Feedback is not just for Hi-Fi Systems

Wanna tell me what you think? Email me at zentner@gmail.com and I may just devote an entire entry to your comment.

Why Tuesday?

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

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Naked Truth


Truth be told, I did not grow up in a naked house. Make no mistake there was a healthy regard for one's physical self... the standard self esteem was "dished out" over one's physical form. We walked around in pajamas or underwear just as much as the next family, but there was a standard uniform of undergarments used at any given time. Ever a fan of outfits, you can imagine that this "bare clothing minimum" suited (no pun intended) me fine. In fact I assumed the rest of the world followed similar "Behind Clothes Doors Policy" That was until I met the "Naked Girl".

My latest locker room experience is so common place that it is merely a prototype, if you will. It stands as an example of all previous and future encounters. It is not fiction. It happens to me all the time and I am not alone.

There I was at the Aquatic Centre in Vancouver. I had just finished a fabulous 1500 metre swim and walked into the women's changing room to shower, change and do what any normal woman does after a swim... You know... lather, rinse, repeat. There are two change rooms for women at the Aquatic Centre. There is the "common" change room which is like any public pool changing room. Then there is the "Adults Only" change room which is for women who do not want to change in front of 4 year old boys staring in fascination at their girlie bits. I, ever a fan of elitism, always chose the latter. The "Adults Only" change room, as it happens was closed for cleaning. The "Adults Only" change room has separate private showers, each with a curtain. Such is not the case in the "common" change rooms.

In my experience women fall into one of three categories of naked locker room behaviour. You have the "Naked Girl" who really is the subject of this article. On the other end of the spectrum you have the "Under the Towel Girl" who essentially uses her towel as a shield from the outside world unless she is changing in a bathroom stall with the door closed (no judgement here- just an observation). And then you have everything in between. As far as locker room nudity goes, I would classify myself as a middle of the road naked person. I shower, change and leave. Should you find yourself in a locker room next to me, you may see parts of me naked, however, you WILL NOT be able to draw me nude from memory.

I can not say the same for some of my locker room sisters. For there in the "common" shower room was what I could only describe as a cross between a shampoo advertisement and a burlesque show. I recently read that a women's fitness establishment in the US banned nudity in its locker rooms in order to provide women with body image issues with a nonthreatening atmosphere. I must admit, I thought (and still do think) this was ridiculous. I'm all for women having nonthreatening atmospheres but to ask our fellow sisters to change with the "over the bra, under the towel" trick from the safety of a locker room is yet another example of how common sense is the greatest example of literary irony in existence today.

As for the scene in the public shower of the "common" locker room, there she was in all of her splendor, lathering up like a peep show professional, the latest and greatest "Naked Girl". I will spare you the details, but it is safe to say that I am not being a prude when I say that a woman does not need to scrub herself that thoroughly unless she has just been to a nuclear reactor spill. This was a chlorinated pool, not Chernobyl. Having spent a full five minutes in a perverted after school special in the showers, I ventured into the changing rooms only to discover three women standing (I kid you not) full frontal on the benches and putting on lotion. These were three separate women, not three friends. The weather called for naked and I was in the middle of a vagina hailstorm.

I will end it there. As it stands, I blame the the "common" change rooms but in retrospect this was not my first encounter with the inevitable "Naked Girl" who parades around the locker room either chatting on her cell phone or doing her taxes in all her natural glory. We have all seen her. She comes in various shapes and sizes and inevitably her locker is always the one next to ours. "Naked Girl" always engages in conversation, always posing the challenge of where to look when you talk to her and ONLY uses her towel to dry her feet. She makes the even most self assured woman feel a little shy.

I have searched the medical literature to secure some scientific basis for my claim that this woman really should put some clothes on, but I have come up empty. There is little data on the lack of sanitation of the situation.

I did come upon some interesting articles about STD transmission in male locker rooms but this was as a result of sexual activities in said locker rooms. Incidentally, gyms in New York are required by law to enforce the state sanitary code against sex on their premises, often post signs notifying exercisers that "inappropriate behavior" is not permitted.

As for the Girls Gone Wild- locker room edition which we have all encountered, there is little to find, scientifically. However, I believe it was Charles Darwin who said "where science ends, faith begins".

