What is TikTok

tiktokIs TikTok safe to use?

As of my last update in December 2022, TikTok has become a popular social media platform, but there were concerns about its safety and privacy practices. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Privacy Concerns: TikTok collects a significant amount of user data, including location information, device information, and browsing history. This raised concerns about how this data was being used and shared.
  2. Data Security: There were reports of vulnerabilities and potential security risks in the TikTok app, which could expose user data to potential breaches or unauthorized access.
  3. Content Exposure: The nature of TikTok, being a video-sharing platform, means that users can potentially share personal information unintentionally or expose themselves to cyber bullying and online harassment.
  4. Age Restrictions: TikTok has a minimum age requirement, but enforcing it can be challenging. Younger users might be exposed to content that’s not suitable for their age.
  5. Inappropriate Content: Like any social media platform, TikTok can host a range of content, including inappropriate or explicit material. The platform does have some content moderation measures in place, but they might not catch everything.
  6. User Experience: The addictive nature of TikTok might lead to excessive screen time, which can have implications for mental health and productivity.

creative challengeTo determine if TikTok is safe for you to use, consider the following steps:

  1. Review Privacy Settings: Take a look at the app’s privacy settings and customize them to your comfort level. Limit the amount of personal information you share on the platform.
  2. Check Permissions: Be cautious about granting permissions to access your camera, microphone, and location. Only provide these permissions when necessary.
  3. Understand Content: Familiarize yourself with the types of content shared on TikTok and be mindful of what you engage with.
  4. Monitor Usage: Keep track of your usage time on the app and ensure it doesn’t interfere with your daily responsibilities or well-being.
  5. Educate Yourself: Stay informed about the latest privacy and security concerns related to TikTok and other social media platforms.
  6. Talk to Young Users: If you’re a parent or guardian of a young user, have an open conversation about the potential risks and responsible usage of TikTok.

Remember that the safety of any online platform can evolve over time, and it’s important to stay updated on current trends and news related to TikTok’s safety measures and practices.

What age group uses TikTok the most?

TikTok was most popular among younger age groups, particularly teenagers and young adults. The platform gained significant traction among users in their teens and early twenties. However, this popularity might have continued to evolve since then.

TikTok’s user base varies by region and demographic factors, but it generally appeals to:

  1. Teenagers: TikTok became especially popular among teenagers, offering them a platform for creative expression and entertainment.
  2. Young Adults: Users in their early twenties also make up a substantial portion of TikTok’s user base. Many college students and young professionals use the app.
  3. Younger Users: There are also users below the age of 13 on TikTok, although the platform’s terms of service officially require users to be at least 13 years old.

It’s worth noting that the age distribution on social media platforms can change over time, and newer data might provide more accurate insights into the current demographics of TikTok users. If you’re interested in the most up-to-date information, I recommend checking recent surveys or studies about TikTok’s user demographics.

What is the biggest use of tiktok?

TikTok is primarily used as a short-form video-sharing platform where users can create, share, and discover videos set to music. The biggest use of TikTok is for entertainment and creative expression. Here are some of the main ways in which people use TikTok:

  1. Video Creation: Users create short videos, typically ranging from 15 seconds to 3 minutes, often set to music. These videos can showcase a wide range of content, including lip-syncing, dancing, comedy skits, tutorials, challenges, and more.
  2. Entertainment: TikTok is a hub for discovering entertaining and engaging content. Users scroll through their “For You” page to watch videos from a diverse range of creators, exploring trending challenges, memes, and creative ideas.
  3. Trends and Challenges: TikTok is known for viral challenges and trends that spread rapidly throughout the platform. Users participate in these challenges by creating their own videos that adhere to a specific theme or concept.
  4. Music Discovery: Many songs become popular on TikTok due to their use in viral videos. This has led to increased exposure for artists and has even influenced music charts and streaming platforms.
  5. Creativity and Artistic Expression: TikTok provides a platform for users to express their creativity through visual storytelling, video editing, and innovative ideas.
  6. Personal Branding: Some users use TikTok as a way to build their personal brand and gain a following. This has led to the rise of social media influencers and content creators on the platform.
  7. Educational Content: TikTok is also used to share informative and educational content. Users create videos that teach various skills, provide tips, or share knowledge on a wide range of subjects.
  8. Social Interaction: TikTok has a strong sense of community, with users engaging through comments, likes, shares, and duets (videos that are created in response to another user’s video). It can serve as a way for people to connect and interact with others who share similar interests.
  9. Business and Marketing: Brands and businesses have also started using TikTok as a marketing platform to reach younger audiences and promote their products or services.

The way people use TikTok can vary widely based on their interests, age, and cultural context. The platform’s dynamic nature and ability to quickly spread content have contributed to its popularity as a space for entertainment and creativity.

looking-at-phoneDoes TikTok save your data?

Yes, TikTok collects and saves user data. Like many other social media platforms, TikTok gathers various types of data from its users. This data can include:

  1. User Profile Information: This includes the information you provide when you create an account, such as your username, profile picture, and bio.
  2. Usage Data: TikTok collects information about how you interact with the app, such as the videos you watch, the accounts you follow, the likes and comments you make, and the hashtags you use.
  3. Device Information: The app collects data about your device, including its type, operating system, unique device identifiers, and other technical information.
  4. Location Data: If you allow TikTok to access your location, the app can collect information about your precise or general location.
  5. Contact Information: If you grant permission, TikTok can access your phone’s contact list, which helps the app suggest friends to follow.
  6. Metadata: This includes information about the videos you upload, such as the time and date of the video, the location where it was recorded, and the captions and hashtags you include.

It’s important to note that TikTok has faced scrutiny and criticism regarding its data privacy practices. Concerns have been raised about how the collected data is used, shared, and potentially accessed by third parties. TikTok’s ownership by a Chinese company, ByteDance, has also led to concerns about potential connections to the Chinese government and data security.

To address some of these concerns, TikTok has taken steps to enhance transparency and privacy for its users. For instance, they’ve introduced features that allow users to control who can comment on their videos, who can duet with them, and more. They’ve also published guidelines on how they handle user data and have set up a Trust and Safety Hub to provide more information about their safety and security practices.

However, it’s always a good practice to review an app’s privacy policy and settings to understand how your data is being used and take appropriate steps to protect your privacy online.

Can anyone use TikTok?

TikTok has age restrictions in place, and its terms of service officially require users to be at least 13 years old to create an account and use the platform. However, like with many online platforms, enforcing these age restrictions can be challenging.

TikTok offers a separate app called “TikTok for Younger Users” that is designed for users under the age of 13. This version provides a more limited experience and additional privacy protections to comply with child online privacy laws, such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in the United States.

It’s important to note that while TikTok has these age restrictions, some younger users might still find ways to access the platform by providing false information about their age. Parents and guardians are encouraged to have conversations with their children about online safety and responsible internet usage, especially when it comes to social media platforms like TikTok.


Find the Root Cause of Your Problems

Root Cause of Your Problems

Find the Root Cause of Your Problems


A family is a system of its own complexion composed of related people. Families interact with and operate within the communities and societies that they belong to. To decipher this family system, the complexion has to be simplified for ease of analysis.

A Genogram (a diagram illustrating a person’s family members, how they are related, and their medical history) is a tool that makes this possible. In an attempt to establish a theoretical yet comprehensive algorithm for understanding a family, this paper employs a theory that advocates for the idea that a proper course of action is that one capitalizes, by and large, on happiness.

The discussion commences with what families do to contain tensions and feuds within. What follows is a look into the impacts of areas of privilege as well as non-privilege on the family system concerning a person’s childhood. Professional positions to be taken by family therapists conclude the essay.

Bowen’s concept of differentiation

Talking of differentiation, it is a concept that can refer to a person as well as the family system. When a person can remain emotionally connected with the others in the family and express their individuality and act autonomously, we say he/she has individual differentiation. Differentiation may therefore refer to each family member’s ability to maintain his or her sense of self while remaining emotionally connected to the family; this is the mark of a healthy family.

Being differentiated means reacting by thinking and observing the processes that are happening between family members. Differentiation ensures that a family has a strong sense of self, an assertive communication style, and an acceptance of personal responsibility. When differentiation lacks, the pressure for togetherness is strong and family members react more readily from emotion and subjectivity than from thinking and objectivity. (Peter, 2008)

I strongly believe that I am differentiated as per the hereinafter discussed reasons. I accept differences in goals, values, and beliefs between my family members. I see little need to encourage other family members to be the same. I can accept different opinions and choices from other people. It is not necessary to triangle a third person into an alliance to “prove the other is wrong”.

