Friends for the Ride

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‘‘When you have guests in your car, they become family!’’- an Indian taxi driver in London, Ont.

Taxi drivers are intriguing human beings. They sometimes have complex life stories, whether they became taxi drivers after fleeing a war-torn country or did so because they dropped out of school. Most of the time, they are very good at reading people. It is not surprising considering that what they do day in and day out is picking people up and talking (or listening) to them.

My fascination with taxi drivers began in childhood. I grew up in Montreal, and with a mother that didn’t drive and a father who didn’t have a car, we took taxis between and to places from time to time. My parents also used to put me in taxis when it was time to ship me back to the other parent with all of my stuff.

For the month of January, I was lucky to have the opportunity to intern at CBC in my hometown. With that came the privilege of getting taxi coupons to go between places for reporting or other journalistic purposes. Usually, the drive was not very long- CBC is downtown, so most of the city is a short cab drive away.

That was until I was sent to St. Leonard to record streeters for a radio show. Streeters are when a journalist ask people for their opinion on any given topic. I had to ask people in the area what they thought about the fact that legendary hockey goaltender Martin Brodeur was retiring. I was going to that specific location because Brodeur is from St. Leonard and has an arena named after him there.

St. Leonard is a borough of Montreal that used to be its own city. It is a predominantly Italian borough, but that is quickly changing. It is situated in the North-East corner of the island of Montreal and is hard to get to by public transit (no metro goes there). That being said, I knew that getting there (and back) was going to be the longest part of my mission.

I called the cab inside of the CBC building and stepped into the sunshine. My taxi was already waiting for me. I got in and gave the driver the address. Of course, he didn’t know where it was. Thank God they have GPS these days.
My Bengali driver spoke in broken French to me. We talked a lot about what we did, what we thought and banalities about Montreal or the January weather. It was a long ride, so much that it was the maximum allowed for a taxi coupon (35$). As I was paying, he wanted to tell me something. But he couldn’t find the words in French.

-I’ll just tell you in English, OK?
-OK.
-Keep doing what you’re doing. You are a great person. Keep working hard, and you will be famous one day.
-Thank you so much!

This small Bengali man had seen a glimpse of my personality during the taxi ride and we shared a positive connection. His kind words gave me the courage to embark on my real mission: asking people for their opinion.

I went to the arena and found awesome hockey moms (who also happen to be figure skating moms looking at their daughters ice-skating through the window). I approached them, and one of them said:

-I don’t want to be filmed!
-I don’t carry a camera with me. It’s for radio!

I always love to see how the public can misunderstand the media.

I interviewed a couple of people, but it was a tough chase. Most people who were hanging around the arena were underage, so I couldn’t interview them. Many people didn’t know who Brodeur was, and some didn’t want to be bothered. I was so desperate that I went to the pharmacy to buy a snack and even asked people inside for their opinion. I even tried to interview the guy working there, and he said he would, but he didn’t speak English. Tough luck.

I called another cab to get out of the faraway borough, thinking that I had been saved by the hockey moms. As I was stepping outside, I ran into two Italian gentlemen carrying boxes. Perfect. The grey-haired one spoke to me. He used to play hockey with Martin Brodeur’s brother. He was opinionated and memorable, and he made my streeters just that much better.

Content with my few good sound bites, I was waiting for the taxi. I was going in and out of the pharmacy’s hall for a good ten minutes and I was about to call back the cab company when I saw one. The driver pulled over awkwardly, almost getting in another car’s way.

I climbed inside.

-I called a taxi from your company like 10, 15 minutes ago!
-But it’s me!
-It’s you! Ah!
-What’s your name?
-I’m Lili
-I’m Lou.

Lou was a chubby black male in his late twenties. He was a true comic and a friendly type. He was already high-fiving me as I got into his car.

-I was in the neighborhood and asked people what they thought about the fact that Martin Brodeur was retiring. Surprisingly, not everybody knew who he was.
-They don’t know Martin Brodeur is! C’est chien! *

We drove on the outskirts of the city, down Pie-IX and West on Notre-Dame. It was around five, the golden hour in late January. It was calming to be driven around and to look at the no man’s land around the city while the sun was beaming its last rays. An orange colour was overtaking buildings and streets, softening the industrial landscape.

We covered a wide array of topics. We talked about facial tattoos and the people we’ve met with them on- what they say, why they have them. The conversation became very philosophical as we talked about the fact that modern-day lifestyle is not adapted to human needs.

As two anxious people, we talked about well-being and then showed each other breathing exercises. We almost got into an accident on René-Lévesque Blvd as I was showing him a breathing technique I learned in yoga class.

Lou was like the cool, older version of elementary school friends I had years ago. He was easy to get along with, and his sense of humour, openness and familiarity made me feel like I’ve known him for years. That, and the fact that we are both quintessential Montrealers. Lou dropped me right in front of the building’s entrance, giving me a last high-five.

Taxi drivers like these easily turn a grey day into a bright human experience. These two drivers made my interviewing adventure in St.Leonard so much better. It was like having friends for the ride.


*It loosely translates as ”it’s mean” but realistically it means ‘‘it’s dog!”

Lili Monette is a multidisciplinary entertainer and writer, and the Associate Editor of Blonde. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre & Development from Concordia University and is currently a student in the Master of Arts in Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario.

Photo: Peter Lindbergh for Vogue UK, September 1992.

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Parallel Lives

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Since May 2014, I live and study in the mid-sized city (for Canada, that is) of London, Ontario. Most months, I head back to my hometown of Montreal, Quebec. Right now, I am in an extended stay in Montreal that started with vacations and is ending with a month-long internship.

In less than a week, I will head back to London to finish my master. Even if both cities are in the same country, they couldn’t be more different. I’m happy that I’m leaving my hometown, but at the same time, I know I’ll miss it. It’s always like that. I’m often caught between leaving and staying, fight or flight.

I felt ill at ease in London at first. I tend to feel uncomfortable when I’m trapped in a sea of conformity. Worse than that: I feel alienated. But one thing is for sure: a good solution to feeling trapped and limited in one’s own circumstances is being able to lead parallel lives.

