I'm not your bitch, don't hang your shit on me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Memory under lock and key

Every night it’s the same story.

Around 9 p.m., my father yells, “I’m going to shut the gate,” just so that everyone in the house can hear him – lest we forget that he’s walking 14 steps down the driveway and 14 steps back, totalling about 42 seconds of spine-tingling fear on whether he can make it back inside without losing a limb.

He re-enters the house, shuts the door, pulls the house key off a hook, locks the door, jiggles the door knob to make sure he’s locked it properly, places the key back on its hook, makes a half-turn on the landing and retreats to the formidable post on top of the lounge chair as the keeper of the television and four remotes for the electronic paraphernalia in the living room.

His routine sounds normal enough. Everyone has one which they complete on a daily basis: brushing their teeth, washing their hair, or avoiding those annoying telemarketers who call you in the middle of dinner, wondering if you’d like to outfit your home with some new energy-efficient windows (I don’t, so stop calling me).

But, my father’s routine doesn’t end there.

At approximately 10 p.m., this ritual returns: The perpetual motion machine of assurance. He doesn’t perform the same routine as the last time, for that would be redundant.

Before going to the basement to play his nightly game of solitaire on the computer, he pauses at the door, pulls back the curtain, looks at the deadbolt, re-jiggles the doorknob, pulls back the curtain, then heads downstairs where the opportunity of laying the Jack of Hearts on top of the Queen of Spades beckons him for 3 hours of sheer excitement.

You see, my father is like the Energizer Bunny – it just keeps going and going and going. Personally, I think that rabbit must suffer from some form of dementia or retrograde amnesia. You’ve banged the drum once, we get it!

Why does he perform these actions, over and over, again? Certainly, there must be a reason, or reasons, no matter how logical (or nutzo) they are.

But, how do you trust your own actions?

Since my father is getting on in age, it makes sense that his memory fails from time to time. New thoughts filter in (like learning to raise the toilet seat when you have to do one thing in the bathroom), while others get pushed out (like learning to raise both parts of the toilet seat when you have to do something else).

Memory loss happens to the best of us (try telling that to the next person who has to sit on the toilet seat). It is a matter of learning from prior experiences - that is, if you can remember them.

Take, for example, the time when my father went on vacation and didn’t tell me I had to change the oil in his car. There was no red light blinking on the dashboard to remind me of my “duty.” So what if the engine was leaking oil and coolant? So what if the engine almost seized? It wasn’t (entirely) my fault.

My father has stopped bringing it up since there is a large oil stain on the driveway that acts as a constant reminder of my casual carelessness.

I guess this is the reason why my father avoids asking me to help him on anything that requires a tool. It’s always interesting to see which degree of fear will wash across his face, or how he will contort his body in a fight-or-flight reaction, when I ask him if he needs a hand on one of his many ongoing projects.

He’s learned his lesson: If you want something done right, do it yourself.

Or, it could also be a matter of memory loss (which would explain why he still does ask for my assistance once in a while).

Just before my father goes to bed, he walks down to the landing leading to the basement, and yells, “Good night,” through the door. I can still hear him pulling back the curtain and re-jiggling the doorknob through the humming of my television before his trek upstairs.

I guess old habits die hard.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Step away from the Tupperware

It’s a small object that catches the corner of her eye. It shines. It gleams. She walks towards it. She knows she has to have it. Her hand reaches out. It’s getting closer. Yes, yes, she can feel it in her hand. It feels so good. The texture is soft and smooth. It’s brand new. It’s the feeling of having something before anyone has ever had it - a joyous feeling.

Then, suddenly, reality strikes, in the form of my hand smacking hers, like one does to a child who mistakes the bottle of a household cleaner for a bottle of formula. It’s a harsh action for her to snap out of it. Put it down, and slowly move away.

To the untrained eye (and the eyes of the other shoppers), I come across as a controlling husband/boyfriend, demanding my wife/girlfriend not touch a thing unless she has permission from me. But, this isn’t the case. I’m trying to undo the spell that has come over her. She doesn’t need another Tupperware container.

“You need some self-control,” I say.

“I can’t believe you said I don’t have any self-control,” says my friend as she puts her hands on her hips and cocks her head to the side. She’s defiant in her response. “Just last week I was about to get the colour of my cell phone numbers changed.” She knows she deserves credit for resisting the temptation of not changing the colours of her cell phone numbers.

“And, why didn’t you?” I ask.

“Well… I didn’t have the sixty dollars on me,” she sheepishly replies.

Before walking away, I give her a look that says, “Oh, really?” - an attempt to change the topic of conversation.

But, really, what is it that makes her go weak in the knees at the sight of some plastic container? Or, more specifically, what makes her want to buy a dozen of these containers, in eight different colours (all matching – natch), and six different shapes and sizes (since you never know when they’ll come in handy), while credits cards start flying in every which direction, and my friend’s heart beats surreptitiously faster with each “beep” of the cash register?