I can accept different opinions and choices from other people. I can maintain a sense of self whilst being in contact with my family of origin by observing more, reacting less, and being objective. I maintain my own identity without disowning ties with my family of origin.

When I step outside the family emotional system and observe the processes between other family members without feeling the urge to be a part of it. If called upon to join a dispute, I maintain an objective stance and let the family members originally involved in a dispute handle their differences alone. An undifferentiated person easily triangles into allying with one of the disputing members.

Root Cause of Your ProblemsFamily of Origin Genogram

The Genogram is a layout of the family members that illustrates their relationships with one another. It also describes what these members are products of as suggested by their behaviors, ways of life, beliefs, and religion, amongst others. A Genogram is a family tree representation of the links between parents and children. Unlimited interaction gives the subject its complex nature. This paper emphasizes the necessity of understanding families since personalities can make your life easier and more successful. Family therapies are essential because of the inevitability of conflicts within the interactions.

Family Emotional System

The Genogram informs on the modes of interaction between the family member and this interaction is not a warranty but consequential conflicts and emotional or tension rise result from it. These basic interactive relationships define where the tension develops. According to Rabstejne, (2010) member attitudes and points of reference are basic forces that drive these emotions and developed tensions. Serious conflicts result if family tension is existent for a prolonged period.

The factors that tension intensity depends on include; the family’s adaptation to stress, patterns of relationships, and interaction with communities or societies. The patterns of relationships play important roles in dealing with tension because they help in the identification of problems. The basic patterns are dysfunction in one spouse, marital conflicts, and impairments.

Dysfunction in a Spouse

The dysfunction in question may be physical or emotional, emotional, herein, engulfs those of the mind and feelings of the heart. This is, usually, the result of one partner insensitively trying to change the other spouse. This is best explained by the pressure that one spouse puts on the other. This pressure pushes the victim’s spouse to behave or act in some manner desirable to the villain. This kind of relationship goes on for a while till the anxiety and emotions of the other partner heighten. It is this alongside other effective factors that develop conflict and dysfunction spread out.

Marital Conflicts

An increase in family tension makes everyone around more anxious. At some point, communication between the spouses deteriorates and worsens such that they discuss family issues with third-party persons. In most cases, these third parties are only friends. Due to this, they lose focus and instead of dealing with the real problem, they criticize each other and put their efforts into trying to change or control one another.

Impairment of One or More Children

The impairment may be of any form, mental or physical, and the parent’s reaction towards the child is the most relevant. Since the child is disadvantaged and uniquely different from the others, the parents focus a lot on them and gradually, their worry increases. The child is affected when the parents expect a lot from them, which they are not able to achieve. It affects them mentally and emotionally.

Areas of Privilege and Non-Privilege That Impact Childhood

Membership in a family can only be decided by each member of that family. Early childhood educators play the role of noting those that constitute the family of a child yet they never define the family of the child for them. The privileges that this child has access to depend on the social status of the family, the community in which they exist, and the perspective of life that they have. Depending on the location of origin, these privileges can be grouped along racial and gender lines.

According to McGoldrick & Hardy, the term privilege should not be perceived as a favored state only but as over-empowering certain parties. However, the article Unpacking the invisible knapsack suggests that some privileges are conferred by birth. This introduces privilege defined along racial lines, the white privilege. In countries of whites and black, childhood schooling is characterized by teachers treating these two races differently.

Gender is an area of both privilege and non-privileges as well. In a family setting, parental love is of the essence in the growth and development of a child. The privilege difference is exhibited when parents love their children by gender where a mother loves the daughter more than the son and a father loves a son more than the daughter.

From a different perspective, a child with no parents considers themselves not as privileged as those parents are. This is evidenced by the social sense. The book by McGoldrick and Hardy, (1989) imposes the realization that when handling persons with particular emotional pains due to say, racial discrimination, it is important to view racism as an individual act.

Family Therapy

To avoid triangulation into families that they work with, a therapist must differentiate from their families of origin. Triangulation, in this context, refers to a three-person relationship. A two-person relationship, like that of a spouse, is considered unstable because it tolerates little tension before, unexpectedly, involving a third party.

Since the therapist belongs to a family too and has their own opinions on family issues, the profession requires that they be careful not to be considered, by the spouses, as the third-party with whom to shift or heighten the tension.

The idea behind this is that even though spreading the tension to a third party stabilizes the system, the problem does not get solved. The relevance of the therapist is to help the family resolve problems and give references to psychiatrists if necessary.

Precisely, one of the most difficult families to work with as a therapist is those of parents who are unwilling to change for the better, despite a therapist’s professional advice. This is mostly common with therapy for children who have experienced neglect. Nevertheless, the therapist must advise on how to develop their relationship with their children.


After a detailed discussion, the paper’s objectives of informing the key areas and critical factors of the family were achieved. The Genogram plays an essential role in establishing the necessary information about one’s family. A family system is also important for various social developments of a child and the privileges that a child is conferred to define their conduct and points of view.

For family therapists, professionalism must take its course all through, complemented by sensitivity to the view and position of a patient root cause problem solving, Further research is recommended to inform this area.


The article was originally written by
Babak Max Karimbeik, edited by Bob Billings

The Burden of Our Ancestors

Haunted by Your Family's PastHow to Overcome the Fear of Being Haunted by Your Family’s Past

The fear of being haunted by one’s family’s past can be a daunting and overwhelming experience. It can be difficult to come to terms with the fact that our family’s history may have had a negative impact on our lives. However, it is possible to overcome this fear and move forward in a positive direction. Here are some tips to help you do just that.

  • Acknowledge Your Feelings: It is important to recognize and accept the emotions that come with being haunted by your family’s past. Acknowledging your feelings can help you to better understand and process them.
  • Talk to Someone: Talking to a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional can be a great way to work through your feelings. It can also help to provide a sense of support and understanding.
  • Learn About Your Family’s History: Taking the time to learn more about your family’s history can help you to gain a better understanding of the past and how it has impacted your life.
  • Create a Positive Future: It is important to focus on creating a positive future for yourself. This can include setting goals, developing new skills, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.
  • Practice Self-Care: Taking care of yourself is essential for managing the fear of being haunted by your family’s past. This can include engaging in activities such as yoga, meditation, and journaling.

By following these tips, you can begin to take steps towards overcoming the fear of being haunted by your family’s past. Remember, it is possible to move forward in a positive direction and create a brighter future for yourself.

Exploring the Impact of Family History on Mental Health

Haunted by your families pastFamily history can have a significant impact on an individual’s mental health. Research has shown that individuals with a family history of mental health issues are more likely to experience mental health issues themselves. This is due to a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.

Genetic factors play a role in the development of mental health issues. Studies have found that certain mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, can be passed down from one generation to the next.

This means that if a parent or grandparent has a mental health issue, their children and grandchildren are more likely to experience the same issue.

Environmental factors can also contribute to mental health issues. If a family has a history of mental health issues, it can create an environment that is not conducive to good mental health. This can include a lack of support, a lack of understanding, or a lack of resources.

Lifestyle factors can also play a role in mental health. If a family has a history of mental health issues, it can lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as substance abuse, poor diet, and lack of exercise. These lifestyle choices can further contribute to mental health issues.

It is important to be aware of the impact that family history can have on mental health. If you have a family history of mental health issues, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and to take steps to reduce them. This can include seeking professional help, engaging in healthy lifestyle choices, and creating a supportive environment.

By taking these steps, you can reduce the risk of developing mental health issues and improve your overall mental health.

Understanding the Role of Ancestral Trauma in Intergenerational Healing

Haunted by Your Family's PastIntergenerational trauma is a term used to describe the transmission of traumatic experiences from one generation to the next. This type of trauma can have a profound impact on individuals and families, and can manifest in a variety of ways, including physical, mental, and emotional health issues.

Understanding the role of ancestral trauma in intergenerational healing is essential for those seeking to address the long-term effects of trauma.

Ancestral trauma is the trauma experienced by one’s ancestors, which can be passed down through generations. This type of trauma can be caused by a variety of factors, including war, genocide, displacement, and other forms of violence. It can also be caused by systemic oppression, such as racism, sexism, and classism.

This trauma can be passed down through generations in the form of physical, mental, and emotional health issues, as well as behavioral patterns and beliefs.

In order to understand the role of ancestral trauma in intergenerational healing, it is important to recognize the ways in which trauma can be passed down through generations. Trauma can be passed down through genetic inheritance, as well as through cultural and social transmission.

For example, a person may inherit a genetic predisposition to anxiety or depression, which can be triggered by traumatic experiences. Additionally, a person may learn behaviors or beliefs from their ancestors that can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms or patterns of behavior.

Intergenerational healing is the process of addressing the long-term effects of trauma on individuals and families. This process involves recognizing the ways in which trauma has been passed down through generations and understanding the role of ancestral trauma in intergenerational healing.

It also involves creating a safe space for individuals to process their experiences and to heal from the trauma. This can include engaging in activities such as therapy, support groups, and other forms of self-care.

Understanding the role of ancestral trauma in intergenerational healing is essential for those seeking to address the long-term effects of trauma.

By recognizing the ways in which trauma can be passed down through generations and creating a safe space for individuals to process their experiences and to heal, we can begin to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma and create healthier, more resilient families.

The Joy of Doll Collecting

The Art of Doll Collecting

The Art of Doll CollectingDoll collecting is a popular hobby not just for children but for adults, too. Casual enthusiasts usually have a small set of different dolls at home, while serious collectors can have a huge collection on display.

Whether you’re interested in doll collecting as a pastime or you want to invest time and money in the activity, it is wise to know the basics of the hobby first and learn as much as you can before officially starting it.

History of Dolls

Dolls have been around since ancient times. Wooden dolls were discovered in Egyptian tombs as early as 2000 BC while those made of ivory, wood, or clay existed in the Roman Empire around 100 BC. Ancient Japanese used dolls not just as toys but also in religious ceremonies, while Africans believed that dolls were used by their gods to deliver messages.

There are many famous and popular dolls throughout history. The Teddy Bear is the frontrunner in the doll industry, capturing the hearts of countless children and adults. The first stuffed bear was produced in the early 20th century and was named after the former president, Theodore Roosevelt after he refused to shoot a captured black bear during one of his hunting trips.

The Barbie doll is an iconic fashion doll that defined a generation of young girls in the 1960s. Famous for its hourglass but anatomically incorrect figure, Barbie has evolved from the original blonde and brunette to different hair and skin colors to better represent its diverse market.

Kinds of Dolls

The Art of Doll Collecting 6There are many kinds of dolls all over the world. Before starting your collection, it is advisable to know the most common ones and decide which ones you want to focus on.

  1. Wooden dolls – Wooden dolls are among the oldest kinds of dolls in existence. Parents made dolls for their children to serve both as toys and as items for different traditional ceremonies. An example of a popular wooden doll is the Russian matryoshka doll, a set of dolls that progressively gets smaller with one doll fitting inside another.
  2. Cloth dolls – Like wooden dolls, cloth dolls were also created for ceremonial purposes. The earliest cloth dolls belonged to wealthy Egyptian families that were well preserved with them in their tombs.
  3. Papier Mache dolls – Manufacturers started mass-producing papier Mache dolls in the 1820s, mostly in the United States, Britain, and Germany. The dolls’ heads were often sold separately from their bodies and then later glued or sewn together to complete the doll.
  4. China dolls – China dolls got their name from “china” or porcelain. They are made of glazed porcelain ceramics. Germany began producing them in the 1830s, and they are still among the most popular dolls collected today.
  5. Bisque dolls – Compared to the smooth texture of china dolls, bisque dolls have a matte finish, making them more lifelike and realistic. They became the rage from the 1840s to the 1950s.
  6. Rag dolls – Ragdolls were the first dolls manufactured in the United States. One of the most popular rag dolls in history is Raggedy Ann, a red-haired doll created by American writer Johnny Gruelle.
  7. Composition dolls – Composition dolls were invented in the United States, and are made of different materials, like sawdust, cornstarch, resin, wood flour, and glue. They are considered more heavy-duty compared to fragile dolls produced in other countries.
  8. Rubber dolls – Rubber or latex dolls became famous in the 1940s because they have a more realistic texture. Today, many otakus buy latex love dolls as part of their collection.
  9. Hard plastic dolls – Hard plastic dolls are more durable than ceramic or cloth dolls. This is the main reason why they became more widespread in the 1940s. They also have more detailed appearances, and more lifelike eyes, fingers, and toes.
  10. Vinyl dolls – Vinyl is the most common material used for present-day dolls. These dolls are unbreakable but flexible and are more realistic in their figures. Reasons for Collecting Dolls

The Art of Doll Collecting 3Hobbyists have different reasons for collecting dolls.

