Crystal Healing

Crystal Healing

On a late Saturday afternoon in October, I walked out of a new age shop with three of my friends.

One had just purchased a handful of crystals that were supposedly going to aide her in gathering courage. She was just about to quit her day job in order to pursue her passion. For myself, I had purchased a couple of gemstones that would hopefully bestow some clarity and inner peace on my fluctuating mood swings. In other words, I was hoping they’d stop me from being such a bitch. Our single friend, frustrated with her dating life, held a giant piece of rose quartz in her hand, “If I’m still single in six months, I’m returning this.”

The pursuit of harmony

As you can see, we all had our issues. After stuffing our faces with formaggi pizza and gabbing about our problems, a form of therapy in and of itself, we half-jokingly decided that we were in need of some crystal healing, a growing curiosity of ours.

No matter where you are on the scale of practical realist to crystal loving-fire-walking-yogi, as a human being, you’re on the hunt for harmony. Or courage. Or a soulmate. Whatever it may be, you want something. There’s a reason why there’s a plethora of books, seminars, and business’ built on this idea that through positive intention and affirmations, we can change our lives and find what we ache for.

Yvan Duban, owner of New Age Books & Crystals, explains that in our search for balance and harmony, affirmations and positive intentions go a long ways, “There’s serious potency in that. Affirmations are a frequency – this is scientifically proven.” Besides verbal frequencies, we also communicate in subtle ways on a telepathic level; this communication also has a frequency.

Think about those times when you’ve met someone and for no apparent reason, you got a ‘bad vibe.’ Or perhaps you’re aware enough to notice how certain spaces make you feel, whether it’s energized, calm, or creeped right out.

Crystals communicate with us in the same kind of way. It’s on a subtle energetic level, an intuitive kind of communication that takes quieting your head noise to hear, “There’s a reason why humans like walking on sand or climbing mountains,” explains Duban. It’s not just for the view; it’s how we feel in the presence of what could be considered a colossal sized stone, or billions of mini crystals beside the ocean. And though they may not be able to magically manifest you a boyfriend, it’s on that subtle energetic level that crystals can serve you.

The science of intention

Scientifically defined, crystals are a constituent of atoms, ions and particles that come together to form crystalline structures. In fact, the basis of the technology that we use every day is founded in crystals. Our iPhones, laptops, microchips – they are all a simplified use of crystals, quartz, and minerals, all of which hold information and reflect it back to us.

On another level, Duban explains that crystals can be defined as “the essence of life manifesting on earth.” He admits this definition is more grandiose, but when you realize that you’re interacting with crystal forms every day, and that you already communicate on telepathic levels, in a sense, crystals are just another form that bring these two worlds together.

Aside from their medical and symbolic use throughout history, if you want proof of the power of positive intentions in crystals, science can give that to you. Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto conducted experiments in which he took jars of water and used either positive or negative affirmations to influence them. He wanted to observe the physical effect of positive words, prayers, and music on the crystalline structure of each jar of water. Not surprisingly, positivity gave way to beautiful geometric crystals whereas negativity created disfigured crystals.

 

A crystal is not a prescription

After spending an afternoon talking to Duban at New Age, I realized that my friends and I had it all wrong. Though they may have powerful energies, a crystal is not a prescription; it cannot fix you. Of course we weren’t quite that naïve, but in a sense, that’s how we were shopping that afternoon. I had picked up a tiny blue gemstone and read the description of it; it said something about helping its holder stop being so judgmental.

“Alex – I think you need this one.”

Similarly, my best friend couldn’t walk two feet without adding another stone to her shopping basket.

“I have a lot of issues.”

Duban explains that it’s our western culture that feels the need to prescribe a medicine when something is wrong, rather than looking for an answer or healing from within. Crystals, with their subtle energies and ability to hold onto information, are designed for us to get in touch with our own intuition.

“Crystals don’t do anything to you,” corrects Duban. “What they are is a reflection of that which is already in you; they are illuminating something in you.”

In other words, they cannot give you something you don’t already have. Think of them like little mini affirmation assistants. Like how the feel of sand brings you joy, and the mountains help you feel grounded, those feelings are already inside of you. Sometimes it just takes a catalyst to bring them out.

Choose a crystal like you choose a lover

Unlike some of the other shops that sell crystals, New Age does not display explanations of the healing properties of each stone. Duban leaves those details out for a reason. He’s not interested in prescribing a crystal to the people that walk into his store. Though that might be easier for us, he’s much more interested in facilitating our intuitive process.

“It’s the same way in which you choose your partner, your girlfriend, any important thing in your life. It’s through your own guttural intuitive process.” Rather than telling you, “This stone will help with anxiety,” or, “This stone will nail you the love of your life,” it’s more effective to see which crystals you are drawn to. “Physicality is important,” says Duban. “But more so, it’s the intuitive draw.” If you like purple, you like purple. But if you choose a crystal because you are drawn to it, “this allows the crystal to have a more potent impact,” says Duban. Like choosing a lover or a career, “The mind should be secondary to what your heart is saying.”

Since buying one crystal has led me to buying a whole bunch, I want to know if it’s possible to have too many, like shoes. Or do certain crystals not like other crystals? “This is the human condition we try to put on everything,” explains Duban. In our own lives we’ve had experiences of “too many cooks in the kitchen” or certain people clashing with one another. But crystals are not human. Unlike us, they all get along fine.

The best place to keep them is near you or on you, which is why you’ll find them in a lot of jewelry, “Some I party with; some I travel with,” says Duban. It’s all up to you and that intuition of yours.

When we’re willing to listen to our intuition and believe that our affirmations have power, we begin to live with more ease. The use of crystals is simply a vehicle to explore that deeper.

Back to my girlfriend who is counting on her rose quartz to facilitate her in finding love. Duban points out, “If you’re going to manifest something, the first thing to do is say it.” Whatever it is that we want – balance, love, direction, or courage – the pursuit of those things all begins with a willingness to say it out loud. Affirmations and intention hold power, and evidently, so do those beautiful little stones.

Read Branded Magazine online here.

On The Grind

On The Grind

“It’s kind of like dating. Once you’ve tried something of high quality, Tim, Donald and Buck just don’t do it for you anymore.”

Originally published in Branded Magazine: The Drive

The first cup.

The first time Jessica McCarrel tried coffee, she was repulsed. The beautiful aroma that filled her childhood home was a façade. By the time she was in post-secondary, the ‘shit-coffee’ that her school’s cafeteria served was just a way for her to stay awake.

Similarly, the first time Phil Robertson of Phil & Sebastian ordered a cup of coffee, it wasn’t any better. He just needed a way to stay focused in his engineering classes, “It tasted awful, but it worked,” said Robertson. And when Cole Torode of ROSSO was sixteen, he just wanted to find out what all of the fuss was about at Starbucks. So he ordered a vanilla latte.

“I hated it,” said Torode.

Most of us have come a long way since our first sip. We no longer order a triple chocolate frappuccino and call it a coffee. Now, it’s become much more about connecting with each other than getting our caffeine fix. When someone says to you, “Let’s grab a coffee this weekend,” you know that this means more than the words themselves; it means you’re going to connect, catch up, or gossip about last weekend. McCarrel’s cafe, Kaffee Klatsch, literally translates to ‘coffee’ & ‘gossip’.

But that doesn’t mean the quality of what we’re drinking doesn’t matter; it matters a whole lot, especially to these roasters and baristas. This is the story of the individuals at the helm of ‘Coffee Culture’ in our city. Whether they forged the path or are just getting started, they’re ensuring that we no longer settle for ‘shit coffee’ while we send emails or get our gossip in. Jeremy Ho of Monogram explains that these days, “People’s standards are higher about what they put in their mouth.”

That’s what she said.

Where them good cups of coffee at?

Pre-Beltliner, McCarrel was always on the hunt for good coffee. “Straight up, I didn’t like anything that anyone made,” said McCarrel.

A few more years back in time, Phil Robertson and Sebastian Sztabzyb, two engineering lab buddies, were also lamenting the fact that good coffee was so hard to find. Eventually, rather than just loving good coffee and complaining about having no where to get it, the two of them decided to step up and create such a place.

Lech Wojakowski, owner of The Roasterie, shared the same problem: a love of good coffee but no where to get it, and so began his 30-year journey. His shop in Kensington was the first of its kind, bringing roasting to a street front cafe. It was the first time a lot of people had tried something other than Maxwell House or Nabob, “People were curious and in a very short time, we had a line up out the door.”

Simply put, it was about noticing that there was something missing in our city and then doing something about it.

Why coffee?

So it’s clear that we needed better coffee, but how does one decide to turn this quest into a career?

“I guess the sexy answer would be, I don’t even know what I would do without this,” laughs Ho.  Four years ago, two of the three Monogram boys were working at Phil & Sebastian, “I found myself researching coffee in my spare time. I was giving so many hours to work, and barely any to university,” said Ho.

Terrible student – but an amazing barista.

McCarrel’s career choice was a process of elimination. “I have like, two interests. The visual arts, and coffee.”

For Phil & Sebastian, their partnership was one of serendipity. After a mix up with his school registration, Robertson found himself with a brand new group of students in year two of Engineering. Annoyed that he was separated from the peers that he had already formed relationships with, he needed a new lab partner, and Sztabzyb happened to be standing beside him.

The rest is history.

“Right away we were fairly inseparable,” Robertson tells me about how more than once the university turned the lights out on them in a lab. They never stopped working until their projects were perfect.

It’s this very same standard of excellence that drives their business today.

Unlike the others, Russ and Chris Prefontaine – better known as The Fratello Brothers – have a long history with coffee that dates back to the 70s. Their father, along with Wojakowski, were the first two pioneers of coffee in Calgary. Their business’ may have been separate but the goal was common – to create a community around independent coffee.

Wojakowski, about to celebrate The Roasterie’s 30th anniversary, tells me that he knew there was a lot of opportunity in coffee, but never thought he would do it for 30 years. That’s the thing about finding the right career, whether you’re born into it or you stumble upon it, the passion takes over, “To me it was never work … it was just a really good ride.”

As I sipped on a latte at Corbeaux, The Fratello Brother’s reminisced about their long caffeinated history, “It’s literally the only job I’ve ever had,” says Chris. “I’ve never thought that we wouldn’t do this.”

Looks like Chris takes the cake for sexiest answer.

Coffee 101

Why are more people buying custom roasted coffee instead of grabbing a Starbucks? If you ask these pros what goes into a quality cup of coffee, you’re going to be there awhile.

“It’s not ever one thing,” explains Robertson, “It’s about all the links in the chain. That’s where you achieve quality.” A little coffee 101 for you: those links he’s talking about are origin, roasting, and brewing, “You need to get all three of those right to achieve excellence.”

Even if consumers don’t understand all of the chemistry behind a good cup of coffee, all of these roasters spoke to the fact that they have a lot of confidence in people’s ability to taste the difference.

“Environment, service, product. It’s gotta all come together,” says Chris. “When you can hit it all, you’ve got something interesting.” Russ adds, “A good cafe should be helping educate the consumer on discovering different flavours.”

Chances are what you’re going to discover is the passion and expertise going into the coffee at these cafes is worth the trip.

More than a flavour.

The quality of the coffee and the bean itself goes with saying, but the community of coffee culture in Calgary is just as important, “We heavily focus on service and creating a warm environment,” says Ho. “It’s assumed it’s going to be good coffee – we don’t have to talk about that.”

Whether it’s the 75-year-old lady who has been a regular since day one, or one of their frequent canine visitors, when these coffee fanatics started talking about their community, that’s when they really light up.

All the coffee connoisseurs spoke to the joy of getting to know their regulars and watching their lives grow. From dates, to newlyweds, to babies and business, “It’s great feeling like we’re a part of that” says Jessie Attrell of Rosso.

Even though they’re all serving the same beverage, you don’t get a sense of tense competition. Wojakowski shares the discussions between roasters at industry conferences are always about the newest bean or innovation, “It’s always this happy group of people together.” They simply inspire one another to raise the bar. “We want to pull from the Tim Hortons and the Starbucks, not each other,” says Torode, “The more vanilla lattes we can transition the better.”

I also asked everyone what their biggest challenge has been.

“I think for me, it’s been working with Ben,” laughs Ho.

For Rosso, it’s saying no to vanilla lattes.

But in all seriousness, they have the same challenges as any small business running on passion.

“You have this idea of where you want to take your business,” explains Robertson. “But you need to have the patience to let it be realized. I always have higher expectations than we ever achieve. I always want it to be better, whatever it is.”

And of course, like in business and in life, the people you surround yourself with are key.

“The hardest variable to control in all of this is people,” explains Chris Prefontaine. “There are so many hands that have touched every step of the process. What is critically important is that you align yourself from start to finish with people that give a shit. That’s the key.”

Starbucks versus Everyone

Robertson puts it this way: “How do you compare Model Milk to McDonald’s?”

Ho gets me to consider the difference between going to Tim Horton’s and sitting at Monogram. “They are almost like different products. Obviously they still have the same bones, but when you think about the drinks and the experiences that you get, it’s so different.”

It’s not to say that Starbucks is the devil, “They have done an amazing job in terms of consistency,” says Torode. Attrell adds, “People like what’s safe and they recognize a brand. But it’s worth stepping outside of the box to experience something special.”

Wojakowski recalls when Starbucks started, “They brought a large scale of awareness to specialty coffee.” But it’s clear that being a part of a smaller micro world has a certain richness to it and unique opportunities for innovation.

“Independent cafes should always be better. Period.” says Sebastian. “It shouldn’t be a question about where to go. The fact that we have to answer this question means we still have work ahead.”

It’s kind of like dating. Once you’ve tried something of high quality, Tim, Donald and Buck just don’t do it for you anymore.

Attrell at Rosso tells me her favorite thing is seeing people’s reaction the first time they taste specialty coffee. Yes, Calgary wants to see local thrive, but it’s the taste that’s really going to hook us.

Because of these individuals’ high standards, the innovation, and creativity won’t stop anytime soon. In fact, with a research project underway at the U of C, Phil is about to start tackling some of the big problems that the entire industry faces.

(Hey U of C – Better keep that lab open late.)

Our city is evolving, and coffee plays a part in that. Monogram, Fratello, and Lech all spoke about international influences in ‘Cafe Society’ and ‘Coffee Culture’, “We’ve experienced excellence elsewhere and we want it at home too” says Chris Prefontaine.

When I asked our original coffee pioneer what was next for him, Wojakowski didn’t hesitate. “Another 30 years.”

In summary, I can tell you from experiencing the taste and getting to know the people driving this industry, the future of our coffee is in good hands.

Don’t Call Me Baby, But Please Fix My Dishwasher

“You’re pretty.”

The boyfriend whispers those words into my ears. It’s 5:45 am and I can barely open my eyes. I have floor to ceiling windows in my condo and I face east, so my bedroom is like a sauna, a very unflatteringly bright sauna.

I make a pathetic whining noise and hide my face in his shoulder.

You’re pretty.” I say, as if I’m challenging him.

His compliment is genuine and sweet, but I do not believe him – especially in the early morning light.

But the thing is, even if he was saying those words while I was sporting effortlessly perfect hair, a sexy spray tan and my dream outfit, I would still have a hard time letting those words sink in.

Low self esteem? Not really. Ungrateful bitch? Some might say. But I think there’s more to the story.

Dr. Gary Chapman, relationship expert and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Five Love Languages, claims there are five different methods people naturally gravitate towards in how they give and receive love. These include words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.

After reading Chapman’s book, I’ve come to the conclusion that simply put, words of affirmation just aren’t my jam.

A LESSON IN COMMUNICATION

Hopeless romantics out there might not like hearing this, but you know that euphoric feeling you get when you “fall in love”? Gary Chapman says that’s not going to last. 

In fact, you’ve got about two years max.

I almost closed the book when I read this, die hard romantic that I am. It was like learning that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny weren’t real all over again.

But I kept reading out of curiosity. After all, the subtitle to the book is “The Secret to Love that Lasts.”

I needed to find out the secret.

So after the “I’m so in love” fireworks settle down, things get a little trickier. In a very non-romantic way, Chapman explains that one of our basic human needs is to feel loved, but how we actually have that emotional need met after the euphoria dies, is not the same for everyone.

After years of research and counseling he found one fundamental truth: “People speak different love languages.” Someone could be expressing their love for me in Italian, but I don’t understand Italian, so I’m not going to get the message.

When expressing your affection for bae, it’s the very same thing.

“Language differences are part and parcel of human culture,” Chapman explains . Just like how we don’t all speak the same languages around the world, in order to be “effective communicators of love”, we need to communicate in the love language that our partners understand.

Hearing about how pretty you are in the morning might fill you up with love and emotion, but it does nothing for me. And on the flip side, just because I don’t feel the need to hear how much my boyfriend loves me five times a day, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t need to hear some kind of verbal affirmation himself in order to feel secure in our relationship.

In other words, knowing each other’s love language is basically the secret to not fighting with your significant other.

That’s a bold generalization, but if you’re curious, read on.

After reading “The Five Love Languages” and becoming more aware of the “expressions of love” in my life, I’ve discovered that I’m quite needy. I think depending on my relationship status, time of the month, how things are going at work, how tight my jeans are fitting, and where Mercury is in rotation, I need a combination of everything. 

Here’s a look at three of the five love languages. 

Acts of Service (You’re a Brat)

I can list the moments in my dating career where I felt the most love rushing through my veins.

  1. When my boyfriend in high school helped me with my math homework
  2. When my one night stand last summer made my bed for me
  3. When one of my Tinder dates fixed my kitchen cabinet
  4. When the jerk I was dating last fall said he’d do my taxes for me.
  5. When my boyfriend picked me up my favorite flavor of toothpaste when he saw that I was running low.

It’s very clear that my top love language is ‘Acts of Service’. I love it when people do things that make my life easier or take a burden off my shoulders. Sometimes I feel like a lazy little brat, especially when my boyfriend does something that I could totally do myself.

But no matter how many times I take the love languages quiz, single or taken, I always score the highest in ‘Acts of Service’.

Tell me I’m pretty? I get upset with you.

Buy me toothpaste? You’re getting lucky that night.

Quality Time (Dating You is Very Time Consuming)

“You never talk to me.”

“Do you have to have the TV on right now?”

“You’re always on your phone.”

Sound familiar?

Chapman explains, “People tend to criticize their spouse most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need.”

If quality time is your thing, you need undivided attention, real conversation, and probably a lot of it. And you’re likely to point out when your partner isn’t giving it to you.

Where I get critical, and this was a big clue as to which love language is foreign to me, is when I hear disgusting things like, “Has anyone told you how beautiful you are today?” or, “I missed you baby.”

When an ex said those things, it took everything in me not to yell, “DON’T CALL ME BABY.” I was critical of every nice thing he said.

That brings me to another love language worth talking about.

Words of Affirmation (Dirty Talk Doesn’t Count)

“I knew I loved you when you drooled on me and I wasn’t mad.”

Even though ‘Words of Affirmation’ aren’t my jam, hearing this made me pretty damn happy. I guess when it’s the right guy I don’t mind a little verbal acknowledgment.

There’s no doubt that during the beginning phases of dating someone, it’s a dream to hear how they feel about you (even if it’s a reminder of the time you fell asleep and drooled on their shoulder), especially if what they’re feeling is L.O.V.E. After you’ve been together for awhile, a common question you’ll get from your friends is, “Have you dropped the L bomb yet?”

This conversation is a marker.

But after that initial declaration of one’s feelings, some of us need more consistent affirmations than others do.

After seven years together, my girlfriend and her fiance took the love languages quiz. She realized that she had spent the last seven years expressing her love through ‘Acts of Service’, constantly doing things for her love that would make his life easier.

Except he hardly seemed to notice. This drove her nuts.

But as they found out, her fiances love language was not acts of service. They did nothing for him. What he really needed wasn’t being taken care of, it was words

“You mean all I have to do is say nice things to him and he’ll be happy?”

Could it really be that simple?

Yes actually. 

“This damn book changed my life,” she tells me now on the regular.

She has a difficult time expressing her feelings through words, so now I remind her weekly that she should probably tell him that she loves him, appreciates him, finds him sexy, etc. Sometimes I even write the text messages for her.

But he doesn’t need to know that. He’s finally getting his words of affirmation, and therefore, he’s a much happier fiance.

LOVE & CHOICE

The heart wants what the heart wants. At first, it doesn’t feel like we have much choice in the matter. Maybe it’s fate, maybe it’s chemistry, maybe it’s Cupid. Whatever it is, when sparks start flying there doesn’t seem to be much logic in falling in love.

But as the months and years go by, choice seems to play a larger part in that love actually lasting. This is where Gary Chapman’s logical approach to relationships makes a lot of sense.

There are mornings when I might fight the urge to yell “Get OFF of me,” but I don’t, because my boyfriend’s love language is ‘Physical Touch’. Falling in love with him wasn’t a choice. Letting him get his morning snuggle in is definitely a choice.

Seemingly minor interactions with one’s partner can add up, for the better or worse of the relationship.

Chapman concludes, “If I have not learned her primary love language or have chosen not to speak it, when she descends from the emotional high, she will have the natural yearning of unmet emotional needs. After some years of living with an empty love tank, she will likely “fall in love” with someone else, and the cycle will begin again.” (136)

I don’t like the sounds of that.

It really is the little things that end up mattering. That one phrase, “I knew I loved you when you drooled on me,” or that one hug that you ran back for, could make the difference in your lover feeling happy and secure.

So learn your love languages, speak them, and fill each other up. This just might be the secret to our generation defying the odds and actually having love that lasts, decade after decade.

Three’s A Crowd

An Experiment.

There are a lot of good things that come in three. Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, BLT’s, or being three sheets to the wind on a Friday night. All great things. There’s even a Latin phrase, “omne trium perfectum” which means everything that comes in three’s is perfect.

But what if the thing that’s coming in three is men?

A little while ago a friend said to me, “You should try dating three guys at once.”

“Three!?” The good-girl in me disapproved.

Also, who has time for that?

“You’re not sleeping with three-just casually dating.” She clarified.

“And how long am I supposed to continue seeing three?”

“Until one of them declares his undying love for you, obviously.” What she really meant was date three until you get what you want.

After some pondering and the weighing of pros and cons, my roommate and I decided to give it a go. Dating one at a time wasn’t proving successful. I was starting to think I had a 30 day expiry date written on me. I truly felt like Taylor Swift was speaking to me when I first heard the lyrics, Find out what you want; be that girl for a month; wait the worst is yet to come.

Amen sister.

Story Time.

After a couple weeks of attempting this my roommate came home from one of her dates and tried to wake me up. I didn’t wake up–probably because I was exhausted from my own string of dates that week–but I did recall panic in her voice and I remember picking up on a lot of negative energy. In the morning I found out why.

She had been at a movie with Bachelor #1 who we had nicknamed Nice Matt because there was literally no other adjective to describe him. He was just so, nice. She had a tiny anxiety attack before the date, probably a sign that 1. She didn’t really like him and 2. Something bad was about to happen.

They sat down in their seats and Nice Matt put his arm around my roommate. Then, to her horror, Bachelor #2 sat down in the seat two rows in front of her.

She got up to head to the washroom, needing a moment alone. As she stepped into the crowded hallway the first person she laid eyes on was Bachelor #3.

I’m not kidding. This is a true story.

Bachelor #3 had been around for awhile. He had pulled the I-Don’t-Want-A-Relationship card awhile back but she kept him around for his…skills. By the way, when I learned about the birds and the bees in Sex Ed I really wish someone had warned me about all of the grown men in my future that would tell me they didn’t want to be in a committed relationship but would still like to have sex with me. What is that!?

So she bumped into Non-Committal Bachelor #3. He smiled his cocky grin and she briefly thought about running away with him. But she couldn’t do that to Nice Matt.

“Calgary is TOO small for this,” She vented to me. “I’m exhausted, I give up.”

But, like so many things in life, the moment when you want to give up is the moment you have a breakthrough. Spin instructors yell that at me all the time. My roommate is now seeing someone exclusively who is pretty much everything she wants. She’s really happy, and he’s not too nice.

Why This Might Work.

The trouble with focusing on one, especially if you fall for them quite quickly, is that it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. You’re cool and collected until Cupid’s arrow strikes. Suddenly your inner peace is in the hands of this one girl or guy texting you back. You turn into a social media stalker. Nobody likes obsessive social media stalker.

This kind of tunnel vision can lead to trouble because you stop thinking rationally and start ignoring red flags. I literally had a guy tell me that he had no interest in any of the things on my bucket list and didn’t see the point in spending money on travel or experiences; he’d rather buy nice things like his new $800 coffee table. To each their own, but I prefer experiences. And I’m not big on coffee tables. But I ignored this big red flag because I thought I was falling in love with him.

That was me having tunnel vision to the MAX.

I chatted with Debra Macleod, Calgary based relationship expert, about this Date-Three-Theory. She pointed out that whether it’s in a career or a relationship, when we have options and choice we’re more confident and we don’t put up with crap. According to Debra, it’s all about getting your power back in a world where dating has taken a turn for the worse.

Not putting all your eggs in one basket too quickly is one way to do so. By having three potential suitors on the go my aforementioned tunnel vision was eliminated. Yes my roommate and I were tired, but not once did we feel insecure about whether or not one of these guys was into us. We were too busy and preoccupied for that nonsense.

I had some of the best dates during those few weeks. All that serious “Does he like me? Where is this going?” stuff fell away and I actually had the mental space to just be myself and have a great time. Dating became fun again. Not to mention I probably gave off that mysterious unavailable [I don’t give a shit] vibe that makes men magically flock in your direction.

Why it might not work.

There was a down side. Dating three was bad for my health and productivity. I was missing spin class in favor of pints and bottles of wine. I spent my Saturday mornings eating brunch instead of cleaning my condo. The hangover from my Friday night date was sabotaging my Saturday morning coffee date because I couldn’t remember which conversation I had had with what guy.

But the real fear was “What happens when I meet someone I actually really like?” Dating multiple people, no matter how casual, went against everything I had ever done.

Enter in the guilt.

In Debra’s opinion this is the biggest con and a risk you take. “If you do meet a really decent guy in this process, he could get the wrong idea and think that you’re not serious about finding someone.” But Debra also points out that when it comes down to it, dating is a screening process and if you’ve only gone on two dates with someone, there is nothing to feel guilty about.

“You owe people honesty-that’s it.”

Her rule of thumb is that if you meet someone you really like, don’t let things go longer than three dates with the rest of them. Put things on hold to see where things go with the one you’re really into.

See, another good rule of three!

So yes, it was exhausting and I was really unproductive for a couple of weeks. I missed a few spin classes and broke my No-Drinking-on-Tuesday’s rule. And as my roommate found out, our city is quite small. But I have to admit that for the first time in a long time dating felt fun again. My mindset was totally different. It didn’t mean that I wasn’t excited when I met someone I really clicked with, it just meant that this time I wasn’t going to put all my eggs in his basket until I was more certain that we were compatible. Any mention of expensive coffee tables and I’d be out of there.

Attitude is everything. We hear that in more words or less everywhere now and there’s a lot of truth in it. So it makes sense that shifting something in your love life that leads to a better mindset might be worth trying.

The Bad Boy

As seen in Branded Magazine’s “The Rise”

Christian Grey, Jude Law, Mr. Big, Damon in the Vampire Diaries … they all have two things in common.

1. They’re bad

2. They make us weak in the knees

Every girl has liked her fair share of bad boys, but dating one is a different story. There’s a change in the air. In this city, nice guys won’t finish last.

——————-

Urban dictionary defines a bad boy as something like this: “He does what he wants when he wants. He’s unapologetic. He’s independent. He’s a heartbreaker with 5 o’clock shadow.  He’s a selfish, manipulative bastard who sees women as little more than sexual conquests to brag about or mere objects that are there for his pleasure.”

I mean, if I had to summarize the personality of the “baddest” guy I’ve ever dated, that nails it on the head, right down to the 5 o’clock shadow.

When I told a couple of guy friends that I was about to write a piece on bad boys, I was told that I should meet Bad Boy X. A mutual friend called him to propose the idea and Bad Boy X was down to chat about all things manipulative and reckless. As my friend was on the phone with him I made sure to yell, “I’m never going on a date with you – so don’t get any ideas!” We texted back and forth a bit, trying to decide on a time to meet up. I was having some mutual friends over for some drinks and then a skating rendezvous so I invited him.

I knew I might be in trouble when I got this message: “Are you going to be able to interview me while I’m skating circles around you?”

I smirked.

Shit! No! This is where it starts.

The Allure

They sass you and you kind of like it.

They compliment you and you melt.

Even worse, they know the effect they can have on you. When a bad boy makes you feel good you feel really special. As if you’re somehow different than all of the other girls he’s jerked around over the years. For whatever reason, daddy issues maybe, the validation we get from these guys does wonders for our ego.

It’s a dangerous little game. When a nice guy compliments you? Eh. They’re nice to everyone aren’t they?

Here’s the honest truth about bad boys: Usually you can’t stay away from them. Usually they’re hot as f*ck.  Usually they leave you heartbroken.

Honesty: The Ultimate Excuse

The thing is, some of them have qualities that women really like.

Personally, I love human beings who are unapologetically themselves. I’m attracted to them – as friends and as potential future boyfriends. I appreciate people who are brutally honest about who they are and what they want; it’s refreshing.

But this doesn’t excuse being an asshole in the name of honesty.

My old roommate was sleeping with a guy who prided himself in being “straight up” about what he wanted from women. He was everything your mother warned you about: A cheater, a liar, he expected an open relationship with his ex, he spoke crudely about other women, etc, etc.

After some horrible pillow talk about yet another one of his sexual conquests, my roommate called him out: “You know Paul, just because you’re honest about being an asshole doesn’t make it okay to be an asshole.”

Calgary based relationship expert Debra Macleod, and probably the most brutally honest woman you’ll ever meet, had a lot to say about this.

“These guys use honesty as a manipulative tool. They think it excuses their lack of compassion and tact.”

But actually, it just shows that you have no tact.

Talk is Cheap

In today’s dating world where finding a new prospect is as easy as a swipe of a finger, we’re treating each other as more disposable than ever. We say “Next” with little or no explanation to the poor soul waiting for a text back.

My best guy friend is probably considered a “bad boy” by a good chunk of girls in southern Alberta. Not exaggerating. Yet he tells me all of the time how much he misses sex that actually means something. This guy wants a great relationship. And I actually believe him.

But the thing is, how we’re treating each other says something different. If deep down we all want the same thing – a great connection, great sex, a drinking/Netflix buddy – we sure have a funny way of going about finding it.

We want to meet a “great guy” but we’ll indulge the behavior of jerks like Paul in the mean time. My best guy friend wants true love but he’ll take home a different girl every night.

To each their own – if what you want is all of the sex all of the time, go for it. But from what I can see in my own friend circle there’s a disconnect between what we want and how we’re acting.

I told Debra about my bestie and argued “But he really does want to meet a great girl.” She reminded me once again that talk is cheap. “When people show you who they are – listen.”

She has a point. Sure maybe deep down his intentions are good and one day I bet he’ll make some girl really happy, but I feel bad for the girls sticking around in the mean time hoping to be the one who changes him.

A tough pill to swallow:

Here’s something you might not want to admit to yourself.

Most likely, you knew what you were getting yourself into. Whether it was the tiniest of gut feelings that told you, or he did something that made it blatantly obvious, you knew he was “bad” from the start.

I chatted with some girls about their bad boy drama:

“I knew right away I was in trouble”

“The baddest guy I’ve dated is also the one I couldn’t resist”

“He mistreated me the DAY I met him; but I couldn’t stay away from him”

“UGH. What a waste of a handsome face he was!”

“I knew it on the first date. My gut said, this guy is going to hurt me.”

So why don’t we listen to ourselves?

Well aside from them being all alluring and shit, Debra bluntly tells me, “Our fear of being alone can be louder than that gut feeling.”

Ouch. That one stung. And I didn’t like it.

So, will the nice guys finish last?

But do not fret! It looks like true bad boys are losing their charm.

In her book ‘The Modest Minx’ Debra talks about the double-standard between the way we view promiscuous women versus men. We’ve all heard it. “She’s a whore” yet he’s a “ladies’ man”.

Ok I actually haven’t heard the term “ladies man” since 2002 but you know what I mean.

“More and more I see this double-standard loosening it’s grip, and rightly so” writes Debra. “The concept of the “playboy” has gone from glam to gross and I think the trend will only continue. Most women nowadays have a very low opinion of men they see as promiscuous.”

The allure of the bad boy might still be there, but we’re starting to really question a persons values, character, and self-restraint if how they’re treating the opposite sex is not much better than how they treat garbage.

I know a plethora of happy single women who will admit they love a good bad boy, but there’s no way in hell they’re going to settle for one when it comes to actually choosing which guy to take home for Christmas next year. Girls want a guy with strength of character, and vice versa.

You can still be hot as fuck, have a 5 o’clock shadow, be witty, honest, charming, masculine AND be a kind person.

At least I hope that’s possible or I’m in for a lifetime of girls nights and probably a second cat.

I never did meet up with Bad Boy X. He had too many dates that week and I was playing a little flaky. It’s probably for the best as he likely would have taken the brunt of my dating frustrations and I would have just gotten angry and mean.

Or, fallen stupidly in love with him.

Age: Just A Number?

As seen in Branded Magazine Issue 07: The Drive

“Is he immature when you fight?”
“Is he good in bed?”
“He was born in the 90s?”
“Early twenties is the way to go. You can mould them while they’re young.”

“Does he _____  you all the time?”

These are the questions and statements I was bombarded with when it became common knowledge that I was dating someone younger than me.

To address your concerns: No. Yes. Yes. Debatable. Yes.

But I admit I had my fair share of concerns when I realized that my ‘baby crush’ was starting to turn into a full on ‘Oh shit I think I like him’ crush. Would this age gap be a problem? Maybe not now – but what about in the foreseeable future. Would we want different things in the next few years?

I was taking “getting ahead of yourself” to a whole new level.

initial concerns

My greatest concern stemmed from having dated a multitude of men in the last four years who were closer to my age, or older, that seemed to hate the idea of committing to anyone or anything. It was always about sex.

So naturally I became afraid that in a few months, or years, he would think to himself, “Wait a second – I’m a dude in my mid-twenties, I should be sleeping with everyone and everything.”

I knew this wasn’t fair to him – I wasn’t giving him any credit. Just because he’s a handsome guy, doesn’t mean he’s going to turn into a monster. But still, I was afraid.

I blame Tinder and ‘The Dating Apocalypsere: the newest issue of Vanity Fair.

Even though he has eased my fears and has proven to me time and time again that he’s one of the greatest human beings on earth, there are some things one needs to consider before dating someone a lot younger, or older for that matter.

I have enough friends of different ages that I know it’s possible to have amazing relationships and connections with people that are both younger and older. Being young at heart, or an old soul, is a real thing. But romantic love is a little more complicated.

As a girl in her late twenties, the last thing I want is to feel maternal in a relationship. Ew. Which is why I always stayed clear of men (boys) a lot younger than me. I never wanted to have to take care of a guy who didn’t have his shit together, or couldn’t handle his alcohol. I on the other hand, am allowed to drink too much tequila and need carrying home. I am fully aware of how hypocritical this sounds, but after dating for over a decade, I knew what I wanted:

A strong intelligent man, who handles his alcohol, but lets me abuse half-priced wine night. He doesn’t judge me – he thinks I’m adorable.

So no ‘boys’ allowed.

when love takes over

That was until I fell for one that I found to be more emotionally mature and intelligent than anyone else I had dated, probably ever. He was everything I had ever wanted. He was a ‘fuck yes’, the kind that I could stay up until 3 a.m. talking to.

The only catch: He’s seven years younger than me.

But after a few months of seriously seeing each other, it stopped crossing my mind entirely until someone would ask, “How old is he? What does he do?” Maybe that’s when you know the age gap isn’t a big deal – when you never notice it. Our connection made me curious enough to keep seeing him, and eventually that connection far outweighed the seven-year gap. In fact, how great he is as a person outweighs the age difference even for my mother whose first reaction was naturally, “WTF are you doing?”

But there’s one timeline none of us can escape— the biological clock.

If you’re a girl approaching her thirties who wants babies, and your lover is in his early twenties, you might have a problem. Everyone wants different things, but how many guys do you know under 25 that are ready to be a father?

That’s what I thought.

Lucky for me, I’m not even sure I want kids. My boyfriend is the one who would happily give me a whole bunch of babies if that was what I wanted. Even in his early twenties, he knows he wants to be a dad someday. But let’s say I was dating someone in his early thirties who couldn’t wait to have offspring, and here I am approaching 29 still reveling in zero responsibility with a to-do list that includes everything but babies.

I’d most definitely be running the other way.

decisions, decisions

In case love was blinding me, I wanted to find out what other people were saying about the matter.

An expert at marriagesos.com says that seven to nine years’ difference in either direction is doable without any major issues. This put me at ease, though I still get quite the reaction when I tell people that my boyfriend plays football—universityfootball.

One afternoon during a particularly long procrastination spell, I came across Matthew Hussey on Instagram, dating columnist for Cosmopolitan and NY Times best selling author of ‘Get The Guy.’

I typed ‘age gap’ in the search bar. This is what Matthew had to say.

“One school of thought is love is love and you can’t help who you fall in love with. You have to just go with it. That’s certainly true in some cases and there is some romanticism to that, but we also have to apply pragmatism to every situation and say, is this an unnecessary risk I’m taking at this stage…You have to be smart as well because let me tell you something: The guy won’t be smart for you.”

He points out that the younger person of the two of you, girl or guy, won’t be the one to be pragmatic or realistic. Your younger counterpart is more likely to be reckless, positive, and carefree about the matter. “They don’t have the same references as you. You have to ask yourself: Am I willing to take the risk that 10 years from now they won’t be in the same place as me. So go in eyes wide open; if it’s really important and you think it can work, go for it, but be aware of the risk involved.”

I suppose if it’s not age, there may be some other gap or difference that might cause issues down the road. From tastes in music to crazy exes, relationships require you to jump over the odd hurdle, big and small. Far more dangerous than an age gap would be a difference in values, morals, or what you want in your life.

I would way rather take the risk of dating someone younger who doesn’t
yet have a career under his belt, than someone who makes bank but doesn’t have that little thing called integrity figured out.

I recently read a Cosmopolitan article by Monique El Faizy who is also dating someone younger than her. But in her case, it’s a whooping 20 years. She’s calling it a “Life ‘Do-Over’ with a younger man” because her first marriage, and the resulting life that she fell into, didn’t suit her. It’s like she’s reliving that part of her twenties, but this time, “I’m a better version of myself.” She’s well aware of the risks, and even mentions the ever present fear that he might leave her. But here’s the thing worth remembering, and then forgetting: Heartbreak could happen whether we’re identical in age, or 20 years a part.

Monique recounts a conversation at dinner with a friend she hadn’t seen in years. “She liked my husband, she explained, but he and my married life never quite fit with the person she’d known me to be. ‘This makes more sense,’ she said [of the new love].” Who would have thought that a relationship with a twenty year age gap would ‘make more sense’? But for this woman it does. As realistic and pragmatic as we try to be, love and logic don’t often live together. And what’s ‘logical’ for each of us is completely subjective.

She ends the article with this truth bomb: “I think the convention-busting girl I was in my premarital 20s may have had it right. Risk is relative and personal, and sometimes, the socially mandated choices are the most hazardous of all.”

So whether I regret it or not, I know I won’t be using the, “He’s too young” excuse to self sabotage this relationship. As he told me one night after I confessed my fears about him turning into a future fuck boy, “If we don’t work out, I can promise you it won’t be because of that. I’m not that guy, and I never will be.”

If you’re in love with someone born in a different decade, but the risk never seems to cross your mind because everything else is smooth sailing, then age is most definitely just a number.

To the realists in your life that might see it otherwise, remember that we’re all fools when it comes to love. Passing up a “fuck yes” who you have a healthy and happy relationship with because of something as trivial as a number would be far more foolish.

Cheesy as it may be, love is always worth the risk.

Being a Bachelorette

Hands shaking, I poured myself a gin and tonic.

Two hours later, I poured myself another one. If I was anxious before the photo shoot, it was nothing compared to how I felt after.

When I was told that I had been chosen as one of the bachelorettes for Branded Magazine’s February issue last year, I was extremely excited and flattered.

Like, squealing in my car excited.

I remember thinking, “Why me? I’m not cool enough for something like this.” At the time I knew a lot of beautiful successful girls, all of which were just as “eligible” as the next. But nevertheless I was ecstatic. “This is the closest I’ll ever get to being thereal bachelorette!” Don’t pretend you’ve never day dreamed about what it would be like.

Which by the way, I could never handle. I was a nervous wreck after one photo shoot. Suddenly the thought of having my picture printed in a magazine seemed like a nightmare. And this was one city. Imagine the whole world watching you and judging you?

I applaud the girls on TV who manage to do it with confidence and grace. Even if they did not find true love, they nailed thousands of new Instagram followers, probably a book deal, and now get to live their dream of being a ‘fashion blogger.’ Doesn’t seem like such a terrible fate, but like I said, I don’t think I could handle it. 

It’s a small world after all.

“So you’re having a bad day because you got your picture taken?”

The guy riding my elevator with me was mistake number two of the afternoon, following too much gin.

“They put me in a pencil skirt.

He knew me well enough to know that tight skirts and heels were not my thing.

But complaining about how they styled me was just a cop out for what I was really feeling. They could have put me in anything and I still would have needed those gin & tonics. For two reasons.

First reason belongs on an episode of Sex in the City.

After I was told that I had been chosen as one of Calgary’s most eligible singles, I obviously wondered who my fellow single bachelors and bachelorettes were.

Facebook stalking commenced.

I already sort of knew who one of them was because she teaches at my favourite spin studio. I had just never been to her class because I’m one of those snobby fitness people who has a favourite instructor, bike, spin outfit, and music preference, hence it takes a lot for me to try someone new.

I had found out through the grapevine that we had something in common, or rather, someone. But since he was not an ex that either of us had seriously dated, this didn’t impact our blossoming friendship. If anything, we bonded over it.

“Omg, such an asshole right?”

Instant BFFs.

But the other girl I knew nothing about, so…

Click, click, click. “Like” so that she knew I meant no animosity. This wasn’t going to be a Kaitlyn versus Brit scenario. 

It became clear that not very long ago she was in a serious relationship. I came to this conclusion because in my world, you don’t have a profile picture of yourself with a boy in it unless you’re in love. 

“This guy she dated looks familiar,” I thought.

The photos were really grainy and taken either very close up, or very far away. But then I came across one that made my jaw drop. The ex-boyfriend in her profile picture was undeniably the same guy that I had just ended things with a few weeks prior to the day of the photo shoot.

Whoospies.

This finding meant that the last two guys I had dated were the other two bachelorette’s exes, of some sort or another.

Hence, the first gin and tonic that day.

What were the chances? If I didn’t already feel like I was turning into a serial dater, now I definitely did. 

But whatever. As quickly as this small world story had be downing a gin, I also just as quickly realized that it was nothing more than a coincidence, a funny story to tell my friends, a ‘blog-worthy’ occurrence. 

This whole experience was pushing on my self-love buttons.

Most of my anxiety came from being all dressed up in front of a camera, about to flaunt my single status in a sparkly pencil skirt to a whole bunch of people. People who would be cruel and judge me. Because that’s how we imagine most of the world to be, right? Critical and mean. 

I’m not giving y’all much credit am I?

I wonder if any of the real Bachelor’s or Bachelorette’s have a panic attack after they’ve started their journey with Chris Harrison. After their first day of filming when there’s no turning back do any of them stop and think, what the hell am I doing? Do they freak about their hair not looking perfect, or what they’re wearing, or being laughed at? 

Or are they the kind of people who have an unshakable self confidence that someone like me only dreams about having?

This may have seemed like a really great problem to have – I was about to be featured in a magazine as an eligible single. But what this made me realize was just how much I had gotten used to shying away from being seen.

20,000 copies of a magazine was about to change that.

The stress and anxiety that I had after the photo shoot forced me to confront what I was actually afraid of. That all too common fear of not feeling ‘good enough’ and being afraid of what ‘they’ think.

Whether it’s a magazine photo shoot, standing up in front of a crowd, or just standing up in front of one person, there comes a time when we’re forced to step up, show off, or be seen. And in my case, step into a pair of high heels. 

If it’s scary, it’s probably worth doing. 

A few months later I was relieved to hear that one of the other girls they photographed that day did the same thing as I did after her photo shoot – got rip roaring drunk.

What surprised me was that I thought of her as this beautiful, confident, inspiring person. One of those girls with unshakable confidence and a rockin bod to go with it. Never would I have thought that she would have been feeling the same fears as myself.

This whole experience taught me a number of things.

  • It’s a freakishly small world. It only took two years of dating again, a small amount of time in the grand scheme of things, for it to feel like I had exhausted all of my options and that the love of my life was surely not in this city. And if he was, chances were one of my friends had already slept with him.
  • It doesn’t matter how beautiful the photograph is, how confident we look on the outside, or how perfectly put together we seem, you never know what’s happening on the inside.
  • And with that being said, I learned that we’re not all that different from one another. We all go through the “I’m not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough” roller coaster of emotions. And if you don’t, well then good for you.

As much gin as it took, I’m quite happy to have had this experience and gone through the highs and lows of being put in front of so many people. By the time the magazine was actually printed, I had worked through my shit, let go of the “what will they think” bullshit, and gotten back to the squealing excitement that I felt when I first found out, the excitement I felt before I let that handsome devil ‘fear’ have his way with me. The excitement that bubbles up in you and makes you grateful for the chance to step into those high heels and own it.

When you let go of what the world thinks of you, what’s on the other side of that is well worth the roller coaster.

It feels like freedom, and in my case, it did indeed eventually lead to love – self love AND the boyfriend kind.

Originally published in Branded Magazine