White: Physics and snobbery

3 Sep

primary colours make white lightWhen I was in Theatre school studying design, I got a good rounding of other theatrical tasks and took classes in stage management, performance, and sound and lighting. I learned a lot of things during the lighting class and developed an understanding of light and colour as frequency. I also learned how to make white light out primary colours. White is a combination of all light frequencies, so focusing blue, red, and green lights in one spot gives us white light. This experience was the beginning of my fascination with colour. (For more information on light frequency, see this page from NASA.)

White as a reflecting colour

From a light perspective, if we think about light and how it changes throughout the year, it makes sense to wear either reflective or absorbing colour depending on what season it is. In the spring and summer, there is bright, warm light and it makes sense for us to reflect light away from us which keeps us a bit cooler, while in the fall and winter, we have cool and limited light that we want to absorb to keep the heat in, so we wear darker colours. (A psychological link seems to exist as well, as we mimic the natural world.)

White is sleek, clean, and classic; we can all envision basic white but there are many, many whites, some cool, some warm,  some with coloured undertones. If you’ve ever looked at paint chips to decide on a room colour, you may have been surprised to see just how varied white can be.

types of white

Believe it or not, these are all considered white. Notice the variations between colours. From Benjamin Moore’s 2015 white collection.

White, along with black and grey, are considered neutrals, and will mix well with other colours of the same level of warmth or coolness. Warm-skinned people will do well in warm – red or yellow-tinted – whites (cream, oatmeal, eggshell white), while cool-skinned types look best in cool – blue or green-tinted – whites (ivory, stone, oyster, silvery white). Notice the subtle differences in cool and warm whites below; you may also see that warm whites advance and cool whites recede slightly:

warm whites

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cool whites

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White after Labour Day

The Labour Day argument can be a source of confusion for those of us in the Western world. We’re not truly in autumn until the fall equinox which falls the third week of September, so theoretically, we shouldn’t fret about wearing white after Labour Day. This tradition, once fiercely defended, is not longer a sticking point – many of us wear white into the fall which is perfectly acceptable.

The “white season” is an American concept devised by rich white women after the American Civil War. This sartorial snobbery was created to differentiate between the wealthy and the common; people who could afford multiple seasonal wardrobes and those who could not; white was for those who were lucky enough to enjoy resorts, cottaging, and summer holidays between Memorial Day and Labour Day. According to TIME, wearing white after Labour Day was impractical in cooler and rainy fall weather and by that time of year, it was time to return to the more formal attire of city living anyway.

Modern society likes to break old rules, including the not-wearing-white-after-the-September-long-weekend rule. Depending on where you live, September can still be very hot (it certainly is in Toronto) and dark colours wouldn’t be appropriate – hot weather still begs for light colours even at the end of summer. White should still prevail into the fall when the temperatures start to drop and we can get snuggily in deeper, richer whites that lend an air of class and elegance.

Maybe that pompous when-to-wear-white rule does have a basis: white is one of the more elegant colour options no matter what time of year it is, so go ahead and don’t be afraid to indulge in the classic brightness of white.

What have you learned lately?

20 Aug

school desksWe’re nearing the end of the warm season; that’s right, summer’s almost gone. What did you do? Take any holidays? I was lucky enough to spend a week in beautiful British Columbia where I enjoyed charming cities and looked at the Pacific Ocean every day. I’m going to Montreal next weekend to cap off the season.

One thing I’ve become very aware of is that holidays and hot weather are a good combination to turn us lazy and sloth – not only physically but mentally. It’s easy not to do much on hot, heavy days thick with humidity; this kind of weather can bring about sleepiness, migraines, low energy, and the desire to drink cold beer. Most people agree that it’s okay to let this happen during the summer – it hearkens back to our two months of holidays while we were in school, the two months of bliss that at the time seemed to last forever. Invariably, the beginning of the new school year neared and the pressure to stop having fun and get your nose into a textbook nagged at us. It was depressing and at the same time, exciting.

Like you, I’ve been riding the summer calmness, digging the feeling of relaxed holiday in the air, and not taking much seriously. But a couple of weeks ago, I sensed an unknown stress pressing into my mind. I told a friend about this anxiety and he says he has it too. He thinks it’s because it’s the time of year we’ve been conditioned to associate with work – i.e. school. I think he’s right.

I felt invisible pressure to do something with the autumn looming, but I didn’t know what. Then I received a booklet in the mail from the Toronto District School Board that listed dozens of adult classes that begin in September. I looked through and found many classes that interested me. Yesterday I registered for one and I feel great about it. After a couple of months of working (mostly part time), sweating, loafing, laughing, drinking, and socializing, I’m excited to learn again, to improve myself, to make a commitment to something. To me, it’s like the physical feeling of changing from shapeless sweat pants and t-shirts to fitted, woven clothing.

It’s one thing to take a week or two (or more if you’re lucky) to go away on holidays which chops up the year, but quite another thing to make a commitment to learn something new. I’ve decided that instead of taking a winter holiday in January, I will take another class. Lying on a beach is certainly relaxing, but taking a class is definitely much cheaper (albeit not warmer), and the mental improvements from it will last my lifetime.

Can you imagine who you could be if you made the decision to start learning again?

Learning is fun and a wonderful investment in the mind. It’s also a good way to stop stagnation – let’s face it, as adults it’s very easy to fall into a comfortable rut and to keep on with the tried and true schedule. But this gets boring and boredom can eat away at our minds. Learning is a healthy challenge for us and keeps us humble, but it also means change. Some people are afraid of change, but the thought of it depends on your perspective: when it comes to learning, I think about change as an enhancement, not as anything uncomfortable.

Learning whets the imagination and the intellect and improves confidence; new skills develop and talents emerge. Putting yourself in a new environment to learn with other people is an amazing experience. I can’t wait to take a seat at my school desk on September 9 and let the learning begin!

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

– George Bernard Shaw

 

 

Pride 2015: Loving my gays

25 Jun

gay prideI have known and loved gay men ever since I can remember. A man my father worked with when I was a wee child was gay – this was in the early `70s when being gay was still hush-hush and freshly decriminalized in Canada – but I had no conception of sexuality. Sid was flaming and living a lie, married to a woman. As a kid, I could neither put my finger on what it was about Sid that I was sensitive to, nor did I have the language to describe my perception of him, but there was something extra special about Sid: he had a lisp, a limp wrist, and he loved martinis.

What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.  – Tennessee Williams

In high school, I made friends with Jay, a fun, gentle gay man who I am still friends with. Jay was just Jay and his sexuality was not an issue – in our social group at least. Trying to deal with high school in the 1980s when homophobia was rampant and homosexuality very misunderstood, I was grateful for people who broke the rules and weren’t afraid to be themselves.  Jay was one of these; he was just himself and we couldn’t understand why people made such a big deal out of his sexuality – especially at a time when the people who teased him wore horrible mullets and listened to crappy bands like REO Speedwagon!

He took me into the clandestine gay bar in our small prairie city, a place very close to one of the larger and popular hetero bars. It was a secret place – we had to be signed in by members of the club and buzzed in through the locked door. At that time, being gay and being a gay ally was dangerous, so precautions had to be taken. But it was a wonderful time; Jay told me about his exploits with older men who recognized his state of being even before he did. It was a time of discovery about ourselves and our tastes; our rebellion, our character, and our desire to be ourselves. Through Jay, I learned to have fun and be true to myself no matter what people said about me.

Before you criticize queens, fairies or someone who acts ‘too queer’, consider where we’d be without them. -Ken Hanes, The Gay Guy`s Guide to Life

My first job out of high school was at a Canadian department store where I worked in the menswear department. This is where I met Greg. He was always neat, tidy, and smelled good. Greg was older than me and lived with his boyfriend in a gorgeous apartment in an old building with white pillars in the front. They introduced me to lots of older professional gay men who immediately accepted me for who I was, and I was completely taken by their open minds, their zest for life, sense of fun, and of course, their good taste.

Life can throw tough circumstances at us, but when you’ve got a life-long friend – especially a gay one – you know that you’ve been blessed. Greg and I have been through good times and bad together, still going strong 30 years later. He’s easy to talk to and laugh with; we have common loves like clothing and design. We don’t live in the same city any more, but no matter how much time has passed since we’ve been in contact, we always pick up where we left off. Greg taught me that no matter what a person’s sexual identity, we share the same joy, fear, and pain because we’re all human.

There’s this illusion that homosexuals have sex and heterosexuals fall in love. That’s completely untrue. Everybody wants to be loved. -Boy George

I spent ten wonderful years volunteering at the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT). I was the first woman in the history of the agency to volunteer for the gay men’s outreach program, where I handed out countless packs of condoms and lube to guys in gay bars and talked about safer sex and social issues. In the beginning, some bars didn`t welcome women but I went in anyway and did my job with the objective of preventing transmission of HIV and STIs, and ultimately saving lives.  I also coordinated the route on several AIDS Walks for ACT to raise money for services for positive men in the community. My time with ACT gave some of my most fun and fulfilling moments, and I gained a deep understanding about the gay experience, gay politics, sexual health, and stigma; being open-minded, how to listen, and how not to judge.

I have no idea why gay men love me, but I would have to assume it’s because they know how much I love the gays! Everyone needs a good gay man in their life. – Chelsea Handler

The bond between gay men and hetero women is a natural match; most of my friends are gay men. I’ve met many fantastic gay men and made friends with some of the more amazing ones who have completely enriched my life. If you ask me, gay men are perfect beings created from the best elements of the masculine and the feminine and the more they are recognized and empowered, the better world it will be. I am very fortunate to know so many gays and I couldn’t imagine my life without them – love you all, darlings – Happy Pride! XOXO

PS – I’m taking July off writing – enjoy the summer!

Dating in the digital age

11 Jun

internet datingSomething came over me a couple of Thursdays ago and I found myself posting my picture on a dating site. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but in this case, it is. I went cold turkey after ten years of what I think I can now say was an internet dating addiction. Since that time, I dipped my toe in the digital dating pool only twice and ran away screaming within days of joining.

The picture I used this time is sort of bright and hazy and I said little about myself outside of my statistics and that I wanted to meet men within 5 km of me. I was astonished to find that within two days, I had 100 “likes” and over a dozen emails from men all over the western world. I felt overwhelmed – this is not what I expected.

Contact

Sometimes men will tell me about their time on dating sites and complain that most women don’t answer their emails. I ask them what they write. “Hi,” they often say. A good start, but Hi for what reason? What inspired you to write to her? A girl needs something to go on, fellas!

I got a lot of email and admittedly I didn’t open all of it (including the ones that just said “hi”), but I did respond to the ones I opened and I’m always polite in my exchanges. The very first message was from a gorgeous creature with tattoo sleeves, but he was looking for casual sex—I passed. Later, I had conversations with a couple of interesting artistic types, a guy with cool style and a fun attitude, and brief exchanges with two men from the UK and two from the U.S.

I wrote back to the foreigners to say thanks for the email but they were too far away (sometimes efficiency is more important than romance). The one in Liverpool wrote back to say how much he wanted to express himself to me and all men voiced their disagreement with my choice and said we should get to know each other over email first. I’m flattered, but I’m also practical.