Here are just some of them:

  • Artistic worth – Some collectors buy dolls based on their designs. They get attracted to the dolls’ features, clothing, and even the dolls’ facial expressions. The finer the craftsmanship is, the more appealing it becomes to some collectors.
  • Childhood memories – Others collect dolls because doing so reminds them of their childhood. A collector may complete a set of Transformer robots because it is one of his favorite childhood TV shows. A doll enthusiast may also collect Barbie dolls because it was the first gift she ever received as a child.
  • Historical value – History also plays a significant role in some collectors’ choices. The more backstory a doll has, the more interesting it becomes. A plain-looking rag doll may be worth much to a collector if it belonged to a famous person in the past.
  • Investment – Some collectors also buy dolls and sell them for a profit. Serious collectors will pay at least $20,000 for a valuable piece, and hobbyists can turn their passion into a serious business.

Tips on Starting a Doll Collection

The Art of Doll Collecting 2Now that you know more about dolls, it is time to start your collection. Remember these tips to make your hobby more enjoyable:

  • Start small – Don’t panic and try to get your hands on every doll you see. Choose a small set of dolls as your initial pieces, and gradually build your collection from there.
  • Concentrate on just one or two kinds – Unless you plan to just randomly collect all the dolls you lay your eyes on, it is best to choose one or two subjects to start your collection.


  • Do you want to focus on paper Mache dolls? Or are you more inclined to collect china dolls? This helps you focus and save time and money collecting pieces you are truly interested in.
  • Create an inventory – The best way to keep track of your collection is to make a list of all your items. Note down the name of the doll, when you bought it and where, and any significant detail—historical, physical—that can help you identify it.
  • Know your dolls – Don’t just display your dolls in a glass case and forget about them afterward. Take the time to get to know them. Examine their faces, feel the texture of their skin and clothing, and know the history behind them.
  • Display with care – Find a cool, dry place to display your dolls. Some dolls cannot be exposed to high temperatures or direct sunlight, so it’s better to have a cool room or glass cabinet you can put them.
  • Have fun – Dolls are interesting collector’s items, so don’t forget to have fun while collecting them.


The Art of Doll Collecting 8

With all the provided information, you will have a higher chance of enjoying your doll collection.


The Dreaded Headache: Causes and Cures


headaches-are-painfulHeadaches started in the fall of my college freshman year, I was among the original occupants of a new dormitory. Everything was pristine including furnishings, fixtures, and recreation room equipment. Within a half hour of settling into my room and wandering to the rec room, an angular, blond, crew-cut fellow from St. Joseph, Michigan named Mike introduced himself. It turned out his room was two doors from mine. Both of us were registered in engineering school, had girlfriends at home, and had similar interests.

We developed a close friendship; hung out after class, did homework, played touch football, and took our meals together usually in one of the local beaneries. Both of our roommates flunked out before the first term ended, becoming among the earliest exits of the first-year attrition of about one-third of freshmen registered in various engineering departments; but Mike and I were good students, and eventually graduated together.

Often on our way to dinner, we’d pass a white, rambling, seven-gabled house at 517 Gale Street, just off campus. Something about that house caught my attention. It looked timeless and an inviting place to spend my undergraduate years. There was an alluring character about it. A fraternity resided there, Sigma Mu Sigma, which was founded back in the 1920s by a group of freemasons though the society was not in any way affiliated with the Masonic Lodge.

In those days, at the start of each new term fraternities held what they called “Smokers” during the period of pledge week. The idea was to invite all non-Greek males enrolled in school to an open house to recruit new members. Snacks, desserts, and drinks were served. Free cigarettes were also liberally distributed in four-packs (courtesy of R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company), hence the name Smoker.


headaches 9

The on-campus RJR representative was “grandfathered” to Sigma Mu Sigma ΣΜΣ; that is, the job was handed down from member to member. Winston and Salem were popular labels, but even then, we referred to cigarettes as weeds, coffin nails, and (mostly) cancer sticks. Mike and I decided to check out several Smokers for free eats—college kids are always hungry—and free cigarettes.

smokers-headachesAfter making the rounds of Smokers in fall and winter when the dust settled (after the smoke cleared—gasp, wheeze, cough, rattle, choke) we pledged a fraternity in the spring. (Aside: After graduation, it took me five years to break the smoking habit.) We selected Sigma Mu Sigma because we liked the house with the seven gables, knew several members, and had rooms available in the fall. The housing cost was on par with the dorms so I figured the economic decision was a push.

