Category Archives: Social Rules

The Postal Rule For Transparency

This one makes people uncomfortable.

I “@” Dave Worthen on TikTok because I think it is a great analogy for him to compare – or criticize if he feels it’s wrong.

Love, X

The Duh List For Phones (Please Argue!)

The Duh List For Phones

I wrote a series of bullet points like these for someone’s TikTok. They asked for 5. I’m a big fan of overkill, so here it is, stripped of the humor:

People first. If you’re with someone special or at a gathering, silence your phone and treat it as secondary to the event or the people in your presence.

The casual rule says that we can relax our rigidity when we’re with family, close friends, and partners – but you should keep it in the back of your mind. Using a cellphone in the presence of others is by its nature exclusionary.

Generally speaking, avoid texting while you’re having a face-to-face. If you do, politely ask for a moment.

It’s generally frowned upon to text/talk while you’re eating with others. It’s still not a good idea to leave it where people will see it flashing or hear/feel the vibration. Doubly so if it’s on the table.

IF you need to make/receive a call while eating, excuse yourself out of earshot of anyone trying to enjoy their meal. If you have important texts, please do the same.

Unless “everyone” has their phone out, keep yours tucked away too.

Just because your phone beeps or notifies you, it doesn’t mean you need to look at it or address it if you are with someone or a group. People first, and the ones (or one) you’re with trump others.

If you’re having a conversation, finish it before moving on to the next. Whether face-to-face or on the phone.

It’s a 24/7 world. Your phone has super-easy ways to keep it from ringing, beeping, or flashing. Use them.

Doubly so at work for the above.

It’s on you to assume that you could hear from any of your contacts at any second of the day or night. The person causing a notification might not be aware they are doing it.

With that in mind, YOU should take a second to ensure you’re not interrupted, woken up, or causing a disturbance where YOU are.

Likewise, you have do-not-disturb options on your phone for any time of the day or night – including when you’re sleeping.

You can set up exceptions where ONLY important people will go through anyway. For emergencies or whatever else.

Don’t talk on the phone when you’re paying unless it is truly important. And take a second to communicate that to the human helping you. Everyone universally shakes their heads at people that do this, but some haven’t understood the collective disdain for this.

Don’t text and drive. Or watch the latest episode of The Bachelor either.

No one likes seeing your screen at a theater. At all. Ever. It distracts anyone seeing the movie, play, or concert. Even if it’s “just for a second.” If everyone looks at their phone for “just a second” with 300 people in the theater… well, you get the idea.

ALWAYS turn your phone OFF if there is the slightest chance it will interfere with a funeral, church, business meeting, or any important occasion where people attend. The world will not end if you don’t have access for an hour. Humans evolved for thousands of years without immediate contact with the entire world. The entire group’s reason for attendance trounces your urge to be in constant contact.

It’s recommended to avoid using your phone while you’re doing your business in the bathroom. Unless you’re besties. But it’s true if you’re blathering on in a private conversation and other people have no choice but to listen. This applies to buses, doctor’s offices, etc.

Even though people don’t like hearing it, you sleep better if your phone isn’t in the bedroom. If it is, it should not flash, beep, or vibrate except for those on your emergency list. Study after study backs this up. Because you’re so attentive to your phone, it lingers at the fringe of your consciousness even when you don’t realize it. If it makes noise or light? Doubly so.

For business calls, voicemail is fine. For personal calls? Text instead and divulge at least the urgency or content of your contact.

If you get a text, don’t leave it too long “read.” At least politely respond with something similar: “I’m busy, but I’ll get back to you.” You can set pre-made messages to respond like this, too.

Never ask someone to wait to eat or drink so you can snap a picture.

Speakerphone in public is a no.

Talking about your nether-region warts in public is a bad idea, too.

Be aware that you generally speak louder than you think you do when you’re on the phone.

If someone is driving you, don’t use the time to jump into your cell phone. Unless it is a taxi or Uber. You’re in an enclosed space, and it’s a chance to talk or enjoy conversation with the person you’re with. It’s a common source of mild irritation for those driving to be ignored at the expense of a cellphone.

If someone is showing you something on their phone, resist the urge to reach for their phone.

As for group texts, err on the side of caution when including numerous people. If you see people not interacting at the same level, it’s best to ask them before the next time.

While we’re yapping about group texts… don’t use it to go across the line of appropriateness. Don’t be joking when it’s serious; don’t throw a wet blanket on the content by airing complaints or sidetracking the group. And no matter how clever you think you are, don’t drink and attempt to engage in group texts.

As you can see, as comprehensive as this list is, I’ve probably forgotten something.

And people will argue about some of them.

Phone etiquette is devolving, but the above list is generally accurate.

Love, X


I was asked to make a short TikTok to advise young people. “Don’t set yourself on fire!” seemed too obvious. Advising young people – or anyone else for that matter – flies in the face of the truth that we don’t listen until we are either ready to listen or forced to. The one I did as part of the challenge didn’t fit directly. It does, however, imply the superpower of silence in the face of argumentative accusation or criticism. The last few years seem to have made it apparent that we all must practice the fine art of allowing information to penetrate our idiotic heads. To give people the benefit of the doubt when we want to judge them. To know that despite the consequences of our actions, most of the time, our intentions didn’t lead us there. To know that idle gossip is fun (of course it is), but it also perpetuates misinformation. This happens both in our personal lives and in our society in general.

