Music to roll you into your weekend ….

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This post was all set to go last week, and then got sidelined by an annoying commercial. Now, though, the music is demanding its fifteen seconds, and nothing can stand it its way. Every year, I create my personal list of the top forty songs of the previous year …. It all started in 2014, with my Top 40 of 2013. I created the list and presented it to Ryan, who adores both music and lists, and was therefore happy to listen to every song. Even the shitty ones (yes, I like shitty music – but that’s ok because I don’t care what you think. My #1 song from 2013 was – and still is, because I still dig it – “Just Give Me A Reason” by P!nk and Nate Ruess. I love the idea of picking up the pieces, examining them, cleaning them, repairing them – and putting them back together to keep the show on the road – rather than leaving them where they fell and moving on to whatever’s around the corner. I love the hope and heart in that song. Real love, the stuff that doesn’t quit when the going gets tough.

I’m presenting my Top 40 of last year later than ever, simply because I have not been sharing like I used to. But I’m back, and ready to rock! So, without further ado, here is my Top 40 of 2016, with links so you can listen and enjoy (or hate – whatever):

40. “Me, Too” by Meghan Trainor

39. “One Call Away” by Charlie Puth

38. “Mess Around” by Cage the Elephant

37. “Don’t Wanna Know” by Maroon 5

36. “New Romantics” by Taylor Swift

35. “Never Be Like You” by Flume & Kai

34. “Vice” by Miranda Lambert

33. “Hide Away” by Daya

32. “Pen to Paper” by Modern Space

31. “Like I Would” by Zayn

30. “That’s My Girl” by Fifth Harmony

29. “Genghis Khan” by Miike Snow

28. “Get Ugly” by Jason Derulo

27. “7 Years” by Lukas Graham

26. “Lost Boy” by Ruth B

25. “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” by Adele

24. “Sound of Your Heart” by Shawn Hook

23. “Good to be Alive” by Andy Grammer

22. “Roses” by Chainsmokers & ROZES

21. “The Greatest” by Sia & Kendrick Lamar

20. “Gold” by Ria Mae

19. “Me, Myself & I” by G-Eazy & Bebe Rexha

18. “Love Yourself” by Justin Bieber

17. “Under the Influence” by Elle King

16. “Woman Woman” by AWOLNATION

15. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake

14. “When We Were Young” by Adele

13. “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw

12.”24K Magic” by Bruno Mars

11. “Unsteady” by X Ambassadors

10. “Might Not” by Belly & The Weeknd

9. “Just Like Fire” by P!nk

8. “Love on the Brain” by Rihanna

7. “Can I Get a Witness” by SonReal

6. “Hold Up” by Beyoncé

5. “Burning House” by Cam

4. “Team” by Iggy Azalea

3. “Stand By You” by Rachel Platten

2. “Yellow Eyes” by Rayland Baxter

If you’re still with me – and why wouldn’t you be? These are awesome tunes, right? So, if you’re still here, I give you this energetic offering from a fellow Canadian …. Every time that song comes on the radio, from the first time I heard it to the last time (a couple of days ago), I get jacked up. Bet you will, too. Happy dancing!

1. “Got Your Number” by Serena Ryder

Ain’t nothin’ like the real thing, baby ….

I was going to write about music today. A fun topic – a great way to roll us all into the weekend. I was planning – and have nearly finished – a post containing my Top 40 of 2016. Then, as so often happens to this mouse’s best-laid schemes, it went awry. An ad (surely the bane of any YouTube user’s experience) popped up when I clicked on a link to a song (which will remain unnamed, as I do not want to give away anything about my chart until I publish it). I scrambled for the “skip ad” button, then stopped. This ad accomplished what no other ad in all my time of ad-watching has ever done: it caught and held my attention until it was over. Why? Because it was awful.

The iPhone 7 Plus features several tweaks to iPhone camera function and output. I had seen the boyfriend ad, the soulmate ad and the one featuring two kids in a play (“your movies look like movies”). These, all by themselves, are obnoxious. Put them all together, though, and add some extra words – and you’ve got what I saw (for which, for some strange reason, I am unable to find a link). Basically, the ad was saying that everything in your life looks better when you capture it with the iPhone 7 Plus. It makes your profile pic look even hotter. It makes your boyfriend look even more handsome. It makes your dog look even more adorable. Because, of course, the picture – the showpiece – is what matters. Not you. Not your boyfriend or girlfriend. Not your pet. Just the proof of it, displayed for your digital audience.

Isn’t a camera supposed to capture things as they are? Isn’t that how you want to remember them? Not unnaturally glowing or backlit. Not more highly coloured or slimmer. Not bent at the odd angle calculated to remove the double chin and round belly. Just themselves, as they are at this moment in this place, with all their beautiful dents, chips, scratches and scars. If that is not want you want – if you are looking to smooth all the edges – perhaps it is not actually the person or animal you value, but what he or she represents. What he or she says about you, as you carefully curate your life online. They’ve become an advertisement for you. How cold.

As I watched the ad, I was reminded of something I’ve never used, though they seem to be everywhere – filters. Not the ones that give you cat whiskers or dog ears – the ones that improve your appearance based on some algorithm of attractiveness. They are basically designed for the same purpose as the NEW! IMPROVED! iPhone camera: to make what we photograph or film look better. They subtly slim the bottom half of your face. They widen your eyes. They superimpose tans and light make-up. They airbrush everyone. They lie. Worse still, they up the ante for everyone else. Because so many of us are primarily connected through social media, we see each other’s profile pic several times per day – though it may be a long time between face-to-face encounters. In our mind, the person we know becomes the image we see. Then, we look at our own unfiltered photo – or our face in the mirror – and it doesn’t cut it anymore. Now, we need a filter, too, so we can look as good as everyone else. My profile pics never seem to stack up to some other people’s, and – though I know what they really look like – I have found myself unfavourably comparing mine with theirs. It’s insidious. If it rattles me this much – a fairly confident 36-year-old who didn’t grow up in the digital age – I can only imagine what it’s doing to my daughters and their friends.

Apple is – to say the least – a very successful company. Apple knows what people want, and is good at giving it to them. Apple, and its many peers, are just doing what we all do in a free economy: capitalizing on people’s perceived needs and desires. But we don’t have to go along with it …. What if we choose to ignore the noise? What if we take a step back from what we think we want, and reassess? To put it bluntly, what if we decide it’s time to get real?

(Because I teased you with my title and a reference to music, I feel like I should toss you this little bone …. Click here to enjoy Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye!)

Farewell, Facebook! (For a little while, anyway ….)

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Yes, I know – it’s been months since my last post. Christmas has been celebrated and packed away, January and February have been endured with varying amounts of grace. I don’t know why my blog has remained untouched by me all this time. Emotional ups and downs, the need to simplify life in order to keep up with it, plain old laziness …. ? I struggled to express all this to my lovely cousin, Charlene, over dinner together recently (delicious food and a thoroughly enjoyable experience at Khao Thai in the market). She’s been a great source of encouragement and enthusiasm for BethBlog, and she mentioned that she still checks in from time to time in the hopes that I will have written something new. A glance at my stats reveals that she’s not the only one. My appreciation to all who keep coming back – and my apologies for the prolonged cyber-silence. One factor in my writer’s block that I discussed that evening with Charlene is the avalanche of information that buries me regularly. There are many days when I feel like I’m being smothered by it – strangled by it – drowned in it. Bad news, good news, fake news. Quizzes, videos, how-tos, recipes, memes. And those ads …. I don’t want to put my girls in private school, rent a beach house in Jamaica, or enhance my sex life. I’d love to buy new dresses and shoes, but not online – and not right now. Where’s it all coming from? Facebook. I’ve been using Facebook for ten years now – I started using it when it was small. My, how it’s grown! What started as a handful of friends and private jokes has become dozens of voices all talking at once, and the resulting babel is grating and exhausting.

Whenever someone complains about internet content, there’s always a snappy, sanctimonious beauty ready to chime in with “if you don’t like it, don’t look”. I’m taking their advice, and leaving Facebook for Lent. As soon as the idea surfaced, I was excited about it. Imagine all that free time! All that peace! An internal clutter-bust! It will be like a long, soothing shower for my soul …. Facebook doesn’t make me a better person. It doesn’t improve my impact on the world. In fact, it makes me dislike people and the world more. Lent is an opportunity to examine our habits and hooks, and assess their impact on our lives. Why not see how leaving Facebook could help me?

