Tag Archives: writing

Fairy Tales Are Women’s Tales

28 May

Heyyyyy I have a post up on The Toast which is SUPER EXCITING for me because The Toast is pretty much my FAVOURITE THING EVER. ALL CAPS.

It’s about gender and fairytales, which are two things that I’m pretty stoked about. Also, unlike 100% of the posts on this blog, I actually bothered to edit it and I come off sounding pretty smart and not too ranty. I don’t even think there are any swear words. You should check it out!


A brief excerpt:

“The Grimms’ deletion of all things sexy from the second edition could be taken as a sort of Teutonic prudery, but when we look at it in context with some of the other alterations, there begins to emerge a pattern of marginalization and disempowerment of women. Not only did they remove any mention of sex, the majority of it both consensual and premarital, but all sorts of other details defining and limiting the female characters were added in. With each successive edition, the Wilhelm Grimm added in more and more adjectives describing what they thought was the perfect Christian woman; female characters were suddenly “dutiful,” “tender-hearted,” “god-fearing” and “contrite,” where once they had simply been “beautiful” or “young.” Wilhelm also began to alter the structure of the tales, introducing moral judgments and motivations that previously hadn’t been there. Traditionally, fairy tales had seen luck and chance count for more than hard work and obedience, but Wilhelm put a stop to that – instead the sweet, well-behaved, godly women were rewarded, and those who deviated from that mold were punished. Finally, Wilhelm added in all sorts of hints about the domestic activity he felt women should occupy themselves with – for example, in an early draft of Snow White, the dwarves only ask that she cook their meals in exchange for shelter, but by the time the first edition of his book was published, their demands included that she keep house for them, do the cooking, make the beds, wash, sew, knit and keep everything neat and clean.”


Life Goes On And Other Garbage

18 May

The main problem with life is that it goes on. And on. And on.

People say that like it’s supposed to comfort you. Like, if you don’t get the job you wanted or your dog dies or the guy you’re so smitten with just out of the blue stops calling, your mom or your friend or your boss will inevitably say, oh, well, life goes on. As if i’s supposed to make you feel better, somehow, knowing that not only do you have to deal with this stupid bleeding heartache, but even while you gingerly nurse that hurt you still have to keep making your stumbling way through this magnificent/godawful old world.

Life goes on even after you’ve poisoned every good thing that’s ever come your way. Life goes on after you’ve single-handedly destroyed every relationship that was important to you, as if you were on some kind of mission to prove just how unloveable a person can be. Life goes on after you’ve fucked around so much at work, knowing all the while that you’re fucking around and hating yourself for it, that you face the very real risk of being fired. Life goes on, and you’re left standing amid all the sad wreckage of your little self. Life goes on even on the days when you can’t get out of bed. Life goes on especially on those days.

Life goes on after the good stuff, too. Like that walk home from the bar with your lover, when both of you were tipsy enough to find everything perfect and funny, even the things that were neither perfect nor funny. It was summer then, a real big city summer where daytime heat smashes you hard against the pavement, but  that night was a sort of reprieve. The baking stillness of the day was gone, and there was a delicious breeze coming from somewhere, maybe the lake. The leaves on the trees were broad and green and made a soft shushing sound above you. The streetlights hazy, and the world smelled like fresh cut grass. You knew that when you got home you would fuck and eat junk food and watch cartoons and then fall asleep in a tangled pile like a pair of puppies.

It was the kind of moment that you feel nostalgic for even as you’re living through it – you catch yourself mid-laugh and realize how happy you are, and then you instantly feel the sharp pang of longing for the thing you’re still in the middle of experiencing.

But life goes on.

You don’t get to hit pause or take a break from living. Even if you stay perfectly still and will everything around you to do the same, life still steamrollers over you. There’s no chance to sit back and appraise the situation, no time to collect your wits or figure out what you’re going to do next. You have to stay on your toes, you have to keep running, or else life will crush you. But even once you’re crushed, life goes on.

I have such a deep ambivalence about living. Things are either painfully, frantically wonderful or else they’re bitterly terrible. I love this world, but I love it with a suffocating zeal that can’t possibly be maintained. I rarely ever seem to hit that balance of peaceful contentedness that other people seem to manage – I’m always running headlong into something, trying to create some feeling that would otherwise be lacking. And if I do somehow manage to hit that point of effortless happiness, I always manage to sabotage myself. I’m like Shiva, the destroyer of worlds, except that I’m Anne, the destroyer of boring, petty human lives.

Which isn’t easy.

I mean, you really have to work hard to be this consistently vicious and miserable all of the time.

It’s not that I want to be unhappy, it’s just that my brain is an expert at leading me on these circuitous little journeys that always start out so promisingly but end with me stabbing myself in the back. I’m an ouroboros of anguish, both the giver and receiver of all my own pain. I’m hell-bent on being the wrecking ball that smashes through the wall of my own house. I’m all-the-other-semi-accurate-and-very-dramatic metaphors you can think of.

And, I mean, we could delve into all the reasons why I act this way, but frankly the story is long and unoriginal. Suffice to say that shit happened, some of it was my own fault, and now I’m here. The rest I’ll save for my therapist.

Because life goes on and I’ll have another therapy session this Wednesday and then I’ll come home and crash into my bed and try to sleep but probably I won’t be able to.

And then I’ll get up and putter around the house and maybe wash the dishes or start dinner since life, of course, goes on.

I wish that I could wrap this post up on a hopeful note, maybe with a line of trite wisdom that you might find on a greeting card or in a particularly terrible self-help book. I want to be able to tell you that everything’s going to be fine, that sure, life goes on, but it’s all in what we make of it and we have to take the good with the bad and there are other fish in the sea. I wish I could tell you that I wasn’t sitting here in a seething fury of fear and self-hatred, but that wouldn’t be true. I wish I could tell you that I wasn’t a self-indulgent, oversharing little brat, but. Well. Here we are.

The most that I can do is offer all of this up to you. Maybe you’ll see some of yourself reflected here. Maybe a sentence or two will strike you as being quite true, in a way that you were never able to articulate before. Or maybe this will help you be more compassionate or some junk like that.

You, the people reading this, are the only thing that make these garbage essays about my garbage feelings worthwhile. Because you always seem to glean some kind of meaning from them, even when all I can see is a morass of bad prose. You’re the way that I manage to justify bleeding this way all over the internet. You somehow make that bleeding important.

Against all odds, you give me hope.


Insomnia, Anhedonia and The Unbearable Politeness of Being

30 Mar

Right now my favourite part of the day is the last half hour or so, which is the time I spend fighting the effects of my prescription sleeping pill. I get to ride this wave of sleepy euphoria, where the whirring, clanking machinery inside my head slows down and all of my limbs are loose and relaxed. It’s like being drunk or high, except that it feels very calm and safe — unlike other altered states of consciousness, I know that nothing can go wrong. When I finally do lie down, with the thought that I have several hours of blissful unconsciousness to look forward to, I feel everything draw away from me, my body suspended in a dark sea as I wait for sleep to gather at the edge of the horizon and then come crashing over me.

This is what I look forward to, from the time I wake up until the time I take my sleeping pill. On bad days, everything else just seems like crap that I have to get to in order to get to this moment, this brief stretch of time when I am guaranteed to feel good in my body. And I know that that’s really, really fucked up.

The problem is that recognizing that a feeling is fucked up and figuring out how to change things enough so that you don’t feel it anymore are two very, very different things.

The last few months have been rough, for a variety of reasons that I’m not going to get into right here and right now. I’ve gone from feeling like my life was great and I was super on top of all of my shit to feeling like everything’s falling apart and I’m the most useless person in existence. Part of the problem is that I’ve had a lot of social isolation, which hasn’t really been anybody’s fault but also hasn’t been great. My anxiety’s been a bag of dicks, and the intrusive thoughts are getting old. I try to avoid triggers, but it’s hard and sometimes counterproductive. Like, if I’m trying to avoid something and then I worry about how I can avoid and whether I can actually avoid it or not, and then it’s just the same old tingling fear all spruced up in new clothing. And all of my energy’s somehow been sucked out of me, leaving this sagging bag of stupid flesh where there used to be a body that actually slept and ate and sometimes felt good.

These days, I don’t want to get out of bed. Like, ever. In the mornings I don’t want to get up and go to work, and once I’m home again all that I want to do is climb back under the covers and immediately lose consciousness. I keep telling my friends that my bed is a black hole, and if I’m at home I’m irresistibly pulled towards it by some kind of mysterious gravitational force. They laugh, and then I laugh, and then we all complain about how miserable this winter has been, but the fact is that like all good jokes, this one is firmly rooted in the truth. I told my therapist that I sometimes daydream about being in an induced coma, a state where machines would do absolutely everything for me.* I tell her that the idea of just lying there and not being responsible for a single thing, not even breathing, sounds incredibly appealing to me. She tells me that it sounds womb-like, but then she’s the kind of therapist who thinks that everything sounds womb-like.

I don’t feel much pleasure these days. I mean, do things – I do all of my regular, every day things – and it’s fine, but there’s this sense of getting through everything instead of enjoying it. It’s always, how many more minutes in this yoga class. Or, how many more bites left of this meal. Or else, how many much longer left of this show. Each activity is little more than a way of marking time until I can wash that little blue pill down with a glass of water and float my way into darkness. I’m taking a lot of pills these days – Zoloft for depression and anxiety, zopiclone for sleep, hormonal birth control for a barren womb, and copious amounts of tylenol for the tension headaches that creep in a couple of times a week. It’s like the valley of the goddamn dolls around here. Still, it’s better with the pills than without.

I think about my old life, my life before I had a kid, and I wonder how I did it. Up at six every morning for work, at the office for eight hours, then typically a seventy-five  minute yoga class and hangouts with friends. Oh and I also somehow managed to write a novel somewhere in there. Who the fuck was that person? Now I can barely drag myself out of bed at eight, and I only work a few hours a day (unless you count doing all the things that I don’t get paid for, like writing and parenting – you shouldn’t though, because I don’t count them). If I feel up to it, I take a yoga class. Often I don’t. When I’m not working I come home and dither around the apartment, unable to read or write or sit for any length of time. I try to talk myself into cleaning, but I usually don’t have the energy. I almost always end up napping, or else refreshing social media websites nonstop for two hours. Whatever ends up happening, it only makes me hate myself more.

What happened to all of my energy? I mean, how did I stay home and look after a toddler full-time less than two years ago? Is there actually something wrong with me, or am I just lazy? I’ve had all the right tests done – vials and vials of blood drawn, doctors peering down my throat and in my ears, but still no answers. It’s nothing physical, or at least nothing that anyone can find. I just have no motivation. It’s tempting to blame depression or anxiety, but somehow that feels disingenuous – I can’t exactly articulate why that is, but it’s probably something along the lines of how incredibly convenient it is for me to have an illness that prevents me from doing all of the things that I hate, things like cleaning, cooking, answering emails in a timely fashion, and generally staying on top of my shit. I mean how nice for me to be sick in exactly the way that forces others to pick up my slack while they kindly tell me to take it easy on myself, to be kind to myself, to do more things for me. But I already do everything for me. That’s my problem. All of the things that I do are for me and I still feel like shit.

I get everything that I want and more, but that fact doesn’t make any difference because I am a garbage person who deserves a garbage life.

At least, that’s what I’m told by the internal voice that I hear all the damn time until I shove a little blue pill in its face.

I don’t know why I’m writing all of this, except that I guess I had to get it off my chest. Maybe I just want someone to tell me that they’ve been there, and it gets better, and that I’ll make it through somehow. Maybe I’m hoping that the act of putting all of this out there, publicly, will somehow break this feeling’s hold over me. I want things to change – I want to love my days again instead of my dreamy, disjointed nights. I want to be able to think clearly, without these anxious thoughts clouding out everything else. I want to write because I love it, not because I feel like I should. I want to be a better mother, a better lover, a better friend. I want to feel something other than this stupid grey grinding nothingness, this fake laugh that’s just a little too loud, this sense of only ever enduring. I want and I want and I want and all of that goddamn wanting is exhausting.

I just need to you to promise me that I will feel better soon.

Jon Han for the NYTimes

Jon Han for the NYTimes

*I know, I know, induced comas aren’t fun, medical stuff isn’t fun, the ICU isn’t fun – I’m aware of how ridiculous my daydream is. But still.

No, I Won’t Stop Swearing

20 Mar

For those of you who somehow haven’t noticed, I occasionally use cuss words in my writing. I’m a grownup writing for grownups, and I just kind of figure that these are all words we’ve heard used at one time or another. Like, does anyone actually find the words fuck or shit all that shocking? Especially on a blog (as opposed to a For Real Credible News Source)? I mean, come on.

And yet every time I have a post go viral, the pearl-clutchers come out in full force.

Oh, they don’t tell me that they’re taken aback or upset by my language – after all, they don’t want to seem prudish or old-fashioned. No, they frame it as concern for me and my well-being. People won’t take me seriously if I swear, they say. No one will read my posts. I sound like I’m uneducated, “common,” with a limited vocabulary. Swear words devalue what would otherwise be quality writing. I would be so much more successful if I would just stick to politely outlining my points; swearing makes me seem hostile, and that turns people off. And, perhaps my favourite: cussing isn’t ladylike.

Friends, that is a lot of shit to unpack right there.

Let’s start out with the most easily refutable stuff. For one thing, it seems weird to tell me that no one is going to read my stuff when, whether I deserve it or not, I have a pretty wide readership. There are 8,639 people who currently subscribe to this blog and receive an email every time I publish something, I have 4,415 fans on my blog’s Facebook page, and 2.563 followers on twitter. And yeah some of those people are my mom, but the vast majority of them are people that I’ve never met who genuinely like my writing. I’m not throwing out those numbers to be like GUYS LOOK HOW GREAT I AM, because I am constantly humbled and baffled by how popular this blog is, but I do think it’s important to point out that a fuck of a lot of people read my stuff and take me seriously, even with all the swears.

Now, as for the rest of it, let’s take a look at what’s being said and why it’s problematic. First of all, there’s a lot there that’s true. For example, I am relatively uneducated, at least compared with many of my super-smart fellow bloggers. I graduated from high school, but didn’t complete any kind of postsecondary education unless you want to count yoga teacher training. Most people don’t. And you know what? I am common, whatever it is you want to mean by that; I certainly don’t consider myself to be upper class or elite in any way. Sometimes I’m hostile, especially when I’m writing about something that I’m angry or upset about. And I’m certainly anything but a lady. So I’m not offended or hurt by the actual content of any of these remarks.

What does offend me is the fact that we think it’s acceptable to use someone’s level of education and their perceived social class as insults.

These comments – comments making assumptions about socioeconomic status, comments telling me that choosing the wrong words, the “common” words, devalues my writing – are incredibly classist. They operate on the assumption that only writers of a certain social class have any kind of merit. They perpetuate the idea that only people who speak the right way, work the right jobs, and live in the right parts of town are worth listening to and taking seriously. These comments lay bare what every poor person already knows and what deeply entrenched social systems and cultural ideas tell us every day: the poor don’t matter.

I mean, sure, poor people matter when we need workers for dangerous or degrading jobs. The working class matters when we want someone to clean our house or serve us food or take care of our children. We like to objectify them, especially if they’re people of colour, and make dehumanizing comments about them. We talk down to them, condescend to them, even lose our shit at them if we feel like it because seriously no one is going to step up and tell us to stop. I had a friend who worked at an upscale grocery store, and during his time there he was subject to all kinds of abuse from the wealthy clientele. One older gentleman screamed at him that he was stupid and a child because the leeks that my friend was trying to ring through for him weren’t coming up at the right price. Another time a customer told him they were going to shove a cookie up his ass because the lineup to the cash register was moving too slowly. These people say these things because they know they can get away with it – they know that business owners will side with them, because the customer (especially the well-heeled customer) is always right and workers are disposable. This is the world we live in.

I’m not going to change the way that I write because it might make some people assume that I’m uneducated, or poor, or working class. You know why? There is nothing wrong with being any of these things. Being poor isn’t some kind of moral flaw; lack of education is not indicative of low intelligence. Using “common” words does not mean that what you have to say has no value. Fuck everyone who buys into this kind of thinking.

And as for the comments about hostility, I want you to sit back and ask yourself – seriously ask yourself – if you would say those things if the writer of this blog was a man. Would I still come off as hostile if I had a dick*? Or would you perceive me as being justifiably outraged? Because in my experience the word “hostile” is typically applied to women who aren’t being sweet and demure, and I am neither of those things. In a funny way, I almost take remarks about my hostility as a compliment, because it means that I’m subverting people’s expectations about what a woman should be. If I’m coming across as hostile, that makes me feel like I’m doing something right.

What I really want to get at is this: if you are someone who reads my writing and thinks, “well, I fundamentally agree with her but all those swear words make me wince,” you might need to take a moment and check your privilege. If, out of all the things that are printed here on this blog, it’s words like fuck and shit that get you hot and bothered, then you might need to rethink your priorities. If you think classist remarks about language somehow prove what a smart, enlightened person you are, I’d say that’s a pretty sorry state of affairs. And finally if you think that I care about your opinion on my use of swears, well, you’re wrong. I care about your opinion on a whole lot of issues, but not this one.

Because fuck it I will fucking cuss if I want to, because swear words are funny and awesome and sometimes no other word will do.


*Not all men have dicks and not all people with dicks are men but please allow me this one dick joke

Waiting For Spring, Or, The Moon Is In Free Fall

21 Jan

It’s almost four thirty in the afternoon, a month after the winter solstice, and the sky is still that bright, brittle cold-weather blue.

I can hear birds chirping outside my bedroom window. The noises they’re making are quiet, contented. Like me, they are settled in for the long wait until spring.

These days, spring seems like a dreamy idea I read about once a long time ago. It doesn’t just seem unreal, it seems like a childhood myth that I never quite gave up believing in. I keep clinging to this idea that things will be better, soon, soon, any day now. Waiting for spring is like my own personal religion, with all its accompanying rites and rituals. Except these days I’m dabbling in atheism; I’m not sure if I quite trust in this god anymore.

I’m not sad. I’m just in that funny suspended animation that happens this time every year, when everything goes cold and hard and very, very still.

I remember being very drunk at a party once when I was in my early twenties. The party was at my house, and at some point I found myself sitting in front of the book shelf, staring in awe at all of my books. One of my roommates asked what I was doing, and I turned and said to her,

“Look at this – look at how many words I own. Every single one of these books is filled with thousands and thousands of words, and they all belong to me. I bought them, with my own money. I bought the whole language!”

It seemed very profound to me at the time, even if my roommate just laughed and rolled her eyes and said, “Oh my god you are wasted.”

I do own those words, though. I own another person’s thoughts, the deepest parts of themselves that have spilled out through the tips of their fingers in the middle of their darkest nights. I might not own the things themselves that the words and passages describe, but I own their shadow, their printed idea on a page. And somehow that’s nearly as good. In the currency of thoughts and language, I am rich.

I know that this is true because when I think about it my skin prickles and my throat gets tight.

I want to think more beautiful thoughts this winter. I want better things to dream on until the spring wakes me up. I want to sit with a terrible stillness and find the right fancies to dive into. I don’t want things to move quickly anymore – action and then reaction over and over again, each shot fired in a split second – instead, I want things to move at a glacial pace, each approaching concept swallowing me whole, giving me time to learn it from the inside out. I want each new wonder to suffuse me, to drip out of my pores.

I think I want to be reborn, though I’m not sure as what.

One of the nicest ideas that I’ve ever read comes from the Wikipedia entry for free fall:

An object in the technical sense of free fall may not necessarily be falling down in the usual sense of the term. An object moving upwards would not normally be considered to be falling but if it is subject to the force of gravity only, it is said to be in free fall. The moon thus is in free fall.

I wish that I could explain to you exactly how and why I love this so much. The moon – the stolid old moon, making its endless circles around the earth – is in free fall. The words don’t change what the moon does or how it functions, but they change how I see it. It’s no longer tethered by some imaginary thread to the earth, but instead it’s falling, always falling, caught at the last minute by gravity. Over and over again the moon falls; over and over the moon is saved. Every day. Every night.

It’s a thought that could make you fall in love with the universe all over again.

So here’s to those dreams that we might dabble in during these longest nights and coldest days. Here’s to the bits of beauty that find their way into our lives and maybe lodge themselves in our hearts. Here’s to slowness, to stillness, to the time we take in our suspended animation thinking those longer thoughts.

Here’s to all the deep, quiet thrills that we might find before spring rushes in to wake us up.


2013 In Review: Part 1

29 Dec

It’s been a wild year, you guys. Mostly amazing, though. I mean, there was some not-so-great stuff in there for sure, but in my personal 2013 the good definitely outweighed the bad. Weirdly I feel like I’m one of the few people who can say that.

Let’s take a look, shall we?


I started the year off by making myself a flower crown which was somehow THE BEST THING IN MY LIFE (I am really into flower crowns and didn’t realize I could actually MAKE THEM FROM STUFF I BOUGHT AT THE DOLLAR STORE):


Then I went to my friends Jennie and Red’s New Year’s party:


On our way home from the party our subway was delayed by a girl who may or may not have been threatening to somehow harm herself. It seemed like an ominous beginning to the year.

2012 had gone out not with a bang but a whimper; on December 30th I’d published a post about how hard I was finding it to cope – re-reading it now makes me feel so incredibly relieved that I’m no longer in this place:

These days I feel as if I’ve lost the capacity for joy. I’ll catch myself mid-laugh and realize that I’m faking it, and I’m faking it so well that I’ve nearly got myself convinced. In the same way that it’s sometimes hard for me to believe that spring will ever come again, it’s also hard to believe that anything will ever make me feel good or happy again. I have these thoughts, like, hey, maybe at the beginning of my life I was handed out a finite number of good experiences and now, in the winter of my 30th year, I’ve somehow managed to spend the last one.

I’m grateful that this December I still, somehow, believe in the promise of spring.

The rest of January was tough. I was depressed for a lot of it, and to make matters even worse, early in the month Matt, Theo and I were struck by a stomach bug that led to the enchanting experience of throwing up all over a bathroom stall at Sick Kids.

There were a few highlights that month, of course. Shortly after New Year’s Day we participated in an Idle No More rally at Yonge and Dundas, which was pretty amazing:

IMGP4599 IMGP4606-1 IMGP4613 IMGP4615 indestructible

And then on January 17th it was Theo’s second birthday, which was pretty rad:

Theo the morning of his second birthday

Theo the morning of his second birthday

Also Wil Wheaton tweeted at me, which, I mean, HIGHLIGHT OF MY FUCKING LIFE.

Other than that, though, January was pretty hard. Depression-wise, things came to a boiling point at the end of the month. I won’t get into the gory details, but by then I was suicidal and sick with guilt over the fact that I felt that way. I went to my doctor, who increased the dosage of my antidepressants. I talked to my therapist, who listened and kindly nodded. I talked to my friends and family, who had advice that ranged from well-meaning to useless. Nothing seemed to do anything; the days just dragged on and on, weak winter light bleeding into blank, sleepless nights. It’s funny – now that things are so much better, I can’t really remember how those days felt. I can only remember that they were the emotional equivalent of the sensation and sound of fingernails on a blackboard. They were unbearable.

On January 31st my friends Audra and Jairus took me to the CAMH emergency room. I saw a psychiatrist there and spent nearly an hour talking to her. She was nice – not condescending, not pushy, not mean. Just nice. And young. And I totally coveted her wardrobe.

After that, things started to slowly, inexplicably get better. Somehow seeing her gave me permission to feel what I was feeling, and having the guilt over what I felt lifted made an enormous difference.


February was a weird sort of in-between time. I felt like I was in some kind of borderland, not quite here but not quite somewhere else, either. I spent a lot of time trying to pull myself back together, and I think that by and large I succeeded? One of the things the CAMH psychiatrist had “prescribed” was to take more time for myself. She said that I should try to do one thing a day just for me, so I did exactly that. I went and sat in quiet cafés and wrote in my journal. I took mid-day trips to the art gallery and drank in all the gorgeous around me. I went to the water spa and sat for hours in pools of salt water reading the Game of Thrones series. I tried hard not to feel guilty over all the selfish things I was spending money on.

February 11th was the 50th anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s suicide, which seemed strangely important. That date felt like a sort of arbitrary line in the sand, and I thought that if only I could get past it, things would get better. Part of it was that I felt like I was lucky enough to be moving on with my life, while she was constantly frozen in her 30th year, at the height of her poetic career but what must have seemed like the nadir of her personal life. I wrote about how strange it was that this year, when I turned 31, I would suddenly be older than she had ever been.

At some point towards the end of month I cemented my friendship with Nathan, who, at that time, was working at a fancy food store a block away from the studio that I manage. I would talk to him every time I went in to eat all the free samples or buy discounted day-old stuff, but we weren’t really friend-friends until one day I went to pay for something and he saw my copy of George R.R. Martin’s Dance With Dragons sticking out of my purse. After that we sort of fell into deep smit with each other and we’ve been pretty inseparable ever since. Nathan is mostly a super tall dude version of me with really good hair who makes me laugh a lot. I keep trying to put into words how amazing he is, and I keep coming up stupidly short, so I’ll just leave it at this: Nathan is one of the best things that has happened to me this year.

Other February highlights include:

This super rad Star Trek sweater I found at Value Village


As is my tradition, I spent Valentine’s Day with my girlfriends instead of with Matt. We ate a fancy dinner and then got drunk and mouthy, which seems like the best possible way to spend that stupid holiday. I also wrote about how much I hate Valentine’s Day.


I wrote an article for XOJane about breastfeeding, for which Matt took what might be one of my favourite pictures of Theo and I ever.


The two biggest events in February were definitely the two nights that Matt and I had on our own away from Theo, just two grownups doing grownup things without a manic two year old to interrupt them. The first was early in the month, when my friends Eden and Michael offered to babysit Theo overnight. Matt and I spent our sacred time away at the Gladstone Hotel, in a super fancy room:


It was the first time we’d ever been away from Theo overnight, and things went well for all parties involved!

Then, at the end of February, Matt and I went to a classy whiskey-tasting event in Kingston and spent the night at the same B&B we’d stayed at the night of our wedding while my mom took care of Theo. Turns out I super like whiskey:


On February 27th I deleted my Facebook account for a week, which was pretty much exactly what I needed to do right then.


March was pretty much a red-letter month for me in 2013. This year could, among other things, be called The Year I Fell Totally Head-Over-Heels In Love With Patti Smith, a process that was cemented by seeing Smith in concert at the Art Gallery of Ontario on March 7th. There had only been a handful of tickets to her performance there, but I’d somehow managed to score one by going and waiting in the freezing cold outside of the gallery the morning that they went on sale. It was so, so unbelievably worth it.




Other Patti Smith highlights of this year include: seeing her exhibit Camera Solo, reading her book Just Kids, getting Horses on vinyl for my birthday from Nathan, and tearing through one of her all-time favourite books, Astragal by Albertine Sarrazin. PATTI SMITH I LOVE YOU.

I wrote some stuff that garnered a bunch of pretty rad attention in March, including 15 Assumptions That Might Be Useful To Make, which was my first post ever to be Freshly Pressed, I wrote a ridiculous alphabet poem for International Women’s Day which was shared by some pretty cool people INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO the Girl Guides of Canada, and I learned what it really, truly means to have a post go viral after writing a post called “I Am Not Your Wife, Sister or Daughter” in response to the Steubenville rape trial. That post, which has had half a million views to date, was shared by super crazy professional publications such as The Believer, Mother Jones and The Atlantic. YOU GUYS THOSE ARE WHERE THE REAL WRITERS ARE. I think March was maybe the first time I’d ever felt like a For Real Writer Lady.

Other March highlights include going to Montreal for my grandmother’s 85th birthday, an event that was notable for three reasons:

1. My grandmother (centre, age 10) celebrated her 85th trip around the sun


2. Theo looked SUPER ADORABLE in a kilt


3. I figured out how to do a sock bun


As the month was waning I got to experience my first ever Write Club, where I watched the super charming Ryan F. Hughes read his work.

I also wrote another post that went viral, this time about a meme that I kept seeing pop up claiming that the holiday Easter is named after the ancient Babylonian goddess Ishtar. SPOILER ALERT, EASTER IS NOT NAMED AFTER ISHTAR YOU GUYS.

At the end of March I went to an awesome reproductive rights party with Audra and Jairus and I GOT TO HOLD THIS TINY KITTEN.




In April I started painting again after about ten years of not painting. It’s one of those things that wholly absorbs my attention, which is kind of a nice vacation from the rest of my life. I haven’t painted much since the spring, and putting this post together is a good reminder that I should start again.

We had a lot of family art time in April


Among my masterpieces were this weirdo fox


And this New York skyline for my sister Claire


In late April, I met and had dinner with Sheila Heti and I am not going to be weird and fan-girly about it here but uh it was pretty great. I wore a dress and put flowers in my hair! I made up cue cards with talking points in case I got really awkward and couldn’t think of anything to say, but I shouldn’t have worried because we pretty much just sat and talked for hours. It was, as Sheila said, a good first date.

On April 27th I went to my high school reunion (well, it wasn’t, like, a reunion-reunion, it was the 25th anniversary of the special arts program that I’d participated in, but it was basically a reunion). I’ve been pretty vocal about how un-fun my high school experience was, and I told everyone that I absolutely, definitely WAS NOT GOING, and then of course I went. And I had fun. So I guess that’ll show me.

The good news is that I looked cute:


Channeling my inner Patsy-from-Ab-Fab

Channeling my inner Patsy-from-Ab-Fab

Dancing my little heart out

Dancing my little heart out with Graham and Susan

I wrote some pretty serious stuff in April, including the ways in which Dove manipulates womenRehtaeh Parsons’ suicide, the Boston Bombing, and the kidnapping and sexual assault of a five year old Indian girl. I also experienced one of the worst hangovers of my adult life and wrote a 13 step guide to hangover survival. So, you know, it was kind of a mixed bag in terms of content. Also I was STILL FUCKING HUNGOVER AT 8:30 PM THE NEXT EVENING. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I WATCH STAR TREK AND DRINK TOO MANY MARTINIS.


From my journal, dated May 2nd:

I’m sad tonight. The air is warm and smells of new earth and the heavy sweetness of flowers. As I walk home through the Annex I can hear soft laughter and the clink of dishes, comforting post-dinner sounds from all the surrounding houses. The kids are out tonight, smoking pot in the park, playing on the swings, daring each other to go further, higher. Everything is unbearably lovely, much more lovely than it ought to be. I want to hate this world, but I can’t. I can’t love it, either. I’m stuck somewhere in between.

Spring is always the time when I feel like everyone else is out having more fun than I am. Spring is when I worry everyone is doing a better, more interesting job of living than I am. I feel like there’s something stirring inside me, wanting to wake up, but it can’t, or else I won’t let it. Being miserable in the winter isn’t so bad, because everyone else is miserable, too; being miserable in the spring and summer, when everyone else is out having fun is another thing altogether.

I felt better as the month went on, though. Matt’s brother Adam came to visit, and Theo had a blast hanging out with him:


That month we went to Adam’s CD release in Sarnia. You can download his music for free here (although I do encourage you to make a donation).

On May 20th I read my own work at Write Club which was SUPER GREAT AND AMAZING. Also I won my round and am now the owner of a much-coveted tiny plastic trophy. I am really lucky to have a wonderful group of friends, and Audra, Ryan, Lili, Frances and Nathan were all there to clap super hard for me (Jairus would have been there if he hadn’t been sick!). What why am I so lucky.

On May 30th Henry Morgentaler died and the Huffington Post asked me to write a sort of tribute to him. Which, I mean, I find it kinda hilarious that I am the first person they think of when they need someone to write about women’s reproductive rights. LET’S ASK ANNE, SHE’S ALL OVER THAT PRO-CHOICE SHIT. Fun fact: I wrote that post while sitting on a bench at the corner of Yonge and Eglinton right after seeing Star Trek Into Darkness.


Other highlights!

We went to Riverdale Farm and I experimented with mint green short-shorts:


Matt and I went to see Fiddler on the Roof at Stratford. I don’t have any pictures of the show, but here’s one my mom took of us before we left Toronto:


My friend Brendon held his annual friendapalooza barbecue, and he and Theo wore matching outfits:


I finally visited Jack Layton’s grave:


I discovered this amazing old picture of Alex Trebek:


I also wrote about the collapse of the garment factory in Bangladesh, why I’m not a huge fan of Mother’s Day, and self-loathing.


Here is my June in pictures:

Theo got his nails done by a woman who bears a striking resemblance to Hilary Clinton


I read in parks

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With Nathan


We spent a lot of time outdoors





I saw The National and Mikal Cronin at NXNE (not pictured: The National or Mikal Cronin)


I was a hilarious drunk


Annie and Michael visited from Halifax. OH MAN was it ever good to see them

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I dug up a bunch of my favourite Matt and Theo pictures for Father’s Day



Ancient Romans invaded the Royal Ontario Museum


I had my first PRINT article published in Shameless Magazine


I made a flower crown for Audra


I stole Nathan’s Jays hat


I stole Nathan’s I Wanna Be Your Dog t-shirt and cut it up into an awesome tank top


Not pictured: I STOLE NATHAN’S WALLET (kidding, kidding)

We visited Kingston and Claire showed Theo the kid-sized train at her work


It was maybe the best day of his life


On June 1st I went to see my friend Drew’s band play and realized that I had no fucking clue what to do when drunk folks start calling people fags.

One of my favourite high school teachers, Roland Muller, died and his death was so much harder on me than I’d imagined it would be.

I wrote 10 Signs that Feminism May Not Be For You for the Outlier Collective, and it wound up being my second post ever to be Freshly Pressed. Yay!

I wrote some advice for Sheila Heti.

I started writing my book, and then wrote about writing my book. META.

So that was the first half of my year. I was originally gonna do this whole thing in one single post, but I’m only halfway through and I’m already at 3,000 words, so I think that I’ll stop here.

Coming up next: 2013 PART TWO: THE RETURN OF 2013.

Feelings Machine

3 Dec

I sometimes joke that I’m a feelings machine, but that description isn’t really so far from the truth. My brain churns out emotional reactions a rate that leaves me breathless, too fast for me to understand the why and how. Everything, everything seems to provoke some kind of intense feeling in me, and they almost always seem to be negative. I’m never just a little sad or anxious or concerned – I feel like the world is ending, over and over again, all day every day. It’s like the volume dial on my emotions is constantly cranked to 11. It’s exhausting for me, and I know that it’s hard for the people around me. I’m too intense, all the time, every day. It’s just too much.

The problem is that almost everything feels like an emergency, especially when it comes to interpersonal conflict; I have a seriously hard time distinguishing between an every day, run-of-the-mill argument and a relationship-ending barn-burner. If a friend or family member leaves before the conflict is resolved, I’m certain that they’re never coming back. Nothing ever feels solid enough.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, trying to figure out why I react with panicked sobbing to stupid differences of opinion that most people would just roll their eyes at. Why do these situations send off deafening alarm bells in my brain when they seem to be just blips on everyone else’s personal radar? And why can’t I ever stand my ground and assume that I might be right instead of turning into a babbling mess of frantic apologies and promises to do better next time?

I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of it has to do with the relationships that I’ve had with volatile, unpredictable people. And I don’t just mean romantic relationships – I mean any kind of relationship, with a parent or a sibling or a teacher or a friend. For whatever reason (I mean, I can think of actual Reasons, but I’m not going to get into them right now), I’m drawn to these people. For one thing, they’re exciting, aren’t they? You never know what they’ll do or say next, and they tend to stir up my otherwise boring, predictable existence. Staying on their good side seems like some kind of a challenge, and I’ve never backed down from a challenge. And I guess it’s a dynamic that I understand and feel comfortable with, even though you can never really feel as if you understand or feel comfortable with these types of people.

The problem with volatile people is that everything has the potential to be an emergency; something that they think is fine and dandy one day could send them into screaming fits of rage the next. You never, ever know how they’ll react, so you always have to brace yourself. Anything that you do or say could set them off. Conversely, anything that you do or say could also delight them to no end. There’s no way of knowing how things will play out, and so trying to please them is like aiming at a moving target – you’ll probably never be able to hit it, and if by some stroke of luck you do, that strike has nothing to do with your skills or capabilities.

If you live with a volatile person for long enough, it’s hard to maintain a consistent personal narrative. Every event is re-framed by how they saw it, and no matter how hard you try to hold on to your version of events, the force of their overreactions starts to erode your confidence in your own perspective. Trying to fight against them begins to exhaust you – they’re too good at pushing your buttons, know too well exactly what to say to hurt you most deeply, and you can’t keep up, can’t maintain that level of mean-spiritedness. You start to accept what they tell you, because it’s just easier. It’s easier to be wrong all the time. It’s easier to apologize. It’s easier to lie down and let them walk all over you. Of course, you lose yourself in the process, but what does that matter? By that point you believe that that self was worthless anyway.

Once you’ve experienced that type of relationship, it’s hard to know how to interact with other people, non-volatile people. You’re constantly looking for hidden meaning in their words and actions, looking for clues that might tell you how to behave. You don’t trust them when they say that everything’s fine, because you know that nothing is ever fine, not really. Even the smallest thing could escalate into a disaster.

So you overreact. You cry and panic over stupid, petty things, because how can you ever be sure that they’re really so stupid and petty? You grovel and apologize before they can get to the point where they demand and apology, because you know that it’s so much easier that way. You call yourself every bad name in the book before they can even open their mouths. You try so hard to beat them to the punch, even when there’s no punch coming. The new people in your life, these normal, non-volatile people, can’t figure out where you’re coming from. They chalk it up to low self-esteem, and try to build you up or bully you into feeling better about yourself. They all tell you that you need to care less about what other people think, and you want that, you want it so badly, but you have no idea how to stop caring. You’re not certain who you are unless someone else is telling you something about yourself; you feel like a sort of black hole, sucking in everything from the people around you. You’re so hungry for a version of yourself that you can love and accept, but nothing that anyone can tell you is ever enough.

You feel more defined by absence than anything else and incapable of emitting any light.


Fiction: Delphine

12 Nov


Before she does anything else, Delphine takes a moment to sit down and roll a joint. She does it slowly, carefully, savouring the experience. Every precise movement of her hands, from spreading the paper on her desk and carefully arranging the line of weed down the middle, to flicking her thumbs in just the right way to wrap the whole thing into a neat cylinder, is a distinct pleasure. In some ways, rolling the joint is just as satisfying as smoking it. Part of this satisfaction, Delphine believes, is because you enjoy anything you’re good at.

That’s sort of her motto, actually.

She sits by the window as she smokes, watching the way the late afternoon sun filters through the leaves of the sycamore tree outside. One of her neighbours is playing a Lou Reed album, the familiar gruff, wheezy voice floating across the still air of the courtyard. Delphine holds her breath for a moment, imagining that she can feel the smoke curling and spreading deep inside her lungs, then exhales slowly, luxuriously.

Afterwards, as her body begins to enter the slow, dreamy state that really good pot always brings on, she begins to get dressed. She has a Session today, so it doesn’t much matter what she wears — she’ll just have to change into whatever the Company has picked out for her today as soon as she gets there. Still, she chooses her clothing carefully, taking the time to put together an outfit that pleases her.

It’s nice to look nice, after all.

She digs an off-white baby doll dress out of her closet and pulls it over her head, tying a wide pink ribbon around her waist as a belt. Her tights today are wine-coloured and her shoes are a pair of scuffed-up brown ballet flats – boring, but she knows from experience that she won’t be able to walk in heels by the time the night is over. Last comes the jewellery, layers and layers of necklaces and bracelets; the clinking and swaying as she walks make her feel gaudy and mysterious, like a Hollywood gypsy. She slides rings on her fingers, three on each hand, and puts on her lucky earrings, big, round gold studs.

There’s no point in putting on much makeup, because they’ll just make her wash it all off, so she settles for bright red lipstick and an oversized pair of sunglasses. The finishing touch is her fur coat, a slightly-ratty, knee-length leopard skin affair, one of those remarkable Value Village finds that happen once in a lifetime. Some days the coat makes her feel like a 60s movie star; other days, it makes her feel like Kurt Cobain. Both versions of herself make her happy.

She has some time before the Company’s car arrives to pick her up, so she sits down at her computer and logs onto the oracle message board. Delphine discovers that there’s a new post from the early hours of the morning, so she clicks to open it. She’s surprised to discover a note from Sibyl saying that she’s resigning, effective immediately – the last she’d heard, Sibyl was enjoying her work and was being booked frequently for various Sessions. Sybil doesn’t give any reason for her resignation, either; her post is little more than a brief paragraph saying that she’s enjoyed her time with the Company and wishes them all well.

Sibyl is the third oracle to resign this year. They lost another one, Pythia, just last month. The turnover rate for oracles is pretty high.

Most women leave of their own free will, of course. The Company has to let some of them go, of course, but those cases are few and far between. The vast majority quit because they want to get clean, although a few have quit because of sexual assault or, in one case, rape and battery. Not that they ever come right out and say these things on the message board, which is the only way they’re allowed to interact with each other. They have to use code words, and in this way somehow manage to tell each other quite a lot even while saying very little.

Sexual assault isn’t really uncommon in their line of work; considering what goes on during the Sessions, most of the oracles consider it to be pretty much par for the course. Delphine suspects that it’s happened to her a few times – not penetration, but probably at least groping, maybe even more. She’s woken up to suspicious bruises and unusual aches, and once there was even the angry red imprint of a hand on her breast. It used to upset her, but she’s since come to the conclusion that it’s something she’s willing to accept. Like most of the other oracles, it’s a price that she’s more than willing to pay for all the perks that come with their job. Because there really are so many perks. None of them can say that the Company doesn’t treat them well.

The Company pays for everything the oracles have. It pays their rent, pays all their bills, and pays for the sleek black cars that shuttle them everywhere. It provides excellent health benefits, with full coverage for dental and prescription drugs. Speaking of drugs, the Company pays for those, too, or rather, it supplies them. They’re the best Delphine has ever had, and you can get just about anything you ask for.

Delphine’s drug of choice is heroin, which she realizes is passé in terms of recreational drug use. She likes to think of it as retro-chic – hey, the 90s are back, right? – and has become an expert at finding out-of-the-way veins and contorting herself into strange shapes in order to shoot up. It goes without saying that she can’t have track marks on her arms; that would ruin the look.

Track marks are not a part of the Delphine that the Company is selling.

Delphine wasn’t always Delphine, of course. At some point, in the now-distant past, she was Veronica, a round-faced, well-scrubbed girl from a nice family. She lived in a small prairie town, did reasonably well in high school, and had a nice boyfriend. After graduation, Veronica and her nice boyfriend moved to Toronto, a two-and-a-half hour flight from home, and got a cute little apartment together. Things were great.

Except then the nice boyfriend turned out to be not-so-nice and it wasn’t long before Veronica had nowhere to live and no way of making money. Too proud to go crawling back to her parents and her armpit of a hometown, she was determined to make her way in the big city on her own.

Things were feeling dire for a while. She lived with a succession of terrible roommates in a succession of tiny, filthy apartments while working a slew of miserable, minimum wage jobs. She blew all her money on bad drugs, which were still better than no drugs, and started to feel like she was never going to get out of the trap she’d found herself in. Looking back, she has to admit that she wasn’t far from reaching the point where she would flee back to the prairies, tail between her legs, when one day she came across a cryptic Craigslist ad.

The rest is, well, history. The Company rechristened her Delphine and, at the age of 18, she began her career as an oracle.

Delphine’s phone buzzes, shaking her out of her reverie, and she picks it up, expecting to see a text from her driver. Instead, she sees that it’s Andrew calling her.


“Uh, hi Delphine. I was just calling because I wanted to make sure that you got the thing I sent you. You know, last night.”

Delphine picks up the little velvet box on her bedside table and flips it open.

“Yeah, I did, Andrew. They’re nice earrings. Really nice. Thank you.”

“Well,” Delphine hears his usual hesitancy, his funny shyness. “They’re not really from me. They’re from the Company. I wish I could say they were from me.”

“But you’re not allowed to give me stuff.”

Delphine walks back over to the window and sits on the ledge. Lou Reed is gone, replaced by The Smiths. She mouthes the words of the song and happily leans her head against the glass, that funny feeling that pot always gives her of being perfectly at home in her own body blossoming somewhere deep in her lower belly and hips. She feels good.

“Yeah,” laughs Andrew, “Yeah, I know. The Company is pretty strict about that kind of stuff. But it makes sense. I can’t let anybody think I have a favourite, right?”

“What were they for, though? I mean, I’m not complaining or anything. Just curious.”

Delphine knows exactly why the Company has given her a pair of expensive earrings, but she wants to hear Andrew say it, wants to have her ego stroked just a little.

“Just for being you. You’re the best that we’ve got, you know. The clients love you – some of them even ask for you by name. And your predictions are so clear that I barely have to do any translating.”

All of this is true. Delphine is doing three, sometimes even four Sessions a week now, and she knows that the Company is able to charge clients several hundred, maybe even a thousand dollars for a Session with her. They recently moved her to a new, more spacious apartment and gave her a healthy bonus.

The Company is never stingy when it comes to showing appreciation for the oracles.

“You’re really fantastic, you know,” Andrew continues. “I think half of your clients are in love with you. I almost am myself.”

Delphine smiles, staring out at the leaves on the tree bobbing gently in the still air.

“Anyway, I just wanted to make sure that you know that the Company is really happy with your work. Things are going great – in fact, one of the higher ups recently told me that you’re at the peak of your career.”

The last words out of Andrew’s mouth make Delphine’s skin prickle, as if it’s suddenly begun shrinking, shrivelling, drying and tightening across her bones.

She stands up quickly and walks away from the window, her necklaces swaying and clinking with the sudden movement. Her heart beats too loudly, too quickly. She struggles to think of what to say without giving away how panicked his words have made her.

“What do you mean?” she asks finally. “What does that mean, I’m at the peak of my career?”

“It – it just means that you’re doing really well. You’re the best.”

“It means that it’s all downhill from here. That’s what it means. It means I’m the best I’ll ever be, I’ve reached the peak of the mountain, and soon I’ll be over the hill. Right?”

“No, Delphine, of course not, I didn’t –”

“Sybil left. Did you hear about that?”

“Yeah, but what does that –”

Delphine can hear him fiddling with something nervous, his tie maybe, or else the collar of his shirt.

“What’s going to happen to me, Andrew?”

There’s a long pause before he replies.

“Nothing,” he says guardedly. “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean, what’s going to happen when I stop being an oracle?”

“Listen, Delphine, I can’t really talk right now, I –”

“I get that you might be someplace where you can’t say certain things, but just give me yes or no answers, all right?”

“I — fine, sure.” His tone is resigned. “Ask away.”

“I’ve been doing this for eight years now. Has anyone ever been an oracle as long as I have?”


“Have any of them even come close? Say, five or six years?”


“What’s the longest anyone else has ever lasted?”

“That’s not a yes or no question.”

Delphine exhales sharply through her nose, trying to contain her irritation.

“Just say a >number, Andrew, no one will be suspicious.”

Andrew hesitates, then quietly says,


“Has anyone ever gone on to work for the Company in another way, maybe in a clerical job or whatever, after they’ve stopped being an oracle.”


“Can I put this job on my resumé?”

Andrew’s voice is growing smaller, more unsure.


“Will you give me a reference?”

“No, you know that it’s against -”

Delphine is pacing now, her muscles tensing with anxious energy. She wishes she had time to roll another joint.

“Can I get clean and still be an oracle?”

“No, of course not, Delphine, don’t be silly.”

“Do you honestly think that living this kind of life is sustainable? Do you think I’ll be an oracle til I’m 50? How about 40? Andrew, what the fuck is going to happen to me when I can’t do this anymore?”

Delphine stops suddenly and stands in the middle of her bedroom. She takes a deep breath, and finds that she’s struggling not to cry.

“Listen Delphine, I — we can talk about this later, all right? I have to go.”

Andrew’s voice is gentle but firm. She’s not going to get anything else out of him.

“It doesn’t matter, I’ve already heard everything I needed to.”

Delphine misses the days when you could slam down the phone whenever you hung up on someone. It was so satisfying. Pressing the little square image that appears at the bottom of her phone’s smooth glass screen whenever she wants to end a call just doesn’t feel the same.

Delphine sits on her floor and draws her knees into her chest. Her hands are shaking. She takes a few deep breaths, wishing that she could take a hit of something, anything before the driver arrives.

Most days, Delphine is able to push aside her worries about the future and convince herself that she’s not walking along the edge of a cliff, liable to slip and fall at any moment. When she’s high (which is, admittedly, most of the time), Delphine truly believes that everything will work out fine. She tells herself that she’s not going to be fired, and even if she is, she’ll be able to find something else, something better.

But on cold, grey mornings when she wakes up feeling distressingly sober, she finds that she can’t outrun her fear any longer.

On those mornings, Delphine is forced to look the truth right in its cold, beady eyes:

She will not be able to do this forever. Not even for much longer, probably.

Delphine is a lot of things, but stupid isn’t one of them. She knows that this type of life isn’t sustainable. Sometimes she’s amazed that she’s been able to keep it up for this long. Sooner or later she’ll lose her youthful glow and the Company will decide that she’s too old, too used up to be an oracle. Or else the drugs, those wonderful drugs that allow her to float through her days, will finally take their toll and she’ll be forced to either get clean or die. And if she chooses to get clean, she’ll be out of a job, won’t she?

In the harsh light of those sober mornings, Delphine can see her future self clearly: an addict, homeless and out of a job, with absolutely no career prospects. No resumé, no references, no way to get free drugs.

The worst part is that there’s nothing she can do to change how this will play out. Sometimes it’s like she’s watching a slow, silent disaster, a train derailing and falling lightly, dreamily off a bridge and into the river below. And though to an onlooker it would seem like she has plenty of time to do something, anything to save the people onboard, the fact is that it’s impossible. The most she can do is try to forget about it for a little while.

Luckily, her lifestyle is very conducive to that.

Delphine soon hears her car pull up outside, sees her phone flash with a text from the driver, and, shutting her sleek silver laptop, walks down the stairs and out into the early autumn evening. It’s warm out, too warm for her coat, really, but Delphine doesn’t mind. The man holds the door open for her, and she slides into the car without saying a word. She forces herself to stop thinking about the future, and instead turns her thoughts to the upcoming Session.

Delphine settles back against the rich leather seats, straightening her skirt and pulling a pack of clove cigarettes out of her purse. The funny thing is that doesn’t even like tobacco, but she enjoys the act of smoking itself. She finds it soothing, calming. And the clove cigarettes are so pretty, with their thick gold paper and matte black filters. They smell good, too. Delphine lights one and takes a long drag, sucking the spicy-sweet smoke deep into her lungs, then exhales, admiring, as she does so, the bright red imprint her lips have left on the filter.

It’s not long before they arrive at the Royal York hotel, where the Company rents a suite of rooms. Delphine exits the car, coolly thanks her driver, and saunters nonchalantly into the lobby. None of the staff even bother to look twice at her. They all know her by now.

The suite has two large main rooms, one little side room and a bathroom. Delphine heads to what is commonly referred to as the Staging Area, the room where she will get ready for tonight’s Session. Kate, the makeup lady, and Sue, the woman who does her hair, have already arrived. Andrew isn’t there yet, but that’s fine – they won’t need him until later.

Tonight’s dress is a gauzy, white, semi-sheer affair, all plunging neckline and floating layers. Delphine strips naked and pulls the dress over her head; she’s not allowed to wear underclothes during a Session. Though the lights will be low enough that no one will be able to see through the dress, the Company wants her clients to be able to see the hint of a nipple, the vague shadow of what might be pubic hair. Suggestion is a big part of what they’re selling.

After getting dressed, Delphine settles into the chair by the mirror. Sue begins combing out her hair, making little tutting noises under her breath.

“What?” asks Delphine, already knowing what she’s going to say.

“You need to get your roots done. They’re showing, and it doesn’t look good.”

“But I like the way they look,” protests Delphine

“The Company won’t, though. And that’s what matters, isn’t it?”

Delphine knows that she’s right. That doesn’t stop her from putting up a bit of a fight before agreeing to come see her Saturday morning for a touch-up. Bickering with Sue makes her feel better, more normal.

Sue curls her hair, then piles it in an elaborate, vaguely Grecian-style on top of her head. She secures the mass of ringlets with a fistful of bobby pins, then begins carefully pulling out seemingly random strands of hair to frame Delphine’s face. She sprays the entire thing with several coats of hairspray before she begins adding the flowers, little pink and yellow ones stuck artfully here and there. Finally, she adds a beaten gold crown in the shape of laurel leaves. Although Delphine’s hair and clothing vary greatly from one Session to another, she always wear the gold crown.

Once Sue is done, Kate comes over and gets to work, spreading creamy foundation across Delphine’s face. She dabs highlighter on her cheeks and on her temples, skilfully applies false eyelashes and uses a multitude of brushes on her eyes, lips and brow.

Once her face has been adequately made up, Delphine looks a full ten years younger. Her skin is smooth, dewy; her eyes are soft and bright. She looks innocent and naïve, which is exactly what the Company is going for.

At that moment, as Delphine is admiring herself in the mirror with a vain little smile on her face, Andrew walks in. He’s wearing a suit – no elaborate costume for him – and his hair is, as always, parted neatly on the left. In his hand is the small vial of of liquid that will complete her transformation.

“Who is it tonight?” she asks him, trying to gauge where they stand after what happened earlier.

“James Vipond. A hedge fund manager, very rich, very successful. Wants to know about stock options.”

“A subject I’m intimately familiar with, naturally. This should go well.”

“It always goes well,” insists Andrew, “I told you before on the phone, I don’t know how you do it, but you always come up with top-notch stuff. I barely even have to bullshit it into something the client will understand. You’re gifted or something.”

Delphine just shrugs and looks past him, at her reflection of the mirror. She doesn’t want to be reminded of what they talked about on the phone. Not right now, not right before a Session.

“Oh, and,” Andrew says, lowering his voice, “I just wanted to tell you that you don’t have to worry about what we talked about on the phone. We’ll figure something out. You’re the best we’ve got Delphine, honestly. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Delphine ignores him and drinks the liquid all in one gulp, gagging a little on the cloying sweetness. It’s the consistency of cough syrup, and just as vile.

She’s not sure what the liquid is, exactly. Ergot, maybe, processed and re-processed until all of the nasty side effects are gone. Or it maybe psylocybin mushrooms, their effects distilled and magnified a hundred times. It could even be some form of acid, too – the Company employs some of the country’s top chemists, and she wouldn’t put it past them to come up with a brilliant new type of LSD.

Whatever it is, it’s the best fucking high she’s ever had.

Whatever it is, it makes everything else worth it.

As Andrew leads her into the room they refer to as the Temple, Delphine can already feel the drug beginning to take effect. Nothing has ever felt as good as Andrew’s hand on her arm; the sensation makes her shiver with delight. She suddenly laughs out loud, for no reason other than that she feels so good. Delphine feels her body expand, warm and glowing, until it’s big enough to fill the room. She has never been so happy. She has never loved life so much.

The Temple is a large, dimly lit room, all candles and smoke and sheer, draped fabrics. There’s an enormous, opulent Persian rug on the floor, and huge, overstuffed cushions scattered here and there. Andrew leads Delphine over to her seat, a gilded three-legged stool set in front of a brazier. As she sits, he begins to light the richly-scented incense in the brazier, and Delphine, still maintaining a weak grip on reality, watches the smoke rise in front of her.

The clients are supposed to believe that it’s the smoke that gives her visions. That’s not true, of course, and anyone who really thought about it would be able to figure that out, but it’s what they want to think, which helps. They all want a little magic, a little mysticism. Delphine is convinced that, more than anything else, they come here for the show.

Andrew makes sure that she’s settled, then goes off to the little side room, from which he’ll watch the show through a two-way mirror. He’ll come out later, to interpret her ravings in a way that ensure that the client goes home happy. He’s the liaison between Delphine and her clients, the bridge between whatever world it is that she goes too and this gaudily-decorated hotel room in downtown Toronto. He’s there to monitor her and make sure that she does what she’s supposed to, but he’s also there to protect her. In theory.

Delphine leans back on her little seat and gives herself up to the drug. The high comes rushing over her, like a wave, and soon she’s lost in a world of fantastic visions. She feels herself floating up and up and up, feels her nerve-endings stretching outward, through her skin and into the world around her, hungry for pleasure. She feels every single one of her cells drinking up pure, distilled joy. She feels. She feels. She feels.

One minute she’s floating, suffused with joy, then the next she’s slammed back into her body, cold, trembling and breathing hard. There’s a moment of confusion – why isn’t she sprawled on the bed in the Staging Room? That’s where she’s always woken up before. Today, though, she’s lying in a crumpled heap on the floor of the Temple, her body aching and strange. The candles have been put out and the main lights turned on, turning the oracle’s exotic grotto into an expensive hotel room filled with tacky, pseudo-oriental decor.

Andrew is crouching by her side, his eyes wide, frightened.

“What happened?” asks Delphine, struggling to get up.

Because she knows that something must have happened.

As Andrew helps her to sit up, Delphine realizes that her dress has been torn down the front, exposing almost everything. Her arms, belly, and inner thighs are covered in red marks and bruises. Her left breast has a deep scratch on it. Her lips feel strange, and when she reaches a hand up to touch her mouth, she discovers that she’s bleeding. Something is wrong with her right eye; it won’t open all the way.

She makes a movement to cover herself up, then realizes that Andrew has already seen everything, has probably been sitting here staring at her body for hours. She folds her arms across her chest and looks at him, waiting for his answer.

“You … you said some things,” Andrew finally says, his voice shaking.

What do you mean, I said some things? I always say things. It’s my job to say things.”

“Different things. Frightening things.”

“What do you mean<!–?”

Andrew takes a deep breath.

“You were doing your usual thing, and everything was going fine, when all of the sudden the client reached over and grabbed you. He started kissing you, touching you. You — you didn’t really put up a fight at first, but he kept going. He tore your dress. I don’t even know why he did that, because he could have just pulled it off, but he took it in both hands and tore it all the way down the front. And then he undid his pants and -”

Andrew stops talking and just sits there, opening and closing his mouth as if he doesn’t know what to say.

“And where the fuck were you? You’re supposed to be watching me, you’re supposed to protect me.”

“I – I didn’t know,” Andrew’s voice is shaking, so he pauses for a moment, takes a deep breath. “I didn’t know that he was going to go so far. I thought he only wanted to cop a feel. That’s what most of them want.”

“And you let most of them do that? You just let them do that?”

“You know it’s not up to me, Delphine,” Andrew says feebly. “The Company -”

“Fuck you,” Delphine spits out. “Fuck you.”

Andrew just sits there, looking down at his hands, until finally Delphine says,

“Tell me the rest of the story.”

“He pushed you onto the floor and started to, um … you know.”

“Say it.”

“I –”

Say it.”

“He started to – to assault you,” says Andrew, struggling to pick out least damning term. “That’s when you started to fight back. As soon as I realized what was happening, I swear I came as fast as I could. I – I … ”

“And then what happened?” Delphine’s voice is cold, emotionless.

“As soon as I got in the room, you sat up, and pushed him off you. I mean, you pushed him so hard that he – he kind of went flying and hit the wall. There was no way you should’ve been able to do that. No way you could be strong enough to do that. But you did. And then – and then your eyes sort of rolled back into your head, like you were passing out or something, but you were still sitting up. And — and this strange voice came out of you, really deep, harsh. Not your voice at all. It was like you were possessed.”

What did I say?”

“You said that there were planes coming, planes that were going to bomb this city out of existence. You said we were all doomed, every single one of us in this room. Then you laughed. You laughed like it was the funnest thing ever. After that you sort of jerked and twitched a few times, like you were having a seizure or something, and then you fell back on the floor.”

Delphine and Andrew look at each other for a long time, neither of them saying anything. Both are trying to digest what’s just happened. Both are reassessing the other person and their relationship to them. Neither knows what to do now.

Delphine is the one who finally breaks the silence.

“So what happened to the client?”

“The client left after that. He was pretty freaked out. I’ll have to file a report.”

“No,” Delphine cries, scrambling over to him, her arms and legs tangling in the remains of her dress.

She places a hand on his arm and looks at him pathetically, appealingly. She tries to keep a grip on her panic, tries to tell herself that she’s not in danger of losing everything.

“Please don’t file a report. The Company doesn’t have to know. Please.”

“I have to. You know that. And anyway, what if the client files a report? It’s better to get our version in first, before he can put his own spin on what happened.”

“Why would the client file anything? What’s he going to say? That he raped me?”

“No,” Andrew says quietly. “He’ll say that you attacked him. Maybe tried to rob him. It’ll be his word against yours, and I already know whose will win. You know it, too.”

Yes. She does.

Delphine changes back into her own clothes, and then Andrew takes her home. They barely speak. When Delphine’s about to get out of the car, Andrew leans over and kisses her, hard. He’s shaking, and it takes her a moment to realize that he’s crying. As if he was the one who was attacked. As if he was the one in danger of losing everything he owned.

Delphine stumbles up her stairs, half-falling and catching herself on the railing several times. Her head is spinning, a side-effect of the drug that sometimes lasts several hours, and she’s more tired than she’d realized. Fortunately, she only lives on the fourth floor, so she’s soon safely locked inside her apartment. She looks in the mirror and determines that she’s going to have a nasty black eye. She touches herself between the legs, wondering if the client had time to come, if she needs the morning after pill, or an AIDS test. She washes the blood off her face, smokes half a joint, then burrows into her bed.

She sleeps deeply, without dreaming, until morning.

When Delphine gets up and turns on her computer, the first thing she sees is an email from the Company. She’s suspended, it says, until further notice. There will be a hearing, and at that time her case will be evaluated. Until then, she’s not to leave the apartment.

There’s a second email, from Andrew, saying that the client had contacted the Company as soon as he got home and lodged a formal complaint against her.

Delphine tries to log onto the oracle message board, but she’s locked out. This doesn’t surprise her.

She starts rummaging through drawer on her bedside table, pulling out vials and needles and packets of powder. How much will she need to take in order to make sure that she’s past all resuscitation efforts by the time someone finds her? What combination will grant her the fastest, most painless death?

She opens her computer, types the names of the various drugs that she has on hand into a search engine. She hesitates for a moment, wondering if she’s being too rash, then adds the words “suicide options” and hits enter. She has to be quick about this. Surely the Company is already increasing their surveillance of her; no doubt they saw what she’d typed the moment it went through. Maybe even before.

How long does she have before they cut off her internet, send someone over to take her to the nearest mental hospital? Or maybe they actually want her to die – maybe this all part of their plan.

Delphine’s hands are shaking; she feels panicked, paranoid. Her breath is coming fast and hard. She’s worried that she might faint. She scrolls through the search results, but nothing she’s reading seems to make sense. She understands the words well enough, but when she tries to put them together they start to lose all meaning.

Fuck it, she thinks to herself.

Delphine starts digging through her kitchen drawers, eventually pulling out an enormous, heavy silver soup spoon. She wipes it down with rubbing alcohol, then carefully takes a new syringe out of the plastic and paper packaging. She fills the syringe with water and squirts it out into the spoon. Then she adds the drug, five times as much as she would normally take. She strikes a match, breathes in the birthday cake smell of sulphur and smoke, then the thick, yellow beeswax candle she keeps on a kitchen shelf. She holds the spoon over the sputtering flame, and watches the fire lick and darken the metal. She takes the plunger out of the syringe and uses that to stir the mixture. Once all the heroin has dissolved, she slides the plunger back into the syringe and, placing the needle in the spoon, slowly draws mixture into it.

Now that she’s doing something familiar, Delphine’s hands are steady, sure. Her breathing returns to normal; her mind narrows, focusses.

Deciding to kill herself was the hard part. Actually doing it is, it turns out, quite easy.

Delphine finds a rubber medical tourniquet and, as she wraps it around and around her left arm, silently thanks the Company for taking the time to consider all of her drug-using needs. She expertly tucks the end of the tourniquet under itself, tugging at it to make sure that it’s not going to come loose. Then she turns her attention to her forearm, slapping it until the veins of her inner elbow start to bulge.

There’s a knock at the door.

Delphine jumps, accidentally knocking the syringe off the counter; it falls to the floor and rolls under the refrigerator. Her panic returns. It’s the Company, coming to stop her, or else coming to make sure that she finishes the job. Of course they’d want to be here while she offed herself; they need to somehow dispose of the body and get rid of the evidence, don’t they? She’d been so stupid to think that she could beat them at their own game.

“Fuck off!” she yells, hoping to buy herself some time. “I’m busy!”

She hears a key in the lock. She gets down on her hands and knees, peering under the fridge, looking for her lost syringe. She hears someone come into the room behind her, feels hands on her shoulders pulling her away from the fridge. She sits back, hard, against her kitchen cupboards, looks down at her hands and starts to cry. The Company has her now. Or rather, they’ve had her all along. She never had a chance. There’s no way out.

“Delphine,” the voice is familiar, though the tone isn’t.

Andrew’s usually hesitant, deferential demeanour has been replaced by a firmness that she’s never heard before.

He kneels next to her, takes her arm in his hands and begins to unwind the tourniquet.

“What are you doing?” he asks, almost sharply. “You don’t have time to get high. We need to figure out a plan.”

Delphine just shakes her head. She’s crying too hard to talk.

He helps her to her feet and leads her to the bedroom. He glances at her open computer and pauses, taking a moment to see what’s on the screen.

“Fucking stupid,” he grunts, slamming the computer closed. “Do you think that’s going to solve anything? I told you, we need to come up with a plan.”

Delphine stares at him, slowly realizing that he’s not here on official Company business.

“What happened?” she asks. “Why are you here?”

“I’ve been suspended too,” he says, starting to pace around the room. “It happened right after I sent you that email. They’re unhappy about the Session last night, but it’s more than that. They’re worried that I’m too close to you, too involved. They don’t think I’ve been able to maintain a professional distance.”


“So we’re both going down. We need to help each other if we’re going to make it through this.”

Delphine snorts.

“Right. Like you helped me last night.”

Andrew stops short and, for a second, looks ashamed. Then his face hardens again, and he says,

“I told you that I tried to help you. It happened too fast for me to do anything, and anyway, you seemed to be able to take care of yourself.”

“Well, why don’t you leave me to take care of myself again? I was doing fine before you came. Leave me alone.”

“Look, Delphine.”

Andrew comes over and sits beside her, taking her hand and softening his tone.

“You don’t know what we’re up against. You haven’t seen what I’ve seen. The Company – well, the Company could and would do both of us a lot of harm. And you know as well as I do that the inquiry isn’t going to go in our favour.”

“And you think there’s something we can do about that?”

“Let’s make a run for it. They haven’t frozen my bank account yet, and I’ve got plenty of savings. We could go somewhere else, somewhere they won’t find us. We could do the same oracle schtick, with me as your manager. We could make it work. I promise I would take care of you.”

Delphine’s chest starts to tighten again. She feels hemmed in, as if she’s running out of choices; either she leaves the country with Andrew, who proved last night just how trustworthy he is, or else she relies on the mercy of the Company.

Of course, she does have a third option.

She takes a deep breath, tries to shake off her panic, and says,

“All right, let’s sit down and talk about this. I’ll make us some coffee.”

If all else fails, the syringe is always there as a last resort.

She goes into the kitchen and grinds the beans, the light from the window gleaming off her sleek, vintage espresso machine. As she waits for the milk to steam, she looks around the room. This is her life. Her apartment. Her kitchen. Her espresso machine. Is she really ready to give all of this up and go live in some little backwater somewhere on the other side of the world?

Of course, the truth is that none of this is hers. Delphine doesn’t even belong to herself; she belongs to the Company, and if she agrees to go with Andrew, she’ll belong to him.

By the time Andrew comes into the kitchen to find her, she’s got the tourniquet wrapped around her arm again and she’s back on the floor, digging under the fridge. He grabs her, but it’s too late, she already has the syringe in her hand.

They fight over the syringe in a way that Delphine hasn’t fought since grade school, kicking, punching and screaming at each other. Andrew is red in the face, and Delphine’s cheeks are slick with sweat. Delphine grunts and spits at Andrew, trying to free herself from him. She feels as if she’s just about to get the upper hand and wrench herself out of his hands, when, suddenly, he throws himself on her, using his weight to pin her against to the ground.

A grin of exhausted triumph is plastered across his face as he tightens his grip on her wrist, finally forcing herself to drop the syringe.

The grin disappears a moment later. The loud drone of airplanes, many airplanes, distracts both of them from what’s just happened. In silence, Andrew helps Delphine to her feet and leads her over to the window. They stand there, watching aircraft in their tight military formation filling and darkening the Toronto sky. They hold hands.

The first bombs to fall are distant, down near the lakeshore. They float like snowflakes, and when they hit the ground they make a sound like fireworks. Delphine’s apartment shakes, and one of her pictures falls and smashes its glass on the floor, but otherwise they’re unharmed. For now. Both of them know that it won’t be long.

Andrew turns and looks at her, his face full of awe.

“You saw this,” he whispers. “You predicted this.”

Delphine smiles, squeezes his hand.

“I guess I’m a real oracle after all.”

They watch the destruction of their city in silence. Both of them know that there’s nothing that they can do, nowhere to run.

Somehow, there’s enough time between the moment when they hear bomber’s drone directly overhead and the instant of the brilliant, annihilating flash, for Delphine to have one, final thought.

It’s better this way.

The ending comes in a moment of pure, bright, unadulterated pleasure, a brilliant flash, a rush of warmth, and then nothing. It’s the best last moment that anyone could ever ask for.

Boeing B-17G

Sometimes It Hurts When I Breathe

23 Oct

I’ve realized that I live in this cycle of frantic activity followed by total emotional and/or physical collapse. This has been happening a couple of times a year since my late teens, and you would think that by now I would be able to recognize the signs enough to stave off the impending crisis, but no. Apparently not.

My head’s been strangely fuzzy for a few weeks now, and my body’s been aching with the weight of something – my bag on my shoulder, my kid on my hip, all of my stupid anxieties. I kept feeling like I couldn’t catch my breath, and then one morning I woke up and I literally had a hard time breathing. So I called in sick to work, stayed in bed for the morning, and then ran some errands in the afternoon. By the next day I was fine, just tired.

I’ve been so goddamn tired these past few weeks, you guys.

I kept meaning to rest, but it always seemed like I had something pressing that needed to be done. A class to teach. Work email. Regular email. A workshop that I signed up for 6 months ago. Studio paperwork to take care of. Invoices. More invoices.  A band that I’ve been wanting to see live for ages and ages. A blog post that I’ve been putting off writing. Guest lecturing a high school English class. A friend having a crisis. Another friend having another crisis. A friend not having a crisis but that I haven’t seen for months. Matt. My sisters. My mothers. My grandmother in Spain. Housework. More housework.

And then there’s Theo. Because even once I’d checked everything else off my list, there was always Theo. How could I ever justify taking a break when I had Theo who needed my time and attention? Theo, who uncomplainingly let Matt pick him up from daycare and feed him dinner and bathe him nearly every night of the week because I had to work the evening shift at the studio or teach a class or do whatever it is that I do that seems to take up all of my goddamn time. Theo, who makes me feel pangs of guilt just by smiling at me. Theo.

So there was never a question of taking a break, because there was never a way of getting to the end of the list. And even though I will happily berate other people for not practicing proper self-care, I am terrible at it myself. Doing things for the express purpose of feeling good always seems like a terrible self-indulgence. Like, how can I justify spending an hour napping or reading on the patio or going out by myself for a coffee when it meant that all the other things weren’t getting done? How can I especially justify doing any nice stuff for myself when it means taking time away from my kid? My kid who I barely get to see these days anyway?

What I’m trying to say here is that I’m a horrible hypocrite.

I’ve spent the past two and a half weeks pushing myself through this deepening haze, shuttling from one end of town to the other, from Toronto to Kingston for Thanksgiving and then back again, from writing to teaching to mothering to hand-holding to coughing until I couldn’t catch my breath, until I was bent double and thought I might throw up in the gutter and oh god how embarrassing.

I forgot to mention that along with the exhaustion, there was a cough.

Finally, at the end of last week, I had this conversation with Nathan:

Nathan: When are you going to see a doctor?

Me: I’m fine, it’s just a cough.

Nathan: You’ve had this cough for what, two weeks now?

Me: Sometimes these things linger on. You know how it is. I’m fine.

Nathan: You are not fine! You might have pneumonia!

Me: I don’t have pneumonia. If I had pneumonia, I’d have a fever.

Nathan: You do have a fever.

Me: I would have a higher fever. I would be, like, bedridden.

Nathan: Maybe you have walking pneumonia.


Nathan: You know what? If it was me who was coughing like this, you would have forced me to go to the doctor ages ago. You would have even come with me, just to make sure that I went.

Me: Uh, yeah. That’s true. I guess.

Nathan: And you know what the worst part of it is? Your cough is so bad that I can’t even make fun of it anymore. You’ve taken away one of my few joys in life.

So I went to the walk-in clinic yesterday and the doctor sort of nodded his head and jotted down a few notes and said that it sounded like I probably had bronchitis. Then he moved his stethoscope around my back for a while and asked me to breathe deeply a couple of times. He kept bringing his stethoscope back to the same spot and pausing there.

“I think I hear some crackles in your upper left lobe,” he said. “I want you to go for a chest x-ray – you might have walking pneumonia.”

Afterwards, when I texted Nathan with the news, I received this delighted reply:

“Wait, wait, wait … walking pneumonia came up?

If you weren’t sick I would revel in my rightness, but you are, so I won’t.

I could be the first person to receive a doctorate just by watching medical dramas. 7 seasons of House, 8 ER, 3 Chicago Hope …”

I went for the chest x-ray today. Afterwards, I asked the tech when my doctor would have the results, and he told me they would be sent out in three to five business days.

“I just want to know for work,” I said. “Pneumonia just sounds so much more impressive than bronchitis.”

“Where do you work?”

“I manage a yoga studio and I teach yoga classes.”

“Let’s just say,” he said, glancing at the image on the screen, “that you might want to take it easy for a while.”

So I’m trying to take it easy. I’m trying not to think of all the messages in my inbox. I’m trying not to feel guilty about popping a kid-friendly DVD in the machine as soon as Matt and Theo got home. I’m trying to rest, and most of all I’m trying not to feel guilty for resting.

Because most of my to-do list can wait.

Because the best way to be a better mother is to get well.

Because it’s fine – good, even – to take a break sometimes.

I’m not good at this stuff. Not just because I kind of sort of maybe enjoy having a hectic life, and not just because doing stuff for myself makes me feel pangs of guilt, but also because I’m not great at being taken care of. I’m hardwired to make sure that everyone around me feels safe and happy and healthy, and I will gladly scold friends and family for not going to the doctor as soon as I think they should, or not taking enough time off work, but when it comes to myself it’s a completely different story. I hate having other people care for me; it makes me feel deeply, skin-crawlingly uncomfortable in the way that few things do. In fact, just thinking about it right now makes me want to barf, although that might also be from the super-strong antibiotics that I’m on.

But I’m going to try to be good and lie still and let other people bring me things, because right now, I kind of have to. More than that, I’m going to try, really try, to break out of this cycle that I’ve been in for the past decade. Because this shit’s getting old, this pattern is not sustainable, and I can and will change.


Gilmour Girls: A Reading List for David Gilmour

7 Oct

This list is not as diverse as I wish it could be. It’s still very white, and there isn’t a super great representation of queer and trans* folk. It sort of ended up being both a reading list for David Gilmour and a list of my favourite books by women. Writing this has been a great exercise for me, and has illustrated pretty clearly that I need to expand my own reading repertoire – I do love women writers, but I still tend to favour white, cis-gender women. Helloooooo to my own cultural bias.

I didn’t include any Alice Munro or Virginia Woolf because Gilmour says that he likes both of those authors, and I don’t have multiple books by the same author. Those were some rules that I arbitrarily made up for myself.

Please feel free to add to this list or to fangirl with me over how much you love some of these books. Fangirling is the best!

1. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ohhhh, books about Ordinary People set against the backdrop of Serious Historical Events, you get me EVERY. DAMN. TIME.

2. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

The best book that I’ve ever read about the nearly-invisible cruelties that little girls practice on each other, and the lifelong fallout of that sneaky, subtle bullying.

3. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

One of the best depictions of depression and suicidal ideation in classical literature.

4. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

My friend Jesse said it best: Alison Bechdel’s memoirs are like magic. You read them, and they’re technically about her, but somehow you end up learning about yourself?

5. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Shut up, I don’t even care, I fucking love this book. DO NOT LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT. 


6. Villette by Charlotte Brontë

I don’t care if Jane Eyre is your favourite book of all time, I swear to you that this book is better.

7. Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

I have four words for you: Lesbian. Coming. Of. Age.

In the south.

With cheerleaders.

And bourbon.

8. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

Oh good lord I am such a sucker for dystopian fiction it is not even funny.

9. My Ántonia by Willa Cather

Sort of like Little House On The Prairie for grownups. Except for the fact that Little House On The Prairie is totally for grownups too.

10. Chéri by Colette

In which a young, beautiful man (who loves silk robes and pearls) is kept and petted and spoiled by a woman twice his age, and then has to deal with her departure when he gets engaged to a much younger woman. Maybe one of the best role reversals in literature? Anyway I love Colette so much.

11. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Like Jane Eyre except better, spookier and more accurate in terms of how creepy and skin-crawly the Mister Rochester character is. You guys, MISTER ROCHESTER IS AWFUL. 

12. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Probably the weirdest book I’ve ever read and that’s saying something.

13. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg

I think this is my favourite novel about transgender experience?

14. The Butterfly Ward by Margaret Gibson

This weird little book of short stories found its way into my hands on my birthday about ten years ago. I’ve never read anything else by this author – never even seen anything else by her – but some of the stories in this book haunt me still.

15. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

I don’t even care if you liked the movie. Suck it up and read the book.

16. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

The book that made me realize that I needed to cultivate better, stronger friendships with women. Friendships where I felt empowered instead of competitive.

17. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs Of A Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston

I don’t even know how you could see this book’s title and not immediately need to read it

18. The Namesake by Jumpha Lahiri

If you read this book while you are pregnant you will suddenly begin obsessively stock-piling baby names as if there might be some kind of baby name shortage.

19. The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

I read this as a very impressionable teenager and was hooked.

20. Small Island by Andrea Levy

Race and class in post-war London how does that sentence fragment not make you tingle with excitement even a little?

21. Fall On Your Knees by Ann Marie MacDonald

I have read this book so many times and it is so painfully near to my heart that I don’t even know what to say about it. Frances Piper is one of my favourite fictional characters of all time ever.

22. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel


As a post-script, I think that, as David Foster Wallace would say, this was Hilary Mantel’s way of imposing her phallus on the consciousness of the world seriously thought what does that even mean.

23. The Group by Mary McCarthy

A lovely, weirdly prescient little midcentury gem about a group of friends and how their lives diverge after college. A lot of discussion about how fucking hard it is for women to have it “all” – if that’s even possible.

24. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

If this book doesn’t give you Feelings I am pretty sure that means that you don’t have a soul.

25. The Street by Ann Petry

A single mother living on her own 1940s Harlem. Do I have your attention yet?

26. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

As if this was not going to be on this list. Have you even met my blog.

27. Clay Walls by Kim Ronyoung

Faye, a second generation Korean-American, says at one point that reading is, “just a way for me to see how other people live. I haven’t found a book yet written about the people I know.” And then Kim Ronyoung wrote that book.

28. The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This one took me two reads to love, but love it I do.

29. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Speculative fiction gives me a total boner.

30. Push by Sapphire

Ohhh this book made me break out into a sick sweat. Maybe one of the best reminders of my privilege that I’ve ever had?

31. Memoirs Of An Ex-Prom Queen by Alix Kates Schulman

Another one that took me a while to love – I felt like the main character was so privileged and whiny. And then I realized that that was kind of the point, and also that those things didn’t take away from her experiences.

32. Caucasia by Danzy Senna

Probably the first book to really make me think about race – definitely the first time I ever questioned the idea of being colour-blind, and my first encounter with the idea of passing privilege.

33. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

The most painfully accurate description of what it’s like to be a white, lower-middle-class girl.

34. A Tree Grow in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I don’t even care if this is a YA book, it’s balls to the wall one of my favourite books. BALLS TO THE WALL.

35. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

One of those epic books that spans several generations and several families, except this one explores race and class in 1980s England. And it’s so unbelievably good.

36. Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

I don’t even care that this book is super dated, it is the book that made me fall in love with historical fiction and also bromance.

37. Angel by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that Elizabeth Taylor)

Probably the most selfishly awful, incredibly unlikeable protagonist I’ve ever encountered (and that’s including Holden Caulfield), but. 

38. A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

Heartbreaking and darkly funny and also Miriam Toews is one of the best human beings on this planet maybe.

39. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t so innocent. Also you will want to punch Newland Archer a bunch. But it’s good, I promise.

40. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Scary Evangelical Christian Lesbian Coming Of Age. No but seriously.