I like to experience different realities through activities like acting and reading. But I also really love experiencing the world firsthand. I’ve always leaned towards a bohemian lifestyle. It probably happened intuitively. I moved weekly between my mother and my father’s place until I was 18 years old and spent all my summers in the countryside growing up.

For my generation, it’s easier than ever to leave one’s hometown to pursue other ventures. I’ve lived in five cities and my best friend Raph has travelled to all five continents. We made it happen. It seems as if we can almost trick ourselves into thinking that we can seamlessly pass through time and space without a scratch.

Being able to lead parallel lives means that I can indulge sometimes. But of course, I can’t have everything at once. When I’m in Montreal, I love being able to hang out my many fabulous friends. It’s home for me, and I love that art and culture is part of everyday life. I love walking everywhere and the fun lifestyle. I love running into people I know all the time. I also find it annoying.

When I’m in Montreal for too long, I feel trapped in time, like I’m going back to where I was years ago. I feel like I’m collecting dust, as if nothing has ever changed. I am staying at my dad’s place, rummaging through the fridge and watching cable TV. I walk the same streets I’ve walked thousands of time. I have memories all over the place: oh, this is where I did a show, this is where I used to work, this is where I had a date with this guy. It seems as if I almost travel back in time, except I can’t.

When I’m in London, I love attending university on a scenic campus and living near the river. I love spending time in my two-floor apartment. There is a sense of space and tranquility that I can’t find at home. I love being able to focus on the task at hand, whether it’s a court story or a yoga class. At the same time, after a couple of weeks in London, I get bored. I miss the diversity in people, style, activities. I want some movement, big-city energy and never-ending events. That being said, I can be as happy in the middle of the woods as I am in an art opening.

The more places I live in or visit, the wider my understanding of life is. That goes hand-in-hand with speaking different languages. I need to speak French and English on a daily basis because it means that I never get bored with words. Once, when I was in an hospital in Germany, a male nurse spoke to me in English (my German is too limited to have a proper conversation). He knew that I was from Canada and so he assumed that English was my mother tongue. I could barely respond to him as I had a swollen mouth but I vehemently protested ‘‘no! French is my first language!’’

”That’s good,” he said. ”You speak two languages, you have more ideas.”

What the nurse told me made sense. I always have new ideas. Speaking different languages opens the mind and breeds creativity, just like travelling places does.

The moment in-between places is always an introspective time for me. I feel like I’m in suspension, like trapped in mid-air. I get to stare out the window and think. I listen to the quiet rhythm of cars passing. I appreciate the light, the trees, the sights. I tend to go through a lot of emotions about what’s going on in my life as transit allows me to reflect. My body gets strained from sitting for so long, even though I practice yoga at pit stops.

Even I’m not specifically fond of public transit and garage bathrooms, the feeling of being in transit to go somewhere else has always been exciting to me. It makes me feel alive. Like a shark, I need to keep moving to live. Coincidentally, I have the word ”SHARKS” tattooed on my right bicep.

Leading parallel lives can be schizophrenic sometimes, but it’s especially thrilling. It keeps me on my toes. I don’t take people or places for granted but rather I become more appreciative. I’m conscious that things change quickly. That’s the beauty and the challenge involved in leading parallel lives.

Photo: Raphaëlle Brault

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Lili Monette is a multidisciplinary entertainer and writer, and the Associate Editor of Blonde. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre & Development from Concordia University and is currently a student in the Master of Arts in Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario.

A Good Man is Hard to Find

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‘‘From the way that people have always talked about your heart being broken, it sort of seems to be a one-time thing. Mine seemed to break all the time.’’ ~ Heather O’Neill, Lullaby for Little Criminals

The other Friday, I met with my friend to hang out and we had a lot to talk about. She told me about what happened with her since the last time that we saw each other. She had slept with a young man and the two became a little more than cordial, but when she left to visit Toronto she never heard from him again. I was furious when she told me. “Why do guys act like this?” I said. “It’s like everything’s good and all of a sudden they disappear.”
“I know that I shouldn’t have given it to him in the first place,” she said. “But I like sex!”

Why it is the woman who should withhold sex, even if she feels like it? Unfortunately, I have found that there are a lot of assholes out there, a large number of which are disguised as great guys.

They say that three’s a trend. In my case, the last three boys I have been involved with have all pretended that I didn’t exist afterwards. And all of those guys were friends of friends and seemed like good guys upfront. Clearly, I was mistaken.

The first guy was my friend’s roommate. In August, I went to her birthday party and ended up spending a lot of time with him on his balcony. It was raining outside, and I was still hanging out, putting off going home in the rain without an umbrella even though I lived two street corners away. He kissed me after everybody left. And one thing led to another…
When I left the apartment the next morning, I felt pleasurably high because it had been months of abstinence. When I went home, it was still raining, but the warm drops felt good.
We spoke a week later after we both came back to town. He gave me his phone number so that we could meet each other later that night. I tried to contact him a couple of times, to no avail.
The next day, he finally wrote me back, blaming his allergies and the fact that his friend was heartbroken. ‘‘Even the girl at the pharmacy laughed at me this morning.’’ I accepted his excuse. A day later, I hadn’t heard back from him and our time was running out. I had to leave Montreal and so did he.
Slightly pissed off, I confronted him (something I usually avoid doing on the Internet, but hey, I was tipsy and frustrated). He repeated the same excuses over and over again. I told him that I understood, but that we only had two days left to see each other. He never answered, and has been travelling around the country ever since.

I met the second guy at a college bar in London, Ontario. Kevin was the friend of a friend of a friend, and he was sitting there with a nice shirt on (somewhat a rarity in the small-scale city). We spoke for a bit and he didn’t waste any time to flirt with me. He gave me a glass of beer, we danced, and he held my waist. I was practically sober but the attention was appreciated. I remember thinking that it was too easy to be true, and unfortunately it was.

After two hours of sweaty dance moves, I wanted to leave and so did he. We left the crowded bar and on the street, he asked me if I wanted to come over. I took a few seconds to answer because I wasn’t sure. And frankly, I should have said no. When it comes to boys, my new rule is: when in doubt, say no. But at that point, I felt like I could do with some company, so I said yes.

