Coincidentally, “Better” was the only half-decent track from the legendarily delayed Guns N’ Roses album Chinese Democracy.

CW – Rape, rape culture, entitlement #notallmen-tality

Hey guys (and I’m talking to the men here. I have nothing valuable to teach women that they don’t already know), still listening? Lest anything in my tone yesterday came off as self-congratulatory, I’m here to hopefully expunge the thought that I have things to congratulate myself for. We saw countless women come forth yesterday and bravely divulge what they’ve been through. Siting back and say “I’ll try to be better” rings a little hollow without divulging any of my own shit. So here’s a thing. Strap in, this is gonna take a while.

I was 100% on course to become a full fledged, trillby tipping #notallmen-onist. Late teen/early 20s Leon would’ve been all over that shit. Many of you haven’t known me that long. Many of you have. Apart from all the commonplace egregious shit (feeling like women owed me anything at all, judging women based on how they dressed, befriending women largely with the hopes that it could lead to sex/intimacy), I sure did love some Devil’s Advocate or tossing out rape jokes. Grade A genius edgelord shit. Of course I thought rape was abhorrent, but I did love me a good rape joke. Why? Because to me (and I’m pretty sure I used these exact words many a time) rape was an abstract concept. It was a stand in for the worst of the worst. Comedy came from the chasm between expectations and delivery. Accordingly, if I was looking to spice up an innocuous set up, rape was an amazing out of nowhere punch line. I didn’t want anyone to be raped, but I did want people to be shocked.

Yep, I’m reading how fucking stupid this shit is as I’m typing it out. You don’t have to bear with me here. It’s the logic of a moronic twenty-something who knows it all while simultaneously has barely experienced the world.

Thing was, to twenty something Leon rape was an abstract concept. It wasn’t something I had to deal with in my everyday life. I could walk the streets at night without fear, but my life sucked because nobody wanted to fuck me. Yep. Super proud.

It’d be nice to say that I just grew out of it, but I wasn’t (am not) that smart. I got frequently taken to task by more intelligent Women who’d tell me how problematic my behaviour was. I’d engage in endless Devil’s Advocate arguments in an affort to prove some kind of intellectual superiority, then when my shitlord tactics provoked an emotional response, claim the intellectual high ground. This went on for years. Cracks in my bullshit appeared slowly, but let’s not overstate things. I still acted like a total piece of shit.

At some stage, a close friend of mine was raped. I didn’t know what to do. I felt stunned. I was heartbroken at what she’d been put through. I’d never been an angry person, but I had nothing in me but rage. I wanted to kill whoever it was that did it, but had no idea who he was. I physically trembled with no way to manifest the fury inside of me. It just stuck around and with no choice, I sat with it. I had literally no idea how to handle those feelings. I was fortunate enough to have access to a work supplied counsellor who talked me through it. It took time, but having sat with this foreign feeling, it was impossible to see the world in the same way.

Please please PLEASE, no sympathy. Why wasn’t I already blindingly furious? It’s shameful and abhorrent that this is what it took for me to stop seeing rape as an abstract concept. The “know it all” persona didn’t last for long after I discovered just how little I knew.

I started listening more, arguing less. At some stage I started learning. The older I’m getting, the more I’m understanding how little I know. As time goes by, I’m trying to listen even more. I’m trying to learn, but there are still so many little things I’ll never truly understand, because I don’t have to face them constantly on a daily basis.

I’m so sorry for all the shit women have had to put up with on my behalf. I’m sorry for the years of emotional labour to pull my shitty lizard brain to a place of burgeoning understanding. I’m sorry for the shit that I still put women through, even unwittingly. I’m sorry that apologies don’t make things better half as well as action does. I’m sorry that I don’t act nearly as often as I should. I’m thankful that so many women somehow never gave up on me. I should not have been your burden to carry. I still shouldn’t…

 

I don’t know how many men are still reading, but there’s something I want to talk about. I saw a lot of bullshit from self-righteous men yesterday when women were coming forth with their manifold admissions of trauma. There’s some bullshit regressive stereotype still permeating our society that logic is the domain of men and emotion is the domain of women. If this is still relevant to your life, maybe ask yourself why. What’s wrong with being emotional, having the capacity for compassion and empathising with others? Why is it more important for you to try and score “points” at the expense of someone else’s emotional wellbeing? When you’re engaging in these arguments, is it causing you to relive painful emotional experiences? Or are you just doing it out of some self-imposed duty to be “right”? Why do you think it’s #sobrave to poke and prod at the traumatic experiences of others when you haven’t had to repeatedly deal with the shit we men put women through. Because so many of us still believe that women owe us anything. That women exist for the purposes of our pleasure. That a woman’s humanity is secondary to what she can do for us. What is the value of this apparent logic that’s so obsessed with the notion of “winning” through technicalities and loopholes.

