Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Guy's Perspective

I believe her.

When a woman says she's been assaulted by a man, I take her word at face value. I take her side.

But in light of the unnamed NDP MP who broke her silence to tell her side of a story that led to Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, suspending two of his MPs, including Montreal MP Massimo Pacetti, who is implicated in sexual misconduct allegations, I feel a great deal of confusion.

Don't get me wrong: I don't doubt her side of the story, nor to I dismiss her feelings over what happened.

According to media interview, woman said that she and Pacetti had attended a sporting event in which they were members and friends. After the event, she says that Pacetti invited her to his hotel room for drinks: she said that she saw nothing unusual in the invitation because, as MPs, they used hotels as apartments as part of the job.

It was in the room where things became serious and the two engaged in sex.

The unnamed woman said that while she didn't say no to Pacetti, she didn't say yes, either.

As a guy, back in my dating years, if I was alone with a woman I liked and tried to make a move, I looked for two signs: either that she wasn't interested, and she backed away—which I read as STOP, or she reciprocated, which I interpreted as permission to continue.

If she said no, all advances stopped. No never means try harder: it means cease and desist.

Guys are stupid when it comes to trying to read women. When no signs are provided, we are incapable of interpreting wants and desires. When I would make an advance toward a woman and she gave no indication that she objected, I would continue. But in any relationship I've ever had, I have never sought an explicit "yes." I have never asked, "Is it okay if I continue?"

Maybe that was wrong to make assumptions, and if that was, I'm sorry. But I like to believe that in the vast majority of any sexual encounter, both parties have a responsibility to communicate, and it doesn't always have to be verbal.

I have heard this unnamed NDP MP tell her side of the story, and I have tried to put myself in Pacetti's position. He invites someone that he likes to his room. He makes advances: she doesn't object, neither verbally nor physically. They have sex.

The unnamed woman doesn't get into details (she doesn't have to) but there are obvious questions that come to mind: did he push her down and pull her clothes off, or did they undress each other, or undress themselves? Did he restrain her or was she free to move as she wanted?

If that's what happened, if he used force to get what he wanted, the full weight of the law should drop on Pacetti.

Maybe I'm naive, maybe I just don't get it. I'd like to understand.

When I was young, I was assaulted. I was overpowered by someone who was much bigger than me, who made it impossible for me to fight back. I squirmed. I said stop. It did no good.

But I was lucky. My mother came looking for me, called out my name, and my assailant let go of me before anything truly bad happened. Yet, the memory has stayed with me to this day.

If Pacetti made advances that were not reciprocated, but rather were met with negative reactions, and he continued, he was in the wrong, and Trudeau was right to suspend him. He should be charged with sexual assault, but that is entirely up to the woman who has anonymously told her story.

If Pacetti made advances and they were reciprocated, if he and the woman had sex and there were no indications that the woman wanted Pacetti to stop, it's very difficult for me, as a guy, to see that Pacetti acted in a manner that was not in good faith. If he wasn't told, verbally or physically, that what he was doing was unacceptable, how could he know? How could he be held in contempt for those actions when he had been given no indicators that the woman wasn't a willing partner?

I can understand if this woman regretted the act afterwards. Who hasn't regretted a one-night stand? But based on what this unnamed woman has reported, I find it hard to look at Pacetti with the same condemning eyes that I had when he was first suspended from the Liberal caucus.

Instead, what I see is a failure to communicate, on both sides. Maybe Pacetti is guilty of not specifically obtaining a yes from the woman. But from what she herself has said, she did not refuse his advances. She reported that she had been sexually assaulted in the past, and that Pacetti's advances left her feeling "paralyzed."

Did she share this terrible past with Pacetti? Doubtful. I haven't shared my story with many before. Why would she share it unless she and Pacetti were close?

So, where does this story go from here? For what it's worth (and that's not much), I suggest the following: now that Pacetti has heard her side of the story, that he knows that she did not explicitly consent, he should apologize to her. In front of Trudeau, who seems to have been dragged into this story and had been put between a rock and a hard place. The apology should be sincere, that the lack of communication led to something that would not have happened had all the facts been apparent. The apology should also come unconditionally, without raising the fact that communication failed on both sides. There should be no blame, no, buts.

And then Trudeau should reinstate Pacetti.

The accusations against Liberal MP Scott Andrews remain. In a perfect world, both sides of that story will come to light.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Autumn Storm

The day's dying light provided the definition, gave the depth to the cruel sky. Long-dead leaves took flight, their path not random or leisurely, but straight, and at great speed, racing away from the coming storm.

The wind, when you turned to face it, took your breath away. Only the most stubborn of leaves still clung to the branches of the soon-to-be dormant trees.

Droplets of rain fell in quick bursts, coming from the side. What would have been a light, gentle shower, was an assault under the influence of a gale.

A sign of what's to come? An impending, turbulent winter?
From Autumn's storm, we look to winter, and hope for calm.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Music Monday: I'm Not Okay

She's such a sweet kid.

She's kind-hearted and caring. She's smart. She's funny.

She likes to dance ballet and jazz. She likes to watch Dr. Who and Sherlock.

And she likes to dress in black with high-topped boots, with studs.

And she likes to listen to really loud rock.

She's my daughter.

At 13, she's developed her own taste in music, one that has diverged from the music that was played in the house through her formative years. I guess it's no different from when I was growing up, when my parents played Neil Diamond, Cat Stevens, and John Denver, and I fell head over heels for Led Zeppelin, The Who, and Yes*.

This weekend, my family and I drove down to Syracuse, NY, to visit a friend and get some shopping in before the Christmas madness sets in. Syracuse is not that far from Ottawa: even in sleet and rain, we made it in three hours. The trip home was even shorter.

During the drive, we listened to music. On the way down, I played songs; on the way home, the kids had the chance to play theirs.

I dreaded listening to my eldest daughter's music. I have heard it wailing from her bedroom and seeping out her headphones.

It's not my cup of tea.

But because I wanted to listen to the lyrics and try to understand what drew my daughter to this music, I had a listen. I asked her to play her favourite song from her favourite band, My Chemical Romance.

It's called I'm Not Okay (I Promise). Have a listen, but I warn you: if you're not quite awake when you start this video, you will be after the song is over—but not necessarily in a good way.

But the video itself is quite amusing.

I listened to several of this band's songs as we approached home. I have to say, some of the songs weren't that bad. Not my cup of tea, not something I would keep on my Android device, but I have had a taste of what gets my girl grooving and I respect it for what it is.

I still think she's a sweet kid. I hope she stays that way.

Happy Monday!

* I still like Neil Diamond and Cat Stevens (though I never really liked John Denver). My daughter still likes the music that we played around the house before she developed her new taste.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Photo Friday: The New Faces of Sparks Street

When Ottawans think of Sparks Street, we think of a pedestrian mall that has undergone many transformations. Of a strip of many stores that have come and gone, where history meets the modern age—bricks and stone meet steel and glass.

Sparks Street isn't really known for its vibrant night life. Once the government offices close and the shop owners and staff leave for the evening, Sparks Street turns into a ghost town. Sure, there's D'Arcy McGee's at Sparks and Elgin, which does well after office hours, but it's along a major street and, being across from the National War Memorial, it is an attractive draw for many tourists and visitors to the downtown core.

But Sparks Street has a new restaurant that promises to draw more visitors to this historic avenue.

Bier Markt has had a soft opening this week, with a few private parties and then a general opening on Wednesday evening. And it shows the promise of success.

Owned by Prime Restaurants, which also owns D'Arcy's, Bier Markt features open spaces, a long bar with 46 taps (that's right: 46 taps with different beers), a stage for live music, a charcuterie bar, and even a back room that offers quieter dining.

I said they had 46 taps. They also have more than 150 beers advertised in their extensive beer list: I may have found a new home.

I visited the restaurant at a private party on Saturday, when the staff were getting their sea legs, so to speak, and again on Wednesday, when they were put to their paces. I didn't want to review the restaurant during these initial days, but rest assured, I will be back and will review the hell out of them.

I have a lot of beers to try.

For Photo Friday, I would like to introduce you to the managerial staff: general manager, Peter, and his assistant managers, Sasha and Adam, and chef, Sunmers. These are the new faces of Sparks Street.

Left to Right: Adam, Sasha, Peter, Sunmers.

Happy Friday!