Existential Anxiety and Activewear: Suburban Midlife Femininity

I’m really starting to come to terms with the fact that I am quickly approaching middle age. I have spent a great deal of intellectual and emotional energy telling myself that middle age is literally the middle of one’s life, and as Canadian woman, my life expectancy is over 81, thus I (a fresh-face 36 year old) still have 5 more years until I am technically in the middle of my life. Thus, I remain a young woman.

But, after awhile it becomes difficult to deny– you get ma’am’d a few too many times at the grocery store, or all of the sudden your friends know all of the tricks involved with getting botox treatments covered by insurance. In any case, the evidence that you are pretty much middle aged starts to mount and becomes impossible to deny.

This stage of life is experienced differently depending on who you are and where you live. My unique brand of middle age can be described “suburban woman”. Here is the (non-exhaustive) list of clues that you might also be approaching middle aged suburban womanhood.

1.The insidious encroachment of Activewear in your closet: All of the sudden most of your clothing is activewear (like 75% at least). To this end, the Internet imposes Fabletics ads (which have taken my feelings for Kate Hudson from neutral to disdainful) on you everyday via social media, and all of your peers (fellow middle aged suburban women) exclusively post photos of them exercising, about to exercise, or leaving exercise. You will also notice that a consensus will slowly develop among your friends that activewear is appropriate all of the time, no matter what you’re doing. Dinner? Leggings. Lunch? A Tank and a sports bra.

Basically if you are a woman aged 35-45, you must always be prepared for exercise, whether you expect it or not, because if you stop moving, you might die.

2. Alcohol: We all still like to drink, but our approach is different than it was in our 20s. We have gone from drinking beer and shots in the bar while wearing Destiny Child’s (circa 2004) inspired low rise flares, and backless handkerchief ‘shirts’, to drinking a reasonably priced vintage Argentinian Malbec on the couch.

What remains consistent is the fact that no bra is required.

3. Your view of the past: I found myself thinking about some of my favourite teachers the other day, and the first question I asked myself was: ‘I wonder they’re dead yet? Hope not. But, they must be pretty fucking old by now.’

4. There are more Divorces than Weddings.

5. Cleaning: I hate cleaning. In my 20s, my version of cleaning was to squirt enough all purpose cleaner on the counter so that my apartment would smell vaguely disinfected, then tell I’d tell visitors that I hadn’t had a chance to finish cleaning. Now, I have learned to view my home through a lens of shame, and that I have to wash away that shame–especially that bullshit that accumulates on the baseboards– in order to alleviate it.

In my 20s my messy apartment gave off a sense of girlish charm. Now it tells a different story: it says that I’m a slob.

Full disclosure: I have never scrubbed my baseboards. Living with a little shame is healthy, and also fuck cleaning my baseboards. I’d rather just write about how they make me feel. Also, in my 20s I probs didn’t even know what a baseboard was… or thought it was some sort of cool sound system enhancing equipment in da club.

6. Slang: I referred to some rich guy as a ‘baller’ the other day, and I immediately felt as cool as my mom looks when she coyly throws down a ‘Wayne’s World’ “not”.

When I hang out with people in their 20s, I don’t know what they are saying, but I try to pretend. Honestly, they talk about drugs that I have never even heard of.

7. Street Harassment: Some Asshole yells “sluts” at you and your girlfriend as he hangs out of the backseat of his loser friend’s car.

Instead of being offended, you both think “we still got it.”


This short list should provide you enough clues that you might be approaching middle aged suburban womanhood.

Of course there are a wide array of other clues such as those associated with fear, regret, an intense sense of urgency, and other emotions of an existential nature that should be taken as evidence of (approaching) middle age.
*takes swig of reasonably priced malbec, removes bra and cues up season one of The Good Wife… again.*


The Conference Season Survival Guide

It is mid-May, which means that it is peak conference season. Personally, my conference attending/presenting is done for the year, but since removing my last lanyard (showcasing a fun misspelling of my name), I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on the topic, so I thought I would use this opportunity to provide some helpful hints, and insider knowledge when it comes to navigating these tricky formal gatherings. Having spent a long time in graduate school/academia, and a little time in more corporate contexts, I’ve had the chance to think through a great many of the rituals, formalities and customs of this odd, expensive, and unavoidable adult social institution.

Here is a numbered list of my top insights and hints:

Insight 1: Networking is awkward

First of all, the word ‘networking’ is a little cringey. It’s become so ubiquitous, that it is basically meaningless.

The only thing more awkward than networking with strangers at a conference, is watching other strangers awkwardly network amongst themselves.

This is  particularly pronounced during the ‘cocktail hours’:

With a glass of white wine in one hand, some sort of mediocre amuse bouche and napkin in the other, and no table in sight, conference delegates can’t help but look completely uncomfortable, when they try to shake hands, or take a glance at others’s name tags (which are always conveniently showcased across the bosoms).  And while in my experience, adult humans typically avoid talking while chewing (present company excluded — i.e. me), this is a sizeable challenge during the cocktail hour, because you can be asked a question by a stranger at any moment. This is when you place the napkin in front of your mouth, smize (smile with your eyes), exaggeratedly nod/chew, and point at your face. Everyone will politely laugh, and wait for you to finish. Exploit that chewing time, to think about what you’re going to say.*

*Conference hack: when at a loss of words, it is always safe to say sentences that have at least one of the following words: “dialogue”, “conversation”, “problematic”,”stakeholder” and/or “collaboration”.

Insight 2:  Business Cards

At a conference, everyone is armed with their business cards. I have come to understand that the presentation of a business card is much like the Hawaiian usage of the word “aloha” — it can mean “hello” or “goodbye”.  Consider this a tip, especially if you want to exit a conversation, but cannot manage a graceful out:  just hand them your card, and scoot.

When you receive a card, be sure to treat it with reverence, and provide no hints that you will throw it in the trash when you eventually switch purses. It is customary to reciprocate with the presentation of your own card. When the transaction is complete, one of you must say “We will be in touch”. Spoiler alert: You won’t be.  

Insight 3: Dressing for a Conference

Every conference is different. For the business-y conferences, folks usually opt for jeans (casual…) and blazers (…but corporate). On the other hand for (Liberal Arts) academics, the sky’s the limit. While a few might adopt the more conservative look of their corporate counterparts, I have seen a wide variety of conference attire in scholarly settings: including yellowed white ribbed tank tops, subversively short skirts (I saw that one that time I looked in the mirror before leaving for the conference), comics theme printed t-shirts, hiking shoes… and so many cardigans.

Along the lines of presentation of self, In terms of basic hygiene, I prefer to do that whole run of the mill brush my teeth and take a shower thing (so boring and status quo, I know, but unfortunately the only choice for corporate spaces). That said, I have seen some of my historical materialist colleagues eschew traditional hygiene altogether, looking as if they’ve brushed their hair with a shoe, and maybe dabbed some purell in their armpits.

In other words, knowing your audience is everything when it comes to wardrobe choices.

Insight 4: There will be an Objectively Bad Panel/Presentation

It might even be your’s. If you didn’t adequately prepare, or maybe after attending a few panels, you realize that the crowd might not be on your side, I recommend reminding yourself just how little other people care about your talk– whether you rocked it, or you fully bombed, no one will spend anytime thinking about it once they leave the room.  Besides, it’s on your C.V. now forever no matter how bad it was.

If it is someone else’s panel, sympathetically smile through it, nod along, and know that, you won’t give a shit after you leave (see paragraph above).

To sum up, conferences are weird, but a tradition that will endure (trust me, most conversations at conferences are about the next conference).

There are some perks too: you will get a tote, a USB stick, and if you’re lucky a new mug. Sometimes the food is good or stealable (dry and small enough to stuff in your purse) So there’s that.

Happy Conferencing!

General post-feminist problems privilege sociology

Everyday Cart-ographies: Navigating the Tricky Terrain of the Grocery Store

Badvertising: None of these mofos are "ripe"
Badvertising: None of these mofos are “ripe”

*The pun in the title is sick (even though the metaphor isn’t perfect), so please get it. 

Nothing is more fascinating to me than the mundane activities of (my) everyday life.

Identifying, thinking about and ultimately navigating the unspoken, implied social rules in any given context is something that I find challenging, but also generally hilarious.

Since becoming a full-on grown up, one of the most challenging activities that I carry-out on a pretty much every-other-daily basis is grocery shopping. Despite all of this very regular practice, I am still incapable of conducting myself like successfully socialized human being while shopping for food: there elements of the entire experience that I simply do not understand. The following (non exhaustive) list outlines the largest sources of my grocery shopping confusion and frustration:

1. Carts: I hate carts. I hate them even more when I have to somehow locate a quarter to release one from a chain of them– so not only do I have to grocery shop; I now have to emotionally reconcile the fact that the grocery store doesn’t trust me not to steal the cart, which as I said, I hate. I almost always end up opting for a hand basket — if I actually manage to find one. Committing to a cart is similar to how it feels to switch from a cool sporty, agile car, to a clunky, but practical mini-van. No one feels hip when they’re pushing a cart, but sometimes your circumstances call for itThe hand basket often works out very poorly for me, because after a few minutes, it gets so heavy that I have to use both hands to carry it. That said, when I do end up with a cart (I usually cave if I have to buy a case of pop), I almost always find myself in/starting a cart jam. I get confused about who has the right of way, and question why we don’t have turn signals or brake lights, or hazard lights (because sometimes you just have to make an emergency stop). It’s always mayhem, and I end with major aisle rage.

