Saturday, April 30, 2011

letter to my daughter

"A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on. " Carl Sandburg

On weekend mornings, I make coffee and sit at my desk for a leisurely perusal of news and facebook.  Inevitably, a post will catch my eye, and I'll write some long-winded-but-well-thought-out response to someone's throwaway comment that I might not have noticed later in the day.  This morning, the post I took on belonged to my daughter.  She'd listed ten things she thought would make the world end in 2012:
  1. Rebecca Black
  2. Walmart
  3. Lady Gaga
  4. Country Singers
  5. Autotune
  6. Desperate Housewives
  7. The iPad
  8. Ugg Boots
  9. Nicki Minaj
  10. Vin Diesel

We could argue with the merits of the list, but I'm sure my daughter doesn't believe the world will end or that Vin Diesel will be the cause of it.  Frankly, if it does end, all those things will have contributed, just like taking one's first breath contributes to the taking of the last.  But a facebook post doesn't call for that sort of existential philosophy. 

As you can imagine, a provocative opinion (especially on a place like facebook, especially when one's friends are users of the items in said opinion) causes some to take umbrage.  Is it necessary to hate on Gaga?  Whoa, Watch the Nicki Minaj stuff!  Come on—what's wrong with Walmart?

My kid has a good mind, and I'm sure she can articulate why these items and people could contribute to the end of the world—or at least the downfall of Western Civilization.  But something she said struck me because it's something I expect from other facebook users, not my daughter.  "I copied these things from my best friend's status—that doesn't necessarily mean I believe they're all bad."


So I'm copying my letter to her right here.  It's my letter to you, too, and to your kids.  The funny thing is that I don't feel unqualified to give the advice, even though I don't exactly fit the measure of success in this world.  My house is so small that when the six band members come upstairs from the basement, I feel like I will explode.  Yesterday, I spent $60 I didn't have on dinner and a museum admission, and I'm feeling panicky this morning.  I have two inches of roots that I can't afford to make match to the rest of my hair.  My weight loss breaks for Berger's cookies.  And my eleven-year-old SUV is rust held together with bird shit.

Still, I make things with my hands, my heart, and my brain.  I am fulfilled by my experiences.  I try new things, eat delicious foods, go interesting places.  I don't have the added stress of a job I loathe and a boss I hate or clients who treat me like a slave.  I'm surrounded by beauty and by friends who make me laugh and animals that lick my face.  And I suppose this is why.

- - - - - - - -

Here are some worthwhile tips about life.

  1. Never JUST copy anything. Always make it your own. Look at Ted Brodysseus Merrill.  He can play like the record, but he plays the song with his hair, too, and in pink clothing. Or like Brett Diamond, who plays leads by deadening notes on the neck.
  2. If you don't like something, be open to changing your mind. I'm open to changing my mind about Nikki Minaj and Lady Gaga. Hasn't happened yet, but I'm open to it.
  3. Don't let anyone bully you into changing your mind. See their point that yes, Gaga sings and plays well, but no, she's not your (or my) cup of tea. (Or, thankfully, soy latte. Blech.)
  4. Spend your dollars at the places you think best represent your interests (i.e. not Walmart). Spend more to buy in your neighborhood, so stores stay open, and your house stays valuable. Doing so amounts to more dollars in your pocket eventually, when store owners tell others what a good person you are and help you get gigs and work, not where you are just an invisible nit not worthy of a clean restroom.
  5. Never wear Ugg boots. You'll find plenty of cool boots that don't look like anyone else's hideous (Ugg--short for uggggggly) footwear. (See my beautiful turquoise cowboy boots with Frida Kahlo hearts on them, for example.)
  6. The iPad is stupid, but it won't make the world end. Windows-based programs will do that.
  7. Finally, while it's cool to dis Justin Bieber and Rebecca Black (and Ke$ha and Taylor $wift and all those mediocre-to-lousy YouTube stars), fight the genre by being the best you can be, practicing regularly, being prepared, and enjoying the hell out of all you do—whether it's saxophone, drums, guitar, vocals, writing, drawing, reading, school.

Stop the world from ending by being the reason for it to go on. I know you are mine.


The Crazy-Ass Bitch Who Buys You Shit and Cooks You Stuff and Drives Your Ass All Over Town

P.S. Country singers are STILL writing the best songs. Ignoring that fact will be of no help where numbers 1 and 7 are concerned. 

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photos of a few things I love, top to bottom: new puppy, Jett; three of my Kims; Ted Merrill's awesome guitarring; Serena, the reason.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

the new no?

I have applied for jobs randomly over the past few years, but a few months ago, I answered an ad for a position that seemed a perfect fit for me.  Within a day, I’d scheduled a telephone interview. 

This job was different from any other I’d seen in that I actually wanted it.  The talk went well: I’d read up on the company, so I was able to ask some good questions.  When I hung up the phone, I was actually excited and thought I had a pretty good shot at doing communications—writing, video, photography—for a rabble-rousing organization. (Perfect, right?)

I followed up with a thank-you email to the interviewer and reiterated that the position sounded perfect.  After two weeks, I sent another note letting him know that I was still excited and was hoping to hear from him about setting up an in-person interview.  Still nothing.  Another two weeks passed, and I wrote again, this time just to ask if he would please reply regardless of whether I was still being considered.


“Silence,” says my friend Ira Kessler, “is the new no.”

Why replace it?  No is delightful closure, as final as the last period in a book!  It doesn’t dash hopes but instead extinguishes the burning fires of desire.  No can be appropriately terse or delightfully polite.  It can be firm and direct.  It can be nope or nah or nuh-uh, for the ultra hip and casual. 

No can come with excuses to soothe the sting: it’s not you, it’s me.  No can acknowledge the pain of loss without implying fault: I’m sorry to inform you…

Best of all, no is fast.  No.  One point two-five seconds.  Add a sorry; there’s still time.  But how about this: Dear Ms. Miller, I have filled the position.  Thank you for your interest.  Thirteen seconds, including a typing correction.  Press reply, and Bob’s yer uncle.

My third email to that guy was going to be a bridge burner, asking him whether silence was, indeed, the new no, admonishing him for not being considerate.  But my mother, my regular proofreader and compass of right and wrong, told me to reconsider.  What if the person he went with doesn’t work out? 

Like the two people who had already held this position before he began his search again?   I bet he told them no. 

It might sound as though I haven’t let this go.  I have, but it's a fine example of how advances in communication technologies lead to lapses of etiquette.  I need the no—or, at the very least, the acknowledgment that my paragraphs have reached their intended target.  How do I know that my emails to him—or the people at the stained glass store, to whom I have sent four unanswered emails since March 10; or the several people to whom I’ve submitted résumés; or the countless others from whom I’ve requested information, quotes, prices, etc.—were not caught in some virtual ethereal web of tangled ethereal virtualness?  They are not the kind of messages that one would expect to remain unanswered

It’s not like I’m asking someone to make a poster for my missing cat.  And if I did, nothing is not better than noNo is still perfect.