Things you can’t do: hold people up to your own ethical standards… or any standards. Ever.

I’m finding myself unusually frustrated and disappointed at the conduct of people around me lately. Not people’s general conduct, I suppose… moreso their treatment of me specifically, if that doesn’t sound too goddamn whiney and “woe is me” (it does) (I don’t care). These are typical feelings (I think?) that we all experience sometimes, or maybe what seems like incessantly, but certain situations have recently arisen and have left me feeling particularly let down by the human race. Slash particularly misanthropic and homicidal? Maybe to that extent, yes, that.

Unfortunately, I have a penchant for dwelling on things, as does the majority of my generation with an IQ over 100 (kidding, I would unsarcastically say 125 because stupid people don’t actually analyze anything). “I will not ruminate on the people I’ve lost,” I keep telling myself, but I just get so god damn sensitive and nostalgic and angsty and then there goes my head again, obsessing over some dramatically futile situation with an ex-friend that happened 6 months ago and remains unresolved and eating at my damn soul. The memories, the memories, man! And then I’m just assessing and doubting all human relationships and all human interactions and just all humans and … fuck. Every single song or scent or place or physical object is laden with roughly 10,000 associations for me; I remember moments and periods of my life with people so vividly, it’s draining. And it hurts my heart. And that is my blessing and burden, to feel things so damn deeply.

There’s this thing I’ve been trying to forcefully drill into my head, and it’s that I have to learn not to expect others to adhere to the same moral standards I hold myself to in everything I do. As much as I hate people and their inherent nature as a whole, I’m generally super polite, reassuring, a good listener, honest – painfully so, at times – considerate of others, compassionate, etc. etc. I’m also a sucker for those who confront me from an emotional angle, so no matter what atrocity someone has committed against me, I will inevitably respond like a mushy sap to a sentimental appeal of some sort because I HAVE A GODDAMN HEART AND I CANNOT HELP IT. Why people can’t reciprocate, I have no idea. I smile at people, I apologize to people, I laugh with people, I start random conversations with strangers when I feel like we can mutually relate to some aspect of the human condition. I don’t consider myself a forgiving person, but I do tend to miss people a whole fucking lot and get really, really bothered by falling outs (fallings out? Someone help here) and the loss of how things used to be. The good days, you know? I miss those days with each and every individual I know if things have since gone sour or if we’ve lost touch. I just want to write an extensive, heartfelt letter to every person I’ve ever met as if I’m fighting a losing battle with cancer that will peter out with a fateful end in four months. And I just want them to reply as such, too.

But you know what? Some people just don’t have a heart, don’t have a brain, or don’t give a shit. I can spend the rest of my life begging for conversations or explanations from people for their actions towards/treatment of me, but they, in the end, are the ones responsible for how they respond, or if they do at all. And, in the end, they’re the ones who have to live with how they’ve chosen to treat others. That’s on them, not me, despite the fact that I may be the only one tortured by it RIGHT NOW. And as tempted as I am to be more specific about my situations and to name names, I won’t stoop to the level of others’ immaturity.  Maybe it will be in a year, or in 10 years, or on their death bed, but something will remind them of something and they maaaay feel a tiny bit like shit or have some sense of remorse for how they’ve been. And when they message me on that day, I can scream a long-dormant triumphant FUCK YOU in their faces. Realistically though… I’ll probably just cry, envelope them in a hug of relieved reconciliation, and go back to being their friend.


On the terrifying/comforting fact that we’re all replaceable

moueI really don’t know why there exist all of these lame love clichés about two specific people being destined for one another: “no one could take your place”, “you’re the one”, the basic concept of a soulmate, that stupid Greek myth about a four-limbed person being divided in two to roam the earth searching for its other half, etc. etc…. not to mention all of the bullshit the beloved RomCom genre has offered in its shitty and tacky – even at its most poetic – way. Call me jaded (I call myself realistic), but after being in love five (maybe more? 5.5?) times, I have unyielding confidence in the fact that almost anyone can fall in love with almost anyone. As long as you share mutual physical attraction, some vague interests (the ones most important to you and your identity as a human, obv.), the ability to spend time together without feeling annoyed/murderous/disillusioned with the human race, and a city – and even that isn’t necessary – the potential is there to cultivate something.

