much music

24HRS: Atlanta RAPPER EXTRAORDINAIRE

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24hrs (IG: @2fourhrs) and I (Christina/VanIsReal.com) after his show at Fortune Sound Club

What do you love about Vancouver?

I mean so far the weather was super cool, like the snow. It was like snowing, but it wasn’t too cold, so it was like super lit. And then, like, the people have really nice hospitality. It’s cool so far.

If you’ve ever felt like a freak or an outsider, what helped you through it?

The freak part? Like what type of freak? I’m just playing with you. Just following my dreams and people actually supporting what I do, like, and maybe at first people didn’t get it or understand it, but to see everyone scream my lyrics to my song, it looks like being the outsider or being different or being a freak or whatever it is helped me, and it paid off, so continue doing what you’re doing.

Here’s a link to his soundcloud: 24hrs soundcloud.

Background story from my perspective: I almost never go to live shows even though I often go out dancing to DJs, because it’s always a risk…you never know what you’re going to get. Another requirement for me if I’m going to see a live show is that I wanna hear music that lets me release some of my aggression and energy, so I gravitate towards rap shows since artists in this genre most often give me what I need out of a live show.

Anyways, I work super close to Fortune Sound Club and tonight while at work I thought I should take a look and see what was going on at Fortune tonight (Saturday, February 4th). I found out that an Atlanta rapper called 24hrs was doing a show.

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24hrs Open EP: No throwaway songs…he’s oozing talent.

Before tonight, I hadn’t heard of him and I didn’t listen to a second of his music before purchasing a ticket for myself and my boyfriend. I took a risk in spending $50 plus dollars on an artist I’d never heard (though during his show I realized I already did know some of his songs, I just didn’t know he was the artist performing them), and it was SO WORTH IT.

My job can be stressful at times and tonight my coworker and I were on the receiving end of intense anger coming from tenants of the building we work at, so I needed something to make me feel good after work. I felt reinvigorated after this show and I was on cloud nine after 24hrs let me interview him!

24hrs is such a present, confident, and fun artist. He owned the stage all the way. His music sounded so beautiful, tight, and powerful live and I am now a huge fan of 24hrs! I am always on the lookout for motivational, intense songs to add to my workout playlist, and I’ll be adding 24hrs EP Open tomorrow.

Thank 24hrs…I’m so happy to have some new special music to listen to.

Alfred Drinking Coffee and Chatting with VanIsReal

Alfred Zagloul loves coffee. This simple premise was used as the inspiration for his incredibly popular account (Alfred started his Instagram on September 1st, 2016 and he’s already up to 2397 followers as of January 17th, 2017) and it’s worked out swimmingly.

Even if you don’t love coffee (I’ve been off it for 2 weeks, but I’m sure my addiction will rear it’s ugly head again soon enough), I think his account is worth following if you use IG because his expression makes me laugh and without Alfred using any words it’s like he’s letting people know, “I feel ya”. Life ain’t always easy, but the best thing we can do is laugh at ourselves, and that’s why @alfreddrinkingcoffee is such an impactful account!

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Alfred at Revolver on Cambie.

It was my first time at Revolver and the music was my favourite part of the coffee shop: old school U2 and the War on Drugs were playing while we were there.

In addition to how amazing he is on IG, Alfred was kind, interesting, and easy to talk to in real life, so I give this “Accountant by day/Coffee Drinker also by day” (the tagline on Alfred’s IG) two thumbs up!

What do you love about Vancouver?

“Obviously, the biggest thing for me is the coffee culture in general. So, I love how everywhere you go in Vancouver, 90% of the people love coffee. Every shop that you go to has a different vibe, has a different flavour, so you get a real taste, a huge variation of tastes and flavours around Vancouver, which is really rare to see in some cities, so I love that about Vancouver.”

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If you’ve ever felt like a freak or an outsider, what helped you through it?

“Ok, so I had to really think about this. So, there’s been a couple times where I just felt like an outsider here and there, and I, honestly, the reason why I love coffee so much is because of the coffee shops themselves. So I’d go to a coffee shop, sit down and you feel like you’re a part of a group, even though you’re not really. You can just sit there and enjoy, hear some random conversations, hear what is going on around you and just enjoy the atmosphere of a good coffee shop. Usually, that’s my go-to if I ever do feel like an outsider or anything like that.”

Where did you come up with the idea for your Instagram?

