Required in a pre-pandemic submission package was a list of my Top 10 TV shows. I spend what I assume is too much time creating this list each time I have to submit this package. I think there are multiple ways to go about choosing the Top 10 but mine always remains a reflection of my youth. If you ask anyone about their favourite decade of music, most often people will reply with the decade that is tied to their formative years. For me, it’s the 90s – my mother introduced me to music of all genres in long car rides, and my eldest brother, whom as a kid I idolized, had a taste for alternative rock and grunge which rubbed off on me. To this day, my most played songs on Spotify are from that decade. Same goes for TV.

My favourite TV shows from those formative years include Friends (1994), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997), Dawson’s Creek (1998), Grey’s Anatomy (2005), Veronica Mars (2004), and The West Wing (1999). This submission package required me to outline my selection criteria and while I also gave individual tidbits for each show, my general criteria was: (1) will likely rewatch; (2) if landing on the show while flipping channels, strong likelihood that I’ll stay; and (3) least likely to be doing something else while watching. Criteria (2) assumes that I have cable TV which at the time of writing the list I did; it also speaks to privilege, but I’ll get to that later. I could rewatch each of those TV shows just as often as I listen to my favourite songs. Case in point, I restart Grey’s Anatomy every couple years, and in particularly stressful times, I search out the epic episodes like S2E17 “As We Know It” as a form of self-soothing. I just finished rewatching Buffy, and I’m currently on Season 4 of Angel; I’ve recently had an itch to restart Veronica Mars. Hands down, these shows will always be in my Top 10. But I often wonder, what is the selection committee gleaning about me from this list?

The other four shows I included on this particular iteration of the list were Fleabag (2016), Russion Doll (2019), Killing Eve (2018), and Feel Good (2020). For me, these four shows have strong queer representation, feminist values, push the boundaries of their genre, and can make me laugh and cry in the same episode. I mentioned earlier that I gave individual tidbits for each show as well, and I wanted to talk about my explanation for Feel Good – “home grown pride being created and starring a Canadian and it’s the first time I’ve seen anything close to my relationship depicted on screen.” In actual fact Mae and George’s relationship is nothing like my relationship with my partner. Re-reading my tidbit made me realize that when it comes to queer content, I accept any representation over no representation. A broadcaster need only suggest a character in their upcoming show has a whiff of queer and I’ll give the show a chance. Essentially, the bar is on the floor. So in actual fact, Feel Good is not one of my Top 10 TV shows, the first season was simply the only representation of a relationship between two queer women around my age, living generally normal lives, i.e. not in prison on smuggling charges or on a farm cursed by demons.

Another reason it started feeling wrong to include Feel Good on my list is because every episode is written by two people, one of whom is the star. Has this been done before? Yes. Seinfeld (1989) is a prime example. Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld co-created and have writing credits on 172 episodes. The next most credited writer is listed on 40 episodes, but didn’t start until 1991, two years after the show began. When it was done before, was it done well? Sure. Seinfeld is one of the biggest shows of all time. Isn’t the fact it was done well before, reason enough to only have two writers now, at least for the first two seasons like Seinfeld? No. I have to do a lot of brain contortion to make myself believe it’s okay that the first season of any current TV show was written by only two people, both of whom are white. There is a legion of established and aspiring writers from every background who could have helped create fuller characters. But maybe there were budget restraints for season one. And it was a star-vehicle based on Mae Martin’s life so who better to tell the story than her? Fair point. But Michaela Coel wrote every episode of I May Destroy You, it too was a star vehicle based on her life, and a quick IMDb search reveals three other story consultants credited. It is impossible to convince myself that it’s okay for the entire second season of any current TV show to be written by two people without so much as an outside story consultant. Am I truly supposed to believe that Netflix didn’t give season two a big enough budget to hire a couple story consultants, let alone a full writers’ room? Was there really no push from key creatives to diversify? Assuming conversations were had after the first season, I just don’t understand a world in which the end result of those conversations is to keep such a limited writers’ room for the second season. I was hooked off the premise of the show, but to return to my earlier point: that is because I settled for some representation over no representation. For current TV shows, the bar must be higher than for the shows from my formative years, and no matter what I’m seeing on screen, inclusivity has to be just as apparent behind the camera for a show to truly be Top 10 worthy.

