Those In Grey – A Short Story

The floors do not creak when I step upon them. But everything creaks in this house for everyone else. I know it is Mother walking on the stairs, or when it is Rebecca getting up in the night to wander, when she sleep walks it is soft and makes the subtle dragging sound of feet of one who still slumbers.

Uncle has heavy steps, unless he is going to bed, then there is certain tone of anticipation when the night draws to an end. Mother and Uncle share a bedroom and on certain nights the bed creaks insistently. I pin my head against my pillow to block out the sound. I do not know why I hate this certain creaking, of the bed, it is something I just intuitively know I should not hear.

I do not remember if everything, outside, creaks as well. I have faint memories ofoutside, memories that are like the frayed photographs we have in the old leather book. The photographs are all stained and dog eared. Faded images of faces and settings.

There are many photos that are missing or torn, making the photo book look more like an old patchwork quilt that was left unfinished and forgotten.  I asked Mother once where were the  missing photographs, the photographs of Father.  She paused washing the dishes, her back facing me, she started running the water before she softly said that they were taken away. By them.

“Because they were of Father?” Once again she started moving the washed dishes which clacked together noiselsy. “I don’t know. Also the photographs were ofoutside.” I accepted this, there was nothing left to do.

I have faint memories, but I still wonder if outside creaks. I do not know for sure, but I recall walking on the grass in bare feet, but the memory of the sensation of it is locked away, locked away somewhere that I can’t get to.

When I look outside the parlour’s front window, out into the front garden, there is one small brown patch of grass.  If it was ever green, I do not know,but I imagine that that now if you were to walk on grass, each blade makes a frightening snap. Or perhaps it only creaks.

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My sister was too young to remember outside, she had grown up only inside. I guess I also grew up mostly inside. She always calls me Loops, I do know why, or perhaps simply can’t remember. What I do know is that I do not hear my name anymore. No one calls for me, so sometimes when I am alone I say it out loud, but the word sounds strange in my mouth, my tongue fumbles over the now alien syllables, and there is an lingering bitterness which persists, even when hours have passed.

There is a phone in the house, sometimes Rebecca and I used to pick up the phone and pretend we were having a conversation. We repeat the conversations characters have in the books, the books that they drop off with the food. Even whenthey  take away the books and drop off new ones, it doesn’t matter because we have each question, each answer, each tone syllable,and consonant, memorized. We never go off script, we’ve never made up a conversation of our own, but we do take turns on who holds the phone, passing it back and forth whenever it’s the “character’s” turn to say their part of the script. Sometimes it is a conversation between friends, others times it is quarrelling lovers, sometimes even simple conversations such as ordering Chinese food.

The phone is disconnected, so no matter what conversation we are having, the only answer from the receiving end is the continuous dial sound. Our only, sole, reply.

When we first went inside, I remember Mother cried a lot. She would often sit in front of the porch door, seated at the kitchen table. With a cup of tea that was always untouched and went cold. I would watch her from the corner and sometimes she would stand up abruptly, as if she had been building up the strength to do so, and then race to the porch door.  Her hand would reach for the door handle, during that time she still wore her wedding ring. Perhaps my Uncle was always watching, or perhaps he always came at the right, striking, moment. He would grab her shoulders and pull her back and she never resisted much, her voice would sometimes break partway through her protest, but then she always eventually went slack and limp, allowing Uncle to lead her back to her seat. Whispering things softly in her ear,  but I knew they were warnings.

I have never tried to go outside, I saw what would happen shortly after if you did. It was raining that day, and I summoned enough courage to just stick my hand out the window to feel the soft rain drops hit my skin. I must admit, there was the thought of going outside, to let the rain coat my skin and soak through my clothes, making it cling to my body, to pretend that it was an embrace. It was a thought.

The man next door must of had the same idea. Or relatively same idea. But his idea must of been stronger than mine because it pushed him out the door, I remember his front door creaked. He had been younger than Uncle, but less handsome. But I felt a certain hunger, but what I hungered for I do not know.

He had walked out onto his porch, almost as if he was asleep, not knowing that he was walking. Like Rebecca when she wanders around the house at night. I was afraid, I was frightened, I was panicked, I was fear. If only he was the fear, its very self, if only, if only, he did not step farther away from his porch.

But he did. He was outside.

He was so far away from inside, it was like he was in another country, in another continent, in another world, a whole utter different state of being.

He stood in the middle of the street. He simply stood there, feet planted as if he may take root. His head leaned up towards the sky, eyes closed and mouth agape. Soon, the rain took him, swept him up, even though he stood perfectly still. It soaked, drenched, and nourished him, it was returning him alive. His clothes clung to his body, which was so frail and feeble, but at the same time, he seemed too large to be out there in the empty street.

I continued to watch from the window, and I felt a feeling that I now know, was shame. It coated my skin like a damp secretion, bore into my pores and made each one feel engorged and inflamed. I now know why I felt shame. I know that this was the most private moment of this man’s life. It was meant for him, and him alone, but I bore witness. It was more private than the moments he had spent away, from prying eyes, locked away, in his home, inside. Hidden away from eyes such as mine.

I was younger, by how much I can’t recall, but I did not understand how the world now works. The rules and the consequences of breaking them. At that point, unbeknownst to me, in the subconscious of children,  a certain knowing that gnaws at us, some animal instinct that can foresee approaching consequence, at points, deadly consequence. Such knowing dread is too much, so that eventually, as one grows into adulthood, it is shaken off like a sickened layer of skin. There are many things the mind does to cope, even if that means to destroy parts of itself. However, because of this almost forgotten instinct, I knew that the man’s moment was fleeting. That he would never be able to walk away from the street, onto his porch, into his house, back into the seclusion and the fictional safety of inside.

For soon they came. Since that time, before and after, I have never seen so many of them. I can’t remember what kind of vehicle they arrived in, or even if they came to the scene in one. As always, they were dressed in all grey, more pristine than white but more sinister than black.  Unlike the rain, they were the ones who really swept him up, in a violent manner that  did not call for it, for he did not struggle. I think, can only think, that he had accepted this outcome and his fate when he stepped outside. Soon I could not see a trace of the man, he was cast away in a sea of grey, soon they and him were drawn out of my peripheral view.

During all this, I was too frightened, too terrified to look away, so shocked still in place that I risked them seeing me in the window. Risking them seeing me watching, and perhaps be held privy to the rain man’s offence. For I was as much of a part of the crime scene as the man, as the rain, as them, and just as pivotal. Perhaps even more pivotal, more than the rain, more than him, more than them. For they had disappeared. The rain ceased soon after.

I was the only one who remained.

I’m A Little Rich White Girl, And I’m Sorry.

I’m not really apologizing for being white, but what I am sorry about is that I reap the benefits of the ”white privilege.” I really don’t even need to do anything, certain ”invisible” benefits are just handed to me because of my racial ethnicity, and my families’ social class. While I will never fully understand what other people of ethnicities go through, on a daily or long term basis, it does not mean I am blind.

Living in Sweden, I am a foreigner, but I know I am more accepted because I am white. There is an increasing amount of fear mongering and racism against those who come from the Middle East and/or are Muslim. Despite us being in the same category  1.) We’re not born in Sweden… thus 2.) We are foreigners. I have not felt any prejudice against me- but have encountered the increasingly blatant opposition of Muslims from Swedish parties such as the New Swedish Democrat Party ”whose manifesto describes Muslims as ‘seriously jeopardizing the Swedish nation’, has also sought a ban on face-veil and halting immigration from predominantly Muslim countries”.

But how can I prove I am this ”little rich white girl?”

One. Little:  I am 5’1″ (155 cm)

Two. White Girl- Guess which one I am.

412115_396603660362394_989416968_o Three. Rich: My parents bought me a pony. (Spoiled kid, I know.)

But how does this all lead back to white privilege? Well, I’ve never felt that I had to change my name on my resume to increase the chances on me being hired, like José Zamora who changed his name to Joe on his applicants. That was only when he started getting the call backs.  There have been numerous studies on the effectiveness and power of names, and how people attach certain qualities when they hear a person’s name, without really getting to know them. (Okay, but if your name is Glitter, I’m sorry. Going judge your parents a bit.)  And it is a well known fact that a lot of people have a name attached to their ancestry heritage, African name, Indian name, Chinese Name, etc. but change it once they move to another country to increase their chances of succeeding.  Right now, as it stands, in a lot of cultures being born white gives you an unfair advantage.

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White privilege continues even in this day and age, because only 15 black executives have ever made it to the Chairman or CEO position of the ”Fortune 500.” And only since 2009 has there been a Black woman CEO who was in the ”Fortune 500” list. More statistics thrown at you, black men between the ages of 16 and 24 have an almost 50 percent unemployment rate; for whites, it’s 16 percent. In the United States, a black child is almost four times as likely to live in a poor neighbourhood as a white child is. Twenty percent of white kids are in single-parent homes, 52 percent of black kids are. The incarceration rate is six times higher for blacks than it is for whites.

