The Window at Rhino

My neighbourhood is an interesting place. Run down rooming houses full of run down people sit side-by-side beautifully renovated Victorian and Edwardian homes with $15,000 stoves in the kitchen. We have a high end toy/gift shop but the swankest coffee chain is Coffee Time – we don’t even rate a Tim’s. A seasonal, local, nose-to-tail restaurant looks out across Queen West at a community drop-in centre and soup kitchen. Rich ladies with sweaters over their shoulders emerge from vintage Jaguars to cruise the junque shops while trying to avoid used condoms and syringes on the sidewalk.

Sitting in the front window of Rhino, our local watering hole, it’s interesting to watch this diversity wander by.

Across the street at Public Butter, a vintage clothing shop, a rack of plaid jackets sits on the sidewalk. Priced as much as a new one from somewhere like Mark’s Work Wearhouse, they’re meant for the hipsters putting together outfits featuring the latest flavour of ironic. They’re less ironic when a pair of rocker guys, complete with mullets, walk past the rack, wearing those same jackets with utter seriousness.

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Old Punk Rockers Never Die

Okay, well, technically they do, eventually.

Last night, Greg and I attended a photo exhibit called Toronto Calling, of photos of concerts that took place in the early 80s in Toronto featuring bands like the Clash and the Ramones. We didn’t actually stick around to see the photos, though, as the gallery space was packed solid with old punk rockers, so much so that we couldn’t get in to see the photos.

The era in question took place before my time in Toronto, with most of the gigs featured taking place between 1979 -1981. I arrived in Toronto in late ’87, so this was not my scene per se, although I was listening to all of these bands back home in Halifax, a no-man’s land when it came to international tours. Hats off to Billy Idol for not forgetting about us in 1984.

But the remarkable thing was that here was a group of people in their late 40s – early 50s… and there was a still a solid punk vibe going on. Piercings, tattoos, oddly-coloured hair. These folks were still flying the freak flag.

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The F-Word

I was at a media event a few weeks ago, talking with some folks about why I don’t do restaurant reviews for TasteTO myself. “I’m pretty unique looking, you know? If I’m out at something like this and meet a chef, they’re probably going to remember the fat girl with the red hair and sparkly glasses.”

Nervous laughter.

It’s either that or dead silence. Maybe someone will pipe up and say, “oh, you’re not fat” in a way that lets you know clearly that they think you are. But people seem to really not know how to deal with a fat girl referring to herself as fat.

But here’s the thing – I’m with myself every day – in the shower, in front of the mirror, getting dressed… buying new clothes. I know what the scale says, what the size tags say and what the measuring tape says. And they all say that I’m fat.

And I’m okay with that.

Really.

Personal history, genetics, and a job where I basically eat and then sit down and write about what I eat – all of that aside, I’m fat and I’m probably never going to be skinny. Technically I’ve been fat since I was 10. And I don’t really have an overwhelming desire to be thin, skinny or “average”.

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Out of the Closet

Some people are naturally pack-rats, saving everything, dragging it with them from home to home throughout their lives. Others though, are purgers, overcome with the need to be free of the stuff they no longer use, need or love.

I’ve never seen the point of keeping “stuff”. Sure, I have a few items that I keep for sentimental reasons, but the overall quantity is small, and the pieces have real meaning. When we moved a few years ago, I took the opportunity to get rid of piles of things I knew I’d never use again – moving to a significantly smaller space, I didn’t have much choice – but I got rid of furniture and CDs and books without regret.

The only thing I sometimes regret purging with such strident rules is clothing.

Moreso than any other item we own, clothing has the power to tug at heartstrings and provoke memories. The dress you wore on a first date, a boyfriend’s favourite comfy sweater. I assume this is why brides spend tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding dress they’ll wear for a few hours and then save it in a special box, long after the marriage has dissolved.

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Number 5

I haven’t worn perfume for years. Nothing scented really, if I can help it, unless it’s of the all-natural essential oil variety. Allergies and chemical sensitivity see to it that pretty much anything with fragrance gives me a splitting headache.

I don’t mind this especially, as I think most people who wear scent wear far too much of it, but there are a few perfumes that I love and would love to be able to wear again.

At the top of this list would be Chanel No° 5.

I wore Chanel when I first moved to Toronto in the late 80s. Chanel was huge in the club scene then and the perfume was the closest I was ever going to get to a suit or a bag. It was a glamorous scent, not overwhelming, pretty but also mysterious.

I went through perfume phases and had a few favourites after I abandoned Chanel up until I had to stop wearing all fragrances or risk making myself sick. I hadn’t thought about that lovely square-cut bottle for years.

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Do Coincidences Travel in Packs of Three?

There’s a book called The Celestine Prophecy, a novel based on some new age spirituality, mostly rooted in some old spirituality. This post is not about that book, which has a number of detractors, as well as a number of fans, although having read the book, it’s what I tend to think of when coincidences occur.

Basically the premise of the book is based on 9 spiritual insights. The Third Insight – A Matter of Energy – is based on the theory that there are no coincidences, that things or people come to us because of a draw of energy, and the more times a theme occurs, the more attention, or energy, we need to focus on it.

No doubt every person has had the experience where something will come up in conversation, and then a day or so later, it will come up again. The phrase “speak of the devil” works on the same premise – you can be having a conversation about someone and then they’ll unexpectedly appear. These things happen all the time, but when they start happening in groupings, then it begins to get a little weird.

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Getting Up There

Yesterday, I moved into a new marketing demographic. Now in the void known as the 40 – 49 market, I no longer hold the cachet of youth, but have not yet achieved the financial stability or respect of the baby boom. Essentially, I’m supposed to stop caring about being cool and hip and be fully ensconced in paying off my home in the suburbs, while contributing to a RESP for my 2.5 kids. I’m hoping this means advertising agencies will stop co-opting the music of my youth and will move on to early 90s bands such as Pearl Jam and Nirvana so I can go back to listening to the Cult and Modern English without picturing automobiles or cheeseburgers.

I’m not hung up about being 40. I spent the last year working up to it. “I’m almost 40!!” I’d declare when required to admit my age, instead of just saying “39″ and being done with it. I’ve had lots of practice getting it out there. Nor am I self-consciously starting to refuse to admit my age. That’s the one benefit to being festively plump – I look a good 5 to 10 years younger than I am.

No, as usual, my issues are more with where society says I’m supposed to be at this point in my life. At 20, being “alternative”, or “marching to your own drummer” is considered to be a phase of growing up. At 30, it’s a little odd, but there’s still time for you to settle down. However at 40, continuing to be a bit of a freak tends to take on new meaning, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever “settle down”, and be “normal”.

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Thirteen

There was a post the other day on Shapely Prose, a kickass fat acceptance blog, that included a heart-breaking letter from a 13-year-old girl who was considering suicide because of pressure from her classmates and her family. As of this writing there are over 150 responses, the majority of which seek to reassure the girl of how it all gets better because thirteen sucks so heartily for everyone.

The letter caused a lot of upset, sending almost all readers back into the depths of their own pasts to recall being thirteen.

For anyone who has been fat, heavy, plump, etc., their whole life, thirteen was likely a pretty shitty year. I know it was for me. I wasn’t actually the heaviest kid in my class, but as the other heavy kids were athletic in some way, and appeared on the surface to have a higher sense of self-esteem, I was the lucky pariah of the class who got picked on. Constantly.

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The Glorious Glamour Years

Maybe it’s because of my background in vintage clothing, but I’ve noted on more than one occasion that people dress too darn casually. Jeans, ballcaps and those hateful flipflops make Torontonians look like slobs as they walk down our city streets. There was a time when no one would be seen in public without a proper hat, or gloves, and where “dressing up” wasn’t so much about putting on a clean t-shirt but actually dressing appropriately.

Which is why it was so delightful to see people dressed up at the Santé wine event we attended last week at the Carlu. Men wore jackets, crisp shirts and polished shoes. Ladies arrived in a variety of pretty dresses – not evening gowns, but something a bit more dressy than they’d wear to work.

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They DO Exist!

No, not aliens, not Samsquantch… cute, stylish, funky orthopedic shoes!!

Regular readers will remember my post of about a month ago in which I bemoaned the lack of cute shoes, whined about ugly puffy sneakers and theorized that my chiropodist was out to get me. Thanks to my good pal Erika, and some folks on the Toronto LiveJournal community, not to mention a whole string of drug shoe mules who are currently at work transporting my beautiful boots from Buffalo to Toronto, my feet are happy, healthy and clad in some sweeeeet looking stylz.

Finding stuff I liked was not easy. The internet was incredibly useful, but shoes don’t look the same in photos online as they do in real life. I had picked out some Naots styles that I liked and then headed up to Prairie Dog, the Naots store in Toronto, to try them on. The shoes I liked online were not to my liking in person, while the Seashell Mary Janes I didn’t care for so much in photos were gorgeous when I saw them up close. They’re pink inside! With pink stitching! I literally hugged these the whole way home. I’m afraid to wear them for fear of having them get scuffed.

