Ladies, Go See Ghostbusters and Take Your Daughters

Ghostbusters

I live in a house full of nerdy men which means over the years I’ve had quite the education in all things superhero, science fiction, and fantasy. It wasn’t something I was exposed to growing up since my mum thought science fiction was stupid – I think that’s a direct quote – and my dad never seemed to watch anything but news, boxing, and Police Academy movies.

As I’ve raised my boys I have begun to realize that maybe there was a nerd inside me all along just waiting to get out. Wonder Woman? LOVED HER!! We would run around the school yard mimicking Linda Carter’s moves with her magic bracelets and lasso. Star Trek? Who didn’t grow up watching it in reruns every single day and crushing a bit on Captain Kirk?

Then, in my teens, there was Ghostbusters. I didn’t really think of it as a nerd movie at the time. It was a huge summer blockbuster and everybody went to see it. There were special effects and familiar actors and a funny premise. And truthfully, I had no idea that it had become an iconic nerd film where people went to conventions dressed up and made their own proton packs.

My kids saw the original Ghostbusters about 4 years ago and Monkey went on a big kick with it, even insisting on a homemade costume for Halloween a few years ago. I’m not really sure I saw the appeal of the movie… until now. Because when you replace the snarky, chain-smoking balding guys with strong, funny, competent women, magic happens.

I was fully expecting to be mildly disappointed by the movie. Remakes are always sketchy and the reviews had been so mixed. I wasn’t expecting to come out of it excited and eagerly anticipating a sequel but that’s exactly what happened, and here’s why:

Ghostbusters licking gunGhostbusters gives us the imperfect female superheroes so many of us have been craving. They’re tall and short and thin and curvy, they wear glasses, and don’t fit in. They have unique ideas and interests that are frowned upon by those around them but they persevere. Their uniform is a baggy jumpsuit, not skin hugging spandex. They are genius level smart and bitingly funny and a bit crazy. They are tough, determined, and loyal to each other. They take on evil and absolutely kick its ass. What on earth is there not to love?

They are the kind of female superheroes that I wish I could have grown up with. The kind of female superheroes I wish my boys could grow up with. Instead, I grew up with spandex and low-cut tops, big boobs and high-heeled boots and secondary characters. Guess what? Not much has changed.

Nerd culture is still a man’s domain, although that is slowly changing. The nerds in my life are feminists, because I would have nothing to do with them if they weren’t, but there’s still a lot of misogyny out there in nerd land. And if you have any doubts, the Washington Post just published a break-down of the reviews for Ghostbusters.

 

“A closer look revealed men rated the film, on average, a 3.6 out of 10. Women, on the other hand, rated it 7.7 out of 10. Additionally, nearly five times as many men had rated the movie — 7,547 men as opposed to 1,564 women.”

Those numbers are enough to piss me off. What is it that men aren’t liking about the movie? Are they so completely unused to seeing female heroes unless they look like Katniss or Black Widow that they just can’t wrap their heads around realistic looking women getting the job done? And what a sad reflection is that on how our society views women?

So ladies, go see Ghostbusters. Do it for the little girl in you who never got a chance to see a hero on the screen who looked like you or liked science like you did or wasn’t afraid of goo and dirt. And take the girls in your life so they can experience it too.

 

How Big Did You THINK It Was Gonna Be?

For those of you who haven’t read any of my previous blog posts, you may not know that when I’m not being a mum or trying to be fabulous, or (recently) tracing my family tree, I run an adult toy website. Yes, my life is varied and strange.

Before you go getting ideas in your heads about all kinds of sordid stuff, it’s really a very classy site and the idea is that we need to reduce the stigma and shame about needing or wanting a little bit of help (or more fun!) in the bedroom. We sell kegel exercisers that help women get their lady parts back in working order after having kids, and lovely lotions and lubes to ease the way between couples. There are wonderful products that truly help women suffering from low libido or inability to orgasm, and that can help men with erectile difficulties. I love to educate people about all the possibilities out there. But, where there are sex toys, there is inevitably going to be some giggles too. I both love and dread those scenarios.

One of the things I quickly learned in the adult toy business is that a lot of toys are made waaay bigger than the average male anatomy. There are size queens and kings out there who like a bit of a challenge. And that’s great – for them. Then there are those folks who just don’t seem to understand what they’re getting into. I don’t know if it’s a case of “it seemed like a good idea at the time” or if they truly have no concept of how to measure stuff. Because all of the toys come with very specific and detailed measurements – for good reason.