I’m as guilty as anyone else of doing it. We all recognize the dragonfire of defensiveness when we hear people repeat things that are wildly untrue. Or worse, when they are actually true!

I have no right to advise anyone, regardless of age. I’ve learned so many lessons that I obviously can’t consistently implement. I guess you could say Life Lessons are algebra. You’ll learn it but never use it again.

Love, X

A Personal Post

I hate it when I doubt my instincts!

People forget my background and the way I was raised. Yes, it was damaging. But it also left me with a visceral radar. There are times when I doubt it. I don’t know why because time after time, I discovered later that it was dead on, even when there wasn’t anything overt to signal my reaction. It’s important to know that I’ve been wrong, too – at least as far as I know. For people who don’t have it, I can’t quite explain the discomfort and unease some people transmit. It made me feel like the damage from my childhood broke something in me. Though I don’t like it now that I’m older, I think it is a strength. It’s sometimes caused me problems because I struggle to explain to people that other people around them might be concealing some serious defects. They look at me like I’m crazy. I’d like people to stop and seriously consider what I’m telling them, even if there is no evidence to support my radar.

Today, I discovered that I was more than right about someone. It gave me a little bit of PTSD for the day not long after my surgery when I thought I might have to do some serious damage. It led me to take one-on-one self-defense tutorials. Even with a long, painful scar in the middle of my stomach. The truth is that no one can stop bad people. The police, if they help at all, only ‘help’ after the crazy person has caused harm.

Today’s discovery was a revelation and affirmation. It proved that I wasn’t crazy, at least not that way.

Most people walking around are good, decent people. I still believe that.

But I also know that people have many secrets. Some dark, some personal. And among them are a few interspersed evil human beings among us.

I’m not going to share the details of one of the people I was right about. It’s disgusting any way you look at it. I knew the person was bad. I didn’t know how right I was. I was lucky – and so were a lot of other people. There were days when I expected the worse. There were days when I almost hoped I’d have to react. At least then, the person wouldn’t be around to do further harm. Or I’d be beneath a pile of brush somewhere in the fields. That I recognize a residual part of my dad in me, what I call “The Bobby Dean,” makes me laugh and a little nervous.

I realize that a small part of my continuing to do push-ups and stay in shape is that people will see an older man with a smile. They’ll assume I don’t have a radar that warns me about them. I’m still wondering why I continue to have self-doubt when it goes off. My life teaches me over and over that I shouldn’t. I never fear people when they approach me, when they need help, or even when they are acting strangely. I’m very open to people. It’s the ones you don’t see coming that cause so much havoc.

Before finishing, I’d also like to say I’m disheartened that our system doesn’t do more to help people when they’ve identified the bad people. Someone in my satellite circle is currently experiencing a little bit of a nightmare trying to navigate the impersonal and bureaucratic system that is supposed to protect them. I’d like to be hopeful and enthusiastic, but I also know that there are times when things go wrong. Afterward, the people who could have done something inevitably ask, “What could we have done?”

The answer is, “Well, something!”

PS I don’t like the tone of these words, but since I’m an imperfectionist, I’m leaving them as is. Everyone brings their own filters and preconceptions to our behavior and words anyway. There’s no use trying to control or curate it.

Love, X

The Camo Rule

Am I wrong?

“It’s not WHAT you’re hiding. It’s THAT you’re hiding.”

Another Dave Worthen classic line.

Since your partner hasn’t seen whatever you’re doing or hiding, they only have one set of responses: fear, anger, helplessness, and unlovingness.

You could be hiding a picture, a text, or anything. You could be hiding a huge secret. A secret life.

The reality is that they don’t know what it is.

It could be anything.

Given how common this sort of thing is, they’ve witnessed innumerable marriages and relationships explode as a result of these secrets. There’s good reason for them to fear it. Some people on the wrong end were great examples of loving, trustworthy partners. And they still fell victim to it. They know it might not reflect the person, but what solace can someone take from the fact that it wasn’t really about them?

That’s why hiding things is poison to a relationship. You might convince yourself you’re doing so to avoid hurting your partner. You aren’t. They deserve to know and to be able to respond and react accordingly, based on whatever is being hidden.

Relationships are partnerships. Both need access to the truth to feel trusted and trusting.

The act of hiding anything is a hammer to your foundation.

Everyone knows this because it is obvious.

But each person doing the hiding has a rationalization and a set of at-the-ready explanations. If they are approached with questions, usually the Dragonfire comes out to burn anyone getting close.

The person hiding simply prolongs the inevitable discovery of what’s being hidden.

That’s two blows: the hiding as an act and the content of what’s being hidden.

