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March 2014

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Ladies, is our independence what is keeping us single?

A former boyfriend of mine once said that equality between men and women will never exist. I asked him for clarification and his response was to tell me an Indian proverb that described the ideal woman. She had breasts like mangoes, hands as delicate as a lotus flower and hips that moved like chariot wheels. Where was the part about her personality and her mind, I’d asked. He laughed. It didn’t matter, he said, because men were visual.

At first, I was offended. Did a woman’s self worth depend on a man’s desires? It took me a while, but recently I think I know what he was saying, and perhaps I might agree with him.

I’ve been dating for longer than I care to admit. I’ve never married because I just haven’t found that match yet. So over the years, being single has taught me to be independent in order to survive and be successful. Ironically, some of my close friends say that my formula for survival will keep me flying solo for a long time.

I’ve watched and coached many girlfriends through relationships. I’ve stood by their side and watched them cry and talk of disrespect, hurt feelings and in most cases, not so nice behaviour from their boyfriends.

My advice never wavered – be strong, be independent, value who you are. I am starting to realize that this might not be the best advice that will allow their men to stick around.

Many women love the idea of being independent. They adore the notion of evenings out with the girls and the feeling of empowerment it brings when they pick up the cheque for their own gourmet dinner. They didn’t have to convince a guy to get dressed up and spend an evening in a dim lit restaurant, eating three bites of an overpriced dinner that cost as much as a ticket to the Leafs game. Nope, their girlfriends need no convincing why a night in Yorkville is a pleasant way to spend a Saturday night.

But I’ve watched as the same girlfriends jump when their phone rings, race to the bathroom and return only to pay their bill and run out with an excuse that ‘something came up’. Oh some will be honest and eagerly blurt that their guy has called and wants to see them. He beckons and they answer. The Leafs game was over.

I’ve also watched women’s eyes flick back and forth to their phones in hopes that the text message light will appear and a message will arrive from a suitor. Once the ring sounds, a fork is dropped, phone is in hand and a response is immediately texted.

The men know. They can tell that the answer has come back within seconds of the question delivered and they realize the power they still hold. Some will go as far as to ask for a date, at the very last minute because they know they will get their way.

This is not new. In the days before cell phones became a common accessory next to our lipstick, I had many friends sit home on a Saturday night, phone beside them as they wait for their guy — just in case he was free. Technology has made it more convenient and makes them more accessible. They can go out for dinner and if he calls and it’s not a problem to swing by his place once their plate is clean.

Personally, I never do any of the above. Sure, I’ve felt anxious when waiting for a guy to call. Yes, I’ve let him consume my thoughts. But I rarely accept last minute dates and I never answer text messages while at dinner. In fact, if he calls, I don’t pick up if I’m with friends. I’m busy and it would just be rude. I’m an independent lady after all.

But at the end of the day, I’m not married. All of the women who’ve dumped their girlfriends for men are still with the men today.  So it works!

So yes, perhaps my former flame was correct. Equality between the sexes might be a novel concept, but is it realistic? Perhaps women striving for the same independence men have enjoyed for centuries will have to stop and think about this choice that comes with the possibility of being alone.

 

Follow Priya on Twitter at @Priya_Ramsingh.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

 

Big Girl In A Skinny World

As a woman who has struggled with weight loss for 32 years, I know what being emotionally tied to your weight and size is all about. I know what it’s like to be out of breath after one or two flights of stairs or to be judged based on your looks. I also know what it’s like to be desperate for a change.

I grew up on my mother’s delicious and famous Georgian food. The food was endless and always high in calories. Wasting was not a word that was allowed in our vocabulary and we were constantly urged to “eat, eat.” Weight has always been a struggle for me, not only because I am a food-a-holic, but because I also happen to suffer from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). One complication of PCOS is an imbalance in blood-sugar levels, which happens to also be a major factor in weight gain, weight fluctuation and difficulty losing weight.

As an adult, at 5’1 and 215 pounds, I qualified as obese. I was ashamed of my size and my habits. I tried to hide the fear I had of what my future would be like if I didn’t change my ways. Growing up, I was always the plump girl with the great personality, but for once I wanted how I looked on the outside to reflect the beautiful woman I was on the inside.

Eventually I realized that if I didn’t look out for my own health, no one would.

I tried a countless number of weight loss programs and exercise programs, and consulted several dieticians – nothing lasted. It was frustrating wanting something so badly, but constantly feeling like your best wasn’t good enough.

Weight loss is difficult. It’s not just about changing your diet but about changing your lifestyle. It’s many calculated decisions throughout the day for your whole life.

About a year ago, I started working as the clinic manager at a physiotherapy clinic. We were holding our first open house, working hard to put it together and promote it. All the practitioners were there to answer questions and offer free consultations, and I was there greeting potential clients and offering them additional information. It was a success and we were thrilled. Then I found out that during the open house one of the patrons had approached the owner to tell him that because I was overweight, I was a bad representation of the clinic. He suggested that perhaps my position shouldn’t be as public.

I was devastated. I was angry that he would dare to judge me without knowing anything about my skills and capabilities. On the other hand, what kind of an example was I setting for our patients when I hadn’t been successful with my own weight loss? As much as it hurt, I knew this stranger had a point and I made a promise to myself that this was the year I was going to take control of my weight. I started by meeting with a naturopathic doctor so that she could do a full assessment and set up a treatment plan for me.

I wanted to be healthier, but I also wanted to be a role model and to prove to myself that I could achieve my goals. With the help of my doctor I was able to lose 60 pounds, tackle my food sensitivities, increase my endurance, and reduce my BMI by more than 15%.

Today, seven months later, I weigh 158 pounds and am 13 pounds away from my goal weight. I work out five times a week. My friends tell me that I seem at peace with myself and at ease with my body. They say that my outside finally matches what my inside always was.

WATCH: Harvard students don’t have a clue about the capital of Canada

Finally some proof that those Ivy League folks aren’t all geniuses.

The Harvard Crimson’s roving reporter took to the campus greenspace to ask students what the capital of Canada is and the results are, well, not great. You’d think since Harvard alum Michael Ignatieff tried his hand at politics here they might have a better clue.

Check out the video and let us know what you think, should our American neighbours know where the Prime Minister hangs out?

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

HEALTH: Counting calories out (Part 1)

I remember loving math back in high school. It was so satisfying to solve a math problem: all the numbers in agreement with nothing left to account for. It was so tidy. When I first heard “1 pound of fat equals 3,500 calories,” I had that same feeling. If I wanted to lose weight I could simply track all the calories I ate versus the calories I burned and make sure I made a 3,500 deficit over a week or so. I loved to exercise so I thought it would be a breeze. How wrong I was.

Current science is putting the final nail in the coffin of what we can now call the “3,500 calorie myth”. As it turns out, losing weight is much more complex than eating less and exercising more. I learned this the hard way during my university days when I was surviving on tofu salads and living at the gym. There is a laundry list of reasons; I’m going to briefly go over couple of major ones.

Looking only at the number of calories ignores the types of calories you’re taking in. Fat, protein and carbohydrate have very different effects on your hormones and metabolism. Fat and protein raise your insulin levels only minimally; large amounts of carbohydrate cause it to skyrocket. This is problematic because insulin is a hormone that tells your body to store fat rather than burn it. Eating a diet that’s low in calories but high in carbohydrates could lead to a conspicuous lack of weight loss… or weight gain. It’s tricky because many seemingly healthy foods are heavy in carbohydrates: breads (even whole grain), rice (even brown) and potatoes (even if they’re not in the form of french fries).

Protein also has much more of a thermogenic effect on your body. That means it requires extra energy to digest it and that energy is lost as heat. A gram of protein has about 4 calories; however, not all 4 calories “count”. Neither fat nor carbohydrate have this effect which is part of the reason why a diet that’s rich in protein is typically more successful in weight loss.

