Saturday, December 18, 2010

You've Got to Believe to Receive

That is the sentiment that I share with my boys, in regards to the age old question, 'Is Santa real?' My oldest son who is nine, has been questioning Santa's existence for a few years now, and though I don't want to really tell him the truth, I don't want to outright lie to him either. He'll ask me, 'do you believe in Santa?' I can honestly reply, 'yes'. I then continue, I believe in what he represents, which is the magic of giving, and the overall warm feeling of the Christmas season. And let's face it, the month of December usually starts out with that euphoric feeling that comes with the holidays. That initial excitement of putting the tree up, seeing the neighbourhoods all aglow with lights, the smell of holiday baking fills the air and the anticipation of planning the perfect gift for the ones you love. Granted as the month goes on, the patience wears a little thin, the Christmas joy you had a couple weeks prior that had you smiling at strangers has now been replaced by giving people your best stink eye as they take the parking spot that you swear you spotted first, the first, and second batch of baking has long been consumed and your version of the perfect gift now is defined by a bulk pack of tube socks for everyone on your list. I mean, everyone wears socks right?
I hang on tight to the faith that once the last thing on our to-do list has been marked off, we'll all return back to that euphoric feeling that kicked off at the beginning of the month. So because of that, yes, I do believe in Santa. This is a big statement from a woman who doesn't even have any recollection of believing in Santa as a girl. I am the youngest of four kids and the only girl, so I'm sure by the time I came along, my brothers were bored with the whole charade of Santa. Before I even really had a chance to think through the issue, my brother who is three years older than me basically said, 'look, there's no Santa – mom and dad give us the stuff.' My brother was always pretty streetwise and I think he just wanted me to be up to speed on the whole thing. Probably didn't want me to embarrass myself, we were a fairly savvy group of kids and nobody needed a little sister who was the equivalent of Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin. I know there was a guy dressed up as Santa at Woodward’s but I was a pretty shy kid so it wasn't like I was going to get anywhere close to him to further inspect the possibility of if he was genuine. I did however, let my Mom go in line to 'represent' me and get me the Santa button and candy cane. Besides, I thought the entire setup was a bit shifty. I was a shy kid, and a suspicious one too.
Despite those early memories of being told, 'forget it kid, it's a sham', I still believe. I believe that, we do become kinder to one another, and we, for a moment at least, really reflect on what's important in our life. That we do stop and wonder how other people will manage and also how we can help those who may struggle more than ourselves. So that is what Santa is to me, hope dressed up in a red suit. I do believe and I do receive, and what I most like to get is the feeling that indeed we can extend that kindness to the rest of the year. The best thing about the gift of kindness is that it fits everyone and it's something we all need. It is also the best gift for the recipient to return, without the hassle of standing in long customer service lines in January! You've got to believe to receive, sort of the same idea as, 'if you build it, they will come'. That is what Santa is to me. Merry Christmas everyone!

Secret Agent Mel – Writer and Santa believer

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

One of the Boys

Nope, this isn't some big statement where I now announce that I want to become the man that I always felt that I was, but merely an ode to boys, and the role that they've played in my life.
Don't get me wrong, I am a girl, I have all the bits and pieces to prove it, but I've always felt more comfortable around males.
For me it goes back to my childhood, I am the youngest in my family and the only girl, and with 3 older brothers. Let me tell you, that dynamic became the building blocks to who I would become. I mean, no matter what your situation, to some extent you adapt to your environment, must go back to caveman days I'm thinking.
So I learnt very early on, not only how to survive amongst this tribe, but also how their brains worked, or often, didn't work.
In general, guys call it like they see it and for the most part, I love that. There is no time wasted in guessing, 'what do they really think?' If they think you look stupid in something, they'll tell you - and usually without any of that ol' female softening of the blow. I mean I've never been a girly-girl, I was always happiest wearing jeans and a t.shirt, but there were those occasions when my mum would ask/force me to wear a dress. Already feeling completely out of sync with the whole look, I'd make an appearance in the living room, wearing some lame dress, and my brother's reaction would be....'haaaa, Mel's wearing a dress,you look hilarious!'
A fact that frankly, I already knew.
My poor mum, she was so happy to have a girl after having 3 sons, someone she could dress up all pretty, and she gets a girl who was much happier in jeans and climbing trees! Thinking of it, she did collect dolls for awhile when I was a kid - maybe she was compensating for my lack of doll-like qualities?
The thing that I do admire about boy's frankness is how they deal with their other male friends. Only guys can greet each other by saying things like, 'you f**ker, where have you been?' and really mean that as a sentimental statement of 'I've missed you.' Love that!
Men are great at the whole, 'cut to the chase' thing.
So living with, and having the opportunity to observe these creatures up close for years, I've come to understand how to converse with them on a level that often has them forgetting that I actually am a female!

Even my play habits were shaped by having brothers. I hung out mostly with the youngest of my brothers, who was 3 years older than me. My mum always said, it was like having 2 separate families, because of the age difference - my other brothers are 7 and 9 years older than me, so it's not exactly like they were going to hang out with me as a kid. I'm sure most of the time, David, the youngest of my brothers didn't want to hang out with me either.
Personality wise, David and I are about as opposite as 2 people can get - he fears nothing - and I'd fear and analyze almost everything! I had to adapt to him as much as I could though, otherwise I would've been without a playmate. So I climbed trees and roofs!, rode mini bikes, built go-carts, set-up bike ramps so he could pretend that he was Evil Knievel, jumped from stairs(complete with sound effects)in Six Million Dollar Man fashion, assembled model cars and many other boy activities. On occasion, I did stuff with my middle brother as well, most likely when none of his friends were able to hang out. From him I learnt how to play crib and black jack and how to properly shuffle a deck of cards. I remember at one point he was taking Tae Kwan Do and when he came home from class one night, he said to me, 'Mel, stand right there'....then he proceeded to practice kicks, using my head as a height marker - oh, brother/sister bonding, there's nothing quite like it! I also was allowed to play soccer with my brothers, well kinda play....actually, it was more of a 'Mel, you stand in goal while we kick balls at you.' At least they wanted to play with me, right? We played basketball almost daily at times, 21 being the game of choice, quite funny really, considering we're a miniature sized family! This was the only time that any exception was made to the fact that I was a girl - though not much of an exception! I was allowed to take my free throws from the front of the flowerbed as opposed to from the back, where they'd free throw from - big woop! That gave me about a 16" advantage, but no matter where I got a rebound from, that's where I had to shoot from!! Sometimes, it'd hit the rim and rebound 40 feet away!! Too bad for you, you're playing with the boys now! Good lesson to learn really, no exceptions meant that I worked harder.
I mean, you take what you can get. It's not like any of them were going to volunteer to play Barbies with me. It even affected my alone Barbie time, while other girls were dressing their Barbie's in wedding dresses and princess get-ups, my Barbies were in riding gear and behind the wheel of this awesome pick-up truck/horse trailer combo that I had - now that was sweet. No pink Corvette and no lazy Barbie! Even my Barbie was a tomboy! She had a cool ride and did stuff. She wasn't sitting around the pool with Ken and his molded hair, no siree, my Barbie was attached to the washing line with clothes pegs, right beside my brother's G.I. Joe and his real hair/beard as I reeled them back and forth across the entire backyard!

My TV time was filled with Spiderman, Batman, The Hulk, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Fantastic Four and other equally cool shows.
The result of all of this boy-ness was that I've always had males as friends, even when I was a little girl. I can remember in elementary school I'd go to my friend Steven's house and we'd sit in his room looking at Mad magazines and then head to the alley to kick a soccer ball back and forth. Being able to get along with boys so well did pose one problem though - I think sometimes they forgot that I was a girl! Sheesh, I had a crush on Steven for years - not that he'd ever clue into that fact, to him, I was just one of the boys.

I actually feel very grateful to have had this insider's view to men. It has always served me well in my relationships, it has made me more understanding and able to view things from both sides. I've been very lucky to have many close friendships with men and they have trusted me with their thoughts and feelings in a way that women often aren't privy to.
Ha, I'm not sure if I give off some kind of dude vibe, but they seem to know that they can open up to me.
I am a girl, make no mistake about it - I'm scared of spiders, I love chocolate, and although I'm still not a girly-girl, I do love clothes - but my fashion choices always lean more towards menswear inspired/fitted cuts. Clothes with a sexy edge I can do, but I can't pull off the super girly look - no bows, or ruffles or pink - no pink!
Not knocking those who love that, I just happen to know it's not for me. If I saw myself in a pink flouncy number even I'd say, 'Mel, you look hilarious!'

So this is my ode to boys. Your influence has greatly contributed to the person that I am today, quirky as heck, goofy as can be, straight forward, and with a very low tolerance for head games and BS. I thank each and everyone of you that have shared your friendship with me, I really do feel in many ways, like one of the boys. Now I need to figure out women - I think that's going to be much tougher for me, but I'm starting to learn. I can tell you this one difference right now, though your male friends may dig it, women are not impressed that men can burp the entire alphabet. A tough lesson for my brother to learn back in the day - I mean, sure if you could burp all the letters with the same burp strength that might be impressive, but if your letters start to weaken mid-alphabet....meh. Not to worry boys, I still think you're f**king great! See, I am one of the boys!!