Rape jokes and me

I could smell the rape joke coming, before anyone opened their mouths.

I was in improv class this week and we were playing a game called “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” wherein the audience asks the panel of judges an advice question. One judge gives a good answer. One gives a bad answer. One gives an ugly answer.

The question was “How do I get to second base with my girlfriend?”

I sat in audience section shaking my head, because I felt it was inevitable. And I was right.

The Good Judge said something about taking the girl to a movie. The Bad Judge said to get her drunk. The Ugly Judge said chloroform.

The guys laughed and laughed. It was just another hilarious sex joke.
As the only female in the building — someone who has a 1 in 4 chance of being sexually assaulted — I hung my head.

I wanted to do something. I wanted to storm out or preach a sermon. But I didn’t. I know what happens when women speak out against this stuff. They’re labelled as prudes with no sense of humour. They become unwelcome in the comedy community.

So we just moved on, as though everything was okay. It was not okay. Nothing about the scene was okay. The fact that rape is an easy, go-to joke is not okay. But I told myself these guys are harmless, and that their disgusting jokes are a product of larger social issues.

I don’t feel good about the way I handled it, and I’m not sure I have the answers for what to do in the future. And maybe that’s the point. It isn’t easy to reach equality; it’s messy and uncomfortable, and sometimes the consequences of fighting for respect are heavy and unfair. But we press on.

The age is 9, by the way

If you’re wondering at what age kids start to philosophize about how it’s possible for an adult to be born yesterday and still be older than they are, I believe it is around nine years old.

My nine-year-old stepdaughter — who would ask me to remind you that she is turning 10 in less than a month — has started demonstrating such notions, emerging in the form of this question (asked in utter shock): “How did you know that?”

Some examples from the past month:

9 year old (asking me a trivia question): What does ‘com’ stand for in ‘dot com’?
Me (a child of the Internet generation): Commercial
9 year old: How did you know that?

9 year old (listening to music): Who’s this song by?
Me (a teenager when “Complicated” came out): Avril Lavigne
9 year old: How did you know that?

9 year old (another trivia question, chosen specifically to stump me): Who was Canada’s first Prime Minister?
Me (a former graduate of elementary school): Sir John A. MacDonald
9 year old: How did you know that?

Indeed, it would appear that our little gem has crossed over, and her father and I have officially been demoted from all-knowing to chauffeur/maid/bank teller status.

Improv class and the creative process

A photo by juliejordanscott on flickr

The creative process — photo by juliejordanscott on flickr

My computer desktop background has this quote from Sylvia Plath:

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

It’s fitting for today because I feel like nothing interesting could ever come from this head of mine.

I went to a local improv class last night. It wasn’t great (I mean, I wasn’t great). I seized up a lot. I probably ruined a few scenes. I was awkward at points. Despite my clunkyness, I’ve been enjoying the class because I’m learning things about my creative process, and I’m finding these revelations to be true in writing as well.

1. Creativity seems to come in the moment, *while* I’m doing whatever it is I’m doing. Planning to be creative doesn’t work for me at all. If I think too hard about it, the result is often terrible. It seems that I just have to jump in, wherever that may be, and hope for the best.

2. It’s easier, and more comfortable, and less scary to not try, but it is rarely as rewarding.

3. Sometimes Often, I suck horribly. But there’s something magical about that microscopic glimpse of other-worldly creative genius that peeks out once in a while; it catches you by surprise. I think those glimpses are why people continue to work painstakingly at their craft.

4. Creative pursuits are good for me. Even if it’s only because I’m stretching myself that much further. Even if it’s only to exercise a little self-discipline. Even if it’s simply because I said I would. Even if it’s only to say I did it. Actually doing something–anything–creative is, I believe, inherently valuable.

5. Sometimes I’m not as bad as I think I am (see: Sylvia Plath quote). Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. It has happened a few times at improv class when someone just nails a scene, and then refuses to acknowledge his or her comedic genius. I’ve often complimented people and they just reiterate how much they sucked. It’s not even false modesty; they just don’t see it. And that’s been good for me to see. Not to say that I’m brilliant and just don’t realize it, but maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to discount everything I produce as complete rubbish.

Not much else to say here, except I’m glad I sat down to write. It is good for me.