I’ve been in multiple-year-long relationships with individuals that I thought were the loves of my life at the time (more clichés, yay!). I truly believed, at various points, that I would marry each of them. Some of them had more obvious, unforgivable downfalls that eventually punctured and wearied my love for them than others, but I really could have seen myself ending up, in the long run, with any of the men I’ve had a serious relationship with. I’ve endured breakups that left me crippled, alternately vomiting and vehemently sobbing in the fetal position; bed-ridden for more than a week; unable to eat for just as long; engaging in questionable, out-of-character sexual escapades; and adopting anxious, compulsive tics. Even recently, I’ve had this perpetual physically ill feeling that resonates in waves in the pit of my being since my ex-boyfriend moved out a month-ish ago and we stopped talking on bad terms the other week (hey dude, you fucking suck, for the record!)

And yet, and yet, AND YET… in each situation, I’ve gone on to live and love again, to my own surprise. Maybe loved differently – not better or worse, but differently – but still, I was able to move on with a speed and ease and intensity that my mid-post-breakup-distress self never could have imagined. And because it’s happened to me in the past, I find solace in knowing through experience that I won’t feel shitty forever. Or care about someone forever. That person who pops into your head every time you hear a Taylor Swift song or see a couple so sickeningly in love that you want to barf on the street? Yeah, that person you think of will change, probably before you even realize it.

There’s this all-too-necessary realization that you don’t miss the person themselves, but just the idea of that person, a long-gone version of that person, the also long-gone memories with that person, or just having a damn person with which you share a comfortable, convenient routine. (THIS TOTALLY APPLIES TO FRIENDSHIPS, AS WELL). Breakups are far more bearable when you realize how easily you can fall in love with someone else, which I guess is something you won’t comprehend until it happens to you – or to your ex, for that matter. And that’s all up to time and fate, my friends.

I, for whatever reason, was graced with great favour from the universe FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE at a defining moment in my once wonderful three-year relationship that had gone to complete, resent-laden shit (because that happens); that defining moment being: do we try this again, or move on? If it weren’t for the serendipitous occasion of meeting a new, phenomenal man at this exact time, I would probably be a devastated, debilitated wreck over my old one. And before you mumble “rebound” or “crutch,” I’m actually completely enamored and admittedly in love with the guy, actually goddamn happy, and those are feelings I just can’t help – whether it makes me a shitty or resilient person, who knows. What it is, is either horrible or horribly PERFECT timing (hint: it’s the latter).  And aside from being lucky enough to stumble into a relationship like this at any time in my life, it’s been timed to bring me to this stunning existential realization that I think I really needed to have: we’re all goddamn replaceable. All of us. (My ex has a new gf too, if that helps to prove this point any further… though I at least had the guile to tell him about my relationship as it bloomed, while he is another story). If you think you can’t live without your significant other post-breakup because they’re SO SPECIAL – or better yet, if you think you’re so special – you will come to realize how wonderfully/terribly incorrect that notion is. That fact is sad, and it hurts. But it’s also incredibly freeing. Yeah, you had something cool with someone once, maybe; friendship, relationship, whatever. And maybe they’re an asshole now, or maybe you’re still on good terms. But while you’re ruminating on that for months, life is offering the both of you options, everywhere. Better options, worse options, different options. If you’re currently somehow mourning the loss of someone still living, keep your head up and your eyes open, is all I’ll say. 😉


I could run: Don’t resist the travel tick

Not every person is apt for travel. Nor does everyone even have a conscious interest in it.

