What Did She Say Now?

I couldn’t possibly let her get away with it.

One of the things that allowed me to start this blog was having liberated myself from the “easy” 9-to-5 working mom life.  It was bad enough that Sheryl Sandberg was telling women – from a position of privilege – that they had to lean in more.  Now Gwynnie thinks the 9-to-5 working mom has it pretty easy compared to being a multi-million dollar movie star?

With an open letter in the New York Post, and a blog post in The Huffington Post, Mackenzie Dawson and Devon Corneal do a perfect job of putting Gwyneth in her place.  There’s not a lot more I can add.  But I will anyway, at the risk of being repetitive.

When you are worth a reputed $10 million, I guess it’s easy to lose perspective on the everyday woman’s trials and tribulations.  When you have an army of childcare staff and chefs and cleaning staff and chauffeurs and stylists at your beck and call, it must be hard to remember what it was like to use a toilet brush, and worry about not making it to the daycare by 6 p.m. before you get dinged $1/minute, and fret about how you’re going to explain yourself to your boss when your kid gets sick and you have to stay home to look after him right at the moment one of your critical work projects is due.

To be fair, the opposite is true, too.  People who have never had a stylist don’t understand how terribly annoying it is when the stylist keeps buying the wrong style of Louboutins.  When you’ve never had diamond jewellery loaned to you for an awards red carpet, you can’t understand how aggravating it is to have to return it the next day – I’ve got a life too, you know! If you’ve never had a personal chef, you don’t know what a pain in the ass it is when they use milk-fed veal instead of grass-fed.

Truthfully, I can appreciate how Gwyneth would find it difficult to be away from her kids for two whole weeks – heck, I can’t even manage two nights before I’m drowning in my own tears.  But if you’ve made a couple of hundred thousand dollars in that time, at least you can afford to fly your kids out (along with childcare staff, of course) to see you, even if you do have to work 14-hour days.

I’ve always believed that moms need to support other moms, regardless of whether they are working moms or stay-at-home moms, or a hybrid.  It is no easy task and it’s unfair to judge.  But I’ve come to see that when you are a multi millionaire (or even just a millionaire), you have no right to say we have it easier than you.  I don’t care what anyone says: money = privilege = power.  At least you have options that don’t make you feel like you are depriving your family.

Yucky Yesterday, Yummy Today

Here’s an interesting read from Bon Appétit magazine about how our senses of taste and smell change as we grow older.  I used to have a powerful aversion to cilantro when I was a child, to the point where I would almost gag at the smell of it.  Today, I can’t get enough of it.  The author in this article says that while it is true that there are physiological changes that affect our sense of taste, what has a large impact on what we like or don’t like to eat is that we become more adventurous eaters as we get older.  Exposure to something will play a role.  For me, the turnaround on cilantro didn’t happen over time, however; as I recall, it was quite sudden. I was at a casual dinner party, and the host – from Mauritius – had made a dipping sauce that had cilantro in it, and for whatever reason, I wanted to drink the whole thing.  Today, I crave Mexican and Thai food primarily so I can get a hit of cilantro. I find the scent fragrantly intoxicating, instead of sickening.

I also used to hate sweet peas as a child.  I think it was more of a texture issue, rather than taste.  My mother used to make dishes with sweet peas in it, but take out all the peas from my portion – god bless moms, right?!  Today, I could eat an entire bowl of fresh sweet peas on its own for dinner!

One food my taste buds have never adjusted to, however, is lamb.  Try as I might, it is a taste that my olfactory senses refuse to welcome.

Are there foods that you used to hate as a child but now love? How have your senses of taste or smell changed over time?

Don’t Be Angry

Why is the media so angry? The latest uproar started by the media was the outrage expressed over the fact that the latest Elle Magazine cover – celebrating women in television – had one cover version with Mindy Kaling in a close-up, and other versions where Amy Poehler, Alison Williams and Zooey Deschanel were in full-body poses in revealing and fitted clothing.  The media declared that Elle was perpetuating the female one-dimensional stereotype by not showing Kaling – a more “full figure” woman, and one of South Asian descent - in the same kind of shot as the others.

I adore Mindy Kaling.  She is one of the funniest women on TV today.  I personally never really got the Tina Fey hoopla.  Mindy is as sharp-witted as they come.  When I first saw the Elle covers, I thought Mindy’s was the best and sexiest of the four by far.  So I was surprised when I suddenly saw all this anger being expressed in my social media feeds. This was reminiscent of the anger that was spewing over Mellssa McCarthy’s cover on the same magazine, where she wore a trenchcoat – purportedly to hide her full figure.

But if you recall, McCarthy didn’t understand what the fuss was all about.  She chose that trenchcoat for her cover shot, and she loved it.  Kaling was equally thrilled with her cover and was puzzled by the media firestorm that had erupted.

After reading this, I realized how tired I am with the media working so hard to get readers/listeners angry.  Where is the love, people?  You all know how anti-Rob-Ford I am, but even I was getting irritated by the sensationalist headlines in The Toronto Star.  I don’t know how getting angry became the way to deliver credible journalism.  It winds us all up in a frenzy.  You can see this in all the commentary threads – I feel veins bursting everywhere reading the angry and hateful remarks.  And more often than not, all this is for naught.

So if Mindy declares that she had no problem with her cover shot, let it go.  Don’t be angry; it’s such a waste of energy.

Braces: My Mid-Life Crisis

Tags

,

Most people who go through a mid-life crisis want to go live in Europe for a year, buy a Maserati, go see Oprah.  Not me.  I want braces.

Let me re-phrase that: I want the benefits that braces can give me.  So, yes, at my ripe old age (and you don’t need to know what that is), I’ve decided to get them. It’s been a long time coming.  I should have had them when I was a kid, but coming from a household supported by a restaurateur father and a garment factory working mother, disposable income did not flow freely.  And even in adulthood when money wasn’t as significant a factor, I needed time to think about it.

A turning point for me was during one of my final “fireside chats” with my dying father.  He said one of his greatest regrets was that he was never able to pay for braces for me, and he broke down and wept.  Wow. That’s when I seriously started to consider it, but still, I was not ready at that moment.

Ironically, the primary reason I am getting them is not even for the aesthetic benefits, although I know I will be happiest with that outcome.  Because of our family’s finances growing up, my oral hygiene practices as a child and in my youth did not include regular dental visits.  But one day, when a filling came out, I had to cave and go see a dentist.  Three gum surgeries and many new fillings later, I saw the light and became semi-obsessed with my dental health (and with my child’s).

While everything’s improved and been very stable, I was asked again to re-consider braces because of the vulnerability of my gums in a crowded mouth.  And this time, the decision came quite easily.  I plan to stick around for many more years, so why wouldn’t I do this for myself at this age?  And frankly, I’m too old to care about how I will look to anyone else anymore.  Mind you, DQ’s a bit concerned about what her friends will think. Oh dear. Already, I will become the mom her child does not want to be seen with! My biggest concern will be the new limitations on what and how I can eat. No more popcorn?!  I hope I can make my way through Christmas turkey: will I have to throw it in the blender?!

The journey begins in a week. I may have some interesting stories to share, once I learn how to eat again. Bring it on!

If you have any advice on how to cope during the first few weeks, please share it with me!

What Does It Feel Like to Find Out a Friend Has Passed?

My mother is visiting for a couple of weeks. A couple of days ago, she decided to try to connect with an old friend in New York.  She knew that this friend had been in the hospital with untreatable cancer, so she wanted to phone the family to find out how things were going.  Sadly, on that phone call, she was told that her friend had passed a few days earlier.  I could hear the shock in her voice.

What is it about death that is always so shocking? Even when someone has been ill and we know they can’t be healed or treated, the finality of death is always very numbing.  One day, you are speaking to someone… there’s a real, living human being. And the next day, just like that, life is gone.  I suppose for someone like me who doesn’t believe in the after-life, it’s especially stark.

That evening, my mother’s heart was heavy.  When she had phoned, the family had just returned from the cemetery – emotions were still raw.  She felt sad that she hadn’t seen this friend in over ten years; it’s not so easy to travel in your eighties! I was trying to imagine what it would be like to phone a friend one day, only to find out (s)he had passed away. I have been fortunate enough to not yet have lost a close peer, but the time is not that far away when I will be reading death notices to watch for people I might know – now that’s morbid!

I suppose it’s yet another reminder to keep up relationships.  Take the time now; later might be too late.

All I Have Left to Say About #Crackgate

What I’ve found to be most perplexing about this whole Rob Ford affair is how his supporters consider his opponents “elitist”.  Ford Nation has been cast as the suburbanite who just wants the “average Joe” to be taken care of.  It’s true that if you live in certain parts of the City of Toronto, you may be wealthier than the average Torontonian by virtue of the fact that you can afford that kind of real estate.  But aside from that, I’m not sure how these people qualify as elitist.  If anything, these are the people Ford Nation supporters (i.e. Don Cherry) also call pinkos, and bleeding heart liberals (which presumes they want the average Joe to be looked after – they want everyone to be taken care of!).  Ford opponents could be called a lot of things, but I don’t agree that elitist is one of them.  I’m one of them, and I’m not sure what the problem is with wanting government to be involved with taking care of the people – that’s kind of the whole point of democracy and the election process.  If you don’t want government, then you shouldn’t want a mayor at all. You should be out there supporting the calls for him to step down, and then call for anarchy!

And by the way, Ford Nation, you call us elitist, but you’re the ones who can afford to buy a billboard?  At least learn to spell and get logo usage rights.

 

We’re Tired of War? Well, They’re Tired of Dying

I get that Americans are war-weary, and I’ve never been a proponent of war. But the situation in Syria really warrants some deep contemplation.

I thought Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird gave us a lot of food for thought in this interview with The Toronto Star.  When we see the horrific pictures from Syria, we really should be asking ourselves, “Are we just going to let this happen?”  If we have the power to change this, why wouldn’t we?

Baird was right to defend President Barack Obama when he said:

Does anyone believe that President Obama is trigger-happy? Does anyone believe he has been looking for an excuse to get into this conflict? I don’t know anyone in the world who will say he has been looking for an excuse to get involved in this campaign.

And I also agreed with Baird’s criticism of the United Nations, unable to make any fast decisions, mired in its own bureaucracy and politicization: “You don’t need to the stamp of the UN for something to be right.”

I thought it was a brilliant political move by President Obama to defer the final decision to Congress.  While his critics decried him for being weak, he was really testing the courage of Congress and giving them the ultimate challenge to finally show some maturity and surmount bi-partisanship.  For all the criticism - especially among Republicans – of Obama’s foreign policy, Congress will now be held accountable for the decision, whatever that may be.  And while voting against an attack may buy them more votes in the next election, they will have to live with this decision on their conscience knowing they had the power to change things, and opted not to.  It’s very easy to say ‘no’ to war when you’re not the President of the United States.  But when you are the President of the United States, people expect you to defend right versus wrong.  Americans – and the rest of the world – can’t have it both ways.

In the words of Baird: “What will people say when they see 25,000 children, men and women foaming at the mouth, their nerves jerking as their lungs dissolved?” Have we learned nothing from World War I?  Did the Geneva Protocol mean nothing?

About Trayvon and All That…

Such emotion after the George Zimmerman verdict.  I found Obama’s impromptu and unscripted remarks at a press briefing a couple of weeks ago to be most illuminating.  He was obviously very saddened by the reality that young African-American men are still having to through the profiling and bias that he used to endure: the nervous stares, the sudden clutching of the handbag, the clicks of car doors locking… all just because a young African-American man is walking by.

I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear

And I applaud his comments about how the outcome of this trial doesn’t warrant a national strategy or a five-point plan that needs to be debated.  Instead, he asked all Americans to search their souls and to talk within their communities:

And then finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching. You know, there have been talk about should we convene a conversation on race. I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have.

On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s a possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can; am I judging people, as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.

I watched an Anderson Cooper town hall show where one of the guests (sorry, I did not capture his name) made a very poignant point: nobody ever thinks they themselves are racist, but he argues that virtually every encounter we have is through the lens of racial prejudice.  As Cooper pointed out, he’s interviewed members of the KKK who do not believe they are racist, “they just love white people!”.  So even while the jurors – all white – did not feel that racism played any role in this tragedy, there seemed to be concensus among various “experts” that these jurors could not see themselves (or their son’s selves, if they had a son) in Trayvon’s situation.  They just could not relate.  And yet, how is it that all these white panelists speaking to Anderson Cooper could relate, could feel empathy for Trayvon?  And what about all the white people who protested the verdict? Would all these white people have come to a different verdict?

It seemed to be agreed that the jurors came to the best possible verdict based on the instructions that were given to them by the judge.  It seemed to be agreed that the problem was not with the verdict or the way this trial played out.  The problem is with Stand Your Ground.  As long as Stand Your Ground laws are in effect, every trial of this nature will end in the same, disappointing way.  It seems to always take a tragedy to draw attention to flawed legislation.

Why Equality Works

Tags

, ,

I caught the tail-end of the documentary “Inlaws & Outlaws” on PBS last week and found the relationship stories heartwarming, particularly the ones about the elderly gay and lesbian couples.  The director, Drew Emery, incorporated some “man-on-the-street” interviews to gather opinions on gay relationships, and one teenager made a remarkably mature comment about how heterosexual couples sure as hell haven’t been able to prove that their marriages are perfect, so why should we stop homosexual couples from giving it a go?

I caught the show just as an elderly gentleman was talking about losing his partner one night.  His partner had gotten out of bed to use the bathroom, returned to bed, and he just knew that this was the moment he was going to lose him – and his partner breathed his last breath in bed.  His story was heart-wrenching and was so genuinely full of love and pain – I felt the love oozing from the television screen, and yes, I cried.  This was a man who lived in a time when he could not come out.  Not only would he have been ostracized and demonized socially, he really felt his father would kill him with his bare hands if he ever did.  But his father passed on and he was able to have a loving, lasting relationship with his partner for over 50 years.

It’s true: how many of us heteros will be able to say this and be able to speak so lovingly and glowingly of our partners 50 years down the road?  He was ready to commit suicide after losing his partner, until he just happened to come along an affirming church which accepted him for who he is.  When you hear this story, how can you question whether love should be between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman?  What right do we have to deny this? Love really trumps all.  And that is what Drew Emery really wanted to get across with this movie.

I then came across this story in The Atlantic magazine online: “The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss” .  The writer Liza Mundy tries to uncover what it is about gay unions that seem make them longer lasting and more successful than heterosexual marriages.  Many of her conclusions seemed to centre around our own gender stereotypes and expectations.  In a heterosexual marriage, husband and wife assumed roles that society bestowed on them, and despite progress on the equality front, it is still an unspoken assumption that the woman will take on the role of primary homekeeper.  However, Mundy writes:

Same-sex spouses, who cannot divide their labor based on preexisting gender norms, must approach marriage differently than their heterosexual peers. From sex to fighting, from child-rearing to chores, they must hammer out every last detail of domestic life without falling back on assumptions about who will do what. In this regard, they provide an example that can be enlightening to all couples.

So that’s the secret!

And now, in the United States, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is dead thanks to the Supreme Court.  By defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this federal law essentially relegated gays and lesbians to second-class citizens, not worthy of the benefits that marriage laws give to heterosexual spouses. It’s really quite breathtaking how far America has come on the issue of gay rights in such a short time.  It’s a fascinating – and hopeful – observation of human behavior, of how our opinions and thought processes evolve over time.

Now if we could just have some progress made on the gun laws…

Housework: The Silent Killer

I like to complain about housework.  Ever since quitting full-time work, I had to give up the luxury of a cleaning service.  I couldn’t justify it. But I think I still have the right to complain about having to do it.

A story in this weekend’s Globe & Mail talked about how – despite all the inroads women have made in the workplace and how much more men have taken on in the domestic front – women still perform most of the unpaid glory duty. And not only do they still do more of it, they also still do the worst of it.  Yes, I just had my arms down several toilet bowls this past week.

But ladies, let’s face it: we complain when we have to do it, but if we didn’t do it, HE isn’t going to do it (or he isn’t going to do it “right”), and then we’ll still complain.  What I’m saying is: it’s our own damn fault. We can’t tolerate filth, while men can not only tolerate it, but they don’t even notice it – that is why nothing will ever get cleaned if the job is left to men. But our worst fault, girlfriends?  We judge each other based on how clean our homes are.  And it’s the pressure of that judgment that pushes us to the brink, as the writer Erin Anderssen so clearly summarizes in said article:

It’s a lose-lose scenario: If women were to let go of their apparent predisposition to fuss more about dirt, they would risk failing to live up to the image of the good wife and mother who both climbs the career ladder and keeps house.

The article also advocates for changes in social policy as being the only veritable solution to this gender gap: better subsidized daycare and family-friendly workplaces that perhaps provide perks like cleaning services.  However, herein lies a(nother) fundamental character flaw in many women (myself included): we’re control freaks. Nobody can clean the house the way we would and only we can do it right.  That’s exactly the reason why we criticize our partners when they make an attempt, and that’s how we feel about cleaning services. When we were using a cleaning service, I had to prepare for them to come in by removing everything off counters and dressers to ensure that surface areas would be fully cleaned.  Frankly, if I was going to do that prep work anyway, I might as well just do the cleaning, right?  Right.  So I do it.  And then I complain about it.

Housework will probably be the death of me, not heart disease or cancer.  I love to whine about it, yet I refuse to let it go.  I am indeed conflicted.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 295 other followers