On Youth. Or, Dear Young Women. 

I am an Instagram creep. 

I have an account, and about once every month or two, I post a picture of my dog, slap an artsy filter on it, and caption it with a heart emoji. Once I got 24 likes on such a photo and I felt smug and complete and popular, and sorry for the people I follow on Instagram who only had 3 or 14 likes on their photos. 

Mostly I use Instagram to follow celebrities I don’t really care about, news outlets whose posts I almost always skip over, and intellectual yet confusing publications like The New Yorker, the humour of which I almost never understand and always feel vaguely annoyed by and does anyone actually read The New Yorker or does everyone just pretend to because we have all universally agreed at some point that people who read The New Yorker and comprehend those cartoons are vastly more intelligent than the rest of us who find the whole business of satire sort of annoying and confusing. 

I also use Instagram to pass time when I should be doing other things like cleaning or doing laundry or showering. 

This is when I find myself scrolling through the account of someone whose niece is engaged to my second cousins best friend who lives in Washington State and goes to music festivals and I ended up on this account because this person liked a Bruno Mars post from 63 weeks ago that I found while browsing posts from Rolling Stone magazine, which I also follow and which frankly I feel is more in tune with my level of intelligence than the aforementioned publication. 

And what do I find on these accounts that are 37 times and 962 degrees removed from my own Instagram account? 

I find selfies. 

A lot of them. 

And they make me rage inside. 

There are selfies from all age groups and genders, certainly. But the population that rules social media is also the same one that runs the selfie game. 

Young women. 

I have so much to say to these women, much of it inspired by my anger and dismay at the sheer volume of them who have fallen into the trap of self-absorption and vanity that the Selfie Universe has sucked them into. A place where likes and comments from both friends and strangers has become something to seek out and appreciate and covet. A place where, suddenly, people – mostly women – are something to be looked AT again. 

I don’t want to be too tough on these young women, because being a young woman is fucking hard. It’s confusing and scary and sad and exhilarating and becoming anything takes trial and error (basically just error) and guidance and tough love and really awful fashion choices that you and your friends will one day look back on and shudder and then look behind you and see some 21 year old wearing a new version of it and you will say what the actual fuck that look is in style again oh my god how did that happen did we look that ridiculous wearing woven ponchos too?

I also don’t want to tell them anything in person because young people give me anxiety and also make me feel guilty because was I a self-absorbed asshole when I was that age? (yes)

But I do want to tell these young women some things. 

I want to tell them to watch HBO’s Girls, to revel and rejoice in the discomfort and the thrill that Lena Dunham’s pride in her own naked body brings, even though it’s not what we consider perfect and then say FUCK YEAH to the strength and the courage that it takes to be different and more than ok with it, to completely seek it out and embrace it and own it. 

I want to tell them to vote, even if they don’t care about politics because someday, something they love about this country will be at risk, and it will matter to them, even if that seems hard to see right now. 

I want to make them to watch TED talks given by brilliant women. 

I want them to fiercely feel the pride that accompanies a job well done, by a woman who works hard, whether it’s as a nurse or a teacher or a neuroscientist or as a cashier at Walmart, and to know that many of those women struggled to become what and who they are simply because they are women. 

I want them to see and appreciate the strength it takes to be a woman, in whatever form that may take, and to respect and feel awe and humility for those women who have gone before us and who have fought and cried and bled so that all women could have a small shot at equality. I want them to know that we have battled, and are still battling, to learn to love our bodies and protect them from a never-ending population of people who want to control and exploit and destroy them. 

I want them to look at themselves, not just through the lens of the camera on their phone, but to actually wonder at their young beauty and be proud of it, and feel thankful  that they are experiencing life in a time and a place when their physicality, their very being, is something that they, as women, can finally call their own. It no longer belongs to society, not in the way that it used to. I want them to see this for what it is – a gift that has been given to them by their mothers, their grandmothers, their aunts and older sisters and teachers and the women they work with. I want them to know that they can’t refuse this gift, that they should take it and say thank you and promise to keep it and hand it down to their daughters. Becuase this is a precious gift. It is freedom, and it needs to be taken care of so that it can be given over and over again. 

I want to tell them that there are women everywhere, right now, this second, who are exploited and abused and taken advantage of because they are women. I want them to know that we owe it to these women to be strong and powerful and to use our loudest voices to protest this exploitation and abuse, until as many women as possible finally hold this same gift in their hands. 

Is all of this heavy stuff directly related to taking selfies? Maybe not. Maybe selfies are harmless and fun and I have no doubt that some of these half-naked, pouting young women will go on to do great things and make amazing changes in the world. 

Until then, though, I want them to know that they are more than this, that pretty doesn’t matter, not really. Pretty is fickle and fleeting, just like the people who value it over everything else that these young women, who are in charge of carrying the gifts of sexual freedom, equality, and justice and handing them over to generations of young women to come, have to offer.  

I also want them to know that they should stop colouring in their eyebrows. Because hello? We can all see that THOSE ARE NOT YOUR EYEBROWS. 

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On Anxiety – Or, It Will be OK, Jay-Z

I want to know if Jay-Z gets anxious about things. Does he lie awake at night wondering if he should have taken the garbage out before bed because leaving it until 7 am the next morning is cutting it close and last time he forgot and missed the garbage truck entirely and then his garage stunk for an entire week due to the excess of trash stuck in there?