In what way is this “right”? It’s right in the way that both Bill Cosby and Jian Ghomeshi were not guilty in the eyes of the law, because the trials were predicated upon discrediting the testimonies of these brave (but unfortunately “emotional”) women. Do any of us really doubt they did it? Does that sound like justice to you? Does that seem like the “right” kind of society you want to live in? One that protects predators and makes victims relive their trauma in the hopes that when exposed to scrutinising light, the most miniscule loophole might shine through?

Men, we still have so an unfathomable amount of work to do to dismantle the bullshit biased society we’ve assembled. If that pressure is too much, let’s start small. The next time you’re about to start/join an argument about something a woman has gone through/is going through, ask yourself some questions: “How much of a personal stake do I have in this argument?” “Do I have tangible lived experience with what she’s talking about?” “What’s the worst that will happen if I don’t engage?” “If I listened instead of talking, could I possibly learn something from a point of view that’s outside of my own?” If any of the answers to the above questions are remotely affirmative, try sitting that one out. See what happens.

I know you’re certain that you have a totally unique point of view. I can assure you that nine times out of ten you don’t. I see the same arguments from men again and again. Why did #notallmen gain such groundswell? Because with no exaggeration, every day I see some supposedly well-intentioned dude pop into a discussion about shitty things that men do and say “yeah, I support what you’re saying for the most part, but I’m not like that.” If you’re not like that, she probably wasn’t talking about you. If she wasn’t talking about you, why would you pop in and make it about you? Do you think that any of your female friends talking shit about men think that you’re the scum of the Earth? Why then would they be your friends at all? If you’re so assured of your logic and intelligence, use that big brain and think about it. You’re not helping.

You can though. You can help. Instead of pouncing into an argument and loudly taking up space, listen and learn. Read what women are saying. Re-read it until it sinks in. Consider how these things make them feel. Do they sound frustrated? Angry? Why do they feel that way? Try putting yourself in their shoes and seeing things from their view point. Would you be angry in their situation? Would you just get over it if it was happening constantly? If you didn’t only have to deal with this shit, but when you expressed your frustrations, people told you that your feelings weren’t valid? Would that make you angry? Would it be possible to see their experiences as more than an abstract concept?

Listen… Learn… Repeat…

Take note of how other men treat women online. Does any of their behaviour seem strange to you? Do they seem like they have personal experience with the matter at hand? Or do they just seem like they’re trying to prove a point in order to prove a point? Does that seem strange to you?

Listen… Learn… Repeat…

Does the way that men carry themselves online still make sense to you. If a guy says something about a woman’s experience that shows little to no empathy, question it. If you know him and feel like he’s a decent dude, call him in. Send him a private message asking why feels that his opinion is more valid than hers. If you can’t call him in, try calling out that behaviour. Tell him that it doesn’t make sense for him to be telling a woman she’s wrong about something he doesn’t experience. Because that doesn’t make sense, right?

Listen… Learn… Repeat…

These are ellipses, not fullstops, because this is an ongoing thing. There’s not gonna be a point where you know everything. The more you learn, however, the more you can educate other men. If we’re gonna get anywhere, we’ve got to get there together. It shouldn’t be the job of women to make us work on our own shit.

Because we need to own our shit. Nobody else can. Be better. That’s your job, not theirs.

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Success or phalanx?

I have exactly nothing to talk about today. So let’s see how this plays out.

My left thumb is sore, because I’m a dumbass who doesn’t know how to properly wrap his hands before boxing. You’d think this’d make typing insufferable, but I don’t type using a structured Mavis Beacon style touch typing approach. So while my left thumb rests right by the spacebar, it never really sets print on the keyboard. “Sets print”? I wasn’t sure either. My thumb’s hardly gonna set foot, but I’m not entirely sure what that part of my thumb is called. The pad perhaps? What does Google say? Obviously I was indicating the second phalanx (duh. it’s not like we’re talking about metacarpals like some AMATEUR FUCKING MORONS AMIRITE?), but the fleshy part rather than the nail. “Print” will have to do for now. Anyway, it’s sore. Not prohibitively so, but just enough to justify complaining. Since this is my space and I can do what I want, that’s exactly what I’m gonna do.

Waah, my thumb hurts. I wish it felt pain free as per the norm, but it doesn’t.

Done.

Clearly you’re all here for these breaking stories. Hope you’re getting all you wanted. Frankly, I’m not sure why most if any of you are reading this. It’s been some time since anything interesting went on around these parts. I apologise for my lack of compelling life changes. I guess going to Portland was fun. Remember when I metaphorically took you on a trip with me? That was exciting. People were smiling in the streets. I drank a lot of beer. I had coffee in a reclaimed bus. Marijuana was legal to purchase. It was like being in another world. Maybe my life is feeling worn in right now because I’m not trying many new things. Perhaps I need more hobbies, or some kind of way of sampling novel experiences on a regular basis. Anything can get boring if it becomes overly repetitive. That’s how relationships find slumps. Perhaps I need to spice up my relationship with myself.

What could I do?

I could force myself to go somewhere new every week. It could be a new bar or restaurant. It could be exploring a new neighbourhood just to look at things. Or perhaps jog in a new environment (though to be honest, when I’m jogging I’m paying more attention to the music in my ears than my surroundings). Maybe I need to find books to read that challenge me in some way. Frankly, I barely read at all any more, so simply adhering to flipping pages in my leisure time would be challenge enough. What if I went to a library and got a book out on some new skill, then worked on that skill? I don’t know if I’ve made something out of wood since I was sub ten years old. What if I messed around with audio editing again? I’m a mic away from recording things. They’re easy enough to find.

I guess the unspoken truth here is that there are infinite things I could do to work out of this rut. The difference is whether or not I do them. I’m so used to reacting to change, having it forced upon me and adapting. Enacting change from within requires discipline, motivation and the endurance to carry on past obstacles. Where does that come from? What drives me and how can I harness that in order to regain momentum? It makes sense that the hardest time to see the road ahead is when you’re down a hole. At the same time, it’s the most crucial juncture in which to launch yourself back to that path. If I’m struggling at harnessing that will, is it time yet to ask for help?

It’s a pity my thumb is sore, I could’ve used it to hitchhike somewhere new.

I’ll let you in on a secret. You could still buy the coffees anyway. That’s capitalism!

I’ve been ranting a lot of doom and gloom lately, so my goal is to push further towards positivity today. Is that too much to ask? Very likely. Let’s engage with some sunnier things!

I guess you could blame an overweight childhood if you must, but I’ve had body issues for some time. Go figure. I’ve also been in heavy (misnomer) training for Tough Mudder lately, working really hard to tone up. It’s been repeatedly gruelling. In recent years I’ve had help, whether in a group fitness situation or personal training. This year I’ve run off nothing but my own grit. Knowing what I’m capable of and making a point of not cutting myself much slack. So yeah, it’s been challenging, but also rewarding to see results. At this stage it’s become an annual summer tradition, which sucks only because cutting alcohol is a shit and a half when the sun is shining out there. Toronto lives for its patios and they don’t quite have the same glory when your beer goggles are instead filled with vodka-less cranberry juice. In an attempt to get the kind of gratification that only external validation from an echo chamber can provide, this morning I posted a shirtless selfie on Facebook. The “likes” and positive comments have flooded in. It was a cheap ploy for a temporary boost to self-worth and it’s worked. I’m chalking that up as a victory.

I saw one of my musician friends, Nick Teehan, perform on Saturday night and it’s reminded me how much I love his music. He’s a tremendous live performer with an enthralling vitality on stage. Between his vibrant energy and witty quips, he puts together an engaging show that pulls you right in. Not only is he a fantastic performer, but he’s a truly gifted songwriter. His lyrics are evocative and rich, drawing on personal experience, local sights and touching storybook imagery. “Mom Song” is an ode to the intrinsic link drawn between mother and son, a relationship unbound by temporal circumstance. “Boxing Day” nods its head to the disconnect of growing out of youth and the trappings of small town life. If you like what you’ve heard, you can get his album There is Not a Snake on Bandcamp for a mere $7 CAD (or more if that’s what you want to pay). That’s like skipping one and a half coffees to support a talented local artist. You’re practically losing money by not doing it.