And now, as I suggested earlier, I want to speak to privilege. When I created this iteration of my Top 10, I lived with a roommate who wanted cable for live sports. Because I rarely watched TV on a TV, my portion of the cable bill was smaller, but I did have access to shows like Killing Eve and I May Destroy You, which never aired on streamers I could afford. When she moved out, so did the cable. I didn’t purchase a new cable package because (1) I despise commercials, but more importantly (2) I couldn’t afford it. And that remains true whether there is a pandemic or not. And with streamers popping up all around, I can’t afford to subscribe to all of those either. Even the ones I have, I mostly have because of sharing capabilities. I have Netflix because my brother pays for it. I have Disney+ because my best friend pays for it. I have Apple TV because I bought a new phone which came with a one-year subscription. I only pay for Prime, but I stop subscribing whenever I don’t have a show I must watch on the platform. And I have never been able to subscribe to Crave, let alone Crave+HBO. Because of these financial restrictions, my Top 10 TV list will represent what I can afford. It speaks to privilege. From this list, a selection committee can glean that (1) I’m poor; (2) I’m starved for queer content; and (3) I find rewatching shows comforting. But does it truly reveal anything about who I am as a writer?

We’re talking numbers today! I always liked Math in school because it had rules. I wouldn’t say my life is run by rules, but I find things much easier to understand when the grey area is gone, as is largely the case with numbers. Even though I was a Psych major in University, my favourite courses were Statistics, Linear Algebra, and Philosophy of Logic.

An example of a Logic Equation is: If A equals B, and all B’s equal C, then A must equal C. OR
If A = B, and B = C, then A = C.
Rules. Simple.

Let’s build out an example.

If 51 (A) is the recorded number of deaths (B) at St. Mary’s Residential School in Kamloops, and all deaths (B) are underreported (C), then 51 (A) must be an underreported number (C). Rules. Simple.

Last week, that simple logic equation was proven true when a mass grave of 215 Indigenous children was found at St. Mary’s Residential School.

Approximately 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people attended residential schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada estimates 4,100 Indigenous children died at Residential schools. They also concluded it’s impossible to know the true number. So, what then is the accurate number of deaths? Some estimates say closer to 6,000.

The Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement has identified 139 residential schools that operated across Canada from the 1870s to 1990s, while the exact number is still unknown because some operated without federal support. Here’s some more quick math to explore other possibilities.

139 schools with an average of 215 unreported deaths at each:

139 x 215 = 29,885 deaths

But let’s say that 215 is not the average amount of unreported deaths at each school, and that it’s half that number, to say an average of 107 deaths (reported and unreported total) at each school:

139 x 107 = 14, 873 deaths

That’s more than 3.5 times (14,873/4,100 = 3.62) the current estimate of deaths. Even a quarter of the 215 deaths as an average of 54 deaths per school is 7,506 deaths (139 x 54 = 7,506). Which is 1.25 times higher than the current higher estimate of deaths that occurred in Residential schools (7,500/6000 = 1.25). And again that estimate is simply based off the existence of 139 documented schools, when there were indeed more in operation.

These numbers are of course not taking into account student body size, i.e. more deaths would occur at schools with a higher student population. But even as a rudimentary exercise, it’s impossible to argue that the current numbers are not underestimated.

Those equations won’t click for everyone. So let’s switch gears and do some counting. For the purposes of this exercise, together we will count to 10, using Gregory Stanton’s 10-stage Model of Genocide (2012).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_stages_of_genocide

Math isn’t always fun.

I end with an excerpt from Chapter 2 of “Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials. The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Volume 4

“In short, both the regulatory regime in which the schools operated and the level of compliance with that regime were inadequate to the task of protecting the health and safety of the students. Government, church, and school officials were well aware of these failures and their impact on student health. If the question is, ‘Who knew what when?’ the clear answer is, ‘Everyone in authority at any point in the system’s history was well aware of the health and safety conditions in the schools.’”

It’s genocide. Simple.

He cancelled his plans for reasons unknown to me. Then he invited me over. I had already cancelled other plans because I was exhausted so I declined his invite and decided to spend the night working. His response to learning that I was at home writing is something I will never forget:

“You’re a hard worker. Will take you far.
(Don’t forget to live)”

A thousand thoughts flooded my head. Funnily enough, none of them were agreement or appreciation for the unsolicited advice. What I am appreciative of is that I am finally able to recognize when men are being condescending to me. I felt sorry for him that he felt threatened. Threatened that I, on a Friday night, chose to write, to do the thing that I love to do, instead of sharing his company. Sorry that he, a writer himself, considers writing as “not living.”

I admire him. I respect his drive. I enjoy our banter. But that day, he surprised me in a way that I don’t like being surprised. He blindsided me with assholery. He mansplained. He projected. He fucked up.

