On being … like free association

By Ingrid Sapona 

The other day my friend Paula (not her real name) invited me to her house for dinner. She also invited Mia (also not her real name), whom I hadn’t met before. All three of us are about the same age and all have legal training.  

After dinner we got to talking about this and that. At one point the conversation turned to stories of brushes with famous people. Paula told about meeting a children’s author whom she loved. I think she met him at a dinner party or something, I can’t remember. She said she found him quite engaging but was surprised that his sense of humour tended toward the dark. Given this, she said that at one point she made a joking reference to something she thought would appeal to this dark sense of humour. 

She explained, “I made a reference to….” Then, in telling the story to us, Paula drew a blank. She thought for a minute and said, “Oh, you know, that famous American cannibal.” “Hannible Lecter?” Mia asked. “No, no,” Paula said. “A real-life cannibal.” I had NO clue who she could be talking about. 

Fortunately, Mia had her phone next to her and she Googled something like “American cannibal”. Scrolling through the info she eventually said, “Jeffrey Dahmer”? “Yes! Thank you,” shrieked Paula. My response was more along the lines of, “Dahmer was a cannibal? I didn’t know that. I thought he just dismembered his victims.”  

Then Mia started telling us about one of her brushes with someone famous. She explained that when she was working in Hong Kong, sometimes she and her colleagues would let off steam at a local disco. (This was the 80s, I think.) “One night I was out on the dance floor and I looked up and saw someone who looked really familiar.” She paused for a minute and said, “It was Oliver… um … Oliver North.”. Wow, I thought, trying to picture the Iran Contra guy in a disco. 

Mia went on to explain that eventually she got up the nerve to talk to him and that he told her he and his crew were in Hong Kong after finishing some film. That was even more confusing to me, but I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to feel like an idiot, nor did I want to seem openly skeptical about Oliver North being in a film.  

The conversation then moved on to something else, which I don’t remember because I was still processing Oliver North. Maybe Mia saw the puzzled look on my face because I noticed she had picked up her phone and was clearly looking for something. Then she said, “Oh… Oliver Stone – not Oliver North!” Ahhhh… that made sense! We all had a good laugh about the wrong Oliver.  

On the way home I was thinking about how fun – and funny – the evening was and how every now and then it seemed like a game of free association. If we were 10-20 years older, I might be worried that our reliance on oblique references in lieu of names might be a sign of word retrieval or memory issues. But in this case, I’d say it was simply a function of odd games of connect-the-dots that our brains play as we store away information and ideas. 

I think one of the reasons I enjoy such quirky conversations is because round-about references have been a hallmark of conversations I’ve had all my life with my eldest sister. It’s totally normal for us to refer to something else all together by way of reference when we can’t remember an exact term or name. When we chat, there’s a lot of, “Oh you know – it’s like…” or “You know who I mean – she was in that movie with what’s-his-name”. And of course, there are lots of references to family-related events or incidents like, “It’s like that time Dad…”. 

I think such free association is also a pretty good way of bonding. It certainly requires a level of comfort that those you’re with won’t tease you or make you feel inordinately foolish – whether you’re the one making the analogy or the one trying to understand what the other person means. That said, it’ll be interesting to see if such round-about referencing gets worse as we get older. Indeed, I think I’m going to do a self-check every now and then to make sure that it’s an innocent habit and not a sign of cognitive decline. 

© 2023 Ingrid Sapona


On being ... vulnerable

by Ingrid Sapona

The past couple weeks I’ve come across two examples of people dealing with emotional vulnerability. The scenarios were very different, but both caught me by surprise and had me thinking about ways of behaving when feeling vulnerable. 

The first was a discussion I had with my friend Tina (not her real name). Tina’s been going out with Sean (not his real name) for a few years. Sean seems nice and they seem like a good couple. Anyway, I was asking her how it’s going and she basically said, “it’s fine”. Tina’s eloquent and has a good vocabulary, so an anodyne “fine” clearly required exploration. So, I asked a few, more direct questions about the relationship. 

When I asked her if he says he loves her, she immediately said, “Oh no.” I was surprised, so I asked her if she ever told him she loves him. Without skipping a beat she said, “Yes, once.” When I asked how that landed, she said it got no reaction really. My ineloquent “Oh” in response prompted her to quickly add, “I’ll never go there again!” 

