On Time, Vulnerability and Approaching 40

 

 

 

 

 

When I first started this blog in 2009, I was 29. I knew I eventually wanted to write professionally and publish a book. I also had lot of emotional baggage I needed to write my way through. This blog served me well and provided a place for me to write about breakups I’d kinda-sorta-not-quite-healed-from, share bizarro dating stories, talk about sex and (hopefully) make you guys laugh as I journeyed into the world of comically strange products. I wrote openly about my mental health and experiences with heartbreak. I rode the wave of balls-to-the-wall personal blogging, until, well, things changed.

The internet landscape changed (with Instagram taking the place of deeply personal blogging), but I changed too. I always tell people that I chose the blog name Skinny Dip because it’s good metaphor for sharing your life on line. When I started blogging, I wanted to strip away outer layers of myself; shed my figurative skin if you will, in hopes that I would eventually arrive at the most “me” version of myself. Ten years ago, I felt so full of angst and feelings that I couldn’t envision a time in the future when I wouldn’t have things to get off my chest in a very public way. But then I arrived at that point.

The stuff I needed to let go of got let go of. Sex blogging stopped feeling fun and I started to save my time, energy and juicy stories for my book. But then, even book writing became challenging.

The problem with shedding your skin is that eventually you reach a point where you hit actual flesh and bone. It’s raw. It’s tender. It’s uncomfortable. Self-preservation kicks in and you instinctually tell yourself to pull back.

This is basically the point I reached sometime in 2018. After nearly ten years of personal blogging and several years of working on a book project (and watching it shift & transform) I hit a wall. I was suffering from a vulnerability hangover that I had no cure for. So, I switched my focus to travel writing and went on a bazillion work trips. Okay, it was more like seventeen — nearly half of which were to Mexico — but still, it was a lot. I needed a break and travelling provided that.

While I’m super grateful to have travelled so much over the past two years and have no plan to abandon travel writing (or blogging) any time soon, eventually my “break” started to feel like I was running away. In my gut I know its time to slow down and get to work.

The idea of “time” is something that’s been on my mind obsessively for the past few months. How should I spend my time? Is it better to go with the flow? Am I better served by sitting still and doing the work? These are questions that have been on my mind obsessively since I turned 39 in September.

Looking ahead at 40 is such a weird feeling. On one hand, I’m much happier and in a better place mentally than I was at 29. I’ve also accomplished some major goals and had some amazing opportunities. On the other hand, there’s still so much that feels…in progress. Things that (society tells me) I should have checked off by now just aren’t. While my friends are closing on houses and renting out a gender reveal smoke cannon to honour their third kid (yes, that’s a thing), I’m here — still single, still living at the same spot, still working on a book that isn’t quite finished yet. I’m happy and healthy but all the external stuff that I just assumed I would have taken care of by now — the fat bank account, the home, the committed relationship with plenty of hot sex –are still works in progress.

It’s so easy to let my thoughts spiral into an anxiety-driven maelstrom start thinking of the what-ifs. What if things never work out? What if I fail? I’m neutral on children, but what if I never even get the chance to veto a gender reveal cannon because I end up ALONE, BROKE AND LIVING IN MY MOM’S BASEMENT FOREVER. While there’s literally no evidence that any of the above will happen, the FEAR takes me to some really dark places (literally. Hello, Mom’s basement?)

(I have a friend/colleague who’s in a similar situation and I was joking with her that maybe because we’ve spent our thirties sorting out our internal selves & living our lives on our own terms (with plenty of freedom), that we’ve preempted a 40-something mid-life crisis where we go out and randomly buy a speed boat to fill some kind of deep emotional void. Here’s to hoping!)

I know my writing has the greatest impact — both for myself and others — when I allow myself to be vulnerable. But guys, I’m kind of fucking scared to dig into that tender flesh. Every day I have moments where I think of just escaping (saying yes to a press trip, running off to visit a friend, etc) just so that I don’t have to sit down and feel the things I need to feel so I can write the things I know I have to write.

So, while I work my way through to the other side of this vulnerability hangover, I’m reclaiming this space for my writing. While I can’t promise a return to the no-holds-barred blogging days of yore (in fact, it likely won’t look anything like 2009 or even 2013), I do plan writing things that feel honest, true and (ahhh) vulnerable, while I work through all these feels.

Maybe people will read. Maybe they won’t. But if you’re interested in following this journey, you know exactly where to find me.

How To Be Your Own Best Friend

 

This post was brought to you by omgkinky.com. Thanks for supporting the posts that support Skinny Dip.

There was a period in my life between ages 18 and 22 where I really struggled with spending alone. I went from living with my family, where I was always surrounded by people and spending time alone was a choice, to living by myself in Toronto where being alone was the default. I now covet my alone time, but back then I was terrified of my own company — especially on the weekends, when I assumed everyone but me was out doing “cool stuff.” I’d sign up for extra shifts at work and say yes to plans with friends (no matter how ridiculous) just so I wouldn’t have to deal with the inevitable panic attack that would set in whenever I thought of staying home alone in my apartment.

Something changed around 22 or 23 and I finally re-learned how to date myself. Here’s a few things that have helped me build a better relationship with myself.

1. Find out what you love and do more of that thing.

A few years ago, I realized I feel most like myself when I’m dancing or moving my body (barre, yoga, climbing a pole), so I’ve made a concerted effort to do those things. If you’re not sure what you love, give yourself permission to experiment and try as many new things as possible. You might end up falling in love with a part of yourself that you never knew existed (or you might just end up taking a lot of photos of a half-naked G.I. Joe).

2. Take yourself on dates.

Solo dates are the best because you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT! I used to feel really awkward sitting alone in a restaurant or a movie theater, but now I kind of love it. I still love doing these things with other people best, but sometimes it’s nice to know you can go have an awesome day/night all on your own.

3. Listen to your buddy voice.

Our intuition often gives us the best advice… if we’re willing to listen. That rising sense of anxiety you get whenever you get a text from a certain person? The sinking feeling you get before doing x, y or z? The nagging sense that something just feels off? These aren’t just random thoughts. Your intuition wants the best for you, so it’s important to listen to “your buddy voice” (as my friend likes to call it). Respect your personal boundaries. If something feels wrong, it probably is.

4. Masturbate.

Seriously. I’m of the firm belief that the world would be a better place if we all took more time for self-pleasure. To quote RuPaul, “if you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?” The same applies to sex: you can’t expect someone to please you, if you don’t know how to please yourself. So don’t be afraid to explore and experiment in this regard too. You can check out omgkinky.com for some suggestions. The Skinny Dip archives are also chock-full of ideas for solo-play!

5. Stop emotionally drop-kicking yourself.

I can be my own worst enemy, but I’m trying to get better at quieting the negative self talk. Treat yourself how you’d want to be treated. Would your best friend repeatedly tell you that you suck? No, of course not. So, stop saying these things to yourself. Instead, remind yourself that you’re pretty great & are doing your best.

6. Be unapologetic about your interests.

My interests are eclectic to say the least. I like taking photos of Joe the Intern, collecting pins, reading like a beast, looking at art and occasionally taking a few spins around the pole. I’m also obsessed with soul music, hip hop and true crime podcasts. I used to think that I had to hide certain interests so that my story as a person would make sense for other people (I mean, it’s already weird enough that I’m a sex writer without having to add, “oh and by the way, I’m also super into doll photography!”) but I’ve since learned that I’m not doing the world any favors by pressing the dimmer switch on my identity. The more I embrace my interests, the more confident I feel and the easier it becomes to spend time solo.

7. Take a trip by yourself.

My recent foray into solo travel has definitely evolved the relationship I have with myself. While I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some lonely moments when I went to Los Angeles, Mexico or Jamaica solo, for the most part traveling solo was an exhilarating experience. You can visit unique destinations and once you’re there, explore them however you like. Traveling solo is something everyone should try at least once.


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10 Weird Jobs I Had Before Became A Sex Columnist

 

My good pal Kate recently wrote about some of the weird and wonderful jobs she’s had and it’s inspired me to share some of mine. I worked part time throughout the later part of high-school and university (and beyond!) and while the jobs themselves were for the most part pretty normal, I still have a lot of  “interesting” stories.

1. Body Shop sales clerk.

I worked at three different Body Shop locations throughout university, but the one that made for the best stories was the Toronto Eaton Center location. Our store was located on the bottom floor of the Eaton Center — a busy, sprawling downtown mall, dubbed by many “Toronto’s armpit.” Smack dab in the middle of downtown and next to multiple subway stops, when it came to people watching at my former job, there was rarely a dull moment. A few of the highlights:

  • The store had a large makeup section with lots of mirrors. On a Friday or Saturday evening, it wasn’t uncommon to see people come in and do their entire face. After seeing what people do to makeup testers I will never, ever use them — not even on my hand, if I can help it. Shudder.
  • The store also had a large sink intended for sampling shower gels and soaps. One day a man came in, filled the sink, dunked his head in the water and proceeded to wash his very long, filthy hair. Then, instead of toweling dry, he stood up and shook his head like a dog, spraying water everywhere before casually sauntering out of the store.
  • Maybe it was the ubiquitous smell of fruity soap or the fumes wafting in from the food court, but something about being inside The Body Shop compelled customers to tell you all about their bodies. From bikini waxing mishaps, venereal disease symptoms to a man who needed something for what he called his “XXX parts” (very itchy recently shaved balls), I saw and heard things that can never been unseen/heard.

2. The sketchy designer jeans store. 

My first job when I moved to Toronto was working at a store that sold Diesel Jeans (and other brands du jour) on Yonge Street. The store was called Soul and when I saw the help wanted sign, the wide-eyed eighteen year old me thought it was destiny (I mean, I love Soul music. So, what could go wrong?) In retrospect, I’m pretty sure the whole operation was a drug front. We rarely had any customers and every two weeks they’d pay me with cash out of the till. I didn’t mind because they gave me a sweet discount on a pair of Parasuco sparkly denim flares (the jeans had a shimmery silver sheen that made them sparkle in the sun. Like glitter. Oh dear.) In my defense, they made my ass look amazing.

3. Ghostwriting erotic fiction.

When I first started freelancing, I scored a gig creating content for an SEO company that specialized in the adult industry. For several months I wrote a series of “real life” blog posts as “Ginger,” a law student turned cam-girl with a penchant for sex in public places. It was fun & hilarious & weird (and I would totally do it again). FYI, SEO strategy is infinitely more interesting when your keywords are things like “ass cheeks,” “rim job” and “money shot.”

4. The Hungarian deli.

For a very brief period in 2003, I decided to embrace my Eastern European roots and apply for a job  at the Hungarian deli near my house in Toronto. The manager looked like a Slavic stereotype straight out of central casting. Olga wore a white butcher’s coat, a hair-net and a grim expression that made her seem utterly terrifying. Even more terrifying: learning to operate the meat slicer. I was too tentative, which lead to a lot of thickly sliced Tziganskaya (which even I know is a total abomination). I never got called for a second shift.

5. Candy Girl.

My first real job in high school was working at a movie theater downtown. I was initially hired to work at the concession stand. However, I never quite mastered scooping popcorn (notice a pattern here?) so, I was promptly moved over to the bulk candy station. The owner — an older, red-faced man that had a voice that sounded like he’d swallowed a bucket of gravel and washed it down with a whisky chaser – had a mental block when it came to remembering my name so he just called me “Candy Girl.” He told me, “I hired you because you put on your resume that you know how to use a computer.” So, when things weren’t busy, Old Gravel Mouth would bring me up to his office where he’d dictate emails. They were always addressed to a woman named Tammy, who wasn’t his wife.

6. Flight Attendant.

So, yeah. That happened. After graduating university, I thought it would be really cool to get paid to travel. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t (at least for me). I spent two months in an aggressive training program learning all about airplane safety, watching videos of airplane crashes, and doing simulated crash drills that always took place at 4am in empty airplane hangers. Needless to say, it didn’t exactly help with my then un-diagnosed anxiety disorder. I did one flight before turning in my resignation. However, if you need help dragging a body from a burning wreckage (we practiced!) or zip-tying an unruly passenger to their seat, I’m your gal.

7. Coat check.

In third year university, I spent a winter working at the coat check for a high-end night club/cigar lounge. Oddly enough, this is one of the best jobs I ever had. I made an hourly wage, plus tips (usually about $100-$200 a night). The clientele was a lot of pro sports players, C-list celebs and other high-roller types. The money was good and the people watching didn’t disappoint. Annnnd, at the end of the night they’d give us free sandwiches. I’d always leave work with cash in my wallet and a handful of sandwiches stuffed in my purse, that I’d eat for lunch & dinner the next day. Because, #studentlife.

8. Peddler of fancy old lady clothes.

Home for the summer after second year university and desperate for a job, I spent a few months working at a boutique that sold high-end designer clothes. From ten seasons ago. The clothes were brand new, they had just been in the store forever. The rest of the stock looked like it was pulled from the wardrobe department of The Golden Girls. My manager reminded me of Kris Jenner, only more evil and with a raging cocaine habit. She would frequently yell at me because she didn’t think I was selling enough. (IT’S NOT MY FAULT THAT I CAN’T MOVE THIS PAIR OF SUN-FADED SHOP WORN YELLOW VERSACE JEANS, SUSAN.)

9. Managing a Co-Op residence.

This is by far the worst job I ever had. You can read about it here. And yes, I still have nightmares about the van and the never-ending demand for toilet paper.

10. This job.

Being a freelance writer that mostly writes about sex and relationships is weird & wonderful & I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I get to interview porn stars, travel to nude resorts and share my feelings with the internet, all in the name of work. I like to think that all of these other jobs in some way prepared me for what I do now, which often involves writing and speaking about things that make other people feel uncomfortable. “Itchy balls” guys of the world, I solute you.

What’s the strangest or most memorable job you’ve had?

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On Money, Goals & Guilt

(Photo credit)

It’s been a few months since I shared my plans for the New Year and wrote about some of my regrettable purchases from the prior twelve months, so I thought it was time to check in.

I chose the word “Shift” as my theme for 2017 because I want to make some dramatic shifts with my career, finances and personal life. Of all the annual theme words I’ve chosen over the past five years, this is probably the one that’s resonated the most with me. Whenever I’m making a decision – however small- the word pops into my head and I ask myself, “is this choice going to shift me in the direction I want to go?” Even though I still make choices that aren’t always in line with my goals (eating that bag of Doritos, taking a cab when I could take the bus, buying that pair of shoes) because I’m an imperfect human being, thinking about shifting has at least made me more conscientious about my actions and what effect they may have long term.

Plus, as I’ve learned, change happens in small increments. Progress isn’t always visible right away. It’s cumulative.

So, how am I doing with my goals and intentions? Let’s recap.

Be Frugal.

At the beginning of the year I made a “no buy list.”

I also challenged myself to not purchase any new clothing items until at least May. The only category I really followed through on was not purchasing books (more on that in a second!) I did alright with the other items: Makeup (I spent $10 on a Nyx liquid shadow), Art (I more or less avoided any art binges, but I did spend $30 on an autographed Erykah Badu print I saw on eBay) and I bought my Mom and I matching George Michael pins for mother’s day ($30). However, the “no clothing and shoe purchases” rule was an epic failure. I bought some shoes. I bought some clothes. I replaced some basics. I felt varying degrees of guilt about almost all of it.

But then I had a moment the other day. It was right after I paid off the entirety of my two credit cards. For the first time in a few years, I’m completely free of commercial debt. So, apparently I must have done something right the past few months.

I’m still sticking to the no new makeup or book purchases rule, but I’m allowing myself to buy a few things as long as I’m still prioritizing putting money into savings every month. 

Wear the lipstick and earrings.

This is going well…I guess? I bought a couple of new earring & necklaces sets when H&M and Forever21 had a 70% off sale and have been experimenting with those. Still rocking a bold lip. Not everyday, but often enough.

Learn to cook something new every month.

This has been touch and go. While I’ve learned how to make Ropa Vieja (Cuban beef) and perfected my plantain frying skills, I think the goal should actually be: just cook more at home, period.

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Get to Wardrobe Zero.

This is going well. Although I’ve added some things to my wardrobe, I’ve pulled out an equal or greater number of items to be donated or sold. Wardrobe zero, here I come!

Get to Bookshelf Zero.

When I did my taxes a few weeks ago, I was shocked and kind of appalled at how much I spent on books in 2016. I’m not even going to give you a number. Long story short, I feel like I’ve done really well with this goal. Out of the 25 books I’ve read in 2017 so far, I only purchased two of them as e-books. The rest have been from my TBR pile or the library. I also spent $10 on another Prince coffee table book because, reasons. Overall, so much better than last year. I might even challenge myself to not buy anymore books for the remainder of the year….

PS. Are we friends on Goodreads?

Get to Beauty Zero.

With the exception of an overpriced container of Kevin Murphy curl cream that I’m not really feeling (#regretpurchase), I haven’t added any new products to my beauty arsenal.

Fitness Goals.

I’m still doing pole classes and still loving it. New fitness goals: be able to do the splits again and get to the point where I’m not self-conscious about wearing a sports-bra as a shirt at the gym. I imagine this will involve a combination of even more core work & some self-acceptance. Stay tuned.

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Be Limitless.

I struggled with this one. After crashing and burning in April (brought on by trying to do too many things at once) and having a major crisis of faith (should I even be a writer?) I realized I do have limits. I’m most effective when I’m focusing on one or two big goals. As my writing coach recently told me, “your priorities are an asset.” In other words, I’m capable of doing all the things but not all at the same time. Right now I’m all about working on my book, staying fit and being frugal, so I’m just going to focus on that. The ballet, cooking, crafting and learning to drive will just have to wait.

This is all to say that making sustainable changes takes time. Even if you feel like you’re failing, stop and do the math –  there’s probably a few things you are doing right. Focus on those and keep moving forward. At least that’s what I’m trying to remember these days. 

How are you doing?


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The One Where I Attempt To Drink 32 Cocktails in 2.5 Hours

I know some of you probably read the title to this post and thought, “Simone, didn’t you just write a post about how you stopped drinking? So, does that mean that’s no longer on the books?!” Well, yes and no.

A few months ago when I wrote how I had drastically reduced my alcohol intake and started buying art instead, what I should have emphasized was that I didn’t just cut back on booze, I cut back on going out period. While I still spend time with friends regularly, for the most part, my party dresses and stilettos have been gathering dust for the past year.

I’d love to be able to say that this decision was 100% motivated by a desire to be healthy, but that would be a lie. The truth is that I wasn’t just avoiding alcohol, I was avoiding the people I associated with alcohol – namely, Party Guy (remember him?) When I started dating SA, Party Guy and I had an ugly falling out, which lead to another falling out with a mutual friend. While I’m on the path to reconciling with said friend, my falling out with Party Guy was so unsettling that I have zero desire to the him (unless he’s in a burning house fire. Kidding. Kind of. Not really.) So, I’ve been avoiding local social events and bars where he’ll likely be, which is pretty much all of them.

I regularly receive emails from young women who’ve reached out to let me know that this blog has inspired them to be more confident and bad-ass in their own love lives. These emails make my week/month/year. They give me the fuel to keep writing, creating and being a voice that other women can relate to. So, while my health has definitely benefited from not drinking as much, it feels lame to admit that the impetus for this all comes down to avoiding a dude. Not very bad-ass right?

At the time though, it just felt easier to avoid certain social situations than risk running into someone that I no longer felt safe around. Whenever I’d receive an invite for a high-profile social event I’d immediately press delete without a second thought. I was fine with this, until I wasn’t.

Avoiding alcohol in the summer is easy for me. I don’t really like day drinking and I’d rather be up early reading on my patio/at the beach/lounging by the pool than hungover in bed. However, now that Fall is in full swing, I’ve been feeling much more social. When a friend suggested I come with her to Art of the Cocktail, I said yes.

In it’s 8th year running, Art of the Cocktail is a giant cocktail party where you can sample about 35-40 different (mini) cocktails and appetizers from local Victoria chefs, regional distilleries & international brands. I love me a good craft cocktail, so I threw caution to the wind, purchased a ticket, got dolled up in my favourite Tibi skirt & slinky heels; knowing full well that I would probably run into everyone I (wish I didn’t) know that night.

Surprise: I did!

The official theme of the event was “Havana, 1955” but it really should have been “A retrospective of Simone’s questionable dating decisions circa 2011-2014.”

Within the first five minutes of walking into the venue with my lady friends, I saw Fitness Guy (I don’t think he recognized me. Again. Go figure), bumped into Young Dude (we hugged it out because we’re cool like that) before rounding the corner to use the bathroom and coming face to face with Party Guy. After agonizing over this moment for over a year, when it happened it wasn’t that bad. Armed with my favourite red lipstick and some sick finger waves, I was feeling myself that night. I gave him my best resting bitch face – the one that says “I see you but if you want to make contact with me you need to call 1-900-I’mOutOfFucksToGive” (perfected for generations by Eastern European women before me) and kept on walking.

And, it. wasn’t. a big. deal.

It was like the Universe was saying, “we’re going to get all of the awkward stuff out of the way within the first 5 minutes so you can enjoy the rest of your night” because aside from that brief, intense trip down memory lane, the evening went off without a hitch. I had a great time!

I drank and ate all of the delicious things.

I made some new lady friends.

I posed for photos.

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art of the cocktail event in victoria, bc

art of the cocktail event in victoria, bc

art of the cocktail event in victoria, bc

I chatted & hung out with SA who was there as well (because apparently, I’ve dated everyone at this party.)

And I got followed around all night by a creepy 60-year man who looked like a cross between Drew Carey and the Glad garbage bag man, minus the charm (because I’m a weirdo magnet ….but seriously, WHY DUDE WHY?)

I finished off the evening with a nightcap of shrimp tacos with my lady friends (new & old.)

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(Me: terrible at bathroom selfies)

Originally I was going to wrap this post up with something cliche about facing your fears or how everything is better with girlfriends by your side, but the truth is far more simple. Sometimes the stuff that used to seem like a big deal 1.5 years ago, doesn’t really matter anymore. Also, cocktails are delicious.

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