In the meantime

I’ve been reading this blog: http://www.estheremery.com
(In short — though I’m sure she’d explain it more eloquently — Esther Emery is a radical homemaker who is living off the land with her family, as a counter-cultural act in favour of simplicity and community)

It’s pretty cool. Esther is pretty cool. She is doing things that inspire me, things that, if I were to actually live out my convictions in a radical way, I would probably be doing more of (probably minus the yurt).

Sometimes I get depressed about the life I’m not living, the life that would make a real difference, the life that would make an interesting read. Sometimes I feel like I am really starting to grasp the things that are truly important, only to realize how far away I am from prioritizing them.

The reality is that I’m kind of stuck at the moment, and I have to accept that this is an “in the meantime” season for me.

Until my husband finishes his PhD, I will be working outside the home, leaving my son in daycare, and making the best of evenings and weekends. The busyness will mean I will have to react to life more than proactively shape it. I will regularly be unhinged. And I will covet the meaningful lives others are living. I don’t see how it can be any different.

In my “in the meantime” season, I will have to settle with learning, being encouraged by how others are making a difference, and embodying my convictions in really, really small ways (like using my ugly flip phone and growing vegetable seedlings in my basement).


There’s no intended take away from this post. I just thought the Internet was lacking in self-indulgence today.

Check out my phone


Note the date: April 3, 2013. This thing is legit.


I’m the only person I know with a flip phone.

People feel sorry for me for owning it. I don’t just suspect that; I’ve actually heard comments.

What people don’t know is that Bell Mobility has been texting me for about two years, telling me I should get an upgrade already. Heck, they’ll even buy me a new phone. At this point, I think I’m embarrassing them.

Here’s why I still have it:

  1. It still works. And it should. I mean, it’s only 5 years old.
  2. It’s the type of phone that people don’t expect you to be attached to, which is great because no one assumes I’m accessible 24/7.
  3. I like knowing that I won’t have cardiac arrest if I drop it or lose it.
  4. A while ago, I made the decision not to upgrade just because I can or just because a new model has come out. Even if it’s free. Because of waste. Because of mining conditions in developing countries (see: Conflict Minerals). Because I don’t need it right now. Because I don’t want to become a rude person who checks her smartphone constantly.

I will admit that as more people comment on my phone, I’m starting to feel more sorry for myself. It has gotten to the point where I don’t bring my phone out in front of clients, as not to embarrass the agency I work for. I’ll even cover the phone with my free hand while I’m texting on the train ride home.

Still, I find myself not wanting to give in. I shouldn’t have to feel ridiculous — which I do — about using my phone. But here we are. This is the society we live in. And we can’t be surprised that when we are hit over the head with the same messages thousands of times daily, they start affecting us. It’s a hard current to flow against. As someone who is constantly aware of advertising and mass consumption, I’m still finding difficult not to trade in this perfectly good phone, in light of what everyone else a) has, and b) infers about me because of my phone.


I went to a wedding last weekend. It was for a friend of mine from high school. When I got there, I ran into three people I haven’t seen in 10 years, and it struck me how long a decade is. A lot has happened in that time.

I don’t feel old. I actually still feel like I just graduated from university, even though time disagrees.

As I was leaving the wedding, I went around saying goodbye to everyone, as you do. When I got to one of my old friends, I found myself hugging her for a long time, I mean, long as far as hugs go, maybe 15 to 20 seconds. I even gave an extra squeeze at the end.

You would have thought I really really missed her. Oddly enough, we actually live in the same city now and could catch up at any time. But we won’t. Neither she nor I will make the effort.

Upon reflection, I wasn’t hugging this friend because I missed her—though she is quite lovely. I was trying to hang on to time. In my arms, I was holding on to a memory, to the feeling of who I used to be when I was with who she used to be.

There was a definite pang there. Actually, even right now as I’m thinking about it, I’m feeling a loss of sorts. It’s not that I want to go back to high school—I definitely definitely don’t—I just want that time back, I guess. I want to be younger again.

I didn’t think I’d feel this way as a still-young(ish) woman. I’m only 28. But I do.

There’s much more life ahead of me than behind (God willing) but I know that life will never be as it was when I was 18. I will never be as free. And irresponsible. And open to change.

Those were good times.