A Change of Life, Just Not That One

I’ll admit that I had become completely cynical about my chances of finding the right person to share my life with. I was considering getting back into the dating world, but I was also planning to wait until after the third book in my trilogy was published. After all, I didn’t feel like I had the time to spend on vetting all the candidates one tends to find on online dating sites. So, I hadn’t bothered to create a profile anywhere.

Funnily enough it turned out that I’d already met the man of my dreams, and it was more than a year ago now. We had political interests in common, so we were both members of a certain Facebook group. We’re also both actual members of the Green Party, so that was a weird kind of synchronicity, among other things. With all our commonalities, however, we were more than a little surprised to find out we not only lived in the same city, but we were only a few blocks apart. Go figure.

Just when you think life isn’t going to give you the one thing you’ve always looked really hard for, it can suddenly seem like it’s throwing you a surprise party with all the perfect gifts.

When I was awake and aware I never felt lonely, but I knew that some part of me was. I used to have these dreams where I would be held by a specific man, who made me feel truly loved. I’d wake up feeling so ridiculously content, and I would close my eyes at different points throughout the day to hold onto that feeling, picturing it in my mind. Nearly four months ago I finally discovered what that felt like in real life. All previous relationships paled in comparison, and I realized that if I’d truly know what this felt like, I would never have settled for what I had before. I would have known the real deal.

Nobody is perfect, but sometimes you find someone who is absolutely perfect for who you are. They fit with you somehow. All the things that you’re insecure about, and that you’ve been told are fatal flaws, suddenly they’re things that are cherished by another person. Don’t get me wrong – we weren’t all sunshine and roses about who we were, pretending to be something different. We were both almost brutally honest about ourselves. I was pretty enthusiastic about telling him I swore like a drunken sailor, cracked every joint in my body, and the only thing domestic about my habits is the fact that I’m potty-trained.

For his part, when we started private messaging, he bluntly asked me if I was single, and said he needed to know because he was certainly happy to be friends with me, but he would be sitting there wondering the whole time if I was available. It made me smile, I can tell ya. And it was a first for me. After all, we met on Facebook rather than a dating site. On a dating site you’re assuming the person you’re talking to is single (though there are plenty who are trolling for a side piece, too). I’d never had a guy have the courage to be so blunt about his interest in me on there. Of course, he was pretty blunt about a lot of other things, too, like wanting to talk to me, see me, kiss me, you name it. And he had the confidence and courage to follow through on it. He still does, and it’s something I find endlessly fascinating and attractive about him. Especially since a lot of guys seem pretty intimidated by me.

Of course, explosive chemistry helps. I’m not giving details, but I will say that time stands still when he kisses me. There’s a Zen-like calm that comes over me when we’re together. I’ve only been truly mad at him once, and from what I can tell I was being stupid. However, all he had to do was touch me and I was lost (as was the anger, though I tried to fight that). There’s a magic in it, and I’ve never felt it before. Any time in the past when I’ve been mad at a guy, they’ve been mad at me, too, and so the last thing they were interested in was making me feel better. Yet, my boyfriend has got to be the most selfless person I’ve ever known. He can (and does) feel empathy even toward a person who should be his most bitter enemy. I’ve seen examples of it time and time again. Honestly, we need more people like him in the world. He just truly cares about people. He talks to them on the street, homeless or otherwise, he buys strange kids a meal, he stops to help people who have been involved in car accidents, he’s politically involved, and he stands up for women online when men start acting like misogynistic jerks.

He’s also the best father I’ve ever seen. He’s been involved in his child’s life from the moment of birth, and even against adversity he’s made sure he remained a major part of his child’s life. It makes me wish I was ten years younger so I could easily have a couple of kids with him. Not that it’s impossible even now, of course, but the odds are against it.

We’ve both had our share of bad luck and bad choices when it came to past relationships, so you would think we’d be a lot more leery of moving forward with things, but we were pretty much living together within a week or two of starting to date. People thought we didn’t know each other, even though we did. In truth I’ve never known anyone so well in my life. My own experiences kept my eyes open, and not just for suspicious behaviour, but also for the evidence that backed up everything I was being told. Fate stepped in, over and over, to show me that he was everything he said he was. My one instance of anger with him was all the more stupid because I’ve been given constant proof of his character. Yeah, I felt like an idiot…and well I should.

Have we talked about taking things to the next level? Well, in an oblique sort of way. Neither of us are against the idea of getting married. I just have one caveat there. It’s gotta be a ‘hell, yeah’ kind of thing on his part. I mean, it would definitely be a ‘hell, yeah’ for me, but I won’t do it if he doesn’t feel like that, too. After all, I was told in a previous relationship that I’d dragged the guy into it (despite him being the one to propose). It was a month after the wedding, and that was the end of our marriage in that very moment. For me, anyway. I never felt the same way after that, even though I tried to keep going. My heart just wasn’t in it anymore. I couldn’t even bring myself to care enough to fight with him after that. I became rigidly logical and cold-hearted whenever he tried to fight with me. It was painful enough for me then, but if I had to go through that with my current guy I don’t know if I’d survive that kind of heartbreak. He isn’t the kind of guy who would say something like that, but without the ‘hell, yeah’ part of the deal, he might as well be feeling it.

Still, he feels more like a husband to me than any man from my past, with or without the marriage certificate. When I talk about him, or even think about him, I have to actively stop myself from calling him that. I’d have to say it’s because we work so well together in everything we do. You know those things you try to do with someone that usually lead to fighting? Like hanging wallpaper, fixing things, etc. Well, we can do those things and just be happy to be together. We have fun with it, because we always have fun together, and we genuinely like each other. We enjoy talking about pretty much anything – though he’s admittedly a bit attention-deficit, so I find myself repeating things, but then I have to ask people to do the same with my hearing being so crappy.

Probably the funniest part of all of this is how we started out being so logical about love. We both agreed that it took about two years to really get to know someone, and until then you couldn’t truly say you loved them. Then I told him on our first date that he was going to fall madly in love with me. Go figure. Of course, my barometer for knowing if I love someone is a pretty morbid one. I try to imagine how I would feel if they died, and whether or not it would devastate me. Within the week I told him he’d smashed my barometer. I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

So, you see, there’s a reason I’ve gotten so far behind on blog posts and other writing projects. I don’t blame him, of course. He’s perfectly willing to give me the space I need to get my writing done. I just haven’t been able to tear myself away from him. A first for me. I’ve always managed to work and do what was necessary before. Thankfully I’d already published book two of my trilogy when we started getting all crazy in love. I had a bit of breathing space. Or should I be calling it ‘breathless’ space, because that’s how he leaves me.

It took me until I was 44 years old to find the man that was right for me. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past, and not just with my choices. I’ve also made mistakes with my behaviour within those choices. I know very well that I had my share of the blame to shoulder, and I needed to learn from all that in order to be where I am right now. It’s tempting to wish we could have met ten or twenty years ago, where we could have saved ourselves the heartache we’ve both been through, but that might have been a disaster for us. We needed to be who we are right now, in order for things to work as well as they do. I needed a certain maturation. Our experiences form us, and there’s no regretting those experiences when they brought us to this point. We each have offspring we might never have had, and we would never have wanted to miss out on them.

