Beautiful? Beautiful… Beautiful.



A free gift, no?


I was at the bar this weekend and sought out a “dirty hooker” with a friend.  Don’t let your imaginations run wild folks!  A dirty hooker is a very tasty pink looking shooter.  On our adventure to get our dirty hookers at a busy local pub, we had to wait of course.  And in an attempt to entertain ourselves, a conversation was struck up with a fellow, who thereafter, wanted to partake in our dirty hooker boozin’ adventure.  He also volunteered to take care of the bill.  I recognize the message we possibly emitted by encouraging him to “participate” with us is dirty at best, as I can only imagine what sorted male-fantasies he was chewing over in his drunken state.  But let’s put that issue aside for a moment and mull over instead, what is expected of you when a guy offers to buy you a drink.  I have long been uncomfortable with this esteemed bar ritual, and my experience this weekend went terribly amiss – because after we finally got our dirty-hookers it was obvious this fellow felt entitled to something.  Entitled to what, I can only imagine!!  My friend and I participated in pleasant banter for awhile, but did our best to make a graceful exit when our interactional exchange turned uncomfortable and creepy, in a let’s diminish the physical space between you and me kind of way.

As such, this is the question I pose to you following from Marcel Mauss’ classic work on the nature of the gift.  What power resides in the object given to the receiver and what causes the recipient to pay back?  In this case, the object or gift is “the drink,” and the receiver is me, a young woman in a bar.  That is, what is the nature of the reciprocal exchange here?  What am I expect to pay back with, and more importantly, am I expected to pay back at all?  Is there such a thing as a non-reciprocal “free” gift, or in this instance, a non-reciprocal “free” drink? 

The problem as Marcel Mauss aptly pointed out is that gifts are never free; they are indisputably tied to the giver.  I understand that when a man offers to buy a woman a drink at a bar that he taking a risk of being rejected (which is often-counteracted by booze, and lots of it!), and I am sensitive to their “feelings” which is one of the reasons I’m uncomfortable with this ritual.  Yet, the drink ritual is complicated further by the fact that the act of giving creates a social bond between me and the drink giver/buyer.  And it is the nature of this social bond, which is up-for-debate that unsettles me.  With that being said, I’m conflicted and question my unease.  Am I simply over-reacting (over-sociologizing the issue)?  The feminist in me screams, “Don’t allow this Jessmo.  Get out your wallet and pay your half.”  The romantic bone in me teases, “Maybe this is the one Jessmo.  He’s cute.”  My conscience questions the safety of partaking in this exchange, “Who is this stranger and what has he put into my drink?” while the friend in me enjoys the opportunity to connect and engage with another human being.

A free gift, no?

FYI – Dirty Hooker Shooter Recipe

  • 1 part Crème de banana
  • 1 part Raspberry sourpuss
  • 1 part Lemon juice
  • 1 part Lime juice

Beauty Junkies


Just for fun…

Look folks, I must not be the only pink lover in existence.  The colour pink is being commodified.  Yahoo!  I gotta get myself one of these, you know, to go with my Pink Cadillac.

Walking Contradiction


This post is my response to a post by Soci Womyn and to the comments posted by fellow bloggers at:  Check out the original debate and my response that follows.

Oh dear, my mind is spinning!  Soci Womyn, your blog post hits close to home, as well as the ensuing comments by Mark and Paul. 

I am reminded of when my sociological imagination began to bud as an undergraduate student.  The world I trusted and had faith in started to collapse around me – and in response, I began to test out my new-found critical thinking skills on those around me.  Not because I wanted to “peacock” (a term I use to describe unnecessary showcasing of one’s skills, knowledge, and abilities at the expense of others), but because the world I once found comfort and solace in was now foreign.  I was inspired by this concept called the “social construction of reality” and intrigued that something called “the social” was happening in and around me.  It was like I had found religion and was compelled to spread the word, except my mantra was, “Uhmm, hey, have you heard of this thing called social structure.”  Arguments and debates with my roommate and his girlfriend, who coincidentally was also my best friend from high school, became commonplace.  My roommate was a bit of a jokester so these debates had a fun-loving comical air to them.  By contrast, conversations with my best friend, who was working while going to school full-time, were more argumentative in an emotionally-laden way. 

I remember vividly one dinner time discussion, the topic being the upcoming provincial election.  For the first time ever we were able to exercise our democratic right to vote and we took this new-found responsibility seriously.  As an outcrop of finding the “social” was my development of a left of centre political point of view.  During our debate that night, my friend aptly pointed out my position of privilege as a doctor’s daughter who wore a gold necklace around her neck and did not have to work long hours while struggling to meet the requirements imposed by a full-time course load. 