Can the experience of shopping for plastic with plastic be explained with a logical explanation? That’s hard to say.

It’s easy to pass off these histrionics as irrational. While fellow shoppers listen to our conversation, they glance over in our direction and think, “That could never happen to me.” What they don’t know is that this lapse in self-control can happen to almost anyone – even me.

When shopping in my favourite stores with friends, I walk around with a look of indifference on my face. I act as if there’s nothing that interests me, yet my mind secretly salivates: Ooh, look at this! Ooh, look at that!

Within the walls of these emporiums of consumption, everything epitomizes perfection. The glossy shelves are layered with expertly folded clothes. The sweet fragrances beckon you to their counters. The soft lighting gives your complexion a healthy glow without the aide of a dermatologist. The environment and these objects of instant gratification are too immediate and real. You want it all.

Yet, I don’t buy a thing.

Why am I able to refrain from pulling out my credit card? One reason could be that I am a rational person. I lead with my head and follow with my heart (your head says you need a new pair of shoes, your heart makes you want run past Payless and go directly to Prada). Another reason could be that I can still feel my mother slapping my hand away from “Tupperware” (it hurt when she did it then, and it hurts when she does it now).

Does this make any sense? It does to me, albeit in a Freudian/Pavlovian sort of way.

Before my friend and I move onto the next store, something grabs my attention. It’s a little nothing-thing. I pick it up and notice that it doesn’t cost much; an addition to my collection. I mean, it isn’t like it was Tupperware.

My friend catches me looking at her and at the thing in my hand. She gives me a look. You know the look – a cross between a smirk and a warning. Like a petulant child, I slouch my shoulders and I put it back on the shelf; a little disappointed.

If she can’t buy anything today, then neither can I.

Monday, February 14, 2005

A horse is a horse, of course, of course

But, when is a horse not a horse? That is a very difficult thing to answer.

We are taught, at a very young age, that a horse is an animal with bright eyes, a mane of silky hair and powerful legs allowing it to run majestically through fields.

Of course, that description is used to describe a couple of other animals.

So what makes a horse, a horse? The answer lies in its spelling. H-O-R-S-E.

The process of spelling is the most simple way to identify (and sometimes objectify) a person, place or thing.

There is a link to names and their spellings; a kindred relationship where one does not (and will not) occur without the other.

The same can be said with people and their first names. People identify themselves with their names, no matter how they spell them. Unfortunately, there are quite a few ways to spell Jamie, Jennifer and Loquisha.

Okay, maybe not Loquisha.

But, what happens when we share our names with more than one person? I’m glad you asked.

A few years ago, Madonna wanted to change her Web site name from www.madonnafanclub.com to www.madonna.com. She claimed that she should have the right to name her Web site after herself. Whenever people talked about Madonna, they immediately thought of her.

She has a valid point.

But, she didn’t count on the fact that there is another equally famous Madonna. Has anyone ever heard of her? Virgin Mary…? Mother of God…?

Thankfully, her situation with the Vatican was resolved with an undisclosed dollar amount. But, the rest of the population does not have a Swiss bank account to resolve delicate situations such as those that compromise fragile egos.

That brings me back to the question: Do we identify ourselves with our names, or do our names identify themselves with us?

At the beginning of each school semester, students fear having to go through personal introductions for the umpteenth time for every new teacher.

“Hi, my name is Steven…,” I say as I begin my usual spiel.

“Hi, Steven,” says the teacher. “How do you spell your name?”


I will never spell my name S-T-E-P-H-E-N. It may sound the same, taste the same, lower your cholesterol and get you six-pack abs, but it feels different to me.

“Is it Steven, or do you go by Steve?” the teacher asks, leaning closer.

“Well,” I begin, knowing very well that I have to answer as politely as I can without having to offend the teacher on the first day, “you can call me Steve, but I won’t answer back.” She looks up and raises an eyebrow.

Okay, so I am a little touchy about my name, but I know that I am not the only one. Everyone believes that their names are what make them distinct individuals. They can change their hair colour, their style of clothing and their physical appearance, but their names will always be unique to them.

Steven was the name given to me by my parents. Steven is the name that is a part of my identity.

I am who I am.

I am Steven.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Mission statement

Thoughts, opinions, questions and comments - the epitome free speech. What makes this site different from the rest is that its content is a personal reflection on life and society.

Mine and mine alone.

These postings will not reflect the view of others. The characters used in stories are either fictitious or composites of several individuals, unless otherwise specifically noted.

There are no underlying meanings, unless a guilty subconscious sees them.

Being blamed for any negative consequences is a sign of cowardliness.

I won’t be targeted. I won’t be censored. I won’t be sorry.

It’s human nature.