Yesterday, though, doubts emerged. There are some family members and friends I only communicate with via Facebook. How am I going to know what’s going on in their lives? How will I know what they’re doing, or what their children look like now? How will they know any of that about me? My beautiful niece and nephew are growing fast – I’m sure I’ll miss some milestones and adorable photos.  I can’t remember the last time I received a party invitation through anything other than Facebook. What if there are lots of awesome parties and events going on and I don’t know about them? My primary form of communication with some people is Facebook. What if I lose touch with them because I’m no longer on Facebook? Sometimes, I see funny memes and videos on Facebook. Sometimes, Facebook tells me what’s going on before I find out from any other source. People on Facebook are all incredibly eager to express how a given death or split or news piece affects them, and that alerts me to the event in question. Facebook gives me ideas, meal plans, exercise regimes, decorating and parenting tips, movie reviews, conversation fodder. And then there’s me, the person I’ve become since using Facebook …. My first thought about quitting Facebook was “how many likes and comments will I get when I say I’m not Facebooking anymore” – and then I realized that I wouldn’t know because I won’t be checking. Can I have thoughts and experiences without sharing them with an instant audience of over a hundred? Can I take pictures without sharing them digitally – just take them like I used to, for the pleasure of capturing a moment? Can I cook or bake or eat someone else’s cooking or baking without taking a picture and uploading it to Facebook with a witty comment? Can I grow a plant without documenting its progress online? Ryan’s birthday’s coming up. So is my friend, Blue’s. Can I send them birthday greetings without fêting them on Facebook – would it look strange not to send them a public shout-out? On March 28, my father will have been gone for fifteen years. It seems strange to let that go by without saying anything on Facebook. Can I go back to the life I used to live, one without an audience? One in which what I did was for me and the people around me, and nobody else? We’ll see ….

I have a feeling I’ll come back to Facebook. It might even creep into my life, little by little, just like it did before – and have me in its thrall in a matter of days. But, for this small slice of time, I’m just me. In my world. Watched by nobody but the people who are actually there. Enjoying the silence …. (I know – awesome song!) Sure, I’ll miss some things. But I have a feeling I won’t miss them as much as I think I will.

The freedom soldiers won for me includes the right to decorate my home and celebrate holidays any way, any time.

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Seasons can be measured in many ways. The greening of the earth, and the wild explosion of colours in the spring – and the feeling that everything is new again. The undulating heat rising from the pavement, the desire (and will) to do nothing more than sit in the sun with a cold beer in the summer. The red, orange and gold glory of October, then the gradual fading of all colour in the fall – and the hint of smoke in the crisp air. Fat, fluffy snowflakes and brittle ground and glowing faces signify the start of winter. I often joke that I determine the season by the debris in my house. Mud in the spring, playground sand in the summer, leaves in the fall and road salt in the winter. Now that we’re all caught in the world wide web, though, there are other indicators.

Like Facebook. January is heralded by descriptions of workout routines, healthy recipes and storage solutions. I know it’s February because some people are posting lovey-dovey statuses while others are proclaiming their ability to sustain a meaningful relationship without tacky cards or diamonds (even though – or, perhaps, because – no one offered them either of those things). I know it’s Easter because my newsfeed is awash with images of Jesus and little ones wearing bunny ears (and people who are annoyed that the two coexist). May? Mothers. Everyone wishes for just one more day with their dead mother, thinks their still-mothering mother is the best one ever, is so proud of the mother of their children or is amazingly blessed to be a mother. June? Tributes to Dad, single mothers wishing themselves a happy Father’s Day, and mortarboards above proud young faces. In July and August, everyone’s trying to prove that they are having the summery-est summer. My newsfeed is an endless scroll of well-filtered guts sucked in and captured at just the right angle, wicked sunburns, babies with sweaty heads and sand-filled diapers napping in tiny tents, children racing into or out of the water, umbrella-garnished pastel drinks sweating on patio tables, coffee mugs with a cottage sunrise in the background. September? Back-to-school pics, and complaints about packing lunches – as well as admirably-creative-but-hopelessly-fiddly lunchbox ideas that people will try twice and abandon. Thanksgiving brings recipes and pictures of pumpkin patch visits. Right after Thanksgiving, I start seeing freakishly altered profile pics and costume ideas, and recipes for cookies shaped like spiders and bananas decorated like ghosts – and homemade gummy worms even though you can buy the real thing for pennies any time of the year. So, I know Halloween is coming. Now that Halloween is over, we have entered the annual debate about when to start celebrating Christmas in relation to Remembrance Day. Some people are solidly against even a hint of Christmassing before Remembrance Day, believing that it is disrespectful to our war-dead and our military to make merry while marking their service to our country:

Others say that they can play Christmas music and put up their decorations any damn day they please. I’m with them. We, as free Canadians, owe dead soldiers and still-standing veterans a mighty debt of gratitude. They did horrific things we could never imagine in the name of our freedom – and they won it for us. But freedom is not a concept that changes based on others’ approval – freedom is absolute. You may not like what I’m doing, but generations of brave men and women fought to the death for my right to do it – I say that you are disrespecting them when you try to take that from me. I, personally, do not often get into celebrating Christmas before Remembrance Day. This is not because I think it’s wrong; it’s because I celebrate Christmas for many weeks (well into January), and holding off builds anticipation and makes the holidays just a touch more special. Also, I prefer to take things one at a time – I like to focus on each special day on its own. That’s my style, and it’s ok. Just like it’s ok to put up Christmas decorations on November 1 or December 24, and to take them down on December 26 or February 1. It’s ok to not celebrate Christmas at all. Freedom.

We are a society of proud – and, in many cases, reasonably successful – multitaskers, but we can become very single-minded when it suits our purposes. We can listen to music and drink a coffee and eat a muffin and chat with a friend while we drive – but, apparently, we can’t acknowledge soldiers’ sacrifices and celebrate Christmas at the same time? Of course we can! We do things like that all the time. We celebrate a child’s birthday while mourning the passing of a grandparent. We set a festive table and make a toast to our blessings, while our hearts give a sad, silent nod to the invisible empty chairs. We are stopped in our tracks, shocked speechless, at the horror of a terrorist attack – and then we rejoice over the announcement that a relative or friend is going to bring another brand new soul into this weary, scarred world. We love in the face of hatred. We celebrate as we grieve. And some of us thank those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom while we Christmas it up – because we can.

White chicks wearing headdresses at music festivals are not racists.

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The issue represented by the title of this post is the one that first alerted me to the concept of cultural appropriation. I read an opinion piece in Maclean’s magazine suggesting that white people wearing headdresses at music festivals are appropriating Native American culture. Since reading that piece, I’ve read a number of other articles on the same topic. Kim and Kylie Kardashian were criticized, one for wearing cornrows and the other for wearing a Yaki ponytail (a hairpiece that, apparently, only black women are supposed to buy). The University of Ottawa cancelled a yoga class because a few people whined about stealing Indian culture. The class is back now, with a new teacher. The new teacher was, amazingly, hired without being told of the controversy surrounding stretching at U of O. When she learned what had happened before she was hired, she worried aloud that she may have been chosen for the position simply because she is Indian and therefore “authentic”. White people should not wear sombreros or put “el” in front of anything that isn’t actually a Spanish word. Iggy Azalea’s guilty of rapping while being white. (Her accuser, Macklemore, expressed this by rapping while being white – but that’s ok, apparently, because his heart is in the right place.) Recently, Justin Bieber caught flak for wearing dreadlocks, because he is not black. Designer Marc Jacobs’ use of dreads on his models during a fashion week show drew angry reactions for the same reason. To add ridiculousness to an already impressively ridiculous list, Kendall Jenner posed for a Vogue ballet-themed photo shoot in a leotard, leg-warmers and pointe shoes – and was promptly accused of appropriating ballet culture, whatever that is. Ballerinas spend so many years perfecting their craft that they feel personally insulted when a rube like Jenner dresses like one of them. Um, what? I’m not even going to try to even with that.

I’ve read a number of opinion pieces on this topic, ranging from mildly disapproving to militantly opposed. Some people are annoyed that white people are taking their traditional hairstyle or clothing or sacred objects lightly – making a fashion statement. Others say it’s ok for white people to do that, as long as they understand the significance of what they are wearing or using and support the culture in which they are dabbling. Others go a little further, annoyed that white people can put on or take off hairstyles, garb and décor without assuming any of the burden of the people who are born into it. An example that is frequently cited is black people with dreads or ‘fros feeling that people look down on them, while white people who adopt these styles are considered cool or edgy, and can still be treated like professionals. Then there are those who say it’s never ok for white people to have hairstyles associated with black people or teach stretching exercises associated with Indians or wear hats associated with Mexicans – white people should be one thing, white (whatever that means), and leave other people’s styles and symbols alone.

Since this is BethBlog and I can say whatever I want, here’s what I think of the whole cultural appropriation flap: Telling people what they can have on their walls or coffee table based on their country of origin is wrong. Telling people they can’t dress a certain way because they’re not a member of a certain ethnic group is wrong. Shutting down a free fitness class for university students because the participants are not of Indian origin is wrong. Telling people that they can’t wear certain hairstyles because they are white is wrong. Even giving a little by saying “ok, white people can wear these hairstyles, but they have to feel really, really, really bad about being white while they wear them” – that’s wrong, too. Insisting that people justify their possessions or fashion choices or personal tastes is wrong. To say otherwise is to say that placing limitations on someone’s freedom is ok if that someone is white – and it’s not ok. Whatever happened to the idea that we should be colour-blind and just let people be who they want to be?  I guess we’re all one world – one race – until we’re not.

I have a map of the world on my wall, framed by flags from every country. Its colour and detail come together to make it a thing of beauty. If I cut out the tiny piece of the map that shows my home, and get rid of all the rest, the map would not be lovely any longer. It would be small and limited, and looking at it would make me feel diminished. In some ways, it feels as if that is what the people screaming “cultural appropriation” want.

I have statues and masks and wall-hangings from Africa, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba. I have a nesting doll from Ukraine. I have a Mardi Gras mask from New Orleans and wooden shoes from Holland. I have a dream catcher, and a Lakota carving. I have a Chinese lantern commemorating the Year of the Monkey. I have three Navajo blankets. I have a beautiful pashmina my dear friend brought back to me from Istanbul, which I wrap around my shoulders when I’m chilly. I have candle holders and cloth and a wooden box from India. I have a marble box from Pakistan. I have pieces of jewelry that feature the yin yang symbol, and the ankh. I freely add influences from other culinary traditions to the food I prepare (sometimes more than one per dish). Depending on where I’m celebrating my birthday, I might end up wearing a giant sombrero. Why? Because I love these things. They are beautiful, and they enhance my look, my home and my life – they make me feel good. Also, because it isn’t hurting anyone for me to love these things – I’m not stealing from other people’s heritage, I’m enjoying it. In fact, they’re free to enjoy mine – and they do it everyday, in lots of different ways. Most of all, though, because nobody has the right to tell me, based on the colour of my skin, what I can or can’t appreciate, wear, eat, or do. That’s freedom, and it’s for everyone, and there are no contextual conditions.

My inner mean girl needs to get a life – or, at least, let others live theirs.

Nineteen years ago (NINETEEN! YEARS! AGO! Time, time, time.), bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready for anything, I stuffed everything I owned into my 323 hatchback and left small-town Newfoundland for college in Nova Scotia. When I got there, the first new thing I encountered was dorm life. The walls of my room were green. But it was readily apparent that they had also been blue, peach and tan at various points in their storied life. The screenless window had a rotting wooden frame that jammed often (probably because all those layers of paint had added an extra quarter-inch to it all ’round). My desk had a homemade Ouija board scorched into it. My mattress was …. well, a dorm room mattress. I tried not to look at the stains while changing the sheets, because I wasn’t emotionally prepared to speculate as to their origin (I’m still not). It didn’t take long for me to make it home, though. A collection of photos on the cork board. One of my grandmother’s patchwork quilts on the bed, and a Beavis and Butthead poster above it.

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A little later, there was a potted cactus on the windowsill and a hamster named Cottonball on the Ouija board. On top of it all, I had discovered the heights of student sophistication: jamming a black taper candle into a Baileys bottle.

Less than six feet away from me, there was a duplicate bed and desk. These belonged to my roommate Amanda*. She had her own hamster, Bandit (whose cage she cleaned once an equinox), and her own purple taper candle in a Baby Duck bottle. She was a long-awaited adopted only child whose parents worshipped the ground she complained on, and she was not easy to live with. Her boyfriend, Darren*, came to visit her every weekend. He drank beer after beer, and threw the caps on the floor. Words can’t express how I adored blindly stepping on those scalloped metal edges on my way out of the room first thing in the morning. At night, while I pretended to sleep, they bumped uglies. Loudly. One night in November, nearing the breaking point, I jumped out of bed, flipped the light on, and started calling their plays like “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”. (Oh, Meatloaf …. You are so delightfully sweaty and meaty and loafy.) Amanda stopped talking to me, and Darren visited less often, after that. At the end of the semester, Amanda flunked everything and dropped out. Though I have not heard from her in years, I like to think she and Darren are still out there, together. Burping the alphabet, perhaps, or supporting each other in their struggle to comprehend the comics in the Saturday paper.

When Amanda left, I had the room to myself, and I kept it that way for the rest of my four college years. I enhanced my living space greatly by acquiring a second hamster and three guinea pigs, which made it smell ever-so-slightly of barn. I took my closet door off its hinges and laid it flat across the two desks, to make room for my computer. As a finishing touch, a loveliness of ladybugs burrowed into my windowsill and fruitfully multiplied until I opened the window (and left it open) in an effort at population control.

So, you can imagine my reaction when I read this blog post about the beautifully decorated dorm rooms at Ole Miss. Apparently, female roomies collaborate and pool their money long before they move in, and they come up with this:

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And this:

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And this:

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(No, the girls don’t come with the décor. But they look like they do, don’t they?)

Their dorm rooms are so beautiful that there’s a competition for most beautiful dorm room. That’s actually a thing. Because money is something I think about alot, the first thing I wondered was how students could possibly come up with the cash. What a waste. How privileged are they, to be able to drop a grand on ottomans and monogrammed wall art? Nothing I’ve ever lived in – or ever will live in – is as pretty as these giant jewelry boxes for young ladies. Wow. Those girls have their ducks in a row – they know what’s really important. They’re making one of the biggest moves of their life, and matching bedspreads is all they can come up with to mark the occasion? Gosh, wonder how booze stains and vomit wash out of faux fur rugs …. Everything about this trend made me want to smack the insipid faces of the little divas posing with their Target haul until they did something ill-bred, like dropping their smug game-show-host smiles for a few seconds.

Then, I wondered how these girls and their pimped-out dorm rooms could make me so stabby. Why did I care what a handful of girls I’ve never met are doing with their dorm rooms I’ll never visit? Why was I being so mean?

For those who read BethBlog regularly (thank you), you’ll know I’m no stranger to nastiness. I snark on people who take and share too many pictures, people who enrol their kids in an overwhelmment (there – I just created a new collective noun) of activities, and people who celebrate holidays in stupid ways. People who shop Black Friday sales like its their last chance to buy anything, ever, just ahead of the cornucopia of Christmas, annoy me. I think people who overthink, overdocument and overshare everything are ridiculous. I find people who curate and present their life as if it were a style mag, self-help book or visual life coach, unbearably snotty. People who spend a disproportionate amount of time daydreaming on Facebook have earned my disdain. As have people who drive minivans, pour too much of themselves into their lawn, and schlep their babies to classes of any kind.

In other words, I’m a seasoned bitch, and I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it. Some things in life simply call for a bitch, need a bitch, and I’m on it. I think alot of people live life in such a ludicrous fashion that they deserve a stink-eye topped with a raised eyebrow, with a side of curled lip – served cold. These girls, though? They’re eighteen and taking pleasure in decorating the room they’ll live in for the better part of a year. What do I expect them to be doing? Solving world conflicts? Ending famines? Stopping climate change in its tracks? And how do I know they’re not doing their part in those struggles, too? Their way of expressing themselves isn’t my way – so I’ve dismissed it as idiotic, and derided it as vapid and valueless. Many women do what I do, over and over. We make fun of women who cook or bake beautifully. Who has time for that? Hello! Pizza delivery exists for a reason. We assume women who are fashionable don’t have anything else to think about. We defiantly wave our dollar-store craft kits in the face of women who make lovely things out of odds and ends, and are bold enough to post a pic. I’ve got better things to do – you must have no life if that’s how you spend your time. And, yes, decorating. It’s ok to have a nice house, but you’d better not have an adorable house. Otherwise, we all know you’ve got throw pillows for brains – and you are clearly a cold fish if your house is clean. You can keep your pristine palace, I’m too busy making memories for that.

Why? Why we feel the need to put each other down over things that don’t affect us? Are we so unhappy with our life that we must take down everyone around us to even the score? Are we focussing so intently on the tall poppy that we forget that we have a garden of our own? Do we not understand that breaking someone else down won’t build us up? We tell our kids to live and let-live. We say “everyone’s different, and that’s ok”, to teach them acceptance of others. Then we rain judgement on others for the crime of having different priorities and executing them with style. If a handful of teenagers making their rooms pretty is all it takes to piss us off (and many a lady rager got her knickers in a twist over this – I’m not the only one), maybe we need to dig deeper for more confidence and contentment.

* No names have been changed because these people have mercifully faded from my life, and I hope never to hear from them again.

 

The Girl Who Cried “Body-Shaming”.

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Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, and therefore the target audience for these news stories and opinion pieces. Maybe it’s because I’m drawn to human interest stories in general, and those that feature women in particular. Maybe my social media filters are not tight enough, or I have the wrong contacts. Maybe, deep down, I simply love a good hate-read. Whatever the case, I have really gotten tired of the concept of body-shaming (or, as some call it, fat-shaming) and the people who whine about it.

Every day, I encounter a new outrage (sometimes more than one). There are no fat leading ladies because society finds fat people repulsive. There are no fat models because designers don’t want to be represented by fat people. Designer X wouldn’t dress Celebrity Y because she is fat and Designer X is a fat-bashing snob. Stores don’t carry clothing in my size because the store owner is embarrassed to have fat customers. Some jerk at the beach looked at me funny because he thinks I should be wearing a mumu instead of a bikini. I feel embarrassed about my girth at the gym in front of all those mirrors, so gyms are fat-shaming enterprises. Airlines are mean because they make fat people pay extra for taking up extra space. Cruise ships are mean because they are reluctant to super-size their deck chairs. Hospitals are mean because they are grousing about having to stretch their already-paper-thin budget to buy special equipment to accommodate fat people. Taxing junk food is discrimination against fat people. Wah, wah, wah.

The latest mention has come courtesy of the Ottawa Citizen. Apparently, the health care system is mistreating obese women who are pregnant, or wish to become so. This is according to a study that includes 24 white, middle-class women in two unnamed mid-size Canadian cities. Excellent methodology, that – sure to lead to reliable conclusions. Two of the examples cited may have a case, in my view. One woman reported that her doctor refused to remove her IUD because she is so fat that pregnancy, for her, would be “a disaster”. Refusing to remove an unnecessary foreign object from a patient’s body is denying care, and her doctor should have done what she requested, while counselling her regarding the potential consequences. Another woman reported that her doctor never examines her internally. A good doctor does his or her due diligence, and internal exams are a required aspect of quality gynecological care. Both of these circumstances merit, at the very least, further investigation.

However, the rest of the complaints discussed in the Citizen article seem to be a matter of ignorance, skewed patient perception, and hyperbole. Women report dreading prenatal appointments, feeling like they are disgusting, or feeling like their doctor thinks they are bad mothers. This is too baseless and vague to properly address, with no anecdotes to back any of it up. How can it be proven, or even investigated, that a woman says she feels like whatever? Two more-concrete claims came from a woman who was refused fertility treatments until she lost 60 pounds, and one who was told that her infertility is caused by her fatness. These two stories make me feel sorry for the women. However, let’s consider the facts …. Obese pregnant women run a higher miscarriage risk. They are more susceptible to high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. Their babies are more likely to have congenital abnormalities. Obese pregnant women are also far more likely to require a caesarean section, because labour and delivery are complicated by extra weight and its attendant health problems. These are important medical issues.

If I tell a pack-a-day smoker he shouldn’t try to run a marathon until he quits smoking and lets his lungs clear out, I’m not trying to crush his dreams or hurt his feelings or make him feel like a bad person – I’m merely trying to protect the fool from pushing his damaged body past its limits into dangerous territory. Doctors who tell fat women they might not be able to conceive in their condition are not trampling on hope. They are giving medical facts to their patients. Doctors who warn fat women of the dangers of pregnancy are not being mean. They are trying to help their patients prepare for the strong possibility that they will face more limitations and problems during their pregnancy and delivery than a woman with a healthy body weight. Doctors who refuse to help fat women become pregnant unless they lose weight are not practicing “soft eugenics”, as ridiculously suggested by the authors of the study. They are giving the woman and her future children a better chance for a healthier outcome. All of these things are a doctor’s job.  If a plumber is called to my house to replace a toilet, and he notices and comments on a leaky sink, he is not pipe-shaming me. He is doing what he is supposed to do as the particular expert I’ve consulted.

This nebulous study, and the attention it has received, is yet another example of the daily hand-wringing I’m done with. The reaction to perceived body-shaming mainly comes in the form of an online rant, with a few well-meaning lines about bodies coming in all different sizes and loving the skin you’re in – and then the accusation of body-shaming. I let you make me feel uncomfortable because I’m sensitive about being fat – so you must be an asshole. The whole situation is painted black and white, and the only side anyone should be on is the side of the so-called victim. It seems that the whole world is out to get fat people. Or is it?

I’m not without sympathy. Some children are mercilessly bullied over their weight. Some people have been treated poorly by the healthcare system and the service industry because they are fat. Extra materials, more complicated patterns and manufacturing processes drive up the cost of plus-sized clothing – and having to pay more for clothing is frustrating. Simple economics: extra weight means extra wear-and-tear on a vehicle, and extra fuel – and buying two seats on an airplane is a hardship many people can’t afford. It must be painful to know that your dream of being a mother or the health of your children may be hampered by your weight. It can be the battle of a lifetime for some people to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. And on and on …. However, along with the sympathy, it’s time to administer a healthy dose of reality.

Sure, it’s annoying to see that the entertainment industry consists mainly of people who are smaller than you – but, in many cases, famous actresses and singers and models are smaller than most people. It’s not pleasant to hear that a designer refused to dress whoever because her bones don’t protrude. However, we’re talking about a rarified world that reflects very little of our daily existence anyway. That’s why it’s entertainment, not the evening news or a documentary! No intelligent person I know is looking to Hollywood to see a reflection of herself and find the meaning of life. Clothing stores are businesses. What they care about is money. If they don’t carry your size, it’s because it’s not profitable – they don’t need your money badly enough to cater to you. Whining about how mean they are and posting desperate online diatribes begging them to value your business because you are so much more than your dress size will not shame execs into stocking your size. Instead, take your money to a store that will sell you clothing that fits you, and enjoy stepping out in it. Airlines also only care about money. All they see is extra weight = extra fuel = higher expense to fly you somewhere. They don’t want to deal with multiple passengers complaining that their space was partially occupied by someone else’s ass, so they will make make you buy an extra seat. When you protest, they don’t care that you are never going to fly with them again. Everyone else still will, and – if you’re honest – you probably will, too, if their seat sale is juicy enough. As for how people “make you feel”, if you examine the situation in detail, you may find that how you feel has alot to do with your own perception of yourself coupled with the oh-so-human tendency to make everything about ourselves. People are not looking at you all the time – in fact, most of the time they aren’t even thinking about you. Don’t assume that every negative facial expression or action or comment is leveled at you and your weight. By frantically flinging the body-shaming accusation in every possible direction, you’re diverting attention from areas of true concern and helping society build up an immunity to actual cases of body-shaming.

You love yourself? Great! Rock on, and enjoy your life. You don’t love yourself? Change yourself! But please stop this stupid trend of yelling at companies and organizations and the old lady at the pool and the meathead at the gym for not seeing things your way, then claiming fierce love for yourself and complete peace with your circumstances – then making excuses for, and begging us all to look past, the same self you just claimed to adore. It doesn’t wash, and it’s really irritating.