My home country, Canada, and my current place of residence, Sweden, is not America, so these stats don’t fully represent everywhere, but it’s still staggering. Also with Canada being a close neighbour, white privilege is present. Even when comparing only the white people and non-white people with the same education and of the same age, white people earn more or comparing only the foreign-born white Canadians with the foreign-born non-white Canadians, white people earn more. Even with second-generation, white Canadian-born compared to non-white Canadian-born, white people still earn more.  And this is a country that promotes it’s lack of racism and cultural diversity.

Some may be wondering, why would you be upset about this? You should be taking full advantage and hope such privileges continue.  But I personally believe diversity is one of the strongest driving forces of a successful company,business, world etc. whether diversity comes from race, religion, sexual orientation, family upbringing or if you are a coffee or tea drinker. Racial profiling is a horrendous and indecent thing, fear mongering and attaching negative attributes on certain races because of misinformation and unprogressive media just does more harm than good.

Finally, if I am to be hired, promoted, awarded, etc. I want that to be because of my skills and not because of my skin colour.

I Didn’t Shave For Over A Month, For Feminism.

Yeah, you read the title right.

There are a lot of trends I’ve noticed since moving to Sweden, man buns, sneakers with dresses, inflatable bike helmets, however the most notable trend is armpit hair on the ”gentler sex.”  I had asked some of my native Swedish friends if this was a big thing here, the reply was that it is part of the feminist movement. Those of you who don’t know, feminism is heavily present in Sweden. It shows, according to the 2013 Gender Gap Report, Sweden holds 4th place. Only being beaten by its close Nordic siblings (Iceland, Finland, Norway).

Now, now, there has been a lot of commotion about feminism, equally negative and positive, but I still identify myself as a feminist. No, I’m not a man hater, I’m happily co-habitating with a man (what an un-arousing term for an otherwise enticing arrangement.) I don’t align my thoughts that to raise the status of females is to oppress males, an eye for an eye, is not in my personal moral guidebook.  Drawing away from that, I did not really understand how this whole ”hairy pits” stance had anything to do with the important issues of gender equality: equal pay, awareness of rape culture, breaking down expectations of stereotypical male and female roles. My stance on that by the way is, female bread winner? Great. Stay at home dad?  You go man. Vice versa is superb as well.

But, I like to think that I am a reasonable human being, so I used the old ”don’t knock it, till you try it” mantra and decided to try this whole new body image thing out. It was surprisingly easy, because let me in you on a little secret, females can grow body hair. In ”welcomed” and ”unwelcome” places, depending on the individual. Which leads to how I participated in this little ”experiment,” I basically let my body do what it naturally does, grow hair.  

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Thus began my journey, some of you may be wondering why does having armpit hair have anything to do with feminist movement in any way? While I am no expert, I have a vagina, so I’ve encountered certain expectations on beauty that society places on women. At a young age, around 11 or 12 when puberty hit me, I was taught by my mother how to shave. Sitting with my legs in a half filled tub, my mother bestowed feminine wisdom upon me.  Never shave above the knee, the way she put it made it sound catastrophic, and I should shave my armpit hair against the grain. Now I am a woman. A proper lady.

Why did I have to shave my hair and not my boy cousins, I may of asked. The response would of most likely been along the lines that because girls should, it simply is how things are done, and only unhygienic, unattractive women, don’t shave. (Or if we are going on outdated stereotypes, French women don’t shave.) So since the age of 11, I have been diligently shaving away most of the ”unwanted hair” on my body. Because also, looking at media you don’t see leg stubble on the female models, and there are so many Gillette commercials engrained in our brains, that to be beautiful and desirable we have to follow the mandate. Same way a lot of other female beauty ideals are pushed on us. (I will say there are plenty of expectations on men, but I’ll delve into that with another blog post.)

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-On a side note, it would be great to see a Gilette model actually have hair to shave away, but moving on- 

Some may be wondering, what about your previously mentioned co-habitation partner, what was his take on this? I consulted him, just like how I usually do if I am going to be changing my look, whether it’s a big event outfit, changing my hair colour, or what have you. By consulting, I did not mean asking permission. Since he’s not a bigot, I tend to screen for those things in the early courting stage, he knew I would do basically whatever I want with my body. Of course, if he had found me less attractive, that would of been his personal taste and one can’t really ridicule someone for that. Just like how you shouldn’t be angry at someone for preferring blondes over brunettes, or vice versa. In all honesty, he didn’t care much, and made it clear he didn’t see me as less attractive. He is also the lovely photographer/stylist for this article.

