Why I Loathe Vani Hari, Or, There Are No Pancakes In My Chicken Fried Rice

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I need to talk for a moment about how much I despise The Food Babe.

At first I was barely aware of her. I heard people making a stink about the “yoga mat chemical” in Subway and largely ignored it because what do you expect in fast food?

Then the Pumpkin Spice Latte thing happened.

Suddenly, my Facebook was alternately full of people going “OMG PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE SEASON” and this:

food babe pumpkin spice latte

 

Several things struck me as weird about this.

Let’s go through them.

1. Caramel Colour Level IV. I googled it. The first three hits are a variety of studies on its safety in which IT IS FOUND TO BE TOTALLY HARMLESS.

2. Did anyone actually think there is really bits of pureed squash in their latte? Wouldn’t that taste weird?

3. So… the cows ate feed which contains GMOs… so… I should avoid Starbuck’s milk? Is… that different from all the milk sold in all the stores? Because I don’t think so.

4. I’m sorry, 50 g of sugar is TOXIC? I mean, sure, no one’s saying that 50g of sugar is healthy, but isn’t there more sugar in a candy bar? (why yes, there is). In fact, a Banana Berry Smoothie at Jamba Juice contains more sugar. Besides, to me, “toxic” defines as reaching the LD50, or dose that is lethal enough to kill half the people who eat it. The LD50, or “toxic” level for sugar is 300 g/kg. Based on my body weight, that means that I would have to drink 504.5 Pumpkin Spice Lattes for even a 50% chance of getting killed by it (I hope no one does the math and figures out how much I weigh…).

And finally, I went on the Starbucks website and actually it’s only 50g if you get a GIANT one with 2% milk AND whipped cream. An actual normal sized drink without a bunch of EXTRA DAIRY is really more like 34g, which matches up with a veggie puree at Jamba Juice.

5. I’m not even sure why this is supposed to be scary. These natural flavours could be from ANYWHERE! Oh noes. What if it’s MEXICAN natural flavours? I don’t want my xenophobia tainting my drink, even if it IS natural.

6. If you haven’t had an allergic reaction when drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte, you’re probably okay. If you have, you probably don’t need The Food Babe to tell you to steer clear.

7. POSSIBLE pesticide residue? Like, she’s just throwing in “maybes” now. MAYBE, okay, not positive, but WHAT IF the coffee beans were picked by someone WHO HAD EBOLA. ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DRINK THAT.

8.  Okay, this is the only valid complaint. Secret dairy. I accept that as a concern.

Anyway, so I went on a bit of a rampage posting snopes articles at this thing left right and centre until it stopped showing up on my news feed.

But the Food Babe didn’t.

The next time I saw her it was a complaint about MacDonald’s fries.

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The claim was that America and Canada have silly putty in their french fries, while those lucky brits do not.

So of course I googled it. And I learned that this supposedly scary chemical is NOT silly putty but an ingredient thereof. Furthermore, it is used to help prevent workers from being burned, because it reduces spitting and such from the fry oil. The chemical is largely harmless and present in fairly small quantities.

Also, wait. Why is Silly Putty scary? It’s non toxic and we hand it to small children for them to mess around with.

So, basically, the logic goes as follow:

1. Something we eat shares an ingredient with something else.

2. Therefore, that something else is IN the thing we eat. (I love this logic. Eggs are used to make pancakes AND to make chicken fried rice. Therefore there are pancakes in my chicken fried rice.)

3. The something else which shares this ingredient is a harmless substance that is considered safe for small children to play with and probably eat.

4. ?

5. PANIC.

Amusing as the bizarre logic is, here’s what gets me riled:

It’s not that I am a big defender of MacDonald’s. Clearly, being a rational human being, I don’t think their food is good for me.

But that’s actually my point.

DID YOU ACTUALLY THINK THIS WAS GOOD FOR YOU?

You ate at a fast food restaurant knowing that the food would be bad for you. Then you find out one of the ingredients is something which has been cleared by the FDA and is added to keep workers safe. Cue OUTRAGE.

WHY???

I mean, are we supposed to be upset that the British are getting much healthier, safer fries? Because they aren’t. THEY’RE STILL SALTY, FATTY, CARCINOGENIC FRENCH FRIES.

And they’re delicious.

So either eat them and accept it or avoid them and suck it up. But ONE TINY INGREDIENT ALSO FOUND IN A HARMLESS CHILD’S PLAYTHING should not be the deciding factor here.

So after this, I started looking up this Vani Hari woman.

I discovered that she launched giant campaigns against places like Chick-Fil-A and Chipotle because their food contains GMOs. Even though pretty much all the food at your local grocery store and in every chain restaurant everywhere are ALSO GMO and even though there is no scientific reason to be scared of eating GMOs.

I learned that she has caused numerous false food-scares by mixing up chemicals, such as pointing to the ingredient propylene glycol and calling it “antifreeze”, when actually it is used as a non-toxic antifreeze ALTERNATIVE.

