Skip to main content

making faces :: the fable of unshrinking violet

one time, in the land of colour and make-believe, a great and generous family hosted a splendid party for the holidays. the party had a giant tree that was tastefully decorated, not one of those godawful ones with the stringy "icicles" hanging off them, because those damn things get everywhere and you find them in your carpet in july and the cats eat them and barf them up exactly when you're trying to sleep and they don't even look like icicles anyway. this was a wonderful, healthy blue spruce and you know what? it was on the lawn, meaning it was still alive so you don't even have to feel sorry for it.

and the house was decorated in a very tasteful scheme of white and gold lights and there were lovely antique-looking decorations, none of which made sounds, because we all know that gets old after the second time you hear it and you can be sure that some "druncle" [you know what of i speak] is going to be getting it to make sound for about an hour straight once he's onto his third sherry and, well, that's actually how meatloaf ended up being invented. 

the benefactors invited their whole extended family, which was quite large. i mean, not mormon standards large, but it was big considering that, in theory, they were episcopalians, even though none of them had actually seen the inside of a church as anything but a tourist in about twenty years and cousin arnie had become one of those sort of irritating university-professor atheists who felt it necessary to bring up the subject of religion in every conversation just so he could tell you how deluded you were and, of course, there was janella, who, at 17 [and probably just rebelling against the fact that she'd been given that name] had run off and joined the digambaras and didn't see the family much anymore. anyway, it was a pretty big family.

one of the cousins, we'll call him george, was nervous about going. on the one hand, he knew that if he didn't, he would hear about it every day until the following christmas. on the other hand, he was 36 and almost perpetually single and he was getting really sick of all his relatives asking him when he was going to come out, because he wasn't gay, but in fact had been in love with his rubenesque adopted second cousin twice-removed matilda since the age of eight and had never gotten up the guts to ask her if she wanted to go on a date, particularly since he only ever saw her at family functions.

so george asked one of his coworkers to set him up on a blind date with a woman who would be a perfect date for a christmas party. his coworker had someone in mind, someone named rose red, which seemed to george like kind of an awful thing to name your kid and he wondered why she hadn't gotten married just so that she could change her name, but he figured that she'd probably be fine to take to a party, since red is such a festive kind of colour after all.

however, when he arrived to pick his date up, george got something he didn't expect.

hello, i'm unshrinking violet. you were expecting my sister, rose red?

a name like "unshrinking violet" was just plain bizarre as far as george was concerned, although it did kind of match the rather striking purpled-magenta colour of her lips, and he he asked if she was related to that 60s model or artist or something with the same last name, which made unshrinking violet look a little dismayed, but she didn't say anything and george couldn't figure out if he'd said something very stupid or very clever.

where does my sister find these people?

anyway, it turned out that rose red had a lot of parties to go to and since she particularly loved the holiday time of year, she tried to go to as many as possible and while she'd intended to honour her date with george, she'd decided last minute to accept an invitation to go caroling in a giant covered sleigh with a bunch of ex-patriot bulgarians. and so she'd asked her sister violet to sub for her with george. as it turned out, violet was a little more of an after-hours club with a secret password and strong cocktails girl than she was a christmas party girl, but she didn't need to be anywhere until a little after 2 a.m., so she figured she might as well give it a try. 

they arrived at the party and george introduced violet to his family and, although she might not have looked exactly like a christmas party date at first, his family seemed to like her pretty well. his great uncle milford kept trying to talk to them, but he'd left home without his teeth, so they weren't really able to make out a word he was saying and then cousin ralph and his wife angelika came over because they couldn't wait to tell george about their new minivan. it was really shocking the amount they had to tell about their minivan. it was like they built the minivan themselves and they could tell a story about every single component, every welding point, every ingredient of the polymers used to construct it. there was just so much to say, apparently, about the minivan. george couldn't help but notice that violet seemed a little underwhelmed. or overwhelmed. maybe a bit of both.

