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big-white-09-0511hi – it’s me! your favoritest blogger returned from the land of big white and mini skis (pictured left).  so i haven’t blogged in a while, so what? you also don’t do stuff your supposed to so get off my back. okay – i might be a little bitter because i am still getting over fuzzybrain that plagued me at the extact same time as it did last year. creepy? yes. methinks so. (please suggest possible reasons for this recurring cottonbrain conundrum in the comments section. especially if you are a doctor specializing in hypochondria and/or germaphobia. many thanks). anyhoo – a couple of days – in the deepest depths of my fuzzybrainness – i was going to regale you with all the minutiae of my life but then i began to have interesting conversations about a particular topic that kept coming up. and no, it wasn’t because of what t-bone suggests – that i have to tell the same story over and over again in his presence just to test the limits of his capacity for unconditional love and tolerance (okay the latter half of that was my inclusion but the first part – that i endlessly tell the same stories is all his – just ask him about it – he’ll rant for a good hour). i am going to call this topic ‘failure,’ although as we’ll see, this kind of failure is the new fantasticness. stay with me.

so i am turning 30 this year (and this will be one of my repetitive stories so brace yourselves and don’t bring it up to t-bone or he might have an aneurysm. oh – if your the doctor that is diagnosing my hypochondria could you tell me what an aneurysm is because i use it all the time and have no idea. many thanks.) and it has made me realize that if 40 is the new 30, then 30 is the new 20. by this i mean that myself and many of my friends are currently experiencing the thirties as a renewed moment of indecision, not unlike that moment you had just out of high school (pre-20s) when you begged your parents to let you live free and die young. or any other approximation of not-going-to-university. or was that just me? anyway, the thirties seem like this moment – when we have enough education, maybe have made enough money, and are perhaps pre- or post-marriage but definitely pre-children – were we step back and say wtf? what do we want out of life and how are we going to get it. it is like realizing anything is possible which we didn’t when we were begging our parents for travel funds to europe or a year off to ‘find ourselves’ (i.e., working at denny’s and then running for the nearest educational institution). see, we were dumb in our twenties. we figured everything would work out and that life wasn’t something to be worked at. instead it would just happen to us just like everything else had happened to us since birth. and it was gonna be good times.

so some of my friends have been working in interesting and challenging careers since before i started grad school. and while i kinda hate them for making the wise decision to start making money light years before me, i empathize with their concerns about if what they are doing is what they always want to be doing. their questioning about if this is ‘it’. since i am the cusp of finishing something that has kept me busy since 2001 when i started my m.a., i am asking the same questions – what do i want out of life, what is possible, what isn’t, what do i deserve out of life, what do i never, ever want? an interesting aspect of this questioning and decision-making is the diversity of what constitutes both achievements and failures for those of us making these decisions. over some sausage and eggs recently, my friend N. and i discussed our visions of the ‘failures’ of so-called social achievement. we questioned the social pressure to marry and procreate as ‘whose’ values – our own or more appropriately classified under the rubric of ‘social expectation?’ we wondered where social expectation ends and our own desires begin while trying to acknowledge the impossibility of somehow ‘living outside’ such expectation (and its inevitable impact on the shaping of our desires).

after too much coffee and a walk to air out the nauseating diner smell, i continued to think about how one person’s achievement is another person’s personal failure and how different valuations of values can result in both feelings of inadequacy and superiority. and i wondered if it wasn’t the people who engage in the flouting and touting of their so-called social achievements who really suffer. the ones who measure their worth against the perceived ‘successes’ and ‘failures’ of others that perpetuate the expected outcomes of social expectation. this is not meant to be self-righteous, but rather a consideration of the multitudes of valuation that exist but are ignored. that persist but are disrespected. deciding that marriage and children as ‘success’ is not only the privileged domain of a heteronormative value system (by and large) but it is necessarily exclusionary and intolerant. however, even those who live in difference need to heed the value systems of others as equal as long as they are not oppressive. my point – if i have one – is to suggest that we must acknowledge that our lives are a culmination of the values we privilege. and what is most interesting about those values is that, despite the notion or appearance that they are universal and uniform, are easily in/subverted by desires that move outside the realm of the expected. suburban dreams as failures. and achievement measured by how comfortably you can live in your skin and accept others regardless of how closely they fit what we were all once told to want.