“Honestly, a lot of my co-workers noticed that I’m obsessed with coffee before we did this. And they’re like, “Alfred you need to have an account.” So, we started pitching ideas and thinking about what we should do, and next thing I know here I am with colourful shirts, staring deadpan into the camera, and drinking coffee. Thought the most simple idea was the best way to go, so that’s where the idea came from basically.”

Kim and Kanye Have Contributed

 

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(Kanye’s ex Alexis, Kanye, and Kim in 2007…they look so young!)

It is all too easy to hate on Kim Kardashian and Kanye West for reasons that are not even remotely outside of their own doing. The Kardashians and Mr. West in my opinion all place too great an emphasis on the importance of physical appearance and material goods (a trap I often find myself falling into…except I’m doing so on a much smaller budget). This obsession with looks and things, in addition to constantly showing off these things, irritates a lot of people and makes Kim and Kanye easy targets. Now that Kanye has met with Trump and said he’d have voted for Trump if he’d voted at all, it seems like Kanye’s been lost to the dark side (since I agree that Trump is a man with many racist, sexist, and frightening beliefs that can and will hurt a lot of people). But Kanye’s behaviour slowly but surely crossed over from over-the-top celebrity behaviour to that which appears to be that of a sick person. It is true that I have contributed to his sickness in my own small way by giving attention to Kanye for the outlandish things he says, which probably has allowed his possible mental illness to fester and grow because it was going unchecked. I don’t think all of these outlandish things are irrelevant or wrong, because many times I think Kanye has told the truth about North American culture. Kanye shouldn’t have ripped the mic out of T-Swift’s hand, but I have no idea what the video she was winning the award for is, and I can easily visualize Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video that lost. West’s sentiment was right, action was sooo wrong.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West holding hands as they arrive at the Hakkasan restaurant

Kanye and Kim have stood out among from the crowd because most people, especially celebrities, only attempt to share information about themselves that makes themselves look good or that is flattering. I’ve done a lot of stupid things and struggled with my mental health in the past, so I always feel like a weirdo around people who seem like they have it all together…or who are unwilling to open up about not having it all together. Why I think Kim and Kanye are people I’m so attracted to is because they’ve never pretended to have it all together. I like that Kanye has said what is on his mind at the time, even though I’ve found many of his comments frustrating, disgusting, potentially harmful to others, etc., I do first and foremost respect someone who will speak his truth at the time that it is happening rather than constantly trying to think of how he should present himself to others. Remember this:

It is refreshing, because it often feels like no matter how glaringly obvious certain things are in our society oftentimes no one will call it out. Kanye will call it out, but as we can see with his recent mental health struggles, maybe calling out the truth contributes to developing mental health problems (as well as being so famous that no one tells you no and so Kanye’s ego has continued to grow bigger and bigger which also doesn’t help any mental health issues). 

I got fired from a restaurant I worked at for speaking my mind (and crying while working a couple times…oopsy), so I’ve learned to shut the fuck up and not speak my mind at all times. The greatest thing I took away from getting fired is to not speak my mind when I know the audience I’m speaking to is not going to share my perspective and will likely use what I say (especially when I knew the truth was irrelevant to my bosses…I was told by my manager at this restaurant to lie to him when I didn’t want to take a shift and since I don’t drink, as I’m a recovering alcoholic, he told me to lie and tell customers I drink to sell alcohol better…I told him that I’d rather have him be mad at me than lie…ha…probably shouldn’t have done that considering the outcome of my employment there. Yet, now I have a job I love where I can be more of myself, so in the end, maybe it was worth saying what I felt was the truth…who knows…).

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West bring kids North and Saint West to Serendipity restaurant in New York City

Nevertheless, I don’t think that everything Kanye and Kim have done is negative. Yes, while even my cultural psychology textbook at UBC this past semester took time out to claim that Keeping Up With the Kardashians is completely mindless entertainment (I disagree…it is mostly mindless, but there are also some worthwhile messages the show has put out). Needless to say that Kim and Kanye have become scapegoats for individuals who want to show that they are any number of things, such as 1) they’re above consuming popular culture, 2) they’re not superficial, 3) they have better things to do than care about these people (ummm…then why are you taking the time to bash them?), and 4) the world is headed toward ruin unless we start to focus on what is important.

