Monday, December 31, 2012

Any humans out there?

Dear Person Reading My Blog Right Now:

If you wouldn't mind leaving me a comment, I'd hugely appreciate it. A lot of the hits that any blog gets are automated search engines and websites. So if I see that my blog got 30 visits, that really means that some fraction of that number were actual humans who actually read a post. The rest were not real hits.

Please do me a favor: if you're reading this right now, leave a comment on this post answering the following question:

How did you discover my blog?

I'm just feeling some blogger insecurity these days. Thanks!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fat and middle-aged: the advantages

Visiting with a friend's dogs on Christmas Eve
This post is specifically for women "of a certain age," although young women might also find it interesting.

For me the best part of being middle-aged and overweight is not having to waste time and energy playing the "is he looking at me?" game. I was single and thin until my 40's and I spent a lot of effort trying to catch the attention of other single people (mostly, but not always, men). I fanatically kept my weight down, carefully chose my clothes and constantly looked at myself in mirrors and reflections to make sure I looked pretty and sexy. In the gym I abandoned all modesty and wore tight tops and short shorts. Everywhere, at all times, I glanced into faces to see how many eyes were on me. Is he looking at me? Is he looking at me?

Yes, it showed lack of confidence and low self-esteem, but so it was. Even when I wasn't actively looking for romance, I needed to know that my face and/or body had everyone's attention. Am I pretty enough? Am I sexy enough? The disadvantage was that I constantly felt vulnerable to the attentions of men. Whenever someone gave me attention I didn't want, I felt helpless, scared, like I wanted to hide. I didn't feel powerful or comfortable in my sexuality, but I thought it was all I had that kept me from being invisible.

That was my life in my 20s and 30s. I'm 46 now and no longer carry that air of loneliness, desperation and longing for approval. My need for people to notice my physical beauty must have been as clear as a neon sign for decades, but I've turned that sign off. No more searching faces to see if my body is being appreciated, no more sucking in my gut when I walk by someone, no more straining to check my appearance in every reflective surface.

I am settling into my middle-age. My face no longer appears 30-years-old-or younger, so I no longer appeal to men who scope out 30-years-old-or younger women. Does this make me feel sad? No! It makes me feel relieved that I can be myself without trying to meet anyone's standards of beauty and sexiness. Also, to be physically admired feels good, but beauty can also be distracting. Beautiful young women aren't always taken seriously. People make assumptions about women and men who are extremely attractive and those assumptions aren't always positive. Being beautiful means having some degree of social caché, but it doesn't always lead in the direction you want to go and it's a very limited "skill." The bottom line is that young women don't hold a lot of power in American society, but when beauty and sexiness don't get them where they want to go, thank goodness middle age comes along and gives them a chance to develop real skills and power.

I am content to have moved out of the demographic of "pretty young women." It was fun while it lasted, but pretty young women are also a targeted population and I felt unease about that all the time. That fear is finally fading as I outgrow my youthful physical appearance. At age 46, I can now have an exchange with a man and know that our attention is on the conversation, not on sizing each other up for possible further contact. I love being able to talk to neighbors, co-workers and complete strangers without that mental buzzing concert of either "Does he think I'm pretty? Could this interaction go somewhere?" Or "Does he find me sexually attractive? Because I don't feel that way about him. How do I scrape him off?"

Yes, I burned a lot of valuable energy on that whole attractiveness thing, but without the narrow waist and young boobs to distract people (including me, since I felt self-conscious about my body), I can have free and relaxed interactions and it feels great. I'm learning that there is so much more to life than being pretty! There's stuff like:
  • Self-esteem that's based on who I am on the inside, not the outside.
  • Ability to take care of my emotional needs (includes friendships, support groups, knowing when to rest and when to get moving, and being in tune with my moods).
  • Valuable tools to get me through daily challenges and crises (includes Emotional Freedom Technique).
  • Being comfortable in my body.
  • Less concern about what others think of me.
  • Forty-six years of experience, wisdom and creativity to calmly face whatever might be ahead.
  • Knowing what's necessary, what isn't necessary and what I'm really better off without. 
  • Love and acceptance of myself. It's been a long time coming.
These gifts feel so much better to me than being pretty enough to catch everyone's eye at the gym! If this is the trade-off for youth, I call it a bargain.

