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.

An Open Letter to 2015: You Were a Wild Ride

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Dear 2015,

You were a wild ride. So much so, that I had to take a few weeks off from blogging to process everything that’s happened over the past year.

If I remember you for anything, it’s for being the year I finished writing my very first book. 200+ pages of blood, sweat and tears that pushed me (in a good way) as both a human and a writer. Now that I’m putting the finishing touches on the manuscript and getting it ready to send out to potential publishers, the fact that I wrote a book is finally starting to sink in. The reality that I accomplished one of my biggest goals, will always make you special to me.

I will also remember you as the year I did all the fun things. I spent two weeks exploring Los Angeles, visited Palm Springs and saw more amazing live music in 12 months than I ever thought possible. In fact, when I think of all the concerts I saw in the past year, it makes my head spin (D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, Rudimental, Sam Smith, Drake & A$ap Rocky to name a few.)

But, let’s get real, 2015. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Amidst all the travel, awesome dates and adventures, you also brought a lot of stuff that was just fucking hard. Breakups. Regrettable choices. Self-doubt. A book that at times was very difficult to write because it required me to sift through a lot of really uncomfortable emotions. But, if I’ve learned anything from the past 12 months it’s that I can do hard things. 

So, lets recount some of the best and worst of our adventures together, 2015.

January started off with a bang (um, literally) with a bunch of sexy reviews. I discovered the Fun Factory Stronic Eins (a vibrator that thrusts. Yep, like an actual person), tried out two new lingerie looks and reviewed one of the most luxurious products yet, The Crave Vesper – a gorgeous gold vibrator that’s worn as a necklace. I also shared the story of Vancouver Guy and decided that dating in your thirties is like that Amerie song – there’s just one thing that’s got you tripping…and it’s BAD. 

In February I reflected on the “lost month” I spent with Party Guy and came to the conclusion that no good can come from doing things that feel good in the pants, but bad in the heart. I also started to date a much younger guy. Although our relationship only lasted a few weeks, he was incredibly sweet and kind. February also saw the launch of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. To celebrate the release I interviewed Cynthia Loyst from The Social and spent a Galantine weekend in Vancouver with my friend Courtney. Another reason February was a big month: I discovered one of my (new) favourite sex toys: the Lelo Ina Wave. It’s been almost a year of play and I’m still smitten (just sayin’)

With the help of Joe the Intern and his friends, I tackled yet again, the epidemic of terrible online dating photos in one of my favourite posts from the past year. I also wrote about what it’s like to date in a small town (sometimes it feels like you’re wearing a scarlet letter) in a another favourite post.

April was a big month for book writing so I didn’t blog much. I did however, go on a virtual shopping trip to Cupid Boutique and celebrate Match.com’s 20th anniversary. April was also when I went on my first date with The Secret Agent, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

In May I had the pleasure of being on a podcast hosted by one of my favourite people, Nicole Antoinette. Our conversation spawned another one of my favourite posts: the one where I dispose of the world’s worst sex toy. During this month, Joe the Intern experimented with Sexting and the results were….interesting. 

A blog face-lift was in order, so in June I launched a new look for Skinny Dip! I also wrote about how it’s important to be brave and follow your intuition when it comes to dating. With the new blog design in place, I finally wrote about The Secret Agent and how we met.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’re probably aware that I spent most of the summer hanging out with SA by the pool and going on a bunch of different adventures. However, July also brought some fun reviews: sexy black lingerie, red underthings or porcelain dildos, anyone?

The highlight of August was attending Squamish Fest – my very first music festival experience, where I saw so many awesome acts (Alabama Shakes! Schoolboy Q! Mumford & Sons! Hot Chip! DRAKE). After the weekend festival, SA and I drove down to Seattle to see D’Angelo. I’ve been dying to see him for YEARS and it was without a doubt, one of the best concerts I have ever seen.

The summer was so jam packed with activity that I wrote about how to recharge and stay inspired when you’re really busy. In preparation for fall, I gave my bedroom a sexy makeover with a new nightstand.

In September (my birthday month) Joe the Intern professed his love to Hipster Barbie and I celebrated my 35th birthday in style with friends and family.

October was all about California! My trip to the Golden State was very, very dreamy. So much so, that it was hard to come back to reality.

2015, I could have done without November. It was a difficult month. SA and I broke up right before Halloween. Between having all the feelings, suffering from post-California let down and experiencing seasonal depression brought on by the dark, dreary weather, November wasn’t my favourite.

I liked December. I wrote about how to get through a breakup on a budget, spent some time in Vancouver and capped off the year with a fun sex toy review. I finished the year with some much needed time off that I spent with friends, family & catching up on books + Netflix.

Whereas I spent last New Year’s Eve swilling champagne and partying my ass off, this year’s celebration was much more subdued. I spent it at home with a good friend & her husband, having a few drinks and eating delicious things. It was a perfect relaxing end to a year that went by at break-neck speed.

2015, you were really something else. You involved epic highs and soul-crushing lows, but I’m grateful for both the good and the bad that you brought. Your ups and downs made me stronger and that much more ready to take on everything 2016 has in store.

Cheers & love,

Simone

 

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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