the anniversary of a our first not-a-date

The first date Husband and I went on was not actually a date but rather more like a premise for a terrible Christmas movie.

It was two years ago. We were roommates at the time and still referred to one another, “My roommate, Gregg–” or “Me and Boy Roommate–.” We never quite reached the “My friend, Ashleigh–” phase.

The not-a-date was a couple of weeks before Christmas and took place on a Saturday. Neither of us can recall who first came up with the idea to go Christmas shopping downtown, but onwards we went, bundled up in toques and scarves and gloves. All afternoon, we wandered in and out of shops, cracking jokes in the comic book store, making rude gestures with nutcrackers in Cookworks, railing against the establishment outside department store windows, and lingering a bit too long in the bookstore. We didn’t buy a thing.

Aviary Photo_130314780704279531

We ended up at a sports bar. Why, I cannot remember, but there must have been a reason and I’m sure it was charming. A pitcher of beer, two pounds of wings, and several karaoke stories later, the outside observer would shake their heads at us. The whole world knew how we felt but us. Even after a walk back over the Granville Street Bridge, with a pause mid-span to take in the view–and spit our gum into False Creek–we came home to separate bedrooms.

Months afterwards, Husband began to refer to this as our not-a-date, as it was technically not a date, but “really fucking felt like one.”

Even though we didn’t know it at the time, that not-a-date established something fundamental in the two of us. We did not become a couple until later, but the not-a-date feels like an anniversary of sorts because that was the two of us at our most elemental and sincere.

We now make a point to spend a Saturday shopping downtown each year, forgoing all other holiday panic and scrambling and festivities, just to regroup as a couple and remember our priority: having fun just enjoying each other’s company.

Because that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

only eleven more months until christmas is over again

“Douglas,” our chipper wee friend of a Christmas tree, sits discarded in the backyard. Having completely missed the free tree chipping the second weekend in January, we have no idea what to do with it.

I only remembered the tree at all when the snow thawed last Friday.

“Oh yeah,” I remarked to BoyRoommatefriend, “The tree.”

It looks so pathetic hunkered there in the corner of the yard, tilted sideways against the grass like a tourist who fell asleep on the beach.

Doesn't this tug your heartstrings?

The suggestion was made to cut it up into tiny pieces and squeeze it into the compost, but somehow the sheer brutality of such a feat made me wince.

This is the first time I’ve ever had my own Christmas tree to deal with. In years past, it was either the tree at my parents’ house, or we simply never had a tree.

Do we just leave it there in the corner of the yard until it decomposes into nothing, returning once more to the sodden earth from whence it came? How long till the needles fall from it, leaving bare skeletal remains? Will a forensic anthropologist, like television’s Bones, do a post-mortem, and point a wavering finger in my direction whilst snarling an hollow-but-accustatory: “You….” Will I forever be deemed incapable of harbouring any responsibility whatsoever?


Maybe the tree will stick it out until next Christmas.  That would save us a quick $23.

It is less than eleven months away now, you know.

the commune christmas special: it’s not the BBC or anything, but it works for us

It went something like this:

(photos courtesy of Dr. Roommate’s iPhone)

"Thumbs up for turkey dinner!"
"There is so much joy in this room right now. I love you all. No, really. I do. Honestly. Why don't you trust me? See: I'm making a happy face and everything."


"I am marginally less excited than the rest of you... since I've been cooking the turkey all freakin' day."


"I am just here for the food."


"WOOOO! I've been drinking since ten a.m.!"

douglas, the commune christmas tree

Douglas, The Commune Christmas Tree. He’s a happy little fellow with a red star.

for christmas one year I got a jem doll and middle-class guilt

This is the story of How I Learned to Start Worrying and Hate Class Differences. I’m pretty sure most of why I grew up to appreciate Marx is encapsulated in this tiny little nugget of childhood.

This is the second time I’ve had to write this post (as I’ve already grumbled about). Whenever such a thing happens, I try to be all self-help sentimental about it and tell myself that this simply means it will be better the second time around.

That’s probably not true. I’m pretty sure I struck gold before. This is just cheap brass in comparison.


If you were female and under the age of ten in the late eighties, you may remember a cartoon called Jem and the Holograms. The entire show was basically one half-hour-long toy advert. It told the story of plucky, young music producer, Jerrica Benton, who moonlights as plucky, young, pink-haired rock star, Jem. An entrepreneurial music producer and a rock star. No matter who you were in the eighties, rebel or yuppie, one of these careers greatly appealed to you.

This was also pre-Spice Girls/Hannah Montana, but post-glam rock, so I’m pretty sure Jem was just a female Ziggy Stardust.

Apparently, this is a small child's idea of a feminist utopia.

This show basically treated rock stars as superheroes. They have secret identities. They wear flashing tights. They have magic jewellery. Green Lantern had a ring; Jem has a snazzy pair of earrings which are “able to project holograms around her and [she] uses this ability throughout the series to avoid danger and provide special effects for the performances of her group.”*

Because, let’s face it, you have this amazing “holographic technology” but, rather than use it to fight crime or do something useful, you use it to put on an awesome stage show. I mean, get a fog machine or something.

There are also villains. With their own secret identities. And some of them are after the holographic technology. Some are just rival bands. My favourite were The Misfits, even though they begged a horrible comparison to the real Misfits, which I’m sure left many disappointed upon subsequent trips to Sam the Recordman or wherever else you bought your cassette tapes in 1987.

Not the same band.

One Christmas, my list of demands to the fat man was topped by a Jem doll.

THIS was my Red Rider BB Gun.

Since this was the late eighties, Mum was doing her Christmas shopping at K-Mart and had to drag me along. I shouldn’t have, but I peeked into the shopping cart. Lo and behold, what did I see but Jem. In all her pink-cardboard-boxed glory.

“Mummy,” I asked, “Who is that for? Is that for… me?”

“No,” Mum scoffed, “Remember that box we saw by the door when we came in?”


“Well, that box is for people to donate toys to all the little girls and boys whose parents are too poor to get them any presents for Christmas.”

“Oh. Okay.”

My mind was blown.

Keep in mind, I was only about four or five. I was too young to appreciate the subtleties of things like class distinctions and tax brackets. My understanding of rich versus poor had been determined solely by Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim.

Shown: a four-year-old's idea of poverty

The only people I recognized in my life that I could clearly label “poor” were homeless people, who seemed to me then as exclusively male and middle-aged. I didn’t realise that, in real life, children could be poor. The idea that there were kids who didn’t get Christmas presents caused my world to immediately grow four times in size, just like the Grinch’s heart.

That the Jem doll would go to one of these poor children seemed perfectly reasonable. Still unaware of my parent’s own fiscal limitations, I felt guilty that we weren’t buying all the toys in K-Mart to donate to these kids.

But, come Christmas morning, I indeed found the Jem doll beneath the tree.

Despite my initial elation at receiving my most-desired gift, I looked to Mum, a desperate tear in my eye. “I thought this was for the poor kids.”

“Oh,” she lied again, “It was. This one is from Santa.”

“Oh. Okay!”

But dramatic irony is a solid fist of fury. Of course the day would come when I would learn that *SPOILER ALERT* Santa was not real.

I don’t remember how old I was when I realised this, but I do remember that I suddenly felt a great sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. What was this strange, unpleasant sensation? What happened to my secure sense of self? What was this feeling?

It was the first time I’d ever experienced middle-class guilt. It never really went away.


* Thanks, Wikipedia!

why this december might just be awesome

For some reason I’m actually excited about Christmas this year. Not quite wear-a-tacky-sweater excited, but actually-going-to-decorate-a-tree-and-drink-lots-of-mulled-wine excited.

Not entirely sure why this is, but it might have something to do with the fact that I don’t really have anything to be depressed about this year. As someone who deals with month-long mood swings and varying degrees of S.A.D., the month of December is usually a gauntlet of self-medication drug trials.

Usual Christmas face: first Google Images hit under the search "Squalling Child."

After remarking to Boy Roommate that I was *gasp, shock, horror!* looking forward to the holidays (and then processing the subsequent confusion wrought about his face), I sat and thought about it. I think the last time I was this genuinely excited about Christmas was 2002.

2002. Huh. That’s nine years ago.

I guess the intervening years have been wasted on the emotional fall-out of exam stress, bad relationships, break-ups, post-travel blues, post-university blues, deaths of family, deaths of friends, anxiety about the future, and perhaps just a general sense of ennui.

So why is this year different?

I don’t really know. It’s not like there’s been anything major. No lottery wins, no unprecedented publishing contracts or movie deals, no loves at first sight, no adorable street kid charming their way into my heart.

I guess it’s the minor things. I’ve come off of one of the most creatively fulfilling and productive years of my life: one novel complete and another will be done by the end of the year. I live my life in the presence of some wonderful people who love tolerate me. My family is healthy (for the most part), happy (at least some of us), but we’re always there for each other.

I guess life’s like Doctor Who: not perfect, but charming and cheeky in its own little way.

Bring on the egg nog.

2011 Christmas face?

the lost pom-pom: a depressing christmas yarn (pun intended)

I thought I’d share a story of my tortured childhood. I have no idea how this is relevant, but while I spent an hour of the taxpayers dime decorating a Christmas tree, a memory rose to the surface of my bubbling, festering stew of a mind.

In grade five we got to do what most elementary school kids do around the holiday season: waste the better part of our young days making crappy Christmas decorations out of things like popsicle sticks and macaroni. For some reason, this year, we were charged with making pom-poms… presumably to function as tree ornaments.

We were politely ordered to bring in different colours of yarn to make a festive addition to each of our snot-nosed holiday households. Red and green were the colours of choice, perhaps white or even gold were acceptable.

However, for me, a festive pom-pom was not to be.

Mom insisted that it was wasteful, and not to mention an incovenient thorn in her already overstressed side, to go out to the store to buy new yarn when we already had some at home. Stuffing the hand-knit sweater leftovers into my grubby little child hands, she promptly told me to make do or shut up. What she actually said was probably less harsh, but this is how the “victim” tells the story.

This sounds reasonable, right? I mean, waste not and all that…. She was simply being “green,” right?

Of course, but kids don’t get that crap. All I understood was that I had to make my pom-pom ornament out of MAGENTA, TURQUOISE and BLACK yarn.  It was so, so, so nineties.

On the festive scale, this is somewhere near those horrible yuppies on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

But I was determined in my little childish heart of hearts that I would not let my ugly-as-fuck pom-pom ruin Christmas. In fact, I was adamant that I would make Christmas ABOUT my ugly-as-fuck pom-pom.

It was displayed front and centre on the tree, right between Mom’s Elvis ornament and the one Bri and I pulled out of Rice Crispies box.

Mom hated it.

She kept trying to move it to the back of the tree. But I kept finding it, and moving it back.

Every year, we went through this struggle.

Every year, the ugly-as-fuck pom-pom danced around the tree: back to front, front to back. It was Ginger and Fred, all December long.

But then one Christmas, Mom outsmarted me.

I guess she either A)  had enough once and for all, B) had a few too many Christmas mojitos,  C)had finally come up with a brilliant plan, or  D) all of the above.

See, we have cats. There’s a rule in our house that you keep any ornaments you don’t want broken at least a foot from the bottom of the tree.  This rule was conceived after Christmas 1995, when an ornament with a lot of tinsel inside was broken open and eaten by one of the little purring lovelies. I guess Dad can only handle pulling so much tinsel out of a cat butt before he lays down the law.

This was where Mom discovered the perfect way to sabotage the pom-pom.

See, a pom-pom hanging front and centre, from the bottom of the tree is nothing more than a very, very, very, very tempting cat toy. I’m still convinced she also rubbed cat nip on it, too, you know, just to get the little bleeders foaming at the mouth for their next hit.  

It was so simple. Ingenious really. I should compliment her on it, but I’m still bitter.

I entered the living room like one imagines refugees return to their bombed-out homes. There were small fragments of magenta here, turquoise there. Bits of half-digested black yarn were coughed up all over the couch. It looked like a bomb full of everything nineties exploded in the living room, spraying magenta, black and turquoise shrapnel over everything.

I was distraught. And in that deeply depressing way someone in their mid late twenties definitely should not be. And as I realized this, it made me even more distraught. It is a horrible, vicious cycle.

Thanks, Mom.

Mom: 1    Ashleigh: 0

the effing trifle

My family is English. Mostly. I was reading an article on the Guardian on the loveliest of English desserts (subjective description, I know), The Trifle. There was even a poll: Is trifle supposed to have jelly? Yes or No? This made me think of the torturous experience that the trifle is every year with my family.

We have no such thing as trifle in my family, but we do have “The F***ing Trifle” – the Christmas tradition that causes more fights and familial conflicts than religion and politics combined. Whether it’s fights over someone scraping out all the custard, or someone else picking the crumbled Flake bar off the whipped cream, or whatever the feud… there’s always bloodshed.

In an attempt to bring peace on earth at Christmas, I suggested that I can make individual trifles, suited to everyone’s personal tastes – or that I can alter the ingredients to be generally more edible, or that we should even scrap the trifle altogether, as no one really eats it, they just fight over it, but I was nearly dragged out and shot.

There’s no accounting for taste, or tradition.

PS – I’ve just realized that all my posts I have written somehow related to Christmas have (censored) expletives in the titles. *Sigh*

bing crosby tap-danced with danny – effing – kaye

So tomorrow, I’m taking the day off work. Huzzah. It was originally intended to be a day to get through all those pesky starting-at-a-new-school things out of the way, like getting a student card, and all that, but once that was taken care of, it’s degenerated into a shopping trip downtown with my sister.

I’m looking forward to it. This December has thus far been an exercise in stress management – but not the working-under-a-deadline kind of stress, but the more vague, less tolerable kind. Christmas Eve is my last day at the City, and it marks a stressful day in and of itself. At least I’ll get a good week an a half off from then until January 4. That day is standing out like a sore thumb waiting to happen. It’s going to be exciting, exhilarating, but terrifying (like bungee jumping) starting back at school. Unlike bungee jumping, which is simply closing your eyes and leaping, I have to keep at this. It’s not just one day, it’s eight frakking months.

And I need to find time to drive up to Whistler this weekend.


I finally understand how Christmas can be migraine-inducing for so many people. I’ve always found this time of year stressful enough, but still joyous, with happy moments spent retreading old traditions with my family, shopping (which I don’t mind as long as it’s for someone else), and watching cheesy movies guilt-free. I’m living for those moments. Watching White Christmas last night with my parents and sister was great – not to mention watching Christmas Vacation last week – and the roommates and I are trying to find a night to watch Love Actually. I’m praying for a miracle for the VCR to start working again so I can crack open my old VHS copy of It’s a Wonderful Life. (Maybe now that Blueray is well and truly here, I will finally buy it on DVD and then only be one technological advancement behind.)

I told a friend today, that when there’s this much being juggled, something’s gotta fall. Unfortunately, so far, it’s been my writing and my blogging. Which sucks, as those are the things I actually like to do. Maybe I’ll get a chance to catch up after Christmas Eve. Let’s hope my neuroses don’t kill me before them.

(In a totally unrelated note, is it just me, or do you really think that Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye’s characters (Bob Wallace and Phil Davis) were totally a couple before Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen split them up? I’m just saying, it’s the fifties, and they’re in show business, and maybe they need to keep up appearances by marrying off…? They are surrounded by tons of young, beautiful women all the time, they’re in their forties (Danny) and fifties (Bing)… If a lot of their dialogue were given to a man and a woman (this IS 1954), you would totally get the impression they were a couple. Phil keeps using the I-saved-your-life-in-the-war guilt-trip, but I think Bob does whatever he wants because he wuvs him. Hm….. It’s totally just me, isn’t it?)