skinny-fat-phobiai stole the title for this post from a post i did about a year ago at this time because i think it is awesome to cite myself and such. in a reflective (reflexive?) move, i am going to flirt with blogging more. of course, i say that at the tail end of a christmas vacation going a bit stale, hence the question mark. i can only produce  so much and with the teaching and the finishing of the dissertation, i might be busier than i think (that was a question. i think). other things i am currently doing that are bonkers (and possibly the result of the massive amount i have eaten over the past 2 weeks. well, more than that. but stop monitoring me forgodsake!):

  1. twittering. well. i haven’t twittered yet. but i have signed up (under the username beefjacky) and i’m gonna.
  2. sending xmas presents AFTER xmas. sorry ma, pa, and well…everyone else.
  3. watching many, many hours of corner gas. that’s t-bone’s fault. saskatchewan-lovin’ bastard that he is.
  4. not exercising. this doesn’t sound badass but it is. i get a little squirrely when i don’t exercise. like all coopy. and jack nicholson-y in the shining.

but anyhoo. in service of upping the blog ante, i am going to talk about my new favourite topic. which of course is fat. which means it isn’t really a departure. but i have already done a bunch of bonkers things (see above) and i gotta ease into blogging more (which is the goal) and what this “new blog” will look like (probably just more stuff about how much jacks loves jacks. another favourite topic).

i think in the liminal days between vacation and real life/work people take stock of all that they have overdone, be it eating, spending money, or spending time with relatives who make you feel good about yourself (if you were brought up in some kind of brady bunch scenario) or bad about yourself (if you are like everybody else). i’ve never had family members say anything about my weight but i come from a long line of people who pay attention. and then talk about what they noticed. not gossips per say. just really observant folk. i say all this because i have been thinking a lot about the shame associated with fatness. even oprah will be talking about her embarassment over her (re)weight gain in upcoming january shows. and it makes me sad. how hard it is for women to be in their own skin.

i often think back to how when i gained 30 pounds because of the dreaded freshman fifteen (which doubled for me probably because i have never been able to do math). and how no one mentioned it. how people must have been talking about it behind my back, but no one broached it, unless i did first. okay, so 30lbs isn’t that much you say. but it was noticeable. and i wonder why no one said anything. fatness is a peculiarly gendered phenomenon. where women are encouraged to notice weight on one another. yet not speak of it for fear of causing someone shame. i am not trying to say that someone should have talked to me and “saved” me from my weight gain. but i kinda felt like i had no one to talk to about it. like i was differently embodied (than i had been), with no where to turn. i managed to internalize notions of disgust and sheer intolerance for my extra 30 pounds, considering the kind of fat phobic culture that surrounded me (and by this, i mean the kind of fat phobic culture i think we are all complicitous in and aware of without necessary knowing the harm it causes. and the bodies it punishes). my point is, women – in their complex cooperative-but-competitive relation – support one another until it comes to weight. then it’s every woman for herself. or the unspoken self-esteem-crushing complicity of categorizing our flaws for one another. damaging ourselves for the purposes of relatability. i did it for years. and now that causes me shame.

we have a hard time acknowleding fat. talking about it like it really matters. like it really affects our lives. maybe it is inappropriate for a “thin woman” (so many problems with this determination, not least its relativity) to speak about fat like it matters. maybe that is why it remains unspoken. like if we don’t talk openly about fat oppression, we just get to live in privileged silence. silence that breeds silence to your face. and rebuke behind your back.

so let’s talk fat. whaddoyou gotta say?

pantyhosei went to godforsaken edmonton recently to interview for a teaching position. i want to pause here to apologize to everyone i know who lives in godforsaken edmonton, anyone who enjoys it there, and anyone who knows or loves someone who lives there. the prairies are…interesting. that aside, i survived my very first interview and i want to chronicle what went wrong, what went right, and what i learned. here goes.

first of all, my beautiful and wonderful friend L. came with, and that made everything lovely and delicious. she was even trying to be like “edmonton is nice,” “edmonton seems safe and friendly,” and my personal favourite, “i’m sure if you lived here long enough you would find food that was good…really.” needless to say, we both kissed the ground when we returned to vancity. and may the gods of karma strike me down, i can’t see myself as an edmontonian. but i grew up in a small town in ontario. i have perspective. i am not saying i’m better than all that. i am saying sometimes you can see yourself in a place. sometimes you can’t. such is life. that was what my eighth-grade teacher used to say. such is life.

whatever the f*ck that means.

as someone who exists mainly in sweats and the occasional fabulous (yes, i am going to grant myself some fabulousness, so there) outfit when i actually leave the house, i managed to begin the day by shoving my finger through my tights (which were more like pantyhose but i don’t want to admit that i was actually thinking about wearing pantyhose because they are seriously scarring as a fabric, a concept, and a crotch-dropping reality), thereby creating a massive run that could not be hidden. luckily, i had some knee sock thingys that did the trick but showed my knobby knee-caps when i sat. first point goes to murphy’s law. i managed to spend a total of ten seconds with the head of the department before blurting this fact out. i think i managed to hold out well.

second point goes to me because i kicked ass in my interview and i am going to go so far as to say that i kicked ass during the entire TEN HOUR interview day. yeah, that’s right kids. i had all the answers. i was my spastic self. and it all seemed to come together in this glorious performance that by the end of the day i was convinced i couldn’t replicate. but, after my 9 ounce glass of wine (everything is big in alberta), i was sure i could withstand another full day of attention with ease. since seriously it is how i try to negotiate my whole life – that is, trying to attract copious amounts of jacks-attention – it really should (and apparently does) come naturally. points to jacks. for reals.

third point goes to thai food. i don’t think i have to remind anyone that i have a baby stomach, but needless to say, nerves, baby stomach, and thai food is a toxic nauseating mix that almost killed me. yeah, that’s right. i almost died a spicy death. sounds hot. but not.

the last billion points go to me. just cause i am proud of my kickass self. and job hunting is fun, albeit ridiculously stressful.

tell me great interview tales – i would love to hear the chronicles of your pantyhose ripping and such.

okay. go.

not everyone likes looking for a job but i dig it. it’s kinda like winning something. and being in a contest that you can win, unlike every other contest out there. i mean, i did snag five dollars in that recent lottery that was $43 million so maybe i’m super lucky and CAN win any contest out there. we’ll see.

the part people particularly hate – resume writing – is the part i like the most. i know. how messed up is that? but it is fun. especially when i write resumes for other people. so then, when i make shit up about them, i don’t feel so bad cause i don’t know it’s not true. do i? i often initiate the question game – like the one where you ask questions and then everyone has to answer in an attempt to learn interesting and unknown facts about the people you know. [note: this game works best under these two conditions: 1) there is nothing else to play or you are trapped in a car; and 2) there are copious amounts of alcohol. play at your own risk]. anyhoo – during the question game people often ask what the worst job you have ever had was and this normally results in uproarious laughter because you find out someone you know and love wiped old people’s bums or posed nude for art classes (the latter is less funny and more an opportunity to picture that person naked). alas, i have no good answer for this because i have had so few jobs and even though one required me to wear a dress from the 1840s, it is simply not that funny. nor dramatic. nor tragic.

maybe it is because i have been lucky with the jobs i have had which makes me excited about the process of job-getting or maybe it is my naivetee about all the shit jobs out there. i have this weird idea – that i swears is not ekhart tolle inspired – that you throw shit out there and see what sticks. and what sticks is usually the right thing because it is what is (okay – that last part was tolle – i admit it!). but i mean, as cliche as it sounds/is, where you end up teaches you something , if only about yourself.

i have also been thinking a lot about the misrecognition of self, not only because my most recent dissertation chapter is about it, but because i think many of us misrecognize ourselves as not enough or too much – whatever form that might take. i’m too fat, not smart enough, too critical/negative, not ambitious enough, etc. we can’t see past the past that no longer defines us. has become outside our lived experience but exists within us as a cancer. a plague of doubt. you know what people never hear enough of? praise. and the sentence that they are enough. better, they are perfect just as they are. fine. good. complete.

a job doesn’t give us fulfillment, but it offers a chance to live fully through our doubts and fears. through and beyond the nothingness that is the phrase: “i am not good enough.”

anyhoodle – what was your worst job? tell me. now. cause i want to laugh and possibly picture you naked.