For a while there, I would cringe whenever we would get an order for something that was… shall we say, substantial. Why? Because we also had a run on people who eagerly opened up their packages, delivered to their door by the unsuspecting postman, and then proceeded to freak out. Then they would email or call me and freak out and ask for a return or exchange for something more manageable. (Hopefully it will come as a relief to you all out there that returns are not an accepted policy in the online adult toy store industry.)

I  hate being the bad guy. I really do. But seriously, if the very TITLE of the product includes the words 12 inches, how big did you think it was gonna be? Because, let me tell you, 12 inches is the length of my forearm – and I’m a tall gall at 5’8″. And don’t even get me started on circumference because we’re talking pop cans – or bigger. I actually got a sample to use as an educational demo so that I can help people realize what they’re getting into and I love opening up my samples cupboard where it sits, still in the box, and showing my friends. Their jaws drop in collective wonder and then they laugh. Because really, it could be used as an effective weapon against burglars. I could either knock them unconscious or they would flee in terror at the mere sight of it.

I wonder if these customers have just lost perspective from watching too much bad porn or if they need to retake grade three math. Or is it kind of like how big boobs seem like a good idea until you’re faced with actually having them attached to your own body, weighing you down and making your back ache.

Whatever the cause of these misunderstandings I am trying to save others from the same fate by adding a size guide to each product page in the hopes that others will not suffer the same fate.  And for those who got exactly what they were hoping for, I tip my hat to you while at the same time cringing and crossing my legs.

 

Enter the Tweens

My little Monkey is not so little anymore. He turned 11 this week and is proudly announcing to all who will listed that he is now a tween. To be honest, the tween attitude started about 6 months ago, but I’m not telling him that.

Mini Me is 14 now and he outgrew me about 4 months ago, which is not that insignificant since I’m 5’8″ when I stand up straight. His teen years came with hours locked in his room and deep sighs when we ask him to do anything. They also came with a stubborn refusal to wear anything but sweat pants and t-shirts or to do anything with his hair. That I can live with. The lack of showering on the other hand… His friends are all the same so I just shrug and roll with it.

Monkey is going to be a very different kind of teen, I can tell already. The last week I have been enlisted every morning to put a bright green streak through the front of his hair – which, I may add, hasn’t been cut in about 5 months. He’s going to be one of those scraggly haired kids who experiments with crazy dye jobs and develops a distinct and unique sense of fashion. He also still loves to bathe so I’m calling that a win.

As different as they both are, I love this time in my parenting career. I see my friends with really young kids and I do not feel at all wistful. I love being able to pick up and just go anywhere with them. I love that they have the freedom to make their own arrangements with their friends and that my house is becoming the hang out hub. I laugh with the cashier at the grocery store about the amount of milk and number of chip bags in my cart. I can just shrug and say “teens” and they laugh knowingly.

They have important opinions now and we can talk about the world. Mini Me brings home ideas that they discuss in class – much deeper stuff than we were dealing with in grade 8, let me tell you. Racism, slavery, misogyny, homophobia. I love to see his brain wrap around ideas of social justice and acceptance in a deeper, more philosophical way than when he was younger. He sees the shades of grey now and it’s inspiring.

Monkey has just joined the Anti-Trump Alliance at school. Not an official organization, of course, but a little society created by two of the Muslim students in the school yard where apparently they talk about the evils of the Orange Menace. I guess with about a 50% Muslim school population, and a good majority of the rest coming from pretty left leaning households, the Trump issue comes up a lot. Monkey fulfilled his membership pledge by naming 10 things he didn’t like about Trump – in writing – and them generously designed their club logo. I am loving it.

My biggest regret about these years? How quickly they seem to go by. I know that everybody tells young parents that the baby years seem endless but that they really go by in the blink of an eye. No way. Those baby years WERE endless. I still have back problems from dragging my boys around and not for one minute do I lament about changing another diaper. It seemed like I had young kids for AGES with all their tantrums and toys everywhere and no sleep.