I guess the point is this. No matter how crappy things can seem, they can change in a heartbeat. I learned that lesson a long time ago, and it’s something I keep trying to share with people who are going through hard times. I almost gave up on finding someone I could be happy with. I’d thought about dating, but I had no faith I’d find anyone who would put up with my foibles, much less someone I was willing to tolerate. And I certainly held no hope I’d find the exact person who was everything I ever needed and wanted. He feels the same. I can only hope he keeps feeling that way, and hope is no longer in short supply for me. Of course, it helped that my ferrets were all over him like he was wearing a meat suit, and he likes doing dishes.

The best part? I feel more free with him than I ever felt when I was single.

The Only Rights We Have Are the Ones We Fight For

Oftentimes in life, just showing up to a fight is enough to end it. Thus was the case with my most recent battle a couple of days ago. My landlord attempted to take me to court to get me to pay for renovations they were doing. Yes, that is totally unfair, as well as completely illegal, but if I hadn’t gone to court I’d have been charged more than $2,600 in absentia. They tried to lie and say we’d damaged a floor that had been in the building since it had been built. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I will say that the guy who did our walk-through when we were looking at the place said they would fix the floor before we moved in. They didn’t, but that tells you the damage was pre-existing.

The end result was that as soon as they saw we had shown up to court (they saw our names on the sign-in sheet) they decided they would be willing to go through a mediator rather than the adjudicator. Fancy that! We presented numerous pictures showing the water damage in the apartment that could only be pre-existing, and entirely out of the realm of our control. The roof had leaked for a long time, there’s a wall in which there’s a leaking pipe, and there is so much mold and mildew that I can no longer use my bedroom. By strange coincidence they were no longer interested in pursuing damages. Happily this mediation gave us the opportunity to bring up their numerous illegal activities without actually reporting them, but they took them a little more seriously at least. It also gave us the opportunity to let them know we’d happily be vacating the premises at the end of March. Yay!

Things became remarkably friendly during these proceedings, considering how nasty they tried to be. They talked about what great tenants we were, because we were quiet and always paid our rent. I guess they figured we were so nice that we would happily roll over and pay for them to replace the floor in our apartment. Right. The funny thing is, they truly have no clue how absolutely nasty I could have been. I could have forced them into bankruptcy had I chosen to make my complaints known with the appropriate legal parties. If I had chosen to be vindictive, the city would have come in and shut the place down. They would have been charged many thousands of dollars just to be able to continue as landlords.

Instead, I simply stopped them from screwing me over. If they had chosen to keep on with their case, I would have pulled out all the stops, of course, if for no other reason than to show the true state of their general character. Their blatant dishonesty would have been more than enough to have my case thrown out. As it is, that’s what the end result was here, and they were forced to swallow the application fee of $170 for filing against us. They’ve also told us they’re going to provide us with a good reference, etc. I don’t care if they’re doing it to placate us, as long as they don’t screw up our reputation as tenants. Here they tend to keep a record, and it becomes really difficult to find a place to live if you’ve been a bad tenant – similar to having a bad credit rating.

It just goes to show, though, how far some people will go to get you to pay their bills for them, and how little you sometimes have to do to stand up for yourself. Just because there are laws that exist to protect us, does not mean we won’t be taken unfair advantage of. Every time we do not force people in power to abide by the laws, the more likely they are to run roughshod over us. Landlords seem to be some of the worst, because so many of them are owner-operators, basically, uneducated in the terms under which they are allowed to continue said operations. They seem to think that because they buy a piece of property they automatically have the right to rent it out in any manner they choose. They don’t, and the courts can remove their privileges as landlords. They can also be heavily fined and find themselves stripped of their property if it turns out to be unfit for residential use.

There are people in this world who have a gigantic sense of entitlement. They’ve somehow come to believe themselves above the law, or simply better than others around them. They feel like they deserve better treatment than that which they afford others. You find it a lot in wealthier people, who have never had to live through difficult times. People who inherit their wealth in particular, such as the Walton family brats who now run the Walmart empire, and the Koch brothers who now run Koch Industries. They didn’t build their businesses themselves. They just suck every last ounce of profits out of them with no consideration for what they’re doing to others. They simply do not care, and the government lets them get away with it.

Things aren’t a whole lot better in Canada, but all companies are forced to comply with much higher minimum wages, and there’s a lot more protection for employees up here. Yet, somehow, Canada has been listed as the number one country to do business in. A less complicated tax code helps. We have very little local interference in business, too, so businesses generally only have to deal with provincial and federal legislation, and they do not contradict each other in any case I’ve ever seen, because the contradictions have already been dealt with very simply. If the business runs across provincial lines, such as transportation, it’s governed federally. If not, it’s usually governed provincially.

Very few of our laws are municipal or regional. Sometimes they’re managed by regional departments, but the laws are still provincial. I had American friends be confused about how little concern I showed for the mayor of Toronto being a crack-head, but truthfully there is almost no power in being the mayor of a city here. He could have done something stupid like have a garbage truck dumped onto someone’s car, maybe, or change parking legislation, but that’s about it. It wasn’t until it came out that (allegedly) he was abusive to his wife, I even looked twice at him. As far as I (and most other Canadians) are concerned, scandals aren’t really something we pay much attention to in politics. Drugs aren’t legal here, but a lot of people think they should be, so people think nothing of offering to share a joint with their neighbours. My own mother smokes a fair bit of the stuff, which I find funny because I can’t stand it. I don’t mean that I judge anyone who does it. I just mean I don’t like what it does to me, so I don’t smoke it myself.

Over the last few decades, sadly, many people in North America have given up on the idea of fighting for their own rights. We had a big lull where we thought things weren’t perfect, but it wasn’t worth getting worked up about, but now we’re seeing the harsh reality that crept up on us during our political slumber. In Canada our environment is being destroyed. The entire province of Alberta is a disgusting mess. Yes, people still live there, particularly since there are a ton of high-paying jobs, but it really isn’t a healthy place. There are so many toxic spills in Canada, that they’re almost uncountable. Close to 2,000 per year for the last 37 years. About 6 per day.

In the US, there are so many problems that may be unresolvable. The education system was attacked and dismantled a long time ago, so it becomes a struggle just to make people understand that there is a problem, much less what to do about it. George Carlin did a far better job of explaining it than I can here, but it boils down to a system of government wanting a population that is easily controlled. I’m hoping the people in both our countries wake up to the reality, and that we can come up with a solution before it’s too late. However, so many just shrug their shoulders and say, “What’s the point? There isn’t anything we can do about it anyway.”

Of course, that’s exactly what they want you to think. And by “they” I mean the giant corporations that are profiting off our ignorance and inertia. The government itself wouldn’t be a problem if big businesses weren’t there to hand over the cash. In the US it’s even legal to bribe your senators and congressional members. It’s called lobbying. They have to be a lot more circumspect in Canada, but they still manage to a lesser degree. If people are led to believe that nothing they do will make a difference, they simply won’t try. If they don’t try, it just makes it easier for their rights to be stripped, even if those rights are protected by law.

Every time we allow someone to step on us, we contribute to the larger issue. In fact, there’s a butterfly effect. I’ll use my own example to illustrate what I mean. Let’s say I hadn’t fought my landlord on this, and they got my money to pay for their renovations. There’s no way they would have stopped with me. They would have found it a very easy way to renovate the whole building, and would be encouraged to try it with everyone, knowing that it was unlikely anyone would try to stop them. Every single person in this building (about 30 apartments) would most likely have been taught that they’re just going to be screwed over for the rest of their lives. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I don’t think it’s too far off the mark. The people who live here are mostly uneducated, and they’re all poor. Nobody would live in this building if they were bringing in a decent income. In my case my daughter makes minimum wage, and I’m on disability. Even still, we’re moving on to better things. I’ve never lived in a place this disgusting in my life, and I don’t intend to stick around.

