Well, one of my exes finally "settled down" and decided to have a baby. I heard awhile ago that they were trying and now it seems the plan has taken root. IN HER WOMB. Literally. Sort of.

We're not in touch or anything, but this is the information age. It's almost impossible to stay out of the loop, even when you'd like to.

Oddly, upon presenting this news, the first question posed to me is usually "Are you okay?" Is it just me, or is this a weird question? I mean, it's been ages, yo. A dog's age. A donkey's years. A month of Sundays. I'm over it. Or if that sounds hard to believe (and maybe it should, since I rarely get over anything), let's say I'm "used to it." It's not as if this is some sort of bombshell. I've been spared this particular indignity before, certainly, but I knew it was coming. Married people in their thirties usually have children. It's to be expected. Frankly, considering what I remember of my ex's hatred of condoms (and incidentally, his odd refusal to get screened for STDs/STIs???), I expected it a lot sooner. At the very least, I'm sure there was at least one pregnancy scare in their past, followed by sharp relief. "No babies no babies no babies" what a oft-repeated motto of that former man of mine.
So what's the true truth here? I can't say I felt nothing. While I'm not particularly surprised, not at all disappointed, and for once not jealous (I'm often a very jealous person, that's just my nature), I did feel a little something. A small tummy-twinge, a little flood of adrenaline. And then I took stock. I thought: So, it's happened. Finally. There it is. How do I feel? Am I okay? And the answer is yes. I am. I am okay. 

The stuff that happened years ago is the stuff that actually hurt. It was all such a surprise, even after years of unhappiness in the actual relationship. The lies, the realization that everyone had known but me, hearing that they'd purchased property together so quickly it felt immediate, hearing that I was being painted as a bitter friend-stealer and manipulator, liar/bitch. That is the stuff that kept me up at night. Those were the pieces of news that burned away in my belly. For awhile afterward, I had a recurring dream about being eviscerated. Someone would slice me open (or sometimes, I'd slice myself open), and my entrails would spill out, along with a gush of blood. I'd catch them in my hands, all hot and slippery. I had this dream literally hundreds of times, but I don't have it anymore. Haven't for years. I suppose what I felt, when hearing this news for the first time at least, was just an echo of that. 
It's true what they say: time heals. It's not a comforting thing to hear when you're in the middle of feeling something because waiting seems passive, so out of your control. I know that what I wanted when my hurt was still a sucking wound was to DO something about it. I wanted a bit of revenge, or at the very least, I wanted to force myself to forget, to get over it, to feel better. I wanted to stop having that fucking dream. I successfully distracted myself with other things, and while that helped a bit, it didn't actually heal. It was a bit like what I used to do when I was a kid to keep from crying -- I'd make a fist and dig my fingernails into my palm -- a handy diversion. Feel this, not that. I didn't want to hear that it was going to take time, that to feel better, I would have to be patient. I hated that. And now, oddly, I am one of those well-meaning assholes who says things like "Give it time." Now that I know it's true, and that there's little else we can do, I can't seem to help it. (If I've ever said it to you, I'm sorry. I know it's annoying.)

So time heals and in addition, things change. I think I've mentioned before my first boyfriend, who I once hated with the burning passion of a thousand suns*, is a close friend. Of course, we dated 18 years ago, so that's part of it. We were teens, so things felt very fraught at the time, but in the grand scheme of adult feelings, my angst about that situation now seems a bit silly and overwrought. And besides all that, he's changed. I've changed too. Of course we have. We're grown up now. And since 2002, when my now-expecting ex and I got together, I've changed again. Don't get me wrong -- this is a different situation and I've accepted that apologies will never be made. Furthermore, I don't want to be friends in this case, and it is my sincere hope that I never see the man again, but nonetheless, things DO change.

And of couse, I'm married now myself. People told me that this -- being in a happy relationship of my own -- would be the thing that would help the most, but it hasn't really been like that. We've been together for five years and my partner is lovely and kind and our relationship is calming and secure, basically the opposite off all my previous relationships, but that's our thing. It doesn't really have any bearing on what came before. Being happy doesn't make me a winner. It doesn't mean I won. And neither does their pregnancy, marriage, home-buying, cohabitating, or secret fucking mean that they won. I guess I used to think it did, and that's why I had all those dreams and felt so hurt and sad about the whole thing.
Now, I'm no saint and I'm not at the "I wish you guys well!" phase, if such a phase even exists for a person like me. I have my mean little moments. I feel small jolts of petty happiness when I hear about even the most minor karmic comeuppances, as well as things like weight gain and hair loss. In practice, I'm usually pretty nice, but I harbour that sort of darkness in my heart like everyone else does, even those who won't admit it. At the same time, this baby doesn't break my heart the way it would have six or so years ago.

So to answer your question, I really AM okay. And actually, I'm sorry for what I said before. It wasn't a weird question at all, and I'm glad you asked. After all, I didn't know if I would be. 

Thanks time. You passed, just as you were supposed to.

*Ha ha. Shakespeare/10 Things I Hate About You reference, twisted.

Psst. Who liked my Buffy-reference headline? It was great wasn't it? "The flaying of Warren Mears? Truly inspired. That was water cooler vengeance. Lloyd has a sketch of it on his wall." Oh Buffy, how I miss you. 
 
 
Well. We're married.

Not "we" as in me and you and not the royal we. "We" as in me and THIS guy.

And slowly, but surely, we are recovering. The balloons have deflated, the flowers are dead, and there are only about a dozen cupcakes left in the freezer. (Okay, two dozen.) I intend to wash them down with left over champagne. In front of the television. Wearing pyjamas.

Here's what I'm calling our "official wedding photo" from City Hall. (Not pictured: our witnesses Patty and Gid, and the lovely Officiant, George).
I've been pretty lax in my blogging duties over this period, but I promise to get back to it this coming week. In the meantime, here are a couple of amusing search phrases that have brought visitors to the site in the last couple of weeks:
  • conch penis
  • creepy weirdos
  • vintage children and french
  • a certain amount of purposelessness is necessary to lead a full life
  • does kale make you poop
Believe it.
 
 
Planning a wedding, even a small wedding that you hope will be as little like a wedding as possible (ha ha), is a dangerous business.

I knew this already. I've always known this. But there's a big difference between knowing something and experiencing it.

In my case, things have already gone far beyond what I initially planned. More guests are coming, we'll be serving far more booze, (and more varieties of booze), and I've tried on actual bridal, which I never intended to do.

It's all been... a bit much.
Photo from the Bering Photography vintage wedding gallery.

Nathan, being a weirdo Marxist, is helping. Like me, however, he's a people pleaser with a tendency to give in when pushed, so we have to bolster each other regularly with rousing exclamations of "Just say no!" and "We not doing that!"

Sometimes, we just won't answer our phone.

But I admit, there have been moments when we've been swept into the river. As I said, I tried on "real" bridal, and once you head down that road (or any of these wedding roads) all the cliches come to life. It really IS a slippery slope. Within an hour of dress shopping, I found myself thinking, "Well, $900 isn't really THAT much for a dress, is it?" And "maybe I DO need custom-dyed shoes..."

(I know that there are people for whom $900 would be a major bargain, but practically my entire wardrobe is from Goodwill... for me, it's insane.)

Insane or not, its just easy to get caught up in the bullshit. It wasn't my fault! The bullshit is powerful and hard to resist.

Luckily, when I got home, I came to my senses, found a $5 dress at the thrift shop*, and moved on (at least emotionally).

But still... despite our little rebellions, expectations continue to weigh on us.

Interestingly, I find that what helps the most is the Internet. All it takes to remind me of what is inauthentic, saccharine and vile about so many contemporary weddings is a quick visit to Pinterest or a Google search of the words "best wedding traditions." The results are truly horrifying. From those "suddenly we're doing choreographed hip-hop!" reception dances to people who engrave their wedding bands with phrases like "I will wuv you for eternity" and "Love you, Shmoopie" (Shmoopie, being the most disgusting pet name ever and very likely what you'll be forced to call the devil in hell), the internet is rife with helpful aids in aversion therapy.

Thank goodness for the modern wedding ick factor. Without it, I think I might have been suckered into a lot more hoopla.

My wedding (or rather, marriage) is just a few weeks away, so I don't have to resist for much longer. Soon this will all be over and we can go back to answering our phone and being our regular selves.

All we have left to do is ... a lot actually.

In fact, I don't want to think about it. Ugh.

*Yes. I am wearing a $5 wedding dress. It's fuschia. Why not, right? That's who I AM, dammit.
 
 
Hey! Tomorrow is valentine's day! I don't tend to celebrate this strange "holiday" but take a look at these vintage cards from the generally amusing folks over at Funny or Die. They've been all over the place lately, but I'm not feeling very creative, so forgive me for sharing them one more time.
 
 
Most of you have seen this already, but in case you haven't, I wanted to share the silly website I made in honour of my upcoming nuptials. The site doesn't contain any details about the time or place, so I figured it was safe to put on the interwebs.
I'm very amusing. Everyone thinks so.
 
 
I was a superstitious kid. I'm not sure why exactly. Some combination of my anxiety-driven nature and a catholic school education maybe.

For whatever reason, I was the sort of child who started out whispering curse words, in fear that GOD might strike me down (with a lightning bolt, of course). I read my horoscope religiously and coveted those pastel-coloured new age scrolls they sold near the cash at the grocery store. (I think they still sell those, come to think of it.) I believed, as a Cancer, I was a "moon child" and a "water baby" and that there were certain inalienable truths about my personality. (I was a crab. I had a hard exterior. I was sensitive. I was loyal.)

I held my breath when we drove past cemeteries in the car. I lifted my feet when we went over railway track (can't remember why, though). I stepped on or avoided cracks in the sidewalk, depending on how I was feeling about my mother on any given day. This sort of thinking took up a great deal of my time.
Superstition seeped into my teenage life as well. I gathered talismans - good luck charms, found pennies, broken bits of jewellery, things I thought might be imbued with goodness or power. And I attached significance to dates. My first real romantic relationship started in the new year of 1995, my second in January of 1997, my third in January of 2002. And to this day, January sort of whispers at me.
I've turned into an atheist and I'm not really superstitious anymore, but it's been hard to shake my attachment to dates.  There's something about January in Toronto, about looking out at the night sky glowing reddish, ready to snow. There's something about seeing the flakes fall through the halos around the streetlights.

The other morning, I went for a walk through Cedarvale ravine, which is a small woody path near my house, and I was struck by the white light and the general quiet and the seemingly extreme sound of ice being brushed beneath my boots. It felt like something magical was going to happen.
Of course, nothing magical happened. Not unless you count depositing my pay cheque and visiting the local Starbucks as magical.

Still, I felt like something was going to happen. And that's what makes January bearable, I think. At least for me.
Today's photos are from my walk through Cedarvale ravine.
 
 
Well. I've got a bit of news.
_Yep. Married. Not today, but soon. In a couple of months or so.

This was a hard decision to make. Nate (who has a website now, by the way) and I had been talking about it for awhile, but neither of us was sure we really wanted to go there, as it were. We agree that we've been married in every way that matters for awhile now, and for various reasons, political* and otherwise, neither one of us was sure we wanted to make it "legal."

But here we are ...

Anyway, I decided to announce it here on the blah-og, since I think we've now spilled the beans to most everyone who would have had a problem with finding out online.

Don't get fussed about invitations or anything like that. It's going to be a tiny City Hall type thing -- no guests. I figure (and I've thought this for a long time now) that marriage is a pretty private thing between two people (more than two people if you're that sort of Mormon or whatnot), and it seems weird to me to enter into something private in front of a whole bunch of onlookers. (Or maybe that's just my social anxiety talking. Who knows?) I know some people feel that weddings are important, that "standing up in front of friends/family/jebus/whomever" helps in some way. That's cool. It's not for me, but it's cool.

Regardless, we're not doing the whole wedding thing. But we are getting married.

And best wishes are, of course, welcome.

Love and Stuff,
Jen

_* In my mind, there are serious problems with the "institution of marriage" including, but not limited to:

1) The fact that only about 10 countries allow same-sex couples to marry legally. 10. Out of more than 190. That's bullshit, right there. Disgusting.

2) Historically (and even today) many marriages put one partner into a position of domestic servitude. In other words, one partner offers up domestic labour (and sex) in exchange for the so-called "security" of marriage (which is to say, the basic human rights of food, shelter, etc. that everyone should have anyway.) Not sure I like the idea of endorsing this kind of problematic history.

3) Divorce rates remain ridiculously high. I'm not going to bother to quote statistics, but we all know this is true. It's not like the "institution" has been impressing anyone with it's awesomeness of late. So no matter how you feel, it's not a great bet to make.
 
 
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.
 
 
When I was 20, ten years ago now, I wrote a poem. It was part of an assignment for a poetry composition class I was taking at Queen's, and it kicked off a little jag of poetry writing that I went through in my early 20s.

Looking back, I think the poem says a lot about what the decade was going to be like for me. It's so very juvenile, so rhyming and earnest. So... heartbreaking in a way.

Ten years ago, I was just out of my first significant relationship and I was having a hard time. The whole decade was hard, in one way or another. Not that a ten year period really means anything. I know that such divisions of time are arbitrary. Nonetheless, ten years feels significant. Nice and round and solid. It feels good to put it behind me.
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cc. image of Tierra Del Fuego by Villie Miettinen from Flickr
For Nathan and I, 2011 came in with a whisper. We spent New Year's Even in a small cottage in the Bahamas. I was alseep by 10:30 p.m. I made no resolutions. It was the best start to a new year I think I've ever experienced. A good omen.

That said, I think it's always worthwhile to look back. To constantly drive forward, with no examination of where you've already been, seems like a waste..

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With that in mind, I'm going to share my little poem. It was inspired by a novel I read as a young teen - Paula Fox's A Place Apart. (If you haven't read any Fox, you should. 
Here's a good article about her.) I remember, at 13, being so caught up by a moment in A Place Apart that I held my breath. For minutes. I held it until my heart heart, without even realizing what I was doing. And it was that memory, I think, that made me write this poem

Be kind, blog friends. I know it's bad. I can see my many errors. It was a first effort. And remember, I was still practically a baby.

tierra del fuego

sheets lifted above our heads as we lie in bed
and consider the morning

you’re wondering what i’m doing

 i’m offering you a dream with my bare feet and
our cold sheets,
warm now, with you and i inside them

this is our house on Tierra del Fuego
where we live, all alone, you and i
high, high in the mountains
away from everyone

this is our house on Tierra del Fuego
where we have a bedroom painted in gold
to catch the light of the bold afternoon sun
an encompassing auburn
brought to life by our walls

this is our house on Tierra del Fuego
where we grow vegetables and have enclosed
a small cow named Daisy
who gives us milk

we have given up meat, which is easier here
remember, before?
that time that we tried, but weren’t satisfied?
and didn’t succeed
and you, especially were filled with the need
for the taste of blood in your mouth?

this is our house on Tierra del Fuego
where we want for nothing
because together we make somethingwholly satisfying

later
much later
thinking about those sheets on our bed, back in place now,
i read a little about Tierra del Fuego

the island is cold
and the Patagonian Andes are, i’m told, harsh
and unwelcoming

Tierra del Fuego is an island that’s vulnerable,
exposed to the competing winds of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans,
bringing nearly constant rainstorms

we had a house on Tierra del Fuego
but i’m renting it out
because i can’t take the rain anymore, or your snore, or the cold
that even the gold of our bedroom isn’t warming
and the Yagans of old have left Fireland
and the tourists are coming

this was our house on Tierra del Fuego
i’ve opened the pen
and let Daisy go
and if there’s only one thing i want you to know
it’s that Tierra del Fuego’s a lie
it was always remote

and too difficult for us
so i’m saying goodbye

on the Isle of Fire, Tierra del Fuego
the winds can blow a house down
but just so you know, i’m not waiting around
i’m burning our house to the ground