28 May, 2015

Dress Codes

Ah, summer.

Even if it's not calendar summer yet for another three weeks, in Canada the May long weekend kicks it off. Barbecues. Cottage trips. And, at least while school is still in session, protests over school dress codes.

That last is relatively new, it seems to me. Doubtless I missed all the protests when I was that age: I was too busy trying to assert my individuality by dressing just like everybody else. As an adult now, I'm supposed to come down on the side of wisdom and reason and rational behaviour and say kids should dress appropriately for the learning environment and yadda yadda yadda.

Screw that. Didn't I just get finished saying I'm not rational?

You should understand who you're dealing with here. I look quite dapper and fetching in a suit and tie, or so I have been told. You'd think that would make me want to dress up every day, and if you think that you couldn't be more wrong. If a suit and tie actually makes me look that good, then what happens when I come home and take it off? I'd honestly rather be ugly all the time then have people think I'm not just because I'm wearing some cloth or other.

There's a modest dress code where I work, even for the night crew that has zero interaction with customers. We are to wear black tops (or white--though anyone wearing white stocking shelves is rather clueless, if you ask me) and black work pants. Night crew can wear black denim "in good repair". Black steel-toed footwear is mandated: we can buy one pair each year, at cost.

This rule chafes at me, just a little bit. I get the intent, or at least I think I do: we should all dress alike because we're a team. I'm pretty sure they'd invoke "respect for the workplace" in there somewhere, too, and that's where I start to get a little antsy.

In certain contexts, yes, I agree, clothing is important and (supposedly) shows respect. I would never dream of showing up at a funeral in shorts and a tank top, or a job interview in jeans. But even these examples are culturally conditioned. Funerals really aren't supposed to be somber and stuffy affairs. I hope mine won't be. I want people laughing at mine. As for job interviews. unfortunately being uncomfortable for half an hour or an hour is the price somebody set long ago for being hired.

There's this widespread perception that what you wear determines your pride in doing a job. How I do my job determines my pride in doing my job, but whatever.

Did that sound teenager-y enough?

So long as my shirt isn't emblazoned with something like "MY BOSS IS A GRADE-A ASSHOLE", why should it matter what I'm wearing? I'd probably work better in jogging pants.  I'd sure be more comfortable and thus more productive.

Workplaces have it backwards. They dangle relaxing the dress code as an incentive work harder--when people work harder in a relaxed, comfortable state.

My biggest issue with these school dress codes is that they are almost always aimed squarely at women. Even the ones that include males explicitly--no ripped jeans, no muscle shirts--are invariably more rigidly enforced with females. Because women's skin is somehow so much more distracting than men's, right? It's exactly the same mindset that surfaces in courtroom rape trials. Your Honour, I couldn't help myself, I saw skin above the knee. Oh, in that case, rape dismissed. Young woman, you should know better than to provoke him like that.

Sickening.

When you send a woman home because her skirt is too high, you're telling her that the wandering eyes of boys are her problem, not theirs. You're telling her that the education of those boys is more important than her own. You're telling her that clothing makes the man and breaks the woman.

Clothing doesn't make the man. Clothing doesn't break the woman. Clothing is something we wear to keep the sun and rain and snow off. It's something we wear if our fat rolls aren't big enough to tuck our keys into. It keeps the mosquitoes at bay and it stops your back hair from getting entangled in the threshing machine.  People have attached a whole lot of arbitrary meanings beyond these, but we shouldn't have to be bound by them.

The people I cherish most in my life get this. They talk to paupers and presidents, peons and princes, all the same way: as if they are people. Because they are. It doesn't matter what they're wearing. It doesn't matter how much they paid for what they're wearing. Focusing on clothing is even more superficial than focusing on skin.
The same people have no problem venturing out to the store in their pajamas. Hey, everything's covered and propriety is served--what's the problem?

If there's a problem, it's in the eye of the beholder and there alone. Let people be comfortable and express themselves. So long as their expression isn't hateful or obscene, let them be.

And isn't that what we should be teaching in school?

Therapy Blog, volume one...

There are many Facebook trends I dislike, and (usually to always) refuse to take part in:

  • the modern-day chain letter that says "share this with sixteen friends in the next seven seconds or your CPU will implode";
  •  the bait and switch post (a version of which is going around again); 
  • the passive-aggressive status update aimed at one specific person that nevertheless makes everybody uncomfortable;
  •  cruelty to animals and children packaged up "to raise awareness"; 
  • the branded posts that force you to like and share something in order to actually watch it, rather than the other way around;
  • the pointless posts that ask assign your birth date/the colour of your underwear/the first initial of your last name a silly word and yield a sillier phrase (the colour of your underwear plus the last thing you ate is your star ship name. Camo Cheerio, hahaha);
  • The dumb amateur psychology/personality tests that sometimes give interesting results but just as often completely misread you
And yes, in order to know about that last point, I've taken more than a few of those tests. I just haven't shared many of the results.

This one I took, and shared, because the conclusion was more than a little unsettling.

Look, I've always known I am an emotional thinker. I'm intuitive, empathic and (often overly) sensitive to slights both real and imagined. If you've ever been at a point in your life where one of your pastimes was slight collecting,  you can flip a mental switch and see them everywhere. That switch is a bitch to turn off.

"I'd like you to do an inkblot test. There are no right or wrong answers, but what you see in these random splotches of ink will tell me a lot about how you think. Just say the first thing that you think of when I show you these images. Ready?"
"Ready."
flip
"That's a penis."
flip
"Those are a couple of boobies with protruding nipples."
flip
"That's an orgy: there are five people having various kinds of passionate sex."
flip
"Lesbians".
"Okay, I've seen enough. Sir, you have a filthy, filthy mind."
"Me? I have a filthy mind? You're  the one showing me all these perverted pictures!"

I recognized in Eva, and right quickly, a rational streak. Maybe "streak" is the wrong word: if rational were a colour, Eva would wear several coats of it. This doesn't mean she is cold or emotionless: far from it. But her emotions are usually rational emotions, in proportion to whatever the situation is, and she's able to own, categorize, process and deal with stray emotions, even powerful ones, in a way I frankly envy. (Part of what makes her ongoing medical issues so frightening is that she is suddenly much more emotional than she has been in the past: more like me than her. Two mes in the same room can be a tad volatile.)

One of about a thousand reasons I chose Eva to marry is because her rationalism complements my emotionalism very well. I figured she'd be very good at reining me in, and so she has proven to be. In turn, I believe I've taught her something about affection.

If you asked me sixteen years ago how our personalities would mesh by now, I'd have told you we'd grow to be more similar to each other. It only stands to, uh, reason.

Bzzzt.

Ken: 92% emotional
Eva 86% rational

I had a (surprise) emotional reaction to my score. It struck me as rather imbalanced. Emotions are fine things, don't get me wrong, and they have usually served me reasonably well in life, but to base all but a measly eight percent of my thinking on emotions is...kind of scary.

Yes, I know this test is far from scientific. But I'd be willing to lay money on a scientific test returning a similar score. Especially over the last year or so. My emotions -- all of them -- have been stronger, more irrational, and harder to contain.

