What’s In a Name? Would A Rose Called Monkeyrind Flapjack Not Smell As Sweet?

I met my friend Charity* during my first year of university. She was a shy, but academically driven student whereas I was a loud, party and boys obsessed person who often made it to class. Whether I was in any state to learn upon arriving to there was another thing, sometimes I’d walk in when it was twenty below out in just a t-shirt and short shorts while mouthing “laundry day” at those I passed. Other times I’d run in after the lecturer had started speaking, taking the stairs three at a time while sloshing my beverage everywhere. I almost never had my notes.

Not surprisingly, Charity wasn’t keen to hang out with a hot splashy mess. At first I sat next to my long suffering lab partner Niles*. This unlucky young man and I became friends because his habits of ironing his pants before class and wiping down plastic seats with his cloth handkerchief before sitting, let me know that this was a guy to follow- not only would he for sure have his notes printed off beforehand, he would be able to explain the concepts when I was totally lost. Because who else travels with a cloth handkerchief but the incredibly well organized? While Niles allowed himself one ditzy, flaky friend, the rest of his posse, including Charity, was academia and success bound whereas as I had more royal aspirations, specifically Prince Al’s, the diner frequented by students after the bars closed.

After some time, Charity and I became friends too. Charity quickly revealed herself to be the most responsible person I had ever known, despite being two years younger than me. She used breaks between classes to study, talked about studying more in the evening, was a writer for the science paper while aspiring for the post of the editor and played piano in her spare time. By contrast, if left to my own devices, I would head back to my residence for a nap any chance I got, studied infrequently and my extra-curricular activities consisted of macking on my boyfriend.

Charity regularly shocked me with her ambition and her ability, landing a coveted research grant during our second year. But even after witnessing all of her triumphs, when Charity revealed that she had named not only herself but her younger brother as well, I was shocked. One lives with their first name for a lifetime, bestowing that sort of power upon a child seemed unfathomable to me. I can recall distinctly going through as least four phases where I asked my mother (who refused) to call me something else; Tracy, Krissy, Jasmine, the list goes on. The fact that Charity managed to choose her English name at six years old when her family emigrated from China and stick with the moniker impressed me to no end. When she added the part about her sibling, I was utterly flabbergasted. Had I been given the same power, Diana would be known as Princess Sparklehorn right now, or some other equally ridiculous title.

Conversely, Charity managed to give herself a name she liked and continues to live with. Her brother also still goes by the name Charity picked. As a result, Charity’s offhand comment that she regrets her choice of Unwashed nom de plume, on a Facebook thread about my last post caught me by surprise. To date, she is the only person who has picked their pseudonym on my blog. Four years ago, I was writing a lot of nonsense about naïve people in my life with hearts of gold and giving them stripper names like “Candy” just to be funny. To keep with the theme Charity chose her name here thusly, there was no way for her know that my blog would endure or that my focus would shift from strippers to bunnies.

Anyways, this is a long way of saying that I’m giving my friend the opportunity to change her name here. Because if one must have second thoughts about christening a person, it’s better that it should be in blog form; there’s less paperwork involved in changing it. So far for legal titles which end up on passports and driver’s licenses, my friend is two for two, let’s all wish her luck because in February that number will change to three when she has her little girl.

As for her online presence here at The Great Unwashed, I’m probably going to suggest that my friend shy away from the bunny theme; one never knows when I’ll take up a fascination with armadillos or blenders thus rendering all things Playboy passé.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those who are more intelligent than me and therefore able to carry out devious plans involving salmonella or some other such unpleasant species that they’ve worked with.

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Merry Christmas, Here’s a Dead Baby

When I was ten years old my father quit his job at a chocolate company and started working as a marketing manager for a business which sold tea. This meant two things; our house would no longer be filled to the brim with delightful cocoa related goods- instead my father insisted on stocking our cupboards with old person drinks because what child guzzles Earl Grey? The second thing was that my tenuous grasp on any semblance of popularity from living in a house filled with candy bars was gone.

