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Complaints? I've had a few -- thousand


March 22, 2007|T.L. Stanley | Special to The Times

A glass-half-full kind of girl -- yeah, that's me. Consider myself to be upbeat and open-minded. So I've watched with keen interest the mini-phenomenon that's sprung up around a Kansas City, Mo., pastor and his "quit your griping" experiment.

In case you haven't been watching TV-lite or reading People (for shame!), the Rev. Will Bowen of Christ Church Unity felt he was hearing way too much carping from his congregation. Wouldn't everyone be better off with less bellyaching?

So he vowed to arrest his own negativity for 21 days straight -- no whining, no nitpicking, no gossiping -- and invited his flock to do the same. It took him three months of stops and starts to get there, and he says he's a new and improved man because of the journey and the results. Many around him, and in fact a wide swath of people across the country and in other parts of the world, are trying it too.

They're the ones sporting those purple rubber band-like bracelets that swap from wrist to wrist every time the wearer falls off the wagon. When the bracelet stays put for three weeks, that means the person has hit Pollyanna perfection and obviously has never driven in Los Angeles traffic.

I love a trend, so I figured I'd take this positive thinking out for a spin on dates. Time for different results, and perhaps time to give cynicism a break. Not to be too Topanga Canyon, but it seemed a little like sage-burning for the brain.

Noble motives count for only so much. Failure, my friends, came fast and hard. I didn't last 21 minutes, much less 21 days, when a guy I was having dinner with said he was thrilled because we were "food compatible." The slow-motion eye roll apparently counts as a criticism.

Then, arriving by e-mail, was a mass invitation from a former boyfriend to his 40th birthday party. It was chipper and friendly, not the kind of communication I'd expect or want after an icky breakup. Before I could stop myself, I'd forwarded it to several friends with the heading, "Too dense to know he's gay, too dumb to update his address book." Oops.

Then a cocktail conversation with a producer friend-of-a-friend who prattled on about his various (dull) projects and himself without stopping for breath until he finally said, "You don't talk much." "Why would I," I said, "when I can just listen to you?" Ah, sarcasm -- that's another no-no.

When I recently heard that an acquaintance -- a guy in his late 40s with a penchant for much younger women -- was on the verge of marrying a 21-year-old singer, out popped the word "Gross!" with all the force I could muster. D'oh!

REV. BOWEN says it's a form of anger management to stop kvetching. I see it more as a recipe for implosion.

Others disagree. They've created a bestseller out of "The Secret," a millennial "Power of Positive Thinking," and they're joining the charge to eradicate grousing. So far, people have requested almost a half-million purple bracelets from Christ Church Unity, whose members are trying to get noticed by Oprah, queen of all that's inspirational. There's a link from the church-sponsored directly to Oprah's site, where people can detail how they sloughed off their fussing and fighting ways.

I won't be among them. Not that this Pleasantville idea doesn't have merit, it's just that my trash talk is too ingrained. Hey, I'm part of the Springer generation. I can ask for redemption but I can't be saved.

And neither can my dates, poor slobs.

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