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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it may seem we’ve come a long way but you’ve got to admit, the bar was pretty low…

 

In 1854, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon published a pamphlet, A Brief Summary in Plain Language of the Most Important Laws Concerning  Women; Together with a Few Observations Thereon” ; this is an excerpt:

“A man and wife are one person in law; the wife loses all her rights as a single woman, and her existence is entirely absorbed in that of her husband. He is civilly responsibly for her acts; she lives under his protection or cover, and her condition is called coverture.

A woman’s body belongs to her husband; she is in his custody and he can enforce his right by a writ of habeas corpus.

What was her personal property before marriage, such as money, becomes absolutely her husband’s, and he may assign or dispose of them at his pleasure whether he and his wife live together or not.

A wife’s chattels real (i.e., estates) become her husband’s.

Neither the Courts of Common law nor Equity have any direct power to oblige a man to support his wife….

The legal custody of children belongs to the father. During the life-time of a sane father, the mother has no rights over her children, except a limited power over infants, and the father may take them from her and dispose of them as he thinks fit.

A married woman cannot sue or be sued for contracts—nor can she enter into a contracts except as the agent of her husband; that is to say, her word alone is not binding in law….

A wife cannot bring actions unless the husband’s name is joined.

A husband and wife cannot be found guilty of conspiracy, as that offence cannot be committed unless there are two persons.”

 

* In 2007, the British equal rights campaigner and feminist Lesley Abdela came across the grave of Barbara Bodichon. The grave lay in the tiny churchyard in Brightling, East Sussex, about 50 miles (80 km) from London, in a state of disrepair, its railings rusted and breaking away and the inscription on the tomb almost illegible.[  About £1,000 has since been raised to restore the site.

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* With thanks to Wikipedia.

cue the theme from deliverance

 
So I’m driving home from lunch with a friend. Said friend lives way over yonder and I live here, and so we meet in the middle once or twice a year.

There’s a lot of countryside between here and way over yonder and it pleases me to drive through it.
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But I’m late and there’s a cement truck in front of me all the way up one (two lane) highway, and then construction on the other (two lane) highway, so I can’t stop for pictures, except the ones I take while stopped, to prove there’s actual construction and that I’m not just rudely late. Not that said friend needs proof; but taking pictures is something to do while stopped.
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Lunch is a patio, an endless strings of words, hugs and laughter. This person has been through much in the past few years, one of the strongest people I know. Yet she, in the way of such people, has no clue as to her own strength. It’s my pleasure to remind her. And to celebrate having come out the other side intact, more brilliantly herself than ever.

Driving back home, I’m in no rush and so decide to turn left here, and right there, venturing down the occasional country lane.
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As a woman, I’m always aware of the potential for trouble in venturing down lanes. I take in the air and the sights. But I remain alert. I’d like to pretend this isn’t the case, to throw out some bravado, but it wouldn’t be true. Not that the ‘awareness’ stops me from the venturing, it’s just that I don’t do it casually, the way, maybe, a fellow would.

I suspect that every woman has a few dicey-situation stories to tell. Keeping one’s wits about one helps ensure they have happy endings.

But back to all that green.
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And then, as I walk along the shoulder of a particularly untraveled road in order to get the optimal view of greenness, a car in the distance coming toward me.

Not especially noteworthy, except that I can tell it’s slowing down. A beater of car, as if the driver forwards and backs into walls as a matter of course.

I tell myself it’s a kind soul who wonders if maybe I’m in distress, but even I don’t believe me. I am very obviously not in distress. I am very obviously taking pictures. And the car is very obviously now stopping right in front of me. The window is lowered. Inside, a large man in a dirty tee-shirt. His stomach abuts the steering wheel as he looks me over before speaking, says so, what ya doin’, taking pictures?

He doesn’t care about pictures. I’m pretty sure he’s not big into the creative arts. My car is clearly visible, but it would take me a good minute to walk back to it. Long enough. There’s no traffic on this road.

I look him in the eye. That’s right, I say. See ya.

He continues to stare at me a moment and I stare back, give him the best f**k-you look I can muster. (It’s not hard.) And maybe it’s my age, or maybe it’s the look, or that it occurs to him that it’s only a matter of time before someone drives by (although no one ever did)… but he snarls a bit then steps on the gas and tears away in what feels distinctly like some kind of moronic snit.

I’d like to say that I was emboldened by all this, that my veins surged with a kind of f**k you, assholes who bother women, you can’t stop us from taking pictures on deserted country lanes, “superpower”. But the truth is I walked quickly back to my car.