Does he worry about his parenting skills? Should he be making his kid eat more vegetables even though ALL she will bloody well eat is cucumbers? Should he have named her after a primary colour?

Do he and Beyoncé have pointless arguments that leave him feeling wrung out and tense for hours after about how much time they spend together, and is it the right amount of time or is it too much and what should they be doing with their time together?

Is there a little voice CONSTANTLY in the corner of his very busy mind telling him “pick up the dog shit before it rains, Jay. Last time you didn’t it got all soggy and smeared into the grass and you were pissed and you can avoid that scenario AND shut me up if you just go pick it up NOW stop thinking about it and just do it seriously all this thinking about it just makes it even worse and now look at you you are immobilized by the thought of picking it up and ALSO by the thought of not picking it up”?

There are two things that are important to note here.

One – I spend an inordainate amount of time thinking about Jay-Z and it is not normal and probably borders on behaviour that can be classified as “unhealthy” or “stalkerish”.

Two – I don’t think anxiety cares who you are, how old you are, what your gender is, or which former Destinys Child member you happen to be married to. I think anxiety is generous in who it befriends, allowing each of us who meet it to become very attached to it until one day it is essentially running our lives like that friend we all had in high school who bossed you around and made you steal brown lip-liner from the drugstore and you did it even though you knew your dad would (figuratively) kick your ass and (literally) confine you to the house until you were 27 and your mom would cry and as a teenager seeing a crying parent is mortifying so you just prayed you never got caught. And, like that friend, you want to tell anxiety to fuck RIGHT off but you can’t. It’s part of you now, and it knows you so well and besides no one else’s parents let you drink in their basement. On school nights.

I don’t know where my anxiety came from, and I’ve never been officially diagnosed with it by a medical professional and also “officially” feels like the wrong word here and should probably be reserved for statements more like “you are officially the chess champion of Delaware” not “you are officially a basket case”, but I can’t think of another word and it sort of makes anxiety sound like a bit of a fun prize or a blue ribbon or something.

Realistically, though, it’s anything but fun. Anxiety makes you live inside of your head, and everything else – like the actual, physical world around you – is secondary. Your thoughts are constant and blurry and impossible to detangle sometimes. It is not a tangible thing, but you come to think of it in terms of a possession that you are required to have with you at all times, as in – “off to the grocery store! Better make sure I have my keys my wallet my coupons that annoying token I need to unlock the carts because some people apparently steal them and now we all have one more tiny thing in our lives that we have to keep track of and my anxiety. Where is my anxiety again I almost forgot it last time – oh there it is under my coat. Phew”.

Sometimes, anxiety is a sneaky asshole and disguises itself as worry (also not constructive) or rage (something I am very prone to especially when behind slow walkers, shitty drivers, or people who have 72 lottery tickets to check when I just want to PAY FOR MY GAS don’t they KNOW they can check their numbers in the paper or ONLINE). But even when it’s hiding behind one of these other lovely afflictions, it can still debilitate you at a moments notice. Suddenly you’re in the middle of the cereal aisle and the choice between Cheerios and no-name wheat-o’s is just too much so you end up back at home with no groceries and the daunting prospect of having to do it all again tomorrow because children apparently need food.

Where is the relief? Is there relief?

I’m sure there is relief to be found in pharmaceutical drugs but my personality is one that is best kept far away from anything addictive and / or in pill form. I regularly remember to be grateful that crack wasn’t big in my hometown because if it had been I would be writing this from under a bridge somewhere.

For now, I quiet my own voice by walking The Beast and writing. I have also rearranged the furniture in our living room so many times that Moe finally, in a very firm, un-Moe like manner, said I had to stop because it never felt like home with everything constantly moving and also he had walked into the coffee table three times because he kept forgetting where it was.

I also try to stay calm by constantly reminding myself that I am not alone. Many, many people deal with anxiety, and many are not lucky enough to be able to talk about it without feeling shame or isolation. More still deal with depression and self-harm, anxiety’s evil, mean-as-fuck sisters. These people are champions, battling something that can’t be seen and sometimes can’t even be described. My issue is mild in comparison, and I am humbled by those that fight against those asshole sisters every day.

I want these people to know that I’m behind them, even though I am literally zero help in any given situation unless it is giving advice on how to nap properly (light but warm blanket, dark room, fan or open window giving a slight breeze and little to  no light).

I also want Jay-Z to know that I, too, frequently worry about picking up dog shit and put it off until the last possible moment. You are not alone, friend.

On Forgiveness – Or, I’m Going to Graceland

And she said losing love 

Is like a window in your heart 

Everybody sees you’re blown apart

Everybody sees the wind blow

Generally speaking, I find that when people begin any sort of written discourse with a quote, they are about to say something pious or obnoxious or preachy and I think – “I am not going to read this because clearly you are not intelligent enough to use your own independent thoughts and obviously I am smarter than you so I will just go watch TV instead”. But here’s the thing – I am no Paul Simon. If anything, I am Art Garfunkel. Shitty hair, a last name no one can spell or pronounce, and always disgruntled and whiny and breaking up legendary folk bands with my bad attitude.

It’s inevitable as we move through life – something happens that alters you, and you try to move on, and you struggle and resurface and maintain and plateau and fall down over and over again, and you defend yourself to anyone and everyone who will listen and make so many excuses for everything that has happened and then suddenly (with what seems like no foreshadowing because foreshadowing only really happens in crappy movies and Young Adult novels) you have a new life. It is a shaky life, and it exists in a weird space that is still tethered to your old one. It has new faces that seem to blend together with old ones, and you are confused a lot of the time, consumed with regret and remorse but that regret and remorse mingle with excitement that you are moving on but then you feel guilty because moving on means you don’t care and you’re cold and mean, right? RIGHT? No one answers this question for you, and so instead of accepting that you deserve to be happy and that moving on is a journey with all kinds of rough paths and annoying roadblocks, you start to get angry and irrational. You play the blame game with yourself now instead of with other people, and you play it so well that you are basically the Lebron James of your own NBA, except less good-looking, wealthy, and with 100% fewer fans. And now, instead of  learning to love your new existence with these new people and new places and new experiences just waiting to be had, you stare at your mistakes down the road behind you and start chasing them down again.

Moving On has become Moving Nowhere. And now you need to figure out the way to redemption. With no map. Or Siri.

Here’s the thing with personal redemption – it’s basically impossible to attain unless you are a) Buddha b) Paul Simon or c) able to forgive yourself. I am none of these things. In fact, I cannot think of anyone other than maybe Beyoncé who I am less like than Buddha. The act of forgiveness requires some intensely commendable character traits, no matter who it is that you’re looking to forgive. Maturity, for one. And willfulness and patience and faith in something, whether it’s in a god or many gods or no gods or just in humanity in general. When it’s yourself that you need to redeem you have to somehow learn to look at yourself and say – ok, we’re good now, I forgive you for your mistakes, and I still like you and maybe one day I’ll really love you again, and let’s stay friends because really, we are all we’ve got in this fuckery that we call life. You have to find a way to go to Graceland.

Maybe it’s not the literal Graceland where Elvis lived and died and made music that continues to irritate people of my age because their mothers insisted on listening to it so loudly in the car that the other kids at school made fun of you for an entire year. Maybe it’s more of a metaphorical place, where we can finally say those words to ourselves without feeling like they’re lies. And where we can be ok with being blown apart, and knowing that everyone does see your wounds and your scars and that they are judging you a little but also acknowledging that they have their own scars and wounds. They have been blown apart, too. This is where you can hold your head up and learn how to be strong and forgiving, no matter how hard those things seem to be to actually hold onto. In this place, where it’s calm and where your head isn’t so noisy and full of disappointed voices, you can start to heal. And start to find some forgiveness from that person you need it from most, who, like it or not, you are going to be stuck with every day for the rest of your life. Scars and all.

It’s tough enough to be a grown-up. I don’t care what anyone says, I would happily go back to being a pre-adult, when my laundry was done and the dog that lived in my house was walked for me, and every penny I made was spent on terrible 90’s clothing and Mikes Hard Lemonade and crappy weed that was definitely not weed it was mostly oregano which is why now as an adult I always feel a little risqué when I cook with it like I’m about to get moderately stoned on my spaghetti sauce.

We make our lives even tougher by the impossible standards that we insist on holding ourselves to. Don’t make mistakes, and if you do, fix them. Don’t hurt other people, and if you do, punish yourself for it endlessly and feel bad forever or at least until you hurt someone else. Then feel bad about that but DON’T FORGET ABOUT THAT TIME BEFORE THAT STILL MATTERS.

My Graceland? I don’t know if I’ve found it. There are a lot of things that I haven’t forgiven myself for. I still hear some voices in my head sometimes, reminding me that I’ve done wrong, and that I’m probably still doing wrong, and that I’m very very likely to do do wrong again. But I can silence them now. And I can see Graceland, hazy in the distance. It’s there, and it gets closer through the simplicity of my life. Most of the roadblocks have been taken down, and the path is smoother and I have Paul (we are on a first name basis in my head, Paul Simon and I) telling me – I’ve a reason to believe, we all will be received in Graceland. Finally, I am listening.

Simon, Paul. Graceland. Paul Simon. Warner Bros. Records, 1986.

Real Life Interlude

There is a great website that exists that is called 6dollartshirts.com. As I’m sure you’ve surmised, it sells t-shirts for six dollars apiece. About once a year or so I order a bunch of them. They reference pop culture things, mostly, like television shows or music. Loosely translated, pop culture means stuff that is POPULAR in our culture.

Last night when Moe got home from work, I was wearing one of my t-shirts and obsessively watching a show on the CW network that, like every show on the CW network, is meant to be watched by teenagers and that I pretend to scoff at but that in reality I am very familiar with because I have actually googled almost every cast member to find out what they look like and who they are dating in real life and whether or not they have any pets or interesting hobbies.

In my peripheral vision, I could see Moe staring at me. This is uncommon. Even though I know that Moe naturally considers me to be fascinating and interesting and stimulating to be in the presence of, we are past the point where we just look at each other for no reason other than to marvel at our good luck at finding one another and blah blah blah.

“WHAT are you looking at?”

“Nothing, I just…”

“Is it my facial hair? I KNOW I have some right now I just haven’t had the 13 minutes it takes to use the cream to remove it, ok? So I think you’re being PRETTY rude by pointing it out like that”.

“I didn’t…what?”

“Shhh. I don’t want to miss this part. God, this show is so juvenile”.

*ten minutes pass*

“Ok, seriously WHAT are you looking at?”

“I don’t get your shirt”.

