That’s not my religion

I’ve figured out the perfect response to those occasions when someone starts to lecture you on concepts from social justice or critical race theory. You know those discussions. Where they’ve decided that a field that didn’t exist 50 years ago (e.g., African American studies) gets to dictate the meaning of already-defined English words like “racism.” Or where they tell you the fact that you’re wearing certain clothes or hairstyles is “hurtful” or “offensive.”

It’s a very simple response that does not invite argument: “That’s not my religion.”

Perhaps a devout Muslim is offended that as a woman, you’re out in public without a hair covering. If they tell you it offends them, a perfectly reasonable response is, “That’s not my religion.” It acknowledges that they have a set of beliefs you aren’t going to argue with, but firmly asserts that you have a different set of beliefs and are not inclined to live by theirs just so they aren’t offended.

The same phrase and concept can be applied to the following conversations:

“Black people can’t be racist because racism is a combination of prejudice and institutionalized racism.”

That’s not my religion. I believe anyone can be racist.”

“It’s wrong for [insert celebrity name] to wear cornrows because that’s cultural appropriation.”

That’s not my religion. People should wear their hair however they like.”

There is no sense in arguing with people who tell you they’re offended and therefore, you should live your life differently. You’re never going to convince them that their way of looking at the world is, at best, unhelpful. It’s exactly like an argument about religion: it’s a set of strongly held beliefs with no possibility of objective proof. But that doesn’t mean that we have to give in and concede to live by whatever others find most comfortable. We can simply declare that it isn’t our religion and continue living by our own beliefs. I hope you’ll join me in making this response a common one whenever faced with complaints about the hurtfulness of increasingly petty perceived racial slights.

Check your privilege

It’s a phrase thrown around by social justice types, but it’s also a fun game. My contention is that everyone has a set of privileges and while you might think someone else has a better set than you, it is often the case that they’re looking at you and thinking the same thing. Just like people with straight hair who want curly hair and vice versa.

Here are my privileges in no particular order

Privileges of small breasts

  • Bras are for decoration only, and cheap. Can find them for $2.50 on clearance because no one buys my size.
  • No back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, strap pain, constriction pain. No pain at all.
  • No one stares at my chest.
  • I never have to wonder if someone only likes me for my breasts.
  • Every clothing item my size fits and looks “professional”

Privileges of being Asian

  • Anywhere I go, people assume I belong there because Asians are “rule-following.”
  • I am assumed to be competent, especially at subjects like math.
  • If security screening is discretionary, I am never chosen for additional screening.
  • I am never suspected of shoplifting.
  • Even when I haven’t washed my hair in a month or changed clothes in a week (and look utterly homeless) strangers treat me with respect. Sales clerks especially.
  • When I look at a stranger, they smile at me. (Maybe I smile first. I don’t know.)

Privileges of being short

  • I can buy clothes from the children’s section. Usually about 50% less expensive.
  • I am comfortable in economy class and can sleep during long haul flights.
  • I never, ever hit my head on fixtures, doorways, or anything hanging from ceilings.
  • I can outsource all tasks requiring height.

Anyway, this game works for any category you can think of. If you’ve decided that privilege is something only certain categories of people have, you’re wrong. No matter what category you fall into, you have your own set of privileges and you may as well make the most of them instead of being bitter about the privileges others have that you don’t.

Americans misuse French

Sometimes it’s nuanced. Sometimes it’s blatant. Mostly it’s hilarious. Americans have taken some French words or sayings and made them something they aren’t to the French. If you know of any not on this list, please leave a comment, and I’ll add it!

Ooh la la!

To Americans, this phrase means “Well, isn’t that fancy.” It’s a response to a friend showing off a new designer purse, for example. When the French say it, there are usually more “las.”  It sounds like “ooh la la la la la la!” It doesn’t mean they’re impressed. It means something like “What a mess. How annoying.” It’s a common response when a child drops something and it breaks all over the floor, or when a child falls and starts screeching.