2. Avocados: If you want to eat one today, you better remember to buy one 3 days ago.

3. I don’t know where anything is: Where is the sriracha? Is it in the (problematically labelled) ‘Foods of the World’ aisle? Isn’t all food “of this world”? Or is it with the condiments? Where do I find a meat thermometer? What about chapstick? Sundried tomatoes? Peanut sauce is always elusive. I have often googled “which aisle would _______ likely be found in a grocery store?” This works never.  I call for the implementation of a Dewey Decimal-like system, but for food. It just makes sense.

4. The Checkout Process: This really comes down to the cart again. When it is finally almost over and I get in line, and the person in front of me places the conveyor belt relay baton/grocery divider on the belt (do this, it’s rude not to), I have to make a decision: When I ultimately enter the narrow magazine, gum and candy bar-lined lane, do I stay behind my cart, or do I get in front of the cart, and awkwardly pull it? Being in front feels and looks odd, but it is much more efficient in terms of loading the groceries. I’ve actually asked cashiers what they recommend, and the consensus is that it is a very strange question.

5. Bags: I have a stash of reusable bags. We all do. But, I forget them 70% of the time, or I didn’t bring enough. When it comes time, and the cashier asks if I need to buy bags, my guilt and shame almost always lead me to proudly say “no”. It is at this point that I shove as much of the small items in my purse as possible (most will stay lost in there indefinitely), and pile the bigger items on  top of each other until they hit eye level. This leads to the worst walk across the parking lot ever, and I feel strangely raw and exposed, while peering out over my 50 pack of generic brand tampons, trying to find the car.

This is but one of the seemingly mundane, routine activities that leave me bewildered. There are plenty of layers to this, perhaps the most obvious being the gendered element of grocery shopping (like other unpaid work). I was, and continue to be a feminist. But, in my 20s, I thought that I’d be living this awesome, radical and subversive life, where I would be smashing the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy on the reg. Here I am in my 30s, for a billion different structural and personal reasons, leading a really, hegemonically white feminine suburban life, and I’m not complaining because I am privileged, but it wasn’t what I prepared for.

Super markets are kind of a metaphor for my life course: unpredictable, difficult to prepare for, and sometimes a little overwhelming…

and really not scary at all, but becomes that way when I’ve over thought it, and turned it into a whole thing, and probably I should just chill out. 

education General perspectives sociology

A Sociologist in a Strange Place: What I Wish I knew about ‘Going Corporate’


It has been a year and a half since my last post, where I argued that folks with advanced liberal arts degrees (MAs and PhDs) had  a lot to offer “the business world”. I composed it while I was trying to transition into that space from academia. Months later (after many interviews and exhausting all of my social contacts), I ended up exactly where I thought that I wanted to be, in “business”.

I only managed to make it there for about 5 months.

Although I was doing reasonably well performance wise, I decided to leave because I was basically a fish out of water… or at least a fish in really unfamiliar water, where I didn’t know any of the other fish.

Also, I was doing far too much bathroom crying.

To be clear, I still stand by what I argued in May of 2014. We (liberal arts academics) do have plenty to offer, and perhaps if I had ‘toughed it out’, I would have reached a point where I came to define my experience as ‘successful’. That said, there are a few things that I wish I knew before immersing myself in a corporate environment. These are anecdotal, so they are not necessarily generalizable.

But, for what it is worth, here they are:

You will automatically perform an involuntary institutional ethnography, and nobody will care about your findings.  Coming from Sociology, I immediately problematized my new environment. Within the first month, I had critically taken account of the power relations of all the players, and the processes. I was full of recommendations to make the space more productive and egalitarian.

When I shared my insights with selective new colleagues, they were mostly incredulous. Either they had already had the same insights, and felt I was precociously naive about the power that employees might have to alter the corporate structure, or they felt that I was complain-y, ungrateful or bratty.

Although not always the case, being critical of your institutional environment was rewarded in academia. At the very least, you would have support from colleagues or fellow grad students. And, when enough people agreed with you, you went on strike.

Speaking of which…

Don’t even joke about unionizing. Your colleagues will become immediately uncomfortable.

You cannot take it for granted that your colleagues share (or are even sympathetic to) your politics. I learned this when I threw down (what I thought) was a clever dig at the (then) Harper government.

It was not well received.

That was the first time I met conservatives (irl)  who were under the age of 40. I’d heard of them, and I knew that they existed, but I had never actually (knowingly) met one.

It was a defining moment. You never know an implicit social rule, until you violate that rule. Coming from academia, especially in Toronto, I had never encountered a colleague that leaned to the right. Where I came from, overt irreverence towards Harper was commonplace, and not contentious in the least.

There’s so much that I could say about this– the politics. But, it is worthy a distinct post.

Language use is shockingly different. What is taboo in scholarly settings, is fair game in business contexts, and vice-a-versa. You may hear colleagues, and superiors use words like “chick” or “broad” to describe a woman. I once heard a colleague refer to someone’s “gay lover” (a term I haven’t encountered since I had watched Phil Donahue in the 90s). To me, it was shocking to be exposed to these words in a professional context. It would have been unheard of with my former colleagues.

The same rang true for me: references to “my partner” were met with scepticism from my new workmates (who correctly read me as straight and cis). Years ago, when I started the MA program, I learned to stop saying “boyfriend” when I spoke of my S.O. and use “partner” instead. It was considered to be more inclusive, and thus professional considering the context. This was one of the ways that going corporate was undoing my previous professional socialization processes.

There are also “business buzzwords”, like “buy-in”, “circle-back”, “best-practice” and “scalable”, that I never quite got used to. And imho they are mostly bullshit.

These were just a few of the many lessons I learned during my career transition. Although it was not a good fit for me, I was grateful to have the opportunity to experience a sample tasting of the world of business. Even though they were different from me, in ways that I wasn’t used to, I liked them.  And, the experience opened my mind, ultimately forcing me to flex my atrophying sociological muscles. Since then, my career has been defined by “hustling”, like many other Sociologists Outside the Academy (SOAs).

I’m more optimistic about career outside academia, because I am increasingly becoming aware of a growing number of people in my position. As a friend recently reminded me, we are smart, creative, and we have place. And if we can’t find that space, we will have find a way to create one.  



Business Time: What Liberal Arts MAs and PhDs Can Offer the ‘Business World’

Dear Business People,

First, I always swore that I would never write another open letter after I wrote an open letter to people who write open letters, asking them to please stop writing open letters.

But, circumstances have changed, and here I am typing up an open letter, and I’m writing it to “business people”– I fully realize that none of you identify as a “business person”, but for lack of a better term, that’s what I’m calling you. This category includes folks who work at ‘the’ bank, or those who work in insurance, or some other financial institution. You might also be a business person if you (unironically) wear a tie, or carry a brief case. You probably have two sets of socks (business and tube, or business and active, or business and whatever).  Capital (money or property) is most likely your main concern at work.

I am writing this letter in an attempt to persuade you to consider hiring those with advanced Liberal Arts degrees—those of us holding Masters Degrees and PhDs. Please consider this post  a blanket letter or recommendation that I am writing on behalf of Liberal Arts graduate students, and the growing number of academic expats, who are leaving education because there are virtually no jobs, and working at the jobs that do exist serve to ensure that you are securely below the poverty line (and I mean all of them- the LICO, the LIM, the MBM, you name it, most of us are gazing up at it).

Many of us would like to join your ranks. We want desperately to work with and for you. And you couldn’t have a better pool of applicants. Here’s why:

We are smart. In order to enter an MA program in Ontario, a student has to hold at least an A, but in many cases an A+ average throughout their undergraduate programs. High grades like these should not just suggest that graduate students are smart; they are also very hardworking, and eager to please authority figures.  Consider the hours of preparation that they pour into test prep and assignments; A’s and A+’s aren’t just the product of being brainy (I know plenty of smarty-pants with B, C, and D averages). These folks are motivated to succeed, and sure, success doesn’t necessarily mean money for them, but that’s great for you! It means that we are cheap.

It’s not just that graduate students and academic expats devalue the monetary value of their skills (that’s just a bonus!), they actually have skills that you, people of the business world, can really use, and attributes that you should be excited to capitalize on!

Here’s a few to consider:

We have what, in the parlance of your community are called “deck skills”… for the record, we call them “power point presentations” or “slides”.  Graduate school, and teaching in particular is one big power point presentation, whether we are presenting to our peers or our students, we are delivering jazzy, sophisticated, and informative “decks”.

We are malleable, having no previous indoctrination to another corporation’s culture. We are brainy blank slates, primed to be efficiently socialized into your corporate culture.  And that radical leftist social justice equality baloney that we were once so passionate about, if we still carry any faith in it, we are pretty good at burying it… except for maybe when we are imbibing in libations (so you can imagine our entertaining and lively contributions to the office holiday party!).

Liberal Arts graduate students will work for next to nothing. This is especially true for anyone who has spent any time working as a part-time professor. I think that you will be surprised at our definition of a “well-paying job”, and pleasantly so! Some of us even work for less than $200 a week teaching college!

Simultaneously, we are both excellent worker bees, and queen bees. We are used to excessively long working hours with little encouragement, respect, or feedback, but at the same time, we have plenty of leadership skills, leading tutorials and directing courses (which can be populated by up to a few hundred undergraduates or college students).

We are excellent performers, comfortable with public speaking. We have plenty of experience addressing diverse audiences like colleagues and students.

