Category Archives: Lifestyle

Vancouver: I Love You, But I’m Leaving

This is my first piece on my decision to leave my hometown of Vancouver and head for Victoria, off the coast, the southernmost point of Vancouver Island. (Vancouver is on the Mainland, not on the island that bears its name. No, that’s not confusing at all. God.)

Because it’s the first time I’m letting the cat out of the bag, there’s a lot of simmering anger in me. I feel I’ve been forced to this decision by a city that has become a place where much of the 99% can barely get by. Like so often is the case, my anger’s finally making me act, and I’m picking up my first moving boxes this weekend.

As time evolves, I’ll look at this shift in my life with a more tempered, mellow view, but today I’m embracing the anger and the Dark Side for this posting.

The Breaking Point

It’s quittin’ time, Henry.

Gettin’ while the gettin’s good.

Hasta la sayonara. Change of address. Forwarding my mail.

All this and more, soon. Outta Vancouver, man. Into the fray. I’m a goner, Ma.

Some might think I’m crazy. “HEY, leaving the most liveable city in the WORLD? Are you NUTS?”

No, man. I’m just real fuckin’ broke, and real fuckin’ tired. File me under “Can’t give a shit anymore.”

For two years, I’ve been growing weary of Vancouver life. I’ll always love this town. It’s my home, but it’s now become my burden.

I didn’t come on some vacation, fall in love, and move. I’m not some foreign investor who’s decided to throw his wad at the town. I’m not some keenie who thought the Vancouver future was so bright, they came packin’ shades for life in a rainforest.

No. I was BORN here. This is my HOME.

Urban Undone

Most “born” Vancouverites I know — they’re really, really chill, down-to-earth people. The transplants? Depends. Many, not so much. It’s messing up the mix, and what was once a really laidback city often feels pretentious, overpriced, and pretty shallow. Maybe I work downtown too much.

I’ve been employed in the heart of Yaletown off and on for 12 years. Love the office I work in, hate the neighbourhood.

Every day, I show up to a job where I barely scrape by because it’s not a lucrative industry but it’s a great office, and I work in a neighbourhood where I find Ferraris parked, toy dogs, and plenty of ridiculously plastic people. Seriously, I think a Yaletown shop should open offering the service of extracting people’s heads from their asses. If one more asshole with an umbrella walks under an awning hugging the building in a rainstorm, I’m gonna slap someone.

After work a couple weeks ago, I went out for a BEER in the hood and had to pay $9.50. Before tip. For a SLEEVE, not a PINT. Metric THIS, baby. I don’t know what fairy godparent pays your tab, but I can’t do $10 not-a-pints. I buy a bottle of wine for that, for crying out loud, and at least that can put me out of my misery if I drink it fast enough. Let’s get real here. I fuckin’ hate Yaletown.

The class divide? I WORK inside it. While I’m so over it, I’m totally not, because it’s in my face daily.

But not for long.

When I grew up, Vancouver had under a half-million people. It was some quaint pint-sized version of Seattle-meets-San Francisco, but we liked it.

Now? It’s some gleaming pearl in the world and everyone wants to live here. Thanks, Hollywood people.

The average Vancouver-city home now sells for 11x the average family’s income. Compared to that income, Vancouver’s property values are a ridiculous 56% higher than NYC, & even stacks up 31% higher than the great city of London, England. It’s a bitch-slap to renters, too, because we have to absorb both land and tax costs, but we’re also the people least likely to afford to do so, leading to people having roommates as they’re pushing 40 and beyond now. Then there’s the lack of new rental opportunities because developers only care to sell, not rent. No one has a long-game in the providing-homes-business anymore.

Add to that the fucking ongoing three-plus-year recession and that most small biz has frozen wages for most of that time, if not longer, and renting in Vancouver is a real conundrum.

LIVEABLE? SURELY YOU JEST.

Where the 30% Can Afford to Play

Like this brilliant Vancouver Magazine article reports, I know more and more people in their 30s and 40s looking for second jobs, but most of them are secretly thinking there’s got to be a better life where we don’t need to work 60-hour weeks to be stuck in traffic only to pay exorbitant prices as premiums for the location — be it in dining, rent, clothing, or whatever. (Or $10 draught sleeves of local beer.)

This will always be my home, but I wish to hell so many people hadn’t found out about it, because I’m REALLY not digging the company.

Every day, I’m tired, I’m annoyed, I’m broke, and I’m left wondering when I’m gonna bloody stop feeling like this.

And then I realized: I’m not. It won’t stop.

It’s not me, Vancouver. It’s you.

For all your positives, there’s all these downsides that no one wants to talk about.

You’ve got a lot of people who don’t smile on streets, who look like they’ve been slapped if you say “hello” (if they look at you at all). You’re expensive. Your traffic is often at a crawl. You’re filled with “scenes.” And, because you’re so expensive, everyone’s so primed to get by and get ahead that socializing seems more about business than making friends.

God, you’re SO expensive.

I just can’t pay the price anymore, not literally or figuratively. It’s eating at my soul.

I have a Virginia Woolf quote on a memento at home. It says: “If you are losing your leisure, look out, for you may be losing your soul.” One day recently, I dusted it, read it, and I realized I’m absolutely losing my soul.

While I love Vancouver’s setting and its diversity, the truth is, I’ve seen far too much of the same for 37 years. The newness here all looks the same — glass and concrete. I need a more soulful newness, and Victoria’s close yet far… and looking to me very much like what Vancouver was 30 years ago.

Making the Working-from-Home Switch

In this town, I’m an unlucky girl who landed a serious back injury and is struggling to get by. On top of my full-time week, I’m rehabbing an injury, and even though I live inside of city limits, the 10km I travel to downtown takes me about 40 minutes each way, and when you factor in all my appointments, getting around, and more, it’s adding up to a crazy 15-20 hours a week I’m spending on transit. It’s soul-sucking.

Right now, I can’t work from home because I hate my home, since my landlord has dreams of achieving “slumlord” status. To rent a new place in a better neighbourhood, I’m looking at a 50-60% rent increase, and nothing in this city remains for what I pay now. There’s co-op housing, which would be affordable, but it needs a 5-year commitment, and the idea of committing to this city another five years has churned my stomach of late.

I have no interest in being in this craptastic apartment all day every day. My at-home workstation sucks, and I’ve fallen out of love with my apartment since the cockroach episode of ’08-’10. My desk is too high. At the real office, I’m simply at my desk too long. I hate leaving work and returning because my days are long enough as-is, given my back-injury needs, so I generally work straight through my days. It’s not ideal, but it gets my day over faster, and me home sooner.

In the end, I spend lots of weekends keeping to myself to recharge and house-clean, because I’m too weary after work with my wonky body to be doing that crap on work nights. It’s an unsatisfying and even depressing balance that’s the only thing I can make work for city-life these days. It keeps me antisocial, and I hate that my life has become this. I don’t hate people, I’d like to see them, but I also need a certain amount of time to myself, and that’s how it’s achieved in long-term injury rehab when one’s stuck in the urban rat-race.

Moving to Victoria, my rent’ll be about the same price but my home and neighbourhood should be better, and possibly with utilities included, lowering my expenses. I’ll be close to the downtown core AND the ocean, less than 20 blocks from each, and could ditch a bus-pass in favour of walking 80% of the time — great for my body. I can work from home and keep my antisocialness to a practical level, then escape to see the world because I’ll be living in the mix, not stuck on the inconvenient busing-to-every-place outskirts like I am now. I could write in cafes with my soon-to-be Boxing-Day-Special laptop, work out more regularly, keep my work-seated hours to smaller chunks for better back health, and maybe, just maybe, have more fun.

The discipline required to work from home will be hard, but the soul-suckingness required to work in the heart of Vancouver is a far higher price to pay than the task of making myself become disciplined.

Quality of Life

Vancouver Island is almost self-contained. As a foodie, this is kind of awesome, because so much is grown and produced there, and the profit margin is much higher for vendors to use sustainable practices and sell close to home. I’ve been checking out grocery prices, and finding that locally-raised unmedicated chicken sells at prices lower than mass market meats here on the Mainland do.

All things considered, for me, moving for “quality of life” makes a lot of sense. I’ll be able to balance the demands of working for a living along with the living I’ve not seemed to get around to doing a lot of over the last couple of years. I’m imagining a Steff who likes to walk and explore, who feels relaxed enough to finally focus on reading and writing again, who’s out rediscovering her love for photography, eating less processed food and taking the time to cook healthily at home. I’m imagining a Steff I used to be, a Steff whose soul got lost a while ago.

And then there are the pubs. Real British pubs. Fan-fucking-tastic. Maybe they don’t charge $9.50 a sleeve. (Motherfuckers!)

Being the heart of a ferry system for both the province of BC and an outcropping of the Washington State ferries, Victoria offers far different weekend-traveller options that include crazy rainforests, other islands, and Canada’s only surfing spots, and other great haunts, all for far cheaper than Mainland travel spots.

Will I stay there forever? Unlikely. Stay for five years? I think so.

The Last Word (For Now)

Sure, it’s a drastic — and considering I have to pay to move my belongings by weight on the ferries, expensive — move. And it seems surreal to be so excited (yet still sad) to be leaving, knowing all these organizations claim Vancouver is the most liveable city in the world, something that makes my jaw drop every time I hear it.

Vancouver Island in the distance, from UBC's Fraser Outlook.

Maybe it used to be, but with bad civic policies leading to exorbitant and insane real estate prices, the day-to-day here remains out-of-reach for most of the 99%.

A lot of us single folk in our 30s and 40s, who are tired of barely getting by, let alone not getting ahead, can assure you these ranking folk are misreading their data. Very unscientifically, about one in three people I talk to who are in my age range have considered leaving Vancouver, and their options are still open. Most people I know dine out less, have less time for leisure activities, and are feeling more stress than ever. At this rate, soon, this town will only consist of white-collar workers and upper-management, unless expensive rental conundrums are solved, and fast.

I can either cough up the 50-60% more for rent now for the delusion of living the good life while killing myself to make my ends meet, or I can admit I’ve lost the battle, but that the battle’s no longer worth the fight, pick up, and leave. And leaving brings a quieter, simpler, closer, more convenient, healthier lifestyle, for the same price as I pay now, or maybe less.

Hmm. Yeah. Doesn’t sound like such a tough choice now, huh? So, 10 more weeks, then.

It’s a drastic change, but my gut says a great one. Buckle up. This’ll be a fun ride.

***

I’ll definitely be blogging about everything coming down my pipes — from moving ideas, planning, to the simmering excitement of not knowing where I’ll be or what’s gonna happen, for the next three months of my life. Yep. 2012’s gonna be a good’un. I just need to remember to stop and breathe a few times between now and March.

I HAVE A HAMMER, Therefore I DIY Blog

HEY, people.

You know what I haven’t told you yet? I’m blogging over at BUILD DIRECT, your building supply geniuses on the web.

There, you’ll find me doing home improvement and DIY blogs on a whole range of topics.

If you like the content on the following posts, please comment on the Build Direct blog, not here. Share it, like it, tweet it — whatever you like.

Here are the summaries of my recent posts, and stay tuned for more.

  • 6 Ideas for Balcony Privacy: Honestly, sometimes the best thing about apartment living is spying on the neighbors. The flipside is, sometimes the worst thing is knowing neighbours are spying on you. In the summer, the world’s a fish bowl when it comes urban apartment balcony life. It doesn’t have to be that way. With creativity and crafty splurging, you too can enjoy a special outdoor space while not letting yourself be a spectator sport… READ MORE HERE.
  • Picking Paint Colors: It’s Personal, Not Theory: Committing to a new paint color can be nerve-wracking. A friend once taped 15 paint chips to the wall, and asked her visitors to choose their favourite — of 15 variations on beige. Her inability to break the Bonds of Beige isn’t unusual. Embracing color is a lot to ask in a neutral world… READ MORE HERE.
  • Area Rugs as Wall-Hangings: A Magic Carpet Decor Solution: It’s the oldest of decorating truisms: a house isn’t home until something’s hanging on the walls. It’s personalized touches like artwork or family photography that define your space. Today, it’s rare to see original art hanging in a home, or unique knick-knacks. As a result, we have a crisis of decorating identity… READ MORE HERE.
  • Rethinking Storage: A Personal Story: Space: Everyone wants it, but in a square-foot world, it’s increasingly a luxury. A material age presents a lot of space-making challenges. Where do we put all that stuff when urban dwellings are shrinking? READ MORE HERE.

Coming up in May, I have a whole series on DECLUTTERING the home. I also have a two-parter on growing a kitchen garden. And there’ll be other stuff coming up as well.

Are there DIY stories you wish were getting covered? Are there home-improvement ideas you’d like my thoughts on? Here’s where you can tell me that. Thank you! Enjoy the reads.

Closet Skeleton Pioneers

A friend of mine laughed at me the other day when I suggested that I was an “oversharer” on the internet.

“Hah! You? Oversharing?”

Yes, I know. Just a smidge. The thing is, I’m pretty good at toeing a line these days. I don’t tell you what I don’t want you to know. Pretty simple.

Learning how to toe that line, though, WHOO. I done fucked up on more than just a few occasions, s o much so that I jokingly referred to myself and those like me, who’ve been oversharing for years, as “Closet Skeleton Pioneers”.

By that I mean that everyone’s got skeletons in their closets — some lover they treated like shit, a job they stole office supplies from, a friend they betrayed, a speeding ticket, you name it.

EVERYONE has been a dick at one point or another. Dig deep enough and you’ll find dirt. (If not, you’re boring, live a little.)

Luckily for me, I hit the age of 21 before the internet got invented.

And my record’s been expunged. Hardy-har, right.

The point is, despite what you think you know about me, I consider myself a really ethical person and there are things I’ve done and said that I hope never see the light of day because I don’t want them taken out of context, since we all know context is EVERYTHING.

And that’s the problem. When you see a photo on the web or a snippet of a conversational exchange, context gets lost and objectivity goes right out the window with it.

We all know that’s true of many events in our lives.

Don’t we?

So who the fuck is doing all the judging?

Are you? Are employers? Is your lover?

Who’s doing the judging when my friend on Twitter reacted yesterday morning after he received an email after a husband found his wife “Facebook cheating” and sent the entire exchange out to their kids’ school’s parents mailing list? Ain’t just the hubby judging now, is it?

What were employers digging up that led Germany to introduce a new law that will make it illegal for them to do job-applicant background searches on Facebook? Probably they were digging up a lot of skeletons, right?

It goes without question: Things you say or do on Facebook, Twitter, and in other areas of the web can absolutely destroy your life.

But who is doing the judging?

There’s a reason it’s so damn hard to become a Saint in the Catholic Church, you know — perfection’s pretty fucking difficult to come by.

When I was a kid in Bible school, I was told a story about Jesus intervening in a stoning, saying to the angry crowd of sanctimonious rock-chuckers “Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone”, or somethin’ thereabouts.

Really: In 2010, who’s without sin?

I mean, the Catholic Church outlawed SPEEDING, for crying out loud. Everything’s a sin. The Pet Shop Boys had it right.

When I look back upon my life
It’s always with a sense of shame
I’ve always been the one to blame
For everything I long to do
No matter when or where or who
Has one thing in common, too

It’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a sin
It’s a sin
Everything I’ve ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I’ve ever been
Everywhere I’m going to
It’s a sin

Was Neil looking back at his life on the web? Woulda if he coulda then, I bet.

So, let’s just accept that everyone’s imperfect, and, instead, (like this guy here and his “degrees of evil” guide to killers), get ourselves a handy cheat-sheet of just what level of assoholic or just plain edgy social behaviour one is guilty of and how it ranks them on the Good Versus Dick scale, okay?

Such as:

  • Never emails or messages you back, but pathologically lurks and knows Everything That Happens every time you talk in person. Creepy but not mean.
  • Likes kinky sex and lets everyone know it.
  • Thinks “cleavage” and “profile pic” are synonymous.
  • Considers social media his personal dick-dipping pool and has more numbers in his contacts than the CIA does.
  • Just LOVES drinking wine and doing so liberally. While telling you all about it. Every single night.
  • Keeps getting caught in masturbatory lies that make them sound great, but you know through the grapevine that they’re barely making rent and are shopping at Thrift Stores, while judging others for doing the same kinda “posing”.
  • Has, like the majority of people over 21, tried marijuana or something else questionable at a party at least once.
  • Speaks frankly about their disgust for political figures or employers.
  • Has a spouse yet endlessly flirts with others, without boundaries, and in public.
  • Has a pulse.

I mean, seriously. Half the things I do on a daily basis would probably get me fired from most jobs, because I’d never keep my mouth shut about what I hate and why. My old employers got a giggle out of it, but I assure you — it’s an acquired taste.

Despite what you may think of my loudmouthed, in-your-face, drinks-too-much, full-of-innuendo online persona (and, yes, it somewhat exists offline, and without a backspace key), I’m a good person.

I’m a really, really good person.

I hold the door open for men and little old ladies. I say “please”, “thank you”, and “sorry.” I look people in the eye. I pay my taxes. I’m honest, I don’t steal. I’m a quiet neighbour, a good daughter, a great friend. I bake muffins for lovers. I pay back my debts.

So, if you want to jump to conclusions about me based on the image I portray on the web — knowing I’m a creative person with a gift for fiction — then you’re entirely entitled to do so, and I’m entirely entitled to think you’re a narrow-minded presumptive dick who’s not worthy of my time.

Or maybe I just see you as someone who needs to think outside the box a little more.

Who I am online might have hurt me in the past but it helps me now. I have something to gain from keeping this persona/point-of-view alive. There’ll always be a price I pay as a result of it, but I’m hoping that’s just the cost of doing business.

I’m not the only web-user with a persona, or with skeletons; I’m just hyper-honest about it.

As time goes on, though, all of us will have our skeletons exposed. Then, with more to compare and contrast, we’ll know who the real assholes are — unless, of course, none of it’s true.

And that’s the problem with reaching any conclusions based on the web.

How do you know it’s true? When everyone can enter information and nothing’s necessarily vetted on the web, how do you know it’s true?

Simple: You don’t.

Here’s how I operate.

I watch for how people actually are with each other, online and otherwise: How they argue, how they’ll never let up, how they want the last word, how they judge others, how they talk about others, how they scheme or gossip. Because it’s in their everyday words and behaviour that we really see who people are — special events, like parties with hijinks, are too out-of-context to really give us an inkling of who someone is.

Me, I’ve written a lot over the years, on topics about everything from drinking and drugs to kinky sex, but you’d be wrong if you thought I was particularly wild or exciting anymore.

I’m being boring nowadays. I just make it sound exciting.

And there you have the web in a nutshell, and why laws like Germany’s are long overdue — when it comes to the internet, you can’t believe everything you read. You certainly can’t dismiss it, either. But there are no litmus tests or polygraphs one can administer to online “personality” accounts to judge the veracity of their content.

It’s time people started realizing you really can’t judge any of us on the little you see of us online, and that the skeletons in our closet aren’t nearly as big or scary as you think they are, especially when brought into the light.

If you want to supplement what you know of someone by how they are online, and you can do so judiciously and with many grains of salt, then knock yourself out.

Just don’t be surprised when that spotlight hits your life, too.

In fact, some of your skeletons probably look awfully similar to ours. After all, dontcha know? It’s quid pro quo season on closet skeletons.

Aging: Becoming My Mother’s Daughter

Next month is my birthday. I have about 6 weeks of being 36 left.

I’m told I look younger. This is good news, I like it.

Truth be told, I really don’t care about looking “36”. Not yet. I probably will. Likely when it starts to show. When I’m 42. Heh, heh.

But you know what?

A shot taken of me by my friend Rick Rake at an event on July 28th, 2010.

I’ve worked for that age. The sun damage my skin shows now is in stark contrast to the pasty-white well-hidden tubby non-outdoors girl I was for the majority of my life. When I was a kid, I was the fat kid who whined and lied about pretend injuries to get out of sports. Every hike I was supposed to do, I got out of.

I was so not a joiner. I was pudgy, pudgy, wheezy girl.

Not so much these days. I’m not where I need to be, but I’m better than I’ve been since I was 18, and there aren’t a lot of 36-year-olds who can attest to being healthier than they’ve ever been — than they’ve literally EVER been.

Despite that health, I’m caught with fatigue a lot of the time. I just deal with it. My friend who’s 42 tells me she was always tired for a few years in her 30s. I’m assuming that’s where I’m at. I eat fairly well, exercise 6 or more hours a week. What more can you ask, right?

Honestly? My newly-appearing wrinkles give me pause. I’m not sure I’m wild about them just yet. I do, however, like the “character” they give my grin these days and the way they highlight the twinkle in my eyes.

I think I wear the few wrinkles I have well. I know my mother wore her age fantastically, like a perfect-fitting pair of jeans.

People were devastated when my mother died. She was a sexy-as-hell redhead at 57 when cancer took her 11 years ago this week. She looked fantastic. Dead? How ironic.

I’m thinking a lot about her this week. Maybe it’s part of my reclusiveness of late. 11 years. Wow. Mind-boggling. Can’t help but reflect on anniversaries, and I’m not thinking so much about the loss of her this year as I am about the woman I’m becoming on my own life journey, and if it parallels my mother’s. Wish I could ask.

I think a woman’s 36th year is pretty pivotal in who she is. She’s now out of the “targeted demographic” most coveted by marketers, she’s starting to pay attention to wrinkle creams and thinking biological-clock type thoughts if she’s not already a mother. It’s the beginning of the transition from “breeder” to “matriarch”, a different kind of role that women seem to play when they hit early middle ages.

One day we’re the chick next door that the guy wants to hang out with and tries to sleep with, the next we’ve become Mrs. Robinson and anyone we chase under our age begets us a label of “cougar”. It’s a quicker transition than you might think.

I’m not sure if I’ve hit that stage yet, since friends still think I look 28, so I might be able to get away with more.

That youthful appearance may not linger a lot longer, as the greys and wrinkles begin to mount.

I both like and loathe the greys I have now, even if few in number. They multiply.

Today, I’m thinking about getting a punk-rock haircut again and embracing the salt-n-pepper look that’s coming on. There’s something tasty about edgy prematurely-greying people. Very, very tasty. I can pull that off. Not like I’ll be all grey tomorrow anyhow.

Age, I guess, really is a state of mind. I know some folks at 36 who look like they’re in their 40s. How you live really starts to show through in a hurry, and it’s your choice. This is the age that your lifestyle becomes visibly apparent to everyone.

Because of that, getting older doesn’t scare me. It’s probably to do with decent genetics (that come with a ticking time bomb but sure look pretty) and probably because I feel like I’ve been through enough in life already that whatever’s coming down the pipes is something I know I’ll just handle. Scared? Who’s scared?

No, I ultimately like my age. I’d rather be turning 37 than 22 again. You couldn’t give me enough money in the world to relive my 20s. My 30s ain’t been no walk in the park, either, but from 35 on? Yeah. I like it. Liking it more all the time, the further I get from my past and the more progress I make on this vision of who I always cheated myself out of being.

Some of us SURVIVED our 20s. Some of us kind of defied an awful lot of odds to get past where we were. Some of us really fucking love coming into our older, more comfortable selves.

I wish the media could understand that. I wish marketers got it. My age is almost like a battle-wound scar. Like that scene in the movie Jaws, where Quint, Brody, and Hooper are shooting the shit about old scars:

Brody[pointing at Quint’s tattoo scar] What’s that one?
Quint: Oh, that’s a tattoo. I got that removed.
Hooper: Let me guess. “Mother!” [laughs]
Quint: Hooper, that’s the U.S.S. Indianapolis.
[Hooper’s face drops]
Hooper: You were on the Indianapolis?
Brody: What happened?
Quint: Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. We’d just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half-hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that in the water, Chief? You can tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail.

