Noisomes Off

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If I could have one superpower, I would choose the ability to blink leaf blowers out of existence with my mind. My faithful sidekick would do car alarms. We would be The Sound and The Fury – fighting for peace, quiet, and the manual way.

Leaf blowers are stupid, especially in the city. They accomplish no more than a rake or broom, in barely less time, and do it all while polluting the air with ear-splitting noise and filthy dust. Gas-powered leaf blowers (which is most of them) do all of that while also spewing toxic fumes, making them simultaneously noisy and noisome.

‘Noisome’ is one of those words that makes no sense, because it should mean “loud” but instead means “offensively stinky or unpleasant”. That dissonance, though, is what makes it the perfect word to describe the current state of communication in our culture.

We have a problem with noisome discourse – increasingly disagreeable, foul, and loud – and just like the leaf blowers, the problem is largely fueled by GAS:

GENERALIZATIONS – all of which are terrible. (See what I did there?) Too often we inflate our arguments by shouting that “all cops are bad” rather than “this cop is bad” or that “all men are pigs” when at the moment only that man is a pig.

[Why is ‘pig’ a derogatory term? I love pigs. They are smart, and clean, and taste like bacon. We should all be pigs!]

The problem with arguments inflated by generalizations is that they are easily punctured by a single anecdotal counterexample – thus letting the air out of what may otherwise have been solid logic.

ASSUMPTIONS – which not only make asses out of us, but likewise also leak a noxious stench into the air. When we hear words leave a fellow human’s mouth these days (or see them typed), our instinct seems to be to immediately assume the most racist / sexist / elitist / ageist / atheist / anti-whatever-ist intentions behind them. Sure, taking offense is fun, but why not allow for the possibility someone is curious, mistaken, or just plain dumb instead of horrible? Assumptions are dangerous; it only takes a single spark of defensiveness to ignite an explosion of anger and send civility up in flames.

SELFISHNESS completes the toxic triumvirate in our GAS. Not just “shut up and let me talk,” selfishness, or the “my way or the highway” variety; we have also become selfish in our refusal to accept partial agreement or any personal fault. High on the fumes of our own opinion, we focus all our attention on winning that last minor point against an ally instead of working with them to battle the larger problems facing both of us. As with any gas, the overall pressure of selfishness increases as the force of our need to be 100% right gets divided by a smaller and smaller area of focus, ultimately resulting in a blowout.

This chemical cocktail of generalization, assumption, and selfishness is fueling a lot of sound and fury in our world today.

As science has shown, GAS will, once released, expand to fill any available space. It may not seem harmful at first, and is even tempting since GAS can burn colorful and bright or give us a quick high that makes life briefly hilarious. But it is not healthy to breathe and can quickly turn dangerous, which is why we should stop releasing GAS entirely.

It won’t be easy. GAS is often hard to hear, mostly impossible to see, and no one ever wants to admit it comes from them (even though we all do it). But GAS is filling our world with an odious cloud that is highly combustible, poisonous to ingest, and toxic to our environment.

On Earth Day, let’s all stop spewing this GAS into the air and let clearer heads prevail.

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Manual Husbandry

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Call me bitter, or single-in-my-thirties (synonymous, I hear), but I have decided arranged marriage sounds like a pretty solid idea. Sure, the ideal is to catch eyes across a room, discover mutual attraction, nurture a true connection, and fall madly in love – but I only write movies, I don’t live in one.

In the continued absence of kismet, alternatives must be found. There are countless ways for the fairy-tale-challenged to help fate along these days, from mixers and speed dates to apps and algorithms, but as a wise motivational poster once said, Keep It Simple Stupid. An arranged marriage just may be the Ockham’s razor I’ve been looking for.

To put it another way, I am frakking tired, and it sounds so blissfully easy! Now, I’m not saying I want to let a bunch of complete strangers match me up via some insane reality show where you get married first – probably naked or blindfolded – and only learn each other’s names after. But why not put my trust in people who know me well and love me?

I recently stayed with married friends who were lamenting during the visit that hubby’s younger brother needed a someone. He had recently moved to their town, so it had become their mission. Jokingly, they said I should move there too and marry him, because then they would definitely love their sister-in-law. With the safety of 3,000 miles between my home and theirs, I joked back, “I’m in!”

Ah, but there is always truth in comedy. The thing is, if all three parties (me, them, Brother), were willing to ignore “reason” and dive in, the whole arrangement would probably go swimmingly.

They have known me for almost twenty years, known Brother his entire life, and they love both of us too much to fix either of us up with someone lame. (Plus, they have other family to answer to.) Brother and I have met, and I already know he is smart, funny, and cute; if he is also half as kind and generous as his big sibling – whom I have always adored – I am sure he would make a terrific companion. As long as he doesn’t hate me, what could possibly go wrong?

Sure, we’ve barely conversed, and I don’t know if he likes cats, and no one has test driven anything, but marriages have overcome worse problems – at least neither of us is Kanye (or Robert Durst). Tim Gunn has taught us time and again that we humans have a remarkable capacity for Making It Work – even more so when the die is already cast.

And the benefits! Oh, the plethora of pros that outweigh the petty cons! At this point, I am a fully-baked cookie, so there is no more need for trial and error. Little evolutions will always happen, but by now I am not going to suddenly turn into an asshole any more than I am going to suddenly get better at being wrong. If a man and I are compatible off the bat, we can expect to remain so (assuming he is also fully baked – by life rather than pot). The financial savings alone should we skip courtship and go straight to commitment is inspiring.

This is also why people get so much more efficient at dating with age, but even efficient dating is still a lot of work. There are so many other important things in life that require time and attention; if there is a way to go from zero to partnered without trawling the massive dating pool, sign me up! Yes, the “systems” of computerized dating are designed to cut the work, but they also turn the koi pond into an ocean and the increased volume outdoes any algorithmic advantage. In the end, we spend even more time devoted to catch and release.

Friends can help, which is why one of mine recently asked me to join him in an OK Cupid pact where we each had veto power of the other’s potentials – but if we’re gonna go there, I say let’s GO THERE. Instead of letting a trusted friend choose the audition pool, why not let them pick the winner? Worst case scenario, it is a poor match and the two of us can bond over our mutual disappointment in our former friend. They say common ground is the first step toward connection…

So far, I have fallen in love several times and never had it end in partnership, usually because, while he loves me back, his eternal adolescence leaves him scared of commitment. If the commitment Band-Aid has already been ripped off, he can relax and just enjoy me!

Having tried the other options – choosing for myself, letting chance decide, being set up by a mutual friend, acquaintance, co-worker, and even an ex – with nothing to show for it but exhaustion, the blissful simplicity of an arranged marriage sounds divine. Besides, there would be something truly backwards if I were willing to put my fate in the hands of chance, geography, math and near-strangers, but not dive in when two beloved, trusted friends point and say, “Jump.” Right?

Of course, in this particular case we are all left-brained logic types, so the joke will remain a joke. My right brain just wanted to jump up holler that she’s game.

(But don’t tell my mother; I’m not quite ready for that arrangement.)