Getting there

Getting there

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Blame It On My Sisters

Before I begin I should make it clear that I dearly love my sisters. I happen to have four of them, all a bit older than me, and they are a diverse and fascinating group of women that have long been my role models. I do blame them, however, for one of my character traits, and I suspect they know they are guilty of this, too. For what do I blame them? Dear friends, I blame them quite completely for the fact that I adore men.

Now, don't take that the wrong way. I am a married woman (and married to a man, incidentally). I also happen to be a woman who generally speaking prefers the company of men, and always have. This may seem to fly in the face of logic as one would think that growing up in a houseful of women should make me feel closer to that gender, but let me explain.

When I was a child my sisters were already dating. They were (and are) intelligent and attractive women, and so our house had a constant flow of young men entering and exiting. There were current boyfriends, past boyfriends, boyfriend-hopefuls, and friends who were boys. All these young men had one thing in common, though - they knew that in order to win the heart of whatever sister they happened to be after they needed to be nice to one person - namely me, the baby sister.

This meant that from a very young age I became quite accustomed to being treated pretty nicely by men. Oh, they were much older than I, and the interest they had in me was often just to show my sisters what nice guys they were. What it meant, though, was that I was the recipient of gifts, attention, and ice cream. I learned a lot about men from spending time with my sisters' entourages, and what I learned was that I really liked them, regardless of the gifts and attention.

Men are straightforward, honest and often blunt. If they like you they will let you know it, and if they don't like you they won't hang around. They don't engage in the same sort of subterfuge and cattiness that some women prefer, and they aren't as quick to pounce on every social nuance as evidence of some sort, either. They are often the ultimate in "what you see is what you get", and that's a trait I came to adore from about the age of about 5. I've never been able to shake it, either. That adoration has followed me my entire life.

Over the course of my life I have always gravitated towards men as friends, and most of my close female friends will admit that they are a bit more like men in their personality than women (my female friends tend to be blunt and often brash, which I love). I too was recently described as a "steamroller in a skirt" so perhaps I am a bit more masculine in personality than I'd ever realized. This is, dear friends, quite okay with me.

However, I also admit that I am a shameless and relentless flirt, and have always really been. It's a harmless kind of flirtation, though, infused with the simple joy of the banter it entails. It's a bit like breathing to me, and that too I blame on my sisters as I lived through many years of their eyelash-batting and hair-tossing. I learned from the very best, dear friends.

Now, there have been times I wondered about this preference for men. When I was a teen and my mother would answer the phone (for the umpteenth time that day) and it was yet another boy she would ask exactly how many of them I was stringing along. The thing was, though, that I truly enjoyed their company, and what I loved most about them was how different they all were. They intrigued me, whether they were artists, or musicians, or intellectuals, or jocks or, sadly, even jerks. They fascinated me with the way they viewed the world, and I found that with them I could be who I was, without pretending to be smarter or funnier or prettier. They knew - and if they didn't like what they saw they would quietly move along. There was a refreshing honesty in my relationships with these boys-who-would-become-men, and over time it simply became my normal.

I am older now, of course, and have been married a very long time. My husband has long been my best male friend, and I also have a best female friend, too. There are still in my life, though, men who are my very close friends. I suppose I could blame my sisters for that fact - but instead I think I will thank them. Without the influence of my sisters (and their myriad boyfriends) I wouldn't have these male friends in my life - and I don't think life would be quite the same without them. I admit it. I like men, dear friends, and I'm quite proud of it, too.

Peggy Lee and Judy Garland - "I Like Men"

Monday, August 15, 2011

There Should Be A Law...

There are times, dear friends, when I read or see things that I can't seem to shake. They haunt me both in my waking hours and in my dreams, and they make me think deeper and broader than I realized was possible. This happened to me recently with a short independent film shown at a local film festival, and since I saw it I have been unable to leave it alone. My thoughts return to it daily, and I continue to try to tease out the meaning and impact it has had on me.

Dear friends, perhaps you have heard someone at some time say "there should be a test before you can be a parent". Perhaps you've even said it yourself. I suppose even I have, at times when I have heard of a parent doing some horrendous thing to their child. I have never really believed it, but I know that in times of frustration or anguish I have thought perhaps that is what was needed to protect our world from bad parents. And then I saw this film, and suddenly the true repercussions of such a test, and such laws that instituted them, became apparent.

As I have said before in this blog I have a family history of mental illness. On the other side of my family we have a history of alcoholism. In my husband's family there is a history of cancer on both sides, as well as high cholesterol and other health issues. I suspect there is a strong genetic component to all these ailments, and I began to contemplate if "parenting laws" would perhaps exclude those with such histories from bearing children. What would that mean? Well, in my case it would mean that the eight children that my sisters and I have produced might not exist. I look at these children, all intelligent, beautiful, productive, contributing, and quirky individuals, and I wonder if our world can afford to lose children like these.

Dear friends, I won't say much more. Watch this film. Feel the impact, and next time you are tempted to say "there should be a law", stop and think. Consider your own family tree. Think about the imperfections on the branches of that tree, and ask yourself - do you ever really want to see such a law exist? Because if it did, would you? Or your children? I suspect in my case the answer, sadly, is no.

 I present to you one of the most compelling films I've ever seen - "Reproduction".