I am well shut of the demons which plagued me last summer, which is a good thing, believe me. But I'm not where I should be...need to be...and  that bothers me, because it's like you can't get there from here. I'll devise some rational plan and it'll be swept away by the next emotion I feel. Ever tried building sand castles at high tide?

I think the hallmark of an emotional thinker is that he believes his emotions to be rational, perhaps especially when they aren't. I'm self-reflective enough to suffer no such illusions. I recognize when insecurity, or indignation, inadequacy or infantilism is irrational, and that's just the I's. Maybe that's the problem: I'm too caught up in I, I, I.

Except so many people tell me to pay more attention to my own issues rather than always concentrating on other people's. That's been said to me my whole life long, evidently because people don't "get" that making others feel better about themselves is the only way I ever learned to feel good about myself. Also, I'd rather not turn a spotlight on myself, not when everyone else is dealing with much worse. Just writing these last few paragraphs has been very difficult. Uncharacteristically, I've had to stop and start, back up and revise, and then look at each sentence and say do I really want to write that?

I have a friend whose carrying capacity for crisis is awe inspiring. You know how some people are drama queens? In her case the drama is reality: every day brings with it a fresh emergency, and more than a few of them would crush lesser people. I vented to her the other day about these damned night shifts making me feel removed from the world. She responded (very rationally) that I only become removed if I allow myself to be removed.

I want to write a long, long entry on all the ways this is wrong. Normal people sleep at night, with all that entails. The world's schedule, either professional or personal, is heavily biased against night shift workers. Even the weather interferes: the bedroom is unliveable without air conditioning at noon when I'm in it.

Whine, whine, whine. First world problems all the way. I'm far from the only person working nights--there are about twenty others at my store alone (though most of them seem to survive on three hours of sleep a day). I actually see more of Eva on this schedule than I did when she was on afternoons and I was on days. My social life hasn't suffered markedly because until recently I didn't have one and people have been extremely accommodating. (It turns out some friends of mine don't mind getting together for breakfast. Or hanging out on a Tuesday evening. Eva put up some black construction paper to block out the sun and the bedroom is actually comfortable at noon. Adapt and deal, Ken. Adapt and deal. This isn't rocket surgery. Any other problems I have are my problems, not problems that were thrust upon me, and I have the unmitigated gall to whine about this shit? Let alone to somebody who would cheerfully commit murder to face the "problems" I face? Let alone when Eva, the wife of my life and companion of my journey, is having her own issues that dwarf these?

How attractive.

My friend is right. There's a quiet voice, a rational voice inside me that's stuck at about eight percent volume, that knows damn well how stupid all this is. I'm feeling insecure when I shouldn't, indignant when I have no right to be, inadequate when I'm by any measure blessed with more love in my life than I deserve. Now if I can just tape myself saying this for the next wave of emotion that's due in about half an hour...and amplify the volume. That'd be entertaining as hell to watch. It'd end with me sputtering 'b-b-b-b-but..." and shamed into silence by the implacable voice of reason.

My strategy for coping with these waves so far has been to ignore them in the hopes they'll go away. They're not reasonable, they're not worthy emotions, do I really need to bother Eva with this (again);, there's no need to feel this way, "turn it off". Which has this odd side effect of turning off everything: all my emotions, happy and otherwise, my perceptions, even my memories. I tend to be an unthinking, unfeeling robot. And because that's so very removed from my natural state...there is seepage, and eventually an explosion of pent-up emotion that demands release out of all proportion to anything currently going on.

Not flattering. But true.

Writing this blog has been like pushing a rock uphill. I feel kind of drained right now. I'll save the actual therapy plan for a future blog. Mostly because I, uh, don't have one yet.

But I'm working on it. Emotionally AND rationally.



27 May, 2015

Life's Not Fair

I was an overprotected kid.

Not by today's standards, of course. By today's standards--let's just say Children's Aid would have been around to confiscate me many, many times over. I mean, my God, I rode my bike all over town. Once I moved to London (1980, age 8), you couldn't contain me. London is a city made for cyclists: even that long ago, there were bike paths spanning most of its width. Most summer days I cycled twenty or thirty klicks. Alone.

Except for the "alone" part, I can't say this was by choice.

Just look at me: I'm obviously what you'd call an "indoors" sort of guy. I've always been this way. My rationale was simple, albeit simpleminded: the worlds in books far outstripped anything I might find in the "real" world. The "real" world was...dirty. In all kinds of ways.

I wasn't worried about getting hurt, which seems to be what terrifies parents now. Skinned knees, broken noses (I tripped on a sidewalk crack once and landed on my nose...the pain was so intense it was almost pleasant); I'd felt pain and it didn't scare me. But I didn't like getting dirty or making a lot of noise. Boys that age are noises with dirt on them, which means I had no interest in interacting with boys. Girls were much more attractive--so much more mature--but I got glasses in 1980, which meant girls suddenly had no interest in interacting with me.

I was a piece of work, let me tell you. This will be hard to understand, and probably hard to believe. At eight years old, I did not know how to tie my shoes.

Why would I? I had my mom to do that for me. It was an act of love for her, the same as laying out my clothes every day, cooking my meals, and working fourteen hour nights dispatching ambulances only to come home and drive school bus in the morning. Ends had to meet: in a single-parent family the ends rarely seem to come within shouting distance of each other. What little time there was, she determined to fill up with little acts of love. Like tying my shoes.

When my stepdad came along in 1980, he put an end to most of that right quick. I was told to "get outside and make some friends". I couldn't "make" friends any more than I could make duck à l'orange, but Hobson's choice, outside I went. That led to some truly pitiful scenes, in retrospect. Riding around for three hours, coming home, and making up a story about the baseball game I'd played, and all the people I'd met, people whose names conveniently matched the names of characters in my books. On at least two occasions, talking to dial tones for half an hour. (Younger readers: the modern equivalent would be carrying on a text conversation with yourself.)

But I was outside...sometimes on the other end of the city. I was told never to go east of Adelaide Street, so of course that was the first place I went. On my bike, on major arteries, without a helmet.

More than that: I was put on intercity busses, alone, either meeting my dad in Toronto or (horror of horrors) transferring all on my own and meeting him in Parry Sound. My mother had grave misgivings. This was many years before Vince Li, but I had long since shown myself to be an absentminded child who was also a stick-figure: easy pickings, in other words. But she sent me off, many times, alone, and I'm still here.

They arrest parents for that kind of thing nowadays.

I walked to school every day, almost always alone, starting in grade four. I would have walked earlier but I lived across highway 7 from the school and there was a bus. I didn't understand why I had to bus--there were traffic lights AND a crossing guard--but questioning parental decrees was unthinkable.

I know parents of teenagers who drive their "children" to school every day. Maybe it's similar to why my Mom tied my shoes every day: an act of love that's also an unwitting act of sabotage. Hey, we're all doing the best we can with what we've got.

Parents have convinced themselves that all the dangers are not just real, but omnipresent--everywhere, and yet somehow still avoidable. There are pedophiles behind every bush, just waiting for any kid who might come along. Your child has to wear a helmet to play in the yard, because otherwise he might get a boo-boo.

