Monthly Archives: November 2010

Ya Gotta Have Friends

I’ve been giving something a lot of thought lately, and have decided to share it with you – to influence you (if you’re not already) to open up to friendships.

Deborah Tannen, the linguist, recently wrote a piece published in The New York Times which discussed some research which indicated that people with sisters are happier than those without them.  Her point of view was it isn’t women who talk better than men, it’s that they talk more often – even if it’s not about problems.  The very act of just communing is beneficial to both.

She pointed out that men – even men with problems – might talk to each other and end up feeling better, even when they didn’t spend ten seconds talking about “the problem.”  Why?  I believe it’s because talking is a connection, an act of interest and caring, and a remedy for isolation, loneliness, and despair.

My mother was from a small town in northern Italy and grew up during the Fascist/Mussolini era.  Her parents owned a restaurant and worked all the time.  She did have a sister, my aunt Lucia, who was gunned down by a Nazi firing squad at the age of 20 the very first day she joined the underground movement but, other than that, she learned (sadly) to be contained in herself.  That never changed.  As I grew up, I never ever saw her have even one friend and she instilled in me a real sense of self-protection.  She always told me I trusted too quickly, got disillusioned/betrayed/hurt and then suffered immensely.  She was right.  But so what?  Being “hurt” is not the worst thing in the world.  Being disconnected is.

I don’t readily tend to talk about my personal/emotional conditions.  That’s now what I do when I get together with friends.  I just share life with them.  I have a few lovely lady friends right now – a deep quality of friendship – which is so deeply satisfying.  I remember my surprise when one of them hadn’t seen me for almost a week and said, “You know, I miss you.”  I just about fell down.  Why was I so touched?  Because for the most part, folks are into their own lives and don’t necessarily pay much attention to subtle niceties like that with friends.  At that moment, she was cemented into my heart.  What a generous, sweet thing to say.  I have another friend who texts me now and then just to tell me to have a great day, and another one who gives me professional massages twice a month simply because she wants me to relax.

My mother missed out on a lot.  I’m glad I didn’t listen to her warnings about trust and people.  Yes, some have been untrustworthy and unkind, and others have outright betrayed me.  But if your heart stays closed to avoid that hurt, then you won’t hear from a friend those words:  “Miss you…love ya.”  I’d rather suffer some frustrations in return for not missing out on hearing that.  I hope you are also so willing.

The Cheerleader and the Athlete Who Raped Her

When I first heard this story, I had to think about it for a bit:

A one-time high school cheerleader who was sexually assaulted – raped – by two star athletes was kicked off her cheerleading squad for refusing to cheer for her attacker.
They were all at a party, drinking.  The two star athletes took her into a room alone and locked the door; they fondled and then raped her.  When she screamed louder and louder, other kids finally pounded on the door and when they got it open, discovered the high school cheerleader naked from the waist down on a pool table, and the boys escaping through an open window.

The third attempt at an indictment was the charm, but this case was pleaded down to misdemeanor assault, sentencing the rapist to a one year suspended  sentence, community service, two years probation, and a $2500 fine.  After the sentencing, the young male rapist was quoted as saying: “I have no hard feelings towards the girl.  It was a misunderstanding.”
If I had been the judge, after hearing this obnoxious and self-serving statement, he would have seen hard jail time.  But….he is a star athlete and, as we know, they have special rules.

The other kids at that party who came through the door to find a sobbing, ravaged, half-naked cheerleader, one of their friends, knew what had gone down.  Nonetheless, when the first indictment attempt failed, he came back to school to play in important basketball games.  Cheerleaders cheer each player as they come on the floor.  When he came out, she stepped back and crossed her arms.  The principal allegedly took her into a hall and read her out.  The principal, assistant principal, cheerleading team official and superintendent gave her an ultimatum:  cheer for him or go home.  She was kicked off the squad days later and banned for the duration of her high school career.

Now, that’s the story.  Legally, he hadn’t been indicted yet (that did eventually happen), but everyone knew that she had been sexually assaulted.  They knew he was guilty, because they were there to see the aftermath.

She and her family are in court, losing a lot, trying to make a statement for her First Amendment rights of free speech by her silence.  I don’t know how all that will eventually pan out.  If she couldn’t do the job she was selected for (i.e., cheer the team and its members), perhaps she should have stayed home.  After all, that was her responsibility – to present her school’s team with support.

However, I will tell you what shouldn’t have happened.  The entire cheering squad and every student in their school should have been silent when he came out on the floor.  Everyone should have shunned him.  Everyone should have made a statement that he gets no free pass to rape because he is a big-time basketball player.  This is where the lesson starts.

Do you hear that, NBA?

Doing the Right Thing Comes With A Price

I recently read about a woman who won approximately $70 million after an 8 year battle with a major pharmaceutical company.  She was a “whistle blower” who reported the major drug company to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for atrocious violations which risked lives, and she got fired. Now, that company is paying the major part of a billion dollars to the government and has issued an apology and expressed the intent to remedy the situation at the manufacturing plant.

It’s too obvious for me to suggest that this reads like a “Law and Order” episode.  One wonders why the company didn’t reward her with her own LearJet, and fire lotsa folks at the stated plant as well as in the management ranks who were warned and did nothing to fix the problem. If they’d done that, their stock would have gone up.  Instead, all we’ve got is lawsuits that were lost, terrible public relations, a tarnished reputation, and people who were hurt.
Go figure.

An interesting part of the whistleblower issue is how many people turn against the whistleblower because doing the right thing is not their priority.  They are more concerned with less meaningful things.

I took a call from a woman not long ago about her sister who is in the hospital giving birth to her second child.  The caller was “house sitting” and called to tell me the home was ferociously filthy:  dogs routinely relieved themselves in the house (they weren’t housebroken) and there was other filth everywhere.  She was calling to ask me if she should tell the parents.  I asked her whether or not the parents had ever visited.  She said “yes,” and I replied that since they already know, they intend to do nothing.  They probably don’t want to tick off the daughter, so they wouldn’t be able to visit the grandkids, or else they’re equally filhy in their habits.

I said that the right thing is to protect the health of the children.  That’s why she needs to immediately call Child Protective Services (CPS) and the Health Department.  I offered that she could call the parents and tell them this is what was happening in order to give them a “head’s up,” but I also had to warn her that she’d be attacked by most of the family who are ashamed that they’ve done nothing.  The moment my caller blows the whistle, she will be outcast and berated and maligned and hated.

Too many people do not focus in on the right thing to do, and think of lesser issues instead, such as guilt for not having acted themselves, embarrassment for being part of a family that treats children this way, or denial that a family member might have a mental problem.
No one in this whole situation outside of my caller gave a damn about the children.  I applaud and support her.  She’ll need it.  Doing the right thing usually comes with a price.  Maybe that’s why so many people avoid it.