When Life, Love & Travel Don’t Go as Planned

At the beginning of 2018, I decided my motto would be “catch flights, not feelings.” I was ready to travel and experience as much as possible, without tying myself down to any one person. I got half of the equation right (I hopped on 20+ flights over the course of last year), but as far as not catching feelings, I kind of failed miserably (if you consider allowing yourself to be vulnerable a failure, which I don’t).

One thing that’s become very apparent over the past year or two, is that I’m very all or nothing when it comes to sex and romance. I don’t meet that many people that I connect with, so if I’m into you, I’m into you. Even if I know a situation is destined to be casual or fleeting (for example, a fling while travelling), I still feel all the feelings. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing (it’s nice to have good feels towards the people you sleep with), it just is what it is.

In May 2018,  I was on a press trip to an adult’s summer camp in Pennsylvania (more on that later) and I met a guy. He was the marketing director for the company sponsoring the camp. We flirted a bit over the weekend, which lead to us making plans to meet up once we were back in New York City (I was in town staying with a friend for the week). This lead to dinner at Miss Lily’s in the East Village, a post dinner kiss at Death & Co, backseat Uber make-outs, a couple of dates & me rushing from his bed on my last morning in NYC to grab my suitcase and head to the airport.

Oh god, did I like this man. He was smart and beautiful and creative. The sex was passionate and connected. I was smitten.

I asked him if he’d like to see me if I came back to visit. He said yes, but in the fall. His son would be staying with him during the summer.

We stayed in touch over the next few months. We sent sexy toe-curling messages back in forth. Sometimes we didn’t speak for a few days. I continued to travel a lot. I went to the Bahamas and Mexico twice. This didn’t feel like other recent flings (there was a guy in Mexico and another in Jamaica). I didn’t date anyone else. I didn’t want to. I kept thinking about our bodies wrapped around each other; his eyes staring into mine the entire time we made love.

It felt special. He felt special.

Fall rolled around and I booked a ticket to New York City. The plan was to stay with the same friend I’d stayed with after camp (we’d become really close the last time I was in town — another piece of my heart I left in New York City).

I was looking forward to hanging with my friend (co-working! drinking wine! vintage shopping!) and spending time with NYC bae, exploring the city hand-in-hand. I was planning on staying a couple of weeks and  seeing what happened.

Almost nothing went according to plan.

Here’s something you should know about me: I don’t cry very often or very easily anymore (thanks, anti-anxiety meds!) but few days into my New York trip, I found myself having a full out emotional meltdown while walking through Times Square. I never thought I’d be the kind of person who’d burst into tears in front of the M&Ms store, but here we were.

(Note: if you’re going to cry in public, do it in Times Square. It’s already kind of awful and it’s so busy that literally no one will care/notice.)

The source of my tears was a culmination of several factors.

Right before I was set to depart, my friend texted me to let me know that she was going to be out of town when I arrived and wouldn’t be able to let me into her apartment (she was abroad visiting family and an elderly relative had passed; prolonging her stay).

There was no way for me to get her keys. I had to find somewhere else to stay at the last minute. I felt weird asking NYC bae if I could stay with him, so the night before I booked an Airbnb (my booking got confirmed a few hours before my flight).

When I got to New York, I learned that NYC bae was also going through some tough family issues. We still had a connection — he held my hand and kissed me on the street and told me it felt like time hadn’t passed at all — but he seemed sadder, quieter and more reserved than he had before. Distracted. Distant.

The dreamy eye-contact was still there. But lying in his bed as he snored next to me, I couldn’t sleep. My mind raced. Was this going anywhere? Had I made a mistake coming here?

My airbnb situation proved to be bad news (turns out sharing a bathroom with strangers isn’t much fun!); my friend still wasn’t back in the city & didn’t have a timeline for when she would be back, and NYC Bae was busy with work and social commitments. Making plans with him felt like pulling teeth.

After a few nights I ditched my sketchy Airbnb and booked myself a room at the Pod 39 Hotel, which turned out to be perfect (I loved this little hotel!) but NYC prices are no joke and it felt like my bank account was bleeding money.

According to scientists, AI can now predict how long your relationship will last, but I’ve always felt the end of love/lust deep in my gut. It’s like a nagging ache that doesn’t go away. It feels like butterflies — the bad kind.

The bad news butterflies were coming in loud and clear. Yet, I was caught in this weird emotional limbo; part of me hoping that the tide would change, while also mourning the likelihood that it wouldn’t.

Throw in the fact that Fall just isn’t my season AT ALL (my seasonal depression is very real) and all felt unexpectedly lonely; like the city of New York was rejecting me; chewing me and spitting me out (which, according to New York transplants, is a very authentic NYC experience).

Since getting treatment for my anxiety, my moods have been really stable. So, to feel this sad in one of the most amazing cities of the world, was kind of scary.

It’s taken me a year to write about this experience, partly because I wasn’t sure how to frame it. I could have glossed over the whole thing and only mentioned the sexy details, but that wouldn’t have been the truth.

The truth is that part of me still feels embarrassed. I wanted so badly for things to work out with NYC bae and for us to build on that little bit of magic we’d had together in the Spring, that I never even considered that it wouldn’t happen. I mean, that’s pretty naive. Especially for someone like me who writes about relationships for a living. I know better than to plan a trip around someone else (without being 100% crystal clear on their intentions) but I did it anyway.

After about 10 days in NYC solo, I was scheduled to go on a press trip to Puerto Vallarta. My friend still hadn’t come back and I was seriously considering changing my flight so I could fly back to Canada directly from Mexico. But, then at the last minute I decided to keep my original ticket and finish out my time in NYC on my own terms.

I’m so glad I did.

When I got back from Mexico, things got better. My friend Gary offered to let me stay at his apartment on the Upper East Side. I stopped waiting around for NYC bae and instead went to a ton of museums. I crossed a few items off my bucket list. I spent time with another girlfriend in town. I also hung out with Gary a bunch and ate lots of good food. Eventually, my friend came back from abroad and we got to hang out, drink wine and dance around her living room to RuPaul.

If you want to find out exactly how I spent my time, make sure to check to check out my post about how to travel to NYC solo in my new travel blog (yes, you read that right!) Love, Peace & Tacos. 

(In the end, NYC bae went out of town while I was in Mexico. We stayed in touch while he was gone, but he didn’t make it back in time before I had to leave the city. At the end of my time in NYC, I flew to St. Lucia for another press trip and then went back to Canada from there.)

I don’t regret going to New York. I also don’t regret any of the feelings I had (even the uncomfortable ones). However, in hindsight I wish I’d been more upfront and asked NYC bae more questions (like, how do you envision our time together in NYC? What will your schedule be like? Do you see this as a fling or something more?) to get a clearer picture of his intentions — before I hopped on a plane.

With that said, life is short. Sometimes you have to take chances to answer questions about the people in your life. I got answers. They weren’t the ones I expected or hoped for, but they were answers nonetheless.

Even though it was uncomfortable, I’m happy I had this experience. It clarified a few things for me — like, I am not destined to be a New Yorker. The city is amazing, but it’s a lot. A wonderful place to visit, but not somewhere I could live longterm. When I got back to the West Coast, I breathed an audible sigh of relief.

Instead of making me bitter, it softened me. It made me realize that I do want to have a partner and to fall in love again. Most importantly, that I can have feelings for someone, they can go away and I’ll get through it. I’ll come out the other side just fine.

How to Find The Confidence To Date Again

One of the things people have asked me most often over the years is: how do I get the confidence to start dating again? Let’s be real, breakups not only can leave your heart battered, they can also be a blow to your confidence and self-esteem. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, it may seem like I fearlessly go from one relationship or situationship to the next, but that’s far from reality. I rarely blog in real time, so often there’s months between a breakup and when I get the nerve to get back on the proverbial horse.

Getting your dating mojo back doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey. Here’s a few things that have helped me over the years.

Heal what needs healing.

Even if it’s been a while since your last relationship ended, there’s always emotional stuff that comes up. In my experience, taking the time to reflect, process and heal these sore spots before you start dating again is never a bad idea. This could involve journalling, making art, taking a personal development course, working with a life coachtalking to a licensed therapist (something I’m a huge proponent of!) or working with another kind of healing professional.

Do things that make you feel good in your body.

