If You Can't Say Something Nice, Don't Say Anything on Facebook

Thursday, October 30, 2014

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A couple weeks ago, I joined a Facebook group for people from my hometown. Members use the space to post old photos, share memories of people/places/events past, & link to obituaries of well-known folks from the community. Mostly, though, the group serves as a virtual bulletin board where current residents can ask questions - everything from, "Where's the best place to buy new tires?" to "Why is there so much traffic on ____ Street right now?"

Another trend in this group is people posting photos of creepy-crawlies they find in/on/around their homes with captions like, "What kind of spider is this?" which means all these spider photos show up in my newsfeed & basically ruin my life. Example:

You're welcome for the light blur. Because I care about you.

But anyway.

Predictably, a lot of bitching also happens within this group. Like... a lot of bitching. There's a lot of bitching generally, but there's also a lot of bitching at one another, & things tend to escalate quickly.
Sometimes I turn on the notifications just so I can go back & scroll through the comments when I don't have anything better to do. (I mean, I always have something better to do, but that doesn't mean I'm actually doing it.)

Yesterday, for example, someone posted to the group asking where she should take her cat to be declawed. Her usual vet quoted her $150, she said, & she didn't think it ought to cost that much. When other group members asked that she reconsider her plans to declaw (given the Humane Society's analogy that it's akin to cutting off a person's fingers at the knuckles), a full-on comment war erupted. Just an hour after the original post, it boasted 146 comments & growing (including a few from people who pointed out that the original poster has twice mentioned her cat's destruction of her $300 curtains, but somehow thinks $150 is too much to pay for a surgical procedure on an actual living thing? Priorities.)

I really wanted to comment on the declawing debacle. I wanted to be all holier-than-thou & comment something like, "Perhaps the 'judgment' you're hearing is just from folks who aren't down with the idea of butchering our beloved family pets? How dare we, I know." Because I am not at all sassy or indignant.

But I didn't.

I've commented a few times on past posts, sharing suggestions for my favorite eye doctor or the local gym where I worked in college (because I'm nothing if not brand-loyal & also very opinionated). For the most part, though, aside from the occasional recommendation, I keep quiet for two reasons:
  1. My mother's job makes her what you might call a community figure in our small town. We have an uncommon, identifiable last name that easily links me to her, & she has more than once pointed out that my occasional loud-mouthiness, though always well-intentioned, has the potential to be pretty annoying for her,

    and also,
  2. Facebook's stupid algorithms seem to alert all of my hometown friends every time I comment in this group, which is terribly embarrassing. If I was humiliated the time it broadcasted my comment about where/how to exchange foreign currency, I'm definitely going to want to crawl under a rock when it shares news of my, uh, slightly snarkier comments.
I love my mom, & it's important to me, of course, that I not accidentally tarnish her reputation in any way. But (sorry, Mom) the second reason is equally compelling, because there's nothing more mortifying than Facebook's algorithms. While I'm not actually embarrassed of the words I think to post, I'm more embarrassed by the concept of being a person who posts in a community Facebook group. Actually, I'm embarrassed by the concept of being a person who blogs about posting in a community Facebook group, too, but a girl can't be too proud, yanno?

And so I stayed quiet yesterday, even when the conversation took a turn for the amusing & Laura, the original poster, started lashing out at any commenter who noted the inhumanity of declawing. Finally, this happened:

At that point, all I wanted to comment was "HAHAHAHAHAHAHA" because the whole thing had really jumped the shark. But I think the guy who posted this photo really summed it up best:

So carry on, Facebook. Imma be over here, watching from the sidelines & playing a comment reel in my mind.
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Eatin' Good: My Culinary Obsessions Past & Present

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

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My friend Jonah once referred to his younger brother as an "enthusiast," someone who gets briefly but intensely obsessed with something - a particular person or article of clothing or TV show or cuisine. I identified immediately with the label & have since co-opted it for myself.

I can mainline a Netflix show with the best of 'em, but most often, I find my enthusiast tendencies directed toward food. I'll go all-in on some dish for days, weeks, even months, with no concept of "too much of a good thing." I'll order the same thing every day until I finally tire of it, & then I'll move on to the next one.

Past targets of my enthusiasm have included:
  • Chicken kaprow: I didn't like Thai food until I moved to D.C., but once I discovered it, there was no turning back. My first year here, I lived across from Paragon Thai, which quickly became my go-to restaurant for take-out (&, when I was really sick or lazy, delivery). I'd order by phone as I left work, & by the time I got off the Metro, my food was ready. Once, the woman who answered the phone gushed, "Ah, the girl in the red coat!" referring to my notably bright winter jacket, & I was so embarrassed that I didn't go back for six months, thus ending this particular obsession.
  • Fancy grilled cheese: I can't cook. I try, sometimes, but for the most part? Nottt a chef. I can, however, "make stuff," like my so-called big-kid grilled cheese. I blogged about it in 2010: "It's muenster, goat cheese, baby spinach, crumbled walnuts, & a smear of fig jam on ciabatta & pressed in my George Foreman, panini-style...I AM A CULINARY GENIUS WITH THE PALETTE OF A SOPHISTICATED 10-YEAR-OLD." This fell off my radar when I felt (I can't believe it myself) all cheesed out.
  • Wontons with spicy peanut butter sauce: When my then-boyfriend deployed & left me alone with the cat, Pink Bamboo Hot Pot Cafe became my best friend. To hit the delivery minimum, I'd order two orders of wontons - one for dinner & one for lunch the next day. When the delivery guy dropped off my food, I'd try to act like there was someone else in the apartment... just so I didn't seem like the girl ordering 12 wontons for herself. But again, when the restaurant's hostess started to recognize my voice & remember my order, I called the whole thing off - but I'd kill for those wontons right about now.

And now? Now I'm obsessed all over again. A few weeks ago, I tried Pho 14's bún bò nướng for the first time, & now I can't stop ordering it. If you've never tried this dish, let me paint a picture for you: thin-cut, juicy, tough-but-tender slices of beef served over a bed of light, thin vermicelli noodles, fresh cucumbers & scallions, shredded carrots, crispy shallots, crushed peanuts, & a liiiittle bit of lettuce, topped with sweet fish sauce.

Oh! If my verbal picture-painting didn't work, I can show you an actual picture:

Maybe, if you're a white-bread kid from the Applebee's-lovin' suburbs like me, it sounds sort of gross. I know that 10 years ago, I wouldn't have come near it. But today? Today I'm obsessed. Today I'm an enthusiast of the highest order. Today I ordered Pho 14's bún bò nướng for the third time in less than a week, & I have no plans to stop any time soon.

Clearly, I've got it bad. But... it's probably better than an obsession with grilled cheese, right?
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When Imitation is the Shadiest Form of Flattery

Thursday, October 23, 2014

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I finally let my old blog domain name lapse in August, & yesterday I discovered that someone else has purchased it. I knew that was likely to happen, but you know what's worse? The fact that the new owner's name is ALSO Kate B., & she's set up a site redirect to try to make it look like I've moved to a new blog - hers! 

Her welcome message on the site now reads,
"Hey everyone, it’s KatieB and I’m here to deliver some exciting news. I’ve been secretly working on a new site for the past few months now and am just about ready to share it with the world. I’ll be redirecting this site to my new one, so this is just a courtesy message to let ya know. Looking forward to seeing you on the other side!”
It then provides a link to her (my?) new blog (which I refuse to provide a link to on principle).  This, of course, makes it sound like she's ME, former KateB-who-blogged-at-that-domain, & that I'm moving to a new blog. As far as I can tell, she's intentionally trying to mislead my old readers to get them to follow me (her!) to a new site, capitalizing on my high traffic all those seven years that I was SuburbanSweetheart.com.

To be clear, I don't really care what she does with the domain, but I'm creeped out by the intentional misdirect to snag anyone who might think I moved my whole site to hers. Luckily, anyone who's ever known me can probably guess that I didn't start a new blog on running & Paleo diets. BUT STILL.

All I really want is for Imposter KateB to change her offending wording so that it doesn't sound like she's trying to pretend she's been at that domain the whole time or that her new blog is mine. I left a few comments on her blogs to that effect, but given the general shadiness of the whole thing - & the fact that this was almost certainly an intentional ploy to increase her traffic - I'm trying not to get my hopes too high about the likelihood of her compliance.

In the meantime, I'll just be sitting around fuming... & learning my goddamn lesson about being too cheap/lazy to pay the $10 renewal fee.

But hey. I guess it's better than becoming a porn site?

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Phenomenal Me, an Interview with @YettiSays

Saturday, October 18, 2014

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This week, you can find me at Yetti Says, where I answer questions from one of my newest Internet friends & insta-fave bloggers. I'm honored to be featured in her Phenomenal You series alongside four incredible ladybloggers. Click through for my thoughts on mental illness, self-worth, & five things I learned about myself when I decided to move (back) to Washington, D.C.

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Where I'm From: A Tribute to the Buckeye State

Thursday, October 16, 2014

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I'm from big, shady oak trees & enough pollen to kill me,
From perennials that survive to find their way back in bloom every spring despite biting frost.
I'm from blindingly hot summer days & feet that blister on the scorching pavement as we let the car cool off after hours spent on the lake.

I'm from kickball on the cul-de-sac as the sun goes down,
And from autumn colors that rival New England's, but with people a hundred times nicer.
I'm from a foot & a half of lake-effect snow with no end in sight,
From no such thing as a day off school if you can get out of the driveway,
And from digging out your neighbor's car but knowing he'll shovel your sidewalk in return.

I'm from marrying your senior-year sweetheart & sending your kids to the same elementary school you attended, where half the same teachers still teach.
I'm from an aged but familiar face at every hometown dive bar,
And from still - always - identifying yourself by the year you graduated high school.

I'm from small towns whose Native American names you can't pronounce -
From Cuyahoga & Wapakoneta & Tuscarawas & Olentangy,
I'm from the North Coast & summers at Sea World & the best roller coasters you've never seen,
And flyover cities whose validity & worth are forever being underestimated.

I'm from brown & orange, wine & gold, & nemeses in the form of cities I've never seen,
From "Hang On Sloopy" & promising to call it Jacobs Field forever,
From witnessing & jersey-burning & ultimately forgiving,
From "Maybe this year" to "Maybe next year" to "Maybe some day,"
Because I'm from a home that taught us how to hope.

I'm from hard, nasally A's that come out after a few Dortmunders to tell you exactly where I began,
From middle class & white trash & never realizing that rich people think they're the same thing.
I'm from "two hours away" & a hidden cop on every corner,
From tree lawns & "needs done" & pop, not soda,
From the candy, the mascot, & the nut, in that order.

I'm from dollar drafts & homemade casseroles & half-priced appetizers at Applebee's,
From Friday nights spent listening to cover bands on the burning river you learned about in history books.
I'm from round on the sides & high in the middle,
And an enthusiastic "I-O!" shouted in return, no matter where else I may roam.

And I still believe that one of these days, I won't just be from here.
I'll be back here.
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Life Lessons: Apparently/Maybe/Probably You Can't Take Photos Inside Starbucks

Monday, October 13, 2014

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I'm waiting patiently for my Starbucks soy latte - because I am one bougie, basic you-know-what, apparently - when I notice that one of the baristas behind the counter looks ticked. Really ticked.

I follow her glare to the end of the bar, where a middle-aged woman is sitting on a barstool, finishing up a pastry. She's staring intently at her iPhone, holding it up at an angle in front of the big, silver, behemoth of a sink in front of her. I instantly recognize the familiar, focused look in her eyes, the way she's tilting her phone just so: She's trying to capture the perfect Instagram photo. And then, satisfied with what she's just snapped, she begins to pocket her phone.

The barista has a thick accent, & at first I'm not sure exactly what she's said - but the anger in her voice is unmistakable. "None of this!" she says firmly to the customer with the iPhone. "No photos!" The customer looks startled, like maybe the barista is scolding someone else. She looks to either side, but no one is there except me, & I look just as bewildered as she does. Turning back to the stern-faced barista & gesturing to herself despite the cup of tea in her hand, she squeaks, "Me?"

"Yes! You cannot take photos in here!" The barista is really mad now, glaring something fierce. This isn't your standard "Sorry, but..." or "Thanks for understanding..." sort of customer service. This is harsh & unfaltering &, frankly, confusing, because trying to take artsy, amateur smartphone photos has become something of an international pastime. Have you been on Instagram lately? It's positively replete with attempts at capturing creatives images of Starbucks cups.

The budding photographer splutters a little. "I was just taking a photo of the faucet," she explains meekly. "It's just a photo of a drop of water." She pushes her phone forward, & the photo on screen corroborates her story. But for all the anger in this barista's eyes, she might as well have flashed a photo of a thousand slaughtered kittens. 

Another barista, the one who's making my drink, mutters toward her coworker: "It's fine, I'm not even in it. It's fine." I wonder for a moment whether the angry barista is defending this one, somehow, if there's some reason she can't be in photographs - if she's a victim of domestic violence, or... I don't know, some other reason she shouldn't be photographed. But the customer's photo is as she explained: just a drop of water from a big, silver sink. And why all the anger? Can't she at least get an explanation or a little bit of kindness?

As the baristas mutter to one another, the woman with the iPhone turns to me. "I guess I shouldn't try to take artsy Instagram photos," she says, shrugging her shoulders & trying to laugh. I laugh a little, too, & shrug back at her in response, "What a Monday," I murmur. We're both still processing this weird & hostile scene.

But even with her coworker's placation, the angry barista is still angry: "You have to delete the picture," she insists. "Why are you taking it? You can't take photos in here. Delete it & leave!"

The customer, who looks exhausted by this point, turns & walks away. When she's out of earshot, the barista mutters, loud enough for me to hear, "No class. No class at all." She catches me staring at her, mouth wide open, but she doesn't seem apologetic or embarrassed - just as angry as she's been all along.

As I stop to grab a napkin on my way out of the store, I catch up with the customer to tell her what I've just heard & to say that I'd be emailing corporate Starbucks with a complaint. Maybe it's silly of me to inject myself into her scenario, but I want her to leave feeling like she has an ally, even if it's in a complete stranger.

She tells me she's going to send an email to corporate, too, & she seems pretty downtrodden, like maybe the day has just taken the mickey out of her. But then her face lights up a little, & she half-smiles at me: "You know, you can't take pictures in a Starbucks, but you can take a gun into one," she tells me. "How's that for priorities?"


Actually, Starbucks has a strict no-guns policy as of last fall, but I appreciate the sentiment. No guns, no photos, "no class," & never a dull moment, apparently.

At it turns out, this woman wasn't the first Starbucks customer to face the ire of a barista set on shutting down an amateur photography attempt. A rep confirmed for Business Insider last year that personal photography is permitted inside Starbucks stores, but the Internet is still full of similar stories & confusion about the company's in-store photo policy. For me, though, the issue wasn't that this woman was being prohibited from taking photos (although that's absurd). It's that she was being treated so rudely - as though she'd committed an actual crime - without being given even the slightest explanation as to what she had done wrong.

The Golden Rule applies all the time, even - & perhaps especially - in the service industry, going both ways. Drink your coffee & Instagram in peace & just be nice to other people, period. You're on notice, Adams Morgan Starbucks.
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