simon says

 
A boy in his driveway the other day shouts hello as I pass. He says his name is Simon, what’s mine? I say Carin and he tells me he has a Batman tee shirt. He opens his coat. I say that’s some great tee shirt and he says yeah, then tells me he’s seven. Not that I asked. He continues talking, about being seven maybe, or the tee shirt, just chattering away… all of this in only seconds; I’ve barely slowed my stride. His mum is raking leaves, smiling. And in all the chattering somewhere the boy asks… in a way he might ask a chum at school, or anyone… “How old are you?”  His mother’s smile immediately turns into a nervous laugh, she puts down her rake, edges Simon toward the house and tells him that isn’t the sort of question he’s supposed to ask. Meanwhile I’ve answered by saying “Well, I’m not seven!”, as I continue on my way. Also laughing nervously.

And for the rest of my walk all I can think about is why.

Why is that not the sort of question Simon should ask? And is it only not the sort of question Simon should not ask people of certain ages? And how should Simon know which ages those are? And who decides that anyway? And doesn’t the whole way his mother reacted give off a vibe that suggests to Simon, if only subliminally, that there’s something *wrong* about certain ages and THAT’S why we don’t ask.

And if there’s something wrong with certain ages… what, exactly  is that wrongness? I mean if Simon were to ask his mother Why can’t I ask?  what would she say? Something about politeness probably. But why is it polite NOT to ask someone their age when you are seven and you ask everyone ? (And everyone asks you.)

Of course I was taught the same lesson as a kid. (But we’re back to the why… Is it to spare people the embarrassment of admitting they aren’t seven, or twenty-seven or thirty-seven or whatever decade + seven it suddenly becomes an embarrassment to *be*?)

North America’s twisted version of age aside, what really bothered me was my own response, that weird bit of laughter I threw out in order to make Simon’s mother feel okay about the whole thing. By laughing it off, by saying “Well, I’m not seven,” I condoned her discomfort and was party to the stupid lesson Simon was being taught.

Why didn’t I just answer the question?

Conditioning, that’s why. (And, mostly, conditioning almost always sucks.)

The thing is I happen to be a non-ageist kind of person. Even as a kid (just like Simon) I barely noticed someone’s vintage. I still can’t see how it matters. It’s their energy that registers with me. One of my favourite people to hang out with lived to be 101 and it never struck me as an unusual match.

I also have friendships where *I’m* the 101 year old.

And a few in between.

The thing is this: dullness and negativity, ego and bullshit appear at every mile marker. So do joie de vivre, curiosity, kindness, engagement with life, humour, a creative spark and the balls to be yourself. A tedious schmuck at sixty was probably a tedious schmuck at thirty.

Only with better abs.

My walk takes me on a loop and eventually I’m heading back toward Simon’s house. I resolve to tell him my age as I pass. I’ll throw it out, casually, maybe mention that I have a fondness for the colours green and orange and yellow and that I do not  know how to tap dance. Not that anyone asked.

But the leaves in front of Simon’s house are raked and no one’s there.

Too bad. Because I think Simon would have found that particular line of chat quite normal. And that would have been so much better a lesson than the last.

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every party needs a pooper, that’s why you invited *me*…

 
Here’s the thing.

The Blue Jays.

Winning.

How great. I mean, it’s really great. I get that. Even though, in the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t give much of a rat’s back-end about sports.

I do, however, like happy people, I like the excitement, the joie de vivre all over the place (on game days), the way revellers make room for traffic. I love us. We deserve this, the winning, the mad happiness. Who wouldn’t love it?

They say this kind of thing brings people together. On game days. And the economy gets a boost. Liquor and beer stores, junk food purveyors. Hotels, TV networks, airlines. You know, the people who need a boost.

Oh, and Rogers Communications. Owners of the Blue Jays dynasty. Apparently their shares have gone up rather noticeably during this period of frenzied winning/not winning/winning. The TSX, on the other hand, went down during the same period. But let us not concern ourselves with negatives.

The Jays are winning!

And we are being brought together as a community.

On game days.

However, in between and especially after the game days are over … it is, sadly, business as usual. That’s to say the homeless (‘boosted’ too by all the Blue Jay excitement) will still be homeless. Children will go to school hungry. If they go at all. Women will be beaten by spouses, some of them sports *stars* high-on-winning  adrenaline, some just assholes, others on welfare, most somewhere in the middle. Old people will still die alone and prisons will continue to fill and the rest of us will still hate and judge and hate some more. No matter how big, how grand or how much money is thrown at sporting events, no matter how exciting or how often we are told these things bring people together… there are no games that have brought the world, or even a city, or even a community, together in a way that sticks beyond the game days. As far as I know, no Olympics or World Series has erased persecution, corruption or any manner of ‘isms’. After the winning, a handful of men will wander off into the horizon with truckloads of gold while the rest of us are scraping cold pizza off our couches. Nothing will be any different. Aboriginal communities will still have undrinkable water and mould on their paper thin walls and the oceans will still be clogged with the debris of our need to turn away, to be distracted by something more pleasant than reality, like the easy god of sports and winning. (Remind me…winning for the sake of what again?)

Oh yeah. Because winning is fun.

Right.

I get that. I do.

It just seems so trivial. The players and owners, I understand why they want to win. (And it’s not for the joie de vivre.) But what do we get?

(I know that certain players and individuals contribute privately to various organizations with their time and money… it’s not about individuals. This really is about the owners, the corporate aspect of sports.)

So I was thinking, what if we got something too… what if the corporate aspect, the people that make the ten trillion dollars from our love of the game celebrated each win by donating some of their gold to the community. To feed those kids or build some housing or offer opportunities to people who’d otherwise have none. There are agencies in every city that would gratefully accept a few thousand bucks. A few hundred  thousand, for every game won during playoffs… well, that could change  a city.

Now that would be worth cheering for, winning  for, no?

“Big Sports” (and it’s always ‘male sporting events’) are a powerful vehicle. By adding this element we lose none of the fun. All we do is add ‘goodness’. It stuns me that we don’t demand it.

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Just an idea.

From your neighbourhood party pooper.

xo

(p.s. go jays.)

in fairness to men

 
There’s so much inequality. For men, I mean.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, on International Women’s Day, a few chaps harhar’d about why isn’t there an International Men’s Day??

Turns out there is one.

But the sentiment remains: the women’s version gets more attention.

And that begs a few questions. Beginning with why?

Because if you look around, you’ll soon realize it’s all about the women. And I can see how men might be feeling left out.

Even something as simple as a title… women luck out. They’ve got so many to choose from. Miss (status: available), Mrs. (status: unavailable), Ms. (status: pain in the ass feminist who refuses to say if available or not). While men only get one. Mr. (status: male).  Fine, we know they’re male, but how are we expected to know their status??

It gets worse.

Consider the TV show, ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’. Where’s the boy version? One that features spray tanned four-year old lads in speedos and fake facial hair who are encouraged to pat their butts in saucy ways while winking and blowing kisses to strangers?

The moms on the show say this gives their girls confidence and boosts their self-esteem. Hello!  Boys need self esteem too. How else to prepare our sons for teen and young adulthood when, instead of being relegated to host or judge, they should be entering  beauty pageants.

Where are the beauty pageants for men??

And what about fashion? Why do designers hate men so much? It’s almost impossible to find skin-tight clothing in the lad’s department, never mind shoes with heels high enough to flatter the calves. And what about pushing things up? Couldn’t men benefit from a little under-wire support… somewhere?

While we’re at it where is there a Victor’s Secrets?

And the media, shame on them. Always focussing on what Angela Merkel is wearing. What about what Vladimir is wearing???  Sure, he pretends he doesn’t care, but all that attention to what he does rather than how he looks must get to him at some point.

And magazines. I can’t imagine being a man walking past a magazine stand in a corner shop, drug store, grocery store, newsstand, airport, well, everywhere really… they just can’t get away from the humiliation that is the outright boycott (let’s call it what it is) of men’s pretty smiles and perky buttocks on covers. After all, they have just as much right to air-brushing and ‘visibility’ as anyone else. Damn straight they do.

Then there’s what’s in  those magazines. And, as can be expected, it’s NOT men’s issues. Which begs the question:  where are the ads and articles and 10 Top Tips featuring Mens Problems? How are men supposed to know how much is desperately wrong with their eyes, neck, ear lobes, teeth, cheekbones, jaw line, hips… well, you know, things that are messed up. How are they supposed to become perfect if they don’t have instructions???

And where are the age-defying creams for men? It’s a travesty that the entire cosmetic industry appears to give less than a rat’s ass about the condition of a man’s pores or the depth of his wrinkles.

And his hair? Is it supposed to just go grey??? Is he supposed to walk around with grey hair??

Where are the instructions?

Men are right. Women get all  the attention.

And men do all the work.

Just watch any film. They’re doing all the work. Behind the scenes as well. And look at history. Men, men, men. They did it all. Women mostly knit while the universe was carved out by the fellas. And the space program and sports (yes, women do trouble themselves to play sports and get into rockets but who cares, they don’t do it right, or something). Look at science (it’s not hard to avoid the women)… it’s mostly frazzle-haired men we know the names of. The faces on our money. Painters, playwrights, protagonists, sculptors.

Consider what’s happening in any corporation, any religion, any government, any board of directors. Look at the military, any military. Hells bells, almost any industry you can name is run by men. Essentially, the entire world is run by men. Does anyone even begin to think how exhausting this must be? Obviously not or there would be a few more ads for spas featuring our menfolk in sexy robes and towel turbans sipping cellulite busting guava juice, legs crossed (also waxed), and chatting about non-essential, stress-free issues.

That we have an International Men’s Day is good news, but in fairness to men, that shouldn’t be where we leave things, with a simple token gesture. No, let’s give men a better start in life by treating them equally right from toddlerhood. Teach boys to cry and play coy and let other people ‘go first’. And let’s lobby the cosmetic and fashion industries to take into consideration the feelings of young males and how they, too, would like to know what’s wrong with them and that they, too, would like to think about this constantly and to have goals such as pectoral implants and hair extensions and striving to have an ass that looks good in skinny jeans.

Let us encourage our sons to be the go-go dancers in music videos.

And let’s explain how winning isn’t everything, it’s how you look and that maybe, if they look really, really good, they might find the right person one day and then what will winning matter anyway…

Let us tell our sons that if they must work, they should become nurses not doctors; waiters not chefs; receptionists not lawyers.

And please, let us for once and for all stop assuming that only men should do all the work.

Let us allow them fulltime child care, to assume the role of homemaker and caregiver to the elderly; baker for fundraisers, cafeteria monitor at Susie’s school, anything that will give them more time to just chill at home. To get their nails done.

Surely, this is the least of what they deserve.

Damn straight.

You go, boy!

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stealing this one because it’s so good

 

I believe the correct term is ‘re-blogging’.

I’ve never done it before so I feel the need to make it very clear  that

                  —the following words are not mine!

They belong to the clever minds over at Telling the Flesh and rockstar dinosaur pirate princess but they are so very wonderful and so perfectly address the issue of ‘consent’, which for some reason seems to baffle certain folk to the point of collapsing empires…

And worse.

Anyway, they deserve to be shared.

______________

From Telling the Flesh

The news is full of stories about sexual assault, rape, and rape culture. Jian Ghomeshi. Steubenville. Rehtaeh Parsons. Dalhousie Dental School. Etc. Every day, almost, there’s another story. Rape culture is now on the agenda, people say. And sure, it’s great that people are talking. It’s great that the idea of rape culture is actually showing up in the mainstream media.

But it’s clear that a.) this conversation shouldn’t have had to happen on the backs of those who have suffered – in some cases, died; and b.) the whole notion of consent still seems to be a particular sticking point for many.

I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why people have such a hard time with consent. To me, it’s simple. It’s straightforward. But for others it isn’t. And that’s where a handy analogy developed by rockstar dinosaur pirate princess comes in.

RDPP (for short) compares sex to tea, with brilliant results. Here’s just a sampling:

You say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they go “omg fuck yes, I would fucking LOVE a cup of tea! Thank you!*” then you know they want a cup of tea.

If you say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they um and ahh and say, “I’m not really sure…” then you can make them a cup of tea or not, but be aware that they might not drink it, and if they don’t drink it then – this is the important bit –  don’t make them drink it. You can’t blame them for you going to the effort of making the tea on the off-chance they wanted it; you just have to deal with them not drinking it. Just because you made it doesn’t mean you are entitled to watch them drink it.

If they say “No thank you” then don’t make them tea. At all. Don’t make them tea, don’t make them drink tea, don’t get annoyed at them for not wanting tea. They just don’t want tea, ok?

They might say “Yes please, that’s kind of you” and then when the tea arrives they actually don’t want the tea at all. Sure, that’s kind of annoying as you’ve gone to the effort of making the tea, but they remain under no obligation to drink the tea. They did want tea, now they don’t. Sometimes people change their mind in the time it takes to boil that kettle, brew the tea and add the milk. And it’s ok for people to change their mind, and you are still not entitled to watch them drink it even though you went to the trouble of making it.

If they are unconscious, don’t make them tea. Unconscious people don’t want tea and can’t answer the question “do you want tea” because they are unconscious.

Now, go read the rest, which you can find here.

___________

The above, with thanks, to Sonja Boon.

 

an open letter to tiffany & co.

 

Dear Tiffany & Co.

The full-page ad in my weekend newspaper, a sketched illustration, has me wondering about your sensibilities… Lovely are the ad’s colours, and the sentiments of giving exquisite gifts in small blue boxes, well, I’m sure it’s never an unpleasant box to receive. But heavens to betsy, your sense of proportion is perhaps a little off.

Here’s the scene as I see it: a woman is decked out in a body-hugging satin dress, a slip of a dress, that threatens to fall off at any moment, while she climbs a step-ladder in five-inch heels to add a bauble to the xmas tree. A fully-dressed man stands and watches, holding behind his back a little blue box, presumably for the satin-bedecked woman as a reward. For what? For decorating the tree? For being able to function in five-inch heels? For choosing a slinky dress that refuses to stay on?

It doesn’t much matter. And this isn’t the issue anyway. (I have every confidence there are as many Tiffany & Co. ads where it’s the guy in tight clothing, arranging baubles from a tippy-toe position atop a ladder while a chick stands there waiting to present him with a little sparkly something or other. Right??)

In any case, this isn’t the issue. It’s the size of these people. He is exceedingly tall, a handsome near-giant who could simply raise one arm and hang the stupid bauble himself from where he stands. She, on the other hand, is oddly small by comparison. Remove the heels and the ladder and you have an oh-so-delicate creature… in a slinky dress that’s about to fall off.

And so I wonder: why???

Not why can’t she buy her own jewellery, or why do we need to see the shape of her buttocks and thighs and bosom through that dress, or even how is she managing to balance on that ladder in those shoes… but why do the chaps in ads never get to star in the honoured role of small and delicate creature?

Some women are tall. Some men are not.

All the best to you, and happy holidays.
May each of your baubles be hung with joy.

love,
Matilda.
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Thanks to WikiCommons for the snaps.

this is not a review: ‘toxin, toxout’, by bruce lourie and rick smith

My intention was to skim through this book (subtitled: Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies and Our World) as I assumed there wouldn’t be tons of new information, i.e. we pretty much know that chemicals + bodies and/or environment = bad. What I was looking for was not confirmation, or more to grumble about, but some clear and realistic ideas as to what can be done about this noxious issue—not what the purveyors of chemical-laced products should do, but what WE can do. Us. The simple folk. The minions with wallets. The ones who say we care.

Turns out this is precisely what Toxin, Toxout  serves up… a do-able plan for the minions. Along with some eye-opening background as to how and why all that chemical ooze exists in the first place. (Bottom line: we are a species of sheep-like beings that too often chooses cheap and convenient and lots of it) Also clarification on things like the importance of ‘organic’, which is not just to put less crud into our own bodies, but to allow agriculture to work in a way that’s beneficial to a whole chain of events, including environment and economy.

Toxin-Toxout-canadian-cover-e1384688557263I especially liked the conversational tone of the book and that it’s not smothered in stats, nor is there any fear-mongering or the drama of doom and gloom. It’s simply well-researched (a bounty of footnotes and source material provided) and straight-forward in its message: yup, there’s a lot of bad stuff out there but we can make a huge difference by what we choose to buy. Of course corporations and government hope we’ll never figure this out, or believe it…

Best of all, Lourie and Smith remind us that it’s actually possible to improve the world. That WE are not necessarily at the mercy of THEM, nor do we have to wait for THEM to smarten themselves up. WE can begin today  to create change by the purchases we make. And the path to doing this is a simple one. Really, REALLY simple… 

So, no, I didn’t skim. I devoured every page in fact, and am happy to say the book’s info-factor is surpassed only by its offer of serious hope to a seriously growing problem.

Three thumbs up.

Here are some excerpts.

Photos are mine. (Wanted to find a mountain of cell phones but apparently they live in China where they’re sent by the boatload to pollute the air, land and water horribly as they’re broken down and re-shaped into toys and other novelties we don’t need and shipped back to us.)

Another image that’s missing is what’s happening in the oceans with all the plastic.

*

“I like to describe organic agriculture as the hundred-year diet. It’s a system of agriculture that perpetuates itself, that creates a healthy ecosystem that will in turn continue to support plants in the long term, so you’re not in this deathly cycle of creating short-term nutrients—which then can contribute to pest infestations that need to be counteracted by immediate and short-term chemical pesticides, which then kills the life in the soil, which then requires another synthetic input. Just like we need to give our bodies the right tools and conditions to do their detoxifying jobs, organic tries to enable and facilitate the natural predators and the natural nutrition and micro-flora and fauna that should be in the system.”

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“A smartphone is replaced, on average, every 18 months, and by 2015 over a billion smartphones will have been sold world-wide. And they don’t just sell themselves: In 2012 Samsung and Apple spent over three-quarters of a billion dollars on advertising campaigns trying to convince us to buy new ones. How much did they spend dealing with the e-waste from the phones they encouraged people to toss out?”

 

“The big issue isn’t simply what kinds of stuff we should buy; it’s the fact that we need to buy way less stuff, period.”

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“We need to be working on all fronts to stem wasteful production  and consumption. And consumers are part of the equation… the big issue isn’t simply what kinds of stuff we should buy; it’s the fact that we need to buy way less stuff, period. Furthermore, that stuff—whether it’s a car, a soft drink or a smartphone—needs to be regulated by governments, not by the companies who have no interest apart from endless growth in sales. These regulations need to cover what the products contain and how they are disposed of.”

 

“If there is one simple thing that every human can do to improve environmental conditions, it is to stop buying bottled water.”

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“The rules of the game we’re playing now are best defined by the Malcolm Forbes maxim: “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” We need a different game, with different rules—perhaps “Those who use the least stuff win.” And our economic and regulatory systems need to reinforce that motto with another one—such as this: The more you use, wasted, pollute and discard, the more you’ll lose financially.”

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