East End Man
On being shirtless in Toronto
On my recent visit to Toronto, I stayed in my old neighbourhood. All of the familiar sights and sounds brought back a lot of memories.
For the first time in seven years, I saw him, the local character my wife and I have loving referred to as the superhero East End Man.
East End Man has a few defining characteristics, some are only present in the summertime.
Old, rusted ten speed bicycle, with the handlebars turned up like bull horns
Four cans of mass produced pony piss masquerading as beer hanging from the aforementioned handlebars
Mirrored sunglasses and thinning mullet (think newly planted rice patty)
NO SHIRT! (obviously)
Cheap, thong flip flops
Cut off jean shorts, cut very short and worn without underpants. How do I know this? On more than one occasion I have seen one or more of this mans testes dangling around his bike seat. NO. I’m not looking for them. And, somehow, my eyes are always drawn to things I don’t want to see.
East End Man is comfortable in his own skin.
East End Man has zero fucks to give.
East End Man experiences freedom.
East End Man is hilarious.
East End Man in all of his glory makes people feel uncomfortable. He does not do this on purpose. He’s just being East End Man. Some think that their discomfort is the problem of East End Man. I’m here to suggest that his choices surrounding self presentation and their impact on others is the problem of the others, not of East End Man.
While in Toronto, I used the bicycle share service. I rode around on bikes everywhere. It was hot there. Damn hot. Hot and wet. As I wrote a couple of days ago, I have a tendency to sweat.
After riding across town, I’d dock my bike then take off my shirt to let my skin dry before dressing and going into the conference.
Sitting there with the fronds of my pitty-pies narfeling in the breeze I looked around at sweaty, uncomfortable people struggling along wearing shirts. I felt sad. Well. That’s not true. I felt liberated from the sweat soaked rag that was the first shirt of the day. And I felt sad that these people didn’t see the opportunity to liberate themselves from their own shirts.
And yes, in Toronto EVERYONE could be topless should they want to.
Gwen Jacob has superpowers beyond those of even East End Man. Back in 1991, on a hot hot hot day, Gwen Jacob walked topless down a street in Guelph Ontario. It was hot. Not hot in that ‘hot’ way that people are when they are attracted to each other but hot in that way when there’s too much heat and you’ve got to move a lot.
That kind of hot.
Hot hot hot.
It’s more than that.
It’s hot hot hot hot.
Gwen Jacob was hot. She saw some men playing sports topless and figured, why not me? Another woman saw her and reported her to the police. She was charged with indecent exposure. The case went to the Ontario Court of Appeals where it was ruled that topless women are not ‘indecent’. In doing so, women gained the right to be bare breasted in public. Ever nursed a kid in a shopping mall food court in Canada? You can thank Gwen for that.
But a lot of people don’t want to be shirtless in public ever. Some have even suggested that more people could feel more comfortable if some people stoped going topless. The argument that my established freedom should be diminished so that you can have more sounds like the sour grapes of envy. This crap pops up everywhere.
Union workers are lazy and they get paid too much
Solution: Join a union. Vote for pro union politicians. Get a better job
Government workers are lazy, do nothing and get paid too many of my tax dollars
Solution: Get a government job. If it’s a desire and goal, make that happen. Keep trying.
Teachers have it too easy. I’d love to have eight weeks of vacation
Solution: Go become European. They have much better attitudes towards vacation time there. Or, strap yourself to the keel of a containership and go for a cruise.
We have a great opportunity these days. When we get told that we’re making someone uncomfortable, we can adjust and accommodate their neurosis. In doing so, we can help them feel more entitled to ask the world to adjust for them.
We can be like Gwen Jacob or East End Man and stay comfortable in our own skin and lead by example. When we chose to lead, we’re walking around shirtless and exposed. That’s the thrill of it. Even better, the wind feels great as it blows though armpit hair. It’s brisk and refreshing. Imagine all of us Remarkable Fools, riding bikes around Toronto with our braided armpit hair and moustaches blowing in the breeze.
It’s like the old saying goes: The answer is blowin’ in the wind