We are critical thinkers, which means that we are great at uncovering holes in arguments and seeing limits to perspectives. I imagine that such skills would be very valuable, particularly in competitive business environments.

We are “big-picture thinkers”, capable of “seeing the forest without losing sight of the trees”.

Most of us are research and analysis ninjas, adept at distilling complex situations into meaningful components, factors, and themes.

We have been trained to be open-minded, and literally designed to see the world from different (and sometimes conflicting) perspectives.

So, please don’t be dissuaded from inviting us to be on your team. Our skill set is valuable to you, despite what you’ve heard about the low “ROI” of liberal arts degrees.  Sure, MBAs are great (I guess), but I think that you’ll find our particular brand of imposter syndrome, insecurity and eagerness to be very refreshing and quite lucrative. After being rejected by our beloved academic communities, we are eager to please you, and grateful for the work.


A woman who would like a job now, please.


14 Questions that Zamboni Drivers are Sick of Answering: A Critique of Lists

Lists! The Internet loves lists. If you have something to say, and you want people to read it, put it in list form… and add a few GIFs.

Teachers, you might want to consider framing all of your lessons this way. This formula is fail proof.

Admittedly, I too have a fondness for lists.

But, there is one particular genre of lists that are making my eyes roll pretty hard these days…

Lists that instruct us how *not* to talk to people. Here are some examples:

“12 things not to say to new parents”
“6 things that childless people hate to be asked”
“20 things not say to a pregnant woman”
“14 questions that Zamboni drivers are sick of answering”
“Never ask a PhD candidate any of these 10 questions.” (#1-10 – “When are going to be done?”)
“10 things not to say to teachers” (#6. “Have you considered framing your lessons using lists?”)
“4 things not to ask a Torontonian”
“8 phrases that should never be said to professional clowns”
“1 thing not to ask a large crane operator” (spoiler alert: it’s “what do you do when you have to pee on the job?” Another spoiler alert:they pee in a Tim Horton’s Cup- this is the only question anyone ever asks them, and I think that it’s safe to assume that they’re getting sick of it.)

It’s not that these lists don’t contain some great advice. It is a good idea not to ask a pregnant woman if it was planned… or who the father is. There’s no doubt about that. And some of them I really appreciate, especially those produced by members of groups that are routinely mis/underrepresented in popular culture/politics, and who systematically face the same ignorant and deeply hurtful comments and intrusive questions every day.


do we really need The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, or those hyperbolic saps at Upworthy (“You’ll never believe the Four questions that will drive every Librarian to the brink of suicide!”), to tell us how not to be an asshole in every specific social situation?

Ok, so I know what not to say to a trombone player, but now I’m speaking with a flautist. How do I navigate this social situation? Shit, I’m really going to fuck this up… and I can’t find a list to guide me. Maybe I’ll just ask her if her disproportionately hefty upper arms help or hurt her fluting. Yes, that seems like a safe bet. ”

I think that I find these lists annoying because we have to accept that we are going to be offended, and be in a position where we are forced to answer annoying questions, repeatedly. This is part of life. We cannot possibly expect that everyone we interact with should have considerable knowledge about who we are, and intuitively know each of our personal triggers.

I am a bitter, underemployed feminist, which means that for me, feeling offended is my baseline emotion. When I’m happy, I’m happy AND offended. When I’m excited, I’m excited AND offended. When I’m hungry I’m… mostly just angry. And if I started to write a list of things not to say to an underemployed feminist, I don’t think that I would every finish it…because it would be huge… and probably my next post.
When people write, repost and share these lists, I feel like they are saying ‘All of you are now responsible for dealing with the annoyances, sensitivities and insecurities that I am experiencing in a particular role that I have taken up in my life.’  Don’t put that on the rest of us, you need to find a way to deal with that.

Perhaps there is something to be said for feeling a little offended sometimes. I come up with some of my best ideas when I’m feeling offended, but then again, as I said, I’m never not experiencing offense. Feeling offended is like breathing air at this point.

And another thing, shared offense is the most solid foundation of any relationship. If the same things get you riled up, you will be friends for life.


Stats, Lies and my Irreparable Relationship with Job Banks

Lies, Damn Lies, and Jobs Numbers: Canada Edition <– this came across my feed the other day, and it got me all fired up.

Basically, the post highlights how the Canadian Conservative government manipulates statistics to mislead potential voters into thinking that they have created jobs. However a more rigorous analysis reveals this rhetoric to be “damn lies.”

Sure, the stats nerd in me (well, the one that I once aspired to be, but never really managed to go full nerd, because I’m awful with numbers) was offended, due to the misrepresentation of statistics, and general lack of transparency.

But, the part of me that is chronically underemployed (which I guess is technically the whole me) is far more perturbed.

I have this theory that deep inside, whether they would admit it to themselves or not, some fully employed folks find themselves a little envious of my position. While many of them have been working hard and steadily, in a more or less linear field, here I am with buckets of education, and no discernible future, navigating my career like a gibbon swinging from contract position to contract position. I’m sure that they recognize that this is an absolutely terrifying career path (if you can call it a path. I feel like that’s a bit of a misnomer, considering that neither of my feet are planted on the ground, and there is nothing really guiding my career trajectory), and that the financial insecurity and general existential and identity problems that go along with it are a real drag.  But, I also think that it opens up a space for some fantasy about their own lives… similar to how a securely and happily coupled, monogamous person might scope out some of the attractive faces on OKCupid, some fully employed people might engage in a similar form of vicarious tourism. 

Just like every other un/underemployed person actively looking for work, I know exactly what they see- they see awesome jobs posted everywhere.

Let’s take Charity Village, for example.

Early in my search for a new career, this was my favourite job bank. For any un/underemployed lefty, who is intent on finding a do-goodery job, this place is magical. They advertise awesome titles like, “Philanthropy Coordinator”, or “Women’s Efficacy Director”, or “Child Achievement Facilitator.”  They are posted by companies with provocative names like “Girls Rule”, or “The Equality Network”, or “(random woman’s name)’s Place”. 

The job descriptions list sexy qualifications like, “having an intersectional lens is mandatory”, or “candidates must adopt an anti-oppression framework”. Some of the potential employers even required online applicants to write responses to complex essay questions. I would spend hours, optimistically and carefully writing responses. I would actually enjoy crafting my answers and cover letters.

But, this love affair with charity village didn’t last very long. Despite the 100s of resumes and cover letters I submitted, I failed to elicit one response prepared by a human being. I learned very quickly that many of these employers probably had no intention of hiring an Internet rando… but likely had an internal candidate in mind. 

In any case, job banks consistently irk me because they give the impression that there are plenty of opportunities, when in reality, these opportunities do not exist. These create an illusion- the illusion that there are 1000s of jobs out there, available, begging for applicants. This is dangerous, because it undermines people who are under/unemployed. It makes it look like our employment issues have less to do with lack of opportunity, and more to do with individual laziness, lack of resourcefulness, or some other personal failures.

So, when I hear the inauthentic rhetoric around job creation, I know that it validates the false impression that the economy is healthy and that jobs are available. The stigmas that I, and people like me already face are given more credibility by shitty skewed statistics presented by the Harper government.

Finally, just to bring this conversation back to ‘vicarious tourism’ and online dating profiles, I’m sure that there are parallels to be found here. I’m sure that like Charity Village, OKCupid also helps bolster the fantasy that there are more shining ‘opportunities’ out there for single men and women than exist in actuality.

That said…

In my experience, I have always found it way easier to find a boyfriend on the Internet than it is to find a job. I often think about how this is so bananas- I can find a human being who is willing to be physically, emotionally, intellectually and even financially intimate with me and no one else but me, and ultimately fall in love with me, but I can’t find a company, who is willing to spare 20 minutes in the form of a job interview, to discuss potentially paying me slightly more than minimum wage to answer phone calls for them.



Texts from the Third Trimester

Having plenty of intensely pregnant women as friends, I have the pleasure of being on the receiving end of so many pregnancy-related texts. Sometimes they make me laugh, sometimes they make me sad, and other times, they make me want to toss my cookies.

Texting as a medium has really, for better or worse facilitated the ability to send our friends our most random, impulsive and unfiltered thoughts. Because they aren’t tweets, or facebook posts, we can take liberties with text messages since we aren’t concerned about their impact on our digital foot print or reputation.  We can be more candid… and angry… and gross… and irreverent… and sometimes obnoxious.

Over the past few months, I’ve been archiving some of my heavily pregnant girlfriends’ texts, and I’m going to share them here because I think that they provide an interesting and authentic insight into the experience of being super pregnant. These ladies really challenge some of the romanticized normative perceptions of what impending motherhood should look like. And many of these women are simultaneously caring for toddlers in these ridiculous last few months of pregnancy, which really comes across in the texts.

But, mostly I’m sharing them because they are hilarious… and sometimes so disturbing that I can no longer bear the burden of experiencing them in isolation anymore.

So, when you read this carefully curated sample of text messages below, I encourage you to think to yourself, ‘How would I respond?”

Here goes:

 “I’m not worried [about the test for gestational diabetes]. Worst case, I get off work ASAP. Best case- I don’t have baby diabetes and I continue to eat copious amounts of gummies. Win-win.”

“I gotta poop. Ttyl.”

“Usually a good two day flu really drops a pant size. Not this time.”

“Did you know that they make black Guinness? That’s such a good looking beer. Makes me realize I am really out of touch.”

“It took me a month to like the first one, so…”

“[My kid] just threw up on my face. Call you later.”

