Is it Politically Incorrect to not care if you’re Politically Incorrect?

October 22, 2012

Warning: This post is not intended for those who are easily offended, vigilantly politically correct at all times, or humorless.

Source:www.mochadad.com

It was recently brought to my attention that the term “mulatto” is outdated and offensive. I am embarrassed to admit that this came up because I used this term in general conversation to describe someone of mixed race. Furthermore, when told that the term is no longer used, I proceeded to stubbornly argue the point, conceding only after consulting Wikipedia, the final word on every topic. According to this (unverified but assumed true because it has millions of readers) source: “The term is not commonly used any more but is generally considered archaic because of its association with slavery, colonial and racial oppression; accepted modern terms include ‘mixed’ and ‘biracial.’” Got it.

Let me tell you a few things about me. As per the stereotype you have no doubt conjured up in your head by now, I’m white, blonde and blue-eyed. I’m a Canadian of Mennonite German ancestry. If you saw an extended family reunion you would think you were looking at a rehearsal for a ‘Children of the Corn’ sequel, there is hardly a brunette in the bunch. I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba in the community of North Kildonan, which is mainly populated with descendants of Germans and Ukrainians who immigrated during or after WWII. In my German elementary school there was one black student named Stephan (pronounced with a German accent). He was adopted. He had dry skin on his legs that often peeled and because his skin was dark, it looked scaly, like a snake. When I pointed this out to him he cried and I had to apologize, though I didn’t think this was fair since it was merely an observation and I thought it looked neat-o. By high school I had met about 5 black or bi-racial people. My mother’s best friend has a son who is bi-racial. My mother referred to him as mulatto the rare time she didn’t just refer to him by his name which she usually did, because, well, why wouldn’t she? In Canada, black and bi-racial citizens comprise just under 3% of the population. In Manitoba where I grew up, the number is only 1.7% and in Vancouver where I live now it is only 1.3%. The numbers may actually be lower because the races are not reported for the bi-racial statistics. What I’m saying is that while Canada is extremely multicultural, and I have friends of many ethnicities, I don’t have many bi-racial friends who have 1 parent who is black and 1 who is white. I have 1. And I call her Tracy, because that is her name. So since I was a child and my mother used the term mulatto I have ignorantly assumed it was an appropriate term. My intention was not to harm, disrespect, oppress or dehumanize anyone.

Intent. The idea of the motive behind one’s action or statement is the crux of what has been nagging at me since my ignorance had me declared a narrow-minded racist. It may just be me, but people these days sure are sensitive. If you think me a bigot then you certainly wouldn’t want to meet my dear old Oma. She’s 87, goes to church every Sunday, loves everyone, and is the only person I know who has ever let a Jehovah’s Witness into her home, even going so far as to offer them baking and coffee. Yet a second cousin of mine had a child with a Jamaican man and my grandmother, unable to recall names very well, refers to him simply as “Der Schwarzer”. This translates to “The Black.” In fact, the East Indian man dating my father’s cousin is also referred to as “Der Schwarzer”, as is anyone with a skin tone darker than ivory, which can prove confusing at times. I’m not sure if she is using an outdated German term, perhaps akin to the English “negro”, or if she is simply describing what is obvious to her, that the baby does in fact look ‘black’, since she hasn’t left her Mennonite community since 1948 and it is quite possible she has never seen a non-white person. What I do know is that she means no malice, no matter how offensive her words may sound to someone who doesn’t know her. The same can be said about an elderly physician my fiancée worked with who referred to a patient with Down’s Syndrome as a “mongoloid”, apparently unaware the term was obsolete. In fact, I may have heard that the term ‘Down’s Syndrome’ is no longer en Vogue either, and if this is the case, forgive me.

Speaking of my fiancée, if he goes out for the night with all of his closest friends, it can almost be described as the beginning of a classic joke: “A white guy, a Jew, 2 Filipinos, a South African, a Lebanese, a gay West Indian, and a very white gay guy walk into a bar….”One night with these guys and you will have a lifetime of inappropriate, politically incorrect jokes that you will probably never find occasion to use. I have heard racial slurs I didn’t know existed and terms and uses for orifices that have given me nightmares. Hearing the Indian friend being referred to as “Dark Marc” out of context could seem segregationist, but knowing that in medical school there were 2 friends named Mark and that there was a need to distinguish between the two explains any question of prejudice away. I mean, tall Marc or brunette Marc or any other differentiating feature could have worked, but they wouldn’t have been as funny, and they certainly wouldn’t have RHYMED. I myself have a multicultural group of friends but we’re civilized to each other. Even still, the jokes, bantering and mock ridicule between this group of men is a form of camaraderie. Each of them gives as good as he gets and no one goes home demoralized or exploited.

When I was in elementary school I entered a writing contest. The topic was “The Boundaries of Freedom”. I came in second place, and I was so pissed off because I always wanted to be first. Any-whoo, my essay basically talked about how one person’s freedom should not impede another’s. For example, freedom of speech is important, however what you say should not get in the way of another person’s ability to live in a free, safe, and equal society. I bring this up here because I don’t think people should be able to say whatever they want. I don’t think there is any room in our society for racism, sexism or any other form of prejudice. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a utopian society, and there are bigoted people out there. These people should just learn to shut their mouths and keep their opinions to themselves. Then there are people like me. And my Oma. And my fiancée and his friends. We’re not perfect, we sometimes say inappropriate or potentially offensive things unwittingly, unintentionally or even in jest. But the intent isn’t evil or vicious. Sometimes we need to be educated, as in my case, but sometimes we are just having a little fun with friends. Maybe people need to take a step back and look at the battle they are trying to fight and who the enemy is. I don’t think it’s me. I hope it’s not you either.

If it ain’t broke, should I fix it??

October 8, 2012

A while ago I purchased a Groupon for a microdermabrasion facial from a local laser skin care and rejuvenation center. Included in the bargain basement price was a consultation with a skin care specialist. Aware that the business offered several expensive cosmetic procedure I wasn’t entirely surprised that although I had listed dry skin and occasional breakouts as my only skin concerns, the “skin specialist” I spoke to suggested I “really consider Botox” for the “lines around my eyes and on my forehead.” In a bid to reassure me that Botox is safe and effective, she let me know that she herself had regular injections. True, she had nary a line on her face. She also appeared to be about 25 years old. Granted, she could be 50 and her apparent youth the result of the wonders of Botox. Yet a glance at the stud through her cheek, Lulu Lemon tights and Sketchers sneakers suggested this to be highly unlikely. (So as not to undermine her credibility, I will also point that she was wearing a white lab coat, the epitome of professionalism). Even still, I declined the Botox. At 31, if I choose to look closely, I can certainly see where my face folds when I smile, frown, squint, laugh, or furrow my brow. I just feel that as long as I can still get away with referring to these as “expression lines” I will continue to age gracefully. (With the exception of my Vitamin A face wash, 2 eye creams, retinol serum and day and night anti-aging moisturizers). We’ll see how I feel in 10 years.

