Northern Bubble: Growing Up with Canadian Pop Culture

Hockey isn’t my thing. I’ve never had a double-double or an iced cappuccino. Winter is the worst. I’ve never owned a Tragically Hip album. I don’t say “sorry” when I mean to say “excuse me” or “oops.” I roll my eyes anytime someone says they like a celebrity even more because they’re Canadian. You could say that I’m not that great at being “Canadian.”

The thing is, though, my Canadian-ness comes out in full-force when it comes to pop culture.

The other day, Shawn Desman was in the news. Who? That’s exactly what an American asked in a pop culture Facebook group I’m in. Somehow, his Canada Day concert in Wasaga Beach becoming a free event after only selling 17 tickets became national news and had trickled into Americans’ newsfeeds.

I gave a full run-down:

“Shawn Desman is a (barely famous) Canadian pop star. He had a few Canada-only hits in the early-mid 2000s including “Get Ready,” “Shook” and my personal fave, “Red Hair.” 
His name is actually Shawn Fernandes but claims that his friends called him “Des-man,” hence his stage name.
His brother, Danny Fernandes (not Desman) had a (Canada-only) hit in the mid-late 2000s called “Fantasy” which was actually a bop.
Wasaga Beach is basically the Jersey Shore of Canada (although it’s on a lake, not an ocean) and is allegedly a shitshow of party bros all summer long.
And yes, Wasaga Beach was where Sean Cameron from Degrassi deafened the kid in one ear.
And no, Shawn Desman isn’t Shawn Mendes.
His debut single, “Get Ready” refers to Toronto as “the T-Dot,” which was one of the city’s nicknames before Drake coined The 6ix. Which brings us to Degrassi: The Next Generation’s hangout, The Dot."

That, folks, is how my brain works.

Last year, I spent a good portion of the Canada 150 weekend creating a collage of pop culture luminaries who are household names in Canada and not so much elsewhere. Buffy Ste.-Marie, David Suzuki and Sarah Polley are deservedly big names here, but not as recognized for their talents elsewhere. I posted the collage in the aforementioned Facebook group, and we discussed other beloved Canada-only famous Canadians like Rick Mercer, Jonathan Torrens and Don Cherry. Buffalonians chimed in with their love of and exposure to The Tragically Hip and other Americans made references to Robin Sparkles’ “Let’s Go to the Mall.”

Canadian Content regulations had my generation convinced that a lot of middling rock and pop acts were superstars. I grew up loving Candi, Alanis (pre-Morissette, though I enjoy that incarnation as well), Kim Mitchell and Gowan. By the time I hit my teens, I saw through it. I knew MuchMusic played awful bands like The Tea Party, I Mother Earth and Great Big Sea incessantly because they had to. For the next generation, this would be Simple Plan, Hedley and Billy Talent. I mean, good for them for being able to tour mid-size venues in mid-size cities across Canada, but without these rules? It’d be doubtful.

As outdated and problematic as CanCon rules are, I had the good fortune of being exposed to some really cool music from this era like The Pursuit of Happiness, Pure, the Gandharvas’ “First Day of Spring,” “Funkmobile” by Bass is Base and Meryn Cadell’s anthemic spoken-word masterpiece, “The Sweater.”

Growing up in the generation between Degrassi’s first and Next in this Canada-centric bubble, I was entertained as a child by both Mr. Dressup and Mr. Rogers. When we got the news that Kurt Cobain died, it was from Monika Deol and not Kurt Loder. When Party of Five started airing, it took me and my sister a long time to stop referring to Neve Campbell as “Daisy from Catwalk.” Our crushes would vary from Christian Slater to Pat Mastroianni, from Rider Strong to Fabrizio Filippo, from Damon Albarn to David Usher.

Names like Pamela Anderson, Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman, Ivana Santilli, Nelly Furtado and Chris Murphy casually came up in conversation while spending time with family on Canada Day last year. Recently, I had a laugh with a group of people about how Ben Mulroney always pronounced Gabriel Aubry’s name “overly-French” when he was in the news for dating Halle Berry. I’ve Cansplained about how The Hills Aftershow came to be to many an American;  MTV Canada took over TalkTV’s license and they needed talk show content. And in what other country can you make Reitmans jokes about Duchess Meghan Markle? These are uniquely Canadian pop culture conversations that I truly do enjoy!

