Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Let's Talk Turkey: Putting a Middle Child Myth to Rest

     In his lifetime, Benjamin Franklin was known as a printer, politician, philosopher, author, scientist, postmaster, inventor, statesman, diplomat, and founding father. Inexplicably, Middle Child is never included on that list, but that’s another story for another post. Franklin also gets the blame/credit for one of America’s most enduring myths: that he lobbied congress for the turkey, not the bald eagle, to be our national bird and part of the Great Seal of the United States. But I cry fowl, and “Turkey Day” seems like a fitting time to set the record straight.
     Ben Franklin did not want the turkey as our national symbol. While it’s true that he did sit on the first committee tasked to find a national symbol in 1776, none of their designs included an eagle or a turkey. In fact, none of their proposals were even accepted. It wasn’t until Franklin was no longer involved in the process that a third and final committee chose the eagle in 1782. Franklin was serving as envoy to Paris when Congress approved the design, so he wouldn’t have even heard the news, let alone had time to lobby congress. The truthless turkey tale was the result of a letter he sent to his daughter two years later. In it, he wrote:

“For my own part I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly.”

     Franklin goes on to say that an eagle is “a rank coward” and “too lazy to fish for himself,” accusing them of regularly stealing captured prey from other birds. But he doesn’t stop there, and this is probably where the myth took hold. In true Middle Child fashion, Franklin tries to push a few buttons by first suggesting that the bald eagle chosen looked more like a turkey, then adding “the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America. Eagles have been found in all countries, but the turkey was peculiar to ours.” He concludes that unlike an eagle, a turkey “is a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on.”
     Granted, it’s kind of ironic that this famous Philadelphian is no great eagle fan, but for all his praise of turkeys, the truth of the matter is Franklin might not have even really liked them very much, either. As Michael Rosenwald points out in a piece for the Washington Post, Franklin’s relationship with these flight challenged fowl was... complicated. “Decades before Franklin was extolling the virtues of turkeys, he was electrocuting them to test the power of electricity,” Rosenwald writes. Yep, apparently Franklin was frying turkey way before it became a thing.
     In a letter written in 1750 to a fellow scientist, Franklin detailed his experimental electrical exploits. He noted it didn’t take much “to kill common Hens outright,” but turkeys were a horse of a different color:

“...the Turkies, tho’ thrown into violent Convulsions, and then lying as dead for some Minutes, would recover in less than a quarter of an Hour.”

     Egads! Not to worry, though. Doubling the power seemed to do the trick, easily smoking a 10 lb. turkey. Franklin’s final observation was shocking, especially coming from a man who wrote in his autobiography that he became a vegetarian at the age of 16, and once equated eating flesh to unprovoked murder:

“I conceit that the Birds kill’d in this Manner eat uncommonly tender.”

     Go figure. And on that note, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your meal!

For more Thanksgiving food for thought, click here.

Monday, November 18, 2019

No Thanks!

     It’s that time of year again. Halloween is a mere memory, the Christmas creep has begun, and the “Thanksgiving is the Middle Child of Holidays” tweets and articles are popping up like Black Friday Preview sales. But I beg to differ. Thanksgiving is so not the Middle Child of holidays! I wrote about this way back in 2013, but it obviously bears repeating.
     Far from overlooked and forgotten, Thanksgiving gets more than it’s fair share of attention. And there’s certainly no need to make up a Middle Child of holidays when there already is one. It’s called Middle Child’s Day, for God's sake! On August 12th!! And unlike Thanksgiving, when there are parades all across the country, we don’t even get a single parade -- even though we’re really trying. So enough with the Thanksgiving pity party. I don’t want to hear any more Thanksgiving Middle Child nonsense.
     Anyway, it’s not like this is the first time people have used our beleaguered birth order as fodder for metaphorical mockery. I also wrote about this in a previous post (big surprise), and since then the list has grown even longer.
     People are giving Middle Children status to everything, from wine:


     to automobiles:


     to demographics:


     to computer software:

 


     and even reading material:

 

     Although that one could be a compliment I suppose, depending on what book you’re talking about.
     I guess the good news here is that Middle Children are getting more attention than we think. Just not the kind we want.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Making of a Monstrous Middle Child

