thirty day chip

Thirty days ago I posted my last status on Facebook.

I then drove my family three hours from our home in the city to a remote cabin in south central Pennsylvania for an off-the-grid weekend in the wilderness. For seventy-two hours I lived in complete ignorance of the world beyond our tiny house in the woods. There was no cell service, no internet, no social media, no functioning toilets. As someone who enjoys the conveniences of the modern world, to say nothing of proper indoor plumbing, this was roughing it.

But I survived.

Actually I did more than just survive, I thrived. For the first time in a very long time I was not distracted by phone calls or texts or the siren call of social media. With nothing left to steal my focus I was forced to live in the moment. I participated. I was engaged. I listened to my children play and rather than dismiss their exuberance as “just noise” I heard their words and I understood their language. I celebrated their creativity. I laughed and I smiled and I saw my kids again for the first time.

I’m not saying three days without Wi-Fi and suddenly I was Father of the Year, but in the days and weeks since that weekend I believe I’ve morphed into a solid second runner-up. The truth is even without the distractions of the modern world I struggle to be fully engaged every minute of every day. Sometimes I phone it in. I want to be Super Dad, but by the time the end of the day or the weekend rolls around I’m so exhausted and done with it all that I’ll settle for being the out-of-shape lazy-ass beer-drinking sidekick to Super Dad.

But then even being the fat drunk Robin is easier once you make the decision to unplug.

The world is a strange place without Facebook. I have no idea what people are doing or feeling. I don’t know what they ate for dinner last night or what movie they watched on Netflix last weekend or how they plan to vote in some distant primary. I don’t know what issue to hashtag or if black lives still matter or if that clerk from Kentucky is still a thing.

Even worse, since I can no longer use memes and shared links from Reddit as a barometer for one’s level of mental illness I’m forced to trust that every person I meet on the street is perfectly normal even though I know deep down they’re all fucking crazy.

I’m a stranger in a strange land.

I’m not complaining. Life is simpler without social media. I’m less concerned with things that have nothing to do with me. I spend more time enjoying all of the amazing things I have in my life and less time telling people about all the amazing things I have in my life. I’m not concerned with reliving the moment five minutes from now because I’m living the moment now. And while choosing to disconnect in a connected world can make you feel isolated I find that I enjoy living in a bubble.

It’s very quiet.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here. Why haven’t you bought it yet?! Seriously.

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we aren’t friends

Social media is a funny thing. We use it to share cat videos and photos of our families. We use it to show the world how clever we can be in 144 characters or less. We use it so everyone knows exactly what we are thinking on every subject all the time.

We use it without thinking.

But then again social media isn’t real. We don’t have a thousand friends. Or five thousand friends. Or, if we’re being honest, even a hundred friends. The majority of these imagined friendships exist in a distant world of interconnected routers and servers. They are code. They are not tangible. These friendships are cute and a great way to waste time, but 95% of our dealings on social media are conducted with people we barely know or people we knew a long, long time ago or people we never knew in the first place. And while it’s great that we’re all connected and we live in an age where we can share information, we are not required to be friends simply because the opportunity has presented itself.

I see people complaining that their news feed is clogged with friends who are racists, misogynists, homophobes, and I wonder: Outside of this distant world of interconnected routers and servers would you actually be friends with any of these people?  Honestly. In the real world where people look each other in the eyes and speak with words would you as a black man be friends with a person who thinks that black people deserve to be shot by the police? Would you as a woman have drinks with a man who thinks women should not work and if they do, they should make less money because they’re inferior? Would you as gay person invite into your home the neighbor who believes you should not have the right to visit your dying spouse in the hospital?

Personally, I refuse to maintain some virtual friendship with a virtual stranger who thinks my life as a gay man is wrong. Because someone who thinks your life is wrong is not your friend. At least not in the real world that exists beyond the tap-tap-tap of your smartphone.

You cannot fundamentally disagree with who I am as a person and honestly think that I’ll be okay with that because really you’re a good person you just have different views. No. Voting for Jeb Bush instead of Hillary Clinton is a different view. Preferring Target to Walmart is a different view. The view from your backyard compared to the view from my backyard is a different view. Believing that you are superior to me and sitting in judgment of my life is NOT a different view.

Also, you’re not a good person. I know that’s harsh, but you should hear it. All of your “love the sinner, hate the sin” bullshit is just what you tell yourself so you don’t have to admit to being what you really are: a hateful bigot.

Look, I get it. Your beliefs are important to you. My husband and children are important to me. I understand that the words your god said over two thousand years ago – or at least your interpretation of those words and I’m speaking of those words you choose to acknowledge, not those words you ignore because they’re inconvenient for you – I get that those words matter to you. My rights and freedoms IN THE PRESENT DAY matter to me. And I hear you loud and clear when you say that, while you’re happy for me, you believe marriage is between a man and a woman and that only a man and a woman should have children. Of course if that’s true then why do you keep liking my photos on Facebook, you know, all the photos of me and my husband on our honeymoon and the other photos of me and my husband parenting our children?

I guess it’s because you’re such a good person.

if you don’t have anything nice to say, say it to my face

People are mean.  And I don’t mean some people.  I’m talking all people, the whole of humanity. Young/old, black/white, male/female.  Across the board we are a jealous, petty, and hateful species.  Of course for most of us being mean is nothing more than the act of thinking an awful thought.  We all do it. Mean is a notion we entertain, a thought we consider briefly.  Sure we may on occasion roll around naked in our meanness getting all dirty up in it, but in the end we simply feel it, process it and then let it go.

And for those people who can’t just let it go, who give action to thought?  In ye olde days — before the internet — these people had no friends and as a result rarely left their house or burdened society.  They might show their face at holiday meals to scream at some relative who “done wronged them” but for the most part their meanness rendered them impotent.  They were not someone to be feared, they were someone to be avoided.

But then came the internet.  Suddenly you could be as mean as you wanted with no consequence. It became de rigueur to threaten people, to call them stupid or fat, to virtually right all those perceived wrongs.  Nasty chat rooms, vitriolic youtube comments, Facebook fisticuffs, hate-texting, and twitter.  This new technology gave them —  the socially backward, the mentally unwell, the most jealous and hateful among us — a new power; it gave these virtual bullies a voice.  And the best part of this new voice was you didn’t even have to put on pants to use it.

Recently I was part of a Facebook conversation that devolved to a point where one woman called another woman ugly.  When I read the comment all I could think was, “She would never say that to her face.  Never.  She wouldn’t have the balls to even form the words.”  But from the safety of her smartphone thousands of miles away this woman found it acceptable to attack a stranger because, really, who was going to hold her accountable?  (Well I did.)

Last week NBC aired a live production of Peter Pan.  Many people hate-watched it, which is to say a bunch of people who could not do better passed judgment on a bunch of people who were doing better. In theater circles this critical watching is also known as being an unemployed actor. For me the  worst part of hate-watching are the painfully unfunny comments it generates on social media.  Not only are people nasty, but they can’t land a joke.

A former friend texted me out-of-the-blue six months ago. It was an epic, nonsensical, hate-filled, unprovoked rant that ended with her calling me “a coward”.  Yes, I’m the coward.  The person minding his own business at his house living his life is the coward.  Not the grown woman hiding behind her phone saying whatever malformed thoughts pop into her head, thoughts she would never say to my face, thoughts she can say because, really, who is going to hold her accountable?

Which I suppose is the point to all this.  If you want to be mean, then by all means be mean, but you have to be mean to my face.  If you can’t look me in the eyes and then call me a coward, you don’t get to say it.  If you don’t have the stones to walk up to Allison Williams on the street in public and then tell her she can’t sing, you don’t get to tweet it.  If you don’t have the spine to take the President aside and then tell him that he’s a Muslim terrorist, you don’t get to generate a Facebook meme about it.

The Internet makes us ugly. But still, calling someone ugly?  Thats just fucked up.  Get some help.

the week that was 5

The big news this week was black.  As in, Friday. Millions of Americans abandoned their Thanksgiving turkeys mid-meal to crowd local malls in a bid to snatch up ten dollar panini presses and 99 cent poinsettias. Unlike the pro-abortion homosexual 9/11 American-hating terrorists at K-Mart who opened their doors on turkey day at 8 am, family-values store Walmart resisted the siren-call of consumerism…opening their doors at 6 pm.  I suppose this makes Walmart better than K-Mart because, really, if you haven’t finished your holiday meal and lapsed into a post-turkey coma by 6 o’clock on Thanksgiving then clearly you must be a pro-abortion homosexual 9/11 American-hating terrorist.

Despite our pro-choice homosexual leanings, my family displayed patriotic superiority waiting until 9 am on Friday to hit the malls.  And while we did miss out on buying a bunch of junk we didn’t need, we did score some great deals on a bunch of junk we really wanted.

After doing our part to keep the economy from teetering off yet another fiscal cliff, we made our annual pilgrimage an hour north of the city to a Christmas tree farm.  Todd and I have been cutting down our own trees for more than a decade now, introducing Chris to the tradition last year.  It’s a comfort to know that nothing changes and every year is the same: Five minutes after we arrive Chris will fall into an icy mud puddle then Todd and I will fight then someone will cry then someone else will storm off in tears and then just when we think it can’t get any worse someone will suggest the other two go “fuck off”.  (FYI: We’re working on curtailing Chris’s potty mouth.)

Of course none of that unpleasantness matters because at the end of the day we gather around our beautifully decorated tree in matching handmade sweaters, sipping homemade cocoa and eating artisan-crafted Christmas cookies.*


It was another week of celebrity retweets, unsourced reposts, and copy-and-paste Wikipedia MLK quotes on Facebook as New York upstaged Missouri. Considering the amount of hand wringing in my news feed, I was a bit surprised when a protest rally parading past my office in downtown Pittsburgh drew just literally tens of people.  Proving once again that while it’s easy to be socially active from the comfort of your smart phone, it’s quite another thing to actually be present in the real world.

From a stalking perspective I love Facebook, but beyond that I just don’t get this hashtag activism or these attempts at engaging others in intelligent discourse.  I mean, how much truth to power and honest change can you hope to affect in a virtual reality populated by anatomically-challenged, overweight 50 year-old men who routinely pass themselves off as well-hung, buff 22 year-old studs?

In the same way we now look back and ask, “Can you believe people used to sit around in wool suits and top coats and stupid hats and dump raw sewage in public streets and rivers and then wonder why it was they had such a low life expectancy?”  I believe our children’s children’s children will one day look back and ask, “Can you believe people used to sit around in skinny jeans and ironic T-shirts and stupid beards and dump raw sewage in public streets and rivers, I mean the internet, and then wonder why it was they couldn’t solve centuries of racial inequality in 160 characters or less?”


*That doesn’t happen.  We aren’t the fucking Waltons.

the week that was 4

The big news this week was Thanksgiving. I love holidays for many reasons — food, presents, more food — but mostly I love holidays because they give me a legitimate excuse to drink before 9 am, an opportunity I seized yesterday with both hands…firmly on a bottle of champagne as I indulged in a round of early morning mimosas. In our house if you do the cooking, you do the drinking.

So cook I do. Or did, rather. A twenty-five pound turkey, homemade stuffing, homemade mac-n-cheese, fresh cranberries, broccoli, a pumpkin pie and apple-cranberry cobbler.  And yes, Todd cooked too: homemade mashed potatoes and a to-die-for carrot soufflé.

Despite the mountain of food that we prepared (and for three people, no less), I’ve still never understood the fuss around cooking Thanksgiving dinner. It really is the easiest meal to prepare; mostly idiot proof, provided you can follow directions. Essentially you turn on the oven and then pop the turkey in for 3-5 hours depending on how big a bird you bought. If you have any self-respect you baste it every 30 minutes. (Note: Those of you lacking dignity may skip that step and jump to the part where you serve your guests a dry turkey carcass.)

