Thursday, December 23, 2010

Addendum To The Previous Post

Here's the clip from The Vicar of Dibley I was talking about, with a bit of context.  Just be careful where and when you watch it, because of a couple of the jokes are definitely not work-safe, and abslolutely not kid-safe.

A Yule and Christmas Reflection

So here we are, about halfway between the Solstice and Christmas; I've had this post halfway in mind for the past week, but it finally seems to have come together.

In many ways, the Winter Solstice is my favourite part of the year.  Up to that point, the amount of sunshine we get has been getting progressively smaller.  We tend to get large amounts of snow where I live, sometimes all at once (the second huge snowfall we got here was actually so bad that when the guy we hired to plow our too-long-to-shovel driveway came to clear a bit of the snow, he got very badly stuck and a tow truck had to come to pull him out of it), it's usually very cold even if this year's been fairly mild, and both because of ice/snow accumulation and the carelessness with which a lot of people approach the operation of a motor vehicle, the driving can be downright miserable.

And yet, there comes a point in the year when the night can't get any longer—and the next day it's a little shorter.  Soon we're noticeably closer to the springtime than we thought we were.  Even though the winter often seems to really drag along up here, and even though Spring itself can be a bit of a pain in its early days, with its mud and odd smells and occasional heat wave followed by a really wild blizzard (yes, it's happened, we've even had snowstorms as late as May some years), it's nice to know that something warm and not quite as uncomfortable is somewhere around the corner.  This, as much as anything else, is why this time of year symbolizes hope to me.  Things can really suck now, but they can—and will—get better, and all it takes is time.

Which brings me to Christmas.

Some say we should be celebrating Christmas in June.  Astronomers have determined that in the time period when tradition says that Jesus was born, the planets Venus and Jupiter were so close together that they produced so much light that they could be the Christmas star, since a very bright light really did show up in the East.  Furthermore, because the shepherds are described as watching their sheep in the fields, it makes it extremely unlikely that Jesus was born in December; by then, the flocks would have been moved into pens, since sheep were only out in the fields in the warmer months.  This is all very fascinating to me, of course, for more than one reason, but sometimes I think that for more than the usually-cited reason (the appropriation of a previously-existing celebration to make Christianity more acceptable to converts), it's better to have the celebration at this time of year.

It's all about hope, after all, and love—and goodness knows we need more reminders of these things, especially at this point in the year, particularly in the colder parts of the Northern Hemisphere.  Or at least it should be about those things, and I think that sometimes we lose sight of that, especially since the holiday's gotten to be such a big commercial deal.  So many people are in such a hurry to find "that perfect gift" or are so wrapped up in their gift-giving obligations (Since when should a gift be obligatory, anyway?!) and worrying where the money's going to come from to pay for it all, and trying frantically to throw together that huge dinner they're supposed to provide for everyone and how it's all got to be ABSOLUTELY PERFECT that the words "peace", "joy", and "love" are often the furthest thing from their minds.  It's almost as bad as what weddings have become (though that's another rant for another time).  But for those of us who celebrate Christmas, even if it's not for a religious reason, I think it would be a very good idea to think about why we go through what we do every year, and I truly hope that the answer isn't simply "because we have to".

Family is great—when you love each other.  Giving presents is great—when you want to give them, and when you don't go beyond your means to procure them.  Decorations are great—in moderation, at least.  Getting presents is great—when they're something truly thoughtful from someone you love.  Even that ridiculously large turkey/ham/goose/whatever dinner is great—if you have help preparing it and cleaning up afterwards.  But none of this should be obligatory, none of it should be something that you don't really want to do.  It shouldn't be a burden.  Even in secular tradition, Christmas is a time to settle down with your family and friends and have a good time, and even give a helping hand to strangers who need it.  (I wish this would continue throughout the year, but again, that's another rant.) I may shock some extremely religious Christians by saying this—though probably no more so than I'd shock them by anything else I say here, come to think of it—but I do think that even a purely secular Christmas, without any mention of Jesus or shepherds or angels or three Eastern kings, can be a tremendously rewarding and enriching experience, provided that it's not turned into an obligation or a burden.

As for what I think, as someone who does celebrate Christmas the religious way as well as the cultural one?  Well, I think I'll leave it to the ever-fantastic Dawn French, playing the Reverend Geraldine Granger in The Vicar of Dibley, to explain what I think about celebrating Jesus' birth, no matter what time of year we do it:

Two thousand years ago, a baby is born in a stable. The poorest of the poor. And yet during his lifetime, he says things that are so astonishing that millions of people are still living their lives by them today.  He said, "love thy neighbour".  He told us to turn the other cheek, whatever people might do to us...most astonishingly, I believe that this tiny little baby boy actually was the Son of God. And when he was younger than I am today, he was brutally crucified for simply telling people to love each other. And the men who killed him thought "That’s it, that's the end of it.  He’s dead, he’s gone."  And yet, here we are.  Two thousand years later, in a village in the middle of England, doing a play about his birth.

That's it exactly.  Though admittedly I'm Canadian, not British, and the "younger than I am today" bit doesn't really apply to me either, as I'm only 28 and when he died Jesus was apparently about 33. ;)

To those of you who celebrated the Solstice, I hope you had a truly blessed one.  To those of you who celebrate Christmas, I hope that it will be equally blessed.  To those of you who celebrate both, I hope the same.  And to those of you who celebrate neither, I hope that you can still take time to do something that you enjoy, because we all need to relax sometimes and even if this time of year has no special significance for you, it's still nice to slow down a bit and have some fun once in awhile. :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On Teaching The Privileged

This afternoon, I was re-reading this post by Tasha Fierce; she was reflecting on the series of posts she'd written for Bitch Magazine about fat and pop culture.  There was one line in this post that really got me thinking; for context's sake, I should probably tell you that she was talking about the fact that because of the hostility that her subject had aroused in so many readers, she quickly realized that she'd have to also include a certain amount of "Fat Acceptance 101" just so that she could make her commentary about fat people in pop culture to an audience who couldn't claim that they didn't know what she was talking about.  She also said that she didn't feel inclined to coddle people who felt that she owed them a lot of explanation, and she says:

"As so many have said, oppressed people are not a learning opportunity and you need to take it upon yourself to become educated on a topic."

First of all, I can say that I completely agree with this.  My life is not a learning opportunity for people with types of privilege that I lack, and the lives of people who don't have the privileges that I do are definitely not learning opportunities for me.  I agree totally with the idea that it's up to privileged people to teach themselves about privilege and the way it affects people's lives, and that nobody—whether they're fat, female, LGBTQ etc., non-white, non-Christian, or anything else that deviates from this (largely imaginary) "norm" that consists basically of temporarily able-bodied white middle-aged Protestant men, should have to answer questions about their lives that they don't want to answer, nor do I think that their lives should be used in any way of which they do not approve.


Sometimes it's just a good idea to point people in the right direction, especially if they really do want to learn how to be a good, supportive and effective friend and ally.  Telling people "If you want to learn, go teach yourself about it, it's not my job!" can be pretty damn unproductive.  Say you have a five-year-old kid who wants to learn to play the violin.  The best way to go about that wouldn't be to present her with a full-sized violin and sheet music for a complicated violin solo and tell her,  "Here you go, you've got your sheet music, you've got your instrument, now go teach yourself how to play."  How can you learn if you can't even figure out where to start?  To someone who's not familiar with the idea of privilege, or of the problems that various groups of people face, it can feel an awful lot like that.  I know; I've been there myself when it comes to an issue or two, and there have been times when I've thought that a bit of extra help might have been, well, helpful.  That's a large part of the reason why I've been so open about some very personal things on this blog.

Just to be clear: I don't think that anyone has a duty to educate other people about things that they could easily look up for themselves.  But I do think that sometimes, when we're sure we've encountered someone who truly wants to be an ally, it might be helpful—to us as well as to them—to at least let them know about one or two resources that they can use to teach themselves about something that may, in time, come to mean as much to them as it does to us.  Otherwise, the constant refrain of "go teach yourself" can sound an awful lot like "go fuck yourself" instead, and that's no help to anybody. :p

Friday, December 3, 2010


My paternal grandfather died just a bit over a week ago; his funeral was a week ago today.

He'd been in the hospital for about three months, at first just for something that could be treated; he was diabetic, though not insulin-dependent, and he developed gangrene in one of his toes. Unfortunately, even after the toe was removed he developed gangrene in his lower leg; it was amputated below the knee and all seemed to be going well with his recovery and physical therapy, though most of us couldn't visit him for most of that because someone in his ward had a MRSA infection. He and Grandma were trying to figure out where they'd be living when he was discharged as their actual home is in a small town about an hour's drive away from here, though a few years ago they started renting a tiny apartment in the city for overnight stays. Neither place is really equipped to accommodate someone in a wheelchair full-time, and at the time we never would have thought that he wouldn't actually be going back.

Then, in the middle of November, he caught pneumonia.

When it was obvious that his situation was getting dire, he was moved to a private room on another floor and the whole family received permission to be at the hospital at any time. Like pretty much everyone else, until last Wednesday I'd been spending the major part of my time either at the hospital or in transit between home and the hospital. It was a mess of worry, sleep deprivation, occasional panic punctuated by small moments of humour (because everyone in my family has some form of sense of humour, and even when we're preparing ourselves for something like the death of someone we all love, we can't ever resist the temptation to make each other laugh). But as awful as most of that was, the very worst of it was seeing what Grandpa's illness was doing to him. I'll spare you the grisly details, but if you're really all that curious, look up pneumonia's Wikipedia entry and imagine someone you love experiencing the worst of it. It was utterly heartbreaking.

And yet, even as I hated to see him suffer so—I don't know how many times I prayed for Atropos to cut his thread just so he wouldn't have to keep going on the way he was—I learned an entirely new kind of respect for him. I had always respected him as a person, a grandparent, a veteran of World War II, and an extremely knowledgeable historian, but in his final days, even when he could hardly move and had mostly lost the power of speech, he fought to stay with us (the nurses were actually astonished at how long he managed to hang on) and he found other ways to communicate with us. And his sense of humour was certainly intact; when he could still talk, he joked that the weekend when he got pneumonia would have been a lot easier if he'd had a 40-ouncer behind his pillow. His strength and stubbornness, even when he was so ill, is nothing short of inspirational to me because he never gave up.

The last week has been pretty difficult. The wake was last Thursday night and his funeral a week ago today; I was one of the pallbearers. (My bagpipe-trained muscles came in handy; even as thin as he'd gotten with his illness, that casket was heavy.) I haven't slept well since Grandpa got pneumonia, and I've been terribly worried about my grandmother, my dad and my aunts and uncles. But as we adjust to a world in which we can't see Grandpa anymore, I suspect that it will be the small things that will hurt the most—hearing a joke he'd have enjoyed, reading a book about local history to which he contributed something, or even just looking in the mirror (I strongly resemble both him and my maternal grandmother) or driving past the hospital where he died. I feel like crying at the weirdest times lately, as well as some that aren't so weird, and even though I'm glad that he's not suffering anymore I do wish that his relief hadn't come at the cost of his life…even at nearly 87 years of age, he had so much he still wanted to do.

So if I write a little less frequently than I usually do, or if my musings sometimes seem a little more downbeat than usual, this will probably be why. I have my reasons—probably more than most people who believe this—for believing that death isn't really so much "the final goodbye" as "see you in another time and place", but even so, I'm still grieving and it will be awhile before I'm really back to being myself again.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Quick Note

It occurred to me just now that I should probably say that I have not lost interest in—or inspiration for—this blog; more updates are coming.  However, I'm in the midst of a family emergency at the moment and between stress, mild malnutrition, lack of sleep and a feeling that I'm not that far from becoming a complete emotional and physical wreck, I haven't got a whole lot of energy or ambition.

More details will inevitably follow, but for now I just need to collapse for a bit and then get back to my family.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day

On November 11, 1918, the First World War came to its official end.  Since then, November 11 has been known as a day to remember those who died in war.  Generations of school children have been raised with the idea that war is not glorious and that we should be grateful to those who died in battle because they died for our freedom—though we should not idealize the way they died.

Sometimes I despair of the human race ever actually learning the lesson that so many of us have been reminded of every year of our lives on this day.  Within a few decades after the end of World War I, the Second World War broke out when Germany—which had been crippled by economic sanctions and a crushing amount of debt imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, then given fresh hope and visions of a better life by a man who must be among the most evil who ever lived for the way he accomplished these things—started attacking other countries.  Other major wars followed in Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq (just to name a very, very few).  I can't speak for most other people, of course, but it seems to me that despite being raised on Remembrance Day ceremonies and history classes which talk about the horrors of war as well as historical victories and defeats, the idea of military service itself is glorified ("Serve your country!  Fight for freedom!  Become a killing machine and be proud of who you are!") and the true cost of war is still obscured.

And I also wonder why there is so much of a focus on the people—mainly soldiers, at that, and rarely civilians, though war kills them, too— who died in wars when those who survive them are frequently changed forever by their experience, in many cases to the point where they won't willingly talk about what they saw or what they did or what happened to them.  The ones who died in war deserve to be remembered, of course, but the ones who lived were, by and large, no more or less willing to die for what they were fighting for, and if we disregard their sacrifices simply because they didn't die as a result of wounds sustained in battle, we do them a great insult.  The dead are not the only casualties of war.

War is evil.  Sometimes it's unavoidable, but it's evil all the same.  So many senseless deaths, so many lives changed, destroyed or brutally taken away—and the outcome of war is rarely decided where people are being hurt and killed, but in a conference room many safe miles away by people who didn't have to go anywhere near the bloodshed.  I've often thought that if we could get to that stage first, rather than after all the death and destruction, the human race might be much better off.  Sure, battles won or lost give more leverage to the various sides,'s just so senseless and it is wrong of us to keep glorifying it the way we do.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I'm Not Anorexic Because I Really Am Fat

I've been going through another of my disordered eating (or starvation, rather) phases again lately.

Something triggered it.  I'm not sure what; maybe it's because I've been exposed to even more fat hatred lately than I usually am, or maybe the usual low-level-but-constant-and-painful awareness of the way that people who are shaped like me are seen and treated in a world where only thin people are regarded as truly human has just gotten to me again.  Maybe it's guilt about being my age and still not really earning money; I live with my mother and she's retired, and her income is now more limited than it was even a year ago, and she's helping my brother to pay off his OSAP debt, so the resources that we have to live on are a bit stretched at the moment.  Eating much of anything seems...well, once it's been consumed, it's gone, and I often feel that what goes into my mouth is a waste because I shouldn't even be here.  Whatever happened, it's got me again.  I ate a total of two small bowls of soup yesterday and felt ridiculously guilty even just for having the first one.  I have a headache, I feel nauseated and a little weak, and I didn't sleep well last night—but I still can't bring myself to eat.

It scares me sometimes how powerful the urge to starve myself is.  Though it's always there, much of the time I can ignore it, but there's always that little bit of guilt, that feeling that says, "Oh, come ON.  You don't need to eat THAT.  You're such a hideous pile of blubber.  Save the resources for someone who actually MATTERS, you lazy, stupid and greedy pig!"  And I know that the solution can seem as simple as just picking up the fork and putting food into my mouth, but it isn't that easy.  After all, I'm not a thin woman who has a flawed mental image of her body or who is so afraid of getting fat that she'll risk killing herself to stay thin.  I actually am fat.  My body already is the one that so many people are afraid of ending up with.  And practically nobody thinks it's such a bad thing when someone who can obviously stand to miss a meal actually does miss one.

And in the end, it's so much easier not to pick up the fork than it is to actually eat something.  Sure, it's uncomfortable, but on so many levels it's so much easier to ignore the hunger and let the day pass without eating more than a little bit—not enough to get rid of my hunger, but just enough to keep myself going.  It's more socially acceptable.  It means that I'm not as much of a drain on our resources.  In a way, it even helps with my feeling of self-worth; even if I'm not actually earning money at this time, at least I'm making some kind of sacrifice so that my mother doesn't have to.

I know what the risks and likely outcome of long-term starvation and malnutrition are.  I know that this is essentially a very slow and painful way of committing suicide.  But for now, my problem is stronger than I am, and even under all the guilt and feelings of unworthiness and reminders to myself that "I don't really need to eat this, so I won't," I am afraid of what I'm doing to myself and what it means for my future health.

Still, I do it anyway.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Veiled In Court

I read an editorial a few days ago that all but made my blood boil.  It has taken me this long to get my thoughts clear on this matter because even a single sentence written by Mr. Den Tandt is so full of absolute unwavering FAIL that it's a wonder that I could get through it once, never mind the several times that clarifying my objections to it required.

I am not familiar with the case in question, though I have read the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal which allows Muslim women to wear the niqab when testifying in court.  The background given in the text of the decision states that the woman, who was "an alleged victim of historical sexual assaults, contends that her religious beliefs dictate that she must wear a veil covering her face, except her eyes, when testifying."  The objection by the defendant in this case was that "his right to make full answer and defence requires that he, his counsel and the preliminary inquiry judge be able to see the accuser's face when she testifies and, in particular, when she is cross-examined."

Completely leaving aside the question of whether the niqab really is the oppressive symbol of female servitude and status as property that Mr. Den Tandt so gallantly wants to rescue her from, her beliefs require that her face be covered in this circumstance.  Requiring her to remove the veil may very well be an act of re-victimization—in this case, the violation would happen through forcing her to expose more of herself than she is willing to show—or in the best case it may simply make her feel ashamed of what has happened to her.  Furthermore, the way that Mr. Den Tandt phrases his oh-so-compassionate opinion makes it sound like the victim herself is the one who's on trial, not the man who stands accused of sexually assaulting her.

But then, in a culture in which women are frequently blamed for "causing" their own rapes (as if the rapist had nothing to do with it), any woman who claims to have been sexually assaulted is likely to be under even more scrutiny than her accused rapist.

Did she lead him on?  Was she drunk?  Had she consented to sex with him in the past?  Is she lying to try to get back at him for something?  Was she wearing revealing clothing?  Was she walking alone at night?  Is she married to him?  Did she provoke him?  Has she ever willingly had sex with a man?  Is she known to be a slut?


So the focus of the trial ends up on the alleged victim, not the alleged rapist.

And you know, I've lived in Canada all my life and I've never come across the perception that covering one's face is rude.  Not taking your shoes off when you enter someone else's house—that's rude.  Being late is terribly rude.  So's not pulling over and stopping when you see a funeral procession go by when you're transporting yourself from one place to another.  Not holding a door open when someone behind you is also going to go through that door is pretty bad, too, unless it's one of those doors that open and shut automatically.  Lots of people are bound to object if you stare at them, though avoiding direct eye contact in conversation is also rude.  But I've never heard that covering our faces, whether they're covered with veils or not, is considered particularly rude.  Of course it's entirely possible that this is a convention that hasn't made it to my little corner of the country, but for the most part as far as I know, people will think you're a little weird if you go around with your face covered, but they won't think you're being rude.

Overall, I think his objections to her wearing the niqab do not hold water.  It is not "rude" to wear a niqab, and it certainly doesn't stop one from seeing most of the body language of the victim he's so keen on putting on trial.  What I see here is a thinly-disguised* expression of personal disgust with the presence of Muslims in Canada and an attempt to shame the apparent victim of one of the worst crimes that can be committed against a human being.  And if he really is so concerned with maintaining our stereotypical Canadian politeness and striking a blow for the Canadian justice system, he would do well to learn some fucking respect for what other people believe, for other people's notions of modesty, and for the courage it must have taken this woman to report her rapes, press charges and see that this case was brought to trial.

--,--'--@ --,--'--@ --,--'--@

*I was about to write "thinly-veiled," but that pun would have been just a little too bad even for me.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A poem that a lot of people should read. *sigh*

I found this poem when I was browsing through a poetry website the other day.  It's religiously-themed, but I think that anyone who's hopelessly self-righteous about anything, not just their religion, should be made to read it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Chain Protesting Choice

The annual Life Chain demonstration was held today.  That bullshit like this still happens, even though abortion has been legal in Canada for a long time, is a source of never-ending frustration for me.  And although as a general rule I try to keep a fair and open mind about people, I just can't think well of anti-abortion activists and in the past, I've stated why.

It's not that I dislike the fact that these people have the right to have this opinion, or that they have the right to express it.  What I deeply and thoroughly object to is that their goal is to take away the possibility that a woman might legally make a choice that they personally disapprove of.

As they say, if you disapprove of abortions, don't have one.  Harrassing women who have abortions, publicly protesting their right to have an abortion and condemning them regardless of the reason why they made the decision to have an abortion is just not right.  Whatever their reason for doing it, they deserve better than the condemnation and self-righteous judgement of people who think that their decisions ought to be everyone else's as well.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just a quick heads-up...

Over the next few days I'm going to be experimenting with various looks for the blog—I've always planned to put up my own background and fiddle with the colours a bit, but never got around to it until now.  Feedback would be very welcome should you choose to leave it! :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Don't Tell Me What I "Really Believe"

Don't tell me that because of the "Pagan" in "Christo-Pagan" I can't see Jesus as a face of the Divine.

Don't tell me that because of the "Christo" in "Christo-Pagan" I'm not really a Pagan.

Don't tell me that because of the "Pagan" part of "Christo-Pagan" I can't really be a Christian.

Don't tell me that because I am a Christo-Pagan, I'm really just trying to cover my ass in case the "real Christians" are right.

Don't tell me that my beliefs are wrong because they are not what you believe, or what you think I should believe.

Don't tell me that I'm only "dabbling" in Paganism and that once it gets to be too much for me, I'll go running right back to the Roman Catholics.  If that were the case, I'd have done it by the time I was fifteen.

Don't tell me that I really believe that homosexuals should be put to death, or that women should cover their heads and shut up because St. Paul said so, or that I should be considered inferior to a man because I am a woman, or that anyone who doesn't keep the Sabbath (whether it's the Jewish or Christian Sabbath) should be put to death, just because part of my spiritual identity is Christian in nature.

Don't tell me that because I'm a Pagan, I believe that I have to do all my rituals naked in the wilderness.  (Especially since I'm a Canadian and it tends to get very cold in the winter in my little corner of the country—I'd be dead of hypothermia in very short order if I tried to do my Yule ritual skyclad outdoors!)

I believe what I believe, not what you say I believe.  If you want to show me the supposed error of my ways, telling me that I really believe something that I do not in fact believe is so not the way to do it.  Don't tell me what I "really believe" based on your understanding of one or the other of the parts of my spirituality...because if you try, you are going to get it so, so wrong no matter how right you think you are.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Day When Hate Changed The World

Nine years ago today, I was an eighteen-year-old student barely into my first year of university.  As I had decided to earn my B.A. at the university in my hometown, I was dropped off at school that morning by my mother; I strolled in with a few books in my shoulder bag, an English Toffee cappuccino (courtesy of that questionably grand Canadian institution, Tim Hortons) in one hand and an orange in the other—my usual breakfast at the time.  As I had about half an hour before I had to head to my first class, I wandered into the student lounge to have my breakfast; it was usually quiet at that time of day.

It was still quiet, save for the room's two TV sets, both of which were tuned to CNN; hardly an unusual occurrence.  But this morning, the room was full.  As I made my way over towards the larger of the two TVs, I realized why as I saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center.  All thoughts of breakfast forgotten, I watched the broadcast in horror.

In class or out of it, the terrorist attacks of that day were all that anyone could talk about.  The story soon took shape—another crashed plane at the Pentagon, another plane that was crashed in Pennsylvania to ensure that it wouldn't hit its intended target.  Everyone was looking for whoever was to blame; a lot of terrorist organizations tried to take the credit, but in the end it came out that Al-Qaeda was responsible.  I had a choir practice that night.  Again, while we were on our mid-practice break it seemed to be all that anyone could talk about.  And that night, even my family—my staunchly Canadian family—watched the then-current President of the U.S.A., George W. Bush, make his formal address.

I think I am hardly unique in saying that I will never forget that day or what came after.  It's come to be the defining event of the past decade, after all; security measures have been becoming ever more drastic since then, and ever so invasive—look no further than the scanners that can look right through clothing and you'll see what I mean.  The animosity between certain Christians and certain Muslims hasn't been this widely bitter or violent since the Crusades (and given how there were times when both Crusader and Saracen saw the greater merit of relative peace and co-operation, it may even be worse now).  Ten years ago, that asshole pastor from Florida probably wouldn't have even thought about burning copies of the Koran.  It wouldn't have been as strong (or as publicized!) a statement as it is now.  And as the cry gradually turned from "Get Osama!  He did it!" to "Get Saddam!  He's got Weapons of Mass Destruction and we know this, because we say so!" the world was once again plunged into war—a war which I have long believed to be both unjust and unnecessary.

I can't help but think that what happened nine years ago today is a true demonstration of the power of hate.  Those who use hatred and anger like a tool, those who want to make other people afraid to step out of their own homes, those who want to use fear and anger as a system of control—September 11, 2001 was their day.  As we watched the twin towers fall and saw the damage to the Pentagon and saw the other plane where it crashed in Pennsylvania, anger and fear were two of the most common reactions.  If this can happen, what else will?  And we were told that to prevent this tragedy from ever happening again, we—even up here in Canada—would have to give up just a little bit of freedom and just a little bit more of our privacy.  But there's nothing to be afraid of if you've got nothing to hide.

Yeah, right.

It's time to answer that now with the power of love.  We saw some of that in the days just after the attacks, too; all the people who volunteered to help out at Ground Zero, all the outpourings of support for the victims and those who were left without loved ones on that day, and the help given to people who were stranded by the groundings of non-emergency civilian aircraft—those are expressions of the best of the human spirit.  If we could learn to tap into that more consistently without the need for a huge, terrifying tragedy to bring it out in us—if more people could learn to get along regardless of race, religion, or any other classification which tends to set people against each other—if we could learn to forgive what is in the past and try to make the world a better place for a change—then we might just be OK in the end.

I know that this is hardly a realistic hope.  The hatred, war, violence and aggression of today has not slipped under my radar.  But that's the thing about hope—as unrealistic as it may be, and as ineffective a comfort as it is, it endures.  And sometimes that's all we need to effect a real change in the world.

On September 11, 2001 hate changed the world.  Will you join me in trying to help change it with love?

We can do no great things; only small things with great love.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Small Memento...

While she was cleaning out her closet today, my mother found something of mine that I hadn't seen in nearly seventeen years.

Perhaps I should go further back.  Sometime when I was in Grade 4 (the 1991-92 school year), one of my classmates brought a box of small silver medallions to school and gave one to everyone in our class; apparently she'd written to the Vatican (or perhaps her parents had simply ordered them, I'm not sure which after so long, but I do recall that she'd said she'd written) and they'd sent enough of these for our entire class.  On one side, these medallions had a portrait of John Paul II in that so-familiar pose with a crucifix in his left hand and with his right hand raised up nearly level with the top of his mitre.  On the other side, there was a picture of the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus and the words "Regina Poloniae" ("Queen of Poland", I think).  Apparently these medallions had actually been blessed by the Pope, though I'm not sure I believe that they actually were.  I put mine on a chain and wore it on occasion for a couple of years, but then it disappeared when I was about eleven or twelve, and I hadn't seen it since.

My mother found it today while she was trying to clean out her closet.  I figure it must have gotten caught on some of my clothes when I took a bath one night and threw them in her closet—that used to be our system when I was a kid.  There was usually a laundry basket there, but not that night, I guess.  I'd wondered many times over the years where it went and what happened to it.  Now I think I know.

It's badly tarnished now, and I'll definitely be giving it some time with some silver polish soon.  (Or even toothpaste; that works surprisingly well!)   But this little relic from my past has reminded me of a lot of things—what I've left behind, what I've embraced, and who I've become since the last time I set eyes on this thing.  I'm not sure if I'll ever wear it again—I am, of course, no longer a Catholic, and although I have more respect for John Paul II than I have for his successor, I cannot ignore the fact that he, too, allowed many terrible things to happen—but it's good to see it again anyway.

Nostalgia can be a strange thing that way. :)

Edited to add: I haven't been able to find a photograph of the medallion itself, I have found the photograph that his portrait on the medallion seems to have been modelled after.  You can find it here, at the top of the page.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


This is the post that two days ago I mentioned I might write.  You see, today one of my cats died.  It wasn't totally unexpected; she was about fifteen years old and her health went into a sudden decline early last month.  Though she'd visibly been very strong and healthy before that, she was transformed into a bedraggled shadow of her former self.  She was barely eating, didn't drink a whole lot, and was suddenly moving very slowly.  She stopped grooming herself and her long hair grew matted.  And even though we tried to help her to get better—the vet gave her an antibiotic which seemed to help for awhile, and her health did improve for a bit—she kept on getting worse and worse.  We initially scheduled her for that dreaded final vet's appointment last week, but she perked up at the last minute (she even ate a little without us having to liquefy it and feed it to her with a dropper); we knew it was final days by that point, but since she'd started showing interest in the rest of the world again, it didn't quite seem right to take her out of it yet.

Such was not the case today.  She could hardly walk; she more dragged herself around than anything, and since we couldn't even feed her with the dropper anymore because she fought us and started bleeding from the mouth when we tried, she hadn't actually eaten in two days.  (The appointment was supposed to be yesterday, but the vet had to postpone it—and we had another unexpected day with our poor kitty.)  Between the knowledge that she was going to die soon and the stress of having not one, but two, euthanization dates scheduled and then postponed, I've been in a state of constant grief for about two weeks, even though the one I was grieving for still lived and breathed until this afternoon.  It's been exhausting.  I've cried more in the past two weeks than I think I have since my maternal grandfather died.

And now that she's gone, I feel at once empty and full of sorrow.  She was a big part of my life for many years; she was a stray, dumped somewhere near my home about thirteen years ago, and although she was fed by several other people in my neighbourhood before she came to us, the moment we met there was an instant bond.  She was my cat; I was her person.  That was it.  She wandered off for a month or two in the summer for several years, but she always came back—and when she was here, she always followed me like my own shadow.  Finally, about seven years ago, she returned to us later than usual and we decided to keep her in the house full-time from that day forward.  She never set foot outdoors again—and was, I must say, very happy to keep it that way.

She died at roughly 2:30 this afternoon, and only a few hours later, it still seems a bit unreal, even though I did bury her on a hill in my admittedly large backyard, very close to the spot where we first met (and near where two of our other cats, both kittens of hers, are buried).  I'm in my bedroom; she rarely followed me in here.  (I love my cats, but I do find it a bit difficult to get a good night's sleep when I'm constantly being walked on.)  It would be so tempting to pretend that as soon as I left the room, I'd see her curled up on the little velvet-covered stool that we put right beside a window that gets lots of sunshine.  But thinking like that isn't healthy, and it prolongs mourning in the long run—I know this from experience.  It just seems strange to know that yes, she really is dead.  And even though my pain caused by her illness and death is still strong and in some ways only beginning, at least her suffering is over.

Now, as a Pagan and as a Christian, I do believe in an afterlife.  I even have some hope of seeing those who I loved during their lives again—provided that they haven't reincarnated yet, of course.  (One of my other cats—one who died last year—still seems to be with us, by the way; often I'll feel a cat jump onto my bed, but not actually see one.  My mother says the same thing happens to her at times.)  But the separation now is so painful.  I have been preparing myself for this practically since she first got sick; in fact, for the last two years I've been telling myself that every day we had with her was a bonus and a blessing because her life had already extended past a cat's usual life expectancy.  Still, the finality of it—or "finality for now", if you like—is just so heartbreaking.  She was, though not a human, one of the best friends I've ever had.

Although I've been my typical verbose self in this post, I'm not sure how much I'll feel like writing in the next few weeks.  Experience tells me that inspiration may not come easily while I'm still in this stage of grief.  So if posting is even more slow than usual for the next while, this is why.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The World's Oldest Profession

They say that prostitution is the world's oldest profession.

Whether or not that's true, four of its practitioners in my hometown—as well as many of their clients—were arrested last week.  (Somewhat unusually, the johns were held up for as much public disgrace as the prostitutes; their names were published by several news sources.)  There's been a fair amount of pearl-clutching in the media and in the general public, and though there are also several people who are saying that it's time to do something more sensible and productive about the whole thing than just toss everybody involved in jail, the prevailing sentiment seems to be, "EWWW!!! PROSTITUTION!!!  They're all drug addicts!  They're too lazy to get real jobs!  Good girls don't do that!"

Good girls don't do that.

No censure directed towards the men who paid for sex with these women.  (And all of them were men; most of them were middle-aged, but there were a few seniors on the list, and only one of the arrested men was under the age of 38.)  No acknowledgement that no matter how well-educated or well-qualified for jobs you are, you may not actually be able to find employment.  (Even Dr. Roberta Bondar, known for being the first Canadian woman in space, had trouble finding work a few years after her famous flight on the Discovery.)  No acknowledgement of the fact that, as a recent Dinosaur Comic says, SHIT GOES FOUL sometimes no matter how well you plan.  It's all put on their shoulders.  And they're the ones blamed for hurting families, for bringing down the tone of certain neighbourhoods, for being such WORTHLESS DAMN DIRTY WHORES.  Apparently the men who paid for sex with them are completely blameless in the whole thing.  (I call bullshit.)

Few people think about the ones who didn't want to have to choose this way of life.  Fewer still think of the danger that these women are put into each and every night, whether or not they want to be there.  And very few people indeed think about why such a profession might be appealing to some women (or men, though the prostitutes arrested here were all female), except to look down on them like they're lower than the dirt on the bottom of their shoes.  It's the same privileged attitude expressed by the male speaker in a song that was popular about nine years ago, "What Would You Do?" by City High.  It's your fault.  Stop making excuses.  Get a real job. Good girls don't do what you're doing.

It sounds familiar.  It ought to; it's a criticism that people have thrown at those they perceive to be less-fortunate than they are for eons.  I got mine.  Screw you if you haven't got yours, you're probably just too lazy to go out and get it anyway!

Such a wonderful, compassionate worldview.  It's so fantastic that, although I am nonviolent by nature, every time I hear someone being so smug and self-righteous, I want to kick their ass.

You know, strictly speaking, prostitution itself is legal in Canada.  It's just that there are laws in place that make it illegal to actually do anything about it regardless of whether you're the prostitute or the john.  Theoretically, I'm not completely against the idea of allowing prostitution—but regulated, please.  Protect the workers and the customers.  And for Gods' sake, don't treat the sex workers as if they're dirty, shameful homewreckers.  If a home's being wrecked, it's the fault of the people who live there.  And don't tell me that you don't have to have compassion for them because of your religious values.  What kind of value is there in a belief that you're entitled to treat people like dirt just because you don't approve of them?

I'd muse about how the way prostitutes are treated by the media and the general public is indicative of the number of sexist attitudes, privileged attitudes and attitudes that state that "no matter how private you think it is, your sexuality is totally my business" that are widely embraced in Western society today, but quite frankly, this post is already very long and I'm too tired and stressed to bother with that kind of analysis at this point (and I think you'll probably find out why in an entry I'm sure I'll write tomorrow).  So I think I'll just leave you with a video of the song referenced earlier in this post:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Proselytizers Embarrass Me, Part II

Remember that little rant I wrote about how for the most part, proselytizers embarrass me? The general idea was that their lack of respect for other people and their right to believe (or not believe) as they choose really gets up my nose.

The same goes for atheist proselytizers.

I mean, come on. So you don't like religion? Don't practice one. Telling people who are spiritually and/or religiously inclined that they shouldn't hold the beliefs that they do just because you don't approve is every bit as arrogant as any Christian proselytizer who tells non-Christians (or Christians from other denominations, for that matter!) that they're going to Hell if they don't convert. By all means, believe that there is no God or afterlife. Just don't try to annoy me, or anyone else who isn't atheistically inclined, into becoming an atheist. It's irritating, conceited and just plain disrespectful.

Mind you, I do disagree with folks like David Clarke (who is quoted in the Tampa Bay Online article) who believe that without belief in God, life has no meaning and real morality is impossible. My own personal experience disproves that. I've known several atheists over the years, and many of them have been among the kindest, most genuine people I've ever known. Morality is indeed very possible without any deity-centred view of the world; sometimes I think that it may even be more genuine than the morality of many believers, because there really is no extrinsic motivation to "be good"—there's no threat of Hell or promise of Heaven after this life is done. I just happen to think that there's plenty of room in this big, weird, messed-up world of ours in which people of various faiths and people with no faith can coexist peacefully. We just need to learn that our own beliefs (and rights) do not trump other people's and learn to act accordingly—i.e., not being a jerk to people with different beliefs and opinions.

Yeah, I'm not holding my breath for that one either.

Still, I've got to hope. That's really kind of what I'm all about, after all. If I—an extremely confused and very surprised Christo-Pagan—can manage to peacefully coexist with people who hold different beliefs from mine (and it would be difficult to come up with anyone who believes in exactly what I do, believe me), then certainly other people can, too. Even hardcore atheists and committed Jews/Buddhists/Pagans/Hindus/Muslims/Sikhs/Christians/Pastafarians etc. can get along as long as there's an attitude of mutual respect—which, by the way, would include thoughtful debate, and not arguments about why Belief X is Ridiculous and Everyone Should Subscribe To Belief Y.

It isn't easy. The egotism that facilitates the attitude that "My Way Is Better Than Your Way, No Matter How Well Your Way Works For You" seems to be awfully seductive. Who doesn't like to believe that they're right, after all? And arguing seems to be as hard-wired into humanity's essence as the tendency to have opposable thumbs. But as annoying as the proselytizers from any group can be, I do hope that someday the various spiritual and non-spiritual groups in the world will stop trying to shout each other down and actually try not to be such arrogant assholes to each other.

In the immortal words of Red Green, "Remember, I'm pulling for you. We're all in this together."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Conversation With An Evangelist Nearly A Decade Ago

Lately I've been thinking about some of the things that have set me on the spiritual path I'm now on. The incident I'm about to describe happened when I was eighteen and had considered myself a Pagan for about three and a half years; even so, I sometimes think that it affected my current views on spirituality every bit as much as the realization that I could no longer in good conscience consider myself a Roman Catholic.

Back when I was eighteen, Ontario students generally had five years of high school, not four. The fifth year was known as "OAC" and it was actually optional; it was for the students who decided they'd go to university, rather than go to college (yes, there is a difference in Canada) or enter the military, learn a skilled trade or go straight into the workforce. In my first semester of my OAC year, I took an English course; we were to do an independent study project that we were supposed to work on throughout the term. Mine happened to be about religious tolerance; I suppose it's fairly self-evident why I chose that topic, but I didn't just focus on Christianity vs. Neopaganism. I also did research on other religions and the conclusions that I drew through my research have actually stayed with me all these years later; I realized that in the end, most of us are looking for the same thing anyway, and our different religions are simply different expressions of our quests for enlightenment. The details can cause a hell of a lot of trouble, of course, but that's the general idea—as I understand it, anyway.

All that aside, I did a lot of research over the few months I had to develop this large project. One afternoon in mid-October, I was down at the public library; I'd just completed a long research session and checked out about ten books that I hoped would be helpful. As I sat outdoors, waiting for my mother to come pick me up (I didn't really drive on my own until I was 21), I idly leafed through a few pages in a book about various Christian denominations. I saw this guy, probably about 22-ish, in a mid-length brown coat heading into the library, carrying a book that I presumed he was returning; he bounded up the step in front of the library door with a loud "Hallelu-YAH!" Slightly amused, I turned back to my book—which happened to be open to a chapter on evangelism. The man came out of the library again a few minutes later and walked up to me, asking me, "Are you born again?"

"I beg your pardon?" (Yes, I really was that formal when I was a teenager. And yes, I have lightened up a bit.)

"Are you born again?" he asked a second time.

"I'm not quite sure what you mean—I'm Catholic," I said. I knew I was setting myself up for a lecture, but I couldn't help myself. Fortunately, I was wrong; the two of us had a fairly interesting conversation, though I did think he was taking things a little far sometimes (particularly with his great dislike of Hallowe'en and a one-man protest he told me he conducted every year outside a "Haunted House" for kids). I didn't get the sense that he was particularly dangerous or creepy, but I did decide to be discreet about my Paganism, hence my statement that I was Catholic. Sometimes the good old "smile and nod" approach really is the best way to deal with a situation.

We talked religion for probably about ten minutes before my mother arrived, and I was actually a little disappointed when it was time for me to go. But just before I left, he said something that, despite the bitterness I still felt against my former spiritual path, made (and still makes) a tremendous amount of sense to me. He told me, "God is more than just religion. He's more than ceremonies and even more than His word in the Bible. Don't be afraid to run, jump, or sing in His name. You can even turn cartwheels if you feel like it. He is the essence of joy and love."

I think it's pretty obvious that I (inwardly) disagreed with him about a lot of things that he said that day, but I couldn't possibly disagree with that. And even though a lot of my spiritual opinions and beliefs have changed—sometimes very dramatically—over the past decade, this is one thing that's remained constant. There's more to spirituality, even one that's centred around a deity, than just texts and rituals and dogma. Without that spark of love and joy, it's not quite right. It's something that you go through by rote, sometimes impressed by the general look and feel of things, but not something that really reaches out and touches you and inspires you to be a better person.

In the end, that really is why I believe it's possible for me to be both a Pagan and a Christian. I've no doubt the man I talked to that day nearly ten years ago now would be incredibly scandalized and even angry that his comment helped to set me on the spiritual path I now follow; nonetheless, I do feel somewhat grateful to him for that particular revelation, and I hope that since then, he too has managed some kind of spiritual growth.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

*nods head in approval*

I admit that I don't tend to follow current trends in music, pop culture or the like as closely as most people do. It's not that I'm one of those culture-snobs who think that nothing worth seeing/listening to has been invented since 1899; it's just that a lot of my spare time is dedicated to singing various flavours of older music, doing a lot of writing and figuring out how to turn myself into a useful and productive member of society without submitting to the abuses that come with being an inhabitant of Call Centre Hell. If you want information about the latest trends, never ask me.

That said, I've become something of a Lady Gaga fan in recent months. Her music is generally fairly catchy, she's got a decent voice and the lyrics to her songs are generally more clever than what you might expect from a pop/dance artist, especially in recent years. And I freely admit that I like a number of the things she's done in public as well; when she does things like this, I can't help but approve.

Sometimes a boycott is the best possible action—the boycott of certain hotels as a protest in favour of workers' rights comes to mind, and not just because of their partial filk of "Bad Romance"—but in this case, it could easily have been taken as just another missed show. In stating outright that she disapproves, and by perhaps using her show to help make people aware of exactly how harmful Arizona's new immigration law is in spite of the changes that were made to it before it came into effect, I think she's doing a good thing.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Truth In Comedy

Today, while randomly surfing the Internet Movie Database, I stumbled upon a quote from the first season of the "Flight of the Conchords" TV show, spoken by Jemaine Clement:

It doesn't matter what country someone's from, or what they look like, or the color of their skin. It doesn't matter what they smell like, or that they spell words slightly differently...some would say, more correctly...I'm a person. Bret's a person. You're a person. That person over there is a person. And each person deserves to be treated like a person.

Sometimes truths can be spoken most bluntly when they're being played for laughs.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Out of Curiosity...

I have a question.

Every fundamentalist, everyone who uses the Bible as an excuse to hate, everyone who says that the Christian God hates this or that just because they do, everyone who says that Jesus wants them to do awful things to people who they personally disapprove of, and everyone who believes that because they believe something, everyone else should as well...I want them to answer it and answer it well.

I want an answer from anyone who's ever killed in the name of Jesus. I want to hear an explanation from anyone who focuses on Jesus' death rather than what he taught before that, especially if they think that because they believe in him, they are Righteous and Shall Be Saved and can therefore treat any non-Christians, or Christians who aren't from their own denomination, as if they're lower than scum.

Anyone who hates in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Anyone who commits acts of violence in the name of the Christian God. Anyone who clings to their faith to justify their self-righteousness, arrogance and disdain for other people. I want them all to answer this question:

(Image description: hand-drawn picture of a cross with a crown of thorns and "INRI" fastened to the top, and draped with a purple mantle.  The text reads, "What part of love one another do you not understand?")

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Unrequited Love

Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.
Edna St. Vincent Millay

I think I would not be mistaken in saying that unrequited love is something that most people experience sooner or later. It's certainly been very familiar to me—especially in the past few years, not least because the other person is no longer actually a part of my life. To make a (very) long story somewhat shorter, I became friends with someone who I'd known rather peripherally about eight years after I first met him. Somewhere along the line, friendly affection ceased to be the only form of affection that I felt for him, and because he had a girlfriend at the time, I decided I'd hide it from him. Some months later they broke up, but though he never had a steady girlfriend again during the years of our friendship, I never told him that my feelings for him had grown to be as romantic as they were friendly. There were several reasons—or at least, I had several excuses that I gave myself for never bringing it up.

First, he'd mentioned many times that he was afraid of commitment. Although he also said that he looked forward to marrying and having kids someday, at the time he just didn't feel like tying himself down to one woman. I didn't want to get involved with someone who, while good and supportive as a friend, might as a lover just decide to dump me one day because he was afraid that we were getting to be too close, too exclusive, too committed and that by "settling" for me, he was passing up on the chance of a better woman he hadn't yet met. Loving him was breaking my heart as it was; it is perhaps quite understandable that I didn't want to risk a greater pain.

Second, though I got along with his mother quite well (she and my mother were friends for over thirty years), I knew that she was/is extremely controlling. And because the family is very close-knit, if I got involved with her son, I knew that she would inevitably be one of those people who would be only too eager to interfere with us and should I ever disagree with her about anything, she'd become very offended and if he felt the need to take sides, he would probably not side with me. Remember the very last rule that I made fun of in my last post here, the one about not criticizing his mother? That one would have been in full operation if he and I had become more deeply involved with each other, and I refuse to commit to someone who won't be supportive if I feel I have got a legitimate complaint against the actions of his (or her—after all, I am at least mildly bisexual) mother. That doesn't mean I would want my partner to take sides, but I would hope that s/he would at least be willing to listen to my side of things and take the time to understand why I'm so upset, rather than side with dear old Mom out of a knee-jerk reaction.

Finally, there's that whole insecurity thing that was even worse for me seven years ago. I have always thought that I was quite ugly to look at, and although I wouldn't say that he's outright handsome, he's certainly very good-looking and with his charm, he can very easily "get" almost any woman he wants, so why would he want me? I'm fat and shy, only moderately intelligent with a tendency to misinterpret people's words and actions and in possession of an explosive, if rarely set off, temper and a face that looks like it might belong on a Mrs Potato Head if those things had long brown hair—I had convinced myself that because we had such wildly different amounts of aesthetic and sexual capital, there was no way that he could possibly be attracted to me. He certainly kept me guessing; one day, he'd be all small smiles, holding doors, putting a hand at the small of my back and referring to old, long-established inside jokes between the two of us, and the next he'd be flirting madly with some other woman, sometimes even going home with her. And then he'd eventually start flirting with me again, but I never really thought he meant anything by it. Sometimes I think that's the only way he knows to interact with women who aren't his mother, his aunts or his sisters. Or perhaps it was just a habit; who knows? Certainly not I.

Despite everything, our friendship was one of the things which helped to keep me sane when my depression was starting to really get bad and my mother also started to show signs of the condition. I'm thankful to him for that, in an abstract sort of way. We'd usually meet at least once a week, or more than that on occasion. But eventually he became impossible to get in touch with, and although he'd always promise to call or drop in, after a certain point in time he never followed through on those promises again. I've no idea why.

The last time I talked to him was in December 2007, shortly before Christmas. We hadn't spoken in a couple of weeks, since I'd had a cold that developed into bronchitis and (to add insult to injury) I'd actually lost both my voice and my sense of smell for a couple of weeks. When I was finally well enough to leave my bed for more than the acquisition of food or a visit to the bathroom, I called him on his cell phone to see if he would like to get together for a chat. To my surprise, he told me that he was in Whistler, British Columbia (which is roughly two-thirds of the country away from here) and that he'd be back just before Christmas Eve. He promised to call me when he got home; he never did, and when I called him, he never answered. I kept trying for about two months after our last conversation, but I admit that near the end of that time, it wasn't so much that I wanted to see him as I wanted to say goodbye, get some real closure. With the passive-aggressive way he ended our friendship, he denied me that, and for a long time I was very angry about that.

Since then, I've gone through quite a few interesting emotions while trying to sort all this out. There's longing, of course. I miss the way we used to talk. I have felt anger. I'd thought we were friends. And even though I don't expect my friends to be at my beck and call—that would be unreasonably, ridiculously selfish—it still strikes me as being distinctly rude and unfriendly to say "don't be a stranger, keep in touch" and then not reciprocate when the other person does try to do just that. I still think of him when I hear (or perform) various songs. I'm not consciously clinging, but we knew each other for about thirteen years, and in that time he gradually became a part of my consciousness, and it's been difficult at best to cut him out of it.

Anyway, I've been trying to learn something from this experience, though sometimes I'm not quite sure what I can learn from it besides "OK, so this guy was a bigger jerk than he seemed to be for the thirteen years you actually were in contact with him" or possibly "I may be a dimwitted little twit for still loving him when he's been out of my life for over two years, but at least I know that I'm actually capable of loyalty". But I do know that just as my spiritual faith, my faith in my friends, my faith in my family and the hope that I will eventually improve my life help me to keep my depression from becoming unbearable, they help me to deal with the lingering pangs of the once very broken heart that I nursed after I realized that he'd cut me out of his life. Perhaps it's not very feminist of me to still be hurting a bit nearly two and a half years after I gave up on even being able to say "goodbye and have a nice life" to him—this, too, bothers me—but it's the way I feel, and over the years I've found that my emotions don't always conform to my ideals. I often think that it's the way I deal with them that matters the most.

And I know that someday, I'll have finally managed to put my feelings for him entirely behind me, and even if "My rags of heart can like, wish, and adore,/ But after one such love, can love no more",* at least I'll know that I'm no longer wasting my time and emotions on someone who may not have been worth my tears to begin with, as he plainly did not appreciate my friendship.

--,--'--@ --,--'--@ --,--'--@

*John Donne, "The Broken Heart".

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sarcastic!Zillah Responds to Dating Rules

I was tidying up my "Works-In-Progress" folder on my laptop this afternoon when I found a list of extremely sarcastic responses I'd made to a list of general dating rules I read on a website. I hope you find these responses as funny as I sometimes do. :)

(My responses are in bolded italic text.)


Found via a comment at

Lampooned while listening to "Breaking All the Rules" by She Moves.

General Dating Rules
• Always look great, whatever your income. Gorgeous hair and some lipstick with rags will still turn his head. You have the advantage. You are the woman. Look your best as you could meet a potential Mr. Right anywhere at any time.
Remember: a successful man-hunt hinges entirely on whether you have the time and the money to invest in a hairstyle you don't necessarily like and makeup that you may or may not like to wear. Also, lesbians and bisexual women do not exist.

• Never reveal information you don't have to. An enigmatic woman drives men wild.
If you can manage it, don't even tell him your name! And we all know that the way to a man's heart is to drive him insane with your unavailability.

• Keep dates brief, but your men interested. Less is always more.
In Regency England, a proper visit was only fifteen minutes long. Let's face it, you're probably so boring that you'll run out of things to talk about after that much time on an actual date, even if the two of you talked for hours on end before you started dating.

• Try and stay in shape and involve some fitness regime at a gym. However much you hate it, your Mr. Right loves your body as much as your mind.
But he'll only love your body if it's thin. Fat women need not apply! If you're fat, he doesn't really love you. So get thin, fatass, or you'll never get a man.

• Let your man pay. If he is interested, he is interested enough to ensure you eat well and get home safely in a cab.
'Cuz it's all about the money, honey! If he wants to hang around with a classy dame like you, he has to pay for the privilege.

• Ensure you receive flowers. If he doesn't know what a florist is, dump him.
Yes, even if you really like him and you absolutely hate flowers that smell of formaldehyde, were far too expensive to procure and cause your allergies to flare up. The most stable relationship in the world isn't worth it if he won't give you overpriced plant matter.

• Never ever sleep with a guy until he has fallen for you. Sex early in your dating game plan will ruin everything.
Because he only wants sex, not love. And you only want love, not sex. You're a woman. What else did you expect? Besides, he'll never marry you unless you refuse to put out before there's a ring on your finger, and you KNOW that a wedding ring is really a woman's only ambition in life, unless she also wants lots and lots of babies!!!

• Always keep a guy waiting and never turn up early. It is a lady's perogative.
Not only do you have carte blanche to be inconsiderate, but you don't even have to know how to spell "prerogative". Is that a new kind of perogy? Because I could really do with some cabbage rolls, perogies and sour cream for supper tonight. Mmm!

• Never be available when he wants you to be. Never be at the end of a phone when he calls and always let him leave a message or two first before replying.
Phone tag is SUCH a wonderful kind of foreplay for the sex you're not going to have with him.

• If he is available Tuesday, you are available Thursday.
See? You don't actually have to go out on dates with people to say you're dating them.

• Weekend shopping trips with girlfriends are sacred and not available for dates.
SHOPPING!!!!!!!!!!!! That's all we women ever do with each other!

• Keep your man standing on quicksand by shifting landmarks and goalposts constantly.
Carelessly-mixed metaphors, while worthy of a lengthy jail sentence, are a must. Don't forget to take the bull by the horns and hit him out of the ballpark with your cheap sunglasses. But make sure they look expensive, even if they weren't. The path to a man's heart is being completely emotionally and physically unavailable to him, and looking high-maintenance and constantly changing the rules of your relationship while maintaining a certain sense of class is absolutely vital.

• Ensure you are a good kisser. Men will walk away if you cannot kiss. Practice on a mirror if you have to.
Yum, shiny glass! Makey-outy time is so much fun when your partner is a cold, flat and two-dimensional representation of yourself. Which is what you want your man to be kissing anyway, because real women with real troubles, real lives and real depth are too much for the Fragile Male Ego and Fragile Masculinity to deal with on a regular basis.

• Never ever talk about previous boyfriends, particularly their prowess in the bedroom. Your ex-boyfriends are your business only.
So if you've got a child from a previous relationship, make sure that your new man never meets the kid, because that would mean that he'll find out that you've been with someone else before. The male ego is SOOO fragile and needs to be pandered to at all times.

• Never assume anything about your date until you choose to know him better. You cannot always tell by looking.
"Choose to know him better". No effort required—just choice.

• If any man shows the slightest signs of possessiveness or insecurity, run like the wind. Life is too short for boys.
If you're a grown woman, why the hell are you dating boys, anyway? And how DARE he have any insecurities—you're the woman, that's your territory.

• If his shoes or hygiene are a disgrace, dump him.
Because if his shoes are anything less than perfect, he'll probably forget to buy you those flowers you don't like.

• Never talk too much about your father and how your date measures up in comparison.
Because women always talk about their daddy issues to the exclusion of everything else except for shopping and hair and makeup and all those other girly things.

• Never ever come across as too available or too desperate. He will run a mile. He is the one doing the chasing.
Men are hunters. You're the prey. Got it? Just be distant and unavailable and he'll probably dump you anyway, but at least you won't have looked desperate.

• If the guy in the corner is gorgeous, go get him and create the need in him for you. Never wait for men to come to you because you may watch him leave with someone else.
Who cares about substance when you can go after a total hunk? Snap him up if you can. Even though he's supposed to be the one doing the chasing, you have to catch him before he'll chase you. Men are like dogs chasing their own tails that way. Arf!

• You may well have all the bodily functions of a man, just try not to demonstrate them early on.
Even if the meal you just ate together is doing some odd things to your digestive system, pretend it isn't happening. Explosive gas will turn him right off, but if you're lucky you can blame it on somebody else.

• If you want a child, don't mention it on the first few dates.
And admit it, you want a child. If you don't, you're not a woman. If he actually asks about whether you want children, divert him with another question which will permit him the opportunity to mansplain something you already understand in great detail. Men are fascinating. Just soak up all the testosterone-induced wisdom and shut up, will you?

• Never ever criticize his mother unless you want to remain single.
"Why didn't you eat your steak? Mom went to all that trouble to make it for you, and you didn't even give it a try!"I didn't eat the steak your mother gave me because she dropped it on the floor and didn't even bother to wash it off before she put it on my plate. Besides, you know I'm a vegetarian!" "HOW DARE YOU INSULT MY MOTHER LIKE THAT! WE'RE THROUGH, YOU CALLOUS BITCH!"

Oh, and being single sucks. Why? Because…er, because we say so!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

On Being Quietly Pagan and Openly Christian

At times, it's difficult.

Because I sing in a church choir, it's rather obvious that there's a strongly Christian influence on my spirituality. It's something that, until I joined that choir, I hadn't acknowledged very often—even to myself—in a very long time. So I felt very relieved when I finally became familiar with the usual Sunday routine; a few weeks after I'd joined my church choir I felt like I'd been there for years, it was that comfortable.

I've always been very quietly Pagan. At first, it was out of necessity; not only would it have been frowned upon by my teachers and most of my classmates at the very Catholic high school I attended at the time of my conversion, but when it became clear that I was getting interested in non-Christian spiritual ideas and various New Age things, my father told me very clearly that he'd better not ever hear that I'd become a Wiccan "or any of that other bullshit" or he'd never speak to me again. And while I was tempted to come out as just that—although I was as visibly calm as I usually am, inside I was absolutely furious at his lack of support or willingness to accept my personal choices—I held off, because even at my least mature I recognized that my spirituality shouldn't be used by me or by my father as yet another thing for us to argue about. (And believe me, my extremely conservative, homophobic and racist-though-he-denies-it father and I still have a lot of things to argue about, which is why we usually stay away from political or religious topics when we talk and we watch a funny movie together once a week to keep the peace.) Later on, when I was in university and my parents had permanently separated, I still hid my spiritual inclinations as much out of habit as anything else. The few times I actually did mention them to anybody, it was only with people I'd become comfortable with, and (in one case) because one of the people I worked with on an English project recognized my screen name on Witchvox (where I sometimes used to post responses to the "Question of the Week" when they were still asking them, as well as commenting on articles highlighted on Wren's Nest News) as part of my main e-mail address at the time. For the most part, though, I kept quiet. My spiritual beliefs were—and still are, despite the nature of this blog—something that I consider to be highly personal and therefore not for (frequent) public discussion. I have no doubt that my long-standing dislike of proselytizers is a big part of this; if it annoys me to hear people talk about how great their own religion is and how everybody else should think it's great too or they'll be flung into the deepest, darkest, most torture-filled pits of Hell when they die, then it would certainly annoy other people to hear about my spiritual convictions.

There are times when, besides my now-usual Sunday morning activities, I also do night-time rituals that appeal to my Pagan side—not just observing the eight days that have become known as the parts of the "Wheel of the Year", but sometimes the full moon (infrequently, largely because I am not a perfect Pagan and often tend to not notice when the moon is full), some "just-because-I-feel-like-it" rituals (much more frequently) and even occasionally some ritual magic(k)* (highly infrequently). I also sometimes do a ritual of remembrance (of sorts) on days that have some personal significance to me for one reason or another—these days are usually the anniversary of something so wonderful or horrible that it had a lasting effect on my psyche.

Honestly, sometimes it feels like I'm living a spiritual double life. It's not that I don't love what I'm doing—I wouldn't do it, otherwise—but it can be very awkward. As I've said before, I know that theologically speaking, I'm on very shaky ground; my belief that all the Goddesses and Gods are all faces of a sort of "God behind the Gods" is why I'm able to make the statement of faith that I do every Sunday morning, why I pray to a Goddess as well as a God on my own time, and why the details that matter the most to me are ideas like justice, kindness and compassion, not whether the figure I keep in my mind when I pray is called "Jesus" or "Rhiannon". But because Christo-Pagans are often looked on with suspicion by Christian and Pagan alike, and because so many say that we are impossible, I do sometimes feel a bit insecure. Objectively, I know that if it feels right for me at this time, then it probably is right for me at this time. But still, I'm not totally immune to doubt, and sometimes because I'm still much more quiet about the Pagan side of my spirituality than the Christian side, I feel almost like I'm letting other Pagans down, coasting on the privilege that open Christianity gives me.

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*I never liked the convention of adding a "k" onto the end of the word "magic" in order to distinguish it from the magic of fantasy novels or stage magicians. I always feel like I should be pronouncing both the "c" and the "k", making it sound something like "magic-ick", which I suspect is not the most positive way to think of the act of focusing my will with the intent to use it to effect some kind of change in the world.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"Bleeding-Heart Liberals"

It may not come a surprise when I say that my political views have always been fairly liberal. I admit that at first, it was largely because I was young and naïve and had taken the words "be nice" a little more seriously than most people do, without really thinking about what they really meant. When I got a little older and (I hope) a bit wiser, I retained my liberal outlook—not so much because I was still naïve, because life had definitely knocked me around a bit by then, but because I'd independently come to the conclusion that compassion, kindness, justice, respect for the environment and a helping hand to those who need it were most likely much more positive than stinginess, "I got mine" and anything even remotely related to trickle-down economics (which rarely work out well for anyone but the people from whom the wealth is supposed to "trickle down"). Apparently my dislike of injustice and greed make me a "bleeding-heart liberal".

Gods, I hate that term. It's a phrase that's often used to condemn and dismiss anyone who has even a vaguely non-conservative view of the world. It's the "bitch" of the political world—lob that label at anyone, and it supposedly invalidates everything that they stand for because everybody knows that bleeding-heart liberals are too sentimental for anyone's good, so nobody should listen to them.

But you know what? Whenever anyone calls me by that loathsome term, I wear the badge proudly, because although I hate the phrase itself, it means that I've somehow managed to choose a viewpoint that shows compassion.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

—1 Corinthians: 1-13, New International Version

Monday, June 21, 2010

An (Unsent) Angry Letter To My Choirmaster

Dear [Choirmaster],

We've known each other for just a little less than thirteen years. While we've never been particularly close, I think you know by now that I usually appreciate your sense of humour, and I'm reasonably sure that whatever your faults are, they probably don't include a tendency to be intentionally cruel to people. This is why—for now, at least—I am trying very, very hard to give you the benefit of the doubt.

But it's difficult. You see, yesterday you made a fat joke for the second time that I can remember in the past few years. You brought up that old e-mail forward about funny announcements in church bulletins, repeating a few that you remembered to the general amusement of almost everyone present. The first one you recited was the one about the Weight Watchers meeting, which asked the participants to please enter the church through the big double doors.

Oh my, how clever. The implication of the joke is that the people who are trying to lose weight are so huge that they can't fit through a normal-sized door. Why is this supposed to be funny? You may have seen me frowning and shaking my head just after you recited that joke; whatever you may have thought about that, if you even noticed, I can assure you that I was trying my hardest to hold myself back from making a fuss about a comment that had just deeply hurt and insulted me.

Because you thought that particular joke was so funny, I suspect that you don't understand why I didn't laugh at it. Perhaps I can explain it. Being human, I suspect that you probably have at least one major insecurity—or at least, you had at least one major insecurity at some point in your life. Now, imagine that this one big thing that you're so insecure about is something that is currently despised by "all right-thinking people", whoever they are. Imagine that this thing about you that makes you insecure about yourself is blamed for all sorts of things, from health care costs to pollution to poverty, and that people who have this characteristic of yours are commonly stereotyped as being lazy, stupid, greedy, smelly, dirty, sloppy, selfish and obnoxious. Imagine that you've been told by your doctor that because of this characteristic, you'll probably die at a horifically young age of at least half a dozen painful, embarrassing and/or expensively-treated diseases, syndromes, and disorders, even though you presently show no sign of ever actually developing them—oh, yeah, and that you're ridiculously ugly because of it, too. Imagine that although you can't prove it, you suspect that this characteristic has been the reason why you've been passed over for jobs you wanted that you knew you were more than adequately qualified for, and that you know from personal experience that this characteristic has probably significantly reduced, if not downright eliminated, the possibility that you will ever share your home with anyone but a few cats. You see, no matter how great a person you actually are, nobody can ever be attracted to you because of this one terrible characteristic—and if they are, they're probably desperate or some kind of crazy fetishist. People like you, the narrative goes, are unworthy of another person's love.

This is my life as a fat person. Because of these experiences, I have exercised myself into exhaustion, then berated myself for being weak, fat and useless because I couldn't keep going. I have starved myself to lose weight, to the point where I felt dizzy all the time, had a constant headache, always had hunger pangs and even experienced several skipped heartbeats per day—some of them quite violent. (Fortunately, this resolved itself once I realized that I actually had to give my body the nutrition it craved.) This is actually why I seldom eat at parties; in my self-starvation days I messed up my metabolism so badly I can't eat unless I feel some measure of hunger, because if I do…well, let's just say that I regret it very deeply within an hour. To this day, I still fight against the urge to deny myself food; more often than not, I fail. Although I regularly wake up at 6:00 in the morning, I may not actually eat anything until 3:00 in the afternoon, and even then, I'll feel guilty about every bite. I'll be hungry hours before that, of course, but because I can so visibly stand to miss a few meals—I do.

In a normal-sized person, these would probably be major warning signs of an eating disorder; in people of my size, however, they are generally considered to be the necessary actions of a penitent fatass who wants to become a real person and not remain a stereotype and scapegoat for all of society's current ills. I have been taunted by total strangers, had rotten food flung at me from a car while the occupants of the vehicle mooed at me, been shamed in the grocery store for the one bar of chocolate I bought along with a basket full of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and whole-grain bread, and even been called "a freaking tub of lard" by one person who I had previously thought was my friend—all because of my socially undesirable size. I have hated myself for my size and for my inability to shrink myself. And to top it all off, clothes shopping is a ridiculously humiliating and frustrating experience; even the few, usually hideous, things that are made in my size aren't generally made for my shape. More than once, I've wondered when the few companies who make clothes for fat people will just throw up their hands, say "Screw it!" and just start making burqas for all of us, because (as everyone apparently knows), nobody really wants to look at a fat person, and fat people don't deserve nice clothes anyway, so they may as well just try to hide us as well as they possibly can. The way most dresses for fat women are designed, they're halfway to it already.

And you know what? My experiences are hardly unique, and compared to some other fat people, I've actually had it pretty easy. Think about that for a moment.

Considering all this, a joke about Weight Watchers members having to enter a building through a large set of double doors has a very different meaning to me than it probably does to you. People don't join Weight Watchers, or do other things to reduce the size of their bodies, because they're happy with themselves and their lot in life. They do it because like me, they have experienced a lifetime of discrimination and hatred, and they just want it to stop. Just because I've decided to try not to abuse my body through starvation anymore, it doesn't mean that I don't understand the goal. And before you say I'm taking this too seriously because it's just a joke, and these aren't real people, just remember—I've had serious comments like this directed at me all my life. I am under no obligation to interpret them as "funny" just because they come from you.

By the way, this wasn't the first time I've heard you make a comment that showed a surprising amount of disdain for larger people. Back when [our other choir] was looking at the possibility of having the women purchase those blouses and skirts of ours, it was mentioned that the company that made them kept clothing up to size 28 in stock, and you laughed and said, "that's a two-person tent!" I normally wear size 24, and believe me, that's close enough to size 28 that not only did I feel hurt and insulted, but I felt a bit humiliated as well. You might as well have said, "Wow, anyone who needs to wear clothes that big is absolutely huge! Isn't that hilarious? Let's laugh at them!"

Before that evening, I had never expected that level of casual cruelty from you.

I will do my best to forgive you for making those jokes, as insulting as they were. Through our long acquaintance, you've been nothing but kind to me when dealing with me directly, and I appreciate that. Still, if it ever seems like I don't completely trust you, or if I'm a little distant in my actions towards you, this is why. I know that you can't be totally clueless about the presence of fat people in your life; I know you're even friends with a few of them. Yet you still seem to think that it's perfectly OK to make fun of fat people as a group, whatever you may think of us as individuals.

Please stop making fat jokes. They're hurtful and insulting and not really all that funny.