And I have watched her style of fear mongering spread all over my facebook feed.

Now, I see other pages who have copied her scare tactics.

Here’s how it works:

1. All-Natural Generic Facebook Page/Blogger picks a multisyllabic ingredient from some already-recognized-as-unhealthy food.

2. All-Natural Generic Facebook Page/Blogger finds some non-food product with that same ingredient.

3. All-Natural Generic Facebook Page/Blogger shares a photo of the two products together with a question like “what is paint thinner doing in Lucky Charms?”

No, that wasn’t a random example. For serious:

lucky charms paint thinner

Never mind that the product on the left is NOT PAINT THINNER, but something we use to clean our walls before we apply the paint.

If the All-Natural Generic Facebook Page/Blogger was ACTUALLY interested in educating the public, they would answer their own question. But they aren’t, because the actual answer (I learned with about 30 seconds spent on Google), is boring:

Trisodium Phosphate is a non-toxic food additive which is sold in some health food stores as a nutrition supplement because it has been linked to improved performance in cyclists. It is also very good at cleaning things.

*yawn*

But instead of actually learning something, people go up in arms about it and freak out, when the REAL question is,”DID YOU REALLY FEEL GOOD ABOUT FEEDING YOUR KIDS LUCKY CHARMS TO BEGIN WITH? HAS THIS REALLY SHATTERED YOUR FAITH IN ALL THAT YOU THOUGHT WAS SAFE AND HEALTHY?”

If I see one more version of “this ingredient has more than two syllables so let’s be scared!” I’m going to start making my own:

I’ll point out that Gripe Water, promoted for helpless colicky infants, contains baking soda – sorry, SODIUM BICARBONATE – which is ALSO FOUND IN INDUSTRIAL GRADE FIRE EXTINGUISHERS. WHY ARE WE FEEDING FLAME RETARDANTS TO BABIES.

I’ll make sure everyone knows that their favourite brand of pickles contains vinegar – sorry, ACETIC ACID – which has been proven to be effective against 99.9% of bacteria. WHAT IS DISINFECTANT DOING IN YOUR GERKINS?

I’ll advertise the fact that X Brand of Jam contains PECTINS, which are used to GLUE CIGARS. WHAT IS CIGAR GLUE DOING ON OUR TOAST???

It may not stop people from panicking over nothing, and it may not teach people to use Google before they get frightened by big words, but dangit, it’ll be amusing.

Maybe THAT’S why she does it.

How Do You Grown Up

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Sometimes I wonder how people manage being grown ups.

Like, when I go to train dogs in people’s houses and the houses are spotless show homes despite two smiling, well behaved children in the house and I wonder how they manage to work well paying jobs and raise two kids and still don’t have soap rings in their bathroom sink.

PH and I both heavily value a clean home. We both grew up in clean homes.

We do not live in a clean home.

At the best of times, we manage a cluttered and messy home.

When we’re doing well, the only dishes in the sink are from the past 24 hours. The toilet has been cleaned within the last two weeks and the fur has been swept off of the floor when guests come over.

Then there are times like now.

The first trimester exhaustion kicked in for me around the 7 week mark. Until that day, PH and I had fallen into a rhythm for managing our family dishes. I washed them at night before bed, and he took them out of the dry rack and put them away the next morning. Each of us kept up our end of the deal because the other person kept up theirs.

Suddenly, I didn’t have it in me to wash those dishes. I looked at them, and I walked away.

And now our kitchen looks like this:

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Not Dead Yet

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We haven’t really been taking my pregnancy seriously yet. After last time, we are a bit more guarded in our hopes and expectations. By which I mean that we make constant dead baby jokes and PH’s repeated imitation of our embryo is basicly an elaborate death pose.

But, that being said, we went in for an eight week ultrasound and the ultrasound technician told me right away that he had found a heart beat.

At eight weeks, there’s not really much else to say about a little gray jelly bean on the screen. It measured eight weeks two days, which means that my estimated due date is spot on, which is pretty unusual, and its tiny heart is beating.

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Or it was, as of that particular day.

In our minds, it could have stopped the next day, or the day after that. So we weren’t super excited, and we still haven’t talked much about our plans for April, when our still-considered-hypothetical baby should be born.

I have lost all trust in my body. When I was pregnant with Owl, and again in my second pregnancy, I assumed that if I was experiencing pregnancy symptoms and not having cramping or bleeding, that the baby was probably okay. When we had that brief no-heartbeat-on-doppler scare we acknowledged the possibility that the baby might NOT be okay, but a reassuring ultrasound was all we needed to get us expecting a baby again.

This ultrasound was reassuring, sure. We were definitely relieved to hear that our baby wasn’t dead…. yet. But we can’t get that “yet” our of our psyches.

Sure, my abdomen is already starting to expand, even though the scale reads the same as it did a month ago, so clearly my uterus is growing.

