Thursday, November 29, 2012

On Being a Girl

I've thought long and hard about our conversation last night. It's so strange- it hardly concerns guys at all, but girls spend much time thinking about what it means to be a girl. A woman, I guess. Yesterday I feel like I talked about the negative aspects of it, but I've realized lately that there are many privileges too, that guys are often denied.
A young, pretty girl can get away with murder. In many ways we are almost outside of, or above, the law. Of course this isn't true in every case, but certainly more so than men.
We are probably one of the most desirable things on earth. It's kind of sick and twisted, but once you except it you also realize that a world of privilege and opportunity can open for you just based on gender, age, and genetics.
You'll be hard pressed to find a girl who admits to it, but I will- I have consciously used my "winning personality" (a.k.a. feminine wiles) in order to get things I want out of men, especially older men. Usually at work- if you flirt with an older, wealthy man, he will give you money. More and more money. My female manger has even talked with me about it, brutally, saying "Here, this private party has requested a young female server. Go charm them. Don't you feel like a prostitute?"
And yes, it does feel like prostitution, but I also don't feel bad about it. If the fools think that me batting my lashes and joking with them means I'm actually into them, and give me things that I want/need, then it's no skin off my back- it's only acting a part.
As one of the most desired commodities on earth, you get into clubs. You get the jobs. You get drinks bought for you, dinner, attention. Special service. Worshipped. It's heady nectar.
Some girls don't realize this, I think. I started to realize it after high school. It was so incredibly easy to play the role that men expected. Other girls will fight their entire lives, complain, push people away, get offended. But the ones who see the truth of the system will use the system, and to their advantage. It's hard enough being a girl as it is. If you expect equality, you will forever be disappointed. But if you can twist the inequality to your benefit, then at least for a few years you are the one who has the upper hand.
What men want is so unbelievably simple. They are flattered by attention, by the way you gaze at them admirably. If you tease them about being idiots, they think you mean the opposite. They want to be noticed, they want you to feel safe with them. Besides the obvious sex thing, they want you to need them in some way. They want you to laugh at their jokes. To respect them.
And if you provide the illusion of even a few of these things, they will chase you, they will want you, they will eat out of your palm.
Maybe feminism is dead. Or maybe it just has a new face.

One (Blake's Got a New Face)- Vampire Weekend

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I fell in love with Anderson Cooper during the most recent American election.
It was strange. I had heard the name batted around before, but I don't pay attention to CNN unless I'm half way around the world and it's the only English thing on tv. So I had never noticed his face before.
But a month ago I was watching the election at my neighbours house, visiting their new kitten. And he- oh his eyes- and I know he is old. And gay. But he looks so strong. And he is funny. And dives into the face of danger, and if there was a war, or I was in trouble, I'd want him to be on my side. I'd trust him. Follow him into battle. Whatever.
It is supposed to be a snow storm today, but so far it is just freezing cold instead. And a yucky yellow sky.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Rome and Too Much Caffeine

Too much caffeine this morning. I am almost done drinking an entire pot, and my eyeballs are jittering and my palms are sweaty. Instead of helping me focus on writing my Classics paper, it has me scrolling through Facebook pictures and becoming intensely interested in current world events. And now blogging. Which is writing. So it's a step closer to my paper, I guess.
Gotta stay positive.
Look on the bright side of life.
Very Life of Brian, non?
But anyway, the result of all this internet searching, scanning, reading, etc., is that I am craving Rome. The dirty streets and the crush of people getting off the train station at Termini. Want to know a fun fact? I have been to Rome over 10 different instances. I lived there for the month of August a couple of years ago. We would drink too much caffeine then too. An espresso at every break. Every new sight or stop we would find a cafe and drop a euro on a coffee. Except at lunch time. Then, Linds and I would make a big pasta lunch with fresh produce picked up on our way back to the convent, and then we would crack open a bottle of red and drink a glass or two with our food. Sometimes we would make a salad instead of pasta. A crunchy, fresh salad of rucola full of tuna or little fish, and chickpeas, and we would free- hand pour olive oil and balsamic over the top. Then it was nap time. Or more like I would sleep and she would watch South Park stolen from Duncan on Tristan's laptop. We would gather in the late afternoons for a final few churches to explore, sweat dripping down our backs.
Rome in August is hot.
So is Rome in July.
Rome in January is rainy and cool.
Rome in February can be warmish, but it still is rainy and windy.
Rome in March is usually quite pleasant.
And by April, Rome is wonderful. Maybe my favourite time there.
Gosh, I sound pretentious, don't I? Sorry. But honestly, it's probably my favourite city.