As far as some of us are concerned, we probably shouldn’t even be alive. Enough’s gone on that, y’know, our survival’s really by the grace of God or whoever else was in the kitchen. Signs of age, to some of us, are like proof of getting to The Other Side.

At this point, I don’t see myself changing my hair to hide the greys. I’ll never be slowly salt-and-peppering again in my life, I want to enjoy the awkward and cute transition.

I also don’t see myself trying to hide wrinkles with Botox, ‘cos I never thought my face would be thin enough to have wrinkles — I thought it’d be unhealthily fat and smooth for decades yet. Wrinkles? SERIOUSLY? Okay, bring ’em.

There’s something satisfying about slowly becoming my mother’s daughter. I’m one size away from being the same size as her before her death, even if I’m 40-50 pounds heavier. Muscle tone!

Every now and then, I look in the mirror, and a woman who sort of reflects the mother I had as a wee little lass is the woman staring back at me. I still can’t believe that’s who I’m becoming. When I was 5 going on 6, Mom was the age I am now.

I never saw myself being here, now, looking more and more like her as she was then, every day.

But I’m starting to really, really like it.

Pride Day in Vancouver

The Canadian government has been keeping its nose out of people’s bedrooms since 1969. Since then, any consenting adults could have any sex they like, provided the participants were of legal age, not dead, and not an animal. Basically.

From the Canadian Encyclopedia:

From Confederation to 1969, under Canada’s criminal law, homosexuality was punishable by up to 14 years in prison. In 1969 the law was amended by exempting from prosecution 2 consenting adults of at least 21 years of age who engaged in these “indecent acts” in private. Since then, the speed of social change in attitudes toward homosexuality has accelerated because of general tolerance (eg, for common-law couples and single parents) and organized gay liberation campaigns.

Many Canadians no longer consider homosexual acts “indecent.” At the time of the 1985 edition of this encyclopedia, one province and several cities had enacted laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. By 1996 the majority of Canadian provinces had legislated against discrimination, as is also the case in the internal rules of numerous public and private institutions ranging from churches to universities to Canada Post to major banks. The Canadian military have gone much further than the American military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy by banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. When the age of consent for vaginal and oral sex was lowered to 14 in the criminal code, consent for anal sex remained at 18, until a high court decided in 1995 that this distinction unlawfully discriminated against homosexuals.

Gay rights have taken a long time to evolve, despite that forward-thinking law. Vancouver, however, has been considered a very “pro-gay” city for a long, long time.

Some could argue there are aspects of the “noses out” policy that are lip-service more than reality, and cite examples like Little Sisters’ Bookstore’s epic legal battles to get materials across the border without being tapped with some vague obscenity legalities.

They’d be right, too.

But today we celebrate how far we’ve come, and we’ve come a long way, baby.

My best friend’s been out for 10 years now. Mostly out, anyhow. Mostly’s pretty good, when it involves his career and community services. The only people who don’t know would seem to be choosing ignorance, at this point.

And that still happens.

Tomorrow, we worry about that.

Tomorrow, we remember that there are places gays don’t marry, don’t get accepted, can’t live out loud, and have to fear repercussions for being themselves.

Tomorrow, we acknowledge the idiocy that is religious sanctimony that believes “gay” can be doctrined out of ungodly homosexuals.

Tomorrow, we remind ourselves that even in forward-living towns like Vancouver, gay-bashings happen, discrimination continues, and education needs improving.

Today’s about it being today. It’s about the fact a gay female judge can flirt with the girl contestants on a mainstream show like American Idol and it not won’t be a controversy. It’s about gay marriages gaining steam in America. It’s about men holding hands in the streets without being worried about the average person attacking or slandering them.

Today, it’s about the change we’ve seen, so that, tomorrow, when we’re daunted by how far is left to go, we can know it’s less a journey than it once was, and that’s something to take pride in.

Today, it’s also about being proud to be a Canadian, and living in a country that said, 41 years ago, that governments had no right to tell anyone who they could love.

That’s what today’s about.

Pride, baby.

Happy 10th, M, and anyone else who’s come out at work, with friends, or with family. Way to represent.


Hate Lives Here

Yesterday a local Vancouver paper asked a question on its Facebook page: “Do you think more could be done to combat homophobia?”