In discussing why she feels that way, it became clear that though she was brave enough to say it once, she thinks that by refusing to say it again she’ll spare herself humiliation on top of the pain she felt from the non-response response. I understand that, but her refusal to be vulnerable again increases the likelihood Sean will never risk bearing his heart to her. And that, of course, will only compound Tina’s heartbreak. I felt sad that she seems emotionally stuck, but for the time being, it seemed best to change topics, so we did. 

The other instance of emotional vulnerability revolves around the resignation of Toronto’s mayor, John Tory. For those who may not have heard the story, here are the basic facts surrounding the resignation: On Feb. 10th the mayor called an unexpected evening press conference to “update Torontonians on a difficult personal matter”. 

He then explained, “I developed a relationship with an employee of my office in a way that did not meet the standards to which I hold himself to as mayor and as a family man.” He said he recognized that permitting the relationship to develop was a serious error in judgment on his part and, as a result, he was stepping down. 

He said he deeply regrets having to step away from a job he loves in a city he loves, but he believes in his heart it is best to fully commit himself to the work required to repair his family relationships. He also apologized “unreservedly to the people of Toronto and to all those hurt by his actions”, including his staff, colleagues on city council, and the public service for whom he has such respect. 

And, to round out the story, here are a few other facts some have found relevant: Tory is 68 and has been married to his wife for over 44 years. The affair with the younger woman (she’s now 31) began when they worked together on Covid-related matters and ended earlier this year. 

Apparently, sometime in December The Star got a tip that Tory’s marriage was in trouble. Then, in February they learned Tory was seeing someone who was much younger. About that time word then got back to Tory that reporters were asking questions about it. The hasty Friday evening press conference was called after The Star notified Tory that it planned on running the story that evening. So, though the resignation came out of left field for Torontonians, subsequent Star articles revealed that since early February Tory had been discussing with many – including his wife – whether resignation was the right course of action. 

Naturally, there’s been a great deal of public and private discussions swirling around Tory’s actions and decisions. Some are keen to focus on the politics, others on the ethics, and still other on the moral issues. I have my own views in each of these realms, but what I’ve been most struck by has been Tory’s demeanor. He’s an excellent speaker and has always come across to me as measured and thoughtful. Indeed, his apology to Torontonians and to all those hurt by his actions seemed genuine and painstaking – not at all of the “sorry that I got caught” variety. But, however heartfelt the apology came across when he announced his resignation, it was his comments on his last day that made me appreciate the dignity of owning one’s own vulnerability. 

During the prepared remarks he talked about all the interesting jobs he’s had (lawyer, corporate executive, broadcaster, and commissioner of a professional sports league, among other things) but he thinks being the mayor of Toronto was the best job anyone could have. And he said, in quite plain terms, that it breaks his heart to leave the post, though he thinks it’s the right thing to do. He also noted that while he realizes that the circumstances that led to his resignation will “be among the things he will be remembered for”, he hoped that his other accomplishments will also be spoken of. 

I don’t think there’s one right way to behave when feeling emotionally vulnerable. I think to be human is to sometimes feel vulnerable. The question is, how do you react? I think Tina’s reaction was common: put up a wall of indifference in hopes that no one notices the hurt. Tory, however, showed it’s possible to manage vulnerability – and maintain dignity – by owning your feelings and shortcomings. 

© 2023 Ingrid Sapona 


On being ... mere routine?

By Ingrid Sapona

I don’t sleep a lot. I don’t say that as a humble brag or as a complaint. If anything, I simply see it as a fact of my life. I’ve been ok with this fact, especially since deciding (years ago) not to worry about sleep. Indeed, I can’t really even think of any instances when I though my sleep has impacted my functioning. That said, I’ve not been oblivious to news reports about the importance of sleep to one’s overall health.  

Last fall, when I heard my GP’s office has a five-week program on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) I asked my doctor about it. We discussed the fact that I don’t sleep that much and she thought I might benefit from program.  

In mid-December her office contacted me to see if I was interested in joining a group starting in February. I said yes and was surprised to learn that I needed to be interviewed by the social worker who runs the sessions to see if I’d qualify. (I thought my doc’s approval would have been enough.) The interview was set up for late January.  

As luck would have it, in the weeks leading up to the interview, I found myself getting nearly eight hours of solid sleep almost every night while in Mexico. Yes, it occurred to me that that’s what vacation is all about – but I’ve been vacationing in sunny Mexico for many Januarys and I’ve never slept as long or as well as this year. I didn’t want to over-think it, but I did wonder what was going on. (I also wondered whether I might no longer qualify for the CBT-I session as a result.)  

