My husband and I wore these silicone rings during our honeymoon — they looked great and stood up to 2 weeks of salty ocean water


Roq Silicone RingsJada Wong/Business Insider

My husband and I wore ROQ silicone rings during our honeymoon in the Maldives so we wouldn't be too upset if we somehow lost our platinum wedding bands in the ocean.  They handled two weeks' of snorkeling, swimming, and sweaty beach runs really well, and still look brand new.  ROQ has a wide selection of styles, colors, and widths for men and women, though the rings would all look great on anyone. They come in single or multi-packs, and prices range from $6.99 to $16.99. 

After having our destination wedding at Lake Louise in Canada, the only thing my husband and I wanted was a relaxing honeymoon where the sky meets the sea.

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How Lunar New Year became a shopping holiday for Western brands
Brands like Gucci and Adidas Originals have partnered with Disney to release limited-edition capsule collections for Lunar New Year. | Wang Gang/VCG/Getty Images Gucci, Nike, and Sephora have released new merchandise for the Year of the Rat. The stretch of time between end-of-year celebrations and Valentine’s Day is usually bleak. People are physically and financially drained from the holidays, and there’s not much to celebrate — a dry spell that has led brands to create a deluge of fake holidays like National Shortbread Day (January 6) and National Shop for Travel Day (January 14). Within the past decade, a spate of brands both luxury and affordable have adopted a new holiday into their calendars, one that’s already celebrated by more than a billion people annually: Lunar New Year. In the US, the holiday is generally referred to as Chinese New Year, but Lunar New Year seems like a more accurate description, given that the event is also observed by non-Chinese people. What is Lunar New Year? While Lunar New Year 2020 officially falls on January 25, the holiday is celebrated across multiple days and even weeks in places like China, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Under the Gregorian calendar used by most countries worldwide, the new year starts on January 1. Lunar New Year is the celebration under the lunisolar calendar — which is based on cycles of the moon — and typically falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. The specific celebrations and formal dates encompassing the holiday vary by country and culture, but it’s an important day reserved for festivities to ring in the new year. Celebrants host elaborate meals with extended families, exchange money or gifts for good fortune, party in the streets, and set off fireworks. Lunar New Year in China, which is called the Spring Festival, has 15 days of festivities, South Korea’s Seollal celebration lasts 12 days, and Vietnam’s Tết Nguyên Đán is a week long. Costfoto/Barcroft Media/Getty Images China has 15 days of festivities prepared for its Lunar New Year celebration, which is called the Spring Festival. There are numerous other lunar calendar-based celebrations that fall later than January 25, usually during or after the spring equinox. For example, Losar, the Tibetan new year, begins on February 24, while Cambodia starts its new year celebration on April 14. It’s likely that the growth of Asian immigrant populations in the US, especially those of Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese descent, has contributed to the overall popularity and cultural awareness of Lunar New Year. The largest celebrations from these communities typically occur in urban centers like Los Angeles, New York City, or San Francisco. Lunar New Year is a holiday steeped in tradition. It’s also an occasion to spend. As with most holidays, Lunar New Year has become an opportunity for retailers to sell shoes, jackets, or handbags on the premise of being culturally observant. While there are various other lunar-based celebrations in the months that follow, Western companies have notably latched onto Lunar New Year, given the scale of its celebration. Well-known Western brands like Apple, Gucci, Nike, and Sephora have launched new advertising campaigns and capsule collections overseas, primarily aimed at Chinese customers, but these activities have also bled into the American market. Malls, shopping centers, and entertainment venues in major US cities are hosting attractions tied to Lunar New Year. Despite the financial gains made from it, however, Lunar New Year is not yet a federal holiday. The commodification of major holidays and events is nothing new. Brands have long had a corporate incentive to pander to customers by aligning themselves with certain political and social goals. Yet there’s a stark disconnect that emerges when brands try to commercialize a holiday, especially one tied to cultures that celebrate it abroad like Lunar New Year. Despite the financial gains made from it, however, Lunar New Year is not yet a federal holiday “There’s this flattening of the world taking place in regards to marketing trends and themes,” Deb Gabor, a brands expert and CEO of Sol Marketing, told Vox. “It mostly started with the luxury brands, but we’re seeing more and more mainstream brands doing this,” like Sephora and online beauty companies. Lunar New Year appears to be yet another branded holiday where products are marketed with culturally specific colors, themes, and motifs — with the intention of courting an Asian market that holds significant spending power. Brands, especially luxury retailers, are actively chasing China, which will be the world’s largest apparel market by 2030. The “Lunar New Year effect,” as Gabor called it, is reflected in how American retailers are participating in Chinese shopping events, like Singles Day. According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, Chinese consumers in 2019 spent $149 billion across the week-long Chinese New Year holiday. China is also a hot spot for luxury retailers, spending about $7 billion each year on brand-name goods, according to McKinsey. Every year, retailers have the opportunity to create new merchandise that correlates with the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, which symbolizes a given year. A person’s zodiac sign depends on their birth year, and even American consumers have a semblance of knowledge of the zodiac, if not their affiliated animal. Given our collective enthusiasm at identifying ourselves through unscientific, ambiguous ways, brands are relying on zodiac imagery to sell their products. sees what you’re up to Apple. Alot of the emoji engraving options also match the Chinese Zodiac animals so you can engrave the year of your birth.— Brian Suda (@briansuda) January 3, 2020 2020 is the Year of the Rat, which might not be the cutest animal on earth, but that hasn’t stopped fashion retailers and makeup brands from releasing rat-related merchandise: Gucci and Adidas Originals have both partnered with Disney on capsule collections that feature Mickey Mouse, arguably the most famous rodent in the world. Rag & Bone has a pizza rat sweater, and Moschino released products with its Mickey Rat logo (which looks like Mickey Mouse but with a long jagged snout). Other retailers have opted to use more traditional motifs, like Nike, which has a series of subtly intricate shoe designs inspired by traditional Chinese paper cutting. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Gucci (@gucci) on Jan 3, 2020 at 3:14am PST Despite their best efforts, Western companies haven’t escaped the inevitable criticism (mostly by Western consumers) that they’re commodifying a cultural holiday for their bottom line. In addition to Lunar New Year, brands have also capitalized on China’s Mid-Autumn Festival and the Muslim holiday Ramadan. In a 2015 piece for Racked, Fareeha Molvi wrote about the slow commercialization of Ramadan, and about grappling with how her culture “could be the next lucrative frontier,” like other holidays before it. “At its core, Ramadan is about doing more with less. Literally, you’re asked to do more good deeds while physically consuming less,” she wrote. When companies try to co-opt a cultural holiday for material gain, they risk subverting or even trivializing the tradition behind the event. Despite Lunar New Year’s deep-seated traditions, it has devolved into somewhat of a consumerist holiday: It’s tradition for people to buy loved ones gifts or exchange money (which encourages spending), and it’s even considered good fortune to ring in the new year with new stuff. For the most part, Asian consumers abroad don’t appear to take issue with the cultural marketing. Nike and Apple have received praise for releasing poignant ads that focus on family and tradition. However, foreign customers are quick to notice failed marketing ploys and point out where brands have erred. For example, Burberry’s Chinese New Year campaign in 2019 featured stoic, heavily stylized family portraits, which Chinese netizens found creepy and tone-deaf. Amid tensions between China and the US over trade and geopolitics, however, Chinese shoppers might not be as receptive to Western brands’ Lunar New Year efforts. They’ve become especially wary of American companies and critical of international retailers overall, according to a Wall Street Journal piece on how America is losing the Chinese customer. “This past Christmas is a good indication that [retailers] don’t have much up their sleeves besides promotions and discounts,” Gabor said. In a way, Lunar New Year has been a saving grace for some retailers, another opportunity to get more customers to buy. That might change in the future, as surveys show how Chinese shoppers prefer to buy from domestic brands, partly for patriotism’s sake. On Singles Day, the country’s largest shopping holiday, up to 78 percent of respondents surveyed said the trade war would affect their purchase of American brands. It doesn’t help that a string of missteps in 2019, which left companies scrambling to scrap together corporate apologies, has soured China’s perception towards Western brands. It was just in 2018 that a Chinese fast-fashion company had to set up shop in London to gain appeal in Beijing. The opposite effect might be taking place now. Analysts predict that Chinese shoppers alone are expected to spend as much as $156 billion on new year festivities. Still, it’s uncertain whether it’ll benefit the bottom line of Western companies. Sign up for The Goods newsletter. Twice a week, we’ll send you the best Goods stories exploring what we buy, why we buy it, and why it matters.
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Zac Freeland/Vox How can some places use the federal holiday to honor “human rights” and Confederate generals — and not the civil rights leader? Welcome to Laboratories of Democracy, a series for Vox’s The Highlight, where we examine local policies and their impacts. The policy: States have stretched the meaning of the federal Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday to honor everything from “human rights” to Confederate generals. Where: Alabama, Mississippi, Utah, Idaho, Virginia, New Hampshire Since: 1986 The problem: In March 1990, the NFL delivered Arizona an ultimatum. The league approved Phoenix as the host of the 1993 Super Bowl — a sure economic boon — on one condition: The state needed to finally recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday. In a scramble, state legislators placed MLK Day on the ballot in 1990, confident it would be approved. But when the vote tally came in that November, officials were shocked to discover the proposal had failed. “We honestly don’t believe our kids and grandkids should revere him as a national hero,” one anti-MLK Day activist told the New York Times. True to its word, the NFL pulled the 1993 Super Bowl from Arizona. The Arizona vote revealed something sinister about American race relations: Although MLK Day is generally viewed as a way to mark the country’s supposed racial progress and the life of King, who fought for that progress, many white Americans still refuse to honor the civil rights leader. States are not required to observe any of the 10 federal holidays, including Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In many cases, they don’t: Columbus Day, for example, is only recognized in 21 states. But state authority over how to designate holidays has given rise to an ominous downplaying of MLK’s legacy. Congress first considered making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday in 1968, the year of the civil rights leader’s assassination. Annual bills were introduced for more than a decade, but none of them made it out of committee because of lingering hostility toward King, particularly among several Republican representatives. But activists and labor unions continued to push for the holiday, delivering a petition that garnered more than 6 million signatures to Congress in the early 1980s. President Ronald Reagan had initially opposed MLK Day, citing the cost of another paid holiday for federal workers, but after the Reagan administration’s campaign against affirmative action and welfare, the president decided he needed to shore up his black support somehow. In 1983, he signed a law proclaiming that the third Monday of January would become Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But contempt for King’s legacy remained. Much of it stemmed from an insistence that King’s work in desegregating the South and advocating wealth redistribution across the country was fundamentally “un-American.” Misinformation about King as a communist sympathizer spread widely. Although many states followed the example of Congress and quickly recognized a holiday in his honor, some of the holdouts decided to get creative. How it works: In April 1984, a pair of white supremacists crawled under a synagogue in Boise, Idaho, and placed three sticks of dynamite beneath the kitchen. The duo, members of the violent white nationalist organization Aryan Nations, later said they intended it as an “act of war.” When the bomb went off, no one died. But it became one in a string of Aryan Nations attacks, which included the murder of a Jewish radio host, that shook the nation in the mid-’80s. The festering racism in Idaho, one of the whitest states in the country and the main base of the Aryan Nations, became fodder for national news stories. The state needed an image change, so Idaho Gov. John Evans devised a simple solution: Idaho would, at long last, push for a holiday to honor Martin Luther King Jr. after years of refusing to recognize it. But the legislation to make MLK Day official didn’t pass. The legislature tried in 1986, then again in 1987, and in 1989. Opposing legislators claimed they were concerned about cost, but as Boise State University history professor Jill K. Gill noted in The Pacific Northwest Quarterly, many Idahoans distrusted King, if not civil rights in general. In King, they saw a man who had committed marital infidelities and supposedly harbored communist sympathies. But other legislators did not bother to hide that their opposition was rooted in racism. State Rep. Emerson Smock complained to the Post Register, “A black holiday is what they’re wanting.” The legislature eventually forged a compromise: Rather than create a state holiday that honored King alone, the state would broaden it to include, in theory, anyone. In April 1990, the state announced it would celebrate King’s birthday as “Martin Luther King Jr.-Idaho Human Rights Day.” Although King remained the primary honoree, the extended name was explicitly about mollifying King’s detractors. Idaho isn’t alone. Alabama and Mississippi still celebrate a “King-Lee” day that lumps King together with Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, whose birthday is January 19. Until 2000, Virginia took this idea even further, creating a “Lee-Jackson-King Day” that also honored Confederate leader Stonewall Jackson. “Bundling the holidays remains a form of resistance to racial justice in America,” Gill told Vox. By putting King alongside Lee, she added, “it also remains a vehicle for obscuring white supremacist aims, past and present.” Other states tried an array of strategies to quite literally take Martin Luther King Jr. out of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Until 2000, Utah’s holiday did not mention King by name: MLK Day was known simply as Human Rights Day. South Carolina took a different tack, passing a standalone holiday honoring the civil rights leader but making its observance optional. There, state workers could choose between MLK Day and three separate Confederate holidays as their paid day off. Arizona voters, by contrast, refused to approve a ballot proposal for MLK Day until 1992, two years after the NFL boycotted the state. And in 2000, New Hampshire became the last state in the country to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day under any name, closing out an effort that included multiple failed bills since 1979. The winning compromise: New Hampshire would call its holiday “Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day” instead of just “Martin Luther King Jr. Day.” Attempts to lump King together with other historical figures have not disappeared. In 2010, the Utah legislature considered a bill that would add gun manufacturer John Browning to the state’s celebration of King. When Desert News asked Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins whether he saw any conflict in honoring a gun manufacturer alongside a proponent of nonviolence, Jenkins replied, “Guns keep peace.” Many of the same states that have renamed MLK Day also routinely downplay anti-black violence in their discussions of America’s past. According to the Washington Post, Massachusetts, which observes the holiday, mentions slavery 104 times in its K-12 public school history guidelines. Compare that to Alabama, which only mentions it 15 times, or Idaho, which only mentions it twice. Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, key events in the civil rights movement like the murder of Emmett Till have at times been ignored entirely. According to Gill, maintaining a joint King-Lee holiday “continues that tradition of prioritizing white people’s reconciliation and image of patriotic nobility over acknowledging the historical truths of racial injustice and culpability.” Black activists have long pointed out the ways political leaders have diluted King’s legacy on his birthday. Instead of focusing on his commitment to radical policies like wealth redistribution, politicians are quick to generalize King as a unifier, proof of America’s supposedly harmonious racial present. Three years ago, the FBI even tweeted its support for King’s “incredible career fighting for civil rights” — even though the agency cast King as a domestic threat during his lifetime. That some states still refuse to celebrate King, even in this diluted form, is perhaps an indictment of how far America remains from any semblance of racial equality. Michael Waters is a writer covering the oddities of politics and economics. His work has appeared in the Atlantic, Gizmodo, BuzzFeed, and the Outline.