So lonely

After looking at so many men`s pictures and profiles, I started to feel their loneliness, their anger, and their desire to be wanted. Some of the emails I opened begged for attention (I imagined one man literally on his knees), and some men wrote long emails to try to convince me to get involved with them. It made me feel sad; it made me realize just how socially isolated we are from each other.

One man in particular embodied the emotional desolation of modern dating and romance. In his first message to me, this American man sent his phone number and says he’s willing to relocate after one exchange:

HE: Gooday [sic] dear….good to read your profile… you look adorable and down to earth. Would love to know more about you and maybe have a longer conversation with you, to see if we have something in common and to also see if we are going to be compatible…You can send me a text anytime and I’ll be glad to hear from you. (XXX) XXX-XXXX Much love, _____

ME: _____, it’s good of you to get in touch but I’m looking to meet men within 5 km of me in Toronto. Best wishes to you!

HE: Am ready to relocate, if i get the one my heart beats for…and i believe since am attracted to you am ready to do anything just to make the one my heart beats for happy

ME: _____, you won’t believe this, but a guy from Maryland just sent me the same email. I’m afraid I’m not the romantic type and I want to find someone near me. Good luck.

HE: am mostly attracted to you …please don’t do this to me…just give me a chance into your life and see the little love that can make you believe am for real.

HE: just send me your number so i can call or text you as to enable us know each other the better.

It would seem that in the world of online dating, women suffer from the noise while men suffer from the silence.
– My friend, Andy

After only five days, I took down my profile. At the risk of sounding conceited, I had trouble with the amount of attention I received: by the time I deleted my profile, I received 220 likes and there were 27 emails in my box.

Irony of ironies, three of the men I was in conversation with on the website sent their email addresses to me, so I contacted them and guess what? To date, I’ve not heard from one. Reminds me of the last time I attempted internet dating: I met a man, chatted a bit, then set up a date for a Sunday afternoon. He cancelled only an hour before we were to meet. Humans, eh? I guess some people don’t believe they deserve happiness.

Exfoliating without microbeads

14 May
Plastic microbeads in your facial wash go straight down the drain and into the water system.

Plastic microbeads in your facial wash go straight down the drain and into the water system.

I often talk to my clients about using exfoliants to remove the dull dead skin cells that sit on the surface of the skin to keep it soft, supple, and youthful. Exfoliated skin feels better, looks polished, and takes age off a guy’s face. It’s also a great pre-shave step which softens men’s whiskers and lets the razor glide right over. Once guys are on the bandwagon, there’s no turning back.

However, there are massive environmental concerns with some commercial exfoliant products that contain microbeads – tiny plastic beads that are so small that they slip through the water treatment process and end up, at least in Ontario, in the Great Lakes. Tiny bits of plastic in water systems can wreak havoc on our marine environment and ultimately, us. Environmental Defence says that microbeads “are being eaten by fish and birds, which can cause digestive blockages, dehydration, and even death from starvation thanks to stomachs full of plastic. The plastics absorb dangerous toxics that can harm wildlife when they mistake the colourful beads for food”. Since we get much of our drinking water from the Great Lakes, I’ve read that these beads can end up in our drinking water and beverages made with water (i.e. beer!).

It’s an issue that is gaining ground. In March of this year, Ontario MPP, Marie-France Lalonde, introduced a private member’s bill to ban the manufacture and use of microbeads. South of the border, Illinois has passed a state-wide ban on microbeads, and New Jersey, Colorado, and Wisconsin are in the process of banning them too. Back in 2012, The Guardian discussed the global effects of microbeads in the oceans and said that “the [beauty] industry needs a reminder that an ecosystem driven to the edge will not be productive”. Happily, CBC reports that “L’Oreal, the Body Shop and Johnson & Johnson all committed to phasing out plastic microbeads by 2015, and Proctor & Gamble said it would do so by 2017.” This is wonderful news on many levels.

Natural alternatives

We don’t need plastic beads to keep our skin smooth – there are lots of natural alternatives. For instance, I recommend a pre-shave facial cleanser from Bread & Butter men’s skincare line which uses biodegradable rice flour granules as the exfoliating agent.

A friend who sees a naturopath uses plain old baking soda mixed with water to make a paste and uses that on his face to exfoliate his skin. He uses this very inexpensive and environmentally friendly exfoliant once a week; his skin looks clean and polished and he says it feels great.

Some people will turn to drug store exfoliant products that contain things like broken nut shells or fruit pits. Natural, yes, but these are somewhat harsh on the skin because the pieces of shell or pit are not rounded, and pointy bits of hard shell rolled over the face can damage the skin. Better alternatives are found at neighbourhood health stores that carry different exfoliant products, or check the multitude of online suggestions for natural facial scrubs.

For guys who want to take it a step further and give their whole bodies a good exfoliation, Janet Perry, a Certified Holistic Nutritionist™ in Calgary, offers her own recipe for an inexpensive DIY sea salt body scrub for the shower (not to be used on the face):

1/2 cup good quality oil such as almond, jojoba, avacado, olive, or grapeseed

1 cup sea salt (if your skin is sensitive, substitute sugar for salt)

5 – 15 drops of good quality (i.e. organic, therapeutic grade) essential oils like lemon, lavender, peppermint, or rosemary oil

1.  Put the sea salt (or sugar) in a glass bowl.
2.  Pour in the oil and mix with a wooden spoon.  The texture should be moist enough to hold together; if the mixture is too oily, add more sea salt.
3.  Add 5 – 15 drops of your favourite essential oil, and combine well.
4.  Transfer to a sterilized glass jar and store in a cool, dry place.