And so, my cyber sisters, let us evolve as Darwin intended us to- save the sexy scrub show for the privacy of your own bathroom or the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Ever a fan of self expression- it really is something that one should do in the comfort of one's own home or peep show window. In the spirit of sisterhood and in the name of all locker rooms everywhere, ladies, I pray that we may strive to find a tiled public changing room where naked women everywhere can co-exist. Where we shall be judged not by the size of our waist to hip ratio but by the name on our gym bag; not by the quality of our breast augmentation, but by the quality of our $75 Bumble and Bumble conditioner. And let us say, Amen.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dog Day Afternoon


Truth be told, my dogs have been in more home movies than the Empire State Building. We live in downtown Vancouver and these two little fluff mutts have been the subject of many a Canon Sureshot on their various walks about town. I usually don't realize how many people take their photos or giggle (yes, grown men have been known to giggle at these animals) at the sight of two long haired chihuahuas prancing down Robson street on a Saturday morning. It was just the other morning that we were out for our usual daily walk when a group of Japanese tourists approached me and asked for photos with my dogs. This has become such a common occurrence that I did not think anything of it. I was, at the time, on my cell phone with my girlfriend when I asked to hold on so that my pups could get ready for "their close up".

"What?" she asked , almost shocked.
"The dogs are getting their photo taken." I responded, rather casually.
"Are you freekin' kidding me?"
"No, it happens all the time..." I remarked. It was then that I realized how much of a habit this had become. I was now immune to the fact that perfect strangers the world over had photos of my dogs among their vacation pictures on various facebooks and twitters the world over. (Incidentally, I still stand by my claim that TWITTER sounds like a sex toy.)

Make no mistake, my dogs are adorable. In fact Lola and Ruby are so cute that they have become the "cute measuring stick" by which I compare all other things.

So the other day while purchasing a fabulous Missoni dress at Winners (yes, Winners- I too was shocked, which is why the dress had to come home with me), I was almost rendered speechless when a man essentially scoffed at my fabulous pups in public. He turned to the dogs sitting patiently in line in front of him and said,

"Couldn't you have left them outside?" At first I was shocked that I had thought I misheard him.
"I'm sorry?" I asked, for clarification more than anything.
"I asked, " he emphasized slowly as if English was my second language, "Could you not have left those rats outside?".

Now, dear reader, lest you judge, in his defense this man was an asshole. I had heard him talking to his shopping partner earlier while standing in line that he "hated shopping." Any man who hates shopping and verbally kicks puppies on a Sunday afternoon either has a personality disorder or is just a bad person.

And so I responded with as much grace as I could muster for a Sunday afternoon in a designer outlet clinging to a dress that was 70% off... The key here was to be witty but polite. I could not have a huge scene in the store, lest I be kicked out before the purchase could be made. So I reached into my bag of witty banter and pulled out the best I could muster...
"Are you normally this rude or are you just having a bad day?", I asked. "And as for my rats... this is designer discount shopping... get a grip."

Make no mistake, I still stayed in line. The dress definitely trumped the obnoxious "dog hater". Just because he was "anti-retail" did not mean I had to be. But the event made me wonder, why do people feel dogs are warranted to the outside? Are dogs really as unhealthy as this man had suggested?

A study in the Journal of Hypertension showed that dog owners with high blood pressure had significantly lower blood pressure responses to stress than non-dog owners by as much as 6-8 mmHg. The study randomized 48 patients with high blood pressure, half were given a dog the other half were left to their own devices. Both groups of patients were placed on medication to control their blood pressure and were evaluated with regular blood pressure monitoring and blood work. At the end of one year patients were compared and the dog owner group of patients had significantly lower levels of certain stress hormones , lower blood pressure and lower triglyceride levels (a form of cholesterol). Another study in the American Journal of Cardiology showed that dog owners had a higher one-year-survival rate after a heart attack than non-dog owners.

Both studies concluded that the physical requirements of owning a dog (walking the dog) and the emotional connection to the dog were both important factors in improving the lives of the dog owners.

