THE CREATIVE LIFE OF A BUCK
In my early twenties I had a couple of friends who had velvety Rex rabbits that they decided to breed. Naturally, the coupling took place at a house party. That is the kind of depraved youth I had—one in which animal husbandry was the chosen entertainment on a Saturday night while the children were sequestered in a bedroom down the hall with a Disney movie.
The “adults” stood and watched as the doe was posed on the couch and the buck was put in position behind her. Apparently, it wasn’t position enough because the buck began humping, with great vigour, a spot above the doe's tail, followed by her side, her head, and wherever he could that wasn’t the one place he was supposed to. This went on for a while.
At some point, one of the kids came out of the bedroom. On his way to the bathroom, he glanced in on the scene, then ran back to the bedroom to excitedly report that the rabbits were “snuggling really hard!”
Finally, the buck theatrically dismounted and fell over exhausted, almost like he’d been shot. The doe looked as bored at the end as she had at the beginning. All she got out of it was a wet spot on the fur by her ear.
Now, this is just an elaborate set-up to tell you that, creatively, I feel like that buck. See, I’m good to go—I have lots of creative energy and I’m excited about lots of things—but I just can’t seem to focus that energy in the right place(s). And I worry that even when I figure out what to focus on that it won’t “take.”
Take the Mini-Mag, that’s something to focus on, right? But I’ve been reluctant to write this issue. First off, I was bummed because I thought one of my columns last week was weak due to a time crunch. Secondly—and this may have been irrational —I got all messed up because Lena Dunham announced that she’s starting an email newsletter in September and I suddenly felt that everything I’m doing is pointless and nobody cares. Except that there are several hundred of you reading the Mini-Mag and you’re not nobody. Still, it put me in an avoidance slump.
To distract myself I explored the creative opportunities presented by my new smartphone and first-ever data plan (I’ve now technologically caught up with my parents). I also involved myself in some birthday-related things as I turned forty-one, which, for the record is much more depressing than forty. At forty, you’re like, I feel so empowered in my life as a woman as I begin to approach middle-age! At forty-one, you’re like, Where the hell did that last year go? Have I been in a fugue? Did someone hit me in the head? Is that why there are all these unchecked boxes on my self-actualization list?
Anyway, I thought I’d share some of my recent activities, which may or may not be considered the creative equivalent of humping a rabbit’s head.
THE EPIC BIRTHDAY CAKE
A. offered to make me a birthday cake, but when he mentioned a tub of store-bought frosting, I said I’d make my own. Cakes are kind of my thing and I view them as a creative opportunity to be taken seriously. (I'm not called Nijilla for nothin'.)
It got slightly out of control. It was meant to be a vanilla cake with salted caramel buttercream frosting, which it was, but somewhere along the way it also acquired a whipped, dark chocolate ganache filling and ended up with a salted caramel sauce finish because I couldn’t figure out what else to do with the top.
I was particularly proud of the rustic ruffled sides that were done with a tapered offset spatula that I bought especially. The cake got a forty-five minute photo shoot when it was done. I briefly considered that I should come up with a novel, literary angle for a cake cookbook and learn cake photography.
When the cake was served, our friend Nicolas said it looked like a stack of pancakes and syrup. A. said that the flower that I’d styled on the side of the cake looked like an Ewok.
THE INFININTY SCARF SELFIES
I began a series of selfies incorporating the pink & white infinity scarf that my mother sent me for my birthday... as anything but a scarf. The aim of the project is to text them to my mother to make her laugh. My favourite one so far is part Gertrude Stein, part George Burns, with a little bit of The Girl With the Pearl Earring thrown in. (See cover photo.)
I signed up for Instagram and have fretted over what kinds of photos to upload. I thought it’d be cool to have a signature thing, but I haven’t come up with anything. So far, my account looks like I’m a flowery girlie-girl taking food photos like everyone else. Though, last night I spent fifteen minutes trying to get a reflection-free shot of an all-purpose cleaner that appears to be rather prudish.
On one particular day of procrastination, I Washi-Taped (“decorative tape” to the uninitiated) my desk coaster and four Bic pens. It was hard to stop there. I could’ve kept going—with at least 30 metres of Washi Tape at hand—and covered everything on my desk. It’s a mark of my incredible restraint that I did not.
WAKE UP & DANCE
Inspired by a project called Wake Up & Dance, by two lovely people named Byron and Andrea, I have danced every morning with A. We alternate days picking songs. He picks a lot of New Wave stuff to remind him of his youth when he used to jump around the clubs in a onesie (he calls it a “flight suit”). I try not to over-think it and just pick whatever comes to mind that morning. My favourite moves happened on Day 7 when A. brought his milkshake to the yard.
You can find our ever-growing playlist here.
THERE, THERE // We, the Chubby-Challenged
Am I boring people with my obsession with being body-positive? Or do I sound conceited? I've been trying so hard to stop talking about how fat I am as the self-deprecating humour was making everyone nervous. Perhaps I should stop talking about myself at all? I feel like if I do people will think I haven't noticed that I'm fat, which is the worst of all possibilities...
~ Fat Filly
Dear Fat Filly,
Girl, if it's commiseration you want, you've come to the right place. You may not know this, but I too am a fat filly. I don’t like to use the word “fat” though. I prefer to refer to myself as “festively chubby.”
