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Priya Ramsingh

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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.

 

RELATIONSHIPS: Reconnecting with your childhood crush

How much changes after 35 years — and how much stays the same?

I never forgot my childhood crush.  Over the years through dead-end relationships and dating disasters, I would go back to that comforting place in grade four and wonder about the cute boy who captured my attention and still held a special place in my memory.

The fantasy of reconnecting years later often presented itself in my mind. What was he doing now? Would he remember me?

Truthfully, I wasn’t even sure that we wouldn’t pass each other on the street and feel a twinge of familiarity but just keep walking.  After all, grade four kids are only nine years old. How much connecting could we really do at that age, I thought.

But suddenly, there was a chance encounter at Tim Horton’s with my grade four teacher. There she was, timeless and preserved as if it were still 1977. As I said hello, the memories came flooding back to me and I immediately went home to fish out the class photo that was carefully protected behind a plastic sheet in an ancient photo album. My crush was as cute as ever, as he stood posing with the group.  It was perfect for a Facebook post.

Although we weren’t children of technology, many of us born in the late 60s have adopted the habit of sitting behind a computer or phone to connect with our past. Many of my classmates from elementary school who were on my friend list flooded the photo with comments. Then suddenly, there he was. On someone else’s friend list.

I sent the friend request. Would he remember? Butterflies in my stomach. I attached a little note to ask.

The response was immediate. Are you kidding, he said. Of course I remember you! I always thought about you over the years.

It turned out that he lived in New York City and pictures indicated a lovely family of his own.  He was doing well.

We exchanged the usual promises to meet up one day for a coffee. But we were hundreds of miles apart and we hadn’t talked for 35 years. They were nice thoughts and I filed them away.

One year later, a trip to New York City presented itself. So I contacted my grade four crush. The coffee meeting was possible.  Was he up for it?

Yes indeed. An exchange of cell phone numbers and a promise to touch base was made. Truthfully, I still wasn’t sure it would happen.  But from my hotel room in New York, I sent the text, proposing a time. A response suggested a place – Times Square.  It was confirmed.

I walked through the busy streets of New York City on a cool spring day and suddenly, in the middle of Times Square, there he was – my grade four crush. We stood there for a minute among the hustle of the city and looked at each other and smiled.

Over Starbucks, we talked as if three decades hadn’t passed by. We reminisced about our grade four teacher and classmates, and we discussed his move to another school all too suddenly. He cried, he confessed. He was sad that he would not see me again.

I stared. You did? I asked.

He continued to reveal details of our friendship –details that I didn’t remember. We used to lay stomach down on the carpet side by side and read stories to one another, he recalled. He used to tell his mom about me.

I tried to recall those memories but my own told me that he was the cutest boy in the class and I had a crush on him, as did many of the other girls. 35 years later, I learn that I was the one he was most fond of.  More importantly, I find out that nine year olds can make connections that last a lifetime.

We chatted for the afternoon and he walked me to a street that would take me to my hotel again. We promised to keep in touch and parted ways.

That was over a year ago and we continue to connect on Facebook.  His emails make me smile and he checks up to see how I’m doing from time to time, with offers to talk when life throws a curve ball.

I’m happy that he’s found a love that keeps his heart full. He’s no longer my crush, but a bond that began in elementary school, lasted through decades of distance and came back, familiar and comforting as if we had shared stories on that carpet, in the second floor of that old school building, just a few weeks ago.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

I want to be like Marissa Tomei — lessons in simplicity

I want to be like Marisa Tomei’s character in the movie Alfie.

When she finds women’s panties in her garbage – not hers mind you – she locks her boyfriend out of her home and out of her life. He shows up a couple of times and she simply says, “We want different things” citing that it wasn’t a good idea to have him in and out of her son’s life. No drama, no tears. He asks if she’s mad and she says, “No, I’m really not.”

But the best part? As she walks away, she turns her head and looks back and asks if he will be ok.  It was triumphant. She wasn’t the loser.

I tell myself that I won’t cry the next time a relationship ends or a guy does something stupid that hurts my feelings. I tell myself to look at the practical side, like Tomei’s character, and realize that it’s not about good or bad, just wanting different things and knowing who you are and more importantly – what you are worth.

No more will I let emotions take over. You know the ones. They flow from the heart straight into our heads, flooding it with pain and, causing an explosion of emotional outburst.

Then of course there’s the feeling that we over reacted. But from now on, I will remember Tomei’s face and casually just ask, “Will you be ok?”

In the movie, Alfie never forgets her. He sees her again in a cafe months after he’s had his own heart broken and realized he’s alone. She smiles at him warmly. For a second, it’s as if she’s forgiven him and there is hope. But then her boyfriend walks in and kisses her. He’s introduced to Alfie who’s jerked into realization and leaves.

Yes, I want to be that woman. If there’s a next time.

LOVE & TECH: Should you de-friend him on Facebook after the breakup?

When my last boyfriend and I decided to call it quits, I removed him from my Facebook friend list. Sure, like most newly broken up couples we agreed to be ‘friends’. In my opinion, this kind of break-up diplomacy didn’t include my social media world.

The idea of seeing his posts and knowing that he was not online on a Friday night, while I was at home in pjs, soothing my pain through mouthfuls of Shiraz, was too much for me. When I explained to him that I removed him from my list because I just needed space to clear my head, he was quiet. He seemed hurt.

It confused me. Did he really want to see pictures of me, sexily clad as I bar-hopped with girlfriends searching for Mr. Rebound? Was he confident enough to laugh at comments from men saying I looked ‘hot’? I certainly didn’t want to see pics of him for a while, especially ones of him laughing and looking happy, or adding new, attractive women to his friend list.

It’s an interesting concept which I pondered to a few girlfriends. Should we add our partners to our social media lists like Facebook and Twitter, or are some things sacred to our own independence?

One of my girlfriends revealed that she knew married couples who did not befriend each other on Facebook. The reasons were as I outlined above – no one wants to see compliments from the other sex about your mate.  Wondering about gifts given from anonymous senders or posts from your own partner that bordered on flirtation were really arguments in waiting.

Of course, there are many couples who, knowing their beau was on their list, would walk the lines of appropriateness taking feelings into consideration. But is this fair?

Let’s be honest. Spouses, boyfriends, partners are human beings who like a little ego stroke now and again. A little space from one’s mate is healthy, and as we all know, gives us room to appreciate our partners that much more.

We wouldn’t read our partner’s journal or ask to attend a work party that included members of the opposite sex would we? So perhaps Facebook is no different – just a way for our mates to have a little space and socialize with no pressure.

It’s a tough call. I’ve heard of people leading double lives through several Facebook profiles and affairs from finding past lovers. Social media has definitely added a new element to relationships and has probably promoted many couples to have a conversation. As if love wasn’t complicated enough.

For me, I’m comfortable living in ignorance for a while. I don’t need the temptation to start a chat with my former flame if we’re online at the same time, or see his relationship status change anytime soon.  In the interest of my own healing, I’m happy to have my friend list down by one.

 

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

 

Check out:

RELATIONSHIPS: An ode to nerdy boys

RELATIONSHIPS: The double standard of talking about the future

RELATIONSHIPS: Reconnecting with your childhood crush

LOVE & TECH: Is Tinder the death of romance in the technological age?

Wearing pink to stop bullying

Every year, when the Day of Pink rolls around, I remember my own experience and I wear pink to show my support for International Day Against Bullying.

I admit, I wasn’t bullied as a child. I was lucky. Bullying in the playground can be physical, but it’s really psychological and we’ve all read about the damage it can do.  That’s why this campaign is so great because kids will learn that it’s just not cool to be the bully, and they won’t grow up aspiring to be ‘that person’.

When I came across the bullies in my workplace, I didn’t know what was happening. It was only after I left the organization that I started doing some research. My self esteem was low, my emotions shattered and I had to find out what had happened to me. Of course, I was turning the thoughts over and over in my head – what did I do to deserve this?

So I do what helps me the most – I researched and I wrote.

I met other women who had also been bullied. I spoke to experts who had counselled victims. And I also interviewed professionals who revealed, sadly, that bullying was common in the workplace.

But what really helped me the most was understanding the bully, and the motivations behind the actions. Because sometimes through empathy, we find a solution.

Bullies, as the old adage goes, are tormented people themselves. This is true. Most bullies are insecure and hide behind a mask of aggression. The very idea that their flaws could be revealed is too much for the bully.  So they find the one who makes them look the worst; the one who shines, and they take on a mission of torment.

