Interview: Singer/Songwriter Missy Bauman on Girlhood, Motherhood, & Being Brave

My brother Max, a musician and songwriter, doesn’t often tell me I “have to” check out a particular artist, album, or song. But when he does, he means it.

A few years back, he met a girl named Missy Bauman through mutual friends who were attending music school with her. “You have to come see this girl play,” he told me. And because Max so rarely makes these assertions, I took this one seriously.

I went and saw Missy perform, with her then-collaborator, Rebekah Hawker. I think it was sometime during their song “Supernova” that I really fell in love. Tender and thoughtful lyrics, gorgeously simple melodies, and a girlish solemnity that felt familiar to my far-too-full heart… I immediately wanted to devour Missy’s whole oeuvre.

She has a stunning new EP out, Girlhood, and I sat down with her to chat about the inspirations behind the songs. Here’s our conversation…

Kate Sloan: Heyyy beauty.
Missy Bauman: Hello hello! 🙂
KS: Sssooooo, the EP is beautiful. I love it ❤
MB: Thank you! 🙂 ❤
KS: Max told me I would like “Easier” the best and he was right, it’s soooo pretty. Your melodies are so gorg.
MB: Thanks 🙂 It’s become one of my favourites, too. I recorded it kinda last minute, we weren’t planning on recording it.
KS: So first off, I’m wondering: is this EP “about” something to you? Does it have an overarching theme or message, in your mind?
MB: For sure. Girlhood was supposed to be a full-length album, and it kept being delayed due to financial reasons. By the time I had enough money to print it (back in October), those were the 5 songs that made the cut. But the album was originally supposed to be very very nostalgic, all of the songs being dreamy and looking back with a very deep melancholy towards my late adolescence. The album had a little more cohesion and I think the themes were a little clearer – most of it about the distance between being a kid and being a “woman.”
KS: Innnteresting. I remember hearing you play “Motherhood” for the first time and going, “Wow, ‘I want you to cum in me,’ that’s quite a powerful line!” and it sounds so different in the kind of dark solemn context of that song than it would sound in a different context. Can you tell me a bit about that song and what you were thinking about when you wrote it?
MB: I wrote it before class back in my IMP [Independent Music Production @ Seneca] days. Fox had just shown me a song, “Lucky You,” and I really wanted to write about the dark side of parenthood as well. It also kind of goes hand-in-hand with a relationship I was in at the time, where I wanted so much more out of it than he did. As a kid I always thought that parenthood was a little narcissistic (the whole “he has my eyes,” etc.), but I had become so infatuated with this person that I started to understand. Maybe I didn’t literally want him to become the father of my child, but if he did, I would’ve wanted the kid to have his eyes, his hair, his everything. It was obsessive, and weird, which is why I think the line, though super vulgar and kind of shocking, fits in pretty well with the rest of my nervous ramblings and sexually charged, unrequited feelings. It’s hard catching feelings for someone who explicitly tells you it’s not going to be a holding-hands, Facebook-official thing.
KS: Yeah, I tooootally know that feeling… In the heights of certain romantic obsessions of mine, I’ve had that fantasy of “What if I accidentally got pregnant; what would he do? Would we get married? Which one of us would the kid look more like?” and it’s this dark, obsessive road. And I think, as women, we are conditioned to view that as the fulfillment of a wish we are supposed to have.
MB: Exactly…. It’s like the hyper-extreme version of writing his last name after mine.
KS: Haha yeah. And you feel kinda guilty about it but it’s so satisfying somehow.

KS: Have you written a lot of songs with sexual themes before or was this kind of a departure for you?
MB: “Motherhood” was definitely one of the first (and probably still the most explicit). I revisit sex a lot because I consider myself to be an extremely sexual person, but a lot of the time it shows up more metaphorically. The only other track that says it as bluntly as “Motherhood” is called “Imaginary Boyfriends.” [Author’s note: you can listen to “Imaginary Boyfriends” at the end of this post!]
KS: Do you get nervous performing songs with sexxxy references in them? I remember when I first wrote my song “Good Girl,” which is full of some pretty explicit kink shit, I would make up fake versions of the lyrics for when I felt uncomfortable practicing around my family, or I would kind of mumble those parts of the song… Haha!
MB: I used to freak out a LOT, especially because my dad is my #1 fan and we are both very private people. Every song I wrote before 2015 has an alternative set of lyrics in case he was in the crowd. I’m less worried about that now, partly because I feel more confident in my craft, specifically lyrics (as uncomfortable as it might be)… If I didn’t have to say it in such a straight-up way, I would be singing about something else. That’s the approach I take to it now, anyway.
KS: Haha, that’s amazing. and I’m glad you’re feeling better about it these days! I’m curious, do you have a favorite song on the Girlhood EP?
MB: I think “Her” is my favourite. It was scary to write and still scary to share, but I fell in love with it in a way I haven’t ever felt for my other songs.
KS: Why was it scary to write/share, if you don’t mind me asking? (I mean, I know the lyrics are INNNTENSE, but I would love to know what you meant by that in your own words!)
MB: [My partner] and I had just lost a baby, and I was just in this haze for weeks. It was the middle of the summer and we had an upstairs apartment with no A/C; it was just so muggy and sluggish and I felt so empty and kind of dazed. I wrote it and recorded the EP version sometime that week after we got into a fight and he left to get some air. It was hard because we definitely weren’t planning on having a baby or anything like that, but it still felt like I was very alone and kind of broken. People don’t really talk openly about miscarriages. Like… I don’t even talk about it openly. I feel like I have less of a space in a community of women who were trying to be parents and lost someone they truly loved vs. an unemployed kid who was blissfully unaware of the pregnancy at all.
KS: ❤ I’m so sorry, I didn’t know that had happened.
MB: I’m still getting used to being open about it! My friend Tyler from Said the Whale just put out his story “Miscarriage” and told me that it’s just important to get the discussion going so that women going through it don’t have to feel so broken/alone. It’s way more common than you would think.

KS: So, I know you won a grant recently. Can you tell me about the grant and what you plan to do with it?
MB: Sure! It’s through Ontario Arts Council, and it’s a creation grant for Popular Music. I wrote to them with the concept for my next album. The purpose for the creation grant is to cover your “living costs” – it’s super general and relatively easy to apply for (compared to FACTOR or other federal funding). It’s very competitive. I had an entire class in IMP dedicated to that grant. With the support from the grant, a LOT of stress was relieved from my living costs this summer (we’re going on tour, but I still have to pay OSAP, rent, and my share of water/hydro), and it will let me create my next album without the crazy financial stress I’ve become accustomed to! It could not have come at a better time.
KS: Yaaay! Congrats!
MB: Hehe thank you!! ❤ ❤ ❤
KS: One last question for ya. What music do you find sexy? Any particular songs you like to make out or do Other Activities to?
MB: Oooh, good question!! “Hunger of the Pine” by Alt J. “My Kind of Woman” by Mac DeMarco. “Once I Loved” by Astrud Gilberto. “Riot Van” by the Arctic Monkeys. “Cola” by Lana Del Rey.
KS: Thanks, girl! I’ll add those to my sex playlist right now…

Thanks so much to Missy for her vulnerable and inspirational stories and her beautiful music! You can buy/download her Girlhood EP now on her Bandcamp page. You can also “Like” her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and check out her website.

And, bonus: Missy is letting me premier her song “Imaginary Boyfriends” here on my blog! As per usual for her, it’s dark, smart, poignant, and pretty. Have a listen!

Scents (and Men) I Have Loved

a bottle of pink Kate Moss perfumeIn the summer of 2008, I felt beautiful. It was the first time since childhood when I’d felt confident in a brash, unselfconscious sort of way. I was the queen of my high school, strutting down the hallways like runways each day, dressed in femme finery. Teachers adored me, I was making new friends left and right, and I was acing all my classes. Strolling through life in my signature beat-up black cowboy boots, I felt effortlessly powerful. Unstoppable.

It helped that a tall, gangly girl with rainbow hair was in love with me. It was the first time anyone had ever been in love with me. In a way I deeply regret in retrospect but that felt acceptable at the time, I let her fawn over me – encouraged it, even. She was a close friend and I always made it clear to her that friends were all we’d ever be, but I also liked the way she looked at me. I liked the love letters she wrote me in Facebook messages and Honesty Box missives. I liked the casual cuddling on couches, the dates-that-were-not-dates at coffee shops and art galleries, the endless compliments and harmless flirtation. I liked it all.

The smell of that summer, in my memory, is Kate by Kate Moss perfume. Designer fragrances were out of the realm of acquirability for me, with a meager allowance from my parents being my only income – but I fell in love with the Kate Moss scent one day in a drugstore and resolved to buy it. After saving for months, I finally scraped up enough cash to buy the smallest bottle. I spritzed some on my neck as I left the perfume shop, and carried the precious pink fluid home as carefully as I could, my life already feeling revolutionized and beautified by this scent.

Simultaneously spicy and floral, “Kate” embodied the ballsy femininity I prided myself on at age sixteen (and still do now, when I’m at my best). I wore it that summer, in parks, on rooftops, in alleys, on grassy hilltops beneath big starry skies. I wore it on pseudo-dates with my ladylove-who-I-did-not-love. I was probably wearing it the night I lost my virginity to her, whispering giggly secrets in my tiny twin bed.

When I ponder the notion of “signature scents,” Kate by Kate Moss is the first one I think of for myself – and not just because of the name. It captures a moment in my personal history that I wish I could cling onto forever: a liberated sassiness, a pink dress hitched up to reveal white cotton panties, a gingery kick of joy right in your gut. The perfume’s been discontinued, so I can’t bring myself to use up the remaining dregs in that pink bottle that still sits on my dresser. I just lift it to my nose from time to time, inhale deeply, and think of that girl I used to be.

“Pleasant scents” and “pleasant men” have always been linked in my mind – dating back, I suppose, all the way to breathing in my dad’s Irish Spring and aftershave when I sat on his lap as a youngin’. But the first time I remember there being desire mixed into that feeling, it was focused on my high school philosophy teacher.

Dorky, charismatic, and paternalistic, he was utterly my type. I’d watch him enthuse about Kierkegaard or Sartre, wildly waving his arms and pointing passionately at a Powerpoint, and I’d melt into my hard wooden Toronto District School Board chair. How could any person be so perfect?

If you found yourself in the enviable position of walking behind him in one of our school’s tight stairwells, you’d get a definite whiff of something. A clean-hot-man type of scent. I don’t know what it was – cologne, aftershave, shampoo, maybe just soap. It was intoxicating, like everything else about him.

I once overheard some other girls discussing this experience – the walking behind him in the hall, the deep lungfuls of Attractive Man – and I felt strangely infringed upon, like they had stolen some moments that were supposed to be mine and mine alone. At the time, my own fragrance of choice was Lust by Lush, a jasmine-heavy and aggressively sexy scent that I soon had to stop wearing because it made my best friend sneeze incessantly every time I got near her. This, coupled with my hopeless crush on a married and unattainable grown-up, was utterly emblematic of how awkward and unsexy I felt at the time. Teenage Kate would pile on the jasmine in an effort to be half as bewitching as her philosophy teacher, but she never quite got there.

My first serious boyfriend just smelled right. He wore no cologne; it was the smell of his skin itself that I picked up on when I pressed my nose to his chest during long, lazy lie-ins. I was content to silently inhale him for minutes at a time, in that way you get when you’re obnoxiously in love.

The scent reminded me of vanilla or fresh-baked bread. It didn’t actually resemble those aromas, but it felt like them; it held the same deep sense of comfort and rightness that bread and vanilla do. My contentment, when my nose was squished against his warm body in bed, was akin to when you’re six years old and your mom is baking sugar cookies. That uncomplicated, expectant joy. All you have to do right now – your only responsibility in the whole world – is to play, and have fun, and wait for the cookies to be done.

Old Spice Swagger deodorant perched on a windowsill

My mental illnesses can sometimes make me do, well, “crazy” things. Like stand in the deodorant aisle of the drugstore and sniff every variety of Old Spice until I find the right one, and then buy it, never really intending to wear it.

I did this one October afternoon because a boy had not texted me back. I could not believe he hadn’t texted me back. It felt like the most important thing in the world. We’d cuddled, and talked for hours, and had sex. There had been intimacy. It had felt real. Why wasn’t he texting me back?

The answer, I see now, is: our arrangement was casual from the get-go, never intended to be more than that. But at the time I was inexperienced with such things, and the magical closeness of orgasms and pillow-talk had cast a spell on me. I wanted him in a deeper-than-just-sex kind of way and I couldn’t understand why he didn’t want me that way, too.

Hence: standing in an aggressively fluorescent Shoppers Drugmart, huffing Old Spice. I knew that was what he wore; he’d mentioned it offhandedly on our date when I told him he smelled good. There were many different Old Spice products on offer, and I sniffed each one: Krakengard, Steel Courage, Desperado. While the latter had a name that fit my mood, it wasn’t the right scent. It didn’t ping my nostrils with familiarity, or dampen my panties with Pavlovian associations.

When I found the right one, I looked at the label: it was called Swagger. How apt, for a boy who had swaggered nonchalantly into my life and then, just as nonchalantly, swaggered right back out of it again. I bought the deodorant, for reasons I still can’t quite articulate, and it’s still in my closet, never worn but often sniffed.

a sample of Armani Acqua di Gio cologneIn the summer of 2015 I had just started a new job which required me to wake up at 4:40AM and take a 5AM bus to get to a 6AM shift. Most of the time, I hated it. But on one particular morning in August, I didn’t hate it quite as much, because there was a handsome man with me.

A long-time internet crush of mine, he’d taken me out for Thai food the night before, after which we’d meandered back to my place for Scrabble and (eventually) sex. Though I should’ve slept when we were through, I was so elated by the good sex and good conversations that I wanted to stay up all night. We went to a 24-hour diner, and then to a 24-hour coffee shop, and then it was time for me to get on the bus that would take me to work.

He waited at the bus stop with me, making idle chatter laced with dorky jokes. I half-feigned exhaustion, as an excuse to lay my head on his shoulder, in a gesture of intimacy that exceeded what he wanted from me but that I couldn’t help craving. “You smell good,” I commented, and he replied sheepishly, “It’s on purpose,” as if that somehow discounted what I had said.

I don’t think either of us knew, then, that we’d end up steady fuckbuddies for over a year and counting. That cologne he wore – Acqua di Gio, I later learned – became entrenched in my memory with good goofy sex and aimless late nights, like we’d shared that first time. Acqua di Gio has its fair share of haters; its mainstream popularity lends it a reputation as an Eau de Fuckboy of sorts. But that clean, oceanic scent just makes me think of this man I adore(d) and how much he didn’t adore me in quite the same way.

Over a year after that first night together, he came to a party at my house after we’d been apart for a while. Minutes before his arrival, I’d been wondering, Will we have sex tonight? but the moment I opened my front door to him, I knew the answer. He was wearing that cologne. He was trying – “on purpose,” he’d said – to smell good for me. I was gettin’ laaaid that night. And indeed, I did, the smell of oceans and unrequited love filling my nose.

an aromatherapy blend in a bottle labeled "Kick in the Pants for Kate"“So what’s going on with you?” my aromatherapist friend Tynan asked me attentively, notebook and pen in hand. I promptly burst into tears.

Tynan had made me an aromatherapy blend before, so I knew the process. You outline your top three current complaints, whether mental or physical, and she ideally finds three essential oils which each address all three issues. Then she blends them together in a little vial, and when you wear a drop on the collar of your shirt, the scents infiltrate your brain through your nose and – through some kind of psychological aromatherapeutic alchemy – create change in your life.

The trouble was, the thing I most wanted to change in my life felt impossible to change – and I was hesitant to let it go. “I’m in love with someone who doesn’t love me back,” I admitted through a veil of tears. “I feel stuck. No one else is good enough. I swipe through dudes on Tinder and think, ‘Well, they’re not as smart/funny/perfect as he is, so what’s the point?’ I want to move on. I want to like someone who actually likes me back.” With that tirade off my chest, I progressed to the other issues bugging me: a sense of demotivation about my search for a new dayjob, and constantly chilly hands and feet from bad circulation.

“It sounds like all three of these issues relate to feeling ‘stuck’ and paralyzed,” Tynan said. “We need to get your energy moving again.” She flipped through an aromatherapy reference book, read me some passages, and had me sniff some oils. The mix we settled on was a particular ratio of key lime, palmarosa, and ginger – a blend designed to be uplifting and motivational. Tynan mixed the oils together in a small bottle and carefully inked the name of the blend onto the label: “Kick in the Pants for Kate.”

The finished blend is punchy and bold. I put it on first thing in the morning and feel enlivened, energized, ready to face the day. And I do think, in a weird sort of way, it helped me fall out of love with that man who was crushing my heart. My unrequited infatuations often stem from a feeling of powerlessness – the belief that I’m not good enough on my own, and have to rely on this idealized other person for all the humor, joy, and brightness in my life. Tynan’s powerful “Kick in the Pants” blend smells like strength to me. The more I wear it, the stronger I feel.

It drowns out the Acqua di Gio still haunting my heart. My own strength, it turns out, is bigger than that ocean of tears I once cried. Recently someone told me I smelled good, and I smiled at them and said: “It’s on purpose.”

What Gala Darling Taught Me About Self-Love, Mean Boys, & Magic


When I initially discovered Gala Darling online, I thought she was self-absorbed. She was always posting outfit photos and linking incessantly to her blog, and I thought, “Wow, she really thinks highly of herself.” Hypocritical, for sure, since I was also posting outfit photos and blogging at that time. What an oaf I was.

Little did I know, this kind of snap judgment about women’s right (or lack thereof) to proudly love ourselves is exactly the kind of thinking that Gala seeks to dismantle in her work on radical self-love. And it’s exactly the kind of thinking I badly needed to dismantle in myself at that time.

At age 14, I was a surly, snotty, deeply insecure dork. I believed with certainty that I was ugly and unloveable. I felt awkward in my body, hiding away my curvy femme flair in baggy, masculine clothes. I hated most people I met, because I projected my insecurities onto them and that made me perceive them as shallow, mean, boring, and stupid. I thought I was smarter than everyone – my friends, my family, even my teachers – and that made me feel desperately alone, like no one understood me. Classic teenager, right?

Worse yet, some part of me believed this negative viewpoint made me special and unique. My bitter façade felt central to my identity. I thought my sarcastic snark was all I had to offer, because (I thought) I wasn’t pretty, sexy, or worthy of love. If I could be dark and sharp, hardened and smart, at least I’d be something.

Oh, I was “something” alright. If by “something,” I mean “miserable.”

When curiosity finally got the better of me, I clicked through to Gala Darling’s website after seeing her link to it in many an outfit photo description. And as I read page after page of her blog – first begrudgingly, then perplexedly, then rabidly – I felt something once-solid inside me start to break down and shift.

Gala wrote about positivity, loveliving a celebratory life, unconventional personal style, treating people well, kissing, blogging, confidence, and embracing your inner nerd. She wrote about getting dressed up for the sheer joy of it, courting yourself like you were your own cherished lover, and making your daily life lovelier. She wrote about sex appeal, magic, and knotted pearl necklaces. I loved her, immediately and profoundly.

In the days after combing through Gala’s entire blog archive, taking fervent notes in my Moleskine the whole time, something remarkable happened to me. I found myself starting to feel happier, lighter, more self-loving and self-accepting. And to my immense surprise, that feeling didn’t go away.

A lot of Gala’s writings about self-love resemble a framework I now recognize as cognitive-behavioral. That is to say: she addresses your tangled thoughts, in all their maladaptive disarray, and your actions, encouraging you to actually go out and do things differently.

I did a whole lot of things differently in the months after devouring Gala’s blog. I started making gratitude lists, began dressing how I actually wanted to dress, and set concrete goals for myself that I started moving toward, little by little, day by day. All of those habits are still with me today, and they’ve completely transformed my life. I honestly don’t know who I’d be right now if Gala Darling hadn’t entered my world.


So, needless to say, I was over the moon when – after almost a decade of following Gala’s adventures like her writing was gospel – I finally got to meet her in person this past May.

I was visiting New York for a threesome, because of course I was. Gala had mentioned, on numerous occasions, her love of witchy East Village shop Enchantments, where you can buy all manner of occult treasures: incense, essential oils, herbs, tarot cards, and talismans. I tweeted about wanting to visit Enchantments while I was in town, and Gala asked if I wanted a “witchy date” to accompany me. Um, yes, I very very very much did.

We made plans, and met up on my last day in New York in the dark, cozy, half-underground front room of Enchantments. I was nervous, but I was also surprised by how easy our rapport was, right off the bat: it felt like I’d known her for years, because in some sense, I had. We hugged, and chatted about our lives, and I couldn’t stop smiling.

tumblr_o7z5xme1qq1qzigipo3_1280Enchantments’ most exciting offering, if you ask me, is their custom-made spell candles. They’re enormous pillar candles, colored and carved and anointed and blessed according to whatever specific concerns are troubling you in your life. I told the shop’s resident witches about my romantic situation at the time: a hopeless crush on someone who would never love me back, and a string of recent bad relationship decisions that probably stemmed from the distraction caused by that endless crush. They listened to my tale of woe and determined I’d be most benefited by a “Love Uncrossing” candle, which can help clear psychological blocks around love and promote clarity in that area. The witches asked me for some other details, like my name and astrological sign, and had me taste some ceremonial honey as part of the process. Then Gala and I absconded to a café to sit and chat while my candle was being prepared.

After she bought me a frozen hazelnut latte with almond milk (the yummiest, and such a sweet gesture), we sat down and talked for ages, about blogging, boys, sex, Tinder, goals, and so much more. I felt like I was in a dream – one of those dreams where you inexplicably get to sit down with your hero and ask them all the questions you’ve always wanted to ask them. It was weird and wonderful and I couldn’t believe it was real.

The aforementioned romantic situation was very much on my mind at that time, so I may have sliiiightly talked Gala’s ear off about it. But she was so gracious and kind. She told me she thought I should cut off contact with the boy whose lack of affection for me was hurting me every day, even though my poor smitten heart wanted nothing more than to be with him all the time. He was just taking up space in my life, she said, that could be better filled by people who actually would love me and treat me right.

It’s funny how you can read about a concept at length, and understand it on the theoretical level, but still suck at actually implementing it. That’s how I am with self-love, sometimes. If a friend of mine told me she was stuck on some dumb boy who didn’t like her back, and it was breaking her heart every day, I know exactly what I’d tell her. I’d tell her she deserved better, that he didn’t know what he was missing, and that her time and energy would be better spent nixing him from her life and moving on than pining and obsessing. It would be tough advice to hear, but it would be rooted only in my love for her. And of course, that’s the same advice I want to give myself, when I’m truly radiating and living self-love.

Gala is my idol, so when she told me I should phase that dude out of my life and move the fuck on, I listened. I’m not saying I cut him out of my social sphere entirely, or vowed to tell off anyone who mistreated me from then on, or announced a dating hiatus while working on my self-love; after all, I’m only human, and I’m prone to backsliding like anyone is. But Gala reminded me of what she’s been teaching me all these many years, over and over again, in so many ways: that I am worthy of love, even (and perhaps especially) when I’m the only one who’s madly in love with me.

I’m so lucky. This year I got to meet two of my heroes, two of the people who shaped me for the better at crucial times in my life: Kidder Kaper, and Gala. In both cases, they taught me things that made me want to do better, live better, and be better.

I realized recently that now, at 24, I’m as old as Gala was when I discovered her blog and it changed my goddamn life. And if that doesn’t make me want to be a beacon of light every day, writing helpfully and openheartedly for the people who need to hear what I have to say, then nothing will.

The Quick-Start Guide to Getting Over Someone


Unrequited love is the woooooorst.

Oh, I certainly get the appeal. I see why it’s played up in movies, music, theatre, and TV. Unrequited love is dramatic, romantic, captivating, titillating. It keeps you on your toes, on the hook, on the edge of your seat.

But what those fictional portrayals don’t quite capture is just how bad it feels to love someone who doesn’t want you. It’s not all giggly-eyed banter in school hallways and pretty-crying in the bathroom mirror. The real pain of the situation is so much worse than that. And I say that as someone who’s spent many a night sobbing in bed until my eyes were so bleary I couldn’t see and my voice was too hoarse to form the words “Why doesn’t he love me?!” anymore.

When you get your heart bruised or broken, lots of people offer you advice. “Laughter is the best medicine,” they’ll say, thrusting a Mel Brooks DVD into your hands. “Time heals all wounds,” they’ll mumble with a shrug as they pass you a bowl of Häagen Dazs. “Everything happens for a reason,” they’ll chide, tossing you a pillow to punch to a pulp. And you’ll beat up that damn pillow, less because it helps your heartbreak and more because all this unsolicited advice is inciting your wrath.

With that in mind, I’m offering you six strategies which, used in tandem and in order, have helped me enormously when oblivious cutiefaces have stomped all over my heart. You don’t have to take this advice. You don’t even have to read this advice. But if you’re tired of living in a whirlpool of tears over someone who doesn’t break a sweat over you – if you’re tired of feeling swathed in lovelorn lethargy and you want to actually get some shit done – then give these tips a try. They’re not revolutionary or new, but they are effective.

Dump out all your feelings. Emotions are like trash. (Okay, not always, but go with me for the sake of this metaphor.) You can try to throw them in the kitchen garbage pail, slide them down the garbage disposal, toss ’em out a window – but unless you firmly, physically remove them from your space, you’ll never be completely sure they’re actually gone from the premises.

So take out the trash. Grab a journal and pen, and write out every single thought or feeling or idea or dream or fantasy you’ve ever had about the object of your affections. Write until your muscles ache – and then switch to typing if you have to. Look for sore spots – any particular concepts or memories that make you feel especially miserable and dejected – and unpack them until they can’t be unpacked any further. Resolve all your thought-loops of anxiety, worry, insecurity, sadness, and anger, so you can finally set them to rest.

You can do this verbally, too, by talking out loud to a friend. But I find journals are more patient and less judgmental.

Forgive them. If you still harbor any bitterness toward your love for not loving you back, you need to nix that shit. The forgiveness process might take time and reflection (boring, but effective), or you might be able to do it quicker with some empathy and the ability to put yourself in their shoes.

For example: when I get frustrated that a crush doesn’t like me back, I always mentally revisit times that someone has liked me and I haven’t wanted to date them. Maybe it was a lack of physical attraction, maybe some doubts about our compatibility, maybe a sexual attraction that just didn’t lean romantic enough, or maybe it was just the headspace I was in at the time. Whatever the case, there was nothing I could have done to conjure feelings for my unrequited admirer; it just wasn’t going to happen. That’s the type of reality check that makes it painful-yet-possible for me to forgive a crush in the present for not loving me back: I know they can’t help it. Because I couldn’t help it either.

View them through the lens of someone who doesn’t love them. You might have trouble viewing your amour with any objectivity, but guess what? Your friends can view that person accurately. You should take advantage of that power.

Ask your friends to tell you about the flaws, faults, and failings of the person you love. They might only have petty things to report – “One of her boobs is bigger than the other!” “He gets crumbs everywhere when he eats!” – but they might also have some bigger complaints to lodge, that they’ve been holding back for fear of offending you in your smittenness. For example, I’ll always be grateful to the friends who pointed out that a longtime crush of mine actually treated me badly, dismissed my ideas, and took my affection for granted. I hadn’t noticed these things at all because I was so wrapped up in my squeaky-clean image of him. Thank god for third-party neutral observers.

If you don’t want to reach out to friends to ask about your love’s flaws, or if none of your friends know the person you’re trying to get over, you can also try to unearth this information yourself. Journal for a nice long time about all the ways your love has slighted you, mistreated you, acted out, fucked up, and fallen short. Normally I don’t advocate focusing on people’s failures, but right now you need to be shaken out of your “I love them, they’re perfect!” mentality.

Publicly decide you’re getting over them. When I say “publicly,” I don’t mean you have to announce it on your blog or blast your Facebook friends with the news – that’s a bit much, even for me. But you should tell at least a couple of close friends that you have decided to get over your crush. To some extent, they can keep you from sending sad drunk texts, creeping your love’s tweets at 2AM, or taking a “casual stroll” through your crush’s neighborhood. You’ll feel more committed to your recovery mission if you’ve told your plan to people you respect.

But this attitudinal shift isn’t just important for your friends to know; it’s important for you to know, too. Once you’ve decided to get over your crush, you’ll (slowly, incrementally) stop mentally highlighting everything they say or do as worthy of your notice. You’ll scroll past their tweets like they were anyone else in your timeline, write about them in your journal only when they’re actually relevant to your day, and wait until you have a moment free to answer their texts instead of hammering out an instant reply. Treat them like a non-crush, and they’ll gradually become one. Mental categorization is more important than we realize, and that includes the mental category of “person I love.”

Destroy all mementos. Fuck, this is really hard to do! I am an appallingly sentimental person, and I cling to physical tokens obsessively if they remind me of a person, place, or time in my life that was important to me. But let’s be real: if you claim to be getting over someone, but you still own objects that remind you of that person every time you see them, you’re half-assing the task at hand.

“But Kate!” you might be screeching as you read this, “Why do I have to get rid of the endtable my crush made for me/T-shirt she gave me/stuffed animal he won me at the carnival?! Those things came from the person I love, but they don’t remind me of them!” Only you can know if that’s really true. If an item is useful to you, or genuinely makes you happy, and its tragic origins don’t come to mind when you glance at it, then it might not be so bad for you to keep it. But you have to get really real with yourself about this, and get rid of anything that makes you even borderline-sad.

If you truly can’t bear to let go of some of these objects – maybe because they’re expensive, one-of-a-kind, or you think you might want them years down the road – then put them in a bag (Gala says you should write “DON’T!” on the outside) and give that bag to someone you trust for safekeeping. It’s okay if your mementos stay in your mom’s garage or your best friend’s bathroom closet; having them out of your space will be good for you.

Go out and live your life!! They say the best revenge is living well. I say the best “revenge” is not feeling like you need revenge. Living well because you want to and deserve to live well – not because it makes you appear a certain way to a certain someone.

Throw yourself into your creative projects. Go to parties and events. Make new friends and new professional connections. Go on dates with other cute people, if you wanna. Learn new skills. Spend time with people who love you. Watch movies that make you howl with laughter. Go for walks in the sunshine. Make lists of goals and then get started. Dance your ass off surrounded by sweaty happy people. Start saving for a vacation. Get your hair done or buy some new clothes. Write a book. Make collage art. Roll down a hill. Write a gratitude list every morning. Listen to music that makes your heart pound with glee. Figure out what would make you happy and then go do that.

We make ourselves miserable when we wait by the phone, endlessly hoping our crush will get off their ass and finally notice us. Relying on other people to make you happy is emotional masochism. Make yourself happy, even if you’ve never really done that before and aren’t sure where to start. Just try a whole bunch of different things and see what sticks. Get out into the world, make things, do things, have experiences. Wash the bitter love from your system with as much hustle and joy as you can muster.

Keep going. Nothing worth doing is instant or easy, but it’s still worth doing.


What are your best strategies for when you love someone who doesn’t love you back?

How to Enjoy Your Unrequited Crush

Sex writing is my jam, but when I’m not thinking about sex, I’m often thinking about its closely related sister: love. Crushes. Infatuation. Limerence. Whatever you want to call it. It may or may not be linked with sex in your mind, but it’s definitely still linked inextricably with sex in the world at large – so when I think about one, I often consider the other.

One love-related idea I keep coming back to, especially now that I’m single and too busy and distracted to date, is this: having a crush on someone can feel good, even if nothing comes of it.

I first learned this in high school. I was obsessed with the cutest boy ever (who, incidentally, walked past me on the street recently and tried to pretend he didn’t see me, which was actually what prompted me to write this post). I confessed my feelings and he straight-up told me he wasn’t attracted to me and didn’t want to date me.

It hurt like hell, of course, and I cried for a few days and pined after him for a few months (okay, maybe more than a few), but there did eventually come a time when I fully accepted his disinterest in me, and the fact that we would never be together – and after that, somehow, the crush became fun again. I anticipated running into him in the halls. I joyfully succumbed daily to the swoony feelings that overtook me whenever I saw him smile. I laughed at his jokes without worrying how that would be construed. I wrote about “Rejection Boy” sightings in my journal and relished them. It gave me a strange sort of pleasure.

Similarly, I also had a huge crush on my philosophy teacher in high school – and because there was absolutely zero chance of us getting together (what with him being 15+ years older than me, married, and employed by my school), I was able to fully enjoy those early stages of infatuation without it ever progressing to the agony and distress of real romantic yearning.

I learned that infatuation fuelled me, both emotionally and creatively. It made me want to get out of bed in the morning, put effort into my appearance, put effort into my life. It made me want to write, make art, say and do important things. Infatuation was like a potent blend of caffeine, LSD and Prozac, but without the side effects. From that time forward, I tried not to let myself fall into the trap of lovelorn sadness anymore – I tried to focus on the happy side of crushes, on what they could do for me, on what I could make them do for me.

Having experienced this love-magic and having thought a lot about how to replicate it, I think I’m qualified to share with you some tips for how to make your potentially painful romantic longings into an uplifting, cheerifying element of your life.

1. Accept that nothing’s going to happen.

Obviously this only applies in cases where you actually know (or think it very likely) that nothing’s going to happen with that person. Maybe your circumstances or theirs don’t allow for dating right now; maybe you know for a fact that they’re not interested; maybe you only like certain qualities about them but know they wouldn’t actually make a good partner; maybe they’re in a monogamous relationship, or you are; maybe one of you is moving away soon. Whatever the case may be, if there’s no chance of anything happening, accept that.

It’s my belief that the majority of romantic agony we experience (and maybe the majority of any emotional agony we experience) stems from the belief in what could be, and that possibility never coming to fruition. If you eliminate that element, you’ll eliminate a lot of your discomfort. It sounds depressing and bleak, but sometimes it’s the least depressing option you can take in that situation.

2. Identify what you feel when you’re around your crush, and enjoy those feelings.

A swoop of nausea. A herd of stomach butterflies. A fiery blush. A giggle fit. An intense, palpable desire to close the physical distance between you and your beloved.

Whatever you feel when you’re around them, try to identify and isolate what those feelings are. When you can pick them apart and notice them specifically, instead of just letting them wash over you and stress you out, then you can start to enjoy them.

Just as it’s exhilarating to finish a race or perform in front of a crowd, it’s also exhilarating to be around someone who makes your body feel like you’ve just done something equally stressful or scary. Certain people make you feel hyped up and blissed out – so long as you can recognize all those different sensations as adding up to a happy rush.

3. Figure out how you can make your crush into a productive force.

Get out your paints, guitar, journal or other creative outlet of choice, and get to work. As Nellie McKay says, “Come on, use the pain – drink up from the rain.” Sadness can suck but you’ll feel better about it if you turn it into something awesome.

Likewise, ask yourself what you can learn from this experience, and accordingly, what changes you can make. Maybe your crush doesn’t return your feelings because you have some bad lifestyle habits that they view as a red flag; you could change those. Maybe things didn’t work out because your crush got involved with someone else before you could gather the nerve to ask them out; you could work on your courage and confidence. Maybe the rejection made you feel like no one will ever love you (oh, babe, no!); you could work on your self-love and overall attractiveness. You get the idea.

I think one of the key differences between mopey, stagnant people and happy, dynamic people is the way they choose to look at their hardships. You can allow your troubles to define you and drag you down, or you can choose to view them as jumping-off points for greater adventures. I bet you know which option I recommend!

How do you deal with unrequited love?