Category Archives: musings

The annual curmudge

I’m a big old St Patrick’s Day curmudgeon. This is not news to anyone who was here last year or any other year. I don’t want to wear green today or get drunk today (well, sure, but children) or set up leprechaun traps today or listen to traditional Irish music today and I’m only just getting over the mortification of having to see Enda Kenny visit Donald Trump today.

When the word went out that this year’s international dinner at Dash’s school this Sunday would have live Irish music and dancing, I went from vaguely wondering if we could get out of it to deciding that I really didn’t have to show up to everything they put on.

Old map of Ireland, framed, from unusual perspective.

No, it’s not sideways. That’s the way they drew the map.

Then I wondered if I was really a terrible person, denying my children access to their heritage like that. Am I like one of those immigrants who refuses to speak the language of the old country to their children so that they’ll assimilate better, thus taking the wonderful benefits of bilingualism out of their family’s grasp?

Actually, no. I don’t like traditional Irish music or step dancing. It’s part of my national heritage, but it’s not something I feel any personal connection to. Same goes for GAA (that’s hurling and Gaelic football). And we’re not even Catholic any more. But you know what my kids will grow up with?

  • A Hiberno-English vocabulary that they can turn on and off at will.
  • A bookshelf full of books by British and Irish authors many of whom are less well known here, from Oliver Jeffers’ picture books to Joyce’s Ulysses and a lot in between.
  • Knowledge of the canon of Father Ted, Monty Python, The Two Ronnies, and various other bits and pieces of nerdy 80s trivia befitting children of Irish people our age.
  • A better grasp of Irish and European geography and history than many Americans.
  • An understanding that other countries are just as valid and real as the USA and that normal is an ever-shifting concept.
  • Familiarity with the Dublin Monopoly board.
  • Access to plenty of excellent Irish hits of the 80s and 90s, should they choose to indulge.
  • Their grandfather’s watercolours of Irish scenes and historical maps of Ireland on the walls.
A pile of books by authors including Marian Keyes, Kate O'Brien, James Joyce, Julia Donaldson, Liz Nugent, Flann O'Brien.

Not all Irish authors, but all from that side of the pond

And then there’s that book I wrote, too. It’s set in Ireland.

I think they’ll be secure enough in their cultural heritage even if it doesn’t extend to a spot of the old diddly-aye.

Framed watercolour painting of a Galway hooker with brown sails on the water

An Irish painting of an Irish boat

Invisible invulnerable invaluable

And then poor George Michael only got one day in the news because of Carrie Fisher. What a crappy year, seriously.

I heard an interview with Carrie Fisher on the radio recently, and she struck me as a woman who is at that point in life where she really has no fucks to give. She tells it how it is and she doesn’t have to be something for anyone else any more. She wasn’t putting on her best self for the Terri Gross interview, she was just there, talking. If we wanted to listen, that was up to us. We should all aspire to such levels of notgivingafuckitude. I feel like she and Hilary Clinton could have run the world so well, but instead we’re left with TinyHands OrangeFace and a fairly vague Han Solo.

(I found it hilarious that from what Carrie said, Harrison Ford didn’t actually have to act at all for Star Wars. That terse, ultra-dry-witted man is exactly who he was/is in real life.)

There’s this thing about how older women are invisible, and how it’s really hard to come to terms with this new phase if you’ve been generally known as a pretty or beautiful woman in your younger days. But older women have such strength – think of Carrie Fisher, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Hilary Clinton – women who kick ass, take names, and give no fucks. (I hope Hilary is doing yoga, centering herself, drinking red wine, wearing leggings and letting her pores breathe, enjoying not having to give a shit about what she’s projecting to anyone any more. She’s proved herself a million times over.) Who told me that the Dalai Lama said that Western women will save the world? If only the world will let them – but hell, they’re trying so hard.

Women over 50 have walked through the fire of the gaze, the vulnerability, the judgement, for all those years. They’ve held it together, all of it, all at once, probably for everyone else at the same time as for themselves. They’ve done it all and fallen down and got up again and done it all some more, and even if they think they failed they’ve done it anyway. That’s what women do.

And then sometimes some of the best of them have a massive damn heart attack and it’s not fair at all.

