Anonymous Mailbag

It’s Tuesday, time for the anonymous mailbag!

As always send your anonymous mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com, anonymity guaranteed. (You can also shoot me your questions via Twitter DM if that’s easier).

With that in mind, here we go:

“The Justin Trudeau black and brownface story this week resonated with something I discovered with some friends last month. I met up with three old friends (two I hadn’t seen since high school) for a high school classmate’s funeral. We’re all in our early 40s and it was great catching up despite the sad circumstances.

Our conversation was full of reminiscing, and we also brought up the topic of social media and how glad we are there wasn’t Instagram or Snapchat in the mid-90s. However, as I pointed out to them, I recall writing some awful stuff when signing other people’s yearbooks, and vice-versa. We agreed to dig out our old yearbooks — mine was in a box in my parent’s attic — and report back.

For the next several days we each sent our findings in a group text.

It was bad. We could probably ruin some people’s lives with the things we found inscribed.

I know you’re against the cancel culture that’s so pervasive these days. I’d bet you also had a yearbook in which someone’s message called you a slang term, or that you did the same to someone else. Should everyone worry that someone could use an old picture or even a yearbook inscription to blackmail them?”

This is such a great question.

When all the Brett Kavanaugh yearbook questioning was going on in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings last year I was actually wondering if we were going to end up examining every yearbook signings from back in the day as a reason why he didn’t belong on the Supreme Court.

Whether you’re a left or right winger I think almost everyone has to believe that’s an absurd standard to employ for jobs like these, right? I feel the same way about dissecting what people wrote for the college newspapers or in law school as well. Do you really only want people to attain high office or public jobs in this country if they were planning on doing so when they were 15 or 16 years old? If you thought, I better be careful what I write in this high school yearbook because I might want to be a politician one day, then I probably don’t want to vote for you because you’re way too calculating to trust as a adult.

I still have my 7th to 12th grade yearbooks and you’re right, man, these things are just absolute powder kegs.

Everyone was trying to be funny, zany, and irreverent in what they wrote and many of the things written there are wildly inappropriate when viewed through a prism of 2019 acceptability standards.

But the thing is, how much of our “acceptability standards” today are just total bullshit?

I think the vast majority.

One thing I enjoy doing is comparing what’s trending on Twitter to what’s trending on PornHub. Seriously, I do this. It’s like looking at two different worlds.

WAY more people visit pornhub every day in the United States than go to Twitter.

And pornhub’s trending topics are always scandalous and the vast majority of the time I don’t even know what these things are.

In fact right now at this exact minute this morning do you know what’s trending on PornHub? Alvin and the Chipmunks blow jobs. (This is a cartoon version of the chipmunks all receiving simultaneous blow jobs while sitting on a couch.) Bridget the midget. (This is a midget porn star. Sorry, little person porn star). Jessica James (She died unexpectedly recently and many people decided to go jerk off to her old porn videos when they saw the news of her death. Really.) And a Kevin Hart sex tape. (I didn’t click on this so I have no idea if it’s real or not). There are other trending porn stars and when I click on their links do you know what their top trending videos are? Every single one of them? Videos where they do step-sister porn.

Now this is just a random sampling of what is trending on PornHub, but it’s roughly accurate to what I usually see when I check the trending topics.

The real American Internet is the one where a pornstar dies and everyone rushes to pornhub to jerk off to her.

Remember, PornHub is a website that’s far more popular than Twitter so what’s trending there is being seen by far more people than what’s trending on Twitter.

So what’s trending on Twitter this morning?

Here are the trends on my trending tab:

1. A teenage girl talking about climate change and how everyone is going to die from it.

2. Fat Joe’s comments on blackness in Latin America sparking a discussion.

3. #FireLauraIngraham.

4. The Philly guy who saved kids from a fire and said he could catch passes unlike Nelson Agholor.

5. Little Marco (Rubio).

6. Emilia Clarke missing out an Emmy yet again.

These are my top six trends.

Now the media will treat every single one of these trending topics on Twitter as a big deal from a story perspective, but the reality is more people are interested in Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoon blow jobs and a dead porn star on the Internet this morning.

So what I always think is, imagine if the media covered trending topics on PornHub as representative of what people are obsessed with like they do Twitter trending topics.

Our world view would look entirely different.

And probably the porn trending topics would be more representative of what the actual truth is.

Yet the reality is both of these represent small subsets of the population.

The difference is the Twitter audience is treated as representative of the American population and the PornHub trending topics are treated as if they don’t exist. When, in actuality, there are far more people on PornHub every day looking at porn than there are people on Twitter looking at (news) porn.

My point on all this is there is a tremendous amount of artificiality built into our standards for “acceptable behavior” in this country today.

And I think there’s a huge segment of the American population that knows this. (And if they don’t “know” it they feel it.) Much of our national discourse is complete bullshit. It’s artificial. That’s why there’s such a demand for authenticity in this country right now.

I’m not sure that our country has ever been drowning in more bullshit.

People crave honesty right now because they feel like everyone is lying to them.

And I think Donald Trump has managed to hit the essence of that desire, but I think, unfortunately, he’s an inarticulate voice for a conversation on authenticity that Americans really want to have. Trump’s message is that the American public is being lied to by big institutions and that these institutions have sold their own interests over the average person’s interests. And that everything is fake news.

I think many people respond to the essence of what Trump’s saying which is why his support has remained stable, but they simultaneously are craving something more — someone who is actually authentic him or herself.

And I don’t think Trump is that.

But I think he was closer to that than Hillary was.

Which was why he won.

Ultimately I don’t think the vast majority of Americans believe that people should be quizzed about what they wrote in high school yearbooks. But I think that’s what cancel culture believes, at least if they believe you disagree with them on political issues. If you agree with them, they’ll defend you no matter what you do, witness Trudeau’s supporters.

And just think what in the world would happen if Trump had appeared in brown or black face in his youth and there were photos of him doing that.

The American media would explode on itself if that came out.

But if, for instance, Joe Biden had done it and it didn’t come out until after Biden was the Democratic nominee? I think they’d defend him.

“I’m going to try to keep this brief, yet detailed. My sister-in-law is quite possibly clinically bi-polar. Let’s call her Karen. Karen lives two different lives – one in person and the other online. In person, she can barely hold a conversation, look you in the eye, is depressed, etc. On Facebook, she lives this wonderful, happy life, although she loves to play the victim card for attention and is a keyboard warrior. (She’s the reason the negative millennial stereotype exists.)

They have two young boys, ages 4 and 2. She is convinced vaccines made their 4 year old allergic to everything – eggs, nuts, flour, dairy, etc. – and never fully vaccinated him. The two year old is not vaccinated at all. 

My wife and I recently had our second child. She was 4.5 weeks early and spent 10 days in the NICU. Given the fact our daughter was premature, our nephews aren’t vaccinated, and everything you hear in the news about measles and other preventable diseases these days, my wife and our doctors want extremely limited contact with our nephews for the first year, until she is partially vaccinated. We know we can’t avoid everyone who isn’t vaccinated, but it’s a question of “what can you control.”

Because of this, Karen accused my wife via Facebook of treating her kids like they are “walking diseases” and avoiding them.

My wife is extremely pissed and hurt by all this. I want to do what’s best to support my wife and any future relationship for my nephews and my kids. I don’t want there to be a family schism. What do we do? How do we handle this and try to keep the family peace? I want to suggest meeting in person to negate the online curtain she hides behind. Any help is appreciated.” 

Your sister-in-law is making an incredibly selfish decision not to vaccinate her two children. Her incredibly selfish decision relies, ironically enough, on everyone else vaccinating their children to keep her children from potentially becoming sick with diseases they would otherwise never get.

I’m not going to spend the mailbag pointing out how misguided the anti-vaccine community is, but suffice it to say that one of the real dangers of the Internet is that fabulously untrue stories can be spread as easily, and often more so, than stories which are actually true. That’s why we’ve seen a scary increase in the amount of cases of measles, for instance, that we had nearly eradicated in this country.

Because many people have become opposed to vaccination for health reasons.

Suffice it to say that if you are reading this you should be getting your children vaccinated.

Given your daughter’s potentially weak immune system, I don’t think it’s a poor choice to keep her away from her cousins during the first year of her life. Clearly, you should consult with your doctors and ensure they support this decision, but assuming they do, why would you risk your daughter’s health in any unnecessary way?

Your sister-in-law is creating this situation, not you.

As for communicating in person as opposed to via Facebook messages, of course you should do this. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter shouldn’t be used to communicate with family members because 1. it’s public, which ensures your family’s dirty laundry is visible to all 2. these are emotional mediums which often lead to rash commentary (no infectious pun intended here).

In a face-to-face meeting you should lay out your rationale and assert that you are simply following your doctor’s orders. How can she argue with you if that’s the case? Does she want you to find a new doctor?

Here’s the deal, ultimately you are responsible for your immediate family. That’s it! You can’t control what other families do, whether they are related to you or not. You can certainly share your opinions and provide assistance and help as needed, but you have to draw the line when a family member’s decision-making puts your own family in danger.

On a larger issue, is your sister-in-law going to put her kids in public school? Is she aware that you have to provide immunization records in order to enroll children in most public schools? That’s a question worth asking her. Because the only other option I can think of is that she’s going to school them from home.

Has she actually thought through her decision here?

I’m betting she really hasn’t.

Hopefully the end result here can end up being that she gets her kids vaccinated and eliminates this issue for you and your family.

“I am in my mid 30s, married with one kid here and one on the way, great career, and am happy with where life has taken me.  I made a pretty big life change recently that has turned my whole world around for the better. Six months ago I quit drinking and decided to live the sober life.  Some background here, I was pretty much THE partier of any group I was in, especially the tight knit group from high school that is still very close after 20+ years (awesome and rare for sure).

What I realized was the past set the precedent for my drinking and I was only doing what I had seen growing up.  My father was an amazing man, but he was an alcoholic who dealt with any type of stress or depression by drinking heavily on a consistent basis. He was never abusive in any way physically or mentally to anyone, he just used drinking as an outlet to a fault.  He had an amazing career in law which as you know can be linked to drinking for all the stress of the job. It ultimately led to him living a short life as the drinking led to his death about 10 years ago. I grew up around it and found myself turning into him, drinking all the time to deal with any sort of stress.  I was no longer the partier but was now the guy hiding it from his family at night. I knew I needed to do something but felt lost. I finally had an “OH SHIT” moment that I will not go into detail (no injury, death, jail time, etc.) but it woke me up that I needed to stop. So I did, 100% cold turkey that day and have felt amazing since. My son and soon to be born daughter are not going to grow up seeing me drinking and thinking it was the norm.  And I am determined to see my grandchildren unlike my father was able to.

My friends have been great, but my issue comes at work, where social drinking is very much the norm and comes up in numerous situations at my job. We have team building meet ups at bars often, and I am asked to play golf tournaments with my company and with clients all the time (best golfer in my branch, humble brag). Alcohol is of course free at all these events and partaking is very much encouraged. I have played a couple golf tournaments where I decided to just say I don’t drink, with mixed results. One time the client was totally fine because he quit drinking too so that was great, but the next time I got very shitty treatment honestly the rest of the day. Now I am finding myself making up excuses to get out of the last couple of events (have to pick up my son, etc) but it gets old.  I am afraid if I keep backing out of things I will stop getting asked and somewhat blackballed, and I hate making excuses.  These outings definitely help grow yourself in the company when promotion time comes around as you can imagine.

I live by DBAP, but I need some advice here.  How can I explain to people in a work environment that I don’t drink without opening up like they are Barbara Walters and making things more awkward?  Our society in this day and age is so pro-drinking that I have found not drinking is unfortunately frowned upon in some circles. I’m sure there is a clever way to address it when these situations arise but I cannot find it.  

The other reason I am writing you is that hopefully someone reading this who may be in the same situation can use it as motivation to get sober.  It took me years of thinking I would slow down later but finally realized I needed to quit for me and my family.  If you are reading this and think you need to stop, know it can be done and life can be great without alcohol. Ask for help and those who truly care about you will be supportive!”

First, congrats on taking control of your life.

Second, your situation isn’t that uncommon for people who have stopped drinking. It’s often difficult for people who give up drinking to maintain their past social relationships because very often those past social relationships, at least in part, are connected to alcohol.

So good for your friends on being able to support you no matter what.

Having said that, I wonder how much of your feelings about the reaction at work events is simply your being self-conscious about the way people are reacting to you not drinking? In other words, are you projecting this response more than you’re actually receiving it.

As someone who drinks but doesn’t have any issues at all with those who don’t drink, I’ve been on golf outings like these all the time and it seems to me there are always many people who don’t drink. (There’s also people who drink who have busy days coming after golf and don’t want to worry about consuming alcohol in the middle of the day so they don’t drink at these events).

In other words, it seems to me there’s a wide variety of behaviors at charity golf events.

So one easy solution is just to say, “Sorry, not today, I had a rough weekend and don’t want to keep it going. Especially not when I’ve got (insert afternoon responsibility here).”

Sure, that implies you still drink, but it doesn’t require you to explain why you don’t drink and allows you to turn down any offers for alcohol the rest of the day without worrying about spoiling anyone else’s fun.

If you’d like to make it clear that you don’t drink I’d suggest a go-to line on the golf course when you’re asked if you want a drink. For instance: “I stopped drinking a couple of years ago because I realized I was either going to have to give up golf or give up alcohol. The combination was killing me. I’m still not sure I made the right choice, but the biggest issue is now when I suck on the back nine I can’t blame the alcohol.”

That way you’re being self deprecating, but it doesn’t require you to explain your rationale for giving up drinking.

If someone really wants to ask you about giving up alcohol, they can ask, but otherwise I’d just move on. It’s been my experience that most people on outings like these want to have a good time. If you’re good company without needing the alcohol then I don’t think most people will notice that you aren’t drinking.

I also suspect as you spend more time not drinking that your discomfort discussing the fact that you don’t drink will start to vanish as well.

Regardless, good luck.

“Last week’s mailbag had a good question about group texts and significant others having access to one another’s phones. 

My question is whether or not there is an expiration date on if a spouse can have access to their partner’s phone

Here’s the deal – at 30 years old I could totally have seen my girlfriend having access to my phone. At 39 I think it’s patently different.

Basically dating when you are old just has a tone of more seriousness on a few levels. I was casually seeing someone — she was 32 years old — and I don’t remember how it came up but I said under no condition would anyone ever have the passcode to my phone.

She flipped out and accused me of having things to hide.

So who is right here? Do we or don’t we grow out of expecting phone access if the relationship starts past a certain age?”

I certainly think your age at the time you enter a relationship matters a great deal here.

So does, honestly, your job.

You say you’re 39 and you’re dating a 32 year old. But I think ages matter less than the seriousness of the relationship.

I’ve been married 15 years and I wouldn’t want my wife just scrolling through every text message I’ve sent for a week or reading my emails.

That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be fine with her having access to both either. Sometimes — for instance if we’re driving and I’m behind the wheel — it’s easier for her to respond to a text message or email for me than it is for me to do it. Or what about if I took a picture of the kids and she wants to have it on her phone to post on social media, but I’m driving? Of course I’d give her my phone then to share the picture to her own phone.

So here’s an easy question for you, you’re driving on a long road trip and your phone buzzes. You look down and see a text pop up from a work colleague that you want to respond to quickly. You’ve been dating a girl for several years or you’re married to her, are you really not going to let her respond for you? Are you going to pull over to the side of the road or wait until you stop to respond? (You can also pick up your phone and attempt to respond, but let’s pretend it takes more than just a simple yes or no). If a work text message is a bad example then what if you have a picture of the two of you on her phone and she wants to text it to her mom? Are you really not going to let her go into your photos and text it to herself while you’re driving?

If you say no to allowing her access to your phone for either of these things, I understand that if you’re head of the CIA or FBI or you have a job of this level of seriousness.

But for most of us, what are you hiding?

Most of our jobs don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things.

Plus, if you really have that much to hide, why don’t you have a burner cell phone like Walter White in “Breaking Bad” or just about every college football coach in America?

In general, I’d just be opposed to grand pronouncements like the one you made.

Here, it just seems like you’re needlessly creating a fight with the girl you’re dating. If you’d said, “I think the only person I’d give my pass code to would be my wife or fiancee,” would it have elicited a major battle?

I doubt it.

Because what you’re really saying to the girl you’re dating is, “You’re not important enough to be involved in all aspects of my life.”

You may well believe that, but does anyone want to sign on for that kind of relationship?

A better way to handle a situation like this is to leave open the possibility that the woman you eventually decide to spend your life with could have access to your phone.

Not every email or every text message all day long, but at least some of the time.

If you’d said that then my bet is she’d have fought you much less. After all, if she’s been dating you for any length of time, she probably aspires, at least on some level, to one day be your fiancee or your wife. If you’d answered that way you’d be letting her know that you’re not there yet, but one day you might be.

As always, send your anonymous mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com and thanks for reading!

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