Madonna, the Super Bowl, and American Patriotism


I saw this tweet today, and it got me thinking about national pride and patriotism.

I was about to reply that I liked the halftime show, but then I stopped myself. That wasn't the part of the tweet to which I really wanted to respond.

I do hope that the rest of the world judges America by that halftime show. Think about all of the elements that were in it. A powerful, self-made woman has forged a decades-long career as an artist who has constantly pushed the boundaries of tolerance and censorship. She bared her body and danced in a way that is forbidden in many parts of the world, and even punishable by death. She shared the stage with women and men of different races and, presumably, different sexual orientations and religions. Think about how much our own country has changed. Can you imagine Madonna performing the Super Bowl halftime show thirty, twenty, or even ten years ago? I can't. She wasn't ready for it then, and it wasn't ready for her. The rest of the world watches what the United States does. Others take their cues from us, for better or for worse. For the most part, though, things are better here than elsewhere, and things are better now than they have been in the past.

It is election season and, even though we are only in the primaries, partisan politics are ugly already. Each side considers itself to be the true patriots, the true Americans, but both are wrong. Patriotism is a "devoted love, support, and defense of one's country," not one's political party. There are flaws in our system. Our country has its troubles but, if you are true patriot, you love it, you support it, and you defend it. That doesn't mean you have to accept the status quo, but you do need to acknowledge the things that are great about America. Our country was founded on the principles of individualism and equality. That is what has afforded you the right to express your opinion about a middle-aged white lady and fat black man singing on a stage halfway through an inexplicably popular sporting event. And I support that.

A New Approach to Driving School

This fake press release was originally published at Clark Schpiell Productions, March 2006.


No More Stupid Drivers in Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA - March 8, 2006 - Hate stupid drivers? Don't let your kid become one. Irate driver, Michelle Magoffin, opened a new driving school in Los Angeles called No More Stupid Drivers to teach drivers all the things they don't learn in traditional driver education. She will focus on such concepts as:

    Slower Traffic Keep Right
    Step on the Gas
    Nice Turn Signal, Jackass
    Pay Attention
    Move the Fuck Over
    Don't Park Your SUV in a Compact Spot

The mission of No More Stupid Drivers is two-fold. Magoffin hopes to reach kids before they start driving so that they hit the roads from day one as safe, competent drivers who aren't likely to piss her off should she encounter them on her 100-mile round-trip commute. In addition, Magoffin would like to reach out to experienced drivers and, instead of punching them in the teeth as she has imagined doing on so many occasions, re-educate them about proper roadway behavior. She believes so strongly in her mission, that Magoffin is offering free lessons to anyone she has flipped off or honked at in the past year.

No More Stupid Drivers hopes to expand to the Valley, Malibu, and that one stretch of the 405, by mid-summer. Look for the following advanced classes at the Malibu location: Maintaining a Constant Speed, Making Lane Changes That Don't Take All Fucking Day, and a two-day intensive version of Slower Traffic Keep Right: I'm Talking to You, Asshole.

No More Stupid Drivers is open during non-peak driving hours because, seriously, Michelle Magoffin would not subject you to morons just learning how to drive. For an appointment, call 1-800-STUPID1.

Press Contact:
Michelle Magoffin
No More Stupid Drivers

How to Fire Your Realtor

Anonymous has a question:

So, here's the deal. Jenny is a friend of mine but not a close friend. She's the cousin of a good friend, however. She lives downtown, so about an hour away and she's pregnant with her first kid, due in March. She didn't do anything for me when the house was on the market with her this summer. No open houses, no nothing other than a website. I haven't even been able to get my key back from her, due to varoius fuckups, and it's been off the market since August, I think.
I may be moving out state soon, so I need to sell this fucking house ASAP, and I don't feel she'll be that aggressive. Due to the personal relationships, I don't really feel comfortable saying that to her. I want to make it seem like it will be too much effort based on the distance and the kid but I don't know how to say that.
Any thoughts?

Clearly, you need a new Realtor, one who will actually work for you to sell your house. It seems like the point you are struggling with is how to tell your current Realtor that she is fired, since you have a personal connection to her. You are right on track with focusing on how much effort it will require of her to be aggressive with marketing your property.

I recommend an email along these lines:


Thank you so much for the work you did trying to sell my house this summer. My situation has recently changed and I to need to put my house back on the market soon, and be very aggressive about getting it sold. I know what an effort it is for you to make it all the way out here, especially as you enter your third trimester, so I am going to relist my house with Realtor nearby.

Thanks again, and good luck with the baby! I can't wait to see pics.

-Home Owner

P.S. Please mail my house key back to me at [address].

I almost always recommend a direct approach while trying not ruffle any feathers.

How do I fire a client?

My esthetician has a question:

How do I fire a client?

Those were the first words out of my esthetician's mouth this morning when she walked in for my eyebrow waxing appointment. I was honored that she valued my opinion so much because it's not like I have first-hand experience in the matter. My esthetician wants to fire one client because the client is rude. The client's behavior has been escalating for awhile. The client has been rude to the esthetician several times and, most recently, was rude to a stylist to whom the esthetician referred the client. That was the last straw.

The adult thing to do would be to talk to the client face-to-face. At her next appointment, after the client pays, the esthetician should take the client outside for a private conversation. (The front desk area is very busy and the esthetician's room is too intimate.) The esthetician should say something like this:

"I want to thank you for your past business, but I don't think that we're a good match anymore. Here is the name and number of another esthetician who can help you in the future."

If the client asks why, the esthetician should be honest and say something like this:

"You have been rude to me on several occasions and you were rude to my friend so-and-so when you were here last week. Thank you, again, for your past business. I hope that this new esthetician works out for you. Good-bye."

The main thing in a situation like this is for the esthetician to remain calm and detached and not to let the client drag her into an argument about what she has or hasn't done in the past. It is within the right of the esthetician to choose her clientele and her decision is not negotiable.

The esthetician was understandably leery of having this conversation face-to-face with a rude person who she thinks will react negatively. She asked if it would be ok to send a letter. I said yes, but that face-to-face would be best. If she does choose to send a letter, I advised that the contents should be the same as the conversation I outlined.

What do you think? Would you handle the situation differently if you were in the esthetician's place?

How to Confront Your Neighbhor About His Dog

Kate the Peon has an issue:

I need to confront my newish neighbor about something and I am a chickenshit. I’ve only met him once and don’t remember his name.

I have seen a dog cage in his garage (where he never parks his car) and believe he is cooping his dog locked in the cage, in the hot garage, at night when Neighbor is gone. My problem is that his garage is directly next to and below my bedroom, and I hear the dog whining and barking for hours at a time – at my bedtime, I might add.

I have witnessed Neighbor doing things (repeatedly parking on the street in front of the “no parking on the street” sign; letting his dog into our open backyard to poop, and not cleaning up after him) that leave the impression he doesn’t so much care about others or want to do what’s right. I don’t want to judge him, but he looks like a wannabe hardass. My heels and I are intimidated.

I think it’s only fair to talk to him personally and give him a chance to fix this himself, but I am worried about what may happen afterwards if he doesn’t. How would you suggest I go about resolving this?


Don't talk to your neighbor. He knows it isn't right to leave his dog shit in the yard, so asking him to please pick it up isn't going to do you any good. I would file a complaint with the HOA about the poop and about the noise.

Regarding the cage, if the conditions are inhumane, then what he is doing is illegal. I would call animal control or the local police department and ask them about which agency handles this type of report. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that putting a dog in a cage is not inhumane by itself. Our dog was crate-trained and was perfectly happy in her crate for hours at a time. So, as I said, if the conditions around crating the dog seem inhumane, then I would definitely report it to the authorities.

I give Leah Peterson odd advice.

You might know Leah Peterson as leahpeah from leahpeah and leahpeah. I have, on two occasions, given her strange advice about her body. It's not like I run around giving people advice about their bodies whenever I can. In fact, I don't think I recall ever giving anyone else advice about their bodies, yet I have done this to Leah twice. Two times.

On the first occasion, Leah had posted on her blog that one of the negative side effects of a new medication she was taking was bruxism. She asked for advice about how to deal with this. I clench my teeth when stressed, so I had experience. Of course, she could get a mouthguard for sleeping, but a person can't wear that all day long. I told her what I do when I find myself clenching my teeth. I flatten out my tongue and place it between all of my upper and lower teeth. (I'm doing it now.) With my tongue there, I can't clench my teeth hard enough to give myself a headache. I can even do this in my sleep now. She emailed me later to say that it was helping.

On the second occasion, Leah and I were chatting about her upcoming mega road trip while our husbands loaded her old couch into my van. Leah was telling me about her elaborate pillow system and how it was going to cause some trouble on the road trip because lugging seven (nine?) pillows in and out of the van every night wasn't feasible. I told her about the system I used when I was pregnant, which involved two body pillows. Now, I forget exactly how the conversation veered in this direction, but I soon found myself suggesting to Leah that, when sleeping on her side, she cram her nightgown between her breasts to keep them from sweating. It works, as I know from personal experience. Last night, as I was cramming my nightgown between my breasts in preparation for sleep, I recalled this conversation with Leah, and that is how this post came to be. She never emailed me to say this piece of advice was helpful.

Do you have a weird body problem that needs solving? Apparently, I have weird advice for you.

Call for Opinions: What is your minimum definition of cheating?

I received a comment on a five-year-old post about cheating at The Peevery. What is your minimum definition of cheating? Where is the line between cheating and inappropriate behavior?

This is what I think, but I want to know what you think.

I am now forced to broaden my definition of cheating... If you are in an exclusive relationship and you have a conversation or an encounter with someone else, if you cannot recount that conversation word for word to your partner or you cannot describe that encounter to your partner in detail without discomfort, then you have behaved inappropriately. It's like foreplay to cheating and it is going to earn you a punch in the mouth if your partner is me.

Read the whole post: Exploratory Poonani

Call for Opinions: Do you think really deep thoughts?

I don't consider myself to be a deep person who thinks deep thoughts and contemplates all sorts of deep issues. For the most part, I think I am shallow. I like pretty things and shopping and making my house nice and dressing my kids in cute outfits and having shiny hair and writing funny blog posts and tweets and status updates.

I am interested in a variety of topics. I like to learn about things but only enough to form a general opinion about them and then I like to move on to something new. I like to know about a lot of things but I don't like to know a lot about things.

I don't have a burning ambition to find myself or discover myself or explore hidden areas of my psyche. I don't think I have any hidden areas. I feel like I know myself very well. I am conscious of my flaws and prejudices. If I do have a hidden area, it is where I hide the reasons why I stay fat. If you can help me find that one, you will be my hero.

What about you? Deep, shallow, wading in up to your chest?

I Curse You and Your Baby

I wonder why it is the first instinct of so many people to wish ill upon an expectant mother. When I was pregnant with my toddler, it was the honeymoon period of motherhood. Everyone was so excited for me. They were excited to find out the gender of the baby. They were excited to find out what we were going to name her. They were excited to know how I was feeling every minute until I gave birth. Then, they were excited to see her for the first time.

Once we realized we had a pretty easy baby with no health issues and not a lot of drama about sleeping or eating, the honeymoon was over. As people found out she was an easy baby, we would hear things like, "You're lucky," implying that we had absolutely nothing to do with her behavior. We acknowledge that we are lucky, but we do not feel that luck has everything to do it. We were pretty chill as parents and we believe that helped our baby relax as well.

When I was pregnant with my newborn, you would not believe the amount of ill-wishing I received. As soon as people found out I was pregnant with my second child, they asked how my first child was as a baby. When they found out she was an easy baby, they said, "Oh, this one will be a nightmare." That lovely sentiment was usually accompanied by an unkind bit of laughter. I heard variations on this from so many people that I started to get angry about it. It is such a rude thing to say to a pregnant woman.

There was one exception. A co-worker of mine, when he found out my first child was an easy baby, said that my second would probably be easy, too. He has two kids who were both easy babies. I clung to that thought through the rest of my pregnancy.

When my newborn slept through the night at three and half weeks old, and kept on sleeping through the night, a resounding, "Suck it!" could be heard through all the land. She is even easier than the first one. Yes, I am lucky again, but I am also more relaxed as a parent this time, so I am still going to take some of the credit.

You would think that would be the end of the ill-wishing, but you would be wrong. When people find out that I have had two easy babies and we are not having anymore, they say, "Wait until they're teenagers." Why doesn't anyone say, "That's great!" or, "How wonderful!" No one can be happy for me or say something nice.

The next time someone says something like, "Wait until they're teenagers," I am going to ask why she would say something like to me and why she would expect that we will be unable to raise well-behaved children.

(Please note that I was able to write this entire post uninterrupted in my silent house because my baby is sleeping peacefully in her moses basket.)