The Purple Fig http://thepurplefig.com Thu, 28 Jul 2016 13:34:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.9 White Privilege Removed http://thepurplefig.com/white-privilege-removed/ http://thepurplefig.com/white-privilege-removed/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 13:32:15 +0000 http://thepurplefig.com/?p=8921 I never thought I’d ever write a piece on White Privilege (with a capital W and P). Mostly, I had never really noticed it nor felt that I was given special privileges simply because (as you have probably already guessed) I am White. It’s true that I tentatively stood behind this whole equality thing but I never felt so disturbed by any lack of equality that I also felt so compelled to speak about it. Then, in a dark cosmic series of events in my own life and the world I left back home I suddenly became incredibly aware of my privilege and now I cannot stop obsessing over it.

I am a White female from a middle-class family. I am educated and I am mostly happy. I left the U.S. a year ago to travel through Central and South America and have found myself getting settled in Ecuador as I embark on the next phase of my very curious life. Only here in Ecuador, where injustices and inequality are still very much thriving, did I finally realize my own privilege.

As soon as I arrived here I had scores of people asking me to work for them. Somehow my native language and fancy degree and fair skin convinced these professionals that I am a qualified candidate. A candidate for what? It didn’t matter. I had strangers approach me to ask if I was interested in working for their X firm or Y school or Z program. It didn’t matter that I was a therapist by trade or that Spanish is only my second language. All of these opportunities sort of fell into my lap upon my arrival and I literally did nothing to deserve it. All that I did was exist in my own skin.
At first, I was elated. Just like every other time in my life I had a lot going for me right out of the gate. As I shared my exciting news with my local friends I slowly heard, one by one, how my friends were still jobless even after earning fancy graduate degrees and being bilingual. As I watched my friends struggle to find work—even as educated and bright as they are—I started to feel uncomfortable in this unwarranted privilege that I had. Still, I couldn’t quite understand it, both my feelings and the advantage. My privilege still exists here in this capacity but in a strange juxtaposition of how the locals view foreigners, I have also lost much of my privilege, as well.

After a couple months in Ecuador and with impossibly improved Spanish skills I have started to understand a lot more of the chaos around me. Men holler at my “White pussy” as I walk down the street (a phrase that I cannot un-hear) and women give me hard, knowing looks. Taxi drivers charge me double the price and vendors on the street avoid eye contact with me when I try to make a purchase. New acquaintances have asked me for money and I have been sexually assaulted—twice.

Before I paint the wrong picture about my new home I must say that this country and its people are warmer and happier than anywhere else I have visited. The picture I do want to paint, though, is that much of this behavior and treatment is directed at me simply because of my skin color.
Gringas, as we are known, are rumored to be easy in bed, rolling in cash, and incredibly weak-willed. The difference between this reputation and me is huge: I am, in fact, none of those things. So when these assumptions are thrust upon me every single day you better believe that they are felt. I haven’t grown angry over it because I am here mostly as a curious observer that is trying to absorb this new culture.

Instead, I sort of look around myself and wonder where all these assumptions have come from and why nobody bothers to ask me if they are indeed true. As I developed my group of friends it became a sort of running joke for us. I became the fancy White girl with loose morals and loads of money thank-you-very-much (only so hilarious because it’s the exact opposite!).
Then, as I grew comfortable with these stereotypes and more confident in the truth all hell seemed to break loose back home in the U.S. The recent killings of Alton Stirling and Philando Castile are not unlike the horror stories about Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Alton and Philando, however, seem to have turned into a tipping point for our country and people are finally crying out that enough-is-enough. It was my tipping point, too, as I found myself huddled on a chair in my kitchen while I watched the videos flood social media. I sobbed when I watched the video of Philando’s girlfriend accosting the system that killed her innocent boyfriend. My body was completely overwhelmed with grief yet my brain was overrun by a misplaced guilt. How had I not noticed any earlier just how absurd all of this is? How had I hidden so safely behind my ethnicity that I felt unmoved to stand behind others?

Now, this is not meant to be a political post. How to deal with these events and how to restructure our entire society is not really something I feel well equipped to do. What I can say, however, is that I have experienced White Privilege my entire life and only when that was taken away was I able to finally (and naively) understand even just a fraction of what inequality tastes like.

Privilege does not mean that things were always handed to me, unwarranted. It’s true that I’ve never struggled to find work but I also work very hard. Privilege, instead, seems to be the ability to get what you deserve without anyone questioning or impeding the process. In my very limited world and very emotionally based views I cannot help but feel crushed that anyone would have to live any other way. I always felt that I had lived such a privileged and safe life because I lived it in the U.S. but it turns out that I lived a privileged and safe life because I am White. I have lived a beautiful and successful life because nobody has ever stopped me from doing so. I can’t help but wonder what the world might be like if everyone had that very same privilege.

I wonder what the world might be like if people from a place of privilege lived a life with that privilege removed, even if for a day. For a country that was founded on the principles of freedom and equality it seems that we have strayed so far away from these principles that we are no better off for them. It’s just such an embarrassing pity to me that only when I purposefully placed myself in the minority was I able to finally feel compassion for others.

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Short Fiction Series: Workspouse http://thepurplefig.com/short-fiction-series-workspouse/ http://thepurplefig.com/short-fiction-series-workspouse/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 11:37:35 +0000 http://thepurplefig.com/?p=8913 Workspouse: A relatable story about the curious, complex nature of relationships we can’t necessarily categorize yet sometimes encounter in our work lives.


 

Jake was a sleaze.

Many colleagues liked to remind Flora of this fact.

Like Claire from Stakeholder Relations, who kept trying to get Flora to agree that while Jake’s brand of scuzziness came off as unconventional, he was basically and distinctly unsavoury.

“Hon, your colleague there wants in your pants and then off to another,” Claire warned one morning over the bathroom sinks.

“It’s not like that.” Flora was firm, trying to dry her hands, fix a mascara flake and get out of there.

Claire scrutinized her own eyelashes and persisted, “It’s the thrill of the chase for him, right? ‘Cause you’re so way out of his league. He can’t work his geek angle with you, like, in a romantic way. But he’s trying. Lord, he’s trying.”

