The cozy cocoon-like bed and waterfall music are almost enough to lull me into believing this facial will be different.
Maybe my skin care regiment is finally working. While not onerous, it still costs me money I would prefer to spend on things I care about, like chocolate sea salt gelato, and the ten minutes I spend cleansing, toning and exfoliating cuts into time that could be better spent with Orange is the New Black. Surely, these sacrifices are producing glowing results.
You can convince yourself of anything in that dark room of serenity.
The esthetician bounces in, looking like she went to cosmetology school fresh out of kindergarten. My hopes sag like the skin around my eyes, because the only thing that’s worse than getting lectured about your skin is getting lectured by someone half your age.
She places a cloth over my eyes that does nothing to block the blinding glare of the spotlight she switches on to study her canvas. She audibly gasps, sucking in her breath like she has just revealed a lizard on her table instead of a human.
Have you ever heard of sunscreen, she asks. I try not to grit my teeth because the microscope picks up on those things, and answer that yes, I use SPF 50 every day. Yes, I reapply, and yes, I use it in the winter and in thunderstorms.
She continues to batter me with the onslaught of questions that every esthetician uses, like a script, to get to the bottom of how my skin can be so dry, dull and dehydrated. I answer dutifully, hoping that maybe this time, together, we will determine the magical solution to my flakey woes.
She asks about the products I use (professional, hawked on me by my last esthetician), whether I exfoliate (three times a week, naturally), if I use hydration masks (honey, I could write the book), whether I drink coffee (is nothing sacred?), how much water I drink (buckets, on account of my coffee habit), if my diet is healthy (Gwyneth has nothing on me), how often I get facials (I enjoy this inquisition so much I should come weekly instead of once a decade), and whether I exercise (I’m known to do the odd marathon or triathlon).
She was stymied – and in fact, getting a little panicky – until she hit on the exercise thing, saying all of that salt is very drying, and perhaps I should think twice about that, or else carry a toner with me to spritz on my face mid-run. When I went to pay my bill, there it was, the toner she recommended I carry in my running belt, alongside my bear spray and water bottle. I demurred, and in that moment learned the concept of being comfortable in your own skin, parched though it may be.
Cosmetology schools should offer courses in diplomacy. Jesus, some people have dry skin, it’s not a crime against humanity.
It turns out there are three ways to remove an IUD. The traditional method is for your GP to take it out during a routine visit. I’ve also known some women to yank them out themselves, presumably because they couldn’t be bothered to make an appointment for such child’s play. Then there is a slim percentage of women who must have them surgically removed by a gynecologist.
Me being me, it was no surprise that I recently fell into this last category.
I kept telling myself it’s no big deal. So it took a few appointments with different doctors intent on hooking a fish in the form of my IUD, using various forms of bait, while I revisited the feelings of labours past. So there was another month of waiting to see a gynecologist in her office, while she had a go at landing her fish, and she could show those GP’s who’s boss. So there was a day of fasting, a morning of waiting in the hospital, drugs in the form of suppositories and IV’s, the tiny inconvenience of getting my busy husband to show up in the middle of a workday to escort me home.
Okay, it was a little unfortunate, but not entirely without its highlights.
As I sat uncomfortably close to and inexplicably amongst senior citizens waiting for cataract surgery, I pretended to read my book. Beside me, a daughter argued with her elderly mother. The daughter was urging her mother to only dwell on the good things that happened in her life, but her mother replied, in her thick German accent, that there wasn’t much of those to go on, which promptly shut the daughter up, and the rest of us silently cheered.
I breathed patient breaths and tried not to think of the things I could be accomplishing while the minutes dragged into hours, the cataract patients came and went, and the nursing staff changed shifts. Finally they called my name, and lead me into an operating room, almost entirely covered in blue gauze save for the gleaming silver stirrups.
We made small talk while the nurse stuck little round things on my torso, and my doctor put an IV in my arm. They told me the things I’m looking at might appear to start floating, so I could have a little nap if I wanted. But there was no way I was going to miss floating light fixtures. As I stared intently at the one above me, waiting for it to dislodge from the ceiling, that tingly feeling I get halfway through a glass of champagne arrived in my limbs and nevermind the fixtures; I was floating.
I remember talking, and was shocked to hear my slurred words. I slowed my speech and tried to carefully form the words so that I might appear coherent, in the same way I had in high school after a dance. “WHAT – IS – IN – THIS – IV?” There was laughter from my nether regions, and they rambled off some medications which I clearly remember as being blah blah blah mixed with blah blah blah. Whatever it was, I understood in that moment how great it feels to be high.
I’m still anti-drugs, make no mistake, but just like every rose has its thorns, every cloud has its silver lining. Perception is everything.
Most of us don’t live with extended family in our homes like our ancestors of yesterday. Our houses or apartments aren’t bursting with in-laws and grandparents, uncles and aunts are not on the other side of the thin wall. Chaotic family dinners are not a nightly occurrence, but reserved for Thanksgiving and special birthdays.