Since my father was a gung-ho freemason, I figured he’d support my decision to room in a “Masonic” fraternity—a little bit of misdirection there you see. (It’s one of the many maneuvers I’ve pulled in life that was less than commendable. How many? Well, I attempted to compile a mental list from primary school on, but after an hour and a half, I was only up to a junior year in high school.

Every time I tried to forge ahead; I’d remember other deceptions forgotten. Talk about revealing.) Mike had a different problem since he belonged to a church that considered freemasons a bunch of rat bastards in league with Satan. You can imagine the tap-dancing he had to do when his local paper erroneously reported he’d joined a Masonic fraternity.

As pledges we had daily work details at the house: vacuuming, dusting, mopping, cleaning the bathrooms, etc. Tuesday was the fraternity meeting night for all members, including pledges. After these meetings, the pledge master made us each tell a joke, and would designate a member we had to make laugh. He always selected some disciplined hardass who wouldn’t crack a smile even if everyone else in the room was roaring.

Failure to amuse resulted in a black mark; and the number of total black marks translated into the number of miles we would be dumped in the country on the Night of the Long Walk. (For that ordeal, we were blindfolded, dressed in a gown, given a six-pack of beer and a baseball bat, and individually dropped off somewhere in the boonies.)

HeadachesAfter receiving our inevitable joke-telling black marks, suggestions were taken from the floor from random members who would assign each pledge a “headache”, which was an assignment to be accomplished and reported back at the next meeting. These tasks could be relatively easy (e.g.; chart the temperature of Miami over the next week) or difficult; and sometimes embarrassing (see below). Although I received weekly headaches throughout the pledge term, three are memorable.

The first was to find out why a certain sourpuss math professor, Mrs. Gorecki, usually referred to by students as that-goddam-Gorecki, was a grouch; just what the hell was her problem; why did she act like she was perpetually on the rag; didn’t she get laid enough; and why was she always in a bad mood. Mrs. Gorecki, a thin, severe-looking lady in her early thirties was from Connecticut and had the harsh Yankee accent and abrasive tone to prove it. She was relatively new on campus, a chain smoker, and always had a pissed-off demeanor.

I wasn’t looking forward to the interview but made an appointment using a cover story that I was sent by the university newspaper. I didn’t write for the paper, but Mike did so using his name seemed like a good idea—you know; in case she checked up on me. (Sigh—another for my long list of transgressions.)

Mrs. Gorecki was sitting at her desk puffing on a cigarette and nodded me into a chair. She looked at me suspiciously and closed one eye. “Mike Glossinger? I don’t think so! Isn’t your name Myers, and didn’t you take calculus from me the last term? See, I always remember those who try to hide out back of the room.” 


headaches-in-schoolRats! Busted! “Uh…yeah, Mike wasn’t feeling well so he sent me with a list of questions—his questions,” I emphasized. What a coward I was. BTW, honesty compels me to admit, grouch or not, Mrs. Gorecki did a good job in the classroom.

You don’t seem very sharp.” I could tell from her cynical sneer-smile that she enjoyed the dig.

“I got a B,” I said defensively, feeling insulted. Thanks for thinking the least of me.

“I see… I guess you’re brighter than you look; either that or I made a terrible mistake.” That’s right, rub salt in the wound. Her visage grew more suspicious, and she let out an annoyed tobacco-raspy sigh. “All right. What the hell you’d want to know? Ask your questions. Maybe I’ll answer ‘em.”


I started easily enough by asking questions about where she came from, went to school, previous teaching experience, etc., to which she responded with curt, abrupt answers after intently studying my face every time. Her eyes bore holes in me. It was not a comfortable experience and I started to sweat.

Finally, I had to get to the meat of the interview. “Still married?” Oops, why did I say “still”?

“Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?” She gave me that one-eyed challenging look.

“Oh, nothing. Just asking the questions Mike gave me (heh-heh). What does your husband do?”

“That’s none of your business, but he’s an armed services veteran who’s a senior here in electrical engineering.”

“Poor bastard,” I said under my breath. (Tried to slip one by the goalie.)

“What! What was that?” She glared daggers. (Gorecki makes the save.)