I have the tendency to get stuck in my head a lot, so taking time to reconnect with my body is something I try and prioritize (whether I’m dating or not). Confidence is all about how you feel. When I move my body, the endorphins flow and I focus less on how my body looks and more on the cool stuff it can do. Whether it’s running, doing a barre class, yoga, using your favourite sex toys or having an epic bedroom dancing session, find what kind of movement feels good to you & go for it.

Pamper yourself.

I’m also a big fan of getting a beauty treatment (or something done) after a breakup and before re-entering the dating scene. Note: you don’t need to change how you look to be a confident dater, but I find sometimes doing the smallest things (getting a haircut, a pedicure or heck, even a new tattoo or piercing) can give you an extra pep in your step.

For example, I recently had a couple of skin tags removed from the base of my neck. I’ve had them for a while and they’ve always bothered me. But it wasn’t until I was on a date recently and the guy actually tried to pull one off (“hey, you have some fluff on your neck. Let me get that!”) and I had to tell him that “uh, that’s actually attached to my body,” that I decided to have them removed for good. Not only does my neck feel ridiculously smooth now, I also (hope) I’ve helped prevent future awkward moments. Skin tugging = not sexy.

(Sidebar: I used to be very anti cosmetic surgery + treatments, but as I get closer to 40 I’ve become a lot less judgemental. I have several friends who’ve had facial surgeries and cosmetic treatments to reduce the signs of aging & they’re happy, bad-ass women who still very much look like themselves. Next time I’m in LA, I may even swing by Dr. Binder to get an anti-aging treatment of my own. At the end of the day, it’s your body. Do whatever you want for you, not for anyone else).

Update your wardrobe.

When you look good, you feel good. Go through your wardrobe. If it doesn’t fit or you don’t feel good in it, donate it. You don’t need a whole new wardrobe to re-enter the dating scene, but it helps if you have a few pieces that you feel comfortable in. Instead of always scrambling before a date, I like to have one or two go-to date outfits preplanned. For example, my go-to fall/winter look is a black dress, tights, ankle boots and a leather jacket. Done.

Take your time. 

When I first re-entered the dating scene after ending a long term relationship (which involved venturing into the world of dating apps for the first time ever), I mistook “not terrible” for “good.” Figure out how you want to feel in your next relationship (for example, safe, supported, respected). If you don’t feel that way with someone, give yourself permission to walk away.

Be kind to yourself.

RuPaul always says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else!” And while I do think this is true to a certain extent, I think it fails to acknowledge that self-love is a process. Just because you’re still working on it, doesn’t mean that you’re not deserving of love & respect from the people you date. (I used to think that people treated me poorly because I didn’t love myself enough, but the reality is that some people are just crappy. That’s their problem, not yours. End of story.) You’re worthy of being treated with respect, just the way you are. When you remind yourself of this on a regular basis and cultivate a strong sense of self (regardless of where you are on your self-love journey), rejection doesn’t feel so bad.

The Best Date Night Spots in Victoria, BC

Although I’ve been known to rail against the (ahem) “aesthetic choices” of single men in Victoria and have questioned whether my hometown really is one of the best cities for dating, when it comes to actual date night spots, it’s actually pretty great thanks to an abundance of gorgeous scenery and a thriving indie food & beverage scene.

If you’re looking to impress your date and/or want somewhere cool to hang out that isn’t a coffee shop or the beach (please, stop asking me if I’d like to “grab a coffee and go for a walk on the beach” for the 500th time) here are some date night spots in Victoria, BC that have been tried and tested by yours truly.

1. Little Jumbo.

If you visit Victoria, there’s a 95% chance I will take you to Little Jumbo — a small tucked away bar and restaurant that has a locals-only vibe. There’s a couple of reasons for this. For starters, it’s cozy and romantic (but still casual enough for a spur of the moment drink or laid back night out with friends), the ever-rotating cocktail menu is phenomenal and the food is delicious. Come for a cocktail or beer, stay for the truffle fries and leg of lamb (incredible).

2. Stage Wine Bar.

This is another of my go-to date spots. Whether its the first date or the 50th, you can’t go wrong with Stage Wine Bar. The high ceilings, exposed brick and candlelit tables give the place an urban, casually romantic feel. Naturally, they have a huge selection of wines, with glasses starting at around $6 (something thats becoming a rarity in Victoria, unfortunately). Plus — acoustics wise, it’s a lot quieter than the Fernwood Inn (the pub located across the street). 

