Friday, November 11, 2016

TRIGGER WARNING: You May Disagree With Me

As someone who works with high school seniors on their college applications and essays, I can tell you that grit is the buzzword of the application season. While diversity is still a topic to be tackled, there is a specific focus this year on guts and tenacity. This is, I believe, part response to universities dealing with the helicoptered generation who find themselves helpless without their hovering parents, but also, likely, a nod to psychologist Angela Duckworth's recent New York Times bestseller, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perserverance, in which she convincingly argues that firmness of character--grit--is a much more important indicator of success than talent or luck. As a result, this year's crop of would-be freshman have been asked in various iterations to cite evidence of their own grit.

Because we are nearing college application deadlines, my mind has been consumed with coming up with ways to convey suburban teen grittiness (no easy task, I assure you). Thus, driving home tonight, I turned on talk radio to get my mind of this topic. Inevitably, the talk turned to post-election coverage. I heard a few stories about protests on college campuses which I, of course, expected as our universities have traditionally been forums for freedom of speech and catalysts of civic engagement. However, I was dismayed to hear a student from Yale University explaining that an economics professor at the Ivy League institution gave students the option of skipping class and a test in order to cope with the fact that Donald Trump is their new President-elect. I heard about students at esteemed Barnard College emailing a petition to have classes canceled for the day so as to process their emotions. The school president responded, "While we understand that the events of the last days and hours may have affected you deeply, and may bring about heightened emotions, we have decided not to institute a College-wide cancellation of classes...We are, however, leaving decisions regarding individual classes, exams, and assignments to the discretion of our faculty." And the list goes on with select classes apparently being canceled at Cornell University, University of Michigan, University of Connecticut,, University of Rochester, Iowa State and more.

Say what?

Since when does being upset about a democratic election translate to no school? I remember taking an exam on a Jewish holiday because my professor at the very same above-mentioned University of Michigan would not consider the religious holiday as an excused absence. I took a final hours after finding out my grandfather died and aced a midterm with strep throat and a 103 degree fever. I did this, not because I was extraordinary, but rather because the ordinary/average student at that time was expected to deal, to cope, to endure. And so I find myself bursting with advice to the institutions charged with educating our youth and preparing them to survive and hopefully even succeed in the real world.

To College Deans Everywhere --

I am not against empathy or kindness. There are obviously individual situations that call for flexibility and personal consideration. However, I am astounded at your hypocrisy. So much of the application essay process emphasizes both a prospective student’s ability to embrace diversity and demonstrate acts of resilience, yet these future students are being coddled and shielded to the point of eliminating difficult political discourse. Wouldn’t a post-election, mindfully moderated class actually be an opportunity for learning? Shouldn’t a place of academia so interested in promoting diversity want to examine why this country is currently so divided? Staying under the covers in avoidance will definitely not move the nation forward and is most certainly not evidence of grit. Do you think Nick Saban, Jim Harbaugh or Urban Meyer canceled practice post-election?

If you want to continue promoting safe spaces, leading lectures with trigger warnings, and making attendance dependent on the country’s mood, I suggest you reevaluate the qualities you are supposedly seeking in applicants. Diversity refers to a point of difference, not just in terms of skin color and nationality, but also of opinions. In addition, failing, losing, hurting, being disappointed, frustrated and disenfranchised are wonderful learning opportunities from which great change and innovation can come. Your essay questions imply that your administrations value these experiences. But, your actions speak differently. For a generation that has no problem anonymously spewing verbal assaults into the social media stratosphere, perhaps having to show up and engage in actual conversation would be a step towards true grit.

Make American Kids Strong Again!

Sincerely,

A Big Ten graduate who can handle being offended.

Friday, February 7, 2014

THE BIGGEST SORE LOSERS

I took some time off from saving celebrities with my words of wisdom. But I'm back and this time I am writing to two of my favorite celebs who are actually famous for doing something that puts good in the world and changes lives. Rarely can I use the word admire and celebrity in the same sentence but with these two, I can and do often. They have created a healthy revolution, making exercise cool and leaving all of us viewers longing for a last chance workout. Yes, Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels, I'm talking to you. You champion the underdog, relate to those who have struggled in life feeling less than or not good enough, and welcome all types into your gym and lives. So what is up with your mean girls, clicky disregard for your partner-in-training, Dolvett Quince? You've treated him like the effing new guy since he arrived. We, viewers, gave him a chance because over the years, we've learned from you that everyone deserves a chance--even a second chance. Dolvett, like you two, has it--the unexplainable it factor. We know it. Producers know it. Contestants know it. You are the only ones in Loserville who seem unable to accept it. I've had enough and so here goes...

Dear Bob and Jillian,

I noticed it from the beginning. Anytime a new trainer was introduced, you two immediately went into them versus us mode. Granted, some of the trainers simply didn't work. Does anyone even remember Kim Lyons? Then, there were the mystery trainers? Brett Hoebel and Cara Castronuova. Not a good fit. Then, Jillian, you left of your own free will and producers had to bring in new blood-pumpers. Anna Kournikova was stunt casting that got viewers' attention and then just as easily lost it. But alongside the too-timid tennis ace was, tough but tender, fitness expert, Dolvett. From the minute we met him, it clicked. He was real, real good-looking and really committed. Just the kind of guy you two would root for if he didn't have your job. But you didn't root for him. You constantly reminded us that he was the third wheel with your body language and your buddy/buddy joking at workouts and weigh-ins. I commented on it at the very beginning of the finale this week when the two of you came on stage holding hands, almost skipping, noticeably ahead of Dolvett. Then, when Ally interviewed the three trainers, you practically boxed Dolvett out. Fortunately, Mr. Super Smile has mega-confidence and seems to take your tight twosome routine in stride. So I, too, was going to let it slide...again. But then came RachelGate and I simply could not stand by silently any longer.

This week, everyone is talking about the dramatic weight-loss of Biggest Loser winner, Rachel Frederickson. She went from an extremely unhealthy, obese weight of 260 to a size 2 weight of 105. Yes, it was an enormous amount of weight to lose and I agree that she looked too thin. But let's remember that Rachel, a former athlete, was trying to win a quarter of a million dollars in a television contest. Anyone who watched this season knows that Rachel is a competitor who comes to win. Now she's won and she has already talked about wanting to gain a few pounds and then work on maintaining her weight. Rachel was trained all season by Dolvett in the same gym right alongside you, Bob and Jillian, with the same doctors and nutritionists that all the contestants on the show use. But yesterday when it came time to comment on the Rachel Scandal, both of you issued your own statement together (Team Bob/Jillian) saying, "We're not comfortable commenting on Rachel's journey because we weren't her trainers and weren't given an opportunity to work with her at any point." Are you kidding? Way to stick by your co-worker! As you both are very aware, Rachel was on her own for the last few months. It's not like Dolvett was living at her house. You simply threw Dolvett under the bus and left him to be run over by the gossips and haters in the media and blogosphere. Did Dolvett distance himself from you, Jillian, after your team was punished because of your decision to give them caffeine supplements? The answer, of course, is no. He did not. Yesterday, Dolvett issued his own statement explaining that Rachel's weight loss journey and life transformation is not over. "Rachel's health is and always has been my main concern and her journey to good health has not yet ended!!The Biggest Loser nation has spoken. We love Dolvett. He's here to stay. So come on, Bob and Jillian, let him hang with you cool kids or you might just find yourselves at a loser table for two.

With my utmost admiration,

Amanda (official member of Team Dolvett)

Friday, January 15, 2010

HEIDI HUH?



Obviously, Heidi Montag doesn't take advice from anyone. If she did, we would a) happily not know who she is, b)never have to see her face peering out at us from the glossy tabloids and c)not have to witness her sick body abuse self-proclaimed on the cover of this week's People magazine with the catchy title, "Addicted to Plastic Surgery."

Have you seen it? Looking more like Donatella Versacci than a 23-years-young startlet, Heidi and her now "DDD" girls proclaim that she recently underwent ten plastic surgeries (ranging from an eyebrow lift to a butt augmentation) in one day. She argues that everyone in Hollywood does it and that she's simply coming clean. She dreams of becoming a pop star and sites Britney Spears' sexuality as the reason for Brit's success and popularity. Here's the thing, despite Britney's early-on good looks (don't tell anyone I said this), the Louisiana Lolita is talented. She may not have strong vocals, but Miss Thing has it and when she wants to, she shows it off with her dance moves that she's been working on and practicing since babyhood. So sad that it's come to defending Britney Spears to make a point but Heidi has, in fact, sunk the world of celebrities (even fake ones) that far.