“Claire, honestly, it’s not even a thing,” Flora said, shrugging and leaving, weary of fending these kinds of conversations off.

Because seriously: it had nothing to do with her.

Why couldn’t people get it? Flora and Jake were merely old-buddies-old-pals, travelling the miniscule distance to and from each other’s cubes to laugh till they cried at the Internet. They were practically the same age, and their pop culture memories were bonding. When they worked on projects together, they elevated the status quo with their superior output. And when things got slow, they went to the lunchroom to play overloud, vaguely hysterical games of Pay Day and Sorry! from Jake’s vintage collection.

In team meetings, they stayed fervently united against the maneuvers of Terri, their baffling, combative boss.

“You guys are going to get married,” Hannah the overly familiar intern told Flora after one such coup. “You’re so strong together. He’s the eccentric funny one, and you’re all tall and blonde and beautiful. You’d be a power couple.”

Flora found this inane, but she laughed and said, “Um, no. And, thanks: I’m not funny?”

“But he’ll probably cheat on you,” Hannah continued to prophesize. “Ha! No…just kidding!” But she wasn’t, about any of it.

Flora and Jake worked in Marketing at one of the major nonprofits. Contrary to the unbridled creativity Flora was promised when she took the job, it was an especially watchful, dour office – part of the reason she found Jake so much fun! Thanks to him, her first disappointing three months had galloped by.

If she dwelled on it, sure, Jake was lacking in mature hormones for someone who just turned thirty (she got him a piñata, and they bashed it in the little derelict park right off Yonge Street). But for some reason, she found herself comparing his arrested development about sex and women to a learning disability – unfortunate, but work-aroundable.

“Why are you guys so tight? You gotta watch him,” bossed April from Payroll, trying to have an urgent dialogue with Flora in the hall.

“We’re just work friends.” Flora started walking away.

April wasn’t deterred. “He’s a dog,” she said, following. “He’s weird-looking and weird, but for some reason he can mess with women’s heads. Has Erica ever told you what happened with them?”

“It doesn’t – ”

April interrupted, “The way he stares at me…ugh, he’s a Creepy McCreeperson. Does he know what century this is?”

Flora was impassive.

April said, “And then it’s like…there’s something charming about him…well, you know what I mean.”

Flora said, “Not really.”

“He’s a freak,” April summarized, stopping at the printer. “And he’s too short!” she hissed after Flora.

After another team meeting where Flora and Jake rose up impressively against Terri and couldn’t quite contain their glee afterwards, Leon the veteran strategist commandeered Flora into her workspace, folded his arms and accused in a whisper, “You act like you’re dating. It’s unprofessional.”

“Well we aren’t!” Flora whispered back. She didn’t want Jake to hear in the cubicle beside her, although she was pretty sure he already had his earphones in and was about to watch something hilarious. Eventually he’d call for her and they’d look at it together, and Flora would crumple over, tears rolling down her face.

“He really – works you up,” Leon said, like a disappointed father.  

“He really doesn’t.”

“Don’t spend so much of the day with him. I’m telling you this as a friend.”

“We just joke around!” Flora was flustered now, mostly because she was using a voice reserved for secrets. But she had no secrets about her and Jake! It was above board! She didn’t give a shit what Jake did in his personal life! Everyone here needed to get some hobbies!

“Whatever you say…” Leon backed solemnly out of her cubicle. “If you want to hear about some of the crap he’s pulled …”

Refusing to grab the dangling carrot, she shook her head at Leon in a way she hoped made him feel like a petty prig. But after he left, she suddenly realized with a bit of shame that she and Jake acted somewhat ridiculously – like in-cahoots idiots – a lot.

 

Flora concluded Jake was worth the flak she took.

The marketing copy they collaborated on was fresh and unique, and it was getting Flora noticed. She was already being headhunted by a recruiter, a thrill.

She’d probably stay around a tad longer, though, to build her portfolio. She and Jake were on a roll, brainstorming intently, energetically debating concepts, and showing people up when they beat their deadlines.

Also, Jake was simply interesting to be around: he was unexpected, and snide and earnest all at once. Flora found something about this pleasingly disorienting.

Walking down Yonge Street, he could abruptly switch from a rant about someone or something – like his parents (“the most depressing couple in the world”), or the brutal state of comedy in Hollywood, or people who went to Prince Edward County on the weekends – to chatting up the homeless and parting with a significant amount of his pocket change. Out of earshot, he referred to them as “those in transition” without sarcasm (or very little of it).

In the food court, he gently ribbed the big lady who always ate her two burgers while studying her Vegan Superfoods cookbook.

“Dare to dream, dare to dream,” his routine went, and the lady would twinkle and laugh, “Soon! Soon!”

On Bloor, when they saw miniscule dogs wearing rhinestones or hoodies, Jake would yodel out, “Oooooo!” and prance alongside them, like he was calling the dogs out on being too high-and-mighty. But then he’d stoop down and pet their bony wee heads and say, “Who’s a big sweetheart!” and their glitzy owners would grin.

And when the rain drummed against their sealed-in office windows, he could always produce an old board game from his cubicle shelf, and they’d go to the lunch room and ignore peoples’ exasperation, and Jake would get just insanely competitive, sweaty and glassy-eyed over something as dumb as multiple rounds of Superfection, and it would make Flora laugh and laugh and laugh.

In a banal, stifling work environment, Jake was neither.

He was mostly a clown.

An odd, mean, but strangely tender clown.

Yes, he ogled. How could Flora not have noticed him staring too long and too longingly at lips and breasts, bums and calves?

But he never did it to her.

“It’s taking one hundred per cent of his self control not to give you constant once-overs,” April informed her.

Well fine, then! Flora was proud of his restraint!

Frankly, she was sick of people trying to yank her away from him, like she was a baby and he was a hazardous object.

She wasn’t totally out of it: clearly, there was something cozy about them.

They were close.

But it was just silly.

Or, it was genuine, deep, and totally superficial, if that made any sense.

Flora’s boyfriend Alan grumbled whenever she mentioned Jake during her recounting of her nine-to-five.

Alan said, “I hate that guy, why do you hang out with him?”

“He’s just short and quirky and manic,” Flora reported. “Like, in no way a threat.” And even though she was placating Alan, she remembered Jake laughing at her tampon that surfaced as she rummaged inside her purse, and it needled at her that he could be so infantile.

“How short is he?” Alan pressed.

“He’s just some tool I work with.”

“Yet you choose to spend all day everyday with him,” Alan pointed out.

“How can I help it? He sits three feet away from me.”

“He’s your work husband and you like it.”

“He’s just always there.”

“I bet. He’s straight, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Interesting.”

Alan worked for himself and was above this scenario. Flora had nothing to hide, but she didn’t tell him absolutely everything, like how in the food court she and Jake traded each other three fries for an onion ring, and switched their soups halfway through (but not the spoons). The daily grind was so long and full of moments and events that were, essentially, meaningless.

 

When the days turned warm, Flora and Jake walked to Freddie’s Pizza for lunch once a week, all the way down by St. Lawrence Market.

Freddie’s was both rough around the edges and reassuring. Flora would get comfy at their spot on the patio while Jake went in to flirt with the cadre of lady locals who sat at the bar, day-drinking seniors from the nearby co-op who liked their wine and to argue with the TV news about current events.

“You’re commies, all of you!” Flora could hear Jake telling them every time. The women swatted his skinny arms, enjoying the attention.

Flora also watched Jake slide his gaze up and down their young waitress, who seemed unaware or unbothered, but extremely annoyed to be there in general.

While they shared their pizza and had one beer each, they often played a ludicrous kind of game where, rapid-fire, Jake invented tabloid pasts and lurid futures for their officemates.

For instance, Flora supplied to Jake, “Hannah the intern.”

“Born on a commune that was rife with abuse. It got busted up and all twenty of her parents are in jail.”

“Poor thing.”

“She’s destined to have eight children and a ferret. This downtown Toronto life she thinks she’s living is a sham.”

Flora said, “Um…Leanne the graphic designer.”

“Her dad was killed in a factory explosion in Oshawa when she was a preemie in the hospital. That’s why she’s so small and furious.”

“Ha-ha.” Flora finished one of their pepperoni and jalapeno slices and took a sip of pint. “…Danielle, that temp.”

“Danielle the temp,” Jake said dreamily, sighing and looking up into the sky like he was completely in love with Danielle.

“Hey: obviously I don’t need to remind you that discussing physical items is out of scope.”

Physical items? You’re such a gem. Are you drunk off the first two hauls on your Amsterdam?”

“No! Danielle.”

“Does her long shiny hair count as a physical item?”

“So we’ll move on to someone else?” Flora felt testy. “You’re not evolved enough to handle Danielle?”

“Oh I handled her alright – okay-okay! She’s very winning. But a tragic story: her psychic gifts were negatively affected by her parents’ acrimonious divorce. She’s got no powers now, which is a real bummer.”

“What do you mean?” Flora said, laughing now.

“Like, she could fire-start, and then she couldn’t.”

“I don’t think that counts as psychic. I think that’s paranormal.”

“She could fire-start while telling people their death date.”

“But aren’t negative childhood experiences good for someone’s psychic gifts? Like if you saw a murder or something, your power would grow, I feel.”

“Not in Danielle’s case. And actually she did see a murder, but it didn’t help. It was just a basic strangulation.”

They cheersed.

Jake said, “Nah, she’s just sweet, and needy.”

Maybe the beer had hit Flora after all because she said, unusual for her, “What’s with your tone? You know from experience?”

“Jealous?” Jake’s eyebrow jumped up, making him look like an actor. Apparently he did something called Improv Olympics in Parkdale the last Tuesday of every month. Flora had never gone, but she pictured him being really good at it.

“Claire,” she resumed the game sensibly. The sun was warming her left side, and they had no meetings to go back to immediately, and she was happy.

Jake grabbed the last piece of pizza off the pan. “Old as the hills but she hides it well…sort of – what?”

“More about her inner workings, please.”

A theatrical shudder – “I don’t wanna know her inner workings.”

“Stop! Georgia in Fundraising.”

“She’s kind of sardonic, huh? I like that about her. She was a badass foster kid. She’ll get divorced three times.”

“That’s a lot.”

“Have you noticed she’s a racist? She talks about rap but it’s such a smokescreen.”

“You’re on the ball right now. …Connie, in HR.”

“Product of a one-night stand. But raised by the father. Uncommon, right?”

“Jake, you’re so weird.”

“Hush! She has a tattoo that says Pack Light. Like, give me a break.”

“Is this the game or real life?”

“I don’t kiss and tell…No, please! Connie? I would never, she’s such a hippie! The tat’s real, it’s on her ankle. Hideous. On her physical item. You didn’t see it last summer?”

“I wasn’t there last summer. I don’t look at girls’ legs.”

“Sure you don’t.”

“Settle down. Okay…Erica.”

Jake drank. “Emotional landmine.”

“Because of her what? Orphanage upbringing? Plane crash birth?”

“She’s a whole bunch of red flags stitched together.”

“Hee! Because why?”

Jake didn’t smile. “She’s ill-advised.”

This was not how they played. Flora thought about whatever sordid thing April had intimated about Jake and Erica.

Not that Flora cared.

Flora said, “Because why?”

“Because…Erica:” – Jake’s index fingers and thumbs mimed a rectangular box as though Erica was a brand name inside it – “Ill-advised.”

Jake winked at Flora.

Not a lascivious wink.

Just friends.

Just fun times.

 

After work Jake and Flora diverged, with no exceptions.

Jake walked home to his apartment nearby, his incredible pad, as he perhaps facetiously called it. Often, he cut out early.

Flora stayed late, because she was new and trying to achieve a career. Then she took the subway west.

Jake always stopped by her cube before he left and said, “I gotta go,” in varying funny pained voices, as though if he spent one moment longer with these people, he’d spiral into mental collapse.

And Flora always laughed and said, slightly maternally even though she was a year younger, “Have fun.”

They never texted each other, and no plans were ever made. Flora never asked, and Jake never asked.

But Cody, also from Marketing, had a workaholic husband, and he pled boredom and loneliness and regularly pressured Flora to have a drink.

On a Friday night in June, when the daylight was stretching and stretching, Flora and Cody went to the crowded and tiresome pub a block from the office. Alan was being passive-aggressive about her not coming right to him, and Flora didn’t even really know why she said yes. Cody was okay, but she was always deflecting his questions about her and Jake.

Jesus! There was nothing to say!

Even before they got there, Cody teased, “I’m so happy to steal you away from you-know-who.”

Flora sighed and said, “We don’t…forget it.”

They fought their way inside and drank and talked easily about Terri and how most bosses had personality disorders, but time was passing slowly.

And then Cody leaned suddenly over his third double gin-and-tonic and said, “Seriously, Flo’, what’s with you and Jake? Everybody’s always talking.”

“Oh come on! Nothing!”

“He’s weaselly, but also smoldering? Whatever it is, I get it on some level.”

“Ha, how can someone be both weaselly and smouldering? Impossible,” Flora said, finishing her beer and preferring to go. The air was jammed with worktalk from all the tables, and she saw the sky outside was still bright and beautiful.

Cody was looking at her quizzically.

“You’re a funny one,” he said.

You’re a funny one.”

“No, seriously, you are. Just be careful. He’s toxic. You’re in the honeymoon phase. It won’t last.”

“You’re bugging me,” Flora said stiffly.

“You’ve got the rose-coloured glasses on. I’ve seen it before.”

“Cody, do you really think that’s what’s going on? Jake and me? It’s…come on.”

“Okay but listen: he doesn’t respect you, behind your back. You know what I mean?”

Flora felt hot in the face and upset. “No, I don’t. And don’t tell me.” She needed to wave this conversation away, to go to Alan’s and plan the future, to talk about how wonderful it was going to be when their condo was finally ready.

Cody was on a tear due to his double drinks. “Jake is a creepy narcissist.”

“What do you even mean?”

“It’s bizarre you don’t see it. And he…he says gross stuff about you to some of the men in the office.”

“Who?”

“Just people.”

“Like to you?”

“Not really, but – ”

“Then how do you know?”

“I just do, Flora.”

“What does he say?”

“It’s just stupidness, but like: he wants to slam you, you totally have the hots for him, you’re always all over him, you’re totally falling for him, he’s gonna get some,” Cody tabulated, and then, “Shit, I’m shocking you, I’m sorry. But he’s dragging you down!”

“We do good work together,” Flora said, her mind full of incoherent montages.

“Well duh, he’s trying to impress you! He’s lazy as fuck, usually. He thinks he’s going to be some famous comedian or something…um, good luck there guy.”

“Have you seen him perform?” Flora asked idiotically.

“No! He’s beneath you, ’kay? You gotta stop being his constant companion. Trust me, this is what he does.”

“So, what, he’s some kind of lothario, or something?” Why was she pursuing this? It didn’t matter!

“He’s just so cheesy! He gets fixated on certain women and then things always go south. Talk to Katherine – no, she’s gone. Talk to, what’s her name…” Cody snapped his fingers, thinking. “Julia. Yeah, talk to Julia.”

She didn’t know who Julia was. And she wouldn’t talk to anyone, obviously.

Including Jake. Flora couldn’t believe how lame, and commonplace, and absolutely subpar he was, after all.

 

Oh, she was quick and heartless about cutting him loose.

Bounding into her cubicle that next Monday morning, Jake was met with a distracted stare, and a polite decline regarding watching something priceless he’d found.

“I can’t,” Flora said, digging into her emails.

Jake raised that eyebrow. “Okay,” he said.

Over the next few days, he tried and tried to get her to joke around, to play Operation, to go to Freddie’s for pizza and a pint, but Flora claimed busyness, a headache, and then she started saying she was about to leave for meetings or appointments, although she sat at her desk and it was clear she was lying.

Good.

What a schmuck!

They had no shared projects at the moment, so that made it easier.

In theory.

It was hard.

She missed him.

She was steely, and betrayed.

“What the hell’s wrong lately?” Jake said indignantly on the second Tuesday of the freeze-out.

“Nothing,” Flora said, looking at his eyes darting back and forth at her hair, and mouth, and hands.

And then a couple of days later he was back, asking, “Are you mad at me, chum?” seeming legitimately worried.

Flora said, “No,” and went on working.

And then Jake’s pride or something darker kicked in, and he left her alone.

Flora called the headhunter back, and said yes to an interview for a really strategic promotion, and within two weeks she’d landed it, and another two weeks after that, she was gone.

Jake had started hanging out with Hannah the intern. From Flora’s close proximity, she could hear them cackling at his computer.

She ignored the sage nods she got from people like Cody.

Jake and Hannah skipped her goodbye lunch.

“Goin’ to the think-tank down the road, huh pardner?” was the last thing he said to her, leaning against their partition as she packed up her cube.

“Yep.” Her smile was small and fake, and she focused it in other directions.

 

In December of the next year, after she’d married Alan and they were set to have their baby, a girl, Mae, she got a card from Jake, sent to her office. By now she had real walls, and a door, and a team to lead.

It was a basic holiday card, with a painting of a grove of snowy evergreens and Wishing You Holiday Joy garlanded across the top.

As far as Flora could tell, there was an absence of irony about the image, the sentiment, or the note inside that read,

I should have gone for you. You were the best. We would have been so great together.

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Modern Mothers Aren’t Drinking Anymore Than Generations Before Us So Why Are We Judged Like It? http://thepurplefig.com/modern-mothers-arent-drinking-anymore-than-generations-before-us-so-why-are-we-judged-like-it/ http://thepurplefig.com/modern-mothers-arent-drinking-anymore-than-generations-before-us-so-why-are-we-judged-like-it/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2016 14:33:29 +0000 http://thepurplefig.com/?p=8896 Today, there are many books, memes and blog posts dedicated to this idea that wine (or any other alcoholic beverage for that matter) is mom’s best friend. 

  vWaPRsalcohol-tolerance-wine-children-mom-ecards-someecards

On social media, moms around the world crack jokes about it “being 5 O’clock somewhere,” or “inserting Pinot Grigio IVs,” or “burning calories by running around the house, searching for their wine glass.”

There has been a significant shift in the dialogue surrounding drinking and mothering. But is alcohol dependency really that ubiquitous in modern mommyhood?

After my mother-in-law sent me an article by the Telegraph about the growing number of stressed-out moms in the U.K turning to alcohol to unwind, I couldn’t help but feel self-conscious pouring myself a glass of wine in front of her. There is a real problem with drinking that starts after school. It used to be a cup of tea, now it’s a glass of wine at 3.30pm instead, the article says.

Headlines announce the discovery of an underground culture of wasted mothers drinking Chardonnay from sippy cups just to ease the stress that comes with motherhood.

 M_Id_362371_drinking_problem

Stay-at-home moms are portrayed as overwhelmed, over-worked and haggard, so they turn to wine not to fall apart. Working moms are also seen as being thrust into the pressure of keeping up with their male counterparts on all fronts — including the “drinks after work” culture.

Are We Drinking More Than Our Mothers Did?

Consuming alcohol hit historical peaks for Canadians twenty-five years ago, according to Gerald Thomas, scientist with the Centre for Addiction Research of British Columbia. The rate of consumption took a dip in the 90s and has been on a slight increase ever since.

In 2013, roughly 17 per cent of Canadian women aged 35 to 44 reported heavy drinking* (defined as having four or more drinks, on one occasion, at least once a month in the last year). In this age group, it was down from 20% in 2003.**

Simply put, the rates of problematic drinking for this age group have not changed significantly—yet the conversation about it has.

 

The Reasons Behind The Supposed Increase

Ann Dowsett Johnston grapples with the many complexities of women and drinking in her groundbreaking book, “Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol.” One of the questions that drove her research was whether the pressure of the modern world led women towards the bottle or not. She discovered that because of the societal roles women have assumed in the modern world, Generation X’ers have used alcohol to master so many tasks at one time.

We have careers to be concerned about; we take care of our houses, children, and sometimes, useless partners. But haven’t women always had a lot on their plates?

As well as being multi-taskers, millennial and generation X moms tend to be more open by sharing plentiful details about their habits on social media. The upside to our modern culture of networking is that those who need help don’t have to stay isolated for long.

 

The Difference Between Drinking To Unwind And Dependency

With all the sharing and blogging and quoting, there is something that must be made clear: there is a distinct line between someone who is predisposed to and/or has a dependency issue and one who does not.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse suggests a guideline for women to drink no more than ten drinks a week, and no more than two drinks a day most days. Beyond that, they say, women are at risk of developing alcohol dependence issues, and long-term health problems.

Some of the most popular memoirs based on drinking and motherhood, such as Drunk Mom, written by Jowita Bydlowska, reveal raw and painfully honest accounts of being a mother with alcoholism.

Stephanie Wilder-Taylor, blogger, author and recovering alcoholic, says that she “had no problem finding other mothers who shared my enthusiasm for better parenting through Chardonnay.” This was until, she said, “I caught a glimpse of my puffy face in the bathroom mirror; I was appalled and ashamed,” before she leaned over the toilet bowl to puke again.

Pan to a scene of the majority of those enjoying some wine with friends (or alone doing the dishes) and you will most likely see the ability to cork the bottle when a personal limit is hit.

For us modern mothers that glass of wine may very well be present at play dates, birthday dinners, and Saturday afternoon get-togethers. It has become normalized by way of a cultural shift towards women owning their own choices and being open about it. But the lines between serious issues and moderation shouldn’t get muddled because of survey percentages and feverishly Tweeted personal memoirs.

Alcoholism is a very serious issue and can be a long, slow journey of controlled drinking that slips out of line and ends up ruining one’s life. There are so many components that lead to drinking in an unhealthy way. If alcohol affects your life negatively at all, this is enough to stop and take a look at it. Take this online self-test for alcoholism.

The fact is, roughly 80% of Canadians drink alcohol. That is to say, the majority of us do tip back cocktails from time to time. And yes, there is a definite increase in heavy drinking for young women (aged 18-24) to a point that scares me for our children’s generation (The rate of binge drinking among women aged 18-24 has increased more than seven times than men in the past 10 years.). But I don’t think us mothers (in my age group, 35-44) are any less able to handle the stresses in our lives without dependency than any other generation.

These brave memoirs, documentaries, and articles have generated an incredible amount of awareness about the signs of unhealthy habits and have created a helpful community for those who need it.

However, we need to be careful not to shame women and mothers for their choice to drink within boundaries. We are judged for enough these days—pouring ourselves a glass of red shouldn’t be part of that.

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Trish Bentley Is The Unapologetic Parent on The Huffington Post http://thepurplefig.com/trish-bentley-is-the-unapologetic-parent-on-the-huffington-post/ http://thepurplefig.com/trish-bentley-is-the-unapologetic-parent-on-the-huffington-post/#comments Mon, 30 May 2016 19:16:53 +0000 http://thepurplefig.com/?p=8485 Trish Bentley, editor of The Purple Fig, has started writing a column for The Huffington Post, called Unapologetic Parent. Informative and relatable articles on parenting hot topics, “Unapologetic Parent” will examine the pressures and scrutiny parents often face when making personal choices on how to parent.

 

 

Stop Shaming Moms Who Bottle Feed


 

The Big Business of Baby Sleep Training


 

This Practice Will Help You Keep Your Cool With Your Kids


C-Section Stigma: Things People Have Actually Said To Cesarean Moms

 


Why My Husband And I Chose Not To Circumcise


No, I Am Not Ashamed I Didn’t Put My Kids In French Immersion

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Why I Will Probably Never Look Like Kayla Itsines http://thepurplefig.com/why-i-will-probably-never-look-like-kayla-itsines/ http://thepurplefig.com/why-i-will-probably-never-look-like-kayla-itsines/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 18:11:07 +0000 http://thepurplefig.com/?p=8784 As I scroll through Kayla Itsine’s Instagram feed, I am astonished by the number of women completely transforming their bodies. And I mean, complete and utter conversion. From what I’ve seen with regular Before and After pictures over the years (like the one shown here) the weight has clearly been shed, and the belt is tightened, but the subject has clothes on.