Back to my point, however. So, you have a building with 30 families, all being taught that they have no power and no rights, because none of them here will likely have read the Residential Tenancies Act. In fact, most tenants never read even excerpts from it. I’m an exception, apparently. I like to learn new things, and I like to know what my rights are. My landlord is far from unique when it comes to bending and breaking the law. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a landlord that wasn’t breaking the law in some fashion or other. Most of them violate entry laws, most violate anti-smoking legislation, most don’t pay interest on deposits, and most do not maintain their buildings mechanically or health-wise in accordance with the law. When tenants don’t fight back against them, they simply continue doing business in the way that brings them as much profit as possible.

Our homes are the places where we spend most of our lives, usually. At the very least we usually sleep in them. To have our rights taken from us in our own homes is very meaningful. This mentality invades all other parts of our lives. When you stop to think about the fact that most employers also violate the rights of their employees, there are very few ways in which citizens are not being stepped on. It becomes a constant, daily thing. Again, so few actually read about employment legislation, so they don’t even know that their employers are supposed to provide them with a copy of the Employment Standards Act in order to educate them on their rights. When employees don’t know that, they don’t ask. They don’t know where to go to get the information, because they aren’t researchers by nature.

Even thinking about the ways we’re always being taken advantage of is exhausting. There are just so many battles to be fought. I haven’t worked for anyone other than myself for a long time, and even then I worked in payroll and human resources, so I was the one making sure the employees were not having their rights stripped. My employers weren’t thrilled, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to be a party to it. These were people that were paying themselves a million-dollar bonus at Christmas, but they didn’t want to pay two hours of overtime to an employee. This attitude is typical, and I’ve never worked for an employer who wasn’t like that. I’m sure there are some nice employers and landlords out there, but like most people I haven’t been lucky enough to run into them. In many cases landlords and employers don’t even know they’re doing anything wrong, but it’s their legal obligation to know these things, so I feel no sympathy for their plight. If you’re going to hire people, or rent property to people, then do your due diligence.

At work and at home we’re getting screwed over constantly, and then there are all the other things that are coming down on us. Our lands are being stripped and destroyed, the environment is becoming toxic, and in twenty years there’s a good chance we’re not even going to have breathable air unless something is done immediately. There will be continuous changes to what we can do in our leisure time, simply because there will be places we’ll no longer be able to go. People are discriminated against for their gender, race (theirs or their spouse’s), religion, and sexual orientation.

This is why every single one of us has to stop in their tracks and say, “Enough already!” We have to stop this on a daily basis. We have to fight against it. We have to share information with one another about what can be done. We stand to lose every one of our rights without a single battle being fought, simply because we don’t want to deal with confrontation. I’m well aware that confrontation sucks. I absolutely hate confrontations. I hate drama and fighting. I don’t watch reality TV, and that’s one of the biggest reasons. I don’t mind sports like UFC and boxing, because there are rules and they’re not based on personal issues. It’s about technique and skill in the ring.

When it comes to fighting ‘city hall’ as they say, it’s different. The results matter. They have an impact on your life, so it’s scary to fight against someone. I guarantee, however, that if you don’t fight, the results will be far worse than if you do. If I hadn’t shown up in court the other day, they would have ruled that I owed the money, and I would have been charged for the filing fee as well. I would have been stuck owing almost $3,000 for something that wasn’t even my debt. Not showing up for a fight is basically considered tacit consent. Courts will almost always rule against the party that isn’t there. You simply must refute the claims of those that would take advantage of you. If you don’t, your neighbour is going to be the next one footing the bill.

If it’s your boss taking advantage of you, your co-workers are likely getting the same treatment. I actually had a friend go to work for a company that had screwed me over in the past, and they did even worse to her. I helped her fight it, and she won, but she would likely have never been put in that position if I’d fought them when I had the chance years earlier. An employer that’s forcibly reminded by the courts that what they’re doing is illegal, will think twice about doing it again. An employer that is never challenged will keep doing the same things, and will likely get progressively worse. In some cases they never learn, but as long as people keep fighting, then there’s a good chance the company will end up getting shut down and the employees will be awarded what they’re owed.

It’s always worse in lean times when there are few jobs and few places to live. People are afraid of losing their jobs and apartments, because they know it’s going to be tough to find another one. That fear is what keeps us all down. We fight when we know we’ve got the upper hand, or we fight when we know things can’t get any worse. The common person rarely has the upper hand, though, and if we’re in a position where we know things can’t get worse, that’s a terrible place to be. It’s easier to give up then.

I’m of two minds when it comes to unions. I know they’ve served a purpose, but I also know the unions aren’t exactly the benevolent organizations they pretend to be. In some cases they simply clog up the works and take hard-earned money from their members for doing absolutely nothing. Their existence, however, is a benefit in that they’re a constant threat to the employer. I’m well aware that it was union efforts that organized the workers and they were responsible for getting us our shorter work weeks (and many other benefits), so we certainly need to show our gratitude there. However, I’ve also worked for a company where I have been harmed by their presence. It’s a sort of catch-22. All in all, though, I do think they’re needed, if for no other reason than the silent threat factor. Any company that has a union in place is well aware that they’re being constantly and closely monitored, and not just by a single individual. They aren’t faced with only one employee that knows their rights, but every employee that has an ironclad contract. That can make a big difference with a crappy employer.

Organized protest is always what leads any social change. A single person can be responsible for a great deal, and usually that’s because they’ve managed to gather together a group of like-minded individuals. The shouts of a group become loud enough that the governing bodies can’t tune them out. The public starts hearing their voices, and they often add their own then. Social change happens because the majority of people want it, and they force the legislators to acknowledge that it’s what the public wants. Government is supposed to work for the people, but it doesn’t unless the people force it to. Government simply goes on doing whatever it’s doing, often being bought and paid for by big business, unless the citizens put their collective feet down.

The other part of understanding social change, is that we have to realize it starts small, and it starts locally. If we want change, we start with our neighbourhood, because it’s really not that hard to get a few hundred people together. Then we can move on to our city. Once we have our cities back, we can deal with state or provincial government. After all, if every major city has changed, the province or state no longer has a choice, really. Once each state or province has changed, that changes the whole country. It’s not that hard to remove the corrupt government officials if we band together and decide we don’t want them. We hired them, and we can fire them.

All of this begins with showing up. Until we show up for the fight, we will be walked on. Once we show up, we can plead our case. Enough people together, fighting for the same rights, and you’ve got big change. It may not be changes to the law, because the laws might already be on the books. They just have to be enforced, and if you don’t fight for your own rights, then who do you think is supposed to do it for you?

Hypocrisy in the Crafting World – Hobby Lobby is Run by Twits

I wasn’t going to do it. I wasn’t going to get on my metaphorical horse and joust with idiots again, but…I have to. I just have to. I’m pissed off, and the odd Facebook status just isn’t going to cut it for me.

Today Hobby Lobby in the United States won in Supreme Court the right to refuse to cover birth control for their employees, supposedly based on their religious beliefs. By law, with the relatively new Affordable Care Act in place, certain types of employers must provide prescription drug coverage, along with coverage of certain medical devices. Hobby Lobby refused and sued for their supposed religious freedom.