But even for those busy with incessant obligations, the weak of heart, the slight in bank, or the just plain boring, there always survives this tiny, perhaps impractical sliver of interest in the back of one’s mind. Call it instinct; the inclination to flee. The urge to verify that there are places that aren’t here. The compulsion to seek fulfillment elsewhere, if it’s not within our grasp. We are capable of imagining a double life, a double world, where people live like us, but not. Where cars drive on the other side of the road, the culture is astoundingly eclectic, and the weather is always agreeable. If we base our lives on the myth of deferral, then we can surely satiate ourselves by living out at least some portion of our fantasy in the sheer idea of it. But when our being touches those of individuals who’ve traveled, or who hail from parts unknown, we are jostled back to the realization that fantasizing about, talking about, and planning to travel can not in fact suffice for traveling. Life is not lived in one place, and life is fleeting; forever pulled out of our hands like a perpetually escaping rope, the movement of which we fail to notice due to its familiar monotony.

The appeal of an indefinite absence, an ambiguous break, an indeterminate vacation from life’s taxing everyday is undeniable, though often untenable, and certainly terrifying. In the wake of every simple work snafu, every futile argument with a loved one, every late-night, angsty moment of existential reflection, this idea flows and pools into a murky puddle at the base of the skull, confused about which way it will flow: I could run. Anywhere. Not a necessarily transient thought, but nonetheless dismissed. Like an indelible carving in a primal stone, faint as it may be, washed over and covered in paint, in moss, in distraction, but occasionally re-traced in an act of rebellion.

I, like many, am an anxiety-ridden, easily mortified, often depressed individual. I have a daily mental battle against the concept of a 9-5 job, of routine, and yet these are the things that solace me during an existence I’m almost constantly in some way or another uncomfortable in. Experiences that I should have found enjoyable, I don’t look back at as the best of my life, because it’s hard for me to look past my nervousness in hindsight. I’m prone to just plain having a bad time and wishing I stayed home every time I do much of anything, but loathe the idea of a boring, adventure-less life. This contradiction draws and quarters me. And so occasionally I fight. And occasionally, from this fight, I grow.

I wouldn’t identify as impulsive, but I’ve made decisions that some, knowing me, would consider as such. These choices naturally incite my occasionally less dormant fear and apprehension, but there are times it’s necessary to build a situation from which you cannot back out of.

I went to China a few months ago (a trip I’ll likely detail in a later post), a quick decision I made when a friend teaching English there encouraged me to take advantage of an airline sale. The initial plan was for the two of us to go somewhere, but she couldn’t swing it between her work schedule and her available funds. Instead of taking my out as my sick unease grew to consume me, I decided to go to her.

This is one of the few choices in my life I don’t regret in some capacity. Seventeen hours of air transit between three airports alone is a little daunting. A foreign country, language, continent, customs… slightly moreso. Meeting new people every day, being in seemingly awkward, unfamiliar situations, lacking the placating general certainty of knowing what each day and interaction will yield… yes, daunting. But cliché as it sounds, being in these situations builds character and confidence, as much as they make your stomach turn. I experienced a whirlwind of people, sights, food, culture, and experiences, and though I felt relieved when I returned home, it wasn’t relief at finally being home. It was relief at being able to sum up a nerve-racking, trying, unpredictable week as “amazing” in the end. Relief at having pushed myself and done it… or at least, having come one step closer to it, whatever “it” may be.

Everyone lays awake at some point thinking of other people in other places, wondering if they could establish a life on the other side of the globe. But how can you possibly know where you’ll be most happy if you haven’t ventured elsewhere? So take your chances; go and see. The blunt reality is that the potential regret of going on an unpleasant trip will always pale in comparison to the “what if?” regret that will eat you alive if you remain stuck in stasis.

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Pictures of me in China!


“The only body image issue I have is that I inhabit one”

Two evenings ago, I spent more than six hours alone in the emergency department of Toronto Western Hospital on my day off, alternately crying in panicky despair (very, VERY weird for my very socially-conscious and easily embarrassed self) and anxiously jiggling my leg while shooting terrified, beseeching stares at the triage and registration desks and attempting to maintain some semblance of composure as I greeted my surely and rapidly impending death. After switching to a new brand of birth control and experiencing pretty severe lower leg pain for the duration of the day, I’d convinced myself that I 100% had deep vein thrombosis, a.k.a. a blood clot in my leg, which is the most fatal side effect of the pill I’ve been on for 10 years and my greatest health fear – like all maladies that don’t make their presence explicitly, very visibly known. (Air embolism is my second-greatest, FYI).

At age 25, I’ve had three barium swallows, a head CT, a breast ultrasound, a Doppler ultrasound, rounds of EKG/ECG tests, a heart ultrasound, a colonoscopy, and self-diagnosed “suspicious” moles removed, presumably without cause; most of which took place in the past five years, and all of which were at the request not of a doctor, but of myself. (I actually don’t even have a family doctor, who would usually be the person to recommend these tests or to dispel the concerns of an unnecessarily wary patient).

My overbearing paranoia and anxiety married with my uncharacteristically vast knowledge of physical ailments – thanks to a childhood spent in the home of a doctor and a nurse and amid household literature like the CPS and Merck Manual – have rendered me a full-fledged hypochondriac. I’ve stayed up nights unable to sleep and sick to my stomach for months at a time fretting over my positively thriving brain tumour, which is likely a met of my pre-existing breast lump (as most brain tumours are secondary cancers, duh)… which may or may not be related to the esophageal cancer I have almost willingly acquired from years of throwing up daily, a poor diet, binge alcohol consumption, and bad genes… all of which are things that have contributed adversely to my already struggling liver, which is probably twice its size and full of cirrhosis, especially considering my acetaminophen overdose at 17…. etc. etc. Can you see where I’m going with this?

Texts From Your Existentialist has so nicely summed up my general anxiety about having a body, which includes my lovely habit of psychosomatization:
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Meat prison is right, man, I hate this thing. I go all day in a perpetual state of physical discomfort wanting to rip my skin off because my pants are too tight or I can feel my stomach not being flat or my hair isn’t being co-operative or it seems as if I’m wearing some sort of fat suit. Or somebody else’s skin. What is this skin outfit, even? Ugh, it’s not “me”. And yet, I really, really care when I think it has something wrong with it.

This anxiety (for lack of a better word) also includes my general preoccupation with my physical self and appearance – hey girls, I know you feel me –  and I’d like to add a quick nod to media and advertising culture for forcing me to see my body as a completely foreign and changeable object that I am CONSTANTLY aware of, and not something that is a part of me. This bodily dissociation is both a cause and a result of my (ironically self-diagnosed LOL) hypochondria and all of my other physical-based anxieties. Was I the only one who had to get off the bus before it even left for a class trip and go home because I was terrified I would have to pee and wouldn’t be able to stop somewhere? Or because my anticipatory anxiety made me a vomiting, out-of-control crying mess? Or the only one able to starve and abuse my body to no end because it is this… alien thing that I hate and feel at odds with? Anyone? Bueller?

My dad once, in a conversation about my weight obsession, told me a wonderful little anecdote about how when he gets ready in the mornings and looks in the mirror, he sometimes notices that he’s balding, or just how grey his hair has gotten in spots. “I acknowledge it for about five seconds and then carry on, and don’t think about it for the rest of the day,” he tells me… as if this way of thinking is even remotely comprehensible to me. How dad, how?! Is it because you’re a man? Because you’re stupid? (I know this one to be impossible.) Because you’re happy? Ignorant? What is your damn secret?!

Whatever the secret is, I must admit that I feel completely hopeless and crippled in my quest to find it. So I guess to anyone else out there crawling in their skin (cue Linkin Park song), just know that you’re not alone, and if anyone in the world understands where I’m coming from, maybe we can sort ourselves out, one day. I think the first step for me MAY be less trips to the emergency room (which, unsurprisingly, leave me feeling like a complete idiot the next day).

🙂


Social media dudes that need to die

Social media has facilitated the purveyance of a lot of really dangerous, anti-feminist sentiments – as in real life, too many to count, really. Wading through it all as it’s thrown in my face on a daily basis, there’s one particular phenomenon that’s really been irking me to a greater extent than usual lately.

Instagram is my most-used social medium of choice, and probably the most popular in contemporary young culture, and so I naturally focus on that with my woes. Naked cam girls and big booty bitches with 259,000 followers? I at least somewhat get that; I’m not going to pass judgement on what women want to post of their bodies or on the men that want to consume that, for whichever reasons that they choose to.  The whole platform is so toxic for so many reasons pertaining to that whole issue, but whatever. Let’s ignore the vanilla objectification and over-sexualization issues for a moment.

If anyone has yet to hear of The Slut Whisperer, a.k.a. “@KirillWasHere,” they’re in for a treat. Peddler of the ever-popular with frat boys “Party with sluts” and “Thank you for being a slut” merchandise, this guy started on Twitter, having now amassed 139.5k followers there and leeched into other social media, naturally (589k on Instagram, yuck).  A quick scan of his account today alone reveals such gems as:

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There isn’t even any explanation or analysis necessary here, as the garbage he spews is so blatantly misogynistic and disgusting in the simplest, most basic way.  Now I know that I can’t fight every instance of a man having opinions like these, and likewise can’t stop them from sharing them on social media. What bothers me most is the level of reverence guys like this achieve by males and females alike. They’re worshipped solely for their “funny” sexist remarks, the degrading nude photos they post of women, their status as men because of how they portray their interactions with women, etc. Similar accounts I can think of are @lastnightsparty, who posts under the guise of a bystander simply documenting “slutty” girls at club events, and Dan Bilzerian, a seeming idol of manhood with photos like the ones below and inexplicable wealth and fame. And with one million supporters of this trash? What year are we in, here?:

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The core issue here is the shift from women having ownership of their bodies – their own fans for posting their own photos, however nude and “slutty” they may be – to men imposing ownership and being celebrated for their blatant degradation of women. Bilzerian posting countless photos of seemingly anonymized nude women (and himself among them, often groping them) and receiving upwards of 300,000 likes is an homage to the glamorization of his lifestyle; namely, his possession of so many women and his control over these nameless, sexualized bodies. His wealth is indicated by his yachts and trips, yes, but also by his multitude of women as silent sexual possessions that he can grab and sleep with whenever and however he so chooses. The ultimate male’s dream, it seems, and these girls are valued explicitly and exclusively for their scantily clad bodies (and, implicitly, their orifices), while Bilzerman is valued for his personhood and also for what he represents as man. And yes, I acknowledge that these women are choosing to participate in this whole thing. But doesn’t that make it all the more sad? It’s like the friend who goes along with sexist jokes because “if you can’t beat them, join them”, and if you’re “one of the guys”, it makes you less likely to be a target. Women who are support sexism against women in any way are another topic to be taken up another day, but I think we can all see why they do it.

It’s such a simple concept so deeply ingrained in our culture, but personified in specific individuals celebrated solely for their mastery and exploitation of said concept. I just see accounts like these and feel the overwhelmingly, frustratingly inescapable fact that women are generally rendered meaningless as people outside of their physicality on a purely sexual level. (Please note: this is me completely ignoring the whole issue of sexual assault and generally piggish behaviour because… too many topics to talk about in one go). All of advertising and consumer/capitalist culture is predicated on women filling this void created by our media and society-fostered self-loathing and insecurity with material goods; a self-loathing that has nothing to do with ourselves as people, but is based purely on what we look like. I don’t deny that I too am guilty of “retail therapy” and shopping sprees for clothes and cosmetics to better myself in the only way that I’ve been taught is important: physically. It’s not even a conscious thought pattern or act, which makes it all the more detrimental. Men are generally respected for their ideas, their successes, and clearly, their control and possession of (hot) women. And the celebration of individuals like the aforementioned and the perpetuation of what they put out on their social media accounts unfortunately reinforces that females can at best aspire to be those hot objects on some successful man’s arm, and not achieve success in their own right; unless, of course, it is some small peripheral success based on 1) being sexy and 2) being associated with some man. It also, obviously, reinforces the whole “sexism is cool” trend. I’m trying to fight these ideologies by expressing my dismay for accounts like these. And I hope that my dismay can point out the underlying problematic societal norms that accounts like these represent to those that may be ignorant of the bigger picture. Even if taken at face value, no person should be stoked on these accounts or these dudes, end of story.


Trends I hate: ’90s revival

In line with my generally negative attitude, here’s the first of a series of (far less serious) posts about current fashion trends I wish would be eradicated – but don’t worry, I’ll be doing a series of trends/brands/pieces that I love, too! * Note: Please take my expertise as a former Urban Outfitters stylist for all of… 3 months? AND as a generally fashionable person extremely seriously. Duh.

Trends I hate: (some aspects of) ‘90s revival
Though there are some ‘90s styles that I adore and wear with pride, I feel like there are even more presently in “style” that I’m repulsed by. High-waisted Levi’s denim? Yes, into it. Baggy, light wash, excessively ripped boyfriend-fit jeans? Down with them. Flannel? I hope it never dies. Little black leather backpacks? Of course. Converse and Vans sneakers? Duh, timeless. Crop tops, especially cropped crewneck sweatshirts? I may not have the body, but I don’t give a damn, I like that shit. Overalls? Just bought my first pair after more than a year of wanting to, and I’m in love.

But anything that was worn exclusively by children, anything super kitschy, or ‘90s for the sake of ‘90s, I can’t handle. I’m not sure exactly why the following items have made a comeback, and feel as if they’ve overstayed their welcome beyond the one-month novelty phase that their unflattering hideousness warrants.

Jelly sandals

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Image courtesy of Shoestedin

American Apparel has been a huge purveyor of these atrocities, which is something I’m really not surprised by, though the style doesn’t exactly fit their sporty, sexy-sexist, mid-70s ethos.

In my mind, these shoes don’t really go with any outfit at all. Girls tend to pair them with knee socks or white frilly ankle socks (see below, barf), which is somehow admittedly better than when they’re sported barefoot. Thoughts they conjure: a damn child, cheap and tacky, slippery sweaty feet, etc.? Screw the Internet for perpetuating the idea that these shoes are cool in any way. They should be reserved for under-12s in low-income families, and only from July-August.

Frilly socks

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Image courtesy of Polyvore

Again with the little girl vibes. I seriously blame pornography for this weird fetishization of young girls that has manifested in fashion. I was forced to wear these socks with my tiny dress shoes until the age of six or so, and then burned them all (I wish). They get dirty way too easily, look awkward with any outfit (fancy, but cheap? I’m confused), the frills are scratchy, and they’re creepy as hell, end of story.

‘90s makeup

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - NOVEMBER 06:  US pop star Lady Gaga poses in front of the media boards at the 'MTV Europe Music Awards 2011' at Odyssey Arena on November 6, 2011 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  (Photo by Venturelli/WireImage)

Lady Gaga photo courtesy of Venturelli/WireImage


Metallic lipsticks, stark blue and purple eye shadows, sparkles and glitter – no. No no no, a thousand times no. ‘90s makeup is tacky, unnatural, and unflattering, and is one of those trends that was brought back solely due to its era (following the rest of ‘90s revival), and not because it looks good. There are reasons makeup style has changed and advanced. Again, this just makes me think of little kids and those bargain makeup starter kits from Giant Tiger they get from their single, childless aunts on their tenth birthdays.

THOSE BLACK CHOKER THINGS

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Image courtesy of Brandy Melville’s online store

I’m coming to realize how much of ‘90s style was made to be economic. These necklaces were available at the dollar store because of their essentially disposable nature. Creating a blunt black line in the middle of your neck distracts from an outfit and really cuts your neckline off, and like all of the above things, these necklaces only go with other ‘90s items, and could never be worn with any other style of clothing. And again, adults didn’t wear these in the ‘90s, kids did, so what the hell is wrong with you, Brandy Melville?!

Fuzzy shirts

Image courtesy of Wanelo

Image courtesy of Wanelo

Basically repeat everything I’ve said above about these being reminiscent of cutesy little girls. This fabric isn’t even comfortable, and seems to only come in baby pink and other light pastels. How do you even wash this?!

Perverts, tacky bitches, and late-20-somethings trying to relive their cheap and cheesy childhood, rejoice in these trends! Meanwhile, wake me up when it’s all over (hint: the ‘90s ended 15 and a half years ago).


The will power is in you: How getting implants (sort of) cured my bulimia

IMG_4871I’m going to preface this piece by acknowledging that women with breast implants are perceived as a certain kind of person: Superficial, at least somewhat wealthy (on some male’s accord), frivolous, unintelligent, insecure (and yet in our minds, we imagine them as arrogant?), slutty, etc. individuals who spend their money senselessly and allocate their energies even moreso on “the wrong things.” Girls who belong in some pigeonhole media role shopping and being generally irritating within a very limited vocabulary. Girls who want to show their bodies off to the world for social media likes, or to make other women want to skin themselves alive in body shame.

I’m tall, blonde, and drive an unreasonably nice car for my age. And yes, my parents handed over $8000 to a renowned plastic surgeon in Toronto’s Yorkville district for my breast augmentation nine months ago. Yeah, I like to shop and am fashion-conscious, and one could probably argue that I’m irritating, and in ways superficial… but I also collect old editions of Victorian literature. I work at a literary magazine, specialized in English literature and journalism in university, and am a self-proclaimed word nerd. I have tattoos, most counterintuitively a coffin and a typewriter (because hey, death, and books!). I also spent six months living in a day treatment program for eating disorders at a hospital after attempting, almost successfully, to take my life when I was 17 because the burden of my body dysmorphia was just too much to bear that day. Is having an eating disorder (and a brain) congruous with the concept of a girl who gets breast implants? Possibly. Or maybe we’re not supposed to be that self-aware, self-loathing, and fucked up. But, I’d like to think myself a confounding contradiction in too many ways to count.

Bulimia and eating disordered thoughts/mannerisms have served as my shadow for half of my life, normalized in my mind as “just something most girls do.” Everyone is caught in the perpetual struggle to lose weight, I said. Most women I know skip meals, exercise for unreasonable amounts of time every day, or throw up their food in the name of weight management, I said. It’s disgusting, but in reality, very common. Breast augmentation surgery is also disgusting, really. And also common- the second most popular plastic surgery procedure worldwide behind the nose job.

In the weeks leading up to my decision to get implants – which I had been ambivalent about and grappled with for years of my life – I had to reconcile with myself the idea that I would likely have to relinquish my eating disorder to be in prime health for an optimal recovery (and for eligibility for surgery, of course). Was that even feasible for me? Something I had been half attempting to rid myself of and half indulging in for my entire teenage and adult life? After my surgery was booked and the deposit made, I didn’t really have a choice. My hypochondriasis and fear of complications outweighed (lol) my more desperate attempts to lose weight. And my hatred for my breasts was more overbearing that my hatred for the rest of my body. This was something I could have fixed, instantly, with no struggle.

People have trouble quitting things, generally. Cigarettes, heroin, junk food… it’s not supposed to be easy. But imagine my own shock and surprise when I, the girl who had completely lost control of her relationship with food long ago, quite simply changed my habits, ironically losing 10 pounds in the week before my surgery by *shudder* eating healthy and *larger shudder* working out almost daily (take that for a diet plan!). And I made myself a rule that for the month prior, I wouldn’t throw up, and for the first time since I can remember, I was actually possessed of the discipline to stick to that imperative, no-nonsense. Sure, it was out of immense, borderline irrational fear and paranoia, but it was still a milestone for me, and something I never thought I’d see myself capable of doing. This change was no longer something I personally “had” to do for myself. It was something I legitimately HAD to do, and I no longer had an out or an excuse.

And the weeks after? The healing process wasn’t all that arduous (I’ll explain that all in another post for people interested in the surgery), but it’s quite a conflict of interest to want to force yourself to throw up your meals while you’re bruised, stitched up, medicated, and trying to heal. It’s hard to stuff yourself full of garbage food at that point too, which is often the precursor to purging. So I refrained. And so went my little experiment in EDs and mental health.