When I was there with K, we would take the metro out to the Vatican JUST to get Old Bridge gelato. It was cheap, huge helpings, in a tiny crack in the new part of the city. Plus, the gelato was served up the cutest Roman guys. So smiley, and charming. Sometimes we would go twice a day.

And when I was there with Dani, I showed her the donair pizza place I found in the basement of an internet cafe by the Santa Maria Majjore. We would make an effort to stop there every time we were in Rome for a day or two, or even just passing through on our way to somewhere else. I wonder if I could find it again...
Just ran up to the attic and pulled out an old map of Rome. The street names are only vaguely familiar, but if I was there in person, I'm sure I could figure it out.
One of the last times I was at that pizza place, it was with Dani and Sonja. We had spent the whole day wandering around the Tiber, and exploring around the Ponte Fabricio, eating bread and cheese and salami cut up with my Swiss army knife. For dinner we made our way to the pizza place, Dani and I promising Sonja that it would be the best donair pizza she had ever tasted. It really was, too. We sat at one of the 3 tables to munch, and watched the tiny little tv that was switched to the Italian news station, and that was when we first saw footage of the Japanese tsunami. I remember we were shocked, almost crying, using our rudimentary Italian to try and understand what was happening. It was scary.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Syringes From Syria

This is continued travel adventures from Cyprus. We ran wild on the beach and dunes, dug holes to hide from the wind, found caves and made them liveable. Why on earth we didn't think about food and water is beyond me. Maybe we were going to fish. Steal rain water. Be feral. But there were these broken needles all along the tide line, apparently washed up from Syria, and when we ran (we hardly walked) we kept our heads down to avoid stepping on them.
We had 2 thin fleece blankets between the 3 of us, and no other way of keeping warm. Fire, perhaps, but it rained so everything was wet.

Chris went swimming on the rocks and tide pools, and one day we hitched a ride out to some fascinating cliffs and a lighthouse. We climbed all over the cliffs and got sprayed by the smashing waves, and got lost, and got separated, and I remember that the utter freedom we had was terrifying. It felt very Lord of the Flies. After a week we left. We left in the early morning, walking along these country roads with our backpacks, through fields, in the sun, and across stone bridges. We walked for a long time, and took a break under a big tree, and I want to say we recited poetry but I think we were mostly silent. Finally a white van approached behind us, and we stuck out our thumbs and he stopped for us. Chris and Dani loaded into the empty, dusty back of the van, and I sat in the front with the driver who spoke not a word of English but we managed to communicate that we wanted taking to the nearest town. So for an hour or so we drove through the afternoon, and the windows were down and I stuck my hand out the window and hoped that Dani and Chris could breathe and weren't too scared in the dark.

He dropped us off in front of the big stone building where we had sat and watched a movie be filmed some days before. We sat again on the pillared veranda, and drank tea, and smoked cigarettes, and I think we ate some beans or something, or maybe a bag of strange chips because we were always hungry and had no food.

After a few hours break, waiting to see if a bus would come, we set off again. We walked to the edge of town, and then found a highway that seemed to lead back in the general direction we wanted to go (South), and again we walked and walked for hours. Finally a tiny car stopped for us, with two teenage girls in the front and a sullen, shy teenage boy in the back. Somehow we managed to cram all three of us plus our bags into the already tight car, and again, no English was spoken but we didn't care where we ended up, as long as it was somewhere. The girls were always laughing, and teasing the boy, and I remember being jealous of their clean hair and painted nails, because I'm pretty sure we looked and smelled like garbage. But they took us all the way back to Famagusta, and that night I think was the night Chris and I walked all the way to the deserted beach resort and then hitched a ride back with a crazy vegetable seller, who took us on a tour of the university campus and hospital and such, when really I just wanted to get back to the hotel where we were staying the night with Dani.

