Erin Ashenhurst

• Visual Narrative & Everyday Oddity •

I write personal and academic essays about daily experience, popular culture, and other monstrosities.


How many babies can we fit in here?

In Vancouver, Erin Ashenhurst can't afford to move her growing family. But what are her alternatives?

The bulge of a foot protrudes from the lower right side of my abdomen causing me to wince in alarm. "I think the baby is growing claws," I tell my husband. He cups the hard knob in the swell of my belly before it retracts back into the general mass.

"Felt more like a horn," he says, grinning as he heads out the door...  [Read more in The Globe and Mail]


Play Date With the Lost Generation

My toddler’s secret identity as a drunken artist of the early 20th century.

“Such nice markings,” she said, handing me the mauled piece of construction paper. I raised my eyebrows and hummed in agreement. Yes, he’s a minimalist. The paper had several trails of pink marker, a dash of red, and some purple hesitation marks. The same colors appeared on my son’s palms, as he was most taken with the dynamics of uncapping and recapping the felts. Beside him, a little girl had rendered a catlike form with cubist intensity. Her hands remained clean... [Read more in Slate]

How to Say ‘No’ Like a Toddler

Little people get away with an impressive amount of inconsiderate dickishness. It’s time we learned a thing or two.

This bus smells like shit. Such a stink is nothing new on this route, a meandering line through downtown seemingly attractive to public farters, but this time it reeks like the real deal. The source is close… so close it could be sitting on my lap. "I pooped!" announces my toddler brightly, tipping his head back to grin up at me. This was not the scenario I imagined when I encouraged him to keep me current on his inner workings... [Read more in VICE]

An Ode to Surrey, Wasteland of My Youth

What does it mean to wish to preserve something you never liked much in the first place?

In high school, if someone were to ask, I would not have hesitated to say that Surrey was a slum. A soggy wasteland of McDonald's drive-thru windows and hash oil; of tanning salons smelling like fetid coconut, and thrift stores smelling like lonely death. We wandered strip mall sidewalks with Slurpees that burned with vodka... [Read more in VICE]

The Craft

I would learn to sew in time to make my son’s Halloween costume. But who was the costume really for?

Technically, I can sew. Though I would say my handiwork is best displayed in places unseen by the public—on the creamy cotton of torn jean pockets, or the dark liner of a purse. My style is bold, experimental. Like a young Dr. Frankenstein, I approach mending projects with a rough-and-ready knowledge of stitching, with the conviction that it is best to overbuild than risk things falling apart. My seams are not seamless.

It’s not that I can’t make nice things. I made a baby... [Read more in Slate]

Growing Up With Marilyn Manson

I am old, but I am not as old as Marilyn Manson. Not so old that I avoid being called ‘girl’ by strangers, but I am old enough that my adolescence passed graciously undocumented by social media. I am old enough to remember when the Berlin Wall came down, but more so, I remember how it was illustrated in a particularly topical episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks. But mostly, I am old (and he is old) in comparison to how young we once were... [Read more in The Toast]

“Nine Pounds of Uncooperative Flop”

What it’s like to work out with a bunch of babies.

From his spot on the floor, my son looks up at me with a furrowed brow. He scans the left side of the room with suspicion. His peer Jeremy is lying a few feet away but doesn’t make any acknowledgement. They might be friends in another context, another time. In the corner, there are new additions to the class, beefy and older. They are sitting up with dark, unblinking stares... [Read more in Slate]

Sunshine Blondes in a City of Glass: On watching the real Vancouver

The premiere episode of The Real Housewives of Vancouver aired on April 4th, 2012. In this, its original breach of the Northern border, the franchise enjoyed an audience of over a million Canadians. What stretched into the first two-hour episode was a sunny postcard from the rainforest, a spectacle of opulence and augmented femininity staged in Western Canada’s largest city. As each character was introduced in her exclusive, white-walled habitat, a homogeneous landscape of fair curls, tan cleavage and commercially desirable ocean-view real estate began to assemble... [Read more in The Fantasy of Reality: Critical Essays on The Real Housewives]

My Growing Fascination with Miniatures

The man was tiny, white and slick like a fake tooth. He stood about an inch high, frozen in mid-stride walking a dog, a greyhound maybe, formed of the same seamless material.

As I bent to examine the scene, I imagined my head appearing like a giant’s on the horizon. The man and dog, along with a collection of other colourless pedestrians: a jogger; a businesswoman, a child and its father stood on a strip of spotless boulevard no wider than a length of packing tape... [Read more in The Globe and Mail]

Your TA was once like you
(and might still be)

Confessions from my first semester wielding the red pen

For the record, the front of the lecture hall is not my natural habitat. The theatre looked smaller than I remembered, but I suppose I’d had an ugly decade in the ‘real’ world to glamourize/repress my experience of undergrad. I scanned the back rows looking to settle in with a familiar vantage point, perhaps some Statler and Waldorf types for snarky commentary. Then the professor spotted me. She waved and pointed to what I instinctively deemed the least desirable seat: front row, dead centre before the lectern. Crap, right, that’s where I sit now! Having just started grad school, this was my first day as a teaching assistant... [read more in issue No. 4 of Elective Magazine]

Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?

A man waits at the bus stop with a pigeon on his shoulder. He has fashioned a cape from an old T-shirt, which is affixed to the back of his jacket with safety pins. The cape is encrusted with bird droppings drizzled down each shoulder. The pigeon is not remarkable apart from the mange of the throat and naked pink around the eyes. As the bus approaches, the man exposes a string tied to the bird’s leg. “Okay, Trudy, you know the rules,” he says. With a tug, the pigeon is tucked under his jacket like a smuggled dinner roll... [read more at]


My Rental Apartment Rejected Me

A tenancy agreement requires signatures from the owner and the renter. The building structure (steel, glass, concrete) is not consulted in the agreement, but it has ways of expressing an opinion.

The first apartment I rented all by myself was a glamorous funhouse of decay. I suppose I knew it right away: the sinister gleam of the full-length mirrors on more walls than not, the sour-earthy smell of exhausted copper piping. But I was short on options and anyway, who wouldn't want to live downtown... [read more in The Tyee]

The Problem of the Beach

I write to you about a problem that threatens — more with each passing day — to burden the minds of the local populace with terribly salty, sun-drenched distraction: the problem of the beach.

It is around this time of the year when shops begin to flaunt what can only responsibly be considered summer stock: sundresses, flip-flops, short shorts. For months to come, these enticing items might only be donned under layers of flannel and Gore-Tex, and yet, with the appearance of luminous mirages of spaghetti-strapped tank tops in window displays on grey mornings, the passerby is cruelly reminded of the existence of that mythical Vancouver site: the beach... [read more at Vancouver Is Awesome]


Standing in for Carrie White

Even with fair warning, the visual was shocking. Sticky red snaked down my arms to regroup in the creases of the tarp. I thought about what it would mean if all that blood were mine. I had inhaled the thickness of it quite involuntarily, and with the earplugs, I strained to hear my next instructions.

In the spring of 2002, a television movie of Carrie, Stephen King’s prom-gone-wrong horror, was shot in Vancouver, Canada... [Read more in the April 2013 issue of Under the Gum Tree]


Breathing and Other Intrusions

The doctor’s office was on the Westside where time-honoured trees narrow the streets and shops close early. Greying couples walk custom-ordered dogs (mostly the classic blonds and chocolate browns), while the youthful tier lays sparse, safeguarded in the stiff fabrics of private school uniforms. The appointment was set for late in the morning... [read more in Room 36.4]