As for the sides…seriously, how hard is it to prepare a few vegetables?  Wash, peel, cut, cook.  Voila.  I suspect the idea of Thanksgiving dinner being this laborious, back-breaking task was a myth created by our grandmothers and then perfected by our mothers; a scheme designed to allow them a few peaceful hours — free from husband and children — to sit in the kitchen getting hammered and melancholy on cheap wine and regret.

Well I’ve been making Thanksgiving dinners for nearly two decades now and the jig is up. You ain’t fooling anyone, Nana.


This week, like a dead fish left to bake out in the hot Florida sun, you could smell the stink steaming off Facebook.  People took to their iPhones and laptops to “express themselves” with a wailing and a gnashing of teeth I haven’t seen since, well, three months ago when everyone was wailing and gnashing their teeth over dead celebrities and mental illness.

Suddenly everyone was my eight-year-old son, tears streaming down his face after losing a round of Clue, screaming, “I have feelings.”

Full disclosure: I wrote a lot of other stuff here but Todd said it was too angry. And no matter how strongly I may feel — not about the events in Missouri, but the reaction of the public to those events —  I don’t want to offend good people, who I otherwise respect, simply because I disagree with their opinions.

So I’ll just say this:  if you have an overwhelming need to be a part of something, keep it simple and be a part of your life. By which I mean, clean your own house. Because all this noise disguised as discourse is just you distracting yourself from the business of living your life. It changes nothing.

This instafacegram tweeting cyberbullshit — this isn’t real. Your life is real.


And speaking of real, it’s time for me to unplug. I’m off to cut down a Christmas tree with my husband and son. It may not be some grand act of passive protest, but it is living.

i unfriend you

In this age of social media — where friendships live and die by the click of a button, where an acquaintance of an acquaintance of an acquaintance of the guy who cuts your hair knows what you had for dinner and how you voted in the last election, where high school never ends — what is a friend?

I have had more than a few epiphany moments since becoming a dad sixteen months ago. Chief among them is the realization that my friendships are no longer just about me. The company I choose to keep also affects my kid.  And some of my choices have been lacking.

I have unfriended people for many reasons — some legitimate, some whimsical, some ridiculous. I once hit the unfriend button because a person (over)used the phrase YOLO, as in You Only Live Once. I’ve unfriended people for political opinions that were deeply personal and personal opinions that were offensively political. I’ve unfriended family members.

I know what kind of person I am and I knew that I would be littering Facebook with personal stories of parenthood and photos of Chris.  I knew I would be that parent.  So in the weeks leading up to meeting Chris, I deleted 150 people from my Facebook friend list (more than half my list).  These were people I knew casually — the girl who acted in a play I directed three years ago but had not seen since; that homophobic guy from high school who I wouldn’t remember if he came up to me and said, “Hey I’m that homophobic guy from high school you don’t remember”; the seldom-seen cousin who stated there should be zero gun control less than 24 hours after the Sandy Hook school shooting.  These people were a no-brainer — they either weren’t really friends or they were people I wanted nowhere near my child.

But in the real world — that ever-shrinking dimension where face-to-face interpersonal communication still exists — ending a friendship is not as simple as clicking a button. It’s one thing to erase a person in cyberspace, it’s another thing to wipe out their existence on this earthly plane.

But sometimes that’s just what you have to do.

So I took an inventory.  Peter Pan.  The “every-other-word-is-fuck” guy.  The slutty one.  The emotional vampire.  The passive aggressive narcissist.  The lunatic.  What was I thinking?    

At one time it was cute. Their unwillingness to grow up. Their foul mouth. Their neediness.  Their dangerous mental instability.  Their overt sexuality so in your face at times you felt like their gynecologist. But what was once colorful now seemed — I was going to say sad, but that isn’t fair — it now seemed, so not where we are in our lives.

