Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Always a bridesmaid.

"Geez mom, that's your second lemonade. You must be really thirsty."

The clock had all but run out on my deadline for Downtown Halifax's Try Something New marketing campaign. All I had to do was blow $100 bucks downtown, then blog about it, but I was short on time, patience – and worse – creatively constipated after a few false starts.

My first thought was to go pole dancing with Ruth Goldbloom. I'd never been pole dancing, let alone pole dancing with a pint-size dynamo whose tap shoes likely sparked the Halifax Explosion. Studio in Essence on Barrington Street offer pole dancing classes, and I could already picture Ruth's Order of Canada medallion swinging in the breeze as she gyrated her original hips to Superfreak. Not surprisingly, Ruth was "too busy" – what with teeing off at her Kid's Help Phone Charity Golf Tournament, while simultaneously raising millions in support of health, education, and culture. Too busy it seems, to knock back a few cold ones, strap on some pasties, and do the dirty dance downtown, avec moi.

Every party has a ladylike pooper.

My next big plan gone awry involved me, a few girlfriends, and a happy hour of laughter at my expense. Having been kicked out of high school before prom, and never having walked down the aisle – I have always wanted to try on a big pouffy dress. The bigger and pouffier the better. I called Felicity Bridal to set up an appointment for a fitting. I did my best to explain the Try Something New deadline, and that while I was not really in the market for a wedding dress, my "bridesmaids" had (cash) several daughters destined for lavish weddings in the very near future. Therefore, my "fitting" would not be a total waste of their time. Let's just say the downtown bridal boutique was less than enthusiastic, or maybe they'd seen the Bridesmaids (diarrhea scene) movie, but that'll teach me for being forthright. Fuck 'em. Next time I'll just show up in a sweaty sports bra waving a chequebook.

So now what? I scanned the Downtown Halifax directory for inspiration. Venus Envy? Too many batteries. The Press Gang Oyster Bar? Been there. Bicycle Thief? Wasn't in the mood.

That's when I saw it. Fashionably Dead. I had no idea what it was – but it pretty much summed up how I felt – so off I went to 5239 Blowers Street.

Climbing to the top of the worn staircase, a purse in a dark shop window caught my eye. "Fuck You" was emblazoned on a red heart, stitched across the otherwise normal looking handbag. This had to be it.

Everyone has likely experienced the kids who walk in front of your car at a crosswalk, usually with a crowd of other youths, all clad in ripped black clothing, sporting dreadlocks, spikes, multiple piercings, safety pins, tattoos, and a malnourished ferret. The kind of kids who make you thankful your own kid is just slovenly, and not dressed for a rave at a crematorium. The kind of kids you are tempted to run over.

Fashionably Dead is where they shop.

And while there's no doubt I would have stuck out like a boil on a virgin's butt in Felicity Bridal – imagine being immersed in a culture of Goth blackness, surrounded by spider web motifs, zippers, and spiked dog collars meant for people.

"So, what exactly is this look?" I asked the young woman behind the counter.

"Alternative." She responded, sizing me up.

I was about to ask, "Alternative to what?", but then I spotted the baby section. If you ever need a newborn onesie with skull and crossbones on it, this is the place.

"Those are really popular." The salesgirl told me, enthusiastically.

Really? I thought, considering that maybe "something new" was keeping an open mind and a closed mouth.

I poked around through tidy racks of shirts and hoodies, stretchy skirts, torn (crotchless?) bondage pants, and some dominatrix-looking corsets that I was really tempted to try on. I looked at fishnet stockings, studded belts, and a wonderful t-shirt with either Lily Munster or Morticia Addams on the front.

"So, what are the oxygen masks for?" I asked naively, peering into the glass counter showcase.

"They're respirators." She replied nonchalantly. "Just a fashion accessory."

"For your face?" I asked.

She nodded.

I learned the salesgirl's name was Lynne. She was very helpful and rather sweet underneath her daunting dreadlocks and black-edged pallor. Lynne answered all my dumb, middle-age questions politely – and as it turned out – we had something in common. Like me, she came from "away" to study at NSCAD. Like me, she was searching for something down the tributary off mainstream. Like me, she was searching for something new – far, far away from something blue.

"I'll take the purse in the window." I said.

"Really?" she asked, without saying a word.

"It's perfect." I said, handing her my Downtown Halifax Visa card.