I learned a few valuable lessons from this incident – after recovering from the initial shock of not speaking to this friend afterwards for two whole weeks.  First, not everyone is going to find the sociological worldview as valuable as I do.  Moreover, you have to be cognizant of what you preach and the extent to which your actions measure up to what your mouth espouses.  With that being said, I take seriously we are all “walking contradictions” in our everyday lives; it is not always easy to practice what you preach.  Yet, there are consequences for the value of what you say if you fail to verbalize self-awareness of your own positionality and privilege in relation to this, even in spite of the fact we all come from different social locations.  In my close personal relationships, I am often an open-book.  If I am asked to give advice, I feel compelled to contextualize it, and explain under what circumstances in my own life I learned this piece of so-called wisdom. 

What I take away as important from the preceding discussion concerning the “gentlemanly” scholarly stance – is a plea for us as sociologists to pontificate seriously the question, “What kind of sociologist do we want to be?”  This question not only needs to be considered within the walls of the ivory tower when we deliberate which theories and methodologies we align ourselves with, and consider the consequences each will have on our topic and for those we study, but outside the walls of academia as well, like Paul suggests, in our communications with close friends, family, acquaintances and the like. 

We need to be cognizant that although we may take seriously the stakes of the academic “game,” other people do not.  Rather, they are caught up in and busy playing their own games.   Bourdieu reminds us with his concept of “illusio” the need to recognize that people’s actions reflect what stakes people feel compelled to take seriously, and conversely, what stakes they are unable to take seriously.  Of interest to Bourdieu was what he called the “scholastic disposition,” which was his attempt to remind present day scholars of the exceptional historical and social conditions that make possible a particular mode of scholastic reason characterized by self-evidence and naturalness.  In his critique of scholastic reason and on his way towards envisioning a way out of present day thought policing necessitated by taking seriously the stakes of the intellectual game, Bourdieu questions whether a philosopher can be a philosopher, if they do not play by the rules of the game? 

A similar lesson is learned from the works of Foucault.  Foucault sought to understand the process through which individuals come to think of themselves as particular kinds of subjects.  That is, he sought to make us think about the ways in which we are constituted as particular kinds of subjects, so that we can make informed decisions about the kind of work we want to do on our bodies, or about the kinds of subjects we want to be. 

Bourdieu’s intent in fleshing out the historically and institutionally specified nature of the scholastic disposition is not to humiliate and debase the works of the philosopher or of philosophy, but to find some way to free academics from the constraints and limitations imposed upon them by being situated within this particular social space.  By calling attention to the nature of our scholastic disposition, that being the conventions and norms implicit in our lives as academics, we might be able shake up “the system of barriers that the philosophical system has set up to block awareness of the scholastic illusion” (Bourdieu, 1997: 30).

If we continue to play the game as it stands, even while pontificating to the best of our abilities what type of sociologist we want to be, we are going to be “walking contradictions” in our academic lives.  I’m content being a walking contradiction, that is, playing the game, and taking seriously the stakes of the game, while all the while trying to the best of my ability as a doctoral student to figure out how to play the game differently – that is, rattle up and reveal the system of barriers.  The road less traveled, such as that offered up by a new theoretical standpoint such as actor-network theory, I hope will allow me to be a somewhat content “walking contradiction” sociologist.  Wish me luck in my endeavour!

Prank Caller? Pet Cemetary?

Scene 1 

Noonish.  My cell phone rings, but only once.  I check my missed calls.  Call display tells me that my grandmother just called.  6ish.  I check my messages.  I have one message.  I listen to 3 minutes worth of the sound of a television blaring loudly.  It is the unremarkable sound of the TV in my grandparents sitting room.  12:08am.  I answer my phone.  It’s my grandmother.  She wants to know what I’m doing at the moment and what I was doing earlier.  This is usually how our conversations proceed.  I tell her I was curling like I do most Saturday nights but she’s forgotten.  I ask her what she did today.  “Well Jessie she says, I tried to call you about 100 times, but I couldn’t remember your number.  I must write it down.  I kept trying 591-XXXX rather than 519-XXXX.”  I’m told the lady on the other end was very friendly.  “When I went to lie down for a nap, I was inspired,” she says further, “and realized that I was mixing up the numbers.”  Oh dear, I think to myself.  I should have called her back after the first missed call.  These singular rings on my cell phone have become more frequent lately.  I guess this is the back-story. 

Scene 2 

I go visit my grandparents after my curling game today.  I ask where the yellow bouquet of flowers on her side table came from.  Gran tells me that they are from the vet.  Last week my grandparents had to put to sleep their 21-year old cat named Poppy.  She states further that she recently picked up Poppy’s ashes.  “What did you do with them?” I ask.  Her response, “They are in the filing cabinet with the others!”  I inquire further and Grampa takes me to the cabinet in their living room and proudly shows me 4 sealed, wooden boxes baring gold plaques with the names of three of their former cats (Suzie, Buddy, Poppy), and dog, Monique.  I’m flabbergasted and can’t determine if my grandparents belong in the looney-bin (which is not funny considering scene 1) or if their cabinet pet cemetery is pure genius.

Life Ain’t Always Beautiful

Today I received an email from Dr. Barry Lycka.   He is one of the leading experts in cosmetic surgery in the world (his practice is located in Edmonton), or so his email tag line says.  As part of my investigative work into the phenomenon of cosmetic surgery, this past week I’ve emailed some plastic surgeons in Alberta to seek out some information about the various techniques their practices offered.  All I had to do to obtain this information was provide them with my email address and indicate what body part dissatisfied me.  In the introduction of Dr. Lycka’s email about “how liposuction can reshape your body” he writes:

Are you feeling down and out?  Do you feel even worse when you look in the mirror?  Cosmetic surgeon’s tell us you are not alone.  They say the popularity of reality television shows like ABC’s TV’s “Extreme Makeover” has lead to an increasing boom in cosmetic surgery.  You may be one of the many people who are not happy with the way you look.  Look in the mirror right now and tell me what you see.  Do you see flabby thighs, a sagging chin or a tubby tummy?  If so, then liposuction could be just what the doctor ordered.

Newsflash Dr. Lycka: Life Ain’t Always Beautiful.  Sometimes it down right sucks.  Now that you mention it, I am not entirely happy with the way I look, a problem that is as endemic today as syphilis was in the 19th century.  Sure, if I look in the mirror I can see “flaws.”  I’d like tighter abs, smaller thighs, and what have you – but you know what?  If I did as you suggest and sought out the lipo fix like the “doctor ordered” you know what would happen?  I would still feel down and out.  Life just IS that way sometimes.  When I look in the mirror after your so-called lipo fix, discontent with my bodily image might be lessened, but what is more likely to happen is that my lens of bodily dissatisfaction will widen.  I’ll see further opportunity for change.  My body will now be deemed “surgical” – something that should be fixed – rather than something that is just OK the way it is.  

I’m not stupid.  Liposuction is becoming increasingly popular (you are right on that front) and I don’t foresee a reduction in popularity in the near future.  I wouldn’t be studying the phenomenon if this were not the case.  But please have a heart…  don’t falsely advertise.  Liposuction is not going to solve my problems.  Since when did being moody and being cranky once in awhile become a bad thing?  Surely we don’t want to live in a society riddled with perma-grinned Desperate Housewives?   Do we really want to present a model to youth in this country that suggests they should run to the nearest lipo-doctor when they feel the slightest bit gloomy?  Instead, shouldn’t we be teaching youth, and ourselves for that matter, how to cope with emotional strife?  Gary Allan’s got it right.  Sometimes “life ain’t always beautiful” but as he states further even though life stucks sometimes, “it is a beautiful ride.”  Next time you feel down, don’t run to a lipo-doctor nearest you, in its place, find solace in music (such as Gary’s song) and remember to be patient with yourself.  Time can be the most potent healer of what brings you down.

Life Ain’t Always Beautiful

Gary Allan

Life ain’t always beautiful
Sometimes it’s just plain hard
Life can knock you down, it can break your heart

Life ain’t always beautiful
You think you’re on your way
And it’s just a dead end road at the end of the day

But the struggles make you stronger
And the changes make you wise
And happiness has its own way of takin’ its sweet time

No life ain’t always beautiful
Tears will fall sometimes
Life ain’t always beautiful
But it’s a beautiful ride

Life ain’t always beautiful
Some days I miss your smile
I get tired of walkin’ all these lonely miles

And I wish for just one minute
I could see your pretty face
Guess I can dream, but life dont work that way

But the struggles make me stronger
And the changes make me wise
And happiness has its own way of takin’ its sweet time

No life ain’t always beautiful
But I know I’ll be fine
Hey, life ain’t always beautiful
But it’s a beautiful ride
What a beautiful ride