Archive for August, 2010

‘It does not cause me any amount of grief to be objectified’

August 31, 2010

The following quote from actress Mary Louise Parker in Vanity Fair is interesting:

I’m just happy that anybody considers me a sex symbol at all. It does not cause me any amount of grief to be objectified in any way. I welcome it.

There’s something peculiar to me about welcoming objectification — inviting people to view you only as a sex object, wanting people to see you simply as existing for their sexual gratification, without an identity of your own. I’m curious if the intent of her statement was that it doesn’t cause her any grief that people think she is sexy, or that people look at her as a sex object.

The difference between welcoming that people find you sexy and welcoming that people objectify you is that the former offers room for an identity beyond being sexy (e.g. you’re also a talented actress), and the latter allows for someone to be a commodity that only serves to gratify someone else. The line between the two is thin, but I think it exists.

Also, Parker is 46 years old, which makes me wonder if her invitation of objectification is because she feels like her age inherently makes her unsexy, so she is willing to take any attention she can (that’s the tone I get from “I’m just happy that anybody considers me a sex symbol”).

Either way, Parker’s statement speaks to and follows a pattern that is unsettling, which is to welcome any type of attention regardless of its motivation or intention, and to want to be viewed as an object rather than a person. It makes me uneasy when women give higher value to whether people view them as sex objects as opposed to whether people consider them humans with identities, thoughts, feelings, talents, etc.

Seacrest, Situation show no women are safe from body-bashing

August 27, 2010

It only took two hours of TV-watching yesterday to find two disturbing instances of men using women’s body issues against them in an argument. One was courtesy of Ryan Seacrest, the other courtesy of “The Situation” from MTV’s Jersey Shore. Both enhance female viewers’ body issues, as even two attractive TV personalities can’t escape scrutiny.

On E! News, hosts Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic were introducing some clip, and Giuliana’s intro line included some comment like, “Are her boobs big enough?” in response to a shot of the celebrity with large breasts. Ryan Seacrest replied, “At least she has some.” He then qualified with how he was “kidding” (I think), Giuliana laughed it off, and the world was right again.

Except that it wasn’t funny — in fact, as someone who saw the phrase “boobless” typed into calculators and shown to me more times while I was growing up than I can count, I can say that the awkward laughter Giuliana used to respond to Ryan’s offensive comment was quite familiar and uncomfortable. And sure, he qualified it with “just kidding,” but it doesn’t change the fact that he obviously had taken note of her small breast size, knew it was an insecurity of hers, and then on a broadcast to millions of people called her out on being jealous of celebrities with big boobs.

On Jersey Shore, Situation and Angelina were fighting about doing the dishes. Angelina didn’t want to do them, so Situation told her that she couldn’t be a part of the dinner he was cooking — and then added an addendum that she needed to hit the treadmill. Then, obviously seeing the mistake he made, he corrected himself and said she actually needed to use the elliptical instead.

Could this be typical banter between these two, and we don’t know of some inside joke? Sure. But do we see that on film? No. We just see this guy, obviously mad that Angelina isn’t pitching in around the house, saying that instead of eating dinner with them, she needs to go to the gym and lose some weight. I’m thinking, since they were arguing, that it’s not some inside joke — it’s him playing off her insecurities in hopes it will make her feel like shit.

So we’ve got these two TV shows, one of which (Jersey Shore) is the number one series this summer for people ages 12 to 34, that are watched by a lot of young people and a lot of women. Women watch these kinds of insults and see that (1) the woman laughs it off or ignores the comment without confronting the guy about it; (2) no matter how physically attractive a woman is, guys will still find a way to attack their body in order to feel some sense of power or accomplishment; and (3) it’s dangerously common.

Take a look at Giuliana, who despite having a smaller chest is rail thin and the perfect body size by Hollywood standards:

Take a look at Angelina, who has a large chest and curves but is not at all overweight in any way:

Body image insults are dangerous because women already feel the pressure to be thin and perfect by Hollywood standards every time they look at a cover of a magazine (despite its being Photoshopped and airbrushed to death), go to a movie, watch a TV show, or browse the Internet. We’re always picking apart our bodies, worried that men are too — and here are two beautiful women who can’t escape ridicule. Women watch these scenes and it only worsens body image issues, thinking, “If they can’t escape ridicule, what’s that say about me?”

And I wish these women would have directly confronted Ryan and Situation about their comments — of course, I’m sure if Giuliana had questioned all powerful Ryan Seacrest she would have lost her job or been severely reprimanded, opening a whole new can of worms about how power dynamics in the workplace leave instances of sexual harassment or even sexual assault unreported or ignored, simply because the ones making the comments or advances are the ones who wield the power, and women are forced to chose between standing up for themselves or keeping their jobs.

These two men were obviously playing on these women’s insecurities, and it sets a bad and dangerous example for viewers. It’s bad for men, too, who see these guys’ female body bashing on TV and think it’s the norm or think it’s OK because Ryan Seacrest and that guy from the Jersey Shore are both doing it.

I also wonder if some men — maybe Ryan and Situation included — think that especially when you make a joke or attack an attractive woman’s looks that it’s OK because she is attractive and (1) has high self-esteem and/or (2) knows she is attractive so won’t be fazed by negative comments. If so, I’d like to say that your perception of someone’s beauty is not necessarily the same as that person’s perception of herself (or himself), so those comments can still be hurtful and dangerous.

Stuff: Can live with it, can live without it

August 25, 2010

I can’t get this post from Feministe out of my head. Guest blogger Joy describes how she packed all her stuff for a cross-country move and discovered that she lived just fine without the stuff:

The end result [of packing] was 18 medium sized boxes of items I thought I could not live without. 18 boxes of clothes and dishes and memories that seemed essentially to me being me; my life in 18 boxes.

In the three months since, I’ve left those boxes packed. I’ve lived out of two suitcases and it’s been fine. Are my clothing choices slightly more limited? Yes. Does it really matter? No.

We all have so much stuff that we don’t use or need, but knowing it’s there brings this strange sense of comfort that is both unhealthy and limiting. I recently moved and have several boxes of stuff sitting in storage — boxes that contain momentos, pictures, old notebooks from classes, etc. It’s unhealthy because I can convince myself, “But what if I need XYZ item sometime in the future?” and then keep most stuff. It’s limiting because I put a lot of value in these things, which in turn would be to my detriment if something happened to them, e.g. they were lost or destroyed.

Having these thoughts sparingly isn’t bad, but having them about every single little thing eventually makes you dependent on having things to define your life experiences — souvenirs from trips, decorations for the house, etc. The danger is that instead of just keeping things you already have amassed, you start actively seeking more things to define your life, make you happy, etc.

My mom once wanted to show me my grandma’s wedding dress, but she couldn’t find it because the boxes in our back garage are overwhelming, filled with never-used wedding gifts and lots of other unused, old stuff. Perhaps the key is to, as young people, watch how we collect and buy stuff and try not to place value on everything we come across — simply having the space for stuff doesn’t mean you need to fill it.

Cities are jumping the gun by remotely monitoring recycling

August 25, 2010

Cleveland plans to implement curbside monitored recycling, which is lauded by many cities — such as Arlington, Va. — as a great success. But is the success solely because of the surveillance, or is it also because of the bigger recycling bins that come along with the surveillance? I’m thinking it’s the latter; people don’t need to be monitored in order to recycle — they need bigger recycling bins.

With monitored curbside recycling, the city remotely checks how often the recycling bins are used, use that data to determine who isn’t recycling a lot, and then check their garbage cans and fine them if the trash has more than 10 percent of material that could have been recycled. If you have too many recyclables in your trash, then you get a $100 fine.

But as The Washington Examiner points out, the problem with city recycling wasn’t just that people weren’t recycling enough — it was that their ability to recycle was limited with curbside recycling because the bins were smaller. The recycling rate increased by 24 percent after the new recycling bins were implemented, raising the question of whether residents needed to be under surveillance to recycle more or just needed bigger recycling bins in the first place.

The short, rectangular bins that we associate with recycling hold 18 gallons — Alexandria, Va.’s new monitored curbside program offers recycling carts that hold up to 65 gallons, which is the same size as typical residential trash cans and illustrates the psychological aspect of recycling. When people are provided a bin that is roughly one-quarter the size of a trash can, it tells them they are expected to throw away a lot and recycle a little. If that size discrepancy was changed, then perhaps people wouldn’t be so freewheeling about how much they throw away or so apathetic about separating recyclables from trash.

In fact, some cities offer pay-as-you-throw programs so that residents are only charged based on how much they waste, either by bag, weight, or the size of trash can the resident chooses, with smaller sizes meaning smaller rates for trash service. These programs utilize an economic incentive that encourages waste reduction without using penalties.

