Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Addiction is Addiction is Addiction

It's difficult to talk about, Gentle Reader(s). Anonymity is supposed to be protected, right? But it's also difficult because when addiction (or recovery) is really in your life because it's carried by a loved one, you do feel shameful and embarrassed. Oh, all the experts tell you that it's not your shame to shoulder, but that's a bunch a crap. You do feel shame and embarrassment, and the lowlier the addiction by social standards, the deeper the shame. I won't go into too many more details other than to say that it sucks. It really sucks and I've only told you this much so that I can qualify the fact that I'm not speaking from some lofty location untouched and untarnished by the stain of addiction. Of course I'd been familiar with addiction and recovery before this period; in fact, a very cherished friend of mine has been clean and sober for about 14 years, so I've been familiar with the process for quite some time. I also have a cousin who I love like a little brother, who's still suffering from addiction, and it's broken my heart to see him struggle. But in the last couple of  years I gotta tell you, I've researched enough about addiction and recovery to write my own book and develop my own treatment program, for Christ's sake. That's what happens when you fall in love with someone who then surprises you with an addiction... then, the long arduous path of recovery. I just thought you should know this before I proceed.

Ok, I'm proceeding. I have lost a friend due to addiction, and I'm sad about it. There, I said it out loud (sort of). Today it is what it is. No, he didn't overdose or commit suicide. He's very much alive. But nonetheless he's been lost to addiction. Here's the tricky part. He doesn't know he's an addict. Ok, yeah, yeah you say, a lot of people don't know they're addicts - that's called denial, duh. And yes, you'd be correct. But the really painful thing about this particular case is that my friend had already been an addict. He used to be a drunk. A stone cold drunk. Truth be told, I never knew him when he was an alcoholic. I met him once he'd reached sobriety.

We met at a social gathering through a mutual friend and I liked him right away. He was worldly, down to earth, lively and fiercely intelligent. Because of his work (which I'll not mention here) he'd become familiarized with an amazing cross section of people, cultures, languages, and religions. He had a wealth of knowledge, shared interesting stories with an ease that was free of arrogance, but was laced with a hint of whimsy as if he could scarcely believe his own past experiences. I thought he was great. We got to be good friends and started a ritual of all night coffee and chocolate convo-fests, complete with any variety of music you could imagine. I really loved our times together; they were a combination of light entertainment, decadence, deep discussion, with a touch of sexual tension.

He did talk quite a bit about his former life as an alcoholic. He spoke about how he'd ruined things with his ex, almost died, and had such blurry patches in his life as a drunk that he'd woken up in places he didn't remember going to. Apparently one day, after nearly dying and being told that he was taking his life into his own hands if he continued to drink, he stopped; stopped drinking cold turkey, the whole enchilada. It was from that point onward that he moved towards becoming the person I knew him to be (for a while). He didn't drink, he didn't do drugs, and I found it refreshing to be around a totally sober person in a city full of pub dwellers. Without all that alcohol, our discussions were frank and lucid. We often talked about his past, particularly during times when he would have to reunite with old friends who hadn't seen him since he'd been an alcoholic. I knew these times were stressful for him, though he didn't come right out and say it.

During this time golden period, I also talked with him a lot about a major relationship transition that was going down in my life, and he was always straight forward, frank, and open in his communication with me - he helped me through a lot of stuff during that time. Sensing the romantic tension, I always felt that he was incredibly unselfish when it came down to it, and he ultimately encouraged me to do what was truly right, which made me really adore him.

We also talked about current friends and the phenomenon of having several different groups of friends with different expectations. He often alluded to one group of friends who flew high and hung out late, and looked to always be having fun, but also made him feel sucked into chaos every time he was around them. He seemed to dislike the chaos these friends brought, but had a difficult time distancing himself from them. We ended up having heavy discussions about the dangerously seductive relationship between recovering from addiction and thrill seeking... while congratulating one's self on abstaining from one's drug of choice. I broached this subject because even though he wasn't drinking at all, I could sense that he was floating in and out of various danger zones.

It's difficult to explain, but for those of you not familiar with addiction, let it serve to say that even when the drug of choice (in this case, alcohol) gets eliminated from a person's life, the shadow of wanting to escape reality and painful emotions remains. This shadow, if not kept in check, can guide a fragile recovering person right into the slimy arms of other problems like chaotic social circles, destructive patterns, and new addictions, like porn addiction or gambling addiction. Unless a person really tackles the pain and flawed thinking underneath the primary drug of choice, they are likely to find something new to be addicted to and be deep into it before they realize what's happened. At the time I could see that my friend was flirting with unhealthy elements in life, but his story of kicking alcohol was so amazing, that I didn't think that he would succumb to any other addictive elements. I thought he could see the forest for the trees.

Ironically, it was my getting sucked into my own life struggles; financial issues, deaths in the family; relationship woes, which put distance between me and my friend. I suppose that with all that I had going on, I assumed that everyone else around me, including my friend, was ok and stabilized. But truth be told, he probably wasn't alright. He always made it seem like he had so many friends and he was on top of things, that I didn't think I'd be missed if I took some time to deal with the catastrophic events unfolding in my own backyard. I did try to stay in touch with him from time to time, but I have to admit, certain things started to discourage me.

Once I randomly called to check on my friend and found him in crisis, saying things like "I can't take it anymore" and "I'm hanging on by a thread," which was pretty worrying. Apparently, he'd been up all night and just walking the streets on his own; even more worrying. I called another good friend who lived much closer to him and asked her to please call him, try to meet up with him if need be, and that I'd be over a bit later to help out. Well, long story short, not long after the mutual friend had spoken with him, I got a call from her telling me that it was all a false alarm, that he was fine, and that he'd told her that I was "just being dramatic." I was floored. Here he had been, on the phone using quintessential doom and gloom phrases, had been wandering around in the middle of the night, and reduced my aid and assistance to me just being dramatic? That was when I sensed something was very wrong. It felt like he'd let his guard down for a while, and then felt so embarrassed about opening up, that he was willing to make me look stupid for reaching out. That was a bad sign. And truthfully, I was surprised because up until this point, he always seemed to be unashamed about his feelings, whatever they were.

The next stage of the fall came in the form of the women. He and I got more and more distant, but when we did talk, he spoke almost obsessively about these weird hookups and game playing sessions that he'd started engaging in with various women. Either they were women from out of town, with whom he hoped to create something - and those visits would never go well - or they seemed to be local women with dodgy stories, like the one who was a stripper, or the one who was a "hostess" (a prostitute basically). There were all these weird unhealthy sort of connections that he was making, but I was too ashamed to really delve into it with him because, if you remember, he and I had a bit of romantic tension. I didn't want to seem as if I was getting overly involved in his love life. He seemed to get very embittered about women very easily - and this seemed so unlike him. I felt guilty because I knew he cared for me and the most I could offer was friendship; I began to sense some bitterness even towards me, and wanted to say something about all of it, but I feared that he would simply accuse me of being "crazy" like all the other women of the world. He'd started becoming fond of calling all women crazy, which again, seemed unlike him. I once went out on a limb and simply told him that maybe the women he was choosing were crazy and perhaps he needed to tighten up his choices - he just glared at me, then said "Ohhhh, no. ALL women are crazy." It was at that point that I put a little more distance between us.

I did speak to him after the holidays that year and was terribly saddened to hear that he'd spent Christmas dinner with a bunch of dysfunctional strippers - I swear, you couldn't make this up - and that he'd spent the whole time listening to their miserable life talk and argumentative telephone calls. The altruistic me kicked myself for not inviting him over to my place for Christmas, I felt so bad. But the sensible me got stuck wondering what in the fresh blue hell would make someone want to spend Christmas with a bunch of depressed, squabbling strippers? It just sounds like something from a film. The fact that I'm even writing this is just full of wrongness, somehow. Total wrongness. I didn't even know what to say to him at the time.

The last stage was the pot stage. My friend started smoking pot. It's a no brainer to figure out that pot is a drug. If you've been an alcoholic, you'll want to stay away from drugs, right? Wrong, I guess in this case. I don't know when he started, I don't know how, but it was a real shocker. He just stepped onto the scene with a fresh new drug of choice. And if you're about to tell me how mild pot is, save it. I know a mild pot habit when I see one, and leaving a friend's house in the middle of a gathering to go halfway across town by public transport so that you can replenish your stash is not a mild habit. I think the thing that was so amazing to us all, was how he had absolutely nothing to say about his new habit. It was weird. He seemed so off kilter, I think everyone was afraid to say anything for fear that he'd go off. I tried to rationalize for a while, justify things by telling myself that he was now just adjusting to life by being moderate; after all, there are some people who practice moderation even when they've had substance abuse problems in the past. Maybe that was his new, moderate life, yes?

But then, I knew something was way off when I called him last Christmas to ask if he wanted to come over and spend it with us and he hastily and, I might add, huffily said "No thank you [NewGirl], I'm spending Christmas where I spent it last year." I wanted to cry out, With the strippers?! The strippers that you hated spending last Christmas with? But I didn't. I just said ok and hung up. Some time later he did come over, along with some other friends, and let it serve to say that his behavior was atrocious.

