Un peu après 23h le camion s’est coincé dans un banc de neige. I had been doing this for about four hours now, it was getting late and I’d had a long day. When the truck got stuck, Jesse got out of the driver’s seat, pulled a shovel out of the bed and started ploughing the wheels. I stood there, useless – there was only one shovel.
Earlier that day I was in my very first math class in ten years. I’d gotten there 5 minutes early and had grabbed a seat at the side of the room, not too close to the front, not too far at the back. It was snowing outside, the roads were slippery. On my way to class, somebody had yelled at me «achète-toi un char ostie!» and it had made me grin- I don’t know why I grinned, I guess because biking in the snow is one of my favourite things.
Jesse sent me a text message sometime during my class and I secretly tried to answer it. « I need help tonight my co-worker bailed you’d get paid eleven per hour are you available at six? » « Yes! »
I was to be on the corner of Ste-Catherine and Berri at six and he would pick me up in his truck and we’d do his milk run. Jesse calls it that, but what I had to do was collect people’s compost and replace it with empty compostable bags tied to the bins. I was a garbage collector for one evening.
Four hours later the truck got stuck and all I could do was grin again, but this time it was because I was having a great time. My hands smelled like rotten bananas and coffee grounds. We got unstuck, shared a high five – « team work! » – and kept going. Collect the bag. Tie a knot. Leave an empty bag. Throw the whole thing in the truck. Get in the truck. Pick up the conversation where we left it, what was I saying again?
The streets were all ours, the truck kept slipping and we’d laugh. As we were driving up Bagg street (one way, East-West) the mountain suddenly appeared in front of us, the lit up cross standing proud at its peak. It was beautiful. I grinned.
Filed under: English
The damp map was spread before us on the table. Our hands clutched mugs of hot tea. Outside, the rain was pouring.
When we’d walked in the pub, a row of eyes had fixated on me. My shaved head, my bright rain jacket, my biking tan, my weird shoes. Alex quickly ran to the bathroom while I ordered, ignoring the drunken stares of the six men sitting at the bar.
-Could I have two cups of tea please?
The bartender shook his head.
-Sorry, I don’t have tea.
-Do you have anything warm then?
I gestured towards the door and the grey sky.
-I have some instant coffee if you’d like.
I pouted in disgust.
-Well, we have teabags with us, if you could heat up some water for us we’d be grand.
-Sure, why not. I’ll put on the kettle for yous.
I let myself down on a bench nearby and slowly removed my rainjacket, spreading it across a chair to let it dry.
When Alex came back from the bathroom, the tea was ready. We took the map out and stared at it.
-Should we avoid the ring of Kerry then? I said. I don’t like those National roads, they’re too full of cars. And people keep telling us that the ring of Beara is just as nice but less touristy.
-Sounds good to me. What about this lighthouse right here? Maybe we could camp there?
Outside, the rain. Inside, wood paneling and Guinness ads. And us. Tracing roads with our fingers. Settling for a destination for the night.
As we were leaving, a man at the bar stopped me.
-Where are you from?
-How do you like Ireland?
-Ah, it’s fantastic. Apart from just now, the weather has been brilliant since we got here 3 weeks ago. Biking is easy, the hills aren’t too bad and the landscape is ever changing and so gorgeous.
-Oh yes the rain. I’m afraid to go home it’s so bad.
I looked outside. The rain was falling heavily. « Afraid? » I thought. Alcool sure gives one strange emotions.
That night, we camped by the road, in the driveway of an abandoned house. Around our tent, thorny blackberry bushes were threatening us. The next morning, we gathered a bagfull of ripe berries and biked to the nearest town. Sitting on a bench by the beach, we cooked some oats. The sun was out. Clouds were scattered all over the blue sky.
Filed under: English
When Rosie visited I made map of places in Montreal for her to see. It was a map of beautiful things. Well. No. Not beautiful. Photogenic. Not beautiful in the « look at this building » sense. Not awe inspiring places. Out of the way odd but not odd maybe just unexpected. The criterion was : is this a place I’d go back to? The criterion was : is this a place I want to show somebody? The criterion was: is this place an unseen gem?
The map avoided tourist attractions but not because it was trying to just because the unexpected often comes hand in hand with beauty. Beautiful is when you don’t see it coming. Beautiful is when a treasure is found. The criterion for this map was : is this a treasure?
In a way, I made Rosie a treasure map.
The first stop was a church. I like churches. A lot. Oh. Churches, good churches, are spirituality embodied in a building. They are experiences that go beyond the individual. Good churches make you want to whisper. The light in churches smells of candles. Of prayers.
The second stop was the olympic stadium. At night, the place is empty. The darkness makes the great expanse of molded concrete even more dramatic. At night, walking around the stadium feels like being the sole survivor of an apocalypse. You find rincóns where splendid things are hidden. Endless gold coloured parking lots. And that tower.
But that pole.
The fourth stop was a view over rooftops. Long ago, in St-Michel, Italian immigrants built white and yellow brick houses next to a giant dump. The dump has now become a park. And from the bike path you can hear foreign languages.
The fifth stop was a baklava shop. The best. Honey and pistachios. We. Yum. Yes, we yum.
The sixth stop was La Québécoise, home to the homiest poutine and burgers in town. A man who works there wears a mustache net. Right? Right.
Then we went home.
Filed under: English
I remember reading this article many many years ago (2008 it was) and since then I may have quoted it so many times that, had it been alive, its ears would have made noises like when you think you hear your name and again and again.
I want to read it another time. Maybe you want too?
(I found it on internet archive so I’m reposting it if you’re the author slap me on the hand)
Judy Jarvis – April 25th, 2007
Women’s hair has long been a loaded concept. For the Victorians in particular, “it became an obsession. In painting and literature, as well as in their popular culture, they discovered in the image of women’s hair a variety of rich and complex meanings, ascribing to it powers both magical and symbolic,” explains historian Elizabeth Gitter. 1 Contemporary shampoo and conditioner ads feature women swinging their voluminous locks in the camera frame, the ads’ narratives congratulating the brand on its thickening and smoothing qualities. The hair featured is luxurious and never short. We are meant to gather that hair is a coveted good, to still accept the Victorian standard—but only if it exists on the head.
Hair on women’s armpits and legs, which has the same density as scalp hair, is not admired for its thickness or smoothness, nor its luxurious softness, despite growing from the same genes. Hair is lovely and “magical,” but with the strict stipulation that it is only so on female’s heads. But who’s stipulation is this? Historians respond, “the norm itself was initially fostered by depilatory marketers, who saw that money was to be made from convincing women that body hair was a flaw.”2 Through pervasive advertising and framing body hair removal as a necessity rather than a choice, razor companies have successfully make a physiologically arbitrary action a socially necessary habit: Approximately 85 percent to 90 percent of women have unwanted body hair.”3
One could easily argue that all beauty standards are, at their root, arbitrary. “’Beauty’ is a currency system like the gold standard,” writes Naomi Wolf in the The Beauty Myth. As evidenced from consumer culture, ‘beauty’ need not have an explicit reason to be classified as so. The reason shaving is significantly different from other American beauty standards, however, is that rather than requiring an additive action like applying make-up to one’s face, this beauty standard requires removing something natural from one’s body. It is thus one of the most problematic beauty aesthetics, in part because its derivatives are so overlooked. Christine Hope argues that hair removal is a subtle push to return women to a child-like body, “to consider women as less than adults.” This desire is “reflected in and reinforced by the custom of female hair removal and the advertising which accompanied its introduction.”4
American female body hair shaving was triggered by a “sustained marketing assault” that began first against armpit hair in 1915, when sleeveless dresses came into fashion 5. An ad in the May 1915 issue of the upper-class women’s magazine Harper’s Bazaar features a woman with her sleeveless arms flung into the air, exhibiting her hairless armpits. The ad reads: “Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair.”6 Seventy-two percent of the hair remover ads in Harper’s Bazaar from 1915 to 1919 specifically mention underarm hair 7, most mentioning only underarm hair. In 1918, ads began mentioning “limbs,” though legs were not mentioned by name until 1923.
Sears Roebuck stores began selling sheer-sleeved dresses in 1922 and not-so coincidentally, the first women’s razors showed up for sale in their fall 1922 catalogue8. Ads from the mid-20s typically put equal emphasis on underarm and leg hair removal. The World War II-era shortening of skirts further helped advertisers’ thrust for leg hair removal, and “[b]y the middle of the century, attention had been drawn to lower parts of the anatomy and a tanned, shapely, hairless leg was a thing of beauty,” Hope observes in her inventory of Harper’s and McCall’s magazines’ hair-removal ads . Body hair removal had become a norm, as well as a public discourse, as evidenced by the headline of one of the McCall’s ads in the early 1940s: “Let’s Look at Your Legs—Everyone Else Does.”10 Due to these marketing coups, female body hair removal has become a contemporary, largely unquestioned staple of fashion.
