Asking Amy Issue #4. Featuring: Sneak peek Q and A; Dispatches from the Scottish desk; Junk Food; Laura Recommends; Targeted Upselling

Where March's chill winds bring on a touch of Scotland

Outstanding in my field

But First — Sneak Peek Q and A:

A uniquely thoughtful question inspires the advice to GO SLOW

Dear Amy: I am feeling anxious about a return to pre-pandemic normality and am hoping you can help me find effective ways of navigating.  

My anxiety is not about health precautions like mask wearing.
I am more concerned that we have all been apart for a year, with widely varying pandemic experiences, and have grown apart with respect to our expectations for what kind of relationship or experience we want to emerge into.  
Some people want to go back to the world exactly as it was. 

I met someone recently who immediately launched into a 30 second commercial on what a big shot he was, reminding me of a common way of interacting before the pandemic, based on trying to prove your worth based on some kind of external marker of success. This was jarring for me because for the past year most of my conversations have been about what each of our pandemic experiences were like.

I have grown accustomed to interacting with people from a place of compassion, treating people as human beings -- not human-doings.  

I am anxious about interacting with people who expect me to snap back into the pre-pandemic, competitive, transactional approach to relationships that was common among people I knew.
Can you help me find ways to navigate on ways to reintegrate with each other?

Anxious

Dear Anxious: I appreciate this thoughtful question, as I have had my own anxieties about reentering the world – not as it was, but as it is. My own experience has been one of drawing-in, and like many people I assume that some of these changes – in perspective and temperament – will be permanent.

My own plan is to … go slowly, realizing that others will go at a different pace.

I urge you – and all of us – to reserve judgment. 

That hard-charging man has his own anxieties. He is perhaps overly eager to assert his primacy over his surroundings. He might have spent the last year struggling to keep the losses and sacrifices at bay. If he has not permitted the last year change him, to understand his own vulnerabilities and deepen his own compassion, then – so be it. 

You might still feel compassion for him, though, because he, like you, is experiencing the world and relating to others -- in the way he knows how. 

Remember, too, that it takes all kinds of people to rebuild: Braggy and fearless-sounding movers and shakers, as well as people who are willing to sweep up the rubble; artists, musicians, teamsters and teachers. “Human-doers,” as you so rightly name them, have their place.

Anyone who expects you to “snap back” into pre-pandemic ways of relating will simply have to adjust to the changes you’ve made in your own life, slowly – just as you will adjust to them.

Dispatches from the Scottish Desk

My friend Nancy P once remarked to me: “You really LOVE weather!” Until then, I’d never noticed how infused my own writing has been with … weather. I assume this is a vestige of my choice to settle on the slope of a steep hill on the outskirts of my hometown, in a rural area famous for weather: Mean weather, lovely weather, months of buffeting blizzards, epic and oppressive cloud cover, two nice weeks in July, and the cold, dismal and drenching rains of March.

I am in fact surrounded by sheep during all seasons. We do weather together.

This week — a break. Unseasonal warmth hastened the snow melt and the water rushed down the hills, forcing its way into rivulets and flowing deep in the ditches.

I actually walked outside in my bare feet, where I could feel the winter’s freeze rising up through the ground, melting upward into the topsoil and creating the most pleasant spongy turf. Spongy!! My dog and I did some romping. We simply had no choice.

The very next day, after a day of birds singing and the Maple sap rising, March reasserted itself with a vengeance. Which brings me to Scotland — specifically, the Shetland Isles. On these dank and windswept days, I am drawn to all-things-Scottish.

Sometimes, even my randomized life manages to organize itself into themes.

It just works out that way.

One wonderful recent Scottish story involves my favorite genre: “Lost and Found.” Decades-old slides (remember those?) sent to a recycle center were retrieved, revealing gorgeous photos, which themselves revealed everyday life on the Shetland Isles — as it once was. This story, from the New York Times, features some of the photos, the memories of the people in them, as well as the man who took them. The photo-hero who retrieved them is named Paul Moar:

“My jaw hit the ground,” said Mr. Moar, a local history buff. “Some of them were these amazing snapshots into island life, and other ones were just scenic photos,” he said. “But I knew I’d stumbled on a little bit of treasure.”

Click below to reveal this treasure:

A treasure from the Sheltand Isles, plucked from the trash

I hate to be the one to tell you:

SOBERING news, now — of a world-wide shortage of single malt Scotch, from our fancy friends at Town and Country Magazine. (stock up, and click below)

Bottoms up

… and, to get you in the mood, as you raise that last dram you’ll ever drink, here’s a 30 second pronouncer, from scottishwhiskeyexperience.uk

How to say Slainte (cheers)

The Fairest of them all:

I haven’t had a hankering for a Fair Isle sweater since 1981, when they were a necessary component to my preppy look (I did, in fact, wear a wooly kilt — bought at a local church’s basement thrift shop — throughout my time in college).

This week, awake as usual at 3AM, I did some insomniac browsing for Fair Isle sweaters, and came upon this absolutely CHARMING story, featuring (yes, again!) Lost and Found photos. Fifty-year-old photos were uncovered — of Shetlanders wearing their hand-knit and intricately patterned wooly jumpers (as one does…).

Best of all, some of the original models were re-photographed this year! (Including this very handsome couple, pictured below):

Here’s the photographer, Chris Morphet: Then and Now, sporting his hand-knits, and proving that he could NOT be any cuter:

Here’s the story, from the BBC:

Fair Isle style: Where wooly jumpers are always in fashion

I’m watching:

A wonderful cop show called Shetland (naturally) - available on Amazon Prime. Detective DJ Perez is a man with a past who returns to his hometown in the Shetlands. Gorgeous setting, humane at it’s core.