He behaved like a shell of his former self. He was snippy, he was angry - I could scarcely understand why he bothered to show up, he was so aggressive with me. At one point he asked how things were going with me and I admitted that things were tough in my relationship still, and he replied by saying, "Yeah, well some people just love drama, I've got my own problems." I was like, well why the fuck did you ask then? I reminded him that some people don't simply love drama, but rather, sometimes bad shit happens all at once, for example the three deaths in my family last year, to which he replied "Oh yeah." Amazingly, he'd forgotten or at least pretended to. Not to mention, he was argumentative, and spoke in a patronizing tone. It was if he just didn't give a shit at all. Again, I couldn't see why he came over, if we were all such poor company. He strutted around, sucking down one joint after the next, talking about how he was "Outta this town for good" as he'd apparently made plans to move out of the country. He spoke bitterly about the city we live in, and all I could say in my head was that he'd be surprised to find that bitterness would somehow follow him wherever he went. It was at this point when I realized he'd been lost to addiction again. I could finally see first-hand why his wife left him - and remember, this is from the supposedly 'mellow' drug, not even hard liquor. I can't imagine what he must have been like as drunk.

During these next few times I saw him, he also made out like he was interested in a female friend of mine. Ironically it was nearly two years ago when I first told this same female friend about him, boasting about his virtues and hoping that I could do some match-making for them. I'd thought it was a brilliant idea to hook them up. He used to talk about being lonely and wanting to find love again. He used to say that he'd gotten tired of introducing his reformed playboy friends to their future wives and that he'd grown tired of being a best man at everyone else's weddings. He used to talk about wanting to be a father. I wanted those things for him. But he's blowing it, and the situation with my female friend is a prime example. By the time she got a chance to spend any real time with him, I didn't want to encourage her interest in him at all. I could see that he was engaging in all the tell-tale signs of addiction denial, including distancing himself from friends who knew him when he was healthy and latching on to new acquaintances since they wouldn't notice that he wasn't being himself. But in the end, it didn't take long for my female friend to figure out that he was out of control; the more time she spent with him, the more he seemed to rattle her inner calm. Now she wants nothing to do with him, and it's sad really, because I used to wish for a great woman to come into his life. He's so deep in, he has no idea that he shot himself in the foot, what with loud talking about other conquests in front of her, and displaying generally unsettling behavior. And he has no idea that he did it to himself.

I don't know where I'm going with the end of this blog. Really, there is no official ending because my contact with my friend has trailed off, I think he still intends to leave town, and frankly I don't have the emotional strength to confront him about his addiction. As I mentioned in another blog the other day, I have quite a bit on my plate, so I'm all tapped out. But I guess I could end this blog by saying that I'll just keep some hope. I hope he gets better. I hope he recovers again. He was an amazing guy and ultimately, I hope he returns to a healthy life. Addiction is a mofo, but there's always hope. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, 11 April 2011

What's Bad for Me and the Art of 'Bad People' Removal

I've got a lot on my plate, Gentle Reader(s). Tasks that I can't avoid, and deadlines that need to be met pronto. I really don't even have time to be blogging - but you know how it is; when something's nagging at you, it can be difficult to focus on more pressing matters. I have something that I feel like I need to get off my chest, which also happens to be something that I think you might be able to relate to, so here I am.

I allude to the presence of stress and the pressure of important matters hanging in the balance because times like these can actually provide you with clarity. It's tantamount to the proverbial sink or swim metaphor where you become psychically aware that you aren't going to be able to swim with a whole bunch of cumbersome items strapped to your back. At some point, one might come to the conclusion that some of these items need to be removed to free up one's breast stroke, if you follow me.

In more literal terms, you may ask, what are these cumbersome items that need to be untethered? Well they can be a variety of things, but for the purposes of this discussion, I'm just going to say 'certain people'. I think many of us have our own personal branch of  Bad People Storage Inc. You know the place and I know the place. It's the emotionally based facility where we keep people in our lives who are... well... bad. So then you may ask, what is bad? Please define bad, you may demand. Bad in this instance isn't really defined as fundamentally evil (although it could include evil deeds in a bad person in question) and it isn't a moral application (although it could involve a shaky moral compass in a bad person in question). Bad, in this instance, is fairly subjective and suggestive of the negative affects which certain people have on you and your life. Years ago Dr. Lillian Glass coined the phrase 'Toxic People" in reference to these types of people. And many of us are more than a little guilty of keeping a bushel or even a stable full of people who are bad for us around in our lives; hence Bad People Storage Inc. gets born.

Many of us never really put our fingers on why some of these people are bad for us and we keep them around; many of us inadvertently fall out with the bad people in our lives, but we never really learn the lesson of why and how they were bad for us in the first place and so we replace them with more bad people; and then some of us, in the midst of navigating the more difficult waters of life, come to realize that we aren't going to be able to swim with all these toxic mofos strapped to our backs. We gain clarity. We may come to realize that it isn't about having an argument with one of our bad people, or even a specifically evil transgression exacted against us by one of our bad people . It is at this point when we come to realize that the person (or persons) are just bad for us. When you are able to realize or proclaim that someone is bad for you, understand that that realization or proclamation is unique to your experiences and expectations of fellow beings. It's obvious that what one person considers to be bad or toxic, may not be defined as such by another. But still, I maintain that there are a few common themes in what falls into the bad for you category; SN (sleazy and negative), V (vacuous), UNT (unstable and not trustworthy) and I'll get to those - but before I do, I want to make a distinction.

What Bad People Inc. Isn't

I'd like to point out right now that although that some of the people you call your real friends can certainly be toxic or bad for you, I'm really referring to are the people you're not likely to have a strong bond with or want to level with to work out your differences with as you would real friends. I get that sometimes friends have drama and baggage you can't handle- and for the record I know I've actually been one of those friends to my friends, and then in a role reversal, some of my friends have been those kinds of friends to me. Real friendship involves tough times, whining, getting stuck in ruts, having misunderstandings, battling personality glitches, as well as all the good stuff. Those negative elements can be overcome with communication where both parties have love and good intentions at their core and strive towards mutual understanding. Issues like self absorption and emotional sapping can be overcome with communication. That's what real friends do. People who are bad for you, for the purposes of this discussion, fall into another category altogether.

So What or Who is Bad For You?

Again, it's all subjective. For me, before we even get into any labels, I'd like to clarify my notion that that the people who are bad for me tend to have a general profile; they seem to be the people who aren't around in my life enough to even know what's going on, and visa versa - and I'm not talking about good friends who become so busy that you have to update each other when you see each other again - I'm talking about people who have been unavailable during the sticky or traumatic times, and don't ever seem to want to reveal sticky or traumatic times to others. Some people might simply call these people fair weather friends. But it usually goes a bit deeper.

I've come to recognize that along with the fair weather factor, these people who are bad for me also carry some sort of dark element, or draw to the dark side which they carry at their forefront and they desire to suck you into their crazy way of coping. They commonly engage in destructive behavior and self harming behavior to cope with their problems rather than spending time working their problems out - in other words, instead of having grounded, solid interactions with them, or having deep reflective discussions with them, I always seem to get stuck negotiating with, or dabbling with their dark bullshit. I have found myself doing the dance with them, as I like to call it.

What exactly is doing the dance? It involves convincing myself that if I could just get to their authentic place, we'd be great friends. It involves 'trying not to judge' when I know good and well that what they're mixed up in is bad news for them and eventually me, but still convince myself that I can bypass that muck to locate authenticity within them. WRONG. Some people are just bad for you, and it's pretty codependent to convince yourself that you can make that much of a difference for someone who hasn't actually shown you any good faith or loyalty. Why not make a difference reaching deeper levels with established friends? I've decided to spend less time allowing myself to be suckered and tending to my own personal Bad People Storage Inc. and more time turning my business into Bad People Removal Services. I'm going to give you three examples. Interestingly enough, these three individuals have contacted me in the last 48 hours and I have finally come to a turning point, which is how I've come to write this blog in the first place.


I met Poly-Boy (not his real name) over the Internet about four years ago. I reached out to him because he and his partner were supposedly part of the local polyamory community and my (then) partner and I had questions about polyamory (if you're unfamiliar with polyamory: We had no interest in anything more than fact finding and discussion with like-minded people, so I got in touch with Poly-Boy.

From the onset, it was clear to me that Poly-Boy was looking for any and all romantic encounters he could get. That was the first red flag. He claimed to be polyamorous but functioned more like a swinger. I ignored the red flag. I think I was being arrogant, truth be told. I made it clear that nothing romantic (or sexual) was going to happen, and that I really just wanted to pick his brain on polyamory. I thought that would be enough; be direct, be friendly. Hell, he was an interesting person, after all. A writer, a person interested in politics... what would be the harm in just sidestepping his romantic interests and developing a friendship? The long story short is that the 'friendship' resulted in numerous long phone conversations with a Machiavellian individual, who was hell bent on grooming me as if I were a 16 year old ingenue, even if it meant creating devil's advocate style debates on every issue every time we spoke so that he could impress me with his superior intelligence. I would find myself hanging up from these 'conversations' utterly exhausted, asking myself why I was talking to this guy. In my gut I felt that there was an air of aggression that I couldn't quite pinpoint, but I questioned myself. What was the harm in someone not agreeing with my point of view? Why did his differences of opinions bother me so much? I tried to silence my own warning system by using conventional logic on myself even though conversations with him just made me feel bad and worn out - a good debate should make you come to some sort of understanding of another point of view or philosophy, but instead my interactions with Poly-Boy just made me feel more confused and distant.

