How did narcissism get so “popular”? (part one of two)


When I was compiling my lists of songs about narcissism, it didn’t pass my notice how few songs there were prior to the 1980s that focused on it. Oh sure, there have always been a few here and there (Carly Simon’s 1972 hit “You’re So Vain” immediately comes to mind) and there were always those “you/he/she done me wrong” love songs, but songs specifically about narcissism were pretty rare.

I think the reason for this is because it wasn’t until the 1980s that narcissism became so dominant in western (especially American) culture that it became a new virtue–something to aspire to if you wanted to be financially and professionally successful. And it wasn’t until the 1990s that narcissism became recognized as a real problem and websites, blogs and forums about narcissistic abuse began to spring up all over the Internet.

But I think the problem really started long before that, back in the post-WWII days when the Baby Boomers started being born. Of course there are exceptions, but as a generation, the Boomer generation was raised to be grandiose, entitled and lack a collective sense of empathy for others. As the Boomers aged, their collective sense of entitlement bled over into everything they touched–politics, business, and the culture at large. Today this narcissism affects all living generations, but generations older than the Boomers generally frowned on it.



After our WWII victory, America became very hubristic. We had become a superpower to be reckoned with the world over, and American life never seemed better. Life was very different than it had been even a decade earlier, and most newlyweds now had TVs, new kitchens with modern appliances that made a wife’s job much easier and left her more time to spend with her children, and often two cars. Employment was high and jobs paid well compared to the cost of living at the time. Young husbands were able to afford to buy tract homes and new cars on the GI bill, and could afford to support a wife and children. Of course, these were very conformist times too, and “keeping up with the Joneses” was a thing.

Enter the victory babies born in this national mood of optimism following the war: the Baby Boomers. Raised according to Dr. Benjamin Spock’s indulgent philosophy of “feeding on demand” and “Johnny will clean up his room when he feels like cleaning up his room,” Boomer infants and toddlers were pampered, indulged, and trained to be entitled. They were given anything they wanted and discipline tended to be light and consist of trying to “reason” with children. There was an endless array of new toys and snacks marketed to children, and mothers were made to feel like bad parents if they refused to comply with what advertisers told them to buy. The kids caught onto this attitude of entitlement, and if Sally got the new Barbie doll or Eric got the new battery operated toy truck, then Debbie and Paul had to have them too. The culture at the time was child-centered. It was a given that a child’s needs and wants always came before the parents’ and children were constantly told how “special” they were.

As they entered school, young Boomers’ attitude of entitlement and specialness carried over into the classroom. As a generation, they expected to be treated as little gods and goddesses, just as their parents had treated them.



As the Boomers entered their teens, they began to rebel against the parents who had showered attention and material comforts on them. I believe this rebellion was due to a collective fear of engulfment by overindulgent parents. They were attempting to break away by reacting against the very lifestyle that had given them so much. Of course not every child had overindulgent parents, but teenagers always try to emulate what’s popular or cool. Rebelling against “the Establishment” or the Vietnam War (which also represented the values of their parents) became hip and cool. Adolescent Boomers, having been raised to believe they were unique and special (and most of those middle class and above were able to attend college and were often the first in their family to be able to do so) embraced causes that were anathema to the values of “the old fogies” and at first, really believed their causes were superior to those of their parents. They tuned in, turned on, and dropped out. They experimented with marijuana and LSD. They dressed in hippie clothing and wore their hair long, which horrified “The Establishment.” They listened to rock music, the louder and harder and more offensive to the older generation, the better. They protested the war, attended “love ins” and participated in campus sit-ins, and eventually riots. Young Boomers believed their values were exactly what the world needed, but their attitude was based on entitlement rather than realism. They were idealists who believed the world could be changed by smoking pot and listening to the right sort of music.

Due to the sheer size of the Boomer generation, anything they did got a lot of national attention. Besides the many disapproving and negative news stories about the Vietnam protests, communal living, and recreational drug use, others were also beginning to emulate them. The next-older generation (The Silents), who had been largely ignored as they came of age, tried to seem younger by emulating the Boomers in their dress, tastes, and general lifestyle. The Boomers were never short on collective narcissistic supply (both negative and positive), and this continued to feed their attention-getting behavior.

Parents wondered where they had gone wrong, and why the children they had raised so lovingly had turned so rebellious and so insistent on “doing their own thing.” They wondered why this new generation seemed to hate them so much.

By the end of the 1960s, the “hippie lifestyle,” like everything else the Boomers would ever start, had become a lucrative market. But by the time The Establishment caught on, the Boomers were beginning to move on to other things, including embracing what they had rejected.

The power was still in the hands of the older generation of course, so narcissism had not yet become a noticeable part of the culture (although hubris and conformity definitely still was). By the 1970s, the first signs of a growing narcissistic culture would begin to make themselves felt.



Boomers, now entering their 20s, had by now largely abandoned their earlier hippie incarnation for a more subdued “back to the land” movement, in which they opted for whole foods, fresh air, and healthy living. Others began to infiltrate the job market, often with degrees in esoteric subjects. Having children was something to be avoided, as Boomers wanted to prolong their adolescence or make a mark on the world. The Pill and newly legal abortion made all this possible. Around the same time, women began to demand equal rights in society and the workplace. The 70s wave of feminism was very anti-child and pro-career. If you preferred to marry and raise children, you were looked upon as a throwback to the 1950s.

Around the same time, various forms of non-traditional, humanist psychotherapies (EST, Esalen, etc.), grassroots religions, and cults became popular. Collectively known as “the human potential movement,” self-improvement and self-development became a priority for Boomers. Putting your own needs before those of others was not only normal, it was considered healthy. New York Magazine dubbed the 1970s “The Me Decade” for this reason. Couples opted to cohabitate rather than marry(because it was easier to break a commitment), and divorce was becoming very common. Children raised during this time (Generation X) found themselves ignored, treated as second class citizens, or sometimes even abandoned by their self-involved Boomer parents who seemed to put their own needs ahead of theirs.

Around the middle of the 1970s, a new kind of music (disco) became associated with materialism, hedonism, and over the top sexuality. By now, Boomers had done a 180 from their emergence during the 1960s as hippies, and now embraced the crass materialism they had once rejected. They were ready for a President who would encourage their pursuit of luxury and material success.

