I Am Not a Cool Girl

I am not a cool girl. And I mean that in the most straightforward possible way. This isn’t some ham-fisted attempt at the lack of self-awareness (or an expertly feigned semblance thereof) most inherently cool people will exhibit, inevitably serving to heighten their level of effortless je-ne-said quoi. I have zero of that going on unfortunately. No quoi whatsoever. Perhaps because of this, the cool girl has always fascinated me and I know I’m not alone in this. After all, if everyone could figure it out, would anyone be cool anymore?

Catching them in their natural habitat is always intriguing. While seated at a coffee shop, absorbed in my kindle, I might spy one. She’ll breeze in, probably just from some fabulous-yet-understated party, which didn’t wrap up until the wee hours. It probably took place in a loft, or some distressed-chic warehouse, in a mildly dodgy neighbourhood. Just dodgy enough to be impressive.

She’ll look perfectly disheveled only somehow – not. Her pixie, which she cut at home, herself, looks facile but perfect – or if not, it’s the very unkemptness of it, which makes it so. Her makeup is minimal, but expert – the kind of subtly un-made-up make look that makes clueless guys so certain that “all women look better without makeup.” She’ll be smoking a cigarette – something you’d never do because you want to live a long, healthy, pain-free life, but goddamit, you wish you were cool enough to not care. She will have a lovely figure, but will have never set foot in a gym or been caught in the throes of any form of exercise routine. The word routine is her enemy.

Her clothes will look inexpensive – they will hint at having been selected with great care and cultivated interest, from some obscure vintage store, coveted by other cool people who know about it because they’re also cool. They will cost roughly $900. Not including shoes.

She will have money, but the origins of it will always be hazy and vague. She might mention something about having sold a painting, in an offhand kind of way. You will never find out whether or not this is true.

Her job will be either equally vague, or so insanely amazing you won’t be able to stand it. If it’s the latter, she’ll be as blasé as possible about it. You’ll wonder how she got such an incredible job, but you’ll never ask, and she’ll never offer an explanation. The secret ways of cool people will remain their own.

She may be gay, or straight, or anything in between, but her partner will always be obscenely attractive to you, no matter your own sexual orientation, in an equally cool, offbeat kind of way. Perhaps you’ll get to watch them, uninterrupted, for a significant stretch of time, observing their behavior in the wild. Then they’ll leave, and all the air in the room will seem to have gone with them. You will want desperately to bottle even the tiniest smidgen of what they have – to save your mystery for a rainy day, just when you need it most. The sight of them and the intoxication of their presence will stay with you for hours, perhaps even days. You will want what they have – what they are – so badly you can taste it.

It took me some time to understand just how draining this constant desire to be one of the cool girls actually was, especially when it was so far from resembling any behavior that came naturally to me. It’s little wonder though – as soon as you are old enough to understand what “cool” is (and when it really gets important) it’s all anyone seems to want to be. From the age of ten or eleven, we have it drilled into our heads that cool rules – and it’s everywhere. In the celebrities we admire, the advertising that blares at us from countless venues each and every day, magnifying our insecurities a thousand fold, and the media we have shoved down our throats constantly. To be cool, blasé is a must. You can’t care too much or if you do, you can’t let on.

I’ve never been good at this. In fact, I am the opposite of good at this. I care desperately about a great number of things, quite a few of which I probably shouldn’t. I care about how I look – I have to care, I feel. I’m not one of those girls who will roll out of bed and look perfect. My hair will resemble a yield sign if I do. That messy, oh-so-stylishly-undone look has fascinated me for years for that very reason – it is so alien to the entire reality of my existence that I can’t help but be impressed by those that pull it off.

I care deeply about so much in life, and I realize that makes me desperately uncool, and it probably always has. When I was in high school, I cared very much about jazz, and opera, and soul music, which, I was made to understand very clearly, was the opposite of cool. I cared very much about school, and getting good grades – again, not so cool. I cared about my health – after watching a girl in my school die of melanoma at the age of 16, sunscreen, already a necessity due to my translucently pale skin, became something I was militant about. If it was possible, I became even paler, at a time when blonde bronzed goddesses were the top of the pop charts – the epitome of cool and desirable.

I care too much, and that isn’t cool. I was made to understand this, unequivocally, in high school. I’m sure this happened to many of you.

It only really became clear many years later how wrong that is. As you learn after escaping high school, the cool people are the ones we dream of being, the ones we emulate, the ones we lust after, but they’re not the ones who make the world go around. Judging by the way our global media, advertising and entertainment fields function, you would think that was the case. But we all know who really gets shit done. It’s the kids mercilessly picked on in high school, the kids who thought physics, math, economics or the arts were insanely cool and intriguing – the kind that cared so deeply about these things that decided, while pouring over the wonders they’d found, that spoke to them in a way nothing else had, that they would dedicate their lives to learning more. They’re the ones the media teaches us to deride. And that is, frankly, a travesty.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t align myself with this particular group of movers or shakers. I don’t think very much of anything I do contributes to making the world go round, but I do feel a kinship with them as someone who knows what it’s like to care very desperately about things, and to have it be made very clear that my natural inclinations are far from desirable. Case in point – I am at home writing this alone in my sweatpants with my dog on a Friday night. I turned down plans in order to do this. It’s one of those things I care about.

Why is it so deeply uncool to care? Particularly since most sensible adult people recognise on a fundamental level that caring about things in general is good? If we didn’t care about our relationships, our finances, our health, our families – or, you know, about the world at large, like all things that are uncared for, these things would start to fall into disrepair. And for obvious reasons, on a personal and global scale, that would be rather bad.

My question is why? Why do we continue to venerate vapidity and ambivalence and ridicule those who do, in fact, care? We all know how important it is, so what gives? How did the cool kids wind up with all the glory?

I say care. Care deeply about whatever it is you choose. I don’t care what it is. Care about makeup, care about neuropsych, care about the violin, care about learning Aramaic, care about making the world a better place, care about the food you make, the information you consume, care about how you choose to spend your time, care even if it would be far easier not to, care even if it brings you to tears sometimes. But don’t be afraid to admit it, and don’t ever let the world make you feel that ambivalence is desirable – because it will try.

I am not a cool girl. What I am is a girl who cares deeply and passionately about many, many things. I care so much – about my future, about my boyfriend, about whether I’m contributing to society as much as I could, about my thighs, about the world, about my clothes, about my purpose. But it’s important to me. All of it.

And for the time in…well, ever. I’m totally and completely cool with that. So while I watch the cool girl saunter out, carried by the wind towards her next impossibly cool adventure, I turn my eyes back to my work.

Because I’ve got a deadline and I don’t care to miss it.

5 Hobbies to Zen-ify Your Life

If you’re looking for some relaxation in your life, downtime is an important thing to consider – as is what you’re doing with it. If you spend every waking minute of your free time scheduled to the teeth with projects, it’s not going to feel very free after a while. This is something I have been guilty of in the past, and it left me feeling way too stressed – which is a horrible way to spend your time away from work obligations. 0/10 do not recommend. Over time thought, I’ve picked up some hobbies which I’ve found really soothing to my high-strung sensibilities. So, if your time off leaves you feeling more frazzled than fresh, consider picking one up and injecting a little bit of zen into your life. 

1. Cooking

I used to hate cooking when I lived alone. Like many people in Uni, I wore my lack of cooking skills almost like a badge of honour that told the world, “I’m too busy/important/ to care about something so trivial.” It wasn’t until I moved in with my current partner and started cooking for the both of us that I really discovered my love of it. I’d always liked baking, but cooking opened up a whole new level of relaxation as far as hobbies go. Like anything else, it was a learning experience. I burnt a lot of chicken, and had to throw out my fair amount of risotto’s. But I learned to appreciate the process. And soon…I became hooked. I started reading cookbooks like they were novels, pouring over recipe’s and attacking them with voracity. I experimented with countless new ingredients, and grew to love the process of hunting them down. Most of all, I learned to appreciate the process – following directions, putting my own twist on the details, and most of all enjoying the sensory experience…the sight, smell, and most of all, the taste, of my creations. 

2. Reading

Reading has probably been the greatest and most enduring passion of my entire life, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough. It teaches you so much – empathy, understanding, and appreciation for people in situations, cultures and places completely foreign to your own. It also forces you to slow down and really concentrate on what you’re doing. Whether it’s a means of learning something new, or merely your favourite form of escapism, it’s a hobby that anyone can pick up, and if you’ve never been a reader – it’s time to start. 

3. Writing

There’s something really comforting about making sense of the chaos of your own reality by writing it down – imposing a certain sense of order, if only in your own mind. But it doesn’t have to just comprise journalling. You can write anything – stories, poetry, song lyrics, or journalism, whatever strikes your fancy. But whatever it is, it helps you take the time to collect your thoughts, frame your reality the way you understand it, and create something that no-one else could.

4. Music

Even if you think you have no talent, and even if the idea of actually performing your music for anyone else fills you with the ick, music can still be a relaxing, fun and fulfilling past-time. It forces you to concentrate on the task at hand, to practice until perfect, and to enjoy the process. And the reward? You get to create something beautiful and enjoy the sweet sounds of your own relaxation.

5. Exercise

Before you write off this suggestion, hear me out. I used to hate exercising too. It was something I did because I felt like I had to, and every minute of it was about as pleasant in my mind as having my teeth pulled. That was until I discovered exercises I actually liked. For instance, I used to run. I ran because I felt like I should, not because I enjoyed it. In fact, I hated every single second I spent running. I quickly grew to associate fitness with that feeling, and gave it up altogether. It wasn’t until later, when I joined a gym and started trying other things that I really discovered my love of fitness. Now I enjoy lifting weights, doing yoga, hiking and dancing and fitness has become not only something I don’t hate, but something I actively look forward to. Once you find the perfect fitness fit for you, you’ll start to see it not as a punishment, but as a kickass form of stress relief and relaxation, with added health and well-being benefits. Plus once you get used to the awesomeness that is endorphins? There’s no going back.

Be Extraordinary

I recently caught a snippet of a television programme, in which an interviewer was asking the question: “What is one thing other people do, that you just don’t understand?”

Most of the replies were fairly standard. “Enjoy pop music.” “Litter.” “Care about Kim Kardashian”. Etc. One individual, however, a teenaged boy, piqued my interest, as, with all the aggravated conviction of the very young, said “Settle for an ordinary life. How can you not want to be extraordinary?”

I remember, very vividly, being that age and feeling the exact same way. Now, a scant ten (or so) years later, I look back and marvel at how much my world-view has changed. When I was sixteen, extraordinary, in my mind, was understood only in the most superficial sense. Extraordinary, to me then, was being beautiful, rich, successful, talented and celebrated, admired. I would venture to guess that’s what a lot of people think about when they are asked to imagine an “extraordinary” individual. Perhaps they think of adventurers who achieve the seemingly unachievable, or super-models so stunning they seem almost super-human, or celebrities that can draw millions to their films or concerts. Those are certainly the types of people I used to think of when I pictured the “extraordinary” among us.

Now, I’m a little bit older, I’ve seen a lot more of the world, and understand a lot more about my place in it – and the extraordinary people of my youth, don’t seem quite so extraordinary today. In my very young adulthood, I pursued fields in which the successful would be considered extraordinary, and in so doing, I met a few successful people at the top, and not-quite-so-successful people closer to my own level. It changed my mind forever about what I consider to be extraordinary qualities in an individual.

I have met millionaires who won’t give the time of day to their families, successful actors who turned their backs on the people who cared about them when they weren’t so successful, and beautiful people with ugly attitudes. Now, the point is not that successful people are not extraordinary – you could find these attributes in anyone, successful or no. My point is that it’s not being successful which makes someone extraordinary.

When I look back on all the people I’ve met in my life, the most extraordinary aren’t the most successful. They’re not the most beautiful or charismatic. But they embody a group of characteristics that you don’t find every day. Meeting these people is inspiring, not because of what they’ve done, but because of who they are. So what is it that makes them extraordinary?

 

1. They’re Kind

Whenever I meet someone who is unreservedly and whole-heartedly kind, who genuinely cares about other people and the world around them, I know I’ve met someone extraordinary. It might sound simple – but once you stop to consider how much unkindness you encounter in any given day, especially over the course of your lifetime, you begin to see how rare innate kindness actually is. You only need to look at the world around you to see that kindness, compassion and consideration are the exception not the norm. The best part about this quality is how inspiring it is – it makes you want to be every bit as warm and kind as they are, and so the kindness is passed along. That’s their super-power.

2. They Are Passionately Curious

The most extraordinary people to me, are the ones who never lose their passionate curiosity about the world around them, who view life as a continual journey of learning and understanding, who are never content with “knowing enough.” They know there is an infinite amount of knowledge out there, that could change their worldview in fundamental ways, and they never stop searching for it. They are never too old, too busy, or too anything to learn something new about the world around them, whether it’s a new hobby, a new language, a new instrument, or a new life-skill – they never fall into the trap of feeling like they know everything and they never stop learning.

3. They Never Stop Trying

No matter how many times the people I recall as extraordinary have been confronted with disappointment and failure, they will never say die. They refuse to give up, rather, they regroup and approach the problem a different way, or pursue something else entirely with so much enthusiasm and excitement, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d never encountered failure in their lives. Which goes with the following…

4. They Never Lose Their Positivity or Their Sense of Wonder

No matter what disappointments life sends their way, the most extraordinary people I know retain their positive outlook, their hope for the future, and their sense of wonder at the world around them. This is especially extraordinary given some of the hardships they’ve faced – deaths of family members, illness and disease, changes of circumstance that have turned their world upside down – and yet, their spirit remains untarnished. It is so easy to give up and crumble under the weight of life and its various twists and turns sometimes, but the most extraordinary among us navigate it with grace, humour and humility. And that, to me, is more extraordinary and more inspiring than all the money, fame or talent in the world.

All of this might sound commonplace – but the older I get, the more I see, and the more people I encounter, the more I realise how rare and precious these traits are. And the more the media tries to throttle us with the idea that “extraordinary” = money, fame, beauty, sex-appeal, the more stark the chasm between their ideal and what I’ve observed in the most memorable and inspiring people I’ve come across becomes. So please – don’t feel like a failure because you’re not what the world insists success is. Ordinary is not failure. Ordinary is apathy, ambivalence, resignation and cynicism. It doesn’t take much, and it is well within your grasp, so go – be extraordinary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Life in Very Odd Clothes

When I was a kid, I had this very odd floor length lavender ladies tea dress, that I would wear around my house constantly. And I do mean constantly. No occasion was too small for this dress – I would wear it to watch Saturday morning cartoons. I would wear it outside. I would wear it just to flounce around as my childhood alter ego, Mrs. Snodgrass. Occasionally it would be accompanied by a straw hat with a ribbon, if I felt like it.

When I wasn’t wearing that, as a child, I was usually dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, an old timey homesteading girl, a My Little Pony complete with a dayglo mane and tail, or, most racially inappropriately of all, as Pocahontas. My parents took my flare for weird outfits in stride, which was good, because it kept right on going until I reached adulthood, when it became slightly (slightly) more muted.

It went through different phases. When the Spice Girls became my childhood fascination, so too did Chupa Chups and insanely high platform shoes. I started wearing them everywhere immediately, making me the tallest nine year old in any five block radius, typically. This was followed by a fascination, in middle school with clothing that would better fit a female bartender at Studio 58, made all the more tragic by the fact that the rest of my appearance lacked the confidence and finesse of the image I was trying to portray – I dressed like a badass, but the rest of me made it patently obvious that I was not. You know, my appearance combined with the fact that I was THIRTEEN YEARS OLD. Middle school was a confusing time.

High school didn’t fare much better. I would try on identities for the week just to see what they were like – a teensy bit of punk injected, and quickly rejected when it became patently obvious that I had about as much rebelliousness inherent to my personality as a golden retriever does. A little bit of hippie – made redundant by my leather boots, and earning me filthy looks from the true blue non-armpit-shavers. I didn’t have the panache to pull off the cool girl looks, and I wasn’t confident enough in my weirdness to pull off anything else. I was adrift aboard a sea of discarded identities and very odd clothing and I was only finally saved by myself in that I transferred to a school that had mandatory uniforms that made us all look like little tiny school marms. This was actually preferable to the clothing I had worn before. I think it was the Universes way of putting my ideas of acceptable clothing on ice until I could be trusted to make decisions that weren’t totally ridiculous in that regard.

After graduation, I attended, for two years, a post-secondary institution in which black clothing was the only acceptable uniform, and so my personal flair was kept on ice for two more years. It was only after I emerged, spit out the other end of that experience, that I finally began to piece together what exactly it was that I wanted to look like as I made my way throughout the world in a day-to-day process. What I learned was – it takes effort. Slapping clothes on your back that you bought just because you liked the colour, the cut, the little dog on the front with an ice-cream cone stuck on his head or whatever, isn’t going to work. I learned to put things together carefully and to actually evaluate how things went together ahead of time. This was a process and it is still ongoing. I still occasionally wear things and then come across it in my closet, weeks later, shocked that I didn’t initially realise how hideous it actually was. Luckily, these incidents are getting fewer and farther between.

But perhaps the most important thing I’ve leaned is this: I can wear whatever I damn well please. Nobody is going to make fun of me anymore, generally, because this isn’t middle school, and even if they did, I wear things because they make me happy, so…that’s all that matters really. I am a grown ass woman who, at this very moment, has her nails painted a glittery barbie doll pink colour called “Princesses Rule”, and just bought a pair of tights with bunny rabbits on them. I have, in my wardrobe, a ridiculous amount of owl accoutrement, and my fair share of polka dots. I bought a dress that made me feel like a ballerina, and wore it, and it was awesome. I regret nothing. If you can make something you have to do every single day fun and expressive and interesting, then why on Earth wouldn’t you?

I look back now on four-year old me traipsing around in her lavender tea dress with matching straw hat, and think she must have known something I didn’t – if you feel like doing something, and you’re not hurting anyone, do it. If other people laugh at you, or try to make you feel bad about it, don’t let them, and don’t stop just because of that. I wonder sometimes why it took me so long to come completely full circle. Not for the first time, I’m left thinking that my four-year-old self had her shit together in a way I can only try to emulate now. Rock on Mrs. Snodgrass. Rock on.

 

 

 

 

Choosing Happiness

When I was a young girl and a younger woman, all I wanted was to succeed as a singer and an actress. I studied classical music, jazz, soul and musical theatre for the entirety of my adolescence and young adulthood, and worked fiercely at perfecting every aspect of my musicality, working tirelessly towards a career on the stage. I started performing onstage at the age of thirteen and then realised something very quickly – it terrified me. I have never really enjoyed being the centre of attention, and every single atom of my body would rebel when I was onstage, causing my voice – and my entire body – to shake. This escalated to a point where, absolutely unwilling to give up on my dream despite this fact, I would medicate myself with beta-blockers before I went on. This did nothing to quell the mental terror I still experienced each and every time I stepped in front of an audience, no matter how big or small, but it at least managed to quell the physical symptoms. I could pretend I wasn’t as terrified as I felt.

Shortly after graduation, I enrolled in Performing Arts College, confident that this would help me become more confident, and that I would learn to love being onstage there. I worked hard for two years, and was successful enough at the College – performing onstage with the symphony, earning a few solo’s and leading roles here and there, and enjoying getting to sing each and every day for two entire years. After I left the College, I spent around three years singing, acting, and dancing my way around Vancouver, auditioning for nearly everything I could get my hands on, obtaining a film and television agent, and doggedly pursuing the goal I kept telling myself I wanted.

Those five years were exhilarating, and exciting, and inspiring. They were also among the most difficult of my life. I expected to learn to feel alive and exhilarated onstage, like all of my fellow students seemed to, but that sense of absolute belonging onstage never came. It was always a difficult place for me to be, and I relished my time singing offstage far more than on. Yet I still didn’t give up. I could sing, and I could perform, so it seemed to me that I should – whether I liked it or not. For five years I struggled with terrible anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, pursuing something I thought I wanted. Something I thought I HAD to do for a living, because I loved a very small part of it – the actual singing and creativity. The other parts of it though – the endless auditions for people who couldn’t care less about the fact that you took an entire day of travel just to have the chance to try to impress them for thirty seconds, the necessary evil of shmoozing, the constant struggle to find work and juggle that with the need to go to auditions at a moment’s notice, and the constant terror of actually doing them when I got them – all of it destroyed me. For an introvert and academic, a career that required you to be consistently at the mercy of everyone around you, and reliant on nothing more than a bit of luck to keep your head above water, it was the most stressful situation possible.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable part was that it required me to not be myself. I am naturally fairly private and introspective, and I was now expected to be bubbly, outgoing, and consistently social – any other introverts out there will know how draining this can be for those of us who require a lot of alone time to recharge. I’m not a fan of, nor adept at self-promotion, but I was expected to do this regularly – any creative who has experienced continuing success knows the importance of being able to sell yourself. I was expected to make peace with complete unpredictability – I was auditioning for series that filmed in other countries and, should I have ever landed them, I knew that I would be expected to pick up and go at a moments notice. Forever.

It took years of trying my heart out, being unhappy trying, and then unhappy that I wasn’t succeeding, even though in my heart of hearts I knew that succeeding might be the worst thing that could happen to someone like me. I made the decision then to enrol in University, in a degree that wasn’t related to performing whatsoever. I decided to study English Literature – and it was the best decision I ever made. I vividly recall sitting in my first lecture and being absolutely enthralled. I felt the quiet and concentration wrap around me like a comforting blanket, and a feeling of absolute peace, relaxation and happiness poured over me. This, I remember thinking, is what everyone else must have felt onstage.

Since that little epiphany, I have dismantled my life bit by bit, making it smaller but infinitely happier. I resigned from my agent, stopped auditioning for shows, and slowly disengaged my performing persona from all social media. I graduated with honours and have used my degree to do other things that I love. I stopped my endless, dogged, miserable pursuit for fame and glory, and fell in love with the little life I made. Few of my acquaintances today even know that I was once a professional performer not even five years ago. When I sing today, it is because I love music and making beautiful things – not because I want to get something out of it. I am happier today than I ever been.

I was inspired to write this today as I was sitting at home, listening to my much-beloved Amy Winehouse records, when I heard the news of local Aussie media personality Charlotte Dawson’s suicide after a long battle with depression, anxiety and cyber-bullying. I wondered briefly then, if some people were simply too sensitive to survive a life in the spotlight, and if a similar fate might have been in store for me if I had made myself keep going – particularly if I had been successful. After all, the problem with success and notoriety is that there is only one way to find out whether or not you can handle it – and once you have it, it’s very difficult to give it back.

I idolized Amy Winehouse as a young singer who loved soul and jazz, but her downfall hit very hard. Anyone could see, watching her perform and in interviews, how sensitive of a soul she was, and how she had found herself faced with things she simply did not have the capacity to deal with. After she was booed offstage, drunk and sobbing in Serbia, she apparently told a bandmate: “I didn’t want all of this. I just wanted to make music with my friends.” She spent the last night of her life watching youtube videos of herself and drinking bottle after bottle of vodka, alone. This breaks my heart.

I felt a similar sense of sadness for Charlotte Dawson, a woman who, by all standard definitions, had the world at her feet. She was beautiful, successful, wealthy, and famous – and yet, deeply and inescapably unhappy. That this is possible should be pause for everyone to reflect on why we are driven to want these things, even when we know that for many among us, it would solve nothing.

The decision to make my life smaller was a very conscious one, and it has made all the difference. Thanks to some very special people, I learned that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you have to, and that just because you love something, that doesn’t mean that you have to make a career out of it. It is okay, I learned, just to do things because they make you happy – and yes, this is something that I actually had to LEARN. And you know what? Since I learned that, singing onstage no longer fills me with dread. Because it’s not about where it can get me. It’s about having fun. Being successful at something can, for some people, make them forget why they started doing the thing that made them successful in the first place – and if you lose that fundamental part of who you are and what fills you with joy, it must be hard to fill it with anything.

I wrote this because it’s what I wish someone had told me earlier. I wish someone had told me that it’s okay to not want success, fame, or notoriety and to not actively seek it out just because you might be capable. I wish someone had told me that choosing a smaller life for yourself does not mean you are failing – it means you are choosing to be happy in your own way. Perhaps more than anything though, I wish someone had told me that happiness is something that needs to be chosen, and actively worked towards. It doesn’t just happen, and it doesn’t always come from what society says it should – in fact, sometimes it’s just the opposite. But above all else, you – and only you – get to choose.

Five Thought Provoking Documentaries for You

Confession time: I think I am preternaturally a 77-year-old woman named Mavis in the body of a 25 year old. I already enjoy doing things that most old people really seem to enjoy – sitting down, patting my dog, reading a book, being warm, drinking tea, not being in crowds, complaining about teenagers, and perhaps most importantly, I have a deep and abiding love for both documentaries and PBS Sunday night programming. Having luckily found a man-friend who enjoys documentaries as well (can’t get him into Downton Abbey though, sadly), I have taken in a significant amount of doco’s lately, and some of them have been outstanding. So outstanding in fact, that I feel compelled to share them with the world, or at the very least, the significantly teeny (but I’ve no doubt, extraordinarily awesome) subsection of the world who reads anything I have to say.