The interview went fine and I qualified for the program. It seems the main criteria is that you are open/curious about your behaviour, and that your expectations about attending are reasonable. In other words, I shouldn’t expect that on completion of the program I would magically sleep a certain number of hours/night. That wasn’t a problem, as I’ve never been concerned with how much sleep is normal or optimal. The curiosity part was also not a problem, as I had already started thinking about why I was sleeping so well in Mexico as compared to here.    

I soon realized there was a big difference in my “going to bed” routine in Mexico versus at home. In Mexico, because I’m in a condo with friends, at the end of the evening we all simply retire to bed. At home I usually fall asleep on the couch watching tv, eventually toddling off to bed. But, I’ve always known that if I take much time getting to bed from the couch, I wake up and can’t fall back asleep.  

The first week in Mexico I had a hard time falling asleep without having the tv on to distract my mind. But, I couldn’t just wake others by turning on the tv, so I had no choice. About a week into the holiday, I had pretty much adjusted to just going to bed and falling asleep. I have long recognized that my falling asleep on the couch is a habit, but I had never really tried to break it. Was the key to more sleep simply breaking myself of that habit? I certainly was curious…  

The CBT-I program started just last week so it’s too early to say much about it. But, it has caused me to question the nature of my sleep routines: to explore whether they’re based on habit or biology. I’m a morning person, but I never stopped to ask myself if that necessarily means I must start my day well before the sun rises, as I normally do. 

I started thinking about what I do when I’m up at the crack of dawn. I typically start the day enjoying a coffee over the morning newspaper. Then I catch the first edition of BBC news, which happens to run at 5:00 a.m. locally. That’s followed by a 6 a.m. stretch program on tv that I usually do. After that I turn to my emails and other on-line news before heading to the gym or out for a walk. 

I reflected on the fact that in Mexico I didn’t sleep the morning away – but I didn’t get up at the crack of dawn, as normal. Ironically, my morning routine in Mexico wasn’t that different: I didn’t catch the BBC and I had to do the stretching on my own, but otherwise I did everything I normally do – but a few hours later, when other folks were up. Hmm… Maybe I was on to something. On my return home, I decided to try adopting my Mexico morning routine. So, instead of hopping out of bed at 4 a.m. – something I normally do, I gave myself permission to turn over and try to fall asleep for a few more hours and then do all my usual things. 

I’m pleased to say: so far, so good – I’ve managed to sleep longer since being home. Of course, only time will tell whether this new leaf – this new morning routine – will last. I’m guessing there’s a reason the CBT-I program runs for 5 weeks – I imagine it takes at least that long to truly adopt new habits. I guess I’ll find out … 

© 2023 Ingrid Sapona


On being ... a time out

By Ingrid Sapona        

I’m easing into the new year by taking a time out for tacos and tequila, sun and sand, and rest and relaxation (not necessarily in that order). So, On being … will be on hiatus till mid-February. 

In the meanwhile, I hope you are able to ease into 2023 in your own way. 

© 2023 Ingrid Sapona


On being ... an alphabetical walk through 2022

 by Ingrid Sapona

I start this list early in the year (not necessarily January, but early). I add phrases or words as they jump out to me, whether in the news or just in terms of what’s on my mind. As I have the past few years, I’m including links to articles and other information that helped me formulate different entries. I imagine some of these concepts and ideas are things you’ve reflected on this year – and I hope I’ve drawn your attention to a few things you maybe haven’t focused on. And, to the extent you may have been struck by other words and phrases not on this list, I’d love to hear about them. 

A is for aggrieved entitlement – a term sociologist Michael Kimmel defines as the perception that the benefits and/or status you believe yourself entitled to have been wrongfully taken away from you by unforeseen forces. Sadly, politicians wishing to create a wedge in society have employed this to great advantage this year.   

B is for burka – In May the Taliban once again started requiring Afghan women to wear them. As the months passed, we realized that the burka decree was only the start of the total repression of Afghan women, as the Taliban now prohibits girls from going to high school and university.  

C is for critical minerals – these are “the building blocks” of the green and digital revolutions – things like lithium, cobalt, magnesium, nickel, platinum, titanium, aluminum, graphite, iridium, tungsten, and so on.  These minerals are critical as an input in different devices and processes, but another aspect of what makes them of critical interest and concern is the fact that some of the places these minerals are found are not always friendly to the west or politically stable. 

