six in the city

Life in the 'hood with a husband, two kids, and two dogs

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Find your Tribe

“I’m so happy to be part of this tribe,”—a simple and positive social media post.  It elicits “likes” and supportive comments. Another common post in our running group page, “ten miles with my tribemates, so proud of them.” You’ve seen it, in your team’s Facebook page, or in business groups, or supportive social networks. On Instagram you’ll find the ubiquitous #bridetribe hashtag.  But It seems like there is always someone who responds with something like, “be careful how you use the word tribe. It can be considered racist.”  But they don’t tell us whyWhy would this be?

My brain goes in all sorts of directions—is the bigger topic related to tribes of Africa? Indian history in the United States? Or is it generating a feeling to some that we are making a cultural assimilation or appropriation? If so, I would argue the person complaining about it is the one assigning a negative thought process here.

An old article on talks about the use of “tribe” in reference to the study of African nations which we are not doing…. that use of the word promotes misleading stereotypes, saying “It carries misleading historical and cultural assumptions. It blocks accurate views of African realities.” We can all agree that more education is always a good thing, especially today, on the subject, but we are not college professors. We are not writing academic articles for history journals. We are not referring to anyone from other countries as tribes.  We are not studying African nations and producing reports. We are not influencing any political thinktanks. All of that academic life has nothing to do with calling ourselves a “tribe”.  Even the good old Merriam-Webster dictionary is okay with it:

a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest

informal + humorous : a large family

Google search results produced one marketer who says that use of “tribe” in marketing “is over with, don’t use it”. She pokes at the #bridetribe as an example. So what?  The #bridetribes aren’t selling a product or creating social change. They are having fun. They are expressing their friendship.  Her advice may be okay for marketing professionals selling serious products, but we don’t need to worry about that.

Another marketing ‘expert’ says we should come up with alternative words. He offers a long list and here are just a few, which crack me up. He must be extremely woke:

  • Society (vague much?)
  • People (how original!)
  • Horde (really?)
  • Troupe (are we circus folk?)
  • Family (duh)
  • Gang (probably would get flagged on social media)
  • Coterie (WTF?)
  • Syndicate (very “Bourne Identity”)
  • Friends (no shit)

Over the summer on a hot Sunday, I was scheduled to run eight miles in the sticky, humid weather.  Turns out, my legs were done before mile 5 and I gave in and decided to walk the last three-plus.  I encouraged the group to forge ahead. I know my way through town and told them I would be just fine.  A friend hung back and walked with me (even though I repeatedly encouraged her to run off).  Later when I thanked her for being so patient, she said “hey, we are a tribe, we don’t leave people alone out there.”  You see? How is this a bad thing?  Dear marketers, I really don’t think switching “tribe” out for the word “community” would be effective here. 

John Boudreau of Wilbraham, MA described his tribe to me. “Lindsey’s Tribe” is one of the leading fundraisers for our local breast cancer nonprofit, Rays of Hope.   ROH has raised over $15M to date and the funds have stayed local to western Massachusetts residents. (Heck, I don’t matter in this equation, but I did get into running so that I could learn to run the ROH five miles in support of my mother, diagnosed in 2014 and cancer-free today.)

The “Tribe” got its painful but beautiful start when Lindsey lost her first child 12+ years ago. They had just closed on their first house. While she and the baby were in the hospital for five days, a group of friends started coming together to help them get the house cleaned up to move in. What ended up happening was a magical group of over 30 young people who cleaned, painted walls and ceilings, installed lights, landscaped, refinished floors….over a four-day period. The Tribe was born. They were again called to action when Lindsey was diagnosed with breast cancer. They helped with the boys, cooked meals, delivered groceries, went with Lindsey to chemo sessions….”

I recently finished reading TRIBE by Sebastian Junger. The book jacket says that the author “demonstrates that regaining our tribal connection – largely lost in modern society – may be the key to our psychological survival.” In the Introduction he talks about his decision as a young man to hitchhike across northwestern US. “The sheer predictability of life in an American suburb left me hoping—somewhat irresponsibly—for a hurricane or a tornado or something that would require us to all band together to survive.” See, that’s just it – a common goal, a common challenge. Our running group is not enduring military stress like Junger writes about, but the goals and the bonds that form are real.

We are the nation’s stakes

If everything’s erased

What you gonna’ do?

I need some room to breathe

You can run with me

If you wanted to


The Hirsute of Happiness

So, this column did NOT win the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. Stop reading here if you anticipate disappointment. It’s just silly fun. We seem to be a society obsessed with hair: how to grow it, how to remove it, how to preen it on-trend. It’s just a follicle.

I read an article this week which showcased an old study claiming that hairy people are more intelligent. As a reasonably hairy and intelligent person, I can’t find fault. Suspicions of hair’s kinship with smarts would be confirmed if one were to point to the not-so-scientific evidence of recent “reality” TV plots featuring lifelike ladies fighting over a waxed and chiseled mannequin-man. Does one’s intelligence become reduced, if one chooses to endure the grooming and endless preening required of HD television?  I’m pretty sure my legs get 5 o’clock shadow by noon, and I could add some rasta beads to the mix by the end of a week and become the unwilling hostess of a Jamaican extravaganza if I didn’t keep up with it.

Depositphotos_36212655_m-2015Will Forte was a guest on the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon in December. Based on another trending topic in social media, they decided to have a lab look for evidence of “fecal matter” in his beard. Although the analysis revealed many common bacteria, he was relieved to discover he did not in fact have a “shit beard”.  All of this – studies about hairy people, beards and their potential inhabitants, and the moustache trend – could it be backlash from the part of our society that says “hey, celebrate the follicle!”  We’ve endured many ads for products over the years to help us become better, balder versions of ourselves. Maybe it’s time to keep our shower drains clear.

The hipster phenomenon reigns. He’s a sleeker, stylish, self-aware creature that can pull off just about any fashion. His beard is not, in fact, ironic, but a tip o’ the all-season wool hat to keeping it real. It could be the year of hair. Will the “age of Aquarius” be back? What about the long chagrined armpit? We remember the original commercials for Epilady, a torture device found under many 1990s Christmas trees, and now we have its modern infomercial equivalents. Maybe the refreshing acceptance of hair will put an end to hearing strangers discuss their Brazilians, and I don’t mean their Portuguese cousins. As a hairy kid who’d have done anything to get out of gym class and avoid the humiliation of exposed legs every season, I’m not sure it’s a trend I’m willing to embrace. Embrace is, however, the name of one of my razors. Hmmmm.



posts arriving soon …

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