On the morning that Canada won the gold medal in men’s hockey, I found myself out with some friends to engage in my patriotic duty. V held her eight-month-old son, whose tiny Team Canada jersey and drooly grin enchanted me. I asked if he’d consent to being held without crying.

“Careful,” she said as she handed him over, “You smell him and you’ll be pregnant in no time.” I laughed and breathed in his milky, baby scent.

Three hours later, when I presented my husband with a positive pregnancy test, he sputtered for a moment before shaking his head.

“Jesus, that kid works fast.”


I am tentative and scared, knowing that anything could happen. Children are not protected from harm by being wanted and loved. There is no circle of salt strong enough to keep even something so small and I assume nothing about the fall or any of the weeks that come before it. Still, right now there is a life, something the size of a raspberry with an inexplicably beating heart, and I will celebrate that for as long as there is something to celebrate.

I hope November is bright this year.

How to Get Married in Twelve Easy Steps

Step One: Get Engaged

I don’t know how your story goes, but mine is a little something like this:

I’d threatened him long ago that if he ever proposed at a sporting event that I would say no, but if we wound up on the JumboTron I would not only refuse but also be forced to kill him and bury the body in a shallow grave, which is really more work than I’m up to on any given day. It wasn’t something I worried much about, considering the fact that I once had him 85% convinced that Quidditch was a real sport, but still. Better safe than sorry.

When it happened, it was in our living room. There were no candles, no rose petals. He didn’t get down on one knee. The cat, involved as she was by having the ring box nestled between her paws, looked at us contemptuously as I somehow breathed in the affirmative that yes, I would, of course I would.

We spent a blissful hour as an engaged couple. And then we told people.

Step Two: Tell People

Congratulations! This part is so much fun. Everybody was thrilled for us, and they will be for you too. We’d already decided what we wanted to do. A simple morning ceremony, followed by dinner with our parents and a casual party later in the evening with assorted family and friends. What could be more charming?

Step Three: Have People Tell You All the Ways In Which You Are Doing It Wrong

“What do you mean, no dance? Where are you having this, a Russian gulag?”
“Your grandmother will throw a fit if there isn’t a proper reception. She’s already making noise about haunting you once she’s dead.”
“You’re not legally married in this country if someone isn’t crying with frustration by the end of the day. You’re marrying a lawyer, you should know that.”

Step Four: Eat a Pillow Out of Anxiety

Wash it down with a nice bottle of wine. I personally chose a cabernet sauvignon, but I don’t want to tell you how to live.

Step Five: Give In Compromise

Okay. So G’s dad only asks that his (seven) brothers be invited. Great. And yeah, maybe the morning wedding isn’t convenient for getting ready. Maybe this would be a good opportunity to get all the family together for a happy occasion instead of a sad one, and who doesn’t love dancing?

This is how it starts. If this isn’t how you want it to go, I suggest you shut down your computer right now and run to the nearest city hall. No, faster than that.

Step Six: Ask Your Bridesmaids

You will find out that it is popular to find cute ways to do this, including keepsake handkerchiefs and handmade paper dolls. What actually happens is a little closer to pouring a shot for your oldest friend and saying “SO YA WANNA BE MY MAID OF HONOUR OR WHA?”

Like the trouper she is, she pounds the shot back and gives you a hug. “I FUCKIN’ LOVES YOU AND I WILL DESTROY ANYONE WHO GETS IN THE WAY OF YOUR HAPPINESS SO LET’S DO THIS, BITCH.” Later, at the wedding, she will give a speech that makes all your aunts sniffle, but this one, just between the two of you, is the one closest to your heart. You might not be sisters by blood, but sisters by blood alcohol count must mean something.

Step Seven: Get Vendor Quotes

Bridal etiquette books will tell you that it is not polite to laugh until you cough blood when you receive a catering quote of roughly the GDP of a small country. I say etiquette books lack imagination and must come from old money because seriously, fuuuuuuuuuck that. BBQ buffet it is.

Book a great photographer. The rest will come together later, once you start running out of pillows.

Step Eight: Say Yes to the Dress (and Various Accessories)

Here’s your chance to be the fairytale princess you’ve always wanted to be, if you were the owlish kid whose parents read you all the German versions. Some of the shoes they try to sell you on will put you in Aschenputtel territory quick-smart.