D is for DeSantis, Don’t Say Gay, and Disney World – a Florida triple-play. 

E is for emboldened – hate has become emboldened and easily spread via digital megaphones like tweets and chat rooms.

F is for fusion – this is a last-minute addition to the list. On Dec. 13th it was announced that U.S. scientists carried out a nuclear fusion reaction. I’m sure you read about it, so I won’t try to explain it… though I must say, one of the takeaways I got from all the stories was that it creates helium. Whew… that means that for generations to come kids will enjoy the sound of their high-pitched voice after inhaling a bit of the gas. (Friendshoring was my original choice for F – it’s the practice of relocating supply chains to countries where the risk of disruption from political chaos is low.) 

G is for grifter – the most apropos description of Donald Trump that I’ve have ever heard.  While Trump has the distinction of having served as Grifter in Chief, this year confirmed that Millennials have also gotten into the game: Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes and FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried.

H is for hate – hate has been around forever, but the fact that hate talk has become normalized is an emerging trend that should concern us all. 

I is for the Inhumane Weapons Convention – what does it say that we even have this? 

J is for January 6th – the irony of it being Epiphany hit me as I was watching the January 6th hearings, which were, as the word epiphany means, revealing. 

K is for Kyiv – here is to hoping Kyiv still exists a year from now. 

L is for lies – we will suffer the consequences of many of Trump’s legacies or a long time to come but perhaps none will have as devastating an impact as the normalization of lies. I don’t know if it’s just considered impolite – or impolitic – to call a lie a lie, but it seems few people are willing to do so. Instead, we find polite ways to refer to lies, as the New York Times did in describing Representative-elect George Santos’ resume as “largely fiction”. 

M is for Marina Ovsyannikova – the Russian woman who on March 14, 2022 burst into a live broadcast of Russia’s most watched news show and held up a sign that said stop the war and “they’re lying to you here”. In the fall she fled house arrest and is living in an undisclosed European country.  

N is for nuclear weapons – this year the notion of Russia deploying “tactical nuclear weapons” made the news, as did the reality that a nuclear power generating station can become, in effect, a nuclear weapon.  

O is for oligarch – before 2022 many of us were familiar with the term. But this year, thanks to a number of Russian oligarchs, we also learned the meaning of defenestration. 

P is for Putin – Putin certainly was front and centre in 2022. However unintentionally, his actions this year made him a uniting force: he helped unite much of the west. 

Q is for Queen Elizabeth – though the past few years she became visibly frail and we knew her age, it was still a bit of a shock when she passed away. It’s odd to think that in my lifetime there likely will not be another Queen on the English thrown. 

R is for rage – rage is the physical, often deadly, expression of anger and hate. And, like hate, overt expression of rage is on the rise. While that, in itself, is troubling, the fact that politicians and power mongers have learned to exploit others’ rage to their advantage presents a huge risk to democracy around the world.

S is for special military operation – war by any other name is still war.

T is for thermobaric weapons – a true sign of human depravity. These weapons create high temperature fireballs the literally suck the air out of any living being in the vicinity, according to experts. And yet, they have not been banned by international convention. 

U is for undersea cables – I was surprised to learn that 95% of international data transmission occurs via undersea fibre-optic cables. I read about this in the aftermath of a post-earthquake tsunami off Tonga that snapped an 872 km. long fibre-optic cable connecting Tonga to the world.  

V is for variant – talk of variants of the Covid virus have subsided, at least as compared to how much attention they got in the first quarter or so of 2022. But, I’m guessing variants will still be a news story in 2023, especially with China lifting its zero Covid restrictions. Hope I’m wrong…

W is for Wordle – what else? It’s fun to play, but I don’t mind admitting that I find it a bit odd when people post how they did on social media.

X is for (e)xtreme weather – bomb cyclones, floods that devastated Pakistan, and record heat in England and Europe are just some of the catastrophes suffered this year due to extreme weather. In the face of all these things, I don’t see how there can be any doubt that climate change is real. I also don’t understand why it’s not obvious to everyone that unless we all work together to restrict greenhouse gases, we’ll all end up paying the price for weather-related catastrophes.

Y is for the Y chromosome – apparently it is degenerating. No need for immediate panic though, so long as evolution kicks in sometime over the next million or so years. 

Z is for Zelinskyy – surprising how a guy whose name is linked to the first Trump impeachment would go on to be a major world figure in 2022. I doubt it was a coincidence, but the historians will have the last word on that. 

And finally, with a heartfelt Thank You for reading On being… , I wish you good health and much happiness throughout the New Year.


© 2022 Ingrid Sapona


On being … fee’d up

By Ingrid Sapona  

The other day I got an email from a theatre company announcing their 2023 schedule. One particular play sounded interesting so I clicked through to see the prices and dates. For that play, seats on the main floor ranged from $33.90-$146.90, with seats in the balcony ranging from $124.30-$146.90. Fortunately, there are special rates for previews: $27.12-$102.83 for seats on the main floor and $87.01-$102.83 for balcony seats. Given the odd prices, I assumed they included the 13% sales tax.  

Tickets had just gone on sale and they still had a couple of the $27.12 seats on one of the preview nights. With my credit card ready, I started to place my order. When I clicked on “Purchase”, the total that came up was $64.24 – not $54.24, as I expected. That’s when I noticed a $10 service charge was added. Frustrated, I cancelled the order.  

So, in effect, $27.12 tickets are really $32.12 tickets. I know – we’re talking a difference of only $5/ticket, which doesn’t seem like much. And really, $32.12 to see live theatre is pretty reasonable. Still, it bothered me to have that additional charge, especially given that they don’t even send out real tickets – they are electronic only. I stewed about it for a few days. Ultimately, I ended up shelling out the $64.24 for the two tickets. I rationalized the purchase based on my belief that $32.12 (the true cost to me) seems reasonable to see a live production of this company’s calibre. 

That said, I really don’t understand why they don’t just increase the cost of each ticket to include all their costs. Since they don’t really specify what services are provided for that service charge, why bother breaking it out? Heck, for on-line purchases they don’t break out the sales tax portion of the $27.12, so why not include the service charge in the on-line per ticket price too? Surprisingly, just yesterday I got a printed brochure from this company and it shows all ticket prices before the sales tax. So, the ticket I paid $32.12 for is really a $24 ticket, before the sales tax and before the service charge. I also read in the printed brochure that the service charge ($10) is per order, regardless of how many tickets you buy. But, there was no explanation of what the service charge is for.  

As a theatre patron, I assume there are all sorts of costs that go into putting on a play but the company doesn’t bother breaking out any other specific costs. I assume that running a box office, whether staffed in person or done using software, is just one of the many costs of doing business – it’s called overhead. To me, adding an itemized service charge just feels like a cash grab. 

The past few years I’ve noticed more-and-more purveyors of non-essentials are adding additional fees and charges for “services” that aren’t really adding value as far as the customer is concerned. The most galling example I’ve come across lately was a hotel restaurant that had advertised a $44 three-course Thanksgiving dinner that included turkey roulade, a vegetable, and a slice of fruit crumble – for take out or dine-in. 

A friend and I were going to celebrate Thanksgiving together and we talked about perhaps doing a pot luck. But, neither of us really felt like cooking a huge, traditional Thanksgiving meal. So, when we read about the $44/person menu we decided that ordering it to go would be perfect.

We figured we’d drive over together to get it and bring it back here to enjoy with a bottle of wine of our choice. I offered to place the order, which I had to do on-line, as they didn’t accept them on the phone. When I went to click on Pay, I was expecting the bill to total $88+tax (so, about $99). 

I couldn’t believe when $119.00 came up! On review, it showed $88 plus sales tax plus a 20% service charge. (20%!) What the …? I had no intention of paying $59 for a slice of turkey, a side, and a berry crumble that I had to go get. I emailed my friend to see how she felt about the whole thing, and she agreed. Both of us were quite incensed. You know, it’s not that she and I can’t afford – or are too cheap – to have a nice meal at a restaurant. And perhaps if we were at the restaurant and had seen the same three-course menu priced at $59, we might have been fine with it, even knowing full well that our final out-of-pocket costs would be higher because we’d add a healthy tip if we were eating there. 

But to price the meal at $44 and then charge a “service charge” of 20% for the pleasure of picking it up to take home. Come on…. Preparing the meal is a service, but at a restaurant you expect that to be included in the menu price. And with customers picking up their own meal, there isn’t even the cost of a server, or the cost of cleaning up after the meal. Sure, there are costs associated with “to go” containers and packaging and if they wanted to itemize those things and charge me, fine – but not 20% of the price of the meal! We ended up reverting to plan A and we made a turkey breast roulade for ourselves, which meant we had delicious leftovers, at no extra charge! 

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty fed up with these kinds of games. I resent being put on the spot at the end of the deal – after I’ve decided to make a purchase at a price the seller set and then advertised. It’s not fair to slap on additional fees over and above what the buyer expects to pay and it seems a bad business practice to me. When I see an unexplained or unexpected service charge tacked on, regardless of the actual amount of the charge, I end up thinking much longer and harder about whether to make the purchase. And, more often than not, I decide not to patronize businesses that charge such fees. Maybe if other patrons did the same, businesses might think twice about this questionable practice. 

© 2022 Ingrid Sapona


On being … the right size

By Ingrid Sapona 

No, I’m not writing to announce the end of a successful diet. (I wish.) 

Today’s column is about vanity sizing. Never heard of it? I hadn’t either until I saw a piece on it on CBC’s Marketplace. The Marketplace team tested the sizing on jeans from seven different, well-known brands. They made sure all of them were of a similar style (for example, all might have been boot cut or whatever) and all of them showed the same waist size (38 on the men’s jeans and 34 on the women’s). They had a male model with a 38 waist test all the men’s pairs and a female model with a 34 waist test all the women’s pairs. 

They found that the men’s ran pretty true to size. The women’s, on the other hand, varied quite a lot. They varied – as in, they were bigger than the labelled waist size – by anywhere from an inch to six inches! Yes, that means the actual waist was 40 on a pair marked as having a 34 waist. I noted that the reporter didn’t explicitly say they tried multiple size 34s of each brand (to check for innocent labelling mistakes). But, given that they actually named the brand that was off by six inches, I’m sure they checked for simple labelling errors. Indeed, the fact that there was such a big variation in the same size pants was kind of the point of the story. Apparently, vanity sizing is where a company makes the same style over a number of years and they keep the same size on the label, but they change the actual fit. This way customers feel good about continuing to fit into the pants and they keep buying that brand, not realizing the pants are actually getting bigger. 

At first I wasn’t too fussed by the whole thing. Indeed, I’ve often thought sizing on women’s clothing was odd and kind of arbitrary. Those of us who grew up in North America just accept that – for some reason – at some point we go from sizes that are stated using odd numbers (7, 9, 11, 13) to sizes stated in even numbers (6, 8, 10, 12, 14, etc.). And then, over the past couple decades some stores have gone way off course and use numbers like 1, 2, 3 and 4. Why? Who the hell knows. And if that kind of randomness isn’t enough – some places now have size 0. What does that mean? Is 0 for women who are so waif-like that they’re basically ghosts? 

The Marketplace report made a few interesting points about the impact of clothing size. First, there’s the issue of how difficult it is for women to shop with confidence and ease. A psychologist they interviewed made the point that people often connect the size of clothing they wear with their self worth. When seemingly objective measures (like a waist size stated in inches on garment tags) are not reliable, it’s easy to understand that vanity sizing is a way of manipulating how women feel about themselves. For those having trouble seeing the harm in this kind of thing, I’ll explain. If you’ve been buying jeans from the company that labels the waist as being 34 when the jeans actually measure 40″, imagine how you feel about yourself when you try on another brand’s 34s and they don’t come close to fitting. Is it any wonder that some people hate clothes shopping? 

Besides being eye-opening, I think learning about vanity sizing is kind of a relief because it drives home the fact that you can’t go by the size on the tag. Indeed, I’ve been trying to get comfortable with that idea for awhile. For the past couple of years when I’ve gone clothes shopping, I’ve adopted a new strategy. When I find something I want to try on, I take multiple sizes into the changeroom. I begin by picking up the size I think I am, but I also grab a size smaller and a size bigger. Then I try them all on and hope that one of them might fit comfortably and look ok. On the rare occasion when both those criteria are met, I pretty much feel I’ve hit the jackpot. But, if all of them are too small, I feel pretty dejected. If there’s something about the garment that I really love, I may screw up my courage and try yet a bigger size, but that doesn’t always happen. At that point, I’m usually to discouraged to try anything more. 

Though I don’t think I’ll ever really enjoy clothes shopping, armed with the new insights into the sizing games manufacturers play to manipulate us, from now on the only numbers on the tags that I’m going to continue paying attention are the price. 

What about you? How do you feel about vanity sizing? Does the size on the tag matter to you? Has your size or outlook changed over the years? Will it now?? 