At the same time, fundamentalist Christianity, which had been “rediscovered” by some Boomers as an outgrowth of the Jesus movement of the 1960s, was becoming increasingly popular, and the new conservatism was using it as a way to attract newly saved Christian voters.

The new narcissism wasn’t lost on Christopher Lasch, who published his book, “The Culture of Narcissism,” in 1979.



Ronald Reagan popularized trickle-down (or “supply side” economics), which basically meant allowing people to pay less taxes and keep more of what they earned. This played right into the hands of financially successful, entitled Boomers, who didn’t want to share their newfound wealth. The hippies had become the Yuppies–young urban professionals who had to “dress for success,” live to impress, and have the best of everything. Clothing wasn’t acceptable unless it had a designer’s logo on it. Housewares weren’t acceptable unless they were handmade in Outer Mongolia by native women. Food wasn’t acceptable unless it was “nouvelle cuisine.”

Having the perfect body was a priority, and Boomers started going to the gym or even personal trainers to tone and sculpt their bodies, sometimes to the point of unhealthy obsession. Boomers, mostly in their 30s by now, were finally deciding to have families, but children themselves became a status symbol, and getting your child into the “right” preschool or having the “right” designer clothing, or the “right” dance instructor became all-important. It was common for Boomer parents to watch other people’s children closely, to find out what they needed to do to “one up” each other as parents.

In 1987, a popular movie called “Wall Street” was released, in which its most famous quip, “greed is good,” became a national meme. While it was intended as a joke at first, “greed is good” quickly became a new philosophy of life, in which greed was not only good but became a virtue. Greed may have been one of the seven deadly sins, but even Christians made an exception for it, and we even had a Christian president who encouraged as much of it as possible. After all, it was the American way and America was a Christian nation, right?

Please continue reading Part Two of this article. 


For further reading, see my articles:
1. Are Millennials Really the Most Narcissistic Generation Ever?
2. Why is Narcissism so Hot These Days?

What If Conservatives Actually Followed The Teachings of Jesus?

There’s not much more I can add here that hasn’t already been said by this blogger. Most conservatives in America are following a god of greed and narcissistic values instead of the charitable and compassionate teachings of Jesus Christ, who himself would be one of the “47%” if he were walking on the earth today. He would be told to “go get a job” and accused of “socialism.” FWIW, why is capitalism better than socialism anyway? Unbridled capitalism has caused untold misery and is on the brink of turning America into a Third World nation. Socialism isn’t communism. America was more socialist until the 1980s when Reagan’s “trickle down economics” caught on like wildfire and has gotten completely out of control with its celebration of narcissism, greed, hatred and intolerance toward those who are not white, fundamentalist Christian, conservative, straight and male.

Apologies to any conservatives who are reading this–these are just my opinions. I know there are many good conservatives who believe the lies they are being told by our leaders, sometimes in the name of Christianity.

I’m proud to be the “L” word.

Poverty in America is getting worse

BESTPIX  Homelessness Reaches All-Time Record In New York City

This article describes the way America’s attitude of narcissism is destroying it and insidiously transforming it into a Third World country. Like an apple rotting rotting from the inside, America is a shell of what it once was. We live in a nation where narcissistic values are glorified and even thought of as virtues (“Greed is Good”) and those of empathy and compassion are “weaknesses.” People who are poor “deserve” to to be poor because of their “bad choices.”

It’s not lost on me how often victims of narcissistic abuse become poor as adults due to their dismally low self esteem and having been sent into life without the tools for success others are given by their families while still young. They are programmed to fail.

Narcissism doesn’t just destroy individuals and families, it destroys entire nations.

I can’t repost the article, but you can click on the link.

Are Millennials really the most narcissistic generation ever?

Hipster Millennial with all his high tech stuff.

“The National Institutes of Health found that for people in their 20s, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is three times as high than the generation that’s 65 or older…”

–TIME Magazine

Millennials have been loaded with negative stereotypes: lazy, entitled, or what seems to be the media favorite, narcissistic. A recent Time magazine article managed to fit all three adjectives into one title in the cover-story, “The Me Me Me Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.” Ouch.

— Rachel Gall, So-Called

The burning question of whether the much-debated Millennial Generation (people born between about 1981 and 2004,according to William Strauss and Neil Howe’s generational theory, which is based on historical cycles, and uses a set of dates I prefer to the more popular dates used in mass media that refer to anyone born from 1976 to 1991 or so as “Generation Y”) are entitled, narcissistic spoiled brats continues to be a popular and controversial topic.

Like every youth generation ever since the Baby Boomers started thumbing their noses at The Establishment’s stultifying conformity back in the ’60s with their pot, patchouli, and peace signs, when the media first discovered the coming of age Millennials about a decade ago, its initial reaction was one of disdain and dismissal–it was immediately assumed that all Millennials were spoiled, indulged narcissists who cared about no one but themselves, their iPhones and iPods, and having the best looking and coolest MySpace or Facebook profile.

“[you are] so self-obsessed. Tweeting your Vines, hashtagging your Spotifys, and Snapchatting your YOLOS.” Our social media feeds are being filled with our favorite subjects: Me, Me, and Me……“Us Baby Boomers are very upset, because self-absorption is kinda our thing.”

–comedian Stephen Colbert

But recently, writers and bloggers all over the web and in the news are beginning to question the validity of the narcissistic Millennial stereotype. Two fairly recent articles–from opposite sides of the political spectrum, no less: Are Millennials Deluded Narcissists (Forbes Magazine) and The Persistent Myth of the Narcissistic Millennial (The Atlantic Monthly), both defend Millennials and offered reasons why they may not be all that narcissistic, or at least why any narcissism they do have should be blamed on other things like the narcissistic, materialistic, and individualistic society they grew up in, a society that keeps up with the Joneses (or the Kardashians) and thinks greed is good. There are many other articles and news pieces that have been making the same arguments. New York Magazine posted this insightful article, completely disputing the idea that Millennials are no-good narcissistic Red Bull-guzzling basement dwellers taking advantage of their parents’ generosity.

Even when they still have the N label pinned to them, at least the accusers are placing the blame on things like the economy, lack of decent jobs, the extortionist prices of higher education and decent health care, and the astronomical amounts of money Millennial college grads owe for student loans that were supposed to make it possible for them to earn the kind of money to be able to pay back the loan and become productive middle class citizens. But instead, being in debt to Sally Mae in a stagnating economic environment burdened this disappointed and angry generation of unemployed and underemployed young people–20-somethings with college or even graduate degrees–with having to take low-paying McJobs or put up with the cold and factory-like environment of call centers (but which pay far less and offer fewer benefits than factory work, whose workers at least had the unions on their side). Then, to add insult to injury, those McJobs pay such dismally low wages there’s little or no hope of ever being able to pay back the loans they hoped would give them a foot in the door to a successful life, or even allow them to move out of their childhood home.

Most Millennials, unless they are very lucky, very talented and manage to procure the right connections and contacts, find at some point they will probably default on their student loans, which in turn earn them the accusation from conservative foghorns like Fox News, that they are entitled takers and moochers, feeding shamelessly off the government teat and living, Morlock-like, in the damp dark caverns of mom and dad’s basement, growing fat and pasty as they play with their collection of high tech gadgets that enable them to become an Internet star if the video or meme they just made goes viral.

In fact, going viral on the interwebs may be the most sure way a Millennial can ever become successful in our current sick and unstable economy and general diminishing quality of life for all but the very rich. Millennials are being forced to sink or swim in a society that has become increasingly compassionless and narcissism-glorifying. So they’re finding their own well of hope and opportunity, and that well seems to spring from social media, Youtube and reality TV.

Don’t knock it. Going viral by sheer luck and the fortuitous timing of a Youtube video is basically what happened to Justin Beiber; crime victim and folk hero Antoine Dodson, whose impassioned and unintentially hilarious rant on a local news station was transformed into a huge iTunes hit and made him an overnight star; and many other Millennial pop stars. Probably the biggest success story of all is that of Mark Zuckerburg, the multibillionaire twentysomething founder and CEO of Facebook, which he started in his spare time as an ingenious way to chat online to his college buddies from his dorm room at Harvard.

antoinedodson marczuckerberg
Millennials Dodson and Zuckerburg both became successful through viral spread via social media on the Internet.

If you have a halfway decent voice, you can win a record deal or at least a little temporary fame by auditioning for reality/game shows like The Voice, America Has Talent, or American Idol. Hey, you could be the next Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood! If you can cook (and can tolerate the constant narcissistic rants of the cooking shows’ mean hosts such as Gordon Ramsey from Hell’s Kitchen and Master Chef), well you can win your own restaurant and become rich.

What if you have no talents at all? No problem. You can still get on a reality show, even if you’re a teen mom who never graduated from high school, or a bitchy girl who likes to get into catfights with other bitchy girls. You can get rich just by acting like a jerk on TV, or doing nothing at all. And let’s be honest here: that sure beats working in Wal-Mart’s underwear department and not being able to pay your rent because your student loan debt exceeds what you earn in your dead end job. Who wouldn’t do it? Reality shows may be dumb and glorify stupidity and bad behavior, but we can blame their popularity on the uncertainty of the hope of gainful employment obtained in more traditional, socially acceptable ways.

So what generation wins the title of Most Narcissistic Generation Ever?

Personally, I would give that dubious honor to the Boomers (born from 1943-1960 according to Strauss and Howe; the popular media range is 1946-1964), the pig-in-a-python generation that pretty much turned the conformist, narrow minded, and yet community oriented and moderately altruistic Pax Americana of the post-war years into the self-worshipping, narcissistic, greedy, materialistic, hedonistic, glory mongering morass of misery and despair it has become since Reagan’s trickle down economics became sanctioned as a way to piss (trickle down) on the poor; since Rush Limbaugh’s ugly epithets toward everyone who wasn’t white, conservative, Christian, heterosexual and male became widely accepted as sound advice; since G.W. Bush gave us permission to “Go shopping!” after the 9/11 disaster and its shortlived mood of national solidarity after the attacks.

Millennials didn’t create or want this narcissistic, selfish society. They were born and raised during a time of economic uncertainty, philandering presidents whose actions became widely discussed, 24/7 coverage of heroes-turned-villains (O.J. Simpson), and a general atmosphere of increasing political discord and animosity toward those who weren’t like yourself. Millennials were often raised by single parents who were struggling to make ends meet in our crumbling society, or passed back and forth between divorced parents. Millennials are reacting the only way they can react to a society that denigrates them, gives them no opportunities, ships potential jobs overseas, makes it impossible to earn enough money to move out of their parents’ homes, and generally places them in a no-win situation.


Where Boomers could protest Vietnam and attend a huge 4 day rock festival held on a farm, and win publicity (if not glorification) in the media over their countercultural activities, Millennials’ “Occupy” movement of late 2011–a movement that wasn’t anti-establishment or countercultural but just an expression of their desire to be treated fairly and be given more opportunities–was quickly silenced by the media. A year later, you barely heard of it anymore. We are still hearing about the Vietnam and civil rights protests of the 1960s and the womens’ and gay rights movements of the 1970s. Don’t get me wrong–those were all good causes and I agree with them–but why are Millennials being silenced for nothing more radical than wanting a decent job and a measure of respect?

underpaid Protestors sit in the street and demonst
All they want is a chance.

Although born at the butt-end of the Boom generation (and thereby almost X), I don’t consider myself a Boomer and find myself balking at my inclusion within it; nor do I truly identify with Gen-Xers. I actually consider myself a member of Generation Jones (a subgeneration that straddles both Boom and X and contains characteristics of both Boomers and Xers and includes a few of their own). Anyway, I highly recommend reading Strauss and Howe’s books, 1991’s Generations and its 1997 followup, The Fourth Turning, both which describe the way history runs in cycles of four “seasons” that produce four corresponding archetypal generational types that repeat themselves at approximately 80 year intervals, and how the interplay of the generational “constellation” and the turning (national mood) at hand impacts history and society.