For a bit of a history lesson, in the ancient Roman Empire, hair removal was often seen as an identifier of class. The wealthy women would remove their body hair with pumice stones, razors, tweezers and depilatory creams. For European medieval times, removing body hair wasn’t widely performed.  After this dry and hairy period,  we reach the 1800’s where paintings and sculptures constantly show a sleek and hairless female form. So as we can see, this hairless trend has been with us for quite some time.  The first female razor came out in 1915, in time for the roaring 20s, and the flapper era of sleeveless dresses. Now we’re here, lasering, sugaring, waxing, threading, burning, plucking, really anything to get rid of the stuff.

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Perhaps this is simply just another way to distinguish more between male and female, women wear makeup and men have their beards.  But to elaborate, I did not feel more female or really less so. After a couple of weeks, most of the time I simply forgot about it. Perhaps it is due to the fact that I am generally not a really hairy person. Genetics are to blame, so that may have slightly skewed my experience. An outlier in this little experiment.

Of course it took some adjusting at certain points, shaving for almost a decade, old habits die hard. Still, I didn’t cower and always wear long sleeved shirts, that would of just made this a pointless experiment. One of the main reasons I wanted to explore this issue is,  was I uncomfortable not shaving because of how I like my self to look, or how others will perceive me. Beauty was for a long time, one of the main assets many women could use.  And there was a very cookie cutter definition of what beauty is, slowly as time passes, this definition is broadening, it is not just the Marilyn Monroe’s that are considered beautiful.  We are seeing a variety of representations, of body shapes, race, and age. There’s still a long way to go, but small improvements should still be celebrated.

Maybe this whole shaving, not shaving, won’t really matter one day. Just up to the personal preference of each individual. Same way some people like their hair short, while others like theirs long. Case and point, while I wholly support females that don’t want to shave, after the 6 week period, I shaved. I like the feel of smooth skin, but if I don’t shave for a couple of days, a week, etc. it won’t make me feel one ounce less of the gender I identify with, female. Or any less beautiful or comfortable, for that matter.  Of course, if you found these photos or the concept of female body hair totally grotesque, and it doesn’t align to how you think a female should look. I can’t really change that, you define what femininity means to you. I do know for certain that the definition of femininity, or the female gender, will forever broaden and change. My personal idea of it will differ from yours, from my friends and family, and I feel like my own definition will change over time.  Change, for this matter at least, is something I will embrace and encourage others to as well.

Do I think that if I have hairy legs or armpits, that is going to garner me more respect, maybe get me that CEO status? No. Not really. But I will say this, in my personal opinion, while I defend the feminist notion that a female is allowed to do what she wants with her body, I want my words and actions to be the thing that really stands out, as being a feminist, but more importantly, being a human being. I hope that I was able to achieve just a little bit of that right here, right now.

Fall Day Fashion In Europe

I personally love Fall, it is my favourite season. I can finally cover up my pale skin without judgement and bundle up with coffee and a blanket.  Now fashion in Sweden is similar in Canada, so luckily my wardrobe hasn’t changed much since I moved.

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Jacket: Kensington Market, Sweater: Zara, Scarf: Lindex, Hat: Lindex, Shoes:Aldo, Bag:Long Champ

I personally have been favouring natural colours, and the beige scarf I’ve been wearing on a consistent,obsessed, basis. Also wearing a floppy hat is perfect to liven up any outfit. And the perfect cover up for a bad hair day… Army print is very popular here, I also own a pair of army pants. A lot of females as well as males have been wearing army print as of late, but since mine is quite thin, I usually have to wear a sweater underneath. It is a strange thought if the army jacket was every actually worn by a solider, since I bought it at a vintage shop in Kensington Market. Who knows.

And here are some random action shots, since the sambo tends to like black and white photos, I included that as well. ”Malmö Catwalk.” 

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So there you have it! I will conclude I’m looking forward to seeing how the Swedes do fall fashion, since I’ve never lived in this country for this particular season. Stay tuned!

Social Media Cults

Some people prefer cocaine, smack, dope, or alcohol. If it is not an obvious reason, people enjoy drugs because they make them feel good, more noticeable, and provides a superficial source of confidence. This is much the same way with social media. Posting consistently to social media, whether it is Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, or what have you, in one way is the same way as going to your dealer for your next hit.

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Receiving likes, retweets, mentions, followers, etc. is a high that is virtually free, easy, and readily available. While social media platforms are amazing tools, they can pose a negative effect and be detrimental. If you are unknowingly basing your self-confidence on how many likes you received from your last selfie post, it is underlining a serious issue. For certain disclosure, in no ways am I an expert, and I am basing this solely on my personal point of view, so take this as merely a pondering on a new Fall day.

