I Didn’t Always Like Socks

The Lower Eastside of Manhattan has changed a lot since I was a kid. We used to visit the sidewalk vendors lining Orchard Street and Grand Street who were selling socks. These were nothing like the fancy socks I wear now. It was the 1970s and these were white, athletic-style, tube socks. You know the kind with three color stripes at the top. This open air market was an extension of the Jewish vendors who settled in this part of the city 100 years before. Now this area is part of the continually growing Chinatown.

Pumpkin Spice What?

Every year the pumpkin spice industrial complex – also known as Big Pumpkin – releases more and more new flavored items each fall. I saw pumpkin spice yogurt pretzels and pumpkin spice apple juice, which happened to be packaged like sparkling wine. It did not seem to have bubbles, though.

One of the real headshakers was spotted by my lovely girlfriend. Pumpkin Spice Latte popcorn. So it is bad enough that someone thought pumpkin flavored popcorn was a good idea, but when you add latte to mix – evoking the drink of the scarf-wearing millennials – I have to wonder if there are coffee undertones to the pumpkin spice.

But the worst of all is pumpkin spice dog biscuits. Do we really need to drag the pooch into this madness?

Gender-Free Shopping

I went to a gender-free store in New York. It was unusual not to see a clothing store separated into a men’s side and a women’s side. All the clothes were of mixed styles and anyone could buy them. Sure, there were things that were more masculine and things that were more feminine, but that’s the point of gender fluidity. People can express their identity without judgement or labels and wear whatever clothing they want. I am comfortable with my male identity – except I don’t really identify culturally with most males due to my lack of interest in sports, cars, and other macho pursuits. I also have a different opinion of women than most men, judging by the overwhelming number of predators and harassers that have been revealed in the past year. I considered a shirt with more of an advocacy message, but I’m not sure I would wear it. I bought a blue t-shirt with the name of the store on it instead.

Don’t You Know Me?

I signed on to my doctor’s website to schedule an appointment. The practice is owned by one of the two university health systems in town, so the corporate bureaucracy is heavy on the site. On the page with my profile information, they had additional field that had recently been added. Gender identity, legal gender, gender at birth and sexual orientation. And they had many choices – and the right ones – in the drop downs for these fields. I was impressed with their sensitivity to these gender issues, which certainly impacts medical care. I reluctantly entered in my information – male, male, male, straight – and finished scheduling my appointment. As I said, I was impressed.

Until I received my email confirmation. They just went through all the trouble of collecting my gender identity information and sent me an email addressed to Mr./Ms. Jeffrey Cohen. It was appalling that they couldn’t figure out how to address me in the email. Yes, there may be simple technical hurdles to get this right, but this is about identity and people need to feel comfortable discussing this in a medical environment. They went to the trouble to build the hard part, but they ignored the final step and didn’t tie it all together. Every touchpoint has to build that trust and comfort.

That Was A Lot of Food

We took a food tour in Brussels and hit all the highlights. Our lunch started with mussels in a white wine broth. The main courses were a chicken stew with endive, which was in a white sauce with guz beer, and a beef stew cooked in a dark beer. The sides were mashed potatoes and Belgian frites. Our next stop was at a puppet theater turned bar/restaurant where we had Kriek, which is a dry cherry beer. We went to two chocolate shops and ended with a true Belgian waffle.