Archive for the ‘Manners’ Category

Puerile Panty-philes

July 1st, 2017

What titillates boys and why does that carry over to men? A stereotype of fetishizing the mundane and inherently nonsexual was the scandal of glimpsing a woman’s ankle (invariably clothed in an opaque stocking) when her massive dress moved. We are not so advanced from there.

I think of:

  • A stairway in a student union
  • Japanese no-pan coffee shops
  • British rapture with glances at underpants as a woman leaves a car (and that culture’s fascination with sideboob)

It’s apt that we Americans bear the brunt of ridicule about our attitudes toward both bare breasts and adultery. The French in particular long long snorted in disdain that we should grow up. For example POTUS Clinton accepting fellatio in his office would not be of interest to a Parisian. Isn’t that what roués, especially powerful ones, do?

Brits too enjoying feeling superior to us in how we hide and even prosecute public breasts and nipples. Yet by regulation and self-censorship, their media pixelate all female and male sexually associated body parts.

British media also love images of celebrity women caught by paparazzi awkwardly exiting a limo. If they expose underpants, the Brits seem to pant. If they are without any cloth there, scandal…

Likewise, exhibitionist women appearing in a top that displays the side of a breast (no nipple exposed), are slut shamed in UK media. Sideboob is another Brit scandal.

Student Union Runway

In a culture shock during college at the University of South Carolina, I marveled at the fetish for women’s underwear. The most obvious instance was on the sweeping stairway that joined the lower level of the student union (with the student mailboxes and cafeteria) with the upper level (study lounges and club/student paper area.

Numerous louts staked out voyeur spots in chairs at the bottom, literally and in several ways figuratively. This was an era of panty girdles, pettipants and underpants, all under skirts. The young men expressed great joy at glances at the nylon and cotton, giggling all the while like kindergartners.

Their glimpse of what my grandmother’s generation called unmentionables was their scandal and thrill. Well, honestly though, for those of us from New York and New Jersey, we were like the French are with us. What was worthy of even noticing? No sexual parts, no contact… It was definitely where’s the beef?

In Osaka

One of my old hometowns, Osaka, was the birth city of no-pan kissa, starting in the 1980s. Yes, the Japanese men have long had a fascination with underwear. They buy them used, clean or otherwise. They are as puerile as the Carolina louts in trying to sneak glimpses.

The no-panty coffeeshops were a obvious next step. Unlike much of Japanese fetish culture, these shops lacked subtlety. The waitresses typically wore short skirts and were bare underneath. Moreover, many shops had mirrored floors for full-on voyeurism. A few even allowed touching the waitresses (as a prelude for a heavy tip, no doubt, but no intercourse or other serious sexual contact).

What the non-F?

For the majority not in those insular cultures, what is the thrill and justification for underwear worship? In such diverse times and places, what has so perverted boy-to-men thinking? Were mothers and sisters so protective of their undergarments that these took on mythic status?

Such shared fantasies and titillation clearly can be bonding experiences, much like rabid rooting for your school or region sports team. It’s what men do. Still from the outside, this fetish is not thrilling to most of us.

Instead, as Cole Porter wrote:

In olden days, a glimpse of stocking 
Was looked on as something shocking. 
But now, God knows, 
Anything goes.

I believe that to the underwear fetishist, what’s the thrill in that?

 

New England Cultural Potholes

May 28th, 2017

Ah, the glorious Boston and surrounds…Flawless? Well, no.

Having lived most of my life in Boston, I choose to remain. Yet, the most amusing foibles of a region are those the most chauvinist locals have never noticed, and might even deny if you would describe them.

Esoterica Hazing

May the Great Pedants forbid that you mispronounce or misspell a New England place name or other highly localized term! Think for one of an imported TV meteorologist a few years ago who left quickly in disgrace in his trial period because of Stoughton.

He was talking through a forecast and seemed to follow school pronunciation rules saying Stuff-ton. In local speak, that city is Stoat-in. The weather guy disappeared shortly afterward.

