Things I’d Tell My 20-Something Self – Part 3

I don’t know about you guys, but birthdays always trigger a lot of self-reflection for me. I turned 36 a few weeks ago. If someone were to ask me what I like best about being in my mid-thirties I’d say the clarity. It’s nice to look back and be able to identify everything you’ve grown out of. So, in honour of birthdays and hindsight, I thought it was time to share some more things I’d tell my 20-year old self (you can check out the full series here.)

It’s never too soon to learn about good alcohol

Fifteen years from now you’ll be sharing some Pinot Grigio with a ridiculously handsome man. You’ll hold up the bottle of Masi (a wine which was introduced to you by another man that you once found charming circa 2001and tell him, “this is the only good decision that came out of my years of drinking as a 20-something.” You’ll be 180% right. I know the urge to try things just for the sake of trying things is strong this decade, so I’ll just cut to the chase:

The pink bottle of $4.99 “strawberry wine” you keep passing at the liquor store on the way to the cooler aisle tastes exactly as terrible as it’s neon packaging suggests. That non-FDA approved liquor your friend brought back from Israel will make you black out. And throw-up. Then black out again. It will also make your friends simultaneously black out and throw up. Any drink with Red Bull as an ingredient is sure to make you jump up on furniture (which sounds kind of fun now, but it’s something you’ll grow out of. Trust me.) Drinking on the subway is hilarious, but it’s not classy. Southern Comfort is awful. Stop treating your Friday nights like you’re Janis Joplin on an epic bender. Instead, drink the Masi. Always drink the Masi.

The “one that got away” is a myth.

They didn’t “get away” – they left you. It sucks and it hurts and you’re going to cry over these people, but it’s for the best. I promise. Have the feelings you need to have and then move the fuck on. Don’t waste time obsessing over or longing for people who simply didn’t choose you. They. Didn’t. Choose. You. (Keep this in mind when these people resurface requesting a second chance.) Spend your time loving the people who have chosen to be in your life. Start with yourself.

Expect more from the people you date.

As a 20-something you joke that your dating motto is, “have low expectations and you’ll always be pleasantly surprised.” You adopt this line of thinking after a series of breakups and disappointing sexual encounters – both wanted and unwanted – leave you heartbroken and confused. You start asking for less, when really you should ask for more. Don’t do this. You should expect things from the people you date – like, respect, honesty and integrity. Be picky. Ask for what you want out of relationships. It might mean that you spend more time alone, but it won’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Learn to be still.

I know it’s hard. You live in a city of 5 million people and around every corner there’s something or someone new & shiny to distract you, but please try. Stop focusing on things and people that don’t serve you, just so that you won’t have to be alone with your own thoughts. The only way you’re ever going to feel at peace with yourself is if you face your problems head-on and deal with your personal shit. Don’t wait until the end of the decade. Begin early.

What would you tell your 20-something self?

Guest Post | On How to Be Single

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Going through a breakup? Our intern Kaitlyn bravely shares her story today about what it’s like to find yourself single after being in a relationship for 7 years. Take it away Kaitlyn! (illustration credit: Erick Davila)

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I‘ve realized that I do not know how to be single. Not just single –  but independent.

I knew this year was going to be filled with challenges. I’m attending a school where I don’t have any friends and my lover is attending a school two hours away. I knew what I was up against from the beginning. Or so I thought.

The first three months of college were great. I had my own little group of friends, something I’ve always wanted. It was a huge self-esteem boost, because thinking back to high school, I didn’t really have friends there either. In hindsight, it was my fault. My lover didn’t approve of my preference for guy friends over girls. When I finally did make a really good girlfriend, I heard rumors about how some of her life choices weren’t the greatest. I distinctively remember thinking “it’s her life, I’m not going to let it affect mine” and I didn’t. I remained her friend for as long as I could, but eventually time and distance pulled us apart.

Going to college was the fresh start I needed. I woke up every day and actually looked forward to going to school. It was my little group against the world. We were constantly going out and making the best of everything and anything. However, as the saying goes, “don’t cross oceans for people who won’t cross puddles for you.” Gradually, my little group got smaller. Three amigos turned into two. Can you even have two amigos? Can my dog count as the third?

Now it’s just me and my roommate.

And of course I still had my lover. Key word had.

As my group got smaller, I found myself back at square one. I hated waking up every morning to go to school. The thought of it made me sick to my stomach to the point I would cry myself to sleep every night because it felt like I just couldn’t continue. All the independence I had gained when I moved was gone. Just. Like. That.

I dragged my roommate to my lover’s college. I was hoping that I could convince her to leave with me and start over at a new school.

That weekend, we toured the college and living arrangements. But, when I met up with my lover he told me, “I don’t want you to start over. Also, we can’t live together because I need to live with my friends for assignments and I don’t think they would be okay with you being there.” So yeah. Ouch.

Now is a good time to mention that I have been struggling with depression since grade six. My lover had rejected me. I was pretty close to failing half of my classes and I didn’t have a support system at school. Cue: depression.

I slowly began cutting myself off from life. First was my school and the teachers. I had no motivation to be in class and just felt was numb. I was a zombie. Wake up. Go to school. Go home. Sleep. Repeat.

And then something happened. More so like someone.

An old high school friend that is one of my roommates.

We’ve experienced similar yet different challenges that have defined who we are today.

As much as I hate to admit it, I live in the past. I’ve carried the past with me because I thought I needed a constant reminder that “this is the shit that got you here” or “this is how things were back then and how they need to be now.” My past hurt was my anchor. I thought that if  I let go of it, then I might fall backward. The irony being, that hanging on to this emotional baggage is what’s kept me from moving forward.

I was bullied and a bully. I was abused emotionally and physically. Because of this, I feel like I carry this incredible weight on my shoulders to get everything right; to be the kid in the family that has the “perfect” life. You know the one where you go off to school, get a kick ass internship (thanks Simone!) find the love of your life, settle down, get married and have babies. Just kidding re: the babies. I don’t want human babies. Or do I?

My roommate is one of the happiest people I know despite everything life has thrown at him. He’s inspired me to not only to let my bygones be bygone, but to grow as a person and to be the best that I can be.

Remember when I said I “had” my boyfriend? As of a week ago I am officially single for the first time in seven years.

I loved him and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, to the point where we were talking about engagement rings and future plans. But, he was a crutch. He was my crutch. Someone for me to lean on. I depended on him to tell me what I needed to do, even though I didn’t always agree.

We skyped. I cried, he cried and then we were free.

A weight has been lifted off my shoulders. My lover and I both had very different priorities this year. His top three priorities were: school, money, friends, job. Mine on the other hand, was our relationship. I wasn’t on his list of priorities and for some reason I thought this was okay. Now I know that it’s not.

I told him I need time for me. I need to figure out what I am meant to do and how to do it. I knew that if I stayed in the relationship any longer I wouldn’t have the strength for the soul searching I so desperately need to do in order to begin the process of healing and moving on from my past.

“You have to hurt to heal,” a wise man once told me.

So here I am in the first time in seven years, single, on a journey of self-discovery and learning how to be independent. Wish me luck!

When a Whisper Turns To a Yell

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Whether it’s going to your first music festival or finally writing your first book, one of the things I’ve learned over the past year is that good things happen when you push past your comfort zone. When I started this blog in 2009 I chose the name “Skinny Dip” because I thought “skinny dipping” was a good metaphor for writing about your life online – it’s naked, it’s scary but also a hell of a lot of fun.

While writing about pretty things & sexy goodies is definitely enjoyable, lately I’ve been feeling a little too comfortable around here – and not in a good “hey I’m wearing silk pyjamas” kind of way. It’s more like, “hey, I’ve been sitting around in these silk pyjamas so long that now there’s a bum shaped imprint on the couch.” It’s time for a change.

I want to use this space for it’s original intention: to tell the truth – about dating, about sex, about bodies, about the challenges of being a (now) 30-something woman & writer. I want to talk about it all, in the most honest way possible.

So, in an effort to strip things down, I’ve decided that every week I will write and post one short personal essay about something that is currently ‘true’ in my life. There’s a very good chance I’ll still post things in-between these mini-essays, but in the meantime I’m really looking forward to more writing and real talk. I hope you are too.

Here’s the first of those “truth-bombs” if you will.

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When I was in college, I was an avid “recycler” of relationships (Al Gore would have been proud!) My love life mostly consisted of a rotating cast of 3-4 different guys that I’d keep getting back together with even though all the signs were there that none of these relationships would ever work out, no matter how many times I revisited them.

This has always been one of my favourite quotes from Maya Angelou (she has so many.)

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At the time, I understood on an intellectual level what Angelou was getting at, but I just couldn’t put it into practice – not really. So, I continued to recycle my hookups and date my exes even though we’d “broken up.” I justified my behaviour in two ways:

“If I’m recycling relationships then it means I’m not adding any more notches on my bedpost.” (I was very concerned back then at being perceived as a slut. Now, as a 30-something, I couldn’t care less.)

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“If we keep coming back to each other, it must mean there’s something there.” (What I know now: there’s always something there. That doesn’t mean it needs to be revisited.)

I’d keep up this pattern until something would happen that was so hurtful and ridiculous that it would be impossible for me not to walk away (i.e. discovering the person I was dating had a secret family stashed on the other side of the city.)

The whispers were always there, quietly guiding me towards the knowledge that these people were wrong for me. But, I needed that whisper to turn into a yell before I’d pay attention. I can’t help but wonder how much pain I could have spared myself if only I’d really listened to what the people I dated were telling me.

(For example, “I don’t want a relationship right now” doesn’t translate to “I just need the right woman to change my mind.” Trust me.)

I’m much better now. I’m becoming better at listening to those whispers and I don’t let things linger like I used to. I favour clean breaks and moving forward. Yet, in order for that clean break to happen, I still need definitive answers. I need to know that a situation is unequivocally wrong for me so I can eliminate it once and for all from my psyche – or, as my Mom likes to say, “Simone, you can’t just leave well enough alone.”

Since I broke up with The Secret Agent, I’ve been turning over stones looking for answers. This is how I ended up on a date with someone I hadn’t seen in 14 years.

I fully, 100% blame Adele’s Hello for everything that happens next (only kind of sort of kidding.)

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I met C. in 2001 through a friend. He was everything that the guys I had dated previously weren’t:

Big hearted. Sweet. Cheerful. Devoted. Tall. (Although he’s made it clear that he wants to be played by Idris Elba in the movie of my life, I envision him as more of a approachable, Pooch Hall type.) He’d do nice things like make me tapes with remixes of all of my favourite Prince songs – just because. He was the kind of guy I should have been dating all along – that I’d be super excited to date now. However, unfortunately,  at the time I was still attached to the immature and misguided notion that a relationship needed lots of hot and cold drama to be “real.” I thought C. was “too nice.” So, a month or two into dating I broke things off (something I’ve always felt bad about.)

Now, flash-forward fourteen years. I’m browsing through my OkCupid matches when low and behold, I’m matched with C.

As it turns out, he’d recently moved to the West Coast from Toronto. Messages were exchanged, texts were sent, but it didn’t go anywhere. A few months later, I met & fell in like with The Secret Agent.

Flashforward 8 months and I’m single again. I reached out to C. to say “hello” (cue Adele.) A few weeks later, I found myself sitting across from him at a sushi restaurant in Vancouver, laughing and having a really great time. This lead to a second date, a third date and a four day weekend spent together.

I like myself a whole lot more than I did when I was 21. Consequently, I like the 2015-2016 version of C. better too. He’s the same friendly, affable, cheeky guy that I initially got to know – but better. He also still does sweet things that I like (ie. records the Soul Train Awards and doesn’t “cheat” & watch them until we’re together.)

But, here’s the thing about those whispers. Once you become attune to them, they become impossible to ignore. Although C. and I connected in ways that were new and pleasantly surprising, there were a handful of little things that pointed towards the fact that long term, we’re probably not a good match. I spent years thinking that the reason that we didn’t work out the first time was largely due to my own immaturity, but really, the whispers had been there all along. Once I noticed these things, I couldn’t un-notice them. Before I knew it, the whisper had turned to a yell.

I called things off. Again.

We talked and agreed that neither of us regret reconnecting. And I truly don’t – regret it that is. In this case, I’m glad that I revisited the past but I’m also glad that I listened to my gut.

This is all to say that sometimes we need to turn over those stones. You might not always get the answer you were hoping for, but if you pay attention, you’ll always get the answer you need to move forward.

How to Get Through a Breakup On a Budget

HOW TO GET THROUGH A BREAK-UP

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Breakups suck, no matter what. But, what if you’re not only heartbroken, but also just broke? If you’re dealing with some tough times while trying to maintain a budget this post is for you.

You’re probably wondering, “Um, Simone…why are you talking about personal finances today? Shouldn’t you be blogging about something sexier…like crazy dildos or something?!” Well, as I’ve learned over the past few years, part of living well is having a sense of control over your finances.

I’ve also learned that I’m very much an emotional spender. I’ll be on track with my budget and then bam, something will happen in my life (good or bad – my emotional spending is an equal opportunist) and suddenly I absolutely need that a new pair of shoes or dress whether it’s true or not (90% of the time it isn’t.)

This Treat Yo Self craving becomes especially strong following a breakup.

I can’t count how many times I’ve gone to the salon or the mall to splurge on something after I’ve broken up with someone. While I’ll never discount the feeling you get from a post-break up haircut (seriously, it’s the best), these kinds of splurges don’t always make sense when you’re trying to stay on budget.

When SA and I broke up, we’d just returned from an epic (albeit costly) trip to California. While I’d set aside money for the trip so I wouldn’t have to worry while I was there, when I came back I had to deal with credit card bills, business costs and invoices that needed to be sent out. It sucks when you feel bummed out from a break-up and broke.

This breakup was a turning point for me – in many ways. I am proud of is how I handled myself afterward. I didn’t go and drown myself in a pool of vodka & I actually managed to stay on budget. I forced myself to find other ways to make myself feel good that didn’t involve a hangover – financial or otherwise.

Although I feel like I’m “over the hump” when it comes to post-breakup impulsive behaviour, I still feel like this is important to talk about – especially since it’s the holidays & it can be hard to resist the ubiquitous message which is “spend, spend, spend” and “indulge, indulge, indulge.”

So, if you’re currently going through a breakup, here’s a few things that worked for me (and might work for you too.)

Spend time with friends.

Usually, when I break up with someone, I’ll plan an elaborate night out with friends, complete with lots of food, cocktails, wine & pricey cab rides. However, this time around I knew that indulging in this kind of blow-out affair was not only unrealistic, it also wouldn’t make me feel good. So, I decided to do something really low key with friends (happy hour at a local tapas place that was having a bunch of really amazing specials). At the end of the day, it isn’t about what you do, but who you surround yourself with.

I needed to talk. I needed to vent. I needed to share a glass of wine with good people. It’s important to do something with friends – even if it’s just sitting on someone’s couch, drinking cheap wine & watching the Muppets Christmas Carol. Being around the people you love helps. 

Have fun making things.

Another thing I’ve been reminded of recently is that I love making things. I always joke that when my love life is in the crapper, Joe the Intern gets all kinds of new DIY gear and gadgets (sidebar: you have no idea how much joy I got out of making him this tiny musketeer hat.) Whether you’re tackling a fun DIY project or being a weird adult that makes doll stuff, creating feels good. If you’re looking for inspiration, visit A Beautiful Mess – their site is chock full of fun, accessible DIY projects and inspiration.

Move your body.

Working out & getting sweaty has always been a great distraction/outlet for me. My gym membership is already paid for so why not take advantage of it? No gym membership?! Take a walk. Practice your ridiculous Drake-style dance moves in your bedroom. It’s free and will make you feel better. I promise. (Drake heals all wounds! Just kidding. Kind of. Not really.)

Start something new.

Breakups can leave us feeling like there’s a gap in our lives. Now’s the time to try something new! I didn’t realize how much I needed to add something new to my life until a friend invited me to help contribute to her new online magazine (more on that soon!) I’ve also decided I’m going to check out some of the free introductory classes at a yoga studio that just opened in my neighbourhood. Even if it means starting a new book or listening to a new podcast, curiosity doesn’t cost a thing.

Give things away.

You know what also feels good? Giving things away. In fact, as a minimalist, I actually get a lot more pleasure from giving things to other people than acquiring more things for myself. Do you really need a item that will forever remind you of that time you broke up with someone? I’m guessing no. Post-break up, I cleaned out my closet and donated a huge bag of stuff to a local women’s shelter. I also signed up to buy gifts for local homeless people (and you can too!) For a fraction of what I’d normally spend on booze & shoes that I don’t need, I can hopefully make a few people’s days a little brighter.

If you are going to splurge, put your money where it matters.

Unfortunately, sometimes no amount of quirky crafts exercise classes can quiet the urge to splurge. If you feel the need to make a big ticket purchase post-breakup, be mindful of what you’re splurging on and why. Is it something that will give you a confidence boost in the short term or improve your overall health long term? For example, adding another designer bag to your already bloated collection might not make you feel great in six months. Whereas, you’re probably not going to regret seeking out a dental clinic to finally get those dental bridges done or investing in chiropractic treatments.

Practice gratitude.

Sometimes all you need is a change in perspective. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is by practicing gratitude. When I’m feeling really down in the dumps (and even when I’m not), I’ll make a list of five things I’m grateful for. I always feel better after this practice – because, when you see all of the good things you have going for you, it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself. Hopefully it will help you too. 

What’s helped you heal from a break-up? 

On Bromances, Breakups & The Stories That Bind Us

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When I start dating someone new I have to “come out” to them about a lot of stuff. For example, that I write about sex & relationships on the internet, that I live with my mother and that I have an anxiety disorder (I usually save the last one until I’ve had a chance to get to know them.) However, since bringing on Joe the Intern in 2013, if they’re OK with all of the above, then I have to add, “Oh and by the way…I also have an “employee”  who is a 12 inch tall half naked man.” You either get what Joe is about or you don’t. But, if you are going to date me, you need to know that me and Joe are a 2-for-1 package.

One of the things that initially impressed me about The Secret Agent was that he wholeheartedly embraced the presence of Joe the Intern, right from the beginning.

A few days after our very first date, The Secret Agent was scheduled to go on a business trip. He texted me from his destination and asked, “Is there anything that you or Joe need from the mainland?”

I told him I was good, but sent him this photo of Joe just for fun.

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He came back from his business trip with a box of jellybeans for Joe and I to share. This was the start of what would be an epic bromance between the Secret Agent and Joe.

Actions speak louder than words. By accepting Joe into his life, The Secret Agent made it clear that he also accepted my quirks – a sign that he was the right person to have in my life.

After that initial offering of jellybeans, The Secret Agent and Joe would exchange messages on the regular.

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And, like any Step-Boss trying to impress his lady, he spoiled both of us rotten. He made sure Joe & Hammer kept their fanciness on fleek with a pair of jaunty top hats. He also purchased Joe a tiny pair of vintage cowboy boots and generously donated to the Skinny Dip vehicle pool, much to the delight of the interns.

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To show his affection for Joe, The Secret Agent even went so far as to get this T-shirt made for our adventure at the Squamish Music Fest.

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However, it’s not about the material things that The Secret Agent brought into the relationship, but rather, the unending patience he showed for my unconventional hobby/intern. He travelled with Joe, helped me shop for props and never complained when I had to do multiple takes of the same photo just to get the perfect shot (doll photography is a lot harder than it looks!)

I know if you asked the The Secret Agent, he’d tell you that he doesn’t just tolerate Joe, he truly enjoys spending time with him and helping with the photos (& disposing of um, “personal items” in elaborate ways.)

While we were California, we used the bikes provided by our airbnb hosts and spent an afternoon riding around Venice beach & Santa Monica. When I looked up at The Secret Agent riding ahead of me on the boardwalk and saw Joe’s tiny head peeking out of the top of his cross body bag, I not only smiled – I felt grateful to have S.A in my life.

As I’ve explained before, The Secret Agent and I are alike in some ways, but also very different in others. Despite differences in lifestyle and ways of being, a shared affection for Joe was always a constant in our lives.

Whenever these differences became impossible to ignore or silence crept into our conversations, there was always Joe, standing by to break the tension.

The Secret Agent would ask me, “What do you think Joe’s up to right now?”

And I would reply with something like, “Shhhh, don’t break his concentration. He’s telepathically communicating with Hammer about all the margaritas they’re going to make tonight.”

That tiny 12 inches of muscled plastic was the glue that held us together, until it was no longer enough. 


I’ve always thought that the worst parts of breakups aren’t the actual moment of the split, but rather the weeks, days, hours leading up to it. When you stop holding hands in your sleep. When texts that used to be signed by “xoxox” are now signed with happy faces instead. When kisses on the lips are replaced with kisses on the nose. When you start feeling more like friends than lovers. You try and convince yourself that you’re just imagining these things; that you’re reading too much into it, despite the fact that evidence to the contrary is staring you right in the face.

These are the moments that suck the most.

This is all to say that The Secret Agent and I broke up about a month ago.

While it’s always sad when something ends, I don’t have any regrets when it comes to my relationship with The Secret Agent. Unlike my relationships in the past, which involved a lot of self-sabotage and trying to force square pegs into round holes, I’m proud of how I handled us being together. I committed, I was patient and I let the relationship evolve organically – we both did. We had a great few months together, but when those differences became too big to overcome, we parted ways as adults without any drama.

{Epilogue} I’m fine. The Secret Agent is fine. Joe is fine. The Secret Agent & Joe have decided to stay in touch and continue being “bros.” Joe is handling it all like a champ, with his signature brand of stoic silence.

(Top photo is via Steven Henke‘s series, “Barbie Does Palm Springs“)

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