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On a debate stage during the 2016 Republican primary, Donald Trump explained why he’d given money to Democratic politicians: “I give to many people,” he said. “Before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.”Trump has embraced this style of quid pro quo politics throughout his business career, and from his perch in the White House, he now encourages it in others. Such a transaction—an investigation in exchange for military aid—lies at the heart of the impeachment trial.Like oligarchs in the former Soviet Union, the Trump family accrued wealth by controlling a highly valuable national resource with the permission of the governing class: New York real estate. And they understood that maintaining and growing that wealth meant ingratiating themselves with successive generations of New York politicians. All New York real-estate developers do this. The Trumps did it to an extreme degree.Although large corporations have long used donations to sway officials, what distinguished the Trumps was their unusually transactional understanding of contributions as a straight-up fee for service. Multiple high-level New York elected officials told me that they were on the receiving end of both large donations and heated phone calls from Trump, demanding to know why he hadn’t yet received a tax abatement, or a zoning change, or another favor.Trump’s father, Fred, learned early that to get lucrative assignments, he had to court the local Democratic Party. He cultivated this relationship for decades, making giant political donations and regularly attending local Democratic fundraising dinners.Forging ties with the politically wired local federal housing administrator gave Fred a big break: huge allotments of federal mortgage insurance, which enabled him to build housing projects out at the ends of the subway lines in Brooklyn. At the time of Donald’s birth, just after World War II, Fred was one of the largest recipients of loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration in the nation.In 1954, the U.S. Senate Banking Committee investigated the FHA and some of the developers that the agency had helped. When the senators subpoenaed Fred, they questioned him about windfall profits, whether he’d inappropriately paid his own company over-the-top fees, and whether he’d gotten an outsize portion of area FHA loans by inflating the value of his land.Even though the committee found that Fred and other developers had engaged in “outright misrepresentation,” the businessmen suffered no repercussions. This was the first investigation of many that condemned Trump-family business practices, but resulted in no consequences. [Read: Trump once proposed building a castle on Madison Avenue]Fred was emboldened. He continued his financial chicanery, and passed his techniques along to his son. In 1975, the same month that President Gerald Ford refused the City’s urgent plea to help it avoid bankruptcy, and the New York Daily News published its famous “Ford to City: Drop Dead” cover, Donald Trump embarked on the deal that would make him a Manhattan real-estate mogul.From a broke and broken metropolis, he siphoned off tax breaks—worth millions of dollars a year for 40 years into the future—for the property that is now the Grand Hyatt Hotel. This was the first time New York had offered a tax break for commercial real-estate development. To get the concessions, Trump worked his connections with both city hall and Albany.Trump arranged an impromptu city-hall meeting to persuade the property owner to sell to him, a 29-year-old developer who was untested but who had cashable political chits. At the meeting, Mayor Abe Beame put his arm around Donald and his father, who was also there, and said, “Anything they want, they get.”Trump then hired Governor Hugh Carey’s fundraiser to be his lobbyist, and employed a bevy of lawyers who worked for government decision makers to be his lawyers. He lied to the bank about the status of the state’s approvals and to the state about the status of his option on the property. Later, in his book The Art of the Deal, he bragged about having fooled officials. “No one even noticed until two years later,” he wrote.The hotel turned out to be profitable the day it opened. New York has since paid out a tax expenditure of hundreds of millions to the hotel. Trump no longer owns it, but the City is still paying, and will do so through April 2020.Trump’s machinations in the Grand Hyatt deal caught the attention of federal prosecutors. He parried with a meeting with federal agents without a lawyer, but with his young and beautiful wife, Ivana, and toddler son, Don Jr. No charges were filed.“This is a guy who learned to turn politics into money,” the late journalist Wayne Barrett told WNYC radio in a 1992 interview about his early biography of Trump.In the ’90s, when Trump, a generous donor to Mayor Rudy Giuliani, wanted to build the Trump World Tower higher than zoning laws allowed, he hired a lobbying firm that was close to the mayor. The firm steered Trump’s project through three layers of approval in the City government, to the consternation of opponents, such as the former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, who lived nearby.Trump appears to have passed the lessons he learned from his father along to his children. In the mid-aughts, Trump gave his eldest children, Ivanka and Don Jr., oversight of the Trump SoHo condo and hotel. Not long after they cut the ribbon on the 43-story project in Lower Manhattan, the two, along with their father, were accused in a federal civil suit of “an ongoing pattern of fraudulent misrepresentations and deceptive sales practices.” The Trumps had conveyed to potential condo buyers that the building was 60 percent sold, when in fact it was less than 15 percent sold.The office of the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., opened a criminal case zeroing in on Ivanka and Don Jr. When prosecutors found emails showing that Trump’s adult children knowingly defrauded potential buyers, Donald Trump’s team hired a set of well-connected lawyers to make the case that the younger Trumps’ statements were mere puffery—harmless exaggeration. Their argument didn’t work. Then Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, who had been one of Vance’s most generous donors, met with the D.A. Three months later, Vance overruled his own prosecutors and closed the case. After that, Kasowitz gave even more money. Years later, when my colleagues and I at WNYC published a story along with ProPublica and The New Yorker about the case, Vance gave the money back.The Trumps suffered no consequences.New York’s system was already corrupt, but the Trumps pushed it even further. Each time Trump called a politician and demanded to know where his tax abatement, or regulatory change, or financing package was, each time he pointedly noted his large donations, he helped normalize the influence of money over political power.Now that Trump is president, he can be on the receiving end of this system.When he was elected, Trump proclaimed that he would not divest from his company, saying that he would turn over control to his adult children. By announcing that, in effect, he’d still take profits from his company, the transactional businessman sent a clear signal to wealthy people around the world: To gain influence with the president, they need only book rooms in his hotels, buy memberships for one of his golf courses, or purchase one of his condos. Previously, wealthy people wishing to influence the president largely did so through contributions, often through super PACs and dark-money accounts.With Trump in the White House, there are now numerous direct entry points to the U.S. executive across the globe, and world leaders have acknowledged—boasted, even—that they have patronized the president’s businesses. President Volodomyr Zelensky of Ukraine, for instance, made a point of telling Trump in their infamous July 25 phone call—after Trump said the part about doing him “a favor”—that the “last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed in New York near Central Park, and I stayed at the Trump Tower.” Many other world leaders have stayed at his hotels too. The lobby for the Trump International Hotel in Washington has become an important place to advertise one’s fealty, or one’s proximity to the president. It has also become a site of dealmaking—a place where insiders meet to slash regulations and expand loopholes, to permit mergers, to put their thumb on the scales of government on behalf of the ultra-rich.The president’s relationship with the wealthy has not been one-sided. Trump’s signature piece of legislation, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, drastically slashed rates for the richest Americans. And the wealthy have shown their appreciation. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee raised $463.6 million in 2019, an all-time record that does not include money spent on Trump’s behalf by outside groups.During the impeachment hearings, current and former diplomats testified about the U.S. policy to bend governments in the former Soviet Union toward democracy. Trump, as a businessman in New York and now as president, has bent our system toward theirs. We are not yet in a world where America’s richest can simply buy the government they want. But we are perilously close.
Dear Therapist: My Son Won't Let His Kids Call My New Husband 'Grandpa'
Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Lori Gottlieb answers questions from readers about their problems, big and small. Have a question? Email her at Dear Therapist,I have two adult sons, both of whom live far away from me. Their dad died unexpectedly 15 years ago, and I have since remarried someone who is a good fit for me but who really has no experience being a father. We have been a couple for seven years and married for two.From time to time, we visit with each of my sons, either at their house or ours. We have no problem with my younger son—my husband gets along great with him and his wife. It’s my older son and his family who are the issue.My older son and his wife have two young toddlers, whom we both adore, but despite the fact that my second husband is the only maternal grandfather the grandkids will ever know, my son and daughter-in-law encourage the kids to call him by his first name, rather than “Grandpa.” I have asked them many times to have the grandkids call him Grandpa to show him respect, but it’s like I’m talking to my hand.This sets up bad feelings between my husband and my son and his wife, as my husband feels disrespected and unloved. I feel ignored. We try to correct things directly with the grandkids, but they take their cues from their parents. The end result is a lot of tension in the house when they visit, as they don’t like or respect my husband, or make him feel wanted, and he feels that and responds negatively in a passive-aggressive way. The bad feelings have always been just below the surface between my older son and my husband, and although both men try not to make them overt, they come out in subtle forms.The other problem is that my older son and his wife are inconsiderate houseguests. We know it’s hard to pick up after toddlers and we cut them a lot of slack for that, but I’m talking about things such as cooking for themselves and then leaving a sink full of dirty dishes for us to do while they go out “for a run.” Or leaving us wastebaskets (plural) full of soiled diapers to empty. Or eating candy and tossing the wrappers on the floor or table. Or cooking food in our microwave without a cover so that it explodes all over the inside of the microwave and then leaving the mess that way (after multiple reminders to cover their food while cooking). Or using up the last of some food staple, such as butter or salt, without telling us, then “forgetting” to restock our pantry when they make a grocery run for themselves. We get the sense that they are this way all the time, with everyone they visit, as my youngest son has let some comments drop. Their own home is dirty and messy, and that’s fine for them if that’s the way they want to live, but it stresses us out when we have to live in extreme mess for a week and then spend an entire day deep cleaning the house when they leave. My youngest son and his wife are the opposite: neat, thoughtful, and respectful. As a result, we love spending time with them, and dread a visit to or from my older son and his family.What to do? My older son and his wife are going through marital difficulties and my daughter-in-law is very insecure and sensitive to criticism, so we have shied away from having “the big talk.” Do we just suck it up for their one-week visits, for the sake of family harmony? (Easier for me to do than for my husband, as there appears to be some mutual dislike on both sides there.)AnonymousDear Anonymous,I have a feeling that you and your husband have something in common with your older son: You all feel disrespected, unloved, and ignored. I’m saying this up front because this is actually good news. By that I mean, as upsetting as this situation is for you, once you see the similarities among the three of you, you’ll be more open to considering your son’s point of view, and that, in turn, can help set the stage for improving the issues among you.Let’s look more closely at the first issue that bothers you: your son’s decision to have his kids call your husband by his first name. You’ve expressed how you and your husband feel about this choice, but have you considered why your son feels the way he does? Fifteen years ago, perhaps right around the time your son was entering young adulthood, his father died—and not in a way for which he could try to prepare emotionally, because it happened unexpectedly.Clearly that’s a significant loss, and I wonder how much you know about your son’s experience of it. I imagine it was a chaotic time in your family, and like many parents in that situation, you might have been so focused on managing your own pain and taking care of the day-to-day that you weren’t fully focused on what your son was going through.As for your son, many people who lose a parent don’t know how to talk with their surviving parent about their feelings about the other parent’s death. Some are afraid that bringing up their own grief will overwhelm their parent, who just lost a spouse. Some try to be strong for their parent and numb their own pain. Meanwhile, many parents want so badly for their kids to be alright that without realizing it, an implicit message is sent: Please act as though you’re not in pain. If you seem okay, then I will be less anxious about how this death is affecting you.All this is to say, the tension your son experienced with your husband from the get-go might be related to his way of working through his ongoing grief; it might be related to your husband’s lack of experience as a father; or it might be related to both of those things. Whatever the reason, the “bad feelings” between the two have spent years lurking “just below the surface,” where I imagine they continue to fester. Then your son had kids, which may have brought up new and unresolved feelings about his father’s death and fatherhood more generally. Amid this sea of feelings, you asked him to meet the needs of a man he never got along with, without giving due thought to your son’s needs too. Could it be that your son also feels disrespected, unloved, and ignored?You may find it confusing that your younger son gets along easily with your husband (you don’t mention whether your younger son has kids and, if he does, what name they use to address your husband), but that may be because he’s had a different reaction to his father’s death than your older son has. Grief, even over the same exact loss, is an individual experience—no two people will go through it in exactly the same way. It sounds like your older son is understandably protective of his father’s memory, and even more so because of his feelings