The title of this post includes the word "fat" because my weight gain in the past couple of months has taught me that being 5 foot 2 inches and 155 pounds feels quite different from 5'2" and 130 pounds. Being overweight moves me even further from the kind of body that hungry American male eyes constantly seek. Being overweight has its drawbacks (limited movement, more odd aches and pains), but I've discovered a big advantage: it makes me feel even safer in a world where young women are vulnerable and preyed on.

Middle aged women are powerful. The Emotional Freedom Technique Meetup (tapping circle) I started last summer is coming into its own. A group of us meets each week to release fear, guilt and anger and to celebrate when we achieve goals and reach new levels of freedom from limitation. It's no coincidence that the majority of our core group is women over the age of 45. Unhampered by the frantic life-building that often characterizes the younger years, we're discovering strengths and tools to heal ourselves more deeply than ever. We're not afraid to dive into burning emotions and painful memories. As a group we are working through emotional blocks and individually we are improving our ability to take care of ourselves. The EFT Tapping Circle is a priceless resource for me and is just one example of how powerful women become when we're no longer using major brain power for attracting and mating. (NOTE: all are welcome to join us in our tapping circle any Saturday morning on the north side of Chicago!)

In my late 20s, filled with fear and insecurity, I said to myself, "I'll bet everything will be better by the time I'm 45. Yeah, I'm going to look forward to 45. Come on, 45!" It turns out, I was right. My 20s and 30s were filled with awful struggles with my own inner demons, but on the other side of those struggles were my 40s and they feel much happier and more comfortable. Being fat, middle-aged and confident feels a hundred times better than being young, thin and scared all the time. As a young woman, I knew one day my youthful physical appearance would go away, but no one told me that by the time I got there, I wouldn't care!

Be middle-aged with me. The best is right here.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve activity

Lifesource is open for business today, so I'm heading over. They sent me an email saying the holidays are a time when they NEED BLOOD DONATIONS and they hope I'll help. I'm hydrating right at this minute so I can be a good bleeder, if they accept me. I don't always get accepted because my iron level isn't always high enough, but either way I get free snacks, so what's to keep me from at least trying?

http://www.redcrossblood.org/
You can also contact the American Red Cross to donate blood. If you're not in the U.S. I urge you to find your local blood donation center because blood donations are constantly needed all over the world. What better way to celebrate what many call the season of giving? I'm bleeding for Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Letter to Congress about a ban on semi-automatic weapons

My sister wrote the following letter to Senator Diane Feinstein of California, but is sending copies to her congressional representatives, too. She gave me permission to send a similar letter to my Illinois reps, copying entire passages from hers, and she encouraged me to share it with everyone who reads this blog.

Dear Senator Feinstein:

I have recently learned of your plan to introduce legislation banning assault weapons from use in the United States. I am writing to ask you to please implement a retro-active ban on ownership of these weapons.

In the wake of the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre in Australia which killed 35 people, public opinion was such that Australia’s government was able to successfully implement a far-reaching gun control measure. Within the new law was a restriction on the ownership of semi-automatic weapons including a retro-active ban on ownership of these weapons.  Although some gun owners weren’t happy about giving up their semi-automatic weapons, they were appeased by the government implementing a buy-back program in which the government bought back the newly banned guns at a rate of the retail price plus ten percent.

Over the last 15 years, as a result of the ban, Australia, who had previously seen a mass shooting approximately every year, has seen no mass-shootings.

It seems to me that the American people deserve nothing less than a comprehensive ban on semi-automatic weapons. If the hunter-rich, gun loving Australians can pass such legislation, we should give the American people the opportunity to do likewise.

A good commentary on these issues is the
Democracy Now program of Dec. 18, 2012 which features Rebecca Peters, former Chairperson of Australia’s National Coalition for Gun Control.

Thank you for your time and consideration of the above.

Sincerely,


Judy Rodriguez
Houston, TX

Friday, December 21, 2012

Shouldn't it be 28 bells?

I appreciated the moment of silence the country observed this morning as 26 chimes of a bell honored those who were killed last week on the school grounds of Sandy Hook Elementary School. I heard some used the number 27 to include Nancy Lanza, the mother of the killer, but I didn’t hear anyone suggest 28 (correction: one entity did).

Shouldn't it be 28 bells? As someone who has struggled to believe life is worth living, I feel sad for Adam Lanza. Clearly this was a young person in an unimaginable amount of pain. I can tell it's unimaginable because few Americans have even tried to imagine it. I've heard the questions, "How could anyone do that?" and "What kind of person?" I wish these were honest attempts to understand, but mostly these have been rhetorical questions that precede a good session of vilifying the latest crazy person. I have an answer for "How could anyone do that?" but it's hardly worth sharing with someone who means, "How could anyone do that except for a monster who should never have been born and who better be burning in hell right now?" [My audience for this piece does NOT include anyone with a direct relationship with anyone who died in Newtown last week.]

I've heard no prayers said for Adam Lanza, no public honoring of his life or acknowledgement that he was a victim, too. The people in Adam's life failed him, just as we fail countless people who struggle with emotional and personality disorders every day. He needed help and it wasn't there for him.

It regularly occurs to me that life is unbearably hard and kids don’t deserve the pain that many of them face. Sometimes I look at babies and feel sorry for them because they’re at the very beginning of their lives and who knows what terrible ordeals they'll have to go through. I can imagine Adam believing he was sparing the Sandy Hook students from having to live in an awful world with awful people and pointless suffering. I think that's often the motivation when mothers kill their children. To release an innocent child from a hellish life on a wretched planet can be seen as an act of mercy. I have no idea if this was Adam's reasoning, but take a minute and consider it. Can you step outside yourself and try to imagine, just for a second, the logic that would lead someone to think killing is an appropriate thing to do?

No? Maybe you can't. Many people choose not to imagine the minds of the unstable because it's disconcerting to see the world through the eyes of someone whose logic is so twisted. Or maybe you're afraid of how much you might have in common with the depressed, the manic or the schizophrenic. Why would you want to step outside of your safe, sane mind and try to understand a disturbed person? Why would you want to get that close to ideas you want to keep out of your head?

Because we distance ourselves from the mentally ill there's little sympathy for Adam. It's easier to see him as crazy-scary: someone who should have been shot before he had a chance to shoot others. Or if we see him as an ill person who needed treatment, we think such treatment should have cast the devil out of him, as if emotional disorders were caused by evil.

We need to get semi-automatic weapons out of the hands of regular Americans and we need to make mental health care easily accessible, but we also need to develop true sympathy for those who live with mental illness. Americans like to see everything as either good or evil, using even medical symptoms as clues to someone's moral standing. This is what we've done with Adam Lanza. Even those willing to accept that he must have been mentally ill tend to use that phrase as code for evil. We say "He must have been sick" with judgment, not understanding. But if everyone who suffered from an emotional or personality disorder made our challenge known to our families, neighbors and co-workers, Americans would eventually be forced to change our attitude about mental illness. Mental illness is everywhere and it's not evil and it rarely leads to violence. Most symptoms of many disorders are driven by fear, not the desire to hurt anyone.

Whatever Adam was suffering from was beyond his control, and no one stepped in to get him the help he needed. His slaughter of 27 people might be the ugliest, most senseless killing the United States experiences for a very, very long time, but Adam Lanza did not step out of the mouth of hell. He was an American boy with a disorder that no one paid enough attention to. (In a country where people don't have access to powerful weaponry, his symptoms might have led to a more innocuous breakdown.) We'll never know what he was thinking, but I think that's enough to earn him the benefit of the doubt. I mourn Adam Lanza along with the people he killed because every life cut short in Newtown that day was a tragedy. Each of those schoolchildren deserved to grow up, and so did Adam.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"


[I originally posted this on January 5, 2006 and it's my tradition to re-post it every December.]

Here’s my summary of the History Channel's Christmas Unwrapped: The History of Christmas which I find extremely relevant to the annual discussion of the true meaning of Christmas. The following historical facts are from the History Channel program, but the opinionated statements are mine.

Christmas Started Without Jesus

It turns out that early Europeans were observing a winter solstice celebration centuries before Jesus was born. In Norse country it was called “Yule” and it lasted for as long as the enormous “Yule log” took to burn, which was about twelve days. In preparation for the cold, dark season people would kill almost all their livestock since they couldn’t feed them through the winter. The feasting and general revelry that resulted became the annual Yule celebration.

In Rome the winter solstice marked the period known as “Saturnalia.” During this festival people drank, behaved raucously and generally overturned the normal social order. While this was going on, the upper classes of Rome worshipped Mithras, the sun god, whose feast day was December 25th and who was believed to have been born in a field and worshipped by shepherds.

Early Christians didn’t celebrate Jesus’ birth, focusing on his resurrection (which makes a lot more sense to me), but by the fourth century the new Church needed to establish Jesus’ holy birth, so it began to put together the nativity story. It knew it would never manage to outlaw the pagan traditions already in place, so it appropriated them and that’s how December 25th became Jesus’ feast day.

It Had More Sex Than Saints

In England during the middle ages, the pious went to church on December 25th for “Christ’s mass,” but for most of the population it was just a regular day. Most of those who celebrated made it a festival of drunken revelry and sex that would look more to us like Mardi Gras or New Year’s Eve. It was a saturnalian free-for-all with little connection to Jesus except in name.

By the 17th century the Puritans had had enough of this and they made attempts to outlaw Christmas in both England and the New World. These devout people saw Christmas as a depraved tradition that had to be stopped. It didn’t work, but the holiday was greatly downplayed for a long time, as evidenced by the U.S. Congress being in session on all Christmas Days for its first 67 years!

America Needed a Tradition

When the United States were established in 1776, the early Americans wanted to rid themselves of all things English, including Christmas. But over time they also needed new culturally shared holidays and a reinvention of Christmas was on the horizon.

One new aspect of the American Christmas was how it addressed the growing class divide of the industrial U.S. In the early 1800’s the holiday became quite dangerous as working class people turned it into a time of violent payback for the increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots. In response to growing economic imbalances, writers like Washington Irving and Charles Dickens created works of fiction that instilled a spirit of generosity and demonstrated sharing wealth with the poor. These popular stories gave the upper classes guidance about what their responsibility was to those who had less and established “giving” as a central Christmas theme. Christmas now gave people a chance to correct some of the socioeconomic unfairness of newly industrialized America.

The view of the family was also changing. Traditionally, the American family was supposed to discipline children and turn them into hard workers, but by the end of the 19th century the family was seen more as a nurturing body that protected childhood innocence. Christmas, with its emphasis on giving gifts, allowed people to pour attention on children without seeming to spoil them. The holiday became a celebration of children, honoring them with presents and sharing in their joy.

Why Shopping Is Central

The creation of the American version of Santa Claus in the mid-1800's did a few things: it reinforced the idea that Christmas distributes wealth, it solidified the focus on children and it removed gift-buying from the marketplace and placed it in the realm of family love and affection. Shopping became an expression of love. This diminished the obvious commercialism of gift-buying and obliged parents to fulfill their children’s expectations. Thus did shopping become the central activity of the Christmas season.

But Where Was God?

By the late 1800’s Christmas was just about everywhere in the U.S, except in church. In fact, the author of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas was an Episcopalian minister who initially kept his authorship a secret because he thought the poem was too friviolous; after all, it didn’t mention Jesus once. The celebration of Jesus’ birth was an established part of the Catholic tradition, but for quite a while American Protestant churches pretty much ignored it. For decades they stayed closed on December 25th until their parishioners made clear that they wanted services on that day.

So it's not quite true that Jesus’ birth was the original reason we have Christmas. December 25th was part of a pagan festival that morphed into a holiday of gift-giving that American churches didn’t want anything to do with until almost the 20th century. There was no golden age during which most people observed Christmas primarily as a holy day. Sorry Charlie Brown, but Snoopy's right: Christmas is as much about the big decorated tree as it is about the manger.

Does Christmas Even Need Jesus?

By the 1920’s the sex and revelry were gone from Christmas and by the 1950’s it was all about kids and presents. Clearly a spiritual focus was appropriate since religious services recall the need to connect with a greater power. In the centuries before Christ, people needed to believe they’d survive the winter and they worshipped the sun as their source of life. Modern Christians worship the son of God, whom they recognize as the source their life.

But for as long as December 25th has been recognized as Jesus’ feast day, there have been lots of other activities going on at the same time. I think if Christmas were really just about Jesus, the holiday wouldn’t occupy public space as it does. Strictly religious holy days tend to be observed only by those who practice that faith. Our grand scale yuletide traditions -- big decorations, big eating, big shopping -- support the religious significance of the day, but don’t engage it.

Pick Your Own True Meaning

The History Channel’s program ends with the observation that only children understand what Christmas is really about: pure joy and celebration, and the magic and mystery of opening gifts. That’s why, even as grown ups, we often experience a moment of delight when we see a Santa truly in his role or glimpse a dazzling light display. Such moments take us back to our childhood and the unadulterated awe and glory that Christmas held for us then. Our American Christmas tradition was tailor-made for children and they are essential to its magic.

(I think the child-focus of the holiday is also why Christmas becomes ever more dim and disappointing to us adults: the essence of this holiday isn't about us.)

The true meanings of Christmas include Jesus, but they're also about children and gift-giving. There was never a time during which the majority treated December 25th as a solemn holy day; the drunken orgy it used to be caused the Puritans to try to stamp it out altogether. Although Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, it's as much about decorations, kids and presents as it is about God, an interesting outcome for a holiday with a rich pagan history of drunkenness, gluttony and sex.

Let us all celebrate whatever we choose during the Christmas season. For some that might be the birth of Jesus, while for others it might be an excuse to EAT (etc). I know when I tell someone "Merry Christmas," it has nothing to do with the Church. I'm just wishing them a really good season of partying.
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How to be overweight

I'm a small-boned, petite woman who is all of five feet two inches tall. I'm 46 and a half years old. Most of my adult life, my weight has hovered between 120 and 135. With my sweet tooth and use of food as an emotional coping mechanism, I've fought hard to keep my weight down. I could easily have been obese decades ago, but I've done a lot of food restricting and forced exercise. My life has been full of low self-esteem, pounding myself against gym equipment and obsessing about food I told myself I couldn't have.

Since the beginning of October, I've been running the experiment of throwing all my eating rules out the window. I'm using Geneen Roth's approach to food: loving myself enough to stop depriving and punishing myself with food (and exercise, in my case). From the outside it might have looked like I spent the past two decades taking very good care of myself: eating well, exercising regularly, staying trim and fit. But on the inside it was deprivation and pain and feeling convinced that if I let myself relax, I'd turn into a huge fat cow and my life would be over. All my "healthy fitness" was driven by pure fear.

Roth knows from years of experience that if you take your focus off of food and work on the true issues that are causing you to emotionally eat, the food obsession will decrease. If you stop with the fear and self-punishment and let yourself lovingly eat whatever you want, the emotional need for food will recede. Through a combination of working on our true issues and eating what we want at all times, we can dissolve the hold food has over us and reach our natural weight.

I'm doing it. Since October I've taken my cruel inner critic out of the front seat of my mind. I'm being kind to myself instead of mean and judgmental. I'm keeping in mind that I deserve to have what I want, rather than put it off until one day when I'm perfect and can then be happy. Instead, I'm choosing to be happy NOW.

Part of this has been eating whatever I want, exercising as I feel like it (or not) and loving myself. Life is good and I don't have live in fear of losing control. As a result, I'm more relaxed, I don't worry as much, I sleep better, my personal relationships have improved, my digestion has calmed and life feels good. And as of this morning, I weigh 155 pounds.

Eating whatever I want means a lot of sugar, so my weight has ballooned. I find that the most difficult parts of this sudden weight gain are having to keep buying new clothes and not being able to do the yoga moves I like. My body doesn't bend the way it used to, like a bag that has been stuffed to the brim and has no more give. I don't like it. I'm used to doing this: sit on the floor with my legs straight out in front of me, bend in two, reach forward and grasp the bottom of my feet with both hands. These days my hands only make it as far as my ankles, so my spine and legs don't get the delicious, complete stretch I want. This makes me sad. I've also been noticing odd pains in my abdomen and upper torso which I imagine are the result of gaining twenty (or twenty-five) pounds in two months. This is not good for my heart.

But the experiment is beginning to take a turn: I'm getting tired of the sugar. I have no interest in the box of Christmas cookies in the pantry right now (the good kind from the bakery) or the uncooked chocolate chip cookie dough in the fridge. In the supermarket just now, I heard the ice cream calling me, and the candy and the cupcakes, but I let them be. In the past several days I've started drinking more water and less juice. My carb cravings are shifting to sliced bread and dinner rolls instead of candy and cake frosting. It's gradual, but some days I actually want vegetables instead of potato chips (yeah, I know!).

