Let’s Delete the E-Card

About 10 years ago, my family received a Christmas letter from some friends. You know the kind: 2 pages, 8 point font, photos with circles and arrows and a paragraph dedicated to each one explaining all their successes for the past year. Boy did they have successes. Hell, their dog had a better year than me. And, the letter seemed to imply, the pet was definitely smarter than I was. On the one hand we were happy things were going so well for them. On the other hand, we felt inadequate and began questioning most of the choices we had made in life.

Not really. Mostly, we spent our time making fun of the letter and our perfect friends. Envy might be a sin, but it also promotes wit and humor in the right hands.

We were also inspired to begin writing our own Christmas letter but ours was a little less Norman Rockwell and a little more Chevy Chase. Our first annual letter way back in 2005 set the tone:

“Dear __________ (please write your name here for that “personal” feel):

We all know how impersonal Christmas letters can be, but it’s a whole lot cheaper than calling each and every one of you with a family update. The enclosed photo is proof that our children are still happy and well adjusted. Please disregard any phone calls from the FBI or Child Protective Services. I assure you those are prank calls.”

As you can see, the letter was written back when people 1) used phones to actually talk to people with voices, and 2) had to pay for the minutes necessary. They had this thing called long distance charges. Primitive.

The biggest news of the year for us that year was that my older son cut the tip of his middle  finger off while closing our back door. He spent half the year flipping everyone off. I’m still convinced he kept his finger taped up way longer than necessary. Even better, we (and by me I mean my poor wife) managed to pick up the tip, put it in a baggie with ice, and send the thing with me as I rushed the poor child to the emergency room. I guess we thought they could just duct tape it back on.

Rest assured no one felt insecure after reading our letter. I spread Christmas cheer by letting everyone know their dog probably was smarter than me.

Amazingly enough (or at least amazing to me), we are sending out our 9th annual letter this year. The tone for the last 9 years has remained the same but each year we try to do something different. Two years ago, we included about 20 song lyrics in the letter. This year the letter is riddled with Christmas movie references and every year there is at least one reference to big news stories from the year. (Santa sells data to the NSA–who else knows when you’ve been bad or good? They either have to buy it from him or play World of Warcraft.)

Perhaps even more amazing than 9 years of letters: we are sending an actual letter using honest to god stamps. No e-card or attachments or twitter feeds. We aren’t posting the letter to our Facebook page or Tumblr or Instagram.

And I wish other people wouldn’t either.

I’m no Christmas Card history expert, but I’m pretty sure the first Christmas cards were sent out in the mid 1800s in England and, generally, they were the province of the wealthy. As we entered the industrial age and commercial printing became readily available, the rest of us could send greeting cards relatively cheaply. Such cards offered us a chance to “greet” our friends and let them know we were thinking about them. Even with mass production, cards were special things to receive and many became mementos and archives of Christmas past. It should be noted also that such cards represented a kind of gift, a sense that the sender was thinking about you and yours at this special time and they were treated as such by being placed on the mantle or on the Christmas tree itself.

Try that with your e-card.

I’m no luddite. I understand the speed and efficiency that email and mass posting sites provide (hence the blog), but it also seems to me that speed and efficiency is exactly what we shouldn’t be worried about this time of year. Regardless of our religious or non-religious affiliation, the winter break, that time when we transition from one year into the next, should provide us with a moment to reflect both on the last 365 days but also on the broad range of relationships we have built over the course of time.

Christmas Cards, Season Greetings Cards, Happy Holidays Cards–the words on the card are far less relevant than the sentiment behind the gesture itself. When we get a card in the mail, we know someone took the time to sign the card, address the envelope, and, we hope, reflect for one brief moment on the person who will in 4-6 business days open the card.

Just as importantly, that card or that letter provides each and every person with a tangible, physical artifact, a sense if I may try to wax poetic, of our connection across the space and time of our lives. We renew or at least remember the people we have met and whose lives we have touched. And while there might be plenty of reasons for the season, it seems to me that trip down memory lane is at least one of the most important ones.

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You Can’t Pursue Happiness if You are Sitting Still

A friend of mine emailed the other day. He’s been teaching Cormac McCarthy’s The Road this week, a novel we’ve both had good success with in the past, but this time around “there were two or three passionate responders in a sea of potted plants.” He’s teaching a general education Humanities course and at times there “seems an active, even aggressive attitude on their part to NOT BE INTERESTED at all costs,” he writes.

He attributes their indifference to a growing sense of entitlement and a laser-like social and cultural emphasis on STEM fields. Let me say first that my colleague is one of the good guys. He’s a fine teacher who willingly creates cross-disciplinary courses, emphasizes critical thinking, and truly helps his students learn. He has an ability to take complicated material and help students understand and, on occasion, even enjoy such things. He is the kind of teacher who normally is able to show students that reading Shakespeare or Homer or even Cormac McCarthy is both worth their time and rewarding. He couples short fiction with popular culture, even showing a “Simpson’s parody to a mirthless audience.” He’s the kind of teacher many of us would like to be and the kind many of us wish we had taken.

While I would agree that we have increasingly raised a generation of students who think showing up is all of the battle (not just half anymore) and too many students who demand passing grades simply for putting forth a minimal effort, I think my friend misses the boat a bit. In many of my general education courses I’ve stopped teaching works that I truly and dearly love because I get frustrated not because the students don’t love the poem/novel/play, but because too many students are almost aggressively apathetic in those classes. They have been so bombarded with an educational ideology that tells them to seek out their passion that they too often refuse to engage with ideas if they don’t feel passionate, treating each class as if it were a side dish at Thanksgiving dinner. Mom makes you take a spoonful, but if you lick the spoon and don’t like the taste, you move the food around on the plate and scrape it in the trash when no one is looking.

They firmly believe they are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness but they have forgotten, as one of my professors used to remind us, that pursuing requires effort.

We have, simply put, convinced a generation of students that passion is more important than work. Far too many teachers, educators, and parents have become convinced that school must be fun, entertaining, and teachers must create active learning environments. We have passed along such ideas to our students and they sit idly by waiting for us to engage them. More important, they willingly admit that they only work well if they “like” the assignment or “feel comfortable” with the topic.

Mike Rowe, in his S.W.E.A.T Pledge at profoundly disconnected, tells us that Skill & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo and his list of Pledges includes a reminder that “I do not ‘follow my passion.’ I bring it with me. I believe that any job can be done with passion and enthusiasm.” I might, were I so bold, change “can be done” with “should be done.” Jobs, essays, readings, and anything else worth doing should be done with passion and enthusiasm regardless of your desire.

But it’s more than just this misplaced emphasis on passion. Far too many of our students in these classes lack a larger sense of self. We see this increasingly, I think, in our students’ inability (or unwillingness) to laugh. There is, in many ways, some measure of irony in this “mirthless” generation. School, for years now, has been fun, filled with pep rallies, crazy clothes weeks, and school lunches that are a diabetic 12 year old’s wet dream.

Yet, I think, we have too many students who just don’t get humor that doesn’t involve body parts, flatulence, or violence. There’s more to humor than crazy grandpas and jack asses.

You have to have some brains to understand parody, satire, and sarcasm and we have developed too many pedantic, humorless students. They go to high schools where parody and satire are dangerous (and too often offensive) and where their English teachers teach, I’m convinced, scared. It’s one of the reasons so many high school reading lists are filled with crappy, politically safe books that focus on feeling good and teens struggling with their own identity. We’ve turned reading lists into “After School Specials” and in doing so we perpetuate the myth that the struggle of teenagers is unique, special, and worthy of study. I hate to sound all curmudgeony and such, but who really gives a shit about teenagers who are sensitive and freaked out.

Aren’t they all? Aren’t they supposed to be? They will, history shows us, grow out of it.

Even at the university level we see common read programs that choose books that above all offend no one and are accessible to multiple populations. I’m all for inclusion and I certainly believe we must move beyond the dead, white male reading lists of the 1950s, but we also must demand that our students stop expecting their trials and tribulations sit at the center of our daily studies. Education is about pushing ourselves beyond what we know comfortably and willingly, and I might argue even aggressively, finding a way to be happy and engaged.

Even when the material, or the professor, seems dull.

Gobble, Gobble, Spend and Swallow

I will admit that I’m almost aggressively apathetic about stores opening on Thanksgiving day. What interests me the most about the burgeoning debate, though, are cultural contradictions we see emerging from those ready and willing to hit the stores and those rejecting the unbridled leap into capitalism.

On the one hand, we need to willingly admit that the entire holiday has its roots in a necessary blending of the religious and the political. By roots, of course, I’m talking about George Washington’s proclamation that we give thanks to God for God’s mercy and bountifulness not those people in the goofy hats and leggings. Subsequent presidents kept the tradition alive, designating a day in late November as a day we might set aside to give thanks to God. Interestingly, Thomas Jefferson ignored the tradition and up until the Civil War the holiday was observed sporadically and, often, only in individual state.

Old Honest Abraham Lincoln revived the tradition and proclaimed the holiday as an opportunity to pray, practice humility, and stop killing our relatives on the battle field. Turkey, not love Lincoln believed, could bring us together. It was, like so many other things Lincoln did, a brilliant reminder that we were one nation and we could, if we so desired, gather around the table and share communion.

Talk about federalism run amok! First he wants to end slavery and now he wants to centralize holidays! Geez, our 1863 radio talk show host might proclaim. Who knew Lincoln was such a big government Republican? The 1860’s federal government can’t even decide who is human and a citizen. What makes us think they can manage a national holiday!

But let’s not get overly sentimental (or goofy) about American history. Our founding fathers were, as we all know, brilliant men who recognized that for us to survive both internal and external threats against our nationhood, we must unite around shared ideals. Thanksgiving, then, becomes both a religious moment and an opportunity to begin creating uniquely American traditions. We not only, Washington might say, cast off our European oppressors, we declare our independence and uniqueness by celebrating our humility and our nation’s birth. United we stand, and all that jazz.

Yet, as I tell my American lit students, we can’t talk about America if we don’t recognize the delicate blending of commerce, religion, and politics. (Don’t believe me–look at the back of a one dollar bill.) While the holiday begins with these nationalistic and religious roots, our modern version reflects a growing industrial nation’s appetite for goods and commerce. It might not be pretty to think so, but FDR recognized that we could spend our way out of the great depression. Once everyone was all fat, happy, and filled with good cheer (and beer) toward men (and grandma), they were more likely to spend money buying presents. Give them another week and they would remember how much they disliked all those in-laws and other relatives and close that pocketbook. (There’s that big government again! I’m starting to see a trend?)

Simply put, our modern Thanksgiving is a gluttonous celebration of excess: food, football, family, and fighting, er shopping.

But I don’t think we like to admit such a thing. Oh, we’re fine with the food and family, but I don’t think we want to recognize the blatant commercialism run amok in American culture. In many ways, our educational and cultural treatment of the holidays resembles yet another great contradiction of American culture. We celebrate by spending one day with our family and the next day buying things for them. (And a whole year paying it off!)

Until last year when Walmart and others realized we could, as we are always so want to do, have it all and have it now.

And here is where my apathy begins. I can say with great pride I’ve only been out on Black Friday once and I refuse to shop on Thanksgiving day. My choice isn’t noble or principled–I mostly don’t like being around people all that much. Some have nightmares about spiders: I fear Walmart at 5:00 am on Black Friday morning.

But I also don’t really care if Walmart and Target open. They are privately owned companies who can make their own choices. In many ways, they are simply feeding the inevitable desires of a country for whom shopping has become our national sport. If, one might note, no one went out shopping this Thursday, neither store would open next year.

