Wednesday, 15 June 2011

What's On Your Mind, Son?

Hello Friends.

Quite a shake-up at the ranch lo these past few weeks. A month or so ago, Jon applied for a truly Cadillac job in Edmonton. As an associate professor on the tenure track, Jon would really have climbed to the top of the heap with a job like this one. The direction of this department and the scope of their research is right in Jon's wheelhouse. We were thrilled when Jon was shortlisted, then interviewed for the position, but became less thrilled when the “you'll know by this day” day came and went. As weeks of no response passed, Jon began looking at lesser jobs closer to home, and we re-signed the lease on our apartment, thereby freezing the rent for another year. Then, last week, the call came, and Jon got the job!

When I related this to a friend, he said, “So you signed a lease and then he got the job? Isn't that always the way?” It is, Mark, it is always the way. But... it kinda works out. When this job was on the horizon, as happy as I was for Jonny, I wasn't and amn't ready to leave the Big City yet. Call it foolish optimism or Swiss Chalet-addiction, but I really think there's still something for me here. That while new opportunities aren't exactly knocking down my door here, there's been enough cracks in the window lately to suggest that I might really have a shot at something, professionally-speaking. The thought of taking a year to just go balls-out for my Dreams is an exciting one (full disclosure: up until now, I've pursued my Dreams with only one ball out, the other tucked behind my thighs).

The other, sadder, softer side of Sears, is the prospect of a year apart for me and the Doctor. He will start his new job in August, and I will stay here until our lease expires next August. Mathematically, that's pretty close to year, I think (I don't have a calender in front of me). He will come back here a lot, though, as university holidays are pretty sweet and with his new salary, he will definitely have the means to do so. And it has often been the case in our relationship that we spend more time apart then together. Even these past two years he rented a room in the small town where he taught five days a week. Before that, he lived with his younger brother and I had my own place and we saw each other on weekends or for the occasional Twonie Tuesday at Taco Time. So, while being apart is not ideal for us, we know it's doable. And we're lucky these kinds of situations befall us now, before the arrival of Someday Kid.

Someday Kid is that kid we might have someday. We both find ourselves cooing at the same babies and sighing when we pass the daycare centre and lactating onto the sheets at night. But we speak of children in very vague, general terms, as if getting too specific might cause us to wake up pregnant the next day, or conversely, damn us to a life of denied adoption applications. Unlike our straight counterparts, nobody ever harasses Jon and me about when a baby is coming, or even if one is coming. We have the luxury of making the Someday Kid decision when we feel it; when both our lines of work are steadier, we're settled wherever we end up, and we stop doing lines of coke off the blade of my pocketknife (just jokes, I don't have a pocketknife). In the meantime, though, I feel like there are things I could be doing to ensure that I'd be a good Dad to Someday Kid if there's a kid in my life someday.

Dream: Become a mentor.

Goal: Achievable. I don't have a great deal of exposure to children these days, except for my cousins super cute kids and this adorable tow-headed three year old who comes into my store all the time and grins at me. I call him “Smiley Guy” and he calls me “Yofren” because whenever we see eachother at the store, his Filipino nanny says, “Look, iss yo' fren!” (Look, it's your friend) to him. So I say “Hi Smiley Guy” and he says, “Hi Yofren!” But anyway, there are plenty of organizations (Big Brothers... that's all I can think of) that could pair me with a troubled teen to mentor. That's another point; as a twenty-eight year old who leaves the coffee maker on by accident and can't walk in flip-flops, I probably shouldn't set my sights on an infant. I need to find a teen to mentor the shit out of.

Plan(s): Several.

First, teens must be able to relate to me. I've been really devouring the work of Rosalind Wiseman lately. Wiseman works with teens and their parents on issues like bullying, aggression, and self-esteem. She is credited, at least in part, with bringing the issue of secret aggression in girls to the forefront. Her book Queen Bees and Wannabes was the non-fiction inspiration for the fictional film Mean Girls. On her YouTube channel ( she takes questions from teenagers and answers them with such wisdom, honesty, and above all, relatability. I became quickly entrenched in her channel not because I am a troubled teen myself, but I was fascinated by the way both her content and her even her vernacular changed when she answered a question from a 17 year old, then a 13 year old, then a mom, then an 11 year old. And I don't think it's an act, either! I would venture to guess from her work in schools that she becomes so enmeshed in teen culture that the slang and attitude just come flying out of her. I need to be like that. I've downloaded a recent Charlie Rose where he talks to a rapping artist, so I'm hoping to pick up some “urban slang” from that.

I should become involved in a sport, but only insofar as it allows me to wear a jeanjacket, and maybe a cap. Like, I could take the teen fishing, or drive him to a hockey match. The cool Dads in Tim Horton's or Canadian Tire commercials are always jeanjacketing off somewhere with a kid on a cold morning. I could do that, if the kid doesn't mind an early game of street hockey at four in the afternoon (mentors need their sleep).

I need to assure this teen that he or she is supported in their lives. As often as I see my beloved Smiley Guy, I see a group of teenage girls come in on lunch and after school, and they pick on one poor girl relentlessly. “Hurry UP, Sarah!” they complain, or “You're buying that? That's retarded!” Or, “We've two bucks short, give us some money!” (And she does give them money, poor thing). I don't know if or how to intervene, here. I don't know these girls, and they certainly don't want to hear anything from me (I even wrote Rosalind about this who has, perhaps wisely, failed to respond). But my heart breaks for poor Sarah, who just wants to be liked. If I were her mentor, I'd tell her it doesn't matter what these girls think, that she is special and worthy and her candy choices are excellent.

Anyway, I'm all over the map today, I'm afraid. What started as information about Jon's new job and our living arrangements for the next year turned into a meditation on whether or not I'll ever have the Someday Kid, which became a paltry exploration of mentoring. Not my best work. It's times like these, though, when I will grasp at anything for some sense of continuity. Jon is leaving in six weeks for a whole year, I'm searching desperately for some kind of job, situation, opportunity to justify staying here alone. It should go without saying, here, that I know lucky we are to have such “problems.” Jon has the job of his dreams right now, and I get another year in my favourite place to do what I want, but it's just... wait, what was I complaining about? I think if I had a mentor with me right now I'd ask them when my head will clear a bit. When I will make sense of all these crazy changes on the horizon? When will I know what's going to happen? When will I figure out what all of this means? He or she would probably put on a jeanjacket, clap me on the shoulder and sigh, “Someday, kid.”


  1. My uterus aches all the time. Sigh. And your staying needs no justification. The great whatever is just around the corner.

  2. James I am so happy to hear about Jon's new position in Edmonton! That is really great news. Even though you are far too far away from me in TO, I am very pleased that you're going to stay there for a while longer.

    P.S. I got to this blog post via your post about the razor commercial. Oh the sweet sweet hilarity of BCJ.