The apartment itself should have been a warning sign. It was a total bro pad, with tacky posters of New York City adorning the white living room walls. There were no books in sight, and when I see none, I always think about that brilliant John Waters quote: ‘‘If you go to somebody’s house and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.’’ An excellent piece of advice.

Anyhow, I was sitting next to Kevin on his couch, and we were having a good talk about sports, our lives and languages. He was telling me that my English was excellent, better than a great number of Anglophones, despite it being my second language. He probably said that to get into my pants. Again, I should have left, but I stayed. We went to his bed. It was nice to feel his body warmth, but I didn’t want to have sex with him. When he started getting more intense, I stopped him in his tracks.

“I would prefer not to sleep with you. Last time I slept with someone it didn’t go down so well.”
“But I want you,” he said.
So I gave in. I shouldn’t have. I gave in because his dick was hard and the blood flow was rushing to his head, making him lose focus. He wasn’t even good in bed.
The next day, I left bright and early. ‘‘You’re gonna call me, right?’’ I asked insecurely as I was leaving, to which he nodded. But he never said yes.

A couple of hours later, angst grew on me and I intuited that he would not call. I started playing “Fuck and Run” by Liz Phair over and over again. It comforted me in my sadness. ‘‘I didn’t think this would happen again, with or without my best intentions,’’ she sings. Sigh. I felt silly and regretful, but it was over with and there was nothing I could do but wait. I wasn’t that much into him, but I still needed to talk to him again. I realized that I can’t do one-night stands anymore. I need to see the person again to have a sense of closure. But he never called.

I hate when men suddenly ignore women, especially if they said that they’ll call or that we’ll hang out. It pisses me off even more when they push for sex, and then pretend that they don’t know your name. I’m not saying that people should marry everyone they sleep with, but being respectful and honest goes a long way. As my friend Roseline said, ‘‘they’re not able to realize that their acts impact others.’’

The third man initially rejected me, as if the red flag wasn’t large enough. But a month later, back in Montreal, he added me on Facebook. Clearly puzzled, I accepted and started an online conversation because I just didn’t get it. We chatted for a bit, he told me that I was funny and he invited me out for a drink.

I went to meet him at his place and we talked on his couch. We were both a little shy, but my shyness is manifested in more chatter. We were wondering where to go so I suggested a bar up the street for the dim lights and the good music. We had two beers, and we each paid a round, which was another red flag. When the waiter came with the second round, I counted 1,2,3 in my head before taking my wallet out. I looked at him and he was looking down.

Most women I know think that men should pay on first dates. A philosophy teacher once told my class that men should pay on first dates because of women’s inherent biological intuition. If a man pays on the first date, it shows that he can provide and can be trusted for the long term. A theory I adhere to.

But back to the date. Our conversation was flowing. He was smart yet cynical, and highly attractive. I was asking him questions, trying to pierce his mystery. We left the bar, smoked a joint in the street and he held my hand because I was having trouble walking in my heels after all of this. It was romantic.

We hung out in his room under a red light, talking and kissing. Because of my two previous experiences, I didn’t want to sleep with him on the first night. (And thank God I didn’t.) I told him that the two guys I had previously slept with didn’t call me back.
‘‘Poor little one,’’ he replied with a smirk on his face. I could not interpret whether this was empathetic or misogynist, but I thought that he understood how I felt.
He was sweet and sexy and held me for most of the night.

The next morning he told me that he didn’t sleep well.
‘Why?’’ I wondered.
‘‘Because you were in my bed,’’ he replied with a smile.
He was in bit of a grumpy morning mood. I was annoying him simply by touching his face. I finally got him out of the bed a little after noon. I asked him for a coffee and told him that I would be on my way because I had a friend to meet and I was already way behind schedule. We sipped coffee and orange juice while listening to an up-and-coming electro band. We kissed for a good two minutes before I left.

I went home with butterflies in my stomach. Two days later, I was still thinking about him and so I asked if we would see each other again before my departure to Ontario. ‘‘Let’s hang out when you’re back,’’ he said.

I was coming back a month later, and our future date seemed like a distant dream for all of October. I spent the month obsessing about him, stalking him on social media, re-playing our date in my head over and over again. I felt sick many times throughout the month, as if my body was telling me that something was wrong.

I didn’t feel any trust. I was suffering from his indifference and from my romantic ideals. I was holding on to something that didn’t exist. When I’m playing ‘‘How will I know?’’ by Whitney Houston over and over again and I’m singing it at the top of my lungs, I know that I’ve gone too far.

I complimented him on his blog via Facebook chat once. He replied two days later, brushing it off, not saying thank you. Then, three weeks later, I wrote to him because I was coming back to Montreal. I just mentioned that I was in town. No reply.

Love mixed with social media obviously adds to the lethal cocktail of dating in 2014. The entitlement generation I am a part of ignores each other more often than not and fails to make plans (or cancels them) on the regular. Friends do that to friends, lovers do that to lovers, and strangers do that to strangers. So that’s also part of the problem, and it’s not only about women. Two of my guy friends recently protested when I spoke about the issue. They said that things like this happen to them as well.

Eventually we connected and he replied that he was willing to out for a coffee. I answered and tried to arrange a time, but he never agreed.

It becomes stressful to communicate when you witness the object of your affection online on Facebook. Talking to him too much could kill things quickly, but not talking to him could lead to nothing at all. I’ve had endless conversations with my best friend about how e-communication is tricky. Online chat traps us. ‘‘What should I type next?’’ we wonder to each other in various states of despair.

The problem with silent treatments is that it drives the other person insane. It happened to me a couple times before, and in most cases, I’ve had the opportunity to put guys back in their places. They have apologized because they have realized that their behaviour was stupid. They came to understand that silent treatments are awful. Indeed, they are a form of psychological violence and manipulation.

A couple of nights ago, I was watching a panel on the CBC. They were talking about how ‘‘women are afraid of coming forward’’ after being assaulted. I would argue that it’s the same with women who have been wronged: they are afraid to speak up.

If they do, they will likely be portrayed as crazy, sentimental and manipulative. I have been discouraged to speak up many times. My friend Kyle told me not to write to Kevin and to ‘‘spend your energy on your new guy.’’ Look how that turned out.

On the one hand, it is true that spending energy on a loser is a waste of time. On the other hand, if nobody speaks up, everyone keeps treating each other like garbage and the world loses its humanity, one cold heart at a time.
Too many people prefer to pretend that everything’s cool or to ignore each other when they could be having a 10-minute conversation instead. It only requires a little courage and balls, something that many guys seem to miss. As Lily Allen sings, ‘‘forget your balls and grow a pair of tits, it’s hard out here for a bitch.’’

That being said, I’m conscious that not all boys are like this. I know that there are many wonderful men out there who know how to treat women like human beings and I have plenty of them around me.

That being said, it’s difficult not to be pissed off and sad. As always, I end up taking time off to be properly single, but loneliness creeps back in. The need for affection and intimacy strikes back.

Whatever happens, I’m going to take things slowly now. I don’t want to feel too invested, fooled or heartbroken for someone who can’t even care to reply. I know that I’ll eventually meet someone, but at the same time, I’m under no false impressions. I know that a good man is hard to find.


Photo: Olivia Palermo and Johannes Huebl for lifestylemirror.com

Marrying Young

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I met my ex husband by eerie coincidence. I was nineteen years old and living in London, England on a working holiday visa. It was January 2008, and I was looking for a second job, possibly one of the worst moments in history to do so. My best friend was visiting me for three weeks and she was helping me look for work, paying special attention to adds in shop windows. We saw an ad on the window of an exotic-looking corner café. It was written in questionable French, and was looking for French lessons from a native speaker. ‘‘Inquire within,’’ it said. Without missing a beat, my best friend said, ‘’Let’s go!’’

We went in. I was surprised to discover that the person in question was a 23-year-old Polish boy wearing a purple American Apparel hoodie (it was still trendy at the time). We spoke for five minutes and he took my number in order to have a ‘‘trial lesson.’’

A week later, I showed up at another café on the same street.

He had all of his material prepared. All that I had to do was to speak to him in French and translate obscure expressions. My Quebec accent was challenging for him but he was up for the challenge. I found him very serious, but I could tell that he was a good person and that we would work well together.

A few months later, he told me: ‘‘I didn’t think you were the best teacher the first day. But you were so funny that I knew I had to see you again.’’

Twice a week, we met in a café for two hours where we tackled the difficulties of the French language. We spoke about our lives and so we became closer. My dating life at that point was horrible: I kept dating guys that didn’t want to be in a relationship, or slept with me and then ignored me, or other similar situations.

When I was with P., things were different. I felt a degree of trust I had not previously encountered.

One day, he invited me to his place for dinner. I arrived late. He kept texting me: ‘‘When are you coming?’’ I arrived dripping wet and very late. He was with chilling with his roommate in the living room. They had already eaten, but had kept food for me. His roommate wasn’t very talkative with me, and so we ended up continuing the conversation in P.’s bedroom. There was sexual tension growing between us. We got closer, almost to the point of kissing.

‘’I don’t know if it’s a good idea,’’ he said.

‘‘Yeah, but it’s hard to help it,’’ I answered.

We ended up kissing and sleeping together fully dressed, and he hugged me the whole night, not letting me go even once. I knew right then and there that he was a keeper. But I had a little problem: a week before, I had planned a date with a guy I had a crush on and it was scheduled for the next day. In the morning, P. asked to see me again that night, and stupidly I answered that I had a date. He became pissed off and jealous. I should have lied.

Our next lesson was scheduled for the next day. It was February 14th, 2009. I arrived at the café puzzled and sad because my date had abandoned me in the middle of the night and I felt very guilty for pissing P. off.

I had also lost my phone the night before. P. arrived an hour late. He had texted me but I didn’t receive it. He came wearing his black leather jacket, saying ‘‘I know it’s cheesy, but…’’ and proceeded to take out a single red rose from under his jacket. My heart melted. He had me. It took only a couple of dates to know that we were a new couple. He was the first guy to consistently take me out on dates to the restaurant, to the park, to bike rides around the city. We were two kids, expats living in East London, happy about having each other. I moved to his place three and a half months after the beginning of our relationship and it cemented our affections.

We began to have deep conversations about our future: I had to come back to Canada eventually as my visa was running out. I waited for him for a couple of months so he could have his temporary passport. We travelled to France together and hung out with my dad at a film festival for which he was the official photographer. We went to the beach and it was his first time there: he was glad I took him. We went to Paris, where he applied for a visitor visa and it got refused. We didn’t know what to make of the future quite yet.

We parted ways in Marseille, on a train platform, a scene reminiscent of a dramatic romance movie. I remember thinking that I might never see him again, or at least not for a while. The train left and I cried.

I got back to Montreal on a damp and depressing day. I was weirded out by everything about my hometown: its accents, its architecture, its culture. I had to learn how to live again. Meanwhile, P. moved to Berlin and applied for a long-term passport, which he was granted after a month and a half. He moved to Montreal on November 25th, 2009. We did not know that we would get married at that point. It was after many meetings with government immigration experts that we came to the conclusion that it would be the best option if we wanted to stay together.

We hashed and re-hashed the decision. We were scared as shit because we were very young and we had already made huge commitments to each other. First the move, now the wedding. We got married because we felt like family at that point. I got married because I wanted to have somebody to rely on, and to have somebody rely on me. To have a real exchange and commitment towards each other, as opposed to silly young loves that lead to nothing.

We got married on January 14th, 2010, on a cold and grey day. It was a lovely and small wedding, with only my best friends and my parents in attendance. We ate and we drank and laughed.

The next day after waking up, I knew that I had made the biggest decision of my life. I was happy but scared, and I think my intuition was on to something.

That winter was by far my harshest yet. While we were together, P. couldn’t work because he wasn’t on any visa that enabled him to. I was working part-time in a café. It was still the economic crisis and jobs were hard to find. Needless to say, we were broke, but it’s not like we weren’t trying.

