Saturday, July 26, 2014

It's Too Easy

Like, way too easy. Dangerously easy.

I'm going to take a (brief) break from the sarcasm and snark here to say that from the clips I saw on The Soup when Jon and Kate Plus Eight was on the air, I thought Kate seemed abusive, too. Emotionally abusive to her kids, and both emotionally and physically abusive to her husband. Of course, they were clips chosen for The Soup, so who knows? Robert Hoffman also directed his readers to this, and he's right. It's horrible. Full stop.

If these kids really are being abused, it's awful, and inexcusable that no one has stepped in. I know I look a lot like I'm passionately defending Kate, by mostly I just don't like Robert Hoffman. He uses some truly impressive mental gymnastics to "prove" points about Kate that may or may not be true. He's written a book in which this woman cannot win - she's a lazy stay at home mom who does nothing but care for eight children under 5 all day, she's a selfish career woman who works too much, etc. In the end, if you can look past the slam book-style list of all the ways in which Kate sucks, it appears that Jon and Kate are both highly maladjusted people who are doing the best they can, and failing miserably. Moreover, the book lets Jon off the hook for his many, many failures. Hoffman makes the absurd claim that he doesn't know what Jon has done about Kate's abusing their children, and he's never asked. You're writing a book about a close friend's children being abused, and you never asked him what's he's tried to do about it? Ish don't think so. If he hasn't asked, it was a very deliberate decision. Either he didn't want to know, or he knew the answer wouldn't be in keeping with his thesis.

In this clip, Robert approaches a newly separated Jon's car window while Jon drops his kids off with their mother after a weekend with him. He asks, "Hey, Jon, you bringing the kids back? Is it upsetting to have to bring them back to Kate's house?" If you can see a friend is having a hard time, you should definitely interview them. Jon, preoccupied, nods distractedly. Specifically, he is preoccupied with texting, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was texting someone over the situation with the gate or the kids, who are indeed wailing. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Robert Hoffman would assume the absolute worst of Kate if she was on her phone in the same situation. You hear a chorus of wails from the children, and Robert claims it's because they're terrified to go home to their mom. But only one word is audible. "Daddy!" If you didn't know Kate was the devil, you'd almost think the kids find their parents' divorce upsetting and traumatic, are upset that their dad doesn't live with them anymore, and are saddened at not seeing him every day. It is indeed very sad, but doesn't necessarily confirm Robert's claims. When it's all over, Jon gets in Robert's car and leaves. You do feel sorry for Jon, having to depend on this guy who is obviously benefitting from his "concern" about his dear friend.

Back to the snark.

  • Kate once said "no pun intended" in reference to a pun that was clearly intentional. 
  • Jon figured out relatively quickly that, for for the good of all, he didn't want his family's life broadcast for public consumption. He'd been saying so for a long time, so it wasn't just a reaction to being kicked off the show after he and Kate separated. Why, when he wasn't missing meetings altogether, he was showing up late or intoxicated. If you can think of a better way to communicate with your employer, well, how nice for you. 
  • Nothing was sacred to Kate - she allowed too many of her family's private moments to be on the show.
  • When it came to plastic surgery, Kate had two offers to choose from. One would be filmed, the other wouldn't. She chose the latter. Robert's just going to leave that piece of information here, right next to the tacit implication that there was something suspicious or dishonest about it. He's pretty sure you won't wonder why on earth anyone would choose to have their plastic surgery filmed for national television if they didn't have to. 
  • Kate's journals are full of admissions she isn't perfect. She prays to be kinder, more patient, more relaxed, and more fun. Few parents are required to do this - most of us are exactly as good as we wish we were. As a matter of fact, if I'm to believe all this is really from Kate's journal, the mother she wishes she could be looks a lot like the mother Robert accuses her of pretending to be for the cameras. Like it's a wish as much as it's an act.
  • Kate expressed envy/admiration for the fact that Jon was often more patient and responsive to their kids than she was. She did this to make herself look good. 
  • Kate wasn't sad enough on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Entirely possible she wasn't appropriately worried during the Iran Hostage Crisis, either.
  • Kate's streams of consciousness are unfocused. For example, in one journal entry, she wrote about her grief and regret over the death of her grandmother and her desire to go shopping for jeans. She misses her grandma? Liar! 
  • Kate emotionally abuses her children by badmouthing their father.
  • Jon meets his children's needs by badmouthing their mother.
  • Kate sets a bad example for her daughters by focusing on her appearance and getting plastic surgery. Should model healthy self-esteem by showing them who she really is is good enough.
  • Who Kate really is is not good enough. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Robert vs. Kate, Round 2

Robert isn't finished.

  • Kate never had fertility issues. She got pregnant in high school. If you've been pregnant once, you will never have fertility issues. She doesn't have any of the symptoms of PCOS, although even her estranged ex-husband swears she does. Just look at her - do you see any ovarian cysts? 
  • Robert has spoken with some of Kate's doctors, although of course he can't use their names. After all, what medical professional wouldn't risk their license for an uncredited paraphrase in an especially long National Enquirer article? 
  • But maybe they're doing it for the same reason Robert is. Selflessly, for the good of the Gosselin children. It would do them good for their mom's shady medical history to be public information. Somebody, think of the children! 
  • Robert knows these doctors. He's seen them in the grocery store.
  • Kate says everyone who has actually met her likes her.
  • You know, this is exactly the kind of thing Robert is talking about. He's met Kate and doesn't like her. Isn't he somebody? 
  • Kate was a terrible nurse.
  • Kate is lazy; doesn't have a job, should get a job in her field. 
  • Kate works too much; should spend more time with her children. She even works on Sundays, when she should be in church. 
  • Kate's parents were physically abusive, and her dad forced her to have an abortion when she was a teenager.
  • Kate took advantage of her poor, poor parents, only to cut them off when her family got famous. 
  • The majority of the terrible decisions so far detailed in this book happened when Jon and Kate were married. They're Kate's fault. 
  • When faced with generous offers, Kate either accepts (greedy!) or declines (ungrateful!). 
  • Had no qualms about getting whatever she could from the Discovery channel, which was obviously making infinitely more off her family than it was passing along to her. 
To review: Robert's friend Jon's ex-wife is such a bitch. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Damn You, Kindle Unlimited!

Blaming Kindle Unlimited for the fact that I'm reading the trashiest book in the entire world could probably be construed by some as not taking responsibility for my actions and choices. Yeah, well, shut up.

I didn't watch Jon and Kate Plus Eight while it was on, because I had a sinking suspicion it was a modern day version of the Dion quintuplets. But above it all I was not - I followed the Kate gossip, probably because perfectionist type-As like Kate trigger my insecurities. She's my natural enemy. I'd mostly forgotten about the Gosselins, but when I saw I could read this book for free, well, don't mind if I do! It's been quite enlightening. 

I've learned that:

  • Kate is a slut.
  • Kate is judgmental.
  • Kate is religious.
  • Kate is not religious.
  • Kate is a mastermind who had planned to have "Higher Order Multiples" and exploit them since her late teens/early 20s.
  • Kate is stupid.
  • Kate used her magical female powers to ensnare many a hapless, unsuspecting gentleman.
  • Kate is a desperate loser who couldn't land a single doctor; had to settle for a doctor's son.
  • Kate was irresponsible, handing the Discovery channel full control of her family.
  • Kate was ungracious to the good folks at the Discovery channel.
  • Kate is insanely controlling and micromanages every detail of her children, family, and life. She would never, ever let one thing go.
  • Kate threw years worth of personal journals, notes and emails in the garbage outside her house at the height of her divorce scandal, knowing the author and several other journalists were camped outside her house all the time.
  • The author, Robert Hoffman, disapproves of the way Kate uses her children to earn a living.
  • Robert used Kate's children to earn a living. 
  • Kate doesn't do her own grocery shopping.
  • Whole Foods is an hour away from her house, so Kate commutes. She does this without any consideration for Robert, who must follow her there on his own dime. 
  • Robert stands to gain nothing from this book, and is only writing it out of deep concern for the Gosselin children. He loves those kids!
  • Robert risked getting those sweet, innocent kids in trouble with the mother he fears may hurt them by sneaking them donuts, specifically because he knew they were not allowed to have them. It's possible he lured them into breaking two rules, since they probably aren't allowed to take candy from strangers, either. 
  • Robert has no agenda.
  • Robert and Kate's ex-husband are BFFs.
  • Kate doesn't care what you think.
  • Kate cares too much what you think.
  • Robert is a "Gosselin insider" who knows Kate very, very well.
  • Aside from one terse conversation, Robert has never spoken to Kate.
  • Kate doesn't do enough to protect her children from predators.
  • Kate is inexplicably hostile toward Robert, a strange man who stood outside her house and watched her children every day, making overt attempts to groom them (see: contraband donuts).
  • Kate is a germaphobe who is obsessed with cleanliness. This makes her cold and unfeeling.
  • Kate is a slob - the neatness was all Jon, who is neat because he is good.
  • Robert doesn't have to make a case here at all, because Kate does it herself. He will show you who she is in her own words.
  • Kate's has an interesting way of referring to herself. Her own words are third person paraphrases without quotes around them.
  • Kate is a terrible writer who blogs when she should be watching her kids!!! She also overuses exclamation points.
  • You think Kate writes that well-written blog herself? Think again! She has ghost writers.
  • In an ideal world, Kate would have come from a loving family, had parents and siblings who adored her, been shy with boys, dreamed every single night of the husband and children she would one day have, and eventually lived to see that dream realized.
  • Sadly, Kate's family was not loving, she was not shy with boys, she was obsessed* with the husband and children she would one day have, and eventually that dream was realized. 
I'm only at 18%. If I read further, I'm told I'll learn she's also guilty of animal cruelty. She didn't close her gate one day and her dogs got out, forcing her to have the aforementioned terse conversation with the author. At times, she has even mentioned loving her kids. Doesn't that seem a little suspicious? Everyone loves their kids. Why would you feel the need to say it, unless you didn't actually love them?

*Good girls passively dream, Bad girls actively obsess. I don't think I have to tell you what kind of girl Kate is. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What Have You Done For Me Lately? Everything, and Nothing

I'm 37-years-old, married, and perfectly healthy. I've carried two children to term without any life-threatening problems, and could probably do it again. I'm terrifically fond of my IUD. I can't say what it cost, because my insurance paid for it. My husband gets said insurance through his employer, and I must say, not making a fuss over the IUD was in every's interest. I'd be much more expensive without it.

In an indirect way, I think it adds to my physical and mental health, in the sense that neither of these things would benefit from an indefinite number of pregnancies and children. But that's not why it's here. It's here to keep me from getting pregnant. Because my husband and I do not want any more children. Other benefits are just bonuses. Mirena only has one job here, and it does it remarkably well. You'll be prying Satan's Tree from my cold, dead uterus.

Despite my 10-year-old daughter's insistence, it would be hard on my family to have another child. My husband's health is a concern, as is our financial situation. But the conversation never got that far. We decided to not to have more children before we knew Jeremy was sick, or and we were a little more optimistic that we wouldn't be broke forever than we are now. We stopped having children because we were done. That's all.

If I got pregnant with a third child, we would be shocked and very upset. Until we got over it, accepted it, and integrated it into our family, loving the heck out of it and wondering how we could have ever thought life was complete without it. Children numbers 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10? I think there would come a time when I didn't have it in me to be a fool for my kids anymore. I'd love them, but I wouldn't enjoy them. I'd rather not find out.

I don't have a dramatic story to tell, because birth control is in my life for the express purpose of keeping things uneventful. It does that job with admirable consistency. It's relieved me from something that, for the vast majority of human history, was just a part of life. A stressful, traumatic, time-consuming, energy sucking part of life. That I don't have to worry about more children is something my great-grandparents could never have dreamed of. As unimaginable as if you told me I never had to see a fly again (yes, I'm aware that flies are super-important to the ecosystem, but the point is, they're gross and I have to see them every day).

What's your story? Are you a kid with your own room? A woman who hates kids? A college student who only has one sibling, enabling your parents to pay your tuition? A man who has somehow not impregnated every woman you've ever been with, so you never, ever have to see that crazy girl you dated for two months when you were 17 again? An elderly widow who can't afford to send a birthday check to one more grandchild? Was your divorce relatively simple, because you had no children? Tell me your non-story.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Delivering Flowers, Crushing Dreams

I was in my late 20s. I was in graduate school, had a toddler, and I was planning a wedding that probably should have happened at least two years earlier. Still, one day it occurred to me that at one item on my bucket list might be easy to cross off. I could even earn a little money doing it.

I could get a job delivering flowers.

On an impulse, I started calling local flower shops. I didn't really expect to get a job, but before I knew it, I had one. The hours were long. The pay was low. The environment was hostile, but that didn't matter - I would be out delivering flowers. I would, of course, be the envy of all, but wasn't about the money or the status. I did it because I had always wanted to deliver flowers. It seemed ideal - I would drive around, alone, listening to music, connecting with other humans only to brighten their day. I was ecstatic.

The shop was owned by a couple in their 60s. The husband, David, took care of most of the customer service and other business. He was erratic, angry, and prone to jarring outbursts. On my first day, I met the other two employees. The assistant manager, Megan, was in her late 20s, and had no problem weathering David's temper tantrums. Within an hour, David tripped over something and flew into a rage, yelling "GODDAMMIT!"

One word, but it filled up the entire shop, leaving us with no clue what would happen next (nothing). It was momentarily terrifying, but I chalked it up to his planter fasciitis. The clerk, Simone, developed what I'm convinced was a real headache and went home sick. A few days later, her boyfriend came in to explain she was quitting because she was afraid of David.

"I didn't listen, because I don't talk to boyfriends," David explained, with as much dignity as he could muster. But listen he must, because Simone was not coming back. She was soon replaced by a 19-year-old boy named Sheriff, who was indifferent to David's temper.

David's main redeeming quality was his unquestioning devotion to his wife, known to him and everyone else as Mrs. Chong. This was curious to me, as they had been married for 35 years and David's last name was not Chong, but I never learned the story behind it. Mrs. Chong took care of the flower arrangements. David loathed all his competition, but was willing to do business with other flower shops in order to have flowers sent to his wife on a regular basis. After ordering them, he was always giddy with anticipation.

Quickly, I learned delivering flowers was not the glamorous occupation I'd dreamed it was. It was mundane and monotonous, exactly like I imagined delivering pizza would be. Only with very few tips, and semi-regular contact with dead bodies.

Unlike pizza, people are surprised to get flowers. At the time, I foolishly thought that "surprised" and "delighted" were synonyms, but they are not. Even if they're happy, surprised people don't react the way you hope they will. Surprise takes a few minutes to process. In this way, customers would probably have been happier to get pizza they'd ordered themselves and eagerly anticipated. More often, they were like deer in headlights when confronted with a surprise vase of roses.

Tips were a possibility, but just icing on the cake. I didn't expect them. Which was good, because they were very rare. In fact, I only remember it happening once, from a woman who apparently got flowers delivered to her so often she wasn't fazed by it. She handed me a few dollars she kept on hand for this exact purpose. Other than that, aside from the fact that they weren't expecting you and might not have petty cash on hand, by the time people understood that flowers had been delivered to them, I was long gone.

My first trip to a funeral home had me filled with, if you'll pardon the expression, morbid curiosity. I hadn't seen a dead body since I'd been to an open-casket funeral at the age of 4, and although I felt rather scummy, I was intensely curious. However, when I brought the flowers to their appointed destination at the front of the chapel, the guest of honor was surrounded by loved ones. I couldn't gawk. Still, the experience was meaningful in its own way.

Since I couldn't allow my eyes to linger too long on the body, I took in the mourners. The family members present were carbon copies of the same woman at different points in her life. There were 5 or 6 of them, from her early 20s to her mid-60s. All had the same face, long, blonde hair and glasses. The deceased, very elderly, had clearly looked much the same in life. The love in the room was palpable. There was a certain purity to their sadness. It seemed clean, unburdened by regret, guilt, anger or fear. The only real problem was how much they would miss her.

They wiped their teary eyes and nodded their heads in appreciation as I set the display next to the casket. Generally, I'm of the opinion that death is not our friend. I hate it and think we only scramble to find beauty in it because we have no choice. While this still held true, it was one of the times I came closest to appreciating the cycle of life. The woman's life was over, but her life's work was very much alive. I knew she'd been an amazing mother, grandmother, aunt. That would live on as long as her line did.

The unfortunate irony was that although surprise kept people from being thrilled to receive flowers, it didn't stop them from being disappointed when they didn't. One day, went through the drive thru at a coffee shop in the flower truck, which was clearly painted as such. As I waited in line, it dawned on me that this was an unkind thing to do. The barista would expect flowers, and was, at that very moment, rehearsing her reaction in her mind. It was too late to get out of line, so I waited sheepishly, feeling terrible.

I had anticipated correctly. The barista was a pretty, brown-haired woman in her 30s. When she realized I was there for coffee, her face fell. Of course she accepted my apology, and when I threw an extra dollar into the tip jar to make up for her disappointment, she said "You can read me like a book, I think."

One day, I arrived at work to find the largest assortment I'd ever seen to be delivered to one person. Flowers, potted plants, balloons, ceramic cats. By this time, I'd been working there long enough to know this was not good.

I drove them to an insurance office. It took four trips for me to deliver this pile of generic crap to a woman who looked resentful, but not surprised. I saw her struggling not to take her anger out on me, and appreciated it. Whoever had sent her all this was obviously a jerk. He had done something terrible, and judging from the exasperation emanating from everyone present, it wasn't the first time. I wasn't concerned with exactly what it was. Having them delivered to her office seemed like the ultimate manipulation, intended to win over her coworkers as much as anything. They weren't fooled. As I left for the office for the last time, one of the other women confirmed what I already knew.

"Yeah, he screwed up."

I worked there for a few weeks, seeing the thrilled reaction I'd hoped for exactly once. Accepting a job in order to indulge my own whim had been a stupid, thoughtless thing to do, and I felt guilty when I quit after working there for such a short time. I had done the math, and knew what to expect at minimum wage. But even as prepared as I was, my first paycheck was a grave disappointment. This wouldn't help my husband, daughter and I enough to make my absence worth it.

I gathered up all my courage and confessed that I was sorry to be unreliable, but I couldn't stay. I needn't have worried. To David, quitters came as no surprise at all. Megan was his one loyal employee. She accepted his unpleasantness because she hoped to one day take over the shop, and because she had come to view David and Mrs. Chong with a granddaughterly affection. Other than that, no one put up with his nonsense for long, no matter how much they needed the job. Knowing this, he hadn't even learned my name.