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This has nothing to do with travel or writing, but everything to do with a bubbling rage, a widespread disgust felt by anyone who’s spent more than 5 minutes reading about “Hollywood mogul” Harvey Weinstein’s thirty years of sexual harassment and assault against women.
This afternoon and last night, a best friend and I stoked the fires of rage across countless furiously-typed text messages, exchanging our disgust at how women could be so mistreated, not just by a wretched man but by a system meant to silence them. Before long we were asking ourselves where Hollywood ends and society begins, and the line is unfortunately far too blurred to make any sort of clear distinction.
It comes down to that “chicken and egg” thing; which came first? Do we diminish and intimidate women because of their diminished roles on screen, powered by a Hollywood machine led by men who made it happen? A machine that gives the majority of significant speaking roles in films to men? Or demands that most films need a sexy girlfriend but not the other way around? Or dictates that Tom Cruise’s female lead in a movie will be 25 years his junior because that’s totally normal? Or creates countless movies about a male loser’s “coming of age,” where he “finds himself” and becomes a better man thanks to the “quirky magical girl with the cool personality,” who somehow had no needs of her own, but only existed to “show him the way?” (I am so sick of those movies I will stab my eyes out if I have to see another one)
Or…did the Hollywood machine create all of this because we wanted it? Are we being too hard on the (mostly) men who run Hollywood–excluding Harvey Weinstein who is clearly an evil asshole–because they’re simply responding to demand with an adequate supply?
I started thinking about this and I couldn’t come up with a clear answer, at least not one that I’d be able to fit onto Twitter. I’m not even sure if the unlimited character-count of a blog will help me formulate an answer, but I find myself asking: how did we get here?
When I break it all down and try my best to organize everything I’ve read, observed, and experienced first-hand, the one common thing at the root of it all seems to be that women are interpreted as objects for male pleasure. This may not be a “100% all the time” thing that overwhelms my sense of self all day long, but in some form or another, isn’t it here, there and everywhere? If you’re squinting your eyes and struggling to find this problem, let’s not forget that Hugh Hefner built an entire industry on this very concept. He LITERALLY had a mansion full of ADULT WOMEN called “bunnies,” whose ONLY role was to be fully available as pleasure objects. And let’s not pretend he was some rogue eccentric, like “oh Hef, that ONE crazy guy who views women this way…” Yeah right. In fact, mainstream celebrities and wannabes would trample over each other to get invites into those Playboy mansion pool parties, and all the while middle-class “normals” would happily envision the fantasy.
Beyond the universe of the late and gross Hugh Hefner, we live in a society where so much comes back to the orbit of male pleasure (see: Viagra and lack of surefire women’s equivalent). If you’re unconvinced, think about one of the first things anyone says when a women is harassed on the street, or assaulted, or faces unwanted advances on the subway, or in an elevator, or at a bar, or in the office, or in a cave (please insert any location in life). The first and most common question is “what was she wearing?”
Seriously, how many bajillion times is this stupid question asked?
The only way to explain this question is that society orbits around male pleasure, a.k.a the uncontrollable, inevitable, probability that a dude will get a boner.
“If you didn’t want to cause “street boners,” you shouldn’t have worn that.”
“If you’re showing cleavage at the office, don’t be surprised when you turn around and find a “corporate boner.””
Obviously the wording in dress code policies or rape case courtroom trials is different, but the thinly-veiled implication is always there. It’s never about a man somehow figuring out a way to NOT harass a woman, or to NOT have a boner, but instead it’s always about what a WOMAN can do to limit the number of boners she’s responsible for, like maybe if she didn’t go out so late at night, she would reduce the risk of triggering spontaneous boner syndrome. I mean…what?
I don’t have a direct solution to this problem, and I do acknowledge that a lot of men are respectful, cool, and trusted allies (and I’m happy to know a few of them!). There are however far too many men who live in a bubble of entitlement; entitled to the Victoria’s Secret models as seen on TV, despite having nothing to offer in return, entitled to hooking up with a girl just because he bought her one drink, or entitled to a conversation on the subway, just because he graced some unsuspecting woman with his leering smile.
To these wretched, wayward entitled fools, I offer you a check-list, because after the scandalizing demise of Harvey Weinstein, a (tiny) optimistic part of me believes that your horrible behaviour won’t fly anymore, so here is some advice to improve yourselves:
Checklist for treating women like human beings with the most basic level of respect:
I’d been sleeping over at a friend’s apartment, as one sometimes does when the friend is in fact a best friend you’re potentially obsessed with (and someone whose presence you feel lucky to enjoy for every second that it’s available).
On that early morning, the best friend was already going about his early routine, on account of his pets and also his psycho internal clock (if you’re reading this, I’m sorry for calling you a psycho). I stirred awake, my attention drawn to the sound of his podcast or non-fiction web series or what have you (EDIT: an episode of Strange Mysteries). I only heard muffled bits and pieces like “slow down time” and “the age of your consciousness,” but it was enough to drag me out of bed to find out more.
I shuffled down the corridor with my hair all askew and only one eye squinted open, since I’m either a vampire or a bitch who hates the world before her morning caffeine (it’s still up for debate). I may have also hissed like a cobra.
I swung the bedroom door open, and as I watched him happily fold his laundry in the way that early-morning psychos do (sorry once more if you’re reading this), I listened more intently to the words flowing out of the iPad. The explanations were technical at times, but here is a summary of what I heard:
…As we go through life, our consciousness ages along with us, and the older we get, the more exponential and rapid the aging of the consciousness becomes. As you can imagine, I found this fact to be deeply disturbing, and although I was very tempted to grab my phone and google “consciousness botox,” I decided to keep on listening.
Okay…so the aging of our abstract self/soul/being or however you want to call it was explained to me as such: when you are four years old, one year represents an entire quarter of your life. And so, as this child of four, you perceive one year to be extremely long in duration. This explains why childhood summers seem endless, and why the joy of building snow forts can last for hours without a semblance of feeling cold. In other words, when a year is 25% of your life, time feels slow.
Fast forward to being say…30 years old, and one year is approximately 3% of your life. 3% eh? What’s 3%? Basically nothing, that’s what. Using that logic…if a year is only 3%, then a month is minuscule, and a week is even less. And guess what happens when time represents so little: it flies. Which basically means…when you’re an adult and time flies, you’re getting exponentially older and barrelling through life on a rocket headed straight towards death…
Best friend and I froze as we had our realization. “Wait a minute…” we said. “Is this why we always hear adults saying ‘where did the time go?’ Or ‘it’s like I blinked and suddenly summer’s over’? Or ‘I feel like nothing happened this year and it’s already almost another new year’s eve.’ Is this WHY?!?!?!?
I was about to have a nervous breakdown, but we kept on listening, and the next thing we heard was a little more promising. The episode talked about how slowing down time would slow down the aging of our consciousness, allowing us to stay “young at heart,” if you will. It went back to describing children, and how they value play and carry with them a sense of wonder, which gives every moment and minute the chance to be fascinating. And so the theory was…if we do more with every hour and every day, time will feel slower, and slower, and slower…ultimately keeping our consciousness “young” and prolonging our abstract life (and hopefully that can also erase eye wrinkles too? Yet to be tested and proven).
The episode then got crazy and talked about stopping time altogether, but then it was getting into “black hole” topics and I hadn’t had my coffee so we turned it off.
Afterwards I couldn’t stop thinking about it. For days it was on my mind. Then I started testing it out, just with the littlest things. I started enjoying nature more…making more plans to see friends…eating more meals without Netflix in the background, and so on and so forth. I’m not going to pretend that within a week I anti-aged my consciousness to resemble a nubile fourteen-year-old, but I have to admit, the more things I did with my days, even when it was just doing more interesting things while alone, the more that my days started to feel a little longer.
And then it got much bigger than that.
How so, you ask? (or probably not but you feel obligated to finish reading this?) Well, since you asked, I never would’ve been so spontaneous as to plan a long weekend in Italy with only 20 hours notice, if I hadn’t listened to this episode about slowing down time. There’s just no way I would’ve done that, since I’m a PLANNER and an ANALYZER; it’s simply not in my nature to quickly pick up and go somewhere by myself.
But I did it.
I’ve only been back for two days, but that 3-day weekend in Italy legitimately felt like two weeks. When I returned it was with an exhausted sigh, as if I hadn’t seen Paris for ages. And even despite the crappier weather, I felt like I’d missed belle Paris.
Were my days feeling slower because I’d enjoyed every minute in Italy?
I believe that’s true, which for me, makes this more than just a theory…
To be fair, I’m certainly not saying that all of life’s stresses are solved by running off for a long weekend getaway (sure they are, YOLO!), but it seems to be true that the more you do in a day that’s outside of your subconscious routine, the more you will immerse yourself in actual conscious life, and therefore, the more you will savour every minute. I know this isn’t always easy to do, since there are deadlines and obligations and responsibilities, and no we are not the same as four-year-old children who can play in the sun all day, I get that. Still, imagine for a second all the time we spend thinking about what’s lacking, or worrying about what hasn’t happened, or trying to plan for something later that distracts you from today. I’m not saying I’m any better, because I do it too. Despite that, lately I’ve been thinking about: what would happen to my day if I spent even one less hour watching Netflix because I’m lazy? Or one less hour replaying a bad conversation in my head? Or one less hour wondering why my life hasn’t progressed at the rate of my dreams or compared to others? Or one less hour punishing myself for the times in the past I stole a heart but couldn’t keep it? (please stay with me on this abstract plane, since I’m not referring to an actual stolen organ in a cooler)
When I think about how I could change the way I use my time even just a little, and make my words and actions towards others just a little more meaningful, I already feel like so much more could happen in a day. I guess what I’m saying is…when we do what we say and say what we mean, without the games and the pride and the coolness, I suspect life becomes more genuine and real, like this actual thing you’re inside of, rather than a show starring you, a performance you’re just observing from start to finish, until the credits roll and the lights go out and oh guess what you’re a corpse, too late to rewind all those past regrets now! (morbid tough love, I know, but hey, I didn’t promise you roses)
So that’s what’s been on my mind. And the fact that the food in Italy is as amazing as everyone says.. 🙂
Now as a disclaimer: when I talk about saying what you mean, which implies being true to yourself and others, I’m not suggesting that we behave TOO honestly. For example, when pushed into a corner, I will always say a baby is cute, even if I secretly believe it resembles a miniature old man, and I will always say someone’s haircut is good, even if it’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen (except when it comes to a certain world leader’s hideous carpet of hair, but that is a different blog post I will never write, because well..fuck that guy). I would expect the same lies in return, a.k.a. thank you for all the compliments on my February haircut! So yes, we need small lies for society to function, but it’s when it comes to the “big things,” the “life things,” I think that’s when we should always be true, because it makes the ride more real, and the time spent living it more meaningful.
So do that. And eat lasagne in Italy. And that’s all.
Until next time, ciao bitches, and here are a few pics from beautiful Milan (and the picture at the top is Genova which is beautiful too).
…I love how in Paris in the briefest moments, you can end up having random conversations with absolute strangers in a way that leaves you with a smile. This happens to me more in Paris than in any other city, and even extends to the seemingly rigid and soul-less guards that protect President Hollande’s residence.
The moment I’m referring to traces back to last Sunday, when my best friend and I, with our tired wobbly legs, were returning from our running group’s 10km affair (another thing I love about Paris: running groups that force you out of your lazy slumber). We decided to make our return along the ultra posh Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré, because we were, after all, dressed in our ridiculous running clothes, and sometimes we enjoy breaking convention by making a scene :-).
Along the way down “designer lane,” we approached the president’s residence. Before passing by, we were stopped by one of the guards. I wasn’t surprised, as we certainly stood out, but when we told him of our Canadian and Mexican origin, he immediately seemed to warm up to us (maybe “President Dump” can learn something from this…).
The next thing I knew, we had become best friends with this guard, sharing our hopes and dreams, he in his perfect French, and me with French sentences spoken in Canadian tones. He didn’t seem to mind.
His name is Thierry.
Thierry composes music in his free time.
Thierry hopes to one day write the musical scores for films produced in France.
Thierry is a dreamer.
Now for all you cynics out there, you’re probably wondering how Thierry can protect the president and surrounding citizens, when he’s busy telling my friend and I all about his hopes and dreams. It’s a common concern, but let me assure you that while Thierry’s eyes sparkled as he shared his most profound wishes, those shining eyes never once stopped surveying the scene around him. And his hands never loosened their grip on his intimidating automatic weapon. So take heart, concerned Parisians, Thierry understands his responsibilities. I hope I see his name in the credits of a film one day, because even though he’ll otherwise always be a stranger, for a brief moment, through Thierry we accessed the hope that lives in all people. And it’s something that happens to me often in Paris…
…Wow, that was a long love note. Thierry is clearly an attention whore. Well the rest of my notes are much shorter…
…I love how when it’s cold in Paris, and your nose is running from the cold, and you know you have a long way to walk, and you have every opportunity to be miserable, you’ll encounter some beautiful part of Paris you’ve seen many times, only that then, in that specific moment, in the right light, and with the absence of a crowd…what your eyes observe will silence all your bitchy complaining. There are many beautiful cities, but when it comes to the abundance of beauty, this quality is specific to Paris, where seemingly around every corner, there lies some stunning architecture, or a charming street, or endearing shops, and I could go on and on…
…I love how Paris is an emotional-eater’s paradise, a place where at a moment’s convenience and for just a few euros, you can stuff your face with all manner of viennoiserie, and let yourself be enveloped in amounts of butter that will make you forget about unpleasant things, like elections and the horrifying people they represent, and…as long as you can remember to go for a 10km run so the butter doesn’t find a permanent home on your ass, well…I’ll call it guilt-free emotional support at its finest…
…I love that when you put on your coat at midnight, because you think you’re about to leave a quaint little French party, it’s suddenly 2am, and you’re in the kitchen, having the most laugh-out-loud addictive conversation with people you’ve just met, even though you’re still ridiculously wearing your coat. I love how at last you’ll realize that it’s time to be rid of the coat, because of course you’re not going to leave, as the champagne flows and the laughter flows along with it. I love how at these various parties and gatherings and wine bars and apéros, you can arrive a near stranger and leave with new friends. And I love how it always somehow happens that in Paris, these friends take the form of people from everywhere; France, Spain, Ireland, Singapore, England, Colombia, India, Brazil, the US, and on and on and on. I love that in Paris, I always feel like a citizen of our common home, which is earth, a place where no one should feel unwelcome, and I love that when I’m in Paris, I never, ever do… ❤
Well…yes, no, no, and no (did that cover everything?)
Nothing is forgotten, but the streets of Paris seem full to me, and the only danger I’ve encountered so far is temporarily forgetting that drivers in Paris are always trying to run you down with their cars or scooters or giant looming buses. How had I forgotten this obvious fact after living in Paris twice? Perhaps the streets of Canada had made me a bit complacent, because in Canada the symbol for “walk” means “hello pedestrian, you dear sweet pedestrian, please enjoy this time frame, in which you are the king of the world.” You can skip, dance, or even crawl across the street in Canada, and the driver waiting to make the left turn has to sit there until you’re done.
Fast forward to Paris in 2016, and I found myself as a very comfortable pedestrian. That is until…4:30pm today, when I was nearly flattened like a human pancake on Rue de Rivoli.
This gentle “flattening” reminder is one that I will never forget, and one that I’ll interpret as follows: don’t trust anything with wheels in Paris (except for those attractive cops who roller-blade in the streets and smile—but only in summer, I think).
The other main aspect of returning to Paris revolves around the upcoming half marathon (only 12 days away!), and I, the non-runner type, who is registered to make it to the finish line.
In the last seven days I’ve run four times in Paris, with fitness levels ranging from “I’m going to vomit into that garbage can” to “Hey, that actually wasn’t bad!”
It started with 4km on day two in Paris, went up to 9km on Sunday, and was a cool 7km this afternoon. Through it all, I’m starting to slowly convert the naysayers who laughed when I said that I would do this (well not all of them…you bastards). Most importantly, I’ve started to build my biggest motivation, courtesy of the greatest competition of all…which is myself. As I outlined in my previous post, I am a hyper-competitive person, and that’s all the motivation I need. And so, as long as I can push myself to the finish line, I’ll be pretty ridiculously happy, but you won’t be able to see my face, since most of it will be buried inside the 6,000-calorie brunch I shall enjoy soon after I finish.
And the best part of all about the race? My teammates and I are raising money for a damn good cause (the Red Cross). I talked all about that in my previous post, but here’s the link to donate if you’ve somehow forgotten, because forgetting is the only reason you wouldn’t have donated yet, right? RIGHT??? (http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserPage.action?userUrl=FootstepsinParis&isTeam=true)
Aside from all the running I’ve been doing this past week (look at what a cocky running snob I’ve become!), I’ve been reconnecting with the people I call my “Paris family,” and every single moment has filled me with happiness. I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, but even when I’m on my own, remembering a dinner I had, or a recent conversation, or a sunny stroll with a friend, I’m filled with an immense sense of gratitude (oh god, this is so cheesy). Maybe it means that Paris is magical, or maybe it means that amazing people gravitate towards other amazing people, and we are all just so fucking amazing (and humble too). Or maybe…maybe it just means that home is where the heart is. If that’s the case, then Paris sure feels like a special kind of home right now.
Now that I’ve filled this post with so much cheese, I will tell you that this past week in Paris, I had blue cheese, and I actually loved it! This is significant, because before that moment, I had never even liked blue cheese!!! I can’t remember the name of the cheese at this particular moment, but it was orange with flecks of blue, and it was absolutely delightful (Paris, eh? The new experiences never end…)
The last time I wrote about Paris, the tone was necessarily grim, and though we all remember November 13th, “joie de vivre” stays strong. This resilience is one of the many reasons why Paris is so inspiring, so thank you for that, great city!
Speaking of Paris…six or seven months ago, I was told of the existence of a Paris half marathon in March. I was also told that we should and could and would run it. My response was laughter, followed by “yeah sure,” and an eye-roll that Whatsapp couldn’t see. It was one of those crazy schemes you talk about but hopefully forget, because who actually wants to run 21 kilometres?!
Before 2015 ended, I was reminded of this promise. Had it actually been a promise? Is laughing and rolling your eyes while sarcastically saying “sure” considered legally binding? Apparently so, because the Paris half marathon is 34 days away, and yes I have officially registered.
In the grand scope of the world, a half marathon is only a “half” marathon, and the people who run a “full” one are the people who are actually crazy (42 kilometres?! You’re a PERSON, not a Honda Civic. Take a seat).
In the smaller scope of myself however…I am not a runner by nature. I mean…I guess most humans aren’t, unless they’re being chased, but I don’t actively seek out opportunities to run, at least not for longer than twenty-five minutes. I also don’t use a Nike running app to share on social media, so everyone can know how I’m way more active than they are, and in turn feel guilty about their twelfth Oreo cookie.
Though I haven’t yet used an app to athletically shame others (key word being “yet“), my routine has required a brisk and harsh change since signing up. I’m one of those people who loves theories like “interval training,” where you can actually get a good workout by sprinting hard for two minutes and walking for five, then multiplying that by four, and being finished your entire workout in twenty-eight minutes. I’m also one of those people who owns the T25 workout DVDs, where you can actually get an amazing workout with only 25 minutes of effort! (which by the way is insanely hard, and I always have to stop and take water breaks when I’m doing it). Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, pictured here is my tantalizing T25 workout DVD collection. I mean really, how can anyone say “no” to the shirtless man with the sixteen-pack abs, who’s telling you to “GET IT DONE”?
What was I saying? Oh yeah…running for over two hours? Or however long it takes me to struggle to the finish line?
It’s mad I tell ya, mad! The only time I was thrilled with lengthy exercise was during a day of hiking in Switzerland, and only because it contained the most beautiful views I’d ever seen in my life.
But wait…there is a flip side.
The flip side to choosing a challenge beyond one’s skill level is…being a competitive person, and accomplishing it out of spite. Once my competitive nature takes hold, any challenge is suddenly realistic. After that, my Aries nature takes hold, and I picture my astrological symbol of the ram crushing the competition with metaphorical horns. That’s all it takes, baby.
And so…I am excited. Very, very excited.
As an added plus, the training thus far has not been as horrible as I’d imagined, and with each incremental workout, I’m enjoying running more and more (oh god, I’m about to become one of THOSE people…). Even so, I’ve been training on a treadmill, and I seriously need to get outside. This of course means that two weeks from now…rain or shine, I’ll be pounding the Paris pavement, and seeing how closely I can follow the recommended training schedule (which I started five weeks late, no biggie). All I know is that I seriously need to catch up, because the last seven days have included the stomach flu, a hacking cough, a clogged nose, nasal drip, and absolutely zero running.
But that’s okay! Because today is the first day of the rest of my training life, and I’m clearly super excited about it:
If my own competitive nature isn’t enough to help me finish the race, my friends and I are running on behalf of the British Red Cross. I really respect the Red Cross charity and all that it does with swiftness and transparency, so much so that I sent out donations in people’s names instead of Christmas presents this year. Everybody was really thrilled about that, because any reaction aside from being thrilled would’ve made them seem like assholes (entrapment!). Little did I know that a few months later I’d be making my own appeal to others, but here we are, which brings us now to the five ascending pressure stages of fundraising:
After this post, I will have completed the first three items on the list, and despite the expected paltry success rate of 0.5 percent, our team of three has actually gotten some donations! For that, I thank you, but we are only 18% of the way there. Furthermore, while I may limit my level of hustle when I’m trying to sell my books, there is no upper limit to how shameless I’ll be when I’m hustling for a worthy cause.
That’s right guys, I’m comin’ at you with items #4 and #5, so you might as well make it less awkward by donating in advance! Here’s the link: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/FootstepsinParis
See you in Paris,
PS: I offer my sincere thanks to anyone who’s able to donate. We’ve all got our own priorities, and charities are a personal thing, so I greatly appreciate any amount you’re able to give!
PPS: I’ll be back in Paris from mid-Feb to mid-April, to train/try new hangouts/finish a script, so expect regular updates on this blog and on instagram! (“Paris is always a good idea“—> quote from my coffee mug, est. 2013)