Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Pseudo Relationship for a Pseudo Age

As soon as I started my MBA and thusly became an impoverished student I began to cull eating out at restaurants. Resto-hopping was a nasty AND expensive habit that I had acquired during my carefree days as a 25 year-old YUPPIE. However, as I re-joined the proletariat it was time to cull restaurants and rediscover boxed pasta and pre-made Classico sauce. More often then not, and because I hate cooking for myself, I’d invite my fellow student and friend, Kenny, over for a cheap dinner; at the time his girlfriend lived in Vancouver and it was somehow more enjoyable to sit in silence, albeit together, reading different sections of the Globe and Mail, then to eat alone (obviously I read Sports while he read the then titled Review, or not). Our bromance became so domestic that at one point while my house was on the market and being shown to a prospective new owner, a real-estate agent, touring my apartment, turned to Kenny and asked: “so how long have you two been living here?”

Jokes aside, however, I soon graduated from quick pasta and meat sauce to more elaborate dinners. Wherein after cooking, I would set the dining room table, light a candle, poor (haha) myself a glass of wine and stare out my window.

Once, in a fit of boredom, I began talking to myself:

“How was your day?” I asked to no one in particular.

“Not too bad.” I responded, as I jabbed at my chicken.

“Did you get that thing done at work?” I asked back.

“No, oh didn’t I tell you? That whole project got delayed. We’re waiting on a new direction from the Power That Be.” I answered to myself, chuckling at those spirit-like bosses.

“No. You didn’t mention. That sucks.”

"Oh. Sorry. I meant to email…”

“Nah don’t worry about it.” Awkward silence as I swallowed, “Hey did you still want to have dinner this weekend with the Caplan’s?”

There are of course no Caplan’s. In fact the whole thing was made up and well… I guess a little depressing. Disheartening perhaps for my inability to find a dinner companion but also a bit sad for my perceived mundaneness of everyday conversation.

Two married friends invited me over for dinner a couple of months ago and when I voiced concern about intruding on their date the wife laughed and said, “honestly if you weren’t here we would probably sit in silence.”

I wouldn’t really know from such monotony. I am single. Generally I am always single. I wake up in the morning, shuffle about to work and go about my merry way, with nary a person to care about beside myself. Sometimes this bothers me, most of the time it doesn’t. Realistically I’m pretty sure that if I was ready to be with someone I’d find someone. For whatever reason I obviously prefer putting the mono in Jono.

Singlehood has made me an increasing anomaly amongst some of my friends, plenty of who are starting to shack up with members of the opposite (or same sex) and gasp, marry. A friend told me that since I was the only single one left in our group of friends it was up to me to bring home the gossip.

Being an outlier in the relationship bonanza doesn’t particularly bother me, however, what does worry me, and what worries my mother even more, is not my inherent singledom (as a wise friend once said: we could lock you in a box and the right person would still find you) but the ease at which I find myself in pseudo relationships.

What is a pseudo relationship? I’m assuming at some point almost everyone has been in a pseudo relationship and perhaps hasn’t realized it, so for the uninitiated a pseudo relationship is one that provides some of the emotional (or perhaps physical comforts) of a LTR but is not entirely real. And regardless of how comfortable it may feel at the time, a faux boy or girl friend is really just a relationship crutch on the road to nowheresville, population Norman Bates.

My experience with the pseudo goes back some years to the days immediately following my return from undergraduate. Armed with a BA from McGill and not much else I found myself a stranger in my hometown, sort of friendless, clutching an email address for a former flame who lived a couple of thousand of miles away (I’m actually pretty sure he had written his email address by hand on a piece of notebook paper as these were the days before smartphones). For months the former flame and I would email each other obsessively 3 times a day; we’d send long and lengthy tomes, passionately beaten out over keyboards and delivered to each other via our Hotmail addresses. Our relationship was not particularly real, and yet, a fresh email at breakfast, lunch and dinner somehow meant as much as a warm body in bed. Somewhere in the empty recesses of cyberspace is what amounted to a fake relationship between two dudes who both probably knew that it would never amount to anything beyond cyber-love.

My pseudo relationship history didn’t end there; I’ve done long-distance too, which as much as it is a relationship, has its moment of fakeness. I mean… sure its fun to fly into a foreign city, rush off to a romantic restaurant and screw for a weekend, but like… that’s it. All of those times when you’re standing at in baggage claim waiting for your luggage don’t really count in terms of the everyday reality of washing someone’s post-gym workout gear.

The pseudo relationships can be passive as well. For at least two months after I broke up with someone whom I had been dating long distance, I would use his characteristics to describe a boyfriend when I met people in bars. I mean… did my life really change now that we had broken up? Quite frankly, my life barely changed at all. And because I wasn’t ready to dip my toe into single life, the fake boyfriend worked better then no boyfriend at all.

While many of my friends are happily committed; others are clearly not. Many it appears are instead joining me on the pseudo relationship band-wagon. As one female friend noted, her friends actively replaced her need for a significant other. If she was bored on a Monday night there was one friend to go out to dinner with, Tuesday meant gallery hopping with a different friend and a third friend escorted her to work events. With the exception of sex, who needs a boyfriend?

In today’s hyper communicable world, where social networking has helped to redefine the concept of friend and wherein we manage to keep in constant contact with people via BBM, email, text, Facebook and gchat, the need for a significant other has declined. And for a generation that argues “if its not on Facebook it doesn’t exist” the cyber relationship, as per above, may not be that weird. While you can’t have sex on Facebook, you sure can communicate over and over again on Facebook; you can even declare a fake relationship status.

Of course I’m pretty sure the real reason for the pseudo relationship is that it allows you to select what you reveal and to whom. In some ways it is easier to get naked in front of someone you don’t care about, while spilling your emotional shit to someone who hasn’t seen your bits. Relationships are inherently intimate and perhaps for many of us in the twenty-something generation, it feels easier to reveal only part of ourselves to some people, while revealing other parts to others.

The irony of this, however, is that the pseudo relationship, predicated on an ability to reveal part of oneself, is a trend for a generation that has come of age in the voyeuristic age of Facebook where supposedly everything is shared.

But then again – Facebook is an edited version of real life anyway… and with that the pseudo relationship suddenly makes sense.

P.S. I’m pseudo registered at William Ashley China and Restoration Hardware.

Monday, December 27, 2010

What I Learned at Starbucks? Or How a 21 year-old JAP Taught Me a Life-Lesson…

In the olden days, during the period I consider my Faux Hillarian Era (2004-2006), I wrote a blog entitled: Confessions of a Faux Hiller. The tagline summed it up fairly succinctly: “So if you're like me you've graduated McGill and you've moved back into your parents' house and you're unemployed and sit in the Forest Hill Village Starbucks every day wondering why so many people wear Lululemon? Welcome to the Village, bitch. This is how it’s done in Forest Hill.” Why such anger? Well… I was 22, I lived at home, I was unemployed, and the OC was vaguely au currant. Obviously what else would I do with my life but sit in the Forest Hill Village Starbucks and sanguinely reflect over past decisions?

After a couple of years of the “live blog” I stopped habituating said Village Starbucks and was quickly dethroned as the Fresh Prince of Faux Hill. Why? I became employed and sadly working is to Faux Hill royalty as Wallace Simpson was to King Edward, abdication much.

Anyway - I happened to recently revisit my old haunt and as Bruce Willis will tell you: old habits Die Hard. As soon as I stepped foot into the old Starbucks I fell back into my old milieu of mocking the Village.

This past Tuesday I was lucky enough to sit next to a girl (let’s call her Jessica) and her father. Jessica was looking resplendent in her UGG, bejeweled hair band combination that screamed Blair Waldorf but alas this was no coronation for Little J. This was a “home for the holidays we need to talk about your spending habits” coffee with Dad.

Because I am a bad person (I believe someone once called me a class traitor) I spent the next hour of my life listening to Jessica and her father’s conversation (I know… I’m creepy); and because Sim Sim Sima has self-styled herself after Rob Ford, which has allowed her to declare that she has too has stopped the gravy train, i.e. no Hanukkah Gifts, I consider the following transcribed conversation my Chrismukkah miracle.

Dad: I feel bad for you because your flight to Cancun is so early.

Jessice: I feel bad for myself too. And everyone is complaining about how expensive the trip is. It wasn't that much. $1,000 for a week of vacation?

Dad: Well it was actually more.

Jessica: Ya it well was what, only $2,000 everyone can afford that. Like it wasn't that bad.

Dad: Well it was closer to $3,000 because you wanted a private room.

We then moved on from Christmas vacation to her work prospects once she completed her undergraduate degree in media studies at Western.

Jessica: OMG I did not do four years of a media degree to work at Aritzia, for ten dollars an hour. I'd rather not work.

I won’t lie – at first I contemplated not ‘publishing’ this girl’s conversation; I didn’t think it was right to entirely mock a conversation I snooped on (no matter how retarded it was). Obviously there are privacy issues and I am also sure that if anyone listened to some of the conversations I’ve had at Starbucks they’d conclude that I was a man-whore who has slept with half of the Upper East Side (I totally just wanted to say that and pretend like I was Serena VanDerWoodsen).

Certainly my first reaction to Jessica was: girl, shut the fuck up. But then I thought that maybe dearest Jessica had a point. Maybe Jessica was most brilliant person I had met of late. Maybe Jessica shouldn’t be working at Aritzia; maybe Jessica should be working at the Weitzman Institute! Maybe I’m being a bit overzealous.

Jessica truly raised the salient and pressing issue of: how do real people afford real lives?

All of Jessica’s life (mind you a protected Forest Hill existence) – a $3,000 vacation has been a fact. And to give her some credit – making ten bucks an hour at Aritzia isn’t going to pay for a week in Cancun; she’d have to work at least 300 hours not taking into account any taxes. Now… not everyone gets to go on a $3,000 vacation, but let’s be honest a two-week trip to Europe will probably set you back around $2,500 (that’s if you’re staying in hostels). And because I am a left-wing latte drinking downtown snob – I think going to Europe for two weeks is something that most people should have the opportunity to do (see my new charity called Birthright Europe) once every other year. And before people accuse me of being a snob… remember that George W. Bush was accused as being a simpleton because he had never left North America. In polite society we consider the Grand European Vacance a right of passage. And as much as $2,500 is, it’s not THAT crazy an amount of money. People who have to fly home to Vancouver at Christmas probably pay a grand just to go home and see their parents…

Being an intrepid reporter I decided to do some Statistics Canada research on Canadian spending habits. According to StatsCan the average individual in Canada spends around $38,000 a year. Of total expenses $6600 is taxes. Interestingly however, a Canadian who makes $37,000 should pay $7,400 in taxes (based on tax rates posted here). This actually means that the average Canadian individual pays $6,600 in taxes and therefore earns less then $37,000. No big surprise, but kind of awkward, right?

Interestingly in Stats Canada publications on spending patterns vacation expenses aren’t accounted or mentioned. Primary expenses are, no surprise, food and shelter, which accounts for almost 50% of spending (after taxes are taken into consideration). Leaving $16,000 to pay for clothes, car expenses etc… Suddenly that $3,000 is a lot of guerno.

All of this is to say that for someone to be in a position to afford a $3,000 vacation – they’re going to have to make significantly more then your typical Canadian. And so as much as it pains me to say this Jessica is “somewhat” right; she shouldn’t really work at Aritzia. And to empathize with Jessica’s frustration after four years at university she isn’t going to immediately make enough to “keep her in the style to which she’s been accustomed”. And while we can blame her parents, her friends, her neighbourhood, and society in general for creating out of whack expectations the ability to do some travel should be some sort of Canadian middle class right, no? Heck – you can’t visit this entire country without spending a couple of grand on airfare.

If anything Jessica, in her colloquial JAP twang, has identified the same thing that University of Toronto professors have spent years and probably thousands of dollars researching. Jessica’s Starbucks conclusion: Whither the middle class

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fact: Anal Sex Reduces the Risk of Prostate Cancer

Dear Hot Men Who Have Defiled Their Faces with Moustaches for All of Movember,

I know you thought that growing a moustache was helpful to raise awareness for prostate cancer and I admire all of you for your commitment to a cause (the prostate!) that is near and dear to my heart, even though your upper lip grew increasingly putrid as the month wore on. God-bless your commitment to your prostate, philanthropy and men’s health in general.

But boys I have bad news for you; actually really bad news: your moustache, shockingly, was doing nothing to prevent prostate cancer.

In fact recent research has shown that instead of fingering that itchy ‘stache, perhaps you should uhm… this is where it gets awkward… finger yourself.

Finger where exxactly? Down there.

The truth: you want to prevent prostate cancer? Lads - don’t defile your face, defile yourselves. Stop offering moustache rides to your girlfriend; tell your gay friend and or explorative girlfriend that you are willing to “take your own ride”…

I’m sure you’re wondering where I’m going with all of this so I’d like to draw your attention to a recent study done by the British Journal of Cancer which has concluded that men whose index finger is longer than their ring finger are one-third less likely to develop prostate cancer.

So what does this statistic have to do with homosexuality - the “lifestyle choice” that has been demonized throughout history and declared “unnatural” by homophobes throughout history?

Reading the BJC’s article about finger size jogged my memory about a study that was a done a couple of years ago which argued that men with bigger ring fingers were more likely to be straight, while dudes with a smaller ring finger were more likely to be gay.

So what exactly does this mean? Well… one could (and by one I mean me) extrapolate that a smaller "gay" ring finger means a larger index finger. Therefore dudes with larger index fingers are more likely to be gay AND as the British Journal of Cancer has proven men with larger index fingers are less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. (If you’re like you had to spend like an hour on the Google figuring out which was my index and which was my ring finger... so see the handy dandy image that I found…)

So to boil this down: larger index finger means gay and no prostate cancer!

So what do gay men do with their prostates that most straight men don’t?

If you answered anal sex oyu'd be right. Gay men are well known for having anal sex (or buggery) which according to wikipedia, can produce a pleasurable sensation due to the inserted penis rubbing or brushing against the prostate.


Could it be that anal sex, and prostate massaging, actually has health benefits unbeknownst to human-kind? Are gay men more likely to not be diagnosed with prostate cancer because they’ve been “massaging” their prostates? Perhaps buggery (the act of anal sex) isn’t actually unnatural, as homophobes would have you believe, but actually poses HEALTH BENEFITS to all men.


You want my “It gets better video”? Gays – because of our buggery we’re not going to get prostate cancer like the straights. Goeth and get diddled.

Can someone exhume people from ancient Greece, cross reference anal virginity with rates of prostate cancer to secure proof? Maybe we now know why the ancient Spartans were f’ing each other left, right and centre. The Spartans were smart - they didn’t want to get prostate cancer! Perhaps American soldiers who have been discharged from the military simply for “telling” about their sexuality can be re-purposed to complete the study, Lt. Dan Choi’s not doing anything – send him to Greece for some primary research.

And that is why for the month of January I will be spearheading my own anti-prostate cancer campaign; I now declare January shall be called: Anal Sexruary. Anal Sexuary is the time when men, both gay and straight, ensure that they are protecting their prostates from cancer by having copious amounts of (safe!) anal sex.

And so… Jake Gylenhaal ask yourself this one question: Who would you rather want helping you prevent prostate cancer, Jono Naymark, prostate professional, or TayTay Swift [although this does bring new credence to the line from her song You Belong With Me: “Standing By and waiting at your backdoor”]?