Tag Archives: society

We Aren’t “Crazy,” We’re Humans, Too


Imagine if the following six phrases were spoken to people suffering from physical ailments and injuries:
image source and one discussion of this image

This webcomic is funny because we think of it as ridiculous–who would ever invalidate someone else’s suffering like this? Who would ever deny that a person throwing up in the toilet needs treatment? Who would ever question that a person in the hospital needs to lie down and rest?

And yet we do invalidate others’ suffering, when it comes to mental illnesses.

What People Have Actually Said To Me About Mental Illness

Here’s just a sampling of what I’ve heard over the years, as a sufferer of depression and anxiety:

  • “Ugh, God, you’re talking about that mumbo-jumbo again” (meaning my recent Facebook status about depression)
  • “Let me just play psychologist here for a minute–don’t you think that your depression comes from feeling entitled because you were never encouraged to work for anything?”
  • “Well, I just think all that stuff [mental illness] is a scam to get drugs to sell on the street. They ain’t dying, so why else would they try to get medications?”
  • “Anxiety, huh? Well, when I was a kid, we had things to worry about like when food was gonna get put on the table next. What do you even worry about?”

How Is This Kind of Talk Reasonable at All? It’s Not

Would we talk to cancer patients this way? Would we talk to people with physical, measurable illnesses this way? No, and why not? Because we believe them–we can easily see the symptoms for ourselves. Mental illnesses rarely have this same level of validation–there isn’t a visible rash, nor injuries (except in self-harm cases), and our suffering is described in feelings. Thus, many people pass off mental illness as laziness, whining, or attention-getting, as this Huffington Post article describes.

Here’s the bottom line: Mental illnesses exist, as these 10 artists and writers have proven, and they DO cause suffering and pain which requires treatment. Frankly, at this point in my life, I am quite done with people who act as if those of us with mental illnesses are faking or exaggerating. People who choose to believe that mental illnesses are exaggerated, brought on by lifestyle choices, or are otherwise “our fault,” have obviously never had a mental illness and therefore don’t have the knowledge to argue about whether it exists or causes real suffering. If getting rid of depression and anxiety was as simple as “thinking positive” and “sucking it up,” I would have been clear of it years ago. As it is, I’ve battled both since I was at least 8 years old (I’m 29 now).

How to Properly Support People with Mental Illnesses

There are plenty of opponents of proper mental illness treatment out there, but there are just as many people who would like to help but just don’t know how. Either they are fellow sufferers, or they feel powerless in the face of this looming darkness and struggle that their loved one is caught in.

Wanting to help someone with a mental illness is a noble cause, but we are not born knowing how to support someone like this. From my personal experience, here are helpful and non-helpful things to say and do for your loved one/fellow sufferer:

Helpful Words

  • “I am here to listen. I/we love you.”
  • “Do you want me to help you find treatment?”
  • “I have no idea what’s ahead, but I/we will be with you.”
  • “Did you see anything/do anything today that made you happy?”

Non-Helpful Words

  • “I’m not going to talk to you/be around you if you’re just gonna mope around.”
  • “Go talk to a therapist if it’s this bad.”
  • “Things will be better tomorrow! Bye!”
  • “Ugh, can we talk about something happy for once?”

Helpful Actions

  • Check in every day via phone or personal visit. You could take this on yourself, or you could organize a group of friends for this.
  • Offer to help with household chores to take some burden off.
  • Pick up medicines/groceries and run errands.
  • Know the signs of worsening illness, so you know when it is likely necessary to contact professional help.

Non-Helpful Actions

  • Leave the person alone until they contact you (they might never).
  • Shame/judge the person for things left undone.
  • Refuse to help because it might “enable” them to be lazier.
  • Spew random advice at them because you don’t want to have to pay for treatment.

Closing Thoughts

I don’t know if we’ll ever find “cures” for mental illness, nor do I know if we’ll find the causes of it in my lifetime. But I do know that continuing to devalue the suffering of people with mental illnesses will only further the stigma and keep people from seeking treatment. Mental illness happens; we are not “crazy” or permanently broken, we are fellow human beings, and it’s time we were treated as such. Proper support now may mean your or your loved one’s survival later.

TL;DR and the Destruction of Attention Spans Everywhere

tldr “TL;DR,” meaning “Too long; didn’t read,” is a common acronym found around the Internet these days, usually in response to a longer story or essay. Sometimes, authors will even write a short, one- or two-sentence summary of their point as a preface to their article and have “TL;DR” out beside it for those readers who don’t want to read further.

But this is more than an acronym. This is a PROBLEM.

Two Reasons This Is a HUGE Problem

As an English major and former English teacher, I find this “too long, didn’t read” trend distressing, for two big reasons:

  • All of us–including those of us who study literature and written publications–are becoming entirely too impatient when we read. Either that, or we feel easily daunted when we see long blocks of text. We have become more dependent on short written bursts of news and entertainment, and most of us do not take the time to read on a deeper level daily.
  • Because of the instant gratification of TV and the Internet, our kids are growing up with this same “TL;DR” mentality in schools. This doesn’t help them learn to deeply read literature–they find shortcuts online or read Cliffs’ Notes, rather than sitting down and really studying the actual work.

Even I’m finding it hard to concentrate on a long essay or a long work of literature these days, and I used to be one of those folks who consumed the written word like it was candy to my brain. One could attribute it to stress or illness, but I think there’s something else wrong–my ability to concentrate has dwindled with the lessening need for extended concentration. And I’m likely not the only one.

The (Sad) End Result?

I fear that the day is quickly coming where people will not know how to make themselves read for long periods of time, and will forget how to lose themselves in well-written literature for hours. I fear that we as a society will forget how to pay attention to something that isn’t flashing and/or brightly colored.

The main reason I fear this? Because it will, quite simply, put me and other writers out of a job. As a writer, I want generations of people to read my novels, to immerse themselves in the world I am painstakingly building with my words. But if in the future no one can pay attention for that long, will my words ever be read and enjoyed at all? I’m sure I’m not the only writer out there who worries about this.

The Solution: Building Up “Reading Stamina”

I believe that we all must work on our “reading stamina”–the ability to read for long periods of time without getting distracted or bored. The reason I call this ability “stamina” is that it can be trained and increased, just like physical endurance. We can endure longer reading sessions; we just have to want to do so, and schedule time to “work out” in the mental gym.

  1. Search up a subject you really enjoy, and read 2 articles about it. Compare and contrast how each author approaches the subject. For instance, I might read a couple of articles on astronomy, music, the geek life, etc., and see how each author’s opinions match up with each other, and where they differ.
  2. Closely read 1 short story, poem, or 1 chapter of a novel per day. Don’t just scan the work, but read it almost as if you were reading it aloud, going word-by-word. Really delve into what the author is saying; study their word choice as if through a microscope. How does the piece of writing make you feel? What is the author’s point?
  3. After you finish reading anything, mentally summarize what you read. Does what you just read change your opinions or worldview in any way?
  4. Share what you’re reading with others on social networks. Offer questions on the points you didn’t understand in what you read; offer opinions on the points you understood and reacted to. Start a discussion!

These are all exercises that will help you beef up your understanding of what you’re reading, which will make it easier to read for longer periods of time–you won’t feel so overwhelmed. Just like you have to start exercising with short bursts of activity and longer rests, so you must train your brain with short bursts of reading every day, rather than jumping into a huge novel right away.

I’m also suggesting that you make reading a more social activity; it’s long been seen as something that isolates us, much as computers isolate us today, but in fact becoming well-read can help us make new friends as well as enrich all our conversations.


(Ironic that I’m putting a summary on this article, isn’t it? LOL) If we want to continue being a literate society, we need to stretch our reading muscles. We need to be okay with reading longer works, or reading for longer periods of time, because being willing to read deeply can help us do everything from enjoying literature to avoiding financial pitfalls (reading the fine print). If we don’t use that skill, we lose it; if we lose the ability to read longer pieces of writing, how long before we lose the ability to read deeply at all?

3 Ways to Be A Fun Opponent

All of us gamers, whether we’re casual gamers or tournament players, have probably met the “un-fun” opponent. This is the guy or girl who can’t seem to lighten up and just play the game, who either loses and rage-flips the table, or wins and rubs it in everyone’s face for the next few hours. The un-fun opponent can also manifest as a player who overthinks every move for fear of losing the game, or who quits a game when the mere shadow of defeat falls across the table.

None of these all-too-common gamer attitudes make a game fun to play for the other person. I should know; I’m one of those who quits before I lose, and overthinks far too often, and so I see how my negative reactions suck the life out of a game for my opponents. So, today, I thought I’d challenge myself and all of us gamers to try being a little more fun–not necessarily playing more casually, but making all gaming more entertaining and less draining.

#3: Dare to Smile a Little More

A simple smile at your opponent can work wonders for a gaming atmosphere. When you’re both (or all) super-focused on the game, smiles can fall by the wayside, easily forgotten in the heat of tabletop battle. But if you take the time to smile at your opponent, you’re reminding him or her that you’re human, and that this is a game rather than a life-or-death situation.

This little jolt of positive emotion in the middle of a tense game can lighten the mood and help everyone have a better time. You don’t have to tell a ton of jokes or make silly faces, nor do you have to lose all concentration on the game for a moment…just smile. You wouldn’t believe what a positive effect that can have on another player.

#2: Dare to Try New Strategies

If you’ve got an amazing, butt-whooping deck or team of figures which you love to play in tournaments and casual games alike, that’s wonderful. But don’t limit yourself to playing only “the stuff that wins.” The best gamers are not the ones who have flawless win/loss records, but the ones who try out all types of strategies to discover new ways to win, new combos that work, and new modes of self-expression.

When you attempt new strategies, you flex your gaming creativity muscle, which makes any game more interesting. No longer do you have to rely on the Internet to tell you which hot new strategy is winning everything this month (AHEM, lookin’ at you, Friday Night Magic tourneys). Instead, your strategy comes from within you, and can be tweaked in any way you personally wish. It gives you a certain amount of freedom, even within a tournament format!

#1: Dare to Lose

“WHAT?!” you’re probably thinking. But just as in life, losing in gaming can teach us quite a bit more about our strategies, if we don’t allow ourselves to stew in anger and misery first.

This might be hard for some of us gamers to grasp (it’s hard for me!), but winning all the time doesn’t make us the best human beings on earth, nor does losing all the time mean that we are wastes of space. When we win so often that it seems like a foregone conclusion, it can suck the interest out of the game, both for us and our would-be opponents. No one wants to play us in a “quick game” because both parties know how it will end; the game is no longer fun for us because there is no challenge in it anymore.

That’s why I suggest being willing to lose a little more often. This does not mean “throwing the game,” but perhaps using your old favorite strategy pieces in new ways. Maybe avoid using that old reliable combo of figures that wins the game every time, and instead rely on some of your backup figures, to see how well they perform. Maybe change out a card or two in that well-oiled deck you lovingly use in tournaments, and see what results. If you lose, so what? There’s always another game. (Plus, when you play against newbies, it’s important not to thrash them in their first game–who would ever want to get soundly defeated by an expert when you’re still learning the game?)

Bottom Line: Be Human, not a Winning Machine

All three of these suggestions boil down to allowing humanity to creep back into our gaming. We likely game among friends, so why not treat them like friends instead of opponents? We likely started playing these games because they were fun, so why let gamer-rage and overthinking take the place of fun?

I’m stepping all over my own toes with this post, because I’m still working on becoming a more fun opponent. But I think if we all really worked on behaving more humanly toward each other, we could end up having a lot more fun even at “serious gaming” tournaments. Isn’t that a worthy goal?

Don’t Feed the (Internet) Trolls

When I say the word “troll,” you might think of the children’s stories where a troll hides under a bridge, just waiting to surprise and take advantage of innocent passersby. In reality, “trolls” on the Internet are much subtler and more insidious than this.

What Is An Internet Troll?

The definition of an Internet troll is a person who posts inflammatory comments on articles and websites just to start fights or disagreements, not to express a valid opinion. Trolls often take advantage of an already-heated discussion, or pester people who strongly believe in their opinions. Basically, they want to feel important–this is why they do what they do.

What Doesn’t Work: Asking Them to Stop Posting/Arguing With Them

As a victim of many Internet troll attacks over the years, I at first responded to them with bewilderment or anger. I had no idea why they were saying such horrible things to me, nor did I know why they kept coming after me and attacking me. Thus, I kept trying to battle them back with either pleas for them to stop or logic to try to debunk their arguments.

Neither of these tactics works against a troll–it actually just feeds them, giving them more amusement and more fodder for trolling. Remember, they are only doing this for laughs and/or attention. They aren’t interested in your opinion, only your reaction. The larger and more dramatic your reaction, the more they laugh and the more they keep coming back to get it–as I unfortunately found out.

How To Beat Trolls: Ignore Them and Devalue Them

The way to handle and defeat trolls is twofold:

  • Firstly, if you are a member of a forum/website where the troll is posting, ignore the comment entirely. Remember, they just want attention, so don’t give them any.
  • Secondly, if you are an admin of a forum/website where a troll is posting, delete their comment(s) and block their IP address from posting on the board. Don’t make any announcement about it, since you don’t want to draw attention to the troll’s attacks–just do it quietly, as if the troll never even existed.

This strategy may just seem like a revision of the tactic “Ignore them and they’ll go away,” but it’s not. What I’m suggesting is both ignoring and devaluing their commentary, silently telling them that their words are not even important enough to keep around on the Internet, much less react to. This is about the only way to get rid of trolls, because you’re not giving them what they want: a reaction, either for laughs or to make them feel important.

A Final Note: This is Not Cruelty, but Self-Preservation

This may seem cruel; for years I resisted following this course of action, because I felt bad about treating another person this way. But what we have to remember in dealing with trolls is that they are entitled to their opinions, but you are also entitled to yours. On your own forum/website and in your own world, you don’t necessarily have to keep their opinions around to look at, nor do you have to let their comments influence your life.

The bottom line: trolls are basically Internet bullies, and both bullies and trolls are sad, pitiable individuals who try to make themselves feel important by stomping on others. Pity them, sure, but pay no attention to what they say. You’ll have a much better time on the Internet if you do so.

