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

Love Actually (Maybe)

“The magic moment is that in which a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ may change the whole of our existence” – Paulo Coehlo

Decisions, decisions. To text him, or not to text him. To kiss her, or not to kiss her. To get back together with the asshole, or to tell the asshole to go to hell. To marry her, or not to marry her. If at these kinds of relationship crossroads you’ve never second guessed yourself, or felt pulled in different directions, then you are one of the lucky ones.

It’s no secret that dating and relationships can be tricky. Love, and our pursuit of it is one of the most talked about and written about issues in our lives. It’s this emotion that in many ways is the most beautiful and uncomplicated thing in the world. Yet the amount of hours I’ve spent decoding conversations, analyzing feelings, and asking for advice, is insane. And I know I’m not the only one.

This also isn’t unique to our generation. I have a friend, who in all of her brilliance still calls me asking for dating advice even though she makes a living helping other people with their problems. She’s the one that everyone else goes to. Yet when it comes to dating in her forties, she’s got the very same questions my friends in their twenties do. Then there’s the 60-year-old woman I met in a mastermind program. One night I spent nearly two hours on Skype with her talking about the man she had feelings for. “Should I text him? What should I say?”

We’re not all that different. It’s the same rush of emotions, the same conversations, the same questions. Much of our time is spent in a grey area, unsure about where things are going, or if we want them to go anywhere at all.

The Law

In 2008, Mark Manson wrote an article titled Fuck Yes or No in which he explains, “Most dating advice exists to ‘solve’ this grey area for people. Say this line. Text her this. Call him this many times. Wear that. Much of it gets exceedingly analytical, to the point where some men and women actually spend more time analyzing behaviors than actually, you know, behaving.”

Indeed, the internet is full of articles insinuating that they hold the secret to finding love, or keeping it. The only problem is, there’s another human being involved. A human being with their own thoughts, feelings, patterns and behaviors that regardless of how much you perfect your behavior or text messages, will still act on their own accord.

So, Mark Manson provides some clarity. Here is the answer we’ve all been waiting for.

“The Law of “Fuck Yes or No” states that when you want to get involved with someone new, in whatever capacity, they must inspire you to say “Fuck Yes” in order for you to proceed with them. The Law of “Fuck Yes or No” also states that when you want to get involved with someone new, in whatever capacity, THEY must respond with a “Fuck Yes” in order for you to proceed with them.”

It’s uncomplicated, clear, and incredibly effective. If it’s not a ‘fuck yes’ then that means it’s a no. Manson explains that this gets rid of a lot, if not most of the grey area in dating. We would save ourselves a lot of energy and pain if we lived by this.

“The Law of ‘Fuck Yes or No’ implies that both parties must be enthusiastic about the prospect of one another’s company. Why? Because attractive, non-needy, high self-worth people don’t have time for people who they are not excited to be with and who are not excited to be with them.”

While I agree with everything this article says and try to live my entire life by this, I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a few minutes before I go back to following this law religiously.

What if …

  • What if you’re one of those people who falls really hard, really fast, for everyone that you meet. If this doesn’t apply to you, you know someone who does this.

“They’re the one, I know it!”

“This is it this time, I can feel it!”

“I’ve never felt this way before.”

For these hopeless romantics, everyone they date is a fuck yes.

  • What if it doesn’t feel like a fuck yes right away? 

My current relationship started with my boyfriend behaving like a ‘fuck boy.’ I was his manager at the time and he overheard me saying that all I really wanted for my birthday was birthday sex. (I know, I should have been more aware of who was listening) So he offered it and I promptly told him to fuck off. (I know, not very professional) But he’s a smart man; the seed was planted and obviously in this case it bloomed. He went from fuck boy to fuck yes, but it took a little bit of time.

  • What if it was a fuck yes, but things change?

Furthermore, what if this is a pattern that you keep repeating? Where no one seems to do it for you. Reasons for this could include but are not limited to: daddy issues, ex issues, or your own shit that you’re not dealing with. Maybe your parents got divorced and you’re therapy’s biggest cliche, unable to let yourself be loved for fear that it will be ripped away from you re: mom and dad. Maybe an ex-fling that you had amazing sex with keeps playing with your head. What if the reasons why that ‘fuck yes’ feeling goes away is about you, not about the relationship itself?

Manson does elaborate and explains that you should apply the law to your decisions as it suits your particular circumstance, “Fuck Yes or No doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be falling in knee-wobbling love at first sight. It doesn’t even mean you have be completely convinced that someone is right for you. You can be “Fuck Yes” about getting to know someone better. You can be “Fuck Yes” about seeing someone again because you think there’s something there. You can be “Fuck Yes” about giving things a few months to pan out and see if you can fix the problems in the relationship. The point is: both you and the other person need to be fuck yes about something, otherwise you’re just wasting your time.”

Of all of the dating advice I’ve ever heard, Mark Manson’s is in my opinion, the most refreshing. Frankly I’m a little upset that I didn’t come across it for another 7 years after publication. I could have really used that advice in the summer of 2008. And 2009. And 2011.

Of course, you don’t have to take this advice or any for that matter; as with all things, you get to decide for yourself. And no law or rule of thumb is going to make those decisions any easier. What I would suggest is making sure your choices are actually yours, and not a result of some personal shit that you aren’t dealing with. Make sure that that ‘fuck yes or no’ is coming from a clean slate.

Once you’ve got ‘you’ handled, then start saying “Fuck Yes.” Otherwise it might just be your ego or your pants doing the talking.

Originally published in Branded Magazine Issue 08: The Affirmation

Vanity & Tinder

Vanity & Tinder

Thoughts on the dating apocalypse.

In Vanity Fair September 2015, Nancy Jo Sales wrote an article titled “Tinder is the Night.”

When I finished reading it my overall feeling was, ‘Thank GOD I am not single anymore.’ It made me cringe, it made me feeling disgusted, it made me vow to never download that app ever again, no matter what.

With pull quotes like “Hit it and quit it” and, “It’s like ordering Seamless but you’re ordering a person,” as a woman, it’s hard not to feel like a commodity.

Yet, she didn’t write anything that I didn’t already know through my own experiences. Rather, it just proved my own personal findings to be true. It wasn’t just me. Yet after every failed date, fling, or almost-relationship, I continued to fully participate in the whole thing – dating via Tinder.

The article interviews groups of twenty-something girls and guys living in New York City. The stage is set: “It’s a balmy night in Manhattan’s financial district, and at a sports bar called Stout everyone is Tindering … Everyone is drinking, peering into their screens and swiping on the faces of strangers they may have sex with later that evening … ‘Tinder sucks,’ they say. But they don’t stop swiping.”

After reading the section where she chats with a group of girls post-Saturday night hookups, I couldn’t help but wonder how much of what they were saying was a facade.

They talk about being on the app nonstop, the disgusting messages they receive, but also admit that it’s a confidence booster. (Even though some of the guys that Nancy interviewed admitted to swiping right (yes) on every picture in order to increase their chances of getting laid.) The girls also laugh about how so many of the guys they hook up with are terrible in bed. They make fun of their hookups who can’t get hard, or who finish in two minutes. They laugh it all off with this breezy I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude.

It reads almost as callous as the guys’ interviews.

Do these girls really feel that way? Or are they just trying to impress each other and fit into what they think they’re supposed to be?

I know far too well how it feels to go back and forth between “Fuck it – whatever” and, “I know in my heart this isn’t fulfilling me.”

The article definitely gets this point across: It’s a competition to see who cares less.

And I’m calling bullshit.

“I slept my way across Europe,” said with pride by a girl I met through friends one night out. Soon after meeting her I found out what the catalyst for this was: Some guy had told her she was bad in bed when she was 16. I don’t have to have a degree in psychology to know that she most definitely cares.

