Love Lessons From My Childhood Pen Pal

I got a letter in the mail the other day. It was a bit of an unexpected thrill, considering my mailbox is usually filled with nothing but Domino’s pizza flyers. (Which, don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate.) 

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While reading it, I was reminded of a time in my life when letters weren’t quite so infrequent.

………. Cue the flashback (you knew it was coming)

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The year was 1995: I was 9 years old, bookish, and heavy into Blossom Hats and The Babysitter’s Club. I was teetering on the verge of what would soon become my five-year “awkward phase”, but didn’t know it yet. Life was good.

It was also the year I made my first Pen Pal.

*Not me or my dog.

*Not me or my dog.

I acquired my Pen Pal through somewhat unusual circumstances. My father, the son of Croatian immigrants, liked to keep ties with his Eastern European heritage. This manifested itself mostly in three ways: cooking obscene amounts of cabbage, hoarding things, and subscribing to a Croatian newsletter called  Zajedničar. 

Zajedničar, as I recall it, was a bizarre publication filled with ads for life insurance, way too many consonants, and people in weird costumes playing Tamburitzas.

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 I never paid much attention to it until one day, my dad showed me an ad offering a PenPal service connecting Croatian children across North America.  

Now this was something I could get down with. The opportunity to correspond with a real live girl in another country? Sign me up!

I immediately submitted my information to the magazine, and a few weeks later, received my first letter.  It was from a girl named Jessica in Erie, Pennsylvania. She was 10 years old, and loved Barbies, gymnastics and stickers- in that order.  She even sent me her school photo, in which she was wearing one of those Western bolo shirts that were popular at the time.

This was the best I could do on Google images. In reality, she looked nothing like this.

This was the best I could do on Google images. She actually looked nothing like this.

Her long, sandy blond hair was tied into a side braid with a fluffy white scrunchie on the end, and she accessorized with dangly troll earrings, gummy bracelets and a toothpaste-commercial smile.

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To me, she was impossibly cool.

I immediately began crafting my response. Besides just telling her my entire life story, I also spent hours researching her hobbies and interests in order to prove what a thoughtful and conscientious Pen Pal I could be. I even had my dad pull out the atlas to show me where Erie was on the map. 

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I was certain she would be impressed by such informational gems as:

Did you know your town is named after a lake??!”; and 

I heard toothpaste is great for removing sticker residue!” 

We corresponded for the next few months, sending letters as well as other totems of our respective 90’s childhoods: stickers, colorful erasers, POGS, temporary tattoos.We never spoke a single word about Croatia, but that was OK. 

Eventually, things kind of fizzled out. Ok, I’m lying. Jessica just straight-up stopped writing to me. I don’t really know what happened. I mean, maybe I was a little overzealous in my pursuits- spending hours drafting elaborate letters, consulting atlases and whatnot. And maybe I should’ve seen this one coming when my 10-page anthologies met with only a few measly paragraphs in response. “Maybe she’s busy practicing her tumbling,” my mother would say. But deep down, I knew the score. 

While being blown-off so coldly hurt at the time, in a way I’m thankful, because it probably prevented me from becoming a full-on stage 5 clinger in future romantic relationships.  

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Now I’m just incredibly closed-off and distant. I think it’s working out pretty well for me.

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So thank you, Jessica, for teaching me that there is such a thing as coming on way too strong. I  hope you finally found that Sailor Moon sticker sheet you were looking for, and that somewhere, out there, you and your side braid are tumbling off into the sunset.

Question of the Day: Did You Have A Pen Pal Growing Up?

The Mystery of the Long Stem Roses

It all started innocently enough: I was struggling to fit an oversize bag of garbage down the chute in my condo building when I noticed a bouquet of a dozen, long stem red roses, still in their original packaging, sitting on floor beside the chute.

My immediate reaction was one of intense curiosity. Whose roses were these? And why had they thrown them away? Perhaps there had been a lover’s quarrel? (Red, of course, being the universal colour of love). I needed more information.

I opened the flap of the packaging and found that no note had been included. This only added to my intrigue. Had the recipient removed the note prior to disposing with the flowers? And if so, why? Or maybe there had never been a note at all. Maybe this was a secret-admirer type situation. Or a stalking one.

I briefly considered taking theses roses myself- rescuing them from the metal clutches of certain death and bringing them back to my apartment where they could live a happy (albeit brief) life on my coffee table beside all of my US Weeklys and old Wal-Mart candles. But ultimately, I decided against it.

Like the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, these roses seemed too good to be true. What if I took them and it opened up a Pandora’s box of heartache and unhappiness?

Don’t do it, Pandy!

I was reminded of a conversation I’d had with a friend recently, where she told me about a plant she had agreed to inherit from a woman at work who was leaving. “You better make sure you think long and hard about that decision,” I told her. “Like what are the circumstances of her departure, for one thing? What if she was miserable and hated her life? Do you really want to bring a plant into your office that had to live with that woman’s unhappiness for years?”

Eventually, I was satisfied when my friend assured me that the woman was, in fact, retiring after a very happy and successful 30 year career, and planned to travel the world with her husband – and thus was in need of a good home for the plant.

I could get no similar comfort, however, with these roses. Whatever the circumstances surrounding their disposal, it didn’t seem positive. And I didn’t want any of that bad energy messing up my apartment chi.

And so I left the roses untouched, and instead focused on solving the mystery of who left them there in the first place.

Everyone I encountered in my building became a suspect. Could it have been the punk-rock clad university student sharing an elevator with me? Judging from her heavy eyeliner and spiked backpack, she seemed no stranger to misery. Or perhaps it was the middle-aged man, picking up his Amazon package from the concierge. His eyes held a profound sense of sadness.

There was no way of knowing for sure.

The whole thing began to depress me, and I began wracking my brain for other, less distressing explanations. Maybe there had been no lover’s quarrel at all, I thought. Maybe the recipient was simply allergic to roses.

This seemed plausible. I once received lilies from an ex-boyfriend and had to throw them away due to my severe allergies. I tried to live with it, but in the end, I just couldn’t stand it.

A metaphor, you might say, for how the relationship itself eventually became.

Unfortunately, a quick google search confirmed that roses are among the least common of all allergies. Foiled again.

I have since resigned myself to the fact that I may never get the answers I’m looking for… and just like that damn movie Inception, I may never fully understand what went on that day. Whatever the case, I hope that the recipient of those fateful roses has since found peace. And to the person who gave them in the first place: I’m rooting for you, buddy.

Question of the Day: Would you have taken the roses?

6 Reasons Why You Probably Shouldn’t Invite Me to Your Wedding

This past weekend I flew home to Halifax, Nova Scotia to attended the wedding of my good friends Alison and Kevin.

The ceremony, which took place at a yacht club overlooking the Halifax Harbour, was truly gorgeous, and I was so happy to have been included in their special day. At the risk of getting all sentimental and spoiling my jaded, sarcastic persona, I have to admit that I really do love weddings. There’s just such a sense of occasion about them: getting dressed up, catching up with old friends, throwing rice around. (I mean come on.. who throws rice around?)

It’s wedding season!

But despite all of my enthusiasm, I actually get invited to relatively few of them. This wedding was the only one in my roster for all of 2012.  This hardly seems proportional, given that I am almost 27, and for all intents and purposes should be right at the apex of my wedding-attending career.

In an effort to identify why I keep getting left off the “A” list, I started thinking back to my previous history as a wedding guest. Yeah, there were probably a few missteps along the way…. like that time I slow danced inappropriately with the groom, assaulted the bride and pushed a pregnant lady. Awwwkard. (just kidding. That was her)

I decided that after all the antics I had pulled in my time, I probably wouldn’t invite me to my own wedding either. And to be honest, neither should you. Here’s why:

1. I’ll probably be late for it.

Although I have no problem making my bi-weekly nail appointment, or rushing home in time to catch the Season Premiere of Bachelor Pad, for some reason it’s the one time, monumental events that I just can’t manage to be on time for. This past wedding was no exception. After getting lost en route to the ceremony and arriving 15 minutes late, I saw from the parking lot that the bridal procession had already started. Since the actual ceremony was still about 400m away, and down a steep grass hill, I decided to do what any self-respecting girl would do: whip off my 4 inch heels and pull a Usain Bolt straight down the hill in my cocktail dress, in direct view of the entire audience.  I think even the bridesmaid walking down the aisle turned to see the crazy woman barreling down the hill at 100 km/hour.

I finally made it to my seat (after almost taking out the photographer, the flower girl and more than a few pew markers along the way) just in time to see my friend walk down the aisle. Can’t say I don’t know how to make an entrance.
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2. I’ll make you rue the day you ever decided to have an open bar.

Free booze is a saucy temptress. Despite my best efforts to act like a responsible, 26-year-old woman in the face of unlimited free alcohol, instead I usually end up behaving more like a contestant on “cash grab”, attempting to beat the clock by imbibing as much as possible in the limited time I have. So word to the wise: Unless you want 80 bottles of grey goose and 145 sour puss shots* on your bar tab at the end of the night, maybe consider leaving my name off the invite list.

*actual statistics.

3. I’ll probably dance.

Although I am a woman of many talents (writing, running sub 3 hour marathons, generally winning at life), dancing, unfortunately, is not one of them. I think my dancing skills (or, lack thereof) can best be described as a formula of  one part Elaine Benes:

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One part Carlton Banks:

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Two parts Ron Swanson:

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One part Paull Rudd from the 80′s:
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Three parts Napoleon Dynamite:

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With a few jersey shore fist pumps thrown in there.
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But worse.

Although generally self-aware enough to save the world from having to endure this agony, coupled with the effects of the aforementioned grey goose + sour puss shots, I pretty much lose all control of my actions.. and appendages. And let’s face it- nobody wants to see that.

4. I will likely harass your DJ and/or Photographer

Because I live in a universe known as Self-Absorbtion, I think everything is about me. Unfortunately for you, this goes for your wedding too. If I feel like listening to Urrrrsher or Mr. Worldwide Pitbull  instead of  Kool and the Gang, then so help me god, I’m going to. Even if it means harassing, haranguing and/or bribing your DJ along the way. And as for pictures: there better be a lot of them. Of me. I didn’t spend 3 hours doing my hair and makeup for nothing.

5. I don’t understand portion control.

When you decided to order those delicious grilled cheese sandwiches and donuts as a late night snack at your wedding, you probably anticipated each guest having one of them, right? Au contraire bonjour. At least not if I’m one of your guests.

I’m not gonna get into exactly what went down that night… but lets just say there was one very full belly, and more than a few hungry mouths at the end of it.

6. I’ll probably write about it on my blog

When all else fails, you can count on me to exploit our close, personal relationship for shameless blog fodder.

Because after all, what are friends for??

Question of the Day: Do you like weddings? Do you make a good wedding guest?

The Friend Zone

I love you guys. Really, I do. That’s why today, I’m giving you a break from hearing the sound of my own virtual voice (be thankful you never have to hear my actual voice.  I sound like a 6-year-old on coke) and instead, I’m giving it over to the beautiful, funny and talented Miss Karen from The Chronicles.

She wrote a great guest post for me about dating, so check it out below! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll emotionally eat ice cream….and at the end everyone will be richer from the  experience.  Promise. And make sure to head on over to her blog to read some more when you’re done. If this post wasn’t enough to convince you, well…sometimes she posts pictures of herself.  Yeah, that’s what I thought you said.

K I’ll stop being such a scene stealer now and just let you read it. Here goes!

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Hello everyone! So some of you may know me from The Chronicles of a Skinny Jeans wearing Toronto girl and the others may now me as Breezyk’s eternal stalker and not so secret admirer. I’ve known Breezy for a few months now and through numerous brunch dates, major girl crush and hopeless love only begins to scratch the surface.

When Breezyk asked me to write a post for her I got all anxious. Mainly because her blog is amazing (but you already knew that right?) and whatever I wrote would have to be nothing short of perfect. Well, that was an impossible task and after a month of struggling, this is all I came up with. And I’m honored that she wants to feature this J

The Scourge of the Friend Zone

You guys all know how much I like joshing around making fun of people, judging them through my judgmental eyes (in this case, fingers) and such. And so the inspiration for this post came from none other than my favorite josher, Barney Stinson: 

The proverbial friend zone. On one hand, at least you’re friends. On the other hand, Cupid has no more arrows in his nappy for you and friends is all you will ever be. Unless you’re a time-travelling caveman or an asexual plant, all of us at some point will have done our time in this miserable middle ground of hell. Hell as we all know is just another word for unrequited love…and bikini waxes.

Ever since man learnt to walk upright and speak in full sentences, the Friend Zone has basically been understood as a male populated island surrounded by Lake Testosterone.

But while I would absolutely LOVE to sit here forever and spend the next ten thousand words bitching about the stupid bitches that put them there, I’m here for a bigger purpose. Because whether you fellas realise this or not, there IS a female version of the friend zone. It exists and is no more a myth than gravity or the five second rule.

The female friend zone unbeknownst to many is more popularly known as “the mother zone” and in certain circles the “sister zone”. Mother and sister. Important roles in a woman’s life. None of which you want to be playing when you’re seeing a guy you want to knock socks with.

So because I’m a nice girl, I will offer myself as a prime example of how women get a one way ticket to the non erogenous zones of mother and sister.

Case Study #1: The Hug-a-bug

Dated this guy for a month and a half. Of the many red flags that were burning holes into my corneas, the biggest and brightest one was that we never kissed. Just hugged all the time. And how did I respond? I made him a bunch of cutesy birthday coupons promising the world (and more hugs).

The Aftermath: He broke up with me, the reason being that “he wasn’t ready to be in a relationship and that I was the sweetest girl ever”. Two weeks later he started dating a close friend of mine and now they’re married.

Moral of the Story: Most guys like to hug their “sweetest girl ever” sisters, not date them.

Ed note: Thank you Karen, for teaching me never to trust this man.

Case Study 2: The best friend.

I walked in to my first lecture of my Humanities class and took a seat next to the cutest boy my eyes could scan. Two weeks later we became inseparable. And obviously by the end of the semester I was hopelessly in love. I could completely be myself around him, argue with him, and even yell at him when he was being a dick.

The Aftermath: I did eventually tell him how I felt. He responded by telling me how he’d always be there for me and how I’m the kind of girl any man would be lucky to settle down with.

Moral of the Story: Maybe the only thing worse than being in the sister zone is being in the mother zone and sister zone at the same time.

Case Study 3: The worker.

Having learnt nothing from Case Study 1 and 2, I moved on to my next male encounter with The Worker. He worked the craziest hours in the world. Sometimes he’d leave at 4am and come home exhausted by 8pm. Sometimes he’d be so tired that he would fall asleep at the wheel. And despite all that, sometimes if I had a bad day, he would still drive all the way to my place just to give me a hug. He made me happy. And I made him elaborately packed lunches so he would save the time it took to pack a lunch to sleep in a few extra minutes.

The Aftermath: Things didn’t work out for the mere fact of it being shitty life circumstances. But he did say that not even his mother took care of him the way I did.

Moral of the Story: You’ll probably need therapy when you realize that perhaps the biggest reason the relationship even lasted as long as it did was because you took care of him like a mother.

Ed note: Listen to the woman and never pack that man a lunch. Especially not this one. Nothing says “mother zone” like a dinosaur shaped, crustless sandwich.

And what did I learn from this all? Nothing. In fact, I never really thought about this till at this very moment at 1:00 in the morning unable to sleep. Over the past three years that I’ve been single, I read all the latest fad books on dating…He’s just on that into you, It’s called a breakup because its broken, Why Men love bitches…you name it.

All of these told me to act the exact opposite of the way I did in my innocent unjaded past. And I listened to them and completely bought into that idea. I drank it all in. I scolded my girlfriends when they came to me with complicated boy problems, telling them to cut it off and be single, telling them not to be so weak (in not so many words). I loved the idea of flirting with guys but could never bring myself to think anything past that. Hence was born my debilitating condition of Dating ADD.

And it was not until this very moment after just going back and reading it again that I found out why I did those things. With each of these guys I became creative, I wasn’t afraid to be myself and most of all, I was happy.

There is a paradox about happiness that holds true for every aspect of life:

In order to be happy, you have to make someone happy.

In order to make someone happy, you have to be happy yourself.

And so from this 2am epiphany, here is what I’m going to try to take from it. Maybe you’ll laugh at me. Maybe you’ll call me naive or just maybe for some crazy reason you may even agree with me but the truth is.:

I didn’t make coupons because I was blissfully unaware of not being kissed. I did it because I wanted to in spite of it.

I didn’t argue and give my two cents on everything because I thought that’s a sure-fire way to a man’s heart. I did it because I was made to feel comfortable enough to do so.

And I certainly didn’t pack a lunch because that’s the motherly thing to do. I did it because I was happy. And when you’re happy, you become creative in finding ways of making someone else happy.

And I know that when I find someone who makes me happy, makes me want to get creative and isn’t scared off when I am myself, I’ll still be jaded. I’ll still panic and remember everything I read in dating books. But you know what? Of all the million things that could go wrong with trusting someone, I’d like to remember that something could go right.

So is this all too idealistic for this world? You bet it is. But I’m not asking you to adopt the same thought process. Perhaps one night when you can’t sleep, you may come up with a formula that works for you better. But maybe consider just one thing out of all this, when you do find someone who brings out a side of you that wants to be unjaded and innocent, throw away those dating books, make those coupons and pack those lunches and risk being in the friend zone. Because in the end, it’s not just him that deserves a fair shot. You do too.

And that`s my two cents on the friend zone. I`m not an award-winning author of a dating book or about to make millions on my late night findings. Just some uncool schlep who’s been stuck in the friend zone since 1986. And you what? For now, I`m okay with that.

Question of the Day: Have you ever found yourself in the Friend Zone?