Point one. Corporations are not religions. They are not people. They are legally-defined business entities in existence for the purposes of for-profit practices. Period. They do not have religious beliefs. They do not have feelings in any way, shape, or form. Now, I have a bit of experience in business, so I’m pretty familiar with what it means to run one. I didn’t choose to incorporate my business, and simply registered the company name. Still, my company, a sole-proprietorship, would never be used to tell people what they are allowed to do with their own bodies. As much as I might like rules and regulations in some ways, because I’m anal-retentive that way, in other ways I’m very much the rebel. The thought of anyone telling me what to do, especially with my own body and reproductive choices, is enough to steam my clams so to speak. The first person to try something like that with me would be walking funny, male or female, because I’d be kicking them in their own parts whichever set they happened to be carrying on their person. They try to control my body, I try to control theirs – rather unpleasant for all concerned.

Point two. Birth control is not always used for birth control. There are a very large number of women who are on birth control for medical reasons, such as endometriosis and migraines. Very real, and very debilitating medical conditions. So, these women are now to be denied coverage for these very necessary medications, unless they decide to make exceptions under those circumstances. However, therein lies another issue – the issue of medical confidentiality. These women would have to open up their medical records enough to show that they need these drugs to control their conditions. Now, as a business-owner and former HR employee with a multi-national company, I have always felt that I needed to remain one step removed from the medical insurance provided to employees. I do not want to know what they are being treated for. I really do not want to know. Billy could have gonorrhea, and Carol might be HIV positive. This is none of my business, unless their illness interferes with their work and they can no longer do their jobs to the standard they were hired for.

Point three. This is where the first part of the hypocrisy comes in. Hobby Lobby invests in multiple pharmaceutical endeavors, which encompass pretty much everything they told the Supreme Court was against their religion to support. IUDs, Plan-B, and actual medical abortion to name a few. I’m not kidding. The mutual funds they invest in for the company are involved in all of those activities. So, the religious grounds fall a little short there, don’t you think?

Point four. Part two of the hypocrisy. They didn’t decide to fight coverage of Viagra. Um, excuse me? You can help men with their erections, which is in no way medically necessary, but you refuse to cover birth control pills that can enable women to live healthy lives? You believe anyone who has sex should be willing to have children? Hmm. Okay. So what about maternity leave? I guess that’s a non-issue since they’re not required to pay for it down there. However, when an employee does leave because they have a baby, that costs a company money. Even if the employee comes back within three weeks, they still have to have other employees cover the shifts, or hire on temporary help. It’s a costly disruption from an employer’s perspective. If the employee chooses to leave permanently, it’s even more expensive. Hiring and training don’t come cheap.

Point five. The United States was supposed to be a land of religious freedom. For people. Not corporations…people. This decision means an infringement on the religious rights of the employees of this company. They’re being told that the corporation’s religious stance is more important than the beliefs of its employees. When I myself do not believe I should be telling anyone what they may, or may not, do with their own bodies (me being an actual living human being), there is no way a  company should ever have that sort of influence. The managers can set rules of conduct to be followed during work hours and on work property. They cannot tell employees what to do otherwise. If the VP of marketing wants to have a three-way or six-way which involves jumper cables, a circus clown and a banana, she can do that. The religious beliefs of the company do not enter into it, even if a lot of other things might. If the dock supervisor wants a frenulum ladder piercing, that’s entirely up to him, even though I really don’t want to see it (however much fun it’s supposed to be).

Point six. This could also come under the first point, but I’m keeping it separate for the purposes of detail. The whole idea behind incorporation is to separate the personal from the business. It protects the business owner from a certain amount of financial risk. The corporation is meant to stand alone as a separate entity. Not a religious/sentient one – just separate. If a company gets sued, the owner doesn’t have to lose his house, basically. Now the way it works here in Canada is if you pierce the corporate bubble/veil by interfering with the business in a personal way, such as dipping your hand in the company till for personal expenditures, you as the owner suddenly lose corporate protection and open yourself up to personal litigation. Now here comes Hobby Lobby looking to have things both ways. They run a corporation to protect themselves legally, but then impose their personal beliefs on the corporate entity. Talk about having your cake and eating it, too.

Point seven. If you want to run a business, then run a business and keep your nose out of everyone else’s. If you want to run a religion, then you register as a non-profit religious organization where you’re no longer allowed to make those kinds of profit. Oops. Suddenly things get sticky. That’s not to say religious groups don’t bring in lots of money, because we all know they do. There’s a great deal of profit to be had with most of them, and operating your own cult and setting up as a guru of sorts will get you all kinds of fun stuff. In some cases a lot of sex with a lot of different people, along with the tons of money people sign over to you. Hmm. Methinks it’s time to become a religious leader. Then again, I think I’d have a very hard time keeping a straight face while touting the wisdom of The Great Gazoo or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Stalkers and Obsessions in Romance and Young Adult Fiction

Recently I succumbed to the urge to read a certain popular series. Pretty much everyone on the planet will know exactly what I’m talking about when I mention the Twilight ‘saga’ from Stephanie Meyer. Not only were the four main novels in the series wildly popular, but they’ve all been made into movies as well. I also read two books complementary to the four main ones, and I have to say they really scare me.

No, I don’t mean scared in the sense of lying awake at night, afraid a vampire was going to come out of my closet. What scared me was the fact that these novels didn’t seem to get a lot of flak from parents. Sure, the storyline itself is entertaining. The problem is the fact that the two main characters have serious mental health issues.

The four main books are written in the first person, which I always find annoying anyway. I prefer third person omniscient, myself, but that’s purely an aesthetic and personal viewpoint. The perspective is that of a teenage girl who becomes completely obsessed with what looks like a teenage boy, but is in fact a man who’s closer to a hundred years old. If we saw a 100-year-old man walking down the street with a 17-year-old on his arm, in most responsible people that would bring on a large measure of disgust for the dirty old man and his perverted proclivities.

In addition to that, the male love interest leaves her because he thinks it will be safer for her not to be exposed to him and his vampire ‘family’ any longer. When this happens she basically loses her mind. She becomes nearly catatonic in her grief, and when she comes out of that she’s still living life in such a robotic fashion that she’s startled to realize she’s more like a zombie than a human being. Now that’s what we call an obsession.

Even after she realizes what she’s doing, and starts to live her life again, she starts taking risks with her life because she starts hearing his voice in her head whenever she does anything that might kill her. At first I thought maybe there was a psychic thing going on in the stories, but it turns out she was really hearing voices – well, one voice anyway – and the voice wasn’t actually there. So, now she’s obsessed and schizophrenic. She’s having auditory hallucinations brought on by adrenaline spikes.

Eventually her obsession comes back to her, and suddenly she’s alive again. However, she can’t stand to spend even an hour or two away from him without feeling like there’s a big hole in her chest where her heart used to be.

Worse than that, though, is the fact that he spends a fair bit of time stalking her before they’re even together. He went through her house, he was in her room while she was sleeping and watched her pretty much every night. He looked through her things, including her books and music. When they do finally become an official couple, he sneaks into her room to stay with her every single night. At least by then she knows about it and is actually asking him to stay with her. In fact, she’s not actually asking. It’s more like pleading.

I was teenager once myself, and I remember the volatility that comes along with that. I think we’re all a little unbalanced when it comes to first loves. I had a couple of them. My relationships when I was a teenager were monogamous ones that lasted at least a year each. The entire year I was fourteen I was with one guy and he actually asked me to marry him – he was nineteen, so looking back that seems a little off-kilter to me. I had my first major obsession when I was fifteen and sixteen. It was a tumultuous relationship with a Roman Catholic whose mother didn’t approve. I did my share of stupid things, but the heartbreak was over a couple of weeks after he dumped me. I’m not one to hang on. It probably has something to do with having a healthy (or sinful) measure of pride. There was no way I was going to prostrate myself before someone who didn’t want me.

I was also a parent to a teenager. My daughter had her own mild obsession, and eventually her feelings were no longer ‘unrequited,’ but they grew apart and it was over. Basically she had a lot of interest in what he was doing, and in his life in general, but stalking is not something that was ever in her character – even less so than it was in mine. In fact, when I was a teenager I longed desperately to fall in love, get married, and make lots of babies with a man who adored me. My daughter has little interest in that, though she does want a kid one day. She’s not a lesbian, so it isn’t about her orientation. She just doesn’t like the idea of spending that much time with another person, which the exception of her own child. Thankfully she hasn’t made me a grandmother yet, because I’m just not ready for that. I’m still vaguely within the age of being able to have kids myself, so it just seems too weird to me.

Now my daughter is almost halfway through her twenties, and completely skipped out on any mental health problems associated with teenage crushes. I’m in my early forties. The funny thing is, I personally feel the danger of books like the Twilight series. Romance novels are often the same, too. There’s still an envy there for me. At my age the statistics aren’t good when it comes to me finding anyone I can give my whole heart to. I’ve had moments where I thought I’d be able to, but the feelings weren’t reciprocated so I shut my own feelings down right away. It’s not that I don’t have them; I just don’t let my brain run off with my heart.

Still, there’s a sadness and envy invoked by obsessive love stories, even for me. I think we’re all somewhat conditioned to think of that as the only real love there is. Even when we know better logically, a part of us still wants that unquestioning devotion and adoration. Beneath the tough exterior beats the heart of a marshmallow, I guess. I know better than to ever put myself in that position with anyone, because I’ve seen where those situations usually lead. Besides, I’m not really that mentally unhealthy anyway, that I absolutely can’t live without someone. The proof is in the pudding in my case, seeing as I’ve been separated for a long time. There was an interruption of less than four months, where I was seeing someone, but it never got to the ‘I love you’ stage.

After I was done reading the Twilight books I felt sad. I didn’t want the stories to end, because a very dangerous and insidious part of myself wanted to live vicariously through an obsessive love story. As an adult woman with a better understanding of mental health, however, I can deal with those feeling in a positive manner. Teenagers, on the other hand, do not have the life experience to see the books for what they really are. They’re unrealistic, and they’re very dangerous. Showing teenagers a happy ending within such an unhealthy context can breed an unhealthy real-life situation. Even with a parent telling them that the relationship in the series is not a good one, and explaining why, no teenager is going to believe it unless they’ve already been given a very good background in what it means to be in a healthy relationship. Considering the statistics on divorce and domestic violence, however, those teachings are very limited.

Speaking from a bizarre personal perspective, I was lucky in one way. I had a terrible childhood, being raised by terrible grandparents, yet it was my physically abusive grandmother who gave me my foothold on reality and feminism. She wore the pants in that house, and she’s the one who told me (the first time she saw me reading a romance), that reality was not anything like its portrayal in romance novels. For many years, historical romances were my very favourite books. Eventually, after years of personal experience that was contrary to the happy endings I was reading about, I realized she was right about that one thing. It was also because of her that I never felt I was anything less worthy than any man, because I was raised in a home where a woman was deferred to in all things.

Teenagers, especially those who come from broken homes, are looking desperately for role models for every aspect of their lives. If their parents don’t have a successful relationship, they look for people who do – even if they happen to be fictional, dangerous, and unrealistic. With few real human relationships to look up to, they look to movies, books, music, and any other form of entertainment. The Twilight series gives them characters with a happy ending, but if either of those people were living in the real world (vampire lore aside), the ending would probably be very different. Obsession is not love. Obsession often becomes possession. Even within the books, right from the beginning they claim ownership of one another, and grant ownership to each other.

The very real need some people have to ‘belong’ to someone else stems from emptiness within. There is a hole inside them, desperately wanting to be filled – just like the movie Jerry Maguire, with the whole, “You complete me,” thing. Nobody completes anyone else. We’re all individual human beings. My former mother-in-law used to tell me that if I’d wanted to accomplish my own things in life, I probably shouldn’t have gotten married. Um, what? I wasn’t allowed aspirations and goals because I was married??? Her son was allowed those dreams, though. Right. That makes total sense. Never mind the fact that I was the breadwinner in the family at the time, and he was disabled. Reaching for goals was my way of looking to be a better provider, but that wasn’t allowed because I was supposed to be nothing but a wife. Of course, this advice was coming from a divorced woman who had been nothing but a wife to her husband, yet he left her anyway. I always felt like saying, “So how did that work out for you?”

My view on the subject, and something that came up during a discussing about one of the guests we had on the show recently, is that people shouldn’t even get into a relationship until the hole inside them is filled and they’re a whole person. Until then you don’t know who you are or what will be best for you. You’re still striving and your core personality is still forming. The guest on the show was saying all women want men to take charge, which is completely overstating what women want. I’m certainly not one of those women who want a man taking charge. If there’s a decisions to be made that will affect me, then I want to be a part of making the decision. I don’t want anyone arbitrarily making choices for me.

Thankfully that notion brings to heel any thought of having a man swoop in and rescue me from my own life, which is what a lot of romance novels are about. The man comes along and everything that was wrong in a woman’s life is miraculously fixed by him. It doesn’t work that way, especially if you’re a woman who’s the least bit independent. Men seem to feel as if they have to fix everything, even when a woman has a problem and she wants to vent about it. Men will try to tell her how to fix it, rather than just listening and letting her vent.

Often the ‘fixing’ comes in the form of advice, but sometimes it involves actually doing what the woman should be capable of doing herself. Some women do like that, but there’s a trade-off that I would personally never be willing to make. When you allow someone to ‘fix’ your life, you’re also allowing them to take over decision-making, which renders a woman useless and redundant to her own life. Suddenly the man is taking charge of her, rather than simply her problems – and mostly because there’s now the unspoken agreement between them that she can’t handle the herculean chore of running her own life without his help.

Not being able to run your own life, and having someone do it for you, puts you in the category of being a child. It’s not just women who are placed there, but on average it’s almost always the female in a relationship. There are women to this day who work, but allow their husbands to interfere with problems they face in the workplace. Husbands who feel their wives aren’t treated well, or properly (as in sexual harassment cases), will come charging in to confront the supposedly guilty party. Now consider how this woman will be treated in the workplace from now on. Sure, maybe the original problem never rears its head again, but then she’ll never be respected again either. She will be known as someone who can’t handle real responsibility. If she wasn’t in a position of authority, she will never be promoted to one. If she was already in a position of authority, her authority will not be respected and she will not gain additional authority.