Botox is only one tool in the anti-aging arsenal. The technology available to essentially “turn back the clock” seems to grow every day. Procedures are also becoming less invasive, more convenient, and involve less downtime, meaning people can literally walk into their doctor’s office and walk out a newer, younger person almost instantly.  It seems every other week I’m reading about a new technique to treat some cosmetic condition that I have never even heard of or never would have thought about as a physical defect. A few posts ago I wrote about cosmetic surgery for feet. I have often cursed my wide feet while shoe shopping, but never would have thought about this feature of mine as a treatable deficiency. I have just accepted that I would have to live with this trait. Alas, not anymore! With advances in cosmetic surgery, wide footism is treatable! It makes me think: Are these advancement in cosmetic surgery serving to address existing weaknesses that impede people’s lives either physically or psychologically or are these new procedures actually generating anxiety and perceived imperfections out of the normal variations among us?

Let me illustrate this quandary using the prescription lash enhancement drug Latisse. You have likely seen the advertisements for this product featuring gorgeous spokesmodel Brooke Shields. The preparation itself was originally (and still is) used as an eye drop to treat glaucoma when it was noted that patients using the solution developed thicker, longer eyelashes. Result: Latisse. The cosmetically marketed product is brushed on the lashline, and about 12 weeks later you have longer, darker, thicker lashes. Of course any substance seeking FDA approval to be sold by prescription requires a valid medical indication. And this is the kicker. Allergan, the company marketing this “medication” has identified a medical condition called hypotrichosis, defined as “inadequate or not enough lashes”. That’s right, if you are a person born with thin, lightly colored or short eyelashes, you now suffer from a treatable medical condition. The bad news is that hypotrichosis is a chronic, debilitating medical condition that will plague you for the rest of your life. There is no known cure. The good news is that the good people at Allergan have come up with an effective treatment. As long as you keep using Latisse you will have longer and thicker lashes. But you can’t stop using the solution or your eyelashes will shrink back to their original form. Hypotrichosis requires lifelong treatment.

Beyond the now routine procedures such as Botox, Restylane, lasers, implants, tummy tucks and liposuction, the cosmetic surgery industry has progressed to produce processes to “treat” the natural variations that make us unique and distinguishable from one another. Enemy number one is any natural sign of aging. Newer additions: surgery to fix a cleft chin, liposuction to treat “cankles”, turning an outie bellybutton into an innie, iris implants to turn brown eyes blue, abdominal etching (selective abdominal liposuction to give the appearance of a “6-pack”), butt implants, bicep implants, calf implants, and even pubic hair implants. What next??

Cosmetic surgery can be a touchy subject with people feeling strongly in one direction or another. There are those who feel that any attempt to be physically altered is wrong. Others are more accepting of such a metamorphosis. I find most people are in the middle. The majority of us see some of our traits as requiring reinvention, while other deviations from the middle ground are the result of simple human uniqueness. Whether demand is influencing supply or vice versa, it seems that as people continue to seek physical perfection, advancements in the cosmetic surgery field will continue. Perhaps we need not attack the industry itself, but rather take a hard look at the way men and women are represented in the media and society as idealized specimens. Finally, we have to remember that we have the autonomy to refuse to buy into the message that we are being sold. We still have free will until it goes out of style.

This just in! Lesbians prettier on TV than in real life!

September 6, 2012

Source: instablogs.com

The minimal increase in TV programs showcasing lesbian characters over the last few years has actually caused debate within the lesbian community according to the August 13,2012 issue of Maclean’s magazine. Though I doubt most women in this underrepresented minority would, in theory, oppose the entertainment industry’s portrayal of their lifestyle for the masses, likely expecting understanding and acceptance as a result, it is ultimately the validity of the depiction that falls into question. As Emma Teitel, author of the Maclean’s article puts it “The lesbian media has a history of being elated with news its community will be represented on the small screen, then grossly disappointed with how its represented.”

 

Pretty Little Liars
Source:flickriver.com

Lesbian characters on television shows are not exactly novel territory. Ellen Degeneres came out as a lesbian on her hit sitcom “Ellen” in 1997. Sandra Bernhardt played a lesbian character on Roseanne for years. More recent examples are Callie and Arizona on Grey’s Anatomy, Angela Darmody on Boardwalk Empire, Santana Lopez on Glee and Emily Fields on Pretty Little Liars. Breaking new ground is programming showcasing lesbian characters almost exclusively such as BBC’s Lip Service and the now defunct The L-Word, and reality shows scrutinizing the lives of lesbian women such as Showtime’s The Real L-Word.

The Real L-Word
Source:wikipedia.org

If the mainstream media is finally embracing the lesbian community, what’s all the fuss about? Well here’s a shocker. Turns out some of these women feel they are being misrepresented. According to Teitel in her Maclean’s article: “Common criticisms of these shows from lesbian pundits and TV writers often have less to do with acting and character development than with how the characters look”. She quotes Julie Blindel from The Guardian as saying about Lip Service as saying that “every single lesbian is skinny, achingly trendy and lashed with lipstick.” She goes on to say that in ‘real life’ lesbians “tend not to dress for male approval, often rejecting makeup, high heels and other trappings of femininity.” So it appears that some in the community feel that TV lesbians are being characterized as ‘prettier’ or ‘sexier’ than what is realistic.

 

Lip Service
Source: bbc.co.uk

Wow, what a surprise. Sorry, I have been trying very hard to suppress my innate cynicism in an attempt to be a more optimistic and happier person, but I feel incapable of holding my tongue here. I find it almost shocking and quite frankly insulting that lesbians would think they would be accorded an honest portrayal in the media when no other member of the female population is granted the same. I can’t say for certain, but I would hazard a guess that television networks, like the rest of the western world general, are run by rich white men. And rich white men tend to cater to rich white men. They are also business savvy, wanting to make as much money as possible by bringing in the most viewers. However, they don’t give people much credit, assuming that most purveyors of fine television aren’t seeking much more than visual titillation. So what do they do? Put pretty women on TV. It doesn’t matter what the program content or character development is. Men will be drawn to watch and women won’t question this because it is what they are used to seeing, no matter how misogynistic and self-hatred provoking. Just because the main character is a lesbian and thus by definition (according to some) shouldn’t be beautiful doesn’t exempt her from being glamourized for TV. Most straight women aren’t a size 0 with flowing locks and designer clothing, but the majority of the ones you see on TV are. Oh, and they’re rich too. So sorry for the homosexual women out there but it seems that the television networks don’t think society is ready to see ‘butch’ lesbians or women without makeup on TV, especially in HD. The masses want to see Katy Perry kissing a girl wearing Cherry Chapstick. She likes it, and so do we, it seems.

 

I mentioned a debate before. Well, while some lesbians are upset about their attractiveness in today’s television shows, many applaud this depiction, citing it as relevant. There are some lesbians who accentuate their femininity, going out of their way to appear “girly”. Maclean’s cites to Megan Evans who calls herself a “femme” lesbian and says “television shows featuring highly feminine lesbians have made her feel more comfortable with her sexuality.” She says that often “If you’re girly and into beauty, then you definitely are viewed as not legitimately gay”.

 

It seems to me that the problem here is that there is a disassociation between groups of women where there should be a unification of forces. Straight women and gay women are essentially angry over the same issue, but arguing separately. Even lesbians who believe that there is no issue with lesbians being represented as feminine should be concerned with the idealistic images of women presented on television. Lesbians should not be adversaries against each other, nor towards straight women, we should all support each other to encourage a realistic and healthy portrayal of women of all sexual orientations in the media.

12 Going on 21??

August 31, 2012

Thylane Rose Blondeau

The other day I was being amused by my dog, Oscar, who has taught himself to maneuver his ball around with his nose while simultaneously chasing after it, a skill that provides him with hours of entertainment and exercise and requires no effort on my part. A young girl approached whom I didn’t recognize, along with a friend. She called Oscar by name, explaining that her mother had dogsitted for us before. On second glance I did recognize her as the 12 year-old daughter of our regular sitter, however the last and only time I had seen her she had been about to go to bed, fresh and clean and wearing a long cotton night dress that would have been perfect for a purity pledge sleepover. The girl before me looked like she had walked out of a poorly styled rap video. Her shorts, while already short enough to make me question if there was a manufacturer defect, were rolled up one more time to ensure there was no question of the fact she was indeed wearing underpants. Her shirt was slightly cropped although not as much so as her friend’s which may actually have been an undergarment. Both girls had dyed the tips of their hair purple, a fad among young Hollywood celebrities these days (I’m hip to the trends). After both girls had said their hellos to Oscar, they went back to their I-phone 4Gs and resumed what I assumed to be texting their friends while I continued to stare at them with a mixture of shock, disbelief, sadness and fear.

Pinpointing why seeing these young girls in clothing that would be only questionably appropriate on even an adult woman bothered me so much was difficult. Of course I thought these girls were much too young to be dressing so provocatively. However, I kept thinking that although these outfits were unquestionable “sexy” in nature, no one in their right mind could look at these 12 year-old girls and have a sexual thought about them. It seemed apparent that neither of them had gone through puberty yet. Although both had bra straps visible, there was no evidence that such underwear was for anything but show as both girls still had the reed-like figures of children, lacking any curves which would distinguish then from their male counterparts save their long hair and 5 pounds of make-up. These girls are simply not sexual beings yet. But deep down I fear that they could be and that they will be. These girls represent thousands and millions of other young, vulnerable 12 year-old girls today who are subject to exposures and pressures that their parents and older siblings couldn’t even imagine. Are these girls covering themselves less in response to current trends, or are they finding themselves in an increasingly hyper-sexualized environment and setting out to appear desirable in the way that they have been taught by society to do so (by wearing little clothing)? Or both?

It seems as though girls are becoming aware of the concept of sexuality at a very young age. A study performed by Jennifer Abbasi and published online July 6th in Sex Roles showed that girls as young as 6 were beginning to think of themselves as sex objects. In the study, 60 girls 6-9 years old were each shown two dolls, one wearing “sexy” clothes and the other a trendy but conservative outfit. The girls were then asked to choose the doll that looked like herself, looked how she wanted to look, was the popular girl in school, and who she wanted to play with. In all categories the girls chose the “sexy” doll, with 68% wanting to look like her and 72% saying she was the more popular.

Where would a six year old get this perception? Well if you are watching Toddlers and Tiaras with her, or worse if she is ON Toddlers and Tiaras, look no further for your answer. Otherwise she is likely sensitive to the same media images that all women, teens and tweens are bombarded with day after day. The images that tell us what sexy is and how we can achieve it. I can think of no other reason I turn over to allow a perfect stranger to pour hot wax on my most private part during a Brazilian wax I derive no pleasure from. In the article ‘Teenage Girls Report Pressure To Live up to Sexual Ideals’ by Alexandra Topping published on July 14 2008 in The Guardian UK results from a study by Girlguiding UK and the Mental Health Foundation were published. The study showed that two in five teen girls felt worse about themselves after looking at pictures of models, pop stars and actresses in magazines. Furthermore “the girls questioned described being put under sexual pressure from boys at school or feeling obliged to wear clothes that made them look older.” Many of the girls felt bad about how they looked and their weight. Of the 10-14 year-old, 32% had a friend who had an eating disorder, 42% knew someone who had harmed themselves, and half knew someone who had suffered from depression.

Lottie Moss, 13 years old

These numbers are similar to those reported in a May 2010 article on Macleans.ca by Kate Fillion titled “Inside the Dangerously Empty Lives of Teenage Girls where she interviews Dr. Leonard Sax, author of Girls on the Edge, about today’s teen and tween girls. He has also written two books about the gender differences between girls and boys. He reports that 1 in 5 girls in the US is cutting or burning herself. 1 in 4 high-school girls is binge drinking. I in 8 takes antidepressants.

Social media is also playing a big part in the image young girls are able to present of themselves to their peers and the general public in cyberspace. Girls become fixated on presenting the perfect image of themselves on social media sites, and can lose sight of who they are and who they really want to be. They don’t derive any real value or positive reinforcement of themselves as a human being through this type of networking as any type of interaction is strictly superficial. According to Dr. Sax “Girls spend a lot of time photoshopping their pictures, making themselves look a little bit thinner than they are and getting rid of the pimples, because they know boys are interested in the photos on these sites. So you’ve got 14-year-old girls essentially presenting themselves as a brand, trying to create a public persona, polishing an image of themselves that’s all surface: how you look and what you did yesterday, not who you are and what you want to be. And that leads to a sense of disconnection from themselves, because in most cases, these girls don’t even realize that their persona is not who they are. They’re just focused on striving to please their market and presenting the brand they think will sell.” And unfortunately as we all know, sex sells.

When I was 12, I was in 7th grade. I wore Guess jeans and corduroy pants to school. I wore turtlenecks and teased my bangs into this ridiculous style I now call “the rainbow”. It wasn’t pretty. My mother bought all of my clothes, and while I once cried until she broke down and bought me a pair of white Sorel boots I absolutely NEEDED or I would DIE, it would have been a cold day in hell before she ever bought me bootie shorts, a crop top or thong underwear in junior high. Or now come to think of it. Furthermore, many of these young girls look too small to be shopping in the adult section. However, according to Jean Twenge from San Diego University in the same Macleans article  “Forty years ago, if you went into a department store and looked at clothes for seven-year-olds, they’d be quite different than the clothes on sale for 17-year-olds. Today there’s no longer any distinction; the same short skirts are sold to girls in Grade 2 and girls in Grade 12. T-shirts that say, “Yes, but not with you” are now sold to eight-year-olds.
Girls understand what these T-shirts are about: pretending to be sexually aware.” Furthermore, because such clothing is sold in children’s clothing stores and in children’s sizes, parents are less resistant to buying it for their daughters. They think it is normal and appropriate. Suddenly this is popular culture. On slate.com Emily Yoffe wrote about back-to-school clothes shopping with her daughter in a piece called Lolita’s Closet. “A few years ago, Abercrombie, the ‘tween division of Abercrombie & Fitch, got in trouble for marketing thong underpants—with phrases such as “eye candy” printed on them—to prepubescent girls. Now scanty panties for girls are standard. At Limited Too there were pairs with rhinestone hearts or printed with cheeky sayings such as “Buy It Now! Tell Dad Later!” My dad was upset when my mother let me get my ears pierced at 12. He thought he caught a boy looking at me, as if mesmerized by the shining 10 karat gold-plated gems in my awkward tween ears and not just a horny hormone-filled adolescent pimple canvas. Thong panties? I would not have wanted to be around for that conversation.

Kaia Gerber, 10 years old

The more overtly style of dress young girls seem to have adopted is not surprising in our culture today. But are today’s youth being more sexual than those of prior decades? The answer is yes and no. Jean Twenge says “kids may be sexually intimate—the term as I use it includes both oral sex and intercourse—a little earlier and certainly they are much more likely to be having oral sex than they were 20 years ago. There are some troubling new issues. You find a lot of 12- and 13-year-old girls who are providing sexual favours to 16- and 17-year-old boys.” According to the July 2008 Tween and Teen Dating Violence and Abuse Study 47% of tweens  (11-14 year-olds) and 37% of 11 and 12 year-olds say they been in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. 37% of tweens say touching and “feeling up” is part of tween dating relationships. 27% say so is oral sex. 28% say sex is a part of tween relationships. 31% of tweens know a friend or peer who have had oral sex and 33% know one who has had sexual intercourse. Another difference according to an April 2009 article in Macleans magazine “Teen Girls in Charge” is that “nearly half of female adolescents now say it’s acceptable to have sex after a few times out together, up from 35 per cent in 1984. “Making out” is okay after being with someone a few times has rocketed up from 79 to 94 per cent, which almost puts them on par with the guys, who are at 96 per cent.” Teen girls appear to be becoming more sexually aggressive, taking charge of their sexuality.

These numbers seem high, and it does appear that tweens are experimenting with sexual activity such as oral sex earlier. But one positive is that overall the numbers of teens who are sexually active is not increasing. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, the percentage of youth virgins is increasing, as is condom use, and as a result teen pregnancy is decreasing. In the US 2011 and 2008 data are very similar showing that there also does not seem to be an increase in the number of teenagers having sex. There is also good evidence that parents and role models can play a big role in their children’s sexual health. The National Survey of Family Growth conducted from 2006 to 2008 by the Guttmacher Institute and reported by Stephanie Pappas  on March 8 2012 on Livescience.com (Sex Education Delays Teen Sex) showed that teens young men and women 15-24 who received any sort of sex education were more likely to delay sex, and use contraception during their first sexual encounter. Another study in the June 15 2011 issue of the Montreal Gazette by Laura Baziuk reported that 45% of teens look to their parents as their sexual role models. (Over their friends, celebrities, or no one at all). So with girls being sexually aware at a younger age parents should prepare themselves to talk to their daughters about sex earlier than ever. And read up before you do. She probably already knows a lot more than you think.

MANOREXIA

August 24, 2012

Our new issue of GQ magazine arrived today. The magazine comes in my fiancée’s name, however we both enjoy the subscription. While I generally skip over the articles about sports and cars, I do enjoy the monthly glimpse into the male universe. What are they being told to wear, read, eat, and listen to? Why are there 20 variations of the same brown loafer in my front closet? The answers are in this magazine. Plus the ads are much more arousing and don’t illicit the same self-loathing as those in women’s magazines. Read: gorgeous men, often in states of undress. But I digress. When I picked up the new issue, I immediately noticed the coverline: “SPECIAL REPORT: WHY MEN ARE BECOMING ANOREXICS”. While there have been several reports indicating that the number of men with eating disorders has been on the rise, I was surprised to see this article in a major men’s magazine. How big is this issue?

 

In the last few years I have observed some subtle changes in the behaviour of men in general towards food. It seems more men are drinking diet soft drinks. I hear more men ordering “skinny” drinks at Starbucks (hold the whip!) or putting artificial sweeteners in their drinks. A lot of my male friends choose salad instead of fries as their side dish. At the last wedding attended, my fiancée and I were seated at a table with four male firefighters. These men were young, thin and appeared to be in good shape. Yet for some reason all four of them were on the low-carb “Southbeach Diet”. I watched with fascination as they removed the single crouton from the soup course, refused the pasta salad, and carefully removed the layer of breading from the fish. I decided not to mention that the 12 vodka sodas they each downed contained carbohydrates. I figured they would throw them up imminently. At another dinner I attended, a male guest questioned why both potatoes and rice were served: “Who serves 2 carbs??” In a female, this behaviour would likely not have even raised an eyebrow. In these cases I found it bizarre and off-putting. Yet I wouldn’t have suspected any of these men to have an eating disorder until I read this article.

 

As a woman recovering from an eating disorder I know that the triggers for anorexia and bulimia are complicated. However it has been shown that the pressures placed on women to conform to the media and societal ideal of perfection can certainly be a contributing factor. There was a time when this was a concern of women almost exclusively. In The Beauty Myth first published in 1990 Naomi Wolf writes of women’s magazines:

“Since self-hatred artificially inflates the demand and the price, the overall message to women from their magazines must remain…negative not positive. Hence the hectoring tone that no other magazines use to address adults with money in their pockets: do’s and dont’s that scold, insinuate, and condescend. The same tone in a men’s magazine-do invest in tax-free bonds; don’t vote Republican-is unthinkable.”

And:

“Unfortunately, the beauty backlash is spread and reinforced by the cycles of self-hatred provoked in women by the advertisements, photo features, and beauty copy in the glossies. These make up the beauty index, which women scan as anxiously as men scan stock reports.”

20 years later, the content of men’s magazines very closely imitates that of most women’s publications. Magazines such as GQ, Details, Maxim and Nylon Man have numerous sartorial recommendations for the stylish modern man, reinforced by photo spreads of young, fit male models. Articles detail what’s new in the worlds of technology, music, art and books, and ensure men feel sufficiently mediocre if these prizes are not acquired. Advertisements convey the quintessential male specimen, lean men in slim-cut clothing or topless displaying bulging pectoral, abdominal, and bicep muscles. Most months feature diet and fitness advice to help men look more like the sculpted, photoshopped gods gracing the glossy pages. If looking at an Armani underwear ad featuring David Beckham is the male equivalent of women having to look at a Victoria’s Secret ad featuring Giselle Bundchen then I have no problem grasping the concept of male eating disorders.

 

The article in GQ magazine reports some surprising statistics. The author, Nathaniel Penn, reports that 20% of anorexics are men, or to put it in perspective for those that aren’t great at math 1 in 5. This is up from 5% (1 in 20) only 10 years ago, and the number is increasing. It appears that men develop eating disorders for the same reasons as women. So why has there been such an increase in the number of cases? A person can be predisposed to developing an eating disorder but never actually develop the disease because they never experience a trigger. Is it simply that, as discussed above, western culture has evolved to a point where men are facing many of the same societal pressures that women have faced for decade? This is likely only a part of it.

 

An article in Details magazine published November 2011 titled “America’s New Male Body Obsession” showcased 40 images that changed the way men viewed their bodies. These images are meant to illustrate how the male ideal has changed over the last several years as well as how much more focused men have become on their physiques. Included are: Mark Wahlberg’s notorious Calvin Klein ad, Brad Pitt’s very toned body in Fight Club, Mark Jacob’s remarkable weight loss, Daniel Craig, the author of The Ultimate New York Diet, a bottle of Michelob Light beer, a picture of body wax, etc. Looking at People Magazine’s Sexiest Men list, essentially all of the men topping the list had a lean, athletic physique and are very well groomed: Ryan Gosling, Justin Theroux, Chris Evans, and the winner Bradley Cooper to name a few. Topping the music charts are songs by Fun, Maroon 5, Neon Trees and Owl City, indie and alternative musicians who insist on looking like starving artists no matter how successful they get, in skintight size 27 jeans and American Apparel deep V’s. The media and entertainment industries are screaming to men that 0% body fat and a 6-pack are essential for health and happiness. And apparently they are listening.

 

In a March 24th 2012 article on CNN.com Michael Addis, a professor of psychology at Clark University noted “male college students in his classes have changed and adapted to shifting cultural norms. In recent years, more of them spend time in the gym, focus on their appearance and monitor body mass.” He says “As women gain more financial power in society, men are expected to bring more to the table…In addition to being financially successful, they need to be well-groomed, in good shape, emotionally skilled in relationships and the emphasis on looking good is just part of the bigger package…” So a threat to male masculinity is motivating men to adopt behaviors traditionally attributed to women such as dieting and excessive exercise? Not according to some psychologists who believe men are actually trying to look more masculine by developing an obsession with muscle definition and fitness.

 

Clearly the reasons men develop eating disorders can be multifold and will be different for each person. Unfortunately, in males the disease often goes undiagnosed, at least until the patient is very ill, because doctors often won’t suspect anorexia in a male patient. Also, men are less likely to seek help due to the stigma of the disease, and the belief that it is primarily a female disease. As a result men on average will suffer with the disease longer than females, an average of 8 years. Many treatment facilities don’t admit male patients. These factors combined can be deadly, since according to the article in GQ as well as several other sources, the mortality rate of anorexia is up to 10%.

 

Most women know what it’s like to struggle with our body image. Therefore we may be in an opportune position to recognize if a man in our life is struggling with some of the same issues. It may be easier for him to talk to someone who can be empathetic rather than his male friends who he may feel aren’t experiencing the same pressures and insecurities. And the next time you find yourself worrying about what a man thinks of you, remember, he’s probably worrying about the same thing. So give yourself a break and give him one too. Nobody’s perfect.

 

 

Money can’t buy everything but it can buy you a wife

August 17, 2012

Most little girls fall asleep to fairy tales in which beautiful princesses are rescued by handsome princes and then live happily ever after in majestic castles. As we grow up to become women, the media and entertainment industry perpetuate this fairy tale through rom-coms, made for TV movies, and E.L. James novels (apparently no one’s reading Jane Austen anymore). I still think Pretty Woman is the most romantic movie ever made. What girl doesn’t want to be rescued from her fire escape by Richard Gere with a rose between his teeth? Parents and teachers can emphasize the importance of education in attaining a good job and achieving financial independence. Role models for today’s young women are often successful career women, such as mothers or perhaps even grandmothers who go to work every day to support their families. Would-be feminists can read The Feminine Mystique ten times over and embody every quality of the modern woman.  Yet even in this day and age society still nourishes traditional gender roles where the man should bear the brunt of the financial responsibility for his family while the woman, even if she ‘chooses’ to work, should still have time to cook, clean and rear children. Perhaps even more surprising? How many women who not only buy into this stereotype, but aspire to it.

Since our mothers got married, the number of women in the workforce has gone up substantially. Not only that, women’s salaries have also increased, mainly due to the fact that more and more women are getting college and university degrees than ever before. In 2009, the Bureau of Labour Statistics reported that 40% of US working wives were out-earning their husbands compared to 25% in the early 1990’s. One would think this a positive step for women in terms of equality as it seems to signify a narrowing of the wage gap between genders, long been a thorn in the side of feminists. However, a study published in January 2011 by London School of Economics professor Dr. Catherine Hakim seems to contradict this, reporting that women actually prefer men to earn more money than them.  “…64% said they aspire to find a husband bringing home more money. None wanted to marry a man who earned less.” So it seems that when it comes to relationships, women actually do revere their traditional position as needing to be provided for. A similar study done by Meghan Casserly of ForbesWoman via the website YourTango.com revealed that 91% of women would marry for love over money, but that 75% of women would still NOT wed someone without a job. And it seems that deviation from the husband-as-breadwinner role is unappealing to men as well as women. A Cornell University study published in August 2010 reported that husbands who earned less than their partners were up to 5 times more likely to cheat. Researchers found that “the secret is for women to earn 25% less than their husbands. As that gap narrows, it becomes more likely the man will be unfaithful.” Men are clearly threatened by the thought of losing their historical role in their relationship dynamic.

It comes as no surprise that many women like men with money. We all know the cliché of the young beautiful woman and the old rich man. The Real Housewives series is one of the more popular reality shows on television. Hugh Hefner still dates twenty year-olds. Anna Nicole Smith is most famous for marrying a billionaire in his 80s. I am just surprised that the distribution of earning within a relationship is an issue for so many people. Why are successful women not celebrating the progress they have made, being happy to be making more money now than ever before? Why does it matter who earns what as long as family is taken care of?

In most of my relationships prior to my current one, I have made more money than my significant other, which has generally never bothered me. As I have blogged about before, I have always and still do believe that a woman should never be dependent on a man, that she should have her own career, friends and interests. Therefore, I have always assumed that I would work, even when married with children. In relationships I have always paid for my fair half (or more) of everything. When I first moved in with my fiancée he was a medical fellow. Our arrangement was that we split rent and basically took turns paying for everything else. When he finished his fellowship and started to work as a full-fledged nephrologist, his financial situation changed quite a bit. As in, he is now making about 6 times more money than me a month. I share this information with you not to flaunt how extraordinarily upper middle-class we are, but to share with you how I came to understand the 64% of women who are seeking husbands who make more money than them. This is because I surprised and disappointed myself by the sense of security I felt at my husband-to-be’s salary revelation and how much I have taken it for granted. I no longer even glance at the cheque at the restaurant when it lands on the table, never mind make any move to pick it up. The same goes for groceries, take-out, trips to the wine store etc. He books all of our flights and hotels for trips, concert tickets and sports events. Oh, and I dropped my laptop last week so he also bought this new MacBook Air I am typing on. These are things I could pay for myself. As a pharmacist I make a good salary. But he makes a much better one and we’re partners, therefore when he offers I don’t decline. Beyond the material things, it’s comforting to know that if we decide to have children, although I have never imagined myself as a stay-at-home-mom, I will have that option. Furthermore, I am currently making a career change and taking some time off, and am able to do so without being concerned about money.

Maybe there’s a little girl inside every woman, holding onto that fairy tale, waiting for her prince. But today’s Prince Charming may not look the same as yesterday’s. Modern relationships are changing, and so are the roles of man and wife. I think it’s time we embrace the idea and make new fairy tales. Perhaps Pretty Woman was ahead of its time:

Lewis (Richard Gere): “So what happens after he climbs up and rescues her?”

Vivian (Julia Roberts): “She rescues him right back.”

What does it mean to walk the walk? Were you there for SlutWalk 2012?

July 26, 2012

Over the last few months various “SlutWalks” have taken place across Canada, with some still on the agenda for the immediate future. These events have gained popularity since last year when they began over a flippant sexist comment made by an ignorant police officer, and organizers hope to make the marches annual events. The disgusting and offensive comment was made in Toronto by Constable Jackass Michael Sanguinetti who stated the following:
“women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Shockingly, this did not go over well with the public the good Constable was assigned to serve and protect. Many were outraged at the blatant attitude of victim blaming within police services this statement represented. Two Toronto women, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis organized an event that brought thousands of women and men to protest in the streets of Toronto and in front of police headquarters to demand accountability for their attitudes towards women and victims of sexual assault. They called it SlutWalk. Since then, SlutWalks have been organized in many other cities in Canada, the US and around the world. Some cities, such as the one I live in (Vancouver), have already had the pleasure experiencing round 2, SlutWalk 2012. These events are carefully planned, with organizers regularly updating websites, twitter feeds, facebook sites etc. Some websites even allow supporters to donate money through the site to cover organizational costs. Many of the websites outline their own mission statements, values and goals which are generally congruent with each other and adapted from the “original” SlutWalk Toronto website.

The SlutWalk Toronto website, (www.slutwalktoronto.com), lists among their main goals advocacy against “victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming”. From the website: “Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation……so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated…….We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault…..We want to feel that we will be respected and protected should we ever need them, but more importantly be certain that those charged with our safety have a true understanding of what it is to be a survivor of sexual assault — slut or otherwise…….Whether a fellow slut or simply an ally, you don’t have to wear your sexual proclivities on your sleeve, we just ask that you come……Join us in our mission to spread the word that those who experience sexual assault are not the ones at fault, without exception.”

On May 25 in Toronto about 1000 people took to the streets for SlutWalk 2012. The theme was “My Body is not an Insult”, however without any background information, a casual observer would be hard pressed to decipher a clear message from the diverse group of protesters who participated in the event/spectacle. Both women and men attended and were dressed in attire that ranged from the conservative (think business attire and even nuns habits) to lingerie. Some left most of their clothing at home choosing instead to go topless. Protesters displayed slogans everywhere from man made signs to t-shirts to bare flesh. Some phrases were clever and original while remaining moderate, relevantly bringing attention to the need for all of society to realize that the sexually victimized are never to blame under any circumstances.
“A dress is not a yes!”

“My dress doesn’t have a mouth but I do and I said  NO!”

“There is no Y-E-S in NO!”

Other statements were just crude with some making one wonder which side of the debate these people were really on.

“Sluts say yes” (Yes, this is for real. No, I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean.)

“There’s no shaming this slut!”

“We’re taking slut back!” (Did we ever have it?)

“I’ll f**k just about anything, but only with consent.”

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Listen, I get the spirit of these protests. I was angry too when I heard Constable Sanguinetti’s statements. I agree that society has a way to go in the way that we view the victims of sexual assault. Sadly, opinions such as Sanguinetti’s are all too common. Women are often thought to have “asked for it” based on their style of dress, current or prior sexual escapades, line of work or attitude. Women get the message they should watch what they wear for fear of inciting rape when we should really be sending the message to men instead that raping a woman is never OK. It is especially unfortunate that those perfectly positioned to enable them to provide protection to those who have been victimized or who are most vulnerable would hold such misogynistic ideas. And it’s not just the police. In 2011 Manitoba Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar gave Kenneth Rhodes a conditional sentence instead of any jail time for a 2006 rape because he felt the victim sent signals that “sex was in the air” since she wore a tube top with no bra, high heels and lots of makeup, and flirted with Mr. Dewar before he forced himself on her on a dark highway. Justice Dewar said “This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behavior.” From his ridiculous sentencing it is unclear whether he meant he felt Mr. Rhodes (whom he referred to as a “clumsy Don Juan”) was inconsiderate for raping the victim or the victim was inconsiderate for being such a cock tease. But don’t worry, the judge redeemed himself by adding “I’m sure whatever signals were sent that sex was in the air were unintentional,” Well at least he realizes the woman   didn’t MEAN to ask to get raped. The mentality behind this type of injustice is infuriating. But I still can’t bring myself to back the SlutWalk movement.

I support the SlutWalk mission to bring attention to the mentality of victim blaming wholeheartedly and to try to change this. But ending slut shaming? Taking the word slut back? Calling myself a slut? You see, this is where the whole movement loses momentum with me. I don’t want to be called a slut, or any other derogatory term used to degrade and belittle women. The participants in SlutWalk seem to believe that by reclaiming the word ‘slut’ for themselves they are embracing and owning their sexual independence. I call bullshit. Regardless of whether you call yourself a slut or a prude or any other term used to sexually oppress women, you are really just giving more power and validity to these misogynistic words which have been used for decades or centuries in some cases to attack, shame, and demoralize women. It is not feminism to conform exactly to the chauvinist idea of “sluttish” and to do it of your own accord in an effort to show the world that you are in control of your body and your sexuality.  Why would a woman want to proudly march in her skivvies with the word SLUT emblazened across her chest and be proud to bear this title which for so long has been used as a weapon thrown at women to punish them for their sexuality? Is this not the exact opposite of what the SlutWalk is trying to accomplish?

I’m going to be staying at home for SlutWalk 2013 in Vancouver. This will be my own silent protest. You should think about joining me.

Scent of a Woman

July 20, 2012

 

Source:scottcentral.dds.bschools.ca

For as long as I can remember I have loved books. I used to make my parents read me the same stories over and over again until I had them memorized and then I would recite them verbatim, impressing their friends and my aunts and uncles by telling them I was reading. When I actually did learn to read you couldn’t get my nose out of whatever book I was reading. My dad, an English teacher, would take my sister and I to the library often to ensure we always had a stack of books to pick from, especially during breaks from school. Even the fact that I got motion sickness from reading in the car couldn’t tear me away from a good story. I once vomited on a whole stack of library books strewn across the back seat, angering my father who then had to purchase all of the books and upsetting me who couldn’t finish the one I was reading. From then on I was sedated with Gravol for road trips. My favorite books of all were the new ones I was able to order every few months through the Scholastic Book Club at school. The catalog would come and I would pore over it oh so carefully, feeling heavy with the weight of my decision. Would it be The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High? Oh dear. Finally the books would come, packaged together, banded with an elastic. I remember how those books felt, their smooth covers, the way they smelled when you first opened them, the freshness of the new, crisp pages. I still appreciate the joy of a new book.

Source:bookpatrol.net

Does this interest you? Perhaps not. But perhaps my memories have evoked some fond ones of your own. Maybe you, like me, will be interested/amused/disturbed/skeptical/elated to learn that the new book smell is now available as a fragrance. That’s right. There is a new perfume out called ‘Paper Passion’ which “conjures the smell of your newest bookstore purchase”. It is a collaboration between Wallpaper magazine, German book publisher Gerhard Steidl, fashion designer extraordinaire Karl Lagerfeld who designed the packaging, and perfume designer Geza Schoen who perfected the scent. For $115 you get the perfume cleverly packaged in a panel inside of a book with it’s same name. Why a perfume that smells like paper?? According to Steidl “To wear the smell of a book is something very chic. Books are players in the intellectual world, but also in the world of luxury,” Chic? Hmm. Some books or series have gained cult status. Examples: The Secret, the Twilight or Hunger Games trilogies, the Harry Potter series, and the recent racy 50 Shades series. Devouring these books along with hordes of others can make a woman feel like part of something, give her a sense of belonging in a community. By reading works by undiscovered authors, or touching on controversial or unsavory material some may be trying to showcase their individuality and their desire to go against the grain, and perhaps their dissent from and hostility towards popular culture. Depending on genre or subject matter, possessing a certain book can make a woman feel sophisticated or intelligent or worldly. And apparently it’s looks and not just smell that matters when it comes to books. Recently publishers have been revamping the covers of their classics in order to attract more readers. Splinter, a division of Sterling publishing, hired Manhattan fashion illustrator Sara Singh to do the watercolor-like illustrations for the covers of their Classic Lines series. With the worlds of fashion and literature colliding perhaps books are becoming chic after all.

Source:walkingpaper.org

Let’s explore further. Scent is very much tied to memory and emotion. While the smell of a new book may lead men to think of sexy librarians, I doubt it will conjure up such racy imagery in women. Most women I know wear perfume because they like the smell but also because they like the way it makes them feel (sexy, happy, confident) or it evokes a nice memory. The smell of a book makes me think of my childhood, and it makes me feel happy and content. I have described some of the memories it conjures up above. Perhaps such warm, fuzzy feelings would be incentive for some women to make this perfume their signature scent. Only time will tell how sucessful this product will be, but if the popularity of similar products are any indication, Mr. Lagerfeld may want to stick to selling clothes. For example, the perfume “In the Library” by renegade perfumer Christopher Brosius with scents of paper, leather, and even dust, has managed to slip under the radar of popular culture.

The problem is that while many people love the smell of paper, much like many love that “new car smell” or the smell of gasoline (some people do!), I don’t know that a desire to wear this scent follows the adoration for it. When I long for the smell of a book, I can go to my bookshelf, inhale deeply and drink it in. I can go to the local library or bookstore for an extra dose. Some predict a day when books are no longer available. When ebooks and tablets will be our sources of literature. My children may never experience that new book smell. In that case I may wish I had a bottle of ‘Paper Passion’ available to waft under their little noses as I tell them all about my childhood and the wonder of holding a new book in your hands and opening it for the first time, the cover still stiff, eagerly anticipating the unknown world inside. Perhaps this perfume should be “put on the shelf” for now. Pun intended.

Girl Crush

July 12, 2012

Those of you thinking this blog post is going to be a Katy Perry song-like torrid tale of a girl on girl kiss can stop reading now.

Source:peracollege.wordpress.com

I moved to Vancouver about 3 years ago from Winnipeg where I had lived all of my life (then 28 years). The total number of people I knew in Vancouver at that time: 3. My boyfriend (now fiancee) Bradford, his good friend, and a friendly acquaintance. I was leaving behind my family, my job, my house and all of my friends to be with a man. Before the move my feet were so cold they were numb. While in the future the cloyingly romantic tale we tell our children will be that of a couple who took the chance at love and lived happily ever after, when I first arrived in this strange new city I felt more trepidation than excitement. Nothing was familiar, I felt lost, anonymous and incredibly lonely. Moving had certainly improved my romantic relationship and I had never felt so sure about anyone as I did about the man I had dropped everything for. On the other hand I was distressed by how my relationships with everyone else I loved had changed. I didn’t want to talk to them on the phone, I hate Skype, I don’t remember my MSN messenger password and my Facebook page had changed so much I couldn’t seem to navigate it. Sadness turned to anger and resentment as I blamed poor Bradford for tearing me away from my life to move to this rotten city (voted world’s 5th most livable city) which quickly turned to guilt as he was continuously bending over backwards to make me feel at home. BS: “Look! I bought you a new bike!” Me: “Stupid new European bike. Only one speed. How am I going to ride that in the beautiful Rocky Mountains which are only 30 minutes from our home on the ocean?” BS: “We can go buy some fresh fish right off a fishing boat at Granville island!” Me: “I don’t feel comfortable consuming fish which hasn’t been frozen and vacuum sealed then stamped with a quality seal by Captain Highliner”. BS: “Let’s drive down the coast to California!” Me: “I get carsick on road trips without acres of flat prairie farmland to focus on.” It is said that misery loves company, but since I had no friends I quickly realized that unless I wanted to have a pity party of one I would have to snap out of it. So I decided to give life a real chance here.

Although Bradford had a very inviting, fun and broad group of friends who we socialized with together my feeling of solitude could only be filled by a close girlfriend. I missed girl talk. I also wanted a group of friends of my own. I had always been independent and I suddenly felt like more of an us than a me. I am of the opinion that a healthy couple shouldn’t be joined at the hip. This viewpoint is shared by many experts. Marriage expert/counselor Dr. Margaret Paul PhD says “Some couples spend a lot of time together because they really enjoy it, while others spend a lot of time together out of fear of being alone. It is important for a healthy relationship for each person to have friends and interests, so they are not dependent on each other. Dependency is not healthy in a relationship, particularly emotional dependency.” Psychotherapist Wendy Allen says “Each partner should strive to be a whole, healthy individual who can make positive contributions to the marriage and space encourages the solid, cohesive sense of self in each person.” “Having a variety of friends is a route toward developing—personally, socially, and spiritually. Participating in a variety of activities makes you well-rounded, and gives you more to talk about with your partner.” says Christopher Knippers, author of “Cultivating Confidence”. Understanding how I felt, Bradford would encourage me to call this person or that person from our mutual group of friends for some “girl time” but it felt strange to have to force a friendship. I was waiting to really click with someone. I took a photography course, a hula hooping class, a pole dancing class. I even went for a drink with one of the girls from class. I never called her again.

There was a time when I wasn’t so picky. When I liked to go out every night to lounges, bars or concerts. I wanted to see and be seen. I wanted to dance. My criteria for a girlfriend was essentially that she be fun, easygoing and able to do a lot of shooters. I couldn’t tell you what most of these ‘friends’ are doing these days. Now that I’m older, I want quality over quantity. I want someone to go to brunch with and talk (read:bitch) about my week. I want someone to go shopping with who will give me a real and honest opinion about the skirt I’m trying on (and not make me go into Lulu Lemon or Banana Republic EVER). I want someone I can call when I have PMS and I’m crying about something silly and no one else will understand. Someone who gets my sense of humor and who has one too. Someone intelligent with opinions and world views. Someone well read. Someone who still likes to have a good time but who won’t puke on my shoes if we go out for drinks. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. But as hard as I tried, I was having no luck. There is no friend finding equivalent of Match.com. I checked. It felt like I was losing my sense of self, not really opening up and being myself in social settings because I didn’t feel comfortable with the people I was with. My partner would ask “why don’t you ask so and so to go get a pedicure?” I would cry.

The first time I had a girl crush was in nursery school. Her name was Rachel. She was mesmerizing. She had long, blonde, curly hair and bright blue eyes and she looked like a princess. For our recital she was Snow White. I was a Rain Man. When I skipped from the first to the third grade I walked terrified into the classroom on the first day of school and didn’t know a single person in the class.The teacher introduced me and then told me to sit down. I stood at the front of the class awkwardly scanning the room, my face burning, looking for a place to sit. Suddenly, an adorable little girl named Tamara with long brown hair and olive skin put her hand up and announced loudly “You can sit here! You can be our friend!” referring to herself and another girl beside her. This girl, my second girl crush, will be a bridesmaid in my wedding. In junior high it was a freckled redhead named Kim who was a model and taught me how to smoke and introduced me to my first boyfriend. In high school it was Jen who wore vintage clothes and shiny lipstick and had the straight shiny hair down to her J-Lo butt. There are just some girls you just meet and immediately know you will bond with because you see a part of yourself in them, or a part of who you want to be. I don’t keep in touch with every girl who has caught my fancy, but I have shared secrets and memories with all of them. I had left many of my best friend behind in Winnipeg and while I knew I could never replace them, I needed to find that kind of magic with someone again.

Source:thesun.co.uk

One night a friend from high school who I learned had moved to the city years ago invited me out with him and his friends. One of his friends was a well-dressed woman my age, and we started to talk. We talked about our families, our friends, where we used to live (about 20 minutes from each other!) and our mutual love for perogies. She made me smile, she made me laugh! I talked to her all night, and then we exchanged phone numbers. I felt like a teenager debating whether to call her or whether our connection was all in my head. The first time we went out for dinner, she met me in tights and a t-shirt. I was in a dress. I slunk down in my chair a little. The minute she sat down she burst into tears. Any nervousness I felt immediately dissipated. This was my kinda girl, I thought, she’s so real. We ordered some strong drinks and chicken wings and talked about her bad day. She quickly became my Vancouver best friend. We were similar in ways that mattered and different in ways that were complementary. She liked yoga while I despised it. She would order pancakes at breakfast and I would order eggs and hashbrowns so we could share. We had different styles so we didn’t fight over clothes. She was retro and I’m fashion forward. We both like True Blood, meat buns, perogies, bikes, vintage, 90’s hip-hop and nerds. Between my boyfriend and her, I started to enjoy my new home.

Over the almost 3 years I’ve now been here I’ve made more girlfriends. We’ve had girl talk, laughed, danced, talked politics and religion, gossiped, and yes even gotten pedicures together. I still miss my oldest and best friends from Winnipeg and visit whenever I have a chance. But I’m also thankful I have had the chance to build these new friendships, to meet these engaging new people and get to know them. Every new relationship you forge helps to transform and enrich your life and friendships between women are among the strongest and most important in their lives. My Vancouver best friend just moved away and while I will miss having her so close by I will always consider her a close friend and the girl who reminded me how fun a girl crush can be.

A Cindarella Tale…

July 1, 2012

In my last blog post I self-righteously proclaimed that I would not fall victim to the superficial wedding pretense by giving in to the pressure to change my physical self striving to become the archetypical perfect bride. Well dear readers, as it turns out, I lied. I may have to lose a few inches for the wedding after all. Not from my waist or hips, not even from my butt or thighs. I don’t obsess about whether my arm jiggles when I wave or if I have cankles. I don’t have a double chin. No, my problem areas are much more stubborn than the worst of these. They are my feet.

For most of my life my lower most extremities have been a source of some embarassment. My feet are a hybrid of the worst characteristics of those of my mother and my father. My incredibly high arches, though handy in ballet class when I was 5, as well as the extreme girth of my feet come from my dad. It is thanks to my mother that I am genetically predisposed to bunions. Mine are not the feet fetishists fantasize about. Once, when taking my poor little Oma to a follow-up appointment with an orthopedic surgeon after she had broken her hip, he stopped speaking to her mid-sentence after catching sight of my feet in my high-heeled sandals. “You know you’ll get bunions if you keep wearing those!” He exclaimed! “They’re already starting!” He then proceded to take a piece of paper and trace my foot to illustrate to me exactly how my largest and smallest toes turned in, leaving hideous bony protrusions poking outwards. My grandmother was all but forgotten. His mission was to convince me to abandon high heels and strappy sandals for sensible shoes. Perhaps even orthotics. Obviously this man did not know me, as if he did he would realize I would sooner cut off my feet. If I found out I was going to die in a week would I crawl into bed and wallow? No, I would live! If I am going to bunion town, I am going to go there in style!

So far, I have staved off my fate while amassing a rather impressive and certainly not “practical” shoe collection. Sure there are a couple of pairs of runners in there for exercise and some flats for days when I might do more walking than usual, but many of my shoes would make Lady Gaga jealous. I have been called the “shoe lady” on more than one occassion. I am not a brand loyalist though I do have certain favorites. There are also some designer shoe houses I have coveted yet have never owned. I have long yearned for a pair of Christian Louboutins, Manolo Blahiks, Giuseppe Zanottis, Lanvins or my favorites, Balenciagas. Ever since seeing these brands in my first issues of Vogue I have promised myself I would one day don one such elegant and extravagant pair. When I was younger, they were galaxies out of my reach. As a gainfully employed adult I can afford more luxuries though I have always thought spending $1000 on a pair of shoes just seemed reckless and irresponsible. That was of course until I started planning my wedding. A wedding is a great excuse for spending money. Thousands of dollars for one dress? No big deal. Hundreds for a cake? But of course. A bouquet of flowers is HOW MUCH? Well, if they’re EXOTIC or out of season it only makes perfect sense. And of course you need extra special $1000 shoes. Armed with this in mind I set out to find these extraordinary shoes. The shoes I have been dreaming about half my life.

Balenciaga booties

My criteria was red. I felt drunk with giddiness as I picked out the pairs of Louboutins and Manolos and Valentinos to try on. I could barely sit still as I waited for the sales associate to bring them to me. The first pair arrived. I slipped my foot in….wait…it’s stuck! Damn it! I can’t get my gargantuan foot all the way into the shoe, it’s too narrow! Okay, next one. Same problem. Maybe I’ll try the size up. I manage to squeeze this one on (just barely) but quickly realize that there will be no way I could wear said shoe for more than about 10 minutes before agony would ensue. This conclusion is devastating as it is the most beautiful shoe I have ever tried on. Simple, elegant, just the right amount of stiletto and toe cleavage. It is the Spanx of shoes. My foot looks streamlined and thinned, tapering just right to a subtle point. I feel like crying taking the shoes off. I quickly learn that my feet are similarly too wide for the Manolos and Jimmy Choos. It seems that high fashion is made for the very small, both in body and in feet. Of all the shoes, only one pair fit, the Valentinos. Feeling like an outcast in a store full of immaculately pedicured, narrow footed women,  I leave the store dejected.

Living with the inevitable blisters, calluses and sore feet after being on my feet in tighter than ideal shoes for hours, I have managed to live with my disfigured feet without them impeding on my life too much. But now my quality of life was being affected. I couldn’t eat or sleep thinking about my defect and how I wasn’t good enough for the best of the best in shoes. Something clearly needed to be done. So, I looked into the options. My first thought was some type of seaweed wrap. They advertise them all over for slimming the body, maybe they can slim the feet too. No go. Apparently all these do is heat you up so you sweat out a bunch of water and lose water weight. I don’t need ugly AND sweaty feet. Moving on. I know in some countries they bind feet to make them smaller. China I think. I look into it and find that a)this must be done before feet reach maximum width and size and b)this is a dated and barbaric procedure. So that’s out. I’m not really getting anywhere. Then I hit paydirt. I should have known! You can actually have plastic surgery to make your feet smaller. Dr. Ali Sadrieh, founder of The Beverly Hills Aesthetic Foot Surgery in Studio City, California told the Wall Street Journal: ‘It’s unrealistic to tell women not to wear high heels. I came up with procedures that allow the women to function, pain-free, in the real world.’ At his clinic women can have several surgeries aimed entirely at enhancing the aesthetic of their feet. One procedure is the clinic’s signature ‘Cinderella procedure’ which is a preventative bunion correction which narrows feet. The clinic can also shorten toes and can take fat from a woman’s abdomen and inject it into the balls of her feet for extra cushioning in order to reduce pain when wearing high heels. Such procedures are becoming more and more popular in the US as well as the UK.

After doing some number crunching I have determined that I can’t fit both the surgery and the shoes into the wedding budget. Darn. Also, my fiancee would like me to be able to dance at our wedding without a wheelchair or crutches. (I’m getting no support from him on this!) So unfortunately it looks like I’m going to have to live with my feet the way they are and just accept them. It’s one of the many flaws that I have and I just have to try not to fixate on them. Without my feet to dislike, I know there will be something else that irks me, begging to be remedied. Unfortunately, it seems this is the way it goes. Perhaps as an exercise in selfworth we should all try to focus on our positives which always outweigh the negatives. As for the shoes, I’ll just have to settle for the Valentinos. Boo Hoo.