I’m not going to lie and say I haven’t relapsed, so to speak – forcibly thrown up some nine times a day, or eaten shitty, or starved myself – since, or say that this whole premise isn’t completely fucked up (because it is). I’m also not going to suggest undergoing some sort of medical procedure for which you must mandate a healthy lifestyle to rid yourself of a problem like I had. I guess the point is that I discovered in myself a will power I’d denied I had, and hated myself for not having, for years, and it’s something I keep with me now. Though it may be in the tiniest drawer locked up in the back of my thick, messed-up skull, it’s still there, this realization I hadn’t known previously. I suppose in part due to an (albeit slight) increase in self-confidence as a result of the surgery, I have been able to stop myself, to catch myself, and give in to those shitty habits less frequently; which is saying something given how out of control that whole situation once was for me. I feel as if when forced, we are all able to regain that control, or realize that it’s always been there, despite feeling that we’ve lost it. I feel as if when forced, we are able to see our strength. I try to reconcile this concept, and my own experiences with it (as I’ve had similar health scares induced by paranoia and solaced by some sort of change in habit), when I struggle now, because yes, I’m still weak and yes, I still struggle. But I haven’t lost all hope in myself completely yet, and that’s pretty alright.


U.S. initiative aims to show male bystanders how they can stop rape

Men Can Stop RapeI recently got the chance to chat with a representative of Mencanstoprape.org, a fantastic group that advocates proactively against sexual violence with an accessible approach that targets young men. The organization proposes a completely fresh (and true) perspective on sexual assault, placing the burden of responsibility and prevention on the accused instead of, as is often part and parcel of systematic victim-blaming, on the accuser. In a society where police have said that dressing like a “slut” leads to rape and public awareness campaigns blame victims, Men Can Stop Rape fosters positive masculinity and an awareness of sexual violence to prevent, counteract, and help stop instances of sex crimes and the mentality behind them.

Washington-based co-founders Patrick Lemmon and Jonathan Stillerman started MCSR after realizing how ill-prepared they were to support female friends who approached them with personal experiences of sexual assault.

“They wanted to help other men learn how they could better support survivors and also play a positive role in preventing sexual violence,” says MSCR representative Pat McGann.

The organization hosts educational speaking events at schools and colleges across the U.S., also providing leadership training with the hope to perpetuate confident, mindful men who can be strong in ways not related to sexual dominance or violence. Public awareness campaigns are also a huge cornerstone of MCSR’s work.  Their focus is to “redefine masculinity and male strength” in a non-violent way, using an approach that feels friendly and [dare I say] “cool,” as if simply the advice of a friend rather than a social justice campaign.

“From bus shelters in D.C. to billboards and movie theatres across California to U.S. military instillations across the world, MCSR’s public education campaigns have reached hundreds of thousands of men with their visuals and messages,” McGann says.

The mission hasn’t exactly been easy, though. McGann says that the biggest roadblock MCSR has experienced is the fact that many men are hesitant to denounce sexism when they witness it or intervene in situations where sexual assault could be an outcome. They may be scared of how other men will perceive them, or worry that it’s not their place. He says that some of the group’s campaigns, such as “Where Do You Stand?” try to offer the support men need to speak up in these scenarios.

Another opposing force to the organization’s ideology is the ubiquitous sexist and patriarchal institutions that are so ingrained in modern society that they are almost inherent.

“Media perpetuates problematic concepts like victim-blaming and the idolization of male violence,” McGann says. “Media are enmeshed in the dominant stories that define conventional responses to sexual assault and that define what has traditionally been valued about masculinity.”

He says that this will only stop when society as a whole adopts a broader cultural understanding of rape prevention that includes men, and not just women.

“Historically, it has been women’s responsibility to prevent rape by taking precautionary measures. This lets men off the hook.”

Organizations like MCSR are fighting to change these embedded behaviour patterns and values for a better future for both genders. And, considering how far they’ve managed to spread their message, it’s working – though it will be a long time before even this single facet of the battle against sexism and rape culture is anywhere close to won. I can only hope that initiatives like this can make their way into Canada and into our collective consciousness.

“Together, we can change the culture of rape,” McGann says.