Discover more from In the Writing Burrow
THE DAY I GOT STAMPED
Hold the licking and sticking jokes, please.
Despite the holiday wrapping zoo, I assure you that I’m currently working on serious fodder — shall I rewrite Macbeth, with John Tory as Macbeth, Douglas Ford as Lady Macbeth, and Duncan as Democracy? Shall I resume my cartoonist sideline and draw Douglas in a dress? Would that be too over the top? Or shall I sober up, treat you to the Tommy Douglas tea towel and my grandfather the country doctor, and do a rant on the plot to destroy the public health system? So many different ways to get in trouble!
Meanwhile, a tiny time travel: back to the day in October, 2021, when a stamp with me on it was unveiled. You’d think this might have been a humdrum sort of platitudes-uttering affair, but it was great – the audience were high as kites because this was the first time they’d been out in public since Covid. We had boxed lunches and a fine time just being With Other People! Then along came Omicron. Sigh.
Here is me on a stamp, dreaming of drawing Doug Ford in a dress — No! No! — dreaming of the fine world we could live in, once King John Tory is defeated by the Ents at the Battle of — NO! Margaret, you are an Icon, and Icons do not behave like that! — if we could solve the climate crisis. Whew. At least that sounds respectable.
Here is what I said at the Stamp Launch:
“Dear friends and family, well-wishers, and those who intend to make fun of me for being on a stamp: thank you for being here, and for being in my life. And thank you to the team at Canada Post who have put so much thought and effort into this phenomenon. I hope you had fun doing it, and that the Great Post Office in the Sky will give you five stars for your achievements.
Upon receiving your kind invitation to this event, my sister-in-law phoned. “I may be late for your lunch,” she said.
“It’s not a lunch,” I replied. “It’s a launch.”
“It’s a lunch. I’m sure it says that.”
“No, it’s just a launch.”
“Well, if there’s no food, I’m not coming,”
The good news is that it’s both. It’s a launch lunch. The food is in the box. Think of it as a parcel post. You can open it at your leisure.
Being on a stamp is an unexpected honour: so unexpected that it has already caused a rash of Stamp Envy in my peer group. Indeed, the first phone call I received on this subject was from a friend of my age -- a thousand and two – who exclaimed, with a shocked horror that was only partly jocular, “But -- you’re not even dead yet!” To which the only possible reply is, “How can you tell?”
I could have said, Lots of people have stamps without being dead. Olympic athletes. Cartoonists. Buffy St. Marie. The Queen. But this protest would have been to no avail. My lack of deadness is just the latest outrage I have perpetrated on the right-thinking Canadian public, and of course there will be a price to pay. On a stamp? Really, the nerve! However will I live it down?
My country is very good at sticking pins into heads it deems to have become too swelled- up. Be prepared for a bunch of jokes about licking and sticking, not to mention cancellation. And especially not to mention philately, but we won’t go there. You may not know what that word means, but it has a suspicious ring to it. “She’s a… Philatelist,” it will be whispered. “I always thought there was something funny going on there.”
A younger correspondent has commented, “You’re going to be on stamp? Like a postage stamp? This is gonna make you famous or something.” I think he was intending irony. And a somewhat older friend adds, “But, wow! On a stamp!! Thousands of people pushing a little image of your face into the top right-hand corner of an envelope. I hope the psychic effect, for you, is elevating.”
Vain hope. Fame, in Canada, is what Oscar Wilde would have called “an unpardonable solecism of style.” A stamp! How cringe! How eye-rolling! Even before this stamp event, some younger gen members -- not that much younger, any more – were in the habit of referring to me as The Evil A. Imagine how multiplied my evilness will be now! (Howdo I know these things? I have a pack of invisible flying monkeys who listen at keyholes and hack people’s emails, and that’s just one of my evil powers.)
The writer Thomas King has a better idea. Sending his regrets, he says,
“I hate to miss an opportunity to roast (you). I know it’s to be a tribute, but we know each other well enough to know that satire and sarcasm should be a part of any celebration. And Atwood on a stamp just screams for a little humour. …I would love to be there and, for penance, I’ll buy a couple dozen sheets of the new stamp, stick them on letters that call for action on climate change and an end to racial/gender discrimination, and send them to all the Conservatives on Parliament Hill and all the Republicans in the American congress and senate. That should rattle the wind and shake the trees. A friend could do no less.”
Which puts things into a little more perspective.
Seriously, it’s a great honour to find oneself on a stamp, especially if one has been a small child given to fishing used envelopes out of wastepaper baskets in order to remove the stamps from them. Yes, I was indeed a philatelist in youth. I amassed quite a stamp collection. That’s how I learned about Iceland, and volcanoes, and palm trees. But, as this was the 1940s, I also learned that being on a stamp does not mean that you are a good and admirable person. It might in fact mean that you are a tyrannical dictator.
It’s too late for that in my case – I should have started earlier – but I will enjoy this moment, for which I thank you again. Perhaps in the future some young person will find my head in a wastepaper basket, and cut it out, and save it in a stamp album, if there still are such things. And then, even later, that young person might appear on a stamp, in their turn. I hope so.
As we enter the next decade, I also hope we will get a firm grip on the climate crisis, and work together to solve the many problems this crisis is already causing. That’s a lot of hope. Good luck to all of us. And thank you again.”
That is what I said at the Stamp Launch. Now it’s back to the drawing board. Whaddaya think? The Tommy Douglas tea towel and Public Health? That’s pretty virtuous. Or Douglas Ford in a dress? Definitely more fun. But screw your courage to the stickup point…
“Resist temptation! Compose yourself! Put on your Icon face,” I tell myself. To scant avail.
Don’t encourage me. It will get out of hand.