Will Roth's theories hold true? Is it possible that I can overdose on my favorite things so that even during Christmas week -- that time of super-indulgence -- I actually want to pull back on the sugary junk? I've also been working damn hard on my personal issues and have made startling progress, so maybe I am about to stop punishing myself with food.

I solidly, inarguably weigh more than is ideal for my frame and have the odd pains to prove it. To go from a size 10 to a size 14 (16?) in so little time is unhealthy, but drastic times call for drastic measures. Bariatric bypass surgery also has its dangers: possible complications from anesthesia, infection and malnutrition. Liposuction also has risks and so do countless weight loss diets and treatments. Are my 25-pounds-in-eight-weeks so terrible compared to things other people try? I'm following a very specific path to rid myself of my food obsession and body image problem, once and for all. I trust myself to heal from my self-punishing food behaviors and I trust my body to guide me to a truly healthy way of eating. I'm committed to reaching my natural weight and living there, without the weight yo-yo-ing I've been doing since I was 25 years old. I am trusting myself and I'm sticking with the process.



December 14, 2012


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Atheist in support of Christmas

ArkansasMatters.com ran this article on November 19th: "Charlie Brown Christmas Show Causes Church and State Controversy." It reports that a Little Rock church was performing matinees of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" for local schools. The schools sent permission slips home for the field trip, but parents who believe in the separation of church and state protested children being led into places of worship by their government-run schools as part of the school day.

That makes sense and I like Maressa Brown's reasoned opinion which she posted on
The Stir. She writes, "The season should never be treated as an excuse for doing something that wouldn't be considered appropriate at any other time of the years...like taking public school students to see a religiously-themed play with zero application to their curriculum at a church!"

But as an atheist, I can't help but think this is the stuff that gives atheists a bad name. Is it the right move to eliminate all religious instruction from the American public school system? Wouldn't it be better to allow all religions equal time? I believe spiritual beliefs are hardwired into the human survival mechanism and without them, we would never have survived as a species (I also think we should never have survived as a species, but that's another hypocritical discussion). Rather than argue that it's wrong to shuttle innocent, open-minded children to church, how about shuttling innocent, open-minded children to every place of worship possible? I'm in favor of an all or nothing approach. Introduce American children to mosques, temples, synagogues and yes, churches. Do you know how bored they'd be? Rather than become indoctrinated and mind-washed, kids would be so turned off by the tedium of spiritual practice, they'd want little to do with it. Or they'd choose their own path, which is also fine (religious beliefs can be extremely useful and nourishing, but -- again -- that's another argument).

On the other hand, atheists shutting down school activities is in keeping with the Christmas spirit given that Christmas has a long history of people trying to stamp it out. But my American atheist brethren: do you really believe the American Christmas tradition has much to do with religion? Come on: it's a cultural tradition of consumption and childhood fantasy. Who really cares about Jesus as we stand in long lines, tally up department store bills and ingest obscene quantities of cinnamon and vanilla? Christmas is mostly a big party with the same nominal relationship to Christ that it had back in the beginning when the Christian Church linked the feast day of a pagan god to its myth of a savior.

Let's be reasonable. Those who want to go to church on December 25th and pretend this is all about God are free to do so, but besides that let's have fun! In the public eye, Christmas only becomes about religion when people shout it loud enough, so hush. And let the kids have a field trip to see a play that mentions Jesus in the end -- why the hell not? After all, it's Christmas.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

How much to tip? TWENTY percent.

Many people build their careers in the restaurant industry and they're in it for life. They pay their medical bills, rent, mortgage, children's college, etc. with the money they make from bussing tables, serving tables, tending bar, etc. The majority of their income is the money you leave as a tip. That's right. You might disagree with that arrangement and think it shouldn't be on you to keep restaurant workers at a living wage, but that's the reality in the United States. In this country, servers receive below minimum wage from their employers and they need YOU to make up the difference.

The standard tip today is twenty percent (20%), before any discounts, Groupons or freebies are subtracted from the total cost of everything you ate and drank. No matter what you're getting for free, your server/bartender/busser still had to work in order for you to get it. Please pay them for their services. Gone are the days when you could get away with a ten or fifteen percent tip without looking cheap.

Please tip fairly. Those tips are what servers, bussers, bartenders and other service providers actually LIVE ON. And to those of you who already tip 20% as a base and leave even more for superlative service, THANK YOU! You are fair and wonderful.