And beyond bigger bins, some people generally need better access to recycling — for instance, in Cleveland, two-thirds of residents had curbside recycling until the program was cut in 2003, and a smaller pilot program that included more like 10 percent of residents wasn’t implemented until 2007.

People want options aside from the typical huge trash can and tiny corresponding recycing bin (or no bin at all), so cities should try spending their money on expanding curbside recycling and altering recycling bin size before jumping to surveillance. Successful recycling programs also feature community outreach, education, advertising, and communication — not just microchips and $100 fines.

Teen Mom: Scams, family tension, and the foundation of trust

August 18, 2010

Last night’s episode of Teen Mom kept the drama coming — Farrah got scammed out of $3,000 (still not sure exactly why she was wiring that money); Tyler told Catelynn she “disgusts” him; Maci introduced Bentley to Kyle; and Amber and Gary were … Amber and Gary.

1a. Learning Life Skills: When it comes to money, always double-check and be skeptical

Farrah is living on her own now, and she is learning the hard way that sometimes the only way to learn is from your mistakes. Farrah sold her car online, and the buyer sent her a check for $8,000. For some reason, she wired $3,000 back to him (the episode is unclear why, they just say it’s for shipping the car, which makes no sense) and later learned that the original check was bad, she was scammed, and the “buyer” got away with her $3,000.

Farrah is 18, and she is bound to make mistakes like this. What’s worse is that she lives on her own without any parents or support system wise enough to tell her it’s a scam — though considering Farrah’s attitude, I’m sure she would’ve sent the check anyway, just to defy her mom’s accusation of it being a scam. But the lesson here is that when it comes to money, you have to be careful.

Farrah should’ve made sure the original check cleared before wiring the person any money — really, you shouldn’t wire strangers money at all, but at least making sure the check cleared is a good start. If the person on the other end is insisting you not wait or that s/he needs the money immediately, be skeptical. It’s easy to be young and ignore your instincts because you aren’t sure how things work in the real world, but if it feels sketchy, it probably is.

Plus, I’m sure the guy offered way more than the car was worth, so Farrah was definitely down to sell him the car because it seemed too good to be true — if you’re thinking that, then you need to take a step back and wonder if it is. You’re a lot more susceptible to scams when money is tight, so don’t let the dollar signs overwhelm your instincts and better judgment.

1b. Learning Life Skills: Prioritizing needs vs. wants

Farrah’s car was fine — she just wanted a new car that had a sunroof and automatic locks. Typically, when you’re as cash-strapped as Farrah says she is, you sell your car out of financial necessity — you need to sell the car and use the money to pay for bills, or buy a cheaper, crappier car and use the profit to pay your bills. Nope, Farrah just wanted a sunroof.

Making the transition from high school to the real world means understanding how to prioritize — just last week, Farrah was calculating that she needed more than $1,000 to pay her bills. This week, she is intently focused on getting a new car — not because she needs a new car, but because she wants a new car. Even her friend Kristina finds this puzzling, questioning her selling the car before she even had a new one to replace it.

“I’m spontaneous like this all the time, but I need to quit because I have a child and I’m on my own now,” Farrah told her. Wise words, but not words she is actually following. Farrah is not just being “spontaneous,” which has a positive, fun connotation — she is being impulsive and reckless with her money and her main form of transportation. It’s not bad that she wants a sunroof — it’s bad that she convinces herself that she needs a sunroof and automatic locks, despite the pile of bills that should be taking priority.

1c. Learning Life Skills: “Where do I sign my check?”

For the second time in the history of Teen Mom, Farrah has asked where she needs to sign the check. Certain life skills really are only learned through experience — it seems like a dumb question for Farrah to ask, but there are lots of questions regarding money, bills, rent, landlords, etc. that you don’t think to ask about until you’re dealing with them directly. They don’t teach you about things like landlords scamming you in high school — that one you learn on your own.

Farrah getting scammed falls into this category, too — lessons you learn only from making mistakes. We’ve all had these experiences, and you feel really dumb at the time for not knowing how to do something, but you can’t beat yourself up about it — when were you taught how to write a check, deal with a landlord, or handle problems with your insurance company? Though Farrah, you’ve asked twice now, so I’m pretty sure someone has told you where to sign the check.

2. How trust is built

Tyler asked Catelynn to provide him with phone records to show that she was being honest with him and to rebuild trust. Last week, I talked about how that was a terrible way to build trust, and at the end of this week’s episode Tyler refuses the phone records. “I’ll just believe what you say, ” Tyler told her. “I think looking at those phone records is going backwards.” Aside from him then littering and tossing the phone records into the water, this was a great move on his behalf.

Except that the phone records did lead Catelynn to admitting to Tyler that she had tried to call her ex six times, talking to him two of those times. I’m not sure whether the phone records are recent or from three years ago, but the threat that Tyler would see the phone records seemed to push her to confess this information to him. So despite Tyler’s refusing to view them, the phone records policy got Catelynn to admit some information she had been keeping from him. I hope Tyler doesn’t use the threat-of-the-phone-records as a trust policy, considering it was successful here.

Tyler’s mom made a good point, however, of how your childhood and your past can affect your ability to trust in relationships. Tyler’s dad was in prison for a lot of his childhood, and he spent a lot of time lying to Tyler and/or making empty promises to him. “To me, lying is purposely hurting someone else,” Tyler told his mom. Because of his stance on lying — that it’s always malicious, because he felt his dad’s lying was always malicious — he originally saw Catelynn’s lies as nothing but direct attacks. We don’t always realize how much our past shapes or influences how we view relationships.

3. Do families need to get along to make relationships work?

Amber and Gary had another fight (surprise). But this time, it was about Gary’s brother (I think) not liking Amber’s parents. When Amber and Gary started discussing their wedding and saying that Gary’s family could stay with her family, the brother immediately opposed staying with her family before qualifying his answer by saying he just didn’t want to stay with Amber’s dad or mom. You can imagine how Amber reacted to this. She stormed out of Gary’s mom’s house, where they were having Easter dinner, and walked home.

There’s obvious tension between the family members, which adds stress to any relationship. Would it make or break a relationship? That depends on a few things: How close emotionally the person is to his/her family (which will determine how offended s/he is by comments — Amber was extremely offended); how close in proximity the families are (e.g. how often they see each other); how strong the tension is, e.g. is it a general level of annoyance that can be ignored or is it confrontational and open yelling and screaming every time they see each other?

The range of whether families need to get along is wide — there are minor differences that are easy to look past, such as different senses of humor, and there are major differences that are impossible to look past, such as different religions — which in some cases will get people disowned by their families. Families don’t have to get along, but it obviously makes the relationship easier — or in some cases only possible — if they do.  

4. What it means to date a parent

I really like that Maci took the time to spell out for Kyle not only what he needed to expect as someone dating a parent, but what she expected of him as someone dating a parent. She took her time before introducing Kyle to Bentley and that she made sure they got along before going further with their relationship. But, she also let him know that dating her wasn’t also signing up as Bentley’s new dad.

“I don’t want you to feel that if you are unhappy you can’t leave because of him,” Maci told Kyle. I find Maci to be extremely mature, and this statement is just one example. She lets him know upfront that yes, dating her means also getting along with Bentley and understanding that Bentley is her number one priority, but like any relationship, they shouldn’t only be together just for the sake of the baby. It’s that notion that almost led her down the aisle with Ryan, and it’s nice to see that she’s addressing it with Kyle right off the bat.

Can you spot the problem with this gulf oil spill article?

August 13, 2010

Can you see the problem with the following sentence from this Associated Press article about the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?

The decision to proceed with the so-called “bottom kill” operation means a key milestone in the crisis that wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast’s economy and ecosystem remains days off.

If you guessed that the verb used — wreaked havoc — is in the past tense, then you are correct! It might seem nit-picky to point out a verb tense problem, but these small choices in language reflect how we perceive things on a larger scale.

This one, for instance, is indicative of a larger mentality that the oil spill only “wreaked havoc” on the economy and ecosystems in the gulf while the oil was gushing, despite the fact that this environmental disaster is currently having and will have lasting effects on the gulf’s economy and ecosystems — for years to come.

Word choice matters, especially in the news.

‘Love the Way You Lie’ doesn’t promote partner violence

August 13, 2010

I’ve been a bit hesitant to throw in my two cents about the Eminem song “Love the Way You Lie” — a song about intimate partner violence — mostly because after reading blogs like this one, this one, and this one (and the corresponding comments), I thought I was being insensitive or missing something because I actually like the song — and lots of people don’t like the song:

[Rihanna]’s singing in that gorgeous voice of hers, and for a moment I think “Maybe this won’t be so bad.” A few seconds later, the recording fails and “I Love The Way You Lie” turns into a rap song. By Eminem. Who is literally the last fucking person I want to hear singing about intimate partner violence.

Garland Grey of Tiger Beatdown is just one of many who find the song and especially the music video disturbing — I can’t speak for the video because I haven’t watched it, but I can speak for the song, which I have listened to many times. And though some people think it’s a self-pitying rant by an abuser and/or a song that promotes staying with an abuser, I think it’s neither — it’s an honest look at intimate partner violence.

Eminem isn’t asking for pity on this track — his lines about being sorry are juxtaposed with lines that threaten his partner because that’s a common cycle of partner violence and likely an honest account of his feelings as an abuser (his physical abuse toward ex-wife Kim is well-known). Do I pity him after hearing this song? No. Can I appreciate that he’s honest about his thought process, deluding himself into thinking he will change, recognizing he shouldn’t be physically abusive, but then doing it anyway? Yes.

Rihanna is being heavily criticized for her part in the song, in which she sings lines like “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn/But that’s all right because I like the way it hurts” in the chorus. Rihanna is a survivor of partner violence, leading people like Tricia Romano at The Daily Beast to ask, “WTF is Rihanna thinking?” 

I think, like Eminem, Rihanna’s lines are equally honest. She recognizes how insensitive and hurtful the partner is, but she deludes herself into thinking that she likes the relationship, the partner, and the abuse. Rihanna herself admitted to Diane Sawyer that after Chris Brown physically assaulted her, she briefly reconciled with him — she loved him, she said, but she didn’t want her fans — especially the young ones — to see her go back to him and think it was OK to stay in an abusive relationship because Rihanna had done it.

It’s unfortunately common for women to return to abusive relationships. In fact, researchers at the University of Rochester found that half of women who leave abusive relationships go back to the abusive relationships, on average about five times — so, yes, Rihanna’s lines in the chorus are not direct calls against partner violence, but rather depictions of the real psychological abuse that manifests from abusive relationships.

So maybe I’m still being insensitive and missing something, but of course everyone hates the lyrics. You should hate the lyrics at a superficial level, and if you aren’t fazed or affected by them, that’s a problem. They are the thoughts that breed and continue partner violence, and they are thoughts that overcome both the person abusing and the person being abused, both who — as the song depicts — are cognizant that the relationship isn’t healthy but convince themselves to stay or that things will change.

I’ll agree with critics that the song never explicitly addresses that the partner violence depicted is unhealthy and wrong, which could lead listeners to misinterpret the message; whether this omission is because Eminem, Rihanna, and the others involved thought it would speak for itself as an anthem against partner violence, I don’t know. Personally, I don’t think the song romanticizes or condones partner violence. It’s an honest account that sends the message of how confusing, painful, and cyclical it can be — and we need to talk about those aspects to truly understand intimate partner violence.

As one commenter on Feministing put it:

This song IS pretty fucked up. So is domestic violence … What does it mean if we take these words at nothing but their face value? It was what it was. In Recovery [the name of Eminem’s new album], we tell the truth. Maybe?

Chipotle bag campaigners: You can also just refuse the bag

August 12, 2010

It’s great that people are trying to get Chipotle to ask customers before they automatically bag their burritos, but why exactly is it entirely on Chipotle to ask the question first? TreeHugger posted the story with the misleading headline “Can Twitter Change Chipotle’s Mandatory Bag Policy?” — misleading because Chipotle doesn’t have a mandatory bag policy.

If you don’t want a bag, right when they ask “For here or to go?” you can simply reply, “To go, and I don’t need a bag.” That’s what I do every time I go to Chipotle, and no one has ever demanded I use a bag. This policy works at any store  — instead of waiting, as a customer, to be asked if your items should be bagged, you can just as easily be proactive about requesting that those items aren’t bagged.

Media quips about Mel Gibson’s violent rants aren’t funny

August 12, 2010

The reaction to the sexist, racist, and disgusting things that were allegedly said (and recorded) by Mel Gibson to girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva has been … bizarre. As Lauretta said at Tiger Beatdown, people have been focusing on his racist remarks, despite the fact that (1) his racism is not new and (2) the sexist and violent remarks are much higher in quantity:

The above [see link for list of quotes from the tapes] is a fairly accurate survey of Gibson’s vitriol, and the above is not racist. It’s searing misogyny. The headlines focused on Gibson’s racial slurs because his 2006 drunken anti-Semitic speech was such a hit and because it’s oh-so-au courant to debunk “post-racial” theories. It also suggests that people are more agitated/swayed by racism than sexism.

This is troubling, and Lauretta explains why better than I can. But what is also troubling is the media — or at least one celebrity news outlet in particular — making jokes about the sexist, violent things Mel says in the tapes.

The Daily 10, a roundup of the top 10 celebrity news stories from day, is on E! and features a few hosts who have cheesy banter as segways between stories. Twice now, one of the hosts (two different hosts, on separate shows, both men, not sure if that makes a difference) have made a joke about the Mel Gibson tapes, both in reference to the following quote:

I deserve to be blown fast! Before the f*cking Jacuzzi! Ok, I’ll burn the goddamn house up, but blow me first! How dare you!??!

Like most of the things heard on the tapes, this is intense. Mel is threatening to burn the house down, but saying he would demand oral sex beforehand. This isn’t very funny to me. It’s violent and disturbing. Yet both the hosts made comments to the effect of, “Well, that’s nice that he’s asking her to blow him before he burns the house down.”

In fact, one of the hosts — who was a guest host, not a regular — made an even more disturbing comment than that (possibly about how that was the obvious order of things (oral sex –> burn house down), but it was a few weeks ago and I can’t remember it exactly, and eonline.com doesn’t have videos of the episodes of Daily 10), which actually made host Katt Sadler awkwardly speechless, obviously unsure of how to reply to the host’s adlib joking about the “servicing” of Mel before he burned their house down.

I don’t think I’m being too politically correct when I say that it’s really inappropriate for these TV hosts to use Mel Gibson’s violent comments as comedy material. Of course there’s no simple segway from Mel’s rants to some red carpet event, but poking fun at his comment(s) merely reduces the severity or the seriousness of it(them) — and we don’t need to be downplaying how dangerous these comments are.

Sidenote: No one poked fun at Chris Brown assaulting Rihanna — I doubt Daily 10 has had any hosts make funny quips about the night the assault happened or any of the details regarding it. So why is this different?

Is it because Rihanna is America’s sweetheart so we care more that she was assaulted? Is it because the image of her bruises was much more disturbing than the audio of Mel’s rants? Is it because Chris Brown had no history of lashing out, but Mel has for years been known as a racist and a sexist, so we somewhat think Oksana should’ve known what she was getting into? I’m a bit baffled.

Teen Mom: Phone records, gov’t assistance, separated parents

August 11, 2010

On last night’s episode of Teen Mom, Amber and Gary kept fighting about getting engaged, Catelynn and Tyler tried to mend their relationship after Catelynn’s lies broke Tyler’s trust, Farrah struggled to make ends meet, and Maci tried (but failed) to keep Ryan on the same parenting page as her regarding Bentley. Lots of yelling, lots of crying, lots of themes to work with.

1. Will access to phone records (or e-mails, texts, etc.) mend trust?

Catelynn and Tyler have gone from dream couple in season one to broken couple in season two — the skeletons are coming out of the closet for Catelynn, who lied to Tyler about her previous relationship with a guy in Florida, and Tyler’s trust for Catelynn has been destroyed because the lie has existed for their entire relationship. Tyler accuses Catelynn of having a wall up, they go to couples counseling, yet the trust remains a big problem.

Tyler tells Catelynn he forgave her but he can’t forget — which I think is constantly a bogus line because if you can’t forget what happened, then there is still a part of you that isn’t forgiving the person — and says he needs some concrete evidence to look at to know she is being honest. So what does Tyler ask to see? Her phone records. It’s unclear whether he wants past or present phone records, but it’s not the right path to rebuilding trust.

Relying on access to e-mails, phone records, text messages, etc. is not the way to build trust — it’s a way to get into the habit of needing to monitor your partner and never being able to believe what they say unless there is physical evidence (or a lack of physical evidence, e.g. check my phone records, I never called so-and-so). The definition of trust (according to Merriam-Webster) is:

A firm belief or confidence in the honesty, integrity, reliability, justice, etc. of another person or thing; faith; reliance.

You can fool yourself into thinking that seeing those phone records and text messages creates and builds a sense of confidence and faith, but the entire idea of trust is that it functions without physical proof or evidence — sure you believe someone if you see their actual phone records, but if you have to check the records, you aren’t trusting them — you’re trusting the evidence you found, if anything. Trusting is believing the person without checking the phone records.

Tyler is stepping down a dangerously slippery slope if he thinks looking at her phone records is the key to rebuilding his trust — it gives him peace of mind to know she’ll agree to share them, but it creates a new pattern in which he doesn’t develop any true trust or confidence that she is being honest, but rather a dependency on invading her privacy and seeing physical evidence that she isn’t lying.

2. Making too much, but not enough

Farrah brought up a good point about government assistance when she was telling a coworker that she made too much money for government assistance but wasn’t making enough money to pay her bills. This is actually a common problem for many individuals and families, being denied assistance for making too much money to be considered “in need” but not enough to actually stay afloat or maintain any savings every month.

Luckily there are countless websites dedicated to helping people find other forms of assistance, such as this one, this one, and this one. But, it’s an important problem to highlight — people probably assume Farrah, as a single parent, would qualify for these programs and might judge her or write her off as someone whose livelihood is subsidized by taxpayers. In reality, however, she isn’t getting anything for free — except temporary baby-sitting, and that’s only because her mom was being charged with domestic violence and couldn’t be around baby Sophia.

3. Separated parents trying to jointly parent

Parenting is all about consistency — Supernanny will tell you that you need to stand your ground, otherwise your children will know that if they kick, scream, and complain enough, you’ll give in and let them break the rules. Maci was on a mission to wean Bentley off his pacifier, and she was extremely consistent — despite the fact his crying and fussing kept her awake all night, she never relented and never gave him a pacifier even though it would have stopped his tantrums.

Fast forward to Ryan’s day with Bentley, when Bentley hits his head on a table and Ryan calms him down by throwing a pacifier in his mouth. That sleepless night that Maci endured to show Bentley that she meant business? Out the window. It’s hard enough for two parents to be consistent in parenting under the same roof, but it’s exponentially harder when the parents are separated.

My parents are divorced, and I know from experience that kids pick up quickly on what they can get away with — this happens with parents who are together, but they are more likely to communicate with one another about parenting decisions they’ve made. Without my parents communicating, it was easy to learn one set of rules with one parent, and a completely different set with another — not sure how that affected my upbringing; perhaps it made me more conniving, or observant, or secretive, as I had to know when to keep quiet about one parent having stricter rules.

Either way, Ryan needs to show more respect toward Maci’s parenting choices, especially since it seems like she sees Bentley more than Ryan does and has to deal with the repercussions of whatever parenting choices Ryan does or doesn’t go along with.

Also, I’d like to give props to Maci for being mature about Ryan’s girlfriend, Kathryn. While her other friends were calling Kathryn a whore, Maci was saying that she hoped Kathryn was a positive influence on Ryan and led him to wanting to spend more time with Bentley. Maci was right to be concerned that Kathryn was also a positive influence on Bentley, but it was really great that she opted out of being catty and vindictive and focused solely on the well-being of Bentley.

4. Getting antsy about getting hitched

Amber wants nothing more than a ring on her finger so that she will feel secure that Gary won’t abandon Leah and her again. She tells Gary this pretty frequently, and they nearly broke up on last week’s episode because he wasn’t ready to propose. This week, on a family vacation in Florida, the topic reared its ugly head again, concluding with the most awkward marriage proposal I’ve ever seen in my life.

Amber relentlessly talked about how she was old-fashioned and thought the man should propose, yet she didn’t seem to keen on waiting until he was ready or felt like he really wanted to marry her. “I know what I want, but I’m not waiting forever,” she said (though I think that’s an empty threat), which is not uncommon for a person to think when s/he’s been dating someone for a long time, but Amber and Gary seemingly just agreed that he wasn’t ready and they needed to work on their relationship — STOP THINKING A RING WILL FIX YOUR PROBLEMS, AMBER.

How “old-fashioned” and romantic is it to pressure your boyfriend into proposing even though he is obviously apprehensive about it? Amber was practically feeding Gary what to say and getting angry when he didn’t use the right wording. Although, judging from the scenes from next week’s episode, it’s clear that the proposal and the ring weren’t the relationship-fixing, commitment-forcing things that Amber thought they’d be.