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Why Tuesday?

The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fear of Flying

Truth be told I travel more than some. These are not extravagant gestures of adventure. There is nothing sexy about a domestic flight on Air Canada Jazz from Vancouver to the BC interior. The flights are usually less than an hour and en board service consists of apple juice, orange juice or bottled water. There is no in flight movie and regardless of the time of day, a packet of “Rocket Chips” is provided as a snack. Inevitably the planes are of the smaller variety. Now, I am not afraid of flying. I am fully aware that it is safer than driving and that (contrary to what my beloved believes) turbulence is in fact not a sign that “the god-damn plane is going down”. However these smaller variety planes are just the sorts that in a pinch could plummet from the sky somewhere over the Rockies and would only become a bi-line on the six o’clock news. Heaven forbid, or allow, should my airbus 120 fall from the sky; CNN would be none the wiser.

This is not my problem with flying. The size of the planes is never an issue. It is however, the size of the airports. I HATE small airports. Not for the obvious reasons however. Yes, there is never a place to buy coffee after you have made it through security without a drop of liquid on your persons. This of course is the least of my problems. After much research, and far too many short haul flights, I can safely conclude with “Freakinomics” accuracy that airport security is inversely proportional to the size of the airport.

Here is my point. In Vancouver Airport, I can safely bring a yogurt through security and even a dozen apples through US customs without anyone batting an eyelash. It takes me 10 minutes if I use the express line (which I always do) and I can be on my way. This is however if the security line is serviced ONLY by men. If there are women working the line, my time can easily be doubled as inevitably my purse (yes it’s REAL) will be subjected to the usually female scrutiny.

These female security personnel will check the contents of the bag. They tell me it is because my metal tweezers have flashed on the screen- but I know better. They are inspecting the lining to ensure the PRADA (or Gucci, or Burberry Prorsum, depending on the trip) is in fact the genuine article.

I know women are in fact the toughest critics of other women. I have, in fact, attempted many a time to try to get to the root of this issue and have come up with a variety of theories- none of which make me feel as satisfied as, “it’s a girl thing”. My readers lacking a Y chromosome will understand me profusely, if you do not, ask one of your girlfriends, she’ll likely try and explain it to you. This being said, there really is no justification for the strip search I inevitably endure for the sake of fashion at the hands of many a female security personnel. I know this to be true because as these “mean girls” are inspecting my bag, the inevitably comment, not on its contents but on its make, model and colour.

Yes people, the female security personnel at most small scale airports are in fact the “mean girls” you knew in high school, all grown up and with nowhere to go… literally.

Here I am in Kelowna airport, with a purse that made it through Vancouver airport without the batting of an eyelash. It is 6 o’clock in the morning; I am dressed to attend my clinic, which starts in Vancouver at 9 am. I will land at YVR at 7:30 and be safe and sound at my office with much time to spare. I have removed my shoes, belt and dignity and I am waiting for my one handbag to come through the X-Ray machine. It contains a pair of pajamas, 2 pairs of underwear, my wallet and my cell phone. I have my make-up case in a separate bin along with my laptop and a small bottle of moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner and face wash (all less than 3 fluid ounces) in a transport Canada approved baggy.

In what world would any of this bags' contents be questionable? And yet, I am called over by the woman reading the X-ray so she can inspect my bag. What the #$%%!!!

“Is this your bag, Ma’am?” she asks, “I need to check inside”. She announces before waiting for me to answer.

She pulls me over to the counter further downstream and proceeds to swab the bag down for gun powder or c14 residue or swine flu- I have no idea. And then she admits to what I suspected all along when she asks the damning question,

“Nice Bag, Is it real?” she smiles as she looks at the lining inside.

I can’t help but smile, satisfied that my husband is wrong and I am not a paranoid hater. Unfortunately, Jason is safely at home in bed 600km away and unable to witness my fresh hell. He will again, just have to take my paranoid word for it.

“Yes it’s real”, I admit, almost ashamed.

And then she actually made the most contemptible sound there is when she uttered, “Humph”.

