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Thursday, March 4, 2010

If You Can Read This, Don’t Thank a Personality Reconstruction Specialist

I thought I retired when I was fifty, but in the past ten years I’ve gone on hiatus and (gulp) worked. Excluding my illustrious E-Bay sales career and my invaluable contributions to Royal Flamingo Works, LLC, I actually had three jobs that produced paychecks.

The first was substitute high school teacher in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system. After a student threatened me (“I’ve got a bullet with your name on it, Mrs. E.”), I reconsidered going back to school. Somehow, in these days of zero tolerance, the high school in question didn’t feel it necessary to suspend or discipline the young man who also happened to be on the football team. Call me a fool, but I actually enjoyed working with juvenile delinquents.

The next job I accepted was worlds away from Hell High School. A friend asked me to work in her Mother’s Day Out program. Since I had (and still have) no inclination to change diapers or wipe runny noses, I declined. She then offered me the position of “chaplain,” in which I taught the little darlings songs and Bible stories, and actually aided their understanding of the alphabet. I was new to Louisiana culture, and these tots were an alien race as far as I could tell. When I was a child there were three categories of clothing: good (or party) clothes that were seldom worn, school clothes, and play clothes. Suburban kids spent most of their time in play clothes (and, no, we didn’t “dress” for dinner). My young charges in Baton Rouge wore good clothes to school. Little girls appeared daily in fancy party dresses with beautifully crafted bows in their perfect hair. We’re talking about six-month- to four-year-olds. I can’t even imagine how they would be dressed for weddings and special occasions. Suri Cruise, anyone?

While I was chaplain, I accepted another position, assistant to the church pastor. I actually volunteered for the job because the congregation needed someone with my skills set and couldn’t find anyone. I had no intention of taking any job, especially not full time, because the reason I got married was to spend time with my husband and his working hours were highly irregular. The pastor was so anxious to hire me that he admitted his middle name is “Flexible.” He and I were a good team, and as soon as he was transferred (a year after I was hired) I quit; after all, I had taken the job as a favor to him. I guess that proves what a schnook I am.

Between the time I worked at the church and got involved in Royal Flamingo Works, LLC (, I needed a title to put on my card. What? Doesn’t everyone have a card? I designed a nice card with blocky background graphics in muted colors. However, it (or more specifically, “I”) needed a title. Since I’ve been a practicing Personality Reconstruction Specialist for at least thirty years, I used that one.

You may wonder what a Personality Reconstruction Specialist (or Personality Reconstruction Consultant, depending on my mood) does. You might as well ask me since I’m the only one. Before I get into the details, let me mention that Personality Reconstruction Specialists are not licensed or regulated (because no government agency has ever heard of them. I mean me.) I encourage anyone looking for a new direction in life to consider the field.

A Personality Reconstruction Specialist (or Consultant) is a professional who helps unhappy people. Unlike psychologists and therapists, though, they take a much more direct approach to people’s problems. Clients are people who are generally unhappy with their lives, or (using the diagnostic term) suffering from the blahs. The client makes an appointment with the PRS (or C), who of course charges by the hour, cannot accept health insurance, and expects to be paid in cash.

When the client’s time has come, they visit the PRS (or C) at the (where else?) appointed place. The client gets one full hour to tell his or her story, but must leave enough time in that hour for the PRS (or C) to solve their problems. Yes, that’s right, the client’s problems are solved in one meeting. The more the client talks the less gets solved, thereby requiring additional visits.

The PRS(or C) undertakes the difficult job of analyzing what the client claims are his or her problems and then tells the client what to do about them. For example, Lutheran clients who complain that Lutheranism does not meet their needs and they feel spiritually impoverished would be told, “Become a Methodist.” As a matter of fact all people facing spiritual crises, as well as atheists and agnostics, are told to become Methodists. Methodists facing spiritual crises are told to grow up.

PRS(or C)s, do not advise. The foundation of Personality Reconstruction is parenthood. If a candidate understands how parenthood works, s/he will be a successful practitioner. Remember, clients cannot solve their own problems, so they must be told what to do. The practitioner never has to say “because I said so,” since the client is paying to be told what to do. In addition to my experience as a parent, I have been an unpaid airport fashion police officer for twelve years (while waiting for our flight, I provide a running commentary on how fellow travelers are dressed, and my husband—trapped by circumstances—is forced to listen.). You might say I'm amply qualified.

The PRS(or C) must take as absolute truth the reasons the client offers for the problem. A typical client is a man or woman who can’t seem to find a boy/girlfriend. The PRS(or C) will listen to the client whine, ummmm…listen to the client’s complaints, and then tell him or her how to solve them. Here is where the PRS(or C)’s qualifications are so clearly required. The practitioner must be totally frank with the client, in fact “tactless” would be a better word. There are two reasons clients can’t find a soulmate: 1) their standards are too high; and 2) they are so unappealing they couldn’t attract flies if they were dead (the clients, not the flies). Two other qualifications are the ability to move quickly and the ability to extract payment before services are rendered.

A client whose standards are too high can be told to go out and find someone who is an equal in degree of attractiveness and try to date that person. Most clients with unrealistically high standards would not meet the standards of someone who meets theirs. Clients who are especially unattractive need to own their flaws. A Specialist can say, “Look at that shirt, has it ever seen an iron?” Or, “You’re so boring you put me to sleep and you’re paying me to listen to you!” Remember, unattractiveness can apply to personality as well as looks. Clients need to be guided in every aspect of overcoming their problems, and in extreme cases may require the Specialist to help them shop for appropriate clothing or tell them how to behave in restaurants (there’s a premium for out-calls, plus expenses). A Specialist should never hesitate to recommend corrective (cosmetic) surgery or other unpleasant measures. Should a client argue with a Specialist's opinion, the correct response is "Why are you so defensive? It's very unattractive."

