Tag: baby boomers (page 1 of 12)

True Confessions challenge accepted: 10 things I’ve never done

Dear Wendy,

So here I was sitting down to write a pathetic, slightly whiny letter about how it was Rachel’s 20th birthday on Wednesday and we had to celebrate it from different cities—she’s in beautiful downtown Etobicoke, Mitchell’s in Vancouver, and I’m stuck in perpetual wintry hell Ottawa.

It was going to be one of those rip-your-heart-open letters, and you would have been in tears on my behalf by the end.

Fortunately for you, I decided to visit a few friends’ blogs first. And over on Alphabet Salad, I discovered a post titled True Confessions: 10 Things I’ve Never Done.

Like Laurel, who wrote that post, I’ve never had a tattoo, or watched Forrest Gump. So I won’t cheat and start with those; I must create my own list.

Basically, I’m looking for standard run-of-the-mill things that make most people stare at you gape-mouthed and say, “What? Seriously? You’ve never done xxx? Wow…” before they wander off to find someone more interesting to talk to.

So here’s my list:

  1. I’ve never travelled south during the winter. Or any other time, for that matter. Given the amount of complaining I do about our climate, that seems hard to fathom, but there you are.
  2. I’ve never seen the movie Edward Scissorhands. Ditto Pirates of the Caribbean, I or 2. I know, shocking.
  3. I’ve never dropped acid. I figure my life has been plenty psychedelic enough without any outside help.
  4. I’ve never killed anyone. Injured, yes. But not killed.
  5. I’ve never gone bungee jumping. I only mention this because I know a number of people who have, and they are convinced I should give it a go. That will not be happening.
  6. I’ve never gone downhill skiing. The thought of standing at the top of a mountain and considering sliding down it on two slippery boards makes me quite unhappy. I’ve gone cross-country skiing though. And snowshoeing. I am Canadian, after all.
  7. I’ve never eaten frog’s legs. I tried once, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Same with crickets. Even though I hear they’re a delicious crunchy snack with loads of protein. Nope.
  8. I’ve never watched Dallas. Not now, not then. I saw the first 10 minutes of the first episode, wondered who these unpleasant people were, and why the funny guy from I Dream of Jeannie had morphed into a sleazoid reptile, and then I turned the channel.
  9. I’ve never managed to make it to the end of any song by Rush without gritting my teeth and covering my ears. I’m sorry. I know they’re fine upstanding people and a credit to Canada and all that, but I hate their music.
  10. I’ve never set foot on a Disney property. And I don’t intend to start now.

You will never, ever see me doing this. No point begging, it just won’t happen. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Whew! That was harder than I thought.

What about you? I bet (in fact I know!) your list would be completely different. But I’d love to know what you’d add.

And stop judging me about Dallas, okay? Sheesh.






A box of memories: Things we save to remember who we were

Dear Karen,

I have a treasure chest, full of invaluable objects and beloved trinkets.  To anyone else, they’re old, faded, plastic and worth maybe a buck on the open market.

But to me, they’re priceless.

When I was a young thing, as in under 20, my best friend gave me a cigar box for my birthday.  It was blue with a brilliant rainbow on the lid and she advised me to put my precious trinkets inside.  I did exactly that and 35 years later, I still have that box.  I don’t look inside all that often, but when I do, it’s like opening a time capsule.


Not bad looking, considering it’s been through 11 moves over the years.

Inside are a bundle of “important missives” between Lars and myself.  You don’t get to see those, I’m afraid.

Pawing around inside, I see I’ve saved a hairbrush from the 80s, a time when I believed there was no such thing as a bad perm.

A parrot brooch.

A Valentine’s note from the weird guy who used to sit opposite me at work.  A bizarre note, from the same guy, saying cryptically, “it was nice working with you…”

Shudder.  Maybe I should burn those last two.

Buttons!  I went through a phase of wearing buttons on my jacket, to show my fervour for a particular rock group or to show my political affiliation.  We were a serious bunch, back in the day.


My love for this group has not waned over the years. Far from it.


Although I am a peacenik at heart, I think I wore this to annoy our parents, to be honest.


A rainbow, dove and threatening phallic symbol: this button has it all.

My best friend gave me this next item as well.

I haven’t smoked since last century (that sounds a little weird, right?), but I’ve kept the lighter she gave me when I turned 20.

How can I be so sure when she gave it to me? Easy, she had it engraved with the date.


This lighter screams “made in the 80s”:  it’s sleek, gold and bold.  The only thing missing is super-large shoulder pads.

In 2003, SARS brought Hong Kong to a standstill.


There’s a 4th ticket from this event that’s gone missing: His Purple Majesty, Prince.

It was a very scary time, which I’ve written about before so I won’t bring you down by discussing it here. Struggling to get back on its feet again, the city hosted Harbour Fest, to show the world that we may have been hurting, but we were getting stronger every day.

Finally, a doll that Aunt Paula giving me when I was a small girl.

“This little doll isn’t to be played with”, she told me, “it’s a Lullabye Doll and it will help you fall asleep at night”.

This doll is actually a music box with arms, legs and an adorable head.  When the music box is wound, Brahms’ Lullabye is played and the baby doll turns its head slowly and its body moves.

That sounds incredibly creepy, but honestly, it’s not.  I tried to wind it up just now, but it seems the music has died.  That makes me sad.  I loved my little doll and didn’t listen too carefully to Aunt Paula’s admonitions:  this dolly got played with and often.


My baby doll. She lives in my scarf drawer, cocooned in a world of softness.

Aside from my family, these are the things I’d try to rescue if my house were on fire.  The memories and feelings each of them evoke are immeasurable.  They tell me who I was and who I wanted to be.

Do you have a treasure box as well?  What’s in yours?  Don’t say wool!



Happy Wives and Totalled Women: Marketing the anti-feminist backlash

Dear Wendy,

Your letter about the Happy Wives Club yesterday jogged a memory that had been slowly decaying in a storage room somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of my mind.

This is what comes of reaching our advanced age: too many memories, not enough storage space.

Anyway. It’s been nagging at me nearly all day, just out of reach, but I’ve finally captured it. I’m going to write it down now, before it escapes again:

The Totalled Woman

alt="IMAGE-total-woman-marabel-morgan-1973"Okay, that’s not really what the book was called. That’s just what we called it—and by “we” I mean you and me, along with those of our friends who were budding young feminists back then.

As I recall, Marabel Morgan’s book, The Total Woman, was supposed to stop the second wave of feminism in its tracks. The book advocated that instead of building equal partnerships with their husbands, women should “let your husband be your master.”

You know, like a dog. Down, girl. Sit. Stay. Roll over.

Here’s another gem: “It’s only when a woman surrenders her life to her husband, reveres and worships him and is willing to serve him, that she becomes really beautiful to him. She becomes a priceless jewel, the glory of femininity, his queen!”

Well. Alrighty, then. I’ll get right on that.

Morgan, who bore an uncanny resemblance to the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live, also recommended sexing up your marriage—she was the inspiration for that hilarious scene in Fried Green Tomatoes, in which Kathy Bates’ character greets her husband at the door clad in a tastefully constructed dress made of Saran Wrap.

In The Total Woman, Morgan told the story of greeting her own hubby wearing pink baby doll pyjamas and white go-go boots. Apparently this inspired her husband to chase her around the dining table…all of which conjures a scene I prefer not to imagine, thank you very much.

I can just imagine Mitchell’s reaction if I were to don this get-up: I’d be administering CPR within seconds, because he’d had laughed himself into a heart attack. Maybe if I tried Doc Martens and tinfoil?

Happy Wives = Totalled Women


Me, being defiantly UnTotal back in the 70s.

So when I read about the Happy Wives Club, you can understand why I thought of the Totalled Woman, right?

As I recall, the author made a bundle on that book; it was a bestseller, and led to speaking gigs, appearances on Donahue (oh, Phil, how could you?), and a bushel of scathing reviews from women and some men who saw it (correctly) as a slap in the face to feminism.

Even though I found the whole thing simultaneously hilarious and nauseating, I can (sort of) see the appeal for some.

Because honestly, egalitarian marriage takes work. It takes a lot of emotional commitment, a lot of discussion, and a lot of thought, from both parties. And for many people, independent thought is really a lot of fuss and bother, best left to others. Isn’t it easier to just consult a manual and do what it says? Even if what it says is “wear Saran Wrap for make sexy time”?

The underlying message of Morgan’s book and this newfangled Happy Wives Club boils down to the same old pap: “Ladies, forget all that equality nonsense. If God had intended you to be equal with men, he would have given you chest hair and the ability to fart on demand. Just follow our E-Zee 5-step program, and you, too, can become a Happy Wife/Totalled Woman. (Saran Wrap extra).”

Sorry. I’m not buying.









The ultimate cheat sheet on teenagers: 7 things your teen wants you to know

Dear Wendy,

A few days ago, some friends and I were discussing the Dreaded Teen Years.


Teenzilla will eat your head for lunch. Then she will fail to clean up after herself. (Photo: A. Robert)

Once again I was struck by the terror in some parents’ voices as they contemplated their sweet little munchkin turning into Teenzilla—as though adolescence is an automatic ticket to histrionics, epic battles of will, and smelly laundry.

Okay, I’ll grant you the smelly laundry.

But seriously, I was puzzled. I know I sound like a prat when I say, “My kids were both great teens,” because so many people really have gone through the Teen Wars and have the emotional scars to prove it.

But I also know that it’s possible to minimize, if not completely avoid, screaming matches and angst during our kids’ teen years.

I’ve talked before about my basic parenting premise: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. (Come on, baby boomers, you know this one—follow the bouncing ball!)


(Photo: Joris Louwes, via Flickr)

But today I thought I’d offer a cheat sheet for parents whose wee ones are about to enter adolescence…and for those who are currently hiding their heads under a pillow, sucking back wine and wishing the whole messy hormonal sturm und drang would just disappear already. Ready? Here goes:

  1. Teens want you to be proud of them. Seriously, they do. And by “proud,” I don’t mean you think they poop vanilla ice cream. That’s just delusional.
    No, they want to know that you think they’re good people. They want to now that you approve when they get it right, and that you’ll still love them when they mess up. They don’t need you to brag to your friends about them; they just want to know that you can see they’re doing the best they can.
  2. Teens want you to be straight with them. They don’t want you to lecture at them about sex or drugs, for example—they want you to give them the facts, without embellishment or exaggeration. They want to know they can come to you for information, and that you won’t freak out and enroll them in the nearest military college to scare them straight. Just the facts, ma’am.
  3. Teens want you to set a good example. Let’s face it: teens can smell hypocrisy a mile away. I remember Mum and Dad, both raging alcoholics, trying to tell my 16-year-old self that smoking marijuana would cause me to become a heroin addict and probably a prostitute. And I remember the contempt I felt for their booze-soaked words.
    And keep in mind: you might think your kid doesn’t notice when you break your own rules. Trust me. They notice.
  4. Teens want you to understand that the times have changed. Their worlds include texting, sexting, twerking, cyber-bullying, binge drinking, earlier and earlier sex…things you and I couldn’t have imagined back in the Disco Era. Yes, you were a teen once, and yes, some things don’t change. But trying to pretend you know what your kid is going through these days? Bad plan. Here’s my advice: don’t talk about your youth. Listen to theirs.
  5. Teens want you to set limits…but not too many. Here’s an exercise I used to use when I counseled families as a social worker: stand in the middle of a good-sized room. Close your eyes, and stretch your arms out. You can’t touch a wall…what does that feel like? Notice how your heart starts to beat a bit faster, your breathing speeds up. That’s because you can’t find any boundaries.
    And that’s how teens feel when they don’t know what’s expected of them. I’m no fan of helicopter parenting, but I can’t overemphasize the importance of letting your kids know your expectations—and the consequences for breaking the rules. On the other hand, don’t set so many rules that you stifle your teen’s ability to grow. If you’re puzzled by how much is too much, sit down and talk to your teen. Remember, you’re in this together.
  6. Teens want you to understand that it’s tough becoming an adult. Their bodies aren’t the only thing that’s changing; their brains are undergoing enormous developmental shifts too. Their cognitive skills are growing by leaps and bounds, but their ability to predict outcomes for their actions tends to lag a bit behind. The transition from child to adult is hard work on all fronts, and your teen needs validation that they’re doing okay.
  7. Hugs are rarely a bad idea. Many a difficult parent-teen conversation has been defused with a hug. Go ahead—it’ll help both of you.

Okay, I called this the “ultimate” cheat sheet, but can you think of things I’ve missed? Let me know!



The obligatory “2013 in review” post

Dear Readers,

I know, we promised we’d shut up and stop bothering you until the New Year. Continue reading

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