Pardon My Frugality

I just went on a little shopping expedition.

I hate shopping, especially for clothes. I’m always afraid of walking out with badly colour-coordinated stuff or stuff that’s just totally age inappropriate. I’m also worried about completely falling for something that’s ridiculously overpriced.

But… As I prepare for my summer-vacation trip, I had to give in to the fact that I own only one — that’s right: one — pair of summer shorts which are barely wearable and that I don’t even remember buying (i.e., they’re likely a decade old). Another pair I have, I could only get into them if I gave up breathing, and yet another pair, the zipper’s busted. That tells me they’re probably both at least 10 years old as well. As for summer shirts, I have only one that I got for peanuts recently at [lowering voice to a whisper] Wally’s World. In short, I went from a guy who in his 20s cared about nice clothes, to a middle-aged frump.

August is the perfect time (for a cheapskate like me) to buy summer clothes, though. I got two shirts originally $79 for $49 each, and two pairs of shorts originally $69 for $49 each. And knowing me, they’ll last me several years.

Now I have to break down and buy a pair of shoes. I own precisely one pair of Doc Martens, and I think they’re about six years old. And one pair of sandals that were given to me two or three years ago.

Sometimes I scare myself with my extreme frugality. Then again, I went years unable to afford anything but the necessities, like food and rent. My mind hasn’t caught up to the fact that I can afford to buy new clothes occasionally and not wait for my sister to take pity on me and cover up my sorry ass.

The oddest part is that when I was in the thick of poverty mode, I didn’t realize just how limited my means were. Or, perhaps more accurately, I simply blotted it out of my mind. Now, perversely, the guy who merely shrugged his shoulders at debt is becoming increasingly fearful of getting into debt again. I guess my experience is giving me some insight on the mindset of pre-baby boomers — those who lived through the Great Depression: if you managed to survive it, you just don’t want to go back to that place where you have no financial wringle room. And when you see yourself spending two weeks’ net pay (which until recently was more than a good month’s pay) on a vacation, that reflex persists: Am I going to regret this later?

Yup! All of this over buying two shirts and two pairs of shorts that weren’t a luxury by any means. And I still for the life of me can’t imagine how parents — let alone single parents — manage to survive.

A Mixed Bag of Confused Thoughts

BeeGoddessM pointed out to me at dinner last night that there’s a string of comments in the online version of the Halifax Daily News regarding Truro town council’s decision, spearheaded by Mayor Bill Mills, not to fly the gay pride flag in front of town hall. She did warn me that the comments were disturbing and that a surprising number hailed the mayor as being “courageous,” so I don’t know why I bothered reading them. But I did.

Now I can’t even count how many things are on my tits right now.

— Why is it so hard for some people to understand that secularism, especially in government, is the best approach? There are so many examples of varying degree of why mixing religion and religious-rooted morality is a bad idea. Think the Islamic Republic of Iran; the right wing of the Republican party in the U.S.; the Reformers disguised as Conservative sheep in Canada. I don’t expect Mr. and Mrs. Religious Wingnut to be totally a-okay in private about gay people, but they do have the choice of privately not associating with them. This can be particularly sad if they choose to shun a member of their own family, but where it’s within the realm of the private, no one can legislate against that. But they don’t have the choice of causing anyone harm — certainly not in the public realm.

— I can’t even begin to understand the argument of how granting equal rights takes away from other people’s rights. It doesn’t take an expert of logic to see that, prior to 2005 in Canada, heterosexual couples were the ones benefitting of a “special right,” which normally right-wing ideologues dislike. Parliament’s passing of same-sex marriage legislation did not confer a special right to gays and lesbians; it removed an existing special right granted only to heterosexuals. And how that has dimished the “sanctity of marriage” simply cannot be argued logically.

— I can’t believe how many people still refer to being gay as a “lifestyle” and a “choice.” The former is defined as “the habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards, economic level, etc., that together constitute the mode of living of an individual or group.” So, when I look at that definition, and when I think of that heterogeneous group of people that constitute the many gay people I know, I simply cannot bring myself to refer to the “gay lifestyle.” But the fact opponents use that term is revealing of how they believe “gay lifestyle” stands for “the sinful habits, hedonistic attitudes, bad tastes, low or non-existing moral standards, [yet generally] high economic level, etc., that together……” In short, they infuse their own values into an otherwise neutral definition.