I’m reading:

Douglas Stewart’s debut novel, Shuggie Bain — Winner of the 2020 Booker Prize.

The heartbreaking story of a boy’s upbringing in slaggy, crushing poverty on the outskirts of Glasgow, this novel is rich with metaphor and meaning.

It brings to mind Angela’s Ashes, but without the sentimentality, and it knocked me sideways.

JUNK FOOD: Stuff I consume to feel better

by Railey Jane Savage

This week: "Say It With an Accent!"

(shelf placement ≠ priority)

"Scotland, where d'yoo thaink?" This is Ryan Phillipe's response to a valet questioning his accent while working below-stairs in Robert Altman's 2001 masterpiece, Gosford Park. Except Phillipe is only pretending to be Scottish. He is eventually revealed to be an American actor whose affectations were in aid of researching a role. The scorn he receives comes from both above — and below — stairs, and by the end we see that the accent was not masking his heritage as much as it was obscuring his lack of scruples. His fake Scottish accent was bad, but his true personality was worse. 

(Fake Scottish accent; authentic American stinkface.)

“As my VCR whirred and clanked its way through my tape I thought of my grandmother, Jane, who took me to see Gosford in the theatre. More than once. (My VHS copy of Gosford used to be hers--along with at least half my video collection.) The first time we watched it, when Phillipe was unmasked Jane muttered, "Jackass." The second time through she kept quiet, which I found more meaningful than the mild epithet. For Jane knew the power of language, and the power of silence. And her decision to not say anything the second time through was, for me, tacit confirmation that, "If you don't have anything nice to say (in an accent), better not say anything at all." Her silence spoke volumes.

(That's NOT what she said.)

It's wishful thinking that Michael Scott ever learned this life lesson. But whenever I'm tempted to judge others from the safety of my COVID-free home I ask myself:

Is this a nice thing to say?

Does this nice thing need to be said right now?

Does this nice thing need to be said in a Scottish accent?

Unless the answer to all three is YES I will keep quiet, and keep re-watching.”

[Railey Jane Savage is an armchair commentator who lives in Ludlowville, NY with her two cats. Find her on instagram @cartoonsandcats]

A new feature from Consumer Correspondent Emily Mason:

Targeted Upsell

Emily writes: “This week I was formally introduced to Higher Dose. Since that name indicates absolutely nothing about what the product is, allow me to explain:

It’s an infrared sauna blanket.

Oh I’m sorry, did that explanation clarify absolutely nothing? Let me paint a picture:

“I did some research and apparently, this is a device by which a person wraps themselves up like a newborn taco and lies completely still for...well, the time isn’t made clear. However, the result is “euphoria,” glowing skin, and sweat. 

A LOT of sweat. Like, bordering on an unhealthy amount of sweat, especially considering that you’re just lying there, a-sweatin’ in your slanket.

I guess that’s the point; using this device is like exercise for your body, except you stay completely still! Because cocooning yourself in a heavy blanket is….better than just exercising?

Well — at least you don’t have to worry about sports bras or spandex. 

Because when you get Higher Dose, you get to look like you got abducted by aliens.

(I can’t be the only person that sees no difference.)

And it’s $500, the cost of an annual gym membership.

What’s not to love?

Why am I Seeing This?

I’ve been on a fitness kick and my search history reflects that. I guess something told the internet that I’m a sucker for gadgetry. Big mistake. 

Did they sell me?

Well, in my book they win the award for the worst-named product, but no, of course not.

I don’t love exercise, but... I cannot imagine a scenario in which I see this as a fun alternative. The idea of weighing myself down with something that will raise my body temperature and make me sweat while I’m stuck there is…

Well, I won’t say it is my version of hell, but yes, it is in fact my version of Hell.

So I’m going to give this a hearty but good natured hell-NO; I’ll lock myself in the bathroom with a space heater instead. 

[Emily Mason, of Chicago, classifies herself as a “curious consumer but a tough sell,” which is probably why she gets so many targeted ads. Twitter @themistakemaven and Instagram @abitahooey]

Laura Likes

A feature where my friend Laura recommends GREAT things:

“The pandemic has turned me into a person who is constantly on the lookout for ways to clean up. I was scrolling through various cleaning sites and came across these nifty compressed towels. Each is about the diameter of a quarter, and maybe triple the thickness. You might find them listed as "coin tissues" or "coin towels" or some variation on that. They're inexpensive and super-handy. I now keep a few in my purse and stashed a tube full of these in my husband's car. Need a towel or towelette? No problem. Just add water. Boom. They are oddly fascinating to watch rehydrate.” 

“Excellent when you're confronted with a mess and there are no towels or tissues to be found anywhere. There are lots of brands of these -- most seem to make a point of touting how they're made of recycled fibers or have sustainable sources. Obviously, plain old regular towels would work just fine, but most people don't carry around towels when they're on the go, and these are disposable, so you can safely wipe up a mess possibly left by a stranger whose health status you don't know. The kind I bought are actually durable enough for a couple of uses. 

Don't flush them, be judicious with their use, but if you're in a jam, these are nifty.”

[Laura Lorson is a news editor, radio producer and broadcast announcer in northeastern Kansas. Follow her on Twitter! @prairielaura]