I’ve been told that I burn bridges.  That I’m quick to judge. Incapable of forgiveness. Someone once called me an asshole (to my face!)  And while it’s true that I am an asshole, I also think I’m honest. Some friendships go the distance. Some do not.

the week that was 3

The big news this week was that the radio (finally) started playing Christmas music.  With the exception of the much-hated Christmas Shoes song, Kenny Rogers’ Mary Did You Know and the possibly-rapey Baby It’s Cold Outside, I love Christmas music.  It sets my feet a-tapping and my heart a-singing.  Quite simply, it is Christmas. When Josh Groban sings O Holy Night, I weep. When Gayla Peevey announces I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, I’m a six year-old girl with pigtails (again).  And when Michael Buble sings anything, I change the station.

More than frosted sugar cookies. More than a perfectly decorated tree. More than presents.  It is the music. Christmas music is a universal language we all speak.  It says, Now is the time of year when we will be good people.


This week I discovered that several people I am currently friends with (or have been friends with in the past) have multiple Facebook pages. Apparently it’s not enough to be dull in one profile, now you have to be boring in parallel timelines.

John Smith 5:57 pm I just made the best dinner! dinner1
John A. Smith 6:27 pm I just ate the best dinner! emptydinner

John Smith 7:12 pm I just had my last cigarette. Ever. #smokefree
John A. Smith 7:14 pm Buying cigarettes — at Tobacco Outlet

John Smith 8:34 pm is in a relationship.
John A. Smith 8:38 pm is single.

I will never understand some people.

Also of note this week on the ‘book was the news that Charles Manson had applied for and been granted a marriage license. This was a rally call to single people across the land to elicit sympathy from their coupled friends by posting desperate Facebook statuses that declared, “Even Charles Manson can get a date!  What’s wrong with me?” Umm, well you post Facebook statuses like that for starters.  My favorites though were from allies of the LGBTQ(XYZ) community who said they didn’t want to live in a country where that awful killer Charles Manson could get married and not their gay friends, who some people noted were neither awful nor killers.  But the best comment came from a young woman who stated that she would not get married until every gay person in the world was given marriage equality. It’s a nice sentiment but, oh honey, after visiting your Facebook page it’s very clear that if anyone were to put a ring on it you would be at the courthouse faster than I could arrange an interracial three-way (very fast).


This week also saw the Great Homework Showdown of 2014 with reigning champion Chris going up against challengers Team Dad. Chris was at his little bitch best but ultimately proved no match for Team Dad, specifically co-captain Todd who — after extra innings, overtime and an extended penalty phase — brought home a win for the visiting team.

I’m not going to lie, I need to be half in the bag before I can even consider helping Chris with his homework. It was sometime during Act II of Chris’s five act opera (titled, You’re the Worst Parents in the World Stop Being Mean to Me) that I retreated to my bedroom with the cat and promptly locked the door, cracked open a beer and turned on my Christmas music.  As Todd battled one of the less-cooperative of Chris’s many personalities, I was being carried away to a winter wonderland populated by talking snowmen, flying red-nosed reindeer and my good friend Perry Como.

confessions of a middle-aged mean girl

I am not a nice person.  I once made someone cry and I enjoyed it.  I am currently holding grudges that date back to the Reagan administration.  When people ask me for spare change/a cup of coffee/a bus ticket to Kansas City/$2500 to pay their back rent, I just roll my eyes.  It’s not that I don’t have compassion, I do.  I just don’t give it away like some twink* with daddy issues at a bear bar**.

And I have tried to change.  I have tried to be a different person.  But the truth, for all of us I believe, is you will never not be the person you are.  Like a recovering addict in a twelve-step program, the best I can hope is to resist temptation…because while for some, revenge may be a dish best served cold, for me, revenge is a dish best served always.  And now that I’m a parent, I need to Dexter that way of thinking — by which I mean I need to control it, not stab it to death in a plastic-lined kill-room before dismembering it and throwing it in the ocean off the coast of Miami.

I need to lead by example.  I need to toss my spare change into the cup.  I need to forgive.  I need to not make people cry, and if I do, I need to at least not enjoy it.  Last night before bed Chris told us about a boy in his class who cries all the time.  “An annoying cry-baby,” Chris called him.  My first urge was to agree, to make a joke at the expense of the boy, but then I remembered back to a year ago.  I remembered Chris, tears welling up in his eyes, desperate not to leave us, desperate not to go to school.  I remembered picking him up at the end of the day and hearing from his teacher how he had cried all morning.  An annoying cry-baby.  My annoying cry-baby.

So instead of agreeing, instead of making a joke, I gently reminded Chris that he was once that boy and that maybe before he threw shade (as the kids say), he should consider that the boy was crying for a reason.  Maybe he missed his parents.  Maybe he just needed a friend.  Maybe Chris could try being that friend.

Because at the end of the day the world has enough people like me in it: cynics who laugh at those chumps who tearfully post videos of three-legged dogs on Facebook before dumping ice on their heads and then declaring in a recycled meme how “they will not be defined by their past”.  I might be a not nice person, but that doesn’t mean my kid has to be too.


twink (n) – a young gay man, age 18-24, with little to no body hair

** bear bar (n) –  a bar frequented by hirsute middle-aged gay men; Daddy types

The more you know…!

the week that was

The biggest news this week was that I had a cold sore.  Left to wander the rain-soaked streets of Pittsburgh like a syphilitic 19th century whore, my oral Scarlet A told a story. It let people know that I had been places.

Of course worse than actually having a cold sore is having to go to the store and buy cold sore medication.  I was a bit unnerved to discover that Rite-Aid keeps these medications locked up and that if you want to buy them you have to go up to the sales clerk and say, “I need to purchase some medication for my fever blister which is NOT herpes despite how many questionable sex acts I engaged in while in college.”

I was applying the shame salve when Chris asked if he could borrow my ChapStick.  I told him it was not ChapStick and then hid it on an upper shelf after having a vision of my eight year old in his room smearing herpes meds all over his face.


Also of note this week was the election.  A former talk radio and cable news junkie, I no longer partake in political catnipping as it left me with the urge to gather up all Republicans and hold them prisoner in a raunchy gay sex club/third trimester abortion clinic.

The truth is I only know there was an election because Facebook (from where I get all my news) told me about it.  Or rather, the people in my newsfeed (who apparently invented voting) took pictures of themselves with stickers that said “I voted”.  Sigh.  I’m currently printing up stickers that say: “This is NOT herpes.”

I think it’s great that you voted and I love a sticker as much as the next 5 year old, but I noticed as the day went on that it went from statuses of “I just voted!” to “I voted.  Have you?!” to “I’m morally superior to you because I voted.” to “People who don’t vote should be held prisoner in a raunchy gay sex club/third trimester abortion clinic.”  Hey, whatever.  I could use a vacation.

I just wish people could vote and shut up about it.  Why does it have to be a “thing”? Why does it have to be cool?  Why does it have to be celebrity endorsed?  Why does it need a sticker?!?!


Halloween was also this week(ish).  For the second straight year it rained.  This did not deter a skeleton-clad Chris who was determined to fill up his 37-gallon plastic pumpkin with enough candy to feed all those Republicans I’m currently holding prisoner at my raunchy gay sex club/third trimester abortion clinic.

As someone who came to this parenthood thing a little late in the game, I have to say that walking around in the cold, wet dark for two hours while my kid becomes pre-diabetic is, well, kind of awesome.  It’s one of those moments I never thought I’d get to have: trick-or-treating with my kid.

I do hate that the only time I seem to truly big picture my life is during these seminal moments.  Trick-or-treating.  Christmas.  Birthdays.  It makes me a little sad that I take for granted the every day.  That each moment isn’t significant.  But then I think of my instagram feed with its “I voted” pictures of mugging adults and I realize: not every thing in life can be a sticker moment.