Tag Archives: thirty

The Myth of the Woman-Child

20 Sep

My good friend Audra Williams challenged me to blog about this piece on Tavi Gevinson. Then she posted this ridiculous article from Jezebel on Facebook, and I thought I would address both of them at once. I am killing two birds with one stone! Two ugly, judgmental, anti-feminist birds!

Both articles are concerned with the girlification of today’s women. Katrina Onstad, author of the Tavi Gevinson piece, bemoans the rise of “girl culture”, complaining that the word “girl” is “wispy and feminine, destined for head-patting and glass ceilings“. Jezebel’s Deborah Schoeneman, on the other hand, uses the term “woman-child” to describe those of us she feels aren’t acting our age. The hallmarks of a woman-child are, according to Schoeneman, many and varied. She writes that, “from sporting sparkly nail polish to religiously reading every bestselling young adult novel, these women seem to be reliving their teenage years with real gusto.” 

First of all, I didn’t realize that there were rules on how to be an adult female. Maybe there’s a handbook I’m missing? The handbook that, according to Schoeneman, would tell me to watch What To Expect When You’re Expecting instead of The Hunger Games, and advise me against using nail art. Because as a lady I should want to watch movies about other lady-types having babies instead of movies about smart, strong teenage girls kicking ass and taking names, I guess. Also I should have really boring nails.

The funny thing is that Schoeneman is totally selling me on the idea of becoming a woman-child. The way that she describes the beliefs and behaviours she dislikes actually make them sound more appealing than appalling. For instance:

“[The woman-child] truly believes that women are in it together and is all about helping her friends start businesses, meet guys and pick out a cute outfit for a big event. Competiveness among females in the workplace is perceived as totally 80s.” 

I am really confused about what world Schoeneman is living in where the above would be considered a bad thing. I guess she’s maybe concerned that so-called “women-children” are naive about the way things really work? Do I need to point out that we can end competitiveness in the workplace among women if all of us would just flat-out refuse to compete?

Schoeneman is also pretty concerned about the lack of rings on ladies’ fingers and buns in their ovens. She writes that:

“The woman-child will likely get married later than the increasing national average. Advances in fertility treatments like egg freezing have also added to their confidence that they can reproduce older and potentially prolong their own girlhood.”

And this is where she (hopefully) totally lost everyone who identifies as a feminist. Because what she’s advocating here is the same old song the patriarchy keeps singing: marry young, have babies, fulfill your biological destiny, etc. It doesn’t seem to occur to her that women might want to delay (or totally avoid) marriage and children for reasons that have nothing to do with an extended adolescence. It seems like for Schoeneman, as with so many other people, a husband and child are still the ultimate goal.

Schoeneman’s article, while outwardly angrier and more condescending, is ultimately easier to dismiss. It reads like the frustrated rant of someone who has not found adulthood to be the land of fancy dinner parties and Cartier bracelets, the way she always thought it would be. It reads like she’s someone who doesn’t see herself or her style reflected in some of the current trends, and has therefore decided that the trends themselves are at fault. It reads as if she’s upset that her female friends and acquaintances have continued to be themselves, rather than morphing into SERIOUS GROWNUPS at the stroke of midnight on their 21st birthdays.

At the end of the day, Schoeneman is the one with the problem, not the so-called women-children. If the way that her friends behave is an issue for her, then she needs to find new ones. Maybe some married friends with kids?

Onstad’s article is trickier for me to dissect, in part because it talks a lot about the dangers of nostalgia, and I am a total nostalgia machine.

First off, Onstad begins by complaining about the use of the word girl to describe grown women, writing that “…a roaring, shag-cut “woman” is a powerful agent“, whereas “girl” is “the word before the drunken grope“, as if those four little letters are somehow responsible for what she perceives to be the diminishment of feminism. As if the very word girl is somehow responsible for the “drunken gropes” and everything else we’re subject to.

Onstad uses this opening to segue into a sort of review of Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie Yearbook One, a collection of pieces (and “girlie ephemera” like stickers and a 45) that mostly come from Rookie, Gevinson’s online magazine. 16 year old Gevinson is, Onstad assures us, an actual girl (and thus, I guess, allowed to call herself that), and her magazine is aimed at teenagers.