This hairless version of reality is so pervasive that it goes against evolutionary meaning, but we pay little attention to it because social norms of beauty are dependent on it, social norms derived directly from fiscal gain. Corporate gain is a direct result of classifying body hair as shameful. No matter how brightly colored the ads or how cheerily the model smile while holding a razor to their tanned leg, ads for razors at their most basic telling women there is something wrong with one of their natural functions: hair growth. “Advertising aimed at women works by lowering our self-esteem,” writes Wolf.11 The bottom line of razor marketing is selling women a product by which they may change themselves.
Like deodorant, razor marketing “arouses the psychological fear of unpopularity and exorcises it by showing how you may avoid embarrassment,” wrote early advertising experts Doris E. Fleischman and Howard Walden Cutler. And just as deodorant is marketed as a hygienic necessity, female leg and armpit hair is symbolically unhygienic. Were the argument of shaving for cleanliness and personal hygiene truly valid, it would follow that both genders would engage in obligatory hair removal, as did the ancient Egyptians. In the last few years, there has been a rise of a hairless male aesthetic, like Versace models with clean-shaven faces and chests; but, with such high percentages of women shaving, it is clear that the hairless beauty standard applies to women of all classes, whereas male body hairlessness seems to be predominantly at a haute couture level.
Advertising campaigns like the recent Schick Quattro assault, subtly but deftly assert the razor’s right over the woman’s body. The most expansive and inventive section of the company’s website is titled, “Quattro® Lingo.” The Lingo contains 24 made-up definitions of shaving-related terms, some of the more benign ones including, “Bathtub Tinsel, noun. The ring of itty-bitty hairs and soap film left in the tub after a serious shave.” Others are more loaded, like “Chastity Pelt, noun. What you have on your legs when you intentionally go without shaving before a date as a way of making yourself behave” and “Girlilla Warfare, noun. Temporarily suspending shaving as a way of punishing your mate for something. Could backfire if you end up uncovering a newfound fetish.” The humor in both is dependent on the reader’s assumption that body hair on a woman is disgusting and would thus be a ‘punishment’ for your mate if you didn’t shave, or an incentive not to engage in sexual activity. Not shaving your body hair is self-punishing in regards to your sex life, these two in plainly imply. (Unless, of course your man has a hair “fetish,” the second term concedes; for liking body hair on a woman could only be a deviant “fetish.”)
The marketing campaign underscores femininity as the most basic reason to shave, asserting that a woman is anachronistic and bestial if she does not shave. The cave-woman illustration and caption evidences this bluntly: “Tame the Cave Lady, verb. To shave out-of-the-way places such as the toes—where women aren’t shown by movies or magazines to have hair, yet almost all do.”
Others more subtly hit home that shaving is a hygienic necessity. “Jaybird, noun. A carefully executed, super-thorough shave to set your mind at ease before a checkup, massage or other appointment that calls for shedding your clothes in front of a total stranger.” Since hair removal is in no way hygienic (in fact, if blades are shared or not cleaned and changed appropriately, shaving itself could actually be unhygienic) the ads can only imply that uncleanliness results from not shaving.
The “voice of the herd”12 may indeed compel women to shave, but the hairless herd originated and is perpetuated by marketing interests, interests that American women have internalized as “beauty” and justify as a personal choice. “I shave because I like it” is a frequent assertion, but a historically inaccurate statement. Women shave because Harper’s Bazaar arbitrarily told them to in 1915. But razor companies are doing everything possible to make sure you forget it, because the simple origins of female body hair removal are enough to make us question this destructive, expensive, and unnecessary cultural habit.
1. Elisabeth G. Gitter, “The Power of Women’s Hair in the Victorian Imagination,” PMLA 99.5 (1984): 936.
2. Merran Toerien, Sue Wilkinson, and Precilla Y.L Choi, “Body Hair Removal: The ‘Mundane’ Production of Normative Femininity,” Sex Roles 52. 5/6 (2005): 404.
3.Marika Tiggerman and Sarah J. Kenyon, “The hairlessness norm: The removal of body hair in women” Sex Roles: A Journal of Research 39.11-12 (1998): 873.
4. Christine Hope, “Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture” Journal of American Culture, 5.1 (1982): 98.
5. Ibid 93.
6. Ibid 94.
8. Ibid 95.
9. Hope 96.
10. Ibid 97.
11. Wolf 276.
12. Ewen 137.
Filed under: English
Maybe you haven’t noticed but Emily and I have been doing the collaboration thing on this other blog we have it’s called aviones de carton it means cardboard planes. They’re heavier, imagine, cardboard planes, they don’t fly quite as well and you can’t really fold them either can you. Maybe you could use a laser cutter to get shapes and then maybe some glue unless you made them to fit perfectly together with the bright light of that laser it makes such a loud noise and the pieces come out sharp lines and they fit together as if they were made to be so and well, they were, weren’t they.
