Category Archives: Common Sense

Forgiving the Thoughtlessness of Others

The other day, someone made an honest comment to me about a gift I gave them – a rude comment, but an honest one.

This is the sort of circumstance I hear about a lot on my radio program.  Callers get very upset about some small moment of discomfort, stupidity, rudeness, thoughtlessness – you get my drift.  It sends them into a tizzy, because I guess they yearn for this perfect world where everyone else’s behavior conforms to what it is that makes them happy.

People are largely busy with their own lives, and they don’t always monitor their mouths or body language.  Sometimes, they’re prone to say things without consideration of how it might be received.

So, back to my story – I just laughed.  Look, my feelings can get hurt just like yours.  But since I am “Dr. Laura,” and because I have the experience of over six decades on the planet, I have learned to choose what will annoy me.  When you have friends and acquaintances, you have to  1) cut everyone some “stupidity slack” once in a while (as you would have them forgive you);  2) look at the totality of that person and realize that, percentage-wise, they’re “fine,” and 3) decide whether or not their action was intentionally meant to do you harm or was just a quirk of their personality.

When someone is downright evil, please avoid them.

When someone is simply a bit thoughtless of others, then put them in their place…in your mind, that is.  Know that they have this “quirky-ness” and in the future, don’t have expectations for them that are out-of-proportion.

You can still be friendly, and even be friends, once you accept their limitations.

So, if you don’t have a “goat” to get, they can’t get your goat!

Listen to that Small Voice Inside

I notice that there are way too many people who want to believe that “not wanting to know something is true” will magically make it “not true.”  If it worked, I’d bottle and sell it.

I’d like a dollar for each caller to my radio program who complains about some extraordinary behavior or circumstance that is making them miserable in their relationship, whether they’re dating, already married, or married and three kids later!  I ask the dreaded question:  “Did you see/know about this before you…?”  At first, frankly, most people lie and say “No.”  Sensing they’re being defensive, I push.  Finally, they admit it by modulating it:  “Well, it wasn’t that bad.”  Meaning, of course, that they knew it and didn’t want to know it.

Why does this happen?

1. We don’t want our dreams and desires squished.
2. We are so far along with our feelings and actions (sex, engagement, long dating) that we simply don’t want to lose what we have, or we don’t want to lose face.

So, the next step is “magical thinking:”  “Well, LOVE should fix this,” or “It’s really not that bad,” or we simply just try to ignore it.  When parents or friends bring it to our attention, we find ways to extinguish reality by claiming that they are just exaggerating or wanting to hurt you or take away your happiness or are too bossy or too critical.

Every now and then I get a caller, as I did recently, who was only dating a few weeks and was seeing what some would call a “red flag.”  She wanted to check it with me to see if she was being unnecessarily cautious or critical.  After listening to her, I complimented her on listening to that small voice inside which was telling her “NO…not this one!”

So what I wish for all of you this new year is to listen to that small voice of good sense, and put aside emotion and magical thinking.  The road to hell is not built with good sense.

Keep that in mind.

Moral Nearsightedness

Earlier this month, I took a call that I thought was a perfect example of how “moral nearsightedness” is overcoming American society.

This twenty-something young woman was pregnant out-of-wedlock, “shacking up” with her alleged fiance (they are living with his father), and the fiance doesn’t have enough income to support a wife and child.

But that’s not why she called!!

In fact, when I pointed out the irresponsibility and immaturity of conceiving out of wedlock with a guy incapable of supporting a family, I got back:  “Well, that’s not my question!” (And, by the way, she didn’t want to have a wedding until after the baby was born and she got her figure back in order to wear a white gown).

Her question actually related to her mother.  Apparently, her mommy came to visit and “got it on” with the fiance’s dad….all night.  There were other children (of other family members) in the home when this was happening.

That’s as far as she got when I said: “It’s genetic.”
She responded with:  “What?”
I repeated and expanded: “It’s genetic…having no moral foundation for decisions.  Like mother, like daughter.”

Now that may sound harsh to you, but truth often is, and there was nothing I could do to change anything about this situation.  She was already “shacking up” and pregnant; her mother already had humped the maybe future father-in-law.  Her question was going to be about confronting her mom about this outrageous behavior.  I couldn’t bear to hear her even go there, considering she was the pot and the kettle all by herself.

It’s a shame both of our eyes point only outwards.  It would be a far, far better thing if one of them turned inwards.