Why is it different for women? Because men are never vulnerable. Not until they’re aged and infirm, and even then they’re less vulnerable than old women. (I just heard a story about an old man who confronted a burglar in his house, made him a cup of tea, and saw him out the front door. Admirable; but an old woman can’t do that.) Most young men have no enemies but themselves – if they can avoid getting killed through their own sheer foolhardiness or stupidity, they won’t have to worry about their personal safety for a long time.

Men don’t even know why women move in packs and go to the toilet in pairs and bring a friend to the party – we barely remember ourselves, we think we’re just more social than boys, but the truth is that we don’t go places on our own at night. One of us always has to be the more sober one, the most sensible one, the one who can make sure everyone else gives the right address to the taxi driver and doesn’t throw up in the car. One of us will always rise to the occasion. The boys can just get rat-arsed all they want, because they can probably wander home as slowly and alone-ly and darkly as they like.

Apart from personal safety issues, women have run the gauntlet of each other’s judgement since they were old enough to be told that’s a pretty dress now go and brush your hair. Opining on other women is like breathing. It’s what you do while you’re not doing anything. You look around, you see other people, you think things. Good, bad, pretty, fat, thin, nice shoes, horrible jeans, I wouldn’t do that with my hair. Older than me, younger than me, more friendly than me, quieter than me, shrill, short, bossy, judgmental. Who’s judging me today? Who am I doing this for? Who am I trying to impress? Why is this important?

And eventually you might get past it and stop trying to impress and you start seeing inside people a little better and ignoring their outsides a little more easily.

And then maybe, just maybe, you get to be something near as kick-ass as Carrie Fisher.

 

Post-election brain dump

Hello are you new here I process my feelings by writing about things. I’m not done yet, but I’ll put it all here and then we shall all move along.

The Americans I know are good people. Smart, educated, intelligent, thoughtful, kind people. It just so happens that because of my personal and online bubble, and where I live, I probably don’t know many people – if any, even – who voted for Trump. Most of my friends here are all just as mystified as the rest of the world about how this happened – but I think that’s the problem. We’re so divorced from the “other half” that we can’t begin to appreciate their difficulties. Voting for Trump was a cry for help. They didn’t really care what happened afterwards, so long as their voice finally was heard.

No country is perfect. No country has figured it all out yet so that every citizen is perfectly content with their lot. Canada sounds good, sure, but it’s cold up there. Scandinavia has its problems too. Utopia is still fiction.

Therefore, it can only be expected that people will vote for something different, to see if they can make things better than the not-perfect they’re experiencing. Historically the establishment almost always gets voted out after eight years to make way for something different. As a race, we strive to improve our lot – but not always in the most rational of ways.

Almost half the voting public is so pissed off with how their lives are going that they threw their lot in with a man who is a bully and a bigot, who denies climate change and assaults women and tells us that all men are like that. They voted for him because they wanted a big change from the establishment and that’s what he represented. They voted for him because he said the things they thought nobody was supposed to say, and thousands of people cheered him on and drew comfort from the fact that they had all been thinking these same things all along. They voted for him because they hate Hillary Clinton, and because everything they watched and read and heard on mass media and social media confirmed their reasons for hating her. Older and wiser and better people* told them not to vote for him, so of course they went right ahead and did it, to stick it to the man.

This election has made me question the nature of truth and the function of the mass media. The media here is acknowledgedly biased – which perhaps is better than pretending to be balanced when such a thing is impossible. But a voter can live their entire life in the bubble of their choosing, seeing only the information that confirms all their biases, and easily disregarding anything that doesn’t already agree with the opinion they’ve been carefully fed.

Then there’s this: roughly half the country identifies as Republican and roughly half the country voted for the Republican candidate. The fact that the outcome of any election depends on a tiny tipping point in the middle is the fault of the system. There can only be one winner, because America doesn’t do coalitions. A lot of people were unhappy about the Obama administration. Now a lot of people will be unhappy about the Trump administration. You can’t please all of the people all of the time.

(New information: almost half the country (46%) didn’t bother their arses voting at all. So one quarter cared enough to vote for Trump and another quarter cared enough to vote for Hillary. This makes me feel like the whole thing is a fucking farce. But anyway.)

I want to find a republican and be friends with them. I want to stop reading terrifying articles about what will happen next and op-eds about what we did wrong and everything that pits one group of us against another group of us. I want a hug. I want to give someone a hug.

I want to move on.

I want to keep believing that most people are good.

