Dear Uptight Seattleite,I recently joined a support group for new moms at Microsoft, and I'm having trouble fitting in. They're just so intense. Like if they're planning a party for their kids, one will send out an e-mail with multiple sets of bullet points about the party's venue, theme, and refreshments, and ask for everyone's "sign-off." Then there will be a group back-and-forth with everyone responding point by point in different fonts until the thread is a multicolored mess of bulleted lists nested inside other bulleted lists. Finally someone will say that they're "ready to close on this" and thank the first person for "driving the discussion." I don't know how to deal with this level of aggressiveness.MS Molly
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Dear Molly,It's important to explore other cultures. That's why I was going to join the Peace Corps at one point and dig wells in Africa. I didn't, but I was going to. If you'd like to take a moment to laud me for this, that would be fine. You can do it silently if you prefer. Laud yourself while you're at it, because you're also exploring another culture, that of the Eastside power mom. I can't claim expertise in this culture, but I can suggest being the quiet one in the group while you acclimate. Every group needs a quiet one. The role isn't a good fit for me—I happen to have a lot to share—but I bet you could pull it off, Molly.You don't even need to speak the language of these moms very well. I myself go in for more of an ambient approach to foreign-language acquisition, rather than textbook learning. But I can still bust out a few jokes in Spanish, as the situation demands. When I order two bottles of Dos Equis at Tequila Taqueria, I say "Quatro Equis, por favor!" That always cracks them up, though they do a pretty good job of hiding it behind those impassive expressions of theirs.Dear Uptight Seattleite,Was that you being such a dick at the racquetball court the other day?Hopping Mel
Dear Mel,Racquetball is not a social activity. It's a cardio exercise. Depending on your level, you can do more cardio playing racquetball than running. I put this out there as an example of something you might not know, in the hope of opening your mind to a few more things you might not know. Thing one: I was using the court that was technically "assigned" to you because I was mistakenly given the one on the end with the sagging floor. Thing two: I went past my allotted hour because I need to properly position my headband before I can start playing. The time it takes to do this can in no wise be considered part of my hour. No wise whatsoever. Speaking of headbands, remember those twisty braided ones women used to wear? Maybe if you took a little more time to reflect on funny little details like that, you wouldn't be so grumpy, Mel.By the end of our interaction, your disposition had in fact deteriorated to the point that nonverbal communication was my only option. Thus my Marcel Marceau routine outside the court window while you were trying to play. In my own silly way, I was trying to show you that there were no hard feelings. On my part, anyway. You still looked pretty mad. And that's too bad, because it seemed to be preventing you and your partner from enjoying yourselves. Most of my own partners have been unavailable recently. I suspect some of them resent my greater knowledge of the rules of racquetball. Others seem to have trouble grasping my situational approach to interpreting these rules. I'm pretty sure at least one guy was put off by my titanium racquet and Championship Series balls. But I'm not about to apologize for my appreciation of high-performance equipment. At any rate, it all turned out OK, because that's how I made my discovery that racquetball is cardio exercise and not a social activity.Dear Uptight Seattleite,I'm so stressed out. I just don't know what to do.Three Sheets Trina
Dear Trina,Visualize being something that feels no stress. A cubic light-year of empty universe, for instance, or mold. Mold might actually be good if you're a beginner. Picture it now, so serene and fuzzy in the dark of your fridge. Maybe you're about to throw out the cheese it's growing on, but mold doesn't care. It just quietly goes about darkening the surface of your Tillamook mild cheddar with its gray and white flecks. Even if your whole world is about to fall apart, stressing out won't help anything. That truth has liberated mold, Trish. Let it liberate you. Go calmer, go saner, go molder.Wanna be BUFFs? Find the Uptight on Facebook! Or write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.