A better, more civilized outcome? Sure. Don’t be so clubby, rather accept that nearly all ignorance is easily fixed. As opposed to stupidity, with the exception of a few technical or math concepts, teaching a proper pronunciation or spelling, for example, is quick, kind and easy.

Do that and the formerly ignorant one is clued in and part of the gang. Plus, you are the good guy. As another bonus, there’s the chance and likelihood of a nickname-level running joke, endearing instead of hostile.

90-second C.V.

Many locales (think Paris and London) have their share of snots. Few though can compete with New Englanders’ instant, intrusive résumé battles. Within a minute and one half of meeting a typical local, you have to hear:

  • every famous person related to said local
  • childhood prep school
  • college
  • important people they know or work with

This dick-on-the-table measurement contest is as predictable as it is tedious. The NYC equivalent, in contrast, is much more benign and prone to camaraderie from shared experience. There, the first verbal hugs are ones no Bostonian would ever ask, to wit,  how much do you pay for this apartment/condo? New Yorkers do that to start a conversation and to share envy or condolences, depending.

Alas, insecure New Englanders have to prove themselves to each other constantly. My prep school or U is more prestigious (locally) than yours or my ancestors are better known…

I think of one of my Inc. Magazine writing-stable buddies. He regularly would stop a group discussion with something like, “Ball, you went to such a shitty school. How come you know so much?” He was fourth generation Harvard (accepted and pushed through likely because of his family’s largess). Other Inc. staffers with Ivy degrees would often tell him that I was simply smarter and better read. He could not believe any such trivialities would trump Harvard.

Shout ’em Down!

Far too many New Englanders are in the old England debate mode. That is, browbeat someone else, even at high volume, and claim victory when they shut up.

“You have not converted a man because you have silenced him,” wrote John, Viscount Morley in the 19th Century. That’s not the guideline here. Rather, what used to hold only in debate clubs and those same prep and Ivy schools is to bully your way to an alleged victory. The more classical, even Talmudic, ideal of discussion to approach and refine truth does not fit this style.

Shouting people down is delightfully ridiculed by Monty Python in their argument sketch. It is enough of a thing to happen there as well as here.

Truth be told, screaming at people and using intimidation instead of facts and analysis is blessedly not that popular outside of New England in this country. If you move here, you will certainly run up against it all the time.

No Comfort to Enemies

The infamous, and far too thrilling, Boston driving, is more accurately New England driving. Offensive is considered defensive driving to many around here.

That does not happen alone. One expression is when you ask a local why they do not signal turns much less exits off rotaries. With a maniacal laugh, a Bostonian is likely to reply, “That only gives information to the enemy (a.k.a. other drivers).”

Sure, it would be safe to let fellow drivers know where you are headed. It would be considerate not to surprise those behind you if you will clog a left lane for a turn. It would even comply with state law.

This road attitude manifests throughout the region in many forms. For an example of inconsiderate arrogance, I think to a side business I had briefly with a chum from New England money. We proposed to rent fancy motor yachts for private functions. The owners got some cash for unused boats and we did all the work of renting, entertaining and cleaning.

Part of this was meeting with a yacht owner and discussing particulars. My friend made it very plain to me that the proper attitude was to disparage the yacht and act like it was barely adequate. I could not believe that. From my Southern heritage and my observation of local rich folk, I surmised:

  1. they were likely proud of their overpriced ship, and thus insulted personally if we talked down their said ship
  2. they would question our intellect and observation if we ascribed false flaws
  3. I would try graciousness instead, as that was what I knew

Much to my chum’s amazement, my pleasant presentation and charm worked. We got far better deals than he expected and the owners originally proposed.

What far too many New Englanders do no know is that nice is free. You do not pay a financial price nor lose face.

 

 

Splayed Social Skills

October 30th, 2016

Occasionally, I wear a kilt. That has become a family thing.

alkiltMy first daughter-in-law, wife of our eldest son, is singularly proud of her Scottish heritage. She’s not a skirt/dress person, but does wear a kilt. Our son does too and so does their son. He is one of the two males pictured here; you can decide which is his image and which mine.

A Scottish neighbor discussed the manners and mindfulness involved in kilt wearing. His was a long tale about a wedding. He was in the groom’s party and sat in the nave during the ceremony. Of course, as a Scott, he was kitted in kilt.

During the wedding, he wondered what dementia gripped his wife and other family members. The women he could see gesticulated repeatedly in some indecipherable sign language He smiled faintly by way of acknowledging them but did not get the message until after the nuptials.

mbdouglasTurns out, the women in the pews were trying strongly to say, “Close your damned legs!’

He was, as I do, wearing his kilt traditionally  — with no clothing underneath. The whole church other than those standing or seated with the wedding principals had no doubt of his gender.

I thought I had gotten the hang of it. I observed other kilt wearers and saw that most men push the front material in a fold between their thighs, making a crotch curtain. Yet last evening at a fair sized party at our house, my wife crossed the room to provide my own close-your-damned-legs moment. She was more pleasant but the message was the same.

In my experience, women are no more polite or considerate than men. Yet nearly all try to preserve modesty when they wear a skirt or dress or kilt. The Sharon Stone Basic Instinct reveal when it occurs is intentional.

Men on the other hand (other leg?) do not grow up learning to keep their knees together when seated. For all but men with the least muscled thighs, keeping legs closed when seated allows no hanging room for what the Brits call naughty bits.

I enjoy wearing a kilt, for the variety and comfort. I only once was out in the bitter air and wind of winter in one though.

I suspect I’ll master the physical and social skill of the seated curtain. I also tend to travel with my kilt watcher to remind me.

Donnie Dewlap

October 19th, 2016

donjowlss-copyI’m old enough:

  • to be nearly be a peer of Donald Trump
  • to remember and have read Any Rand

She was and he is an awful lookist. The great irony there is that both were or are pathetically unattractive. She was an anorexic sort devoid of stereotypical feminine traits. He goes on and on about the virtues or shortcomings of specific women, while he is at best the Pillsbury Doughboy.

I recall Rand nailing one of her antagonists as “fat over the collar” (I think that was of Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead.  She disdained and loathed body fat, so that glance was all the damning she required to make her view clear. The humor here is she did not have enough adipose tissue to have visible hips, breast or waist. She was physically an imitation woman.

Trump on the other hand, or head, is rife with flab. His neck and jowls and wattles hang over his clothes. I remember an article I wrote for American Management Association’s Management Review magazine when I was on staff, interviewing Mortimer Levitt, founder and head of The Custom Shirt Shop. He was a cartoon faced, scrawny guy, a male Rand as it were. He also hated visible body fat. His standard slide show included pix of President Kennedy showing flab bulging over too tight shirt collars.

The points here are how dare parody-of-women Rand disdain any body fat and how dare physically repulsive Trump judge women’s attractiveness? Let’s leave it as they were or are egocentric, asocial fools.

 

Shoot Me Not

August 13th, 2016

My fashooterlure as a senior engineering manager was not shooting my direct reports. That was both physical and digital.

We all put in long, productive workdays. Mine tended to run longer. I got to the office around 5 AM. They’d stumble in around 9 or 10. I was the documentation manager/head tech writer. The chief UI designer would arrive about the same time. We’d work alone and together on our stuff and the complex interface, head to the downstairs FitCorp gym at 6 or 6:30 and be groomed and caffeinated when the programmers finally showed.

They’d goof around, then work, then insult each other, and keep it going until 5 or 6. Then they’d shift from coffee to Pepsi. As all savvy tech companies, ours provide unlimited cold and hot caffeine. They’d do hours of multi-player games over our network, taking great joy in visually splattering each other for hours.

Weekend meetings might be paintball, when then mayhem was more literal, involving downers (beer) and bruises from the balls.

Old Mike instead read books, wrote blogs, worked cryptic puzzles, and philosophized. I had no interest in figurative murder or literal punishment.

I’m older. The sprouts seemed to forgive me. We all went out to lunch and after-work drinks. I just had no interest in multi-player games and feigned warfare.

When my engineering VP went off to sell the company, he dubbed me in charge of engineering, as in development, test, QA, docs and such. I became the socket for the whines. “His code sucks…he doesn’t know how to clear a memory address…she uses 54 lines to do what I can in 12…my girlfriend’s cat pisses in my shoe…I found this function perfectly done in Fresh Meat…Tom did not subversion his code and I wasted four hours waiting…”

You’ll never find a bigger bunch of kvetchers than developers.

Yet, I admit, I’d been a better sport had I picked up a paintball gun and tried to humiliate and hurt my reports. I could have upended my life and fought rush-hour Boston traffic to get in late, leave late, and devoted two hours every evening to network shooter games.

Sorry. I win.

 

Hear Hair Talking

March 26th, 2016

I parrothairyadmit that I am one of the millions (or more) who snicker at Donald Trump’s hair weave or whatever artifice crawls around his skull. Most recently, I’ve enjoyed the parrot tulips pending outside and potted on the dining table. I’m simple enough to be amused at the idea that he could take one of my images, like the adjacent one, to his hairstylists. He could say, “Do me!”

I think if he’s going with the orange skin and hair-like-objects theme, he should display some panache.

This is a derivative theme for me. In the early 1980s, a friend and godmother of  one of our sons introduced the concept the phrase.

She is the artist who called herself Savannah, in lieu of her more painfully Southern name, Marion Francis Talmadge Etheredge. More painful was her nasty divorce. Throttled and dumped on by hubby, a few older relatives on her own side, and one of her daughters, she was poor and poorly, angry and alert.

Tall, blonde and striking, she outdid herself when she visited us. We’d moved to Boston with our first boy and she remained in our mutually beloved Manhattan. When she arrived, Boston was not ready for her in the early 1980s. She wore a black body suit and sported three colors of short hair. The not-too-worldly locals literally stopped and gawked.

She spoke about her appearance (we thought she looked great and powerful). She said after the terrible divorce proceedings she went to her SoHo stylist ripe for a real change and statement. She just told her, “Fix me!”

In this temporal reality, Trump is all bluster and theater. Does he have that much nerve?

 

Of fish and tools

February 21st, 2016

codeyeI finally broke down and bought a decent filleting knife. Now I’ll lug home whole fish more regularly.

As the main cook around here, I of course have a thing for knives. I believe in good ones, for example, the large carbon-steel French chef’s one I’ve used for over 40 years. I bought that with the advice of my friend Paula Delancey. She was a student at the CIA in Hyde Park NY and on the way to becoming the first woman to graduate at the head of her class there. She already knew knives. Thus it is amusing that I delayed springing for a good fillet knife, even if I would use it rarely.

Elder buddies

I remember my first fish filleting forays. Apparently some of my local fishing trips around Romney, West Virginia, were mildly amusing to family. In particular, when I would go sit on the bank of the South Branch of the Potomac with Rumsey Oates.

We were related by marriage. He was the father of the man who married my maternal grandmother’s younger sister. Discounting the by-marriage and removed qualifiers, he would have been my great-great uncle. I was a kid and he was in his mid and late seventies.

My mother said some people would try to tease him about his wee fishing buddy. He would tell them I was the best type — I had a lot of patience and didn’t talk much. We could sit by the river for hours. Sometimes we pulled in sunnies or perch. When luck was with us, it was trout and bass.

I enjoyed his quiet company too. The 60 to 70 year age difference seemed unremarkable to me. We got along.

I suppose it was my mother’s doing, along with her parents. She ran Red Cross chapters, which were filled with aged volunteers. Most of them insisted that I call them by their first name and treat them like peers. Likewise, my grandparents had mostly friends who were 50 or more years older than I, who also treated me as an well-mannered equal. I lived the school year with my mother and summers with her parents. I knew more old people than kids my age.

Scaling, gutting, filleting

Many fish aren’t that bad to prepare. Those little ones remained pretty bony though. The fat trout and small-mouth bass were much easier. The spine often lifted out with most of the bones still attached. Then slicing out a decent fillet on each side was something even a kid could do, assuming he had a decent knife.

That past revisited recently as my wife subscribed to Cape Ann fish shares, choosing the whole-fish options. Haddock and pollack were pretty easy to deal with; they were thick and my existing knives were OK. So were the two very large flounders one week. Another share though was seven very thin flounders. They were impossible to cut a real fillet from. I did accept that if I had a serious filleting knife I would have done a little better.

Now I’ve tipped over. I bought the good knife. It arrived a day after I had successfully butchered the two pollack, but I’m ready.

Fish stores and the Haymarket have a good range of whole fish. I’m armed.

 

 

The Brassiere Jungle

December 12th, 2015

Woe was I (although I hardly knew or admitted it). Growing up, I was the token male in a mom-led with older sister household.

To my later benefit, I learned early to leave the toilet seat down. I also chose to become the best cook, with my maternal grandmother as the family star baker up to her death — another big plus come dating, single-life and marriage statuses.

Alas, there was 50s and 60s underwear.

After the questionable innovation of pantyhose — expensive, fragile necessity for working women and aggravation to lusty companions — the canopy in the bathroom was less lush. Yet I grew knowing a veritable orchard of lingerie.

In our various apartments and houses with shared bathrooms, I’d bushwack to the shower and sink. My fastidious mother and sister regularly washed multiple sets of what one neighbor, Mrs. Kidd in Danville, VA, still called unmentionables. Hanging from shower curtain tubes, towel racks and of course, the folding wooden Rid-Jid drying structure filling the tub/shower space were a Tarzan transit worthy set of vines comprising bras, girdles, stockings, garter belts, and underpants.

Certainly fighting this overgrowth to wash and shave was better than life with stinky mother and sister. Yet still…

Now as a long-term married, I remain pleased that my first and only uxorial unit does not try to make me relive my unmentionables past, the ghosts of brassieres that had been. Just today as I headed up after breakfast to brush my teeth, she hastened before me, saying she’d left a bra in the sink.

As it turned out she had in fact already rinsed it and hung it over a towel on her towel rack.

That got me thinking of how oddly proud so many are of what married types do in sight, hearing and smell of each other. Allegedly after a year of marriage, the couple are happy to defecate, pass wind (loudly and laughing), and do all manner of private business next to the spouse. Supposedly, that is intimacy.

I guess I’m too much of a prig. I don’t want her to perceive me as a flatulent, coarse, stinky animal. I think of Rose Sayer in The African Queen, when she said, “Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.”

 

Mysteries of gym locker doors

July 1st, 2015
open gym locker

open gym locker

Two flavors of locker jerks:

  1. Door slammers
  2. Don’t close the door types

At my local Y, about one in three men are one of those two.  At another Boston Y we used to go to, there is a third variety. There, they hand out one small towel per visit. About half the men toss their wet towel near but not in the hamper by the exit door, on the floor, or on a bench.

From my Southern background, I have to wonder who their people are. That is, how were these guys raised that such inconsideration is automatic?

Ridge runner philosophy

I often refer to drugstore psychology. It could ask easily be called lunch counter or barstool instead of drugstore.

For me though, as a youth, I philosophized often in the Romney Rexall drugstore in the small West Virginia town where I spent summers and holidays. Other local sages of various ages did too.

The drug store had a big magazine rack with window seating, a stand-up area near the coffee equipment, and maybe six round glass top tables with cafe chairs between the front and the pharmacy area. The tables each had a locking door under the top, which let employees put impulse-purchase goods, like eyeshadow or hair brushes, on display. It seemed to be good promotion, as girls would have their lime rickeys and buy cosmetics on the way out.

For my friends and me though, the magazine rack was it. We could clearly see and sneak peeks at comics and more sensational fare, like True Detective magazine.

Each group of philosophers solved various problems and mysteries in their own corners.

Locker logic

On occasion, I have said something to the locker slammers, like “Wow, that’s really loud.” I don’t expect that will change their behavior any more than their seeing me quietly close my locker will.

I do often wonder though if they are aware of what they are doing and whether there’s anything other than emotion behind their slamming lockers or leaving them open. For slammers, they are going to trouble to make a display and make noise. They are aware they are startling and annoying others…and don’t seem to care. Those who leave the doors open may be smart enough to know they are leaving sharp edges that can hurt the unalert. At the least, they have to know that someone more considerate and polite will have to close the doors they leave open.

My drugstore psychology has it for each:

Slammers — Simple male insecurity here. My wife verifies that she has never seen or heard a woman slam a locker door. On the men’s side, men often make big movements and loud displays as though they consider those manly. They’ll grunt and bellow when lifting even light weights. Some will make huge noises when tying shoes, like they were delivering a child. Some plop down on benches or chairs with loud exhalation, regardless of how it affects others nearby. They need attention and feign strain from the most ordinary activities. I figure they came from fathers and brothers who also had to prove their manliness with silly displays. Poor them, locked in a cycle of melodrama.

Open Door Types — I peg these as momma’s boys. Their mommies closed their doors and drawers for them. Their mommies picked up their socks and underpants and towels. Likely their wives do that now, as they’d marry someone very much like mommy. They leave the doors open because growing up they found that nothing was too good for mommy’s best boy. He didn’t have to do anything he didn’t want. It’s only right that someone else should clean up after them. They are special. Yawn.

There’s still a drugstore on Main Street in Romney, but it’s a Rite Aid and in a different place. The Rexall is gone. Philosophizing likely takes place in the cafes and little restaurants. Folk wisdom abides.

Pic note: Published under Creative Commons with attribution to middleagedmormon.com. I also enhanced the contrast and cropped the original.

Creeping toward humanness

March 7th, 2015

I’m with Uncle Joe Biden on one of the craziest, dumbest Republicans. The Veep ridiculed Ben Carson’s inane gay bashing, noting the widespread disdain for the lunacy.

Carson has proclaimed he intends to win the GOP nomination for POTUS next year. More to the point, he is yet another proof that expertise in one area (he is a physician) means nothing beyond that. He went on and on about homosexuality being a total choice with his alleged evidence being that straight men are raped in prison, hence choosing to change.

From the MSNBC reportage:

But Biden on Friday was not sure how to respond. “Every ridiculous assertion from Dr. Carson on — I mean Jesus, God,” he said. “Oh God. I mean, it’s kind of hard to fathom, isn’t it?”

Still, the vice president pointed to the “universal ridicule” Carson suffered as evidence of progress for LGBT rights. “That wouldn’t have happened two years ago, five years ago,” he said.

And that is exactly it. Unlike Carson’s perverted fantasy, such advancement is observable, palpable proof that we can and do improve as a species.

I recall the moment I first became keenly aware and thus hopeful of such growth. It was in the Yankee in Beaufort, South Carolina in the mid-1970s. It was a dive, a beer and burger joint, but very Low Country. Three middle-aged guys  I didn’t know by name were about 10 feet away at the angle of the bar at lunchtime. One of them fell down the at-home well and ranted briefly about black folk, using the N word twice.

I wasn’t ready for the immediate response of his two buddies. They told him quickly and firmly that was not cool and they didn’t want to hear it. They guy was chastened and behaved himself afterward. I am pretty sure that he ws likely to behave himself with them and maybe others going forward.

That is both evidence that we can advance as a species and the method to advance that process. Do not let the crazies and the bigots slide. You don’t have to be pious and obnoxious about it. You do have to be quick and sure. Tell the bigot what’s wrong and look directly at him. It works the miracle of conversion to humanness.

Of course, the other thing is not to pretend it doesn’t happen in Yankeeland or the Wet Coast. Bigots and buffoons don’t respect geography.