Tribal Masks

This time last year, the only people who wore masks were surgeons, bank robbers, people who wanted to add some forbidden fruit to their adult activities and the Lone Ranger.  How times have changed!  These days, we all have one.  (Of course, there are people who don’t, but I’m not going to antagonize those folks: they’re oddly aggressive about it.)  Personally, I think there’s a major upside to everybody wearing a mask.  Yeah, yeah, yeah!  There’s that whole health thing, but in these tribal times (we all seem to belong to an identifiable group!) it’s a cool shorthand to recognize who you’re dealing with.  Here are just a few examples.

Not The Nose – These are the people who genuinely want to follow the protocols but haven’t quite figured out that the nostrils are connected to the lungs.

Neck-warmers – Apparently, some people believe that the mere presence of a mask anywhere in the vicinity of the face will stop the virus – sort of like a string of garlic wards off vampires.

The Paper Pusher – These are the folks who bought a package of 10 paper masks at the drugstore back in April, and even though it’s a little dirty and the elastic’s kinda worn out, are still using the first one.

I Have A Message – Sometimes these masks feature innocent stuff like sports logos or brand names, but there are also a bunch of other itty-bitty walking billboards out there with an in-your-face/on-your-face political or social agenda.  Okay, folks!  I’ll tell you what: right now, I’m trying to navigate my way through this godawful pandemic, but the minute I do, I promise I’ll “Make America Great Again,” “Save The Whales,” “Defund The Police,” “Stop Climate Change” and “Free Ed Snowden.”  I will!  Really!

The Virtue Signaller – These are the people whose mask was woven by Syrian refugees using a traditional Bedouin loom.  It’s made of sustainable wool from a free-range desert flock and features an ancient geometric folk pattern.  The problem is despite its morally superior lineage, it looks just like every other mask.  This forces the wearer to annoy everybody with a detailed explanation of the who, what, where and why of the damn thing.  (Thank God for social distancing!)

The D.I.Y. Guy – This fellow made his own mask in his workshop out of a reclaimed wooden pallet.  It took him three weeks — evenings and weekends — and didn’t cost a cent if you discount the 22 thousand dollar investment in power tools.  It has a beautiful, high-gloss butterfly burl wood finish, weighs 2 kilos (5 pounds) is utterly useless and looks like Bane (from Batman) has a younger brother. 

The D.I.Y. Girls – The younger ones made their own masks out of spare pieces of fabric they had left over from their on-line multi-media art workshop.  They’re put together with bits of twine from an old macramé hanging basket and there are other individually handcrafted ones (including child sizes) available on Etsy.   The older ones made theirs out of a used milk jug and the plastic rings from a soda pop six-pack.  They were cut out with an Exacto knife, hot-glued together and decorated with spray-painted macaroni.  There’s a How-to video available on YouTube — if you’re so inclined.

I’m a Patriot – These are the flag guys — and they’re mostly guys — mostly American and mostly a pain in the ass.

I’m Rich – These are the people who wear the Burberry tartan, the Louis Vuitton fabric or a discreet YSL logo on their cheek.  Nothing says “I’ve got more money than you” than paying $150.00 for a 5-by-10 piece of cloth and an elastic band — when you can get the same thing on Amazon for 12 bucks.

I’m Really A Funny Person – These masks are the facial equivalent of the Dad joke.  They have such hilarious features as buck teeth, a handlebar moustache, fangs, cigars and wandering tongues.  Like the toilet paper jokes, these things were slightly cute last summer, but here in the winter of our discontent, they’re just annoying.

And finally:

I’m a Badass – These are the guys who found an old bandana in their underwear drawer and thought (despite tons of evidence to the contrary) they should show the world just how kick-ass cool they still are by wearing it instead of a mask.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing quite as sad as seeing an aging Easy Rider climbing into a minivan at the Mall.

Pure Sex – These are those hyper-female women who’ve decided masks are actually lingerie.  Hey, ladies!  Unlike man-catcher underwear, lace is not that effective in this situation.

Neighbour Shaming!

neighbour

Today, I’m speaking out about neighbour shaming.  For too many years, thousands (if not millions) of people have quietly lived with the pain and humiliation of living on a street with a neighbour shamer.  It’s time to break the silence.

The main problem is our world has not yet woke to the social devastation caused by neighbour shaming.  Neighbour shaming behaviour is still acceptable and, in fact, even actively encouraged by many public organizations and the media.  So it’s no wonder many neighbour shamers don’t even realize that what they’re doing is inappropriate, and most victims are unaware that they’re being victimized.  They still believe that there’s actually something wrong with them.

So what is neighbour shaming?  And how do we end this unacceptable behaviour?

It’s quite easy to spot a neighbour shamer.  They’re the people whose houses have neatly manicured lawns, perfectly edged sidewalks, trimmed hedges, window boxes and nicely painted fences.  They’re the folks who spend their evenings and weekends planting, weeding, raking, pruning, sweeping and generally working their asses off to create a beautiful home and garden.  The problem is these alt-horticulturists have created a toxic urban environment by setting an unrealistic and unattainable standard for the rest of us.  Through their selfish, thoughtless actions, they make everyone else in the neighbourhood look like a bunch of lazy hillbillies.  But, we’re they’re not hillbillies.  They’re just ordinary people who are struggling – struggling with weeds, aphids and rose blight.  And they could be facing their own challenges — perhaps they grew up in an apartment or an orphanage, perhaps they were abused by florists, or maybe they suffer from gnomophobia (a fear of garden gnomes.)  At first glance at an unattractive garden, it’s easy to be judgemental, but not everyone understands soil composition, mulch, or the dos and don’ts of fertilizing.  Plus, many victims have serious time, space and financial disadvantages.  It’s time we were honest and recognized that “having a green thumb” is, in reality, “green privilege.”

The Home and Garden Industry is a multi-billion dollar business whose profits depend on neighbour shaming, but you can fight back.  Here are just a few things you can do to raise awareness in your community.

1 — Go to the neighbour shamer on your street and tell them how their perfectly symmetrical flower beds make you feel.  Explain to them that the sound of their hedge clippers is causing you emotional harm.  Open a dialogue.  You might be surprised.  Many neighbour shamers feel the same social pressures you do; sometimes, even more.

2 — Organize a neighbourhood garden party to show that you don’t need an immaculate lawn to enjoy life, and people can still party and have fun, surrounded by brambles, weeds and dog shit.

3 — Contact home and garden magazines or websites and tell them just how offensive their “before and after” pictures really are, and then suggest they would be more inclusive if they provided equal coverage of derelict houses and waste ground.  Write or email television networks and demand they broadcast trigger warnings to caution viewers that gardening programs can cause stress or harm self-esteem.

4 — You can also start a support group to let people know they’re not alone or even turn your own garden into an empty, concrete “safe space.”

And finally, but most importantly:

5 – Always remember it’s not your fault your garden kinda sucks, and even though that workaholic, perfect-sized, handy-husbanded, helpful-childrened, cupcake-making, bikini-wearing bitch down the street can grow gorgeous rhododendrons in her sleep — you’re still a good person.

Are You Happy?

happy

One of the things I love about Americans is that, when they set up their government, they took the trouble to guarantee the right to life, liberty and (this is the best bit!) the pursuit of happiness.  They didn’t go nuts and say Americans have the unalienable right to BE happy; all they said was they have the legal right to try.  Not everybody does that.  For example, in my country, the government doesn’t give a damn if I’m happy or not.  They’re far more concerned that I keep my mouth shut when I’m pissed off.  Anyway, happiness is a relatively recent invention.  Before those good old boys from Virginia came along, survival was the biggie.  Singing in the sunshine and laughing every day took second place to making it through the winter, the war, the plague, the drought, the fire, the flood, the famine or any of the other 1,001 calamities that used to regularly wander by.  However, now that happiness is on the menu, everybody wants a slice, and nobody’s sure if their piece is quite big enough.  Here’s a quick and dirty guide to find out whether you are happy or not.

Do you own a rocking chair?  It’s scientifically proven that rocking chairs release enough endorphins to fill a room.  Add a sleeping baby or a cat on your lap and you’ll practically drown in the stuff.

Do you have a pet?  Dogs are better than cats: cats are better than fish: a platypus is the best, but even a well-loved houseplant will change you from a miserable self-centred bastard into a caring, sharing person of quality.  Thinking about something other than yourself will always make you a happy person.

Do you live west of the Vistula River?  For some reason, Europeans are happier than the rest of the world.  I don’t know why.  It must be the wine.

Do you have lunch money?  Money will not make you happy, but if you don’t have any — uh — you’re kinda screwed.  And constantly getting screwed will definitely make you grouchy.

Do you get earworms?  Ohrwurm in German.  (Those people have a word for everything.) These are those stupid songs that get stuck in your head and won’t go away.  Yeah, they’re annoying, but washing the dishes to “Barbie Girl” by Aqua isn’t all that bad.  My personal favourite is “All About The Bass.”  And, quite frankly, it’s impossible to be depressed if your brain is playing “Call Me, Maybe?”  (Are any of these in your head yet?)

Do you procrastinate?  The truth is procrastinators are cockeyed optimists.  They actually think that sometime in the future, they’re going to get their act together and clean out the closet or vacuum behind the refrigerator.  They probably won’t — but believing in a better future is one of the key components of happiness.  Therefore, procrastinators, by definition, are happy people.

Do you laugh at stuff that’s not supposed to be funny?  This is the stuff that catches you off guard and you giggle — even though you know you really shouldn’t.  Stuff that’s inappropriate.  Stuff that buttoned-down people might even find offensive.  Stuff that you really can’t repeat to anyone except your most trusted, trusted friend.  Here’s the deal: being silly in the face of all the pompous ass seriousness in our oversensitive world is a sure sign that you’re happy.

But I’ve saved the best for last:

Are you in love?  If you’re in love, you’re happy — full stop.  Unlike “relationships” that you have to “work at” so hard they eventually just turn into a total pain in the ass, love is the real meal deal.  If you look across the breakfast table and can’t think of any other place you’d rather be, then you’re in love.  And folks, if you do that often enough, you’re not pursuing happiness anymore: you’ve caught it.