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.

 

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.

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

Marrying Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off-Limits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saying Bye For Now

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I wanted to send a Facebook message to my best friend Patti who was moving earlier that day to Ontario, but was unable to as it seemed she had just taken her profile down. I was surprised for a second, but then it made so much sense. I had done the same on my own move out of the province, so I calmly took in my impressions of the meaning of her ‘erasement’ of social networks. Going off the radar for the people who knew her might just be a necessary compromise to enable something even greater to take place in her : change.

When reconnecting with people after I came back and reappeared on the net, a friend asked : «And how was that [living in Toronto for a while]?» It took me 24 hours to sum it up in a few words, only to realise that my time lapse was my in construction break. Yes, just like it could be seen on a website. I and every little cell I’m composed of were like : ‘‘we’ll come out of the closet soon, but for now, let us make your mouths water with expectations, as you are so impatient to take a bite of us. But don’t look while we’re changing from an old skin to a new one, we don’t know what you might glimpse at as we’re not hidden by the protective layer of our integument filtering what comes in and goes out in sight…’’

The certainty of people waiting at the door to see how I’d turn out was merely a fantasy, not something I accounted for a reality. How easy it is to think you have disappeared from every one’s memory, even the ones for who you’ll always keep a spot in your heart? ‘‘Will they even remember my name?’’, I’d ask myself. People do forget some stuff. They forget that they wanted to call me for a while, they forget that they had planned to visit me. But that’s what goes on anyways, far from them or not, as soon as I’m not part of their habit anymore. Don’t take it personally, that’s the modern way! To run out of time…

As I was in this period of discovering the hidden truths within myself, I remained very close and connected with my friend Ivy, who was walking in a parallel line to mine, making more or less similar changes happening in her life. We felt the need to keep connecting, not counting the minutes of our phone conversations when the craving to speak with someone who shared a common language arose. This enabled us to distantly witness how these changes were respectively happening in our lives.  She was doing so while still running into the same faces that had been familiar for long and while also making new connections according to her ever-evolving frame of mind.

I, on the other hand, was in a position of erasing everything and anything that I no longer wished to be in my surroundings and that, in every layer. I could make changes in my diet and the people that I met simply knew me with my new reality. No one could go like ‘‘but we’ve eaten this many times! It won’t kill you!’’
That’s right. It will not kill me (right this second). But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about what I want, now. 

Being somewhere where the old you is not known allows you to, instead of saying ‘‘no, I don’t want to do this anymore… don’t wish to wear those anymore… don’t want to go to these places anymore…’’, to simply have positive and informative statements.  Being like ‘‘Hey! That’s what turns me on! I just learned this new thing… Want to go to this place I heard of?’’ without having to justify your new point of view.

In both of our cases, a lot of alone time was necessary so that slowly, we could build our personal culture.

So when I noticed Patti’s page no longer existed, I wondered what kind of mindset she was in. Was it a peaceful relief, leaving a social chapter behind to focus on a new way of interacting, of relating? I questionned a lot what Patti had been going through for a while and her choices. Still, I was kind of thankful for not knowing the details motivating these decisions that she kept in her heart: this way I could not judge her. Only she knew what was best for her, it was none of my business. And wasn’t she in the best of all paths anyways?

Finding only you to support yourself makes you look deep into your eyes. Slowly you learn how to hold the stare.

When I see the ones I love after a moment of separation, it becomes obvious to them that they are not facing the same old friend entirely. For sure, they are ever-changing too, but getting out of a comfort zone accelerates transformations. They may or may not acknowledge it, but they will stare in an iris with new stains and lines narrating the stories of unknown faces and places. The body they will hug will be transformed by new thoughts and concerns. The hair texture may change too. What about the voice? Is it softer, deeper?

I know we are in constant change as cells divide without the need to consciously command them to, but being exposed to a new environment encodes many new things in our evolving DNA and lets us hear the voice of our free will to develop our capabilities further and in the process, to diversify.

If I see that person who was away from me for a while, I welcome into her new life chapters. Her experiences will also benefit me if I listen closely. I will intergrate some of her knowledge.

But if I am unsure and feel on edge with this person I once thought I knew and don’t recognize anymore, well too bad! Change and chaos are what life is. So flow with it!

*Names have been changed.

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: Juliette Leblanc. You can see more of her work here: http://julietteleblanc.tumblr.com/