A couple of months into our marriage, I came to the realization that I was not in love anymore. I was on my way home when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I remember going back home, taking a shower and crying, gasping for air.

P. was sad and became lazy. He wouldn’t get groceries when I gave him money to but preferred to spend the day staring at his laptop screen. He was an introvert, so he was mainly only friends with my friends. It was hard for him to get out of his cocoon. That being said, our couple dynamic became very hard to bear and I didn’t feel in love, but rather responsible. I turned twenty-one and I felt as though I had a child to take care of.

We moved to a new place that summer, and he was unhappy with it. We kept fighting. We finally separated on July 26th, 2010. He told me that there was work for him in London and that he could go back. I didn’t stop him. I had had enough. We had fought so much and we were in such a difficult situation that I needed fresh air, but yet I didn’t know how to live without him.

I was supposed to say goodbye to him the day after my best friend had thrown a huge party. I came home sad and hungover. The house was empty. Some of his stuff was there, so I assumed that he had just gone to the corner store or something. I started cleaning and waiting for him. Half an hour later, I realized that something was wrong. I went back to the bedroom and looked at the stuff he had left. I realized that he was gone. I gasped out loud and started crying.

I went outside to the pharmacy and to the grocery store to buy some food and cleaning supplies. I felt so vulnerable, like a baby bird venturing out of her nest for the first time.

I felt like I was coming out of a coma, a feeling I’ve never felt at any other time. As I was walking down the street, my florist stopped me. ‘‘Hey, what’s wrong? You look sad.’’ ‘’I just broke up with my boyfriend…’’ I answered.

‘‘There, there!’’ She started picking up flowers from various containers and putting them together to create a beautiful bouquet. She was now telling me about her own ex-husband and separation. ‘‘It’s better to be alone than to be with somebody that’s wrong for you,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s a beautiful day!’’ she said, and I smiled when I turned the corner. I was starting to feel free.

Getting over him and our failed marriage was not easy. In some ways, I feel that I will never completely get over it. But I’m happy that I got married young because I tested my limits and someone else’s. I had to grow up and learn how to be responsible fast. I also learned that fighting endlessly leads to nothing.

Two years ago, I saw P. again in London and I understood why I loved him but also why we are not together anymore. I care about him so much, but it’s another kind of love now, it’s like an old friend that I need to keep in touch with. It’s now been a little over four whole years that me and P. have been separated. It’s horrific how time flies. We are both realizing that now. We talked on the phone a couple of weeks ago. We still need to talk in order to update each other on our respective lives.

The reason why we haven’t divorced yet is simply because I am still a student and I don’t have the means to do so before finishing my Master next year. But I’m looking forward to divorce. I’m not scared. I know that it will be a private celebration between both of us. It will be a departure from our past and our lives chained together by the links of marriage.

We will meet up again, dress up and go out for lunch. We’ll have food, hang out and have a drink. It will assuredly bring a sense of closure. We will find our full freedom again. It’s going to be a new departure. Another cycle will begin. Who knows, I might even get married again.

Photo: Olivier Gariépy http://ogariepy.tumblr.com/

Lili Monette is a multidisciplinary entertainer and writer, and the Associate Editor of Blonde. She is currently a student in the Master of Arts in Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario.

Off-Limits

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I am from the second biggest city in Canada, and yet it often feels like a village.
Many people I know (including my best friends) become friends after a while, even if they used to evolve in different circles, and many people also date or sleep with each other.
It becomes normal to know so-and-so’s ex-boyfriend and some of the people they slept with.
It’s not only like that for others though, it’s also like that for me and my good friends, and sometimes the burden becomes heavy and the past remains too present.

Last weekend, I went to a house party at some guy friend’s place. There is one that I used to date, but we are just friends now.
The night of the party, I was getting back from my best friend’s place in the countryside. We had just spent two days without electricity under bad weather conditions.
I came back to Montreal on a rainy evening, but that wasn’t going to stop me from going out.
I wore my best weather-appropriate outfit (no easy feat, considering that I had only brought one pair of pants). I was in the mood to meet new boys that I could have some good conversations and some fun with. Hey, that’s also what vacation is for when you’re single. (Summer Lovin’, anyone?)

I arrived at the apartment early to catch up with my friends, discussing my life in Ontario and theirs in Montreal, talking blogs, art and life. The boys all commented favourably on my shoes and one of them looked at me from head to toe. ”Nice outfit,” he said. I was beaming from the compliments: it is quite rare and always lovely when men comment clothes. I was happy to come early so I could chill with the boys before people came in droves. And boy they did. A couple of people at first, and then the apartment got packed. The little yard was filled with various kinds of hipsters, some with beards, some with caps, some with side ponytails. There were some people I knew, some I barely did, and some I didn’t. But as my friend said the next day, I am a social warrior. So once again, I tried to talk to everyone, remember their names, and make an effort to hold a conversation. But that being said, sometimes socializing completely exhausts me.

I was feeling a little bit under the weather because of the evening’s dampness and the effort require to socialize with strangers. That night, I was constantly looking around for a beautiful boy to meet, and it was starting to make me dizzy. It was around then that I started talking to a very tall and handsome boy, coincidentally a good friend of my friends. We talked for a long time and the more we did, the more he was becoming someone I could actually picture myself with beyond one night. He was talking to me, and I was saying: ”you’re right” after he spoke, agreeing on his vision of things. He is a screenwriter. Like me, writing is his daily bread. He is also lanky and an introvert, traits that I have found endearing in boys since high school. Because I am outgoing and outrageous, I need a man to calm me down and hold me tight.

I wanted to offer him a beer, but somebody stole the two left, and so we shared a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
We went outside to smoke a joint, one that I had kept safe inside of my wallet, waiting for a good moment.
I got my bag from my friend’s room and went outside. We smoked, and then I tried harder to seduce him. I approached his face and kissed him close to the lips. Nothing happened. I backed off, puzzled.
”What’s up?”
”Nothing.”
”I’m sorry.”
”It’s OK.”
”Why don’t you respond?”

He told me that he was too close with the other guys and so he could not do anything with me.
”What are you talking about? I’m done dating this guy, we are only friends and the other guy, nothing ever happened, we are just friends!” He didn’t wince, but rather tried to explain.
Just to confirm the fact, I asked: ”so you’re kind of off-limits?”
”Yeah.”
He kept talking to me, but I was mad, sad and heartbroken. I left right then and there. I was walking fast and probably not in a straight line.

A few blocks down the road, I heard my name. Two of my favourite theatre buddies were on the other side of the street. We were very excited to be seeing each other again. We hugged, we laughed. It’d been a while. They told me that another friend was having another party, and it happened to be on my way home. I stopped for a few minutes, seeing one my best gay friends and making a new one. I left with a renewed sense of happiness and wholeness.

I was walking home when I saw newspapers already delivered on stoops. I took one, thinking that it would make my dad happy. He always goes out on Sunday mornings and buys it. It was 4: 30 a.m. when I made it home. I left the paper on the table and I went to bed. My dad was very surprised when he first woke up at 6 and saw the paper delivered to his table.

The next day, I went to yoga to feel alive again and then back to my friend’s place to grab my forgotten umbrella. We chilled outside, we listened to music, we shared poutine. I realized how happy I was to have him in my life. We decided to go out to the park with his other roommate to meet other people. My best friend came to meet us there with a dog she is looking after. We all went for coffee on an outdoor terrace. The light was beautiful and their presence was calming. When we were ready to go, the boys went home and me and my BFF walked in the opposite direction. Finally, I could tell her the story, and it felt incredibly liberating.

Upon hearing it, she said:”it must have been terribly awkward.”
”It was fucking awkward,” I answered.
”What can I do?”
”Nothing,” she said.
”I know,” I sighed.

She has also destroyed relationships because of sex and touch and many other of my friends have. Last year, two of my best girl friends slept with somebody I had previously slept with (one an ex-boyfriend). It did hurt a lot, and I felt like I was replaceable. Upon talking with my friend, I realized that maybe it was the best thing that nothing happened. I usually go with the line ”bros before hoes” anyway, and it sums up the ”best” way to react to the situation, although it’s more complicated than that. This story generated good conversations with my best friends. Many of us are fed up of being limited by our past or our social circles. Many of us are also fed up with dating people that are bad for us, and want to find that special person by expanding horizons. But it also underlined once again that friends are the most important, really.

Another of my best friends met her long-time boyfriend on the Internet in order to break the vicious circle of people-that-know-people.
Yesterday, I was coming back from their place with friends.
I told them what happened.
My guy friend said: ”I am especially wondering what he said to his friend so that he would reject you like that.”

I’m still wondering what my friend said to my late-night crush in the course of their friendship. I’m still wondering if I’ll ever make the guy that rejected me change his mind.
I doubt it. I know that I have to move on. Still, rejection is though.
I was hurt in many ways (it was especially hard on my ego), but hey, it won’t be the first time.
I’d rather keep my friends than my pride.

Lili Monette is a multidisciplinary entertainer and writer, and the Montreal editor of Blonde. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre & Development from Concordia University and is currently a student in the Master of Arts in Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario.

Photo: from i-D Magazine’s archives. Model: Lily Cole.

Up in Smoke

I have had reflections about what addiction means for a while now.
Time goes up in smoke.
The years go by and we party our youth away and then we have to slow down.
While drinking and taking drugs can be fun and fabulous, I realized that it is necessary to take care of one-self in positive ways.
It is also fundamental to have fun with others in simple ways, playing and laughing together.

I’m from a family where alcohol and weed are ordinary substances, not to be abused, but consumed on a daily basis. I have my own history with both, but I’m way more conscious of myself now than I used to be.
Addiction made me think that smoking or drinking is an activity, but it is not. There are many more things to do while I am alive.

I turned 25 last winter, and gone were the happy hangovers of previous days.
The day after my birthday, I felt physically depressed, like I was coming down from chemical drugs.
The dazed and confused times had to end at some point.

It frazzles me now when I see people my age or older get too drunk.But that’s because I went into and out of it. I have used weed and alcohol to cope with failure, sadness, shame, loss, and loneliness.

Younger, I had a drinking problem in London, UK. London is a city where alcohol flows constantly and glasses are emptied in a New York minute. I was 19 and trying to understand what life was in one of the world’s biggest and harshest cities. For almost a year, I worked in pubs and venues and lived at night. Even though I was partying too much, it was encouraged at work and in social gatherings.
I remember that every social encounter was planned around alcohol.
We would either be going to the pub, enjoying a bottle of wine, having a pint on a patio, going to a house party, going to an art exhibit, etc.

I realized that I had a problem when I went overboard on the night of my 20th birthday.
I went to work at a bar. I didn’t want to work on my birthday, but I had to, because I needed the money. It was economic recession and times were hard.

The night before, I had thrown a house party in my then-home, a 70s caravan in East London.
While it might have been a tiny party, it was a lot of fun. I was with my then-boyfriend, roommates and coworkers, all of us hanging out in my quaint living room.

I went to bed late and hazy. The next day, I woke up groggy and dreading going to work.
I had a drink before I left, as well as a hashish joint (something I barely ever smoke) in order to ease into the night. Suffice to say, it wasn’t a good idea.

I was already slightly out of it when I entered the bar. My boss told me that I had to work on my own on the second floor of the pub. I paid myself a drink, but my boss came up and told me that it wasn’t a good idea. I shrugged, like a blasé teenager. I was thinking: ”whatever!”.
Plus, my boyfriend had told me that he was going to come and say hi.
He ended up texting me saying that he couldn’t make it. I felt sad and lonely, and far from home.

I kept telling people that it was my birthday, and they kept buying me shots. I came to be too drunk to work, and could barely finish the night. I don’t remember all of it. It felt like being trapped in a nightmare. I could not pull myself together.
The owner saw me and decided right then and there that my time was up. My sweet friend Stuart put me into a cab, and I went home and slept. The next morning, I realized that I probably went overboard.
I felt guilty and stupid, and talked about it with my boyfriend.

