My vocal teacher
Sang jazz standards in local ensembles and wore ample, flowing gowns. I can picture her dabbing her neck with lavender, and I would not be surprised if she’d once been a groupie for Five Man Electrical Band or Chilliwack. For our lessons she would set up a karaoke machine and comment on my performance. She once paused the track to ask if I thought the statement “I hate racists” involved the same logic used by racists. When a friend of her son’s called and left a bawdy message (“wakey, wakey, hands off your snakey”), she kicked me out of her apartment for giggling too much.
My 7th grade French teacher
Had fiery red hair and found me utterly repellant. She reamed me out in the hallway for asking a classmate how big his penis was, which, in hindsight, she was right to do. That afternoon I developed a neck twitch that persists to this day.
The guy who groped me during an Incubus concert in the 8th grade
Had spiky hair, wire-rimmed glasses, and an oversized Slipknot T-shirt. We were standing next to each other in the mosh pit when when the band played “Stellar,” a song that uses outer space as a metaphor for “how it feels to be inside of you,” so I asked him to hold me. He held me, then he touched my boobs, then he kneaded my butt, and I let him do this for about three more songs before it began to seem excessive. I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but it did a lot for my self esteem.
The Swiss girl who made fun of my outfit outside a bar
The outfit I was wearing: white socks, grey tights, a green belt, a pink belt, and an oversized pink acrylic cardigan. It might have been cool had I not been concerned with looking cool, but I was very concerned with looking cool, and not totally convinced that I wasn’t looking cool. The verdict: I was not looking cool.
The sweet candy guy
Was a customer at the record store I used to work at. He looked like Claude from Degrassi High but with a pageboy haircut. He asked if we had any tickets left for A Silver Mount Zion. We did. “Sweet candy,” he said. “I’ll take two.” He browsed for a few minutes and on his way out asked whether we expected to sell out any time soon. We didn’t. “Sweet candy,” he said. After that I adopted “sweet candy” as a thing. All my friends knew the reference. Over the years I got new friends but kept using “sweet candy.” Maybe you will now, too.
Valjean in my high school’s production of Les Miserables
I played Fauchelevent in my high school’s production of Les Miserables. Who is Fauchelevent, you ask? Fauchelevent is a guy who gets hit by a cart. I had one line, but I got to deliver it straight from the arms of Valjean, who used his big manly bulk to rescue and carry me to safety. And Valjean had a beautiful voice–the richest, most resonant baritone our school had ever seen. Every night he carried me in his manly arms, and every night I cried by the monitor when he sang “Bring Him Home.”
At the cast party, I said, “Hey, you were great,” and offered him a beer. He said, “Hey, thanks!” and took the beer. That was the only time we ever spoke.
Steph from the internet
When I was 12, I joined a listserv called Womyn-Are-Beautiful. Steph emailed me right away, saying, “I can’t believe it! Another Toronto riot grrrl!” I had no idea what she was talking about but I was happy to be talked to. When we met up she wore safety pin earrings and a Ramones T-shirt. We went shopping along Queen West and all the shopkeepers seemed to know her, and when we stopped at a record store, she played me about 10 seconds of a Bikini Kill song. I thought she was the coolest person I’d ever met. I was correct. A couple of weeks later, I bought The C.D. Version of the First Two Records from the money I made at a focus group on Toaster Strudels. If you know Steph, could you forward this to her? I would love to know how she’s doing.
Minuatiae runs every Thursday.