I heard a piece of disturbing gossip this week, and I've got to say, it upset me.

What happened? Someone mentioned that people were chattering about my piece on being Heathered.

They didn't like it (apparently). It wasn't "fair."

The words "slander" "moral" and "bitter" were thrown around rather liberally (or so I heard).

The issue is that I used full names. I used the first and last names of select individuals to describe exactly what happened to me.

So.

I'd like to share just a few of the comments made by those who were brave enough to share their opinions in a public forum. I won't share their names, however. In this case, I don't see the point. (That's the key, kiddies. The point.)

Opinions regarding first and last names in "Heathered: a high school horror story."

I just went back and read this posting after missing it the first time around. I honestly have chills as it took me back to Grade 11 and the "heathering" in my life that year. I think it is fair to post names in the story. I also hope that these now women have drastically changed for the better but a big part of me has my doubts. I will now pass you the "talking stone" Jen, just try not to trip. :) - JL

Name them all! -CH

I would expect that you're right in speculating that they are worried about facing their own high school stuff. And I think that that is exactly why you were right in using their actual names - the only way to stop the hate is to take the difficult step of facing the ways in which we all have been less than kind. The power in a piece like that is recognizing times in our own lives when we have been on either side. -JR

They hardly sound like the type of people who spent a lot of time on their emotional growth. Truth hurts. I say if you do it then own it. I know a few people in high-school I wronged. If I read a post they wrote on it that named me I'd come right out and apologize. If I felt they weren't representing my truth I'd comment directly. If they don't have the guts to do either then they should just shut their mouths which is ultimately their downfall in the first place. It seems that they haven't changed and therefore you're well rid. Passing the talking stone back to you Jen! Oh maybe they figure they can't talk because they're not holding the stone! - HC

Don't let it get you down. that they're angry shows they see nothing wrong with what happened in the past. Which is more disturbing. - KV

It's fair game. What you have proved is that some people never really grow up or have the maturity to accept that they may have wronged someone. Instead of gossiping, the mature (or brave) thing to do would be to apologize for making you feel the way you did... - RM

Someone needs to be at least a little bit contrary, I think: even as a person who was generally on the receiving end of nightmarish behavior in high school, I should say that I was uncomfortable with the whole full name thing. (If the last ...names were absent, I would be totally comfortable with it.) It was more than a decade ago, too, which is plenty of time for people to change, and is a long enough time that it probably isn't fair to write something that might come up as a Google result *now*. (And so can be read by their employer, significant other, family... kids?) The internet has a way of collapsing the distance of time in a way that makes every story sound and feel immediate, too, and so even explaining that this story is from the previous century can't quite bridge that affective element to it. Anyway, I can see why they might not be happy about it - and why their anger over being outed for something they did as teenagers might outweigh their feelings of stupidity or guilt. - NS
  
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It's worthwhile to note that these gossipers were all people I knew in high school. Not one of them was mentioned in the piece. And not one of them has bothered to comment on it to me directly, here on the blog, on Facebook, via Twitter or even by private email. I suspect they were each feeling guilty about their own complicity in the situation. After all, they were the people laughing in the hallways and doing nothing to help.

Sigh. Even so, because I'm sensitive, their secondhand criticism DID hurt my feelings. I wish I could say it didn't. I'd like to be the sort of person who doesn't care.

But I do. I DO care. I think this kind of thing matters.

That's why I wrote about it in the first place.

I'm not worried about slander/libel or anything like that. (And for the record, those words have specific legal meanings which the gossipers obviously don't understand.)

Confessional writing isn't about bitterness, or being angry, or getting even. It's about insight and growth. And if the piece concerned you, simply because it was honest and because it included names, that's probably because you missed the point.

And you're not alone. So rest easy. I'm not alone either.

 
 
I had another dream about high school last night. Nothing dire. I was back at old OCI, (that's Oakwood Collegiate Institute, for those not in the know), but I was doing my PHD at the same time. And it suddenly occurred to me that dropping out of high school might be okay (I mean, I'd made it to my PHD and all) so I was rollerblading (WTF?) to the administration office to drop out. Along the way, I ran (rollerbladed?) into my old drama teacher Marla Percy, and she didn't remember me. That part was sad.

Anyway.

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It's Valentine's Day. When I was a little girl, store-bought Valentines were still of the punny variety (see example).

At first (say, kindergarten to Grade 3) you were supposed to give a Valentine to each person in your class. Once unconscious homophobia set in (around Grade 4) you were supposed to limit your Valentines to opposite-sex members of your class. After that, if you were smart, you'd limit yourself further still, targetting only "cute" or "cool" boys as your recipients. In highschool, you'd just wait.  You'd wait for some brave boy to send a Valentine to you. And you'd worry about getting none at all.

Sigh. Valentine's Day was hard. To do it right, you had to understand the vagaries of self-conscious love and social politics. Few did.


Like most people I know, I think Valentine's Day is pretty stupid, but I remember when it meant something to me. Kids think all "holidays" are the same. They don't distinguish. Halloween, Christmas, Victoria Day. It doesn't matter. Holidays are about celebrating in whatever way is "traditional." There's not a lot of critical thought involved.

Nonetheless. I have some fond Valentine's Day memories and with those memories in mind, I bring you this cute video. It's not new and you may have seen it before.
And, because I'm still a bit of a sicko/cynic at heart, here's the treacle-cutter:
 
 
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It's been about a month since Nate and I returned home from the Bahamas.

It's hard to know what to say about the trip without sounding like a big braggy pants.

We rented a little cottage on Great Exuma, one of the out islands. We took food with us because groceries are wildly expensive there. We lay out on the beach. We read a lot of books. We made friends with the house geckos and gathered shells. We daydreamed about owning one of the abandoned properties along the waterfront. We ate fresh conch (raw), watched LOST and went to bed early. It was lovely.

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Image from travel.webshots.com by farmahgibby.
By the way, live conch is pretty ugly (as evidenced above), but it's not bad. A little rubbery.

We both liked it better raw than cooked.  And we even ate the "conch pistol," a clear, slimy, dangling bit, considered to be the conch penis. (Don't worry, it isn't.) The pistol is said to increase libido and serve as a sort of viagra. "Put some more lead in your pencil!" declared the signs.

It tasted a bit like jellyfish. Did it work? Can't say. I'm a lady!

The best part of the trip was probably when we hopped a boat to Stocking Island (home to about 11 people).
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From the bay side of Stocking, we hiked (and waded, with our clothes tied around our heads and our bags held high in the air) around this rocky point to the open ocean to play in the massive surf on one of the wildest, most deserted beaches I've ever seen.
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In addition to the awesome surf on the abandoned beach, just a little way inland, we discovered a grotto full of angelfish and queen triggerfish. (We only found it because Nate had to pee and was looking for somewhere out of the way.) What a serendipitous bladder he has!
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Anyway. I don't know why I'm telling you about any of this. Maybe because it's freezing in Toronto right now. Maybe because I had nothing else to write about. Maybe because the Speaks blog has been filled with a lot of drama and old wounds of late, and I thought it was time to brighten things up.

I dunno. Maybe I'm just obnoxious.

The trips I've taken with Nathan have been the best vacations of my life. I've been a lot of places, with a lot of different people, and looking back on my old pictures, you can't really tell the difference between then and now. We all look happy on vacation, don't we? We all have photos of ourselves with our partners, wearing wetsuits, holding drinks, squinting into the sunlight... blah blah blah.

When it comes to holiday snaps, we all look happy, happy, happy.

But these are the only vacation photos I have where the pictures actually tell the truth. My Nathan trips are the only ones that left me feeling as good as the pictures make it seem.

Disgusting, right? I know. We're gross. I promise not to brag again for awhile.
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P.S. The only downside of our trip to the Exumas is that we're now forbidden to give blood for a year. Malaria warning, apparently. Very annoying.

P.P.S. There is ONE way in which my pictures don't do the Bahamas justice: the water there is a deep turquoise colour that I couldn't manage to capture on film. Supposedly it's a result of reflective microscopic coral in the water. I don't know about that, but it's pretty effing neat.