I’m always striving to become more something. More enlightened, more cultured, more aware of privilege and class and where I am within it for the purpose of challenging it for everyone to step towards greater equality. I strive to become more informed – it’s why I read and boy do I love it – but with this dedication I have abandoned many common aims of others, like buying or building a nice house, having children, owning nice cars, and so on. These are the things that are built day by day in our lives. At our day to day jobs we talk about the day by day to the people around us. Some of us will find common ground and get good tips and learn things from each other while forming a solid social bond that’s key to an effective workplace. Others – well, me – will practice the craft of maintaining conversational eye contact where there’s absolutely no interest and my limit for how much of this chit chat I can handle is approaching.
This followed with a text to Dirk: My epitaph is going to say “Fucking plebs.” See, I’ve been trying to be more nice to Dirk lately as we had a Halloween-weekend chat when I was suddenly blonde and he was Steve Jobs undead and we talked about all the style of friendship we’ve strayed from. I want to shed the animosity from the onset and let it build up gradually in every encounter to make each moment special and unique. And the good thing about having what some may consider a terrible person for a good friend is that he will appreciate my sentiment. It’s a good reminder of why I chose to steer away from the love/marriage/baby carriage life stream, and why I would even steer away from the sex/ohgodohgodohnowhatdoido/baby carriage stream as well. If in that realm mine would be more like sex/OHGODOHGODOHYESSSS/reading about the history of homosexuality in civilization. (The sex would be hetero, if you want to appreciate that a little more.)
Because although I’m listening, with nothing better to do right away, and I’m keeping eye contact and nodding my head, I could not be less concerned with the logistics of taking your children trick-or-treating in a mall first, then seeing if there’s time to take them door to door, and feeling bad that you won’t be giving out candy. I have nothing to offer in the ways of advice on the matter, except don’t take your kids to the mall for trick-or-treating because the people working there really don’t fucking care about costumes. Just…live and deal with your own problems, of which you are fully capable. Let me deal with all of the things in my life you don’t have, like learning, imagining, and thinking. Or I’m going to sit on your desk and go on and on and on and on about the pubescent nature of national socialism when seen in the context of broader history. I’ll do it. I’m not afraid.
I take things too personally, things that are such a far shot from having something to do with me. If something goes wrong with something around me, or people are annoyingly critical of a broad concept under which I’m vaguely classified, I get defensive. I take it personally.
Needless to say, it’s not healthy for me to feel guilt and vulnerability with the comedy of errors in building a new football stadium at the south end of town. When people complain about Calgary’s cost of downtown parking I get riled up and want to go on a tirade in favour of the urban and/or car-free lifestyle. I feel like flipping people off when my national stereotype is quaintly pointed out as polite – when, in day to day living – I am polite and unnecessarily apologetic on things for which I have no fault.
The let-it-be mindset is something to strive for, and I wish I could not take things upon my shoulders in the first place so I wouldn’t need to brush them off. And since I put an effort to do that, to live and not get pissed off, it sure…pisses me off when people bash that as being weak and void of responsibility. Fuck you.
If we even just briefly escaped the patriarchy bubble for some introspection, we might see how much women are still evaluated on appearances that are irrelevant. We might also see that men, too, are judged on appearances to determine what’s acceptable for them to do and what won’t be tolerated. We might see the delicate steps that need to be taken around changes to our corporeal representations, from day-to-day outfits and hairdos to external shifts in wardrobe style to outright surgical modifications. We might see how much we take for granted our natural graces in these delicate steps, and maybe see why it can be an anxiety issue, or a disability of taste, for others.
Then maybe you’ll understand my irrationale to all things hair.
Yesterday I got to see the first heap of packed boxes that make the reality of the farewell to my childhood more real. Stacked 3/4 to the ceiling, they took up a spot previously home to a recliner, which had to be moved to the pathway into the open-concept dining room. We were having a family dinner with more seats than chairs, so I volunteered (also known as “made the brilliant suggestion”) to sit in the recliner at the dinner table as we ate Chinese food and cake. And, of course, drank beer as you can see in the photo.
It was the best idea of the day, and I tend to have a lot of good ideas on a lot of days. It only works when everybody else is properly seated, though. Most things work best when I’m the exception to the boring old rule.
It certainly helps distract from the sight of looming chaos of fitting heaps of mismatching “keepsakes” into a new and very different home. If they can’t fit the recliners into the new living room design maybe they’ll put one at the table, a throne reserved for me.
Across the hall and down one door – an open door, free for me to pry into and see the condition of the pit of last weekend’s three a.m. campfire. I looked in gently; I couldn’t hear anyone working in there, but I’m polite enough t let somebody repair his life in dignity. There were ashes still on the ground – there are ashes still on the ground by the back alley dumpster where the torched futon mattress laid for days – but another futon was there, and an expandable table with the flaps down. (Pardon me for not knowing the proper furniture name.) It still looked liveable, from what I could see, and it looked like the tenant still lived there.
I saw him last weekend, the morning after (or, given the wee hour of this accident, technically the morning of) but not in our building. He was outside an apartment building across the street where our caretakers reside. We were both there to see him, for separate reasons of course, but I briefly talked to him. He spent the night in hospital, his eyes were still in pain due to smoke exposure, and he couldn’t get into his apartment because the firefighters had to hammer through the deadbolt and a new lock was put in place within six hours of this event. He wanted to gather what remained of his things, at the very least, but ideally he wanted to go home. From what I saw today, it looks like he can, and it also looks like he has.
Say what you will about old “character buildings” with antiquated HVAC that makes temperature control quaintly vintage, and the nth generation of flooring and furnishing that is already out of date. I live between solid walls, even if the windows don’t seal out all the cold air and the wooden doors can’t mask a hallway whisper. As a whole, I feel safer in a structure that was built before my city’s trademark culture of self-deprication, even knowing I have neighbours who own futons, sometimes smoke, and sometimes fall asleep.
The best way to handle change is to handle a WHOLE BUNCH OF CHANGE at once.
Perhaps that’s not the best advice to give to somebody else. And perhaps it’s not the best piece of wisdom for me to keep on my mind when somebody else is asking for advice. But it seems to be working for me. My skin has been thickened with having to go through times of uncertainty. I’m waiting another 6-8 weeks to see if the past three years of my life have meant anything. I’m now catching up on several weeks of put-off tasks that are apparently part of being an adult. The chaotic stress of close family moving is empathetically contagious and, speaking of, one of those moves involves selling my childhood home.
I’ve managed to accidentally volunteer myself for something without any idea of how much work it will entail in the future, and I’ve opened myself up to pass on potentially derailing advice through “wisdom” that worked for me but probably won’t work for others. Sudden changes in extended family circumstances add more dinner table conversations (provided certain people aren’t at the dinner table), the stability of my sanity is only kept in place because I don’t subscribe to cable anymore, and in less than a week I have an appointment to take a rash change that in my usual state of mind would punch in the eye my willingness to participate in this world.
Most of this has been going on for a while. And yet two weeks ago my doctor happened to take my blood pressure, and it was “normal” rather than the “high-normal” my genetics and lifelong weight “problem” put it at by default. I’m not losing sleep, I don’t panic at the point of required initiative, and — AND — I’m doodling more. Doodling is something I used to only be able to do when I was life-threateningly bored.
All in all, I’m pretty happy that the world as I’ve known it for 25 years won’t exist in 2013.
I didn’t watch the US presidential debate last night, and I wasn’t even checking social media while it was going on. I had hundreds of tweets to read directly related to that debate when I finally had the time to check on things, and I decided to skip it. A couple of friends summarized it for me. One said all I need to know is “binders full of women.”
She then linked me to an article on the Guardian website that deconstructed Mitt Romney’s comments about women and employment. It’s a classic case of how many people, particularly white men, perpetuate the patriarchy without seeing anything wrong with it. Those of this mindset hear the title of Simone de Beauvoir’s seminal work “The Second Sex” and think “yeah, what about them?” Many of his comments were worded in a way that makes blatant the underlying biases that the majority of people have from being entirely encased in the society we have and calling it “reality” rather than a representation of the accumulation of power relationships.
That’s why the way Romney was speaking of women in high-end positions is prevalent. The subject – why women aren’t represented in certain jobs – has been addressed in the federal jurisdiction of the Canadian workforce under Employment Equity legislation. That’s essentially what he was talking about, except Employment Equity also includes aboriginals, visible minorities, and persons with disabilities. White men take offense to being excluded from the groups that they see as being “favoured” and I’ve spoken to several of these men who resent not being selected for a certain job because other applicants were female/native/coloured/handicapped. (I used some innocently offensive terms for a reason, of course.)
Employment Equity is not throwing job applications of white able-bodied men in the waste basket. It’s expanding the means of recruitment – like Romney asking organizations and getting “binders full of women” – to reach those who are not reached through traditional methods. It’s examining the labour pool for the relevant positions to measure the diversity within that pool, and taking setting goals to reflect that in the organization. It’s ensuring past barriers, like internal referrals from an Ol’ Boys Club, or assumptions about the career dedication of women of child-bearing age, or equating a foreign accent with a lack of intelligence, are broken down and fixed by recognizing the qualifications these designated groups have and why it is systemic rather than by merit that they have not worked their way up the corporate ladder as quickly as white men. Those long-practiced barriers, the ones spoken of in Michelle Obama’s speech at the DNC regarding Barack’s grandmother, have created deeply rooted inequality that cannot be leveled by simply saying “From now on, both men and women can apply for these jobs, and I will select the best applicant to hire.”
The eyes evaluating the best applicant are the ones who say “yeah, what about them?” when you mention women, aboriginals, visible minorities, and persons with disabilities. They fail to see the shining qualifications because they put a “the other” shell on the person first and foremost. It seems unjust to have to put in the effort to remove that shell, but that is only the case because for the privileged demographic they never noticed that they put it on in the first place.