Sunday, October 17, 2010

Liftoff

One hour to go until I'm back at the airport. Again.

See you all in two weeks.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rumours of my flakiness have been greatly exaggerated

Less than a week after I flaunted my fake tan in a bikini, I'm spending my evening desperately trying to figure out the best way to cram my Therm-a-rest into my bag.

The tent was no problem (just take the tent poles out of the bag and pack the tent canvas separately). Neither was the sleeping bag or my clothes (everything in separate Ziploc bags with the air squished out). I even have enough room for not two, but three (!) knee-length skirts. But I just can't figure out how to best carry my Therm-a-rest. Rolled in my stuffsack? Or folded lengthwise and flat? If I strap it to the outside of my bag, will it puncture? Should I even bother bringing it at all?

It's moments like this that I wished I came from a "camping family." My childhood camping experiences were limited to sleepovers on our sailboat, the occasional Girl Guide camp and setting up the tent in our backyard. No portaging or even tent trailers for this girl. Just straight-up RVs, outdoor rock concerts and gas stoves. Vanuatu was my first real camping experience and even then, while I did learn how to build a quality fire, there was a roof over my head and occasional running water.

Figuring out how to pack my Therm-a-rest isn't my only challenge, though. Much like applying to Miss Universe, my upcoming return to Guyana is well outside of my comfort zone. After spending years sitting in an office, editing reports from the field, this will be my first actual paid field position--and this particular position comes with a set of challenges that are a bit more consequential than where to get a spray tan or how to choose the most appropriate swimwear.

I mean, I know that I'm living the dream. (Being paid to travel is the dream, right?) International development and project management students Canada-wide are clamouring for the kind of experience that I've just fallen into along the way. But part of me just wants to spend the next two weeks burrowed into Jay, thick wool sweaters and streamed episodes of Weeds.

The only problem is that two weeks could very quickly turn into 20 years. After all, I've heard that's what happens when you live in a comfort zone.

For now, I'm going with what I know. I know to roll my clothes. I know that when in doubt, pack less. I know that a Swiss Army knife, some safety pins and a bit of rope is always best. And while I may not know how to pack my Therm-a-rest, I do know how to challenge myself.


And if I do get lonely, I've got my new friend Flat Stanley (courtesy of Mrs. S' grade three class in Big Island Lake, Saskatchewan) to keep me company.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

A small price to pay

I can truly say that I don’t think I’ve even been in a situation where my self-esteem was both destroyed and high-fived all within a two-hour time period. Yesterday was possibly the first.

(Before you read this, I completely encourage you to click on the below video for some blog post appropriate ambience music. Did I learn a choreographed dance routine to this song? Yes, I sure did. But let's not get ahead in the story. Let's start at the start.)



On the way to my hair appointment yesterday, my cousin Katherine sent me a message to wish me luck.

“I imagine it will be like that time I went on a pub crawl with Geena,” I texted back, referring to the incident in which I went out with our 19-year-old cousin and was not only the oldest, but the “fattest” girl on the bus, “except without any alcohol.”

One hair appointment, one makeup application, several catcalls and zero meals later, I arrived at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts, my black snakeskin purse containing little more than a purple string bikini, lip gloss and a tape recorder. In the rehearsal space, 50 girls were nervously fixing their hair in the mirror, reapplying lipstick and changing into high heels. None of us knew what we were in for.

First, we were assigned numbers. Then, lining up against each side of the room, we watched a male runway instructor in gold high-heeled boots demonstrate a walk. We would each have to perform the same walk in front of all the other girls.

Waiting my turn, I checked out the competition. One-by-one, I recognized girls throughout the room who had been at the first interview. “Weird,” I thought. “They all seem to be here.” Even the lawyer wannabe was present. In fact, the only one missing was the girl whose cell phone rang while I was answering my question at the first interview. I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t get a call back—she had also shown up more than 45 minutes late.

“Whatever,” I figured, “they probably just used the first interview to weed out the girls who don’t seem very serious.” At least there was some consolation in that.

Just then, she walked in. The cell phone girl. Of course, she was late, again. But she was there, all the same.

It hit me at once—I wasn’t special after all. They had invited literally everyone to attend the second interview. My $30 application fee was basically just like buying a ticket for a series of untold humiliations—whoever was willing to pay the price was allowed on the ride.