toward your husband.You say that you’ve shied away from “the big talk,” but now is the time to have it—though not the talk you’re alluding to, about the mess (which I’ll get to in a minute) and the name your grandchildren call your husband. The big talk is about your son’s grief and how to make room for it in your relationship. I say “talk” but what I mostly mean is “listen”—you’ll want to listen to what your son says without trying to talk him out of his feelings about his father’s death, or about you, or about your husband. You might say something like, “I love you so much, and I know there’s been tension during our visits. I’ve been thinking that maybe I don’t understand a lot of what you’re feeling, and I want to be there for you in the ways I can. One thing I’ve been thinking about is that we haven’t really talked about Dad much lately, or maybe we haven’t talked much about his death at all, and I’m wondering if we can now.”Once you begin talking more openly and honestly about the loss your family experienced, you may find that other conversations go more easily. It seems that your son and his wife have different standards of cleanliness than you do, but the more goodwill you build up together—which is to say, the more he feels understood on the big issue of his father—the more receptive he’ll likely become to your reasonable requests during his visits.And even if he doesn’t change his messy ways, you do have options. One is to visit him in his city and stay in a nearby hotel or short-term rental. Another is to have him and his family do the same in your city. And the third is to let them stay at your house while carrying a lesson from your husband’s death with you: Life is short, and we could lose our loved ones at any minute. All families are imperfect, but I’ll bet that your son and his toddlers have some lovely qualities. It would be a shame if, while you’re arguing about a name or a mess in the microwave, you miss the joy that surrounds you, which your son and his family have brought into your home.Dear Therapist is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. By submitting a letter, you are agreeing to let The Atlantic use it—in part or in full—and we may edit it for length and/or clarity.
Weathering With You Confronts a Quiet Climate Apocalypse
As Earth’s climate continues to change for the worse, a peculiar little subgenre of science fiction, the environmental allegory, is due for a cinematic resurgence. Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You is a tale of awkward teenagers finding each other and falling in love amid all sorts of trials and tribulations—a specialty for the filmmaker, whose smash hit Your Name made him one of Japan’s leading voices in animation. But what makes it truly fascinating is the story in the background: a quiet climate apocalypse that the characters are mostly intent on ignoring until it’s too late.Shinkai, who has directed six animated features since 2004, became an international sensation with Your Name, which broke global box-office records for anime in 2017. In Japan, where it was released in 2016, it was a pop-culture phenomenon, grossing more than any domestic film ever, save for Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. The movie is a mesmerizing balancing act, blending high-concept fantasy (a body swap between a teenage boy and girl) with the lingering trauma of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 and the country’s ongoing push and pull between tradition and modernity.Weathering With You is similarly ambitious. It’s set in modern Tokyo, but a Tokyo where it hasn’t stopped raining in recent memory, something the city’s denizens have come to accept as an everyday part of life. Even for the viewer, registering all the rain takes a while; the atmosphere is less apocalyptic than emotive, a weepy backdrop for a story about young people trying to find their way in an ever more harsh-looking future. Weathering With You takes place in a world ending so gradually, people barely notice it anymore.The film’s heroes are Hodaka (played by Kotaro Daigo) and Hina (Nana Mori), two plucky teens struggling to stay above water (metaphorically and literally) in Tokyo’s rat race. Hodaka has run away from home with dreams of writing and big-city life, but can barely earn a living wage. Hina, an orphan trying to support her younger brother, works at sketchy clubs frequented by unsavory older men. Since this is a Shinkai movie, she also has a magical power, one vaguely rooted in Japanese myth: If she tries hard enough, she can essentially pray the clouds away for a little while.Hina and Hodaka turn that ability into a business, traveling around Tokyo to give people little patches of sunshine, and Shinkai’s usual brand of whimsical world building follows. Rather than explaining upfront how Hina’s powers operate in this eternally rainy Tokyo, Shinkai sprinkles information throughout the narrative before kicking off an aggressively weird third act. In between, there’s a little comedy, plenty of giddy flirtation between the two leads, and raunchier dialogue than one would get in a Miyazaki film. Though Weathering With You is technically science fiction, its style is vividly contemporary—not an archetypal fable, but rather a compelling yarn about young people trying to live and love in an often hostile world of grown-ups.Shinkai, who wrote as well as directed, has a natural way with the awkward poetry of teenage dialogue—all stammers and half-considered compliments—which he demonstrated in Your Name. That talent makes the charmingly romantic middle section of Weathering With You its strongest. After a while, though, Hodaka and Hina’s weather-control start-up unsurprisingly spirals out of their control, and the supernatural qualities of the world Shinkai has created begin to assert themselves. The final half hour of Weathering With You revolves around physical transformations, alternate dimensions, a pair of bumbling policemen on the tail of a missing handgun, and the two main characters going on the lam.After the far gentler energy of their meet-cute, this tonal shift might prove too much for some audiences, but it’s further evidence of Shinkai’s boldness as a storyteller. While I can’t spoil the ending, I have to offer my applause for its stubborn and somewhat bleak fairy-tale logic, which proudly ignores the selfless and heroic acts typical of such animated allegories. Instead, Weathering With You sticks to its guns all the way to the finale. It’s a story of Japan’s younger generation figuring out its future, and of a repudiation of the past that goes hand in hand with hope.