— As for the usage of the word “choice,” I can’t believe this still has to be argued and belaboured in 2007. Even my staunchly Roman Catholic mother has come to recognize that it’s not a matter of choice. Or, if choice there is, it is between living in truth and living in lie and deceit. I told you recently about a “delicious character” I recently met who’s only 7 years my senior, and while I don’t know him that well (yet?), I feel my heart grow heavy thinking about the choice he has made, namely deceiving an out-of-town wife and two kids because he didn’t feel he had any other choice while living in a small town like Truro (although not Truro in his case). I honestly feel as much for the wife and kids as I do for him, having to live this elaborate lie.

— But speaking of what real “choice” there is, I have to point out that if today — 25 years later — I had a choice like those dimwitted individuals think I ever had and if all else remained equal, I wouldn’t choose to become straight. I think every individual is different, but for me, it has encouraged me to be more receptive to and respectful of difference. But here I’m just speaking for myself. Because there’s no such thing as a “gay lifestyle,” I can declare having met a lot of gays and lesbians who do not so readily make extrapolations between their situation and others’. The most appalling characters are misogynistic gay men.

— I could spit nails when someone thinks he’s so clever to suggest that there should be a “heterosexual pride” day to counterbalance gay pride. But then again, if those who fail to understand that every day is heterosexual pride day would consider holding a day to celebrate free, unconditional, respectful, consensual and non-dominant love and sexuality of the opposite sex, maybe that would help pull that moralistic broomstick out of their ass. For those who doubt the claim that every day is hetero pride day, I need only think about one of many isolated incidents that happened at work the other day. My boss, a.k.a. The Woman, was referring to how a female summer student was working on a short-term project connected to my own. “She’s very young,” she said, “but ______ [a male colleague whom I hold in high esteem] is liking it a lot!” It was just a joke and it was said in a very matter-of-fact manner. But I’m not so sure it would have been as matter of fact had the summer student been male (and possibly gay) and my colleague been gay. I think there would have been a little bit more tension in that remark.

— I think that gay pride organizations, especially in Canada, have become too apolitical prematurely. It’s a fact that it takes time before legislation gains widespread acceptance. Think of bilingualism in Canada: at first, it pissed off a lot of people — usually unilingual anglophones outside Québec; today, aside from a vocal minority, bilingualism in the federal government and on cereal boxes is just part of being in Canada. Gays and lesbians in Canada have certainly attained legislative equality, including the right to marry (and divorce), but just as there is still racism in this country — and those who deny that racism exists in Canada have their head firmly planted up their ass — there is still homophobia in this country. And the lower one’s socio-economic status is, the more vulnerable one is to this homophobia. Just like with racism. A popular marching slogan in the early 1990s was, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” I think the slogan’s been abandoned too early: “they” still haven’t fundamentally gotten used to it.

— We’ve got a problem in this country as its population becomes more urban. The minority that lives in rural areas often claim that the “city slickers” are imposing their “politically correct, everything goes” views. Well, I’m going to be very politically incorrect and say, “As they should!” When I look at how legislative assemblies are constituted, I’m sick and tired of the overrepresentation of rural constituencies. Let’s take Nova Scotia as an example: about 31% of the seats in the legislature represent the HRM which has nearly 40% of the province’s population. A fair system of democracy should not weigh a rural vote more heavily than an urban vote. So if a majority, which happens to reside in urban areas, determines that recognizing gays’ and lesbians’ right to exist is not going to lead to the destruction of civilization as we know it, then I’d tend to trust that determination more than one coming from people who cling to an insular mindset. I’m cognizant of the arguments against the tyranny of the majority, but given a choice, I’ll take that over the tyranny of the minority.

— But coming back to gay pride events, as I told BeeGoddessM last night, I generally don’t recognize myself in them anymore. Begrudgingly I have to admit that I’m a pretty conventional guy. I’m not given to drag and, sadly, I’m certainly not (and never will be) a muscle god. So, I can actually understand how some gays and lesbians are pissed when those are the images the media shows after each gay pride parade. And I can see how these images may encourage some to remain closeted or choose to live two parallel lives. The thing I envy the most of heterosexual couples is how they can walk down any street hand-in-hand without it being noticed and without them feeling they’re making a public statement of any kind. I despise the fact that if two men hold hands while in a restaurant, they still stand the chance of being accused of “flaunting their sexuality” when the same would not be said of a man and woman. And I don’t see how parading flamboyant drag queens or middle-aged men in bottomless chaps is helping to make unconscious shows of affection among same-sex couples easier and downright unnoticeable.

Actually, that last statement just made me swell up a little. I’m realizing how, at nearly 42, I’m yearning for that little something that has nothing to do with appendages and orifices. All of this because the mayor of Armpit …I mean, Truro, NS, decided not to recognize my existence?

Maybe.