To be clear, these are only a couple of reasons – roughly sketched out – that should plant a serious seed of doubt in the minds of calorie counters. I’m not saying that calories don’t matter at all but I think that their importance is definitely secondary to the kinds of calories you eat. Next month I’ll look at how exercising more doesn’t necessarily lead to weight loss.

What do you think? Is sticking to a low-calories diet necessary for weight loss? Leave your comments below!

WATCH: What if ‘heterophobia’ was a real thing?

Filmmaker Kim Rocco Shields and actress Lexi DiBenedetto have flipped the script on the traditional coming out story with the short film “Love Is All You Need?”

In an attempt to show homophobes just how hard it can be for gay people to face adversity from bigots in their lives she has created a parallel universe where being gay is the norm and a girl coming to terms with her (hetero) sexuality is the one who faces sneers from friends, tears from parents, and vicious attacks from bullies.

This short film is stunning in its depiction of the horrors that gay kids can experience and the depression and isolation that can be brought on by bullying and intolerance.

Dedicated to “any child who has ever felt such darkness due to others’ hatred and misunderstanding,” this film is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever felt excluded and shine a light on the very real and serious pain experienced by many gay teens coming to terms with who they are.

For anyone who has ever wondered why gay kids need love, support and acceptance, this short film is a must-see.

Lift weight to lose weight

Fact: Most women want to lose fat and those who don’t say it outright say that they want to get “toned.” If you’re reading this right now, you’re probably one of them.

I’ve spent over 10 years in the fitness industry and I’ve watched women try to reach this goal doing all the wrong things in the gym, all the while avoiding the one thing that could really make it happen: lifting weights.

You might worry that lifting weights will cause you to “bulk up.” Don’t. Women’s hormones make this almost impossible without incredible effort going into planning workouts and nutrition. Lifting weights two to three times a week will help you lose that bit of flab hanging over your pants faster than an hour on the elliptical every day.

Why? There are a few reasons. I was recently at a course in which the instructor compared doing cardio in order to lose fat to “working for minimum wage.” Rather than playing a numbers game and trying to burn off more calories than you eat on a piece of cardio equipment (elliptical, bike, treadmill, etc.), why not build a body that burns more calories all of the time? Muscle is metabolically active tissue; fat just takes up space. In addition, muscle helps regulate the hormonal response to food every single time you take a bite so it’s less likely that you’ll store extra calories as fat. And don’t forget: muscle is firm and gives your body a sculpted appearance, but there’s one more piece to the puzzle.

To build muscle, you have to work with weight that is appropriately challenging. Two- and three-pound dumbbells don’t cut it for most exercises. Use weights that require a degree of exertion and concentration throughout the set and you’re on your way there.

 

Online dating: It’s here to stay, we might as well enjoy it

DerekTheClown entered my apartment yelling as I greeted him.  “Tower!” He screamed, apparently about the high-rise I live in with my parents, who were, mercifully, not there.  He brushed past me to dump his six pack of Red Cap on my kitchen counter and proceeded to go through my closet looking for second hand finds.  He selected a black and white Urban Outfitters dress, whipped off all his clothes and shimmied it over his shoulders; he looked like Fred Flintstone.  “I love you,” he said, then he kissed me, hard.

Derek looked exactly like he did in his photos – like the most beautiful and crazy person I had ever seen.  He had wildly long hair with a beard to match, sharp blue eyes and the tanned skin of a construction worker; I had to clench my jaw to keep from gawking at his physical attractiveness.  Clearly I had gotten lucky.  Derek’s photos are what initially led me to message him, as they painted a pretty accurate picture of his perfect physique and weird lifestyle.  Among them were a picture of his hairy face taken in a dirty bathroom mirror and another of him jumping over a fire wearing a loincloth.  I continue to hear horror stories from friends who have been on dates with people whose photos are a total misrepresentation or several years old.  “Yay!”, I remember thinking.

Clearly, I’m a bit of a risk-taker when it comes to online dating, and I am (or was) more than willing to invite strangers to my house for weird drunk/naked dance parties in an effort to find love.  But really, online dating is for mentally healthy people too.

The origins of online dating depend on who you talk to; there have been various iterations and attempts to match total strangers using computer algorithms, video interviews, or phone chats since these technologies have been taken on by the sad, lonely and entrepreneurial.  But none have come as close in popularity and user count as the online dating behemoths of today like Match.com, started in 1995, now even more gargantuan thank to buyouts of smaller competitors.

Now operating in 24 countries with millions of users, Match.com is likely the first place many people go when seeking out an online dating site; its net worth is estimated in the billions.  Definitely geared towards the mainstream, Match.com is successful in being everything to everyone.  Though it’s feels a little clunky, it feels like a deliberate demonstration that online dating is no longer cutting edge – perfectly suitable to you and your suburban house and Acer computer.

Of course, all dating sites, whether they have millions of users or just a small slice of the market pie, have a certain flavour and vibe.  Colloquially, eHarmony is for old farts that want to find true love, while AshleyMadison is for people that want to cheat on their wives with someone with a name like Ashley Madison, though they’ll probably end up screwing someone named Nancy who also drives a minivan.  There are the religious sites, like ChristianMingle and JDate which are also used by the secular-minded looking for stability (with the former) or wealth (the latter).  Then there are the free sites, the most popular being PlentyOfFish and OKCupid, which are both basically a sea of horny hipsters and thugs who live at home.

The differences between these dating sites are really reflective of what their creators were trying to accomplish –  eHarmony was founded with an eye towards lowering the divorce rate, so to sign up you are forced to answer an hours worth of personality questionnaires and can only view the profiles of people with whom you are compatible.  You also have to be pretty financially committed to finding romantic harmony, with a one month subscription running at about $60 a month with discounts if you sign up for longer.  OKCupid on the other hand was started by a crew of Harvard mathematicians and is thus focused on getting their users to answer questions of varying predictive value.  For example, answering yes to “Do you like the taste of beer” is highly predictive of whether someone will have sex on the first date.  Ultimately though, all of these sites are faced with the same problem: how to facilitate meetings between strangers.

I first heard about internet dating in a socially acceptable context back in 2011 when a good friend of mine introduced me to OKCupid.  She was using it to reach out to a demographic that was new to her – men.  Before her introduction I pretty much thought internet dating was for sad sacks looking “the one” because they were too weird for the real world, like WOWers, people with facial deformities, Asperger’s, or my Grade 12 World History teacher who unfortunately resembled a human mole, who I found on LavaLife.  When I first signed up and carefully created/curated my profile, it was like I had just discovered Facebook.  I was struck by the sheer number of “normal” people out there with pets and mothers and jobs who were waiting for me to click onto their profiles or send them a stupid message.  I was immediately hooked and began going on date after date after date – sometimes more than once in a night.

Of course, online dating isn’t all fun and fucks, sometimes people get raped and murdered.  Carole Markin famously sued Match.com to begin doing background checks on its users after she was brutally raped by a registered sex offender on their second date.  Even more notorious, the so-called Craigslist Killer (aka medical student Philip Markoff) was accused of three armed robberies and a murder, all of the victims reportedly having made contact with him via Craigslist personal ads.  What is clear about these terrible scenarios however is that they could have occurred in the context of “regular” dating too.  Just like in the non-virtual world, online dating requires some reliance on gut-feelings and best practices.  It’s probably not a good idea to go home with a stranger or invite them over for a first date.  In practice though, I have a hard time taking my own advice.

