52 Titles: Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar

Can you believe I’ve never read this until now?

I think a lot of things about this book will only make sense to female readers, much in the way that Joan Didion does. All the details — living with a gaggle of other young women; the oppressive archetypes of the women that surround you; being the third wheel; the constant man-splaining about everything from your emotional state to whatever said man has learned in their latest liberal arts elective; the endless self-doubt about professional, social and romantic trajectories; the, err, strange bleeding. And most vividly, when Esther Greenwood throws all her clothes off the roof — I once had a similar impulse. Bill Cunningham says clothing is the armour with which we protect ourselves from the world, but sometimes clothing is just baggage — you get tired of lugging it with you, moving it from one apartment to another; having to wash and preen and iron and keep them neat; maybe it ties you down to an identity you no longer embrace. So yeah, I get why women love this book.

Posted in 52 Titles, Feminism | 1 Comment

A serious question about dogs and wolf howling

Is it a thing, where dogs’ heads get all twisty when they hear a wolf howl? Some of these mutts seriously look like their heads are going to pop right off. Observe:

German shepherd howling:

Pomeranian howling:

Pit bull howling:

I tried this on my my bull terrier, and she did not howl, or even perk an ear, or lift her head. That she is a people-dog, not a dog-dog, might have been my first indication that she would have zero interest, but I tried. Then again, better that she didn’t start yowling — bullies are bad enough without teaching them bad habits on top.

Posted in Crazy Dog Lady, Random | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The hair is always greener on the other side of the fence


Being Chinese, I’ve received countless compliments about how nice it must be to have pin-straight hair. Fair enough… I came of age in the flat-iron era, when every girl had a freaking ionic ceramic whatever Babyliss with which they enthusiastically straightened their curly/wavy/poofy/voluminous/mostly-straight-but-maybe-kind-of-textured hair into these swingy, horse-mane shags. Like, even the girls with mostly straight hair straightened, with irons or carcinogenic “Japanese straightening treatments.” Not just the white girls, either, but Asian girls too. It always seemed to me a bit like Hudson’s Bay traders selling beaver pelts back to the natives — our look had been fetishized, commoditized, and they were selling it back to you for lots of money (anywhere from $400 to $1,200). You’d sometimes see girls in the hallways of my high school and university with burn marks around their ears or forehead, or maybe one of them fretting about how she forgot to turn off their iron that morning, and was it going to burn her bathroom down? Her dad would kill her. Or trying to figure out how to get mom and dad to pay for relaxers.

And yet, the more they wanted my kind of hair, the less I did.

First I cut it all off when I was 15. Then I started putting wax and pomade in it to make it bigger, more textured, less straight. I hated the way my hair was limp, so flat, so thin, so… boring. (See above, on a family trip when I was 17, and my driver’s license at 16.)

Then I started dyeing it. I bleached it, and then sometimes had to bleach it again, because do you even know what a pain in the ass it is to lighten black hair? Then I dyed it red. Then blue. Then orange. And then sometimes green. If I had to tally up on the money spent on dye or style products…? $500, about the same as a relaxing treatment.

My hair habits were informed by my interest in punk music (a predominantly white, male subculture, but that’s another post for another time) — but also informed by a white culture, even if it was a different kind of white culture. My genes gave me a fetishized look that other women paid lots of money to have, but that didn’t matter. The beauty norms I paid attention to were not the kind that resembled what I look like. But that’s kind of what being young is about, right?

In any case, the flat-iron trend came and went, but if it’s not a rejection of our natural hair, it’s breasts, butts, skin colour, isn’t it? I dyed my hair to get away from my teen-angsty self, partly, but also because beauty is hegemonic concept that varies in every culture, era, etc. We mold ourselves to some other prevailing beauty norms because we learn that it’s okay to pathologize our natural beauties. Sometimes we grow out of it, but mostly we don’t.

This post is also part of The Ethnic Aisle blog collective, a super-awesome thing I am part of that comments on the experience of visible minority Canadians.

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Living the dream

If you can forget for a moment that this is an extended commercial for Zara, you will see that this woman is living my dream life. Work in the city. Drop work at will to drive up to the country with a bag full of books. Sit outside your old converted barn-turned-cottage in the hills and watch the sun set.

