Monthly Archives: August 2017



My kids are both unquestionably Millennials, not only in age, but in attitude. This is both a good and a bad thing. It is bad in that they think that “Starbucks” is one of the five food groups. Good, though, in that that chastise me when I get my own Starbucks in a disposable cup. Good in that they are more likely to “swipe right” based on how cute the cat is that is being held in the profile picture than on how closely the cat holder’s skin tone matches their own. Bad in that they are swiping at all. But really, the thing that most defines them as true Millennials is that there are drawers and drawers in my house that are absolutely full of participation trophies. Or rather, participation medals, since medals were the compromise we somehow reached between the space-hogging (and expensive) trophies of legend and the flimsy green “Participant” ribbons of our own youth. Yes, my children are of the generation that perfected getting a prize just for showing up. Or rather, as they were only children then, they are of the generation that had the practice perfected upon them.

They are the generation sneeringly referred to as “Snowflakes”—the kids who supposedly have been conditioned from birth to melt at the first sign of adversity. The ones who are derided for wanting all of the spoils of victory without doing any of the actual fighting. And yet, ironically, as the events of the last few weeks have shown, they are not the ones who truly deserve that title. They are not the ones who are holding the Ultimate Participation Trophy. Because they are not the ones marching through the streets carrying torches.

If Charlottesville has taught us anything, it has taught us that white privilege is the ultimate participation trophy. And the people who refuse to acknowledge this truly are the ultimate snowflakes. Or rather, as one internet meme but it, the “broflakes.”

Think about it: the very definition of privilege is receiving benefits for something that you did not earn. It’s getting into a school because your father went there. It’s getting the chance to rifle through your glove box looking for your car registration unharmed because your age and/or gender is considered “unthreatening.” It’s even something as simple as getting to be first in line because your last name starts with the letter “A.”

There’s nothing wrong with having privilege. And there’s nothing wrong with resenting people who have privileges you don’t. (Yeah, that’s right all of you Andersons out there—as a Wilson, I resent the hell out of your privilege.) And, really, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your privilege. After all, who among us doesn’t enjoy finding a twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk? Unearned, undeserved, but still, it feels like a triumph. Like, for once, everything is coming up you.

Here’s the thing, though: what do you do with that unearned twenty? Do you look around to see if someone else is looking for it, or do you slyly pocket it? Or, if you already have a wallet full of twenties, do you give it to the next needy person you see? What you do with that unearned twenty (or your privilege) defines you. The Charlottesville nazis? Pocketers, every last one of them. Worse, pocketers who, as soon as that twenty was safely tucked into their wallets, rewrote the story in their own heads so that they had somehow earned it. “I was the only person smart enough to look down at that moment, so…”

I’m not saying that Millennials are perfect. I’m not even saying that there aren’t plenty of pocketers among their own ranks. But it seems to me that they have learned at least one very important lesson that the rest of us still seem to be a little bit behind on: if you’re going to hand out medals to everyone just for showing up, then you had better make sure you have enough medals to go around. Even if you have to pull a few out of your own drawers to do it.

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Old Yeller

 Logging on to my computer the other day, I couldn’t help but notice the headline blaring across the top of the page: “Is Yelling Worse Than Hitting?” My response to this was both immediate and visceral: Dear god, I certainly hope so—there’s no way I could hit as hard as I can yell. It was with a bit of trepidation, then, that I finally clicked open the link, where I saw, to my immense relief, that I needn’t have worried at all: according to the article in question yelling is indeed much worse than hitting. Imagine my confusion then when the very same article went on to suggest several ways that parents could avoid yelling, my favorite two being 1) Try not to be around stressful people and situations (like, perhaps, your children?), and 2) whenever the urge to yell overtakes you try retreating to a quiet room and lighting a soothing candle instead. (Since the urge to yell usually overtakes me when one of my children is doing something like chasing the other one around the living room with a steak knife, suggestion number two would probably not be in anyone’s best interest, and in fact would undoubtably lead to a spate of articles with headlines like: “Are Puncture Wounds Worse Than Mental Scars?”)

When did yelling get such a bad rap, anyway? As far as I’m concerned, yelling has it all over spanking. For one thing, with yelling you don’t even have to be within arm’s reach for it to be effective; on the contrary, the farther away the yell-ee is from the yell-or, the more effective it seems to be. (Nothing says I’m serious like a reprimand delivered from two houses away.) And then there’s the fact that yelling gives you a much broader range of nuances to choose from: from the casual stop riding on the dog yell, to the more strident stop peeing on the dog yell, all the way up to the frantic don’t put that in your mouth–it came out of the dog yell.

In fact, one of the best things about yelling is that you don’t even have to raise your voice to do it: every child knows that the most frightening yell of all is the silent one, the one where your mother simply mouths just you wait at you while she is on the phone.

Of course, to give the authors of the article credit, I’m sure that there are plenty of households out there where the parents don’t really yell at all, just like I am sure that there are plenty where they never watch anything but educational TV, never eat any food that is not triple-certified organic, and never make any decisions without first holding a family meeting. And I’m sure that these families are very, very happy—even if it is in a Stepford kind of way. My question for them, though, is this: what happens when all those poor un-yelled at children finally go and live in the real world? How do they deal with their first boss, their first room-mate—even their first spouse? Do they just dissolve into a puddle of tears at the first raised decibel?

At least with my children I know that whatever unreasonable boss, psycho room-mate, or Jerry Springer-worthy spouse the world throws at them, they’ll be O.K. Even now, at the tender ages of four and eight, they could probably go to a PETA convention wearing full-length fur coats and emerge completely unscathed. Heck, they could probably wear PETA t-shirts to a cockfight and be none the worse for wear.

Now if only I could find a way to make them immune to siblings and steak knives they’d be set for life.

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