Moving along, if you look at it from a different angle, a lot of these social media platforms slightly resemble traits to cults. You feel pressure to join because you want to belong, and everyone else you know has an account. They lure you in with promises of being loved, meeting new people, and feeling like you are a part of something bigger. A community. Also like cults, it is very hard to leave. Of course, with social media there is lack of sacrificing virgins, kinky sex rituals, and moon light meetings, since none are on trend…thankfully?baal-worship

Social media has allowed us to get attention from strangers, acquaintances, and loved ones. And it is not wrong to use these tools to stay in contact; social media has become a very critical tool for me to stay in touch with my friends and family, especially after my recent Cross-Atlantic move.

Although we shouldn’t let others, or even ourselves, gauge who we really are and our worth based on social media stats, we shouldn’t judge others as well. It’s a two way street. Do you think if someone who has 300 Facebook friends, compared to someone who has 700, is there a possible subconscious chance that someone may think the person with 700 friends is friendlier, more loved, and overall better? (Perhaps that would be an interesting study one day, so I fictionally patent that idea. Zing.)

I can imagine there are many people, female, as well as male for that matter, when a  photo posted is of them and it receives no apparent attention, it can create self-doubt. But why? Is it perhaps easier to trust other’s opinions before and over our own. If someone doesn’t comment how funny you are, how pretty you are, how interesting you are, are you really any of these things? There is worrying amount, especially in mine generation and younger generations, of those who are seeking validation solely from others, without just being satisfied with ourselves in the first place.

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The amount of people who like our profile pictures, comments, or articles shared, shouldn’t dictate how you or I feel about ourselves. Of course it is understandable for moments of self-doubt, even with this blog, I check the site stats, and if they are low, it hinders me a bit. Even my parents don’t read this (…but, hi Mum & Dad!) It still creates self-doubt in my writing, regardless of this, I am still writing. (And don’t really plan on stopping, devil be damned).

In some ways we’re never going to escape the popularity contest that was high school, this is the “Google Generation” after all. Social media is here to stay, and overall it is an amazing technology that can do as much good, as it can bad. But when you turn off your phone, close your laptop, and stop reading your notifications, the best compliment you can receive is from yourself. You know, better than anyone, what you really need to hear, and you’re the best person to give it.

Last Days Of Summer Call For Dresses

Sometimes I think I lack a lot of foresight. I brought quite a good number of summer clothes when I moved to Sweden, but I am lacking the sunny warm weather to wear them out.

So last week,on an unusually sunny day, it permitted me to slip into a bohemian dress and let my hippie child out.

IMG_7316(Dress: Forever 21, Hat: LINDEX, Long Vest: Forever 21, Shoes: Call It Spring, Sunglasses: Le Boyfriend’s )   

Also to complete the look I sketched all afternoon in Folkets Park and laid down in the grass, followed by a nice time drinking wine at the local watering hole, good looking company included.

I Went To A Swedish Wrestling Match. Things Got Weird.

Sometimes, people get cooped up. Maybe you do, maybe your roommate does, but I know I get cooped up. When I get cooped up, I like to go for a walk, and sometimes after awhile I stop by a café/bar for a drink. Sometimes, well most of the time.

On one particular night, I stopped by a local place for a glass of red wine. Since somethings never change, wherever I happen to be living, the answer is always red wine. But moving on, I hear a loud commotion of cheers and large eruptions, so I ask what is going on upstairs. The response was “ Pro Wrestling.” After throwing down some kroner for admission, I venture on upstairs.

What I saw was a surreal landscape, with a huge variety of people, just your typical Swedes, a lot of metal heads, jean vest wearing lesbians, and a lot of girlfriends who were most likely guilt tripped into coming to the event, and perhaps some boyfriends that were dragged along as well.

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Now, I don’t think I’ll ever go to another pro wrestling event, while it was entertaining and funny, there is something to ponder why people are very passionate about pro wrestling. For one, it is obviously artificial, between the timed punches, the bouncing around from the ropes, running into their opponent’s kicks, and assisted lifts, cringe effect was heavily induced. But in my take, it has more comic effect than shock value. Perhaps fans also just follow for the story lines, since there are rivalries and a lot of smack talk before the brawl gets going.

 

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However when you look at human history, we’re violent creatures that bit and clawed our way out of the food chain, and that thirst for blood and aggressive streak is still burrowed deep in our genetic makeup. Throughout history this thirst has been quenched in a variety of ways, gladiators, bull fighting or bull stampedes (still occurring), public torture and beheadings (still occurring). Now since modern society is “civilized” we’re using different channels for violence, video games, hockey fights, and now pro wrestling, where the only greatest risk of harm is having your weave accidentally pulled out.

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