When you hitch a ride you are at the other person's mercy. And you owe them your attention, and you owe them your stories, and you owe them your smile and laugh and you owe them the allowance to be in the spotlight. A ride is never free. A meal is never free. Anything that appears to be free I guarantee is not.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I want to be on a roof right now. If I have to live in a city, I mean, if I get to live in a big city someday (please dear God get me out of the one I'm in now) I want there to be a roof I can escape to. I want to sit on the edge and dangle my legs over, smoke a cigarette and scream hoarsely at pigeons. I want to bring a six-pack of beer up to the roof, and with my friends start a dance party on the crunchy gravel. In the summer I want to sun-tan on a towel, topless, and in the winter I want to bundle up in a blanket and a touque and cry after a bad day.
I want to kiss someone on a roof.
I want to sleep on a roof. I did, in Istanbul, but there was mattresses and blankets, which is cheating.
The best conversations seem to happen on top of buildings. There is something inspiring about being above everyone else. Ha, that sounds so imperialistic. But seriously, it feels like the air is different.

I used to get in trouble as a kid for climbing too much. Trees, roofs, every house we moved to I would figure out the best routes from outside (patio tables, window sills, deck railings, fences) to get on the roof, and which rooms inside had windows large enough for me to crawl out of. And trees in our yards, too, I would find paths up cedar trees and apple trees alike. My mom used to have to set limits for me, saying honey, I don't want you climbing that tree above the level of the house. Of course sometimes I did, but as I got older the thin branches at the top felt more and more unable to hold my weight.

I haven't climbed a tree in years. I miss it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Calgary- Closer to Halfway Home

It's over. And I'm shaky, from caffeine and adrenaline withdrawal and sitting in the Calgary airport closer to half way home.
I shed those tears weeks ago, and so conversations held were adult, calm, rational. Today though, sitting in the Winnipeg airport, it hit me for one second, and I felt like someone had punched all the air out of my stomach and I curved over, bent slightly forward trying to get air. I think I gasped once, delicately, quietly, and closed my eyes, squeezed out two tears, then recovered. Went back to reading Watchmen and eating my goldfish crackers.
Those times I memorized pieces and articles of chunks of skin, and the way the crease in the corner of the eye met the bridge of the nose, the few faint freckles, the pointed perfect elf ear, the melted mouth so sweet- I wish I hadn't. I want to erase it from my mind. You cannot forgot what you so diligently committed to memory.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, tonight you are mine.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Interlude of the Past

This is where I was a month ago:
It was a black spinning hole, scattered with bursts of cheap gold stars, and all the free bottles of liquor were drinken, and all the half-empty bottles of wine, and all the fierce almost undrinkable whiskey was gone. Mostly she remembered the kitchen- warm, full of people, and sitting on Sean's lap while he rubbed her back. What a glorious feeling when she was in the hole: to be touched, polished, appreciated, on-the-shelf with a high price-tag stuck tenuously to her forehead. And blurs of emotion and relationships slurring past her in the stream. But she was either weighed down on the river bed, or out of the water altogether, she wasn't sure which, so there was nothing she could do to interact positively with them.

And I need to keep reminding myself of this when I venture out tomorrow.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Preparing for Winnipeg

I prepared this morning for flying to Winnipeg by putting on my own version of war-paint, my own special talismans.
I took out my crystal ear studs, and replaced them with the dark grey fresh-water pearls my daddy bought me for my 18th birthday. Every time I shook my head, or craned my neck, or even laughed loudly they swung below my ear lobes and touched the side of my neck, reminding me that they were there.

I removed my flattened bottle cap necklace from Christina Lake and slung my silver St. Christopher medallion around my head instead. My sister and I had made matching necklaces, extra long to hide under our shirts, and we each had attached an anchor charm to the medallion to symbolize hope, steadfastness, and to remind us of the sea and where we had been born.  St. Christopher of course is the patron saint of travellers, and even though we aren't Catholic it's nice to have something to hold on to in the wary, uncertain hours of voyages and adventuring.

Around my wrist I refastened the thin, delicate silver bracelet my mother had given me, which I had taken off for the first time in years when we were working with clay in sculpture class, because the clay kept on getting caught in the clasp and dulling the metal. This was the bracelet that Chris Barlow had always commented on when we were travelling through Turkey, singing that Bob Dylan song, Shelter From the Storm:
"Suddenly I turned around and she was standing there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair.
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns,
'Come in', she said
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'"

And of course, on my finger was my brass interlocking ring that matched with the one K has, from the art gallery in Grand Forks that we had bought a year and a half ago. I only removed that ring for baking and working with clay. Even on excavations I left it on.