3. Clive’s Classic Lounge.

At first glance, this place looks like your stereotypical, slightly old-school hotel bar. However, inside you’ll find a selection of world-class, award winning cocktails. A local favourite, this is the perfect spot for a cozy drink with a date or a small group of friends. Oh, and they have a happy hour.

4. Ferris’ Oyster Bar.

A local Victorian institution, Ferris’ has a great menu (OYSTERS!) and a cute garden patio that’s perfect for casual (but nice) date night. If you want to get a bit more fancy, upstairs they have their “Upstairs” seafood & oyster bar (which is one of my favourite places to go for a special occasion) and their sister restaurant Pero Negro, which serves delicious tapas.

5. Bodega & Poco

Both of these bars/tapas joints are small, stylish and located in Trounce Alley — separated by another Victoria institution The Tapas Bar. While the Tapas Bar is great, it can get a bit noisy inside if you’re not able to secure a place on the patio. From what I understand, they’re all owned by the same company but each menu offers something slightly unique. Try one or hop between all three.

6. The Drake.

Looking for somewhere a bit more casual? Love craft beer? Head to the Drake. This lively spot features West coast craft beers and casual eats in historic Market Square. Also, compared to some of the other options on this list, it’s super affordable — making it a perfect first date spot, for when you want something nicer than a dive bar but still want to keep things fun and casual. FYI, they also serve cider and a handful of gluten free food options.

7. Chorizo and Co.

This is what happens when two guys who used to manage your favourite bar decide to open their own bar; completely revamping the previous iteration of Chorizo and Co. I love this little spot on Fort street. The cocktails and wine list are awesome, as is the small plates menu (perfect for impromptu date-night nosh). It’s also located a few blocks off the usual beaten path, giving the place a sense of intimacy. Like Stage, it’s stylish and low-key romantic. However, because C & C is still relatively new, you’re less likely to run into everyone you know there.

At some point I’ll put together a full post of my favourite “romantic restaurants” in the city (because people are always asking me for recs!), but in the meantime here are a few that are sure to be hits:

Where are some of your favourite date night spots in your city?

 

 

How to Become Amazing at Talking to Women on the Phone

 

Want to show me you’re interested? Pick up the phone and call me. Phone calls used to be the norm, but somewhere along the line with the advent of texting, they’ve become the exception. While I’d still prefer texting for most forms of communication, there’s something to be said about the phone call — especially when it comes to catching up with old friends or getting to know a new love interest. I love hearing the other person’s voice and their laughter instead of just their LOL’s. When someone I’m interested in calls me, I get butterflies and my spirits soar like I’m Drake dancing in the Hotline Bling video.

With that said, a lot of people still feel awkward talking on the phone. When the team at Livelinks approached me, I thought it was the perfect oppertunity to share some of my conversation tips for talking on the phone.

1. Invest in a headset.

The biggest complaint I hear from people re: phone conversations is that they “don’t have time to just sit and talk for hours.” I feel you, guys. Unlike texting, where you can distractedly watch back to back episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine while you send witty quips back and forth with your crush, talking on the phone requires a bit more mental focus and presence. My suggestion: get a phone that allows you to plug in earphones. I have an iPhone 8 and if I’m planning on making a phone call longer than a few minutes, I attach my headset. This allows me to do other things around the house or even go for a walk while I catch up with my favorite people.

2. Ask open ended questions.

Not sure what to say? Start by asking open-ended questions (I.e. questions that can’t be easily answered with “yes” or “no”) and let them take the lead talking-wise. What are you passionate about? Where have you traveled? This could even be as simple as asking, “what’s new and exciting with you?” In other words, if you’re not sure what to say, make it all about her. Not only will it take the pressure off, it will also send the message that you’re legit interested in learning more about them (always a good thing). If it helps, make a list of open-ended questions before you pick up the phone and keep them handy.

3. Listen actively.

Don’t zone out. If you’ve asked an open ended question and they’ve answered, follow it up with another open-ended question to show that you’re paying attention (“Oh, you traveled to Spain. What was your favorite part?”)

4. Don’t make it all about you.

Ugh. There’s nothing worse than having a one-sided phone conversation where all the other person does is talk about themselves. With that said, if you’re nervous or the other person isn’t saying much, it’s easy to default to stream of consciousness rambling. To avoid turning your phone chat into a therapy session, think back to those  open-ended questions. Make sure you’re asking your phone date questions and giving them the chance to do the same.

