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    Tomorrow I will change, and today won’t mean a thing

    2012 - 03.14

    Yesterday on Twitter some friends and I were discussing reappropriation of offensive terms – you know, the idea that reclaiming a derogatory term will make it lose its power to offend.

    It started with a tweet from Jon Crowley:

    Jon may have been talking about the feminist attempts to reclaim “Slut.” (see: Slutwalk). He may have been referencing rap music’s casual dropping of N-bombs. That’s not really the point; he sparked an insightful discussion on the power of words.

    The only clear example I could find was “Queer,” which has been reclaimed to such an extent that it currently is the banner term for the entire LGBTQQetc. community. Actually, practically all of the words that have lost most of their negative connotations have to do with sexuality – “homo” and “dyke” have more or less become acceptable within the community.

    Now, this may not be the same everywhere. Different words carry different power depending where they’re used – a certain commonplace word used in Australia makes me flinch, and I’m sure that “queer” still has strong ties to discrimination and bigotry in many societies that haven’t yet embraced (or accepted, or legalized) non-hetero partnerships.

    There’s also the matter of intent. There are a lot of names I’ve been called in my life – some hurt, and some didn’t. A huge factor in that, personally, is whether the person intended to offend me – the difference between a woman proudly walking in the Dyke March during Pride week and a group of men shouting “Dyke!” at a lady for having a short haircut.

    It was Emma Woolley, whom I invariably can depend on to raise points I hadn’t considered, who hit the nail on its head:

    This is the crux, isn’t it? Words affect people differently based on past experiences and present state of mind. A whole culture can’t possibly reclaim a word, because its use is so innately personal. Emma even pointed out that attempts to reappropriate a word can cause damage by alienating individuals over whom the word still has power.

    The choice to take the power away from a word is intensely personal; we can’t take the harm out of a word on behalf of everyone, but if we do we must also acknowledge that it likely still affects people the way it used to affect us.

    I’ve taken the power away from a lot of words in my life. Slut, bitch, and other gendered insults don’t really hit me the way they once did. Bitches get shit done (thanks for that adage, Tina). Sluts are in control of their own sexuality – see my friend CK’s blog, To Be A Slut, for an elaboration.

    Even my online moniker, Cap’n Allegra, was an appropriation of an insult hurled at me constantly in high school. Let me take you back in time…

    I was not always the World’s Spokeswoman for Awesome Glasses that I am today.

    Shocking, I know.
    Picture thirteen year old Allegra: bad posture, dirty hair, huge teeth, a fair few pounds heavier than now, in the most awkward throes of puberty. My wonderful mother had instilled in me some (undeserved) SERIOUS self-importance and overconfidence, which meant that I had no real friends because no one wanted to hear me talk about how great I was at everything. I’d come home and hear how wonderful I am, and go to school and hear exactly the opposite.
    That’s really no one’s fault – I love my mother for believing in me, and I can’t blame my classmates for calling me on my shit, but the dichotomy screwed me up for a while.

    Anyway, after a few years of wearing (in retrospect) the worst glasses of all time, I decided that high school would be different – I was going to get contact lenses! Contact lenses would solve all my problems.*

    *Spoiler alert: they did not.

    Halfway through grade nine, this one girl decided that her mission was to make me feel worthless. She would spread rumours about me (they were pretty much entirely sexual – I think her bullying was based on a boy liking me more), fling paper wasps at me from the other side of the room (my back and shoulders were covered with fresh welts every day) and make mutual friends choose between us. She would tell the cool boys (who also had no time for her – socially we were on the same low rung) that I wouldn’t fight her because I knew I’d lose.

    I handled this well, in retrospect. I never asked our mutual friends to take my side; I never revealed secrets I’d learned during the two (?) months we were friendly; I didn’t take cheap shots at her weight, teeth, mental illness or hereditary alcoholism, even though she had no hesitations exploiting my weaknesses. I didn’t fight her, or retaliate. I asked her what I’d done to deserve such ire, once, and she spat in my face.

    In grade 10, one of contacts rolled to the back of my eye. In trying to extract it myself, I scratched my cornea. When I went to the hospital, I found that the contacts had been slowly burning my retina as well. I was ordered to wear an eyepatch for a while. Life was pretty much the worst.

    Walking down the hallways in an eyepatch did not, as you can imagine, endear me to my peers. The girl who bullied me took advantage of my lack of depth perception to knock me over as often as she could, and invented a new nickname that spread like wildfire – “Captain Assbeard,” for my “butt-shaped” chin. I don’t think a nickname ever hurt more than that one did. People I’d never spoken to would refer to me as such when I’d play a solo in band class, or write it on my locker with a grotesquely exaggerated caricature of my face. “Walking the plank” jokes were commonplace, especially in conjunction with the hypersexual image she’d created through rumours. Even after my eye had healed and I started wearing glasses again, I still heard them.

    I don’t know where I learned the idea of reclaiming words, but I decided I’d give it a try. It was 2003, so everyone had a LiveJournal. When I joined, I signed up for the username “CapnAllegra,” and it has been my online moniker ever since.

    I don’t know when this girl found out about it, but she came up to me and said, “You can’t call yourself Cap’n Allegra, you dumb bitch. Don’t you know it’s an insult?”

    I shrugged, and said “Obviously it doesn’t bug me that much.”

    The jokes petered out pretty quickly after that. The girl still made every effort to make me miserable, but she was really never able to get her power back after that. Whenever I get pirate or nautical jokes made these days, they are good-natured. I embrace them. I’m proud of my fifteen-year-old self for re-appropriating a term that once hurt me so much.

    I am a strong believer in personally reclaiming words as your own. My name IS my power, and no insult or word has really been able to touch me since then. I also know that not everyone has quite reached that stage where they are ready to hear a hurtful word tossed around casually.

    She’s aware it’s all been done before…

    2011 - 12.28

    The past week has been absolutely incredible. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say I’ve had the best week of my life – which is saying something, because my life is pretty okay.

    Tuesday was the first day of Hanukkah, which was very exciting. My half-Jewish boo had never celebrated before, so I decided to surprise him. Thanks to Aidan and Dan for helping a shiksa out. The variations on the classic dreidle games were particularly fun!

    We’d given each other a bunch of hints about each other’s presents, but he was still super pleased. Day one was cookies and a mixed CD (because no one had ever given him one before?!) He was pretty ecstatic…

    Wednesday was the second night, and my gift was a little self-serving – I took him to the Sloan charity show with Ohbijou and the RAA. I had to work until 8:00, so I missed Bonjay’s set and most of Ohbijou by the time I got down there, but it was really nice to have a reunion with all the ghosts of Sloanies Past. So many people from the message boards were there – Martina, Maddie, Cameron, Sideburns Dave, Adam, Nick, Alicia, Ruhee, Nat… plus people like Rochelle and Jess who were there purely for nostalgia. It was Harold’s first Sloan show and his first time meeting a lot of my Sloan people, and I was really anxious. Sharing a life-defining music experience with someone is a lot of pressure, and I was hoping so much that I hadn’t hyped them too much.

    As if seeing everyone who made high school bearable for me wasn’t enough, Sloan – my favourite band for most of my life – played their album One Chord To Another all the way through. I’ve seen Sloan 39 times now (you could say it’s borderline fanatic) and Wednesday was still my first time hearing some of my favourite tunes – G Turns To D and Take The Bench caused particular fangirling with Maddie. Much to my delight, they had a horn section (!!!) playing on Everything You’ve Done Wrong and Take The Bench. It was unreal. They also brought Leslie Feist up to play on She Says What She Means. I’m kinda glad they emphasized that it’s 1996 and not anytime after that, because Feist playing on any of the breakup songs Chris wrote about her might have been awkward.

    Harold had a good time – he said that the trumpet parts would actually be somewhat challenging to play, and that Sloan were an ideal mix of tight musicianship and relaxed attitudes. It’s his first real rock show in four years (jazz kids, amirite?) and I am pretty thrilled he enjoyed himself. Not understanding my Sloan love has been a dealbreaker in the past.

    Thursday was our weekly #loserkaraoke (Jess’s first! AWWW!) and it was Y week – the regulars do this thing called #ABCKaraoke, which means that each week means a new letter. I sang “Your Song,” (the Ellie Goulding version) and that actually seemed to go well – better, at least, than my attempt at “Guns and Horses” last year. Harold finally sang “Best I Ever Had” by Drake after his Y song. Pretty okay? Pretty okay! Gabriel was a complete sweetheart and gave me a vegan baking cookbook for Christmas, which means that he will get to sample everything. I want to learn to cook and bake more in the new year, so that’s perfect.

    Post-karaoke, we did our third night and proper gift exchange. We’d given little hints, and I guessed mine properly – he’s taking me to Halifax for reading week! I have waxed poetic on my Halilove before, and this will be my first time returning to the promised land since 2008. I’ve also never been during the winter – at least we miss hurricane season! I want to find a place to rent skates and visit Java Blend and spend a whole paycheque at Strange Adventures. We’re also fulfilling a longtime fantasy of mine: we’re taking VIA rail to get there. I’ve always had a not-so-secret fascination with eastbound trains (in part thanks to Suzanne Vega) and to finally take one is a dream. We’re flying back four days later via Porter. I am not a good flyer, so a friggin’ prop plane isn’t the ideal, but it’s hard to resist their boxing day sale!

    Oh, and we made it facebook official. Such a thing, you guise.

    Friday was Zaira’s birthday party in the deepest, darkest Etobicoke, wherein Paul (whose blog is one of my favourites and makes me green with envy at his workstation), Zaira, Harold, Sean Ward and I watched Home Alones 1 and 4. Sean went off on a rampage at YTV for cutting off the emotional climax of the first movie to play a Justin Bieber song in its entirety for no reason, and Zaira’s sister was kind enough to give us a lift back to the subway. Harold opened his fourth gift (underwear – heh heh heh) and we discussed our impending trip out east in more detail.

    Saturday was Christmas eve, and I got to spend it with my mother, brother, Harold, his mom and a puppy. Gift #5 was two ties, both skinny. As much as I love a good fondue, it’s obvious from my smile that the puppy was my favourite part.

    After dinner, my mother and I took part in my favourite holiday tradition: the Late Christmas Eve Shoppers Drug Mart Run. On Christmas Eve every year, we visit the 24-hour drug store and watch as all the drunk losers remember last minute to buy a gift for their ladytypes. There is nothing as SMH-worthy as seeing a thirty year old Jesse Pinkman type grabbing a bottle of Shania perfume and an extra-large box of condoms with the smuggest grin in the world. Ugh.

    This year, though, was disappointing – most of the customers were women who looked like they were there because they didn’t have anything better to do. That was a little sobering, because Mom and I definitely fell into that category… yet another tradition potentially ruined? C’mon!

    Christmas itself was better – we slept in, opened our stockings and gifts (we toned down the consumerism this year, which is great. I really don’t have room for actual stuff). Mom and Brian-Sean made breakfast (which included an Epic Meal Time-inspired dish called Jack Daniels candied Fake-on that all but glued my insides together).

    Brian-Sean’s girlfriend came over and we gave her the gifts we’d gotten for her, and she helped clear out my Goodwill/junk jewelry box. Yay! I really am trying to clear out everything I don’t need. I’ve got a move out deadline and ~2 years is going to come faster than I think. (Yay for being grownass?) Harold joined us for dinner at the Delta Chelsea, where the food was okay. Buffets in general aren’t inclined to deal with my fleshless diet. Still, it was nice being able to spend Christmas dinner with so many of my favourite people. I got back to Harold’s place, where we celebrated the sixth night. I gave him a frame for the fractal print I made him for his birthday, as well as the offer to put it up for him (so handy, you guys).

    On Monday, I went and saw The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo with my lady Samantha. I read the novel two years ago and only remembered the most basic of details, but I didn’t hate the adaptation. At this point, Fincher is the only one I’d trust to adapt any novel, especially if it’s dark and not particularly deep. Daniel Craig was yet again an intelligent, well-dressed man who fights evil while drinking expensive alcohol and seducing every woman on-screen. I guess there are worse reasons to be typecast. I do like Salander as a character and it did make me want to give the trilogy another go.

    And yesterday? Well, everything is back to normal. I have a few things coming up for which I’m pretty psyched, but the holidays are coming to an end. School resumes in less than a week and I’m only kind of looking forward to all my new classes. Still, with Halifax on the horizon and both jobs picking up? Everything is coming up Allegra.

    All that I want is always to push forward

    2011 - 11.12

    A mixed CD is my favourite gift to give or receive for any occasion. My friends are mostly students, and therefore mostly poor, and a mix is one way of guaranteeing that they’ll expend at least half an hour’s worth of energy on my gift. Being a broke student myself, I return the favour. Any birthday to which I’m invited requires hours of playlisting, designing album art, shuffling and organizing. After all, I can’t give the wrong impression. No breakup songs to the person I’m dating, no sexy songs to the dudes in the friend zone, no cliches and no repeats.

    As I’ve been a little short on time these past few months, I’ve just been too busy to make birthday mixes. Unless you’ve saved my life more than once, I probably didn’t make you a mix this year. It takes about six hours to do everything, and the results are usually awesome (if I do say so myself). Particularly time-consuming (and rewarding) is the album art. I am really inspired by Mandelbrot sets and other rainbow fractals, and I love spending hours drawing similar designs with Sharpies onto coloured card stock.

    The evolution was quick. The earliest example I can find is this one, made for a then-boyfriend’s sister:

    My next few attempts at album art were full-out embarrassing. I wanted something colourful and abstract, but just wasn’t quite there.

    An engineer friend of mine showed me pictures of Mandelbrot’s fractals, so I decided to make one for my favourite engineer, just to try it out. The results were overwhelming.

    What followed was a whole series, culminating in a record-sized art piece for #HaroldTheHerald.

    And some non-Mandelbrot stuff that I still thought was cool:

    (Ruhee’s was probably the most complicated one so far. I don’t even know how it turned out that way)

    A few days ago, Maddie had her 22nd birthday. Known for her awesome birthday gestures, Maddie and I have been really close since we met on the coolest night of my life in 2005.

    Yesterday I mailed this to her. It’s a little different still – plainer, more emphasis on colour rather than shape. I wanted a 1970s feel… I think it will be the last Mandelbrot-inspired album art I’m going to make. It feels like the end of an era, but I can’t think of anyone more deserving of the 10th and final Mandelbrot Mix. Hope she gets it soon!
    Here’s the title track, for those of you who aren’t Maddie:

    Here are some other highlights since my last post:

  • Harold and I are going to be attending this tonight. I will be wearing a Vaudeville & Burlesque dress I bought in Scotland in September. He will be wearing his tightest black skinny jeans.
  • I busted out my winter coat for the next six months or so. (Thanks, Canadian winter!)
  • There were free cupcakes at work thanks to The Cupcake Shoppe. This is very significant. OM NOM NOM. They were very much enjoyed.
  • I finally chose which glasses I’m going to get in January when I have some money.

    They’re grey handmade plastic frames by OGI and I’ve coveted them since I started working at my store. They WILL be mine.

    Now, to get ready for the party…