Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Three Big Questions That Are None of Your Business to Ask

A few years ago, my friend marked her 32nd birthday by crying all the way through it. Not because she was worried about aging, or because she didn't feel like she'd accomplished enough or even because she was having an Eat Pray Love moment. It's because she spent most of the day responding to texts or calls that sounded like this, "Happy Birthday girl! So... did he propose??!" It probably didn't help that leading up to her birthday, various family members and friends had asked her if she was expecting a ring.

That year, she shared with me that "I'm happy the way things are. We're still getting to know each other. I just found out he's allergic to spinach, today. We're not there yet." (Update: They are married now, woohoo!)

I can admit; I have pushed expectations and questions on people just because I selfishly want to see what their kid would look like. But I'm getting better. You can too.

In honor of upcoming holiday dinners with family and friends who tend to be chomping at the bit when it comes to playing 20 Questions, I present to you three questions that are none of your business:

1. "When are you getting married?" In addition to what I've stated above, there are at least four reasons why this is a horrible question. 
a. First off, when you ask a couple, it's weird because if one of them plans on popping the question any time soon, they probably don't need you and your annoying foreshadowing getting in the way. 
b. Second, how do you know this isn't a sore topic for the couple? How do you know this isn't something they haven't discussed yet OR worse something they have discussed and are at odds about? 
c. Third, if you're close to the couple in question, you likely already know. The people that need to know the timeline are in the loop. You're out of the loop for a reason. 
d. And finally, I always find it really weird when people ask me women when they're getting married. Do you think we plan on proposing? If you're a woman, and you're cool with proposing, kudos! That's very 22nd century of you. But for the majority of women in heterosexual relationships, we don't know the date, and you're asking an unanswerable question and we're stuck just kinda awkwardly laughing outside of Nordstrom at The Grove wishing we hadn't fought back the urge to avert our eyes when we saw you across the street. 

2. "When are you having kids?" Of the three, this is by far the most intrusive, insensitive, and rude. Recently many celebrities (e.g. Chrissy Teigan and Tyra Banks), have laudably been outspoken about the problematic nature of this question. But a lot of church ladies and great aunts missed the memo on this one, and people wanna know "When are you gonna give us a grandbaby??" Aside from the obvious lack of consideration to women who are struggling with infertility/miscarriages, it assumes that couples want children or are prepared to have a child. An older woman in the mall stopped me and my boyfriend and said "Now you two are a beautiful couple. Do you have any babies?... Well how old are you?... 30!! What's the hold up? Marry this girl and get going!" I didn't take the time to tell her that if we got married and had a baby per her timetable, the one bedroom apartment that would likely be within our budget (because.... LA) isn't ideal for a bundle of joy and plus, we have a lengthy travel bucket list that does not include Babies R Us. Wanna know why I didn't explain all that? Because well.... all of that is none of her business. See?

3. "Who's the daddy?" I'm not going to be long-winded here. If a full grown adult friend of yours is pregnant, and you have no idea who the father is, then you probably are not close enough for her to tell you the circumstances of how she came to be with child. As I've gotten older, more and more friends in their late twenties and thirties are turning up pregnant with no significant other in sight. If her baby announcement is not accompanied with those well planned father/mother "We're becoming a family of 3!" photo shoots that are now ubiquitous, it is not because she forgot. It's because ya'll are just Facebook friends, not real friends and it is none of your business. 

This Thanksgiving, this Christmas, heck --- for the rest of your life - don't be that guy. You'll thank me later. 

What questions did I miss???

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Three Ways You Can Be A More Informed Citizen Once You Finish Complaining About The Media

The media** is biased. But so are we. Let me explain. 

A few days ago, I ran with a local runners’ group, and we paused at a beautiful “Love” mural to have a moment of silence for “people suffering all over the world… especially in Paris.” Save for those of us catching our breath in the chilly fall air, all was still and then one runner said “And Kenya!” I glanced in his direction, undecided if I appreciated his spontaneous candor or if I was annoyed by his marring of this solemn moment. That dichotomous feeling has plagued me for the past few days. After the run, I caught up with the outspoken fella -who turned out to be Ethiopian-American- and asked, feigning curiosity, “What is the capital of Kenya anyway?” He drew a blank and when I used my acting chops to affect an aha moment, I said “I think it’s Nairobi… yeah that’s it.”

Nairobi, Kenya. 

The next day, I asked my intelligent, worldly coworkers the same question and only one could recall it. Meanwhile, my social media timeline included quite a potluck of views: some friends posted their favorite memories in Paris (read: a honeymoon snapshot at the Eiffel) and ferocious debates ensued as folks charged “the media” with focusing only on the Western world, ignoring the tragedies of developing countries in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere.

I agree; “the media” is not interested in providing equal coverage to all people and all countries. I also believe that the media’s lack of focus on issues in poorer, blacker, and browner countries is part of general systemic racism and prejudice. But the media is also influenced by something else, something even more powerful than prejudice: ratings. And ratings are driven by what we the people look for and watch. Let me give you an example. 

When Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, the story was picked up by “Black Twitter”, and as frustration, anger and rightful interest in the story grew organically, it hit the mainstream media outletss. People FORCED the media to pick up the story by illustrating their interest in the story and convincing the media that it was a story worth telling. Facebook didn’t have to compel folks to take pictures in hoodies; people did it on their own. (My pastor even preached in a hoodie that weekend.)