Sunday, February 23, 2014

the hockey jersey

These things I know:

The hockey jersey is the least-flattering garment known in modern times. Whatever your shape, size, age or style, put on a jersey and you look like a block. You are a block wearing your team colours. You represent. Nevertheless, you are a block, wearing a $200 polyester garment that makes you look like a block.

The hockey jersey is warm. Very warm. Hot flashes and hockey jerseys don't work well together. Women of a certain age had best wear hockey jerseys in hockey arenas only, preferably while lying on the ice. Note: this is not recommended during a hockey game, nor while the Zamboni is on the ice.

Sports fans love their hockey jerseys. Alex has 6 of them now, I think. Get on public transit on game day, and  you will see dozens of people wearing hockey jerseys to the office, to lunch, to the game. A Skytrain car full of blocks in expensive polyester shirts. Go figure!

The hockey jersey requires no imagination. Just put it on. You are immediately identified as a fan of the team. Imagination is demonstrated by people who paint their faces or dye their hair with team colours or wear watermelon shells on their heads. No, wait, that's CFL football. Never mind.

My lack of appreciation for the allure of the hockey jersey would indicate that I would NEVER, ever wear a hockey jersey. Finally, on Friday, at work, I did. I wore the jersey. Canada's men's Olympic hockey team was facing Team USA in the semi-finals. The winner would compete for the gold medal. The loser would go to the runoff match for the bronze. I borrowed Alex's team Canada jersey and wore it to work.

It was warm. I work indoors, so I wore a light T-shirt underneath. I managed to keep my cool, and keep the jersey on all day. Thank goodness. I looked like a block. Yes I did, but I represented. The Maple Leaf emblem told everyone that I was cheering for Canada. Hooray! And it was funny, people who I see everyday, who would never mention my outfit, my shoes, my haircut, my earrings, went out of their way to say, "I LIKE YOUR JERSEY!" Yes, they said it like that, in capital letters. And when we won the semi-final, several people admonished me that I had better wear that jersey again on Sunday, to ensure that we would win the gold medal. Hmmm, so jerseys also have magical powers? I knew that beards, socks and underwear have magical powers, but not jerseys.

So now I know a few more things about hockey jerseys:

Jerseys are not about looking attractive. They are meant to make you look uniform - the same as the other fans. Wearing a jersey says, "I am with YOU in our devotion to the team."

Because the jersey is in no way personal or individual, it allows others to say, "YOU LOOK AWESOME," without risking any misunderstanding about why they are saying it. The person who compliments your jersey is not attracted to you, or trying to flatter you. The person who compliments your jersey is excited that you like the same team that he or she likes.

Jerseys are imaginative, but in a different way. They encourage the wearer, and those who see him or her, to imagine winning. If there's a magical power in a jersey, it's that it allows the wearer to feel the magic of doing something tangible to support the team. That's good.

When I came home, I gave Alex back his Team Canada jersey and thanked him for letting me borrow it to wear to work. I appreciated the opportunity to share in the fun, and I learned a lot.

question: do you wear the hockey jersey?

mompoet - happy (sometimes) to look like a block, with all of the other blocks

Sunday, February 09, 2014

thinking about dylan farrow and woody allen

This post is about sexual assault.

I have been reading online and via social media about Dylan Farrow and Woody Allen. In the 90s, Woody Allen's daughter Dylan, then 7 years old, told her mother, Mia Farrow, that Woody Allen sexually assaulted her. I remember hearing about it at the time, and thinking about how horrible that was, and wondering what happened, but not really wanting to know more. I was a new Mom at the time, and felt frightened and repulsed by the thought of anyone hurting a child in this way.

The story has been raised in the media again because Woody Allen recently received a Golden Globe Lifetime Achievement Award. His daughter Dylan, now an adult, spoke publicly for the first time about what happened. Here is what she said.

A week or so later, Woody Allen responded. Here is what he said.

A google search or a look at your facebook or twitter feed will lead you to dozens of editorials and blog posts about the controversy around this devastating incident. I have been thinking and thinking about it, and wondering what an ordinary person can or should do.

We will never know exactly what happened. There's lot's of discussion and opinion about that, without much light shed. I think for myself, it's beside the point. Here's what I am thinking:

I have to believe Dylan Farrow's account. Maybe I am wrong, and I am wrongly believing that Woody Allen did this horrendous thing. I would rather risk believing this wrongly than leaving a survivor of sexual assault to hang out to dry. Experts on both sides of the controversy can tell you about studies and statistics around wrongful accusations of abuse and manipulation of child witnesses. All of that pales in the light of what a story like this tells us about what is right and wrong, and what it means to be a victim of sexual assault.

I am choosing to think about this on a personal level. What does this situation say to people who have experienced sexual assault or harassment, or people who will be survivors of sexual assault in the future? Dylan Farrow describes her experience of being disbelieved and disregarded, while her famous and powerful father continued to live as a highly regarded artist. Her trauma and guilt have been with her since that day, while he has gone on to continue to live a good and happy life.

I have (thankfully) little experience with instances of sexual assault and harassment, and (blessedly) no experience with cases in which a child is involved. My indirect personal experience (as a friend and supporter) affirms the fact that survivors find themselves in a no-win situation. They are disbelieved, examined to determine if they did anything to provoke the assault, and isolated in their state of injury. Many (not all) people would rather disbelieve them because believing them is just too upsetting. When you read Dylan Farrow's personal account, then Woody Allen's description of the expert witnesses, you see what a person is up against if he or she comes forward with allegations of abuse.

What happened with Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow is not just about the high profile principles in this story. It serves as a cautionary tale for someone who has been assaulted. It tells friends and family who receive a report that maybe they should be skeptical, or at least that they need to caution the survivor that an investigation may be painful and unsuccessful. It helps explain why assaults go unreported. It illustrates the painful fact that the survivor will feel guilt for not protecting others who are vulnerable to an assault by the same perpetrator.

In short, it stinks. Taking a personal perspective, I have to remind myself to be open and aware. When someone says they have been harmed, they need acceptance and support. They need to be believed. They need the community around them to take action to make them know they are protected and valued. The same community needs to let the world know that sexual assaults are not acceptable, and that survivors are the priority for our care, attention and protection. We need to assume that the balance is tipped against the survivor when it comes to legal and societal response to their situation. We need to change that too.

Talking about it, not dismissing it because we can't be sure, is the first step. In my limited experience, I have been heartened to see hearts and minds changing through the experience of being a supporter and friend. I have seen individuals and groups taking accountability for improving safety for people who are vulnerable, and making ways for those who feel unsafe to ask for support. There's no way we can make predators disappear. We can adjust our thinking and actions to be better human beings when awful things happen.

This is what I'm thinking about as I think about Dylan Farrow and Woody Allen. I hope that we will all think about them, even though it is hard to do so.

question: how can we be better human beings?

mompoet - pondering

Sunday, February 02, 2014

buy my valentine

I was at the card store the other day, looking for an anniversary card for my parents, birthday cards for a couple of friends and also for my cousin. I was also looking for a Valentine card for my husband. Finding the right card is harder than you might think, considering how many there are on the shelves.

Andy and I don't buy presents for one another for birthdays, Christmas or Valentine's. We sometimes go on a trip together, or get something nice for the house, and that's our gift to one another. We do buy each other cards. Usually, I can find a suitable birthday card for him. For some reason, I have a more difficult time with Valentines.

Here' a list of some of the unacceptable Valentine cards that seem to prevail on the card store shelves:

  • Too many words - This is the mushy Valentine card that has 2 or more panels of mushy talk. Often it folds out like an accordion, to accommodate several short paragraphs of sweet thoughts. It's all very nice, but usually at least some of what it says is not what I want to say, and the on-and-on-and-on sentiments feel like they are trying too hard. A message of love should be loving, to the point and brief.
  • Short story of a silly dog, cat, elephant, etc. - This one features a couple, usually cartoon animals, with a short story of the card-giving spouse's shortcomings: "I know you think I spend too much time at the mall, and my cooking is not any good at all. You help me out when I break a nail, and you bail me out when I'm stuck in jail..." It ends happily with the card-giving spouse expressing gratitude to the card-receiving spouse for putting up with him/her for all these years! Ug.
  • Ones that are the shape and size of a cheque. I know there are birthday cards shaped like this, meant specifically for enclosing cash or a cheque. I don't think anyone puts money in a Valentine, so I wonder why they make Valentine cards in this shape?
  •  Sexy-rude Valentines - I just do not understand these.
  • Valentine cards made so that you can't write your own message inside - A card should have space and a paper surface so you can write your own little love note inside where you sign the card. Some cards have a shiny surface that resists pen ink, or no discernible space for a personal message. Are these meant to be sent anonymously?
  • Insulting Valentine Cards - some insult the giver, some insult the receiver. I find both totally insulting to everyone. A Valentine should be lovey-dovey.
  • Valentine cards meant to be given to or from pets - believe it or not, these are available: "Happy Valentine's Day from your Cat." Meow.
  • Musical Valentine Cards - not many words, but a big blast of computer chip music when you open the card. This almost always startles me. Nobody wants to be startled on Valentine's Day.
  • A chimpanzee in a pink dress or a tuxedo - yuck.
I am re-reading this and hoping that Andy doesn't read it and feel intimidated to buy me a card this year. Apparently I am discerning to the point of snobbishness when it comes to Valentine cards.

So here is what I like to find, when I am looking for a Valentine to give to my sweet heart:
  • A short, heart-felt message of appreciation and love.
  • Preferably Valentine colours - red, pink, white, purple
  • Preferably costing less than $5. Cards are expensive!
 Eventually, I found a very nice Valentine card for Andy. It took me longer than I thought. I don't mind. I love him very much!

question: have you found a Valentine for the one you love?

mompoet - NO chimpanzees in pink dresses please