And so as I left the Winners store dress in bag and dog in tow, I could not help but rejoice in the fact that not only did I have a new treasure to add to my dress collection, I had the secrets to a long and happy life trailing behind me on fabulous pink leashes. And nothing, not even the passing comments of a "hater" could change those facts. And as if on cue, a group of tourists stopped me on the way home and asked if they could take a photo of my little fountains of youth...

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Day Carrie Bradshaw Broke my Heart




Truth be told, I am a bit of sucker for old movies. Make no mistake I am not a fan of the often-archaic roles relegated to women in these vestiges of the “Golden Age of Cinema”. However, if you look past the stereotypes and chauvinism, you can really see a clear “take home message” - the clothes were fabulous. On my top ten list of Must See flicks has to be Aunty Mame with Rosalind Russell. Dear readers, anyone looking for a little wardrobe inspiration need only rent the movie and fall in love with all that was and is truly fabulous. The woman made wearing a power suit a work of art. She put on a fur muff and a Chanel and had all the swaggart needed in today’s day and age. Almost as important as her wardrobe was Mame’s verbal wit. I will even admit to stealing a few of her lines and using them in my everyday conversations.

Trying to stay interesting and looking for some fashion inspiration, I spent last weekend watching Auntie Mame for perhaps the 10th or so time. Amidst the fabulous lines (words and fashion combined) I realized something pretty disheartening about my style icon. The woman SMOKED! I was floored. She had perfect hair, perfect skin, perfect taste and a perfect (insert irony here) cigarette in her mouth! I felt cheated, betrayed and inspired for my next healthy ranting.

What exactly is the “skinny” on smoking? I’d like to think that cigarettes have been relegated to the relics as easily as stirrup pants but truth be told the statistics have caused me pause. Almost 19% of Canadians smoke (4.9 million Canadians overall). This means about two out of my ten readers (and I know who then ten of you are… thanks for your support) are lighting up as I write this. The numbers vary by province with the highest amount of smokers in Saskatchewan at 23.7% and the lowest numbers in BC (16.4%) and Ontario (16.6%).

Yes, I myself dabbled in the nicotine. I blame being awkward in high school and needing a definite statement to affirm my sense of rebellion. Hell enough with the pedantic word findings, I smoked because it was cool. As a socially uncomfortable chubby 16 year old with good grades and great ambition, I was most certainly in need of something to gently shove me over into the dark side of teenage angst just far enough to emerge one day fairly unscathed with aspirations intact. I needed something that would give me an edge socially but would not jeopardize my future. At first I tried piercing my ear three times but that did not seem to be enough and so, naturally I came up with smoking as the solution. This irony is not lost on me now, after 10 years of being smoke free, I am fully aware that I did sacrifice my lung function at the alter of cool.

The doom and gloom of it all is that smoking kills one in two smokers. In fact there does not exist another government licensed product that knocks off half of its consumers. Female smokers according to the Nurses Health Study have three times the risk of premature death compared to non-smokers. Unfortunately this “death risk” is not dose dependant. Several recent studies have shown reducing the amount of cigarettes one smokes does not lower a person’s risk of heart attacks or strokes.

Why do I nag, you ask?

Well, because according to a recent study in the Canadian Journal of Respirology, I SHOULD. The study shows that 60% of people who do smoke WANT to quit. Furthermore, one randomized control trial of smokers showed that a one-on-one motivational talk with a doctor was 5.2 times more effective at getting patients to quit smoking than simply providing anti-smoking pamphlets.

There it is people, precise evidence that nagging helps. I am no longer a “pain in the ass”, I am a woman of science.

Furthermore, a 2001 study in the Lancet done by doctors at Dartmouth Medical School looked at the 25 top U.S. box office releases for the years 1988 to 1997 -- 250 movies in total. They found that more than 85 percent of the films featured tobacco use and specific tobacco brands appeared in 28 percent of the movies. Hollywood still pushes the smoking agenda and I like so many other vulnerable and easily influenced fashion victims will no longer be sold. You can lead the horse to the PRADA outlet but you can not make her smoke a Marlboro.

SO to my fashion icons of the silver screen… be it Mame Dennis, or Carrie Bradshaw I hereby proclaim…. Please put on your best Dior suit and make an appointment with me immediately. We need to discuss your smoking cessation program. With that, another blog is laid to rest as thousands of smokers stub out their LAST cigarette. My work here is done.