Narrative Of An Invisible Disease

3b6f33f2 copyI suffer from an invisible disease. I often look put together and function well, but inside my reproductive organs are fighting a battle every day. This is endometriosis.

If I don’t discuss it, people generally have no idea that when I go to work I often have lower back and leg pain so intense I have to breathe through it. Or when I go to school I sit through seminars and hope the pressure that feels like a tiny bowling ball pushing down on my uterus subsides so that I can participate. Or if I’m out with my friends I have to avoid alcohol because the side effects are non negotiable to my reproductive system and the organs that surround it.

Generally it doesn’t come up in conversation. There are many women who are told by their family, friends and even doctors that they’re hypochondriacs or that they’re crazy because the pain we deal with can’t be seen. But it’s important to explain it, and then explain it again until we’re heard.

***

It began when I was 14. I was at school and felt so sick that I was convinced I had the stomach flu. After several months of feeling this way and one too many absent days on my report card, I went to my family doctor. He told me the pain; the nausea and the cramps, was most likely endometriosis and that there is no cure. He told me the pain could be minimalized with the birth control pill. There are many parents that would have refused to allow their 14-year-old daughter to take birth control. I was lucky enough to have a mom that could see my future. If she refused that course of treatment I would have struggled to make it through high school, potentially have failed to achieve grades high enough to go to university and certainly never would have been accepted into graduate school, where I am now.

Unfortunately the use of birth control as treatment is not perfect. I spent most of high school and my undergraduate alternating brands and visiting my family doctor. But it kept the pain at bay until I was 24, when I realized this could not be my version of normal anymore.

There is a reason the average age of diagnosis of endometriosis is 25. The tissue most women get rid of when they have their period builds in us for several years. Unfortunately allowing it to build often means by your mid 20’s it has spread to your ovaries, outside of your uterus, your bladder or your bowel. Once it gets to this stage the pain is so bad that it abides by no timeline; you are often either in stage three or four of endometriosis. I was in stage three. PMS was a week before my period (which actually is how PMS is defined, not when you have your period), followed by the pain of the period then wrapped up with the pain of ovulation. By the time the pain has subsided the glimmer of hope was in the potential of the solid week before it starts again. Most of my time was spent waiting for the pain to return. A few days of living without was is my victory.

I was 25 when I had my first laparoscopy, but it won’t be my last. Five months after my surgery the pain returned, not as debilitating as before but on the same scale of intensity. My gynecologist told me I would need another surgery in 5 years, barely enough time for the scars from the first surgery to heal. I will likely have a hysterectomy by the time I’m in my mid 30’s. Unfortunately after that there still won’t be any pain free guarantees.

There is a label on endometriosis that it is a fertility issue, and stands alone as a fertility issue. But it is a disease that affects all women that are diagnosed, not simply those looking to get pregnant. This disease affects young women long before child bearing is a thought in their mind. In that sense, it is ironic that the organs that are meant to carry a baby cause many infertile women the most physical pain. As if we need a constant reminder that this pain will not offer any reward to some of us.

I will admit the possibility of infertility doesn’t concern me. I don’t say this to undermine women that battle infertility as a result of endometriosis, their voices are important. But the voices of those of us not concerned with conceiving have been drowned out. As a single 26-year-old woman, I am constantly preoccupied thinking about how I will manage my pain and work full time. I also think about how it will affect future relationships. Explaining endometriosis to a man can be difficult, but hopefully to the right one it won’t be. Most of all, I concern myself with my day-to-day life. There are days endometriosis relates to diseases similar to Crohn’s or Colitis, other days it feels like mild flu symptoms. It is a fluid disease that uses women’s most powerful organs – the reproductive ones – against them. I have to strike a balance between taking care of my body and maintaining a social life that I won’t feel I missed once my 20’s have passed me by.

***

I want to be a powerful woman, with a great job and sometimes the toughest battle is the psychological one; silencing the voice inside me that says this disease will dictate how I live my life. So I’ve adapted. I have had to strike a negotiation with the non- negotiable parts of my body essentially deciding it’s one for me and one for you. If I go out on a weekend and have one or two drinks, I have to compensate that with two or three months of avoiding alcohol or else the flare up will last for weeks. On the plus side, I believe I have the purest liver of any 26-year-old on Earth. Regardless of what I negotiate, there is always pain. And for the foreseeable future, it’s not going away. I simply call the shots on what I am willing to sacrifice.

As is the case with most diseases, the narration of my story isn’t meant for recognition or pity, but maybe a little bit of insight. It’s to let you know that many of us fight invisible battles every day, and we will fight like hell to win them.

Leanne McAdams is a Master of Arts Candidate in Political Science. Her research and writing interests include women’s political participation, reproductive rights and gender equality.

