Taking Up Space

I state for the record: I am thrilled that Illinois, and other US states, are reopening after 15 harrowing, soul-sucking months.

But it can be a little weird, right?

Black Friday Shopping GIF by NBC

For starters, I suddenly feel awash with… humanity. Has my expectation of personal space expanded to six feet on every side, and now everyone is just TOO DAMN CLOSE?

Since June 11, Chicagoland has felt a bit like (I imagine) Black Friday at BestBuy. It’s as if I’m surrounded by punch drunk shoppers who pulled an all-nighter waiting for doors to open, and they KEEP BUMPING INTO ME as they race around, shoving stuff into their carts.

Or am I bumping into them? It’s possible, my core strength and balance aren’t what they were pre-pandemic…

Bubble Boy Lol GIF by America's Funniest Home Videos

Maybe we’re all like the Bubble Boy, without his bubble. The CDC is no longer dictating the distance we must keep, so perhaps we just have to re-learn what “normal” boundaries feel like. I hope we figure it out soon. At the moment, it takes two hours of post-traumatic cocooning for me to recover from one crowded outing.

While I’m glad to have restaurants, museums and movie theatres back in full operation, COVID restrictions brought some unexpected gifts I’m sad to give up.

Peace and quiet in the city: For most of 2020, every day in Chicago sounded like Sunday morning. I could hear birds singing and the breeze in the trees, instead of honking horns and car speakers thumping. Sadly, traffic is back. Road rage, too.

Live streaming entertainment: This was an option pre-pandemic, of course, but once I was homebound it became a true blessing.

I discovered Mysterious Chicago via Facebook Live. Its founder Adam Selzer got creative, leading his popular historical tours from his living room — with his cat Miles making regular cameo appearances.

Every Thursday night, I’d pour a glass of wine, slip under a fuzzy blanket, and tune in to Adam via my smart TV (an early pandemic splurge). It could be disorienting, because I’d sometimes forget that I could see Adam… but he couldn’t see me. Once or twice I dozed off while he was talking, and felt guilty about it.

Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge — courtesy of a charity called English Heritage — were another Facebook Live highlight.

Stonehenge has been closed due to the pandemic, and completely deserted – no cell phones with flash, selfie sticks blocking your view or diesel tour buses rumbling by. Tonight I’ll again enjoy the peaceful English summer solstice sunrise at about 10 p.m. Next year, even if it’s streamed, there’ll be crowds at Stonehenge… so it won’t be the same.

It’s a complicated feeling: nostalgia for aspects of lockdown, despite hoping we never experience a global pandemic ever again.

To borrow from Dr. Seuss… I’m glad it’s over and sorry it happened. Except for the drop in traffic noise. I’ll never be sorry about that.


Feeling Free…ish

Masks are set on fire during an event sponsored by the San Angelo Republican Women held at the VFW on Wednesday, March 10, 2021.

Chicago entered Phase 5 reopening on June 11 – a grand way of saying we shrugged off most COVID-19 limitations for the “vaccinated”.

We were the first major US city to take the plunge. 

I’m at once overjoyed to face fewer restrictions, and deeply concerned because — as of today — just 47% of Chicago’s population has all its jabs, and mass vaccination centers in the area are pulling up stakes at a fast clip.

Other Chicagoans clearly share my unease. While local grocery stores no longer require masks, I estimate 75% of shoppers still wear them voluntarily. Meanwhile on public transportation – where a mask mandate is still in place – the percentage seems about the same. 

person in a hazmat suit

The latter is so crazy to me. I often joke I’ll be the last person in Chicago riding the “L” in a mask. I’d wear a hazmat suit, if I had one.

I try to be rational but like most vaccinated urbanites, I can do basic math. If I’m in line to order at Shake Shack, there’s a good chance the person ahead of/behind me is not fully vaccinated. Depending on your news source, vaccine efficacy against the new Delta variant could be less than 80% — not terrible, but low enough to give me pause. Should I just keep my mask on?

Luckily, it’s summer so I’m spending as much time as possible outdoors. And while I’ve returned to the office one or two days per week, it’s a massive space that allows easy social distancing.