Casserole

This one has a hilarious backstory. My boyfriend’s mother asked him to hand her a casserole from the kitchen cabinet. I stared at them both. “Don’t you refrigerate your casseroles? The French make shelf-stable casseroles?!” They stared at me, and he got a “casserole” out of the cabinet. It was a cooking pot. It wasn’t even the flat, rectangular baking dish that Americans bake casseroles in.

Rendezvous

To Americans, this word has a romantic or sexual connotation. So when I heard a French person say they had a rendezvous with their hair dresser, I was curious. “You’re sleeping with your hair dresser?” That’s when I was told that in French, it just means any kind of meeting or appointment. Not necessarily sexual. Probably not sexual, in fact.

A la mode

In America, this phrase means “with ice cream.” In French, it isn’t used to mean anything other than its literal meaning, “in the fashion.” If you ask a French person to serve your dessert “a la mode” they’ll just give you a funny look. “In the fashion of what?” they might ask you.

Lamontre

Apparently, this is a name in America. In French, it means “the watch” (la montre). The most common reaction I’ve heard from French people upon learning that this is used as a name in America is “Really? But why?”

 

Fix Stranded Inventory on FBA

If you found this, you’re probably dealing with the frustrating problem of stranded inventory on FBA. This post covers only the specific case of “Please review for quality issues.”

When you mouse over the reason, you’ll see “Your listing has been paused. This may be due to a listing quality issue, such as a pricing error. Review your listing and verify that all information is correct. To resume selling, click Edit, make the required updates to the listing, then click Save and finish.”

Contacting seller support probably got you some canned response about the “fair pricing policy” and “match the buy box.” Which won’t necessarily make sense, because this problem often happens to people who have the only offer, who match the buy box, or who are already lower than the buy box. It is a bug with the pricing bot, and seller support associates either cannot or simply won’t help you get your listing re-activated, even if fiddling with the price on your end isn’t working. So here’s what may work for you:

  1. Delete all offending listings. It’s not enough to close. You must select “Delete products and listings” from your Manage Inventory view.
  2. Re-list them with the same SKU as before. Where to find the SKU? It’s the first column on your “Fix Stranded Inventory” page. When you add a product, there’s a box labeled “Seller SKU” right under the price box. Be sure to fill that with the same SKU as the stranded item.

Now wait about 15 minutes, and your listings should be good as new! This refreshes the listings when seller support is unwilling to do so.

Note: there is some risk to using this workaround. There is always the chance that Amazon will be unhappy with you trying to go around their pricing bot and suspend you. However, if your items are stranded because the pricing bot is still buggy, and seller support won’t help, what choice do you have? After all, it doesn’t make sense from a pricing bot perspective that your competitors can charge the same or more, and your listing is the one that’s blocked.

Dear Dolly: depressed friend

Dear Dolly,

This is a question for next time, because I don’t talk to this person anymore. I had a friend who was depressed. I tried to be a good friend, but I think I made some mistakes. For example, I started inviting her over all the time because she would say stuff that made me feel sorry for her, like she’d tell me she was eating crackers for dinner. Or not leaving the house all weekend. So, I’d have her over and feed her several meals through the week. Or I’d invite her along to whatever I was doing on the weekend. I thought I was being helpful, but probably, I was enabling behavior that wasn’t good. Over time, it seemed like she wasn’t enjoying the time we spent together, so I tried spending less time with her. This made things awkward because she was angry and hurt about this. I did not know how to respond to this because I felt it was inappropriate (i.e., why should she be angry — it’s my time: I can spend it how and with whom I want), so we stopped talking.

I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, I just didn’t know how else to deal with it. The last few times I saw her were unpleasant — like I was forcing someone to socialize when they didn’t want to. You know, a lot of moody silence. I also didn’t know how to talk to her about her depression. She’d often message me, sharing depression memes and repeating her bleak outlook on life and the pain she was in. I am sure I said the wrong things in response (variations on “accept it or find a way to change it” or “you should talk to your therapist”). I know that was harsh, but she told me in the past that she did things to make her depression worse because the worse shape she was in, the more attention she got from friends. I didn’t want to be a part of that. The question is, what should I have done differently? 

