“For the commanding man”: lathering up the male ego

A few days ago I was in the supermarket when I happened upon Old Spice body wash. I’ve seen the commercials so even though I’ve never bought this product I was somewhat prepared for the ridiculousness that is Old Spice marketing.

What kind of guy looks at this packaging and thinks, ‘Oh yeah, that sounds like me! Maybe now that uptight bitch at the office will notice me’?


Of course, it’s all intended to be ironic in the ‘Yes, I know it’s stupid and that’s the point’ hipster vein. But acknowledging that something you’re deliberately doing is stupid doesn’t make it any less stupid (quite the opposite, actually).

If I recall correctly, at some point while I was in university men started to care about what kind of body wash they use. Deodorant was no longer just a way of making sure you didn’t reek. It was a surefire way to turn any woman close enough to smell you into your own personal sex slave. If I had to take a guess I’d say the marketing team at Old Spice wasn’t satisfied that metrosexuals were doing a good enough job of defending masculinity.


The Old Spice family is a diverse one. Whatever your self-image and olfactory orientation, they’ve got you covered.


Are you a big, burly bear? A swift-minded hawk? Or perhaps you’re a howl-at-the-moon type? No? That’s okay. Old Spice has loads of other manhood-validating options.



I would love to set up a hidden camera in this aisle. Some of this stuff doesn’t even make sense. I can understand a forest being fresh, but what exactly does it mean to be fresher than nobility?


“Life success”? UGH.

Now for a painful confession: there is one that I actually liked but I won’t say which one. I don’t want to give these weirdos any credit. Though I will say it’s not Denali – which is either really popular or sucks so much it doesn’t get restocked.


Who knows? Apparently it smells like wilderness, open air, and freedom.

Anyway, whichever variation the Old Spice man chooses, at least he can be sure he won’t feel insecure in the shower. Because the male ego should never endure one second of not being stroked. Even while one is scrubbing one’s nether regions… or maybe that’s when it’s needed most?



When conscious consumerism is bullshit

Blake Lively is pulling a Gwyneth Paltrow. I’m not talking about the so-called conscious uncoupling (although let’s hope that if Blake and Ryan do break up, they’ll call it what it is and spare us all the unbearable pretension). No, I’m talking about a “lifestyle” website newly launched by Lively; one she no doubt hopes will do better than the slumping goop.

Preserve is the newest digital playground designed for those who can afford to ooh and aah over things that are vintage, gourmet, rustic, artisan, repurposed, handcrafted (because ‘handmade’ isn’t authentic enough anymore), or whatever other adjective presumably justifies an exorbitant price tag. The geniuses of Portlandia do a fantastic job of parodying modern fads. Their Put a Bird on It skit reminds me of how it’s not uncommon for people to exploit trends in order to charge more for something than it’s worth.



Preserve is basically a mercantile Pinterest for affluent hipsters. Now, materialism is nothing new. We live in a capitalist system, after all. Marketing and advertizing are everywhere. They’ve colonized our culture and our minds. They follow us around in our daily lives, beaming their subliminal messages from every surface and medium possible; in captchas, on sewers, on people’s foreheads. We can’t even urinate in peace. And that snappy Michael Kors bag perched conspicuously on the lap of the woman opposite you on the subway – how many women do you figure have yearned for the privilege of being a real life mannequin so they too can feel important?

Instead of acknowledging how invasive and insidious all of this is, people frequently applaud its ingenuity. Forget about what we might be able to accomplish if such resourcefulness and creativity weren’t squandered by private interests. Money and cleverness win over ethics, hands down. The cult of consumerism brands those of us who refuse to kneel in the temple of materialism as heretics. No, this is nothing new.

What enrages me more than anything else, though, is the use of philanthropy to justify greed, which Preserve embarrassingly tries to pussyfoot around:

“Doing good” is often looked at with a cynical eye. For good reason. Much of it is a selfish act— it feels good, it sounds good, it can be quite self-congratulatory. While it is personally rewarding, there is an impact to be made when we can step back and acknowledge the truths in the motivation— not only the selfish ones, but the ones bred of a genuine desire to be there for others, others who don’t regularly have the fortunate opportunities that we do each day.