Then came the time when I broke the news to him that I had decided to eliminate polyamory from my romantic life. The disappointment radiated right through the phone. I figured that would be it. If his intentions were to groom me for some swingers' deal, he'd bug off at this point, right? WRONG. He appeared to want to maintain a friendship and even meet up. At first this was encouraging, but soon thereafter, the same sort of weird, stressful discussions began to creep back into my interactions with this fellow. I decided to distance myself from him a bit, avoid meeting up for a time, and get on with things. There was no need to make a big fuss, right? WRONG.

I got a call from Poly-Boy the other day.  Months ago, he put me on a social networking invite list of people he hoped would come and visit him and his wife while they're in Greece for three months over this summer. So conveniently, this call coincided with his leaving town for Greece. He was obviously fishing around, hoping to meet me before breaking camp but instead of stating his business, he opened the conversation right away with a debate regarding a social network comment I'd made regarding the weather. Before I knew what was happening, I found myself on the phone for an additional 30 minutes, looking at the clock because I had to take my dog for a walk, as he explained to me that the best way to deal with a loved one recovering from an addiction would be to let that person go out and engage in addictive behavior. He closed this 'conversation' with insisting that we finally meet up "after all this time". I gave in. I agreed to meet him. Why? I think I agreed due to a combination of exhaustion and frankly eagerness to get together with him for what? To see just how much I disliked him in person? I don't know. Somehow I wanted him out of my social life, but wasn't sure how to go about it.

At that moment I knew I disliked him as a person, so why agree to get together? Here I was, talking to a person who clearly had ulterior motives and carried negative energy. I hadn't spoken to him in what, months? Almost a year? And why the hell was I trying to have an earnest discussion with him about what had been going on in my life? Had he called me when times were tough for me or him? No. Had he called to wish me happy holidays last year? No. I was allowing myself to get sucked in again. Why would I waste even a single afternoon on someone like this? I'd found myself doing the dance again and I knew I had to stop.

So I did. I gave myself a couple of days to mellow out and then I called him back this morning. I told him that I wasn't going to meet him on the day we discussed. I told him that I wasn't, in fact, going to ever meet him. I explained to him that, for the last time, I wasn't interested in engaging in any sort of romantic relationship with him, that I wasn't interested in being groomed for his purposes like an ingenue since I'm not a teenager. It was at that point when he told me that he thought that I "got the wrong end of the stick". I assured him that I disagreed entirely and simply put, that I wasn't interested in friendship with him because if he'd been interested in friendship with me he would have been in touch after I had several deaths in my family last year like my other friends were. I also told him that I disliked his argumentative tone because it made me feel tense, not friendly. The bottom line, once I put my finger on it, is that Poly-Boy falls squarely in the SN camp. Sleazy and Negative, and therefore bad for me. There's no need to engage in tense discussions, there's no need to keep his crotch sniffing tendencies at bay. Ultimately, I wished him all the best, and hung up. I simply stopped doing the dance. It was so much easier than I imagined it would be.
(scroll way down for the update as of 13/04/11)

Scene Girl

I met Scene Girl at a film festival a couple of years ago. We happened to strike up a random conversation by way of complimenting each other on our outfits - clearly we had a similar style - both kind of rockabilly, both with jet black hair and red lipstick, the whole getup. It was almost eerie in the fact that we're also both from the same country, living abroad, and even share the same profession. How cool, right? What has transpired since has been a truly bizarre interaction and a totally fruitless association.

We were meant to get together several times, and never did - she basically flaked every time. And then even more strangely, not long after I'd lost my sister, I came to discover that she'd lost her mother. This news came in the form of a social network comment which said something like "My mother has just died, and no one even seems to care." This broke my heart. I stepped in right away to lend my support. We met that one time and came to find out that we were both not only suffering from grief, but that we were also having similar relationship issues. Surely this was a sign, right? So much in common, even common struggles, right? Ok, so she was in deep mourning but showed up wearing a full, camera ready face of makeup mentioning that she was late because she kept drawing on her eyebrow incorrectly, but that doesn't mean anything right? That's what I told myself at the time.

As the weeks, then months drew on, I would get these random texts from her about how we needed to get together, how horrible her boyfriend was being, how she had no one in her life as a support system since her mother passed away, and how amazing that day we'd gotten together had been. But there was one problem. Each and every time I carved out time to get together with her, she flaked. She cancelled so much I was beginning to lose count. These cancellations were always followed by texts proclaiming how sorry she was for being such a "bad friend" but that she was feeling so anxiety ridden about her mother that she was prone to cancel and didn't like going places alone - she was so anxiety ridden. And for a while I understood. I could relate.

There is something about being in mourning that totally destabilizes you to the degree that sometimes you can't make it out. I have been there, really I have. I have been there to the degree that I was balancing three deaths of loved ones and a partner in recovery from addiction. Believe me, I've had to apologize to many a good friend about not turning up somewhere I said I'd be - all based on pure anxiety. There were days that I made it out, then other days where I could barely get up to take a shower. But once it gets to the point that you find yourself talking yourself out of your own anxieties to get out there and support someone else who then flakes on you repeatedly, it starts to get a bit old; really emotionally exhausting actually. Couple that with the fact that the other person also keeps mentioning great places (on the rockabilly scene of course) that she's been to and places that "we should hang out at, cos I was there last week" in between flaking sessions with you and you begin to suspect the big V. V is for Vacuous. And guess what I realized? Here's a gem. Are you ready for the big reveal? Vacuous people are still vacuous, even when bad things happen in their lives.

The romantic concept that people suddenly become all grounded and steady when tragedy strikes is a big fat lie propagated by The Man... or maybe TV and film. At any rate it's a lie. Usually people just go on being as shitty as they ever were. Ask one of my family members who felt it was a good idea to talk badly about my mixed race relationship behind my back while she was in my parents' house after my sister died. Ask my partner who continued to struggle in recovery even after my good friend died. So really, the case of Scene Girl is no different. The difference is I got tired of doing the dance with her. I mean, she'd never been over to my place, I'd never been over to hers; she didn't even know that I had a cat and a dog, and yet here I was doing this exhausting back and forth with her to lend my support... all the while sacrificing my stability. To this day, I still haven't figured out if it was an emotional crutch she needed (all for herself only) or if she just thought I looked like a cool looking friend to have on the books. Whatever the reason, I came to realize that Scene Girl is vacuous, saps my energy, provides no mutual support, and therefore bad for me. She texted me last night. I don't intend to answer.

Miss Shaky Boundaries

When people tell you that they're mentally ill, you should believe them. Granted most people have suffered from some mental instability or depression at some point, or several points in their lives. But when people break out the BP; Bi-Polar, and they want you to know right away, it's probably a good idea to take heed. A lot of people are also misdiagnosed, and who knows what's really up with them. The negative sphere of Miss Shaky Boundaries has been something which has built up gradually over some time, mainly because she was never around enough for me to really cotton onto what she'd been up to. We met one night at a small concert venue, where one of her friends was playing and a friend of one of mine was also playing. She was very forwardly friendly towards me, which is always appreciated in a big city. We exchanged information and vowed to get together, and so it went. We'd get together every once in a while, often on a sunny day, usually over cocktails. Our conversations would range from everything from spirituality, to our family woes. Innocuous girl talk, really, though she seemed to subject flip quite a bit. I sometimes found her difficult to follow, as she'd often trail off in a vague manner when it came to details. I didn't let that bother me, she just seemed a bit spacey - she seemed to be a nice person nonetheless.

As our talks got deeper, she would often mention how much she wanted a boyfriend. She began to share details about men she was interested in. She seemed to fall for people very quickly, wished to define those relationships very quickly, and often what she described led me to believe that these love interests were usually men who weren't particularly interested in anything deep with her. Each time I spoke with her there seemed to be a new guy, one with whom she hoped to build a relationship. I encouraged her to go slower in building potential relationships so that she could avoid feeling used and getting repeatedly hurt. She seemed to appreciate this advice, if nothing else.

Further along, I started inviting her to cocktail parties I'd throw. My parties tend to delineate into a flurry of drunken dancing and loud talking deep into the night. It's a free-for-all, and it's great. But the thing I began to notice about Miss Shaky Boundaries was that every time she came to one of my parties there would be some drama with a man. Once she showed up with a shy fellow who was clearly with her as a date (or at least that's what he thought). She basically blew him off in the middle of the night to give her attentions to another (especially drunk) fellow.

Another night Miss Shaky Boundaries became the center of an argument between two drunk men, one of whom she eventually left with around 5 in the morning. This man, apparently with a partner and a child out of town (I later learned), happily slept with Miss Shaky Boundaries. They were very drunk. It was a bad situation that should never be repeated. No harm done, right? WRONG. Miss Shaky Boundaries left his house without getting his telephone number, admitted that it seemed that he had no interest in seeing her again, but spent the next month pestering me about getting his number and pumping me for information about him. She simply couldn't accept that she was a drunken one night stand and wanted to involve me in gaining further Intel. I refused, said he was spoken for, and left it at that.