It significantly impacts them and their ability to trust other people – or even themselves. They had a spidey sense of something amiss and ignored it for the sake of the relationship. It impairs the current relationship. If it ends, it damages their ability to leave it behind them when they attempt to be with another person. The person hiding things goes on to another relationship, too, and without learning why how they handled their last one wrong will probably lead them to double down on the hiding with the next partner. It degenerates into an endless cycle for them.

High-value partners don’t want this in their most important connection in life.

Wrong Way Hypocrisy

A meandering follow-up note… anyone reading my blog or listening to my story as I tell it can’t help but note that I’ve never shied away from admitting my hypocrisy.

Addicts have great insight regarding drug consequences. Even though they lost sight of their health, their finances, and their friendships.

People who have lost weight know a lot about the struggle of doing it and maintaining it. Even though they were on the wrong track for a long time.

People who’ve deviated from the right way to have a relationship can tell you the pitfalls from a mile away. Even though they suffered or caused despair.

It doesn’t matter how you got to where you are. What matters are the lessons and strategies you’ve learned the hard way and the tools you’ve acquired.

You get your insights from wherever you find them. There are times when words of wisdom fall from the lips of someone who almost killed themselves with drugs. From the writings of someone who went to prison for losing their way, whether it was a one-time act or a series of crimes.

I used to be carefree, but I also tended to judge people like my sister, who was plagued with addiction. I judged my dad for being violent and an alcoholic. My brother, whose anger and addiction killed him prematurely. But over time, I grew to appreciate them, in part because I became grateful and glad that I had so far managed to be the opposite of their struggles. I was lucky, and I know that. Recognizing that you could easily have become a reflection of their demons humbles you.

If you’re reading my blog or listening to me on other platforms, it is vital that you understand that I’m not writing from a void of experience.

I HAVE done things the wrong way.

It’s up to you to decide whether this truth negates the content of what I’m writing and sharing.

I’ll give you a decent example:

Years ago, I was married. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a great marriage. She died suddenly, leaving me with only hard lessons. Had she not died, I have no doubt that we’d still be living a good life. That’s not how life works, though. You make the best of what you find on your plate.

Sometimes, the best you make of it is a complete and absolute mess. Again, if you haven’t caught the theme yet, I am as guilty and hypocritical as anyone you’ll meet.

When I was remarried, I tried communicating directly. I opened my heart and shared a few things that bothered me. Up to that point, I had hoped that things would change course. People who don’t care don’t even make the attempt. We’d gotten off course. I got off course. After that talk, a wall of anger met me. Not that I blame my partner. People aren’t ready until they are. I hadn’t engaged in any behavior across the line, despite what my partner insists is true. When the anger blossomed, it broke me. She had other issues that affected our ability to share. Months later, I truly had a moment where my life crystalized into this massive “I have to change!” moment. And I did. I lost so much weight that I am still certain it saved my life. I stopped holding grudges, I stopped biting my nails, and I wrote a lot more. I became way more open as a person. This sounds contradictory, given how the next few months of my life worked out. I reached out and found someone to listen to me, who seemed genuinely interested in me, the things I wrote, and the things I thought about. That person was already in my life. Before that, there were no across-the-line shared moments, no intimacy to threaten my marriage. It wasn’t the right thing to do while I was married. There’s no getting around that. I should have ended the marriage or found a way to fix it or let it take me down. But that is not how this world works. When you’re in the middle of it, logic and reason fall by the wayside. My partner will insist that I was inappropriate before, which isn’t true. I can’t change her narrative, and I gave up trying. That’s how it works: people find a narrative to suit their self-image. I look back now and realize that my initial attempt to get on the right track was doomed when I opened my mouth. And not just because my foot fit so well inside it.

The things that happened afterward became conflated and conjoined. Because when someone throws you a lifeline of hope and acceptance, it’s one of the most powerful things in the world. Enthusiasm and interest are amazing for one’s self-confidence; if a hint of love gets added to the equation, it is almost unstoppable.

Love conquers. It also blinds.

In this new life, I’ve seen behind the curtains of so many people’s lives and have found a commonality. People tend to continue the habits that led them to where they are. They can be hypocritical, judgmental, angry, and living in a way that will never give them lasting happiness. Respite maybe, sometimes for long intervals.

I can’t change the past.

But no one can take away my ability to learn from it. Or not, that is true.

I don’t merely stumble: I hurl myself into mayhem.

I was so happy to discover that I’m still an optimist. To know that things can be better if I apply what I know to be true. To know that if I stop being my own worst enemy, I’ll end up on the finish line satisfied. The finish line got thrust upon me when I had emergency surgery. For some reason, I got another chance.

Take your snippets of insight where you can find them.

Even if they are from me, a man who has seen both sides of the fence on many levels.

It’s okay to judge me if that’s what is necessary. I can’t change anyone’s opinion about me or much in this world if they aren’t open to it.

One of my biggest “mistakes” was part of the process that saved my life and made me be me again.

This life is a huge circle and cycle of everyone getting their turn in the barrel. Remember that when the urge to judge floods you.

For me, I hate it when I forget the lessons I learned when my wife died. Even when you do everything right, you can still fail – or life intervenes. Why not do the best you can now and be open to ideas, information, and the willingness to change if you need to? Time is running out.

Love, X