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here i sit after a week of ridiculous fun filled with boot-buying, overeating, girl-talking wonderfulness. back to my own life. jeesh. since moving to vancity, our ontarian friends, family, and people we barely knew want to visit us. all. year. round. mostly i love it. wait for it. (re)schedule my life around it. but the part i hate. the part i dread. is the end. after you get to have a pretend vacation, put on a few pounds, neglect your everyday friends, and generally have a merry ole time, you have to face what was always in the background. your life. all unshiny. and not new. not like holiday time at all. just dishwashing. and cat feeding. and general life chores. sad really. unless you spin it. maybe i can go on permanent vacation. and pretend like life is just part of the adventure.

now just bear with me here. i am not suggesting denial or other deceptions of the self. i am suggesting a new view. a new paradigm with which one can refocus one’s life in the positive. we all have stresses. annoyances. everyday trials and tribulations. and most often we look at the lot of others and think, “i wish that was all i had to worry about.” as though life’s trials are a matter of kind and not degree. as if we only had to worry about ourselves. our upcoming paper. our upcoming presentation at work. but if we only had to worry about going into an office. doing manual labour. raising a child. then we could function properly in the world. we wouldn’t worry. we wouldn’t fret. but that is our real self-delusion. we would. plain and simple. we would worry. fret. stress. not matter what. because if you are going to tie yourself up in knots for a paper. a work presentation. a promotion. then you will always and forever tie yourself up in knots. it is who you are. what your worldview consists of. you are programmed to fret. but this is not the only answer.

so what would everyday vacation-life look like? well, for one thing, you must take into consideration your surroundings. if so many people want to visit us out here, it must be pretty kickass, no? so the first requirement is easy. live in a kickass place. check. the next requirement might be a little more existential. love what you do. as monotonous as everyday life can be, vacation-life requires us to see the “bigger picture.” the reason you do it at all. and not for the money. for the beauty of doing a good job in a field of your choice. and maybe vacation-life requires us to give, as my wonderful colleague and dear friend S. explains, our entire, 75%. this might sound odd but i think it might be the key to vacation-life. trying to do everything 100% when our 75% is not only good, but great, might ease off some pressure. at least a smidge.

i think the final, and perhaps most important part of living your best vacation-life everyday is a heady combination of taking risks and diversifying the portfolio of your everyday activities. move outside your comfort zone. take up hobbies. volunteer. engage with a world outside your own four tiny (if you live in a vancity condo) walls. i think we act our confident best when we go on vacation. we wear clothes that make us happy. we do different things with our hair. we buy things that make us feel good. we eat without counting calories and grams of fat. we live. and we are happy. perhaps it is as easy as following a passion that we find when we are away. or as simple as being the you that takes chances, risks, and leaps of faith that compel you to travel in the first place. vacation-life, here i come.

this post was brought to you by the tony robbins in all of us.


a visitation by my oldest and dearest friend from the national near east has prompted a great deal of thinking about friendship. how amazing. wonderful. inspiring. and wonderful it is. i used to think that friendship was about loyalty. commitment. and stick-to-it-ive-ness. cause sometimes, i found, friendship could be painful. or chore-like. with its jealousies, conspiracies, and mishandled feelings. friendship, for anyone who grew up as a girl, could be a battlefield. a series of hurts that one keeps returning to for fear of the different and unknown. girls can be cruel but this cruelty was only stereophonically magnifying our own personal cruelties to ourselves. the suffering of the t(w)eenage heart. when everything is painfully embarrassing beyond words. everything.

somewhere/time in the past, i assumed friendships may not stand the test of time. those unsurmountable differences of time, place, existence. but some do prevail. i don’t want to rose-colour the ease at which this evolution evolves, but i do think it is a testament not only to shared histories but to a pair’s ability to judge less. to leave behind schoolgirl gossip and the socialization that leads us to judgment, exclusion, and competition. there is beauty in not repeating stories. not reminding of past loves. not carefully constructing the “you” that is best, appropriate, and friendliest in the face of new friendship which often closely resembles dating as we age. friendship sustains us in all that we do but it also continuously feeds who we are especially when we are reminded of who we used to be. grounds us in the reality of what we are.

friendship is perhaps the most important thing in our lives as they continuously flux and change. because friendship is all we have to offer to family, friends, and acquaintances as we get older. we no longer rely on others solely for survival. we must offer something of ourselves to get something in return. i know, i feel it deep within my bones, how important friendship is in my life. i strive to be a good friend. an honest, committed friend. who values each friend as much as every other. i love my friends. they make who i am.

before i tear up, i will just offer that my upcoming awol-ness from my beloved blog is due to one such friendship. a friendship that makes me eight years old again while simultaneously reminding me of how far i’ve/we’ve come and how far we have to go. together. and always.

i have been marinating a paper that i plan to submit as a chapter in a upcoming book on matchmaking practices in the 21st century. but, as you well know, i am inordinately obsessed with fat of late. it is all i can see. think about. write about. this fact has been exacerbated by the new year’s new you weight-loss resolution advertising and the general cultural obsession with fat on any given sunday. i have been reading about what it means for fat women to inhabit socio-culturally constructed “unfit” bodies and hear how their narratives are imbued with pain, rejection, and despair. it seems that fat sucks. yet it is part of life that non-normative bodies exist. and these women prevail despite slurs and fear-mongering. despite rejection and abjection. they survive.

all things considered, this chapter has to be about how the visuality of fat further mediates the online dating process. seeing fat. inspecting for jiggly bits. coming to terms with disordered BMIs. this is part and parcel of the process for men. they assume the responsibility of policing the bodily boundaries of the women they consider potential dates. they visually inspect. evaluate. decide. but this is not to say that women are agency-less in the expression and inhabitation of their larger-sized selves. the fact remains that women, even in their individual understandings of their embodied appraisals by others, do not hesitate to be who they are. they do not hide in shame, nor “inauthenticate” their profiles. they are upfront and above all else, honest. can we say the same of men who reject, deny, and displace based on a hip-to-waist ratios? not that this is a judgment. rather, it is an analysis. of what matters in matters of online love.

one central paradox that continuously puzzles me is how normalizing discourses elide the actuality of differently-sized individuals. similar to the certainty we feel about fundamental, genetic, inherent differences between men and women, we as cultural producers seem to think that denial of differently positioned bodies is appropriate. that by holding on to ideals of thin fitness, we can compel them. will them. through sheer shame alone. one of the very basic ideas i continuously try to present to my students is that critical sociology provides us with ways of thinking that allow for alternate discourses to be heard. that allow us to reject, or at least critique, discourses of oppression. one such discourse, pervasive in contemporary Canadian society, is the obesity morality tale. the individualizing, isolating, shaming discourse of “it is all your fault.”

so perhaps i’m wrong. perhaps it is not such a paradox after all. non-normative bodies are acknowledged.

if only to say, its thinness or death.

there is something beautiful about an articulate, self-confident, pregnant 16-year-old alterna-chick. in the movie Juno anyway. i saw this movie friday with my dear friend L. who is herself an amazingly articulate, intelligent feminist scholar and highly edumacated film critic. L. felt that there is something better than a highly articulate preggers 16-year-old. that is, a more accurate characterization of the life of your average, knocked-up teen. this is where we begged to differ.

several members of my family still hark back to a time (that mind you, never existed) when i was goth. apparently any 16-year-old with a shaved head, long skirt, and combat boots is some kind of goth. this points, i believe, to the overcharacterization of what it means to be a “goth” in popular media. i was not goth. no matter how many times relatives try to wrangle me into a black lipstick wearing, personal scarification performing, trenchcoat-wearing deviant, i maintain my alterna-chickness. cause that is what i was. and that’s that. the reason i mention my previous incarnation as the baddest bad-ass (who never did anything wrong in her life, mind you) is because i think this provides the basis of my reading the character of Juno as deeply real, whereas my lovely friend L. read her as overdone. surreal. and ultimately ineffective as a character.

i believe that not only did i know young women like Juno, but that i was one. i was the girl inside my head. and, of course, i thought i was highly articulate. i was exceedingly self-confident. and let’s face it – i was 16 years old – therefore i knew EVERYTHING. you couldn’t stop me from giving my opinion. telling it like it was. simply being a know-it-all with all of my vast life experience and gritty youth on the streets of middle-class small-town ontario. yup. i was the baddest badass. for reals.

the main difference between me and Juno was that she got preggers and i didn’t. and again, if we are facing facts, girls like me didn’t get pregnant. even if we did. i remember the girl in my highschool who did get pregnant. at 15. she was the first girl in our catholic highschool that was openly pregnant. and gonna have it. be in for the long haul. she scared the shit out of me. we shared side-by-side lockers and one day i told her how brave i thought she was. she just shrugged it off and was like, “whatever, i’m pregnant, i can handle it.” at the time i thought that was the most profound f*cking thing i had ever heard. handle it. dude. that’s deep for a friggin’ 15-year-old.

so that is that. the difference between L. and i. i lockered beside Juno. i watched her get bigger. i met her baby when her mother brought it to school to visit. i saw it handled. surreally. the point of this post – if i in fact have one – is that young women are profound. they are articulate. they are self-confident. and hopefully brazenly knowledgeable. it is perhaps only after we feel the stings of inequality. at work. at home. know the patronizing intonation in voices when everything we do seems to deserve a “good for you!,” and experience the responsibility of expectation. compulsory femininity. enforced propriety. it is then we feel not to stable in our identities as the baddest badasses. and try to live in the judgment our bodies, ourselves, seem to attract. the gaze we can’t shake. the overwhelming responsibilities of our “proper” selves. and perhaps we crack a little. we doubt. we don’t know everything. and everyone seems to attempt to remind us.

i miss my 16-year-old shaved-headed (not goth) badass self. she was bitchin’. maybe she wasn’t the worldliest. and she certainly didn’t know everything she thought she did. but she was unendingly brave. infallibly so. she rubbed up against expectation and consistently pissed on it. she was cool.

and i think (hope, perhaps) that i’d make her proud.

when i was doing my master’s degree, which as i have previously mentioned, was the ethnographic study of a nude beach, a wise old (to me at the time) phd student told me that like any topic, this topic too would grow tired. old. and i’d be over it. at the time a was taken back, aghast. no, i thought to myself, the novelty of nudity will NEVER wear off. never. that wise old phd student was right. one day and 150-something pages later, nudity got old. tired. boring. hard to believe, i know.

now that i am drowning in my data (40 transcribed interviews + 24 follow-up interviews = a crapload of words to analyze), i fear that online dating too might lose its glossy sheen of excitement. this is the excitement i see on people’s faces when i tell them my topic. after they politely ask what my topic is, cringingly awaiting my response that they fear will be boring enough to make them die on the spot, or at the very least, excuse themselves to use the washroom, i tell them “online dating” and the mood significantly changes (not quite so visibly as when i used to tell people i studied a nude beach, but still, a visibly relieved reaction nonetheless). they are excited. happy that i won’t bore them. pleased to get an inside peak into the seemingly (the hopefully) seedy underworld of online dating.

perhaps topics begin to bore us because when we translate them into academicese, they lose some of their lustre. their bang. and perhaps that is what has me caught in a holding pattern. how to analyze without dissecting? how to translate without something lost? how to be relevant, topical when nothing about online dating is easily decoded, outlined, expressed in simplistics such as: online dating works, online dating is bad, online dating isn’t real dating, etc. the position i have put myself in isn’t new. when you choose a topical topic, easy answers are demanded. yet i resist them. and maintain my holding pattern.

i truly believe that much of research is intuitive. it comes from somewhere unknown. within. deep, dark and hidden perhaps. it takes a formidable bearing to follow your gut into the seemingly unintuitive realm. against the grain of easy answers. and toward the itch that needs to be scratched. even though it elides the provocative and slips toward the academic. the jargon-filled. the abstract. it must be done.

so here goes nothing.

at this time of swirly-headed busy-ness, i thought i might take time out to berate myself after realizing the key ingredient that i am missing on this blog which made me realize again that i am a bad blogger. unlike every good movie, i have failed to sufficiently get you invested in the character of me and those in my life. failed to introduce you to my quirks, the lovely people i spend time with, and the rhythm of my everyday life. yes, my dear blog readers, this is an opportunity to talk more about me. and like smiling, me is my favourite. (extra bonus points for anyone who can name where that bastardized movie quote comes from).

my loved one and i usually agree on movies – mainly because he loves movies and is one of those strange people who must, against all odds, watch the crappy films to the end, just in case they miraculously get better. i, one the other hand, pretend to be discerning. but really am a sucker for good characters. characters i can relate to, become one with, and ultimately be invested in. i think that is why i love love stories so much – and i don’t mean hokey comedy/romance debacles starring the likes of matthew mcconaughey and j-lo. i mean the beautiful, epic love stories like bridges of madison county and brokeback mountain. gut-wrenching, make-you-cry-like-a-baby love stories with characters you adore, pity, and love yourself by the end. ANYHOO. my point is, characterization is important. and key to the success of well, everything. (oh my goodness, isn’t that just a key nugget from the world according to jacks).

another reason i am a bad blogger is because i have no idea how to effectively and efficiently carry out this characterization. i know what you are thinking: it comes with time, the evolution of who you are through an unsaid number of posts. but for those who know me, and know me well, know that i don’t like to leave anything up to chance. plus, that takes patience and time. a whole lotta patience and time. (even more super extra bonus points for anyone who can name the song those lyrics come from) and waiting is boring, no? so here is the deal. i will admit to three quirky bits of erratic jacks behaviour and hope that i get some doosies (from all ya’ll) in return. here’s to hoping!

i) when i was very young, i used to use the clothing racks at sears for unspeakable acts. unspeakable. (and my mother still brings this fact up to anyone who enters the doors of her home. yup. i’m a very lucky person).

ii) i love baby animals. i know this doesn’t sound unusual, but the fact that i want to take EVERY baby animal home is somewhat problematic. pigs, goats, caimans, rats, fish: EVERYTHING. is was virtually impossible to travel around south america without filling my backpack with baby things. (and no matter what my loved one says/thinks, i never did. at least that is the story i am sticking to).

iii) every time i get a smidge-y tipsy, i think i can speak spanish. si. jacks + borracho = hablo. mucho hablo.

i don’t think this makes me any more endearing but it was a sufficient waste of time that allowed me to talk about my favourite subject. 😉

in other sad (for me, happy for them) news, my lovely friends M. and C. are off to galavant for 6 months and sit on beaches, get tans, and generally have a wonderful freakin’ time. while i am happy for their adventure, i am desperately jealous and sad for me. here is to much skiing in their absence to make up for my losses.

alrighty folks, now i want to hear about the quirky characters that read this blog. whether you like it or not, we are in this together.

and p.s. – matthew macconaughey is a douche.

of course i shouldn’t be surprised, but anxiety is alive and well for me and my academic colleagues. in this post-xmas apparent disaster of unfinished papers, projects, living amongst the debris of all those unachievable goals (such as: i am going to read every single book on my topic over the break, i am going to finish all my research, my comps, my dissertation, etc.) that we deliriously, giddily, outlined for ourselves back in the heady days of december, when the holiday season promised to be with us forever, we find ourselves sad, anxious, unmotivated, and most vomit-inducingly, overwhelmed.

everyone i have talked to is either: scrambling to finish something, prep something, or simply keep themselves from dropping out and becoming a chef. or a florist. or working for walmart (not that there is anything wrong with that). psst. i’ll let you in on a little secret about those of us in academia: we are overachievers with underdeveloped emotional intelligence. we think to ourselves, “poor us that we have so much to do, so much to become, so much knowledge to pack into the 5% of our brain that we actually have access to.” we pity ourselves for getting to do meaningful work. for getting two weeks off a christmas and then, god forbid!, have to go back and slog over the topics that we are passionate about, teaching that helps us to grow, change, and evolve as people, and communities of knowledge that sustain us in friendship and in intellectual growth.

poor us.

it is sad for us really.

however, as foolish as i make it sound, or as facetiously as i try to slough it off, i think all of us suffer from taking ourselves too seriously sometimes. from thinking that we are extremely important. and that, somehow, the world does, in fact and unquestionably, revolve around us. whatever the reason we do this, we start thinking along these lines: that the world will end if the paper doesn’t get done, if the course isn’t perfect, if the report isn’t our finest work. but it never does. and still we worry. we obsess. we overwhelm easily.

as is a common refrain on this blog, i don’t have the answer(s). but instinctively i feel the problem lies in the over-evaluation of our own individual importance (not that we aren’t all special, ya’ll). in seeing the revolutions of the world as too fixed in our own orbits. we don’t realize that everyone strives to be and do their best. that people most often don’t do things to us (judge, evaluate, disdain) but for themselves (to quell their own feelings of worry, insecurity, uncertainty). that everyone exists in the worry of their own making and are not, could never be, as concerned with what you are doing, how you are doing, as they are in evaluating their own goodness, bestness, ability, inability… perhaps then, the answer lies in a shift of focus. off ourselves and onto others. in being sensitive to the worlds of others’ making.

to trust our greatness to the care and nurturance of others.

or perhaps…

we (well, um, i) could just chill the f*ck out. ;P