Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Writer's Dilemma: MYOB vs. WTF

It was the dissonance of the scene that really fascinated me.

A butchily-androgynous figure, short and stocky, with hair in an army-short buzz cut.

Jogging up Bay Street.

In a t-shirt and scanty panties.

And when I say scanty, I mean lacy-frilly front - with reasonable coverage, to be sure, but still clearly underwear - and a thong-tacular nothing-to-the-imagination back.

(Of course I looked. I mean, I pride myself on being cosmopolitan and all, but come on. You know you would have too.)

As I said, I pride myself on being cosmpolitan, and while I'm seasoned pretty mildly myself, my circles include some far from vanilla flavours of wild. Any one of those elements, and I wouldn't have given it a second thought.

But the androgyny, and the panties, and the jogging up Bay Street at 9 in the morning?

That was worth a second thought. And a second look.

And honestly, my second thought was "This has to be some kind of put-on." Because the scanties, they just took the whole scene over the top. Hello world, this is my ass.

I figured there was a hidden camera.

And the other side of the cosmopolitan coin is being jaded. Cynical. Blasé. So I muted my reaction. So as, you know, to look cool.

In a way, I regret that. Not that I should have rubbernecked like I was in the stands at the Naked Tennis Classic, but I wish I'd had the not-cosmpolitan, not-cool, not-just-minding-my own-business-no-eye-contact reaction to say, "Hey, if you've got a minute, I'd love to know more about you, and what you're doing. For instance, did you know that you're not wearing pants?"

I didn't do that, because it would have violated the urban code. And that code is important. Minding your own business when other people are doing no harm is vital to getting along in a city the size of Toronto. Two and a half million people can't always be saying, "Hey! Who are you? Explain what you're doing! What's with the panties?

Now if I want to know who androgynous-panty-jogger was, what his or her motivations were, I have to write them. And I'm not alone. Almost all artists who work in narrative forms and media feel this compulsion - to fill in the blanks. To tell the story.

Was there a hidden camera? Was she trying to provoke a reaction? Was he just an exhibitionist? Did she lose a bet? Was he testing us? Testing me? Did I pass or fail?

I wonder if the writing, the narratives, that comes from city-dwellers is in one way or another all about filling in those blanks. About finding stories to fit the characters. About answering the questions we aren't allowed to ask.

I've decided who that was, jogging up a busy downtown sidewalk, underwear-clad and ambiguously gendered. Have you? Tell me a story...

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