quantifying my attempts at responsibility

Following the abrasively shocking revelations of last Sunday’s hair dye debacle, Dr. Roommate and I endeavoured to act like real grown-ups this weekend.

As Sunday night closed in, the adventure was deemed “successful,” as though we might be able to tick off a small box on a to-do list.

“Grow-up.” Check.*

We both had work ahead of us: Dr. Roommate studying to do things like curing hideous diseases and solving the never-ending mysteries of the human brain; me to write my quota of 8000 words about space pirates. There is no room for social lives with tasks as mighty as these.

Really, it was kinda like this. Honestly.

The living room was refashioned into a den of ADULTHOOD: stacks of books, desk lamps, laptops surrounding us! Making us feel Important!

The jigsaw puzzle remained on the kitchen table, but, come on, small victories.

This is how it broke down:

Adult Point Tally, Saturday:

Waking before 10 am: +1

In bed well after 2 am: -1

Dinner of sushi, not Subway: +1

Wearing sweat pants all day: -1

Bathing after noon: -1

Bathing before dark: +1

Watching Inception just for the man-candy: … this was going to be a minus, but come on… that’s amazing man-candy. It knows no maturity level.

Completing writing quota for the entire weekend (all 8000 words): +5

Writing about space pirates: -4

Watched all five hours of BBC version of Pride and Prejudice as background movie: nil**

Okay, so it was more like this.

Adult Point Tally, Sunday:

Up after 10 am: -1

Wore real pants for more than four hours: +1

Bathed after noon: -1

But waited until after I went for a run with Dr. Roommate, so yeah, bonus points for exercise: +2

It was sunny: +1

Left life-affirming voice-memo to self, “Sunshine and exercise are your friends”: +1

Switched from coffee before I got the caffeine jitters: +1

It was Coke that I switched to: -1

But Coke Zero!: +1

Still not watching Ghost World so I can give it back to person I borrowed it from over a week ago: -1

Did a pre-emptive load of laundry, out of responsibility, not necessity: +1

It’s still sitting in the washing machine: -1

Did all the grocery shopping, which was mostly fruits and vegetables: +1

And nothing from a can or jar: +1

Made dinner… from a jar: -1

Also, grilled cheese for lunch: -1

Read a whole Archie comic just for fun: -1

Watched RocknRolla for the man-candy: -1

Wrote another 5000 words past my previously set quota: +4

Still about space pirates: -3

Celebrated the fact that the noisy upstairs neighbours and their loud children have vacated the premises: nil**

Total: +3

That’s three more victory points to add to my never-ending quest to become a grown-up. Not bad. I think I deserve an A for effort. I really tried. It was hard.

*I realize it is not that easy, and I will be back to eating grilled cheese off paper plates shaped like zoo animals soon enough.

**not really factored in, but worthy of mention.


Monday: Back at zero after having a dinner composed of watermelon and Cheerios.

why my foot is covered in duct tape

As a child, I seriously believed that it was a time-honoured tradition, like Christmas or Leap Year or Daylight Savings, that one had an annual illness.

I was a sick kid. One year it was asthma attacks, then it was pneumonia, then it was chicken pox, then strep throat, and so on. Something different every year. My old medical charts read like the back of a baseball card.

I still recall the milky banana taste of liquid antibiotics with loving nostalgia.

Along with this, I was a klutz. I also believed it was a biannual tradition for one to break a bone.

My first break was an arm. I was five. I remember it fondly.

Mom was at the gym: called ‘Dynafit’ because this was 1989. She wore leg-warmers.

Dad had a friend over: probably talking about manly things like construction projects and football.

I even remember that I was wearing my Batman t-shirt.

Unlike the Dark Knight, I had no BatCushion to break my fall.

Bri and I were practicing our gymnastics on the backyard swing set. We had unhooked the plastic swings, and were vaulting majestically from the picnic table to the metal bar, swinging ourselves like little gibbons across the yard.

Bad idea.

Two years later, right on schedule, I broke my ankle roller skating at Stardust roller rink.

Two years after that, it was another ankle sprain. Two years after that, a rib.

So it goes.

I’ve been lucky this last couple of decades. I’ve dodged major illnesses and serious bone injuries.

Until a couple of weeks ago.

I can’t remember what I did to piss off karma, but Roommate Shannon (henceforth to be referred to as Dr. Roommate*) can probably fill in the details.

I was running from my bedroom into the living room and caught my pinkie toe on the edge of some vile, accursed piece of furniture.

The pain can only be described as… demonesque.

I actually screamed.

Within a day, the entire toe was bruised and swollen so badly it looked like Sloth from The Goonies.

Toe looked exactly like this. Complete with war cry.

But it was healing….


Then I did the Exact. Same. Thing.

At this point I forced my grotesque excuse for a foot upon Dr. Roommate, requesting her expertise on the matter.  She looked at it, grimaced, poked it, then said something like, ‘It’s probably broken, but what are you gonna do?’

Then I moaned. And wept. And whined. And whined. And whined.

I had not been in this much physical pain since the last time I ate too much candy.

Dr. Roommate finally scolded me for whining so incessantly. It was deserved, to be sure, but I made a mental note regarding her bedside manner, just in case the hospital ever calls me for  reference.

Everything would have been fine were it not for the fact that I had to bathe. Damn society and our contemporary standards of hygiene.

I had this giant bar of soap that I got for Christmas, you know, those ones that smell like some gawd-awful fruit and have bits of plants in them.

As I was in the shower, disposing of the filth of another day, the Chia-Pet soap slipped from my hands, tumbled like a boulder, and landed with what can only be described as blunt force trauma directly on The Toe.

No other part of my foot was struck.

Just. The. Toe.

I think I blacked out for a while.

Anyway, this was a week ago, and I’ve since started lashing The Toe to the rest of my foot with duct tape to prevent further damage.

That is why I have duct tape on my foot.

*Dr. Roommate is currently in the middle of med school and thus knows far more than me about anything even remotely health- or injury-related. She is the reason I am slowly becoming a hypochondriac. Sometimes she comes home and says random things like: “What has two thumbs and held a severed head today?” and she has made perfectly clear in many an innocent situation that she knows how to kill someone and dispose of a body in a way that no one would ever find it.

She is my most favourite roommate ever.

cartoon underwear and other signs of non-adulthood

So, after an interesting weekend, along with a thorough reading of Hyperbole and a Half, I’ve come to the sad conclusion that I’m not really an adult. I’m not entirely sure if I should append that sentence with the word “yet” or if this is just a state of being that will continue until old age/death.*

Anyway, Roommate and I argued throughout the day on Sunday about which constitutes a greater level of non-adulthood:

Option 1: My Responsibility Faux Pas, where I attempted to make a baked potato, forgot about it, finally remembered to turn the oven off two hours later, forgot about it again, then found the potato sitting cold and shrivelled in the oven on Sunday.

Option 2: Roommate’s Culinary Faux Pas, where she proudly proclaimed she was making us a salad on Friday, then presented me a bowl of lettuce (she quickly added some tomatoes following my mockery), then left the bowl of lettuce on the counter all weekend.

Taken as independent developments, neither are that bad. However, when seen in the elaborate context of our home, the non-adulthood is all the more apparent.

We rent a basement suite in East Vancouver. Our landlord is selling the place, so we had to do a manic clean-up on Saturday for the realtor to come over and take photos. Once the clutter was removed, the dust bunnies had no where to hide. They sat there in all their grey, matted glory. Shameless, really.

Knowing that someone is going to be coming into your home to take photos suddenly makes you incredibly self-conscious. They are going to be judging me. I think that was when the existential panic sank in.

They will see our walls, where the most adult thing is a framed picture of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Everthing else is posters of Harry Potter, Hitchhiker’s Guide, and Star Trek. The classiest thing we have a painted picture of Fidel Castro, which Roommate apologized to the landlord for as being “politically inflammatory.” (At least non-adulthood comes with a decent vocabulary… but then again, so did Bill & Ted.)

I say nothing of the bulletin board, which has devolved into scribbled quotations from pop culture, the rules for Rock/Paper/Scissors/Lizard/Spock, and pictures of Jon Hamm. Hmmm, Jon Hamm.

As I sit here thinking about it, I think perhaps this is normal. There’s such a grey line between childhood and adulthood these days, and I don’t mind. I like my geeky posters. I like my responsibility faux pas. It’s not boring.

I just realized that I’m wearing underwear with a cartoon character on it.

They are not really like this. They are worse.

The debate continues.

