Last week I wrote a column on getting used to the new local mandate that garbage bags must be clear, or they will not be collected. The rule, which has stirred up plenty of controversy and resentment, has been put in place to ensure that people aren't throwing recyclables in the trash.
In my column I poked fun at myself for being so set in my garbage bag ways that I resented having to eliminate kitchen catcher bags from the equation and just toss everything in one large clear bag. I talked about how quickly I will undoubtedly get used to the change and how if we were all a little more willing to let go of some of our habits, such as the use of disposable plastic water bottles, to form new ones, we could have a huge environmental impact, a positive one for once.
This week, the negative response, arguing that the blame for excess trash should be put on manufacturers, and that we poor little citizens should bear no responsibility, being printed in our paper comes from none other than my editor. She also argues against the fact that we have to pay for garbage tags, and the fact that we have to sort our recycling.
I don't fit in here.
But then, I'm used to it.
Growing up I was one of two kids who brought their lunch to school in reusable containers and depending on the meal, a cloth napkin, and stainless steel cutlery. I'm not sure what elementary school is like now in that regard but at the time it was so unusual that I received an environmental award.
We were hardly a radical environmentalist family. We lived on the grid and played with plastic toys. But compared to my peers, it seemed I was always having to sacrifice more for the sake of the environment.
I remember whining to my mom that it wasn't fair when she refused to use the car to take us places we could walk or ride our bikes. "Why does it always have to be us? Why can't someone else ride their bike so that we can have a turn doing what's easy?" I asked. "Why can't I bring plastic packed lunchables and fruit snacks to school and let some other kid try to remember to bring home her damn tupperware in her backpack?"
I get it now. For too long people have been leaving custody of our planet and our resources up to someone else. We just choose not to think about it, so we don't have to take responsibility. We've taken the easy and shortsighted route almost every time we were offered a choice.
You don't have to look far to see the impact of our refusal to think beyond ourselves. Don't believe in Global Warming? Here's something you can see with your own two eyes.
It's easy enough being green. It's not so easy being the pain in the ass who brings up issues that no one wants to think about and even has the audacity to suggest that we all have a responsibility to deal with them.
For my part, this week I'll be continuing my one-woman crusade to get the local post office to quit throwing thousands of flyers a week into the trash instead of recycling them.
It's not easy when you don't fit in. But, depending on your surroundings, sometimes it's kind of awesome when you stand out.
The other night I was invited to head out with some people from the town I'm living in. The woman (whom I'll call Lisa), who invited me very kindly offered to come and pick me up so I could ride to another nearby down where she, her boyfriend and some other locals were going for dinner and drinks.
While I'm always hesitant to turn down any offer that might result in some kind of actual social life here, I was reluctant to put myself in a position where I was in any way dependant on people I don't know for getting home. While I like this woman, from what she had told me, I really wasn't sure if the people she hangs out with are ones I would be able to tolerate completely sober.
So I took a rain check.
As it turns out, I couldn't have picked a better night to follow my instincts.
Apparently, the person who ended up driving was a friend of Lisa's boyfriend. Once upon a time, when this guy was over at Lisa's house, he hit her 5-year-old son. He has since not been welcome in her house, so don't ask me what she was doing double dating with this guy.
He had brought along his new girlfriend, who he was horrible and rude to all evening. They had just started to drive home, when Lisa decided to tell him he shouldn't be talking to his girlfriend like that. So naturally, he pulled over and made Lisa get out of the car, leaving her to walk the 20kms of midnight country highway, where drinking and driving seems to be a given, home.
Her boyfriend? Stayed in the car.
Lisa started hitching and was picked up by a car of high school boys who decided to take her on a tour of some backroads instead of driving her home until she insisted they let her out of the car. Fortunately they did let her out and she was free to walk the 10 or so kilometres home.
When she finally arrived what must have been close to three hours later, her boyfriend was asleep in bed. When she woke him up to confront him, he just held up her cel phone, which he broke recently when he was mad at her, and said "See, this is the kind of thing that happens when you act like that."
I heard all of this secondhand, but it falls completely in line with other stories she's told me about problems with her boyfriend. From what I can tell he's a real prize who sponges off her, lives in her house for practically nothing while she struggles to pay her mortgage and feed her kids. Oh, and of course, he frequently threatens to leave her and makes her feel stupid or crazy any time she gets up the courage to ask him for anything.
Every time she says his name it makes me feel ill. I'm at the point where the next time she brings up something horrible he has done, I'm ready to tell her that as much as I want to support her, unless she's ready to seek some counseling (in which case, i will happily drive her/watch her kids/pull her there in a little red wagon) or leave him, I just can't hear about it anymore. I can't know what a creep he is and then have to smile and act like I have no idea the next time I run into the two of them. There's a reason I didn't go to theatre school. I'm just not that good.
I don't know how it could be any clearer. If he leaves you to your fate alone on the side of the highway and goes home to sleep? He does not love you. Oh, and as a bonus? He has no idea how to treat a fellow human being.
Since Sparta (a.k.a my boyfriend) recently relocated to a convenient three hours away from where I live (seriously, he used to live 8 hours away, this is a breeze by comparison), I've been doing a lot more weekend traveling. My suitcase rarely makes it back into the closet before I'm hauling it back out and cramming it full of everything I might possibly need for two days in the city (and then some).
Not only has it been fantastic getting to see him more than once a month, it's provided a great breather from the feeling that I'm living on the set of Gilmore Girls minus all the young, attractive hip folk milling about. I just drive to the nearest city with a train station, leave my car with my parents, sit back and relax to the quiet rumble and sway of the train to the big city.
Et voila, suddenly I've got a million places to wear the clothes and makeup I don't bother with when I'm dashing around from pig roast to Chickenfest in my everyday life (I do wear clothes mind you, just boring ones).
Plus, get this, in the city, I have friends! So many that it's actually difficult to divide up my time over two days so as not to neglect anyone.
This weekend Ms. M and Sparta and I had dinner (Thai coconut shrimp -the likes of which has never been seen in these here parts) in one of my favourite neighbourhoods and then shared some wine before heading to an awkwardly small engagement party where we didn't know anyone and Sparta entertained himself (and let's be honest, M and I) and confused our hosts by behaving kind of like Hunter S. Thompson circa Fear and Loathing until we left, and then M and I went for paraben-free facials accompanied by the crashing cymbals of the passing St. Patrick's day parade outside.
Oh, I also got seriously stuck in the bathroom at Sparta's place. He had to use his warrior strength to break the door and get me out.
Despite the trip being a bit of a whirlwind of activity, while I rode back home watching the sun set over fields that are finally showing a hint of coming alive again, I felt more awake than I have in weeks.
The other day I headed over to the local Catholic high school to provide some coverage of their Vow of Silence day. The idea was to be silent for 24 hours in solidarity with children around the world who are living in horrible conditions and don't have a voice. The students also made a banner, which I photographed them with, that said "I AM Silent..." and then they wrote their reasons for participating in the day all over it. A nice idea.
On closer inspection however, it appears not all of them had the best of motivations:
What really cracked me up though was that even though they were engaging in vandalism, the strongest language they could come up with was "frigging."
Either today's vandals just aren't that creative or there's something to be said for that Catholic guilt I'm always hearing about.
One day, when I was 5, I was out playing with the neighbourhood boys when someone had the brilliant idea to "play ninja turtles."
Naturally, I called dibs on being the one with the pretty purple mask.
"No way, you have to be April, and we rescue you!"
"Because you're a girl! (duh)"
Well. Something about that rubbed my five-year-old self entirely the wrong way. So, after trying unsuccessfully to convince the boys that I could be a perfectly capable ninja turtle, I did what any self-respecting ninja turtle would do. I refused to play and went home to cry about the injustice.
Et voila, a tiny little feminist was born.
I'm not sure when I became aware of the f word, but it must have been fairly early on, because for as long as I can remember, I took for granted that the majority of people would say they were feminists. I mean, come on, who doesn't believe women and men should be given equal rights and respect?
I didn't realize just how wrong I was, until my second year of college. Our history and politics teacher had been going over the suffragists movement, when she asked who in the class identified as a feminist. My hand, of course, shot up automatically. When my eyes followed a second later, I realized it was the only one.
You could have knocked me over with a feather. I guess I figured there might be a handfull of people who bought into the bra-burning, man-hating stereotype, but really? In a room full of journalism students, about 70% of whom were women, I was the only one. Seriously?
So, not unlike when I was denied ninja turtle status based on gender, I started asking why.
Most of the people I talked to either hadn't thought about it or thought it was an outdated concept. My favourite response though, was, "Well I believe in equality, but I wouldn't call myself a feminist."
It seems somewhere along the line, someone did a really effective job of convincing us that feminism was a dirty word. That feminists are cranky, ugly whiners with a vendetta against men. Probably the same someone who would like us to believe that shaking our asses in music videos is the true road to empowerment.
I'm not buying it.
Unfortunately, feminism is not likely to ever be an outdated concept. As long as there are women in the world fighting for the same rights and opportunities that men have, fighting to be viewed as more than disposable property, fighting to be heard, we need feminists. We need men and women who are willing to take up that fight and to be guardians of the rights feminists have fought for.
Even in countries like Canada, where we like to think we've come pretty far, we will always need people who are willing to stand up and be counted next to the amazing feminists who fought long and hard to ensure that women were even recognized as people under the law. We take our rights for granted, but if we're not vigilant, they can all too easily be taken from us.
So yes, I'm a feminist. I believe in equality and I'll damn well be a ninja turtle if I want to be!
*Since originally posting this, I've started a thread on the subject on 20sb. There's a very lively and fascinating discussion with great insight and opinions from all sorts of 20-somethings going on, If anyone else is interested.
Thanks to everyone who has commented and to Elle Bee for her own awesome post on the subject! Hearing so many of your well-thought out opinions on the subject has been seriously exciting!
Last week I dragged my half-dead self to the local figure skating club carnival spectacle thing.
Despite my initial dread of leaving my cozy apartment (and more importantly, my pjs, Neo Citran and ten boxes of kleenex) to stand in a crummy arena watching little girls skate around to Lady GaGa, I actually wound up feeling kind of charmed.
I'm not sure if it was just the tiny tots dressed as wizard of oz characters and holding onto one another for dear life while taking turns falling all over the ice, or the fact that someone bothered to make giant Oscar cutouts and paint a strip of red carpet on the ice, but I'll admit, they got me. My resolve to feel cranky and maintain constant eye-rolling at the shmaltziness of it all failed me briefly.
For a minute, I wanted to be the girl in the red fringe costume, freezing my ass off and breathlessly waiting for my cue to glide and shimmer around the rink.
Of course, a minute later some 13-year-old skated to "Barbie Girl" and I just wanted to go back to bed.
I've always felt grateful to be a Canadian. I've never understood the inferiority complex some people seem to have regarding our neighbours to the south. I mean, come on, we've got a lot to celebrate here: Access to healthcare, education, and all the snow you can eat.
However, there is one thing that makes me wish, just a little, that I was proud to be an American instead.
Sure we've got Timbits galore, but they've got the opportunity to compete in the worldwide travelling adventure that is The Amazing Race.
For the uninitiated, the Amazing Race is a TV game show where teams race around the world, competing various tasks related to the region they're in, kind of like a giant scavenger hunt. It is also the best thing ever.
Despite the fact that I can't really, you know, run, I am wholeheartedly convinced that given the chance and the right partner, I would totally dominate the race. I'm a good traveler, for one thing, and I'm decent at problem solving. I'm competitive but I'd like to think I'm also quite patient.
Family and friends disagree.
"See! Don't you think we could totally win that?" I once questioned my boyfriend after a particularly exhilarating episode, which I may or may not have narrated by saying "I could do that! I could totally do that!" every three minutes. "Are you kidding? You'd power-walk everywhere and volunteer to do EVERY task." was his doubting Thomas reply. (For the record, he walks extremely slowly, despite having legs twice as long as mine -and really, why wouldn't you walk quickly during a RACE?).
He then went on to paint a picture of what that might look like if we were asked which one of us wanted to complete a sword-fighting task, for example. According to him, I'd have grabbed a sword (possibly by the wrong end) and scampered madly off before he could say, "but, but I'm trained in stage combat!"
Admittedly, that sounds about right.
To be clear, for the most part I try to avoid "reality" television, but something about the televised race around the world inspires me to set up the rabbit ears once a week and watch the grainy picture that comes up, commercials and all.
It's partly because I love to travel and learn about different cultures, but it's also because unlike the plethora of shows that exist solely to showcase the worst of human behaviour as entertainment, the race doesn't make me feel like I probably became a slightly worse human being just by watching.
It's fascinating to see how people adapt to new situations and handle the stresses of travelling, It's certainly entertaining, But to me, the best part is watching people's eyes open to both the wonder and the tragedy that the world is host to when they wander outside the comforts of home.
So, if anyone has a brilliant plan to open the race up to Canadians, let me know. The position of my Amazing Race partner is also clearly still open.
Growing up, I thought I lived in a small town. It wasn't until my relocation to take my first job as a newspaper reporter that I realized how wrong I was...Two years later, I'm a casualty of print media downsizing and headed back to the big city to seek my fortune (or at least a social life).
1. Cerebration is the act of thinking
2. Sarahbration is the act of ME thinking
3. ...or partying?...with my brain?