*That’s a quote. From Saki’s “The Lumber Room,” if I recall correctly, which is an excellent tale.

pinkish leaves on the ground

Picture of fallen leaves, for you to interpret metaphorically as you wish

Quietly booming

Well, the Blog Awards were on Thursday night and I didn’t win, but it’s all right because Fionnuala did, with her lovely blog from Germany, and I’m happy that the judges went for a catch-all parenting/lifestyle blog not so unlike my own (though clearly superior), because in previous years I always felt that they wanted something very touristy or “diaspora-y” for the Diaspora category, which I couldn’t possibly give them.

Anyway, head over to Three Sons Later and give her some love, not least because she was kind enough to give me a shout-out when she won, and I’m pretty sure that has something to do with the way WordPress has just informed me that my “stats are booming!” (Booming for me is more of a gentle nudge. But appreciated nonetheless.)

While I’m at it, you should check out The Airing Cupboard and Office Mum and also Department of Speculation because I’m giving them my very own Awards For Being Excellent At This and Robbed and also Very Supportive Commenters and Lovely People. Not that they need my puny referrals, but for what it’s worth.


We’ve been talking about introverts lately. I finally picked up a copy of Quiet, by Susan Cain, which had been recommended by a friend ages ago, and though I’m not far into it yet, it’s fascinating and illuminating reading.

Labels are something that I’m wary of giving my children, because I don’t want them to become self-fulfilling prophecies, to create self-imposed limits – but sometimes it’s important to feel that you have a tribe, and that you’re not just a lone outlier. (Oh, the irony, if you’re talking about introverts.) And it’s been clear to me for a long time that Mabel is an introvert. Dash is an extrovert, that’s not hard to divine; and B and I are both on the introvert side of the scale too, but fairly social ones.

Mabel, I think, is more than that. She’s shy as well, but it was the way even as a toddler she’d need to decompress after a social event with a good old solo imaginary-play session at the dollhouse that really clued me in. She couldn’t just head to bed, no matter how late we’d been out – she had to spend a while playing first. These days she gives me the evil eye if I’m in the same room, and likes to keep the TV on so that I can’t hear the voices she’s doing, but the compulsion to play is just the same.

Yesterday we went to a start-of-year potluck picnic for Dash’s school. Dash was in his element, happily buzzing around with his classmates, old and new, and B and I were chatting quietly to a few parents and teachers. I was happy that Mabel had headed into the fray of children, rather than hanging out of me the whole time as she had done last year. But she wasn’t really enjoying herself, and after a reasonable length of time we ducked out. She was tired and tetchy and I was on the alert for a meltdown, so nothing untoward happened. But in the car on the way home I started telling them about the book I was reading.

A short description of the characteristics of introverts and extroverts had Dash and Mabel instantly placing themselves, and wanting to know more. When we got home, Mabel wanted me to read bits of the book to her. We talked a bit about how our society favours extroverts and tries to make everyone think they should behave in the most outgoing way possible, but that it’s perfectly good and excellent and fruitful to have a more quiet, withdrawn, thoughtful personality.

I think, just as much as finding out we could say Dash was dyslexic was a good thing, letting Mabel define herself as an introvert will be helpful too.

And it’s so much more socially acceptable than saying you just don’t like people very much.

2016-09-10-10-55-37

Connect

Blogging ain’t like it used to be.

I don’t know why. Well, I do. It’s not it, it’s me. It’s me, and it’s my kids. They’re people now. I can’t go whining about them on the Internet, because what they do is no longer unconscious behaviour, it’s not just because they’re a baby, it’s not all about me. It’s about them, and I can’t write about it if it’s not fun and funny, entertainment, light and fluffy and a quick boost for the reader on the bus. Don’t bring anybody down. Keep it easy. Take it handy.

Maybe I don’t have any readers on the bus. Maybe all my readers are people who know me anyway, who care about what I’m doing and how I’m feeling – but in that case I certainly can’t go airing my dirty laundry in public. Anonymity only goes so far.

When my daughter has a screaming fit of rage over something inconsequential, it drains me.

When my son ignores my request – telling – demand – shout – to stop doing the thing he’s doing until I physically remove him from the situation, it makes me angry. And guilty. And angry.

When I’m the one who always picks up the giant mess, I feel like a crappy parent because I got it all wrong.

When I make three dinners for four people, night after night, I wonder when they’ll grow out of it, and at what point I was meant to make it be different, and how that was meant to happen, and whether it was easier for everyone else or if I’m just particularly bad at it.

