We Killed the Cat.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about killing. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about killing my cat. 

Well, our cat, if I am to be precise. Her, a gift to us before this mister-of-the-house and I were even married. Something that we once shared. But now she’s old. She’s blind. And she’s become a bit of an inconvenience, if I am to be blunt. 

She’s taken to peeing outside the kitty litter box.*

Yes - I think that she’s nearly done. And so I have been thinking about killing her.**

(Oh, I suppose the happier term here is euthanizing. To euthanize, to kill with mercy. And yes, it does sound much better that way, I agree. But a problem remains - my heart, my gut, my insides? They know it’s all the same - that death is death is death. They know that really, regardless of whatever words chosen to mix it all up in - whatever proverbial kitty litter thrown on top to hide that stink - well, in the end, death remains just that: death. Merciful or not. In the end it’s all the same. 

Yes, we will lose our cat. We will lose our cat. They know that. They know. They know that we will be deciding to end her)***. 

___

We named her Sam-sam. 

Sam-sam, a half-blind, tuft-eared kitten, unexpected in our lives and who never did learn to retract her claws. A furball. My furball. One who showed up days before our marriage, before we had any idea what we were getting ourselves into.

(How could we, I think now - how could we?)

For when she first presented herself and declared that WE - we! -  would be the ones to take care of her, how could we say no? How could anyone say no? Oh! I think of us then - still youngish, unsharpened. Ourselves unretractable, so able to think on the “goodness of who we were” - oh of who we believed ourselves to be! Ha! Yes, we thought we could do it. 

We thought we could do it. 

(Just to note, had anyone back then asked us what we figured it took to have a “good” marriage I probably would have smiled and said that being “successfully wed” was all about not arguing too much, being kind (always) and not hogging the blankets! Ha, ha ha. It’s all those sorts of things; I would have given all those dust-covered, easily folded and what I would deem now as ‘throw it in the corner’ answers. Blanket answers, you could say. Blanket answers. Yes. I would have said the things that were - are - soft. Easy).

But sixteen years has passed. And now our cat needs to die.

(And true to that we now also know that marriage is indeed about arguing. Oh so much arguing! 

And let me tell you, let me yell at the world for a moment here if I may: it is so not about "just being kind"! How frustratingly stupid I was, I let myself be  - for while kindness can help on the way to restitution, in the end it in itself is insufficient; a band aid relief to a union, a relationship between persons -  that at times may - will! - bleed. Oh, and sometimes will bleed profusely.

No, there must be more than just kindness. 

And further, while I am on about it - it is not about sharing the blankets. No, it is never about sharing any confounded blanket! Let me clear about this: there will be times, weeks, years even - when any covering that you can buy or sew or conjure up out of the magical lamb’s wool spun through your own bare hands as you softly weep whilst on top of hills of the Himalayas themselves will be too small for the two of you. It will be too small. This is just the way that it is.*****  

So now. After years of wedlock, of betrothed joy and betrothed not-so-much-joy, of watching each other grow and stagnate and yes, change throughout these years - it is time to kill the cat. 

___


I admit that my voice cracks a little when I finally do it.***** When I finally call and am on the phone with the receptionist (God bless her animal-loving soul) and she softens her tone just so when she hears why I am calling. Oh! I can’t help it - my voice breaks just enough during it , during this phone call that she - this stranger on the other end of my line - picks up the awkwardness and waits for me to finish. She waits! Oh heaven bless her, SHE knows this will take more than a band-aid, that such a decision - a decision to end the life of another -  will never feel entirely right. That no matter how needed, how timely, death - the end of something once alive! - will never feel okay to do. 

It’s not supposed to, I guess.

Goodbye my Sam-sam. My little sausage! Sleep well. Sleep well. You were a good, good cat. 

______

*She’s taken to peeing outside the kitty litter box: oh, and dropping poops wherever and whenever she pleases. 

**I think that she’s nearly done: please do not misunderstand that we don’t love her or want her gone. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is is that she has been a well-cared for, appreciated and frequently-petted animal. But now she is old. And infirm. And clearly struggling. 

***we will be deciding to end her: I am not sure how other people come to this decision. I am not sure how other people come to this decision with any sort of ease. Or peace. Deciding to end another’s life - cat or not - is a horrible one. And not one that I would wish upon the worst soul out there. That said, I understand it to sometimes be the wise choice, the decent one, the one that needs to be made. If I dare say it, the merciful one.

****this is just the way that it is: after much debate about who was stealing which and what part of that bothersome - and may I add - always slightly inadequate blanket of our’s, we got rid of it. Or, more specifically, I bought another. One for me, one for him. Yes, that’s right. We no longer share. And it works.