For years now, I've pretending to live in a Heidi-less world. Acknowledging her and that ego-fueled husband of hers felt like truly the end of the world--my very own Apocalypse. But this sad, pathetic, creepy magazine cover is simply too much to take passively and quietly so...here's my advice that Heidi clearly doesn't want to hear...

Dear Heidi,

You are an embarrassment but were, until now, an avoidable one. As a mother, I can't disregard you anymore. Because there you (and your porn star-sized beachballs and plumped up lips) are staring out from the grocery store magazine shelf proclaiming how beautiful you feel thanks to all the elected surgery. Kids can read and now they have questions. So I am forced to try and explain your pathos to my children who are being raised to want to do something fulfilling with their lives so they won't need a barrage of paparrazzi following them to feel important.

I actually do have one compliment for you, that is, if you can lift the heavy quilt of insecurity you clearly suffocate under long enough to take it in. You were a cute girl when you first appeared on The Hills. Your personality and mean streak made you ugly but in silent moments, you were a beautiful L.A. youngling who I'm certain must have seemed enviable to other tweens and teens across the country. You struck gold. You became famous for nothing. But that wasn't enough. You needed and felt you deserved more. So you set off on a vapid journey seeking celebrity. The problem is when you are a celebrity for no reason, you have all the downfall without actually having the benefit of feeding your artistic passion to justify the madness. You live in a world of sleaziness, back-stabbing, competition and opportunism simply for the sake of hanging with others who live there hopefully as a means to an end.

My advice is, therefore, quite simple. Stop it. Stop the surgeries. Stop playing the role of canoodling, cavorting pseudo-celeb. Stop the madness. There's still time. You can find meaning in life but you have to say goodbye to Hollywood. It's destroying you bit by bit--literally. You claim to be using your fame to simply show what goes on in the world of Hollywood beauty. But you are not using your fame. You are hoping to gain fame. That's a very big difference. America tires easily of no-talent reality stars. You have had an unusually long stay but it's time to check-out and get your life back or find out what life you are going to lead. Unless you are interested in the world of XXX-rated film, the movie business is not for you. You will never be a successful pop star (by the way, you might want to take note that homely but immensely talented Susan Boyle had the largest ever female debut with her album). The fame game is over. You are now descending into an E! True Hollywood Story that isn't going to end well.

Seek out help. There are professionals. Go back to your family. They hopefully haven't given up hope. Get rid of Spencer. He is a train wreck that nobody wants to watch anymore.

Here's what not to do...do not procreate. First, America can't handle a Speidi spawn. Secondly, if you think you needed ten surgeries now, I'd hate to see what you'd think about your stretched-out, varicose veined out, mushy post-pregnancy bod.

Heidi, go home!

Friday, January 9, 2009

DEJA O


First off, let me make my feelings for Oprah perfectly clear. I love her. She inspires me. She impresses me. She comforts me. She--and all her peeps--enrich my life. So it is with a shaky hand that I type this blog, fearful of what happens to one when they dare to question the one-woman wonder. But someone has got to do it.


What is going on with our girl? She's gained pounds and lost marbles. I mean, I appreciate the honesty (okay maybe a little too much discussion of her thyroid but...) and the relatability. I truly empathize with her food issues. I've been there, done that and been back there. But her one hour talk-a-thon on the first show of the new year made it seem like her current weight gain is a completely new experience for her. Listening to Oprah talk about eating being an emotional drug-of-choice and hunger actually being a craving for love, I felt puzzled. Why was Lady O speaking as if this was an "aha" moment that we haven't collectively had before?


Then the week continued on The Oprah Show with a parade of regulars including Bob Greene (exercise and nutrition guru) and Dr. Oz (health guru) who truly seem like old friends by now. But, apparently, we needed to be reintroduced (and I thought we had something real--especially me and Oz but I digress...). At one point during Dr. Oz's "let's get reacquainted" hour, Oprah even asked the audience at home to get a pencil because there was going to be such invaluable information. I waited and waited. Oprah then enthusiastically proclaimed that this is the year to get healthy. Huh? As any O viewer can attest, we've been downing our flax cereal and blueberries religiously for over a year now. We've had our cholesterol tested, added strength training to our workout regime and taken the "what's your real age" quiz. Even the presence of former guests who have successfully changed their lives months and years ago based on all of this information didn't seem to matter. Oprah acted as if this was the year to "live your best life" and as if this was the first we'd heard about it.


