Oh, but speaking of joining things (like I did down below), this is the kind of thing that makes me opposed to joining any organized group activity ever. Taking a cool thing and making it mandatory is even worse than potlucks.
Potlucks are kind of the worst for me. I get that they have good qualities: sharing the food-making responsibility, lots of different kinds of food in case you don’t like one of the dishes, trying new combinations of foods that you wouldn’t have thought of, and getting to make food for your friends, if those are things you like doing. I like doing pretty much all of them except for the last one.
I never had much interest in cooking. I learned how to make a few things when I first moved out of my family’s house. I made really basic meals, and then watched my housemates make slightly more complicated meals and imitated those, as long as they didn’t involve measuring cups. When I moved into an apartment by myself I felt a lot more comfortable in the kitchen. I bought a massive cookbook and would generally read the recipes about half way through and then make up the rest. I usually enjoyed the results, but I don’t think I ever shared them with anyone.
Cooking for other people makes me incredibly nervous. The food I make rarely looks pretty. It drips and gets mushy and the colours never stay bright. People at work often compliment me on the lunches I bring, so maybe part of this is just me projecting my general dislike of cooking on my food (does that even mean what I want it to mean?). But I still hate potlucks. I’ll stay up late thinking about what I could bring and I rarely have all the ingredients and I pretty much never wash my hands before I start touching the food. So I usually bring, like, pita and hummus or something like that, and I worry that people will think I just can’t be bothered to make stuff. Actually, though, I don’t make stuff because I’m way too bothered. Once I did make stuff for a potluck and then kept it hidden from everyone. There was enough food that people didn’t notice or at least didn’t say anything. Also, I think other people hadn’t made food and at the end we had leftovers so I didn’t feel too bad about it. But it still kind of sucked.
Last year, some colleagues talked about a “Come Lunch With Me” thing they did the year before, where they each had a day where they would bring lunch for everyone and then at the end of the week vote on whose was the best. I think they based it on something called “Come Dine With Me.” Probably a UK thing. They talked about bringing it back and I was so happy they didn’t while I worked with them. I probably wouldn’t have participated. I don’t mind joining organized activities on principle (well, maybe sometimes, but not always), but I find a lot of organized activities usually involve something that I really don’t enjoy doing with other people. It might make me seem like a curmudgeon but really I think we can blame the organizers for picking an activity as personal as food.
So yeah. Potlucks. They are sometimes the worst.
I kind of love this post on Rookie. The writer’s philosophy on makeup seems to be pretty much the opposite to mine, but I think it comes from the same place.
I don’t wear makeup. I stopped about ten years ago, partly because I realized one day that I actually preferred how my eyes looked without any eyeliner and partly because I didn’t want to take the time to put it on (that’s valuable procrastination time that I’m wasting!). I completely reject the idea that people (women) should have to wear makeup to be considered presentable, but I don’t think that really factored into my decision to stop. I think I was able to reject the idea in theory while still sometimes wearing makeup in practice.
Once, I think I was in grade 8 or something, I decided I wanted to do something dramatic on my face, so I swept green eyeshadow across my eyelids in a style not unlike Mr. Spock’s. Several classmates told me that I was wearing too much makeup. I don’t know if they thought I had meant to create a more natural look and just screwed up, or if they just didn’t like how it looked and felt I needed to know that. Anyway, it bugged me. Thankfully, no one has ever made a comment about me having too much hair dye on when I made my hair green or blue or purple. Maybe things are different for hair and face. I’m not sure.
A few years after I stopped wearing makeup, I considered buying something really bold and bright, like a bright eyeliner or something, just to maybe wear on occasion when I felt like looking different. I walked back and forth in the makeup aisle of the drugstore several times, trying to decide if I should buy something or if it would just be a waste of money because I would hardly ever (never?) use it. In the end I decided not to buy any makeup, not so much because it would waste money, but because I didn’t want to support that industry. If makeup really existed to make people’s faces look exactly how they want them to look, like that Rookie post says it should, and if it were marketed that way, I might have bought something. But that’s not how makeup is advertised. Makeup companies make money by telling people (women) that they don’t look good enough on their own. And I hate that and I don’t want to support it, so I won’t, except when I did last month because I needed to dress the way I did in high school so I bought a black eyeliner for my goth look. I had fun wearing it but I didn’t like buying it.
I used to sometimes feel smug about my lack of makeup. I don’t really anymore because that’s obnoxious and I don’t judge people for doing what they need to do to survive and have fun in a patriarchal society. I have sometimes felt a bit betrayed when someone would tell me how amazingly attractive it was that I didn’t ever wear makeup, and then start dating someone totally glam who wore it all the time. But I think I’m over that too, because I’ve realized that we are all more than the stuff we put on our faces.
I know I have a lot of privilege in being able to not wear makeup. Like when I said earlier that I first stopped wearing makeup because I preferred how I looked without it? That isn’t a thing that is true about everyone. And I have a job where I’m taken seriously without having any makeup on. And my looks fall under the conventional definition of attractiveness enough that without makeup I think people still see me as conventionally attractive, and there are a lot of benefits that come with that. Also my eyelids are naturally darker than the rest of my face, so I kind of look like I have eyeshadow on all the time.
But when I’m tired, I look tired. When I have a zit, I look like I have a zit. When I’m pale, I’m pale. I don’t feel like I’m making a statement by not putting anything on my face to change how it looks. I might not feel this way if I had spent a larger part of my adult life wearing makeup regularly, but I guess I’ll never know. As it is, it just feels like being me when I drag myself out of bed, brush my teeth, get dressed, and maybe moisturize if my face is itchy. And that’s where I totally agree with Meredith who wrote that Rookie post:
It’s a question of agency and visibility. Exactly what makeup you wear and how and when is unimportant—the point is, it’s your choice. Now get out there and face the world.
Okay. But first it’s bed time.
I’ve had The Baby-Sitters Club books on my mind recently. It might be because Roxane Gay wrote about the Sweet Valley High books in a few of the essays in her book Bad Feminist. I never got into Sweet Valley High, and I didn’t feel a strong need to identify with either twin (I probably would have picked Elizabeth), but for a few years, I really cared about which Baby-Sitters Club member I was.
I sometimes felt like Kristy, even though I didn’t play sports and I didn’t have a short temper and I don’t think I was bossy. I dressed kind of like her (although several of my classmates wore jeans, turtlenecks, and sweatshirts in grade three or whatever) and I sometimes felt more comfortable hanging out with boys than with other girls because boys weren’t socialized to tear each other apart.
I also sometimes felt like Mary Anne, because I had a lot invested in being well-behaved and I was kind of shy. But then I had a friend who I knew (or thought?) would always be better behaved than I was, and who was also very much into The Baby-Sitters Club, so I felt weird claiming the Mary Anne identity when it fit this other person so much better. But I guess we sometimes shared it.
I couldn’t be Claudia, because I was a good student and I got along well with my family and my fashion sense wasn’t as creative as hers. Or at least I thought it wasn’t. I actually did dress kind of weird.
I saw myself in Stacey a little bit. I was from a big city like she was, but that didn’t set me apart from anyone at school because we all lived in downtown Toronto. I wore a lot of black like she did, but I don’t think that ever made me look sophisticated, possibly because I was eight.
I definitely wasn’t California hippie tofu-loving Dawn, but maybe I’ve become more like her in recent years.
I didn’t think much about whether I would be a Jessi or a Mallory, and I wonder now if they were a bit low on personality. Their Wikipedia descriptions are on the short side. I think Jessi’s main traits were that fact that she was a ballerina (I danced too, but in Baby-Sitters Club land that meant you needed to always want to dance, which was not a thing in my world) and the fact that people were racist to her family (possibly to remind the reader that she was the black one). And Mallory just always seemed miserable with her huge family and not liking the way she looked, and that really wasn’t me at all.
And I stopped reading before I really got to know the other characters. But that’s probably enough about the characters (and me). My question now is, why do people need to do this? Why do we need to pick one character in a crowd to identify with? Because maybe some people don’t do this, but I know I’m not the only one who does, and I did it with other books and TV shows and movies, not just The Baby-Sitters Club. But it’s weird, because I’ve never met anyone whose personality actually matches up with a fictional character’s. And when someone in my life does remind me of a character it’s always in an unexpected and kind of weird way, not in a way that makes them an exact copy of that character. I mean, fictional characters are either too simple and archetypical to feel authentically like any real person, or so complex and rounded out that the likelihood of an actual person having their exact combination of personality traits and life experiences is way small.
I guess there’s something comforting about finding someone I can identify with and seeing how they interact with (and are loved and accepted by) people who are different from them, but since none of my friend groups ever really feels like the same mixture of people that I read about in The Baby-Sitters Club (or met in any other story), that identification often ends up feeling a bit hollow.
Also, I really wonder if it’s a coincidence that the two characters I identified with most were the two who had the same hair and eye colour as me. It probably isn’t, which just reinforces the fact that articles like this one (it says that the pendulum has now swung to far in the direction of diverse casts of television shows) are a load of crap. When I was a kid, I had enough white girl characters to pick from that I could sometimes narrow them down based on hair and eye colour, and maybe even height and body type, and still make choices based on personality. Diverse casts are important so that people can see characters that look like them AND act like them in multiple situations and at multiple stages in their lives, and it’s also important so that privileged white girls like me don’t think that the only characters that can really be like them are the ones who look like them.
(Also, Janet Mock and her Smart Ass Pop Culture Feminist Clique tore that article apart last week over here, and you should totally watch that video because her show is awesome.)
The sunset here reminds me of last spring when I went to Edinburgh and climbed Arthur’s seat. I came back to Canada and I’m doing what I said I wanted to do, seeing more of the country, but I still wonder if I should have stayed in the UK longer.
I miss the double decker busses and the trains out to Croydon. I miss the people I didn’t have time to really get to know. I miss the way they spoke, even if I sometimes didn’t understand it. I miss the place where I did yoga and I miss running along the Thames. I miss the late late summer sunsets and the fact that I didn’t need more than a light jacket from mid-February on. I’m glad I came home before my grandfather died, and I’m glad I had my family around me so we could try to climb our way out from under the pile of grief that landed on us (and then kept coming) together.
It doesn’t look like I’ll move back to England any time soon. I don’t know for sure but at the moment I don’t feel it. Time to start looking for new adventures, I guess.
Sometimes I miss taking the train to work.
But then, sometimes Toronto looks like this.
This time last year was the first back-to-school period that I remember when I didn’t actually go back to school. I’d been on the same yearly schedule for over 20 years, so it felt odd to spend my end of summer days packing for England and watching Buffy and Angel and figuring out how to ship my cat across the world.
Now I’m back in Toronto, back in my old routine, getting ready to go back to my old school. Everything feels mostly right, but just a little bit off. Things have changed and I’m used to change (I might not like it but it doesn’t usually surprise me), but they changed while I was away so I didn’t have a chance to get used to the changes themselves. Bloor Street has a barber shop called The Man Cave and Book City is empty and gone. The school that was going to become condos is now condos. It all just looks a little bit different. And I’ve changed. I pronounce the word “pardon” differently and I sometimes say that I’m not bothered instead of saying that I don’t care. Subway rides feel ridiculously short in this city. I rarely have time to settle into a book before I get to my stop. I don’t mind not having an hour and a half commute to and from work, but I already miss the view from the train and the company from the colleagues I’d meet up with at Clapham Junction. I don’t know if I made the right decision in coming back. I don’t know if I would have made the right decision if I had stayed. But I’m here, and I’m happy, and I’m excited to feel leaves crunch under my feet soon.