dreaminghope: (Flying Demon Girl)
Love Stinks

Love smells like kitty litter. It smells like a cat litter box that you always scoop and change even though his cat uses it too because ammonia is the one smell that makes him gag.

Love has the sharp moldy smell of the last satsuma mandarin that both of you left in the fridge for the other one, because it's the other person's favourite fruit too, but because neither of you knew it was being saved for you, it just sat in the produce drawer until it turned bad.

Love is the dusty smell off the electric heater that he installed a fancy thermostat for and programmed it to come on very early on Saturday mornings so the kitchen and bathroom would be warm when you dragged yourself out of bed at 6 AM.

Happy Valentine's Day, darling! Thanks for cleaning out those bad veggies last night; I took out the garbage this morning.
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
White appliances are horrible because they show all the splatters. Black appliances are almost as bad because every water mark looks like grease, and all grease splatters show. Stainless steel... I am not a competent enough cleaner to even think about stainless steel. I wish they still made avocado green appliances. They seem to look pretty much the same whether they are clean or not.

When I was a little girl, my parents had these Lazy-Boy chairs and a matching couch with arm covers and head rest covers. The covers were always getting crooked, and I was always straightening them out. It was an afternoon routine when I got home from school: go around the family room and fix all the covers. I would do it again before going to bed. Sometimes I would do it in the morning before school too. They drove me crazy; always crooked and hanging off at weird angles. I was eight when I vowed to never have the dreadful things on my own furniture, and I don't. I do have an area rug that never stays lined up with the wall and the furniture, even with a rubber mat under it. I don't fix it every day, though, because it's under the futon and Russ' desk chair. I fix it every time I vacuum, and I try not to look at it the rest of the time.

When I do laundry, I hang my underwear in a line so the greens are all together, followed by the blues, then the purples, pinks, and the red pairs at the far end. Just because it's just laundry doesn't mean it can't look nice.

I have developed an obsession with paisley. It looks like a really beautiful comma, or maybe an apostrophe. Russ isn't fond of paisley. He doesn't share my deep love of punctuation either. But he lets me babble to him about both, and he pretends to appreciate my newest paisley acquisitions. He even goes out in public with me when I'm wearing my tacky orange paisley shirt.

I have one set of matching bath towels and two sets of matching bed sheets. One of the sheet sets was from a remainder sale, and the top sheet is completely crooked; when it's at my chin, it only reaches Russ' nipples. Some part of me likes when things match – when they are right and straight and tidy and perfect – but I'm cheap. Instead, I adapt my aesthetic sense to appreciate the less appreciated beauty of non-matching towels and crooked sheets. But I still want my rug to be straight.
dreaminghope: (Squinty Puck)
When I was a little girl, I hated to be dirty. My mother jokes that she wanted to just roll me in the mud, because I was so meticulous and unnaturally tidy for a small child.

In elementary school, I used to borrow safety pins from my teacher and pin a little fold in my clothing to hide any spots of dirt. I hated looking dirty; if I couldn't get rid of the stain, I wanted to at least hide it and appear clean.

I like order. I like proper punctuation and clean sentence structures, stories with tidy endings, and labeled boxes for all my different craft supplies. I keep everything – I have scraps of fancy paper as small as a couple of centimeters square – but it is all tucked away in an organized fashion. It is chaos forced into order by plastic boxes and dollar-store shelving units. But my craft room looks nice again.

My LJ is like that too. A chaotic life – neurotic thoughts and silly fantasies – forced into individual posts with tidy titles. And things that don't fit into a tidy post often get swept aside, never to appear in LJ at all.

Russ told me I had a "Zen-like calm" this morning. When confronted with someone who is upset or annoyed (as Russ was this morning, since his cat woke us at 5 AM), I often become very peaceful and serene. I don't think of myself as a calm person, though, because my mind is so often whirling behind the scenes. I just hide that over-thinking like a dirty spot hidden behind a safety pin.

I fear insomnia tonight. I know that thinking that I may not sleep isn't the best way to get myself to sleep, but my mind is off and running. I am considering making what may seem to be a minor lifestyle change – starting to go to a gym – and I can't help but try to predict all the possible obstacles.

Next I do the self-defeating thing that lots of people do: I start thinking about all the other things I should do in my life. I should eat less sugar, I should eat more protein, I should wash the floors on a regular basis, I should wash the cats' food bowls every day, I should go to bed earlier at night, and I should get up earlier in the morning … and, of course, when you start thinking about all the changes you should make, it's easy to get overwhelmed and end up making none at all. I know lots of people do this to themselves, especially at this time of year, but I don't think all of them end up having sleepless nights because they are considering joining a gym.

