15 (More) Must Read Books About Love, Life & Being a Woman

If you follow me on Instagram you’ve probably clued in to the fact that I love to read. I always have a book on the go and when I’m not reading I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time browsing bookstores and obsessing over what I’m going to read next. A couple of you have asked me for book recommendations recently, so I thought it would be fun to share with you some of my favourite reads.

Ever since I wrote a post called 12 Books About Love, Life and Being a Woman last spring, I’ve been dying to write a sequel. Here are 15 more books about love, life and being a woman. Some of these titles are things I have read & enjoyed over the past year, while others are long time favourites.

If you enjoy this blog, you might enjoy these books too.

1. Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple – Part adventure & mystery, part hilarious satire, this was one of my favourite books I read in 2013. I love the character of Bernadette – she’s smart, witty, totally eccentric and utterly original. Set in Seattle, the book really captures (in the most hilarious way possible) the organic- granola-crunching-designer-rubber-boot-wearing-overly-PC atmosphere of life on the West Coast and what it’s like to feel like an outsider in this milieu (hmm, sound familiar?)

2. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell –  “Hi, I”m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . ” When Lincoln, a mild-mannered, slightly nerdy IT guy is put in charge of monitoring office emails he never expects to become captivated by the entertaining emails exchanged between best-friends and co-workers Beth and  Jennifer. By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s too late to introduce himself – after all, he doesn’t even know what she looks like. What should be the creepiest story ever, turns into one of the sweetest, non-sucky love stories I’ve come across in a long time. I also loved the witty exchanges between Beth & Jennifer because their characters remind me so much of my best friend and I. Whenever someone asks for the perfect “feel good book” I tell them, “THIS. Read this.

3. Monkey Mind: a Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith – Although this book isn’t really about love and wasn’t written by a woman, as someone with an anxiety disorder, I could really relate to this memoir. As Smith describes the various layers of anxiety and how he experiences his day to day life, I kept finding myself saying, “Yes. yes. yes. I know what that’s like.” I feel like this book put into words a lot of thoughts and feelings I’ve had, but haven’t been able to express. The book is also full of witty humour as Smith describes the self-destructive absurdity that is living with anxiety. A good one to read if you or are a loved one are anxious.

4. With or Without You by Domenica Ruta – Ever since I started blogging, I’ve become completely obsessed with reading memoirs of other 30-something women writers. This is a fantastic memoir and one of my favourite books from 2013. Domenica Ruta grew up in a working-class, unforgiving town north of Boston, in a trash-filled house, with her drug addicted mother Kathi – a notorious local figure, whose life swung between welfare and riches, and whose highbrow taste was at odds with her hardscrabble life. With or Without You is a gritty coming of age tale about loving, leaving and healing your personal demons. I couldn’t put it down.

5. And the Heart Says Whatever by Emily Gould – Unlike Ruta, Emily Gould grew up in relative privilege and following college, landed a job in NYC working at Gawker. I resisted reading this book for a long time because I’d heard it described as “narcissistic, angsty hipster drivel” however, I’m glad I picked this book. Gould’s memoir is written in stark, clear prose and seems to perfectly capture the numbness that a lot of us feel in our post-college mid-twenties. I rarely ever cry over a book, but when I read the passage where Gould breaks up with her boyfriend (in a scene so eerily similar to my own breakup), it brought me to tears. Gould grew on me throughout the book, to the point where I didn’t really want to let her go when it was over.

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Twenty Year Olds Think I’m Funny

For those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile, you probably know that I have a long running and complicated history with the hipster coffee shop around the corner from my house. Yes, the coffee isn’t that great, there’s rarely any free seats and more often than not it smells like unwashed hair, but it’s only a block away from my house – as someone who works from home this means something. When working from my bedroom/office starts to feel claustrophobic, I need that place as my quick “getaway” just as much as they need the four dollars I willingly give them for my cafe mocha.

Another thing you need to understand about me is that I have a fondness for groan inducing corny jokes and puns. When my Mom, sister and I are hanging out I’m the Ted Mosby of the family. I’ll periodically catch myself saying stuff like, “No, you have the last prawn. I don’t want to be shellfish. Get it guys?!” I may or may not also watch too much How I Met Your Mother on a regular basis.

I think I’m hilarious, but my attempts at dinner time humour are often met with a groan from my family that usually sounds something like, “UGH, SIMONE! Please, no more jokes!”

Today when I walked up to the counter to grab my usual afternoon snack from the hipster coffee shop, the young, ironically coiffed gent manning the cash literally spit up his drink. It was running down the side of his face and the front of his shirt as he promptly apologized to me.

“Ugh, I’m so sorry. I’m disgusting!”

Before I could help myself, I told him, “Son, it looks like you have a drinking problem.

Which, for those of you who don’t know is actually a quote from one of my favourite childhood movies, Airplane. Of course, he wouldn’t know this because when Airplane came out in 1980, this guy wasn’t even a twinkle in his father’s eye.

A scene from Airplane. If only you 20-somethings knew what you were missing out on.

The Hipsterista (Hipster + Barrista. I’m totally going to make this a thing) burst out laughing, as did his Rayban & suspender clad female counterpart.

“Omg! That’s hilarious. Do you have any more jokes?”

“Nope, sorry. That’s all I’ve got today.”

“You’re really funny! Like, actually funny.”

“Thanks.”

As he put together my order, he asked me how my day was going. I told him that I was a writer. He told me he thought my job sounded really cool, but in his words, “I could never do that for a living because I have dyslexia.”  I take it since The Self Proclaimed Nudist wasn’t working today, this guy was put in charge of over-sharing.

He was a sweet kid. I also think I’ve figured out the secret to getting good service at the Hipster Coffee Shop: crack a joke – preferably one that’s pre-1985.

Maybe next time I’ll try out my Naked Gun or Police Academy material.

drinking-problem-airplane-gif

Greetings From The Bro-Zone

A few weeks ago, when I found out the guy I was interested in was seeing someone, I told one of my friends about the situation.

“So, he just casually slipped it into the conversation that he was dating someone, like out of the blue?!”

I was about to reply when it hit me –

“Yes, it was like he was telling his Bro or something. OMG, HE THINKS I’M HIS BRO. I’m in the Bro-Zone!”

I’m no stranger to the Bro-Zone. I’ve been in and out of the “zone” so many times over the past decade I’ve lost count.

Years ago, when I had just moved to Toronto started dating my first Toronto boyfriend, we went out for brunch with two of his best friends. We were still in the honeymoon stage and I remember my ex telling his buddies,

“Isn’t Simone great?!”

To which one of his buddies replied, “Yeah! You know who you remind me of Simone? You’re like the real life version of Janeane Garofalo’s character on Seinfeld. She’s funny, smart and sarcastic but when Jerry tries to date her he can’t because she reminds him too much of himself”

“Yeah, I mean you’re totally attractive but I’d never want to sleep you. You’re like, one of the guys. You’re too smart and cool to actually have sex with.”

The disturbing part was that I watched as my ex-boyfriend nodded in approval.

Ok, so being compared to Janeane Garofalo isn’t the worst thing ever (because, hello, she’s awesome) and I get that it’s totally not cool to tell your buddy, “Hey, I want to bang your girlfriend!” – but, was the last part really necessary?!

(For those of you who don’t “Speak Seinfeld” please see below)

This wasn’t the last time that I would unexpectedly find myself in what I’ve come to call the Bro-Zone. The ex I mentioned above would eventually decide that he wanted to be in the Bro-Zone all the time…and preferably naked. He bid farewell to vagina and our relationship when he broke things off a year later to date a guy he had met while working on a production of “Guys and Dolls.” File that under, “World’s Biggest Cliches.”

About a year after we split, I had a falling out with two of my closest female friends at that time. My partying had reached the point of self-destruction and both falling outs were the result of some pretty terrible decisions on my part. Although I knew my behaviour was at fault, the end of these friendships made me sad. I was carrying around so much guilt and hurt that for the next few years I was almost afraid to make new female friends out of fear that I might fuck those friendships up too. Instead, I focused on being friends with guys.

I love having male friends. Guys tend to be pretty straightforward and as long as you don’t sleep together (and even sometimes when you do), there’s considerably less drama than what often comes hand in hand with many female friendships. Looking to escape my recent bout of girl-drama, I took comfort in my male friendships.

In the inner circle, there was my Gay BFFs – my friend Trevor, one of my closest friends from BC (and my former prom date) and my friend Chris who was also my next-door neighbour.  Between these two, there was always someone around to talk to (often bemoaning dating, or the lack thereof), cook dinner with, go to concerts with & to spend late nights watching sex and the city episodes with when we were too tired or broke to go out drinking. These guys were my rocks and I don’t think I would have made it through that period of my life without them.

At the time I worked at a store that sold beauty products. Through my male coworkers I met a whole other slew of “gay boyfriends.” When I wasn’t hanging out with Trevor or Chris, I was getting into drunken antics with these guys. Gender never played a part in my other friendships, however my Gay Boyfriends always made a point of letting me know I was one of the guys – or, as they liked to say “One of the girls!”

I also had my straight male friends. We’d drink beer together after class, talk about “chicks” and sometimes they would help me lift heavy furniture. I was intent on becoming the best pseudo-bro I could be. For awhile there I was like the Paul Rudd to their Seth Rogan, The Michael Cera to their Jonah Hill, the Bradley Cooper to the Wolf Pack – except, I had boobs.

This photo is just as awkward for me as it is for you. Photoshop is not my strong suit. 

Then, there were the guys I slept with. I’ll get to those guys in a minute…

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Nobody is Perfect. Not Even Barbie & Ken.

If you’ve been following my Instagram, you have probably noticed that for the past few weekends I’ve been attending Sleepytown’s local flea market, helping my Mom with her vintage clothing and jewelry business. The flea market is an interesting place full of bizarre finds and quirky, colourful characters selling their wares. One of my favourite sellers is an older lady who sells vintage toys. Thanks to her, Joe the Intern with has had new “friends” arriving at Skinny Dip headquarters on a weekly basis.

I was purchasing this guy from her last week when she said to me, “You know, I’ve always thought Ken was kind of gay.” Considering this was coming from a white haired, 70-something grandma type, I had to laugh. I  agreed with her and we spent the next 10 minutes having a very frank and hilarious conversation about men, sexuality and Ken dolls…at the flea market.

When I came home, I told the story to my Mom. A few days later she called me to tell me about this article that she’d stumbled across in the Georgia Straight, our local alternative newspaper.

Vancouver based photographer extraordinaire Dina Goldstein – the artist behind 2009’s Fallen Princesses series (Snow White as weary housewife or Pocahontas as lonely cat lady, anyone?) has turned her skewed lens on iconic couple, Barbie and Ken, in a collection of 10 images titled In the Dollhouse.

Inspired by the traditional gender rolls she saw her daughters reproduce while playing with the dolls, Goldstein decided to take a closer look at the famous dolls, and became convinced that Ken was definitely not a ladies’ man. As she told the Georgia Straight, “Mattel has totally, I think, emasculated him. It’s like, come on… I started playing with dolls in my head, and started thinking that this marriage [with Barbie] has been imposed on him, and now he’s just breaking free and breaking loose, and finding his authentic self.”

Created over 30 days and shot in a purpose built set located in a former art gallery, the series follows the marital breakdown of the world’s most famous set of dolls, depicted by human models. The photos are pretty amazing, which is why I’m sharing them with you today.

Ken and Barbie reading in Bed. It’s OK Ken, those “O” relationship stories get to me too.

Barbie, I feel you. It’s never a good feeling when you’re half naked and your partner is more interested in his hair dryer than what’s under your monogrammed towel.

The subconscious is a murky place. Both Ken and Barbie dream of a moustachioed GI Joe.

Tea time is totally awkward when your beloved insists on wearing your favourite pair of bright pink pumps. The look on Barbie’s face says it all.

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On Life, Love and Concerts

Years ago, I dated a guy who did not share my acute love for live music. When I admitted to him that I once once dropped $150 to see one of our favourite artists live, he responded by saying:

Why would you bother spending the money when you can buy the CD at Walmart for $10? That’s what I did.”

He just didn’t get it. Some people don’t.

Music is an important part of my life. When I’m not  researching new artists in search of the next great piece of ear-candy, I’m making plans to see my favourite artists live. Amazing life experiences are fleeting and you have to grab them while you can. This is why I spent most of my twenties, scrimping, saving and eating a lot of instant noodles so I would be able to see most of my favourite artists live. Even as a 30-something, I still consider going to see live music money well spent.

