Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Going from a long-term relationship to being single again is an adjustment process. When you’re with the same person for a really long time and then suddenly you’re not, it’s like you have to re-learn how to be single. In my case, the last time I was single for an extended period of time was when I was in my early 20’s and as I’ve learned, being single as a 30-something is a completely different ball-game. I’ve been single for two years now, but there are still things I’m getting used to. From having feelings for people to being rejected, emotions and situations will present themselves, catching you off guard.

Recently I found out that a guy I was into is now dating someone. Really, it shouldn’t be that big a deal. Although this person and I have hooked up in the past, we never made any promises to each other and I knew in the back of my head that the likelihood of anything more happening between us was slim. I knew this was always a possibility, it’s just the news hit me harder than I expected. It left me with this sinking feeling in my stomach that I’ve had a hard time shaking. As a so-called bad-ass sex and relationship blogger I’m supposed to have thicker skin than this, so why do I feel so…well, uncomfortable?

I read an interesting post a while back by Shannon of Frugal Beautiful about how her journey becoming a long distance runner has taught her to become more “comfortable with being uncomfortable.” This is exactly how I feel about the “gladiator” fitness classes  I’ve been taking. When I’m at the gym early in the morning trying to hold a one-armed plank, you better believe it’s uncomfortable. Your whole body is straining, often times shaking, and all you can do is breathe through it. It fucking sucks, but you do it anyways because the hard parts are what make it good. Thanks to years of ballet training, I’m no stranger to physical discomfort or pushing my body to the max but I’m not use to this emotional stuff.

In the past these kinds of feelings would have sent me off on a tailspin of vodka, impulse shopping, more vodka and bad decisions, however this time around I haven’t done any of those things. Last weekend I went out for drinks and politely declined several rounds of shots that were offered to me. Although I drank steadily throughout the evening, I failed to get drunk or do anything I’d regret later. I guess making myself numb isn’t as appealing as it used to be.

Instead, I’ve been working out like a beast, perfecting my roundhouse punch-kick-combo at the gym and being super productive at work.  I haven’t even tried to eat my feelings and my carb intake is shockingly low this week. In other words, despite some emotional discomfort I’m actually doing really great.

I’ve realized that without the haze of vodka or acute anxiety to cover them up, I have a lot of feelings. I’m way more sensitive than I like to admit and when I like someone, I get attached (which has made me re-evaluate how I feel about casual sex in the first place.) It takes me a while to process all the feelings, but once I do I’m fine.

And that’s the thing – sometimes being single feels like you’re doing a one-armed plank with your heart. You’re out there, you’re vulnerable and sometimes it’s really, really uncomfortable, but unless you’re willing to become a hermit (which I’m not), there’s no way around it. You have to forge ahead.

So, here I am. Getting more comfortable with the uncomfortable. Breathing. Waiting for things to shift. Because I know they will. They always do.

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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Guest Post | Sexiest Locations to Spend a Winter Getaway

As soon as the weather cools off and the grey November days (which are typical for the West Coast) start to roll in, my sense of Wanderlust gets even stronger. In fact, I’ve caught myself numerous times looking over photos from LA and Miami (two of my favourite destinations south of the border) and daydreaming about an impromptu trip to New Orleans. I can’t help it!

Since travel is obviously on my mind, today I thought I’d let my travel writer friend, Susan step in with a guest post. Take it away Susan!

When people think of getting away, they think of summer getaways to white sandy beaches and clear Blue Ocean. If a summer vacation is not within your budget or nor does it fall into the timing you need, consider a winter break with your partner or friends instead.Think about it –  it’s unique!

Winter Olympics in Sochi –

There are so many wintry destinations to choose from and winter next year is going to be very fashionable considering the Winter Olympics in  Sochi will be on the international calendar. If you can get tickets, what better way to remember your time together and take in the world’s best talent in skiing, snowboarding, bobsledding, ice skating, and even more. The Winter Olympics have been slightly controversial due to Russia’s conservative views on gay rights, but if you’re set on attending the games then book your accommodation well in advance. There’s sure to be a lot on offer nearby as Russia tries to make the most of the Olympic tourism traffic.

Ice Hotel Vacations – 

Quebec plays host to the world famous Hotel Glace. Take in the best of French Canadian culture at this luxury  spa hotel, which has first-class accommodation, a wonderful restaurant and bar, and every type of spa comfort and pampering service which you could possibly imagine. You can also get some wonderful photos in this incredible and unique ice architecture.

Whilst the Hotel Ranga is not an ice hotel, its location in Iceland is a prime place to see the Northern lights in 2013. Accommodation wise, you can stay in themed rooms that represent each of the 6 continents.

Hit the winter beaches of Hawaii – 

It might surprise you to know that Hawaii is very active in the winter months. More than just active in fact, Hawaii has unique attractions that really come into their own in the last quarter of the year. The waters are still warm, and from November onwards you can enjoy prime whale watching season with humpbacks a specialty in the area. Surfing fanatics can also enjoy the busy season from October to May. If you are an active, outdoor kind of couple, this might make the perfect winter beach getaway for you.

Scottish Highland retreat Scotland has some fantastic winter countryside, where you can escape the busy city. Many of Scotland’s most fantastic houses remain intact and they cater perfectly for a hot and spicy getaway. Prices are reasonable and the winter weather is actually a bonus, especially if you go around Christmas time. Check out cheap flights via air transat.

Winter getaways needn’t be a drag or a second-best option. They can be every bit as fun and as appealing as a summer trip. As you will be flying in the winter, and booking hotels and during less busy periods, you will also save yourself a lot of money and stress. Give a winter getaway destination a chance and find yourself pleasantly surprised by what the latter quarter of the year can offer.

Where are you daydreaming of this winter? Let us know in the comments!

Susan Varano is a freelance writer. Residing in the UK, but more often than not traveling the globe, Susan has spent over 15 years in freelance, writing about some of the worldís best and sometimes unheard of travel destinations.

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!

Review | The Fantasy Box – Sexy Subscription

Although it’s sometimes nice to be able to sit around with your partner, pant-less, eating Dorritos, watching back to back episodes of Dexter while not talking; what I’ve learned from being in long-term relationships and writing about them, is this: Communication is really, really important and sometimes even the best relationships need spicing up. 

Now enter The Fantasy Box – a monthly subscription service designed to help couples communicate better and explore their fantasies.  The Fantasy Box was born when friends, Chris and Mariah, started talking candidly about the pitfalls of long term relationships and sex. The best sex was fun, adventurous, varied and based on a foundation of communication and trust. It was anticipated and prioritized, even when life got in the way. The worst sex was the opposite – monotonous, often full of judgment and something that was done out of obligation. To quote their website, “Sex is the glue that draws you back together when you can’t remember why else you are in this relationship.” My grandma recently told me, “You know what gets you through 50+ years of marriage to the same person? Good sex!” I think they’re all onto something.

With that said, even couples with a fantastic connection experience slumps and issues with communication when it comes to sex. Often couples are curious about wanting to try new things but don’t even know where to start. Recognizing this, Chris and Mariah started Fantasy Box so they could provide couples with an effortless way to introduce a new level of fun into their sex lives without stress, guilt, or judgment. Aka, no more missionary in the dark. (Amen to that!)

Everyone has fantasies – it’s totally natural. After consulting with focus groups and sexperts, the duo came up with over 60 of the most common fantasies for men and women. With The Fantasy Box, every month you will receive a different fantasy, instructions for how to play it out and all the goodies needed to turn fantasy into reality. I am super excited that Chris and Mariah kindly sent me a Fantasy Box of my own to test drive!

My parcel arrived in discreet packaging but when I opened it up I found this gorgeous red box adorned with funky black and white designs. I love all the cartoon lips, panties and hand-cuffs!

Inside the box I found note cards with instructions for the “Leader” and the “Follower”  The couple gets to decide “who’s who” and can always switch it up depending on the mood.

Underneath the cards I found the mother load  of goodies! Ahhhhhhh so many fun and cute things!

Here’s what was inside:

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