You bag up your leaves and throw them out …. Say what?

imagesCAMMVP2V

A couple of days ago, I spent about three hours working on the various yards around our house. Instead of a backyard and a front yard, like everybody else, we have a front yard and two side yards. One of the side yards is similar to a classic backyard – fenced and containing a play structure. The other is divided into two areas, one a sunny terrace of interlocking brick and one a sunken cloister, surrounded by trees. So, really, we have three side yards, I guess? Anyway. Our various yards are not really the point of this post, they’re the birthplace. One of my summer pleasures is taming these yards, since they’re a profusion of both domestic perennials and wildflowers, and you just never know what colours and shapes you’re going to encounter on any given day. I was thinking about the changes each season brings to the yards. When I thought about the fall, I pictured the ankle-deep carpet of leaves I love to shuffle through – and was reminded of things-people-do-that-I-don’t-get. Within minutes, I had come up with a sizable list. The first item, the one that started this chain of thought, is ….

Bagging leaves. First when leaves fall from the trees, they make a colourful covering for the ground, which is rapidly turning to a slurry of browns and greys. As they dry out, they make a lovely crunching sound when you step on them. Through the winter, they provide warmth and shelter for plants and small animals. In the spring, they decay and turn into nutrients for new plants. They’re basically free mulch. Unless you spend hours raking them up and putting them in bags, and leave them at the curb on garbage day. Which alot of people do. Even better: some people bag and dispose of their leaves, and then head for the nearest gardening center to buy mulch. Yeah.

Lawns. Yes, grass is pretty. But so are periwinkles, buttercups, dandelions, lambsquarters, chickweeds and clovers. But because people have been conditioned to see these other plants as undesirable, as weeds, they don’t recognise their beauty or even the environmental value of variety. So they spend alot of money, water, time and sweat on encouraging an expanse of monoculture that does nothing for nature, or the health of people and pets. Sometimes they even subtly bully their neighbours into doing the same. Or they don’t bother with subtlety, and they call the city to rat on the non-conformists. Nope, I don’t get lawns – or their crusaders.

Washing yard gear. Sure, if you like to eat meals outside, wipe the table with a soapy cloth. If a bird poops on your chair, wipe that, too. But attacking your entire deck or terrace with a pressure washer …. Why? Ok, hose it down at the end of the winter to get rid of an entire year’s worth of debris – but then stop wasting water. Unless you live in Death Valley, it’s probably going to rain sooner or later.

Minivans. If you have three or more children, ok, buy a minivan. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do. But what is with these couples who start shopping for a minivan as soon as the woman feels her first twinge of morning sickness over their first child? A baby is a very small human being, and does not need a living-room-on-wheels for her transportation. Ryan and I and our two daughters drive more than anyone we know, comfortably, and we’ve never driven anything bigger than a sedan. We save money on gas, we go easy on the environment, and we can take advantage of tight parking spaces. Don’t be suckered into giving up your car just because one of the three back seats is gaining an occupant.

Baby-on-Board signs. Oh, I’m so glad you put that little yellow diamond in your rear window – I was going to ram into you, then screech around you and hurl trash from my open window into yours. Now that I know there’s a baby in your car, though, I’m going to keep a safe distance and watch out for that precious little bundle of joy you’re packing. Know what? Everybody matters; babies don’t belong to an elite group worthy of enhanced protection. Even if you’re the only person in your car, I’m still going to be careful, because I don’t want anyone to get hurt.

Classes for babies. What’s the point? You’re dealing with a person who, over the next couple of years, is going to learn to recognise faces (including his own), talk, walk, feed himself and interact with other human beings (and animals). He doesn’t know yet that droplets will fly everywhere if he smacks the surface of his bath water. This might be funny or scary to him, depending on his personality. He’s going to learn that a crayon dragged across paper makes a mark, and the colour of the mark corresponds to the colour of the crayon. He will find out that there are things behind doors. He will soon know that if he’s being strapped into his carseat, he’s going somewhere. Things he’s probably not going to learn, no matter how much money you fork over or how many Saturday mornings you burn in traffic, change rooms and line-ups? Swimming. Yoga. Tumbling. Ballet. A musical instrument. Because his little brain’s already working very hard to keep up with the basics! Unless he’s a prodigy, which is unlikely for most of us – in which case his talents will emerge on their own, when he’s ready to reveal them. Maybe parents should ask themselves why babies should learn any of these things. The uncomfortable answer might just be that classes for babies are little more than an expensive way to allow new parents to socialize and kill time between naps.

I could keep going, of course, since the list of things-people-do-that-I-don’t-get is long, and seems to grow regularly. But I’ve reached a thousand words, so I think I’m going to shut down my Little Shop of Say-Whats for today. Stay tuned for part two ….

Go ahead and call me “sweetheart” – I like it.

Eugenie-Bouchard-Wimbledon-2013-rd-1_2963993

So, apparently the Middle East has managed to achieve peace between all its warring factions, global warming has been reversed and we’ve finally fed every starving child in every country in Africa – and nobody told me! Or, at least, that’s my assumption, based on this latest feminist flap caused by the innocuous act of calling a woman “sweetheart”.

Eugenie Bouchard, a twenty-year-old tennis sensation from Montréal, is deservedly getting alot of attention. In 2012, she won the Wimbledon girls’ title. She reached the semifinals of the Australian and French Opens in 2014, and the finals of a Grand Slam in singles at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships (the first Canadian to do so). She’s a truly gifted athlete, and she has worked very hard for what she has achieved.

She has, of course, generated huge excitement among tennis fans. The media has taken to calling her “Canada’s tennis sweetheart”. This is, apparently, an issue. There’s been a bit of noise in our forum of ignorant, impotent knee-jerking, Facebook. A local radio personality, Randall Moore, has been called “sexist” for using the moniker in one of his rants on Chez 106. And then there’s Mike, who doesn’t think Eugenie Bouchard should be called Canada’s sweetheart because she doesn’t rescue baby penguins or pet the wings of butterflies. (FYI, Mike-the-dad-blogger, petting the wings of a butterfly would not make you a sweetheart, it would make you an asshole – because that kills the butterfly. But I digress.) She also doesn’t knit or bake butter tarts, two more things that Mike associates with sweethearts. Um, what?

Sweetheart, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as “a person you love very much”. Synonyms include beloved, darling and dear. It’s a compliment. Eugenie Bouchard is loved very much by Canadian tennis fans everywhere – and even just plain patriots who don’t care much for tennis, but enjoy seeing Canadians perform well on the world stage. She’s our sweetheart (for now, anyway). She’s also young and pretty, with a bangin’ body. And therein lies the problem, perhaps …. If she were a man, and someone called her Canada’s darling, nobody would protest. There’s no way of testing this theory, but I also suspect that her being called a sweetheart wouldn’t raise many eyebrows if she were older or unattractive. Because this is what many people are saying: “oh, you’ve given her this label because she’s twenty and blonde”. No, she has this label because she’s beloved on the tennis courts right now. That’s what rocketed her to fame in the sports world, not her looks. People who call her Canada’s sweetheart, or don’t pay much attention to the reference, innately understand that. So, who are the real sexists here? Could it be those who can’t see how she could be called “sweetheart” without her gorgeous smile and long hair and athletic frame? I know, I know: what a ridiculous thing to suppose. Almost as ridiculous as getting angry and flinging accusations around because someone’s been called a sweetheart?

As I said at the beginning of this post, there are alot more serious issues to which we ought to apply our outrage. In some parts of the world, a lovely girl like Eugenie Bouchard could aspire to, at most, a highly-priced bride. She might get stones or acid thrown at her if she tried to do anything more than that with her mind or her body. Here in Canada, she’s a tennis star. But …. but …. but people call her sweetheart! In the words of the aforementioned Randall Moore, responding to listeners who accused him of sexism, so what? If that’s our biggest problem, we’re definitely come a long way, baby. Oh, sorry! We’ve come a long way, fellow equally-competant-in-all-areas-and-certainly-not-darling-in-any-way human.

Related question: Would anyone who got upset over Eugenie being called a sweetheart also take up the cause of David Beckham? Or is this a one-way street?