Feverish Feminist (?) Ranting

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I’m sick in bed.

It’s where I’ve been for the past three days.

This means I am watching chick-flicks and willing my mind to form some semblance of cohesion so that I can attempt to tackle homework as it piles up. I feel the shaky beginnings of linear thoughts reorganizing back into the rational, so I’ve closed the Netflix tab and pulled my keyboard in close; maybe I can write. (Who am I kidding, it’s still open, taunting me over there with its soothing ability to numb my scattered, delirious brain.)

Naturally, all chick-flicks contain the usual formula to appease the masses—even when there are respectable actresses, luring me into false hopefulness that this one will be different. (Laura Linney how could you?)

There will be an insurmountable problem. This problem will be surmounted by our charming and authentic, if not slightly socially awkward at first, leading lady. Cue Scarlet Johansen.

During the surmounting of the insurmountable problem it is likely there will also be some sort of musical montage.

Now, don’t take this for granted. Not every formula will contain the musical montage, but if it does, rest assured there will short yet emotive scenes neatly compressing the timeframe it takes for the leading lady to surmount the insurmountable problem.

All of this is all well and fine but really what I want to talk about is the prince charming. Prince charming will appear as some sort of aloof, silent character. He’ll have buffoons for friends and will respectfully butt in and end their buffoonery thereby gaining our respect by valiantly defending our leading lady. His gentle coaxing to the fleeing leading lady he’s inevitably followed: “Aw shucks, forget about them, they’re just drunk” is precisely the moment when one human’s disrespect for another is wiped clear away with the logical and acceptable form of degradation, alcohol.

We have now entered into the chase formula. This formula is an entirely separate formula inserted into our chick-flick formula. Not every chick-flick requires the chase formula, and not every chase formula will be in a chick-flick. But it’s more than likely that the chase formula will be inserted into a chick-flick and slightly less likely that the chase formula will be in a movie that does not subscribe to other elements found in a chick-flick-like formula. Got it? Great.

The breakdown of the chase is as follows: man likes woman. Woman is unsure of man. Man asserts his desire for woman while the woman continues to deflect his advances. Perceive the movie with different senses and it’s likely you’ll feel like you’re watching two different movies. Listen with your eyes closed? You’ll hear a woman continually reject a man. Plug your ears and only look at the movie? You’ll see a woman playing with her hair and purse strap while smiling at a man.

Both of these scenarios? COMPLTELY MESSED UP. Sorry for yelling.

How in the world are we, as human beings, supposed to learn how to effectively communicate with other human beings when we have these wild and broken formulas playing out all over the place!

See, we all know the outcome of the chase. The two heterosexual (typically white people of a particular social class (unless it furthers the plot to be slightly mismatched) will go on a date. A date. /dāt/ noun. A social or romantic appointment or engagement. Cue music. Roll credits. Bam. Done and done. Cut to happily ever after.

Years ago when I was living a different life on a different track to very different goals than I have now I had to put together a lesson and teach it in one of my education classes.

I chose to critically analyze fairy tales and how they set children up to fit into specific gender roles.

Unfortunately, we’re still doing the very same thing.

I wonder how it is that we function at all sometimes without society actively shaping our every move and sentence. Oh wait, that’s right, it does. But it’s not active, it’s sly and surreptitious.

I recently heard of an upscale UK department store getting rid of their men’s and women’s sections and stocking only gender neutral clothing. The announcement got me beyond excited. How cool is that? No more gender norms! We just get to be people! How great! No need to shove ourselves into strict definitions of what it means to be male or female, just focus on the true light within us shining our way home. Perfect.

So I’ll just be sitting here in my off-grey pantsuit that’s neither too tight nor too baggy, waiting for some random guy I made awkward eye contact with once to bang down my door with shouts of loving adoration while I watch another Netflix movie. Goodnight.

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Thriving in the Face of the Familiar

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I chased the sun for the entire plane ride there. Once we crested above the wintry blizzard at takeoff, the clouds below offered a clear, crisp line. Its similarity to the second-floor view of the prairie home I grew up in was startling.

Scanning out from my window seat, I half expected to see telephone poles leaping out, offering change from the monotony of the line. The sun did that, anyway; a leaking red orb held just below my replacement horizon.

That blaring red was my target. It was in the direction my plane urged ceaselessly toward as it spread itself through the thinning clouds. Eventually the clouds subsided completely and the plane touched down amongst the glittering city. Back west for the holidays. Back in the province I was raised. Christmas with family for the first time in four years.

“If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.”
~Ram Dass

I wish I had some surefire way to navigate through the ups and downs of family. A magic balm to soothe finicky nephews, a patient and understanding ear to listen to brothers’ troubles and a tolerance for the neuroses in my mother that I’ve adopted and don’t quite accept in myself. I wish I were perfect. Unfortunately, spending time with family tends to accentuate my humanness. And it’s anything but perfect.

This gets exacerbated by the pressure of time: I haven’t lived in the same province, country or sometimes even continent as my family for the majority of the past nine years, so when I am here I want to cram in as much quality time as humanly possible. There’s that word again, human. I keep getting reminded that life is different than when I had a brother or two as roommates or living in my basement suite. For one thing, they’ve got mini versions of themselves in tow. New humans are in the mix.

A plane and a car ride plopped me down into the everyday schedules of these people I’ve known from my birth. I want visits to be flashy and exciting, spontaneous and fun. But nap times need to be adhered to, and deadlines don’t dissolve just because I have a month out of my regular structure. I know that I sometimes expect too much.

Spending time in Southern Alberta offered me an eerie mix of reverse culture shock and comforting familiarity. I will simply never understand the lifestyle of fenced-in suburbia, miles away from a grocery store. Yet on the back of every massive pick-up truck is the license plate that’s been burned into my memory. The vivid red jumps out at me just like the sun did on the plane ride. There are these flashes of the familiar that reach right down into the recesses of my memory and suddenly I’m on another road trip to Calgary, making up games and trying to spot cars from other provinces or states. Coming back to Alberta as an adult snaps me out of the life I’ve put effort into creating. It mixes my past and present in a way I’m not too sure about.

I always did have to extend certain effort to root in the now, to not have my consciousness be pulled backward into historical obscurity. This task is especially difficult when surrounded by the people who have influenced my life-long patterns and habits.

I had to come up with ways to thrive during my holiday with family.

First of all, I’m recognizing the need to drop my expectations. Life is complicated and just because I was able to pause my life for a few of weeks and fly a few thousand miles away from it doesn’t mean everyone can. I’m learning the importance of openly communicating expectations and obligations. I’m responsible for doing the legwork to organize gatherings I want to happen just as I am for setting boundaries and declaring “me time.” The key is to share my thoughts and expectations with those around me.

I was also able to share parts of myself I can’t when I’m not there. Daily modified yoga poses with my dad were a treat for both of us. After over 35 years in the construction business, his body was eagerly accepting the time to stretch.

Overall, my time out west was nourishing. I keep on packing these life experiences onto myself and every time I go back where I came from, I learn something different.

Perhaps the most striking moments of my trip were the vast stretches of sky, spread out before me in unobscured glory over the rolling coulees.

It was those moments, driving along old, familiar routes or stopped at a scenic parking lot, that would bring tears to my eyes.

Taking in the magic of the familiar with a new perspective is a beautiful thing.

I may not have reached enlightenment, but time with the family was indeed enjoyable.