venerdì, novembre 11, 2016

All our flesh was like a veil

There are some male artists who, as a woman and a feminist, I love. Not because of any feminist championing or thinking they've done or feminist content to their work. I don't fangirl; I spend a fair amount of energy trying to avoid knowing what my favourite artists think of things (and it does take effort these days) because I just want to enjoy them without having to face the fact that they're potentially unpleasant people.* But because of the interest that they show in women - in their situations and in their stories. And even when they're totally wrong-headed and totally off-base to me, and even when they're not terrifically great artists, there's something in me as a reader or spectator or listener that's satisfied by their reaching to understand or communicate that experience. There's not a lot. There's:

Jarvis Cocker
Tom Waits
Pedro Almodovar
Rainer Fassbinder
Thomas Hardy

And

Leonard Cohen. Especially Leonard Cohen. Leonard Cohen, most of all.



A bit different from the others, actually. Those other guys on my list - they struggled, sometimes with a striking lack of success and sometimes with seamless grace - to get into the heads of their women. But for his part, Cohen never once pretended he wasn't miles deep up his own ass. Meanwhile, from that vantage point looked at his women with such clarity about where he was looking from and what he could see from there.




And then - there was the fact of him being the best poet. Not just of my list of men that I like who had some time for women. He was just the best poet.



Leonard Cohen ☆ Last Year's Man from Sighting Leonard's Longing on Vimeo.


So my heart is breaking today. I guess it's a good break; I have so much admiration for his work, and so much joy for him that it continued right up until his death, without a break in quality. Despite trying not to fangirl I do know something about his work habits and the grind he poured into it, and I'm so glad for him that was sustainable until the end, and I'm glad for him and for us, who can enjoy his work, that he lived for so long to make so much of it, though I personally could have used a couple more novels.


His fairly notorious Buddhism helps too. They're just better at all this dying shit. I know I went over this when Carmen died a few weeks back, but I still get mad at how shitty Christianity is about death, scripturally and culturally. About that matter-of-fact inanity go-to comfort even non-practicing Christians fall back on - "they're in a better place now, they're at peace now, rest in peace" BLAH FUCKING BLAH HOW IS THAT SUPPOSED TO HELP THE ONES WITHOUT THEM NOW? I keep thinking of the comfort I was given by my closest Buddhist friend (not practicing - culturally, the same way I'm culturally Catholic) when my grandmother died - "of course, it's very sad, but that's what happens when you get older; everything falls away and you have to let go." In the same sympathetic but matter-of-fact way Christians try to comfort you with all that "peace and better place" dipshit shit. Except, after I picked up my dipshit Judeo-Christian jaw - fancy that, someone daring to tell a person in mourning that things suck and the losses are just going to keep coming -  it actually worked.

It sucks to lose him. It would have sucked to lose him 20 years from now, when he would have been the same age as my grandmother, who also sucked to lose.

* Leonard Cohen was an accessible person, though. Friends in Montreal would see him around; he was a bit of a park-bench-sitter, apparently. And a story got passed on to me once about an acquaintance-twice-removed having a night with him whose morning went like this:

 Acquaintance-twice-removed: (waking up as a fully-dressed Cohen is walking to the door): You're leaving? Just like that?

Cohen: Gotta go, baby. Rambling man. (Goes.)

giovedì, novembre 10, 2016

Attention website crashers

We don't fucking want you.

Stay home and put out your fucking trash fire. We have enough problems in Canada without importing you and yours, including the integration of more Syrian refugees in our tiny-by-population country than your enormous-by-population country has accepted (and that sickening parsimony, that should have had you out on the streets, was under the Democratic presidency you've been crying over).

The opposition to Trump and his supporters from Clinton on down has been based largely on contempt, and you know what, I feel contempt too. I don't understand how so many people have been culturally suicidal enough to have bought into a version of fascism that's even dumber than the 1930s version because the man at the head of it is a transparent rich-boy kleptocrat.

But now your shitty country is stuck with him, and it’s your job to figure out why 60 million of the people you live with thought the rich-boy kleptocrat was a good choice, and to figure out how to live with those people as your peers. And your job to figure out why other white people stayed home in droves this year when the stakes were so obviously high for their brown and black co-citizens. And your job to make sure your rich-boy kleptocrat ends up on the same figurative meathook that all fascist demagogues were born to end up on.

The 30s versions weren’t rich-boy kleptocrats, for all the other horrible things they were. They enacted policies that benefitted many of their fellow citizens, and enjoyed wild personal popularity for years and years. If you do your job right instead of whining and trying to run off to Canada, your new set of cunts will figuratively end up on their meathooks much faster and with much less chance to do horrible human damage. Not only because Trump won’t even cosmetically attempt the social improvement measures old school fascists used since he’ll be so busy asset-stripping, but also because history has taught you what to expect.

Or should fucking have taught you. But I’ve spent way too much time socializing with Clinton supporters over the last few months to have any fucking confidence at all that their grasp of history is any better than the jag-offs who just voted in the rich-boy kleptocrat. All I heard was name-calling and a baffling pretence that more of the same, in the shape of another Clinton presidency, was going to be good for people.

 Well, stay home, and do better. We don’t want you.

mercoledì, ottobre 19, 2016

Oversharing, on purpose

A person who's very close to me and who I love very much and who had been trying very, very hard to have a baby for many years just miscarried. She had made it to where I made it last year, and my miscarriage was detected the same way hers just was - 12 week scan, whoops sorry, I know you still feel pregnant, but there's no more baby there, diagnosis missed abortion.

But since she's in Australia, they just let her body get rid of it itself, instead of the curettage my gynecologist immediately packed me off to here. It's the second time I've heard that being standard in Australia, that they wait for the mother's body to do it itself when there's a missed abortion around that time, or at least that they don't rush to book in the curettage and the result is the mother's body doing it itself. And there's a rationale behind that. It makes uterine scarring a little less likely than it would be if you got a curettage from a doctor who wasn't competent, and I guess Australia is a pretty litigious society where the general assumption is that people aren't competent (and frankly, in the short time we were there, I did meet a fair few incompetent doctors).

And as the F-word cynically pointed out, it's probably cheaper on average to not intervene, which would make non-intervention more likely in a public health system like Oz, and an intervention more likely in an insurance-based system like the one here.

But - damn. It makes me realise - I had a really good miscarriage. Once you're on the level of discussing something as awful as miscarrying, that seems like an absurd or even offensive thing to believe. But there are good and bad ways of dying and there are good and bad ways of miscarrying, and maybe if we talked about both things a little bit more we'd be better at them.

 So. Here's me. 

Losing my baby was really emotional terrible. The physical process of the loss was NOT terrible. The missed abortion was picked up in the morning, and I spent that afternoon being upset at home and then processing through all the requisite checks and interviews at the nearest hospital. Because of the hours I spent being upset at home, there wasn't time to have the curettage the same day as the detection. But I was seen quickly by the gynecologists, who were kind and sympathetic, and gave me the choice of whether or not to watch the screen while they were checking the fetus for any unexpected signs of life. I went back to the hospital the morning after the missed abortion was detected for the curettage. All through this process, all I felt was pregnant. Still sick in the mornings, still tired, still that general physical sensation of the first trimester - and that's it. I lay in bed for a couple of hours waiting for the initial drugs to start the sloughing process while I thought about what had happened and said goodbye to the poor little body inside me, and then I went under sedation like I was slipping into some satin sheets. I woke up fantastically refreshed as my system flooded itself with whatever hormones you get flooded with when you're not pregnant anymore. I wasn't euphoric or anything, but I was in a really terrific physical mood, like when you've had a big sleep after an active day and you want to eat a couple of steaks for breakfast.

That's it. It took me a long time to not be terribly sad all the time, and I still am some of the time, and I'll always be more fearful and sad than I was before losing the baby. And I don't know what different emotional states I'd be dealing with if I didn't already have a living child, and if I didn't manage to get and stay pregnant again soon after the miscarriage. And I think I'll probably lose my mind permanently if anything happens to the baby I'm carrying now, which is almost full-term.

But as far as my physical experience of miscarriage goes, what happened above was it. I didn't even see any blood, except for a tiny bit after taking the sloughing drugs and before going into the operating theatre. I contrast that with what my friends in Australia told me about their experiences with nature being allowed to take its course after the missed abortion was detected at the 12 week scan. It hurt, terribly. It hemorrhaged, awfully. I think ultimately both of them ended up spending a lot more time in hospital than the eight-odd hours I was in for my checks, interview, and curettage, so if there is a money-factor in this sort of decision-making, it was a pretty false economy (though they were seen to mostly by nurses while I was seen to by nurses, an anaesthetist, and some gynecologists so the staff/specialist spend was certainly higher). And the process, in both their cases, lasted a week or more.

Do women who face this understand there are other choices that are or aren't being made for them? I'm sure they don't. I didn't. I was resentful when I researched it afterward that I'd been packed off for a curettage without any other option being presented, because I was scared of scarring and risks for future pregnancies. But then hearing how things went for my Australian friends . . . they certainly got scarred, if not physically; the whole process was simply much, much more traumatic for them, so much so that I can't understand their experiences, even though our tragedies were all the same. 

These are things we need to be able to talk about, as women. Not just because miscarriage is shitty and it helps to talk about shitty things or whatever the fuck, but because it's a matter of agency. Of control of our own bodies. I don't know why things are different here from Australia, but I'm pretty fucking sure it's not because of what women want here versus what they want in Australia.

martedì, ottobre 04, 2016

Haircuts

Carmen had a generic haircut. If you live in a place where the hairdressers have any nous at all you've seen it many times - perhaps many times today. A short, slanted bob; sharpish edges around the face, and generally some highlights or broader blonde colouring but hints of darker shades throughout. It's generic for a reason - it's a very flattering haircut. Almost a European uniform for stylish, slender women past the age of 40 whose hair isn't particularly thick or curly and who have the sort of lifestyle wherein they can afford monthly cuts-and-colours but don't want to spend ages fucking around with their hair every morning.

There are a lot of reasons I'm glad I dragged my massive pregnant ass to Paris this weekend for her funeral, and one of them is that I already feel half-mad walking around here and continually seeing women my stupid brain thinks are her from behind because they've got the same blonde bob. There is a big part of funerals that's about figuring out the person is actually dead, isn't there? Even as I was buying a train ticket and booking a hotel to go to her funeral my stupid brain kept thinking "I'd better call Carmen to let her know I'll be in Paris this weekend so we can get dinner or something."

During the religious ceremony the casket was open, which I wasn't expecting. I don't think that's a French thing - I think that's a Romanian thing. I was grateful. Her body hadn't been made up or dressed up so it had that relaxed expression that unretouched corpses have, which made the body of my 97 year old grandfather look younger than I'd ever seen him, and made her body look like a little girl's. And accordingly - not her anymore. She was gone.

That was a relief too. Carmen was a very punctual, organized person and the nonsense surrounding her last rites felt so not-her that I swang between feeling uncomfortable leaving her to the mercy of a bunch of French tehcnocrats and realizing that when it comes to your own funeral, it doesn't matter what sort of person you were; now you're just a prop. You're not there.

Everything started half an hour late because the funeral home was half an hour late opening; everybody had to wait out on the street. The ceremony was Eastern Orthodox and felt horribly disassociated from Carmen, who was a practicing Buddhist in life and who, apparently, the priest that spent the service spruiking Jesus and Heaven and whatnot had never met or learned anything about. I can't stand all that fucking Eternity talk at funerals, and I believe in Heaven and Eternity. But I don't know why you'd fucking talk about them at a fucking funeral, where everyone is trying to figure out how to go on living their lives, maybe for decades and decades, without this beautiful person in them anymore.

She was young, and lovely, so a lot of people came. More than 150, I'm guessing. But the ceremony was in a tiny room that could barely fit 20, so everybody was spilling into the atrium and even down the staircase leading to the atrium. The priest yelled at people to hurry up paying their last respects around the coffin just as I came to it to pay my last respects. I'd been holding it together pretty well up until then but burst into tears and rushed off - not too hysterical to not hear all the French-tutting at the priest; they're quite protective of the massively pregnant there. Good. Fucking crow. Though since he was Orthodox he was more bird-of-paradise coloured.

Ultimately I left early. Everything about the religious ceremony was so not-her that I transitioned quickly from tears to anger and annoyance. Also I know how slow I am now, and guessed that I'd need the extra time to make it to the crematorium in time for that ceremony, whatever it was going to be.

I did. The crematorium was up at the top of Pere Lachaise, which was hillier than I remembered. And more beautiful. It was a lovely autumn Saturday and I think the loveliest time of year for that cemetery, which I used to live down the street from. Trees still mostly green but dead leaves starting to swirl in the breeze down the cobbled paths and between the houses of the dead; ubiquitous horse chestnuts launching their shining fruits pell-mell.

As it was a lovely autumn Saturday, the cemetery was crawling with tourists, who asked me at various points during the day as I walked up and down from the crematorium where Serge Gainsbourg, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison were, like any sensible person would a) give a flying fuck or b) ask someone wearing funereal black and with tear marks on their glasses in a fucking cemetery stupid fucking tourist questions.

Whatever. I didn't really mind. It was almost comic relief. Almost a relief to eyeball these people disbelievingly and wonder why you'd travel to a cemetery to look at somewhere the prop of a complete stranger had been abandoned 50-odd years ago when people you loved were dying all the time, so shouldn't you spend your time with them or remembering them instead of some fucking racist hebephile pervert or underweight warbler or bloated American lounge singer who liked cocaine and whipping his dick out at concerts?

After the cremation I saw a lot of people walking their dogs in the cemetery, or sitting down on one of the benches with nicer views to have a little snack. That felt actually nice. It felt good that Carmen had had her send-off in such a beautiful place, where people liked to come. She had chosen it. It was on almost the opposite side of town from where she lived and worked. Walking up to the crematorium was the first time I felt her hand in the manner of her send-off.

The ceremony at the crematorium reinforced that. Her friends spoke, very movingly, rather than any officiant except for a no-nonsense but warm guy who was obviously some sort of public servant running the place, telling everybody when to stand and sit and approach the coffin to leave rose petals on it and whatnot. One of them was another Romanian expat who talked about their friendship together in France, their "land of exile and dreams". That sounded so - Carmen.

And a Buddhist monk talked briefly too, with almost childlike simplicity, mentioning how maybe the pain of losing Carmen could serve to remind us to be more like her and "faire moins des betises." That was salutary to hear too. Carmen was a moral superhero. Her being part of your life made you a better person when she was alive; her memory could be a powerful force of good. It didn't make losing her okay. It didn't try to. 

mercoledì, settembre 28, 2016

She just didn't seem like the dying type.

Obviously, miscarrying last year was awful. With this pregnancy, I've been wondering from time to time if the universe is trying to reassure me that things will be like they were with Godzilla, and not like they were with the baby who died. Blood pressure up again, due date almost exactly identical, and now . . . universe, this is an odd way to go about it.

Almost exactly four years ago my grandmother died at 100. And a few days ago, my last good friend in Paris, Carmen, died. I didn't even know she was sick. She'd had ovarian cancer, and then hepatitis, and both seemed cured, but the older I get and the more I see, the more I realise that "cure" is a big word. Ultimately what got her was a fast and aggressive liver cancer that killed her in a matter of weeks, and considering what her body must have gone through during the treatment for the first cancer and the hepatitis - well, I'm not a doctor, but duh.

All morning I've been beating myself up over not having even told her I was pregnant again. Stupid fucking me. The last time I saw her was last December, when we were in Paris. The last baby had died a week or so before, but the death hadn't been detected yet and I was feeling great, so we were having a happy "oh you're pregnant let me drink that wine for you" weekend. And then of course having to tell her a few days later. . .

This morning, after a friend of hers called me to tell me what had happened and where the funeral was, I thought I had hesitated to tell her about the new pregnancy - obviously, I thought, I had hesitated too long. I was expecting to see her in a couple of weeks when I went out west to visit my niece in Brittany. I just wished so much I had seen her - I wished so much that she had known about the new pregnancy. I couldn't fix her cancer, I couldn't make her not die, but I know she cared about me a lot, and I know how she felt about children and spirituality and the future, and I wished and wished and wished she had known.

Anyways, then I checked my phone records, and realized that I had told her, back in May. A couple of months before she was diagnosed. Wow. Thank fuck for technology. So now we just move on to garden variety heartbreak and grief.

When Granny died I couldn't do anything about it. I was in Australia, at the same stage of pregnancy I'm at now, and flying off to Yorkshire was not on the cards. But I guess now I can go. There's a hell of a difference between a 24 hour plane ride and three hours on a train.

I think I have to go, because I can't believe she's gone. There was something so steady and unchanging about her over the 15 years of our friendship. Something almost eternal. Even when she was at her sickest with the ovarian cancer - and she came to stay with us in Canada for a little while directly after the chemo had wrapped up, still frail and with fuzzy hair like a baby's coming in - I never dreamt she would die. Like Granny, to be honest. Granny was 100 and the last time I saw her she could barely move, and I still really didn't think she would ever die. I didn't think I was saying goodbye to her the last time I left her bedroom.

Oh, this fucking existence.