blogging

Dancefloor drama, part II

Practices are going full steam with the Dance Squad. Like any high pressure environment, emotions run high, and meltdowns happen. Meltdowns are kinda my thing, I’m somewhat of an expert in that subject matter. Therefore, I am prone to empathize when witnessing others mid-meltdown. Meltdowns are so very human, usually caused by an uncontrollable rush of emotion – they have the ring of authenticity and a sniff of vulnerability. #myuncomfortablecomfortzone

The choreo is not easy, with tricks, and lifts and all kinds of fun moments that involve me shifting some/most/all of my weight onto my dance partner. Technique, both for the leader and the follower, is critical. Unfortunately, achieving the right technique requires a lot of trial and error, which results in bruises, strained backs, and occasionally the follower being dropped on the floor. To the extent either the leader or the follower doesn’t catch on to a move quickly… le owie. But it is a fairly temporary level of discomfort, one that with humor, patience and concentration, can be worked through and then bingo! Improved dancing!

Sunday’s practice was hard. I struggled with a running kick in the air, supported by my partner, and my partner struggled with a sweep and dip. We mostly managed to not snipe at each other, but were both fairly relieved to not see each other for the 48 hours between Sunday’s practice and Tuesday’s practice. At Tuesday’s practice, Teacher introduced a 3rd trick and some unusual footwork. I could see my partner’s frustration rise, as he struggled with both the mechanics of the trick and the footwork count. I recognized the signs, awfully similar to the bitchfests I’d indulge in during sparring sessions at my boxing gym – the blinding emotion that overrides any communication between brain and body, making the easiest 1-2 step impossible. The only way to get out of that state is to indulge in a brief tantrum, evacuate the pent-up feelings, reset and restart. My partner’s meltdown was imminent. I was ready. I was expecting something along the lines of:

  • “GUYS! SLOW DOWN. I can’t keep up and this is really frustrating, always messing this up. I get that we are on a tight timeline, but FFS, if y’all keep blazing ahead while I am flopping about cluelessly, that doesn’t help us as a team. WAIT FOR ME. 5 minutes to help me out won’t kill y’all. “
  • “I HATE BEING A LEAD, THIS IS COMPLICATED AS FUCK, let me be a follower for once. I’ll even wear makeup and sequins if necessary, I just want someone else to deal with this shit for once. Vanilla’s strong, let HER work on her masculine portrayal.”
  • “How on earth did y’all expect me to get sufficiently in shape, overnight, to handle these lifts? You asked me to be part of the team 2 weeks ago, why are you asking me to perform at an athletic level that I don’t currently have? No? Am I being unreasonable? I AM NEVER UNREASONABLE.”

Instead, my partner said:

I’m sorry, I just can’t do this anymore. I refuse to risk injury to my back, shifting around all that weight.

Bro, did you just blame this on ME and my WEIGHT? Wrong answer.

He was true to his word, and refused to finish the last 15 mins of practice. As I watched the squad finish their rehearsal, stewing in my rage and hurt, I felt angelic for not pointing out that my weight wouldn’t be an issue if he had the slightest strength in his core and posterior chain and the posture of someone his age instead of that of a geriatric myopic librarian.

Vanilla the diplomat. I surprise myself sometimes.

A good night’s sleep did a lot to restore my mood. However, I planned my outfit extra carefully in anticipation of yesterday’s dance class: one that made my waist look wee, legs for days. Mini skirt, black nylons and heels. I hate dancing in heels: all the men in dance class are 5’8-5’10, meaning that I am several inches taller than them in heels. BUT, optical warfare takes precedence over optimal dance experience, and I wanted to make sure that when everyone saw me, the fat cow that puts my partner’s health at risk, they would say to themselves, “Damn! I’d totally put out my back for the chance to dance with that hottie.”

That is exactly what happened. Everyone complimented me on my sexy appearance, including my dance partner.

How to manage artistic meltdowns 101: shut up, look fantastic, and blog about it once it is over.

For a recap of my own memorable international dancing meltdown, click here.

Killing two birds with one blog

Last week I got a message from an acquaintance. We’ve met a handful of times over the past 3 years, no more, because our social networks overlap extensively, but other than being Fbk friends with all the resulting “likes” and superficial familiarity with each other’s virtual life, we are not close.

Vanilla, I need a therapist and it sounds like you have a good one. Would you share his info with me please? It would give me a place to start, and I really need to start. I am not ok.

I forget, sometimes: I forget that people read my blog. Ironically, I do not talk about mental health struggles, or therapy, in my non-virtual life, other than with 2-3 extremely close friends, and even then, in limited dosages, so as to not burden/bore them. Everyone has shit they need to work through, I don’t presume that my problems are more significant or worthy of attention than my friends’. My blog is my space where I share my lessons, stories and struggles, and all my friends are free to read as much or as little of it as they please because that is how the interweb works. And while I periodically get messages/comments that my blog resonates with my readers, this was different. Asking for help is excruciating. Thank you. Thank you for trusting me with your vulnerability.

Friday: 2nd appointment with my therapist. I hadn’t finished taking off my jacket, he thanked me for the referral, nothing makes him happier than positive word-of-mouth from his patients. We got to work, a good productive session as always. As I was leaving, he thanked me again: I explained that really, it is because of my blog – my acquaintance is a long-time reader, almost from Day 1. His gratitude changed to wonderment: But that means that it is public. You’re willing to acknowledge my work on a public platform. That doesn’t happen in our line of work.

Yes, I am. Obvi. Sir, you’ve changed my life, you don’t think I would refer you to any and everybody?

It is jarring and lovely when I get reminded that these words, floating about in the infinite blogosphere, matter.


The power of simple conversations:

#oktosay

When my own blog causes me to have a meltdown 

I’m proud of my blog. I think everybody should read it all the time. Like a mother who secretly believes her child is cuter than any other mini-human, I not-so-secretly believe my blog is the bee’s knees. I tell everyone about my blog. You can be sure I’ve sent 100% of my Fbk friends an invite to like my blog’s page… and I notice who has accepted or not. Apparently, some of my friends have better taste than others – but I won’t name names. It’s a free world, and all that.

I’ve been friends with Hermiono (he is an OCD nerd with a stand-up character) for 8 months. I’ve mentioned my blog to him on a weekly basis. I sent him the invite to my blog’s Fbk page in 2016; he sees anything I share on my personal Fbk wall, which includes some of my blog posts, obvi. He called me up this weekend, “Vanilla! You have a blog!” Yes I do, aren’t you perceptive! “I had no idea!” I’m questioning your listening skills, bro. “It’s GOOD! You are a GOOD writer!” Yes, I know. Glad you’ve finally caught on. “I think you are totally crazy for putting yourself and your entire life out there, but hey! I love it. It’s entertaining! You’re a mess.” Fact. Now, get back to reading – you’ve some catching up to do.


I’ve consulted lawyers, to gain an understanding of what I can/cannot share, to ensure I am not at risk of any lawsuit or termination for breach of confidentiality/other reasons. I take great pains to honor my characters privacy. Beaut vetted every post while we dated because I worried our social circle would quickly figure out his identity. He insisted I write my truth – he also periodically shared my posts on his Fbk wall, at which point I deemed the burden of preserving his anonymity had been waived. The guys featured in my failed date stories? I strip of any possible identification. Overall, I work hard to balance the need to tell my truth with the respect and consideration owed to anyone featured in my stories.

I write every post with the awareness that co-workers, family & friends of various faiths/backgrounds/values will read it. My mythical future husband and in-laws might read it: the mental health struggles, the ugly insecurities, the hilarious lack of judgment. This informs who I am – exploring vulnerability and sharing these stories has changed my life. I’m told periodically that this blog makes people smile and has helped others on their own journeys of mental health and personal growth. So my future in-laws can suck it. Judgmental bastards.

My new European friends in Dubai reacted with condemnation. “A personal blog? What are you, a gossip?! Do you want a reputation as the Kizomba Bitch? Are you trying to be a Kim Kardashian? I didn’t peg you as somebody who was vulgar. You do know you don’t HAVE to overshare.” I was shocked. I wonder how many people perceive me & my blog as vulgarthe one adjective that fills me with horror. But I was equal parts irritated – none of them had read my blog: theirs was a knee-jerk reaction. See above comment about some friends having better taste than others. Hmph.


It’s hard being honest and funny when one is worried about others’ perception.

I think it’s time I stop worrying.


Once upon a time I wrote a blog post about a boy. It was sweet, a good mix of cerebral and emotional. I sent it to him, as a courtesy, letting him know that I was refraining from posting it on Fbk until he had read it.

Hours went by. Crickets.

More hours went by. Turns out he had family over. I don’t know what he was thinking, having family over when I was waiting on him to read my post, but wtv. Nobody is perfect.

MORE hours went by. I caved, and asked him whether silence implied consent. He hadn’t read it yet – family obligations and whatnot.

Hours turned into days. I drafted a step-by-step Manual For Guys That Are Featured In Heartfelt Blog Posts Written By Girls That Are Allergic To Vulnerability. Highlights include:

Drop everything you are doing and read the post immediately. Showing yourself as online, but NOT reading the messages is unacceptable and will cause part of the girl’s soul to die. Within a delay of 57 seconds, write back complimentary noises. Do NOT assume the girl is a stage 5 clinger. If you are an overachiever, read 20-30 of her posts, decide she is good people, and be cool.

Days turned into weeks. My brain decided it would be a great idea if I messaged him. Was I suave? No. Did I make the situation better? Definitely not. I accept my fate as the female version of this guy. Karma’s a bitch.


I think it’s time I stop worrying. There will be times where my intentions vs others perception of me/my blog will diverge widely; on a small scale, this is a risk that any artist/creative person must face. Humor gets lost in translation all the time. Do I stand by each of my posts? Yes. Is this blog true? Yes.

Well then. Less worrying, more trainwrecks.

#mynewlifemotto

#KizombaBitchindahouse

Working through the Beaut legacy

New year, new me.


Beaut‘s status: beautiful guy with ok rhythm in dance class who is good for a laugh. I’ve unfollowed him on Facebook, but he’ll tag me in things that he thinks I’ll enjoy, and I will check in to see pics of his adorable little girl. We occasionally text. His penis is never ever coming near my vagina again. I don’t initiate any activities or hangout times: having previously over-invested in this whatevertionship, salvaging this friendship ain’t my burden. I’ve a busy life to live.

My feelings: Some sadness. Some nostalgia and remnants of affection. He is as fucked up as they come, but he remains good people. He is a badly abused puppy that bites the hand that tries to pet it. Cute and heartbreaking, but I’m tired of having bite marks and wondering if imma wake up with rabies one day. I’ve stopped petting him.

My feelings part 2: Given Beaut’s history (he has a tendency of women snapping and going full-blown psycho. Not the cute “imma stalk you on instagram” pyscho, but the “you should probably call the cops on me” psycho) I’m a little nervous about Main Girl. Around the time of peniscation, she announced on Fbk her intention of attending a kuduro class. When I freaked out, “hell nah – kuduro is MY joy, I ain’t gonna smile and hold your hand, pretending to be one happy incentuous family. You are not welcome here”, she innocently wondered about my reaction since, as per my blog post, it was all over between me and Beaut. She convinced Beaut that by writing To be or not be a Queen B, I meant to do her physical harm – Beaut called me in a hysterical rage, and said some vicious things I’ll never forget. In any Fbk post he tags me in, she leaves a comment highlighting how special their relationship is. Recently, she has started a blog, in the same vein as mine. True, writing is not something I own; it has brought me joy and self-awareness, and I theoretically wish that upon everyone. However… Does she so need to piss on her territory that despite my absence from Beaut’s top girls on speed-dial, she must attempt to eradicate any memory of what made me unique by taking up my hobby, blogging? She has yet to realize that talent can’t be imitated. #pettyAF #idonotfollowherblog


Having turned away from Beaut & Main Girl’s toxic shit, I’m left with myself. Blank slate. New year, new me. I alone bear the responsibility of building the life of happiness I desire for myself. But the Beaut legacy lives on inside me: I’m different now.

I’m cynical.

I’ve met a few men since Beaut. During my December trip to Paris and Madrid, one guy in particular grabbed my attention. Sassy conversation, plenty of alcohol, sexy surroundings, lowered inhibitions. We had fun. Eurodude asked for my contact info, I gave it, and we parted on the most pleasant terms imaginable.

48 hours later, it dawned on me. Eurodude hadn’t added me on social media, despite me providing him with a link to a picture on my IG profile. He must be married. I spent an hour stalking him on social media. While not conclusive, I’m confident in my assessment. Beaut legacy part 1: my main reaction was one of irritation for not having suspected earlier. Beaut legacy part 2: Eurodude’s conscience ain’t my problem. I had fun, and wouldn’t mind seeing him again, should we ever wind up in the same continent again. #whereismymoralcompass

Eurodude has emailed me a handful of times since that trip. Pre-Beaut Vanilla smiles when she sees his name in her inbox: clearly the connection was legit, since he stands to gain nothing by emailing me – we live on different sides of the pond, let’s enjoy our fun correspondence. Beaut legacy kicks in and whispers that Eurodude is emailing me to boost his male ego and keep me interested, such that if he should ever come to Montreal, or I be in Europe, he wouldn’t have to work hard to get into my pants.

Remember flower dude? He started flirting with me again when he realized Beaut was out of the picture. Only for me to realize he’d forgotten to tell me about his new Main Girl.

There isn’t a guy who talks to me that I don’t now coolly assess what his angle must be.

I reject the concept of vulnerability

Recently, I was having supper with an older guy, who remarked there comes a moment in each of our conversations where he hits a wall, and I shut him out. I’m an open book up until the point where I’m not and no matter how hard or carefully he tries to regain my trust, I remain withdrawn. Sympathetically, he explained that with him, it was either vulnerability or nothing. So far, I’ve chosen nothing – with regret, because he is fascinating and fun. But he is one that can burn me, so hell nah, bro.

It occurs to me that in setting my sights on Paris within 2 years, I am providing myself with the perfect excuse to avoid a relationship with anyone: nobody will distract me from my Dream. It happens to be mighty convenient that in so doing, I’m avoiding vulnerability like a champ.


New year, new me.

I wish I liked the new me a bit more. Not sure how to work through this Beaut legacy, but I’ll find a way. 2017 is the year my joy will shine brightly: I will not allow anything to dim it.

Aujourd’hui, je me choisis. Je choisis de cultiver ouvertement mon bonheur au sein de gens qui partagent mon désir d’avancer. Je choisis de reconnaître la vie et les gens pour ce qu’ils sont: allègres, beaux, multicolores. Du moins, c’est ce que je choisis de voir. La veuve noire

Popularity contests are still a thing

Fellow blogger Peckalapooza over at the confusingmiddle.com published a recap of his top 10 2016 posts. It was a neat way to highlight his 2nd year of blogging success. So neat, that I am stealing the idea. 

Ladies and gents, I give you my top 10 most popular posts from 2016. They make sense: a lot of self-discovery, my struggles with insecurities, vulnerability and mental health, the beginning and the end of Beaut, some current events, a bit of my travels, the transition from boxing to dancing. A fair reflection of what my 2016 was all about. 

10. A form of freedom

A breakthrough in accepting myself as I am; even more importantly, being proud and kind to myself as I am. Like every woman on the planet, I struggle with liking my body. Since publishing this article, I’ve gone from total pride in my appearance to disgust and shame, and everything in between. On average, I hover around the mood and attitudes described in this post, and that is worth celebrating.

9. I’m going on a peniscation 

The end of Beaut. Nothing more to say, really. It sucked, it hurt, I learned a lot. I’m more cynical now, and less naive. Silver lining: I’m ok. I always was ok, surrounded by the love of my friends and family. Depression: 0, Vanilla: 1.

8. First red flag

A fun holiday anecdote from early-Beaut times. 

7. Saying goodbye to boxing

Where I transition from boxing to dancing. Do I miss boxing? Yes, every damn day. But I am convinced that the next stage of my self-discovery and growth lies outside my comfort zone… and that is what dancing is to me: uncomfortable joy.

6. Aiming for happiness

A watershed moment, the turning point for 2016: the realization that I am entitled to find my happiness, that I’m responsible for finding my happiness, and my action plan for being happy and building my life worth living. While the specifics have slightly changed, in 4 short months I’ve succeeded and I think my heart will burst with joyfulness. Key follow up posts, written at the end of 2016:

5. The Dynamo trip: white girls are slutty, obvi

I spent 10 days in Lebanon, for my best friend’s wedding. I experienced a wee #funnynotfunny culture shock.

4. That time Vanilla tried to be sexy

Key word: tried. This remains one of my favourite posts ever. So funny. So me. #vanilla

3. Guilty until proven innocent: Jian Ghomeshi

My rather irrelevant take on this Canadian scandal/trial. Because #womensrightsyo #exceptinnocenttillprovenguiltyiskey

2. The Dynamo trip: bow ties and feelings

My insecurities and mental health issues threatened to wreak havoc during my trip to Lebanon, for Dynamo’s wedding. But they didn’t – my heart forced my brain to shut up, and accept the love that surrounded me. When I ended my therapy, 2 months later, my therapist pointed to this specific trip, and my successful management of my paranoid brain, as the moment he knew I was well on my way to being very ok.

1. 2nd red flag: that time I went insane

I’ve no idea why this post was so popular: it generated 3x as many views as the runner-up. Still, I enjoyed it. And FYI, I pulled out all my winter running gear when I got home from the holidays, and I am looking forward to taking it up again – Tuesday, to be exact! 

I can’t wait to do this same exercise on January 1, 2018. May 2017 be a blog-worthy adventure!

Back to school special!

I’m a nerd. I like school. I like learning. I like showing off how much I know in exams. Hermione in Harry Potter? That’s me down to the insufferable tone – I can’t help it if I am always right!

I purposefully chose a field where there is a right and a wrong. Sure, there is a lot of professional judgment in accounting and finance, but some stances are more right than others. It isn’t a matter of feelings, or intuitions –  there is a set of rules to play by and the name of the game is who can best make those rules work. My opinions are defensible because they are based on logic and knowledge. My criticism of others’ opinions is also legit, as long as I can back it up using the same tools. If I fuck up, it is not a reflexion of who I am, but an error in application of knowledge. Accounting & finance is the playground by which I can let my intelligence shine, without being hampered by my usual insecurities of my self – because my self has nothing to do with anything.

10 years ago, my mother laughed at me when I told her I was going back to school in Accounting. She thought I was playing some twisted joke on her: I was entirely too creative to shove myself into an environment that is so rigid and standardized. She was underestimating my crippling insecurities that undermined every creative impulse in my body. I didn’t want to express my individuality – that was too painful a risk. A lot has happened since then. I’ve worked through a lot of the insecurities and broken bits in myself that fed my recurring depression and anxiety. I’ve accepted (more or less) vulnerability. This blog has been instrumental in helping me integrate the various sides to my personality, and to learn to be compassionate towards myself. Over the past 2 years, I’ve learned to enjoy writing. I need it, as much as I need to breathe.

When I first started this blog, I was petrified – I didn’t believe I had a voice worth listening to. The steady growth of followers and regular readers (both friends and strangers) has taught me that my voice resonates with others. I might not be sharing groundbreaking philosophy; I might never cause a significant cultural shift. All I do is write about my day-to-day average life with honesty – my struggles and my moments of enjoying this weird phenomenon of adulting. I’ve come to realize that my experiences are not unique – guys and girls have reached out to me to say “me too”. We all go through the same shit, with minor variations. Sure, some people go through extreme versions of life. But emotions? We all go through the same ones. By putting words to these emotions and insecurities, all I am doing is saying “It is ok to feel this way. I will not be ashamed of how I feel, because how I feel informs who I am, and I will learn to be proud of my imperfect self.” A reader of mine (a woman I’ve never met, who discovered my blog through a mutual friend) told me this past weekend that my blog “does put words on certain feelings and insecurities for women, which I believe is an important thing. Ours is a culture of body shaming and of strange competition between women; any time somebody decides to turn it into a positive sharing experience, it bring us more together and humanizes parts of ourselves we are often ashamed of.” I know I should probably be humbled by that, but I am not. I am grateful and elated. When I read those words I fist-pumped myself and uttered some bizarre guttural war-cry (in the middle of a crowded downtown Montreal street #noshame). Would that we could all find our voices, and if my journey can spur on someone else’s… Amazing.

Today, I took the next step in fulfilling my mother’s vision for me, and in developing my voice. I registered and paid for my first course in my diploma in creative writing. I’m finally doing something concrete to shift my dream of being a comedic writer into the realm of possibilities. I’m scared, because this time, there is no playground with pre-established rules. This time I am putting my self on the line. This time I am ready.

#bloggingwayoflife

Getting hit in the solar plexus, part deux

Part I (you can read it here) was a figurative hit to the solar plexus. This part II was a literal hit to the solar plexus. Both were equally traumatic.

Yesterday’s training was a sparring session at the gym. I was pumped: I hadn’t sparred in over 3 weeks because of my trip to Beirut, it was time to dust off the cobwebs and see if all my work-outs while away had paid off. Feeling up to a challenge, I asked Coach if I could spar with Cap (the assistant coach who has publicly declared that one of his life goals is to drop me to the mat with body punches. See his entertaining and violent trash-talking here and here). Coach graciously agreed, telling me that he was offering me up as a gift to Cap, since Cap would soon be starting his 2 week paternity leave, and what better way to kick off his “break” than by roughing me up? To increase the entertainment value of this sparring session, Coach insisted we go last, so that the whole team could watch as they did their cool down.

Funny, I hadn’t considered my sparring to be a form of amusement for the masses.

Right before I got into the ring, Coach added a 2nd sparring partner to the mix: Bradley – a shy, quiet, tall, 15 year old boy, with a jab that can break through cement walls, and a hair-cut similar to Brad Pitt’s in the movie Fury. #heartbreakeratayoungage Coach smirked at me, and told me that sparring with Bradley was his present to me. It was Bradley’s first time sparring with a girl. **

Round 1 with Bradley went well, although he clearly wasn’t used to sparring with a tall girl – his jabs to the body frequently landed on my left boob. Coach noticed, and told Bradley that he could boast the next day at school how he’d frequently man-handled an Amazon’s boob. “All the boys will envy you, bro!” Poor Bradley turned as red as his helmet.

Round 1 with Cap also went well: the body shots weren’t too bad. I might have even landed 1-2 of them myself!

Round 2 with Bradley started off ok, except I noticed that he stepped up his aggressiveness, possibly in response to Coach’s embarrassing comments. He made me work on my mobility, to avoid getting pinned against the ropes. Everything was under control, nice give and take until the last few seconds of the round, when Bradley got me in the corner, and delivered a perfect right to my solar plexus.

For a split second my mind was all, “No big deal, I can continue boxing” and then my body decided that nope, standing up was no longer an acceptable activity. Down I went, both knees to the mat. I looked exactly like this guy, except with much better hair:

In front of my entire team. I got heckled pretty bad. And then Coach decided to deliver one of his coaching moments:

Ooooooooooooooh YEAH!!!! What a punch!

Everybody, just to give you guys a little context: Bradley here for the longest time refused to train with girls. To the point that I had to speak to his mom, and explain to her that Bradley needed to learn to respect my girls: they are Amazons, and can take and give a punch like any guy! And now look, look at how far he’s come. (waves at me)

Bradley, look at those muscles on her! It takes a real man to handle a woman like that, and boy did you handle her good. I’m telling you, at school tomorrow, all the boys are gonna envy you when you tell them what you did!

Meanwhile I was still on all fours, unable to breathe or crawl out of the ring. Great coaching moment, but I would have preferred if it had happened to somebody else.

Boxing. Always entertaining. Sometimes painful.

 

 

**Coach rarely allows for co-ed sparring: for the safety of his boxers, he is very strict about matching his boxers to appropriate sparring partners, based on height, weight (+/-15lbs max), strength and experience. Due to the normal strength & weight difference between guys and girls, there is little opportunity for mixed sparring. He only allows the more experienced lighter guys, the ones that can control their power at will, to occasionally spar with the bigger, heavier girls (myself, and 1-2 other girls) to give us girls the opportunity to broaden our experience, without putting us at risk of excessive power.