This is also the danger in reporting sexual harassment if it’s done in a place that doesn’t really respect legislation. Suddenly she’s a woman who ‘can’t handle a joke’ or simply can’t enforce her own authority. Speaking personally on that, I’ve always just given as good as I’ve gotten when the harassment was directed toward me. No man ever dared to step over the line with me either, but then I have the sort of personality that makes it very clear I would never tolerate it. People just know that I have indelible lines that can’t be crossed. On the other hand, when I saw other women being harassed I did report it, in writing, so that there was no way the company could get away with not doing something about it. Reporting someone else being harassed doesn’t have the same connotation of being a whiner who can’t handle things. I was also in a position of authority within the company, and it was my duty to do something about it.

The tiny part of me that would want a man to swoop in and be my dream-come-true/knight-in-shining-armour, is the part of me that’s tired, I think. I’ve spent my life fighting to keep my head above water, against some rather interesting odds. I’ve had many challenges, and I think it might be nice to one day not have to be the one who does all the struggling, so therein lies the answer to my wishful thinking. The few times I think like that, I remind myself of the price to be paid for wallowing in that fantasy. I’ve made the mistake of going there on occasion in my romantic history, and after a few decades of being slapped for it I’m now fully conscious of that price. I always have much less of a fight to keep my head above water when I count only on myself to keep me afloat.

What I really need, if I ever have another serious relationship, is someone who is capable of running their own life, and someone who has my back that I can fully trust to be there for me emotionally, but not someone who tries to take over the running of my life. Decisions can be made mutually, compromises are perfectly fine, and acceptance of who I really am is mandatory. That last thing is so vital, though, and very few people are actually capable of acceptance when it comes to their life partner. Especially when their life partner has some unusual quirks.

Speaking from personal experience, there are very few people in the world who accept the fact that I sleep during the day, and that has always been my natural pattern. Never mind the fact that I crack every joint in my body, and swear like the proverbial sailor. I can be harsh, too. I’m not unforgiving, but there are people I’ve removed from my life because I also don’t forget. My mother and step-father are good examples. I may have forgiven the fact that my mother left me when I was four years old, and knowingly left me in the care of monsters – her parents. I could never forget it, though. I could never forget the fact that she suspected my grandfather of molesting me, and still left me there. Two deep betrayals that made it impossible for me to ever trust her, or allow myself to love her. The childish yearnings for motherly love disappeared within me forever. I do not want any kind of mother in my life. My step-father turned out to be a faithless jerk who fooled around on my mother, and that shows me a character flaw so important to me that I could never trust him either.

So, I can forgive, but when a person shows their colours you can’t simply forget about them. You have to factor those flaws into the big picture. In some cases a person’s flaws make them more human and lovable. There’s a quote from the movie Hellboy that says, “You like someone for their qualities, but you love them for their flaws,” and I think that’s very true. Perfect people aren’t even very likeable, never mind lovable. There is too much envy involved when another person is ‘perfect,’ along with self-consciousness because we know we aren’t perfect. Of course, no one is actually perfect, but sometimes a person views another unrealistically as being being perfect.

Maybe my imperfections will be lovable to someone some day. I hope so. For the most part I’m content with my life, and I could probably be content to be alone for the remainder of it. It’s not really what I want if I’m being honest with myself. If I wanted to be alone, I wouldn’t feel sad after reading books like Twilight. I wouldn’t have registered with an online dating site a year ago – a profile that I deleted when I started dating someone exclusively. I haven’t done a new profile yet because I’m just not ready to start up with a stranger again, and it takes a long time to really get to know someone enough to love them – either on the basis of friendship, or on romantic love. Attraction comes instantly, as does infatuation, but the kind of love where you would notice someone was missing from your life if they weren’t there…that takes time. Starting a brand new relationship with a stranger is not something I’ve got the time or energy for right now.

I was talking to a friend about how holding hands with someone can feel weird, and he said that if I was madly in love with them then I would probably want to. He’s right. I would. I would feel the need for physical closeness. I’m actually very affectionate that way when I love someone, or even when I’m in a romantic relationship where I really like them. It’s the only kind of relationship where I can be really touchy-feely. I can hug my daughter, but neither of us likes hugging very much so it only happens on occasions like birthdays, or when there’s a death of one of our pets. When I lost Stimpy (my first ferret), I think my daughter was afraid to hug me, because I was already falling to pieces. Getting comfort when you’re like that can sometimes be just enough to break you. The stiff upper lip starts to quiver, and then you’re a blubbering mess.

Back to the topic at hand, however. Obsessive love and stalking are so prevalent in all forms of media that it has become absorbed almost to our cores. I think almost everyone I know has that little piece inside them that wishes they could have that. I’m sure I’m not alone there, or how would the writers of romantic fiction ever make any money? Rom-coms wouldn’t make a penny at the box office, either. Men are told to be persistent, despite the fact that it’s actually harassment to keep going after a woman who says no. It’s part of the rape culture. Men are rewarded for persistence by eventually getting their rocks off, even if it’s not consensual – often because the woman gets tired of being harassed and gives in to what she starts thinking is inevitable.

Romance novels used to be called ‘bodice rippers’ for a good reason. Almost every book involved rape in some form or another – usually a man was ‘pushed beyond reason’ into ‘giving her what she really wants.’ Apparently forcing a woman into sex solved all relationship problems – yes, that was sarcasm. This was only twenty years ago, and despite the fact that publishers are telling would-be authors that they don’t want that kind of book, they’re still publishing books about very unhealthy relationships. I actually wrote a historical romance many years ago. It sits (completed) in a box somewhere. It will never be published under my own name, because I will never allow myself to be pigeon-holed as a romance writer. Once that happens you’re rarely seen as any other kind of writer.

A good example is Nora Roberts. Under her own name she writes romances. Under the pseudonym of J. D. Robb she writes what’s called the ‘in death’ series. All but one title uses the words ‘in death,’ such as, “Naked in Death” and “Glory in Death.” The books’ main character is a female kick-ass cop in the future. For a long time, because it was known to be a pseudonym of Nora Roberts, those books were always put in the romance section of every book store I went into. There are romantic relationships within the series, but the books are mainly about the main character being a homicide cop. They’re murder-mysteries, and yet they were labeled as romance. Now when I go in the book store, though, they’re finally filed under the main fiction section. I haven’t seen them in the romance section for quite a while, but it still took a long time for the series to be recognized for what it really was.

Another reason I don’t think I’ll submit my romance novel for publication is that I’m rather ashamed of it. I’m just as guilty of writing anti-feminist crap as any other romance writer. I would have to cut and slash the novel to ribbons in order to fix the problem. I don’t want to be another Stephanie Meyer, creating mentally ill characters for people (particularly teenagers) to emulate. I would prefer to be responsible with my writing and portray women as something other than helpless victims to their own ineptitude. So, despite my (not-so-secret-now) wishing that I might have that sort of unhealthy connection with a man, I know better than to fall for it. I can only hope that most teenagers will outgrow their interest in the series.

Maybe there’s an antidote. Maybe one day I’ll write about the kind of relationship that’s real and healthy. Two people dedicated and devoted to one another, without having to give up who they are. People who don’t orient themselves to their partners to the exclusion of all else in their lives. Now that would be a relationship worth emulating. They say, “Write what you know,” though, and I have no personal experience from which to draw.

Ignorance is Only Bliss to the Ignorant

“Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.” Thomas Gray, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College

This phrase is constantly misinterpreted by the masses. In fact, until I researched it I didn’t realize there was any more to it than the commonly uttered, “Ignorance is bliss.” Once you see it in context, however, it’s readily apparent that Thomas Gray was in no way promoting ignorance. He was, in fact, being nostalgic about his youth.

Ignorance has never been blissful to anyone other than those who are ignorant, and even then the ignorant suffer for their lack of knowledge and understanding in life. Far too many people choose to be uninformed about far too many things, and generally we are punished for it whether we know it or not. When we aren’t the ones punished, it’s always some other creature or person who is.

Animal rights is one good example of ignorance working against everyone and everything. As much as I hate the thought of animals being abused in general, I’m not going to look at this from the perspective of their suffering this time. From a completely unemotional and selfish human standpoint, let’s examine why animal abuse is bad. We’ll take bees as the first example. Not too many people spend much time thinking about them, other than perhaps beekeepers and those in the agricultural and environmental fields. The funny thing is, bees are one of the most vital components in the mechanism that keeps people alive on this planet. I won’t post the quote attributed to Einstein about bees, because research has determined that Einstein probably never said it. Einstein wasn’t a botanist, entomologist or biologist of any kind, so talking about bees wasn’t exactly his schtick. However, the message within the quote remains somewhat valid. Without bees to pollinate, we would lose a very large portion of our food supply. Not all of it, but a huge amount. That’s the direct impact. The indirect impact is that many of the things pollinated by bees are what support animal life in the wild. This affects anyone who might hunt for food.

I’ll give a second example of how animal cruelty impacts humans, and then we’ll move on to something else, but it’s important for people to make connections like this. A second example is necessary to demonstrate a completely different sequence of events that many do not consider. How about we go with any sort of breeding facility for meat products. Pigs, cows, chickens and their ilk, are most often raised in sub-standard conditions. I’m not saying illegal, either. I just mean animals that are penned in tight quarters, given growth hormones and antibiotics that are unnatural to their systems, and that are often treated very badly. There are plenty of videos out there showing the beatings and abuse inflicted on farm animals, so if you’re interested by all means Google it, but I won’t include them here because I can’t stand to watch them.

My point is this: These animals are not healthy. They’re not allowed exercise because the meat becomes tougher. They confine them to keep them tender for our chewing pleasure. How healthy are the humans you know that don’t get any exercise at all? The ones who stay firmly planted on the sofa, and often don’t even get up to go to bed because they sleep on the couch – those are the ones I’m talking about. Chefs talk about the ‘marbling’ in the meat that makes it so juicy – well, that’s nothing but a fat, out-of-shape animal. Now start adding those unnecessary antibiotics or growth hormones.

The other issue regarding close confinement is the fact that it spreads disease very rapidly, and quite often that meat finds its way into our grocery stores and onto our tables long before they discover anything is wrong with it. Generally people have to die before anyone notices that “X” farm’s beef is not quite the safest thing around. If you confine large numbers of people in buildings, disease spreads just as quickly. Think of everything from the common cold to swine flu. Well, the same thing happens with animals who are closely quartered.

Going beyond animal treatment and things that actually impact each of us directly when we’re ignorant of the facts, I want to talk about the more altruistic concerns where ignorance is harmful to others rather than ourselves. In these situations, selfish people simply aren’t going to care, but I believe most people do actually care about their fellow humans. I think they often choose to shield themselves from inconvenient facts, though, so they don’t have to feel guilty for pretty much everything they do in their daily routine.

One daily routine that’s almost universal, is getting dressed after we wake up and changing into pyjamas when we go to bed. The question becomes, where are you buying your clothes? Following that line of thought, where are the stores you shop in getting the clothes, and/or materials the clothing is made from? Are your clothes free-trade and cruelty-free? If you’re buying from Walmart, and a wide variety of other retailers, there’s a good chance your clothes were made by people who are working in unsafe conditions and aren’t even being paid enough to eat anything more than a bowl of rice per day.

Maybe you saw something about this in the news in April of 2013 when 1,129 workers were killed because a factory collapsed on them. Originally the death toll was 1,127, but two more people died within a month. A number of companies selling the clothing that was made there signed an agreement to improve conditions. Walmart did not. Another seven people died in October 2013 from a fire in a fabric mill in Bangladesh. Lack of transparency from many retailers makes it difficult to find clothing you don’t have to feel guilty about, but if you’re interested you can get some information here on where to find it. That link also provides information on the companies not doing so well, and in some cases provides a link where you can express your concern or take action in some way. Sadly you’re likely to find some of your favourite brands and companies on that list, including Disney.

There is another sense in which ignorance is really not bliss, and that has to do with how it affects the people around you just in general conversation. You get this a lot with people who like to spout off with statements like, “Political correctness has gone too far.” Says who? Says the person who isn’t being hurt or oppressed in any fashion, (or in some cases they are and don’t know it because it’s so culturally ingrained). This happens with any kind of struggle for equality, be it feminism, marriage equality, racism, etc. Most statements from people who shrug off political correctness are coming from white, heterosexual, non-disabled males who are part of some sort of organized religion. You can get mad at me if you want to, and state that I’m making generalizations, but I was actually pretty specific there. Take a close look at the rhetoric being spewed by many so-called God-fearing Christians in the bible belt. Actually, a close look is completely unnecessary and might actually become a forest for the trees scenario. That kind of attitude is best seen from a distance for a wide variety of reasons.

White people do not generally experience racism. It can, and does, happen in a small number of cases in areas comprised predominately of people of non-Caucasian descent. White people almost never experience racial oppression. When I talk about oppression, I mean the action or force that causes real harm, not someone simply making a snide remark. I’m white, and have never been oppressed for the colour of my skin. Hence, I will never understand what that is like, other than by comparing it to the fact that I’m female and have experienced unequal treatment based on my gender. However, even within the feminist movement there is a great deal of non-inclusiveness when it comes to people of colour.

Men, at this point in history, do not experience gender oppression. There are some cases where they are discriminated against, such as in the case of custody and support hearings, or when they are assumed to be the abuser in a domestic violence situation. My point is that they aren’t told they have less value than a woman because they’re male. There were times in history, and in various cultures, where men were the underdogs. They aren’t now. In a case by case comparison, it is women who are overwhelmingly treated as the less important of the male and female genders. There are people who have it a lot worse than women, however. I refer to those who are transgender, or intersex (someone who is born with both sexes – what most people refer to as hermaphrodites, although that is not a scientifically correct term). Imagine living your life as neither of the accepted genders. There are countries in which you can be legally defined as a gender other than male or female, but in the western world those people are completely discounted by the ignorant among us.

Overweight people are treated like human waste and fat-shaming is standard behaviour. Naturally low-weight people are accused of being anorexic. For some reason our size becomes the definition of who we are, and where we are situated on the social ladder. Admittedly, quite often a person’s size can be attributed to certain psychological factors. Overweight people are often overweight because of psychological issues that compel them to overeat. A number of extremely skinny people are underweight in an unhealthy way, and also for psychological reasons. The problem is, there is no way of knowing which cases is which merely by looking at them. Never mind the fact that if you really stop to consider the reasoning behind either extreme that is the result of unhealthy thought processes, you realize that there is every reason to provide understanding rather than judgment. There is the pain that brought on the issue to begin with, and now there is the pain that results from their issue being so blatant and open to criticism.

