Girls’ Club

I was in New York City recently, staying at the uber cool Standard Hotel in the Meat Packing District and while having lunch in the ground floor restaurant, I felt the call of nature.

I asked for directions from the white-aproned waiter behind the bar, then scooted down the stairs, and not too soon. I really had to go.

But when I turned the corner to enter the washroom I saw a man akimbo in front a urinal. OMG! I jumped back, really quite shocked. The corridor was short. How had I missed the ladies? I backtracked, but could only find the stairs I had just come down.  It’s then I realized that the gents was the ladies or the ladies was the gents. Oh brother. I mean sister.

Anyway, I still had to go but there was NO way I was going to tinkle within earshot of some man. So I zipped back upstairs to my hotel room, relieved to be relieving myself  without some dude listening in.

I might be liberated and all that, but a unisex toilet? For me that’s taking emancipation too far.

I feel the same way about men infiltrating salons and spas. I just hate it when I am in a salon-issue terry cloth robe, my feet in a basin of warm water in preparation for a pedicure, when in walks some hairy legged guy, plopping down in the identical robe in front of me. He usually sits like a  guy, too, his legs open at the knees, the robe riding up the thigh. Looking at him, I feel exposed, and very uncomfortable.

I have an 11-year old son, and when I told him that I can’t stand it when a man comes to the spa, he asked me recently why?

Call me old-fashioned — or is that sexist?– but I told him that I don’t want a man, particularly a stranger, stealing a glimpse into my female world of make-up and ablutions.  I don’t want him knowing my arts of illusion, my secrets of the boudoir. I want to maintain my difference, my sense of mystery if not dignity.

I feel the same way about men who come to the dressing rooms of clothing stores, most often dragged there by insecure women who need a man to tell them, yes dear, the red suits you, no dear, your bum looks big in that. I don’t like them seeing how I try different outfits on, looking for the right one that will make me seem alluring beyond the dressing room’s walls. I don’t want them knowing how I do it. And so I silently curse the women who bring them along, thinking them weak and utterly lacking in imagination.

Sometimes I notice that the man dragged in by one woman ends up quietly ogling all the other women in the store.  Which is to say they don’t mind having crossed the boundaries at all. But I do. I don’t want to be seen with my stockings off, or my underwear showing, by a man I don’t know.

I enter the dressing room armed with the same attitude I bring to the hair salon or spa: this is my world, defiantly female, no boys allowed —  gay hairdressers/stylists/makeup artists excluded.

If I wanted to pee in front a man I’d do that at home, in front of my husband, which I never do, by the way:

I don’t want him associating me with a toilet.

What’s in a Name?

When I realized I was carrying a girl, I searched for a name she could live up to. I sifted through my memory for illustrious women with names I could borrow for my child, but soon hit a wall. Most of the best-named women through history had something worng with them: Ophelia was a sap who drowned herself in a  river over a guy; Thomas Hardy’s Eustacia Vye a fool; Emma Bovary a screaming narcissist; ditto Cleopatra. 

Boudica, Queen of the Celts, was a strong bird with a clarion cry that once scred the bejezzus out of teh Romans. But I couldn’t imagine my daughter going through school with a name like that. Kids would shorten it to Booty, and I didn’t want that.

I was reading at the time a biography on Isadora Duncan, a great artist, truly pioneering, and that’s when I decided that she’d be my daughter’s namesake.

Isdaora was alaso a narcissist as well as a drunk and a nymphomaniac. She died tragically by stangulation when her scraf caught inthe spokes of a Bugatti, justa s she was shouting A la Gloire! To the Glory! 

But while flawed I saw much in her to admire: she had grit and determination; she inspired every artist of her day; she was a true original. Isadora it would be.

My daughter, now seven, has in her short life already lived up to the first Isadora’s legacy.

She birthed herself in the car on the way to the hospital, pushing herself out into my pants while I was driving in the front seat, a girl already with her own agenda.

She chose as her birthplace the spot directly outside a Toronto theatre where Agatha Christie’s Mouse Trap had played for years, on Bridgeman Ave.

I was consious enough, depsite my panic and screams, to see it as a sign: She would be a woman well schooled inthe art of the dramatic gesture.

When she couldn’t even walk, and would hold onto a side of furniture for balance, I watched with astonishment as she performed what definitely was a series of battements and tendues, techniques of ballet, an art form she had yet to see. I had the funny feeling that her name might indeed be her destinty.

She passed the audition to the National Ballet School of Canada when she was six (her teacher had insisted she try out), but I ultimately didn’t let her go becuase the classes are on weekends and my spitfire likes to ski. And fast.

Last year, she came in first out of hundreds of girls in her age group when she ran for the first time the Toronto District School Board’s city-wide cross country race at Ashbridge’s Bay. She had never trained, and I had no idea she was that good.

I had run track as a child and into my early 20s when injuries hobbled me, completely. It was the first time thinking of my daughter as having inherited anything from me, other than her fiery temper.

This year, she ran first again, and I cried when she whizzed past me, so proud, I couldn’t speak. I could only cry out her name:

“Isadora! Isadora!  You are already so powerful.”