I wrote Mustache Love after my daughter told me about being teased for having a “little mustache” at school. Earlier this year, I auditioned for the LTYM Show with the piece, was cast in the show, and am now preparing to unleash the love upon a live audience. Reading over the piece in preparation for the show reminds me of how a little blog post, on a lesser known blog, somehow turned into a movement of inclusion and would inspire a community to come together and stand vigil over a friend in trouble.
It began with a hashtag. My homey, @TheBusBandit, retweeted my blog post and added #MustacheLove to his tweet. The response to the blog post was huge, both on Twitter, on the blog, via email, or in person. So many people showing the hairy-ass love, and sharing their own versions of #MustacheLove. The mustache was different for everyone. For some it was their weight, others, bucked teeth, acne, height, skin color, the list went on and on. Everyone had a “mustache”. Everyone.
#MustacheLove became more than just a blog post. It was a common thread, a right of passage, the act of breaking free of what is “pretty” or “normal” or “handsome” or “good”. It was acceptance. It was courage. It was reminding each other that we’re all okay, just as we are. Because as grown as we are, we still forget sometimes.
Then came the mustaches. They came from everywhere. Mustache jewelry, mustache window clings, mustache pillows, mustache photos, a group of my running buddies ran a route in the shape of a mustache just to make me smile. In 2010, I needed #MustacheLove more than ever. I had two major surgeries, needed to ask for help more than I ever had in my life, and had to come to terms with a very different kind of “normal”. The months after the first surgery brought a roller coaster of highs and lows, emotionally and physically. Three months later, I needed another surgery. I talked a good game, but I was scared, pissed, and tired. I was gaining weight, I walked with a cane due to my deteriorating gait, and I looked sickly and shitty all the time. As much as I knew how to help my daughter deal with self image issues, I started feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. And I knew better, right? Sigh.
Then something happened.
I logged into Twitter the night before my second surgery to find that hundreds of avatars had been slightly altered. There, I found the usual faces of my Twitter feed, with one addition. Each one of them was wearing a mustache. A friend had created a Twibbon that overlaid a wickedawesome mustache over all of their beautiful faces. That night, #gosarago was a trending topic in Milwaukee. It was a glorious mustache vigil that I will never forget.
On Sunday, May 8, 2011, I will read Mustache Love to an audience of hundreds. And it isn’t the same Mustache Love that I wrote almost a year and a half ago. The words are the same, with some small additions and edits, but it feels different. When I talk about the day I made the decision to let my own (impressive, btw) facial hair grow (for 6 months) to show my daughter that good people will love you no mater how hairy (or heavy, or buck toothed, or pigeon toed…) you are, I won’t just be thinking about the good people who will love you in spite of your mustache.
I’ll be thinking of all the people who will wear one for you.
For some time now I have been trying to put my finger on why some folks get how to use social media to market themselves or their services and some completely miss the boat. I’ve been trying to identify exactly why one person drives me completely nuts, and another person’s message is welcome, and even met with a smile and desire to share their message. Then it hit me. Social graces. Good, old fashioned manners, courtesy, humor and genuine interest in others. You know, how people have been building relationships since, well, forever. “Social networking” is still just networking, period. Networking is still about people. Just talking to people and building relationships. Hopefully that relationship has value for both parties, whether it’s emotional value or monetary value, it doesn’t matter. You define that value.
So, let’s say you met me in real life. If every other thing out of your mouth was “Read my blog!”, “Buy my stuff!”, “I’m so great!”, “Have you heard how AWESOME my blog is?”, I would run away. Seriously. I might even have to resist the urge to smack you upside the head.
(Ok Sara, then tell us. Tell us how to market ourselves without being an obnoxious doucher.) Gladly.
Ask yourself a few questions:
Am I being myself? — Seriously. Be yourself. This, apparently, is easier said than done. Even the “social media experts” that preach the ever hyped “authentic/transparent” strategy don’t always practice what they preach. How do I know this? I’ve met plenty of them in real life that are quite different than they portray themselves on social networks. That doesn’t work. Why? Because the ultimate goal of networking is usually a real life conversion. If you aren’t really who you portray yourself to be online, you lose my trust.
Do I talk about myself/blog/business too much? — This is highly annoying in real life, and amplified on the web. If the majority of your activity on social networks is telling people about all the great stuff you are doing/have to offer/etc, you are probably coming off as narcissistic. Please stop. Thanks.
Am I courteous to others? — Are you prone to hijacking tweets? Do you take other people’s ideas from one forum and re-purpose as your own on another? Do you “borrow” other peoples snark/funny/content without giving credit? Well, that’s just douchey. (And also plagiarism, asshole.)
Am I the know-it-all? — Yes, yes, you may be a genius. You may have thought of everything before any of the rest of us. We know, you have an opinion on everything. Bless you. Here’s the thing. It’s ok to just shut up every once in awhile. If you did this at a cocktail party in real life, you wouldn’t get many future invitations. Dial it back, mmmkay?
You see, when people in my social network are helpful, courteous, knowledgeable and friendly, I WANT to hear about what they’ve got going on. I WANT to advocate on their behalf. Why? Just like in real life, I want to help my friends. In turn, those friends will want to help me. Together we will both grow our networks of friends, acquaintances, clients and so on.
Unless you are painfully socially awkward, you can do this. You have been building lasting relationships your whole life. Employ what you already know! You know how to NOT be a douchebag. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your online relationships are any different. They require care and work and time to grow. Be yourself. Listen when other people are speaking. Remember it’s not always about you. If you wouldn’t do it in a real life conversation, don’t do it in an online conversation.
And keep your elbows off the table.
Listen up folks, because I think we’re heading down a dangerous path. Usually you hear me evangelizing new mobile media tactics, amazing designs that make our lives easier and allow us to consume information, entertainment and social media anytime, anywhere. I mean, I *am* the #mobilediva, right?
It’s time to put the phone down.
Lately I have become keenly aware of parents ignoring their children because they cannot disconnect from the mobile web. I recently saw a woman continually ignore her son in a grocery store because she was reading/responding to something on her mobile device. It was heartbreaking. I stood there in line, silently judging this idiot of a woman. I mean how could you ignore that sweet little boy? How many years do you think you have left until he doesn’t want or need your attention in this way? What the fuck are you doing?!!
Then it occurred to me. I’ve done this. I’ve done the “just a minute”, and the “hang on I just have to send this…” to my kids. I’m an idiot too. I’d be willing to bet a lot of you are guilty of this, at least to some degree. If you deny it, I call bullshit.
After thinking about it more, I came to the following conclusion:
If my child EVER thinks FOR A SINGLE MOMENT that whatever the heck is on my mobile device is more important than her, then I am a giant douche of a parent.
I don’t want to be a douche. I don’t want my kids to think that I care more about ANYTHING than them. I’m turning over a new leaf. I will not only be more mindful of my mobile device usage around them, but I will purposefully outlaw mobile usage during most daily family activities. In addition to potentially giving my kids a complex, I could miss out on the moments that I can’t ever get back. They aren’t going to want to build forts and snuggle up on movie night forever. They are absolutely ecstatic when I walk through the door each evening, how long will that last? For everything good that our interactive lives bring into the mix, if not balanced with actually living your life, it can be destructive.
Got teenagers? Take heed. It may not seem like they care or notice. They do. They just quietly resent you for not trying harder to connect with them. Believe that.
When you boil it all down, it’s like anything else. Moderation. Being connected through mobile technology can be awesome, let’s face it, it’s pretty cool. Let’s just use a little common sense. Let’s be GREAT parents first. (Then you have my permission to check The Twitter.)
So let’s *not* be douche-y together. Let’s put the phone down and be a family. Who’s with me?
In my attempt to be honest about things that grind-my-gears on Twitter, I’m really getting under people’s skin. While I’m not SO much of a jack-ass (although I fully admit to being one) to say things just to get people riled up, I put my opinion out there to get other people thinking. I figure, this is what I think. I do not expect everyone to agree. I do not assume I am an authority on, well, anything. I am merely expressing an opinion, right or wrong. If everything I said was agreeable to every person, I’d be a total fraud. It’s not possible to make everyone happy or to make everyone see your point of view. I’m totally ok with that.
You may not always like what you get, but you know you’ll always get me.
Recently, I expressed my opinion on Twitter about whining (and keeping the small things in perspective). I had no individual person in mind. It was more of a thinking out loud type of rant. Twitter is, among other things, a place where people like to complain. A lot. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s thought provoking, and sometimes it just gets on my damn nerves. I used SEASONAL allergy symptoms as an example in my rant. I can’t even count how many times a day people tweet about their terrible runny nose, how itchy and puffy their eyes are, how very very miserable they are. I get it. It sucks. But, my point is…that’s LIFE. And if you live a life where what you have to complain about is a runny nose, your life is pretty damned easy. Really, the point is not about allergies or any one thing in particular at all. It is about PERSPECTIVE.
I have watched too many people suffer seriously debilitating illness, injury and loss, and do so with such grace and dignity, NOT to realize how precious this life is. And to be grateful for what I DO have, even if it’s not perfect. I mean, good lord, we ALL have stuff wrong with us. Some people have it harder than others, I’m not dismissing that. I’m just saying that each of has a choice to make. You can live your life as a victim, complaining about everything wrong in your life, or you can adjust your attitude, grab a dose of perspective and say, “Hey, maybe this sucks, but I’m grateful for this life. How can I work to improve this situation?”
Be your own hero. Don’t live your life as a victim. If you are lacking perspective, just open your eyes. The world is full of true suffering: genocide, crimes against humanity, poverty, famine, incurable and vicious diseases, the list goes on. If you feel your “First World problems” are too much to bear, volunteer to help someone out who has it worse than you do. Maybe that will help you get off the complain-train and live your life with gratitude and generosity.
And before anyone jumps down my throat about how I don’t understand, blah blah blah… Stop for a moment and think before you type. Just because someone chooses not to complain about their own life, doesn’t mean they haven’t been in your shoes, or worse.
Two weeks ago, I was sitting in a surgical waiting room wondering if I could possibly be losing the love of my life.
The nurses were sweet. Too nice. I hated that. I know which wives get special treatment. The ones that the nurses feel sorry for. The ones whose husbands are really, really sick. I didn’t want their coffee, food, water, or their warm blanket or their offer to sit with me until the surgeons came out. There were too many hugs. That’s not normal. I didn’t want any of it. I wanted them to be irritated that I was even a little bit worried. I wanted them to blow me off with a “This happens every day, Sugar. Now, you just have a seat and everything will be just fine.” I wanted to be anywhere but sitting in that chair, pretending that I wasn’t ready to crumble into a heap on the floor.
Two weeks ago, I rushed Augie to the emergency room. Two weeks ago, he was down to less than half his normal blood volume. Two weeks ago, no one had any idea where he was bleeding. Two weeks ago, doctors used words like severe hemorrhaging and possible malignancies. Two weeks ago, doctors sat in front of me and “wished they could give me a definitive answer”.
In the last two weeks, a team of physicians and nurses have worked to stabilize my husband and give us back some piece of mind. While we aren’t 100% there yet, Augie is on the road to recovery from this episode, and we are closer to determining the exact cause of his condition. He’s weak and beat up, but I have him back. That’s all that matters to me.
I did realize, throughout all of this, how lucky I am. I don’t need a medical emergency to appreciate my husband, to appreciate the health of my family. I consciously treasure that every day. I didn’t have to waste any time in that waiting room wondering if I show my husband enough love, or compiling a list of regrets for things unsaid or undone if I did lose him. I was able to concentrate on the only task on my to-do list as of that day:
I AM GOING TO GET HIM WELL. NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES.
I was in full strategic planning mode. I hired and fired doctors in the space of a week. I pissed off more nurses than I can count. My only job was to be the best advocate for his care that I could be. He was weak and sedated a lot. I had to buck up, put on the “medical mustache” and orchestrate a brilliant recovery. I was equal to the task. Why? Because I love that man so fucking much. That’s why.
Augie is home now, resting and healing and ready to continue treatment. I am grateful and thankful to wake up to his face every morning.
Something else happened in the last few weeks.
So many people in our lives have quietly and lovingly come forward and supported us in some amazing ways. There are far too many to name here. Our family and friends jumped in to take over childcare, carpooling, meal planning, and carried out “Operation Keep Augie Smiling” and “Operation Make Sure Sara Doesn’t Fall Apart” with expert skill. My mother in law took charge of the girls. My mom jumped on a plane without blinking an eye. My siblings and neighbors took care of our home and our pets. My work family jumped in to make sure that my clients never felt a thing and simultaneously supported us emotionally throughout all of this. (I even had a “Director of Sara’s Nutrition” appointed.) Our Twitter family wrapped their arms around us with gifts and meals and visits and hugs (virtual and IRL). My dailymile training buddies were incredibly supportive, and continue to support me as I ramp back into a normal life and running routine. Meals have been dropped off, groceries and gifts were delivered, our kids have been doted on and distracted. But the most important thing we received throughout this: L-O-V-E. We are loved. That is the greatest gift we have ever, will ever receive.
From the most honest and vulnerable place in my heart, thank you.
The greatest thing
You’ll ever learn
Is just to love
And be loved