I hate that sound. It is the vocal equivalent of scorn and as such should be on a list somewhere of sounds you can no longer make in public. I am now ashamed that I own a real Prada Bowler and this is not something anyone should be ashamed of! Yes, I paid too much money for a purse. Yes, I have no values. But I am still a good person?

And with that subtext still looming in the air, my security guard lady pulls my dirty underwear out of my bag with her latex gloved hands and puts them into a grey plastic bin. She tries not to make a face but it is there. She is less than happy and I smile smuggly to myself as she takes a seat down next to me in hell.

Over the next ten minutes, my lovely Prada Fall 2007 Bowler has now had more x-rays than most people do in their lifetimes. Finally after the fourth run through the machine, I am told that it was the metal lock on the bag that was the problem. I am handed my boarding pass, my grey bins filled with my dignity and sent on my way.

An article in the Independent in January 2009, support my “mean girls” theory. According to Kate Figes, there is a not-so new wave of “bitch bullying” that has existed for some time in this girl on girl world of ours.

Bitch bullying result when as Ms. Figes states “ grow up with contradictory and confusing messages. They are expected to look good and be good. They want to look sexy and are as interested in, and as in need of, sexual experimentation as much as boys, but their reputation still hangs upon abstinence. "Good" girls don't. They are still expected to be kinder, more supportive and enabling of others. But we are human too, and with too much self-sacrifice resentment flourishes that cannot be expressed – because "good" girls don't get angry… By bitch bullying, girls can express all their anger, insecurities and unhappiness at growing up, but in veiled ways. When you are unhappy, you feel much better if someone else hurts too…. Instead we harbour resentments, often for years.”

According to this theory “bitch bullying” allows these grown up girls to express their anger and natural resentment without getting caught. It is the passive-aggressive get out of jail free card.

And so… my security guard sister in theory was just bitch bullying me in response to not being able to sleep with the prom king some 20 or so years ago….

I felt the anger leave me as fast as a Holt Renfrew gift card…

And as such the next time I go through security and me and my Prada Bowler bag are faced with some poor woman who fits the bill and pulls us over for “being fabulous in an average zone”. I will not rage against the special gunpowder machine detector she swabs me down with. Instead, I will look at her with all the compassion I can muster at 6 am before a coffee and when she asks, “is it real?”… I will utter the words she really needs to hear right then and there…

“Absolutely not.”

And peace will be restored.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Girl Talk

Truth be told, I eavesdrop a lot. I am fascinated by what people talk about and find myself listening to their conversations with and ease and a frequency that might alarm you; especially if you are sitting next to me. Perhaps I am fascinated by the human condition. Perhaps I am used to people telling me their secrets. Perhaps, ever a fan of entertainment- I just want to be entertained and I view the conversations of others as just another version of my television, blazing on in the background, filling the air with soothing sounds that I may focus on, or ignore at my choosing.

I tell you this because I have learned a great deal sitting in the coffee shops of my fair city, tapping along at my laptop keys. All lattes, for example are not created equal. Some are complex and marshmellowy, some are watery and disappointing.
Conversations, like Italian coffees are also predictable depending on the composition.

For example, I have learned that when two or more women get together, their discussion tend to focuss on relationships, feelings and the procurement of STUFF. In fact, I will take the literary leap and generalize when I say: Women talk more than they listen. Women talk a lot. At least women who drink coffee. Walk into any coffee shop in North America sit down next to two or three women (it can only work if it is an all-girl crowd) and just listen….. You are bound to hear some variation on the following conversations:

1) The Relationship Talk:

This involves two women discussing why HE could not commit. He was scared, he was not ready, he was wounded, his childhood scarred him, he had trust issues…

2) The XX Talk:
The Double chromosome talk involves two women openly discussing (ie:judging) a third. Her relationship is twisted, her hair cut sucks and her values have been questionable since the day you met. Furthermore, can you believe she asked to borrow my Manolo Blahniks and has yet to return them?

3) The Morning After:
Do you think he will call? I texted him but he has a really big meeting today and his schedule this week is insane. He said he would call me today but it’s okay if he doesn’t. I mean we had a bit of a connection but I think I like this other guy at work better.

4) The Verbal Debrief:
I can’t believe she said that to you?! What did you do? That is not acceptable, no I am sorry, I don’t care how long you two have been friends…. Oh, by the way, did you get your shoes back from Kathleen?

5) The Visual Debrief:
Did you see what she was wearing? I mean I know she’s lost some weight but, seriously, could the skirt be shorter? Did she think she could get away without a bra? I don’t think so…. Oh, An by the way, Kathleen finally gave me me My Frickin shoes back after I went to her house to get them!.

6) The Emotional Debrief:
I mean, I’m an emotional person. I feel things very deeply and relationships take work. It’s not like I did not give him what I had to give….

7) The Financial Debrief:
Where did you get that bag? Winners? Are you kidding me, of course I won’t tell anyone…. It’s amazing. Winners, holy shit? Really… do you think they have any more?

8) The Caloric Debrief:
I ate to much. Do you want the rest of my scone? Oh my god, I have to go to the gym. My ass is huge. I hate it. I tried on these pair of jeans the other day and if I keep this up they are not going to fit. I wish I had your will power.

9) The Environmental Debrief;
We’re redoing the upstairs and I said to Rob, if we’re going to really do this, it is a one time investment, I mean why not spend the extra money and get real hardwood. Laminate looks so cheap after a while….

10) The Egg versus Sperm:
I mean it’s been six months and we’re still not pregnant. How long did yiu guys try for? Because sex is starting to get to be routine…. I tried the temperature thing but I’m just getting so frustrated.

There are many a variation on this theme. Women are definitely the more verbal of the sexes. I have sat next to men in the same vain and really- not as much chatting. There is not nearly the ability to stereotype their conversations. One would think it is all about sex and sports or video games, computers, Blackberry vs. the I-Phone , a hockey pool or some sort of football/basketball/TSN debrief with scores and pools and overs and unders. It really is not that typical. Where men’s conversations tend to be a varitable buffet of unpredictability, girl talk is truly like ordering off the menu.

In fact there is scientific evidence to support my caffeine induced observations. Dr. Dr Luan Brizendine, a psychiatrist and specialist in neuropsychiatry says women devote more brain cells to talking than men do. In her book, The Female Brain, Brizendine, has shown that women’s barins develop earlier and in response to more verbal stimuli than do men’s. In fact, women talk almost three times as much as men, with the average woman chalking up 20,000 words in a day - 13,000 more than the average man.

She goes on to provide claim after scientific claim that shows both physiological and environmental reasons behind this disparity. Anyone on estrogen can not deny, it is one hell of a hormone and it does make you do the damndest of things….
I am fascinated, I am amazed. I am smarter than I ever was before. While men may still rule the world, women rule the silence. Make no mistake, I am not criticizing, I am in awe. Any species that has that kind of mastery of a language deserves my utmost respect. Here’s to us ladies, in coffee shops across this great continent…. Long may we speak our physiologically different minds….

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Pursuit of Happiness

Firstly apologies abound for my silence last week. Truth be told- I am silent only when I sleep and even there amidst the slumber- I have been known to chat up the pillow. This if course is according to my beloved- if you have doubts- take them up with him.

Excuses, excuses- I was busy, I was tired. Yes, I could blame the swine flu (hell everyone is) - and yes- I will eventually, "bite that bullet" and post a witty banter about the vaccination debate that seems to the topic of conversation among so many. We have grown weary of discussing the weather, the economy and the yes, it must be said.... movies and the spring collections have been, well, downright disappointing. One must have an opening line at the upcoming holiday parties and so "are you vaccinated?" is as good a question as "How are the kids?".

But let's ascend from the swine trough for just another week... I have another chip on my shoulder pad that must be shared...

My longtime girlfriend- and she truly is a good one emailed me today, and really this became the inspiration for the following entry. Firstly my girlfriend.... she really does exist (I am not just using my own agenda here- truth be told- this entire experience is my own agenda so I need not pretend, n'est pas?), and she is one of those REAL women- beautifully flawed who celebrates her fabulousness in such a real way that you can't help but join the parade. All that and she has a British accent- which I do maintain, automatically adds an element of sophistication to her wit. She has mastered the art of what I would call "cynical optimism" - she has the capacity for hope- but it is grounded in such a way that even the best nihilist fells compelled to come along for the ride without sacrificing his belief system to the core. Maybe it's her unassuming "live and live" attitude or maybe it's that despite life's kicks to her soul- she has found the right place to put things. Maybe it's just the accent and the fact that she has trained her daughter how to behave in the best restaurants (seriously- at four years of age- this child was better than most blind dates) that endears me to her- regardless... we don't speak often, we live in different cities and we usually connect more by chance than anything but for whatever it is worth- our friendship works.