© 2022 Ingrid Sapona


On being ... an attempt at recompense

 By Ingrid Sapona 

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Alex Jones. Indeed, until his defamation trials earlier this year, I couldn’t have told you the name of his website (it’s Infowars). Sure, I had seen him – probably on pieces on The Daily Show (Comedy Central’s late-night satirical news program), but I never paid much attention to his outrageous claims.    

Before the defamation trials, I hadn’t heard any of the unbelievable stories Jones made up about the Sandy Hook shooting. I was shocked when I heard the details about the lies he fabricated and unrelentingly promoted, and about the agony he cause the victims’ families. I couldn’t bare to watch the trial because I was sure that Jones would use it to grandstand, but it was impossible to not hear a bit about the proceedings. 

One tidbit that caught my attention during one trial was about how much money Infowars brought in on a daily basis. I don’t remember the exact amounts mentioned, but it was in the six-figure range. I remembered wondering how it was possible that he was bringing in that much. All I could figure was that Infowars must have been selling t-shirts and hats to fans through the website. (But even then, I couldn’t imagine making that much every day selling shirts and hats.) 

It wasn’t until I read a fascinating New York Times opinion piece by Farhad Manjoo that I understood how Jones and Infowars make money. The short answer is ad revenue. (I know, can I get a DUH…) But it’s not just garden variety advertisers one is likely to encounter on Infowars. Apparently (and I will be the first to admit that I’ve never been on Infowars’s website, nor will I ever) the bulk of the ads are for what you and I would probably think of as snake oil. “Wellness” products, such as diet pills, fluoride-free toothpaste that Jones once claimed kills the SARS-corona family of viruses, and products with names like InstaHard (you can guess what that’s for). 

Manjoo’s article helped me understood how Jones operates. I’ve never thought for a moment that any of the social media “influencers” like Jones honestly believe any of the lies or conspiracies they peddle. But, while politicians might make bold-faced lies – or go along with others’ outrageous lies – to gain or retain power, I long wondered what motivates some like Jones to fabricate a lie about something like the tragedy at Sandy Hook. 

Now I get it though. For Infowars, the more outrageous the lie Jones comes up with, the more people will check out the website. (What else could explain the idea of “crisis actors”?) It doesn’t matter one bit whether people visit the site because they’re believers in the lies or because they want to see for themselves whether Jones is as crazy as they’ve heard. Jones knows that once people are on the site, a given percentage of them are bound to notice the ads for the different miracle cures. Then, the minute folks click on the ads – ka-ching! – Infowars and Alex Jones make money. Somewhere along the road Jones figured out that the bigger the lie, the more views, and the more money. 

Thankfully the families won in all the lawsuits against Jones. But, the question many of us are grappling with in the wake of the verdicts is how to stop Jones and others from creating and spreading such lies. Pointing to a “symbiotic relationship between bogus, unregulated health products and bogus political claims”, Manjoo makes the argument that going after the huge market for “alternative health products” is one way of reducing the ability of Jones and his ilk from profiting from lies. I agree with Manjoo. I have long believed that governments should be doing way more to regulate advertisements and certainly if it weren’t for ad revenue, sites like Infowars would probably not exist. (Indeed, I would also make the cost of advertising a non-deductible business expense – that would rein in a lot of the most flagrant excesses.) 

To try to silence Jones, the Sandy Hook families did about the only thing they could: they sued him for defamation. That route was not without its risks, as Jones tried to hide behind claims of the right to free speech. I applaud the bravery of the families for bringing suit, as the trials meant they had to re-live the pain of Jones’ vitriol. When they won, they argued that the only way to stop Jones from continuing to lie for a living was to hit him with a judgment that is high enough to put him out of business. It seems the Connecticut Superior Court judge agreed. Last week she added $473 million in fees on top of the $965 million in compensatory damages the jury awarded the families. 

Regardless of how much Jones may end up actually paying (he’s already entered bankruptcy and no doubt will do all he can to avoid paying), the CBC offered the most straightforward takeaway. The host of The National (CBC’s flagship nightly news program) put it this way: “The cost of telling lies … has gone WAY up for U.S. radio host Alex Jones and his company. He faces a total judgment of over $1.4 billion U.S. – that’s the price for his repeated lies.” Though putting a price tag on lies and hate speech seems crass, maybe doing so will at least make people who might be tempted to follow Jones’ lead think twice. 

© 2022 Ingrid Sapona