Habits and Privilege — A Public Apology

userpic=charactureRight now, I’m in the doghouse for interrupting my wife. Out of a speaking habit I acquired growing up*, I started talking over my wife while we were having a discussion over something I saw on Facebook. She took it as yet another example of my disrespecting her opinion (as she had asked me not to do it in the past), and although I’ve apologized, she is still upset with me. From my site, there was no disrespect intended, but that doesn’t mean that cannot see how the behavior was interpreted and how it hurt her.

Thinking about the incident this morning, I realized that it is a lot like our problems with hidden privilege in this world. People do things out of habit — out of custom — without thinking. But can be reacting to feminine hygene items left on a counter , to assuming a particular economic advantage, to making assumptions based on gender or color, to interrupting and devaluing comments, to … . Often the person in the habit does not consciously intend to disrespect or take advantage of privilege or power, but that doesn’t prevent it any less from harming the other party. Habit does not make something right, does not excuse a behavior. Habit is often something that needs to be broken, but perhaps is the hardest thing to break.

I intend to break my habit of interrupting, for I do not intend or mean to disrespect my wife. It will be hard, and I need those who interact with me to chide or remind me when I fall back into that habit. A way of behavior acquired over many years does not mean it is proper.

Similarly, we should all think whether we have habits that disrespect other people and potentially take advantage of privilege. Do we automatically assume everyone was raised with the same advantages we had? Do we have behaviors that are, in the words of Avenue Q, just a little bit racist? Do we tell ethnic jokes or imply ethnic stereotypes without thinking?

I am going to make a conscious effort to break my habit. Are you going to join me (and help me), in my fight — either at a personal level, or even in larger society?

[*: A long time ago, a friend commented on the correspondence between speaking styles and network protocols. He noted that everyone’s household grows up with a particular protocol: jump in anytime, wait for any pause, wait for a significant pause. When you get into a discussion with someone from a different protocol, the behavior can be seen as interrupting, to disrespectful, to dominating. There’s not a conscious intent to create that feeling, mind you, but it comes across just the same.]


The Secret to Happiness Is…

userpic=mood-swingsA late lunch post: It is rare that I get a threesome-themed news chum early in the week like this, but I just lucked out:

  • The Value of Face to Face. A recent study has shown that if you’re feeling depressed, hanging out with friends or loved ones face-to-face is better for your emotional health than a phone call or sending an email. Specifically, people who get together regularly with family and friends are about half as likely to report symptoms of depression as those who have little face-to-face contact. In the study, volunteers who met with family and friends at least three times a week had the lowest risk of developing symptoms of depression, 6.5 percent, compared to an 11.3 percent risk among those who got together once every few months or less when surveyed at the two-year mark. In contrast, the frequency of phone calls and emails had no clear impact on the risk of depression.
  • The Importance of Encouragement. Another study has shown that praise from friends and family not only makes us feel good, it actually improves our problem-solving skills. According to the researchers, the study illustrates the positive impact of “best-self activation” on problem-solving abilities: When people are reminded of a time in the past when they were at their best, they’re more likely to rise to the occasion once again. And while thinking back on proud moments can be helpful, the researchers found that best-self activations were most effective when they came from participants’ social networks. Positive memories from friends, family, and colleagues have a real impact on our ability to successfully perform tasks under pressure.
  • Cheap, Large Weddings Bode Well. Here’s one more interesting research finding: according to a new study, spending between $2,000 and $4,000 on an engagement ring is significantly associated with an increase in the risk of divorce. On the other hand, to minimize your chances of divorce: You should date for three years before popping the question. Be wealthy, but don’t be a gold-digger. Have a huge wedding, but make sure it’s cheap. And whatever you do, don’t skip the honeymoon. Here’s a great article from the Atlantic that visualizes the results of the study.

[Edited to fix the first sentence: The original (“it is rare that I get a threesome early in the week like this, but I just lucked out”), on first blush and a second reading, made me second blush.]


Tying the Knot: Marriage Related News Chum

A number of news articles I’ve run across in today’s lunchtime reading are related to marriage… of all types.

The first explores the practical question of why one should get married. When one focuses on the practical, it is clear the reason is not to publically express a commitment to your spouse or to please your diety, but because if you are not married, you can’t get divorced. While that may sound like a trivial statement, there’s a problem when long-time cohabitating couples break up: there are no legal rules protecting the side when the relationship goes bad. This can be a significant problem when there are disputes. The article recommends written agreements for the “just in case”.

Of course, even if you do get married, there is a problem with recognition. This occurs when one state’s rules for marriage differ from another’s. In the last century, this was (alas) seen when one state permitted mixed-race marriage and another didn’t. Now, it is creating legal problems when one state recognizes same-sex unions, and another doesn’t. An example can be seen in Indiana, where a same-sex couple married in Illinois is now suing over the death of the partner in Indiana, which doesn’t recognize the union.

One obsticle to getting married is money, especially in these economic times. One church in Long Beach CA decided to address that issue: they offered a free group wedding ceremony and reception for any unmarried couples in their congregation. Evidently this was successful and they are thinking about doing it again. No word about how the offer would be affected if the ability to have same-sex marriages is restored in California.

Lastly, one of the most popular songs at a wedding is “Sunrise, Sunset”, written for the wedding scene in Fiddler on the Roof by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock. The problem is that the lyrics are very gendered. One reverand in New York thought to contact Sheldon Harnick about this. The result: Sheldon Harnick has released alternate lyrics of the song for same-sex unions. All together now… “Is this the little boy I carried? / Is this the little boy at play? / … “


Generational Changes and Relationships

Today’s first installment of lunchtime news chum all has to do with relationships:

  • From the “Buying vs. Renting” Department: USA Today has an interesting article on a generational change: people are waiting longer and longer to get married. This is not to say they aren’t in long term committed relationships or not having children. They just aren’t having the ceremony and the legal change of status. I think this is the long term result of what started in the 1970s when the stigma of “living together” disappeared.
  • From the “Buying vs. Renting, Take II” Department: Here’s another generational shift, this time in China. The LA Times is reporting that women in China now only want to marry husbands that already own a house. This is a generational change: Less that 50 years ago, women came with dowries from their family and men went for the best dowry. Now the women are picky, and the emphasis is more on the financial wherewithall of the husband.
  • From the “If You Can’t Beat It” Department: Yet another generational shift. In olden days, violence in intimate relationships tended to be physical. Nowadays? According to the LA Times, cyberstaking and cyberbullying are on the rise as a new form of partner violence. Further, as we all know from our social networking, flareups happen fast and furious, often over things that wouldn’t be a problem face-to-face.

Chum O’The Day: Dressing for Success, Couples Survey, Smell-O-Rama, Facebook Domain Squatting

Some observations from today’s lunchtime reading of the papers:

  • From the “Oh, It’s In” Department: The NY Times has an interesting article about how the fashion markets are increasingly addressing larger young women’s fashion needs, including new large-size lines at Topshop, Target, Forever 21, and other retailers. The article notes, however, that there is a backlash against fashionable and good-looking large-size clothes from those who think that America is too fat. Evidently, by only supplying larger women with ugly clothes, they will see the light and lose weight. Right. In other fashion news, the LA Times has an article about how to dress, and how not to dress, for a job interview. It seems that dressing for interviews is a skill that somehow never seems to be taught. This is clearly evident in Brooksville FL, where they’ve had to issue rules to employees to wear deodorant and underwear.
  • From the “They’re Just Like Us” Department: The SJ Mercury News (registration probably required) has an interesting article on a census study of gay couples vs. hetero. couples. Guess what? They are almost identical. These couples are about 50 years old on average, and about four in 10 have kids living at home. The average couple pulls down a little over $90,000 a year and four in five own their home.
  • From the “That Smells Delicious” Department: The NY Times has an interesting article on a new approach to dieting: aromatherapy pens that signal the satiety center of the brain. Of course, you could always just take Zicam and remove your sense of smell. But that has other risks.
  • From the “What’s in a Name?” Department: C’mon. You knew it would happen. People have started squatting on Facebook names. Part of the problem is that companies can only grab names for their fan pages when they have 1,000 fans… and can only grab one name for the page. This seems to happen with any service that gives unique names. Look at how many people grabbed accounts at Dreamwidth when it went full beta, just to grab their names. Will we never learn from history? This is one reason why both the Internet and Usenet has multi-level name spaces, not a single flat one.

Who Do You Choose?

A late Friday afternoon tidbit: According to the Santa Clarita Signal (reporting the results of a recent survey by an independent research firm), when it comes to choosing between a computer and their spouse, 65% of Americans spend more time with the computer rather than with their spouse.

When asked for reaction, Shannon Morgan, a professor in Human Factors Psychology at CSUN, said “Only 65 percent? Given that more of us work with our computers and not our spouses, I’m surprised it’s not higher.” Jim Schuette, manager at the PC Club in Santa Clarita, said when couples come in together to buy computers, they typically only purchase one.

As for me? I think I’ve gotten much better than I used to be. Of course, GFG does enjoy relaxing playing games on the computer, so often we sit as a family in the computer room, working on our respective tasks on our respective computers, in a 21st century tableau of family togetherness :-).


Looking for a Date? Have I got the person for you.

According to the New York Times, there’s a new matchmaker in town. No, it’s not okcupid or jdate or eharmony; it’s not Yahoo! or a personal ad. It’s mom and dad.

That’s right, mom and dad.

Evidently, in this modern era of blogs and online communications, parents are helping there kids find suitable dates, if not mates. Quoth the article, “If you’re going to give J Date a shot, why not give your mother a shot?”

Some other choice quotes:

  • There is a very high appreciation of parents nowadays, which is unusual.
  • But some say a parent’s suggestion to spend Saturday night with the upstanding son of a business acquaintance is not the same as meddling in college admissions or helping complete a term paper to beef up a grade. […] it is not much different from a parent’s suggesting a child call a family friend who runs a company that needs some business administration graduates.
  • For many parents, setting up a date for an adult child is not all that different from arranging toddler play dates, only there are beers and bar stools where there were once sandboxes and seesaws.

Its actually an interesting article, talking about how changes in the world have led to this. Still… I would never have let my parents set me up. We had totally different tastes in women. I think my mom wanted me to marry a fashion-plate bitchTM, while my tastes ran to something more cuddly and smart.

So, if you’re single, would you let your parents set you up with a date? If not… I might have a friend for you… in loco parentis