Why I don’t worry about my eyebrows

Amid all the beauty articles you’ll see me post every now and again, there’s one topic you’ll never see me cover: eyebrows. You know why? Because I, unlike so many girls and young women my age, have never and will never pluck my eyebrows to shape them. It’s just a part of the typical female beauty routine that I have never adopted.

In thinking about this issue, I realized there was a little more to it than just not liking to pluck eyebrow hairs out. It has more to do with my philosophy of beauty, which is vastly different from the beauty industry’s philosophy of beauty (not to mention society at large). Read on, to find out how a simple pair of eyebrows could make such an elegant point.

How My Brows Actually Look

As evidence of my unplucked eyebrows, I have a few pictures of myself, with no makeup and no retouching:

Barring the fact that you can tell I haven’t slept right in several years days (LOL), my eyebrows are thick and nearly-black, going almost straight across rather than having the thin, graceful arched shape so coveted in the beauty industry over the last several decades.

Every eyebrow article I read subtly tells me that I, too, should want those perfectly groomed and plucked brows for my own face. It’s almost like your face isn’t “feminine” enough without plucking these hairs out of your face every week, or having them waxed off every few months. But I just haven’t done so. Being as squeamish about pain as I am, it seems ludicrous to inflict such pinching pain on myself for a goal that I’m not even interested in.

Now, why would I not be interested in such a beauty goal? Because when my eyebrows are taken in context with the rest of my face, as seen below without glasses and with glasses…

withoutglasses_small withglasses_small

…they actually look pretty normal, fairly well-scaled to the rest of my facial features. True, they’re thick and straight, and some kids I went to school with used to pick on me for having “guybrows,” but they do what God intended them to–namely, to keep sweat out of my eyes (which is very handy during Zumba).

The Eyebrow Epiphany

I used to think about “getting my brows done” (as it’s usually called), but I don’t anymore. And I think this whole eyebrows thing has led me to an epiphany about beauty:

Beauty is not for other people, but for the self.

If you think about it, it’s true. Each of us are the only ones who know what that makeup product feels like on our faces, what those false lashes feel like when they’re glued to our eyelids, how much those eyebrow hair roots can hurt when they’re plucked out with tweezers. Isn’t it, then, up to us which products we use and which beauty routines we do, rather than depending on someone else to tell us “what we SHOULD be using” and “what we SHOULD be doing?”

And yet, the beauty industry–and modern society as well–does not think that way. In most people’s eyes, beauty products and routines are used to visually impact other people, not to make ourselves happier…in effect, saying that our outward beauty is solely for the visual consumption of others.

I don’t buy into that line of thinking anymore; I’ve had my turn trying to “fit in with the crowd,” beauty-wise, and I just don’t. I would rather spend my time using products and doing routines that make ME feel good about ME. Thus, why I’ve never touched my eyebrows with a tweezer, but instead use hand softeners, scrubs, and lotions to make my hands feel baby-soft after a good workout.

People might even judge me through this blog post, thinking “Why would you ever let yourself look that ugly?” or “You ought to shape your brows, you’d look so much better,” but neither opinion really matters. After all, they’re my brows on my face–if some folks don’t like them, that’s perfectly okay, because my brows are not on their faces and they don’t have to live with them. My beauty routine is for me and me alone, and I think more girls and women have a right to think that way as well.

I’m not saying that we all throw down our tweezers and stomp ’em–if you love to keep your brows groomed and plucked because it makes you feel better, then that’s awesome; keep doing it. But if you’re clinging to old beauty routines and products just because some expert said you ought to or because your friends all do it, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate your beauty thinking and start doing only the things that make you the happiest about your appearance. After all, it’s your appearance–if others don’t like it, they ain’t got to live with it!

Girls Can Choose Their Lives: What I Believe Feminism/Women’s Lib Is Really About

As a little girl growing up in the late ’80s and early ’90s, I knew without questioning that I had a smorgasbord of opportunities in front of me. I could be ANYTHING. I could play with any toy I liked, be friends with anyone I chose, read any book I wished, and dream of one day being in any career that I felt drawn to.

That freedom was something I very much took for granted. It was not until later in school that I began to hear about “feminism” and “Women’s Lib” as a social movement, and that it hadn’t been very long ago that it was considered improper for young ladies like me to just read any book they wanted, or play with any toy they liked, etc. I learned, from my own relatives and community members as much as from the textbooks, that a woman’s dress, speech, and even life goals prior to this movement had been fairly proscribed, a beaten track which you simply had to walk. The recent documentary on PBS called Makers describes the feminist/Women’s Lib movement in detail, and has in part spurred the following post.

Watch Part One: Awakening on PBS. See more from Makers: Women Who Make America.