And so we've come to the unsolicited advice that I simply must unleash...

My dearest Oprah-
You fell off the wagon. It happens to all of us. But you are setting yourself up for another fall by making such a huge deal out of this thing. I get it. You are the most media saavy person in the world. You wanted control of the story before the paparazzi and tabloid trash took hold of it. But you have to give us devoted viewers a little credit. Yes, it's true, you speak and we follow. We buy books in mass and lay out cash we don't have for cashmere cardi-wraps. Despite our sometimes sheep-like behavior, we are a smart group. We know that we--and you--have been down this "get healthy" road before. So just admit it. Life got hectic and stressful and you slipped into old patterns. We love you. We forgive you so forgive yourself and stop all of this deja vu diatribe. Thanks to you (and your soul series with Eckhart Toile), we are living in the present. But that doesn't mean we've forgotten the past.

P.S. I'm not digging the new line-up on XM's Oprah and Friends but one thing at a time...

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Gold Standard?!?!


You did it. You practiced. You worked hard. You were determined. You were focused. And now, like it or not, you are a celebrity. So M.P., here is some preemptive advice for which you did not ask for but I can't help but give.

Dearest Michael,

In our celeb-crazy world where girls are famous for showing off their yahoos while exiting pimped out rides and tweens are idolized for lip synching while wearing size zero designer duds, you are a breath of fresh air (especially for us moms trying to raise decent human beings). You are famous for doing something truly great--something that took blood, sweat, tears and time to achieve. You had to work. You had to want. And only then could you win. And you are gracious--a real team player evidenced by your extreme emotion throughout both relays.


My five-year old son is actually inspired. He wants to play "Michael Phelps" in the pool. You are now officially a water sport for kids. Last night, instead of reading books before bed, he asked for "that Michael Phelps" story referring to your interview with Bob Costas in which you talked about being bullied and overcoming obstacles as a middle schooler. Finally, I have someone famous to point to as a role model--a person achieving success due to good old fashioned hard work. You made your country proud. You made all us moms proud (no one more so than your own mom who was almost as fun to watch as you during the games).


So here it comes, my advice. Michael, you are a hero to kids everywhere. There's a new Mike to wanna be like. That's why I'm begging you, don't screw it up. I know you are only human. I get that you were once a gawky kid and now you are about to become a super sought after, really rich twentysomething. There will be girls, groupies and Grey Goose. But Michael, don't become one of them. Don't go clubbing with one of those Gossip Girls or some second rate pop starlet and stumble outside just in time for TMZ to catch you making an idiot out of yourself. You're better than that. We don't want to see your mugshot. We don't want to hear about you serving seven minutes in county jail. And we never want you to be somebody's illegitimate baby daddy (careful on that one--no doubt your boys can swim!).


Be famous for accomplishing something and use your celebrity wisely. We barely remember that DUI and after eight gold medals, we can totally forget it. But we need you. We need you to be Sports Illustrated famous, not the cover of US magazine famous.


Have fun. Enjoy your success. But try and remember that there are young children everywhere admiring and emulating you and there are their parents hoping against all Hollywood can offer that you'll be a champion--not just another celebrity. Come on, M.P., make us proud!

P.S. Go Blue!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Team Charlie?



Disclaimer: I think it is really weird to want to have cameras follow you and your family around and broadcast your daily activities. I also think it's really boring so I usually don't watch. But the occassional channel flippinig leads even me to stop and look at train wreck TV.


Apparently, Charlie Sheen (not exactly a moral barometer) thought it would be a disaster too when he heard the news that his ex-wife and ex Bond babe, Denise Richards, wanted to do a reality show featuring their two daughters. Perhaps, he considered that the two girls might have had a tough go lately what with their parents openly destroying each other in the press. So the lesser half of Two and a Half Men went to court to stop Denise from doing the show. But the judge ruled against him. (Remember, celebrity before justice out here in L.A.).

Before the show aired, Denise went on everything she could to promote her new series and repeat over and over and over again that her kids were barely in it. The show, she commented, was about her life as a single mom and really didn't focus on the kids. (Not sure how a show about a mom doesn't focus on kids but...)


And so premiered E!'s Denise Richards: It's Complicated. Really? Doesn't seem that complicated to me. Your young, impressionable children have just experienced a terrible tragedy. They are desperately in need of consistency, security and attention. If you don't believe me, watch any episode of Oprah with divorce guru, Rabbi M. Gary Neuman. But I digress...


In the fifteen minutes I happen to catch while remote surfing, I was astonished at what I saw. Denise talked incessantly about dating and guys and sex. Now I don't care what she gabs about with her friends but I'm pretty sure her daughters will when, at some point, they are either told about or catch an episode where Mommy says she likes guys with big--(that are well endowed) and ones who are passionate in bed. Boundaries anyone?


It was bad enough when celebrities stuck to making a mockery of marriage. But now, thanks to Denise (and the other C-lister reality 'rents), they are taking on parenting. By the way, I'm sure single mothers everywhere can relate to Denise's "complicated life" with nannies, trainers, self-tanner specialists, chiropractors, etc...)

So here it comes...my advice to Denise that she did not ask for.


Denise,

When you start making Charlie Sheen look like the responsible parent, you are dangerously close to Britney/K-Fed territory. Stop blabbing about wanting to bed bad boys and possibly posing for Hef. Remove the cameras. Put your own ambition aside. And be a PARENT! Less worrying about how you are being perceived in the media and more concern for how you are being perceived by your daughters.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

OBSTRUCTED VIEW


I swore off The View awhile back but every so often I'll be on the elliptical, flipping the channels, and there it is--a train wreck that I can't turn away from. As was the case this morning, October 1. Whoopi, Joy, Sherri and Elisabeth trekked out to the table to discuss the hot topics. First up, the previous night's 60 Minutes interview with Justice Clarence Thomas. The ladies started yakking, opining and lecturing--and completely misinforming the American public about the segment and Justice Thomas' statements.

I don't agree with many decisions Justice Thomas has made on the court so this is certainly not an "in defense of" Clarence Thomas rant. Instead, this is about my growing frustration with the women on The View who do not understand that listening is a verb. It is active. It requires energy and thought. Judging from their comments, it felt, as if, they decided what they were going to say about Thomas sometime Sunday morning and may or may not have watched the actual interview. The danger in this is that so many people actually get their "news" from hot topics (It seems Sherri Shephard does as each day she finds a way to seem more clueless than the last).

So...let's clear up a few things. Whoopi started off talking about how Clarence Thomas is against affirmative action. Joy jumped in to say how hypocritcal that is considering that he used the system to get where he is today. Elisabeth rambled on about her inability to form an opionion on this issue. And Sherri made it clear she knew nothing about the subject. Again, I am not supporting the Justice's opinion here, but no one on the panel bothered to point out that Thomas addressed the issue in his interview. He talked about graduating from Yale Law School and not being able to get a job because employers felt his was "let in" to Yale instead of earning a spot there. To this day, he has a 10 cent sticker on his degree because it felt worthless to him after graduation. He also pointed out that he does believe in programs to help "the disadvantaged" have access to opportunities but that he does not believe disadvantaed is the same thing as being black. And again I will state, I am not siding with the Justice but for the women on The View to have had an educated conversation, someone might have mentioned this.

When it came to the hot hot topic of abortion, Joy started opining about how the Justice believes the states should have the power to decide this issue and not the court. Joy turned to Elisabeth and asked something to the effect that if Thomas thinks abortion is a sin, what's the point in having the states weigh in? As a strong supporter of Roe vs. Wade, I listened carefully to Thomas on 60 Minutes. He never said abortion is a sin. He is extremely conservative in his interpretation of the Constitution and therefore believes that abortion is not a right given in the Constitution. Instead, he insists that the state's should have the power to decide this issue because the people of each state would then have the right to vote on the matter. Once again, I don't agree with this but I, at least, HEARD what the man had to say.

It's unfortunate that Elisabeth who is supposedly the "conservative voice" never has anything useful or informative to offer in these conversations. Joy is much more articulate and passionate and therefore dominates the table with often one-sided thoughts. Sherri, while a seemingly very hard-working nice person, is useless in any debates as it has become clear in the first few weeks that she is not the brightest blub on the marquee.

So what's my advice the women of The View didn't ask for...

Ladies, if the audience is going to take the time to listen to you talk and rant on a daily basis, is it really too much to ask for you to start truly listening to what others have to say?