Fitness Freak: From Baby Whale to Beautiful Biceps

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Looking at my reflection in the floor-length mirror at Victoria’s Secret, I was wowed by my own body. I was trying on a pink and black sports bra, which made my boobs look amazing and gave me a surfer girl look. For a minute, I felt like one of the Victoria’s Secret Angels, only curvier and a little shorter. That wasn’t always the case.

Shopping used to bring up body issues. I often thought that those three-way mirrors (a staple at H&M) were put in fitting rooms not to give a better look at a garment, but rather to destroy my self-esteem.

I have never been fat, but since I developed hips and breasts, I’ve never been skinny either. I am a rather tall (for a girl), slim, athletic and curvy woman in my mid-twenties, but the athletic part wasn’t so visible before. And that is precisely what makes me feel so confident now.

In my late teens and early twenties, I cared about being active and made a point of moving every day, but I mostly just biked, walked… and partied. Dancing while going out would be counted as exercise. I definitely had a beer belly, so much that one of my ex-boyfriends used to tease me and call me baby whale, which was simultaneously insulting and endearing.

Being active was something that I had to teach myself because I don’t come from a sporty family.
Even if my parents enrolled me in swimming lessons and dance classes for years, having to discipline to be (and to stay) active was something that I had to learn over time.

Knowing that something is bad for you is one thing, but stopping doing it (or starting a healthier habit) is where the real change happens. As much as I hate to admit it, I briefly smoked socially, mainly when I lived in London, England because it was the norm (and the only way to get a break at work).

Stopping smoking socially was an easy decision to make because I would barely smoke anyway, it made me feel sick, but also because I knew that I didn’t need that shit in my life. It was causing me more harm than good, which is something that I was fully aware of before I started. Over the years, I stopped many bad habits and got into healthy new ones.

It helps that in recent years, there has been an increased enthusiasm about healthy living. Some of the things that I started eating (like kale) were the result of friends’ influence but also of the trends going around. The same can be said for the fitness crazes or other healthy habits.

I started eating organic food, doing yoga, going to the gym regularly and eating a wide array of foods that include hemp seeds, kombucha and sprouts.

I stopped smoking tobacco, taking hard drugs (which barely happened anyway) and getting drunk every weekend.

I refrained from eating meat, dairy and gluten.

I took a piece of advice mentioned in many magazines: I bought quality athletic outfits, which made me perform better. It is way more motivating to train with a cute gym outfit. Nowadays, on any given day, there is at least one sports outfit drying on top of my staircase.

At the same time, I know that I should not freak out too much. I work very hard, both with my head and with my body, and I need to find balance.

The hard work pays off and I do realize when my health craze gets too obsessive. I still enjoy a pizza slice sometimes and the odd day happens when I really can’t make it to the gym or to yoga.

Still, I’m pretty good at taking care of what I do with my body and what I put into it. This ethic of care has helped me to stay balanced, happy, confident and healthy.

My close friends and family tend to tell me quite often to calm down. I’m constantly in movement because my ambition knows no bounds, and so I end up constantly doing something.

That’s where exercise comes in. Yes, it might tire me out but it also calms me down. It helps me to put things back into perspective and to unwind. It’s an occasion to calm my never-ending train of thought and to let go of the 24-7 business that is my life.

Besides the mental benefits, exercise helps me to feel better physically. It’s kind of silly: when I didn’t exercise as much, I realized that I wasn’t as fit as I could be, but at the same time, it was comfortable and I didn’t know where to start.

But as my fitness fascination got more serious, I realized that once you start, you can’t stop.

I don’t want to go back to having a beer belly anymore, and I take the steps necessary in order not to. Nobody can call me baby whale anymore.

That’s where the balance and the discipline come in. Without fail, I need to set up high standards onto myself in order to stay disciplined. At the same time, I know that I need to give myself some slack when I’m overworked.

Focusing on health and fitness makes me feel good happens every day, like last Saturday while admiring my reflection in the mirror.

In that moment, I was grateful to be healthy, fit and beautiful because I knew that I didn’t always feel that way.

Being fit makes me more vain but also enables me to be more confident in other areas of my life.

My clothes suit me better when I’m fitter. I feel hotter when I’m having sex. I feel ready for any physical challenge that comes my way, whether it is helping a friend move out or carrying groceries.

Ultimately, I’m learning not to envy other women’s bodies, but to be perfectly happy with my own. And while I’m at it, I smile at my reflection in the mirror.

Lili Monette is a journalist, artist and writer, and the Associate Editor of Blonde. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre & Development from Concordia University and is currently finishing the Master of Arts in Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario.

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Daring to be Different

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‘‘I’m not the girl-next-door. If you want the girl-next-door, go next door!’’-Rita Hayworth

‘‘Accept yourself’’ is spelled out on my yoga scan card that holds my keys. I look at it every day. And lately, I’ve thought a lot about identity.

Of course, accepting oneself is easier said than done. I accept myself more now than I used to, but there is something that never changes: I feel different. Sometimes I get jealous of ‘‘normal’’ people for fitting in seamlessly, but I’ve come to accept that being different is also my strength. I attract like-minded people, inspire others, and most importantly, stay true to who I am.

Despite the positives, feeling different has been both a blessing and a curse. I do what I should be doing and follow my instinct. I don’t think that I’m ‘‘special’’ necessarily, but society makes me realize that I’m outside of the box. Because of my education, I go into the world with an open mind and I can face walls or unexpressive faces. I suffer when I feel that I should behave a certain way, that I should swallow my thoughts or that I should follow the leader.

Learning to accept myself and not trying too hard to be liked has been a life-long struggle. Countless times, I wanted to be normal. I wanted a family with parents who are married. I wanted to have siblings and a dog. I peered through people’s windows with envy when I saw a full-sized family sharing a meal. But as Theodore Roosevelt once said, ”comparison is the thief of joy.” And it is. It’s better to centre on what’s good in my life than on what I could have.

In the past week though, the struggle got to me. I doubted my capacity for finding work after graduating. I was down because I am still waiting for money and have no funds. The future seems uncertain these days.

***

On Valentine’s Day at the restaurant, I started crying quietly. And it was not my date’s fault.

I was feeling disappointed and sad. I thought about my artist family and the struggle that’s still so real. I didn’t want to make a scene, and it was not like my date wasn’t supportive: he was. And it’s not like I wasn’t grateful: I was. But some of the things I’m struggling with were taking over my thoughts, so I excused myself to the bathroom, made sure I didn’t look like a raccoon, and went out again.

-It’ll be O.K., I said as I sat down.
-I know how you feel. It’s like my friend Will. He’s very talented, but it’s not working for him right now because he doesn’t fit the mould. You just have to keep believing in yourself.

The waitress came with the cheque. We started talking about the surprising flavours of the carrot, beet and goat cheese cake, which was delicious. Then she looked at me and paused.

-Are you French?
-…I’m from Montreal

My accent isn’t thick but it is noticeable. I’m starting to get over it, but I generally hate when people point it out to me. It’s as if all those years spent working hard to become perfectly bilingual were useless. And it’s another thing that makes me stand out in the crowd, so of course there are times when I want my accent to disappear. But again, it’s a plus: people tell me that it’s endearing pretty often.

As we went out of the restaurant, a man was looking at the board outside.

-Oh, they have beer here now!
-Yes, and it’s very good, they make it here. We just tried and I highly recommend it.
-Oh! You’re French! There’s not a lot of French people in London.
-I know. I’m one of the few! I answered as I crossed the street.

I can run, but I can’t hide. And I don’t want to hide anyway, although sometimes I need to stand back, think and take a breather. I’ll never be normal and that’s O.K. I’ll keep on doing me. I’ll keep believing in myself. When I start thinking that I should be somebody else or that I should be quieter, I remember compliments I received. I know that there are lots of people who love me the way I am. I understand that I have to tap into my own potential and not somebody else’s.

There is no way I’ll ever be a plain Jane. I love things and people that are extraordinary. I need art. I need conversations with enlightened people. I need creativity. I need outlets for my dreams, visions, and wishes. I need to be myself. I’ll keep on wearing pink shoes, cape dresses and sequined t-shirts. I’ll keep on cherishing the things that make me unique because that is what makes me Lili.

Lili Monette is a multidisciplinary entertainer and writer, and the Associate 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.

Lonely in London

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So many times I have packed and unpacked, moving along to new cities in a effort to constantly feel alive, to make my dreams come true and to fulfill my inner free spirit. Every time I move to a new place to live, there is a big reality check coming along with it. Effectively, I need to learn how to live all over again. I need to understand the city and its culture. I need to meet the right people with which I will have meaningful relationships. I need to know the spots to buy cheap and tasty groceries, the cool cafés, the best parks, the splendid street art. It might seem easy and of course, it is blissful to stroll through new cities to discover new haunts. Alas, it is quite another thing to settle down in an unfamiliar place.

