Things We Can Blame on Leonardo DiCaprio

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Earlier this month, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, blamed Leonardo DiCaprio for setting forest fires in the Amazon rain forest. “Leonardo DiCaprio is a great guy, isn’t he?” President Bolsonaro said facetiously. Bolsonaro went on to say that DiCaprio “donat[ed] money to set the Amazon on fire” for his own personal gain.

DiCaprio responded on Instagram by reiterating his support for the people of Brazil and for the continued protection of the rain forest.

But the whole incident got me thinking: What if we could just blame everything on Leonardo DiCaprio? What if all the bad things in the world—real or imagined— could just be attributed to him? Wouldn’t that be cathartic?

So in no particular order, here are the things—real or imagined—I intend to blame on Leonardo from here on out:

  • He handwrites letters to children telling them there is no Santa Claus.
  • He shot J.R. Ewing.
  • He greenlit Season 2 of The Masked Singer.
  • He’s on a friends and family phone plan with O.J. Simpson and Matt Lauer.
  • He replies-all in all of his email, just as a matter of course.
  • He thinks Friends would have been a better show if Paula Deen had played the Rachel character.
  • He dated Taylor Swift, but he was so boring, she never wrote a song about him.
  • He used Lizzo’s tiny purse as a handkerchief.
  • He invented Tik Tok, autoplay on Netflix, and those plastic anti-theft cases cassettes used to come in.
  • At karaoke, he only sings the full version of Don McLean’s “American Pie.”
  • He suggested Beyonce and Jay-Z name Blue Ivy “Mildred Ethelred.”
  • He thinks Tom Hanks is “just not that nice.”
  • He signs you up to receive robocalls, junk mail, chain letters, Candy Crush invitations, and evites to that co-worker’s fourth baby shower.
  • He wants to recast all of Hallmark’s Christmas movies with the Kardashians.
  • He’s always on a juice cleanse and wants to tell you all about it.
  • He’s already seen the script for Season 4 of Stranger Things, and he tweeted that the lovable weird kid dies at the end and Barb is NEVER COMING BACK.
  • He came to Thanksgiving and said the turkey was “quite moist.”
  • He thinks puppies are overrated.
  • When he comments on your blog, he uses all caps and hashtags his own comments. #LeoWasHere #Blessed
  • He knew how to get everyone off of Gilligan’s Island, but he said nothing.
  • He eats egg salad on your holiday flight.
  • When asked who his favorite poet is, he said Justin Bieber.
  • He has a selfie-stick. And he likes it.
  • He messaged Kate Middleton and told her Meghan hates all of her hats.
  • He uses that old dial-up modem sound for his ringtone.
  • He picked you in Secret Santa, and he bought you a Peloton.
  • He’s the reason TSA makes us take our shoes off at the airport. It’s a weird foot fetish thing.
  • He ate all the Popeye’s chicken.
  • He went to see himself in The Revenant, but he whisper-talked the whole time.
  • He was steering the Titanic.
  • He insists his essential oils MLM is not a pyramid scheme.

See? Don’t you feel better already? What do you want to blame on Leo? Go for it!

Kids These Days: Some Advice from the Little People

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In my zeal to be old, I often forget how instructive it can be to listen to kids. Sure, they are generally little sociopaths with broken moral compasses–and they smell like hamsters– but they often have excellent ideas about how to live.

Here are some things children have recently taught me:

Don’t Waste Your Time with Dumb Stuff

My niece patiently explained to me that showering is optional. If she can sleep for an extra half hour, she isn’t stepping into a waterflow of any kind. “It just seems pointless,” she told me. She’s not wrong. Personal hygiene is totally the thief of joy. Greasy hair isn’t a crime. “It just likes like gel,” she insisted. She’ll bathe when she “gets to it.” Here’s a kid with priorities.

She also doesn’t muddy her memory with useless details. When I asked her what time she goes to school, she had no idea. It could be eight a.m., it could be seven a.m.,  it could be hamburger. She simply doesn’t know! “I just go in when the bell rings,” she explained (with a fair amount disdain, as if she just had to inform me that rain comes from the sky).

Her ingenious approach to life ensures she doesn’t have a head full of useless knowledge. She uses all that free brain space, she explained, to think about more important things, like whether or not she wants pizza.

Do Take a Reasonable Approach to Problem-Solving

My nephew is only twelve, but he has the common sense of an eighty-year-old. He goes to bed early, does his homework as soon as he gets home from school, disapproves of Tik Tok, and gets to class early to “center” himself.  He’s also a keen pragmatist.

“Would you be willing to eat people?” he recently asked me.

“Why are you asking me that?” I asked. I was suspicious because he was handing me a taco at the same time.

“Just curious. I myself wouldn’t do it.”

“No,” I answered, “I’ll definitely pass on eating people.”

“What if they wanted to be eaten?”

“How would we know that?”

He thought for a moment. “They could tell people. Like sign something that says it’s okay to eat them.” He went to craft a complicated system that was sort of a cross between organ donation and The Hunger Games. Then he left to watch YouTube, satisfied that he’d  essentially solved global hunger and cemetery overcrowding in about twenty minutes.

The whole conversation left me wondering I can’t easily come up with reasonable solutions to even the smallest recurring problems. Yet he has enough reason to create a plan for responsible cannibalism.

Don’t Lie, Even If the Truth Hurts

My ten-year-old niece is pathologically honest. If you give her a gift she doesn’t like, she’ll give you a sour expression, utter a perfunctory thank you, and then give the gift back. I once handed her a picnic basket to hold. She mistakenly thought it was a gift. “No thank you,” she told me. “I prefer not to picnic.” She’s basically a tween Bartleby.

Once you become an adult, you start to rely on little lies to lubricate social situations. It doesn’t take long before you’ve told your coworker that you love his singing, reassured your neighbors that you don’t mind in the least if their cat eats everything in your garden, and donated to your brother-in-law’s multi-level marketing business that sells leggings for goldfish.

Not my niece. She puts it out there. And as a result, you are never in doubt where you stand with her, and she never feels compelled to be someone other than herself. Not long ago, she met her old brother’s new girlfriend. She took one look at the girlfriend, turned to her brother and said, “This will never last. She’s going to dump you.” That’s radical honesty.

Be Better, But Still Be You

I was once asked to give a speech about how to change the world. I agreed to do it, but the truth was that I don’t have a clue how to change the world. I only recently learned how to change the furnace filter. (That’s a lie. I have no idea how to do that either.)

So I asked my friends with kids to advise me. How do you change the world? The kids’ answers were delightful. They advised more love, more smiles, more puppies, more kindness, less bullying, less greed, and less jealously.

They also gave me some bonkers answers that I still think about:

  • “I go under the tables.”
  • “After lunch I take a nap.
  • “If I play in the front room.”
  • “I like lollipops.”
  • “More lions.”
  • “Farting”

What I took from their answers is that we can all agree that kindness and generosity are never bad ways to approach life. At the same time, it’s okay to be you. Get under the table and fart! Take a nap after lunch! Have a lollipop!

Life is hard.  Find joy.

Above all, listen to the kids. They know what’s up.

 

 

 

Traveling While Being a Curmudgeon: My Case Against Carry-on Bags

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I’m back on a plane again, and while nobody has reclined their seat in my lap, I’m wondering how much ire I’m allowed to have for carry-on luggage. Hear me out.

I get that checking luggage is a giant pain. It takes longer upon arrival, not to mention that the airlines charge an arm and leg for our privilege of traveling with clean underwear.

In the past, I have traveled with just a carry-on bag, but I usually check my bag because I enjoy being able to shut the door in the tiny airport bathroom stalls that aren’t meant to accommodate luggage.

Now that everyone brings the largest carry-on possible, it takes three days to board the plane while people stow their steamer trunks. Upon landing, you have enough time to knit your own suitcase while you wait for everyone to find their overhead compartment and pull out their luggage filled with gold bricks.

I fully admit to being irrationally (and quietly) annoyed with people pretty much 132% of the time, so my latest rant about carry-on luggage should probably be filed along with my other public policy proposals to legally enforce silence in grocery stores and pass laws making small talk on planes punishable by immediate ejection.

Nevertheless, I propose that anyone who doesn’t have a carry-on should be allowed to exit the plane first. Anyone with a giant carry-on should be strategically placed in some kind of labeled area that we checked-bag-people can file past with superior smirks on our faces.

I know, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t been consulted by the airlines yet to discuss my amazing ideas. It’s probably because some fat cat airline CEO is flying on his private jet, fully funded by my checked bagged fees.

If I ever get a hold of that guy, though, I have some flowcharts I’d like to share with him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Hair Day

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I have bad hair. I’m fine with it. But I haven’t always felt that way.

Here’s a piece I wrote  for P.S. I Love You about how I accidentally got a haircut that makes a radical statement about me. I didn’t realize that until I walked around in the world with short hair!