“Uh…um…I said, ‘so his last year.” Sweat was trickling between my shoulder blades as I wondered how to skillfully lead into the subject of her perceived rotten demeanor. “Say, are you in a bad mood in the morning, maybe don’t like your job, or is that just the New England way?” I dim-witted blurted, and instantly recognizing my faux, pas, squeezed shut my eyes waiting for an onslaught.

For a long, silent moment nothing was said. I thought (hoped?) maybe she hadn’t heard. My eyes inched open. Mrs. Gorecki took a mighty drag on her cigarette and gave me a murderous look, a volcano about to erupt, as she exhaled. “Get out, Myers! Now!” She hissed and slowly rose from her chair. I thought she was going to come after me and scrambled toward the door knocking over a chair and some papers from her desk. I heard her swear as I zipped out (like in a cartoon), my heart beating wildly. Thank God I’d never been in one of her math classes again since she only taught freshmen. (I hoped.)

For not providing answers to all questions, I received a BLACK MARK. Hey, there was no way I was going to ask if she was always on the rag or didn’t get laid enough. I hoped my ordeal was enough to receive leniency. It wasn’t, but it’s too bad my recitation didn’t qualify as a joke. The brothers certainly enjoyed a long, tearful, hearty laugh at my expense, which I learned was the point of headaches anyway.

The second was being required to check out a student who dressed like a motorcycle hoodlum—like Marlon Brando in The Wild One—and find out what he was all about. He looked like one intimidating, tough s-o-b, and I was more frightened of him than I was of Gorecki. He might just punch my lights out. I figured his nickname would be something like Snake. Once again, I used a campus newspaper subterfuge about doing profiles on students, but this time used my name.

headaches 7He turned out to be a very polite and pleasant fellow happy for someone with whom to converse. My personality didn’t fit the image; a lesson I took for the rest of my life. My interest in him, his attire, his major, and his origin he thought to be flattering. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and feel guilty to this day that I never spoke to him again.

I did not receive a black mark, but my audience was disappointed I hadn’t been put through some kind of grinder or didn’t have to run for my life. The only point of humor was that I reported he was from Windblown, Indiana. (Woodburn was the actual name, but I had to salvage something.)

Finally, the school had this old Civil War cannon that was chained to a concrete pad near the school cafeteria. My headache was to report the last time the gun was fired. I walked away from the meeting congratulating myself for receiving such an easy task. Even before the internet, the library and local historical society had to have the information: where the gun was manufactured, who used it, where and when was the last time, it was in battle, etc. Well, I’m here to tell you I could not find out fact one. Finally, in a Sunday afternoon panic, I knew what must be done.

Tuesday evening came, and the time for me to report was at hand.

“When was the last time the cannon was fired?” asked the pledge master. Everyone looked around and smirked. I figured many of them had probably been burdened with the same headache when they pledged. They knew they had me, and were about lumber me with another black mark.

I answered calmly, “Last Sunday evening at eighty-thirty”. The response was open-mouthed silence.

headaches-in-the-labI’d spent Sunday afternoon sneaking into the chemistry laboratory—it wasn’t difficult—and made enough gunpowder to charge and fire the weapon. Compressed newspapers were the ammo. After I lit the wick, I ran like hell but heard the boom. What, you think I wanted to be on double secret probation from the dean? A week later the barrel was filled with cement by some killjoy. On the other hand, I made history. Hoo-hah!

The last headache I remember was one given a year later by Mike to a pledge named Wiltanger. It was a physics problem that brought down the house. Here it is: A guy is sitting on the can with his ass six inches above the water line. He drops a 225-gram septic log and accelerates it four feet per second squared with a fart. Determine whether or not the water will splash his ass. Assume he is at sea level. (Note the clever mixing of units.) As I recall, Wiltanger came up with the answer via a controlled laboratory experiment. (Ans. The water splashed his ass.)

ΣΜΣ |  Some years ago, the university annexed the block that included the seven-gabled house. It was razed to make room for campus expansion. Sigma Mu Sigma merged with Acacia, which was thrown off campus in the late 1970s. A year ago, Acacia petitioned to return, which was granted. I’ll see some of my old brothers and a few from my pledge class at a reunion in October. I expect a few Acacia members and pledges may show up as well. Maybe we should give them headaches just for old-time sake. If you can think of any good ones, let me know.

-Your working boy, Gene Myers


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