Monday, February 28, 2011

Quinze-deux, Quinze-quatre

When I found out he went to school in Laval, I had my excuse to speak French. He said I sounded like an eighty-year old laveuse. And it’s no wonder. My parents’ French was ancient and smokey, with vowels so short and lazy they needed only a small crack of the lips to escape. This efficient way of speaking evolved over the centuries eventually leading us to perfect the Holy Trinity of French Canadian maneuvers: The simultaneous cigarette lip-dangle, stubby pull and cribbage count. It’s probably the language that the Fangorn Ents would have spoken if they came from Vanier.

Monday, February 7, 2011

What Dangles Beneath

I loved the camels in Lawrence of Arabia that had fringes of dangling pompoms that swayed as they walked. I especially liked the one of top of which Omar Sharif sat…. because he was on it. He took my breath away in that movie, in his elegant black robe. His velvety accent and dark handsome looks are enough to make me melt, but in this movie he wears… those outfits. For me there is nothing sexier than men in robes or skirts… like kilts! More men should wear kilts. And no, it has nothing to do with what dangles beneath.

Oh Daddy

The cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours was the most romantic picture my fourteen year-old eyes had witnessed. I wanted to sketch it in art class. By drawing Stevie, I could become her with that flowing black dress and ballet flats! The evening before I placed the album on the kitchen table ready to be taken to school. But my plans were thwarted overnight. I was prepared to face the derision of my Led Zeppelin-loving friends for the sake of art. But now that Dad wrote “Dangling Testicles” next to Mick’s pom-poms I had to content myself with the Pre Raphaelites.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Joanne was always terribly self-conscious, plus she had the better camera, and so after four and a half years together, I ended up with perhaps four decent photographs of my first serious girlfriend. This, together with a few old shots from the yearbook, left me entirely unprepared for the Joanne I would meet at our high-school reunion 20 years later. I swear, it was just like in Star Trek, where they cut from craggy old Dr. McCoy to the woman he’s destined to fall for that episode: soft lights, sweet music, and just a smear of Vaseline on the lens.


I reconnected with Franco when my parents moved to Italy. I met him in New York years before, and I still had his address in Rome, so I looked him up when my sister and I went to visit them at Christmas. We enjoyed being shown around town by a Franco and his friend Francesco, and getting to see things of which the average tourist would not be aware. I had a photo of the four of us posed on a sunny afternoon at the Piazza Navona framed and it brought back warm memories every time I looked at it.

Admittedly I had a bit of a fling with Franco that time in Rome. He was charming, handsome and hard to resist, but I had ambitions to pursue back in Canada, and Franco’s lifestyle did not fit well with mine. Franco was distant history and I had a two-year relationship with another guy before I met Steve. When we moved in together I put the picture on a bookcase in the living room, more for the memory of Rome than the memory of Franco. Months later I found it was a source of simmering jealousy for Steve.

Fait Do-Do

Near the end of Caché Daniel Auteil’s character removed his dressing gown and, all paunchy grizzle, slid naked into bed. “Oh, the French” said Rich, yet again. I’m French but I’ll never understand the appeal of sleeping without pajamas. What if you have to pee during the night? Do you then get up, and like a shivering shaved rat scurry over to the can? And unless you want your bed to smell like bears have been hibernating there, you’d have to do laundry every other day. Forget it. I want a layer of fresh flannel between me and life’s indignities.

Lainie and I both had a crush on this gorgeous boy. An Italian grad student named Mike. He had to do some research at U of T and since I lived in Toronto he asked if he could stay with me. It was with great relish I told her about the wine he brought me, our spaghetti dinner and of course, the Über-sexy fact that he slept in a pair of worn-out jeans. Nothing happened. Being engaged to Rich I could delude myself into thinking that it was only gentlemanly propriety that kept him from declaring his undying denim love.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Second Sleep

There are mornings I wonder if I will ever again get a good night’s sleep or, for that matter, if I even need one at all. It seems what my body most cares about is that last precious hour, the hour after Mary’s clock radio goes off, and I get the bed to myself. Even after a decent rest, I still relish the chance to relax that little bit longer, through the local news, while the rest of the household clanks through the morning routine, and with a little luck, fall right back to sleep and wake up to silence.

It may run contrary to the entrepreneurial spirit, but surely sleep is one of the sweetest perks of working at home. You may work more nights than you’d like, but rather than propping yourself up in your cubicle the next day, there’s nothing to keep you from an afternoon nap, or a little siesta after a heavy lunch, or the best sleep of all which I call my second sleep, on those mornings when you should’ve slept in but you couldn’t, and you try for a while to get on with the day, give up, and go back to bed.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Things have changed since Steve and I met. We are different people. For instance, back then Steve used to sleep on his back with his hands folded on his chest, never moving at all during the night. Now, because of the various infirmities that age inflicts, he shifts position more during the night – because of his back or his shoulder starting to ache. Plus he snores more. This bothers me, however I tolerate it because I am still very happy in our relationship. But, I wonder what bothersome things I have started doing, and if they are tolerable to Steve?