People usually laugh when I say “festively chubby.” They also laugh when I say things like, “Once you go thick, you never go stick!” I can remember a time in 2007 when a friend remarked that, in a new hat, I looked like Britney Spears. I was boxing at that time in my life and still plump, but also very strong, so I said, “Britney Spears on steroids and cream puffs maybe.” It became a line I used, even making its way into a song that I performed on stage while a fan blew back my hair and made me feel like a rockstar: “I know I may look like Britney Spears on steroids and cream puffs, but I’m 200+ pounds of I can kick your ass...”
Have you seen Pitch Perfect? Rebel Wilson (who’s a bit Chris Farlesque), plays a character who calls herself “Fat Amy.” When a conventionally pretty, thin girl asks why she calls herself that, she deadpans, “So that twig bitches like you won’t do it behind my back.” It’s an especially good fat joke because the fat part is the set-up, not the punch line.
Comedy often employs self-deprecating humour. I’m okay with that and often use humour in that manner. I cringe though when I do this other thing, which is to try to explain to people why I look so well-fed even though it has very little to do with food (well, except for maybe five pounds in cake and whisky weight). It has a lot to do with having an autoimmune thyroid disease and a generally undisciplined endocrine system. So I’ll mention that, and if I feel particularly judged, I’ll also talk about how, on the bright side, my blood sugars (because god forbid they bring up diabetes), blood pressure, and cholesterol levels are all within the healthiest ranges.
Isn’t that messed up—that I sometimes feel like I have to defend my own body to other people with lab data? Even if someone does have, for example, an eating disorder, why should they feel like they have to defend their body and their basic right to take up space—both physically and metaphorically?
Women are taught to be unhappy with their bodies. We're also taught that somehow it's our job to be thin and good looking. Well guess what? I’m also big-boned (for real), a few inches taller than the average woman, have trotters as large as a man’s, plus a sizeable rack... so it’s not like I’m ever going to be small. I’ve had to learn to deal with that in a hideously hurtful, fat-shaming culture.
Wouldn’t it be refreshing if people of size—particularly women—were portrayed in our culture with no comment on their weight at all? The only show I can think of that does this is Parks and Recreation with a character named Donna who’s a big gal with a lot of game. Her weight, subversively, is never mentioned. And the funny thing is, we just except her for who she is.
Take the fatkini. A couple years ago it was startling to see a woman in one (kind of like how it used to be startling to see gay people being affectionate with each other). Now you can buy fatkinis at major retailers and photos of women wearing them are popping up everywhere (including this one on Instagram of Lindy West, who also just published an article in The Guardian called “My wedding was perfect—and I was as fat as hell the whole time”). I’d never be brave enough to wear one, opting instead for swimwear that has the most amount of coverage without actually being a wet suit, but I applaud the women who rock them. The more you look at their bodies, the more they become normal. Being amply-bodied is totally ordinary, so why shouldn’t it be bloody normal? It’s the erasure of diverse bodies in our culture that’s got us into this mess. Also, if we stop sexualizing the hell out of everything than a thigh is just a thigh, and a stomach is just a stomach, and an arm is just a goddamn arm.
Was I ranting? Did I just bore you with my body positivity? Well, no, because I’m preaching to the converted, right, Fat Filly?
Yeah, one can talk about their obsessions too much, but I bet you know when to reign it in if you’re worrying about it to me. Or maybe you go a little too far and know it, but then get it under control, but fret about it later. That happens to me when I’ve had more than two drinks. At it’s worse though, it’s still a minor offence.
As for talking about yourself, the rules are the same whether you’re chubby-challenged or not: talk about yourself about as much as other people are taking about themselves. And if, when you’re talking about yourself, you happen to let on that you actually like yourself, which includes your body, well then, you’ll be just a wee bit revolutionary.
Yours in girth, with mirth,
To submit a question, confession, or concern to There, There all you have to do is visit this link.
THREE THINGS // Documentaries are Movies Too
We’re in-between TV shows at the moment. I’ve been loath to start a new multi-season series for fear of never going outside again. It’s funny, with the current TV renaissance, I sometimes forget that we can still watch movies—only, not a lot of the movies on Netflix have looked appealed to me lately, which is why I remembered that documentaries are movies too. Here are three that are on Netflix now and worth watching.
1 / Harmontown
If you’re a fan of Community, you’ll like this one about its writer/creator, Dan Harmon. Harmon is a functional alcoholic who does a podcast called Harmontown. He started the podcast with an actor named Jeff in the back of a comic book store around the time he and Chevy Chase got into a spat and he was fired from Community. The documentary follows Harmon as he takes Harmontown on tour across the States, bringing the shows, which are recorded live and edited later, to “Harmenians”, who Harmon describes as “nerds full of love.” I thought I’d never utter words like this, but: the dungeon master is one of the best parts of the movie.
2 / What Happened, Miss Simone?
Nina Simone has been described as having “chronic melancholy”, which you feel when you watch this doc. There’s lots of rare and unseen footage and recordings of Simone’s voice, which she says is “sometimes like gravel and sometimes like coffee and cream.” If you know Simone’s songs, you know what an important part of the civil rights movement they were and you might even choke up as you realize how much those songs are still needed because #blacklivesmatter.
3 / An Honest Liar
This documentary follows the life and career of the renowned stage magician turned skeptic of the paranormal, James Randi—known as The Amazing Randi. Randi, who was born in Toronto, is a little old man in the film and looks his part. It’s diverting and, with sleight of hand, tells of Randi’s hidden life.