But I have digressed from my original point. Boomers as the most narcissistic generation ever is not an unpopular notion. Politics, big religion and entertainment is glutted with narcissistic, bombastic Boomers who bloviate over their greatness, judge the rest of us harshly, shove religion down our throats, and show their hypocrisy by demanding obedience, family values, and morality when they themselves showed their disdain for the very same things when they were younger.

Boomers started the “Me Decade” of the 1970s–an unbridled era of vanity, designer drugs, designer jeans, pleasure seeking and hedonism; before that, during their younger, more idealistic phase, Boomers naively promised they could change the world through music, eastern forms of meditation, and psychedelic drugs. During the 1980s, they morphed into the selfish, greedy Yuppies, and by the 1990s, they had taken over the political landscape, becoming ever more bombastic, judgmental and just plain uncivil and nasty to anyone who disagreed with them.

1960s era idealistic hippies and their 1980s incarnation as materialistic Yuppies.

Staying young and fit forever became the collective goal of the Boomer generation once they became disillusioned with their youthful idealism following Woodstock and Watergate. Perhaps due to their huge numbers and a firey passion and culture of cool that first enchanted and then took over the American imagination as early as the late 1960s, they grew up into adults who thought they were immortal, invincible, forever young and vital. They started the health and organic food craze of the late 1970s and 1980s and has continued to this day. They told us how we should all eat, look, exercise, worship, raise our children, and live our lives. And if you didn’t follow their rules and became sick or poor, well that was your own fault for lacking self discipline and strength of will. Even into their 60s and early 70s, Boomers are getting facelifts and liposuction, in a sad attempt to resurrect the appearance they had 30 or more years ago, Of course they’re just getting old like everyone else, but they refuse to confront it.

What about Generation X?
Poor Generation X (born 1961-1981, according to Strauss and Howe) is like the ignored middle child–or even the scapegoated child in a narcissistic or dysfunctional family. Having children was unpopular when they were being born, with more and more women shunning motherhood in favor of moving up the corporate ladder. Telling someone you were pregnant was usually met with side-eye by the cool people, and if you had the gall to admit you wanted to have more than two children, people looked at you like you were an unenlightened throwback to the 1950s. Getting on the “Pill” was what every young woman wanted to do.

Movies made about children during the 1960s and 1970s depicted kids as evil, demonic, bratty or badly behaved. Child psychologists recommended letting kids do whatever they wanted, which basically meant neglecting them. During the child-hating 1970s, “Latchkey” kids became the norm rather than the exception. Even “throwaway” kids, kicked out of their homes by parents who cared more about themselves than about their children, weren’t especially uncommon, especially in urban areas.

Not surprisingly, Generation X grew up with collective low self esteem, and while their humor can be dry, cynical, and full of snark, it is almost always self-deprecating. They have grown into adults in their late 30’s to early 50’s who tend to embrace traditional values, take on DIY projects, are politically and morally conservative, and believe in practical solutions rather than unproved theories. They don’t trust those who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. They’re overprotective of their children and highly critical of the Boomers before them.

Middle aged Gen-Xers appear to accept the aging process fairly well, pretty much resigned to the inevitable. Hey, it’s better than the alternative. They’re not lining up at plastic surgeon’s offices for facelifts and body sculpting. While there are definitely narcissistic Gen-Xers (and I could list a lot), their generation as a whole seems the opposite of narcissistic–perhaps they’re avoidant or suffering collective PTSD. They are having problems in the workplace too–squeezed between older Boomers who refuse to retire, and Millennials wanting to take their places at the lower level jobs many Gen-Xers haven’t been able to move up from because of Boomers who refuse to pass on the torch.


Millennials are not a generation of narcissists; they are the victims of the narcissistic society they are trying to fit into without too much success. Their behavior shows frustrated young people who are just trying to find their footing and their place in the world, but no one seems to want to help give them a hand up, just blame them for failing to navigate the obstacles they never put there and never asked for.

Disclaimer: I’m well aware that every generation has its good and bad individuals, and there are certainly narcissistic Millennials and Gen-Xers, as well as unselfish and truly good Boomers. I’m generalizing about the generations as a whole, not their individual members.

One more thing that pisses me off.


I can’t believe I forgot to put this on my pet peeve list: Morning radio shows suck. I can only say 4 things about them.

1. They are not funny. It seems everyone wants to be Howard Stern these days, and guess what–he was never that funny either.

2. They ALWAYS have a really irritating, maddeningly perky, female sidekick with the IQ of a sloth and a voice to make even Kim Kardashian cringe in embarrassment. They never have anything original to add, and just seem to exist to laugh idiotically at the Stern-wannabe’s lame jokes.

3. Speaking of the Kardashians, does anyone really give a shit?

4. And finally, the worst thing of all: What the heck is wrong with ACTUAL MUSIC?

How “positive thinking” nazis jettison responsibility


We live in an unempathic, selfish, narcissistic society. It’s social Darwinism at its finest, an Ayn Rand wet dream–a society that values selfishness over altruism, greed over empathy, money and material goods over timeless human virtues, fake smiles and phony platitudes over honest emotion.

Nowhere is this sickness more prevalent than it is in America today. One of the most irritating symptoms of how shallow a nation we’ve become is the plethora of corny “positive thinking” platitudes, cliches, and memes.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with some healthy positive thinking, and attempting to see the glass as half full rather than half empty–as long as the positivity is tempered by realism. If you spend your entire life thinking how awful your life is and don’t even try to look for the silver linings, chances are you’re not going to see much improvement in your life. Daily affirmations are a good idea, as long as we don’t delude ourselves into thinking problems don’t exist and therefore don’t need to be addressed.

But as human beings, we all need a shoulder to cry on sometimes, someone we can tell our troubles to without fear of being judged or our concerns dismissed or criticized. There are times when we all need a little empathy and someone who understands what we are going through. Being told in our darkest moments that we need to “smile and the world smiles with you,” “lighten up,” or “this is a learning experience” is the last thing we need or want to hear. Corny “positive thinking” platitudes can sound like an invalidation or dismissal of what’s close to our hearts and in some cases even make us feel shame in addition to the pain we’re already experiencing.

Both my parents and my stepmother are on the phony positive thinking brigade. A long time ago, I used to actually try to talk to my parents about my fears and heartbreaks, but never felt supported by them. All I wanted was a hug and some encouraging, genuine words, maybe something like “I understand why you’d be so upset” or “You have every right to be angry.” Sometimes even an attentive silence would have done, since really listening to someone doesn’t always require words and sometimes just being heard without judgment is all that’s needed.


Instead I’d get simplistic “think positive” cliches and slogans, if not straight up invalidation and criticism of my feelings. My narcissistic mother was notorious for emailing me these corny platitudes that were as phony and devoid of true emotion as a smiley face bumper sticker on a hearse. Receiving her brand of “encouragement” made my blood boil. I spent a long time trying to figure out why it bothered me so much when she (or my stepmother or father) did this, and I finally figured out why. It was a dismissal, not only of my feelings, but a method of jettisoning any responsibility or having to take any time away from themselves to provide genuine help or comfort. It was, in effect, the same thing as tossing a lollipop to a crying child instead of trying to find out why the child is so upset. “Alright kid, here’s a lollipop, now leave me alone and stop crying.” By sending me pictures of kittens with happy slogans under them or a rainbow with an “inspirational” sentiment, they were avoiding taking any responsibility or showing any empathy, while still being able to say, “Well, what’s your problem? I acknowledged your pain–I sent you that “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” video.”

Positive thinking nazis are pervasive, they’re fake as hell, they’re complacent, and they’re everywhere. Every day we’re bombarded with Internet memes (Facebook is notorious for them), slogans, bumper stickers, and politicians (usually Republican) telling us to “just be happy and everything else will take care of itself.” It’s enough to drive me insane. How do you “just be happy?” I’m sorry, but I’m not a machine with a “happy” button. I can’t switch my emotions on and off because you’re uncomfortable with my negative moods.

There’s also a huge disconnect from reality. Poverty, homelessness, mental illness, and addiction actually do exist and they’re everywhere, in every town, every city, every neighborhood. Positive thinking nazis choose to not see these realities and even blame those suffering from poverty, homelessness, addiction, and mental illness for “their own condition” by not being “positive” enough. If only it were that simple. But it’s not simple at all because for those who can’t even procure basic food, medical care, and shelter, or who have a chemical imbalance in their brain that causes severe depression or addiction, thinking happy thoughts is just about impossible.


There needs to be a balance between the deluded positive thinking tyranny and providing authentic support. The first does not replace the second and in fact can exacerbate the situation by making the person needing help feel guilty and ashamed for feeling the way they do.

We need to stop being a nation concerned only with ourselves and stop dismissing the very real concerns of our friends, family and neighbors. Saying “smile!” to an upset person doesn’t cut it. We are all in this together, and authentic care and support are in very short supply and are needed now more than ever. We will never heal as a nation if we continue to equate slapping happy face stickers on everything with actually going out of our way to do good for others.

Mid-century modern houses > McMansions and other neo-eclectic monstrosities


I clean houses part time for a living so obviously I have seen many different types of homes, and it can be kind of interesting. It’s one of the few perks of this job (besides getting to play with awesome pets and sometimes meeting friendly customers who actually tip). The job has given me a crash course on various architectural styles and periods. Some homes are fascinating and have a lot of character (usually older homes), but by far, the most common type of house I encounter are the infamous McMansions and other ugly and cheaply made homes of the “neo-eclectic” style (if you can call it a style) that became popular from the late 1970s to the 2000s.

I don’t like new houses. Most mass-produced homes built since 1980 use exceedingly cheap materials, including hollow doors, plaster or plastic crown molding, and one-piece window mullions made of PLASTIC that regularly come loose, vinyl siding, few to no windows on the sides of the homes, and the homes have very thin or hollow walls. There are other things wrong with them too, which I’ll get to shortly. Builders since 1980 or so try to get the most out of their dollar, and this means a lot of shortcuts are made, and cheap materials are used, even in the more “upscale” homes in some gated communities (another trend that make me want to scream).

Cheap materials and shoddy construction has been a complaint since the first mass produced ranches and split levels were built in the 1950s-1960s, but I have found that those old ranches and split levels far surpass the newer homes in quality of materials and labor (even though they don’t quite measure up to the solidness and uniqueness of prewar homes). Yes, their rooms may have been small and the hallways narrow and cramped, and the kitchens in the originals were unpleasantly separated from the rest of the house (keeping the housewife in the kitchen away from the family and guests).

But at least they used real materials–real hardwood (not laminate), real ceramic tiles (instead of that cheap plastic sheeting used in modern bathrooms), real wooden shingles (though many have been replaced with vinyl siding), and I actually like the layout, especially in the split levels, with their innovative way of separating various areas of the home within limited space while still keeping a kind of open plan. It worked well for families. The houses also fit well into the landscape without overwhelming it. Indeed, recently there have been several websites praising the humble mid-century ranch/split level/raised ranch and even a few historical preservation societies are popping up to protect and promote “mid century domestic architecture.”

What is happening is what happens to anything that becomes “old”–what was once dismissed as tacky or gauche during its time takes on the charm and character of anything old or vintage. Since those mid-century houses are fewer in number now (many have been razed to make way for McMansions and newer homes in gated communities) and also now sport old growth trees and mature landscaping, and no longer all look alike (because in any older development, these houses have had changes and additions, and so are as distinct from each other as even older houses in prewar neighborhoods. These formerly “ticky tacky” houses are showing signs of becoming an older style that possesses charm, simplicity, unpretentiousness and convenience–taking its place alongside older but respected modern styles like the Craftsman and Prairie style homes of the early 20th century.

The ranch house, in fact, is a mass produced style that was inspired by designs by Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect who first created the Prairie style of home (the forerunner of the ranch) back in the 1920s and 1930s, of which “Fallingwater” is probably his most famous undertaking. Prairie style homes (developed by a group of Chicago architects inspired by Wright) had low pitched roofs, overhanging eaves, “ribbon” style banks of windows, and sometimes several levels separated by short flights of stairs (forerunning the split level), built-in garages, and were designed to fit into the surrounding landscape without overpowering it. Most of these houses can be found in the Midwest.

Typical Prairie style house.

The standard ranch house has its origins in California dating back to the 1930s, but they didn’t really take off until the late 1940s and 1950s as returning war veterans needed cheap houses to start new families in. The split level style evolved from the ranch house and also was inspired by the Prairie style. It became popular for two reasons: it separated living areas (public rooms from private bedroom areas) without separating them TOO much (as more formal houses with long flights of stairs do). The split level was a innovative way to fit a ranch home (which is better suited for a flat landscape) into a more hilly or uneven landscape.

ranchhouse splitlevel1 splitlevel2 ranchhouse2

These mid-century houses in their original state definitely had their disadvantages (lack of light, walled-off and smallish kitchens, small bathrooms, etc.), but here is what I like about them:

— They have a certain acquired midcentury charm with their overhanging eaves, casement windows, and low pitched roofs, and their picture windows (later these windows were of the bow-style–curved glass with many panes or sometimes just vertical panels).
bowwindow bowwindow2
I don’t think these beautiful windows are made anymore (especially the type on the left), but if not they should be.
— The houses were large enough for a medium sized family but allowed some measure of privacy without closing everyone off from each other.
— Recreation rooms in finished basements, sometimes with sliding glass doors that stepped onto a patio.
— built in garages, that unlike newer neo-eclectic homes built after the late 1970s, did not overpower the house or stick out like an ugly tongue in the front.
— they used real materials like wood, stone and ceramic instead of plastic and laminate
— They take extremely well to renovations, additions and modernization
— They are humble but attractive homes that don’t overwhelm the surrounding landscape
— They lack the ridiculous pretentions and ostentatiousness of newer homes from the late 20th century.
— They don’t have a ton of steep stairs to deal with every day, so work better for the handicapped and older folks who can’t take climbing steep flights of stairs.

It may come as a surprise, but most popular styles of houses were considered ugly or tacky back when they were new. Craftsman homes (aka California bungalows), one of the first modern styles, is a style everyone seems to want these days, were once a mass produced style built from a kit you could order from the Sears catalogue! At the height of their popularity back in the early 20th century, they were considered cheap homes for people who couldn’t afford anything else–now everyone wants one!

Small vintage Craftsman home.

The same thing is true of the beautiful and ornate Victorian homes we admire so much today. When they were new, they were considered pretentious and tacky monstrosities that overwhelmed the neighborhood. Now many people love these old houses.

Fifty or sixty years after the first mass produced ranches were raised in the infamous Levittowns, these houses are finally acquiring desirability, especially since they are rarer now (many have been torn down or replaced). Older people–Baby Boomers in particular–have always dismissed this style because of its associations with the lock-step conformity of the 1950s (and that’s the generation most likely to be attracted to the pretentious and ugly McMansions), but younger people, particularly Millennials, don’t have a memory of any negative associations, and are buying these mid-century homes. They appreciate their convenience, lack of pretentiousness, and simple charm. And because these older homes take well to renovations and additions, many of the updated specimens are absolutely beautiful–retaining the midcentury overall style, but now sporting skylights, vaulted ceilings, larger windows that let in more light than the originals, updated, bigger kitchens that have been opened to the dining and living rooms, and renovated bathrooms with modern fixtures. Some developers have recently been building updated versions of ranches and split levels. An example is shown in this drawing:


I don’t care for the oversized Hummer garage that sticks out like Jimmy Durante’s schnozz, but other than that, the architecture remains true to the midcentury modern style, with an updated look.

To contrast, let me take a minute to rant about McMansions and other neo-eclectic styles of the past three decades. I’ll just list everything I hate about them.
— As already stated, except for the exceedingly expensive “custom designed” homes, they are built shoddily, with cheap or fake materials, not much better than what you would find in the average trailer.
— Most of them are a mishmosh of various past style, combining Colonial features with Craftsman with Greek Revival with God knows what else. They are schizophrenic looking, not seeming to know what style they should be. It’s as if the builders couldn’t decide on one style, so they tried to use elements of every known style, and the effect is ugly and migraine inducing. Granted, some expensive custom designed homes try to stay true to whatever original style they are emulating, but those houses are in the minority.
— many of these monstrosities are in “gated communities,” which to my way of thinking is just a symptom of the class stratification, inequality and one-upmanship that is so pervasive in America today.
— They are pretentious–with their ridiculously complicated, overly steep “mansard” roofs, fake dormers (that sometimes don’t even look out from any room in the house), unnecessary multiple gables, 30 foot high ceilings in the “great rooms” with windows that can’t be washed except by professionals, ugly and oversized “Palladian” windows, lofts with catwalks that are dangerous for children who could climb over and fall over the railings, steep staircases, “his and hers” master bathrooms, and master suite bathroom/spas larger than the average living room (and who the hell needs a tub the size of a swimming pool and glass shower enclosures that look like crap once hard water stains get on them and who wants to be viewed when they’re taking a shower anyway? I sure don’t). The only thing I like about the new houses is the kitchens–those are pretty cool looking and if I had one I’d spend all day there cooking and baking. But these updated kitchens can be easily incorporated into older houses, and have been, so I don’t need a fucking McMansion to have an awesome kitchen.
–They are tall and overwhelm the landscape as well as smaller houses in the neighborhood, and because they are so new, many are without trees or lanscaping of any kind. They look like boxes sitting where they don’t belong.
— They also are usually out of scale with the small lots they sit in
— Most of them lack any windows on the sides (or have just one or two), making them look like some sort of movie set. And they’re not built much better than a movie set either.
— The 12 foot high ceilings in the smaller rooms (such as bathrooms) make them seem cold and uninviting.
— Everything freaking ECHOS in these houses. Everything freaking ECHOS in these houses.
— They are inefficient due to their huge size and require enormous outlays of cash to keep them sufficiently heated and cooled. That means they also make a huge environmental footprint. Any one who is concerned about the earth will stay far away from these environmental vampires.
— Most of them sport HUGE garages–sometimes that fit as many as 3 SUVs or Hummers–that overwhelm the home. The “snout houses” that have garages like this look like homes for cars, not people. (Most midcentury homes, in contrast, either tuck their built in garages on the side of the house, or if in the front, are one- or at most two car garages).