Life went on and before I knew it, Christmas was upon us. Previous years my sister and I had been packed in our snow suits and shuttled to the chocolate company’s Christmas party. The fete not only featured Santa Claus but the giant allergen that was the company’s mascot as well. Diana and I would take turns standing next to the costumed people for pictures. This would be followed by a draw in which every child was given a gift then we would leave with a loot bag as large as ourselves after being stuffed with candy, brownies and cake. In essence the chocolate company’s Christmas party was every child’s vision of heaven. I used to picture going there after I died.

This year of course there would be no company party, not for the children in my family at least. My mother and father dressed to the nines early in December and left my sister and me at home with a babysitter. The next night my mother presented Diana and I with a box. “It’s from the tea company’s Christmas party, your Dad said we should bring it home to open as a family.”

It wasn’t a garbage bag full of sugar but it was something. Furthermore after initially questioning the wisdom of his career move I had been buoyed up by a phone call my mother had made to me while on a business trip with my father two months previously.

“Guess where I am girls?” she cried ecstatically into the phone. Sitting at home with our grandparents Diana and I had a vague notion that our Mom and Dad were very far away but not exactly sure where.

“Scotland?” we said in unison.

“No! I’m in the bathroom!”

“Um” was our confused and faintly grossed out response.

“The bathroom in the hotel room is as large as our bedroom at home and there is a phone by the tub!” My mother’s excitement was contagious and I began to forgive my father for leaving his lucrative candy coated job.

As Diana and I unwrapped the small package I could tell we were both thinking of the enormous hotel bathroom with a telephone in it. If this new company had provided something as fabulous as that for the employee’s families on business what sort of wonders had they packed into this little box?

It was a dead baby. Or to be more specific; half a dead baby. The lower half of the infant was a ceramic bell while the upper half was dressed in what looked like a nubby, hooded ceramic jacket. Without a doubt, the gift was the creepiest, most homely Christmas ornament I had ever seen. The entire tchotchke was beige coloured except for the eyes which were painted blue, giving it the appearance that someone had dressed the baby crossed bell in a coat then thrown it in a snowbank to freeze to death. “Well, that’s um, nice.” said my mother looking at the ornament skeptically. The baby’s eyes stared back, sinister and unblinking.

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It likes to sing a song at night. It goes like this, “My cold, ghostly eyes are watching you”. (Photo Credit : The Great Unwashed)

Without looking at my sister, I knew what she was thinking “I would have preferred a bag of chocolate.”

My father and I aren’t able to celebrate Christmas together this year, so all of my gifts arrived in a large Purolator box. In addition to the presents, my Dad also decided that I would enjoy this bizarre ornament from my childhood because he knows that there is nothing I love more in the world than a good story. So Merry Christmas my Unwashed public, may each and every one of you receive a dead baby of your own.

Science What? The Secret to Riding on Coattails By Befriending Pageant Moms

Once upon a time, when I thought that a king size KitKat bar constituted a balanced breakfast, I studied science. I wasn’t a very good scientist mind you. But a university decided that I could stuff enough facts in my head to justify admitting me to a science program.

And somehow I stayed in that program. This is mostly due to my close friend Charity* who regularly won sizeable government grants for her contributions to science. She taught me that libraries aren’t just a quiet space to take a nap.

Charity is also the sole reason that I ended up on the Dean’s list all four years running. Sometimes it was her help with specific assignments; she edited more poorly written papers than I think either of us cares to remember. Other times Charity gave me advice, like the time I rehearsed a presentation for her that was worth half my grade or some other such nonsense and she said it was terrible. Only in different words, and much nicer and more subtly, so I spent a harried evening revising it. Charity then Pagaent-Mommed her way through that presentation of mine, sitting directly behind the professor, gesticulating to speed up and smiling broadly as a reminder of what my face should look like. She also took away my cue cards before I presented because Charity’s a hardcore academic like that.

Then there was the time that Charity used her connections to get me better marks; I once handed in a lab with the pages stapled out of order, I was justifiably docked ten percent for my error. I complained to Charity, who had a look at the mediocre assignment in question and then chided the lab tech that had marked my work, who (fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view) worked in the same lab that Charity did and was a friend of hers. My lab marks improved considerably after that interaction, and not due to my own abilities.

After all of that, I graduated university with the identical degree my mother was given twenty years before me- a Bachelor’s of Science with an Honors Specialization in Genetics. Although I clung to the idea that I was science minded for a time, after spending six months working as a performer in the arts and then starting up this blog four years ago, I’ve since given up the ghost. Here are a couple of excerpts about my brief stint in science.

The first one is from Charity herself, who now works a science writer for a premier hospital.

“What [Unwashed] lacked in report writing and technical expertise, [she] made up for with oodles and oodles of unbridled curiosity and enthusiasm.”

So in essence I was a cheerleader being all “GOOOOOOOOOOOO SCIENCE! Microarrays! Whoo! Whoo!” And the shortness of my skirts and pom poms distracted from my complete inability to do lab work.

My personal favourite quote is from another friend who had the misfortune of being my first year physics lab partner. Despite being two years younger than me, he seemed far more mature. There’s something about having freshly ironed pants which will give a knowing air to any undergrad. He is now the brains behind a scientific research team in California. Sometime after we had graduated, I approached my friend and apologized profusely for never being prepared for our physics labs or doing anything in said labs while he worked frantically. To which he chortled good-naturedly and replied

“Oh Unwashed, you brought the entertainment.”

Well, I can lay claim to something. And at the very least I’m not this woman. I may not practice science but I don’t go around touting bad science that hospitalizes babies and children.

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Her lack of clothing and uniform lends her a certain credibility no? (Photo Credit : Pintrest.com)

Thus, when I met Tex two and a half years ago, I introduced myself as an artist. Along with describing the activities I enjoy most in my life, this title has the added benefit of excusing much bizarre behaviour. Understandably, a passionate lover of engineering, my husband on occasion forgets that I have a working knowledge of science and will explain basic concepts to me such as osmosis. Given how I act and what I create in our life together, I try to take this in stride. However the other week, my Mom, who has the same degree as me, whose thesis supervisor was one of my lecturers, a fact that we would discuss on occasion, explained basic cell biology to me.

You know you’re truly a failed scientist when your own mother forgets that you understand more than chi, modern art and interpretative dance.

*Names have been changed to protect those who are the reason for me to succeeding in higher education.

 

Drinking Alone and Public Sex Acts: Otherwise Known As That Time I Accidentally Made A Cameo In A Porno

Two summers ago, I spent July and the beginning of August in a remote Quebecois town as a part of an immersive french program. My evenings consisted of either drinking by myself in bed and when that got old, drinking on the beach. Also alone. What can I say? I’m very classy.

As much fun as both of these activities are, after a time, polishing off an Archie comic in French and a bottle of wine while surrounded by pillows or sand started to lose its luster. And even though I still was enjoying the attraction of drinking tumblers of alcohol in the pink evening light, I found myself wanting a change of scenery.

Which was how I ended up in the forest, nearing twilight, wine tumbler in hand, Angry Birds backpack by my side, (Did I mention how classy I am?) reading the French version of my favourite Wimpy Kid book. An avid hiker, I frequented the forest often, mostly during the mornings before class and in the afternoons after class had finished for the day. This was the first time I had visited in the evening. In all my previous outings, I had had the forest to myself. Sitting on the bench, sipping my rapidly warming white wine, I overheard voices; it would seem I was sharing my treed paradise with a couple.

Expecting them to emerge from one of the many paths that led to the bench in the clearing where I was sitting, I tucked my bottle of wine into my backpack to save myself from having to share or it being confiscated. “Nothing to see here officer in my Angry Birds backpack, that is, unless you want to gaze upon my fabulous collection of Pokémon cards.”

Some minutes passed, no one emerged from the brush and I assumed that the couple had moved on. That was when I heard the first cry, “OOOOOoooooooo”. It was a girl’s voice letting out a moan of pleasure. I shifted on the hard wooden bench. Though accustomed to having the woods to myself, I was happy to share it with a couple in need.

At the beginning of the five week rural French immersion program, the organizer had called all of the students together and laid down the law; no sex in your host family’s house and that includes their garden, no sex in the back alleys, and sex on the beach is only acceptable in a hi-ball glass form. Thus for horny students without deep pockets to pay for hotels, the Canadian version of the famous drink was the only option; sex on a pinecone. Happily it had rained the day before, so any needles lying about should have been mushy and reasonably painless to remove from backsides. Deciding that I could read through the occasional cry and that nothing could take away from the hilarity of Wimpy Kid, I stayed put.

Then the moans became more persistent, and the male half of the party decided to voice his pleasure loudly as well. Admittedly, I was beginning to feel like I was sitting near the set of a low budget porno but it was nothing that a couple sips of wine and increased focus on the tough French syntax couldn’t cure.

Then it started, the rhythmic, unmistakable “slap slap” sound of a scrotum smacking against butt cheeks. This was a little too personal and X-rated for any amount of wine and even the hilarity of adolescence in cartoon form couldn’t distract me from the couple’s amorous activities. Forget being on the set of a porno, I was rapidly becoming an awkward extra. The cries became shouts as I frantically packed up my wine bottle, mostly finished tumbler of booze and book, then I fled the forest.

Having learned my lesson, the next night, I returned to the beach, a tumbler full of wine in hand, to watch the sunset and delight in French comic books. Although I still hiked during the day, in order to ensure that my presence was merely a cameo, rather than a repeat performance, I left the forest for the lovers at night.

That Time My Gran Terrified An Olympian

My Gran can be pretty scary when she wants to be. Of course she’ll hide behind that fascade of pie making, dress-fitting, grandmotherly goodness but underneath, my Gran is as tough as nails. And when she wants to, she’ll remind you of this fact.

Once at Thanksgiving, she commented that I was looking slim. I brushed the compliment off saying “Oh it’s just because I haven’t put on my winter fat yet”. My Gran looked at me sternly and said with a thin lipped voice “You’re not going to do that again this year”. That winter, and only that winter, I didn’t put on weight; each time I met a donut I liked, I thought of my Gran’s expression and left it on the plate.

I wasn’t the first person she scared, nor I imagine, will I be the last but once upon a time, when the strap was still an approved method for teaching, my grandmother terrified the bejesus out of an Olympian.

It was a Canadian winter in the 1960s, which is to say that the drifts were up to your nipples and it was still snowing. This was a particularly bad night for weather, but in spite of that, the twin boys’ parents had gone out, leaving them at home with a babysitter- my mother.

My mother can be as flustered as my Gran is fearsome. And on this howling blizzard of a night, these two boys were taking advantage of that, running wild around the house, whooping, hollering, causing all sorts of mischief. Finally, my mother couldn’t take it anymore, she called my Gran, “Mom please come help, they won’t listen.”

As frightening as my Gran can be, she is always there for her family, so on went her sweater, her coat, her hat, her mitts, her boots, all this just to cross the street. Once she arrived, my Gran was at a loss, along with being an accomplished seamstress and cook, my grandmother keeps her home spotless. Not wanting to drag snow into her neighbour’s house and create puddles, my Gran opened the front door which my mother had left unlocked and jumped out of her boots into the house.

Seeing this tall, angry woman who had just walked across the street barefoot when it was thirty degrees below zero Celsius, the  boys stopped in their tracks. “Both of you, go to bed” my Gran said sharply. Supposedly they never misbehaved again out of fear that the woman who doesn’t need shoes in the snow would return.

My grandmother never laid claim to inspiring the one twin to shape up his act and begin rowing his way to the Olympics but she’s a humble woman. I’m just glad she never told me to do such a thing, otherwise I might have found myself backspringing my way across sweaty gym mats rather than in front of a computer telling my stories.