A Special Halloween Report

"You don't have to look very hard to find proof
that Middle Children do some scary things."
     Any parent of a Middle Child will tell you, we can be real terrors. Little monsters. There’s even been research that seems to back that up.  There’s no doubt our behavior can be frightening, and you don't have to look very hard to find proof that Middle Children do some scary things. So in celebration of Halloween, I thought it would be fitting to feature a real-life Middle Child monster -- well, a real-life movie Middle Child monster. A creature so horrifying, just the mere mention of his name sends chills down the spine: Michael Myers.
NOT a Middle Child.
     No, not that Mike Myers. The other one, with the creepy mask. The primary antagonist, serial killer, and all-around psychopathic dude in the Halloween film series.
     Now, I’m no fan of slasher flicks. In fact, I’ve never actually seen any of the Halloween movies -- with my eyes open. Just writing about this is giving me the willies. And if I’m being totally honest, the reason I haven’t posted in a few weeks is because it took me so much longer than usual to write this post as I was looking over my shoulder the entire time! But I’ll be brave and press on.
Serious Middle Child issues.
     On Halloween night in 1963, six year old Michael Audrey Myers watched as his older sister, Judith, was making out with her boyfriend prior to going up to her room to have sex. This apparently bothered Michael, so after the boyfriend left he crept upstairs and repeatedly stabbed Judith to death. In hindsight, maybe his parents should’ve given him a better middle name than Audrey. Anyway, young Michael was sent to an asylum where he was to be held until his 21st birthday, when he would be tried as an adult. But that would never happen. Fifteen years later, on October 30, 1978 -- the day before he was to be transferred to court for his hearing -- Michael escaped. Before leaving, he carved the word “sister” on his door -- a special message for his younger sibling, Cynthia, who was adopted by the Strode family and renamed Laurie after both of her parents were killed in a car accident in 1965.
Where Jamie Lee Curtis
earned her scream creds.
     And so began a killing spree that has fueled a film franchise ranked first in U.S. box office, when adjusting for inflation, compared to other horror film series. Truly killer box office. Since his first appearance in the original Halloween in 1978, the murderous Middle Child has killed a total of 121 people in the 10 versions of the movie he appears in, as catalogued by ScreenRant.
     While many Middle Children would kill for the kind of attention Michael has received, Michael actually has. Empire Magazine named him “one of the most iconic killer characters in cinema history,” TimeOut Magazine lists him as one of “The 50 Best Movie Villains of All Time,” and Paste Magazine puts three different installments of the Halloween series on their list of “50 Best Slasher Movies of All Time,” with the original version topping their list. Yet he doesn’t make the cut, pun intended, on AFI’s “100 Years...100 Heroes & Villians” or USA Today’s “The 50 Most Popular Movie Villains of All Time.” Typical Middle Child treatment.
     Of course, Michael Myers is no typical Middle Child, and he's surely not one you'd ever want to piss off. I really hope I haven't already.

If you want to find out more about all things Michael Myers, check out this great article by Shea Serrano at The Ringer. (I know he’s just a movie maniac, but just in case, there are even some tips on how you might possibly survive an encounter with Michael.)

Monday, October 7, 2019

Check This Out

     I am that guy. The one you don’t want to ever get in line behind at the supermarket. Not that you’d have many opportunities. I don’t go to the supermarket that often. I don’t like supermarkets. Actually, I hate them. It all stems from my childhood. My mother didn’t have a driver’s license, so when she had to go to the market, we all had to go to the market. Of course, this provided more opportunities for Middle Child Syndrome to kick in. With two parents and three kids, one of us would invariably have to get bumped from a cherished shopping cart seat, so I would opt to wait in the car to avoid the inevitable disappointment. (Don’t worry, they left the window open a crack.)
Whatever. It left a bad taste in my mouth, so now I try to avoid supermarkets at all costs whenever possible.
     But on the off chance that you happen to be in a supermarket on the rare occasion that I am also there, do not, I repeat DO NOT get on line behind me. I always pick the wrong line. And I don’t mean one-person-behind-you-in-another-line-got-taken-before-you wrong. I’m talking entire-other-lines-are-no-longer-there wrong. I’m-sorry-but-the-keyboard-on-my-register-has-melted-and-shut-down wrong. Yeah, it’s that bad. If I see someone behind me deciding which lane to choose, I will warn them. “Do not get in line behind me!” They will thank me later.
     In any case, as a result of me spending so little time in supermarkets, I’m not very good at it. I have no idea how much things should cost, and I have no idea where things are. So, those few times I’m asked to go, I always come home with the wrong stuff, or forget items altogether, and I have to go back. Which makes me hate supermarkets even more. It’s a vicious cycle.
     I’m also always so surprised, and disturbed, at the way people behave in supermarkets -- especially at the check-out lines. I can’t believe how cut-throat things get, how people jockey for position and are ready to pounce when a new register opens. How they’ll sprint ahead of someone who was clearly in front of them when the cashier opens a new lane and calls out “Next in line.” Where is the honor? You weren’t next and you know it! You just cut in front of a vision-impaired Senior Citizen with a walker! It’s a dog eat dog world up there, I tell you. Every man for himself. I’m way too sensitive for this.
     So I was clearly not at all prepared for what happened when I was at Aldi the other day picking up a single boneless chicken breast family pack which I had forgotten to purchase on my visit to the very same market earlier in the day. I was standing on a line, obviously the wrong line, behind three other people with huge orders. As a courtesy I had already tried to wave off anyone attempting to get behind me, when the strangest thing happened. The lady in front of me asked if I’d like to go ahead of her! I was shocked. This kind of thing never happens to me. I accepted her gracious offer, but was completely unprepared for what was about to happen: the next lady in front of me also asked if I would like to jump the line!! Of course I was thrilled. Thrilled, yet suspicious. Was this some kind of gag? Was I being pranked on one of those TV shows?? Naturally, I was convinced I would somehow pay the price for my good fortune. I’ll get run over in the parking lot while walking to my car, I figured. Or just as I was about to be rung up, a massive power failure would shut down every cash register on the eastern seaboard. Something had to go wrong. This was too good to be true. And then, it happened.
     While ringing up the one person left in front of me, the cashier dropped a banana! It was SO obvious what would happen next. The one person left in line in front of me would slip on it, land flat on his back and require medical assistance. EMS would turn the checkout area into
emergency triage and local police would yellow tape the area, questioning the cashier about her role in this potential assault with an unlicensed fruit. I’d be stranded at the register for hours, or maybe even brought in for questioning as a key witness. Or even worse: I’d have to move to another register -- at the back of the line!!
     As luck would have it, none of that happened. I breezed out of the market, even escaping injury in the parking lot. But I’m pretty sure I shot my wad when it comes to having any future luck at a supermarket checkout.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Not-So-Fun Times

     It was near the end of an excruciatingly long car ride and I was starting to fade. I asked my wife if she had anything sweet to help revive me, and could hear the familiar sound of a bag of M&M’s being torn open. Not plain M&M’s, but Peanut M&M’s -- my absolute favorite. They always do the trick.
     She put a few in my hand once, then once again. But when I held out my hand a third time, I was told, “That’s it.” That's it? Surely, she was kidding. That was like seven or eight pieces. “Whaddaya mean, that’s it?” I said.
     “It was a Fun Size bag,” she replied.
     Fun Size? FUN SIZE!? That was no fun at all! There are about 22 Peanut M&M’s in a “normal” size bag. If you’re gonna call yourself a Fun Size bag, you better bring your A game. I’m thinking 40 or 50 Peanut M&M’s. Now that would be fun. But what they call a Fun Size bag has a measly 7-9 Peanut M&M’s in it. That’s not fun. That’s sad. They should call it a Sad Bag.
     I was an advertising creative for decades and had to come up with countless ideas for product names and descriptors. Never in my wildest dreams would I come up with something this twisted. Although I once did suggest naming a line of adult diapers “Poop Deck,” but that’s another story for another post.
     Maybe my career experience has made me hyper-sensitive to misleading labels. Or maybe it’s my Middle Child perspective. You know, too many times being told the smaller present you got that you really didn’t want is “just as good” as the bigger present your sister got that was exactly what she wanted. Or that those hand-me-downs are actually “new” because it’s the first time you're wearing them. No, it is not and no they are not. And there is nothing “fun” about a bag of Peanut M&M’s that’s 1/3 the size of a normal bag of Peanut M&M’s!
     If this was a tiny bottle of shampoo or a miniature can of shaving cream it would be called a Travel Size. But who would want a smaller bag of M&M’s when they travel? Clearly, not me. Sample Size or Trial Size would be more apt. Actually, Teaser Size would be even better. Or Where’s The Rest of the Friggin’ Bag Size.
     Look, Fun Size bags have their place I suppose. I guess they’re okay to hand out on Halloween when kids are getting tons of other candy anyway. What difference would it make then? But any other day of the year?? It’s an outrage! An outrage, I tell you!! I say it should be illegal for them to sell Fun Size bags any other time of the year. They should just sell them around Halloween and call them Trick-or-Treat size. Even though I would still argue it’s mostly trick.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Is Middle Grandchild Syndrome A Thing?

