My stilettos, my choice. Your Hijab? You’ve been brainwashed!

c1492d1b9a40d95336eb738d895c9ae2Ever hear anything like this? “It’s shocking that Muslim women have so little say over what they wear. They say it’s their choice to wear the Hijab. They’ve been brainwashed! Their free will has been corrupted and they have no idea what real choice and real freedom is. Not like me. I know real freedom.”

You stand there in your size 9, 4 inch stilettos crammed with your size 9.5 feet, toenails painted and cuticles trimmed, leg hair ripped out by the roots with hot wax applied regularly. The shoes hurt but they make your legs look great.  You know you could wear flats… you choose to wear heels.

Your $12 ultra sheer super control top pantyhose do their best to contain that tiny tummy bulge but what it can’t hold in is managed by your Spanx. Your dress is exactly the right mix of professional and sexy so that your meeting today will go well; if your ideas don’t dazzle them, they’ll be hoping for a peek to determine of the colour of your $65 underwire push up bra and wondering if it matches your thong and whether you’re landing strip or clean. You choose to wax because it makes you feel sexier…

Your skin glows… it should, after being religiously scrubbed, buffed and exfoliated. You moisturize twice daily of course, to stay smooth and silky. Your makeup only takes a half-hour now, and you’ve narrowed the routine down to about 15 steps and products. The cost is alarming, but that’s how it goes. You choose to use good skin care and cosmetics; they are much more expensive, but they make you feel prettier…

Your hair… well, it continues to be a struggle. You are going grey and would like very much to let it go, let it happen. In your profession though, grey hair is an invitation to the younger, bolder, hipper folks to step in. You’re not quite ready to let that happen so it’s cut, trim, dye, streak, highlight, foils… you name it. You choose to colour your hair because you know it makes you look younger and sexier…

You pull on your exercise gear and go for a run a few times a week. You hate it hate it hate it and it hurts your knees but you only have a little time to exercise and you seriously don’t want to gain any weight over the winter. Your body needs to be bikini ready when you head to Mexico for a winter break. You may be getting older but you sure don’t want to seem like you’ve given up! And your man, well he likes you looking slim and hot and you want to keep him looking…

Women in the west are the most brainwashed in the history of the world, I would wager. I’m one of them. I have bought into the Virginia Slims, Coca- Cola-Calvin Klein-Betty Crocker-Cosmopolitan femininity construct as much as the next woman. I have no place, no right and no authority on which to judge the choices of any woman anywhere. My choices are the result of the brainwashing I’ve undergone my entire life. Here in the West, that’s celebrated as personal freedom.

There are lots of reasons to be angry about the treatment of women in other countries, under other regimes and political or religious systems. Squawking over women’s lack of choices is hypocritical at best so long as we continue to be pummelled with messages about how to be prettier, fitter, sexier so long as we keep making dolls for our daughters that look like little anorexic prostitutes. We can’t keep offering our own women the choice between being being blow-up doll bitches or perfect Pinterest moms while condemning the choices of others. We need to think about this…

Moral authority? We don’t have it.

Gratitude, Joy and Land Sickness

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Last weekend I swam naked in the inky sea at midnight under a billion stars. The sea was filled with the magic that makes phosphorescence… I became a glow stick. A giggling, swirling, giddy glow stick. If I raised my hand out of the water, a thousand stars trickled down my fingers and arm back into the glittery sparkly sea. It was magic. Pure magic.

I spent three days with friends who exist entirely outside of my normal life. They have never been to my home, never met my family, my husband. They’ve never seen me in my space, my comfort zone. They don’t know my work, my reputation, my art, nothing outside what I have told them. They know only the me that exists when I am away from my responsibilities and the weight of expectation.  They like me, and I like them. Interestingly, I have never seen them in their day to day either. They live in another city and we met through mutual friends. Every time we’ve visited it’s been an event outside of the ordinary, and that’s amazing and freeing.

I am not one to swim naked at midnight under any kind of sky, as a rule. I’m also not one to sit for three days on the bow of a sailboat imagining a life quite different from the one I have. I am rarely still…I am rarely aware enough to notice things like the wonder of phosphorescence… like the frequent passage of satellites overhead.

I want to be someone who swims naked. I want to be someone who lays back on the deck of a boat and gazes upward. I want more time to gaze…

As with anything else, if you want change, you’ve gotta step up and make change. It’s in the wind… change.

If you find phosphorescence in your life… anywhere, I recommend jumping in. Naked. And if you feel a bit land sick when you come ashore, well that’s a small price to pay, don’t you agree?

I’m a size 10. So I’m gross?

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I grew up as a dancer… ballet, tap, jazz, non stop competetive dance from the age of 5 until I finished high school, having won the top prize in my Provincial competition… best of the bunch. I battled my body all through my teens… fingers poked at my “midriff bulge”, fingernails dug into my derriere and told to LIFT IT! LOSE IT! PULL IT IN! SUCK IT IN! My years as a young woman were rife with negative body messages, blatant and more oblique…as a dancer, there’s no such thing as too skinny. Predictably, I succumbed to the pressure. I stopped eating. Everyone around me feigned shock and horror, but I shrunk and I won the BIG prize, so the dismay was muted. Once I’d won, I started eating again and everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. It wasn’t a PROBLEM I had, it was a SOLUTION… I’d lost the few extra pounds I carried and clearly it had all been worth it…, no?

I stepped away from dance for about 10 years and, strange truth, I got slimmer. I stopped obsessing over my weight, found a man, got slim. Got REALLY slim.  When I got married, my nearly 5’6″ frame carried only 118 pounds, barely a size 2. I wasn’t dieting, wasn’t sick, wasn’t trying to be slim. I ate chocolate, candy, chips, pancakes, you name it. I also smoked… that did it for me. When the babies started coming, I got slimmer and slimmer. With each baby, my feet got bigger and my boobs got bigger… otherwise I shrank almost immediately to the size I’d been before birth. Then I’d get smaller. I had 3 babies in 4 years, nursed each one. I smoked (I will forever be ashamed of this) during my pregnancies…yes, I cut WAAAAAAY  back to a few a day, but still. I then carried, chased, ran after, held, rocked, fed and cajoled those three babies while blessed with a hyper drive metabolism.  I also taught dance… up to 14 classes a week of jazz and tap. That burns a lot of calories.

Then I turned 35. I took a desk job, and thankfully I quit smoking at last. My metabolism did an about face and I began to gain weight. I now struggle to maintain what I feel is a healthy weight.

I don’t have a thigh gap. In fact I didn’t even know what that was until a few months ago. I have a bit of a pooch.  I need an actual bra, with cups and a bit of underwire. I have birthed 3 children, and there is evidence of that in various body parts. I’m also 46… there’s no escaping that though I’m no stranger to Dr. Botox.  I ride my bicycle when it’s warm, run, work out (not religiously), and salsa dance. Even so, I cringe when I step on the scale, cry when I can’t fit something that I want to wear, and have learned to despise shopping for pants, skirts and dresses. I’m okay with tops… so long as they are all big, baggy, hide my flab and don’t strangle my (apparently) freakishly large upper arms.

And I hate my body. I hate that I am no longer a size 2, 4, 6 or even 8. I hate that I get the “full body check tsk tsk” from the hyper cool gay sales guy at Le Chateau. I hate knowing that I am teetering on the very brink of “plus size”. Me. Hot, beautiful, strong, fashionable, powerful ME. Plus size. Scared. Horrified by my own body. How can I overcome this? How do WE, as women, overcome this?  I can cover it well with nice clothes and good shoes, but don’t expect to see me in anything clingy. Ever.

Mike Jeffries, in a 2006 interview which was made enormously public this week has declared that his brand, Abercrombie and Fitch will not carry XL. In fact the largest size they carry is 10. My size. MY SIZE. Anything larger than me is plus size and has no place in the fashionable universe. No. Nononononono.

I resent the idea that a woman of my size (average) and weight (absolutely dead average) is a plus sized woman. Who decided that?  What does that tell my daughters? I have two gorgeous, stunning daughters who are each within 15 pounds of my weight. They both hate their bodies, both think they are fat. I accept my culpability in that… how could they grow up with me and my warped body image without absorbing some self hatred at least by osmosis?

I have a couple of links for you today. One is a remarkable video curated by Dylan Lambi-Raine, Kayla Hatzel and Sarah Zelinski; 3 classmates in the Gender Studies program at the University of Saskatchewan. This video shows objectification of women… AND of men, in stereotypical roles and demeaning and degrading poses. Oddly the reflected version, images of men being objectified, is no less disturbing.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/story/2013/05/08/saskatoon-viral-video-university-of-saskatchewan.html

An interesting bit of history: the 2006 Salon article featuring Mike Jeffries in full dreadful flight:

http://www.salon.com/2006/01/24/jeffries/  It’s just a big old trash bag full of political incorrectness and awful misogyny.

So Mike Jeffries, go away. The cool kids don’t like you. Voice in my head? Get lost. Please? The truth is I’m actually pretty gorgeous, at least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself. Every single day.

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Swirling Sterling, pearls and tumbled green glass

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More work for an order going out this weekend. It’s nice to be back in the studio after almost a year of waiting for the creative forces to slap me upside the head again. I missed it, I’ve discovered. There’s a calm that comes from sitting quietly, door closed, turning beautiful things into different beautiful things. I never know when I start working with a stone or a bead or a chunk of silver or glass exactly what I’ll end up with, and that works best for me. I generally like the “as I go” creations better than those I design with pen and paper first. More spontaneous, more fluid somehow. Anyway, I will bid farewell to this and all the recent work I’ve done tomorrow… glad to deliver the order, always a bit melancholic to see things go out the door.

Countdown to Mexico!

ImageThree weeks from this very moment I will be in Mexico. In the very place you see pictured above. The house there on the left is where my husband and I will sleep, the teenagers in the house on the right. Ahhhhhh. I need to take a moment to let that really soak into my psyche. Three short weeks and my toes will be deep in warm sand, my fingers wrapped around a cold glass, my eyes squinting into the hot sun. Amen.

Doesn’t that just sound like poetry? Sand, sun, water, relaxation, no work, no phone, no emails, no chores. Just 4 teenagers. Wait. Right… 4 teenagers. Better make that TWO hands wrapped around nice cold glasses…!

I’ve reached that point in pre-holiday delirium where every thought is framed by the holiday… need to make sure I buy cat food “for the housesitter”; better call the doctor’s office to make sure I have antibiotics “in case someone gets sick in MEXICO”, gotta get that project finished before I take my HOLIDAY etc.

I’m glassed over. I’m checking the weather in Yelapa, talking the kids through what to do if someone gets stung by a scorpion (as if I have a freakin’ CLUE!). Anyway, we are adequately supplied with Immodium, Benadryl, hand sanitizer and electrolyte replacement packets. We’ll be golden.

The one regret I have, of course, is that I’ll have to come home. When we were waiting in line in Mexico two years ago to come home, a lady in front of me stepped out of line, said “sorry, not ready to go home” to her friend and did NOT go home. How awesome is that? I have had dreams about that for the last two years. When I moved to the north (the REAL, top of the world Canadian north) 22 years ago, my actual intent was to move to Mexico for a year. Yep, I know… went the wrong way. Took a one year job, met a man, got married, had babies, etc. etc.

So each time I go to Mexico, a BIG part of me wants to just…stay. I walk around wondering what the hell happened… why is it that I don’t live there?

Yeah, yeah. I like my life, I like where I live (love it even), and can’t imagine what life I’d be living if I hadn’t taken the path I did but there’s that part of me that wants the parallel life… why can’t I have both? My real life, my Mexico life… I guess it’ll be a goal then. Sell the house here in the Yukon and find a way to live that dream of so long ago. Yes… that’s what I will dream of.

Dream of, work toward, plan for. Pronto.

Adios, amigos. Hasta Luego!

Nothing that matters

When I was a teenager I used to go with my friend Sonia to Gastown, Vancouver’s historic, cobblestoned tourist Mecca. We would poke through shops, sip tea and generally act cool. One shop captivated us with its wall of small drawers…an antique cabinet filled with curiosities. Each stubborn old drawer revealed another odd, creepy or comical surprise; spare parts for dolls, mini whoopee cushions, fake vomit and vintage postcards. We spent ages systematically opening and closing each drawer, only disappointed when we came across rare duplicates or an empty tray.

I stumbled across the same shop this summer on a solo morning stroll through Gastown. Though the shop has changed hands at least once, the antique treasure trove remains, and I gleefully began the nostalgic opening and closing ritual. It’s rewarding to discover some things really do stay the same, even after so long.

As always, I left the shop with a small bag containing an inexpensive treasure; this time, a beautiful box of oversized matches. The box was creamy white with a lovely botanical print, all lavender flowers and butterflies. I was living in the city this summer, and savoured every opportunity to celebrate the simple beauty of a bouquet of fresh flowers, or a pretty candle on the mantel of my apartment.

I am the mother of three teenagers. My home is less decorated than reclaimed…it is a constant act of sheer will to ensure sanitary conditions and uncluttered thoroughfares. There is no decor, per se….rather a kind of chaotic visual thrum that can lead to maternal mumbling and gnashing of teeth.

The tiny act of purchasing a beautiful box of matches to light my scented candles was an act of defiance…a statement that even for me, even in my life, beauty matters. I have lit each of those matches with a kind of reverence. These matches were special, and once home in my chaotic Yukon home, I was reminded each time of the peace and pleasure the summer away brought me. I have used those matches solely for the purpose of lighting my candle…rationed them and kept them on my dresser, mine alone.

And then winter hit, and it was time to light the fire in the wood boiler. My husband spotted the matchbox….perfect! Extra long wooden matches! When he forgot to put them back, my son spotted them in the kitchen…perfect! Excellent for firing up his….glass sculpture he thinks I don’t know about.

I found the box, crushed and broken, containing two matches, on the counter. My reaction was out of proportion to the item’s significance. I was so SAD! No one understood. I took the box back upstairs and reverently lit my candle, breathed the scent and tried to recall the sense of peace.

Tonight I found the empty box discarded on the hearth, a fire roaring and the Christmas tree lit and decorated. My husband apologized, said he couldn’t find a lighter. My son looked at me like I had two heads. Mom….it was a MATCH! What’s the big deal.
I can’t explain it. It just was, to me.