Lauren Mayer: The Sound of Marriage Equality

Whatever you thought of the live ‘Sound of Music’ starring Carrie Underwood, it was still commendable for a number of reasons, including exposing country fans to musical theatre, and showing people who’d only seen the movie the numbers & scenes that were cut from it. (Not that Julie Andrews wasn’t adorable, but in the movie the Captain dumps Baroness Schraeder just because of one dance with his employee, which is sort of creepy.  In the actual musical, Schraeder turns out to be a Nazi appeaser, and possibly a sympathizer, which is a slightly better reason . . .)
I was reminded of this song by Louie Gohmert (and a few other wingnuts) remarking that the spreading tide of marriage equality was just like the spread of Nazism . . .

Will Meyerhofer: Learning From Barry Manilow

Will MeyerhoferIt is remarkable how often I listen to clients worrying themselves sick over people who don’t even seem to like them.

The other day a woman complained she didn’t know how to handle a guy who’d treated her like something under his shoe.  He didn’t call, didn’t pay attention to her life or any of the issues she was facing at work or with her family.  He pretty much just talked, and cared, about himself.

But she couldn’t seem to get over him.

He called again, wanted to get together.

“Should I see him?”  She asked me.

The answer was obvious.  Every time she’d given in – and it had happened plenty – the same pattern played out.  He was considerate and nice for a week or two, then went back to the same old routine of ignoring her needs and focusing entirely on himself.

I told her she needed greater wisdom than I could summon.  She needed to listen to Barry Manilow.

You probably have some sort of opinion regarding the creative output of Barry Manilow – which is to say you probably either love his music or you hate it.

If you love it – really, really love it – then you’re a “fanilow,” a Barry Manilow super-fan.

A friend of mine visited Las Vegas last year with his two elderly aunts, and – mostly to humor them – went to see Barry Manilow play at one of the big resort hotels.  He posted his response up on Facebook:  “I’m a fanilow!”

He was wowed – like plenty of people who actually go to see this hard-working, talented performer who gives everything he’s got on stage.

Barry loves his fanilows.  He thanks them, he signs their programs, he tells them again and again that he owes them everything, that they’re the reason he can keep on performing and doing what he loves.  They love him – and he loves them right back.

On the other hand, I read an interview a few years back where the reporter got a bit snarky with Barry, hinting that his music was widely dismissed as camp, mere sugary trash.  I don’t remember Barry’s precise words, but he said something like this:  “I take my work very seriously, and if you aren’t going to treat it with respect, I’ll end this interview right now.”

He had a point, and he made it.  Barry Manilow does what he loves, and there are many people who celebrate him for it. He doesn’t need the haters.

You can learn from Barry Manilow.

Find your fanilows – and hold them tight.  Cherish them.  Celebrate them as they celebrate you.  Those are the people who deserve you in their lives.

The haters?  The critics?  The people who take you for granted or tear you down?  Push them away.

There are plenty of people in this world.  You can find some fanilows – starting with yourself.  No one loves Barry’s music more than Barry – and that’s exactly how it should be.

Here’s a good ground rule for dating (I call it “the Manilow Rule”):  Don’t even consider a relationship with anyone who isn’t a fanilow – your fanilow.  If the other person isn’t excited – thrilled – ecstatic –jumping up and down with enthusiasm about a date with you, push him aside and find someone who is.

Be your own biggest fan – and start a fan club.

If you’re hoping he’ll call, he’s not a fanilow.  A fan doesn’t leave you wondering – he lets you know you know he’s dying to see you.  That’s the guy for you.

Does surrounding yourself with fanilows sound a bit dangerous?  A bit too easy?  Would it turn you into a self-satisfied egomaniac, unwilling to hear criticism?

It doesn’t have to.  I’m sure Barry reads the critics, and he ponders their suggestions.  He takes everything into consideration – then he makes his calls, his own decisions about his music and his performances.

You can have a suggestion box, too.  And you can invite people to write down their suggestions and stick them in.  And you can read them, and consider each and every one on its merits.  If they have a problem with you, they can say so, and you’ll listen.

But at the end of the day, you have to make your own calls.  You decide who you want to be – your most authentic, best self.

Then you go out into the world, and sort through the haters – and the fanilows.

The haters you can listen to politely, and push aside.

But the fanilows are the ones who celebrate you, and make it possible for you to see what’s best in yourself.

Be good to the fanilows.  Treat them like gold.
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Postscript:

 

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My new book is a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance.

Please also check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way-Worse-Than-Being-Dentist

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy: Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

(In addition to Amazon.com, my books are also available on bn.com and the Apple iBookstore.)

Lauren Mayer: Musical Peaceniks, 21st Century Style

Even those of you not old enough to remember the 1960s have heard of the various counter-culture movements – anti-war demonstrations, hippies at Woodstock, ‘never-trust-anyone-over-30,’ and so on.  (I was in elementary school, so I wasn’t old enough for any of the really wild stuff.  My counter-culture activities were confined to teaching myself the guitar chords for “Where Have All The Flowers gone?” and macrame-ing myself a belt for my bell-bottoms.  But I digress . . . )

Music, politics and comedy were also combined frequently, from The Smothers Brothers to Country Joe McDonald’s “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag” (the one he recorded at Woodstock, with the iconic refrain, “And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for?” – don’t feel bad, I had to look up the title and I was even alive when he wrote it in 1965.  On the other hand, according to Wikipedia, he wrote it in 20 minutes.  How’s that for making us all feel like slouches?)

Anyway, here’s my version of a protest song for modern times, inspired by the always-reliable Daily Show’s apt summary of our latest anti-terrorist campaign:

Lauren Mayer: Election Polling: I’m Not Getting Older – My Hard Drive Is Just Too Full!

Those of us old enough to remember rotary phones, black & white TV, and cars without seatbelts are now at an age when a forgotten name or misplaced car keys can make us worry about age-related memory loss.  My response is always to joke about my hard drive being full – it’s not age, it’s data overload.

And that actually makes sense – by the time we’re in our 50s, we’ve had so many experiences, met so many people, learned so many facts, and memorized so many phone numbers that it’s amazing we can remember our own names.  (And as far as the phone numbers – anyone under 30 has it far easier, because these days who needs to memorize a number when your smart phone does it for you?)

This sense of data overload is particularly profound during campaign season – which these days is pretty much all the time, given that we’re already talking about 2016 and we haven’t even had the 2014 election yet.   It’s not just that every news outlet has its own poll, which all seem to contradict each other, but now pundits are making a science out of poll data aggregation, and none of them agree all of the time.  Plus the results seem to change on a daily basis, depending on the latest lawsuits or stories of errant behavior.

Since this relatively new field of unending data aggregate analysis feels a bit like the untamed wild west, I thought it was appropriate to memorialize it with a wild-west-themed song (and one which only those of us old enough to remember rotary phones are likely to recognize):

Lauren Mayer: ElevatorGate

There are fewer & fewer of us who actually remember the first scandal whose name ended in ‘gate,’ thus inspiring every other controversy to adopt a similar suffix, whether somewhat comparable (“BridgeGate,” about Chris Christie & the GW Bridge closure), unwieldy (the Mark Sanford “AppalachainTrailGate” sex scandal) or downright silly (criticism of the President’s summer wardrobe became “TanSuitGate”).  But part of why the -gate naming continues to this day is that the original Watergate scandal was a huge historic moment.

I was in jr. high when the hearings started (and thank you to those of you thinking, Gee, she doesn’t look THAT old! . . . . but I digress), and even then my die-hard liberal father knew that they would be important.  He allowed me to stay home from school to watch key testimony, and made sure I was aware of the whole story as it unfolded.

If you look up ‘scandals ending in -gate’ you will get a list of over 100 in various categories (anyone remember “toiletgate” or “squidgygate”?), but ironically, so far no one has tried to ‘gate-ize’ what may turn out to be an equally historic moment – recent revelations about domestic and child abuse by professional athletes.  Every day it seems new details emerge, another athlete is found to have beaten a child or girlfriend, and like in Watergate, it may turn out that the coverup is the worst part.

Who knows how historic this story may turn out to be with a few decades’ perspective?  But in the meantime, here’s my musical take on it . . .

Lauren Mayer: Career Goals For The Real World

For generations, we’ve illustrated ‘the American Dream’ as being a place “where anyone can grow up to be President.”  But these days, one look at President Obama’s weary face& gray hair, not to mention the merciless way people can attack any public figure anonymously, is enough to scare off impressionable kids.  (Can you imagine the field day internet trolls would have had with William Howard Taft breaking the White House bathtub because he was too heavy for it?)

Interestingly enough, however, poor approval ratings don’t seem to have dampened enthusiasm for Congressional candidates.  (The lucrative revolving door between public & private jobs, as illustrated by Eric Cantor’s recent windfall, may help . . . )

When I was a kid, “Schoolhouse Rock” taught us about the 3 branches of government via catchy songs – so maybe it’s time for an update, about the joys of serving in Congress.

