Carrie Bradshaw vs. Reality

Ever since I started writing my column for Sun Media, I’ve had friends congratulate me, often adding:

“Simone, you’re like the real Carrie Bradshaw!”

After I thank them, I usually go into an extended explanation (rant) about how Carrie Bradshaw’s lifestyle is a completely unrealistic representation of what it’s like to be a freelance writer. Ten minutes later, my slightly stunned friends usually reply with something like:

“Wow, I never thought about any of that. You need to write about this. All of this. Right now.”

So, that’s what I thought I’d do today: drop some reality bombs and hopefully shed some light on how writers really spend their days (hint: it’s not shoe shopping.)

A few years ago I read this fabulous piece in Thought Catalog that explains Carrie Bradshaw’s Budget in Real Numbers. I love it because it gives a fairly accurate picture of what Carrie’s finances would look like in real life. I suggest you check it out. Carrie’s finances on the show aren’t the only thing that’s unrealistic. Although I will always have a soft spot for the show and it’s definitely had a huge impact on pop culture, Carrie’s general lifestyle just doesn’t jive with how most working creatives spend their workdays. Aside from a few very superficial similarities (curly hair, shoe collection, writer), Carrie’s lifestyle is nothing like mine. I think it’s important for people to know this – especially if they are considering a freelancing career.

Have you ever noticed that aside from the occasional scene featuring Carrie and her lap-top, everyone’s favourite fictional freelance writer doesn’t seem to spend that much time actually…working? Contrary to what the show depicts, the life of a freelancer involves more than just looking pensive in front of your lap top, leisurely contemplating modern dating rituals. In fact, to make a living as a freelancer, you have to bust your ass. Every. Single. Day. If you’re not working on something for a client or promoting your own brand, you’re networking like a beast with the intention of lining up future work.

Carrie writes one column per week and supports herself without any other apparent revenue sources. When she is forced to take on a second job writing for Vogue, it’s like a totally big deal.


As a real life writer, I often write anywhere from 2-4 articles per weekday (and sometimes on the weekends too.) Although I write a nationally syndicated column for a major Canadian newspaper (which, pays me fairly), there’s no way I’d be able to support myself on that venture alone.  To pay my bills and set aside some savings each month, I typically write multiple articles per week for 5-6 different publications. Along with working with these clients, I also write this blog (which sometimes includes sponsored content and advertising) and spend 20+ hours per week managing social media for a small business. I also try and pick up extra work whenever I can.

The reality is that my work-week can get pretty insane.

Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Fridays I get up at 6am so I can on my way to the gym by 6:45. Monday and Tuesday are typically 12-hour work days. The rest of the week I work all day, with a break for the gym & meals. I often do some work in the evenings. Around 10pm, I’ll usually settle down to watch a TV show on my computer, read a book or catch up with my favourite music site (No dinner at Balthazar for me!) Friday afternoons I usually save for doing errands & something “fun” – this usually involves going for a walk, to Target, or to check out one of my favourite vintage shops. I love a good martini but I rarely drink during the week because it just slows me down too much.

However, I wish I could drink more because most of my workdays end looking more like this:

Than THIS: 

Although I dream of once again having a fabulous bachelorette pad like I did in Toronto, working for myself and trying to build up my business means I’ve had to make sacrifices. In my case, this means I’m temporarily living with my Mom again. Although I’m super grateful that I’m able to live at home, it’s far from glamorous.


 (*Carrie’s NYC apartment isn’t even spatially realistic. Nor is Seinfeld’s, Ted Mosby’s or Monica & Rachel’s.)

I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about being a writer: that it’s super glamorous and lucrative. The truth is that writing actually doesn’t pay very well – at least not when you first start out. While Carrie shops her life away, I often lie awake worrying about whether I’ll ever make enough money to realize my dreams (travel, home ownership) AND still have enough to put a huge chunk into retirement savings. Going by the figures outlined in the Thought Catalog article, I make substantially more money than Carrie Bradshaw, and yet I still can’t afford to drop $600 on a pair of shoes. The only people I know who are able to make those kinds of purchases either have really high paying jobs in the financial sector or are in massive credit card debt, on the verge of bankruptcy.

