Don’t think for me

I just can’t take it anymore. Too many things are trying to think for me. I’m looking at you, Facebook. And you, fancy cars. Pandora, you’re excused because I think you’re a little, well, special when it comes to thinking for people so you’re off the hook. (Hint: A piano-only instrumental version of Madonna’s Material Girl does not belong on my REM station, kthx.)

people i def dont know
But back to you, Facebook and fancy cars. You know that column on the side of your Facebook feed that suggests “People You May Know”? In fact I don’t know them, Facebook. I barely know the one mutual friend you’re saying we have so no, I don’t know this person and certainly don’t want to be one more of her 872 “friends” and I don’t want these weird people in their weird zombie costumes leering at me from my news feed.

cars
And now I can buy (well, I can’t, since my money tree didn’t sprout) a car that can apply the brakes and stop the car before I even know there’s a small neighbor child behind my vehicle as I’m backing up. Will I be glad my neighbors have said vehicle if it’s my child behind them as they’re backing up? Yes. Do I think that taking this type of responsibility out of our hands allows our paying-attention muscles to atrophy? Also yes.

48 hours of lies
Don’t get me started on deodorant. Some of us sweat a lot. Have you ever seen me wear a white t-shirt? Not more than once you haven’t, I promise. And yet almost all the deodorants out there advertise “48 hours guaranteed!” on their ergonomic little caps. 48 hours…in my car and it won’t melt? 48 hours….after I forget to apply it I’ll still be wondering if the people next to me at church could tell that stink aura was me? 48 hours is twice the protection even the Secret Service can offer. Surely you don’t mean to imply that your product protects me from perspiring and odorizing for 48 hours. First, you’re wrong, I’ve never met a deodorant that could do that and second, I like to think a shower could be involved in that time span. And third, again, you’re wrong. Don’t get my hopes up. Stop lying to my pits.

 frozen falsehoods

Now, what’s this I see? An easy scoop package? Why, that must mean scoopage from this particular container, by dint of its design or the product therein, is easier than scoopage of competitors’ products from competitors’ cartons. FALSE. This brand, and this carton in particular, are a special kind of crappy. I’ll know this is an easy scoop package when I try scooping from it and exclaim with elation, “Egad! This is easy scooping!” Or not. Liars.

I really hate it when people and products try to think for me. I can do my own thinking and my own determining of what’s an easy scoop package and what’s the ice cream equivalent of Sochi. Besides, I feel a little cheated. If Facebook can tell me who I may like to be pretend friends with and my deodorant lasts longer than some wildlife, where is the queen size fitted sheet that folds itself, hmmm??

disaster
Disaster. Di.saster.

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I have to say something, Sandberg told me so

Lose it. Even if it's one of these.

Lose it. Even if it’s one of these.

Last night the little sister and I were walking together and our conversation turned to a topic that annoys us both equally. Thinking about it later I felt strongly that this is a definite gray area; on one hand (that’s a pun actually, you’ll see) who cares and on the other hand if no one says anything, are we letting other women down? Having just finished Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, I feel it’s incumbent upon me to say something, while some may think I still need to just live and let live. But I’d let you know if you had something in your teeth, so I’m going to let you know when you have something else to address in your appearance. I’ll get to my point: Unless you’re working out, about to work out, just finished working out, or hanging around your house in workout clothes and doing nothing all day, lose the hair tie around your wrist.

Just lose it. At best it’s tacky, at worse it’s juvenile and unhygienic. Women in business suits, having been one of you, I’m talking especially to you. Nothing shoots your capable-and-with-it credibility in the foot like handing someone your engraved business card and having the crisp sleeve of your Ann Taylor suit jacket ride up your wrist to reveal a skinny (or fat! some women wear the fat ones–ahhh!!!!!) hair rubber band righttherejustincase you need to whip your hair into a ponytail during your meeting. You’d never do that, right? (RIGHT??) Ditch the hair tie, it’s gross and childish.

I saw a woman in church this week with one of the thick hair ties around her wrist. It looked really super awesome and cool with her 3-carat diamond ring. Not. It looked like she was playing grown up and it reminded me how often I see this blunder. You wouldn’t let your tampon stick out the top of your pocket or hold your lipstick in your hand during a business meeting, so why would you let other tools of the trade parade about so obviously on your person in a place they clearly don’t belong?

Oh, but redwhiteandnew, a lot of women use those hair ties that look like little ribbons. (See above). I know they do, and that’s fine, as long as those overpriced little buggers aren’t along for the ride on your wrist. They’re still hair ties, thank you, and you’re not fooling anyone. Well, you’re not fooling any other women. People who doesn’t know what those are probably think your youngest cousin made you a friendship bracelet at summer camp and now you feel obligated to wear it at all times everywhere for always. Because that’s what those hair ties look like.

Let’s put it this way: If you have business cards for your job, lose the hair tie. If you have a job, lose the hair tie. It’s gross. It’s tacky. It’s juvenile. It says “I’m not comfortable enough in my own skin to decide how I’m going to look today and then go with it for the duration” and while the rest of your outfit may suggest that you’re capable and put together, the stupid hair tie says, further, “I lack attention to detail and I need this crappy little security blanket to come to my big girl job.” One day you’ll be shaking hands with someone important, or handing out copies of your legislative overview and a rogue hair or two will waft ethereally from what would be your otherwise-professional wrist. Now that’s a classy move. It goes nicely with the oregano in your teeth.

Angelina Jolie did not do you a personal favor

angie

Earlier this month actress Angelina Jolie underwent a major elective surgery, having a preventive double mastectomy when gene therapy revealed that she carries a particular gene that gives her an 87% chance of developing breast cancer. Her mother died of the disease (or ovarian cancer, I forget, but Jolie’s ovaries are next anyway) at only 57 years old.

The public response has been overwhelmingly in support of the actress’s decision, with Hollywood stars and everyday bloggers alike calling her “brave” and “heroic” and praising her “honesty” in having this surgery and then going public about it (what don’t stars go public about anymore is what I want to know).

I had a different reaction when I heard about her surgery. Although I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority with my opinion, Jolie’s situation offers up the perfect case study in why falsely assigning certain motives to famous people and worshiping in the cult of celebrity disconnects regular people from reality and feeds our obsession with everything we aren’t.

Like I said, I’m aware that my opinion isn’t the popular or even common one. How rude, redwhiteandnew. Do you want this woman to get breast cancer? Wouldn’t you do everything you could to prevent such a horrible and often disfiguring disease in yourself and those you love?

I’m not being rude and no, of course I don’t want anyone to have cancer. Been there done that with a tumor scare myself, and I wouldn’t wish it on a snake. And yes, I would do many things to prevent disease in my body and in my family, but I’m just an average everyday person of average everyday means and other things to do on a daily basis. What Jolie did is not reality for the rest of the world and if we don’t pretend like it is, maybe our collective focus will stay on things that make a difference in peoples’ lives, starting with our own.

People keep talking about “this difficult medical decision” and what a “tough choice” Jolie, a mother of six, had to make. But to hear Jolie herself talk about it, it seems like this decision was a no-brainer. As she told the New York Times after her surgery, “I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much as I could.” Big decision? Absolutely. Any choice? According to Jolie, not really.

She has not indicated that her decision was made for the benefit of anyone but her and her family. And that’s fine, that’s exactly how medical decisions should be made. Jolie is not raising awareness; her surgery was a secret until after it happened. She’s not starting a charity for women to undergo gene testing. She’s not even writing a book. On a scale of 1-10 showing how much Jolie’s decision impacts my life, this doesn’t rank. Even the title of her NYT op-ed was, tellingly, “My Medical Decision.” Mine. Medical. Not “For the benefit of others” or “To make a point in raising awareness or solidarity.”

Genetic testing to reveal the gene Jolie carries runs approximately $3,000. That’s hardly chump change for the average person. Beyond that, the cost of a double mastectomy can be staggering, even with insurance coverage. But how many plans cover elective surgery, and one as comprehensive as a double mastectomy? Too many women who already have breast cancer can’t get the treatment they need, nevermind complete removal of all at-risk tissue in a preemptive surgery.

By the way, where would we draw the line if this testing was available to everyone? Do you hit puberty and have a double mastectomy if this gene is revealed? What are the ethics behind preventive measures? I haven’t seen much discussion about that.

A blog I like ran a post from a young breast cancer survivor who also had praise for Jolie’s decision because in addition to having the “courage to get herself out of danger” she saw Jolie as “sacrificing something that made her attractive and feminine. Instead of staying trapped…by superficial standards of beauty, she had been brave enough to let go.” But Jolie is having extensive reconstructive surgery. She won’t be flat-chested. She won’t have the scars that so many breast cancer survivors bear. She keeps her own nipples and will have a hybrid reconstruction that gives the fullness of implants without the risk.

Jolie had a major surgery. It likely prevented her from developing a dangerous and potentially life-threatening disease down the road. Her means and resources—the money for the gene testing, surgery, and reconstruction, plus help in caring for her family during recovery and no need to be at work Monday-Friday—allowed her to make this decision. It seems like it was a good one for her, considering her risk and her ability to do something about it. Angelina Jolie can have her cake and eat it, too.

But normal people can’t. If we, especially young women who think we are untouchable and good technology will save everyone from bad things, spend our time lifting up a human interest story as the bellwether for cancer treatment and awareness, we’ll become a danger to ourselves. If we continue to assign to Jolie’s decision motives that she herself has never mentioned and rely on “what she is doing for young women,” we’ll become a danger to others.
Angelia Jolie and Brad Pitt have said that they wouldn’t marry until all couples who wanted to marry were legally allowed to do so. This couple has chosen to stand in solidarity with those who are denied what Jolie and Pitt see as a fundamental right. But what about standing in solidarity with cancer survivors? Other women fighting breast cancer? Those who are battling a disease they couldn’t afford to detect at great personal cost and now they fight at even greater personal cost? Celebrities can make choices that average people often have made for them. Valuing their so-called solidarity is like putting beach sunshine in a jar—cute, but really?

Jolie made a big decision but it was made for the benefit of her and her family so let’s not impose upon it altruistic designs she never intended. I’m not friends with Angelina Jolie. You (probably) aren’t either. She did not do you a personal favor with her preventive surgery. Generating press is not the same thing as raising awareness. The rest of us need to remember that what Jolie did was made possible by circumstances most of us are not in. The sooner we return our focus to everyday realities affecting our real lives, the better off we and our own families will be.