On debating

I really never wanted to join the university debate club. I just wanted to go to IKEA. No, actually, that’s how it happened.

And yet, I’ve spent three of the last four weekends at debate tournaments, and almost all of my friends in university belong to debate. We literally go to other universities, stand in rooms, and talk for hours. And then we do it again the next day. With this in mind, I think it’s very valid to ask, how the hell did this happen? What the hell am I doing with my life? Let me explain.

I met Lena (I asked her which character she related with in the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and she picked Lena, so that’s now her name) because she lived down the hall from me in residence. My first impression of her was that she was a bit too much a try hard, with her tailored blazers and little pencil skirts. Like geez, this is a dorm, not the UN. She was fun to talk to  though, and frankly, I had met very few people on my floor who I actually wanted to hang out with. Most of the rest were engineering students who alternated between doing physics, playing video games, and watching hockey, which are basically my three least favourite things.

So when Lena invited me to go on this special student shuttle to IKEA one night a couple weeks into school, I was down. I figured it would at least be something to do. The hitch was that Lena had to make a detour before we left. She promised it wouldn’t take more than an hour, she just had to go to this meeting thing.

Sure, I thought. I didn’t really have anything better to do. It was the second week of university so I didn’t really even have homework yet.

The “meeting thing” turned out to be a debate club meeting, and Lena, it turned out, was on the Canadian national team for high school debate. In other words, she was kind of a big deal in the debate community. When she showed up at the meeting members of the club already knew who she was.

I found all of this news mildly bemusing. I thought it was funny that there was a “debate community” and a national team and everything. I mean seriously, it’s just people arguing. How intense could it really be?

Super intense, as it turned out. At the meeting, the senior members did a demo round to show what debate was like in university. Not only was it intense, but it was also really interesting, and smart and…entertaining. I never would have seen that coming. What honestly drew me in was that all the debaters just looked like they were having such a good time. There they were, standing up talking about smart things, but also adding in jokes and good natured teasing. The debate I saw was about whether a total surveillance state was a good idea, and the debaters made jokes about their rights to watch BDSM porn in the privacy of their own home. They actually had the whole room laughing by the end.

When we left to go to IKEA, Lena told me straight up that she wouldn’t be offended if I told her I thought it was stupid. She said she new debating was kind of a ridiculous use of her time, but that it was something she had done for a really long time and she personally enjoyed it. I think I shocked her when I said that I was interested in going to the next meeting.

It just kind of snowballed from there. I went to the next meeting, then to a full day training session for beginners, then to one tournament, then another. At this point I think I’ve spent about a quarter of my weekends in university at debate tournaments.

It’s worth noting that not only am I not very good at debating, but I also don’t particularly care about becoming any good. For me it’s just about being around people who want to talk about important issues. The way one debate friend described it was that debaters don’t just talk about the “whats” in life-what you want to do, what you like, what you want to be-but also the “whys.” Debate is about calling your beliefs into question; you have to justify your choices and your reasoning. We don’t just talk like that in debates, but outside of them too.

I think the idea of thinking “whys” appeals to me because I’ve always thought like that. It’s a characteristic that shows in my writing, especially in this blog. I tend to write about something that happened, then how I feel about it, then speculate as to why I feel that way. What’s cool is that now I have a group of friends to talk like this with, instead of just turning over these thoughts in my own brain.

I’ve become close with four girls in debate, all first years.  What’s funny is even though I’ve only known them for a few months, I already feel as close to them as I do with friends I’ve known for years. Maybe it’s because residence forces people to become close. Maybe it’s because we’ve already spent so many weekends together for debate. Maybe it’s just the massive amount of wine we consume together. Whatever the reason, I’ve found people I belong with here. That’s a pretty special thing.