(and forgive me for the help wanted poster. i couldn’t resist!).

i love to teach. as exhausting and challenging as it is – i can’t friggin’ help myself. i find it lovely and delicious. splendorific even. i am just wrapping up an intensive three-week course where i get to teach my passion – i get to teach students about gender. there is something beautiful about teaching people something different about something so intimate. something that is seemingly so “natural.” eyes widen. hearts and experiences open. teaching is transformative. and that’s why i can’t get enough.

i have long joked that the children of teachers cannot escape the call of educating. it is akin to being called by god, called up from the minor leagues, possessed by that which you cannot help yourself from doing. and i have been thinking lately about why teaching is my calling. i think it has something to do with the fact that it combines all of my interrelated spastic properties. teaching is a performance – which i love. teaching is (can be) transgressive. and ultimately, teaching can transform the lives of individuals by generally making the world more livable. i don’t know if my particular brand of teaching does any/all of these things. but teaching is beautiful and the effects of its affects may never be measured.

think of that teacher that you had that you loved. you love them because they did something to you. viscerally. they changed the way you think. they gave you information that could never, ever be taken from you. they gave you a sense of self that was real. tangible. they called on and accepted your very being. some might have changed your worldview, others might have crushed it. but all this transforms one’s very being. it alters opportunities. knowledge engages the soul. that is why the harbingers of said knowledge are so intimate a memory. so decidedly important.

i complain. i struggle to do my best in this short span that challenges me as the instructor as well as my students. i worry. i try to engage even those students who looked bored or who don’t invite a change of perspective. i don’t relish marking papers and assigning a value to work that my students have laboured over. i don’t see myself as a specter of future import in the lives of students that share three intense weeks in a hot classroom learning that their bodies, themselves, could be different. and perhaps that through that difference, oppression could be lessened. but i have learned something about myself that is perhaps more profound than what i could hope to teach. i have learned that i am a teacher. no matter how spastic.

teaching is really an extension of who (how) i am. it has meant over the past year that teaching has made me confront myself. my wants. desires. needs. teaching has transformed me through the circulation of knowledges about power, selves, and pasts. being a teacher isn’t what defines me. but it is an integral piece of who i believe i am. and a passion that even the greatest fear cannot eradicate.

[whoa. holy deepness.]

so the summer is rapidly passing me by. there were house guests. there were cat emergencies (five hundred dollars and a kitty enema later, we find out bianca was just constipated). there was/is teaching a three-week intensive course that no tenured prof would touch with leprous fingers. such is the life of jacks. and strangely, she has nothing significant to say. that is why she/i? – who talks about themselves in the third person? seriously – will give you one of my random posts that mean nothing and simply waste your precious, precious youth/old age/time spent with love ones who actually give something back. here goes…

  • so i ridiculously love teaching. and not just any teaching but the kind of teaching where you get to forward your own personal and political agenda that is ingeniously hidden in the fancy schmance thing called a syllabus. i routinely go off about something and then announce to my students that i will indeed get off my soapbox only to return to it once the next question is asked. drunk with power you ask? power! i say. let me tell you something about power!…
  • i have recently noticed that everyone in canada now says “thanks so much” instead of a simple thank you. i have two bones to pick about this – first, canadians are infinitely too nice; and second, i coined that phrase and i want proper recognition for it every time anyone uses it as in, “thanks so much, copyrighted 1993 by jacks.” that is not too much to ask, is it?
  • i don’t think i have successfully had a tan since i moved to vancouver four years ago. my pasty skin glows and i feel shame exposing (imposing?) the white brilliance of my legs on the unsuspecting masses. should jacks fake and bake? jacks thinks yes. thank god i don’t own shorts. an for everyone who does own shorts, one question: why?
  • big brother has begun again and i fear i that am not properly addicted to this season. is it because everyone in the house is unlovable? jacks says yes again.
  • i think i might have hermity traits because teaching forces me out of the house everyday, whereas when i am not teaching, i sit alone, all day, writing my dissertation. shockingly, i long for those days of loneliness and desperation for human contact. oh, where have you gone?
  • things that have changed since moving to vancouver (the four year reflection redux remix):
  1. i now look forward to camping instead of thinking it was some kind of punishment for not flossing regularly (there is a connection there – i leave it to you to find it)
  2. i regularly tell my students how privileged they are and i throw around the term elitism in my classes like it is a term of endearment
  3. summer consists of equal parts rain and weather that can’t decide if it wants to simply be hot and humid or to burn the province down
  4. i have morphed into a microbrewed beer fan (also known as a “beer douche”)
  5. too much tofu finds its way into my food. too much i say!
  6. i have recently discovered that i like soy milk and green tea. like, together. in a latte. what is happening to me?
  7. i miss seeing my niece and nephew grow up. i am disembodied aunt jacks over the phone. i fear that they do not know or fully appreciate the fabulousness of aunt jacks. one day dammit. they will.
  8. i love wearing dresses
  9. i am a fan of the out-of-doors
  10. i love living in a place that people visit and that when they visit they don’t mind sleeping on our living room floor on cat hair filled mattress just be in van…and near us, of course

that’s it. jacks out. (but loves and misses her one reader – yup! you! – tremendously).

there is a trend that bloggers i admire sometimes subscribe to and i have decided to take the plunge and braindump about the random (and no so) thoughts (that the everest survivor i read about in maclean’s eloquently equates with bats zipping in and out at dusk), by considering what i consider to be some not-so-random-thoughts albeit written and presented as unconsidered randomness of the most randomly random. yeah. sometimes it feels good to talk shit. here goes:

* shockingly, a four-year phd seems impossible. or that is what everyone who has their phd tells me. who knew?

* the old adage that says that life happens when you are making other plans was impressively de-corny-fied by my lovely friend M who has deep insight into not only human behaviour but jacks anxiety as well. i believe she said something, characteristically simple-but-always-shockingly-profound about how life is surprising and ultimately the surprises are always good because they result from (and in) choices that you make/have made. she is an old sage dressed in cute pixie skin i tells you.

* i am not always as funny as i think i am. again: who knew?

* housewifedom, not matter how diametrically opposed to what i am doing (and really, how different is it? i once met a guy at a party who asked me what i did and, during my long graduate student pause, offered that there is no shame to being a housewife to which i promptly replied, “i’m basically a housewife who reads a lot.” see how i think that i’m funny?), will not save me or deliver me from my dissertation. no matter how many bonbons i eat. seriously.

* i think britney spear’s new songs are danceable. and this makes me a fundamentally bad person.

* everyone deserves a warm-weather destination vacation fully paid by their work or the government

* i have no idea what actually goes on at american thanksgiving (nor how it is different from american christmas) (nor how american and canadian christmas differs) (nor why the fact that austrians apparently have a baby jesus that flies to and fro on christmas eve (?) kinda scares the crap outta me).

* i am puzzled as to why my brain refuses any kind of systematic inquiry. like math, coding, making lists (and actually checking them), writing in an agenda, playing risk, strategizing of any kind, really, making plans over a week away, and editing. the word editing seriously makes me shiver. i won’t mention it again. just for my own safety.

That, my friends, was an attempt at brain-dumping randomness. which is actually impossible for me because even randomness requires some kind of systematicity which i have only badly approximated here. i know you want to read a blog that is better at random thoughts. well here it is: here . so there.

when i was three i started figure skating. i skated my ass off after school, before school, DURING school until i was about 13. ten years of trying to be elizabeth manley (an obscure canadian skating reference – congrats to all those who got it) , to be good, to be noticed. one thing i always prided myself on, and my parents encouraged, was that i never cried if i failed a test, lost a competition, fell down. what i remember, and perhaps this is selective memory, is always being encouraged by others with kind words and other forms of wood and plastic trophy-like praise. i was my harshest critic. i was the one that berated me for not doing my figure-eights perfectly, for not landing a jump, for falling in the annual skating show. i wanted skating to be fun and i knew when i was young i was good at it. i wasn’t allowed to “just” do the fun parts, like making up routines and dancing with the partner i received to compete with as a result of being picked from the ice-rink stands as his perfect skating companion. no. i had to do it all. i had to go through the levels as quickly and as precisely as one can at such a young age with no real thoughts of where these circles were leading. when i was 12 or 13ish (my memory already fails me), i quit. just like that. such a big part of my life, gone. i had had to make the decision whether to pursue it as a future and begin lessons with another former olympian or hang out with my friends. be a kid. have fun. maybe i exaggerate. i don’t know what would have become of my skating. surely not the olympics or anything close. but perhaps something. but i’ll never know. and i’m okay with that. most of the time. but my skating past reminds me of my present. my striving toward a goal. only this time, i know what it means. i know it means a future. a job. (part of) my life. and i’ve come to wonder why we, to borrow a beautiful phrase from a loved one, wear our goals, our lives, our work like a burden. why we, when we have everything feel like we have nothing. not enough. like we need more. why we feel less encouraged. under-appreciated. criticized. especially without out wood and plastic reminders of our successes. our achievements. our lives. these days i try not to see things as either/ors. i try to remember that i do everything because it suits me. because it is me. and i am doing everything i’ve always wanted. and wearing it like a burden can only amount to crying over skating.