I keep reminding myself that I got vaccinated for a reason: to protect myself and others, and to live a freer life. For now, I’ll continue to mask-up when shopping, commuting and enjoying any in-your-face pampering I’ve been denied since 2020 (e.g. eye exams, brow waxing etc.) And of course, I’ll wear a mask whenever asked to by someone still at high risk.

But I’ll ditch masks in the one place I find them truly horrible – the gym. They give me splitting headaches, and adult acne.

In fact, I’d pay extra to join a gym or yoga studio that requires proof of vaccination. Surely some entrepreneur in my city of 2.7 million has had this brilliant idea already?

My closet is full of grown-up clothes without elastic, that are desperate to make an appearance… just as soon as I can squeeze into them. So, I’m depending on it.

Proof Positive

A medical testing swab

Resurrecting my blog has been near the top of my “to do” list for a while. I recently accepted a full-time job offer, which frees up time I’ve been spending scouring LinkedIn, applying for roles and tracking down recruiters. (Good riddance.)

There’s also more time for blogging because I’m working remotely, with zero daily commute and few personal plans other than “a walk”.

Pre-pandemic, I got 10,000 steps in just by walking to/from public transportation, plus a few blocks at midday to pick up lunch — a perk of city living I took for granted. Now I schedule a daily constitutional to nowhere, or else my Apple watch will vibrate to confirm I’m at least conscious.

I wish I could say week one of employment ran smoothly but… no such luck. A few days into my new job, I was diagnosed with COVID-19. Several local colleagues had helped me onboard face-to-face (I-9 process, laptop set up etc.), and were rewarded with exposure to the virus. They were gracious, but also probably pretty annoyed. I pray they remain healthy.

I got lucky with testing. A nearby clinic had availability the same day I detected symptoms, and could provide results within 15 minutes. No waiting in limbo.

A mask-less clinician walked into my exam room with results, which I took as a hopeful sign… until he realized he was in the wrong place and backed out quickly.

I assumed the patient he was looking for had tested negative – so, no mask needed. If he came back later with his mask on, my test would be positive.

You can guess what happened next….


Riots in DC, a positive COVID diagnosis – 2021 is not exactly eating 2020 for breakfast. But last year taught me to find an upside amidst a lot of *blech*, and celebrate incremental progress.

So… I’m six days into a 10-day quarantine, extremely grateful to have mild symptoms AND an understanding employer. There’s a new President and First Lady waiting in the wings, and time to ponder blog topics for the future.

Watch this space!

A Girl Always Remembers Her First Pandemic

Not true, actually. I can’t remember my first at all. (I was two.) My last one, though, was the 2009 flu, when I was so cocky I didn’t even get a flu shot – and so lucky, I didn’t get sick.

I didn’t see the flu as a potential killer – just an inconvenience. Age-wise, I was nowhere near “high risk”. Fast forward 11 years, though, and that classification feels uncomfortably close.

I admit… COVID-19 has me a little freaked.

Cecily Strong Snl GIF by Saturday Night Live

As I continue my job search, I’m working part-time in retail in downtown Chicago. We keep industrial-size bottles of hand sanitizer next to every register, and customers covet them because there’s not a tube or moist towelette to be found at any Walgreens or CVS in Chicagoland. Even the useless alcohol-free lavender stuff is completely sold out at Whole Foods.

At first, I skipped the sanitizer. My skin is dry and chapped enough as it is. But last week I felt community pressure building, and began to follow every hand wash with a generous dollop.

That stinging feeling means it’s working, right?

Speaking of hand washing…. Anyone else feel their technique being critiqued in public restrooms? Maybe it’s because I’m an employee, who could be handing shoppers bags full of merchandise laced with coronavirus. I sense scrutiny all around me as I count, “1,2,3….20”.

I feel the urge to defend myself. “Look, I just washed my palms. Now I’m washing THE BACKS of my hands!”

On a trip to Trader Joe’s yesterday, I found 50% of the freezers empty. (I scored the last bag of Mandarin Orange Chicken, hazzah!) The aisles were clogged with carts and high-strung shoppers – one of whom accidentally bumped into me, and apologized profusely. It caught me off guard. Her wool coat had brushed against my wool coat. It’s not like she’d rubbed her hands all over my face.

This morning, I heard a rumor that Chicago is OUT OF TOILET PAPER. I took stock of my pantry: seven rolls, which would ordinarily be ample. But these are not ordinary times. Panic crept over me, and I headed to Mariano’s… where the paper goods shelves were empty. Ditto at Walgreens.

IMG_0836My last hope was a nearby bodega. Pay dirt: a stray 12-pack of Scott toilet tissue (double rolls!) for $10. I would have paid more. My FORO (Fear of Running Out) was overwhelming.

My email inbox overflows with news that Chicago is essentially closed for business. Schools are on hiatus. Museums are shut down for at least two weeks. Lectures, book signings and industry conferences are cancelled. Even the St. Patrick’s Day tradition of dyeing the Chicago river green has been “postponed”.

The impact of all this on hourly workers – ticket takers, waiters and waitresses, custodians and salespeople – could be catastrophic. Meanwhile, I have onsite job interviews still to be scheduled, but recruiters have gone silent.

Worrying about all of it makes my head hurt.

So for now, I’m controlling what I can. I’m sleeping enough, drinking loads of water and avoiding crowds when possible. And if the worst happens, I’m set for Mandarin Orange Chicken and toilet paper.

That’ll have to be enough, for now.


Harry and Meghan: Let’s Unpack This


Unless you’ve been vacationing amongst the Amish, you’ll have heard by now that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry – a.k.a. “Sussex Royal” – have gone rogue. Or nuclear. Or just plain bananas. Take your pick. They want OUT of the (royal) family business.

For the insatiably curious, the Daily Mail Online is providing by-the-minute updates on Her Majesty The Queen (“disappointed”), Princes Charles and William (simultaneously “incandescent with rage” and “sad and worried”), Prince Harry (fragile, henpecked), and Meghan (a scheming American shrew who is entirely at fault here).

Royal Wedding GIF by BBC

I wrote an Ode to Meghan Markle shortly after her wedding, but am not necessarily a fan. Then again, my main source of royal news comes from the snarky British tabloids, who from the start defined Meghan as a stereotypical American: ambitious, demanding, pushy, social climbing, materialistic, and ignorant and unappreciative of history and tradition.

They also depicted her as a silly new age yogi with a penchant for pricey organic interior paint, because she’s not just American… she’s also from Los Angeles.

Meghan has been blamed for the royal rift, right down to the announcement posted on the new Sussex Royal website that outlines the couple’s basic plans, referencing “internal discussions”, “stepping back” and transitioning to roles that are “progressive”. They even intend to “collaborate” with The Queen – a notion that sent royalists into a tailspin.

Apparently, Her Majesty does not collaborate.

Prince Harry GIF

The business-babble announcement was nearly indecipherable to tabloid reporters and courtiers – but white collar employees on both sides of the pond understood it well. We see it all the time in spin-doctored announcements from senior corporate leadership that don’t tell the reader much except… that they’re screwed. (Take heed, British taxpayer.)

Maybe your company is “transitioning” to a high premium healthcare plan. It sounds like a win, until you remember that healthcare “premiums” aren’t something Americans want more of.

Or, after “collaborating” with federal prosecutors, your CEO is “stepping back” to give his family “the space to focus on the next chapter”. Yikes.

The royal brouhaha also brings to mind a few common-sense working-stiff rules my parents taught me, like:

  • Don’t quit your job until you have another one. (Rumor is, Meghan is way out in front of this one.)
  • Don’t burn bridges on your way out. (Make a clean #Megxit.)
  • Tell your boss you’re quitting first, before you tell ANYONE else.
  • Remember, even the most popular employee is replaceable. (Anyone see Princess Charlotte curtsy outside church recently? #JustSayin)

This week, interested parties will meet at Sandringham to hash out thorny issues — all except Meghan, who has already decamped to Canada. Headlines say she’ll be “calling in”. Picture it: the Duchess on a Polycom, fiddling with the buttons and apologizing for speaking while on mute. She may even disconnect herself mid-call by kicking the power cord under her desk, and have to dial back in. “Meghan… has joined the call.”

Royals: They’re Just Like Us!

Hopefully, “collaboration” will bring an end to the British royal family feud. Fingers crossed for a “win-win” paradigm shift — see what I did there? — so we can all focus on more uplifting topics.

Like Brexit.

Oh wait…


what would you say you do here office space GIF



A Tale of Three Cities

Image result for need directions images

“I started thinking about what my life was going to look like when I was 50.”

This week, I stumbled across an article I can’t stop thinking about: Bright Lights, Small City. In it, Jami Attenberg discusses the consequences – expected and unexpected – of relocating from New York City to New Orleans, after 18 years, at age 42.

The article immediately struck a chord with me, because I also recently moved to a new city (Chicago) from one I’d called home for more than two decades (San Francisco).

Both the author and I are single, with no children — and if there’s a gene behind long-term personal life planning, we were both born without it. For us, “Living day by day (has) always seemed a valid way to operate.” Now, we’re questioning that operating model.

Like Attenberg, I lived in New York after college, and felt like I was at the center of the universe. Everything comes to New York first – every fashion trend, every indie movie, every play. It can be exhilarating, but also wearying. And very lonely.

Image result for california or bustAfter graduate school, I hurried to San Francisco. It felt cozier and friendlier, until an influx of tech money — BIG money — triggered a seismic shift in demographics, median income and cost of living. Life began to feel hard for “the rest of us”, just as it had in New York.

Borrowing again from Attenberg: “I wanted things to be easier and sunnier and I wanted to own a house.” That was never going to happen for me anywhere in the Bay Area.

Family obligations brought me East in 2018, and I chose a city where I knew I’d feel welcome. Sweet Home Chicago is vibrant, interesting and diverse with a rich history embraced by proud residents. Anthony Bourdain summed it up perfectly in a 2016 Medium essay:

“It is, also, as I like to point out frequently, one of America’s last great NO BULLSHIT zones. Pomposity, pretentiousness, putting on airs of any kind, douchery and lack of a sense of humor will not get you far in Chicago.”

I’ve blogged about the uncertainty I’m facing these days. An untimely job elimination has me in professional and personal limbo. When I’m especially anxious, I find myself scrutinizing every aspect of life in Chicago. Am I happy here? Should I try someplace new? What if this city is just too big for me?

Image result for The second mountain imagesToday I saw New York Times columnist David Brooks speak, as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival, to promote his new book, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. He posits that 50 years of American individualism, and a focus on personal achievement, have spawned a lonely population that lacks deep personal connections and a sense community belonging.

Brooks shared this stat: Just 8% of Americans say they’ve had meaningful conversations with a current neighbor. That hit home, because last night I bumped into my neighbor as he was moving out of his apartment. Not only did I not know his name, I realized I’d never given him more than cursory eye contact and a perfunctory “hello” in the hallway. He’d lived next door for an entire year, and this was our first (and last) conversation.

Yes, Chicago is enormous. I can sometimes feel lost and lonesome here – but I must own my part in that. To feel settled, like I belong, there’s more I can do. It’s not as if I don’t have time! Even the most committed job seeker needs distractions.

I’d love to say I’m exactly where I’m meant to be, like Jami Attenberg in New Orleans. A lot depends on where my next career opportunity takes me. I must earn a living, and there’s a chance I’ll need to relocate to do it. Chicago is a wonderful city, but it’s not the only one.

Meanwhile, it’s time I begin the awkward (for an introvert) task of planting my stake in my current community, and building deeper connections here. For starters, when my future neighbor moves in, we WILL chat, and I WILL commit his/her name to memory, damn it!

Sometimes in movies, a sickly character will discuss his impending demise – philosophizing that everyone dies. He just happens to have an ETA.

If I’ve learned just one thing in the last two years, it’s this: EVERYONE’S future is uncertain, but most of us just don’t know which shoe is about to drop — or when. Our only choice is to go with what we know.

Maybe it’s time to go forth, and find my Chicago tribe. Wrigley Field on a sunny day seems like a great place to start…

Carpe Diem! — John Keating (aka Robin Williams)

Image result for Chicago cubs fan images

Ode to Meghan

Image result for meghan markle





The UK has a new Duchess
And the press hasn’t pulled any punches
It’s “Buyer Beware”
Knives are out over there
And knickers are twisted in bunches.

When Harry put a ring on the actress
The world nearly fell off its axis
He’s hitched to a Yank
A plus one, without rank
Putting cracks in the walls between classes.

Royal watchers admired her uniqueness…
at first, then her strength was her weakness
“She’s hungry for power!”
“At home, SHE wears the trousers!”
“Just look at that dress, is it SLEEVELESS?”

Her skin “dark”, and her nails even darker
Bare legs without stockings and garters
In print, and on telly
Always stroking her belly
While her father and sister play martyrs.

Meghan shouldn’t be on a pedestal
But let’s take the snark down just a decibel
Must folks always berate
And compare her with Kate?
Isn’t generosity slightly preferable?

So the next time your hide’s being chapped
By her freckles, or dress with one strap
Try Meghan’s trick: yoga
Or mine: scotch and soda
Whatever it takes. Just RELAX.

Image result for meghan markle

Sears: the End of an Era


“The end of an era” is an overused expression. You hear it when a ball player retires, a long-running TV show is canceled, a public figure passes away or — as was the case this week –an iconic brand calls it quits.

While I don’t believe Sears, Roebuck and Company’s 132-year run fits the definition of an “era” – the store has been in decline for years — its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing this week left me feeling a little bereft, and awfully sentimental.

Sears loomed large in my childhood. I grew up in rural Northeast Ohio, a stone’s throw from cornfields and Amish farms. In my early years, our road wasn’t even paved, and there were no sidewalks in my hometown. A trip to the mall – about 30 minutes, in each direction – was an exciting excursion.

I loved going to Sears with my mom when I was little. I’d throw a fit any time she tried to sneak there on her own. (The poor woman never got a moment of “me” time.)

Mom did much of her shopping from the Sears catalog — and instead of receiving her merchandise by mail, she’d often pick it up in the customer service department. That’s also where she’d return something that didn’t work out.

I remember walking through the side door to pick up/return items – skipping alongside Mom, clinging to her hand — like it was yesterday. I’ll bet we did that walk a hundred times.

Related imageThroughout elementary school, most of my clothes came from Sears. When I was very young, I wore the “Winnie the Pooh” brand. I’m almost certain I owned this dress – now sold out on eBay. It was my favorite.

I bought my first bra at Sears. It’s also where my brother got his “Toughskins” jeans, with reinforced knees so thick, it looked like he was trying out for Roller Derby.

Image result for toughskin jeans vintageMy biggest Sears milestone – in my young mind, anyway – was when I hit size 6x. Anytime we stopped by the children’s department, I would check my height on a cardboard measuring chart – like the ones at amusement parks, that say when you’re tall enough to ride a roller coaster.

I can’t recall why 6x was so important. I don’t even remember hitting the milestone. But I am positive it was the first — and last — time I was happy to be told I’d need to “go up a size” in a dress.

For a child, the very BEST thing Sears had to offer was its Christmas catalog – better known as the “Wish Book”. I was more anxious for that catalog to arrive in the mail than I was my SAT scores, years later. It was magic.

Year after year, my strategy never changed: I’d hole myself up with that book the moment it arrived, and dream big, turning down the corners of pages featuring any toys or clothing I wanted. Pass One was no holds barred.

Image result for sears christmas catalogRealism crept in with Pass Two. Santa Claus didn’t reward greedy, spoiled children, and there was no way he’d deliver all that loot to one house. I cut back with the precision of a surgeon, moping a little with each page corner I turned back up. There’s always next year, kid.

After Pass Three, I generally had a Christmas list – reasonable, if slightly aspirational – that my parents could pass on to Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

No joke, this is the same process I use today when a Nordstrom catalog arrives… minus the list for Santa.

I’ve been reading a lot about Sears’s historical significance. Its kit houses were an affordable route to home ownership in early 20th Century America. These days, neighborhoods where the houses still stand are tourist attractions – reminders of a simpler time, before McMansions.

Image result for sears kit housesAlso noteworthy: The Sears catalogue offered freedom and choice to black consumers in the Jim Crow South. I had no idea, prior to reading this article.

Business publications and bloggers have focused on management’s lack of vision, and its failure to innovate and pivot to eCommerce in the face of disruption by Amazon and Walmart. It’s true, of course. But there is plenty of time to absorb lessons from the possible demise of the Sears brand.

Right now, my heart is breaking a little for the thousands of employees who will find themselves jobless, and the already-struggling American shopping malls that will lose an anchor store.

Most of all, though, I mourn the loss of a thread that ties together so many childhood memories of me and my mom.

Amazon Prime can do a lot, but it can’t do that.

1971 Sears Catalog | by SA_Steve

Job Hiding and Seeking

Over the course of my career, I’ve weathered economic downturns and corporate restructurings. But my never-laid-off streak was broken this Spring when — two months after moving to Chicago for family reasons — my job was abruptly eliminated. I am unemployed for the first time in my adult life… in a city I barely know, without friends or first-hand professional contacts.

The news wasn’t a complete surprise; my company had been undergoing cost-cutting and reputational difficulties for some time. Call it a hunch… but I spent conservatively during my move, renting a two-bedroom apartment but not investing in guest room furniture right away.

Now I have one furnished bedroom… and one spacious storage room, complete with windows, wall-to-wall carpeting and A.C. (So far, weekend guests have graciously accepted the pullout sofa in the living room, without complaint.)

It’s not been easy, but involuntary unemployment has its advantages. First and foremost, it has allowed me to spend a long weekend each month with my mom, who is recovering from a series of strokes. No matter how my next chapter turns out, I will never regret this time spent closer to her, and my dad.

I’ve notched nearly six months “in the market”, and have picked up a bit of job search wisdom along the way. When it’s all over, I’m sure I’ll have more. Some of these felt like lucky epiphanies. Others are hard lessons I’m still learning.

Keep Calm: The story of my job loss was mine to tell (or not). Friends and colleagues were indignant on my behalf, and it could be tempting to let loose. I have chosen my candid moments with former colleagues carefully, and had them sparingly. My composure and professionalism (or lack of it) in the face of challenge will follow me long after I’ve started my next job.

Layoffs can make survivors wonder if they will be next. That stress can bring out the worst in people, so there will be gossip among those less secure, and less compassionate. It’s best ignored. They are telling THEIR story, not mine/yours.

Image result for job searchCarry On: Aspects of temporary joblessness feel like blessings to me: more time with family, freedom to be a Chicago tourist any day of the week, time to explore new professional paths without a full-time job as a distraction. I’ve received my share of pitying looks, and well-meaning friends panicking over the uncertainty I’m facing. I accept their empathy, without losing sight of MY truth… that change can be a gift.

imageProblem Solved: Luckily, I like solving challenging problems. And while I’d love to have found a job in my first few weeks of looking, I’m comfortable with incremental progress. It often takes six months or more to find the right corporate role. If I didn’t have weekly goals for myself, I’d feel pretty defeated right now. So, if you are an achiever-type who tends to focus mostly on ticking the BIG box as “complete”, you may want to approach your job search a bit differently.

Be Loud and Proud: I’m a private person, so this was a bit outside my comfort zone — but we all need help in challenging circumstances, and you never know where that help will spring from. For example, an acquaintance recently scored an informational interview at a very hot Chicago company he’s targeting, thanks to his wife’s personal trainer who made the introduction.

It may feel awkward, but have your elevator pitch down cold and share it with everyone you can. Tonight your building superintendent may introduce you to a new tenant who works at one of your target companies, who may in turn know of a role that’s perfect for you. (Supers know EVERYONE’S business.)

Psst… About That Elevator Pitch: Perhaps you live in a penthouse, but most of the world does not. I listen to some elaborate introductions chronicling every job the speaker has had for the past 20 years, and wonder, “How many floors are IN your building?” I suspect most of us start with a long-form approach, but don’t put as much effort into developing briefer versions. Don’t do this.

I recently attended a virtual networking event, with a stingy 400-character limit (including spaces) per chat window. Instead of using more than one window for my story, I condensed it. It felt freeing to lose the buzz words and fluff, and settle on… “This is who I am, and this is what I want.”

Recruiters, who were conducting multiple chats simultaneously, seemed to appreciate brevity.

K.I.S.S.: In other words, don’t overthink. Finding employment is critically important – it’s essentially a full-time job. With so much on the line, we tend to overthink and slip into analysis paralysis.

“The recruiter said they’d call on Monday. It’s Wednesday. Should I follow up?” (Answer: Yes)

“I got the hiring manager’s name from a former colleague. Should I reach out?” (Answer: Yes)

“I don’t have every qualification listed. Should I still apply? What if I only get one chance to be considered?” (Answer: Yes, apply. You don’t get just one chance. If you are rejected, a robot probably did it.)