Also check out exfoliating gloves and towels from places like the Body Shop that you can soap up and use like you would a wash cloth. Feels great but be gentle exfoliating around your privates, gents.

It’s not much of a sacrifice to make a change from plastic microbeads in commercial facial exfoliants (and toothpaste and body wash products); you’ll be more natural, find more money in your pocket, and you won’t add to the water pollution problem that currently faces us.

Click here to send a letter of support for Ms. Lalonde’s bill to Glen Murray, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and make the push for banning microbeads stronger with your voice.

Truth or consequences: Dating in Toronto

1 May

There is certainly no place in the world like Toronto but for reasons you may not expect.

Will a nightclub draw a suitable partner?

Will a nightclub draw a suitable partner?

S. is a successful 39 year-old financial professional who owns his own house and car. In less than two years, he’s worked hard with a personal trainer and lost 70 pounds. One might think he’d have luck with women with all of these things going for him but after a year of clubbing, he’s still single and still looking.

R., a 35 year-old from Ireland works in construction and began dating as soon as he arrived in Toronto. He had no problems meeting women as a newcomer with a charming accent, but after three years, he describes the Toronto dating scene as “bizarre”.

Both gentlemen feel that dating in Toronto is about narcissism and feeding the ego. Those of us who live here know there is no place like it: people avoid other humans and don’t make eye contact, it is difficult to meet new people, and according to pick-up artist, Roosh V, it is the worst city in North America to meet women. (Read his 15 reasons why the city sucks for dating, and take the racially charged reason #7 with a grain of salt.)

Toronto is a large city and with large cities comes wide choices in people to get friendly with. This, combined with the vast amount of choices of people to meet in Toronto over the internet widens the net. When I internet dated,  I found it very difficult to settle on one man because there were so many – possibly too many – choices. What happens if I start up with Mr. Right Now and then Mr. Right comes along? This thought caused a kind of terror and was one of the reasons I ran away from internet dating, screaming.

S. and R. want to meet women and frequent downtown clubs on weekends. S. says that women expect attention, free drinks, and ego validation, with the option to brush the guy off. They told stories of their attempts to strike up conversations with women, many of which were received with rudeness and sometimes humiliating responses. S. says that women have walked away from him, one said, “I don’t want to talk to you”, and another actually pushed him away. He told me about the time his friend went over to talk to a woman who responded by punching him in the jaw which caused his mouth to fill up with blood. There is no excuse for rudeness and certainly not for violence. A polite, “No thank you” will do.

That said, many men don’t realize that women are in a tricky social position because we are targets of male attention, desire, and sometimes aggression, and this puts us into a state of constant defensiveness. We also know that men will always want us and we usually have the choice whether to couple or not, especially if we’re good-looking. When men approach us however, we have a choice in how we handle it. Choosing a rude route, like what R. and S. experience in bars is, I believe, learned and perhaps socially encouraged, depending on your generation.

Has the internet spoiled us?

R. says that the internet is killing character and genuineness. Before internet dating and social media, people were different. Before the digital age, people were people, warts and all, and our in-person selves drew others to us within our circle of friends. Now, people edit and censor themselves and become synthetic versions of their true selves, put on display for the world to see. Younger generations born into smart phones and social media see edited versions of the world and this is a massive influence on their psyche.

Young women seem especially susceptible to digital media influence and because society is still obsessed with what women look like, the expectation to be beautiful and sexy is even more pronounced. This, and the influence of media that seems to reward and normalize bitch behaviour can create legions of women who say, Yeah, I’m all that, and you have to work for it. Many women expect attention and fancy that they could and should have the pick of the litter. In the Kardashian-styled age of the egotistic selfie and the popularity contest that is social media, we have become horribly self-absorbed and narcissistic. It really should be no surprise to men like S. who is interested in younger women that many will have an arrogant sense of themselves and feel entitled to cast men away because this is what they’ve been taught.

My friend Gail likes the term “age appropriate”. She believes that instead of going after beautiful young women in their 20s, mature men, including our gents in question, should go by the 5 year guideline: choose partners 5 years younger or older than your age and there will be much more harmony. A woman within 5 years of you will be easier to relate to, there will be far less drama, more emotionally maturity, a sense of self, and she’ll have the ability to pay her own way. In other words, there will be no princess expectations.

I proposed this idea to S. who said that he just wasn’t attracted to women his age. Well, I thought, you’re really narrowing things down for yourself – women over 40 are #$%&! awesome. Gail says that women in their 20s are not really connected to men and are quick to dump and move onto the next one. A bit flighty, I suppose, because they’re young and they can be.

The gentlemen complain that everything has to be on women’s terms and many women will string them along in-person or by texting. Something to do with the notion of having an entourage of men to keep their egos buoyant. I suppose there must be men who do the same thing, but I’ve met more women who like to show off their digital “collection” of men which to me says, “look at how popular I am and how many men want me”, and yet these women remain single. It makes me wonder what their goals are.

Bitterness

S. says that though the constant rejection by women was difficult in the beginning and he took women’s refusals personally, his confidence has increased and his skin is definitely thicker. With a touch of bitterness, he now takes satisfaction in rejecting women himself, to “give them a taste of their own medicine”.

Sounds like a war that no one will win.

For men tired of this treatment, S. told me about an online men’s group called MGTOW – Men Going Their Own Way, “a statement of self-ownership, where the modern man preserves and protects his own sovereignty above all else”. I completely back this empowering premise because I know how frustrated men can be with the attitude of some Toronto women, but unfortunately, the site quickly turns vile. The founder, apparently a guy in his mid-30s who works downtown, known as Sandman, is very bitter and hateful towards all women according to his videos I’ve watched. He says that men have “learned the ugly truth about female nature. Women are made out to be harmless, beautiful creatures but the truth is many women today will rip out your heart and testicles through your wallet and move onto their next victim.”

It is one thing to be frustrated and disillusioned with women, but quite another to be hateful towards the entire gender and make sweeping statements like all women being whores and liars who trick men into marriage and fatherhood so they can divorce them and collect the legal booty from courts that favour women. Sandman, remains anonymous behind his screen and slut-shames, fat-shames, and age-shames women, and complains about single (gee, can you imagine why?). Disturbingly, MGTOW has over 7000 members and his introduction video has over 100,000 views. That’s a lot of fuel for the bonfire of masculine rejection and bitterness.

Is there anyone out there?

S. has decided that the woman for him does not live in Toronto and possibly not even in Canada. He plans to travel to meet women because as he sees it, it is more financially feasible to travel and try a long-distance relationship with a genuine person instead of spending $100 a night in clubs on the weekends. This is not the first time I’ve heard this; a friend of mine passed on an online forum made up of men, sick and tired of the self-important attitude of Toronto women, who moved to or visited places like London, Ontario to meet “real” women.

“Real” women do exist in Toronto (I consider myself one) but I don’t go to clubs to meet men, and I’m not sure that a club is the best place to go to meet genuine, down-to-earth types of people. I also don’t have faith in internet dating for reasons already stated. So where does that leave us? This question I cannot answer, but what I do know is that people aren’t telling the truth. Being honest and upfront may cause initial disappointment, but ultimately, it is the best route to take. Honest and respectful communication is key; I wish more people would understand this.

Damn dirty glasses and how to keep them clean

16 Apr

dirty eye glassesOne day I was driving with a friend who wore his fancy new Coach sunglasses. I didn’t notice the greasy fingerprint on the lower third of the right lens until he turned his head towards me. I thought to myself, it doesn’t matter how expensive your sunglasses are; dirty lenses cancel out any effort to try to look cool.

I remember as a kid, I always wanted to wear eye glasses but never needed to; now that I need them, I find I have mixed feelings towards them. I got my very first pair of eye glasses less than a year ago because I need them to read and see fine detail, so I appreciate them because they help me see. At the same time, because I only need glasses to read, I find myself taking them off and on a lot during the day and this makes them dirty, and therefore something of a pain in the ass.

I checked in with some friends who regularly wear glasses to see how they fare with keeping their glasses clean. Turns out that all of them complain about dirty glasses. From their comments, I’ve learned that I’m not alone – my friends say that their glasses get dirty depending on what they’re doing: some say that bad weather makes eye glasses dirty, housework makes them dirty, gardening makes them dirty, and cooking makes them dirty; others say perspiration and wearing moisturizer makes them dirty. Some people say that the types of coatings (i.e. anti-glare) we choose for our lenses attracts dirt and oil, others say that lenses made of plastic are more prone to smudges than glass lenses. I’ve also heard that plastic frames sit closer to the face and will get greasier from skin oils than metal frames which sit further away from the face.

Whatever the case, eyeglasses get dirty, and when you can’t see through them, you’re somewhat handicapped AND they look awful.

What can we do?

In a Wall Street Journal article, Teri Geist, chairwoman for the American Optometric Association, says, “The best way to clean your glasses is to run them under warm water and put a tiny drop of dish washing detergent on the tip of your fingers to create a lather on the lens. Then rinse with warm water, and dry with a clean, soft cotton cloth.” I tried this last night and it seems to work, but a word of caution: I’ve witnessed a friend with fancy new eye glasses with all of the coating options wash his glasses with soap and water, and over time, the coatings began to peel away, leaving cloudy and irreparable lenses.

Dr. Geist warns that “Lenses typically have some form of protective coating and should never come into contact with ammonia, bleach, vinegar or window cleaner. Those chemicals can break down the coating or just strip them”. This is where spray lens cleaners come in. I understand that there are different types for different coatings, so use the correct spray for your specific lens coatings. For a DIY option, instructables.com suggests a simple 60% isopropyl alcohol/40% water solution used in a spray bottle instead of commercial lens cleaners. Try one of these methods instead of breathing on your lenses and wiping with your shirt tails, paper towels, or Kleenex, which can scratch your lenses because the fibers are not necessarily smooth and can leave debris behind.

Microfiber cleaning cloths

Much of what I’ve read raves about microfiber cleaning cloths that keep glasses smudge-free. Microfiber fabric is a very fine synthetic textile that is so dense, it won’t leave streaks. Good ones will last for years. But the cheap ones will wreak havoc on your specs and undoubtedly drive you mad.

Did I ever tell you the story of my microfiber dish rag? It worked wonderfully at first, then I started to notice that no matter how much soap I used in the sink, the dishes had an oily film on them. I couldn’t figure out why until I examined my dish cleaning tools and noticed that the microfiber cloth also felt greasy, and I decided that the cheap synthetic was decomposing and returning to its former state: oil.

I have microfiber lens cloths that seem to do the same thing. Microfiber is made of petrochemicals and not biodegradable. The David Suzuki Foundation sees pros and cons to this textile. These cloths lift dirt and grease from surfaces but “are made from a non-renewable resource and do not biodegrade. And only those made from polypropylene are recyclable,” the site says. One good thing about microfiber cloths is that they eliminate the need for wasteful paper towels and napkins, etc., and can be washed in the machine in cool water (avoid fabric softener which will leave a film on your lenses), and I recommend to air dry them instead of putting them in the dryer. Watch this how-to short video by an optometrist for more information.

Pieces of cotton can work just as well though there may be more dust due to loose cotton fibers in the fabric, which would not be present in microfiber. I just experimented with a thin silk scarf and it worked wonderfully! No streaks and no debris left behind.

TIP: Through your cleaning cloth, lightly use your fingernail to get into the edges of your lenses between the frame – dust seems to collect in these crevices.

Wearing cool eye glasses or sun glasses can instantly update your look, but with style comes a cost. I completely understand that keeping one’s glasses clean is a nagging daily job and there is no permanent solution, so it is a cross we with bad eyesight must bear.

As an image consultant, I can say that from an objective viewpoint, dirty glasses don’t say good things about us, but now that I wear glasses and I know how quickly they dirty,  I completely empathize and understand the misguided criticism of dirty eye glasses because they’re nearly impossible to keep clean! It seems that I could continuously clean my glasses all day and they’d still get smudged, but I make the effort because looking good is one thing, but being able to see is priceless.

Z-z-z… Snoring, sleep apnea, and your health

2 Apr

snoringHow many of you are aware of what you do while you’re sleeping? Do you think you sleep sweetly and silently, like an angel? Many of us think we’re quiet, restful sleepers, but this is often far from the truth. You could be one of hundreds of thousands of men who suffer from sleep-disordered breathing.

Snoring is the partial blockage of the airway by the tongue which causes the tissue in the throat to vibrate. Sleep apnea is a complete blockage of the air passage that jolts the sleeper awake when they do not receive oxygen. Both disturbances can result in daytime sleepiness which affects our ability to concentrate, manoeuver, and remember.

Oxygen and sleep deprivation are much more than feeling sleepy. Southern Ontario’s Sleep Well centres explains that snoring is a health risk that increases the risk of heart attacks and high blood pressure, and is associated with irritability, depression, and motor accidents. Sleep apnea is a more serious condition because it affects heart function. During an apneic episode, the sleeper’s tongue blocks the airway, and the oxygen deprivation causes the brain to release adrenaline which increases the heart rate. This can lead to a heart attack.

“Sleep apnea can affect people in three ways,” says Dr. David Engelberg of Altima Health’s Sleep Well Centres in downtown Toronto. “Sleep apnea puts patients at risk for developing cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), and is a risk factor for other medical illnesses like heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure (hypertension), and stroke. Sleep apnea also affects relationships with partners and spouses, and ultimately, your sleep quality.”

Sleep apnea and gender

Sleep apnea affects 1 in 10 Canadians and of those, 90% are men. Obesity is a key factor in sleep disturbance, and theories suggest that body mass make men more susceptible to sleep apnea. Men have larger tongues and soft palettes, and thicker necks than women, and these factors increase the likelihood of the airway to collapse.

Data published in sleep journals suggest varying symptoms between men and women; one gender-related article discusses women’s obstructed sleep apnea symptoms to include insomnia,  restless legs, depression, nightmares, heart palpitations, and hallucinations, while men are more likely to snore and experience full apneic episodes. Both sexes are susceptible to serious illnesses associated with sleep disturbances.

Even though sleep disturbances are not life-threatening on their own, they are often associated with other serious illnesses. Dr. Engelberg often encounters denial among his patients when he brings up snoring or sleep apnea. I don’t snore! they insist, to which he responds, How would you know? You’re asleep.

He sees the stigma around men and (admitting to) illness; men adhering to that inner voice that tells them to toughen up and suck it up, and men who proclaim, I’m a man and I can snore! I don’t have a problem! In other words, men who follow gender codes that prevent them from asking for help when they need it.

Interestingly, an Australian medical article reported on obstructive sleep apnea in women and found that socialization also plays a role in whether women will seek help for sleep disturbances. Though adults of any age can have sleep apnea, the risk of developing it increases with age. Gender roles taken on by older adults are still ingrained in many of them, so the researcher’s findings about women’s reluctance is not surprising: “Women may consider their own snoring “unladylike” and therefore be less likely to mention it.” Consequently, women are often misdiagnosed.

You don’t have to suffer

Taking the time to deny a condition can increase the severity and the risk of further damage. Deterrents like denial or finances can cause unnecessary suffering, but there are options.

If you are one of the wise who accept their sleep condition and seek help for it, you may have heard of the CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine that helps sleepers breathe through a mask at night. A basic model is covered by OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan – check your provincial healthcare office to see if you are eligible for a CPAP). There are different CPAP models from little machines with an oxygen hose that sit on a stand beside the bed, to styles that carry the mechanism in wearable headgear. Not exactly the sexiest little number to wear to bed, but if it’s a matter of getting rest or not, it’s always worth a try. Some people have luck with it, others not.

Those who find the CPAP cumbersome will opt for a sleep appliance that is a mouth tray that forces the jaw forward to keep the throat open during sleep. Many patients see their health issues greatly lessen with the appliance, and they can finally have a good  sleep without disturbing anyone they happen to be sleeping beside. Dentists can often help with sleep appliances for snoring and sleep apnea, so visit yours if you suspect sleep disturbance.

Clothing, costume, identity, and lack thereof

19 Mar

Clothing is a wonderful thing. Clothing is a wonderful palette with many options to play with like colour, garment cut, and guardfabric texture. One of my favourite things to do is get dressed and express myself through my clothing. For me, clothing and dressing is a joy.

Clothing is also heavy with significance and symbolism. Sure, we might need clothing to protect us, but as humans, we love to add meaning to things that have no meaning, and so the costume – and the identity wrapped within it, is born.

In The Language of Clothes, Alison Lurie states that through time, humans have silently communicated with one another through the language of their garb: “Long before I am near enough to talk to you on the street, in a meeting, or at a party, you announce your sex, age, and class to me through what you are wearing [including how you style your hair, decorate your body, and accessorize] – and very possibly give me important information (or misinformation) as to your occupation, origin, personality, opinions, tastes, sexual desires, and current mood.” (AKA the unspoken messages of our visual image.)

If clothing is the thing, costume is the meaning of the thing.

According to Francois Boucher in 20,000 Years of Fashion, “clothing has to do with covering one’s body, and costume with the choice of a particular form of garment for a particular use.” Clothing is more of a survival tactic and relies on textile manufacture and the technology of the time period; it is utilitarian, protective, and worn out of necessity.

Clothing protects us from the elements and from injury, and without it, humanity would not have flourished – nude humans could not survive cold climates we would probably all live close to the equator. Without clothing, playing sports would be suicide sans protective cups and shin guards. There is a good chance that we all may live in grass huts for want of steel-toed boots that protect our construction workers during the building process.

Costume, on the other hand, “reflects social factors such as religious beliefs, magic, aesthetics, personal status, the wish to be distinguished from or to emulate one’s fellows,” Boucher says, adding that “costume helps inspire fear or impose authority” – think warrior’s face paint and horned helmets to scare the opposing side in battle.

“In later times,” he continues, “professional or administrative costume has been devised to distinguish the wearer and to express personal or delegated authority” – think lawyer’s robes, a police uniform, a  business suit, or a surgeon’s scrubs.

We rely on visual cues to tell us who (we think) people are and illustrate who we are as individuals, but if those cues are taken away, what are we left with?

Uniforms: the removal of individuality

People looking uniform in their uniforms may be pleasing to the eye, but Lurie says that no matter what sort of uniform is worn, “military, civil or religious; the outfit of a general, a postman, a nun, a butler, a football player or a waitress – to put on such livery is to give up one’s right to act as an individual.”

Let’s take the military as our example. The military strips people of their identity by removing the visual cues that make them up, shaving their heads, and dressing them in identical costumes, to turn them into unquestioning, order-following soldiers. In the military, there are no individuals, only teams of soldiers in crew cuts.

The first thing to go when one enters the military is the hair. Hair, Sampson’s strength and our crowning glory, has a lot of ego and identity wrapped up into it, and it is the first sacrifice of obedience and submission to the armed forces. We are very attached to our hair, and I expect that having one’s head shaved must reduce the sense of self to some degree, though a soldier must feel solace being in the company of others who look just like he does.

Have a look at Elvis Presley preparing for the army – he seems to take it in stride, but then again, no one can deny his identity – he’s Elvis.

Next, your clothing is taken away and replaced with a uniform, identical to the rest in your company. No more cues as to who you are or what you stand for as an individual – you are now in a system that wants you to focus your whole being on your job. Military people do everything together, they live together, eat together, and train together. It seems that the military turns individuals into multi-person machines set on particular orders. Indeed, Lurie writes that the “uniform acts as a sign that we need not and should not treat someone as a human being, and that they need not and should not treat us as one.”

Ooh! I don’t like that much. I know that wearing a uniform is right for some people, but that doesn’t mean that I understand it. I’m very supportive of exploring one’s own identity and individuality – we are all different from each other and anyone who has or will be, so I’m not sure what drives people to sign away their individuality and look like everyone else.

Strip search

Our clothing gives us a sense of modest security and shields our vulnerability; there is confidence in clothing. But what happens when our clothing is forcibly removed? CBC’s The Current reported about strip searches this week, stating the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2001 decision prohibiting strip searches as a routine police practise, and allowing these searches only out of clear necessity or in emergency situations, with the permission of a supervisor, and performed by same-sex officers.

David Tanovich, the lawyer representing Ian Golden, a black man who was striped searched in a downtown Toronto restaurant in 2001, states that strip search practises by Toronto police are a “highly intrusive method of police intimidation.” The African-Canadian legal clinic got involved in the case, identifying Golden’s treatment as a “public lynching”.

Earlier that year, 69 year old Rosie Schwartz attended a peaceful protest in Toronto and was arrested and strip searched by Toronto police after she was told she was trespassing. She describes the strip search experience as a traumatic and demeaning assault, and says “I felt like nothing.” She sued the police in small claims court for unlawful arrest and illegal search and won.

Despite the Supreme Court ruling, strip searches are still performed and have come into the spotlight again with the recent trial of the 2008 strip search of Stacy Bonds by Ottawa police. Ms Bonds, arrested without reason, was not only roughed up by four Ottawa police, but her shirt and bra were cut off with scissors by the officers. Bonds described her treatment by police as “verbal and mental rape”. The Ottawa Citizen reports that the case against Bonds was halted by the judge who found the Ottawa police’s arrest of Bonds unlawful and called her subsequent treatment in the cells and the strip search a “travesty” and an “indignity.”

*                              *                                *                              *                                  *

What we wear protects us, keeps our modesty in check, enhances or diminishes body features, operates as our billboard, and is a part of who we are. When it is removed and replaced with a uniform, we become a different person, and when it is removed by force, it can be horribly traumatic and humiliating.

Without clothing, we are physically and emotionally unprotected. Without the identity cues of costume, we have little opportunity to visually express ourselves and show who we are. Without clothing and the meanings we associate with clothing, who would you be?

Declare war on salt!

5 Mar

I’ve had too many pairs of winter boots destroyed by road salt and I’m mad as hell!

salt winter boots

My disgusting, now defunct suede winter boots eaten by salt. Even the zippers are salt-dried. What a waste.