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Blood, Sweat & Tears

Over the past few years  I’ve poured my heart and soul into this blog, working on posts late at night, early in the morning, on lunch hours while I was still at my day job, blurry eyed and at times on the verge of giving up. There’s been blood, sweat and tears – but luckily not that much actual bloodshed, unless you count that time I cut my hand on a martini glass during a late night, vodka fuelled blogging session (a habit I’ve since given up) Skinny Dip has taught me about the transformative power of hard work, self-promotion and faith. It’s also taught me that I do my best work with a cup of coffee in hand.

However, today is a big day.

I’m really excited to announce that I am the new nationally syndicated Sex, Dating & Relationship columnist  for the Toronto Sun! My first column runs in today’s paper and you can read it here. The column will be syndicated across 140 different papers on a bi-weekly basis, so if you don’t live in Toronto you might just see me within the pages of your local newspaper talking about sex, dating and relationships.


(A preview photo from the pin-up style photo shoot I did this Fall)

I started this blog in 2009 with a specific purpose in mind:  to write, tell stories and use it as a online writing portfolio, in hopes of launching a writing career. Although having a specific focus has definitely helped me during my journey, I had some pretty naive expectations about how long it would take me to reach some of my goals. Three years ago I wrote down a list of goals, one of them being “After my first year of blogging, have my own column in a National publication.” Oh, Simone. What I wasn’t quite prepared for was how much hard work blogging and writing is – it’s fun and inspiring, but work none the less. There are no instant success stories. No one is just going to “discover you.” However, if you work hard and stay focused good things can happen.

In between then and now, my blog has taken me to all kinds of interesting places professionally. I’ve launched a freelance writing career, spoken at a conference held at my alma mater, been on a reality TV show and walked the red carpet at a movie premiere. I’ve written for The Huffington Post, Elle Canada, Canadian Living, the Kit, the Toronto Star and where I am a regular contributing writer. I’ve interviewed high ranking bank executives (while at home in my pyjamas), rubbed elbows with Canadian fashion designers at Fashion week & met D-List movie stars on the red carpet. I’ve also been fortunate to be part of a blogging community that full of some of the smartest, funniest most inspiring people I’ve ever met.

Now that I’ve accomplished the goal I set out three years ago, it feels less like an end point and more like the start of new, exciting things.

If you’re looking to write or take your blog to the next level, here are a few things I have learned over the past few years –

1) Have a specific goal(s) and focus – In other words, what do you want? I knew I wanted to use my blog as a portfolio and eventually turn it into a business – something that’s definitely helped me stay focused. Whether it’s writing a book, scoring that dream job or sharing with the world a super awesome digital scrapbook of your life – figure out what you want out of your blog and go for it.

2) Connect! – Don’t be a stranger. Get to know other bloggers. Reach out to people in your desired industry who are already doing what you want to be doing and find out how they got there. Send that email to that blogger to seems super cool & popular – more likely than not, they’re super friendly & sweet & will be excited to hear from you.

(PS. I love, love, LOVE receiving emails from readers!)

3) Stop comparing your self to others and keep it classy – The internet can be a catty place, so always, always take the high road.  Write fearlessly, but always create work you’re proud of. Look to other bloggers not as competition, but as potential mentors. Do. Your. Own. Thing.

3) Don’t give up!  It can take a while to get where you want to go, but if you put yourself out there, your hard work will eventually pay off. Hang in there. To quote one of my favourite authors, James Baldwin:

“Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck but, most of all, endurance”

I wanted to do something to celebrate my new column, so last weekend I decided to treat myself to a pretty dress that I’ll wear to the White Party at Bloggers in Sin City this May (which is happening in a month. Oh my!)


I tried it on while I was out shopping with my Dad. As soon as I slipped it on I knew it was “the one.” My Dad, who’s recently become my sounding board for my dating troubles, was hesitant at first about the dress.

“It looks great Simone, but it’s a lot of money for one dress”

“I know Dad, but you’ve heard me describe the bachelor selection in this city. This is probably the only white dress I’ll be buying for a while”

“Well, you’re probably right.”

If these three years have taught me anything, it’s that sometimes the best things in life take time to arrive.

What have you guys been up to? Tell me what’s good!

Things I Would Tell My 20-Year Old Self #13 – Tara

From trusting your intuition to surviving Fashion Week, “Life Lessons” have definitely been a theme in my life and on this blog lately. So, I thought this was the perfect time to just go with the flow and post another instalment of my Things I Would Tell My 20-Year Old Self series.


Today I have Tara of Magnolia Thoughts doing the honours. Tara is yet another one of the fantastic people I met at Bloggers in Sin City last year. Tara is fiesty and sassy and one of my favourite Sourherners 🙂 She’s also a fantastic writer and storyteller. I know I say this about all the posts from this series, but this is truly one of my favourite ones yet. Although I’ve met Tara in person and we shared some pretty amusing stories over brunch & a plate of crawfish, I feel like I know her better after reading this post, and I kind of just want to reach out and give her a big hug. I hope you enjoy her story as much as I did! Take it away Tara…

Whew. From where I sit now, self, 20 was quite awhile ago. I am almost 32, and there’s been what feels like a lifetime and a half of insanity in the intervening decade-plus. Let’s you and I have a sit-down. Have some sweet tea and kick back. I’ve got a little hindsight for you.

You are about to rush into something. SLOW DOWN.

20 was a big year for us. 2001 was an important year for everyone. In September of 2001, a whole lot of things changed very quickly in your life. And 9/11 will be more than a national tragedy for you. You won’t forget Peter Jennings simply muttering, “Oh my God,” as you watched that plane hit on live television. You won’t forget the shock, the panic, the frenzied rush to throw your stuff in the car and take off with your roommate across the Commonwealth of Virginia to your boyfriend’s fraternity house in the mountains. The sheer emptiness of the roads, contrasted with the gorgeous late-summer day, will resonate with you forever. But you will remember most of all walking into the house and seeing a vase of white roses, and hearing your friends say to you, “Did you hear about [friend]? How about [another friend’s dad]?” Gone in the Trade Center; gone in the Pentagon. 9/11 isn’t just a national tragedy. It’s the day your friend died in a national tragedy.

You, your friends, and your boyfriend will all grieve together. You’ll be at one of maybe 20 college football games played in the country the Saturday after. No one really knows what else to do, so they’re playing football. You will sing the National Anthem with this crowd, and you will cry. You’ll all wear black armbands for your friend, and drink cheap vodka, and spend a lot of time in confused silence. Your friend’s fiancee will come, too. She’ll drink and cry more than the rest of you. No one will know what to say to her. You’re all 20. You’re kind of useless in the face of large human tragedy. And that Saturday night, you and your boyfriend will agree to marry each other.

Dear girl: stop right there. Do not do this. You will be warned in other ways, too, by the people who know you best. Your daddy, when you call him the next day in your giddy tragedy-drunk joy, will say, “Don’t you want to shack up first?” You’ll think he’s joking. He is not joking. Your oldest friends will be happy for you in that weird way you’re happy for someone you think just might be doing something insane. You kind of are. And your insanity will be validated by all the tragedy-drunk 20-year-olds around you. When you announce your engagement, one of the frat-bros will pick you up in a huge bear hug, swinging you around and bellowing, “Thank God! GOOD NEWS!” And that’s really why you did this, self. You were desperately in need of some good news, some comfort, some ray of light to break through the grief-crazy. You wanted happiness so that the beautiful Virginia fall could be somehow justified when the world seemed to be crashing all around you.

You don’t have to marry him. You’re not really in your right mind right now. And ten years later, when you divorce him acrimoniously, you’ll realize that you both suffered because you made this snap decision. You don’t need a wedding ring to feel safe again. Pause. Breathe. STOP.

Send that letter.

You’re a tough kid, self. You’ve been that way for a long time. You learned it from your parents. You come from survivor’s stock. Except right now, “survivor” would be the LAST word you would ever use to describe your mother. She is unraveling before your very eyes right now. You understand what is happening intellectually. She’s sick. She’s major-bipolar. She’s relapsed on a couple of the addictions she’d gotten under control when you were a little girl and you made friends with other recovering alcoholics after AA potluck “eatin’ meetin’s.” You understand the reasons why this is happening.

Doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, I know. Calling repeatedly, with no answer on the other end for days, weeks on end; rambling, tearful messages on your answering machine; having to call the sheriff in her town to make sure she’s still alive – it’s more than you feel like you should have to handle. And on a certain level, you’re right. It is not your job to be the last tether holding your own mother to reality. And though you’ve done your best, you have finally said to yourself, you know, I just can’t right now. So you stop calling. And you don’t visit. You build the sad but necessary psychic space that you need to make room for yourself to grow.

This is not the wrong choice. There isn’t a “wrong” choice, really. And you’ll spend your twenties in a sporadic, tentative written chain of communication with your mother. But as she gets sicker, you’ll let the trail go cold. When you go to law school when you turn 26, you’ll mean to send that change of address, but you won’t. You’ll get to it eventually.

In 2008, the Super Bowl will coincide with Joe Cain Day, the most Mobilian of Mobile Mardi Gras observances. You, being a Mobilian, love Joe Cain Day. So you’ll think it odd that, after the parade and the festivities, along with that AMAZING end to the game, your husband’s phone is ringing. But it is, and when he answers, the time to send that letter is up. You will fly to Florida. You will take a boat with your daddy and his brother. Your daddy will tell you a story of your mother at age 13, and how she spent her mission trip will at once stir your pride in the woman who bore you and stab straight through your heart at how it ended. You will go to a memorial service at the group home where her life ended, and you will hear her friends give a eulogy that makes you realize that you really did not know her at the end at all.

Kid, send the letter. This one matters. When you’re crying at Thanksgiving dinner because you finally got that damn recipe for Mornay sauce right, but you can’t share that with the woman who handwrote the cookbook you use every fourth Thursday in November, you’ll think about that letter, and how it just never got sent.

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How to Survive Fashion Week Without Looking Like a Jack-Ass

If you’ve been following my twitter or Instagram feed, you might already know that I spent March 19th-24th attending Vancouver Fashion Week and blogging for The Although I’m not a fashion blogger, I’m definitely a fashion enthusiast and I have been fortunate to attend both Toronto and Vancouver Fashion Week several years in a row. Although Toronto Fashion Week is bigger, flashier and a much more star studded, I really enjoy attending Fashion Week in Vancouver because the event is more intimate and accessible. Attending Vancouver Fashion Week means never having your view of the runway partially obscured by Ben Mulroney’s hair (which, in case you wondered doesn’t move, at all, and therefore, totally haunts my nightmares)

Since a couple of you have asked me about what it’s like to attend these kinds of events, I thought I’d take a break from regularly scheduled dating, relationship and sexy time talk, to share with you guys a few things I’ve learned from my Fashion Week experiences over the years.

(The top middle photo is of me & my lovely blogger buddy Alison from Styling My Life)

1. Play nice. See those PR girls frantically running around the venue trying to seat everyone? Be nice to them. If you need something or a detail gets messed up (i.e. there’s someone sitting in your reserved seat), be firm but always be polite. Kindness is remembered. When it’s between seating you (the lowly journalist) in the front row or the heavily botoxed “VIP” who is throwing a hissy fit as we speak, those nice PR girls will hook you up. True story.

2. Don’t feel like you have to wear head-to-toe designer. Although you’ll definitely see people wearing their share of labels, a designer wardrobe is not required for attendance. With that said, just because you own a few designer items doesn’t mean you have to wear them all at the same time – actually, it’s probably better you don’t…and yes, woman with the Gucci print shoes, bag & matching pants I’m looking at you. As it turns out, many of the well-dressed people I spotted at Vancouver Fashion Week were actually wearing pieces that they’d purchased at Zara, Top Shop or made themselves. It all comes down to how you style yourself. I brought a nice pair of shoes and a decent looking handbag, but the majority of the stuff I wore during the week was actually from Joe Fresh, Material Girl, GAP (!) or thrifted.

3. Accept the fact that your feet will probably be uncomfortable for most of the week. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t feel particularly professional in flats. Because Fashion Week is technically “work” I wear heels to all the shows and events. Between standing around waiting for the shows, running between venues and meeting up with friends for dinner/drinks, my feet take a beating. My suggestion? Pack a pair of flats in your bag for the trip to and from the venue. If you have a pair of foldable flats even better.

4. Here are a few other things that you should pack in your fashion week survival kit: Bandaids (your feet will need them), protein or energy bars (some of the shows overlap meal-times and it’s good to have something to discretely munch on so you don’t pass out), a smart phone with a camera (for Tweeting, Instagramming and taking snap-shots of the looks), business cards (Fashion Week is a great networking opportunity. I actually forgot my business cards this year and felt like a total dolt.)

5. Leave your UGGs and DOGS at home. I don’t think there is anything wrong with UGGs per se. I wear them around the house, for walking in the snow or for other wintery/outdoorsy activities – but they do not belong at a fashion show. Same goes for flip flops, house shoes or (god forbid) Crocs. It doesn’t matter that you’re in Vancouver where everyone is “so laid back” – invest in a simple pair of pumps or ballet flats if you’re going to be attending Fashion Week.

You know what else doesn’t belong at Fashion Week? Your Dog! Yes, Hugo here is probably the most adorable pup I have ever seen, but he’s also terrified! Fashion shows are loud, chaotic and the music often reaches nightclub-like volumes. Not only is it totally distracting to bring your pet to a fashion show, it also sucks for the animal. It felt so bad for some of the dogs because you could see their owners were trying to cover their ears & soothe them during the shows so they wouldn’t freak out 🙁 Leave your dogs at home!!

6. Be aware that you’ll probably get hooked on a new, free soft drink beverage. Where there is a Fashion Week, there’s always someone promoting  a new, questionable “energy” beverage. I’m guessing that these companies equate Fashion Week with not eating or sleeping properly and therefore, assume everyone is looking for a caffeine boost – which, wouldn’t be entirely untrue. Let us not forget the time you spent a whole day drinking free Fuze Ice Tea at a charity pool party or the Vitamin Water Incident of 2010. The beverages are there, they’re free and you’ll probably try them. FYI, I think I’m still on a caffeine high from all the  Starbucks “Refreshers” I drank during Vancouver Fashion Week.

7. Don’t worry about taking photos. There’s no way you’re going to get high quality shots of the runway unless you’re a professional photographer, so don’t worry about it. You can get the professional photos sent to you by the PR reps after the event or find them online. However, do take a photos of some of your favourite looks and of the name of the show before it starts. You’re going to see so many looks throughout the week that it’s impossible to remember them all without a visual reminder.

8.  Remember, there’s no laughing, pointing or cat-calling in fashion. I’m thinking this might be a Vancouver thing because I never seen anyone do any of these things in Toronto however, I saw people do ALL OF THESE THINGS at VFW. Even if a model struts down the runway in something that looks like the lovechild of a potato sack and a beach ball, show some maturity & respect and keep your comments to yourself. Also whistling and cat-calling models while they’re trying to work is just skeezy. Ignoring my advice will likely make you look like a jack-ass.

9. Stay sober. It’s really, really tempting to drink during Fashion Week. There’s champagne to be purchased between shows and there’s ALWAYS an after-party somewhere. Fashion Week is hectic especially when you have other work to do (either at the office or freelance) and you’re trying to attend and write about as many shows as possible. Unless you love feeling like crap, it’s hard to party all night and keep up the pace. Instead of partying it up all week, on the last night of Vancouver Fashion Week I treated myself to a decadent seafood meal and a glass of Pinot Grigio with some of the lovely blogger ladies below.

10. Don’t be a stranger. Talk to people! If you play your cards right you might end up meeting some Real Housewives and making some new friends!


(With Mary and Christina of The Real Housewives of Vancouver, who were super nice & friendly!)

( Blogger Buddies! L-R – Me,  Britta, Nina and Allison)

What do you guys think? Did I miss anything?!

Things I Would Tell My 20-Year Old Self – #12 Jen

Welcome to another edition of Things I Would Tell my 20-Year Old Self! Today we have Jen of Connecting the Black Dots sharing some of the things she’d like to tell her younger self. I’m so happy to have Jen guest blogging today because I adore her. Even before I met her last year at Bloggers in Sin City for the first time, I felt connected to her – like she was someone I just had to know. Meeting her in person only confirmed this. Not only is Jen super cool to hang out with & Canadian (like me!), she’s a world traveller, loves dirty martinis and plays poker like a pro.


My favourite memory of Jen so far is the afternoon we spent wandering around Old Las Vegas drinking 99 cent margaritas and eating oversized hot dogs. It was totally awesome, however I’m really looking forward to hanging out with Jen again this year & hopefully making more great memories together that don’t involve questionable meat snacks.

I hope you enjoy Jen’s post as much as I do. Take it away Jen!

I remember when I was twenty and 30 seemed so far away. Now, my 29th birthday is rapidly approaching (less than a month away!) and I actually feel really good about it. I was so lost when I was twenty; just thinking about it makes me shake my head. I wish I could sit myself down and give myself a stern talking to, here’s what I needed to hear:
1. You are beautiful. Truly. You start recognizing this not only about yourself but about everyone else too. It sounds cheesy but it’s so true. I remember that time you cried because you ran into a girl you had known in elementary school and you weren’t wearing makeup. 20-year-old-Jen, give your head a shake girl. You will go MONTHS without wearing makeup and it will be the best damn time of your life.

2. That man-boy you’re dating is an asshole. You know this, and you’ll break up with him soon enough. Borderline abusive, he is damaging your self-esteem, your self-worth, and your relationships with friends and family. After you break up and move out you will have a really tough year. Very tough – you’ll even sleep on the floor for a month since you don’t have a bed and can’t afford to buy one. It’s okay, you’ll work it out and it will be worth it to be rid of him. Trust me.

3. You’re going to be single for a looooong time. You’ll date, you’ll have a pseudo-relationship, and you’ll be fine. But you will be single; I’m talking 7 years of single. You’ll love it, until one day you realize maybe you’re ready. You won’t settle and you won’t seriously date men who aren’t intelligent and kind. Maybe that’s the lesson you took away from the last one.

4. If you hate your job, leave. Yes, it looks good on paper. Yes, you feel very grown-up. Yes, you’re proud of yourself. But guess what? You are miserable. Going home after work and wallowing on the couch while eating ice cream is not healthy. Going out drinking all the time is not healthy. You’ll eventually get it together so don’t put so much pressure on yourself.

5. You also go to university, so stop stressing that you’ll never do that and P.S no one cares if you do or not except you. You ARE smart and stop acting as though you aren’t.

6. Remember that ‘best damn time of your life’ thing? After leaving the job you hate, you move to Central America, then to Eastern Europe and it’s all fabulous. You should have done that earlier.

7. Work on that temper! Being an Aries and a redhead do not help you out in this category, but try. You get much better at controlling it but it still flares up now and then. Keep calm; it’s never the end of the world.

So just know this, 20-year-old Jen, you’re braver than you think and you’re more fragile than you think. You make some pretty stupid mistakes but you also make some pretty good decisions. At 28 you’ll be happier, calmer, slightly wiser, healthier and overall more well-rounded. Just one more thing: laugh more, cry less, hug lots and be thankful for the people who love you.

What would you tell your 20-year old (or younger) self?

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