The next party came along and, lo and behold, on this occasion, Miss Shaky Boundaries spent half of the night asking me about one of the sleaziest male guests at the party because he was by himself, and the other half of the night observing the romantic verbal banter between two of my other friends. She basically waited for my female buddy to leave the party, then descended on my male buddy like a vulture on roadkill. In the end, she spent the end of the night making out with the male buddy in front of another friend who was trying to sleep, and then eventually went home with the male buddy in the morning. That was bad enough, but I must tell you, my inner peace became sufficiently more disturbed when I reviewed the details of that night and seemed to recall observing Miss Shaky Boundaries serving my boyfriend a cup of tea and parking herself right next to him. That did it for me. Look, I may be modern but I still follow my dear grandmother's old fashioned advice, and she would have told me: anybody that desperate, with such shaky boundaries is not a person you want around you and yours - and I don't care how trustworthy you think your man is. Yep, that's what Grandma would've said.

The female buddy who left the party early, only to have Miss Shaky Boundaries descend on her romantic interest, has graciously asked me not to confront Miss Shaky Boundaries. And up until yesterday I was inclined not to because I assumed that the reason why I hadn't heard from her was because she was embarrassed by her own conduct. But since getting a text from her, I'm beginning to wonder if I should confront her. I mean, I am on a roll these days, slaying sucker MCs left and right. The bottom line is that Miss Shaky Boundaries is UNT; Unstable and Not Trustworthy which puts her squarely in the category of bad for me. I intend to stop doing the dance, one way or another. Another one bites the dust.

All in all, I am now actively electing to remove people who are bad for me from my life and learning to recognize the patterns so that I can keep them out. But you know, in recognizing the patterns I'm discovering that the thing that can be so seductive about people who are bad for you, at least in my case, is that their dark side has some sort of draw of interest to you. My beloved university professor Winston Kennedy once told me to always remember "the success of the Con is based upon the greed of the Mark." And it's true. If you think you're sophisticated and worldly, why wouldn't you be tempted by an exiting lifestyle like polyamory? And if you're intellectual, you tell yourself that you're always up for a debate (and let yourself suffer through the agony of dealing with passive aggressive people). Or if you're fashionable, why wouldn't you want to be around cool and fashionable people who are all into the scene of your choosing? Or, if you're open minded, why wouldn't you want to be around a friend who throws caution to the wind? This is how you get sucked into chaos. At the end of the day we all have a limited amount of time to be productive and live life well. Why keep peripheral people around who are unreliable, untrustworthy, or have chaotic motives? Life is hard enough with family, lovers, and real friends. Why choose to fight that fight, when there are so many other interpersonal, economic, and social battles which are worthwhile and require your attention? Why not learn to practice the art of bad people removal and clear some of that cumbersome weight off your back while you swim? Just some food for thought Gentle Reader(s).

Update: Wednesday, April 13, 2011, early in the freakin mornin

The name of this update is Trust Your Instincts, Gentle Reader(s). Because although it's always good to engage in self-examination when making decisions about totally cutting people off, sometimes you've got to bypass all the intellectual noise telling you that you shouldn't jump to conclusions or make assumptions even though your instincts tell you otherwise. I went into my email this morning and discovered an email that I'd somehow missed over the last few days - I swear this is true - and I don't know how I missed it. Maybe it was a good thing that I did miss it, because then I would've really gone Toby N. Tucker, TNT, kaboom, off. Wouldn't you know it was from Poly-Boy, obviously sent soon after he'd asked me to get together with him (but clearly before I confronted him). This email contained a very simple message: "Here are a few pictures of [Suzie] and me.xx" and the pictures consisted of one naked photo of him (from behind), a couple of candid photos of "Suzie" looking coy with messy hair and clothes sliding off her shoulders, a photo of "Suzie" in a red and white furry cowboy hat and red bra and underwear, and one close-up of "Suzie's" flat pancake butt in boy-shorts and fishnets. Oh I'm sorry. Maybe I was wrong. And here I thought Poly-Boy was passive aggressively trying to groom me for some weird swingers' thing, but obviously I "got the wrong end of the stick" because sending intimate nude photos of you and your spouse to someone you have yet to meet in person isn't necessarily a sexual invitation. It's just friendly, right? Anyone would do that as a friendly gesture - it's just polite. But really, what sort of person argues with you for sport, verbally accepts that you have no interest in swinging with him and his crew, but sends you intimate photos anyway, then tells you that you've obviously got the wrong idea when you confront him about his intentions? A sleazy and negative person. Trust your instincts. What more can I say? Ewww, wish I hadn't seen that photo of him, though.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Fake Out Recipe #2: What a Sweetie Pie!

In America where I grew up, casseroles are old school comfort food - tuna casserole, chicken casserole, hamburger helper type casserole. In Britain, it's pies. Savoury pies. Steak and ale pie, chicken pie, fish pie. And at night, when you've been running the streets and you've had quite a few cocktails and you find yourself  starving, you can even get what I refer to as a mini-pie, called a pasty. De-friggin-licious, folks. England's just full of pies, man. Anyway, one day I decided to try my hand at making my own vegetable pie. I wanted to make the mother of all vegetable pies. I started out with root vegetables. I went for butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, and stuff like that. What I'd created was OK, but in my opinion, JUST OK. First of all, the squash was a pain in the ass to work with. I got blisters from all the awkward peeling and tough meat. And worse, in the end, the pie turned out to be little too bland and not intense enough - I wanted my vegetarian pie to rival the best, most hearty meat-based pies. So I decided to stick with it and experiment. One day I noticed that my local supermarket had run out of swedes (rutabagas). No surprise there, since my local is ALWAYS running out of shit just in time to make dinner food a problem for me. So that time I went for sweet potatoes. Lo and behold, I stumbled upon the best got-dam vegetarian pie I'd ever had since moving to England - and by my own hand, at that. Nobody else's recipe. This pie rocks, and I want to share it with you. So please, gentle readers, allow me to present tonight's dinner...

What a Sweetie Pie (the best got-dam vegetarian pie on earth)

Cooking time: I don't know, like 45 minutes to an hour, I guess.
Feeds: A couple of greedy f*ckers for about 3 days or 6 - 8 guests for one dinner

You'll need a deep pie dish or two not-so-deep ones - believe it or not, I use a deep, 8 inch cake dish and it works a charm. It ends up looking like one of those giant medieval pies with black birds in it.

You'll also need the following:

6 Sweet Potatoes
2 Bags of Fresh Spinach (preferable baby spinach) OR 1 Can of Spinach (WELL drained!)
5 to 10 Cherry Tomatoes
2 Packs of Jus Roll Puff Pastry blocks OR use the puff pastry mix that you add water to and follow the instructions
if you're in America, use those frozen Pillsbury pie crust type roll out sheets - but not the sweet, shortbread ones.
1 Pack of Goat's Cheese
1 to 2 Packs of Feta Cheese
1/2 Cup of Sharp Cheddar, grated
6 Shallots or about 2 Red Onions
1 Large Egg
3 Tbsp of Butter
1/2 tsp of Salt
A sprinkle of Pepper (to your liking)
1 to 11/2 tsp  Dried Thyme
1 to 11/2 tsp Dried Sage
1 Tbs Chopped Garlic
1 A couple of Tbsp of Light Brown Sugar or Demerara Sugar


Pre-heat the over to somewhere around 350 to 375

Peel and cook the sweet potatoes, like you're going to make mashed potatoes. Place them into boiling water and cook until you can easily stick a fork or knife through them. Drain them, mash them in a large bowl, and add the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter to them. Put this aside.

Chop the shallots or onions however you like.

Now, caramelize them by melting 1 Tbsp of butter in a pan, throw in a couple of Tbsp of light brown sugar or demerara sugar, toss in the shallots or onions and saute over a medium high heat until they darken and become sort of sticky. Add these to your mashed sweet 'taters.

Steam the two bags of spinach, then drain them well - squeeze out all the water and add them to the mashed sweet 'taters.

Chop the cherry tomatoes in the round and add them to the mashed sweet 'taters.

Crumble the goat's cheese and the feta and add them to the mashed sweet 'taters.

Add in the grated cheddar to the mashed sweet 'taters.

Beat the egg, then add it to the mashed sweet 'taters too.

Add the salt, pepper, thyme, and sage to the mashed sweet 'taters.

Finally, add the chopped garlic to the mashed sweet 'taters and mix all this stuff up. This is basically your filling for the pie.

Now grease your pie dish with a little butter - just spread it around the dish thoroughly.

Now roll out one of your puff pastry blocks. Roll it out enough so that you can line the entire base and sides of your pie dish AND have an extra half an inch of dough flopping over beyond the edge of the dish.

Fill your pie dish with the mashed sweet 'taters mixture, then roll out the other puff pastry block to make your pie top. SEAL this rolled out pie top along the perimeter by pinching it against the half an inch of dough sticking out from the lining puff pastry - in other words, make a giant parcel. Like any pie, you can shape the excess dough to make a decent looking crust around the edge.

Now simply slice 4 to 5 small vent holes in the center of the pie top before you put the thing in  the oven. Also you can use a bit of egg whites as a glaze over the pie top before you put it in the oven.

That's about it. Cook until the pie top is golden brown. Again, about 45 minutes to an hour.

*Note: if you choose to use two pie dishes rather than one big one, you may need more puff pastry than 2 blocks. Just think in terms of having to line the pie AND cover the pie, and you should be able to figure it out.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Fake Out Recipe #1: Witch's Wicked-Ass Caramelized Onion Chili

One of the things TheNewGirl vowed to do upon creating her blog was to share some of her Fake Out Recipes. There aren't many things TheNewGirl claims to be good at, but being one wicked cook is one of them. I'm particularly fond of creating recipes which taste like they're gourmet and slaved over, but aren't really. It's all very well and good to boast to your dinner guests about how you grew tomatoes in your back garden and squashed them with your bare feet in a giant barrel to make the sauce your guests are eating at that very moment, but in reality, who has time to do all that? It's my contention that slaving away and making everything from scratch is the reason why people say they hate cooking - it takes too damn long. And it can be way too expensive. I love great food, but I'm not rich. So enter, my Fake Out Recipes, which tend to be hearty, flavourful, comfort-food type dishes, without all the rigmarole - because I take lots of short cuts. I'm not afraid to open up a can of womp-ass (that's code for using canned ingredients). My recipes are very adaptable, so if you like to slave away, buy each and every thing to make it from scratch, or you're into eating tree bark, orange peels, rose petals, and tofu (i.e. you're a vegetarian), you can go for it and customize my recipes to your specifications. Also, I'm an American living abroad, so I'll be sure to appropriately note small differences like the use of grams versus oz, or names of ingredients. This recipe came about one time when we were so skint economically that I figured I'd better make something to last through a week of dinners. So please allow me to present tonight's recipe (once I'm finished blogging, this is tonight's dinner)...

Witch's Wicked-Ass Caramelized Onion Chili

Cooking time: About 1 hour and 45 minutes (but don't let that scare you - no need to babysit this meal)
Serves: A whole lotta folks or two greedy ones for several days!

First, find a BIG stew pot and a large wooden spoon. Ok, now you'll need the following ingredients:

(Optional) Rice, if you plan to serve it over rice (duh), but I like it on it's own in a bowl

(Optional) Cheddar cheese to sprinkle on top or sour cream

800 g (28 oz) Beef Mince (ground beef) - preferably 12% fat
400 g (14 oz) Vegetarian Mince (vegetarian ground beef substitute)


1200 g (42 oz) of either (I like to mix them, but you don't have to)

3 Large Red or Purple Onions

3 Bell Peppers

3 Cans of Beans: 1 Can of Red Kidney Beans and 2 Cans of Mixed Beans

4 Cans of Peeled Plum Tomatoes (or some sort of peeled tomatoes, I also like 1 of those cans to be cherry tomatoes sometimes)

1 Can of Sweet Corn (canned corn)

1 Can of Beer (8 to 10 oz will do)

900 ml (approx. 32 oz) of Chicken Stock (or Vegetable Stock for you tree bark eaters)

A BIG Dollop of of BBQ Sauce - like 4 Tbsp (I use Jack Daniels BBQ sauce, or Newman's Own)

7 tsp of Garlic Paste OR 7 tsp of Chopped Garlic will do

1/2 tsp Salt (Kosher Salt is nice)

1/8 tsp of Pepper

 1/2 cup of Demerara Sugar (or Light Brown Sugar)

1/4 - 1/8 cup of Chili Powder - or a bit less or a bit more - depends on how hot you want it, I like it milder

1 tsp Dried Oregano

1 tsp  Dried Thyme

1 tsp Dried Rosemary

(Optional) 1/2 Tsp of Coriander or Cilantro (I'm allergic, so I can't use these... but they're yummy too)

2 Bay Leaves

2 Tbsp Canola or Vegetable Oil

1 to 2 Tbsp of Butter

An Extra Dash of Salt (for the meat)

An Extra Dash of Pepper (for the meat)

A Dash of HP Sauce (for the meat)(if you're in America and you can't find HP, just use more BBQ)

3 Extra Tbsp of Demerara Sugar (or Light Brown Sugar) for the Onions


Set aside a half of a can of beans. Combine the rest of the ingredients, the tomatoes, beans, and corn into the big pot and set aside.

Using the dash of salt, pepper, and HP sauce, season the mince (ground beef).

Coat a large pan in oil, and cook the mince (ground beef), adding the vegetarian mince towards the end. Cook fairly thoroughly, though you're welcome to leave the meat slightly pink, as it will cook through once stewed with everything else.

Add the cooked mince to the other ingredients in the pot.

Chop the 3 onions and the 3 peppers separately.

Using the same pan you used for the mince, add the butter and the 3 extra Tbs of sugar and cook the onions over medium heat until they brown and maybe slightly sticky - this is caramelizing, and this is the key.

Next add the the 3 chopped peppers to the onions, and also add all of the seasonings/spices and cook for about 4 minutes, constantly stirring.

Add this onion/pepper/spice mixture to the big pot with the other ingredients.

Reserve about a cup of chicken stock (8oz) and combine this with the half can of beans and mash this mixture up into a pulp, then set aside.

Take the remaining chicken stock and pour it into the pot with the other ingredients.

Pour the beer into the pot with the other ingredients.

Add the BBQ sauce to the pot with the other ingredients.

Stir all the ingredients in the pot and start cooking it over a medium flame, allowing it to come to a gentle boil, stirring every so often with a wooden spoon so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. You should have a simmer going. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add the chicken broth/beans pulp to the pot and stir well.

Cook for at least another 40 minutes over a medium low flame, or until the whole thing reduces considerably.

Again, serve over rice, on its own with a bit of cheddar cheese or sour cream on top, or go for "Chili-Cheee-Fry" like I do on a Friday night! That's chips (french fries), topped with lots of cheese, chili, and ketchup on the side.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

So You Want to Find "The One", Huh?

I was encouraged to write something about relationships and dating - specifically, the problems arising in courtship these days. I was told by someone close to me that part of the reason why people keep making grave mistakes in finding that special person is because no one ever tells them what they're doing wrong, particularly men, and particularly in Britain, where we live. Within the context of our discussion, he asked me to tell a mutual friend who was screwing up his chances with a great woman what he was doing wrong. I didn't feel that I could do that at the time, because the mutual friend seemed so embittered, (particularly towards women, especially towards attractive women) I felt that he wouldn't be open to what I wanted to share. The guy I was having this discussion with, my partner - who, by the way, is one hell of a work-in-progress himself - asserted that when he spent many years as a single man, he made all sorts of assumptions and all sorts of crazy mistakes, but that no one, least of all women, would tell him the truth about his own erroneous behaviors. It was then that I decided that I wanted to do my small part for the daters, mainly the relationship seekers of the west. This list is for YOU. Not her, not him, not about what he did to you, or how to get her to stop doing that to you. It's for you. Because you can't control what other people do, but you can control what you do. Start with yourself, and see what you attract after a while.

A quick note: if you're curious about my background and how I came about the desire to write these tips, scroll to the bottom of the list and read A Brief History of the NewGirlverse.

An additional note: you'll find much of the language here leans towards a hetero orientation (I'm a hetero woman). But, in my opinion, all of these tips can be applied to anyone of any sexual orientation... gay and lesbian folks, this means you too.

How To Stop F*cking Up 
When You Want to Find the Real Deal 
13 Detailed Tips

Tip 1: Forget what you think you know about 'attractive women' (or men).

The Breakdown: This tip is particularly aimed at men, because of how the media paints female beauty in particular, and how some men process it. Ok, so here goes... Forget how the media has glorified beauty and held beautiful women up as the end all-be all of human attainment. Attractive women live in this world too, which means that they have all sorts of esteem problems stemming from childhood and they're affected by the disease called perfectionism just like everyone else. In other words, NO, they don't have some amazing-but-evil mystical power over you because they know how gorgeous they are and want to use it against you. Most of the time, they have good esteem days and bad esteem days, just like anyone. They ALSO feel insecure. They ALSO feel powerless. They ALSO want what you want, which is to be loved, not played, be respected, and have good sex. You know how you know some crazy ass mofos? Or some guy from back in school was just no good? Well the same goes for women. Some of them are rotten, some of them are cool; just like men, they're all different. I'm telling you this so that you understand that women aren't opponents who have an advantage over you. They're not objects of beauty created to mesmerize and confuse you; they're not a 'they' like the Borg collective; they're individual, real people with real feelings and egos which can be hurt just like yours. Most of the games you assume that women are playing, aren't actually games. They represent confusion, combined with feelings of vulnerability and an inability to appropriately communicate desires and needs. Why am I making this my first tip? Once you get the idea behind this tip firmly implanted into your consciousness, read on, bearing this tip in mind.

Tip 2: Refrain from talking about yourself as if you're the grand pimpzilla, giving play-by-play details of your other conquests to a person you're hoping to bag.

The Breakdown: Doing this doesn't make you seem more attractive or popular. It makes you look like an asshole. People you're interested in, particularly women, don't actually want to know who else you're interested in. This is not the internet. This ain't facebook where they get to see all your 'friends' in bikinis, which make you look really popular. This is real life. Even if they know you're interested in, and/or seeing other people, they really don't want to know how many other people there are, how pretty or handsome these other people are, or how they have a 'banging body'. It doesn't make you look more special, and more importantly, it doesn't make the other person feel more special. You don't need to puff yourself up this way because it does the opposite; it makes you look shabby and like you lack focus, and it makes the other person feel like a dime-a-dozen conquest. They may find themselves thinking, 'If they're sleeping with all these people, then what do they really need me for? They already have enough sex and people interested. I'll save myself for someone who's not so overextended.' You also may be under the mistaken impression that taking an attractive person down a peg or two will make them more available to you. WRONG - again, once you process Tip 1, you'll come to realize that the goal shouldn't be to break another person down, but to build them up as an equal and gain their respect. Don't assume that they feel they have power. Assume that they need to be built up and encouraged just like you do. If taking them down a peg or two does work, then you should proceed to Tip 3 and ponder the concepts therein.

Tip 3: Please stop dramatically announcing to the world that all women (or men) are crazy.

The Breakdown: Respect the rules of attraction, by first asking, what am I attracting? Notice the I part of that question. If all women or men seem to be crazy, maybe you just suck at choosing people. Hey, if you've spent a good deal of your time breaking the tip before this one - you know, the one about talking about your conquests and exploits to potential keepers - then perhaps the only people you're attracting are the crazy ones who are capable of being impressed by your yammering on about the five other women or men you're trying to hit. Think about it. Another thing to consider is that perhaps to well adjusted people, you sound like a crazy homeless person shouting about the end of the world, and they won't want to even try to give you a chance because you're too bitter.

Tip 4: Stop ambulance chasing.

The Breakdown: One of the finest men I ever knew, one of my dearest friends, was an ambulance chaser. Not a lawyer, not a pet dog, but what I call  an ambulance chaser in the romantic sense. Ambulance chasers go for a lot of flashing lights and loud sirens in who they pursue. Ponder the fact that ambulances with flashing lights and sirens usually have nobody inside, or they're carrying someone very damaged inside. Those were the kind of women my dear friend chose to chase; extra beautiful and flashy and either empty inside, or very damaged inside. Conversely, my friend had a lot to offer. He was very unusual. He looked unusual, had unusual sensibilities, had a big heart, and he was very intelligent about everything... except for women. He'd always choose to chase someone who had a lot of flash on the outside and very little to offer on the inside. He was desperate to fit in, to be accepted into the status quo, and somehow, these women represented entree into that status quo. He also wanted someone to accept him for who he was, odd face, large sloping gut, unusual sensibilities and all. Yet, he wasn't really looking to accept women for who they were. I don't think my friend ever gave a nice, OK looking woman a snowball's chance in hell. He went for the ambulance type women and then used their rejection as evidence that all women were shallow, manipulative, and vain. Don't make the same mistake he made. Reject the status quo and open your mind a little to the internally beautiful people around you. Ultimately, this will also help you to steer away from becoming guilty of the faulty behavior mentioned in Tip 3 because you'll make wiser choices in who to pursue in the first place.

One additional note: this tip is in my dear friend's honour, because he passed away before he could fully apply it to his romantic life - but I know he was listening. Love you, buddy wherever you are.

Tip 5: Be honest about your dating status when trying to impress someone.

The Breakdown: This is the flip side of Tip 2. Let's be real. Some people are cheaters. Yes, we all know this. But some people aren't really cheaters, they're just not in exactly cleanly definable situations, like long term relationships or marriages. This tip is for people in that grey area. If you're hanging out with a person you're interested in, it's best to be honest, otherwise you could blow it and really get stuck in the friend zone. This is not to negate Tip 2. There is a firm line between being honest and boasting about conquests. We're talking about a basic desire not to misrepresent your dating status, so that you come off smelling cleaner. For example, you just got out of a long term relationship and now you're playing the field a bit. You're dating a few people, and you're also seeing someone, but you're not really serious yet... then you happen to meet another someone that you feel you could get serious with - you know, one of those opportunities you can't pass up. What to do? What to say to that person? BE HONEST with that person. Resist the urge to omit. You don't have to give them deep details like that issue we covered in Tip 2, but don't omit basic information about your status, or worse, tell them that you're not really seeing anyone. It could come back to haunt you when you show up two weeks later and mention to a bunch of people that you've been seeing someone for a few months. If your circle is tight enough, the person you've been seeing for a few months could find out that you've kept them a secret to score more dates. But worse, the person you really like is very likely to feel sorry for the person you're dating, deduce that you're a liar and a cheater, and ultimately you're likely to lose your chances with that person... all based upon what you believed to be a small white lie. Just tell the truth to the person you really like; that you're playing the field, you're seeing someone currently, but it's not that serious yet. They will respect you more, and you'll have more of a chance with them in the future.

Tip 6: Be a friend. 

The Breakdown: You find yourself in a situation where you like someone very much, and it's obvious that they like you as well but they're moving slower than you'd like for any number of reasons, so you just drop them. You stop calling to find out how they are. You don't bother getting together with them anymore. Really nice of you. Look, don't be an asshole. Were you only interested in sex, or did you actually like them? If you actually liked them, then it stands to reason that you liked being around them, and you actually care about what goes on in their life. So why treat them like a basic sex organ once you discover that a hookup is not immediately available? Why not just stick around and be a friend. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Some people really are worth waiting for - and I'm certainly not encouraging you to carry a torch for them by refraining from dating anyone else. What I'm asking you to do is not to drop them from your life like a hot tater just because you can't have sex with them today. Be a friend. Get to know them more. Some of the best, longest lasting love affairs have been slow burners. You know those couples who seem really to have made a life together and sort of annoy you because you don't seem to be able to get to that point with anyone? I'll let you in on a little secret. Those couples are that way because they're friends. They like to chat with each other, watch classic flicks together, and have taken the time to build a friendship. Romantic pursuits based on sheer acquisition don't really work in the long term. The 'gimme now or you're nothing to me' approach really doesn't produce sustainable romantic relationships. Reject instant gratification and build something better.

Tip 7: Nobody has to push, wait your turn. 

The Breakdown: (Mom, cover your eyes) I love sex. Really, I do. I have sex nearly every day - If I had my way, I'd have it every day without fail, but that's just not possible sometimes. Sometimes to make up for the fact that I can't have it every day, I might have it three or four times on a Saturday or Sunday. Now that that's out of the way, you don't have to ask if I'm a frigid broad who doesn't like sex when I share what I'm about to share with you. Are you ready? You don't have to sleep with someone you like right away. This tip is for my good friend who really wants to date, but really doesn't like the 'put-out or get out' culture that has descended upon us. She likes sex too, and has had her share of one night stands, but doesn't understand the 'test drive' culture we're living in now. Why can't we get to know each other over a month or so? Why do we have to talk, find that we have a lot in common, talk some more, then sleep with each other all in one night? Or one week? Old fashioned courtship rituals like dating a few times without having sex help us to get to know a person better and even builds an exciting sexual tension.I can hear people laughing as they read this, but I'm not laughing over the fact that I see a lot of single people treating potential dates like they're vending machines, complete with the expectation of instant gratification of getting a treat within seconds, and if they don't get it quickly enough they storm away angry. Sorry but real human beings aren't porn. Stop trying to fast forward to get to the screwing. And speaking of which...

Tip 8: IIf you're hooked, get porn out of your life, for good.

The Breakdown: If you know me, you already know how I feel and why. If you don't know me, let it serve to say that I know what porn does when used excessively. It isn't good for you. It isn't good for the sex you have. It isn't good for helping you to meet people and date them successfully. It isn't good for your self image or how you view the opposite gender (or same gendered potential partners if you're gay). If you're a man, it isn't good for your sustained erectile function with actual partners - they'll never tell you that on porn sites, but I will. I just did. If you're a woman, it isn't good for your arousal either. Stop watching other people have sex, and get to having sex with real people yourself. You'll be a better lover.

Tip 9: Please refrain from saying you're good in bed to someone you're trying to get into bed.

The Breakdown: You sound like a gigolo or a hooker. It's okay to talk with your friends about liking sex.You may be great in bed. It's okay to complain to friends about relationship problems and sometimes find yourself saying, 'Well I'm good in bed...' What we're talking about here involves a specific context. If you're trying to sleep with someone, keep your mouth shut. Just enjoy, woo, do what nature intended, but please don't try to use claiming to be good in bed as a selling point to get someone in bed. It's just tacky.

Tip 10: If you really want someone, refrain from going for someone else in front of them just because you can't have the original person at the time.

The Breakdown: Congratulations! You just proved that you have so little patience and attention span for that special someone that you're going to shit where you eat. That's right, I said it. This is low behavior. Just because someone you really like hasn't said yes yet, doesn't mean that it's a good idea to pick up on, and slobber all over a mediocre replacement right in front of them. You have just sealed your fate. You're dooming yourself to always end up with the sort-of-ok-when-you're-wearing-beer-goggles person at the end of the night, because you're being greedy and sloppy about it. Additional hint for men: there's no faster way to turn off a really attractive woman than to go for a not-so attractive woman right in front of her. Women will hold poor taste against you.

Tip 11: Refrain from going with someone if they've spent the night talking about how they can't score with someone else.

