Raising a not-so-perfect puppy

Rants

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I like to be as excruciatingly thorough as possible in pretty much everything I do. So of course, when we got our  puppy, I spent the better part of my free time obsessing on how to master the daunting task of proper training. The internet was an easy ally in this case: I surfed the endless forums for training, became Cesar Millan’s ultimate fangirl and obsessed over a book I read in a day, bought when I brought the puppy home. How can anyone resist a book called “The Perfect Puppy”?

You could say I have a problem. I won’t judge you.

Before I knew it, dog training lingo started making its stealthy way into my conversation: positive reinforcement, crate training, off cues, sit, stay. I accidentally talked to my 1 year-old-godson in this vocabulary, but luckily no one heard me. My sister fell prey to the same thing; she recently got a dog too, and found herself clicking her tongue at colleagues, friends and myself whenever she wanted to reprimand or hurry things up. It was hilarious, but also sad. We were imaginary queens of dog training, but pathetic examples of defeat, because behind the lingo lay the futile attempts at getting it right, while getting it wrong almost 90% of the time.

You see, all these experts make it seem like it’s a piece of cake. They say: Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a dog.  They don’t say: Sucker! Welcome to a life of shit and puddles!  They say: Follow these three steps. They don’t say: Haha! GOTCHA! They say: Repetition is key . The don’t say: Repetition is pointless. 

Sure, I’m a cynic, but I remember as I was breezing through the book I kept thinking, “Yeah, this is so manageable, I can so do this.” When confronted with failure I tend to either get angry or get angry. And I got angry, but most importantly persistent. Sit, was a relatively easy command, everything after that has been near impossible. I’ve been trying to teach Teddy the cue for “off” which he understands under controlled conditions, but not when we are out on a walk. As a result he has swallowed many a plastic bag, cigarette butts and other unnamed disgusting things that I sometimes feel disinclined to pull from his mouth, even if I always end up attempting it.

And to make things more challenging, he’s growing by the second. My greatest fear is that I’ll wake up one morning and see him towering over me. It’s like he’s devoured that Alice in Wonderland cookie on one of our walks, which could make sense since it reads Don’t eat me. The forbidden fruit is always more delicious even for the illiterate. Recently, I discovered the hard way just how tall he’s become in the past month. In the limited time I had for my lunch break, I left Teddy in the living room and migrated to the study to do some research on short film documentaries. I discovered this gem of depressing creativity, and 2 minutes into it I realized that Oden was actually the dog. It wasn’t long before the mandatory close up shot for the euthanasia scene, and that’s just when I paused it, all teary eyed and sad because I didn’t want the dog to die its inevitable death. It made me feel lucky for my own little fella, and I went to the living room to play with him in a genuine sense of gratitude. As I tried to move past his hyperactivity, I noticed in the far distance a familiar object: my pair of sunglasses doubling for a dog toy. The little rascal got them off the kitchen counter! He was now tall enough to reach pretty much anything. I resorted to my book, which advised teaching the off cue. A no-brainer, right? Too bad it doesn’t work.

So three months after that fateful meeting at the vet, I find myself pretty convinced that I’m not raising the perfect puppy at all. He’s destroyed a pair of Camper boots, a handmade fridge magnet made by my friend G—  made by an Icelandic pine cone she got on vacation, the couch, a journal and countless pairs of trousers. When I take him out for the 5:30 a.m. walk in my hole filled leggings and disheveled hair I think to myself, What has become of me?  But then when we come back home and he sits patiently for his food eyeing me with the expectation, I melt. I guess they call it puppy love for a reason.

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The linear ever after

Rants

The second sex, may by no means be the weaker one, according to Simone de Beauvoir, but according to Cypriot culture, it’s the one whose life has already been pre-determined. You don’t need to look into the remnants of coffee stained cups or the palm of your hand ladies, your life is spelled out for you the moment you are born without that golden member. Your life is an equation of sums and losses that all equate your perfect, charming quotidien into a meagre sense of achievement.

And here is your cue to say “Thank you”, whispers your grandmother.

My problem with this, is that increasingly, I’m not just hearing about this happily-ever-after from my grandma, whose old fashioned take on life can best be taken as quaint and romantic, if not blatantly ignorant. No, increasingly, I’m hearing this from my peers. I find it disappointing that in the 21st century, the majority of women my age cannot think beyond the domestic box of marital happiness. As 20-somethings, where is the thirst for new experiences? Where is the insatiable energy for learning and self-discovery? Why all this sudden rush to wear our bank installments round our neck with a sense of pride at our adulthood? Why do I feel more added pressure from the women my age, than from parents and extended family?

Of course, this is only exacerbated by the very fact that we are traversing across the very trying expanse of wedding season. I never used to hate weddings, but I do now.  Walking towards the bride and groom to offer my heartfelt congratulations I’m convinced the mixture of exhaustion and greed (after all, why invite 6,000 guests?) makes me a barely discernible figure as I near the couple’s stand; at most, I’m seen as a € sign. And the underlying logic that echoes from person to person leaves me nothing more than shocked: “It’s an investment, I go to their wedding, they come to mine”. So basically, what everyone is doing is circulating the same €50 around and around and around. A genuine gesture, indeed.

But what particularly got me today, was a rather indiscreet question as I was having my morning coffee and talking about canoeing. It cut through my sense of individuality quite sharply: “When are you going to have a baby?” And suddenly I felt the extra weight of expectation, the additional stress of not wanting to meet the standards predefined by apparently everyone in my circle. It makes me want to despise everything within the linear fairy tale that everyone seems to fool themselves into. A baby? I’m still a kid myself!

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t claim to have the answer to a happy life. For some, marital bliss and everything that comes with it may be that which fulfills them. But leave some room for the odd ones out, will you? We can’t all fit into the cookie-cutter world of the predictable. Some of us might want to try going the other route and in all honesty, what’s it to you?

On deadlines

Rants

Day by day, I become more convinced that I am one of the few remaining people who respect deadlines. Cypriots everywhere: a deadline is a deadline is a deadline. SHAPE UP!

Hello deadline, nice to meet you! I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced. I’m Mega Procrastinator and I’m very happy to finally get to talk to you. I know, I know, I hate blind dates too, but hey we’re here but let’s make the most of it, despite the awkwardness. So, my friend Lazy Ass mentioned that you’re really into punctuality. Can I ask you something? Why? I mean, isn’t punctuality an internal thing? If you’re OK with the timing, isn’t that punctuality that’s true to yourself? Why are you shaking your head so vehemently, relax. All I’m saying is, that it’s good to let go. I don’t ever wear a watch even — I’m not a slave to time.  Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t realize that you’d be so offended with my lateness. I was pretty proud of myself for remembering that today is Friday; after all, I hardly keep track of days. What’s the point? They’re all the same anyway right? OK, OK, I’ll change the topic.

So where do you hang out? Oh at Post-It! I kinda hate that place — it’s full of people worrying about insignificant things. Oh, yes, I see. So are you turned on by people enumerating things to do? Really?! I’d rather watch 3 non-stop hours of YouTube videos than go to that bar. Sure, it’s fun. I do it with Lazy Ass all the fucking time. It’s a riot. Don’t even get me started on the fun we have commenting on them on Facebook! You use the events function only on Facebook? Nah, I never reply. I show up if I feel like it, whatever time. It still works all the same. What’s that? An urgent call you need to take? Sure, go ahead.

(Pause)

What do you mean you need to go, we’re hanging out here, chillaxin’… Oh I’m sorry to hear that. No I don’t know any Dignity or Responsibility, they’re not in my circle. Do you want me to take you to the hospital? Are you sure? It’s no problem, I’ll take right after this song finishes. I fucking love Kings of Convenience.

On a lighter, less cynical note, enjoy this video:

The unsuspecting vegetarian

Rants

Courtesy: Jorge-11

Easter: a time of vegetarian solidarity. The much dreaded religious holiday is already well underway and to top it off this year, I have my birthday to crown the greatest of all feasts on Easter Sunday. Oh dear.

I have never been one to hang around the lamb on the spit, gradually roasting its way into mouth-watering decadence (for some). As for the liver wrapped in intestine, I unsuspectingly declined plates of this delicacy falsely believing it was rooster, which was offensive enough to my innocent spirit, let alone the vulgar reality of the aforementioned specific body parts. Indeed, Easter has always been out to get me when I least suspected it.

As a kid, I have fond memories of lighting firesparkles, a ritual that required speed and enthusiasm. The end goal was lighting all the firesparkles in the garden. The reward? A soup of intestines, liver and stomach. I slurped unsuspectingly without really understanding what it was I was forcing myself to digest.