there are engineers at chrysler who don't know this sh*t

grandma bettie was so happy and surprised to see george was there with a date that she ran over screaming "oh georgie! i was always the one who said you weren't gay!" which was bad enough, except that then she and grandpa will and aunt sarah insisted on settling all the gay-rumour bets they'd made over the years and george felt obliged to explain that this was their first date, at which point violet looked a little annoyed matilda came to say hello and overheard and he tried to explain that he wasn't actually trying to date violet, which meant that everyone started trying to hand the money back and figure out which bets were reversed and he had to start insisting that he wasn't gay, which was when his openly gay step-brother charles arrived and gave him the stick-eye to end all stink-eyes. and george felt bad because violet looked very dispirited and he realised that, even by his standards, he was being a very poor non-date.

i would not have guessed this guy would be the "cool" one at the party

by the time they all sat down for dinner, things were getting worse. they got seated next to ernie, who'd always been at these family gatherings, although he wasn't actually a relative and no one could remember who knew him first, or how he'd come to attend their family affairs or how he kept getting invited back. ernie liked to talk a lot about his travels and when he first mentioned that he'd been abroad, violet looked kind of interested, but when he started explaining that his trip had actually involved camping in wal-mart parking lots in nebraska and wyoming, she looked more despondent than ever.

there had better be a lot of rum in the eggnog to get me through this

once dinner was done, everyone kind of seemed at a loss for something to do, although george suspected, given the speed at which they'd been eating and talking, that most of them just needed to come up for air, but after a few minutes, it became obvious that everyone was more or less at a loss for what to say to each other. after all, they'd already shared everything that they could about themselves and they didn't really know what to ask of the others who, after all, they generally only saw once a year.

and while everyone looked from one to another, waiting for anyone to take the lead and start a new conversation, george noticed that that something had caught violet's attention. she was looking at the china hutch, which actually wasn't where the family patriarch and matriarch stored their china at all, but where they stored their prize tequila collection, assembled over more than twenty trips to mexico, one each january for the last thirty-five years, all the finest the country had to offer, although none had ever been opened.

monya, which wasn't the matriarch's real name, but it was what everyone in the family called her because it was usually easier than trying to figure out how they were actually related to her [well, except for her actual children, who called her mom, but no one ever seemed quite sure which ones those were, unless they actually caught them in the act of calling her mom, and several family members had suggested that a couple of the children had taken to calling her "monya" just to fit in]... anyway, monya noticed violet admiring the collection and started to gush about her own love for tequila and how she basically spent every january in a haze enjoying the sun and the ocean in mexico and how the flavour would always remind her of those happy times, to which violet replied:

"so let's all do a few tequila shots."

c'mon, let's make this a real party

george was about to start explaining how the bottles were for show and how they'd never been opened and how they were for display, not for drinking when he heard monya chuckle and answer:

"hell yeah."

and then other family members began rapidly assenting that this was a great idea and a few of the magic bottles were opened and passed around and even evan, the fifteen year old with the thick glasses and acne scars, managed to sneak a shot when no one was looking and everyone had a few and started to laugh and chat and ask each other questions they'd never asked before, although, strangely, no one asked george if he was gay, because the fact is that it wasn't really a big deal to anyoneand they only kept talking about it because they didn't understand why he would feel uncomfortable coming out, considering he wasn't the only gay member of the family, but the fact was that they were more interested in other things.

so everyone was friendly and chatty and happy and monya had the good sense to lock up the caibnet before all her tequila disappeared, because she realised that she should space this out over future family events and she was remarkably good at math, which no one had really noticed before that night, and so she was able to calculate how much she would need to keep on hand in order to ensure that the annual supply meant that there would always be in keeping with the demand over the course of the coming years, so that they'd always be able to rely on a little tipple of tequila to perk things up.