I just arrived in London, Ontario to start a Master in Journalism. I will stay here for one year and I already knew before leaving that it would be quite a challenge for me as a big-city girl that feels comfortable either in the countryside or in the city. I’ve always had trouble being in a small town or a suburb, as I feel that difference is more or less accepted. Despite having lived in London UK, Vancouver and Erlangen in Germany, moving somewhere else is always a challenge, even if it is the tenth time you’ve done it. It always means starting over.

Before leaving Montreal, I felt heavy, as though my past was weighing on my shoulders. As I was sifting through drawers of stuff from my twenty-five years on Earth, I reflected upon the fact that in life, nothing is forever and objects eventually have to live another life or disintegrate. I also pondered upon past trends, old friends, and my very identity.

It took weeks to sort things out. I had to make sure that I didn’t throw away useful stuff, or worse, keep too much. I have been moving apartments every year and downgrading in size, but I knew that this was my ultimate move. I’m going away to study now but I don’t plan on coming back to Montreal after I’m done. We’ll see where I’ll find my true calling (New York?).

Right now, I feel torn between missing my friends and my city and knowing fully well that I need to move forward in life and that my time in London will not exceed twelve months. I am now living in an apartment without internet (a devastating misunderstanding with the girl I rented the room from) which makes me feel insanely alone, helpless and empty. It makes me realize that this is a wonderful opportunity to stop and breathe but especially, reflect.

When I arrived in my first apartment in Vancouver at seventeen, I had constant insomnia despite being an usually sound sleeper. I could not fall asleep because I was highly receptive of the melancholy and sadness of life, and the fear of being alone and starting anew was keeping me awake at night. I felt miles away, physically and psychologically, from my loved ones. I still feel the same kind of restless anxiety years later as I’m trying to calm my nerves by myself, without being able to call anyone or say anything. In that case, writing is the only thing that really helps, in an effort to open up a conversation.

I remember when I was living in Erlangen and my bedroom was by the window. Evidently, as it was summer and that there were picnic tables just outsides, engineering dudes used to drink beer and speak loudly when I was trying to sleep. A similar pattern was happening last night, as my apartment was vibrating from loud music and that shouting from drunk dudes was coming across. When times are though and that I feel grumpy, I’m trying to be grateful nevertheless, otherwise life would be too melodramatic.

Yesterday was rainy and I walked kilometres in the windy and rainy weather to go downtown. I stopped at the river where I watched the geese swimming and listened to the water flowing down. I also saw street art under the bridge. I kept walking to see a clothing store that I was surprised had an outlet in London. I was in much need of retail therapy although it had to be a cheap session, given my financial circumstances. I got a new shirt, earrings and a badass women of hip-hop colouring book. I paid for my items and left the store to spot, right across the corner, a lady in front of Wine Rack with a sign written ‘‘Free Tasting’’ on it. What better way to invite people in? I came in and started talking to Megan, as her name tag suggested. She made me try two wines and a cider and listened to my newly-arrived desperate tale. She helped me with directions and encouraged me to come again on my way back.

I kept walking with the humidity making my bones shiver. The mix of bad weather, sadness and poor architecture was putting me in a bad mood again. In a shop window on which was written ‘‘free henna tattoos’’, I saw a girl rocking multicolor dreadlocks. I thought she looked cool but especially, that she looked like an individual in a city where people tend to look the same. I was tempted to go in but she was busy with somebody else. I thus kept walking, failing to find a grocery store.

I was downtown and there was a lenghty line-up to enter a comic book store. People were either disguised or wearing normal attire, and it made for quite a scene. As I kept walking, I ran into heaps of hobos, and I felt that I had hit rock bottom for the day. Despair was seizing me, and I knew that I had to head back. Walking on the same street again, I finally entered the elusive store, where I was greeted by two sunny ladies. I sat down with the dreadlock girl for a henna tattoo and we started to chat. It did not take long to realize that we were both from Montreal and felt quite different here. That conversation brought about a much-needed feeling of acceptance and relief. I knew right then and there that I was going to be friends with that girl. We spoke French and it was so comforting to let my guard down. She invited me to an 80s night tonight and even if I have school tomorrow, I’ll probably check it out.

Following that moving encounter, I went to the Covent Garden Market and got quite long-faced when I realized that organic food in London was way more expensive than in large cities such as Montreal or Toronto. Upon talking to a lady in the store, I got a list of other organic stores in the area. She winked at me when I was walking around, and I was so thankful to her for understanding the situation and sending positive vibes my way. It calmed me down to realize how people could be lovely. I know that I will make friends here, but I’ll just have to find my tribe, like anywhere else. I might be alone right now, but it’s an occasion to reflect and open up headspace for new experiences.

If I do feel lonely, I can open up a box of photographs, look at the pictures on my walls, or else at the henna tattoo on my hand. I’ll have to be brave, but I’ll be able to go through this, once again. Hopefully, the dudes downstairs did quiet down around eleven and I slept like a baby for twelve hours. I woke up to a sunny morning. As a French saying goes, ‘‘après la pluie, le beau temps’’.*
*After rain comes beautiful weather. 


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: Autoroute 10, 2013 by the talented Olivier Gariépy. http://ogariepy.tumblr.com/

February 25th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January: Sequins and Shavasana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘‘Yeah, I think so too’’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading Between Blurred Lines

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Like everyone else on the internet, I was privy to the twerked-out orgy performed by Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. It was impossible to ignore Hannah Montana grinding her nude vinyl panties up against the offspring of the dad from Growing Pains. I’m generally not familiar with Top 40 music, but Robin Thicke and Pharrell’s date-rape anthem “Blurred Lines” has gotten my attention, and not because of its catchy beat.

As someone who has been caught between the blurred lines of consent, I found the entire PR stunt to be disrespectful towards sex in general. Miley Cyrus’ lolling tongue made a mockery of what adolescents are taught about sexuality, as they lay immersed in the world of pop culture. There was nothing blurry about what Cyrus was inviting onto that stage, as evidenced by the media’s claims that “she’s grown up,” and that “she’s coming into her sexuality.” To me, there was a disconnect between Thicke’s song and Miley’s dance moves.

The message behind Thicke’s latest hit struck a chord with me. I was taken advantage of (or “date-raped,” in therapeutic terms) one night, several years ago, by someone who thought he was showing me a good time. For some reason, he was under the impression that I wanted him – bad. I’ve since played the night over and over again in my head, trying to identify signs and signals of being attracted to him that I may have given off without realization. I am friendly and polite by nature, hence why I probably spoke to this friend-of-a-friend at my hometown’s local bar as if he were an actual human being. The bottle of wine and pitcher of beer didn’t hurt my sociability either. From my perspective, the offending guy must have thought he was playing it cool, giving little to no indication that he wanted to have sex with me. I refused his offers to buy me drinks, and I shamelessly kissed an old classmate in front of him as a (possibly misunderstood) message that I wasn’t available. This is why it was a shock to me. This is why I didn’t see it coming and why it affected me so strongly.

I thought I had made it clear.

Apparently, not clear enough.

My own blurred lines of judgment came at the end of the night, when we ended up alone. I could have run inside, slamming the door in his face, but my alcohol-soaked brain didn’t present that to me as an option at the time. Honestly though, just because I shared a cigarette with him at the end of the night did not mean that I wanted him to touch me, let alone stick his penis inside me. In what world does a borrowed cigarette translate to “please fuck me roughly in a local public park”? From my perspective, I was drunk and brushing him off. He, however, was reading in between the blurred lines, and assuming that I was playing hard to get–an outdated game if there ever was one. When I confronted him later about it, I made sure that he knew that this was not what a positive sexual experience meant to me, and likely to any other young woman put into that situation. His perspective and Robin Thicke’s are not at all different.

I am bothered by the fact that establishing these murky boundaries has become common practice. Why the games? There should not be a blurred line between you and your sexual partner in sight. Both (or all) parties involved should have clear ideas about what’s going to happen between the sheets (or on the floor, table, rooftop, etc). Clarification is key. I don’t see Thicke’s song and dance to be an issue of disrespecting women, but one of understanding one’s sexuality. It’s about getting the balls to tell someone how you want it–or don’t want it. If a girl grabs you, it’s entirely possible that she’s doing so in order to steady herself after drinking too much. Don’t assume that she wants to “get nasty,” be a man and clarify what she wants. There’s no shame in asking questions; I actually find it very sexy to discuss what you want and need from a potential sexual partner. Clarification shows a degree of respect, which is an integral part of one’s sexual experience. I don’t know when it became un-sexy to be upfront.

There should be no blurred lines surrounding a sexual encounter, because between them can lie confusion and potential danger. Although those blurred lines got me “date raped,” they have also helped me come to terms with forgiving my attacker. I still found that VMAs performance offensive, however, and have been left disappointed that this is the message being sent to younger generations. I hope everyone can see what this performance for what it was–a PR ploy. And it worked. And for that, we as a society should hang our heads a little.

Ellen Fielding is a Toronto-based writer, artist, and live music enthusiast. She has a deep love for architectural history and often reflects this in her work.

The Balcony-Loving Stranger

vogue

You went back to your family’s house while they were away since it was closer to the bar you were at. You were drunk. It’s a random night (Monday) after a friend’s concert and a mismanaged man situation (classic).

You would not allow yourself to fail since current popular culture values performance over well-being. When you were dismissed, refused and ignored, you became vulnerable to your core and you had shivers of unworthiness and self-disgust running through your spine. Sometimes, this anxiety turned into infernal insomnia, which slowly killed your rest time and your usual cheerfulness.

The morning after, you woke up and decided to take care of yourself, which was the sensible thing to do and the only way forward. You were clearly conscious that the wild years of oblivious drinking were over and that your friends were busy individuals working weekdays. You stayed home alone and drank green tea and coconut water in the hopes of getting some sort of glow.

When there was a happening, you dressed up and you hung out with your buddies in large groups. You possessed a deep dissatisfaction about your current situation, which translated into the dangerous moments where you sashayed through the mostly familiar crowd, looking for a handsome stranger for love at first glance.

It happened quickly. Your common sense was now useless: your ideas about taking it slow since you wanted a long-term relationship were frozen like your flirtatious smile. Your worries about whether or not the novelty boy would turn out to be an asshole fell out of the window. The midnight magic and cocktail-filled evening took an unexpected toll.

You saw him casually sitting there looking sharp and regal in a crisp denim shirt. He said, ‘’Hi, I’m Paul’’ and you went on chatting about your individually exciting lives.

You took a liking to him instantly. He possessed the perfect balance of warmth (he talked about going for an aquatic date), charm, looks (tattooed to the bone, hair slicked back, dapper shirt) and intelligence. Within an hour, you both started to feel exhausted by your talking and your working hard during days. You suddenly remembered the night, Thursday, which meant that you had to work early the next day.

You told him that you wanted to leave with him so that you could smoke a spliff on his balcony before heading home. Of course, you knew that this offer was a terrible white lie and a very old-school party trick. You knew full well that “one thing leads to another”. You got to know each other intellectually a little deeper on the balcony and then literally deeper physically as you climbed into his bed. You took off your strapless evening dress and slid under the sheets. You smiled as he entered you, and you were feeling euphoric after the act, when his body was slowly recovering. You were happy, you were excited, it had been a while since you experienced a satisfying sexual flow.

You left quickly the next day. You went home to shower and you rubbed yourself clean. You felt him under your skin after washing and you knew right then and there that you were hooked.

You wrote him an online message two days later asking him out. You were walking the fine line between hope and despair but you decided to try your luck on the former.You subsequently saw him twice on his balcony where you talked your heart out. Your thoughts were slowly sliding into the ‘’falling in love’’ category. He was career-driven like you and you loved his reckless ambition. He seemed ready to conquer the world and you hoped that he would be ready to conquer you too.

You did not fancy spending much of your precious time worrying, but you did it anyway since you were dealing with a raw human need for contact as well as an emotion overload. Your story became an itch you could not seem to scratch off and you asked yourself needy questions as to why he did not get back to you yet. You checked his Facebook status, blinking, as if it would have changed since a couple of days ago, when he wrote that his phone was broken. You peeled your eyes, making sure that his relationship status was still intact and his authenticity for real. The truth that you didn’t want to hear was simple: he was not into you because he could not make time for you in his workaholic lifestyle. You were barely a distraction interfering with his goals.

‘’Women walk around thinking ‘we.’ And their vision of ‘we’ is me… and my dick!,” you remembered Samantha Jones saying with verve and anger in Sex and the City. You agreed, you thought too much about both of you together as some dreamy ideal. You cared so much, but all he seemed to care about was chatting, cumming and sleeping when he was in your presence.

You were such a people-pleaser. You were trying too hard to be eloquent, charming, sexually satisfying, and you knew full well that you worried too much about what people think, although you always denied it.

You gradually reached your limit. You could not be using so much headspace on a man who did not care. You knew that you needed to let go, even if holding on seemed much more convincing.

You were learning to be happy again. You decided to accept the harsh reality: you knew that he could not commit. Your heart was wounded again, but you knew how to get back on track. You told yourself that you would keep living and chill the fuck out (badass advice to your insecure self).

At last, you were filled with an inner peace that you forgot about a little while ago, when you became obsessed with finding a cure for loneliness: you mistook self-love with a balcony-loving stranger.

* Sex in the City, Season II, Episode 12. Written by Candace Bushnell, created by Darren Star, produced by HBO.

Photo: Christy Turlington by Steven Meisel. Vogue Italia, 1991.

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