I continued on my way, still stopping for pictures, albeit on less untraveled roads; I found a greenhouse and bought a fern. I was grateful for traffic. And I hated that this is the way it is for women. On empty country roads, on crowded city ones. There is an ever-present ‘lurking’ that goes on among a certain kind of men.

And it occurs to me how important the friendship of women, how its embrace is one of the few truly safe places. I’m equally grateful for friendships with good men, and it’s a sad thing that that particular bunch is so tarnished with the likes of so many others.

Mostly, though, I’m grateful for a good f**k you look, which I believe I inherited, quite by chance, from my mother.

The moral of the story? How’s this: ladies, teach your daughters it’s not always good to be polite.
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And enjoy all the scenery you’re entitled to enjoy…

degrees of bilingual

I blame the seventies for any sense of inherent confusion I might possess. I was a teenager for much of that decade—a confusing enough time of life, but on top of that, and other mind-altering details floating freely about in those groovy days, it was when Canada went metric.

Here’s the question though: did we actually go metric… or did we more sort of ooze into it?  Either way, the point is this: by the time the eighties rolled around I was a functioning dysfunctional bilingual.

And in large part I remain so.

What I mean is that I’m not completely comfortable in all areas of metric, nor am I comfortable in all areas of whatever the other way is called. The miles and inches way.

For instance. I am five feet, seven inches tall. If you asked my weight I would tell you in pounds. [maybe…]

Area is measured in square feet. But fabric, in metres. The height of a tree or a building is metres also. Yet I have a ruler and a yard stick.

I know what the air feels like in Fahrenheit from about 60 degrees up. Below 60, I wouldn’t be sure what to wear. I’d need to know what it is in Centigrade.

I register all AIR temperature in Centigrade. But water temps only make sense to me in Fahrenheit.

With respect to distance, I can wrap my mind around a mile if pressed [it’s less than a kilometre, right? or more??], but, truthfully, I prefer the metric version. Even so, I say things like: we walked for miles; it may as well be a million miles away; you can see for miles…

Speed, also, must be in metric. I don’t know how fast 75 mph is except that a cab in St. Louis did it once and it wasn’t good.

A kilo has no weight at all. And ovens are in Fahrenheit for good reason.

I can process one litre easier than 1000 thingies but please don’t ask me to pour you anything in millilitres and if you refer to a gram I will ask Which one? Your mum’s side or your dad’s?

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If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to measure it, is it still bigger than a breadbox?

If you remember the metric conversion era, you will remember breadboxes.

But I digress.

I blame the seventies.

 

 

the story of fred (a winter’s tale)

It begins, as most stories do, on a dark and stormy night in Edmonton. Nineteen eighty something. The storm was made of snow and arrived without warning at the end of the work day. Normally, this would have meant nothing more complicated than standing at the bus stop for a much longer than normal period in the whipping wind and infamous Edmonton but-it’s-a-dry-cold  minus forty temps. [They tell you that dry part as if it means your fingers won’t snap off as easily as if it were a wet cold.]

But all was not entirely normal… for that very day at lunch I had purchased a hamster cage.

Why? Because the sign said this: Buy A Cage and Get a Hamster FREE!!

Who could resist?

And so I had walked back to my office carrying, in one hand a hamster cage, cedar shavings and hamster food, and in the other a hamster in a cardboard box. Then I asked a guy at work to please transfer the furry little cherub from box to cage because a) I couldn’t imagine touching it myself, and b) the cherub was rapidly gnawing its way through the cardboard.

The guy’s name was Fred and now so was the hamster’s.

It might have been a reasonable enough series of events were it not for the storm. Suddenly the idea of standing in the but-it’s-a-dry-cold, waiting for a bus that might be hours away, wasn’t on… not with a hamster named Fred in an open-concept cage. I called for a taxi and was told the wait would be at least two hours. Undaunted, I did what anyone in this situation might do—I walked over to the Four Seasons Hotel [Fred’s cage wrapped inside my coat] with the genius plan of hopping into one of the many cabs queued up outside the front doors.

Except there was no queue.

Wait time: hours.

Well, the next logical step is obvious. I took solace in the hotel lounge… Fred on one chair, me on the other. A glass of wine between us. No need to panic. [Animals can sense fear.] We’d simply wait until a cab arrived. In the meantime I ordered something to eat, offered my companion some lettuce, and was grateful no one enforced the No Rodent Rule, [which I’m assuming is one of those things that gets waived during acts of god].

We eventually made it home and Fred seemed content enough with his new digs.

The story becomes considerably duller from here on out, mostly involving a wheel on which he ran several times the circumference of the earth.

I’ll spare you the scampering, squeaking, cedar scented details, other than to say I did, eventually, touch him but never loved the feel of his squirmy rodent-ness.