All my favourite good television (that isn’t already on air, that is) is coming back. All hail the Fall television slate! You’re the Worst, BoJack Horseman, Better Things, The Good Place, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and everyone’s favourite 2016 hit, Stranger Things (which sadly is in no way affiliated with Better Things. I’d love to see Pamela Adlon taking down a Demogorgon). Not only that, but along with Fall television, it’s gonna be Fall! Sweaters and light jackets, pretty coloured leaves, pumpkins to carve, Halloween, Thanksgiving feasts, seasonal beer (/the return of all my Belgian style favourites). A season full of unmitigated joy before the Winter depression kicks in.

See, I’m practically walking on sunshine.

Does it have to be arrogance if I’m Onan it?

It’s that time of year again. Tough Mudder is a mere five days away. I’m on the last leg of prep and those legs are predictably sore. For several months now I’ve been training hard. I’ve sworn off alcohol and bread (not through any anti-yeast sentiment, I’m just aware of how I love to overindulge in those two delectable consumables). I’ve been training hard at the gym, working through dedicated upper and lower body split days. Three times a week I’ve gone for lunchtime runs along the waterfront. It’s been sweaty and taxing, but I’ve seen tangible results.

Was all of this necessary to complete the course? Not in the least. Some of my team members last year crossed the finish line with zero training under their belts. All the hard tack I’ve been devoting each week could easily be seen as overkill. Without putting in the extra yards I could likely still zip through the event without dying halfway through. In previous years however, I’ve been thankful for the extra grit in the tank. Instead of slogging up and down the mountain, I’ve bounced through with the gusto of the Energizer Bunny on coke. It’s turned an endurance race into a celebration of my body’s capabilities. Instead of thanking the fates for my survival, I can thank my limbs, muscles, heart and mind for pulling me through each day with aplomb.

The event has become less of an annual task, and more emblematic of how I tie my own self-worth to discipline. Seeing my body change, feeling renewed energy and acknowledging the strength of my resolve brings me pride. Amongst the multitude of challenges that’re out of my control, I’m emboldened to rediscover each year that not all of them are. As someone who’s struggled with issues of body image and associated feelings of inadequacy, this provides me with fuel to see the best in myself.

At this point, five days away, it’s more important than ever to practice self-love. Masturbatory as this entry is, I mean compassion, rather than anything titillating. I’m not gonna be hitting any new peaks over the next couple of days. The benefits of pushing hard are by far outweighed by the risk of injury. For the rest of the week, I’m focusing on tapering down. Any workouts will be focused more on keeping myself limber. Maybe a short run on Wednesday. Mobility and stretching will be a priority. I’m gonna be eating well and aiming for eight hours of sleep per night. Cutting down the caffeine and quaffing down my greens. With the end in sight, it’s so important that I get there safely with respect for my body.

Feeling present in my skin has given me a vitality I treasure. I’m content when I look in the mirror and give thanks rather than seeking flaws. I feel confidence resonating through my core and that in itself is worth all of the effort. Tough Mudder may still be a few days away, but I’m happy to linger in this for as long as it lasts.

A top notch sunny disposition.

Today was a scorcher (I use past tense because somehow the cloudless sky has grown dark and foreboding. The horizon threatens encroaching thunderstorms). I’d resolved to go for a lunchtime jog in an effort to keep active. I’m lucky enough to have access to both the Toronto waterfront and showers at work. I have very few excuses beyond but I don’t wanna. Looking out at the blazing sun I had misgivings, but stepped out the door and started stretching anyway. I took my place on the bike lane and settled into a steady pace, heat beating down from above. I noticed a figure in front of me jogging away. A shirtless cuddly looking dude. The thought popped into my head man, I wish I had the confidence to do that. I took a second and thought again I could, y’know.

