Tag Archives: holidays

Shrevolution! Or, I Hate Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

I’m just going to go ahead and put this out there: I’m not exactly the world’s biggest fan of Valentine’s Day.

I mean, it’s fine when you’re a little kid. You make sure to wear something red or pink, tell your parents how much you love them, and draw hearts all over every-fucking-thing. Everyone in your class gives you a card, your gorge yourself on chocolate, then spend the afternoon in a sugar-fuelled frenzy and throw up all over your babysitter’s carpet. End of story.

Then you hit puberty, and Valentine’s Day becomes this huge, looming thing. Like, it’s the only day where you can truly prove just how much you love (or, at least, want to fuck) another person. You can be in a happy committed relationship for every other day of the year, but if you happen to be single on Valentine’s Day, then you, my friend, are the most pathetic person in the world. Or at least you’re made to feel like you are.

My dislike for Valentine’s Day has slowly evolved over the years. In grade school I thought it was fine, maybe even sort of fun, and in high school I endured it, handing out ironic valentines to friends and crushes alike (go ahead, ask me how well that worked in the dating department). By university, though, I was ready to declare open season on V-Day.

I decided that the modern-day, grown-up version of Valentine’s Day was nothing less than a capitalist nightmare, chock-full of obligations to spend money: on flowers, on dinner, on chocolates, on jewellery, on sexy lingerie. There were other, insinuated obligations, too. For example, women were expected to pay for all the attention and money lavished on them by putting out, whether they wanted to or not. I even once had a male friend say to me, “If I buy my girlfriend flowers for Valentine’s Day, she basically has to have sex with me, right?”

Uh, no, dude. She doesn’t.

And, I mean, seriously, out of all the thinly-Christianized pagan celebrations to take hold this side of the Atlantic, how did crappy old Valentine’s Day manage to make it onto that list? Why can’t we celebrate May Day and dance around may poles? How come we don’t do anything for St. John’s Eve, a.k.a. Midsummer? I would way rather build some bad-ass bonfires in June than hand out ugly, mass-produced cards in February.

All of this was part of the reason why my roommates and I decided to throw an Anti-Valentine’s-Day party during second year. My mother had put a package of pink, heart-shaped Post-It notes in my stocking that Christmas, so we used those to decorate our apartment, scrawling things like, “LOVE IS AN ILLUSION” and “FUCK YOU” on them. You know, the usual romantic stuff.

Aside from the fact that a girl that no one liked and no one would admit to inviting ended up vomiting red wine all over our bathroom, the party was a resounding success.

The next year, my friends and I celebrated Valentine’s Day a little differently. Our plans started innocently enough: we were going to go eat greasy, delicious, non-romantic food and then go somewhere for drinks. There were four of us, two of whom had boyfriends, and all we really wanted was a quiet, Galentine’s night out.

Once we got to the pub, things went downhill fast.

A few drinks into the evening, the ranting began. And, naturally, the more we drank, the more belligerent we became.

“Fuck Valentine’s Day!” said one of my friends, “People think it’s all about women, but really it’s all about dicks getting some action.”

“Yeah, fuck dicks,” said another. “I mean, don’t actually fuck them, but also, fuck them.”

“Valentine’s Day should be for clits, not dicks! Dudes should be obligated to prove that they can perform proper oral sex before taking a woman out for V-Day,” said someone else. “Clit not dick! Clit not dick!”

Clit Not Dick ended up becoming our mantra for the evening. We repeated it frequently and loudly. We decided that we were going to start a revolution based on our new slogan, one that would free women everywhere from the oppressive shackles of Valentine’s Day. We began approaching romantic-looking couples at other tables to ask if they’d hear the good news about Clit Not Dick. We harassed the band with demands for songs by Veruca Salt, Hole, and, strangely, Counting Crows (they actually did end up playing Mr. Jones, probably just to make us go away).

This was back in the days when you could still smoke in bars, so we started chain-smoking to go along with our drinking. Soon our ashtray was overflowing, and our table was surrounded by a blue haze. We decided that we should pact that night, the four of us, to continue spreading word of the revolution. We touched the glowing tips of our cigarettes together and called it a cigarette pact because, we said, cigarettes don’t lie.

