A Coalition of the Decent

God Protect You © Hilary Masemann 2017

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

I am writing to you to voice my grave concern about how the government is to deal with the administration of Donald Trump. While I understand that it is important for Canada to engage in profitable trading relationships, I do not believe that the foundations of Canadian identity and society should be sacrificed on the altar of commerce.

I know that I am not alone as a Canadian in believing in an open, equal and kind society where everyone has the same rights under the law, where those in trouble are welcome, those who are ill must be healed and those who are poor must be helped. Making this vision a reality is the Canadian project. Everything that President Trump has said or done in his campaign and brief stint in office so far has revealed that he has no respect for any of these pillars of Canadian society and indeed of decent humanity.

I urge you and other members of cabinet to ensure that Canada becomes an active member of a worldwide coalition of the decent. I’m quite sure that Donald Trump would not enjoy a series of conversations with the leaders of such a coalition telling him that his every word and deed is abhorrent. It is your job to tell him that. It is your job to call out this bully.

Yes, our trading relationship with the Americans has historically been important and it would be delightful to continue the same sort of relationship. That, however, is not the reality that we are living in now that the American government is being led by a misogynist, racist, homophobic fascist who does not understand the importance of the fourth estate or of opposition in a modern democracy. It is just possible that we must might have to wrench ourselves away from our economic interdependence with the United States of America. Agreements like CETA are a good way forward, as is increasing reproductive health funding for women worldwide along with the Netherlands and others.

For the sake of Canada and the sake of the world and the sake of your own political survival you must distance yourself from this monster.

Last weekend my parents and my sister were at a party welcoming a new family of Syrian refugees to Canada. As so many other Canadians have done, they formed a committee with others, raised money and now are friends to a new and lovely family settling in with help from Canadians. I am attaching a photo of the piece that my sister, an art teacher, made for them in welcome. It reads “God protect you”. These refugees are people just like us. They are us. I know you know that. I cannot have you dealing on equal terms with a man who does not believe that all humans on Earth are equally people.

I realize that the government must be thinking that a policy that speaks truth to the power of the president of the United States is very risky but I also believe in the long term that doing what is good and right and decent and essentially Canadian cannot go wrong.

Yours sincerely

Dr. Charlotte Masemann



I used to give the occasional haircut to small children who didn’t like going to the hairdresser; indeed for years going to the barber with Middle was an ordeal of screaming. My career as a home barber really began in earnest two years ago when the teenager decided to freelance  with scissors on his own hair. He came home one day from school and took off his hoodie and I, caught completely unawares, screamed.  He had given himself an extremely  ragged haircut with unappealing bits of  scalp showing. I went out and bought a clipper kit on sale for $19.99. When he got home from school the next day I tidied it as best I could. This was challenging since his hair is very thick and curly and almost as difficult  to cut as a slinky. A few weeks later his little brother needed a haircut and I decided to try the clippers on him as well.  It was a hot day. I set up a stool in the backyard but I didn’t use a cape because it was so hot. Big mistake. After a few minutes of using the clippers all the little tiny bits of hair clung to his sweaty skin and made him itchy. I managed to calm him briefly but then  he lurched off the stool, screamed at me,  “You are the worst hairdresser in the world!” and ran around to the front of the house still screaming, clad only in underpants. I coaxed him back, flung a sheet around him and finished the haircut. In my defense I can say that it was not the worst haircut ever given in the world.  I do better ones now but still, it was not bad. He had just enough time to take a bath before soccer. I however did not and got to bike children to soccer and enjoy the prickles of hair on my skin until we got home about 3 hours later and I dashed into the shower.

One might think this would put me off doing haircuts at home but no,  I pressed on. I continued to give haircuts to the boys and trimming Little’s bangs. I was further inspired by a friend of mine whose hair always looks great. She told me she cut it herself with the help of YouTube.

My hair is thick and wavy to curly depending on the relative humidity and the length of my haircut. I have very rarely had a haircut in a salon that I thought was worth it. It ended up being at least $50 for something that no one ever noticed. No one, that is, unless I gave into the blandishments of the stylist  who wanted to blow my hair out. I don’t know what it is about the people who cut hair but the dominant thought is that straight hair is normal and all other hair is weird.   Thus when a stylist gets her hands on wavy hair she is overcome by the urge to make it straight and therefore normal. My hair is not straight, it will never be straight and I think I look peculiar and not normal with straight hair.  Instead of booking an appointment, I did a search on YouTube For how to cut, really just trim, wavy hair. So now every few months I put my hair in a ponytail, flip it over the top of my head then cut the end of the ponytail off. (There, I have ruined the mystique of my coiffure.) My hair looks exactly the same as it always did and cost me no money, and no time having to make conversation in a salon chair. Many of these conversations involved me explaining why I chose to do a Ph.D., or why I was staying home with my children,  or saying again no thank you I don’t want to dye my prematurely gray hair which is in great shape and perhaps not uncoincidentally strangely undamaged by chemicals. Exhausting.

And then just over a year ago I was reading Mr. Money Mustache, a frugality blog I find quite amusing. MMM suggested one might save a lot of money by cutting one’s own hair. He was directing that towards men but I thought we could save money if I cut the spouse’s hair.  His initial reaction was horror but I managed to convince him to let me try it once. By this point I was cutting the boys’ hair  regularly with no incidents so I thought the risk was low. I got out the  clippers one summer day and we haven’t looked back since. I cut it  about every 6 weeks. He has received no comment from people at work other than teasing after a recent promotion that he is now getting new executive haircuts.

I enjoy giving my family haircuts. Perhaps it’s a primal grooming thing, but I enjoy feeling the texture of the hair and seeing the adorable necks of the children. I now know where I have to cut a little closer to avoid sticky-uppy bits when the hair is growing. I also enjoy mastering a new skill. I used to have no clue about barbering and now I am deft enough to do it even one-handed as I did last weekend since I just broke my wrist.

I think it’s worth a try for anyone. Clippers and good scissors are not that expensive and as my mother said when my little sister cut off all her bangs, “Oh well, at least it will grow back.” Results can be much better than that, however. My proudest moment was giving Little a wedge cut last summer that kept her neck cool during hours and hours of soccer. I’m also delighted that our hair cutting budget is $0.




Last autumn, I declared an end to buying Kleenex, tissues, what have you. I decided to switch the household over to hankies for two reasons: waste, and the horrible bits of Kleenex that end up in the wash after someone has left it in a pocket, and then you have to put the whole load through the dryer instead of hanging it up. I also like hankies. I like the softness of much-washed cotton against my nose when I have a horrible cold (much softer than paper). I like how they remind me of my dad, and both my grandfathers, hanky-carriers all. I only ever met one man in my generation, more than twenty years ago, who used a hanky. If we all used hankies, the boreal forest and all the little warblers who use it as their nursery would be safer.

A lot of effort in this world goes into manufacturing things that will be used once and then get thrown out. The facial tissue is one of those things. Greenpeace has estimated that North Americans use 22 kg of tissue paper products (facial tissue, paper towel, toilet paper, paper napkins) a year. They issue a green guide to tissue, also available as an app. This is helpful when trying to find recycled paper products in shops. But, in my opinion, no waste is better than less waste, and so I am trying to eliminate the purchase of this sort of product as much as I can. We do have paper towel in the house, but Itry to ignore it and use rags instead. Our everyday napkins are cloth ones, and once I find red linen napkins for Christmas use I won’t be buying festive paper napkins any more either. The spouse lives in constant fear that the very next “improvement” I bring to our lives will be washable toilet paper. I washed dirty cloth diapers for years and I have no desire to embark on that again, so I think he’s safe. Hankies seemed like an easy change to make.


I sat down at the computer and ordered three and a half dozen hankies from the UK, somewhat like these. Somehow, British hankies seemed more genuine than the American ones, and the British reviews gave me useful info on how the handkerchiefs would iron up. I had increased our hanky supply a few years ago, but in an incredibly labour-intensive way. I cut up the skirt of an old cotton nightgown, cut out several hankies, hemmed them and monogrammed them. This was a good project for winter evenings, but I didn’t want to make 42 handkerchiefs thus.

20170110_114938Now we have  a box of hankies in the bathroom, and everyone can help themselves whenever they want. One of the nice things about a box of Kleenex is the feeling of abundance, that there are masses of tissues there when you need them. Including the hankies that we owned before, we have about 60 hankies in the house. Our collection includes some really cute children’s hankies sent by relatives in the Netherlands.

20170110_112525The size of the collection means that the hanky box is easy to keep filled and no one needs to stint. The box would be even easier to fill if I did not divert the hankies into the ironing pile on the way. I love an ironed hanky, and I really enjoy ironing, so it’s no hardship. I learned how to iron from my mum and dad, and practiced first on hankies and tea towels. I still iron these items, and I find the task calming. I am teaching the children how to iron in the same way. Life in the slow lane means that tasks like this are possible. I really appreciate the chance to take the time.

And what happened to that lone hanky-user that I encountered all those years ago? Reader, I married him.