Social Network Privacy Not So Private

Facebook and MySpace and other social networking sites have become a means of not only communicating with so-called “friends,” but they also allow for showing off and “going wild” in ways that often come back to bite…even when you think your site is private.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, Ashley Payne, a teacher in an Arizona school said that she was forced to resign after photos and a comment posted on her Facebook page were forwarded to the superintendent of schools in her county.  And she said she had the highest level of privacy controls on her site.  The photos in question showed her in pubs and beer gardens while on summer vacation.  In a comment on her Facebook page, she announced that she was headed to play a game called “Crazy Bitch Bingo.”

According to the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the bottom line is that “the state code addresses on and off-campus behavior, including inappropriate relationships with students and anything that violates the mores of the community.”

I’m good with that, because teachers have a profound influence on young minds, and being role models seems an obvious obligation.  Not enough teachers think about the consequences of their conduct, not just in terms of their own employment, but in terms of the well-being of the children for whom they are responsible.  Posting extremely inappropriate sexual content and nudity on the web as well as posting photos of teachers yucking it up with booze is a breach of professional conduct.

For teachers, this is obvious.  However, each and every one of you must understand that anybody with knowledge can hack into your private site and edit as well as download and reproduce material elsewhere.  Don’t write or post pictures you would not want to see on the front page of The New York Times, unless, of course, you’re into being infamous.  The word “friend” is simply a term for someone with access to your site.  Don’t imagine that they necessarily have the honor of a real-life friend.  Anything you write or post might be used against you.

Now that this is all said, how about your just inviting real friends over for dinner and meaningful conversation?

Giving Birth In Front of an Audience

During my college years in the Sixties, “empowerment” and “consciousness-raising” were the main focus of existence, even though these concepts were largely used to insist that you were a victim of something or someone just for being female.

Well, fast forward to now, and one young, married woman in her twenties has decided that giving birth live on the Internet is empowering to women!  The use of that term in this circumstance cracks me up.  I remember, during my loooong labor, my husband saying that he was going to leave to get a cup of coffee.  I threatened him with “if you leave…never come back!!”  I guess that threat was “empowerment,” but giving birth in public or private is one of our least powerful times.  We are completely at the mercy of a baby who is usually saying “Hell, no, I won’t go.”

Nonetheless, this woman has decided that taking something personal and making it public is empowering and educational and spreading joy.  Oh, puleeze!  In our sadly growing exhibitionist, voyeuristic, reality show mentality of a society, this is how people become “important,” known, and “famous.”

The point of “personal” is that something is perfected by its modesty, and sharing is not an issue of public promotion, but an opportunity for a few people to embrace a meaningful moment of experience.  Experiences and moments that are universal (like child-bearing) are not educational.  The childbirth is going to be posted on a mom website, which means that they’ve all been there and done that.

Her husband is marginalized.  She admits that he was “hesitant” at first, but I’m sure he ultimately had no say.  There aren’t too many decent men who want to share the birth of their first child with a camera crew and a blog audience – that makes Daddy less special and less involved.

It’s all just sad to me.  And what happens after the event, when the thrill, the attention and adrenaline of being in the spotlight goes away?  What is she going to do with this kid to keep the flow going?  Think Jon and Kate.  Think “sad” for the children who become the means of their parents’ moment in the light, in ways other than simply enjoying their first smiles and first steps.

Death by Texting

It’s bad enough when people drive and talk on the phone – they don’t have the use of their phone hand for maneuvering the car (and in many states, talking without a hands-free headset is illegal), and they are totally absorbed in a conversation, meaning they’re not looking alertly for pedestrians, bicyclists, a herd of buffalo or other cars.  What’s even more egregious is the texting craze which has the driver looking down and reading or dialing or writing and not even looking ahead at the road for several seconds, which could mark the difference between life and death.

For Victoria McBryde, 24, those few precious seconds meant her death.  22 year old Phillipa Curtis has been convicted of the death of Ms McBryde – caused by texting while driving.  The victim’s car had broken down and was by the side of the road with all its lights on and emergency lights blinking – a bit hard NOT to notice.  Nonetheless, she was killed instantly when her car was rear-ended by the texting Ms. Curtis, who will spend only two years in prison for this crime.

This all took place in Britain, which has added jail time to a conviction for killing by texting and driving.  Ms. Curtis’ phone records indicated that she had exchanged nearly two dozen messages with at least five friends, mostly concerning her encounter with a celebrity singer she had served at a restaurant where she worked.  That’s what was so important?  For that, someone had to die??  Death due to dangerous driving (e.g., texting) is on the level of drinking while driving, and can earn four to seven years in jail.  Apparently, the perp was a pretty, seemingly sweet young thing, and so her jail time was minimized by the judge – a sentence that was met with anger by the victim’s family as well as the by the prosecutor…and by me.

Ironically, it was also discovered that the victim herself had sent a text message and talked on her cell phone using the speaker function while driving before her car broke down. 

Please don’t think you are invincible, and the laws and recommendations about driving safely apply to everyone else, while you are “special.”  The lives of these two young women are forever changed.  One life was forfeited; the other woman is jailed and living with the guilt of having killed another human being because she just had to gossip to five friends about seeing a rock star.  Sad.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

“Stupid is as stupid does.”  Those are sage words from the fictional Forrest Gump.

And stupid does some interesting things in America.  Here are two great recent examples of stupidity:

Before I tell you the first story, I want to preface it with a memory from my middle school years.  We Long Island neighborhood children took the bus to school.  I walked two blocks to the bus stop.  In the winter, it was freezing, but fortunately, one of the kids I went to school with lived in that corner house right where the bus picked us up.  The mom would leave the garage door open (the cars were already gone) so we could all huddle out of the wind and chill until the bus came.  It was very kind of her.

Now, to today’s story:  A mom in Michigan allows the kids from three families to hang out before school at her house for about 1 hour before the school bus comes.  She’s not getting paid, although I sure hope she’s getting appreciation from the families who have to go to work before they can get their kids off to school. 

Believe it or not, she receives a letter from the Michigan Department of Human Services warning her that if she continues, she’d be violating a law aimed at the operation of unlicensed day-care centers.  She’s not getting paid!!  And she’s doing the neighbors a favor!!

This law says no one may care for unrelated children in their home for more than four weeks each calendar year unless they are licensed day-care providers.  The Department of Human Services warned her without even finding out the facts.  This is stupid.  Never mind that these kids, if left by themselves for an hour without adult supervision could be food for predators.  It seems also that this stupid stretch would preclude regular baby-sitting when parents go out to dinner and the movies.

There is good news here, though.  After the news media got hold of this story (and embarrassed the heck out of the state of Michigan), Governor Jennifer Granholm instructed the agency’s director to work with the state legislature to change the law. 

Since when is simply being a good neighbor a criminal activity?  Some neighbor (and we’ve all had this kind of neighbor) made a complaint, and started this non-common sense ball rolling.

The second stupid story is from Saratoga Springs.  Adam Marino, a 12 year old in seventh grade, and his mother are defying Saratoga Springs school policy by biking to Maple Avenue Middle School.  The school has a rule that kids can’t walk or ride a bike to school.  Adam’s mom and other parents want their kids to be less sedentary and to get exercise by walking or riding to school as a fitness activity. 

After Adam’s mom thought she had an understanding with the school board on this issue, she rode a bike with her kid to school, only to be met by a state trooper and school administrators.  You’d think she had been beating her kid or helping him play hooky.  Sheesh!

In reaction to this, other parents joined them in riding and walking their kids to school.  Once again, this got the attention of the news media, and the Board of Education is going to vote to amend this policy this week.

These arbitrary rules are just stupid, and frankly, ignoring the bigger picture of neighborhood safety and exercise for children.  Fortunately, however, thanks to the media spotlight, it’s all going to change.

Live Out Loud

Mice kept on a diet that is healthy (but absolutely no fun at all) in which their caloric intake was restricted to only 70% of what’s considered “normal” lived 30 to 40% longer than the usual lifespan.  The only downside of this restriction was that the mice were less fertile than their non-restricted counterparts. 

Most people can’t restrict calories for long, so, according to the New York Times, scientists are trying to find a drug that tricks the body into thinking it’s eating fewer calories.  The problem is that all of these restricted calorie experiments are done on captive mice, who are selected for quick breeding and who are fed on rich diets.  A low-calorie diet could be much closer to the diet that mice are adapted to in the wild, extending their life simply because it is much healthier for them.  Mice don’t live that long, anyway.  Humans have a longer life span, and that extended duration of time on the planet leaves us more vulnerable to cancers.

So, after 20 years of experimenting with caloric restriction on monkeys in captivity, studies found the monkeys were healthier (i.e., they had fewer incidents of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease), but their life span was not significantly longer.  Eating more prudently than we generally do, therefore, was good for quality of life, but not for quantity of life.

And that’s the point of my taking on this issue in the first place.  People call my radio program knowing they’re probably going to die of some particular terminal disease they have.  They call me, because they’re spending each day suffering emotionally over the realization that they will soon be dead.  My response to one woman in this situation was to wake up each morning and yell out loud:  “Damn – I’m not dead!  Today, I’m gonna LIVE OUT LOUD!!!”  The point of our being upset about death is the realization that we’ve lost all we value in life.  So, take each day that you’re not dead to live life to the fullest.  Enjoy that day you’re not dead.  Don’t waste one precious moment of it.

Come to think of it, that’s good advice for everyone, since at different times, and at different rates, we’re all terminal.  Don’t waste one minute of life.