It was downright odd to learn about the Women’s Liberation/feminist movement, especially in the context of my own life. Keep in mind, I was (and still am) the type of girl who played with Barbie dolls one minute and Micro Machines the next; I would play sports with the boys at recess and yet still play at “teatime” with my dolls at home. My toybox was a mishmash of traditional “girls’ toys” and “boys’ toys,” dressup clothes and dollhouses right alongside Legos and basketballs. If it was fun to play with, I played with it, basically. I had no idea of the “gender lines” I was crisscrossing; to suddenly learn that these choices I took for granted had once been forbidden to girls was a shock.

But this very way of life, the way of life I adopted even before school-age, is what I believe the Women’s Liberation movement was really all about, and what feminism is still about today. Yet the movement has its fair share of detractors as well as people who don’t really understand what its purpose is…and I’m sad to say some of its proponents seem to have lost sight of what the movement is really about. (More on that in just a moment.)

This issue is really big and unwieldy, so I’ll simply try to describe what I believe the movement is about in the context of what it’s meant to my life: a certain freedom of choices.

What Feminism/Women’s Lib Isn’t: A Movement for Dominating/Getting Rid of Men Altogether

Many boys and young men sneer at or don’t like talking about the Women’s Lib/feminist movement, saying that they feel threatened or even belittled by it. Some wonder about the femininity of women who join or believe in such a movement; others question why women felt the need to break out of a social role that seemed perfectly fine.

I admit, feminism does seem pretty militant sometimes, especially looking back at its history. And the imagery of a woman doing battle is somehow more frightening to society as a whole–somehow, she’s an uncontrollable, unpredictable force. (People in America have fought militantly for the rights of many other social groups over time, though–why is fighting for the rights of women still so alien to society even today?) Feminism, however, is in my opinion not about getting rid of men entirely, nor is it about absolutely dominating men the way that women were so often socially (and physically) dominated.

I am a feminist and a liberated woman, but that does not mean I want to crush male anatomy beneath my heel and crack a whip over men’s heads. All I want, as a feminist, is for female human beings to be treated as socially, economically, and personally equal to male human beings. (That particular fight is still not over, by the way, since working women still make less than working men, often at the very same jobs.)

What Feminism/Women’s Lib Isn’t: A Complete Destruction of “Homemaker” as a Career Option

This is where many of my fellow feminists slip up in their definitions of feminism. I have heard too many “strong liberated women” disparage girls and young women who have gone on to become wives and mothers rather than take a “real career” out in the world. One of my Facebook friends actually received some nasty messages about her personal choice to become a homemaker–one of them said, in part, “I guess you just want to live in the nineteen [bleep]ing fifties if that’s all you’re gonna do with your life.”

To me, this is another perversion of what Women’s Lib/feminism is about. If you look down on a woman for not taking a career outside the home, then you are in effect telling her that her personal life choice is invalid, the same way society used to tell women that their life goals to work outside the home were invalid. As any wife and mother will tell you, homemaking is most certainly a career in and of itself–a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week, decades-long career with no vacations and no paid leave, requiring physical strength and endurance as well as nurturing and patience. Feminists fought for women to have the freedom to make life choices–who then are we, as feminists, to attack another woman based on her freely made, personal life choice?

What Feminism/Women’s Lib IS: A Movement for Social/Economic/Personal Freedom

I believe this movement is, at its core, about CHOICES–the choice to live our own life dreams and to use the spiritual gifts that God has blessed us with. Not all women want to be homemakers, wives and mothers, for instance, but some do and some are. Not all women want to be career women, but some do and some are. The point is, we have that choice.

Women’s Liberation was and is just that–a liberation from absolutely having to choose “public school -> marriage -> kids” (or just “marriage -> kids”) if a woman wanted to do something else with her life. Just as men as human beings were free to choose their careers and life paths, I believe the feminist women of the Women’s Lib movement wanted and still want that same freedom of choice for female human beings. I know I certainly do.

Now, being “free” does not mean that all of us will choose out-of-the-home careers and cast off the apron forever. Nor does it mean that we will eventually do away with men completely, except as occasional, dominated sex partners. We will simply be as free as men to choose our life’s path, and to use our God-given gifts. (That day has not come yet, either–there are still many subtle social hurdles to jump before we get there.)

Songs to Make You Think

One of the things I love most about being a songwriter is that I can write songs that make people think. I can raise awareness about issues, I can talk about my own personal struggles, and I can even champion a cause with my voice and my piano.

Many, many songwriters have done the same over the years (and centuries!), often with amazing results. Here is just an itty-bitty teeny-tiny cross-section of songs that have made people think, reason, and change their views over the years:

Another Day in Paradise – Phil Collins

About how we can all too easily miss the signs that someone else is in need.

Allentown – Billy Joel

Describing the consequences of job loss and falling economy in Allentown.

Soldier in the Rain – England Dan and John Ford Coley

About a soldier who comes home from war, only to feel that his old life is closed off to him.

Imagine – John Lennon

About revisualizing the world’s boundaries (in personal, religious, and social ways)–even if you don’t end up adopting the mindset.

Not Ready to Make Nice – Dixie Chicks

About conflict and forgiveness (or being too mad to forgive), both for the specific political situation the band faced as well as in general.

Dirty Laundry – Don Henley

About the increasing sensationalism in the media, and the public’s increasing hunger for it.

Hurricane – 30 Seconds to Mars

Asks a good question: “Would you kill to prove you’re right?” Describes the “hurricane” of conflicting opinions/factions we all live in today, and the desire to just hide from them all “underground.”

Jesus, Friend of Sinners – Casting Crowns

About the modern church (and the historical church, too) and all the human sins we let pass for “standing up for God”. Also teaches what “loving like Jesus” really means.

The Needle and the Damage Done – Neil Young

About drug addiction and the pain/heartbreak it brings.

HOPE (feat. Faith Evans) – Twista

About maintaining hope in the face of tragedy, whether personal or social.

American Pie – Don McLean

Does this song even NEED an introduction? …NAAAH!

One Day (feat. Akon) – Matisyahu

About the gritty reality of our modern life, contrasted with the dream of worldwide peace.

Hypnotize – System of a Down

About social protest and society’s attempt to cover it up or silence it…and how it affects even those who think they have no stake in the issues.

Find The Cost of Freedom – Crosby Stills Nash and Young

Short but poignant song about war’s real cost.

Alyssa Lies – Jason Michael Carroll

About child abuse and how it affects others who see the evidence.

Hotel California – The Eagles

Describing the bleakness and hollowness of the California drug scene in the ’70s.

The Trees – Rush

About political unrest and ideological clashes.

Ohio – Crosby Stills Nash and Young

About protesting the Kent State shootings in 1970.

The Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson

About social and political awareness, and how the impulse to make positive change begins with each individual person.

Home – Phillip Phillips

About belonging, and having a home to return to.

9 Ways You’re Accidentally Annoying Your Opponent

We don’t always give a lot of thought to how we treat our human opponents in games. In fact, sometimes we can get so lost in the actual playing of a game that we forget we’re playing against another human being.

Today, as both a reminder to myself and to raise awareness about respecting other gamers, I’ve written this article to help us all remember to treat each other better. We help make others’ gameplay experience either fun or not fun, based on many of the issues I’ll be covering today, but it all comes back to respect. Read on, for the surprising ways you may be annoying your opponent!

#9: Disrespecting Their Stuff

As gamers, we don’t appreciate it if someone handles our stuff without asking, flipping through Magic decks or picking out random Clix figures while we’re in the middle of another game. Yet many gamers do this to each other as if it’s accepted behavior. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been playing another game, only for someone to go rifling through my stuff, picking out things they want from my boxes without asking whether the items are for trade. Not only that, they sometimes handle my Near Mint collectibles with dirty or sticky hands, drop the items everywhere, or shove them back into the boxes willy-nilly.

It’s important to ask before you handle anything that isn’t yours; it’s doubly important to be careful with their items if they give you permission to look through. When you look through someone else’s stuff, remember that they probably spent a good bit of money to get what you’re looking at, and treat it accordingly.

#8: Not Stating Your Actions Clearly, Every Turn

Silent games may be fun for some, but not for everyone. I, for instance, like to know what kind of combos or actions my opponent is doing, so that I can have time to respond if there’s a game opportunity. But if you’re hunched over your side of the table, and you either don’t tell me what’s going on or you mumble it where I can’t understand, you’re in fact making it harder to play the game.

It’s tempting to leave the explanation of your game actions out–believe me, I know. We get so familiar with our strategies that we think they don’t need explanation anymore. But to someone who’s not familiar with them, those strange silent moves seem incomprehensible. Take just a little time to explain what you’re doing–this will help all players understand what’s happening in the game and enjoy it more.

(I do realize that extreme shyness or even medical conditions can lead to silent games as well. If you’re uncomfortable or incapable of speaking loudly, you can also simply offer your opponent the chance to look at the cards or figures you’re playing, so that they may see the abilities for themselves.)

#7: Only Playing Games/Game Types that You Can Win

It’s boring and sad to play a game that you know already is a foregone conclusion…well, at least for most gamers. But there are some gamers who truly enjoy soundly defeating others, so much so that they only play games they know they can win. Unfortunately, this can be very annoying to other gamers, who might like at least a chance of winning. Soon enough, a gamer who only plays what he or she can win will find themselves fresh out of opponents.

We all like to win; that’s natural. But the most fun experiences of gaming, I find, come from a real tooth-and-nail struggle, a game that’s truly “anybody’s game”–not a game where the same person always wins and it’s over in 5 minutes. You grow more as a player when games are not easily won, for one thing, and it’s just more fun for everybody when every player can share in the (imaginary) carnage. If you’re always playing one type of game, allow someone else to teach you a new game similar in style, and branch out. Who knows, you might find out you have a new favorite game! (Just don’t monopolize it… xD)

#6: Not Being Careful with Food/Drinks

You wouldn’t want your hard-earned collection ruined with someone else’s careless positioning of a drink or food item, would you? One of the more annoying things that a fellow gamer can do is to put an open drink right next to where they’re playing, well within range of getting knocked over by a careless hand gesture, or even another player. Greasy food items also come under this heading: if the grease splatters out from the food as you’re trying to eat it, where is that grease going to go but onto the tabletop, where possibly hundreds of dollars of gaming stuff lies?

Using drink cups or bottles with tight-closing lids (and keeping lids closed!), and having napkins handy for surrounding greasy food, are both easy solutions to avoid annoying or worrying your opponent. Plus, you run less risk of messing up your own gaming stuff, too!

#5: Whining About Your Luck

“Yes, I know the Dice Gods are smiting you and Lady Luck is not being a lady for you. You’ve said that 10 times this game already.” I find myself thinking this often during tournament play, when it seems the whole community of gamers becomes overly superstitious. xD A few mentions of luck not being with you is one thing–it can lighten up the mood. But talking about it over and over as if luck is the only thing against you? It sounds suspiciously like whining to most people, and whiners are not happy gamers to play against.

If you’re really having a tough time of it, try talking about other topics other than the game to get your mind off it–anything where you’re not focusing on how bad your luck seems to be running for you. I can be whiny about my luck, too, and this strategy surprisingly works, especially if you’ve got an opponent who’s a little more laid-back. And, if you’re facing an opponent who is doing nothing but whining about luck, try getting him or her off the topic–distract them from the bad dice rolls and card pulls, if you can. One person’s whining quickly casts a pall over other people’s games, and the quicker you can stop the negativity train, the better.

#4: Being Continuously Distracted During the Game

It’s great to have an opponent who’s interested in lots of different games. It’s not that great to have to play someone who’s involved in about 5 different games at various tables, or who has his or her phone out texting the whole time, etc. If you’re playing one game, stick to doing that activity and nothing else if at all possible. After all, who wants to be stuck at a table waiting on your opponent to get back from winning/losing two other random games?

Focusing on one task at a time will make you a more alert player, make the game more enjoyable for everyone, and might actually help you win instead of lose because of player errors and distractions. It also lets your opponent know you respect them and their time enough to play the game in a timely manner.

#3: Taking Forever to Do Your Turn

Slightly dovetailed with #4, “taking forever to do your turn” could mean you’re highly distracted during the game, but also could mean having small nervous crises over which card to play this turn, or which figure to move into combat. It also could mean an impossibly long, detailed, combo-ridden turn, in which the other player(s) are forced to watch you basically play and win the game by yourself. Any of these scenarios are incredibly annoying to opponents–they can end up thinking, “why did I bother even playing?”

If you’re unsure of how to play a new strategy, or just aren’t certain how to move forward, it’s not a sin to ask someone else for strategy help. These are games, not real war tactics, after all. And, if you look around the table and notice that most of your opponents’ eyes are glazed over after your 15-minute turn of ultimate doom, you might want to rethink how you play–at least, if you ever want to play against human opponents again. Super-combos of supreme ownage are great against computer-generated opponents, but we humans like to feel that we’ve got at least a fighting chance of winning. Instead of proving your authority by taking over the game, allow others to be part of the experience, and perhaps take time to observe how they play the game, too!

#2: Being Loud/Inappropriate/Offensive, and Refusing to Act Otherwise

Telling slightly offensive jokes (or hearing them bandied about) is pretty much par for the course amid gamers, but there’s a difference between being funny and just being loudly offensive/inappropriate. Most especially, if you’re playing a game and your opponent is having trouble concentrating because of your “humor,” you could end up alone at the game table in a matter of moments. Not to mention that someone might just decide to leave if you’re talking offensively and refuse to stop even for polite requests.

It’s important, especially in a large group environment, to be sensitive to how others are responding to your words and actions. If you notice that someone looks a little uncomfortable with what you just said, apologize; if someone asks you to tone it down a little, simply do so and make no further comment on the issue. I admit, I’ve made some pretty inappropriate remarks in my past, but learning how to apologize and keep going is part of getting along with others in general. We don’t have to self-censor all the time, but being aware of the people around you can keep you from making major verbal faux pas.

#1: Showing Poor Sportsmanship

Nothing is more annoying to a fellow gamer than to see his or her opponent stalk out of the gaming shop, mad because he or she lost. Mild fits of temper, especially in high-stakes tournaments, are naturally going to happen, but when a gamer lets one loss color the rest of the experience, both for themselves and for the other players, you know the poor sportsmanship has gone too far.

I’m preaching to myself here a good bit, because I don’t like to lose, and I don’t like to lose in 5 minutes with barely any time to fight; it angers me, much more than it should, and I can’t seem to let the anger go easily. But it’s important to realize that every game will have a winner and a loser, and you can’t be the winner every single time. The best thing you can do is to be a cordial, pleasant loser, so that the winner doesn’t end up feeling bad about it. Angrily stomping around, or getting in your car and speeding off, is not going to change the result, but it will disturb the other players and cast a good-sized shadow over everyone else’s games.


