Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Other

Well, I'm back home in good old Calgary. It's a stereotype that Calgarians wear cowboy hats, but I must admit that I did see at least 4 of them at the airport when I arrived. So far, I've spent 2 years of my life in South Korea, 23 years in Calgary, and 7 years in Toronto. Since I'll be turning 33 in March, I'll say the extra 9 months were spent travelling - all across Canada, throughout California, New York, Milwaukee (for work), Hawaii, Cuba, Greece, Great Britain, Communist Russia, Japan, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic...oh and a few extra months travelling back to South Korea (yes, I've been lucky!)

I moved for all the right reasons, I just didn't know it when I left. All I knew is that I had to get out. Maybe it was self preservation, maybe it was that inherent knowing that we all have, or maybe I was just running away. Since, I had known no city other than Calgary, it wasn't until I moved away that I realized how uncomfortable I had felt there.

French philosopher and feminist Simone De Beauvoir talked about the Other in her book The Second Sex. Essentially, she argued that in a male dominated society, woman are socially constructed as the Other, a deviation or abnormality.

In Calgary, I was the Other, and I felt this within 2 days of being in Toronto.

I was a visible minority in a predominantly caucasian city, but I never experienced overt racism in any of my 23 years in Calgary. Calgarians are extremely nice in a Ned Flanders sort of way. They're good neighbours that will shovel your sidewalk, and say hi when they pass you on the street. They will even curiously ask you questions about your cultural background, and really be interested. The problem is that Calgary is also the hotbed of the Aryan Nation in Canada, and while racism isn't obvious in this very pleasant city, it's just under the surface. I would describe it as a "you are welcome in this city, as long as you play by our rules and don't cause any trouble," sort of vibe. George Bush would be very comfortable here, I'm sure.

More ways in which I felt like the Other in Calgary:
- Calgary is very right wing politically, and I am most definitely not.
- The main industry is oil and gas, and there's not much going on for artists, writers or video producers, unless you're into that whole counter cultural thing.
- They like country music, which I despise.
- The majority get married, have kids and settle down by the time they're 25...um yeah, still waiting on that...

I have an ease in Toronto that I never had in Calgary. A subconscious knowing that I am not the Other. Anything goes in Toronto, and that's what I love the most. There is no Other. There's just you, and what you want be, and the possibilities are limitless.


Anonymous said...

You forgot that Toronto doesn't get -45C winters like Calgary does...

Hope you're enjoying the holiday season!


Mel said...

Hey Shellz,

Glad to see you got to mom and dad safe and sound. I ordered something for my mom from ice.com...glad I did. Keep in touch. Miss you.


Lisa said...

This describes the feeling I get in my hometown EXACTLY! For the longest time, NO ONE could get over the fact I didn't have a car. Now I have a car, so I'm NORMAL again, thank god! Have fun. Say hey-diddily-ho-diddily to Ned for me.