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.

I recently avoided falling victim to the “pink tax.” Never heard of it? It’s when an item for a woman is more expensive than the same item for a man. The culprit? Payless Shoes. Like many creatives, I daylight in the service industry. One must? Non-slip shoes. Spills, dirt, snow, crackers a parent brought for their two-year-old which their two-year-old felt belonged on the floor (sometimes they actually improve the look of the otherwise tacky flooring, but I disgress). Mostly it’s the dish pit: often a nightmarish lake similar to the bog of eternal stench from Labyrinth except without the comical fart sounds and pirate fox riding a dog.

I had overextended the 4-6 month shelf-life of my then current shoes because I just didn’t want to invest money into something that wasn’t writing. Sadly, the feeling of dish pit scrap stew seeping into a hole then soaking my sock was enough to send me running to the store.

So there I was, staring at the wall of options for ladies. There were sneakers of many kinds, oxfords, converse, boots, heels, and flats. No shortage of options BUT upon looking at the prices, I found myself frustrated. They had gone up! And having worked in this industry for a long time, I know that there have been NO advancements in the world of non-slips that could warrant such a price hike. So WTF?

To the men’s section I went. And I wish I could say my jaw dropped, but what actually happened was an audible, “of course.” The same exact style was $10 cheaper in the men’s section. I grabbed my size (8 in men’s) and ran back downstairs to confirm with the women’s shoe that they were in fact the same. And yes. There was a slight difference in the width of the toe area, but otherwise the same. So why the price difference? Especially when typically women’s shoes of the same style require less material as women’s feet run smaller?

I really don’t know. But what I do know is that it shouldn’t be called “pink tax.” Pink tax is too polite for this form of prejudice. Can we please stop shrouding sexism and gender inequality in cute pastel colours? It should be called “no dick tax.” As in if you don’t have a dick, so you have to pay a tax. It gets right to meat of the issue by saying women are without and that’s why we pay more.

I bought the men’s shoes. And boy oh boy, did they ever get rave reviews:

“Those shoes are the ugliest shoes I’ve ever seen.”
– Single White Male Coworker

“You know Becca, I can get behind your gender-bending style, the suits, the hats, suspenders, I’m into it. It’s sexy. But those shoes do not make me want to fuck you.”
– Different Single White Male Coworker

Instead of crying myself to sleep after failing at my only objective in life, I came up with an idea for a new tax. I propose a “no vagina tax” wherein every time a man thinks he has the right to comment on a woman’s body or how a woman chooses to dress her body, he has to pay a fine. As in you don’t have a vagina and because of that you say and do wildly inappropriate things, so you have to pay a tax. And we can then use that money to support victims of sexual assault. Now there’s a tax I think we can all get behind! #novaginatax

“I love your androgynous style.” This is something I have been told on more than one occasion. And I am happy to use hashtags like “genderbender” when posting pics of myself in a suit because I realize suits for women aren’t the quote-unquote norm for a fancy occasion. When people think red carpet women, they immediately picture a dress. I, however, more often than think pant suit. It’s not a comfort thing. I love dresses and have many comfortable ones. It’s not a statement about my sexuality, my gender, or me taking a stand against how women are treated on red carpets. Though they are often treated like a mannequin with no talent beyond wearing a designer dress, but I digress. For me, it’s as simple as this: I feel sexy in a suit. And powerful. And clean. And head-turning. I do it for me, because that day, I want to wear a suit so I’m gonna to wear a fuckin’ suit.

And I know you have the best intentions when you tell me I’m “androgynous.” But effectively what you are doing is robbing me of my femininity. The suit does not do this. You do this. You and your ideas of the suit. Your ideas of fashion. Your ideas of what you feel welcome to comment on. My “genderbender” is mine. And you commenting on it is for one: unsurprising, but more importantly: unwanted.

Confused about where to go in this “new” politically correct world? Let me help. Consider noting the feeling evoked by the look that the person has thrown together. “You look commanding.” “I love your presence in this outfit.” “You look radiant, powerful, unstoppable.” Or perhaps the person looks delicate, full of grace, classical, poised, fierce, inspirational, mysterious, confident. Trust me: if you cut through the outfit itself and opt for what is inside instead, I guarantee that that person will remember that compliment over the thousand other “you look beautifuls.” And they will definitely appreciate it more than “I love your androgynous style.”

Ingredients:

1 cup English Breakfast Tea with unlimited hot water top-ups to stay caffeinated
20 oz of Water in enviro-friendly water bottle that sends the message that you are a nerdy, strong feminist – pretentious peacocking
1 Bic Pen
1 Notebook with quote that makes you feel equal parts generic and accountable
1 Coffee Shop that has private restrooms because all that caffeine is going to go RIGHT through you
1 set of Headphones because the coffee shop playlist has too many recognizable songs that distract you from writing

Substitutions:

1. Substitute the Tea for Coffee

2. Substitute the Notebook and Pen for a Laptop (Note: this may result in decreased productivity due to: (1) lack of generic and yet TRULY inspirational quote, and (2) easy access to distractions like social media and online shopping carts. Both can lead to an underbaked script).

3. Substitute the Coffee Shop for Park Bench, Library, Subway, Home Office (Note: Home
office may have increased distractions like cats, laundry, and/or a bookcase that totally needs reorganizing this second because who could get any writing done with the chaos that is THAT shelf?! This may also lead to a Pinterest board full of other beautifully baked scripts and an accompanied self-loathing due to how much of a stupid procrastinating shitty script baker you truly are).

4. Remove Headphones all together. (Note: Be wary of uninvited conversations from other coffee shop (or library or subway) goers that may cause an allergic reaction resulting in red face, rapid heartbeat, twitchy eye, and an urge to shout at a stranger
because SERIOUSLY, don’t they know you’re writing the script that is FINALLY going to let the world see how amazing you are and that you’re the writer Hollywood has been waiting for and this script of yours will probably also cure world hunger and save the planet and that their trivial conversations about how their husband just doesn’t get that women prefer romance over porn IS LITERALLY KILLING THE FUCKIN’ PLANET!?!

Directions:

Mix all ingredients.
Repeat everyday until the script is done. Then re-bake script starting from the very beginning over and OVER until you’re certain it can’t be baked any longer.

Congratulations! You’ve just baked a First Draft.

Bake time: ~3 months to 3+ years… with no assurance it will actually ever taste good.

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.