10 Weird Jobs I Had Before Became A Sex Columnist

 

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

1. Body Shop sales clerk.

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

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

2. The sketchy designer jeans store. 

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

3. Ghostwriting erotic fiction.

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

4. The Hungarian deli.

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

5. Candy Girl.

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

6. Flight Attendant.

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

7. Coat check.

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

8. Peddler of fancy old lady clothes.

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

9. Managing a Co-Op residence.

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

10. This job.

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

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

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Your Body at 35: a Brief History

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A day before you turn 30, you fly down to Miami Beach to celebrate your birthday. You spend your first afternoon frolicking on the beach and taking photos with your then-boyfriend.  The result is a series of photos that feature you standing on the beach in a hot pink bikini. Even five years later, you still love these photos. Not just because they commemorate a really great birthday weekend, but because they remind you of how you felt in that moment: free. You weren’t thinking about your body or what it looked like, you just put on your pink bikini and posed.

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This “laissez faire” attitude is what defines the relationship you have with your body during your first 30 years on the planet. Sure, you still remember the name-calling from grade school (skinny. bone rack. shrimp. skeleton) but in general, you don’t spend much time thinking about how your body should or shouldn’t look. You play sports. You dance. When you’re 18, you move to Toronto: a city where you’re always on the go and you make friends with women from diverse cultural backgrounds who also don’t think about their bodies. This helps.

But, between the ages of 30 and 33, things change. You end a long term relationship  and move across the country to live in your sleepy hometown on the West Coast. As your life evolves, so does the relationship you have with your body. Without the stress of the city, your body “grows to fit it’s new tank” and goes through what feels like a second puberty. Your rib cage expands and your hips widen. Your bust increases, you go up 2 bra sizes and your boobs become a force to be reckoned with. You go from 105lbs to 125lbs in just over a year. You walk less and drive more. Your body feels very different.

On one hand, you like this new you. You finally have what one would call “curves.” You feel solid; grounded. You like the way your body takes up more room in the world. Friends, family and lovers call you names that you aren’t used to hearing (curvy. thick. full figured. healthier looking.) Yet, it’s hard to get used to these changes. When you grab the fleshy mass around your waist, it feels alien – like it belongs on another body altogether. That’s when it bubbles to the surface for the first time and doesn’t let go: hate. 

You don’t hate your body. You hate the fact that you’re now spending time thinking about it, when you never did before. This new concern over your body feels not only like a betrayal to yourself, but to women in general.

You never used to feel this way. When you were a kid you danced ballet, swam and ran. You were taught to value your body not for how it looked, but for what it could do. How high it could jump. How fast it could move. As a thirty-something struggling with their body image for the first time, you long to go back to these carefree days.

So, you make some drastic changes. You remove the full length mirror from your bedroom. You start to work out harder than you have in years. You learn to kick and punch. You decide that if a piece of clothing requires Spanx, it’s not worth it. You start to feel really good. Scratch that – you feel strong.

Over the course of these three to four years,  the pop culture definition of what’s attractive also changes. Enter dawn of the Instagram/fitness model; with her rippled six pack and tiny bikini. She’s the latest version of unattainable beauty and she’s everywhere, touting the virtues of the paleo diet and squats. So. Many. Squats. After all, pop culture’s message is clear: it’s not enough to be healthy and fit – you also have to have an ass like a Kardashian.

You find yourself on a date with a guy who tells you that he’s attracted to fitness models and is “really getting into girls with big butts lately.” When he tells you that he encouraged his last girlfriend to do more squats (even going so far as to hire her a personal trainer because as put it, “a curvy girl at 26 is a fat girl at 30”) you want to throw up. It’s clear this guy is an asshole, but the experience still rattles you.

In a moment of insecurity you start to wonder not whether you’re fit (you are) but whether you’re fit enough. While ghostwriting articles for companies in the sex industry you stumble across the glossy, Playboy-esque photos on sites like Perth escorts and Brisbane escorts and wonder, “is this what men really want?”

You get angry when you realize that we allow so much of how we feel about our own bodies to be dictated by someone else. There will always be someone or something trying to make you feel less than, so you need to find a way to tune it out.

The next day at the gym, you imagine your date’s face as you pummel the punching bag and give it multiple roundhouse kicks.

You routinely tell yourself: I am beautiful. I am enough. I am strong. My body is a tool to do cool things.

Your body changes again. It doesn’t get smaller, but it gets more muscular. You kick and punch more things. A woman stops you on the street and asks you if you’re that “lady marathon runner that was featured on the news.” You laugh because you haven’t ran in years and tell her, “it must just be the pink shoes.”

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People have new adjectives to describe you (fit. muscular. athletic.) but your proudest moment comes when you overhear your Mom on the phone with your Grandma. “Simone has been going to this fitness class and now she’s freakishly strong. She helped me lift all these heavy boxes in the garage.” 

It feels good to know that your body can do cool stuff. 

You decide to stop worrying altogether about “how to get the perfect bikini body” and instead, buy a sexy one piece swimsuit that makes you feel like a million bucks. Shortly after your 35th birthday, you take this photo in Palm Springs.

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You make a promise to try and get back to a place where you don’t spend uneccessary time thinking about your body (unless it’s to celebrate it.) You know that it’s not going to be as easy as turning off a switch, but you’re committed to trying to find your way back.

You decide that you’re grateful for the struggle. It reminds you to enjoy the present moment. Because, there will always be a time in your life that you thought you looked better or worse than you do now. You can’t control the passing of time or what other people think, but you can choose to live your best possible life. Right now. Thick thighs and all.

Things You’ll Learn About Love & Sex at 33

When it comes to love and sex, being 33 is both totally weird and awesome.

On one hand, your hormones are raging and you want to have as much sex as possible. However, after a decade of bad decisions in your 20′s you’re now way more selective about who you sleep with…well, sort of. Most days you want to have sex with everyone and no one all at all the same time.

You’ll tell yourself that marriage isn’t really on your mind, but that it would be nice to meet someone that you could actually settle down with. However, some days you’ll catch yourself saying stuff like,  “At this point I don’t even care about finding ONE, I’d be happy to meet someone who is nice and reasonably normal that I can have regular, good, sex with.”

(gorgeous photo found via Keiko Lynn)

Your Pinterest account reveals your true feelings though. Amongst boards devoted to home decor, lingerie and whimsical vintage imagery, lurks one called “Creepy Imaginary Wedding” where you pin to your hearts content all things nuptial related. For someone who is always saying she isn’t even sure whether she believes in marriage, you sure do know what you want. (FYI, you’re thinking a classic, old school Hollywood vibe, bright fuchsia flower arrangments, a modern multi-cultural menu, somewhere like the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. It will be hip and quirky, but still very classic and you’ll wear something Reem Accra or Elie Saab -ish obviously. Your groom will look elegant and handsome and won’t be wearing wrap-around sunglasses)

You spend more time than you’d like to admit wondering what your future dates will find more off-putting: The Creepy Imaginary Wedding, your professional relationship with Joe the Intern or the fact that you write about your vagina on the internet. You decide to stop worrying about it and instead just own it. After all, someone who doesn’t accept you for who you really are isn’t worth your time.

You’ll have good sex, “Okay-ish” sex and sex that is so bad it’s comical. More often than not you’ll have sex with yourself. You’ll come to the conclusion that you can go without sex for a long time, however going without an orgasm is another story. Your collection of sex toys will grow exponentially to the point where you start to run into storage issues.

When you get the urge for actual human contact, you’ll date people.

You’ll meet a 40-something single dad, whom your attraction to defies logic. However, when you go to have sex, you’ll be reminded that some people will use ridiculous excuses to get out of using condoms. He’ll insist that instead of using a condom, you should “just trust him.” This will also remind you of something you learned in your 20’s: that anyone who uses the line “just trust me!” should absolutely not be trusted. Later you watch an episode of Portlandia and determine that this guy must liken himself to be some sort of “pull out king” – albeit, a rather unsuccessful one: he has three kids.

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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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How To Get Ready For a Night Out as a 30-Something

Last week, when the Universe sent me a sign that I’m likely headed towards a life of living alone with an extensive collection of cat figurines, I decided to take matters in my own hands. Within a few minutes of publishing my last blog post I was on my phone texting one of single friends to arrange a girls night out.

Although I still love a good night of drinks and dancing, getting ready for a night on the town as a 30-something is an entirely different operation than getting ready for a night out as an early 20-something. When I was in my early 20’s party prep usually involved getting drunk in the shower, putting on clothes & eating a piece of 3 day old pizza so I wouldn’t throw up later. Party prep as a 30-something involves considerably more pre-planning.

Game day – 

The key to a successful night out relies on establishing the perfect caffeine to power nap ratio. You want to have just enough caffeine in your system to feel human, but not enough that you feel too jittery to have a late afternoon power nap. Failure to power nap before heading out will likely result in your getting the nods at 11pm or worse, copious pre-game consumption of red bull. You’ve learned from your twenties that the latter never ends well.

You look in the mirror and realize that your roots are starting to look way more like Barrack Obama circa 2013 than 2009. There’s no way you can go out like this, which means you’re going to have a to schedule in a trip to the drugstore to buy hair dye.

However, be careful that you don’t linger at the mall and whatever you do don’t say yes to that second latte – you wouldn’t want to risk missing out on your precious nap time! You end up lingering at the mall anyways (“Oooh, free tea testing at David’s Tea!”) leaving you only a 2 hour window to eat, dye your hair and get ready. Colouring your hair under tight time constraints: what could possibly go wrong?!

Forgo nap time. Make coffee instead.

Nutrition – 

You’ve learned from an unfortunate incident in your twenties where you spent two hours throwing up in the washroom of Woody’s that eating before drinking is imperative. To ensure optimal stomach comfort you eat a healthy, protein rich meal with just enough carbs to make you feel full without making you feel sleepy. Now it’s time for the grooming portion of the evening!

Grooming – 

In effort to get the hair dye on your head in the most efficient way possible you manage to drop the applicator. The dye splatters everywhere. There’s purple goop on the counter, on the floor, on the ceiling, behind the toilet.

Purple? That doesn’t seem right.

20 minutes later: Your hair isn’t purple. However, in the haste of cleaning up the bathroom, you’ve also managed to get the dye all over yourself. Your arm now has this weird purplish black pattern that looks like a cross between a bruise and a prison tattoo gone wrong. If you keep your right arm glued to your body the whole night no one will notice. Yes, that will totally work.

Your beauty routine hasn’t changed that much since your early 20’s. However, as a 30-something you’ve developed an addiction to $50 YSL Concealer. When you worked in your cushy day job you wore it everyday, however now that you’re a freelance writer you dole out your YSL with the same discretion as Elaine Benes deciding whether a guy is “Sponge Worthy.” It’s time to bring out the big guns. You apply your YSL liberally and hope it’s worth it.

Wardrobe Selection – 

Your hair & make-up are done and you’re feeling pretty awesome. Now, comes the tricky part: deciding what to wear. As a woman of the world, you know exactly what to wear for a night out in Toronto, Las Vegas, or even Miami. However, when it comes what to wear to go out in Sleepytown you always draw a blank. You know that whatever you decide to wear, you’re likely going to be overdressed or look out of place. If you show up in jeans and heels, everyone will be in sweats. If you show up in a cocktail dress, everyone will be in jeans. If you show up in a Elie Tahari suit, everyone will be in skin-tight body-con dresses. You can’t win.

At 8:01 pm you decide to say “Fuck it!” and go for a look you call “downtown cool” – a white Alexander Wang silk blouse, a vintage Tibi mini-skirt & a Miu Miu clutch. At 8:01 pm you put the Alexander Wang blouse back in the closet after you have visions of someone spilling Jungle Juice all over you. At 8:02 the Tibi skirt also goes back in the closet when you remember what a bitch it is to dry clean.

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