You’ll promise yourself not to get caught up in the whole thing, but the look on your mother’s face when you step up onto the pedestal make you think there’s something special about it, underneath all the ridiculous fuss. Once the veil goes on, it’s all over. You’re a vision in lace and there’s no turning back.

Step Nine: Pinteresting

You’ll find many beautiful wedding ideas on Pinterest. You will, however, have to wade through people who think carving a lace pattern into a watermelon is a perfectly valid use of one’s time.


Tread wisely. Gaze too long into the abyss, and the abyss will hand you a glue gun.

Step Ten: Be Our Guest

I will say this now: there is literally no way to do this without a) going way over budget or b) mortally offending a family member. My advice is to cut something inconsequential and pony up the dough for an extra chicken dinner for that great aunt nobody ever sees. She’s not starting the Seven Years’ War with your mother-in-law, you get a nice card out of it, everyone feels good. Life is too short.

Have pillows on hand for snacking when you do your seating chart, because some relatives won’t sit with other ones on account of the whole feud started at the last goddamn wedding. Thanks a bunch, Cousin With Strong Feelings About Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays That You “Accidentally” Unfriended on Facebook. Thanks a fucking bunch.


Before you know it, the day will be upon you. You’ve hunted people down for their RSVPs, you’ve sold a kidney (not your kidney, but a kidney) to pay for everything, and you’ve buffed your skin to that new car shine. It’s time to get married.

Of course, the morning of the wedding you will be so nervous that you inform your maid of honour that you are about to hork. She will pitilessly throw you, fully clothed, into a cold shower. You will be reminded of why you chose her for the job.

Your hair will be kind of awful. One of your bridesmaids will hand you scissors to fix the raggedy bits. Your photographer will note that not many brides can be found cutting their bangs an hour before the ceremony.

Your dad will cry when he sees you in your dress. Your mom’s hands will shake as she fixes your veil.

You will be late to the ceremony. Your husband-to-be will check his pocket watch at the altar, but you won’t know until later when your father-in-law confides that he had a moment of panic. Just a little one.

You will see him at the end of the aisle and wonder how you ever lived without him, this man with the green eyes who knows your heart like no other. When you say your vows, you will feel an invisible thread that connects you not only to him, but to everyone who’s ever stood in front of their loved ones and said these words, this covenant of something so much older and more sacred than you have ever imagined before this moment.

You will laugh during all your photos, toasting with chicken nuggets procured from Wendy’s by the best man’s brilliant wife. You will laugh harder still at the toasts and jokes and Bill Cosby impressions at the reception. You and your entire bridal party will rap the entire theme from Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

You will cry during your first dance. It will only get worse when you dance with your father.

You will dance until the lights come on and they kick you out, guests partying all the way out the door in their glowstick bracelets and crowns.

Step Twelve: Happily Ever After


Step Thirteen: “So When Are You Gonna Have a Baby?”

Buy more pillows.


Like all good libraries, the one in our town smelled like dust. It mingled with the smell of mildew and burning where the dampness of the outside rain met the shimmer of heat sent up from the baseboards. For a curious and lonely child, there was a holiness and reverence in this place that I never felt in any church. Library smell is incense.

In my small town, I knew many people who saw no appeal in books. They could not understand how I spent so much time with my nose in whatever volume I was reading. Even my own mother, whose lilting recitations of poetry I heard in utero, worried I was spending too much time reading and not enough time outside. I compromised in the summer by taking books outside, poring over pages dappled by sunlight through the trees, so absorbed in the stories that I did not notice the breeze peppering my hair with dandelion seeds.

Books followed me everywhere. Anne Shirley sat with me at the dinner table, while Sara Crewe primly avoided being splashed in the bath. With a flashlight under the covers at night, I revelled not only in the tales of these texts, but of their physical being. Before I ever understood anything of sex, I knew the heady satisfaction that came with the coarseness of pages and the way they whispered together with the sheets, book smell surrounding me with acidic hints of vanilla and sweetgrass.

As I grew up and tentatively stepped out from behind the spine of a book and into the oft-confusing world of relationships with other human beings, the impact of my learnings remained. I am more easily charmed by a wordsmith than any other. You will hear not the slightest shame from me when I say that I am a vocabulary size queen. Language is my greatest weakness, which is why meeting people who do not read is baffling to me. The people who brag that they haven’t picked up a book since high school fill me with a mixture of ire and pity. A man once tried to pick me up with that line, saying he had better things to do. In his case, he meant the gym (he did have a certain marble-sculpted quality about him), but an attitude like that is the end of the line for me. So little curiosity speaks poorly of one’s imagination. In fifty years, when time has whittled his body down, he still will not know what is beyond the looking glass or why the caged bird sings. And he will not care.

When I was still an innocent naif, it was no surprise that books eventually led to a greater understanding and appreciation of sensual experiences. What shocked me, years later, was how much the inverse was true. Lustful moments were narrated in my head as they happened, my frantic frontal lobe struggling to find the words that matched the way it felt when I realized that sometimes lingual has nothing to do with speech. The right adjective can make me flush to the roots of my hair, my eyes glazing as I conjugate verbs, sound memory coming in onomatopoetic bursts. These images are not pictures, but description. They are glissando shudders of anticipation, the fleur de sel taste of skin in the dark.

In spite of the mental narration, words from other people are an addiction, and not just those from authors and poets. I save particularly well-constructed e-mails from friends. The few handwritten letters I have received are among my most treasured possessions, and I know them by heart. On days when I lament ever having fallen in love with a man who is incredibly reserved in professing the same, I open the bedside drawer and read the affirmations of fervor and fidelity. The elegant scrawl on yellow legal paper is soothing, for I remember that he lives in action, not words, but he has crossed over on occasion just because I needed it.

I know there is more to life than the words that describe it. There is beauty and grace beyond the horizon of what language can describe. I am no longer a lonely observer of the world around me. Still, I always see flickers of another world underneath the surface, like swimming fish. The dense weight of a book in my hand will pull me under without so much as a struggle.


My body has lost its ability to sleep in. A year ago, Saturdays were for lolling in bed, listening only to the whisper of rustling covers. Suddenly, out of nowhere, my body snaps to attention at 7:45 AM, just like clockwork. I’m usually up much earlier, of course, but the insistent medieval bell chimes of the phone alarm bears the responsibility for that. It’s the only thing that fuels enough hatred to haul me out of bed on a Monday morning just to make it stop, just fucking STOP already I’m UP Jesus CHRIST.

On Saturdays, I wake quietly and slip out of the room with the stealth of a cat burglar. My partner, bear-like in his inclination to hibernate, can still sleep in. So I let him.

I don’t know what this shift means. All my life I’ve had early mornings for school and work, but never this clear-headed alertness on a day where there are no expectations of me. Perhaps my body is preparing me for something.


I never intended to work with the elderly. My career training has all been for children and adolescents, for boundless energy and constant crisis. When the agency that hired me for my original line of work asked if I’d be willing to take on extra hours caring for seniors, I agreed with no little sense of discomfort.

My first day was spent learning to care for a man who was now bedridden. Cancer had whittled his strong form down to bones and delicate rice paper skin. In another life, another body, he had been a farmer. I spent Sundays there cleaning and feeding him. I talked to him sometimes, but he never replied. His bride, now bent and creased, was a cheerful lady who chatted with me about the weather and my home province. She never talked about him other than to ask how much he’d eaten or to mention he was on a new medication.

One day I arrived early and found her sitting by his side. She was holding his hand and talking to him. It was the only time I ever saw him lucid. I don’t think I ever told G why I came home that day and sobbed into his chest. He put his arms around me like he always does, unfailing and steady, while I wordlessly begged for the impossible. Stay like this. Just like this, always.

The days got harder. But I got better at them.

Over the year, I got assigned several more elderly clients. And somehow, I fell head over heels in love with my job. When a tiny French centenarian tells you her only remaining goal is to outlive Bob Barker, how can you not?

When you are young, you are in the greatest state of flux and yet somehow that is the state you think will last forever. I have never met a sixteen-year-old who has given any serious thought to what it will be like when she is eighty. When she is a world-famous poet who is married to Robert Pattinson, yes, but not the simple, quiet process that happens to every one of us without us really noticing. She will not see the beauty of white hair and fragile hands.

I see the beauty now, but I also see the fear. I am afraid of the idea of losing my ability to walk, of having someone to feed and bathe me, of burying the person I share my life with. I can no longer pretend these things won’t happen. But this is the natural order of things. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. And there is beauty in that too.


I am awake, wondering what my body is preparing for. Or perhaps it’s telling me to listen.

Early spring birdsong and the sound of my lover’s breathing. This is the sound of impermanence.

My Week as a Cosmo Girl

Cosmopolitan magazine is a mystery to me. At nearly 28 years old, I am allegedly still in the target demographic, but I don’t know a single soul my age who reads it. Of course, we read it in high school, back when we should have been reading Seventeen, which we read in elementary school, when we should have been reading Highlights, which we read in utero.

Oh, Goofus and Gallant. You so opposite.

Still, as a twenty-something woman with disposible income, a G-spot, and crippling insecurity, Cosmo has so much to offer me. Every time I go to the grocery store, there it sits, waiting to take me under its well-toned wing and give me all the secrets to a better relationship and poutier lips. It wants to give me a million orgasms per second. It has my best interests at heart!


Day 1:

I can see it in G’s eyes when I bring the magazine to the checkout. It’s the look of a man who knows he’s about to have a more powerful and sexy girlfriend in mere days. It looks a lot like a cocktail of disdain and confusion with a soupçon of fear, but it’s okay. He’s a WASP-y lawyer. That’s just what excitement looks like for him.

When I get the magazine home, I open it with glee. Who knows what kind of wisdom I’m about to gain?


After fifteen pages of ads, I finally get to a table of contents. One of the first things I learn is that there is such a thing as a butt facial. I feel more empowered already, so I go to fix a sandwich. Then I find out there’s a Parking Wars marathon airing and promptly forget about the magazine. This is not a good start.


Day 2:

My job is in trouble. How have I been teaching independent living skills to adults without being privy to such useful knowledge?


I call my boss immediately to tell her I’m a fraud. She is unmoved by my wails and tells me she is not going to fire me. She then tells me that it is not strictly necessary for my job to know that Channing Tatum thinks it’s endearing when a woman doesn’t give up on something, but she seems thankful for the information. At least, I think so. She hangs up on me after that.

Day 3:

I have got to stop getting sidetracked from my self-improvement journey. Time to sit down and actually make it through this issue. Are there supposed to be all these ads? They’re making me tired. I’ve never spent so much time thinking about my pores. I need a nap.

NO! No. I can do this.

Well, this is interesting. I’m learning tips on how to make my perfectly serviceable jeans into sexy ones by cutting holes in them. There’s nothing saying what kind of shape the holes should be. What do I do? Hearts? Stars? Pokemon? Fashion director Michelle McCool (shut up, that is NOT your real name because that isn’t anybody’s fucking name) isn’t saying. Maybe I’d better skip this.

An interview with Selena Gomez? Who? Wizards of what? Bieber why now? I don’t think I got the English version of this article. Moving right along.

Okay, I’m seeing a lot of sultry eyes and pursed lips. I can do that.

This is EASY. I feel sexier already.


Day 4:

Now that I’m feeling more confident in my Fun Fearless Female status, it’s time to up the ante with “Ballsy Moves Guys Love.” G won’t know what hit him.

“It looks like it’s going to snow tomorrow,” he remarks over dinner.

Now is my time. I laugh. I laugh loud and long. It is the sound of a million baby seals crying out as one. They are silenced when I black out. How’s THAT for ballsy moves, G?

He doesn’t say anything when I come to. He hands me a cold glass of water and disappears into his office for the rest of the night. I guess he wasn’t ready for this jelly. WELL TOO BAD. YOU’RE GETTING ALL THE JELLY YOU CAN STAND. IT WILL BE COSMO-APPROVED LEVELS OF JELLY ALL UP IN THIS APARTMENT SO THERE.

I comfort myself by reading a story about some woman messing with her roommate’s mind. It’s funny, I guess, but nothing will ever top the Sour Times story so why even bother?

Day 5:

Okay, so the laughter experiment didn’t work. Maybe he needs more time. I guess I should continue focusing on me for a while. He’s been in that office a long time.

Ooh, 15 feel-good things to start planning right now! I love plans. Sometimes I even make them.

Hmm. Sex playlists. Redecorating. Shopping sprees. Birthday party themes. I don’t… hm. Well.

Is it possible that these things are all really shallow? Have I been steered wrong?

Oh, wait. “What you’ll say when you meet Ryan Gosling.” I guess I haven’t given you enough credit, Cosmo. That’s absolutely the kind of thing I’ve been planning for years. I have so many questions about Breaker High, you don’t even know.

Hey girl.


Day 6:

I was going to try the sex tips today. After reading about lasering off pubic hair, I needed to lie down for several hours with an ice pack. I’ll let you guess where the ice pack was.

No, Mr. Labia. I expect you to die.



Day 7:

Having finally exorcised the mental image of a laser tilling my ladygarden, it’s time for the sex tips. I have learned my lesson on involving G in my Cosmofication without his consent, so I give him the list and a red pen with instructions to get back to me on which ones he is okay with.

An hour later, he comes back pale and shaken. He hands me the magazine and puts his head in his hands. I wait patiently for a response. Finally, he lifts his head.

“Please. Please, for the love of a God I’m not sure I believe in anymore, do not do these things. There is nothing wrong with sex the way we have it. We do not need… whatever these are.”

“Even the one with the–”

“ESPECIALLY the one with the… yeah. Please. No.”

I don't know Tiff, but I'm fairly sure she has many psychological issues.

Defeated, I close the magazine. Now how will I ever know if the orgasms I’m having are the right kind?


Day 8: Epilogue

Maybe I’m just not meant to be a Cosmo girl. I don’t have a whole wardrobe of designer clothes that go from day to night with the proper accessories. I don’t have a nondescript office job with the kind of income that could justify buying enough foundation to fill in a pothole. I definitely don’t have a boyfriend with the patience to follow all the mind games I’m supposed to play in order to keep his interest.

So why do I feel so awesome anyway?


Heeeey. So.

You look good. Did you do something different with your hair? No? New shirt?

Oh. New nose. Well, it looks fantastic. You can hardly notice that thing that used to be on it.

Okay. Okay okay okay. Forgive me, followers, for I have sinned. It has been fuck knows how long since my last confession. But I have a really good excuse.

I am really lazy, you guys. So lazy. If I weren’t so irritating I wouldn’t even get out of my own way.

God, this is awkward. It’s my first game of Seven Minutes in Heaven all over again, but with fewer mediocre-looking erections. (Except, uh, you in the back. That’s… flattering. Thank you.)

In 2012, I will be a better blogger. Cross my icy little heart.

Really, the nose looks great.



As soon as I posted this, WordPress popped up to let me know I’d published my 24th post. Next goal: 25!

Way to give me the bright purple participation ribbon of shame, WordPress.

A Truth Universally Acknowledged

In every age of mankind, philosophers and scientists have pondered the unknowable nature of reality and the universe. Though I cannot lay claim to being either, with all our paradigms shifting into post-something, I find myself holding steadfast to the several irrefutable and objective truths I have come to know in my life.

The Drunk Girl Theorem: As the value of x (the number of drunk girls in a group at a club) increases, there is a positive correlation with the value of y (the amount of shots taken). Where x reaches a value of 3 or higher, the probability of z (at least one girl crying in the bathroom) approaches 1. If the y value represents Jägermeister, the z value expands to include physical aggression including, but not limited to: pushing, slapping, weave-pulling, eye-gouging.

Fig. 1: "Why isn't Chad texting me back?"

The “In Both Cases, Directions Help” Law: Nobody drives or gives oral sex as well as they think they do. Present company included, since the way I do both tends to involve me mixing up my right and my left. That trick of the left hand making the L-shape will only get you so far and some people become offended.

Fig 1.2: Yeah, it LOOKS easy.

The Nice Guy Paradox: I’ve gone over this before, but if he has to say he’s a nice guy, he probably isn’t. The corollary of this is that if he says he’s messed up/bad at relationships/a serial killer with mommy issues, he almost assuredly is. In either case, not worth the aggro. Just buy your own drink and invest in some AA batteries. (For the men screaming “But wait! What should we say about ourselves then, eh, smart guy?”: I don’t know. Just don’t say anything. Go find a guy doing and saying things that make him look like a goatse-level gaping asshole and then don’t do or say those things. I’m barely spinning my own plates here, dude.)

Fig 1.3: An all-too-common refrain.

The Long-Distance Problem: Long-distance relationships suck. They just do. You’ll find yourself missing all these things about your partner that you didn’t know you ever noticed, like their handwriting and the way they pronounce the word “delightful”. Over the winter months, you will begin to feel that body hair maintenance is a pointless exercise and you need it for the extra warmth in your empty, empty bed so what’s the damn point? You will start questioning all you ever knew about the concept of home and start thinking it could just as easily apply to a person instead of a place.

Fig. 1.4: Bigger than you think it is.

The Red Wine Effect: If you have been used to liquor for all of your drinking life, you will not view wine as real booze. This will be your first mistake. At some point after your third glass, you will realize that the insides of your lips feel cottony and you will start thinking that it’s really weird that you know so many people whose names begin with the letter L. By the time the last few drops have been drained from glass number five, you will be telling all present, loudly and often, about your genius plan to build an entire house out of Legos. When the bottle is empty, you will be wearing Betty Boop pajamas and a paper crown and you will be crying about a childhood movie about a dog that you haven’t seen in fifteen years. You will forget your habit of chewing on the lip of your glass generally only works when said glass is not as thin and delicate as spun sugar, and you will wind up halting all conversation in the room with a shattering sound. Every head will turn and see you spitting shards of glass out of your mouth with an audible “pleh!” sound and a nonchalant expression that implies this happens every single day. You will pass out on a futon and wake up the next day wishing for the baby Jesus to come and hold a pillow over your face with his tiny, holy arms until you slip into a blissful oblivion that does not contain sunlight or the smell of bacon.


Um. Yeah. Totally universal.

The Black Velvet Band

St. Patrick’s Day isn’t really a holiday I celebrate. I do have Irish heritage; the O’Sullivans came over from Kilkenny several generations ago and dropped the O somewhere along the way to become just Sullivan, my last name at birth before my parents’ marriage. I couldn’t even tell you exactly when they arrived here. Despite the fact that it’s become trendy to be Irish, it’s not something I think about much, and I certainly don’t connect it with green beer or fake accents that sound like they came wrapped in cellophane at the bottom of the Lucky Charms box. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone else’s fun, it’s just not for me. It’s not my story.

Well, not quite. St. Paddy’s Day seven years ago is an exception. I remember that there was a little house full of people rattling the rafters with booming voices singing about pretty colleens. That was the day my grandmother was buried.

You’d think us awful if you’re used to the more sombre affairs that funerals generally are. There was no real talk of how it was a lovely service or that the flowers were beautiful. Instead, we sent our matriarch off with songs and laughter and not a little irreverence. Wallowing and sniffling was not her way, nor was it ours.


There’s no right way to write about her. I’ve tried so many times. I couldn’t speak at her funeral for the tears, but even with dry eyes, what can I say? What words do I have in my vocabulary to make you understand what she meant to me, to all of us?

I could start by telling you about her faith, all the mornings with whispered hail Marys and prayer cards to St. Anne. How the last time I ever spoke with her she ran calloused fingers over her prayer beads and explained to me the Mysteries of the Rosary, glorious and joyful and luminous and sorrowful, and how that moment standing by her hospital bed could be described as any of those things. I could tell you about her little quirks, the shirts stained with food and socks full of holes, the way she called her doctor Fuck-Knuckles when she disagreed with any diagnosis he offered, or the way she was almost as faithful to The Young & The Restless (and Victor Newman) as she was to God himself. I could tell you that her eyes were tired from a life not always kind to her, but that the way they crinkled up when she laughed made you think of what she must have been like when her face was unlined and her fingers held neither knots nor rings.

But children are selfish about their caretakers, because the only way we’ve ever known them is in relation to us. I can’t speculate about what her hopes and dreams must have been, because I have no idea. To me, she’s a branch on the family tree too high to see clearly.


I remember it snowed on St. Paddy’s Day that year, with big fat flakes fluttering down as we left the graveside service. I thought that it must have been her way of saying goodbye, or reminding us to wear gloves.

Before long, her tiny house was full of people, neighbours and friends and so, so many people she’d had a hand in bringing into the world. I remember thinking about how she’d given birth in that very same house with her own mother as the midwife. It’s no wonder that even in the face of death, all we could do was think about how so much life had come from her, the joyful mysteries overtaking the sorrowful.

It was a kitchen party, so of course guitars appeared as though out of thin air. We sang songs about Paper Rosie and Mary of the wild moor and Sarah, Sarah, won’t you come out tonight, when someone mentioned an old Irish ballad my grandmother had used to sing. Stories started pouring out then, the older children remembering her singing it to the younger, the younger children remembering her singing it to the grandchildren. Little by little, the voices started to chime together and sing The Black Velvet Band, the words coming out in unison like a muscle memory of something we’d all forgotten we knew. We sang as loudly as we could as if she would somehow hear us, babies singing a lullaby to a mother already sound asleep.

It’s the only St. Patrick’s Day I really have any memory of, because it’s the only one with a real connection. Who I am has nothing to do with shamrocks. Where I come from has more to do with a woman whose eyes, they shone like the diamonds, so you’d think she was queen of the land.


As my mother so delicately put it, our ragtag little family came together because of “a beautiful, drunken mistake.”

I know what she means. My parents were barely out of their teens when their casual relationship resulted in yours truly. The year surrounding my birth is a story in and of itself, involving wacky misunderstandings, dramatic reveals, bar brawls, and a vengeful ex-girlfriend, but it’s not my story to tell. Somehow they managed to scrape together whatever bits of maturity they had and make a home, but it’s a hardscrabble sort of life for two overgrown kids with a baby. There was never enough money, never enough time to catch up. They did what they could to keep the plates spinning.

When I was seven, our tiny tin-roofed trailer took in a boarder. Craig was the guitarist in my dad’s band and a professional couch nomad. He explained to me once that he didn’t have a permanent address and just floated around wherever he felt like it. I asked him once if he was like The Littlest Hobo.

“Well, shit,” he said thoughtfully. “I guess I am that fuckin’ dog. Just goin’ around the road and shit. Except I guess I never saved someone from no goddamn train car or whatever it is he fuckin’ does. I just kill the locals with sick guitar solos and fuck off out of it.”

He always talked like that. He didn’t mean anything by it, but his speech was peppered with as many “fuck”s and “shit”s as there were nouns. Every sentence was a work of art in the medium of sheer profanity. My mother furrowed her brow at the way he spoke, but studiously ignored it in exchange for rent and the fact that he was willing to engage me in rambling conversation so she could get dinner on the table.

Once you got past the language, Craig had a strange way with children. At a somewhat brainy seven, I was used to being condescended to or treated as an adorable sideshow, but he treated me like a well-admired peer who just happened to be really short and obsessed with ponies.

“Whatcha readin’ today, li’l mama?”

I looked up from the ancient copy of National Geographic. “I’m learning about Burkina Faso.”

“You know most girlies your age are readin’ about unicorns and magic fuckin’ kittens and shit? That’s pretty supremely fuckin’ cool. Who the shit is Burkina Faso?”

“It’s a country,” I said. “Not a person.”

“That’s good enough for me. I bet you can tell me all the fuck about it now, so let’s hear it.”

And so it went. I’d go off excitedly about whatever new information I’d just picked up, and he’d actually listen. I don’t think he retained any of it, just like I forgot all the chords he tried to show me, but like any two people who aren’t used to being heard, we had an understanding.

“I tell you, mama, you’re fuckin’ goin’ places.” He’d say this all the time, but on this particular day, there was a note of melancholy in it. I peered owlishly at him through my glasses as he pulled a cigarette from behind his ear and lit it.

After a beat, he spoke again. “You listen to me, kiddo. You’re special. A real diamond. Don’t become no cocksuckin’ washout like me.”

“You’re not a washout.” I said it because I believed it rather than out of any sense of loyalty. Craig played a bluesy Lohengrin on his electric guitar for my Barbie weddings. Sometimes he would play it with his teeth and play it well. How could he not be magic?

“Li’l mama, I sleep on your fuckin’ couch and play guitar for a living. That ain’t nothin’ anyone needs to be proud of.”

“Dad does that. I’m proud of my dad.”

He puffed on his cigarette. “That’s different. For one, your daddy don’t sleep on no couch, he sleeps in a bed with one of the hottest pieces of ass I’ve ever seen, if you’ll excuse me saying so about your mom.”

I nodded, mostly because I had no idea what he was talking about.

“Second of all, that ain’t all your daddy is. He does it for you. He loves his tunes, but he loves you more. Me, I do this shit because there’s fuckall else I wanna do, which ain’t no way to live your life. You listen to me. You gotta have something to do it for.”

“Do what?”

“Anything. Fuckin’ anything. You make goddamn sure you have a reason.”

He moved out that Sunday.

It’s been a lot of years since that trailer and a whole lot of life since that little girl. I haven’t gone to any of the places in National Geographic or the ones I was supposed to go in Craig’s head. Lately, I’ve been having a crisis of wondering why I bother with writing. I fall asleep on my own couch after hours of trying to produce something readable and it’s so, so frustrating. I don’t know that I’ll ever do much of anything with it, but it’s enough to have a reason. See, I finally decided that I’m going to push on with it regardless in search of maybe someday finding and making something special.

A real fuckin’ diamond.

Busting Out All Over

There are three little words that every big-busted woman out there has grown to know and love. “I’m up here.”

In the interest of precision and honesty, I will tell you that at current measurements, I am a 36H. To give you a bit of context for that, picture a fairly normal ribcage and stack two cantaloupes on it side by side. I don’t blame you if you can’t quite picture it, though. Even Google has a hard time with it. For comparison, I just typed “36C” into Google Images.

Mostly breast-related, right? Now try “36H”.

After several pages of results, there’s nary a tit to be seen. When I typed in “36H breasts” (an activity I highly recommend if you’re at work, by the way), the results may as well have come back like this.

It’s aggravating, to say the least.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate my body. Aside from the back problems, I kind of dig the buxom look. Strap those suckers up right and I can fill out a sweater so well you’d speak in tongues. It’s not the breasts. It’s the accompanying… unpleasantness.

The indignity starts as soon as I get dressed in the morning. Where a woman of more modest proportions has bras, I have buttresses. I open the drawer to see plain black and beige staring back at me like a stern German governess. The odd bit of cheerful bright lace peeks out, but the price tag relegates them to special occasion status. Sorry, flirty blue, sultry red, pretty purple. I can’t play today. You are a Sometimes Bra. Fräulein needs to go to work now.

Wait, let me back up a second. Did I mention the price tag? Because shelling out the equivalent of one of my utility bills to look like someone’s tattooed grandmother under my clothes is not an experience I particularly relish. It is of no help whatsoever that when I go into La Senza (the Canadian equivalent of Victoria’s Secret and just as incompetent, if not moreso), I am set upon by some clueless salesgirl who is dead set on selling me whatever bra is the next big thing. The last time I was there looking for underwear, this exchange followed.

Perky Salesgirl: Hi! Can I interest you in the new WatersexxxTek bra? It features a triple push-up with water-filled inserts and a clever hidden atomizer filled with our newest perfume, Fancy Pomegranate Slut!

Me: No thanks. I’m just here to look at the underwear. Where are those little Brazilian cheeky things that are really ass-flattering?

Perky Salesgirl: Are you sure? It’s available in all 216 hexadecimal colour codes!

Me: No thank you. You guys don’t actually carry my size, so I’ll just continue looking at the underwear, thanks. Where are the ones I was looking for?

Perky Salesgirl: (confused) We don’t carry your size? We have everything up to DD-cup!

Me: Ha. Hahaha. No. I’m an H-cup. The underwear…?

Perky Salesgirl: …are you sure a DD-cup wouldn’t fit?

Me: I… what? Yes, I’m sure. Having had them since elementary school, I know where my tits are and are not willing to go. They will bound cheerfully into well-fitted bras, the odd corset, and into the capable hands of professorial-looking dudes in glasses. They will balk like a spooked horse at going into strapless dresses, halter tops, games of strip poker since 2007, and I can tell you as sure as I’m standing here that they are not going anywhere close to a DD-cup bra.

Perky Salesgirl: I can check in the back for an E-cup…

Me: No. Please find me an employee who will help me find what I’m looking for. Preferably one that is of voting age.

And so forth.

It’s the comments that really seal it, though. What’s weird is that the worst of it doesn’t come from men. Men stare too long sometimes, but only the most juvenile and crass will say something. Pretty much all the worst and most demeaning comments come from other women.

“Ugh, thank God I don’t look like that. I don’t know how she stands up.” (Just fine, thanks. You’d find it doesn’t impede my right hook much, either.)

“Holy shit, you’ve got really big boobs.” (Holy shit! So I do. I managed not to look down once since puberty.)

“Wow, Jugs! No trouble to tell what the guys like you for, is it?” (Thank you! I didn’t realize intelligence and a daffy sense of humour was as obvious upon first glance as being a shallow bitch!)

“Are they real? Can I touch them?” (They are imaginary and no you may not.)

I probably sound bitter and I don’t mean to. It’s just that I’ve had a total of seventeen years of this kind of bullshit, and it gets tiresome.  It’s not much fun being remembered by casual acquaintances as “the one with the tits”. It’s kind of irritating to be treated like Sideshow Boob by strangers.

Still, it’s hard not to smile on those good days, the tight sweater days. A little vexation and a whole lot of va-va-voom. Not the worst trade-off.