— Not such a good friend for the depressed

Dear NSaGFftD,

Your first mistake was an early one. You know what they say about good intentions and the road to hell, right? You can’t be the one person fix-everything machine. Especially not if the problems are as serious as clinical depression. Your first mistake was the lack of boundaries. If you want to help someone, you need to help them in a sustainable way. Can you feed a person several times a week for the rest of their lives? Sure. But that’s not helping them. That’s making it easier for them to never figure out how to do better for themselves.

Better would have been to think of her as any other friend — go out to meals with her, invite her along to movies, or to your BBQ. Let her invite you out too! Don’t try to be her personal chef or cruise director. You saw for yourself that didn’t work. She was probably forcing herself to say “yes” to all your invitations even if she knew she wouldn’t enjoy herself because her therapist told her to try being more social. Or because she was afraid you’d stop extending invitations if she kept declining them.

You’re right in your analysis that how you talked to her about her depression wasn’t helpful. You shouldn’t give advice on how to deal with depression: you don’t have any solutions because you don’t know what it feels like in someone else’s head. A better approach would have been say that you care about her, and you’re sorry she’s in pain. Given what she revealed about her own patterns, you could add that you don’t want to see her get any worse, so you aren’t going to give her attention when she talks about depression. Emphasize that you care, and you want to see her get better, but you don’t think that talking to you about it will help. After that, if she brings it up again, reiterate that you care, but you can’t discuss that topic with her in a healthy way. If it continues, don’t respond to that line of conversation.

It’s not easy to find the balance between showing that you care about someone and trying to fix everything for them. You can’t do the latter without them becoming dependent on you. You have to set expectations and boundaries you feel can be maintained. Remember, people who are depressed and/or lonely are vulnerable and can come to rely on you for more than you feel comfortable with — so don’t set that expectation! Try to treat them as you would any other friend, but just be more understanding if they don’t feel like seeing you — make sure they know you’ll still be around when they’re feeling (somewhat) social again. Better luck next time!

I was a stupid child

Forgive me if I’ve told some of these stories already. These all happened in elementary school.

Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein was in the news constantly when I was about 6. The news was on in the background of my life several times a day. As a result, I heard about Saddam Hussein constantly. But I never looked up to see how his name was spelled. I heard “Saddam, who sang”. It was curious that I never heard him sing during any of the news segments featuring him. I wondered (to myself) — “If this guy is so good at singing that they can’t say his name without mentioning that he sang, how come we never get to hear him sing?” I also wanted to know what he sang. I imagined him wearing a tux and white gloves, singing our national anthem, wildly gesticulating in the air.

No stove, no problem

I was forbidden from using the stove. But my dad was also grumpy if I woke him up from naps. Once, I got hungry while he was asleep and decided to make myself a grilled cheese sandwich. Since I couldn’t use the stove, I figured the toaster could work. I put a Kraft single with one of the pieces of bread, pressed the lever, and waited. When the toast was done, the cheese had disappeared. I thought, “The toaster must’ve been hungry. Poor toaster. We always put bread in but we never feed the toaster.” So I tried again with more cheese. This time, the toaster started smoking and my dad woke up. He was pissed. He imposed a new rule for the toaster: only bread.

No stove, no toaster, no problem

The same happened again. Dad asleep, no stove, no toaster. There was cold pizza, and we had a microwave, but I didn’t like flabby microwaved pizza. Oven was off limits too. So I asked myself what makes things warm that I am allowed to use. I considered the hair dryer, but that would wake up grumpy dad. I settled on the VCR, which has that convenient slot like a toaster, and also does warm up the cassettes while playing them. The thing is, a VCR doesn’t “play” slices of pizza, and it doesn’t “eject” them either. I pretended none of it happened. My dad was not happy to find the pizza some days after, but at least I wasn’t banned from using the VCR.