What I think is sometimes forgotten is that entertainment is intended to help people either escape from their problems or to offer solace that someone else is aware of or understands what you’re going through. Kim and Kanye have offered me both of these things many, many times over the last 10 years. For that I still have loyalty towards them, even though I am repulsed by some of the things that they do. There are people out there who work incredibly hard and don’t necessarily want to watch something “deep” when they’re at home trying to unwind. Watching Khloe Kardashian and Kris Jenner get drunk in a Mexican restaurant then seeing them tee-pee a very pregnant and bitchy Kim Kardashian’s house was hilarious. Yes, I know that the whole set-up down to the last detail was planned beforehand. I don’t care. I was still entertained. It is a privilege to have the time and energy to consume entertainment that is always thought-provoking and enlightening. Some people just want to relax and that’s okay after a hard day’s work or a stressful life situation!

Escapism through television or music is not as dangerous as escapism through crack. Based on the level of criticism heaped at Kanye and the Kardashians, sometimes I think some arrogant-ass apparently super spiritual and highly-evolved people seem to think that a trashy TV show is just as bad as an addictive drug. I disagree.

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One of the things that I like about the Kardashians is that they aren’t rich people who try to downplay their love of their own wealth and all of the luxurious things their wealth affords them. I think this is something that their average fans respect, because so many wealthy people are clearly into beautiful things, yet they front like they don’t care about that stuff.

Kim has turned her image (for doing nothing apparently) into money (by taking part in smart business deals like the creation of “Kimojis”), so even if you don’t think they’re artists (which outside of Kanye, I’d say Kris Jenner is the closest thing to an artist since she has orchestrated their show and likely come up with many of the creative ideas for different show topics) Kim is not embarrassed about being a businesswoman who is about making money. Also, the show has emphasized that while the Kardashian family has had many advantages that have made it easier for them than other people to gain success in the entertainment industry, they are responsible, hard-working (they work a lot even if you don’t think the type of work they are doing is valuable, their days are booked-up with filming, promotional events, overseeing business activities…they’re not sitting around doing nothing), show-up when booked and have gained a good reputation as reliable entertainers who will do what they say they’ll do. I like that Kim is openly about building her brand, because is there anything wrong with wanting to make money and to be successful? Everyone isn’t artsy, and there needs to be room for a variety of women out there. Also, yes Kim was in a sex tape and she has chosen to put her naked body on display. Do I think she is too reliant on her sexuality, or that she would feel like less of a person if she wasn’t hot? Yes, butt that’s not the whole story (pun intended).

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Honestly, if I was disfigured or gained 100 pounds, I’d also (at least initially) feel less confident, so aren’t I also too intertwined with my own sexuality and appearance? I think a lot of people use their looks and sexuality to feel good about themselves without being overtly aware of it, and it is all too easy to criticize those who do this more openly than others. Even if someone works in an office in conservative attire their appearance still impacts how others see and treat them, so no one is exempt from whether or not how fuckable or unfuckable they are to others influences what privileges they receive and which opportunities come their way. Do I think Kim takes it too far by making it seem like it is the most important thing in the world to be sexy? Yes.

But, I also think there are some positives to Kim showing her naked body. It is Kim’s own body, and when she has posted nude selfies, she’s made the point that since it’s her body she gets to do what she wants with it. This is feminism. And as a feminist I don’t want to be told how much of my body to show. Kim has also pointed out that she isn’t telling other women what to do with their bodies, so why do so many other people want to tell her what she should do with hers? Maybe there’s jealousy. Maybe some people wish they could pose naked or look like Kim, so they judge her instead. I don’t know for sure, but in that sense I think Kim has used her platform to get women and men to consider why they care so much about how she expresses herself, when they still have the freedom to cover up as much as they want if that’s what they’re comfortable with. Kim’s message is to each their own, and that is something I can get on board with, and that I need to practice more.

Kim Kardashian looks casually chic at Jimmy Kimmel - Part 2

The other strange thing about their family, which is so disconnected from the reality of the average person, is that the Kardashians come across as completely down-to-earth in some ways. The quality of their TV show has gone down lately, because instead of coming up with fun topics and themes they have focused too strongly on their own fame and celebrity drama, but the show has been on for more than 10 seasons, and the earliest seasons were so much fun to watch. One episode that stands out to me is when Kris raises the issue of incontinence. She explains that after having 6 children, it’s hard for her to laugh without peeing herself. My sister, Natalie, and I love this episode because it reminds us of our Mom! Anytime we make her laugh she has to run to the bathroom.