When I got home, the Little Bastard was lying on the sofa playing Xbox. I didn't bother showing him my new, first-ever handbag – knowing he would just roll his eyes in disgust.

"Where have you been? I'm starving." He said. "What are we doing for dinner?"

Something new, I thought, dialing a cab.

The homemade Lynchburg Lemonade at Q Smokehouse was a bipolar marriage of tart and sweet, laced with Jack Daniels. Just what the doctor ordered after a shitty week. I briefly considered the Cobb Salad with Pulled Chicken before ordering us a Pulled Pork Sandwich and the BBQ sampler (with a side of mac 'n' cheese). I wanted the Bad Attitude BBQ sauce with jalapeño and habañero peppers, but we turned it down a notch, then settled into a comfy booth. Knowing that food I hadn't prepared was on its way, the Little Bastard was chatty and seemingly happy with my restaurant choice.

"I can't believe we've haven't been here before," he said. "I like this place."

Me too, I thought, sucking a lemon pit out of my straw. Me too.

We left Q, stepping out on to Argyle Street, so happy and full of ribs and Kentucky bourbon I could barely move.

Just then, "Jack!", a girl yelled from a sidewalk table across the street. "Helllllo beautiful!" she screamed.

"Who the hell's that?" I asked my blushing teenage beanpole covered with BBQ sauce.

He just smiled, and walked ahead through the busy, Friday night crowd.

Something new, indeed.


Q Smokehouse is located at 1580 Argyle Street. Our meal with tax and a few lemony libations was well under $50. I can't wait to go back.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Excuse me... mam?"

Jugs. Hooters. Knockers. Bazongas. Tatas. Chesticles. Headlights.

Call them what you will, but there was a set coming toward me that I simply couldn't take my eyes off.

Two helium-injected sweater girls were battling to escape from a skin tight t-shirt, as an otherwise petite, 40-something woman grazed past me at a brisk pace.

"Ridiculous," was my first thought. Bleached blonde, fake nails, and breasts that required regular touch ups with an air mattress pump from Canadian Tire.

My guesstimate was, this size-6 woman was wearing a 34 quadruple E bra, just to keep her saline sweater puppies from escaping into the neighbour's yard.

I stood there in my Russell gym shorts and sneakers, grateful that in an emergency situation, if I had to break into a gallop, say, if there were a fire, or if I were being chased – that my Nike sports bra would hold my girls down.

Then I recalled a conversation I had with a gentleman (who is now on wife #3) about blondes, and how, as a natural blonde, I found it amusing and somewhat frustrating that men couldn't tell a peroxide bottle blonde from a natural blonde – even if she whipped off her big girl panties to prove that the drapes indeed matched the carpet.

"Men don't care." was his response.

If that statement is true, and men really don't care if they're eating Velveeta or naturally-aged cheddar – then why should I care if a woman objectifies herself by morphing into Malibu Menopause Barbie.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery procedural statistics, breast augmentation is the second most commonly performed cosmetic procedure (behind liposuction). As we approach Breast Cancer Awareness month, I think of my friend Kelly, her triumphant battle with breast cancer and consequential, painful breast reconstruction surgery. I suppose the reasons "why" come in all shapes and sizes.

Just then, I heard, "S'cuse me!" and turned to see sister silicone – guns a blazin' – coming back toward me.

Shit. She read my mind. She's going to smother me with her pillows, or claw me to death with her fake nails.

"I'm going to have to ask you to move your car." she said, funbags heaving.

"I'm going to have to ask you, why?" I responded, staring at her Goodyear blimps.

"You're parked an inch from my bumper and I can't get out." she replied haughtily.

Did she says bumpers? This was too good. I walked over to see that I was at least 12 inches from her rear bumper – not only that – she had 36 inches or so between her Barbie camper and the car bumper in front of her. Clearly her depth perception had somehow been compromised. Maybe she also hadn't noticed that her cannonballs were grossly out of proportion.

There were so many things I wanted to say, but I went with a simple "No," all the while mesmerized by her lofty cantaloupes. "It's called parallel parking, and I could land a fucking helicopter in there." I said, making a circular gesture in her direction. With that, I turned and walked away – thinking how difficult it would be to do a three-point turn with a set of beach balls strapped to your chest.

Her archery days are over.

"I'll call the police!" she screamed. "I'll write down your license number!" This was a woman accustomed to getting her own way.