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“Your Ovary Looks Like A Bagel” and Other Stories About My Uterus

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When it happened, the pain was so severe I couldn’t move or speak. It felt as though something had violently burst inside of me, tearing my insides to shreds. I couldn’t explain to my boyfriend why suddenly in the middle of the night I was first screaming then saying nothing, rendered unable to communicate to him what was happening. I couldn’t even cry, I almost couldn’t breathe, barely able to mouth the words, “I think I need to go to the hospital.”

I barely remember getting into the cab, checking into the hospital, or waiting in the waiting room, though all three of these things must have happened. The pain disoriented me, left me unable to process what was going on. By the time a doctor came to see me it was 6:30 in the morning and I was so exhausted, my eyes were barely open. Unable to explain the situation, the doctor told me to come back at nine for an ultrasound.

I went home but didn’t sleep, only to return to the hospital a couple hours later. The ultrasound was uncomfortable, and I was concerned, increasingly so as the technician kept returning to one spot in particular. I became anxious. What could she see?

“I’m going to get the doctor,” the technician said. “Stay here.”

I lay on the table, my heart racing, and I waited for the doctor to come tell me what was wrong. “You had an ovarian cyst rupture,” he explained. “Your ovary looks like a bagel, but it should go back to normal soon. You will be fine.”

A bagel? Fine? He sent me home, but I wasn’t fine. In addition to worrying about my now bread-shaped reproductive organ, the pain never fully went away. Months before the incident, I had started experiencing crippling, sudden pains that were so severe I would have to stop whatever I was doing and remain perfectly still. I had gone to the doctor about it, but they told me, again, that everything was fine. The pain was becoming much more frequent, happening several times a day.

I went back to the doctor, but nobody seemed concerned. Nobody was willing to listen to my stories about the “phantom” pains I was experiencing. I knew something was wrong and I wanted answers.

A former classmate of mine had endometriosis and was seeing a specialist about it. I asked for her doctor’s name, and then promptly got a referral from my own doctor. If he wouldn’t listen to me, I wanted to talk to someone who would. This was in October and it was just starting to get cold outside. It is customary to have to wait for a specialist appointment, so I started counting down the days to January.

When I finally saw the specialist, she ordered a new set of ultrasounds. She didn’t take long to call me back, requesting I return to her office only a few days later. “You appear to have something blocking us from being able to fully see what’s going on inside of you,” she said. “I recommend exploratory surgery to determine the cause.”

Surgery? This sinking feeling began to overtake me. I was scared. What was inside of me? Did I have cancer? Did I have endometriosis? Would I ever be able to have children? You don’t realize how bad you want children until there’s a possibility you might not be able to. At 22, it was a luxury I assumed would be afforded to me and now I felt like it was being taken away.

I agreed to the surgery. For the next month, the world looked different to me. I imagined a different life for myself than the one I assumed I’d have, the eventual home, a husband, and two kids. I wondered how this would affect my relationship. Would he eventually leave me because I was infertile? In those nights when I worried, he held me and promised he wouldn’t. My sister and a friend offered to carry a baby for me. I cried into their arms, overwhelmed by the kindness of their offers. I felt so close to them, these people who came through for me in a confusing and difficult time. I met other women who were going through the same thing as me. I’m not sure how the conversations ever happened, how we ever discovered we shared this connection, but somehow the stars aligned and I found support in strangers. Together we mourned the children we were not sure we’d ever have.

These thoughts plagued me until I was able to undergo a small day surgery called a laparoscopy.

My specialist called me back in shortly after. She went straight to the point as she pulled out a diagram. “You have a large uterine fibroid the size of a grapefruit attached to your uterus,” she said, once again my reproductive organs were compared to a breakfast food. She took out a pen and drew a giant fibroid beside the pre-printed uterus to give me perspective. Uterine fibroids are usually benign, she explained, and I was beyond grateful to learn a biopsy showed mine was too. Fibroids have been linked to infertility when they grow inside of the uterus. Luckily, she said, mine was outside. It’s unlikely my fertility down the road would be affected.

I breathed a sigh of relief. A huge weight lifted off my shoulders knowing I would be able to have children. Even though I was still in pain and my journey was ongoing, hearing that made me feel like I was allowed to be 22 again.

My specialist told me I should undergo another surgery to have it removed right away. I agreed, and less than a month later I found myself in the operating room once again.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how none of the other doctors or technicians had noticed this before. How did something so large go undetected? Fibroids are actually more common than people think, affecting as many as one in five women in their childbearing years. Many women never even know they have them. In fact, the reason mine was likely causing problems is that it was actually attached to my uterus by what’s called a stalk. The fibroid would twist causing the stalk to get pinched, shooting sharp pains through my body.

Laying on the operating table cloaked in hospital light, I was less afraid this time even though the surgery was a more complex procedure. It would four leave tiny scars, a permanent reminder that nothing is in this life is ever guaranteed. But I felt so much more at ease. I was no longer worried about whether or not I was dying, or if I’d be able to have children of my own one day. For the first time in months I had answers.

It felt like I had lived so many lives during that time, forced to think about my life in its entirely in ways I hadn’t really considered before. For a while everything changed. And now, just one more surgery and it would all be back to normal again. I’d heal and go back to my job. My social life would resume. I would be okay. Everything finally would be fine. So I closed my eyes and counted down from 10.

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

In Hotel Rooms, We Can Be Anyone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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.

Pushy is Not Passionate

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Cheyenne Jackson

Lately, as we see debate of women’s rights erupt even more so in the social media world I find myself contemplating what constitutes as acceptable and breaching women’s rights. Personally I wouldn’t say I am an extremist but I am a feminist if you must put a title on it. I try to avoid titles but the fact that there even is a term for belief in equality of women proves that there is still a need for awareness here. We don’t hear the term masculanism thrown around do we? Even if we did hear this it would likely not connect in our minds to any of the similar ideals of feminism.  Does it not also say something that spell check does not even recognize this word?

There are the main areas our minds jump to when we hear the phrase feminism but what if we are not even acknowledging the every day-to-day situations where we are pushed passed our boundaries of comfort and security; The moments we have begun to consider normality in our lives as females.

An issue we still face in society today is the belief of entitlement. I hate accepting a drink from a guy at the bar because I know where his mind is going. I have experienced men getting upset when I say no to an invitation home at the end of the night although I never asked for a drink nor did I lead them on with flirtatious suggestion. We do not deserve to be treated disrespectfully just because we are not giving you our bodies. In no manner does anyone have a right to what is yours. While at Sasquatch Music Festival I met a guy at a show one evening. In the beginning he seemed pretty cool so we made plans to meet up the next day but it didn’t take long to realize I didn’t have much of a connection with him. For some reason I still let him kiss me but all of a sudden he came on extremely strong. When I told him I wanted to leave he made comments that I was no fun and not “freaky like I looked”. Sorry dude but I wasn’t trying to channel that I wanted to get freaky, possibly you shouldn’t make judgments?  He continued to stick with me for the next while as I continuously tried to brush him off.  I failed to stand up for myself in a reluctance to not be offensive, yet I was hearing constant criticism from him the more he realized that he was not getting anything. Whether female or male, no one deserves to be subjected to someone knocking you down. Why didn’t he walk away? Because he thought he might still get in my pants. Why didn’t I walk away? Because I was being an idiot. It took me until he actually shushed me and asked if I was going to fuck him or not to give a clear enough message and walk away.  I am not a supporter of misandry; I am no man hater that is for sure. I love men. I love people, but why in our modern world today do people so often still have such close minded outlooks and think they can treat others in such a manner.

To be honest in past situations I have slept with men just because I did not know how to stop it. I am sure I am not alone in this either. As crazy as that sounds I found it was almost easier to follow through with it than to build up the confidence to escape the situation. I saw this as a flaw in myself as media has brainwashed us to believe that this behavior in men can be acceptable, making the woman simply promiscuous for allowing it to happen. How corrupt is this idea? As a friend stated a great point to me, “We raise women to avoid and prepare for situations but we do not always raise men to deter from them.”

We need to change the way we approach this as a society. Men need to realize that consent is not lame to ask for but extremely desirable. Pushy is not passionate. Just because a girl may not have the confidence to say no does not mean she is saying yes. There are many areas in life that pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone can be rewarding but when it’s concerning our rights and feeling of self worth this is not one of them.

This is just one example of challenges women face but there are many occurrences in our lives we no longer even acknowledge as abnormal but have accepted as reality. Our perception of reality needs to change. In saying all of this I am not discrediting male rights in any matter as I believe bringing equal attention to this is also important in having equality for women. We need to view every category with equivalence. A fact brought to my attention recently was that more than 40% of domestic violence victims are male. A study was conducted to see the reaction of bystanders during female violence against a man and vice versa. People were quick to intervene in defense of the woman but laughed or ignored the situation when the male was victimized. We raise men from the beginning with phrases and ideologies that portray they must suppress their emotions and be dominant. We need to be conscious of how we are raising our children; the messages we are giving society. I like the quote from Gloria Steinem which states, ‘We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like daughters.’ There is an unrealistic expectation on both genders and if we can dissolve this and be more open with others in turn we may be more open with ourselves. Stand up for your rights but be mindful of others’. To find balance we need Yin and Yang. Moon and Sun. Feminine and Masculine. To find balance we need equality.

 

Cheyenne Jackson is a consciousness enthusiast from Calgary. Recently rediscovering her love for writing while blogging throughout travels in Asia. You can connect with Cheyenne on Her Instagram, ToukaKoukan or check out her blog, http://jinseiryoukou.wordpress.com