The idea behind this strategy is twofold. First, it shows other workers that the bully should be feared. No one would dare point out the bully’s inadequacies. Secondly, once the victim is weakened, their performance collapses, crowning the bully as the winner.

Perhaps you knew this. But at the time, I didn’t. Imagine the look on my face as I sat in the room with two psychologists who stated these conclusions as facts. I was stunned.

Here I was thinking that it was all me. I recalled situations where the meaner the bully was, the nicer I became and the harder I tried. I was being controlled. Nice would never had changed anything, the experts assured me. She just wanted you to feel that you weren’t good enough, even though she knew the opposite. She was actually more afraid of you than you realized, they explained.

So there it was. The profile, in a nutshell, of the workplace bully.

My experience was many years ago and the bully got her wish in the end – she was promoted into my job when I left the organization.  In her mind, she won. In my mind, I got out of a bad workplace environment. After all if promotion came through bullying and not performance, what did that say about her supervisor?

This behaviour is rampant in the workplace apparently. And sadly I’ve learned that my story is not unique. Bullies get promoted every day and organizations lose good employees and end up keeping the ones who are simply mediocre – but no one says this out loud, out of fear.

There will always be bullies in the workplace. My strategy on dealing with this behaviour is through my understanding of their motives. So when one crosses my path, I don’t confront the behaviour but simply ignore it. I pick my battles and react calmly only if provoked. But I am not nice. I don’t try and befriend the bully. One thing that’s important to note – bullies want to be liked. So let’s not like them.

My hysterectomy story — Part 4 in a 4 part blog series

I spent one week in a fog of depression. If anyone else has been through it, you’ll know that being alone after surgery can be defeating.

I had been venting to my ex, who had patiently listened to me whine about feeling alone and wondering why my friends didn’t dote on me as I had expected. There were no cards, no offerings of soup and not even cheap flowers from the corner store. Weren’t people supposed to bring you something when you are sick, I asked.

His answer was simple. “You’re not doing yourself any favours by thinking this. Just be glad that they visited.”

At first I was a little annoyed. Visiting was routine. We went out for lunch on a regular day. How could that make me feel special?

But as the words absorbed in my mind, their strength resonated.  Was I building up disappointment in my own mind?

I had truly expected to be pampered while I was sick. I was looking for acknowledgement that yes, I had lost a part of my body that is the key to all life. Wasn’t I supposed to expect attention?

But then I realized something – I don’t need attention. I never have.

I was losing sight of who I was – the strong, independent woman who relies on no one, but who is strong enough to lend a hand when others need support. And now I had allowed myself to become weak. A victim of a simple procedure that rendered me healthier and yet I was crying about a host of unmet expectations, built by myself. I was drifting through unhappiness created by me.

Suddenly, the fog lifted and I could see myself again. Was I still disappointed? Yes, I will always feel a little twang of sadness when I look back on this situation. A sappy card would have given me that little bit of bliss that I needed.

So now I know better. When someone is ill, or in a state of recovery,  I will show up with a token of thought on my way to visit. Because I have always chosen to live by these words: always treat others the way you want to be treated, even if they don’t.

I’m better now. Still strong and still independent. But wiser.

 

My hysterectomy story

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

My hysterectomy story — Part 3 in a 4 part blog series

I’m a fast healer. Two days after having a laparoscopic partial hysterectomy, I was driving. Walking was possible but I tired easily and I could only walk very slowly.

I had no pain to speak of. I took a prescribed anti-inflammatory but no pain killers. I had some cramping in my stomach and the tiny cuts were a little sore, but I was not in pain.

Four days after the procedure, I went shopping. I bought shoes and two belts that went around my slim waist and hips wonderfully. I felt great.

But I cried a lot. I was lonely. I had lots of well wishes before the surgery. Lots of emails and calls and offers to help if I needed help. And really, these emails and offers got me through the actual procedure so they were not in vain.

After the surgery, I waited. But truthfully, people are busy. Their lives go on and although the offers are given with sincerity, the actions don’t always follow suit.

I longed for a gaggle of girlfriends to come over on their own accord, make me tea and talk about the loss of my uterus. I wanted chat about what I was feeling and have some much needed girl bonding time.  But I suppose having a group of girlfriends show up with Entenmann’s lemon strudel  is simply just part of a script from an old Sex and The City episode and not reality.

I received text messages, and a couple of phone calls with more offers. But I wasn’t sure how I could really call someone and say, “Can you visit me today?”

Few visits eventually came, some sadly with a feeling of obligation in the air….and I played the good hostess. The cancellations were difficult. It made me realize that sometimes it’s better not to tell anyone in advance, so when they don’t make an effort, it’s because they didn’t know. And there are no let-downs.

Ironically, my ex came through for me.  It was a surprise since we hadn’t talked in a while, but he remembered the surgery. He offered the help and he visited, helped me, and fed me.

Tylenol 3 can help with the physical pain. Naproxen, which I actually took, helped with the physical inflammation. A smile from someone who makes you a cup of tea and sits with you while you are at your most vulnerable is the medicine that strengthens your heart…and once the main part of your body is strong, the rest can heal.

My theory is that my body heals itself quickly out of necessity. It knows that I’m an independent person who must rely on herself, so it supports me in that way.  Fast tracks my recovery so I can get up and start living again. And in many ways, this is good.

My ex, well, that was a bonus. Who knew? Why he’s my ex, you ask. Well that’s a story for another day.

 

My hysterectomy story

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

My hysterectomy story — Part 2 in a 4 part blog series

Surgery was a success. Dr. Grace Liu performed a laparoscopic partial hysterectomy at Sunnybrook last Tuesday.

I remember being in the operating room and Dr. Liu chatting with me as she held something over my mouth and nose. Then I vaguely remember waking up and asking, “Did she do it laparoscopically?” and touching my belly. The answer given from who I suspect was a nurse, was “Yes.”

The next memory was of being in bed with a nurse asking me a ton of questions and I finally got annoyed and gave up answering. I remember thinking, Why is she asking me so many questions? I can’t even speak…

Five residents came to visit me and asked me the same question asked by the nurses who looked after me for the 30 hours I was in the hospital. “How is your pain?” I was confused. “I have no pain,” I kept answering.

Truthfully, there was no pain. Discomfort in my stomach area when I moved and some cramping, but nothing I would call pain. Perhaps the years of dealing with extreme cramps that would be considered pain to the average person without my condition had made me immune.

When Dr. Liu came to see me the day after surgery, she looked stunned. “Look at you!” she said. “You have colour in your face!”

I thanked her and she shrugged it off. And I thought to myself – such a skilled surgeon who took out an enormous growth of fibroids from my uterus without having to cut me open. It was a procedure I was told was impossible from other medical sources. Her modesty and wonderful bedside manner made the entire experience almost welcoming – as much as surgery can be.

My recovery was not about physical pain but emotional pain. That’s my next blog.

 

My hysterectomy story

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

 

My hysterectomy story — Part 1 in a 4 part blog series

It’s been a while since I posted. I spent a year and a half working on myself and my career and then I was in a place where I could make a long awaited decision. I have decided to have a partial hysterectomy.

I’m blogging about it because it’s a women’s issue and I wanted to share my experiences with other women who may be in a similar situation.

Fifteen years ago, irregular periods, hot flashes (yes, at 30!) and unbearable cramps led me to a specialist where it was determined that I had fibroids. They’re common, I was told. Just leave them alone and if they grow too large, then I’d eventually have to remove the uterus.

I was young and decided I could live with the symptoms because I wanted to keep the chance of having a child.

But the years passed, and the fibroids grew. I dreaded the week every month. The cramps lessened but the flow increased and for three of the days, I was incoherent. I was exhausted and even the simplest tasks took longer than usual. Last year, I knew it was time to make the decision.

Although I don’t have children and after next week, the option to give birth will be gone forever, I haven’t given up the privilege of becoming a mother.

All of my lives I have believed that being a mother to a child doesn’t necessarily mean giving birth. It means loving and caring and mentoring, helping one to grow. There are many children without a home in this world, and if I’m meant to be a mother, I will adopt.

So next week, I will be in the hands of a skilled surgeon who specializes in non-evasive operations. She will go into my uterus through three tiny incisions in my abdomen where a morcellator will dice up the fibroids so they can be removed through the incisions. There is a 30% chance that this procedure may not work, and only then will she opt for a bikini cut.

Am I scared? Yes.

In about nine days I may be able to blog again and let you know how it goes.

Keep reading….

 

 

My hysterectomy story

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4