Frosh Day 3-Chanting and Cheetos

Things I learned today:

-There is literally nothing that you cannot turn into a cheer. Whether it’s cheering on your frosh group, beaking the university across town, or even like, brushing your teeth, it can become chantable. “B-R-U-S-H, CAVITIES WE REALLY HATE!” It’s hard to believe that on the first day we were afraid to yell out anything. Now we yell so much that it’s hard to get us to stop. The band that played tonight had to pause between songs because we would start chanting things, and my throat is so sore that it feels like it’s on fire.

-I’m an idiot. (Here is an embarrassing story for you Jaco) All week I’ve been super frustrated because although my room card opens the door to my room, it wouldn’t open the door to get onto my floor. I tried every possible way to swipe it, I changed the code that I had to enter with the swipe. It was starting to become so irritating that I had to bang on the door to be let onto my own floor, so finally I declared to some friends that I was going ‘to go down to the housing office and get a new card. At which point one of the girls said, “You’re using your campus card, not your room key card, right?”

…I was using the wrong card the whole time. Idiot. Stupid stupid Kay.

-I can make friends. There’s so many people to meet all the time holy crap. At first it was exciting, but after a while it was just frustrating because there’s so many people introducing themselves all the time and some of them are complete idiots.

Paris speed dating

I finally met a few people I click with though, which is nice. One is a fellow j-schooler, a short Japanese girl with a love for musical theatre and nitpicky details. We spent an hour tonight in my room eating Cheetos and picking apart the university newspaper. Ex. “Ugh that is not the layout I would have done for those photos” (crunch). “Oh totally, and that phrase is totally against the style guide” (licks fingers). “What a great lead though!” (reaches into bag) “Headline could use some work but I love the alliteration” (crunch crunch).

Also, I met this cool film student who looks exactly like a younger Daniel Radcliffe. I swear that if we get him some round glasses and paint on a scar he’ll be a dead ringer for Harry Potter. On top of that awesome fact, he is also a generally cool guy who was willing to nerd out with me over Lost and even Star Trek and Stargate SG1.

Time for bed. This whole blogging at 2am thing is really difficult, but it’s helping me unwind after an intense day. Thank goodness for this blog.

Things only my best friend knows

Neither Lis nor I have ever been the types to spill our secrets very easily, but over seven years of friendship we’ve broken down each other’s walls. She knows all my secrets now:

1) My hair hasn’t gotten blonder this summer because the sun bleached it. I can thank a little spray bottle from my friends at John Frieda for that.

2) Last week I told my boss I couldn’t make my shift because I had a soccer game, but actually Lis and I went to the Calgary Stampede and danced and drank Jack Daniels and rode rides.

3) At grad at the Comp a couple weeks ago Cor told me he still loves me. We were sitting on Lis’s deck checking out the northern lights at 3am and Lis had gone inside to shower and he reached for my hand and blurted it out. He wasn’t drunk or anything. Three years after I rejected him twice. What do you even say to that? Cor is one of Lis’s best friends and he’s a great guy, but I don’t see him that way.

4) I still can’t stand the smell of lilies because my mom died a week before Easter two years ago and everyone we knew sent us some. Our house was full of them.

I am a book thief

It started out innocently, I swear. I always intended to give the books back.

I love finding friends who love books as much as I do. We get into these intense discussions about our latest finds and our old favourites, and if you know any book lovers, or are one yourself, you know that these discussions always get pretty passionate. Then eventually, someone says those fateful words:

“I could totally lend it to you.”

BAM. Moral conflict. "Borrowed"

Kay (in my head): This person seems to have good taste in books and he is offering to lend me his favourite book. Logically, that would mean that the book will be good, right? I’ll probably finish it super fast and then we can talk about it and have all these inside jokes about it and we will be friends FOREVER.

Every once in a while, In-My-Head Kay turns out to be right. The problem is that most of the time she is dead wrong.

What actually ends up happening

IMH Kay: Shit that one guy lent me this book like a month ago and I still haven’t read it. I tried to read it, but the first few pages were super dry and it’s not really my genre and I’ve been super busy.

Or worse…

IMH Kay: Shit I’m halfway through this book and it is the worst thing I have ever read in my life. Seriously, how could he suggest this to me? Does he really think this is good writing? I’m losing more respect for this guy with every page that I read.

Then you have a problem: do I return the book and admit that I haven’t read it/don’t like it? Or do I smile and lie through my teeth about how I absolutely adored it and it is totally my new fave too omg!

Obviously, the first option will offend said friend, possibly irreparably depending on how important that book is to him. However, option number two is almost worse because it will almost certainly result in said friend giving you another horrible book to read, and another and another until you resent him within a deep, base level of your soul.

Either way, friendship over. That is why over the years, I have developed a survival technique for such situations. It’s option three: stealing the book. People lend books out all the time, and they rarely keep track of who has what. After a few initial inquiries about how the reading is going, the friend will forgot he even lent you the book. Just shove it to the back of your bookshelf and you’ll never have to talk about it again.

This technique has worked for me for many years, but for whatever reason, lately the guilt has begun to get to me. I was searching my shelves for a particular book today and I came across not one or two, but about 15 books that I have stolen from people who lent them to me. The worst part is that some of them are from people I haven’t talked to in years. It’s too late to give them back now because it would be about 70000 times more awkward to be like, yeah, so I know that we haven’t hung out in a while, but here’s a book of yours that I’ve had for five years. Also, I never read it because it looks like it would be crappy.

And seriously, some of them are terrible. There’s this one from #18 about unicorn hunters that I couldn’t get through more than of chapter of, because there’s all of these comically gory unicorn attacks that are supposed to be super serious and epic. Then there’s the novel version of Precious, based on the novel Push by Sapphire, and not only am I not equipped to handle a book that heavy, but I’m still not quite sure if it is actually the novel Push by Sapphire, or if it’s the book version of the movie version of the book.

There’s also The Girl Who Played with Fire, which Mat lent me after I read the first book. While I really enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it was faaarr to long and I refuse to put myself through that again. On the stack is also a non-fiction book about a polygamous cult, a version of Mansfield Park from Edmund’s point of view that I ended up borrowing from a family friend in spite of the fact that I hate Mansfield Park, some self help book about how girls can change the world, Lord of the Flies, and an out of date university journalism textbook that the editor of the magazine I work at lent to me.

My mind is in turmoil. I can’t throw them away, I can hardly give them away since they’re not mine to give, and I certainly can’t give them back. I guess that for the present they will continue to sit in a stack on my bookshelf, judging me.

I don’t mind if you call me the book thief, just don’t make me read that book too.

The true meaning of friendship


I am the one on the ground in this situation

The true meaning of friendship is lying to each other’s faces. No, seriously.

But only about certain stuff. Like today we had a track meet and I, having worked out maybe half a dozen times since I got back from Kenya in February, got dead last in my race. Dead. Last. And okay, I wasn’t really surprised. I had mostly signed up for track because I get to spend the whole day of a track meet hanging out with my friends just to run a one minute race. Plus, I think running is kind of fun.

I expected to do badly, but not exactly this badly. My time was seventeen seconds slower than the winner, which is pretty brutal in 400m. I wasn’t super upset because track is not really a high priority for me, but I was a little disappointed that I was that slow, especially since this time last year my times were at least ten seconds faster.

My friends could sense right away that I was disappointed, and they knew just how to make me feel better. They didn’t take pity on me or tell me how sorry they were or tell me I’d do better next time. Instead, they decided to blame the whole thing on the race marshals.

Dee: What a rip-off! They messed up your time!

Jon: Idiots! They must have typed it in wrong.

Mat: There’s no way that’s your time. You weren’t more than five seconds behind the leaders.

Lies, all of it, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. Instead of being upset for the rest of the day, I moved on and ate Timbits and cheered on the other races and laughed and talked with the three of them.

Friendship isn’t about honesty. It’s about knowing your friend well enough to know how to be there for them.