Saskatoon Well Being Magazine was a publication I was very pleased to write for this year. As their titled suggested, they were a magazine devoted to health, wellness, and self-improvement. My monthly column Dream, Goal, Plan was a tongue-in-cheek look at these themes. What I lacked in legitimate expertise, I made up for with bogus advice, faulty wisdom, and a dash of snark. Sadly, Saskatoon Well Being Magazine folded this fall, but working for them was a joy, and I’m proud to have had these missives in print for such a fine publication.
Get On The Bus…
“I don’t drive a car. I don’t know how to and I never learned. When I tell people this, I experience the same reaction I give to people when they tell me they don’t watch television or eat meat or cheese. “What do you sit and look at?!” I think, horrified. “What in hell do you put on bread when you feel sad?”
I can’t explain why I didn’t get a driver’s license as a teenager without detailing a complex list of my neuroses (and Well Being’s editor tells me I have to use those sparingly as she has many more issues planned). Basically, I couldn’t master the level of multitasking required to drive well (monitoring speed, traffic, steering and looking cool) and the idea that a mistake behind the wheel could cause mayhem, destruction and death is frightening enough to keep me out of the driver’s seat.”
“I love a Saskatchewan summer. More accurately, I love what passes for a Saskatchewan summer. Those few weeks in July when I tuck a $5 bill into my winter coat pocket before put- ting it in the closet and think, “Man, I hope this weather lasts long enough for me to forget that’s in there.” I enjoy the trap- pings of summer as well. I enjoy a day at the beach, a twist of lemon in a beverage and the occasional blockbuster movie where aliens invade or a town blows up and nobody comes to terms with anything. But there’s one summer staple I can’t appreciate and it causes me grief every single year. I don’t like camping.”
The Most Underrated Of The 3 Rs
“Have you ever seen those survival guy shows? Not Survivor, but the type of show where a guy (it’s always a man, women aren’t this intentionally stupid) goes into an inhospitable environment to humans, like a jungle, a desert or an outdoor music festival, then finds his way out? They even film themselves, so there’s no suggestion of an off-camera crew sharing turkey subs from the catering table. I, for one, would like to see the reverse concept every episode. Show me how to get into a five star hotel or top-rated restaurant using only my wits and a cup of my own pee.
I will admit, however, a certain appeal to the survivor guy show. It’s amazing to see how far one can get without any material possessions. It flies in the face of our always-connected age. I envy that freedom from things (that said, don’t take away any of my stuff). Recycling isn’t just about sorting bottles and making new trees out of old newspapers or whatever. Recycling could also be using the same thing more than once. One feels like an environmentally-conscious genius when enjoying multiple functions from one device. Like the survival guy who uses a long stick to spear fish and retrieve Frisbees from tall treetops, I love the idea of more than one use for a simple thing.”
“Baby Advice From A Childless Man”
“It’s so weird. It seemed like, for a few years there, every summer would have friends’ weddings. Now, I’m always hearing about friends’ pregnancies. I keep trying to make the connection there, but it eludes me. Anyway, I’m thrilled to have so many Moms and Dads (whether they’re brand new or soon-to-be) as Friends! I have heard that once you’re married, you just want to hang out with married people and once you have kids, you just want to hang out with other parents. I’m thrilled to report that so far, that has not been the case with my nearest and dearest. They make time for me and my unmarried, childless problems (“I can’t decide if I want to take a yoga class or start drinking more! Waaah!”). All the same, though, I want to be sure that I can still offer wise counsel to my friends as they go from colleagues and school chums to Moms and Dads and I think I know how.”
“The Sounds of Silence”
“Is it me or is it really loud in here? I mean, I don’t know where you are as you read this, but chances are, something is making noise. You’ve got your iPod going, or the TV’s on, or your significant other is trying to explain to you that putting a fresh roll of toilet paper on top of the toilet tank is not the same as actually changing the roll and you’re like, “I’m trying to read this thing here.” Wherever you are, click off your devices (unless you’re reading this online, then by God, please continue), shut out whatever noise you can and sit with me a while, won’t you?”
“The Adult Introvert”
“Has this ever happened to you? You meet the young child of a friend of yours who walks up to you on the playground and says, “Hi! I’m Leslie and I like basketball and horses! I live in a blue house and I’m in grade two and I’m good at drawing and I’m happy!” Don’t you just want to hug a child like that?
Then, you meet the new boyfriend or girlfriend of a friend of yours who walks up to you at a party and says, “Hi! I’m Pat and I’m into yoga and the Riders! I’m in a condo downtown and I work in marketing and I’ve got a lot on my plate right now, so I’m just trying to, like, find myself.” Don’t you just want to punch a person like that?
Isn’t it interesting that some of the advice we heap on children is the same we don’t heed as adults? Clean your plate, for instance. When’s the last time someone congratulated you for being “a good eater”? We demand naps of children that we never take ourselves lest we miss a tweet or a Facebook photo of a friend’s homemade dinner or fingernails. And we encourage a kind of forced extroversion in children that, while cute and precocious in a six-year-old, is creepy and off-putting in a 26-year-old.”
The Bonuses Of Gay Manhood
“I may not be the manliest of men. I can’t chop wood or hunt game and I have no interest in hitting a ball and then walking around to find that ball and then hitting it again (and if you can explain golf in terms more accurate than that then you’re a wizard or a liar). But I’m certainly a man with man parts and man friends and I wake up next to a man every morning.
I’m not sure why gay men like me aren’t seen as authorities on masculinity when you consider all the time and energy we spend not only being men but using our masculine wiles to attract other men for a non-stop man party. Gay men in pop culture are often portrayed as completely asexual and exist only to dole out advice to their gal pals over brunch (which we’re happy to do, by the way, but not just that). But in real life, gay guys have more to say than, “Your hair looks fabulous today!” (which again, it does, what are you using? Never mind, text me later). In real life, if you’re reading this, you know actual gay people. Maybe you don’t think you do, but statistically, you must. You have gay coworkers, gay neighbours, gay family members, maybe even a gay kid. Maybe you are somebody’s gay kid and you’re reading this right now. Moms and Dads, if you’ve got teenaged sons, just leave this issue lying around conspicuously. Gay kid, if you’re reading this, I’m so pumped, because this is my chance to talk to you about being a man. Straight kid, if you’re reading this, read on anyway. You might learn something about the estimated 10 per cent of the population that you’re going to encounter throughout your life.”
Lowering Resolution Standards
“Welcome to the first of what I hope will be many entries for Saskatoon Well Being Magazine. While I am no expert in the field of well being (I’m more concerned with, well, being), I know a thing or two about living your Dreams. I agree with the maxim, “If you believe it, you can achieve it!” with the all-important caveat that you must lower your expectations significantly. For instance, we can’t all be millionaires, but you can easily save $50 a year if you stop buying soap (simply carry empty freezer bags around and fill them up with the low-quality liquid soap offered in most public restrooms). Do without soap for 10 years? Boom, you’ve got $500. You’re not a millionaire but, Saskatoon, you’re well on your way.”
How an abundance of self-esteem is pretty self-destructive
“Be yourself. There is only one of you and you can do anything. Shoot for the moon and you’ll land among the stars. Believe it and you can achieve it.
I believed it, all of it, and I am still waiting on my achievements. I am the product of supportive parents, white middle-class privilege, a university education, and every opportunity a child could want. Yet as I approach 30, I am handing out resumes in a mall. It’s not a change in circumstance that I can blame for my current situation. My failures are due to the dismal, stormy marriage of my expectations and my ability, coupled with a healthy dose of reality. And I am not alone.”
According To Plan
“When we find the relics of predictions from scientists, writers, and theme park designers of yore, who tried to envision life in the future, there are plenty of laughable inaccuracies. Whether it’s a speculative article in a 1950’s newspaper, a campy ‘futuristic’ movie, or ‘The World of Tomorrow’ at Disneyland, the look ahead at our world is grandiose, ambitious, and often wrong. We haven’t colonized the moon, for instance, and the constant construction of highways suggests we’re no closer to the flying car. Sure, they get some things right (The Jetsons notably predicted a future filled withterrible animated programming), but by and large, the life we’re enjoying at present was not accurately foretold by the scientists and great thinkers of the past. So why then, on a much smaller scale, are we confident that our own personal future will play out just as we envision it?”