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Friday roundup: St. Purim's Day edition

Posted by Robin Abrahams  March 14, 2014 10:14 AM

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This weekend is both Purim and St. Patrick's Day. Last year I wrote up some thoughts about Purim that ring even more true today:

Moderation in the face of the outrageous is no virtue. Purim reminds us of our capacity to be outraged, and to be outrageous.

And it is a holiday meant to be celebrated once a year. And designed, frankly, to give you a bad enough hangover that you'll think twice the next time you're tempted to stray from the path of moderation.

Now we live in a world that tries to sell us both the wild decadent glee of Purim, and the existential threat of Esther, 24/7.

How do we live in a world of Permanent Purim?

It's also Lent, of course. I asked about readers' observance of Lent on my Facebook page, and got some thoughtful answers. Many people talked about a practice they were taking on rather than giving anything up--extra charity, prayer, or so on. I should think if one followed the giving-something-up route, the difficult bit is to choose something that is a spiritual challenge to give up, and not merely a secular goal (like wanting to lose 10 pounds) conveniently tacked on to a religious season.

I was going to say that it was surprising no one mentioned giving up any technology for Lent, until I realized that I'd asked it after the season started and anyone who did that was probably not going to be Facebooking with Miss Conduct, now, were they? MD Mama blogged about a recent study on smartphones and parenting:

R]esearchers from Boston University hung out in a fast food restaurant and watched people. Specifically (because people-watching in fast-food restaurants can be interesting for all sorts of reasons), they watched caregivers with children who were less than ten years old (or at least who looked like they were less than ten). They were curious about their use of "devices" and how it affected the interactions between them. 
What they found is what anybody who has been paying attention would predict. Of the 55 families they watched, 40 of them used a device. The amount they used that device varied--from 3 who left it on the table to 16 who were completely absorbed in it the whole time they were at the restaurant. Not surprisingly, being really absorbed in your phone means you're really not interacting with your children. 
The kids had varied responses; some were busy and didn't care, some seemed to accept it, and some kept trying to get their caregiver's attention--sometimes getting angry responses. ... The researchers talked about some of the questions we really need to study, and one of them was the long-term effects on children of "presence-absence," when their caregivers are there, but not really.
I'm trying to pull out of screen-world a bit. I sprained my leg and arm in late November, which means I've been apartment-bound for even longer than most of us this winter. (The polar vortex hit the very weekend that I was able to get down the stairs of the house on my own.) I have devoured the current crop of political melodramas--"Scandal," "House of Cards," "The Good Wife"--out of hunger for a world where people walked outdoors and wore attractive suits to meetings and ate lunch with other people in public places. I suppose the best comment in response to my Facebook question was, "I'm giving up winter."
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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at missconduct@globe.com.
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Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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Curious if you should say "bless you" to a sneezing atheist? How to host a dinner party for carbophobes, vegans, and Atkins disciples—all at the same time? The finer points of regifting? Ask it here, or email missconduct@globe.com.

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