Suddenly, I remembered the time he said, “don’t write a blog about me,” and I replied, “I make no promises.” Well, I was being serious. The only promise I make is to write. And since writing for me is living, I guess I actually have been following his sage “don’t forget to live” advice. And now for some unsolicited advice in return:

Don’t tell women what to do.

In September, I took what was supposed to be a week off Instagram but what turned into three months instead. When you temporarily disable your account, it gives you 10 options as to why:

Screen Shot 2020-01-19 at 2.36.05 PM

“Just need a break” is the one I chose. Admittedly the thing I needed a break from most was sabotaging my relationship, but I figured one way to do that was to give my mind a break from constantly comparing my life to the lives of others. I’m not blaming Instagram for my relationship woes, it’s shitty decisions I make on my own with all of the self-awareness needed to stop them that was the problem. What I’m saying it that my head is full of nonsense at baseline, so I thought it would be nice to stop the external input of further nonsense for a while.

Aside from one or two times reflexively opening the app only to be bummed when I remembered the sabbatical I had taken, I didn’t really miss it. And that’s probably because I was able to get my scrolling fix elsewhere. My Facebook involvement remained relatively the same, and that’s at less than one open a day. I’m not sure what it is about Facebook nowadays but I don’t care much for it. Is it for an older generation? Or maybe it’s because I mostly only keep it for career-related purposes. My Twitter engagement also remained relatively the same which is nil — I’ve never been an avid tweeter, mostly just a lurker.

My need to scroll ended up being satisfied by the news app. I suddenly knew all about the impeachment inquiry in the states, the close race between liberals and conservatives in Canada, and about the eleven elephants that died trying to save a baby elephant from drowning in the Haew Narok Waterfall at Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. After that first week I felt as if I could contribute to the conversations that were being had in politics. I felt like I had an opinion and that it could be backed up by facts. I felt like the break was helpful. But, I also felt like none of that mattered.

And the reason it didn’t matter, was because I realized there was only one thing or rather person I could rightfully blame. Instagram wasn’t ruining my relationship. Instagram wasn’t keeping me from reading. Instagram wasn’t keeping me on my phone. Instagram wasn’t keeping me from being productive. No matter what distractions I remove from my phone, I could always find a new way to procrastinate. Keeping up with the news was simply a way to give my procrastination an air of pretension. Bottom line, I found out that the thing I “just need[ed] a break” from, was not holding myself accountable.

Now excuse me while I go onto my two different Instagram accounts to promote this blog and my podcast @thescriptisbetter. What? It’s not procrastination, it’s work!

Sleepovers were the shit in middle school. It was at a sleepover that I first drank — peach schnapps mixed with orange crush or a Smirnoff ice — both equal levels of headache inducing sweetness. It was at a sleepover that I first smoked a joint, though I still didn’t understand the concept of inhaling and the boys who supplied the joint had no problem telling me so. It was also at a sleepover that I fainted for the first time. And before you feel sorry for me, let me explain: I fainted on purpose.

I don’t remember whose idea it was, probably one of the girls who had an older sibling — bet it was Jessica — because where else would someone learn this fun (question mark, question mark) party trick?! But somehow, when I was thirteen, I found myself bent over and breathing deeply while surrounded by a group of girls ready and eager to literally take my breath away when I gave the go ahead. Looking back on it now, I realize how fucked it is. That we would take turns helping each other pass out for fun. Hold your breath, pass out, wake up a moment later, beg to do it again. Who needs drugs? However, the only reason I realized how fucked it is, is because I brought it up recently to a friend, “how weird was that fainting craze in middle school?” I explained the party pastime of the year 2000 and her face said it all, “this is not one of those childhood anecdotes we have in common you crazy person, how the eff are you still alive?”

I wonder what our parents would have done if they knew? Punishment to varying degrees to be certain, but I think my parents would have just cried, unable to understand why their daughter would do something so careless (I was raised catholic, so I was mostly punished with guilt). When they then learned that we also did it a few times in gym class unbeknownst to our gym teacher, rage would replace their tears, likely rallying for that teacher to be fired. But no one ever found out. Instead, Jessica’s dad picked his daughter up from one such kooky sleepover covered in lipstick kisses. Kisses we gave her while she was passed out. Kisses he chalked up to innocent teen exploration. Big shout out to Jessica’s dad for being super progressive because we all went to a catholic school where being a lesbian wasn’t a thing anyone ever talked about, but I digress.

I don’t advocate purposeful fainting as a party pastime, or as an anywhere pastime. I know that something could have gone seriously wrong and I am very thankful nothing ever did. The late nineties and early aughts were a strange time to be a teenager, but I wouldn’t have wanted to go through my angst years at any other time. Besides, every decade has it’s own form of self-induced idiocy — I’m just happy mine came before butt-chugging and eating Tide Pods were the fun (question mark, question mark) party trick.

Note: I was purposely vague on the how-to because it is dangerous. You don’t want to do mess with that kind of silliness. Besides, weed is legal now in Canada.

When I was FOUR, sisterhood was sharing my crayons with the girl in class who didn’t have any.
When I was SEVEN, sisterhood was the friends I jumped rope with at recess.
When I was TEN, sisterhood was the friend who still played with me despite the popular girls thinking I was uncool.
When I was THIRTEEN, sisterhood was keeping my friend’s crush a secret.
When I was SIXTEEN, sisterhood was ex-communicating the boy who broke my friend’s heart.
When I was NINETEEN, sisterhood was the friend who held my hair while I puked after getting too drunk.
When I was TWENTY-TWO, sisterhood was the friend who went all in when I had the ambitious idea of making a short film with no money, gear, or experience.
When I was TWENTY-FIVE, sisterhood was the friend who let me move in with her when I had no place to stay.
When I was TWENTY-EIGHT, sisterhood was when I found out my boyfriend had another girlfriend and we both ditched him and became friends.
When I was THIRTY-ONE, sisterhood was #MeToo.
When I was THIRTY-FOUR, sisterhood was the first female President.
When I was THIRTY-SEVEN, sisterhood was a moratorium on photoshopping women’s bodies.
When I was FORTY, sisterhood was women being paid the same as men for doing the same job.
When I was FORTY-THREE, sisterhood was never being questioned by another woman about why I didn’t have children.
When I was FORTY-SIX, sisterhood was feeling safe to be out alone at night.
When I was FORTY-NINE, sisterhood was worldwide legalization of gay marriage.
When I was FIFTY-TWO, sisterhood was the introduction of the male birth control pill.
When I was FIFTY-FIVE, sisterhood was understanding the forces my mother was up against and letting go of my resentments toward her.
When I was FIFTY-EIGHT, sisterhood was mentoring young writers who were striving to tell women’s stories.
When I was SIXTY-ONE, sisterhood was celebrating the lines that grace the faces of me and my friends.
When I was SIXTY-FOUR, sisterhood was cheering for the women who had found more success than me.
When I was SIXTY-SEVEN, sisterhood was working past retirement age because me and my sisters were boss-ass-bitches who still had work we wanted to do.
When I was SEVENTY, sisterhood was the thing I was most thankful for.

But I’m actually only thirty-two, a time when sisterhood is fighting for autonomy of our bodies, begging that rapists aren’t allotted more rights than women, protesting when babies are stripped away from their mothers who seek asylum, marching against the act of jailing women who have an abortion, and screaming to have our voices heard when another man who has engaged in sexual harassment or assault is put into power.

In 2019, SISTERHOOD is the thing I cling to.

I get lost in people. Friends, coworkers, lovers. And by lost, I mean I get so wrapped up in who they are, I dive into their personality dissecting mannerisms, aspirations, attitudes, likes, dislikes, lines, birthmarks, you name it. Once inside it’s not always easy to claw my way out again. I say claw like it’s a bad thing, like I’m trapped, but can you really be trapped in something that you (1) are self aware enough about and yet still (2) put yourself in willingly despite how damaging you know it will be?

The honest truth it that it doesn’t start out feeling like work – it feels good. Good in an addictive sort of way. I search for answers like it’s a game.

Why do you fill our silences with “what else…?” as you search for another topic. Why does silence make you uncomfortable?

Why can’t you hold eye contact? Is it a form of flirtation? Do men find it adorable?

What is it about hockey that you love so much? The skill? The aggression? The supposed masculinity?

Why don’t you ever want to move outside of Ottawa? The world has so much to offer outside of this birthplace that someone else chose for you. Are you scared? Complacent? Do you love it’s simplicity? Maybe that’s not very fair, but by my count, there’s only two things someone can do in Ottawa: work for the government or start a family… some do both. No one does neither. No one.

I suppose the green-space does have a certain allure. Whenever I visit, it’s almost like breathing oxygen for the first time. The degrees of separation can also be comforting; you always know someone or someone’s someone at any given place in town. And I guess owning a house is more feasible there too? Like one with a yard both in front and out back, maybe a pool where I can spend my mornings in the summer taking dips whenever I get smacked in the face with writer’s block. The noise of the city full of only chirping birds, bristling leaves, and buzzing bees. Sounds that, unlike the traffic of the big city, have healing powers. Realistically, I really could write from anywhere. It’s basically all done over email anyways, #jobperk. And like, what ties do I really have to Toronto? I could give two months notice to my landlord and be back in Ottawa and settled a week later. Heck, mom and dad might even help with the move because it means I’m closer to them, they are getting on in years. And who’s gonna take care of them when they can’t take care of themselves? Might be nice to be rooted before it’s pressing. Oh my gosh, I could go fishing with dad like I did as a child! I don’t know who’d be more excited about this. Mom would have someone to talk to that wasn’t the TV or the cats and I could work toward repairing our relationship. The idea that I don’t care to fix it is just that: an idea, and how good would it be to finally understand her? Forgive her?

Okay. SO. Here’s the plan of attack:

  1. Tell my roommate/landlord.
  2. Marie Kondo the shit out of my stuff.tmp-name-2-7966-1547482093-0_dblbig
  3. Ask Mom/Dad if it’s cool to crash in my old room for a month while I get settled.
  4. Three weeks out I’ll give notice at work (one week on top of the customary two weeks because I’m nice like that).
  5. Pack up all my shit. Correction: what’s left of my shit.
  6. Do the goodbye rounds: coworkers, writer’s circle, writing mentors, actor friends, friends that gave me life, the best friends who after 32 years made me finally confident in myself, to the women who inspired me everyday, to the girl who would often visit on her way home from work because a week without seeing each other just felt weird, and to the person whose body I was only just getting to know.
  7. Thank the city for giving me the best eight years of my life.
  8. Drive the moving van back to Ottawa.
  9. Park in the driveway of the house I grew up in, get out of the car, breathe in the cleanest air my lungs have ever tasted…
  10. … and breathe out someone else’s life.
  11. Try to stop hyperventilating.

What the fuck have I done? Oh that’s right… I got lost in you.

You saw the black cat cross the hallway twice and you felt a twinge of familiarity. Deja vu. Except it wasn’t. Trinity taught you what it actually was: a glitch in the matrix. Well Gay-ja vu is like that only the black cat is the memory of that girl from camp who you just HAD TO eat every meal next to and Trinity is here to teach you that there’s been a glitch in YOUR matrix: that girl was the first girl you had a crush on before you knew you were queer.

These moments of gay-ja vu blindside me at random. When I’m drowning in mucous and my nose is all red and I’m at the grocery store trying to find soup without added sugar and I grab a can that happens to share a name with the last name of that girl from camp and then I remember when she played Mr. Weatherby in the camp production of Archie and I feel things move downstairs which forces me to release a slow, long, audible “ooohhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Well shit.” Later while sipping my sugar-filled soup (because apparently sugar-free is hard to come by), I look her up on facebook and spend probably too long staring at her display picture trying to decide whether or not it reads lesbian. I decide against sending a friend request.

And it’s not restricted to people, but also to movies and TV shows. But I’m a Cheerleader, Boys Don’t Cry, season two of Dawson’s Creek, just a few examples of the kind of entertainment I avoided. I want to say it was done subconsciously, but on some level I definitely knew what I was doing, I just perhaps didn’t know why. Cut to fifteen years later and I’m compiling a list of my favourite TV shows and having a bit of trouble narrowing down the list to just ten for a submission package. I take a look at my DVDs that sparked enough joy to survive the purge and that’s when I see it: season one, followed by season three to six of Dawson’s Creek. Then I remember that Jack came out in season two and for some reason (eyeroll) that storyline always made me a little uncomfortable. “Ooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Well fuck me.” Gay-ja vu strikes again.

Now please excuse me, there’s a lot of gay entertainment I need to catch up on.
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QUESTION: do you think glasses, no make-up, and a bob reads lesbian? Just curious…

You should know that it’s a pattern.

Details change only in minute ways. Sometimes I’m the new person learning thousands of names, other times it’s you. Either way, yours is the only name I want to remember and my name is the only one you need to know.

I can always tell before we’re introduced that this may be a problem. But even still, I ignore my intuition and steal a glance. A glance which leads to a smirk then to a word here or there and then a daydream and then that’s when I realize that it’s no longer up for debate: this is most definitely a problem.

Can we skip to the part where we don’t exchange pleasantries anymore? Not the fun stuff, but the period after. Fuck the fun stuff. If it was ever worth it, life would no longer make sense. But like I said, this is a pattern. I have lived this many times over and that’s how I know that life, at least how it pertains to us, will continue to make sense.

I CAN’T FUCKIN’ STAND YOU. That’s better. This feels safe.

“Hey, you must be new, I’m [Pattern].”

Shit.