A question of perception, part 2

Part 1, written almost 4 years ago.

Last week was not a great week for celebrities, was it? First Kate Spade, then Anthony Bourdain. Both deaths were unexpected. Both deaths saddened. Cue the endless posts about suicide help lines and knowing one is valued and matters. Which is nice, but mostly beside the point. Most people don’t kill themselves on a whim. Knowing there is a 1-800-number out there is nice, but is unlikely, MOST OF THE TIME, to deter someone who is too exhausted to live. Someone who commits suicide might be very aware that they matter, they are loved (or not), but that isn’t what they are trying to avoid. They are trying to end the sustained misery and agony that their brains are inflicting on them. Incessant pain, physical or emotional, distorts reality to the point that suicide becomes an act of mercy – granting oneself peace and saving friends and family from the burden of worrying about the one’s sickness.


MommaBear who is part of my dance school shared an article about Kate Spade’s death, with the following comment, “Euh, WTF… So you’re successful and suicide… so much energy, hard work, notorious… no…”. I like MommaBear, I do. She is fiercely protective of her cubs, be they her own children or girls she meets on the dance floor. Given her deep capacity for love and loyalty, her comment struck me as one of ignorance. Some ppl really don’t get depression and suicide. My uncle doesn’t: he made a very similar comment following Robin Williams’ death. So, I commented, gently, that success has nothing to do with the burden that a person may be called to carry, or the demons they must deal with.

MommaBear: I know, but so much work, all that energy… If a person was doing fuckall, I might get it (the impulse to kill oneself). Nobody admires a person that doesn’t succeed, nobody will listen to the advice of a person that doesn’t stand out in society. If you succeed, you can latch onto that success as a life jacket to get you out of the current.

Vanilla: No, not really. Success can become a burden in and of itself. A responsibility that suffocates you even further.

MommaBear: I’m a single mom that got played by her husband and has 6 children, of which 2 are autistic. You can betcha I will fight till the end to do my best.

Vanilla: Yes. There are tangible demons and burdens, like the experiences you just described. But there are also demons and mental health burdens that are intangible, not easily identified, but just as hard to manage. We must never deem monetary or societal success as a reliable indicator of the mental health of an individual. Never.

MommaBear: So, based on what you’ve just written, you are comfortable hanging out with people that have not succeeded in society? People that in no way stand out in society? You could spend time with a man that looks like a hobo, and not care what people think of you? (P.S. I would have preferred to talk about this, but I guess Facebook will have to do ūüôā )

Now. I’m extremely wary of Facebook bitch-fests. I don’t want another pointless repeat of this incident. Sides, I was aware that MommaBear had attempted to diffuse the situation with her little P.S. addendum. MommaBear is good people. I like MommaBear.



But. But. But.

Her comment pissed me off. SO MUCH.

That one comment made it very clear how she perceived me. A spoiled, well-off, white girl condescendingly preaching empathy from her comfortable ivory tower, blissfully unaware of what suffering could possibly feel like. Who was I to talk?

Never mind that the last 2 guys I’ve dated do not have university degrees. Hell, Beaut barely finished high school. Beaut came from a broken childhood, foster homes, poverty, worlds apart from my life. He worked HARD to make ends meet with that kind of background, stopped at nothing to gainfully and legally provide a comfortable existence for his daughter, a loving and devoted father… But he didn’t have a kitchen table. He can’t write one sentence without making grammatical or spelling mistakes. Doesn’t have the traditional indicators of success, yet has managed to carve out a good life through sheer stubbornness and struggle. I was proud of him, proud of his perseverance, his unwillingness to let life, and all the shit thrown at him, stop him from doggedly pursuing his goals. I’m impressed by the life he is building for himself, bit by bit, patiently.

Never mind that my mother with her poor health couldn’t hold down a job from the moment she had me, for the rest of her life. The knowledge that she was a drain on society weighed heavily on her conscience. Her health was so bad, she could barely walk, and as a result, her physique shamed her. Most days, she could only summon the energy to put on baggy jogging suits. I’ve witnessed people speak to her as though she was mentally impaired, because apparently walking slowly with 2 canes is correlated to one’s intelligence. #goodtoknow. A cop once threatened to have her do a drug test because he thought she was some druggy, with her wheezing breath and sweaty face (brought on by the extreme pain attack she was undergoing). Was I EVER ashamed of her? No. I prided myself on being her bodyguard, physically protecting her from oblivious people, and ensuring people addressed her with the respect that was her due. As an adolescent, its true, sometimes I would dread running into schoolmates, but that was only because I kept my family life a secret. It was too complicated, too painful and private to share. So I hoped we didn’t to run into people. But never, not ever, because I was ashamed of my mother.

Never mind that my father worked his whole life in a blue collar job, 38 years of exhausting physical labor with no social distinction whatsoever, to ensure that his wife and his baby girl could live a comfortable life.

Never mind that when I met MommaBear I was in the throes of the worst depression of my life, a few weeks away from my upsetting diagnosis. Never mind that I HAVE A BLOG DEDICATED TO MY MENTAL HEALTH STRUGGLES. Which obviously MommaBear has never read, as is her right.

None of that mattered. Because despite spending anywhere from 5-15 hours with me every week for 5 months, MommaBear couldn’t see past my skin color and my professional title.

I’m upset, deeply, not because I got misjudged according to another person’s bias. Nah, that’s cool, I’m aware I get to live my life mostly immune to that sorta thing, so when it happens, I really can’t be that offended.


I’ve always naively clung to the belief that for social change to successfully occur, for racial bias to be dismantled, yes policy matters (which is why Trump is so worrisome to me) but that really, change would be inevitable the more people interacted with individuals that are not part of their socio-ethno-econo demographic. One on one interactions increase the likelihood of recognizing an individual’s humanity, which is something we all share, and to the extent that humanity is present, it creates cognitive dissonance with wtv prejudice and false beliefs are held about that person’s demographic, and thus change in opinions and a broadening of world views are possible. Schindler from Schindler’s list was a Nazi sympathizer. This has been my core belief for as long as I’ve lived, the result of my upbringing. I recognize that it is not a perfect solution (mingling between demographics is not always possible or probable, or else #whiteprivilege wouldn’t be a thing). But, to the extent it occurs, I remained hopeful.

Y’all. I live in Montreal. My dance school has every possible nationality amongst its students. And yet. On a Facebook post about suicide, we failed at recognizing each other’s humanity.

I feel defeated.


Lessons from my Baba: daily bread

I’ve been remembering my grandparents a lot lately (all of them born and raised in Europe/Russia during the revolution and WWII). They too lived through days where a democratically elected government issued executive orders that forever changed history and resulted in a lot of hatred. The fallout of those days was so horrific that most of it was never spoken of again, and the bits and pieces we do know are such that we are ok with keeping those demons of the past dormant.

But here is the thing. My grandparents never believed WWII was a one time thing. They witnessed up close what mankind could do, and always knew that mankind is apt to repeat its mistakes. They believed in the simplest of interpretations of “give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. That was all they could aim for, always. In doing so, they managed to build lives that included moments of happiness, despite the horrors they lived through. Because of my grandparents, here I am. Blessed with opportunities and a life they never could have dreamed of.

These opportunities seem at risk. The events of this past week (Muslim Ban and mass shooting in a Qc mosque), lead me to believe that my future will have strong parallels to my grandparents’ experiences.

Therefore, all I ask for is my daily bread, and the ability to forgive and be forgiven. Any more or less than that is inadequate. That is all each one of us can do right now.


Growing up, my mother’s poor health and ludicrous levels of medication messed with her appetite. Rather than skip supper, she would read to my father and I at the kitchen table. One of my favorite books she shared with us was C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. It is a satiric novel: a collection of letters written by a Senior demon (Screwtape) to his nephew Wormwood, a junior temptor. Screwtape attempts to mentor Wormwood in his first mandate to secure the damnation of a nameless British man (“the patient”). Set during WWII, its lessons about morals, temptation, resistance to sin and self-awareness have shaped my entire life. It is also very funny. A revelation that religion and faith are not mutually exclusive with humor and laughter.

Although this novel has always provided me with useful guidance, it has been rather at the forefront of my mind recently. It could have been written now, instead of 1942 – that alone confirms my belief that we are headed to terrible times. Nevertheless, I am rereading it, so as to try be aware of the traps that await us, in these times of hatred and fear.

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Real talk #cslewis

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I strongly urge y’all to listen to this particular chapter from the Screwtape Letters – narrated by John Cleese! It is rather pertinent for current day events.


Well. I forgot this still happened. Part II.

Yesterday I had another date with Young Boy (YB). You can read Part I here: it gives a little context about my mindset going into said date. A low-key affair, as we were both burnt from a long week at work. I like low-key dates because they often result in good conversations; useful in the getting-to-know-one-another stage, regardless of where that stage is headed (dating, naked gymnastics, friend zone).

Convo flowed freely, possibly because we have very different lifestyles and tastes. Even interests that we share, we approach from very different perspectives. For example, I exercise primarily because I need to remain mentally and emotionally stable: my appearance is bonus. For the longest time, despite exercising 4-6 times a week, I was rather thick (80+kilos), because of my emotional eating. Sure, that self-destructive habit made me ashamed, but thanks to my former therapist, I still felt some pride in investing the necessary time to take care of my brain and happiness. YB exercises because he feels it is a duty to remain healthy: anyone who lets him/herself go is lazy and signals to the world that they don’t respect themselves and don’t mind being a drain on society by clogging up the healthcare system with avoidable health issues. OYE. On so many levels. Yes, agreed that being overweight is linked to avoidable health issues. No, disagreed that it is a matter of laziness and lack of self-respect: those might be factors, but adulting is fucking hard, and the emotional and mental scars of life often translate into bad eating habits. Also? Life is a balancing act of conflicting priorities. To surmise a person’s whole character from their appearance?! OYE. Yet… I am not surprised. Many people share his point of view – hence my concern with maintaining my newfound #skinnybitch and #bangingbod status.

We started comparing Instagram profiles, and sharing the backstories of some of our favorite pics. I showed him a pic of me and Coach, after a particularly good, sweaty booté workout at the gym Рseemed like a good choice, especially after our convo about exercising.

That’s one big black guy. How much does he bench/squat? Cute pic. Wait, you don’t fool around with black guys, do you? You DO?! Oh.” [Accompanied by a slightly nonplussed look.]

Oh, indeed.

Remember how my emotions are overwhelming, I can’t always properly identify what I am feeling, and as a result I have slightly delayed reactions? I had NO PROBLEM identifying my anger, and the only difficulty I had was biting back the impulse to reply,

Yeah, going back has been tough, you’re my trial run, white boy, and honestly, I don’t know that I am ready to make the switch back. You haven’t sold me on the concept.

SO ANGRY. Because the question didn’t revolve around me fooling around with guys. No. Specifically, it was concerned with black guys. My willingness to expose my body to black guys merits judgment. What, boy, bothers you so much about the black part of the guys I have fooled around with? Lets break down some of the most common aspects of their reputation:

  • big dicks: so is this a sizing issue, boy? Worried you can’t measure up? That I have been stretched out and am a loosey goosey?
  • into dirtier, nastier sex: well, for someone who has boasted about having a broad range of naked gymnastics interests, surely my possible exposure to similar concepts (7.5!!) can’t bother you, can it? Or are you worried I’ll call your bluff?
  • aren’t legendary for their monogamy: worried that I might be crawling with diseases? Dunno if you understand how safe sex works, but it isn’t related to the moral code of the person you bang. It is only related to whether or not the dude wears a raincoat. Worried that means that I might not be the greatest at the whole concept of monogamy? Because obvi my character is influenced by sexual osmosis. I cannot maintain my own moral compass if there is a penis around.
  • can actually cook and dance: nothing to be said, really.
  • are BLACK.

Its the last one that bothers me. Because while I am sure the other items probably were part of his reaction, its the BLACK part that really was the sticking point. So shocking that a white girl like me might actually view black males as humans worthy of my attention, time and occasionally body… the same as I do white boys. Or Arab boys (only because I find the possibility of being blown up during sex to be extremely exciting, duh). Or any other male that is alive, taller than me and funny.

Unconscious racism. Soooooooooo sexy.

There won’t be a part III.

When nostalgia is impossible

My father was born in 1950. He and his two older brothers were born in Paris, right after the end of WWII. My grandmother’s family had fled Russia on the eve of the Russian revolution and settled in Nice. They lived in Occupied France. Eventually, she ended up in Paris, where she met my grandfather, who’s family had followed a similar trajectory, except via Finland. Both my grandparents lived through WWII; not specifically caught in the front lines, or in the big hotspots, but close enough for those years to have been extremely unpleasant. Poverty, constant fear, uncertainty, and low-key cruelty and spite were part of their daily existence. 6 years of survival, not 6 years of living.

In 1952, my father’s family emigrated to Canada, with close to nothing other than their luggage, to join my grandmother’s brother, who had established himself in Montreal a few years prior. They stayed long enough to become Canadian citizens, but then my grandfather’s role as an eminent proto-deacon (that’s a super duper deacon for all you non Orthodox peeps out there) brought them to Long Island, NY, to be closer to the seat of the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church of America (aka, the head of the North American branch of Russian Orthodoxy). Therefore, my father grew up as an American. He’d moved back to Montreal by the age of 20, to avoid any possibilities of being drafted in the Vietnam War. From that point on, he has made his life as a proud Canadian.

It’s funny sometimes, listening to him. He can sound very patriotically Russian, chest thumping for the Mother Land; he displays deep knowledge about American history and culture, due to having spent his formative years and education in the USA; and of course a deeper conviction that Canada is by far the best place to live in the world due to our liberal policies, peace, and openness to immigrants.

My father and I are both very similar, and extremely different, which means we easily can push each other’s buttons. I honor him, and most days, I respect him, except when talking about politics and current events: as he gets older, he has adopted the bad habit of avoiding the news, because it makes him anxious, and informing himself based on conversations with people at church. In my opinion, he frequently exhibits an absence of critical thought, relying on trashy biased internet articles, the kind that present opinions as statements of fact, with no supporting arguments or evidence. After innumerable arguments about this, he and I have tacitly agreed to never talk about current events. He doesn’t “like” 99% of the articles or videos I share on Fbk, and now that he has himself a fairly prominent role in the church, he refrains from sharing anything on Fbk related to highly emotional topics, to avoid Fbk trolls. I’m ok with this defacto truce.

One of the few posts on Facebook that my father did like was Billy Crystal’s eulogy to Muhammad Ali. If you haven’t watched it, it is worth a view.

It dawned on me that my father had lived in Ali’s time. As Billy Crystal puts it,

It‚Äôs great to look at clips and it‚Äôs amazing to have them, but to live in his time, watching his fights, experiencing the genius of his talent, was absolutely extraordinary. Every one of his fights was an aura of a Super Bowl. He did things nobody would do. He predicted the round he would knock somebody out in, and then he would do it! He was funny, he was beautiful, the most perfect athlete you ever saw ‚ÄĒ and those were his own words.

But he was so much more than a fighter as time went on, with Bobby Kennedy gone, Martin Luther King gone, Malcolm X gone, who was there to relate to when Vietnam exploded in our face? There were millions of young men my age eligible for the draft for a war we didn’t believe in, all of us huddled on the conveyor belt that was rapidly feeding the war machine. But it was Ali who stood up for us by standing up for himself.