It happens all of the time – Choosing sex over our self worth. Choosing the instant gratification of feeling wanted over taking a stand for what we really want.

Matthew Hussey, NY Times best selling author and columnist for Cosmopolitan, wrote an interesting response to this Vanity Fair article on his blog, Get The Guy

His message to all of us: We need to take responsibility for our love lives. “When did we get so awful at reading early signals in an age where everyone is so blatantly obvious with them?” asks Matthew.

Perhaps we are addicted to the challenge.

From my experience, we are not often honest about our real intentions. A frustrated twenty-five-year-old guy in the Vanity Fair article talks about the girls he’s been meeting. “They act like all they want is to have sex with you and then they yell at you for not wanting to have a relationship. How are you gonna feel romantic about a girl like that? I met you on Tinder,” he emphasizes.

I can understand his frustration about getting mixed messages. But, “A girl like that.” That pisses me off. Like what exactly? Is it that she gave it up too quickly, or is it that she’s using the app. There are double standards everywhere you look. 

But Matthew also points out, “It’s unacceptable for men to shrug off responsibility by saying ‘the app made me do it’ – If you’re a shitty guy on Tinder, you’re a shitty person. Period.”

AMEN.

“Human beings were this way before apps came along,” says Matthew. “They’ve just found the technological liquor cabinet, that’s all.”

But were we always this bad? To everyone’s horror, Calgary got second place on Ashley Madison, a dating site for married people. Not a silver medal that we should be proud of. Does having choice at our fingertips make us more likely to behave like these men and women in New York City that Nancy interviewed, or more likely to cheat when we do find someone we want to commit to? Or, were we always this way and just got caught less?

It’s a question I’m not sure I want the answer to.

At least Matthew has some kind of solution for us: “As always, the way to stand out is not to play the same game everyone is playing, and right now the most valuable commodities in the dating marketplace are authenticity and a backbone.”

His advice is that social skills are where it’s at.

Again, I can’t help but feel like our dating success or failure is being directly related to ‘self improvement’, and that feels icky in and of itself. 

In short, dating can be a minefield. But as with a lot of things, the solution is usually simple.

I remember grappling with the questions, “Is it me? Am I single because I’m choosing not to settle? Or am I single because I’m incapable of attracting the right person? What am I doing wrong?”

And then a particularly sickening conversation with the last guy I “dated” before my current relationship. He voiced every self-doubt I had ever had. “Poor you, you want it all, the relationship, true love … and you can’t find it.”

Needless to say, I never saw him again after that. The funny thing about life is that usually when you feel like you’ve hit a wall and you want to give up, that’s when there’s some kind of breakthrough. 

I met someone awesome a couple of weeks after that horrifying conversation. Falling into a relationship with him was a breeze. I didn’t have to pretend like I didn’t care. I didn’t have to perfect my social skills. And I didn’t have to be anything other than myself. It was simple, as it should be.

The solution to the ‘dating apocalypse’ might require something radical. Perhaps what we should do is put our phones away, be our imperfect honest selves, and call bullshit when we see it.

Seventeen Didn’t Last Forever

If having a boyfriend was a skill, I used to be pretty good at it. I was good at finding them, keeping them, and not ever making them too mad. Things always, without fail, would progress from crush to boyfriend. Remember when there was always a great guy to tell your friends about?

Things are a little different now. We spend the majority of our time deciphering text messages and cringing at the selection of people on tinder. I go on dates with guys who think it’s okay to call me baby after 45 minutes. It’s not.