I chuckled – half expecting Tits on a Stick to whip a ball point pen, a cell phone, and a pistol out of her cleavage – and went about my merry way. A man, given the same circumstances, likely would have jumped at the opportunity to assist this damsel in distress – even if, underneath all the plastic and peroxide – she was a total bitch.

Tailwaggrs had my little dog all groomed and ready to go. While paying, it dawned on me – I spend way more on my dog's beauty regime than I do on my own. And it shows. I don't even let the girls at Flaunt blow dry my hair. And I obviously don't care enough to change things up.

When I returned to my parking spot a few moments later, Barbie's car was indeed gone. I was almost disappointed, geared for another in-depth conversation with her hood ornaments. I pulled away and wondered if I would have been more gracious to a different kind of woman. A woman who wouldn't resort to helplessness. A woman whose shingles matched her porch, and whose doorbells were so small you had to knock to see if anyone was home.

I double-D doubt it.


Get your hair coloured, curled and coiffed to perfection at Flaunt Salon on 2166 Windsor Street 425.0020.

Get your dog done too, at Tailwaggrs in Bedford, or in Halifax at the old Metro Dog Wash Location. 422.9364.

Get a safe, high-quality boob, nose, ass, neck, or hand job at The Landings Surgical Centre in Halifax. Okay, maybe not a hand job, unless you hurt your hand.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Ever have one of those days where life just turned on the big ol' Hoover and sucked the bejeezus out of you – leaving the house smelling like dog hair and mouldy beach towels, while merely transferring the dust bunnies from one corner of the cluttered room to a warren of sadness suppressed under the sofa?

That was this entire week.

This wasn't even my usual pity party, where no one RSVPed and I ended up alone in the bathtub drinking Grand Marnier out of a Winnie the Pooh sippy cup.

This week was all about bad news. News I carried around like an emotionally crippled doppelgänger, who kept tapping me on the shoulder saying, "Look at them. Look at that Mom. Imagine how she feels. Bet you're glad you're not in her shoes. Wow, it must really suck to be her right now."

This week I was feeling pain that wasn't even close to being my own. I was aching for an entire family, whose lives changed on a dime. One of those families you look at and think, "what a perfect family. I can't think of anything bad to say about them, they are so bloody perfect."

Yesterday, I was hurting for one of the richest men in Havenot, because his dream of helping kids at risk fell short. Giving kids a hand up while wearing a boxing glove turned into "subsidizing gym memberships" and that wasn't good enough for Palooka's Mickey MacDonald. Knowing he's a fighter, my bet is, Mickey tries again.

This week, my heart was ripping itself out for an Alberta mom who sent her kid off to university so he would become an educated man. A man who would maybe someday change the world. Instead, he lost a stupid and deadly drinking game.

And this morning I woke up listening to CBC Radio, and the looming tenth anniversary of so much hatred and fucking stupidity – I almost pulled the covers over my head and retreated. But I didn't.

Instead, my doppelgänger and I walked the dogs in the darkness before dawn (how's that for a cliché?), then we had a coffee, then we started sorting through emails. As usual, I had one from Barb.

Barb's emails normally end with three letters.


Annoying at first, I came to expect those three letters, and now, they brighten my day. The genuine passion in those three letter equal the power of Barb Stegemann. When the rest of the world is lying under the sofa, curled up in the fetal position with the dust bunnies – Barb's making angels in the snowy waste, looking up at the stars, marvelling at the positive potential and wonder of it all.

Barb is busier than ever these days, launching her new fragrance, Vetiver of Haiti. This latest addition to her 7 Virtues line of smell-good, do-good perfumes is described as an "uplifting" fragrance. Bottled emotions, created to inspire the rest of us to get up off our fat asses and do something. Feel the pain of a total stranger, then actually do something about it. Smelling like a rose, or an orange blossom, or now vetiver, whatever that is, will help Afghanistan and Haiti rebuild, so maybe, one morning, a dirt-poor mom can kick her evil doppelgänger to the curb, make breakfast, and send her child off to school to learn something – and make a difference in this crazy world.

If Barb Stegemann ever has a pity party I want to be working the blender. But somehow, I get the feeling, that invite is never going to come. Not in this lifetime. And not unless it's a fundraiser.

So happy anniversary to 9/11. I say "happy" because, to quote Hemingway, someone who likely spent a fair deal of time drinking in the bathtub, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”



Purchase 7 Virtues fragrances at Bay Stores across Canada, at Mills Brothers in Havenot and online by clicking here.