So, even though I can barely name a hockey player who isn’t Wayne Gretzky and I laugh when someone asks if I watched the Junos, I can still tell you that Paulina Gretzky loves to wear bikinis and the Juno award for Best New Artist used to be called Most Promising Male/Female Vocalist. I worship both Celine Dion’s music and her rebranding as a fashion icon, courtesy of stylist, Law Roach. Gino Vannelli, Grimes, Junior Boys and Queen Carly Rae Jepsen get a lot of play on my stereo. I cheered when Jully Black told Jeanne Beker to take her feelings to the altar. I’m in my 30s and not a parent and I still watch new episodes of Degrassi: Next Class (it’s still very groundbreaking). And Schitt’s Creek is one of the best comedies on TV, Canadian or otherwise!

I’m definitely a bit smug that I’ll never relate to a pandering Tim Horton’s commercial. But that’s not the only way to be Canadian. I’m Canadian in my own way. I’ve found my own identity as a curious consumer of pop culture. Canadian Content regulations may not have made me a huge fan of the art that was pushed, but this niche exposure is something that has helped craft the way I experience entertainment in a very critical way.

P.S. Busy Ramone was way cooler than Busy Philipps could ever dream to be!

Who Wears Short-Shorts? I Wear Short-Shorts!

Yesterday, I put on my favorite pair of shorts – light denim, high-waisted short-shorts with a visible button fly by A.P.C. They’d been too small for me, and for the first time in three years… they fit. I felt so good about myself! Then… I kinda felt bad.

If I’m a body-posi person, why would I care about losing a bit of weight? I’m happy at any size, aren’t I?

I am happy at any size. It just took me awhile to get there.

I grew up a skinny girl. I hit puberty young and had boobs before most girls my age, but they didn’t grow much afterward. I had a “second puberty” in my early 20s; my breasts, thighs and butt grew exponentially and I’ve got the stretch marks (not “tiger stripes,” ugh!) to prove it. My metabolism also slowed down in my 20s. And, when you’re young and you’re hungover – or you have the munchies – your diet won’t be the best!

As my body grew bigger, I grew ashamed of it. I’d got through phases where I tried restricting my calories. I got a gym membership, which, LOL, if anybody knows me. Sometimes I cried. I thought I was fat, but I wasn’t. I was chubby at most. My everyday feelings of shame, low self-esteem, depression and anxiety were heightened.

Something changed along the way, though. I think it has to do with the culture and the body-posi movement being more vocal. Seeing friends and celebrities embrace their curves and cellulite had a positive impact on me and I felt good about myself for the first time in awhile.

I was hesitant to join Instagram for so long because I felt like it’d just make me feel bad about myself. But it didn’t have to! Body-posi IGers like @bodyposipanda and Toronto's @kenziebrenna are on my feed, as well as body-posi song kween, Lizzo. Their candid pics showing their cellulite and rolls empower me. Me and my friend Bev even wore custom crop tops when we saw Lizzo live last month!

And as problematic as she is, seeing Lena Dunham naked and unafraid on Girls was important. Body-shamers would say “Why does she need to be naked, it’s gross.” When Dunham would speak up about not having a “conventionally Hollywood” figure, supposedly body-posi people would say, “OMG shut up, you’re not fat have a real fat person on your show.” The same is said of Amy Schumer, another not skinny, but not plus-size woman in showbiz with problematic tendencies. Part of having these body types is sometimes feeling fatter than you actually are, and that’s something a lot of us can relate to.

Being a person who doesn’t enjoy working out and who enjoys eating whatever I want, I accept the fact that I’ll never be skinny again. I don’t want to be. To quote the great Mindy Lahiri, “I fluctuate between chunky and curvy!” I’m also flabby and out of shape. It’s fine!

I wasn’t always the body-posi person I am today. In my more problematic past, I’d participated in fat-shaming. I know that I’ve hurt people that I love with my past fatphobia and I feel extremely terrible and ashamed about it. I’m a product of growing up around toxic views of body size, and it took far too many years to rid myself of the same views. I’m so glad I have. Not just for my own self-esteem, but for all of the people I love.

I was good with my size when my shorts were too small. I'm good with my size now. I'm not better or worse if I weigh a little more or a little less. I choose to feel good about my body, no matter what.

But, man, I love these shorts! Catch this former Skinny Legend walking around town in my short-shorts, with my pale, cellulite-dimpled thighs touching, confident AF, happy at this size, and every size before. And happy that I didn’t have to spend any extra money buying new shorts!

