One Guess Who’s Twerking All The Way To The Bank…

I try SO HARD to avoid blogging about superficial, media-induced, means-nothing-bullshit, yet Miley Cyrus getting down and dirty at the 2013 MTV VMA has all the elements for a good old fashioned opinion –nudity, sexuality, good girl gone bad…all this short of her 21st birthday. Sorry everyone, though I am taking the bait on this sensationalized and very unnewsworthy event -as it is not often you can opine about Hannah Montana twerking.

The opinions I have read, namely through Facebook, range from the conservative one side (“that was a disgusting and awful display of sexuality that was entirely inappropriate”) to the other, for lack of a better term, liberal, side of the spectrum which likes to point out the double standard we have in society regarding demonizing a female’s display of sexuality (slut) while championing a male’s equally sexual behavior (playa).  Ah, such tension…I love it.

Please read this blog entry in entirety before you think you may agree or disagree with me. I do play both sides of the fence and attempt to find the merits and weaknesses of both points of view. In fact, I feel somewhat schizophrenic in this regard.

To my conservative friends and readers I will offer 3 general reasons why you need to chill out on this. First, the aforementioned double-standard argument is a valid one. Now, you would likely retort, “I don’t like it when males behave publicly like that either.” To which I respond, in love, bullshit. I believe you when you say you do not like it…I really do. Yet the guttural, deeper, and more visceral response is clearly reserved for the female demonstrators of sexuality. You may not like it when Kanye mimics a grind for his audience, yet you are repulsed and write letters when a Miley Cyrus does it. This is gender prejudice, plain and simple.

Secondly, what is wrong with sexy? Particularly when sexy comes on MTV?….M FREAKING TV people -the station that has been pushing the envelope for decades. Should we really be shocked? This was not the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon or network television where such displays of sexuality would be inappropriate (think Janet Jackson’s nipple).  This is the MTV Video Music Awards where, in 2003, an older woman (a 43 year-old Madonna) makes out with a much younger woman (a 22 year-old Britney Spears). Can you say taboo? I knew you could. Do 14 year-old girls watch MTV? Yes, they do watch, yet that is on the parent’s for allowing it, not the entertainer’s for providing what they do best. And believe me, with what kid’s see and hear today, as they say, that ain’t nothing.

Lastly, and if you read a previous blog I wrote on porn, I will once again share a similar sentiment. Sex is something (most) everyone of sexual age engages in, all the time, particularly if you count when you are alone. We are sexual beings. Sex is a part of life. We would not be reading and engaging in these words right now if your sperm and eggs donors were not terribly turned on and wanted sex. If sex is good, sexuality should be discussed and there is NOTHING wrong with sexy. I understand some people believe sex is a private matter -I don’t. Leaving issues in the dark can have nasty consequences. We are all the result of a good old-fashioned orgasm.  This is not crass…it is FACT -with this understanding, a young girl coming of age and exploring her sexiness and sexuality in performance, is exciting and titillating. And you blowhard, self-righteous zealots who want to claim a motive for her behavior…just shut up. When you armchair judgmental psychologists get in her head let me know. Don’t like it? Don’t watch it.

Now, to my liberal and feminist friends, a few things for you all. Which way is it going to be? Do you want women to be seen as exclusively sexual beings and objectified…or not? If you want to champion Miley’s performance for any variety of reasons, you must realize the fallout from this is it does nothing to move forward a social egalitarian agenda. Does having the power and the right to do something make it a wise and profitable thing to do? Hell no. Stop supporting that performance on the grounds of a feminist worldview. If anything this sets the movement back in terms of “desexualizing” women, not forward.

Secondly, I have yet to see the male equivalent of what Miley Cyrus did. If you want to compare apples to apples to make the double-standard argument, you would need someone like a 19 year-old Justin Bieber to come out in a clear speedo and shake his package while simulating sex. I believe he if did do this (please don’t Justin, please) the reaction would be equally, perhaps moreso, deemed in a disturbing and negative light.

Finally, I realize I have more progressive views on sexuality than most and, to be frank, if one of my adult daughters were to pursue performing in such a way, I would have no problem with it provided she were in no way mislead or diabolically coerced. That being said, I realize I am the very rare father in this regard; still I would not be terribly pleased with this prior to her 21st birthday. How many of you who defend Miley’s performance would be as supportive if this were your own 20 YEAR OLD daughter? Or future daughter? Is this the path you would want them to take before they are allowed to legally drink alcohol? That’s what I thought….not many of you.