The shirt in question here is one that says 9 3/4 on it. That is all it says, and it doesn’t need to say any more than that because literally every person over the age of 3 months old KNOWS that the number (fraction? whatever) 9 3/4 is the number of the train station platform where Harry Potter and all of his fellow wizards and muggles board the train to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

“You don’t know what this means? Are you serious? Where do you live, in the forest or something?”

“I…what?”

I will spare you the dialogue involved in my long and very detailed explanation of platform 9 3/4 and the complete and total disinterest on the part of Moe and also the growing heatedness of my tirade on how a grown man has lived his life up to this point without bothering to educate himself on the details of how the MOST FAMOUS WIZARD EVER uses public transportation.

What I will tell you is that when Moe is done talking about something, the subject is firmly closed. There is no going back, no combing over details and wondering about other possible endings and imagining what would have happened if something else had happened and was the right decision made or should we just go over all of this again from the very beginning? He politely yet firmly disengages. He is never, ever rude and always provides a gentle verbal nudge to me to let me know that whatever conversation I am convoluting and distorting and essentially ruining is now over.

“I just thought that 9 3/4 meant that you considered yourself to be not quite a ten”.

The conversation (indignant rage-fuelled rant) that followed is currently under review in my own psyche, so maybe I will be able to untangle it in a few decades and turn it into something approaching coherent writing.

For the record, I consider myself a ten in every rating category that counts (except for interpersonal communication and personal hygiene in those categories I’m probably a 2 and a 7 but I’m working on them just not really the first one at all) and I hope that you consider yourself to be a firm ten as well, which, if you are reading my blog you probably are, provided of course you understand what platform 9 3/4 is and also do not confuse Dumbledore and Gandalf, ever.

On Friendship. Or, Table for One, Please

I work in a restaurant that has very good food and very good wine. Because of this, a large majority of the people that I serve are women. They are all different. Most are very nice and some are awful, some have four carat diamond rings and spouses that work ninety hours a week so that their wives can drink during the day and some wear sweatpants with writing across their bums and some have kids and some don’t and some are in their sixties and some are young and speak almost entirely in hashtags and tweets and make me feel like I am in MY sixties.

As varied as these women are, they all have one thing in common.

They travel in groups.

Sometimes they appear in groups of two, but very often they come in clusters of four or six or nine, or, very occasionally and most appallingly, in groups of fifteen or twenty one.

These women eat food and drink wine and laugh and protest loudly and indignantly that they DO NOT WANT DESSERT and while they are doing all of these things they do something else at the same time.

They talk.

And talk and talk and talk.

They stay long after their one shared appetizer is gone, and well past the consumption of their requisite glass and a half of wine because no they don’t want another one they have to drive and get up in the morning but they are going to stay a little longer anyways and what kind of herbal tea do you have and can you make me a non-fat latte actually never mind I’ll just have more water. No ice this time.

These women are friends. Maybe co-workers, maybe neighbours, maybe relatives, but friends nonetheless. And they intrigue me.

We all know that girl who always rolls her eyes at “typical” female behaviour and shrugs off not being invited to a baby shower/wedding/girls night/bachelorette party/paint social/ by saying “I’ve never really liked other women that much….I prefer to hang out with guys. SO much easier there’s no drama and I love how men are just SO laid back and don’t judge you and you can just like BE YOURSELF with them and yeah I don’t really WANT anymore friends I totally have my mom and this cousin I saw in 1997 so I’m good. Really”.

I am THAT GIRL.

And those excuses? They’re all bullshit.

If female friendship were a body of water, it would be a murky, dark, confusing, and very loud pond. There is so much involved in being a woman who interacts with other women. Nuances and grey areas and jealousies and insecurities and anger and sadness and the constant flow of feelings, both spoken and silent. When it works, when it is at its very best, female friendship is pretty awesome. It lifts you up, and makes you feel included, like you’re a part of a good club that takes care of it’s members and gives you fun perks like free movie admission or hotel discounts.

When it doesn’t work, it’s like Costco. Sensory overload, too much stuff everywhere, and a level of exclusiveness that really feels like elitism.

I have belonged to both of these clubs. I have had Costco friendships, the kind where I take on too much, and try to be someone I am not and can’t figure out why I am there, buying 8 litre containers of peanut butter and large quantities of meat that need to be carved before they are cooked and consumed and I don’t even like meat that much. I’m just there because I feel like I am supposed to be. And it’s making me feel bad about myself. But it’s what women do they make friends and they stick it out and they LOVE each other. So I will do it.

I have also had the privilege of belonging to the good club. Good friends, some gone now because I didn’t see them for what they were at the time (sick of my nonsense) and some still around. Do I always treat them the way I should, as a card-holding co-member of this excellent, rewarding, totally worth-it group? Probably not. I can be an asshole sometimes. But I do recognize something now, something I didn’t in my twenties (always drunk no time for self-awareness) or even in my very early thirties (always drunk and also stuck in self-pity-hole) – that good friends, the real ones, the ones who let you be you and express and even flaunt your unhealthy character traits and understated but possibly concerning narcissism, are sometimes women. The I Like Guys Better Because Women Are Awful Excuse is a separator, a wall that divides us from each other in a growing social climate that already pits women against each other way too often. I’ve come to realize that it’s not other women that are the problem in the never ending issues that I have when it comes to connecting with other human beings. The problem is me – my insecurities, my jealousy, my fear of not belonging. And that’s ok, just like it’s ok, awesome even, that many (MANY) women have countless female friends who all come into my place of work and ask me for things that I frankly don’t understand but will happily (that’s a lie) do anyways because I love my job (that’s not a lie).

I don’t want to travel in large gaggles of women, ever. For one thing, I’m too impatient to sit down for the apparent amount of time it takes to have these meetings, and for another, I don’t know that many women. I DO want to sit down with the few friends I have made and managed to keep, some younger than me, some older, some male and some female, and eat food and have drinks and laugh and shake our heads at our mistakes and those of the people we know. I want to watch over these friendships, because they are precious and I have let other ones die from neglect, but I don’t want to tend to them too much, because I have learned the hard way that if you water a plant a lot it also dies and then you have a soggy plant and I am way too lazy to repot it or replace it so now it’s just rotting in my living room slowly growing mold.

So if you are reading this and you are my friend (very likely since I doubt anyone BUT my friends are reading this), thank you. For seeing me through my self-inflicted tough times, and for letting me whine a lot and talk about myself constantly and for knowing I am annoying and repetitive and a terrible judge of character with a quick temper and no patience and a bad tendency to dislike people on sight, while at the same time knowing I love you and would do anything for you. Unless it involves making actual plans or committing to going somewhere on a certain date at a pre-set time. Then you are on your own.

On Marriage. Or, An Ode to Sweatpants

I am in a relationship with my sweatpants. It is not monogamous, since I have several pairs that I am involved with on a rotating basis. They have been loyal to me, my sweatpants. They have guided me gently through countless naps, walked many miles with my beast of a dog and I, nurtured me through endless hangover days, and have never, once, offended me by requiring  me to wear undergarments with them that squish or invade parts of my anatomy that should never be squished or invaded.

However, dependable as they may be, my sweatpants are not sexy. Not, at least, in the conventaional, don’t wear faded, saggy, stained and eleven year old items of clothing if you want to remain attractive to the person you live with sort of way.

Is sexiness important to a relationship? Or is sexiness too narrow a term to describe what keeps us tethered to someone over the long-term? Does sexiness include the broader scope of attraction, like someone’s sharp mind or kind heart or quick sense of humour?

Of course it does. These are the things that grow our relationship, keep us hanging around despite all of the cover-snatching and snoring and throat clearing and socks on the floor and open containers of orange juice that you go to shake and get literally all over your kitchen ceiling because the lid was, ONCE AGAIN, not screwed on properly. These things calm the anger and mitigate the endless irritation that simply living with another human being inevitably brings. They remind us why we were drawn to this person in the first place, when there is a sea (pond) of other mates available to us at every turn.

And then time goes on. The nerves go away., You don’t have to run the water when you pee in the same house as them anymore, or pretend you aren’t hungry because god what kind of an attractive person eats food in front of someone else, or frantically wash your feet in the bathroom sink at work after an 11 hour shift before you go over there. You pee with the door open. You eat regularly and probably not with a conscious awareness of how much food you are getting on your face, the floor, or your shirt. If your feet have that 11 hour shift smell, you aren’t worrying about it.

But if you were a French woman, you would be. The door to your bathroom would remain closed. Your feet would probably not be smelly, and if they were, no one would ever know, because you would swiftly and elegantly take care of the issue before it even had time to become one.

French women (and this is a bit of a generalization I am not saying all French women are any one thing in particular because I realize all people are varied and unique and vastly different regardless of geography, race, class, ethnicity, gender, and every other possible category so relax everyone) view marriage and relationships differently than we do here in North America. In France, extra-marital affairs are more common – often even expected since the tight-assed view of monogamy that we hold here isn’t the norm there. The way that French society views sex and cheating and seduction and marriage and everything else that encompasses the way that humans in love and lust connect with each other hugely affects how women in relationships behave. Does every French woman have a spouse who cheats? Probably not. But because the expectation is there, women, like in so many social situations, have to be reactionary. So what do they do? Do they go Carrie Underwood on their partners and key their cars and take a Louisville Slugger to both headlights?

No.

They wear lingerie.  They flirt. They use little jealousies to their advantage, seducing their partners over and over again by reminding them of their own attractiveness to others. They remain unavailable sometimes, both emotionally and physically. They fulfill their own needs, under the assumption that an intelligent, well-rounded woman will always be the better bet.

They behave like their spouses’ mistress. Because if he already has one, why would he go looking for another?

Part of me loves this whole French woman philosophy. But another part of me wants to know that there are French women who are insecure and afraid and sometimes have bad breath or prickly legs or shitty temperaments when they see their partners looking casually at a 23 year old woman who seems to be able to pull off this stupid crop-top trend that should have died in the 90’s pretty bloody well. I can’t believe that they all have Bridgette Bardot bangs and Catherine Deneuve eyes and roving husbands who slink around at night looking for and finding illicit sex.

Maybe we need to reach a compromise here in North America. Like, a little less sweatpants and a little more lingerie and I’ll TRY to flirt sometimes but only if YOU try to stop making that stupid noise when you’re concentrating on something and if you DO cheat on me maybe I won’t LITERALLY kill you but I WILL ruin your life somehow make no mistake about that and I’m not emotionally unavailable but I AM exhausted so I’ll maybe play that off like I’m teasing you but in reality I just want to go to bed so don’t get too interested over there.

Based on my own staggeringly legitimate credentials of exactly one failed marriage, I feel like I have the authority to say this – marriage, raltionships, need to be largely about compromise. You do the dishes, I’ll do the laundry. You walk the dog, I’ll clean the toilet. So if I am going to behave like a lofty, liberal French woman with great hair and swinging morals wearing underwear that hurt and chafe me in spots, you are going to avoid getting a pot belly. You will never wear socks with your sandals. You won’t putter when you’re 58, getting in my way and accomplishing nothing. You will stay sexy, too.

And I am keeping my sweatpants.

 

 

Real Life Interlude 1

This morning, Moe asked me if I had seen his belt.

Two weeks ago, roughly, he bought mustard when we already had two full ones in the fridge.

At least twice every month, I am asked by him where his work keys are.

All of these incidents have led me to the conclusion that in every cohabitation agreement there is one party who is both the Finder of Things and the Knower of Mundane Household Details.

This arrangement both exasperates me and alarms me a little bit. Will I always be the Finder of Things? Do I always have to know the exact quantity of condiments present in this household? Will there be a day when I lose something essential to my life, like my wallet or my slim grip on my sanity, and Moe will know exactly where it is and go and retrieve it for me?

I am hesitant to proclaim that this is a gendered issue, that being a woman makes you predisposed to knowing where things are at all times and being able to calculate boring, useless details that apparently have to be calculated constantly in both the (sort of) smooth functioning of a home and in the frightening business of being an adult that is (sort of) responsible for a young human being some of the time.

So, as a social experiment that everyone (no one) will be wildly interested in, I am going to pretend to lose something every day for a week and see if Moe can find it for me. I will probably never post the results, since I can almost guarantee that he will have no idea where any of these objects are, and I am also terrible at carrying out any sort of commitment that doesn’t involve working or sleeping.

And his belt was on the dresser.

On Step-Parenting. Or, How to Tell if You Are a Shitty Person.  

When I was newly separated and dealing with the concept of divorce, I thought I had reached the pinnacle of Personal Shittiness. There was no way I could top it. I had outdone myself, obtained the gold star of bad and selfish behaviour. There was literally nowhere to go but up from this self-induced rock bottom of downright morally questionable behaviour. 

I was wrong. 

When Moe and I met, I was delighted at the idea of having a kid around. I said obnoxious things that I was incapable of backing up with any real actions like “a kid can never have too much love” and “I am great with children”. I patted myself on the back so hard I am surprised to this day that I have skin left on my shoulders. I would be The Girlfriend Who Was A Perfect Step Person. A I played with Play Doh at 6:45 am on his apartment floor, waving off  his concerns that it was early and I really didn’t have to do this. I LOVED it, don’t be silly. What else would I be doing before 7 am? Sleeping? No, really, I want to do this sort of thing in the morning. Honestly I’m not even tired, I sometimes prefer 3 hours of sleep to make me feel like I’m really living. 

I bought toys and left them at his place, smug in the knowledge that kids love toys, and I bought toys and therefore I would be loved and we would all get along so well and seriously – good for me, I just came out of this divorce swinging and now I am basically an amazing parent-figure who could write a book on the correct way to raise a child, but who has the time for that anyways, I’ll just quietly be the best at this new role that is so easy I DO NOT get why people complain about step-parenting. 

Then we moved in together. 

And his child got older. 

Suddenly, I was no longer a person who saw a child occasionally. I was a person who LIVED WITH A CHILD. 

Let me briefly outline what happens when you live with a child, if you aren’t already in the blessed position of doing so. 

– They talk. A lot, and usually about nothing at all. 

– They make messes, and they don’t even mean to. Mess just follows them around. Think Pigpen from the Peanuts cartoon. The mess is just there, behind and around them and all over your house. 

– They talk. Seriously. It is constant. 

– They cry when they fall down, or bump their heads, or don’t want to do something, or when they are tired, or not tired enough, or haven’t consumed the correct amount of calories in a day, or have consumed too many, or are lacking in potassium, or need more exercise, or are sick, or are getting sick, or are just getting over being sick. 

– They need stuff constantly. Food, clean clothing, shelter, guidance, support, and all the other basic necessities of life that I struggle to provide myself with. Once last year I ran out of clean underwear FOR MYSELF twice. In ONE MONTH. 

– They talk ALL THE BLOODY TIME. 

Anyone who knows me knows that small talk is not really my thing. I would rather repeatedly scrape the side of my face against a brick wall than talk about flimsy things that I have no interest in or relationship to. So, when I was suddenly in the same dwelling as a little human being who ONLY KNOWS how to small talk, I was devastated. What do I say when she suddenly starts telling me an endless story involving mostly words I can’t understand and people I am not even sure actually exist and WHAT is a Toopy and a Binoo? Should I Google these things? Do I respond? Does nodding my head count? Wait a second, she’s not even listening to my responses and now she’s talking about something else…I should just leave. Wait, I can’t leave, I live here now. With the child. I have to watch her because I am the only adult here. I am not an adult. I should just leave. I’ll call my mom she will know what to do, maybe I can go live there? 

Fortunately, I am priviliged enough to also live with a man who is not only a fantastic father, but who recognized right away that when I said “I am great with children” all those months ago I was a) wrong and b) lying. So he took the pressure off of me, told me to quit worrying about what a three year old thought of my reaction to her dialogue, and basically just carried on parenting as though I wasn’t there and he was still a single dad. And I let him do this, gladly and with an enormous sense of relief. 

