Sex. It drives us, makes us who we are. I write it and I have a lot of opinions about it. And about other things--everything from movies to politics to education. In fact, after several months absence I've come to realize that I am no sex-pert and that my opinions and passions are far too varied to limit myself to only sexual issues. So....since this is my blog, I figure I should be able to voice my opinions about whatever I please.
If that makes me a be it!

So read, comment, ask questions, rant and rave...but most of all enjoy and open your mind to possibilities!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's not about authority--it's about trust

I have two friends.

Bernadette is perfect. She's never made a mistake in her life. She never swears, never drank too much, never smoked, never slept with the wrong guy, her house is spotless and--as she would have me believe--her life is, too. Her life and the way she looks at life is all black and white with no gray and no room for compromise.

Tina is a bit of a mess. She's in a good place now, but she has been down the wrong road now and then and had to find her way back. She still swears, drinks too much now and then, and has most definitely slept with the wrong guy and cried for weeks because of it. Her house is a mess, but she knows how to have fun, and she also knows that life is not simple. She believes that life is full of gray areas and there is rarely a simple right or wrong answer to anything.

If I have a problem, or have made a mistake and need help...or drank too much and need a ride home...who do you think I'm more likely to call on?
That is basically my parenting philosophy in a nutshell--and over the last few months I have had many opportunities to be thankful for it.

I have three teenage sons and over the last few months I have been amazed and so thankful for the things they have felt comfortable sharing with me. Issues with relationships, friends, girlfriends, alcohol and life in general--I have been privileged to be a part of it. To be either the mentor and advice-giver, or merely the trusted friend that they are comfortable to confide in. Nothing could make me happier--or more proud--as a parent to see the way my boys have chosen t handle these various issues. And while I think much of it is attributed to the simple fact that I was blessed with amazing kids--I think I can take credit for some of it as well. Specifically, I have built the kind of relationship with my kids that allows for this kind of sharing. And on that note, I want to share Nikki's Five rules for establishing Teen Trust.

1. Ask questions. I'm not talking about the general, "How was your day" kind of question. That's far too vague and easy to dismiss. Anybody can ask your kid that, and it's far too easy to dismiss. You need to ask questions that are specific to their lives...and that show that you've taken an interest and continue to care about what they're doing and who they're doing it with. Questions like:

  • Who are you hanging out with at lunch these days?
  • Who is dating who in your circle of friends?
  • Do you think that's a good match? Do you think it'll work out?
  • Is there anyone you're interested in? And why? What about them do you like?
  • What teacher do you like?
  • What assignments do you have due next week?

2. Share from your own life. Try to stay away from the "When I was your age...." type of stories! Those typically come off as authoritarian and preachy. For me, the purpose of personal stories from your youth shouldn't be to teach so much as it should be to show that..."You know what? I've been there. I know what it's like." AND hopefully, to show that you're not perfect either. That you've made mistakes too, that you've been hurt, that people have let you down and that you've let others down too. It's not about elevating yourself--it's about putting yourself on the same playing field with your kids. And this includes stories about drinking, sex and maybe even experimentation with drugs.

3. Talk about sex--early and often. When they're five and come home asking what a boner is...TELL THEM THE TRUTH! If you act uncomfortable with the words and the subject how do you think THEY're going to be comfortable with it? Talk about sexuality, homosexuality, birth control and abortion. Talk about porn because you know what? They're watching it. Or reading about it. And they're definitely thinking about it!
Joke about sex. Have fun with it. Make it part of every day life, because you know what? It is.

I heard a counselor say once that if they haven't started asking those questions by the age of nine, then it's time to start talking about it anyway. Maybe they're not asking because somebody at school told them the "answers" and they think they know already. Chances are they're wrong.

4. Allow your kids to drink alcohol with you at home. Why would you think that a kid who has just turned 19 and goes out for his "first" drinking binge will automatically and magically know what it feels like and how to handle it responsibly? I am of the philosophy that I would much rather they learn gradually, and under my supervision, what they like and don't like, and how they're body reacts to it. If they're first binge is at 16 and they get so drunk they throw up and feel miserable the next day--I'd much rather it happen in the safety of my own home then out at a party when they've got to find a ride home.

5. This is the biggest rule...and really what it all boils down to. DO NOT JUDGE! You have to earn their trust and a big part of doing that is building a relationship where they know they can tell you anything without fear of judgment or punishment. When my son was ten and he threw a rock that broke a window he knew that he'd done something stupid and there would be consequences. But he's not ten anymore, and I'm not with him 24 hours a day. He's not throwing rocks anymore, he has the potential to create a new life. I can't ground him for that. I have to make sure he has the information to make sure it doesn't happen at all--but to trust in my love in the unfortunate instance that it does.

 I have to hope and trust that I've done a good job raising him, and that for the most part he'll make good decisions--but when he has questions or isn't sure where to turn he needs to know that he can come to me and I won't judge him for asking which condom to buy. I want to know when he's had too much at a party and needs a trusted ride home. And I want him to trust me to be there to help him find ways to cope with any poor decisions...and how to avoid them in the future.

My boys are only just venturing into adulthood, but I think they're headed in the right direction. Those are my guidelines for helping them find that direction. It may not be for everyone...but it's worked for me.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

No More Slut Shame! (Guest post)

Today is the Slut Walk in downtown Toronto. I was unable to attend, but in honour of this event I have been granted permission by my good friend, Jason, to post his wonderful blog entry on the topic.
You can find more from Jason at 

For sex there has always been a double standard for women. That is, we tend to impose harsh judgement on women who have it. 

At all.
In any circumstance.

Even if it is against her will.

Take the case of 14 year old Hena Akhter from Bangladesh. 

She was found by a woman whose husband was in the act of raping her. 
What did she do?
She took her and beat her for the crime of having relations with her husband.

This is a man who was punished before for harrassing her, but when she was taken and brutally raped by this man with a previous predatorial history his punishment was only a few lashes (the punishment was 201, but they stopped after only a few). 

And how did SHE fair in this ordeal as the victim of such a savage act?  How did the law, her neighbors and her church protect her?

101 lashes for "adultery" as imposed by the fatwa of the local Imam.

She died from her wounds.

She would have been better off not screaming for help and just simply giving in to his evil impulses. Such is the savagery of her vagina being a matter of public interest. 

Why did he get off with only a few lashes and she was whipped to, what would later be, her death? 

Because she is a woman, and her sexuality is not open to comprimise. Her vagina is owned by those who would judge her, and her sexuality is not left to her discrecion as to how it is best enacted, or even protected.

She is a thing to be owned and, as property, she is expected to maintain her "purity" as those in power see fit without regard for motivation or circumstance. 

We can't write it off as simply "their culture" when people are being subjugated like this.

Think that this just happens in extremist countries?

Think again.

Let's move on now to the recent article in the New York Times by James C. McKinley.

This one tells of an 11 year old girl who was gang raped on video in East Texas by a group of 18 young men.

She is the victim of a brutal, terrifying and life altering attack, and in this mainstream news source (The New York Times) she is portrayed as a young harlot with an uncaring and irresponsible mother, who dresses, and acts in such a way as to "draw"her attackers into this act of violence. This newspaper was more concerned with the fate of the boys than the condition of the victim.

There is no sympathy in the article, or even in the statements of the community members, for this young girl. Only for the attackers, and for the effect it has had on their community.

These are not all upstanding young men. There are among their numbers, thieves, drug dealers, and killers. But yet, the concern still lies in what a terrible thing it is for these boys to "have to live with it for the rest of their lives".


What about HER having to live with it? How about asking how SHE got drawn into such a situation? How about forgetting the effect on your poor community and focusing on the effect that it has had on her family??

The assault didn't even end there. The video of her humiliation was shared amongst students at her local school. 

But STILL when asked, THIS is the background information that the writer felt was important.

"Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said."
 -Ny Times

So she deserved it?

Perhaps she dressed inappropriately, but our response is to focus on that instead of the horrible crime? 

Perhaps she wasn't smart in placing herself in such company, or by being alone in such a place, or even by dressing in a way that garners the wrong attention for an 11 year old.

But to say that makes her somehow responsible for her victimization is absolutely unconscionable.
To even pretend that right after such an attack is the time to give her a lesson on how she COULD have better protected herself from these animals is ridiculous, unfeeling and immoral in the highest degree.
It implies that she should shoulder part of the blame, and that she somehow drew those boys to a crime that they otherwise wouldn't have committed.

I dont' care if she was marching down the middle of the street at midnight wearing nothing but brightly coloured sneakers and nipple tassels, if she gets brutalized it is NOT her fault. 

It is the fault of the people who performed the actions. 


People are responsible for their own actions.  

But because she is a woman, her vagina is public property and places her in the untenable position of being judged for such things.

There is no other crime in the world that asks for the motivation of the victim. 

Car stolen? If it was red and sexy, then it is your own fault.

House vandalized? If you yelled at your mailman and the neighborhood boys, then they can't be blamed.

Stabbed and robbed? If you were dressed nicely like you had money, then it is YOU who should be held accountable.

There is no situation where sex had against a womans will is excusable. None.


And to point fingers at HER after the act, is inhuman.

Even here in Toronto, (and even more surprisingly, during a Campus safety information session at York University) Toronto Police officer Const. Michael Sanguinetti, gave the advice to women to stop dressing like "sluts" if they didn't want to be victimized. I understand the cautionary, (who doesn't want to know how to fall under the radar of predators) but to include the distasteful label with it implies personal responsibility for the violence and that is unacceptable. 

(The constable issued an apology nearly a month later)

ENOUGH of the slut shaming!! Just enough.

Toronto has had enough. Sonya JF Barnett has had enough. 

She has courageously taken it upon herself to do something about it. Look it up under the Slutwalk.  She is taking to the streets, and leading a crowd behind her.  Dress like a "slut"?  GOOD she says.  Own the term and take it back.

Sexual assault isn't about what you wear, it isn't about how you act, and it isn't about how you tempt. It is about violence and it is NOT a woman's fault when it is inflicted upon her. 

Slut shaming (thanks to Ms Barnett for that term) isn't just about sexual assault. It is about judging a womans character based soley upon her private decisions in her own bedroom. 

Shame on you Toronto.

Shame on you New York Times.

Shame on you Bangladesh.

And shame on every one of you who feels that it is your place to judge a woman for what she does with her body or how she acts in the privacy of her own bedroom, or who gives even the slightest understanding or forgiveness to the evil men who betray each womans right to consent by forcing the choice on her.

This is the result of an attitude that is far more prevalent that you might think.

How many of you would lose respect for a woman who had been with 20 men? 



What about a man? 
Would they be held to the same standard?  
Why not?

Boys will be boys. We are expected to pursue and allowed to own our own genetalia and the privacy that comes with sexual matters.
Women can do so only under the veil of secrecy for fear of being branded immoral, and labeled a slut who is responsible for whatever befalls her.

Even if it is done against her will.

Shouldn't they have the same freedoms that we do?  
The same ability to like sex within or outside a relationship without being judged for it?
And shouldn't they be allowed the same freedom of choice to NOT have sex forced upon her without facing that same judgement?

To be made twice a victim?  Once for the violence her attacker inflicted on her, and twice by US for judging her somehow responsible.

It is already a crime that goes unreported.  Let's not make it worse.

Give women the same ownership of their sexuality, their genetalia and their consent as we have.

Think about it.

-Jason Burgoyne, Toronto, Ontario Canada

 Just to add my 2 cents worth.... I have long thought, as well, that women need to take ownership and revamp the meanings of many of the "derogatory" terms such as "bitch" and "slut". I think we've made progress with bitch. lol. And I think the new definition of "slut" should go something like this: 
Slut: a) A woman who is comfortable in her own sexual skin. Who has taken ownership of her body and her sexuality and who has no use for judgement...whether of her own sexuality or that of others. Whether she has had sex with one man or a thousand...or whether she used to BE a man and is now a transgendered lesbian, her sexuality is her own business and has nothing to do with her value as a human being.
b) A woman who can use the words "fuck", "cock," "pussy" and "cunt" comfortably, and in the correct, non-derogatory context, without shame or blame. 
c) An equal match for any cock-sucker. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

High Fidelity

When you hear the phrase, "She was unfaithful," what is your automatic assumption. What is the conclusion that we all, pretty much universally draw from that phrase? Sex. Of course. We assume that the infamous "she" had infamous sex with some other infamous "he". Or maybe a she, although that doesn't seem to be quite as bad....does it? lol

But in recent years I've had reason to question this. Why do we jump to that conclusion? Is that all fidelity is? Keeping exclusive sexual congress? One cock for one vagina? And that's it?

I have trouble accepting that. I must ask the question: What, exactly is fidelity? When we promise "to be faithful" in a marriage vow....what are we truly committing to?

The dictionary definition is straight forward enough:
Fidelity: 1. Faithfulness to obligations, duties, or observances.

Okay, clear enough. But in a marriage/partnership, what ARE those obligations, duties and observances. (And I couldn't help but notice that the word "sex" didn't come up anywhere in the dictionary definition.)

Maybe I should start by giving a couple of examples to illustrate my conundrum.

Example #1:
Husband A: Works 60 hour weeks. Often promises to be at certain events like child's birthday, soccer games, etc. But 80% of the time he misses the event, and doesn't bother to call. Is often one or two hours late, missing meals, etc. Again doesn't call, citing work, work, work. So, he is supporting his family. But is he being faithful to his wife and family? Is this reason or grounds for divorce? Well, I suppose it depends on the family's priorities. How important his presence--and his HONESTY--is to his wife. But certainly no one hearing this story would be shocked or outraged and automatically assume that his wife should leave him immediately! Yet, throw in a drunken one-night stand with a co-worker, and automatically that IS the assumption. Suddenly the marriage is in trouble...when it wasn't three hours ago.

Example #2:
Husband B: He's a good dad. And a reasonably good husband. He holds down a good job, tries to do his share of the household chores and plays with his children when he can on the weekend. He has fun with "the boys", occasionally going to hockey games and out for a drink afterwards, and encourages his wife to do the same with her girlfriends from time to time. However, although he would be fine with his wife going out for coffee with a male colleague from work that she considers a friend and whose company she enjoys, he does not have that same freedom. His wife's old-world attitudes and jealousy prevents him from so much as having lunch with a female friend or colleague. But he does anyway. He has a close, but completely platonic friendship with a woman he met at one of the kid's soccer games, but is compelled to keep the friendship a secret because his wife would freak out if she knew he had a female friend in any capacity. Now, who is being "unfaithful" in this scenario? Certainly honesty is a huge issue in any relationship, and the fact that he's lying to her about his activities, is a breach of trust. Ah, but isn't trust exactly the issue? Is the wife not culpable to some degree for putting unreasonable expectations on her husband? For her lack of trust in him? Should he deny himself a meaningful friendship simply because the person happens to have the wrong sex organs? And to placate his wife's possessiveness? Is his wife being him?

And why...seriously why is sex the culminating factor in any "extra marital affair." Shallow or not, you can easily have sex without emotional or personal involvement. You can have sex without ever learning the other person's name. But you can't have a "friendship" like that. And yet a platonic friendship which exists outside a marriage is far more acceptable, even encouraged--especially if it's with a same sex counterpart--than a brief, relatively anonymous sexual encounter. Why is anonymous sex more threatening to a marriage than a close--albeit platonic--friendship?

So, yes...okay...there are some arguments for putting sex on a level, or in a category all by itself. The risk of pregnancy is a huge, and very valid concern. If a member of a partnership conceives a child with someone outside that partnership, that has huge ramifications for the relationship, and understandably so. But these days there are myriad ways to avoid that development. Everything from condoms to surgery. So, if we take that factor out of the equation, what does that leave us?

The Bible. I know that's a big one, but frankly, I don't accept that argument at all. Personally, I find people use religious arguments only as it suits them. So, unless you are willing to swear that you have never read or enjoyed erotica or pornography, that you have never "spilled your seed" with the sin of masturbation, or indulged in the sin of sodomy (which, by the way includes oral sex as well as anal), that you remained a virgin until your wedding night, that adultery and homosexuality are punishable by death, and that women shouldn't be allowed to cut their have no right to bring religion into it. You either have to accept ALL the rules that the Bible lays out or none of them. You can't just personally pick and choose which sexual acts are sins and which are not. At least not in this forum. I won't accept it.

You could say that sex is a risky encounter. Certainly that is true. Regardless of how many layers of condoms you put on, there is still the risk of picking up an STD and potentially transferring it to the spouse at home. But sex isn't the only activity that involves risk. What of the man who travels to Mexico, ingests a bad glass of water, or cuts his foot on a piece of contaminated glass on the beach and brings a case of Hepatitis home for the honey? Or what of the woman who enjoys rock climbing, and habitually puts herself at risk on the faces of various cliffs and mountains? The risk is to her alone, but there are certainly implications to the family if she ends up plummeting to her death...or almost worse yet, is critically injured and ends up a paraplegic and needs perpetual care from the spouse and, perhaps, others. Simply driving on the freeway holds the same risk--perhaps more so. Does this mean we should prohibit each other from indulging in these types of activities? Is that reasonable? Of course not.  So the element of risk, all on its own, is not a valid argument.

There is the "promise of fidelity," that most of us make in our marriage vows. But again, does that apply only to sexual fidelity? Certainly when you hear that someone has been "unfaithful" that is the first conclusion that we leap to. But is that correct? Or even reasonable? As I pointed out in my examples there are many ways to be faithful--or to break that faithfulness.

In my opinion there are three things that constitute faithfulness in a marriage or partnership: Honesty and Priority. And from these things follow Trust.

Being faithful to someone means being honest with them. About everything. About your feelings, your hopes, your doubts, what you want and what you don't want. But it also means making that partner your NUMBER ONE PRIORITY. That does not mean that you spend every waking minute with them, or that every decision that you make, right down to what you have for lunch must involve that other person. But it does mean that each member of that partnership should know and trust that their feelings are always considered in any major decision. That they are the main focus of the other person's life--yes even above work and career and sports and yes, children. That regardless of how many outside friendships or hobbies, or whatever, that the other person has, that they will always take second-place to the life, love, feelings and expectations of the partner. However these expectations should not be unreasonable, or infringe on the other person's hopes, dreams, interests and wellbeing. And therein lies the trust. Each must trust the other to be honest and to set them as their priority...but within reason.

So, it's not simple. It is very complicated, but most wortwhile things are. It is a delicate balance, and one that all too often fails.

But my point is that sex...all on its own...should not be enough to throw it all out of wack. And if extramarital sex can be incorporated into a relationship with the full knowledge and consent of the other in the case of the threesomes or foursomes that I have been known to write about in my books, for example. Or even "open" relationships like I've heard rumour that Will Smith and Jada Pinkett entertain...then what's wrong with that?

I'm not saying I "approve" of extra-marital affairs, especially in the case of extended, long-term secret "love affairs." Or that I approve of the activities of those like Tiger Woods or Jesse James. Or even drunken one night stands. Not at all. But I am asking if one such mistake is worth throwing away a marriage over. And if there are not other issues that should be taken much more seriously.

I'm just trying to paint a bigger picture. I'm calling into question the assumption that being faithful to one another applies to sex--and only to sex. And if you strongly feel that sex is the be-all and end-all of fidelity...I challenge you to ask yourself why? Where does this perception come from? And if you figure that out...ask yourself if it's truly valid. I'd just like people to think about things from a slightly different perspective, to start considering the implications of their views and how it affects their relationships.
I have trouble believing that all that we are worth as a huband, wife, or partner, is summed up in the area between our legs.

What does fidelity mean to YOU?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hair today....gone tomorrow....back the next day

This past weekend had its ups and downs. The ups included...
  • a great family pizza and movie night watching the latest PREDATORS movie which was, surprisingly good considering the genre.
  • the satisfaction of FINALLY getting out to Zumba class on a Saturday morning. Something that the universe has been conspiring to prevent me from doing for weeks.
  • a very fun date night with my sweetie, which included seeing the movie BURLESQUE (fun movie with lots of hot bods) followed by an evening of pool in which I gave my hubby a sound thrashing. That does not happen often...and I thoroughloy enjoyed the feeling.
The only downs were...
  • that my oldest, The Wizz, didn't come home from college for the weekend.
  • and finding another little bald spot on my scalp. It's right above my left ear, which makes it more visible than I like.
Did you eyebrows shoot up a bit? Well, yeah...mine, too. Although it isn't nearly as traumatic as it used to be. And this is what I want to talk about experience with Telogen Effluvium and Alopecia Areata.

It will be two years ago this coming January when very abruptly, and unexpectedly, I started to notice that I was losing copious amounts of hair. It felt like handfuls came out in the shower, and then while brushing out my hair. The sink was a nightmare of lost strands...and I immediately experienced a faint sense of panic. But surely it was an aberration. A one-time thing. Or merely my imagination! In a few days everything would be back to normal. Well, it wasn't. The sink continued to fill up and look like a rats nest from hell. I checked websites. How much hair loss is normal? They told me that up to 150 strands per day was considered "normal". So, just to be sure I wasn't crazy...I counted. Yes, people. That is exactly how obsessive I felt about this. I counted the hair that I shed during comb-out and came up with a shocking 350. Sometimes more.

Needless to say I saw my doctor. Only to be kindly dismissed and told this was "normal" and it would pass.

NORMAL? Were they insane? Surely they have no idea of the scope of this problem. So, when I finally discovered my first bald patch...about the size of an egg on the side of my head--and thankfully easily hidden--I called again. This time I got a slightly elevated level of concern, and a referral to a dermatologist--in 5 months. Up until that time there was nothing I could do...but wait and try to keep my sanity--and my ego--intact.

During those months I came the closest I have ever come to full-fledged depression. It was horrific. I couldn't get away from it! Everywhere I went the evidence continued to haunt me. Hair seemed to practically drip off me, and I was continually sweeping it up off the floor. I began to notice that my part was getting wider. I didn't want to go out. I cringed whenever anyone touched my head. And yes...I subscribed to female hairloss forums and websites. (It is far more common than we know) I was in the midst of checking into wig options when I came across the simple article that finally gave me hope.

This article informed me that my general hair loss was termed Telogen Effluvium, and that it afflicted up to 30% of the population at one time or another in their lives. It said that it usually resulted from some sort of physical or emotional trauma. Anything from childbirth, to a death in the family to a high fever. But that in up to 30% of cases--like mine--there was no discernible cause. What really comforted me was the simple knowledge that it usually lasts 4-6 months and that a sufferer can lose up to SEVENTY PER CENT of their hair! But that in 90% of all comes back.

The mechanics of it are simple. During this trauma or time of stress, the hair goes into a state of stasis. It simply stops growing for a time, and no new hair is generated. Suddenly, about 3 months later, everything kicks back into gear, and the hair loss that I was experiencing is actually due to the new hairs coming in underneath and pushing out all those old, dying follicles.

I was strangely uplifted. There was hope. Somehow my doctor's assurance that this was common came off as too dismissive and made me think she couldn't possibly understand the severity. This article acknowledged the severity...and yet gave me hope. I felt much better...and within less than a month after that the hair loss abruptly....stopped. I was down to shedding less than 15 hairs during and after my shower.

A month after that I started to notice all the fine new hairs coming in. There was a veritable fringe of it all the way around my head...and in the two bald spots that I had noticed. Life was good again. My ego was saved.

And then about 6 months later, as I was putting up my hair in a pony tail I noticed...ACK!....another bald spot. But...this couldn't BE! I thought it was all over! I hadn't noticed any excessive loss. What was going on?

But more reading revealed that this--Alopecia Areata--again, is a very common problem, and is probably one I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. In the last year I have had small bald spots appear...and fill and there. Every new one is a small trauma, and one that I watch closely for changes, but I'm heartened by the knowledge that it will be temporary...and according to my hairdresser it is far more common than we suspect. Many women have them and don't even realize it because they are hidden far beneath their tresses.

So, that is my story. It is one that I felt it important to share, because I think far too many women deal with this pain in silence and ignorance. Yes there are cases that result in permanent and very traumatic hair loss, but those are the exception rather than the rule. While it was happening I tried to comfort myself with the fact that this was a minor problem! I was experiencing no pain, and there was no threat to my health. The only threat was to my physical appearance, and even that could easily be fixed with falls or wigs or whatever. And yet none of this comforted me. A woman's self image and ego is tied up very closely with her hair, and some of the websites I visited described this trauma as being on a level almost equivalent to experiencing a death in the family.

So, be aware and take heart. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing or has ever experienced this phenomenon, chances are good that it will be transient, and life will return to normal soon. Talk about it. Read up on it. And feel free to speak to your doctor. There are treatments for those cases that become more serious, but hopefully it won't be necessary.

And try to are worth far more than what you spend on hair care products.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The three E's: errands, enigmas and education

I thoroughly enjoy taking the Enigma--my 15-year-old son--to his orthodontist appointment. Or taking him shopping for shoes. Or, like today, out to the accessory store to pick out a gift for the girl whose birthday party he's attending on the weekend. Not that I particularly like sitting in waiting rooms, or pawing through racks and racks of cheap jewelry--well okay, I do kinda like that--but the point isn't the errand or appointment much as the journey we must make to get there.

Because, invariably, these journeys involve long car rides together, with lots of empty minutes to fill as we both stare out across the asphalt that is whizzing beneath our tires. With all my sons I have found these trips to be some of the most fun and productive times for communicating and getting to know what's going on in their lives. Even more so with my at times closed, and often enigmatic, second born--ie. the Enigma.

Today we had barely gotten into the car when I heard, "So what do you wanna talk about?" My heart soared. But before we eased into the more personal topic of his friendships, frustrations and desires, we started with a slightly less personal topic--labour unions. And, surprisingly, that is what I want to talk about here today.

No, I'm not going to educate you on something I'm sure you all know about...the pros and cons of unions. Nor am I going to lament the reasons why I and many of my colleagues were heartbroken when a union vote went south at our hospital a few weeks ago...although I did talk to the Enigma about all that. What shocked me, however, about this encounter was the fact that when I mentioned the recent union vote to my son his first question was, "What's a union?"

I was, momentarily, taken aback. He'd never heard of a union? REALLY? Of course I don't begrudge for one moment the task of educating my son in matters of every day living. And I have done so repeatedly over the years. I vividly recall conversations with my children, explaining to them how a credit card works. What's the difference between a credit card and a debit card? What is a mortgage? What's the difference between that and a regular loan? Not to mention the discussions we've had about sex, sexual freedom and religion. It is my job as a parent to prepare my children for life as a responsible adult, but...isn't that also the job of the school system?

A few weeks ago I was quite chagrined to see a test that String Bean (third-born son who is 13 years old, 6 feet tall and all of 120 pounds) had brought home from literature class. He'd done very poorly on identifying all the literary devices that were illustrated in various passages. Literary devices that I, a published author, had trouble identifying. In fact, several of them, I had never heard of. At the time I was saddened to see that the school system is still bent and determined to dissect and analyze and generally suck all the life and enjoyment out of so much of literature, but question is....

How is it that the school system has all this time to teach kids about literary devices and historical facts that teach very little if anything in the way of critical thinking, and have little or no relevance to their every day lives...and yet they have no time to teach them simple, basic skills of living in our twenty-first century society?

Certainly theoretical math is an essential skill, but so is the mechanics of debt and loan. Credit cards and mortgages. Things like what you should look for when renting an apartment or buying a condo. What about insurance? What are the pros and cons of using an insurance agent, and what are the advantages of term vs. full life insurance? What does an employer expect from a good employee? And what are your rights as an employee according to the federal and provincial laws? What are all the deductions for on your pay stub? What are all the taxes for? What does it mean to belong to a labour union? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Certainly history is important. We can't truly understand where we are until we know where we've come from. But what about teaching kids how to look at the world around them right now!? My kids should understand the basic reasons and the political context of the war in Afghanistan. The issues at work  in the Middle East. And NATO and European economies. This is current day, relevant information that is all but ignored in classrooms. And I would love to see our kids learn how to read and watch the media and understand what they're seeing.

These are basic life skills!!

My children are fortunate to have parents who take the time to discuss these things with them. Our children are free to see our pay stubs. They know what we earn and what we spend our money on. And we discuss things as they come up personally or in the news, but many many parents do NOT take the time to talk about these things. So you will often have kids graduating highschool who still don't know enough to check their pay stubs to make sure they're not getting ripped off. Or who have no idea what that "union dues" deduction is for. How our health care is paid for, and what our tax dollar gets us.

Well, okay...sometimes as an adult even I ask THAT question, but...perhaps you see my point.

In my opinion our school system is falling down on the job. Yes, they are teaching our children some valuable skills, but they're missing the boat on so many others. The thing that I've pinpointed this issue what do I do about it?? Perhaps a letter to my Member of Parliament and local school board is in order.

It wouldn't be the first time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Strap-ons and White Nights

A few weeks ago I was in Toronto at a “girl’s night out” party with eight other, wild’n crazy women…in an ENORMOUS sports bar full of men. Umm…k…that fact may not be exactly relevant to this blog, but it was sure relevant to us! As it so happened my college-age son was at another party of his own in another section of Toronto. It was all spookily convenient, as I needed some company for my late-night drive home, and he wanted to attend the party, but still wanted to come home for part of the weekend. It all worked out beautifully.

So keeping that in mind that we were both in rather…uh…lubricated situations…at the midway point of the evening, I got the following text from my boy: “The guys here wanna know…if a guy likes taking it in the ass from a strap-on does that make him gay, str8, or what?

My first reaction was of incredulous hilarity…and of course I immediately shared his text with the class. lol
Our first reaction was looking for some clarification. i.e. who is wearing the strap-on? Is it a man or a woman? Of course a few minutes later we realized how ludicrous that statement was. I mean…why would a guy wear a strap-on? Right? Err…anyway… Our final response was basically that it didn’t matter. That being partial to anal play of any kind had no real bearing on the given person’s sexuality. He might be gay, might be straight, or might be bi. The strap-on thing wasn’t relevant.

But for me, that wasn’t really the point of the incident. The point was that my son was perfectly comfortable asking me that question…and he was comfortable doing so in front of his peers. For me…that was a coup! Of course it was a rather objective question…he wasn’t asking my advice on his own personal and intimate sex life…and I’m not sure I would ever expect that. However the fact that he was comfortable approaching me at all about such a thing, to me says that I have done my job well. That sex is not scary or taboo. It can be discussed openly and frankly, and with humour. And to me…that is a very healthy attitude.

For the record he told me later that one of the girls at his party declared her love for me.

I have that effect on people.

Just as an aside, the night of this party was also the night of Nuit Blanche aka White Nights in Toronto. It’s an outdoor festival of art and light that the city hosts every year…and it’s fascinating. One of these years I’ll actually take the time to experience it properly…instead of rushing past all the exhibits as I run to make the subway in time!

Monday, November 8, 2010

On Annie Hall and "praying away the gay"'re right. That's just weird. The two topics listed in the title of this blog entry are not, in any way related. At least…I don’t think so.

Then again…

Okay...if you tried really hard you could find a link in the pathetic one-line reference in the movie to the possibility of Annie Hall being a lesbian. I found it to be one of the few surprising, and somewhat provocative—even if somewhat irritating—moments in the movie, by the way. The only other really good line being, in my opinion, when Jeff Goldblum's character, at a typically pompous self-important LA party, laments to his therapist over the phone that, "I've forgotten my mantra." Now THAT’s funny! (hence the picture)  But...perhaps I'm digressing a bit.

jeff-goldblum-annie-hallWhere was I?

Oh yes…Annie Hall. As you may have guessed already, I did not exactly fall in love with this movie. Contrary to popular opinion, apparently, I am one of the approximate 10% minority who thinks this movie was a total waste of time. Now, I went into it with a good attitude. Really I did! I’ve seen Woody Allen’s Sleeper a couple of times, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I found it to be cute and quirky, and even a reasonable commentary on some of our attitudes toward sex (wouldn’t you love an orgasmatron in your living room?) and social classes, and I found Allen’s self-deprecating style to be a good match with Keaton’s portrayal of a ditzy, futuristic social-rebel wannabe.

I’d heard good things about Annie Hall, and fully expected to enjoy it. So, as is my habit when I’m working night shifts at the hospital, and find myself with a lot of time on my hands (time which, I admit, would be better spent writing, but I find it really hard to concentrate at 3 a.m.) I take some old movies and a portable DVD player to help pass the time. Usually this helps the night to fly by! This time, however, if anything, it made the shift seem hours longer than its usual 8 hours. If I hadn’t been desperate for entertainment and had nothing else to do, I probably would have shut it off by the halfway point. I did, however, manage to finish. Barely.

Annie_hallI just didn’t get it. No…I got the humour. I got the jokes, and I certainly got the fact that Allen finds himself to be incredibly witty, relevant and hilarious….the trouble is, I didn’t. I found his character to be mildly detestable! And the same goes for his girlfriend, Annie Hall. Keaton portrayed the same “lovable” ditzy character from Sleeper, all over again….except without the goofy, amusing plot to help it along. Allen’s character was a self-deprecating, morbid, self-important psycho-analyst’s dream, who found an insipid sounding board for his inane banter in the form of Annie Hall. There wasn’t even any particularly witty dialogue…most of it was one-sided….more like a monologue, performed for an audience of one…that audience being Annie Hall. As one other reviewer remarked, she was a culmination of every bad stereotype of air-headed women in relationships.

One of those stereotypes being her reference to giving up on relationships with men and turning to women. An old take on an older idea that women, in particular, are capable of—and prone to—changing their sexual orientation to suit their mood. I won’t even comment on the ludicrousness of that statement….other than to draw your attention to yet another illustration of this common—and ignorant—misconception.


Find the article here:  “Praying away the gay.”

Yes, there are still right-wing religious retards out there who are trying to “cure” homosexuals of those pesky, unwanted, send-me-to-hell-type god-given desires….all the while preaching tolerance for these poor misfits of the spiritual world. Does anybody else see the problem here? We love you…even though you are, by very nature, an abomination to God. Is it any wonder some of these poor souls are sucked into the church’s manic need for conformity…and control?

So let me put it bluntly.

Homosexuality is not a “disease.” It cannot be “cured” and certainly not by any means deemed “scientific” by any reasonably rational human being. If you truly are a person—or a Christian—who believes in tolerance and loving your neighbour, and letting God be the one to decide whether a person is worthy of his redemption…then I suggest you leave the gays THE FUCK ALONE!!

They won’t contaminate you with their gay-germs if they happen to be sitting beside you on the prayer bench. The won’t recruit or sodomize your children. And in all likelihood, they’re probably some of the most sincere, and honestly kind and generous people in your diocese…or parish…or whatever the hell label is in vogue for your little clique this month. Mind you why anyone would want to hang around with a bunch of people who look on you with disdain and pity because they’re convinced you’ll never qualify be their neighbours in their exclusive little Executive Condo in the sky…is beyond me. However, if they do seek solace and spiritual comfort in such a setting then they deserve to be treated with love and respect.

Leave the bedroom in the bedroom…and let God worry about who’s stickin’ what in where and into whom. Why do you care?

And frankly….why does He?