Lisan 101: Pets, social media and (kind of) screaming at the cafeteria guy

I can’t remember why I know Lisan, really. We work together, but I can’t recall when we started talking. I think maybe it was because of Twitter – I started following some of the cool kids at work and realized she was one of the coolest of them all.

We still don’t talk that much, really. We e-mail more often, and have the odd Twitter exchange. But our relationship reached a whole new level last week when we had almost a whole conversation over a colleague’s desk. And now, she’s a Human Facebook entry.

This one is a little different. Realizing I didn’t know that much about her, I asked her what she thought we could talk about. She came back with a few subjects, and I asked her just to write on those subjects. Surprisingly (or not), her replies corrected at least three misperceptions I had about her. I assume those arose from reading her Facebook page.

Anyway, think of this as Lisan 101. Here she goes.

I used to write the pets column, Heavy Petting, for the Globe and Mail. I only did it for a year before I quit. Someone asked me why I didn’t do it any more and I said “I’d rather spend time hanging out with animals than writing about them.” But here I am, writing about them again.
I have two cats, Parker and The Wooz, and a dog, Ella. My previous dog, Sadie, died in January. She was like my wife. When she died, I considered getting a tattoo of her name on my ankle (I used to draw fake tattoos of her name there when she was alive) but I had to weigh this against the possibility of looking like a hipster. In the end, I decided to keep her cremated remains, which are in a tasteful sprucewood box, on my bookshelf in the living room and spare myself the tattoo.
Ella’s a pretty great dog, too, but she’s a dog. Sadie was like a solemn little person in dog’s body. A lot of people say they dream about their pets after they die, but I never have.

The 1950s and 1960s in North America, specifically the U.S.
My parents were pretty excited when they saw Mad Men because they knew I would freak out over it – it combines two of my obsessions, advertising and 1950s America.
My parents were born around 1950 – maybe that’s why I got interested in the first place. I read my mom’s old Trixie Belden books and listened to the Beach Boys and the Big Bopper when I was growing up. My parents had kind of made the full transition, from forced-cheer 1950s kids to hairy, co-op-farm-owning hippies, although by the time I was beginning to be interested in the ’50s, it was already the ’80s and they were fledgling yuppies.
The norm was so narrowly defined in the 1950s. There was a stupendously enforced sense of “everything is just fine!” Meanwhile, percolating in each person’s mind was – had to be – an entirely different narrative.
I think I’m just really interested in the notion of enforced Edens. Like the former Soviet bloc, or North Korea, or bad marriages, or gated communities.

Social Media (Writing a Column On)
I can speak knowledgeably on this, and I do, every other week, for the Globe. It’s a lot more tiring having a column than you might think! Having public opinions is tiring. Having an opinion means other people will disagree with you and because you work for the paper, they will often try to take you down. Sometimes I just feel like going fetal and saying, “Yeah, you know what, you’re right. Can I sleep now?” My boyfriend reads the comments people post on my columns, but I don’t. “Yeah well, I’m glad she’s not your girlfriend too,” he said while reading the comments the other day.
On the other hand, having a public profile is also gratifying. It means at high-school reunions and weddings and stuff, when I tell people what I do, they usually react in a way that makes me feel like I’ve made it, which is really satisfying.
It’s kind of petty.

Love and Relationships
I’ve had a series of odd and unlikely relationships. Not a large number, but the ones I’ve had have been intense. Maybe that’s not the right word. I don’t mean Angelina Jolie vial-of-blood-around-the-neck intense. Just, like, serious. I don’t mess around! Also, I tend to get involved with difficult people, or people in difficult situations. In October, though, I started seeing this guy who had been my friend for about three years. He’s not difficult or angst-y. It feels weird – I keep feeling like something’s missing.
The best things about the relationship are that, when we don’t agree, we’re always interested to hear the other person’s side of things, and also that he has a few sly tricks to really make me laugh – one of them is making his toes cramp deliberately, because he knows it will get my goat. Also, he knows babies freak me out, so one time he cut out a baby’s giant head from a magazine and taped it onto his face and chased me around.

What it should look like.

The Globe and Mail cafeteria
Once I ordered vegetable biryani from the cafeteria and as I was eating it, I got angrier and angrier, because they do this thing at the Globe, which is make the same vegetable stew, 50 per cent onions, 30 per cent tomatoes, 30 per cent green peppers, maybe the rest celery, and then they call it “Provencal” or “Moroccan” or “biryani.” I got so mad, I wrote a letter to wherein I detailed the ways in which it was NOT biryani and they were selling me a bill of goods. I got a reply from the manager, who felt I was insulting his integrity as a chef and insisted there was biryani spicing in the biryani.
We never really mended bridges but now he’s been moved on to a different division of Eurest. Everyone in the caf hated him anyway, because he had a short fuse and swore a lot. Still, I felt so sorry for him when I looked at his Velcro sneakers and his walleyes and his misplaced sense of dignity, sometimes my heart would feel squeezed.
Recently the whole office got an e-mail saying the cafeteria is going to undergo some radical changes both to its décor and to its menu. They are going to serve salads that contain edamame and puffed quinoa. I have high hopes, but I am also feeling a bit worried. Goji berries? When someone gets their driver’s license, you don’t expect them to know how to pilot a plane, know what I mean?


2 responses to “Lisan 101: Pets, social media and (kind of) screaming at the cafeteria guy

  1. Vegetable biryani ? So I Google the recipe. Thanks Lisan !! We will have this for dinner.

    Cracks me up to think of a baby freaking you out.

  2. Pingback: Human Facebook, featuring me | The Human Facebook Project

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