In the end, this is all so much ado about absolutely nothing and I fell for this bullshit hook, line and sinker. However, such sensationalized stories that mean nothing in and of themselves can lead us into deeper discussions of the underlying social and psychological issues involved. Or not. Feel free to disagree as such discussion only gives Hannah Montana all the more reason to twerk all the way to the bank.

WINNING! Jimmy’s Eight Great Guidelines for Gaining Compliance or Learn How to Speak Effectively With Da Bossman

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” -Maimonides

Give a person some wise words to say and she will sound smart for a day; teach a person a sound philosophy and she will remain wise for a lifetime.” – Jimmy

I recently ran across a blog article that cited the 5 things you should never say to a professor. A related article stated the 5 things you should always say to your professor– as in real specific words and sentences. After reading these articles I thought of the above quote. It struck me that 3246-give-a-man-a-fishgiving such advice is akin to offering someone a fish rather than teaching them how to fish. I realize that receiving a free fish every now and then is fine, yet telling someone specifically what to say or not to say word for word is not instructing the wisdom behind the suggestions…I want to learn to fish.

Thus, today, I am inspired to offer my blog followers, “Jimmy’s Eight Great Guidelines for Gaining Compliance” (Gaining whaaat? Give me a sec kiddos)

The guidelines suggested transcend academia or any particular context. Good communication is just good communication, no matter when or where.

As a precursor, it is so important to understand that when you are attempting to achieve an objective and need to “get your way” (academically referred to as “compliance gaining strategies”) such situations are NOT opportunities to discuss how you feel, to vent, to express yourself, to gripe that Charlie-Sheen-Winning1you have been wronged, rather it is about WINNNG, not WHINING.  We have family members, significant others, and therapists available to listen to us express our feelings.  How something makes you feel is rarely part of the compliance gaining strategy in the context of business or academia; yet is quite valid in terms of interpersonal relationships…hence, another blog for another day.

Gaining compliance is a combination of a solid offense while concurrently weakening your superior’s defense. Follow these Eight Great and you may stand a fighting chance with that asshole you call boss or prof.

The primary and central force for these guidelines rests in my “poker chips” theory of life; everyday we have the opportunity to collect more chips for a larger payout when we eventually must cash in…and we all have to cash in at some point when something goes wrong. The basic theory is structured around the simple idea that each one of us is going to need a break of some sort in our class/life/work and we have, poker-chipshopefully, a certain amount of chips to cash in when we most need them to offset our circumstance. 

Whether a student or employee, we all pretty much start out at zero chips. Each time we do something either required or voluntarily -punctually and with excellence- it is possible to earn a few chips.  For example, arriving on time, doing all that is required, volunteering for an extracurricular duty, being friendly and helpful to colleagues –mind you all performed without being a pain in the ass– are among several ways to earn chips. Conversely, things such as absences, lateness, excuses, and piss poor work will drain your collection of chips rather rapidly –in fact, such students usually operate at a chip deficit and end up owing the house when time to cash in. When students need to ask for an extension on a paper? I look at their accumulated chips, or lack thereof, and make the decision accordingly.

Thus, the first great guideline is as follows:

1.     Accumulate as many chips wherever and whenever possible. Everyday day you wake up and go about life is a potential job interview. From the small things (say hello, smile, be pleasant), to the large things (extra duties, helping others), to the people we may meet, are all means by which to add to your chip stash. Then when a true emergency strikes and you need to ask for mercy and cash in some chips, you will have the necessary resources to do so. One NEVER knows who might hold a valuable key to her future thus it is very important to treat everyone as a potential provider of chips.

While interviewing for my first professor position many years ago, I found myself with the department chair who was a complete stranger. During the interview a colleague of hers walked in and it happened to be a friend with whom I attended graduate school. Fortunately, I always treated this guy very well and was friendly to him never knowing he was going to be a key imagesplayer in determining my future fate one day. Guess who got the job? THIS guy.

2.     Be yourself. You want the real, gritty scoop? Experienced professors, managers, interviewers, etc… KNOW when you are full of shit. Why? Because we “listen” with our eyes more so than with our ears. We see and listen to HOW you say something, not just what you say. This idea, coupled with the superior who is likely much more experienced than we are and has the ability to see through phoniness, makes bullshitting a bad idea. A genuine person strikes a genuine chord. It is very interesting to me that most people place all the emphasis on WHAT they say…when most of us primarily care about WHO you are -detected by how you say it. A humorous example of a younger person trying to put one over on authority figures is Eddie_Haskell-1Eddie Haskell from the old “Leave it to Beaver” series. Check it out.

3.     Do not lie. Can it get any more simple? Does this mean you have to be completely candid ALL the time about everything? Of course not. In fact, I have had students who have told me things I REALLY wish they had not. Generally speaking, if you say nothing you are not lying. Once a lie is a detected, all trust is out the window. Like #2 above, an experienced superior can usually detect it.

4.     Do not go overboard on the ass kissing. Notice I did not say NEVER ass kiss. An appropriate amount of ass kissing is fine though if managment_trainingyou hang around said ass too long you are bound to get shit on -as that is what the ass does best.  Too much ass kissing tends to get real creepy, real fast. Regardless of what even the most ardent ass-kissing-does-not-work person might tell you, subtle compliments are always warmly, and typically subtlety, received.

5.     Always demonstrate sensitivity and respect toward your superior, no matter how upset you may be.  Timing is everything. The question, “Is now a good time to speak about my concern?” is nearly always a GREAT question.  Even if you believe your professor/boss to be a complete idiot, it only hurts YOU if you fail to show respect. Suck up the old ego and win your damn argument. Vent to your mommy; argue respectfully and skillfully with your superior. Are you really upset? Shut the hell up, go home, cool off and then begin to create an effective argument when cooler heads prevail.

6.    Never go above your superior’s head until you have exhausted ALL your efforts with the superior and you have informed him or her of your next move.  If you do not follow this advice you have unknowingly pitted the superior in a defensive posture and therefore has no choice but to now defend his or her action; thus, in a strange and unintended way, you have become the adversary. That being said, if you have reached a true impasse, by all means respectfully inform the superior of your next move. In fact, I have often strongly encouraged students who are dissatisfied with something to please go to the dean (he loves when I do that!).

7.     Stick to the facts. Do not assume anything. Do not read intent into actions nor ascribe motivation to a particular behavior. If a student tells me, “You failed me because you do not like me,” dragnethe has essentially said nothing. However, if a student tells the professor that he and Betty worked on a paper together, used the same amount of sources, yet Betty received an A and he received an F, rather than assuming this is an issue of “liking,” it provides a factual example that the professor can wrap her mind around and discuss rationally.

8.     Use of “I” Language.  Yes, this may sound like giving you a fish, yet beginning sentences with “I” rather than “you” is vastly important when confronting another person with an argument…regardless of what particular words follow. “You did not give me the raise I want,” is heard quite differently than, “I believe I earned a raise.” The word “you” is like an open invitation for the other person to whip out their protective shield and begin a strong defense. “I” language places the emphasis on you and immediately defenses go down. The rule of thumb is when praising someone, begin with “you” and when you are critical begin with “I.”

I think you should take this advice to heart. You can do it.


How, What, Where, When and The Who….I Sure Hope The Kids Are Alright

Some of you “mature” readers may recall an old “The Who” song, “Who are you?” As in “Whoooooo, are you? Who who who who?” Some 35 years later, I am certain Roger, Pete and the boys will now sleep better at night knowing I will attempt to answer that arduous -and probably artistically rhetorical- question.

It is very difficult for one to know oneself…accurately. If I were to ask you “who you are?” the likely responses will range from, “I am Joe” to “I am an accountant” to “I am a student, son and partner to my girlfriend,” perhaps including that you are Latino, Hungarian or Asian.  All these responses are indeed accurate yet do not capture the essence of who someone really is; true essence transcends one’s demographics.

Who are you?

I recently was enlightened on this important and very difficult question through a connection I made while preparing to teach a culture class.  If anyone knows me at all, they know one of my favorite quotes:

“The last creature to discover water was the fish.”

The meaning of this quote presupposes that those things that are intricately a part of our everyday lives become so normalized as to eventually become invisible to us. We are blinded to them as they operate unevaluated, uncritiqued, and unanalyzed as we cycle through the daily grind of our lives.

Probably the best example of this is when I ask my culture class to identify and define their culture. The answer is nearly always, “I do not have one.” This response is akin to suggesting we do not breathe or eat. Of course we do. If you are alive you are living in a culture. It is just that our culture is so very implanted and permeated around and within us that it becomes part of our mental and physical landscape – as a result we stop questioning and examining it.

What does this have to do with knowing who we are? Good question.

We are so familiar with ourselves—our likes and dislikes, preferences, responses, habits, our loves and hates, etc.—that these things tend to create a Pavlovian dog type response, as we just hear bells and start to salivate without much thought. Like our culture, our own personal lives become so normalized as to become invisible. Typically, it is through life events that interrupt our normal flow that we learn something new about ourselves and who we really are—our “essence.”  If you really want to know your culture, remove yourself, visit another culture, and watch the blind spots to your own culture become oh so visible. It frequently takes interruption in our own personal lives for the blind spots to become visible.

Think of it this way, we do not know how dependent we are on our cell phone until it breaks…then the next thing to break is our nerves. Or when our computer goes down…or the internet goes out…or the car won’t start…or we forget our wallet. When those things we take for granted falter, it tells us something of our need and dependence on those things that we rarely give a second thought. If this idea was a show on Spike TV, the title might be: “Freaking Out: When Things We Take for Granted Fail Us!!” When they do fail us, our reaction can offer us insight into who we are

To answer the question “Who are you?” or in this case, “Who am I?” one must work through a johari_windowprocess of elimination. When we eliminate important and fundamental things from our lives, this opportunity will give us a glimpse into our fundamental selves. (For a fascinating theory on an understanding of self, check out the Johari Window).

NOW the point of this blog….from a very personal perspective.

I thought I always had a fairly firm grasp on who I was. I now realize I do not.

As my youngest son Stevie, 18, prepares to leave for college in just about 2 weeks, I am busy hammering the final nail in the coffin of eliminating my children from any full-time residency in our home. For many that may seem like a joyous occasion –the bliss of empty nest. In contrast, I am sad. I am afraid. I am afraid of what the now visible blind spot might reveal.

I am losing that which I have taken for granted for most of my life. I now feel like this fish is beginning to feel the coldness of the water.

I am afraid I will continue to uncover the ever-deepening levels of who I really am. I have realized that my identity for 25 years was that of a father. Not living through my children as much as living FOR my children. My self-concept was rooted in the collective, meaning my identity was formed through the group, not self; I was father to Jordan, Rosie, Tessa and Stevie. I am eliminating something from life that is revealing who I really am as I cannot hide behind the veil of dad/provider/leader. My people, the ones I played a hand in creating, are gone. “Who I am” is now rooted not in a role I played rather in who I really am.

And who am I?

I have found Jimmy is more emotionally vulnerable than he ever thought possible. (Pardon the third person…this guy is new to me). He never understood why so many around him suffered from emotional setbacks –in fact, truth be told, he held a level of negative judgment on these people deep inside. No more. He counts himself as one of them. He is as emotionally vulnerable as anyone.

I have found Jimmy, the once proud and independent rebel, truly needs people.  There, he said it. He cannot go through life alone. In fact, as he ages and loses what he once had (children), he is  finding out that he truly loves people. He is still very much an introvert and desperately needs his alone time, yet is finding out that he needs his “people time” just as much.

I have found Jimmy’s general nature is profoundly positive. Amidst the sadness and tears of the past weeks -and he is certain in future weeks as well- he just loves life. He looks forward to the silliest things. Sure he can still be a moody little bitch at times, yet his overall perspective is very positive; at least that is what those closest to him have to say.

I now settle back comfortably into the first person as I consider the notion that if you begin to take away some other things in my life -say technology, Captain Morgan, and weightlifting-I am sure I will continue to discover revealing and deeper (troubling) things in my life. Yet I am satisfied with hammering the nail in the “coffin of elimination” one casket at a time. I am not in that big of rush to fully know me….I could end up in said casket.

“Whoooo are you? Who who who who?”

I am the emotionally vulnerable, yet profoundly positive introverted man who needs and loves people.

In the meantime, I’m getting a puppy, “    “ damn it.

Get to sleep Roger and Pete.