But these years, with all their independence and interesting thoughts and doing chores and easy outings – these years are flying by. And maybe it’s because I realize that we are in the final stretch. Mini Me starts high school in the fall and that’s only 4 years away from University and potentially moving out. Monkey only has one year left in the school that has been a second home this family for so very long.

Realistically, I know that they probably won’t be gone when they finish high school. Living in Toronto and taking into account the number of amazing colleges and universities here,  the chances of them doing post-secondary here are huge. But they MIGHT move away. And they may never move back. When I think of that, my gut clenches. Forget babies. Can’t they just stay tweens and teens forever?

Long Weekend Hangover

For those of you not located in Canada, you may not know that we just celebrated Victoria Day. Being the good former colony that we are, Victoria Day is a celebration of our former Monarch’s birthday which has now devolved into an excuse to shoot off fireworks, have a BBQ, drink beer, and generally kick off the summer season – despite the fact that we often have to attend said fireworks still wearing our parkas and mittens.

In our house, it’s also usually Monkey’s birthday weekend. He turned 9 this year and we spent the weekend surrounded by his friends and our family, too much food, and some awesome cake.

It’s the kind of weekend that I both love and dread. Having a house full of 8-9 year old boys for most of Saturday afternoon was loud, to say the least, and it always grates on my poor introverted, quiet-loving nerves. But, Monkey’s friends are just so damned cute. Everybody got along and at one point there was a herd of boys running up and down my street dressed in variations of every former Halloween costume that I keep in our Tickle Trunk (any Canadian over the age of 35 will get that reference). We had an Indiana Jones pirate, a Jedi Captain America and some other creative choices that defy description. They’re at such a great age where they don’t care what anybody thinks and it’s all about having fun and seeing how many chips they can stuff in themselves in a 3 hour period.

Muppet outdid himself once again with an amazing Plants vs. Zombies themed cake and actually got some of the kids to sit still long enough to do a Zen Garden themed craft to take home. For my part, I kept them fed and alive and only suffered a little bit of guilt over the amount of sugar they all ingested before I sent them home to their parents.

Saturday night Monkey had one of his friends sleep over and despite my best efforts, they were still laughing and giggling and farting in his room until almost 11pm. What I didn’t expect was for them to be up at 5:30am raring to go. Being the good parents we are, we sent them to the basement to play video games so that we could get some more sleep before the descent of virtually every family member on our house Sunday afternoon. We figured that we needed to be well rested in order to deal with Monkey’s inevitable meltdown that was going to come at some point that day from lack of sleep and too much excitement.

The family started arriving around 2pm and it was the usual chaotic hubbub. My favourite part is always being able to sit with my mum while she knits and we catch up on life. After her cancer diagnosis last year, and given her limited mobility caused by arthritis, I am realizing that these moments are going to be gone some day, so I’ve learned to just sit quietly in the chaos and spend time with her.

The BBQ burgers were great and there were more cupcakes. Muppet’s parents set a new personal record by being 4 1/2 hours late to the party, which is a whole other topic for another time. The expected meltdown came when poor Monkey got shot in the forehead by a Nerf dart which led to hysterics of epic proportions but thankfully there was the promise of presents to soothe his (and our) frazzled nerves. The sniper was eventually identified as my 12 year old nephew, and I was just grateful that Monkey wasn’t taken down by his own brother. Cousins can be forgiven, brothers… not so much.

Everybody evacuated by about 9pm and I beat a hasty retreat to my friends house for some backyard drinks to celebrate yet another, more grown-up birthday. We tried valiantly to ignore the fact that the temperature was dropping rapidly and finally gave up at 1am when we realized that there was frost forming on the ground.

Monday is always a day to clean up the carnage of the weekend around here. The promise of fireworks in the evening is always my favourite part. Our neighbourhood association puts on an amazing show every year and I always get such a warm, fuzzy feeling when I see everybody gathering, buying bags of popcorn from the concession, catching up with friends, kids running around and dancing with sparklers. It’s such a precious sense of community in such a big city.

Now it’s Tuesday and the kids are off to school. I’m still in my pyjamas, nursing my second cup of coffee and feeling perfectly content. The weekend was chaotic and loud and stressful at times, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Single Parent for a Week

Muppet left this morning, off for most of this week to L.A. on the company dime. He’s there for the big retail video gaming and electronics convention to help demonstrate the video game he just finished making, so it’s a week surrounded by what he loves and all his fellow geeks.  He hasn’t been there before, and the company sending him is kind of a big deal, so I’m really happy for him. I am less happy for myself, however.

