One Hand v. The Other Hand: The verdict (with an Aussie surprise)

On the one hand:  I knew he had his PhD candidacy exam coming up, so while I didn’t like his being MIA, I could understand it. The day before his exam, I caved and sent him a little good luck note. He was all “thanks,” and not much else. Perfectly reasonable, given how stressed he was.  Reasonable, but it didn’t mean I liked the terseness.

Two days later — the day after  his exam — I went on a really, really, really offish Plenty Offish date. I was a little drunk when I got home, as beer was the only thing that made this malodorous Rain Man-esque individual remotely bearable.

What did I do as soon as I walked in the door after the date? I reached out to PhD Boy again, this time asking how his exam went.

Here was my rationale: I can’t handle online dating anymore. I’ve been at it for three years — minus a 10-month relationship intermission with Dave the Third — and it’s so incredibly disheartening and nerve-wracking. When an opportunity arises to date someone smart, handsome and lovely through friends — the way I want to actually meet people — I’m not going to squander it. I will not let this one go without a fight… or without a little more effort, anyway.

So PhD writes back later that night that his exam was exhausting and stressful and he’s glad it’s over. I reply the following morning saying he deserves a gelato for his troubles — my treat. He says thanks, but he’s leaving town the next day and will be gone for a few weeks, and that maybe he’ll take me up on my offer when he gets back.

Right. *rolls eyes*

Say it with me girls: HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU.

After years and years of misinterpreting signals and trying too hard and getting in over my head and having  hopes crushed and selling myself short, I know when to give up. I’m waving the white flag. I’m throwing in the towel. There is nothing more I can do to get this man’s attention without humiliating myself.

On the other hand: 

Maybe he’ll call or write when he gets back… in three weeks? Anything’s possible. Not holding my breath, though.

The verdict: Do nothing, say nothing unless he makes the overture. The ball is in his court. Unequivocally.


The other day I went on a rather onish Plenty Offish date with the Green Eyed Aussie (turns out I misinterpreted the acronym JAFA… the second “A” in his case stands for Australian, not Auklander, as I earlier thought).

His idea for our first date was to go on North America’s fastest zipline, which could have either been a smashing success or utter and complete failure. I give him points for chutzpah and ingenuity. It turned out to be a blast, and we went out for Korean barbecue after. He tasted kimchi for the first time, and was utterly delighted by the spicy cabbage. It was quite adorable. Also adorable was how he said “they’ve got their hands in the biscuit tins,” when referring to corrupt politicians, instead of “they’ve got their hands in the cookie jar.”  Anyway… not sure about the romantic possibilities quite yet, but he’s easygoing and energetic and fun to talk to and generally has a very positive energy about him. I hope to see him again.

Take that, Phd boy. Put that in your dissertation and smoke it.

Rainy day playlist

Sometimes you need a good cry, and it seems the only thing that can release the valve is listening to the exact right song at the exact right time. I believe it’s good and healthy and… primal, in a way … to close your eyes, hit play, and just let the tears flow.

You probably know by now how dark these last few months have been for me. I doubt I would have survived if it weren’t for a very particular roster of songs. Sure, I have upbeat dance tunes on my iPod to cheer me up and add a bounce to my step when I need it. But that’s not what heals.

Here’s a sample from my rainy day playlist:

Allison Krauss – Down to the River to Pray

On our third day in Costa Rica, the second-last day of my friend’s life, we spent the morning soaking in these natural hot springs. When we were done, and sufficiently relaxed, we walked down the dusty road in bikini tops and shorts waiting for someone to stop and give us a lift down the hill to our hotel. To pass the time, my curly-haired friend and I sang this song together as we ambled behind the other two girls. I’ve been kind of obsessed with water since then. How fitting that a Cree elder whom she met through work had a vision, and named her She Who Carries the Holy Water, Crossing the Running River. How fitting she died crossing a stream. Clearly, there are very specific reasons this song makes me cry. But it’s also… just crazy beautiful.

Hey Rosetta! – Becky I keep singing this song

I don’t have a heart-rending story about this one. All I know is it’s incredibly cathartic to sing “pull me out of my, pull me out of my body, and into the black” at the top of my lungs when no one can hear.

Portishead – It’s a Fire

I was really into this song back in the ’90s when I was in high school. Then I sort of forgot about it. It came on somewhere random, like a bar, recently, and it stopped me in my tracks. My lord, is the organ not stunning?