 

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Well, these women posting their progress photos on Kayla Itsines’ Instagram aren’t fully naked, but almost.

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And for a few moments I feel so inspired; my abs tense up, my posture improves and a jolt of motivation runs through my veins.

I am in my 11th week (four pre-training weeks included) of doing the Bikini Body workout, #BBG as it is referred to online, and I have to say, I feel strong. I even feel quite tight in some areas. Although the scale doesn’t reflect a huge change, I can see something in the mirror (Kayla says to never look at the scale anyway). Okay so, that’s great right? Sure, but then I got to thinking, could I ever look like Kayla Itsines or any of those women in her Instagram feed? 

Since having my third baby I have come to the realization that maybe I have to look at my body as a blank canvas without any previous conceptions. With the other two, I worked very hard to get all the weight off (I gain a shit ton in pregnancy) through diet and exercise and by month 10 or 11 I was back to my old self both times. This time, however, things are proving to be a bit more challenging.

Regardless of age or genetics, I had to look at my lifestyle in order to assess whether or not I could attain that ripped bod. And just as I was recalling glasses of wine and how many sausages I had on the weekend, this pops up in my feed from Kayla herself: nodrinkingkaylaIt took my breath away. 

No alcohol. The smoking and the drugs, okay no problem without, but alcohol? My chilled glass of Santa Margarita on a summer afternoon? My Pinot Noir with steak frites on a Saturday night? And what about that steak frites? She doesn’t put anything about food in this post, but you know Itsines isn’t throwing back a rib-eye with her boyfriend (this is what they actually do) and dipping fried potatoes into aioli sauce, right?

So I started thinking, what does she do on a Saturday night? I realize there is a whole plethora of other options beyond drinking wine and eating delicious food, but I guess nowadays for me, that is a pretty amazing evening. I mean, when I look back at even just the last six months, I don’t know where I could have done an elimination diet. What about the dinners with my girlfriends? And the new frying techniques I learned and the mayo based sauces I experimented with? What about the trip to California with my family and cocktail hour at 4 pm with my dad? Christmas turkey? New Years steak and champagne? Saturday afternoon beers and poutine with my husband? Ahhhhhh! Too-much-fun-to-be-had! I’m sure for Kayla, working out and eating healthy IS fun! And yes, for thirty minutes three times a week I tell myself the same thing.

Itsines makes it clear that you must work hard, not only in your workouts but the with the choices you make about what goes into your body. WORK HARD=RESULTS. And it is absolutely true. I tell my kids almost every day (tailored for a 4 and 6 year old), you get what you put in.

But as I gear up for my first weekend getaway since my baby was born, I think, you know what? My abs may not look like this: kaylaabs

 

But man am I going to enjoy dipping some deep fried potatoes into mayo and sipping on a glass of Pinot Noir!

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Happy Mother’s Day To All The Motherless Mothers http://thepurplefig.com/happy-mothers-day-to-all-the-motherless-mothers/ http://thepurplefig.com/happy-mothers-day-to-all-the-motherless-mothers/#comments Sun, 08 May 2016 14:54:29 +0000 http://thepurplefig.com/?p=8804 I became motherless a few days after my sixteenth birthday. My aunt told me that I would never, ever again feel the pain that I had experienced in that summer of 1994. Somehow that became my survival inspiration. I was going to live the rest of my life without that kind of anguish again because, well, I’d just hit my quota of pain earlier in life. Amazing.

Now, over twenty years later I know that there is no set amount of suffering created specifically for one’s life. You can never know when your worst moment becomes one of the better ones compared to what’s ahead.

For me, the bomb that dropped in the form of her passing has continued to lay out debris over the years. Bits of it during heartbreak in my 20s, being lost and restless, my wedding, the births of my three babies and so on.

But as you motherless mothers know, there is something about your own baby being born that clears away some of that debris. You never stop missing your mother, but becoming one takes the sting of ‘less’ out of mother for you now.

I hope my mom, wherever she is, is watching over my sister and I and our 7 kids, and she’s smiling. I wish all of you motherless mothers a very happy mother’s day, because today is the day we can feel a little bit of sadness, but a whole lot of gratitude.

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Our Bodies, Wellness & Aging: A Chat with Chia Chia Sun http://thepurplefig.com/our-bodies-wellness-aging-a-chat-with-chia-chia-sun/ http://thepurplefig.com/our-bodies-wellness-aging-a-chat-with-chia-chia-sun/#comments Sat, 07 May 2016 18:25:06 +0000 http://thepurplefig.com/?p=8814 Chia Chia Sun, Founder & CEO of Damiva Inc., a brand of women’s wellness products aimed at breaking the taboos around talking about menopause, spoke at our What Mama Didn’t Tell Us event in Toronto last November. Recently, we caught up with Chia Chia to learn more about what happens as our bodies age, and the innovative Canadian company she founded.

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PF: I’m going to come right out and ask… How do our bodies change as we age?

 

First, our body fat composition and distribution changes. As we age, fat starts to accumulate around the middle and hips due to depletion of hormones as our ovaries begin to shut down in peri-menopause.damiva2

 

You see, abdominal fat is a great receptor for hormones such as estrogen. As our ovaries age and begin to shut down, the body’s natural response is to build abdominal fat that can store estrogen. The “menopausal midriff” is a common issue for women over 40 (and also for men I might add).

 

 

PF: What about wrinkles? Can we get wrinkles on our intimate parts?

 

Just like we get wrinkles on our face, our mucous membranes (mouth, gut and vagina) are also “drying out” or losing moisture. Yes, our vaginas are aging too. All women will experience vaginal dryness after menopause – some to a greater degree than others – and, just like our wrinkles worsen, so will our vaginal tract.

 

This was the reason we developed Mae; it helps to combat vaginal dryness with an all-natural insertable ovule.

 damiva3

 

PF: We often focus on the physical affects of hormonal changes, but not so much the mental or emotional. How do hormonal changes at 35, 45 and 55 change how we feel?

 

Age 35: Between ages 20 and 35 is generally a very nurturing time for women, except for women who are postpartum. Women who are postpartum typically experience some of the symptoms of menopause, e.g. depression, mood instability and vaginal dryness. This is due to the extreme drop in progesterone (the nurturing hormone), which is built up during pregnancy and then goes back to normal (or below normal) after birth. 

 

Age 45: Women will start to experience changes that they may not have had since adolescence. These include acne, pre-menstrual syndrome, hormonal headaches and psychological symptoms. One in three women, never diagnosed with depression, are at risk for depression between the ages of 40 and 50! The primary reason for the negative mood changes is the loss of progesterone, the nurturing hormone.

 

Age 55: Menopause typically starts at age 50 so by age 55, many women will have experienced the worst of the transition and achieved some equilibrium. The hormone fluxes are not nearly as severe but the new reality is that many women will experience “flatness” due to a constant level of low “female” hormones. It’s kind of ironic because we deal with our monthly hormonal changes for so long, and then we have to deal with not having them!

 

 

PF: Why is it important to use all natural products in and on our vaginas?

 

The use of chemically-laden products can disrupt hormones. For any woman who cares about what she’s using on her body, the use of 100% natural products for vaginal moisture is important. It’s crucial though that women read labels carefully as I see a lot of products labeled as “natural” that have terrible ingredients in them. They might contain a few natural ingredients but these “disguise” the chemical preservatives listed in fine print.

 

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PF: What are you most excited about for the future of Damiva, and what kind of impact will your products have on the lives of women?

 

We are rapidly becoming the company that solves menopausal problems. We have a second product, Cleo by Damiva, a labial moisturizer, which has just launched, and we also have created an incredible content database that we will share with women soon so that they can have vital information at their fingertips. I myself am very privileged that when I am experiencing a certain symptom of menopause, I have all these products and information at my disposal. I want all women to have the same level of support that I do.

 

About Chia Chia

Chia Chia Sun is a pharmaceutical executive turned women’s health entrepreneur. As CEO of Damiva Inc., a women’s health company developing innovative natural products for women 40+, she has dedicated her career to making the last 40 years of a woman’s life happier than the first. Chia Chia has worked as a C-level executive for life sciences companies based in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. In her spare time, she loves to get teased by her teenagers, knit and cook for her partner, and read about taboo-breaking companies. 

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Nobody Chooses To Have A Mental Disorder http://thepurplefig.com/nobody-chooses-to-have-a-mental-disorder/ http://thepurplefig.com/nobody-chooses-to-have-a-mental-disorder/#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 17:20:00 +0000 http://thepurplefig.com/?p=8788 Three months is all it takes to walk from the realm of the living up onto the doorstep of death. Those months become blurred, out of focus. Hard to recall. Three months living on the bare minimum food intake is all it takes to become a skeleton.

Three months is all it takes to ruin everything you have worked towards in your life.

The correct phrase is ‘body dysmorphic disorder’ [noun – a psychological disorder in which a person becomes obsessed with imaginary defects in their appearance].

A person. Psychological disorders should be contained to inside your very own skull. The bones thick enough to keep any of the black substance from leaking out and leaching onto those you care about.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. And I didn’t realize this until it was almost too late.

If you were to ask me what my view on myself is, my answer would be ‘I don’t know.’

I don’t.

I avoid looking in mirrors in fear of finding a reflection staring back that has a quality to it I can pick apart. Every reflection provides my brain with another opportunity to play a trick on me. It keeps images of past, dissatisfied looks, and replaces what I really see with the flawed image. I haven’t been able to feel comfortable in my skin for the longest time.

The stories you hear of mental disorders, never relay the truth of everything. The disorder does not just affect those who are stuck with it in their heads. The disorder is not a choice.

Three months is all it takes to bring a dad who would stand against a bullet for you to be brought to his knees in tears. In the fear of losing yet another baby.

The media advertises it all. Thigh gaps. Jutting Collarbones. Flat stomach.

What about the sallow look of death that hides around your eyes. The inability to walk because you have wandered into a world that is constantly spinning. Not being able to stand up for long because spots dance across your eyes. The dizziness. The fainting.

I just want guys to like me.

But no one wants to like the look of death. The girl in discomfort because she can’t leave her stomach unguarded. The hip bones that jut out so far hitting them on the edge of the counter is enough to bring you to tears.

I have lost three months of my life to anorexia nervosa. I have lost more months of my life than I want to count to a disorder that causes me to see imperfections in places that don’t really exist.

But three months of looking like a model must have felt amazing.

I couldn’t feel anything. The constant claw in my stomach combined with the critical voice that had wrapped itself around my head and whispered in my ear every time my face appeared on a reflective surface is not ‘amazing.’ It is death. It was a disease that was slowing killing me one skipped meal at a time.

But everyone knows that about the disease. We all know it. No food will lead to lack of control, lack of memory. The real damage is done to those around you. Your body will eventually heal itself. The people around you don’t.

I threw away every meal that came before 6:00PM. Control. I hid it in every place you could think of – and every morsel eventually ended up in the trash. My mom knew. Moms have a way of knowing things. The battle that went on in my head as I tried to coax myself to eat an apple is nothing compared to the look of pain I had to see in my mother’s eyes every time I came home. Daily threats of hospitalization glazed over, as I didn’t see anything wrong. I didn’t see anything wrong with plowing headfirst to the floor when getting blood drawn. I didn’t see anything wrong with my vision suddenly clouding over, and waking up on the floor. Her first child died at birth. Watching another one slowly slip away, and become nothing but skin pulled taunt over bones, and spewing automated messages out of her mouth was enough to make her depressed.

I was the one with the disease. I was the one who pushed my mother into depression.

The most important things in my life were slipping through my grasp for 2o pounds. I was losing control because the little weight I tried to lose was inhibiting my ability to function as a human being.

My dad broke down and cried. My brother concerned. He came up to me, hugged me, and whispered to me how he didn’t really want to be an only child.

Friends dragged their zombie-like friend class to class. Concerned, but too proper to say anything. We are raised on lies that skinny is good.

I had the disease. But it was the cocky, sly retorts from others that triggered it. I was the one with the disease, but it was those around me who were the ones who were really suffering.

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Yogurt Breakfast Bowls: An Angel And A Devil Side http://thepurplefig.com/yogurt-breakfast-bowls-an-angel-and-a-devil-side/ http://thepurplefig.com/yogurt-breakfast-bowls-an-angel-and-a-devil-side/#comments Mon, 11 Apr 2016 15:00:36 +0000 http://thepurplefig.com/?p=8675 In our household, there is a lot of talk about junky food and healthy food–without healthy food, there is no junk food. At least, that’s what I try to implement.

When I was a kid we didn’t have pop or chips in the house and “junky” food was reserved for very special occasions. So, every time I went to my friend’s house, where there were always goodies, I’d go straight for her fridge.

Opening that door unleashed a fervor that led me to the pantry, and then to the cupboard where all the cookies and chips lived. I’d known this family since birth so I was very comfortable. My friend couldn’t care less about all the packages of Shark Bites and Smurf cereal, but I was immediately plagued with hunger pangs the moment I caught a whiff.

When I left home and entered the world of working and rent payments, I was able to choose my own groceries and fill my own cupboards. Unfortunately I made a lot of bad decisions to make up for the years of being held captive in the land of chipless wonder.

It wasn’t that I didn’t understand what was unhealthy and what wasn’t—it’s just that making the healthier choice seemed so boring and mundane. The sound of a bag of chips popping and that first hand-full crackling inside the bag was so much more of a rush.

Now, with the good old days of my twenties behind me, my body doesn’t allow me to eat like that anymore. And I don’t want my kids to eat like that either. Because I have assumed the position of grocery purchaser and meal-maker in my own home, I have a choice and often I make the healthy one. There is just the tricky business about how to convey to little ones how they too should make a healthier choice. I do believe that self-restraint and control comes from a deep understanding of moderation. Have some junk, but balance it out with the good stuff.

This is why yogurt is so popular in our house. We consume a lot of yogurt. And I mean, a lot. I cannot keep up with the amount. With a baby and two other growing boys, the demand is high. Every single morning we make smoothies, and yogurt specials and just recently I have created the ultimate yogurt breakfast bowls. These recipes were made with iogo Probio Yogurt, which now comes in a convenient resealable pouch.

In light of moderation and balance, we have one angel bowl, which we have in the mornings before school or before a big sporting event, and one devil bowl, reserved for weekends and holidays.

 

Angel Bowl

Angel Bowl
A delicious breakfast yogurt bowl filled with goodness.
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 Avocado
  2. 1/4 cup IOGO yogurt
  3. 1 banana, frozen or add ice at the end
  4. 1/3 cup almond milk
  5. 1/3 cup strawberries, frozen
  6. Bran buds
Instructions
  1. Add ingredients to blender and blend. In a bowl, layer blended mixture, bran buds, yogurt (repeat if a large bowl).
The Purple Fig http://thepurplefig.com/
angelbowl

 

iogo

 

Devil Bowl
A devilish breakfast bowl that your kids will beg for every weekend!
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Print
Ingredients
  1. 1/3 cup peanut butter
  2. 1/3 cup cream cheese
  3. 1/3 icing sugar
  4. 1/3 IOGO yogurt (I used strawberry/banana flavour)
Instructions
  1. Blend ingredients, layer blended mixture, add a layer of your favourite cereal, add a layer of IOGO yogurt
The Purple Fig http://thepurplefig.com/

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Women’s Rights: The Tangled Mess Of Legislation, Faith And Belief http://thepurplefig.com/womens-rights-the-tangled-mess-of-legislation-faith-and-belief/ http://thepurplefig.com/womens-rights-the-tangled-mess-of-legislation-faith-and-belief/#comments Thu, 07 Apr 2016 18:11:39 +0000 http://thepurplefig.com/?p=8773 Once in while we must all look back and wonder if that offer of a job, of a relationship or a social step-up was one we should have taken.

Opportunity is a strange beast. So much of it is whimsical and based on “what if”, which is why I find the use of this word so hard to comprehend when used in the case of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist from Galway, Ireland.
This case is huge–its implications wide. It asks us questions of equality, right to life and of religious belief versus moral duty.

Ms Halappanavar’s case is so far beyond tragic, it’s almost impossible to understand. In black and white terms a woman died, despite begging for the abortion of a miscarrying foetus which was very quickly killing her. In a hospital. Surrounded by competent and trained staff. In a well resourced facility. In a developed country.

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Stark isn’t it? Ms Halappanavar wasn’t just fighting for her life, she was fighting the whole establishment. She was fighting a system which legislated her death.

Naturally, there were investigations. Ireland’s Health Service Executive published its own report which cited the country’s controversial abortion laws as a contributing factor.

The investigation team is satisfied that concern about the law, whether clear or not, impacted on the exercise of clinical professional judgment.

– the report stated.

I’m not debating the rights or wrongs of abortion law in Ireland. It’s an exhausting, emotional and thankless task. In truth, I’m not even sure there’s enough legislation in the world that could even begin clarifying where the rights of the unborn child end and those of the mother begin.

And still there it is, this troubling case where opportunities to save a life were missed, not once but more than a dozen times, where a medical team, out of fear of the consequences, dragged its feet. Where the law allowed an otherwise healthy young woman to die. Or at the very least removed her chance of fighting the sepsis which had invaded her body.

A year after the case came to light the Irish Parliament passed the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. This act provides the option of abortion for a woman or girl whose life is at risk during pregnancy. And yet the confusion still remains.

It reminded me in many ways of the Church of England debates on gay marriage. Tying itself up in knots over which areas of a homosexual lifestyle were acceptable and which, they believed, were totally incompatible with living a life of faith.

These “grey areas” continue to put patients at risk and frustrate the medical community. It’s not acceptable. How could we expect anyone to work to their best of their ability if the fear of prosecution lurks behind them like a malevolent shadow?

Earlier this year Ms Halappanavar’s family settled out of court with the hospital. And four years after her death, life has moved on. And yet this isn’t going anywhere, this tangled mess of legislation, faith and belief.
I, for one, am not brave enough to suggest any kind of answer but I do believe we are heading in the right direction. We must seize the opportunities to debate how best to protect all life, to bring equality into medical practice and into the lives of the most vulnerable people in our society.

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