Sure, I am experiencing that terrible first trimester exhaustion that is not really describable to people who haven’t experienced it. My doctor even said to me, “you know, my patients always talked about that first trimester fatigue, but I didn’t really understand how deep it goes until I experienced it for myself.”

And while I’m not having much morning sickness, I do experience low grade nausea at several points in the day.

But you know what? My pants got tight last time, too. I had morning sickness last time. I went through all of the sucky aspects of the first trimester, and experienced them for weeks AFTER my baby had already died.

I don’t think I’ll really believe it until I can feel the baby move and KNOW it’s alive.

 

Well, That Explains A Lot, Actually

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So, the day after my stressed-out freak-out (yes, I did thoroughly apologize to the staff member in question) I was back to my normal self. Several people needed me, and I had no complaints about helping them. I even drove over to a friend’s house with husband and son in tow to do some first aid on her pug dog.

The day after that, I learned this:

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So, hormones.

That’s good.

 

Mommied-Out, Or, Someone Needs To Grow Up And That Person May Be Me

Today, I’m tired of being a mother.

I’ve always wanted to be a mother. I’ve always looked forward to it. When I was a teenager, I got attached to my Baby Think It Over and didn’t want to give him back to my Family Studies teacher.

I like to be needed.

I like to take care of things.

Even PH’s Quidditch team has voted me their “Quidditch mom.” I already have refreshments ready for practice next week, and I’m going to make sure they’re wearing sunscreen. I may get a shirt.

However, there’s another side to me. I warned PH about it before we got married, but I think he already knew it:

I have a strong need to be cared for.

I am an only child. I like to be doted on, to be spoiled a bit. I like to have someone to lean on. Luckily, PH was always very good at that. He took care of me, I took care of the animals/baby, and it worked.

Over the last year, it hasn’t been working so well. 

Overall, PH has been doing better. He stepped up wonderfully when I was sick, taking over a lot of the parenting while I slept, but it took its toll on him. As my functionality improved, he collapsed into a dip that he’s only just starting to emerge from. When he is in a dip, all of his physical and emotional energy are devoted to staying alive. I become the only functional parent and I still have to work at two jobs. I feel like my entire life from dawn to well after dusk is consumed by the overwhelming needs of others.

Owl needs me to get up in the morning. Owl needs me to play with him. Owl needs me to pull down his pants even though he is perfectly capable of doing it himself but needs the parental care and attention. The house needs me to wash its dishes and sweep its floors and clean its counters and scrub its toilet. Then my dog training clients need me. PH needs my love and support. Then work needs me.

And boy, how does work need me.

I’m not sure what is more demanding, my three year old or my job. In a strange turn of events, this particular workplace perceives me as competent. Since all my workplaces since 2007 had considered me to be a useless waste of space, I find this turnaround both flattering and bewildering. I didn’t mind being asked how to do insanely simple tasks, because it felt so good just to be needed instead of hated.

But with no one to actually take care of ME, I’m crumbling under the weight of it all. I’ve given and given and given until I’m hollow and still more is needed so I’m starting to just hand out pieces of myself and I’m not being gracious about it.

I’m losing my ability to handle it. I resent having to put on Owl’s shoes on the days when he wants me to do it. Sometimes I snap at him and make him do it himself anyway, even though I know that this really isn’t about shoes (Owl is Mr Independent and loves to do things by himself, so if he wants help it’s usually because he’s feeling lonely or insecure in some way, probably because Mommy has turned into a resentful ball of snark).

I’m no better at work.

Don’t know why your user profile has corrupted on your laptop? Neither do I. No, I don’t feel like fixing it for you. I am not an IT person, just someone who knows how to use Google. Google the solution. That’s what I always do. No, I don’t really feel like showing you how to do something that I’ve already shown you three times. I realize that you’re new, but I still don’t have the patience.

Today, I lost it completely.

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TuTu Cool For School

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Every parent I’ve spoken to agrees – the selection for girl clothes is way better than the selection for boy clothes. The girl section is always twice the size of the boy section, and full of adorable pea coats, polka dot dresses, and bluejeans with butterfly embroideries. Meanwhile, the boy section is full of grubby looking t-shirts covered in corporate characters like Batman and Ninja turtles.

I guess Owl agrees, because one day we were trying shorts on him in the store and he looked longingly over to a rack of pink tutus and said wistfully, “Someday… when I’m a girl… I’m going to wear that.”

PH and I exchanged looks. We looked at the price tag of the tutu. Seven dollars.

“We can get that if you want,” I said.

“No, but those are for girls.”

“Yes, they are,” I said. “But you can PRETEND you are a girl. I mean, you wear a fireman suit sometimes, but are you a really a fireman?”

“No! I’m a little boy!”

“Well, you can pretend to be a girl just like you pretend to be a fireman.”

“Okay! Let’s try it on!”

He has never been so excited about a piece of clothing. He carried it proudly to the cashier, and insisted on donning it the moment the transaction went through.