Lauren Mayer: Summertime Blues

Labor Day has traditionally marked the start of the fall season, when we say goodbye to ‘those lazy hazy crazy days of summer,’ return to school (or work), and put away our white shoes until Memorial Day.  Of course, most of those traditions have evaporated – style expert Tim Gunn says white is appropriate all year round, very few working adults get much time off in the summer, and many schools start mid-August or earlier.   But we still usually think of summer as a more carefree time, when things are a little easier and workplaces are more casual.  (I, for one, thoroughly appreciated the break from waking my son up for 4 years of zero period marching band – getting a sleep-deprived teenager out the door at 6:30 a.m., and living to tell the tale, has earned me at least some good karma!)

However, this past summer has been an endless stream of awful news, from war and conflict to corruption trials to racial unrest and protests, and there never seemed to be a lull.  It made me nostalgic for last summer, when the big stories were outrage over ‘twerking’ (Miley Cyrus’ provocative dancing at an awards show), or the continuing revelations in the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal.  Even the Kardashians were surprisingly low-key – I guess they’re waiting to reveal their next big shocker when the world isn’t so fixated on things that actually matter . . .

With that in mind, here’s a salute to the Summer of 2014 – and to how relieved we are that it’s over!

Lauren Mayer: Stand By Your Man, 2.0

The phenomenon of political spouses standing by their scandal-plagued husbands has become such a cliche, it’s even inspired a t.v. show  – “The Good Wife.” We’ve seen women forgive men for infidelity, patronizing prostitutes, embezzling funds, or cringe-worthy texts, among other misbehaviors.  But recently we’ve seen a whole new twist – not only is Maureen McDonnell (wife of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell) standing by her man in his corruption trial, apparently, she is letting him blame the whole thing on her.  According to McDonnell’s defense, they couldn’t have coordinated any quid pro quo because their marriage was so damaged they didn’t communicate, and besides she solicited gifts from the tobacco-supplement-magnate because she had a crush on him, not because they hoped to exchange expensive goodies for political favors.

I don’t know what the real story is, whether this is an elaborate hoax or a messy public airing of a sour relationship, but it sure is gothic enough to inspire a Tammy Wynette-style country ballad.

 

Lauren Mayer: Make ‘Em Laugh

The past week has been a particularly sharp example of the connection between comedy and tragedy.  Robin Williams’ suicide reminded us that there is often a dark side to funny people, and meanwhile the unrest in Ferguson, Iraq, and the Middle East have many of us exhausted by bad news and craving some comic relief.

Like many humorists, I often struggle with the seeming frivolity of what I do, wondering if my effort would be better spent trying to cure cancer or feed the homeless.  But when I first moved to New York, I was fortunate enough to have a roommate who was getting her degree in oncological social work (counseling families of terminally ill patients).  She brought a group of her colleagues to see me do a comic cabaret show, and they assured me that they couldn’t face the constant tragedy in their line of work without people like me helping them laugh and blow off steam.

Not that I’m equating my weekly songs with the genius of Robin Williams, but I do appreciate getting comments like, “Thanks for helping me laugh at a frustrating subject,” or “Keep the funny songs coming – it really helps!”  (And those are a refreshing change from other comments like “Who told you you could sing, you clueless feminazi libtard?”)

I actually don’t even mind the negative comments, since they are amusingly deficient in grammar & spelling as well as logic.  However, I have to admit, there is one frequent comment that irks me – “Hey, you should send your stuff to Jon Stewart!,” as if that had never occurred to me, and as if all I had to do was take the reader up on that fabulous suggestion and voila, I’d be appearing on The Daily Show.  But since sending my weekly songs to the show’s email & Facebook page doesn’t seem to be working, I decided to try a more direct approach . . . .

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: My Favorite Things

jyb_musingsRemember Julie Andrews memorable song, “These are a few of my favorite things” where she taught us….


“When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad”

But what if the “Favorite things” in the song, don’t really do it for you?
I mean, remember? The favorite things are things like
“Cream colored ponies” and “whiskers on kittens,”
“Bright copper kettles” and “Brown paper packages tied up with strings”
I never told anyone but none of those were on my “favorite things list.” Not one.

Now that I am older I think there must have been a little more going on with Julie Andrews back then that was lifting her mood than just thinking about cream colored ponies. After all, the song came out in the mid 1960s.

Regardless of the lyrics, I do love the Al Jarreau version of this song. And listening to it is one of my favorite things. And still works.

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