Here’s where the Further Pinnacle of Shittiness was reached. 

For over a year, I hid from his daughter in plain sight. I let myself work too much so I was never around when she was. I refused to make rules when I was here, and I let my fear of doing something wrong that would harm her or harm my relationship with her father turn into something much worse – jealousy. I found myself getting annoyed when her father would be happy to see her. I would be angry when he seemingly spoiled her, and withdrawn on the rare occasions when the three of us were together, convinced that he loved her more than me anyways, so what was the point in even trying to be present? 

I know. Shitty. 

In a completely shocking plot twist, deciding to behave like a spoiled, entitled 17 year old got me exactly nowhere, figuratively speaking. Moe and I argued, and his daughter and I would eye each other warily when we were in the same room. My jealousy fuelled hers, and I let that happen. I allowed a child to experience a debilitating, useless emotion because I was afraid and insecure. Our house was silent when I was around. No one wanted me there, and I didn’t want to be there, and I was frantically looking for an exit strategy. I knew I couldn’t be a good step-parent, so why waste Moe’s time? Or mine, or his daughters, and anyways I’ve always wanted to live in Costa Rica (that’s a lie I bet its full of spiders) or Ottawa so I might as well just move and fulfill my lifelong dream to….I don’t have a lifelong dream at all I just need to run away so don’t judge me, people with actual, realized goals who face your problems head on. 

And now I will tell you that everything worked out totally fine and impart upon you some sage wisdom as to how to fix your life the way I did and become a mature, highly-functioning step-parent. 

Just kidding, that shit doesn’t happen in real life. 

What DID happen is that my father, seeing me teetering on the edge of yet another self-dug hole of despair, yanked me back to my feet and verbally slapped me back to my senses. This is what fathers are for, among other things like buying great Christmas gifts, walking your dog when you are hungover, and letting you walk into their house with your shoes on when your mom isn’t home because they don’t notice that stuff and don’t care anyways. 

He told me, in very plain English, that it was time to grow up. That I had two choices – act like an adult or move on from the relationship. And to stop whining and smarten up a little (or a lot) and be the kind of woman that a little girl will look up to one day. 

Naturally, because I am a very well-adjusted and mature human being, I reacted to this encounter by crying and then napping, in that order. 

And then I did something I have never done before. I took my fathers advice. I started to try a little harder. I started listening to Moe’s daughter, I started doing things with her and slowly, I realized that we liked each other. GET THIS. It turns out she’s interesting, and smart, and funny, and insightful. She also has no time for small talk now that she is no longer three and not operating on a stream of consciousness thought process. Once, at WalMart, a cashier asked her some asinine question about the doll we were buying and she looked at her evenly and said, coolly, “It’s just a doll I liked when I saw it”. That is EXACTLY what I would have said. Just buying a doll, here, lady. NO SMALL TALK REQUIRED. 

We still have rough days around our house. Sometimes I wake up and see a small person in my house and momentarily panic in case she falls down suddenly or asks me for some life advice (so far neither has happened thank God). And sometimes, Shitty Me resurfaces and I think things like “Why is it ok for you to whine when you’re grumpy just because you’re 7 but when I do it it’s considered immature that seems unfair to me you don’t even HAVE anything to really whine about yet, just wait, kid, life gets way worse”. Now, though, I try to stop these thoughts, and remember two things. 1 – this life I have makes me happy, and I worked for it, and I am going to make it work and 2 – I never want to have that conversation with my father ever again because I am still slightly scared of him so I think I will just act like the grownup I am supposed to be. At least for now. Today, anyways. DEFINITELY until tonight. Maybe. 

On Ageing. Or, Nipple Hair and Other Indignities 

 

When is the last time you looked at your nipples? I mean REALLY looked at them, not just a passing glance as you avoid looking at your own naked self in the mirror while you frantically towel off after a shower that you didn’t really have time for and that, frankly, you personally felt wasn’t necessary but you  took it anyways because you have conformed to social norms that force you, grudgingly, to bathe at least three times a week?

Oh, you have never REALLY looked at your nipples? Yeah, me neither.

UNTIL TODAY.

Is it not bad enough that our body hair betrays us as we get older by turning grey? And before anyone protests loudly and aggressively that there is nothing wrong with these grey hairs and that they, like wrinkles, are just happy proof of a well-lived life or something equally nonsensical – I agree. There is nothing essentially wrong with grey hair. I just don’t want any, in the same way that I don’t want purple hair or short hair or children. I like my hair how it is, and surprise hair seems unfair to me. Hair should be dependable and consistent. It should be the reliable news anchor of our bodies, the one thing we can rely on when everything else is breaking down and creaking more frequently and starting to sag and wobble a little more than it used to. It should be the Anderson Cooper of our physical selves, the voice of reason while chaos is ruling. It should say to us, comfortingly, “oh, you can’t bend down without grunting anymore? The Lego you stepped on yesterday almost killed you and you reacted like you had been shot? It’s ok. Don’t worry. I, hair, will not hurt you, I will not make you feel undignified, I will never shock and upset you. I will stay where I belong and you can remove me at your leisure. I will NOT BETRAY YOU”. 

A few weeks ago, I angrily confronted Moe and demanded to know why he hadn’t told me I had SEVEN grey hairs. In his typical Moe-like fashion, he shrugged and told me something really nice along the lines of “you’re beautiful no matter what” and I logically got mad at this and went to have a three hour nap, which is my typical way of dealing with anything that makes me irrationally grumpy.

I wasn’t grumpy because the person I live with is a good, supportive person (although – to be fair – that seems like something I would get mad about under the right set of circumstances that I have totally skewed and distorted in my own mind). Rather, I was grumpy at ONE MORE THING to deal with. Is the grey hair a big deal? Not really, in the grand scheme of my confusing and contradictory life. But it felt like a little indignity. Not a big one, like in the dreams we ALL have about being naked at Madison Square Garden while everyone else is wearing a cape, but one that makes you realize abruptly and jarringly – “I am no longer young”. It is the realization that it is the beginning of new changes that are heralding in the part of your life where things ache and crack and throb for no reason.

I know a lot of women who are ageing gracefully. My mother, women I work with, my aunts, and Oprah.

I will not be one of those women.

I will dye things, and I will fill things, and I will probably always dress in a way that makes people say, “that dress is a little young for her, don’t you think?”, and “someone should tell that woman to cover her stomach up”.

I think this is ok, and I think we should allow ourselves this luxury. We punish women who refuse to give up their youth. We have all seen a woman who is just too youthful, too fresh, for the age we know her to be. And what do we say? Do we say “DAMN good for her! She looks like she’s 25 and I bet college guys picture her naked and that is fucking AWESOME”? No. We sneer at her, and dismiss her as someone who has “had work done”. We SHOULD be introducing ourselves to her, befriending her, and hoping that she is wealthy and likes to bring her friends out for weekly lunch and Botox dates.

It’s like we are expected to look at our youth one day, at the proper and respectable age, give it a firm handshake to say goodbye and thanks for all of the good times, and please step aside now because Old Me is right behind you and I would like to welcome her with open arms and I have to go change now into my sweatshirt with the embossed gardening scene on it and throw on my sensible, well-made yet reasonably priced raincoat and sturdy shoes and go to a restaurant and ask indigninatly why the music is so loud and the heat is up so high.

So, I am going to put off meeting this version of myself, and hang on desperately to my youth. Because it is mine to hang onto. Much respect to the women out there who have bid theirs goodbye, because I think each one of us should get to decide when it’s time to embrace the changes that come with ageing. And much, MUCH envy to the men out there who can be perfectly ok with their nipple hair, since they’ve had it since puberty and no one judges them for it and they don’t have to ever, ever know the pain and shame involved in plucking those hairs that should have never been there in the first place and are total traitors.

On Inclusiveness. Or, Cozy Moms and Smug Hipsters Are Important, Too. 

There is room for everyone in the world of writing online. Unless you are a racist or a homophobe or just a general sort of asshole who says mean things to anyone different than you . If you are one of those people, you should go away.

The rest of us mostly harmless people writing for an audience that we don’t know and who we will likely never meet are just trying to share something – our knowledge, some information, experience. We have a need to tell our story, or some variation of our story, to a bunch of people who might judge us or laugh at us or dismiss us.

I am one of those people. I am also one of those people who judge and laugh and dismiss. I feel unreasonably threatened by others who seem to have their lives all figured out. Cozy moms, commonly found on Pinterest and other lifestyle sites, make me feel like I’m doing everything wrong. In life. Generally. I will search out a recipe for a healthy smoothie or instructions on how to assemble a burrito bowl (FYI they take forever and don’t look like the picture OR taste like a burrito AT ALL), but I will do so while fuming inside that these women seem to have a life that is compact, while mine remains loose, with frayed ends that I am frantically trying to tie up while taking care of the normal aspects of living, like eating and showering. Smug hipsters, found literally everywhere, make me feel like I am old and doddering and cranky, because when I see someone young and cool and original I get angry and want to start searching under furniture for my youth because I know its not actually gone its just sort of missing and I bet its under the couch with 41 Shopkins and dog toy fluff.

 What do we do when the media around us presents us with versions of ourselves that we want to be, or that we have lost? I’m positive that scores of strong and confident women out there don’t care what other people are doing, and live their lives without regard for pressures to conform to any idea of what they should be.

I am not those women.

Through my haze of jealousy and despite my pining for a fading, hip youth that I can barely see anymore, I do know that the Cozy Moms and Smug Hipsters provide a perspective for those of us who are flailing a little bit. They are showing me that I am not compact, I am not cool, and I don’t understand things like Farmhouse Chic or beard oil or vegan baking, but that’s ok. Our frayed ends are important, too. And I bet a lot of Cozy Moms are gritting their teeth while they make bento box lunches and are seriously contemplating giving their kids McDonalds for dinner so they just shut up already. And the Smug Hipsters, well, maybe they aren’t actually smug. Maybe they, too, are worried about saving for retirement and whether they should find a better job and if those super expensive music festival tickets are even worth it because no one actually listens to any of these bands anyways and they would rather just sleep in on the weekend instead of dragging themselves out to the desert wearing annoying looking hats and their grandfathers shoes.

Maybe all of us in our end-thirties stage are all relatively the same.

Probably not, actually, but I want to include these people. Let’s be friends, Cozy Moms, Smug Hipsters, even DIY-ers In Your Late Fifties With Empty Nest Syndrome. I will share my slim knowledge of adulthood and my poor life skills with you, in return for all of your wisdom about literally everything I know nothing about.

Once again, you’re welcome.