Monday, January 22, 2007

Fun with husbands

Ah, on the heels of yet another article about this much-debated non-marriage movement in the U.S., I find myself thinking about my own dear house-bond.

When I think about him, mostly I laugh. That's because he's damn funny. Not always deliberately, of course.

I go on these sprees where I get obsessive about something and I'm fixated on it for days. Often, this OCD-fest has to do with the house. Like the time I decided I needed a sewing room and nearly lost my hands--and my sanity--putting together the IKEA "sewing centre."

Or recently I've gone on a minimalist binge (can a minimalist "binge"?), where I'm taking down all of the nick-nacks on the fireplace mantle, piano, shelves, etc. I used to rearrange them, but lately I've just been putting them away (in my "sewing centre," incidentally).

The first day I did Operation Nick-Nack Removal, my husband came home, looked around, and asked me, "Are we moving?"

When he left that morning, it was happily and colourfully cluttered. He came home to post-Grinch Whoville. And still the de-cluttering continues. (The real problem is that our fireplace is hideous, so really we should just damn-well get it re-faced. But that's not scheduled until After the Kitchen Reno (2010), After Completion of Current Bathroom Reno (2008) and After We Have Kids Maybe (it'll have to be some time before 2012ish).)

Or just now, my husband comes home and starts talking to me as soon as he gets in the door and I tell him to hush because he's interrupting my writing. Of a blog post. About him. And how much I love him.

We talk a lot about how marriage can be hard on a woman. But husbands take a lot of flack too. I'm not sure why they don't harp on it more. I mean, come on now, join us here in Complaintsville once in a while. We know you've got it bad sometimes. We're the ones doing it to you!

God love ya.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sugar and spice and cold as ice?

So I was in NYC for the weekend. God, I love New York. Love, love, LOVE. It's cold, rational, impersonal, independent, historic, big, loud, rude, beautiful, and doesn't give a crap about me. Just like a modern woman, apparently.

While in NYC, I read the NYTimes (paper version and everything!) and was drawn moth-like to an article on marriage stats. Seems that for the first time ever, a majority of American women (51%--"majority" enough to elect a new president, after all) are living without a spouse. Some are married and separated, some have absent spouses, but many of them are just plain single. In 1950, only 35% of marriageable women were still single.

Here are a few more interesting stats from the article:

  • "Between 1950 and 2000, the share of women 15-to-24 who were married plummeted to 16 percent, from 42 percent."
  • "Among 25-to-34-year-olds, the proportion dropped to 58 percent, from 82 percent."
  • "Only about 30 percent of black women are living with a spouse [...] compared with about 49 percent of Hispanic women, 55 percent of non-Hispanic white women and more than 60 percent of Asian women."

(There was one small mathematical anomaly in the article that caught my eye. Well maybe not an anomaly so much as a lack of understanding of statistics on my part, but...apparently 53% of American men are married. I'm obviously not a statistician, but to whom are these extra millions of men married? Shouldn't the numbers add up? ...Maybe the census poll counted same-sex marriage.)

The researchers list a few explanations for women's growing singleness: pairing up much later in life, shacking up instead of getting married, living longer as widows, and not getting re-hitched after a divorce.

It may not seem like that big a deal, but what if this marks some kind of cultural tipping point? Where will everyone live?! Think of the children! (I'm joking.)

It's pretty easy to live a full single life these days. I know lots of great singles who seem to have a full schedule. I'm sure there are moments when they would like someone to share it with, but then when you're coupled, there are moments when you wish you could be alone. But clearly, if you're a single woman in the U.S., there are plenty of other single women to hang out with--not to mention single men. Plus things like the Internet are allowing us to be very social and interactive and live pretty fullish lives, alone and direct from our arses.

It's interesting that as we become more technologized, individualized, and settled as a modern culture, marriage seems to be disappearing. Traditional marriage, anyhow. I'm married, and I love my husband. But we didn't have to get married; we would have stayed committed to each other regardless. It was nice to have a big party and "proclaim our love" but we could've done that without changing our legal status. Maybe that blase attitude to formal marriage is partly behind the new marriage stats. Funny how love is trumping marriage.

I do have respect for the idea of marriage. I think it's romantic that we bind ourselves to each other for life. Is it natural? Maybe moreso for some than for others. I certainly don't think pairing off is natural for every human.

I also wonder, is this a rejection of traditional gender roles on the part of women, or some other kind of statement about putting yourself first, or some kind of new acceptance of the reality that your life rarely turns out the way you planned it when you were 12, or something else altogether? Maybe we're letting go of the Brideypants Barbie fantasy (yay!) and realizing that Ken isn't as perfect as he seems--he's gassy and he produces laundry and sometimes he's a little distant. Of course, Barbie is all of those things too.

I know I'm not saying anything original here, but the facts are the facts: you're born alone and you die that way too, no matter who you bond yourself to in this life. If this new female singleness is a first snapshot of women rising to both feet and standing firm in the face of humanity's ultimate singleness, I don't see how that can be a bad thing. It will undoubtedly fill the world with more depth and expression as the second half of the species explores the world on its own terms for the first time.

But I also wish everyone someone to cuddle with along the way.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

See. This. Movie.

Children of Men

I haven't seen a really, really important, exceptionally executed, deeply moving, and compelling movie like this, possibly ever, now that I think of it.

Sorry if that all sounds a little over the top. But I was quite blown away.

I only ever saw one preview, so the film sort of slipped my mind until my good friend, (one of the bestest) Ni_de_Montreal, recommended I see it instead of An Inconvenient Truth. I was intrigued. A Clive Owen movie about a saving a preggers British teenager...more important than a documentary on global warming? C'n'est pas possible!

She was so very right.

The acting. The premise. The writing. The plot. The concept. The dialogue. The symbolism. The cinematography. The effects. The story. The direction. It doesn't do anything too overtly experimental. The genius is in the subtely and the subtext. It deals with the environment. It deals with terrorism. It deals with the dark chamber of the human heart that we rarely enter--the one that knows that at the bottom of it all we're just another animal driven to survive.

EVERYTHING works in this movie. It hits you between the eyes with a gentle, poisonous gust of dystopian future-gas. You're knocked on your ass, which is perfect because that is the precise vantage point of the film.

It made me want to read the book (my order will be in at momentarily) by P.D. James., in the hopes that I can explore more of the ideas behind the film. None of this explanatory detail is necessary--the film is a complete, perfect whole. But if you're a person interested in the themes of the movie, you'll want to read more. You'll want to see it again. You'll need to see it again, to savour every perfect detail. I plan to.

Interestingly, a basic premise of the James plot is altered by Cuaron--as I understand it, in the book, it's the men who become sterile. In the movie, it's the women. Even this seemingly tiny little change is...pregnant with meaning.

I won't give away anything else--no spoilers here. But I felt compelled to promote this great work. It is a mythical story, beautiful in its ugly truth. It's right about human nature. Hopefully it's dead wrong about where that nature may take us.

Friday, January 05, 2007

My new winter footwear.

I believe we've seen our last winter here in Ontario-Quebec. Who knew that last March, as I was strapping on my snowshoes for a little late-season jaunt, it would be the last time I'd ever need them? Winter is dead.

I honestly believe we've seen the finale of our -5 to -15 January and February temperatures. The last of 4-5 feet of snow accumulation. The end of our lovely groomed x-country ski trails in the Gatineaus. The final gasps of downhill and boarding fun (unless you live near on the Rockies). Hasta la vista, snowshoes.

My first thought was: with no more cold weather, whatever will we Canadians complain about? We'll lose our identity! We're The People Who Survive Hellish Winters. But then I remembered the Government. Thank God for the Government. With them, our formless rage will always have a target.

So I've been quite depressed, not to mention seasonally confused every time I step out into the Octoberish temperatures and snowlessness that is my globally warmed country. I thought I had it bad. But at Christmas, I talked to my cousin in the French Alps. Yeah, she was telling me all about her depression over having a green Christmas. In the Alps. No snow. IN THE ALPS. Not a flake of crystallized water to be found.

And the lies Hollywood has told us about all this! I thought global warming was supposed to lead to the next Ice Age?! I was all prepared for that. Faithful lemming that I am, I watched The Day After Tomorrow (with barf-bag in hand re: crap dialogue and shameless plot histrionics). I've even tried to get my hands on a copy of An Inconvenient Truth, but the top-secret global Agency of Dis-Information has clearly been working overtime to keep it unavailable for online or in-store purchase. Still, I thought, Hah. Ice Age. That's the best you can do, Climate Change? A frozen wasteland? BRING IT ON! We Canadians eat frozen wastelands with afternoon tea!

If anyone can survive an Ice Age, it's people who dig themselves out of blizzards daily. But October in January? I don't think we can survive this. Above all else, it's just plain boring to live here without snow. For the love of God, if we don't have winter sports, we'd better at least get some decent shopping in this one-horse town. Because with no snow I plan to indulge my shoe fetish year round.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

2007: Full-Colour Black and White

Well hello there! How've you been? How's your year starting out?

Chances are, if you're reading this, it's going better than his--er, so far at least.

I hate to start off with talk of executions, but this,'s hard to ignore. I didn't watch the cell-phone coverage. I refuse to watch things that I know I won't be able to un-see once I've viewed them. I've made that mistake before. But judging from the fallout, it was an awful scene.

It's funny how this event pulls one in so many moral directions. On the one hand, the man was a known mass-murderer, found guilty of the crime of mass murder, and sent to his fate and punishment by people representative of the murdered masses. On the other hand, capital punishment is flat-out bizarre. To sit there, in full foreknowledge of the time and location of someone's death, and watch it unfold: it's like having access to Hell's Time Machine. We're not meant to have foreknowledge of death. It's unnatural.

On yet a third hand, there's the inner tug-of-war over the whole taunting-on-the-gallows aspect of this story. I'll sidestep the messy ethical debate about whether someone who has done what he has done deserves a dignified death and observe that in a way, watching the cell-phone video must be like having a portal into our own Western past, say about 300 years ago when public hangings were all the rage. Our ancestors stood in front of gallows, thinking murderous thoughts or possibly even hurtling their own taunts at the walking dead. This thought makes it exceptionally hard to pass judgement. But for the grace of God, cliche, cliche...

And then there's the fourth hand: the entertainment aspect. The rope, the neck, the taunts, the laughter, all available for graphic full-colour online viewing...

Makes me wonder, is the Internet a civilizing force or a regressive one or both or neither? I guess it depends on whether this thing (the Internet, in case you're still a little murky from all that holiday drinking) that is quickly becoming a kind of pan-human Group Mind is conscious and self-aware, or unconscious and amoral like the trees or the ocean or the weather. Or is it unconscious now, with the potential to become conscious later?

When I hear stories like this, part of me sure hopes so.

Ah, life. In the end, maybe it all goes back to free will. Maybe we have it, maybe we don't. One day the world's a modern place, the next day we're a bunch of rubberneckers gathered round the computer to watch a man be taunted on the gallows. Well, at least it's never boring.

Maybe 2007 will be the year that it all finally makes sense.