UnPhairly Maligned: Liz Phair's 2003 Self-Titled Record

Liz Phair’s been on the interview circuit round for today’s release of the 25th anniversary edition of her [insert your own adjective here about how groundbreaking it was] first album, Exile in Guyville.

I was late to Liz Phair. I’d seen few videos on MuchMusic’s The Wedge in my adolescence – “Stratford-On-Guy,” “Supernova,” “Polyester Bride.” I liked the songs but they never really grabbed me. I was more into Tori, PJ, Bjork, and most of all, Courtney.

I don’t know how or why – probably because I knew it was an important record, or maybe a friend played it for me – but I bought the CD at some point in my very early 20s. It was probably better that I’d waited; at this point, I’d experienced casual sex, dating with no sense of direction and actual heartbreak. It was the first record I related to as a twentysomething, no longer a teen, even though I wasn’t even a teenager when it was released.

I bought her next three albums, Whip-Smart, Whitechocolatespaceegg and liked, but didn’t love them. The first album Liz Phair released while I was an active fan was her 2003 self-titled one. It was a slickly-produced fun power-pop album with lyrics celebrating post-divorce relationships.

I liked the record! I was (am!) a fan of both indie and pop. I quietly enjoyed the Spice Girls and Madonna in high school along with more prestigious alt rock, and accepted Britney Spears as my lord and saviour shortly thereafter. To me, it was cool that one of my indie heroes was making new songs with big choruses. I could listen to Exile in Guyville if I was in one mood, and the self-titled for another! Sure, "HWC" was extremely corny, but it was harmless fun! The album wasn't perfect, but it was perfectly enjoyable.

A couple of months before Liz Phair came out, a guy sent me a mixed CD. Not a boyfriend, not a crush, but someone I felt I had a connection with. He was extremely pretentious, but I was just the right age for that. There were tens of long emails and  two days together in May 2002. The CD had stuff on it like Calexico and Jonathan Richman and of course, “If You Wanna Be Happy” by Jimmy Soul. In the middle of this painstakingly precious tracklist was Avril Lavigne’s “I’m With You.” I hadn’t really thought much of Avril, but somehow, it was different hearing the ballad in my headphones. Pretentious Guy seemed so deep to me (ha!) and he said that the song just “resonated” with him. It was my most listened-to song on the long-gone CD. He broke my heart when we reunited in May 2004. But it's still my favorite Avril song.

Avril’s songwriting team, The Matrix, helped co-write some of the songs on Liz Phair. Critics hated it.

Pitchfork gave the album an infamous 0.0 . Earlier this week, Slate’s Amos Barshad wrote a piece about trying to get in contact with Pitchfork’s bad reviewees. He didn’t have a lot of success with getting the artists to talk about how it felt, except for Thurston Moore. The Dismemberment Plan’s Travis Morrison eventually emailed his feelings about his album, Travistan’s 0.0 and included these words about Phair:

“I did not know Liz Phair got a 0.0. I see it was for her “pop” record… I think that record was not her most completely executed. But I do think it was her most visionary gesture. I always admired her for it. Now hipsters listen to Carly Rae Jepsen and no one thinks about it. But Liz Phair was pretty ahead of that curve. And she really got some nasty shit about it. Mostly, of course, from white male “critics.” What a bunch of fucking garbage.”

Morrison isn’t wrong. Besides that, Guyville was Phair's response to the male-dominated 90s Chicago music scene. Pop music is considered a “feminine” interest, therefore, not taken seriously. Lead singles, “Why Can’t I” and “Extraordinary,” are perfect romcom songs of the era, and the former was featured in 13 Going on 30, the latter in Raising Helen. Both flicks are perfectly charming, beloved romcoms of the time. You know what else male critics hate? Romcoms.

It wasn’t just male critics. Meghan O’Rourke’s New York Times review was infamously titled Exile in Avril-ville and reads as an immature indie-elitist takedown of the “pop monster,” erroneously putting Britney Spears in a schoolgirl outfit in the year 2003 (not to mention that Britney’s Matrix-penned song, “Shadow,” would not be released until five months after O’Rourke’s review).

Last month on Twitter, the author, Emily Gould tweeted this, regarding O’Rourke’s sexist and ageist perception of the record:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It stands out that O’Rourke moaned, “underneath this sunny soundscape lies the darkness of life's hard-won lessons. This is a superficial way of jolting us,” when this has been a fixture in every genre of music forever! I mean, The Smiths’ trademark was pairing Morrissey’s morose lyrics with Johnny Marr’s jangly guitar!

I can understand that some women felt a little hurt and betrayed by the self-titled album. But it seems pretty anti-feminist to begrudge a woman for wanting to take a different direction in her career, especially if you consider that woman to be one of your feminist heroes. I mean, you could just say something like, "It's not for me, but good for her!" and focus on music you do like more in vein with Guyville instead of telling a woman she should "act her age" (ugh).

As a woman near Phair’s age in 2003 and Beyoncé’s age in 2018, I’m experiencing my own new beginning, finding my voice as a writer. It feels extremely rewarding. Just as rewarding as Phair recording her self-titled album must have felt. Just as rewarding as Beyoncé headlining Coachella was. Okay, the Beyoncé thing is definitely hyperbole! But still... 38-year-old Tiffany Haddish and 36-year-old Amy Schumer had recent career breakouts in their mid-30s. And 36-year-old Britney Jean Spears? She’s got a world tour this summer and is living her best life, working out with her hot younger boyfriend! I have some great peers in my age group, let me tell ya!

Looking back at my early-20s self in 2003, I found value in both Exile in Guyville and Liz Phair, unlike many of my peers. I guess I was a “poptimist” before that was a thing. I don’t listen to a lot of Liz Phair these days, but I can hear her echoes in Angel Olsen and Lana del Rey, as well as in Demi Lovato and – especiallyHalsey. Whether or not they are directly influenced by Phair, the empowering sexual frankness that defined her first album trickled from indie to pop stars, and there’s more hooks in indie records these days. Liz Phair wasn’t just ahead of the curve; turns out she is the curve.

Straight Out of a Telenovela - How Jane the Virgin Impacted My Writing

Jane the Virgin came into my life when I didn’t know I needed it and left a bigger impact than I ever thought it could.

If you haven’t heard of the show and its premise, here it is – a 23-year-old virgin, saving herself for marriage, is accidentally artificially inseminated. Outlandish, right? Well, there’s a lot of outlandish things on the show – long-lost twins, a woman with a pirate’s patch and hook hand and a lesbian drug lord who wears full-skin masks to impersonate others in her crimes. As the show’s “Latin Lover Narrator” would say, “I know! Straight out of a telenovela, right?”

And that’s what it is – a (mostly) English-language telenovela based off the Venezuelan series, Juana la Virgen. Like most soap operas, it’s full of beautiful people like Gina Rodriguez, Justin Baldoni, Jaime Camil and my favorite, Yael Grobglas. But unlike most soaps, it is equal parts clever satire, subtle woke politics and heartwarming (and heartbreaking) as hell! You’ll be charmed, you’ll yell at the TV and sometimes you’ll cry. Your results may vary, I cry more during an episode of Jane the Virgin than This Is Us!

Nobody I knew was talking about the show, but it was on my radar because the pop culture sites I followed praised it. One day, I found season one on Netflix and I binged it all in time for season two to be added. I’ve been able to keep up weekly this season and last because, like Riverdale, Netflix automatically has next-day episodes available in Canada!

Our main players are presented as caricatures at first. Jane (Rodriguez) is a cheerful do-gooder with Type A tendencies, working as a waitress while dreaming of becoming a published writer. Rafael (Baldoni) is a pretty-boy hotel heir. Petra (Grobglas) is Rafael’s stone cold Czech ex-wife who has stake in the hotel. Jane lives with her sexy singer/dancer mother, Xiomara (Andrea Navedo), who had Jane at 16 (which is why Jane wants to remain a virgin until marriage), and her abuela, Alba (Ivonne Coll), a deeply religious old-world Venezuelan immigrant who responds to English in Spanish. Finally, the main characters are rounded out by Rogelio de la Vega (Camil, with an expert mix of camp and sincerity), Jane’s biological father who comes back into her life. Rogelio is a handsome, vain and temperamental telenovela star who is fond of name-dropping, Twitter and, of course, making the transition to American TV.

With every episode, we delve past the stereotypes and find new layers – we uncover Jane’s stubbornness, Rafael’s past illness, Petra’s vulnerability and the fact that abuela Alba still grieves for her long-deceased husband. These are just a few developments that I can tell you about without giving much away!

I was lured in by the beautiful cast and the dialogue that was funny, but not trying too hard. I didn’t really relate to any of the characters, but I loved them all from the get-go.

Jane, in particular, has had a bigger impact than I could imagine. I’m not exactly type-A, I don’t want to be a mother, and if one of my grandmothers had given me the “crumbled white flower” nonsense about my virginity, I’d have said “Okay” and gone back to making my Barbies scissor.

But in 2016, as I watched Jane Gloriana Villanueva balance her waitress job, a fiancé, a nosy family, grad school and impending motherhood – while still having time to write—I started to remember how writing used to make me feel. Whenever she felt emotional about writing a passage, I got emotional. Whenever she felt exhilarated, so did I. She wasn’t writing “literary” literature – I don’t really, either! There's writing advice peppered throughout the series. Soon enough, I found myself scrawling some new ideas. By the end of the year I’d signed up for my first writing class. So far, I’ve taken four. And because of my rekindled passion for writing, you're here reading this on my website today.

Jane has gone through some ups and downs with her writing throughout the seasons – I even got writer’s block when she did! And as much as I enjoy the sexy exploits of author Noah Solloway on The Affair and the fashion parade of the breezy book-publishing sitcom, Younger, Jane the Writer is a more relatable character. One who actually has struggles, along with wonderful bursts of creativity. As a writer, determined to make a name for myself, this is my reality. I'm happy to have Jane by my side as I do this.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. I found mine in a show on The CW that most people dismiss without giving a chance. I stopped believing in guilty pleasures long ago and, to me – and to The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum! – Jane the Virgin should be considered Peak TV. Give it a chance, why don’t you? I’m glad I did.

I, Talking: The Problems With #BellLetsTalk

 

At the end of January, the day comes. A well-meaning relative reposts from Bell’s Facebook page, with the pledge of a nickel to vague “mental health initiatives.” That acquaintance from your hometown you haven’t spoken to in 15 years decorates their profile picture with a Bell Let’s Talk frame. Platitudes about “ending the stigma” abound. It’s time for Bell’s big moment again!

In past years, Bell’s “Let’s Talk” campaign had billboards, posters and commercials featuring white within-Canada-only “celebrities.” Howie Mandel is still its most recognizable International Star Ambassador. They’d smile as they held smartphones, imploring you to “talk” while you waited for a bus or for the latest episode of The Bachelor to resume.

2018’s campaign finally directs its focus away from its privileged celebrity endorsers. On their site, you can watch a video of a psychiatrist give a quip about kids not knowing doctors can be mentally unwell. A veteran talks about her PTSI, depression and anxiety. There are mentions of coming out of the other side of homelessness and addiction, suicide survival, and more depression and anxiety. A radio ad features a bipolar lawyer.

Where are those who struggle with schizophrenia, eating disorders, psychosis, dissociative identity disorder or personality disorders? Where is the representation for people who are currently homeless or struggling with addiction due to their mental illness? Where is the representation for those of us currently in a manic episode, a dissociative episode or even in the throes of depression? Even though Mandel is a spokesman, there’s no actual discussion about the realities of OCD!

There’s so much emphasis in the recovery and the “good side” of the illnesses, that when Bell talks about “ending the stigma” it, in fact, further stigmatizes the folks who don’t fit into their neatly-packaged version of mental illness.

Bell Let’s Talk is the name of the day. Of course, the multi-million-dollar conglomerate’s name comes before its so-called charitable mission. In contrast, earlier this month, an anonymous donor gave 100M to The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital.

It figures; Bell has a monopoly over half of our choices in phones, cable TV and internet, it’s only natural that they’d want a monopoly in the conversation around mental health in this country.

There’s been lots of criticism aimed at Let’s Talk from former employees, including one with a lawsuit, and from professionals. Maybe you were affected by Bell’s recent data breach – how did that affect your mental health?

I reached out to a few friends who live with mental illness for their thoughts on Let’s Talk, and here’s what they had to say:

Friend 1:

“I'm conflicted. Any encouragement to discuss mental illness more openly is beneficial. However, anything like this pushed by a giant corporation like Bell angers me on principle because I'm not sure the work environment they provide or their overall policies favour mental health and wellness.

Any push like this for talk tends favour more palatable mental health issues like anxiety and depression, leaving out the less appealing things like mania, psychosis, most personality disorders.”

Friend 2:

 “It's a huge marketing ploy and I don't believe for a second that Bell actually cares, espesh considering their track record with employees. It's a tax write-off for them.

Also bullshit is that it gives members of the public a falsely proud feeling of contributing to mental health research while actually doing very little, a great example of slacktivism. For me, it's up there with wearing pink in the name of breast cancer research, another hypocritical corporate marketing initiative.”

Friend 3:

“Bell Let's Talk is the most surface-y, sad, miss-the-point waste of time thing I could imagine to combat stigma!

You ever notice they've got no poor people in their campaigns? The focus seems to be ‘See, even rich people can get this highly stigmatized thing!’ This is not an approach to combating stigma that is supported by the evidence. Neither is the ‘mental illness is a disease like any other’ trope. Those approaches, when studied, do not reduce stigma levels.

The only thing that really works is social contact. Being with people and learning not to be afraid of them, learning a bit more about their lives and what goes on inside their heads. I've also never noticed a person with schizophrenia in one of their campaigns. One of the big sources of stigma is fear of people being violent. No one really grasps the statistic that mentally ill people are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Because it's a statistic, it's a fact, it's not experiential. Until you sit down and get to know someone and sit with your nonsense fear and swallow it, good luck with combating stigma. I guess do your Bell Let's Talk tweet and go back to silence for another year.

Also ‘Let's Talk’ about how crushing poverty exacerbates mental illness! I would like to see them "talk" about how fucking impossible it is to get an employer to accommodate this kind of disability to any extent, or how ODSP is a fucking joke living in a city like this. Let's talk about how when people are stressed and scared and worried about their next meal, the voices in their head get way meaner and tell them to do way worse things!

Until Bell Let's Talk wants to LISTEN to some people who are down and out, who don't get a square meal, who have been rejected and abandoned and ignored for their whole adult lives, who have been beaten up by cops and jail guards more times than they can count, left in solitary when they're sick, attacked by another patient on the psych ward, missed their mom's funeral because they were locked up.... I WILL HAVE ZERO FUCKING INTEREST IN THAT STUPID CAMPAIGN.”

Now that you get the picture about how me and my mad pals feel about Bell’s Very Special Day, let’s talk.

1.      Talk to Us

Your friends, family and colleagues who live with mental illness. Even if we’re seemingly “fine” – ask how we are really doing. If you can tell we are struggling, offer help. Go out of your way to learn about our illnesses and disorders. Read actual books, don’t just skim a few webpages! Be someone we can trust will take us seriously.

Some of us might want to talk about our diagnoses. Some of us might not. Some of us might think we don’t have anything worth talking about. Engage us. We’re usually watching, listening to or reading something.

2.      Be Mindful of Your Words

Not sure how to talk to us? Here’s what not to say. Don’t tell us to exercise. Don’t tell us to use herbal supplements instead of prescribed medication. Don’t ask if we’ve considered eliminating nightshades and gluten. Don’t over-intellectualize. Don’t say “I know what it’s like” or “I’ve been there” and make it about you.

Words mean things. Nobody uses “the r-word” anymore, and that’s fantastic. Take this a step further and eliminate sanist/ableist language from your vocabulary. Instead of calling a party “crazy” or “insane,” call it “wild.” Don’t call inconsistent weather “bipolar,” say the weather is “unpredictable.” If you haven’t been diagnosed with OCD, you’re not “like, sooooo OCD!” because you like to keep things tidy. Think twice.

3.      Engage with Us

Are we going through depression? Everyday tasks can be burdensome to us. Offer to help us do some chores. Try to get us out of the house and to the grocery store and cook a meal with us. A friend once offered to tidy my apartment. I was too embarrassed by the state of the mess (which probably wasn’t really that bad) and said no, but the offer meant a lot to me. It showed their great insight into what might be difficult for me. Ask us for coffee/tea. Just a general catch-up and seeing your face means more than text and gives us an excuse to get out of the house if we’re in a slump. And if we say no, we’re still happy you thought of us.

4.      Listen to Us

Most of all, listen. Listen when we say we’re not okay. Listen when we say we are okay. Read between the lines for signs of depression and/or mania in our social media posts and check in. When we cancel plans at the last minute, hear it as “I’m too anxious” rather than “I’m flaky.”

5.      Don't Post; Do

Finally, don’t share anything #BellLetsTalk in your social media feeds when the time comes. It speaks volumes if you are someone in our lives who does not make any effort to talk to us but lazily re-posts in the performance of “caring.” Your intentions may be good if you share a Bell Let’s Talk ad, but when it comes down to it, it’s an ad. And if you’re sharing something that allegedly promotes “mental health awareness” or “ending the stigma,” take a look at what you’re actually doing to actively engage with the mad folks in your life. If you aren’t, reach out. Not on the day Bell tells you to “talk,” but when you’re thinking of them.