#jesuischarlie #jesuisenconflit

It’s a heart-breaking time for France, and by extension, for all of us. Twenty people are dead. This time of loss presents us with an interesting opportunity to examine the state of the world, and ourselves, and to try and do better. This may be an unpopular opinion, but I am not “Charlie” and I believe that if we think beyond the hashtag, that many of us would feel the same way.

For anyone who knows me even superficially, I think it goes without saying that I do not believe in shooting people because I disagree with them. I also believe that the fewer guns there are in the world, the safer it will be, period. That said, I don’t feel that the type of satire produced by Charlie Habdo is funny. Before the massacre, I was already familiar with their work and the controversy it had spawned, and I found their brand of humour to be pedestrian at best. In the context of our world today, mocking Islam is not just a bit of friendly ribbing, and anyone who isn’t living in a cave knows that. Charlie Habdo doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Xenophobia and casual racism are thriving in France right now. As debt and financial instability grow, people naturally seek a scapegoat, and the Muslim population is low-hanging fruit. It sounds familiar….a bit like Post-WW1 Germany, 2.0.

In 2010, France banned the wearing of burqas in public. Sarkozy was patted on the back, told he should be proud. It was supposed to be the “tip of the iceberg” of ending oppression.

Because burqas are oppressive to women, but the barrage of nipped, tucked, photo-shopped, nearly-nude women we have rammed down our throats everywhere we look is not.

Last year, Pauline Marois tried to ban the wearing of any religious garb by public servants in Quebec, and the issue single-handedly lost her the election AND her job. So while I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion, I don’t think that in our hearts Canada and France are much alike.

Some European news outlets have argued that the press is not obligated to be sensitive to cultural differences, that Charlie Habdo is funny, and makes fun of everyone. I hate to split hairs, but someone who is “shitty to everyone” is still shitty at the end of the day. Would the same type of “humour” fly in Canada? If we’re being honest, I think not. After Olivia Chow’s unsuccessful bid for mayor, the Toronto Star was forced to apologize for printing a blatantly racist and sexist comic featuring her riding on her late husband’s coattails. Ernest Zundel went to prison multiple times for publishing antisemitic materials, materials he produced on his own coin! If we don’t hold the press accountable for what they print, if we don’t expect them to abide by a certain standard of sensitivity and integrity, then what differentiates the New York Post from the National Enquirer? Absolutely nothing.

I have plenty of opinions of my own, but there is a difference between having a right to your opinion, and having the right to harm others with it. As a parent, I don’t defend bullying. I rail against it. Maybe I’m hopelessly obtuse, but being hurtful and cruel is bullying, even if you call it “freedom of the press.” We encourage our kids to be decent and tolerant, and yet we defend the rights of adults who should know better to single out and denigrate people who are different from them. I feel for the families of the dead, and I don’t believe that violence is the answer, but I’m not Charlie. I want to be better than Charlie. I want us all to be.

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Ho-ho-hold the judgement

You guys. I have to confess something. It may not be a surprise to some people, but I am finally coming to terms with it and I feel the need to share.

I’m hohophobic.

That’s right. I have an irrational fear of Christmas. Well, not a fear exactly. More like a mild aversion. I feel like the six weeks before Christmas are one long gas-lighting session where I’m constantly being told to smile and be merry. And the more I resist, the more I feel as though I’m letting people down.

Don’t get me wrong – I bake cookies, decorate, and buy gifts. At the risk of tooting my own horn, I’m actually a very thoughtful and intuitive gifter and I make chocolate crinkle cookies that are so good you’d sell your own grandmother to get more. I go to the Christmas parties and play Secret Santa. I give to the Mission, I put an extra can or two into the Food Bank Collection bin, and I help with Christmas dinner. I’ve even worn an ugly Christmas sweater that I made with my own little hands.

In short, I’ll do all the “stuff” that comes with Christmas, but don’t keep telling me to smile if I don’t want to or your gift might be a punch in the throat. There is nothing that makes me less full of good cheer than being told to smile. Why do we have to be happy all the time just because it’s Christmas? I don’t walk around smiling like a lobotmized idiot the whole rest of the year, and I won’t do it now. I don’t tell cheerful people to frown, and I don’t think that most people would prefer me to smile knowing I was faking it.

