A(nother) Mother’s Day reminder

(This was originally posted last year.  It’s still true, you cheap bastard.)

I have some fairly well-entrenched views when it comes to Mother’s Day, as in it should be celebrated, and let’s please be polite about it.

And I know we’re months away from the 2013 edition — May 12, take note! — but I want to give readers ample time to consider the handy-dandy flowchart I’ve compiled, which neatly answers the question: Should you buy the mother of your child/ren a Mother’s Day present?


Hey, teachers, leave my pants alone

My jeans not exactly as shown.Two things came together in the past week that have had me thinking about what I wear, and what it says, and if I care.

First, there was the news out of — where else — Florida, that a school board was considering a dress code for parents.   As of last night that idea was (s)quashed like a palmetto bug, and rightly so.

And then there was a scene from this week’s episode of Mad Men, which NPR described perfectly:

“We saw a scruffy, robe-wearing, boozing Don put on his full Don Draper drag, from hair to tie to shoes, just to briefly greet Dawn at the door. She knows he’s not working, so he’s not literally trying to fool her, but it was fascinating to see Don trying so hard to maintain the illusion of his status to an audience consisting solely of his black secretary, whom he appears to trust a great deal, meaning it probably really was for her benefit, and not to avoid gossip. That gussying-up process demonstrated a strange, twisted respect for her — and concern over what she thinks — to which it would probably be hard for him to admit.”

Both items — one a flawed proposition, the other a touching anachronism — shine a light on what passes for acceptable dress these days.  As you probably know, my own standards are lax, bordering on lazy.

I’ve edited articles that have appeared in major Canadian magazines, while wearing jeans that I pulled out of the laundry basket (and not the post-dryer one that smells like a country meadow).  I once gave a telephone radio interview in boxers and a bra (had to turn off the air conditioning during the call).  I’ve written a speech — while wearing yoga pants — that was read in the House of Commons.  I’ve done some decent work while decidedly dressed down is what I’m getting at.

Remember: I work from home, which obviously affords a certain level of casuality*.  So I’m not at all exaggerating when I say that if I was expected to dress more formally for school drop-off or pick-up, I would need to buy an entire new wardrobe to do so. I think we’ve established that that’s not going to happen.

Also remember: my son’s teacher wears leggings and Keds pretty much every day.  And why not?  It’s pretty much the perfect uniform for the standing-sitting-running-jumping-bending-lifting-rolling-squatting job that is educating 30 four-, five- and six-year-olds all day.

A bigger concern for me — far greater than impressing a school official or keeping up with the less sartorially challenged neighbours — is the example I’m setting for my kids.  And what do I teach them when I pull on the same pair of ratty jeans or flour-burnished yoga pants?

I teach them that the person inside is more interesting, more intelligent, more engaged and more important than the clothes on the outside.  They know that to be true, because we pushed off doing laundry in favour of playing outside.  We read books together instead of going shopping together.  The flour on my pants says, “We made pizza last night, remember?  That was fun.  Let’s do it again.”

Would I act differently if I had a full-time office job?  Or a friend/colleague like Dawn who could hold me to account?  I’ll only admit to “probably,” though we all know the answer is “yes.”

But that’s a worry for another day.  Today, the only dress codes that apply are for bathing (no clothes) and tea parties (tiaras mandatory).  Works for me.

* Not a real word.   Let’s add “invented a new word” to my list of Great Things Accomplished While Dressed Inappropriately.

Not coming soon to a TV near you

old_school_tvAaaaand … we’re back.

Took a brief hiatus to focus more on paid writing but you all were never far from mind.  No fair blaming me for that — if you all paid me, these last three sentences would have added about $50 to my bank account.  Insert unironic smilie here.

We’re back, with this: the host of a local current affairs program took to the show’s blog to say some mind-bogglingly obtuse comments about why it’s hard to book women for his show.

He basically offers up three explanations as to why male guests agree to appear and women don’t:

  1. Child care duties: “No man will ever say, “Sorry, can’t do your show tonight, I’m taking care of my kids.”
  2. Concerns about appearance: “No man will say, “Sorry, can’t do your show tonight, my roots are showing.”
  3. Perceived lack of expertise: “No man will say, “Sorry can’t do your show tonight, I’m not an expert in that particular aspect of the story.”

I’ve felt the pressures of each of those at various times but to paint the challenges as some sort of gender essentialism is … well, plainly put, it’s bullshit.

(Note that he also says that it’s been particularly challenging in the last couple of weeks.  Hello, March Break.)

Now, I’ve not been asked to appear on the program but I can think of many reasons why I do take a pass on personal media opportunities, and they’re not as simple as that 1-2-3.

As I said on Twitter:

I write op-eds for other people all the time and the starting point is always the same … namely, I know very little. Research it, write it, edit it, submit. If I can do this for others, why not for myself?

I have no formal authority (job title, graduate degree, etc.).

I occasionally have work conflicts that preclude free expression.

I work hard to see different perspectives, which makes arguing one’s own opinion more challenging.

I don’t have a lot of free time.

Like most people, I’m not a fan of rejection.

I’m more aware than most that published thoughts live forever.

Other reasons, too.

But, you know, the show’s producers aren’t therapists and I’m not an asshole.  I wouldn’t waste their time explaining why I feel insecure about my level of experience and expertise, because time is short and they need to get off the phone with me and onto the next prospect.  Frustrated producers might take my polite “Have to watch the kids” as an excuse, but it’s not an excuse if it feels, for me, to be true.

I’ve passed on going out to some networking events I probably should have attended, because I had nothing to wear.  I mean, I live in jeans and seven-year-old yoga pants, no joke.  I’m lucky in that I’ve got a few great contracts right now and can finally afford to buy new clothes.  But I hate shopping.  And I have a great partner who will happily watch the kids while I go shopping, but that’s not how I want to spent my childless time.

Do you see what I’m getting at, here?

Sometimes we legitimately have to watch the kids.  And sometimes that’s shorthand for, “I don’t feel pretty,” and “I don’t feel smart,” and “I don’t trust you,” and “I don’t want to disappoint everyone.”

So it’s not that easy.  If you come at an issue as challenging as the representation of women in media with the impression that there’s an easy answer and you’re just missing something … well … you’re half right.

Why I no longer read viral content

There’s a handy little app for Facebook that fixety-fixes things so that you can filter out annoying content:

… that kind of thing.  It’s called Social Fixer and I endorse it heavily and heartily.

The problem, of course, is that Social Fixer is only responsive technology, that is, it can only filter out content you’ve already identified as objectionable.  You have to object to annoying posts first.

Lately, I’ve noticed most of my knee-jerk “fixing” has to do with parenting posts (or articles or videos) that have gone viral.  I just have so little patience for it.  My friends share, share, share and I reflexively hide, hide, hide.

Why the aversion?  If I’m going to be honest, it’s partly envy that someone else’s work has gone viral and mine hasn’t — but that only accounts for, say, 3-5% of my irritation.  It’s mostly boredom.  I mean, how many different ways are there to say, “This is hard; you’re doing alright?”  I checked: there are seven.  I’ve read those seven ways, and they were pretty good but I swear — everything from eight through infinity sounds exactly the same:


There is some good in posts that go viral.  They wouldn’t go viral if there wasn’t.  But the difference between finding astonishingly good writing or a perfectly phrased insight all your own can’t be underestimated.

It’s the difference between the pie that you bake from apples you picked … and this.  It’s the difference between the way you always pictured a character from a beloved children’s book, and the actor some casting agent picked for the part (I mean, Michael Landon was a fine actor, but is there a person alive who didn’t think Victor French would have made a better Pa Ingalls?).  It’s the difference between burying your nose in a guide book and setting off on your own adventure.

Go forth.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.