I got lots of boo-boos. I had a tire blow on Oxford Street at something like 35 or even 40 km/h and substantial parts of skin merged with concrete, quite painfully. Could have been much worse. I'm good at ditching a bike. I've learned to be. I've bruised, cut, scraped and punctured various things, all of them superficial and none of them permanent (other than the scars, of which I have approximately a metric buttload). A Honda Civic driven by a police officer ran me over with no lasting effects beyond being instantly and totally transformed into a law-abiding cyclist.

But most of my problems came from other kids, who saw the geography of my face and wanted to rearrange it. Back then, that was something you just put up with. Adults didn't, couldn't understand. Some of them told you to fight back, which was a laugh and a half: my cotillion always changed names with every new school (five elementary schools, one of them twice) but the faces never seemed to change and neither did the ham-sized fists. Some adults told you to ignore it, which in my case meant simply enduring it without protest,  hoping that this particular ham-fisted bully was the kind who would be satisfied with tears rather than the kind who needed to see blood.

It's weird. I've talked to parents who say that the kind of bullying I and many others dealt with has been all but eradicated. That's great, except like everything else in the world, it's migrated online.  Meanwhile, parents have done everything they can to minimize all the rest of childhood's petty dangers. Out of the best of intentions, they've been tying their kids' shoes every day.

It started with spanking. Now, I don't agree with spanking your kid: there are many other ways to get the point across, and it's not a great idea to teach a child that problems are solved with violence. If I had children, I would not spank them. That said...our parents were spanked, their parents were spanked, and their parents were spanked, all the way back into the mists of time. I was spanked: frequently. Often hard enough to redden the skin, though NEVER to draw blood and NEVER specifically to inflict pain. My stepdad put an end to that the same way he made me learn how to tie my own shoes.
I don't blame my mom one bit. Reason didn't work with me as a child. Even as a teenager, I learned to endure the lectures from my stepfather (who had the patience of Job), say the appropriately contrite words and in the appropriately contrite manner, and then go on living as before. It honestly must have been a real temptation for John to haul off and smack me one sometimes. He never did.

Kids nowadays may not believe this, but teachers spanked kids, too. It was called in loco parentis --"in the place of a parent"-- and it still exists. It's just that parents don't use corporeal punishment anymore, so neither do teachers.

Most of your spanked ancestors grew up to be fine upstanding adults (who admittedly spanked their children). But seemingly overnight, it became socially unacceptable to use physical force under any circumstances whatsoever. We went through this in the aborted adoption process. Your kid could be hurting you or another child--physically beating on someone--and you're  not to touch her.

Then again, this came from the same person who told us if our adopted child forgot her lunch on a school field trip to Toronto, we would be expected to drop what we were doing and bring the child her lunch.

I still shake my head at that. I forgot my lunch once on a field trip somewhere.  I was too ashamed to tell the teacher I'd been so stupid, so I lied and said I finished my lunch quickly.
If I'd had friends, I could have cadged off them; maybe the teacher would have paid for my lunch and got the money back from my folks. As it was, I went without. And it didn't kill me.

But I know parents who cook their darlings separate suppers. Not just separate from what the parents are eating, different suppers for each kid. Why? "Because Billy doesn't like ____." Not because Billy is allergic, because he doesn't like something.

This strikes me as patently insane. Growing up, I had two choices: eat what was on the table, or eat nothing. Fairly often it was something I liked. Sometimes it was something I hated. Liver. Blecch. Complaining was not encouraged: if I  tried -- probably invoking the "IT'S NOT FAIR!" statement of spoiled brats everywhere, I'd have been instantly met with the rejoinder "Life's not fair, Kenny-me-boy."

I have long been a proponent of fairness. It rankles me to no end, even now, that life is, indeed, not fair. I remember having an unstoppable-force-meets-immovable-object argument with my parents over car insurance, back when it was still a given I would drive a car. Boys pay more in premiums than girls, because boys are more likely to get into accidents and drive like assholes. While conceding this undeniable fact, I still argued passionately that all the underwriters in the world don't knoe every boy (or every girl, for that matter). I certainly wouldn't drive like an asshole: why should I pay the asshole premium? They kept falling back on statistics, and I kept falling back on righteous indignation, and neither of us budged.

I still haven't. In a sane world, we'd all pay the same premium starting out, and then we'd get hit with whatever asshole premiums apply, when they apply. Maybe the rates would have to be juggled to maintain reserves and the sacred profit margins. So be it. That would be...wait for it...fair.

But my parents were right, as parents almost always are, about life not being fair. I see it almost everywhere I look: unrequited love; well-thought-out positions drowned out by inarticulate ranting; most notably,  people who did nothing to deserve the pain they live with every hour of every day. (Sorry, I don't believe "capacity to carry pain -- the "ah, she can handle it! defence -- as a just excuse for randomly inflicted pain.) I've spent so much of my life trying to make a difference there, and the source of much of my own pain lies in my inability to do enough, or in some cases anything at all, for everybody else's.

Loneliness is the pain that calls out loudest to me. I want to heal it, by any means necessary, for whatever period of time is permissible. I've been profoundly lonely in my life, you see. Until you've experienced  not being lonely, loneliness is a default state; once you have, it's insupportable.

But I can't heal the world. I can't even heal my world. Because life's not fair.

What I do notice, though, is that we've reached a point where any kind of failure or injury at all is considered unfair and to be avoided at all costs. This is, it should be needless to say, unsustainable: eventually you WILL fail, you WILL be hurt both physically and emotionally, multiple times and in some interesting ways,  and you WILL have to develop the tools to cope with all of that. It takes a lifetime to develop those tools, for most people, and many parents have inflicted their children with delayed development.

I want to know where this came from. The kind of pragmatic tough love that many of us and almost all of our parents were subject to breeds self-reliance and resiliency...tools that have long been respected and highly valued. Mollycoddling and helicoptering does the opposite: it creates weak, dependant men and women who have no idea how to cope with adversity. Why those should be seen as desirable traits is a mystery for the ages.

You do want your kid to know how to tie his shoes, right?




             

21 May, 2015

"Oh, It's Sad To Belong To Someone Else..."

I subscribe to a number of newsfeeds on Facebook that send me interesting quotes and observations. You never know where the next blog is going to come from, after all. My favourite is probably Collective Evolution: whenever they're not on about ancient alien conspiracy theories or just how awful it is for carnivorous humans to eat meat, they put out some thoughts that stop me in my tracks. Besides them, there's Spirit Science and The Mind Unleashed--the latter is pretty heavy on woo, but still a fun read).

And then there's Word Porn.

Word Porn is apt to expand my mental universe with one post and then make me shake my head at the next. This blog entry concerns a post(er) of the shake my head variety. to wit:


It's rare to find a twelve-word sentence that is fundamentally wrong four different ways.

1) There are no perfect people;

2) Assuming 'perfect person' is shorthand for 'the perfect person for you at this moment', if you're meeting the person, by definition he or she is the perfect person for you right now;

3) Knowing from context that 'the perfect person' is ACTUALLY shorthand for "The One"...the thought these twelve words send forth has deeply infiltrated our culture and caused a great deal of headache and heartache, dating back to the dawn of courtly love in the Middle Ages; 

4) Even assuming all the other points were correct, there are things much worse--or maybe "worse" is a judgement call that is completely unnecessary.

Yes, it's time for another peek INSIDE KEN'S HEAD.

The musical version of the above sentiment--because music is where my mind goes to first-- is here: "It's Sad To Belong To Someone Else (When The Right One Comes Along), an old adult contemporary hit from my childhood that--I'm not kidding--bothered me as soon as I was old enough to truly understand what was being sung. Both halves just struck me odd. "Belong" to someone else? In my world, things "belonged" to me, people didn't (and don't). And if "the right one" comes along, what does that make the person you "belong" to? Chopped liver? (I hated liver.)

(Yes, I had the same reaction to other songs for and against the theme I would grow up to define myself by. You should have seen me bopping around the house to Stephen Stills.)

Ahem. Four different ways.

1) THERE ARE NO PERFECT PEOPLE

This ought to be self-evident, right? We all have flaws. In that first stage of love you're likely to discount the ones that might drive you insane later on: the snoring is "purring" and the neat and organized nature that keeps your living space so clean JESUS CHRIST COULD YOU BE ANY MORE ANAL.
Dan Savage's relationship advice, while quite often earthy and NSFW, puts the advice of the late Ann Landers (whose desk he bought at auction) to shame. In this clip he talks about "the price of admission":



There is no settling down without some settling for; there is no long term relationship without not just putting up with your partner's flaws, but accepting them...and then pretending they aren't there.

And Dan talks here about how every long-term relationship is built on a solid foundation of lies and deceit. By this he means that the version we present of ourselves upon first meeting is not our true selves, but an idealized picture that fades over time. It is our obligation, he says, both to live up to that idealized picture of ourselves that we once presented...and to fail to see when our partner does not. In that way the lie becomes the truth.

Beauty works that way for me. I don't love someone because they are beautiful: they are beautiful because I love them. The more love I invest, the more beautiful they become.

Now, I kept the courtly preening to a minimum in each long term relationship, on the sensible (to me) grounds that I could not possibly sustain a picture of me that did not match me in all but the most trifling of ways. Once I actually went so far as to write a letter detailing my biggest flaws, thinking "if she can read this without flinching, she's probably a keeper." (She read it without flinching. I didn't keep her.  So much for that theory.)

But Dan is right about the obligation incumbent upon each person in a relationship to put the best foot forward...and the attendant obligation to pick up your partner when he or she stumbles or starts sliding backwards.

2) ANY PERSON YOU MEET IS THE PERFECT PERSON FOR YOU RIGHT NOW.

I firmly believe this. I try to let it inform my every thought and action. I fail marginally less often as time goes on.

But if you think about it, every religious tradition has been telling us this since the time before time. Virtually every faith I can think of takes great pains to talk about our connection to each other, through whatever term for the Divine it uses. Virtually every faith has its version of the Golden Rule. There's a reason for that: we are all one.

This is a hard teaching to take to heart when some individuated part of yourself is trying to cause you pain. But of course that's a perception -- that someone is trying to cause you pain -- and it can be altered. Most often, a jerk is only thinking of themselves, and you happen to be collateral damage. This is true even if what the jerk is saying or doing is intensely personal. Regardless, "pain is inevitable and suffering is optional." And the people trying to hurt you are only addressing pain in themselves the way they've been taught to. It's up to you to teach them to raise themselves up without lowering others.

You may think this philosophical crap is all well and good for ivory towers, but in the real world things are more brutal. That's fine: that's your experience and I respect it. I would ask you--just for a giggle--to act as if this is true. For one day, pretend each and every person you meet is in fact the perfect person for you right now. I guarantee you'll have a halfway decent day.

3) THE ONE.

I've covered this before. I'm going to try and expand on it here a little.

Once you start looking for it, it's nothing short of incredible how often you find this trope. It's in practically every fairy tale going: every heroine must find her hero: he must be male and there must be only one of him. It's driven home further by the fact that the princess is almost invariably gorgeous and attracts a myriad of suitors (based on looks and bloodline alone, and how does that make your average plain and common girl feel about her own prospects?)

The idea that a woman must either choose or be chosen by a single opposite-sex partner is deeply ingrained in our culture, so deeply that to question it brands you a heretic.

One out of ten people weren't fathered by the man they believe is Dad. This single fact makes a mockery of genealogy (as does the idea that one's descendants somehow elevate a person over other people, as far as I'm concerned). It also suggests to me that no matter what lip service we pay to monogamy, it's not quite as common or accepted when push comes to shove.)

I submit that's because the notion of "The One" is unrealistic and damaging to a relationship. If someone is "The One", it follows that they can't be a disappointment; if they are a disappointment, they obviously aren't "The One".

I have chosen my own path, believing that I don't just have one soulmate, but that I exist in a soul forest with many soul trees and soul branches. Eva is at the center of my forest, but she is not the only tree in it, nor am I the only tree in hers. A forest is an ecosystem: each part feeds all the others, often unknowingly.

You need not be polyamorous to appreciate the damaging effect of "The One". I've always said--paraphrasing Neale Donald Walsch--and will say again, that "mine is not a better way, mine is only another way." I would suggest to committed monogamous couples that your partner does not "complete" you: both of you are complete human beings in your own right. Nor should your partner be invested with unrealistic expectations that will eventually go unmet and doom your relationship. Yes. on some level you have to settle, and recognize you are being settled for yourself. That verb, "to settle,  has a negative connotation in relationships. It shouldn't. Watch a dog settle in for the night: the grunt of pure contentment that escapes his throat every time warms the heart.

4) THERE ARE WORSE THINGS THAN NOT BEING WITH THE 'RIGHT' PERSON.

Such as not realizing you *are* the right person yourself. Such as not recognizing and cherishing all the love you have in your life, whether it be with one person, two people, or ten people.  Such as not being the best person you can be for whomever you share your life with.

Such as admitting the word "worse" into your vocabulary of love at all.


 

20 May, 2015

Check Your Privilege

Pompous blowhards come in all flavours.

They're usually male, for some reason, and the chief characteristic of a pompous blowhard is that he knows what he knows, which is more than you know, and he wants you to know it.

He will craft what appears to be a very strong argument, buttressed with as many big words as he knows (more than you do), and he might even sound convincing until you notice the great big gaping hole in his worldview. 

Rex Murphy is a pompous blowhard. Not quite Conrad Black level, but getting on up there.

Case in point: here. According to Mr. Murphy, "white privilege" does not exist. His argument for this stunning piece of revelation boils down to: "there are poor white people, ergo the colour of your skin doesn't matter."

Oh-kay.

Cape Bretoners mining for coal were white, says Rex, and so were the Irish immigrants fleeing the famines. ("How many potatoes does it take to kill an Irishman? None.") They lived poor, wretched lives, and so do many poor people today from Appalachia to Russia, and would you look at that? They're all white!

Saith the Rex, and do recall that's Latin for "king",

To even set up white privilege as a category is prima facie racist. It is to reduce the sum of a person, his dignity, his drive, his worth and his soul to the colour of his skin; it is to posit skin colour as the point of departure for all interactions with that person, to found judgments on that skin colour, to draw feverish and deliberately negative conclusions from it.

 No, indeed, Lord Murphy, it is only you who is doing that. The only privileges you bother to pinpoint in this vacuous piece--having "flesh-coloured" Band-Aids that actually match your flesh  and shampoo that's made for your hair texture--are indeed not matters of huge import. They are telling, though. There is this automatic assumption that flesh-coloured = pale, and there's a little reminder every time you step into a shower that THIS PRODUCT WAS NOT MADE WITH YOU IN MIND. That's not something you've ever experienced, Rex, let alone on a daily basis, and so it must not exist. QED.

Let's talk about actual privileges. Such as, for instance, the only one that matters to your masters at the National Post: money. Magnificent mountains of money, stinking scads of specie. (Ever read the National Post? Its "HOMES" section really oughta be titled "MANSIONS" or 'ESTATES" or some such, and its DRIVE section is full of such pedestrian middle-of-the-road vehicles as Lexuses and Mercedes and Porsches...)

So yes, let's talk about money, and the median net worth of white people versus, say, Hispanics and Blacks in the United States. Per the Pew Research Center:

MEDIAN NET WORTH, 2013

WHITE FAMILIES        $141.900
HISPANIC FAMILIES: $13,700
BLACK FAMILIES:      $11,000

Those numbers are absolutely staggering, in my opinion. And they're as good a confirmation of "white privilege" as you're likely to ever find. Now, Rex, dear heart, do you have any idea why these numbers reflect the reality they do? Is it because blacks and Hispanics are lazy and unmotivated? No, Rex, it's not that, although your white friends probably think it is that.

It's because black people and Hispanic people have by and large lacked one rather critical advantage, one "privilege", if you will, and that is the means to acquire and pass on property that appreciates in value.

Think it through, Rex. A young white family scrapes together enough money to buy a house. Depending on where they are, that house might increase tenfold in value over a generation, and it's a sure bet it will at least triple. Property ownership is the primary means by which the middle class can enrich itself.

Now let's make that a black family instead. They're descended from slaves who couldn't own anything, let alone pass it down. But let's say they pinch and scrape and manage to buy a small home in a nice little area. They paint their little picket fence white to match their white neighbours.

Except the white neighbours move away, because ewwwww! black people!, and the neighbourhoods are then primarily black, and the white people who are in charge of such things (I think they call that a 'privilege')  collectively decide that black neighbourhoods just aren't worth as much. Like, really, not worth much at all. Basically, those black people who bought their homes may as well have set their money on fire for all the good it did them.

Yes, there are rare exceptions...there are some very rich black and Hispanic folks. But they are rather thin on the ground, compared to the number of rich white folks, and property values are the biggest reason why.

You're going to remind me of Appalachia, Rex, and how it's white and its property values suck. Indeed it is and indeed they do. It's also rural, Rex. True rural areas, outside of suburban enclaves and certain designated areas where the white folks erect their second homes, are invariably worth less, and often worthless. Compare the cities, where most people actually live, and you'll find that for the most part the populations gets paler and more moneyed the further out from the center you get.

By the way, Rex? If there were black people to man the fields of Ireland and the mines of Cape Breton, they'd overwhelmingly be the ones doing, and dying in, both jobs. THAT's the biggest privilege of all, and you utterly ignored it.

You pompous white blowhard.









14 May, 2015

Winners and Losers



"One of the silliest preoccupations of man is that it makes some kind of sense to divide whole categories of people up into one winner and a whole bunch of losers or also-rans. What poor sick compulsive first infected us all with that virus? And how?"
--Spider Robinson, whose Callahan's Place novels should be required reading for human beings

Like so many grand experiments aimed at equality, the notion of not keeping score comes out of good, even beautiful intentions. People have an innate need to have their specialness recognized, and all too often, for both children and adults, it isn't. We see this. And we try to fix it.

But of course in doing so we create other problems that are so much worse. People so full of artificial self-esteem that there's no room for thoughts of others. People who, confronted with failure for the first time in their lives, fall completely to pieces. Children not allowed to engage their imaginations for fear they might be (gasp) hurt.

Adults are hypocrites: every child knows it. Case in point: abolishing scores in children's games and awarding medals for just showing up, all the while living in and perpetuating a culture that values success above all else--and furthermore, insists on a very narrow and rigid definition of "success". 

Kids are not stupid. Institute a rule that either everyone gets Valentine's cards or no one does, and they'll know anyway which ones are real and which ones are forced. Adults may not be keeping score, but you can bet the kids are. They have to: they take their cues not from what grown ups say, but rather from what they do.

The American Declaration of Independence states that "all men are created equal". This is true, in a sense, and patently ridiculous in another. One woman can build a house from the ground up; one man is a piano virtuoso, and so on and so forth.  Not equal at all. Which isn't to say all don't deserve equality of opportunity.

That's what's lacking, and tiny measures like not keeping score in a kid's soccer game aren't going to change that. Maybe if we stopped keeping score in adult games...

Is that even possible? Not without a whole lot of paradigm shifts. We'd have to get rid of money, first off...and then, even more critically, make sure that whatever replaces it doesn't just assume what we assume are money's most important functions: to divide the rich from the poor, first off, and then...to keep the poor impoverished by any means necessary.

I visualize a system by which people would earn credit for good deeds, and lose credit for bad ones. Everyone would receive a guaranteed annual income,  enough to maintain a roof over your head and keep your belly from your backbone; further enrichment would come from enriching others.  The level of enrichment would be up to those others. 

I see in Reddit's karma system and things like Kickstarter and Indiegogo the seeds of this idea starting to take root. Assuming we can keep society patched together for a few more generations -- by no means a safe assumption to make -- we may eventually arrive at a place where the contributions of all are valued. 

There are, of course, serious problems with such a system, the chief one being the hivemind that tends to value conformity and punish dissent. THAT, to me, is a critical, perhaps fatal flaw in our nature. It's not so much that we empower the strong and impoverish the weak: it's that we act as a kind of unthinking mob far too often, enforcing whatever values we deem acceptable. Right now we, as a society, grant those who are monetarily wealthy all the power. There are other kinds of power, though, as the richest tend to discover hanging from their lamp posts shortly after they push inequality too far.

There are other, less violent, sources of immense power. Love is a huge one, and it's the one I've dedicated my life to embodying as best I can. Which isn't very well, yet. I'm working on it. My polyamory springs from the ironclad belief that limits on love are artificial and unnecessary. Every now and again I'm richly rewarded when I see someone recognize in my love for them that they are loveable. There is nothing so gratifying as seeing others succeed because I've shown them what a success they already are. 

Without spending too much time on this, it's imperative that people understand that my love for others does not lessen my love for them one bit. So far, at least, people seem to get that...which does me a world of good.

I said many years ago
that "we're all special, but none of us are any more special than anyone else." Both parts of that statement are highly offensive to a great many people, because they contradict this world's highest guiding principle: that I am special and you are not. We've created Gods in our own image...Gods of "love" whose "love" is all too human, riddled with judgement, expectation, and  (yes) damnation. The chief function of our Gods is to separate, not unite: to divide us into eternally chosen and eternally hellbound. This religious mindset turns up in anything substituting for a religion: political and philosophical thought, and even things as mindless as music and sports preferences. This is why it's important not to reject the thought of an "enemy" out of hand simply because it comes from an "enemy".  We are all one: in that respect, our enemies are us. 

I'm working towards a world where the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Who's with me?




Insomnia is Hell

If this blog is incoherent, blame lack of sleep.

I haven't been this sleepless since first year university, when somebody bet me I couldn't drink 24 cans of Jolt Cola in 24 hours. I won that bet...and wish I hadn't. Advice: don't do this. I was dizzy and lightheaded and puking, my heart was doing things it shouldn't, I got to thinking I was going to die, then got to hoping I would....and I didn't really sleep for pretty much five days.
This bout has had much the same set of symptoms now, minus the ticker trouble, and caffeine has nothing to do with it. My problem is sleeping pills, or more specifically the lack of them.

When it first became clear I'd be going on steady nights, I went to my family doctor and begged him for something a little stronger than Nytol. A methodical cuss is Dr. Scott Wright: he diagnoses and treats in stages, starting from the least ugly and moving up the scale. "Okay, this is probably a disease called Nothing To Worry About, but it might be Mildly Concerning, too, and there's an outside chance it could be an early case of Onrushing Nasty Death. I know you're really perturbed about this, so we're going to start with a course of a new Russian drug called Placebo. Yes, that's something like "thank you" in Russian, and you'll thank me for it later. If that doesn't work, we'll try you on horse tranks, and if that doesn't work, we'll have to go full Zombify on your ass."

Okay. he doesn't really talk like that. But the three choices of disease and treatment are a Scott Wright, M.D. trademark.

He gave me three options, of course. The first one was something I forget the name of...Ineffectua? Pointlicillin? He said it didn't work on many people, but it was not in the slightest addictive. The second thing was Imovane, the brand name of Zopliclone, which he called "midly addictive and reasonably effective." The other choice was Valium, which he said would put me out like the trash and turn me into a junkie. Okay..."highly addictive," he said.

Me being the middle of the road person that I am, I opted for the second choice.

Worked like a charm. Imovane dropped me in my tracks within half an hour of swallowing it and better yet it KEPT me asleep for at least seven hours. I'd wake up groggier than a mead hall, but hey! small price to pay for blessed sleep.

One problem: "Not to be taken for more than seven consecutive days." I had thirty pills, and I bloody well needed more than seven of them...it takes me a minimum of two weeks, and usually three, before I can cope with nights. I'd take the seven pills, skip a night (in which I'd get next to no sleep at all), rinse and repeat. I was smart enough to cut my last five pills in half and try and wean myself off. Hypnos only knows what would have become of me had I not halved my dose.

Actually, I should have just foregone the sleeping pills and suffered for a fortnight. Because I'm suffering now, damn it. I've lost track of exactly how much sleep I'm not getting, but I got two hours Monday, four hours Tuesday morning, and then nothing until last night at eight o'clock, when I was supposed to be in class.

I left the house okay, fortified with a very hefty dose of instant coffee. But city busses and I don't get along at the best of times, not since the mid-nineties when they inexplicably sealed all the windows and started pumping synthetic "air" on board. Even without rampant roaring insomnia, I stagger off the bus at Conestoga College--nearly a two hour commute, one way--looking punch drunk.
Yesterday: much worse. Cold, clammy, dizzy, weak as a kitten, absolutely certain I was going to puke, pass out or both. I made it to Fairview Park Mall--two thirds of the way--and could go no further.
After sitting for a few minutes and willing the ground to stop waving hello at me quite so friendlily, I got on the bus to come home. It was standing room only, which actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise: the driver had cranked the emergency exit in the roof open a little bit and a weak but steady stream of actual Earth atmosphere caressed my face like a long-lost love. I stood in the middle of the aisle and drank the offering greedily. But by the time we got to downtown Kitchener, a mere nine minutes later, it became apparent that light kisses of air weren't going to be enough.
I have very little memory of what transpired next. I do know several people helped me up, steadied me, and pointed me in the direction of a drinking fountain. On the way to that I found a bathroom with a convenient toilet I felt a sudden pressing need to un-eat over. In short, I made a spectacle of myself.
After my bout of visual burping, I felt marginally better. Still weaker than exactly seven days, but at least my head had stopped Linda Blairing.  I made it the rest of the way home without incident, although I'm pretty sure I saw a turtle vrooming by me and giggling somewhere between McCormick arena and my house. By eight o'clock--break time, in the class I was missing--I was out cold.

Eva woke me up at midnight. I cursed bitterly at her--I could easily have slept the whole night through--but she was right to get me up. I work tonight, you see.

I think I'm can sleep now. There was a point yesterday morning when I was quite simply beyond tired: my body was yelling at me but my mind had tuned it out. I'm past even that.

You're wondering why I don't take melatonin. I tried that for nearly a month a couple of years back and so far as I could tell, it had absolutely no effect on me. Maybe I didn't take enough, or maybe I didn't take it right. This time I took what I had until it was gone...and then I just took it.

G'night, everyone. I going to go play in the coma for a while.

.

13 May, 2015

FHRITP

For those of you who are news-averse, FHRITP is an obscenity, and also -- inexplicably -- an obscene trend that started out as a hoax that has since gone viral...and become a real thing.

It stands, pardon me, for "F--k Her Right In The P--y".

I feel dirty even abbreviating that. It's not that I'm a prude (although doubtless some would argue that point); it's that there's a time and a place among consenting adults for that kind of talk, and the time and place it's been happening lately (in public, directed at a total stranger on live television) is as far from appropriate as it's possible to get.

The most recent outburst came from a man I'm not going to bother naming, directed at Shauna Hunt, a reporter for CITY-TV in Toronto. She was covering a professional soccer game when two males taunted her sexually, one of them shouting the phrase.  The other man defended his friend's actions, saying "you're lucky we don't have a vibrator" and "you'll find it funny eventually."

Does anybody find this funny? Can anyone imagine finding it funny in the future? If so, please stop reading this now, slink off to whatever dark corner of the Internet you prefer, and please ensure that the door absolutely wallops your ass on the way out.

The man who actually yelled "FHRITP" is an assistant network management engineer (!) with Hydro One and Wilfrid Laurier University alumnus. I'm not in the least surprised by that last bit. Laurier has come out with a statement disavowing any approval whatsoever of the man's actions, but judging by the behaviour I have all too often been witness to both on and off campus by Laurier students, the words are hollow.

Anyway, he has since been fired. In addition, he faces a year's ban on attending any Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment event. MLSEL is trying to identify some of the people in the crowd who found the mens' actions hilarious: I'm not sure what they'll do if they're successful.

"It happens every day," said Shauna Hunt, the woman who was sexually harassed. "Sometimes multiple times a day." One reporter noted she'd heard sexually offensive remarks from a nine-year-old boy.

WHERE ARE THE PARENTS?