Each piece of jewellery meant something special to me, reminded me of those I loved best, and those who had loved me unconditionally. They reminded me that I was who I was, and it couldn't be helped, and to be strong, courageous, and have a backbone, and that the right things to do were often the the very hardest.
They will continue to remind me this week to not take the easy way out, to value myself, and when it hurts to pick myself back up and say quietly, hey world, I am pretty fantastically special and I am going to have a fantastically unconventional life.
I just wish I had one piece that would make me laugh and remind me to not take myself so seriously. To remind me that this too shall pass, and to have patience, and a sense of humour. I will maybe draw something on the back of my hand. That might help. And with laughter, you don't need luck. Though in my case, I would like as much as I can possibly get of both for this week. Please.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

November 3

"But for the here and now, where the living dwell..." (Jamie McGlue)
It's always a struggle to live in the present. To not dwell on the past or try to divine the future, but to find your place in every second, to curl up in the tick of every minute and be content to be curled there. I am away this weekend at my friend Linds' family's place, the giant piece of land where last year I helped decorate the 12 foot tree, and it is lovely as always. Wood fire, cathedral windows and ceiling, SNOW, cross-country skiing, beer, good food, interesting people. Out here, 2 hours North of the city, it is easier to be where the living are.
Less impulsive, more patient. That is my mantra, my prayer these days. Patience. Patience. Patience.

The dark is bothering me less these days. It's ok, it's manageable right now. It's kind of thrilling, actually, to sink back into the patterns of wearing layers and never seeing the sun. It's similar to having a near-empty fridge: it's easier to create meals when you have limited ingredients. And it's easier to see beauty when you have so much ugliness around you. So clearly can you see life when death is everywhere you look.

In the sauna last night, after we had bussed and driven for 2 hours, I could feel the layers of slime and dirt coming out of my skin. Sweat, dead skin cells, fatigue, stress, alcohol, greasy food, frustration, loneliness, other stupid people, guilt, anger. And it was replaced with heat, emptiness, water. A tightening of my skin around my bones. A heaviness of my eyelids.

I'm nervous about flying to Winnipeg next week. I shouldn't be; travelling alone is one of the things I'm good at, and I get a kick out of adventure. But I'm scared about the things waiting for me there. I'm scared that it was a mistake to plan this visit to friends. I'm scared that once I go unrepairable damage will ensue and I will be regretting it for the rest of my life.
But I'm too dramatic. I read too much into things. I get feelings about things that never come to fruition. I'm most likely going to have a wonderful week there. I'll let you know. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

November 1

I left the warm, dark house early this morning and ventured to class while the street-lights were still on and there was no one else awake. It was raining snow; that weird phenomenon where the snow comes straight down in curtains, in small particles like white raindrops, only everything is in slow motion. Absolutely dumping the stuff. It was incredibly peaceful, and when you stood still you could hear the snowflakes hitting leaves, trees, cars, the ground, with a very quiet tinkly sigh. Almost what you would expect a sparkle to sound like, if sparkles made noise.

Later in the afternoon I came home and it was still pouring out of the sky. I decided to shovel, because I couldn't see the sidewalk or the path to the front door, so I bundled in layers of scarves and sweaters and a winter coat and a toque, wool socks and my brothers old Sorrels which I stole when he moved to England. It was good to move in the cold, to feel my muscles tighten and release, to see my breath in the white air, to be warm from my heart pumping strongly. After, I sat on the steps and lifted my face to the trees and closed my eyes. There was the comforting smell of wet wool, and the sharp pure clean smell of fresh snow. My jeans were getting wet from the snow, and my butt was cold from the frozen stone stairs, but inside I was hot and comfortable. I sat in utter stillness for around half an hour, feeling the gentle tickle of flakes landing on my face, watching the snow fall in strands before me and around me, like a screen saver of stars, or fake rain in a low-budget movie. Soon, black-capped chickadees were in the branches of the trees beside me, and a black and white woodpecker with a red flash down its head was knocking around. There was no wind, nothing to drive leaves to the ground or blind you with ice. I wanted to sit there forever; I wanted it to snow like this forever, until I was nothing more than a giant pile of white. Until the entire world was a giant pile of white, the oceans and the deserts and the forests and the plains just covered in 6 feet of snow. Everything would perish, and yet it would still keep on raining down until the rent in the heavens closed for good and that's how it would remain, a giant ball of white snow floating through the black universe.