     I just became a grandfather for the second time. Thank you. A beautiful little girl. And as I sit here in the same hospital a week later, now awaiting the arrival of my third grandchild, I can’t help but wonder: do Middle Grandchildren have their very own version of Middle Child Syndrome? Will my second grandchild feel overlooked and underappreciated by her grandparents? Will she achingly yearn for her grandparental glory days, when she was the beloved baby, the new kid in town -- for one whole week!?
     I doubt it.
     I’m pretty sure each of my kids think that they are their Grandmother’s favorite. That’s the beauty of being a grandparent. We don’t have to worry about any of the other stuff. You know, the actual parenting. We’re all about the attention. And, speaking from my somewhat limited experience, there seems to be plenty to go around. We’re like bottomless pits of praise and plaudits. An endless fount of fussing and fawning. No grandchild goes attention-less.
     So I say no -- Middle Grandchild Syndrome is not a thing.
     Of course, I could be wrong. If I am, you can be sure I’ll let you know.

GRANDCHILD #3 UPDATE: 

Monday, September 9, 2019

If the BBC says so, it MUST be true!

     I try to make this blog a positive place. I try to be uplifting. Inspirational. You know, keep the glass half full. It’s not an easy thing for a sufferer of chronic Middle Child Syndrome to do, but I try. The last thing I want to do is lift up Middle Children by tearing down our older and younger siblings. Okay, maybe not the last thing. It might be a little satisfying to do that.
     But no! That would be committing the very same offense that we Middle Children have been accusing them of doing to us for years. It would not only be wrong, it would be hypocritical. But -- I’m only human. Every now and then, I falter. So when I saw this tweet from The Mash Report, I couldn’t help myself. It’s a follow up on an April 2019 piece from the Daily Mash website, “Youngest Siblings Most Likely to be Dicks.
     So I conclude this post with a heartfelt apology.
     Sorry. (Not sorry.)

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Art of Being a Middle Child

Who is the World’s Greatest Middle Child Artist?

     Many of the world’s greatest artists were Middle Children. But it will come as no surprise to anyone that none of their Middle Child masterpieces capture the true essence of what it means to be a Middle Child. For example, let’s start with Middle Child renaissance man Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. Many consider him the greatest artist of his time, if not all time. But that hardly makes him the greatest Middle Child artist ever. I mean, look at his most famous creation -- his massive marble sculpture of David.
     Okay, so David didn’t have a great childhood -- his brothers treated him like crap, and that’s something many Middle Children can relate to. But things turn out alright for Davey boy. He ends up being a King! According to the first book of Samuel, David was the youngest of eight sons. That means there were a boatload of Middle Children in the family. Couldn’t Michelangelo have sculpted one of them? Would that have killed him? Do the youngest in the family really need more attention? Well, at least he gave David disproportionally small genitals.