Of course, if that pesky federal government hadn’t forced us to celebrate Thanksgiving at all, we wouldn’t be in this mess anyway.

Don’t Be So Cheeky

First year college students routinely receive gobs and bogs of advice. Study hard, sit in the front row, exercise to avoid the freshman 15, go to class. (No, really, go to class. Even the 8:00 ones.)

It has become increasingly clear, though, that we are all falling down on the job with regards to one crucial piece of advice we need to pass along to our students:

Keep your ass in your pants.

Don’t think me a prude or a pervert, but each fall I can identify the first year students by either how low their pants hang or how high they ride. I was reminded of such things a few weeks back when I took my son to his first year orientation. For three very long, excruciating days, we walked campus, attended sessions, and learned about all the cool, groovy things waiting for him in late August. In some ways, what I saw was encouraging. We have clearly entered a post-racial world and fashion, or lack thereof, has now transcended (or descended?) ethnicity: it was a veritable rainbow of backsides.

Notably, as we walked around campus, there was a distinct and fashionable difference between the upper division students I saw and the incoming first year students. I watched young men waddle around campus, struggling to keep their pants perfectly positioned on their backsides aiming for that zero gravitational point. Clearly, we have raised a generation of kids who just don’t care if “I see London, I see France, I see Billy’s underpants.” Let me give you guys a hint–they are called underwear because you wear them under the other clothes you wear.

But at least we were looking at clothes under those shorts. Sure, they all look constipated trying to walk around but at least they have some sense of decorum.

I would have preferred to see little Susie’s underpants but I’m not sure she was wearing any.

I repeat–don’t think me perverse. I realize these are 18 year old women and I’m not prone to oogling women half my age who could be my daughter. I recognize and respect the necessary separation between faculty and students. These young women are coming to campus where they will be cared for and protected by the established leaders on campus. Let me also state for the record that I respect a person’s right to dress anyway he or she wants to dress. I realize clothes are both a personal expression and, often, an opportunity to make a cultural/political statement. I also realize there is an “ick” factor involved in my even mentioning that I see young people’s backsides. But we also must note that flapping butt cheeks are hard to ignore.

Of course, there was a time when such things were exciting. I’m a child of 80s movies. I was raised on gratuitous nudity and I could rationalize the need for Erika Eleniak’s important role in any film. Popping out of the cake half naked was, of course, vital to the plot line in Under Siege. It offered Steven Segal a chance for moral redemption. Plus, it was Erika Eleniak and I was 23 and not old enough to have a daughter her age. (Don’t get me wrong–I enjoy a beautiful body as much as the next guy. I’m older, not dead.)

Understand that I’ve been teaching on a college campus for 20 years and I’ve watched trends come and go. I fully expect students to arrive on campus and announce their independence from high school dress codes. They feel a sense of liberation as they become fully adult without the oppressive school administration and social mores stifling their sense of self and identity. They are truly coming into their own bodies and experiencing a new found joy in expressing themselves as adult, sexualized, and independent entities.

I get it. I think it’s entirely appropriate for them to do so when they go out on Friday night or off to Las Vegas. Feel free to flash your flesh at the lake or the beach or on our sand volleyball courts. In fact, if you are someone who has a backside worth looking at you should be proud and happy. Trust me–the day will come when everyone will notice your backside but their reaction will be just a tad bit different.

But, and I say this as someone tasked by the state to help train students to become fully realized citizens of the state and the world: don’t be so cheeky even now. Take a hint from the upper division students around you. They’ve put their high school letter jackets in the closet, starting wearing sensible shoes, and realized it’s hard to walk across campus in 10 minutes or less when you are constantly stopping to pull your pants up. Or down.

So I encourage you, as you dress for class, make your fashion statement. Assert your independence. Feel free to be your own person.

But, on your way to class this fall, try to keep a little bit of that person hidden.

If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit, Stop Wearing It

ladygagashoesI don’t normally pay much attention to Lady Gaga. Early in my career as a teacher, I tried to keep up with popular culture, slipping in references to contemporary movies and songs whenever possible. I watched the Grammy’s, the Oscars, and occasionally listened to a top 40 radio station. I once made it through 5 whole songs before my stomach lurched, my knees weakened, and I collapsed under the weight of too much “Oh, Baby! Oh, Baby! Oh Baby! Uh!”

The goal, at the time, was simple. Like any good educator, I wanted to relate the material to things my students could understand. We could discuss ethics in relation to downloading music, gender as we see it in certain movies, Machiavelli and the East/West Coast rap schism, or poetry as a musical genre. Film angles helped explain narrative voice and if I could mention a film the students had seen, I reasoned, the material might seem more relevant. See, I could say, Milton’s struggling with evil just like Denzel Washington in Fallen. (I, actually, have never said those words, mostly because I can’t stand Milton and I don’t want to soil Denzel’s good name.)

I stopped keeping up with contemporary, popular music, though. One year I watched the Grammy’s and I realized two very specific things: 1) I couldn’t understand a word anyone was saying. It literally felt like I had traveled to another country where everyone’s songs had a bass pitch so low anyone over 30 couldn’t hear it or every singer was screaming at a decibel level I didn’t want to be able to hear, and 2) I actually found myself thinking, “why don’t those women put more clothes on? It can’t be comfortable dancing with that string right there.”

Continuing to use those popular culture references, I also thought, will turn me into the creepy middle-age guy who uses “party” as a verb around his kids’ friends.

I do still try to remain a little bit current. I check out the entertainment section of the Huffington Post, read some of the movie reviews at JoBlo.com, and read about the top 40 songs, but I’m comfortable growing old, grumpy, and out of touch. My students have Netflix, Pandora, and Google. I’ll leave it up to them to do some research. That’s real active learning anyway.

Either way, Lady Gaga is, evidently, the bomb (0r whatever goofy phrase exists out there to say she’s really popular), and evidently she just canceled her tour because she has a labral tear in her hip. Lady Gaga’s shows, as so many are these days, are less music and more aerobic workout. I was exhausted watching Beyonce’s Super Bowl Halftime show. I felt guilty, thinking I should get up, grab the leg warmers and headband, and start burning calories.

I don’t want to belittle Lady Gaga’s injury. I’m sure a labrum tear in her hip is painful and I have no doubt such an injury should keep her off the stage. Her shows are choreographed events of non-stop motion. It’s like world wide wresting set to music.  Gone are the days when singers canceled shows because they were too drunk to go on stage. More and more, we probably need to test for steroids, HGH, and PEDs as our musicians grow increasingly athletic. They’ve all become some weird amalgamation of Richard Simmons and Gene Simmons (no makeup but the short shorts survived). Thank goodness people like Snoop Dog and Willie Nelson are around to remind us some musicians still smoke dope and drink booze.

But I also don’t have much sympathy for Lada Gaga. Every time I see her in the news, she’s wearing shoes we could strap on a terrorist. I have no doubt they would beg for water-boarding after about 15 minutes of walking in those things. We might end terrorism with a pair of shoes and a cat walk.

Truth be told, I’m mostly surprised her hip is the only thing that’s pulled.

I know I’m sounding all old-farty here, and I’m not blind to the fashion foibles of the past. I’ve been to Graceland and seen Elvis’ jumpsuit. Kurt Cobain defined a generation of slackers and allowed Levis to charge us extra for torn jeans, Michael Jackson gave us one glove and red leather jackets, Olivia Newton John gave us headbands, and Madonna wanted us to act like a virgin but dress like god knows what.

But nothing they wore was a health hazard. I wish Lady Gaga a quick recovery, but I also recommend she start shopping for shoes at the Foot Locker. She’ll thank me later in life and she probably won’t have to cancel anymore concerts.

I Didn’t Go To Jared’s and I’m Proud of It

bitemeI’m not really a big fan of Valentine’s Day. Back when I was a teenager, I could steal a rose from the neighbor-lady, make a mix-tape (some Journey, Foreigner, maybe a little Kris Kristofferson), and call it good. Even then, despite the larceny (or perhaps because of it), the day rang a bit hollow for me.

Obviously, things get a little more complicated the older you get, mostly because at 42 sneaking into the neighbor lady’s yard is much more difficult (and a little creepy) and the era of mix-tapes has gone the way of cassette and top 40 radio shows. When I was in college and my wife and I first started dating, she once told me “You don’t have to get me anything for Valentine’s Day.” I’m sure she meant it at the time, but when I took her at her word. .  . well, let’s just say there are plenty of people out there wondering why in the world she married me. That was probably an early warning sign. At least she can’t ever tell me I used to be so much sweeter. It’s good to manage everyone’s expectations.

I’m not someone who feels put upon by the manufactured holiday. There’s not really anything inherently wrong with setting a day aside to celebrate the person (or persons?) we love. A nice gesture, a quiet meal, even a small gift–these all seem appropriate as a way to re-commit ourselves. And, quite honestly, I should be in favor of any holiday that encourages the production and consumption of chocolate.

But I can’t stand V-day. There’s no horrific Charlie Brown moment in my past when I missed out on the Star Wars Valentines Day cards (“Yoda the One For Me”) or when I watched the girl of my dreams give someone an extra special cupcake. I’ve never been traumatized by a gag gift or mocked by the popular kids.

Like so many celebrations, though, I find this one increasingly commercialized at a level that lacks good judgment. My oldest son bought his girlfriend enough jewelry for three different gifts (four if you split the earrings into two separate presents) and he still plans on buying her flowers. Increasingly, and I’m clearly turning into a grumpy old man, kids like my son, are forced to up the ante when he buys a gift. He’s been raised in an era where everyone gets a gift on any given holiday. If you bring one cupcake, you have to bring 30. For those people you actually do care about, you are forced to do something distinctive that goes above and beyond. You must go to Jared’s (or face the wrath of a crowd of people who don’t have any business paying attention).

Like so many of our conversations and our past private lives, we have moved even our declarations of love into the public domain where they can be compared and judged. It begins in elementary school where we require that our kids make mass declarations of “love” and we bribe them with candy hearts and chocolates. Such events not only commercialize the day, but, in so many ways it also cheapens the day. I realize we all want love, peace, everyone to just get along, but valentines day, like religion, belongs in the home not in public education. More seriously, we do, at an early age, impose ideas about love and match-making on our kids, creating social and cultural expectations about how we “show” our love.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing that we have to be overly sensitive to everyone’s feelings. I have great sympathy for the kid who knows he’s only getting a card from little  Suzy because she has to give him one. (I also realize, though, that little Johnny might prefer a card from Billy and this is the only time he will get one even if it’s not for the right reason.) I don’t disagree that bringing cards for one should require bringing them for all but if everyone is your valentine, then no one is your valentine.

I just don’t think we should institutionalize valentines day and reinforce the social and sexual expectations regarding gender, love, and sexuality.

For now, though, I just hope my neighbor’s roses are in bloom. (And she’s out of town tonight). It’s either that or go shopping.

Private Acts in Public Spaces: Toilet Texting and Multi-Tasking

toilet_texting_t_shirts

Click to buy the shirt (just don’t tell me you did)

I’ve never been a fan of public toilets. It’s not fear, exactly, although I was raised in an age of “stranger danger!” and have a cultural inclination to look warily at people in enclosed spaces. Too many reel to reel “educational” films in junior high: I’m not sure how much algebra I remember, but I know that strangers who ask for help are, evidently, all perverts. (I was equally traumatized by an anti-fighting film that showed, in graphic detail, a bus crash. I still cringe when I see kids riding yellow school buses.)

I suspect I’m also guilty of seeing too many of those 1970s B-films, usually late at night when the house is creaking, the dog is barking, and my imagination is racing. Let’s face it: bad stuff happens in bathrooms after dark. (They also happen around chainsaws, two story houses on the corner, and with little rich kids whose heads spin around. You should also never tease that kid whose eyes go two different directions. Or people who live in the deep south and use “peckerwood” regularly in sentences.) I highly recommend cloth shower curtains so when they wrap up your body, you can still breathe.

I would also guess there is some deep-rooted psychological issue regarding body parts, waste, and privacy. Maybe I was potty-trained in public or mocked for peeing in the pool. Doesn’t matter to me: I’m quite comfortable with my phobias and neurosis and I value pottying in private.

Because of this irrational fear of being locked in the bathroom with a maniacal killer and a corresponding disgust with publicly shared bodily functions, I am amazed (and a little freaked out) that 75% of Americans admit to using their smartphones while on the toilet. According to the 11mark survey,

Toilet texting is particularly popular among those 28 to 35-years-old, with a reported 91 percent of that age group admitting to the habit.
Even more disturbing, 1 in 5 men admit to taking it a step further by phoning into business meetings from the bathroom. But they aren’t alone; 13 percent of women also owned up to joining conference calls from the can.

OMG.

Whatever happened to reading the sports section? Carving phone numbers of people you don’t like on the walls? Writing bad poetry? Or just good, old fashioned vandalism?

Clearly, we are raising a generation that has grown up in houses with two bathrooms and no sister or parents pounding on the door. Chalk another bad habit up to disposable income and comfortable living. I’m sure that much of this toilet texting (so poetic) occurs in the comfort of one’s own throne room, but raise your hand if you’ve often suspected the person on the other end of the phone (or in the stall next to you) was, in fact, taking care of business while taking care of business if you know what I mean. (Don’t raise your hand if you are the guilty party. Lord knows, you probably need both of hands right now since the same study says 16% of phones have fecal matter on them. Can I just say–Eww?)

When my children were little, we were lucky enough that my wife was able to stay home with both boys. I would get out of the house for work by 6:30 or so but try to get home again by 5:00 at the latest. That might seem like a long day for me, but for those of you who have stayed home with kids, that can be a longer day at the house. Often without a bathroom break. Many a day I walked in the door not to the sound of “Hi, Honey. How was your day?” but to the bathroom door slamming shut, the click of the lock, followed by a long sigh.

Justifiably so. The bathroom, that place dedicated to personal hygiene, has its own special place in American lore. Certainly, the invention of the water closet was designed for sanitary reasons and convenience. Early dwellings had shared bathrooms. The advent of single dwelling housing accessible to the middle class, though, opened the door for a throne within the proverbial castle. The bathroom, quite simply, became a place of solitude where we could perform that most human of functions in privacy. Civilization at its finest.

But now we’ve come full circle. Our phone, ever present tool of our work lives and increasingly a lifeline to our social selves, has invaded that most sacred of places–the last bastion of privacy where, quite frankly, only our small children would ever want to follow us. We are inviting our friends, neighbors, and co-workers into our private space, refusing to take even a fraction of the day for ourselves and our bodies. Bathrooms, at a certain point in time, allowed us to compartmentalize our lives. We created houses with separate rooms dedicated to specific functions. Bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, and most importantly, a room dedicated to the expulsion of human waste. We could emerge with our bowels voided, body cleansed, and physically refreshed. Instead, we are increasingly multi-tasking, relegating that physical cleansing to one task among many and turning our private space into a public arena. And we wonder why we are so stressed out?

Thank god we don’t have 4 d smart phones and the first time someone toilet skypes me . . .

Things I Read

And Things I Learned

Washington Monthly

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Joanne Jacobs

Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs

Inside Higher Ed

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

NYT > Politics

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Balloon Juice

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Scott Adams' Blog

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)