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Employees and former employees of brands like Sephora and Chipotle are going viral on TikTok. | Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for Sephora Employees and former employees are the best brand ambassadors money can’t buy, but companies aren’t partnering with them. Kyra Gallego never intended to be an influencer. It all started this summer, on her last day working at Sephora, when she created a TikTok video that would instantly go viral: “A Sephora Girl Takes Off Her Makeup.” Building on the immediate success, she posted a follow-up video titled “Sephora Worker Pet Peeves,” followed by “Sephora Hacks.” The views and “Likes” started racking up; 10,000, 30,000, 100,000. “If you want to learn how to cheat the system at Sephora, then keep on watching,” Gallego says while filming from her iPhone in the bathroom mirror. “You can get your birthday gift any time, even if it’s not your birthday month, just ask.” She continues, “You can get a sample of as much as you want, don’t listen to them, there is no limit.” While Kyra was sleeping, the video hit the “For You” page, the app’s equivalent to a website homepage, and went viral. The video currently has 9.6 million views, more than all of the verified Sephora TikTok videos combined. “I saw the opportunity to speak about a popular brand and help people. I saw the ease and quickness that comes with TikTok. ... It was more accessible for people who would want to watch and learn from me. Then I posted that video and it went off,” said Gallego. “I’m basically doing anything I would have done at work, but on my own platform now.” Kyra is not the only inspired employee creator on the app, which boasts 1.5 billion users around the world. In the pursuit of sharing real-life content to gain and entertain followers, cashiers, baristas, and floor employees are introducing the TikTok community to their day-to-day lives working for the world’s most popular brands. The formal influencer programs brands like Sephora dream up in the boardroom can be easily surpassed by those they hired to work the counter — and their worker’s videos can be seen by millions around the world. TikTok has been fueled by Generation Z, digital natives that value transparency, authenticity, and online influence. According to a survey conducted by Morning Consult, 86 percent of Americans aged 13 to 38 would like to become a social media influencer, and TikTok, the newest platform in the game, is a channel primed for the taking. It is less saturated than Instagram and YouTube for those who aim to become influencers and more welcoming to quick, replicable content that is easy to produce and make viral. For a TikTok to go viral, sophisticated agency work or corporate savvy is not required or rewarded, even from global brands. One dance video from the “Queen of TikTok,” Charli D’Amelio, a 15-year-old from Connecticut, may easily garner 24 million views, while a TikTok on the NBA’s official account, a celebrated brand with one of the largest followings on TikTok, may obtain hundreds of thousands. Charli’s bedroom is her set, sweatpants are her wardrobe, and production is courtesy of her iPhone. This evens the playing field for regular teens and big advertisers alike (for now), creating an open space for new, uninhibited voices to rise to the top of the influence chain — and many of them are just starting their careers behind the counters of our favorite retailers and restaurants. In June, Starbucks baristas were dumbfounded when young customers began to order the “TikTok” drink, an off-menu item that was never promoted or officially recognized by the brand. Seemingly overnight, there were two camps: baristas who knew what was going on and those who didn’t. Employees active on TikTok knew what to do: start with a Strawberry Açaí Refresher, three scoops of strawberries, three scoops of blackberries, blended with ice or lemonade. After all, #TikTokDrink has 52.6 million views and counting around the world. Starbucks is a lifestyle on TikTok, but with no officially endorsed account, passionate employees have stepped in to promote their favorite drinks and provide barista commentary on their personal accounts, unsponsored and uninfluenced by their managers. Videos of brightly colored, creative drink recipes are described from behind the counter to the tune of 4.5 million views, as in this TikTok about the “IT” frappuccino by user @StarbucksRecipesWithM. This is the kind of exposure marketers dream of. By searching the hashtag #starbucksbarista, you’ll find videos of employees providing insight into not only their favorite drinks, but also why they love to work at Starbucks, and yes, making fun of customer interactions or exposing the mundanity of their jobs. You can’t help but smile when you’re introduced to the local baristas in Port Richey, Florida, or see customers sing their orders to the baristas, just to make them smile (and for the “Likes,” of course). (Starbucks did not respond to multiple requests for comment.) Of their own volition and without any special compensation, employees representing all sectors are lifting the corporate curtain that once hid the backstage workings of major brands. The viewers of their viral videos receive raw exposure to brand values right from their device, from people they can relate to (and order from). And it works. The potential for employees to influence brand perception on TikTok is limitless; this opportunity can be a risk when less-favorable videos are distributed straight to the masses, unfiltered by corporate finesse. Take the power of the unofficial employee influencer @Brinaraelanee, who made national news when her video went viral for “exposing” the preparation of Panera Bread’s mac & cheese (spoiler: It’s frozen, a standard industry process to ensure quality control) and was subsequently fired. It’s safe to assume most customers had never demanded, or had access to, information about how their favorite dish was made. But thanks to Bri, we know. All 7.3 million of us that viewed it. “Employees can be your best advocates because they know and love the brand, they know all the ‘hacks’ and insider info,” said Mae Karwowski, CEO of