And I might so add, a perfectly normal thing to do in Sweden. God bless the Swedes! God bless those inventors of sensibility! 

*****my voice cracks a little when I finally do it: to be fair, in the end I was not the one to do it. While I did make this initial phone call to the vet, we ended up not following through with her death-date at that time. It just felt rushed; we were not ready to say goodbye. Not yet. 

I give all credit to the Spouse-of-Good-Deeds who was the one who actually made the final call. And brought her in.










The Price of Soap.

(Note: this piece was originally written in response to the Trump administration lawyers declaring that “the existing law” may infer, but does not require the current U.S government to provide soap, toothbrushes or beds to child migrant detainees.)* 

_________


Are U.S child migrant detainees entitled to soap? 

I can’t believe that I am even writing this question. 

What a stupid, indulged, grossly ignorant culture of greed, culture of illiteracy that we have become. We should never have to discuss whether children - of detainees or not - are entitled to soap. Ever. And yet here we are. 

Welcome to 2019, folks. 

Welcome to 2019.

____

I couldn’t be more horrified. And the fact that my reading this article comes on the heels of having given my own six-year-old child a bath before his bedtime tonight is not lost on me. It shouldn’t be on any person, frankly. Parent or not. We are better than this. I need to say that again: we are better than this.

And the frightening thing is I think we know that. I think that we know that we can - OUGHT - to achieve more for the rights, the DIGNITY of those less fortunate, of those “harder come by”, of those who quite by Universal coincidence have found themselves born into a country that, for one reason or another, is unsafe or struggling or without adequate opportunity for its own people. A country that is perhaps without the “blessed”** infrastructure that we here in our country so rely on in order to call (and make) our own selves rich.*** 

Because folks, rich always comes at a price. 

And honestly, the price is usually paid for by the poor. 

Take the U.S involvement in Latin American politics. We did it, we encouraged that mess. We helped to bring in the regime changes. We used the power that we had. We subsequently cashed in on all that cheap labour.*****


And now we don’t want to pay.


In soap. 


They are asking for soap.


God help us. 


_____

*the existing law: by the 1997 Flores agreement, the U.S government must keep child detainees in “safe and sanitary” facilities. An attorney for the Trump administration has argued that this aforementioned law does not explicitly state that such things as soap, beds or toothbrushes must be provided. As can be imagined, this interpretation of the law has caused some uproar in the House. 

**”blessed”: used tongue in cheek.  

***our country: now, I recognize that I am Canadian. And that I am not from the States, where these particular spoken of events have and are occurring. And some who read this will have a problem with that. Okay. So let me be the first to say this (again): the country of Canada is not without issues. Yes, we have them. We do. If you have any doubt of this, please take the time to google “Colton Bushie” or “the great Canadian Tainted Blood Scandal,”**** for starters. I have previously written on both subjects.

But this is now. And right now, in the States, in this “Land of the Free”, there is a discussion occurring. There is a discussion on whether children of immigrant detainees ought to have soap. Of whether ‘soap’ constitutes a “safe and sanitary” condition. 

I therefore stand by my conviction that it is the duty - no obligation - of every citizen of this world to speak up against injustice, wherever it be found. 


****The Great Canadian Tainted Blood Scandal: not really all that great. 

*****U.S involvement in Latin American politics: I am simplifying for the sake of the article. Likewise, I am using the colloquial “we” to further demonstrate a collective culpability. If you are interested in learning more about the U.S involvement in Latin American politics (it’s a long and seemingly non-exhaustive list, honestly), I’d suggest starting with this.

Further note: it is understood that all history is complex and layered, and that no country of power - Canada included -  is without guilt. 

___

Last week 680 migrant workers were seized by ICE at their places of employment, leaving many children without a trusted adult to pick them up from only their second day of school. The widely circulated videos show students as young as five, distraught, begging those responsible to return their parents to them. 

In return, the U.S has declared the secretive ICE mission a success.

_________





I Made a Phone Call Today.

I made a call today. 

I made a phone call which - if you know me - is not a common occurrence.* At least one not without strife, fear, a general sense of anxiety and, well, some procrastination.


You see, I hate using the phone. Oh, I'll do it when it is necessary, of course - but alongside speaking to whomever I call, I will pace and wiggle and fidget and yes, sometimes - sometimes! even prior to the conversation itself, will write out key phrases on scraps of paper, words to (literally) have in hand, an embarrassingly childish fistful of reminders. But I do all this - I do all this with the hope of not coming across (this time) as too awkward, too quick with my speech or generally - generally just too nervous. (Our world does not like nervous). 


No. No, I do not like to make phone calls. 


But today, today I did it. I did it! I made a call. I made a call and that in and of itself, is magnificent. A triumph! A good thing


Yes. A good thing. But that is not the only good thing. No. There is something else, something else perhaps of even more of significance today: for today I made a call that has been - for a length of years(!) - pushed aside, shoved into the junk drawer, lost under miscellaneous dead batteries and felt pens and cards from the relatives: the call to begin the process of adopting. Again.


Again we are hoping.


Oh, it might not work. We may be too old, too wrinkly, too strangely us to be considered. To be wondered about. To be picked. But then maybe - maybe there is one more child out there needing a home. For us, for this home, for our home, even with its junk drawers.


Yes, I made a call today. I did it, you see: I have the scraps of paper to prove it. 

_______


It is only later, outside alone save the dog, me already afternoon sun-sweaty and determined to mow our ever-growing grass once more down to a reasonable height that I remember: I remember then that today is none other than July 19. July nineteenth, the anniversary of my first transplant. 


A difficult day, this is. And one that I have decided - as an adult - that needs a scrap of my attention, at least once a year. My remembrance, I suppose. A time to pause and think: think on the man-child who died - young himself at twenty-two years - the phone call that followed (the one that interrupted my very important Friday night watching of Mr. Belvedere, I might add), and then one of my parents telling me to pack my suitcase (they didn’t know what else to do), and the other deciding to finish vacuuming the pool before we left. Because they too, didn’t know what to do. 


It all came so quick that day, you see: life, death, the end of being twelve (years old).*** 


No, it was not intentional that I called the CFS adoption worker today. But I like that I did. 

___

*not a common occurrence: after spending a good portion of my life under shame about this preference of mine NOT to use the phone, I one glorious day young in my university years happened upon a Myers-Briggs personality test. And there, upon taking such test, did learn that this certain assortment of personality characteristics that compose me often result in a person not really wishing to deal with phone conversations. To be clear, I have spent numerous jobs being the person on the phone (I can think of two off the top of my head, where being on the phone, cold-calling people was necessary to my getting paid). So I can do it. I dare say that I can do it well, even. But I hate it. And if possible, I will avoid it. Or, as in the case above, avoid it for as long as possible. 


But thank you Myers-Briggs for telling me that I am okay. That I am okay. And that being me is just, well, me being ME. 


Oh, and of course, God bless texting. Oh God bless the glorious invention that is texting! 


**procrastination: I water my plants more than I use the phone. And I have succulents.


***the end of being twelve (years old): I don’t know what to say about this. I am thankful for the first kidney. It sustained my life. It was, cliches aside, a blessing. But I was not be the same child going into that surgery as I was when I exited the hospital a month later. 



We saw Kibera.

It began with a suggestion: would you like to see Kibera?*

And to that - to that offer, I wasn't quite sure. Did I want to see Kibera? Did I want to see such a place?

But then his question, it hung there between us - strung out and tight over the car’s centre console like the laundry that our house girl** pinned up just this morning. Her hands clip clip clipping all our underthings, towels, bits of us onto that line. And I think of how, in this city, in this the month of May, it is not a good time for drying clothes. Or anything, really. And that they, our things, will surely still be wet when we return today, they will be wet for the next three days most likely. And even then, once “dried” and folded, placed neatly on our equally pressed and folded beds, they will still be damp. Yes, our clothes, they will be clean and smell inevitably of thickly flowered laundry soap. But they will also smell of diesel, people and the earth. These are the smells that I now wear. This is what we wear here.

Do you want to see Kibera? He dares to ask again. Looking right at me at this time. (If I didn’t know any better, I would say that his is now a wicked smile, a flirty taunt).

Would you like to see Kibera?

Would you like to see Kibera?

I hear my son rolling around in the backseat. I feel my arm resting on this opened window, my elbow hitting the sun and being warm.

For now. My arm is warm.

(But being here in this city. haven't we seen enough roadside residences, these corrugated metal shacks, the red bricked mudded huts tight-tight against each other, as if the city itself were heaving in on its own less fortunate? Haven’t I seen enough people sleeping on the street?)

Did I need to see more of this?

Having just driven through the Wildlife National park earlier this week, with our respective cameras held in hand and yet aiming everywhere at once, each with our own expectations tight-tight - all in the hopes of seeing wildlife? Of seeing zebras? Elephants? Camels? Ought we now go look at people?

Oh! Did we belong in a place like Kibera? A place that I - I know this! - I in both my whiteness and the quite happenstantial place of my birth - could never even begin to understand?

Did I want to see Kibera? Oh oh does anyone want to see such a place?

Do I want to see the slums. Do I want to see Kibera.

What a question.

______

Eventually, yes, we would go in this car. The same car that bumped us through the National Park earlier that week, and out to the Rift Valley and over all the city and those dang security stops. The same one that my son now rolled around in, whistling to himself. The same one that contained a 10” blue-handled knife in its console.***

In this car, I said yes and we went.

On one of our final days in this city - this city of traffic and road-side goats, of tree-leafed greens and mangos soft and hanging sweet in the sun, we went. We locked our doors and we went.

We saw Kibera.
___

*Kibera: the largest slum in Africa, approximately 6.6 km from Nairobi’s city centre. It is a place of extreme poverty, with a questionable number of people living there, most without electricity, access to medical care or schooling. If you wish to know more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibera

**house girl: a misnomer. A diminutive term for house help, most often performed by grown adult women.

(Note: I hand washed 12 pairs - 24 individual socks - during our time in Diani beach, when there was no ‘house help’ to be had. I bought one of those brightly yellowed Sunlight soap bars. I did it with bar in hand and sweaty sock on the other. This, I must say, took me a good twenty-five minutes and it was arduous. My understanding is that here, life is both easier and harder).

***the knife in the console: during another time waiting at this same mall for my traveling companions to return from buying yet more groceries, the kiddo (rather innocently) asked our driver: what is in your console? What is in there? Tap tap tapping it. I could immediately tell that our driver seemed hesitant to show us. But the kiddo, well, he is persistent and our Nairobi-man’s english-speak is second. So he did. He opened it. To the disappointment of my son, however, it only contained papers. African papers, yes, But still. Only papers.

But just before the compartment closed, we both happened to notice the knife, a blue-handled knife sticking out from under those papers. Oh! One that he usually keeps under the front seat, he explains. (As if such its misplacement could be a reassurance). It is good to have "at hand" just in case, just in case he adds. To be at hand just in case! Or to cut up fresh pineapple, he teases then a little. And gently closes the console.






This is all Wrong.

Working title: This is all Wrong.

Alternate title: If you are Female, our North American Cultural System is Designed to Frustrate you but you Probably Don’t Know That yet.

Otherwise titled: Today I had to Park on Furby, Walk to the Hospital and Then Watch the Trump on CNN While Waiting to get my Blood Drawn.

_____

I had to go to clinic today. And in order to do so, it was necessary to park my car some blocks past the hospital, where the parking is not only free, but more importantly - permissible prior to 9 a.m. This, unlike the parking closest to the building, where it is not free and very much not permitted prior to this hour.*

(Unless you park underground. There, as with most things, if you have the proper monies, you can put your car wherever you dang well please, providing that there is space.** But while the convenience of this is tempting, I have learned to look away. Yes, I have learned to look away. Because, well, my family likes to eat. And I’d like to leave a few dollars my child’s educational fund).

So parking is an issue. Which, having not been a patient (in or out) for any length of time, you may be inclined to say ‘so what’? What’s the big deal with needing to find any sort of 9 x 18’ rectangle of asphalt on which to place your vehicle?

Well, aside from the annoyance (of limited spaces) and cost, there seemingly isn’t much of an issue.*** That is, unless you are a patient and unless you have a clinic appointment before the hour of 9 a.m. Or need blood drawn prior to morning meds. Or have an ultrasound scheduled for 7:45. Because it happens. These appointment times happen.

So then yes, it is a problem.

Not being able to locate parking in the early hours of the day means that all 8 a.m. clinic appointments will be unduly stressful (more so than such appointments already are, that is). It will mean the choice of spending too much money to park in the underground lot, begging a friend / neighbour / spouse for a direct drop off, or leaving the vehicle farther than is perhaps safe or convenient to walk at such an hour. It will mean parking on Furby.****

 But there is little choice; these clinic times are prearranged.

 (Indeed, the patient has little or no say in the timing or date of such appointments. If there be one, this here be the underbelly of the ‘in need of a medical specialist’ world, the dirt not talked about that’s swept into the corners of Medical Specialist Land: the patient him/herself is at the whim and fancy of the Schedulers, those receptionists who work for and are paid by the hospital. For contrary to assumption, these people, these medical receptionists - as lovely as many of them are - do not actually work for the patient. Rather, they work for the institution. They work for the Clinic. And as such, and quite understandably with that in mind - any patient need of particular scheduling will not be a priority; indeed, the doctor’s calendar will always trump the patient’s).

So, for the simple fact and stress (and cost) of trying to get to the hospital building, pre-nine a.m. clinic appointments are evidently problematic.

But then, so are post-9 a.m. ones.

Unfortunately.

I wish things were better.

You see, after 9 a.m. alternate problems arise: after 9 a.m., when parking gleefully becomes available on William, or Mc Dermot or insert cross street of your choosing here, the hospital’s main outpatient lab subsequently becomes busy.***** As in, extraordinarily busy. As in, if you are able to garner yourself a seat in the waiting area (after having run upstairs and down again to get your ‘golden ticket’ requisition papers, of course), you will be sitting your bum down on that hospital-hard and germ-soaked chair for the next hour. Yes, at least. Indeed, you.will.wait. Oh yes, you will wait.

 And during this, whilst you wait, bum in chair and ever hopeful that your number will be the next to be called in for the blood-letting, you will be besotted by the acute and somewhat panicky awareness that every minute of waiting in this seat is costing you parking money. And that as you sit, the dawn of your parking time-limit likewise draws closer:  closer! Closer! Closer! The car must be moved soon! The car must be moved soon!

Or more seriously, that every moment spent in this lab is one more minute that you will be late for your actual clinic time.

And lateness, my friends, is not acceptable.******

The fact that the City itself is unwilling or unable to provide accessible and cost-effective parking around the Hospital is not your clinic’s concern.

The fact that the Institution itself is unwilling or unable to provide more lab techs or another functioning lab is likewise not of your medical professional’s concern; they are concerned with kidneys. Or livers. Or whatever other body part is their particular specialty. No, they seemingly do not or cannot care that the System itself is functionally dysfunctional, that it itself may be what is hindering a patient “success”. No, they care that you are late. Again.

This, despite arriving early. Despite trying, despite doing all that is possible as a patient to succeed. But despite doing it all, it is still not enough:

You’re late.

________

It can seem like a game, in many ways – one in which the patient is unfortunately not apt to win. And while I like to think that it is unintentional, this system of operations - the way things are - is and was put in place by those with power. Those ironically most likely without the need of such services themselves.

For indeed the privilege of the healthy is that they are not ill.

So while there may be some sympathy, and a few white-coated head nods in agreement, these professionals - those with the ability to push for overt change to the system of operations itself – often bear scant understanding of what it is to be ill. To be in need of the hospital and its services, frustratingly flawed or not.

Mostly they do not see the problem; they do not need to see the problem.

And so it is here, while I am bum-seated in yet another one of these germ-infested hospital chairs today, (with too much time on my hands and CNN blaring the latest Trump-news in the background) that I start thinking about the predicament of being female. Specifically, female in North America, where the continuing system of operations – the way things are, if you will -  is still geared in favour of those with a certain appendage between their legs. And how – if you permit me the connection - the difficulty of navigating the medical system today – the things set in place (intentionally or not) could be comparable to the inherent difficulty or disadvantage women face in succeeding in our society as a whole; in being seen and likewise treated as equals.

But now Trump has lost his (former) lawyer, and I just found out that Micheal Cohen will be going to jail after all. Thanks, CNN for the update. And too - it is time for me to stand up, to get my butt out of this too-warm waiting room chair and take action: the lab tech is calling my number. It is indeed time for blood-letting. In this, our slow and messy system.

_______

*Not permitted prior to this hour: I’m looking at you, William Ave. I’m looking at you.

**If you have the proper monies, you can put your car wherever you dang well please: I’m looking at you, Brock Turner, I’m looking at you.

***there seemingly isn’t much of an issue: most of the parking has limits of 2 hours. Occasionally four. This is an issue. While I understand why it must be (as traffic around the area is congested during the morning and then again for the afternoon rush), anyone attending to medical procedures and/or an appointment times that may or may not exceed such limits, such parking restrictions become troublesome.****

****I’m looking at you, ultrasound. You with your cute little gels and warm lights. Yeah, you who say your going to take half an hour but we all know that really means up to two and a visit by the on-call doctor besides. We know your tricks, Ultrasound. We know your tricks.

*****Furby: otherwise a great little street. But not one without its share of problems. And not one that I wish to walk on in the wee hours of the morning.

******the main outpatient lab becomes extraordinarily busy: I’d be amiss if I did not mention that there is indeed another lab. This one is adjacent to the main doors, a little off to the left if facing the Sherbrook entrance. It is small and it is not well-known. I’ve dubbed it ‘the secret lab’, and truthfully, I do not speak of it often, for frankly -  I do wish for the other outpatient crowds to know. This lab was mine, you see; my way of circumventing the system of hospital operations (no pun intended).

 And it worked well. For awhile.

But now this particular lab - this secret jewel of the lab world, if you will - has decided to close its door at exactly NINE FREAKING ANTE MERIDIM every day. That is correct; 9 a.m.! Right at the busiest time of the morning, they close. They shut the door, put up the sign ‘we are not available’ and leave. THEY LEAVE. Without care, without concern for us, the waiting, the patients. They shut. And that lab tech goes on a systems-mandated break for the next 40 minutes. FORTY MINUTES.

Only to return back when the other (main) lab crowd has already begun to thin out. Only to return back when the other (main) lab crowd has already begun to thin out.

Do you see the problem?

And while I hesitate to say this operational flaw is intentional, it is however, indicative of a stubborn system operating without the patient in mind.  

****** And lateness is not acceptable: being written up as “non-compliant to appointments” (re: being consistently late or missing), to keeping these pre-booked appointment times. It - this lateness - therefore becomes a judgment of the patient’s personal character, rather than an assessment of the (biased) system itself.

__________

Amendment: I have just been informed by the Parking Authority that re-metering for an additional 30 minutes is permitted on all metered parking spots. This, of course, is only by PayByPhone, and does not apply to any other payment method. As well, I’d just like to point out that it is impossible to whip out a phone during an ultrasound (from where? Under that hospital gown?), during a doctor visit or God-forbid during labour. It’s just not happening. So while this is an attempt at improving the accessibility of parking near the hospital, it is not enough. It is not enough.

 

Born Female

On this International Day of the Woman, it is often thought that the ‘global’ bit of the day pertains only to those overseas or at best, down south in some foreign speaking country. But this is a troublesome assumption. For we here in Canada, in North America for that matter, cannot yet - with good conscience - raise our own ‘all will be seen and treated equal’ flag. No. Not yet. We still have work to do here within our own shores, my friends.

So on this March 8th, the International Day of the Woman, I wish for all wives, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, the young girls born around us, those alive here in North America AND elsewhere in the world - to have equal opportunity for health, well being and the opportunity to take up as much space in this world as any man. That the two sexes would not only be viewed as equal but treated as such. This is my hope).

________

The fight is not yet over.

When I hear of an American woman being put on academic probation because she had a man over to her room and was subsequently raped by this man, the fight - our fight - is not yet over.*

When I hear of up to 4,000 Aboriginal women having gone missing in Canada since the 1970’s, the fight is not yet over.***

When I hear of women - way too many women, I might add -  suffocating under the burden of aloneness and the seemingly inescapable loss of societal status that comes alongside child-rearing in this country, the fight is not yet over.  

When there is shame in parenting, the fight is not yet over.

When I’ve stood in line at the Food Fare - me, now aged 44, I might add -  and have been cat-called and oogled while buying groceries (by a man, early 50’s, two young kids in tow and a wedding ring in view on his proper finger), well then - then the fight is not yet over, is it?

It is not yet over. I wish it were.

_____

And here I must stop and confess that I do not much wish to do this; that I am indeed tired and understand that few care to keep contending. For I realize only now what the danger of being closer to equality than we ever have been in Canada brings: it brings with it a rather bland complacency. And that this perhaps in itself is more dangerous to a movement than any large inequality gap in the first place. It is, indeed, the ‘good enough’ game, that things - equality for women in Canada - has gotten “good enough” for us now be expected to stop, to stop complaining, that is. That we ought to be quiet now, thank you very much. Be grateful for what we’ve got, yes?  And I would. I would, trust me. Except there’s still a problem left, you see. The problem is that any workable and lingering inequality between the sexes, even in the smallest amount, negates the inherent equality of us all.

Let me say that again: any workable and lingering inequality between the sexes, even in the smallest amount, negates the inherent equality of us all.

Indeed, it negates what I have come to understand as the inherent and God-breathed value of each person to the other, regardless of gender or biology.

(For tell me what is a woman to think when paid .87 on every dollar earned by her equally qualified and educated male counterpart? What message does this send?)*****

____
I do not have much in me with which to fight. I have opinions (be they what they may), bits and pieces of education and of course, the rather commonplace experience of being female in a generally still made-for-male world.  

But other than that, no. No I don’t have much. But there is one thing that I do have. One thing that carries me on. And it is this: I have the damnable stubborness of hope. A hope that knows things can and ought to be better. That indeed we were designed for better: that the term ‘wage gap’ will one day be obsolete. That we will live in a country where 1 in 4 Canadian women will no longer to live below the poverty line.***** That no one would even THINK to tell me - a full grown woman at the time, i might add  - in this new and better world of true equality - to go back to the office, to go back indoors, where I belonged.******

No, no one would tell me that.

And so on days like today - days when I’d rather curl up with a book, when my health feels slightly less than stellar and the fatigue has come to once visit again, well. Well then.

When family friends start to remark: why can’t you just play nice?

Well.

Well then I guess that I have to admit that I can’t. I won’t. Because you see, this fight - as close as we are, as far as we have already come - it  is not yet over. It is not yet over. Not for me, not for you.

I wish things were better. I wish that my son - my five-year-old son - had not already in his few years of being alive - somehow absorbed the idea that to be female is somehow to be less. That women are lesser. And “weak”. And not as important. And this, despite all my best efforts to the contrary.

Damn it, I wish that Skye from PAW Patrol did not have to wear pink and that she did not have to be the smallest pup.

I wish that my son’s “no guts no glory” adorned shirts were not only hanging in the boy’s section of the local supermarket but also in the girl’s. Or better yet, that the there was a kids’ clothing section. Period. No frills, no designation of the sexes and who ought to be wearing what, when! That both genders (no matter what the age) could choose clothes that remind them (and us adults) on a daily basis of what it is to simply be our bravest and strongest.

And not only to be pretty, adorable. Sweet. Silent.

I wish pharmaceutical testing included the full effects on women, and not just male patients, as if half the population of the world did not exist. As if our bodies were interchangeable with men’s and that the effects of differing hormone levels on medication and health in general were not an issue.*******

I wish that when I was still out in the work force - when I was not yet at home full-time to raise my son - when my first degree framed and hung on the wall at the time - that I had been paid equal to my similarly educated male co-worker. This, while I worked at a you guessed it - religious based non-profit.  

I wish that I didn’t like the institutionalized church mostly because of what it has done and continues to do to women.

I wish that to be seen as legitimate in such an institution I did not a) have to be married b) have to have a child. I wish they knew what to do with me when I was still single and  - save for not having a penis - equally qualified to lead as the males around me.

I wish it weren’t predominately mothers taking care of the oodles of kids in Sunday schools. I wish someone would think to give them a break.

I wish fostering other’s kids were not a way for women to gain legitimization, a space at the holy table - in many churches.

I wish that my manager at the time when I still worked at that religiously affiliated non-profit had not told me outright that they had decided to pay my co-worker more because “he would be able to wear a tie and connect better with local pastors”.  This, at a place where our practice everyday was to raise money to fund the equalization of women - of girls - overseas. And that when I brought up this discrepancy of ideology within the organization itself the man with whom I spoke did not see it as a problem.

But it’s easier to think that the issue is only overseas.

I hope. I promise you this; I stubbornly hope that my vagina will be one day held in equal esteem to that of anyone’s penis. In Canada. In 2019. In my lifetime. I hope.

But until then, I will fight. I will. I promise you this.

Happy International Day of the Woman. And may the contending for justice be ever with you.

________


*When I hear of a woman being put on university probation: the administrators did not report the incident to the police. Instead, she - the woman - was placed on a two-year academic probation, possibly for having a man in her room in the first place. The alleged assailant was not charged with a crime.** Source: The Washington Post, May 22, 2018

** Since this time, the school administrator at the centre of this controversy has since been fired. Source: The Washington Post, May 30, 2018

***missing and murdered Aboriginal women: although both parties admit that there IS a problem of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in this country, the RCMP and Indigenous women’s groups differ greatly on just how many women are indeed missing. Frankly, any number is atrocious. Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2019

****I think that these guys say it best so I’m just going to drop it in here (bold added for emphasis): Yet pay inequality between women and men is a persistent phenomenon. According to data from the Labour Force Survey, women in Canada aged 15 and older earned $0.87 for every dollar earned by men in 2017, as measured by average hourly wages. Source: The Gender Wage Gap and Equal Pay Day, 2018

*****for more fun-filled stats on what has been labeled ‘the feminization of poverty’, and why women in Canada disproportionately find themselves living in such conditions, see the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund pamphlet. An entertaining read! Guaranteed to get you lots of laughs at your next party!

******told to go back  indoors, where I belonged: that time when a man of middle-to-older age took it upon himself to reprimand me for daring to be outside, *gasp* painting the side of a cabin. What are you doing out here? You should be back in your office! he reprimanded. Painting the side of a cabin is man’s work!

(Note to reader: I happen to like painting).

*******despite other advances in equality, women remain stubbornly underrepresented in medical science, Source: George Washington University, March 3, 2014.

Yay us!

Seriously though, this is not acceptable. This, nearly two decades after a law mandating in inclusion of both sexes in biomedical research. We still have a long way to go, my friends. We still have a long way to go.


Weirdo.

I wish that I could be charming. But instead I am weird.*

I could say that it - this weirdness, that is - it is God’s fault. Yeah, I could. He, after all is responsible for the base outline of who I am, isn’t he?** That barely drawn, zygotic blueprint of me, first shoved and then developed in my mother’s womb so long ago. Yes, I could blame him. For him, he dang-nam-it HE is the one who on that auspicious day when I was theoretically and perhaps biblically “pieced together in my mother’s womb”, He  - he! - like I’d imagine a mad and holy Swedish Chef orshca borscha-ing*** away in the kitchen, decidedly thought, hmmm. Maybe this one should have a bit of this and a dash of that and hey guys! (As I envision him yelling to the workers way up there up in that somewhere-in-the-cloudy-heavens baby-making factory).

You! You there in the back! Yeah! Let’s put some zing into this one. Yeah, let’s just try. Play with her frontal lobe**** just a bit. Yeah, both sides. And oh, see all that stock introspection that has been lying around since the baby boomers came and went? Yeah, it’s making a mess. We just gotta use it. It’s going to expire soon anyway. Just throw it all in.

But Sir! (and here I picture all of those little angel-elves bleating meekly into the face of this all-powerful YAHWEH). What about - what about the space? (Horrors!) Putting in all that, eccentricity will - well will *shiver* destroy her ability to be charming! To be amiable, proper, able to *gasp* smile warmly at all cashiers and service clerks! Maybe even make little jokes, quips about the price of groceries….you know, the stuff people do!

And so God thought.

And God thought.

And then at last he spoke: do it anyway.


And so I was done.

____

*on being weird: like most human creatures who have walked this earth, I have been called names. And some of these designations have been beneficial to my self-esteem and some not so much. There have been the usual (and might I add boring) cat-calls and then the rather commonplace b*tch! when I have refused to smile or laugh or engage in (usually) a male’s behaviour that I have found - for one reason or another, reprehensible. Yes, there have been many: you are prideful (true, I admit this now), you are not special (sort of true, sort of not - still hurtful to hear) and of course: you are stubborn (yes. Yes I am, thank you very much. I’m glad that you noticed).

But of all the words that have been thrown at me - and I dare say that there have been relatively few compared to many other people with whom I have spoken of this - the one that has stuck, the label that went the deepest - was being called ‘weird’. Weird. True, there are more dangerous words, ones that run the lines of being racist and sexist and all over damaging. But for me, it was simply being called odd.

It was, of course,  the way it was said.

It started happening around grade 4, although I suspect that the family member who decided to start naming me this must have thought it prior. And to be fair, I was weird. Well, creative. Thoughtful. Quiet. Reflective. (All the things this name-calling adult did not wish for me to be). And so, in their frustration at my ‘oddness’, I heard ‘you are so weird’ over and over. In and of itself, it is not such a bad thing - although I now find it amusing that such a tightly religious person would (out of all the words to pick to label me) choose to use this one, this one that derives it origins from the supernatural, the occult, and oh, those good ol’ witches of Macbeth!  Ha! No, this person probably didn’t know this when they began called me strange. They just knew that I was different than them. And artistic. And that - to them - was bothersome.

To clarify - in the end, I have made my peace. Both with the word and with this person.

**while I am using the pronoun ‘he’ in reference to God, I do not pretend to prescribe any gender to him. Or her. Or whatever. I am aware of his/her awesomeness that extends way beyond gender or little fleshy body bits and pieces. Thus, for the sake of ease of writing and due to familiarity for most readers, I will - for now -  continue to use the male pronoun when referring to The Almighty.

***no offense to the Swedish of course. Or fans of the Swedish Chef, for that matter. Borky bork bork!

****frontal lobe: responsible for things like emotional expression, problem solving, judgment…some scientists would call it the ‘control panel’ of our personalities, the area that designates what makes us, ‘us’, as well as our ability to communicate. Funny story though: years and years ago when I first starting getting aura migraines, I was immediately sent for an MRI of my brain, just to make sure all was okay-dokay in there. Turns out that I am fine. My brain is fine, and the reason for the migraines remains unknown (to this day). But they did discover something. They discovered that my right temporal lobe was (at the time) slightly atrophied. Shrunken. Ha. I love it. Guys, I am slightly brain-damaged. Ha, ha! I am not sure why, but I find this piece of information terribly funny. Perhaps it is that brain-damage talking. Or perhaps I am truly lacking in couth. And for that, I apologize. Sort of.