And after he was stripped of the title, and the right to fight anywhere in the world, he gave speeches at colleges and on television that totally reached me. He seemed as comfortable talking to kings and queens as the lost and unrequited. He never lost his sense of humor even as he lost everything else. He was always himself: willing to give up everything for what he believed in.

My father lived in Ali’s time. My father was one of those people that could relate to Ali, one of those young men that gave up a lot to avoid fighting a war they disagreed with. One of those people that witnessed and followed Ali’s impact on American society.

My father posted these two pictures on Friday, taken on a trip last year to Atlanta, without comment.

It must be bizarre to be my father, right now. My father was 18 when MLK was assassinated. My father lived through those times of extreme change. He saw America shift from terrible to better. And now America has slid undeniably back to terrible. Back to terrible, with no MLK and no Ali to guide people and effect change. Only Trump.

I can’t find the words to describe my feelings about the events of this past week. But I would have even less if, like my father, I had witnessed a period of history where there was a reasonable hope that America truly would be great and had the tools, the motivation, and the ability to overcome the crippling hatred pervasive in the country. Instead, America has repeatedly and consistently chosen hatred, when it had the opportunity and was on the track to choosing peace.

It begs the question: where are all the other Americans, who like my daddy, witnessed MLK and Ali? Are they silent? Too upset to have a voice? Where have they been all these years?

#altonsterling #philandocastile #blacklivesmatter


A Canadian in Denver: that time my black Uber driver explained why he’d vote for Trump

Disclaimer: I am Canadian. Our political spectrum is much more leftist than the states (even our Conservative politicians are more liberal than most Democrats in the USA). Furthermore, I hail from Quebec, which of all of the provinces in Canada, is the closest to a socialist society. All my political views have been shaped by my upbringing here. I happen to think that Canada, for all its numerous problems, is one of the best countries to live in. No, I am not utopic, and nor do I believe that Canada has achieved tolerance, fairness and peace; it just is considerably MORE tolerant, fair and peaceful that 99% other countries in the world. I’m not alone in that belief: we are ranked the 2nd best country to live in, world wide.

It will therefore come as no surprise that I am horrified by Trump’s rise to prominence as the presumptive Republican presidential candidate.  To quote Trevor Noah, from the Daily Show:

When I first started “The Daily Show”, a lot of people asked me the same question: “Are you ready, Trevor? Are you ready for American politics? Are you ready for this election cycle?” But now, seeing all of this shit happen, I think I should’ve asked if YOU were ready, because I’m from a third-world country – It looks like you’re headed to one.”

As a Canadian, looking in, yeah, I agree. I assumed most people would agree. Especially people who come from third world countries.

False assumption #1.

I’m currently spending the week in Denver, for work. Yesterday, my Uber driver was a black immigrant from Kinshasa, Congo. We chatted away in French, both of us relieved to take a break from speaking in English. I learned he’d been in the States for 7 years, and liked it well enough here. I asked him for his take on the election. Imagine my astonishment when he told me that he was, and had been from the start, a Trump supporter, and was 75% confident that Trump would beat Clinton in the general election.

I’d assumed that most black people, having seen how Trump and his supporters act and speak about blacks in America (assuming they weren’t already disgusted by his other comments about Hispanics and Muslims) would not be drawn to him.

False assumption #2.

Behold my Uber driver’s comments. I live texted our convo to one of my friends back home, so the French quotes below are close to verbatim. I’m pretty confident my translation is fair, and conveys his meaning without excessive projection of my own biases.

Trump dit les vraies choses. Le monde n’aiment juste pas entendre la v√©rit√©. Prenez par exemple ses propos sur les noirs. Trump n’est pas raciste! Les noirs, ici, vont aux m√™mes √©coles que les blancs, mais ensuite ne font rien de leur vie, et se plaignent de l’injustice sociale. Ils vivent g√©n√©ration apr√®s g√©n√©ration dans la pauvret√© et la criminalit√© et se sentent victimes. Trump, lorsqu’il dit que les noirs n’aiment que la bouffe, les femmes et la paresse, qu’ils sont des fain√©ants, il n’est pas raciste! Il ne fait qu’observer les vraies choses. Mais les gens s’emportent.

And now – in English:

Trump says things as they are. People just dont like hearing the truth. Take for example his comments about Blacks. Trump isn’t racist! Blacks, here, they go to the same schools as the white folks, but they don’t do anything with their lives, except complain about social injustice. They live generation after generation in poverty, criminality and feel victimized. Trump, when he says that Blacks only like food, women and laziness, that they are slackers, he isn’t being racist! He is just saying what he observes. But people can’t handle what they hear.

Even making allowances for the Immigrant Mentality (my grandparents, and every immigrant I’ve ever known, have it: immigrants work SO HARD to carve a living for themselves in a new country, they often feel slight/moderate contempt for the locals who haven’t succeeded in their home country), WTF, bro. You are black. Have you not seen the news lately? Do you feel NO sympathy for the pervasive, consistent biases against other blacks? White priviledge doesn’t particularly distinguish between African Americans and Immigrant Blacks.

Et pour ceux qui pensent que Trump a un probl√®me avec les femmes, pourquoi? Eh! C’est √©vident que les hommes peuvent mieux faire certaines jobs que les femmes. Ils sont plus forts, ils sont mieux adapt√©s pour certains travaux. Eh! C’est normal que cela se traduisent dans des taux salariales diff√©rents. Trump, qui juge que l’in√©quit√© salariale n’est pas une priorit√©, il n’a pas de probl√®me avec les femmes. C’est un businessman! Il comprend l’√©conomie de la chose. Il dit la v√©rit√©. Il sait comment faire de l’argent.

Just typing that out makes me so mad, I’m having trouble translating:

As for the people who think that Trump has a problem with women – why? Pffft. It is self-evident that men can better deliver in certain jobs than women. They are stronger, and better adapted for some work. Eh! Obviously, that is going to translate into different wage rates. When Trump says wage inequality isn’t a priority, it isn’t because he has a problem with women… He is a businessman! He understands the underlying economy. He says the truth. He knows how to make money.

Ok, there buddy. I can tell that you have your own issues when it comes to gender roles. But leaving that aside, because clearly a lot of people still have similar issues, or else we wouldn’t still have discussions about the relevance of feminism in our society, TRUMP DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO MAKE MONEY. HOW DOES THIS MYTH STILL PERSIST?!?! Even BEFORE John Oliver’s brilliant piece on Trump, it was a running gag that Trump is a serial bankruptee. PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE EVEN IN CANADA.

You guys, I don’t understand. I don’t get it. Even if you don’t mind his racist comments. Even if you aren’t scared shitless by his approach to international diplomacy (aka, bomb the shit out of anyone who doesn’t let America do whatever the fuck it wants, use nuclear weapons, who cares how many ppl die). Even if you live under a rock, and haven’t noticed that he LIES and CHANGES his opinions ALL THE FUCKING time. Even if you aren’t disgusted by his vulgar, rude, absence of manners – really, America, THAT is who you want to represent you on the international scene? Someone who proudly disregards any concept of etiquette. EVEN IF WE DISREGARD ALL OF THAT…

HE MAKES NO SENSE. He is NOT logical. Basic common sense. The wall? Economically unfeasible.

Now here is the kicker. Here is where I stop breathing, and lose all hope.

All over Facebook, I see people despair about Trump vs Clinton. And I agree – Clinton is not an ideal candidate. She’s slimy and so political. I don’t trust her either. But people then proudly announce they will NOT vote. I even had an acquaintance, who proudly shares all over Fbk his intention to RUN FOR OFFICE, state that if he was living in the USA, he would abstain from voting.

I give up.

If people can’t be bothered to VOTE, to try shape the future of their country and the world, just because they aren’t enamored of their candidates. If people don’t understand that by abstaining, they are giving their CONSENT to the outcome. THEY ARE AN ACCESSORY TO THE FACT.

If the country that is the “biggest defender of democracy” in the world can’t even get its citizens to understand the basics of democracy… it deserves Trump.

We are all gonna die.


Where I realise that Russell Brand is my soul mate

You know when you’ve said something like that, that’s it! It’s out in the world now, it’s part of your life, ain’t it? It’s with you, that’s it: you’ve said that thing. Humiliating, I’ve got to live with that knowledge. It’s not like I think about it all the time, I weren’t thinking about it when I was walking about earlier, or just now, or anything, but it’s sorta with me. And, mostly there is some part of me, some malevolent, cruel thing within me that won’t let me forget that. Some dark sprite of malevolence won’t never let me be free. Normally it strikes right when I am about to get to sleep- when I am all rested and peaceful. This cruel thing within me gets off on telling me stuff I’ve done that makes me look bad. – Russell Brand

That quote is the reason why I can claim with absolute certainty that Russell Brand is my soul mate. He gets me.

Donald Trump. Really, there isn’t much point in reading this post if you are a supporter of Trump. Or if you deny things like facts.

A Canadian friend of mine, a black dude who is making a name for himself in sports (let’s call him Sporty Spice) shared on Facebook this video of Trump’s latest Raleigh, NC rally, where 2 black Vloggers made a ludicrous speech supporting Trump. Sporty Spice wrote that these girls were modern day Uncle Toms: an opinion you may, or may not disagree with. Fine. I was going to move on with my life until my fingers decided to click on the comments: mistake #1. Reading those comments: mistake #2.

Bozo: Ok. Did you know? Fact: The Republican Party was founded primarily to oppose slavery, and Republicans eventually abolished slavery. The Democratic Party fought them and tried to maintain and expand slavery. The 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, passed in 1865 with 100% Republican support but only 23% Democrat support in Congress.

You know when you are drunk, and you think somethings gonna be a great idea, and of course it turns out to be a terrible idea? This was exactly like that except that I wasn’t drunk. Not being drunk: mistake #3.

Vanilla: Yes, and Lincoln was a Republican. So? Both parties have significantly changed platforms since then. The history of the party has nothing to do with Trump and his racist platform. Just because Republicans back in the day had some pretty solid ideas has NO correlation to the merit of the current candidates.

Some wise part of me tried to get me to move on with my life. Dignity – always worth striving for. The other part of me knew that a trainwreck was about to unfold, and forced me to stay glued to my phone, waiting for the inevitable response from Bozo. Willingly engaging with an unworthy opponent: mistake #4.

Bozo: Fact: in the 1950s, President Eisenhower, a Republican, integrated the US military and promoted civil rights for minorities. Eisenhower pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1957. One of Eisenhower’s primary political opponents on civil rights prior to 1957 was non other than Lyndon Johnson, then the Democratic Senate Majority Leader. LBJ had voted the straight segregationist line until he changed his position and supported the 1957 Act.

Vanilla: Still nothing to do with Trump and his platform.

Bozo: Fact: Contrary to popular misconception, the parties never “switched” on racism. The Democrats just switched from overt racism to a subversive strategy of getting blacks as depending as possible on government to secure their votes. At the same time, they began a cynical smear campaign to label anyone who opposes their devious strategy as greedy racists.

Vanilla: STILL nothing to do with Trump and his platform.

At this point, I almost was enjoying myself. Thinking I was being clever when engaging in stupid non-debate: mistake #5. Bozo then shared this link: Herschel Walker says Donald Trump ‘is not a racist!’. The link includes a total of 101 words, including 34 used to explain who Herschel Walker is (a former football star who played for a team formerly owned by Trump) + 1 tweet from Walker: “I have personally known @realDonaldTrump for over 30 years and can confirm he is not a racist!!”. Compelling evidence right there. Thinking that such a thing as persuasive evidence would be relevant in this Fbk disaster: mistake #6.

Vanilla: Why don’t you define racism to make sure any discussion is not at cross purposes.

Pretending this interaction was a discussion: mistake #7. Pretending it wasn’t already at cross purposes: mistake #8.

Vanilla: Also, I don’t particularly find ONE tweet by an athlete to be convincing evidence. Not enough to outweigh the statements made by Trump itself.

Bozo: lol, on Sporty Spice’s Fbk page no less. So all he’s posting is, in your words, “I don’t particularly find ONE tweet by an athlete to be convincing evidence.”

I’ll be honest. I LOST MY SHIT when I read that. Mistake #9. I could NOT believe he would try pit Sporty Spice against me, for the sake of scoring a few points in the STUPIDEST CONVERSATION EVER. I could NOT believe that he actually thought he was outsmarting me – I was insulted. Then I felt shame, because it was my fault Bozo thought he even had a chance at outsmarting me: I had engaged this stupid debate with HIM. ME. I DID THIS. Mistake #10.

Vanilla: Bozo, you make it hard to remain civil and not sink to your level of willful misunderstanding.

Barring the obvious fact that Sporty Spice actually supports his opinions and world views with videos/articles/other – some of which I deem legit sources, some of which I find subpar – vs a tweet, which by definition is 140 characters long and therefore typically has less content, the main difference between Sporty Spice’s page and that ONE tweet you provided to prove Trump ain’t a racist is that Sporty Spice isn’t asking ppl to simply trust his word, he is attempting to bring supporting evidence to the discussion.

Nice try though.

Re-reading that comment, it doesn’t even make much sense. Responding to a passive aggressive troll on Facebook while enraged: mistake #11.

Bozo: Nice try. In Qu√©bec, the verb “to skate” can mean avoiding questions, to find excuses and use diversion tactics. Most politicians know how to skate very well, but that doesn’t mean that they are any good on an ice rink.

That one had me genuinely confused. Was he trying to describe his own conversation tactics? Spending time trying to figure out Bozo’s thought process or lack thereof: mistake #12.

Vanilla: You sure showed me.

Bozo: You kinda made it easy.

Bozo: Listen, I’m sure you’re a nice person and even fun to hang around with. But here we’ll never get anywhere. I’m going to bow out. Cheers, no hard feelings.


Ladies and gents, I have to live with the knowledge that I dedicated 45 minutes of MY LIFE to this. Sober. Willingly. It’s out there. The Universe knows that this was part of my life-story.

Cue: Russell Brand’s monologue.

As a parting gift, I leave y’all with a step-by-step guide on how to avoid such scenarios. The glorious Only Bad Chi’s “How to Talk To Republicans“. Read it, chuckle, and then study it attentively. May you avoid repeating the same mistakes I did.¬†

On race and racism – Vanilla’s perspective

Perhaps because #OscarsSoWhite;

Perhaps because it is Black History Month;

Perhaps because Beyoncé turned black, and Kendrick Lamar owned the Grammys;

Perhaps because of the relentless stream of hatred spewing from our neighbor below’s Republican presidential candidates directed at anyone who isn’t a middle-class WASP;

My social media has been awash in all kind’s of posts related to racism, and specifically racism against blacks, or as Americans call them, African-Americans.

Perhaps because when Jimmy¬†Kimmel¬†shared this skit, I sent it to my friends,¬†and most of my white friends sheepishly admitted they didn’t have any black friends;

Perhaps because one of my friends once told me that it wasn’t her fault she was¬†unaware of¬†racial issues in Montr√©al since she didn’t hang out with black people, the way I do – she didn’t belong to a boxing gym;

Perhaps because at the accounting firm I worked at for 5 years, which employed close to 2,000 people, I only ever saw 3 black people;

Perhaps because in my graduate accounting program at a university renown for its ethnic diversity, out of a class of 160 students, 4 were black;

Perhaps because in my first year of mechanical engineering at one of Canada’s best universities, in a class of 125 students, 2 were black;

Many of my white friends have told me that racism isn’t an issue here in Canada (*), or at least, “it isn’t as bad as the States”.

Perhaps because my friends assumed my parents would have a problem when my first serious boyfriend was half black;

Perhaps because my ex-boyfriend grew up living in Alberta, where he and his brothers were the only black kids in high-school. One day after school, on his walk home,¬†my ex¬†was ambushed by the “cool” kids in his grade, who held him down, and sucker-punched him in the nose and broke it, because they didn’t like his “punk-ass black attitude”;

Perhaps because my ex’s mother (white, anglo-saxon Canadian) confided in me her doubts about successfully¬†raising mixed children in a white environment;

Perhaps because I remember the day when my ex and his roomie walked into the appartment, and his roomie, a Canadian Persian, was shaking with pent up outrage, while my ex looked blank. Walking in downtown Montr√©al, my ex’s roomie had been blatantly smoking a joint, while my ex walked beside him with his bike. My ex wore long dreadlocks; his roomie was clean shaven. The cops pulled up beside them, and searched my ex for pot, even after the roomie, outraged by the obvious racial profiling, yelled at them that he had all the pot on him. The cops ignored the roomie, and told my ex not to have so much attitude.

Perhaps because one time a (black) bouncer was rude to me. My ex started to speak up, and the bouncer looked at him with scorn, “what, you think you black? with your white girl, and your nice jeans?¬†Shut the fuck up.”

One friend told me she didn’t understand why black people had to make everything about race. Sometimes, it could just be a case of bad manners, you know?

Perhaps because¬†of 3 of my ex’s cousins¬†moved to Montr√©al from Jamaica, in their early teens, and were taken in by their white cousin – a lovely man, who’d grown up in Barbados, and understood the culture shock of moving to Canada. Quebec’s education system forced them into a french high-school with¬†remedial french lessons, and held them back academically due to their difficulties learning the language. Bored, they started acting out, fell in with a bad crowd made up of other disenfranchised non-white (mainly black) teenagers, and got into serious trouble. Their guardian pleaded with the principal and guidance counsellors to allow the boys to join the regular academic stream and the school athletic teams, so that the boys would be exposed to a wider variety of youth, with less behavioural problems and more ambition. The school replied that due to their poor french skills and bad attitude, it would be inappropriate to reward the boys with those privileges.

Perhaps because one of the boys got recruited by a gang in Montr√©al, and eventually got shot and killed. Perhaps because the cops shrugged and never bothered investigating. “What do you expect? He should have known better.”

Perhaps because at the boy’s funeral, I showed up in a charcoal suit. I was outraged when close to 50 young black kids showed up wearing hoodies printed¬†with¬†the boy’s¬†face. How dare they show such lack of respect in their attire? I sat next to one of those kids, who cried so hard his body was shaking. He didn’t¬†own a hankerchief,¬†so¬†he’d brought a facecloth, which he soaked through and through. When I tentatively gave him a hug, and patted his back soothingly, he hung on for dear life.¬†I wondered how many of these kids would make it to 18.

Perhaps because a few month’s later, the eldest boy got arrested and sent to juvie, for shoplifting¬†$10 worth of¬†cheese from the local grocery store. The youngest boy started running away from home. Perhaps because I never found out what happened to them.

My friends tell me White Privilege is “not a thing” here in Qu√©bec.

I don’t have any answers. I don’t understand why racism is so easy, and why specifically racism against blacks is such a polarizing issue, even here in Canada. I do however know that to deny the problem because it is subtle; to relativise it into meaninglessness; to blame the victims for being oversensitive is not the solution. To listen, even when the arguments are awkwardly phrased; to acknowledge the hurt and rage coming from the people with the courage to speak up; to keep an open mind as to the causes and the solutions; to be kind – THAT is part of the solution.

I leave you with this article: The Cost



(*) One of my readers pointed out that Blacks make up only 2% of Canada’s population, and the stats I gave about my workplace and schooling are consistent with that %. True. However, in Montr√©al, Blacks make up 9.1% of the city’s population. In which case… my point that blacks are significantly under-represented in Professional settings/university degrees still stands. (stats taken fron the 2011 Canadian census).

The Danger of a Single Story

Dynamo is my bestie. My boo. He is also Muslim. Worse, Syrian.

Call the cops, y’all.

Even in Canada, this wonderful country, the anti-muslim spirit is present. One of Dynamo’s friends got asked, following the Paris attacks, “Whaddya mean, you’re Muslim?! You look normal!” I saw this cartoon several times in my Facebook newsfeed by Canadian friends who deplored our new Prime Minister’s plan to welcome 10,000 Syrian Refugees into Canada in 2015.

I get it. Times are scary. Some threats are legitimate. But it FREAKS ME OUT when I hear some of the rhetoric out there. Donald Trump makes me nauseous. Most of the American media does too. I get anxiety attacks when I hear echoes of that hateful speech north of the border. Canadians, remember our heritage:


I leave you with a Ted Talk by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – The Danger of a Single Story.

What struck me was this: She had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe. In this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.

I can’t write down what I¬†believe the current single-story about Muslims to be, in North-America. I will not. It is too upsetting. I come from a family, broken by WWII. Each of my grandparents lived through and witnessed horrors that forever maimed them, damaged my parents, who then influenced me & my cousins, because of a war started over a single story about Jews. Now, I look around me, and I fear the single-story growing about my best friend, his family, and so many others.

It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.

Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and to start with, “secondly.” Start the story with the arrows of the Native Americans, and not with the arrival of the British, and you have an entirely different story. Start the story with the failure of the African state, and not with the colonial creation of the African state, and you have an entirely different story.

That is why the current American rhetoric is so dangerous. It doesn’t matter that Trump might never get elected. He is shaping a single story that will do damage.

I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.

Which is why the work being done by Humans of New York is so important. He finds the humanity of all people he interviews. He is telling their stories.

Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.

The American writer Alice Walker wrote this about her Southern relatives who had moved to the North. She introduced them to a book about the Southern life that they had left behind. “They sat around, reading the book themselves, listening to me read the book, and a kind of paradise was regained.”

I would like to end with this thought: That when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.

Wouldn’t a kind of paradise be nice?




I do so love being called a racist. Turns me on!

In case I haven’t made it clear that online dating is a hazardous activity, let me share with you an interaction from this morning:


For those of you who do not speak French, here is a quick translation:
@9:10am: “Hello”
@9:15am: “Answer please, just chat, nothing more. I can be interesting, one never knows.”
@9:30am: “You don’t like talking to black people. I must be bothering you”

Apart from the obvious irony that I am prone to flirt/chat/date guys who are not white-Caucasians (as described here and here), something which I’ve decided to not share with the above Prince Charming, I am having trouble moving past this little incident.

This is why I hate online dating – it is an unwritten contract that by subscribing to these apps as a girl, I am agreeing to have all kinds of insults, ranging from rude sexual propositions to accusations of racism, thrown at me, JUST BECAUSE I WASN’T FLATTERED BY BEING ADDRESSED BY THESE GUYS.

I can’t even explain how mad this makes me.


An unexpected cadeau

You guys, I’ve been nominated for my first blogging award by¬†Emma¬†at Trying To Make Lemonade!!!¬†I’ve been smiling ever since. I’m amazed by the breadth and depth of blogs on the interweb, and often feel like the teensiest¬†bit of moisture in the ocean, on a humid day. To be recognized is gratifying and wonderful. Thank you, Emma!

This particular nomination includes some rules. Here they are. 

1. Thank the person who nominated you and display the award on your post.
2. List the award rules.
3. State 7 random things about yourself.
4. Nominate other bloggers.
5. Contact your nominees to let them know you have nominated them.
6. Proudly display the award logo on your blog either on a side bar, about page or a special award page.

7 random things about myself

1. My favorite book is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I think I could¬†recite it all, from memory. However, a close second is the Shopaholic series by Sophia Kinsella. Kids, be financially responsible and unprejudiced. Then, you’ll live happily ever after.

2. My favorite color is pink, bright and brash. A close second is deep vibrant blue. Imagine my delight when last Christmas, my cousins got me a pink and blue wallet that is not garish at all, but sophisticated and delightful, truly.

3. I am an only child.

4. I have never fallen in love. I have, however, gradually slid into love, which is not the same, albeit quite lovely.

5. I¬†haven’t fully mastered the concept of an indoor voice; I¬†have given up attempting an indoor laugh. My loud, sudden bursts of laughter are my trademark. My co-workers shake their heads, but they all say my laughter is contagious. I don’t think they¬†are simply¬†being polite…

6. I still have my childhood teddybear, given to me at my christening. He’s frayed and fragile, but my oldest friend.

7. ¬†When I was very little, I wanted to be a pigeon farmer. Later, I decided I’d be welder, just like my dad, and we’d go to work together in my red convertible sports car, and have matching thermoses for our lunches. I have failed at all 3 aspects of that ambition: wrong career, no sports car, and definitely no thermos.


The Bloggess is hilarious. She’s written a book “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir” that is on the NYT best-seller list. I enjoyed it so much, I gave it to two friends for Christmas, and Santa gave me a copy too, how surprising! I found¬†her through the story of Beyonce, the metal chicken, one of my all-time favorite discoveries on the Internet.

Next on the list is Black and Dixi’s Black and Offbeat blog. An infrequent poster, but each post is beautifully crafted, dealing with being a black young woman in a predominantly white European country. She is articulate,¬†humorous¬†and sometimes sad.

Lastly, The Belle Jar. A fellow Canadian, folks!! A feminist, who chronicles her struggles with depression, points out racism and prejudice (click here and here, for prime examples), and has many delightful flights of fancy (including her take on the characters of Friends: where are they now).


Thanks once again, Emma. I look forward to every one of your posts, admire your honesty and cross my fingers, as I follow your journey, all the way from snowy Montreal.

I’m glad to have had the opportunity to share these three women’s blogs, all of whom inspire me, as I continue to explore¬†this new-found form of self-expression, and find my voice as a writer. The blogosphere is a fantastic place!