influencer marketing agency Obviously. “The first step is to give guidelines to employees,” she continues. “Show that corporate actually knows that this is an app that exists, then monitor and reward positive behavior.” And brands have done just that, which is why it’s no coincidence that Kyra Gallego started posting TikToks on her last day working for Sephora. Corporate social media guidelines are standard practice and may indirectly or explicitly discourage employees from posting content related to their work or the brands they represent. For creators who depend on social media to promote their personal brand or portfolio, these agreements may restrict professional growth, especially as an influencer. Sources report that Sephora has a policy discouraging the discussion of makeup brands on personal social media channels unless you are within the approved “Sephora Squad,” a group of influencers that apply and are selected by Sephora to collaborate on content and campaigns. Sephora denies this practice but confirms there is a social media policy in place. Former employees no longer restricted by company policy are free to publish videos (like @MakeupbyMaritza’s “Sephora Worker Tea”), which makes possible the skyrocketing fame of free agents like Kyra Gallego. Karwowski points out that these employees are “essentially providing authentic, free advertising” but admits that you also run the risk of someone having a bad day and going on a rant. “I would argue that the person is already on TikTok and is going to rant anyway,” Karwowski says. “Why don’t you capture the good and create parameters for the rest?” Some brands have been early movers to capitalize on positive employee content and harness it to create a successful TikTok strategy.Chipotle utilized the passion of employees to dream up sponsored challenges like the “#FlipYourLid” challenge, born directly from an employee on the line that did the fun trick when creating bowls. With the success of the challenge, Chipotle went on to formally partner with TikTok to promote the “#GuacDance” around National Avocado Day and “#BooritoChallenge” for Halloween. In addition to promoting user-generated content, Chipotle tapped already popular TikTok creators to promote the hashtag. For the #GuacDance campaign, popular creator Loren Gray, who boasts 37.2 million followers, feeds a friend guacamole while she bops along to the “guacamole song,” a sound inspired by a viral internet video. At its core, it is a zero-budget, eight-second video promotion for free guacamole if you visit a Chipotle on the holiday; but what it lacks in production value it makes up for in relatability and nearly 700,000 “Likes.” The TikTok community embraces the brief, authentic, and often ordinary in contrast to the aestheticized expectations of other platforms, and some brands have taken note. “Young people have grown up with branded content, so they are its biggest fans and harshest critics. They can sense when something is inauthentic or forced,” said Karwowski. “Brands have to understand this content is not going to be like a TV commercial,” she advises. So Chipotle kept it true to the platform. They tapped current employees and customers to shoot videos in-store; used trending “sounds,” dances, and memes to increase the chances of going viral; and uploaded content that looks like it was shot from a cellphone. Because it was. “We want to be where our customers are,” said Tressie Lieberman, VP of digital marketing and off-premise at Chipotle, when asked about joining TikTok. “We are creating content at the restaurants and we bring in team members to create content with us. A lot of our employees are following TikTok, so it’s a special moment for them, too.” In her video titled “I <3 Chipotle,” popular creator and former Chipotle employee Zahra, username @Muslimthicc, gushes about how to make the perfect burrito bowl. “Anyone that knows me relatively well knows that I love Chipotle, like I could absolutely live off of it, it is my favorite thing to eat when I go out. And I also used to work at Chipotle for two-and-a-half years,” she tells her 1.7 million followers. “You gotta ask for honey, I swear its life-changing … it’s so worth the mild embarrassment and social anxiety.” (Honey is available; it’s an ingredient used in their homemade vinaigrette.) The video has nearly 775,000 views and is not sponsored or tagged for Chipotle to see and potentially sponsor. You can’t help but believe that Zahra genuinely wants you to have a good experience at her favorite restaurant — that’s it, plain and simple. Her channel is not loaded with paid posts and we often see her studying or driving around with her little brother. She is the exact brand of influence that users on TikTok can trust. Lieberman, speaking to me from corporate headquarters in Newport Beach, California, knew exactly what video I was referring to made by Zahra, a college student in Albany, NY. “There are all these creators that love the brand and are creating really cool content that people enjoy watching, because we are a place where people have so much passion,” Lieberman said. Thanks to her inside knowledge of Sephora and internet savvy, Kyra Gallego has hit a sweet spot of influence serving the burgeoning Gen Z beauty community on TikTok (Kyra is not currently sponsored by Sephora and she has not heard from corporate regarding her videos). She wants to stay focused on helping others learn beauty tricks and guide her now-320,000 followers through the often overwhelming world of skin care and beauty. “I want people to know that Sephora is not a scary, mean place; they value customer service and experience. I just want people to know Sephora wants to make you more beautiful than you already are,” said Gallego. As for the future, Kyra is about to begin her last semester of college, then she’s off to pursue her master’s degree in education. “If I can have this much success within one month of being on TikTok, who knows what will happen by the time I’m ready to teach,” said Gallego. Sign up for The Goods newsletter. Twice a week, we’ll send you the best Goods stories exploring what we buy, why we buy it, and why it matters.
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