After Derek was settled into my dress and couch we drank a ton of beer, listened to music, made out and chatted a little bit.  This date was an after party for both of us, as he was coming from a concert and I had just been out on another date.  At some point we had to sleep so we took to my tiny tower-sized twin bed and cuddled until we drifted off.  The next day we explored Scarborough, shopping for thrift clothing and jewelry, talked about getting married and ate at Subway – Derek loved Subway, I think ironically but maybe not.  I found his stash of approximately 20 parking tickets.  Derek parked where he wanted to.  In hindsight I was totally falling for him but I kept it together reasonably well that first 24 hours and avoided acting like an obsessive teenager

I had promised that first date from the previous night that I would see him again, so later in the day I made up some story about a dinner party I had to go to and got Derek to drive me to his house.  (I literally will always wonder if this had karmic implications on the trajectory of my relationship with Derek, but more on that later.)  We tongued each other goodbye and he honked several times as I made my way up to the door of this other guy’s basement apartment.  At that point I knew I couldn’t give less than one shit about other dude and was excited for when I could see Derek again.

Derek and I dated for a whirlwind seven weeks of trips to Toronto Island, tours of his hometown, too-hip concerts and countless tall-cans of Old Milwaukee.  Finally, he dumped me, leaving me a total emotional mess.

Ultimately my experience with Derek taught me that it is actually possible to find love on the internet.  Though it didn’t work out between us, finding Derek on OKCupid refined my tastes, raised my standards and exposed me to one of the very best people in the world.  I am convinced that there is more of the same out there.  While I sometimes get frustrated after a few hours of progressive drunken but still boring conversation, I find some shallow comfort in the fact that there is always going to be another internet man rating me 5 stars.

RELATIONSHIPS: The double standard of talking about the future

When men reveal their secrets, I listen carefully. After all, it isn’t everyday that they’re willing to break the code and allow a woman into their mind. So when I found out about the double standard that may actually be responsible for sending men packing early in relationships, I knew it had to be shared.

I found out this tidbit on a first date of all places. We were talking about relationships over dinner. Ok, the fact that we were on a date and talking about past relationships is bad form, I know. But that’s how it usually goes when they fall into the friend category right away.

He’d asked me about my last relationship. The good girl in me said, avoid the topic. The realistic girl said, he’s the friendship guy so it’s ok to get his opinion. Since my breakup was still raw, I was all too eager to spill the details.

The future was responsible for the breakup, I confessed. Apparently I’d talked about the future too much and it put pressure on my former beau. Mr. Friend asked for details so I complied.

It was early on in the relationship, I’d explained. The stage where infatuation was at its peak and new couples, drinking from the same cup of amour, fantasized about being together forever. Could this be it? Could the long, search finally be over?

So when my past boyfriend talked about kids and homes together and trips we could take, I figured it was ok to jump in and reciprocate. Besides, a girlfriend told me, if he wasn’t serious about you, he wouldn’t talk this way! Men don’t say these things so early on unless they were serious. Uh huh. Words of wisdom from a woman’s point of view? Take heed ladies, this is not the case.

But as soon as I joined in the future talk, I saw the eyes widen. I saw the fear rise and I watched my beau turn and duck into the cave. His reason? I was rushing things. It was too much pressure.

I stood there, stunned, running over the conversations in my head. Didn’t he ask me on the second date if I wanted kids? What about the nice houses that he wanted us to look at? And the colours for the rooms…what was that all about?

I poured out my confusion to Mr. Friend and saw his eyes widen and palms rise as he shook them, jazz style, singing, “No no…NEVER talk about the future! Never mention the future to a guy who you just started dating!!”

But, I stammered. I was following his lead! It doesn’t matter, Mr. Friend said. You just don’t do it. Men live for the moment and they say what they feel at the time.

Ohhh, so it’s  a double standard?

Yes, Mr. Friend confessed. It was and it will always be that way. Accept it.

I shared this interesting revelation with my girlfriend. When men talked about the future, they didn’t really mean it. They were living in the moment. Ah ha! The secret revealed!