     Then there’s Middle Child Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn. Art historian Kenneth Clark has said Rembrandt's “Return of the Prodigal Son” is a painting “which those who have seen...may be forgiven for claiming as the greatest picture ever painted.” I beg to differ.
      According to the parable, the youngest of two sons asks his father for an advance on his inheritance, blows it all, then returns home broke and broken, ready to beg his father for forgiveness. But his Dad is like, “That’s cool. No big deal.” He’s welcomed home with open arms! You just know if he was a Middle Child he would’ve gotten all kinds of shit. If Rembrandt could’ve captured that moment, now that would be something.


 


     French impressionist/enfant du milieu Pierre-Auguste Renoir also falls short when it comes to capturing any Mid Kid magic on canvas. His “Two Sisters (On the Terrace)” is a perfect example. Sure, it’s a beautiful painting, but do you notice anything odd about these siblings?
     Doesn’t the elder sister look way older than her younger sibling? She almost looks like she could be her mother, right? I’m thinking there might have been a few more sisters in between the two. Maybe even some brothers. Why aren’t they in the painting? What, are we not good enough to be in a Renoir? WTF!




       If you think Francisco Goya, the Spanish Mid Kid master of the Romanticism movement, might throw a little Middle Child love our way, think again. According to culturetrip.com, “The Third of May 1808” is probably his most famous work. It depicts the atrocities of war at the hands of Napoleon’s army. Napoleon was a Middle Child, so I wouldn’t say this piece does much to bolster our image. Wouldn’t it have been nice if he painted a positive portrayal of Middle Children? He could’ve called it “The Twelfth of August.” You know, Middle Child’s Day! Geez.

  
     I was beginning to think I’d never find a Middle Child artist who even came close to capturing the Middle Child mindset, and then I found Norwegian expressionist/symbolist Edvard Munch, creator of “The Scream.” Not the movie. The painting, even though the mask in the movie is based on his painting.
     Munch’s masterpiece is one of the most iconic images in the world of art. It’s like a modern day Mona Lisa. In 2012, a pastel version of the work sold for $120 million, which remains one of the highest prices ever paid for a painting at auction. Even more impressive: there’s not a single Middle Child who doesn’t know this feeling. And that is something you can’t put a price on.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Middle Child's Day Post Mortem

An anecdotal analysis. 

     I’m back from my mandatory après Middle Child’s Day break, freshly cynical, brimming with uncertainty, and ready to resume my irregularly scheduled posts. I must admit I was a little disappointed when on August 10 -- two full days before Middle Child’s Day -- I began seeing “Happy Middle Child’s Day” tweets popping up.


     I'd like to think these people were so excited to celebrate, they just couldn’t wait. But I know better. After all my hard work, they still had no idea when Middle Child’s Day was! I suppose I could blame it on a Russian disinformation campaign designed to confuse the public about the actual date of Middle Child’s Day. Sure, it’s disheartening. But at least they were close. That’s progress, I guess. And as I detailed in my previous post, we kinda almost sorta had a parade. That was a misstep in the right direction, right?
     Still, I wasn’t sure what to expect when the big day arrived. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover #MiddleChildDay being tagged on tweets all day long.


     Even Hallmark tweeted!


     And while it’s not a Middle Child’s Day greeting card -- yet -- at least I know we’re on their calendar. Word of my crusade has even reached all the way to Alaska, as reported by Liz Raines at KTVA in Anchorage.


     I don’t have any hard numbers, but I can tell you after years of meticulously monitoring Middle Child’s Day mentions on social media, there has been a significant increase since I started my crusade to raise awareness back in 2012. I don’t want to take all the credit, but what else could explain it? And since nobody else is going to take responsibility, I might as well.
     Of course, there were the mandatory tweets the day after from people professing to have forgotten Middle Child’s Day...

LISTEN HERE


    ...but I'm not falling for it. I’m pretty sure they actually knew it was Middle Child’s Day and were just waiting all day for it to be over so they could say they forgot it the next day. Hardee har har. That’s pretty twisted. And not exactly original. My friend Terri Stacy at WIBC in Indianapolis likes to do that every year.
  
     Then there are those who genuinely forgot. Like my sister. Yes, the younger sibling of the founder of the International Middle Child Union. The person who is almost singlehandedly (with a big assist from my parents) responsible for me being a Middle Child in the first place. Yes, her.


     It’s the algorithm's fault? Is that the social media equivalent of the dog eating your homework!? Pretty weak. Still, it’s better than my older brother, who did not acknowledge the day at all.
     A more troubling issue is all the Middle Children who were unaware it was Middle Child’s Day, like my nephew.


          At least he found out in time. But still, if we’re not going to remember our own holiday, well, then -- I give up!! But no.
     NO!
     I will never give up.
     I’m like the Don Quixote of birth order. This is my quest. My impossible dream.
     Am I just tilting at windmills? For sure. But these challenges only strengthen my resolve. The struggle continues. I’m dogged, determined, and eager to embrace another year of being overlooked and underappreciated.

Stay up to date on all things Middle Child.
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Monday, August 12, 2019

The Middle Child's Day Parade That Almost Was

     Pittsburgh was a pipe dream... I should’ve known nothing would come of it when a writer from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette contacted me about my effort to find a host city for a Middle Child’s Day parade. “I figure we could have the parade on Centre Avenue, which goes through the Middle Hill,” wrote columnist Brian O’Neill. Middle Hill? Centre Avenue? It sounded too good to be true -- which of course it was. So I moved on. Like water under one of the 446 bridges over the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers. I refuse to dwell on it. I’ll keep my expectations in check.
     And then the phone rings...
     “Hey, it’s Jen & Frank from WXLO Worcester/Boston,” says the made for morning radio baritone on the other end of the line. “We want to talk to you about a possible host city for your parade.” Surrrre you do. I’m no sucker! Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice -- I should probably call them back. So I do.

     Wow, they really sound like they mean it. This is huge! I mean, this station is in a Nielsen Top 10 rated radio market. They’ve got musical intros and a logo and everything. Alright, just calm down. This is probably all some kind of Morning Show prank. They didn’t really call the Mayor of the second biggest city in New England, right?
     Holy crap, they did!
 
     And, what what -- the Mayor is a Middle Child? Are you friggin’ kidding me!? I don’t want to get my hopes up, but it’s getting real hard not to. And then I get this text:


      Wait, are they checking my availability? Is this really happening? Should I be Googling directions to Worcester? And do they actually think I have someplace better to be on Middle Child’s Day?? Okay, okay -- I gotta play it cool. Make them think there might be other contenders. Ya know, like they’re not the only game in town. Play a little hard to get. So I text them back:


     And then... crickets. Radio silence. The Worcester Middle Child’s Day Parade is over before it even started.
     I don’t blame Jen & Frank. They gave it their best shot, but what more could I expect from two non-Middles? (Actually, Frank is a Middle Child, and didn’t even know it. He told me he was a first born, but I later found out he has an older sister and younger siblings! “I’m the first born male,” he explained. Just another classic case of M.C.D.D. -- Middle Child Denial Disorder.) I also don’t blame the Mayor, although it remains to be seen how his Middle Child base will react to this news.
     It was probably Russian meddling. Putin loves messing with Mid Kids. Or maybe it was all the fake news on social media.
     Whatever.
     We got close.
     Real close.
     Still, like too many Middle Children have experienced too many times before -- there was no cigar.
     But it was definitely progress. A step in the right direction. And after all, isn’t that all a parade really is -- a series of steps in the right direction? With a few balloons thrown in. And a crowd.
     So I prefer to think our parade has been -- postponed. Yeah, postponed. Sure, probably indefinitely. But it’s definitely not over.

IN CELEBRATION OF MIDDLE CHILD'S DAY,
CHECK OUT THESE NEW POSTS:

NEW Middle Child's Day Greeting Cards

     I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if you're not the first born or the last born, you're in the middle. Still, I am constantly amazed at the number of people who have no idea that they're a Middle Child. I wrote about this in a previous post, “outed” Sarah Jessica Parker as a Mid Kid, and have even given this condition a name: Middle Child Denial Disorder. Since M.C.D.D. has apparently reached epidemic proportions, this year I've created a special Middle Child's Day greeting card, for those poor souls who don't even know they're a Middle Child.


Also NEW for 2019:













to see the entire collection of Middle Child's Day Greeting cards.

IN CELEBRATION OF MIDDLE CHILD'S DAY,
CHECK OUT THESE NEW POSTS: