Trust Your Body & Say What You Mean: A Sweet & Salacious Tarot Reading

The older I get, the more I appreciate people who perform emotional labor for myself and others. These skills are undervalued, underemphasized, rendered almost imperceptible by this culture which says emotional labor isn’t labor at all. Anyone who makes that claim simply doesn’t understand how much they have benefited from the emotional labor performed for them by people in their lives. If they saw it for what it was – if they recognized it while it was happening, instead of breezing past it in an entitled huff – they would be in awe. They would be grateful.

I feel this way about so many people in my life who perform emotional labor for me regularly: the friends who sit with me calmly when I’m sad, the partners who remember which small things upset me and which small things bring me joy, the therapist who puzzles through my motivations with me, even the baristas and waiters who remember my usual order. They are all giving me an exquisite gift made from compassion, intuition, and mindfulness. I do not take it for granted.

I feel this way about Carly from Tiny Lantern Tarot as well. Our reading last year opened my eyes to many worrisome patterns I was perpetuating in my dating life; Carly helped me see these issues by reading my cards, drawing on her knowledge of me, listening to my questions and concerns, and simply being present with me. (Carly uses both she/her and they/them pronouns, so I’ll be alternating between those in this post.)

This past week I went back to see Carly for another reading – specifically, a reading about my sex life, which Carly calls a “pussy fortune.” (They’re quick to point out, of course, that this language doesn’t resonate with everyone and there are many other things you could call a sexy tarot reading. My pun-brain is whirring… A “pre-dick-tion”? A “whore-oscope”? A “get-off-ecy”?!)

I’m a sex-nerdy, kinky, non-monogamous queerdo, so if I’m going to open up to someone – in either a personal or a professional capacity – I need them to be cool with all those things, or even involved in those communities themselves. Carly totally gets all of that, and I feel 100% comfortable unpacking sex/kink/poly things with her. If you are similarly inclined and live in or near Toronto, I would highly recommend booking Carly for a reading; their knowledge of and comfort with these areas of sexuality sets me deeply at ease.

She made me a cup of coffee and we settled onto the couch in her little turquoise office. We discussed some questions I’ve been wondering about: 1) How can I adjust my approach to dating to attract more people into my life who I’m emotionally and sexually compatible with and who want to date me? and 2) What areas of sexuality should I explore next, in my personal life and in my work? (Sex is inextricable from work for me. My sex life fuels my sex writing; my sex writing fuels my sex life. I cannot discuss one without the other.) I watched as they shuffled their gently glinting black-and-gold cards and laid them out methodically on a navy chest repurposed as a table, and we began the reading.

It was a long reading, full of thoughtful silences and the internal whir of one “aha!” moment after another. One of my favorite things about Carly’s readings is that she leaves long, comfortable silences in between sentences and cards. As a journalist, improvisor, and podcaster, sometimes silences make me panic – they’re “dead air” and that’s bad, right?! – but they are incredibly useful in a setting like a tarot reading. Sometimes I need a good ten or twenty seconds to absorb and process something one of us has just said – to turn it over in my mind and look at it from all angles – and it’s in those long pauses that I connect the dots, find the common threads, reach revelations. In everyday life, we so rarely get the opportunity to take a breath, think, and decide at our own pace what we want to say next. Carly holds space for their clients in ways both figurative and literal, and it is such a gift.

They pulled many cards and we discussed many facets of my dating life, sex life, and work life, so I won’t go into detail about all of it – but here are a few key concepts that have stuck with me in the intervening days…

Listen to your body. Trust your body. Let your brain take a backseat. This message came up in multiple cards. It’s something I frequently struggle with, as an anxious weirdo who over-intellectualizes and over-analyzes sex. Sometimes my body really does know best, and that’s hard to accept; I want to be able to conquer all problems with sheer brainpower! But my body is at least as smart as my brain, and I need to let it do its thing.

This has come up in my dating life a lot lately. I’ll force myself to go on a first date (and then sometimes a second or third date!) with someone because they seem like a good fit for me, logically. But my body knows different: my shoulders get tense as I enter the plan in my calendar, my eyelids feel heavy as I force myself out of bed the morning of the date, and I’m fraught with anxious nausea as I slide my shoes on and head out the door. There is a difference between good-nervous and bad-nervous, and I can distinguish between the two if I silence my brain-chatter and listen to my body. Nine times out of ten, my body has a better sense of whether someone is good for me than my brain does, and I should heed that more often.

This lesson also plays into more established relationships. It’s been over a year since I found out my ex-FWB was chronically abusive to other partners of his, and I keep reflecting on all the warning signs my body noticed that my brain decided to ignore. I didn’t feel good around him, I never got excited to go see him, and he often said creepy things that grated on me – but I kept assuring myself these were small things that ultimately didn’t matter, since the sex was good and he was, on the surface, “nice.”

Contrastingly, I recently had sex for the first time with a new beau who I believe is actually nice, and afterward, he breathed in my ear, “I have a good feeling about you.” I had a good feeling about him, too – in my body, not just my brain. Our bodies are wiser than we give them credit for.

Say what you mean, and mean what you say. One of the cards Carly pulled for me this time, the Seeker of Feathers, also came up in our last reading, which I gather means I haven’t learned its lesson yet. This card is all about honesty, assertiveness, telling the truth, even when doing so is hard. I think most of us could stand to get better at this.

Sometimes I tell dates I like them and want to see them again when I kinda don’t. Sometimes I tell dates I’m cool with us keeping things “chill” and “casual” when I utterly am not. Sometimes I tell dates I’m “not sure what I’m looking for” when I actually know I’m looking for a committed primary partner.

Sometimes I tell partners I don’t care that I didn’t have an orgasm, when I actually do care. Sometimes I tell partners what they’re doing feels great, when I actually know what would feel better. Sometimes I tell partners our sexual incompatibilities are solvable, when I’m actually frustrated to catastrophic levels with one crucial mismatch or another.

I get myself into trouble when I lie, distort the truth, or omit pertinent details. I end up going on dates with people I barely like, making out with people I’d rather just cuddle, having sex with people to whom I should’ve said “good night” hours ago. To be clear, these experiences are consensual; they just lack the passion and enthusiasm and “oh yes”-ness that I consider vital. If there isn’t mutual excitement in a romantic and/or sexual interaction, why am I even there? What is the point?

I told Carly about how I struggle with letting people down, even when I know I’m not feeling a connection. She reminded me that dating is inherently risky and most people know that. There is always a risk of rejection, sadness, conflict, disappointment. That’s just part of the deal. I don’t have to protect people from that. Trying to postpone those feelings often just worsens them in the end. “Stop going on second dates with people you know you don’t want to keep seeing,” Carly advised me. Okay. I’ll try.

Consider your intentions. One of the cards Carly drew – the Ten of Feathers – was meant to represent how others observe or interpret me, and it indicated a fall. Chaos. Mental health struggles, addiction, loneliness, fears.

I felt a rush of embarrassment when they explained this to me. I flashed back to Kat Williams advising against being a “car-crash blogger” – a blogger who only writes about bad things that happen to them, in an effort to get clicks and sympathy. I often write about difficult stuff – but is that what I want to be known for?

As I blathered about this internal crisis, Carly reminded me that having a public image laced with conflict and chaos isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And I realized they were right. I’ve received so many nice notes from readers telling me that my writing about soul-crushing experiences – unrequited love, rejection, insecurity – helped them understand and get through tricky situations of their own. This was a nice reminder that I should consider my intentions with regards to my work: writing sad stuff isn’t necessarily bad, it should just be something I deliberately choose to do, if and when I do it.

We also talked about how I should be more deliberate and intentional in my dating life as well. If I’m going out on multiple first dates a month with new Tinder suitors, I should ask myself: why? What am I hoping to get out of this? Am I actually having fun, or am I just doing this because I feel like I’m “supposed to”? If I’m having sex with a lot of people, is it actually as fun and exciting as I want it to be, or is it just exhausting? Am I pursuing romantic relationships because they’re what I’m “supposed to” want, or do I actually want them?

These are all questions for which my answers tend to oscillate, but the important thing is that I’m pondering them at all. Things get messy when I wander into new endeavors with no idea what I’m really doing – whereas, if I know exactly what I’m hoping to get out of an experience, I’m likelier to have a good time and get what I want.

Just like last time, I left Carly’s house feeling inspired, emboldened, and amped up. Their perspective, advice, and the simple act of listening to me had helped me shake loose some areas that had felt stuck. On the subway ride home, I stared at the notes I’d scribbled in my journal, and it felt like I was looking at a road map to a more satisfying sex life.

If you want to book a reading with Carly – which you should, ’cause she’s fucking terrific – you can make arrangements to come see her here in Toronto. They also occasionally travel to other locales; follow them on Twitter for updates on that. Carly also writes a tarot advice column called Ask a Feelings-Witch, to which you are welcome to submit questions.

I’m never entirely sure how I feel about witchy, magical practices – whether I believe they actually help or they’re just made-up silliness – but what I know about tarot is that it bridges a gap between the magical and the practical. The cards tell you some things, and you can connect those messages and lessons to the events of your own life, in ways that are often shockingly illuminating. Whether you believe tarot is a mystical practice imbued with the supernatural, or merely a secular window into your own psyche, I think it can be a helpful tool. After all, if you ask me, all the best things in life have a little ambiguous magic in them – and the wisest people are those who are open to mystery, to the unexplainable, to being surprised by life.

How to Deal With Pre-Date Nervousness

Oh, I can just picture it now. It’s almost every first date I’ve ever been on. My anxiety swells. My heart pounds. I obsess about my outfit, hair, and makeup – like I’m trying to dress as a “cool girl” for Halloween. I debate whether to text my date upon leaving the house; maybe a “See you soon!” text isn’t chill enough, but maybe radio silence is too cold. So many choices!

As I walk up to the bar, my mind races. What if we start talking and he mentions that he thinks feminism is a waste of time? What if he only wants to “find some easy pussy” or “grab local slags here” and doesn’t actually find me interesting at all? What if – horror of horrors – he thinks Adam Sandler is funny?!

The thing is, while my anxiety disorder runs me through the wringer before every date, it doesn’t have to. The dates themselves are never as bad as I worry they will be – and this whole nervous rigamarole could be avoided, or at least mitigated, if I had a great pre-date ritual solidly in place. Here are 10 of my best tips for shaking your jitters before you walk out the door to meet a new potential beau!

Have some go-to date outfits on hand. This just makes everything so much easier. Prepare a “uniform” of sorts (or a few different ones) that you can grab in a hurry when getting ready for a date, so you won’t have to waste precious mental energy on outfit composition. Oh, the geeky sartorial bliss of it!

This ensemble should have a silhouette that flatters your shape and makes you feel babely as hell, and maybe one or two “conversation pieces” – unusual garments or accessories that a date is sure to ask about. (“Oh, this old thing? I bought this from a loud, flirty man on a beach in Gozo just before we leapt into the Mediterranean sea…!”)

If you want to get extra nerdy about it, you can have different date uniforms for different types of dates. For example, I’ll often wear a low-cut dress and a cardigan if I’m going on a fancy dinner date, or a tank top tucked into a skirt if we’re just ducking into a dive bar. If you show up at your date feeling hot and neither overdressed nor underdressed, you’ll have won half the battle already!

Listen to great music. So basic, yet so effective. I have a Spotify playlist of all my favorite pump-up tunes – mostly a lot of up-tempo pop and hiphop – and it helps ease me into a foxy, energetic brainspace. I love to shimmy into my panties and stockings to a sexy Drake jam, bop around doing my eyeshadow while One Direction croon at me, and fluff up my hair while Frank Sinatra sings compliments in my ear. Ah, what a dream.

Prep your bod. Whatever body-prep makes you feel attractive, desirable, and ready for sex (if that’s a potential item on your to-do list for the evening), do that. For me, this would involve showering, shaving, and moisturizing. When I’m all clean, smooth, and soft, I feel practically unconquerable.

Breathe. “Fear is just excitement without the breath,” according to psychotherapist Fritz Perls. I don’t know how much of this is hippie-dippie psychosomatic silliness versus an actual effective treatment (and, let’s be real, sometimes they are one and the same), but I find breathing deeply helps circulate my anxious energy all around my body and thereby diffuse it. Shallow, fast breaths are a classic sign of anxiety; you can trick yourself into calming down by elongating and deepening your breath. Oxygenate your body and brain!

Load up on conversation-starters. My conversational skills drastically improved when I went to journalism school, and I’m convinced it was partly because I had to read the news so often at that time, so I had plenty to talk about! Still to this day, before a date, I’ll take a look at trending stories before heading out the door (if I haven’t already encountered them that day on Twitter or in podcasts I listen to), so that if my date’s discussion skills leave something to be desired, I can pull out a fascinating new topic at a moment’s notice.

You can also glance at their online-dating profile again (if that’s where you met them) and mentally note a few points to ask them about. (“I see you went to school for English lit; how does that help you in your current job?” “You said you like The Office, but what did you think of the finale?” “Is that dog in your profile picture yours?!”)

Tell a friend what you’re up to. Before leaving on a date, I like to text the following info to a friend: my suitor’s full name (if I know it), phone number, any other relevant info I know about them (what they do, where they live, and so on), where and when I am meeting them, and what time I anticipate I’ll be home. I’ve been lucky enough that a date has never made me feel unsafe, but it certainly helps my anxiety if I know I have safety measures in place. And if the date’s not dangerous but just boring or awful, you can have your friend call you and fake an emergency you need to go attend to immediately.

Channelling my inner pinup girl.

Choose an alter-ego. This is not to say you should be inauthentic on your date, of course – but pretending you’re someone else can help you play up the best parts of your personality while banishing the parts that hold you back.

Sometimes I like to pretend I’m Amanda Palmer, Zooey Deschanel, or Rosa Diaz. How would they get ready for a date? How would they walk into a room? How would they greet a person they found attractive? Usually I hold my “character” in mind for the first little while, just until I get settled, and then I cast ’em off and let the real me shine through, unencumbered by anxiety.

Remind yourself what a catch you are. Glance at your most smokin’ selfies. Look through compliments people have given you in the past (I keep a file of mine!). Think about the best dates/makeouts/sex you’ve had, and remember that you are, at least partially, what made those experiences so fantastic!

This kind of mental reflection – whether you do it in a journal, out loud to a friend, or just in your head – can also help you get some perspective. This probably isn’t the last or most important date you’ll ever go on. If it doesn’t go well, it isn’t the end of the world. There are so many more people out there, and so many more experiences you’re gonna have. Go into every date with the attitude that it’ll be a fun adventure, and anything else that comes of it will just be a bonus.

Admit to your nervousness! This can be super charming and disarming in some contexts. If you and your date exchange some texts before meeting up, maybe tell them you’re a bit nervous because you find them so cute. Or, after you’ve showed up and talked for a few minutes, you could mention, “I get so nervous about first dates!” Good people will often try to reassure you when you make admissions like this – and at the very least, you’ve just backhandedly confessed that you find them attractive. Everyone wants to feel attractive. See – nervousness can be a plus!

What are your favorite tricks for mitigating pre-date jitters?

 

This post was sponsored, and as always, all writing and opinions are my own!

Diary of a Ghosted Girl

Sunday night. I am depressed. I have been depressed for a solid week, with no hypomanic reprieve. Shit is dire.

I have guzzled more wine than I ought to’ve, and smoked more weed than is probably reasonable. There are one or two crusted tears on my cheeks, but mostly I’m numb. Aching to feel something; aching to ache.

A new OkCupid message lands in my inbox, and I open it with the characteristic slowness of a person weighed down by depression. “Fuck. This profile was an intensely enjoyable read that had me grinning like a total idiot,” it reads. “I don’t even know where to start except HEY (for now).” Then he asks me something about toxic jelly dildos, which I mention in my profile. My ears perk up, and so do I, a little.

I flick through his profile – pictures, paragraphs, compatibility question responses – and it achieves the rare thing of making him seem more interesting rather than less. (Most men are atrocious at writing online-dating profiles.) I message him back.

Our conversation kicks into high gear almost immediately. Jokes. Stories. Questions. All-caps shouts of “ME TOO!” and sparks of recognition. He likes my puns. I care if he likes my puns. I talk about my work and he doesn’t take it as an invitation to ask invasive questions about my sex life, as so many OkSuitors before him have. I am absurdly, miraculously, hastily hooked.

He tells me his full name – “incase you’d like to move this over to Facebook/creep me for mutual friends/affirm I am in fact a real person and not an elaborate cat-fishing account” – and, to my shock, it’s almost exactly the name of a person I used to be in love with. Their first names are as close as Lee and Leo, and they have the same surname. Intellectually, I understand that this doesn’t mean anything. Emotionally, it seems to mean quite a lot. It feels like the universe is shining a spotlight on this boy and shouting in my ear: Notice this person. Pay attention. He could be important.

We move things over to text. We talk about sex in a way that is flirty but not explicit – my favorite, when I don’t know someone well yet. He’s such a good flirt that I’m screaming and cackling at my phone – indeed so good that a friend christens him “Mr. Goodflirtz” when I relay the key points of our conversation later.

I send him a picture of me. Not a nude – just a cute selfie, where I’m pleased with how I look, and I look like the kind of girl that a man like him might be interested in. “Fuck,” he writes back. “…Fuuuuck. I mean you are just so fucking good-looking.” More cackling at my phone. More blushing, sweating, and covering my eyes. My heart is thudding.

But it’s late, and I have to get some sleep – which I laughingly tell him even as he’s still blowing up my phone with compliments in little green text bubbles. “Yes yes sorry,” he writes. “Good night.”

I do a thing I have done too many times, and have promised myself not to do again: I get over-invested. I turn his name and face over in my mind. I lie awake thinking about the dress I’ll wear on our first date, and what we’ll do after he tugs it off of me. Eventually, somehow, I fall asleep – and dream about his pretty mouth all night.

On Monday morning I am pinged awake by my phone’s text tone. “That picture was the first thing I saw this morning as it was still open on my phone,” I blink sleep out of my eyes to read. This is followed by some gratuitous information about how his dick is reacting to said photo and what he is doing about it – information I find charming, not alarming, because at this point I feel like I know him. He is a wizard with words. His words alone have made me want to kiss his face, suck his dick, build some kind of future. It’s ridiculous.

“I’d gladly take any other pictures you’d like to share,” he adds – politely, I think. But I have a boundary around this, which I explain to him: I don’t like to sext with people before I meet them in person. It often makes me lose interest in them, or feel weird, so I tend to avoid it, especially if I suspect I might actually like the person. “Fair enough,” he writes back. “Let’s hang soon, then.”

“I am free tonight or Thursday,” I tell him, and he replies, “Thursday is probably best, but mayyybe tonight.” We talk logistics – locations, times – and lapse once again into giggly half-sexts laced with wordplay. I’m still barely awake; I tell him I’m going back to sleep, and I’ll be in touch later.

That afternoon, I send him a selfie of me looking put-upon and adorable. “This is my ‘You should have drinks with me tonight’ face,” I caption it.

No answer. I try to keep myself occupied with other diversions. Four hours pass. I complain to my best friend, stare at my phone for far too long, then decide to take a nap, hoping I’ll wake up to a text notification.

I wake up a few hours later. “I’m dying of anxiety,” I tell Bex. “Why hasn’t he texted me back?!” Bex, the greatest friend anyone could hope for, replies: “You don’t know much about him. Maybe work got out of hand, maybe he has food poisoning, maybe something came up with his family, maybe a friend just went through a breakup, maybe he was up all night last night and fell asleep, maybe he got hit by a bus, maybe he’s secretly a superhero and is fighting his arch nemesis, maybe he burned all of his fingers making tacos and can’t use a phone, maybe his phone broke and he’s at the store trying to get it fixed, maybe Pennywise lured him into the sewers with the promise of all the pussy he could eat, maybe he is volunteering at an animal shelter and got distracted by all the puppies, maybe he got lost in that weird circus store y’all have and has no phone service and is wondering if he’s going to starve and should start eating his own arm… I could keep going.” I laugh, but I’m still sick with anxiety.

“Or maybe he’s a dick who decided to ghost after 12 hours,” Bex continues, “in which case, you dodged a bullet, because you don’t want to hang out with him, because he’s a dick.”

do want to hang out with him, is the thing.

My anxiety disorder has decided this is the most important thing in the world. I barely sleep, barely eat. I feel nauseous over the idea that not only does “Mr. Goodflirtz” not want me, but no one wants me, no one has ever wanted me, no one will want me ever again. I wonder if he was only ever looking for a sexting partner. I wonder if he Googled me and got scared off. I wonder if he was using fake pictures and fake information to solicit nudes from me. I wonder if he was an undercover creep from 4Chan or the Red Pill. I can’t stop wondering. My sleepless night is a whirlpool of uncontrollable wondering.

On Tuesday morning, I resolve that I will not text him.

On Tuesday afternoon, I text him. “Hey, would Thursday still be a good night to get drinks?” I hate myself immediately after pressing “send.”

By Tuesday night, he still hasn’t answered. I log onto OkCupid to stare longingly at our messages – and I see that he’s online. After fighting the urge to anxiety-puke, I fight the not-altogether-different urge to message him some variation of “Yo, what the fuck, bro?!” I have to physically close my computer and walk away from it to keep myself from doing this. It feels like the most difficult thing I’ve done in a very long time.

On Wednesday I go to a therapy appointment. I sniffle and sob while telling my endlessly compassionate therapist about this dumb boy and all the dumb feelings I’m feeling about him. It’s a double-whammy: I’m hurting because he disappeared, and because I’m embarrassed by how much this has hurt me. He didn’t owe me anything. I know that. And yet I can’t help feeling wronged. Dropped. Ghosted.

“You just lost your job, you’re still dealing with the fallout of unrequited love, and then this happened,” my therapist points out, reasonably. “You’ve been rejected a lot lately. Rejection hurts. But it’s not a reflection on you. It doesn’t mean you’re unloveable.”

Tears stream down my face. I know she’s right. But I don’t believe she’s right. They are two different things.

My phone’s been on Do Not Disturb mode for the duration of our appointment, like it always is – and as I walk out my therapist’s office door, I press the home button, blindly hoping. But nope. Still nothing. The ghost is still dead, and so, it seems, is my heart.

A fuckbuddy I was supposed to see on Wednesday night texts to say that he’s sick, and to ask if we can reschedule for next week. I know him well enough to know he isn’t lying, but my anxiety suspects he might be – because I distrust all men right now. If someone could be so enthusiastic about me and then disappear off the goddamn face of the earth, then everyone could be lying about everything. I ignore the anxious voices in my head and choose to accept that a request to reschedule is indeed a request to reschedule – not another rejection, perched upon my already precarious heap of recent rejections.

On Wednesday night, I spend hours in bed just numbly staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out what I did wrong, what I can do differently going forward. I grab my phone and open Tinder. I know it’s bad. I know. It’s like an alcoholic trying to nix their “one last” hangover with “one last” hair of the dog.

But it makes me feel a bit better. I flirt with a few boys, until I find one I actually connect with on some level. We talk, and joke, and learn about each other, in the formulaic dance that early online-dating interactions all tend to follow. It’s not fiery with white-hot excitement like it was with Mr. Goodflirtz, but it’s something.

We schedule a date, and I go to sleep, dreaming of someone new.

I don’t think about my ghost much on Thursday. But late that evening, my phone’s text tone beeps, and my heart leaps into my throat. I claw the thing out of my purse at lightning speed.

“How are you feeling today?” a friend has texted to ask – and I’m so goddamn angry at myself for being disappointed.

My Perfect First Date

Dates never quite go the way you expect them to. There is always a discord between the date you pictured before it began – whether glittering and gold or precarious and scary – and the date that actually unfolds. You can plan and play out every plausible permutation in your head and your date can still throw you a wildcard. That’s part of what makes it fun.

That being said… I still sometimes fantasize about very specific dates. I know that they’ll never happen in real life, because if they did, they’d be as boring and predictable as a rendezvous with a sex robot you programmed yourself. But they’re still fun to think about.

Whether your meet-cute happens through Tinder, OkCupid, Bumble, mutual friends, a party, a chance encounter on the street, or you just click here for sex tonight, I hope one day you get to have your ideal first date. Here’s mine…


I spend a couple hours slooowly getting femme’d up at home: prancing around my bedroom, trying on outfits, blasting upbeat tunes, texting friends selfies for their approval. The outfit I ultimately settle on is a colorful fit-and-flare dress, thigh-high socks, a leather jacket, and leather boots. I smoke a little weed to help me relax. (It’s a family tradition.)

On my way out the door, I check my lipstick in the mirror and impulsively send a selfie to the suitor I’m about to go see: “I’ll be the chick who looks like this. See ya soon!” He replies with a thumbs-up emoji followed by a heart-eyes emoji.

I get on the subway toward Ossington station, heart thudding but not as hard as it would be if I’d skipped the weed. My best friend floods my phone with encouraging messages. I listen to a funny podcast and mess around in my Scrabble app; this always calms me down.

Once at Ossington, I skip down the street to the Bad Dog Theatre, where we’ve agreed to meet. I trot up the stairs, nervous but ultimately excited. Our Tinder banter earlier was good – a rarity in the sea of bro-y dullards that is the online-dating scene – and I’m confident his charm will translate to the offline world as well. I’ve developed a pretty good sense for that, I think.

I spot him in a booth, beer in hand. He flashes me a broad, goofy grin and a wave of acknowledgment. I slide in across from him and our conversation sparks to life immediately; he’s witty, quick, and rambunctious. They say a woman decides within 30 seconds of meeting a man whether she’s going to sleep with him or not, and right now I’m feeling a magical, hard “yes.”

I get a pilsner of my own and we keep talking. He’s interested in my work, my life story, and I in his, so we talk about my writing and music and sex ed, and his various impressive creative vocations. The pre-show minutes zoom by, amid animated stories and bad puns and silly voices. (Gosh, he’s really very funny, isn’t he.) The theatre usher du jour announces that the house is open, so we shuffle in with the rest of the crowd. He wants to sit front-row centre, and so do I, and we commiserate about how other people always think it’s weird when you want to sit that close.

The show is hilarious as per usual, but more than that, I notice my date’s laugh. He has a big, generous laugh that makes every joke seem funnier, every improvised choice seem deliberate and brilliant. We keep catching each other’s eye in our periphery, sharing in mutual delight over the discovery that we both laugh like loons. One of the comedians calls us out for sounding like goofs and we just laugh harder.

After the show, Mr. Cutieface sticks around for a minute to congratulate the performers on a great set and say hi to the ones he knows (because, of course, he’s friends with half the cast). Then he asks me – a courageous veneer draped over some hidden nerves I almost don’t notice – if I’d like to stick around, have another drink, and keep talking. “I would love that,” I say, and his ensuing smile is all fireworks and disco balls. Blam, pow, zing.

He tries to buy my next beer but I don’t let him. We settle back into our booth and get into a heated discussion – not so much a debate – about inclusive comedy, consent in improv, and the importance of “punching up.” Every once in a while, when I make a particularly salient point, he goes quiet and wide-eyed for a moment and says, “Kate, you don’t even know how right you are,” or, “Kate, you genius, you should teach classes on this stuff.” I know he’s being hyperbolic but his unabashed flattery still melts me a little. And each time he says my name, my proverbial ears perk up and I feel entirely focused on, like everyone else in the bar is just a hologram but he and I are absolutely real.

When it gets late and the crowd is starting to thin out, he asks me, “What do you wanna do now?” and I’m just tipsy and comfortable enough to fire back, “I kinda wanna go somewhere and make out with you.” He doesn’t miss a beat, all wiggly eyebrows and roguish smiles. “Yeah, that sounds good. Let’s go do that,” he says, and reaches for my hand.

As we’re throwing on our jackets and scampering down the stairs, he asks if I’m more in the mood for park makeouts or alleyway makeouts. I half-joke, “Which one’s closer?” and he gives me a sidelong mischievous glance, takes my hand again, and leads me into an alley.

Moments later, I’m up against a wall and his face is heart-haltingly close to mine, but I’m a chronic punster and can’t resist the opportunity. “Making out with you would really be… up my alley,” I squeak between giggles at my own bad joke, and he rolls his smiling eyes and presses his mouth against mine.

We kiss for long minutes, slow and exploratory, like we’ve got nowhere else to be but here. He hints at an inner domliness in the way he keeps me pinned to the brick wall with his arms, his thighs, his mouth – but whenever he kicks up his fervor, he always backs off for a moment to ask me, “Is this okay?” or “Do you like that?” I always breathlessly reply in the affirmative.

Drunk people keep walking by the alley and half-spotting us in the dark, and every time it happens, we giggle – not embarrassed, just amused. Eventually he stops kissing me and says, soft and low, “Okay, Miss Sloan. I think we should call it a night pretty soon.” He’s pinging my kinks and doesn’t even know it yet. Or maybe he does.

I could invite him over to continue the evening. I could inquire about going back to his place. I could offer him a blowjob in this alley. But I don’t – not because of stigma about sex on the first date, but because I like him so much, I want to savor things as they come. (Pun only partly intended.) And I can feel how much he likes me radiating off his skin, so I know this isn’t the last night we’ll share, not by a long shot.

“Would it be weird if I texted you right away?” he asks as we walk to the subway station together. “That’s probably not very ‘chill,’ right?”

“Ehh, fuck ‘chill,'” I reply, and link my arm with his like we’re a lady and a gentleman in an old-fashioned movie.

“Okay, good, ’cause I like you a lot and will definitely want to text you right away.”

Sure enough, I get a text from him that night, after we’ve said our goodbyes and parted ways at the subway and I’ve started my walk home from the station. “Did anyone ever tell you you’re a fantastic kisser? Holy cannoli!!” the text says. Its brazen enthusiasm makes me giggle so loud and so suddenly that an old lady across the street gives me a stern look.

I go home and collapse into bed, visions of alleyways and loud laughs dancing in my head.

 

This post was sponsored by LocalBangs.com, and as always, all writing and opinions are my own!

Top Toronto Spots For… Dates

me gazing at you lovingly between two lit candles

Ah, Toronto. My birthplace, my favorite city, my home. I may have dalliances with New York or Portland or Montreal, but Toronto will always be my first-and-foremost geographical crush. So I’ve decided to write a little blog series about my favorite spots in T.O., in a few different categories, incase you decide to visit and have no idea where to go.

I have an ulterior motive here. The Toronto International Porn Festival is two months away, and I want you to come to it if you feasibly can. Book your flights (or bus rides, or rideshares), buy your tickets, and come see some fabulous porn and a fabulous city. (And ME!)

To kick off this series, today I’m going to tell you about some of my favorite Toronto spots for DATES! Here are some guaranteed-great places to take your adorable beau, your bestie-with-benefits, an OkCutie from OkCupid, or maybe-just-maybe a foxy babe you connect with at a porn festival event…!

The drinks date: Pour Boy on Manning. The Pour Boy is an intimate, dim little bar tucked away in Koreatown, and one of my all-time fave first-date spots. I like that it’s relatively quiet (earlyish on weeknights, anyway), and that the menu is well-stocked with cheap eats and good craft beers. The first floor and patio are coziest for romantic dates, while the second floor is packed with long tables and has ample room for bigger group hangouts (I had my last birthday get-together there!). If you’ve never been to Canada or Toronto before, I recommend trying a beer by our local Mill Street Brewery – the Organic Lager and Tankhouse Ale are my faves. If you want dessert after hanging out here for a while, walk a few blocks east to the Future Bistro and get some kind of fancy cheesecake or a nanaimo bar.

a slice of dulce de leche cheesecake and a plate of hummus and veggies
The first time I met my longest-term FWB in person, we shared a hummus plate and a slice of cheesecake at 7 West.

The late-night date: 7 West Café. 7 West is my absolute favorite restaurant in Toronto. Centrally located at Yonge and Bloor, it’s easy for anyone to navigate to, even folks who haven’t been to T.O. before. Its menu is widely varied, delicious, and not too expensive. And here’s what’s really special about 7 West: it’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This makes it one of my favorite spots for sating those post-sex hunger rumbles. I’ve capped off two threesomes with celebratory 7 West trips, but it’s low-key enough for friend-hangz and even work lunches. The staff are also chill as hell and don’t seem to mind if you hang out for hours – say, munching an arugula salad while scrawling in your journal, or laughing with your buds over brewskies. My favorite dishes here are the pesto pollo pasta, the “all-the-time breakfast,” and the mac and cheese (which Bex insists on ordering at least once every time they visit Toronto) – and if you’re at all a fan of cheesecake, please get a slice of their dulce de leche cheesecake for dessert. Just trust me on this one.

The sushi date: Japango. I was introduced to this place by an ex-boyfriend and it’s still my favorite spot for romantic sushi excursions. Japango is super tiny – probably ten tables or fewer – so make a reservation! Despite the cramped space and sometimes-slow service, this spot still shines because their sushi is so damn good, and the ambiance is charming, in an urban hole-in-the-wall kind of way. My favorite maki rolls here are the spicy salmon and the yam tempura.

my adorable friend Bex smiling and drinking a milkshake
With Bex at the Detroit Eatery some sunny September morning.

The morning-after date: Detroit Eatery. There are few pleasures in life so sweet as waking up beside someone you adore, maybe getting in a little morning canoodlin’, and then trekking out to a greasy-spoon diner together for some hard-earned nourishment. The Detroit is my absolute fave spot for that particular type of adventure. The walls are covered in mystifying sports memorabilia and Kiss collectibles, the staff is a motley crew of well-meaning grumpy bros, and there’s always a game on the big TV – but the food is great and reasonably priced, and you can get a hearty breakfast any time of the day. If you can handle all the lactose, get a milkshake – they’re excellent.

The comedy date: Bad Dog Theatre or Comedy Bar. These two improv/sketch/stand-up venues are mere blocks from each other, so if you want, you can catch a show at one of them and then run down the street to catch a show at the other one. Toronto has a thriving comedy scene full of talented cuties; let ’em make you laugh, it’s good for ya. Y’all might particularly be interested in the Crimson Wave, a feminist stand-up show that happens at Comedy Bar every Sunday night and has a “no rape jokes” rule. If you and your date are hungry before or after a show, my favorite nearby restaurant is the Mexitaco Taqueria, a chill and unassuming spot that makes delicious Mexican food.

my handsome friend Brent looking very serious in big nerdy glasses
Friend-date with Brent at the Mill Street Brew Pub. He is wearing my glasses.

The pub date: House on Parliament or the Mill Street Brew Pub. I love both of these places so much. Both have an assortment of weird beers (try the citrusy Hacker-Pschorr Weisse at the HOP or the Vanilla Porter at Mill Street), great menus of traditional pub fare, and a raucously cozy ambiance. The HOP is usually more subdued while Mill Street is pretty much always loud as hell, but both have their charms. Mill Street’s also smack-dab in the middle of the beautiful Distillery District, so you and your date can shop for fancy chocolate at Soma or gawk at strange public art installations on the Distillery’s cobbled streets. Some of my happiest, giggliest dates have taken place at these pubs, knocking back locally-made pints and munching messy chicken club sandwiches.

The coffee date: Manic or the Rooster Coffee House. Toronto is chock full of fabulous coffee places, but these are two of my faves. Manic is as busy and bustling as its name implies, sells A+ coffee and yummy croissants, and is blissfully WiFi-free (great for dates; less great for getting work done, obviously). The Broadview location of the Rooster Coffee House, meanwhile, is perched at the top of sprawling Riverdale Park, giving it one of the best views in the city (sit on the patio, for god’s sake!!). Did you know that a scene in a Daniel Radcliffe movie was shot there?

The tea date: Tsaa. Fun fact: this is where I went on my first date with my first serious boyfriend! It’s still one of my favorite low-key date spots. They stock a zillion different varieties of tea, and also make stellar brunch and sandwiches. I like ordering a big pot of organic ginger tea with honey and some kind of avocado-heavy sandwich, and sitting in the sunny window seat with either a cute person or my journal to keep me company. Ah, bliss.

two lattes in mugs
Two lattes – but no snakes – at Snakes & Lattes.

The board games date: Snakes & Lattes. It’s a café that also has several hundred different board games on hand for you to play. Awesome, right?! The staff are well-versed in games and can recommend some selections based on your preferences, or you can just choose your own. The food’s pretty decent, there’s a variety of drinks available (including boozy ones, if you are so inclined), and the $6 cover charge lets you sit and play for as long as you want. Pro tip: I prefer the College Street location, as it’s much roomier so you’re more likely to get a table – without needing to worry about whether the next table’s Jenga game is gonna collapse into your beer glass.

The movie date: Carlton Cinema. I love this weird-ass theatre. There’s a piano in the lobby, and sometimes it is being played remarkably well by someone I’m unsure if the theatre has hired or not. In addition to all the regular movie snacks, they serve boozy drinks which you can take into the theatre with you. They also show smaller movies that most other theatres don’t play, and they do a monthly screening of The Room which Tommy Wiseau apparently sometimes attends. Amazing.

Toronto babes: what are your favorite date spots in our fair city?