The Spinster Wish: A Book Review

“I was twenty-eight. It was the year 2000. Nobody was making me marry anyone. But the pull toward it felt as strong as an undertow, the obvious next step in a mature and orderly existence. And when I thought about being alone at forty – the inconceivable far future – I froze.” Spinster (100)

Whether you’re engaged, comfortably coupled up, or so single you can’t remember how to talk to boys, you can probably relate to Kate Bolick as she describes what it feels like to be twenty-eight. If you’re on the cusp of thirty and marriage still feels like a big fat maybe, your grandparents have definitely expressed concern and you’re likely having terrifying thoughts of the title of Bolick’s book, thoughts of becoming a Spinster.

I turned 29 yesterday – I can absolutely feel ‘the pull’ and have for a long time. I’m not single, but I am far from living out a “mature and orderly existence.” There is no stable career and no foreseeable engagements or pregnancies. Instead, I’m getting everything in order to move across the ocean and work abroad for a year. 

When the people in my life found out about my travel plans, the number one question asked was, “What about x?” where x denotes my amazing, handsome, kind, sexy, supportive, perfect boyfriend.

Of course that’s their number one concern; I probably would have asked that same question if roles were reversed.

Surely my decisions must hinge on the fact that I am in a relationship. And here is why:

“Whom to marry, and when will it happen – these two questions define every woman’s existence, regardless of where she was raised or what religion she does or doesn’t practice. She may grow up to love women instead of men, or to decide she simply doesn’t believe in marriage. No matter. These dual contingencies govern her until they’re answered, even if the answers are nobody and never.” (1)

This is how the book starts. I knew I was going to dig this half-memoir/ half-history lesson as soon as I finished reading that sentence. It came as a blinding flash of the obvious to me; it was true, from the moment boys no longer had cooties, this had been the heart of the matter for myself and the females in my life in most romantic encounters, give or take a few nights of careless debauchery.

It’s always a question of whether or not you want to date them, followed promptly by the question of whether or not you think they are it, a conversation that gets really old, really fast, the longer you’ve been on the hunt. Eventually, we get sick of the search for stability and soulmates, and that’s when thoughts of spinsterhood become a regular occurrence.

In Spinster, a title that seems to turn a lot of people off when I suggest they read it, Bolick dives into the lives of five women in history who weren’t necessarily spinsters as the term is defined, but were women who definitely took the road less traveled. Fused together with her own refreshing perspectives on marriage and the single life, Spinster reveals all the ways in which the world around us makes remaining single seem like a terrible existence. She simultaneously offers up examples of the complete opposite – women who remained single and were happy anyway. This is not an angry feminist rant but side effects may include loving your single status more than ever – maybe even wanting to keep it more than you want a diamond ring. 

After revealing the story of one such woman, Kate Bolick writes, “Finally, here it was, the conversation I’d been looking for.” What she had been looking for was a conversation that I didn’t know I had also been looking for, until, of course, I found it in her book.

In her own life, Bolick grapples with a desire to be alone, even when coupled up with seemingly amazing men. Her willingness to tell the truth about her feelings pulled me right in – I underlined the shit out of that chapter.

Here it was, the conversation I’d been looking for. Nowhere have I ever found the conversation that let me know I wasn’t crazy for not remaining in perfectly stable relationships.

Once, back when I thought I was letting go of a pretty great relationship, one that seems painfully mediocre when I compare it to the one I’m in now, I remember thinking, “I know why so many people just stay together.” It hurt so much to walk away, and I was doing it to myself. But in that case, the only thing that felt more impossible than leaving was staying when deep down I wasn’t happy. And so once again I found myself single.

I always thought the problem was that I wasn’t with the right person. Otherwise, why would I have this strange desire to be alone? It wasn’t about wanting to keep playing the field; trust me, dating is not my sport.

The truth is, after a breakup I would always feel incredibly free, almost blissful. Colors seemed brighter, I’d play my music louder, I’d get more excited about my future… Often I’d be pulled back into the comforts of him one last time, whether it was his friendship, company, the sex, or something else. The comforts of relationships can be hard to say no to; I have not yet mastered the art of letting go. But I have always instinctively known the final outcome.

What I realized reading Spinster was that relationships always feeling stifling to me was never about the guy – it was about me. The huge success of self-help has taught us to always point the finger at ourselves. So I used to think that meant there was something wrong with me, some fucked up beliefs about marriage that needed to be sought out and let go of.

But finally, thanks to this book introducing me to a different conversation, one that had apparently been happening for centuries, I finally felt like maybe there was something right with me. Or that, at the very least, I wasn’t alone in my mixed up desires. This isn’t, and never was, about the guy in question.

Unlike the five women she writes about in history, as far back as the turn of the last century, the choices I am making are far from radical, These women were actually doing something worth writing about; they were, as the subtitle suggests, making a life of their own.

Bolick also gets us to consider the similarities and differences between her 5 single women of the last century, to the single woman today:

“Transport Edna to our own era, and she’s a lot like the rest of us – a woman who wanted to enjoy her youth as long as she could … with one crucial difference: How many of us today are able to unlace our contemporary corsetry of received attitudes? …I suspect she’d have told us that if there is a point to all of this, it’s to take life very, very seriously, and to love whomever you want, as abundantly as you can. Her legacy wasn’t recklessness, but a fierce individualism that even now evades our grasp.” (152)

Though we’ve come a long way, the single woman today doesn’t have it easy. We express worry for the thirty-two-year-old woman alone at a wedding, we half-jokingly make fun of ourselves for not being able to keep a man, we walk home from bars feeling lonely and fed up. Bolick pulls back the curtains and looks atwhy.

All my single ladies – please know that in my opinion, both existences can be wonderful and the grass is never greener. I love love and I love the man I’m with. He lets me be me, even if I’m kind of an asshole from time to time. I feel free to choose for myself, be myself, and create a life for myself. There’s this strange understanding between us mixed up with all the love. That we have to let one another be, to grow into who we are as individuals. We love each other independent of being in a couple; it’s quite possibly the best kind of love. 

It’s not that he, or any of them, were not the right guy. Any one of them could have been “the one,” but this was my part to play – this rather inconvenient wish to be in an incredible relationship, and to also be free.

I suppose I have what Bolick calls the “Spinster Wish”.

Sometimes I wish I was like the ‘vast majority’ that she references. I think life would be a lot easier that way. I wish all I wanted was to follow my boyfriend wherever he may go, never questioning my life and my love for him. To be a wonderful wife, and someday a wonderful mother.

Bolick eventually comes to the understanding, and allows us to do the same, that we don’t need to justify our lifestyles. We can decide which measures of adulthood we want to take up, and which to leave behind.

Kate Bolick helped me find my tribe, women whose “personal freedom is more precious to them than the protection of the best men” – Josephine Redding, 1895.

I just had no idea they’d been around for so long.  My overwhelming feeling after I had finished the book, the feeling that makes literature so beautiful, was, “I’m not the only one that feels this way.”

Read Spinster. It will make you rethink why you want what you want, and if anything, will make you see that it’s okay if you happen to want something different. 

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

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