This is Life, Based on a True Story  

A poem about rape

My daughter and three of her classmates recently decided to tackle a controversial topic among their age group.

It was their final English assignment for the semester and the teacher asked the kids to group up and write a poem about any topic they wanted.

The four girls chose to write about something that has long been an issue n the schools and a source of frustration for teachers for generations.

It has been a cause of arguments between many a teen girl and her parents … the issue?


And, as is often the case for teens, what they choose to wear is a contributing factor to pre-teen and teenage angst.

As mom to a 17-year old, I have had my share of eyebrow-raising “you’re wearing THAT” moments. On one hand, I shake my head at my daughter and think surely you can find something more, 'er, appropriate to wear.

But I too have ventured into many a store and seen what the girls — even the younger ages, have to choose from — and I understand where their questionable wardrobe choices stem from.

Clothing designers and manufacturers need to be held somewhat accountable for what our girls are wearing when the only choices they offer are the scantily clad ones.

I’ve heard people say things like we should all just stop buying the clothes, so the designers will have to change them. But the reality is, that will never happen. It would have to be a North American wide movement to just stop buying what’s in the stores.

Good idea in theory, but realistically …

My daughter and her friends feel strongly about this topic and based their poem upon this subject. They all contributed based upon their own knowledge and experience.

Yes, I realize that parts of this are hard to read. But as they say, out of the mouths of babes. This is the very age group that is affected by this more than any other.

And for the record – the teacher gave my daughter and her friends 100 per cent on this final English assignment.


Boys Will Be Boys

By: Jenna, Kate, Myah, Sanj

We don’t teach boys not to rape.
Instead we tell girls,
“Keys between your knuckles.”
“Come home before dark.”
“Never walk alone.”

But boys will be boys.
Even when names are given to the suicide driven.

“Drunken slut.”
“You were asking for it.”
Even the cops first question is a suggestion,
That you were “asking for it.”

They ask
“What were you wearing?”
You wonder,
“Was the dress too daring or baring too much skin?”
He didn’t care when he was tearing,
And playing you like a violin.

You wore red lipstick,
But you weren’t quite quick …
To outrun the lunatic you tried to kick,
While he silenced your screams,
Ripping you at the seams.
But boy will be boys.

Quit punishing the girls.
We don’t teach the boys to focus and practice respect,
Instead we shame the girls, telling them three fingers wide,
Shoulders aren’t distracting, what do young girls need to hide?

We’re sick of the body shaming,
The blame put on us.
Because of our, 
Bra straps,
Crop tops.

Our clothes are not the ones that chose
To rape a girl today,
To disobey.
But boys will be boys
And girls will be sluts.

This won’t be the last rape poem
And stories of injustice toward women will continue to be told,
Until my voice speaks louder than my clothes.

Thanks for reading.


It takes two to (un)tango

I recently went out for an evening with my best friend and two new friends we met through a course we all took.

Although we’re new friends and still in the getting-to-know-you stage, we share so many similarities that conversation flowed easily all night.

You know the saying, like attracts like, and that is certainly true for us.

All four of us are divorced, with kids who are in their mid-to-late teens and beyond. We’ve all started to forge our own paths in this world, as women who have fallen, hit their lowest point and are now rising again.

Part of our path-forging is being cliché and “staying true to our authentic selves.” As much as I dislike using clichés like that, it really is true.

The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to me to stay true to my own values and morals that I hold dear.

I tend to seek out people, whether consciously or not, who have the same beliefs and drive to improve themselves. And once again, the like-attracts-like rule comes through for me.

As we laughed and reflected during the evening, I was struck by how we, as women, claim so many of the same fears. It was taking the whole like-attracts-like to a new level.

A question was posed about if we ever feel guilty for “failing” at our marriages, thus failing our kids. And, sadly, we all said a resounding yes.

As women, I think we tend to internalize relationship failures – be it with a spouse, child, other family member, or even with friends. Dare I say, we feel our failures in this department more so than our male counterparts.

We pondered this for quite a while and came up with the reasoning that it must have something to do with our natural, cave-woman instincts to nurture and build nests.

When we can’t nurture a relationship – especially one like a marriage, which is supposed to last forever and ever, and where we’re one of the main players — we automatically take the blame. Even if not fully warranted.

It’s long said that it takes two to tango. Well the same goes for “(un)tangoing.”

Despite each of us knowing our marriage endings weren’t totally our faults, we still did, and do, take on the immense guilt of “if only I’d said this, done that, tried this, went here, moved there, said no less often, said yes more often …” 

It’s a constant replay of what we did or didn’t do.

We also queried if it would have changed any of our actual outcomes.

In each case, we all agreed it was unlikely. That, if anything, it would’ve just prolonged what happened.

But that’s a tough call to make even now looking back. Simply for the reasons that the only actions we were able to control were our own and you can’t change other people.

As the night continued, the four of us loosened up. What started with a bit of initial shyness quickly gave way to the “real” side of each of us – complete with our guilty thoughts, guilty pleasures and how we each tend to curse when emotionally charged or giddy or drinking wine ... or talking.

The evening ended on a high note with promises to do it all again soon. As I walked out, I felt an immense sense of gratitude for my best friend and these two new women who will have some sort of hand in shaping who I’m becoming.

I hope I can return the favour.

Thanks for reading.

Lessons I didn't learn

The dawn of a new year has a funny way of making people reflect on their lives over the past year and seeing what lessons can be learned from experiences – both good and bad.

Typically, at this point, I’d start going on and on about the lessons I learned over the past year … but this time, I’m going to regale you with stories about the lessons I haven't learned over the last 365 days.

When I told my kids and boyfriend about what my column was going to be about to kick off the new year, they all had their own views about what I haven’t learned.

My daughter: “You mean like how you can’t figure out how to properly cuff your pants when your wearing short boots?”

My son: “How you hate letting the dog out before you go to bed because you’re too tired, so he wakes you up at 2 a.m. because he has to go?”

And, of course, my other half: “Like how you can’t just be like Elsa (from Frozen) and let it go?” (I still haven't let this comment go.)

Ummm, yeah. Thanks for the insights guys … I think. But my version goes more like this:

The first lesson I haven’t learned is to stop nagging my kids.

No, I don’t love doing it.

Yes, they sometimes hate it.

But because I constantly ask and talk to them, they communicate with me about pretty much anything going on in their lives.

I like to think that in my nagging ways, I’ve created a comfortable environment for them to not be scared to talk to me about anything or tell me what they’re up to. And my plotting seems to have worked.

Both my teens are very open with me and don’t feel the need to hide stuff from me – even when they know they’re in the wrong. So to me, that’s a great lesson to not learn.

Another (cheesy) lesson I haven’t learned is to stop expecting the best-case scenario even when the odds are against it. I’m the eternal optimist and when I wear my rose-coloured glasses, things always look … rosy. 

But the cool thing about this view is that the best usually does happen. It’s all about putting out the vibes you want to attract. So if you want to attract goodness, live it.

Learn to love, give and forgive.

If you’re negative and only see negative outcomes or wrong-doings against you, guess what’s going to continue to happen …

A lesson that perhaps I should learn, but seem to struggle with is giving myself a break. I constantly push  myself to do more, do better, be better, work harder. 

I typically overlook the results of what I’ve already achieved as not being enough, so I push myself further. Sometimes, it’s to my detriment, but other times, it’s to my advantage.

This is a lesson I don’t think I’ll ever learn, but know I should – at least once in awhile.

Although 2017 was a rough year for me, I’m still happy with the outcome – both in lessons learned and not learned.

As for 2018 – it’s off to a great start and I look forward to the lessons that await me – like properly cuffing my pants with short boots.

Thanks for reading.


Teach your children well

One of the biggest rewards when raising kids is seeing them develop into young adults with a clear sense of ethics and morals.

When our children are young, we teach them lessons with which to live life by:

  • treat people the way you want to be treated
  • don’t lie or steal
  • respect your elders,
  • clean up after yourself
  • and of course, use your manners

If all goes well, then the majority of young kids grow up to be responsible, respectful human beings who continue to perpetrate that cycle with their own offspring.

But what about the kids who don’t “grow up well” despite being raised to be that way?

This was a conversation between my 15-year-old son and me. He raised the question when we were discussing a news story we’d seen about youth “delinquents.”

My son was surprisingly knowledgeable and opinionated about the subject. He felt that if kids were old enough to understand that what they were doing is wrong, they should be held accountable.

He said he knows of many kids who do something bad behind their parents' back, and when they get caught, there’s no consequence. He surmises this is why so many kids attempt to break rules – because their parents will just make an excuse for the behaviour.

This is a 15-year-old saying this. His opinion is that we, as parents, are too easy on his peer group and that at times, we do too much for them.

I’ve been caught trying to do too much many times for my kids – and they call me out on it, like in this case.

I’d warned them I would be home late one night from work, so they both needed to go home on the school bus after school that day as I wouldn’t be able to pick them up from the city bus stop later.

My son, despite knowing this, opted to hang out with some friends after school. As a result, he had to take the city bus home. The problem with that is there is no bus route where we live and the closest bus stop is a mile away.

Since I wasn’t able to pick him up from the bus stop, he had to walk.

After stressing out about how to get him home, my son was quick to point out that it’s his problem. He knew the consequence of not taking the school bus home and would figure it out – even if it meant he had to walk.

That was a wake-up call for me. Our kids not only need the chance to figure things like this out, they want to. It’s part growing and becoming adults and proving to themselves, and us, that they are not only capable, but willing.

As my son and I bantered back and forth about the earlier news story, he asked me what I would do if he or his sister were caught stealing.

It was in that moment that my answer changed due to what he’d said to me that night.

I told him I would let them get caught and deal with the consequences. I know that their dad and I have done everything we needed to make sure they both grew up with morals and ethics.

Not only that, but they are both old enough to know the difference between right and wrong and so for either of them to be caught stealing, it wasn’t a result of them not being raised properly or us not teaching them about things like stealing is wrong.

So I guess in that respect, I’ve absolved myself — for the most part — of my kids’ bad choices at this age of their lives. Not for everything, but for many things.

When I told my son this and what my reaction would be, he looked at me, shrugged and said this is why he’s the person he is  — “and mom, I mean that as a compliment.”

Thanks for reading.

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About the Author

Tanya Gunderson has been writing for the heck of it for many years. Her inspiration comes from her kids, their friends and the craziness of life. She takes great pleasure in exposing life for what it really is and has an open-book approach to her writing.

Her formal education and background include a blink-and-you miss-it stint in the radio and television industry, but it gave her an opportunity to write professionally on a few different occasions.

Email: [email protected]



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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