Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Problem With The Toilet

I have great distaste for public bathrooms. I try to avoid them wherever possible, but with my small bladder that’s not often possible. As such, I have some requests for whomever is responsible for terrible bathrooms the world over.

Request #1: Make Stalls Bigger. Not long ago, I stepped into a bathroom stall at the mall. It was a tight stall; so tight the door brushed my backside as I closed it behind me – meanwhile I had to move too close to the toilet to shut the door, which made my pant leg touch the toilet’s front edge. Heavy-set folk, with much less room than me, must have to straddle the bowl to avoid this.

Request #2: Provide Two-Ply Tissue. I know they think they’re saving money, but it just makes you USE MORE PAPER. I might as well be wiping with my hand. I grabbed my first squares of toilet paper to prepare the area. I covered the seat with it, one patch on each side to absorb splashage and a bunch of it on the water to reduce backsplash. I hovered. (I don’t sit on public toilets. In fact, I don’t sit on anyone’s toilet but a select few friends’, family’s and my own.) 

Request #3: Choose Deep Toilets. Commodes that are shallow have more incidents of bowl water hitting one’s rear. This does NOT feel like a cleansing shower for your bum, and you never know what’s lingering in that water from previous strangers’ business. 

Request #4: Get Rid of Automatic Flushes. I stood slightly after finishing and proceeded to wipe, at which point the automatic flush whooshed! all my contents into the nether regions of the mall sump. This, before I had the chance to make the paper contribution. Annoyed, I finished wiping and threw the tissue in. I looked around the top of the toilet and leaned over to hit the manual flush button. Before I could stand upright again, the forceful vacuum sucked my paper down, spraying water droplets upwards in its exuberance – AND RIGHT INTO MY FACE. I’M NOT KIDDING.

Most Important Request #5: Ensure Toilets Are Cleaned More Often. At that point, to really drive the nastiness home, I noticed a smear of something dark marking the side of the toilet rim. There are only two possibilities for what that substance was and it’s not necessary to mention them.

Now, I know I’m squeamish about bodily excretions, germs and overall filthiness, but y’all have to agree that I was not overboard in washing my face and spitting repeatedly into the sink, was I?

Come on. What would you have done?

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Can’t you just apologize?

Unlike some people, I am often wrong. I say something inappropriate or mean, or factually untrue – and sometimes I get away with it. Mostly, I believe myself to be in the right, for a time. When I’m even a teensy bit wrong, though, things tend to make themselves known and I wish I’d just kept my mouth shut.

It’s always embarrassing when you’re wrong, isn’t it? Say you tell a group of people that einsteinium is DEFINITELY number 54 on the Periodic Table – no doubt about it – and then someone looks it up and it is, in fact, number 99. Even though it is mere trivia and not about to influence anybody in any meaningful way, you feel kind of stupid and you wonder if that group of people will ever believe you on anything ever again. And, shoot, you could have sworn you remembered that very bit of info from high school, so does this mean everything you believe about chemistry is wrong? Is it even called the  Periodic Table, or just a Period Table? It’s so confusing.

It’s bad enough when that happens about incidentals, but it’s even worse when you hurt someone where you believe you were justified. I mean, unless you’re a horrid human being, most of us don’t set out to cause  pain to anyone, least of all those close to us. But when it happens, and we’re called on it, we’re likely to do one of three things:

1) Get defensive

2) Get angry

3) Deny we meant it in that way (when, of course we did, we just didn’t count on that reaction)

I have discovered in the wisdom that comes with my advanced age that it’s always better to either apologize, or admit your mistake, in any situation. Most of us don’t because we don’t want to lose face. But let’s say someone has just corrected you about where einsteinium sits among the elements and you say, “Well, that’s what my teacher told me so she was wrong”, then you’re likely to look like a fool. If you respond with a snappy, “FINE. It’s number 99. WHO CARES?”, you’re going to look like a bigger fool. But if you say, “Well, that makes more sense. I should have known that it was a rare earth metal and not a noble gas! Silly me!” you’ll probably come out of the whole debacle fairly unscathed.

When you hurt someone, however, the approach should be the same, but the sentiment more contrite. For instance, if I make a joke about how grody it is for a person to sit on public toilets and the person I’m talking to looks down at her lap, shamefaced, and mutters that she does it all the time and I shouldn’t judge her, which of course I do – that’s gross – but that’s not the point. I’ve embarrassed her and hurt her feelings, and what do I care how she prefers to do her business? So, instead of being all, “Well, you SHOULD be embarrassed and I’m just saying something that the masses have concluded to be fact and that’s your problem if you’re so deluded that you think doing that is in any way OKAY”, I should stop a moment. I should, instead, go up to said person and tell her that I’m sorry, that it was unfair of me and inappropriate. And be genuine about it.

This isn’t, of course, my natural default and it’s actually really hard if you’re bent on being right. Which we all are, to a degree. But you feel so much better afterwards, you reduce the risk of looking like a jerk, you get more respect and you just become a better person.

Ever wished you’d just checked your ego at the door? Ahem?

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Why don’t men get varicose veins?

It’s no wonder men are so often cavalier about health and their appearance. There are so many more things women have to deal with that men rarely encounter.

I am discovering that the myths, for instance, are true about one’s body after childbearing. I have spoken of this before, and I won’t repeat it. Nobody wants me to go OVER AND OVER my body issues, like it’s something I’m so hard done by. But it bears repeating that when women so famously lament of breasts deflating, guts inflating and pee escaping (isn’t anyone else more incontinent than before? You sneeze and – surprise! No?) it is no joke. Nobody really talks about it because it sounds, I don’t know, ungrateful somehow. And, yes, in the light of eternity, the fact that things aren’t as tight as they were before baby is not quite deserving of hard feelings. It’s just that there’s truth to those tales, and unless you’re Superwoman or a celebrity you’re likely to have suffered the effects of one of them.

But let’s not forget the ladies who haven’t borne children. Eventually, every female experiences frozen hands and feet, razor rash on the bikini line, spider veins, heightened sensitivity and moodiness, bloating so egregious as to appear pregnant or cramps from the menses (my mom doesn’t say PERIOD, she says MENSES). And extra aesthetic delights like muffin tops , ass dimples, mottled knees and disadvantaged bosoms are only exacerbated by the fact that women can’t get away with baggy clothes like men can, lest we be dowdy. And we all know loose clothing hides a multitude of sins. No wonder if I tell my husband or my brother that they’re looking thick around the middle they just pat their bellies, stick ’em out farther and spear another smokie. Such PRIDE in not measuring up to perfection.

Of course, women could learn a thing or two from men’s lackadaisical attitudes. I don’t mean to get deep on you, but if girls didn’t put so much emphasis on their shortcomings, nothing would be said of them.

But, in the spirit of evening things out, let’s think of superficial things women have going for them that men don’t. Like makeup. When we get a pimple, we can hide it. We don’t have to check our hairlines from our nineteenth birthday onward. We can highlight our hair to bring out the colour in our eyes. We can stuff our bras. We can take a sick day when the menses hit. And we can complain to our friends about said burdens.

Going forward, I shall attempt to remind myself often that the reason God gave women so much baggage is so that they can be an example of better health and sharpened self-awareness.

In a way, varicose veins beget yin and yang.

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Really Not Liking That Music

I like Adam Lambert. I never watched American Idol, but I think he should have won. I think he has a unique style, voice and sound, and he seems like a decent guy. And the hair! The eyeliner! The wailing reminiscent of 80’s rock ballads! He really is a great find.  So, as a harbinger of the wrath I am about to unleash on poor Adam, I must stress that I’m not blaming the guy in the following critique. I know when you first get a record contract you probably have to do what the label tells you. And if you sing their songs and perform their schtick you can earn the right to call the shots down the road.

It’s just that his songs thus far are so very bad.

Adam has two songs on the radio, to my knowledge. For Your Entertainment is not meant to be anything more than catchy tunes courting simple, but workable, lyrics. Fast songs can get away with folly since they’re just trying to get your toes tapping. It’s like Lady Gaga’s Telephone. Totally ridiculous words + a danceable beat = a fantastically absurd song! I love it. I love her, that Lady Gaga. So, what I mean to say is, in that vein, For Your Entertainment passes. So, now that I think about it, scratch that song from my bad list.

But I can’t say enough of the opposite for Whataya Want From Me?  The answer, Adam, is NO MORE OF THAT. First, how many times can you repeat that phrase? Did the writer get a serious bout of block and thought he’d just cut and paste? Also, much like Lisa Loeb’s Stay from the soundtrack of one of my favourite guilty pleasures Reality Bites, the song makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE. I know you can argue that poetry is subjective and it means something different to each person and you can superimpose your own interpretation of the words to make them meaningful to you. But every time I hear that song I get so frustrated because I have a hunch it’s secretly just a bunch of words forced together into something vaguely romance-related. One minute Adam is warning whomever to slow it down, and next thing he’s begging the same person not to give up. MAKE UP YOUR MIND.

Don’t worry, I’m sure I see a generic point to this song: I really want you because you’re so very good for me but I have issues and I need for you to be patient with my limitations. But it doesn’t work. It’s so ambiguous as to make it nonsensical. Why must they dumb everything down? It’s so TIRESOME.

Perhaps I’ve missed the point and the music is too profound for my small, confused mind. Or maybe it’s supposed to be as devoid of meaningful sentiment as the thousands of other songs out there. However, I can’t help but think otherwise when Lambert sings the song so earnestly. Let’s face facts and agree that it’s just bad poetry. Which makes me sad because, Adam, I LOVE the tune. I do. And I love the way you sing it. It’s such a shame.

Surely someone understands the hidden mysteries of pop music better than I. Please, enlighten.

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What on earth are you wearing?

Do you ever take something out of your closet that you wear on a regular basis and then one day – BAM! – it hits you like a rock how unfashionable it is? Like a light goes off in your brain and you see the item with eyes anew and you wonder how long ago it became unfashionable. Then you’re mortified for all those times you wore it in the recent past when people must have been clucking in sympathy behind your back.

Because I am in my early thirties I have often wondered if I even know what’s cool anymore. A roommate of mine used to show me a piece of clothing she had just bought and ask me if it was IN, or SO VERY OUT. We’d both scratch our heads, ponder the item and end up none the wiser.

I have never been a real clothes-horse, but I’ve always bought decent stuff. Or so I think. I look at magazines. I watch TV. I look at other humans. I should know what’s passé, right? (Does the fact that I just used my grandma’s word “passé” make me passé? Hm.)

Any clothes shopping I do nowadays is with my baby daughter. As such, unless someone else is with us, I never get to try stuff on. So I’ll buy something and then inevitably return it because my ape arms extend far past the sleeves. Or my bum fails to fill the rear. Or it just looks off and I wonder if it’s just me or is the item making me out to be an older gal attempting a look befitting a teenager? Or, worse, a middle-ager? Sometimes it’s just really hard to tell, you know?

What I should do is always have this one friend of mine with me every time I shop for clothes. This friend (who, back in high school, worked with me at the Pizza Hut where we had to wear high-waisted, tapered slacks as part of our uniform) always wears unique pieces that make her look youthful, but not immature. Although, incidentally, said friend once encouraged me to buy a spring dress from a hip London shop featuring a BUBBLE SKIRT, so, yeah, she’s not always bang-on… But I trust her judgment most of the time.

Even my husband has told me I must get out of my go-to clothing: Lululemons. MY HUSBAND. Who, when we first started dating, had tight, grey, CUFFED sweatpants that were at least three inches too short. And he wore them ALL THE TIME. Which just shows that there must be something terribly awry with my wardrobe. But then, this is the man who consistently complains that I never wear hotpants and knee socks around the house.

I would upload a picture of my latest discovery, but I’m a) embarrassed, and b) not sure the off-ness of the item will translate in a photo. Plus, I need to know that I’m not the only one who’s made this sort of discovery. Am I?

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Crazy Kids

You know how teenagers are supposed to be all emotional and fly off the handle at nothing? How they can get manic over one thing and suddenly nothing else matters? How they are so confused about what’s going on in their bodies and minds that they can hardly process it? Do you adults remember being like that?

I think I’ve actually become more emotional as I’ve gotten older, although I am less confused. Good thing, too – I would hope at my age I’d have achieved some insight on things. Perhaps it’s because of that insight that I have a certain amount of patience with teenagers. I’ve read quite a bit on their brain development (or lack of it, as it were) and I understand they literally do not have the capacity of an adult to reason and understand consequences for actions. A while ago, I witnessed a teenager prove that theory.

There is a young lady living a few doors down from us who must be around nineteen years old. She always plays the music in her car at such a great volume that it’s a wonder her eardrums haven’t exploded. One morning at about nine o’clock when I was still sleeping (I work late, okay?), she drove into the driveway and started washing her car, leaving the doors open so she could listen to her music at what must have been concert levels. Six units down and with my windows closed, it was like I had my own stereo playing.

Due to it not being the first time, I decided to go talk to her. Because her back was to me and the music was so loud, I had to actually tap her on the shoulder before she knew I was there. I asked her to turn her music down. I said it was inconsiderate at any time of day to be making that kind of racket. I told her it would be helpful if she would refrain in the future from sharing her music with all citizens in a five-block radius. I expected her to be peeved, like teenagers are.

She totally wasn’t. What she seemed to be was surprised. Surprised that everyone in the neighbourhood and beyond wasn’t absolutely delighted to listen to her tunes. Taken off-guard that I would make an issue of it at all. Disconnected for a moment that my request pertained to something she was doing wrong. It was odd.

I know many adults are similarly self-involved, but it is the navel-gazing tendency of adolescents that perhaps makes them more prone to this behaviour. That is, not realizing how their actions can affect them or others. It’s not that they’re mean, they just don’t immediately consider it. This girl was quite dumbfounded. It had evidently not occurred to her that what she was doing could annoy a nauseated pregnant lady who worked nights, was moody like nobody’s business and who still had an hour to rest before The View was on.

It makes me think that being the parent of a teenager must be very tiring. Parents? Is it true?

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Bashing la Francophonie

I just read an article on how French Immersion programs in Canada are elitist clubs for parents in the mid-to-upper class who want to ensure their children learn alongside children of the same social class and academic ability. It said the program exists to the exclusion of kids from lower-income households and scholastic status. This assertion reminded me of the opinion of a formerly well-known TV personality with whom I worked. He told me once that F.I. only serves to confuse children and breeds graduates who have inferior English skills. This guy had never had any exposure to the program and was, quite vehemently, stating his opinion on it in SPITE of that fact.

I was in French Immersion. My friends and I have never heard so much as a whisper that inclusion in the program was based on our parents’ desire to keep us away from problem kids. I guarantee 90% of students were there because their parents simply saw the advantage of being exposed to another language. And I, for one, would never apologize for enrolling my children in anything that would challenge, enlighten or encourage them.

Yes, French Immersion does see students who are generally better academics. Yes, there are fewer problem kids. But that could be just because parents who would enroll their kids in the program would generally take more interest in education overall.  Also, I don’t understand the argument that only upper-class kids take part. Where was the fact checker on this article? Both the French and the English program in any school reflect the social class of the families in the area where that school exists. And F.I. schools exist everywhere, from Whalley to West Vancouver.

As far as rendering a child worse in the ostensibly more important language of English, I would argue the exact opposite. I believe that exposing a person of any age to another language makes them better in their dominant tongue. As someone who has studied language my whole life (and not just French) I know that learning another language causes me to understand the rules that comprise the English language so much better. I see parallels in English that I never would have seen had I not been exposed to the counterparts in the other language. I have a far deeper understanding of conjugation, of syntax and of idioms in English as a result. Don’t think that’s important? Well, whether you realize it or not, every day that you use language, you are practicing each one of those elements. Your ability to understand and express grow immeasurably with exposure to linguistic elements of any tongue. Just like the importance of literacy is to the success of us all, so is the deeper understanding of the language we use.

Furthermore, there is an enormous social benefit in learning another language to the depth that French Immersion offers. I have always been of the opinion that, with such an education, you are far more likely to have acceptance and tolerance of other cultures. Part in parcel of learning a language is simultaneously being exposed to the way the people of that language think, the way they work and the thought patterns associated with that culture. It’s impossible not to glean a better understanding of a people after having learned their language. You always learn more than just words. Infused in words and phrases are thoughts, sentiments and ideals.

As for the argument that the program is so much more difficult that you end up excluding all the kids who aren’t as academically strong…well, I’m unsure where the writer was going with that. Should schools omit challenging material altogether because some children may not succeed? By and large, a student who does not succeed in French Immersion will have similar problems in the English curriculum. Immersion is not taught in the same fashion as regular French classes. After a short time, understanding becomes second nature and is quite secondary to the subject taught. If you have trouble understanding math, it’s because of the math, not the French. 

I take great issue with the writer of this article. NONE of us would want our kids in a school infamous for trouble. My desire for my kids to be in a school with well-behaved, hard-working students from stable households does not mean I harbour what this writer seems to think is a dirty little secret of elitism.

My guess is that lower-income parents aren’t enrolling their kids into French Immersion in droves (if the article is accurate) because, in general, lower-income people have less education, put less emphasis on education and express less interest in education choices for their kids.

The writer would only have a point if F.I. cost money, was only offered in affluent areas or required a minimum GPA. It does not.

I don’t think it’s wrong to choose the English curriculum. I would just be curious to know what arguments parents have used in deliberately not choosing to enroll their children in French. I would hope parents are not listening to the likes of the writer from the aforementioned article.

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