A single mom from Victoria, B.C. did a rather strange thing: knowing she was going to be alone with her young son for Christmas, she posted the following ad on Craigslist under the heading, "Mother and son seeking family to adopt us for Christmas":
"Have you always wanted a daughter and grandson? Do you have a daughter and/or grandson but they live too far away to return for Christmas this year?
Do you miss the pitter patter of little feet and adorably mispronounced words of a three-year-old boy? Do you need a hand with dishes after sharing Christmas dinner with a (slightly?) eccentric 30-year-old single mother?
If you've answered yes to any of the above questions, look no further, you've found the perfect solution!
... This year, my older daughter is going to spend the holidays back home with her wonderful Papa... so it's just going to be me and the little guy."
Little did Autumn Mazzitelli know that her ad would go viral, causing her to field hundreds of offers from locations as far-flung as New Zealand. Suddenly there were a ridiculous number of journalists lining up to interview her.
But with all that media attention came some critical comments, too. Some people accused her of being irresponsible, unwittingly endangering herself and her son by accepting invitations into total strangers' homes.
“It turned into a crazy, painful thing,” Mazzitelli said. “Something beautiful turned into something dark.” She has since deleted the ad, though she has already accepted several invitations for Christmas.
There is no doubt that Mazzitelli's intentions were pure-hearted. She has such a valid point: so many people are alone or lonely over the holidays.
“The truth is that so many people are broken and we live on a planet with 7 billion people, so how is it possible that we’re lonely?”
For many of us, Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year, but the most isolating. So Mazzitelli wrote the ad, hoping to "meet some beautiful humans to share Christmas Eve or Day with, hear some stories, sing and eat and laugh…. and actively choose not to be alone. I want something different this year so I’m just putting my heart out there!”
She claims she posted the ad simply hoping to meet new people in Victoria. Yet posting an ad to Craigslist isn't the same as say, posting to her personal Facebook page so that it could be seen by friends and friends of friends.
Posting a classified ad doesn't make her a bad mother or indeed, a bad person - far from it - it just makes her far more trusting and naive than the rest of us.
Has anyone ever asked point-blank if you are pregnant? You would think that among taboo conversational topics (namely, God and Donald Trump), asking a lady if she is with child would be one of them.
Tia Mowry thinks so at least. The actress confessed in a recent interview that recently she's been fending off such questions and comments, which she likens to "a form of body shaming."
"I am not pregnant, I am just happy," said Mowry. "I've gained these extra 10 [or] 15 pounds because of my cooking show. … I'm just enjoying life and when I want to drop the pounds, I will, but right now I'm happy with who I am."
It may seem like a stretch, but think about it. Asking a woman if she's expecting is not only loaded; it's the Russian Roulette of questions.
Pregnancy is a beautiful thing, but it's also incredibly complex. So many women want to start a family but can't, and for those who've experienced loss and miscarriage, that question isn't as innocuous or as simple as it sounds.
Either the woman isn't pregnant and has simply been enjoying her food (as in Mowry's case - and mine!), or she genuinely is pregnant. Either way, if she hasn't announced it to you already, assume that she has good reason.
Still, for others who don't want children any implication is uncomfortable and kind of oversteps personal boundaries.
As Mowry says, such commentary is part of a larger problem: society's expectation of perfection, particularly for those in the public eye.
I have an aunt (who shall remain nameless) who once gave me a hug, having not seen me in many months and immediately commented about my weight gain. Another quietly asked if I was pregnant - years before I started a family.
The inquiry hurts, particularly for women who've suffered from eating disorders or body image issues. On another occasion, I had lost a lot of weight and faced pretty much the exact same scenario.
I get that people are nosy by nature. Noticeable weight gain or weight loss catches our attention, yet we shouldn't feel the need to make a declaration about it (yes, even when that declaration is meant as a compliment). Hard as it is, we probably shouldn't bring it up unless the person does first.
As tempting as it is to ask the question, please resist. No good can come of it, trust me.
If a practical stranger told you that you're beautiful, how would you react?
That's the very simple, very complex premise of a film by high school student Shea Glover.
What started out as an art project for the 18 year old soon turned into a social experiment. The reaction was as varied as the subjects themselves.
The idea was very straightforward: Glover asked fellow students (most of them people she didn't know) if she could take a photo of them - at which point she reveals that she is taking pictures of people she finds beautiful.
And the fallout is fascinating. Everyone - absolutely everyone - is surprised and taken aback by the compliment.
Some are clearly flattered, as if the idea never occurred to them before that moment. Some smile. Some hide their faces. Others are skeptical and a bit embarrassed. Is this some kind of cruel joke being played on them?
One girl is deeply affronted. She even challenges Glover with fighting talk.
Overall, it's incredibly sad, the low opinion teenagers seem to have of themselves. I'd like to think their reaction would be different in five or ten years' time.
I try to imagine how I would have reacted to such an experiment as a teen... Most likely I would have erred on the bashful side. Blushing and smiling.
External beauty isn't important. We all know it's superficial, it doesn't last... Still, it's amazing to witness how each face lights up from the inside.
If you scratch the surface; if you are willing to look in unexpected places, there is beauty everywhere.
"I love film and my love of it transfers over to others and if that's not magic, I don't know what is," wrote Glover on Instagram.