“I love Netflix so hard.”

“Having a cold right now sucks. Every time I cough, I pee my pants a little. It also happens when I laugh, so stop texting funny things.”

“Pregnant me loves these Facebook movies. They are making me nostalgic for when we all had plentiful lines of credit and higher boobs.”

“My vagina hole has caved in due to the weight of this baby, so it’s been closed since Christmas.”

“Doctor Oz is an asshole.”

“I’m eating a chocolate bar and grapefruit juice in bed for dinner. I’m like Brian Wilson.”

 “I refuse to catch Olympic fever. Like all of the sudden I give a shit about moguls and long track speed skating? Nope. Makes me want to drink beer though.”

“I have to give my kid candy to get him into the bath. Gross huh?”

“I’m going to be that mean because of the day I’ve had. I get to say it today.” (one minute later) “Fuck, I’m always this mean. Nevermind.”

“Kids love Pussy Riot.”

“You can stop referring to it as a ‘fetus’ now.”

“My husband discovered that I googled ‘when does having a baby not suck?’ because of autocomplete.”

By the way, doing a google image search of “late term pregnancy” in search of an appropriate photo to accompany this post was a really awful exercise. It revealed a disturbing combination of a) cheesy couples’ professional pregnancy photos, portraying lots of men reverse hugging pregnant women with double-hands forming hearts on tummies and b) anti-abortion propaganda photos. So, short story, long, that’s why I went with Brian Wilson.


“Girls are just harder” and other nonsense that falls out of strangers’ mouths

I love talking to strangers in public. I will engage in conversation with anyone who is open to it, and sometimes even  with those who are obviously opposed to it.  Sure, this habit tends to embarrass my friends and family members, and sure, it sometimes leads to premature self-disclosure (I swear that there are times when it is completely appropriate to bring up your ovarian cyst during a 4 minute conversation with a stranger. Context is everything.). But, I don’t see this habit going away, ever.

I enjoy it for two reasons: 1. I love people, and 2. I find it fascinating that I can learn so much about my culture by having these micro-interactions. Of particular interest to me, are how the boundaries of “polite conversation” are both created, tested and sometimes completely ignored (most often by me).

One pattern that I have seen consistently over the last few years (since I’ve been paying attention) can be highlighted by the following conversation at a grocery store featuring a pregnant cashier, the woman ahead of me in line, and myself.

(And maybe it was less like a grocery store, and more like the LCBO.)

WAOMIL: “You look like you’re due anytime now.” [By the way, never say this to anyone who has yet to self-identify as pregnant, because you could potentially ruin everybody’s day]

LCBOCashier: “Yup, due in March.” (rubs her stomach, and seems ok with intrusive comments)

WAOMIL: “You know what you’re having?”

Me: “A Pisces, right?” (This is my new favourite joke, and a good way to join the conversation)

LCBOCashier:  “Another boy! I already have one son, and I’m done after this.” (Looking pretty proud)

WAOMIL: “You’re so lucky… you’re not going to have any girls! Boys are much easier! I have a girl and she is a nightmare.”

LCBOCashier: (Nodding in agreement) “No kidding. I couldn’t even imagine dealing with a girl. They’re so much harder. The bad moods, the bitchiness!”

Me: “Hogwash! Knowing your fetus’ sex tells you nothing about your child’s gender, you assholes! And I have no doubt that your daughter is a nightmare! But it isn’t because she’s a girl. In fact, as far as I’m concerned that 6 pack of Smirnoff Ice you’re purchasing on a Tuesday evening, is painting a really telling picture of her home life… ” (Just kidding, I was silent because I’ve heard this shit too many times. And, I knew that I could do nothing to meaningfully refute these ideas in this context. But, honestly, what mature well-adjusted adult drinks Smirnoff Ice?)

To summarize, the message of the conversation is that it is better to have boys than girls, and this is something that we all agree on because, let’s face it ladies, we are nutty bitches.

Being exposed to this shit drives me bananas when I hear close friends say it, but when it happens in public, where I feel silenced by the confines of politeness norms, I get really annoyed. My annoyance comes from the fact that I think they’re being rude. How is it not rude to put someone down on the basis of their gender?

What is worse, is that they don’t see it this way- these women probably believe that they are having a friendly and even supportive conversation, and likely are not aware of the fact that it is happening at the expense of all women and girls (including the three of us).  This is considered “normal” and “friendly” conversation.  Something about our culture tells us that it is permissible and even encouraged for women to bond with each other by reinforcing the notion that there is something inherently wrong with being female.

This conversation is an example of explicit misogyny- and yes, women can be vehemently misogynistic. In fact, they can be the most unapologetically vocal sexists, because their gender validates their misogyny, and they are less likely to be called out on their sexism than men.

But I have a feeling that when women criticize or put down other women on the basis of gender, it is a method of distancing themselves from that category… “I’m not like the rest of them.”  Which, of course is a reaction to how much we devalue women in this culture.

Most other conversations where a gender preference for boys comes up tend to be much more benevolent. I hear expectant parents (both men and women) explicitly say that they would ‘prefer’ to have a boy, “because girls are too challenging to raise in our culture”. These sentiments are typically not coming from raging misogynists (yes, sometimes they do); rather they are coming from progressive people, some of whom may even identify as ‘feminist’.

The implication is often not that there is something inherently wrong with little girls, but that it is difficult to grow up as a little girl in this culture. And, they’re right. The tragic stories of Rateah Parsons and Amanda Todd (among many other Canadian girls) clearly highlight the horrible violence, double-standards, victim-blaming, emotional distress and related vulnerabilities that young girls experience in our current time and space.

BUT, the solution to this is not to continue to tell ourselves that because our culture stinks for girls, we should be thankful when we have boys. The solution is actually a lot more challenging; we have to stop believing that raising boys is less challenging than raising girls.

Perhaps if we put greater effort into helping boys and young men understand the roles that they play in making not only girls’ lives better, but their own, it wouldn’t be so tough to raise a girl. We owe it to both boys and girls to dismantle norms that uphold violence and sexism, such as rape culture (where the message is “don’t get raped” instead of “don’t rape”), and victim-blaming before they seem so normal and natural, that they become comfortable truths.

I honestly think that both boys and girls are fantastic. And, if we begin to recognize that some of the most difficult challenges that we see girls encounter are products of the expectations that we impose onto our boys, raising girls will become a lot less challenging.

More importantly, maybe the day will come when I won’t have to listen to a couple dummies have stupid conversations like this in the lineup at the liquor store.


Who wants to be an Adjunct Professor?

The CBC’s The Current reveals how adjunct faculty in colleges and university get treated like shit. If you teach in post-secondary institutions, where they only hire one or two full-time people a year, you’re going to be poor. This especially stinks since you’ve spent over a decade in university, and have heaps of debt.

I’m just going to go ahead and include the link to The Current’s story on my Linked In profile, and resume, so I can avoid that inevitable part of every job interview when my interviewer is completely perplexed as to why I’m trying to get and entry level position in an office, instead of sticking to teaching.

Why would you want to leave academia? Surely, we can’t compensate you as a (whatever entry level office position I’m being interviewed for) in the manner of which you must be accustomed as a professor.

The truth is, I worked for $189/a week during the fall, which of course did not cover any of my basic expenses. If it wasn’t for the E.I. that I was receiving, I don’t know what I would have done. I was actively looking for a job at the time, but was not getting any call backs.

In fact, almost every single adjunct faculty member that I know collects E.I. (at least those who have worked enough hours to receive benefits) for 4 months during the summer, and for 2 weeks during the December holidays.  Teaching assignments are scarce over the summer, and instructors often don’t know if they a) have teaching assignments, since they are sometimes handed out a week or 2 before the semester starts and b) if they do have teaching assignments, they might not run. If classes have less than a certain number of students registered the administration will cancel them. And in my experience, they will sometimes cancel courses that have more than the minimum registration satisfied. There is not much time to find temporary employment during these periods. And even if there were, finding an additional job is sometimes impossible. Of course, the colleges typically only pay their instructors for the time that they physically spend in the classroom, and since colleges are closed over the holidays, most adjuncts (who have PhDs and Masters Degrees) are paid nothing.

Whatever, who needs money over the holidays, right?

Contract workers are increasingly taking up a larger percentage of the faculties at colleges and universities. We’re cheap, and frankly, we are desperate. When you get one of these jobs, you feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to use the skills and knowledge that you earned throughout your academic career. At the same time, you know that you’re completely dispensable to the institution.  You are acutely aware that there are hundreds of people just like you that would love your job. And, those in charge are happy to remind you of this fact in both subtle and blatant ways.

I went from being a teaching assistant in a unionized environment. Fuck it, I’ll just be honest- I worked at York University. In 2008\2009 I was on strike with my union. At the time, I was really ambivalent about the whole experience, angry at the administration… and at my union. I thought that some of their demands were a little gratuitous, and I did not like standing in the cold. Plus, some dude threw an apple at my head early on in the strike, which I found really degrading for obvious reasons.

But, a few years later I started working at a college with very little union protection. Like any other adjunct, I operated in a constant state of paranoia. Every time I opened my email, I would take a deep breath for fear that I was in “trouble”. When a member of the administration would walk by, I would tend to sit up straighter,  and smile wider. I was terrified of these people, and for good reason. As a contract worker, no matter how hard you work, or how strong your teaching reviews might be, if a member of the administration decides that they don’t like the look of you, you simply won’t be offered a contract for the next semester, and they will owe you no further explanation or compensation.

Being part of the culture at York involves some intense socialization. During my years there, I would have considered myself to be politically left of centre. But, if you’re left of centre at YU, in any other context, you are a raging radical leftist rabble-rouser.  Granted, most universities in Ontario are left leaning, especially in the social science departments.  Coming from York, I had a real pro-labour movement sensibility, and I had developed the ability to quickly identify exploitative working environments, and extreme power disparities. Many of my colleagues at the college had similar perspectives.

There was such a deep contradiction in the material I was teaching- Marxism, feminism, and a variety of other critical perspectives that sociologists often introduce to their students. In most social science based courses, your goal is to get students to think critically about social structures. You often hope to radicalize, or at the very least democratize your students’ frameworks for seeing the world.  And you’re being paid to do so by an institution that will kick you to the curb if you turn a critical eye towards them.  This contradictory and fucked up situation is difficult to balance. In fact, we are set up to fail.

But, it really isn’t surprising that adjunct faculty get treated like garbage. We live in an increasingly anti-intellectual environment. There is a disdain for higher learning, especially in the social sciences. As I’ve mentioned before, the ideas produced in the social sciences are extremely threatening to those in power.

I’m glad that journalists are covering this. I have spoken to other college instructors who have wanted to write an op-ed about teaching in a college, but have decided against it for fear of damaging their careers. It’s totally fucked up when you’re teaching students how to value democracy, free-speech, equality and accountability, but you are so muzzled by the very institutions that pay you to do so, that you remain silent on the matter – aside from some occasional paranoid whispering in the work room.


Friends let friends know about their upper lip hair so that they can make informed decisions

I have this friend who is literally the funniest person I know, and I have some pretty funny friends, such as Marcy,  JPEG  and D-Chase, so when I say this, I am not even slightly exaggerating.  In fact, I am not ashamed to say, that throughout my teens, she made my pee my pants laughing on at least 10 different occasions (my mom told me that I was particularly vulnerable to this because “my bladder was still growing”, which sounds super made up when I think about it now). Her wit was, and continues to be razor sharp, and this woman can manage to make anyone crack up.

For our intents and purposes, she shall be known in this post as “Veruca Salt”. I deem her this for 3 reasons:

  1. When I first met her, she reminded me of the stuck-up girl from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, named “Veruca Salt”
  2. Related to reason 1, this friend has a particularly troubling relationship with the 1971 film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, in that she is terrified of it… well, more specifically, this.
  3. And, finally, since our friendship really blossomed in the 1990’s we can consider her name as a nod to the mostly female grunge band “Veruca Salt”, and also because, we, like every teenage girl in the 90’s loved this.

In addition to being hilarious, Ver is incredibly confident and comfortable. She’s just as content when she gains ten pounds as she is when she loses ten pounds. She eats what she wants. In fact, she once had a “Mac-off” (which entails eating Big Macs competitively) with her brother, and won, consuming 7 burgers consecutively. Another time I went to grab lip gloss out of her purse and came up with a sour cream glazed donut, because she threw it in there earlier.

“What? I always get a donut when I get a coffee, and if I’m not hungry for it yet, I throw it in my purse for later…” (muttered to me indignantly)    

Because of this level of comfort, I feel that she’ll be ok with me sharing the story of her journey towards realizing that she had a bit of a moustache.

I always noticed that Ver had a little upper lip hair, but figured that she was aware of its presence, and genuinely didn’t care that it was there. It seemed consistent with her general attitude towards herself.  She is one of the only women to effectively resist the impact of a culture that makes most of us scrutinize all of our body parts. In fact, I think that she is the sole survivor. But, it turns out that it wasn’t the case that she had come to terms with her upper lip hair; she was just in denial. I discovered this one day when we walked by the place where she gets her nails done.

Veruca: “This is where I get my pedi’s done. They don’t do a bad job. But, they always try to up sell me.  When I was there yesterday, my pedicurist asked me if I wanted them to wax my moustache. Can you believe it?”

Me: “Yeah! You’re happy with the way you look, and you accept your moustache. If she doesn’t like it, then that’s her ish.”

Veruca: “What? Wait! ‘My moustache’? I have a moustache??” (she is shocked and visibly rattled)

Me: “Well… yeah.” (there’s no turning back. It’s time to level with her)

Veruca: “Why would you say that?”

Me: (pulling out a compact, and lifting it to her face, in the natural light of the outdoors) “Because you do.”

Veruca: “I have a fucking moustache!!!” (she admits, while stroking her upper lip hairs, looking horrified into my compact)

Me: “I thought that you knew. I would have told you sooner otherwise.”

As we walked home, I helped Veruca come to terms with her facial hair. She understandably had a lot of questions. I assured her that I, like many of our other friends occasionally use Nair. She even made me mass text them “You have a moustache that you Nair. True or False?”, and when the results of our poll came in, she forced me to go to the drug store with her boyfriend, and spend my money on Nair. Her logic was that since I broke the news, the least I could do was pay.

That evening we drank wine and Naired our upper lips.

By the next morning, she had gotten over the trauma.

Me: “Good morning! How are you?”

Veruca: “I’m great. I feel like I can do anything. There’s no moustache holding me back!”

Although I was sad to see that Ver hadn’t eluded this form of bodily shame, I was happy that I was able to be there for her throughout this process.

To this day, she texts me whenever she uses Nair.

But, I miss her moustache and what it symbolizes.


I realized how annoying I was when everyone else started to annoy me

Sometimes I think about my education and I have to laugh. The whole thing is really ironic (although I’m convinced that I, like most people systematically misuse that word). As a student in Sociology, I learned about all sorts of interesting and sad relationships between variables like ‘race’, gender, education, geographic location and their impact on other variables like poverty, socio-economic status, income, and… unemployment. My current unemployment, which I discussed/whined about two weeks ago , has made me a part of that category.  Back then, I never would have seen “unemployed” as a relevant personal adjective… But, Kevin O’Leary probably did.

Holy smokes, do I ever hate that guy.

In graduate school, I had access to the most recent census data, and would run correlations just for kicks to see how all of these abstract variables worked together in real life. Looking back, it was kind of a callous and voyeuristic thing to do.

It was just really cool to see strong significant relationships between certain variables…

Well what do you know? People living in X city are highly likely to report that they have mobility issues. That’s so interesting. Wait… most Canadian women my age are married?”

It wasn’t just me; the other social scientists in the lab would all get excited when a statistical relationship was strong enough to support whatever argument we were trying to make.

“When we take X out and add Y, the data shows that there is a strong statistically significant relationship between X measure of poverty with both ‘race’ and gender! This evidence supports that shit I thought up last week. I’m totally publishing it, then I’m going to put on a suit and present my findings at a conference, where I get to wear a lanyard with a clear plastic pocket containing my name in typed in a large font!”

I’m not saying that sociologists don’t produce important findings. If they go on to inform progressive changes in policy, or attitudes, which they often do than that work is extremely important. But, looking back, the irreverence with which I sometimes treated these abstractions makes me feel icky.

Formerly sanitized, I am part of the quickly expanding unemployment statistic (which recently hit 10% in Toronto) … a figure that I used to hear, and empathetically shake my head. Now that I’m “a statistic”, albeit a bit of an outlier, I’m feeling pretty sheepish about some of the attitudes I held in the past.

I should clarify that I was never one of those people who think that unemployment is a personal rather than public issue. I was never guilty of saying any of the tired hateful shaming shit or posting the charming anti-welfare memes that I see online. In fact, as I saw it, I was a good leftist, even an ally , but, by virtue of my belief that experiencing terrifying economic insecurity myself was not a possibility, I clearly felt, on some level that the poor did something to bring it on themselves. And that’s pretty shitty.

Ok. *Trigger warning * I’m about to quote W.E.B. Du Bois out of context and relate it to my own experience, which I realize might be interpreted as a stupid entitled white girl appropriating some seriously sacred shit. And fine, I see your point.  You’re probably right. But, hear me out.  And please know that I am not comparing my plight to Du Bois’, because that would just be stupid.

“To the real question, how does it feel to be a problem?” – Du Bois

As students in a seminar course, we would often discuss various forms of oppression. We would sit around a table, making concerned faces at each other, quoting Michel Foucault or bell hooks, or Gayatri Spivak (Ok, so I wasn’t smart enough to quote her accurately or coherently) to make sense of these forms of oppression. And, I like everyone else in the class was genuinely concerned.

When I was outside of the classroom, a combination of intellectual curiosity, empathy, privilege, show-offery and total ignorance (and probs booze if I’m being honest) would lead me to want to engage people who were members of groups that experience oppression.  When I saw an opportunity to discuss colonialism with someone who was Native, fro example, I would be all over it. And if she was a woman, she was not going to leave our conversation without me dropping Sandra Lovelace’s name and discussing her legacy. That was a sad fact. I cringe when I think about how annoying I was.

My point is, looking back, I wasn’t a perfect pure of heart sociologist… no one is. In fact most of us, whether we will admit it or not, are raging misanthropes.  And by sometimes focusing on the dimensions of certain people’s identities that were affected by structural inequalities, I was treating them like “a problem” Despite what I thought were good intentions, it was objectifying (like me running stupid cross-tabs with Census data).

I didn’t know how patronizing and annoying this was until recently.

I’ll be having a conversation with a casual left-leaning acquaintance. We will be talking about something topical or interesting, and then something like this will happen:

CLLA: “So, I heard that you’re not working right now [Quiets voice- which all of the sudden sounds serious, places hand on my knee or shoulder, furrows brow]. You know, this part of a larger issue… blah, blah, Noam Chomsky, blah, blah…  And a lot of economist have made pretty strong arguments for universal guaranteed income… there have been pilot projects, you know? [concerned face softening into empathetic smile].

This has happened to me a few times, and I truly appreciate that these folks have the best intentions. They were my intentions at one point too. And I just never knew that I sounded so patronizing and arrogant.

The whole experience hasn’t been fun – although, one of the perks is that I haven’t gotten sick this winter, since I’m rarely around other people.  But, being made to feel like a problem, and the patronizing undertones (subconscious or not) have added a surprising dimension to this experience.

Admittedly, I can be particularly difficult to talk to about sensitive issues like this. I have this involuntary talent for turning even the most supportive things people say into scathing insults and taking great offense.

So, there are evidently many ways in which I take up ‘annoying’.

I should probably make a list (it is the Internet afterall, and it works like a charm for buzzfeed): “Ten things not to say to an Unemployed Person”, or something…






Google’s Autocomplete Prophecy

Google’s autocomplete has never failed to confirm my worst concerns and fears about human beings.  But, today, after beginning the search “PhDs and…”, I became convinced that this pesky involuntary unpaid sabbatical that I’m currently NOT AT ALL enjoying might be just a little persistent.


Friends support and tolerate friends’ Rediculousness

I have this other friend, who I’ll call Marcy Runkle, mostly because she reminds me of Marcy Runkle. Marcy and I have been friends for a long time… since the early 90s. She’s fun, smart, and conscientious but very occasionally can be a little reckless and impulsive. And although she is normally pretty intuitive when it comes to understanding people, their relationships, and their intentions, there have been times when her definition of a situation is so divergent from my own- and in fact, everyone else’s- that I sincerely doubt her ability to rationally assess any social context. I’m going to share with you one such instance.

Marcy has always had a soft spot for older guys. When I was younger, I might have even called it a “fetish”, which is kind of jerky. If we were out on a Friday in our early 20s, it would be the “after work” guys wearing suits in their 30s and 40s that would catch her eye. While we were trying to get our night started, they would be trying to peel themselves away from the pub, probably to feed their kids, and walk their dogs. Looking back, all of these men would make terrible partners. Anyways, she had a thing.

It should be mentioned that Marcy is a professional. She works hard and takes her career seriously.

One day a few years back, she gets a call from Pierce Brosnan to come see him in his office (that’s not actually his name, but that’s how she describes him physically, and I’m happy to picture him like that). Anyways, he’s a handsome older man in his early 50s, and Marcy has always had the feeling that he found her attractive (women know these things…  or at least they think they do… but, most likely it is the case that my friends think that everyone finds them attractive). In any event, she found him attractive too.  Pierce is also the VP of a large company. Marcy heads down to his office, knocks on his door and walks in. What happens next is one of those instances where her definition of reality is dubious, to say the least.

She proceeds to tell me about it later that week:

Marcy: “When I walked in, I immediately noticed that Pierce’s nipples were rock hard” (smiling at me, like this is supposed to mean something to me).

Me: “So, was his office like cold?”

Marcy: “No, his blazer was hung up on the other side of the room. Obviously, when he knew that I was coming down, he took it off, and tweaked his nipples until they were both hard, and prominent in his dress shirt.” (Looking at me like I should have taken this fact for granted, and slightly annoyed that she had to explain it)

Me: “Why? Why would you think that this happened? How is your conclusion even a little bit logical?”

Marcy: “It’s his classic old timey moves. Women of a certain age would have found this attractive. It’s like a display of his virility.”

Me: “The words that you are saying are nonsense. Where are you getting this? Did your mom tell you that? Are you sure that we are talking about straight men seducing straight women? (I’m exasperated, but so totally amused) Fine, then what?”

Marcy: “We went to lunch and he basically offered me a job.”

Me: “That’s amazing. Congratulations! When do you start? It might be awkward when you’re trying to get work done, while distracted by his raging manly nipple erections.”

Marcy: “I had too much wine at lunch, and in my head I told him that ‘I’m flexible’, but my mouth actually said, ‘I’m flexible… in more ways than one’… and I might have winked. You know I get heavy lidded when I drink. Needless to say, I’m not working for him.

Me: “So are you willing to admit that maybe he wasn’t trying old timey moves on you, and was perhaps a little cold, and the lunch was actually a business lunch motivated by an interest in you as a professional?”

Marcy: “Nope. But, now when I see him I give him sex eyes just to make him uncomfortable.”

Clearly, this is ridiculous, and the conversation perfectly illustrates her occasional inability to interpret simple social cues. It could even be that her brain is biased towards seeing sexy results. I am not sure why it sometimes goes so wrong for her.

Often, a some measure of time elapsing is required in order for us to understand any event with better clarity. I think that’s actually the point of History. So, when I recently asked Marcy about this ‘business meeting’, I was expecting her to have a more rational and accurate perception of the whole thing.

I was wrong. In fact, when asked, she said (and I am literally pasting this from a message): “I still think my assessment is accurate. He just got scared.”

I am sure that he was scared, extremely so.


Unemployed people hate mondays more than you do.

Did I mention that I don’t have a job? The holidays are officially, officially over, since it is the first Monday after New Year’s Day. This is the first time in over a decade that I haven’t been in an educational institution welcoming a new semester… the second semester when everyone stops trying, and no one gives a shit anymore. This is in deep contrast to first semester, when everyone is fresh, shiny and motivated. In fact, in the education industry, Labour Day is actually more like New Year’s Day and New Year’s Day is more like a Sunday after a weekend bender.

Anyways, for the first time in a long time, I’m not in a classroom, surrounded by girls in their late teens who treat legging as pants. It is not pleasant. In fact, it is pretty fucking painful. This, despite the fact that the weather is horrifyingly icy and the thought of leaving the house is scary.

Being without work is difficult at every time of year, but for different reasons. The financial aspect of it is beyond terrifying. Thinking about how I might pay my bills at the end of the month incites enough anxiety that my eyeballs begin to get a little wet. In addition to meeting my material needs, the isolation from my culture is increasingly troublesome. In fact, it is difficult to have an identity when you aren’t working.

“So, what do you do?”

 “Me? I occasionally write a blog post that 3 people will read (me being one of them), but mostly I like to read lists on the world wide web.”

 I get jealous of seeing ‘friends’ posts about dreading the upcoming work week.  I wish that I could hate Mondays again for those reasons, instead of hating them because I miss the feeling of being normal on the weekend. I get to pretend that I’m like everyone else. On Mondays, I go back to feeling… quite frankly, like a loser or a failure.

So, why not just get a job, right?

I’ve had friends and former partners who have struggled with employment. I was always extremely sympathetic and supportive, but I was secretly kind of judgey. I definitely felt that I would never find myself in a position where I couldn’t find work. There are 100s of job postings, I literally graduated at the top of my undergraduate class, went on to do great work in graduate school, and successfully taught dozens of college courses. I also own two very sharp looking blazers. Surely finding a job would not be hard if I ever found myself without work. Besides, I have a pretty extensive network of successful friends, and a strong work ethic. Employers would be lining up to get a piece of this on their payroll. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right?

It has been humbling to discover that I was wrong.

I think that a great deal of my situation can explained through structural issues. The meme, “Old Economy Steve” helps to illustrate this. Adam Weinstein’s great post “I’m Gen Y, and I’m Not a Special Snowflake. I’m Broke.” not only articulates the frustrations that millennials encounter trying to survive economically, but also provides us with a way of beginning to understand the larger forces that prevent economic independence from occurring.  By the way, I realize that I am liberally defining myself as a “millennial” considering I’m born in 1980, but the balance of my bank account represents some pretty hard evidence suggesting that I can safely identify with this generation.

Also, I realized relatively early in my search that applying to online job posting mostly lead you to a dead end. Many organizations post positions online, but only as a formality. Many times, they have an internal candidate in mind, and have no real intention of interviewing external candidates. This has been confirmed to me by a hiring manager. But, I knew this after applying to many positions on Charity Village, Workopolis, etc. and despite being perfectly qualified, my applications were never acknowledged. I have even apply-cried (where you cry tears of defeat while composing your cover letter) to jobs I would have been qualified for when I was in high school. Even then, no response.

So, this really leaves people in my position with networking. This means that you have to assess the types of careers that your family and friends have, and see if they are willing to allow you to exploit them to use their resources. If you are lucky, some of them will. Fortunately, I have some people doing that on behalf, and even still the process (interviews, etc.) moves at a glacial pace.

Over the holidays, I did ask around at the mall if they were hiring. That was weird. Turns out they don’t do much hiring after the holiday season. *secretly relieved*

So, please trust me when I say that this is a challenging process. If you’ve never gone through it, you likely have the privilege of thinking that it couldn’t happen to you, or that if it did, you would have a better strategy. If this is the case, I really hope that you are never in a position to find out just how difficult it is.




Toilets are not Accessories

I think that I will return my friendship profile series eventually, but today I feel like reflecting on some of the ridiculous experiences that I had when I was a single girl, and dating. As I have mentioned before, I am typically in a relationship, but when I did find myself single, I would pretty much throw myself into the dating scene – whatever that might be, within a matter of hours. I’m not saying it was smart or healthy, but it was fun. And fun, whether or not it is smart or healthy, ranks pretty high on my priority list, in that I feel that I should be having it whenever possible, and sometimes even when it isn’t possible.

I would find guys to date in a variety of places, including, but not limited to bars and grocery stores. I also took advantage of charitable married friends, who felt, by virtue of being married, that they were qualified match makers.  I have even scrolled through my Facebook friends, dating a few of them. And, of course whenever I got more serious about finding a boyfriend, I’d set up a dating profile online.

Just kidding, that would actually happen when I got drunk and sad. In fact I’ve never put together an online profile while both eyes are still functioning together – I one-eye typed up all 3 of them.  The first time I set up an account on Plenty of Fish, I had forgotten about the whole thing, until I checked my email in the morning, and was greeted by a bunch of emails from the site, notifying me that I had mail.

What I’m trying to say is that I have quite a few resources to for my dating stories. I’ll start with my favourite…

So, JPEG and I headed out for drinks on a random Thursday night. While we were having our cocktails, some nice looking fellows struck up a conversation with us. The one who was talking to me was actually really cute.  He was articulate, wore glasses, and had the lanky look that I was into at the time. So, early in the evening, I agreed to head out on a date with him at some point in the near future. But, because JPEG and I were apparently feeling particularly reckless that day, we decided it would be smart to head back to this dude’s house for a night cap. Looking back, this is a horrifyingly unsafe thing to do, and if my mother knew about it, she would be shocked and disappointed.

As the night progressed, my initial feelings of attraction began to fade. On the cab ride over, he mentioned that he votes Conservative. That was a huge blow, but at the time, I didn’t necessarily see it as a red flag. It wasn’t until I used his bathroom that I knew that our love could never be.

It wasn’t dirty. It was pretty clean, actually. But, there was something in his bathroom that clearly revealed he was pretentious, insincere and insecure.  There, on the back of his toilet, was a copy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “The Social Contract”. Seriously. Rousseau? A primary text that second year politics students read… once, only to be stored on a dusty bookshelf with your other university course readers.  He honestly had an 18th century text book in his powder room– the bathroom right by the front door. The one that guests use.

It isn’t that I take issue with people who read in the bathroom. If I saw a newspaper, an ‘Auto-trader’, a magazine, a novel or even some empty shampoo bottles (the ingredients and instructions make for a nice quick, light read), I would not judge. Even if he had contemporary pretentious reads like something by Noam Chomsky, I would have reconciled it somehow. But, this combined with what I saw as his “bad politics” was too much.

I saw this as what sociologists would call an “identity announcement”. This man was attempting to tell house guests something about himself by using this prop in his powder room. Except, I think that there was a discrepancy between the message he want to send, and the message he actually sends…

Desired Impact: I am smart and deep. So smart and deep, in fact that I read social theory while I poop. While I poop!!! Imagine what I read when I’m not distracted by manipulating my sphincter! Imagine the places I go! Have sex with me.

Actual Impact: This guy is shallow, has never read Rousseau (maybe just his wiki), and randomly pulled one of his old text books off the shelf to cover his insecurities.  Up next? “The Communist Manifesto”… at least it is a short read.

We never made it to our date, as I promptly cancelled it a respectful 2 days before the event. Maybe I find it pleasantly ironic that on some level he actually broke an implicit “social contract”… the one where you don’t look desperate to appear smart.


Good Friends Support Each Other’s Lies

So I have this other dear friend, and I say this with great affection and endearment, who is gifted at creating convincing and thorough alternative narratives – she is an absolutely fantastic liar.

Her name is… “J-PEG”.

Pegs is probably the most intelligent, intuitive, exciting and devious human that I know. She is ambitious, but she can work a couch for hours.

While there are many stories that I could tell to illustrate her character, I think that I can convey a great deal of her in the following anecdote.

January 2004

Pegs and I had just finished the first semester of our Masters programs. I was working on an MA, and she was doing her MBA (because she’s smart like that).  While my classes started up the second week of January, hers’ began during the first week. But, not surprisingly, she felt it was best to spend that extra week with me. We would sit on her parents’ couch, eat their expensive food, and drink their booze, while ordering an inappropriate number of romantic comedies on their bill. It was fantastic.

By the second week, Pegs felt ready to go to her night class, and since I was done for the day, I tagged along. Once we arrived at the University, she performed her usual pre-class routine, which involved smoking not-a-cigarette.  This always impressed me. I would not dream of going into one of my small, intimate, intellectually demanding, participation driven, competitive graduate classes if I had just smoked not-a-cigarette.

We then entered the building where her class was held, and we were hanging out with some of her peers. Many of them were interested in knowing where she had been the previous week. Their curiosity took on a cynical tone. MBA students were much douchier than my Sociology peers. But… much, much cleaner. And, they had brief cases. And they wore blazers.

Having maybe had a little of the not-a-cigarette myself, I was a little out of it, because I don’t usually have any not-a-cigarettes. So, when Pegs started to explain to this particularly competitive and nosey girl that she wasn’t in class the previous week because she had presented a paper in a panel she organized for a conference about ‘Gothic Feminism’ in Montreal, I was a little confused. I thought to myself, “that sounds awesome. Why didn’t I go too?” As I began to realize that she could not have possibly been in Montreal that week because her and I spent the last week gorging together, I could hear here elaborate further; “In my talk I argue that the zeitgeist of the 1970’s brought for literary feminists a sense of instability and change that transformed itself into perfect storm, so to speak, for the emergence of the ‘Gothic Feminist’ genre as we know it…”

She was lying!  But, it sounded so convincing. In 2004 you couldn’t just toss “Montreal Gothic Feminist Conference” into the google box, and collect enough evidence to prove dishonesty. So, lying about events was much easier.

At that moment I gained a lot of respect for Pegs. I realized that so much calculated thinking went into that narrative. Since her undergrad was a double major, in business and English, her ridiculous computer of brain was able to quickly throw on a different (ridiculous looking) hat, and dazzle this one-dimensional biz student with her firm grasp of literary discourse. Having me, someone who could clearly disrupt this narrative at any point didn’t faze her, because she knew that she could trust me to support her performance, and at the very least remain complicit in her tale.

This anecdote not only reveals her brilliance, but also says something about the nature of our friendship—she trusts me enough to tell a bold-faced in front of a group of people and know that I will not sell her out.  You cannot challenge this friendship with any prisoner’s dilemma buffoonery.


A Totally Unemployed Girl’s Christmas

Now that the semester has ended, my students’ grades are in, and I have not been offered but one course in the winter, I am officially unemployed. I have also run out of my E.I. benefits. The second and third job interviews I’ve had over the last month have either lead to dead ends, or have been put on hold until everyone settles into the New Year.

While I am technically experiencing poverty (and learning a ton from this experience), I am much more privileged than most people in my position. I come from a middle class family who loves me, and helps me out financially and emotionally. I have fantastically supportive and wonderful friends, and a great boyfriend. So, my experience, while completely sleep destroyingly stressful, is certainly more manageable than most people’s experiences of unemployment.

That said, being without an income is terrifying at any point, but the holidays are particularly marginalizing. Going out into public (and most public spaces are consumer spaces) is fucking triggering.  Being in a mall, for example immediately makes you feel like an outsider looking into your former culture. I find myself sizing up rando Christmas shoppers, carrying bags, and thinking to myself, “I’m smarter and cuter than that that guy. Why does he have a job when I don’t I have a job?” Or, something as simple as being asked “are you done your Christmas shopping?” can make you feel like a total asshole loser.

Lately I have been exercising a lot of self-restrain in such scenarios. When politely asked about Christmas shopping by a stranger, I have an intense urge to commit premature disclosure. I instinctively want to reply with, “I actually can’t afford to buy any presents, because I don’t have a job right now. I have a Master’s degree and most of PhD, and I was working at this College until I arbitrarily, for no reason at all got slowly phased out, so…”  But then I realize that a) nobody actually cares if you are finished your Christmas shopping, and they certainly don’t want to hear why you haven’t, and b) I sound like one of those crazy people you have encountered in public transit… the ones who manage to disclose way too much about their lives to you.  Within the geographical span of 4 blocks, you leave the conversation knowing their dog’s name, their former dog’s name, and that they have a gluten sensitivity.  Then you spend the next half hour pitying them.

But, there are some upsides…

Is it *that* bad that I’m actually kind of pumped that the Salvation Army is on record saying crazy old-timey homophobic shit about Gay parents, because I get to feel self-righteous when I walk by, muttering “homophobe” instead of dropping a looney in their clear plastic ball? It’s like a little gift to me this Christmas.  I get to feel a little agency.

Another silver-lining- – I get to watch what seems like an infinite amount of 1990’s Christmas B-movies during the day. My favourite? This one where a teenage girl (clearly based on Cher Horowitz, but who the hell are you kidding? There is only one Cher Horowitz) gives Santa a makeover and turns him into George Hamilton.

So yes, being unemployed sucks. But, homophobic charities and movies with dubious plot lines and recycled characters keep the Christmas spirit alive in my heart.


Real Friends let Friends Drink in Their *Used* Wedding Dresses

My friends are 6 different kinds of fun. And, since I’ve been slacking on my posts, I think it would be a good idea to dedicate a series of posts to putting some of our more notable shenanigans on paper, dedicating each post to a particular friend. So, this post will be dedicated my friend… “D-Chase”.

November 2009:

I was hanging out at D’s condo, where she and her new husband lived. In fact, she had only been married for less than 2 months. I was newly single, and starting to feel a little hopeless in terms of finding someone that I might one day like to marry.  My worrisome feelings combined with her coming down from her September wedding ‘high’, mixed with a couple of bottles of wine made pulling out her freshly dry cleaned wedding dress an inevitability.

She was reluctant to put it on, as she felt she might have gained a little weight on her honeymoon. Of course, she hadn’t, but I was very receptive to her suggestion that I try it on instead. I had never tried on a wedding dress before. It didn’t fit properly (D-Chase is stacked like a champ) but I liked it. She even put the veil on me, and insisted that I was “beautiful”, as she cupped my face in her hands. She made me feel like a princess.

I think that the sight of me in her dress, and our intoxication made her very nostalgic for her Fall wedding. So, she went over to the stereo, put on Elton John’s “Your Song”; her wedding song, and offered me her hand.  She wrapped her arms tightly around my waist, and I wrapped mine around her neck. She led me in very romantic slow dance, as I buried my head in her shoulder.

A minute or 2 into the song, her new husband entered the condo. He stood there holding a bottle of wine, looking at us as if he had just caught us doing something salacious. We briefly looked at him, only to return to our dance. He further asserted himself by insisting that the dress should be treated with more reverence, and I shouldn’t be wearing it, and that we most certainly shouldn’t be handling it in our state of inebriation.  By the time he saw her wedding and engagement rings on my left hand, he had worked himself up into quite the tantrum.

I think she managed to convince both her husband and I that *he* was the weird one in the situation, that he was simply overreacting and being completely irrational. She made these arguments as I sat on their couch, drinking red wine, and wearing her wedding dress.

This is why we will always be friends.


Greetings and Ovulations

Almost everyone knows that when two women of child bearing age (for lack of a better term) spend a great deal of time together, they will find that their menstrual cycles will line up. So, once a month, you and your roommate (for example) will be dealing with the symptoms of your pending period together. If you are both unfortunate enough to suffer from PMS, you might tactfully avoid each other during the days leading up to the main event. After all, it is a much safer bet to expose romantic partners and blood relatives to the potentially irrationality and dramatics that might ensure. But this is pretty much common knowledge.

There is actually a wonderful perk to sharing a cycle with your best friend that is rarely discussed; you also ovulate together.

I am at my personal best when I ovulate. I’m hesitant to say this because I don’t want to overstate the impact that my hormones have on my behaviour. But I am playful, funny, upbeat, friendly and hilarious. This is a fact. And the same holds true for my roommate. Once a month we are always up for a few nights of mayhem and shenanigans.

For example, during this other, more fun ‘time of the month’, we have been known to partake in stolen floral curation. Our artistic process starts with drinking too much wine (as if there is such thing as ‘too much wine’), stealing flowers and other carefully chosen foliage from the gardens of neighbours, giggling as we frolic (and, yes we are technically ‘frolicking’).

Even a few weeks ago, we were looking at the pumpkin on our porch. It was at least a week after Halloween. We actually felt slighted that no one had smashed it yet. So, she suggested that I should do the smashing while she made sure that no one saw. With all of my strength, I pounded it into the middle of the street, where it bounced, and landed in the neighbour’s culvert. This of course made me feel inadequate. But, she quickly helped me move on, by grabbing the pumpkin and giving it an American History X style sidewalk smiley.  And, again frolicking ensued.

We are 33 years old.

So, the point of this post is not to fret when you are an officially adult (hetero) woman, and find yourself in a position where you shack up with a fellow single lady. With her and your uteruses (uterai?), you are both in for a treat. And, your ‘Aunt Flo’, although she can sometimes be a downer, will always be preceded by your ‘Aunt Fun’.


'race' General privilege sociology

Memoirs of a (White Girl who dressed up as a) Geisha

White people like this time of year. We pick apples, wear sweaters and according to my facebook newsfeed, we visit pumpkin patches. For the most part, we are pretty happy.

That said, it is precisely this time of year that we are also likely to fuck up. Halloween, as many critical Internet dwellers have pointed out is a holiday associated with racism in the form of cultural appropriation and misrepresentation. There are plenty of photos available through social media depicting white folks dressed up a Mexican people, Arab people, Asian people and Black people. And there is so much evidence that this issue is not disappearing.

But, there are lots of whitesplainers  (like those quoted near the end of  this post) that are happy to smugly defend the practice of turning the racialized Other’s culture into a costume by reassuring those affected by the phenomenon that they are ‘taking themselves so seriously’, while others pull the “reverse racism” card arguing that it is actually racist to prevent white people from appropriating the cultural symbols of the ‘Other’, just because they’re white. I think that is definitely my favourite rebuttal. Yes, the implication is that resistance to colonialism is actually “reverse racism”. It takes a keen social scientific mind to spot that historical blind spot. Quick, some add “reverse racist” to Ghandi’s Wikipedia page.

To be clear, I think that it is irresponsible to dress up like someone from another culture. It is disrespectful, racist, and completely irreverent (and not irreverent in a funny way).  In fact, I feel pretty passionate about the whole thing. Whenever I teach in the fall semester, I like to discuss this issue, and assign an exercise where my students are encouraged to notice and critique racist (and sexist) elements of Halloween costumes.

But, despite my current politics regarding the matter, I have a confession; in 2003 my friend and I dressed up as Geishas. I had just finished reading Arthur Golden’s 1997 book, “Memoirs of a Geisha”, a book that would be impossible for me to get through today without squirming and cringing with feminist anti-imperial angst. But, at the time I liked the book, and my friend and I felt that the costume was appropriate, and perhaps even a little feminist.  Of course looking back, it was anything but.

Over the past few years, I have been actively trying to forget the whole thing, but this brand of lifecourse cognitive dissonance is persistent and embarrassing.  So, it is clearly something that has to be resolved. But, how does one repent for their imperial gaze? First off, whitesplainations are out of the question, because they are riddled with privilege, the denial of racism and colour blind racism. I’m also not going to simply apologize, because that isn’t productive or sincere either. Just ask Paula Deen.

I think that the best way to approach a mistake like this (and maybe ‘mistake’ isn’t the right word, as it sound too innocuous in the situation) is to recognize why I felt entitled to use (incorrectly) elements of other people’s culture, which I honestly knew nothing about (except for the ‘information’ I gleaned from some fictional account produced by some white dude).  It was my white privilege that uncritically drew me towards a “memoir” of a fictionalized Japanese woman written by an American male in the first place. It was my fascination with the culture of the Other that lead me to mimic rather than actually learn about Japanese culture and Japanese women. It was my white privilege that allowed me to go several years (which were spent in Masters and PhD programs… In Soci-fucking-ology) without thinking about my own role in cultural appropriation, and the exoticization of Asian women.

I have read about the problematics associated with identifying as an ally. For a long time, I felt that it was acceptable for a non-racialized person to call themselves an ally. I now see that this is indeed problematic. Especially considering that for quite a few of those years after 2003, I would not have hesitated to identify as an ally in terms of ‘race’ relations. And, obviously, I was not an ally, I was actively participating in the imperial gaze like a big jerk.


Why use a Pseudonym?

There’s a reason why I have chosen to set this blog up using a pseudonym instead of my own name. I thought that my reasoning might make for an interesting post.

Since I work in education, and my relationship with my students is the source of so much insight into society and youth culture, I often like to post about some of the awesome, ridiculous, offensive, and sometimes perceptive things that they say  in class or write in papers.

For example, my personal favourite was this gem of a question, which was posed by one of my male students after a critical lesson on ‘slut-shaming’, and gender inequality in an introductory sociology class:

Him: “Miss, can I ask you a question? (face held in a particularly pensive expression)

Me: “Sure. Absolutely.”

Him: So, how exactly how many guys does a girl have to sleep with, to technically be a ‘slut’?

Me: (Liddderally a face palm – excuse the cliché- which turned to sad slow head shaking). “It’s an oppressive social construct, and there is no real definition. You’re missing the point.”

I posted this little interaction on my Facebook page, and was cautioned by many well-meaning friends and colleagues that I should probably avoid such posts, because I might be putting my job at risk.   To their credit, they are unfortunately not incorrect in their wariness. Recently, there have been instances of educators losing their jobs, and attracting public criticisms for complaining about their students, even when it is done without specific reference to particular students.

It happened here, and it also happened here. In both cases, I would argue that the educators suffered much more than their students due to the backlash.

As someone who has been a student in a post-secondary institution since 1999, the idea that educators at any level cannot openly vent about this element of their jobs is ridiculous. In fact, I remember waiting outside of professors’ offices, and reading hilarious lists of quotes they pulled from students’ papers that they typed up, and posted on their doors. Perhaps they did this to deter current students from saying such foolish things, or simply to amuse any colleagues or students that may be lurking outside of their offices. In any event, I saw nothing wrong with it. Clearly, neither did their colleagues, or the administration, who would clearly see such a public ‘post’, which was brazenly posted on their office doors next to their name plates.

As a student, a teacher, and an employee, I have certainly never felt entitled to not be discussed by my teachers, students, or employers when I left the room. I’m not sure why such expectations exist now.

This of course would be much, much different in cases where hateful speech (racism, homophobia, ableism, sexism, etc) is enacted. In my opionion such musing are not acceptable, because they are systemically oppressive and hateful. Similarly, if particular students were named or identifiable, consequences would not be unreasonable.

So, I use this fake name write freely, not because I feel that what I have to say is wrong, but because my peers do have a point; there are far too may consequences for public venting in education. This is especially true considering the blurry distinction between public and private which complicates, for better and worse our understanding of the limits of free speech.

– DS