I don’t want to dwell on these feelings, because I’m mostly a positive person who doesn’t find it so hard to look at what I have done, at the good things, at my kids’ accomplishments and the times when they exceeded my expectations… but it’s all valid. The coin has two sides.

I feel this, and if I do, quite possibly you do too. My blog is not Pinterest perfect, Facebook happy, more than chirpy holiday snaps and snippets of hilarity as I show off my kids for their comedy charm and cuteness.

My blog is where it all hangs out – I tell you how insecure I’m feeling about my writing (hey, guess what, there are two spelling mistakes in the print version of the book, and I’m done with uploading corrections now) or how I worry about Dash’s dyslexia and how it will affect his future, how Mabel bit someone or how much of a double-edged sword tandem nursing is.

Because my blog is for connecting, and if everything’s perfect I can’t connect, except with all the other people pretending everything’s perfect for them too.

That’s not the connection I’m looking for. That’s not why I’m here. Why are you here?

Upside-down "Detour" sign by water.

I knew this would come in handy.


I wrote a book. It’s fiction for children aged 9-12, mostly, with a nostalgic Irish twist. If you want to know more about it, drop me a line at awfullychipper@gmail.com or tweet me at @awfullychipper.

A vacation and a philosophical epiphany

We’ve been away, and now we’re expecting visitors, so I have to shoehorn a post in here somehow. So here is a series of mostly unrelated paragraphs.

Today is my twelfth wedding anniversary. I can take no particular credit for the longevity of our relationship, except that we’re both people who tend to be happy with the status quo so it would take a really big upset to eject either of us. That and having happened to bump into a person who makes me feel perfectly comfortable being me, and who makes me feel like I’ve won the lottery when I make him laugh. Can’t discount that.

IMG_3382

We went to rural Virginia for a week, to the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding area. We saw some impressive caverns at Luray, went horse riding (no, they still didn’t let Dash gallop), and got our money’s worth at a very overpriced water park by staying all day. Mabel turned out to have an affinity for waterslides, and Dash finally decided to try them right before we left. The kids consumed a lot of the Teen Nick channel, which we don’t have at home and is always the mark of a vacation for them, but Dash elected to leave his ipad mini at home, which I was pleased about.

We have lately discovered the joys of The Great British Bake-Off, and it really is something the whole family likes to watch. Who would have thought we’d come together over the correct execution of a pie? Watching the next episode functions as a very palatable bribe.

Reflection of stalactites in still water in a cavern

“Dream Lake” in Luray Caverns

The proof copy of my book in print arrived and I am reading through it, finding places where I missed a closing quote mark or I could really do with removing some commas. I really should have printed the whole thing out before submitting it instead of reading it on the screen, but I am stingy with our printer paper and also very impatient. It will be done soon and I will know better next time.

Also, the sentences are all too long, but hey. That’s me. (There’s a new feature in WordPress that rates the “readability” of my blog post as I write it, and so far I am failing miserably on the sentence-length aspect. I don’t care, WordPress; I don’t care.)

Kids in giant inflatable rings on an artificial "river"

Floating on the lazy river at Massanutten Water Park

The news in the outside world is horrible, and it just keeps on coming. I deal with it by looking away. It’s not good for my mental health to try to take on the suffering of all the horrors in the world; it won’t help them, and it’s certainly not helping me. Being terrified of life means the terrorists have won.

That said, I wonder if every generation reaches a point where they think “This technological advance is just too much too fast; we can’t sustain it and it’s dangerous to rely on it so much.” Because I’m feeling that a bit now. But then, I bet they thought that about air conditioning, and cars, and refrigeration, and the invention of the wheel. Technology brings us wonderful things, like connection and communication and knowledge and friendship – but it makes us forget how to do other things sometimes, like go outside or talk to people, or deal with being too hot or spend three days walking to our destination and die of thirst on the way and have our bread go mouldy.

Yes, if all this technology disappeared, my family would be first against the wall – except B and Dash, who might outrun the rotten-tomato-throwing zombies for a few miles – but on the whole I’m willing to accept that this feeling I have is simply a product of my age rather than THE age. So that’s comforting. I think.

Also, for all the pricey entertainments I had lined up for this vacation, I think what my kids will remember most is messing around in the river at the bottom of the hill – which was free, and they’d happily have spent all day doing. That’s a victory over our dependence on the screens right there.

Kids on/in a small river

Naked Creek, Virginia

(If you want to know more about my book, leave a comment or drop me a line at awfullychipper@gmail.com.)

 

Vestibular motion

Everyone knows that a vest in the US is what the Brits (and others) call a waistcoat, don’t they? That’s pretty much common knowledge, just like the pants = trousers thing. Americans might not know that a vest, to British and Irish people, is an undershirt. So if someone says they were outside in just their pants and vest, that’s actually pretty odd behavior, not just a warm day when the stockbroker took off his jacket before he bought a pretzel from the guy on the street.

But there’s more to this vest thing. There’s a whole dressing culture difference here that intrigues me. It’s about layers. Bear with me now while I meander to my point…

When I read Judy Blume’s Forever, mostly furtively, serially, in bookshops, one thing that stuck with me (other than never being able to take the name Ralph seriously again) was the fact that in the scene where they flick washing-up bubbles at each other until her sweater is soaked, and she takes it off, she’s wearing NOTHING BUT A BRA underneath! This was so perplexing that it totally ruined my savouring of the sexy moment. A sweater is not a garment that should be in contact with that much of your skin. Where was her other layer?

I grew up always wearing a vest under whatever my visible-to-the-general-public top was, whether that was the shirt of my school uniform or a thin jumper (sweater) or even under a t-shirt, unless the weather was really warm, which it rarely was. A vest is the shape of what Americans would call a tank top, or (ick) a wife-beater. (Yes, they really use that term.) As a girl gets a little older she might want one that’s more like a camisole (thinner straps, more fitted). But at the very least, to my mind, our Forever heroine should have been wearing one over her bra and under her sweater.

I still dress that way, at least one and two-half seasons of the year. (That is, winter, and the cooler ends of spring and autumn.) And I dress my children in layers too, as often as I can, because air-conditioning in schools is unpredictable. They might be in a classroom that’s stuffy and sweltering or one that’s freezing, so I want them to have the option of peeling off their sweater/long-sleeved top/cardigan and having a t-shirt underneath. (The fact that my children don’t seem to notice, or don’t think of doing it, or don’t want to because then they’ll have to carry the removed item, is something I have no control over. I can be content  knowing that I’ve prepared them for every eventuality.)

But I am pretty sure that this layering technique as a daily way of dressing is quite a European thing. I think the Germans I know here, for instance, do it too – and I’m pretty sure most Americans don’t. American kids go out in just one layer under their coats, even in winter. Maybe they’re confident of good heating indoors and warm coats outdoors. When I noticed this early in my parenting career, when my kids first started to interact with others, I thought it was a modern thing and that I was just old-fashioned. Probably nobody in Ireland wore vests any more and it was just me and my inveterate chilliness having this quirk.

However, vests are still alive and well in Ireland. Here’s a screengrab from the Dunnes Stores website, for example:
Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 8.03.31 PM

See? Boys wear them too. Here’s a shot from the boys’ section of the Marks & Spencer UK website.Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 8.06.46 PM

These are not outerwear, unless you’re a builder. These are for under your shirt or your jumper. These are to keep you warm in a country where central heating is not a given, where your washing is drying on the radiators and you forgot to turn the immersion on so you’ll have to wait for your bath. And yes, grown-ups also wear vests in Europe, just like I do.

So, Americans: What’s your defence? Just more warm-blooded than your transatlantic counterparts? Are you neglecting your children by denying them a proper old-fashioned vest? And, while we’re here, how do you feel about the name Ralph?

Layers like an onion

So, you grow up somewhere, so of course what you learn there is right. The way you do things is the right way, the norm, whether it’s spelling certain words with a u or driving on the left or paying the rent with a direct deposit instead of a cheque. (Or a check.)

And a long time later, when you’ve been grown up for a while, you move to another country, where other things are considered the “right” way or the right words. So, fine, you’ll drive on the right because you can’t exactly rebel against that one, and you’ll spell colour without its u if that’s what they insist on, and you’ll write aluminum even if you still say aluminium, and stop for gas not petrol; but you know deep down that they’re wrong and you’re still right, and you feel pretty comfortable with that. Your way, the right way, is better. It’s more right. Other is wrong, by default.

But insidiously, after a long time, a change comes about that you’re not too proud of. You start to feel, somewhere inside, that maybe this other, new, way or word is not just acceptable but also maybe better, and that your way or your word was actually quite small and provincial. This is a big, shiny, new country. So many people can’t be wrong, really.

Maybe you’re right now, but that means you were wrong before.

And you know in your heart – no, not in your heart, because your heart is still conflicted and slow to accept change; in your head – that neither way is right, that it’s just a matter of different things in different places. But even when you reach that point of balance where you’re sitting right on the fulcrum and can appreciate the joy of all things being equal and no one thing being more right than another, even then you constantly tilt one way or the other with a breath of air, flip-flopping between feelings of superiority and inferiority, smug certitude and tentativeness.

The world opens up and for an instant you understand a fraction more about the vast number of things there are out there that you don’t know, and how hard it is to just let things be as they are, without deciding what’s better and what’s worse. Just for an instant.

And then you go back to being an ex-pat, with all the constant shifting judgement that entails about who’s right and who’s wrong this time.

Lake, trees, ducks

I didn’t have an onion.

 

Things to worry about

About this time last week, my list of things to worry about looked like this

  • Being killed by terrorists.
  • ISIS expanding to take over all of Europe and then the USA.

and far down below those and everything related to them, quotidian things such as

  • Dying in a fiery car crash on the Beltway.
  • Being killed by a random gunman because I live in the USA, or having that happen to my husband at work or my children at school.
  • Having the house broken into (while B’s away).
  • Having the house broken into (while we’re all here).
  • B dropping dead while running, leaving me ignorant of passwords to online bill paying, so that as well as being bereft and lonely and bored with nobody to make up appropriate lyrics for any song at the drop of a hat, we would have our electricity cut off and freeze to death.
  • Getting stuck behind a fiery car crash on the Beltway so that I’m late to pick Dash up from school, and discovering that my phone refuses to hold any contact numbers any more so I couldn’t even call them to say why I’m not there.
  • Mabel refusing to open her mouth at her upcoming dental checkup.
  • Cancer.
  • Meningitis.
  • My turkey being dry on Thursday.

and so on, in descending order of terribleness or likeliness; you get the idea.

This week my sense of statistics has righted itself and those first two have dropped down to somewhere below the others. Climate change is in there somewhere too; I’m never quite sure where. And maybe the zombie apocalypse, sure, if I’m in the mood for fretting.

Of course, statistics are no comfort to all those families in Paris, in Mali, to a family not far from here who lost someone. To everyone who has died in car crashes or mass shootings or all the other terrible things that happen and continue to happen.

So, in conclusion, this isn’t a very comforting post, is it? But I really like how everyone’s tweeting cat pictures in Brussels. That seems like a very good way to deal with the tension. I’ll be over here trying to keep my worry weebles the right way up.

Asshole-proof

Mostly, my Facebook experience is a happy one, filled with other people’s amusing anecdotes, pictures of delicious food, heartwarming snippets, cute kids, and kittens. I carefully curate my friends list and those whose notifications I see to keep it this way. I know it’s a bubble, not representative of humanity as a whole – and that’s how I like it.

This week I’m seeing chinks in my bubble, if I may mix metaphors. Of course, my friends are all lovely right-thinking (that is, left-leaning) people; but some of them, through no fault of their own, have other friends or relations who are not. I’m also in a neighbourhood Facebook group that does not screen for membership on the basis of whether or not you’re an asshole.

So it’s disheartening to discover that there are actually lots of Americans out there who conform exactly to the stereotype of the closed-minded, ignorant, xenophobic American the rest of the world often thinks of. The type I never encounter, to my knowledge, in real life. And, because they conduct their Facebook business mostly in their own hate-filled bubbles of like-minded people and jingoistic militaristic gun-totin’ Fox-news-watching memes, I can’t tell whether there are in fact more of them out there than sane, decent people or not.

Which is worrying.

I don’t think Irish people are inherently better than Americans. I imagine the ratio of assholes to non-assholes is probably about the same everywhere, give or take a few culturally specific beliefs or practices. And Facebook assholes might even seem like perfectly nice people if I met them out and about, seeing as how I’m a non-threatening white soccermom type who doesn’t fly the flag of her feminist anti-gun tree-hugging liberal pro-equality leanings at the supermarket checkout. I don’t often even wade into the fray online, though I’m not above a little passive-aggressive point-scoring grammar/punctuation/spelling correction when moved.

A friend asked this morning whether things are getting worse or she’s just getting older. I have to confess to having the same thoughts myself lately. On the whole, to save our sanity, I believe we have to decide that there’s just as much good as bad out there. That sometimes, often, there’s more.