My Week 70: PaintNite, Reality TV

Wednesday: I go to PaintNite

Last Wednesday, I went with a group of people from work to something called “PaintNite”. If you’ve never been to one of these, you HAVE to do it. You get sent a link to a painting, and then you go to a bar and everyone has to recreate the same painting. While drinking. It’s the most fun I’ve had in a while. Our painting was called “Caribbean Cove” or something like that—it was a painting of a tranquil tropical sea with a beach in the foreground, seen through the opening of a cave. Initially, I wasn’t going to go, even though I’d already paid—in fact, I thought it was the night before, and I was lying on my couch happily wrapped in a blanket, watching an episode of Brooklyn 99 that I’d PVR’d, drinking wine and eating chicken wings. I felt bad about missing it, but I’d been really sick, like ‘coughing up a lung’ sick, and I didn’t want to go ANYWHERE. As a side note, I hope that the walls to my condo are actually soundproof because I was barking like a seal all night long for a week, and spending a long time in the morning trying to clear my lungs in the bathroom. If you were my neighbour, you might have thought an eighty year-old, emphysemic man had moved in next door. And that’s pretty much how I felt. So when I woke up on Wednesday morning and saw an email from PaintNite telling me that it was only “hours away”, I realized that I hadn’t missed it at all. But I still didn’t want to go. At the end of the day at work, though, I was talking to one of my colleagues—the same one that I went to the Toronto Circus with in Week 53, and he said that he wanted to go too, and that he was willing to meet me at my condo and go on the subway with me, etc. And that relieved my underlying fears: First, that I would have to traverse the streets of downtown alone. This might sound paranoid, but I should mention at this point that, right before Christmas, there was a string of random stabbings in my neighbourhood, including a man who lived in my building, who was stabbed to death two blocks away. He was very nice—we would say hello to each other in the elevator, and he would hold the door for me, so it was pretty upsetting. It was described by the police as “a random crime of opportunity”, although I’m not sure what kind of “opportunity” you get from killing someone—perhaps fulfilling your dream of living the rest of your life in maximum security? At any rate, I was happy to have someone to walk with. I mean, I HAVE pepper spray, but I’m terrified that if I ever had to use it, I’d point in the wrong way and shoot myself in the face with it. I’m a total klutz, for the record—in fact, just this past week, I slammed my bathroom door into my own face hard enough to take the wind out of myself, and give myself a huge bruise. When I called Ken and tried to recreate the moment so I could understand how the f*ck I had managed to do it, I almost did it again. Second, (and I realize that it’s taken a while to get to “Second”, sorry about that) was that I would show up to PaintNite and feel awkward and weird because the rest of the people there were mostly math types, and they can be very intimidating, what with their knowledge of numbers, and pi, and sh*t like that.

So we arrived at the place, and headed for an area of long tables covered with plastic dropcloths, set up with easels. As we put our coats down, a young woman ran over. “No!!” she exclaimed. “I’m not done setting up yet! You can’t sit here!” She was obviously a little high strung, so I reacted like I would to a toddler throwing a tantrum, and said, very slowly and calmly, “It’s OK, dear. We’ll go over there and wait until you’re done.” Then I turned around and laughed. (This is exactly what I did to T on the single occasion that he threw a sh*tfit at the age of 2. He never did it again, innately understanding that I would just find him amusing rather than upsetting.) The PaintNite was at a bar/restaurant called “Poutineville”, whose claim to fame was the numerous types of poutine on the menu. If you don’t know what poutine is, it’s a Canadian delicacy consisting of French fries topped with cheese and smothered with gravy. I suppose ‘delicacy’ isn’t quite the word, but that’s Canada for you. Our delicacies are more ironic than ‘delicate’—they consist of hearty things like back bacon, beer, big-ass doughnuts called “beaver tails”, and maple syrup, which is made from TREES. I ordered the pulled pork poutine, expecting a heap of savoury pulled pork IN BETWEEN the fries, cheese, and gravy, but what I got was sadly disappointing—the fries were overcooked and the pork was neither pulled nor savoury, and was just tossed on top of the gravy in big chunks. For a restaurant that’s named AFTER poutine, it was crappy poutine. In fact, I’ve had better poutine from Kentucky Fried Chicken. (By the way, Ken and I just had dinner at a local fish restaurant—they were out of perch, chicken wings, AND white wine, but they had fries and gravy on the menu. I asked the waitress if they could toss some cheese on top. “Oh, like poutine,” she answered. “Sure thing.” It tasted better than Poutineville and was a third of the cost.) My disappointment didn’t last long though, because then it was FINALLY time to come to the back tables and get ready to paint. Our instructor, Rachel, was calmer now, much like toddlers get after you leave them alone for a while, and we took our places in front of our canvases. Then we had to take an oath, mostly consisting of not drinking from the paint water or dipping our brushes in our drinks. This sounds quite ridiculous, but trust me—after an hour of drinking and painting, it became clear just how easy it would be to actually do either of those. Rachel was a pretty good instructor, although she had to scream over the rest of the bar crowd, who were drinking but NOT participating. She WAS a little off-putting at the end, when she announced that, because our group had paid with a Groupon, she wasn’t getting as much money, so she held up a clear, plastic pitcher and yelled, “This is the tip jug! Don’t leave without giving me a tip!” She claimed she was a ‘starving artist’, but she looked pretty well-fed to me. My painting ultimately came out a little different from the tranquil beach scene we were SUPPOSED to painting. I know people assumed I was expressing my inner artist, or maybe I was just having a bad day, but the fact is that, when I was painting my lovely blue sky, I accidentally got a little black on the brush, and suddenly my blue sky was threatening rain. I decided to go with it, and added dangerously high breakers, dark clouds, and a stormy beach.