You may recall my last post where I was waxing poetic about how this was really the Golden Years of parenting and how much easier and enjoyable my dear boys were blah blah blah. Yeah. I may have to rethink that one.

I already put one kid to bed in tears, weeping over how much he misses his Daddy and how he needs to come home RIGHT NOW. I made the dinner, but had to do all of the dishes and cleanup on my own. Had a massive battle with the tween over whether or not he was stinky (he was!!) and threatened him with no electronics until he bathed. The morning will be me rushing them out the door to school and I know the little guy is going to protest. He somehow thinks that school makes the days seem longer and if he could only just stay home, this week without his father would fly by. Riiiiiight.

Actually, I’m just being tired and crabby. What this post really amounts to is a salute to all of those single moms out there who do it all, by themselves, all the time. I know several of them and I know I will be thinking of them a lot this week as I do it all by myself.

I know that I will hit my groove by tomorrow night, but today I want to feel sorry for myself, just a little bit.

Actually, my wonderful girlfriend and neighbor just texted me and said that if I needed anything this week, to just say the word. She knows my favourite wine and has a hubby who can run out to the liquor store. This week may be okay after all.

Stroller Battleground

This morning I woke up to a news story that the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission for those of you not from around these parts) is being asked to investigate measures to LIMIT the number of strollers allowed on transit during peak hours. The wonderful citizen (and a woman, no less) who raised this also suggested an extra $2 stroller fare ON TOP of the parent’s existing transit fee, which is now $3 per ride.

http://www.cp24.com/news/woman-urges-ttc-to-limit-charge-for-child-strollers-1.1124057

Sure enough, I went on my Twitter to find that it had exploded with moms raising their objections (I was one of them!).

Here’s the thing. I totally get that strollers are a pain in the butt. I pushed one of those things around for about 6 years straight and I can tell you that they do take up a lot of space and can be unweildy and awkward when you have to go on transit or into smaller retailers and restaurants. Strollers have also gotten really really big. Maybe unecessarily so, but I would argue that a stroller was our family’s main method of transportation for many years, and we needed the extra room for diaper bags, and groceries. Also, smaller umbrella strollers seem to be made for those well under 5’5 and I would have long ago developed some kind of hunchback or major spinal problem had I pushed one for all those years. And quite frankly, it is incredibly nerve wracking to bring a flimsy umbrella stroller onto a full streetcar because it is so low, leaving your child virtually unprotected from the surrounding people who press against it.

Strollers were a major consideration when we moved into our current house. We had a 2 1/2 year old, one on the way, and no car. No way were we buying off the subway line and becoming dependent on busses or streetcars. Why? Because there was no way I could lug strollers on and off, but also because I knew how stressful it was when you dared try to take your kid onto a relatively busy mode of public transit. The stink eye and attitude you get from other travellers was something I knew I could not handle on a regular basis.

So, here’s what I have to say to the TTC stroller haters. Lighten up and get some freaking perspective people! Do you think we parents (mostly moms, let’s face it) bring stroller onto the TTC just to piss you off? We are going to or from doctor’s appointments, and daycares, running errands, and living our lives. Just to get onto transit, we have to exhibit superhuman feats of strength and coordination getting the damned strollers up and down stairs and escalators. We park awkwardly on the bus because nobody has the courtesy to shove over a little and let us through to a more out-of-the way-location. Maybe it will shock you, but we moms are actually reluctant to use OUR CHILDREN as battering rams to force people to move out of our way, especially when dude with the big backpack or lady with the monster sized handbag keeps turning around and almost hitting my kid in the head because they aren’t paying any attention to what is going on around them.

To the woman who decided to bring up this complaint in the first place, I say ‘thank you’ for being incredibly selfish and self-serving and setting feminism back a good couple of years. Did it never occur to you that many of the people who take strollers on transit HAVE NO OTHER MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION? There are many single parents out there who can barely afford the $3 fare for themselves, never mind a $2 surcharge on a stroller! Or would you rather they and their children just stay home and keep our of your line of sight? Because I get the impression you seem to think that public transit is only for those middle to upper class suburban Torontonians who can pat themselves on the back because they are helping the environment by driving their minivans to the nearest subway stop and then taking transit into the city.