After networking, should I send a thank-you note?” (SMH)

That last one gets me every time. Who doesn’t like to be thanked? Anyone who puts forth effort on your behalf deserves your gratitude. I’m sure your mother taught you that!

What’s more, a thank-you note is a diplomatic way to document next steps for your contact– making further introductions, or researching details of an internal job posting. (Please just avoid the expression, “Thanking you in advance.” A pet peeve, it makes me bristle every time.)

In that vein… THANK YOU for reading!  I’m off on my daily virtual pilgrimage to LinkedIn. Today’s goals: two job applications and several InMail responses.

I still have a job to find. Onward!

Roseanne Barr, and the case for being “pro stuff”

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As I type, fallout has begun from a racist tweet by actress/comedienne Roseanne Barr. By the time you read this, there will be no one in America who hasn’t heard that ABC has canceled her much-buzzed-about reboot series, in response.

In just over 50 characters, Barr managed to offend her target (Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett), Jarrett’s friends and family, African Americans, Muslims, Iranians… and anyone (liberal or conservative) with a shred of tolerance, class or conscience.

Cast member Wanda Sykes beat ABC to the punch – she quit the show when the tweet went viral. And Barr’s talent agency ICM Partners dropped her as a client.

I’m not sure why the tweet surprises anyone. In 2013, Roseanne shared something similar about then National Security Advisor Susan Rice – and was shamed into walking it back. All that was missing this time was a #sorrynotsorry.

A #boycottABC movement is well underway. The show’s supporters are accusing the network of political correctness run amuck, and “liberals” of being snowflakes with ZERO sense of humor.

To paraphrase: First they’ll come for “Last Man Standing”, then for “Roseanne”… then for your liberty.

I won’t add to the raging debate on freedom of speech vs. political correctness. It’s a useful discussion, but so polarizing I fear nothing will come of it. Roseanne is (rightfully, IMO) taking a hit where it hurts most – her ego and her wallet. But hardworking actors and crew members – most of whom probably don’t share her intolerant views – are now also unemployed. Well done, Roseanne.

I also won’t lecture on racism. It exists in abundance and it’s appropriate to call it out when we see it. Done.

I’m not astounded that a comedienne is a bigot. Or that someone has tweeted something nasty and dumb that landed them into hot water.

I AM amazed that humans are supposedly evolved beings, yet most NEVER LEARN from past mistakes.  So, I have a few suggestions:

  • Do you want to avoid slipping up, and – totally innocently, of course – appearing racist by mocking the appearance of someone of color? Solution: Do not tweet or post unkind things about anyone’s appearance… period. Just don’t — even if you think your bon mot is a hoot, or your Uber driver laughed out loud at it, or your racist Uncle Bob suggests, “You should tweet that!”

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  • If you simply cannot control yourself, and must mock someone, do not compare him/her to a monkey, an ape, a chimp or any other primate. It literally NEVER, EVER ends well. (Also, shame on you for your cruelty.) Comparisons to an elephant, dog or pig are also off limits, for reasons that should be obvious.
  • If you are a comedian (professional or wanna be) who requires constant validation, resist the temptation to pander for laughs in social media. There’s a sub species on Twitter that hides behind fake bios, and spews hateful stuff under the guise of “humor”. Do not try to compete. Trolls have no reputation to besmirch, you (probably) do.
  • Your boss is on Twitter. So are members of your HR department, and your customers and clients. Even potential future employers. When in social, behave as if your career is on the line because… well, it kind of is.

There’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek decision tree floating around the internet, to help us determine whether to speak in a meeting. Is your comment on topic? Is it helpful? Has someone already raised the point? (Let me hear an “Amen” to #3, ladies!)

A decision tree on whether to post in social media could be much simpler. When hovering above the “tweet”, “share” or “post” button, consider whether your content is helpful to your audience, or kind and uplifting. If not, keep it to yourself.

I recently re-watched a fantastic commencement speech by Tim Minchin who warned graduates against defining themselves by what they are “against”, instead of what they are “for”.  He encouraged everyone to be “pro stuff”. Check it out.

Being pro stuff is more fun. Just ask Roseanne.