From the beginning Steve did things I would not tolerate in other human beings, but they did not bug me at all when he did them. Or they bugged me, but I thought them worth enduring. Moving in together was incredibly stress free, we simply made room for each other in our lives. Currently we are each staking new territory in areas previously occupied by parenting concerns that have been freed up. So far, the give and take on that front has been successful. The next test will be whether we can stand being around one another when we retire.


We’re all familiar with the term ‘jump the shark’ to describe the moment when a television show has overstayed its welcome. It’s usually accompanied by a stupid plot line. Think Cosmo Kramer or the singing Brady Brunch. My favorite example comes from the Cosby Show and its constantly rotating collection of Rudys or Rudyesque characters. As the real gal got older and fatter and thus less loveable she was replaced by a cuter, younger version. Then that one got older and fatter. Good thing the show didn’t go on much longer or they’d have had to borrow Eddie from Fraser.

Shark Jumping transcends television, and I’ve seen examples all around me. We have sartorial shark jumping, like when I realized no one under thirty wears cuffed jeans, and no one under fifty would be seen dead in pastel capris. Or, Décor shark jumping, when you buy art to match the sofa. But the most painful by far is jumping the Love Shark. That’s the moment when you’ve outlived a relationship. It happened to Paul and me in France. By the end, even my walk irritated him. And listening to him breathe was pure torture. Like a rain stick from hell.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Soap Opera Singularity

Roy’s Third Theory of Television posits that any series allowed to run past its prime, will eventually come to resemble a soap opera; that, with a limited cast interacting over an increasing number of episodes, the scriptwriters will begin to rely on unlikely couplings, baroque story arcs, and the other tropes of daytime drama just to fill the time. The original Star Trek, for instance, was cancelled before this effect could really take hold; but I knew I was onto something when I tuned into the fourth season of Deep Space 9 to learn that Kira was carrying Keiko’s baby.

That’s not to say, in the real world, if you’ve spent 132 episodes antagonizing the spiteful but spirited Margaret “Hot-Lips” Houlihan, you might not end up sleeping with her in the 133rd. But that’s exactly when I’d advise you to step back a moment and consider how you came to fall into bed with this woman you don’t even like. Maybe you’ll even be able to describe the series of increasingly unlikely coincidences that brought you together, but I’m pretty sure your friends, not to mention the rest of your dwindling audience, will just chalk it up to bad writing.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Strength in Sisterhood

It was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon and my dorm roommate, Becky, invited me out for a drive. Stopped at a red light in the centre of Banff, Becky started yelling ‘Sarah!’ out the window. A woman who was crossing the street in front of us looked up in surprise and came over to the car. Nobody was more surprised than me to see that Sarah was an acquaintance I knew from Ontario College of Art. And it turned out that she was also Becky’s old high school friend from Chicago, as well. How many coincidences is that, all rolled into one?

Sarah was not just an acquaintance from school, but the woman for whom my boyfriend, Karl, had ditched me. By the time Becky and I ran into her in Banff, he had ditched her, too. Our shared experience with Karl bonded us, and when I got back to Toronto after my summer at The Banff School of Fine Arts, I looked her up and we had some good times together. The sisterhood of Karl’s ex-girlfriends seems to stretch far and wide. I discovered one of my best friends, who I met in my current neighbourhood, also went out with Karl.

Do you have Robin Hood by the Bag?

Black Christmas was one of the creepiest movies of its time, and not just because it had Andrea Martin in it. It was about a psychopath who made obscene phone calls to sorority sisters unfortunate enough to be left at the dorm over the holidays. Anyone who’s heard these calls knows how unsettling they can be, even if the experience doesn’t culminate in a Saranwrap-encased corpse. I once received such a phone call, a real heavy breather, and thinking it was my boyfriend at the time, upped the ante. In the end, I’m not sure who was the most unnerved.

I’ve never been that attentive over unwanted advances, and usually realize, long after the fact, that someone was trying to harass me. Like that time in the Roman Forum. My boyfriend and I were walking through the ruins when a man said hello to me. It was a rainy day and he was holding an umbrella. I returned his greetings and we walked on. “You know, that guy had his dick hanging out.” Paul said to me. When I turned to look back at him he had vanished, probably thinking the place was going to the dogs. Too many Americans.

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