I was shocked when I realised I hadn’t taken the time to write about this. Flabbergasted, one might say. Absolutely jaw dropped, that I hadn’t yet broached this topic. Because I’ve got some opinions on it. So, let’s discuss.
The first time I remember getting catcalled, I was 11. I was walking with my older sister who was 15 and a truck honked at us. It pulled up slowly and drove away pretty fast. My sister grabbed my hand and she turned really red. I didn’t understand fully what had happened. I had seen movies where guys hollered at girls, but those situations seemed like it was all in good fun. The guys in movies were in high school and wore polos with popped collars and drove convertibles (it was the 2000’s), and they complimented girls who they already knew, girls they were already involved with. But this wasn’t like that. These men weren’t in high school, because my sister was in high school, and they were so much older. And there was no fun music playing or cheerful smiles, it felt like they were sneering at us. Most importantly, it wasn’t all in good fun and we didn’t know them. My sister seemed embarrassed and I was uncomfortable because I couldn’t quite wrap my head around what was going on.
And catcalling has remained that confusing for me ever since.
I often say, “It’s funny until it’s not”. My friends and I trade stories about catcalls and bad pickup lines and that’s fine. We laugh about it because otherwise it feels scary. I often tell people about the guy who followed me for 5 blocks when I was 19, and I tell it with a jokey tone. But that’s because it ended without harm. In reality, I was scared. I called my dad to come meet me because I was only a block from my house. The guy left as my dad approached, but not before repeatedly touching my arm and asking me to come home with him.
It’s funny until it’s not, but otherwise I feel gross. I feel uncomfortable in my own skin, because I don’t understand why I’m attracting that sort of attention. I don’t understand what I did, what signal I made, what clothing item I wore that warranted being followed, being touched, being yelled at. And that’s the worst part, that I sit around asking myself what I could’ve done better. Should I have worn a sweater in the summer over my tank top? Should I have gone running in leggings over shorts? Should I have made eye contact with the ground, as not to attract unwanted attention? I treat it like a learning opportunity for me, when in reality I’ve done nothing wrong.
Don’t get me started on trying to explain to men. I got catcalled this week on a run and I told my mom about it when I was home. The guy stopped me at a red light and said, “Well, you’re a good girl, aren’t you? Mmmmm yes, you’re such a good girl.” It took most of my strength not to dive headlong into traffic.
My mom cringed with me, and my dad asked me, “Why didn’t you say something back? Why didn’t you tell him to fuck off? Why didn’t you kick him in the balls?” and while I understand where my dad’s suggestions were coming from, he didn’t get it. He didn’t get that talking back isn’t always an option. Yes, I’m 6ft tall, but this man easily cleared 6’3”. I’d bet my lucky stars that he was stronger than me, and based on our previous interaction, I don’t suspect he respected women very much. I was outnumbered by this man, even though it was only 1-on-1. I was clearly not in the position of power. And that’s often how it is. Interacting, engaging, calling back doesn’t end in a witty punchline or a victory. It ends in more discomfort, or even retaliation.
I said earlier that catcalling still confuses me. And it does, what do they think the suspected outcome will be? Do you think you’ll holler “Hey baby, you’re looking good?” and I’ll hop in your Hyundai Sonata and we’ll just go at it like animals in the back seat? What caveman part of the brain thinks, “Yell at that woman, I think she’ll find it endearing”? What is the point if not simply to make women uncomfortable? Why do it, because I can’t imagine it actually garners positive attention.
That’s it from me today. Just frustration and fear and a good anecdote, because it’s funny until it’s not. It’s funny until you’re 13 and trying to explain to a 40-year-old man that you’re not interested in going on a date. It’s funny until you’re telling the man on the subway to stop touching your knee as he tries to get your attention. It’s funny until you get off the bus three stops early just so the man will stop bothering you. It’s funny until he keeps asking you for a price because “girls that pretty are always hookers”. Its funny until it’s not.
And let’s be honest, it’s rarely fucking funny.
From me, with love, to you,
In May of 2017 I came back to Toronto for the summer. For the previous two years I had held summer jobs and frankly, I hated them both. That summer, I was 18 and I wanted a job downtown. I wanted something new, something I wouldn’t hate. So, I took a handful of resumes to Toronto Eaton Centre and handed them out to every retail establishment I could.
As I plastered the mall with opportunities, I found myself at American Eagle. I had never been a frequent shopper – or even a shopper there at all. I was a religious wearer of BDG jeans at the time and my only real interaction with the company was my collection of Aerie underwear. However, my cousin had worked at American Eagle in the past and didn’t hate it. Plus, I needed a job. I walked into the store with no familiarity of the product, no understanding of the company values and a handful of resumes filled with irrelevant job experience. I left the store with one less resume and an interview scheduled for later that afternoon.
Four and a half years later, I find myself leaving my “summer job”. If you asked me-of-2017, I would viciously deny that the store in the basement of the Eaton Centre would become as integral to my life as it has. That job funded my first album. It allowed me to live in Vancouver. It kept me employed during the pandemic. It provided me with the experience I needed to get a new job I am more than excited to start.
However, that doesn’t mean that I am more than excited to leave. I understand I initiated the launch, I was the one who sought out and found a new job, but there are thing I’m leaving behind that I’m going to miss. I’m going to miss meeting so many people. I helped young girls get ready for their first day of high school. I shopped with children who were taking a day off from chemotherapy at Sick Kids. I shopped with trans individuals who were buying their first items of clothing that represented who they truly were. I helped stylists for movies, people find clothes for their first job, and tourists on vacation. I got to speak German and French and American Sign Language. Additionally, I met a handful of Karens who provided me stories for Tik Toks.
I’m going to miss learning the hard life lessons. Growing up my dad said everyone should work in either service or retail. It makes you a better person, he said. It will teach you life skills, he said. And after a near half decade in retail, I can thoroughly agree. You learn to be kind to others, particularly those working in service and retail. You have a greater appreciation for our friends working minimum wage jobs and expected to perform at 100% all the time. You learn to appreciate hard work, because nothing says hard work like a Boxing Day shift at the Eaton Centre. You learn to appreciate money. When you work hourly, you look at all your transactions thinking about how worth it something is. “Is this sweater worth 5 hours of work?” or “Is this Starbucks worth 30mins?”.
I’m going to miss working with clothes. Growing up, clothes were always an important part of my life. Most of the people in my family respect and talk about fashion and style. We watched TV shows and read magazines and curated closets that represented how we wanted the world to see us. It only makes sense that I thrived in an environment where a passion for style is necessary. I’m going to miss helping customers style pieces. Getting people out of their comfort zones. God’s honest opinion, I’m going to miss my associate discount.
And of course, I’m going to miss the people I worked with. Retail environments have a high turnover of people, so I worked with an infinite number of people over the last 5 ish years. I worked with people who have become close friends of mine, people who got me through the days where I swore I was going to slam my head in a fitting room door. People who became a sounding bored for real life problems and listened to me talk about my sisters over and over again. But I also met people who made me grow. People who I butted heads with and had arguments with and frankly, I’m not going to miss that much but I appreciate them all the same.
So, all in all, I’m excited for my new chapter. I greatly appreciate the opportunities I’ve had over the last year and the lessons I learned working at that store. I greatly appreciate all the free clothes I’ve gotten in the last year and I will shed a tear for that loss. Although, I know I’ll be back. One day soon I’ll need a pair of black skinny jeans because the world will get over their bizarre aversion to tight jeans. And I’ll have to walk down to the basement of the Eaton Centre, and some bright-eyed new associate will come up to me and ask me that question that every American Eagle associate has burned into their brain: How do you like your jeans to fit?
…or maybe I’ll just order online…
From me, with love, to you,
I am a damn treat.
Have you heard me say this recently? It has become a bit of a catch-phrase of mine and I drove my entire family insane over Thanksgiving weekend as most of my speech was littered with this phrase. And although it started from a place of sarcasm, it kind of became non-sarcastic (unsarcastic? dis-sarcastic?) with time. I AM a damn treat. However, don't worry, this isn't going to be about me going on this rant about how amazing I am. We're going to dive a little bit further down this rabbit hole or why I started including this is my day to day vernacular - and why you should as well.
I spent a lot of my life thinking that I was less-than. As a teenager, I sought validation from people around me; I thought that to love myself, I needed others to love me. It was exhausting, I oozed desperation and self-loathing. I aspired for better in the most self-destructive ways and created insecure relationships with people willing to abuse the fragile state I was in. Not to mention this perpetuated my anxiety beyond belief. "Hot mess" doesn't nearly describe the way I was living. I had people who loved me, but they felt like exceptions to the rule, I felt like I didn't deserve them.
And then to top it all off, I got into a relationship. I dated this guy who was wonderful but I shifted all my self-worth into the foundation of this relationship. I was enough because I was loved by someone, because someone else saw me as enough. But what happened when that relationship ended? I was shattered; nobody loved me anymore and therefore I was unlovable. I had placed all my value in something that no longer existed. I spent the next three months literally flinging myself anywhere, on anyone, trying to patch up the hole in my life where my relationship should have been.
Now this next idea is credited to Daniel Schloss (go watch his comedy special "Jigsaw", 10/10). I loved myself at a whopping 10%, so anyone who cared about me at 20% loved me TWICE AS MUCH as I loved myself. TWICE. It felt like the sun and the moon, until you actually think about all the things you like 20%. Here are the things in my life that I like 20%
I would love to tell you that I had this "light bulb" moment. This sudden realization that I was better, but I didn't. I would love to tell you the key to self-love is spinning around three times and jumping up and down on one leg and then TADA! Self-love! But it happened. Slowly. With time, I realized that I was caught in this loop. I was anxious because I needed others to love me and because I was so stressed about what other people thought, nobody wanted to be around me. The things that made me great were overshadowed by the things I hated about myself. This dependency on others also allowed me to shift blame in my life. Nothing was my fault because I was nothing, I was only what other people made me, so my faults were their faults. All good things were just a lucky shot and all bad things were someone else's problems.
But like I said, with time I shifted my values. I started taking credit for my actions, both good and bad. Being responsible for the things you do means that you are the sum total of your decisions. (See my last post). Taking responsibility for the good things was easy. Taking responsibility for the bad things was hard.
A prime example is grades. If I did poorly on a test then I had to think, how hard did I actually study. Did I give it my all or some half-ass attempt? Because if I gave it my all, if I could confidently say that, then there is nothing else I could do and I had to be proud of myself for the mark I got. But if I didn't use all my resources, TAs, office hours, extra help, then the shitty grade was on me. It was my responsibility. Frankly, I'm still learning to do this. I'm still learning to take responsibility for the bad things, because it isn't easy. But I'm learning and that's what matters.
And once you are the sum total of your actions, you are something. You have tangible evidence of the things that you are. You are the job that you got because you interviewed well and you put the hours in. You are a friend because you treat those around you with respect. You are, you are, you are. And I began to realise, I am a lot of things. I am a baker, a singer, a sister, a friend, a student, a writer, a philanthropist. I am all these things because I went out and I made them true, and nobody in this world can take those things away from me, because they're mine.
You don't need to love yourself 100%. Loving yourself 100% at times can be bad as well, it can stop you from changing and growing and being better than you are. Right now I love myself at about 80%, which isn't ideal but I'm getting better. I still have things I want to work on, but I'm on the right trajectory and most importantly, I'm proud to be who I am. There are still days I look in the mirror and I'm unsure, but 80% is a hell of a lot better than 10%. And for someone to be my sun and moon they need to love me at at least 80%. And to put that in perspective, my list of things I love at 80% are:
So I am a damn treat because I made myself that way. I took an 18-year-old girl with chronic panic attacks and a self worth lower than the pits of hell and made her into a young women who is about to graduate university (should all go as planned). And yes, the world will throw things at me that are out of my control. I cannot control the weather or time or the actions of those around me, but I can control me and that is enough. I am enough. And I am a damn treat.
From me, with love, to you,