We were pretty amused, and took some pictures, and tried to cherish this moment while it lasted. We got seven dollars worth of cuteness just that night at Montana’s alone, where he did pirouettes for the admiring waitress.

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That was months ago.

He STILL loves his tutu.

We won’t let him wear it to school, ostensibly because tutus are dress-up clothes, and it is no more appropriate to wear tutus to school than to show up in his shark costume. The real reason, though, is that there is a boy at his school who is a little punk and would tear him a new one. This charming child introduced words into his vocabulary like “dead” and “kill” and “gun”. The same kid also taught Owl that pink is for girls, among other things. Once I took him to school with his nails painted and he came home and said “Little Punk says that nail polish is FOR GIRLS.”

God knows what would happen if Owl showed up in a tutu.

We’re not just trying to protect Owl’s feelings – we don’t like things like that parroted at him and we’re not going to set up opportunities for him to receive a lecture in gender norms from some four year old peer.

Other than that, he can wear it pretty much anywhere. He wears it to the store and playing around our complex and out to the park. He wore it to a boy’s birthday party, using the logic that birthdays are a dress-up occasion. We couldn’t argue it and so he went. No one teased him. One larger boy did see and point, but Owl didn’t notice. The other three year olds didn’t even blink.

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He was just another boy… in a tutu.

He even sleeps in it most nights. Last night he didn’t sleep with it, but he must have put it on first thing in the morning because he was wearing it when he crawled into bed with me this morning, saying “I’m pretty now, Mom! I’m VERY PRETTY.”

We don’t know if this is a phase or not. We used to think so, when he was a baby. It was his love of pretty dresses that turned me into a feminist. We thought he’d outgrow it once he understood about gender. Now we aren’t so sure. He spotted a doll in PH’s study and wanted red lips like her, so I came home to find him wearing lipstick.

For the most part, he seems all boy. He likes to pretend he’s a super hero who fights bad guys. He likes to shoot things, and destroy things, and he has the restless energy of a male child. But he really likes to do these things while wearing a pink tutu.

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Maybe these are the sort of passing inclinations that all children have, and PH and I have seen more of it because we don’t discourage it. Maybe other boys admire tutus and their parents just nod and keep walking, which is what we almost did.

Or maybe he’s a cross dresser. Or maybe he’s a trans girl (although I don’t think so, his mind is still pretty masculine). Or maybe he’s gay. Or maybe he’s just Owl, an active boy in a tutu, like Puck in the performance of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream that PH and I attended recently.

Will this be Owl in twenty years?

Will this be Owl in twenty years?

We don’t care.

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Maybe he will grow out of this and then be humiliated by all of these photos of him in a tutu. If so, we’re going to have a word with him, and try to explain that admiring the feminine is not a shameful thing. If a girl can admire the masculine and play with tools, what’s wrong with a boy admiring the feminine and playing ballerina?

That’s the part that I don’t want him to outgrow. I want him to always know that it is okay to be whoever he wants to be.

As long as the Little Punks of the world don’t wreck it too much for him.

 

In Which We Attend The Quidditch Global Games 2014 and are Blown Away by Awesomeness

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We found out about it totally by accident.

We were at an indoor play gym as part of our constant battle to keep our little extrovert entertained on the weekend. PH picked up a local paper to flip through while we sat in the overwhelmingly loud atmosphere.

“Hey, the Quidditch Global Games are in Vancouver,” he said.

“Like, where people run around on brooms?” I said.

“Yeah.”

“Oh, we need to see that. When is it.”

He scanned the article. “Today!”

So we packed Owl in the car and headed down to see.

It took us a while to find it. International competition not withstanding, the Quidditch Global Games had not attracted a large crowd. Most of the spectators were family and friends of the players.

We were geeking out.

20140720-121752-44272804.jpg“They have MERCHANDISE!” I said, running over to the booth. There were shirts from many of the international teams. After much hemming and hawing I bought shirt from the Mexican team, where were newcomers this year and could only afford to bring half of their team.

The shirt says “Viva Quidditch, cabrones!” and really, how often do you get a chance to buy a shirt that says (loosely translated) “long live Quidditch, bitches!” in Spanish?

We showed up at the perfect time, because Canada was just starting their match against Australia. We watched as all players bowed their head while the “Snitch” – a heavyset dude in yellow with a sock hanging out of the back of his pants – ran off of the field to hide.

When the Snitch was out of a sight, a whistle blew and all hell broke loose. The players grabbed their brooms, mounted them, and then fought to get a “Quaffle” (which, confusingly, was white) through the other team’s hoops. Since they were all holding onto their brooms, all throwing and catching was done one handed.

It all sounds pretty silly, until you watch it played.

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This sport is FULL BODY CONTACT, guys. They were tackling each other like mad. We saw at least one person carted off of the field in a stretcher, and several more down for a good 5-10 minute count. This isn’t about some silly geeks LARPing in a soccer field. It’s like Rugby with extra balls and literary roots.

While Chasers fought one-handed over the Quaffle, Beaters were throwing dodge balls at the players. Whenever one of them got tagged by a “bludger” they had to dismount and run back and touch their hoops before they could re-enter play.

After 18 minutes the Snitch returned to the pitch and then the play became (if possible) even more intense. The seekers tried to tackle the Snitch, who wasn’t afraid to knock them down repeatedly, while opposing team members tried to interfere with play. Meanwhile, the Chasers are still trying to get the Quaffle through the hoops while also helping out their Seeker.

You don’t even know what to watch – keep your eyes on the Snitch and miss another incredible goal? Or watch the Quaffle and miss the capturing of the Snitch?

Craziness.

We were able to stay long enough to watch Canada come in third. We had to take Owl home to bed before the final match, which the USA ended up winning (Muggle Quidditch originated in the U.S, and the page for the international association is actually called USquidditch.com, which bothers me. Hopefully as international teams increase, there will be a truly international page set up).

Some friends of ours who are both sporty AND geeky also came out to watch.

Why don’t we play this?” one of them asked.

Good question.

PH has been missing sports in his life for many years.

In his high school yearbook, you can find his face in pretty much every team photo. Soccer, baseball, football, curling… he did it all.

In University he refereed several sports. But it’s surprisingly hard to get involved in sports here. There’s a big population and a lot of demand. When we moved to B.C. he tracked down the local baseball league and was rejected several times – they just didn’t have room for more players.

He did curling for a year or two, but since he had to take what he could get, he was shunted onto a team of lackluster players who he never quite jived with. He gave up in frustration after two seasons.

So then he decided to try refereeing.  He got qualified as a soccer referee, but was only every called out to a few games, earning a grand total of a hundred dollars over a whole season. The next year they only called once. He didn’t bother re-certifying the next year.

Last year he decided to get certified as a softball referee. It cost us $150 and they never called him at all.

Quidditch, on the other hand, could be a whole other ball game.

PH tracked down a Quidditch referee to ask how he could get involved and they practically leaped on him. Turns out that there was a team in Burnaby that was looking for players, and they are short on referees.

By the time we left the field he had exchanged emails with several people and they were hoping to see him on the Quidditch pitch next Saturday.  Today he downloaded the 150 page rule book and began memorizing it.

Quidditch rules, by the way, are awesome.

Not only is it a delightfully geeky and yet truly challenging sport to play, it is also heartwarmingly unlike other sports.

Besides being the only sport to involve multiple balls in play at once, the International Quidditch Association is dedicated to inclusivity and equality.

Teams MUST be co-ed, and it specifically addresses transgender issues in the rulebook. The co-ed rule reads:

Each team [is] to have at least two players on the field who identify with a different gender than at least two other players. The gender that a player identifies with is considered to be that player’s gender, which may or may not be the same as that person’s sex.

That is AWESOME.

The rule goes on to acknowledge that some players may not identify as male OR female, and that is okay, too.

If that rule wasn’t enough to make Perfect Husband and I fall head over heels in love with Quidditch (we consider ourselves ardent LGBTQ allies), our hearts were entirely won over when we learned that Quidditch also had a decree called Title 9 3/4 (a play on Title IX) which is devoted specifically to gender equality in the sport.

It’s so awesome, and I’m proud that PH is getting involved. I can cheer on Quidditch in a way that I just can’t with other sports. The literary roots of the sport generate some interest in me, and the gender-equality factor makes me want to support it.

I can’t wait to attend more games.

 

In Which A Mysterious Disease Eats Months Of My Life, Part 3

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I saw the neurologist two weeks ago.

I was given a detailed form to fill out and then he admitted me into his office, flipping through the paper work.

“So, you think you have intracranial hypertension? What makes you think that?”

I described my symptoms, including the optic nerve swelling. He shone a light in my eyes.

“Yep, that’s papilledema all right. Okay, and how long have these symptoms been going on?” he said, glancing idly through the next few pages of my forms.

“Well… my eyes turned red on May 21st, and the headache and dizziness came a few days later.”

“Uh huh.” He asked a few more routine questions, and then I brought up the jaundice. He looked confused. “Jaundice?”

I guess he hadn’t read my referral from the internal medicine specialist very carefully.

“Yes,” I said patiently. “I had jaundice originally. And a rash. And lower back pain. And the my toenails fell off.”

The look on his face was priceless.

“Your TOENAILS FELL OFF?” He whirled around in his chair, stared at me, looked at PH for confirmation, and then whirled back to his computer and started looking through my bloodwork. “Okay, wait. Start from the beginning.”

Half an hour later he let me go, promising an MRI and a referral to an infectious disease specialist to try and figure out what the hell I had. He was the first doctor to actually take into consideration that I work with animals, and he wanted the ID to help rule out weird zoontic diseases.

I saw the infectious disease specialist today, which was less amusing. She was politely interested, and she gave me a requisition for some bloodwork to test for leptospirosis (looks like the original test that I requested was never actually done. She called the Center for Disease Control herself), lyme disease, brucella, q-fever… animal-related diseases. Considering I have had two people message me and point out that my symptoms match lyme disease, I think it was a good call. Although I haven’t had a tick on me since I was 15.

My MRI is scheduled for next week. We’ll see what it says.

Sometimes I feel like all these tests are pointless. Those are the times when I feel better. The visual disturbances are less than they were. I have no dizziness and only rare headaches. It does seem to be getting better slowly.

But then there are days like last Sunday, when my vision was so bad that I couldn’t read, couldn’t even really SEE. I could hear my pulse in my ears for the first time in over a week, and my head hurt badly enough that I took several extra strength Advil. The next couple of days I had continued bad visual disturbances and headaches. It seems to be settling out again, though.

At least people are finally starting to take me seriously. I could kiss that opthamologist.

Poor Ron: In Which Everyone Completely Underestimates Ron Weasley, Even His Creator (Part 1)

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Recently, JK Rowling admitted in an interview with Emma Watson that she sometimes regrets putting Ron and Hermione together romantically. Like the rest of us, she wonders whether bumbling, incompetent, lazy Ron could really have made the industrious and brilliant Hermione happy.

That made me really sad. Because the last couple times reading through the series, I’ve been paying attention to Ronald Weasley, and I’ve realized something:

Yes, Ron is lazy. Yes, Ron buggers off on Harry twice. Yes, Ron has inferiority problems. Yes, Ron is flawed.

But Ron is also the most underestimated character in the series.

Ron is continually underestimated by Hermione, by Harry, by his family… he even underestimates himself.

If you actually WATCH Ron, you start to notice things.

Ron Is Smart

We all remember how Ron saved the day in the first book by winning the game of chess against McGonnagle’s giant chess set. If you think about it, that’s pretty impressive, since the artificial intelligence of the opposing side was meant to defeat adults.

Maybe you, like me, dismissed this as an out-of-character moment, since Ron’s supposed brilliance at chess never really comes up again.

Except it does.

When I started paying attention to Ron, I noticed that he never stopped winning at chess. Hermione is always interrupting Harry and Ron at games of chess throughout the books, and Ron never appears to be losing.

ron chess

Now, if Ron is good enough at chess to win so consistently, he’s not the dimwit that so many of us tend to think he is. If anything, he is a good out-of-the-box thinker who keeps his cool in stressful situations. It is Ron who suggests Felix Felicis as a way for Harry to get Slughorn to cooperate in Half Blood Prince. It is Ron who thinks of fetching Basilisk fangs in Deathly Hallows.

Furthermore, while we all tend to think of Ron as a poor student, he was one of only twelve students to take NEWT level Potions. In fact, he does well enough to attend NEWT level Transfiguration, Charms, Defense Against The Dark Arts, and Herbology.

ron books

That means he got Exceeds Expectations on all of those OWLS. So, while he may not be the top of the class, he’s a B-level student at least, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

Ron Is Good At Magic

Grades don’t necessarily equal practical abilities, of course. Look at Fred and George, who barely got any OWLs at all but invent all sorts of cool magical items, which Hermione herself describes as “extraordinary magic”.

Ron_Battle_Stance

Ron may be bad at the more academic classes, like History of Magic, and he may have failed his first Apparition test (“just barely”, as Hermione points out in his defense). But he’s not actually all that bad at magic, especially in emergency situations. Don’t forget that he’s the one who knocked out the troll in his first year. In his second year, he cast a non-verbal Slug Vomiting Charm at Draco Malfoy and it worked. Unfortunately, it backfired on him because of his broken wand. But it WORKED.

He picks up Defense Against the Dark Arts quickly – maybe more quickly than Hermione was willing to admit.

Did you see me disarm Hermione, Harry?”
“Only once” said Hermione, stung. “I got you loads more then you got me—”
“I did not only get you once, I got you at least three times—

He acquits himself well in battle, earning praise from Tonks, the Auror who rode with him in the Battle of Seven Potters.

Ron was great. Wonderful. Stunned one of the Death Eaters, straight to the head, and when you’re aiming at a moving target from a flying broom —

“You did?” said Hermione, gazing up at Ron with her arms still around his neck.

“Always the tone of surprise,” he said grumpily, breaking free.

Always-underestimated Ron disarms Bellatrix Lestrange, saving Hermione, at Malfoy Manor, and helps to bring down Fenrir Greyback in the Battle of Hogwarts.

Ron is no bumbler, and no liability to his friends in a fight.

Ron Is Brave

Ron is a true Gryffindor. The only thing that he fears is his own personal failures. Well, that and spiders. But Ron faces down an entire nest of giant spiders for the sake of a friend. Ron never hesitates to throw himself into danger to save the people he loves.

ron in front of friends

A lot of this got edited out of the movies, where Ron was portrayed in a much more cowardly manner.

In the movie version, Ron panics while Hermione coolly saves him from the Devil’s Snare. In reality, it was Hermione who panicked and Ron who snapped her out of it. In the movie version of Prisoner of Azkaban, Ron whimpers on the floor with his broken leg while Hermione throws herself in front of Harry. In the book, Ron was the one who stood up with a broken leg and put himself between Sirius Black and Harry.

“If you want to kill Harry, you’ll have to kill us, too!” he said fiercely, though the effort of standing up had drained him of still more colour, and he swayed slightly as he spoke.

Something flickered in Black’s shadowed eyes.

“Lie down,” he said quietly to Ron. “You will damage that leg even more.”

“Did you hear me?” Ron said weakly, though he was clinging painfully to Harry to stand upright, “You’ll have to kill all three of us!”

ron knight

Ron sacrifices himself a lot. He lets himself get attacked by a giant stone statue so that his friends can save the Philosopher’s Stone. He throws himself in front of Harry’s would-be murderer. He disguises himself as Harry in the Battle of Seven Potters. He dives into an icy lake to save Harry and pull out Gryffindor’s Sword. He begs Bellatrix Lestrange to torture him in Hermione’s place.

Ron may have his flaws, but he is no coward.

Ron Is Hilarious

Ron serves as the comic relief throughout the books. But the only one who ever gives him credit for this is the perceptive Luna Lovegood.

He says very funny things sometimes, doesn’t he?

Yes, yes he does. He brings light heartedness and wit to Harry and Hermione, who are far too gloomy when left to their own devices.

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Of all the trees we could’ve hit, we had to get one that hits back.

Percy wouldn’t recognize a joke if it danced naked in front of him wearing Dobby’s tea cozy.”

Can I have a look at Uranus too, Lavender?

From now on, I don’t care if my tea leaves spell ‘Die, Ron, Die,’ I’m chucking them in the bin where they belong.

A brutal triple murder by the bridegroom’s mother might put a bit of a damper on the wedding.

I don’t know how to break this to you, but I think they might have noticed we broke into Gringotts.

IF WE DIE FOR THEM, I’LL KILL YOU, HARRY!

This is one of the reasons why Hermione and Harry need Ron.

There was much less laughter, and a lot more hanging around the library when Hermione was your best friend.

When Ron leaves Harry and Hermione alone for months in Deathly Hallows, the playful banter that we see between the friends throughout the series disappears.

harry hermione alone

 

There were loads of nights where we didn’t even speak to each other. With you gone…” He could not finish; it was only now that Ron was here again that Harry fully realized how much his absence had cost them.

Ron balances Hermione. He tends to serves as a comic foil to Hermione’s know-it-all seriousness, and he forms most of the punch lines in their interactions.

HarryPotter6-RonHermione

I suppose we’re doing the right thing…I think….aren’t we?”

Harry and Ron looked at each other.

“Well, that clears that up,” said Ron. “It would have been really annoying if you hadn’t explained yourself properly.

“What’s that?” said Ron, pointing at a large dish of some sort of shellfish stew that stood beside a large steak-and-kidney pudding.

“Bouillabaisse,” said Hermione.

“Bless you,” said Ron.

 

Excuse me, I don’t like people just because they’re handsome!” said Hermione indignantly.

Ron gave a loud false cough, which sounded oddly like ‘Lockhart!’

Maybe we assume that the comic relief shouldn’t be taken seriously, but for a character like Hermione, who desperately needs to be reminded to lighten up now and then, and someone like Harry, who broods far too much, Ron is vital to their mental health.

Ron Has A Talent For Imitation

Through most of the series, Ron’s tendency to imitate people just seems like part of his general wit.

You can pretend to be waiting Professor Flitwick, you know.” He put on a high voice, “‘Oh, Professor Flitwick, I’m so worried, I think I got question fourteen b wrong…

Aaaah,” said Ron, imitating Professor Trelawney’s mystical whisper, “when two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry…

 

I’ll make Goyle do lines, he hates writing,” said Ron happily. He lowered his voice to Goyle’s low grunt, mimed writing in midair. “I…must…not…look…like…a…baboon’s…backside.”

Ron’s impressions are not only funny, they’re genuinely well done. In Half Blood Prince he temporarily damages his friendship with Hermione by perpetrating a “cruel but accurate impression of Hermione jumping up and down in her seat every time Professor McGonagall asked a question”.

But still, what use is that skill?

As it turns out, It’s REALLY USEFUL.

ron wormtail

In Deathly Hallows, while Harry grapples with Wormtail, Lucius Malfoy nearly comes down to investigate.

“What is it, Wormtail?” called Lucius Malfoy from above.

“Nothing,” Ron called back in a passable imitation of Wormtail’s wheezy voice, “All fine!”

If Ron hadn’t pulled off a good Wormtail impression, they wouldn’t have been able to escape and run upstairs with Wormtail’s wand to save Hermione.

