Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Esprit de l'Escalier

What is "esprit de l'escalier"? According to wikipedia it is "usually translated as "staircase wit", [and] is the act of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late to deliver it. The phrase can be used to describe a riposte to an insult or any witty remark that comes to mind too late to be useful, after one has left the scene of the encounter. The phenomenon is usually accompanied by a feeling of regret at not having thought of the retort when it was most needed or suitable."

I went to a very fun birthday last Saturday night - sincerely, a fun birthday party. There were many folks present I hadn't seen since before my year in Israel, and the birthday boy, celebrating his 60th, is one of my all-time favourite people as well as being boyfriend to one of my five BFFs. Here's the story leading to my having suffered from esprit de l'escalier:

One of the other party-goers, a dude in his late 50's or early 60's, clearly considered himself a ladies' man, a playah. So, he sat down on one of the couches with myself and my friend (also of the female persuasion) and opened his conversation thus: "So, do you girls dance?" An innocent question, to be sure. My pal answered: "Only when I'm drunk." I said, "Yeah, me too. I need a few in me to get on the dance floor. I guess we're not really into dancing, per se." He proceeded to tell us that women dancing, generally in a circle, was hardwired into our genetics as a bonding mechanism, that this was inherently a feminine activity. I said, "How interesting. Murray over there is a ballroom dancer and he's not a girl." This was where the conversation took a bizarre turn: said dude then asked us, "What do you girls do to bond? Do you kiss? Touch each other?"

Did someone just scratch the needle across the record and stop the music?

Inappropriate. And I said so. But, he wouldn't drop it. I was at a loss for words, for several reasons:
1: Location, location, location. We were essentially at a family-type party, not a bar. Quite a few generations were present, and within earshot. If this question were posed while I was bartending, I would have had a witty Carla-in-Cheers appropriate comeback - or, I would have had his ass removed from my bar.
2: This is a friend of the birthday boy.
3: Shock.
4: Plain old (feminine genetically hardwired?)(simply Canadian?) politeness and desire to salvage the situation without hurting his feelings. (That's right, I said it. I didn't want to hurt his feelings. This deserves another post unto itself.)

Here's what actually happened: I turned the conversation around. "We talk about fashion, decorating, books. We talk a lot about books. What are you reading these days?" I thought: phew! Saved a little face, had a not-bad convo about pulp fiction, and that's that, end of inappropriate questions from the playah. Nope. He asked the same questions not once but twice more that evening. And here's where the esprit de l'escalier comes in, because I thought: if I had shot him down right then and there, then maybe/hopefully I could have saved the other women at the party from him.

Of course, the biggest esprit de l'escalier that crossed my mind was to have punched him. "How's that for a gender-bending reaction, pal?" Or, I could have fed into his question: "Oh, my goodness! Is it so obvious that we are into heavy petting to prove our girl-love for each other? Gosh!" But, the most satisfying esprit de l'escalier involved variations of saying to him, "Are you for fucking real? Let's poll the women in the room to find out how they bond with their girlfriends, starting with the mother of the hostess." Somehow, I think that the answer that the mother of hostess would have provided would have been the best shut-down that man has ever experienced.

My analyses of why he thought this behaviour was/is suitable are taking up entirely too much space in my head since then. I don't believe that such behaviour is as harmless as some would have us believe - especially considering that such questions instantly wither a person, and how can being put on the defensive, as well as being reduced instantly to a sexual creature in a place of safety amongst friends be viewed as anything other than hostile? Did he feel threatened? Intimidated? (As a group, we're outspoken but friendly and welcoming.) Does my spending this time on my blog writing about him give him power? To this last question, I answer No. By airing this experience in a public forum and hearing the reaction, "Unbelievable," makes me hope that his inappropriate behaviour will never again occur, that it will become an extinct instinct. But, to be honest, rational and reasonable, a leopard such as he is will never change his spots, and I take great solace and strength knowing that there are so many men out there who are not like this, men who speak to women as intelligent equals.

And, I'm working on an esprit de l'escalier-free life. When you work in a bar, you have the opportunity to deliver those ripostes to the insults, and when you don't work in a bar, you surprisingly have fewer insults to which a witty riposte is necessary. Interesting, that.

Image discovered at

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Sans Pieds, Part IV

The Alli's were the first pair I got when I started working for Fluevog. I love the two-tone chocolate and burgundy, the slightly turned up toes, the masculine brogue combined with the multiple feminine-ish buckles. Plus, they're the perfect showcase for funky socks and tights. Yum.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I'd Learn to Juggle... be on Troy and Abed in the Morning. I need to get me that mug.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sans Pieds, Part III

I'm learning how to be a heels-girl. These were a challenge. I admit to only having worn them once, so far, but I'm not giving up! I justified owning them for an evening at the theatre last October with my girls to see Love, Loss, and What I Wore - I wanted an outfit worthy of the outing, and the Lancianos (with a purple dress) definitely fit the bill.

Dear Freud:

Craig T. Nelson has been in my dreams a lot lately. I think I'll blame the before-bed hot chocolate and watching too many episodes of Parenthood - but not at the same time.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I was looking for photos for some posts that I'm planning and found this one:

Nadia, Adrienne, me, Debbie

This was taken at Qadosh in Jerusalem around Christmas in 2008. Nadia is a friend Adrienne had made during her anthropology research in Jerusalem, so I don't/didn't know her very well other than this dinner, and afterwards she decided that we should roadtrip to Ramallah. We made it as far as the wall, and that was far enough at 10:30pm. A and D were my two of my closest friends while at Hebrew U, and I miss them terribly - for me, Jerusalem = our friendship and that's what I remember as being the best part of my first semester there. Adrienne is still in Copenhagen and Debbie goes back and forth between Rotterdam and Tel Aviv/Jerusalem - as far as I know. Finding this photo is the push I need to re-establish a better connection with her...and for making a skype date with A. And for wearing that polka dot dress more often after I alter it. It's a little big these days.

Avec les Pieds

Meet the orange Fiorenzas (from Fluevog, of course!) that were my birthday shoes, way back in May 2010. (The Fiorenzas are from the same shoe family as are the Malibrans that I posted about last week.) They're the first pair of heels I've ever purchased that I didn't need for a wedding or special occasion - I just bought them. Then, I fretted: wtf would I wear with orange shoes?

Wrap-around top/dress: a little shop on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem.
Cropped Jeans: Giant Tiger.

As it turns out, I wore/will wear them with a lot. I've worn them with an all black outfit, with a blue-and-white dress, with an off-white oversized sheath top and chocolate shorts, with several different green dresses, and with the above outfit I wore to our family's "160 party" ( = cousin's 40th birthday, my aunt and uncle's 40th wedding anniversary, and my grandmother's 80th birthday). For a girl whose greatest love is big black boots, my feet are leading me in my new adventures with colour in my clothing palette. Now that I'm in my 40's, I'm embracing an unapologetic adventurousness in my fashion choices, as though with my age has come a confidence to wear what I feel beautiful in and not necessarily what the industry/media/society deems it "fashionable" for me to wear.

And, now that I'm in my 40s, I ask myself this question often: what does "dressing for your age" really mean? As someone who has always looked 5-10 years younger than she actually is (this is not always a bonus - ever forgotten your I.D. when you went to the beer store? Convincing someone that you're in your late 30s and just need a case of 50 isn't as easy as it sounds. Besides, what minor chooses an age in their late 30s to con a case of beer?), I've never worried about this dressing-for-my-age idea. So much goes into personal clothing choices/options, that, to me, age is at the bottom of my list. At the top? In no particular order, rather a combo of factors that all go together, I ask myself the following questions:

1: Is the piece comfortable?
2: Does it fit me well, regardless of the number size on the tag?
3: Is it figure-flattering?
4: If it's not necessarily figure-flattering (I'm a fan of unstructured tops and dresses), does it look cool?
5: Is this a good colour on me - so, if the figure-flattering part is falling in a way that hides my curves, is the colour enough to amp the cool-cred?
6: Is this affordable? (hooray for Goodwill!)

And, well, working at Fluevog is great because I can do a little experimentation with my style that I couldn't while working in restaurants when a black, or mostly black, uniform was the way I rolled. (A friend recently commented that my style seems more mature, more funky, these days. I think I preened. This was a new feeling!) Anyway, now I can play with colour, and it's encouraged. Hooray for orange shoes!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sans Pieds, Part II

My other Christmas treat to me! These are the Bondgirls and I'm having a hard time giving my other shoes and boots wear-time. I feel tough and girly and mildly spy-ish dangerous when I wear them, and I don't worry about going ass over teakettle walking on the ice that's now covering the sidewalks after two days of rain that froze with the return of seasonably cold temperatures.

Friday, January 07, 2011


This is an ad that was placed in bus shelters all over Toronto this past holiday season. The jeweller is a local, discount business. The moment I saw it, I was offended. (For a little background, I used to always say/think that it took a lot to offend me [still true], and that I had no pet peeves. Over the years, and especially after my 40th birthday, I've started compiling a list...just to remind myself that there is much out there that boils my blood.)