Later, we spilled out onto the street and, arm in arm, began marching down Spring Garden Road singing We Shall Overcome. Whenever we saw a girl getting into a car with a guy, we would run over and try to convince her that she didn’t need him, she only needed herself! We proselytized about the revolution to everybody, shouting CLIT NOT DICK at random intervals.

We found a phone booth and somehow managed to cram all four of us into it. We dialled the tips line for the local newspaper and left them a long, rambling message about capitalism, the revolution, and how Valentine’s Day oppressed women, and, naturally, clit not dick. We finished up by saying that we expected to see something about this in the next day’s paper.

“GET ON IT,” my friend yelled into the phone before hanging up.

One of my friends was so drunk when she got home that she was slurring her words. She tried to tell her boyfriend It’s the revolution! but apparently it came out sounding like Shrevolution! 

Naturally, once the rest of us heard that word, we adopted it as the new name for our movement.

The next year we held another Shrevolution, but the year after that I met Matt, and everything changed.

I learned to love Valentine’s Day and everything that went with it.

PSYCH. I still hate Valentine’s Day. Matt, who is kind of into it, has had to accept that I’m just not a very romantic person. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we’ve tried to celebrate it, if only because it seemed to mean something to Matt. But I think he realized pretty early on that it wasn’t my thing – the fact that for our first Valentine’s Day together he gave me a red silk pillow with I Love You embroidered on it and I gave him a swiss army knife may have helped tip him off – and now we’re pretty low-key about it.

But tonight, the Shrevolution will ride again. A bunch of my old Halifax friends are now living in Toronto, and three of us are going out to the Drake tonight to eat fancy, romantic food and get trashed on overpriced cocktails. Because as much as I might laugh at my younger self for some of my ridiculous Shrevolution antics, I can’t say that I entirely disagree with her thoughts on V-Day: that it’s too commercial, too capitalist, and there’s too much obligation to spend money that you might not have. Also the fact that you should celebrate your love for someone every day, not just spend one day a year in the back corner of a third-rate restaurant because that was the only place you could get a reservation, exchanging cheesy Hallmark cards and crappy gifts. Because you know what? Love fucking deserves better than that.

So while you are sitting there trying to whisper sweet nothings in your lover’s ear over the din of everyone else trying to do the same, I will be laughing raucously, swearing like a sailor, and yelling rude things.

Happy Shrevolution, you guys!

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Home for Christmas

24 Dec

By the time I finished high school, I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Dodge Kitchener. Actually, that’s a lie – I’d been planning my escape since sometime in my early teens; it’s just that in my final semester of secondary school, my need to leave and branch out on my own was becoming dire. Part of it was that I just plain hated Kitchener (sorry, fellow Kitchenerites – I’ve since revised my opinion somewhat!); I was a pretentious kid who read French existentialists and smutty Leonard Cohen books, and I saw myself as being too big, too smart for my provincial hometown. Part of it was that I was sure that people only thought of me as a loser geek because they were accustomed to doing so; I thought that if I moved somewhere where no one knew me, my new peers would be sure to recognize me for the super smart intellectual with a killer fashion sense and razor sharp wit that I was. But probably the biggest reason for wanting to leave Kitchener was my family.

As the oldest child in a single parent family whose siblings were 6 and 11 years younger than her, things were, well, less than stellar. For one thing, I did a lot of free babysitting duty, which made it hard to get an after school job and earn a few dollars for myself. This, in turn, made it hard to keep up with classmates whose families were better off than mine; my clothes weren’t as nice as theirs, I didn’t always get to go along on class trips, and in my last year of school, I couldn’t afford the $20 student card, which meant that I didn’t qualify for any of the student awards. Because my mother only had a certain number of sick days per year, and because little kids tend to spend a lot of time getting sick, I was often the one to stay home with my sisters when they were running a fever or had the flu. Worst of all, or so it seemed to me, I was perpetually stuck in little-kid land. Our family television was occupied with an endless loop of Barney, The Lion King and (worst of all) Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen; I wasn’t allowed to watch any of the shows that I wanted, because they were all “inappropriate” (like, whatever, the X-Files is clearly fine for all age groups), and even just suggesting that we could turn the television off and enjoy some peace and quiet was met with a chorus of screams and protests.