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the beauty and simple charm of the wonderful neo-eclectic house in all its glory.

mcmansion1 mcmansion2 snouthouse uglymcmansion

My eyes! They burn!

Don’t judge me because I’m poor.

The topic that’s on my mind right now is potentially volatile and can open a huge, rotten, festering can of political worms, so that’s why I’ve been hesitant to write this. But heck, it’s on my mind, and I promised myself and my readers I would hide NOTHING, and I NEED to rant about it because it hits so close to home, so here goes.

Recently, there’s been an increasing number of conservatives (the loudest and most extreme are in the Republican Party) who have abandoned all pretense of caring about those who have less than they do–in fact, they are openly (even proudly) hostile toward the poor, blame-shifting the lousy economy, lack of jobs, and basically all of America’s problems onto the most vulnerable people in our society. American society in particular has become narcissistic, worshiping and rewarding those who have the most money and the most toys, while punishing those who have nothing more than ever before, rubbing salt into their wounds. Their contempt used to be limited to the poor who didn’t work (and those who were milking the system and might have deserved their wrath), but lately it’s extended even to the working poor–men and women who hold up to 2 or 3 jobs and work full-time (and many supporting young children), but due to the low wages they earn that haven’t kept up with an economy rife with inflation and where good jobs are scarce, still can’t lift themselves out of poverty. Empathy is seen as a liability rather than a virtue, and those who have empathy for others are seen as weak. Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” has become the bible of the greedy and self-centered, and no one bats an eyelash, even though Rand herself was a narcissist whose role model was a serial killer.
The verdict is, if you don’t have money, you don’t deserve to live. There are no extenuating circumstances. If you’re poor, it’s your own fault.

Hatred of the poor isn’t anything new (and has been going on throughout human history, but enjoys spurts of popularity from time to time), but lately there hasn’t even been any effort to mask the hatred–it’s in your face constantly. Just watch FOX News, which I don’t. There’s no civility any more, and even less empathy.

It’s really a form of prejudice, no different really than a person of color ostracized and shamed because of the color of their skin. As a person who is currently under severe financial stress and trying to survive on an income barely above minimum wage (and having no outside help or assistance) as well as being a Highly Sensitive Person, I feel these insults keenly and feel diminished and enraged every time I read another article or watch another news show where some self-righteous cretin blathers on about how “the poor choose to be poor,” or that we are lazy, entitled, “welfare queens” with no morals and even less intelligence–and worse yet, dare to hide their ugly and mean-spirited self-righteousness under a cloak of piousness: many (not all) of these small-minded people call themselves Christians. I actually remember hearing some politician (I can’t remember who) who said Jesus wouldn’t give handouts to the poor, and cutting Food Stamps would be the most Christian thing one could do. What I’d like to know is, what God does he worship and what Bible is he reading? How dare he presume to put words like that into Jesus’ mouth, when Jesus himself was all about acceptance and love of the downtrodden and oppressed of his society.

The reason why this open hostility toward the poor is such a huge trigger for me is because that attitude assumes something about me that isn’t true. People who embrace the “you chose to be poor” mindset haven’t walked in my shoes, and they don’t know me or what led to my circumstances. They are presuming something about me based on an ugly stereotype. How is saying all poor people are lazy, stupid and entitled any different from saying all blacks are criminals, or all Jews are dishonest and greedy, or all Italians are dirty and don’t bathe? Now I’m not saying I didn’t make some bad choices because I have. I’m not saying I bear no responsibility for my own circumstances, because I do. I’m not saying it’s my government’s responsibility to lift me into the middle class, because it is not.

But you don’t know me. You have no idea who I am or why I am poor. You can’t, since you probably either never were poor, or if you had to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” you probably didn’t really–you probably had a grandpa, a mom and dad, or a long-lost uncle who helped you through college and graduate school, or helped you get the job you have today, or a loving mother who gave you a place to stay when you were down on your luck. Don’t tell me this does not apply to you. Hillary Clinton said “it takes a village” to raise a child, and she was right: it’s a fact that kids who were not given the opportunities–either in the form of college tuition or some other type of tangible or even just emotional support, are far less likely to become successful.

As an only child of narcissist parents (mostly my mother, but my father was an enabler and N-apologist), I had no financial, physical, or emotional support once I reached the age of 18. I had to pay for my own college education with student loans, while working full time. When I hit rough spots later in life, I never had the option to return home while I got back on my feet. On top of this I was suffering from depression, PTSD, autism, and avoidant personality disorder–and every one of these disorders causes people to become withdrawn, isolated and introverted. I think it’s a legacy a lot of us children of narcissists have been saddled with–there does seem to be some sort of correlation between narcissistic parents and autism (as well as the obvious PTSD and avoidant personality). Back in the 1960s and 1970s, it was believed autism was caused by “refrigerator mothers” but this theory was later rejected–however I do think there is something to it and should be studied further. Autistic adults (and non-autistics who have nevertheless turned inward due to their abuse) have a real handicap in today’s fast paced, competitive society where aggression, brashness and great social skills are a huge plus. Those of us who are intelligent but who don’t do well in a social setting are likely to become lost in the world because we lack the ability to connect and make friends with successful people who could help us. If an autistic adult (or just a painfully shy adult) doesn’t have family support and also lacks a specialized degree or talent (that may or may not be “discovered”), it’s not likely they’ll get very far in life, regardless of their native intelligence. It has nothing to do with how hard they work: I’ve worked my butt off most of my life, at times holding 2-3 jobs AND attending college, so I don’t think my poverty is due to my being “lazy and entitled.” I do not get any “welfare” or even food stamps. Everything I have, I pay from my own pocket, so shut the hell up.

So that’s why I hate it when people make assumptions about why I’m poor, and tell me what I’m doing wrong when they know diddly squat about what makes me tick or what motivates me. I don’t think poverty is a lifestyle “choice”–no one in their right mind would choose a life of struggle, want and heartache. For most of us, it was foisted upon us. And the more you have to worry about basic things like food and shelter, the less energy and time you have to “improve yourself.” But I don’t expect outside assistance or a “government handout” and haven’t asked for any. I try to take the steps necessary to pull myself out of the mire, but I REALLY resent being blamed for my situation when I lacked the advantages most other kids had, then had to somehow find my place in an unempathic, narcissistic, materialistic society where people who are introverted or highly sensitive or who live inside their heads are considered weak, stupid and incompetent because we don’t “schmooze” well with others.

Bro-country is where pop-rock went.


Something strange happened to music at the dawn of the second decade of this century. The sort of pop-rock “alternative” music that had been wildly popular on Top 40 radio since the late 1990s suddenly disappeared from the airwaves, to be replaced primarily with electronic dance music (EDM), r&b crooners like Bruno Mars, and pop divas like Katy Perry, Ke$ha, and Lady Gaga. This change happened so fast I can pinpoint the year and month it happened: January of 2010. “Halfway Gone” by the band Lifehouse is the very last generic alt-pop-rock song I remember getting any airplay. There may have been others later, but evidently they never caught on and quickly disappeared. We went from zero to sixty, or should we say Green Day to Gotye in just one year.

What happened to Nickelback, 3 Doors Down, Matchbox Twenty, Daughtry, Seether, Lifehouse, The Killers (who are actually really good), and all the other generic (but mostly insidiously catchy) pop-rock bands that dominated the airwaves throughout the first decade of the 21st century (particularly from about 2005 – 2009)? Were they abducted by aliens? Did they all suddenly get sucked into a black hole? Did their generic brand of “rock” become illegal?

No, of course not. I imagine they’re counting their millions, but they’re no where to be found on the airwaves anymore. Those guys are older now, probably building ranches in Montana and raising their kids, with the occasional tour thrown in to let their diehard fans know they’re not dead yet.

But as for the music they made, their catchy pop-rock fake-alternative sound hasn’t gone anywhere–it just found a new home. On country radio.

That’s right. Around 2010-11, about the same time “rock” disappeared from Top 40, a new genre of “country” music appeared: Bro-country. Luke Bryan with his radioactive smile leads the pack, and everyone else seems to be trying to sound exactly like him. What is bro-country? Basically, it’s generic pop-rock with a banjo and a twang. The lyrics, unlike true country (but a lot like much generic rock music) is about sex, drugs (weed and coke being replaced with beer) and partying hard. If you listen to a few bro-country songs, you’ll notice they describe the exact same scene: a hot girl (always referred to as “Girl”–she never has a name) wearing short shorts (Daisy Dukes) or tight cutoff jeans and a bikini top, dancing on the tailgate of a pickup truck, and it’s always summer, always at night, always under the moonlight, and the party’s always taking place by a river or other body of water. Oh, and there’s beer. Lots and lots of beer. An entire ocean of beer.


Now, on to the sound. A few are made by legitimate country stars, who have jumped on the bro-country bandwagon, but most are by newcomers to country–guys who were more likely listening to Green Day back in 2005 than Tim McGraw. And, as in the rock music of the recent past, women are largely not welcome. It’s definitely a boy’s club. But women can and do listen to the music.

Some bro-country songs do lean more on the country side of the fence, but the vast majority of bro-country songs can be more accurately described as pop-rock. Take away the token banjo and the twang (which may or may not be genuine), and what you have is a driving pop rock beat, heavy production, electric bass and guitars, a melodic chorus, and rock-star-like posturing. There’s often a rap bridge too, as there is in Cruise by Florida-Georgia Line featuring rap artist Nelly.

Listen to this other enormously popular song by the same band (without Nelly this time) and tell me which mid-2000s pop-rock band it sounds like.
If you said 3 Doors Down, you’d be right on the money.

Here’s another song from earlier this year by a Luke Bryan ripoff band Parmalee. While I can’t identify which Top 40 pop-rock band they sound like (probably because they all sound the same), it definitely doesn’t sound country to me.
It also sounds almost identical to this song by Blake Shelton and this song by Luke Bryan, who’s become the template for this hopefully short lived genre. It’s kinda spooky–all three of those songs (and countless others) have the exact same melody, the exact same guitar riff, and are about the same thing. I suppose record labels can save money by recycling the same song to different artists, with minimal changes and pass it off as a new song.

Country music concerts (well, bro country concerts anyway) have also been getting wilder–a lot more like rock concerts, complete with screaming young girls, arrests, open-air sex (probably on the tailgate of a pickup), drunken tailgate parties after and during the shows, and even people making the “devil horns” hand gesture usually associated with rock music. I recently attended a bro country concert (my daughter is a huge Luke Bryan fan and I went with her because my guilty little secret is that I think he’s hotter than Miami in August and his songs are catchy) and was shocked how much it reminded me of the rock concerts I used to attend–most of those attending were under 25, and everyone was shitfaced. And in keeping with the theme, most of the women were wearing daisy dukes or cutoff jeans with skimpy tank tops, sometimes a plaid unbuttoned man’s shirt hanging over the whole shebang or tied at the navel.

I read the other day that bro-country is wearing its welcome, and there’s been a demand by pure country fans for more authentic country music without all the pop/rock influences, and with more meaningful lyrics (I guess it’s more authentic to cry in your whiskey because your cheatin’ woman is doing you wrong than it is to have a beer party on the tailgate of a Chevy truck in the moonlight). There’s also a lot of country fans complaining that except for the Big Three female country singers (Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, and Taylor Swift, who ain’t even country anymore), no female artists get airplay on country radio anymore. I believe it. And I don’t blame them for being mad. It’s time for country divas with something to say to burn down the boys’ clubhouse. I remember not too long ago, women used to have this same problem in the rock music industry.

I’ve read somewhere recently that a lot of rockers who were evicted from the airwaves a few years ago have moved to Nashville. So maybe the guys from Nickelback, Staind, and 3 Doors Down are now penning songs for Luke Bryan, Cole Swindell and Dustin Lynch.

Hopefully all those drunken tailgate parties taking place down by the river have a designated driver.

Chicken wings: blech


I was going to write a short piece about why I hate chicken wings and why I think they’re incredibly overrated, but someone else beat me to it, so I’ll just repost their rant here. There’s nothing I can say about them this blogger hasn’t already said.