Going beyond insulting and hurting people with our ignorance, there’s the simple annoyance factor. Ignorant people are very annoying to people who actually take the time to learn about things. I mean, let’s face it. There really is no excuse for not learning about a topic before waxing enthusiastic on it. You want to talk about how great the bible is? Fine, but maybe you should actually read it first. Don’t leave out all the parts that contradict you. If you want to talk about marijuana legalization, and tell everyone why you think it’s a terrible idea, it’s best if you understand a little something about it. Don’t be like Nancy Grace who mouths off about deaths that never happened, and violence that didn’t occur, not bothering to back up your words with any appropriate sources. Maybe you want to talk about gun control, but if don’t know anything about the current legislation, or the legislation being proposed, your arguments won’t be very effective. You’ll just sound like an ignoramus extremist of some sort, no matter what side you’re arguing on. If you happen to find yourself in a conversation with someone who has some knowledge, you’ll notice that you’re not very well liked or respected after that.

Ignorance is lack of knowledge. When I was growing up people also liked to call someone ignorant if they were rude, though it’s an inappropriate use of  the word – in other words they were ignorant of the definition and meaning of ignorance. However, ignorance often results in rudeness when an ignorant person is shown to be wrong. People tend to get defensive under those circumstances, and will exhibit angry behaviour. There again ignorance becomes an issue to surrounding people. If people don’t like being shown to be wrong about something, then people certainly don’t like it when someone attacks them verbally or physically out of frustration and hurt pride.

Much of the anger we see in political and social issues today is based on ignorance. Quite often willful ignorance, too. They simply refuse to listen to other possibilities or compromises. They don’t want to know why the people on the other side of the argument think they’re right. They don’t want to open up to the possibility that there might be a kernel of sense in a differing opinion. Most often they simply talk over what they don’t want to hear.

“We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.” Zeno of Citium

The quote from Zeno can also be applied to our eyes. We use our eyes to read and learn. If we applies twice as much time to learning and listening, as we do to speaking, our whole civilization would improve instantly. Beliefs do not have to be static. Beliefs should always be fluid and open to new information. If reality contradicts our beliefs, we are left floundering in a state of cognitive dissonance. We can’t honestly reconcile the two things, and that friction can become quite psychologically painful. Conversely, refusal to believe in a thing does not mean is ceases to exist.

It’s impossible to argue with someone who refuses to listen to a counter-argument. It’s called the invincible ignorance fallacy, and is a circular argument in which no evidence put forward is acknowledged. You’re talking to someone who simply denies any validity of the information that has been presented, and it’s something you see a lot in debates between scientists and creationists. Creationists deny any and all evidence put before them regarding evolution, or that contradicts their belief that the world is only 6,000 years old. There’s actually a video you can watch with Richard Dawkins (a very well-respected scientist in case you haven’t heard of him), where he is put through this, and the look on his face is priceless. He simply can’t get over the woman’s refusal to even acknowledge the evidence he verbally demonstrates. The full video is almost an hour long, but there are highlights you can watch where you see the complete blankness on this woman’s face as she repeats over and over that there’s no evidence. That’s one of the best examples of the invincible ignorance fallacy I’ve seen to date. In one sense it makes me laugh, but in another sense I want to hang my head and cry.

I can only hope that people start consciously choosing to open their minds, learn and grow. It isn’t as easy as it sounds, either. We’re all guilty of closing our minds in certain ways. We’re all guilty of jumping to conclusions at one time or another. It is impossible to be the perfect thinker. We work with what knowledge we have obtained, and what abilities we currently have to improve ourselves. Then again, we also have choices. No one can force us to think a certain way. We may be conditioned to do so, and many live in societies where it is forbidden to speak certain things aloud, but every person on the planet has the option of free thought.

Sexual Choices and the Numbers Game

I finally got a little bit more serious about dating recently. It only took me nearly six years, but I got around to it in the end. I know I’ve talked about dating, expressing my personal take on a whole list of shenanigans, but it’s only been within the last week or so that I really put any kind of effort into it. When you stop to consider that I went on a total of 5 dates in just over 5 years, none of which resulted in a second date, I wasn’t exactly tearing through them at the speed of light. I guess it’s no surprise then, that I’m not the type to date more than one guy at the same time. In fact, I won’t even talk to other potential dates if I’m already talking to someone in that capacity. I’m just not built that way.

So many people treat dating as a numbers game, and it’s incredibly easy to do that when you go the route of online dating. After all, you set up a profile that’s relatively anonymous, and you aren’t forced to date people that live close to you where you might run into someone else you happen to be dating. Plus, you’re able to carry on multiple conversations at once and then set up a dating schedule accordingly. Many people do it this way, which is fine for them I suppose but it’s just too much work for me. Partly that’s an honesty thing. You see, it’s not really tactful to tell someone you’re meeting three other potential partners that same night (or that week), and that you’ll get back to them if there’s ‘still an opening’ (tongue in cheek) when you’ve picked everyone over.

The alternative is to not say anything at all. While there really isn’t an obligation to tell all your secrets to a person you’ve only had one date with, however, it still feels dishonest to me. It’s just far less complicated to my way of thinking, to not have three other dates lined up. Maybe it sounds arrogant, but I’m considered fairly good dating material, so setting up three dates at a time falls under the heading of easy-peasy. To be fair, most women find dates pretty easily. The difficulty has more to do with the quality of dates.

Dating the way I do means that it can take a lot longer to find someone that’s okay with waiting more than 24 hours before knocking boots. Whenever I’ve run into the less than patient ones I’ve gotten rather discouraged at the state of dating these days and thumbed my nose at it – for a while anyway. I don’t consider myself a coward, or a person that gives up easily. Ergo, the dating horse gets ridden again – no, I’m not seeing a horse, though I do have them on my mind these days. You’ll have to wait for an explanation on that one, as I do like to keep a few cards close to the vest.

Along with not wanting to treat dating as a numbers game, I have other conflicts. Call me complicated. To start with I’m a feminist who believes in sexual freedom. I feel everyone should have the choice to have sex at whatever point they want to, without being labeled for it. After all, if you want to wait you get labeled a prude usually. If you want to bang on the first date, woah…the word ‘slut’ rears its ugly head. Now, I’m not all that concerned with the opinions of others when it comes to any of my choices, sexual or otherwise, and if a man doesn’t like the choice I make they’re not the man for me anyway.

It’s interesting to me that I might be labeled a prude because I like to get to know someone first, when I’m rather open-minded when it comes to actually doing the deed. I’m a feisty one. I just don’t burn up the sheets with anyone and everyone who gives me an hour of their time. Admittedly there are reasons for that beyond shyness and simply learning to be comfortable with a person. I’ve got a past that has built certain kinds of walls around me, and those of you who have been reading my blog for some time already know about that past so I won’t bore you with a new iteration.

So, if I were to be labeled a prude for waiting to have sex, what do we call a person who jumps into bed with someone and doesn’t put any effort or interest into it? Doesn’t sound like a hot tamale to me, so I’m not sure why that would be a sought-after prize. Sure, if someone is merely looking to gouge another notch in the bed post that might be adequate. Instant gratification for our desires, however, tends to fall flat. Sometimes anticipation is a far greater aphrodisiac than people can imagine. Not to mention the fact that the anticipation can be heightened by conversations about sex beforehand. If you’re at all liberated you can discuss some of the things you enjoy and take out a bit of the awkwardness when you finally do get down to it.

Luckily my own version of the numbers game, wherein I talk to and see one person at a time, seems to have worked out for me. No guarantees, of course, but many hours of phone conversations combined with spending a bit of time together, has so far resulted in a fair bit of intrigue on my part. Guess we’re off to the races.