I mean, sure, none of this seems that bad in retrospect, and some of it even makes me sound downright whiny, but when I was 16 all of this stuff felt like a Big Deal.

So when it came time to apply to universities, I pinned all of my hopes on one way out on the east coast, nearly 1,500 miles away from my mother’s house. I received an early offer of acceptance, which I jubilantly waved in my mother’s face. When my sisters asked if they could come visit me, I smiled and said, sure, but secretly I was thinking, so long suckers. Freedom was so close that I could taste it.

In September of that year, I packed a huge rubbermaid container full of clothing and books and set out on my 36 hour train trip to Halifax. As I hunkered down in my seat, staring at the Eastern Ontario woods and listening to Tori Amos on my discman, I thought about the fact that no one on that train knew who I was. I was finally free to be whoever I wanted to be.

University life, of course, wasn’t exactly the dreamland I’d pictured it to be. For one thing, it turned out that, even stripped of all my history and baggage, I was still a loser geek. After a few years in Halifax I would find a way to make that work for me, but that first semester was tough, sometimes bordering on downright awful. For one thing, while none of the people I met had any preconceived notions about my nerdiness, the flip side of that was that they didn’t have any positive associations with me, either. Determined to prove that I was just as cool as they were, I became unbearable, trying to show how smart I was by loudly talking over people, attempting to make “interesting” and “daring” fashion choices while actually making a fool of myself, using alcohol to get over my shyness and then spending the rest of the night throwing up in my dorm room sink. By the time late November rolled around, it was pretty clear to me that I was failing miserably at convincing everyone that I was witty and cool. Worst of all, I was surrounded by people who thought that I was a huge loser 24/7. I realized that there was something to be said for having a family who was obligated to love me unconditionally to come home to every night.

I distinctly remember the moment that I realized how homesick I was. I had a part-time job working in a clothing store, and one evening, as I was folding t-shirts, I started crying when Judy Garland’s version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas came on the radio. Although I tried to be discreet about wiping away my tears, my boss noticed that I was a snotty, sniffling mess and asked me what was wrong. “I miss my mom,” I howled, running towards the stock room to hide my shameful, babyish sobs. What the hell had happened to the hopeful, confident girl who had left Kitchener just a few months ago? I honestly didn’t know; the only thing that I was certain of was that I wanted to go home.

The day after I finished exams, I flew into Toronto’s Pearson airport, then from there took a bus to Kitchener. When my mother and sisters met me at the downtown bus station, I hugged them all tightly. I could tell by their faces how excited they were to see me, and I wondered how I could have ever left people who loved me so damn much.

Of course, a few weeks at home reminded me of all the little, irritating things that had driven me away in the first place, but when the new year rolled around and I left once again for Halifax, I had a better appreciation of all the good things I was leaving behind along with the bad.

My relationship with my mother and sisters has greatly improved over the last decade. Now I love coming home to visit; it’s hard to put into words the comfort of being around people who have had the same experiences as you, who speak the same family shorthand, who understand all the in-jokes. Of course, that also means that they probably know all, or at least most, of your excruciatingly embarrassing moments, but the further I get from my teenage years, the more those memories seem funny instead of painful. And, anyway, I know enough of my sisters’ embarrassing moments to give back as good as I get, which all part of how nature intended the family eco-system to stay in balance: everyone has dirt on everyone else, and dredging up your sister’s awkward past means that your own becomes fair game. This means that my family’s golden rule is, don’t dish it out unless you’re sure you can take it, and by “take it”, I mean, laugh at yourself.

Being home this year has reminded me of just how true the old adage about it taking a village to raise a child is. We’re pretty isolated, family-wise, in Toronto; getting some time to ourselves means a lot of planning and orchestration. We’re lucky to have several fantastic babysitters for Theo, but, of course, their fantastic-ness means that they’re in high demand, and it can be tricky to book time with them. And, of course, having to pay for someone to watch Theo whenever we want to go out to see a movie makes date night thrice as expensive as it used to be, so sometimes Matt-and-Anne time just isn’t financially feasible. Here, though, we can hand off Theo to his Gran and Aunties just about anytime we want, and they, of course, are delighted by the chance to spend time with the grandson/nephew that they rarely get to see. And Theo, of course, is downright thrilled to be around my mother and sisters. He loves his babysitters, of course, but there’s really no substitute for a grandmother, is there?

After a tough few months during which Matt and I were both pulling a lot of hours at work, coming home for Christmas this year feels a lot like it did in my freshman year. I thought we were doing fine on our own, I thought that we were free and independent and grown up, but being at my mother’s house has made me realize just how much I’ve missed my family.

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Obligatory Christmas Post

21 Dec

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written here. I mean, four whole days without a blog post – that shit is, as they say, crazy.

Part of my lack of posting has been because I took some time to write a piece for the Good Men Project about rape culture, and how it affects men. The editors really liked my article (squee!), but shit kind of got real in the comments. Let’s just say that many, many people disagreed with me (there were nearly 200 comments at last count), and found me to be of questionable intelligence. Oh well. It is what it is, it takes all kinds, and so on and so forth, you know? If even one person read it and was like, hmm, maybe rape culture is a thing, a thing that seriously contributes to the fucked up ways we talk about male rape victims then hey, I guess my job here is done.

The other reason that I haven’t been posting here is that I’ve been writing honest-to-goodness fiction. Like, not even a thinly-veiled autobiography, but an actual story about things that actually never happened to me. This is the first time that I’ve been able to write about pretend things for nearly three years, so I am kind of stoked. I just hope that I’m not jinxing myself by mentioning it here.

I don’t really have much else to say. I think I’m a little politicked-out, and I’ve also realized that I’m way happier when I write about things that don’t make me go into a blind rage. I’m sure I’ll be back tomorrow being all YOU GUYS DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE LATEST ATROCITY, but tonight, in the spirit of the upcoming Christmas holiday, I want to share with you one of my favourite Christmas stories.

When I was in high school, I worked at Tim Hortons. Several times a week I donned a maroon and white striped polyester shirt and a pair of extremely flattering maroon polyester pants so that I could stand behind a counter and sell donuts for a couple of hours. While it wasn’t as bad as, say, the time my dentist didn’t give me enough anaesthetic before drilling into my tooth, it wasn’t exactly the highlight of my life, either.

One of the things Tim Hortons used to do back then was make custom cakes (they might still do this, I actually have no idea). You could fill out a sheet specifying what type of cake you wanted, what colours of icing, and what message you wanted scrawled across the top, and then a few days later you could pick up your very own delicious cake baked and decorated by minimum-wage earning teenagers.

One day towards the end of December we received what was probably the strangest order we’d ever seen. This customer wanted a vanilla cake covered in white frosting with “Happy Birthday Baby Jesus” written on it. Their requested pickup date was December 24th.

We duly made the cake, of course, snickering over it as we did so. We tried to figure out what kind of person might have ordered this cake. Was it a local, zealous religious group? Someone’s idea of a funny way to end Christmas dinner? Was someone actually planning on having a child on Christmas and naming him Jesus?

When the customer arrived to pick up his cake, I went out back, yelled, “GUYS, THE JESUS CAKE DUDE IS HERE!” and waited as just about every single employee came out front to see who this person was. He looked pretty normal, maybe a little sheepish, but really, nothing out of the ordinary.

Naturally, we asked him what the hell was up with the Jesus cake. His answer was one of the best things I’ve ever heard.

His daughter had turned three that year, so he and his wife had decided to explain the Christmas story to her. She’d been appalled that Jesus, a poor defenceless baby, had been born in a barn. After hearing the basics, she’d begun to pepper her parents with questions.

“Did he have a bed?”

“Did he have toys?”

“Did he even have diapers or bottles or a pacifier?”

Finally, she asked what seemed to her to be the most important question:

“Did he have a birthday cake for his birthday?”

When her parents answered that no, he didn’t have a birthday cake for his birthday, she’d started crying.

“That’s not fair,” she’d said. “Everyone should have a birthday cake, especially Baby Jesus”

A few weeks later, when her parents had asked her what she wanted for Christmas, the only answer she would give them was, “A birthday cake for Baby Jesus.”

After telling this story, her father had laughed, saying that he figured he’d take this chance to enjoy the fact that his daughter wasn’t old enough to ask for a long list of toys. He thanked us, paid for his cake and left. Those of us who were working that day cooed over the adorable story and then quickly forgot about it; it hadn’t been nearly as interesting or as scandalous as we’d imagined.

Thinking back, though, I wonder if that kid didn’t understand Christmas better than most of us. Because it’s not about the giving or the getting, is it? It’s not about stuffing yourself with food, or drinking too much wine, or watching corny old Christmas specials. It’s about giving to those who have not, about loving one another and, most of all, it’s about family. That kid, and her reaction to the unfairness of Baby Jesus and his lack of cake, was on to something. She knew what was really up with Christmas, probably more than I ever will.

Happy birthday, Baby Jesus. Whoever you were, whatever you were, if ever you were, I’m glad I get to use your birthday as an excuse to be with my awesome family. So thank you for that.

Niccolo_di_Tommaso-St_Bridget_and_the_Vision_of_the_Nativity

See? Definitely no birthday cakes.

I Hate Hallowe’en

12 Oct

I have a confession to make. It’s not a super-secret-feelings confession, or a oh-my-god-politics-feminism-whatever confession, or anything cool like that. It’s this: I hate Hallowe’en.

Everyone I know loves Hallowe’en. They start planning their costumes weeks, even months in advance. They have parties and events lined up for October 31st, and often begin celebrating several days before. They glory in the chance to be someone else, to go out and see friends, to gorge on candy, and above all to have fun.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’m sitting alone, uncostumed and super jealous.

I can’t remember the last time I had fun on Hallowe’en. Maybe it was sometime in university? Maybe high school? Maybe kindergarten? Who can say, really. I haven’t even bothered dressing up for the last few years. When someone starts to tell me about their awesome costume ideas, I just glower at them. When they tell me about all the fun parties they’ll be attending, I pointedly say that I have plans to stay home and do my nails. I am the Hallowe’en equivalent of a grinch, whatever that might be.

Part of the problem is that I’m not sure how to do Hallowe’en as an adult. I guess I’m just not sure what the point of the holiday is? I mean, yeah, you get the chance to be someone you’re not, which sounds great, in theory, but never seems to work well for me in practice. My costumes always end up being half-assed, uncomfortable and too obscure, so that I spend the whole day adjusting my hair/dress/tights/whatever and explaining over and over who or what I’m supposed to be. Parties always end up being too big and filled with people I barely know or don’t know at all, which is kind of a social nightmare for me.

On top of all that, I have some kind of Hallowe’en curse that means that something shitty always happens on Hallowe’en. The most memorable one was the year my ex-boyfriend kissed me on the dance floor at a bar and, when I asked for an explanation, promptly fled. Being the rational person I am, I followed him. This resulted in me running around Halifax’s North End at midnight dressed as Jackie O., yelling that he would have to talk to me eventually so he might as well just turn around and get it over with.

I hate Hallowe’en.

This year, Matt and I have been talking about doing costumes again, but really, what’s the point? We’re not doing anything on the 31st other than taking Theo out trick-or-treating and then stealing all his candy afterwards. Matt will dress up for work because they have some kind of contest, but I will probably just bundle my grinchy self up in a giant sweater and when people ask me who I’m supposed to be, I’ll yell that I’m dressed as an exhausted yoga teacher/mother/writer who can’t get her shit together.

All joking aside, I feel like this is something that I can (and should) overcome, possibly with copious amounts of booze and candy corn. I’m hopeful that having a kid will remind me of why I used to love Hallowe’en so much – I really want to start enjoying it again, I swear. I want to be out there having just as much fun as the rest of you, but I think I need help.

For those of you who love Hallowe’en (so, basically all of you) – what do you get out of it? Why do you dress up? Any tips on how to stop being such a killjoy and start getting into the spirit of things? Most importantly: what the hell should I dress up as?

Dressed up as Frida Kahlo in 2006, which is the last time I bothered thinking up a Hallowe’en costume