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

One Of Those People

Dear friends, I had a discussion recently on Facebook that made me think a great deal, and I decided to share it with you. For such a simple conversation it really gave me pause, and as I so often now do I felt I needed to explore it further to fully understand it.

A friend had posted a photo of some boots on her wall, and I commented that I thought they were lovely. Another person, someone I know "of" but do not "know", commented that she didn't know where she would wear these boots. Now, they were fairly standard fare for me - a blue ankle boot with a 3-inch heel, nothing spectacular but very cute - so I commented that I would wear them with jeans to do errands, like getting groceries. This other woman then said "oh, T, so you are one of THOSE people?". I must confess that at first I was annoyed - what did she mean, one of "those" people? And then I realized the perfect reply, as it encapsulated my philosophy. I responded "One of those people who think life is an occasion worth dressing up for? Yes, I am one of THOSE people".

And it's true, dear friends, I am one of those people. For many years I dressed very casually - not poorly, but also not well. It was due to a combination of factors - a weight I wasn't comfortable with, a lack of interest in fashion, and, well, just general malaise. When I lost a significant amount of weight, though, my interest in fashion, which was once very high, returned. Suddenly clothing (and especially shoes, my beloved shoes!) became very important to me once again. It wasn't that I was suddenly a "fashionista", or that I was obsessed with my appearance - it's that I realized that how I looked on the outside truly affected how I felt on the inside, too.

Maybe it's not true for everyone, but for me when I put on something fabulous - a dress, perhaps, or a great pair of shoes - the day seems brighter. My mood seems lighter, and I just feel better about facing the world. There are those who say appearance shouldn't matter, and in some sense I agree - I'm not the most beautiful woman in the world. However, my appearance does matter to me. I have a certain way I want to interact with the world. How I feel about myself, and how I present myself to it, will impact that interaction. I suppose I always knew that, but had forgotten it for many years.

I almost always wear shoes with heels now, as at 5"3" I can use all the height I can get. I rarely wear jeans, and most often can be found in a dress or skirt. I haunt clothing and shoe stores for great finds, and often receive kind compliments on the things I wear as I tend towards the unusual or unique. I adorn myself with bracelets, necklaces, and scarves. The thing is that I don't do this for anyone but me. I don't do it to impress or attract. I do it because it makes me happy. I do it because this external appearance reflects who I am on the inside, and inside there is a person who is colourful and feminine and unusual and unique. Inside me is a person who thinks that life is an occasion worth dressing up for.

So yes, dear friends, I am one of "those" people who wear heels to the grocery store. I am also completely unrepentant and unapologetic for that. I will continue to dress as if life is an occasion worth dressing up for, because some day my life will end - but probably not today. That alone makes today an occasion worth dressing up for, don't you think?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Who I Really Am

The photo that heads this post is perhaps my very favourite new photo of myself, dear friends. It was taken by a friend after we had reached the upper fossil beds of Mt. Stephens in Yoho National Park, BC, and my furry friend is Zephron, a dog owned by a Parks Canada guide. It took me some time to figure out why exactly this photo sang to me the instant I saw it, so much so that it became my Facebook profile photo, and even the background on the laptop on which I now write. I suppose it's because in some very basic way, dear friends, it speaks to who I really am.

In the last two years I have gone through some astonishing personal changes, both physical and mental. I lost a significant amount of weight, and became fitter than I've been in my entire life. With the physical changes also came a change in the way I saw myself. I no longer saw a dowdy individual lacking in self-confidence but rather a woman who was strong and capable, in both a physical and emotional sense.

A few months ago I began the writing project that now consumes much of my time and effort. I never could have predicted what it has become, or what it now means to me. I suppose what made me realize how my self-image had changed is when a person spotted me tapping away at my laptop in my local coffee shop where I often go to write. She asked if I was reading the blog on my screen - or if, just maybe, I was the author? I paused, not sure how to respond, and finally replied that I was the author - and her excitement was a bit overwhelming. She told me she loved what I write, and that she reads it faithfully. She told me that she felt like she was meeting a local celebrity. Yes, me - a celebrity. That is a word I have never, ever thought of in conjunction with myself, not in any context, and I admit it threw me into a state of both pleasure and confusion.

It is easy to begin to believe one's own press, dear friends, and that is a topic I have discussed with people like Canadian performer Shaun Majumder. Those who suddenly find fame or notoriety often struggle to cope with it, and I worried about myself a bit in this regard. I definitely suffer from big-fish-in-a-little-pond syndrome, as I have achieved notice for my written work in a very short period of time simply due to the size and nature of my city. I feared that being called or considered a celebrity would change how I view myself yet again, and not necessarily in a positive way, either.

Every time I had that fear, though, I would look at this photo. I would see a woman who had snuck behind the Park guide's back to cuddle his dog (the guide was a quiet and rather unfriendly sort, while his dog was just the opposite as you can see). I would see a woman who had just climbed a mountain, both in the physical sense and in the mental sense of accomplishing a long-held dream. I would see a woman without any pretense, a woman who was simply existing in that moment of time, and not worrying about the future or fretting about the past. I saw me, dear friends, just me, no celebrity. Just me, and Zephron. I suppose that's why I love this photo so very much. It reminds me of who I really am, and every day when I see it I feel the warmth and joy and satisfaction I had in that moment. It was a moment when who I really am was closest to the surface, and now it exists in this photo, memorialized forever. It is, forever and always, who I really am.