So Kris Jenner was cleverly aware that she wasn’t the only woman going through this (another strength of the Kardashians is that they’re a female-driven brand…these are women creating their own brands and show, so they know what women go through and profit from this knowledge). Kris ends up getting an endorsement deal in the episode, for a woman’s pad brand (kind of like Depends, but not that brand) and she films a commercial for it. The whole topic was quite entertaining and led to some scenes that had me cracking up! Another early episode was where Kim was asked to pose for the cover of Playboy for a special celebrity issue, and she was told she wouldn’t have to get naked for it (this was back in the day when she didn’t want to get naked on camera). At the shoot, the photographers and Kris Jenner try to pressure her to take it all off (yes, it’s weird that someone’s mom is encouraging them to pose nude). Kim gets really mad and she turns the tables on her Mom and says her Mom doesn’t know how hard it is to be asked to strip down on camera. Kris fires back with letting Kim know she’d love to be photographed naked. Kris hires a photographer, strips down to nothing and poses with Caitlyn’s gold medals (this is back when they were married). Kris is a wild woman and she’s hilarious!

When Kourtney got pregnant with her first child, one storyline was her considering whether she wanted to have the baby or have an abortion. Since Scott and Kourtney were on shaky ground at the time (aren’t they always?), Kourtney didn’t know whether she was prepared to have a child. I love that the show offered abortion as an option, because abortion is often completely avoided in popular culture, and especially on a “light” reality show. Kourtney decided against getting an abortion and choose to have her son Mason, but this is an example of how the show has made a positive contribution by challenging norms and offering women alternatives.

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Another thing is that Kim gains a significant amount of weight during pregnancy, because it’s normal and healthy to do so. On the show, Kim admits she doesn’t like weighing more, instead of being fake and pretending it’s all good since it’s for the sake of the baby. It gives me hope that if I’m pregnant and balloon up, it’s normal, and remaining tiny while pregnant is uncommon and possibly unhealthy. At least Kim’s willing to do what is right for the health of her baby, since I’ve seen some celebrity women who seem unbelievably thin a very short while after giving birth. Ben Stiller’s wife Christine Taylor being the most extreme example I can remember…3 weeks after the birth of one of her children she was on the red carpet stick thin with a flat stomach. This is clearly a harsh judgment on my part, because I do not truly know what Kim or Christine Taylor have done to their bodies, but it seemed impossible that Christine Taylor was a healthy weight throughout her pregnancy if she could be this thin such a short while after having a baby. I am speculating in a negative manner, but may be she restricted her calories while pregnant due to a fear of gaining weight? I tried to find a picture of Christine Taylor from the night I’m thinking of, but couldn’t, probably since it was more than 10 years ago.

The Kardashians seem to have put all of their embarrassing stuff out there (and this last year indicates that maybe they’re facing harsh consequences for doing so…some privacy is good), so in terms of what they’re trying to do they’ve really gone for it. There might be quite a few other people, famous ones, who are just as messed-up as the Kardashians, but these people might also go to psychotically extreme lengths to conceal their own dysfunction. So maybe the Kardashians are huge liars who fake everything, but I also believe that in some ways they’ve been much more real and self-deprecating than the vast majority of other celebrities. I think this is partly why people care about the Kardashians enough to SPEND MONEY ON THEM. Just because someone can be an actor in a movie and have some studio heads and a director believe in them, doesn’t mean they can market themselves in a way that a person in middle America will spend a dime on a product that they’re hawking. The Kardashians and Jenners have been able to do this time and time again.

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NOW TAYLOR SWIFT: Kanye’s lyrics about Taylor Swift were sexist and offensive in my opinion. I would have supported Taylor Swift if she had told Kanye to go fuck himself for writing such rude thing about her…BUT SHE DIDN’T!  

