Friday, June 26, 2009

How I Met Your Father

I've been watching a lot of How I Met Your Mother these days, which is totally messing with me. The show is adorable, and Jason Segel obviously needs to move to Canada to date me: both Marshall Erikson on HIMYM and Nick Andopolis from Freaks and Geeks are totally sweet, funny, tall dudes. That's the way (uh-huh, uh-huh) I like 'em. He just seems so genuine, you know? I know he's an actor and it's likely he's a huge turd with a gigantic ego, but I'm sold on the characters he plays. Cute, with a side of awesome.

Ahem. This wasn't supposed to turn into a love letter to Jason Segel. Apologies all around. No, the reason I mention HIMYM is because the show is totally obsessed with marriage, and it's weirding me out.

Look, I love marriage. Granted, since I'm friends mostly with broke people, I've yet to attend an actual fancy-person wedding (caterers, photographers, cake, parents, etc.), but the institution, I'm on-side with. You know how it was trendy for a while to be all snorty and derisive when the topic of marriage came up? People would say things like, "I know we're in love, man, so why do I need a piece of paper to say that?" as they walked barefoot along the dirty sidewalk, holding their dreadlocked beloved by the hand.

Those words always felt a little fake in my mouth, since I actually do believe in marriage. While it's totally square to admit an interest in nuptial ceremonies, I've been known to peruse a bridal magazine or two. I'm not going to lie - usually I'm just looking for really pretty dresses. But it's not something that I'm going to reject out of hand as being some patriarchal convention designed to subjugate women and reinforce the capitalist world, man.

You know how people are always spouting about how half of all marriages ending in divorce? Think again, chumps. Turns out, that number goes way down if you adjust for things like undergrad degrees, age, and how long you wait before getting knocked up (as a couple, of course, even though coupled guys who say "we're" pregnant need a swift kick in the babymaker). Backwater teenagers who get married in a maternity gown? Probably not going to be celebrating that tenth anniversary. Quel surprise.

Marriage, these days, is presented as some ball-and-chair setup that means the loss of youth, privacy and the slow strangulation of a healthy sex drive. Some nosy wife is always shrewing at some balding husband, while a gaggle of children - a product of boring, tired, infrequent sex - soaks up the retirement fund in the form of plastic children's toys. I'm sure some people honestly feel that way, and those folks shouldn't get married.

But for the rest of us: what's so bad about love and support? What's the problem with a friend you get to have sex with? Someone to feed you soup when you have the flu, someone to be a cheerleader, a person who will still like you even if you fuck it up? I'm not talking about l-o-v-e here. I think it's way more important that you actually like the person you end up pledging your troth to. Yeah, sure, communication and respect are important too...but isn't awesome when a couple has been married for thirty years and they can still make each other laugh so hard they cry? That goes way beyond love, man.

Getting back to television: HIMYM is lying to me. It's presenting this world where awesome, adorable, sweet dudes are totally into the idea of marriage. This is SUCH a LIE. Most of the awesome, adorable sweet dudes I know are properly girded with girlfriends, but nary a one popped the question. It seems like guys who are well into their thirties are the only ones getting down on bended knee. Ryan Reynolds married ScarJo, who is a full ten years his junior. (Sidebar: is anyone else having a hard time figuring out what those two talk about? I mean, they're both hot, but he seems funny and charming, and she seems...not.) It seems obvious that my mid-twenties brethren are still lapping at the Fountain of Youth, from which an eternal spring of take-out pizza and joints flows.

I'm not hating on any of the following: take-out pizza, joints, guys in their twenties, guys in their thirties, How I Met Your Mother, or Ryan Reynolds. (Scarlett? Meh.) But I am saying is that show has created this optimistic world where cute, rumply-haired architects just want to fall in love and get married. Is this the world I live in? Maybe I need to move to a different city. Because, frankly, with my smarts, wit, and breasts? I'm an excellent catch. Ryan Reynolds, I am, like, right here.

Television is fantasy. It's not supposed to be realistic, and hey, if it makes single girls feel like maybe there's an attractive sportscaster waiting just around the corner, what's the harm? This show introduced the slap bet to the world; it's not exactly reality TV. However, when television is good - and this is good TV - it feels real. Seinfeld, even though it devolved into lunacy very quickly, always felt real. Friends felt real. How I Met Your Mother also feels real; it feels like, even though the show is using actors and props and scripts and all that phony blah-blah, it still hits in a place that uses the real...which makes it successful...which makes me a little mad at it, for the he's-right-around-the-corner trip it lays on its audience.

Damn. So meta! What would Barney Stinson do?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rolling Out

In honor of the heat - seriously, Extreme Heat Alert should be a flavour of Doritos, not an ongoing event in Toronto, complete with cooling stations and advisory statements to check on your collection of infirm and elderly friends/family - I'll keep this captain's log entry short and to the point: summertime and the living is...meh.

For the past couple years, summer has been a traditionally bad time for me. I have painful memories of a bad breakup - one that came right on the heels of disastrous news about my sister and her health - and the summer of '07 was compounded by a dear friend being deported, not to mention me moving away from my first Toronto home. It was The Time Of Great Crying, which made me a total drag to be around. But, thankfully, I had amazing friends and a wonderful family to help drag me out of the mud, and I made it through.

But! A side effect of living through really horrible shit is getting to re-live it...again...and again. You know, I've never been through a war, or been horribly mangled in a prison riot, and it's not fair to say that my horrible summer was like either of those things. On the other hand, it certainly wasn't a cakewalk, and trying to pretend it wasn't bad is actually pretty stupid.

In any case, prison riots or no (hint: no), summer usually brings out a host of insecurities. Will I always be single? Will I ever find a job? Am I a huge disappointment to everyone I've ever met?(For those keeping score at home: yes, no, oh god, yes.) And dudes: it's tough climbing out of that mindset sometimes.

A couple months ago, I stole a fantastic idea from my friend Amanda. She concocted a list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, a conceit I admire very much, seeing as how it avoids that dreadful "bucket list" thing and still leads to actual deeds getting actually done. One of my 101 was "cry in public" and ladies and gentlemen: mission accomplished. I am the proud owner of a 2009 Hissy Fit. It was, like me, blue.

Hopefully, the 2010 Hissy Fit will be much smaller, and the 2011 Hissy Fit smaller still. It feel weird to admit that I'm still thinking about it - hell, even my sis seems mostly past it. But I get the sense that "seems" is the operative word there: we all carry baggage we don't want to admit to, because it seems like we should be past it, or that we are past it - except for tiny weekend-long exceptions, of course.

Other items on that list were things like "touch a dinosaur bone" and "fall in love," both of which takes bravery and inspiration. Last year, when the 2008 Hissy Fit was rolling out, those kinds of aspirations would have seemed totally out of reach. Now, it just seems like I'm requiring less trunk space for all my baggage.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Daddy Issues

Most dudes I know have a complicated relationship with their dads. It's not a straightforward one-to-one kind of deal, where the dad offers sage life advice and smokes a pipe and wears natty cardigans, and the son kneels obediently at their feet, waiting for said life advice to be doled out in easy-to-remember chunks. Because real people don't exist in 22-minute slices of time, the actual fathering of the sons becomes a little more fraught. Well, not the actual fathering, which is pretty straightforward and takes significantly less time. I mean the parenting, which isn't really a verb, but hell, let's roll with it.

It's not like my girlfriends have an easy time with their mothers, but at least most moms stuck around to screw us up. Dads are usually the parent who disappears when marriages end, which leaves the kids gettin to know their fathers through awkward breakfast dates and guiltily written cheques...if they're lucky. Some fathers just take flight, leaving town and occasionally starting a new family in a different area code. There's a scene in Fight Club where Ed Norton talks about how his dad started fresh every six years, "like he was starting a franchise," and he isn't a rare oiseau. While Mama Bear usually keeps the cubs and the cave, Papa Bear can wander the forest, catching salmon and pooping. (Yeah, I'm comparing divorced couples to bears. It's an analogy, or maybe a simile. It's probably not a total success, either.)

I'm lucky - my dad not only stuck around, he's also a good father. I was a 100% asshole during my high school career, and somehow, my relationship with parents survived. While my mom took the brunt of my jerk-store behaviour, my dad wasn't immune, and it's amazing that we even hang out, let alone like each other. To my credit, I did develop a sense of humour somewhere in the past ten years, which probably saved my ass from any number of lost relationships. However, to their credit, my folks were willing to get past a few terrible years and move into, like, a healthy adult relationship with me. That's lucky. My parents are awesome.

My friends gleefully refer to my dad as "the silver fox," a moniker he earned by having white hair and remaining a trim, handsome guy into his middle age. (Both my parents have aged astonishingly well, which means I can look forward to getting carded well into my sixties.) He used to have this rooster-esque hairdo, which was floppy and long and kind of business-silly, but when my sister needed chemo, he shaved his head in solidarity. Weirdly, it made him look more muscular and about ten years younger, but he didn't do it for vanity; he did to support his daughter. He's a stand-up fella, my dad.

I know Mother's Day is a huge deal, with the brunches and the flowers and the hats, but Father's Day shouldn't be tossed aside. Dads are important: their presence and values inform us as both children and adults, and their absence and flaws can make a significant impact on the people we become. When I was rhyming off ideal boyfriend characteristics to my mom a few weeks ago, I included "good relationship with both parents," because a dude with a solid connection to his ma and pa (regardless of their marital status) is likely to share some of the values that my own parents instilled in me: communication, flexibility, honesty, and the importance of getting a little tipsy with out-of-town friends and blasting Tubular Bells at four in the morning. The usual stuff.

So: Mom, I love you. Dad, I love you, and happy Father's Day. You're both awesome.