Her Bad Mother

Friday, September 14, 2007

Using My Muscles

Edited below; more information.

I don't exercise. Never have, really. Oh, I've tried, but I just can't get into it: gyms are smelly, and yoga bores me. This is not to say that I have never engaged in anything fitness-y, just that I need to have better reasons than fitness. I like my bicycle because it gets me places. I love horseback riding because I love horses and I love the discipline of riding and I love (or loved - this should actually be past tense, because I haven't been on a horse since becoming pregnant) being able to escape the noise and haste of the city for the lovely stink of the barn. I studied ballet for years, just to prove to my mother that I wasn't hopelessly graceless (I failed, miserably, but can nonetheless do a posture-perfect plie. Just don't ask me to actually dance. I will step on you, and hurt you, and myself, and anyone within ten feet.)

And, from time to time, I've run. Not, again, for the sake of fitness - as I said, I've never been much fussed about fitness for fitness's sake, and really don't see anything wrong in not having rock-hard abs - but for a variety of other reasons. Clearing my head, for one - I've always found running to be a most effective head-clearer. Dealing with grief, for another.

When my nephew Tanner was diagnosed with a terminal, degenerative illness a few years back, I found that the only way that I could shake the foggy hangover that attends hours of crying and pressing of fists into eye sockets was to just head out my door and run. Run, run, run; pounding my feet into the pavement, pushing myself to round the next corner, to race up the next set of steps, to keep going, keep going, keep going until my lungs were fit to burst. And then I would stop, and stretch, and rub my sore muscles, and revel in the ache and tell myself that I should ache, that the aching is a privilege, that Tanner's muscles would only ever ache from the exertion of living and, later, from the exertion of dying. And then I would get up the next morning, muscles aching and eyes rubbed sore, and do it all again.

I ran until winter came that year, and then stopped, balking at the snow and the frost. Before I had a chance to force myself out into the cold, I got pregnant. Thus ended my running. I found other ways to deal with the grief, and, later, with the joys and fears of motherhood and the general messiness of a life lived with love. I found writing.

My sister, Tanner's mom, never did stop running. It wasn't something that she and I talked about very often, but she was running, too. Faster, and further. Her grief was far more difficult than mine to escape, and so she ran and ran for miles, her sadness and her fear nipping at her heels, her dream of hope or, at least, solace, glimmering in the distance. She ran and she ran and she's still running. She's run hundreds and hundreds - maybe thousands - of miles now. Marathons, many times over.

She's coming to my city at the end of this month, to run. It's my deep, deep regret that I cannot run by her side. She's running a marathon. She's running it fast. It - and she - are beyond me. I haven't run in nearly three years, except when chasing Wonderbaby. (And she never goes 26 plus miles. At least, not yet.) So I can't run with my sister. I wish that I could, but I can't.

But I can walk. And I can write. So I've decided to combine the two, and throw in a little bit of mad cheering.

Her Bad Sister is running in Toronto's Waterfront Marathon on Sunday, September 30th. I'm going to do the 5k Charity Challenge Wussy Walk, which is an adjunct to the marathon, as a show of support to her, and to raise money for muscular dystrophy. And I'm going to do it all in Tanner's name. It'll be Tanner's Walk, and I'd love for anybody who is in the Toronto area to join me. (Seriously. You don't have to know me. You just have to be willing to sign up and walk with me and cheer for Tanner and his mom. I'd love it if you would. E-mail me or leave a comment here and I'll get in touch with details. The more the merrier!)

And if you don't live close enough to come walk, you could pledge me. Money raised will go directly to Muscular Dystrophy Canada, in Tanner's name.

And, finally, you could spread the word, send people back here to hear this story, encourage them to walk or pledge or just send cheers and good wishes. That would be wonderful, too. (Let me know if you do. I'll want to thank you.)

Tanner. Whose heart is stronger than his muscles give it credit for.

It would be wonderful for me, and for my sister, and most especially, for Tanner. And if you get a little fitness inspiration out of it, well - that's a good thing, right?

(If you want actual fitness inspiration, check out PBN's 'How Do You Fit In?' Blog Blast, or take part - you could win a pair of Ryka running shoes. Help you run marathons. Or walk them.)

Edit: all of you awesome, awesome people making pledges... if you're having difficulty, as some of have reported, either just keep trying with the pledge link HERE (it seems to sort itself out), or go HERE and find the button that says "Put A Pledge on Your Favourite Runner Or Walker" - ahem, ME - and click through and search my name (Catherine Connors.) Voila!

Those of you who have said that you'll walk with me (WOO HOO!) I'll be in touch by e-mail in a day or two to pass on details.

You all rock. I heart you.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Kicking The Juice Box Habit

September is a time for pulling up one's socks, straightening one's sweater and resolving to do better: this is the year - we say each September - that I try out for basketball/pass math/clear up my skin/save the world.

I never did try out for basketball after Grade 7, I only passed math with difficulty, and I still struggle with my skin, but I still sometimes resolve to save the world. This September, world-saving has, for me, taken an eco-turn - BlogHers Act Canada is committed to acting on the environment this year - and the BlogHers Act Canada team is kicking off a series of eco-challenges, to be taken on at a rate of one per month. September's is - reduce your dependency on packaging. Bottles of water, juice boxes, grocery bags, whatevs: cut it out.

And blog about it. From the BHA-Canada page: We invite all Canadian bloggers and FOCC-ers (Friends of Cool Canadians) to participate in writing a post about how you plan to reduce packaging. Write whatever part of this issue is most important to you. Share your own tips and clever ideas. Rant about how hard it is to use less disposable items. Review a great product. Do an expose on companies with particularly excessive packaging. Write a Haiku (brilliant example HERE). With enough of us blogging it and engaging our readership, we can get more people thinking and acting on tangibly reducing the amount of packaging that ends up in our landfill.

What do you say? We'd love it if you joined in. Let us know (link, comment, send e-mail) if you do. Deadline is Sunday midnight.

(PS - there are prizes. Lovely, lovely prizes. And lots and lots of good feeling.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Britney and Me

I have long believed that, when it comes to discourse on celebrity and celebrities, no holds are barred. High-minded proclamations of the sort that insist that they're people too, they deserve respect, privacy, etc, etc are, to my mind, entirely unconvincing: celebrities are not just like you and me, and they do not have an automatic right to privacy and respect. They're celebrities: it's their business to strut and fret their foibles upon the public stage. And if they embarass themselves - well, all the better for the rest of us, who do well to remember that celebrities are human-all-too-human, and flawed - sometimes very seriously so - and so not deserving of knee-jerk adulation simply because they're there. I respect that some people take the position that all celebrities should be treated nicely as a matter of course - it's a very nice position - but I don't really have any patience for it. If a celebrity's being a tard, then we should feel free to say so. And laugh about it. (Mockery of quote-unquote "masters" is as old as comedy itself for good reason: it's socially healthy for those with less power to laugh at those with more. Keeps differentials of power in proper perspective.)

All of this is a very long-winded way of defending the fact that I have taken my fair share of shots at Britney Spears. It's hard not to: the girl wanders around without pants, crashing cars and lamenting her lost career and prattling on and on about a comeback. The great Greek comic dramatist Aristophanes - and later, Plautus, and certainly Machiavelli and probably Shakespeare, too - would have had a field day with Britney: the comely girl turned goddess-of-sorts who falls from grace into a slatternly state of confusion (a kind of female Bottom, perhaps, minus the dalliance with fairies. Or a Poptart Gloriosus, of the sort that Plautus would have adored and pilloried). One almost wishes that she would stop being so ridiculous, so that she wouldn't be such an obvious target.

I have wished that, actually - that she'd stop being so ridiculous. She's a mom. I know from being a mom. Even if she has sixteen nannies - and I'm guessing that she has at least six - she's still under tremendous psychological pressure. A few years of pop superstardom can't prepare one for the mindf*ck that is new parenthood, let alone new new-parenthood-cum-single-parenthood. In the public eye - in the harsh, harsh glare of the public eye. But still: there's a baseline of dignity that one has to hang onto, however tenuously, once one becomes a parent. For our own sanity, and for the sake of the kids: parents need to keep it together, in some minimal way, at the very least. Staying groomed and upright, for starters. Not doing anything that's going to cause Child Services to pay you a visit. Not stuffing your post-partum, pre-Pilates body into a few scraps of satin and fishnet and tramping dully across a televised stage. That kind of thing.

I wish that Britney had stopped being so ridiculous before she got up in front of the VMA cameras, before she'd turned Puck on herself and stumbled and fumbled her way across that stage and made herself more of a laughingstock. But she didn't, and we are, most of us, laughing. And even though one might say that she asked for it, even though one might say that that's what she signed up for, way back when she was a Mouseketeer and aspiring pop tart and wanted celebrity so bad that she could taste it... even though one might say these things - even though I might say these things - the laughing and finger-pointing at Britney's VMA performance is making me a little sick to my stomach.

It's making me a little sick to my stomach because so much of it is directed at her unstageworthy physique, at her failure to regain her taut, poptart figure after having two children, at her insistence upon squeezing those dimply thighs into fishnet stockings. And it's not simply because I, personally, draw the line, in mocking celebrities, especially female celebrities, well short of the point of mocking or criticizing bodies (at least, the bodies that God gave them. The bodies that they buy are fair game. Oh, and David Caruso's body; that's fair game, too, for no good reason that I can think of. I've made fun of his legs.) It's partly that, of course - laughing at Britney for being a dimply size ten (eight? six?) after bearing two children is an insult to all women, everywhere, and to anyone who was borne of woman. It demeans all of us. But it's not that, in itself, that sickens me in the deepest part of my gut. It's mostly this: I look at those images of Britney stumbling self-consciously across the stage in that ridiculously skanky outfit and I see myself. And I cringe.

No, I don't see myself wearing that outfit, or grabbing some poor back-up dancer's crotch. I don't see myself desperately grasping for fame and adulation while shimmying awkwardly in fishnet stockings. But I do see - I have seen - myself, sometimes, desperately grasping for the girl that I used to be, the girl that I was before I became a mother. Mostly, it's an imagined grasping, but it's grasping nonetheless - it's me berating my reflection in the mirror for not having lost my pregnancy weight, it's me trying on clothes that would have suited me three years ago but are now too small and too hip and too not-me-at-all, it's me telling myself that thirty is the new twenty and forty the new thirty which makes me, like, twenty-something and not at all old and hey, I'm still up on the cool music and the cool clothes and see? Motherhood hasn't changed me at all!

There's a figurative satin-and-fishnet skank outfit in my psychic closet, and I have certainly pulled it out and tried to squeeze myself into it more than once. That I have not had to confront that image in all of its sordid glory - never mind parade it publicly - is my very good fortune, but still. It's there. It is there. It is.

So it is than when I click through on those videos playing and replaying and replaying again the footage of poor Britney wandering, sad and self-conscious and disoriented, through her VMA performance, I feel sad. Sad that she wasn't able to let go of some old dream of herself, some old, pathetic notion that she is and always will be girl. Sad that - from the looks of it - she woke up from that dream mid-stage, as the lights hit her and the music started and the elastic in her tiny satin panties cut into the ample flesh of her thighs and the giggles from the audience burned in her ears and she all of sudden knew. Not a girl, fully a woman - but a woman grasping desperately for the girl, and just not reaching her, not even close.

It makes me sad, because I've reached for the girl in me, the girl that I was - not so much to be her again, but to feel her, maybe. Understand her. Make her more a part of the woman that I am, whatever that means. And I've imagined, sometimes, that I've grazed her, with very tips of my fingers; that I've almost reached her; that I've come close to grasping that girl and integrating her with the woman that I've become and am becoming. That I've maybe, just maybe, preserved the girl inside the woman, and that maybe, just maybe, that girl will get the woman to fit into a smaller pair of skinny jeans.

And then I see Britney, and all I can think is: how ridiculous. How ridiculous, her. How ridiculous, me. How ridiculous, all of us who refuse to go gently into the good night of age and gravity and seriousness and dignity. How ridiculous, all of us who would fight the loss, mourn the loss, of the silly, beautiful girls and boys that we once were.

And how sad that we laugh at that, as if we none of us have fought that fight on the stages of our psyches, and lost, and mourned.

How very, very sad.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Beware Bad Mothers Bearing Scissors

Wonderbaby has always been, shall we say, follically challenged. Sparsely-haired. So much so that that we were asked, more than once during her first year, whether we shaved her head. (For the record: no.) Since her first birthday it has been coming in - surely, but very slowly - and although she now has a thickish mop of fluffy flaxen hair, it is nonetheless a very short mop. Short, that is, except for the bangs. Wonderbaby's meagre coif is entirely pixie, except for the long flip of fringe that has been dangling over her eyes for some weeks now. We haven't been quite sure whether the look is more Pob or Donald Trump, but whatever the case, it was starting to obscure her vision and get in her soup and so, we decided, it needed a trim.

So it was that although it has long seemed unlikely that she would be getting her first haircut before her second birthday, she received, yesterday, just shy of twenty-two months of age, her first set of proper bangs (the first of many, if she is anything like her mother). Behold the Wonderbaby makeover!


Billy-Bob Pob.


Anna Wintour bleached and shrunk and forced to visit SuperCuts.

And so it begins. Tomorrow she will insist upon wearing a black trenchcoat and oversized Gucci sunglasses and will refuse to do interviews. Then, I suppose, I will have start calling her Wondergirl.

(In the meantime - giving shit away! HERE! First time ever! Am capitalist whore with potlatch complex!)