest idea.

Hey Cherie” is a column written by Cherie Bennett, who looks (from her picture), like she she’s probably in her 40s, and aimed at teenage readers. Sometimes the this-is-for-the-kids schtick feels a bit forced (for example, every letter starts with “Hey Cherie!,” which adds up to a lot of exclamation points early in the morning). For the most part, though, she does a decent job. She doesn’t tell kids to shut up and listen to their parents, or to just do whatever they want, but guides teens to respectfully, thoughtfully develop selves independent from–and sometimes even at odds with–their parents’ established worldview (and, of course, related rules).

Unfortunately, in this column, she missed the mark:

Hey, Cherie!

I have a problem with my mother’s cooking. She is a terrible cook. I didn’t know this when I was younger, but now that I am in high school, there is not a dish that my mother can’t ruin. Her roast beef tastes like leather, and she makes fish that tastes like newspaper soaked in water and then baked for five hours.

How can I tell her she is an awful cook and should start buying food from the takeout counter at the supermarket?

— Gagging

Hey, Gagging!

I want to know how you know what soaked and baked newspaper tastes like. But I digress.

This is a very tough problem, because telling your mother that she is a lousy cook is like telling a bride that she is ugly. Maybe you could buy her some cookbooks for her birthday and work with her to follow the recipes exactly. I’m grasping at overcooked roast beef here. Maybe this is your sign from On High to become a vegetarian?

Wait, so she didn’t give this person any help at all? Um….the answer here seems obvious to me: it’s time for this teen (henceforth T) to give cooking a shot T’sself–maybe once a week to start, and it needn’t be fancy. Sandwiches, soup, and salad or something.

This might solve what T perceives as the most immediate problem: getting a break from inedible food–that is, if T can in fact cook better than mom. Either way, it’s a win–T might be a natural, really enjoy cooking, and T & family would benefit from a variety of new, delicious meals.

Or T might be absolutely awful–and through the experiment might come to understand how much planning, effort, imagination, and hard work it takes to produce a tasty meal day after day, for an (unappreciative?) family.

Most likely T’s food will be edible, and improve over time, with practice.

Which brings us to the other problems this would solve–the ones T doesn’t seem at all aware of:

-T’ll give his mom a break from a task that, most likely, she doesn’t particularly enjoy or find very fulfilling

-T’ll learn….how to cook–a valuable skill by any standard.

A for Improvement….

Holy wow!  Remember Graham Norton’s “agony aunt” column in the Telegraph?  I used it as an example last month to sum up what I look for when I read a new advice column for the first time–and while I was at it, I griped a bit about the interface (which featured dozens and dozens of identical images of Norton’s face)

The column never showed up again in my advice feed until October 8th, and I confess I didn’t check it until today, when another new column appeared.  And imagine my surprise and delight to discover a totally redesigned page!  It looks more like, well, like any of the other mainstream columnists, now.  In fact, the style of the cartoon reminds me more of Savage Love than anything else.

Nice work!


Hi readers…

I’ve been a bit preoccupied this week, and nothing much in the columns has been leaping out at me, so I’ve decided to dig through some of my (oooold) unpublished drafts and see what I can make of them.  Inspired, as always, by Maria Von Trapp, I decided to start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). So, I scrolled to the bottom of my draft posts, and found this one from September 18.  September 18, 2008.  That’s, like, two weeks after I started this blog.  The draft was titled, simply, “toilets.”

Continue reading

A timely example

Yesterday, I claimed confidently that it’s common for people to remain indifferently in pleasant-but-directionless relationships for years, only to break up and marry the next person they meet. And as substantiation, I offered…..When Harry Met Sally and 500 Days of Summer.  Solid examples, I’d maintain, but fictional ones.  So, how convenient that this morning, Carolyn Hax’s column provides a real life scenario!

Continue reading