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.

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…

a rant for friday, after dinner on thursday

 

The waiter brings the apps, sets mine down and says, “There you are, young lady.”

He sets down my husband’s. “And for you, sir.”

We are the same age, my husband and I.

And I am no young lady.

When the main course comes the waiter repeats his little service mantra and I point out the above—lightheartedly, but clearly wrapped in a message. It rattles the poor soul but he’s not the sort that moves easily beyond his ignorance and chooses to stand firm instead, explaining that many people like being called ‘young lady’.

“People?” I say. I point out that in our case, my husband is called ‘sir’ every time.

He looks to my husband who purposely says nothing. This is my discussion and that seems to rattle the waiter even more.

He says some people prefer ‘sir’.

Again with the people.

I should mention that the waiter is thirty something. In other words nowhere near old enough to be calling anyone young. Were he my parents’ vintage or older, or even my vintage, it would be another story and more acceptable, because it would be coming from a whole different place. Does this chap call twenty-five year olds ‘young lady or man’? I doubt it but if he does I’m guessing it might also come across as odd. In fact I can’t think of any age, beyond maybe eight, when I would have thought it normal. But more important than the age thing, is the gender thing. My husband is referred to with respect, as in ‘Sir’. While I’m expected to be content with the nonsense of ‘young lady’.

Women may be subjected, generally, to more dears and sweeties and hons, than men, and from both genders, and that’s another story, but this is about more than endearments or habits of speech. The ‘young lady’ thing, however, seems to come predominantly from males… and is directed at females who are not young. Perhaps these misguided men think of it as some kind of gift…

I try to explain this, to enlighten him with the news that women don’t actually enjoy being condescended to and that this ‘young lady’ thing is just plain silly, and then I present him with a challenge so that he might see the silliness more clearly. I suggest he turn things around, call all male customers, of any age, ‘young man’.

His face falls a little.

I smile. “Go on,” I tell him. “Give it a whirl. Maybe some people will prefer it…”

No answer to that and I’m suspecting he doesn’t give it a whirl.

I swear if I was his boss I’d insist he do it.

Later, when I pass on dessert and hand back the menu, he says, “Thanks, love.”

“You’re welcome, darling,” I reply.

If he gets where I’m coming from he doesn’t let on.

It’s only when he places the bill on the table and I immediately reach for it—and I know he sees this—that for the first time all night a light seems to come on for this boy as he realizes he’s made a terrible mistake…

 

 

this morning

Seven cars idling.

I’d like to tell you it’s a line from a new xmas carol I’m writing but there were in fact seven cars idling on my walk this morning while drivers were inside…their houses, presumably waiting until… until what?? Until their cars got to the boiling point? Just how hot does someone need an interior to be before they slip their tender selves into it?

A pitiful sight. And the smell was worse.

I mentioned this briefly the other day but I’ll say it again… this is what makes me really hope that oil prices get raised to ridiculous levels because it seems that money, not common sense, is the best motivator. [I’m thinking of the ruse used by grocery stores for a while—that quarter we got back if we returned our shopping carts to the right place rather than leave them strewn about the parking lot. Because it seems we’re an untidy bag of bones unless we’re paid/bribed to be otherwise.]

So much to be proud of.

But here’s the kicker. When I see one of the idlers come out of his house and get into his car I notice that on this chilly morning he’s wearing a light jacket that isn’t even done up. Then again, why bother? He’d only break into an uncomfy sweat if he wore a buttoned up winter coat inside a car that had been sizzling for ten minutes.

I was tempted to write a note in chalk on his driveway after he left, maybe offer coat buttoning lessons, introduce him to the concept of hats [easily taken off when things get toasty, the way they do as you motor along]. Heck, for the sake of less filth being spewed into the atmosphere, I’d even go so far as to lend him a pair of gloves.

“P.S.”  I might add. “The next time an entire eco-system is drenched in oil spill, or even just a part thereof, wings and gills gummed up until there’s nothing to do but suffocate, and your children are crying over pictures of greasy little ducklings from the back seat of your over-heated, over-sized ‘vehicle’… all you are allowed to to say to them is— So what? Doesn’t affect us.”

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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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ethanol on the beach: one story, three versions, with pictures

Version I

The city didn’t want it. Another city did. Some shady dealing went on. The city that doesn’t want it is getting it anyway. And they’re upset. And the city that wanted it is upset too. And please don’t ask if an environmental assessment was done because that’s just silly. Of course it was NOT done. The new rules say we don’t need such fluff and nonsense.

So there.

End of story.

VERSION II

Cronyism has won the right to build an ethanol plant in Durham Township, right on Oshawa’s busy and environmentally sensitive waterfront, much to the dismay of everyone except the cronies. Meanwhile, nearby Brock Township has a site they’d love to dedicate for just such a purpose but the cronies wrinkled their noses and said no, they want to play at the beach instead. It’s rumoured that one stamped his foot and threatened to hold his breath until he turned blue(r).

VERSION III

In Search of Gifford Hill—my take on visiting the site.

And pictures too.

a few trashy stories

So there’s the one about the guy who walks over, slow like, walks all the way over from wherever he lives on the street opposite the park where Peter and I are clearing litter from the tall grass area and creek bed that never gets mowed. It’s a pretty big space and we have a few green garbage bags already filled. So the slow walking guy stands there, hands in pockets, smiling, and says it’s great what we’re doing. He wants to know if we’re part of a group or something. (What, like the Kiwanis maybe? I’m not sure what he means). No, I say, we’re just  us. He looks momentarily confused, or perhaps it’s just gas, then rattles on about the sin of littering and how it brings down house prices. He asks if we live in the neighbourhood. Nope, I tell him, we’re on the other side of the ravine but we come through here all the time. His hands are still in his pockets. He’s wearing khakis and a golf shirt. Well, he says, bouncing a little on his toes, brightening considerably, why don’t we form a committee, get a group together to clean the area. But we are cleaning the area, I say, we do this all the time. I explain how you can’t just clean it once, it gets messy again very quickly, and how a group, nice as it would be to have company, won’t do any long-term good… better to just have many people pick up a few things on a daily basis. Or do bigger clean-ups on their own as and when they feel like it. I suggest that groups have a way of getting complicated. They argue. People will find ways to disagree about how to pick up litter. We’re not group people, I say finally… but, hey, thanks, and good luck.

He’s suddenly all crestfallen and slightly pissed off and I silently wonder if in declining the offer to whip up a litter committee what I’ve really done is dashed his hopes for whatever else was attached to the plan. (Brain-storming BBQs? Bake-sale to raise funds for garbage bags? Motivational street party with face-painting for the kids and Larry the Litter Loving clown?)

He mumbles something like yeah, right, and walks back from whence he came, hands still firmly planted in pockets.

If a committee has been formed, I haven’t noticed.
The litter continues to fall.
We continue to pick it up.
We’ve never seen the man nor his pockets again.

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Then there’s the couple who sit on their porch comparing their lawn to everyone else’s. We don’t have a lawn. We’re weird. And when I walk past the porch-sitters the man says something I don’t hear and I shout back Yes, it’s a lovely day! and he repeats the thing that I don’t understand. I move closer and he says “What’s that in your hands?”

I tell him it’s litter; I say it’s amazing what you can pick up in just a short walk around the block. Ha!  I toss in some laughter to keep it light.

He makes a bad smell face, goes slightly indignant. The woman also, just stares. So now I’m standing way too close to their tidy porch holding a squashed Timmy’s cup and other bits of debris and I realize the exchange has ended, that I’ve been dismissed, and as I shuffle off I wonder how I’ve offended them. Have I caused them to feel guilty for not picking up litter? Or have I simply confirmed their suspicions about the sort-of-people-who-don’t-have-a-lawn? (Beware the Timmy’s cup, the flattened water bottle, the muddy Rothman’s pack… strange powers to unsettle the masses lurk there!)

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A friend of mine gathers litter as she walks to work at King and Bay—which is brilliant because the better dressed the anti-litter warrior, the more influence they have in a 100 monkeys kind of way. (Recently I’ve noticed a guy around the corner who takes regular walks with a No Frills bag or two, filling them with rubbish. I honk as I pass. Wave and smile. I hope he doesn’t get the wrong idea.)

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Last but not least is the woman who says—in her not-very-sincere-smiling way (and who insists recycling is a scam)—that it’s very nice to pick up litter and all but don’t I worry that I’m taking away the jobs of people who are employed to do such things?

Though I’ve never seen the ’employed’ scrambling through ravines… I call the Town, present my concerns, and am met with laughter.

Followed by reassurance that no one will lose jobs.

Seems there is indeed enough litter for us all.

On the street, in parks, wherever.

You can imagine my relief.