Author Archives: Olivia

Kissing by Anthony Farrington

Anthony Farrington’s “Kissing” is a beautiful patchwork of non-linear memories. He offers snapshots of his relationships and the magic they represent. He offers snapshots of fractured and broken connections. I love the idea that experiences, in some ways, are able to stand on their own. Maybe in hindsight we see that we were naive; maybe in hindsight we know that it would have been better for all involved to refrain from intimacy – physical and emotional. Maybe we hate ourselves for having loved someone. But our memories are sneaky, clumsy toddlers. Our memories find the ice cream and eat the whole pint. Our memories want these moments to remain precious, delicate, delicious.

I’ve kissed two people in my life – and when I say kissed I mean, really smooched. Really just went for it. The first man I kissed was my first boyfriend, and the second was my second boyfriend. My second boyfriend also happens to be my soulmate and the person I married. I know, only two? For me it was enough.

I always took kissing very seriously. You know, first there would be some very intentional arm brushing. All your senses are engaged in this kind of arm brushing. You feel every arm hair, every texture, every time the arm you’re touching moves closer or away. It’s easy to take things very personally at this stage. They move their arm away: they never want to see you again. I always had a very fraught relationship with this stage of touching.

Then there is the handholding stage of touching. This is the stage in which you talk about things that you wouldn’t talk to just anyone about. You know, your past relational wounding, tension in your family. Anything goes when you’re holding hands. Handholding usually takes place before you are comfortable looking each other in the eye. That comes much, much later. Handholding also is the time wherein the hand holders have discussion regarding whether or not they will be publicly seen as a romantic couple of people. It must be because at this time they are often literally in public, being seen holding hands. Emotional and logistical discussions happen during the handholding stage.

My first kiss happened when I was 21. Like I said previously, I took kissing very seriously. I also had an ongoing joke with myself that I would have my first kiss before my braces were removed. I thought it would be a good story. So I met someone who I thought was quite funny and was a friend of friends of mine and decided he’d be the one to receive my first, sloppy and unrehearsed smooch.

No pretense surrounded this kiss. We were walking one evening and I just said, you know, I’m getting my braces off in a week or so, so I’d like to be kissed before then. And I’d like you to kiss me. And so he did. On the sea wall in the dark. After the first one I said, thank you. Did you feel my braces? And he thought that was a peculiar thing to ask after a kiss.

That first kiss was blurry and weighty; sweet like wine. I knew, for the first time, that I had arms, legs, a collarbone, and a belly. I knew that I could love with my body. I stammered my way into a new language. I was a woman. I was awake.

PEER REVIEW #2 – Taking Life by the Love Handles

Jenny Zhao’s site, Taking Life by the Love Handles, is clearly representative of her love for food, especially when shared with friends. Upon first glance, Jenny’s site is quite pretty, utilizing a pastel colour palette. I’m not sure if Jenny is focusing purely on sweets and bubble tea for the content of her site, but I found the colour palette to be a visual parallel to the foods and drink that she is reviewing. The presentation of the food itself is beautiful, and the colours used imitate that. I did find, however, that the site title and tagline colour was a little bit difficult to read with the bold image behind. Because the text further down the page is clearer, I found my gaze being drawn down immediately, rather than on the title. The title may benefit from a block of solid colour behind the words to make them stand out from the image behind it.

Mauvé Page, our guest lecturer, discussed the importance of site responsiveness on mobile devices, so I decided to visit Jenny’s site on my iPhone; it took seven seconds to load. Mauvé cited statistics on site responsiveness in her lecture saying that load time longer than one second can surprisingly be detrimental to website activity and gave the example of GQ magazine reformatting their website to decrease loading time and saw a dramatic increase in visitors (Page). It would be worthwhile for Jenny to revisit some of the factors of her site that increase load time and adjust accordingly.

Jenny’s site is simple to navigate and use, however, I wonder if her food blog posts should be included in the menu directly under the title, as it is the main content of the website. It seems counterintuitive to me to have to scroll down and direct my attention to the right side of the page to see the food reviews. Jenny’s application of social media integration is balanced, visually appealing and organized.

The typefaces used on Jenny’s site lack continuity from page to page – the typeface displayed on the home page is different than the typeface displayed once the user clicks on a post. Though I did not notice this immediately, when I became more familiar with Jenny’s site it felt messy. Uniform typefaces will be representative of the site’s clean, ordered and visually appealing content.

While I found “Taking Life by the Love Handles” a visually pleasant experience – clear and user friendly – I found myself wanting more from the content of the site. In some ways, I found the design to outshine the content. I wanted richer descriptions of the food and atmosphere; I wanted to know the way in which all of the components of Jenny’s experiences at these various restaurants work together to create a memorable (or upsetting) experience – Jenny describes her deep love of sharing food experiences with friends as meaningful and I wanted the descriptions to represent that meaning making. Travis Gertz discusses the importance of this in “How to Survive the Digital Apocalypse”. The visual appeal and user-friendliness of the design of a website is really the crown of great content. The quality of each component need to be worthy of each other (Gertz).

I really enjoyed looking into Jenny’s website. Now I’m hungry!

Works Cited

Gertz, Travis. “How to Survive the Digital Apocalypse.” Louder Than Ten, Louder Than Ten Industries Inc., 10 Jul. 2015, https://louderthanten.com/coax/design-machines.

Page, Mauvé. “Some Considerations on Web Design and Type on Screens.” Publishing 101 Lecture, 2 Oct. 2018, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC. PowerPoint Presentation.

Zhao, Jenny. Taking Life by the Love Handles. WordPress. http://jenellacamellia.com/. 13, Oct. 2018.

 


 

DESIGN AND CONTENT CHANGES – Process Post #5 and #6

I am starting to get the hang of this course! I was unaware that we are meant to do a Process Post on the weeks that it is not indicated on the syllabus so I am going to complete two posts this week with respect to the development of my site. I missed doing one the week of our first peer review.

Content Changes and Development of Public

Previously, my homepage acted as an ‘About’ page – those visiting my site landed first on that page and would have to click on an option in the menu to find the main content on my site. After receiving feedback on the problems involved in this design I made my first page an immediate introduction to my content with Sydney’s help (thanks Sydney!). I created a sidebar to include some information about myself and the site to aid in that transition. I also have made each post that represents the theme of my site a sub item on the menu that they belong to, so readers can choose one further back in my site’s history if desired without having to scroll excessively.

I also received feedback about the language used to describe my writing, including the name of my site. Before, the name of my site was “Too Young to be Writing a Memoir”, which could be perceived as being self-deprecating, so I changed it to “Memoir is a Mirror”. I talk a lot about how personal writing is reflective and allows me to discover new things about myself and the world around me, so I feel that this is a more accurate identifying name for my site. Additionally, instead of calling the pieces of writing “reading responses” I changed the name to “reflective reviews” as a nod to the name of my site while avoiding letting go of the critical nature of writing reviews. As an aside, there are some weeks I will be reviewing longer essays rather than collections of essays. For example, this week I have two midterms, and reading an entire book is just not going to be a sustainable endeavour for me.

I’ve put out an email to friends and writers who I want to visit my site and provide feedback and am hoping for a good return on that. I’ve created an Instagram devoted only to informing folks of my activities related to my site and I’ve been having some encouraging comments and feedback. I hope that readers will feel free to provide critical feedback when they think it is appropriate as well.

Design

A major focus for me in reformatting the design of my site was improving my site’s performance on devices other than desktop computers. I noticed on my old theme – a theme for food blogging – had poor performance on a mobile device. Each post had a photo and I included lots of sketches, background photos and header photos. I concluded that the theme that I had activated previously was not the best option for me and chose to limit my photograph use and activated a site more suitable for writing. My site’s performance on mobile devices is excellent now. This was important for me because my site is connected to an Instagram wherein I update my public on the books and material I am reading and provide a link to view my posts. I imagine that my public will be reading my content while on the bus on their commute home, for example, and not necessarily always reading on a desktop.

I tried to apply concepts from the design lecture by choosing typefaces that have a more literary “personality”. While this is a blog, I do want it to appear professional as it is representative of my academic career. I am happy with my type face selection, however, it appears that the typeface of my About page is different than the rest of the pages on my site. I need to remedy that. I made some changes – as I mentioned before – with respect to the quantity of pictures I included and I think that my site is significantly less busy visually. It is palatable: visually pleasant and engaging while making the writing the main focus for visitors. I wanted the colour palette to be earthy and soft, but wanted to stay away from giving the impression of the site being a blog for my hobbies. I want the design of the site to give the impression that I take writing seriously and that I interact with the material in a scholarly fashion.

ENGAGING WITH: Hunger – A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

In Hunger – A Memoir of (My) Body, Roxane Gay writes: “[w]hen you’re overweight, your body becomes a matter of public record in many respects… [p]eople project assumed narratives onto your body and are not at all interested in the truth of your body, whatever that truth may be” (120). Gay describes with such clarity the way in which the world we live in is so ill-equipped to make space for marginalized bodies – and more specifically – fat bodies*. Nevertheless, Hunger is an account of Gay’s life told on her own terms, an account that must be heard, deserves to be heard, though the world cannot hold it.

Despite having had horrifying acts of violence committed against her, I am baffled by Gay’s persistent identification as a privileged woman: she acknowledges that though at times in her life she has been ‘broke’, she has never been ‘poor’. She acknowledges a family who has been her social safety net when she had nothing else, a privilege that those who are poor do not have. She tells of her father’s insistent parenting, bailing her out of difficult situations that she had got herself into. Though Gay’s description of her parent’s patronizing posture towards her body – as a problem that needs to be fixed – was tense and painful, I could still feel her offering of tenderness and compassion towards them, as parents who continue to love her in the best way they know how to.

I feel deeply hesitant to identify with Hunger as a narrative, mostly because my life looks so different than the author’s. I am a white, thin woman who has never been sexually assaulted. But, I have experienced trauma that has functionally derailed my life in the past, and intermittently since. Hunger seems to be capable of resonating with those whose life has been derailed by trauma. Trauma is not a respecter of persons, and the body holds onto it in the way it knows how. As I was reading, I was reflecting on the ways in which my body held onto trauma and tried to make sense of it – eating was difficult for me on most days. I lost a lot of weight and was comforted by that, not necessarily because I wanted to be thinner – or even was aware that I was becoming progressively thinner – but because I had obsessive compulsive behaviours that made physical contact with anything or anyone nauseating. I wanted to be small so nothing could touch me. And still, though I was quite ill, I was often praised with the “social currency” that thinness brings.

I was made aware again and again in my reading of Hunger of the mysterious relationship between the body and shame. Gay writes: “I was swallowing my secrets and making my body expand and explode” (67). It is so clear to me that shame marks our bodies, whether it is seen or unseen, publicized or private. Hunger displays so clearly the cognitive dissonance that every woman (at least that I’ve met) experiences: the intellectual acceptance of bodies the way they exist whether or not they are embraced as desirable by societal constructions of beauty juxtaposed with the disappointment of buying into those societal narratives. Beauty aside, Gay is often simply positing that her body and bodies like hers should be able to take up space. Period.

Hunger is functionally educational in many ways, though I do not think that was in the scope of authorial intention for Gay. For those who have bodies that do not take up very much space, Gay is offering the opportunity to observe the way “women of size”, as she says, move through the world. She writes of the utter panic of walking into a restaurant with friends, having to sit in chairs with armrests, bruising her sides and thighs: “I see how physical spaces punish me for my unruly body” (202). Gay also shares the joy and frustrations of learning to cook as someone who loves food but, is at times, overcome with self-loathing, making engaging in the practice of taking care of herself difficult and complicated.

I was reading the chapter in which Gay describes the disregard that she is met with from doctors who attribute any health issue, no matter how trivial, to ‘morbid obesity’ while I was waiting for care in the ER at St. Paul’s hospital. I was waiting for my leg to be looked at, swollen, red and hot, presumably from another blood clot – this time not from birth control. It is likely now that I am just prone to them – a mutation in my gene. It is something I take so deeply for granted, not having blame placed on me for my health issues. When something goes wrong in my body, doctors do not put my character under a microscope, accuse me of being lazy, a glutton or think that I have done something wrong to bring suffering upon myself in some way. I am (most of the time, and mostly by women) looked in the eye, met with sympathy and never blamed for my ailments.

Perhaps Gay’s most striking observation was that of her family and friends response to her stay in the hospital after surgery on her ankle. She says that “love was no longer an abstraction” to her (282). Indeed, love does something. Love takes action. While violence takes action against and ruins lives, love takes action that empowers, reminding those who are being loved that they matter.

*I want to identify my usage of the word ‘fat’ as a neutral descriptor.