Although we don’t have to listen to our mother-in-law drone on about her gravy everyday, she isn’t around to make chocolate chip cookies, either. Or to hold our infant when our two-year old falls off the swing. Or to babysit for that far too occasional date-night.
I live on the opposite coast of Canada from my family, and my in-laws are an hour’s drive away. Raising three children, there have been times when I could have used that village, but it wasn’t physically there. The miles were gaping, and I was my own island.
At first, it was lonely. Used to the buzz of an office filled with co-workers, I missed adult interaction. But slowly and steadily, I met other mothers with infants, and we bonded over chitchat of breastfeeding and stain removal. My mom friends advised me where to find the best highchairs and how to soothe my baby to sleep. They taught me how to use sign language before my child could speak, advised which laundry detergent to try when skin rashes arose.
My mom friends walked me through first playdates, and took my toddler to swimming lessons when I had another baby to care for. When I miscarried, they brought dinners and muffins while I sat on the sofa and cried. Sometimes, the only time I would speak with an adult during daylight hours was at the doorstep of my daughters playdates, where we would discuss drop off and pick up times, and then discuss life. Those five minutes made a big difference in my day.
My mom friends have morphed and changed overtime, as children move schools and choose other best friends and different activities. Now, my children are in school and involved in sports. Since it’s hard to be in three places at the same time, my mom friends arrange carpools and cheer on my kids when I can’t be there. They tell me who is doing what on the playground according to the rumour mill. They are the eyes that are watching one of my kids when my own eyes are across town watching another. They have my back.
It still takes a village to raise a child, and my village consists of my husband, myself, and my mom friends. By this point in time, of course, my mom friends have become, simply, my friends. We get together for hikes, family dinners, and sit side by side at assemblies (and soon, graduation). We volunteer in rain, snow, sleet and, less frequently, sunshine. We huddle together and shudder at the thought of high school and the teenage years. We have been known to party.
It’s not always easy being a parent, but my friends make my life both easier, and so much richer. My village doesn’t live underneath one roof, but rather is scattered in different pockets along the North Shore, an extended Block Watch from days past. When my own two arms are not enough to hold what needs holding, I have others outstretched behind me, catching what falls through the cracks. And luckily for me, my village loves to dance.
Here’s to my village; I couldn’t do this without you.
When BC Premier Christy Clark invited mom bloggers to a round table discussion about how to make things better for BC families, there was one resounding answer: create affordable and accessible daycare.
As you know, my days of daycare are long since over, thank whatever God you will. Because it was a nightmare, and one I’m not keen to revisit, even in my memories. But for those of you foreign to the issue, here’s a recap.
The statistics were not in my favour; for all of the children in need of daycare in our province, there is space for about 20%. I knew this, going into my first pregnancy. But I was stupidly optimistic. Other people had trouble finding daycare, but surely my little cherubs could scale waiting lists just like they would one day scale mountains on their way to conquering the world. Somehow, I would find an in, and my career would continue to flourish as fast as my body shrunk back to its former size.
Reality, however, proved drastically different than the world I inhabited in my head.
As my maternity leave came to an end, no daycare spots magically appeared, just like the baby weight did not fall from my hips. I remember strapping on my Baby Bjorn and knocking on the door of every licensed daycare in our community, in a futile attempt to make headway. Surely, they couldn’t turn us away in person?
Surely and easily, they did. I looked at licensed at-home daycares, and finally found one I thought would work. My daughter, predictably, screamed like a tyrant everyday I left her before fighting the morning commute. I thought it would abate after a week, but it never did. “You’ll know in your gut,” everyone told me, “if it’s a good situation or not.” Everyday, I felt sick when I said goodbye to her. If I listened to my gut, I would have to quit my job, since there were no other childcare options. (My husband and I were not comfortable with leaving our baby with a nanny, which was the solution for most of our friends.)
Everyday was a struggle. Everyday I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Everyday I evaluated the importance of my career over my daughter’s well-being.
A couple of daycares and a year later, I was ready to go on maternity with my second child. If you think it’s hard finding daycare for one child, it’s almost impossible to find places for two. And at double the cost, economically, it makes less sense. I threw in the towel, gave up my job, and have been out of the work force ever since.
Of course, I’m one of millions of women who have done the same thing, there is nothing special about my situation. However it left an indelible mark where my career once lived. A path unexplored. A giant piece of me taken away, not to mention a livelihood. How many other women feel the same way? Likely, millions.
Christy Clark was brutally honest, if nothing else, about the situation. For starters, BC can’t afford a system of daycare similar to the costly Quebec model, she told us. Quebec has higher provincial taxes and receives transfer payments, which help fund their program. And secondly, it’s hard to convince voters to care about childcare, since it affects people for a small window of time (roughly five years, from birth until age five).
My children are now in school, but this doesn’t mean I am short sighted about the need for a better childcare system in our province. It no longer affects me directly, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want things to improve for other families, and especially other women. Our society and province would only stand to benefit from a strong childcare system that enables women to continue on their career paths.
I may not benefit from a better provincial childcare system in BC, but I have three daughters that are intent on conquering the world, and they just might.
A coalition of child care advocates, who are much smarter than me, have put together a compelling and comprehensive plan for a better childcare system in BC. For details, check out their website at http://www.ecebc.ca.
I heard about it on Twitter, which should have given me pause. But since I had an hour to kill and a handy new e-reader on which to burn money, I thought I would flaunt 2012 technology in my face, and download Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James, right away, to see what all the fuss was about.
This novel, which women are gushing about and apparently buying since it’s on the New York Times Best Seller list, is best described as a poorly written Harlequin romance that tousled with sadomasochism in a back alley (or in Christian Grey’s red room, whichever.) It’s Danielle Steele’s alter ego. It’s Twilight gone wrong. It does for literature what porn does for the film industry – which is to say, extremely little.
Taken at that level, if that’s all you’re looking for, it has its fair share of sex scenes. My greatest disappointment was that the characters having the terrific, “mind-blowing” orgasms – as they are often described (does that mean anything to you?) are, how can I put this delicately; dumb. Thus, the dialogue, and the email correspondence that we must endure is more painful than the positions Christian puts Anastasia through.
I love being taken new places in literature, and within the confines of an S&M relationship is definitely new to me. I thought I might learn something. Stop snickering. Not just a few new moves; I was hoping to get a glimpse into why people get off on getting whipped. It’s the inflicting pain thing that I stumble with, the line (or, in my case, the mile between) where agony becomes pleasure. The protagonist (I can’t use the word heroine, I just can’t), Anastasia, is as perplexed as I am about this, but is so desperate to keep Christian that she bends over backwards (and sideways, and stays on her knees, and gets tied up, etc.) in order to keep him.
Here is the very likely, believable scenario: Christian Grey is a young, enigmatic, billionaire, who meets and is bedazzled by Anastasia Steele, despite her being a clumsy, virginal, poor, insecure college student. She has a habit of biting her lip, which drives Christian mad with desire. This either leads to his eyes darkening, or alternatively causes him to look at her with hooded eyes.
A small aside here: have you ever been driven mad with desire by someone chewing on their lip? Have you ever noticed someone’s eyes changing color simply because they are turned on? And by hooded eyes, does the author mean half-closed? If the answer is yes, and you don’t have a problem with eyes being hooded, you might in fact enjoy this book. But beware, it happens repeatedly.
The kicker, the most unforgivable aspect, is that James tries to use Anastasia’s favorite book, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, as a metaphor for her twisted relationship with Christian. As though Tess and Anastasia can have anything in common, besides youth and breath. If Anastasia were to be dragged dramatically to the guillotine, she would likely grace us with her usual eloquent answer to everything, “Oh, crap.” Or might it call for her more earnest reaction of “Double crap?”
I can only wonder. I certainly won’t read the other books in the trilogy to find out.
They see me coming a mile away. They, the mechanics in their overalls, and I in my ponytail and SUV filled with car seats and crumbs. I steel myself for the upcoming battle of knowledge, or lack thereof on my part, and wonder how much they will take me for this time.
They impatiently wave me forward into their garage, and I inch along, for the umpteenth time cursing the width of my car. Plenty of room, he says, but his definition of plenty is different from mine – in mine, it is more than one inch.
Just the oil today, I tell him, trying to speak their language of brevity, and looking him straight in the eye as I do so. My eyes tell him, I may be a woman, but I am not a pushover. I am quite certain he gets this message, as I see his eyelids widen and then squint ever so slightly. He knows I’m on to him.
We go over my details, and I am dutifully up-sold on the type of oil my car requires. Not just standard issue for this baby, I get it. No need to explain.
He passes me a newspaper and a coffee – my favorite part, it always keeps me coming back. The promise of caffeine, news, and five minutes of peace. I dive into the news, gleefully dissecting the Life and Business sections. As though happening across an oasis in the desert. Just as I’m drunk on information, the mechanic taps on my window.
You do realize, he says sternly, you are 7,000 kilometers overdue for your transmission fuel replacement, as well as your rear differential fluid?
I’m forced to pause my news party and consider this. I have had a transmission drop out of a car once, and it wasn’t fun. I don’t fool around with transmissions. But the rear what? The last time I came in it was air filters, and they got me with the idea of my children breathing toxic fumes from the exhaust. But this sounded different.
Of course I pretended to know exactly what those things were. Oh yeah, those, I said casually, I knew they were coming up. And how much is it to replace those…fluids?
The figure he rambled off was roughly four times what I had expected to pay for my oil change. And do other people replace these fluids, I blurt out, blowing my cover and proving to him that I know nothing about cars, as he no doubt suspected from the beginning.
Well, people who properly maintain their cars do, he answers. Which of course resonates with me: knowing nothing about cars, I’d rather err on the side of proper maintenance.
Finally, I ask him how long this will take. He shrugs and says 15 minutes. I consider this. I have yet to peruse the Politics and News sections, I could put that fifteen minutes to good use. And then, the kicker: he will throw in a free car wash. Well, in that case…I tell him to go ahead. He does so, humming as he works.
As I leave the garage, I wonder if I am driving a well maintained vehicle, or if he is a commissioned salesperson laughing at me as I exit.