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If the Shoe Fits

I’m having feet issues. A combination of genetics and decades of bad shoe choices have escalated into a diagnosis of flat feet and a need for orthotics.

Now, the word orthotics, in theory, should no longer strike fear in the hearts of people fated to wear the things. It used to be that foot problems meant orthopedic shoes, which were huge and lumpen and deformed, and were really not attractive. These days, those with foot problems fork over big cash for orthotic inserts that are not dissimilar to a plain old insole, except that they’re custom-made to fit your feet, have a whole lot more support along the arch and cost four or five hundred bucks.

Orthotic inserts were meant to solve the problem of ugly shoes, as they fit into most decently-made shoes, and no one would ever know you had uneven legs or were knock-kneed. Friends with orthotics have confirmed that they wear theirs in everything from Doc Martens to Fluevogs, just so long as the shoe has a removable footbed, decent heel support and a high level of shock absorption.

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To Hell With It – Pass the Cheese

I’m a terrible girlfriend. That is, I am never really comfortable hanging out exclusively with a group of women. I like to cook and I like fashion, but mostly I don’t get women things. I hate when my female friends talk about their partners behind their backs, and I’m never exactly sure what I’m supposed to say when other women start talking about their weight.

Sure, I have a critical Virgoan eye, and I notice physical changes, but – and I don’t want this to sound heartless – I don’t really care. A loss or addition of 5 pounds or 50 pounds isn’t going to make me change my opinion of someone. As someone who has been fat since puberty, I know better than to judge another person by some arbitrary number on a scale. Which is why I so dearly wish other people would stop judging themselves that way.

These thoughts are prevalent in my head at the moment for a couple of reasons. First, because I’ve just finished reading Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss – and the Myths and Realities of Dieting by Gina Kolata. When I put that book down the next thing I read was a series of three essays in the most recent Utne Reader, all on the topic of fat politics and fat acceptance. Combine that with the recent discussion with a friend about her need to lose 35 pounds, despite a plethora of other health and life concerns that make that task very difficult, and I’ve got fat on the brain.

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Get Stuffed

A block away, there is a mattress and box spring sitting out at the curb to be taken away. They are in front of a tiny little rowhouse cottage built in the 1880s, and probably by necessity, the box spring has been sawed in half, revealing the inner stuffing.

This fabric pulp is mostly grey, but is dotted with various splashes of colour. On further examination, the colour becomes actual chunks of fabric; a teal blue silk, some red wool, a swatch of green jersey.

I examine that fabric pulp almost every time I pass it, which is two or three times a day, depending on which route we take to walk the dogs. And every time, I can’t help but wonder what masterpieces were destroyed to make that melange of threads and fibre.

When I ran a vintage clothing store, back in the 80s, one of the questions I was asked most often was – where do you get your stuff? Where do these clothes come from? This was usually asked by someone figuring they could go directly to the source and cut us out as the middleman. The assumption being that we spent a lot of time at the Sally Anne or Goodwill.

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One Small Square of Fabric

I did a double-take this afternoon. Walking the dogs past the hair salon on the corner, I watched one of the stylists step outside for a smoke. This particular girl has curly purple hair and enough gear to make it obvious that she’s fairly alternative in her lifestyle.

What threw me off was that she had a bandana tied around the ankle of her knee-high leather boot. A white one, with a black pattern.

Flash back to 1985 or so, when the scarf around the ankle was all the rage. I had a vast collection of scarves and bandanas in every colour. I have no idea why it started, but it was one of those things that seemed to have come from the New Romantic movement. I’ve always associated it with Duran Duran, but can find no photographic evidence to support that thesis. Rockers picked it up soon after, and every hair metal band seems to have at least one member sporting an ankle bandana.

Like most silly fashion trends, it was a point of teasing, just as those drop-crotch pants a few years later would warrant passing comments about shoplifting or bodily functions. I had an English teacher who joked that I’d never manage to hold up a stagecoach with the bandana tied around my ankle instead of over my face. The French teacher tried to ban the fashion statement from his classroom, but backed off when he couldn’t give a decent reason as to why. It was an era of lots of stuff, accessory-wise, and bandanas were just one item in a vast selection of everything from jelly bracelets to lace gloves and neon shoelaces.

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