As I said at the beginning, many of these points go back to respecting other gamers and being considerate. I’m not saying that gaming should be conducted with the pinky finger perfectly extended, but perhaps we could put the middle finger away, just for a while. 🙂

“Derp:” It’s Not Just a Facial Expression Anymore!

You might have seen this strange word on the Internet, perhaps not known what it was…yet it always occurs in the funniest or strangest circumstances. What is a “derp?”

“Official” Internet Definitions

According to UrbanDictionary.com, a derp can be many things, such as a silly facial expression, incomprehensible speech, or an idiotic moment. I, however, find definitions #3 and #5 to be most applicable to my experience of “derp”:

  • #3: A literary or spoken phrase that combines elements of “WTF” and “cool story bro”. Laced with condescension “derp” is a common form of web-based libel that is almost didactic; however not quite as it is generally a sardonic gesticulation rather than moralistic chastisement. The spoken sense of the world itself conveys an intrinsic feeling of disappointment with a subtle hint of disgust and an overtone of rebuke.
  • #5: A word uttered when one screws up. origin: Matt Stone and Trey Parker in BASEketball. Used as an interjection.

Additionally, according to KnowYourMeme, derps arose from pure stupidity and remains that way today (see the exhibit of “derp” faces, with eyes pointed in different directions and a strange smile). KnowYourMeme also gives important background information as to the origins of the “derp.” Many more of these stupidity examples and distorted speech/facial expressions can be found on Derp.com.

However, I have come up with my own definition of the derp, from my own life:

DERP: n. a silly, almost instinctive mistake; a brain fart; a moment of abject ignorance.

DERP: v. making a silly, almost instinctive mistake; having a brain fart; acting ignorant.

Derivatives: derpy, derping

Pictorial Examples of This Definition

All images from Derp.com

I am quite capable of acting like this–saying stuff that doesn’t make sense, making crazy facial expressions, etc.–and have proven that wondrous ability on several occasions (much to my dismay). Sometimes, I have no idea why I derp, and that is one of the inherent qualities of the derp: it happens, and it happens to everyone at random times!

Derps I Have Done and Seen

  • Self-Derp: I carefully saved 10 picture sources (web addresses) for a future blog post. Later that night, I apparently went on a file-deleting spree and got rid of the entire file.
  • Self-Derp: I knew that I needed to stop for gas, but I drove 2 miles past the gas station I meant to go to anyway.
  • Self-Derp: Upon stepping up to the pulpit microphone to introduce another person at church, I stumbled over pronouncing their name, the title of the song they were doing, and the word “the”, all in one sentence.
  • Driver-Derp: In an unfamiliar city, I got into a traffic lane that I thought would continue on, only to look ahead and see that it ended in 500 feet. Fastest lane-change-back I’ve ever done!
  • Driver-Derp: A person I was driving behind in Charlotte traffic switched lanes precisely four times, from far left to middle left, from middle left to far left, from far left to far right (not kidding), and then back to middle right. Not sure what that was about, as there were no other cars to pass on the road.
  • Pet-Derp: Maggie, my boyfriend’s family cat, ran into the kitchen, started doing a big back stretch, then abruptly faceplanted and skittered a couple of feet like she was after a bug or mouse. Afterwards, she did an “I completely meant to do that” paw-washing.
  • Pet-Derp: Reesie, my boyfriend’s family dachshund, tried at least 50 times to get up on the armchair, jumping and jumping. When she finally succeeded, her first action was to slide back off, then try to jump back on again, for no apparent reason.

Derps in Entertainment: Why Are They So Funny?

From misspoken words to wardrobe malfunctions and other bloopers, derps appear on TV funny reels more often than anywhere else. Heck, there are even whole shows dedicated to the derp (America’s Funniest Home Videos, anyone?).

And, as I’ve referred to before, nowadays there are zillions of websites about derpy moments, either photographed or retold in words. Submitters to The Cheezburger Network and Spartz make tons of contributions to the derp culture every day, from funny cat captions to iPhone autocorrects and everything in between. And we eat it up, because it reflects our lives and our own derpiness. (If that isn’t a word, I’m making it one now–that’s not a derp in itself. LOL)

Derps are funny, random moments in life that are occasionally captured in a picture or memorialized in a video (and usually hastily put up on the Internet, LOL). They are reminders that we’re human and we make randomly funny/strange mistakes. They are also reminders that none of us is safe from derping; in fact, the most enjoyment comes from seeing that the richest, kindest, most put-together or most famous among us can still derp, too!

Have a Funny Derp?

Have a derp story to match the ones I’ve already told in this article? Got a funny derp picture to share? Tell me in the comments!