To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Do Not Resuscitate?

Sometimes I forget that Jackie is not Mormon. And, that she did not go to BYU. And, that although she says awesome things like "Is she in our ward?" or "Can we kick him out of the ward?", she often doesn't know all the Mormon vernacular that I assume she does.

The other day we were talking about something or someone and I used the acronym DTR, which, now that I think of it, is something I have only ever heard Mormons say. DTR = Define The Relationship. And, as you can imagine, guys HATE DTRs.

Anyhooo.... I said something to the effect of ' and so was having a DTR...' and Jackie said "Do not resuscitate?!?"

After much laughter, I decided that from now on, in my world, these so-called conversations where girls want to know what part of their relationships are of any use the them and boys just mainly want to run for the hills or as one guy said to me once "I feel like I am going to throw up!" will hereby be known as DNRs - because let's face it, that's basically what happens to the relationship after you have the DTRs.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Parents, don't dress your girls like tramps"

Now that Robin and Cody are back from Arkansas, I get to have Family Home Evening again. Most Mondays we grab dinner and just talk. They are two of my favorite people, so it's always a good time. Last night we were talking about parents and kids and what parents allow their kids to wear these days.

I work with the youth at church. And, I coach a high school swim team. So, I have a very good idea of what teenagers (both religious and non-religious) are wearing these days. And, I must say, it is more often than not VERY frightening.

When I was in junior high and most of high school, (with the exception of my Freshman and Sophomore year, when I had stopped swimming and was a bit pudgy), I was rail thin. I measured 5'8 when I was 14, only an inch shy of my ultimate stopping point. And, on a day where I might have eaten a really big meal and dessert, I weighed about 112 pounds. So, as you can imagine, I had less than nothing to show off. I was rail thin with ZERO curves anywhere. Basically, I could have worn anything or nothing and still had about the same sex appeal - the none kind. Still, my parents were pretty strict on what they would buy us.

I was taught to be modest. I remember looking like a Secretary at one of my school dances. Literally, I wore a 2-piece suit with gold buttons, it was crazy ugly! And, I remember looking like a nun for one of my sister's weddings.

I also remember borrowing a bikini from one of my girlfriends and wearing it on a boat for a church outing. SCANDALOUS! My church advisor lectured me, reminding me that I was supposed to wear a one-piece suit. To which my mouthy retort was "well then, which piece would you like me to take off." (This is to-date, the mouthiest I have ever been, and to this day, I still feel guilty about saying it... what a brat!!!) I did get in trouble from my parents. And, my mom questioned where I got that scandalous looking bikini. It all seems silly now. But, I remember it very vividly, and that's what my parents intended.

I was raised in one of those houses where my mom said "no" A LOT. And, once she said no, she never waffled. And, if we asked her too many times, she'd say, "go ask dad." And, when we asked dad, he would ask what mom said. And, when we explained that "she had said no, but...." he said, "then no," not caring all about the "but...."

When I was 16, I remember coming home from school one day and telling my mom about this girl in my class. She had just turned 16 and her dad had told her that she could either get a car or a boob job. I could not wrap my mind around it! And, I am pretty sure I tried REALLY REALLY REALLY hard to convince my mom that if she gave me a car she wouldn't have to give me a boob job, ever! What a deal! She said "no" to all of it. And, I went back to driving the old Ford Escort hatchback, but only on the days that Adam didn't need it, and Jennica didn't need it... because we all shared that hunk of junk and I knew the pecking order, which never favored me.

As an adult, I am extremely grateful for all the times my parents said no. I had boundaries, LOTS of them. And, I know as an adult, I am better because of them.

Today, one of my friends posted this article he found on CNN and I LOVE it. It's written by a sports writer - a 40-something year old dad. And, to me it's super poignant:

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) -- I saw someone at the airport the other day who really caught my eye.

Her beautiful, long blond hair was braided back a la Bo Derek in the movie "10" (or for the younger set, Christina Aguilera during her "Xtina" phase). Her lips were pink and shiny from the gloss, and her earrings dangled playfully from her lobes.

You can tell she had been vacationing somewhere warm, because you could see her deep tan around her midriff thanks to the halter top and the tight sweatpants that rested just a little low on her waist. The icing on the cake? The word "Juicy" was written on her backside.

Yeah, that 8-year-old girl was something to see alright. ... I hope her parents are proud. Their daughter was the sexiest girl in the terminal, and she's not even in middle school yet.

Abercrombie & Fitch came under fire this spring for introducing the "Ashley," a push-up bra for girls who normally are too young to have anything to push up. Originally it was marketed for girls as young as 7, but after public outcry, it raised its intended audience to the wise old age of 12. I wonder how do people initiate a conversation in the office about the undeveloped chest of elementary school girls without someone nearby thinking they're pedophiles?

What kind of PowerPoint presentation was shown to the Abercrombie executives that persuaded them to green light such a product? That there was a demand to make little girls hot?

I mean, that is the purpose of a push-up bra, right? To enhance sex appeal by lifting up, pushing together and basically showcasing the wearer's breasts. Now, thanks to AF Kids, girls don't have to wait until high school to feel self-conscious about their, uhm, girls. They can start almost as soon as they're potty trained. Maybe this fall the retailer should consider keeping a plastic surgeon on site for free consultations.

We've been here with Abercrombie before -- if you recall, about 10 years ago they sold thongs for 10-year-olds -- but they're hardly alone in pitching inappropriate clothing to young girls. Four years ago the popular "Bratz" franchise introduced padded bras called "bralettes" for girls as young as six. That was also around the time the good folks at Wal-Mart rolled out a pair of pink panties in its junior department with the phrase "Who Needs Credit Cards" printed on the front.

I guess I've been out-of-the-loop and didn't realize there's been an ongoing stampede of 10-year-old girls driving to the mall with their tiny fists full of cash demanding sexier apparel.

What's that you say? Ten-year-olds can't drive? They don't have money, either? Well, how else are they getting ahold of these push-up bras and whore-friendly panties?

Their parents?

Noooo, couldn't be.

What adult who wants a daughter to grow up with high self-esteem would even consider purchasing such items? What parent is looking at their sweet, little girl thinking, "She would be perfect if she just had a little bit more up top."

And then I remember the little girl at the airport. And the girls we've all seen at the mall. And the kiddie beauty pageants.

And then I realize as creepy as it is to think a store like Abercrombie is offering something like the "Ashley", the fact remains that sex only sells because people are buying it. No successful retailer would consider introducing an item like a padded bikini top for kindergarteners if they didn't think people would buy it.

If they didn't think parents would buy it, which begs the question: What in the hell is wrong with us?

It's easy to blast companies for introducing the sexy wear, but our ire really should be directed at the parents who think low rise jeans for a second grader is cute. They are the ones who are spending the money to fuel this budding trend. They are the ones who are suppose to decide what's appropriate for their young children to wear, not executives looking to brew up controversy or turn a profit.

I get it, Rihanna's really popular. But that's a pretty weak reason for someone to dress their little girl like her.

I don't care how popular Lil' Wayne is, my son knows I would break both of his legs long before I would allow him to walk out of the house with his pants falling off his butt. Such a stance doesn't always makes me popular -- and the house does get tense from time to time -- but I'm his father, not his friend.

Friends bow to peer pressure. Parents say, "No, and that's the end of it."

The way I see it, my son can go to therapy later if my strict rules have scarred him. But I have peace knowing he'll be able to afford therapy as an adult because I didn't allow him to wear or do whatever he wanted as a kid.

Maybe I'm a Tiger Dad.

Maybe I should mind my own business.

Or maybe I'm just a concerned parent worried about little girls like the one I saw at the airport.
In 2007, the American Psychological Association's Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls issued a report linking early sexualization with three of the most common mental-health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. There's nothing inherently wrong with parents wanting to appease their daughters by buying them the latest fashions. But is getting cool points today worth the harm dressing little girls like prostitutes could cause tomorrow?

A line needs to be drawn, but not by Abercrombie. Not by Britney Spears. And not by these little girls who don't know better and desperately need their parents to be parents and not 40-year-old BFFs.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Near to you

No one wants me to get married more than Jackie does. And, I mean no one, myself included.

Every once in a while Jackie will encourage me to go on the internet to find love. She tells me of all the ways I'd be successful. "You're funny." "You're witty." "You are well-written". I always tell her that it's just not my thing. (I don't tell her until she's done complimenting me, of course).

I know people who met on the internet and have married and produced fine looking children. It's entirely possible. But, I am on the computer ALL DAY LONG. The last thing I want to do is go home and get my game on by getting on the computer AGAIN.

I am in general not freaked out or paranoid of much. My rationale for even having cares or concerns about a situation rests solely on my immediate or close to immediate knowledge of people or situations in which my fear would be realized. For example, I have never met anyone who even knows anyone who has a.) been struck by lightning, b.) been bitten by a shark, or c.) been harmed in a natural disater. Sure it happens, but until it happens to someone I know or at least someone I know knows, I am not too worried.

Using that rationale, as you can imagine, in general, I am FREAKED out by marriage (which I am sure is no shock to anyone). I am also SUPER freaked out by dating on the internet.

When I was in college my roommate Natalie met this nice dude on LDS dot something-or-other. (Please note, I went to college at BYU in Provo, Utah). This dude lived about 30 minutes away. He came down a few times a week to take my roommate out. He was pleasant and handsome. He hung out with us roommates from time to time. All seemed to be going smoothly. They dated for 4 or 5 months. And, then one day he just vanished. He wouldn't call my roommate back. So, she called him at his parents house, because he had often called from there. She asked for him by name. His mom asked who she was and why she was calling. After which she informed my roommate that her son had been happily married and was that father of young children.... which I am sure she would have liked to know BEFORE she started dating him. And, that is where my paranoia was born.

Anyway, I am always coming up with additional reasons why I can't internet date. Apparently, the ones I have been given only buy me a few short days of reprieve. "There is no way all these people like long walks on the beach. I go there all the time, no one is walking anywhere. Everyone HAS to be lying," I say. "I am going to give myself carpal tunnel if I internet date. You know how much I talk," I say. None of this helps for long.

So, today I was listening to the news and they were reporting how 30% of all men who internet date are already relationships. I rush in and tell this to Jackie. "30% of all men you meet in the flesh are in relationships. So?" (Not assuaging my fears at all with that rebuttal, but I digress).

So while we are at lunch, Jackie is planning my hypothetically wedding. Whenever we talk about it, the only opinion I have on the subject is that I am going to have a wicked awesome and tasty delicious cake, which is most likely going to be funfetti. So, while we are at lunch today, I am talking about cake and Jackie is mentally dressing me in wedding gowns. And, she says "when you get married to Mr. Close Proximity...." I just busted up laughing. She thinks I am ridiculous. Which is true. But, I maintain that she is equally ridiculous, which is why we get along so well.

Well, it just so happens that all of my friends who play Words with Friends/Word Fued with me on the phone are RIDICULOUSLY slow at playing (yep, that means you Dusty, Mandy, Spencer, Wes and Jeanette (though J IS the fastest). So, I had to take matters into my own hands in order to provide myself with hours of entertainment (and ward off any possibility that I might get Alzheimers in the near future). Today I went to the 'play with a random opponent' tab on Words With Friends and poof, what do you know I am now playing a game with the fastest respondent yet, Dan Sparks.

So, in great anticipation, I tell Jackie that I am coming awful close to internet dating. I am now playing a scrabble-esque game with a guy (I assume) who could live in Minnesota for all I know. I pled my case.

Ali: Jackie, I am playing Words With Friends with Dan Sparks. This is as close as I am going to get to internet dating.
Jackie: You better start spelling some serious words like L-O-V-E and S-I-N-G-L-E and H-O-T S-T-U-F-F ....

Oh, how I love getting dating advice!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guess what today is???

It's national 'Help Out Your Blind Friend Day'. Never heard of it? That's because I made it up.

So...... I was doing my friend Claire's taxes because I am a wicked awesome friend like that. (Plus, they were way easy and basic since she doesn't have to do deductions and itemizing and all the stuff my taxes require). I have been paying this CFA to do mine ever since they started getting too complicated. So, I miss a lot of the crazy business that comes along with doing taxes.

As I was doing Claire's 540EZ for the State of California I came across a standard deduction for the blind. And, I thought, hmmm... how blind IS blind? Because I wear contacts that are basically FOR blind people (-3.5). And, I wondered if that would count. But, I am sure if it does, my tax guy already caught that one.

But, aside from wondering about the fiscal implications I could propher from if I was blind (and wondering if technically I AM blind), I wondered why the deduction for the blind? That seems odd. Not that I am anti-blind. Nope. I am not. Anti-ice cream man, yes siree. Anti-fruit (unless we're talking skittles), pretty much, but anti-blind people, no way. I am cool with the blind. I like Stevie Wonder. I mean his crazy '... I just called to say I love you...' song plays on the Musak in my office like 12x a day. I have mad love for the blind.

And, so I was joking around about it. And, there is this guy in my office who knows everything, I am serious, everything, like even more than Dustin Monroe. And, he starts to tell me that blind people are granted lifelong free access into all of the US National Parks. Awesome. And, awkward, since they can't in fact see. It kind of makes me want to go to one just so I can see all the fondling of trees.

Anyway, since I am weird and I do strange and unexplainable things, I looked up some other ways in which blind people catch breaks. And, here are a list of a few of the advantages/perks for the blind:

If you live in Scotland or Norhtern Ireland, you get an allowance... which is awesome.

You don't have to acknowledge people if you don't want to. You can get away with totally ignoring people.

You don't have to be freaked out by bugs, or the boogie man, or the ice cream man.

You don't have to drive when you go out with friends.

You get to take a dog with you most places, which is AWESOME.

There is NO way you had to read Lord of the Flies 3 times in High School like I did. I have such hatred for that book.

You don't have to pay postage?!? That seems odd. But, it's true. Many places you can receive personal information, utility bills, bank statements, etc. for free. In the postage area it reads "free matter for the blind."

You can ride on the bus for free, which I assume would be a totally legitimate and not scary prospect... IF and only IF you were blind.

Apparently, these perks have the other disabled people up in arms. I can just imagine all the people with limps, and lisps and multiple personalities are making faces and flipping off all those lucky blind people... but, it's ok because the blind people can't even see them.

So, on today of all days, I would like to congratulate and recognize all those blind people out there. I am happy you get some perks!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Teenagers these days...

So, as we all know, I am coaching a high school swim team right now. I helped out occasionally last year, so I already knew it would be fun. And, I work with the youth at church, so I feel like I know how to get on the same level as teenagers. But, I am starting to think that whole "get on their level" approach is backfiring on me. Because these kids have ZERO boundaries when it comes to me. Actually, I am pretty sure if you take me out of the equation, they'd still be brazen. I've decided it's just the nature of a teenager, mostly a teenage boy.

These kids say the most outlandish, awesome, weird, random (and often flattering) things. I figured it was time for me to share a few of them with you. I feel like I should withhold their names because... well, I am not sure I am allowed to publish them. I have no idea what the rules associated with being a "teacher" are, though truthfully I should. I was supposed to have taken this 6-HOUR (that's right) coaching class, as well as CPR/First Aid, but I am SO SO SO lazy, I haven't done so yet. Plus, did I mention that bloody coaching class takes 6-hours??? And, did I also mention that the swim team and I have a mutual understanding about the whole CPR/First Aid thing, being as I said to them "none of you better drown or even fake like you are going to drown, because I won't be able to save you. I have to go to work right after this, and it would be really awkward if I showed up wet. So, if you think you might die, grab onto to another swimmer, or hold the lane line because I am not going to jump in and save you." (And, yes, I did say this... aloud to the kids, I've always been one for full-disclosure... which again is something that puts me on their level). Any whoooooo... Although, I am not technically a teacher, by state law, I have to forfeit 6.5% of my paycheck to the Teacher's Union and so I figure it's best if I just stay away from slandering any of these kids by using their names.

But, before I start with the poolside conversations, can I just say that the Speedo company has a very large double standard when it comes to bathing suit coverage. Girls speedos are almost Amish in the amount of skin they cover (which is good, because if you didn't already know - which I am sure all of you did, you will soon find out that teenage boys are total horn dogs. Yikes). But, the boys Speedos, why oh why do they have to be so tiny?!? Even the kids with NO body fat can't keep their business all covered. I would estimate at least 75% of the boys have their bum cracks exposed while swimming. Ugh. If I had more time, I would write Speedo a strongly worded letter of complaint. But, I don't. So... Anyway, moving on to the poolside conversations.

Some Junior/Senior Boy (to the Male Coach): Who is that girl? New meat? She looks hot. This is going to be fun.
Male Coach: That's your coach you idiot. She's been here every morning for a few weeks now.
Some Junior/Senior Boy (to the Male Coach): Oh oops, don't tell her I said that.
After which the male coach marches over to tell me the story. I look at the kid and he winks at me. Ha ha ha.

Me: Um hey, why don't you try swimming like a normal kid (to this kid that keeps going all Tasmanian Devil and crazy getting in everyone's face while they are trying to swim).
Freshman Boy: Coach, you know what, I am going to do what you say. And, you know why?
Me: Because I am your coach.
Freshman Boy: Because you're my AWESOME coach. And, I like you. Plus, I REALLY don't want you to get mad at me.
And, so the kid swims normal... for about 3 minutes, before he forgets what he's supposed to be doing, or maybe decides that I am not so awesome... who knows.

Same Freshman Boy: Coach, sometimes I feel like you don't REALLY love me.
Me: Really?
Same Freshman Boy: Na, I am just kidding. I know you love me.
Me: Ummmm, ok. Just keep swimming.

Me: Why are you following me around? (We were at a swim meet and this kid was glued to my side for a long long time).
Same Freshman Boy: Um, I don't know.
Me: Well, can you go over there with all the other kids? I really don't think you are supposed to hang out with me.
Same Freshman boy: Why?
Me: It's creepy. You have got to start hanging with the kids that are your own age.

Freshman Girl: Coach do you have a boyfriend?
Me: Sometimes.
Freshman Girl: Do you have a boyfriend NOW?
Me: No.
Freshman Girl: Well, then I think you should go on Have you seen the commercials? You could totally find a boyfriend.

Different Freshman Boy: Coach, I think I could swim so much better if you'd give me a good luck hug.
Me: Um... I don't think I am supposed to hug you!?!
Different Freshman Boy: You can, it's ok.
Me: Ummmmmm...

Sophomore Boy: Coach, you look kind of hot.
Me: Thanks, you're like 12, but, still thanks.
Sophomore Boy: Coach, I am 15.
Me: Exactly, that's what I meant. It's all the same thing.
Sophomore Boy: No way.
Me: Yes way. Trust me.

Random Kid in the Parking Lot: Do you go to school here?
Me: No, I am old. (And, I am totally laughing. I get flattered when people card me at clubs these days... like I am such a clubber and all, but anyway....)
Random Kid in the Parking Lot: You are like a M.I.L.F.
Me: That is inappropriate. Plus, I don't have any kids.
Random Kid in the Parking Lot: Well, you would be, if you did.
Me: STILL, INAPPROPRIATE. Now go to class.

Freshman Girls: Coach, why aren't you here in the afternoons?
Me: Because, I have a real job.
Freshman Girls: This isn't your real job?
Me: Nope. This job pays about as much as babysitting.
Freshman Girls: Well, then it's a good thing you got yourself a real job!

Different Sophomore Boy: Coach, can I have your number.
Me: What for?
Different Sophomore Boy: In case I need to call you.
Me: Why would you need to call me?
Different Sophomore Boy: I don't know. I just might.
Me: Ummm....

YIKES! I will have you all know, that Jackie has given me a new nickname. Sometimes when I get to work she says something to this effect 'How was swimming this morning, Mary Kay?'

Sunday, April 3, 2011

No Thank you.

There are so many things I keep trying to love. So many people (and society in general) make me believe that I am supposed to like the following, But.I.Just.Can't: 1. Lipstick. Sure, it looks lovely. But, I hate it. I hate wearing it. I hate the feel of it. I hate having colored lips. I just hate it. But, I have about 15 tubes of it. Because, every once in a while I try to convince myself that if I get just the right shade, I just might... Nope, still hate it. HATE. 2. Jewelry. Again, I love the look of it. And, sometimes I can wear a watch and sometimes I can wear a necklace, but hardly ever at the same time. Earrings stay on for like 4 minutes tops. And, bracelets stay on until I get to work and have to take them off because I can't type with antything swinging from my wrist. But, I have an entire dresser full of jewelry. 3. Plugs. I am not talking about the kind that bald guys get (though, I am not sure I am a big fan of those either, since I loved shaved heads, but...), I mean those RIDICULOUSLY big holes that teenagers (mostly) put in their ears. RIDICULOUS. Seriously. I read an article recently about a musician that got totally tatted up at a young young age so that his only career path would be music. But, I just can't believe that there are that many spots open for musicians that make much money. Not a good idea. 4. Cheese. Woof. Gross. I know, it's weird. I was called anti-American the other day. To which I refuted that I was a bi-centenial baby born in Washington D.C. Both are true. I am American alright. So, take that. 5. Smart Cars. Oh.My.Gosh. I still can not believe that those cars are not jokes. They are also very very ridicuolous. 6. Male Speedos. I am a swimmer (or at least I was). But, come on! The male Speedo seldomly covers the butt crack of any male. Plus, they are just so small and tight, and... the water is usually so cold... and... ugh... it's one of the hardest parts about coaching. So.much.crack. Ugh. In my ever so humble opinion, the world would be a better place without these things. I sure wish people listened to me. Anyone, really. But, if the last 2 weeks of my life have taught me anything, it's that no one does.