I’d like to share just how smitten and perfect my love life was at seventeen. Prepare to be sick. When I moved last summer I found a box full of notes from an ex-boyfriend that my mother had failed to throw out when a decade ago, in tears, I had ordered her to burn them. Here are some excerpts:

I picked up a note titled: Happy 2 Months! He tells me that the picture I gave him of myself–the 2003 version of a selfie–is in a silver frame with a red heart sitting above his bed. Then this: “I think I would go on a few double dates at least until I start getting made fun of really really bad. I’m entering uncharted territory with you Katie, so I apologize in advance for when I do something stupid. I just hope we can keep having a good time and who knows what will happen. Wherever we end up, I hope we’re both still really, really ridiculously good looking.”

For our 2 month anniversary I also received a crayon colored coupon book that allowed me several back massages–20 minutes max–and multiple sexual favors which I checked off every time they were redeemed. There is no check mark on the last page which was a “FREE coupon of KT’s choice”

Shit, why didn’t I use that?

There’s nothing written about an expiry date…

His fiance would not appreciate that joke.

But seriously what a great gift! Who wouldn’t want a coupon book full of sexual favors that you could redeem whenever you wanted? I had it pretty good back then.

Then I picked up a break up note. “I miss everything about you Katie, especially making you laugh. I wanna be with you, but you don’t trust me anymore and more importantly I don’t trust myself. Your feelings are way more important than mine; you have been hurt enough and it would be selfish of me to try and make this work again. I’m sorry I said things that I could not back up. Thank you for being the best girlfriend a guy could ask for. I didn’t deserve you. I hope you find someone who does.”

That is actually a really nice apology. Like, way nicer than any apology or explanation I’ve gotten from anyone since.

Then of course we got back together and there were a lot of notes with promises not to give up on each other. This one I probably showed all of my friends: “For some reason whenever I watch Newly Weds I always think of us. Maybe because we’re also really hot…” He was a bit full of himself. But then again I’m the one who framed a picture of myself. Not of the two of us, just myself. “…but I always get this tingly feeling about us getting married. I know, weird, I’ll stop there. I love you Katie. You’re 99% of my heart. (Ya gotta have 1% for other stuff).”

In a time before cell phones or cars and when we still had our virginity in tact, there were exciting notes like this one: “Even though I’m nowhere near having enough money to buy a car I’m sure excited about it! Then we could make out in the back, or something like that. I love you; I was so happy when I realized that I did (smiley face). Now all we have left to do is just chill and make each other laugh and have sex…I guess..I’m not really sure what that is (winky face) but I hear it’s okay. We’ll see. I don’t want to yet and neither do you so that’s cool. We can talk about it again at 6 months!”

I just miss the simplicity of my first slightly cocky boyfriend and I. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect relationship? You realize you love each other and then you can just chill, make each other laugh, and have lots of sex. “I love you” meant all you had to do was keep making each other laugh. Now “I love you” is often followed by a whole ton of questions and fears.

What was nice about being seventeen and in love was that there was never any doubt in my mind that he was who I wanted to be with. We weren’t thinking about where we were headed or whether or not we had the same values. It didn’t matter if our vision for what we wanted our lives to look like ten years later matched up. I didn’t have a list of must-haves that needed checking off and neither of us had any baggage. We just had crushes on each other, decided to date, declared that we were in love, and that was enough.

It wasn’t until I was twenty four and dated my first older guy that I was slapped in the face when our little crush didn’t effortlessly turn into a happy relationship. But what he said was perfectly true and accurate: “We’re just too different.”

We were. But that never seemed to matter before. Before being a decade ago when we were all young and innocent and no one had hurt us yet. Now I have friends tell me that if for some reason their happy long term relationship didn’t work out, they would have no clue how to navigate the world I live in.

I’ll admit that as much fun as I’m having navigating this hook up culture and world of dating apps, sometimes I miss being seventeen. You weren’t afraid to give someone 100%, or in my ex’s words, 99% of your heart. Where is this going?didn’t matter. We took things slow in all the right ways and went too fast in the best of ways. We poured our hearts out on lined paper and sticky notes. It was a time where love actually was enough and kissing in cars was the best thing ever.