A good friend of mine is currently working on launching a new mobile music app called Syzzle. If you’re the kind of person who would rather eat ramen for a week than miss out on seeing your favourite band, Syzzle is the app just for you. With Syzzle you can rate live music, follow artists worldwide, receive tour alerts, buy tickets, locate the best music venues in town and a whole lot more. In other words, it’s like Yelp for music.

Remember that time you thought it would be so ironic to go see Hootie and the Blowfish live and when you arrived at the venue, you found out you’d actually purchased tickets to Hootie and the BlowPhish, a bizarre cover band that was really just a Darius Rucker lookalike in a rainbow dashiki singing acoustic versions of “Down with Disease”? Yes, that. Syzzle could have saved you from this atrocity. Instead, it’s likely you’ll never live this down.

Not all concerts can be earth shaking awesome, however the ones that are, have the potential to be transformative experiences. Whether it’s a lesson about life and love, or a broadening of my musical horizons, my favourite concerts are always the ones that have taught me something about myself. Since Syzzle is launching today, I thought I’d take today’s post as an opportunity to reflect on some of the things I have learned from my concert experiences.

I caught the concert bug after seeing one of my favourite artists, Erykah Badu, live for the first time in 2001. I remember racing down to Massey Hall on the day of the concert and buying last minute tickets, which just happened to be in the second row. I was nervous to go to the concert alone, however I ended up meeting a couple from Buffalo, NY who took me under their wing. Together we sang along to each song, as Erykah’s much-more-powerful-in-real-life voice hypnotized us. I learned that you shouldn’t be afraid of doing the things you love, just because you’re worried about doing them alone. Music creates bonds. 

The Fall of 2002 was a rough one: my Grandma passed away, my boyfriend broke up with me and the ceiling of my apartment collapsed. I was heartbroken and it felt like life was literally crashing down around me. To cheer me up, my recent ex-boyfriend presented me with backstage passes to hear Remy Shand live. Say what you will about the Canadian one-hit-wonder, but that guy can sing. My ex was not a good boyfriend, but on that night he was a good friend. Sometimes the people who break your heart are the ones who know how to put it back together. 

Live music can move you in ways you never expected. Like, that I time I went to see Basement Jaxx and I was dancing so hard I actually wet my pants a tiny bit. The lesson here: Unless you’re willing to live with this secret shame, drinking multiple neon blue vodka coolers and jumping up and down, do not mix. 

During a bizarre phase my mid-twenties, I dragged my punk rock music loving then-boyfriend to see Mariah Carey in Toronto. When the songstress entered on stage wearing a gold bathing suit and more fake hair than an Eglinton West beauty shop, my boyfriend leaned over and said, “I just don’t get whatever this is…but I love you.” Loving someone means accepting their quirks – even if one of those quirks is a fondness for R&B Divas.

This is the same guy who, after discovering I’d had a epically terrible day at work, insisted on blowing off his coworkers who had front row tickets to the Gwen Stefani show that night. Instead, he scalped his ticket and purchased two nose bleed seats so we could both go to the concert. I would have done the same thing for him, which made me realize we were both in it for the long haul. Although it didn’t work out, we’re still really good friends.

I’ve learned that you should always pay attention to a band’s name. If the band is called “Audio Sleep” don’t expect a dance party. If a band is called “Deer Typewriter” it’s likely that plaid shirts, ironic t-shirts and horn-rimmed glasses are not only an acceptable wardrobe choice, they’re required. If the band is called “Jessie and the Rippers” you’re in for a real treat.

Although 2011 was a hard year, going to hear Prince play live at my hometown arena was a highlight. As glittering pieces of actual Purple Rain fell on my cheeks, I was more sure than ever of the magical, healing quality of music. I also learned that when it comes to Prince, it’s possible for me to completely and hopelessly attracted to a 55 year old man in glittery, high heel boots.

I’ve learned through my concert experiences that the best concerts are the ones with heart, energy and the ability to make you reflect on that very moment in time. Live music can be transformative, it can make you feel like you are part of something much larger than yourself, but most of all, a really great show is just so much fun.

So, when that guy asked me, “Why would you bother spending the money on a concert when you can buy the CD at Walmart?” I knew unequivocally, that he was not the right guy for me. 

What have you learned from your concert going experiences? Please share!

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