So I was perplexed when her latest email told the tale of women who secretly want things and are paralyzed to act. You know who you are ladies- you, in the back row- who wants great skin but falls asleep with a full set of makeup on. You, my dear girl, who wants a day to herself but agrees instead to help plan your girlfriend bridal shower. You, who has not seen a movie without a seven year old since before that seven year old was made but continues to allow her progeny to chose her entertainment. When will the madness end? When will we as women take what we want in life? Why do we as women, sit and wish? What it is about our makeup that forces us to want and want and then fail to make things happen? Why are we paralyzed by our desires for things that we don't have?

Industries have come and gone all in the name of a woman's need for that which she does not have. Fashion (and no I am not mocking fashion), beauty, fitness, those organizational stored that sell you just the right boxes to put all your crap in so you appear organized..... it is all in the name of that which we COVET.

I have looked for the right psychological study.... but I think it is much simpler.... I blame Barbie- Yes, 1956 Barbie.... the bitch had everything. She had any job she wanted (doctor, lawyer, secretary, model, hairdresser and ballerina), she had Ken, she had several multiracial best girlfriends, a phenomenal closet and a pink camper van. This "woman" was our generation's cultural icon. She fulfilled our every fantasy. We went to school, did our chores, ate our vegetables, drank our milk and then we spent hours upon hours playing with Barbie- and she was everything we could not be.

Then we grew up and we gave away the fantasy. We stopped dressing up and started dressing down. We pack up the pink camper van and bought green minivans. We lost sight of the friends and settled for members of the PTA and work colleagues. We became buried under work and obligations, kids and playgroups and accessorizing was just that- an accessory.

So now we lie in bed at night- faces full of MAC concealer and wonder where the perfect skin has gone? We watch Oprah and Ellen. We hope they will shed the light. We comb self help book isles for answers that allude us. What happened to the dream? Why can't I get what I want? Why am I paralyzed but that which I want? Why do I sabotage my dreams?

It is quite simple dear cyber sisters... we have lost the skill to dream. We have forgotten HOW to just dream. It has become about that which we can touch, feel, taste. How many of you have been to an art gallery lately? Just walked through the place and looked at pretty things without ever the hope of owning them? Instead we go to home and garden shows and dream about how a couch will look in our living rooms. We have lost the joy in the act of wishing. Now wishing has to be about the result.

When I played with my Barbie in my basement- every day was different.... Did I honestly think I was going to be all the things that Barbie was? Hell no. But I dreamed the dream, gave up the ghost and then was called up for dinner.... I moved on. I flexed my "fantasy muscles".

So here's what I think has happened... in the pursuit of the life, we have become too task oriented. We have lost the pure art of play and so instead of enjoying the dream itself we find misery in the wish itself. We have poisoned ourself with wanting and forgotten how easy some things can be. We have learned to fear change, relish routine and embrace the misery that comes with it... all shadowed in a convenient theory of responsibility.

I am not suggesting we all leave our lives, buy a Barbie and start over.... My solution is quite simple... You want great skin? Wash your damn face! If you skin still sucks, it is yet another thing you can blame your mother for. You want to see a good movie? Hire a sitter- leave the kids for two hours every two to three weeks and go see a flick BY YOURSELF.... it truly is emancipating.

You want more time to yourself? Lock the bathroom door. Stop wanting the simple things in life. THOSE things are attainable. Don't poison the dream with big words and talk shows. Keep it simple. We are women... get the job done efficiently and stop the chatter. It's time the sisterhood reclaimed our greatest talent- the capacity for wonder. Cherish the ability to dream big and save the real dreaming for the important stuff.... a malibu camper with pink wheels and the perfect taffeta ballgown.