Onstad begins by praising the honesty and authenticity of Rookie Yearbook One, and then starts veering towards the but that you’ve been sensing since the beginning of the article. Rooke Yearbook One is great and all, Onstad tells us, BUT it is totally, totally nostalgic for the 90s. Ah, the wonderful 90s, described by Onstad as, “the time when “slut” was lipsticked across bellies and Donita Sparks of the band L7 threw her tampon into the audience“. Those were good times, right?

Onstad then draws the following conclusion:

Perhaps this, then, is why a surprising chunk of Rookie’s girl culture is about the former passions of 30- and 40-somethings. The promise of that tough, smart, sexually confident ’90s “girl” never died, but it’s never quite been realized either. For women of a certain age, it’s intoxicating – and possibly narcissistic – to revisit the pop trappings of girlhood, and attempt to make sense of what happened.

And, you know, this is where it gets tough for me, because revisiting the trappings of my girlhood in an attempt to make sense of what happened is, like, my favourite thing to do. So there’s a part of me that wants to call Onstad up and be like, okay, you got me, guilty as charged.

But then I think, hang on. Let’s hold the metaphorical phone, Joan. First of all, Tavi Gevinson was only a tiny kid in the 90s, which makes it pretty damn hard for her to feel nostalgic about them. Like many (most?) teenagers, she probably feels dissatisfied with the current state of teenager affairs, and perhaps thinks that things were better (or at least more riot grrrrrl-y) 20 years ago. I went through a phase like that, too, except it involved me wearing tie-dye and listening to bands from the 60s (much to my mother’s amusement/dismay). It wasn’t that I was nostalgic for that time – how could I have been? – it was that I was struggling to figure out where I fit in the particular pop culture landscape that I inhabited.

As for those of us who lived through the 90s, it’s hard not to look back and think that yeah, badass ladies were having a moment back then. I don’t think that this is so much nostalgia, though, as it is a desire to figure out how to bring about a similar moment for the badass ladies of this decade. It’s not wallowing in narcissism and the pop trappings of girlhood, it’s a need to sift through the past, to sort the bad from the good so that we can figure out what needs to be discarded and what we can keep.

And yeah, I’ll admit, the idea that there’s a smart, savvy generation of girls eager to take up the mantle of badassery and fight the good fight is pretty damn intoxicating.

Finally, let’s take a look at the term “man-child”, the male cultural counterpart to the “woman-child”. A “man-child” is typically described as someone who is emotionally immature, often refusing to own up to his responsibilities. A “man-child” often lacks any sort of motivation, and prefers to avoid many of the milestones of adulthood. Now, contrast that to the descriptions above of the “woman-child” as someone who reads YA books and wears sparkly nail polish. A man is a “man-child” because of his total lack of maturity; a woman is called a “woman-child” based on her likes and interests alone.

So, basically what I’m saying here is, fuck the patriarchy, and fuck this anti-woman bullshit. A woman can like whatever she wants, can wear whatever she wants, etc. By believing that they should avoid certain cultural phenomena just because it’s perceived as being young or girlish, Schoeneman and Onstad are missing out on a lot of good stuff. By telling us that we should avoid these things as well, they are attempting to create an even narrower definition of how we, as women, should behave. And believing that the way forward is to put limits on what a woman can like, say, or do is, like, the least feminist thing ever.

So there.

“Hi, it’s me, Tavi. I am way cooler than you. I mean, in case you were wondering.”

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Shit My 16 Year Old Self Says

14 Sep

Like many (most?) people , I had a shitty time as a teenager. I felt like a lonely, isolated weirdo. I guess I kind of was a lonely, isolated weirdo?

My parents split up when I was 13, and my mother, sisters, and I moved into low income housing. Our neighbours there did things like getting their 10 year old son drunk on Christmas and then laughing as he vomited all over the front lawn. Behind our row of townhouses was an old landfill covered with sod, which everyone called Mount Trashmore. On some nights we heard gunshots, although, to the best of my knowledge, no one there ever died. Once I saw a man, naked and high on something, beaten by the police in broad daylight.

We didn’t have any money, which meant I didn’t have the right clothes. Scratch that, I didn’t even know what the right clothes were. For some reason, I didn’t get the memo sent out to all the girls sometime during the summer before 7th grade. This memo apparently told everyone that, going forward, we would be dressing in cute little t-shirts and tight jeans. I showed up for the first day of school wearing baggy track pants and a pink sweatshirt with kittens on it.

On top of all that, I was socially awkward (no surprises there). Adolescent conversations contained a layer of subtext that I couldn’t detect and didn’t understand. I wanted desperately to know how to act around my peers, but I couldn’t seem to get my shit together and figure out the right way to be.

Oh and also, I had really, really bad skin. Like, really bad.

Anyway, I found my diary from when I was 15 and 16 today. It was weird reading something that I wrote literally half a lifetime ago. Some of the stuff in it is super pretentious, some of it’s strange, but some of it’s downright lovely.

I thought I would share a few snippets with you:

I dreamed of you again last night. It was a pleasant interlude from the harsh reality I am trying to cope with. I wish you would come back.” [oh the big emotions and big words of a 15 year old!]

Last night I dreamed that A called me; I was very happy.

Here I go on & on about how I hate society, but we have made society & we are society, so I suppose that what I really hate is people.” [a revelation!]

“I pretend that I am Margaret Atwood as I walk to school, making up long monologues in my head. This usually happens after I finish a book of hers. I spend days in Atwood-esque contemplation. I tell myself that I should write things down, but I never do.”

P does not really hate me, he says. He was just in a bad mood. He hugs me with that half-bemused, half-sarcastic smile on his face and pats my back. He hates scenes of any kind. I know, of course, that eventually he will hate me, but I can pretend for now that everything is the same.” [relationships and hormones – rarely a good mix]

Houses that have been steeped in the living of people have a certain character. More on this later.

“Everybody wants to be a writer.” [hah, how true]

Find out what’s wrong with my skull.” [this is scrawled across the bottom of a page and I have no idea what it means]

“Does everyone feel with the same intensity that I do?” [Oh, honey. Probably.]

Shakespeare was a hypocrite.”

I like the smell of wood burning. It reminds me of birthdays and camping trips and maybe something deeper than that.”

“I need this book so that I can remember me and know that what I have become is better than who I was. Or happier, anyway.”

My first instinct is to laugh at the stuff I wrote, the babyish attempts at prose and the juvenile idea that being “literary” means using multisyllabic words. I won’t laugh, though, because that girl? The one who wrote all that stuff? That girl lived in terror of being laughed at.

I’ve been thinking about that girl a lot. I’ve been thinking about what I would say to her if I could.

I would tell her that even when it seems like no one loves her, plenty of people still do.

I would tell her that, even though moving to Halifax is a good idea, she’ll never be able to outrun herself.

I would tell her that she has so many awesome people that she’s going to meet.

I would tell her that she has good taste in books and movies.

I would tell her not to to be too hard on herself.

I would tell her to brush her teeth more often.

I would tell her that there are no easy answers, and that at 30 I still have self-esteem problems, but in spite of that things are good.

I would tell her that the people who are making her feel bad right at that moment won’t matter to her in a few years, but that her good friends will only become better over time.

I would tell her that some (thought not all) of the things she’s found excruciatingly embarrassing will someday be funny.

I would tell her to do her damn homework.

I would thank her for writing all these things down, because she’s right – I’m grateful to have this record of who I was at that time.

When I bought this book I thought it was the prettiest thing ever.

Everything is perfect (or, everything can be improved)

6 Sep

Full disclosure: I am pretty tipsy right now. Please proceed with caution as the following may not make grammatical/syntactical/any kind of sense.

NaBloPoMo Day 3

Prompt:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Bob Marley asked: “Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?”  How would you answer him?

I woke up yesterday to an overcast sky. I should have checked the weather, but it was Theo’s first day of daycare, and we were in a rush to get out the door. I knew that it had rained overnight, and my foolish, optimistic self assumed that the sky would clear sometime during the morning.

It didn’t.

By the time I arrived at the daycare to pick him up, the rain was pelting down. Even with an umbrella, I was soaked up to my waist. As soon as he saw me, Theo pointed at me and said, Mama, water!

It was pretty bad, and it was about to get worse.

See, the thing is, it’s basically impossible to hold an umbrella and push a stroller. I’ve been talking about buying a good raincoat with a hood (or a sou’wester!) since last summer, but I haven’t actually done it yet, because I am the queen of procrastinators. So I ended up having to walk home, in the rain, without any kind of protection.

There’s a funny thing that happens when you walk in the rain. At first you hunch your shoulders up and keep your head down, as if that will stop you from getting wet. Then you realize, shit, I’m already as wet as I’m going to get. You start loosen up, you relax your muscles, and look up. And, maybe, you start to enjoy it.

Yesterday, the water on the sidewalks of Forest Hill was ankle-deep in places. I was wearing ballet flats, which quickly became totally saturated, squelching uncomfortably with every step. It didn’t take me long to realize that I would be happier without any shoes on. Which is how I ended up walking barefoot in the rain through the mean streets of Toronto, my white tank top rendered nearly transparent, hair plastered to my scalp and dripping in my eyes. And you know what? It was great. Realizing that I had no control over how wet I got, and giving myself permission to get soaked made a world of difference in how I viewed the rain.

Now, how does this relate to the prompt?

Asking me if I’m satisfied with the life I’m living is a loaded question.

Is this where I thought I would be at 30? No, probably not. I had so many things that were supposed to have happened by now that haven’t, for one reason or another. Do I have regrets for the things that have led me here, to this place in my life? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I am the master of regrets. Give me any scenario that I’ve been involved in, and I’ll find something to regret about it.

But I also think that the happiest moments in my life have been those that I’ve thought about the least. Walking barefoot through the rain, for example. Running, not because I have a bus to catch or I’m training for a marathon, but because I like to feel the wind in my hair and my feet pounding the pavement. Kissing someone because I want them and need my body to be close to theirs in that moment, without thinking of what might come after.

I like to plan. I like to think ahead. Not only do I like to have all of my ducks in a row, I also like to arrange them by size and shade of yellow. Sometimes that works out really well for me; often it leaves me frustrated and angry when things don’t go my way. Yes, I want to have agency over my own life and control my own destiny, but sometimes it’s exhausting and demoralizing. Sometimes I just want to let go and see where that takes me. Sometimes I would really like to be able to switch my brain off and stop thinking. Sometimes I just want to do something because it feels good, and not wonder what it will mean for me in the bigger picture.

I feel like I spend a lot of time fighting myself, and fighting my desires, because I don’t think they’re beneficial to me.

What I want is to realize that no matter how hard I try to stay dry, I’m going to get wet. I want to accept that I am getting wet and maybe even enjoy it.

So what am I supposed to answer?

Yes, I am satisfied with my life? Does that mean I’m stagnant and boring?

No, I’m not satisfied with my life and I want to continue to try to work harder to improve my lot? Does that mean that I’m impossible to please and will never be happy?

Let’s leave it at this: I am satisfied that I am here, on this earth, in this particular time in history. I am satisfied to have this particular man in my life and have given birth to this particular child. But I think there is a lot of room for change and forward movement.

Or, as one of my yoga teachers said:

“Everything is perfect. Everything can be improved.”

I hope that’s enough of an answer.

20 books that I hope Theo reads when he’s older, part I

20 Aug

It’s not exactly a big secret that I love reading (also – that would be a pretty weird thing for me to keep secret). I’m 30 and I still get crushes on fictional characters, although maybe I have better taste now than I did as a moony teenager in love with Holden Caulfield. One of my greatest hopes for Theo is that he will grow up to love books even a fraction as much as I do. In light of that fact, I’ve created a list of 20 books that I loved when I was a kid as a sort of starting point for Theo’s future reading career. Because it’s never too early for this sort of thing, right?

Keep in mind that I haven’t read some of these books in, like, 20 years, so my reviews/descriptions might not be entirely accurate. However, what I can offer you is the dominant impression these books leave me with so many years after the fact:

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1. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, 1959

This is a book about a 12-year-old boy, Sam, who gets sick of living in his parents’ crowded New York City apartment with his 10,000 8 brothers and sisters. His solution to this problem is to take off for the Catskill Mountains and find this piece of property his family abandoned years before (they used to have a house or something there, like, three generations ago, but then they moved to the city I guess).

Sam tells his parents that he’s going to run away to the mountains and basically says that he will go whether they’re cool with it or not, so they totally let him go. Um, amazing! How come my parents weren’t that cool when I was 12? Anyway, he apparently learns some wilderness skills or whatever at the public library (TAKE THAT, ROB FORD), and then is all, see ya, giant family and tiny apartment.

My main memory of this book is that this kid was fucking SERIOUS BUSINESS. He finds a peregrine falcon that he trains to hunt for him. He lives in a tree. He almost dies, like, fifty times. At one point he is skinning a rabbit and is like, hmmm, I really want to eat his liver. So he does, and then he’s like, welp, I guess I was vitamin D deficient. I don’t know why, but that scene struck me as especially hardcore. HE ATE A LIVER, YOU GUYS. A LIVER. I guess liver really grossed me out when I was young?

Another big impression that this book left on me was that I was a huge wuss. I would never, ever go off and live in the mountains by myself in a house that I had to dig with my own hands. I could never be that self-sufficient. Also, I could never go that long without seeing another human face (even if occasionally I fantasize about it). In spite of my wussiness, though, I still managed to identify with Sam because, hey, who doesn’t want to run off and leave everything behind sometimes? Who doesn’t want to push themselves to the limit to discover how much they can endure, and how much they’re really capable of?

And I guess that’s the main message I got from this book: if you really want something, and you really prepare for it, you can achieve it. And also maybe you will get a sweet pet falcon out of the deal.

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2. Warrior Scarlet, Rosemary Suttcliff, 1958

This one takes place in Britain, during the Bronze Age. It tells the story of Drem, a kid with only one functioning arm. The thing is, Drem really, really wants to be a warrior (in case you were wondering, this is kind of a Big Deal in his tribe). At first everyone is all, no way can you be a warrior, your arm doesn’t even work! You’ll have to go live with the sheep-herders. Have fun with the sheep, Drem! And then they’re like, well, I guess you can train with the other youth. Maybe.

So of course Drem goes to train with the other boys his age, seems to prove that he’s able to keep up with them, and totally starts to get over the fact that he’s different. He even starts to bond with his peers! BUT (you totally knew there was a but coming here), in order to become a warrior he has to kill a wolf. And of course the killing gets all fucked up (the wolf injures him really badly, so his friend steps in to help, which is TOTALLY NOT ALLOWED according to the tribe), and it looks like Drem will be spending the rest of his life with the sheep people. Of course, some other stuff happens, Drem ends up somehow killing the exact same wolf he failed to kill years before, and there’s a happy ending where he completes the super seekrit initiation ceremony and becomes a full-fledged warrior. Yay! Everybody wins! Except the wolf, I guess.

My main memory of this book is how insanely fascinating, beautiful and bad-ass it made Bronze Age Britain sound. I remember poring, practically drooling, over passages about midnight bonfires and sacred rituals and ancient magic, and whoa, did I ever want to live in that world. I remember this being a book that I daydreamed about a lot, and that’s something that I want for Theo. I want him to have books that he loves so much he ends up spending hours and hours imagining what it would be like to exist within the confines of that story.

Plus, you know, super seekrit initiation. SO AWESOME.

3. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle, 1962

First, can we all just agree that Meg Murry is awesome? She’s not conventionally attractive, she has self-esteem issues, she’s socially awkward, she beats other kids up, and she’s super smart. I mean, sure, she’s not as smart as Charles Wallace, but then who is? Anyway, she’s someone that a lot of people can identify with. And she ends up kicking major ass.

The book takes place in small town America (I want to say somewhere in New England, but I’m not sure) during the cold war. The Murrys are a family that includes two super-smart parents, their super-smart daughter Meg, their super-super-smart son Charles Wallace and their totally boring and average twins, Sandy and Dennys. Mr. Murry disappeared during some kind of secret science mission, and now everyone in their village thinks that he just ran off and abandoned his family. Oh and everyone also thinks that Charles Wallace is developmentally delayed, even though he’s a genius like whoa.

Anyway, Meg and Charles Wallace end up teaming up with some extraterrestrial-type ladies, Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which, and Meg’s hot schoolmate Calvin O’Keefe (who is super popular but ALSO has issues) in order to go rescue Mr. Murry. They travel through space and time in a sort of “wrinkle” called a tesseract (SCIENCE!!!!) and have some adventures before finally arriving at the planet where the force of ultimate evil darkness is keeping Meg’s dad prisoner. Even though you would think that it would be Charles Wallace who ends up saving the day (because he’s so frigging precocious), it’s actually Meg’s badass contrariness that gets everyone out of there alive. HIGH FIVE FOR SMART, CONTRARY WOMEN.

My main impressions from this book were: a) whoooaaaa I think I like science fiction and/or fantasy (it was probably the first sci-fi/fantasy book I read) b) I wish I could be part of the Murry family and c) I triple wish that Calvin O’Keefe was my boyfriend (he is seriously so nice, you guys don’t even know). It’s a book about a smart, resourceful young woman who realizes that she’s strong and awesome and ALSO she gets a hot, nice boyfriend without even changing anything about her looks. He even tells her he likes her in glasses! Aw, you guys, I love this book so hard.

 

4. The Great Brain, John Dennis Fitzgerald, 1967

This is actually the first of a series of books about Tom Fitzgerald, the titular Great Brain. The books, which are set in late 19th century Utah, are narrated by Tom’s long-suffering younger brother, John. See, Tom is a genius, but he only wants to use his powers for evil, i.e. “swindling” people out of their possessions and thinking up get-rich-quick schemes. He also does things like trying to frame the schoolteacher for being “a drunk”. You guys, these were THE BEST BOOKS EVER, basically.

No, but seriously, even though Tom occasionally receives his comeuppance, he still gets away with a lot of stuff. When I was a kid, I mostly wanted to hang out with him and stir up shit and learn how to swindle people out of their possessions because, hey, it sounded like a lot of fun! Plus, they had so many whacky adventures. If these books are anything to go by, Utah is way more fun than any place I’ve ever lived.

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5. Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1943

There is some kind of law that every French-speaking person has to read this book at least once over the course of their childhood. Now, let’s be totally clear: no kid is going to understand this book. They might enjoy it, but they won’t understand it.

Plot-wise, the book is about a pilot who crashes in the Sahara and is struggling to survive. One day, a young boy, the titular Little Prince appears. Now, this Little Prince is from space (!!) where he lives on his own personal asteroid (!!!) that has three active volcanoes (!!!!) and one rose. Weirdly, the humanoid prince falls in love with the rose (to be fair, I guess he didn’t have a whole lot of options in terms of life partners), who then lies to him because she’s super vain and kind of rude. They break up for a while, but then I guess they get back together.

The Little Prince decides he needs to explore the universe, so he sets off to visit a bunch of other asteroids, each of which is populated by a single, ridiculous adult. One of these adults, a geographer, is all, hey, you should totally check out the planet Earth! And the Little Prince is like, okay cool!

On Earth, the prince meets more ridiculous adults, and discovers that his rose isn’t beautiful or unique after all. He’s pretty bummed about this until he meets a fox (who totally steals the spotlight and gets the best lines in the book) who convinces him that yeah, dude, your rose IS special because she’s the one you love. Whoa! Revelation!  The prince also meets a weird snake who tells him that he can send him back to his home asteroid, but the prince is all, no, that’s cool, I’m good for now.

Anyway, the prince tells this whole story to the pilot, and then helps him find a well so that he doesn’t die of thirst or whatever. Then the prince is like, welp, I guess I’ll go find that snake again! The pilot realizes that the Little Prince will have to let the snake kill him in order to get him back home, and tries to convince him to stay on Earth. The prince totally ignores him and lets the snake bite him. Sorry, pilot! The story ends with the pilot looking for the prince.

As a kid you read this book and you’re like, hmmm, I guess this is fine. It’s kind of funny or whatever. Then you read it as an adult and you’re like, oohhhh, I get it. Adults are boring and totally sucky, while kids are awesome (fact). Also we have to appreciate the people we have in our lives who love us, and not spend time comparing them to other people (double fact). And finally, you realize that you want to spend all day hanging out with the fox, who says things like, “On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” (One sees clearly only with their heart – the essential is invisible to the eyes)

As an adult, I’ve read Saint-Exupéry’s other books, and have realized that he is this crazy amazing poetic philosopher. Wind, Sand and Stars is, in particular, my favourite. But I’m glad that I read The Little Prince when I was a kid, even if I didn’t understand it. I’m glad to have my childish impressions so that I can compare them to how I see the book now – I think that’s especially important given that it’s a book about the magical worldview children have that we lose as we age.

I’ll finish off here with a quote from Wind, Sand and Stars:

Old bureaucrat, my comrade, it is not you who are to blame. No one ever helped you escape. You, like a termite, built your peace by blocking up with cement every chink and cranny through which the light might pierce. You rolled yourself up into a ball in your genteel security, in routine, in the stifling conventions of provincial life, raising a modest rampart against the winds and the tides and the stars. You have chosen not to be perturbed by great problems, having trouble enough to forget your own fate as man. You are not the dweller upon an errant planet and do not ask yourself questions to which there are no answers. You are a petty bourgeois of Toulouse. Nobody grasped you by the shoulder while there was still time. Now the clay of which you were shaped has dried and hardened, and naught in you will ever awaken the sleeping musician, the poet, the astronomer that possibly inhabited you in the beginning.

Stay tuned for parts II, III and IV. And please feel free to leave book suggestions in the comments – if I get enough of them, I will do a whole post about your suggestions. I would write about books all day every day, if I could.

p.s. Can we all just agree that Holden Caulfield would be, like, the worst boyfriend in the history of ever?

Dirty Thirty

12 Aug

A week ago it was my birthday. A week ago I turned thirty. As F. Scott Fitzgerald would say, I am standing before the portentous, menacing road of a new decade. Yes, I am pretentious enough to start out a post about my thirtieth birthday with a quote from the Great Gatsby. High five, lit nerds!

I would be lying if I said that I haven’t been thinking about this birthday. I mean, I haven’t been giving it a ton of though, and I certainly haven’t been agonizing over it or anything, but yeah. Thirty. I mean, it’s a milestone, right?

I’ve been thinking that things are good. I am mostly in a good place. And I can say with confidence that I am in a much better place than I was when I turned 20. I mean that both literally and figuratively – I spent my 20th birthday working in a cookie factory in Kitchener. I had to wear a hairnet and a mustard yellow smock. My fellow cookie workers bought me a fancy Tim Horton’s donut and stuck a candle in it.

This year I began my birthday celebrations with dinner and a movie with Matt (and sans bébé). We went out to a fancy restaurant, where I proceeded to prove myself to be the cheapest cheap drunk in the history of ever. I wore a fancy silk dress and my favourite necklace from Paris and we played bloody knuckles and laughed at penis jokes. Basically it was just the best. Then we saw Moonrise Kingdom, which was also basically the best. High five, Wes Anderson!

But anyway. I digress.

I am happier now. I am more confident. I am more comfortable in my own skin. My body is actually stronger, firmer and more flexible than it was 10 years ago. I like the way I look, which is a nice change from how I felt about my appearance a decade ago. And I have Matt. And Theo.

I might not be as naively, wondrously optimistic as I was at the beginning of my last decade. I still believe that the future is bright, although I am more cautious about it. I am better at living in the present than I have ever been, and that’s a huge relief.

There are things that I miss about the self I left behind a decade ago. I miss the sense of awe I had, the sense of wonder. I miss the sense of potential that I felt about myself. I miss the sense of potential I felt about life in general. There were so many blanks to be filled in back then. Now there are less. I am mostly happy with how I’ve filled those blanks. I think that’s the most that anyone can say.

And now there are new blanks to fill, ones I didn’t expect. There are new challenges, and new doors that have opened for me. If life is not as full of magic as I once thought, then it’s also far, far less terrible than I have believed at times.

This is good. Thirty is good. I am excited for this decade.

“So we drove on toward death in the cooling twilight.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

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(this is what thirty looks like, in case you were wondering)