Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Social media and the older set

While I’m plenty sympathetic to young people who say Instagram makes them feel bad about themselves through body-shaming and general taunting and bullying, I have yet to see even a paragraph about what it does to us older folk.

Where’s your fancy pants research on THAT, “Wall Street Journal”? Hmmmmm? Who is creating charts and graphs and endless documentation about how WE suffer?

We’re on Instagram, too, young folks. But I’m sure you already know that. You fled Facebook when everyone’s mom discovered it and now we’ve followed you with a metaphorical dirty towel we just found on your bedroom floor to not just Instagram but even…TikTok. Not even Snapchat is a safe space. We’re there, too. Don’t mess with us. We had a PARTY LINE when we were growing up. Which, now that I write it, sounds like something fun but it sincerely wasn’t. We shared a phone line with three other families including my teacher, who would rudely interrupt my private call while I was twisting the curly phone cord and rehashing the day with my bestie because we had not seen each other in an hour and a half. #stillrememberherphonenumber!!!

You want to talk trauma? How about note-passing? Sure, now the kids just text their insults and drama during class but back in olden days, a penciled smackdown could be delivered via sweaty folded note passed clumsily from desk to desk.

That said, I do think kids today have it worse because of the awful immediacy of social media platforms. You can’t do anything boneheaded, harmful or future career-ending without worrying about the wrong people seeing it. We did stupid stuff all the time but there wasn’t a dozen or more cell phones capturing the moment and uploading it for the world to see. That rather blows.

I get we should swat social media for damaging the fragile psyches of teens (and younger!) but shouldn’t we give equal time to older users who also are made to feel “less than”?

What am I talking about? I don’t know. I’m all jacked up on Miralax and bone density meds. Where was I?

OK, let’s start by sharing how we feel when we see gorgeous photos of an Insta friend’s weeknight dinner. No Old El Paso taco kit for her. Something involving poultry cooked in a clay pot with unpronounceable side dishes is more like it. I should feel inspired, not diminished but…

I’ve come to dread her posts almost as much as that TV commercial that starts “Hi! I’m J.J. “Dy-no-mite” Walker here to tell you about a new insurance plan…” The lush photographs of satiny soups (“It’s Fall, Y’all!”); the craft cocktails that look worthy of a magazine shoot (“It only takes a minute to char-grill the basil for the perfect smoky garnish! (#seizetheday #imbetterthanyou #imeanobviously) …While it may not be as devastating as realizing you will never have Kylie Jenner’s, well, anything, it still leaves me feeling inadequate, lazy and, oddly, basil-resenting.

Responding to allegations of harm being done to teens, Instagram has announced it will delay a planned roll-out of Instagram just for kids 10-13. Good idea. Because you know an Instagram for babies and toddlers wouldn’t be far behind. Which begs the question, how young is too young to be an “influencer”? Do we really need babies doing that backward peace symbol thing with their tiny fingers to denote coolness? I think not.

In the meantime, I remain gobsmacked at how much money the young influencers with millions of followers “earn”–high six figures and beyond for doing as near nothing as you can  imagine. Unless you think “best duckface” is really a thing. Show me something I can respect. Like Kylie changing a tire. That would be #awesome.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected]

Weekend humor (and some COVID horse sense) from Celia Rivenbark

I wouldn’t have thought it possible a few months ago but, yes, 2021 is saying “hold my beer” to 2020 when it comes to curious behavior. Why do I say that? Because 2021 will forever be—among  other things—the year a distressing number of Americans chose a dewormer formulated for animals over a scientifically proven vaccine to keep them safe from the severest symptoms of COVID-19.

I can’t believe I have to say this but here goes: If you take medical advice from the excruciatingly awful Alex Jones (the “Info Wars” host who claims “Sandy Hook never happened” among at least a dozen other demonstrably crazy rants) you might want to ask yourself: “What is wrong with my brain?”

Because, trust me, something is terribly, awfully wrong. Now to be clear, human formulations of Ivermectin are highly effective in eliminating parasites. Lives have been saved around the world.

That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about  two-legged folks stockpiling the Ivermectin specifically formulated for horses because their neighbor’s best friend’s baby mama’s outside child’s second cousin said it would cure COVID.

Taking veterinary drugs for COVID? Just say neigh, spreadnecks.

Besides, how would you get the right dose if you’re using something formulated for a 2,000 pound animal? It’s not like you can borrow Memaw’s CVS pill-splitter for that kind of higher math.

It should go without saying humans don’t need to be taking animal drugs. And while it’s true Ivermectin was tested, along with many other drugs, for possible use against COVID, it came up…useless. Yes, it killed the COVID cells growing in a dish but only in concentrations that would first kill the human. Oh, if only there was a safe, free, scientifically proven vaccine for COVID. Wait. What?

I don’t want to beat a dead human here, but we need to figure out why this Ivermectin nuttery has found so many disciples. Why is it so appealing to so many to believe people like Alex Jones and the pillow pusher with the crazy eyes? There’s no background in science or medicine. We used to say: “You don’t go to a lawyer for a broken leg” but now, maybe we do.

“OK, bite down on this Intellectual Property Law Dictionary and I’ll see if we have, like, a really big stapler somewhere….”

Up is down and black is white in 2021, forever the year of unrepentant crazy that provokes little more than a shrug.

We’re practically shockproof these days so it barely registers when we see a woman at a televised public hearing try in vain to get a spoon to stick to her bosom to prove the COVID vaccine magnetized her.

Or smirking parents screaming “SHUT UP!!!” as a high school student calmly asked his local school board to enforce a mask mandate for safety’s sake. “My grandmother died of COVID,” he said.

“JUST SHUT UP!!!!” chanted the “grownups” behind him.

We read obituaries in which the cause of death of a beloved is COVID and there’s a Gofundme for the children but not a single mention that now would be a good time to GET THE VACCINE.

Our circuits are fried. What’s this? A shirtless man wearing horns and a fur-lined headdress is arrested for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection and his lawyer says he only did it because he had a major man crush on the former president. Sure. That makes total sense.

Way back in 2020, none of us would’ve imagined people who claim to love the police literally attacking them with spears and then whining when they got arrested? At least own your idiocy and don’t shrink from it like a lil bish. Which, to be clear, you are.

Also, this just in: Stop gargling Betadyne. This is getting ridiculous.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected].

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Yikes! A visit from the rat whisperer

The “rat whisperer” as he had been jovially described to me by his co-worker who performs my regular pest control service, had been summoned. He was admirably punctual, masked and wearing starched khakis and a logo Polo shirt, the picture of professionalism. His assignment: To get to the bottom of a curious, er, dropping I had found on my kitchen counter and placed in a sandwich bag.

“Here it is,” I said, holding it like it was, well, rat droppings. Head turned to the side, full arm extension. “I’m so sorry.”

The rat whisperer accepted my strange offering like it was a fine bauble, examining it thoroughly before looking up.

“Definitely a rat,” he said in plus or minus one second.

I swayed a bit. “No, no,” I said. “Let’s take another look. Perhaps a tiny mouse?”

“Nope, rats have no control over their sphincters so you may find this anywhere. It’s encouraging this is all you found.”

Clearly his idea of “encouraging” didn’t match mine. Also, the more he talked I was worried about my own sphincter capabilities. Critters inside when they should be outside makes me significantly woozy.

“B-b-b-ut I have CATS!”

The rat whisperer looked briefly at Joey and Chandler, weighing in at 16 pounds each of mean, lean, fighting machine…oh, who am I kidding? He saw right through their dull, disinterested stares.

“Yeah. Well, anyway…”

J&C looked at him with what approximated hurt feelings, I thought. And then immediately went to sleep at his feet.

Sensing my fear, the rat whisperer sought to console me, the embarrassingly hysterical housewife.

“You know,” he said softly, “When you live in this part of the world, it’s really not a question of IF you have a rat; it’s a question of when.”

What part of the world was he referring to? The abyss into Hell?

Wait. Hold on. He said “a rat.” Like just one random rat who had accidentally wandered through a plaster wall and into my kitchen for a look-see. Maybe this wasn’t so bad after all.

“What’s this!” he said, crouching with a flashlight that revealed… some mighty sloppy housekeeping.

“Oh, I spilled an entire container of black peppercorns the other night. Thought I got ‘em all…”

He picked up three peppercorns and gently placed them on a white paper towel. “See? These look exactly like squirrel poop because it’s completely round…”

Stoptalkingstoptalkingstoptalking.

As the rat whisperer, an extremely knowledgeable and helpful fellow, scoured attic and basement and exterior, I fretted.

A rat? In my home? I was nauseous.

As if he was reading my mind, the rat whisperer raced in to comfort. Kidding!

“It’s highly unusual to just have one. There are usually many more where that one came from.”

OK, off you go, then.

“No!” I said, holding up my hand. “Did you ever consider he’s just a bachelor rat? A bit of an introvert with no friends?” Yes. I actually said that.

“A bachelor rat? That’s funny! But, seriously, there are usually lots more around, like a colony. They’re actually fairly social creatures if you think about it.”

Which now I must. Rat tea parties somewhere in my 100-year-old walls. Pinkies up!

I want to say this young man is very, very good at his job. When I confessed I had heard a “scritch scratch” in the wall the day before the, er, present was left on the counter, he nodded empathetically.

“Yeah. You know their teeth never stop growing so they just chew through walls and wiring and their teeth just keep getting sharper and longer as needed…Hey, you OK? Do you want some water?”

Stoptalkingstoptalkingstoptalking.

His thorough inspection revealed a point of entry he could easily seal up. Whew.

I guess we can postpone the whole selling the house thing. For now.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Her email is [email protected].

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Mayberry abortion law enforcement

MAYBERRY, N.C. (Sometime in the not-so-distant future….)

Gomer: “CITIZEN’S ARREST! CITIZEN’S ARREST!!! Stop right there, Thelma Lou! You need to come with me right now. I’m going to get a minimum of $10,000 because it looks like you were thinking ‘bout getting an abortion to me.”

Thelma Lou: “Gomer, don’t be absurd. You know a well-dressed woman with her own home and no discernible source of income will always be able to get an abortion! Now you just run along and pester somebody else.”

Gomer: “CITIZEN’S ARREST! CITIZEN’S ARREST!!! I see you, Helen Crump, walking down the street toward Thelma Lou. Were you going to give her a ride to the abortion clinic? Looks like that’s ANOTHER $10,000 for me! Wow! This sure nuff beats doing oil changes down at Wally’s!”

Helen Crump: “Gomer, please stop talking nonsense. I’m on my way to see Andy at the Courthouse. I will sit in the jury box and grade this mountain of papers before inviting him to sit on my swing and drink a Co-Cola. Do you even know what an abortion is?”

Gomer: “Sure do, Miss Crump. It’s a medical procedure that Floyd the Barber used to do and will do again once this bounty hunter thing takes off.”

Thelma Lou: “Helen, I do believe Gomer has lost his mind! I’m going to tell Barney all about this!”

(One hour later)…

Barney: “So, you’re telling me…that any ordinary citizen can get at least $10,000 to report someone helping a woman get to an abortion clinic even if it’s Otis the town drunk and he’s just giving her a ride?”

Thelma Lou: “Exactly! Gomer is going all over town making CITIZEN’S ARRESTS!!!!”

Barney: (shaking all over) “Man alive, this really fries my tater. I’m going to tell Andy and he’s not going to like it. Nosireebob! He’s going to want to nip it, nip it in the BUD!”

(That night…)

Otis: “Hey, Barney, I’ll just put myself in jail like always. Night night.”

Barney: “Otis, what’s up? You’re not even drunk!”

Otis: “Awwww, Gomer made a Citizen’s Arrest on me. I was giving Aunt Bee a ride over to Shaw’s grocery in Mount Pilot, but he said he didn’t believe us. Aunt Bee sure did give him a piece of her mind! Whew! She said the idea of some fool like Gomer running around acting like he knows anything about a woman’s reproductive cycle made her bitter as Clara’s kerosene pickles!”

Andy: “Hey! What’s all the fuss? I just walked Helen home and she’s mad as a wet setting hen. Then Aunt Bee said she’s not going to ever cook my dinner again! I swanee if I didn’t know better, I’d think this whole giving everybody money to enforce unconstitutional abortion laws is a bad idea!”

“It’s me, it’s me, it’s Ernest T!!!!”

Andy: “Hey Ernest T. What brings you here at this hour of the night?

Ernest T: “Well, I overheard Charlene Darling say she thought it was time to take a lesson from the ancient Greek play Lysistrata in which women withheld sex to end the Poloponnesian War…”

Andy: “Naw, naw, naw. That doesn’t sound like Charlene to me. Also, what’s this Listerine stuff?”

Ernest T: “Well, I told her I was gonna join up with Gomer and Goober and start turning in people who look like they might be helping somebody get an abortion.”

Andy: “Well. It is good money. Still, I gotta admit, I’d be upset if a woman tried to tell me what to do with my man parts.”

Barney: “What do you mean, Ange?”

Andy: “Well, what if they turned the tables on us? What if they started doing Citizen’s Arrests on us when we tried to get a vasectomy or Viagra?”

Opie: Hahahaha! Good one, Paw.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected]l.com.

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Civility going to the dogs…

We are a nation divided. Half of us want to do the responsible, scientifically proven gesture to help our fellow man; the rest think it’s just fine to walk their dogs and toss the collected bag of poo into their neighbor’s garbage can.

A friend IRL posted a harmless enough question about this behavior on the book of faces last week. Allow me to set the scene. My friend was approached by a neighbor who shouted out to him to stop putting his dog’s droppings (bagged, of course; he’s not a savage) in this fellow’s garbage can, positioned streetside along the dog walker’s daily route.

“Is this reasonable? What is the etiquette here?” my friend asked.

OK, anyone who has been on social media in the past, er, ever, knows that simple, earnestly asked questions such as this result in … screeching and screaming and way too much all caps.

A few of the less caffeinated folks chimed in with a simple and appropriate answer: “If he told you not to do it, the best thing to do is simply respect his wishes.” Wow. That’s some seriously good Emily Vanderpost type etiquette advice right there. Asked and answered.

Oh, if only that could’ve been that. But that’s not who we are, is it? We are ANGRY and PUT UPON and more than a little BONKERS.

While I don’t have a dog in this fight (ha!) I’ll admit that when I’m sitting on my porch enjoying my afternoon Sanka like Gladys Kravitz (ask your parents) and spy a dog walker drop Fido’s daily dose in my can, I’m significantly irked.

I cheerily shared this on my friend’s thread, prefacing it with an acknowledgement we have much more important things to worry about these days. Much more.

But still…

The reaction was swift from the tightly wound. One armchair psychiatrist speculated the protester was clearly a deeply unhappy soul whose “trashcan is the only thing he can control in his life.”

Another suggested the man who complained has no beef if the bag is duly knotted “unless the trash can is where he keeps his stank ass attitude.”

Paging Ms. Vanderpost…

“Some people are themselves garbage,” opined another, referring to the complainer. Whoa.

Another respondent who walks at least two of his four dogs at a time said: “It’s not reasonable to try and carry multiple bags of poop along the way.” While I snarkily consider that to be the very definition of a “you problem,” I didn’t jump into the fray. Once bitten and all.

Another shared his frustration after recently moving into a new neighborhood and getting a letter from the homeowners’ association informing him the neighbors were “repulsed” by the sight of him picking up dog poo with bag and not a specially designed poo picker-upper.

Repulsed? Isn’t that a bit over the top? I mean, this guy isn’t dropping his pants and joining Rover in solidarity so he wouldn’t have to poop alone in the Wisteria Lane cul de sac. That might qualify as worthy of revulsion.

And then the thread turned geographical, as it always does in the South, sooner or later.

“The Southeast is full of hateful people who are mad due to decades of religious oppression.”

Yes, guilty as charged. It’s not my reeking trash can that upsets; it’s the systematic, deliberate imbalance of power between the Christian majority and minority religious groups. Please shut up.

As one sage pointed out, this wasn’t even an issue back in the day. It’s true. Did you even grow up in the 70s if you never stepped on a dog patty and used rusty barbecue tongs to pry it from the crevices of your Family Dollar store tennis shoe bottoms?

See? We’ve made some progress, at least.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write to her at [email protected].