Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Don't be ashamed to read young adult fiction


The other day one of my friends said how much she loved her Kindle, because "I can read a YA book without getting strange looks from others." The book that she was talking about? When You Reach Me, a fantastic new book that won this year's Newbery Medal for Children's Literature" (a book that makes a number of references to the above beloved book). I hate that people are ashamed of reading beautifully written, delightful, award winning books just because they come from the young adult section of the bookstore. I blame people like Malcolm Gladwell -- though he's a great writer, and I've liked all of his books, the man has some seriously, I'm sorry, there's no other word for it, FUCKED UP ideas of what young adult fiction is.* According to him, it's fine to plagarize it, because:
This is teen-literature. It's genre fiction. These are novels based on novels based on novels, in which every convention of character and plot has been trotted out a thousand times before.
This is a crazy insult to all young adult literature (and really, all genre fiction, why is calling it "genre fiction" a pejorative anyway?), but it's just one of the many insults that regularly gets thrown at young adult fiction. It's all stupid like Twilight; famous starlets and reality stars dabble in it because it's so easy to write; it's just a bunch of stupid books about girls and their problems, etc. All of this is bullshit, because young adult fiction is awesome -- so don't be ashamed to read it, and don't talk shit about it (or people who read it) either.

*I know, this is from a blog post from four years ago, but it still pisses me off.

I'm not going to waste time tearing down all of those ridiculous stereotypes, because they're ridiculous. Catcher in the Rye, one of the most famous and most read American novels, is young adult literature. So instead, let's talk about all of the ways that YA fiction is awesome, both for teens and adults.

There are lots of adults who read YA literature, as shown by this recent LA Times story, and this blog post from the Good Reads blog. All of these adults are reading these books because they have thoughtful engaging stories, and they give you a lot to think about and talk about. I started talking to a girl at a Christmas party this year that I didn't know that well, and it turned out that we both read a lot of YA, and that was enough to start us into a 20 minute long conversation about books that we had both read and loved, and books that we insisted that the other person should read, and ended with her insisting that we meet up a few weeks later so that she could give me a bunch of books that she knew that I would love.

Calling young adult literature genre fiction doesn't quite work, because there are so many genres and styles of literature within it. Do you want intense post-apocalyptic lit? Read The Hunger Games or How I Live Now. Do you like fun books about feminist teens coming of age? Then read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks or just about any book by Meg Cabot. Do you want a scary book about boys on a road trip? Read In the Path of Falling Objects by this guy (who has such a scary voice that he freaked a bunch of us out at a simple book reading a few months ago). Do you like fun historical epistolary novels? Then read Sorcery and Cecelia. Do you like books like Special Topics in Calamity Physics and The Secret History? Read Jellicoe Road. Do you like books with unreliable narrators or about crime? Then read Monster. Do you want books about gay teens? Then read Boy Meets Boy or Empress of the World. Do you want to get into the mind of a girl who has been raped, or a girl with an eating disorder who is desperately trying to hide it from everyone? Then read Speak or Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Do you want great books about music or drama? Then read any of these or these books. Do you want...I could go on forever here, but you get the picture.

In addition, so many young adult authors are awesome in and of themselves. There is Meg Cabot, who is the goddess of young adult literature, proudly proclaims herself to be a feminist, and has a fantastic blog. There's Sherman Alexie, who wrote the amazing and critically lauded Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian and just won the PEN/Faulkner Award. Sara Zarr, author of three incredible, thought provoking books, has a (not surprisingly) incredible and thought provoking blog, where she talks about writing, religion, music, body image, and lots more. Sarah Dessen writes books about girls and their families and lots more, and writes in her blog about parenting, pop culture, her love for Good Morning America and everything else. And there are a number of critically acclaimed writers who have written some young adult books with great results, like Joyce Carol Oates who wrote the intense Big Mouth and Ugly Girl.

Hey look, when the Wall Street Journal of all places, recommends young adult literature for adults, then it's really gone mainstream for adults. So the next time you feel like hiding that book that you're reading just because it has a teenager on the outside, just stop, think about how much you're loving reading that book, and how someone else who loved it too will smile when she sees you reading it, and don't do it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday Quickies: Design Edition

Welcome to Don't Do That's weekly links round up, guaranteed to brighten even the dreariest, most waterlogged Tuesday. (Hang in there, New Englanders!)

We've got a massive backlog of good stuff to share with you, so follow us on Twitter for more links and cranky bon mots.

Don't dress like Donna Martin:
90210 Window Display (Sandra Juto)

Don't spend a month's rent on ugly shoes:
Balenciaga Shoes (Tom & Lorenzo)

Don't dress your doggie like Lady Gaga (unless it's for art):
The Doggie Gaga Project (Jesse Freidin)

Don't call Lady Gaga a bad influence:
Lady Gaga Inspires Award-Winning Teen (Boston Globe)

Don't wear these around small children:
Using Barbie Parts As Jewelry (This Blog Rules)

Don't eat the klonopin jewelry:
Klonopin Jewelry is the Best Jewelry (The Gloss)

Don't do mom-guilt, says Project Runway's Laura Bennett (we agree!):
Laura Bennett Cuts Her Own Hair (BlogHer)

Don't make major repairs with Lego bricks (but minor ones are adorable):
Lego Street Art (Dispatchwork)

Don't eat the candy chandelier:
The "Candelier" (Jellio)

Don't blaspheme in these churches-turned-homes. We're still worried about lightning bolts:
Converted Churches (Casa Sugar)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Don't Be "Edgy"

I was originally going to call this post "Don't Be Amanda Palmer," because her recent actions are a primer in How Not To Be, but then I remembered that I actually used to like Amanda Palmer. I enjoyed her old band, the Dresden Dolls. They put on a phenomenal live show, and they're from Boston, which counts for bonus points with me since I'm a big supporter of local music. And I thought she was right on telling her record company to suck it when they objected to the sight of her perfectly normal belly in a video.

But she started to lose me at this year's Golden Globes, where she decided it would be all sorts of daring to show up mostly naked (see above). I don't know. If red carpet nudity is really that punk rock, I guess JLo and Rose McGowen (NSFW) are countercultural icons, right? But whatever, I'm all for people wearing whatever makes them feel good, even though I do think the phrase "showing your ass" should only ever apply in a metaphorical sense.

Unfortunately, a few weeks later she decided to do just that when controversy erupted over her current project, a band called Evelyn Evelyn. Palmer and fellow musician Jason Webley created a fictional duo with a totally "edgy" background: circus-performing, child-porn-surviving conjoined twins who go by the same first name, finish each other's sentences, and are too shy/awkward to promote their music. Palmer and Webley perform as Evelyn Evelyn in a special outfit that makes them look conjoined. So, to summarize: they're portraying disabled characters as unable to speak for themselves and using the characters' disability as an excuse to dress up in a wacky outfits. This, perhaps unsurprisingly, caused a bit of an uproar.

The project itself isn't what made me unfollow Palmer's Twitter though. It was her response to the criticism that was really ugly. You can read it here, but it can be summarized as: a) All my friends thought it was a good idea and b) It's ART. Art should be offensive!