Clients will present issues other than relationships. For a client who is facing foreclosure, a Specialist might ask, “Do you have home-owner’s insurance?” Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be too explicit. To a client having boss problems, “You’re too good for that job, why don’t you quit? You’re so talented, you’ll be turning away offers.” Again, not too explicit. Clients who have more than one problem, require more than one session. To maintain the dignity of the profession, it is necessary to tackle one problem per fee; I mean “visit,” “one problem per visit.”

If a client complains that the Specialist’s instructions did not solve the problem, there is only one answer, “That’s because you didn’t do what you were told.” (One may have to split hairs with “exactly what you were told.”) Digitally video-recording sessions is an excellent plus for this practice. Although I do not film sessions, the files would be better back-up when arguing with a dissatisfied client than saying “Didn’t you tell me…” I have never refunded a client’s payment because, so far, the only clients with whom I’ve worked are relatives and needy friends, and—technically speaking--they didn’t request my services. This is also why I am opening the field to all comers. You will not be rewarded a certificate, license, or official-looking ID card, but for some minor “consideration,” you will get the “blessings” of the founder of Personality Reconstructionism (that would be me) and a very hearty “good luck, y’all.” If you have any problems, make an appointment.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Is the Post Office What Women Really Want?

Sometimes there are so many interesting (i.e., ridiculous) stories circulating, one must comment. I’ve never been one to hold my keyboard, and having my own blahg means I get to share with unsuspecting readers who accidentally click onto a link expecting something of substance. Aha! Gotcha again!

This morning, fellow blahger (and husband) FC Etier brought a news alert from to my attention. It seems the U.S. Postal Service projects that, over the next ten years, it will suffer major losses. What is major? $238-billion. Correct me if I’m wrong (go ahead, I dare you) but isn’t that in the neighborhood of twenty-four billion dollars a year? Now, I’m not the brightest ray of sunshine on God’s green earth, but if I figured out that I was going to lose a billion here or there, don’t you think I’d put my billions someplace where they wouldn’t get lost?

I don’t respect money, and I treat it very badly. I wad up dollar bills and stick them in various corners of my backpack, hoping they’ll be there when I need them. I’ve even been known to pull out one of those little envelopes in which the bank teller puts your cash and find a couple of forgotten twenties. If the USPS knows it’s going to lose hundreds of billions of dollars, isn’t it their responsibility to prevent the loss? Or is issuing a press release like saying “Oops” in advance? “Okay, we told you we were going to lose a lot of money, and now we have. Don’t blame us.”

One of the things that bugs the heck out of me in profit-speak is the concept of losing money you never had. If the phone company (remember “the phone company”?) made a profit of seventy trillion dollars in 2009, then makes a profit of only sixty-nine trillion in 2010, they will tell us they lost a trillion dollars. How did they lose something they never had? Lower profits don’t equal loss. Are we supposed to worry because they sold a few less calling cards or cell phones this year or gave the big guys really huge bonuses? That “loss” is a good reason to raise prices, though.

If I’m dumb enough to put $50 in a slot machine and I come back with $10, I’ve lost $40. But if I was dumb enough to put $50 in a slot machine last night and came back with $100, and then repeat the event tonight but come back with only $60, I didn’t lose $40—I won $10, which is $40 less than last night (and probably beat the odds). The point is, if I have a profit, any profit, I haven't lost anything. I've still got my initial investment plus a few bucks for my efforts.

A dear friend of mine would often say, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” Ain’t that the truth? The effrontery of the USPS to tell us they are going to lose an astronomical amount of money! Are we expected to run to their aid, sympathetically volunteering to pay more for services and stamps? Or are they hinting that they want to jump on the bail-out wagon? They’d better start jumping now, Obama won’t be president in 2020. Puh-leeeeeze!

In a totally unrelated story iVillage asked “what do women want?” and the answer was “vampires.” Confidentially, I’ve been a woman all my life. There are two things I think I can say with authority (the authority vested in me by biology): first, there is not one thing that women universally want. I’d like to think that all women want respect and independence, but that’s not true. I know that all women don’t want chocolate because I hate the stuff. Do all women want love? No. Air to breathe? No. Peace and quiet? No. Some women don’t even care about world peace or ending poverty. The second authoritative statement I am ready to make is that all women do not want vampires. There are enough things sucking the life out of us (for example: jobs, men, children, the USPS, other women) already; we don’t want vampires. Oh, yeah sure, the article tells us that women have bought into the vampire-mania currently sweeping the globe. All women? Nope. Not on a bet.

I may be splitting hairs (I don’t have the equipment to split atoms), but statements about “all women” are about as accurate as any other stereotype. I look forward to the day when there is something that all people (regardless of gender) want, and I hope it’s going to be something positive.

When we look further into the story, we find “iVillage reveals the Hollywood actors, characters and scenes that truly made an impact on its vast network of women in 2009, in the first annual iVillage Entertainment Awards. Confirming just how crazy today's women are for vampires, an astounding 87 percent of voters say they would trade their husbands in for a chance to sleep next to Pattinson’s ‘Twilight’ character Edward Cullen every night.” Apparently, iVillage believes that the voters within “its vast network of women” are a representative sample of all women.

What I find most interesting in this story is that the women are willing to trade their husbands for “a chance” to sleep with Edward Cullen. Somehow we’ve gotten back to the topic of gambling (youknow, I put $50 in a slot machine for “a chance” at winning thousands). Perhaps I am taking this too seriously, since no one has a chance of sleeping with Edward Cullen—he exists only in the imagination. However, I find sweeping generalizations made by anyone, other than myself, to be offensive. I don’t profess to know “what women want,” but I do know that I want people to stop using "what women want" as a tag-line to get attention.