I Was Sexually Assaulted On 420

bonfireI feel like most people’s stories of experimentation seem to have happened at earlier times in their lives, but I’m not really like anyone else, and my experience was more than the ordinary 420 situation.

It was a Friday and one of the last few days of my first year of college. Things were so exciting. I was acting, writing, doing everything I wanted to. I felt like things couldn’t get any better. I was even attracting the attention of a boy who I thought to be pretty darn special. I was charmed by his wit, and wowed by his acting resume. It’s amazing how naïve we allow ourselves to be.

That night I had planned an end of year dinner with my classmates. My best friend picked me up after my rehearsal and we walked along the campus together. It was a beautiful campus with a dark past that I somehow always felt connected to. It was a mental hospital turned college. It went from housing the dark and twisted minds to shaping the future minds of tomorrow.

I got a text from that guy telling me to meet him and for a ride down to the lake before my dinner. We’d have to be quick, he said, because he had to head up north.

Innocently, I thought he was going to take me for a romantic walk on the beach. I was wrong. I got into his truck, but something didn’t really feel right. He said he put the seats down and brought a blanket for us, and couldn’t wait to kiss me. We parked in a busy parking lot. I could see a guy walking his wiener dog toward the beach from the window.

When we parked, he crawled in the back. I followed and he started kissing me. He was bad at it, but I liked him so I kept going. He started taking my shirt and bra off. I started panicking. I knew where it was going and I didn’t want it. Not Like this. Not when I could clearly watch a family unload their strollers from a minivan. He was on top of me and he was fully erect and I said, “I can’t.”

“I’m on my period,” I claimed, trying to grab bra and top, he grabbed them first. My cellphone started ringing. It was my Mom. He grabbed my phone too. His dick was exposed. He told me to suck it. He told me he’d give my stuff back once I did that. I considered it, but I had never given a blow job before, and I really didn’t want to.

“I don’t want to, I really just wanna go.” It was my way of attempting to free us both from becoming another college campus statistic. Sadly, instead he aggressively grabbed me by the hair and started forcing my head toward his crotch. I wanted to cry, but I was in denial. This wasn’t sexual assault, I told myself. If it was, then it was my fault. I asked for it. I just gave in. I didn’t want to be a victim. My logic in that moment was really fucked up. How could this person who 30 minutes ago was lighting up my life, be this kind of person? How could I be so wrong?

I was late for my dinner. I thought he was going to at least drive me to my dinner, Instead. He dumped me off at a bus stop.

I called my best friend and told her everything. Neither of us knew what to do. Or make of it. So we just went to dinner as planned. I told her I felt like it was my fault and that we could tell no one. Of course it wasn’t my fault, but I didn’t know that then.

Remembering that Sex and the City Episode where Carrie smoked a joint, I said, “Let’s make this the day I smoke weed!” As it was one of the last days of school, there was a beach bonfire after dinner. We all met up with our classmates at the beach include this one guy. Let’s call him Frank. He was a classmate who also dealt “the good stuff”. I wouldn’t know how to roll a joint, so luckily Frank had this pretty blue pipe. He got it started and asked why I was smoking. He had never seen me do it before.

I wanted to tell him, but he could see he was prying. He told me he just lost his virginity to a guy. The guy finished and called him a fag, saying he wasn’t even gay. He handed me the pipe and I took a hit. I coughed so much. My mouth was dry, but I was calm.

I watched the guys from the film program dance around the fire like crazy people. More friends showed. They were so excited to finally get high with me. We hugged out our year, and experiences. I was so grateful that that was the way that day ended and that it would forever be the first time I smoked weed.

As for the dink from the beginning of the story, well he’s out there somewhere. It was one of the last times I ever saw him. He tried to contact me multiple times after, but I just couldn’t. He set me up for shame and ridicule by bragging to his friends about what he “thinks” happened. Villians don’t always know they’re villains, do they?

I guess that campus was still housing at least one twisted mind.

This story was submitted anonymously. 

I Was Raised On Rock ‘n’ Roll

Raised on AC/DC

I had just started working a new job in a new office and they were still doing renovations. I spent my first day building my own desk, which I should have taken as a sign, but that’s another story.

I started work at 9 a.m. At 9:55 a.m., I asked the renovators if they could put a pause on their construction while I made a very important phone call to my mother. It’s easy to get people to do what you want when you mention your mother, but little did they know the matter at stake was the pending on-sale of AC/DC concert tickets. This may not seem like some significant family matter, but that is a matter of perspective. For us, it was crucial we get these tickets. My mother had raised me on a steady diet of hair metal, heavy metal, and rock’n’roll, and from a young age I knew AC/DC like my abcd’s. So when it was announced AC/DC would be rolling through town, there was an unspoken understanding that my mother and I would go see them. We would both try to get tickets to double our chances.

The workers sat idly by as I dialed my mother. They drank from Gatorade bottles and chatted quietly, though not quiet enough that I couldn’t hear them wonder aloud about what could possibly be so important that this 20-something blonde girl would request they stop working entirely. (At least they were getting paid, they kept saying). It’s not like I needed it to be noise free, it’s just the anticipation was almost too much to handle. I felt nervous. Would we be able to get tickets? What if we couldn’t? Would we risk it and buy them online? We were looking for four, a hard number in concert ticket sale land, especially when you’re hoping for good seats. My anxiety ran rampant.

We both loaded our Ticketmaster screens and watched the seconds ticking up from 9:59:01. As soon as 10 a.m. struck the search was on. Seconds felt like minutes felt like hours as we waited anxiously for one of our browsers to load.

Mine loaded first.

“Mom! I got some! Section 200, row 19!”

“Get them!” She said, demanded. We knew there was no chance of us getting better seats let alone four of them. I began to process the order.

“Wait,” she gasped. “Mine just loaded. Row C.”

“C?” I asked. A letter? “What section?”

“Floor. Sheena, this is third row.”

We couldn’t believe it and squealed with excitement from our respective work places as my mother processed and confirmed the order. When the tickets were officially ours, the renovators got back to work and I left my newly built desk to giddily tell my new coworkers the exciting news. Now, the waiting game began.

***

I was an early adopter of rock. At three, I would adorn a headband and tell people I wanted to be Axl Rose when I grew up. When “Sweet Child Of Mine” came on, I would sway at the hips, close my eyes, and dance. It was the earliest proof that I am my mother’s daughter.

My mom got married at 20 and had me a little over a year later at 21. When I was seven and she’d sleep past 10 a.m. I found what could only be attributed to her young age to be a rather annoying trait. I had usually been up for hours by the time she reared her sleep head. But as we got older, I was forever grateful that we weren’t too far off in age, especially when it came to music. She taught me the classics, sang me Styx and Meatloaf songs as lullabies, and took me to my first concerts. We listened to it all, but there were two bands in particular that really solidified our bond: Def Leppard and AC/DC.

She would lament me with stories of her late teens and early 20s, seeing Def Leppard, AC/DC, Guns N Roses, and many other bands from the 80s and early 90s perform in iconic venues like the late Maple Leaf Gardens. I saw photos of her in tight denim and t-shirts, hair sky high and teased to the max. I idolized her life, imagined what it would be like if her and I had grown up together in that era and gone to concerts as friends. I imagined how much fun we would have had, partying together and drooling over men in too tight pants.

Not that we didn’t have fun and do this anyway. Every time Def Leppard performed in Toronto (and, one time, in Hamilton), we went. Once or twice we had too many margaritas. We saw them perform alongside Billy Idol, Poison, Heart and many others. I think I’ve seen them more than 10 times, and only once without her.

But we had never seen AC/DC together. Wouldn’t that be the day? We’d dream.

***

It took forever for the concert to come around. When the day finally arrived, I was disappointed we didn’t get hard tickets because I always liked collecting the stubs, looking through them later and reflecting on them like photo albums. They were trying out a new technology, paperless tickets, but we ended up getting lanyards instead, which I suppose was kind of cool, making the affair feel very VIP.

When we got to the stadium and proceeded to walk down the aisles towards our seats, I felt a thrill every time we were granted permission to go a little closer to the stage. As we approached our seats, we were shocked to discover there was no row A. We were actually second row! This couldn’t be real! A massive black curtain hid what was on the stage, and we waited with great anticipation for the show to start. The opening band got held up at the border, so the show was delayed. And when it had been decided that the band would never arrive, the curtain finally opened and a huge train that shot out fire revealed itself, as did each member of the band.

When Angus Young appeared, I couldn’t help but scream. He was one of my guitar idols. As a player myself, I admired his talent (and Malcolm’s too) and aspired to achieve his skillset. One Halloween I even dressed like him in my best boyish schoolgirl outfit, but unfortunately everyone thought I was Hermione from Harry Potter.

The show epitomized rock’n’roll. There were flames and explosives, giant blow up dolls, and more than two hours of blaring guitars, loud drums, and that infamous vocal growl. It was a family affair, for not only was I there with the woman who introduced this music into my world, but also my sister and my stepdad too. It is for reasons like this that music and family have such an entangled meaning for me. When I was growing up, music always had a way of bringing us together. There were the concerts we went to together, the ones they drove me to all across Ontario (and there were many), the ones I dragged my little sister to, and the ones I couldn’t ever stop talking about. I picture rolling the windows down and blasting rock and hair metal albums while driving down the highway on road trips. I picture the support everyone gave me when I decided to learn guitar, and for the four years after as I lent my life to the instrument, convinced that I too could be some big rockstar one day.

This didn’t happen. But still, music has always been all around me. From before I could walk to after I moved out on my own, it has been there with me, guiding me, helping me take that next step forward.

Doing Yoga With Dave Moffatt

Doing yoga with Dave Moffatt

“Thank you for coming to practice,” he says, adjusting the volume on his headset to make sure everybody can hear him. It hums as he fiddles with it, but I barely notice. I am too busy concentrating on the sound of his voice, the familiarity of it.

How is it possible life has come full circle like this? It perplexes and intrigues me how this version of my past could collide with my present in such a way. I imagine going back in time 15 years to tell a younger version of myself that this would be happening. I never would have believed it. I can barely believe it now.

But there he is: Dave Moffatt of the 1990s/early 2000s Canadian band the Moffatts, leading a free yoga class at Toronto’s Mountain Equipment Coop of all places. This is somebody I saw perform sold out concerts at some of the city’s biggest venues more than a decade ago. Friends of mine had scribbled his name in black Sharpie on neon posters from the dollar store, and although my favourite member (as it is customary to have a favourite member when you are a preteen-aged young woman) was the lead singer, I am still a little star struck being in the presence of somebody who helped define so much of my adolescence.

The Moffatts were my band. While my peers were drawn to choreographed pop stars like the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, I was taken by how the quartet of brothers played their own instruments and wrote their own songs. I liked the topics the Moffatts explored: first, young love and innocence; and later, in their best and final album, more complex issues such as sex and depression, matters not often associated with a band best known for a bubbly ballad called “I Miss You Like Crazy.”

But more than that, the Moffatts were my first introduction to a community that made me feel like I was finally part of something. Music made up for all the holes in my real life, the void other girls filled with boys, parties and other things I knew little of. The Moffatts brought a richness to my life. They were a catalyst for new friendships, some of which became life long, and they were the foundation of the quintessential preteen fantasy that boys like that could write songs about girls like me. But eventually this faded. My heart turned to real boys, new bands, and a growing circle of friends, and I no longer needed the Moffatts the way I once did. Yet seeing Dave in the flesh brings some of these feelings and memories back, and they come with a sort of sadness, filling me with this sinking awareness of how things that once seemed necessary can end.

***

It is a Sunday morning in mid November and it is snowing ever so lightly outside. By this point I am starting to get used to waking up at sunrise to go to yoga classes on weekends. In the months leading up to Dave’s class, I had started trading in late nights at the bar for early mornings at the studio in an attempt to introduce more balance into my life. I arrive to class eager and early, so I find myself drinking coffee in Starbucks and staring out the window down Spadina to pass the time.

As we ready for class a little later, I can’t help but almost stare at Dave. He is smaller than I imagined he would be, tiny and bendy. I watch as he contorts his body into inhuman shapes. I have been practicing yoga for just over eight months and am amazed by what my own body has learned to do. I wonder if mine too will be able to shape shift like that once I have the experience he has.

The previous night, I had been out celebrating my friend Erin’s birthday when I saw a guy who reminded me of Dave Moffatt. I hadn’t really thought about the Moffatts in a long time and I wondered what Dave looked like now. I Googled it, and as I began typing his name, “Dave Moffatt Yoga” came up.

My heart skipped a beat. That couldn’t be the Dave Moffatt could it? I knew he lived in Toronto. A friend had spotted him twice in her neighbourhood, once at the post office and another time while walking down the street. As the page loaded, my doubts quickly disintegrated: the keyboardist of a band I was once admittedly obsessed with was indeed now teaching yoga classes in my city. As fluke would have it, he had tweeted about a class taking place the very next day. “Are you teaching?” I giddily tweeted at him. He responded shortly after with a yes, you should come. Erin and I agreed to part ways and reconvene for class in the morning.

It takes all of my energy to not burst into laughter at how surreal everything feels the next day. I cannot make eye contact with Erin for it would surely push me over the edge and at times I can barely even look at Dave himself. But I get into the class, as you always do with yoga, and for a while I forget it is Dave teaching. I become lost in the flow, no longer even in the room but in another realm entirely. Just like with music. It only comes back to me when he adjusts me, repositioning my body just slightly. As he walks away I can’t help but mouth to Erin, “He touched me.”

The feeling is enough to make me aware once again of the strange nature of the situation. As the session winds down and we rise from savasana, he begins to chant melodically. Singing and chanting are not part of my usual yoga practice, but it feels almost right in that moment. Of course he has to sing.

When class ends I have to talk to him. Something inside of me needs him to acknowledge that this is real.

“Hi Dave,” I say as I stagger up to him. “Thanks for the great class.”

“Sheena, right?” He responds, surprising me. “I recognize you from Twitter. It’s nice to meet you!”

“Nice to meet you too,” I say, as if I hadn’t before. No teenybopper can go through her teenybopper career without the compulsory experience of at least one crazed autograph signing.

I smile. Nothing about this makes sense and yet somehow everything does. The coincidence forces me to truly reflect on where my life is now and on how much has changed since I last saw the Moffatts perform on stage. I am not the same girl I once was.

Yoga is powerful like that. It grounds you and makes you come to terms with things in the most meaningful way. The practice comes with an awareness and acceptance of your self and the things around you in a manner that is both internal and infinite. Something feels different as I walk away from class. I am aware of each snowflake, in awe of how beautiful everything looks in its dusting of white, and conscious of just how calm the world can be on a sleepy Sunday morning. Everything is in its place, and I feel exactly where I need to be.

***

Sheena Lyonnais is the founder of Blonde. Image from Tribe Fitness.

The Band that Changed my Life

TheKillers

I remember more music than I have memories. It has become so engrained into my life that I have tattoos dedicated to it and spend a good chunk of my paycheck to go to concerts.  I listened to music to fall asleep, to soothe a broken heart, and to celebrate life. Sometimes my taste could be questionable, but when I discovered my band my life changed forever.

Growing up, I listened to a lot of my parent’s music: Irish Folk music, female singers and more folk music. Before we had our Walkmans, my sister and I would have to endure hours in a car of songs like “The Fields of Athenry” and endless jig music. When my dad finally got “Hot Licks” by the Rolling Stones we had him play it constantly as it was the only music we could ever agree on. Then finally: we got our own Walkmans and stereos, which we used to play our radio mix tapes and CDs my mom got from Columbia House. She was pretty hip with the times: she bought me Fugees, TLC, Jennifer Lopez and Fast and Furious soundtracks. My first favourite tape that I listened to repeatedly as a kid was the Dirty Dancing soundtrack (years before it became one of my favorite movies).  I also distinctly remember blasting Celine Dion and Whitney Houston while playing solitaire on my little computer in my room, and having my headphones on listening to the Backstreet Boys.  Then there was Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child air bands, lip syncs with my bestie to “The Boy Is Mine,” and dance routines to ABBA. Very eclectic taste.

Then as I got older, I picked up artists that my parent’s hadn’t heard of:  Blink 182, Sum 41 and my favourite band for years and years, Lifehouse. I discovered them on a That’s What I Call Music CD and played their first album so often I’ve had to replace it three times (its still one of my favourite albums of all time). While I still like Lifehouse, my heart grew to love a different band.

In my “victory lap” year of high school, I was set on becoming a writer. I was the editor and pretty much sole writer of the school paper; I worked on yearbook and wrote stories for local magazines.  Then I took a co-op at the University of Guelph Radio station, CFRU 93.3 FM.  I was working with this very hip woman who wore hand woven tops and went to yoga (before it was the “thing” to do). As part of my co-op I got some airtime, two hours of “spoken word,” which meant that I could play music but I had to talk or have stories for 50 per cent or more of it. I only remember one story talking about education, where I had my only call in (which incidentally turned out to be a boy I hated), but I do remember the music. I would scour their little CD room filled top to bottom with CDs of all kinds of music, any genre you could think of. Then there was the “new release’s” room, with a little boom box to test out the CDs. I carefully cultivated my musical taste in that room.  Weakerthans, Constantines, Gossip and one song that I still listen to but have no idea who the band is. I remember filling out sheets and sheets on the songs I played, I wish I kept copies of those sheets.

Then I found that little single.

I remember being intrigued by its pink and gold cover, it was a promo single sent by the record label (we got lots of those). I put it in the little stereo and I was instantly hooked, it sounded quite a lot like 80’s new wave I was really into at the time (huge John Hughes Fan) but yet different. I had never heard the song before.

It was The Killers “Somebody Told Me.”

I played it literally every single show until I heard it on public radio then had to retire it. Soon after I first heard it, I bought their debut album Hot Fuss and played it to death at home.

Lifehouse and the Backstreet boys was one thing, but this evolved into something else entirely. WhiIe I’ve outgrown the other bands, I’ve become a bigger fan of The Killers. I have all of their CDs, some B-Side songs, follow a YouTube Channel with live shows and was gratefully gifted their vinyl collection which could be my most precious thing besides my autographed Chris Hemsworth magazine.

The truth is I listen to the Killers every single day, even if it’s just one song or their entire discography.  From “Mr. Brightside,” and “All these Things I’ve Done” to “Read my Mind,” “Runaways,” “Human” or “Here with Me,” and list goes on and on.  At some point in the day, guaranteed you will hear me listening to them.

While I don’t always like the music that The Killers put out, I am still a faithful follower, a Victim as they call their fans.  I’ve seen them twice in concert, and soon will go to see them a third time (floor spots- as close to the stage as we can get).

The first show was special because I dragged my cousin to it and I was very high. Sitting in the grass at the Molson Amphitheatre, it sounded so amazing that it was like I was in a tiny room and I was the only person there. I felt the music float over me and out into the night sky (I romantically think it was because of how much I love the band but it was probably the really strong weed). The next time I went was with my best friend, and we sang and danced our hearts out. It was a dream come true.

While they may not be the first band I discovered on my own, they are the first band that no matter what is happening around me, when I listen to them I feel like “me.”  They give me the words that I can’t find and tell me stories that I can relate to. On sunny days I walk around the city with my headphones repeating the words “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” in my head. On dreary days I hum “Mr. Brightside” and I wish I could have written, “It’s funny how you just break down/Waitin’ on some sign/I pull up to the front of your driveway/With magic soakin’ my spine/ Can you read my mind?”

They remind me of my good times, bad days, my past, and they get me through my present. The Killers are also part of the reason why I am so close with my best friend, because she understands and shares the same love for them as I do.

I know I will be a Victim for life: I dream of naming my hypothetical daughter after a cover they have done, plan on following in their footsteps while in Vegas and I’m deciding on what ink I should get to commemorate them.  How was I to know one little pink and gold CD would change my life?  Music will always be my religion, and the Killers are my saints.

Pushy is Not Passionate

feminist body

Cheyenne Jackson

Lately, as we see debate of women’s rights erupt even more so in the social media world I find myself contemplating what constitutes as acceptable and breaching women’s rights. Personally I wouldn’t say I am an extremist but I am a feminist if you must put a title on it. I try to avoid titles but the fact that there even is a term for belief in equality of women proves that there is still a need for awareness here. We don’t hear the term masculanism thrown around do we? Even if we did hear this it would likely not connect in our minds to any of the similar ideals of feminism.  Does it not also say something that spell check does not even recognize this word?

There are the main areas our minds jump to when we hear the phrase feminism but what if we are not even acknowledging the every day-to-day situations where we are pushed passed our boundaries of comfort and security; The moments we have begun to consider normality in our lives as females.

An issue we still face in society today is the belief of entitlement. I hate accepting a drink from a guy at the bar because I know where his mind is going. I have experienced men getting upset when I say no to an invitation home at the end of the night although I never asked for a drink nor did I lead them on with flirtatious suggestion. We do not deserve to be treated disrespectfully just because we are not giving you our bodies. In no manner does anyone have a right to what is yours. While at Sasquatch Music Festival I met a guy at a show one evening. In the beginning he seemed pretty cool so we made plans to meet up the next day but it didn’t take long to realize I didn’t have much of a connection with him. For some reason I still let him kiss me but all of a sudden he came on extremely strong. When I told him I wanted to leave he made comments that I was no fun and not “freaky like I looked”. Sorry dude but I wasn’t trying to channel that I wanted to get freaky, possibly you shouldn’t make judgments?  He continued to stick with me for the next while as I continuously tried to brush him off.  I failed to stand up for myself in a reluctance to not be offensive, yet I was hearing constant criticism from him the more he realized that he was not getting anything. Whether female or male, no one deserves to be subjected to someone knocking you down. Why didn’t he walk away? Because he thought he might still get in my pants. Why didn’t I walk away? Because I was being an idiot. It took me until he actually shushed me and asked if I was going to fuck him or not to give a clear enough message and walk away.  I am not a supporter of misandry; I am no man hater that is for sure. I love men. I love people, but why in our modern world today do people so often still have such close minded outlooks and think they can treat others in such a manner.

To be honest in past situations I have slept with men just because I did not know how to stop it. I am sure I am not alone in this either. As crazy as that sounds I found it was almost easier to follow through with it than to build up the confidence to escape the situation. I saw this as a flaw in myself as media has brainwashed us to believe that this behavior in men can be acceptable, making the woman simply promiscuous for allowing it to happen. How corrupt is this idea? As a friend stated a great point to me, “We raise women to avoid and prepare for situations but we do not always raise men to deter from them.”

We need to change the way we approach this as a society. Men need to realize that consent is not lame to ask for but extremely desirable. Pushy is not passionate. Just because a girl may not have the confidence to say no does not mean she is saying yes. There are many areas in life that pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone can be rewarding but when it’s concerning our rights and feeling of self worth this is not one of them.

This is just one example of challenges women face but there are many occurrences in our lives we no longer even acknowledge as abnormal but have accepted as reality. Our perception of reality needs to change. In saying all of this I am not discrediting male rights in any matter as I believe bringing equal attention to this is also important in having equality for women. We need to view every category with equivalence. A fact brought to my attention recently was that more than 40% of domestic violence victims are male. A study was conducted to see the reaction of bystanders during female violence against a man and vice versa. People were quick to intervene in defense of the woman but laughed or ignored the situation when the male was victimized. We raise men from the beginning with phrases and ideologies that portray they must suppress their emotions and be dominant. We need to be conscious of how we are raising our children; the messages we are giving society. I like the quote from Gloria Steinem which states, ‘We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like daughters.’ There is an unrealistic expectation on both genders and if we can dissolve this and be more open with others in turn we may be more open with ourselves. Stand up for your rights but be mindful of others’. To find balance we need Yin and Yang. Moon and Sun. Feminine and Masculine. To find balance we need equality.

 

Cheyenne Jackson is a consciousness enthusiast from Calgary. Recently rediscovering her love for writing while blogging throughout travels in Asia. You can connect with Cheyenne on Her Instagram, ToukaKoukan or check out her blog, http://jinseiryoukou.wordpress.com

February 25th

tumblr_lzyvvq09V51qj1nz3o1_1280

I just turned twenty-five on February 25th, which makes it my lucky year. As a younger version of myself, I always liked to look forward to the future. By twenty-five, I thought I’d be internationally rich and famous. It didn’t happen quite yet, but that doesn’t mean that many of my dreams did not come true or that I have no future. Quite to the contrary, I feel like I’ve achieved something, making it to twenty-five healthy, happy and driven. On February 25th, I got ”happy birthday” messages from all around the world. I had ”alles gutte”, ”feliz cumplenos” and ”bonne fête”. It made me feel like an incredibly lucky lady, someone who loves others and is loved back, someone who has her place in this crazy international world.

Every year, my birthday arrives at the end of an infinite winter, like a lighthouse in a stormy sea. My best friend Olivier told me that each year, he awaits for my birthday to come around since it’s ‘‘the end of the darkness’’, the dead end of winter, the last few weeks of sub-zero temperatures.

My birthday matters a lot to me because every year, it is an occasion to have a celebratory ritual about being born into the world. Most importantly, it is a time when I feel particularly grateful for all the love in my life. Like New Years, it is a time to stop and think, but also to open my eyes and to stop taking things for granted (something I’m constantly working on).

Every year, I have diner with my family as well as a party with my friends. For diner, I have excellent food with my close-knit family, either at the restaurant or at home, and for my party, I always make a point of dressing up, dancing and throwing a get-together with some of my most fabulous friends.

My parties are kind of legendary and they are always thematic. I had a ”bring me a surprise” themed party for my twenty-second birthday. The picture above was taken by Olivier at my twenty-third anniversary. The theme was ”Southern”. Boys came up wearing Hawaiian shirts, my best friend Gab dressed head-to-toe in yellow (she was the sun) and I was sporting short-shorts, a tropical top and platforms the whole night (and that ubiquitous vintage Parasuco rocker coat, a gift from Olivier). It was a great night, and I was happy to be dancing with people I love, popping bottles open, having a blast and not giving a care in the world.

This year, the theme was ”child’s birthdays” but I ended up wearing sequins (obviously!). My birthday party was happening at my friend Vanessa’s place this year, as my tiny apartment can’t hold more than ten people at a time.

I took the metro to get there. I was at the central station, Berri-UQAM, to switch lines eastward when I came face-to-face with Olivier. The metro stopped for a minute. I boarded the train while he exited. He quickly realized: ”wait! I’ll give you your gift!”, and then proceeded to take out a rolled photography out of his bag to give it to me. As the train departed, I unrolled it and smiled: it was a detail of the very picture one can observe above.

Arrived at Vanessa’s place after running some errands and having coffee with my mom, I was already running out of time to decorate the whole space. Luckily, her sister was there and two other friends who live at a stone’s throw also came to help out. We decorated the whole apartment, sticking curling ribbons on the ceiling with the help of a stepladder. We started drinking wine in the meantime, then had a delicious vegan diner.

In the back room, we danced crazily to rock and roll, gave each others hugs and chatted a ton. In the front room, there was a blue light and white paper on the walls. My friend wrote a note encouraging people to draw on them. As the night unveiled, many made their way to the drawing corner. 

The next morning, I had a plethora of drawings to collect before departing, a reassuring reminder of my friends’ love, creativity and sense of humour. 

Even if parties are different from year to year , every time it is a moment to fall in love with myself again and with the simple fact of being alive. Days are getting longer, winter is soon to be over, but this won’t be an infinite winter. It’s my lucky year after all.

Lili Monette is a multi-disciplinary entertainer and writer, and the Montreal editor of Blonde. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre & Development from Concordia University and is still somewhat studying. 

Photo: Iconographie by Olivier Gariépy. A picture of me exactly two years ago, on my twenty-third birthday. http://ogariepy.tumblr.com/

January: Sequins and Shavasana

celia

In popular culture, January is regarded as a new beginning. As 2013 has been by far the most stressful year of my life, and that I have a recurring tendency to burn the candle at both ends, my resolutions for 2014 were to allow myself to welcome the unknown, to have a better balance, and to go where my heart leads me (cheesy but true).

At the end of last year, I was completely knackered, feeling the effects of a full-body burn-out. I finally took a much-needed hiatus, but towards late December, I started acting on my creative ideas again. I was much more relaxed, happier, and felt way less alienated than in the last semester. Surrounding myself with love definitely helped me to get back in touch with myself. But of course, as I could have predicted, my renewed energy made me twitchy about working again.

Just then, my best friend asked me if I wanted to work the door on New Year’s Eve at her job, a venue where she is the ticketing manager. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. I sensed that working on New Year’s was a sign of success and of good things to come. Initially, I was disappointed to miss out on the yearly family dinner party on my father’s side because I rarely spend time with my extended family. Moreover, I was craving the delicious sugar pies and other Québécois holiday delicacies like tourtière (meat pies) cooked by my aunties. Unfortunately, instead of catching up with cousins, I had diner by myself, looking down on my broccoli with disappointment.

Fortunately, it was a short-lived sadness, as I left the house with my party outfit in my bag (and long johns on my legs). I arrived on the corner of St. Laurent and Ste. Catherine amidst a crowd of hobos, prostitutes and dodgy middle-aged men smoking cigarettes swiftly in order to get back to their beloved peep shows and strip clubs.

Inside the gigantic venue, I looked for someone to redirect me to my new job. After I found my new colleague, Constance, I changed into a black cape dress topped by a multicolor sequin jacket, as well as my most decadent shoes: silver sequin Jeffrey Campbell heels. In short, it was the perfect New Year’s Eve door girl outfit. I was proud to act as an obligatory first stop for people’s New Year’s celebrations (at least those who did not possess paper tickets yet). I was totally rocking it as an hostess with the mostest. Working on New Year’s made me feel in control since I was an integral part of the party ritual.

The club was packed with a plethora of vibrant and colourful people.  There were friends and acquaintances stopping by, screaming my name in the midst of the crowd, or coming down to chat with me when the lobby was nearly empty. There was an array of beautiful girls, handsome men, and very fabulous gay guys, some of which knew Constance and came down at midnight to kiss us on the mouth and to offer us a sip of their rum and cokes… in champagne glasses.

We were checking people’s I-ds or receipts in order to hand them their tickets as fast as we could. We would have been oblivious of the year passing, if not from a wild uproar from upstairs. As people vanished into the party, a busboy brought us green-bottled beers and gave us a hug. We all cheered: ‘’bonne année!’’.

Our shift was finally over at 3h15 AM, after which we went upstairs to have a drink with fellow coworkers. We were on the top floor, surrounded by Christmas lights that gave the whole scene a magical appeal, along with a post-apocalyptic vibe courtesy of plastic glasses clustered on the floor, bin bags aplenty, and overall post-party mess.

We left the venue a little after 4, looking for a taxi but indubitably, it is legendarily difficult to hail one at New Year’s. Matters were even more complex since we were at the core of downtown Montreal after the bars closed, and so there were hordes of loud drunks walking around, all looking for a cab. I decided to go around the bus terminal, in order to find a cab quicker on a quieter street. I saw one from afar and walked in the street, brushing against the cars. To our relief, the taxi stopped.

‘’You girls are lucky. I just dropped my last customers like, a minute ago!’’. Our driver, a bilingual Montreal native, seriously thought he was the best for the job. ‘’I’m the best cab driver in Montreal! Well, I know it’s not very humble for me to claim that…’’, he said, before erupting in giggles.

‘‘I reckon that 2014 is going to be a good year’’

‘‘Yeah, I think so too’’.

I smiled as I exited the taxi. I was happy about the transition and grateful for my night, as well as for my life. A new year is a celebration because although we don’t change much at midnight (the cab doesn’t transform into a pumpkin after all), it is a unique moment that feels as though the world is expanding. It is a fantastic occasion to get together with loved ones and /or strangers and to bond over the shared excitement of a new beginning. On New Year’s Eve, people all around the globe are living magical rituals, and that shakes the world a little bit.

The next morning, on New Year’s Day, I woke up feeling hungry and craving some company. As my great friend Gregory, from NYC, was leaving at 5 that afternoon, we had promised each other that we would have brunch. After waiting and wishing for an answer to come my way through my Facebook inbox, Greg finally woke up and told me to come to his friends’ place. He was totally hangover, and so were they. His first typed words were things like : ”ughhhh”.

I managed to find a store that was open, and bought eggs, olives and grapes. I had a feast with Gregory, his two friends and their two-year-old daughter. I felt very at home even though it was the second time that I’ve seen them, and the brunch made the lack of sleep (almost) enjoyable.

I departed with Greg in order to drop him at his bus. After we hugged goodbye, I walked for a couple of kilometres in subarctic weather. When I finally made it home, I had a hot chocolate and called my mom. It was comfort after the cold, and the promise of a new day, of a clean slate.

And the slate has been pretty clean indeed. I lost weight, not dramatically, but everyone has observed the fact as soon as I took my big winter sweater off. As January started, I told myself that I had to go to a yoga studio again, repeatedly, and so I started volunteering at one in exchange for free classes.

I have been showing up at the studio every day for over three weeks now, and I do feel more serene. Practicing yoga helps me tremendously. I take time to stop and breathe, I grasp the present moment better than I used to, and my creativity is always on. Every day now, I make my way to the yoga studio, change into a sports top and shorts, and unroll my mat to start my practice. It has become my ritual, a New Year’s resolution I will definitely stick with, along with wearing more sequins (but that, I do every year).

Lili Monette is a born-and-raised Montrealer and an artist by DNA and by choice. She holds a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Theatre and Development from Concordia University and can be found around the world entertaining people and gathering stories.

Illustration: Célia Marquis. You can check out her wonderful work here: http://celiamarquis.ca/ and here  http://celiamarquis.tumblr.com/