Home For Mom

Photo: Rob Bye
Photo: Rob Bye


While I lived in Ontario for a year, I came back home every month. It was not for a boy, but rather for my mom. She has terminal lung cancer. She won’t do chemotherapy. At the point where she was, there was no use- it could have killed her rather than saved her. Yes, her slow demise is really painful, and it’s been on my mind every day for more than a year.

I learned that my mom was sick in February 2014. Even before that, I had a feeling that the news would probably be gloomy because my mom warned me that she was going through a series of tests.

I was also worried because in December 2013, we went for a four-day trip in Quebec City and I realized that she was more tired than usual. She was dragging. She needed more coffee breaks.

I was fearing the worst while hoping that it would not be lung cancer. I’ve had the intuition that she was going to die from lung cancer for years. It was not a death wish but rather a strong intuition. I also have an amazing yet disturbing intuition, and it’s mostly right- precisely what makes it disturbing.

My mother smoked cigarettes for years. When we lived together, she would go outside, mostly, or smoke under the hood to mask odours. Sometimes, when I would come back from my dad’s place, she would have had opened all the doors and windows to ventilate the apartment. She would also often try to hide this because she knew that smoking in the apartment, and in general, was not a good idea. Still, she kept doing it, despite my many pleas. I even made no smoking signs in a heart-shape, imitating a Health Canada campaign from the 1990s.

When my mother told me about her illness, I was devastated. I kept it inside and went to my father’s place to pick something up. It was towards the end of the afternoon that I started crying and I couldn’t stop. At the same moment, my father and his girlfriend came back. They were shocked, but not as much as I was. They dropped me off to yoga class. I went because I thought that it would change my mind. I spent half the class crying, to finally breathe. 

A couple of days after this, I got a call: I was accepted in the master of journalism at the University of Western Ontario.

I felt guilty. I didn’t want to leave my mother in Montreal, yet I knew I had to go. One of my dreams was coming true. It was my second and last attempt to get into one of the few master of journalism programs in the country.  Again, my intuition was kicking in, this time telling me that I had no choice but to go.

Discussing it with my dad, he understood my dilemma. ‘‘There are times in life where you don’t know what is waiting for you, but you know that you have to go,’’ he said.

My mom wanted me to go, telling me that I had to. She didn’t want me to feel guilty. That being said, I also always felt that I had to be back as often as possible to Montreal to visit, and I wanted to. 

In February 2014, the doctors gave my mother six months to a year. I did feel guilty at times for choosing my future over my mom, yet I didn’t choose. I managed to give as much as I could to both. It was not easy because it required tremendous energy. I often felt discouraged, anxious, angry or sad, but I did it.

In the months prior to graduating, I applied to a bunch of jobs all around the country, not knowing what was coming up. I would have loved to move to a new city, probably Toronto, get a high-paying job, find a new apartment and buy new clothes. I would have loved to start anew. I would have loved to become a real adult, to enter middle class, to reap the fruits of my labour. 

Despite my lofty goals, it’s not what life has in the cards for me right now.

On Easter, I had breakfast with my mom and she told me the result of her last scan: she has six months left to live. While she has exceeded her original life expectancy, I know that she won’t this time. It’s more or less six months.

Over coffee, my mother told me that it was fundamental that I’m there for the end of her life. I knew it, but it confirmed it. Time is finite and life happens and then it’s done or as Nas would say, ”life’s a bitch and then you die.” Time with loved ones is precious and it’s probably the most important thing in the world. It’s something that can easily be forgotten in this individualistic and workaholic society.

I’m my mother’s only child and closest family member. While the responsibility can be a burden, it’s also an opportunity to prioritize what is really important. In a nutshell, life and death. In a word, love.

My mother is not the easiest person to take care of. She suffers from borderline personality disorder, which means that emotions are heightened and days unpredictable. Add to that the physical suffering that is worsening as days go by.

As she outlived her life expectancy, she stayed seemingly healthy for months, although inside she was losing every day. She doesn’t seem as healthy anymore. She coughs constantly, and it is harder for her to go to public spaces or to walk outside.

On Mother’s Day, we were walking on Blvd St.Laurent and she was coughing so much that a 20-something guy gave me a concerned glance. I will have to get used to those glances now.

As much as I love my mom, I hate life for giving me such a hard time. My favourite aunt (her sister) already died from cancer in 2005. Why is it happening all over again?

I want my family to be healthy and I want to get on with my life. But then, I’m conscious life is not only about me and the most important thing right now is to take care of my mom.

I find the situation increasingly difficult as her health is disintegrating. I have a guy friend who went through a similar situation with his mother and he told me that despite it being the hardest thing, it is very important to be there constantly, especially in the last moments.

It is fucking painful. I want my mom to revert back to a healthier state. Instead, I’m seeing her lose strength as the days go by. She is scared, she is sad, she is constantly living the full spectrum of human emotions.

I’m trying to ease her pain and help her out as much as I can. I help her clean, I bring her food, I listen to her talk, I record her voice so I can keep memory files.

It’s difficult to know that for me, my mother will disappear soon.

I will never see her become an old lady with a full head of grey hair. She will never meet my future children. That is one of the hardest realizations to have.

Also, the worst is that everyone wants to believe that things are looking up, that she will heal. She will not. She will lose all of her energy. She will die. So many people ask me dumb questions about her state, about whether or not she is doing chemotherapy. People hope for the best. I understand. But the best doesn’t always happen. 

My mother’s illness has made me realize everything that she has given to me, everything that she passed down to me in my lifetime. I wouldn’t be as smart, critical, funny, sensitive and artsy if I had another mom. Despite her difficult childhood, she gave me everything that she did not have. She worked hard at being a mom. She worked hard at being an artist. She gave me everything. The list is infinite.

I will never forget that. I will never forget her. And when I eventually have children, I will make sure to tell them who their grandmother was.

 

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Bye-bye, Baby

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Learning to be in a relationship again after being single for a few years is no easy feat. When I started seeing my now-boyfriend, I was not sure if I should give my heart away, especially because my heart had been crushed several times in a row. That being said, I knew from the get-go that he was a caring guy and that he had a heart of gold, so I learned to trust him.

Even if I wanted a relationship when this one began, I forgot the efforts it required. Of course, I knew that every relationship (friends, work, family, love) requires efforts from both sides in order to work, but being in a relationship after being single for months feels weird.

I’m used to being very independent, so I find it difficult to be in a relationship sometimes. There is more compromise involved in being together than in being alone, but providing the partner is good, there is a lot more fun too.

I know that a good man is hard to find but even harder is finding one that is a good fit for me. I’ve dated a lot of great guys that were just not right. That is why I’ve had more lovers than boyfriends. Finding a good fit, and a man that I can actually love, seemed like looking for a needle in a haystack, because love is not about finding the man, and then done, happily ever after! Both parties need to be genuinely interested, hold common interests and/or goals and make significant efforts for the relationship to flourish.

My boyfriend is a little bit younger than me and I originally thought that it would be an issue because of the discrepancy in life experiences. He is from small-town Texas and I’m from Montreal.

We are worlds apart and yet, we can understand each other. Being with him taught me much more than I expected at first. I tended to see myself as superior because of my many stories and globetrotting life, but I’m not. We are just different, yet similar. The great thing about being in a relationship is to teach each other how to be better people. We also get to share life together, and the company’s always good.

I find that being in a relationship teaches me to be patient in other aspects of my life, such as in my relationships with others and especially with myself. Sometimes, I get annoyed at my boyfriend and at other times I get pissed off at myself. Being in this relationship has made me aware of my limitations, of his, and then of every other human being. Limitations can be overcome with courage and curiosity, things that we both have. Everyone can get better, but at the same time, people are who they are and that is why finding someone who is on the same wavelength and willing to grow with me can seem like a never-ending quest.

Accepting somebody’s love is difficult too, as it is something that grows with time. I love my boyfriend more now than I did at the beginning of our relationship because I’ve learned to accept him the way he is, and he does the same with me. I used to be bitchier around him. I guess it came from giving up my independence or rather, not wanting to give it up. It also came from a resistance to change and openness. It also came from past fears, fights and feelings.

Even though being in a relationship is hard work, I wouldn’t trade it back for singledom. I’m not saying that being single sucks, but I was ready to be in a relationship when it happened and I got into it because he was worth it. I was not looking for just about anyone. I actually wasn’t looking anymore. And then, it happened. Life has its ways.

We dated for a month before I had to go home for the holidays and an internship. He was going home and then back to school. The long-distance relationship actually brought us closer together. Because we were not physically together, we had to communicate through words only. We talked for hours online. He sent me a paper he wrote. Seeing the extent of his intellect made me fall in love with him, and kept me looking forward to our reunion.

When he went to pick me up at the bus station, he brought a big bouquet of flowers. Our relationship became stronger after that, and eventually cemented into something official.

I love having my boyfriend around me. Being together makes life easier and more exciting. We laugh a lot. We have fun even in a small town because we go on dates or we talk and chill out at home. In tough moments, we have each other’s backs, we talk it through, we make each other feel better. He takes care of me and looks at me with loving eyes. We cook for each other. I got him into cooking more, and I’m always pleasantly surprised when he whips up a new healthy recipe.

I got him into quinoa, tofu, eating more veggies, going to yoga and drinking herbal tea before bed. He got me into following music, scholarly ideas, space and learning how to be more patient.

I went home with him for Easter. Actually, he drove me there. He met my parents, who absolutely adore him, despite the language barrier. That trip made us realize that we could live together in the future. If you’re able to go through such a trip together, support each other and come out stronger, it’s a good sign.

On the road, he waited in line for food while I got us coffee. We sat down together and ate breakfast before going on to new adventures.

In the car, I read him stories to make sure that he was awake and entertained.

On the way back, I was exhausted and had a deadline the next day. Despite our intention to go sleep at my friend’s place in Toronto, he suggested going straight home and it was such a relief to know that he was willing to go the extra mile (literally).

He is extremely patient, kind and affectionate. All of this positive energy really helps me to keep going. We encourage and support each other in our endeavours. We are both intellectual and active people, so we always have something new to talk about. We keep our bodies and our minds in good shape. We always have smart conversations. We are both immensely curious.

We tell each other ”I love you” many times every day. We call each other a lot of silly nicknames, which I won’t reprint here, but let’s just say that there’s a lot of baby animals involved. The difficult part now is that despite all of this, life is not a Disney movie.

In a few days, I’ll be going home to Montreal for a few months and my boyfriend will be staying in London, Ontario. The good thing is that he’ll drive me home and that we’ll get to spend a couple of days there together. The bad thing is that he’ll have to come back to London.

When I wake up next to him in the morning, I always feel blessed. I’ve got a good, fun and smart man to hold. I don’t take it for granted, and I know I’ll miss him. At the same time, I know that I’ll carry on being both a good girlfriend and an independent woman.

When we’ll see each other, it’ll be a celebration. In the meantime, we will have to communicate over phone, text, email, Skype. We are setting up a two-people book club to deal with the separation, reading the same books at the same time.

Although it’s hard to say bye-bye baby, it’s also nice to have this time to write and figure my adult life out. I’m still an independent woman and it’s important for me to remember my individuality when I’m in a relationship. I don’t want to lose sight of the single girl because my inner independent woman is what keeps me going. Being alone for most of my life shaped who I am and where I’m going. That being said, it’s also nice to share.

5 Things on Love: From an Unqualified Single Girl

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Writing about Love around Valentine’s Day when you’re a single girl feels about as comfortable as a hot male gynecologist checking out your downstairs while a Justin Bieber CD plays.

Nevertheless, ‘tis the season and as popular culture, Facebook and even the news won’t shut up about it, its time to talk about looove.

Or, specifically in my case, the lack thereof; unless you count Netflix, Tumblr and my hoodie collection, then I’m seeing several things very seriously. However, I have learned a few things on love that I’d like to share with you all during this magical time of year.

First, Hollywood, books and the OC lied to you. Real love isn’t about the grand gesture or big speeches; it’s about honesty and being with the one person who gets you. As one of my romantic heroes’ once said, “If I loved you less, I could talk about you more.” The guy was so in love with Emma (Jane Austen, look it up) that he literally could not go into more details and Mr. Knightley (aforementioned romantic hero) was not a quiet guy. Love is everyday; it’s sitting through your partner’s favourite TV shows when you’d rather be anywhere else in the world, it’s the I Love You text just because they popped into your head. All those grand gesturey things? They last a moment, but someone who will bring you chicken soup when you’re sick is forever. Forget the boombox blaring love songs, a daily heart emoji will work for me!

Secondly: Love as you want to be loved. You are not perfect, and neither is your partner, so fighting over how long you take in the shower or that they are constantly late is not going to keep the lovelight burning. It will snuff it out like a little kid blowing out a first birthday candle. So many fights are over the tiny details that drive people crazy. Learn to deal, yes it sucks but if you really loved them, the little things really don’t matter. So ignore your partner’s mother’s passive aggressive comments on your tattoo sleeve and they’ll ignore your friends who are constantly over at your house playing video games.

That being said, thirdly: Sometimes, love isn’t enough. Yes, tragic and sad, but even if you really like someone, things fall apart for one reason or another. Rather than dwelling on the crashing and burning, remember the happy times. Every time you love, it’s a lesson to be learned. Maybe you’ll be a little less selfish next time, or they’ll learn to stop being a cheating jerk (even if they don’t, you learn to move on and trust someone else). Love isn’t always easy, and yes, it’s not always going to be happily ever after, but some day it could be, and every relationship that ended before just means more shit you learned to keep you and your dreamboat together.

Okay, back to happy, and I mean Happy. Four: good sex is Important. I’m not talking about huge passion, hours-long screw sessions, I mean sex with connection and joy. Don’t have sex because you think you have to, and don’t do things just because they want to spice it up. If you don’t want to do it, then tell them you don’t. Sex consists of bodies communicating together, so communicate with your words before, during and after. There are two of you in bed, so make sure both of your voices are heard. Make it enjoyable for both of you. Put down the 50 Shades and bring the sexy talk back.

Finally 5: Enjoy love in any form. Whether it be love for your Bestie, your partner, your siblings your parents, your Starbucks Barista; just love with an open heart. Who says you only have to really love just one person? There will be one person who will work by your side for the rest of your life, but there are other people in your life who contribute to your happiness. So appreciate them too!

So with that; I love you Mom, Dad, Sister, Bestie, friends, Netflix and My Starbucks Barista’s who give me so much love, support and caffeine that I so desperately need. And I love you too Blonde reader, for taking the time out of your busy day to read this. Happy Valentines Day!

Baby Blues – Dealing with Gender Disappointment

Dealing with gender disappointmentToday I am 32 weeks and 2 days pregnant. Less than eight weeks away from giving birth to a live human being! Needless to say I am pretty nervous and I admit I don’t feel totally prepared. I am sure all new moms feel the same, but part of me feels a little guilty that over the past few months I have not been as excited about my little bundle of joy as I should be. Since my 19 week ultrasound, I believe I have been suffering from what is called “gender disappointment”: a common yet under discussed issue that some women go through when finding out they won’t be having the baby they had always imagined.

I’ll start from the beginning: The day I found out I was pregnant. It was a hot day in June, so humid that there were torrential downpours outside making it dangerous to drive. But I was desperate to get my home pregnancy test, so I drove over to my local Walmart and sat in my car for 15 minutes until the rain subsided a bit for me to go inside.

When I got home, I peed on the stick, and with a shaky hand left it face down on the bathroom counter and shut the door. Ten minutes later, I begged my husband, Eric, to go and check the results. The test was easy enough to understand: it would either say “Yes” or “No.” I let him go inside the bathroom first and with a shocked look on his face said, “It’s a yes!”

I guess Eric and I were both taken by surprise, but secretly I was super excited, more excited than Eric was. We had been debating for a while on the right time to start a family and with my persistence and persuasion, I convinced him there was no time like the present. I had read several articles about conception and how it sometimes takes a while for couples to actually get pregnant, so I wanted to get a head start, assuming we would be pregnant by Christmas time. They say one in five couples will be successful on the first try, so I guess we beat the odds there or I attribute it to beginner’s luck! Although I was shocked and nervous, I felt it was meant to be and everything was how it should be.

The months preceding the pregnancy, I did a lot of research on conception. Not just on how to conceive successfully, but how to conceive the gender of your choice. From reading about the different sex positions, to the timing of intercourse, and even studying the Chinese gender calendar, I became obsessed with gender conception research, to carefully plan the perfect family I had always imagined. For me, that always meant having a little girl to call my own. She would be my best friend, my confidant, my little princess.

Throughout the summer, I was constantly nauseous and craving pastries and sweets. Even though I felt like crap, I was happy knowing that these two symptoms indicated a little girl was likely in my belly (according to the old wives tales I kept reading about). People would ask me if I had a preference for gender and I would sheepishly reply with the cliché phrase “As long as it’s healthy.”. I couldn’t let people know that I was really hoping for a baby girl, even though I was almost positive it was anyway.

As summer was coming to an end, I became impatient with waiting for my mid-pregnancy ultrasound a.k.a. the gender reveal ultrasound. The mid-pregnancy ultrasound is really to check up on how well the baby is developing and to identify if there are any causes for concern. Of course I was thrilled to learn that the baby was developing normally without any health concerns, but I was most curious about the gender. I was almost positive that we were having a girl, so much so that we already had her name picked out and nursery theme decided. My assumptions were based on multiple factors including the amount of females in both mine and Eric’s families. I have one sister, zero brothers, seven female cousins and one male cousin and Eric has two sisters and no brothers. I was also very confident in my conception planning. I had done everything the websites had said regarding the right positions and timing of intercourse. So on that sunny day in September when the sonographer asked me if I wanted to know the gender, I quickly answered yes with a smile on my face. I couldn’t wait for her to confirm that inside was our sweet baby girl!

So you can just imagine the look on my face when she brought Eric into the room and showed us all the baby’s body parts including its head, its legs, its arms, its stomach and its penis?! “In my opinion, it’s a boy,” the sonographer said in a very serious tone as she pointed to a turtle like image on the screen. I was in so much shock I couldn’t say a word. My mouth was dry and all I wanted to do was go home. In my head I wondered why she said, “In my opinion.” I was hopeful that maybe there was a good chance she was wrong, maybe she was looking at an umbilical cord or a swollen labia? The baby in my belly most certainly could not be a boy.

After we left the hospital, Eric seemed very happy. He was so convinced we were having a girl after all my analysis the months prior about all my confirmed “girl-like” symptoms and old wives tales theories. He seemed to be a bit relieved and more excited than I had seen him before. It was me who was secretly upset, but I couldn’t tell a soul. It sounds so silly and ridiculous, but at that moment, I felt like my baby had died. The baby that I had been dreaming of anyway. There would be no ballet lessons, no hair braiding, no mother-daughter spa days and no Barbie doll collecting. Instead, my life would be filled with cars and trucks, dirt and mud and superheroes and comic books; a world that I was very unfamiliar with. Since I am such a girly-girl type, I feared that I would not be able to connect and have a strong bond with my son.

The weeks following the ultrasound, I noticed a drop in my excitement about the pregnancy. I stopped writing in my pregnancy journal, I stopped taking my weekly belly photos, and I stopped writing in my pregnancy blog. I just felt numb. I was also convinced that the sonographer was wrong in her gender diagnosis. I was determined to go back for a paid 3D ultrasound a bit further along into my pregnancy to confirm the results. “It can’t be true,” I kept thinking to myself.

A boy! What would I do with a boy? I felt terrible. There are many people in the world who are not even capable of having children, or have babies with chronic health problems and here I was with a beautiful, healthy baby boy growing inside of me and I could not be grateful. There was no telling anyone my true feelings of disappointment for fear of looking like a terrible mother who didn’t deserve to have a child.

I went on my days with a smile on my face acting as if a baby boy was what I had wanted the whole time. It was hard to keep a smile on my face, especially when I had many rude and unsolicited comments from people such as “Oh no, a boy? You’re screwed!” or “Aren’t you sad that you aren’t having a girl?” I couldn’t believe some things people had to say, but it made me angry. After all, it’s not like you get to choose, so why would people say such mean things? They made me realize that, maybe a lot of us are living in a superficial world of gender stereotyping. Who says that having a girl will automatically mean they will like the colour pink or princesses? And why can’t boys enjoy tea parties with their mom or dance classes too? If anything, these negative comments gave me ammunition to fight these stereotypes. I was happy to be having a child at all, and I was determined to prove to myself that having a little boy would be just as much fun as having a daughter.

To help deal with my emotions, I researched this phenomena of gender disappointment and was relieved to find that it is more of a common issue than people realize. It just isn’t really talked about because what woman (or man for that matter) would ever want to admit to such shameful feelings? I found comfort in knowing that I was not alone in my messed up feelings of sadness. It was reassuring to read about other women who initially felt the same way as me, but got over it as soon as their sons were born.

I am still a little sad that I am not having a girl, but I have learned to accept what God has given me and I am looking at the positives. Having a boy will also be fun. It will be different than what I had planned or imagined, but I am looking forward to raising a little man. I try not to focus on my stereotypical gender thoughts and think of my baby as just a gender neutral human being. He will be my world. And even though I am entering unfamiliar territory with a boy, I know I will learn how to engage with my son in a special way that I never thought possible.

As I am getting closer to my due date, I am getting more excited to meet my little man. From picking nursery décor and deciding on names, it makes everything seem very real. I’ve learned that you can’t always control things in life, no matter how hard you try, but you can control your behaviour and your attitude and just embrace what God gives you. I know that the day my baby arrives, all my worries and fears will be pushed aside and I will immediately fall in love. My life will change, maybe not in the way I had originally imagined, but in a wonderful, beautiful way nonetheless.

This Is How I Date Now

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A while ago I was rummaging through the Internet, and I came across an article that dozens of my Facebook friends seem to be enthralled by, entitled, “This Is How We Date Now.” So I read it. Then I sat and stewed for a while. Then I wrote six versions of this piece, at least three of which began “FUCK THE FUCK OFF OUT OF MY LOVE LIFE YOU ASSHAT.” Then I figured that was probably not a super great way to get people to listen to me (but, privately, between you and me, Jamie Varon, fuck the fuck off out of my love life, you asshat. I’m sure your intentions are good, and I bear you no ill will, but at some point in this piece I needed to call someone an asshat, and the unhappy position falls to you.)

Let’s gloss over the slut shaming. Let’s gloss over the wild generalization. Let’s gloss over the fact that technology in and of itself is not the devil – in fact, quite the opposite. Let’s gloss over the fact that I’ve had the same career choice, and been friends with my best friend, for fifteen years, so maybe who a person dates isn’t a great way to measure their commitment. Let’s gloss over the fact that everyone dates in different ways, and since the dawn of time there have been people who prefer commitment and people who do not, people who compare themselves to others and people who are unhappy with their chosen partners.

Instead, I’m going to tell you a story.

I had a gentleman lover for a semester. As people we did not get along, but our genitals got along splendidly. As a result, this gentleman and I did not speak in public, we did not really speak in private, we really only had bunches and bunches of sex and then after the semester he left and I never saw him again and that was how that ended. And that was fine with me, because apparently technology has broken all my feeling glands and all I need now is meaningless sex from nameless, faceless bodies.

“Goddamn it, Calla, stop actively destroying dating,” you say? “Goddamn it, Calla, you’re the reason there’s no more beauty in the world and everyone’s always on their texting machines,” you say? “Goddamn it, Calla, why won’t you young people learn how to connect with each other in an actual human way and not just via your genitals?” Ha! Got you. My genitals are, in fact, as human as the rest of me. But I digress.

One evening I went to this gentleman lover’s place of residence and we made a very satisfactory beast with two backs, as per usual, and then we cleaned up and turned out the lights and I rolled to one side of his massive bed and he rolled to the other, because dammit, we may insert our bodies inside each other but cuddling is drawing the fucking line. Didn’t you hear? Romance has DIED.

I awakened the next morning, and, coming out of sleep, I realized that, sometime in the night, my gentleman lover had scooted all the way across the enormous bed, wrapped all of his limbs around me, buried his face in my neck, and fallen asleep.

“Did you cuddle me all night?” I asked, surprised.

His voice still hazy with sleep and muffled by my hair, he mumbled, “I got cold over there. I was lonely. You’re so warm.”

His heart beat against my back. His breath was tickly and hot and terrible-smelling against my neck. His arms around me smelled of sweat and sex and laundry detergent.

We breathed in time. For an instant, we were one, lost in the rhythm of our own breath and the heat of the other person’s skin. In that instant, I loved him wholeheartedly. I loved his smells. I loved his breath. I loved the pound of his heart. I loved that he had created a perfect moment right here, even though out there in the real world he was an ass and I would absolutely never allow this. I loved the sudden vulnerability that had led him the long, long way across the bed to soothe himself with my warmth. I loved the desire that many of we humans seem so desperate to share, even in these technologically plagued times, the overwhelming need to feel the warmth of another person’s body and know that they are alive too, thereby reassuring us that we do exist, and that we are not alone.

“But Calla,” you say to me (I forgot to mention I’m super telepathic and I can hear you through the Internet, so I know what you’re saying), “That was real connection. Don’t you want that all the time? Why didn’t you date this gentleman lover? You had a connection.”

And the answer is that… yeah. We did. But no, I don’t want that all the time. Moments such as that, truly tender moments involving such romantically flighty people as me and my gentleman lover, do not come along on the daily. And that is why they are precious. They are a shock, and the better for it.

I am not discounting True Love. I have been in love and I know that it is a joyous thing. But it is also joyous to find the vulnerability and the clumsy tenderness that resides in strangers – and, since they are strangers, this kind of vulnerability is often only visible in flashes.

It is a very sad thing to me, that in this world there is perceived to be Love and Connection and Relationships, and anything less than this is nothing, just cold meaningless fucking. Lust. I shall not deny that it takes time to Fall In Love, to Commit To Love, for it does. Truly. But, lovers of mine, be assured that I have loved you. I have loved your vulnerability and the things you say and the things you’ve taught me, and your taste and your smell and your texture. Even if only for a moment, I have loved that look in your eyes and the shape of your hands.

We are fundamentally lonely beings. Regardless of how long your relationship lasts, regardless of how slow and beautiful and “real” it is, you are a lonely little soul locked away in a single body, separate from the rest of the world, and that has always, always been the case, and it will always, always be the case (probably). Personally I enjoy my lonely little soul. It’s very pleasant in here all by myself. Occasionally, though, it’s nice to let my lonely little soul press up against the walls of its human prison, and feel the throb and hum of other lonely little souls. These moments are like sparks of life. Like little floods through my body.

You could, if you wished, look at my life and see voids, an endless cover up of how lonely and sad my inability to be permanent has rendered me, an endless repeat assembly line of lovers, again and again, no meaning in any of it. I could do that, if I wished. But that would be like looking at my chosen line of work and seeing an endless repeat assembly line of plays, again and again, write, rehearse perform. Write, rehearse, perform. Meet, love, move on. Meet, love, move on. You could look at my life and mourn the death of romance apparent in the impermanence of my existence. But why, in the name of all that is good and beautiful and holy, of everyone I’ve loved and all those still to come, would you ever want to do that?

Calla Wright is a playwright working in Edmonton and Montreal. When she’s not cavorting with lovers of varying genders and getting angry at articles online, she makes theatre.

A Good Man is Hard to Find

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photo: Olivia Palermo and Johannes Huebl for lifestylemirror.com

Losing Monica

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On November 18, 2013, we lost Monica. And I say lost, not as a colloquial term to avoid referencing death, but because that’s what it felt like—that one moment my brother’s beautiful, talented, kind-hearted girlfriend Monica was there, and the next she wasn’t. Gone. Lost. Never to be found.

I’ve been fortunate in my life, in that up to this point I had never really felt grief. Sure, I had experienced sadness—for lost friendships, missed opportunities, a difficult breakup—but I had never truly known what that all-encompassing, suffocating, painful grief felt like. I continue to be blessed with the love and support of all four of my grandparents, and my friends and family are in good health. It almost seemed like for the first 27 years of my life I enjoyed a sort of innocence—that I was blind to, and sheltered from, the harsh realities of loss.

In some ways, especially at the beginning, grief brings people together. Clichéd though it may sound, when you lose someone, you also lose a bit of yourself, and leaning on those around you helps plug the hole and stop the flood. I probably have never felt closer to my immediate family than in those first few days after losing Monica—at the very least, it had easily been a decade since we had all spent that much uninterrupted time together. My tears were their tears, and there was comfort in our shared sadness. And sometimes even through heartbreak, there are smiles—my younger siblings, Noah (now 6) and Leila (2), helped bring light to the darkest moments with their innocence, their laughter, and their love.

I was (and still am) touched by those friends and relatives who came to the funeral or visitation, who called or sent an email, or who reached out to tell stories of their own. I was grateful to my boyfriend for being the rock that I needed, and to my colleagues who picked up the slack, no questions asked. I also found a friend in Monica’s sister, who I had not met prior to her passing, and who I remain friends with to this day.

But when the dust settles, when life goes on for the people around you, grief is isolating and lonely. Everything seemed to be a constant reminder that I was no longer just Emily, that I was also now Sad. Returning to work after a week, finding my coffee mug in the exact place I left it and my computer still on, I felt alone and resented the normalcy that percolated around me. I found it hard to concentrate, and even harder to make small talk or sit in a meeting. When I heard people complaining about home renos or the weather or a subway delay, I wanted to scream, “Don’t you know what REAL problems and REAL sadness are?”

I was angry and fragile—like if someone pushed too hard, I would turn to dust and disappear. I hated to see people having fun. As much as I remembered and valued those who were there for me, I became fixated on those who weren’t. I was spiteful when people would ask politely how things were going and then shift uncomfortably in their seats if I told them the truth, or shared too much for too long, or—heaven forbid—cried. I know now, and probably deep down knew at the time, that this was unfair, but in my weaker moments it didn’t matter. To me, I had the right to be sad whenever I wanted, in whatever way I wanted, and that it was selfish and mundane to expect to talk about work or Christmas shopping when I had just lost Monica.

There were times when I too felt selfish, and guilty. Monica was a beloved member of my family, but I had only known her three years and she wasn’t someone I saw every day. Compared to my brother Jacob, or to Monica’s sister, parents and lifelong friends, I had hardly known her at all. I often asked myself if I even had the right to be as sad as I was, if perhaps in my grief I had claimed something that wasn’t mine to take. I had, after all, gone back to the office after just a week. I moved in with my boyfriend, had dinner with friends, even ran my first half marathon. On the outside I had resumed my life, even if in my heart I still felt Sad, Sad, Sad.

In time, I realized that to survive, I had to be gentle with others, and with myself. It was ok to cry, to wonder why, to miss Monica, but I also had to know that I couldn’t expect others to be sad alongside me all the time. I reminded myself that there’s no shame in accepting that things weren’t ok, but that running or working or having fun didn’t diminish her memory and didn’t mean I cared any less. Slowly I’ve also started to remember Monica, not just grieve her. She was a knitter, and I’d always wanted to learn, so I took a few classes—putting it mildly, knitting is not for me, but it helped me reconnect with the notion of Monica as a real person, not just someone we had lost.

It’s been a year now, and after losing Monica, I’m now on the journey of finding Emily. I have learned that grief can be erratic. It is confusing and completely non-linear, but it is mine and it is part of me, whether I’m alone or not, through the days that feel normal and those that don’t. I know that not one day has gone by where I haven’t thought about her, or missed her, and I know too that time may not, ultimately, heal every single wound. But, I’ve also learned that though there is so much pain in loss, there is beauty and even laughter in remembering—whether it’s something kind she did, a joke she made, a story she told, or with the scarf I’m (unsuccessfully) trying to knit.

This article is dedicated to the beautiful Monica Post (August 31, 1992-November 18, 2013), and to my courageous brother, Jacob Abrahams. I love you both.