My tiny-toed flatmate lived to a respectable age and rests in a backyard on the south side.
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snow henge, big feet and other unexplainables

IMG_0971No idea who built this but it’s uncannily aligned to follow the path of clouds in the shape of snow shovels.

IMG_0972Fearsome signs of big foot and/or Bigfoot.

And not that we were speaking of squirrels but I can’t help wondering why their nests don’t fall out of trees in high winds yet I once found our very solid steel patio chair in the pool…

As if that’s not enough to be curious about for one morning, there is also the mystery of the Seemingly Forever Idling Car in the Driveway, which, when I loop the block and pass by again a full ten minutes later, there it sits, still idling and spewing gunk from its exhaust. This kind of thing is Exhibit ‘A’ in my case for increasing oil prices by at least 300 percent (with all those ‘extra’ profits going into cleaning up the mess oil makes in the first place).

But the biggest unexplainable is how, later, I find myself at the beach on this gloriously windy day, all set to snap some wild and wooly waves only to have my camera tell me its batteries need changing. And I haven’t brought any spares.

Nuts.

Because the waves are BIG alright, and beautiful too, but even better than that there’s a madwoman, madder even than me, also with a camera, who walks a few metres out onto the pier against which the lake is slapping and sloshing something fierce, which is what she’s shooting. And probably getting some brilliant shots. But it’s completely crazy to take the chance. The pier’s not wide and the waves not always predictable where they come up over the side. I can’t take my eyes off her and steel myself for action if necessary, locate the bright orange life saver near the “At Your Own Risk” sign. I exhale only when she starts walking back, all annoyingly calm and smug.

By now I’ve convinced myself I don’t want photos of stupid waves anyway. But I’m sorry I’m not able to take a picture of her.

The one picture I take before my camera dies is this.
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Your guess is as good as mine.

pink toys R girls + blue R boys = *sigh*

 
Against my better judgement I ventured into a toy store recently. Toys aren’t what I love giving the kids in my world. I prefer the idea of books and clay and donkeys and paint a whole lot more. But I wondered if maybe I was missing out on something, so off I went on a toy hunt. My first reaction was to be stunned with the enormity of choice so I asked a sales clerk if they might be able to help, to offer some ideas for children of various ages. I started with a toddler.

Is it a boy or a girl? the clerk asked.

Does it matter? I said. They can barely walk.

I was assured that, yes, it does indeed matter and once I’d identified the recipient as a girl child, was whisked to the pink side of the room where the shelves were so shockingly bright I momentarily lost focus, barely heard what the clerk said. Something about unicorns. When I asked what she would recommend for a boy the same age she directed me to the opposite wall, said trains were popular.

I was fascinated yet disheartened by this girl/boy division and considered taking solace in the world’s softest snowy white owl—for myself—but the lines were too long. Instead, I decided to to undertake an informal survey of area toy stores, popping into various ones over the next few days, asking for gift ideas for different ages. Result of survey: whether it was a small independent shop, a medium-sized chain or a huge honking warehouse, in every single case but one, the first question, regardless of age, was: is it a boy or a girl?

When I said I’d rather not be limited by gender specific toys, and that I’d prefer if they could just go by age appropriateness instead, sales clerks were flummoxed. It was clearly so ingrained that this stuff is for boys and this stuff is for girls, that it actually took them a moment to consider what to give an individual “kid”.

I kept expecting the first question to be what interests the child had, but no one asked that, at least not until they determined how said child peed.

In one case I was asked if the girl was a girly girl or a tomboy… with a distinct negative tone on the word ‘tomboy’, as if offering condolences. Message received: girly girl = good; tomboy = possibly cute, but slightly off the mark.

In another instance, when I said I was shopping for both a girl and a boy, of approximately the same age, I was shown a fabulous MegaBlocks set complete with helicopter, police station, cars, bulldozer, roads, cruisers—more than 1700 pieces in all.  I said that the girl would love this. The owner of the shop, a man, informed me it would be better for the boy and then, pointing to a small shelf behind me said, This is for girls… it’s pink. He actually said It’s pink. It was also MegaBlocks, but in a plastic storage bin. The label showed that inside were the ingredients to build a domestic scene:  a small house, a cat, a bush, a few flowers and a tiny car. I said it looked a bit dull, not much to do here but drive up to the house and back out again, maybe water your tree. It hardly compared with the helicopter and police station possibilities for saving the world. The guy shrugged, said, yeah, but… it’s for girls…

I began to realize how limiting and subliminally ‘shaping’ is this world of toys. For example, if your boy child likes gardening, I hope you [and he] have the chops to deal with the fact that  ‘gardening’ kits are pink and/or have a girl on the cover. Ditto foodie/cooking type stuff.

In one store the boy’s side had signs indicating “Science Books”, “Science & Discovery”, “Brio”, “Thomas Railway”, “LEGO & Duplo”, “K’Nex” and “Chugginton”.

The girl’s side signage listed: “Dress-Up”, “Fashion & Bling”, “Arts & Crafts” [all pink], “Doll Houses”, “Corolle Dolls” and “Calico”.

The boy’s side included toboggans, table hockey and all manner of balls and racquets and sports things as well as kites, cars, walkie-talkies, wagons, sci-fi material and science projects.

The girl’s side: tiaras, wings, pink and silver slippers, life-size doll heads for practicing hair styles [age 3+], Princess Castle, Sparkle Kittens, glitter art, Bling Bracelets, button making, finger-nail art, costumes, My Sweet Diary, dolls and a whole line of Project Runway merchandise including a makeup and hair design sketch portfolio [age 8+].

In another store, a whole section of pink was devoted to merchandise of an early motherhood training variety. Not that there’s anything wrong with dolls and dolly car seats and other domestic paraphernalia… it’s that it’s all pink.

One can go pink mad.

And I think I did.

Which is why I’ve given up on the toy shops. Am sticking to books and paint and things that allow kids to think, not to mention donkeys and bears
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what happened to jumping in?

I’m watching a woman vacuum leaves. She’s strapped on a sort of large black bag, something like what newspaper boys and girls used to carry on their rounds, before their parents started driving them. The bag is attached to a long, fat nozzle which she points at the leaves she’s raked into a pile. At first things seem to go well enough. When the pile is sucked up she turns off the machine and empties the black bag into a paper sack intended to be put out onto the curb.

But it’s not quite that simple. 
 
You can’t imagine the difficulty she’s having transferring the leaves from the black bag to the paper one. It takes forever and it’s all a bit of a mess. When she’s done she sucks up the trillions of escaped leaves then rakes up another pile for vacuuming.
 
Now she stops to empty the black bag again but it won’t detach from the nozzle. She fiddles with it for several minutes until the neighbour guy who doesn’t miss a thing saunters out his front door with his hands in his pockets all nonchalant like he wasn’t watching from the window. He offers to help. You can see that he covets her large nozzled leaf sucking machine and is annoyed that he didn’t get one first but pretty soon relief replaces envy as he realizes the thing is a new-fangled piece of crap, unlike his trusty old-fangled leaf blower, which he uses to blow every single leaf off his lawn and onto the street where they’re left in great drifts, free to find their way onto other people’s lawns [possibly causing unpleasant muttering amongst those neighbours who don’t covet leaves as worm food or mulch].
 
The guy has now patted the woman on the shoulder in a good luck with that stupid thing you just wasted your money on kind of way. He chuckles as he almost heads back to his own house but decides to first offer up some long-winded verbosity that I can’t hear but the woman looks bored and irritated and who can blame her? She still has a whole lawn to rake and suck and transfer from one bag to another. At this rate it make take all night. I want to yell: you live on a ravine, for god’s sake—put the leaves in a wheelbarrow and dump them under a tree!
 
The guy goes home.
 
The woman turns the vacuum back on.
 
Then off.
 
Something else is wrong.
 
She fiddles with it.
 
Turns it on.
 
And off. Fiddle fiddle.
 
She does this several more times. On. Off.
 
Meanwhile, the rake is right there. Leaning against a tree. The paper bag is still half empty. It’s getting dark out.
 
On. Off. On. Off.
 
It’s so sad. The rake is just there…
 
This is what I call an alien moment. Things we do that make we wonder how we might appear to someone other than ourselves, to, say a spaceship that happens to be passing by. We’re all guilty in different ways. And not guilty at all of course. Given that we’re only human.
 
The first time the alien thing occurred to me I was at a Sandals resort in St. Lucia where I lay in the sun, slathered in oil (an alien moment right there), watching a couple ride about on those giant paddle boats, my sun-addled brain thinking: hmm, looks like fun until they got semi-stuck, and bobbed about helplessly against this gorgeous backdrop of land and sea, turning in endless circles, waving their arms madly and arguing about how to correctly manoeuvre their fluorescent plastic containers.  
 
Alien moments are times when it strikes me as not that far-fetched to imagine we aren’t the most intelligent life form in town, and that should the little green men and women be looking out their spaceship windows, they could be forgiven for thinking yes! this is it, the perfect time to swoop in, launch an attack, never more confident about their chances of taking over the planet…