One Hand v. The Other Hand: The Retrial

My two conflicting hands — which, like the rest of me, HATE DATING and think IT’S THE MOST FRUSTRATING AND DISHEARTENING AND CONFUSING SOCIAL RITUAL IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE — are at it again.

Once again, it’s time to hash out this dispute before a group of my anonymous internet peers. You tell me what to do, because seriously… I’m at a loss.

On the one hand: We had a really lovely date on Sunday. I felt lots of chemistry — on my end, anyway. And he leaned in to kiss me. The date lasted five and a half hours. We didn’t run out of things to talk about.

On the other hand: He didn’t ask me out on a second date.

On the one hand: It’s been less than a week, so I need to take a chill pill. And he’s got some sort of big intimidating PhD presentation thing on Monday that’s been stressing him out.

On the other hand: If he liked me, he’d at least say “Let’s do something next week, after my big scary PhD thing is done.”

On the one hand: We had a very, very lengthy talk on Facebook chat on Tuesday, where he told me everything I ever wanted to know about his sister and his mom, and his mom’s girlfriend and his mom’s girlfriend’s daughter and all the drama his family has ever experienced.

On the other hand: He didn’t ask me out on a second date in the end. Furthermore,  he hasn’t appeared online ONCE since then. I get the distinct impression he’s avoiding me.

On the one hand: Maybe he’s swearing off Facebook while he crams/reads/practises for whatever this PhD thing entails. I should be understanding and supportive. Not everyone’s always online, like I am. In fact, I would benefit from tuning out more.

On the other hand: Let’s say somehow this does work out, and we do become, like, an item… is this how it’s going to be? Him retreating into his Cave of Academia and ignoring me all the time? I have been there and I have no desire to get into a relationship like that again.

On the one hand: He has really nice eyes. And he smells nice. And he’s got that tall, lean thing I like.

On the other hand: I make way more money than him, and that’s intimidating to some men.

On the one hand: He’s really smart and nice to talk to.

On the other hand: If it’s causing me this much angst, it’s probably not worth it.

One the one hand: Maybe I know it’s worth it because it’s causing me so much angst.

Good things

I may have mentioned in passing that I’m seeing a therapist to help me through my trauma issues. On our second visit, she had me pick from a list of statements to best describe how I feel when I think about the accident. The one that jumped out at me was “I can’t trust my judgment.”

It was my brilliant idea to go to Costa Rica. It was me who urged my friend to come along, even though she didn’t know the other two girls all that well. She told me she was scared to go on the hike the next day, that she was worried she wouldn’t be strong enough to do it. I assured her we’d take as many breaks as she needed, and that we’d make sure to bring enough snacks and water, and that I was sure it would be fun and she’d be glad she did it. She was so sleepy that morning, but I practically dragged her out of bed so that we’d catch our ride to the park on time. I saw she was tired as we ascended the sun-baked mountain, but we insisted we walk a little bit further to find some shade. I wasn’t paying attention when she tried to cross the stream. When she fell into the water, and slid down the rocks, I didn’t run and grab her arm. I didn’t tackle her with my much-larger frame to stop her from sliding. I helplessly watched her go over the edge. I ran for help, even though in my heart I knew it was a futile task designed to keep my shock-addled brain distracted. It was an act of denial.

I know what you’re going to say. None of these things are my fault. And intellectually, I know it. I invited my friend to come to Costa Rica because I wanted to spend time with her, and I thought she’d be a wonderful travel companion (and she was). She was stubborn as a mule, and would never have done anything she wasn’t game for. She was not someone prone to peer pressure at all. It was a struggle for her, but she wanted to be there. We made the right call to find shade, even though it meant exerting ourselves a little longer. There’s no way I could have stopped her from going over without going over myself. I had to run for help, just in case she survived, but was badly hurt. I couldn’t see and I didn’t know for sure. I know I made all of these decisions with the best of intentions, and with the best knowledge available. But I also know if I hadn’t made them, a mother and father would still have their daughter. Two brothers would still have their sister. Youth in need would still have a counsellor. Scores of people would still have a friend.

I don’t trust my judgment. As the therapy progresses, I’m supposed to believe that statement less and less.

On another sheet of paper my therapist had a list of positive statements. She asked me to pick one that best reflects how I want to feel at the end of it. It seems logical that I’d pick “I trust my judgment,” but instead I honed in on “I deserve good things.”

I want to eventually believe I deserve good things. It’s been nearly four months and I’m  having a difficult time believing I’ll ever be able to be fully happy, without this cloud hanging over me.

Yesterday, I rode my bike along the river by myself. The sky was brilliantly blue, the leaves overhead vibrantly green. My lungs were full of that unbelievable perfume Calgary emits during the summer… floral and fresh. It had rained during the day so the scent was more powerful than usual. I was working up a sweat. My endorphins were going. I was so, so happy by the time I got home.

And then later I lay in bed, and thought about I’d never see my dead friend again. And I cried. I felt guilty for allowing myself to be so happy.

And then there’s the man I like, who maybe likes me back. I was still feeling the afterglow of our terrific date on Sunday, and of our in-depth, highly revealing Facebook chat earlier in the day. How can I be giddy over something so frivolous when my friend is dead, and we’ll  never get her back?

Good things are going to come my way eventually. Maybe they’re coming my way now, finally.

I guess I’ve been trudging through bad for so long, that I find it hard to believe I deserve good.

A Sunday Kind of Love

My Sunday started at a massive clothing swap, where — among MANY other things — I picked up these beauties:

So the day would have been a success even if nothing else good had happened.

Lots of other good things happened, though. For starters, I had a delicious lunch with pals outside on a patio near a lovely garden.

And then the piece de resistance… The Date!

The museum was really busy, so it was a little awkward at first. We’d be excitedly talking one minute, and then sort of stop the next when we realized we were in a throng of senior citizens who were eavesdropping on everything we were saying. He’s a really, really smart guy so I was self-conscious that I’d say something dumb about the Karsh portraits we were viewing. But as the afternoon progressed, we were cracking jokes… about how Sir Edmund Hillary looked as much the intrepid adventurer atop a Chicago skyscraper as we imagined he would mounting Everest, for example.

When I came across the portrait of John Steinbeck , I started babbling about how he’s one of my favourite authors ever, and how The Grapes of Wrath broke my heart and how it’s clear from Steinbeck’s expression in the photo the Grapes of Wrath broke his heart, too. My date listened, and seemed to understand where I was coming from. Most other people would have rolled their eyes at my earnestness.

I wistfully commented about how beautiful Ingrid Bergman looked in her photo. He agreed that yes, she is beautiful. He didn’t say anything cheesy like “..not as beautiful as you, though.” To do so would have been totally disingenuous.

There was another conceptual-type exhibit that was just footage of Zinedine Zidane … not really sure what that one was trying to say. But it sure was nice to sit side by side with my date, arms grazing, in the dark.

After that we walked to a bar not too far away, which serves Mad Men-era drinks like Rusty Nails and Manhattans and Gimlets. We talked and talked and talked and it was so easy. I was fixated on how pretty his eyes are. By the end our knees were touching. We each had two drinks, which was just enough.

There was a gentlemanly kiss goodbye, and mutual agreement that we should do this again sometime.

Can some time be TOMORROW?


I have a date tomorrow with the formerly Facebook-evasive PhD Boy. We’re going to see a photography exhibit at the museum. He messaged me and I didn’t even have to do anything but accept and fit him into my oh-so-busy schedule.

And there are two promising online exchanges taking root: one with an erudite systems analyst who likes all the books I do, and one with an outdoorsy Kiwi with beautiful green eyes.

Turns out my milkshake (milkshake = quirky charm, intelligence and Semitic good looks) does bring all the boys to the yard.

One Hand v. The Other Hand

On the one hand:

He added me to Facebook just under a week ago. The day he added me, we exchanged a few messages rather briskly and then… the chirp chirp chirp of crickets. I wrote the last message, and it was something to the effect of  “yes, let’s go out some time,” accompanied by a winking emoticon. The sudden halt in communication is classic he’s just not that into you. Especially because I’ve seen him online a handful of times when I’ve been. I should move along and save my energy for the private equity guy who wrote to me on who’s into shark diving and triathlons, but exudes too many Mission: Find a Girlfriend vibes and may or may not have a creepy smile.

On the other hand:

Life is short and chemistry is rare — especially for this girl, in this town, at this point in life. Buddy was obviously into me that night a week ago, and added me to Facebook as soon as he got home. Our conversation flowed easily and we’re on the same page for oh so many things. I should give him a little nudge. Maybe say hello next time we’re both online. Maybe ask him if he wants to do something at a specific time on a specific day. What do I have to lose? No harm in trying, right? Maybe he’s afraid I’ll reject him, and he’s leaving the ball in my court. Should I not give him the benefit of the doubt?


I don’t want Beardy or Shorty. Of course not. They’re perfectly nice guys with perfectly suitable credentials who like me. Why on earth would I want them?

Instead, I’m obsessing over  not one, but two, other guys who have sprinkled a few crumbs of attention my general vicinity. The crumbs in question — from both would-be suitors — came in the form of Facebook messages on Saturday morning. An inbox double-whammy, if you will.

Remember how I had that really big crush on the guy I met in my friend’s backyard back in the fall? Remember how I mustered up the courage to ask him out and he said his life is complicated right now, can he take a rain cheque?

Seven months later, once it’s become abundantly clear the rain cheque will go uncashed forever, this:

 Just glanced through your photos. Nice skydiving pics btw. I’ve been wanting to do that for so long. Hopefully happen this summer. Nice job at getting yourself to take the plunge (I could not for the life of me find a word that wouldn’t be a pun).

Anyway, keep in touch.

Here’s my read: He’s duly impressed I jumped out of a plane and lived to tell the tale, and wanted to tell me as much. C’est tout.  The “keep in touch” comes across as extremely platonic. And yet… there’s his thumbnail picture and he’s so flipping cute it makes my aorta do somersaults all over again.

My response, a few hours later.

Yeah… skydiving was alright. And by alright I mean AWESOME. You should totally do it some time! Nothing between you and the sky… a very liberating feeling! How  are you these days? Have anything exciting (other than skydiving) planned for the summer (or whatever sorry excuse for summer Calgary delivers this year)?

It’s been crickets since Saturday. Chirp chirp chirp. No cashing in of any rain cheques…yet. Like an idiot, I’m still holding out hope.

The second crumb-sprinkler is a guy I met at my friend’s birthday party on Friday. The two of them are doing their PhDs in English at the local university. So right off the bat, I’m jonesing for a guy my parents, a.k.a. Mr. and Mrs. Get-A-Real-Job, will hate. I daydream about what it would be like to live in bohemian squalor with this tall drink of water, me paying all the bills with my uber-lucrative journalism job.

Anyway, we have a really great conversation. Like, really great. Time just floats by. People come and go, and it’s the two of us at the end of the bar table, chattering away, like no one else is there. Finally, he’s off to another bar for another party, and I live in that direction. He eagerly suggests we walk together. On the way, we stop to inhale as we pass under a nice-smelling tree. We hit 17th Avenue, where our paths diverge. He gives me a hug, and goes left. I go right.

By the next morning, he’s added me to Facebook (dug through our mutual friend’s list  to find me, I presume). He also made a comment about my awesome skydiving pictures, which are evidently boy magnets. I write back, a few hours later, saying I had fun talking to  him the previous night, and I hope he has a stellar weekend. He sends me a chat message, telling me his weekend is shaping up to be pretty stellar indeed, and that we should hang out again. I reply, saying yes, let’s hang out, but he’s offline. It goes to his inbox. I’ve seen him pop up on chat twice since, and he hasn’t written. It’s only been a few days, but I’m getting pretty neurotic about it.

I want to shake his affection out of my computer, like fruit from a tree. You like me! We had a good conversation! Ask me out on a date, with a set time and location already! Every time I get a “notification,” my heart leaps, and then sinks when I realize it’s not a message from him.

In another era, I would have taken control of the situation and sent a breezy follow up message.  Something to the effect of: “Hey, so how ’bout that date? This weekend, perhaps?” I would have flouted gender conventions.  But not this time. I’m just too drained and defeated, with everything that’s been happening in my life lately.

I should mention the Facebook messages came a few hours before I cried my eyes out in my therapists’ office for an hour, and then bailed on Shorty, ostensibly because I had a cold, but really because I was so sad. 

If my dismissive Facebook suitors were to suddenly respond, and give me what I wanted, would I still want it? Or would I be too sad for that, too?




Lies of omission

What I said:

I’m not feeling well. I have a runny nose, a sore throat and possibly a fever. I’m going to stay in tonight and recuperate.  Sorry to bail on you. We’ll hang out when I’m feeling better, ok?

What I didn’t say:

The stuff I said about having the flu was true. I do feel crappy. But if I were really into this you-and-me thing, I would have proposed that we go out for pho or tea or to a movie. I just wrapped up a fairly intense session with my therapist, in which I described in excruciating detail the accident that took my friend from me. Afterward, I felt tired and dazed and just wanted to sleep all day. But you can’t really cancel a third date with someone because you’re sad, can you? So I only told you the flu part.

You know about the accident, kind of. We were sitting in the park eating poutine out of brown takeout boxes. I told you about how I was going go skydiving the next day, and how I wasn’t afraid because I had done all sorts of zip lines before. You asked where I had gone on zip lines, and I said Canada Olympic Park, Peru and Costa Rica.

Shit, I thought. I said Costa Rica. Please don’t ask me about Costa Rica.

Oh! Costa Rica! How long was I there for? What did I do while I was there?

Unable to lie, I said it’s not really an appropriate second-date story.

Uh oh, you said, teasing. Did I do something embarrassing? Get drunk and dance on a table?

No. There was an accident and my friend died. It was recent. Like I said, not an appropriate second-date story.

The conversation moved on, but I didn’t. For three and a half months The Accident has been taking up more real estate in my brain than any other thing, and I found it exceedingly difficult  and exhausting to be charming for you during the rest of the date.

You texted two days later and I didn’t write back. The texts were funny, and I should have wanted to write back, but I didn’t. I should have been looking forward to seeing you on the weekend, but I wasn’t. I haven’t heard from you since I cancelled our date, and I’m relieved.

You’re so nice. You’re such a gentleman. You’ve done nothing wrong, and you deserve good things. Yes, you’re a little short for my taste. But if I was into this you-and-me thing, I’d put it aside and like you.

I feel short of breath and overwhelmed with guilt when I think of you. I feel a little nauseous. I want to be into this, but I’m not.

All the self-help books I’ve read say you should wait six months after a traumatic incident before making big life decisions. I understand why. My mind is a glass  of water that’s filled to the brim with my dead friend. If the glass is still, I’m fine. If no more water enters the glass, I’m fine. But the littlest jitter, or drop of excess emotion causes the glass to overflow.

It’s not you. It’s me. It’s me and my dead friend.


The human brain — or my human brain, anyway — is an odd thing. Let’s say you’re someone overcoming a traumatic experience. Let’s say that traumatic experience involved watching someone you loved fall to her death from a great height. Would skydiving be something you’d be inclined to do three months after the tragic event? Probably not. Except if you’re me.

When my friend invited me, I emailed back within 30 seconds with the word “weeeee!” At no point in the intervening weeks did I have second thoughts. Strange, eh?

Skydiving Day ended up being the first really, truly, wholly good day I’ve had since…. well, since February 21, the day before the accident.

It was a perfect Prairie day: impossibly blue sky, lush green fields, cotton-ball clouds. It was the first sunny day after two straight weeks of driving rain. Plus, I was spending it with three of my favourite people on the planet (you know who you are).

I was the first to go. The aircraft was so tiny I literally had to spoon with the tandem instructor, Hutch. Hutch is exactly what you’d picture a guy named Hutch to be like.

There were two other solo jumpers crammed in the plane as well. Mercifully, they blocked the view out the window most of the way up, though I was able to catch occasional glimpses of farm fields stretching towards mountains. I felt really sick to my stomach, and worried what would happen if I needed to vomit.

“This one’s for you,” I mouthed to my dead friend as we hit 8,000 feet and Hutch did his final safety checks. My dead friend would have been so, so jazzed if she knew I was doing this. Maybe she did know…

The solo jumper closest to me, a middle-aged Quebecois man, gives me a fist bump and leaps out the door into the roaring sky. And then his friend goes. And then it’s my turn.

Hutch scoots to the window, and I follow, like I was trained to do. I inch my butt to the very, very edge and carefully place my feet on tiny step below, on top of the plane’s landing gear. I stand on the step, barely bigger than my feet side-by-side, and the sky is beneath me. I hold my harness and tilt my pelvis outward. I can’t tell if it’s the wind or my own rushing blood pressing on my eardrums. Hutch says “Ready.” He leans back and says “Set.”

And then… I’m in the sky.

Hutch taps me three times on my shoulder, signalling it’s time to spread my arms. I’m flying. It’s so, so noisy and I feel so, so small.

The parachute opens, and suddenly it’s silent. It’s silent, and I’m thousands of feet above Alberta. Hutch puts my hands in the loops on either side of the parachute and lets me steer. We can go fast or we can drift slowly. We’re falling and we’re in control.

I see a cluster of bodies below, and I realize they’re my three friends, looking up. I lift my legs up as we come in for a landing and my feet scrape against the grass. “I jumped out of a plane!” I say. I’m grinning so widely my face hurts.

I sit on the grass and stare at the big, blue Prairie sky as my friends do their jumps. I watch the aircraft become smaller and smaller as it makes its ascent. I watch a tiny dot grow bigger and bigger until the parachute’s silhouette becomes visible, followed shortly thereafter by my friends’ flushed, smiling faces.

Everyone was okay. Everyone was better than okay.

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