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

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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.

Fall’s Phantoms (Win Some, Lose Some)

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We go through different phases in life. I believe in astrology, which I’m aware some people might find totally foolish. I’m not one hundred per cent sold on everything astrology tells me, but generally, I believe it explains a lot of the emotional upheavals people are going through and where they are situated in the sentimental calendar. I was reading an interview with Katy Perry in Elle Canada yesterday, and it totally synced with my current state-of-mind.

‘’I don’t know much about planetary phases, but I looked it up. In fact, the Saturn return is described as a bracing cosmic wake-up call, when youth’s charms fall away to reveal adulthood’s sobering realities. I think it’s a very important time, when you kind of let go of childish things and accept the wisdom that comes with age, ‘’ she explains. ‘’That’s where I am now’’’ (p. 123)**.

Word. I felt exactly at the same place right then, as things are moving quickly, dissolving and reforming under a more adult perspective. There has been a lot of change in my life this year: I graduated from university, I was employed at new jobs, moved to a new apartment by myself, and started yet again another school. Right now it’s pretty much autumn and while I do enjoy crispy leaves, it is a period of the year where I always feel reminiscent. The topics of nature, identity, phantoms, costumes and the dead come back every year, like haunting thematic musings. In 2013, I met a heap of new people, rekindled old friendships, and stayed true to my old friends. As I usually keep my friends forever, I got confused and frustrated recently when I lost a friend. She didn’t die, we did not have a cat fight or insulted each other over the phone. It wasn’t highly dramatic, it was a low blow: she simply deleted me from her Facebook friends.

To further explain, I’ll get to the bottom of the story. I met my friend, Diana*, in a South London bar where we were both working at in the summer of 2009. We instantly bonded over the fact that we were both Canadian, around the same age, and had a lot in common. Plus, she seemed like a lot of fun and as it happens in some encounters, we were instant friends. I was twenty-years-old, she was twenty-three. We partied tons and we loved to dance. She had this habit of going AWOL in the middle of the night, leaving me worried and trying to call her to no avail. For example, I remember an instance on a boat party where my then-boss (a terrible man, which I just started to realize then) offered her some cocaine and she subsequently went missing. I tried calling her hundreds of times, to no reply. I stayed up all night and ended going home along two Spanish girls on the top storey of the double decker.

Mine and Diana’s conversations often revolved around boys. She kept me captivated with her stories of lovers since I was in a long-term relationship at the time. We went to St. James’s Park  in the daytime when we initially said goodbye: she was returning home as summer had ran its course and I was staying a little longer in London, but was on my way out as well. She was bummed out by the fact that another friend we were working with didn’t pay much attention about her imminent departure. As we sat on the lush grass, her speech went to sad to sassy as she told me about her next move: running the marathon back in Canada.

When we saw each other a year later in Ottawa, much had changed, mostly my relationship status and her just-graduated one, but our friendship remained intact. We met at a Scottish pub to speed-date: she was between meetings, hence we had to catch up quickly, right under a three-hour slot. We had a beer and the most gigantic nachos platter I have ever eaten (there were still nachos left!). We talked about one of our favourite topics again; boys. My London boyfriend had morphed into a Montreal husband and that exact summer, we broke up as he went back to Britain. She kept asking me questions, as if she was shocked that the breakup happened so suddenly, while simultaneously being very receptive of the whole story and, like any great girlfriend, totally supportive. At the opposite end of the spectrum, she was in a  happy new relationship with a boyfriend who seemed loving and available: they were both going to England for graduate school. She was beaming and I was genuinely happy for her. We splitted ways and I went to see another old friend in G-Town (or so I like to call Gatineau, Québec).

When I came back to visit London last summer, it was exactly three summers after we first met, and we were very excited to see each other again. She was still calling me ‘’babe’’ and letting me know that it was important to hangout before my forthcoming flight . We met on the steps of the fascinating St-Paul’s Cathedral, coincidently right next to the first hostel I’ve stayed in upon my initial meeting with the city at nineteen, fresh off the boat. She hurried to meet me and took me straight to meet her colleagues from a posh law firm outside of a pub (so much for one-on-one girl talk, I thought). Those people were glossy, smart, powerful and posh but somehow flirty and false. As we left, she had to bike home, so I took the Tube to meet her at the South London abode she was sharing with her younger brother. It was hilarious moment: as I was looking for the place, I heard my name from above: she was screaming from the third floor. After I made my way in, I met her brother (very handsome) and we all had a drink (‘’those beers were left by my friends who came to visit’’). The plan was to go to a bar in West London where my friend James, a British boy I met in Montreal and whose family I was staying with, worked  and could get us free drinks at. The brother wasn’t too keen on going out, since he had been looking for work and going on too many mad benders, but a little convincing from both of us went a long way. We bought beer, drank on the way and finally made it to the bar. The bouncer checked my name off the guestlist and we drank solid drinks and danced the night away, getting increasingly inebriated. I told my friend ‘’I like your brother’’ to prevent a future fight and/or to make things clear at that dizzy moment in time. Things started going sour when everyone was drunk: me and the brother kissed as Diana was into an engaging conversation with another fellow. She went AWOL and we looked for her everywhere. Her brother kept calling her, to no avail. We made it to their place on the deck of a night bus around 3:30 AM, as most people were coming home from partying, inebriated, tired and happy. We smoked weed out the window, kissed and went to bed, lovingly.