Immediately I had misgivings. I’m so close to work, what if someone from work sees me without my shirt? Doesn’t that cross some kind of unprofessional line? Then again, if I’m outside the office without any visible sign of where I work, do I really treat this as being on the clock? I do it all the time in friend groups. Yeah, but those are communities where I feel safe and comfortable. This is out in public. What if I feel awkward? On the contrary, what if I don’t? What’s really stopping me here, truthfully? Some sense of self-consciousness? When I think about it, the only thing preventing me from doing it is, well, doing it.

I did it.

It felt instantly freeing, as if my shirt had more weight to it than the sweat stained cotton should’ve. A gentle breeze rolled across my body as the sun shone down. Parts of my frame that rarely saw the light felt the kiss of fresh air. My back and shoulders, the patch of skin around my armpits, my chest, my belly, all exposed to the elements. I felt a smile spread across my face as I took it all in, the long forgotten sounds of Foo Fighters’ The Colour and the Shape pounding in my ears. My tired, aching body should’ve told me to give up, but there was something almost euphoric in that moment. The smile stuck.

At times it feels hard to be comfortable and confident in your own skin. Within a society that constantly tells you that you should be better, loving your own body is a choice. A pretty hard choice to make at that. Running in public with my skin exposed came with a certain lightness. My heavy footfalls felt like stones skipping across a pond. Deep breaths felt slight, belying the effort they took. The world took on a magic of its own. I held an appreciation for my body that spread throughout. For the muscle and sinew, bones, blood and skin. For its perseverance in everything I put it through. For the way it bounces back, showing me more love than it often gets in return. For its ability to propel me through the world day by day without fail.

Thanks, man.

Putting the trade into trading places.

I don’t truly know how it is to live as a woman. Chances are I never will. I’ve had a life laden with privilege, wearing the assumed status and ease of being a white male at all times. I don’t know what it is to be constantly belittled and undermined on the basis of my gender. I don’t deal with a stream of microaggressions on a daily basis. While I’m sympathetic to the struggles inherent to being female in a patriarchal society, it’d be a stretch of arrogance to claim empathy with any veracity. I can listen android recognise, but implicit understanding will likely remain beyond my reach.

The other day in improv class we were working on character. To come to terms with what it was to quickly assume a new personally, we tried a monologue exercise intended to push us beyond our comfort levels and into the mindset of someone so foreign to our own. At the offset it sounded simple. We’d stand before the rest of the class. Collectively they’d build out our character: What we did, our age, gender, the status we gave ourselves, the status others gave to us and lastly, the environment in which we were. We’d answer questions from the crowd in front of us in character. Sounded challenging, but fun. The classmates who went first did a great job of fully realising their characters. Two guys, one inhabited the persona of a 60 year old naturopath presenting at a conference. He responded to questions so quickly an self-assuredly you would’ve assumed he did it for a living. Another guy played a gender-queer substitute French teacher with total aplomb. Incorporating accurate French and non-binary terms with his explanations to the class. They both made it look effortless, a wonder with such a challenging assignment.

My character was to be a 30 year old female welder. She came from a family of means, but didn’t feel comfortable with that lifestyle. She was constantly struggling to be taken seriously in a male dominated workplace/profession. The rest of the class assumed the role of my male co-workers and the scene began. I walked into the scene looking for an assist on a welding job. There was a pipe that’d been damaged in an accident and needed to be welded before it could resume use. I it was covered in debris and I needed a hand getting access. The response was an immediate flood of misogyny. “I’ve got a pipe you can weld, darling.” Yelled a co-worker. “Good luck finding anyone who wants to go near that rusty old thing Carl” I responded. A chorus of “woooOOOOoooo”s greeted me. A co-worker called out “what’s the matter? Little girl can’t do her job?” I felt my face redden. “I can do my job, I just need a hand to get it done quicker for our customers. Do any of you work?” Someone else chimed in with a dopey voice “what’s actually wrong with it?”

Flustered from the lack of help, I started inwardly panicking. Oh shit, I actually don’t know anything about welding. What the fuck do I say? I stammered out something about there being a hole in the pipe that needed mending. “Yeah” the dopey dude responded “but what’s there problem.” Everyone laughed. At me. I was in this character, but also felt very real opposition. I just wanted to do my job and nobody would take me seriously. “I can fucking weld!” My voice rose “the boss wouldn’t have hired me if I couldn’t.” I heard a voice chime in from the back of the room “I didn’t care if you could weld. I just liked the way your ass looked.” I was fuming. I tightened my first intentionally as a character moment, but with very real tension behind it. “Are we gonna get this fixed for the customer? Or am I gonna have to explain that the rest of the office was too lazy to get off their asses?” One dude spoke up. “Fine, I’ll give you a hand. Since you can’t seem to do it yourself.” Laughter greeted the comment and I stood there fuming as the scene ended.

The frustration of not being considered or taken seriously was such a new, visceral sensation. Of being defined and limited in the basis of my gender. Feeling so intensely the burning rage at this systematic undermining of my personhood. I went back to my seat inwardly trembling, shaken. “Welcome to the sisterhood Leon” called the teacher.

Time will tell as it did in the past.

March 12th 2010. Within the first couple of rows at Vector Arena rocking along to The Pixies. I mean, I was getting into it, but tepidly. According to Setlist.fm they were just finishing up their fourth track, “Manta Ray” from their Complete ‘B’ Sides collection. In short, I didn’t know it so my enthusiasm was more manufactured than authentic. Didn’t matter, I was seeing THE MOTHERFUCKING PIXIES. They finished up, we all clapped and from the stage I heard the opening chords of “Debaser”. Involuntarily, my fist launched straight into the air. Unfortunately, the fist of the dude next to me did too, but at an angle that sped straight for my watch. The strap-holder snapped and my watch fell to the ground. I picked it up, forlorn, then crammed it in my pocket and went back to having a transcendent time at THE MOTHERFUCKING PIXIES. Later in the night my boss pissed on a tree then shook my hands without washing his. Clearly karma was in full force.

I tried fixing the watch. I took it to a jewellery store who glued it all up and put a new pin in. A month or two later the pin fell out. They put another pin in. Then the watch strap-holder cracked again. I wondered whether it was worth repairing again if its destruction was inevitable, or if I should settle for a new watch? I asked a friend of mine. “What about not getting a watch?” He asked. “At this point, having a watch is a fashion decision. You work at a computer. You carry a cellphone with you everywhere. The chances of you not having the time when you need it are relegated to those moments you’re trapped on a desert island and even then you can just whip up a handy dandy sundial.”

He was right. That day I stopped wearing a watch and I’ve never looked back.

The other day my iPod Classic broke. I thought my headphones were buggered, because that’s a thing that happens with alarming regularity. I grumbled and looked for solutions. Friends chipped in with some good ones (like this glorious idea to relieve tension). Then I did the logical thing and tried a different pair of headphones. Once again, my iPod shat the bed. I think that was my third or fourth iPod. It’s the fourth to ultimately die to the same issue. The bloody headphone jack. The right audio channel on my first iPod died. My previous one had issues skipping, pausing and playing through the jack. Then after that was fixed, it suffered the same fate as my first. This most recent one has also faced the same audio channel issue. I could spend $50 to repair it. Now I need to decide what place an iPod has in my life.

The last time I was having this discussion, Spotify wasn’t a viable alternative. If I did skip the iPod for streamable music, I’d be paying $10 a month. Keep in mind I use Spotify at work and home too and enjoy the service. However, I was just about to dump it because I didn’t use it enough. There are alternative services (sadly my beloved Grooveshark is no more) I could use, but not without ads. That’d save me $120+ a year though. Not chump change. Given my shitty phone internet and limited hard drive space, if I went with the phone I’d have to rely on intentionality. I could download a few albums when I was on WiFi and listen to those until I got to another WiFi spot. The iPod on the other hand has an absurdly large catalogue that’s available at a scroll. I can switch it up without having to worry about limited inventory. Spotify does have a huge library, but I’d need to be selective, choosing what I desired for that particular day. The iPod is better for the gym and running, but I’d a) need to pay to get it fixed (with a 6 month guarantee) and remain a two device asshole (looks really dumb on the bus clutching a phone in one hand and scrolling with the other. Hands that is, not cheeks).

Do I stubbornly hold onto something that works, knowing that it’s not a viable option forever? Do I wait until technology catches up (e.g, internet speeds and phone hard drive capacity) to my needs and jump ship then? Or do I thrust my fist blindly into the air knowing that it could hurt in the short term, but work out in the long run?

Guess you’ll have to watch and see…