The Breakdown: (This is the reverse of Tip 10 above) You say you're lonely. You say you're looking for Ms. or Mr. Right. You can't ever seem to get anyone to who wants to become serious with you. Why? Because you're choosing to be a substitute most of the time. You look like a whore. Nobody likes sloppy seconds but perves. If you're in a social situation with a group and you have your eye on someone, be mindful that if she or he carries on during the whole evening about how someone else won't give him or her a chance, you're only cruising to be a sub, baby. Refrain from stroking your ego about how you're going to 'take his/her mind off '  that other person and then she/he will want you. Sure, you'll take her/his mind off the other person... while you're both drunk or high, but come tomorrow, you will have been nothing more than a temporary distraction, and you'll be stuck singing that same old song about how you can't get a real partner. 

Tip 12: Try dating your equal. 

The Breakdown: This is for the folks who are 35 +. You're only as old as the person you fondle. People who say this are really revealing their motives. People will be angry with me for going there, but I don't care. Is it good to keep the same hairstyle from age 15 to age 50? Shouldn't your style change, or rather evolve? If it doesn't, you look out of date and like you're hanging onto your past.  Your taste in the opposite sex (or same sex if you're gay) should shift, or rather evolve. If it doesn't, you look out of date and like you're hanging onto your past. Age is just a number? Okay, whatever. You look sad, partner. Why? Because it's clear to everyone around you that you want a follower, a disciple, not a partner. I'll give kudos to May-December romances if they last a lifetime, because then there's evidence that the younger person has grown into a full personality, and represents more than just some extension of a fountain of youth... but it's never a shock to me in these relationships when, once the younger person comes of age, the older person just finds another young person to replace them with. Grow up. A fifteen year age difference works well when the younger person is like 40, which is about the time the maturity catch up begins. But there's nothing sillier than a 45 year old person complaining about relationship problems with their child-date. How exactly is all this a tip for dating? If you're 45 and your date is 22 you look like an idiot, especially to potential, well adjusted partners. If you're in your mid 30s or beyond, stop hanging out at clubs to find dates. The age of consent is 16 in Britain. But just like many other things in life, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Now, maybe you're asking yourself, Who the hell is she to be so judgemental? I'm the chick telling you the truth. I'm also a woman with a partner 10 years her senior, and I wouldn't be with him if I were 22 - I'd be looking for someone around my own age. But I digress. I've known quite a few solid, good looking people and most of them, particularly women, are simply too polite to tell you what they're really thinking. A lot of people, particularly women, are tired of being accused of being envious over stuff like this, so they don't really bother to say anything anymore. They figure, if you want to go out like a sucker, that's your business - they'll just try going for someone who wants to be a grown up and likes dating people who are all grown up.

Tip 13: Take off the mask.

The Breakdown: Be yourself. Refrain from attracting people under subtle false pretenses. This certainly applies to men but I'll go out on a limb and aim this one at any women who might be reading this, because often women feel social pressure to dumb themselves down just to score. There's nothing more annoying than being around a sharp, clever, interesting, talkative person who turns into a high-voiced bubble head when attractive men are around, thus crushing her own individuality and special qualities. Come on, we all have our own flirting styles, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about creating a tap dance that you can't sustain over a long period of time. The goal is to enjoy, seal the deal, and possibly partner with someone because of your human qualities, not because of the phony persona you presented at a cocktail bar. It's always better to let someone get to know what you're about right away so that you can see if they're really ready for you. If you act like a prisspot, hide your wicked sense of humour, and act like you don't want to talk about yourself in favor of listening to him talk about himself for three hours, you'll end up attracting people who don't know, or really want the real you. Share opinions, talk politics if you like politics, talk sports if you like sports, and be yourself, because ultimately it's better that you attract people who aren't afraid of the real, bold, you.

A Brief History of the NewGirlverse (how I came to make the list)

It's noon and I'm just now eating breakfast. I'm eating caramelized onion hummus for breakfast. I know this is a little unusual. But then again, I'm an unusual kind of chick. For example, I don't know anyone else in my age group who was wife for like fifteen years. I also don't know anyone else in that situation who is best friends with their ex. Not that this isn't a wide world full of people, many of whom are bound to share a similar perspective with mine, it's just that I don't know any of them.

When I was married, I observed the mating rituals of single people and thought many of them were strange, and then, once I was let loose on the world as a freshly single adult (something I'd never actually experienced in my adult life), I found the mating rituals to be even stranger than I thought they were when I was married. By the way, I'd be being less than truthful if I didn't correct myself at this point, or at least elaborate a little more to explain that I wasn't truly single after my ex and I separated - I'd started dating someone, but admittedly, the complexities of that relationship led me to... let's just say, keep an open mind.

WTF? ...or Culture Shock

What I didn't realize was that I had entered into a complex social/romantic sphere the likes of which might not have existed when I was last single (a lot had changed from the early 90s to the late 2000s) and the likes of which I had managed to avoid, since my then-husband was unclouded by factors like YEARS of being a single serial monogamist, the common place use of internet pornography, online dating, and general bitterness. Plus I was naive - I thought everybody had been raised having real friends of the opposite gender, like my then-husband and I did. What I didn't realize was that my then-husband and I were pretty unusual, so once I got out of the married years I found myself in shock.

Concepts like saying what you really mean, telling someone that you actually like them, taking your time while dating a person, developing a friendship which then might eventually develop into a romantic relationship, and having vaginal hair seemed to be totally lost on the participants in this new dating scene. 'Good sex' would be most likely used as a term to define a one shot deal encounter where you never even asked the other person for their phone number afterwards (even if you enjoyed yourself), rather than a term associated with the amazing, intense shag you had with your partner on a Sunday afternoon, which was the result of a slow, methodical, build up of a language of sexual intimacy created between two people. 'Playing the field' which, at one point, might have been used to describe dating around because you hadn't found that special person yet, sort of became 'Playing' which might be used to describe dating around, because you haven't found that special person or you have found that special person but you don't want the person to think she/he is really that special, because after all, you like blonds too, and wait, there's a cute little Puerto Rican over there who you might be able to get with... and on and on and on.

It's The Meeedia!

It's my assertion that many people have been trained out of recognizing the special qualities of each individual and been trained into keeping a mindset that everyone's replaceable. And even more sadly if, by chance, they still realize that deep down someone they encounter is really special and unique, they spend a lot of energy maintaining a facade to convince that special person that they mean absolutely nothing to them. It's become a cold world, folks. And I'll take the risk of sounding like Chris Rock when I say, "It's the Meeedia." We're living in a grand society where we put our lives, faces, bodies, and hobbies online like resumes. And even if some of us don't, I'd be willing to bet that the majority of us have adjusted cozily to 'browsing' or 'cruising' for attractive people online. Even if you're like me, never having ventured into online dating, the contemporary pervasive norm of point-and-click-to-pick-a-date is very likely to have coloured how you view other people. Our social/romantic sphere has been tainted. A few short decades ago, if we women met a man, and noticed that he was losing a bit of hair, but we were charmed by him and liked him... and then we found out that he had children, we might very well have overlooked the fact that he was balding and he had children. We would have figured that he was a great guy, and those few things we weren't sure about would've more likely been adapted to. That was how chemistry worked. Now, we might very well overlook him, in favor of looking for that slightly more perfect person. I really like Single Dad Laughing's blog on perfection, but I'm pointing towards a few sources for the disease of seeking perfection. This didn't happen overnight, but I've looked up and noticed that so many of us have changed so radically, and become so brainwashed so insidiously, it's scary.

Brave New World

Here's the world we live in: if we can't get a date, a lot of us PICK people from a bunch of photos and stats, thanks to the world wide web... without the pesky element of feeling real, live chemistry. If we're lonely and have few friends, we can create an instant persona and talk to people, with very little introduction... and without the pesky element of feeling real, live chemistry. If we can't find someone to have sex with, we simply point and click so that we can watch hundreds and hundreds of steroid enhanced, plastic surgery enhanced humans screwing, and then masturbate... without the pesky element of feeling real, live chemistry. If we want to feel connected to someone's emotions, but we don't feel like talking, we can just go watch The Hills and watch the drama unfold, and feel sorry for them.

Now, if you're taking the time to read this, you've got a bit of an attention span still, and you're probably one of those people who isn't particularly extreme. You know that you're not that disconnected. I'd be willing to bet that like a lot of us, you don't want to think that you're disconnected to people. You don't want to think that you're unlikely to be able to recognize a special and unique person when you meet them. But the connection that I'm trying to make is that the bombardment of media, or maybe the injection of a pseudo-reality orientated hybrid media into our lives is screwing people up. It's my belief that all people are vulnerable to this influence, but particularly, if you never had a husband, a wife, a life-partner, kids, a dog - any one of the sorts of relationships which keep you tethered and grounded to reality, you're at risk of picking up, and harbouring some very strange ideas about other people. Don't get me wrong; even people with those sorts of relationships can get caught up in the mix, it's just that it seems easier to exist in LaLa land when interpersonal relationships are sort of floating in and out of your life without any real interdependence at play. I'm going to make a bold statement: I lived in Los Angeles from the mid to late 90s and I used to think people there were phony and disconnected. I hated L.A. I hated industry people. Now I'm finding that my whole microcosm is filled with people who remind me of phony, disconnected L.A. people. I don't think people are bad, I just think the Internet, YouTube, and reality TV have inadvertently trained a lot of youthful, single people to communicate like they need to sell themselves to everyone by being a talking resume, and to view other people as one of many point and click options. Delayed gratification is becoming a dinosaur. This worries me.

The Big Fat Mess

Enter dating, which then becomes a mess. Seriously, as I watch my single friends, I see examples of cringeworthy slow motion train wrecks, and emotional spaghetti junctions all over the place. I really want to help - and I mean that. Hell, I'm in a relationship, though not married, so I still get offers... and let it serve to say that the men who have been interested in me have done as much as possible to help themselves right out of my dating-possibility pool with a quickness - and they never even knew it. It wasn't because I was too picky, or playing games, or a princess, or spoiled, or wanted to crush and eat anyone's heart. Those aren't my M.O.s. They just screwed it up because they've become part of the big brainwash and got a few things twisted in their minds. A person's brain can be his or her own worst enemy.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


I just got back from spending the afternoon and evening with a friend. I braved the cold, wet weather in order to force myself out of the house. Now I'm back, have slipped into my soft, slinky, black robe and have just sat down to a piping hot cup of coffee and two varieties of milk chocolate; one basic Swiss milk, the other a Cadburys Dairy Milk with Turkish Delight inside. I'm going to savour the taste of the chocolate for Star.

Star was one serious chocoholic. But she wasn't no fiend - she was a certifiable chocolate snob. She had a taste for refined chocolates, not the waxy, cheap kind so familiar to the millions who've experienced the likes of Hershey's. She was more of a Harrods or Godiva girl but, admittedly, in a pinch she'd take basically good chocolate loot, which is what I've got.

Star was also fond of a good old chin wag with friends, which is why I went to meet up with Cam, a person who, now that I think about it, reminds me the most of Star in temperament; jovial, merry, slow to anger, talkative, and very pretty in her own special way. One of those people who carries their very own beam of light which radiates from within seemed to be the sort of person I needed to see today. Cam is that way, and so was Star.

My black lab is lying on the floor behind my desk chair. I was sure to greet her and thank her for guarding the house when I got back in. Star would be very proud of the wild, hyper rescue pup which I raised into a happy, intelligent, focused dog. Star loved all animals, but was particularly fond of dogs. Dogs were her heart. She hadn't seen my dog in years since I moved abroad, but I know that she would be proud of how the dog turned out.

The fact that I came home, pet the dog, and then went straight for taking off my bra and getting into comfortable lounge gear is also something which reminds me of Star. No matter where she'd been, what she'd been doing, or how early or late she got home, once she was home she'd go straight into her bedroom and change into pajamas. Once she conquered a day, she'd be ready to chill. And she did conquer each day.

Star is my younger sister. A year ago today she passed away.

Star lived all her 28 years of life as a physically disabled woman. Yep. Every day was a fighting day for Star, and she did it all with a sort of dainty grace. She lived without complaint and was ridiculously positive. You'd never know we had that sort of pluck in our family by observing me. I'm a brooding, complaining, worrier compared to my sister. I'm femme fatale to Star's faerie princess. Night and day. Or at least that's the way I interpret it. People who've met, then spent time with me - once they got past the tons of black eyeliner, large breasts, and dark clothing - often end up calling me a ray of sunshine, a cherub, or both... at which point I usually blush, then smirk, and think to myself, They've obviously never met Star. Maybe in a world without Star my being a ray of sunshine or a cherub would ring true to me. But siblings have a way of doing funny things to you, like partially defining who you are.

Small elements, like being the sibling of a ridiculously positive person, or large elements like being the sibling of a person with a disability, really help create a sort of integral definition of you, or at least, that's my belief. It's not so much a case of comparison, but more of a case of subjectivity or perspective. Grey may be grey, but if you place it next to red, it takes on a greenish cast - red's complimentary color. So in my microcosm, I'm the dark, sarcastic one with a smart mouth, and Star was the positive ray of sunshine in the pink angora sweater. But then, if your sibling is taken away, you lose part of yourself - you sort of feel like you lack definition.

Like most people, image is very important to me. For several years now I've worked in an industry where I help to enhance or create images of individuals for the public to see. But for me, the most important image is the inner image; the core, and the core values of a person. Having Star in my life at an early age acclimated me to this orientation. And not only that, she was the litmus test for most people I got close to. Anyone who wanted to get close to me would have to come through Star; simply by virtue of being part of a closely knit family, you were expected to bring people around to meet everybody. But let me tell you, physical disability has a way of exposing and blocking the most shallow people. Simply put, I always knew that if Star couldn't win a person's heart, then they basically didn't have one - and we're not talking about winning people's hearts through pity or sympathy; more like winning their hearts through goodness, coolness, and inner strength all wrapped up in an unusual and cute package. That was Star. Testing the sincerity of people was just one of her many gifts. And partially defining each other was our lot as siblings.

So now, I feel a bit lost, since I'm the one left behind here on earth. Sometimes I wonder how I'm going to make sure my possible future children will adopt my orientation about the importance of core values as I learned them. Sometimes I wonder how many people with disabilities my children will actually know now that Star has crossed over to the other side. I think about how most of my little cousins know what it's like to climb all over a wheelchair as toddlers without shame or hesitation, or how people in wheelchairs don't freak any of them out because of their amazing big cousin Star... and then I wonder how that will happen for my own children. I wouldn't even know how or where to begin again without Star in our lives. But I have to keep trying, don't I?

I had all of these mental plans for today: I thought I might go to church or synagogue today to honour her memory, but truthfully, I got up this morning, had a cup of coffee, thought about how much of a struggle this year has been, then went back to bed for several hours. Eventually I pulled myself together and stuck with the only plans that I'd managed to commit myself to; hanging out with Cam. So that's what I did. And all the details of my day I've just described would be the things that Star would have wanted for herself and also for me; chocolate, good friendship, home comforts, and a great dog... and then indulging in a bit of writing.

In a little while, I'm going to go call my parents in the U.S. Tonight they'll be celebrating Star's life by having a chocolate party, complete with Mexican chocolate soup and chocolate fondue. I'll check in with them, none of us will know what to say, it will be strange, but we'll all make it through. We have to, because our lives go on.

You probably don't know me, and you probably didn't know Star - there would be no way of capturing the essence of her on this page; she was way too awesome to be captured in words, anyway. But one thing I know is that I'm a better person for having had her as long as I did. Anybody who knew her would say the same. The heart of the world feels stonier, colder somehow, without her in this particular dimension. One thing this loss has taught me, as cliche as it is going to sound, is that you really have to love fully, love hard, and always count the blessings of knowing and loving the beautiful people in your life. It really is true. The other thing about life that I now realize is that if you live long enough, you will eventually get to know what I'm going through today. As my friend Jake and I agreed when we last spoke about our sisters who'd both passed on in 2010, this is an unfortunate club, but eventually everybody gets to become a member. If you don't understand today, one day you will. For now, love fully, love hard, eat chocolate, pet the dog, and put on your pajamas. Good night, dearest readers.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Is this thing on?

I'd be willing to bet that the phrase, "Is this thing on?" has to be one of the most often used opening lines in the introduction of a fresh new blog. I haven't googled it to find out, but I wouldn't be surprised. Maybe I should google it, but I probably won't... or maybe one day I will, but not right now. Right now, my primary goal is to do what's implied in my quite possibly, very likely cliche title above, by typing this out and then madly clicking and pointing to see if my new blog works ok.

Onwards and upwards. I'm the new girl, and I'll tell you why - and it's fairly simple: I'm new to Blogger (though not totally new to blogging of sorts) and this is a new year. Last year was very probably the single worst year of my life. And before you roll your eyes and ask "Well did anyone die? Was it that bad?" I'll save you the trouble and reply, yes and yes. So yeah, it was that bad, and now it's time to start anew. New year, new goals, new and improved me - or at least a work-in-progress me. So there it is, can I get an amen?

I chose my alias and the title of my blog page based primarily on those two factors, and I think those are fairly good reasons, though I'd be amis if I didn't tell you that referring to myself as girl could be construed as a bit misleading - I'm not a girl, I'm more of a woman, really; way out of my girlhood, to be sure. But calling myself the new woman wouldn't have had the same implications as the phrase, the new girl, which carries with it universally familiar thematic rings like starting fresh in a new place, or entering into a strange and unfamiliar environment full of new people, all while being unsure of your own potential for success. Plus the new woman sounds either like the chick some middle aged dude just left his loyal wife of thirty three years for, or some sort of special triple issue of a corny womens' magazine. So I went for The New Girl.

My mother won't like it. She'll say that my alias represents the swinging of the socio-political pendulum again; a return to the bad old days when men were referred to as Men, and women were referred to as girls. It's not that I'm not aware of the significance of such nuances - once you get to know me, it will be pretty obvious that social nuances like that mean quite a bit to me in general - it's just that in this case, I'm not going to read into it all that deeply. I just don't feel like it today. I'm tired and I'm hungover. I needed an alias, and this one seemed to work just fine. So here I am; the new girl. Welcome to my blog, and thank you for reading, you gorgeous creatures.