So without further ado, hit up your Netflix for these gems, pronto!

1. The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power

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This eye-opening Canadian documentary (coincidentally conceptualised by a law professor at UBC, my former stomping grounds), examines the entity of the corporation with chilling results. Focusing on the legal concept of corporate personhood, the documentary seeks to answer the question – “If a corporation really was a person, what sort of person would it be?” Unsurprisingly, the documentary finds that dealing with a corporation as a person, means dealing with an entity that is sociopathic, lending a troubling dimension to our legal consideration of corporate interests and rights. The documentary is available in its entirety on Youtube, right here. 

2. Scarlet Road

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This film, about Australian sex worker Rachel Wotton, will make you re-evaluate everything you think you know about sex work, including the sort of people who visit prostitutes, and the sort of people many prostitutes actually are. The film follows the growth of Wotton’s organisation Touching Base, which puts sex workers in touch with physically disabled clients in an effort to tailor their services specifically for those client’s needs. This illuminates several issues society at large prefers to pretend simply do not exist: the existence of sex workers, the sexual needs and desires of individuals with physical disabilities, and the inhumanity of denying them something so integral to the human experience because of our own prejudices. Throughout this documentary I was incredibly moved by Rachel’s spirit – a more open-hearted, kind, giving individual would be difficult to find, and for her to be denigrated rather than venerated for the work that she does is criminal. Watch with an open mind and heart, and prepare to be carried away. Watch the trailer here.

3. Girl Model 

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From the uplifting to the uber creepy, this documentary follows the exploitation of a thirteen-year-old Siberian model named Nadya, by a deeply troubled model scout (Ashley), and a thoroughly icky agency owner named Tigran. The film examines the shady tactics the fashion industry uses to obtain desperately poor young girls, who will work for almost nothing because – well, they’re thirteen and alone in a country where they don’t speak the language – before returning them back from whence they came, in debt to the agency that profited off of them. There is so much ew going on in this film (and the industry it represents) – from having pre-pubescent girls paraded and picked apart like cattle, to lying to clients about their age (thirteen, but always booked as fifteen) to the veiled allusions to pedophilia and sexual trafficking which go largely uninvestigated, except to be referenced from personal experience by Ashley – the former model now in charge of recruiting new girls into the game. The film is a frank look at the dark underbelly of the fashion industry, that leaves you feeling decidedly uncomfortable and, frankly amazed at the former lack of regulation in an industry which seems perfectly okay with using sexualised children as its bread and butter. You won’t be able to look at Vogue the same way again, I promise you. Watch the trailer here.

4. Blackfish

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This film follows the heartbreaking story of Tilikum, an orca whale originally from the waters just off my hometown of Victoria, BC. From his forcible capture, which took him from his mother, an act which one of the mercenaries responsible for recounts with tears, to the fatal incident which resulted in the closure of the abomination which was Sealand of the Pacific, and his movement to Seaworld Orlando, and finally to the incident which claimed the life of a young Seaworld trainer, Tilikum’s troubled life is laid out before our eyes with heartbreaking results. There has been some controversy surrounding the film, with two of the trainers interviewed, as well as (obviously) SeaWorld itself refuting the claims made within it. However it does thoroughly examine the inherent cruelty behind forcibly taking these extremely intelligent animals away from their families, and forcing them to perform for food in concrete pools for our amusement. Whatever the truth, no-one is questioning the intelligence and emotional depth of these animals, and the inherent sense of injustice that comes with subjecting them to the sort of life they face in captivity. Do your research on both sides of the argument, but definitely do check it out. See the trailer here.

5. Life in a Day

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This documentary was absolutely beautiful and its scale completely unprecedented – mostly because it was shot by…well, everyone. The film, produced by Ridley Scott and made possible through a global application process and subsequent world-wide distribution of cameras, allows for an eye-opening view of what life was like around the world on one day – July, 24th, 2010. Inspired by an earlier project, “Britain in a Day” (which is also awesome), this film is a beautiful look at the lives of ordinary people all over the world. Predictably, there are moments of great happiness and beauty, as well as sadness and loss, but the uniting feature of them all is that they are shared. If you ever feel alone, give this one a watch and enjoy the sense of connection you feel with the world at large. The entire thing is available here on Youtube. Check it out!

The Phenomenon of the Guilty Woman

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I was recently having a bit of a chat with the boyfriend about the differences between men and women – and no, before you ask, I’m not saying that any of what I’m saying ONLY applies to women, just that the propensity for these sorts of thoughts seem to be more of a female phenomenon. We got to talking about the feeling of guilt – something I’m very well acquainted with, despite never stealing a thing in my life, murdering anybody, causing anyone deliberate harm that I know of, or kicking ANY puppies in my entire life. But I realised as I spoke to him that I feel guilty at least once a day – in fact, guilt is one of the most prevalent feelings in my life. I’ve spoken to other women about this issue, and find similar stories everywhere I turn. The list of things we feel guilty about is exhaustive, and almost entirely self-directed. Forcing myself to really think about this for the first time in my life, I made a list of things I felt guilty about on a single average day.

On that day, I felt guilty because:

  • I ate too many carbs for breakfast.
  • I ate dessert.
  • I ate too much that day, full-stop.
  • I didn’t call my parents when I was supposed to.
  • I didn’t write as much as I “should have”.
  • I have not yet written the definitive novel of my time.
  • I didn’t go to the gym.
  • I didn’t make a very good dinner. It may have been lacking in significant nutrients and/or effort.
  • I didn’t vacuum.
  • I have’t been able to find a job as fast as I wanted to, and now feel like a complete failure.
  • I have never in my life gone on a volunteering trip or built a house for anyone. I donate to charity, but I haven’t built one single person a freaking house yet.
  • I didn’t go to a meetup I had planned on going to in order to meet more friends and thus be more comfortable in my new and strange homeland. I have no idea why this would make me feel guilty. But it did.
  • I had an extra glass of wine.
  • I didn’t get as much reading done as I would have liked, not finishing the one novel a week I try to read. For some arbitrary reason, decided upon and policed only by me.

So what is this all about? And why is it such a widespread phenomenon amongst women in particular?
I would venture a guess and say that much of it comes from the multitude of pressures we face from just about every angle of media representation – and it doesn’t matter how old we are. It almost never ends. You’re a teenager? You should be the smartest, most promising, most popular girl in school – and also you should look like Regina George. Never mind that for most girls, high school is a literal hell in every sense of the word. You have not figured out anything in your life yet – from your hair, to your makeup routine, to what the hell you’re going to do with yourself once you’re free of the shackles of your secondary education – all of it is confusing and wrong.

You’re in your 20s? You should look like a celebrity, have a large and consistently stylish wardrobe, and a bright, airy, impeccably decorated apartment, where you effortlessly host dinner parties for all of your equally fabulous friends, where you all drink expensive wine and discuss your glamorous and mysteriously well paying entry level careers. If you’re not all of these things, you’re doing it wrong. Never mind the fact that you’re on a shoestring budget and likely struggling to even obtain a job that will actually pay you after University.

You’re in your 30s? Why aren’t you married yet? Why don’t you have children yet? If you do have children, why don’t you look like you haven’t had any at all yet? Are you a stay-at-home mum? What do you DO all day? Are you a working mum? Don’t you think children need their mother in the house to raise them?

You’re in your 40s? Do you look younger than that? No? Why aren’t you working on that?

I should also note that these pressures exist for men as well – but the guilt seems to be a lady thing.

It honestly feels, to me, as a twenty-something woman, that my days of feeling like I’m consistently failing are not ending anytime soon. The obvious answer is to just stop caring, but as someone who lives…you know…in the world, and has endless images of what my life SHOULD look like thrust in my face constantly – that’s easier said than done.

Ah well, I’ll just look forward to age 50, when women in Hollywood, and as far as the world is concerned apparently, become completely invisible and repulsive.

Great.

5 Things Curly Haired Chicks Hate With a Fiery Passion

I have come to realise that nobody – but NOBODY – is ever happy with their hair. But there is a special kind of rage that curly girls feel for theirs and I present to you, the things we are absolutely justified in completely hating about our ridiculous hair and the innumerable ways in which it makes our lives difficult.

1. Getting the Requisite “I wish I had your hair!” from Straight-Haired Ladies

Let me clarify this one, because I don’t want to come across like an ungrateful cow. I think it is very nice when I get compliments on my hair. Everyone likes compliments, right? But you do not want this shit. Believe me. When I’ve spent roughly three hours in the morning wrestling with my hair (particularly because my hair always, and I do mean ALWAYS wins that battle), and someone with impossibly glossy, perfect, straight hair says this to me, my gut reaction is always one of exasperated disbelief.

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Why, you might ask? Because you are a tourist in hair-torture hell. You might imagine that our hair, like yours, requires minimum effort in the morning. You jump out of the shower, blowdry, put a bit of product in and go, yes? I have to shower, and put product in while it is sopping wet, and then not touch it with ANYTHING (including moving air of any kind) for roughly two hours. If I blow-dry it straight out of the shower, or too early, I get classic white girl fro.

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If I blow-dry it too late, it goes all flat and disgusting. And if a slight breeze, or unexpected touch happens upon it at any time between those two intervals, it’s also completely fucked. There are no other options. So thank you, it’s very sweet, but I WOULD NOT WISH THIS HAIR UPON MY WORST ENEMY. Just so you know.

2. Hairstyle Magazines

I remember being a young girl and eagerly perusing hairstyle magazines looking for ways to manage the chaotic bundle of fuzz that I found myself encumbered with in my early teens. I would flip to the curly hair section, and look at it, thinking “Well, that looks manageable. Let’s give that a go.”

What no one ever tells you is that those magazines are complete and utter bullshit.

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CURLY HAIR IN MAGAZINES IS NOT CURLY HAIR. For example – here is a “curly hair style” from Glamour Magazine: Image

…on an actress who DOES NOT HAVE CURLY HAIR. And here, just for the reference is what curly hair actually looks like:

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So you learn very early on as a curly haired girl, that beauty magazines advocating curly hair styles are full of crap. And then you just deal with it. Forever.

3. People Touching Your Hair

Everyone thinks it’s nice when their boyfriend lovingly runs their fingers through your hair, right? Nope. A curly girl will not stand for that crap. If your boyfriend EVER attempts to touch your hair during the crucial “post-shower” period, shit is on like Donkey Kong. It’s even worse when complete strangers think it’s cool to touch your hair in public – I had one lady sproing my curls while I was in line at the grocery store. Let’s just say, that did not go down well.

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4. Wind. And rain. For the obvious reasons.

Rain makes us sad, sad pandas. As soon as either of these things occur, we all acknowledge that it’s pretty much game over for the day.

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5. 99.9% of “Curly Hair” Products

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I’m talking to you John Frieda.

In closing – it’s rough out here for a curly haired chick, so cut us some slack when our hair looks like a fuzzy yield sign affixed to our scalps. We probably wrestled with it for a good three hours to get it to that point, and it isn’t going to get any better.

However – on those rare days when it works, and everything in the hair heavens align just perfectly? You better bet we feel pretty goddamned good about it – and on those days? We wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Or so we tell ourselves.

New Year, New Goal – Saying “Fuck It” to the Quarter Life Crisis

Now that I’m well and truly over the traditional holiday season rollercoaster o’emotions, I feel like I can accurately gauge how I’m feeling – and the answer to that is, unsettled. But not entirely in a bad way. It’s to be expected I suppose – I just graduated from University and I’m feeling the existential angst any life-changing upheaval naturally brings with it. Not to mention that within a month of that, I moved to a new country to live with my awesome man-friend and look for work (which has been a lot trickier than I anticipated since I don’t have an Australian passport, a car, or 5 years of experience, all of which you apparently need to be a part-time temporary secretary. I digress). I know these things take time, but patience has never been my strong suit. I can’t help but constantly feel like I’m way behind in a race I didn’t realize was going on until way too late. I have a million crazy idea’s in my head. I should start a business! Go to law school! Write the next great screenplay! Move to Colombia and open up a bar (Okay I probably won’t do that last one). But I still have these ideas. I’m sure that’s normal.

I feel a little stuck, like every decision I make might possibly take me down a path I don’t want to be on and one that I can’t get away from until it’s too late. This is silly. There’s so few decisions that can’t be made right – bar having kids, but that’s sooooo not happening for like…way far future times. I have to reflect on this. Every decision I’ve ever made that has had any large impact on my life has been made on the fly. Go to Performing Arts school? Decided because I loved it and enjoyed it more than anything else I was doing at the time. Met people who changed my life and now will never have to say “I never got to…” on my deathbed. Move to Vancouver? Decided a month before I was supposed to go and moved, knowing maybe five people in the whole city. I fell in love with it in a way I’ve never fallen in love with anyplace else – when I would walk the streets alone at night, I felt like it belonged to me. There was a sense “mine” that I’ve never had in the same way before or since. Returned to University, changing my major at the last possible moment? I could not have been happier. UBC and the English faculty made me so incredibly happy. I may be a complete nerd, but there is almost nothing that makes me happier than sitting in a dark lecture hall listening to someone with so much passion for what they teach, pass on knowledge on subjects I could never tire of hearing about. That, and spending endless hours in the library, was my heaven for four years – though of course, like all things, it had it’s ups and downs. And making the big move to Australia? I never in a million years could have expected this is where I would have been now.

All of these things happened to me because I said “Yes.” I was open to experience and I leaped when and where my heart told me to. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard sometimes – any big change always is, and at every one of those junctures in my life, there were periods where I regretted my decision and earnestly wished things could have gone back to the way they were before. But they’ve all made my life so much better in the long run, and after riding these decisions out, both the highs and the lows of them, I’ve realized there is no other way for me to possibly live my life. It may not afford me much security, or many bragging rights (aside from my fair share of cool story bro’s), but it’s led me here – to where I am right now. And while it may not be where I expected I’d be today – I’m really happy now. And you can’t ask for much more than that.

I think the quarter-life crisis thing is totally normal. Nix that – ANY life crisis is normal, whether you’re eight, or eighty. Everyone is freaked out. You are not alone in this, and neither am I. Nobody’s life turns out the way they thought it would – life is crazy and weird, and shitty and fantastic all at the same time. And while you’re looking around pinpointing people around you who have it better, you don’t really know. Maybe your buddy from college landed your dream career right out of the gate while you languish in minimum wage, or maybe your best friend is marrying the man of her dreams while you’re unhappily single – it’s inevitable to compare yourself to others, but it’s not healthy, and more than that, it’s just not accurate. You never know what else is going on in someone’s life. You could be miles ahead of them in other ways, while you’re imagining them ahead of you in countless others – in a race that no one is keeping track of anyway. This exact point in your life does not define your life. No one point does. Isn’t that a refreshing thought?

Also none of us matter because we are all a speck in an infinite universe amongst infinite universes, so fuck it. Do what makes you happy, because you only get one round. So make it a good one, calm the shit down, and enjoy the ride. Frisky Girl out – and looking forward to posting regularly again in the New Year!

Also, embrace Dudeism.

Also, embrace Dudeism.