paintnite

My colleagues, on the other hand, had these gorgeous, turquoise seascapes, some adding sailboats and seashells. I felt a bit “the odd man out” so to speak, and worried that my unplanned non-conformity might raise some eyebrows, especially since we were all told to bring our paintings to work the next day for a “fun” competition. I must have hit a chord with other storm-loving people though, because after all the ballots were cast, my artistic endeavour placed in the top three and was given a place on the wall. That makes me sound so braggy, but honestly, I don’t win many competitions, and certainly not for my artwork. Best of all, our CEO came by to congratulate me and the other two “winners”. I hope he doesn’t think my painting represents any deep-seated anxiety. Because I sure don’t want him to know about THAT.

Saturday: Reality TV

Ken and I were watching TV last night, and a commercial came on for Oka cheese, which is a particular kind of cheese that you get in Quebec. The couple in the commercial were trying to smuggle some Oka through customs, and while I don’t really understand the point of them doing that, I was up in arms immediately.

Me: God, Ken—that’s so unrealistic. Look at that couple. She’s young, thin, and blonde, and he looks like he’s about 60. His hair is thinning, he’s pudgy—there’s no way they’re a real life couple. And he’s so cheap that he’s trying to smuggle cheese under his jacket, so he’s obviously NOT her sugar daddy.
Ken: It could happen.
Me: Not as often as it does on TV. Commercials are so clearly written by men. How many times have we seen a young pretty woman with an old pudgy guy and we’re supposed to believe she’s more than happy to deal with his “sudden onset vomiting”, which, by the way, isn’t even a THING. You ALWAYS know when you’re going to vomit. This is just male fantasizing.
Ken: About the women or the vomiting?
Me: Both. TV is so unrealistic.
Ken: Gosh, you think?

Now, I don’t want to come off as critical of older, pudgy, balding men because that’s not the point. Just once though, I’d like to see a commercial where a hot, young guy is married to an older, dumpy, gray-haired woman. But as Ken and I agreed (well, I think we agreed, but it’s hard to tell when Ken’s being sarcastic or not), TV has no connection to reality. Then again, if the American election campaign is any indication, REALITY has no connection to reality. Who other than Donald Trump could threaten on public television to randomly shoot someone on the street and NOT get arrested? What’s next? Hilary Clinton threatening to ‘cut’ Anderson Cooper? Bernie Sanders making crank calls and having pizzas delivered to Megyn Kelly’s house? Anyway, when I was 5, I was on a reality TV show called “Romper Room.” It was one of the most popular shows on Ontario television, and it consisted of a different group of children each week just playing and doing activities under the supervision of a kindly, teacher-type lady. At the end of each show, Miss____ (there were several women who played the role—mine was Miss Grace) would hold up a magic mirror, and say, “I can see Johnny, and Sarah, and Ian, and….” Kids across the province would sit fixated, desperately hoping to hear their name. I don’t know why my parents decided to put me on the show, but two incidents cemented for me the fact that TV was not grounded in reality. First, I kept jumping up and down, prompting the director to tell me to stop. “You’re TOO excited,” he said. But I was excited. A SUPER f*cking excited 5 year-old, and I had to stifle my enthusiasm because it was TV. Second, they taped all five episodes for the week on one Saturday, and I kept getting into sh*t for contradicting Miss Grace when she would start the next segment with “What day is it today, boys and girls?” Everyone was supposed to say ‘Tuesday’ or whatever, but I yelled “Saturday!!” every time. Once again, the director had to talk to me about how we were only “pretending” and to just play along. Yep, that’s me—a non-conformist pain-in-the-ass from an early age.

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My Week 69: Ghost Stories, A Sudden Loss

My Week 69

On Wednesday, a group of us from work went to The Keg on Jarvis St. in Toronto to celebrate a colleague’s retirement. I love The Keg (a steakhouse chain for anyone who has never been there) for many reasons, but if you read this blog regularly, you’ll know it’s mostly because I believe that steak wrapped in bacon is nature’s perfect food, and The Keg always cooks it to perfection. Ken and I go to the local Keg on occasion, and of course, Ken always orders salmon. To me, this is like going to Red Lobster and ordering a hamburger. He had a terrible incident a few years ago, when restaurants had somehow all bizarrely decided that salmon should be cooked slightly rare. Because who doesn’t like to eat undercooked fish? What’s next? Medium rare chicken with a side of salmonella? Anyway, he got quite ill, so now he always asks for his salmon completely cooked, which seems weird that you actually have to specify that.

But I digress. Most Kegs are in fairly modern buildings with new fixtures and stone fireplaces—kind of ski chalet chic. But this particular restaurant on Jarvis St. is known as The Keg Mansion—it’s an enormous and beautiful castle-like structure built by members of the McMaster family and then owned by the Massey family (of Massey Hall fame). The best part about the whole business is that the Keg Mansion is also known as “The Haunted Mansion”, because apparently there have been numerous sightings of ghosts, spirits, and other presences over the years (there are articles all over Google if you’re interested in the specifics).

keg mansion

Call me crazy, but I LOVE ghostly type things, so I couldn’t wait to go there. As we were finishing our dinner, two of the women I was sitting with started talking about the second floor bathroom being haunted by a presence of some kind. We may or may not have been drinking a little, so we decided to make a visit to the ladies room to check it out. Up we went, giggling like schoolgirls and found the haunted bathroom. We were expecting something amazing, like the bathroom in Harry Potter where the ghost of that crazy-ass Myrtle chick comes out of the tap, but we were sadly disappointed. It wasn’t even a very NICE bathroom—kind of industrial beige and a bit grubby. We hung around for a bit, but nothing happened so we went back downstairs to our table. “Well,” I said, “that was nothing like the ghost in the bathroom of the house where I used to live.” Heads all turned. “What ghost?!” they wanted to know. So I told them the story I’m about to tell you now. And it’s all true…

I’ve always been a little sensitive to what I call “places that feel icky”, which is the very technical term for “bad mojo”, which is something scientists say. For example, in New Hamburg, we lived in one side of a 100 year-old “twin home”, which is like a semi-detached house. The old basement didn’t LOOK creepy but it felt that way, like someone was watching you, and I avoided going down there like the plague. After a couple of months, we moved into the OTHER side of the house. Same layout, same type and age of basement, only I had no problem going down there at all. No bad vibes whatsoever. A few years later, we bought a house in Washington (Ontario, not DC). It was a huge old Georgian-style place, built in 1863, and pretty run down, having been empty for almost two years after the 80 year-old owner had passed away. We started renovating right away, and started with the upstairs bathroom, which had been built into a back bedroom which became T’s room,  and was clad in pressure-treated boards. It had a wall sink, a clawfoot tub, and a swag lamp for lighting. Totally creepy, dark, and dingy. After redoing the walls with board and batten, painting the whole thing white and updating the fixtures (including a new medicine cabinet), it was much more livable. For me AND for the obnoxious poltergeist who occupied it. Yes, I said “poltergeist”, and it was one with a very juvenile sense of humour. It wasn’t long before things started flying out of the new medicine cabinet. And I don’t mean “falling out”, I mean a kind of forceful lobbing. If I had a dollar for every time I got hit with a hairbrush, or my toothbrush flew into the toilet (or my birth control pills ended up in a bathtub full of water), I’d be a rich woman. There was a built-in cupboard in the corner with upper and lower doors—sometimes if you bent down to get something out of the lower cabinet, when you went to stand up the upper doors would be suddenly open and you’d crack your head on them. Every so often, I’d get really pissed off and yell, “Cut it out, stupid ghost!!” and for a week or two, there would be no incidents. Of course, Ken was totally skeptical, having his own POLTERGEIST-FREE bathroom on the main floor. “Maybe the gravity is just weird in there,” he’d say. “Or maybe the walls are on an angle or something.” But there were two other notable incidents that made me believe that it was more ghost than gravity:

1) One night, I woke up around 1 in the morning. Ken was still up somewhere, and as I was lying there, I could hear sounds coming from the baby monitor. T, who was about two at the time, was talking to someone. I yelled “Ken! What are you doing? It’s one o’clock in the morning—why are you in T’s room?” No answer. I called a couple of more times. I could still hear T talking and a man’s voice, so finally I got ticked off and went into T’s room. There was no one there. T just kind of looked at me, then closed his eyes and went back to sleep. I totally lost it, and went running around the house (it was a really big old house) looking for Ken. I finally found him in the family room downstairs. “There was someone in T’s room!” I said, and told him what happened. He grabbed a baseball bat, and we searched the house, but we didn’t find anyone. After we calmed down, Ken got all rational. “There are two possible explanations,” he said. “Either you were still asleep and dreamed it, or there’s another baby monitor in town and ours was picking up someone else’s frequency.” Neither of those worked though—first, I was wide awake, and second, T was the first baby in the community in about 12 years, so nobody else had a baby monitor for miles. I know a lot of people are creeped out by baby monitors—there’s a good reason for that as far as I’m concerned.

2) We had a guest bedroom next to T’s room that every once in a while smelled like cigarette smoke, even though we’d repainted it , and no one in our family smoked. One night, I had a really bad cough and, not wanting to disturb Ken, I decided to sleep in there. I woke up coughing around 3 in the morning, and as I was lying there, I heard the distinct sound of the baby gate at the top of the stairs being opened. It was a super-secure gate, and to open it, you had to push down hard on the handle, slide it back, then swing it open. And that was the exact sound I’d just heard—click, slide, swing. I lay there, paralysed with fear, thinking that someone had broken into the house, and waited to hear footsteps before I started screaming (the floorboards were very old and creaky, so if anyone was upstairs, I’d know it in a second). I waited—nothing else happened. The dog didn’t wake up either, so after a while, I just kind of fell back to sleep. But in the morning, I went out into the hall, and the baby gate was wide open.

Now, you might think this was all in my imagination but there are two reasons why I know it wasn’t. Reason one is that a few years later, we moved down the road to the town where we still live. One summer Saturday morning, we were having a garage sale, and a very elderly man drove up. He struck up a conversation with us, said that he’d lived in our area all his life and that he knew the woman who used to own our new old (1906) house quite well. I told him we used to live in Washington in the “big, red house on the corner.”

“I know the place,” he said. “My uncle Len lived there for most of his life, before the people you bought from. He was over eighty when he died. He got really ‘funny’ towards the last part of his life—a real practical joker. His favourite trick was to put on a devil’s mask, then sneak up to the church when the ladies’ choir was practicing. He’d peek in the windows and just about scare them to death, then run away laughing! Of course, it was the cancer that got him in the end—he was a chain smoker, you know.” Yeah, we know. You owe me about twenty toothbrushes, Uncle Len.

Reason two is even creepier. One night a few years ago, I was sleeping and in my dream, I could hear the song “Hey ho, the witch is dead” from The Wizard of OZ, like it was playing on a music box. Just as I woke up, I could still hear the music playing, then it started to wind down slower and slower until it stopped. I freaked out and did what any reasonable person would do—I woke up Ken. “Oh,” he said, “this is just like that baby monitor thing in Washington. You were asleep the whole time. There’s nothing in our room that could have been playing “Hey ho, the witch is dead”—you just dreamed it.” But then I was talking to my mom later that afternoon, and I told her what happened. “That’s strange,” she said. “But wait—didn’t I give you a Hallowe’en snowglobe with the characters from the Wizard of Oz in it a few years ago? I’m sure it played that song when you wound it up.” I ran upstairs and started ransacking the room. Sure enough, I found the snowglobe at the bottom of a drawer in a desk across the room. I wound it up, and guess what it played? Yep. How the hell it had suddenly become wound up and started playing in the middle of the night, I didn’t even want to contemplate. I threw the f*cker into a garbage can on the back porch. But if I didn’t imagine THAT, what does it tell you about the baby monitor? Who knows what secrets the universe holds? Two hundred years ago, if you’d shown someone a television or cell phone, they would have burned you at the stake for being a demon. Or Uncle Len.

A sudden loss

You might have noticed, if you visit this site regularly, that this week’s edition isn’t as funny as usual. Good call. I just didn’t have that much to laugh about this week. My Uncle Gary died very suddenly on Monday night, and we’ve been dealing with this unexpected loss to our family for the last few days. You didn’t know Uncle Gary, of course, but you should have. Everyone should know a man like Gary. He was warm, kind, generous, and told a great story. Sometimes you never knew where the story was going to end up, but it was always worth the wait. Much love, and Godspeed, Gary. We’ll miss you.

My Week 68: First Aid Fun, Please Cyberstalk Me

Wednesday: I learn first aid

I got an opportunity this week to take a two-day first aid certification course. I’ve always wanted to do this, mostly because of my fascination with the Heimlich manoeuvre, and an almost compulsive desire to perform it on someone, or at least perform it CORRECTLY. It was a course set up exclusively for my workplace, so on Wednesday morning, I went to a nearby hotel to learn all about CPR, bandaging wounds, what to do if you’re hit by lightning, and field surgery. I think my expectations were a little high, especially around the surgery part, because we were only being certified as Level C “first aiders” and not actual medical doctors (I DID learn about being hit by lightning. If it happens, you’re probably toast—pardon the pun). I had (and still have) a wicked case of laryngitis, so the introductory part of the session, where we all had to say our names and our first aid background was even more awkward for me than normal. I sounded like a cell phone that was dropping out—luckily, I was sitting with some very nice colleagues who filled in the gaps for me. The instructor—let’s call him Dave— was a very interesting and well-experienced former fire captain, who had some amazing stories to tell about traumatic situations and injuries, the vast majority of which seemed to have happened to his own family and friends. And himself most of all. By the second day, we’d heard all about how his wife had been in a car accident and permanently crushed her foot, his daughter had broken her femur, his grandson had almost choked to death on an Arrowroot cookie, his son came close to dying in an avalanche, and he himself had almost bled to death after being sliced open by a broken bottle during yet another car accident. I think my favourite story was how he stabbed a steak knife completely through his palm getting it out of the dishwasher. After that, we moved on to his in-laws, and their various concussions, broken limbs, and wounds. Then, at one point, he started with “We went to Punta Cana last year with another couple…” and my co-worker and I turned to each other and said simultaneously, “Oh god, no!” Sure enough, there was not only an incident involving three broken ribs and a catamaran, he also performed CPR on some random surfer who was pulled out of the ocean. Dave was like serious injury karma, and I was convinced that at least one of our group was NOT going to make it to the weekend. Still, they were useful stories which served to illustrate the many ways that humans can actually damage themselves, and how we “first aiders” can help them. It was certainly a crazy two days—here are some of the highlights.

1) On each table, there was a CPR mannequin consisting of a head and torso. Their mouths were wide open, and I kept picturing them lined up like some sort of bizarre choir. We decided to name ours “Phil”. Phil was a good sport and let us merrily pound away on his chest, yelling “Come back to us, Phil! You can do it! Phil, you’re alive!! We saved him!!”, and high-fiving each other.

2) I realized that I had some colleagues with obvious drama backgrounds, as we had to roleplay various incidents, like one of us had to collapse suddenly and the rest of the group had to save him or her. At any given moment, someone would fall to the floor gasping and writhing, and someone else would shriek “Oh dear—Mary seems unresponsive!” and we would all proceed with the steps we’d been taught:
Person 1: Wait—don’t go near her until we’ve determined there’s no danger!
Person 2: It’s safe. Mary! Mary! No, she’s definitely not breathing. You call 911 and I’ll start CPR!
Person 3: 911—we have an unresponsive female in her….twenties, haha!
Person 4: I’ll get the Automated Electric Defibrillator!

For our “practice exam”, my group was given the scenario that one of us was lying “supine” on the floor, having slipped and fallen down the stairs, and couldn’t feel her legs. It seemed really straightforward at first, but then the scenario said, “Suddenly she begins to vomit. What do you do?” We were given a chance to practice, then we had to perform it in front of the whole class, which made me super anxious because I’m a terrible actor and get really self-conscious. Things were going quite well—we were doing everything according to the book and had just gotten her into “recovery position” when one of my colleagues got a little carried away by the drama and yelled, “Oh no—she’s stopped breathing!” We all paused and stared at her, including our hapless victim. I was like, “That’s NOT in our scenario! We just saved her! No more acting!” but Dave was like, “That’s great—keep going!” I was worried we’d end up killing her and fail the course, but I have to admit that our improv was pretty good, and she survived.

3) Continuing with the drama theme, we also had to perform CPR on a baby doll. After being instructed on how to do it, we each had to get up and demonstrate what we’d learned in front of the class. The first few people tried to determine responsiveness by calling “Baby, Baby! Wake up!”, so everyone else, including me, followed suit, until one of our male colleagues got up, frantically ran to the doll, and yelled, “Samantha! Samantha! Wake up! Oh no, my baby girl is unresponsive!”, and everyone after him called the baby something different. I was like WTF?! I didn’t know we were allowed to NAME the baby! Why didn’t someone tell us? I had the perfect name ready, and if you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know it’s “Johnson”. See? It works for a boy OR a girl. Or a dolphin butler.

Aside from the all the thespian-y stuff, I DID learn some pretty cool things, like when people stop breathing, they go very pale, and their nipples lose colour. We watched a video of a man in England being revived with CPR, and Dave pointed out that the English are a very pasty bunch even when they ARE breathing, so if you’re not sure, check their nipples. Yes, I just said the word “nipples” twice. Well, technically, three times. And I also learned the Heimlich manoeuvre, which came in really handy at dinner last night, when Ken started to choke.

Me: Are you OK? Do you need the Heimlich manoeuvre?!
Ken: No—cough—I just swallowed the wrong way.
Me: Stand up! Really, I’ve got this. Prepare to be Heimliched!
Ken: No! I’m fine—do I need to show you my nipples to prove it?
Me: Sigh.

As a side note, let me just say that the night before training started, as I was leaving work, my manager said, “Have fun at first aid training,” and I responded with “It’s going to be great. I’ll be Heimliching EVERYONE by the time it’s over, just wait!” She smiled and said, “All right then.” Yep. Say “Heimliching” out loud. Not the way to impress your boss.

Thursday: I set up a new Twitter account

I used to have a Twitter account, but last year I shut it down because Twitter is kind of boring. Very few people post anything original anymore—it’s all just retweets of other people’s retweets. I tried following different comedians, but most of them are extremely unfunny in real life. For example, I followed John Cleese of Monty Python fame, thinking that he would be hilarious. But instead of humour, it was just things like “My daughter is coming for a visit” or “My dog died.” At first I thought the tweet about his dog was some kind of weird, dry British absurdism, but no—his dog actually had died, and then it was like hundreds of people tweeting condolences to him. I followed Ricky Gervais for a while, but instead of being funny, his tweets are all just rant-y and angry. But the main reason I quit Twitter was because I was being cyberstalked by someone. It sounds funny to say now, but at the time, it was very unsettling, especially since he was getting other people to let him look at my Facebook page and Twitter account:

Bob: On May 3rd, I posted on Facebook that I went to a party…
Me: We’re not friends on Facebook. How would I know that?
Bob: …and on May 6th, you tweeted about your cat and your fish. It was obviously about ME.
Me: First, I have you blocked on Twitter. Second, why would I tweet about you anyway?
Bob: I’m the fish! I’M THE FISH!! Stop tweeting about me!
Me: Oh my god, I can’t even.

Ultimately, I had to stay away from social media for a while—you can only block so many people, and if someone is determined to creep your Facebook because he “likes to see what you and your family are up to”, there’s really no escape. Lately though, I’ve been thinking about expanding mydangblog and reaching out to more people (I got the idea from one of my blog friends, BunKaryudo), so I decided to open a new Twitter account. It’s @mydangblog in case you want to follow me, but there’s not much there yet, mostly because I don’t have the time or resources to tweet twenty times a day. So it probably won’t amount to much. It’s so bare right now, in fact, that Twitter emailed me the other day to ask me if I knew “how to Tweet”. Yes, I know how to f*cking Tweet—it’s not rocket science. Stop hounding me, Twitter. I’ll get to you eventually.

By the way, I have a bunch of other blog friends, but I have NO idea how to set up a widget-y thing so that I can link them to my blog. So here are the other great people I currently follow, at least the ones who post regularly,and if anyone knows how to link them on my site, please tell me, cuz the Youtube is useless. Also, if I missed you and you want to be linked, just let me know. I’ll add you as soon as I figure out how.

BunKaryudo at bunkaryudo.com
Freethinkers Anonymous at freethinkersanonymous.com
The Years of Living Non-judgmentally at annkoplow.wordpress.com
The Lonely Author at thelonelyauthorblog.wordpress.com
Daily Frances at dailyfrances.com

My Week 67: Disturbing Trends in Men’s Fashion, Korean Musical Chairs, Faux Pas

Friday: I ponder disturbing trends in men’s fashion

I know what you’re thinking as you read this topic: “Men’s fashion”? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Like me, you might be married to a man who thinks pink and red are complementary colours or that three t-shirts of varying shades of lime and orange are perfect under a burgundy sweater. Or you might be the parent of a teenage boy who dresses almost exclusively in jeans and a hoodie. Or maybe you just look around you at men in general and realize that there aren’t a lot of fashionable options for men, compared to women. But lately, men, or at least men’s designers (which I say with a snicker as I imagine some cabal of thin, bespectacled hipsters try to decide if the smoking jacket could EVER be revived) are experimenting in some disturbing ways with the way men present themselves to the public. So here are a couple of male fashion trends that are kind of bizarre, and not particularly appealing to me, and many others apparently.

1) The Man-Bun: The other day, one of my relatives posted on Facebook, “Is it against the law to punch a guy with a man-bun in the throat?” My response is that legally, it’s probably wrong to do it, but ethically it might be a toss-up. Unless the man-bun was fake, in which case the punch would be a moral imperative. It’s bad enough that men can somehow grow luxurious locks of hair, when so many women, including myself, are stuck with fine, thin hair that no amount of volumizer can help. When my hair was longer, if I tried to put it in a bun, it literally became something the size of a cotton ball. But now, men are deliberately growing out their hair exclusively to put it in a bun. A f*cking bun. What the hell is up with that? If a man has long, lovely hair, he should just let it flow naturally and not constrain it. The man-ponytail was hard enough to swallow, but now men are swanning around looking like stocky, testosterone-y ballerinas. Guys, if you want to put your hair in a bun, you should be required to wear a tutu so that you don’t confuse people. Of course, my favourite look was always the bald man ponytail—you know, the guy with male pattern baldness who grew the back of his hair out REALLY long—a “senior citizen out front, party in the back” kind of thing. What I really want to see is a man who can French-braid his own hair. THAT would be impressive. Frankly, I don’t really know why I have animosity towards the man-bun. I just know that it looks silly. I tried to picture Ken with a fake-ass man-bun sitting atop his shaved head, and it made me laugh. In fact, I’m looking at him right now, picturing it and laughing, and he doesn’t know why. Then he read this and said, “Now I know why you were laughing at me.”

2) The Poo Beard: For those of you who don’t know what a “poo beard” is, it’s what I call those bushy beards that a lot of men are sporting these days. I call them poo beards because I read a study about men and facial hair hygiene which said that swabs taken from hundreds of men’s fancy, trendy beards showed an abundance of fecal matter when held under ultra-violet light. Yep. Poo. Which reinforces what many women already know—men are not very concerned with personal cleanliness. When I was much, much younger, I worked in a doughnut shop to make money for university. It wasn’t a bad job until closing time, when I had to clean the bathrooms. The women’s bathroom was usually pretty decent, but the men’s? You needed a gas mask and full hazmat suit to even go in it. I can’t accurately depict for you how disgusting it was without making you want to vomit (as I did on many occasions)—suffice it to say the only way to thoroughly clean the men’s room was to use a flamethrower. Every night, I was like, “Is it even worth cleaning it? Wouldn’t it be better to just bulldoze this sh*thole down and build a new one?” So the fact that a lot of men have poo in their beards is not surprising to me at all. And fellas, you can put glitter on it, or bedazzle it the f*ck up all you want, it will still be a nest of poo. Just shave that mother off—any woman who tells you she loves facial hair is lying. And shave your armpits while you’re at it—there’s nothing more yucky than a guy in a muscle shirt with sweaty armpit hair. The only time a man should ever grow anything deliberately on his face is during “Movember” when men grow mustaches to raise money for prostate cancer research. (As a side note, I’m lobbying hard for “Vag-uary”, when women can grow out their full Brazilians to raise money for—OK, I was totally stuck here so I asked Ken:

Me: If there was a month like Movember for women called “Vag-uary, what would we raise money for?
Ken: Um…cervical cancer?
Me: But a vagina isn’t a cervix.
Ken: Well, my mustache isn’t my ass.

Problem solved. Ken always grows a spectacular mustache in Movember that I call the “Lemmy”—it’s like a biker/Motorhead thing that really needs a cowboy hat to make it complete. Apparently this year at work, the “Lemmy” was so impressive that his female co-workers began to refer to it as “Big Jimmy”. Ken was initially pretty chuffed, but he drew the line when they asked him to make up a voice for it. I guess “Big Jimmy” was the strong, silent type. And I made him constantly wash his hands before I went anywhere near it.

Wednesday: Korean musical chairs

On Wednesday, I went out for dinner with my brother. We were both in the mood for some Asian food, and downtown Toronto is the kind of place where you can’t move without tripping over restaurants featuring cuisine from every country in the Pacific Rim. (That might be an incorrect reference—my knowledge of geography is, as you probably are aware, really sucky. But it sounds cool.) Anyway, we decided on a Korean place not too far away that we both love, called Yummy Barbeque. The food is great, although the downside is that no one speaks English, and the TVs are constantly tuned to K-Pop bands. The boy bands try to look and act just like One Direction, and the girl bands look and act like 12 year-olds trying to be sexy. Aside from that, it’s a pretty quiet place. Until Wednesday night, when the weirdest thing happened. After we ordered from a waitress who just smiled and pointed at things, we were waiting for our food and chatting, when the owner, a Korean man about eighty years old, shuffled by our table and stood there surveying the restaurant. And thus began the musical chairs. He went to a table near the door, stared at it for a minute, then took one chair and started dragging across the restaurant with him. Very slowly and loudly. Then he put it at another table near the cash register, took a chair from THAT table and dragged it back to the first table. He did this for the next hour. By the time we were done eating, he had manage to rearrange ALL the chairs into virtually the exact same pattern and chair-to-table ratio that they were when he started. No one helped him. No one spoke to him. He was like a tiny Asian zombie. At one point, I said to my brother, “What the hell do you think he’s doing?” My brother, who has a Ph.D, replied, “I honestly have no idea.” But maybe it was some kind of ritual to generate luck and good fortune, because on the way back, I saw a beautiful sweater in a store window, and not only did it fit me, it was on sale for 60% off. Thanks, crazy Korean zombie man.

Thursday: Sex Toys

On Thursday morning, my colleague came in exhausted. “Someone kept calling my cell phone at like 2 o’clock in the morning. It was a wrong number every time. Then I would get a text message or a voice mail. It was making me crazy and I couldn’t get back to sleep.” “Ah,” I said, “that’s why I turn off my vibrator before I go to sleep.” Needless to say, I am NEVER going to live that one down.

My Week 66: I Get My Eyeballs Lasered, Raven Loses Bathroom Privileges

Monday: I get my eyeballs lasered.

Two weeks ago, I saw my eye doctor for a variety of reasons, and at the end of the appointment, he basically told me that the only thing that would truly make a difference to my abysmal vision was laser eye surgery. While this may sound really cool and superhero-ish, like having your eyes get turned into lasers so you can cut things like metal and sandwiches, and defeat your enemies all with your laser eye superpower, it’s really not like that at all. As I discovered. What it actually meant was that a surgeon would use a laser to reshape my corneas, enabling me to see properly for the first time in about 40 years without really thick glasses or annoying contact lenses. So I went to the consultation, and to my surprise, the clinic was able to do the surgery a week later. I was initially really pumped about it, but as the days wore on, I also started to get a little (OK, a lot) nervous about it, mostly because they give you a LOT of information about EXACTLY what happens, and frankly, I would have been good not knowing ANY of it. Plus, as you may remember, I’d had that incident on Christmas Eve which sent me to the emergency room, and I was still feeling kind of lousy and out of sorts. But I decided to persevere, and on Monday morning, Ken and I went to the laser clinic, all ready for the eyeball carving. We could both tell my anxiety was peaking, because when we got to the clinic, there were three people in the waiting room, and they all had these little blue bags that looked like travel kits or something, and little name tags. Then I went in for the last check on my eyes before the procedure, and no one gave me anything. I went back to the waiting room and whispered to Ken, “I didn’t get a bag.” Ken looked around and told me not to worry, that the bags must be for something else. Then another guy came in, and after his final eye check, he came back out to the waiting room WITH A BLUE BAG. At this point, I couldn’t keep it in any longer, and I just kind of burst out, in front of everyone, “Um…I don’t have a bag. Am I supposed to have a bag? Because everyone else has a bag. Sorry, it just seems like I’m the only one without a bag here.” I realize that I most likely sounded like a five year-old, but WTF? There could have been important stuff in the bag, like a valuable prize or coupons for Pizza Hut. The only other time I’d seen a bag that was even vaguely similar was when my brother used to fly first class and he would give me the “first class kit” they hand out to people who can afford to fly first class. These kits always contained things like “Soothing Temple Balm”, or “Refreshing Lip Gel”, or sleeping masks—all things designed to reduce the stress level of the first class passengers, because obviously they’re the ones who need the stress reduction, not the poor passengers in Economy all squished in like sardines with screaming babies and NO FREE ALCOHOL. Obviously. And of course, the biggest irony was that if it WAS a stress-relief kit, I was the one person in the waiting room who seemed to really need it and I DIDN’T HAVE ONE. But it was OK–the nurse came over right away and apologized profusely for forgetting to give my bag and my name tag, which apparently was super-important in helping everyone remember what number to set the laser to or whatever. When I finally felt like enough time had passed to make it look like I wasn’t extremely dying to see what was in the bag, I opened it. Man, was I disappointed. It was a pair of dark sunglasses, two night shields, a roll of surgical tape, and a very complex eyedrop schedule. The night shields and tape were for “when I was sleeping”, although I had no idea how I was going to sleep with giant clear plastic circles taped to my face, waking up to put in eyedrops every f*cking hour. But I’d made such a fuss about the bag that I didn’t feel like I could back out at this point, and very soon I found myself in the “prep” room, where the prep entailed sitting in a super-comfy leather recliner and being give a healthy dose of Ativan, the sublingual kind that melts under your tongue and starts to act within about 30 seconds. So I very quickly went from 60 to zero, and pretty much no longer cared about the blue bag, laser beams, or forgetting to stay still and having my nose accidentally cut off (you might think that was a bizarre fear, but when I was lying there, the surgeon actually said, “Turn your head slightly to the left—we don’t want the laser to hit your nose.” So there.) Also, the music that was playing was modern pop music, and NOT Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, so I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to get “Clockwork Orange’d”.