Digesting this realization, I heard my number called. Heart pounding, I followed the instructions we’d been given. A forced smile on my face, I started my walk across the room, a videographer filming my every move. Straight to the top right corner. Pose, turn and walk diagonal to the lower left corner. Pose again, pivot, walk straight to the lower right, and pose one last time. And finally, back to safety at the end of the line.

“Are you nervous?” the girl in front of me asked. “Yeah,” I admitted, thinking she would reciprocate with a statement of her own unease. “You look it,” she told me sympathetically.

Just in case it’s not clear, this is the part in the story where my self-confidence has not just been destroyed, but completely annihilated. Suddenly, I wished I was back on the school bus with Geena. Because at least that time I at least had my cousin by my side and shots at my disposal.

After a second nerve-racking walk across the room under the scrutinizing eyes of the runway instructor, the pageant director and the videographer, it was time to learn a dance routine.

Now, just to clarify, although I’m pretty awesome at badass grinding around in my apartment to early ‘90s rap music, learning choreographed dance routines doesn’t rank high in my skill set. And even if it did, I’m pretty sure that my preferred method of learning choreographed dance routines wouldn’t involve straining, from the back of the room, to see a tiny gay dance instructor over the heads of models in stilettos.

Since I think that last paragraph pretty much sums up the dance routine portion of this tale, I’m just going to fast-forward because I’m pretty sure you know how it ends. (However, if you really want to know more, please contact Miss Universe Canada. They have a tape-recorded version of my sweet dance moves available for your reference.)

By this point in the evening, I had come to a couple of key realizations: I can’t dance. I’m not great at following directions. Hell, I’m not even that good at walking. But the most important realization came as I watched the girls perform synchronized “showgirl” dance hands. “What does this, if anything, have to do with humanitarian causes?” I wondered. I couldn’t help but think about how many women worldwide would see this as very far from empowerment.

Then came the final challenge—we were instructed to change into our swimwear. Within moments, I found myself surrounded by 50 women at their most vulnerable. As I adjusted my purple bikini top in the mirrored wall, I glanced up to see 50 women’s bodies reflected behind me. There were short ones, tall ones, thin ones and less thin ones. There were fake boobs, real boobs, tattoos, bruises, stretch marks, scars and back acne. I know it sounds clich├ęd and lame, but everybody is different—even in a room of Miss Universe applicants.

But here’s the really amazing thing; I looked at all the women in the mirror and looked back down at myself. And rather than comparing or self-criticizing, I couldn’t help but think, quite simply, “I look good.”

One of the girls, all 5’10” and 115 lbs of her, came over to the mirror to adjust her top beside me. “You look good,” she told me, echoing my thoughts. Now, this might have been something that she was just saying—you know, like when you’re obliged to tell a bride that she looks beautiful. Or maybe it was just something you say when you’re in a room full of complete strangers in bikinis and you’re trying to break the tension. Or maybe she was looking for validation herself. But the thing is, I think she meant it. An amazon goddess thought I looked good. And more importantly, I thought I looked good.

Suddenly, the nerves were gone. And suddenly, I was having fun.

We lined up to perform our runway walk again, this time in our bikinis. And as I passed the videographer for the last time, I grinned straight into the camera. Except this time, I wasn’t faking it.

As I left the centre, panties in my purse (two of my most hated “p” words in a single sentence, but I should get used to them since I’m a real girl now) I heard one of my fellow Miss Universe candidates behind me talking on her phone. “No one was really that special,” she told her friend.

Maybe that’s true. After all, they did invite everyone to attend the second interview. But I couldn’t help but think how very wrong she was. Because for some reason, despite it all, I left feeling like maybe, just maybe, I was a little bit special.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Democratic Rights

Straight-up disclaimer: This will be the very last in a string of posts featuring my navel. I promise. But if you're not into belly buttons, you should probably stop reading now.


I survived the spray tan. I nearly thought I wouldn't, but I did. (It was like being naked in a space shuttle. A space shuttle that sprays you with chemicals. And talks to you. It was slightly terrifying to say the least.)

Here's what I may not survive: Friday.

So, I need help deciding what to wear to the second interview. And I figure that I should put it to the test, with you, my blog readers.

Jay, on the other hand, isn't so sure. "Are you sure you want to put that on your blog? Maybe we should just keep the decision between you and me."

"Jay, I've thought long and hard about this. When it comes down to it, if I'm wary of posting pictures of myself in a bikini on my blog, I probably shouldn't have entered a competition where a critical component of said competition is wearing a bikini and heels on stage in public."

"Good point."

So on with it. The two bathing suit choices. (Is this really what my life has come to?)

Suit 1: Black with Gold Stars

(Urgh. Admittedly, now that I see this, I feel awkward about it. Maybe it's because I looked like I've been lured from craigslist into someone's basement. Although, it really is a testament to the developing science project that is my post-spray tan skin.)

Pros:
-Fits better than the purple suit, particularly the top
-More comfortable
-Matches my shoes

Cons:
-I really shouldn't be wearing black, considering I'm super pale.
-It's not super classy. As far as wearing a bikini to an "interview" goes, it's less professional. I kind of look like I'm headed on that tropical beach vacation that I wish I was actually going on right now.

Suit 2: Purple Ruffles with Gold Details

[Edit: For the record, this photo was taken three weeks ago--before all my hardcore workouts. For other pictures of the purple suit, please see the post below this one.]

Pros:
-Classier
-Purple is royal. Enough said.
-Wearing it would totally justify buying it (I purchased it after my layoff at the very end of summer. At full price. It has been worn once.)

Cons:
-Doesn't match my shoes
-Doesn't fit as well

Your votes can be left on Facebook or in the comments. And. . .go!

(And for those of you who are less than interested in all this pageant preliminaries nonsense, don't worry. I have a feeling that this little adventure will be coming to an end very shortly.)

Monday, October 04, 2010

Don't Eat the Shellfish


Since my foray in the world of beauty pageants, most of the advice I've received hasn't been advice at all--it's been in the form of questions.

At Terroni's, days after I found out about my invitation to attend the preliminary preliminary (very prestigious sounding, I know), I joined Jay and his co-workers for a late-night slice of pizza. (Late night pizza, in case you didn't know, is part of my official diet plan, or lack thereof.)

"Here she comes. . ." one of his co-workers started singing, ". . .Miss Canada!" And while I appreciated the song, I appreciated his question more.

"Are you going to get a spray tan?

Huh. I hadn't really thought about it.

In general, entering this pageant was not only outside my comfort level, but totally beyond my level of girl expertise. That is to say, my expertise in participating in stereotypical beauty queen activities. Don't believe me? Up until my third year of university, I didn't know how to blow-dry my hair. The only facial I've ever gotten for was a gift from an ex-boyfriend (and no, not in that way, sickos). I only cut my hair about once a year. And apart from my hobbit toes, I've never had anything waxed.

Regardless, I knew that maybe getting a spray tan was something I should investigate further. My only previous knowledge of spray tans was what I learned from watching episodes of Toddlers and Tiaras; I just assumed that spray tans were like a body paint. Turns out they're not. Spray tans are actually caused by a chemical reaction between dihydroxyacetone and the amino acids in dead skin. Gross. Why would anyone want to get a spray tan?


I'd just about given up romancing the idea of turning my skin into a science project when Raymi the Minx, whose blog I actively don't read, posted a Facebook link with the title "Tanorexia Nervosa." I clicked. It linked to Fab Find, where I managed to get 50% off a spray tan at Luxe in Liberty Village. Clearly, the universe wants me to get a spray tan. (It's booked for Wednesday.)

And while I should have been prepared to respond to the spray tan inquiry, my co-worker Amanda's question was the one I actually had an answer to:

"Are you going to try to lose weight some crazy way the day-of?"

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this one. More specifically, I've spent a lot of time thinking about that episode of MTV's True Life where the teenage beauty pageant queen only eats cottage cheese and then wins. Jay has also been trying to convince me that Dr. Ho's is the way to go. But while working out in layers of sweatshirts or only eating cabbage soup and ex-lax for a week is mighty tempting, I think I'm just going to stick with working out every day and attempting to eat less poutine.

With only four days left until showtime, I will take any more advice that comes my way. But don't worry--I know not to eat the shellfish.