Well, yes, art can be offensive. That doesn't make it any good though. There's plenty of bad, offensive art out there. You can't just say, hey, people are offended, it must be good art! You need to give your audience--and your detractors--reasons for the offense. Otherwise the project is going to look poorly thought out and lazy at best and discriminatory at worst.

Okay, I could write about a thousand more words about that, but sadly, that's not the most bothersome thing Amanda Palmer has done recently. In the middle of a Twitter conversation taking Lady Gaga to task for too much product placement in the Telephone video, Palmer tweeted this:


[@joanarkham ironic product placement is only okay if you take no money & beyond that give all the income to something ironic. like the Klan.]

Holy fuckballs! On what planet is that comment even in the same timezone as okay? The KLAN? As IRONIC? Definitions of irony:


1. the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had to work all weekend.
2. Literature.
a. a technique of indicating, as through character or plot development, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated.
b. (esp. in contemporary writing) a manner of organizing a work so as to give full expression to contradictory or complementary impulses, attitudes, etc., esp. as a means of indicating detachment from a subject, theme, or emotion.
5. an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.
6. the incongruity of this.
7. an objectively sardonic style of speech or writing.
8. an objectively or humorously sardonic utterance, disposition, quality, etc.

Yeah, I don't see how "financially supporting a group that supports terrorism, brutality, and murder as an appropriate response to using a song to sell Diet Coke" falls under any of those definitions. And I'm not the only one who isn't quite sure how the KKK counts as ironic. (Warning: graphic images of Klan evil that Amanda Palmer should have fucking considered before she hit "Tweet.")

Let's be blunt here: Palmer's comment was both stunningly ignorant and a perfect example of hipster racism. I cannot imagine why else Plamer would think it was okay to joke about supporting the fucking Klan. Is this because Obama is president? Newsflash, people: being able to point to an African-American president does not allow you to say racist shit! "I voted for the black guy" does not equal "now I can joke about the Klan!" That is not what "post-racial" means, assholes.

Look, sorry I'm speaking so crudely, but I can't believe I have to explain this. And you know the worst part? Amanda Palmer has 400,000 Twitter followers who apparently think using a bunch of murderous bastards as the punchline to a shitty, cynical joke is totally okay. To those people I say: I don't care how awesome her music is, or how liberated and independent you think she is. Amanda Palmer is not speaking truth to power. She's stomping on the already downtrodden and calling it humor. No justification for art or honesty is ever going to make that okay.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Don't Brag About Not Owning a Television

We've already talked about people who diss reality TV or freak out about children and television, but today we're taking on an even more annoying group: people who think that not owning a television makes them morally superior.

I once spent two weeks without a television. The plan was actually to go without for the entire summer, since my best friend and I were in a temporary apartment and didn't want to have to move a tv after three months. But after about ten days of reading so much I got stress headaches and staring at my roommate having completely run out of things to talk about, we broke down and bought a little tv with rabbit ears. Mostly we watched Red Sox games and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I remain convinced that that crappy tv saved my sanity and our friendship. Seriously, Shannon, I love you, but if I had to hear the story about how you wanted to be a grizzly bear when you grew up one more time...

Anyway. I don't care if you don't own a tv. I don't have a driver's license, which makes me a little unusual among modern adults, but you don't see me going around talking about how not driving makes me an awesome person. I suppose I could look up how much I'm helping to curb climate change by not driving and use those stats at cocktail parties to pontificate upon my contributions to saving the earth, but the truth is that I'm just a lazy-ass who hates to drive. And also, neither of those reasons are all that interesting. So I usually just say, "I don't drive," in the most neutral tone possible and leave it at that.

I imagine there are people who don't own TVs who manage it without being all Judgey McJudgerson, but unfortunately I haven't met any of them (or maybe I have and they just haven't mentioned it). I always get the ones who manage to make "I don't own a television" sound like "I don't drink industrial waste" or "I don't poke babies with sticks." Look, I hate to break this to all the TV-shunners out there, but not having a television does not make you a better person than me. Unless you are spending the time you would have spent watching TV feeding the homeless or reading Proust, you're killing time just like all the rest of us, only without a moving picture box.

Blah, blah, TV rots your brain, etc. Well, yeah, but so does that Jackie Collins novel, and I doubt knitting that sweater is really expanding your horizons all that much. And TV can actually be educational, too! Here is a list of things I have learned from television: what the Kuiper Belt is (Nova), why Meissen porcelain is special (Antiques Roadshow), and the capital of Burkina Faso (The Amazing Race). And as for using your non-TV time to create: What, y'all can't multitask? I made this while watching short-track speedskating.

There's also the argument that you can use your non-TV time to go outside. Yeah, well, I don't know where you live, but in New England? Outside sucks. In fact, in Boston it is currently raining and snowing at the same time. I would rather gnaw my own arm off than go outside right now.

Then there's the biggie: "I use the extra time to connect with people." Like because I own a television I'm incapable of maintaining relationships. I had lunch yesterday with someone I've known for 14 years, I'm spending the weekend with my in-laws, and I've talked to my sister three times this week. Also? I really resent the implication that because there is a television in my house of course I spend every waking moment in front of it to the detriment of all other aspects of my life. Way to subtly call me a slack-jawed cretin there, non-TV-owner.

I realize that there are many people out there who do watch television to the detriment of the rest of their lives, but the assumption that simply owning a television automatically puts you in that group is both idiotic and insulting. Television, for me, isn't so much the opiate of the masses as it is a hobby I use to--wait for it--connect with people. My husband and I spend long car rides talking about character development on our favorite shows. I laugh with friends about ridiculous reality show contestants. Heck, I got to know my best friend in the first place when we bonded over our love of The X-Files.

So if you don't own a television and are tempted to use this fact to pass judgement on others? Don't. And if you have judgement passed upon you? Don't get mad; get snarky.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Don't fight with your partner around your friends


This article in the New York Times last week was about a very annoying couple who fight on Facebook so that their friends can get involved and "can kind of comment on" their disputes. Thank God, I don't know this couple, and I really have no idea how they still have friends, but way too many times I've had that awkward moment around a couple where they're having a fight, and I'm just trying to find a way to hide in the playroom with their kid. So people, please, don't fight with your partner around your friends.

Look, I'm not talking about friendly bickering about whose turn it is to change the baby's dipaer or about where we should all go out for dinner tonight, I'm talking about those conversations that clearly have that "I'm pissed" edge to them. Where most of the time what you say is pretending to be friendly, but you both have that undercurrent of anger, and then start saying things that I don't really understand, but have a second meaning. And then, of course, there are those actual fights where someone might start yelling, or slamming doors. If you need to do that, and you know, sometimes we all do, for goodness sake do it in private, or at least just with your children around (you'll pay for their therapy). But if your friends are around, we start to feel like we're in the middle of an old episode of Jon and Kate Plus Eight, before Jon became as big of a douche as he is now, and before Kate got new extensions and white teeth and started attempting to dance on national television.

Those kinds of situations are totally awkward and difficult for your friends, I'm telling you this right now. None of us want to get in the middle, and the worst possible scenario is for one of you to turn to me and say "Brownie, you agree with me, right?" Please please, don't ever do that. Because whether I agree with you or not, I am SO not going to volunteer my opinion at that point, and just get one of you even madder, and mad at ME to boot. And honestly, at that point, I've probably just started chanting my mantra in my head so that I can't hear any of the conversation anymore, so I would have no idea what I am agreeing to.

The thing is, if your friends are hanging out with the two of you together, it's often because they are either still getting to know one member of the couple, or it's because they genuinely like you as a couple, and they like being around both of you. In either situation, being in the middle of a couple fight is the worst. For the former, it gives your friends a bad opinion of your new girlfriend or boyfriend, or just a bad opinion of the way that the two of you interact, and that will just make any future outings even more uncomfortable. And for the latter, it's like watching Mom and Dad fight, and no one likes to do that, okay? Yes, maybe it's clear that I'm the child of divorced parents, but reliving those moments of childhood is not a good way to spend a Saturday night out with friends.

And really, we just do not care if you opened that bottle of wine that he'd been saving (unless we get to drink some of it), or if he's going to play golf instead of going on a bike ride with your kid, or if she farted in the middle of the night and woke you up. And really, we just do not want to know! We know that some of this has to do with someone's irritation about your sex life, or who works too much or not enough, or some fight about money that you had, but that is so none of our business.

And I'm not asking you to be fake, or super polite to each other all the time. One of my friends and her husband bicker at a low level all the time, but there's no animosity there, and it's just the way their relationship has always been, so I just find it entertaining and not awkward at all. And seriously, if you're a new parent, all bets are off, because we all know that neither of you have been sleeping and you're both hungry and stressed and overwhelmed on top of the sleep deprivation, so if you need to fight, do it, and I'll just go into the kitchen and make you a pie. But those are special exceptions.

So the next time you are having a dinner party and your wife breaks a glass and you want to make a snarky remark about how maybe she feels like she can break things all of the time but you know how much they cost, and then your wife says that well, since she makes more money than you, she can afford to buy some damn new wineglasses sometimes, please just stop, think about how all of your dinner guests would immediately want to hide under the table, and don't do it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Don't Be Afraid To Compliment A Stranger

(Image of Purdue's Compliment Guys.)

A couple of weeks ago, I went into Starbucks after spending the morning in court (for work) before going to the office. Court had been frustrating, it was cold and windy outside, and I was feeling especially blah. However, I was wearing my very awesome Proenza Schouler for Target coat from a couple of years ago, which almost always lifts my spirits a little bit, and had on an equally fun H&M scarf. When the barista asked me my name to put on my coffee, he hollered it to his coworkers, then turned to me and said, "Roxy! You look fantastic! That coat and the scarf look great with your coloring, and especially your hair." As windblown and chilled as I was, and as little as I was looking forward to the next eight hours, his comment - genuine and not a come-on - absolutely made my day.

It can sometimes be difficult to know how to take a compliment. They can feel backhanded or like they come with an ulterior motive. You can feel like you've fished for it or like it's rooted in guilt. But when it comes from a stranger? It almost always is void of all that history or subtext, and is just a truly genuine piece of positive feedback.

Yes, there are compliments from strangers that are less welcome. If you're hollering out your car window at me, I'm more likely to throw a rude gesture your way than I am to smile and say thanks. (Sidebar: Has that EVER gotten anyone a date? Why are guys still attempting that "Hey Baby Hey Baby!" nonsense? "Nice tits," while true, is not exactly tops on our list of things to hear from some random dude.) And if I hear "Smile! You're so pretty!" one more time, I might just lose it once and for all.

But if someone says they love my jeans? I'll happily have a five minute conversation about my favorite brand (Joe's), my favorite place to find them (eBay or various consignment shops in town), and walk away feeling miles better. Brownie had a similar experience recently, when she was having a great hair day and had that validated by someone she had never met. And Daisy has one of my favorite stories, involving a cool t-shirt, Trader Joe's, and a guy saying, "Oh, stay right there! I want to show my wife your shirt! It's great!"

While we've explained in plain terms how not to be an asshole in public, we also think it's important to be actively nice to people. So many of us are wandering around in our own little worlds, plugged into our iPods and smartphones, and I'm just as guilty of that as anyone. But that doesn't mean its good. Sure, it keeps you from having to have conversations with the crazy person next to you on the bus, but it can also keep you from connecting. And it keeps other people from sharing how cute they think your shoes are or lending you their extra umbrella on a rainy day or just generally making you feel good. And while it can be scary to talk to strangers, it can also mean more to them than you realize. So the next time you see someone with great earrings or the perfect haircut or just a generally sunny and delightful disposition, but you're hesitant to share your thoughts with them? Just stop, think about how nice it is when someone says something nice to you, and don't be afraid to compliment a stranger.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Don't Blame Yourself For a Bad Date

I am a bad date expert. I didn't date much in college, so when I graduated and became a single girl in the city, I vowed to go on any date that presented itself to me. And I did. And it was ridiculous.

There was the guy who told me he could only be with someone who was okay with the fact that he occasionally didn't contact anyone for weeks at a time, the guy who insisted on driving and then got us lost, the guy who turned out to have a daughter my age (I didn't think he was that old; he didn't think I was that young.), the guy whose favorite movie was Notting Hill (Okay, that one was my fault. I thought he was joking and laughed at him. Oops.), and the guy who thought The Rainforest Cafe was a romantic dinner spot. My favorite, though, was the date that went fine, with the guy asking me out again at the end, then emailing me two days later to say he'd thought about it some more and decided we shouldn't get together again. I would still like to find that guy and punch him.

I also went on a bunch of dates with perfectly nice men who were clearly bored by me and whom I thought were dull as dishwater. I would get home from those dates and wonder what the heck was wrong with me that I had gone out with half the city of Boston and couldn't find one guy who was interested or interesting. At first I thought I must be a defective dater. I worried that I was doomed to lose out on the love of my life because of my inability get beyond stilted small talk about my crappy job and the Red Sox.

But around the middle of my mediocre date odyssey, I noticed something. Quite often, the guys across the table from me had a restless look in their eyes that mirrored my feelings of constant, low-grade dating panic. I realized that they were probably sitting there with an internal monologue that was the guy version of my inner voice, sounding something like this: She seems nice. But not great. But there's nothing wrong with her. But we're not really hitting it off. Man, this date is boring. She's boring. Or maybe I'm boring? Am I boring? Why doesn't she like me? Wait, I don't like her. But there's nothing wrong with her. This is not a good date. None of my dates are good dates. I'm going to die alone. (You might think men don't worry about dying alone. This is not true. It was a serious fear for a few of my guy friends, especially when we were in our early 20s and they subsisted entirely on frozen pizzas. They worried that all the cheap cheese was going to shorten their lifespans to the point where they wouldn't have time to date and marry anyone before the inevitable heart attack.)

The fact of the matter is, unless you do something ridiculous like get drunk and belligerent or say something insulting, bad dates are not your fault. You could be the most charming, witty, fascinating person on earth, and the person across from you could be well-read, intelligent, and committed to saving the whales, but if your interests and personalities don't complement each other in just the right way, sparks aren't going to fly. It has absolutely nothing to do with you or with your date for that matter. If getting along with someone nice and decent-looking was all it took to make a relationship work, I'd be married to the kid I took to my freshman formal.

Instead I dated and dated until I went out with a guy who started talking my ear off thirty seconds after we met. Yet instead of going dull dull dull my inner voice supplied, what a weirdo. And you know what? Thank god I had been on enough crappy dates to realize that what a weirdo was a good reaction. I was intrigued instead of bored! I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to plumb the depths of this man's oddness over two hours worth of small talk, and I was delighted by this fact.

Seven years later, I still think he's a weirdo. But he's my weirdo. And he's got even more bad date stories than I do. (A girl once bit him. And not in the fun way.) So despite how it might feel while you're poking at your pad thai and listening to a nice guy tell you about a hobby in which you have zero interest, sometimes all the bad dates are worth it for just one good one.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Don't tell me to calm down


As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a naturally exuberant person. When I get excited, I get EXCITED. Twice in grad school when good friends of mine got great jobs, I started shrieking and jumping up and down with them in public, making everyone around us turn and stare, and you know, those memories make me smile. When I talk about something that I care about a lot, whether it's politics, or the most recent episode of Project Runway, or how ugly these shoes are, I get animated. So please, do not tell me to calm down.

What is the fun of life if you are all muted and low key about everything? Why do people love Gus Johnson's sports calls so much? Because he doesn't try to play it cool and pretend that he's not thrilled, he lets it all out. What's more enjoyable: telling a friend that you're pregnant, and having her give you a big yay and a hug, or having her say "Oh, isn't that nice?" ? I think that you know the answer to that. If you're having an intense discussion about politics or reality TV or Brett Favre, it is fine to punctuate your statements with a slightly raised voice, as long as you aren't actually yelling or calling someone a fascist. Telling me to calm down just implies that I'm getting excited about nothing, and that's just condescending and a buzz kill.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not that person who goes around shouting in a library, or even in a Starbucks. Attention whores irritate me as much as anyone else, and I glare daggers at those people carrying on loud cell phone conversations on public transportation. See, I know that my voice is naturally too loud for any conversations like that other than "I'll be there in five minutes, okay bye!" Isn't that why texting was invented? And if I ever am disturbing anyone in a place where quiet should reign, I am happy to leave or quiet down.

But if I am laughing really hard at a comedy show, or chattering delightedly in a park, or yelling "RUN, RUN, RUN" at a sporting event (or, to be fair, at my television while a sporting event is on), there is no reason for me to calm down. Dancing when you make a mid field tackle is annoying, but you know what? Dancing when you score a touchdown is just fine. Sure, sometimes it's good to act like you've been there before, but it's also fun to show that it matters to you that you got there in the first place. If I want to be excited, if I want to be pissed, if I want to cry from laughter, then I will. If someone thinks that I'm making a big deal out of nothing, then they can go on and think that. But don't ruin the moment for me, and make yourself sound like a superior ass, and tell me to calm down.

So the next time that your friend is ranting about college hockey, or the Supreme Court's campaign finance decision, or last night's America's Next Top Model, and you want to tell them to calm down, just stop, think about the last time you got enthused about something and how fun it was, and don't do it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The What-Day-Is-It? Quickies: Food Edition

The weekly links round up, on the day Daisy really thought was Tuesday.

Don't eat nails:
A Varied Diet (Mind Hacks)

Don't think too much about what this resembles, you dirty birds:
Banana Bunker

Don't put too much stock into these results (although Daisy does in fact have "a large network of loyal friends and admirers"):
What Does Your Favorite Girl Scout Cookie Say About You? (Shine)

Don't give this name to your restaurant:
Oh, we'll let you be surprised (Roger Ebert's Twitter)

Don't try to write with cheese or eat fonts:
Cheese or Font?

Not that we think you would, but don't launch a bacon rocket in your back yard:
Yeah, we said "bacon rocket" (Rather Good)

Good lord, don't eat this:
Pizzacone (Thrillist)

Don't tell guests what this place used to be:
Barbecue Joint Proposed for Former Restroom (Boston Restaurant Talk)

Don't eat school lunches every day unless it's for a noble experiment:
Fed Up: The School Lunch Project

Don't make breast milk cheese; we hear it tastes terrible:
Klee’s Daniel Angerer Invites You to Taste His Wife’s Breast-Milk Cheese (Grub Street New York)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Don't Be Afraid of the Gym

(Image from this fantastic post about women and weight training. Go read it. I'll wait.)

Way back in January, when I reminded you not to wear makeup to the gym, I mentioned that there was an entire post that could be written about not being scared of the gym. This is that post.

Disclaimer: I am not a jock. Not even a little bit. I attempted team sports at a few brief junctures in my life - once on a park-run softball team in elementary school, a tiny bit of volleyball in high school (and intramurals in college, which was a total joke) and...that's about it. My lack of hand-eye coordination is still a running joke in my family, and while fifteen years worth of modern dance should have given me some level of agility, I was enough of a klutz that my nickname at camp (orchestra camp - I told you I wasn't a jock) was "Grace." I had to take three gym classes in college - I chose ballet (lots of relaxation), badminton (which I played with my cousins as a kid) and tennis (which I SUCKED at, but had watched my entire life, and since the grade was based solely on attendance and the written final, I aced it - pun intended.) I failed gym my freshman year in high school because I refused to do anything beyond walk around the track and sit on the bleachers with the cute rebel boy who taught me how to smoke and I managed to get gym credits out of doing high school pep band (have I convinced you of my dorkiness yet?). I have mild PTSD related to the ever-popular Presidential Physical Fitness Test - while I rocked the V-sit Reach and the Shuttle Run, the memory of hanging in front of my entire 7th grade gym class, unable to do even one pull up, still gives me nervous butterflies. And let us not even speak of the Mile Run.

I give you this history, so you don't think think that the girl who always looked great in phy ed, never got hit in the face with a volleyball or lost her shoe in kickball, and went jogging on a regular basis even as a teenager is now sitting behind her computer, lecturing you about how fanTAStic it is to work out at the gym. I am not that girl. At all.

In January, I told you all about how I had a gym membership for over two years before I had the nerve to actually run on the treadmill. Besides the fact that I hadn't actually run in the ten years since I'd spent a week on the high school track team (I still can't quite explain why I thought that would be a good idea - maybe it was my dominance at the Shuttle Run), I was terrified of a couple of things. First, I was afraid that I was going to start running and not be able to sustain it for more than a few seconds. Secondly, I was convinced that, since I wouldn't be able to run for very long, I would stumble and fly off the back. That makes an excellent YouTube clip - for everyone else - but it makes for pain, suffering and emotional distress for yours truly. So for over two years, I walked. I walked FAST, mind, but I walked. I walked and I walked and I walked and while walking is good for you, and a great place to start if you haven't been active in a while, after that length of time I got frustrated with myself. Eventually, I ran across the Couch to 5K program, which starts you out with running at 30-second intervals, so I took some deep breaths, and pumped up the speed. And guess what? I didn't fall down. I don't like running today any more than I did then, but I know that I can do it, and that feels fantastic.

What about those weight machines? Those are indimidating, I am not going to argue with you. Adjusting the seats, adjusting the weights, keeping track of your could all be enough to keep you confined to the safety of the treadmill or elliptical or stationary bike. But here's a hint. Most gyms have a free session with a trainer, who will walk through the machines with you, show you how to adjust them, find the range of motion that works for you, and so on. And if you're really lucky, your gym has Fitlinxx or a similar system, which will count your reps and keep track of the current weight and range of motion for you - because I don't know about you, but when I'm rocking out to whatever terrible music has just popped on my iPod, it is nearly impossible for me to count. If trainers are scary for you, try to remember - this is their job and they are there for you. They want you to be successful, and don't you want to be successful too?

But then there's those fitness classes and the mind-numbing terror of Other People. Yoga, weightlifting, step, Zumba, bellydancing, spin...they all sound awesome in theory, don't they? But it's scary to walk in and see the girls in their fancy Lululemon yoga pants, or getting reading to do belly dance in a sports bra and leggings. Especially if its your first class, it's easy to talk yourself into the thought that everyone else knows what's going on, that you're wearing the wrong thing, that you're taking up too much space or you're going to trip over yourself or - worse - someone else. You know what, though? I'd bet you good money - or, okay, five bucks - that 98% of the people in that class feel the same way and the Lululemon gear is just their version of (fancy) armor. And if they don't feel that way today, they did once.

I've been going to the same Zumba class for almost a year now, so I'm usually pretty relaxed there. I know the instructor, a lot of the steps, the flow of the hour, and some of the other folks in the class with me - if not their names, then definitely their faces. But that doesn't mean that it wasn't completely scary the first time I went, because oh wow, it really was. My husband had to practically shove me into the room. And it was also scary when, after I'd been out for a while with an injury, I found out the instructor had also gotten hurt and had to cut way back on the number of classes she was teaching. So suddenly I went from a Tuesday post-work class to a Friday lunchtime class and that's a whole OTHER set of new people and a whole other routine in my day and you know what? It ended up being even better than the original time. Now, my extra-long Friday lunch is my treat at the end of the week, and if you'd told me a year ago that my end-of-the-week reward would involve sweating, I would have probably called to have you committed.

I know, believe me. Going to the gym can give you totally paralyzing middle school panic. You can convince yourself that everyone in the locker room thinks like this chick, that the skinnier pople are judging you, and on and on. And hey, if you do a class or a free trial someplace that you aren't comfortable? That's fine! Don't go back! But also, don't write it off five minutes after you walk in, and don't let your own set of issues - which we all have - deter you from something that could be really great. Give it a little bit of time and try to get comfortable. Do more than one class, more than one day of circuit training on the machines. You don't have to become best friends with that girl in the sports bra, but don't assume that you know what she's thinking, either. The next time you start to talk yourself out of that amazing-sounding adult ballet class, just stop, think about how everything you love had to be done a first time, and don't miss out.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Don't Feel Guilty, Moms

Before I had my daughter, my entire family took great pains to inform me of all the ways in which it was HORRIFICALLY DIFFICULT to care for an infant. So I was prepared for motherhood to be a gauntlet of Herculean proportions. Then I actually had the baby. I spent two months waiting to feel overwhelmed, then decided my family had either been brilliantly using reverse psychology or just messing with my head, because while it has its low points, being a mom is actually pretty awesome.

You know what I wasn't prepared for, though? The guilt. I grew up Catholic, so I'm well aquainted with feeling bad about, well, everything. But mom-guilt is different from regular guilt in that it sneaks up on you. I'll be going along, feeling totally competent because I haven't forgotten to bathe her recently or dropped her on her head, and then suddenly I'll get whomped.

The two child development newsletters I get weekly are the worst culprits. I felt all pleased with myself for successfully breastfeeding my daughter until I came upon this one week: "Is it okay to nurse my baby with the TV on? Spending time with your baby nursing or feeding is precious one-on-one time. It's biologically designed to foster attachment and bonding because of your physical closeness, cooing, cuddling, and most of all, eye contact. I would discourage watching television because it dilutes this time by taking away your attention and eye contact."

Well crap, not only did I usually have the TV on while breastfeeding, I also generally checked my email and websurfed at the same time. Because I have ADD am a multitasker. Clearly I was ruining the baby.

Here's the thing: logically I knew that, in my case, that advice was bullshit. My daughter thinks eye contact while she's nursing is for pussies. In fact, whenever I try to lock eyes with her, she throws her arm up over her face to better concentrate on nothing but eating. Jeez kid, don't you know the experts say we're supposed to be bonding? Nevermind that I'm pretty sure the only way we could be any more bonded is if we could actually read each other's minds.

But there's nothing logical about mom-guilt, unfortunately, and I spent a day after reading that feeling like a complete failure. The same thing happened when I read that I wasn't supposed to leave her in her swing for more than a half an hour at a time (I'd been leaving her in for as long as she seemed happy) and when I gave up and finally let her watch television with me because I didn't want to miss the Olympic men's figure skating.

Then there's the free floating guilt that I'm doing something wrong that I don't even know about. As I told my mother in a fit of confessional insanity, I worry that I don't give her enough attention. I worry that I give her too much attention. I worry that I'm over-protective. I worry that I'm too lax. I worry that I'm not playing her enough classical music. I worry that I'll make her too much of a geek. I worry that I'm not patient enough with her. I worry that I spoil her. Deep breath. There's much more, but I'll spare you.

My mother, who is whatever is the opposite of introspective (outrospective?) said, "Look at her. She's healthy and happy. Why the heck are you wasting time worrying?"

And then, lord help me, I felt guilty for spending the precious moments of her babyhood feeling guilty. Luckily, my mother had another point, which was that she didn't get any of the crapload of advice that mothers today get, and somehow my siblings and I all ended up fully-functioning members of society. And we did all sorts of things that are considered verboten today: watched lots of TV, played with toys that were completely non-educational and probably pointy, were frequently out of my mother's sight, and did ridiculous things like eat mud and fall from dangerous heights. Heck, I fell down a set of stairs when I was two. My mom found me at the bottom of the staircase without a scratch on me. (She didn't have the baby gates up on the stairs yet because she didn't know I could climb them, thus setting up two reoccurring themes in my life: quick learning and falling on my ass.)

So, yeah, thinking about how the last generation managed to get us all to adulthood while of doing things "wrong" helps to alleviate the guilt some, but I've developed an even more extreme form of visualization. I imagine life as a hunter-gatherer mom or a pioneer mother, where success was making it through the day without the kid getting eaten by a mountain lion or catching consumption. And whenever I feel a guilt-attack coming on, I cut myself off and list things I'm thankful we have: vaccinations, a heated home, agriculture.

Does remembering that humanity made it through thousands of generations without worrying about screwing up their kids' development make me feel better? Not always, no. But it helps. So moms: the next time you're entering a shame spiral because you fed the kid non-organic applesauce, just stop, think about how blessed you are to even be able to worry about the type of applesauce your baby gets, and don't beat yourself up.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Don't Make Fun of Reality TV


Last night I got home late, to a full TiVo. While checking my email and getting ready for bed, I had time to watch one of the shows recorded over the last few days. Did I watch Modern Family, a new comedy getting lots of critical buzz? Did I watch the new Mercy, which is actually a pretty good new hospital drama (Dawson is on now, and he's surprisingly hilarious!)? Did I watch last week's Community, which everyone tells me was really funny? No. I watched last night's American Idol, and I do not regret my choice. I adore a lot of great scripted TV shows, but I love a lot of reality TV shows too, so please don't try to tell me that all reality TV sucks.

We here at Don't Do That are of the firm belief that TV should be fun. Yes, I'm sure your totally depressing show is gritty and fascinating and educational and blah blah, but is it enjoyable? Do you smile? Do you laugh? No? Well, then, it's not for me. Do you know what is fun and makes me laugh? Lots of reality TV, that's what. Any genre that gives me all of the laughs of the Four Four recaps of America's Next Top Model (the show title is a lie, but who cares?), this list of fantastic reality show judges by the Fug Girls, "My ox is broken!", Santino's imitation of Tim Gunn and Andrae going to Red Lobster (and really, any of Santino's Tim Gunn impersonations), multiple "I'm not here to make friends" montages, and the many amazing faces of Nina Garcia is a genre that I'm going to love. And if those things don't make you laugh, I'm so sorry that you have no joy in your life.

Even more, reality TV can be fascinating and educational. Did you see Hung break down those chickens on Top Chef? Or that gorgeous dress made out of sandpaper on last week's Project Runway? Or make vacation plans to some gorgeous looking country that you knew nothing about after seeing it on The Amazing Race? Because we all did.

Another great benefit of reality TV is that they're fun to talk about, and many of them are great for a range of ages and interests. My boss and I bond over reality TV all the time -- she watches way more than I do, and can't wait to discuss the most recent episode of Dancing with the Stars with me in the mornings. One reason that I started watching American Idol again, after swearing off the show for a few years, is that I can have in depth discussions about it with both my nine year old cousin (who makes himself a little chart every night while watching Idol to see how people did and who he wants to vote for, it's kind of adorable), and my 79 year old grandmother. And it's always delightful when you know someone who knows someone who is on a show; I was very excited when I discovered that a girl who was the flower girl in a wedding that I was in in 2000 made it to Hollywood week on this year's Idol, and told everyone I knew (she didn't make it to the top 24, sadly).

But but but, reality TV created Tila Tequila! Yeah sure, there are lots and lots of super trashy reality shows. But you know what? There are a lot of really bad scripted shows too. According to Jim was on the air for way too many seasons, and The Ghost Whisperer and Two and a Half Men are both still on, along with many other really bad shows with awful actors. And reality TV also brought us Tim Gunn and Phil Keoghan, so I'll happily take the bad with the good.

So the next time that you're about to roll your eyes when two of your friends start discussing the latest episode of Big Brother in depth, just stop, think about how the "motherf**ing walk off!" is one of the best things that has ever come to television, and don't do it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Yes, Do That: Gabby Sidibe Edition

Full disclosure: This post has been in the topics queue since the very beginning. We here at Don't Do That have been nursing tremendous girlcrushes on Gabourey Sidibe for months, eating up every soundbite and giggly interview she's done throughout this awards season, while picking up accolade after award after prize for her performance in Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire. And now that we've gotten through the Oscars and the awards overdose, today we are going to quit lecturing for a minute and simply tell you: Yes. Do Be As Awesome As Gabby Sidibe.

"I don't think my brand of confidence can come from an outside source. I have to find it in myself. I have two little sisters who are 13 and they're just at that age where they're about to hate themselves. I do it for them. They think I'm pretty, and I want them to think they're pretty." (Link)

By now, you probably know the story. Gabby, a New Yorker who was studying psychology and working as a receptionist, skipped class on a Monday and decided to go to an audition. By Wendesday, Lee Daniels had offered her the lead in his movie. What has followed is a whirlwind of fast fame - print interviews, photo shoots, TV appearances - for a woman who is far outside the Hollywood Box, and through it all she has maintained a demeanor that can only be described as delightful.

"This time (in her next film), I get to make out with a boy. I know that because I wrote it into the script." (Link)

First of all, she is a self-admitted geek, who nurses giant crushes on boy band stars from the 90s. When she had to "Earn Her Plug" on Leno, he asked her what she was going to do. Gabby's answer? "I'm going to be awesome at *N Sync trivia." And awesome she was, even after an appearance by a Very Special Guest got her flustered. In other boy band silliness, the highlight of the Golden Globe nominations for her was that "Justin Timberlake just said my name!". ("... it's like the nomination is That's How I Roll from Cold Stone Creamery and Justin saying my name is like cherries on top of That's How I Roll from Cold Stone Creamery.") She dropped hints that she wouldn't say no to a cage match featuring Anthony Mackie (of The Hurt Locker) and Justin Timberlake, with the winner being her date to the Oscars, and once she decided to take her mom to the ceremony (her new boyfriend "hasn't earned the Oscar ticket"), she suggested that Justin meet her at Red Lobster afterwards.

"My mom has a crush on Steve Martin, and we used to watch The Jerk pretty much every day. And so I'm really excited that this show will be hosted by Jack Donaghy and the Jerk." (Link)

This is a woman who is absolutely confident in herself. When Chris Rock grabbed her ass at the NAACP Image Awards - pissing off her father in the process - she laughingly smacked his hands and responded by saying, "Some dudes gotta have it – it’s my own fault for being too damn fine." Lee Daniels told an interviewer that she is "unequivocally comfortable in her body . . . I had no doubt that she had four or five boyfriends, easily." Her response was "cackling" - "It's a gross underestimate." Sunday night, after telling a reporter that she thinks Gerard Butler is hot and she would totally hit that, he popped up behind her and shook her hand. Instead of getting embarrassed, Gabby told him, "I kinda said, 'I'd hit that.' I'm not ashamed. I'd hit that. I'm sorry." Gerard replied: "I'm here, I'm available. Let's go!" and Gabby responded: "Let's grab a bottle of champagne and see where the night goes." And at this point we've all heard her comment about her Oscars dress that left Ryan Seacrest - SEACREST - speechless, right?

"Just because our president is black doesn't mean our struggle stops. The Obama family is something for us to aspire to, but a lot of us aren't going to get there." Is Precious going to get there? "Precious's story is a fiction," says Sidibe, "but it's also a truth. There are lots of Preciouses out there and not all of them are as lucky as her. She has a light of hope in her that we see in the film even when she's in the heart of darkness. Others may not be so lucky. But who knows if she's going to get out of her world. We hope she will, though, don't we?" (Link)

The first thing that pops into Gabby's head when asked about the perks of fame is free shots. She has opinions on face tattoos. The day she got nominated for an Oscar, her mom texted her and asked her to act like a serious 26-year-old. She used to be a bully to the boys in her class, she wanted to be a comedian (she thinks she peaked too early), and she does a killer impression of...well, herself. She tells hilarious stories about meeting the biggest star on the planet, she and her roommate choreograph dance routines JUST IN CASE they end up on Ellen, she hangs with Johnny Weir (please do not read the comments there - they are not awesome), and she's fabulous enough to prompt Conan O'Brien to say that she's his favorite guest ever.

"People trip over themselves to tell me I'm beautiful. It's cute. It's cute, but I'm not buying it. I'm beautiful now because you can buy a ticket to see me on a screen? I was beautiful before."(Link)

But more than just silly and giggly, Gabourey is also thoughtful and articulate. She's working in an industry where she doesn't fit, and the role she plays is one of great horror and heartbreak. She spent the first few weeks and months after the release of the film having to deal with people confusing her with her character. "I've seriously got people saying to me: 'Are your children OK now?' And not just from ordinary people, but from people who've been in the movie business 20 or 30 years." In talking about Precious, the girl, she says, "It's like she's fat. Well fucking A. She's already having a hard life. So what, if she was skinny, would this story be any the less heartfelt or daunting. I think it's funny that people are like 'on top of that...' but that's not the story. That's not the point." It's a part of the film, and of Gabby, that cannot be overlooked, though, and her weight comes up in nearly every interview she's done. "Over time,” she's said, "I’ve worked out that nobody else lives in my body, nobody else has to live my life, except for me. I’m the only one in charge of whether I’m happy or sad." Something tells me that that could be a lesson for all of us.

"If you look at Precious and all you see is someone who is overweight and dark-skinned, you're missing the point. Just like if you look at me and all you see is someone who is overweight and dark-skinned. You've missed the point. You've missed me." (Link)

So what's next for this completely adorable and charming Every-girl? She's just finished filming a movie - in which she plays the bully - and guest stars in the pilot for Showtime's The Big C, starring Laura Linney. (She's also made no secret of her admiration for such female comedians as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson would love to have her on Modern Family.) She's found a legion of fans by being absolutely herself and by clearly enjoying every moment she's had in the spotlight. (And, really, she should call us and give us the scoop on Sunday night, because you just know she's got good stories and would be more than willing to share them over a bottle of wine.) Even if she eventually goes on to finish school and be a psychologist, there's no doubt that she's left an indelible mark in an industry usually defined by artifice and conformity. So the next time you forget to be confident in who you are and what you can do, just stop, think, and take a page from the Gabby Playbook:

"The press paints the picture that I got this role and now I'm awesome. But the truth is that I've been awesome and then I got this role."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tuesday Monday Quickies: Oscar Hangover Edition

Special Monday Quickies this week because our Oscar parties kicked our asses.

Don't rush the stage, lady:
The story behind Oscar's "Kanye moment" (Salon)

Don't forget to ask who they're wearing! We're not watching for your sparkling wit, Seacrest:
Designed by whom? Often it was a guess. (NY Times)

Don't mistake "shamelessness" for a positive personality trait, Giuliana Rancic:
For E!'s veteran hostess, the occasional trainwreck is no setback. (Washington Post)

Don't you love Meryl Streep's gown?
Meryl Streep in Chris March at the Oscars (Tom and Lorenzo)

Don't you also love George Clooney?
George Clooney: The nicest guy at the Oscars (Steve Garfield)

Don't forget your wallet; the Oscars are cash bar:
Oscar bar menu (Neil Gaiman)

Don't get yourself banned from the Oscars. You'll have to make your acceptance speech on your lawn:
Hurt Locker producer Chartier speaks in Malibu

Don't file dumb lawsuits:
A lawsuit for Hurt Locker in time for Oscars (Carpetbagger)

Don't blame the rest of the Hurt Locker guys for drinking mimosas. It was 4:30 a.m.:
post-Oscar interview (Today Show)

Don't skin a muppet to make your train, Zoe:
Red carpet hits and misses (NY Mag)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Don't Tell Mothers How To Parent

My 7-month-old daughter is watching The Ellen Show as I type this. Feel the urge to tell me how horrible I am for letting her watch TV? Want to quote studies that say she'll become a serial killer if I don't shut the television off right now? Don't. I don't care if you're right. All I know is that I've been a parent for less than a year and I've already read and heard enough advice telling me that no matter what I'm doing I'm RUINING THE BABY that I'm about ready to ship the kid off to Angelina Jolie to see if she can do any better.

It started the day my daughter was born, with the pacifier vs. no pacifier debate. Some people told me to give her the pacifier to keep her from sucking her thumb and that it was the best way to calm her at night. Then other people told me that it would be a nightmare to get the pacifier away from her and it could mess up her language development if she insisted on having it in her mouth all the time. I had no idea what to do. Luckily, the baby was born with a definite opinion on the subject and spit out every pacifier we gave her. She chews on her fingers now, and if anyone else tells me that it'll be hell to get her to stop sucking her thumb, I may start throwing punches.

After the pacifier problem, I decided to stop reading baby advice. Well, I check for specific questions questions that come up--what's that rash, what are good games for her age, is she hitting her developmental milestones--but for aspects of parenting that are more nebulous, like sleep schedules, nursing, and independent playtime, I just make it up as I go along, since it became clear that's all the "experts" are doing.

But don't tell anyone that I parent through gut instinct. I have learned that family members, friends, aquantainces, the entire internet, and random people on the bus have very concrete child-rearing philosophies and if you deviate from the path in any way, they are morally obligated to tell you exactly how you're RUINING THE BABY. I don't know quite when or how it happened, but there's a general assumption these days that mothers have no goddamn clue what they're doing and need your help whether they want it or not. But you know what, strange lady on the street? You really don't need to ask me why my daughter isn't wearing mittens. She's not wearing mittens because her hands aren't cold. Know how I know? Because I'm her mother and I checked.

I know it's tempting, especially when you're around examples of truly shitty parenting, like the woman I saw who teased her daughter until she cried, then yelled at her for crying. Well, that wasn't so much an urge to give advice as an urge to grab the poor child and make a run for it, but that's not the point. The point is: it is not your job to be the parenting police. If you don't feed, clothe, love, and discipline a child, you don't get to have an opinion about how she's raised. Fair? Maybe not, but one of the very first things a parent has to teach a child is that life's not fair.

So the next time you open your mouth to tell a new mother that you read a report that said that unless she breastfeeds for at least a year, her child is at risk for lungworm? Stop, think about how you'd feel if the whole damn planet was trying to tell you how to do your job, and don't say a word.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Don't lie about allergies

Only if you mean it

My friend Katie is very allergic to all nuts and legumes, from peanuts, to sesame seeds, to anything with soy. She can't go into any Asian restaurant, because there's soy around there everywhere, and she had to get a special steak dinner at our friend's Indian wedding (seriously, steak at a Hindu wedding). She has to ask questions whenever she orders pancakes at brunch, because there is frequently nut flour in some of those multi-grain pancakes and as she has discovered, a Sunday morning trip to the emergency room isn't exactly the most relaxing beginning to a week. She also happens to really hate cilantro, and always tries to make sure that it's not in anything that she gets. However, do you know what she never does? She never claims to be allergic to cilantro to make sure that there isn't even a tiny leaf of it on her plate. Because she knows that you just should not lie about allergies just to make sure you get something that you don't like.

Every chef and restaurant cook I know say that they roll their eyes when they get a ticket that refers to an allergy, because they get so many people who are obviously lying about being allergic to something just because they don't like it. Like the people who claim to be allergic to corn and need to get the potatoes as a side, but are happily chowing down on the chips and salsa. Or those who say that they have a wheat allergy but are eating bread at the table. And then there are those vegetarians out there who think that it's perfectly fine to say that they have a egg allergy so that they won't accidentally get eggs that they don't want to eat. And of course, there are the crazy people who say that they are allergic to butter just because you're trying to stay frighteningly thin.
Do you know what all of this does? It just makes life more dangerous for people like my friend Katie, who actually does have a life threatening allergy.

When people go around lying like this, it does two things. First, it decreases the importance of an actual allergy, so that people don't take them particularly seriously. If a little chicken stock gets in the food of a vegetarian, they may be upset and mortified, but they won't have to go to the emergency room like my friend Beth would (poultry allergy, seriously). So if you believe someone who is lying about their poultry allergy, and then find out later that there was chicken stock in there, you may just assume that having an allergy is not a big deal, so the next time someone comes to your home who you're cooking for or your restaurant and says that they have a poultry allergy, you won't have to worry about that chicken stock that's in the risotto.

And even worse, it makes people assume that everyone who claims to have an allergy is just lying about it, or at least exaggerating. So they won't worry about the egg that's in that housemade aioli, or the pepitas ground into that delicious mole, because they assume that as long as you can't see it, or can't really taste it, you'll be okay. And sure, they'll learn their lesson as soon as someone goes into anaphylactic shock in their restaurant, but I'm sure that that person who it happens to won't enjoy being the one armed man to teach that person a lesson.

So the next time you are thinking about explaining to your waiter that you have an asparagus allergy, just so that you won't have to deal with that asparagus pee, just stop, think about that person who will break out in violent hives at the table before even getting a chance to pee, and don't do it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday Quickies

Late Quickies this week because Tuesday is so lame I thought it was Wednesday.

Don't resist; it's futile:
Borg Cupcakes (Wil Wheaton, appropriately enough)

I don't believe someone actually got vajazzled. SIGH:
I Got Vajazzled and Had a Camera Crew (The Luxury Spot) (NSFW for photos of the sparkly STD)

Don't think it's possible to write a kickass rap about a treasury secretary? You're wrong:
Lin-Manuel Miranda Performs "The Hamilton Mixtape" at the White House Poetry Jam (The White House)

Don't ask people to anonymously tell you what's wrong with you. It's a recipe for heartache:
Don't Worry. Nobody's Perfect. (

Don't believe that meme about Olympic athletes having tons of sex during the games? You should:
Athletes have been "gettin' busy" (Market Watch)

We don't like NBC's Olympic coverage. And by "we" I mean "everyone:"
How We Hate NBC's Olympics Coverage: A Statistical Breakdown (TechCrunch)

Don't do any of these things in a movie theater:
Movie Theater Etiquette (Ken Levine)

Don't fall down the rabbit hole:
The Entire Story of Alice In Wonderland Via Tattoo (Nerd Salad)

Don't name your restaurant this:
27 Really Terribly Boston Restaurant Names (MC Slim B)

Don't be mad that this guy won a $10,000 iTunes gift certificate and you didn't. He sounds adorable:
"I've never won anything!" (EW)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Don't Take Trash Talk Personally

And so, the Olympics closed last night - with help from Shatner! - bringing to an end two delicious weeks of Olympic Fever here at Don't Do That. The Olympics give the whole world a chance to try on the guise of a sports fan for a couple of weeks, and isn't it fun? The three of us here have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, throwing ourselves into learning the ins and outs of curling, biathlon, snowboard cross and all the other totally bonkers sports that show up during the Winter Olympics, not to be seen (by us) again for another four years. We have also been doing some trash talk - which you may have noticed - which is something that comes with the territory. If you're not a regular sports fan, this may come as a shock to you, and so we are here to tell you, if you're going to remain a sports fan outside of the feel-good-ness of the Olympic Games, Don't Take Trash Personally

We were (okay fine, mostly I was) involved in a bit of an internet kerfuffle this weekend. To start with, emotions were already running high and there was some shit-talking going on (on both sides) about the USA -Canada gold medal hockey game. (Sidebar: How awesome was that game?? So much fun, even though the ending wasn't what we were hoping for.) Some of the problem was that a few of the people involved in the conversations clearly weren't used to being on A Side in a sporting contest and were a bit taken aback by all the partisan noise. A hint for those folks? Cheering for your team and against their opponent is not bad sportsmanship. It's part of loving sports and, if you want to get all Olympic about it, part of loving your country. And if you're going to love sports, you have to develop a thicker skin.

(Note: This is taking it a tad too far.)

Here's an example. I don't know where you're reading from, but if you're anywhere in the Midwest, you likely understand a little bit of the hatred between Wisconsin and Minnesota, specifically the University of Wisconsin Badgers and the University of Minnesota Gophers. I happened to go to my first Gopher hockey game at two months old, own a button that says "I Cheer For Minnesota And Anyone Playing Wisconsin," and my dad told my sister and I that we could attend college - which he would pay for - anywhere. Except Wisconsin, upon penalty of death and financial ruin. Even adding my name to the mailing list - jokingly - would have likely given my dear father heart failure. (As it was, he ended up with heart failure five years later, but I don't think it can be blamed on Wisconsin. If it could, it would be, trust me.) However! My grandparents, who I love fiercely, met while students at Wisconsin and my grandpa (who is almost 87) remains a Badger - and Packer, God forbid - fan. We talk shit to each other all the time - as much as you can talk shit with a grandparent, of course - but we don't take it seriously or personally. In fact, when I asked at Thanksgiving if he had a sweatshirt I could borrow, he gleefully told me he had "just the one!" and pulled out his red and grey Wisconsin hoodie.

But Roxy, you say. That is a family member! Of course you guys can tease each other with no hurt feelings! And that is true. But it's also true that, when Daisy told her Yankee-fan best friend that she was thinking of getting married at Fenway Park, her friend told her that was great, but that she was going to wear a pinstripe dress. And it's true that Brownie and a friend got into it when her team (Niners!) beat his in the playoffs, but that was many playoff seasons ago, and they're still pals. One of my best friends cheers for a different Big Ten school than I do, but since they suck at the sport I care about, and because my school sucks at the sports she cares about, it's generally not too big a deal. I have family members that are die-hard Cubs and Bears fans (I heart the Twins and the Vikings, but please don't ask me about Brett Favre), best friends who are Blackhawks fans, and a husband who lives and dies with the Broncos.

But when you're a fan of a team whose coach gets caught on camera making this gesture at the officials (if that's the coach, just imagine the players), a team whose linebacker gave his own tight end brain damage and crushed his eye socket (and that's just the beginning of that particular rap sheet), or even a team that is just obnoxious in all its "glory", you should probably be prepared to have some vitirol thrown at you. And really? Throw some back! I would be shocked and even disappointed if I was spouting my mouth off to Badger - or Sioux or Packer or Canadian hockey - fan and they didn't spout back with cracks about my team's goofy name, our inconsistency, the Mullet, or whatever other shit people are saying about Minnesota teams these days. (But hey, at least we can take some smack talk. Wisconsin.)

Just because we're not on the same side during the game doesn't mean that we hate each other as people. We can respect each other as fans, without loving - or even respecting - the team that the other person cheers for. That's part of the fun of loving sports! You can get overly emotional, hyperbolic and melodramatic about something that has nothing to do with you and that you have no control over. It's a wonderful respite from the real world, but only if you are able to tell yourself that at the end of the day, it's just a game - for you and for the fans on the other side of the field.

So if you've found a team that you've decided to follow (I recommend the Gophers, of course, but also throw some love to Ryan Miller and the Sabres), but in a week or a month (or tomorrow, during the Red Wings/Avs game - talk about two teams that hate each other) you find yourself getting your feelings hurt by someone who's pointing out the cheap hits or crappy goaltending or nepotism of your team, just stop, think about what keeps you a fan of this team, and don't take it personally. (And talk some smack back!)