But his ability to imitate is put to the ultimate test when he and Hermione break into the Chamber of Secrets, which can only be opened by someone who speaks Parseltongue. Ron pulls off an imitation of Harry hissing to Slytherin’s locket that is so convincing, it actually works.

ron chamber of secrets

He was AMAZING,” Hermione said, “Amazing!

Ron Is Underestimated

tone of surprise

So, it comes down to this: Ron is brilliant at chess, witty, not bad at school, a force to be reckoned with in battle, selfless, brave, with a handy ability to mimic others.

…but everyone, including his friends, family, even his own author, thinks of him as being slightly useless.

Why?

Ron Is Disadvantaged

ron broken wand

Let’s be honest about it – the Weasley family are basically considered to be the wizarding version of white trash – at least, by the other wizards.

My father told me all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles, and more children than they can afford.

Racism works along different lines in the wizarding world. No one seems to care particularly if you’re black or white. Instead they care about how “magical” your family is.

The Weasleys are considered to be “pure-bloods”, which makes them the wizard equivalent of Aryan. But they are also considered to be “blood traitors” and are scorned by the wizarding elite.

It’s Arthur’s fondness for Muggles that has held him back at the Ministry all these years. Fudge thinks he lacks proper wizarding pride.

Nor do the Weasleys have a pile of inherited wealth like most of the other pure bloods in the books. Harry’s parents lived off of his father’s inheritance – they never held actual employment. Lucius Malfoy doesn’t seem to have an actual job, either. He’s just rich. He probably owns a lot of land and lives off of the rents.

By contrast, Arthur Weasley works at a low-level government job, and supports his large family with a lot of scrimping and hand-me-downs. Ron, as one of the youngest children, is therefore also the most disadvantaged.

I’ve got Bill’s old robes, Charlie’s old wand, and Percy’s old rat.

Unlike Harry or Hermione, who get brand new wands that are specially matched to them and their abilities, Ron is handed an old wand that his brother didn’t want any more. That’s a huge disadvantage at school.

First of all, it is stated many times in the series that while a wizard can make magic with any wand, a wand will never work as well for someone who is not its rightful owner.

Unless Ron won that wand in a duel with his brother – which is unlikely – Charlie’s wand probably never worked properly for him, even before it got broken in second year.

Furthermore, the wand must have been pretty damaged for Charlie to want a new one. Ron says himself that the unicorn hair inside is showing.

Then, once the wand was snapped by the Whomping Willow, Ron is forced to keep using it for the rest of the school year, even though it simply doesn’t work. It backfires constantly, injuring Ron, Professor Flitwick, some unfortunate beetles, Seamus, and finally Gilderoy Lockhart. Sometimes it smokes for no reason.

No wonder Ron did badly in class when he was younger.

Ron Is Humble

The Weasleys are a humble family in general, tending to think of others before themselves. But Ron takes his humility into the depths of an inferiority complex, and who can blame him?

Everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it’s no big deal, because they did it first.

Ron comes into Hogwarts with a “why try” attitude that he doesn’t really outgrow until the last chapters of the last book.

Can you blame him?

He spent his childhood being teased by Fred and George, the youngest and therefore most incompetent of the Weasley boys. His successes are compared to those of his older brothers, but his mother uses her older children’s successes to shame her younger children when they come up short.

Ron stands there with his smoking, broken, hand-me-down wand while brilliant Hermione succeeds at everything and famous Harry gets all the attention. His own conviction that he’s useless at everything tends to create self-fulfilling prophecies.

“Has Ron saved a goal yet?” asked Hermione, peering over the top of Magical Hieroglyphs and Logograms.

“Well, he can do it if he doesn’t think anyone’s watching him,” said Fred, rolling his eyes. “So all we have to do is ask the crowd to turn their backs and talk among themselves every time the Quaffle goes up his end on Saturday.”

A lot of people in Ron’s position would try to minimize the successes of those around them. They would turn into bullies like Malfoy who make themselves feel bigger by putting others down.

But Ron is always the first person to tell Hermione how smart she is, or to congratulate Harry when he does well.

ron harry hug

 

Harry glanced down at Ron’s grades. There were no ‘Outstandings’ there…

“Knew you’d be top in Defence Against The Dark Arts,” said Ron, punching Harry in the shoulder.

And that’s Ron all over. Harry outshines him, and he just accepts it.

The one time it became too much for him, he was back at Harry’s side the moment he came out of his funk and realized that Harry was in danger.

Hermione constantly does brilliant things and Ron is right there, clapping his hands, admiring her.

How do you remember stuff like that?” asked Ron, looking at her in admiration.

“I listen, Ron,” said Hermione with a touch of asperity.

We do try,” said Ron. “We just haven’t got your brains or your memory or your concentration – you’re just cleverer than we are, is it nice to rub it in?

herm-and-ron

And yet, with all this, people don’t think Ron and Hermione belonged together? They’re perfect for each other, and I’ll explain exactly why next time…

If you haven’t already, you might also like to check out some of my other Harry Potter rants.

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