I loved Christmas as a kid. Two weeks off school, presents, cookies and candy? Decorating the tree? Lots of visiting and then a big turkey dinner? As an adult I realize that the greatest thing about Christmas as a kid was that I wasn’t responsible for anything. I didn’t buy the gifts or wrap the gifts or assemble the tree or cook the meal or drive the car through six inches of slush to get to the next party while the kids whined and shrieked in the back seat. As an adult the curtain has been pulled back and the true nature of “Christmas Magic” has been revealed. I see that Christmas dinner is delicious, but someone has to do the dishes at the end of the meal. I see that a stack of gifts is exciting but I also see a living room full of shredded paper to be picked up. And that tree…dammit, that tree takes up a lot of space.

I also see that Christmas is not always filled with joy and laughter. For many people, Christmas is a stark reminder of what they don’t have. People donate to charity in the spirit of Christmas and then proceed to not give a fuck for the entire rest of the year. Christmas is full of crowded parking lots and honking cars and shoppers stepping on each other to get to the year’s biggest toys. It is busy and exhausting and overscheduled. And I suck rocks at sending Christmas cards.

I know, I sound like the grinchiest of grinches. Maybe I am. I want Nina to have good memories of Christmas so I’m working on living more in the moment and enjoying more of the good things about Christmas. In the meantime do me a solid and stop telling me to smile. 🙂

Hair today

I have many things swirling around in my (very bald) head and I must let them out. I shaved all of hair off, right down to the wood, for the second time in as many months. I love it. I shave my head for various reasons – my hair is too damaged, it’s too hot and sticky outside, being bald is strangely liberating, and frankly, it shaves a lot of time off my morning routine. (Pun intentional and apt.) I often quip that hair is dead cells; it will grow back, and so what?

But it isn’t just dead cells. Hair is a battleground. People who have lost their hair for reasons outside of their control resent being forced to be bald. Rightfully so. No one likes have their choices taken away. My hair grows just fine, and I enjoy my colourful Mohawk a lot. But I resent the fact that being a female means that you must assume a longer and more labour-intensive grooming routine. Body hair plucked, shaved, waxed off, but never, ever should the hair on your head be anything but long and flowing and waiting to be stroked by a man’s hands.

My hair has elicited so much confusion over the years. Did you mean for it to look that way? Are you a dyke? (Are you sure?) Have you ever thought about growing your hair out? (Yes…I also thought about poking your eye out for asking me that, but lucky for you, I won’t be doing either of those things.) I defend the right of every woman to look the way that she wishes to look, and if that includes long mermaid waves, then let it be so. But how in the hell did women get saddled with all of this cultural baggage about hair?

I read a very frustrating story about a little girl who donated her hair to a cancer charity in order to make wigs. After cutting her remaining hair into (an adorable) pixie cut, kids at school told her she was ugly and looked like a boy. The Internet community has rallied around to defend this poor girl. Didn’t people know that this girl donated her hair for CANCER? But…what if she didn’t donate it to cancer? What if she just….wanted to cut her hair, and then she did it? Would we still be rallying around the cause? Why does she need some kind of special permission (like donation) to be allowed to cut off her hair? If she had gotten her hair cut short simply because she wanted to choose for herself, would we tell her that she should have expected to be teased? Would she still have her own hashtag?

If she was tired of the washing and combing and styling. If she wanted a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning. If she wanted to know how it would look. If it was getting in her way playing sports. Or just because. These are perfectly legitimate reasons for cutting your hair. I can tell you on good authority that plenty of little girls with short hair get made fun of all the damn time. They’re told its ugly, they look like boys, that they are not attractive enough to get dates.

Why are girls being told that it is their job to be pretty? Why do non-conforming girls and women have to spend so much f$@?ing energy explaining themselves?

People are not as quiet or subtle their judgements as they think they are. The city street is, annoyingly, no better than the hallways in high school. In the past few years, I have developed an almost pathological indifference to put-downs about my appearance in general. I spent grade school thinking that it would be easier in high school, and high school thinking it would be easier at University, and University thinking it would be easier once I was a proper adult. After spending my entire life being bullied or put down in some way or another, I’m just now (pushing 35) fully grasping that these comments are empty. They say more about the people who make the comments than they do about me, and they don’t ever touch the things that I truly care about. There’s nothing anyone can say to me about my appearance that could be worse than what has already been said to me over the years. (Or worse than what I’ve said to myself.) Just try me. Want to tell me I’m ugly? You’re free to look away. If you want to get my attention you’ll need to hit me where I live – tell me I’m a lousy mother or a bad friend…that I’m inauthentic, lazy, disloyal.

I notice and even sometimes comment on the appearances of others. But I’m learning to do that less, to invade other people’s privacy as little as possible. I wonder at times if that would be a more effective cure for bullying? Maybe instead of asking kids to find the beauty in everyone, we should teach them to mind their own business. End rant.

Three and three quarters

Three has been much more challenging than the “terrible” twos ever were.

Three has brought more laughs, more quotable moments, and lots more milestones. Nina is sweet and clever, and (yippee!) potty-trained now too. She is a star according to her sitter, always remembering to say please and thank you and to share.

But lately I feel like she is milking her last few months of being three…there are tantrums every day, twice a day, in the middle of the night, at five in the morning. Tantrums so loud and so long that she has developed a hoarse, Joan-Rivers-style croak where her little voice used to be. The more she understands that she is separate from me, the more she seems to be rejecting my offers for comfort. I don’t believe in ignoring a child who is clearly upset, even if the situation is frustrating or stressful, so I find myself sitting and watching her screech and flail. It’s tough. Even though I’m right there and available to comfort her, I can’t stop feeling like I’m doing something wrong. Ten, fifteen minutes pass as I sit and watch and she sits and screams. And I hope that this is “just a phase” like so many other things, because laaaaaawwwdd….I can’t handle being rejected out of hand, and I can’t handle not being able to comfort her when she is losing her mind. I confess, it was intoxicating to be able to comfort her with nothing but my presence and a hug.

Many people have said that four is different, easier than three. Sweet Jesus, I hope so. Because she is so, so cute….but I am so, so spent.

Kaboom

Bedtime conversation:

“MEOW MEOW MEOW MEOW!”
“Nina, it’s time to be quiet now and close our eyes.”
“Meeeeoooowwww!”
“It’s fun to be a kitty, but you can play kitty tomorrow. Please lay down.”
“Me-”
“Mummy is getting very frustrated right now. Please put your head on the pillow and be quiet.”
“Say it like kitty.”
“No, I’m not playing right now. I need you to go to sleep so you have lots of energy to play tomorrow.”
“Kitties don’t understand when you say words like that.”
“Fine. Meow meow meow.”
“What?”

And then my head exploded.

Reasons my kid thinks I’m lame

I won’t let her eat raw cookie dough
I won’t let her eat from the trash
I won’t let her drink from a puddle
I won’t let her climb a step stool wearing princess shoes
I won’t let her eat cookies until she pukes
I won’t let her eat a sticker
I won’t let her touch my eyeball
I won’t let her finish the half-eaten apple found in the sofa cushions
I won’t let her lick the cat
I won’t let her step on my broken toe
I won’t let her pee in the pool
I won’t let her drink my iced coffee
I won’t let her eat my spare change

Have a little faith

Whenever people commend me for my patience, I want to laugh uproariously. I am very good at acting patient, but I don’t often feel patient. In fact, parenting a three-year-old regularly makes me feel quite the opposite of patient. But I’m really trying, and I’m learning to have more faith in others, and in myself.

Often when I introduce a new toy or activity to Nina, I find myself fretting about the amount of time it takes her to catch on. How many times do I have to give the same instructions? How can she be bored already? When is she going to figure this out? Why am I ruining the fun by being so impatient? (Thankfully, I am good at faking patience or Nina would probably have a serious complex about trying new things.)

If Nina is too frustrated, often we will put away the new thing and return to something more familiar, and more comfortable for both of us. And it always happens that some time, a little bit down the road, the toy or activity is taken out again. And suddenly it is a revelation. The best toy ever, and maybe even something that gives me a few minutes to sit and relax. She is (suddenly, it seems) more dextrous, more interested, better at counting or taking turns. And I feel foolish for having lost faith in her so quickly, because she always catches on in her own time.

I’m two months into a new job, and I have to keep telling myself the same thing.

Make a mistake. Learn from it. Do better next time. It isn’t the end of the world.