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A few words about my dog Tucker


I’d never wanted a fluffy dog, but my mom decided to adopt Tucker from friends. And so, suddenly we had a five-year-old fluff-ball that looked like an Ewok. Or a Wookie. An Ewookie? A Wookiewok? I was horrified to discover on the mantle of the previous family’s home a framed photo of Tucker with long, luxurious hair tied back with a pink bow. I like to think we rescued him from a life of constantly being preened and fussed over.

He was not a normal dog. He never learned to whine — no matter the emotion, he expressed it with a growl or bark. The only exception was when he was flopped over trying to scratch his back… then he’d make grumbling, chattery noises like an Ewok. He always looked perplexed, his brows furrowed as his little pea-brain tried to suss out the situation.

He never listened; you had about a 50 per cent chance of success at having him come when called. In his more spry days he bolted through the front door whenever it was opened. He once made a break into a rainstorm on the day of my sister’s wedding as everyone was preparing to leave for the church. My boyfriend had to chase after him while the bridal party tried not to water-stain their silk dresses on their way to the van. When Mike finally caught him, everyone had, to his confusion, left the house.

Tucker perennially wandered away while off-leash. While I sat on the dock last September at the cottage (as seen above and below during our 2010 visit to the Brig), he slunk off. I eventually found him sweaty, confused, panting and wild-eyed, halfway up the hilly driveway to the main road. It was clear that if we’d never found him, he wouldn’t have made it home. That, as I later recognized, was when his dementia started showing.


Despite his size he wasn’t a lapdog. He didn’t like cuddling, though for most of his life he’d greet anyone at the door by flopping onto his side, expecting a belly-rub. Everyone obliged.

He was possessive over food. He once ripped holes in the crotch of my sweatpants after I shooed him away from the plate of eggs I left on the table.

He ruined my parents’ living room rug (an outrageously expensive Chinese one) and basement carpeting with pee. And then there were the teak Chinese couches — they were right by the living room bay window, which offered a view of the front walk, where he could watch the comings and goings at 44 Rubin Street. He made the couches his bed, scratching the delicate red silk cushions into shreds. I think my mom was secretly happy about that; they were my dad’s idea and she never liked them.

He once ate a homeless man’s poop. I saw him scrounging under a bush while we were at the park (n.b. to other dog owners, it was the lawn west of Osgoode Hall on University north of Queen); when I pulled him out by the collar I got it all over my hands. On our way home I had to open the doors to my apartment with my elbows.

Still, he was my dog. He lived with me the last seven years, and I came to love, really love, the eccentricities of a grumpy old man stuck in a dog’s body. We sunned ourselves in the backyard. He once (only once) let me use him as a pillow when we sat on the couch. He was an excellent walker. Some dogs pull to get to the destination, others pull to go home, but Tucker took in walks like a true flaneur. Like an old man going for his afternoon stroll. He enjoyed the pleasantries of it. He loped, his ears bouncing floppily in a way that befitted his shaggy mantle, with a smile. He was good company.

Tucker goes for a walk

To the end he was an excellent walker, but it was his mind that got him. He didn’t sleep at night. He peed, puked and pooped as the darkness ratcheted up his anxiety. He paced endlessly, panting, wild-eyed and confused, until he either fell asleep from exhaustion or micturated in frustration. The slightest noise would awaken him, and the cycle would continue over and over until morning light came. I had to rescue him after he got trapped behind a table leg. He got so skinny I could feel every vertebrae, his hips, his eye sockets. On our last walk through High Park, the other dogs in the park bullied him, as if they sensed his weakness. I saw his personality disappearing. I knew it had to be done. I didn’t want to wait until he had no good days left.

At least he had his health, and a long life. I credit the raw food diet for that.

On Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2012, I took him for his last walk around the block. He was slow, but he was good. He took in the morning sun, lingered on a scent deep in a hedge. And then we drove him to the vet. He died at 12:15 p.m.

Never take your pets for granted. They are always there for you. Don’t push them away. Always take the extra five minutes to give them belly rubs, to walk a little slower or further, to wait while they sniff out the lamppost. And seriously, like Ghostface says, brush their teeth. Tucker had two dental cleanings/extractions in his later years, and they are expensive and painful.

In the end, Tucker had 17 years — 12 with us — and it didn’t feel like enough.

Posted in Friends, Narcissism, Nostalgia | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments