Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What is this new thing? Entitlement!

I know entitlement has a bad connotation to it. We think of fat cats complaining that their spoiled little brats can't run over the great unwashed in their $400,000 cars, or that they their darlings truly are gifted, they just get all F's because they're so brilliant and school is just not suited for their special brand of genius. Or this jerk in front of my house who has half parked with his butt hanging across half of my driveway, figures, he works for the city. They were also kind enough to leave my gate open which caused me to chase a certain poodle around the block. Eedjits!

But what about good entitlement, I think we like to cover it up in a word like expectations, but I kinda, sorta think its the same. Like I'm entitled to be treated politely, or I'm entitled to respect. We all have our expectations, high and low. Mine have been pretty low for a long time, I'm just coming to realize this. As I'm moving forward in this relationship, I'm learning new things that I haven't been privy to before. At first I was like "Wow, this is uber cool! I'm freaking spoiled!" but I was recounting a story of something that happened 10 years ago and as I'm telling it, I'm thinking, "Wow, that would never happen with BF" which caused me to pause and think for a bit. The nitty gritty of what happened isn't so important for this post, but what dawned on me, was that at the moment of that incident, I was entitled to better, not because I was so special, or that it was something that everyone was entitled to or wanted to be entitled to, but because it was something that was very important to my values and important in my relationships giving and receiving with people. So I started thinking of things overall and started to re-evaluate...and still am in the process of doing, of what sorts of things I felt like I deserved. Not to re-open old wounds or rehash the past, I'm way past that point, but it's been a valuable learning tool in going forward of my "expectations" in how I want to be treated. Why I like the word entitlement is that I do feel like I'm owed some things. Keys to the world would be great and really, if planet Earth wants a paradise, I strongly recommend that you do, but more realistically, if I treat someone with respect, I'd like that back. If I'm kind and generous to you, I'd like some back too. If I'm polite...you get the picture.

Anyhow, I've been reflecting a lot on my entitlement and have been putting it into practice. Largely by not being a doormat. A couple of weeks ago, I requested an urgent appointment with my doctor. I got an appointment in three weeks. I sucked that up (okay, I was a doormat there), about a week ago, the office calls me again this time requesting that I reschedule my son's necessary appointment I made several weeks back. I said no, I cannot because it fell right during pick up children from school time. I wasn't willing to push it back a couple of weeks and I very nicely, but firmly held my ground. The receptionist then asked me to stop being so inflexible. Remember my blog post about all the little Joy's running around in my head...well that comment caused Ghengis Khan Joy to emit a war cry and get the troops ready for battle. Somehow, diplomat Joy, who really is an awesome diplomat held back the full out war of the hissy fits and explained to the receptions just how flexible I have been (FOR THE PAST 13 YEARS!!!), but I must insist on this appointment for my son and to please get someone else to move their appointment kthxbye! Really, I'm not an unreasonable person and if I could have accomodated the request, I would have, but there were no viable options presented. I kept my appointment with my son, which I then had to miss, which is a long story, but on the record, I'm going to be the 10 year old and state that it wasn't MY fault.

Example two, which happened today at my local Costco. I got into a disagreement with the gas station attendant who's job is to direct traffic and avoid anarchy. However she came at me like a bull in a china shop with a nasty tone, and just being plain rude. Old me would have just sucked it up, new Joy said "Excuse me, you needn't use that tone with me, just explain it to me politely." She barely let me get a word in edgewise, but somehow I let her know that there is a way of getting her point across without being rude or trying to browbeat a customer. She then proceeded to talk smack about me with other customers...ummmm okay. I remained polite and firm, and the best I got out of her was "I'm sorry you feel that way." I told her, with no sarcasm in my voice (and that was HARD) that that was pretty much a non apology and she retorted with the classic "Whatever!". Ghengis Khan Joy has a really good case to mount a full scale war, but entitled Joy said "well, I'm going to have to talk to the manager about this." Then I got a "I don't care!" and I couldn't help it, but I laughed. It was just so ridiculous. Anyhow, I got my gas, marched myself into the Costco and in my nicest, warmest and most professional self, talked with the manager who apologised profusely. Again, I'm not an unreasonable person, if I'm doing something wrong, please, let me know, NICELY. I'll try and make my wrong right. If you're going to come at me like an angry wasp, the message is already lost. Ultimately though,  if I'm at a store where I spend $300.00-400.00 a month in fuel alone, not to mention the gabillion litres of milk and staples I have to get, and throw in some impulse buys, yeah, I'm entitled to a little courtesy.

What is stunning about all this, is that I'm just discovering all this. It truly is new. I think it comes from my sense of self worth and as it is growing, I'm realizing that I'm just as entitled to good treatment in return for mine as anyone else. It's a very exciting revelation. And I know I am very capable of asserting myself firmly, but without unnecessary casualties. It's a small, but growing expectation or entitlement of mine, now the key is to keep it in check. Thank goodness for the oodles of salt of the Earth friends who are more than willing to kick me in my seat if I get too big for my britches.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Free range parent I am not

Okay, I'm not a free range parent. I'm not the type who is clutching her children to her bosom afraid to let them take a few steps away, but I'm also not comfortable letting them play safely out of sight. I of course, have to let them do that, but it doesn't come naturally for me. That's strange because I grew up largely as a free range kid. I was thrown outside in nice weather, told my boundaries, and came in when my mom yelled from the 10th storey window into the ginormous courtyard in between 5 high rises, which had a small park in the middle of it all. Otherwise my home time was when the lights came on. As I got older, I remember being outside at night with my friends, I was in grade 8 and spent many a summer evening hanging out til 10, 11, 12 just on the benches with my buddies. And for all those newbie free range parents who have kids, 16, 18, 20, my mom was old school free range parent, because while your kids might have to tackle public transportation alone, I was outside unsupervised, at 6, in the ghetto! And all before this whole free range stuff became trendy.

So why am I so neurotic...well maybe because I'm neurotic. Although its strange because while I was allowed to run around like a chicken with my head cut off, my mother was freaking out at every step my youngest made, and he was at most 20 paces away and in clear vision. What did set my mind at ease, was the fact that like when I was growing up, there were parents everywhere. Parents who have no problems telling my kids off, or helping them along, much like when I was growing up. Believe me, if you were doing something stupid and some parent caught you, it was only a matter of time before the news got to your parent. Maybe that was why they were so comfortable letting us roam.

I think part in why it's harder to let kids go on their own these days is because communities like that aren't very common anymore. I can walk for miles in suburbia, in residential areas and not see people sitting out on their porches, they're all in their backyards, or somewhere else. Whereas in many lower income and mixed income communities, everyone is outside as long as weather permits. Gossiping, yelling at each other, just sitting there watching the world go by. Nothing really remarkable happened today while I hung out with my friends and relations. We just sat outside for 6 hours. We watched the kids, we teased each other to death, we got supplies as we needed them, took walks here and there, but mainly just enjoyed the first really nice day of the year. Considering I plan on doing this a lot this year, there was no better way to kick start it.

I think other than the independence of not being under your parent's thumb all the time, kids are really missing out on something not being part of these communities. It's like your parents are there, but they're not. You feel safe and protected, even though you may not be in their direct line of sight. Largely because someone is always watching. At one point, my kids were playing races with a friend and her grandson. I didn't really know what they were doing, except causing a commotion, but I knew they were safe...well, other than using the two toddlers as crash test dummies, let it be known that no toddlers were hurt in those kids experiments.  And that safety was so important to me last year. I remember at one point being finished a class at school and not wanting to go home. I had only misery there and just couldn't walk through that door. So I went home to my old community. I might have blogged about this some time last year. I called my mom and she assembled the wimminfolk and I knew the minute I walked into that space I was safe. Upon reflection of today, I realize just how much, it's like my personal fortress of unsolitude. The negativity, the emotions, the hurt is not allowed in unless I permit it and I realized for the past several months, I had been going back to that co-op, a place where I started my life with my ex, and not even really giving that or him a second thought, it was my space. Sure, it wasn't the exact location where I grew up, it's about a stone's throw away, but the people and the culture are the same, and with that, so is the safety.

Anyhow, this is a long and winding post, I'm rambling, so desperately trying to figure out a way to bring it on home...hmmmm, free range, safety, community=safety, growing up, safety....notice a theme? When deciding when and how far my kids roam, it's not how little people they will encounter that tips the scales in a positive manner. I've come to realize that its being in that community, your pack, your herd...pack sounds way cooler, that is what is safe, and lets me and I imagine would work for many parents feel a bit better about loosening the apron strings a little. It gives them the feeling of security from the strangers and cars and dangers that they could possibly encounter, while being free to explore. It also gives them that larger security to explore life, knowing that even when they leave the pack, there is still a safe place for them to return. I guess the same can be said for families too, but to be clear, I'm not related to any of the folks in my community other than my mother, but they are my family, just as close and important as blood. So as much as I think the concept of free range kids is cool, I think it's best done when there is a community content to let them roam and explore, but also ready to have their back in a flash, through childhood and through life.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Coffee baited death trap

So I was up early this morning and I had the brilliant idea of going to pick up some coffee for us. Not that I can't make coffee, but yanno, coffee I pay for is far better. So I get in Big Mama Fuss (my van, her initials also mean Big blankety blank too), turn her on, listen to her scream in protest that its a Saturday and its cold, why the fuck am I trying to wake her up, and mosey on down to the Tim Hortons. This brings me to my very important point of the day. It's a serious issue affecting all Canadians. It's the topic of Tim Hortons parking lots.

Why is it every time I enter one of these places, I feel like I'm walking into a ticking bomb. I don't know how many parking lots are designed like this, but with my local one, you have the drive thru lane, and it goes on out of the way, minding its own business, it's long enough for oodles of cars. Then, intersecting this lane is another entrance. So right when you're about to get up to the drive thru garbage cans, which signals to you that your long wait is coming to an end, there is a lane for people to cut in front of you. Now I don't know who thought of this idea, or how many Tim Hortons in Canada has a cutter's lane, but I have to wonder if its some insane social experiment to see just how nice Canadians really are at 8am on a Monday morning without a coffee. Frankly, it being Toronto and all, I'm actually surprised no one has gotten killed while trying to cut in line, or at the very least, have had the nose of their car torn off by some grumpy mother of three driving in a BMFing van....jussayin.

Next point is, the cutters lane, it cuts right through the parking lot...which is tiny by the way. So people who line up trying to steal a place in line, instead of going to the back like freaking decent human beings, essentially cut off the flow of traffic for the rest of the parking lot if it gets any more than one car deep. They block in cars that are parked, and they pretty much block off the corner of the L shaped dime sized lot that is expected to handle all the traffic.

Needless to say there are lots of traffic snarls, horns honking and people giving the "I'm Canadian, so instead of cussing you out like I really want to do, I'm just going to give you the look of death". Seriously, who the hell designed these lots? I wish I could say it was only mine, but I've seen several with cutters lanes and just so disorganized it looks like a monkey high on speed designed them. Trying to park...which I actually did this morning because I thought since I didn't have three kids to tote, I'd do the socially responsible thing and walk my behind in, is insane. I had to essentially muscle my way into a spot (not too hard when you're driving a BMFing van) and even then, even though it was clearly MY spot, some doofus in a Civic tries to cut me off, which makes me wonder if he's ever seen what one of these vans can take and still keep kicking...I know because I had to test it out with a TTC vehicle. My van, she survived. So you're parked, you think you're home free right? Nope! You still have to get your ass into the store, which is like those herds of zebras and wildebeasts migrating and having to cross a river where there are a million giant crocodiles waiting to eat them.

You get into the store, get your coffee, have a sip, and suddenly navigating the crocodile river of doom seems manageable. "I have coffee now, you SOB croc! Taste some hoof!" So you zip back out to your car, with coffee and doughnuts in tow...okay, I have the doughnuts, breakfast of champions! and now you have to get out, which may seem like a cake walk, since now I have caffeine, sugar and the confidence that I've successfully gotten in, crossed the river twice and lived to tell the tale, but nope. First of all, I have to back out, and for all those who say I should have backed in to avoid this mess, bite me! I live in the suburbs, I drive a minivan, I *don't* back in, much to the chagrin of my partner. So I'm backing out, and you'd think the sight of a BMF van slowly backing out, would give most pedestrians a reason to stop and pause and not walk behind the van...no. I suspect they are severely depleted of caffeine, but its essentially one of the wildebeasts coming up to a croc minding her own business, sleeping in the sun and kicking her in the head for shits and giggles. Said doofus in the Civic is back, honking at me to hurry my ass up, not noticing me trying to avoid the wildebeast with a death wish, so I flash him the Canadian glare and resist the temptation of seeing what happens to a Civic, when you try to drive an Odyssey over it. Honda death match!

I am steps away from the exit, but wait, monkey on speed parking lot design strikes again. Right where the exit is, to a major freaking road, the exit lane for the drive through intersects, there's not even a stop sign. That said, most sane people would stop and check the flow of traffic before venturing out, but nope...again, I have to wonder, if this isn't some bizarre experiment to see just how many accidents can happen in a parking lot where deprived people are going to get caffeine and sugar. I give them a toot at this point...okay I lay on the horn, I'm pissed, I'm tired, I just want my coffee, my doughnut and the warmth of my house, and a serious amount of appreciation from my partner from braving the Serengeti just to get some fucking coffee. Somehow, I manage to make it home without eating a gazelle or two on the way.

So Canadians, take note, chances are, your Tim Horton's parking lot and drive thru lanes were designed by monkeys on some serious freaking drugs in an elaborate social experiment, or just because they're sadistic to test our patience, our skills and how well we operate without the caffeine necessary to make the day go a lot more smoothly and pleasantly. Better yet, try Starbucks, parking lots were designed by monkeys, but they were sober.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Inner Beauty is Important...You're Suspended!

Lets see how fast I can blog. I have something on my mind and 10 minutes to get it out before I head off for the day...assuming the kids cooperate. In the end, I couldn't get this finished, I took off, running massively behind, but somehow managed to get the kids to school on time and avoid being pulled over despite seeing TWO police cars.

Anyhow, as I'm lying in bed resisting the need to get up and mucking around Facebook on my phone, I came across this article. Paul Gomille, birth of a controlling man and then read about this kid being suspended for his letter he had written and distributed. I first did a double take considering the source and his source, which he loathes, but okay, read on I did. Apparently this kerfuffle is going way high up the board and he's in deep doo doo. Me, I would have used it as an opportunity to open up discussion and really, suspend the kid? Considering that there is so much else going wrong in schools. How about suspending all the guys who aren't saying anything in public, but will call girls sluts because she had the nerve to kiss a fella. Suspend them!!!

So lets look at the letter (mind you I haven't had coffee yet, so I could be completely misreading it) So it starts off with a lot of ego-okay, teenage boy, typical. The next part, he's making two points. 1 is that you don't have to dress with your kilt barely covering your butt to be attractive, which is causing all the uproar and 2, true attractiveness comes from within.

So true attractiveness, we all agree comes from within right? Thank you teenage boy for stating it, you could have done it a little better, but I'll give you a mulligan on the fact you were probably watching TV, listening to music, eating a ton of food and sleep deprived when you wrote it. It's still very clear you put a lot of time, thought and effort into it. At first it almost seems like he is denigrating those who dress in revealing clothing as the opposite of intelligent and what have you, but I don't think so, just the opposite of those who aren't fitting within the mainstream. I think this is where it could have been written better...let this be a lesson to all you teens, give your letters you intend to distribute or soapbox speeches to your moms, we're great editors. We'll help you express your point and ideally keep your butt away from the fire. But really, isn't it important to hear that we don't have to look like Hollywood tells us to in order to be attractive? That it comes from good self esteem, being true to yourself? Don't we all wish we had this message sink in about 20 years ago? I sure as hell do.

Let me first state that I wholly believe that if a woman wants to walk down the street naked, she should be able to do so without fear of being assaulted in any way. I wanted to go to the first Slutwalk, but I was stuck doing something boring. But the question is, do we need to show a lot skin to be attractive? Of course not. There is nothing wrong with it and if it makes you feel great, go for it, but lets not beat around the bush here, there is a hell of a lot of pressure on young women to show a lot of skin and they might not be totally comfortable with that, but do it anyhow because they haven't acquired the age, wisdom and enough roadbumps to say "I don't give a fuck!"

I know I cringe every time I pass by a Catholic school and see skirts hiked up higher than the skirt on my bathing suit (yes I wear a skirt!!!). I cringe because I remember what it was like as a youngster feeling creeped out by the looks and attention of boys and men who wanted nothing more than to get into my pants. However I was told that that was a good thing, that that kind of attention, the popularity, was great, and maybe, just maybe out of all those guys, I would find my prince charming to whisk me away and have a sweet storybook romance with. There were a hell of a lot of toads to wean through. I was a pretty attractive girl, I had an hourglass figure and big boobs, needless to say I was REALLY popular in that regard. If I decided to wear something like what the gals in Catholic school wear every day, I'd have my choice of guys (all interested in one thing mind you). Instead, I generally wore clothes that covered me up. So my choices in expressing my attractiveness for me were feast or famine.

Nowadays, most of my fashion choices fall just below the knee and the skin I show usually consists of arms and calves. I like to dress well, I love to shop, I don't think there is a person who would say that I don't dress well. I do take a lot of pride in my appearance. I don't necessarily see my beauty as I should (a gabillion years of Hollywood programming takes its toll), but I do see my inner beauty in my strength of character, kindness and determination. That said, I do have a few summer items that do show some more cleavage, and I'm great with that. I didn't buy them thinking "ooh boy! These show off my chi chis, that ought to bring the men in" I bought them looking at the nipped waist and the flared skirt and scooped them up before some other woman could snatch it. So, if someone presumed to tell me that I was wearing what I was wearing to buy into the mainstream idea of beauty, I'd give them a good verbal smack.

So this kid Paul is straddling a fine line, because there is clearly a need for a lot of girls and women to be told that inner beauty is more important. Hell ,there are gabillion dollar ad campaigns that do so and we eat that up like its candy. Any blog post talking about inner beauty is circulated far and wide, and we all strive to tell our daughters or young women in life that they should wear what they want, be what size they want and not what Hollywood tells us what is sexy. We all lament about the negative idea of body image we are sent daily and many of us speak up about it. On the other hand, there are those of us who are fine dressing in something a little more revealing, we've been through hell and back again, we've done our inner work and at the end of the day, we want to show off our chi chis. I went to a birthday party this weekend and my friend was wearing something that showed off her figure very well, a lot of thigh and one of her shoulders. She looked great, not because she was showing off skin, but because she had gone through 40+ years of life and she knew she looked awesome. May we all live to live that way.

I ended up asking myself, would this kid have been suspended were he a female distributing this letter? I don't imagine she would. Now I agree that we gals earn the right to speak on these issues because we live them, but at the same time, isn't it good to open up a meaningful dialogue with the other half about these issues? Here's a kid who has an opinion, you might not agree with it, but it's well thought out and he's passionate about it, so lets suspend him from a place of education? There's nothing hateful or nasty in it, I would hardly label this kid as controlling or misogynistic based on this letter...maybe he is, but that's not what his fellow classmates are reporting. He didn't say that women shouldn't dress like sluts if they didn't want to get raped like one of Toronto's finest...and I think the cop got less punishment than this kid! Maybe he's a little old fashioned and needs to be enlightened to another point of view, sure, but DO IT!!! It's a school!!!

So Paul, you're kind of on the right track. A lot of people do need the message that inner beauty is what counts, and sometimes it is nice to hear that coming from the opposite sex, since so many of you guys will often notice those who dress and look and act Hollywood. I think the key is, recognizing that dressing a little revealing can and might not be synonymous with buying into Hollywood. However the road to getting to dressing with a little more showing without drinking the Kool-Aid is a long and hard one that is usually traveled with lots of mistakes, stumbles and challenges. Something that is usually learned over the course of years and takes a lot of trial by fire and experience to sink in. Part of being a teenager and young adult is learning those lessons, often the hard way. What is encouraging though is that this is being discussed so the lessons might not be so bumpy and hopefully, Paul and his school/board will be open enough to see the others point of view and have something meaningful come from it. Bottom line is, a discussion has been opened, its been opened respectfully and with good intent and it shouldn't be shut down, least of all in a school.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The constant war

There is an ongoing battle inside me, every minute of every day. To best understand it, it's probably easiest to visualize a bunch of teeny tiny little Joys each representing character traits all residing in my brain somewhere. It's a nice room, lots of velvet, sparkly things and martinis. And in it, all the little Joys are running about and it somewhat looks like the floor of some mega stock exchange.

Now some of these Joys have to be managed, like Irresponsible Joy who would just like to lay on the couch eating popcorn and watching HGTV til the cows come home. Or Speed Demon Joy who would like to go 160 on the 401 because she likes the sound the little red car makes when she accelerates. Others are often front and center when it comes to my morals and social views, like Left Wing Joy, or Feminist Joy...though Feminist Joy had to be locked in the cage when Vanity Joy won the vote and I got the tummy tuck. She was PISSED! 

The biggest of those little Joys is Insecure, followed by Anxiety...don't worry, the other little Joys are staging a coup. They like to throw their weight around a lot. Not always, but when they decide to do so, the rest of the little Joys have a challenge on their hands. Anyhow, I'm fuddling about my morning, getting all antsy about whether I had inadvertently pissed someone off. There was no foundation in this fear, again Insecure Joy is running the show and she's pretty much Chicken Little. Normally what happens is that I get into an internal tizzy until something happens that brings me back down to Earth again and its systems normal. However this morning just as Insecure Joy was stomping around, another little Joy spoke. She's been quiet for some time...well, she took a hell of a beating over the past year and has been in recovery. It was Confident Joy. She said "Screw this! You've done nothing wrong and if this person is pissed off at you, so fucking be it. You're beautiful, witty, funny, kind and one hell of a mother, friend and partner, anyone should count themselves lucky to have you in their ranks!"

There was a silence in the room, all the other Joys were shocked, you could hear a pin drop. Insecure Joy for a moment was gobsmacked, she mustered "I thought you were dead!"
"Apparently not" responded Sarcastic Joy.
"Fucking A!" yelled Entitled Joy. "We demand better treatment, we deserve it, no more worrying about pissing people off for stupid reasons, you hear that Insecure?"
"We feel great! Lets go shopping!!!" someone let Irresponsible Joy out of her cage, but she made a good suggestion and was taken up on that a bit later.
"Lets go tell So and So how we feel about the way they're behaving towards us, Julia Sugarbaker style" That's Indignant Joy, she's been dying to do that...gotta indulge her in that some day.
"Lets blog! Blog! Blog! Blog!" Blogger Joy of course.
"NO! We're sticking with the plan, we're going to hand it over to Anxiety and end up worrying all day, hence ruining it for everyone." Insecure Joy asserts.
"No, we're not. We're going to pick up, get on with our day, have a good time, wear a smile and enjoy all the good karma that we've racked up in spades coming our way. We're great, we have great friends that love us and we are worthy of that" Confident Joy calmly states.
Everyone is silent again. And then like in some cliched 80's movie, all the other Joys move to the side of the room of Confident Joy and the vote is carried. A gabillion to 2.

Confident Joy took a minute to enjoy the moment, it was nice being back, she knows she can't maintain this for very long right now, but it put everyone on notice that she intends to come back full throttle. Optimistic Joy is grinning ear to ear and Hopeful Joy cannot wait for the day.

Oh and Worst Case Scenario Joy sincerely hopes that you don't take this story to mean that I'm crazy and have me locked away. She made me write that.