EVERY citizen of this city has the right to be on public transit whenever they damned well need to be. Yes, that sometimes means waiting for the second or even third bus or streetcar before you can get on. And sometimes it means that a baby in a stroller will be crying because of the crush of people around it and the mother’s physical inability to pick it up and soothe it on a packed train. If the whole thing is making you so miserable that you need to launch an official complaint with the TTC about it, then maybe you should consider relocating and cutting down on your own, obviously miserable, commute. Or maybe you should get yourself a car and make the trip in to work through our lovely commuter traffic. Let’s see how quickly you change your tune then!

Bridging the Distance: Why Women Need To Support Each Other

Today I read a post from my friend Lynn over at http://diaryofaturtlehead.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/the-world-as-i-know-it/ and it finally got me to sit down and commit to writing some ideas that had been swirling around in my head for a month or so. She is talking about an Ottawa woman who killed her children, aged 10 and 6, then killed herself.

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/Stittsville+children+mother+dead+murder+suicide/7818753/story.html

When I look at this story, I wonder what made this woman so different from me. My kids are almost the same age and I am the woman on the street who organizes our yearly street party as well as ladies’ night out. I stay home with my kids and have since Monkey was born, making it 7 1/2 years now. Would people describe me as ‘strange’ or ‘hard to get to know?’ Perhaps. For all that I may seem like a social creature, I know that I only open up to those I feel close to.

So, what makes me so different from this woman? I know that there were mental health issues at play. How could there not be? But what makes me truly sad is wondering if this woman felt so alone that there was nobody she could confide in, to share her thoughts and her insecurities and her fears. Did she have anybody who she could have a cup of coffee with and say ‘What a crap day. The kids were being spectacularly loud and crabby. Is it a full moon or something?’

And this is the thing that was nagging at me even before I heard about his poor woman. It started with a roundtable I participated in at work where the topic of women’s friendships came up. I was truly shocked to hear several of the women (mostly 35-50) say that they had no real ‘girlfriends.’ They claimed that they identified better with men and found women to be catty and distrustful and competitive. They admired my friendships with my girlfriends but had given up on the idea for themselves. And yet, these same women had gone through strings of bad relationships with men and kept going back for more.

It got me really thinking about how truly isolated we as woman are in this society. We are given the message over and over again that other women are our competition – we must strive to look younger, be more fit, have a better job, have better behaved kids, keep a better house, have better sex, wear better clothes, than other women. We must keep our men happy in the bedroom or some other woman will steal him away. We see other women as a threat on our climb up the corporate ladder because there are so few of us making it.

I think it’s time we call B.S. on the whole thing. We are not each other’s competition. We are our greatest means of support. When you get a bunch of women together and let them tell their own truth and really be there for each other, it is empowering and reaffirming and good for the body and soul.

The idea that women are seperate from each other, that they are supposed to seek support and stability only from their male partner, is something that is unique to this century and this North American society. Since the dawn of time, families lived together in multi-generational households. You had your mother and aunts around to help you when you had a newborn. You were taught life skills from the women who surrounded you all the time. They shared their secrets and wisdom with each other. It is a real tragedy that we have lost this.

Of course, I could go into all kinds of reasons why we live the way we do. That’s the women’s studies scholar in me rearing her opinionated head. But we don’t need to go into feminist theory to figure out what to do about our predicament.

Reach out to another mom in your neighbourhood. Get together for coffee. Offer to swap kids for playdates. Tell that new mom you don’t care if she has breastmilk stains on her shirt and her hair isn’t washed. You want to see her. Invite the new woman at the office to have coffee with you one afternoon. Reach out to those ladies you only see at PTA meetings and invite them out for a cocktail. Do you really think they are going to say no? Chances are, they need somebody to talk to just as much as you do.

Let yourself be vulnerable. Let yourself be imperfect. Tell your girlfriend that your kids are driving you crazy and you need a break. Talk about your wrinkles and those extra 10 pounds and how sometimes you feel like you can’t keep up with it all. They are going through it all too in their own way.

I think for myself, I want to make even more of an efford to close the distance between myself and the women around me. I love my dear Muppet but there are things that sometimes only another woman is truly going to understand. And on that note, I think I am going to arrange another Ladies’ Night Out. I think it is long overdue.