Jan 10, 2018


I am a collection of fragments. 

It takes a bit of work to find the bits and pieces of myself. A comment here, a post there. The evidence of my existence obliterated with a keystroke.  

(There is nothing I can do about the photographs others have taken of me. I will exist there in cyberspace, floating in the Phantom Zone like General Zod, that fragment a missing puzzle piece forever lost.)

And maybe it's just the snow, the dark days of January, that have me feeling this urge to purge, to absolve myself. Or maybe it's something deeper, something primal and protective and pure.  

The world wide web. Aptly named, this trap we have set for ourselves. We see things we would be better off not seeing. We say things we would be better off not saying. We know things we would be better off not knowing. I no longer want to see, or say, or know.

I've shared so much. You think you know me. You judge me based on these fragments, these bits I've portioned out, but they aren't who I am, not really. Or maybe they are. Or maybe they both are and are not at once, like time travel.

The ink on a computer screen is not indelible. (It's not even ink.) It will be like I never was. And maybe you'll wonder about me. (Who was that girl?, you'll ask. Wouldn't you like to know, I'll answer.) Or maybe you won't care, won't even notice I'm gone. It's all the same, really. I'll be gone, undigitized, a link to nowhere, and what you think won't matter. 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. 

I can't quit myself all at once, though. They are parts of my whole even if they are only ones and zeros, born of blood and electrical synapses, fragments of this person alive here in this room in the dark with my feet under a blanket and the sound of the furnace humming beneath me and the cat shifting in her sleep and the moonlight glinting off the snow.

Jan 9, 2018

Dear unfriended facebook friends

Dear facebook friends who find yourself unfriended,

I know it's hard, but please don't take it personally. It's not you. It's me. Or, rather, it's this whole social media thing in general.

When I first joined the wild world of social media that was myspace, I enjoyed connecting with new people. I enjoyed being able to write things and have people read them, since I have been a writer since I was a child, narrating my walk to school to myself. I enjoyed the ability to entertain and to be entertained.

When I made the reluctant move to facebook, I still enjoyed all those things. But this new incarnation, with its likes and ads and suggestions and networking, has become less enjoyable for me of late. Sure, it's fun to receive validation for one's posts/photos, but is it necessary? Is it healthy to base our sense of worth on what others think? Is it useful for us to know when our friends are hungry or cranky or drinking a cup of coffee? Is it good to feel guilty if I don't wish you a happy birthday? Is it beneficial for me to be exposed to the ignorance that abounds in the form of strangers' comments on friends' posts?

I know that I can be a hypocrite, but one thing I refuse to do on facebook is hide people's posts. I have organized all my eff-bee friends into groups by how I know you (high school, the bar, my old job, that crazy convention, etc.), and I check those groups daily. I see everything each of you posts, because I have set that parameter on myself. If we are facebook friends, I pay attention to you. It seems only fair. To be 'friends' with someone yet choose to ignore them seems somehow immoral to me.

But this is exhausting. For example, it's cool that you have a stamp collection, but I don't personally collect stamps, so your posts have no meaning for me. And I think it's really great that you love your children, but I don't love your child the way you do. I am not fascinated by your pet, but I'm glad it brings you joy. As I've said, it's not you. It's me. It's not your job to make your facebook page relevant to me. (And I know this works in reverse. Fuck, you probably say to yourself, another book post? Who gives a shit what you're reading? I get it, I do.)

And am I supposed to assume that my facebook friends give me the same consideration I give them? When I see you and you ask me what's up, should I repeat information that I have posted in case you didn't see it? And if you didn't see it, why did I bother posting it? This potential awareness of each other's activities adds an uncomfortable dimension to real-world human interaction.

Although social media would have you believe otherwise (because the more friends you have, the more likes you get, and the more likes you get, the more valuable you are as a human being), I think it is healthy and good to have peripheral relationships in your life, people you know that you have something in common with (drinking and dancing, say, or that previously mentioned convention) that you only see a few times a year, people that are fun to talk to but that probably wouldn't come to your birthday party or your funeral. It's honestly more fun to see you and chat about what you've been up to lately than to see you and say, oh yeah, I saw that on facebook, because there the conversation ends. It's a drag.

Some relationships naturally expire when people move or change jobs or get married or the myriad of other reasons we drift apart. Maintaining those relationships in virtual form is artificial at best and annoying at worst. We no longer share this thing we once shared, and it's okay for us to move on. You were in my life for a certain period of time, and it was fun, but let's not drag it out. Facebook creates an odd sort of stasis and a false sense of connection that I find disconcerting.

To conclude, this is my longwinded break up letter. I hope you understand. Deleting you from my friends list does not necessarily delete you from my life, and it certainly doesn't delete you as a person or have any bearing whatsoever on anything that really matters. I hope your life in the real world (and, hell, in the online world, as well) brings you happiness. And when it brings you sadness and frustration, as it will, I hope you are able to handle it with the help of those close to you.

Ah well, and riot on. 

Nov 8, 2017

Modern Romance

We are standing together in the same place at the same time. Would it be agreeable to you if we exchanged pleasantries?


May I ask your name?

My name is ----. It is very nice to meet you.

May I inform you that I find your physical, emotional, and intellectual presence interesting and engaging?

I have noticed that you are occasionally glancing at my lips. We are standing close together and our bodies are turned toward each other. Your arms are not crossed. Your legs are not crossed. I am also looking at your lips. May I kiss you?

Would you like to have sexual intercourse with me tonight? Please sign here that you are not intoxicated and have agreed of your own free will to consider having sexual intercourse with me tonight. This is not binding. This signature only states that at --:00 on ---, you are agreeable to the idea of sexual intercourse with me. You are free to make this contract null and void at any time by expressing "No," either verbally or physically. 

Since we have changed locations and are no longer in a public place, could you please sign here that you are not intoxicated or being coerced in any manner, even though the two of us are now alone, and that you have agreed of your own free will to engage in behaviour that may, should you agree, lead to sexual intercourse and the completion of orgasm? 

Do you have any sexually transmitted diseases? Could you please sign here stating that you do not have any sexually transmitted diseases?

Do you agree to use a condom in order to protect us both from illness and/or pregnancy? Could you please sign here stating that you agree to use a condom?

May I kiss you again? Please initial here that you have agreed to let me kiss you again.

May I place my hands on your body? Please initial here that you have agreed to let me place my hands on your body.

May I remove your shirt and bra and touch your bare breasts? Please initial here that you have agreed to let me touch your bare breasts.

May I kiss you again? Here? And here? And here? Please initial here that you have agreed to let me kiss you again, here, and here, and here.

May I remove the rest of your clothes? May I also remove my clothes? Please initial here that you have agreed that we will remove our clothes.

May I touch you between your legs? Please initial here that you have agreed to let me touch you between the legs.

May I insert my penis into your vagina? Please initial here that you have agreed to let me insert my penis into your vagina. 

Would you like to change positions? Please initial here that you have agreed to change positions.

Please continue to inform me with words that what we are doing is acceptable to you. Unintelligible sounds are not sufficient. Please say, "Yes, please continue" if you would like me to continue. 

Please sign here to confirm that the terms of our contract have been fulfilled.

I will provide you with a way to contact me in the future, but you are under no obligation, either legal or emotional, to do so. Please sign here that you agree that we are under no obligation to contact each other in the future.

Thank you for your participation, and good night.

Oct 11, 2017

What it feels like for a girl.

She has an innocent face. People respond to this face, which is pretty but not beautiful. There is an openness, a sincerity, an honesty in her face. A sensuality, too. She can hide behind this face, can smile and think impatient, unkind thoughts.

She feels contempt for people who are not as strong as she. She has no patience for the emotionally weak or the intellectually crippled. The alcoholics, the self-help-book readers, the peanut-allergy sufferers. The anxious and the depressed. She is a gazelle, lithe and powerful, and they are the weak members of the herd who will be consumed by their disorders and neuroses. She is the lion who will consume them.

She has an intimate understanding of blood, its colours and viscosities. She is the moon, cold and barren. She is the huntress, reckless and violent. She is the victim, but never for long.

She is the mother. She soothes and nurtures, caresses and calms. She offers her hand and accepts the burden as her own. She is devoid of ego and endlessly patient. She understands suffering because she herself has suffered.

She sees into your sadness, sees the damage, the moments that have contributed to who you are and why you say and do the things you say and do. She will tell you that you are good and kind and loved. She will help you if you let her.

Sep 29, 2017

Today is my birthday. (3)

Falling at the end of September as it does, my birthday has always been a time of new beginnings. In the past it meant the excitement of a new school year, the warm days and cool nights that herald the return of autumn and the necessity of socks, another candle on the cake.

Now it means I'm probably on the wrong side of halfway to death, assuming I reach the Canadian average of 82.14 years for a woman. (We no longer bother adding another candle to the cake. Who can blow out a conflagration?)

That's a scary thought, to be more than halfway to death. But then I think back on all the things I have been and done and seen in my 44 years thus far, and I think of all the things I have yet to be and do and see, and death, that rascally spectre, doesn't seem so scary. (44 years is simultaneously forever and no time at all.)

I have been a virgin and a lover. I have been a liar and a teller of truth. A thief and a criminal. A daughter and granddaughter and niece and sister and aunt. A student and teacher. A flirt and a fool. A rebel. A loser. A friend. 

I have created art in writing, in photographs, in paint, in podcasts, in plays, and in film (despite being a terrible actress). I have done drugs and been drunk. I have driven down dark highways alone with the radio turned up and the fog whispering of murderers. I have counted down and kissed my love at midnight for over a quarter of a century.  

I have seen the mountains of British Columbia, the hoodoos of Alberta, the prairies of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the lakes of northern Ontario, and the lighthouse on the rocks at Peggy's Cove. 

I have gambled in Vegas, hiked the Grand Canyon, sat on a cracked vinyl stool and listened to an old man sing the blues in Chicago, walked the Freedom Trail in Boston (twice), had my car broken into in Detroit, and fallen in love with New York City.

I have seen movies that have amazed and moved me, and I have been amazed and moved by Koons' hearts, Pollock's splatter, Rodin's sculptures, Caravaggio's violence, Rothko's colours, Calder's mobiles, Picasso's bulls, Dali's nightmares, Warhol's irreverence, Magritte's juxtapositions, Lichtenstein's dots, Weiwei's ashes, Banksy's politics, and Bourgeois' mother, along with thousands of other lesser known artists whose pieces have spoken to me from the walls and spaces they inhabit. 

I have made friends around the world thanks to technology even though I hate technology. I have killed spiders and rescued beetles, because those two extra legs make all the difference. I have thrown parties and thrown up.   

I have read books. I have read books. I have read books. 

I have had a baby monkey jump onto my head and I have run my hand over the rough fur of a wild ocelot and somehow resisted the urge to touch the baby sloths. I have listened to the ding and mew of frogs in the night and been terrified by the roar of howler monkeys. I have ridden on horseback and ziplined through the jungle and soaked in tropical hot springs. I have choked on salt water and been knocked down by waves and watched wisps of smoke rise from a volcano.

I have learned how to cook and play poker and drive a stick shift and build fences and start the lawn mower with some degree of regularity. I have worked at shitty part-time jobs and quit and been constructively dismissed and built my own business helping students with their grammar and their confidence.

I have been broke and I have had enough money that I don't need to worry about money. I have given food and loose change (and socks, once) to the homeless, and money to the needy children of the world and to those who have lost everything in disasters. I have given flowers to strangers. I have given away unused metro tickets in foreign countries, the last few dollars of a gift card to the person behind me in line, and the candy that comes with my popcorn to the first child I saw. 

I have seen The Gates of Hell and the Sistine Chapel, been awed by the Sagrada Familia, walked narrow winding worn stone steps to bell towers and looked out across European cityscapes. I have stood in the gravel square of a Nazi concentration camp that once ran with blood and wondered if the prisoners could still appreciate a gorgeous summer day among all that death. I have wandered catacombs and cobblestone streets, seen medieval castles and ancient Roman ruins, found feral cats to pet and feed, and cheered for the bull to win (he didn't).   

I have seen Madonna in concert nine times. I have gone on rock and roll road trips and stood in front of bands I love and bands I hadn't heard of. I have sung along with huge crowds in stadiums and seen shows in nearly-empty clubs. I have sung my heart out even though I can't carry a tune. I have danced (for inspiration).

I have seen corpses lying in their coffins, looking like poorly-made papier maché figures, desiccated and hollow. I have seen people I love in hospital beds, broken and wasted. (I have been in hospital beds myself.) I have watched life been there one moment and gone the next. 

I have watched beloved children grow. I have carved pumpkins and let them rot on the porch.   

I have seen eclipses and shooting stars and the Northern Lights and the rings of Saturn (through a telescope) and stood in rain storms and built snowmen and tried to find where the rainbow began and stopped to smell the roses and stood in wheat fields and understood that the earth was round. 

I have felt exhilaration, joy, compassion, rage, fear, pride, embarrassment, pity, frustration, sorrow, disappointment, longing, and love.  

And I have crunched through dried autumn leaves on my birthday and been grateful for this preposterous accident of energy and matter and consciousness that is life. 

Sep 18, 2017

On Etiquette

A few months ago, my dude and I were spending some time with his father and new wife. The wife was beginning a new career in which she planned on teaching etiquette classes to children, which seemed preposterous to me. What kind of lazy asshole parent is going to send their child to etiquette school to learn manners? I thought teaching please and thank you appeared quite early on in the Things You Should Teach Your Kid manual, along with not to pick your nose in public (or at least not eat it) and the difference between "I" (a subject) and "me" (an object).

This occupational information did, however, get me thinking about etiquette, and what I have determined is this: there are two kinds of etiquette, the Golden Rule kind and the designed-to-maintain-a-social-hierarchy kind.

The first kind is logical to me. If you would like something from someone, you should say please rather than just demand it. If someone gives you something, you should thank them, whether it be a birthday present or your change at the grocery store. (No one owes you anything in this world, so try not to behave like an entitled jerk.)

The Golden Rule kind of etiquette covers pretty much everything of any importance when one is behaving as a member of society. Would you like someone to let you in when you're trying to turn onto a busy street or merging into one lane? Do you enjoy being interrupted in the middle of a story or seeing other people's masticated food? Do you get a kick out of sending messages, emails, or phone calls and not getting responses in a timely manner? Do you delight in sitting around waiting for people to show up at the agreed-upon time? In these instances, and others like them, etiquette dictates do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

As an aside, I am not always the epitome of polite. Sometimes I'm late for things that do not have a strict start time (especially if they are first thing in the morning - well, afternoon - I do enjoy my sleep), and sometimes I get really excited about contributing to a conversation and forget to swallow first, and sometimes I'm in a hurry to get somewhere and just don't feel like letting you in. For these moments of human weakness, and others like them, I apologize.

It's the second kind of etiquette that I scorn. This category includes things like opening the car door for a woman, not putting your elbows on the table, and serving from the left and removing from the right (or is it the other way around?). This kind of etiquette is designed exclusively to allow one social group to feel superior to another because they know the "rules" while others do not. And, also, I suspect, to sustain the materialism and sexism inherent in our society.

Let's examine the expectation of a hostess gift, for example. There is the obvious sexism inherent in this form of etiquette (ie) the woman of the house will appreciate some small material object to show your appreciation for her hospitality, because she does all the cooking and likes shopping. In extending the invitation to spend time at my home, I did not also intend to force you to go to the mall. (I also did not intend for you to do household chores like washing dishes. Seriously, I can do it later on my own. You don't know where anything goes anyway.) If you would like to bring a bottle of wine to share over dinner, by all means, please do, but if you bring nothing, I certainly won't hold it against you. (I think hostess gifts are how candle makers and HomeSense stay in business.)

My dude's mother once informed me that the proper way to eat soup was to scoop stuff onto the spoon while moving the spoon away from you toward the far end of the bowl. This sort of etiquette rule must surely have been created by rich white landowners during a break between counting their money and whipping their slaves (ie) they had nothing better to do.

Taking your hat off is another odd rule. As an article of clothing, it serves a purpose (usually to hide one's bald spot or the fact that your hair is unwashed). If you are more comfortable wearing a hat inside, I'm cool with it. (Unless it's a giant sombrero or something that makes getting around awkward.) I'm too lazy to google it, but I'm sure there must have been some sort of lame sexist reason for removing one's hat. Or possibly a hygienic one. Feel free to enlighten me, etiquette trivia buffs.

As another aside, if you are a guest in someone's home, you should obviously politely acquiesce to their requests, however inane they may seem to you. It's their space and you should be respectful of that. For example, I'd prefer if you took your shoes off in my house, because I hate sweeping and also don't want to damage the floors. Guests in my home go to the bathroom to check their cell phones, which I find hilarious. I'm only trying to help you recognize your addiction, guys. You'll be okay without it for a couple of hours, I promise. There are no acceptable reasons why anyone who has made previous plans to hang out with me at my house must have their cell phone readily available, except if maybe the babysitter had to take the kid to the hospital or someone has died (and if someone is dead, they'll still be dead when you get the message a few hours later). But I digress.

I can't think of an example of etiquette that does not fall into the first category that we follow for any reason other than that is what we were taught was the way things were done. Is there a logical reason for behaving as I'm told? If there is, I'll do it. But if it's just because it's the "right" way to do things, according to some archaic and/or arbitrary "rule," well, frankly, fuck that. Life's too short to spend worrying about what fork to use (work from the outside in).    

Jun 10, 2017

It's good to have goals.

Last night, while walking through our developing suburban neighbourhood with my dude, checking out who had new sod and accidentally peeping in un-window-treated windows at people going about their evenings, I realized something rather important about myself. It was a rather baffling epiphany, but when I ran the events of my life through the idea, I realized it was true.

I was feeling pretty chipper because the pool and deck construction in our backyard is reaching its final stages. (As an aside, it's been an ongoing ordeal because our house sits on a high water table, which means that there are freshwater streams flowing freely beneath the surface of our backyard. The pool guy has congratulated us on being tied for the most difficult pool installation of his career thus far, and he has been doing it for quite a while. So that's been fun.) So anyway, there we were, walking along in the warm summer night, and dude asked me if I'd ever imagined I'd own a pool.

I laughed and replied in the negative. And that's when I realized that I had never imagined myself doing anything. I have never had goals. Let me repeat that, because it sounds ridiculous: I have never consciously driven myself to accomplish anything.

The only exception I can think of is the desire to go to university, but even that had no end other than an education. I wanted to go to university and I did. School was never hard for me, I got a good scholarship, and I went. I never dreamed of going to university one day, never dreamed of walking across that stage to get my degree. It just happened.

And, that, the fact that it just happened, has been the guiding force of my entire life.

Although I did occasionally think about the style of wedding dress I would wear if I got married, I never dreamed of finding a nice boy and getting married. Nice boys have just always been around.

I never dreamed of owning my own house, let alone a house with a pool. We bought our first little condo because it was more practical than paying rent, made some money when we sold it, built an inexpensive little house with that money, made some money when we sold it, built a slightly bigger house on a beautiful lot at the edge of town, built a pool because what else were we going to do with that yard? (Also, I have bad knees, and I enjoy the thought of swimming low-impact laps in the sunshine, and of splashing around with my friends and family because summer needs to be celebrated.)

I never dreamed of owning a nice car. Dude's job pays the lease on a fancy car, while I still drive that piece of shit Honda (which, incidentally, I have reached a truce with. I even sort of like her now that I've determined to just drive her into the ground).

I never dreamed of having a successful career that I actually (mostly) enjoyed. I got constructively dismissed from my shitty retail job and then my current teaching gig just sort of evolved over the years.

I never dreamed of having children, ever. (And then I ablated my uterus and almost died, but at least I don't have to worry about accidentally getting pregnant anymore.)

All those so-called milestones that society creates were never milestones for me. They were just things that happened. So when people congratulated me on them, it always felt a little odd. What exactly have I achieved? Everybody needs to live somewhere. Everybody needs to get around in some fashion. Everybody needs to make enough money to live. (Not everybody needs to get married or have children.)

I have never placed expectations on myself to do or be or accomplish anything, other than a person who tries to be kind instead of an asshole (and I think I succeed, at least most of the time). It's a very relaxing way to live, not worrying about crossing those items off of society's list, those items that identify you as a "successful" human being. Success is relative, and the moment you try to categorize it according to someone else's criteria is the moment you let society win. Fuck society. Society is full of shit.

My life has not been without its hardships (poverty, divorce, mental illness, my mother's aneurysm, the deaths of many pets and a few people), but no one's is. And I have certainly worked at things, just never with a single-minded, Gatsby-ian focus on the eventual culmination of effort. So, while I am infinitely grateful for the way good things have just sort of happened to me, I also firmly believe that this openness to the world, this ah well attitude, has played a major role in allowing the good things to happen.

If I can end with a bit of wisdom that you might also be able to apply to your own life, it is this: sure, it's good to have goals. But it's okay not to have them, too.