I want my life to fit neatly into the days, and I want a healthy body and a clean house too. I don't make changes easily because I resent the confusion of changing my routines. And I want to bring this post to some sort of tidy conclusion, perhaps where I have come to terms with the messiness of life and feel secure that I will sleep well tonight, but life isn't really like that, is it?
dreaminghope: (Cave Gargoyle)
W.I.F.E.: Wash – Iron – Fuck – Etc. I saw this on an icon today. And I am doing laundry again. And my mother called Russ her "son-in-law" again.

I'm a good third-wave feminist. Well, I'm a good theoretical feminist. Or a good feminist in theory. Anyway, I know it is possible to be a wife without being the kind of woman they always make fun of at [livejournal.com profile] domestic_snark.

But... Russ' Mum, when she catches him doing something like leaving his socks on the floor, says to me: "Well, he is your problem now." He is now mine to train, or to pick up after if I fail to train him adequately.*

My mother is a full-time wife and mother. She keeps an impeccable house and cooks a good dinner, to be consumed as a family at the kitchen table, every night. I thought I could avoid triggering that image of "wifedom" by not marrying Russ. We would live in blissful partnership. No wedding, no contract, means no expectation, from him or from myself, of being a good wife.

But, I am the one in our relationship that cares how the house looks, so I end up doing most of the cleaning and tidying. I am the organized one, so I do the bills, schedules, and meal plans. I am not very strong or handy, so I cannot fix the caulking in the bathroom or fix the living room fan. Russ is better at talking to contractors and electricians then I am. And I don’t drive, so I don't know how to change a tire or check the oil.

Russ does do the cooking and cleans the bathroom, but otherwise our housework is divided along very conventional gender lines. That's not how it was supposed to be; I'm a feminist. Skills be damned – I should be re-finishing the deck while he does the vacuuming.

There was a StatsCan survey back in July that the media tended hail as proof that "more men are doing housework", as if there was suddenly gender equality in household matters. What struck me was how little equality it actually represented. The gap is narrower, but we've got a long way to go:
The proportion of men who did some housework daily rose from 54% in 1986 to 69% in 2005. The proportion of women who did daily housework held steady at 90%.

Looking only at "core housework", men’s participation went from 40% to 59% and women’s dropped from 88% to 85%.

Russ does core housework every day, so he is part of the 59%. But when did I become a conventional, traditional woman doing "woman’s work"?

And just a quick look at the wedding industry reveals how old-fashioned we can get about marriage. When a woman gets engaged, perfect strangers will congratulate her as if she's just won some sort of contest, without knowing anything about her husband. British journalist Jemima Lewis: "If [the bride-to-be] is defensive, it is because she has realized how little the condition of womanhood has changed – and how antediluvian her own instincts really are."

When I took my minor in Women's Studies, I had little patience for the theorists who claimed that it was impossible to have gender equity within marriages and that we would have to create children in test tubes before we could be treated as equals.~ Though I still don't agree with them, I do see their point: I am a feminist; I have a university degree and a full-time job; and I was raised to believe that I can be anything and do anything – I should be the poster child for an non-traditional relationship. And I still change the bed instead of fixing the drywall.

Third-wave feminism, to speak very broadly, tends to be about choice: for example, women can choose to stay home and raise children, or choose to work. But what of the choices we seem to make that aren't really choices at all, such as to do the vacuuming because your mother taught you to, while your partner fixes the fence because his father taught him to. Am I making a deliberate choice to be this kind of wife and partner, or am I caving to my social training?

I'm going to go fold my partner's t-shirts.

*This isn't a slight against Russ, or any sort of hint that he needs to behave any differently then he does (really, sweetie). That is just what his mother is saying to me.

~An Internet cookie for anyone who can name that theorist – my mind is drawing a blank.
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
I do laundry once a week: three or four large loads one after the other, in cold water with biodegradable, allergen-free detergent. In the spring and summer, the t-shirts and towels flap in the breeze over our deck. In the winter or the rain, everything is hung in the basement. Our house's electrical system won't support a dryer.

Today, I stood on my deck in the warm morning sun. I hung a sheet; the wind swept it out like a tent. Then I pinned up socks in neat matched pairs – little knit couples to flutter around the sheet home.

Though I'm not married, at some point I became a wife. I thought that it snuck up on me; that it happened in little steps over the five years that Russ and I have been living together. I started becoming a wife when I picked up his dirty socks, when I took charge of the bills, when I referred to his mother as "mother-in-law", when he started having to ask me where things were around the house... but there was still a defining moment that solidified those other moments and transformed my role.

I don't actually remember the exact moment when I crossed the line between when I was not-a-wife and when I was a wife. It is only important in retrospect. But it comes down to laundry.

For our first four years together, Russ and I took our dirty clothes to someone else to wash. About every two weeks, we'd hand over big heavy of bags of clothing and a credit card, and the next day they would come back: the bag full of neatly, but unfamiliarly, folded items and the credit card bill a little bit heavier.

With our own house came our own washing machine. I like doing laundry, and my writing keeps me at home evenings while Russ' activities frequently take him out, so it seems natural for me to take over the task of keeping clean clothes in our closets.

I balance a basket of wet t-shirts on one hip, get the door with the other while gently pushing one of the cats out of my way with one foot. Russ' t-shirts are mostly black and jewel toned. I turn them inside out and try to hang them out of direct sunlight, to prevent fading.

On the deck of our first house, sometime during the hanging of the first load of laundry out of our first washing machine – it was probably work clothes from the renovations – I became a wife. Now I need to figure out how I feel about that.
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
I’m working on a novel, and I have set it in my own neighbourhood, the one that I just moved into last summer. When I started this book, I thought I was setting in here just for convenience. I wouldn't have to map out my novel's setting or imagine the area – I would just use the existing map in my head.

I don't know if I've captured my neighbourhood's spirit yet in my rough draft. This area has a feeling all its own that I want to show people. We sit on the balancing point between Chinatown and Little Italy. There are artists studios all around us, in houses and basements, garages and warehouses. Our neighbours are multi-generational Chinese households that have been here for years, hippies and artists that have been moving in over the past ten or fifteen years, and young families from the low-income housing block and others that find that this is the area where they can afford to rent or buy.

To hand-crafted beers
Made in local breweries
To yoga, to yogurt, to rice and beans and cheese
To leather, to dildoes, to curry vindaloo
To huevos rancheros and Maya Angelou

("La Vie Boheme", Rent)

This is an area that is growing and improving, but it still has its rough edges. I tell people not to go into the nearby park after dark; there's no street lights there, and gunshots have been heard there on the rare occasion. Cars get riffled through, and we’ve had people come up on to our porch to check our recycling bin for returnables. We’ve got a security system, like a good number of the houses in the area.

The drug dealer is a person in your neighbourhood.
("Neighbourhood Song", Veda Hille)

Not so much anymore, but when that song was written about my block in 1992, that was definitely true.

There is a lot of neighbourhood pride here, and a sense of community. I think that is because it is an area in transition. The people who have been here for a decade took broken down houses in a place where you had to watch out for syringes in the alleys and made homes and made this place safe for children. The changes continue all around us now, especially as heritage houses get cleaned up and redone. At the same time, some family businesses, like the Union Street Market and Benny's Market, continue virtually unchanged.

I have realized that I wasn't just writing about my neighbourhood for convenience. I was also doing it to explore and get to know my area in writing, and to try to write myself in. I want to make a home here and to really belong to this place. For me, understanding is belonging, so I seek understanding by walking, listening, reading and writing.
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
I am enjoying the unpacking of the house much more then I enjoyed the packing of the apartment. It is partially because there isn’t a deadline: I can do as little or as much as I want at a time, without worrying about a rapidly approaching moving day. It is also partially because it is the end of the task instead of the beginning. When packing, I knew that everything that got packed would have to be moved and then unpacked and put away. Unpacking is very satisfying because it indicates completion.

There is also the feeling of discovery as things that have been in boxes for months get unwrapped and a home is found for them. The only problem with this is the temptation to start flipping through and reading books as you unpack them.

We acquired some new-to-us furniture this week. My uncle gave us a lovely wood kitchen table with matching chairs and a small Ikea bookcase. The items are from the estate of my uncle's son by his first marriage, who passed away from AIDS a couple of months ago.

The new table is a wonderful match for the cabinet my Dad made for us for Christmas a couple of years ago, and they both look quite nice with our new kitchen. I’m hoping the attractiveness and newness of the table will inspire us to keep it clear enough to eat at without shoveling piles of papers and tools off first. That might be a bit of a lost cause until there's somewhere else to put the papers in particular, so my next task to convince Russ to help me carry the filing cabinet up the stairs.

Oh, and I got a little stabbing pain in my gut when I found out that my cousin just bought a 70 year old, 3 bedroom house in Nova Scotia for about the same as our down payment. He is living in a suburb in Nova Scotia, which wouldn’t suit me at all. I do love Vancouver. And it comforts me to think that if we ever do decide to move outside of Vancouver, we will do great selling our house and buying something newer, or in better condition at least. But my first reaction was "ouch!"


Oct. 15th, 2005 08:33 am
dreaminghope: (Cute but Deranged - Madagascar)
I have all the yuppy toys: cell phone (BCAA discount & a free phone), Palm Pilot (ridiculously out-of-date, received second hand when Russ upgraded), espresso machine (bought on sale, with Russ' staff discount when he worked for the major coffee place), wireless Internet (that our tenant is helping us pay for) and now, a laptop computer. Bought second hand for $425.

I am a very Scottish yuppy.
dreaminghope: (Little Miss Helpful)

Went to work. Brought home organic milk and organic, free-range eggs.

Russ made fried rice using the eggs and organic vegetables.

Got bread started in the breadmaker. Did dishes. Made chocolate pudding using organic milk.

I'm feeling a little hippy and a little yuppy: a huppy, perhaps?


dreaminghope: (Default)

February 2014



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