I'll tell you where they are. They're the ones pulling their kids out of school over
Ontario's sexual education curriculum, which is very explicit in its teaching respect for the individual, including the absolute requirement of consent for any sexual behaviour. They're the ones who want to "preserve their child's innocence".  They're also probably the same parents who did things like this when they were young themselves, without a second thought.

__________________


I had second thoughts. Plenty of them.

I'll tell you something: I was once nearly fired from a job because of sexual harassment.

Yes, me.

Adult Ken has a cherished and hard-won reputation as a walking safe space. I have to be exceedingly comfortable with you to even let my mind -- which is dirtier than most, believe me -- out of its confines at all, and I take great pains to ensure all boundaries are known and respected. That's not because I crossed a line once, and almost got burned for it. It's because it's the right way to be.

There are times I wish I wasn't so damned honourable, trust me. But whenever one of those times hits, I think -- hard -- about the possible consequences of dishonourable behaviour. Not so much the possible loss of job. No, I think about loss of  friends, face and faith -- all three of which have that other f-word beaten seven ways to Sunday.

Child Ken--and I was a child into my late twenties, up until I met the woman I would marry--didn't recognize or respect boundaries very well. That's why, more than twenty years ago, I said something to a female co-worker, something mildly crude which was nevertheless gently phrased (certainly much more gentle than "FHRITP")--which she misinterpreted as a sexual come-on.

I didn't intend any such thing at all, and was utterly horrified when I was told how what I had said was perceived. So horrified, so completely shocked and embarrassed, that I was let off with a warning instead of being fired, as I probably should have been. I was able to convince the woman in question that I had never meant any least offense.

It took some convincing.

I can't deny a feeling of righteous indignation when the accusation was levelled: I had been told much cruder things, many times, by the woman who was so mortally offended by my slightly off-colour observation. That feeling dissipated rather quickly as I realized my words had been misinterpreted as me hitting on her...that regardless of anything that had gone before, I had no business saying anything that could be interpreted as suggestive. Not in that setting, not to a co-worker, not ever.

Since then, whenever it came time to actually hit on someone in my life, I've been almost paralyzed by fear. I never make the first move, and rarely the second or third. I met my wife at a job interview--she hired me--and I quit before we started dating not six months later. Ask her if you don't believe me: I was the face of professionalism on the clock. So much so that only the most perceptive people even suspected anything. None of my co-workers, but rather Eva's...two of whom were also friends. "Date him already," they said.

I think you can chalk that up under "lessons learned".
___________________________


Does the "gentleman" who yelled "FHRITP"--which, to my mind even still, is ever so much worse than what I once said in ignorance--feel any corresponding remorse, any sense that his actions were wrong?

He doesn't seem to. And there are a whole bunch of people defending him in various online forums. "Boys will be boys" (and so, apparently, will be a lot of middle-aged men). "Lighten up, it's all a big joke". (No, it isn't. Rare indeed is the woman who would find this behaviour even remotely amusing.) "Where's freedom of speech?" (Hey,  nobody stopped these idiots from saying what they said. Freedom of speech has never protected and will never protect people from socially-inflicted consequences of that speech.)

For those who think the man shouldn't have been fired from his job over something he did on his own time, I ask you this: once it became known who employed him, what should his employer have done instead? Leave him in place, and leave the rest of the world wondering why they would ever have hired such an asshole? Condemn the behaviour, but otherwise do nothing, and thereby say to the world that your condemnations mean nothing, that you actually support such rudeness?

I don't really have a problem with people's lives being utterly destroyed when they act in such a patently stupid manner. I'm on the fence over whether or not mine should have been, and my offence really was comparatively trivial, not even directed at anyone in particular, in a small group of friends.  (Which again, doesn''t excuse it one bit: it happened on work time and was not appropriate for that setting. I really can't imagine--couldn't even at my most immature--running up to a camera and yelling that at a reporter. I have a real problem even saying "pussy" to refer to anything other than a kitten, because I happen to think women are more than their genitals. Much, much more.










07 May, 2015

Quick Political Wow...

My apologies to those of you who hate my political posts. I'll try to keep this short.  But I can't NOT blog about the two huge shocks that just hit Canadian politics on successive days.

First of all...the NDP won Alberta.

That's some kind of joke headline, the kind of thing that wouldn't even go over on April 1st because it's so utterly ludicrous. The American periodical THE WEEK is saying it's as if the Democrats swept Texas. That's actually a fairly good comparison. And yet it happened. It happened for a myriad of reasons that all came together to produce a perfect political storm for Jim Prentice and his governing Progressive Conservatives...a party with an uninterrupted 44 YEARS in power.

Take a recession, with a forecast of more of the same...add a leader who called an early election nobody wanted on a budget nobody wanted either,  multiply the right-wing parties so as to split the vote, divide the governing party bitterly, and watch as a new bright light in the form of Rachel Notley runs a pitch-perfect campaign from the center...and voilà, electoral doom for a dynasty and something unprecedented in its place.

The federal Conservatives are worried. They have every right to be. This is their homeland, the place they've been able to take for granted for decades. If Notley's governance comes even close to matching her campaign, the letters N-D-P will gain huge currency that will only redound to the good for the party elsewhere in Canada.

You know who else should be worried? Justin Trudeau. Which makes the passage of Bill C-51 yesterday all the more puzzling.

It was going to pass anyway. The Conservatives have a majority...they can hike through whatever they want (at least until the Supreme Court of Canada gets a look at it). I guess I was holding out hope that Trudeau and his Liberals would change their minds and oppose the damned thing. I held out in vain: the bill had full Liberal support.

I don't think Canadians realize what this bill does. You know how terrorists are supposed to hate us for our freedom? Well, now we don't have any. It seems an odd way to solve the problem, but I'd expect no different from a government that claims it's tough on crime while supporting a plethora of policies proven to do nothing but create more and harder criminals. This is the party that gave government censorship power over the Internet, without judicial oversight. It's the party that gutted Statistics Canada, crippling its ability to collect meaningful data, because who needs data when you already know what's right?

So yeah, I'm not exaggerating about the complete and total loss of our freedom. It's all provisional now. If any of seventeen different government agencies decides I am a threat, you may never hear from me again. And why might they decide I'm a threat? If I so much as attend a peaceful protest...if I voice support for a regime the government doesn't approve of...if I do anything that could be construed to be negatively affecting the economy...any of these things and who knows how many more will put me in a world of hurt.

I'm not saying this will happen to me. I'm white. And I hope I've been clear enough with my position concerning ISIS and its ilk as to remove me from any suspicion.  I'm not saying it will happen to just anybody, either: the Natives will eventually blockade another highway or railroad track, or cut power to a town, and the government will ignore it magnificently just as it has in the past.

But the fact it can happen is very frightening. It will get challenged on half a hundred Constitutional grounds, and hopefully the SCC will neuter it...but any government passing a bill like this has earned my enmity. As has any government supporting it. I'm talking to you, Trudeau, you dolt.

If Mulcair plays his cards right--he's just been dealt an almost unbeatable hand--he can hammer Trudeau into political splinters and wrest power from Harper. I don't support everything in the NDP platform--I don't support everything in anybody's platform...but they have their heart in the right place. If Rachel Notley can show she can manage Canada's sputtering economic engine...who knows what might happen come November?

Memo to Notley: Hey, Rachel...don't screw it up, okay?



04 May, 2015

My First Steps Into the World You Take For Granted

I've owned a cellphone for three weeks. It feels longer.

Actually, I should say first off that this is not my first cell phone. I had a slider five years ago that I used maybe six times. Those times were widely spaced, because I was always losing either the phone itself for its charger. At one point, incidentally inside the Wal-Mart I now find myself working in,  I spent several minutes trying to find a pay phone, having forgotten that I had a phone in my pocket.

Somewhen around our Disney trip the phone went missing for months, plural...except in order for something to be "missing" you have to miss it, and I barely noticed the absence. (If I couldn't remember I had a cellphone when I was carrying the bloody thing, why would anyone expect me to notice it gone?)  It eventually turned up, but its charger had vanished in the interim and never was found. I said then (and maintain now) that our landline cordless phone had never once disappeared, and its charger happened to be the place you habitually hung it up.

"But Ken", everybody entreated, "you can only use a landline at home, and only to talk to people. With vocal cords, how so last century."

And I said, my life alone consists of being at home, at work, or in transit between the two. If I'm at home, my number is ___-____; if I'm at work (emergencies only, since I'm not paid to talk on phones), my number is ___-____; if I'm between places I'm probably on my bike and can't talk anyway. This isn't rocket surgery, folks. And we won't revisit the whole depersonalization of text versus voice thing. Oh, wait, we just did."

And so I lived quite happily and contentedly without that electronic appendage the rest of the world has sprouted. Per Wikipedia, there are almost as many cellphones as there are people alive right now, which is something my mind simply can not credit. Call it Canadian Syndrome: it costs so damned much to own a cellphone in this country that I tend to forget it's radically cheaper everywhere else, especially in the Third World.)

In light of Eva's unfortunate setback discussed a couple of posts ago, among other things, it became necessary for me to be reachable on a moment's notice. It also became necessary for me to put away childish things, in this case my strenuous objections to owning a cellphone, and go buy what I'd always considered a childish thing...a cellphone.

It's a simple iPhone 5C, 8 gigs, which translates to a little more than four gigs of useable space. That's plenty. I have a 64GB iPod for my music, and...honestly! This phone is for communication and nothing else. My plan simply won't allow it: if I try and surf YouTube or God forbid something even more data-intensive outside of a WiFi zone, I'll bankrupt myself in short order. And since the only WiFi zone I happen to find myself in with any regularity is my own home, well, I'm sorry, if I have a choice I'm going to apt for a 24" screen and real keys over that tiny touch-screen, every time. You people who use your phone in place of your laptop or desktop...I don't understand you.

I had several people tell me I should have got an Android. Several people: you may be right, but (a) the iPhone was what was cheapest (believe me, that's a virtue at the moment); and I (b) a Mac/iPod person already, so the learning curve wasn't too steep.

Oh, hell, who am I kidding, the learning curve is like Lombard St. in San Francisco:



Spider Robinson, one of my favourite authors, once wrote a story about a time traveller.  Not your standard time traveller: this missionary had been unjustly imprisoned in a Third World country for ten years. Freed, he made his way back to his home town...and a culture shock that drove him to the edge of suicide. He'd been a minister, see, and after a mere ten years of technological change he couldn't recognize the world, had no idea of the spiritual trials and torments it now entailed, and after his ordeal he really wasn't sure he could believe in God anyway.

"We are all time travellers", Robinson says through his character, "moving into the future at the rate of one second per second."  As fast as technology changes, and it's an ever-increasing pace...it's still a day by day process. People travelling at the normal rate have plenty of time to adapt, even now.
For those who....skip...by choice or otherwise, the adjustment is something of a struggle.  By no means is it anywhere near as dramatic...but it is still surprisingly difficult.

Trying to text while navigating my way through the world is just one of the issues. I don't want to be one of those people who goes arse over tip into a fountain (or into traffic) while buried in his phone...and I WOULD be one of those people, given half a chance. So far I've managed to transfer between busses while carrying on two separate conversations via text (albeit at half the speed of smell). A small victory, but mine own.

I've discarded some of my old bugaboos about texting, now having texted something like five hundred messages amongst nine people. Others have been reinforced. It's not quite as hard as I had made it out to be, and my friends and family are courteous enough to move at my slow speed in a conversation, which really helps. The predictive text helps, too, although I do think it should have picked up on my habitual writing patterns by now.
While texting is a great way to keep in touch, it is spectacularly unsuited to a serious conversation. In some ways it's even worse than Twitter. At least on Twitter, you can use punctuation without having to access secondary and tertiary keyboards. Even though texting has no practical length limit, people act as if 140 characters is far, far too many, which leads to ambiguity and misinterpretation.

And autocorrect pisses me off.  It hasn't attacked me very often, but when it does it invariably changes something I had right into something that's anything but. And I flatly refuse to send the message and let it make even more of an ass out of me than I am already. Back up, re-type, all the while imagining my conversation partner twiddling her thumbs...

The biggest surprise has been the number of strangers texting me. I get at least one a day..."sup u in town"..."hey weeby what u doin"...they seem to be addressing a whole bunch of different people. I'm waiting for a stray sext to find its way on to my screen...that will be a hoot and a half.

I do, I confess, feel that almost overwhelming urge to check the phone when I hear an alert. It bothers me that I can be so easily conditioned. Of course, until very recently I hardly ever did hear alerts--the default swooping tone that signifies an incoming text is very quiet and both the noise and the vibration are muffled by my Otterbox, my capacious pockets, and my attentiveness to whatever it is I am doing. I was called on my cell for the first time ever just this morning, and I had to figure out how to answer the damned thing. I know--that sounds insane. But when landlines ring, we've had almost a century and a half's conditioning to  know that all we have to do is lift the receiver. If you have never answered a cell call before--and for all I know that applies to people who have owned a cellphone for years--you may not know you have to touch and drag a slider on the screen. First I held it up to my ear like an idiot...then I thought hey, I probably have to do something to open the line and I hit the single button at the bottom of the iPhone and that dd nothing and it was only then, with the phone jingle-jangling and vibrating merrily, that I thought I'd better look at the screen. My eyes zeroed in on the name of the caller (yes, I want this call) and frantically slid down the screen (the screen looked awfully funny with my eyes sliding down it) slide to answer SWIPE "Hello?"
"Hi, Ken, are you okay?"
"Yeah, why?"
"You're out of breath."
"Just"--don't say you got winded from trying to figure out how to answer your phone don't say just got winded from trying to figure out how to answer your phone--"ˆgot phoned trying to answer...the wind."

How I love the people in my life that hear things that inane and without missing a beat just skip right over them like I wish I had in the first place.

I know that there is a whole world of things I could be doing with this phone. I am hoping, quite sincerely, that it takes me several years at least before I crack and start exploring it. I like the world around me and I love many of the people in it. I already get far too much "online" in my life through this desktop. I really don't need more of it...