In the ensuing comments, a White Pride freak — who I’m really fucking wanting to identify by name here but don’t feel like dealing with the legal hassle as a little blogger girl — put some very, very hateful anti-gay comments.

I wouldn’t call his statements “homophobia” because it was too hate-fuelled to be a mere ambivalence toward gays. White Pride Freak would rather live in a world where they didn’t exist, and it sounded like “by any means necessary”.

The aftermath of WPF’s comments were pretty routine — a few people like me distancing themselves from the “white” part of his comments that smears us by inclusion — and a lot of people laughing it off with “This guy can’t be real” reactions.

The fencepost upon which gay man Matthew Shepard was beaten & left to die.

YES.

YES, he can be real. YES, he can be dangerous. YES, he can be in the house next door.

Someone commented to me that it didn’t seem possible a dude like that could live north of Raleigh or west of Calgary.

YES. It’s not only possible, but it’s real.

We’ve had gay-bashing incidents of late here in uber-liberal Vancouver — by other minorities!

Hey, let’s keep the wagon wheel of hate rolling.

By saying these guys can’t be real, we’re avoiding truth. We’re ducking the reality that hatred fuels much of what goes on in our world — whether it’s women’s centres being bombed, Middle Eastern women being stoned for adultery, gays being bashed for holding hands on the street, or prejudices rising everywhere daily, never mind national strife like Palestine-v-Israel, or Iran spouting rhetoric.

Hatred’s out there, man. Don’t think otherwise.

The Georgia Straight’s Facebook moderator decided it prudent to delete the offensive comments on this particular thread. I disagree. My reply comment:

I’m sort of disappointed that [skinhead motherfucker]’s homophobic, hate-filled rants were deleted.

By a) responding with “haw-haw, he can’t be real” and b) knee-jerk “how dare you” replies, then deleting his words, we’re pulling the wool over allour eyes.

We say “HEY, THERE’S A REAL PROBLEM OUT THERE” about hatred or racism, but then we sanitize the web so no feelings get hurt.

Let’s hurt some feelings! Let’s see these bastards for who they are! Let their names be known! Let their evidence stay up so we can point and say THAT IS NOT RIGHT, LET’S FIGHT THAT, LET’S PROVE HIM WRONG.

Sure, a bunch of people got all bent outta shape reading that kind of hate speech — but the mentality of “Well, if it’d been worded more politely, it’d be okay and we could ‘dialogue’ ” is just ridiculous!

IT’S HATE. Let’s see it for what it is.

Let the world see that it’s still out there, regardless of our pretty little fast-food metrosexual ever-so-aesthetic iPoddy 21st century.

Then let’s fight back and end that hate where it lives. END it, not delete it.

From Wikipedia's "lynching" page. The lynching of Laura Nelson in Okemah, Oklahoma in 1911; she had tried to protect her son, who was lynched together with her.

Deleting the thread has all the brilliance of when a Canadian bookstore chain decided it would never, ever stock nor order Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Right, because ignoring the book the first time worked out so well for us.

KNOW THY ENEMY.

If we want to overcome hatred, racism, homophobia, elitism, all of it, then we need to know exactly what their thoughts are so we can break those down.

This is the internet — the home of anonymity, the tool of free speech, the widest platform for idea-expressing ever invented.

But every motherfucking site has a moderator who goes and deletes the hate, hiding the nasty fuckers that we need exposed.

Deep down inside, we all know cruel people are out there, and we know they’re cowards who hide real, real good.

Thus it’s become easier when we hide them too, and go on with our lovely little domesticated modern lives. God forbid our routines get injected with realism.

These people are real.

They live where you are.

They’re more marginalized and angrier than ever.

And we’re giving them a pass by letting them say what they say, then deleting it. So, then they run back to their little web microcosms and fester with their continuing hate spiel, palling with their little hatin’ buddies, all the while leaving us blissfully ignorant that hate-filled fucks like them are more prevalent than we’d like to think.

Stop protecting us, website moderators.

Our ignorance will not inspire their change. We need all the good peoples in on this fight.