In Ontario, where I currently live, road salt is used so heavily that the streets are white with it and there is fine white salt powder on everything. Salt is a highly corrosive mineral that leaves a mark on not only our footwear, but damages nature, metals, and building materials.

Catherine Houska, metallurgical engineer, says that despite environmental concerns, salt for de-icing changes the chemistry of soil, is harmful to plants, trees, and fish, and it’s use continues to grow–even “sunbelt” cities now stock salt for freezing rain.

After reading Houska’s Deicing Salt: Recognizing the Corrosion Threat, I realize just how damaging and far-reaching salt pollution is. “Deicing salt poses a significant but often unrecognized corrosion threat to architectural metals and other construction materials,” Houska writes. “Seasonal deicing salt accumulations have been documented up to 1.9 km from busy roadways and as high as the 59th floor of a high-rise building.”

Overuse of road salt in Ontario wreaks havoc on land and crops that we need to eat. In a recent legal case in Ontario, farmers sued the local government for losses on their crops due to the use of road salt and won. With any luck, this case will set a precedent and the use of corrosive de-icing salts and the destructive effects on land and vegetation will be examined and changes made, possibly moving us to a non-corrosive grit for winter traction like sand, used in places like Saskatchewan and in Russia.

Salt’s corrosive nature can eat its way through even the thickest treated leathers. This winter, I watched my once-waterproof suede boots destroyed by road salt to the degree that water seeped into the outside of the boot and left my feet wet, plus, they look so awful that I am embarrassed to wear them, despite spraying with protective footwear products and regular cleanings with water and vinegar to neutralize salt’s corrosive effects. The salt literally ate through the suede and dried out the zipper so much that they are useless now. So what do I do with them? Thousands of boots and shoes have been rendered useless after being eaten by salt, and most of these will find themselves in landfills, adding to our polluted world. There must be an alternative.

The switch to synthetics

Though I’m not a fan of synthetics, once my suede boots went down, I decided that I will not throw any more money away on leather or suede (to be honest, I’ve decided not to wear leather anything anymore because of the animal cruelty and environmental pollution involved in the leather-tanning process). I’ve ordered waterproof synthetic boots that salt should brush off of. I reckon that this will prevent a volume of winter boots from going into the landfill because the salt will not corrode this particular material, and the boots will have a longer life, create less waste, and reduce the demand for more boots.

I’ve written before about the downfall of rubber boots in the Huffington Post that are now so cheaply made that they crack after one season’s wear and quickly fill the dump with spent boots. I am a huge supporter of investing in good footwear that is environmentally responsible and that one can maintain with visits to shoe repair shops to stretch the boot’s life. A Canadian company that makes good waterproof boots is Kamik. Kamik boots are recyclable and made of vulcanized rubber (the process in which rubber is heated to a high temperature which binds unstable rubber polymer chains and makes them strong, elastic, and waterproof, as opposed to cheap PVC which easily cracks and is quickly tossed). Even better, some Kamik boot styles are available at your local Canadian Tire store!

What I really like about Kamik boots is that they are serious about sustainabilty. They make boot liners and linings from recycled water bottles; soles are 100% recyclable, and they create “innovative materials like Ecologic Rubber.” Not only does Kamik use recycled products in their footwear, they also offer a recycling program on some styles: Our shoes last a really long time, but when you’ve worn them into the ground, keep them from getting buried in it by sending them back to us. Brilliant.

Style

Now, many of Kamik’s boots for men are for the outdoors and outdoor activites like farming and winter sport, but what about urban men who wear suits to work? The answer is the coloruful, modern-day Norwegian-designed golash, SWIMS. SWIMS can come in the form of an overshoe or overboot, a stylish alternative to salt-eaten shoes and heavy winter boots. SWIMS has collaborated with the likes of Armani and bootmaker, John Lobb, to bring protective footwear into the stylish spotlight. These products use a type of insulated, tear-resistant rubber to protect your shoes from the ravages of winter moisture. However, I cannot see anything linking sustainability to this company, and that’s unfortunate.

Since most of us do not make governmental decisions about road safety and cannot reduce the use of salt used on roads (though we can contact our local politicians to make our voices heard), our alternative is to choose winter footwear that will last longer than permeable materials like leather, and take them to the shoe maker for repair when needed. Our saving grace would be to wear footwear that we could throw in the blue bin when we’re finished with them, eliminating waste and continuously re-using the boot materials.

There are beginnings of this but nothing is full-blown yet: there are shoe recycling spots (mostly in the U.S. where 300 million pairs of shoes go to landfills each year), Nike has a U.S.-based running shoe recycling program, and we’re stating to see small companies develop recyclable shoes. Excellent steps forward, but for us Canadians, we need responsible, recyclable, waterproof boots.

Anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stress and the man

19 Feb

Leah Morrigan:

From the archives… The differences between the sexes and how they deal with the physical, emotional, and mental effects of stress.

Originally posted on In the Key of He:

stressWe all experience stress in our lives, but we don’t talk about it enough – men especially – but there is growing interest in the topic – upon this writing, “men and stress” catches 239,000,000 Google results.

I spoke to a couple of stress experts through the Distress Centres Ontario (DCO),  a provincial organization that provides support services to lonely, depressed, and suicidal people, often via a 24-hour crisis line.

DCO presented “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Stress”, focusing on how to shift from a stress reaction to a support response in our body.

Asha Croggan and Arianne Richeson co-presented the learning event – Asha provides support to crisis lines and suicide networks across Canada and is the Provincial Programs Manager for Suicide and Mental Health Networks, and Arianne Richeson is the Manager of Educational Service at Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region. Below are some…

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