5. Don’t overthink it.

Just because you have them on the phone, doesn’t mean you have to reveal your deepest, darkest secrets. Talk to them about stuff you’re comfortable about and just be yourself. Remember, it’s just a conversation.

6. Make her laugh.

There’s a reason why people always list “sense of humor” as one of their most desirable attributes in a partner. Laughter is a huge turn-on. While I don’t suggest you go into the conversation attempting to be a comedian, keeping things light and playful is a great place to start.

7. End the conversation with an ask.

So, the conversation has gone well and now it’s time to sign off. Don’t hang up the phone without locking down the next steps. Whether it’s asking her out on a date or scheduling your next phone chat, make the other person feel like the conversation was a good use of their time by setting up future plans.

8. Channel your inner Winston from New Girl.

Lastly, it all comes down to confidence. I love the show New Girl and my favorite character Winston. While Winston is kind of awkward in real life, we learn in the later seasons that he’s inexplicably good on the phone (and well, it’s pretty hilarious). The point here is that you can be awkward in real life and still have good phone etiquette. Stick to the tips mentioned above and channel your inner Winston. You’ve totally got this!

PS. If you’re looking for a place to try out these new tips, try Livelinks (1-888-507-1136). Thanks for supporting the posts that support Skinny Dip.

A Good Mattress Can Help Your Sex Life

 

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

I found a sex related topic I haven’t written about yet: mattresses! I never considered the impact mattress comfort had on my sex life until I moved in with my ex-partner. I went from sleeping on a reasonably comfortable spring mattress to spending my nights atop of an Ikea foam mattress that I’m pretty sure was designed by Satan himself. Every morning I’d wake up with a sore back and achy muscles. I have a back injury and when my back doesn’t feel good, my libido suffers. When we finally made the switch and invested in a super comfy mattress, it had a positive impact on our sex life. (It’s amazing how much sexier you feel when you’re no longer living in a real-life version of the sofa bed episode of Seinfeld.)

So, without further adieu, here are a few pointers on how to choose the right mattress so your sex life never has to suffer.

Comfort

When choosing a mattress for sex, comfort is one of the things you don’t want to mess around with. Anyone who’s ever had the unfortunate experience of having sex on a futon only to wake up the next day feeling like their body was put through a trash compactor, knows exactly what I’m talking about. The last thing you want is to strain your body while making love (this is especially true if you already have an injury like I do.) Some mattresses will strain your knees, buttocks, or hands, and other areas of your body that offer support during sex. When these are strained, you will get tired out more quickly and may even wake up to body pain. Look for a mattress that’s comfortable and supportive so that sex can be as pleasurable as possiblesomething that’s more difficult to achieve when you’re worried about your mattress giving you shin splints.

Noise

While most people have differing preferences when it comes to noise during sex, I think most of us can agree that there’s nothing sexy about a creaky, squeaky mattress. This is especially true if you live with other people and want to keep things, um, discreet. Instead, aim to create an environment that allows you to focus on your partner with minimal distractions. By providing comfort and discretion, a quiet mattress will help increase performance and pleasure for both of you.

Bounce effect

To maintain rhythm and endurance you’ll want to make sure your mattress offers sufficient bounce. A rigid base may not offer this. When you don’t have enough bounce, your partner will feel like they’re being pressed into the mattress — and not in a good way. So, make sure you find a mattress with sufficient bounce for maximum pleasure.

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Edge support

When choosing a mattress to bolster your sex life, you also need to think about edge support — the encasement around the frame that spring mattresses require to support the springs. A good mattress will offer sufficient edge support to ensure safety and comfort, and will be designed to accommodate weight and pressure, without collapsing (I’m not sure what that would look like, but it doesn’t sound fun). Instead of worrying about stuff, a  good mattress allows you to focus on what’s important: great sleep and satisfaction from sex.

So, there you have it. If you’re shopping for a mattress with sex in mind, these tips should help. Think about it: the average person sleeps for one third of their life (if you sleep approx 8 hours a night and live for 75 years, that’s 25 years or 9,125 days that you spend asleep). You owe it to yourself to create the perfect refuge and playground for you and your partner(s) with a good mattress.

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