Saturday, 15 April 2017

Snippy Bitch

We spent a good chunk of the past week in Vancouver, and it was wonderful. Two months ago Dan came home from work and said he had to be in Vancouver for a week for a conference, and I unceremoniously told him that, "Hell no, you aren't leaving the city limits without us. I'm not parenting solo for a week! Haha, bless your little heart for thinking you could get away that easily."

So we came too.

It was so nice to get away, and it was relaxing. I conquered my phobia of driving in that big metropolis and now I feel super human, I took the girls to IKEA, we hit up a huge mall, and I got to visit a most favourite friend, which visit would have been better if a certain four year old wasn't being such a rotten pain in the a$$.

Ah kids, they are the loose pin on the grenade.

Alexi's neighbourhood is nice and central, so we went for a really awesome walk (okay, it would have been a spectacular walk if not for the presence of a certain four year old) to get breakfast at a bagel shop and then down to Whole Foods so I could stock up on supplies for the drive home, since it was SNOWING on the Coquihalla highway and there have been one too many stories this winter of people being stranded for hours and hours and hours.

As we were walking I told Alexi that I am in danger of turning into a right Snippy Bitch. Lately it seems like the only thing I do is criticise or rant. I promise there are some seriously wonderful things about living back in Canada.

Honest, there are.

But today isn't going to be one of those days I tell you about them!

I've got my Snippy Bitch glasses on, and Ima gonna rant good. So settle in tight, that's right, like that.

Last week my friend called me up and wondered if I wanted to go to a fundraiser dinner for our local hospital. Her dad's firm had sponsored a table, and he was wondering if I'd like to go as well. Free food? I'M IN.

I got as dressed up as my sluggish postpartum body and uncooperative closet would allow, and we headed out for a night of FREE FOOD and NO DISHES and NO KIDS and important fund raising for our local hospital.  We sat at our table, my friend's dad brought us a big ol' bottle of red to enjoy, and life was looking good for the next four hours.

Then other people started to arrive at our table...

And by other people, I mean the staff that work at the firm that sponsored the table. Now to understand my rant you have to understand that I work in the same industry as my friend's dad and all the people at our table, so the judgment passed is valid. Okay? OKAY. My judginess is totally valid!

We are starting to see a new wave of fresh blood enter the industry, and that fresh blood is that delightfully 'misunderstood' generation called the millennials. They are arriving at our office doors in droves; their parents are now officially sick of them and want them to support themselves after university so what choice do we have to hire them? Because when we crane our necks around the crowd they form we can't see any other options. These pampered pooches are it.

Sigh.

My friend's dad asked one of his EMPLOYEES if she'd made the considerable drive home after work, then turned around and came back for the dinner? Friendly conversation starter, but he erred in thinking she lived in Logan Lake.

"It's actually Lac Le Jeune John (not his real name), and yeah I did. You think I pack party clothes to work?"

SO SNOTTY.

I was floored. Who was this rude minion who was about to enjoy a $100 a plate meal, who just talked to her EMPLOYER like he was the dirt beneath her shoe?

It only got worse from there.

A junior member of the firm arrived. A person who is hoping that at the end of her year of trial and error, she will be hired to sit at the big kids' table and not in a cubicle. Being impressive is sort of the only thing she has to do for a year. Was she impressive? No. She was the same age as the other firm members (so mid-to-late 20s), and she was really chummy with them. This is a problem, because at the end of the year, if she's successful, she will be these minions' boss and they are not going to take direction from someone who has spent a whole year just wanting to be their bud. They were all trying to get each other drunk, for goodness sake! Drunk. AT A FUNDRAISER SPONSORED BY YOUR EMPLOYER. This wasn't the office Christmas party, it was a fundraiser!

Then the speeches started, and this particular fundraiser was specifically aimed at raising enough money to bring in a very important piece of cardiac equipment because currently if anyone in Kamloops has a heart attack they are shipped two hours down the road to Kelowna, and if Kelowna doesn't have a bed for them they have to wait for a bed to open up in Vancouver. Which is four hours away. Basically, people are dying because our hospital doesn't have this piece of equipment.

One of the speakers was a heart surgeon who told us that every year he volunteers for one month in rural India, which has more functioning hospitals then our local hospital. He was passionate in his outrage that in this day and age, in our part of the world, our hospital is in such poor condition. He was an educated man, he has spent his life heavy lifting heart surgery and medicine so other people can see and understand the troubles we face, and guess how much attention he captured at our table?

None.

No one had the time or energy to listen to him.

Getting drunk was so much for more fun! Whee!

I could see my friend's dad was baffled, and since I don't work with any of them I decided to step on some toes. In a very passive aggressive way. Switzerland taught me...not so well.

"It is really pathetic," I loudly said to my friend, "When a doctor who is concerned about saving the lives of the people in this room, and their loved ones, can't get 20 minutes of attention. How immature to not be able to pay attention to someone outside of your orbit."

That got their attention.

And they got right defensive.

Too bad I have no fucks left to give for what anyone thinks about me. I could not care less. Whisper about me, that's fine. My response was, "Nope, looks like people still can't listen. Juvenile."

Apart from my friend's dad, who laughed, I didn't make a lot of friends. Which is fine, I wasn't there to make friends. I was there to eat FREE FOOD, and also to learn about how we can improve our hospital.

But in...fairness(?)...to the millennials, I looked around the room and the lack of courtesy and respect was seen at every age group. Because while most people weren't chatting to each other while someone was speaking, the majority of people were on their phones. I was disgusted.

Twenty GD minutes is all he spoke for, and he was passionate about his subject, and no one could pay attention. He was sandwiched between two speakers, so in total, for the entire night, we might have had to listen and pay attention for 45 minutes to an hour, tops.

Is that too much to ask? Are our attention spans so low that we can't pay attention for an hour? We have to giggle with our friends or scan the sports scores or check Facebook?

People, what the fuck is happening to us as a species? Our minds, the tool that separates us from other species on the planet, are completely addicted to the little dopamine packs we carry around in our pockets. We are collectively addicted to our phones, and it's at a great detriment to society. What does that say about the road we're driving down when can't listen  to people before us, because the itch to check our phones causes us to almost immediately check out.

I wanted to stand up and scream, "Look at you all! Look at you! Show some courtesy! Pay attention! Grab a fucking ATTENTION SPAN!"

Snippy Bitch out.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Hey Neighbour

One night, after we'd first moved to our new house, we got home late from a dinner at my sister's place, and as we drove into the driveway we noticed something really odd: a lumpy bag that had been tossed by our front door.

Everyone we knew had been at my sister's house for dinner, and it wasn't possible we'd forgotten anything that would have been driven up and discarded by our front door before we could make it home.

We. Were. Suspicious.

"What...is that?" I hissed at Dan.

"I have no freaking clue," he muttered. "It looks like a bag with a dead animal in it."

And it did. It was a freakishly shaped bag that in the glow of the moonlight (which was the only light we had to go on after we cut the engine) looked like the shape of a feline corpse.

COSMO?!

"Are our neighbours freaks?!" I exclaimed.

We got out of the car, and I put Lil inside (Cosmo greeted us).

Up close the bag was a white plastic shopping bag, and it was dirt brown on the inside and still we couldn't make out its contents.

Dan grabbed his hockey stick and from a distance we started poking and slapping this strange bag. What the fuck was it?! Not a lot of resistance was met with, and we decided if it was a dead animal or something of that nature surely our hockey stick prodding would have made that immediately obvious.

Carefully we crept towards it.

"Don't touch it!" Dan chivalrously ordered. "You're pregnant!" He gave it one last vicious slam of the hockey stick before crouching down.

I stood back while he carefully opened the bag.

"It's..."

"What?! What?! Are we living in a neighbourhood of freaks?!"

"It's..."

"Yeah?!"

"Dirty carrots."

Huh?

Turns out our neighbour had a bountiful carrot harvest, and she dropped a whole bag at our front door with a lovely little handwritten note: "Welcome to the neighbourhood, here are some carrots fresh from my garden. Gale."

Oh my god.

WE were the freaks. It was US.

Imagine Gale looked out her window and saw Dan beating her carrots with his hockey stick? Imagine?! We were so used to neighbours leaving passive aggressive notes that, if acted out, were the equivalent of pulling on someone's hair while hissing in their ear, we had forgotten that some people are actually friendly.

What had become of us?! Switzerland hardened us! Our time in our rental had hardened us!

The next day we thanked Gale for the carrots, and she invited us in for a tea. We had a lovely chat where Dan and I were on our best behaviour, and a lovely and neighbourly relationship with Gale has developed. I'm proud of this relationship, because she's the only neighbour we have who is friendly and neighbourly. No one else around us gives a crap.

We still haven't told Gale that we beat her carrots to death with a hockey stick because we're still hoping that she thinks we're nice and normal, too. 

Monday, 3 April 2017

4x4 Lives

There's a radio commercial airing in my town right now that says, "You don't have to spend a lot to look like you're worth a lot." 

I throw-up a little every time I hear it.

One of the biggest things that has been bothering me for awhile is that we are a bunch of ordinary people living in an Instagram world. Polished smiles, Italian leather clad pigeon toes, and sparsely furnished, vintage, Scandi-inspired, hipster homes reign supreme, but how are we to keep up?

When I first joined Instagram, I loved it for its photo editing capabilities. I was tickled to death when I could print a 4x4 picture to put on my fridge, and I was even more amazed when I realised my friends also had Instagram pages. Sharing snapshots of our day was a really cool way to keep in touch. Then Instagram became...too much. As soon as I started to notice people staging their breakfast, their homes, and their kids, I felt weary. Instagram has become another vehicle driving people towards bleak ennui as they realise their normal lives are not bright enough, stylish enough, or 'original' enough.

Make no mistake, I'm still an Instagram user, but I have become the worst sort of user: the acerbic character who scrolls strange Instagram pages to roll my eyes, pass judgment, and wonder how society is turning into such an affected and twee bunch of narcissists who want to be both on the stage and in the audience of their lives. 

I have judged the worst offenders to be the 20-something gym rats, the lifestyle 'influencers' (oh yes, my friends, there is a whole subculture of Instagram/YouTube users whose only job is to influence you to buy product, and they have actually given themselves the job description of "professional influencer") and the 'stage moms'.

The stage moms bother me the most, because Instagram has become the beauty pageant stage of the new millennium. But the kids aren't caked in make-up, wearing tulle, and performing like circus animals, it's not that bad, right? Yeah, you're right. The little girl wearing leather pants, pristine Adidas kicks, a leopard print jacket, and eating a drip-free ice cream cone, on display for her 230,000 followers, is living a way more authentic childhood. 

My bad.

What is really bothering me, and I mean really bothering me, is that this Instagram movement is now in my town, and parents in my community are also turning their kids into lifestyle chattel. 

We've always had the hockey parents, here in Canada, who give birth to their sacred son and immediately know their offspring is so talented he's destined for the NHL. So their 8 year old is at hockey practice before school, at tournaments all weekend long, and knocking door to door on their free nights to try and sell you boxes of steak (I'm not even kidding about that one. What happened to chocolate bars?!) to fund raise for...something. These parents have always been insufferable, but they were a small bubble that didn't burst over too many lives.

But the Instagram mom? And her Instagram kids? 

They are, increasingly, everywhere. 

Now, I'm going to pause to address the cries of 'hypocrite' that will likely be thrown at me. If you've read the blog for awhile, you will know that I have very firm ideas on how my kids dress. Essentially, that the clothes are a decent enough quality to wash well and be passed down, and that they aren't a walking placard for Disney, macho masculinity, or submissive femaleness. One might assume that because I care about the clothes my kids wear, by default aren't I the very parent I'm enraged about?

I can see the confusion, but my answer is no. And for one simple reason: I do not style my children. I do not want other people to notice and decide that my kids are "cute" or "stylish". I do not pick out Lillian's clothes and dress her in the morning. She has a closet of dresses and a drawer of pants and shirts that I have bought with my above concerns in mind, and whatever she puts on is up to her. My children are their own people, they are not highlight reels of my life I want others to watch.

Here's my other disclaimer: I don't live in a low-income part of town. We live in a part of town where the majority of people appear to have average to above-average income levels. This is important, because the desire to have kids look a certain way seems to me to be the preoccupation of a group of people who want to reputationally seem 'above average'.

I first noticed this alarming trend of "Instagram in real life" when Lillian decided she wanted to take ballet class. Two Christmases ago I was trying to bore her to bed, so I turned on the Nutcracker. I assumed she'd lose interest and trail off to bed on her own so that I wouldn't have to haul my pregnant ass off the couch and deal with her. 

I was wrong. 

She watched the entire ballet, transfixed. She was hooked. 

We waited it out to see if it was a fad, but she persistently danced and pranced and twirled and whirled her way through the months until Dan and I decided to put her in a class. Every Saturday morning I go to the studio with her, and sit in the waiting room while she and her fellow dancers stomp and crash and rattle the ceiling above my head. They are so graceful. It was about a month into dance when Lil asked me, as we were driving home, why she wasn't allowed to also wear a tutu to dance. 

"Because the newsletter said your costume is pink tights, pink shoes, a body suit, and no tutu."

"But [x] and [x] and [x] and [x] all wear tutus."

What?

So I paid attention the next week, and yes these kids were all in enormous tutus despite the uniform requirements. "Doesn't anyone read anymore?!" I wondered. But then I really started to pay attention. One mom styles her daughter's hair into a 'messy' bun at least five times every Saturday morning until it is 'perfectly' messy. Then she puts some new hair piece in, and takes her kid's pictures and immediately uploads it to Instagram. Quite a few of the kids have multiple ballet outfits complete with leg warmers, little cardis, hair ribbons, and tutus. They all get their pictures taken multiple times before every class. That's when it struck me: these people don't care if their daughter *is* a ballerina, they just want her to *look* like a ballerina.

Then I started seeing it everywhere.

Toddlers wearing leather harem pants, slouchy beanies, and Ray Bans. Kids eating only organic snacks out of their tiny bento boxes. Moms referring to themselves, amongst their peers, as "mommies" who love having special "mommy moments" with their kids. Who climb into their 'family car' the Lexus or Audi or, if they must drive a mini-van, the Honda Odyssey. They are living curated 4x4 lives out in the panorama of ordinary life, and their kids have become their major lifestyle token. 

Don't get dirty! No juice boxes, we don't eat sugar! Organic!These are the buzzwords (hashtags) humming around my local playgrounds. 

But what does it mean to the kid when their parent is in such tight control of their image? Their parents are the controlling image? How do they build a narrative for their own life if their parents will only allow what will aesthetically fit into a 4x4 frame? How do they grow into their own people, within such a box?

And to the parents, why does it matter so much? Why is it important for your kid to be styled to match the house and the car and manicure and the golf-course you need in your life? Children cannot be the new status symbol. It's too much pressure. 

Our lives already are worth a lot. We don't need them to look like they're worth a lot.