Festive Customer Complaints

Indulge, Open Letters

I love getting into the spirit of giving, whether it’s giving back to the community, taping a Mariah Carey inspired “All I Want For Christmas …. is youuuuuuuuu” carpool karaoke video (for students to giggle at their teachers playing at late night stunts, or planning and wrapping the beautiful surprises that I hope will light up the faces of my friends and family.


Anthropologie Lamb Ornament

Unfortunately, in our well-connected, cyber world, the ease is sometimes accompanied by glitches. Case in point: one of my go-to stores, Anthropologie, is usually a place I hit up in person, but the selection of baubles online is far better. Due to some site problems, I ended up finding out part of my order would ship separately, which sucks as a Canadian, with border agents charging a tax per package, flat rate. So, I wrote to Anthro:

Hopefully, in the holiday spirit, I get a solution, or at least they consider this problem for others in the future.


What stores have the best customer service that keeps you coming back?

What local shops and artists, or causes, are you supporting?

What stores have policies around this time of year that make you reluctant to shop there?

For the rest of December I’ll be posting festive gift lists, wish lists, holiday fashion and featuring hand-made and one-of-a-king artisans whose products are worth the investment.

Hi there, I’ve been a longtime fan of Anthro. Instead of a wedding registry, we made an Anthropologie wishlist. Needless to say, I’m a fan. I was hoping to spread some cheer by shopping for friends this year at Anthropologie online, and filled my cart. Your shipping to Canada is often fraught with problems, like unpredictable taxes and duties, and shipping costs. I figured I’d bite the bullet and go ahead. This time, however, an item that the site said it was available wasn’t. As a result, part of my order is to ship separately. The problem: Canadian customs bills us $10.00 for EVERY order they process. So, Anthropolgie having an out-of-date stock list is going to cost me $10… twice. The remaining necklace that I want is $38.00 and will end up costing me 25% of the cost of the item just to have it ship on its own. This is such an unfair burden to pass on to the customer since there was no notice from you that the item wasn’t available when I placed my order. What can you do to fix this?

Happy holidays to those who celebrate ambiguously, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy Hannukkah and wishing you a very Stylish, Merry and Bright season ahead!


Anthropologie Penguin Ornaments

Yours Truly,  The Style Sa Vie


No Filter on Hate: An Open Letter to the New Neighbours

Open Letters

We just got new neighbours and sometimes the internet is the perfect place to share/vent. The very “friendly” family is also latently homophobic. The one son knows we are gay. He was surprised at first. He told us he is ‘fine with it’ but let me know that his parents aren’t. Today’s update: they think you are “rotten”. Awesome. Kid, that’s one to keep to yourself. #nofilter


Welcome to the neighbourhood.

I want to ask them: why did you move to Canada if you were not interested in the values of acceptance and diversity; but there’s the rub, the same freedom that entices, attracts and welcomes a family from Iraq, to move into the sleepy suburbs of the GTA (that’s the Six, for you out of towners) is the same value that allows you to harbour those views. Because it is a freedom to believe what you do. But I have lived here my entire life. My family is not indigenous, and this land never belonged to us; recognizing the gift and privilege of living here, I have always been aware of how lucky I am. As a 5th generation Canadian, I am lucky beyond measure, and spend my days as a teacher, teaching English, Dance, Drama, yes… but mostly, teaching new generations of students to be aware of the value and beauty of their differences; teaching students of diverse religions to know me as a human being; to see the dignity in one another; to know that whatever oppression we have each faced, we should see that pain as something we want to remove for others – not perpetuate.

I spend my entire career, going on ten years now, looking into young faces, teaching them to be proud of who they are. I am a 35-year-old, white, able-bodied, English speaking, educated, queer woman. Most of my classes are students who are born outside of Canada, the majority learned another language before English. Never has a student of mine made me feel that I was less deserving of dignity, respect and kindness; of all those kids who I have gotten to know and love over the course of 90 days together in a semester, none who have looked at my face, heard my stories, shared theirs…made me feel that even though our experiences widely vary they couldn’t see me as a human being.


These are just some of the notes and letters my class made me this June. I tear up just thinking about what an impact it has on me to have a job with this kind of opportunity and reward.

Why come from a place ravaged by decades of war, to a continent rife with intolerance towards immigrants, with new pointed policies that marginalize, only to find a friendly, warm set of neighbours and bring hate with you – hate in your heart for an outstretched hand?

I often think about it this way: I don’t find YOUR wife attractive. I don’t want to imagine the intimacies of 99% of the happy couples I see on a day to day basis (or unhappy, but that’s beside the point); but me not wanting to picture the physicality of your relationship, or not understanding how you get through a day with the people you choose to surround yourself with, or even finding a disconnect in the way you believe that God manifests in your life… doesn’t mean that I should deny you that right, or behave in a way that makes you feel unsafe.

If you don’t understand my ‘attraction to women’ or my ‘lifestyle’… that’s fine. You don’t need to. If I asked you imagine, how does YOUR wife find it in her heart to have sex with a man? You don’t have to understand her attraction. If you find it repellent… not a problem… you don’t have to sleep with yourself. It isn’t your right to condone or condemn the love between other people. Just your own.

It’s a reminder of the privilege some have and some don’t: can you be sure your neighbours will be kind and respectful? I often enjoy the bubble of feeling like so much progress has happened that I’m immune to the bullshit.

This is your home. But it is also my home.

And I won’t let your intolerance and ignorance make me change. I don’t want to view strangers as statistics for religious intolerance, small-mindedness, fear-mongering or stereotypes. You are one person, a few people, who unfortunately don’t have enough love in your hearts to be warm and open to the diversity of people who make up your community. I will not change for you.

 I posted about this on Social Media: because sometimes just hearing the echo of your own community helps put things in perspective. I just need to bask in this before venturing out to my car, for the daily dose of pleasant, but fake waves from the man sitting in a lawn chair in front of his garage. How does someone wave you off for your day, while imagining you burning for eternity. There is something fucked up in that.
* That’s awful. People should be thrilled to live next to your awesomeness.
* Come live next door to us!
* This makes me profoundly sad. Not for you guys. You guys are perfect. And glorious. But for those people and those kids who have just missed out on two of the most glorious people on the planet.
I wanna insert some positive bullshit about how you might change his life with your positive modelling but fml ain’t nobody got time for that and frankly it is not your job to change people’s archaic views. So sorry girl.
* Ugh. I’m so sick of this bullshit. Sorry you have to deal with this at your own house.
* Fuck those people. Sorry not feeling so charitable about the ignorant today .
* ^What she said^ 

* How infuriating. I’m so sorry.
* Address of your neighbours please…. and I’ll bring the carton of ❤️❤️
* You two are more than fabulous
* We don’t think you are rotten. We love your compassion and love of English and dance. We are thankful for your dedication to your students, field hockey players, and the under privileged in all walks of life. And thank you for being true to you and your spouce. Xo
* Ugh! I’m so sorry you have to deal with all that BS. Sending much love your way!
*Have a big PRIDE party … and invite them.
*Seriously… F off anyone who thinks they even have the right to think they get to choose if they are fine with it or not.
* That’s incredible that he could feel so familiar to speak such filth and judgement. Imagine what it would be to have his parents to set such a rotten example. He’s going to have a difficult time adjusting. I wonder if he would say anything if it were my husband or I.
*Do not be so tolerant that you tolerate intolerance !!!

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Double Double Trouble

Open Letters

It’s really sad to me that people (grown up people, I assume) fall into the ‘let’s insult the police’ trap, complete with donut cliches, as soon as they read an article they disagree with.

The headline reads: A simple coffee run got this Canadian into some hot water with the police.

Tim Horton drive-thru text nets $287 fine

A.J. Daoust was issued distracted driving ticket during his morning coffee run

For more on the article, read the full version here.

Basically, it proceeds to set him up as the victim. The CBC post is deliberately written to polarize people, offering none of the perspective of the officer. Bottom line: texting or talking on your phone while driving is illegal. If you do it, you’re breaking the law. Period. There are hands free options. A car is an enormous machine capable of killing or injuring people, and damaging property, if you can’t be an adult and resist answering a text… don’t drive. And stop blaming the police for cracking down on something that’s becoming the number one way that pedestrians are killed or injured, and is a leading cause of collisions. Monitor your own behaviour and the police won’t need to.

I expressed these thoughts and was surprised to see a friend, an old pal from grade school, chime in with an angry sounding post about ‘wasted tax-payer dollars/abuse of power/overreaching and general exasperation about the ‘in a drive-thru’ part of the scenario.

An eloquent friend replied to both our posts, writing:

“Alison said it polarized people on the debate. This “news” takes an isolated incident and blacklists all police – so the news reporting is ridiculously anecdotal and prejudicial. I agree – stop sucking in this news and thinking that police shouldn’t ticket people who are on their phones while driving-not the drive-through, but everybody who’s driving and texting. One of the most justified use of taxpayers’ money is to endeavour to stop people using their phones while driving!”

And, as with most open-letter-worthy subject matter, I couldn’t bite my tongue and rounded out my initial impression, after reading a follow-up article. Because anyone with any sense knows there had to be another side to this. And neither can be called ‘fact’ because we can’t possibly know what actually happened.

But as a final thought, consider: Many drive thrus have pedestrian traffic to access the storefront. Many parking lots have high rates of collision. If it’s illegal… it’s illegal. If your car is parked, not moving, go for it and check your phone, or use hands-free. It’s a privilege, not a right. If a police officer enforces a law when they see it, it’s still the law whether or not they are set up in a speed trap, or see someone driving 70 km/hr in a parking lot. Reckless behaviour or illegal behaviour is still illegal even if the person didn’t think THEY were the worst offender. Partly, I guess this is a matter of whether you feel the laws are ‘flexible’… Not to be flippant, but we don’t charge people with sortof breaking and entering, or kinda abusing an animal. As a teacher I definitely see the problems with ‘professional judgement’ as a way to determine if something should be acted upon; but, in my own experience, the way a person responds to my polite, but firm, reminder of how we ought to behave (for example) according to our code of conduct, hugely determines whether it escalates or goes on to include a formal warning/discipline. In the case of the officer, I don’t know what happened, because I wasn’t there. But I do find it very interesting how strongly people adhere to stereotypes and superficial judgements about what/who is right in situations such as these. Scroll through the comments to hear how many peoples’ ‘hatred of police’ is really doing the talking. That, again, is deeply impacted by our own experiences – with class, gender, race, … and donuts.

The World Welcomes Caitlyn with Mixed Reviews of the Reviews

Open Letters

Two, of many great articles, present contrasting perspectives on the world’s introduction (or re-introduction) to Caitlyn Jenner.

Vanity Fair features Caitlyn on their cover, in a shoot with Annie Leibovitz, releasing the first images of this new Trans* icon.


In response to the flurry of praise and adulation, and mostly subdued shock and nose-turning-up, NoWooWoo.com posted a thought-provoking response, asking whether we are missing the point and possibly failing to acknowledge the continued bias in our media to glorify privileged, powerful people`s journeys – while under-reporting the lived experiences of those without the means to glamorously realize themselves and their identities.


First, I think Bronwen (NoWooWoo.com) is a brilliant writer and have shared much of her (your) writing with my students. Big fan. So, please consider this small criticism in that context.

I definitely agree with much of the critique of the media`s coverage in NoWooWoo`s article, especially the irony of Timbaland’s quote.

I agree that class and race, and certainly privilege play into this discussion and the media’s coverage, but to wave away the hugeness of this coverage, even slightly, by saying that her whiteness is a reason it shouldn’t get ‘column inches’ is maybe unfair. Is it? I wonder a little. She didn’t choose her birth gender, or her race. One of these she has been able to fix so that her identity is cohesive.

I’d be more inclined to agree that more column inches shouldn’t be given to any of the Kardashians. But if a white woman is getting press, I’m happy its advancing the visibility of queer/trans* people and the LGBTQ community – even if the person’s race, class and power make them part of a privileged group. She is so much more than class, race and gender categories can fairly capture. So, I’d argue she’s not ‘just’ another beautiful, white woman on the cover of a magazine. She has the means to pursue her transition in a way that many are barred from due to lack of resources, access and communities supporting them. However, Caitlyn has a lot to lose and is going to be subjected to the worst vitriol that the social media world has to offer.

With fingers crossed that the world will be kind, I try to maintain a bit of empathy, mixed with pride at her bravery, and just hope she’ll use the platform to move the bar forward for those with less visibility and voice.