EST. May 2000 (AD)


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A Happy Woman's Guide to Dealing with Unfortunates

By Marni Rebecca Malarkey

As the holidays near, it behooves a Happy Woman to think of those less fortunate. Yesterday, approaching the front door of my apartment building with an armload of liquor and carbs, I noticed a dishevelled, dirty and passed-out-drunk homeless man stretched across the steps leading indoors. I stared down at him as I stepped over his unconscious body (carefully, so as not to harm him) and I wondered, "what can I do about this?"

The answer came to me as I closed my apartment door and shook up a dry vodka martooni. I called the police and made a complaint. They arrived, God bless them, in under fifteen minutes (so much for Toronto's finest being useless) and hauled the drunken bum off to a church basement or a homeless shelter or something like that somewhere. I don't know. As long as he wasn't in my way anymore. It also occurred to me to start up a petition-democracy in action! -- to keep these people both off of the streets and off of my radar! Why, it's barely been 24 hours and I've already got hundreds of signatures. As a Happy Woman struggling with the disadvantaged, you will surely find you are not alone in your concerns.

And that's just step one. For it isn't only the homeless who fill our thoughts as the days grow colder and shorter and we madly make up our Christmas wish lists. How many nights have you been watching television, betting on the Bachelor or Joe Millionaire, when all of a sudden you are confronted with the face of a starving child, living in a third-world slum somewhere? As though the image weren't bad enough, she or he is usually accompanied by a celebrity telling you that said child won't live to be five unless you help. And it isn't only children who live in slums that we're supposed to be worrying about. Ever since Princess Di slapped on her Gap khaki Capris and that silly beekeeper's thing and jetted off to Angola to pose for pictures with amputees, we're all of a sudden supposed to care for victims of landmines. Particularly victims of landmines who are under the age of 4 -- as though it were our fault those kids were born in war-ravaged nations. It's not, okay? So...what to do?

Simple. There are two solutions for a Happy Woman faced with the problem of suffering children on TV. The first? Change the channel. Oh yes, I know. You might see that same ad again on another station. That's where democracy in action comes into play again. Call your member of parliament, your congressman, your premier or governor and demand some kind of control over what appears on our television screens. After all, there are impressionable children out there. If you can't convince your elected representative to ban those depressing ads altogether, you should be able to convince him or her to at least limit them to a certain time of day (preferably in the extremely early morning hours) or to have some sort of advanced warning set up as each new program begins. Something like: "Attention viewers, there will be two ads featuring starving and/or amputated children in developing countries during the following hour. Continue watching at your own risk." Is that asking so much? I don't think so. Remember, you are a voting citizen in a free nation-fight for your rights.

And now...about those battered women. You hear about them all the time. Unlike you, they're stupid. They hook up with guys who beat them up and then they don't leave. Sure, we've all dated our share of commitmentphobic losers, middle-aged pathologically unfaithful liars, hypercritical insecure boys disguised as grown men and sulky, pouty babies disguised as grown men. But have we done anything as cosmically moronic as hook up with a batterer? No. So why should we always be having to read these sob stories and watch these Oprah shows about it? We shouldn't. Why should we have to feel pressure to accept a women's shelter in our neighbourhood? Again, we shouldn't. So cancel your newspaper subscription and stop watching Oprah. If there's one thing the media and the entertainment industry respond to it's ratings. Or circulation, in the case of newspapers. Let them know you don't want the awful truth. And as for that shelter, this is another area where a petition will not only help, but will certainly be easy to fill. Think about it: Who, among your neighbours, wants a bunch of loser women with black eyes and stretch pants trolling their sidewalks? Think what that could do to your property value! Send those women where they belong- elsewhere.

Finally-what about Christmas? Well, it's going to come late for the homeless and the miserable and famished kids and the bruised women...but they can have a merry Christmas, with the help of Happy Women everywhere. After Christmas morning, when you're looking at your take and feeling disappointed, instead of whining, take those gifts you don't like and regift in the direction of the disadvantaged. Imagine how happy a street person would be with a new Cuisinart; how happy a limbless child would be with a pair of rollerblades; how happy a starving child would be with an aromatherapy candle; how happy a battered woman would be with a Chia Pet. Why, they'd all be as happy as Happy Women who have at last stopped ignoring the plight of the unhappy everywhere.


Marni Rebecca Malarkey is also the author of the column The Underwire Chronicles. Join her every week as she navigates the cut-throat, viper-ridden world of Toronto media with the help of her impressive and ever-expanding brassiere collection.