Maybe that’s a metaphor I don’t think so though I think what I’m trying to say is that I like laser cutters also our blog is really nice you should check it out Emily this lady she’s wildly talented.
Filed under: English
After one beer a few sips of whiskey sitting on the deck in Oregon of all places the lake right there cracking sounds like laser shots psiew psiew there’s a fire on the ice and people you just met this is what life looks like when you’ve been away from home (but Ursula said you can go home again […] so long as you understand that home is a place where you have never been) for so long that you barely remember what your phone number is. After a few drinks not so many you can still drive the truck up the hill you can still ice-skate play hockey on the lake but there’s this languid desire to feel someone’s lips on yours to fall in love to feel your heart beat faster only for a minute while you have this first conversation that might lead you maybe to- who knows- everyone knows that foggy place full of cotton-candy and cold lakes. It’s only the warm liquid you know it but still. Still.
Filed under: English
So many things would deserve the name weird right now maybe it’s almost so many they can’t be enumerated. Last night I saw Martin for the last time for maybe forever and there it was the relationship suddenly it had to come to a halt. With him especially with many people especially that relationship it had grown and maybe for once I would say it wasn’t too rapidly maybe for once I would say that we had made it happen with very careful small footsteps and that it was of course making everything harder no? because when you go so slowly the roots they become deeper and then you need to pull them out or maybe you just need to cut the visible parts of the plant and know that the roots are still there the question is how big is the field?
Oh I did see Maite sing she has a gorgeous voice she was, well, she was sexy on this stage far away in front of me she has strikes of red in her hair feathers and she was singing I had stayed for that when she told me the date I made my life revolve around it for a few days but if it wasn’t for that maybe things would have been different how does it matter now it’s all the past.
What I’m trying to say is that it’s the end of something, oh you know you try to pretend it’s not the end simply life is continuing how could it be The End when I’m still alive- well it’s the end anyhow however much I’m lying to myself this chapter is coming to an end maybe in a few weeks in a few months I’ll look back and tell you when the climax happened I’m not sure right now. I arrived here a different person, no the same person with a different head, no the same person with different conceptions of life yes and then I (I say this proudly, because I decided I deserve to) made things happen I took myself in my own hands shook me like a tree a pear tree – of course a pear tree pears are so delicious here (still! I can’t believe they have been consistently delicious since July) – and fell off a few cool-looking bugs, a few leaves some broken branches and other pears that got rapidly attacked and dissected by ants transported to other corners and maybe even a few people stopped under the tree picked a pear and walked away smilingly biting into it all the juices running from their mouth. I haven’t changed I realised that when I called home the other day things hadn’t changed and I smiled softly and said you are all the same people and they answered you too I knew they were right but sometimes I’m so busy changing life that I forget the people I haven’t seen for a while the ones I left behind I think they’ve become different of sameness but, no.
What to say about Buenos Aires about Latin America about the fear that one that was so big I couldn’t handle it crossing the border into Mexico it was eight months ago crossing into Tijuana with George on George’s motorcycle he brought me to the bus station I bought him a Coca-Cola I said they make it with real sugar in Latin America I said here it is also made with blood we drank it it was refreshing. On the bus after there had been a film about a rape gang that kidnapped young women and killed their life I sat there I was panicking. And then this and that and now happened it’s always now but this now is the end of what started when I was on George’s motorcycle running around the Mexican border trying to get my passport stamped not understanding a word of Spanish until now now when a week ago when at my party Martin’s friend would take me aside and say Gabrielle you don’t speak Spanish you speak Porteño this is unbelievable. People leave to travel to try and find themselves that’s what I did I thought it was a mistake until I bumped into myself on the street she told me though there’s a few of us running around I shouldn’t get too excited I found her she doesn’t know exactly how many but we’re a small gang it turns out.
So there I’m crying of course I’ve received much and much love so much love in so many different ways I could blame it on the latin blood how much people get attached to each other here but it wouldn’t explain this band of Californians it wouldn’t explain why I got so attached to them – to all of them with their differences. I think it’s just life right? What do I know I’m just a monkey with a new pair of shoes.
I’m not sure how I should say goodbye to Buenos Aires. I think I’ll do it sneakily I’ll say hey see you later as if I believed it and then walk away. There’s no other way really there isn’t. See you around Buenos Aires. I love you.