I’m not going into details about the actual procedure itself because I recognize that some people are already very sensitive about even the THOUGHT of someone touching their eyes—suffice it to say that the whole thing was quick, like under eight minutes with only about 75 seconds of that actually under the two different lasers, virtually painless, and when it was over, I could f*cking see. Like, REALLY see. Things were a little hazy at first, but over the course of the day, that went away, and by dinnertime, I could read the titles on the books across the room. Of course, there were some cons to the whole ordeal. For example, I can’t see in the dark like a cat, or look through walls with super X-ray vision like they used to promise in the ads in comic books, you may remember, right next to the ads for Sea Monkeys—nope, it’s just normal 20/20 eyesight. And you could tell how many years I’d been wearing contact lenses, because I keep freaking myself out. For example, I woke up in the middle of the night on Tuesday, and my first panicked thought was “Holy Sh*t, I fell asleep with my contacts in!” But I hadn’t. I could just see everything clearly in the moonlight—in fact, I could see the moonlight. And I was able to make my way to the bathroom without tripping on the dog, or walking into a door. And here’s the other great thing—I was feeling pretty bad the whole past week, because in an earlier blog, I had offered to donate a certain body part to Russian scientists with the promise that it was in great shape, much better than any of my other organs, but after Christmas Eve, I felt like I would have to renege on that promise. But now, I can donate my eyes to them and avoid yet another international incident.  And as for the blue bag, I’ve been taking it with me everywhere. Not only does it hold all my eye paraphernalia, it makes people think I’ve been flying first class.

Wednesday: Raven loses her bathroom privileges

I realized this week that my bathroom didn’t smell the way it always does, which is soapy and fresh and lady-like (most of the time, until Ken or T use it, which ticks me off because they each have their own bathroom and it’s not my fault that mine is closer to the computer). No, it smelled of cat urine. I have a litter box in the corner for Raven to supplement the one downstairs (for a tiny cat, she has a major output) but Ken cleans it out every day, so it’s never been a problem. But by Wednesday, it smelled less like my bathroom and more like an outhouse in the middle of a forest that only cats used, and because only cats used it, it never got cleaned, because they’re cats. This is sometimes called circular logic, but if you’re a cat owner, you will totally get it. At any rate, I got really fed up, and decided to replace the whole litter box, you know, just throw it all in the garbage and buy a new one. So I tossed it all in a big black garbage bag, and put it outside. Then I went back into my bathroom and everything still reeked. I sniffed around and realized then to my horror that the rug next to my bathtub was the source of the odour. It was a cat piss nightmare. I threw it out the nearest door, sprayed the floor with bleach, then waited. Sure enough, about 15 minutes later, the little diva came strolling in. She walked to the middle of the room, turned towards the litter box, then did a double-take when she realized it was gone and that there was a lovely wastebasket in its place.

Raven: What the hell is going on? Where’s my toilet?
Me: BOTH your toilets are in the garbage. You just lost bathroom privileges for good. Raven: What are you talking about?! Why?
Me: Remember a few months ago, when you were peeing on the bathmat and I had to throw it away? I told you if you did it again, you could kiss the upstairs bathroom goodbye. Raven: But it was cosy…
Me: Toilets aren’t supposed to be “cosy”! Besides, this was an area rug. It was low pile and definitely NOT cosy.
Raven: Yeah, but it had a nice floral pattern. It was like taking a leak outside in the garden. You could almost hear the birds chirping.
Me: If you want to hear the birds chirping, I can permanently accommodate you.
Raven (leaving): Screw you.
Me: And stay out of the closet!!

The upside, so I initially thought, was that I no longer had to keep the door partially closed and locked with a hook to prevent Titus from running in and eating the “delicious kitty candy” from the litter box. But apparently both my pets are asshats, because the next day, Titus wandered in through the now-wide open door and ripped apart the garbage. Personally, I think the cat put him up to it.