Heartsick & Miserable? Ask Yourself This One Question…

I read something recently that blew my mind, and if I may, I’d like to blow yours too.

In Lisa A. Phillips’ book Unrequited, she writes – having studied unreturned romantic obsessions, including her own, for ages in order to write the book – that it is important to ponder what an unrequited love is trying to tell you about your life.

When you are painfully obsessed with someone who doesn’t love you back, Phillips writes, you’re not really obsessed with that person – you’re obsessed with what is missing from your life, which this person has somehow come to represent in your mind.

I read this simple insight while flying back from D.C. to Toronto and actually gasped aloud on the plane, drawing stares from nearby seatmates. I couldn’t help it. It felt like Lisa A. Phillips had just shined a spotlight directly into my soul. I felt simultaneously called out and cleansed. Halle-fuckin’-lujah.

I thought back to the worst unrequited love of my life so far – an innocent-crush-turned-crushing-heartbreak centering on a person I met in 2015 and tortured myself over throughout 2016. While he’s indisputably charming, smart, funny, and lovely, so are a lot of people I meet. The question had haunted me for a while: why did I fall in love with him? What enabled him to get inside my head and absolutely break me? What made him feel so vital to my happiness on a basal, gut level?

I think it has a lot to do with when I met him, and what kind of person I was then. At that time, I had been single for nearly a year, having broken up with my long-term partner in 2014 – and I hadn’t dated anyone or had sex with anyone during that entire year. I was cripplingly insecure, uncertain, and shy. I worried constantly that no one would ever love me or want me again. That anxiety kept me from going out and socializing, which, in turn, kept me from meeting people who might want me or eventually love me. It was a self-perpetuating cycle of self-loathing.

And then along came this boy, dazzling and bright. He swept into my life with all the loud self-assuredness I’d later come to love about him. We went on two not-explicitly-romantic dates and I was immediately smitten: it had been a long time since I’d met someone this funny, confident, and effervescently charismatic. He made me laugh harder than I had in ages, with seemingly no effort. I felt glued to his words. He activated a lightness in me I didn’t know I could still feel.

On top of all that, he made me feel entirely focused upon. His attention was a laser, and when he focused it on me, I suddenly felt important and desirable – two feelings I’d lost sight of in my year of loneliness and celibacy.

As we became friends-with-benefits and then actual friends over the following year, I noticed myself falling into an unhealthy emotional cycle. It mirrored – and often triggered – the ups and downs I experience as part of my bipolar disorder. When I was around him, I felt starry-eyed, ecstatic, elated, like nothing in the world could possibly be wrong and I’d be happy forever. Nothing could touch me. But when we said goodbye – whether it was for a few days or a few months – I crashed, hard. The light he brought into my life had been extinguished, and I didn’t know how to reignite it myself. It felt like he contained all the humor and happiness I’d ever experienced, and I wouldn’t be able to get any of it back unless he was there with me.

And the trouble was, he didn’t always want to be there with me. He didn’t love me. He valued our friendship, but that’s all it was to him. I wasn’t angry at him for not loving me back, because I understood that he couldn’t help it – but I was profoundly sad, because it felt like he owned the key to my happiness and he would only lend it to me on a limited, conditional basis.

What I wish I had pondered more deeply is this: what was missing from my life? And how could I give that to myself instead of relying on him?

I think this concept was what eventually enabled my healing process to begin, though I wasn’t consciously aware of it at the time. My crush made me laugh more than anyone else I knew, so I started spending more time with funny friends, upping my comedy podcast intake, and cultivating my own sense of humor even further. My crush made me feel focused on and valued, so I sought more friends who made me feel that way, and also chose to focus on and value myself by amping up my self-care regimen. My crush made me feel sexy and desirable, so I started flirting with people more and going on more Tinder dates to generate more of those feelings (and got comfortable cutting ties with people who didn’t meet my standards in this way). The sex with my crush had been devastatingly good, so I tried to get better at asking for what I wanted with other partners so my sex life would improve overall – and I mixed up my masturbation routine to make it more fulfilling. Basically, I looked for holes my crush could no longer fill for me, and I filled them my damn self (vagina joke only partly intended).

It wasn’t until I started seeing my last boyfriend that I felt entirely divested of that old unrequited love, but I think the work I’d done on myself had laid the groundwork for me to meet such a wonderful person and accept him into my life. If I’d still been stuck on my old crush, I don’t think I would’ve been able to open myself up to someone new. It would’ve felt pointless, because how could someone new possibly be better than the person I’d been stuck on for over a year? But by divorcing that person from the joys he brought me, I became able to see that other people could make me happy, too, if I let them.

I wish I could go back in time and explain this revelation to my past self. Maybe it would save her a lot of heartache. But I think it’s more likely she wouldn’t even listen to me. That’s the nature of unrequited love: other people can spout lessons and truisms at you ad nauseum, and you won’t believe them; you have to learn these things for yourself, experientially. You’re always convinced your world is ending until it isn’t anymore.

What do you wish someone had told you about unrequited love when you were going through it?

Book Review: Everything and a Happy Ending

Sometimes the point of literature is to give you a glimpse into a world you’ve never known, a life you’ve never led, some feelings you’ve never experienced. But other times, the point of literature is to mirror your feelings back at you, to remind you of what you’ve been through, and to show you that you’re not alone.

I went through that when I read Tia Shurina’s memoir, Everything and a Happy Ending. Though I went into this book knowing essentially nothing about it, I saw myself reflected back to me in its pages. And it felt weirdly affirming to see that the intense unrequited love I’ve experienced over the past couple years is both a common human experience and a valid one.

In her book, Shurina tells the story of her relationships with three men who played key roles in her life: her father, her ex-husband, and (wait for it) actor and comedian Ray Romano. (She refers to him as “Emilio” throughout, a code name, but is open about the fact that Emilio is really Ray.) I was interested in this detail because Romano kinda fucked me up as a kid. On his show Everybody Loves Raymond, a recurring gag shows him trying to initiate sex with his wife, only to be rebuffed with a sardonic “No.” This instilled in my young brain a belief that women are sexual objects to be pursued, not sexual agents capable of desire and initiative. While I don’t necessarily fault Romano for restating an already-rampant cultural trope about sex, I was curious to read about his inner romantic and sexual workings. (Spoiler alert: there’s no sex with Romano described in this book, and what little sex there is is mentioned only obliquely in passing.)

Everything and a Happy Ending chronicles – among other things – Shurina’s reconnection with her dad after a long period of distance, the pain she went through when he died, and her difficult decision to separate from her husband after decades together. It’s a poignant study on how our relationships are all interconnected and feed into each other: when you have a more satisfying connection with a parental figure, for example, it can give you the strength and courage you need to bravely leave a spouse.

But by far, the strangest and most emotional part of Shurina’s story is her romance with Ray Romano. She knew him when she was in college and they worked together at the bank where he also met his eventual wife, Anna. The way Shurina tells it, Romano made a pass at her in the form of a starry-eyed poem he gave her when she quit the bank. Though she didn’t tell him so for many years, his sweet poem boosted her self-confidence at a time when she really needed it. I was reminded of the first boy who ever called me beautiful – a friend of a friend, in an MSN Messenger conversation, when I was about 13 years old – and how much that one small action impacted me for years afterward. It’s funny how our choices can affect other people for far longer than we ourselves even remember them.

Decades after losing touch with Romano, Shurina reconnected with him on a trip to Vegas, by which time he’d risen to fame as a comedian. She describes an intimate, emotional affair they subsequently had via email, sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings on weekly electronic “dates.” Though he eventually cut off contact with her in order to preserve his marriage and remain true to his wife, Shurina fell deeper and deeper in love with him, and came to view this love as a turning point in her life.

I recognized these feelings as I read them. The powerful love for someone who cannot return it in the ways one wishes they could; the aching and hoping for closure that will never come; the irrational and extreme things one does when one is in love. Shurina continued to email Romano and even hand-deliver gifts to his workplace after he ceased contact with her, which frankly is scary and worrisome behavior.

But part of me understood the feelings that might drive that level of obsessiveness, even if I can’t and don’t condone what Shurina did. I remembered the time I bought the same deodorant as a crush because I wanted to be able to smell him whenever I wanted, the time I picked up a receipt a crush had dropped because I wanted a glimpse into the mundanity of his life, the time I kept a dime on my bedroom floor for a year because a crush had left it there and it reminded me of him. Not all the things we do in the name of love are ethical or even forgivable. Sometimes it feels like we can’t help it.

Structurally, Shurina’s book is all over the place: she’s always digressing on mini-monologues about spiritual epiphanies, happenstance meetings, and “winks from the universe.” But it’s charming, in its own way – like listening to your kooky aunt tell you the story of the love of her life. Though sometimes her thoughts felt repetitious or brought out my inner skeptic, I still wanted to keep reading. I wanted to see Shurina get her happy ending.

And happily, she does. As the book comes to a close, its offbeat protagonist has shaken off her toxic marriage, successfully grieved her father’s death, taken at least some steps toward letting go of Romano, and met a man who wants to be with her – in real life, not just in “reel” life. It felt fortuitous for me to read this book at a time when I, too, have just recovered from an unreturned love. It served as a reminder that life can and will go on, and that there are happier adventures awaiting me.

 

You can buy Everything and a Happy Ending on Amazon! This review was sponsored, and as always, all writing and opinions are my own.

10 Years of Moleskine Journals!

The other day, I was lovingly stroking my stack of Moleskine journals – as one does – when I noticed that the first one was dated June 2007. Oh my god, I thought. Have I really been writing in these things for TEN YEARS?!

Apparently so. I bought my first Moleskine in a local bookstore when I was 15, influenced by bloggers and Flickr friends whose nerdy glamour I revered. My first entry muses, “I paid $22.95 plus tax for this notebook, so I hope the price will be returned to me in the form of emotional and historical investment.” While Moleskines are still probably overpriced (the type I use goes for about $24 in Canadian bookstores today), I do think they’ve been worth their weight in gold to me, for the experiences I’ve documented therein.

The thing about fancy notebooks is that they make you want to write in them. (Once you get past that scary, first-blank-page, don’t-wanna-fuck-this-up feeling, at least.) When you shell out for pricey stationery, there is a certain sense of obligation to actually use said stationery. The smooth, creamy paper used in Moleskines is a joy to write on (especially with my pens of choice, Pilot V5s), and that tactile pleasure is what initially cemented my journaling habit. The sensual joys of journaling introduced me to its psychological joys soon thereafter: I’d always feel better after an exhaustive journaling session, even if my hand ached from writing.

I wanted to collect some excerpts from my decade of journals, but there are just too many good ones, so I decided to limit myself to excerpts about sex and love. (That’s still way too many, to be honest with you.) Here are some oft-embarrassing musings from my past ten years in Moleskines…

June 14th 2007. I read somewhere that if teenagers don’t fall in love at least once during their formative adolescent years, they may completely lose the mental capacity to do so for the rest of their lives. I used to find this merely interesting, a notable thought that was nonetheless nothing to worry about. I was always positive, growing up, that I would acquire a perfect boyfriend shortly after entering high school – as if every girl was paired up with a boy in grade nine because those romantic relations are expected of teenagers. Now that I’m actually in high school, I know it’s not like that. Not everyone has someone by default.

Many of my friends are desperate for boyfriends. They feel they would be happier with a boy in their lives. Oddly, I have no interest in high school boys. High school boys don’t bring you soup when you’re sick, or stroke your hair, or take you out for romantic hillside night picnics, or ask you to marry them. They like computers and the Beatles; very few of them like Sondheim or blueberry scones.

I guess I’m desperate for a boyfriend too, but not the kind my friends want. I want to spend my nights with a mature adult male who can talk culture and isn’t afraid to tell me I’m beautiful and he loves me.

June 19th 2007. Just had a thought: is it at all possible that I am a full-out lesbian? The feelings I have for women are so very different from those I have for men, possibly even more intense. It’s hard to tell, though, because it seems to go in phases. One week or month I want the tenderness, soft lips and pussy; the next, I want roughness, hard muscles and cock. And yes, I realize that girls can be rough and guys can be tender, but that’s often not how it goes in my head.

February 27th 2008. Half the class was away in English, so we opted to have a class discussion. It moved to the all-consuming, omnipresent topic of love/crushes/relationships. Mr. M. asked us to visualize the person we most wanted to be with, and then asked: “WHY do you like this person so much?” (No generic answers allowed.) Julian talked about deep blue eyes; Kaiya talked about mystery and intrigue; Giordie talked about immense comfort; I talked about never getting bored of E___, never getting sick of her, even when I fucking hate her I still want to talk to her, and it’s like there’s this endless ocean of future conversations and experiences stretching out ahead of us, waiting to happen. I need to stop talking so highly of her, because it’s only reminding me of all the things I can’t have – but I can’t help it, she’s the only person I feel this way about, the only person I’ve EVER felt this way about.

July 23rd 2008. It’s rather terrifying how grown-up I’ve become. Like, I’m no longer a virgin (in a sense). When I think or say that, it just feels like I’m pretending. Like I’m in some story, a soap opera maybe, where the sex is good and the stakes are high.

September 18th 2008. I often wish I had some interesting identifiable sexual fetish to match my sexually open-minded nature – but I realize, I do kind of fetishize being begged for sex. (Maybe we all do? Maybe it’s just part of the human condition to want to be wanted?) This is why I can never decide if I’m a dominant or a submissive – I like to be taken fully, but I also like to hold the keys to my own castle, and to be seductively coerced into giving them up.

Like the other day on my porch, when I was pinned against the doorframe, and D___ kept getting closer and closer, and began fondling my breasts, and I tried to get her to stop for the sake of potentially nosy neighbors, but she just couldn’t keep her hands off me (so hot). When it wasn’t my breast, it’d be my waist or hip. After a while, I told her maybe she should get going, and she replied, coolly and confidently, “Or I could have sex with you.” I kind of knew, even before I knew, that I was going to say yes.

November 5th 2008. In drama class, we did a Method Acting exercise involving envisioning an object that brings up intense memories of joy, and I chose my rippled glass dildo, which proved to be embarrassing when Mr. B. asked me what my object was. I lied and said “a love letter” to spare myself from total humiliation.

March 14th 2009. I’ve been thinking a lot about polyamory lately, and considering whether I’d ever be interested in delving into that lifestyle. It intrigues me in theory, but I’m pretty sure that if I ever actually entered into an open relationship, I’d become intensely jealous very quickly. I mean, I’m not even attracted to D___, but I get jealous if she blows me off to hang out with her MOM. It’s totally absurd, and makes me question my ability to be poly.

But at the same time, I feel like, once you agree that your relationship is open, you’re kind of giving yourself permission to be jealous, and telling yourself that it’s okay, it’s natural, and it’d best be ignored.

For years I’ve been reading this blog called We Sleep Together, which is written by a geeky, sex-positive guy in an open marriage. He just seems SO happy, and so does his wife. He goes on dates, getting to have the thrill of meeting and being with someone new, and every time he gets home from an external sexcapade, he tells his wife all about it, and often the story turns them both on so much that it prompts sex. They have threesomes and stuff too. It honestly seems like a pretty sweet life, but obviously it’s all hinging on good communication.

December 20th 2009. This has officially been the weirdest day of my life… I found out that T___ had sex with D___ (!!!!) after my caroling party the other night. No use dwelling on this now but I was SO pissed at D___ because she KNEW that was an asshole thing to do (T___ didn’t, necessarily). I spent much of the day, after that little revelation, teetering between hysterical laughter and full-out weeping. Called Max, burst into tears, took the subway home, ate a brownie, Max held me a bit.

About 15 minutes after I got home, while I sat checking my emails with a brownie in hand and a tearstained face, there was a knock at the door. It was T___. He said, “I really like you. I gave up drugs for you.” I thought he was joking, pulling a prank, trying to embarrass me… I kept saying, “Really? Seriously?” He said, “Do you want to go out with me sometime?” I said, “Yes! Yes.” I hugged him tight. He said, “Are you doing anything right now?” I said, “Just eating a brownie and crying…” Then I said, “Let me get my coat.”

Then T___ and I walked out into the cold. I was so disbelieving that I became incoherent and felt like I was going to puke and/or have an asthma attack (he kept asking, “Are you okay?”). We walked to a café. I said, “I feel like I should call Kaiya… but that would be rude.” He told me to go ahead, so I did, and said, “Umm, I am on a date right now… with T___,” and she freaked out.

January 16th 2010. Why am I doomed to be dumped on the 15th day of winter months by bisexual genderqueer brown-eyed Jewish improvisors who love drugs and don’t deserve me?

Spent much of the morning moping, playing ukulele songs, lying in Max’s bed inhaling his comforting scent, emo-tweeting, eating, and just generally being a drain on society. I am wearing the same clothes I wore yesterday and slept in – it seemed somehow blasphemous to cleanse myself just yet. I will tonight though – lunch at Bubbie and Zaidie’s tomorrow. Pretending to be cheerful and well-adjusted. Hooray.

People were commenting on the relationship status switch on T___’s Facebook profile. They all seemed to assume that it was ME who had dumped HIM. “You don’t deserve that,” etc. One girl even offered herself up for him to “confide in” if necessary. He replied that he’s alright, he hopes I’m doing okay, and he’s going to take a break from “relationshipping” for a little while. I kind of wanted to punch him. What a fucking martyr.

March 6th 2010. Sexuality stuff I’m pondering lately: I am definitely attracted to men and boys in a romantic way. I look at someone like V___ and concoct fantasies about cuddling, kissing, holding hands, spooning, him opening doors for me, buying me lattes, calling me, saying my name, smiling at me, etc. Thinking about sex with men, however, almost always leaves me cold, unsettled, unnerved, and even afraid. I have occasional moments where I crave it (or think I crave it?) but 98% of my sexual fantasies are about women.

I can imagine having sex with a woman and feeling comfortable and safe doing it. I wouldn’t be very scared if I were to go down on her or vice versa, if I were to fingerfuck her or vice versa. The task of making another woman come does not seem hugely daunting, terrifying or invasive, the way the prospect of heterosexual relations does.

But I have no desire to do any of those gooey, romantic, relationshippy things with women (with the exception of an occasional boyish/butch lady). So I’m pungently unattracted to penises and going on dates with femmes, but potently attracted to clits, labia, and snuggling with boys in coffee shops. It would be a really difficult life to be a heteroromantic homosexual. I hope I’m not. Ahhh, confusion!!

May 18th 2010. Secret confession: throughout my relationship with T___, I continued to have very explicit sexual fantasies about V___. I told T___ this, during a conversation-bordering-on-argument about how he doesn’t get jealous and how that pisses me off. He didn’t care. Maybe he would’ve if I’d gone into detail… like about how most of these fantasies have to do with blowjobs, VERY uncharacteristic for me.

I’m kind of embarrassed that I just wrote down on paper that I basically want to make V___ come repeatedly in my mouth… but at the same time, it made me think about it, and want it (still). Ugh.

January 22nd 2011. I looked at pictures of V___ today – new cute ones from a trip he took with his girlfriend – and my heart didn’t snap in two. In fact, I felt pretty detached. It was like the pictures were from a quantum alternate reality, a potential life I never led where V___ was my boyf, but I wasn’t especially sad about it. I think, to get over a person, fully and totally, you have to be convinced that the two of you are wrong for each other, and you have to allow yourself to be distracted for a little while – just long enough that you have time to regroup, to rediscover what your heart feels like without the weight of dissatisfaction weighing down on it – and then you can get your life back and cut the cord that’s tethering you to these old issues and this old person.

What I have learned about unrequited infatuation, primarily, in all my field research, is that a little bit is a deliciously exciting propeller of euphoria, but a lot is a troublesome weight to bear. The trick is to avoid progressing to the “longing” stage – you have to keep it fun and light and happy, by maintaining the belief that it’s OKAY that it’s not going to go anywhere. Once you start blaming yourself for the painful stagnancy, or hanging your hopes and self-worth on the fictional attainment of this person, you are wading into dangerous territory. Though, of course, escaping from that sort of situation is easier said than done.

May 16th 2011. E___ AND I HAD SEX and I decided I needed to journal right away, to process my thoughts. Congratulations, journal – you are officially my number-one confidante.

It was like nothing. It was like a dildo pushing inside of me, speeding up and slowing down sometimes. I didn’t feel anything break; maybe I don’t have a hymen after all. It lasted maybe 3 or 4 minutes – I didn’t mind his lack of stamina, though he was very apologetic and offered to go again (I said no, politely).

I don’t feel that anything has really changed. Those weird “violated/used” feelings I had feared are here somewhat, even though I know they’re irrational as fuck. I feel overwhelmed. I feel worried that I didn’t enjoy it more than I did (although first times are supposed to be awful). I feel heteronormative. I feel like I want to talk and talk and talk about how penetrative sex is basically how I imagined it but didn’t really Feel Like Sex to me – it felt like I was lying there and something happened to me and afterward I got all confused and conflicted and speechless and wide awake.

There is a naked man in my bed and I am no longer a virgin. I really don’t know what to make of this.

November 2nd 2011. Here’s what’s interesting about allowing myself to have small, transient crushes on people outside of my monogamous relationship: The feeling of infatuation tends to refresh anything it comes into contact with. That flutter of crushness brightens my mood and further motivates me to put more time and energy and love and passion into my relationship. Limerence is a massive renewable resource with no drawbacks, so long as it’s understood and accepted from the beginning that nothing will come of it.

March 26th 2012. Tonight I had the brilliant idea to start my own sex toy review blog. Immediately registered “Girly Juice” on Tumblr (after finding that “Sugar Cunt” and “Lady Juice” were both taken) and began scheming and dreaming. So far I’m only working with EdenFantasys to acquire stuff to review (they mailed me a book of spanking erotica today for free, YAY!) but I’ll probably branch out to other stores in due time. Could be my summer project!

January 28th 2013. I have severe doubts about my ability to stay monogamously committed long-term, and yet I haven’t encountered any situation in which I had an opportunity or even a temptation to cheat. I talk about needing the freedom to kiss and flirt with other people but I don’t actually do it, I just feel good about being allowed to. Sometimes I think I’m bored of sex with E___ but then we have sex and I’m reminded that our sex consists of things which matter to me and make me come and leave me satisfied, such that I don’t really ever have a desire to fuck other people because I just know they wouldn’t be as sexually compatible with me as he is – maybe they wouldn’t like giving oral, maybe they’d hate my labia, maybe they’d want marathon sessions with acrobatic positions, maybe they’d be perplexed at my needing clitoral stimulation to get off.

But if I don’t want to fuck other people, and I don’t particularly want to date or pursue other people, then the only remaining options are E___ or being single, and since he’s nice to me and we have good sex and we go out for nice dinners and he keeps me warm in bed one night a week, I see no reason to pick singleness over him even if I no longer have any burning desires for any aspect of him anymore.

Maybe this is what long-term relationships are supposed to feel like: somewhat static, more like a room’s wallpaper than the things in the room. There are people who seem constantly challenged and delighted by their partners, ecstatic every day even after years, but I have to wonder if those people are faking it.

June 16th 2013. I have a lot of complicated thoughts and feelings around the idea of sexual monogamy. I HATE the whole concept of my body being “possessed” by someone just because we are in a relationship. It grosses me out to think that there are expectations and limitations placed on what I can and can’t do with my own body on my own time. Why is it okay for me to be naked in a body image workshop but it somehow becomes problematic if I’m naked on GoneWild? People can jerk off to the mental image of my body either way. Hell, they could do that even if I always remained clothed.

There is something to be said for emotional fidelity, in that sharing your life and your deepest self with someone can take a lot of trust and sometimes you only want to share that depth with one person at a time. But I don’t see why that should be mandatorily connected to sex. Sex is touch and fun and pleasure and exploration and it doesn’t always require commitment or emotional intimacy or love or anything. Sex can just be sex. And since it is something I do with my body, it’s strange to me that our culture mandates I can only do it with the body of the one I’m emotionally committed to. Ugh.

August 29th 2014. I have to rip the band-aid off and break up with E___. I have to. It’s awful to both of us that I’ve let this drag on so long. I’m not happy; my head and heart aren’t in it and I don’t have the time or energy or desire for a relationship anymore. It has to end. When am I going to do it? Soon. It has to be soon.

September 11th 2014. One of my professors is totally foxy in an older-man sort of way. While listening to him talk about courtroom publication bans tonight, I couldn’t help but fantasize about him giving me stern instructions while smacking my ass with a paddle and slowly inserting a lubed butt plug as “punishment.” It feels good to want people again, to experience desire, to imagine possibilities.

April 3rd 2015. B___ told me two things I already knew about F___: that he has a big dick, and that he’s on the submissive side. That’s not a great omen for our potential sexual compatibility but I’m also still kinda unclear on how subby I really am. Sometimes I wonder if it’s one of those things I enjoy in fantasies but wouldn’t be that into in real life. In any case, during our drunken interview last week, he mentioned to me that he is “orally inclined,” so we’d at least be compatible in that way. (And let’s be real: that’s more important to me than dom/sub stuff anyway.)

Max and some others have suggested to me that it would probably be best to just come out and ask F___ whether his intentions are romantic or just friendly, but I’m scared to make things explicit because I really do like having him as a pal and it feels nice to have made a new friend, and I don’t want to mess that up. I really don’t know how people date out in the real world. Is it normal and expected to have casual friend-hangouts for a while first? Is cuddling in a bar a normal-ish thing to do with a platonic opposite-sex friend? These questions sound stupid when I write them out like that but I genuinely don’t know. There are so many variables.

August 9th 2015. It is 7:05 and I am meeting C___ for coffee at 8!!!!!! I tweeted earlier about being sad that I’m so so celibate, and he asked me a clarifying question about the tweet, and I cackled like a loon and thought about how funny it would be if that dumb tweet led to us meeting up. And then I took a nap, and when I woke up, I had received a DM from him, just as I had in fantasies I’ve had about this possibility, and we chatted back and forth a bit and eventually decided to meet for an evening coffee tonight. OMG, OMG, OMG. I texted feverishly with friends while choosing an outfit, doing my makeup and cleaning my room in preparation for possible imminent sexytimes. I don’t know how casual dates/casual sex work at all. I’m very freaked out and very excited and ahhh!!

LATER (past midnight)… We met up and ended up talking for ~4 hours. He is sweet and smart and charming and makes me laugh. A lot of what we talked about was movies and sex and nerdy shit. He is more-than-passingly familiar with my blog and my tweets. He is also cute and significantly older than me and talks a LOT but it’s all interesting. He said we should hang out again sometime. OMG, OMG.

August 30th 2015. Holy shit… Last night. LAST NIGHT!! H___ had told me he’d be working and would have to arrive at the party late, but it turned out his work ended ahead of schedule so he was already there when I got there. I walked in wearing my floral-print AA skater dress with babely hair and makeup and he turned around from his seat at one of the tables and said, “You look gorgeous.” It was exactly what I wanted to hear at that moment.

I’d been invited to perform so I clambered onto the tiny stage and played “Addressee” + “Jump Your Bones” for the extremely appreciative, supportive crowd. I explained how “Addressee” is about my frequent inability to tell if someone is flirting with me… Afterward, a bunch of people came up to me and complimented me on my music… Then H___ was like, “Can I compliment you now? Now that everyone else is done complimenting you?” He told me he likes that my songs are so honest, that it’s “arresting” and “disarming.” He gives really good compliments, and I told him so.

In response to my song, H___ told me, “For the record, I am always flirting with you.” (!!) He kept trying to get me to dance, because dancing is fun and whatever, but dance-club party atmospheres make me feel really anxious and weird… We got around to talking about his ex and my ex and my weird ambiguous situation with F___, and he said he doesn’t like wasting time on people who are ambiguous (not in a mean way, just matter-of-factly and sympathetically to my situation), and I said, “Well, just to be clear, I’m really into you,” and he seemed surprised but happy and told me he’s into me too, but that he hoped I wasn’t just saying that because of being drunk (I wasn’t).

And then – like the universe was standing up to applaud our bravery – the Carly Rae Jepsen song “I Really Like You” started playing, and because H___ and I have a shared love of Carly Rae, our heads whipped around and he said, “Okay, let’s go,” and we sprinted to the dance floor and got down to fucking “I REALLY LIKE YOU” just after admitting we really like each other. Holy shit.

January 17th 2016. Last night I had an impulsive late-night sex-date with L___. I was apprehensive and unenthused about going over there because I’m just not attracted to him and that has become increasingly obvious lately. But I think some part of me feels like I should take sex where I can get it. Like good sex is a rarity, especially for someone like me, and I shouldn’t turn my nose up at it. That’s such bullshit and not true and I deserve better than someone who doesn’t turn my crank, but good heavens, these deeply internalized beliefs are so hard to unlearn sometimes.

I was already feeling vulnerable and insecure and inadequate and unsexy in general, and should’ve known better than to do something like kink that would require even more vulnerability. But alas, live and learn. I went into L___’s bedroom and he started spanking me, and it seemed like he was going harder than he typically does, and eventually I started crying. Not brief sobs of sexy pain – actual crying, with tears and shuddering breaths and a deep sadness. I could feel L___’s uncertainty about how to proceed, but he asked if I wanted more and I said yes. I just felt so sad. And it felt like all of my obsessive, anxious, self-doubting thoughts were being whipped out of me, like I was being punished for them, but it wasn’t working.

L___ cuddled me and told me I’d been a good girl, and that was a nice gesture but it still just didn’t feel right. He isn’t the right person to be my daddy dom. I don’t have the romantic feelings I’d need to have in order to want to please him, to be a good girl for him, to change my behaviors and habits and patterns to make him happy. It’s like, he’s saying the right things, but he can never be the kind of person I wish would say those things to me.

February 12th 2016. So yesterday was completely wacky. Bex left at noon and I spent the whole afternoon and early evening feeling kinda gloomy, because of “Bex-drop” but also because I wanted C___ to invite me to hang out again but didn’t want to initiate this myself for fear of seeming “un-chill.” But then at night, I was lying in a bubble bath, half-heartedly trying to masturbate while unable to stop thinking about blowing C___, and I happened to have brought my phone into the bathroom with me, and I impulsively decided to send him a DM saying I had been thinking about going down on him and would 100% be down to do that again sometime soon. After some hemming and hawing about location, he eventually invited me over. I got dressed, did my makeup, and got on the streetcar. It was cold as fuck outside but I was motivated.

When I got there, he was all freshly showered for me and smelled good and we went into a cozy room where he had dimmed the lights and put on an internet radio station of “ambient groove” jams. We sat on the couch, talked a little, made out a bunch, and then I got on my knees between his legs and blew him. YUP, still as good as I remembered. He told me later that he could’ve come in like 15 seconds, but we were both trying to savor it. I know I have written this about 800 different ways here in the past few days, but he is honestly my Ideal BJ Recipient. I told him to let me know if he wants one any time and that was an honest offer.

After, we decided to go to the brew pub for some beer and food. It was really nice and date-like and I felt very heart-eyes-emoji toward him. We talked about sex and video games and our careers and music and all kinds of stuff. He indicated (without saying so, really) that he doesn’t have romantic feelings for me and doesn’t want me to catch feels, and I said, “I have caught mild feels but I have made peace with that,” and he said he knew. Sigh. I know he’s never been destined to be my boyfriend or anything, but I’m very struck by how much he’s almost my ideal partner on multiple levels so it’s still a bummer. Oh wellz…

July 24th 2016. This morning C___ had set his alarm early enough for us to sit and have coffee and hang out a bit before he had to go to a brunch date with some new girl from the internet. It continues to hurt my feelings that he is seemingly so desperate to get into a relationship but inexplicably doesn’t consider me a contender to fill that role for him. But regardless: we always have a good time together, and I adore being around him.

Because my days are so empty now, and because I’ve been so depressed lately, I mentally sort days into “days I’m seeing C___” and “days I’m not.” This is ridiculous and unhealthy for so many reasons. I should have more in my life, so it doesn’t feel like he is the centre of it. And I should feel this way about B___, if anyone, because he’s the person who actually has romantic feelings for me and wants to date me, not C___.

With B___, I sometimes (okay, often) find myself wanting to skip the small talk and get straight to the sex, because he irritates me less when we’re banging instead of talking. With C___, I hang off his every word and want to ask him all the questions in the world so I can absorb his opinions and wisdom. The sex is great, but so are the makeouts, the cuddling, the just being near him, the conversations, the solemn silences as we listen to meaningful music together, the being on our phones in the same room, the aimlessly deconstructing our respective romantic lives, the casual being around each other while the mundanity of life plays out. His very presence captivates and uplifts me no matter where we are or what we’re doing.

January 26th 2017. This trip has been hard because, as per usual, travel stresses me out and also I am wont to experience “C___-drop” after seeing him. It’s gross and makes me feel bad. I only want/need/love him when I’m depressed and/or extremely anxious; that’s when my brain reverts to believing he is the source of all my comfort and the solution to all my problems. It is embarrassing to have done all these months of processing and “getting over him” and to find that it can all unravel, or seem to, so quickly and suddenly. But I need to remember that healing is not a linear process; there will be setbacks and backslides and fuckups and falters. I am doing my best and it’s okay if sometimes that’s not very good.

May 3rd 2017. I am soooo New Relationship Energy-hazy. Nothing fucking matters. My emails and deadlines and unreturned texts are utterly insignificant and I will get to them when I get to them. All I want to do is flirt and fuck and cuddle and touch and talk about Feeeelingz and smile at each other like a couple of goons. It’s ridiculous. Somebody save me from this silliness. Except actually don’t; I’m happy.

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.”