Years later, no longer the soup sucker that I was as a kid, I was pretty much against most food on the table, simply because it didn’t agree with my palate. On Saturday night after church, after gathering at an aunt’s house for the traditional soup (thanks, I’ll pass), meat (no, I’m fine thanks) and potatoes (do I have to eat this at 12:30 a..m? Really?) I scanned the dining table for a sign of something barely edible so late in the night. There was hardly anything worth noting: the usual suspects were there, as was the gelatin with private body parts, ears and whatnot floating in a see-through volume of a globe. Then I noticed a plate of spaghetti and eggs, a newcomer and a rather unusual recipe altogether. I hurried to add a serving; given that I was always criticized for the lack of food in my plate, I was more than elated that the spaghetti took up a considerable portion. But of course, there was a catch. As I forked a bunch of spaghetti and egg and raised it to mouth, my uncle across me asked calmly: Since when do you eat intestines? Since, omg I’m going to faint. I barely smiled politely.

That was a close one.

And then here we are now, not so many years later. Am I traumatized? Hell yeah! Every Easter I dread all the food on the table, all the jokes on my eating habits and all that meat that’s trying to make its way into my mouth, one way or another. But this year, , let the whole world rejoice with souvla on my birthday. I will feel happy to mouth a bit of green and a slice of cake — I’ve got my 29th to chew on.

Note: soon something you can chew on. More in coming entries.

On bigshots

Rants

I think my friends in Chania, will be able to relate to this letter. In fact, the whole world has had the privilege of dealing with the worst kind of mankind: the bigshot.

Dear Mr Important,

You stride in and take a seat all up in my face with your fancy shoes and your nervous smile. You are agitated, though you are selling me the spirit of I-know-it-all. You start to mouth your $5-dollar words with the hope that I can’t decipher what you’re saying, but hey, I’ve spotted your grammar mistakes too mister, and don’t get me started on your idioms.

Your “it’s not me, it’s you” mentality is truly charming. Sure, blame it on the new kid while you polish your new status car and jingle your car keys before me, because God forbid I mistake that for change in your pockets! You only deal with big fat bills, after all. Or your American Express. A credit card or what I like to call fake money, bigshot.

So stop playing with what’s not there and focus on the big picture. Have a look in the mirror and look at your sorry self staring back at you pathetically. Ask yourself where along the line you forgot what it’s like to be a person with a three-dimensional personality. But hey, who am I kidding? You’re living your dream of being a prick and screwing everyone over: you jab and you kick at me and everyone you know, smirking in your fancy suit like the big idiot you are.

Funny, how a few 2-cent words will do to paint a picture of you, mister. How does it feel to be so worthless now?

Your truly,

plainbananas xx

On summer

Rants

Hello summer,

We’ve been waiting for you. We’ve quantified you to the certainty of 30 degrees Celsius and we monitor the weather forecast like hungry wolves. Clouds tomorrow? Saharan dust? Let that not come in the way of your arrival, we beg. But the tell-tale sign arrives overnight, and we don’t even need to check our thermometers to confirm your entrance. Suddenly, hair frizzes up, furniture is coated with a thick film of moisture and we are scooped up in a dense cloud of opaqueness. Humidity heralds your arrival. And instead of a warm welcome, we’re thinking, how could we forget about what you do to us every year?

We get carried away with romantic notions of the Ss: sun, salty sea, seashells, sand. As we slap on our sunscreen with SPF 1,000 under the scorching sun, we soon realize that it’s about time we bought our own beach umbrella because there’s very little hope we’ll ever manage to get the few sunbeds that offer it as option. As we enter the water, we yelp silently, trying to look good as we enter a liquid version of our freezer. Of course it’s refreshing, we fib. “Look at me, I’m diving in, ha ha,” and our heart comes to an abrupt halt before resuming again when we break the surface. “God that felt good!” we say through clenched teeth. Around us, a few hundred others do the same, and we try to ignore the persistent question, as we hit a warm spot while we’re swimming. It’s the currents, we convince ourselves, though we know as we eye the crowd that it’s plain human nature. Oh yes, gross, summer, gross.

Then come plans for traveling and discovering and getting away from worries and people (though the latter, few of us would admit). We make grand plans for escape, and monitor prices closely before booking on the day when unexpectedly, prices rise, dammit. We buy travel guides and optimistically keep them on the coffee table, hoping that we’ll pick them up before the trip. We make our budget so that we never keep it, and come back with empty pockets and ticket stubs that we’re not sure whether to keep as souvenirs or throw out. As for our peace of mind? No room for that, surely, with the stress of seeing all the sights, avoiding all the touristy places and getting our value for money. Going back to work no longer seems like a bad idea, actually.

And when we start to take at least three showers a day, we remember why it is that you stink summer. We are gullible people, we like to live life in postcards that say “Wish you were here!” or go to work dancing to summer beats, sipping on mojitos. But when you arrive, you bring with you the unbearable heat, those long long days, that need filling. So we venture out to coffeeshops more, we go out at nights, because we wear denial on our sleeves, and by the end of it, we come out of August broke and in despair. We wait for the first rain eagerly, and monitor thermometers for temperature fluctuations. We are people of routine and we work in this cycle.

For now, in early June, all I have to say is “Welcome back.” By the end of it, we’ll hate you, that’s a promise.

plain bananas x

On vegetarianism

Rants

As a vegetarian, I have lost count on the number of times I have had to answer the question “But why?” What usually follows is a diatribe on why I should reconsider my options. And I am tired of 9 years of having to deal with it. I share my open letter to fellow carnivores here, and dedicate it to vegetarians across the globe.

Dear carnivores,

Ever since my decision to stop eating meat, you have made it your personal mission to make me convert. You sit smugly on the top of the food chain devouring protein after protein, but no, that is not enough. You salivate over chicken breasts, spare ribs, liver and other animal body parts but no, you want me to salivate along with you. So you like meat? I get it! Can you skip along and let me carry on with my salad?

I wonder why it is you feel it necessary to ask me the same persistent questions every time I meet one of you. Oh the shock! Oh the horror, at the revelation that meat is not part of my diet. “Chicken too?” you ask naively. Carvivores, please, know your meats. When you down that KFC, when you wolf those chicken thighs down, do you ever, for a minute, doubt that you’re getting your meaty fix? I didn’t think so! So don’t feign confusion when I tell you chicken counts as meat too. If this slander ever gets out to the chickens, they’ll be hell to pay, I’m sure.

And then the ethics kick in. How did it happen? What went wrong? You look for explanations, expertly bypassing the ones offered to you, and your zeal evaporates by the time the food is served. By then the conversation has come to a close, until you have your plate of cooked meat, bloody and horrific, which you knife and fork hungrily. You briefly ridicule my leafy salad lunch and wonder what kind of weirdo I am. But guess who has more room for dessert? And guess who’ll outlive you, carnivorous fiends? Your cholesterol friend is a sneaky bitch, you’ll see.

Yours,

plainbananas

On dust

Rants

Among the many joys of renovation is dust, my dear friends. I’ve often imagined what it would be like if dust were an actual person that I could beat up / yell at / simply evict.

I share my open letter to dust with you here.

Dear dust,

I have decided to write to you because you and I have recently developed quite a relationship. In fact, some may mistake it for a friendship, and of course, why wouldn’t they? You and I have been living together for over 5 months now, a period during which I have come to know you quite well. And I’ve decided there are a few things I want to tell you.

Firstly, how dare you spread your filmy fingers over all of my possessions with such glaring ease? It’s bad enough that you’ve taken over my entire book collection like a hungry bookworm, you’ve also infiltrated my technological equipment! It’s no longer worth keeping up pretenses: I know you raped the printer; I know you violated my laptop. You greedy bitch! As if that wasn’t enough, you took over all of my wardrobe and stained my clothes with your filthy grey breath so that when I wear an item, I carry you with me like a curse.

At nights, you sneak into bed uninvited and take over all the space without permission. You fondle my hair when I least expect it and it takes days to wash off your grimy touch. I fucking hate you.

And stop eating my food. It makes me hungry! The thought of your sooty lip stains on my daily meals makes me lose my appetite, which is of course to your advantage since it makes you take over drinks, utensils and the like at a rapacious pace.

I want you out of here, dust. The door is open, I’ve traced your escape route on the ground across your body. I hope that hurt. Because you and I, we’re through. Get the hell out or there will be blood. I’ll introduce you to my friend, the vacuum. We’ll see who laughs then!!

Yours,

plain bananas