*a gross indicator of  a) the ever-increasing infantialisation of my generation, or b) the fact that the word “adult” was over-rated to begin with.

the traumatizing reason why I hate playing monopoly

To quote my mother: “Monopoly tears families apart.”

This is fact.

Yet still, Sunday night witnessed a rebirth of the Rajala Family Game Night. We used to do this often as kids, perch ourselves around the kitchen table and play a good old family game. The fun was renowned, the fights… more so.

What could possibly have made Mum think that this time would be any different? The idea that now we were all reasonable, (apparently) emotionally stable adults?

No, no, no. That only made things worse. For one, my parents no longer feel guilt in cheating us, and two, we now have the power of logic and critical thinking on our sides.

Monopoly is a blood sport.

Someone always cheats.

And the banker always wins (it is the easiest for them to cheat, is it not?).

It’s just like real capitalism!

This time we made Ryan, my sister’s boyfriend, the banker, on the naive assumption that he’s more emotionally distant than the rest of us. Yet somehow, when all was said and done, it was him and Bri wiping the blood off their hands and counting out the money.

Good thing we were drinking.

With Monopoly and I, it has always been personal. So personal it’s emotionally devastating.

It all stems from one incident, deep in the recesses of my childhood. To understand this trauma, I need to explain something about my extended family: My mom and her family are English; the stock of South Yorkshire coal miners. We have issues. Everything that comes into conflict with us might as well have the face of Margaret Thatcher. The slightest disagreement is tantamount to war. But their war is personal. War is emotional. They play the propaganda machine well. They know their enemies. They know our weaknesses. They pounce swiftly and devastatingly.

I can’t even remember what I was doing with Marvin Gardens. Was I trying to buy it from the bank? Mortgage it? I have no idea.

I was all of eight? Seven, even? Old enough to play Monopoly, but not old enough to think that my grandfather would resort to emotional landmines in the pursuit of economic triumph.

“Marvin Gardens,” I said in my plucky Canadian accent.

“MaRVin GaRDens,” Grandpa mocked, stressed those grating hard Rs, “MaRVin GaRDens?! Say it again! Say it!” I was speechless, dying a little inside. “You can’t, can you? MaHVin GaHDens, not MaRVin GaRDens!”

He proceeded to insidiously mock my accent to the point where I wanted to cry, but all I could do was tremble and pass on the lemony yellow property.

I lost the game.

I’ve been a socialist ever since.

rediscovering the boss

My first crush was on Bruce Springsteen.

I was young. Very young.

These were the days when all I wore all day, every day, was my one-size-fits-all Batman t-shirt.

My dad had Born in the U.S.A. on cassette tape and used to play it repeatedly in the car whenever we drove anywhere. Mostly because he loved it. But also because this was the eighties and everyone used to play that album repeatedly. Except for the Prince fans. And thank Christos I wasn’t raised by a pair of those.

I loved Bruce Springsteen before I even understood music.

I didn’t really listen to much “children’s music” beyond, of course, Raffi, Fred Penner, Charlotte Diamond, you know, the usual.

The music of my childhood is good ole rock and roll.  I remember “Chantilly Lace” being my favourite song for quite a while. I remember being absolutely blown away by “Rock Around the Clock.” I thought Buddy Holly was it.

As I’ve aged, I’ve remembered this youthful glee and it has given me context to appreciate how much rock and roll changed the game. I can understand teenagers wetting themselves at the sight of Elvis’s wiggling hips. I never swooned for Elvis, but I swooned for Jerry Lee Lewis. (That was a little ironic, in retrospect. I would have been just his type.)

And then I heard the Boss.

You know how some memories just stick with you?

I remember the first time I heard Springsteen.

I remember being in the car with my dad and loving the music so much that I asked, “Daddy, who is this?”

And he looked at me, with that rare twinkle in his eye: “This is the BOSS! Don’t you know who the Boss is?!”

He laughed with the joy of confusing such a young and naive little child.

But I instantly thought of my mom’s daily discussions over the dinner table, talking about her work day, talking about her… boss.

Oooooooooh, I thought with elation, Mom works for the Boss!


Sadly, a while later, when I discovered the awful  truth… that my mom did not work for Bruce Springsteen, I was heartbroken. Heartbroken in that way that only a melodramatic six-year-old can be.

Despite the adversity, I knew it was a love that would last a lifetime.

One day, Bruce, one day.

An extra treat: The Boss and E Street Band at their finest: