In Hotel Rooms, We Can Be Anyone

Sipping vodka through a straw at the bar in the hotel, I awaited my man’s arrival. We were celebrating our anniversary and although we lived in Toronto, felt like getting a room in the city would serve as a sexy, temporary escape from our everyday lives. It was raining lightly outside. I felt nostalgic as I reflected upon our relationship while sitting in the bar, staring out the hotel windows, but I also felt exceptionally present as I fantasized about the night that awaited us. I wanted to play the part of the sexy, mysterious girl tonight so I went to the hotel just a little bit early, early enough for him to find me slightly tipsy off top shelf vodka. I had packed a corset and a half of cocaine, just in case the night got wild.

He met me at the hotel bar, threw the bartender some money and a generous tip, then escorted me up to our room, roses in tow. I felt a bit like a call girl, high class of course, except for the flowers, which reminded me I am indeed a well-loved woman. The room was gorgeous; its contemporary design reminded me of our living room—the way the reds, browns and blacks wove together. But it was not enough of a reminder to make it feel like home. I was very coherent of the fact that we were somewhere else, and that was exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be displaced, seduced, and fucked. I wanted him to devour me, and I him. Anniversaries are a time for lovemaking, for romance, but I wanted a little bit of lust thrown in. I wanted him to want me. I wanted him to take me.

I feel like this sometimes and I let it come out in hotel rooms. Hotel rooms are where I can play the part of the whore and the devout girlfriend all in the same act; with an audience of one I can be anyone.

It did not take long for the desire for hotel sex to set in. There’s something about being in a hotel room that makes everything feel a little bit elevated, as though nothing is real. I excuse myself to slip into something else. There’s something, too, about the act of changing in a room full of mirrors that makes you aware of your body in ways you’re not always coherent of. The curves of your hips, the way your breasts sit. You pause for a moment to wonder if they’ve always looked like that, but the thought passes quickly. You take things off quickly, too, but put them on slowly. You want everything to sit just right, to hit your body at the right parts. You adjust the knee-high stockings so they’re at the same level. You know he’s in the other room, waiting. You wonder, is he clothed? Naked? Does he have something special planned? Has he topped up the wine like you want him to? You lace the corset tight into place; adjust your breasts. You remember the cocaine. You remember the romance. You make yourself forget the cocaine, for now. You fix your makeup. Make your eyes a little blacker, your lips a little redder. You turn your head upside down to give your hair some volume. You step into your black pumps, your Steve Maddens. You do one last look. You open the door.

No, you slide the door. When you’re a woman of mystery and desire you slide the door so that the noise piques his interest but he doesn’t see you right away. When you step out you want it to be so hot that you feel him get hard. This is the woman you are being right now, and she is confident and seductive. She is an alternative version of you, but she is still you. You take note of that. That this is you.

On a Tuesday night in a hotel room in downtown Toronto you transform. It is your favourite part about hotels. The music playing is the playlist you made together with this night in mind because without saying it you both know how hotel nights go, and so at first when you’re settling in it’s kind of sweet and sentimental, but by the time the first bottle of Bordeaux is gone, it’s dirtier, grittier, hotter.

The song that comes on as you slide open the door is perfect and sludgy with the kind of back beat that makes it easy to sway your hips. It makes the charade almost effortless, when the soundtrack is so good anything is possible. You walk slowly to the bed, as you move your body and mouth the words, as you prepare for what’s to come. You push him down before you kiss him, because even though he already wants it, you want him to want it more. That is the woman you are being tonight. She’s a little meaner, a little feistier than usual. She gets what she wants. He lets you have him, lets you work your mouth to where he wants it, and then he turns you over and takes your clothes off one by one. He does it slowly. He makes you want it, too.

You fuck. I fuck. I let the woman I wish I always was rise from somewhere inside of me and I take on this character for the night. By now I’m also a little drunk. If I smoked cigarettes I’d have had five by now, but I don’t smoke cigarettes so I drink and do occasional lines when I’ve got the money instead. I remember the cocaine and we’re both exhausted and drunk enough that he can’t even get mad at me for bringing it, the offer is too tempting. I pour a pile on the bedside table, its mahogany finish in stark contrast to the white of the drug. I take a 50 dollar bill, one of the new ones, and place it on top, sliding the hotel room keycard over it until it turns into a fine powder. Doesn’t it look pretty? Almost like snow, like the seasons are changing. I use the key to cut four lines. He lets me go first. They’re pretty even, but still I take the one that looks the biggest. It’s an illusion, but everything is right now.

When the coke is gone and the wine is gone we get dressed and head upstairs to the rooftop lounge overlooking the entire city. You can see the water and the CN Tower and the skyscrapers, those already built and in development. You can see the city changing. There’s a slight chill in the air and he pulls me in close as we point to the area where we live. You can almost see our house from here, if you pretend hard enough. The night slows down. I melt into the moment and lose a layer of my mystery in the process. But I know it’s okay. The act may be ending, but it’s not over yet. After a few drinks, we go downstairs to go to bed, kissing as we fall asleep. Tomorrow we’ll wake up as us again, but for now we’ll enjoy the fantasy.


Photo by Elle Hanley, part of the hotel series. To view more of her work, click here

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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.

Friends With Benefits

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It was a feisty summer evening in 2011. It was around ten and I was with my best friends sipping cheap beer and chilling endlessly at an infamous park in my hometown, where I have spent an inordinate amount of time. As it is often the case in big gatherings, our crowd kept getting larger. A small group of people that I did not know arrived. Of course, as I always spot the cutest person first, he instantly caught my eye. He was black, beautiful, dressed pretty well and he seemed funny for some reason. He was instantly nicknamed the ‘‘blipster’’ (black+ hipster) by my best friend.

I was twenty-two at the time and I was sporting huge glasses that people either loved or hated. He said ‘‘I love your glasses’’, and I responded: ‘’I love you!… well, your outfit’’. We both laughed, but I felt a little awkward. We talked for a bit, and he asked what I would be doing later. He took my digits as we were off to different bars. Like many these days, this is a relationship that started by text messages. He came over to meet me and subsequently, we made out on the dance floor. We left the bar as it was closing, quite drunk and full of juvenile energy.

We were heading back to my apartment on bicycle, and on the way, we tagged a warehouse building in the Mile End. I wrote ”Lili loves you”, my classic and silly tag, with hearts replacing the ”i” dots. A couple of days later, he tried to find the tags we did to no avail. It seems like those tags were the product of a single encounter and that they disappeared into the city landscape pretty quickly, just like the possibility of being a couple.

I was living in Mile End at the time and there was a couch on my front porch. He used to smoke cigarettes in the morning, a trashy hangover gesture. He used to call me from outside ”come on baby, come over here!”. He made me laugh and it was comfortable and fun sitting next to him despite the foul smell.

After a couple dates though, I came to realize that he wasn’t boyfriend material. I felt that we had good conversations, sure, but not the most enlightening ones. Also, the sex wasn’t working, and it was tedious to get his member up and running. He became heavy or annoying at times, and I realized that I did not liked him like that. I especially recollect one afternoon when he tagged along with me and my friend to the Mount Royal and I felt that I had to take care of him. I thus ”broke up” with him shortly after this, and enhanced that we would never be more than just friends.

A couple of weeks later that same summer, I ran into him outside of a bar in the Plateau. He was going elsewhere. ”Do you want to come with me? I was going to this other bar. I’ll buy you a drink if you come!”. I agreed, but in a friendly manner only. I did not realize then but my PMS was taking over so I was moody and highly sensitive that night. I did hold his arm at some point while walking, while simultaneously clearing the fact that we were just friends now. How to send mixed signals, basically. I was also wearing my chic black cape dress and being a little princess-y. When we got to the bar, his friends were gone so we had a beer and talked. We were both feeling quite knackered and he was living around the corner at the time. He told me to come over, but I did not want to for obvious reasons. I ended up staying the night, but I slept in my fabulous cape dress. I woke up drenched in sweat in the summer heatwave. I left his house before collapsing from sweat or being obliged to take my dress off. I stopped by my godfather’s to give food to my cat that he babysat at the time. Evidently, I had my period.

Fast-forward one and a half year, he invited me out for coffee. We might have looked like a couple as I ran into one of my college friends, but I was actually on a break with my then-boyfriend at the time. He invited me to his place to drink wine. I still found him insistent and I did not want to go, especially since I was at a weird place relationship-wise. We left it at that, and we barely talked for a while. He texted me sometimes, but I made it clear that I was in a relationship with somebody else. I heard about him sometimes. For instance, the following summer when I was in Germany, he took a German class with my best friend.

A year and some months later, I was working the cloakroom at the venue I work in. I turned back to the counter and I saw him standing there, a black panther shining in the night with a neon yellow beanie like a signpost. He was with one of his friends, a small nervous girl who I initially mistook for his girlfriend. I asked her if she was, and he came back at the same moment. I guess my question kind of showcased a jealousy and a puzzlement at his romantic situation. He came back to talk to me twice and after last call, he tried to convince me to go to an after-party. Being exhausted and having something the next day, I declined. He took my number again. He asked ”if I text you, will you be answering?”. I nodded in agreement.

The next morning he texted me that he was really happy that he had seen me again, and that he had forgotten how honest and good-natured my smile was. We texted a couple times. He subsequently invited me out for diner on Valentine’s Day. Being single but not desperate, I thought it could be fun to spend time with him to rediscover our relationship under a different perspective. We went to this insanely decorated restaurant, with an incredible array of weird objects. We came back to my place to smoke a joint and he tried to come closer. I felt noxious and I kept pushing him away. ”You know, your’e like an old friend, it’s just weird, I don’t want sexual contact. You can hold me, sure, but that about it for tonight”. He tossed and turned and was sweating so much that he decided to leave. He was not mad, just annoyed I guess,as he wanted to have brunch the following day. That was a good sign, I thought. He did not necessarily want to sleep with me.

We have realized that we are a little more than just friends, but at the same time never to be lovers. He loves touching me, although he respects my boundaries. I can massage his shoulders and give him long hugs. We are very different but there is a kind of fun tranquility when I am in his presence. He expresses himself best through music and images, while I can and write, read and talk endlessly.

‘‘That’s why I love hanging out with you Lili, you’re so fun and alive and you talk constantly, you always tell stories… I’m not that great with words’’.

He told me over beer on Bernard Street one Monday evening: ‘‘your name fits really well with you. When you think about Lili, you think about a sweet, gentle girl, no?’’. That night, we kissed a little bit but could not go beyond that without feeling awkward or uncomfortable. He said: ‘‘we’re really platonic’’. I don’t know if it’s because I aimed to try to prove him wrong, but I aimed to unbuckle his belt, something I have never been skilled at doing (I think it’s the equivalent of boys trying to open girl’s bras). I put my hands in his pants, trying to go further, maybe. It had been so long and I needed some but he stopped me right there and then. I was happy that he stopped it afterwards, because he was right. We are too platonic. I just cozied myself with my head on his shoulder and my hand on his chest. Ifelt asleep in seconds.

I woke up slowly the next morning, and I could already hear him tap slightly on his keyboard.

I opened my eyes, stretched, and looked at him: ‘‘coffee?’’

‘‘Yes! It should be ready by now’’.

He came back with two cups and gave me a vintage one with ‘‘The Toronto Skyline’’ written on it in a dark orange. It was a fitting match since I was about to move to Ontario. He told me that he thought of me when he saw it and that he had chosen it on purpose. We gave each other a big hug that morning. I put my boots on, and we hugged again. I left his place to find a misty and foggy Mile-End under a slight rain.

A week or so later, there was a party for his birthday on a Friday night. It was a hype event with three other roommates and a slew of familiar faces involved. There were many people that I did not know, of which many seemed self-important. I was about to leave but he kept trying to convince me to stay. I agreed after much frustration and argumentation. We went to his bedroom, he closed the door, he poured me a glass of wine and showed me a book he made for school. I critiqued it and we talked about it, and he told me that I was the most important person to come that night. He kissed me, and was being a bit heavy on me. I left while feeling that I had to fight with him to quit his place. It made me sad as I made my way home. That night, I was battling with demons in my dreams. I woke up thrice drenched in sweat.

The next day, he texted me. ‘‘I’m sorry, I was a bit heavy last night’’. He rang me up later that night and it was probably the first time in a relationship that has always evolved around text messages.

I have come to realize that being friends with benefits is not that simple. There is always a push and pull happening and an aura of mystery and deception. But most importantly, this is a friendship I can count on. It’s another kind of love that doesn’t need to be labelled. As I moved, I found his set of keys that he had lost at mine’s a month ago. He wrote to say that he will miss me, and I responded that I will too.

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 at the University of Western Ontario.

Photo: Lili Monette

Naked Modeling: A Feel-Good Medicine

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Just like most random jobs, I picked this one up at a time when I needed money and didn’t know what I felt like doing to get some.  A few years ago, I became very curious about the stripping occupation. I know many girls have had similar fantasies to mine: dancing and feeling sexy in a place where we can only be known by a chosen cheekie name seems hot. Shopping in strippers’ ”work apparel stores” was already a favourite hobby of mine and I had spotted a location with the best hooker heels in town. To start investigating, I went for a drink at a Toronto strip club (where the girls were so talented) and asked the bouncer a couple of questions on my way out. That’s how I found out that one needs a licence to get their clothes off in an Ontario bar. So like, your name is forever attached to that? I know that long forms, small prints and signatures of papers that are less than cross-read are part of life, and perhaps it would be one more form lost in the already existing confusing mass, but having my name permanently associated with this profession (as I’m still working on getting famous and being a respectable person) was enough to weigh in with my friend. “Don’t do it! You’ll get addicted to that dirty money!” she said (which, by the way, came out of her own experience). It dissolved my curiosity.

So after doing this and doing that in order to get by and to renew my wardrobe often enough, one job I knew about long before having slutty ideas popped in my head :  life drawing modelling.

The time of my passion for latex, pvc or polyurethane tight clothes, night-living and ear-ringing inducing music was over for me. It had been a few months that I was dedicating most of my time to practicing yoga and dancing for myself or for the geese of Lake Ontario, and so I thought it might be a great time to take a stance in front of a new type of audience!

I was drawing at this gallery which offered free sessions and so I asked to be hooked up with some paying gig. To break the ice, I did a first informal one for a group of visual artists who’d regularly meet at one of them’s house. I was drinking wine and snacking on olives in between poses and progressively took off my bodysuit as the evening went on. There was good music and it was easy to get inspired. I felt proud upon hearing the artist’s reactions which were stimulated by the variety of attitudes I served. I would laugh and remain concentrated when at first they’d warn me of the difficulty of keeping up the position I just got in, but then I would let my thoughts wander away. I was learning how to transform a burning muscle pain into a propelling fire, focusing on every inch of myself to remember where it was located in the space and how it was in relationship with the rest of my body. I was already hooked on this AND I got to see all of these amazing portraits of myself as a different modern individual and with a rather cool aesthetic. Rather than a mirror reflection or a photo, how great is it to read an interpretation of you that is made solely by hand!

With this to attest of my experience I started having a regular gig at an art school. No music or wine were part of the much more regular context. The room was a little cold but the organizer was very warm. I’d find it funny when he’d get right by me to tape marks around my edges so I could take a break in the middle of a long pose (i.e after 20 minutes of not moving). The artwork I would look at as I walked in between stations was much more classic: oils, graphite etching, inks. I loved it. I felt as though I was enscribing myself in a long tradition of the model posing for the artist. It was mind blowing to witness all of the different interpretations of the same me. It was helping to detach from my scrutinizing self. None of these peoples’ stare was sexual ;  they were not wondering how they’d fuck me, but how to intuitively make a stroke relating my arm to my trunk, my head to my neck. THAT was a balm soothing all of these little places in me that were inflammed by the constant undesired aggressions of restless flesh predators. It did not feel out of place, provocative or libertine to be in my birthday suit for hours in front of clothed people. With my pubes neatly done, sometimes armpit hair but always jewellry, I’d imagine I was in some hot country posing on a bed for a controversial artist a few decades ago, later making the headlines. For that was the freedom I’d realise I had in that moment. In my statued body, still my mind could go to any place I wanted, jumping from memory to fantasy, most of the time only holding myself from bursting in laughter as I recalled something funny. I particularly enjoyed the moment when I’d choose a pose, install myself into it, check with all muscles that they were at ease. Then, there was a little hold before the frenetic soundrack of the materials rubbing on each other would start.

I enjoyed this tax-free money for a while, but just like I question most things at one point or another, as in “is this still good for me?”, there was this one session I didn’t enjoy. Nothing in particular happened, it was just me. Just like one can get uninterested by a relationship whose vibe one has quit. That time, I felt cold for the entire length of it. I wondered why I was offering my precious body to all of these strangers for them to stare at. What made them worthy of me? It was a noble art practice, but no sublime opus was created in that room. All them pairs of eyes were pulling a little energy, slowly, slowly. Was it worth the money? See, I had become interested in someone and yet, we had not touched. I wanted to be warm and inviting for those first moments to come. I didn’t want to confuse and lose this boy’s eyes in the mass around me and be left feeling empty.

I was called by this other class orgaziner I had been refered to. Happy of my rising popularity and the eminent money, I accepted with immediate enthusiasm. This was to be at a bigger art school with talented attendants. I gulped in front of the challenge but felt confident… until the day of the session. I drank wine to get myself to go and put on a cool outfit on for going out plans following the shift. That wasn’t enough to get me into it, I was dreading to go. It meant exposing my intimacy to a larger group of people whom I might have run into anytime. It felt like the no-coming-back line I was about to cross. For the first time ever in my life, with shame, and more than halfway there on my bike, I turned around. I was a no-show.

The kind and worried organizer tried contacting me a few times. A while later I answered that I was sorry, that really I just didn’t want to do life drawing modelling anymore. He thanked me for my honesty and we went on our journeys. I still felt bad for not showing up but relieved that this episode was over.

I wore a lot of long veiled skirts on top of my short shorts that summer.
But I still like to undress smoothly when it’s only for a pair of eyes to see.

Nessa, back in Montreal, was shocked when someone made her realize that all she ever speaks with, writes with, shares ideas or shoots interrogations at the world with are the same 26 letters arranged, or not, in assembles. Alas, that realization didn’t help her scatterbrained intellect to find center.

The Love of a Good Man

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He came to me when I least expected it. Love is so funny like that. It comes up in the most unusual places, hidden out in the open at crowded bars, appearing seemingly out of nowhere like a magic trick, a magician on the run. Just like that love can appear and disappear, which is why I tell my friends when you have the love of a good man to hold on to it so tight and to keep it close to your heart, to fight for it and cherish it and to never let it go. The love of a good man is hard to find, I know this. I never for a minute forget how lucky I am that I have it.

I had love once before, but it was a different kind of love, a youthful love, one that doesn’t know the bounds love asks of its believers. It was a love reserved for the young, a sweet, short romance that gave me everything I needed it to give me. It taught me how to care endlessly for another person. It taught me how to open up, how to be honest with myself and accountable to another human being. It taught me how to share secrets and feelings and emotions so strong it’s easier to leave them in the pages of old diaries, but more rewarding to talk them out. Most importantly, it taught me love comes in and out like the seasons and that it doesn’t always stay. You can have this whirlwind romance and it can end just like that. Those feelings can change and there are reasons known and reasons unknown for these things, but it won’t stop anything from happening. It taught me that some love does have an expiry date, a rest in peace sign, a cross marked at the intersection of youth and womanhood.

My new love is different. At the beginning, it seemed, it was destined not for greatness but instead a summer romance, a taste of excitement breathing between university semesters that would end when September came and the leaves changed colours. But I quickly learned that nothing is ever as it seems, things either are or they aren’t something. This love was meant for something more.

We met at a bar on Bloor Street in 2007, a defining year if there ever was one. This was the year I moved from Etobicoke back home again and eventually, finally, to the city. This was the year my first love ended and my new love began and between them a few bad stories for good measure. This was the year I became me.

It was also the year we became us. I noticed him right away and it caught me off guard when he approached me shortly after and asked to buy me a drink. I was drinking Tom Collins in those days because I was 20. He was 26. He was older and had sexy hair and a good job and a Guns N Roses belt buckle that pressed into me as we danced into the night. He was messy and the night was messy and that’s what I wanted. I wanted to make mistakes. I wanted to be wild and reckless and so did he. We saw each other at the time as a taste of the good life, but our definitions of the good life were flawed. Both relatively fresh out of long-term relationships, we saw each other as attractive distractions to our everyday lives, which were sadder on the inside than we showed on the outside. We were sadder, but we were never sad when we were together.

We met early in April and by May I knew I loved him, a love that made my heart beat so hard I thought it just might tear from my chest and escape someplace far away. I didn’t know it was possible to love somebody so hard so quickly, but I did and I loved him with every part of my being in a way I had never experienced before. It was passionate and raw. It was terrifying. I didn’t want to be in love like this, it was foreign and I didn’t know how to navigate those waters. I thought I had sailed before but this was different. I was scared of what was happening to me. All my thoughts returned to him, all my nights went to him, my heart went to him, my body went to him, I just let this love wash over me and even if I had tried I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it. By the end of May we ended all our phone calls with “I love you.”

This was almost seven years ago now and many people ask me how I have spent the entirety of my 20s with one man and I have told them that when you find the love of a good man it is as though time vaporizes. There is never quite enough. He is such a part of me that I feel his presence in my bones. When he aches, I ache. When he bleeds, I bleed. When he’s happy, I’m happy. He is the kind of man who will make me homemade chicken noodle soup at my earliest inclination of feeling sick. He is the kind of man who treats my nieces and nephews with such love I can’t help but imagine him as the father of my future babies. He is the kind of man who knows everything about me and loves me anyway, loves me even though I can be hard to deal with, hard to live with. He is the kind of man who showers me in this love, whose hugs and kisses embrace my entire body, whose jokes make me laugh, whose touch drives me wild, whose voice makes the world feel alright, who makes me feel alive.

There have been hard times, oh yes, bruises on our hearts from times we were not our best selves, our best us. There were times we would look at each other and feel only despair. But we worked through those times because we recognize that sometimes you have to work for love, you have to fight for love, you have to try and try and try again to make things right because there is nothing more magical, nothing more beautiful, than a love worth fighting for. A good love takes work, it takes dedication, it takes determination and it takes time. It takes effort. When people ask me how we’ve survived for so long, how we still show such affection and compassion for each other, it’s because we make the effort to be the best versions of ourselves we can be, for ourselves and for each other. We put in the effort to do things that couples do when they’re first starting to fall in love. We go on dates, we go on trips, we cook new recipes for each other and we try new wines. We laugh. We touch. We kiss. We care. Our secret is that we try.

When you find the love a good man, appreciate it. Love it. Take a minute each day to soak in its rays. Tell him you love him. Show him you love him. Hold him close like he holds you. Protect it and work for it and don’t be afraid of it. It wouldn’t be worth it if it didn’t make your heart race. Nothing is.

Sheena Lyonnais is the founder of Blonde. You can follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.

Cougar At Twenty-three

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As the delicacy of just baked young male flesh seemed to be the hormone-driven cougar women’s main nutrient intake, I was led to think that they held the secret of pleasure’s longevity, of tight thighs and happy bouncy breasts for the years ahead when other couples might desperately wonder what show to watch that night.

Looking forward to enjoying the pleasures of youngsters at a later age, does it seem normal to say that I first spent some time exploring intimacy with father figures? Well, what can I say? If their mental age was about mine, which meant just around nine, we were then a perfect fit! After touching more and more wrinkled skin, the day came when I thought to myself: “Oh! How do I crave young fresh flesh!”

What was the problem with me? Why was I finding it so hard to be attracted physically or mentally (let alone both at once) by guys around my real age? Maybe I didn’t know how to live in the now and lived my future to distract myself from my fear of it. Maybe I had met those people in past lives, forgot why we broke apart and was foolishly happy that we might be united again. Maybe I just wasn’t confident enough with myself to realize that I could get a guy my age if I wasn’t losing time dating deadbeat dreamers who were ready to craft a new world between their bare bloody hands for ungrateful me.

Well, it had to happen. Seeking to attain balance, doesn’t one often go from one extreme to another? I fell in love with the freshest flesh on the meat market: a not yet legal virgin with no facial hair but the softest duvet! My encounter with this young fella happened two seasons after I told the last could-be-my-father type “ta-tah” and started re-flowering myself to have it just like a virgin with someone I would, for once, truly go crazy for, would truly get moist for, that I would get to know bit by bit until one day, one lovely day, naturally and without any questions, we would start to… ah, I do not dare to spell that delightful and censored rite! I have shivers down my spine evoking the sensual pleasures I have once known that are no longer familiar to my body.

I did not think about this new guy too much at first, but as my interest and desire grew into a constant stream of fantasy that my body made half-real, I faced my emotional self and realized how much I was delusional in my relationships. I tried to rationalize to keep the friendship going, in a platonic way of course.

His cute attempts to get closer to me made me smile at first since we were not of the same league. Slowly, the honesty and intensity he deployed in his innocent courtship grew on me. I became more and more vulnerable to it.

As he crashed at my place when he was in town, I did really good at appointing him a bed that wasn’t mine. The dreaded day came when, out of my control, the situation called upon bed sharing.  “Oh Divine, please help me!” I cried as I sealed myself up with clothes and took place next to him (oh his fresh scent) in bed, not ready to give up on the vow I took a few months earlier. The first night went okay, I do not recall sexual dreams leading to an orgasmic awakening, although I did get drenched in sweat, being used to sleep naked.

The second night was painful. All day I had been delighted by the sight of his strong and tanned body, wet with salt water, shining in the August sun. Not being in the city nor surrounded by society, the social age conventions were evaporating out of my mind. Again, we went to bed and the following morning, it was not the sunshine that awoke me, nor heat, but my inflamed ovaries yelling at me: “woman!! Will you get us or not to work and reproduce? Come on, we’re ready for a little sport!”

I understood why my cat (my friend pet and not my own pussy) would meow and rub herself onto anything, painfully, before being fixed. I had myself never accumulated such sexual energy, since I would normally do like lots of other people do: get drunk and get low with whoever was cute enough for a blurred late-night vision. Frantically, I got out of bed and took on whatever tasks I could find to use up that energy and to hold myself from acting like my cat. But really, it was too late: I was hardly remaining focused in his presence, imagining intensely caliente scenarios.

We did get closer and closer. We slept holding each other’s hands, then bodies. One day we had our first kiss (how soft was a duvet-covered lip against my feminine mouse-stache). I was experiencing stages of intimacy I skipped with previous partners. Stepping back a little and living these moments enabled me to grow. I was letting him lead, forgetting my seducing patterns, even becoming clumsy as we touched. We went on like this for a moment until one day…

… to be continued!

*
Nessa, back in Montreal, was shocked when someone made her realize that all she ever speaks with, writes with, shares ideas or shoots interrogations at the world with are the same 26 letters arranged or not in assembles. Alas, that realization didn’t help her scatterbrained intellect to find center.

Photo: Madonna and Jesus Luz for W Magazine, photographed by Steven Klein

No More Notches in His Bedpost

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­I told myself I wouldn’t go back to see him. But it took me less than 18 hours from landing to end up back in his bed. I can blame it on being part of our whole routine. I can blame it on habit. Or I can be honest with myself and blame it on the comfort of being with someone who still liked me despite knowing me when I was 17.

I arrived at his door. He answered it looking just as tall and gangly and skater-boyish as he did when he was 19. I guess I still found those same things hot. He showed me around his house. This must have been the fifth or sixth house of his I visited. Then, as always, we ended up in his bedroom. I congratulated him on the fact that he finally had a real bed, and not just a mattress on the floor as he used to have. Because of this, and him, I probably didn’t have sex on a real bed until I was in my twenties.

I sat down on his new bed and he started to kiss me.

This had been going on for six years.

Over the years I have come to know many different relationships with boys. There have been boyfriends, one-night stands, and fuck buddies – but my relationship with this boy never fit into any category. We were friends who would hang out, run errands together, go for walks, but most of all, sleep with each other regularly.

From the beginning I was attracted to him. But never enough to want to be in a relationship with him. When I was still a teenager, I might have fantasized a time or two about our sleepovers and hang-outs to be something more official and consistent. But as more time passed, and the more times we continued sleeping together, more and more I knew I never wanted to date him. So I began pushing him away and started being more persistent about getting me over. Not that it ever took that much effort on his part.

He never knew that he took my virginity. I never bothered to tell him. That first time, like most first times, was awkward. But we were both drunk. And I wanted to do it. Most of my friends’ v-card stories involve a boyfriend, or a tragic night with a crush or stranger who never called them again. But no person has ever been able to offer me insight on how to navigate this particular type of relationship.

Because to them, it was strange. It was strange to me too.

Ours was my longest relationship. I have never been monogamous with any other guy for longer than a month. I always thought it was because I am emotionally retarded. Now I’m thinking is because I have always had the comfort of having him in the background that I have never had to make myself vulnerable to another guy.

Other than having sex, everything else we did was kind of relationship-y, or at the very least friend-y. We would confide to each other personal struggles– whether it was our weird family situations, jobs, living, or other stuff. We would go hang out together – in non- sexual ways. I would go find him at the skate park when he lost his phone and he would attempt to trek to my house in the freezing cold when I wasn`t answering mine.

And in our five+ years, I cannot say that he was ever dishonest with me. Other than an occasion or two when he told me to come over and I did – but he forgot to be home. It ended up being these types of slip-ups – the ones that showed he had no respect for me – that made me eventually end it. But it still felt like 80% of the time he treated me exceptionally. And for a friends-with-benefits situation, I feel like that was adequate.

My friends would often ask me why he and I never dated. And to be honest, I could never come up with a good answer. Maybe it was because I was always either focused on my studies, or work, or other boys that I actually wanted to date. And it wasn’t because I wasn’t attracted to him. After all we did have great chemistry and nasty – fun sex. But despite of the deep conversations and sexual chemistry – there was never anything more. I always let that fantasy go, because I knew that he would have to get his life together. And year after year, he didn’t change.

Finally after over six years, I think I have let him go. After all there is only so much a girl can go through. When I didn’t hear from him in over a month I decided I was over it. Literally five minutes later I received a text message from him with the inevitable invitation. Then I received another call from him. This time, I decided to give in. I missed him, or sex with him, even though it had only been a month since I last saw him. But as I began walking to his house with no sign of him texting me back I grew furious. Since he had done this to me a couple times before, I couldn’t trust him. But unlike those times I no longer had the patience or forgiveness for it. I finally decided I am worth more.

As always, he managed to appear in the precise moment I chose to end it – as though he could sense when I was at my weakest. But for the first time, I stuck with my decision to end things. So I told him it was over. Actually, I think I said, “You know what? I am done. Don’t call me ever again,” but in a slightly more drunken drama queen kind of way.

For about ten minutes he called and texted about a dozen times. Thankfully for my dignity I was already on the subway home, or else I might have answered one of his desperate pleas.

The next morning I woke up with those giggles and nervous laughs you get when you did something stupid the night before. But instead of feeling shame or regret, I just felt freedom with a side of uncertainty.

I finally accepted that I had grown out of our relationship. That I had changed too much. That I wanted something more. Him – the only thing that had changed was his new bedframe.

Written by May Hailer.