We woke up the next morning, both very enthusiastic about the prospect of breakfast. We got dressed, ready and out to find a restaurant. As we were walking down the road, we ran into Diana, who was in the most terrible hangover haze ever. She told us that she went to the boy’s place but that nothing happened: she did not sleep with people anymore, she was okay, and that was it. She was sipping on a gigantic bottle of water and carrying two tabloid magazines as hangover transit reading. She redirected the breakfast quest: she argued that we should all go to this pub that did Mexican breakfast, so we walked back and up the road. The place was weird and fun in many ways: it was a huge industrial pub with a little kitchen dedicated to Mexican delicacies, and the food was indeed very satisfying. I had a chicken and avocado sandwich, and while it was flavourful and filling, it was also the absolute worst food to eat elegantly in front of a boy I fancied.  We walked back to the main road, and the brother bought us blue slushes at the Tube station, which was a very refreshing idea from Diana, especially in the sweltering  heat mixed with summer smog. I hugged them goodbye and made my way into the Tube, feeling a little worse for wear.

A few short days after, the day before my takeoff, was full to the brim with emotions, action and adventures. After meeting with my ex-husband in Regent’s Park, whom I hadn’t seen for two years, I hung out in a Notting Hill mansion with friends and then made it to Diana and her brother’s place around 1 A.M, as he managed to convince me to come back to spend my ultimate night with him. I had a feeling that maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do but genuinely, I liked the guy. I also wasn’t aware of any objection from the part of my friend,  so I went ahead. The next morning, as I was about to leave her a note that was mostly saying: ‘’I love you and goodbye’’, I intercepted the brother’s phone (‘’you received a text!’’) to unfortunately glance at it and see ‘’WTF Lili was here? It goes both ways’’. I blushed and felt terrible. Since I suddenly felt like an intruder in their living space, I instantly told him about it. ”Don’t worry”, he said. The conversation switched on the topics of girls: they could sometimes be too catty and manipulative. He replied: ‘’yes, and they say things like ‘’it goes both ways…’’’’.

We parted ways at a South London station. We hugged goodbye for a long time, and, just as I stepped down on the escalators, I started sobbing. I went back to James’s place to last-minute pack (stress! silly girl!) and pick up my luggage. After I said goodbye to James, I took a bus to Heathrow, in which I cried again. I was feeling simultaneously sad, exhausted, happy, blessed and bummed about my four fabulous months in Europe coming to an end and the imminent going-home scheme that was already in motion. London is home now, just as Montreal is home, and it felt like home all over again last summer, as I was strolling down roads, lanes, parks, markets, neighborhoods and spending fun-tastic time with a plethora of fabulous friends. I didn’t feel like quitting my dreamy European life just yet, not for the second time around. Not surprisingly, I cried all over the British Airways flight home again, exhausted from an emotional overload, sad about coming home to the same old life style, and slightly drunk on free white wine. I switched my attention onto happier and sillier mediums, such as episodes of Absolutely Fabulous and American chick flicks, and then my dad’s jokes as he picked me up at the airport. The next day, I wrote to Diana, telling her I was home safe and sound and also that I was sorry for any harm I could have had done. I hoped for an answer.

I really believe in sisterhood, so seeing the ‘’Add Friend’’ icon the other night was a real shocker. The fact that my friend decided to put a virtual blow on our friendship seemed too much for me to fathom. It seemed absurd, as if she would have to ‘’kill’’ someone to eliminate danger, and since her ties with her brother are blood-related and necessary, she decided to ‘’kill’’ me. I was very hurt, my solar plexus started burning like a gunshot in my heart. If there was a sudden silence, I was to go on a quest for answers, so I decided to write her a last note explaining, simply, that I wanted to talk to her about it and most importantly, that our friendship meant a lot to me. The message was seen, to no reply, thanks Facebook for letting me know . There is a limit to what a girl can do, and indeed, there was a limit to her love.

I took my courage out and about and into my heart again. I decided to let the weight of that relationship drop,  with the ghost that goes along with it. Of course, it will always remain an unfortunate mystery, and one that might unveil one day, but I believe the moon phases have now changed. There is enough love inside of myself and into every amazing person  in my life to stop looking for it where it’s evaporated. There is a t-shirt that my friend  was wearing to class this winter that comes to mind as this story ends: it said ‘’hi hater!’’ in the front and ‘’bye hater!’’ in the back. Well, that kind of sums up my state-of-mind now: if you can’t be a sister, then bye, hater!

*Names have been changed to protect the author’s friends’ identities.

** p. 120-121. Hudson, Kathryn. Elle Canada. NO. 148, October 2013. Toronto, Canada.

Photo: Old Ladies, 2013. By Olivier Gariépy. http://ogariepy.tumblr.com/

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.