Let us be clear. We are a for-profit business.

We celebrate and indulge in the treasures both high and low that we feature on Preserve. We are aware that a lot of what we are selling is outlandish in a world where people are starving and have nowhere to sleep. This is a real problem. One that even on our high horse we can’t ignore. This is our community. Each of ours.

We have set our first goal of giving 5,000 children a meal, 2,000 children a blanket, and 2,700 children a warm hoodie, all within the U.S.

We’re a small, but growing company. Our giving reflects our age. As we mature so will our contribution both fiscally and physically.

We acknowledge that we are human and are flawed. But please accept, our intention is to do something pure. So we ask you, let this be a conversation. Help us grow. Help us give. Please critique us, teach us and be patient with us in the process, as ultimately we are all in this, this spinning sphere, together.

How douchey and patronizing is this?

Many of us are onto the ways in which businesses exploit our desire to purchase good quality, socially and environmentally sound products, only to justify doing so because they’re not 100% greedy. I’d say I’m reasonably suspicious that they’re tricking us into spending more money while they reap a fatter profit margin. Because really, how much of our money is going toward overhead, especially when it comes to web-based businesses, many of which are featured on Preserve? Consider the $70 High Tide Classic Bow Tie. Or for $132, perhaps you prefer a “hand painted” t-shirt that has been “distressed” and “destroyed” so you can walk around looking like you just fixed your Harley Davidson – without having to smell like it.

Twombly Crew

This accoutrement is the brainchild of The Squad, who design clothing that’s “comfortable for one’s own wandering” and “colored by hues from their travels and washed specifically for comfort and ease; it’s essential knitwear built for the long road ahead.” Is this what people are doing with their English degrees?

In the event that you’re into Native appropriation, they also offer a holey t-shirt with a dreamcatcher on it for $80. Is the cotton even organic? Seriously, in a recession, who has the money for this shit?

Corporations like Starbucks really love to pat themselves on the back. Take the Ethos Water Fund, for example:

So far more than $7.38 million has been granted to help support water, sanitation and hygiene education programs in water-stressed countries.

I have a better idea. How about they pay their fair share of taxes? And how about instead of charging us $2 for water, from which a measly 10¢ is devoted to these unfortunate people, they give a little more and charge us a little less for something we can get out of a tap? If these campaigns are truly a form of social responsibility in action, I’d like to see them do these good deeds without attaching their logo to them. Otherwise, the line that separates philanthropy from self-promotion becomes awfully blurry.

I do what I can. I’m the sort of shopper who keeps health food stores in business; I don’t even use normal toilet bowl cleaner, for Christ’s sake. But I saw a jar of what I’m sure are delicious pickles at my local butcher the other day that cost a cool $14.99. If anyone has any doubt that Toronto’s Roncesvalles Village has been gentrified, wonder no more. That’s the official stamp right there (yup, Portlandia did a parody of the pickling fad too!). My family had a huge garden when I was growing up and we canned pretty much everything that can be canned. Beets, mushrooms, pickles, borscht, tomatoes, sauerkraut – you name it. I can tell you it’s not that expensive to do. Look, I’ll gladly pay more for locally, naturally raised meat any day. I’ve even cut my meat consumption so I can afford it. I get why it costs so much more than the standard grocery store fare. But fucking pickles?

It’s getting hard to find businesses that don’t take advantage of their throwback appeal and ethical bent to squeeze more money out of customers. Why should I have to declare war on myself for wanting to swing by that shop that introduced me to terrine because I feel like I’ve been seduced by Satan himself? I hate who I’ve become!

So I ask you: where do we draw the line? It seems that the cheapest and most authentic way to do things ethically and naturally is to do it your damn self.

The Urban Lumberjack: When trends show us just how lost we are

Sleepwalking through the all-night drugstore
Baptized in fluorescent light
I found religion in the greeting card aisle
Now I know Hallmark was right
And every pop song on the radio
Is suddenly speaking to me
Yeah, art may imitate life
But life imitates TV

Superhero by Ani DiFranco

I’ve written about hipsters before, and this is one subject that I never get tired of griping about. Because it never ends. It just ‘evolves’ into bigger, more stupid trends.


The Darmody: sexy or skeazy?

I know I’m not the only one who has noticed this. There’s a particular haircut that any given man on a busy street corner in downtown Toronto is likely to be sporting. But first, let’s discuss what has happened to the other hipster trends… Nothing. They are STILL wearing skinny jeans and plaid shirts. They still walk around with all manner of foofy scarves, with their pants rolled up to their ankles while wearing grandpa sweaters and loafers with no socks on. They are still creeping us out with their suspicious mustaches and frothy beards everywhere we go. And those glasses. Those fucking glasses.

But some months back, very suddenly, I realized that these dapper gents were also wearing variations of a nouveau-retro quaff referred to as the Undercut, also known as the Darmody. Oh yes, after all this time I have discovered its name. According to my research, we have Boardwalk Empire and complicit barbers to thank for this. This style is being worn absolutely everywhere, to the point where I was starting to wonder if we were having a sort of neo-Nazi invasion (though the fact that the original inspiration predates the Third Reich doesn’t make it any more acceptable). It’s like these guys are all part of an underground club (wouldn’t that be so fitting?) that sends them memos when hideous new throwback-inspired styles can finally just barely be tolerated by the public. Or maybe what’s happening is that random assholes simply decide to play a trick: think of something that looks so pretentious that the posers won’t be able to resist and then watch it catch on like wildfire, just for entertainment. Modern-day social Neros, in other words. There are other theories, of course.

Hipster fads sell cars - poster in downtown Toronto

Attack of the ‘stache: Car share ad targetting (or mocking?) Toronto hipsters

You really have to wonder with some of these gimmicks, and not even because of the escalating silliness of some of the looks, but because of the ubiquity. That’s what really gets me. Why are there so many people trying to stand out by looking the same way? What does it say about our society that in the most sophisticated, cultured places we have masses of people who feel that being ‘cool’ is integral to their identity and happiness?

It’s hard to separate the fakes from the other guys who just seriously dig beards or have always worn those thick black-rimmed glasses. It’s gotta take some courage not to sacrifice your dignity and get a makeover for the sake of disassociating yourself from the fads.

Typical real-life Toronto hipster

Typical real-life Toronto hipster

We live in a time when competition is considered a virtue and image is a commodity. Expressing your individuality isn’t really about being you; it’s about making a point of showing the world what category of person you belong to, as though that actually matters. What’s particularly frustrating about hipsters, though, is that they’re supposedly well-read and socially and environmentally conscious – while managing to be even bigger douchebags than the ignorant types that comprise Ford Nation. Yeah. Ironic.


Another observation is the particular fashion being expressed and what it means about how people want to be regarded. This includes what I term the Urban Lumberjack look – also commonly referred to as the Mountain Man – whereby a man who lives in a concrete jungle wants to look like a rugged, bacon-eating, down-to-earth bloke who can build a perfect lean-to in the middle of the bush and feels most at peace when dangling from a cliff. In truth, however, he turns his nose up at anything that isn’t gourmet or de rigueur, probably hasn’t been on a boat since he was 10 years old and feels that guns are for uncivilized people (but secretly wouldn’t mind firing a few rounds himself).

The insincerity just keeps dipping lower. It’s obviously disgusting for people to think they’re superior to the common man and to be unapologetic about that contention, but it’s worse when people get off on the same pomp precisely by pretending to reject that notion. What will they think of next? I don’t want to know, but I’m sure we’ll find out. They’ll make sure it’s impossible for us not to.


The acceleration of awesome

Yes, I know what these are…

Though I’m taken aback at how much of an old bitty I sound like sometimes, I’m not what anyone would consider old. And yet, I often marvel at the wonders of technology. This only serves as a testament to how quickly technology is advancing – particularly how quickly it has advanced since I was a kid.

Like, how did I go from popping Bee Gees 8-tracks into my dad’s car to downloading whole albums in MP3 format in seconds from… I have no idea where?

Not so floppy.

To put this into perspective, I was in elementary school when the average family was just starting to install PCs in their home. This was mostly for the purpose of word processing and playing games. Remember floppy disks? I actually thought they were cool because – woah! – you could use them to transfer files from one computer to another. Space age kinda stuff, people!

But those slimes look so harmless!

Speaking of games, I actually did play Atari – unlike the posers who didn’t but still want to wear the t-shirt. I loved playing Dragon Warrior on Nintendo. I don’t know how many times my brother beat that game (click here for nostalgic video!) but he sure kicked the Dragonlord’s ass enough times to gain my respect.

At some point during high school, the internet was born and I tried fiddling with HTML, graphics and all that fun stuff to create a stupid web page on the Angelfire network that nobody visited (funny, sometimes I still feel like I’m doing exactly the same thing here). And there was this chat website called Alamak (OMG, it still exists!). My friends and I were excited to be among the first generation of teenagers to communicate with people instantly on the other side of the world and most of us had pseudo-boyfriends in distant places. It was pretty lame, but awesome just the same.

It’s hilarious when you think that people used to believe we might be zooming around in hovercrafts by now, though. We’re still stuck in cars. Our fuel source hasn’t even changed.

Ring, ring!

But still – I remember the rotary phone, which for some undetermined reason came in the ugliest imaginable colours – and how my poor arthritic grandmother would struggle every time she had to make a call. There was no redial, or autodial for that matter. We were stoked when they eventually came with buttons. We didn’t know we’d ever have anything other than a land line. There was a time, believe it or not, when we didn’t have answering machines. If you called your friend and they weren’t home, TFB. Then I got a pager in university, which kind of made me want to pretend I was a doctor. Or a spy – because we memorized a whole bunch of codes so we could communicate when and where to meet with just a series of numbers. I think there were 3 buttons on that thing.

Look ma, no cord!

And then came the cell phone. Cell phones themselves have been catapulted into new spheres of awesomeness. I look at the nifty stuff you can do with smartphones and I think, if this is how far we’ve come, where are we going? It’s crazy! Crazy, I tell you.

And most people don’t even step back to put it all into perspective or appreciate it. In this fantastic clip, comedian Louis C.K. brilliantly explains why we should never stop being amazed by or grateful for technology:

Mostly, this acceleration in technological development excites me. Sometimes it scares me. Like it or not, we’re in for one hell of a ride. There is definitely a considerable generation gap but people seem to be doing pretty well (do we really have a choice?). I’ll admit when I first started using Twitter I was lost. Now I’m in love. Just 10 years ago, I would have never been able to send a message directly to one of my favourite authors or artists and have them respond back to me. And the potential for connecting, synthesizing and organizing globally is incredible – it’s clear that the social and political influence of social media has become very powerful. It seems to me that Twitter is the ultimate litmus test – if you can figure it out, there’s a good chance you won’t be left behind in the dust. Still, the huge majority of people who use technology have no clue how it works or what a lot of common acronyms stand for. For example, although most of our internet experience consists of clicking on URLs, how many of us know what that stands for? Uniform Resource Locator. What does that even mean? And how do shortened URLs work? What’s a meme? I had to look some of this up myself, so clearly I’m lagging behind the kids in the internet literacy department. I do know how to spell, mind you. So we use stuff we don’t understand, but we get mad when it’s not magical enough for us. And we are constantly hobbling along trying to grasp the next cool thing. Maybe we’re not as advanced as we’d like to think we are…

Of all places, I saw this passage from an LSAT which raises an interesting point about what information technology might be doing to us:

It is now a common complaint that the electronic media have corroded the intellectual skills required and fostered by the literary media. But several centuries ago the complaint was that certain intellectual skills, such as the powerful memory and extemporaneous eloquence that were intrinsic to oral culture, were being destroyed by the spread of literacy. So, what awaits us is probably a mere alteration of the human mind rather than its devolution.

Is technology making us smarter? More efficient? More skilled? Less so? Or perhaps just… different? I guess we’ll find out! Fasten your seat belts…

Things adults will never admit (to kids)

I remember being a kid and revering my parents because they conducted themselves with authority (read: scared me into submission), seemed to have their shit together and basically made things happen – like shelter, food, medical appointments, vacations, nursing me back to health when I got sick, combing the knots out of my hair, picking me up from guitar lessons, etc. When you’re young, you don’t marvel at how parents pull all this miraculous stuff off because you don’t yet know how damn difficult it is. Things need doing and they just get done, because your parents do them, and that’s all you know. Cause and effect. Like magic!

Fast forward to adulthood. Wow – things sure look different from here. With experience comes an appreciation of how demanding and sometimes ridiculously demoralizing being an adult actually is. But now as an adult – and of course one who constantly interacts with other adults – one thing I’ve realized is that all those things you’re told or believe about adults lands squarely in the realm of fiction. Just another one of those colloquial myths, those social fabrications you swallow gladly from an early age. Every once in a while I find myself choking on what a clever ruse it truly is. This is a far worse realization than the horror that Santa Claus doesn’t exist – because when you grow up you can buy yourself presents and you don’t have some fat, smug bastard deciding whether you’re good or bad. You’re your own boss. Which is fantastic. But now this means you can’t rely on your folks to do everything for you. With freedom comes responsibility. It turns out that all that effortlessness we think we’re witnessing as kids is basically an illusion. So I thought it would be fun to expose a few of the big myths that we adults desperately cling to:

1. You will figure it out.

Whatever ‘it’ happens to be – what you want to do with your life, how to make money, your political/religious affiliation, your place in the world, etc. This is pure poppycock. The truth is, we will always be figuring it out because everything is temporary and everything changes. Even when we have one thing figured out, something else will come up eventually that will challenge us in ways that reduce us to lost, existentially confused creatures.

2. You will get smarter and wiser.

Here’s another huge thing we have to do for ourselves now: THINK. There are days when we seem to be exposed to so many people who can’t bring themselves to rise to this challenge that it’s a wonder our only reward for not losing our cool is culling the sympathy of our friends. The fact is, I’ve met an awful lot of adults who don’t know how to do anything other than subsist on hope, fear, insecurity, prejudice, etc. If you’ve been walking this earth for half a century with a figurative blindfold over your eyes, I have a hard time respecting you if you think the degree to which your gums have receded is an accurate measure of how much more right you are than me.

3. You will be able to independently and correctly decipher right from wrong.

This is so, so wrong. Or perhaps I should say that we do know deep down what’s right and wrong, but we’ve become so selfish, entitled or have simply gotten very skilled at justifying and rationalizing. The last time I checked, our prisons aren’t full of children. Adults do plenty of questionable and downright atrocious stuff knowing it’s wrong, but somewhere along the way this stops becoming all that important to us. At least to some of us.

4. Life will get better and/or there’s a solution to everything.

Take a look at the economic and environmental disaster that is unfolding before us right now, globally. Either we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing, or some people have a plan and they’re just screwing the rest of us dumb, lazy idiots over. How many people do you know who have faith that we’re not going to blow ourselves up or otherwise commit suicide on a macro level? We clearly can’t agree on how to address issues like unemployment, abortion, gun violence or education. I’m a pretty optimistic person, but any adult who tells a child that they’re not going to dread/hate getting older, spend their money at a rate matching that by which they earn it, and become overwhelmed by relationship problems and the complexity of the universe is setting that child up for epic disappointment.

5. You’re going to love marriage and parenthood!

It does seem that once most parents have children, they’re thrilled to have them in their lives. I’m not sure if it’s heroism or biology, but regardless – thank goodness for that. But this doesn’t mean they don’t occasionally think, ‘What the hell have I gotten myself into? Myself? Wait, there is no me anymore!’. And that whole marriage thing? Like you’re not supposed to bang another human being until one of you dies? And you’re expected to want to stay together no matter what happens? I suspect that a big part of the reason people, especially young people, rush into marriage and parenthood, is because they were never told just how difficult and miserable it can be (or often is, if you’re feeling pessimistically generous). What parent is going to tell you that, if they’re being really honest, they sometimes wish they could live their own lives and no longer be burdened by the obligation to pretend they’re still in love to perpetuate a facsimile of order and comfort?

6. The world makes sense.

It doesn’t. We just like to believe it does. Or maybe it does make sense but we can’t comprehend it. See what I mean? So when we point out the silliness of imaginary friends and make believe to kids, maybe we should turn some of that realism on ourselves. After all, in totality I’d say we’re the ones who are selfish, insolent, stupid, gullible and scared of pretty much everything. Now if they can only forgive us for bringing them into this mess without their consent.

Wanna be true to yourself? Be prepared to go it alone.

I’m in my early 30s and I’m only now learning to ask for what I want. This means saying yes sometimes to situations that I would have avoided in the past. And often times it means saying no, especially to people who are used to me saying yes. They don’t tend to like this. Neither do I, because I don’t like conflict (who does?). But I’d rather deal with that than continue to feel that people aren’t taking me seriously or respecting my rights or needs. We teach people how to treat us. There are some aspects of other people’s behaviour toward us that we can’t control, but we still have a role to play.

Beep beep!

I get teased by family and friends. A lot. I’ve been told that it’s because people like me. I’m an easy target because I have a big problem with clowns, and they pop up EVERYWHERE. They are present in some form almost every single time I’m with one particular friend – and we hang out all the time. Why does this happen? I don’t know. I’ve even tried to face my fear and force myself through It. The reward for that was being even more scared of clowns and having references to the movie frequently peppered into conversations. As well as clown-related paraphernalia posted on my Facebook wall on a regular basis.

Not flattering.

It has also been theorized, by the clown magnet of a friend I just mentioned, that I’m cute and short, like a gnome. Actually, her exact words were: “If somebody looks at you and wants to put a giant gnome hat and apron on you, that’s not conducive to people taking you seriously.” This did not make me feel any better. How often do you see a chick dress up as a sexy gnome for Halloween? But at least I like gnomes. Unlike clowns.

I’m a very easy-going person, so I don’t have rigid boundaries, nor do I insist that others have the same limits and desires as I do. I know the solution to commanding more respect is not to freak out or strike back – unless it would clearly be effective. For example, I have a ‘friend’ who, while sandwiched beside me in a car post pig-out, burped beef brisket into my face. My hair pretty much blew back. Now of course everyone but me thought it was ridiculously hilarious (and you probably do too), but looking back, I totally regret not having punched him in the gut. Because it really does cross the line from teasing to being downright disrespectful – and given other behaviour exhibited by this same person, it takes on a bit of an abusive tone. I love toilet humour and all the rest of it. But this is where I stop feeling cute and likeable and start feeling insulted.

Or I think of disagreements I’ve had with family over religion. Not because I want to impose my views on others – but because I just want to do my own thing and be, you know, me. I am by no means an exclusive victim of dogma. No matter who you are, you know what it’s like to encounter people who will just not accept that you disagree with them. I realize some members of my family think I should be Catholic because that’s what I was raised to be. But I refuse at this point in my life to accept the limitations that people try to place on me because they can’t rationally conceive that some people simply aren’t comfortable following a particular ideology. They don’t see that I’m not asking them not to be Catholic – I just don’t want them to expect me to be. Now, if you try to compromise with such people and attend just enough holiday masses to make people happy, it’s not going to work when you turn around one day and inform them that you don’t want to attend a First Communion, no matter how politely this is communicated. So I decided to set a clear boundary when my presence at such an event was requested expected. That didn’t go over very well but it translated into one of those liberating fuck it moments. It’s not about rebellion. I’m a good person. I have my own theories about the sort of life I should live – which happen to be perfectly consistent with the teachings of Jesus, interestingly enough. Why should I spend the rest of my life making excuses for why I won’t bend over backwards for others just because they can’t accept difference? No thanks! I choose not to be a victim.

This extends to friends that you feel aren’t being flexible or considerate enough, or at least meeting you half-way. Maybe this person means a lot to you and you have a history together. But if you’re having to compromise your needs, then maybe it’s time to accept that the reality of who that person is doesn’t match the perception you’ve formed of them. So it’s not a matter of being right or wrong about someone – it’s about taking responsibility for the assumptions we inevitably make. Standing up to a friend can cause rifts in relationships – even end them – but there is really nothing worth us sacrificing our integrity. And maybe it’s worth going over those sorts of bumps to figure out who’s going to be there for us when things really get bad. Because they will. Life is tough, and we need to make the right investments to make sure we have satisfying relationships that will support us through it.

So lately I’ve been speaking up more about what I want and what I think is fair, and that has come with a price. Rejection, self-doubt, fear, sadness, disappointment, loneliness. This might someday translate into people having more respect for me, but that’s not the point. If asserting myself results in conflict or alienation, I’m okay with that because I know I’m reasonable, and we all have this in common: you’re stuck with you and I’m stuck with me. And when you’re being true to yourself, the idea of going it alone really isn’t all that bad.


Starbucks honey gets funny

Crap!Yes, I am a Starbucks customer. The frequency with which I visit this establishment depends on whether I’ve had breakfast while I’m getting ready for work or how groggy I’m feeling. There’s a location conveniently located where I get off the streetcar near the office. Some weeks, I just know… so I fill up my card (um, I’m not paying extra for soy milk!) and restrict myself to what’s on it. For most Torontonians other ubiquitous choices include Second Cup, which is like the younger brother that can never really catch up and Tim Hortons, with its fake Canadian image and mediocre but more reasonably priced rocket fuel. Or, you know, if you’re really crashing but not necessarily in the nicest of hoods, you can depend on some even shittier coffee chain that no one admits going to, like Coffee Time or Galaxy Donuts.

StarbucksSo… Starbucks. I’m not writing this because it’s become fashionable to bash them to the point of fatigue. Here’s the thing, though. On my last two visits I couldn’t find the honey anywhere. The first time I just sucked it up and used sugar. But this morning I was like, “Huh, they still haven’t replaced it?”. I was promptly informed that they now put out these little packets of honey (and have been doing so in the United States for some time).

My obvious initial reaction was that this is such a waste of packaging! Cute though these packets may be, and very tempting to lift (you always need a couple extra, right?), how many of these little buggers will Starbucks customers go through in a year? I have to say, I much preferred the squeezable bottles of honey they’d previously been using, which while not portable, also drastically reduced the probability of getting honey all over your fingers. And they’re cute too – let’s not discriminate.

Another consideration: the packets require some patience and manual dexterity. Both of these things are good to cultivate, but not good to test when you’re standing there squeezing out tiny dollops of honey while people jostle around you. I mean, I know this is going to play out badly for me some day. We all know how much spilling piping hot coffee sucks – at least I do. I’m the type of idiot who spills coffee on a brand new copy of Sacré Bleu just before lining up for 4 hours to have it signed by Christopher Moore.

Perhaps I can look past the inconvenience knowing that Starbucks buys its honey from Canada (British Columbia, to be exact). Perhaps.

I should also probably disclose a potential bias. I don’t know where it is now, but hidden away somewhere is a photo of my then angelic-looking brother as a baby asleep in a wagon, wearing adult-sized sunglasses while clutching a plush Billy Bee doll half his size.

It did not look like this:

Or like this, for that matter: