Why Do Women Do It? Vanity Fair’s Article on The Hookup Culture


Photo by origamidon, via Flickr

This article, “Tinder And the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse,” was shared on my Facebook feed last night. I’ve heard about the hookup culture, but this lengthy and detailed look at it was truly nauseating. I’m going to let it speak for itself today and offer the combox for thoughts and discussion, if others feel so inclined. I only ask this: if this is how young women experience sex, why are they going for the hookup culture? If what is laid out in this article is the common experience, women are getting neither physical nor emotional fulfillment out of this. They are hurling themselves onto the altar of objectification and getting absolutely nothing from it. Why?

Butting Heads With Siri


Photo by Jimmy_Joe, via Flickr

Siri stopped talking to us when we crossed the Michigan border.

Christian had been worried the entire day about running out of battery, because he’d forgotten his car charger. Now he was even more uptight.

Perhaps it will not come as a surprise to most of you to hear that I was not particularly sympathetic to his plight. I am, after all, the woman who has a “dumb” phone, with prepaid minutes, only so that people who have my kids can call me if there’s an emergency.

The next morning, we left our hotel in Byron Center, MI and drove to Holland for the day. By that evening, the phone was even closer to running out of power than it had been the day before. We tried to get back to Byron Center by checking in only periodically with Siri, but Christian had no memory of anything: no highway numbers, no landmarks, nothing.

I was really irritated—not only with him, but with myself.

I mean, really. Here we are, two intelligent adults with masters degrees, and we were both completely lost going back to the hotel we’d driven to and from–twice, mind you, because we’d gone out for fireworks. Why were we so clueless? Because we had turned off our brains and become automatons, turning right and left when the Magic Box told us to do so.

The next day, heading into Grand Rapids proper, Siri made us cross six lanes and a double-white line to take an exit that was clearly illegal, and then couldn’t find the way back onto 131. I’d had it. “You and I,” I told Christian, “are perfectly capable of finding our way around with a map. Everything in this town is within six blocks of this hotel. We do. Not. Need. The. GPS.” For the rest of the week—at least when I was with the family—we navigated by the seat of our pants. I looked at the buildings and got them straight in my head, and I took us between them to cut off walk time for the kids. Sometimes I got the wrong street. But we could always, always figure it out.

I tried for two days to figure out why this whole helpless-as-a-baby dependence on a GPS bugs me so much. Am I just being crotchety? Stuck in the mud?

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that the more heavily you rely on the Magic Box, the less in touch with the world you are. You lose your sense of place in the world: east, west, upriver, downriver, a sense of “the hotel is in that general direction” and “it should take about five minutes to get back to where I started.” You end up following skywalks for half a mile when you could walk one tenth of a mile outside.

We don’t look at maps anymore, so we don’t really get a layout of a place or a route in our minds. We just turn right and left on command, because the stupid apps make it such a Thing to try to see the big picture. We lose that sense of short distance versus long distance, the ability to say, “Oh, there’s a road that runs next to Lake Michigan, roughly parallel to the interstate. We have time. Let’s just see where it goes. We’ll find a way to get back on the interstate somewhere up the line.”

The more you depend on your phone for ev.er.y.thing, the less you trust yourself to figure things out on your own. And then you just stop paying attention to the world around you. We are, collectively, badly out of touch with nature, because the Magic Box is the world where we really live.

Photo by Tim Harding, via Flickr

There was a blackbird nesting behind the convention center in Grand Rapids that kept dive-bombing people; the joke is still running among those of us who attended the NPM convention. It’s such a novelty, because in this one instance, nature refused to be ignored.

There’s something really empowering about going to a new place and getting the lay of the land, figuring it out, making it familiar. Being able to have a conversation with someone and they say, “Do you know where CitySen is? Just up the street from there.” And you can visualize it in your mind and be able to get there purely on the strength of your own spatial intelligence.

The smart phones are great tools. But they’re tools. I want to challenge everyone to turn the thing off periodically and use your own God given sense to find your way from point A to point B…if for no other reason than to remind yourself that you still know how.

The Trouble With “The” (A No Easy Answers Post)


No Easy AnswersThe timing seemed a little ironic.

An old post, called “Words Matter: A Disability Primer,” was in the process of sending my blog views through the roof, and where was I? I was sitting in a ballroom listening to a priest share a piece of advice he was given when beginning a challenging urban assignment:

“Lose the word ‘the.’”

Not the homeless, the poor, the mentally ill. Because that terminology is a label that builds walls. Just as calling someone a “Downs kid” reduces them to their disability, referring to the homeless or the mentally ill reduces people to whatever struggle they face. It makes them “Those People,” which is to say, “Not Like Me.”

I am 100% guilty of this.

It’s easier to deal with the things that make us uncomfortable when we can compartmentalize them. We can all sympathize with Those People as long as They are kept at a distance. As long as all it requires is to feel sympathy and maybe toss some money at the problem.

Except there’s this inconvenient, deeply convicting truth I once heard, and which has stuck with me ever since: The Homeless are not a problem to be solved, but people to be loved. You can substitute any number of other troublesome issues and the same is true.

Love is not practiced at a distance.

Love is practiced person to person, eyes meeting eyes and hands meeting hands. Which adds additional inconvenient truths, because when you get to know someone it’s a whole lot harder to pass judgment on them.

The next morning, as I ran by the river beside the hotel, I passed at least three people who had clearly slept under viaducts. It was hard for me not to examine my own conscience.

Because this call to love is a nightmare for an introvert. It’s hard enough for me to walk into a gathering of church musicians, people who have similar training and interests and passions, and get to know people. To try to bridge the chasm between me and people whose life experiences and choices and circumstances have landed them in a place so far removed from mine? I can only say again: nightmare.

Now, here’s my problem. There are good things in the world, and the fact that suffering exists elsewhere does not render those good things bad. They’re still good.

But we live lives so insulated from the suffering, we don’t even recognize our own sense of entitlement anymore. I’m dancing at Jazzercise to music performed by people who have millions of dollars to throw at nothing, and I count myself more righteous because I don’t throw money at nothing. Except, well, Jazzercise.

I mean, think about the way we live. We have so much wealth that we hold eating contests where a person wins by consuming ten thousand calories’ worth of hot dogs in ten minutes. Five days’ worth of calories. For a Westerner. For someone in the developing world? Maybe a week and a half’s worth of food. In ten minutes.

The candy store sells fudge only by the slice, a slice so big that six of us could eat from it twice. The portion sizes at restaurants everywhere are so big that Christian and I can split one between us and count it as more than a full meal.

And because we consider this “normal,” we have to pay even more money to go to exercise classes and tuck our tummies and buy weight loss supplements.

And upon this sort of attitude does our entire economy hinge.

I can’t escape the conclusion that we’re all, collectively—even the most aware and convicted among us—completely, sinfully clueless. The “consumer culture” that Pope Francis took to task in Laudato Si is something that every one of us participates in. And those of us who profess to be Christians should be really uncomfortable with that.

I don’t know where to draw the line between a healthy enjoyment of the goodness of modern life—$100 hotel robes, king-sized beds, Wii and weekend getaways—and sinful cluelessness.

But maybe that’s all right. We, the comfortable, need to be afflicted sometimes, because we need to be shaken awake every so often and realize there’s a bigger world out there and we have a responsibility to it. Even if there aren’t any clear cut solutions.

Random Thoughts On Pop Culture


We were sitting in front of the TV one night when a Liberty Mutual commercial came up. “We’ll buy you a car ONE YEAR NEWER than your current car, with ONE THOUSAND MILES!” they boasted.

I elbowed Christian. “Whaddya think, Christian?”

He nodded slowly. “Hm,” he said. “That means we could get a truck that’s nineteen years old, with a hundred and ninety-nine thousand miles on it.”

(Note: We misheard. It’s only  new cars that get this deal.)

Photo by 00dann, via Flickr

We both laughed, but it got me thinking how many other ridiculous things are in the air around us that we don’t even notice. Like these:

  • No one who has sex in the movies ever has that “fourth arm” problem.
  • Nobody ever gets a raw face from making out the guy who thinks he looks so cool when he fails to shave.
  • Then there’s the compulsion to drop all connecting words. “Recipe” style. I mean, yes, when you read a recipe it says “Add flour, sugar, and salt; stir.” But in spoken speech, you always fill in the words. So why is it that Siri (and other GPS directions) do it. Radio news guys do it, reading their material like headlines, only using a tone of voice like normal speech. Since when did American culture begin to aspire to the level of a robotic voice?

Photo by Jenn and Tony Bot, via Flickr

  • Singers surely, surely do not use that strained, self-aware, “I’m-so-cool” voice when they’re singing a) in church, b) happy birthday, or c) a lullaby to their kids. So what do their REAL voices sound like? (I’m looking at you, Demi Lovato, Megan Trainor.)
  • And male pop stars: WHAT is with that annoying, whiny FALSETTO???? (Not to name names, Adam Levine-and-Justin-Timberlake-give-me-the-heebie-jeebies.)
  • Speaking of unnatural voice patterns, what’s up with the radio deejays who give the…weather and the local…news while…deliberately breathing…in the wrong…place in the…sentence? Maybe you think it makes you sound distinct, but you must drive non-native English speakers completely batty. Don’t you think they have enough trouble following? Have a little compassion and break your…sentences in a…place that makes…logical sense. Pretty please?
  • Has there ever been a helicopter in a movie that did NOT blow up?

What things strike you as weird in popular culture?

Why I Hate The “Blaming The Victim” Argument


In the midst of the online debate about Ferguson last November, someone I know posted this status update on Facebook:

Ferguson status

A little provocative, to be sure, but I found value to this point of view, and it was one I hadn’t heard anyone else acknowledging amid the screeching chorus of pointing fingers and moral outrage on both sides of the so-called conversation. What I saw in that status update was a clear-eyed recognition that the only way forward could not be imposed from outside, but had to be undertaken by the people for whom the issue mattered most–those in Ferguson.

So I shared the status.

Photo by jetheriot, via Flicker

Almost immediately, someone invoked “blaming the victim.”

I cannot tell you how much I loathe those three words. There is no other phrase I can think of that so effectively shuts down discussion. What possible response can there be to that accusation? None. Any protest simply proves the point in the mind of the accuser.

So of course, I simply fumed in silence and swore off participating in conversations on the topic.

But I thought of it again this weekend, because this story appeared in my NBC news feed: Ferguson’s Future May Lie In The Hands Of Its Voters After Shootings, Unrest.

And I thought, Look at that. He was right. Now even the national news is saying it.

This is anything but blaming the victim.  It is a search for solutions. The final quote in the video interview with candidate Wesley Bell is: “I want to be a part of that solution. I think it takes people in the community to step up and do it.”

Solutions. That’s what it’s all about.

Bad things happen to everyone. When they do, it’s natural and even productive to think, “Did something I did cause or contribute to that?” You do this, not because you think you’re to blame, but to see if there’s something in the way you handled the circumstances that you need to rethink in the future, to try to avoid it happening again. You learn from the past, or the past repeats itself.

I can sit here and tick off a dozen examples of this in practice in the last couple of years in my own life. It’s never as simple as who was right and who was wrong, who’s the aggressor and who the victim. People always do what they do for a reason. They may not be good reasons, but the reasons are a result of people’s individual experiences. When bad things happen, we have to acknowledge that reality, if we want to move toward a better future.

And that’s the key here–when we go around throwing blame, we’re not getting any closer to a solution. In fact, we’re throwing obstacles in the way. And when we go around accusing people of blaming the victim, we’re throwing up the biggest obstacle of all.

In the end, what matters most is never making sure the blame rests with the right person. What matters most is working toward a solution, toward a better future.

Road Rage And Other Rage


Photo by Tony Fischer Photography, via Flickr

Three times in recent weeks, I have drawn the ire of other drivers. It’s enough to make me soul-search whether the problem really is me.

The first time, I’d turned the engine off at a long light and the car behind me wasn’t happy with the extra second it took me to get moving forward when the light did finally change. No brief tap of the horn for her; no, she expressed her displeasure with a protracted blare and then tailgated me for the next mile. I got a speeding ticket on that stretch of road a few years ago, so I always keep my speed under control there…but I admit I took great pleasure in doing so that afternoon.

The second time, I was preparing to turn left off a two-lane highway. I’d started to lean left when I realized the oncoming car was close and moving fast, so I decided it would be safer to wait. The pickup behind me leaned on his horn….and held it…the entire time the car was approaching and passing. I thought that was beyond obnoxious, so I deliberately waited an extra second to turn, just to make the point. Which caused him to continue holding the horn the entire time I turned left, and for about a tenth of a mile after he roared on down the highway.

The third time, I had a car full of kids, not all of them mine, and I exited the interstate to find the left-turn lane unusually backed up. After about four minutes I realized the sensor was malfunctioning and we weren’t going to get a green light at all. Waiting wasn’t an option. I had to take the carpool kids home and get back to our house before Julianna’s bus. The solution was to pull into the right-turn lane instead and find a place to turn around somewhere down the street.

I couldn’t see around the traffic behind me, so I poked my nose out far enough to give me a sight line. And then I stopped, because there was a car flying up the ramp. I let him get past and then pulled out behind him.

As he sat waiting to turn right, he fisted me a predictable middle finger. And then, apparently deciding my lack of reaction meant I hadn’t seen it, he did it again.

All this has me evaluating my own habit of assuming the worst of other drivers. We all think whatever speed we’re driving is the right one, whether it’s below, at or over the speed limit. If someone wants to go faster they’re obviously bad drivers in far too much of a hurry. If someone’s going slower than we want to go, they’re obviously bad drivers who shouldn’t be on the road at all. When I’m running late I blame everyone else for holding me up—how dare they?–even though, hello, it’s my lateness that’s causing my stress. It’s no one’s fault, and more importantly no one’s problem, but my own.

It’s so easy to let little things get under our skin. Too often, too many of us (myself included) walk around with a general sense of rage at a constant simmer, just looking for an excuse to erupt…and in some cases, for an excuse to pick a fight. (Facebook, I’m looking at you.) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written a snarky, provocative comment on Facebook, thinking it’s my God-given right to opine, and teeter on the edge of “submit” for agonizing seconds before selecting all and deleting.

There are times—like this week—that seem to overflow with irritations and inconveniences. They challenge my resolve to “treasure” the good and brush off the bad. So maybe it’s a good thing to get honked at and flipped the finger occasionally. Because the jarring overreaction it represents reminds me what’s at stake.

The Blame Game


Every time something bad happens, the biggest topic of (cough-cough) “discussion” is: whose fault is it?

It may be a natural human tendency, but it does nothing to solve the problem at hand. Trying to boil everything down to whose fault it is leads to an all-or-nothing approach to complex problems. That ensures one thing: that nothing will ever be solved. Because as long as we are focused on how it’s someone ELSE’s problem, it absolves us of any responsibility to address the larger issues. And whether we want to admit it or not, there are always larger issues at play whenever a hot button topic comes up. But too often, attempts to open up those larger issues devolves into accusations of “blaming the victim.”

Photo via Pixabay

Photo via Pixabay

And that’s a shame, because the biggest, most important issues the human race faces do not exist in a vacuum. People’s choices and behaviors are influenced by a complex series of factors that include their personal experiences, their racial/communal memory, their philosophical and/or religious convictions (or lack thereof), the tone and bias of the news and commentary they encounter, and the society-wide messaging–which frequently pits very contradictory values against each other (i.e.: violence is bad, but violence in entertainment is good. Women are to be respected, except when showing them as sex objects will separate you from your money for a truck, a value meal, or a can of beer).

When we start talking about appropriate or inappropriate use of police force or about sexual assault, to name two, we cannot pretend these other factors do not have an impact. Violations to human dignity are everywhere, from the big and sensational to the way we entertain ourselves and even to the way we interact in comboxes and on Facebook. The problems are systemic, and they often go unacknowledged until they manifest in sensational (i.e. horrific) ways. But sensational or systemic and unseen, the problems are all tied together. If we are ever to make a difference, we have to address the larger context in which the individual violations occur. And the more time we waste hurling accusations about whose “fault” it is, the more ingrained those violations become.

When there are society-wide issues, the solutions have to be society-wide. But when we assign a problem to a macro level, we tend to forget that macro solutions involve a micro level, too. Big violations feel beyond our control, but big violations are built upon billions of little ones, and some of those happen in our schools and communities and even in our own hearts. And those, we can do something about. We have to have the tough conversations with our kids, because if we don’t, their attitudes will be formed by that conglomerate, in de facto ways, instead of deliberately, by those of us who love them. We have to examine our consciences for the ways we could act and don’t, or the ways in which we do act and shouldn’t.

When it comes to the societal problems that outrage us in the news, we all have a responsibility. That doesn’t mean it’s our fault. It means we have the power to impact the world for the better in some small way by the way we speak and the choices we make.

It’s time to stop playing the blame game and look for solutions.