Here’s the excerpt of their videotaped speakerphone discussion about some of his lyrics:

Kanye West reads the “Famous” lyric: “To all my southside n—-s that know me best, I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex.” Taylor Swift: “I’m like this close to overexposure.”
Kanye West: “Oh, well this I think this a really cool thing to have.”Taylor Swift: “I know, I mean it’s like a compliment, kind of.”Kanye West: “All I give a f–k about is you as a person and as a friend, I want things that make you feel good. “Taylor Swift: “That’s sweet.”
Kanye West: “I don’t want to do rap that makes people feel bad.” Taylor Swift: “Umm, yeah I mean go with whatever line you think is better. It’s obviously very tongue in cheek either way. And I really appreciate you telling me about it, that’s really nice.”Kanye West: “Oh yeah, I just had a responsibility to you as a friend you know, and I mean thanks for being so cool about it.”Taylor Swift: “Aw thanks. Um yeah I really appreciate it, like the heads up is so nice. [inaudible] Even asking or seeing if I would be okay with it and I just really appreciate it. Like I would never expect you to like tell me about a line in one of your songs.”Kanye West: “It’s pretty crazy.”
Taylor Swift: “And then the flowers that you sent me, I like Instagrammed a picture of them and it’s like the most Instagram likes I’ve ever gotten. It was like 2.7”
Kanye West: “Relationships are more important than punch lines, ya know?”Taylor Swift: “I don’t think anyone would listen to that and be like that’s a real diss she must be crying. You’ve gotta tell the story the way that it happened to you and the way that you experienced it. You honestly didn’t know who I was before that. It doesn’t matter that I sold 7 million of that album before you did that which is what happened, you didn’t know who I was before that. It’s fine.”

 

Taylor reminds him about all of the success she had prior to him interrupting her acceptance speech. Taylor, it’s ok to be pissed off that this arrogant asshole keeps pretending he made you, when he didn’t. You created yourself, wrote your own songs, and have worked your butt off, and please don’t downplay that.

(Sidenote: Yes, I still enjoy and listen to the song Famous even though it contains lyrics that offend me. Nevertheless, when Kim dropped the receipts (aka the proof) of what Taylor actually said when Kanye told her part of the lyrics, (he left out the “I made that bitch famous” part) Taylor said she was flattered and gave her blessing. Once the song came out Taylor released a long statement pleading complete ignorance about the song or any of its lyrics. Taylor was caught in a lie, and the most annoying part is she didn’t own it and apologize.

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So Kim did prove that Taylor Swift was willing to lie and cover up certain things once public opinion about the song was unfavourable. I found that satisfying because I respect Taylor Swift as an artist and as an incredibly hard worker, but I think she relies on a virginal image (for example by saying she wouldn’t show her belly button…so what if you did show your belly button?…and then she ended up showing her belly button anyways, so it was like, why’d you get on your high horse about how much skin you’re showing anyways?…and Taylor seems incapable of admitting she’s had sex. But maybe she shouldn’t have to, but to me it seems like she likes to play the innocent card hardcore) and downplays her ambitiousness. Taylor Swift to me is that girl that wants to be liked by everybody so badly she won’t openly admit to disliking another person unless she already thinks everyone will be on her side for doing so.

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The last thing I wanted to say is that Kanye has lyrics that inspire me as a female. Yes, he also has lyrics that are sexist and wrong. I am working on having less of an all-or-nothing approach to things and my relationship with Kim and Kanye (even though I don’t know them and likely never will) is an example of this. Rap music gets an especially bad rap for its depiction of women, but I always prefer a straight-up attitude to a thinly-veiled version of sexism. Many men look at women as pieces of meat, but of course, few will admit that. John Mayer’s “Your body is a wonderland…” lyrics have always bothered me more than rap lyrics, because the subtext is still the same: you’re hot and so I want to fuck you. Except John Mayer probably uses these cheesy-ass sentiments to get women in bed.

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One Kanye song I love to listen to when I’ve wanted to get myself back on track, stop focusing too much on a man, and shift the focus to where I’m going in my own life is called “I Wonder”.

The most important lyrics to me from the song “I Wonder” from Kanye’s album Graduation are as follows:

You say he get on your fucking nerves
You hope that he get what he deserves, word
Do you even remember what the issue is?
You just trying to find where the tissue is

You can still be who you wish you is
It ain’t happen yet

And that’s what intuition is
When you hop back in the car
Drive back to the crib
Run back to their arms
The smokescreens
The chokes and the screams
You ever wonder what it all really means?

[Hook]
And I wonder if you know
What it means, what it means
And I wonder if you know
What it means to find your dreams

How many ladies in the house without a spouse?

Something in your blouse got me feeling so aroused
What you about?
On that independent shit
Trade it all for a husband and some kids

You ever wonder what it all really mean?
You wonder if you’ll ever find your dreams?

