Dr. Dre’s 2001. In grade 7, I remember dragging my mother to HMV with the goal of getting the album. I tirelessly pleaded with her to buy me the CD because it’s cool and I’m cool, and because she’s not cool, she could never know how cool it was. Ah, the logic of a twelve year-old. Finally, she gave in. I like to think it was because I was so persuasive but it was probably more because she secretly knew what table I sat at during lunch. We get to the cash and the nice-nice-oh-so-nice man behind the cash looks from me to my mother and back to me then says, “did you know we have the clean version?” Are you fuckin’ kiddin’ me? My eyes drilled holes into his head as he showed my mother where to find the PG album. I felt so betrayed. What gives, dude? Retail workers don’t get tips. And even if they did, joke’s on you, she tips the same no matter what the service is like. Having since worked at HMV for a 3 year stint, I can say with confidence I never showed the same douchebaggery to underage folk. That is until they came the listening booth with five CDs. This isn’t the buffet of music, all-you-can-listen, get the fuck outta here!

Walking proud with my new CD spinning in my discman, I took my usual seat in the cafeteria only to be interrupted by Christianne: self-proclaimed rebel from the grade 8 class. She asked me what I was listening to and when I replied, she yanked the headphones off my head and hit play. Right off the top things get suspicious when Snoop turns into one of those faceless adults from Peanuts and starts talking gibberish, “Da da da da da, It’s mwa-sner-der-fla D-O-double-G!” If you weren’t paying attention or you were say, in a large cafeteria full of 1200 students, that one may slip by you. It isn’t until the song finishes and the iconic words, “EYAT WYERMS EVERYDAY!” hit your eardrums that you truly know something isn’t quite right. Eyat wyerms? Like eat worms? Oh please no, Dr. Dre, not you too. Or maybe Wyerms is an acronym for some new diet of diets spreading through the Hip-Hop crowd and Dr. Dre is getting paid to advertise? Not having heard the uncensored version, I didn’t dwell on it too long. But Christianne knew the original very well. And nearing the end, at around the two minutes and thirty eight seconds mark when Dre reminds gardeners everywhere that they’ve been doing it wrong, she heard it: “HOLY SHIT! It’s the clean version!” She proceeded to run around the cafeteria and tell everyone about my profanity-challenged CD, which had the added sting of her having to point me out when she was met with “who’s Rebecca?”

It sucked. But isn’t that the way when you’re motivated by vanity? Murphy’s Law. I like to think that the spike in censored album sales thanks to yours truly (or maybe thanks to mommy dearest) gave Missy Elliott her inspiration to “Ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht [reh] tup.” It’s all how you look at it. And I’m taking this one as a win. But also, like, fuck you HMV dude.

Braces. My top teeth were always straight and though my bottom teeth were a little mangled, they didn’t show that much when I spoke. Despite them being mostly hidden, I begged my parents for braces because all the cool kids were getting them in grade seven. This may have been my first foray into pain for pleasure and let me tell you, no fuckin’ thank you.

The oral torture device was set to be in my life for 1.5 years. Not so bad. I can handle the pain for that long if it means my smile will look as much like a set of train tracks as all the popular girls. And in the meantime I can make the pain fun with colorful rubber bands! YAY! On a side note, here’s some colours to stay away from: brown for obvious reasons, silver because it just looks like more metal, and yellow because the color variation between them and your supposed white teeth is not that much.

Here’s something I didn’t know, 1.5 years is an estimate based on the assumption that you will follow the proper elastics regimen. While I was big on following in the footsteps of the popular girls, I wasn’t big on following plans specifically laid out to better my way of life. Just like that, 1.5 years turned into 3.5 years. And if you’re thinking that would mean two more years of being cool, you would be wrong. So very wrong. Except that one time in grade 9 science where I figured out that my braces were able to conduct electricity to illuminate a light bulb. That day I was definitely cool.

I was a metal mouth until my junior year of High School. The upside? I now have straight teeth and two metal bars behind them that make sure they stay that way. Another upside is that I never needed head gear (though this girl at March Break camp had it and she was really cool so again there was a solid week where I envied the apparatus).

In fear of having to revisit the device, I monitor my wires to ensure they never fall off. I’ve heard way too many stories from people saying they had braces but their wire fell off so now their teeth are crooked again. Oh hell no. Surprisingly, braces don’t have the same allure of popularity that they once had. Who’d have thought? Instead, they bring ideas of pain for pain’s sake. And I can think of way more fun ways of exploring that route that don’t include cut up cheeks, a forty minute flossing routine, and elastics causing my teeth to snap together any time I opened too wide like a noise maker with all the sound and none of the fun.

Braces: reaffirming my belief that I was, am, and will always be #anythingbutcool.

I love making mix CDs for people. I become John Cusack in High Fidelity, skimming through my music collection to find all the songs that sum up our history together. I recall the atmosphere of the night we met, inside jokes we share, a song from that movie we saw together, artists I think they might like but haven’t discovered. Sometimes I’ll also include a mutually hated song just for fun. Nothing fills my heart with more joy than thinking of them blindly listening to the CD, laughing when reminded of that inside joke, tearing up when they remember the sad moment the movie song is from, the look of awe when they hear their new favourite song they never knew existed. I wish I could be there. Capture the moment without influencing it. But alas, that’s not possible. I know because I’ve tried.

It was Christmas in my early 20s, my best friend and I sat in his room, which was the last ode to what he was like in High School and nothing like the guy who sat in front of me. We listened to the CD start to finish. Every new song I would turn to him and wait for the realization to hit his face as to why I chose it. Some, like Queen’s “You’re my Best Friend,” were easier to pin down than others. Mostly I got nods and “cool”s. Um, excuse me. This is when you tear up. The CD ended with Nickelback’s abysmal hit “Photograph” during which I produced a framed photo of Chad Kroeger holding a photograph of me and that friend. I know: META. He let out one single, lonely, chuckle that echoed in my mind against the silence of the room. AHEM! THIS IS WHEN YOU DIE LAUGHING. We spent the next hour making his XBOX avatar burp while I awkwardly sat in the funk left behind by me and Freddie Mercury. Then I went home. We’re no longer friends. AND I’VE NEVER MADE A MIX CD SINCE. I’m just kidding. About the never-making-mix-CDs part, not about the friends part. Fuck that guy.

Mix CDs: the present to give when you’re okay with it being about the journey and not the destination.

I want to know what it is about being offensive that people find so alluring? We live in a culture that seems to celebrate assholes and it continues to baffle me. In the wake of the Weinstein scandal and everything that has happened since, I hope that it marks a shift, not only in how women are treated, but also how people are treated.

This week I heard a phrase that made me sick, “let the slut gates open.” Though the sentence was not said to me or even intended for my ears, I still found myself shocked that someone could (a) string words together in such a disgusting way and (b) expect everyone who heard it to accept it. This isn’t the first time someone has uttered words that have made my head hurt and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But the saddest thing to me is that they don’t see anything wrong with what they have said.

Just like anyone else, I have my shortcomings but I actively try to be respectful and attempt to surround with people who do the same. Unfortunately or fortunately, I tend to be known as the woman who speaks up. I am quick to say, please don’t say that word around me when people gleefully spit out “that’s retarded.” I do my best to correct my friends when they call themselves stupid. I don’t like when people use the word “gay” in a derogatory way. Because of that, I get labeled as difficult or a prude, uptight and uncool. If the definition of cool is to be disrespectful then I take pride in being anything but cool.