and so ernie, who no one bothered to ask how he'd connected with them because after all this time, he'd become a part of the family gatherings, started playing the family calliope, which had been handed down for generations and as it happened, he was quite good. and aunt ernestine talked about her adventures living in paris between the wars hanging out with exra pound and t.s. eliot. and eventually george and matilda ended up under the mistletoe and matilda planted one on him and told him she'd had a huge crush on him since childhood and from then on they were a couple and no one cared that they sort of seemed related. and afterwards everyone agreed that it was the best christmas party in memory, even though a couple of them went back for more shots a few too many times and couldn't remember it.

so the moral of the story is, even the best-planned christmas parties can be a little emotionally draining, because none of us are really sure how we're supposed to act in front of all our family at once and sometimes, you need a little something different to really make everyone feel at ease. so even though everyone [your humble narrator included] might say that red is the way to go for a holiday party, you could just as easily substitute a bit of a wild violet just to be a bit different. because who knows what could happen from there?

products used

face ::
mac prolongwear foundation "nc15"
lush colour supplement "jackie oates"

eyes ::
mac mineralize e/s duo "family silver"* [frosty silver-white, frosty warm grey]
mac e/s "hocus pocus"* [dirty grey]
mac e/s "nighttrain"* [charcoal grey with dilver glitter]
mac eye kohl "smolder" [black]
benefit they're real mascara

cheeks ::
mac mineralize skinfinish "perfect topping"* [ivory-mauve highlight]
mac blush ombre "vintage grape"* [deep reddish purple]

lips ::
mac l/s "violetta" [bright magenta-purple]

*suggested alternates :: family silver = inglot 447 + chantecaille "sel"; hocus pocus = inglot 444; nighttrain = bobbi brown black sparkle; perfect topping = guerlain meteorites teint beige [a bit warmer]; vintage grape = why substitute? you can pick it up from mac december 26th as part of the daphne guinness collection, where it's making a triumphant reutrn!

happiest holidays ever.


as long as you're here, why not read more?

sh*t no one tells you about being a caregiver

i've been a full-time caregiver for close to six years. that makes it sound like it's a full-time job, which it is and also like it's full-time employment, which it isn't. the difference i'm making between those is how the work is valued by society as a whole: a job is something that needs to be done; a job becomes employment when it's important enough that we're willing to pay someone to do it. as much as canadians take pride in the medical care we provide citizens and permanent residents, our positive results are often built on an institutionalized fudging of numbers that hides who's really doing the work.

when it comes to caring for those with ongoing medical needs, the vast majority of care [roughly 75%] is provided by unpaid workers. 8.1 million people in a country of 37.59 million offer unpaid caregiving services at some point. some of those unpaid caregivers are lucky, in that they can afford the time it takes to look after someone else without …

white trash

yes, my lovelies, i have returned from the dead, at least for the time it takes me to write this post. this is not just another piece of observational drivel about how i haven't been taking care of the blog lately, although i clearly haven't. on that front, though, the principal cause of my absence has actually been due to me trying to get another, somewhat related project, off the ground. unfortunately, that project has met with some frustrating delays which means that anyone who follows this blog [perhaps there are still a few of you who haven't entirely given up] would understandably be left with the impression that i'd simply forsaken more like space to marvel at the complexity of my own belly button lint. [it's possible you had that impression even before i disappeared.]

ok, enough with that. i have a subject i wanted to discuss with you, in the sense that i will want and encourage you to respond with questions, concerns and criticism in the comments or by em…

world wide wednesdays :: euskadi

this is a new thing i'm trying on the blog, based on a fascination i have with various underrepresented, marginalised or misunderstood cultures around the world. i tend to spend a lot of my late night bouts of "i have insomnia and i need something to think about so that i don't shoot myself and anyone who tries to stop me" reading up on these subjects. since this blog has always been a repository for the stuff that clogs up my brain [as well as a place where i can curse at things and channel the discussions with the voices in my head], i figured i might as well share some of what i've learned.

i'm not even going to pretend that these are exhaustive, journalistic or academic in any way. i just think that there's a lot of interesting shit in the world ["interesting shit in the world" being my alternate choice for "world wide wednesdays"] and the more people who post about it, the more people will be spurred to investigate.

so, as a first…