I have taken these lyrics to mean (since I don’t know what Kanye actually intended them to mean) that it’s important for women to stop playing the victim and crying about how men are hurting them, since there’s always people out there that will keep on hurting you if you don’t walk away. Instead of simply claiming to want to be independent while secretly just looking for a husband and a family (which is a beautiful dream too…just admit it if that’s your dream, or if a combo of the two or something else is your dream then that’s all good, too), it’s important to look inside and figure out what one’s dreams are and to try to achieve them. I guess that’s why I’m writing this right now, I have a dream of sharing my thoughts with others and having them think or feel differently or stronger about their own ideas and beliefs as a result of what I have to say. Now, if I could only get paid the big dollas for doing so…still, I wonder.

Hope 2017 is better for Kim, Kanye, and everyone else on this planet!

 

A$AP Ferg Interview

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Fleabag: Funny Feminist Television

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If you’re into TV shows about confused, messed-up, funny, thoughtful, complicated and endearing white women in their early 30s then the show Fleabag might be for you.

The site Jezebel.com had a review of the BBC series Fleabag up a few weeks ago, so I downloaded the 1st season. There’s only 6 episodes and I burned through them right away. Then I watched them all a second time over because of how comforting and entertaining I find the series to be.

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Writer and star of FLEABAG Sophie Waller-Bridge

The series protagonist is Fleabag played by the outstandingly talented Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Waller-Bridge is 31 years old in real life and she is responsible for writing all 6 episodes of the first season. Fleabag, the televisions series, is the end result of a fringe play that Waller-Bridge originally performed in Edinburgh.

Anyways, while I now feel like my life is coming together (I’m 32) in terms of having a satisfying relationship with my boyfriend and a new job that I feel passionate about, most of my 20s (after I broke up with my first serious boyfriend in 2006) were spent binge-drinking alcohol and smoking tons of weed, and hooking up with random men who either weren’t interested in me, or if they were, then I immediately became repulsed by them. Once I quit drinking I continued to pursue womanizers who’d bounce from female to female and insult my physical appearance…and just generally contribute to why I felt like a piece of shit.

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Due to my own history, which was mostly spent as a single female looking for and rejecting any chance of finding love, I gravitate to stories about women who are going through similar experiences to what I went through for so long (editor’s note: That is not to say my relationship is perfect, and it started off in a highly dysfunctional manner, but I am much happier at this point then I was 2 years ago when I turned 30…I hate when people are in a relationship and present their lives as free of problems).

Anyways, Fleabag has an on-off boyfriend named Harry. During the 1st episode Harry and Fleabag are in bed. Harry wakes up to Fleabag masturbating to a video of President Obama she’s watching on her laptop, and he is offended and disgusted. The sensitive and giving Harry stuffs a few of his things into a bag and breaks up with Fleabag. Fleabag assures the viewer (she regularly speaks directly to the camera/viewer to give us the inside scoop…and while this approach is at first slightly disarming, it eventually made me feel like Fleabag and I were tight) that Harry will be back. Since Harry is fully into Fleabag, she tramples all over him and uses their short-term break-ups to fuck some real douchebags.

This show made me (and my friend and my boyfriend when I showed them some episodes) laugh a lot! I don’t want to spoil all the hilarious moments, but some of them centre around sending out mass vagina-shot texts to try to find a date, Fleabag discussing how heavy her period flow is when she randomly runs into a hook-up while shopping for tampons, and uncomfortable anal sex. I’m not expecting you to laugh here, since any of these situations could end up being written and portrayed in a way that is stupid and offensive, but in my opinion, these situations made me crack-up without brushing off the underlying emotional desperation Fleabag is experiencing to say and do the things she does.Image result for sophie waller bridgeFleabag operates her own tiny cafe, and she is heavily in debt. Once upon a time she ran it with her best friend Boo, but I can’t share anything more without giving away too many good plot details to ruin your viewing of the show (if you so choose to watch it). I think that Fleabag is a feminist show because Fleabag aims to be an independent, confident business woman who has a loving partner and a positive self-image, but the sad events that have occurred during the last few years of Fleabag’s life (some of which might be partially due to her own making) are causing her to harm herself, and lash out at everyone around her.

The show makes some very accurate feminist observations about how women are sexualized and treated as sexual objects, without ever pretending that women don’t often do the same thing to men. Fleabag favours the good looking guy over the man who will support her, and this is just one example of how Fleabag is a highly imperfect protagonist. Since all people are imperfect, I think this also makes her relatable. Feminism can take many forms, and while I don’t have much fun reading feminist theory, I do enjoy seeing a female try to figure out how to balance wanting to be desirable with respecting herself and chasing her ambitions.

Fleabag’s relationship with her older sister Claire (played by Sian Clifford) reminded me of my own relationship with my sister. It’s hard for us to open up about personal topics with one another, and sometimes it’s even awkward for us to hug, but Fleabag also captures the undeniable and unbreakable bond that exists between sisters since nobody knows you better than your own sister. Claire is married to a lecherous man named Martin (played perfectly by Brett Gelman), and Claire’s dedication to a man who treats her poorly, but who makes her laugh, is an issue between the sisters.Image result for sophie waller bridge fleabagFleabag and her sister Claire (played beautifully by Sian Clifford)

Fleabag and Claire’s father is in a relationship with a woman they despise, and the
“stepmom” character (though their father is not actually married to her) who is only referred to as “Godmother” (played by Olivia Colman) is the only character in the series who is presented as one-dimensional: she is threatened by Claire and Fleabag’s relationship with their father, and “Godmother” constantly makes passive aggressive jabs at Fleabag and Claire. The one-dimensional nature of “Godmother” allows the actress playing her to go wild and take her artsy-fartsy character all the way to the top.Image result for sophie waller bridge

Olivia Colman as “Godmother”

By the final episode of the series it all becomes apparent why Fleabag is so screwed-up and why she is struggling to like herself, let alone love herself. The show is dark, sick, twisted, and so very special. If you’re looking for something to watch this weekend that isn’t mindless entertainment, give Fleabag a try!

Socially Awkward and Sober

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It’s been close to 8 years since I’ve drank alcohol. I’m an alcoholic and as such I choose to abstain from alcohol because, for a variety of reasons, I was never able to “handle my alcohol” and often ended up making a fool of myself while in a blackout state.

I don’t want to drink again. I don’t like the taste of alcohol, so I don’t miss alcohol. I think I abused it in part because of how damn socially awkward I am, not because wine is delicious or anything like that.

As a kid I was really confident, outgoing, and never thought twice about what I was going to say or do. For most of elementary school I was popular, but as puberty hit my confidence plummeted. I had a strict mother, so flirting or dating boys was something I was taught not to do, and that affected my social status. By grade 7 how sexy a girl was started to become what the boys were interested in, and so since I didn’t look or act sexy my social stock was weak and I felt like a loser.

Anyways, by the time I hit high school I was full on uncool. I remain that way to this day. I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 18 years old. Due to my negative relationship with alcohol via how I saw it affect my father (he went to rehab multiple times during my childhood and struggled to stay sober) I took the perspective that I would never drink. Then one day when I was 19 my impulsive brain changed its mind and I decided I wanted to drink.

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I thought I’d throw this in because I love this pic of myself.

The first night I drank I got totally out of control, which lead to my house getting trashed during a party, and the cops getting called. My mother and sister hated me when they came home from Toronto the next morning to find their home in quite a different state than they’d left it the day before.

I could only remember bits and pieces of my first night drinking and that night was definitely an indication of how almost all of my future drinking experiences would unfold.

The thing is I have a lot inside of me that I’d like to let free. For example, by dancing like a ma-ni-ac. But since I was uncool and didn’t feel confident, I was incapable during my early 20s of letting myself go wild while sober (for the most part I’m still incapable of doing this in front of anyone who isn’t a close friend or my boyfriend). Also, since I viewed most other people as more attractive than myself, anytime I was in a party or social environment with any people who weren’t close friends I immediately started drinking copious amounts to try to help myself relax and feel more comfortable around the people I was intimidated by.

Then I’d act a fool and feel very ashamed the next day. Then I’d feel even more self-conscious and nervous the next time I entered a social environment, especially if the same people I’d been blackout drunk of in front of before were there, so the cycle would continue and the need to use alcohol as a social lubricant, or more appropriately social flood, carried on.

Eventually, I reached my breaking point and was able to admit to myself that I was an alcoholic and the only way to ensure that I didn’t get super drunk ever again was by stopping drinking entirely.

The plan worked because I haven’t had another drink of alcohol since I quit at age 24. I still continued to have an addiction to marijuana that only came to an end 2 years ago, so it’s not to say I  abstained from drugs after I quit drinking, but I didn’t have a substance to rely on that took away from my self-consciousness and stopped my incessant stressed-out internal dialogue like I did with alcohol.

I think I thought that the longer I was sober I would suddenly become relaxed and totally at ease when going to a party or meeting new people.

But that hasn’t been the case. I still feel minor levels of panic when entering a party or entering situations where I don’t know the people. It might not seem like that on the surface because my approach is to push on through and be openly friendly and enthusiastic, but I’m usually feeling a lot of fear at the same time.

One thing I was able to overcome 2 years ago was my fear of dancing in public. Now I’m able to go out to clubs sober with other people or alone and dance my heart out.

It’s the social situations with groups of people that still really freak me out.

Part of this is because I am definitely not a “chilled out” person. I’ve got A LOT of energy, which is both a gift and a curse. What sucks is when I’m around people either at a new job or at a party and someone tells me to “chill out”, “relax”, “don’t be nervous”, “don’t let them see your fear” (this last one was told to me by a work supervisor before I started to teach a new, high-level class and it immediately caused my stress level to spike because it indicates that I am showing my fear and somehow need to make it immediately disappear–not possible). Also, before I was okay with dancing sober it used to make me so uncomfortable when I wouldn’t be dancing and the dancing king or queen who seems to have no fear of dancing in public (but I also noticed the only people who ever tried to force me to dance when I wasn’t up to it were drinking themselves…coincidence? I think not.) would point me out and try to get me to dance.

Ahhhh…I would wonder, “Can’t you see I’m incredibly self conscious? Everyone isn’t a social butterfly like you…please leave me alone so I don’t feel even more weird than I already do”. I don’t think anyone had bad intentions in these situations–they’re enjoying themselves and probably just want me to enjoy myself in the same way they are–but it only lead for me to feel even more like a sober loser who is way too uptight and not easygoing like everyone else.

My body language is rigid, and I know that. I never know what to do with my hands. For example, I took a counselling course at UBC this summer. We had to videotape ourselves with a “client” (another classmate) and practice being a “counsellor” and critique how we moved and spoke and then receive feedback from the instructor about the same things. One of the first things my instructor focused in on during my first critique (thankfully I was able to greatly improve and “lean in” more by the last assignment) was how my body language was awkward and closed-off. I wasn’t surprised. I know that this is the way I appear to others and it was a minor consolation to have my instructor confirm this, because at least it shows my perception is not all in my head.

The point I’ve reached now though is I’m no longer entering situations like this and constantly repeating “relax” over and over to try to seem calm. I am hyper. I do have an excess of energy that doesn’t always flow out of me in a perfectly dispersed way. My body isn’t free-flowing and that’s OKAY.

I’m sober and I’m a socially awkward geek. I am who I am and I’m happy to have reached the point where I’m no longer trying to be something I’m not. Oh, and when it comes to the supposedly chilled-out people who have told me to slow my roll, are they really all that chill themselves if they’re telling someone else how they need to behave when I was just doing my own thing?

Peace!

Sonja Larsen: Her Memoir Red Star Tattoo Is A Life-Changing Read

This summer my friend Nessa passed along a copy of her friend Sonja Larsen‘s impeccable memoir Red Star Tattoo: My Life As A Girl Revolutionary and I was hooked from page one. Larsen’s past is full of lots of different topics that are both fascinating and painful, such as being part of a cult and experiencing sexual abuse. Sonja’s talent lies in being able to appropriately delve into her shocking and painful past experiences without making them too heavy or going to the opposite end of the spectrum and presenting them in a salacious or tabloid-like manner. The book is educational without taking itself too seriously. It’s fun to read too! These are just a few of the reasons as to why I highly recommend that you take the time to read it.

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I am grateful for Sonja’s decision to turn her life into a memoir, because it reminds me that I need to let go of my own shame and there is nothing in my past that should ever prevent me from moving towards a more enjoyable future.

Thank-you Sonja for sharing and for taking the time out of your day to let me interview you!

Sonja Larsen: “If I ever felt like a freak or an outsider…well if you’ve read my book you’ll know that I was definitely a freak and an outsider in lots of different ways, so often in my life. You know, my Dad was a pot dealer. My mother was a communist. You know, but I think part of my growing up was that I actually kind of was raised to believe, because my parents were a little bit hippies at first, that being an outsider was not such a bad thing, that if you were questioning the system that was good. But I think really what has got me through it is sometimes realizing that you’re not alone. That everyone is sort of making it up as they go along.”