Weeks after I’d found out the secret, I had a chance to test this theory. The former beau poked his head out of the cave and looked around.  He wanted to live in the moment he said. Uh huh. I agreed. No talk of the future. Ok, I admitted that maybe I did talk about the future and it wouldn’t happen again.

But as time went on, and euphoria set in, the future talk resurfaced. I listened, I smiled and I nodded. I made no plans. I did not reciprocate and I did not build on it. I smiled and I lived in the moment.

My girlfriend, amazed at the theory, tried the tactic with her new boyfriend. When he talked of living together, she smiled and nodded. She said it changed her whole way of thinking because no longer was she that woman who jumped too far ahead in a relationship when men lived in the moment.

No, it’s not fair. In fact, it’s downright annoying! But at the end of the day I realize that it’s not about fair. It’s about understanding the difference between men and women so we can walk though this uneven playing field with grace.

So the next time you have a date with a man and he starts talking paint colours for the bedroom, smile, nod, and change the topic. Never bring it up again until the day you actually move in together. Only then will he be ready to paint together.

 

 

Read this beautiful 40 year old missed connection right now

While we spend a lot of time here dishing on awful missed connections it is worth it every once in a while to pause and remember that the medium exists to help people find more than a cheap fling.

This missed connection — now 40 years gone since the time they first met — is a beautiful example of the reason that people write these things. Check it out and let us know what you think and if you have any suggestions to help him reconnect with her.

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Grand Central – November 1973 – m4w – 58 (Midtown)

In the fall of 1973 I was studying as a freshman at NYU, and after failing to make my initial train home to Maine, I was rushing through Grand Central on the evening before Thanksgiving 1973 when I spotted you, emerging from one of the railways, with a look of utter confusion on your face. You had the blondest hair I had ever seen, and a plaid dress. I had never seen a plaid dress before.
I was, in those days, terribly shy, and if I am honest with myself, I’ve never shook that stubborn sense of timidity or loneliness in crowds. To this day, trying to explain the uncharacteristic courageousness that seized me in that moment, and inspired me to walk up to you and say “are you lost?” is almost completely beyond me.
You were studying at Olberlin, and on your way to spend Thanksgiving with your aunt in Jersey City. After explaining to you where you could get a bus, I asked, in spite of knowing it would mean sacrificing my last chance to spend the holiday with my family (and likely infuriate my over-protective mother), if you wanted to get a drink and you said yes.
We walked out into a rainy Manhattan street and ducked into the first (cheap) bar we saw, where I ordered us two bottles of beer. Now in my 50’s, when with any luck a man might finally begin to acquire that elusive thing called wisdom, I know that there is nothing more exciting yet rare in life than making a true connection with someone. I have always been too sentimental for my own good, but in all honesty, I have never felt more at ease with anyone than I did laughing and talking to you that dimly lit midtown bar.
When I confessed that I purposefully missed my train to keep talking to you, you smiled slyly and said “well I guess it’s only fair that I miss my bus.” With no money for a cab, we walked to my Lower East Side dorm room, which was deserted aside from my German classmate Franklin, who kindly gave us a half-finished bottle of red wine.
We made love that night, and in the morning coached one another through shaky phone calls to our angry relatives back home. With the November cold turning the night’s rain into a dreary wintery mix, we stayed in bed all day, sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes, discussing politics and philosophy. You told me you had never felt “so New York before.”
That evening, you took a bus to Jersey City. A few weeks later I received a letter from California. You sent no return address, and I never saw you again.
I have been married twice since then – once divorced, and once widowed. I have had a successful career as an English professor, and am a proud father. My life has known its share of triumphs and heartaches, of love and loss. Against my better judgement, I haven’t forgotten that day – and, at least once a year, while mowing the lawn, or reading a newspaper, the details come back to me.
Perhaps, if life’s strange circumstances can permit it, we can have a second drink.

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There is nothing sadder than the ghost of what could have been, but the author of this missed connection treasures the time they spent together nonetheless.

 

Follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.