how everything is awkward and none of it ends

I’ve been pretty focused mentally on school, and well… ok, TV shows. I never lie to my online friends. I’ve been hoarding episodes of awful reality shows like idiots are about to go extinct. This has caused me to lag on readings and eventually focus mentally on school.

Also, I’ve had life events. You’ve heard of those, right, internet friends?

My grandparents officially “immigrated” as in “went through immigration at the airport” and my grandmother teared up a little. My grandfather is quitting smoking (after 60+ years). I have lost weight.

Basically, what I’m saying is that nothing makes sense.

What does make sense is that, lately, all I say about awkwardness is, “well, I should have been expecting it.”

The first example of this is a recent trip to Gananoque, ON with my Boy. We planned it a week or two beforehand (as I am always doing, and he is always trying to put off) and went on Thanksgiving weekend. 4 days, 3 nights; Sunday to Tuesday. It was supposed to be lovely. And for the large part, it was. The weather was balmy for early October (29C WHAT), the food was fantastical, and the town was just the loveliest little town I ever did see. Reminded me of Stars Hollow.

A few days prior, my father, in his compulsive pro-activity decided that, Hey! Wouldn’t it be great if he, my grandfather and my sister visited the 1000 Islands as well? No. It wouldn’t, I said. You would hate it, I begged. And still, the only hotel/motel/inn they found that wasn’t fully and utterly booked for Thanksgiving was ours. How swell.

The irony that what was essentially meant to be a complete mental and physical retreat from the oh-so-generally-tolerable idiosyncrasies of my family turned into a, Hey – let’s get dinner tonight, all 5 of us, is not lost on me, and hopefully not on you.

However, Gananoque, and the nearby US border, had bigger plans for us. After a night of wretchedly fantastic relaxation, we decided to hit up the States before my spa appointment (it was in the inn, okay? Like 3 steps from bed to nail-bed repair). In hindsight (as most of these things are), we really should have seen it coming.

We drove for a beautiful 15 minutes (when am I EVER that close to another country?!) and reached the strangely prolonged line to the border. But, it’s the end of Canadian Thanksgiving, after all, we thought. So we waited, and waited, and sang songs while waiting, and should have figured out after 30 minutes that when the line you’re in is moving the slowest, the guy in control of that particular line was probably beaten with the jerkface stick. And yet.

We finally roll up, after 45 minutes -Does it usually take this long? I naively ask – and the dude (bruteface extraordinaire) just wallops us with questions, some more expected than others: Why are you coming to the States? How long are you staying? When are you coming back? What do you do? Why don’t you have a job? Where did you get your money? How big is your penis? (Kidding.)

Then, lovely Officer McAssface scans our passports and gives us a slip of paper, while pointing – oh-so-un-fucking-coyly – to Officer McAss V.2 where  there are about 20 cars parked. I mentally attempt to recall whether I have acquired any illegal machines or substances in the past 24 hours, and nothing comes to mind, which, despite being logical, does not make me any less nervous.

“My experience with customs and border control has always been that Americans are nicer than Canadians,” my Boy says. And so my God Complex smirks (I AM ALWAYS RIGHT, I insist daily.)

While walking down the long walkway to the building the man who almost giggled when he took my keys told us to go, I ask whether the Boy thinks they’re going to strip search us. “Hopefully not by someone hot. The ensuing reaction might make them detain us.”

Another goon with a radio and a gun, whose job appeared to be just to open the door for presumed illegals and yell at office workers sporadically and awkwardly about doing fingerprints any slower, told us to shut off our phones before coming in. Okay, I like common procedure – just like in a movie theatre. I think I even saw a twinkle of a semi-smile in his eye, probably born from the hope that he might be able to tackle an old lady for not understanding what a cell-phone was and thus auto-labeling her as terrorist.

We sit down on uncomfortable airport chairs in a corral of Mormons, Russians, frat guys and scientists going to a conference. We wait another half hour, by which point my boredom has so far surpassed my anxiety that I’m thinking about playing Angry Birds on the Boy’s iPod. That probably wouldn’t have been encouraged by Door Goon.

“Arnika and Paalaya,”

“Arina? Paya?”

“Yeah, yeah. You guys. Come on up here.”

Asshole. I’m so not sorry for not being named Sally.

Same questions as the Officer McAssface, and then comes my favourite part of entering the United States to see some trees: “So, if you don’t have a job, how do you afford all these nail appointments and expensive trips?” He asks this to my BOY.

Oh. Lord. I PAY FOR MY OWN DANG NAILS. OWN. DANG. NAILS. YOU SON OF A F-

Sexist nugget of idiocy, you are. Also, this is the cheapest trip that people can go on: we travelled a whole 2 hours away from where we live. It would barely dent the bank account of a 10-year-old mowing lawns for a living, you condescending shit of a human being.

“Oh, okay. Well I guess we didn’t find any guns, narcotics, or dead bodies in your trunk, so you’re free to go.”

I wonder if it was the two fold-away chairs that my parents sit on at my sister’s soccer games that tipped them off about the lack of drugs, or the Subway wrappers. Criminals gotta eat too, I guess, but, oh man, were we suspicious.

When we got through, the trees closing in on the highway seemed to be frontin’ and being all aggressive and shit, plus the roads had tolls. We finally found a free little park area with a lake, sat for half an hour, angrily discussing how the air smelled disgusting and the benches were sub-par and the water probably couldn’t house fish even if it was a caviar factory, and then we got in our car and drove back.

“Hi. Where you coming from?”

“Oh you know, just wanted to come and see a few of the parks on the US side of the 1000 islands, that sort of thing.”

“How long did you stay?”

“About an hour. It wasn’t very interesting. Plus I have a nail appointment soon.”

“Oh. Okay. Have a nice day!”

GOD COMPLEX EXACERBATED. I AM ALWAYS RIGHT but oh was I happy to be back in Ontario, with the pretty and non-aggressive trees and the proper speed limits (miles are for mules) and Tim Horton’s.

sad couple is sad (in america)

I almost cried with joy after seeing the speed limit.

So, that didn’t go as planned, as in, instead of enjoying nature, I just enforced my mental blockade against everything American.

The most recent example of my life being awkward is my family. Comedy empires have been built on it, yes, but it doesn’t stop evolving for Hollywood’s sake.

I don’t know how other people’s families are, but the men in my family are very traditional. Ie. sexist. Ie. they think that women do housework and bear children and listen to the head of the family (a man). You choose whether this is a comment on Russian families, or immigrant families, or silly families. It might not be a comment at all, and it isn’t to me because it’s just my reality.

This past week, after getting back from Gananoque, I’ve been pestered by my dad and grandfather about cooking and cleaning almost incessantly. Do they care that I have 5 books to read before Monday? Do they pay attention to the fact that I work 2 jobs, volunteer and write for free, and study full-time? No. They want dinner, and dinner they want. That is all that matters.

My grandfather has a tendency of coming into any room where I reside and saying, Hozay’ka (woman in charge of the household), What do you have for lunch? Or, What are you cooking? if I am at the stove or in the vicinity of the kitchen.

This bothers me to no small extent, and while I try not to react every single time by forcing him to sit and watch English films about feminism and banging him on the head with Gloria Steinem‘s articles, I often lash out. You want food? There IS no food. Find your own food.

A few days ago, I decided to take a different tactic.

“What are you doing, hozay’ka?”

“Making lunch.”

“For everyone?”

“No, just for me.”

“Oh,” disapprovingly he says “what are you going to do when you have a family?”

“Well, I think Boy will stay home, actually. He’ll cook, clean, that sort of stuff. Probably raise the kids. When I have a family, I will go work and earn money.”

“Oh, hahaha! You’re so funny Arinushka.”

“I’m serious.”

“Oh.”

The next morning, when my mom and grandma had arrived from Russia, he reveals to them the deep rebellion of my nature in hushed tones. “She’s planning to go work and have Boy stay home and clean and cook.” I didn’t hear it, but I’m sure it was murmured conspiratorially, in a manner that suggests that what I’m doing is completely unorthodox and unacceptable. As if I was a moral dissenter to Perfection.

Later that day when I was speaking to both mom and grandmother, I was complaining about how they kept asking for food like stupid helpless baby birds, when in fact they seemed like giant ostriches who would seem to have their shit figured out by 43 and 72 years of age.

“Oh, this morning he told us ALL about how you were planning to subvert the family dynamic. You horrible woman, you.” Cue laughter and my eternal smugness.

Let him believe it, I told them. At least until the Boy comes over for dinner next and gets a variety of garbled Russian questions asked by the worried eyes of my grandfather about his capability to cook food and clean laundry.

-A

P.S. Oh, and there was that time I thought I was being all culturally sensitive and progressive when I found a Farsi movie approved by Sundance playing in a movie theatre in Toronto and invited my Boy and his Mother and it turned out to be a lesbian porno. Fun.

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