It turns out, though, that what people say about your hair says a lot more about them than it does you.

What does your hair say about you?

Fake News Isn’t Going Away, so We Have to Be Smarter

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Ever wonder why people believe in fake news? I used to believe it was confirmation bias, which is the usual explanation. Confirmation bias says we tend to believe what we want to believe based on what we already believe. In other words, if you have an abiding hatred for networking events, as I do, you’d be delighted to read a news story that says networking events are the leading cause of all natural disasters and were actually invented by Hitler. You and I would very much like to believe that story.

But it turns out that confirmation bias is only part of the problem. The real issue is that some people just don’t like to think. And it’s the lack of critical thinking that is keeping fake news from dying. We believe fake news because we don’t have enough energy, desire, or ability to think our way through it.

If you want to read more about some research in this area, check out one of my latest articles for ArcDigital.  It’s called “We Aren’t Too Partisan to Spot Fake News; We’re Too Lazy.”

The Toxic Workplace: When Work Blows

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Have you ever worked in a toxic workplace? In some cases, a single toxic person can make going to work every morning feel like descending into the depths of hell.

Did you know that incivility is the gateway to toxic culture? The uncivil behaviors that we all learn to live with–like the co-worker who is perpetually rude–build up and then create a culture that’s so toxic, nobody wants to stay in it. And those who do are burned out and do less work.

We’ve become inured to incivility because we just expect it. For instance, a million years ago, I worked in a shoe store on commission with a person who would tell customers that the rest of us were “new” and “didn’t know much.” She used that as a way to build her credibility so customers would ask for her. That’s incivility.

In another job, I had a senior co-worker who regularly asked me for personal favors (outside of work hours). If I said no to a request–like the time she asked me to take her to the airport at 4 am–she would pout and tell me that I “owed” her tasks at work to make up for this. That’s incivility.

A friend told me about a time she’d sent out an organization-wide email about the death of a colleague. She’d accidentally included a very small typo in the email that didn’t change the meaning of it. A co-worker called her and told her that she was unprofessional and should be ashamed of her shoddy work. That’s incivility.

So what can we do about incivility? We can kill it. We can refuse to stand for it. Here’s an article I wrote about how to do that.

What incivilities have you encountered? Have you been uncivil? (I admit that I’ve been guilty of incivilities.)

 

An Open Letter to Kevin, the Trick-or-Treater

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Dear Kevin:

You came to my door on Halloween, dressed in an unidentifiable costume, and I proffered you candy as requested. We’d never met before, so you might be wondering how I know your name. I know it because your friend or sister yelled, “Kevin!!!” at you several times.

You asked me what my costume was. I was wearing jeans and a sweater. I told you I was dressed as myself. You made a scared face and sarcastically said, “Wow, that’s a scary costume.” I wasn’t offended. You aren’t the first smartass kid I’ve met before. I even laughed a little. Then you grabbed a handful of candy and ran off while your friend/sister yelled at you: “Kevin!!!” and apologized to me for your behavior.

I’m going to do you a solid here, Kev, and give you some advice. I know you are only fourteen, and you probably won’t suck so much in a few years, but right now, you suck pretty hard.

Let me give you some advice from the perspective of someone dressed as myself.

That sad little mustache isn’t doing you any favors.
At first I thought it was part of your costume, and then I realized it was tragic facial hair. That scraggly little line is traumatic for everyone. Just shave it off. It won’t take you long.

You might be too old to trick-or-treat. 
I’m not one of those scrooges who refuses to hand out candy based on age.

But you, Kevin, in spite of your obvious immaturity, should probably sit out Halloween next year. A general rule of thumb, as you’ll find out soon, is that anyone with a mustache must buy his own candy.

If someone offers you candy, don’t grab a handful.
That’s just rude, Kevin. You’re the reason we can’t leave a bowl of candy on the porch and invite people to help themselves. You’re exactly the sort of person the world doesn’t need more of.

Stop making your sister scold you. 
She was clearly younger than you, but already she was playing the role of your mother. Don’t act like a jerk. Let her have some fun without worrying about you and your bad manners.

Being a teen is tough, Kevin, but you’re not making it easier on yourself or anyone around you.

Next year do yourself a favor: Go dressed as the new you (minus the mustache).

In return, I’ll agree to hand out candy to anyone who asks, laugh at anyone’s dumb jokes, and forget what a jerk you were this year.