The right to bear arms

I guess I heard about this on the news too. The phrase “constitutionally protected second amendment right to bear arms” was in my head from an early age but I thought it meant that as a U.S. citizen, I had the legal right to go around with sleeveless shirts in public whenever I wanted. One sunny day, I wanted to wear a tank top out and my mom wanted me to put on a jacket. I said I didn’t have to. She disagreed. Loudly. I told her “I have a constitutionally protected second amendment right to bare arms.” She had no idea what I was talking about. I explained my legally protected right to show my bare arms in public. She said “If that’s true your country has strange laws but I’m your mother so I still get to tell you what you wear out of the house.” I put on my jacket.

Freedom of speech

I got in trouble constantly at school for talking in class. I had nothing better to do once my schoolwork was complete, so I’d pester my neighbors. I was thrilled to discover that the first amendment gives me freedom of speech. When I was told by my teacher to stop talking in class, I said “I have a first amendment right to freedom of speech. I CAN TALK IF I WANT TO!” I got sent to the principal’s office for that. They had to drag my mom in to tell me that at school, students don’t have that right. Oops.

Always impolite

I was at a dinner my uncle put on for his boss when I was about 5. His boss was a large man. When I met him he was eating a plate full of hors d’oeuvres, so my first question to him was “Did you know that you are REALLY FAT?” Every adult in the room gasped, audibly or inaudibly, and went silent. Luckily for me, the boss thought I was hilarious and replied, laughing, “Yes, I know.” I continued my line of questioning: “So why are you STILL EATING?” He looked embarrassed, but kept eating.

When I grow up

At the same dinner, all of us kids were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. I had no idea what that meant. “What do you mean, what I want to BE?” The boss explained, “If you work hard, you can be whatever you want to be when you grow up.” Shocked, I repeated “ANYTHING? I can be ANYTHING?” He nodded. I struggled with the infinitude of possibilities. I looked around at everything in the room. Had all of these inanimate objects once been people? A person who wanted to be a spoon? A dining room table? A television? My cousins answered first: a veterinarian and a race car driver. When it was my turn to answer, I said “If I can be anything, I guess I want to be a bathtub.” Because I liked to take baths. What could be better than not having to do anything but take baths. The boss thought this was funny too.

I’m not sure I’ve grown out of the stupidity, but the stories are less funny now that I’m older. Happy Thursday.

ReadyReturn: Make taxes easy

This post was inspired by an NPR Planet Money episode I recently listened to called Tax Hero. Well worth the listen. It gave me all the emotions: sadness, anger, amusement. Stanford tax law professor Joseph Bankman piloted a program in California where the government would send taxpayers a pre-filled form outlining how much they owed in state income tax. If their records agreed, they wouldn’t have to do anything else — taxes were done. Only those who found discrepancies between the income reported to the government and their own records had to file tax returns. The program ran in 2005 and had a 99% approval rating from participants. So it should have been easy to get it implemented at the federal level, right? Maybe in a world without lobbyists and corporate donations to politicians. Even after hiring his own lobbyist, Bankman was unable to succeed.

More recently, Elizabeth Warren put forth a bill that would enable the federal government to start sending pre-filled income tax forms. H&R Block lobbied against it.

This issue seems like a no-brainer for the average American. There are only two cases:

  1. If they don’t like doing their taxes, they can just accept what the government has pre-filled for them.
  2. If they like doing their taxes the old way, they still can.

Pre-filled forms would be at least as good as our current system for every taxpayer. QED.

Despite working on the issue for a year and spending tens of thousands of dollars, Bankman did not succeed in rolling out his ReadyReturn in California. But maybe there’s a way that the rest of us can. You can easily call or email your representative after finding them here. Sure, it’ll take a few minutes of your time but if enough people do this, we might have some effect. Here’s a guide on how to write to a representative. But apparently, it is more effective to call.

Might I suggest 2 birds with one stone? Do you have a friend or relative whom you love but who talks your ear off? Try to get them interested in this issue. Then encourage them to tell all the other folks they talk to, and call their representatives too.