Monthly Archives: December 2011

Norwegian Vomit

Norway vomited in this condo, and it’s making me uncomfortable.

As I write, I’m sitting in a sleigh bed. To my left is a shelf with a Norwegian poem on it, a portrait of a Norwegian soldier, a Bible written in Norwegian, a diagram traditional Norwegian clothes (including undergarments and braided hair), and four pictures of Norwegian landscapes.

To my right is a 10-year-old computer that has no plugs, and an “antique” (broken) radio from Norway.

Even the curtains are distinctly Norwegian, flowing white with a hideous green bow at the top.

Last night, I went to hang up some sweaters, but I couldn’t, because the closet was literally full of traditional Norwegian clothing (true to the diagram, if you were wondering). Now my sweaters are going to be wrinkled. It’s like the condo is punishing me for not wearing Norwegian clothes. H&M is European, right? I guess it isn’t close enough.

In the kitchen, the fridge is covered with pictures of Norway. There’s even a picture of people who I can only assume are the Norwegian royals from a few decades ago. Is Norway even a monarchy? I don’t want to know

So. I’m of Norwegian descent. My mother’s maiden name is Shellrude. My last name is Viking. I have blondish hair. I’m Norwegian. I’ve never really been ashamed of that, but I haven’t embraced it, either.

Even though I’m white as fuck (it’s the Norwegian in me), I identify more with Guinean culture, because that’s where my mum was raised, and the way she raised me was heavily influenced by her African roots. But I still feel this weird cultural obligation to Norway, and this condo keeps rubbing it in.

I know nothing about Norway, other than what I’ve inferred from this condo, and also that joke in a Cinderella Story about “Norwegia”. (Which, by the way, I didn’t get at first. Nordic and proud, people, Nordic and proud.)

But am I really obligated to embrace Norwegian culture? My grandfather was born there, but moved when he was a kid. And somewhere a few centuries back, someone from my dad’s family lived there, too. So am I really Norwegian? Am I more Norwegian than I am African, because it’s where a bunch of my family is from, rather than just my mother?

These are the questions this condo is forcing me to ask. I’m pretty sure if I didn’t ask them, it would forcibly braid my hair and stick me in one of those weird bonnet things.


Life Right Now

My aunt is crying in the other room.

That’s why I’m in Seattle now: because she has a brain tumour. She’s dying, slowly and quickly at the same time.

Glioblastoma Malignant Stage 4, Aggressive.

A year. That’s what she’ll have if she accepts treatment. She doesn’t want to, not right now. So she’ll have four months. Maximum.

Aunt Marilyn was like my second mother. She was the nicer one, I guess, not that my mum isn’t nice. But Marilyn understood. Now, she doesn’t understand anything. Not usually.

Sometimes, she’ll be there. The way she was. She’ll be clear and loud and Marilyn. Other times, though, her eyes go vacant and her face goes slack and she’s just a shell. I’m scared.

She wants to take care of herself, but she can’t. At dinner, she said “I’m going to take a shower tonight.” There was silence. She can’t take showers on her own. “But I want to.” She cried, her voice shaking, her eyes desperate. She hasn’t stopped.

I’ve been through this, four times before. My mum, uncle, and two of my grandparents had cancer. My grandparents died of it. My grandfather, of a brain tumour.

But with Marilyn, it’s different. I know she’s going to die. I knew my grandparents were, too, but I was young. Ten and 12. Now, I’m 18. I have an adult relationship with Marilyn. A life-long one. And soon, it’ll be over. All I’ll have left is memories.

This is also my first death as an atheist. Because I don’t believe in God, in heaven, memories are all I’ll have left of her. I won’t have any sort of knowledge or belief that she’ll be in a better place, watching over me. She’ll just be gone. I’ll never make new memories with her.


On Christianity, and Theism

I don’t believe in a God, I haven’t for a long time, but I find Christianity fascinating. Not because I’m one of those judgemental atheists who assumes that theists are inherently idiotic, but because I find people, all people, genuinely fascinating, and because I want to understand them. And right now, it appears as though Christians are the majority of people. At least for the moment, it’s the common religion, as Greek Paganism, and later, Roman Paganism, once was.

As it happens, I come from a Christian family. My dad’s side of the family wasn’t particularly religious, but my mum’s was. My grandparents were both missionaries, and my grandfather later became a priest in an evangelical church. My mum is no longer Christian, but she’s very spiritual. My aunt is now kind of Catholic, and my uncle remains a part of the Alliance, an evangelical denomination within the church. He’s actually a professor of theology, and recently wrote an article about Calvinism, called Calvinism and Problematic Readings of New Testament Texts: Or, Why I Am Not a Calvinist . Anyways, I happen to be with him for Christmas (for reasons that I might blog about later), so I asked him some questions that have been bugging me.

I asked him first about Calvinism, because we learned about it in my history class this semester. Of course, I already knew the basics of Calvinism, from high school, but I learned about it more in depth because of school.

I wondered what motivated people to be good, if they follow Calvinism, which basically teaches that God has predestined people to be saved, and if you are one of the elect, He will save you regardless of what you do, because He planned out all of your thoughts and actions. It also means that if you’re not one of the elect, you’re going to hell regardless of how you behave. So of course that drove me to wonder why Calvinists didn’t run wild and be bad people.

While Glen didn’t give me a satisfactory answer, he did inspire me to ask other questions. Questions about why God, a perfect being, would create imperfect humans. Glen said that it’s because God made a decision. He decided that it’s worth it for humans to have free will, even if it means that they’ll be imperfect, even if it means that they can do evil.

That idea, the idea of a God who risks, is really beautiful to me.

I’m still an atheist. I can’t bring myself to believe in a creator. But I have faith. I have faith in my friends, and I have faith in science, and I have faith in the capability of kindness. But if I did have faith in God, if I was theistic, I think I’d believe in that. I’d believe in a God who risked a loss of power, a loss of control, for the free will of his creations.

Looking Forward

I’m always looking forward.

Maybe it’s not healthy, but it’s what I do. For example, right now, I’m looking forward to getting back to Toronto in the new year, and having crazy adventures. I’m looking forward to the time when I finally have a boyfriend, and some semblance of a sex life. I’m looking forward to moving in with Sharon in September, and decorating with aggressively erotic werewolf drawings, and building fortpartment. I’m looking forward to not procrastinating this next semester.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, if it was only a part of what I do. But really, it takes over my life. I spend hours looking for furniture online, because I know that in the summer, I’ll get to buy it. I think constantly about what life will be like when I’m with someone, and how I just really, really want to make out with someone in a blanket fort. But I’m not doing things now. I’m just planning for the future. So the present kind of sucks.

I think I do this because I need to maintain hope. Hope that it’ll be better, that I’ll be better.

Theoretically, things could be good now. I could embrace the fact that I don’t live with Sharon, that I live with three not-quite-friends and a stranger. I mean, I could put werewolf porn on the walls when I get back to Toronto in January. (I won’t, because I want to maintain the specialness of the future Sharon-and-Nicole land.) But what I mean is that I could make the apartment feel like home. But I don’t do that. And I wonder if maybe I’ll always be living in the future, never in the present. Always anticipating the good times, and never living them.

That awkward moment when…

You know those “That awkward moment when…” posts? And how they’re never actually awkward, but they’re still generally relatable? Have you ever thought about why that is?

Well, I have! I think we refer to them as “awkward” because of the particular feeling we get when these things happen. I mean, in general, the person to whom the “awkward moment” happens is the only person who notices it. For example:

That awkward moment when you realize that you are legitimately in love with a picture.

That’s one I took from tumblr, brought to us by “the-muffington-post”, who, as far as I can tell, is a completely unawkward theatre kid with bad taste in music.

But anyhow, the moment above is not awkward at all. Your response to that situation isn’t going to be awkward. Literally nobody except for The Muffington Post will know what just happened. But it is a little bit shameful. And that’s what “that awkward moment when” really is. Something we’re ashamed has happened, regardless of its awkwardness.

Here’s another:

That awkward moment when 14 year olds on tumblr have more followers than you…….
 That’s from thesmilewithin on tumblr, a teenage girl who apparently likes rage comics. That’s not awkward (obviously. It’s preceded by “that awkward moment when”), but it is something which I guess TheSmile feels ashamed of.
I know I’m not the first to say that “awkward moments” aren’t actually awkward, and I know it’s getting really boring listening to people pointing it out, but I made this post because I don’t think people have really looked beyond “that’s not awkward lol” to why we call it awkward. (Uh, the shame thing. Awkward.)

Internet Fame and Validation

I’ve never really been one to put value on fame. I guess I was the kid who always said, “No, I don’t really want to be famous; seems like a hassle.” But I’ve found that recently, I’ve begun putting a lot of value into internet fame, which really does seem silly.

I think part of the reason is that “Internet Famous” is something I can actually be. I’ve never felt particularly pretty, so always stood in the way for regular fame. But when I’m on the internet, I’m behind a screen. Nobody has to see what I look like. Plus, I feel like I have interesting things to say. I think I’m funny sometimes. So people might actually want to watch and read the things I do on the internet. I mean, people with big followings on the internet, they always talk about how they’re just “Regular People” like “Everybody Else”. Well, I’m a regular person! So can’t I be famous, too!?

But I really do idolize these people like Vondell Swain and Tom Milsom, even though I know I really shouldn’t. And I shouldn’t want to have their level of popularity, either, because it does kind of seem like a pain. And I shouldn’t feel like I need to have their popularity either, because regardless of how many people see it, what I make is what I make. But it doesn’t feel like that. I want to validate my work, and having a large audience, maybe that would feel like validation.

Although actually, I suppose it isn’t even really about numbers; it’s more about the devotion of people who read my things? That sounds awful, but this whole thing really sounds awful, so I guess I’ll continue. I think that what I really want is for people to tell me that they like my things, and mean it. People who I don’t know. People who don’t feel obligated to compliment me. That’s what I want.

Maybe I just have to work harder to get that, to get to a level of talent where I’m complimented by strangers.

Anyways, this whole post is turning into a demonstration of how fucked up I really am. How self-absorbed.

And they say you only show your best features on the internet! Look again, people. Look. Again.

Young Adults’ Section

Hundreds of books adorn the wood-and-metal shelves in the Young Adults’ section at the Eaton Centre’s Indigo. The books generally fall into one of two camps: their covers are either brightly coloured with expensively-dressed models, or are dark and moody, with words like “paranormal” and “thrilling” in the descriptive blurb.

One book has a creamy ivory cover with its title, The Lost Crown, written in purple and white. It has an image of a blonde girl, looking down at her light, lacy top and string of pearls. Another is a picture of mist on a black background, with big, red, gothic letters reading “Misfit.” Along the top, an author named Holly Black has written that this book is “a diabolically delightful paranormal.”

Two university-aged teens sit on the beige carpet with their backs against the shelves, their winter coats strewn around them. A boy and a girl, cuddling while the read. They look up at one another and smile sheepishly every few minutes. The boy eats a granola bar, and offers a piece to the girl. She declines with a small smile. She starts to hum along to the tune of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” a Spanish version of which plays over the speakers.

Above the shelves where the couple sits, a word is printed directly onto the taupe wall. “Teens,” it says in a big, white, serif font.

The song changes to Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da by the Beatles shortly after two high school-aged girls enter the section. They laugh, and point out books that they want for Christmas. They wear school uniforms; one girl has a backpack thrown over one shoulder. She picks up a white tube which was sitting in a wooden vase with its mates. “What’s this?” she asks as a customer and an Indigo employee approach the section.

The couple, still sitting against the shelves, leans closer together in order to begin a conversation spoken in hushed tones.