Archive for the ‘reality check’ Category

Alston Adams 1974–2010

Monday, October 4th, 2010

We met, oh, six years ago? at a YULblog meeting. He was young, social, full of life and angry. Our names sounded sort of the same. I’m the oldest of five, he was the youngest of five. He was in an interracial relationship, I’m from a mixed-race family. We had little in common but there was a feeling of kinship anyway.

Three years ago he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

Two weeks ago we took him for a drive in the country. We thought that sitting in the car being driven around would be about all the activity he could handle, and as it turned out we had overestimated him.

His goal was to make it to his 36th birthday, which would have been November 8th.

He didn’t make it.

You know what they say about doing whatever it is now, not putting it off because there may never be a later? Yeah. What they say.

Carpe diem.

Mail-order brides

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

A little kerfuffle over at Science Blogs brought mail-order brides back to my attention. (Didn’t they have their fifteen minutes of fame in the eighties?)

I commented to Mark that I didn’t see what the fuss was about. He gamely pointed to the fuzzy grey borderline between mail-order brides and prostitution.

Alison: Well, there’s a fuzzy-to-nonexistent borderline between marriage and prostitution generally. The point of marriage is that it recognises sexual relationships as inherently potentially exploitatitve, and confers legal rights and responsibilities on the parties involved.

Mark: Ah, but that doesn’t apply in the US. If they divorce, the mail-order bride has no residency rights and is deported back to her country of origin. It’s not like Canada where a sponsored immigrant spouse has residency rights independent of the status of the relationship.

Oh. Right. I keep forgetting. (Which is odd, because one of my favourite stories about sponsoring Mark under Canada’s Family Reunification Program is how when he went to get his visa exchanged for a residency card, he was sat down and solemnly lectured that if I were to become abusive, he was not to hesitate to Move Out Immediately. Quebec would help him find a place to live and give him welfare if he needed it. He would NOT have to leave the country. Quebec would come after me for reimbursement as necessary. He was NOT to worry about that.)

But does that mean that we should be worried about the institution of mail-order brides, or that we should be protesting the lack of protection the US offers immigrant spouses – exacerbating a situation of potential exploitation where marriage is supposed to alleviate it?

messy (evolution of)

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

I remember when I was about four or five and my father was trying to get me to put my things away, I finally told him that I didn’t care. If he cared, he should put them away. He called me a princess. I was confused because in the books I read, princesses were always virtuous heroines but by his tone of voice my father didn’t seem to be praising me. I tried to get him to explain but he had lost patience by then.

When I was about ten or eleven I was sitting at the dining room table working on a craft and dropped something on the floor. I was about to lean over and pick it up, when I realised that I didn’t have to. I didn’t need it right away and it was perfectly fine sitting on the floor until I did need it. All I had to do was remember where it was. This epiphany was accompanied by a worried suspicion that I was going to regret my insight.

Anyone I have lived with has, with a single exception, complained about my messiness. With that single exception, none has cheerfully accepted my other contributions to the household as adequate compensation for needing to pick up after me.

When living with that single exception, who did not, after all, pick up after me, rather the opposite, the house was so filthy that when a pregnant friend we were chatting with on the sidewalk needed to pee, we lied and said the toilet didn’t work. I think that was when I faced the fact that there was something seriously wrong. We never discussed it.

In Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride, there’s a scene where a pathetic, dependent character breaks something and there’s glass on the floor. This is one more contribution to a discouraging sequence of events, not because she attached value to the broken thing but because “now she would have to remember.” As in, it doesn’t occur to her to sweep up the shards; instead she will need to spend the rest of her life trying not to cut her feet by not walking in that spot. I was shocked to discover that I was a type.

For a couple of years one of my annual objectives at work in my performance review was to clean up my desk. I never really got around to doing a complete job. My boss eventually gave up. For the past four years or so my bosses have been elsewhere — Winnipeg or Mississauga or Toronto — and have not seen my desk.

It’s not that I like being messy. I don’t even like ordinary cheerful clutter; I love a stark, open, spare space. One of the first things I did upon getting a regular job was to hire a cleaning lady. It’s more that it seems too complicated. I like doing laundry, and do it diligently even if it means hauling it to a laundromat, even if it takes all weekend. Laundry is self-limiting. There is not an infinite amount of stuff that could theoretically be put into a washing machine. Once it has been washed, it needs to be folded and put away. Very simple. Not only that, I know where laundered things go. Clothes have drawers and shelves and hangers; sheets and towels have closets; dog blankets go back on dog beds; soft furnishings go back where they came from. If I start to clean a house I never know when to stop: there’s always something I didn’t get to and feel guilty about, always a decision that I don’t know how to make.

Mark determined that part of my problem is that not everything has a place to go. I feel bad when stuff is lying around in heaps, but it’s not as though changing the situation is always a simple matter of putting it in its place. There often is no place for it, so more radical intervention is called for. When he moved in he put a lot more storage in. It helps. 

Still, the other day someone said that if I were an employee, she’d fire me; that if I were a roommate, I would be out on my ass in two days. She doesn’t even know me that well. It’s just that obvious.

My boss is in town for a day. I cleaned off my desk this morning in preparation, which mostly consisted of stashing papers and the binders into which they are some day to be filed, into drawers and bins where they will be invisible to the casual visitor. Still, I feel better.

Mark has been stomping around crossly for the past few weeks, issuing dark warnings that we both need to change if we value the relationship. I’m not sure I can change, exactly. But perhaps I can put “cleaning off the dining room table every Saturday” into the same doable category as “laundry.”

Orfeo ed Euridice

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

Just came back from seeing a live broadcast of an opera performance at the Met. Cool use of cinema.

I cried at the beginning when Orfeo was mourning the loss of Euridice, because of the utter completeness of loss through death. And I cried when Euridice was contemplating a life loving someone who did not return her affection, because that’s what life with Mark is often like. (Euridice determined that death was preferable.)

After the opera Mark went home with somebody else, and I cried again.

So, what’s it like being a new homeowner?

Monday, July 31st, 2006

Still slowly trying to absorb it. I thought I was getting it when I dutifully and only mildly resentfully started dedicating all the nice weekends of my summer to scratching the rust and loose paint off the wrought-iron fence in preparation for painting it some yet-to-be-determined colour.

But then the Nurse from the Insurance Company called to say she was coming by the next morning – at 7h00 – to take blood and urine samples. Oh. That’s serious. Somehow that felt like more of a sobering initiation ritual than sitting in an office with a scattered notary signing a document and being informed that the important stuff would be done later and eventually mailed to us.

Like, somebody else wants to check up on us make sure it’s being done right. Must be Important then. Even if it’s just the life insurance and has nothing directly to do with the purchase at all.

Makes me question how I judge when something is important or even real.

[originally transmitted by e-mail July 31, 2006]

shame

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

[Anyone reluctant to read about other people's disgusting oozy things and biological functions is instructed to cease reading immediately and to delete this e-mail and forget they ever saw it.]

Before leaving for Toronto last week I developed a canker sore in my cheek. I don’t get them often – I think the last one was probably fifteen or twenty years ago. After a day in Toronto I was really fed up. I was having trouble swallowing, and the sore was clearly poised over some nerves because I had pain in my ear and teeth and that side of my face was numb and tingly from my lips to my lower eyelid. I made an appointment with a dentist. (Why a dentist? Because you can look them up in the phone book and you don’t have to ask if they are gynecologists or gastroenterologists or pediatricians before making an appointment. Because you can get an appointment. Because even if the problem isn’t my tooth, it’s the kind of thing dentists see a lot. Because when I got a canker sore on a trip to Vancouver in… 1974? my mother took me to a dentist. Because I let my Medicare card expire and getting a new card is taking a lot longer than getting a reimbursement from my employer’s dental plan is going to.)

Anyway. It was a very nice dentist’s office. The receptionist had me fill out a card with contact info and medical history. She led me into an office and sat me in a dentist’s chair, and a young man in scrubs came in and started asking questions. I giggled privately to myself about the phenomenon of professionals becoming so very young as one ages. He didn’t look in my mouth though, and the conversation soon tuned to the upcoming Gay Games / Outgames and Divers/Cité / Pride parties in Montreal, which he will be attending. I started thinking that this was a very peculiar dental appointment, and when was he going to look at my canker sore? And then the dentist walked in…

The nice Jewish dentist looked in my mouth, asked a few questions and immediately called in a colleague for a second opinion. I started feeling like less of an idiot for consulting over a canker sore. The stern Goyish colleague looked in my mouth, asked the same questions and pronounced: “Salt water rinses. If it doesn’t get better in three days, come back and we’ll do x-rays and exploratory surgery. No antibiotics. The body heals itself.” As a stern Goyish type myself, this evaluation sounded right to me and I submitted easily. But as the stern Goy turned on his heels and left, my nice Jew started twittering anxiously over me: my mouth must be very painful. Do I need a prescription for painkillers? Ultimately he wrote me a prescription for penicillin, which I accepted after receiving assurances that yes, canker sores were bacterial infections. I giggled privately over this little drama and the cultural split and the stereotypes, imagining them as a couple with their children, one giving directives for life and the other fussing over feelings and offering palliatives in secret.

I had been given the penicillin prescription with the proviso that I didn’t need to take it, but that it would shorten the course of whatever it was. My stern Goyish self held out for two hours before shamefully caving in and filling the prescription. Sigh. So much for cultural stereotypes. (I mean, I know I flout the WASP taboo against TMI, but I had sincerely thought I was good for the one against unnecessary antibiotics.)

My course of antibiotics ends today, and while my thingy has gotten a little better it’s not a dramatic improvement. Another appointment, this time with my own dentist. Who likewise calls in an immediate second opinion. I get a name this time, “aphthous ulcer.” It’s a combination bacterial-viral thing it seems, so antibiotics only help up to a point. My dentist’s second opinion held forth that Big Pharma won’t develop antibiotics against viruses because then they would lose all that income from cold remedies, and that I will get best results with homeopathic Arnica granules. The sore is infectious now, so for the next two weeks, as it finishes healing, no kissing. My own dentist looks on from the sidelines, fascinated. I firmly decline the homeopathy – somewhat scandalised, in fact – and go home to research “aphthous ulcers” on the internet.

Turns out they’re an autoimmune phenomenon of some kind. Neither bacterial nor viral. Certain antibiotics (not the ones I had been prescribed) do help, but probably by their direct effect on the immune system and not by killing bacteria. They are not infectious.

You know how they say to trust your professional and not the Internet? I’m going with the Internet on this one. I have a funny feeling.

And am feeling even more deeply ashamed for caving on the penicillin. (On the bright side, I can go snog my beloved now.)

[originally transmitted by e-mail July 18, 2006]