Monthly Archives: June 2012

Out of The Mouths of Babes

This phrase, “Out of the Mouths of Babes” comes from a Bible passage referring to the surprising wisdom of children. We use it in everyday language to remark in wonder at what children – the young and inexperienced – sometimes say to us.

I am 41. About a year ago, someone more senior to me said this in my presence, referring to something I had just said. It pushed my buttons. Yes, this person was older than me. But I am not a child, and the use of the phrase for something I said at 40 years old felt incredibly condescending.

I have become a tad sensitive about this type of thing in the last couple of years. The comments I’d occasionally get from my elders about how young I am – how I wouldn’t get a reference to something “before my time,” has started to grate on my nerves. In my teens and 20’s I thought nothing of it. To be fair, they were right. But as I progressed through my 30’s, these comments that were tossed in my direction without much thought started to really bother me.

In the last 6 months, someone called me “kiddo” and another remarked several times within the same conversation, “you are probably too young to remember, but” or “one day you’ll understand this.” And, just today, someone made a reference to a very well-known icon, then suggested I probably hadn’t heard of her, and gave me someone more contemporary to soothe my ignorance.

I realize these things are never said with ill-intent. In fact, I think it’s probably just the opposite: they are said in an attempt to endear me. But let me tell you, it’s never felt that way. It’s just always felt like someone older was reminding me once again that I hadn’t reached some pinnacle of accomplishment, or some height of wisdom. It’s this imaginary line in the sky that keeps inching away from me as I inch closer to it, never to touch it.

To make matters worse, I look young. I am mistaken for being ten years younger than I am. Champagne problems I know, but I have actually wished for some gray hair and more laugh lines just to nudge people away from the assumption.

Throughout my career, people referred to the 20-year mark as being the sign of a true senior professional. This year, I rejoiced that I had finally hit that mark. Then, last week, how to define what a senior professional is actually came up in conversation and someone actually suggested that we define it at 30 years. My exasperation peaked. Come on, people!

What this has taught me is to be very careful about the way I speak to my contemporaries. I have vowed not to use the phrase, “you’re probably too young to remember, but” unless I am talking to a 14 year old, who probably is indeed too young to remember. I will not suggest to my younger colleagues that they “will one day understand” and I will aim to always make them feel as though they are my equal, now that we’re all officially adults.

Now, anyone know how I could get the folks on the other side of my age to commit to this as well?


Same Great Store, Exciting New Name – Food Lion!

I noticed this morning (on my way into Starbucks with the kids for a celebratory doughnut on the last day of pre-school) that the Bloom grocery store in my neighborhood suddenly had the words Food Lion across the front.

Wait a minute, I thought. I scratched my head. Was it all a dream? Wasn’t this store Bloom a minute ago? Didn’t it change FROM Food Lion TO Bloom recently? Like three years ago recently? You do remember this, don’t you, because it absolutely was just three years ago that Food Lion made the exciting switch, effectively erasing all those 60 Minutes images of bleached meat from our brains with the nifty, fresh new name of Bloom.

I hurried home to my laptop, flipped to Google and searched Bloom. I pulled up First line of text:

Same Great Store, Exciting New Name – Food Lion!

I’m sorry, did you say, “Exciting new name?” I rubbed my eyes. I reloaded the page – maybe it was a joke. Nope. They actually think we don’t remember. First on the list of things to do with this new brand you’ve recently created is to fire the dumbass who posted that text.

Remember those insipid TV and radio ads with the shiny happy people in the lime green polo shirts imploring you to shop happy? In fact, I think if I recall correctly, the theme of the ads was to showcase how life really sucked, except for the fact that you could go to Bloom and that would change everything and life would be awesome! Remember that? So, now we’re going back to Food Lion. And here’s the especially funny part.  On the Bloom website, next to this text…

“The name may be new, but you can expect the same friendly faces, convenient layout, and great selection. Food Lion offers the great features you’ve come to expect but now with new lower prices, special coupons, and even more ways to save!”

…is a picture of a Food Lion storefront with the year 1918 next to the name. 1918. Silly Lion! You’ve been around 6 years shy of 100! And we all know it.

I wish I knew what all those conversations in marketing were leading up to Food Lion’s original name change to Bloom in the first place. I am betting it had something to do with the Bloom tagline.

“Bob, we’re still reeling from the bleached meat thing. We need to chnage. Make them forget it. We need to be a different kind of grocery store. We need to bloom into something else.” “Hot damn, George, that’s it!”

They were desperate to be different and fresh. So they became Bloom, a different kind of grocery store. (That’s literally the Bloom tagline).

And here we are three short years later back to Food Lion. What happened? Not different enough? Too different? My guess is, different didn’t work because it was a half-assed different. You know how I know this? Because I recall seeing a mouse in the cake mix aisle one night shortly after they had transformed to Bloom. Now to me, that was very Food Lion-y. I knew there and then they hadn’t really changed. They changed the name and colors, maybe the floors and lighting, but nothing meaningful. There was no real change in attitude or behavior of employees. They probably still bleached the meat, too, what with all the rodents running around.

I also think it failed because they lost loyal Food Lion customers. They forgot who their audience was, like Susan G Komen all over again. Bloom and lime green shirts and the happiness of it all didn’t speak to Food Lion peeps. Food Lion peeps were not shiny happy people. They were down on their luck coupon clippers, trawling for gourmet frozen pizza on the cheap. They didn’t want new fan dangled fruit with an organic section and hardwood-ish floors. They wanted their familiar, dreary linoleum grocery store that sold meat on the cheap, because they could, because they bleached the darkened expired beef and stuck a new date and price tag on it. The Food Lion peeps liked that.

Take a lesson here from Bloom. If you’re gonna make a change – know why. Fix what’s broken in a big way, and for Pete’s sake don’t change without checking in with customers first. Or else you might just find yourselves changing right back.

Missed America Pageant

The Miss America Pageant was this past week. Did you watch it? I didn’t. I saw that it was on and for a split second I thought, really? We’re still doing this? How are we still doing this in 2012? I posted the question on my Facebook page and asked friends to enlighten me as to why this is a good thing. No one did, though a friend actually wondered why it wasn’t a good thing. I don’t think she was being sarcastic. In the off chance there are more of you out there who are not sure why beauty pageants aren’t a good thing, this post is for you. This is my Top 10 reasons, Letterman style, why beauty pageants are bad.

  1. It’s. a. beauty. contest. It rewards women for being pretty!  We’re done here.

Kidding aside, this is a real issue. At its heart is the notion that we have created a societal norm, the beauty pageant, that says to everyone, hey, it’s not only okay to judge women for their looks, it’s a celebratory occasion. Yes, there’s a question at the end of the contest, after we’ve been judged on our looks in regular wear, evening wear and swim wear, but we all know the question is more of just a pulse check than anything else. As one friend on Facebook pointed out, the audience actually clapped when one contestant knew who our Vice President was. We clapped for that.  

If you are still wondering what’s wrong, let me answer your question with a question. Why don’t we have beauty pageants for men? My husband said because no one would watch it. I disagree. I would line up to get on my couch and catch that. And I know for a fact my girlfriends would, too, along with a few men I know. Why? Because it would be frivolous and ridiculous and funny. Because I would be permitted for a few hours to shamelessly value my fellow human beings for something completely superficial, valueless and, might I add, completely out of their own control, given that plastic surgery is forbidden.

We don’t have male beauty pageants because bottom line is, they would make men appear stupid. Like this girl. Remember her? The epitome of my anti-spire (my new word, meaning one I don’t aspire to).

And so, there is the double standard. Not okay for men. Perfectly fine for women.  

And you wonder why women still make less than men for the same qualifications and work. And you wonder why there are still laws on the books that make it illegal for a husband to rape his wife. And you wonder why Colin Powell was never once asked about his hair style, while Hilary Clinton has never once not been asked. These things are related. I say, these issues exist because we’ve all grown up valuing women for their looks (and bodies I should say) first, before anything else, and, we often don’t go any further than that.

When you value someone for their looks, you rob them of the opportunity to be valued for anything real they have to offer – anything they can actually create, think, say, or do. It’s like valuing them for breathing. It’s meaningless and yet, it has so much power. When we, as a society say it’s okay to value women for their looks and celebrate that and that alone, it minimizes our value in every other aspect of life. What’s worse, it has made us slaves to our looks. It has been proven to have stolen aspiration from young girls (see the Dove campaign),  and it robs brilliant aging women of realizing their full potential. Smart, celebrated writer Olivia Goldsmith (The First Wive’s Club) died on the table while having liposuction done to improve her appearance. Of the millions of morbidly obese phenomenal male writers out there, how many of them have we lost to liposuction? I can assure you, none.

To those of you who say beauty is power and beautiful women can be smart, I fervently agree. I am not arguing that. But I challenge you to understand the word beauty in either of those phrases, as I understand it. Good luck. Hint: it’s not some t.v. network or movie company or magazine convention. What I am saying is, the whole rubric of life is effed up because we have this long history of valuing women for looks and the pageant only reinforces it. So, enough already. Let’s end this. Stop watching it. Let’s try to learn to see women for who they are and what they bring to the table. Let’s evaluate them for the change they make in the world, for the influence they have on our children, for the contribution they make in society.

P.S. Let me be clear: Let’s not all start burning our bras. Those are important, necessary inventions that help women run the world. Just don’t pick one that makes you look like Madonna during her blonde ambition tour. That may send the wrong message.

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