So, what's the big deal? Sure it sucks to be alone, if you're a social butterfly and enjoy the company of others. What offends me, though, is the automatic assumption implied by this ad that getting a diamond ring - therefore, getting married - is the antidote. Don't get me wrong: I think that entering into a committed relationship is a beautiful thing when entered for the right reasons, like, oh, love, trust, companionship, all those good things of which my list is not exhaustive. But, doing it just so you won't be alone? That's crazy. I ask myself: what about those of us out there who are/were in committed relationships, marriage even, who are still alone? To have an expectation of togetherness provided with the arrival of such a ring and then when the togetherness doesn't happen, well, that sucks more. I blame Disney, and the diamond industry, for corelating and intertwining these ideas of togetherness with expensive jewellery. (Insert mild sarcasm here.)

As a single woman in her early forties, the reaction to this ad could come across as bitterness. Not true. I just find the further meaning implied by this ad is that those of us who are single, regardless of our calendar ages, are lonely and sad. Again, not true - at least, not in my experience. I don't feel the need to defend or justify my singleness, only to state that being single is just as wonderful as being in a committed relationship.

When I see this ad, I think of a quote I read a long time ago, said by Queen Latifah. She was speaking about this huge fancy diamond ring she was wearing, and this is obviously not verbatim, but it went something like this: "When I meet the person who treats me as well as I treat myself, I'll take off my ring and wear theirs." I like it: the modern symbolic twist of a ring meaning commitment; the respectful treatment of oneself and others, especially in a romantic committed relationship; the unapologetic tribute to singleness; the unapologetic patience for a positive union with a life partner. Nothing sucks about that.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Sans Pieds, Part I

For those of you who didn't know, I'm working now at Fluevog. After working for over 22 years in the restaurant industry, it's an understatement to tell you that this is a dream job. The best perk? The shoes! (duh!) These are the Malibrans, one of my Christmas treats to me. My thinking is that I'll put them up, sans mes pieds, and when I have photos of them avec pieds, I'll share them. Sweet and Christmasy, non?

Monday, January 03, 2011

Chewing Gum: The Crack Cocaine of the Canine World

It looks so innocent in its wrapper, doesn't it? I indulge in it - we all love gum, don't we? So does my dog - when it's ABC. ABC? you ask. Yes, Already Been Chewed then spit out on sidewalks, in parks, on people's perfectly mown and weed-free lawns just begging for Annie to scoop it up and keep on chewin'. What's the big deal? you ask. The big deal is that I have to put my hand in her mouth and pull out that wad of corn syrup and germs. I've never been a germaphobe, but, ewww. That's right: for the past 11 months, almost daily, I pull someone else's chewed gum out of my dog's mouth because she just can't resist it, and she's not picky: HubbaBubba, minty, big wad or small. My baby's not alone. I hear all the time that other pet parents from all walks of life, single or coupled, struggle to prevent this addiction in their beloved pet, regardless of breed, and perform interventions as often as I do.

Until yesterday, that is. After telling her only three times to "Leave It," Annie dropped a white wad of some stranger's gum out on the sidewalk where she had found it. This wasn't a one-off, a fluke, either. On tonight's walk, she dropped another (the same?) piece of gum when I told her to. I'm cancelling that methadone order.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Adventures in the Mundane

I've been thinking, and I've been missing blogging. It seems that in the past few years, everyone I know is, well, not so much "anti-resolution," but not putting pressure on themselves to proclaim a bunch of unrealistic goals that will fizzle in intensity come Valentine's Day. So, despite the time of year I've decided to do this, I'm making a more committed goal to blog more often. My thinking to explain to myself my irregular blogging schedule over the past year and a half was this: I'm not on the road, I'm not experiencing anything internationally exotic (compared to my daily life), so obviously I have nothing interesting to contribute. Then, I thought about some of the blogs that I like to follow, which are glimpses into the daily lives of people I've never met but who inspire me greatly. And, really, I live in the most multicultural city in the world (so we're told) so my sighing whine-whine about non-exotic experiences is a moot point, considering the plethora of interesting, international folk I meet on a daily basis and the internationally-influenced stuff that happens around me. Let's take last night: five friends and I (backgrounds = Italian Montrealer, Russian Jew, Scot, Liverpudlian ex-pat, and me) went to Lee Garden in Chinatown (Dear Diary Moment: we got a table right away at 5pm, when we've waited 45 minutes every year for the past ten for our annual New Year's Day traditional feast), then drove five minutes to College Street to an Italian gelatarie for ice-cream crepes and lattes. We heard so many languages in our time together, and do so anytime we're out and about, that it's become mundane. We're used to walking down the street and catching snatches of French, English, Mandarin, Hebrew, Spanish, Farsi conversations. I love my city.

Happy Digression!

Anyway, I present you with one of my New Year's Resolutions: to blog weekly, if not more often, and not make it a pressure-y thing. And, go!