The following week-end, the bar did let me work one last shift.
I had learned my lesson and I was hoping that I could still be forgiven.
That night, I worked extra-hard and didn’t drink a drop of alcohol.

A couple of days later, they had to tell me the hard news: they were letting me go.
It was a valuable lesson and although it was painful to live, it was a wake-up call.
It woke me up to the pitfalls of addiction and of burning the candle at both ends. Luckily, my boyfriend at the time was great at helping me calm down. Coincidently, he’s the one having a drinking problem now.
I know that we both have a documented story of addiction running through our families.
It’s hard to talk about substance abuse without stigmatizing myself or even worse, seem to be pointing fingers at others. It’s a work-in-progress but my ancestors aren’t going to solve my problems. The sad thing about addiction is that people can help you, but you have to start by helping yourself.

I just know that this is something that a lot of people struggle with, and if we can talk about it, we are already doing something positive. Substance abuse is not a fun topic to talk about but it’s important to. I am at this stage when I am realizing those things, and it’s better to, otherwise they’ll take too much room and hold too much power in my adult life.

I feel more way more toned now at 25 than 20, when I was drinking alcohol most days, besides those when I was nursing a hangover. Today, I’m taking care of my body in ways I did not 5 years ago.
But the problem with having an addiction-prone personality is the need to still be addicted to something. I do sports everyday: yoga, spinning, Zumba, swimming, whatever I feel like that day.
I always force myself to go. I feel better afterwards, and less likely to drown my sorrows in illicit substances.

I can’t stand drinking a lot anymore. I know what it’s like, feeling like being permanently sea-sick, sad, and out of shape. I counteract that by being aware of the amazing things that I can learn and do everyday. I’m still learning how to take care of myself, and it’s not always easy. I eat way better, I drink more water and less alcohol, I still smoke weed sometimes. My balance might not me perfect yet, but I feel healthy and grounded now in a way that only comes with experience. The thing is, a joint once in a while makes me smile and relax. But when it gets too much, it gets negative.
Is it worth having a raspy throat all the time? No. Taking breaks is important, but what’s more important is to learn how to be freed from addiction by respecting what the body and the mind needs.
.
The years have gone up in smoke. I am realizing that time passes by quickly. It is important to be awake and to do great things.

I went to play ultimate frisbee last night with my school friends. It was oh-so liberating to run around the field, playing together. I felt like I was flying. One of the best kind of highs.

Lili Monette is a multidisciplinary entertainer and writer, and the Montreal editor of Blonde. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre & Development from Concordia University and is currently a student in the Master of Arts in Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario.

Photo: Anthony et Lili. 2012
By Olivier Gariépy, http://ogariepy.tumblr.com/

Four Girls, a Car and a Flood

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My best friend was turning 25 years old on April 10th this year, and to celebrate, we left to her mother’s cabin situated between Trois-Rivières and Quebec City.

The plan was to drive from Montreal early on Thursday morning with my three closest childhood friends, and then two other cars packed with other friends would come in, one at a time, one on Thursday night and the other on Friday night.

Gab had told me to meet her and Raph at the grocery store at 10, after me and Gab each got out of our distinctive yoga studios.

My class ended at 9h30, I changed and I went down St.Laurent to the grocery store.

I arrived there, I came, I saw, I shopped and I waited outside for a good half hour.

I ran into an acquaintance who told me that the girls had been out partying the previous night.

Oh dear, I thought.

Gab was supposed to come by car so we could carry the groceries and leave, but she arrived on her bicycle. She hadn’t been home.
I was quite frustrated to be stood up in the middle of the street by my best friend, who was in charge of the whole operation.

‘‘I’m so sorry Lili, I know it’s what pisses you off the most, when people keep you waiting’’.

As I sipped ginger kombucha and waited a little more, Gab stormed into the grocery store and came out with another box full of food.

We hailed a cab, putting the groceries in the trunk. Because Gab was cycling, I was alone in the cab, chatting with the cab driver as usual. We were in a sea of orange cones, with works happening on Rachel St., among others.

In the cab, I called Raph again.

‘‘Yes, I’m leaving soon!’’, she made clear, before her phone died.

I can never be pissed off at Gab for too long, and as soon as we went back to her place and had breakfast, I wasn’t angry anymore.
We sipped coffee and talked, and she told me all about the previous night.
She also told me that our friend Elyse was really drunk by the end of the night and was being over-the-top, so they left her at the bar.

I was really worried about her, so I called.

”Elyse? Are you okay?”

She replied with the most cavernous voice I’ve ever heard.

-No… I’m sick.

-Okay. Drink a lot of water, dress up, maybe take a shower. We will be there in about half an hour, I’m calling you back when we are on our way.

-Okay. Thank you Lili.”

Gab said:

”Lili, you’re gonna be such a good mom.

-I know.

-You know, right?

-Yes, I’ve had a lot of practice to say the least!”

In the meantime, we were still waiting for Raph. She arrived in an a sporty outfit and sneakers, her long mane tucked into a ponytail.
She rushed in and told us about her night: she had hung out with a good guy buddy of hers and they did drugs, MDMA included. ”It was way too much fun!”, she kept saying, to my disapproving eyes.

Me and Gab looked at each other in complicity.
‘‘Raphie!’’, we said as we told her not to banalize the situation, since she is prone to like more toxic, performance-enhancing drugs. This always worries us.
Raphie still had work and packing to do before leaving Montreal, which made us a little impatient due to the lack of consideration. Finally, we were ready to leave.
I called Elyse again, who agreed to wait for us outside.

She still had dark makeup on her face and was crying and holding a pillow.
”Oh boy,”, we all said when we realized that the girl had indeed a terrible hangover.
She embarked into the car in the back along with her miniature greyhound dog Sigur (as in Sigur Ros) on her lap.

Raphie had to send papers for her taxes and so we went to the pharmacy on Mont-Royal ave.
Me and Gab went out to grab coffee as Elyse stayed in the car. I gave Elyse and Gab their respective coffees, and sat in the passenger seat. But by the time that Raphie went back to the car, Elyse started feeling like throwing up again. We made it onto a side street, where Elyse found a narrow lane to throw up in. It was so bad that it was funny, and we all laughed about the situation. After she did her deed and fell better for it, we left for real.

Being four girls on the road, we felt that we were inside an episode of Girls, and we indeed talked about the TV show exhaustively. Raphie and Elyse processed to explain thoroughly who the four characters were to Gab, who never watched the show.
Of course, we were all awarded a character that fitted with our personalities. The girls decided that I was Hannah.
-I see you as the main character’’, said Raph.
‘‘Yeah, me too, I see you like a main character’’, said Gab.
‘‘Yes!’’, I replied.

We all erupted in laughter. But it made sense, given her knack for storytelling and writing, and her sometimes kooky personality, Hannah was the character that suited me the best.
Basically, we all wanted to be Jessa, the cool girl. The role was awarded to Raph. It was especially fitting because of her long hair, what she had done the previous night, and her tendency to not always know what she wants to do, but having fun while at it. She is also the most mysterious and travels a lot. Sometimes, she hurts her friends and looks down on people, but that is also because she is fiercely independent.

Shoshana was awarded to Gab because she’s funny, is a very good friend, can be silly but at the same time has a head on her shoulders. She is simple and down-to-earth.

Marnie was Elyse since she is the one most likely to doubt her feelings. She likes to experiment, but is not always happy. She has the most beautiful body of the group, and is a go-getter.

We were listening to amazing up-and-coming bands like the Allah-Lahs, Mac Demarco or Blouse in the car, courtesy of Raph’s iPhone. It was the perfect breezy soundtrack for our escape.

Gab gave plenty of coconut water to Elyse, but she could not drink any. ”It makes me want to throw up.”
But then hunger stroke her. ”I want poutine!”, she kept saying.

As we were driving through the countryside, we went to a little snack bar held by a tiny blonde lady.
It was typical countryside Quebec, a white and blue wooden shack.

We asked her to take a picture of us with an iPhone, and she didn’t know how to use it. It was not the best picture, but it was a funny moment in time.

We had poutine sitting on plastic benches while Sigur was chilling outside.

After poutine, we wanted beer, so we made a quick stop at the gaz station to buy a multipack of beer.

We made it to the countryside, and when we pulled onto the tiny road leading to the house, there was already a flood in the making. We passed with the car feeling as though it was a boat. We barely made it on the other side.

We went into the house, put the stuff into the fridge and cracked open a beer. Even Elyse had one, and we proceeded to play Scrabble.

We went outside and talked to the elderly neighbour, Jacques, who was a lovely man, and he told us that around that period every year, there was floods, especially on top of the farm fields.

A little later, Jacques came back, waving through the window.
‘‘Whose birthday is it? She’ll be surprised’’.
When Gab came back from her walk, he gave her a small treasure hand-made wooden chest in wood.
‘‘I have a lot of time on my hands in the winter,’’ he said.

We left the countryside to go to Gab’s mother place, in a small town near Trois-Rivières. It was luxurious compared to the damp cabin. Two of our friends (a couple) came to meet us and we had plenty of amazing food, wine and even a gluten-free cake.

The next morning, I was the first person to wake up in the house. I slept badly with Raph on a inflatable mattress.
I went upstairs and had coffee with Gab’s mother, who is like a second mother to me, and whom I haven’t seen in ages. I was taken care of with coffee and breakfast, and it was lovely to hang out with her and her boyfriend in the morning, catching up before we became a group again.

Around twelve, we went back to the countryside and this time, the water levels were dangerously high.
Jacques told us that when our other friends were to come by, he would pick them up on his pick-up truck, as it could wreck a car completely.

We started drinking early and played games of Scrabble and Monopoly. We also went for walks, watching the geese come back and the snow melting, creating rivers.

There was a huge snowbank in front of the house. Raphie was walking on top of it when she got stuck, up to her waist in the sticky snow. I tried to help her to get out, but I was stuck as well. Gab came to help, and had her head into the hole. She could barely breath when Raph got her out. I became frozen and panicky. Nature had too much control over us. I went inside for a bit, recovering for the nature but feeling that whatever happened, my girls and I had each other’s back.

Later that night, people came from Montreal, eager to party but we were exhausted.

We could now barely get out as there was snow and water everywhere.
We were stucked in the cabin, like we were on an island in the middle of a lake.
It was surreal, to be confined to a small house consisting of one large room.
We were eleven colourful, loud and unique individuals sharing the space.
We had dinner together (Mexican food!) and played games, until it was too late.
We had an argument since some people wanted to sleep and some wanted to party, and we were crowded in a small space. It was difficult to fall asleep that night, because there was nowhere to go.

I ended up cuddling with my gay best friend, breathing deep, finally able to fall asleep.

The next morning, a couple left early, but not before we were able to call the trailer to tow the car.
We were lucky that Jacques knew the guy working there, since otherwise they would not have done it.

They left, and then we had breakfast as a group of 9.

We then went outside to watch the river go by and talk, coffee in hand.

Most people left, and then we were, the four girls once again. We were happy to be together, because it was exhausting to be as many for hours on end. It felt like coming home. It underlined the fact that we were an amazing team.

We finished cleaning and packing up, and we had Jacques drive us to our car.

He kindly kissed our cheeks and said goodbye. He said that he was lucky to have been around young and pretty girls all weekend, that his friends would be jealous.
He got back to his dirty pick-up truck and went back to his normal retiree life.

We left in the sunshine and stopped for gas and M&Ms on the way back. Two kinds, peanuts and pretzels.
We were happy to be the four of us again, snacking away, and dreaming about an eventual road-trip. The conversations were flowing, and we were all on the same track. Whatever happens, nature catastrophes or arguments, we know that we always get each other.

We went back to Montreal completely out of touch with reality, to the point where we were surprised to see a black man. I went back to my tiny apartment, crawled into bed and slept away, in my own little boat.

Photo: Lili Monette

Lili Monette is a multidisciplinary entertainer and writer, and the Montreal editor of Blonde. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre & Development from Concordia University and is currently a student in the Master of Arts in Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario.