Author

Shannon Hunter

Browsing

Girlfriend duties on birthdays

I’m not a very romantic gal; I want a courthouse wedding and my idea of the perfect proposal would be, “Hey babe, want to get hitched?” So when it comes time for a birthday or an anniversary and girlfriend duties are required I’m not always sure exactly how to handle the situation.

Next week is Mr. Unexpected’s birthday. When it came time to make a decision about what I should get him I had all kinds of ideas but nothing really seemed right: it all felt like too much or not enough. I didn’t want to look like I was trying too hard, I didn’t want a gift that felt forced and I didn’t want a gift that would make him feel uncomfortable. I love birthdays and I love gifts but buying for a boy you love is full of pressure that I had forgot existed; and finding a gift that says I love you but not more than you love me and not in a weird “I want to get married tomorrow” kind of way is just as difficult as it sounds.

I settled on a sweater that I know he loves but thinks is too expensive to buy for himself and a movie that we saw together a couple of months ago. It’s a little bit of an inside joke because he thinks I wear his sweaters more than he does, as he lives in a basement apartment and I get cold easily, while Wreck-It Ralph is the perfect combination of video games and candy-coated animation and it suits us perfectly.

The gifts were difficult enough, but his party is tomorrow night and I’m really nervous to meet more of his friends. I really want them to like me and I know that most people either really like me or really don’t, such is the curse of the loud slightly inappropriate girl. So I worry what they will think of me, but worrying what people will think of you never really adds up to a good first impression, which means I’m spending a lot of time thinking about how to stay calm and cool.

I hope that in the end they’ll like me as much as he does, slightly less actually because awkward, but I hope that his friends are like him: fun and easy to get along with. I don’t have problems meeting new people, but the Big Ex never let me meet his friends and I can’t help but wonder, secretly and never out loud, if maybe there was a reason that he didn’t want to show me off.

So tomorrow I’ll put on my best girlfriend look and try to be as effortlessly charming as I possibly can; I imagine this will look something like a Zooey Deschanel movie. I am most likely wrong, but if I wear red lipstick and put on a wig with much longer hair I look a little like her… kinda.

Are you a Relationship Recluse? Don’t be THAT friend

When Boyfriend and I started dating I made a conscious effort to stay in touch with all of my friends; as a gal with a tumultuous relationship with her family my friends are literally the most important people in my life. My friends keep me sane, they are my brunch buddies, they are my sounding board, they are brilliant, they are my happy place and they are the people who will be there for me if Boyfriend ever leaves me. So when we got together I decided I wouldn’t be the girl who gets a boyfriend and promptly disappears from existence.

It isn’t easy to be a good friend, a good girlfriend, a good pet parent and keep it together at work but it’s doable, even if it’s a little stressful at times. But my friends were here first, they’ve had my heart for years and in some cases decades they’re my heart and soul and I’m lucky that Boyfriend has never had a problem with that. Sometimes the best thing about Boyfriend is his ability to be logical, something I sorely lack; he never gets emotional when I bail on him to spend a night in with my roomie or a night out for wings with the boys and he never intrudes on the most holy of days, Sunday brunch – unless he’s been invited.

While I’ve managed to see my friends with almost the exact same frequency as I did prior to Boyfriend a lot of that has to do with the fact that my friends love him and he loves them. After a recent conversation with one of my best buddies I realized that this isn’t always the case when you enter into a new relationship. His ex didn’t like most of his friends and she found it difficult to make an effort with his people so more often than not he went out without her or he stayed home to cuddle; there’s nothing wrong with cuddling but it’s easy to see why their relationship fizzled when she wasn’t willing to make an effort with his people.

But sometimes even if your partner digs your people you still drift away from your friends, which is hard for those of us left behind wondering what we did to make you want to ditch us. Because “I’m finally getting some and I haven’t left my bed in days except to eat and re-hydrate” is a terrible excuse even if we’re totally happy for you.

One day you might break up, I hope you don’t, but you might, and then what happens? Do you come crawling back to me like you never left? Are we all of a sudden friends again because you have time for me now? What about last week when work was nuts and I just needed someone to sit and have a pint with; you remember, don’t you? You weren’t picking up your phone that day.

The truth is, I’ll always be here for you, I will always love you — but it still hurts when a new bed-mate turns you into a missing person.

 

Follow Shannon on Twitter at @Shananigans.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Happiness is something you’ve got to work at in dark and cold times

Lately I’ve been feeling less happy than my normal chipper, cheery, sing-songy self. I’ve felt kind of lost and unsure of myself and desperately in need of a vacation; something to make me believe that there is more to life than work, sleep and errands. Sometimes being a grown-up is exhausting and I’m missing the joy I used to have in my life. Boyfriend tries to help but he hasn’t been around lately and I find myself feeling so incredibly lonely.

There were times when I was single and I felt less lonely than I do these days, when you’re single there’s always a new adventure there’s always someone waiting to surprise you with butterflies and a smile. It’s not that I’ve stopped loving Boyfriend or that I want to end things, not at all. It’s that, between work and the terrible winter that refused to die, we got into a bit of a rut and then we let our lives get in the way of our relationship. It’s so easy to let work and life get in the way of love, but that’s no way to live and it isn’t making me happy anymore — if it ever was.

I’ve decided to spend the spring focusing on the things I love: spending more time with Boyfriend, taking long walks with the pups, listening to as much country music as I possibly can, and writing more. It’s so easy to let life get in the way of enjoying life but as my favourite season approaches all I can think is that I’d like to remember what it is to spend an entire weekend in bed with the love of my life, I’d like to sit at the beach for no reason other than to feel the sun on my skin and I want to say goodbye to the grumps that have been hanging around me for the past four months.

Life should be lived

Sitting at my great uncles funeral last week I was reminded that life is something that should be lived; he spent 56 years with the love of his life and he never wasted a single day. I’ve been wasting days since Christmas. I’ve been letting the little things get to me and it’s time to shut that down. When you find someone you love you should cherish them, you should remind them every day, and you shouldn’t ever let your problems infect your relationship.

Boyfriend taught me a long time ago that I should talk about my feelings more but lately I’ve stopped doing that. We’ve seen each other so infrequently that I’ve been trying to avoid saying anything bad when we do get to see each other; of course he noticed and I felt like I was lying to my partner.

So I’m starting the spring off with a promise to talk more and enjoy the time I have with Boyfriend more; everything could fall apart tomorrow but I never want to say that I took him for granted or spent a single day ignoring how lucky I am to have someone who loves me in my life.

 

Follow Shannon on Twitter at @Shananigans.

A year later

Tomorrow is our anniversary and I can’t help my desire to scream, “We made it!” at the top of my lungs. This is my first anniversary since the Big Ex in 2009 and the differences between then and now are staggering: four years ago I was afraid to tell the Big Ex that I loved him, four years ago on our anniversary the Big Ex was on a date with another woman and four years ago I couldn’t have told you that I was happy even if I thought I might have been.

Tomorrow Boyfriend and I are going for dinner and a movie, we’ll exchange gifts and we’ll fall asleep in what I can only assume will be a sweaty tangled mess. But the biggest difference of all is that I’m not afraid; I’m not afraid that making a big deal out of an anniversary will scare him off, I’m not afraid to tell him how much I love him and I’m not afraid to enjoy myself on a day that is meant to be enjoyed.

We’ve been through a lot this year: my mum’s illness, my work issues, the loss of his grandfather and six months of trying to figure out why I can barely keep food down. At this point we’ve been through some of the worst parts of life together and we’ve managed to come out smiling. I have never known the kind of support that I get from Boyfriend. As an adult child of divorce I’ve barely seen this kind of support outside of movies and TV shows; to be honest I didn’t even know that this kind of love was real, I just assumed that writers and directors were just really talented at creating loving worlds on paper and screen.

But after a year of experiencing love first hand I’ve come to realize that it isn’t all a fantasy, it takes a lot of work, a lot of practice and a lot of honesty. You have to be ready to share yourself fully, your fears, hopes, dreams and even (especially) the things you hate about yourself. Relationships aren’t easy, that was the part the writers got wrong, a big gesture won’t fix everything, there is no quick fix when things go wrong and you’ve got to really love yourself before anyone can love you. Some days I think it would be easier to walk through the world alone, as it’s a lot easier to lie to myself when the days get tough than it is to lie to Boyfriend.

But in the end finding someone who loves and appreciates you because of, not in spite of, your weird little quirks is the best feeling in the world. So what if I never wear matching socks or if I set my alarm clock in intervals of three or if I insist on calling penguins “pengins”? It’s all part of who I am and he loves me.

I couldn’t ask for a better partner in life and I hope that this is just the first of many more anniversaries.

“I love you”

There are three words in the English language that when strung together can make everything better; when someone that you love says, “I love you.” It’s like seeing fireworks for the first time everything is suddenly awash in brilliant colours, explosions and magic. But there are different kinds of, “I love you.”

Sometimes I look at Boyfriend needing to hear the words like a verbal hug, so I say I love you, not because I need to say it in the moment but because I need to hear it. Sometimes after a long day all you want to do is fall into your partner’s arms and hear the words that make a bad day or a bad week OK. It’s a little selfish but it doesn’t make your love any less real. Sometimes when I get home I just fall into Boyfriend’s arms asking for a hug; this isn’t any different, really.

Then there are the times when Boyfriend does or says something that reminds me exactly how much I love him and I have to say the words; they spill out of my mouth and I don’t even need to hear him say it in reply. Sometimes it’s because he’s dancing like an idiot, sometimes it’s because he does something sweet, most often it’s because he says something ridiculous. It’s a powerful thing to be reminded how much you love someone but it’s even better to say it without needing to hear it in return because you know how your person feels about you and it’s no longer a game of parroting the other person to avoid hurt feelings.

My personal favourite version happens to come with an edge of sarcasm, “I love you TOO, dear.” Is something I hear on a regular basis and while it doesn’t carry the weight or the support of the, I love yous, that came before it’s a more honest depiction of our relationship and it makes me smile. There will be plenty of time for heartfelt, tearful or weighty proclamations of love in the future; but the thing that makes us work has always been our similar sense of humour. If I tease him and he winks and gives me a slightly sarcastic, “Well, I love you TOO. Dear.” It makes me laugh and it epitomizes what has always made us great, we don’t take our relationship too seriously.

Love is an easy thing to take too seriously; it’s the emotion that has inspired the world’s greatest poems, sonnets and pieces of music its pretty intense stuff. Spike Jonze called it, “a form of socially acceptable insanity,” in his latest film and I don’t disagree. People in love do the dumbest things; you can’t be smart and in love you just have to pick one and hope for the best. But love, like sex, is so much better when you aren’t afraid to make a fool of yourself; when dancing around the kitchen in your underwear seems like a good way to spend a Sunday morning, when dinner turns into a food fight or when tickling each other until you scream and maybe pee yourself a little is a perfectly acceptable alternative to being on time.

Say I love you often, say it in when you need to hear it back or when you’re reminded just how much you love the person you’re with but never forget to add a little levity to the already heady sentiment.

Road tripping: Sometimes it takes being trapped in the car together to find out what’s been bugging you

Last weekend Boyfriend and I road tripped up to Viamede Resort on Stoney Creek and while our weekend was absolutely perfect nothing helps you settle issues like being stuck in a car together for two and a half hours. When all you have is the open road, a couple of stops at Tim Hortons and Songza talking about anything that has been bothering you is pretty much inevitable.

Fresh from a brand new hair cut (that once again Boyfriend didn’t notic) I was struck by the fact that he almost never notices anything about me; I could dye my hair blue and he’d ask me how my day was before even mentioning the fact that I was sporting a smurfette inspired cut. There’s an old quote that shows up on many a tween’s angsty tumblr that all this reminds me of there’s a line in this drivel about the right kind of guy that says, “[Find a guy] who wants to show you off to the world when you are in sweats.” Which basically means that we should find men to date who won’t judge us for wearing sweats or lulus to the grocery store, I agree with this in principle, but when I spend $200 on a hair cut or spend hours getting ready for a date I want him to notice.

It drives me crazy that Boyfriend doesn’t notice when I put in effort, he says that it doesn’t matter because he always thinks that I look beautiful. Great! I’m glad that he loves me always, that he thinks putting on fake eyelashes is silly and that he’d probably leave me if I got a facelift or a tummy tuck; but it would be nice to be noticed. The effort I put into looking good matters to me and it would be nice if he noticed the difference between lazy lulus and hours spent trying to look great.

It sounds insane to complain about Boyfriend thinking I’m always beautiful, I know, but sometimes I just want to be noticed, I want to know that he’s attracted to me, I want him to want to tear my clothes off. If the skimpy black dress and sky-high heels is the same as cropped Lulus and chucks then why even bother? I know he thinks I’m smart and funny and beautiful but every once and a while it would be nice if he thought I was a damn fox.

Sometimes I miss the excitement that comes from flirting with a stranger I miss the rush of totally ridiculous confidence that comes from knowing someone who has never me thinks I’m sexy.

I love Boyfriend but just once I’d wish he’d notice all the time that goes into the plucking, waxing, painting, cutting and running. I don’t just wake up looking cute although if anyone develops a pill for that I’ll be the first in line.

Why settle for less when real love could be just around the corner?

I was having drinks with a girlfriend last night — because gabbing about life over wine is my favourite pastime — and when it came around to the topic of boys she mentioned that she was comfortable settling. Just like that, as if settling wasn’t something we’d been advised against our whole lives. Why would I settle when I could have big, huge, life altering love? Because some people have stopped believing the stories the movies sell us.

The truth is in the world we live in today a grand romantic gesture would probably end up as fodder for blogs and columns like mine if you’re lucky, and if you’re not it might get you arrested or facing a restraining order. If Say Anything were set in the present day Lloyd Dobler would never win over Diane Court the movie would end with Diane jetting off to England with a hot hipster she barely knew and Lloyd would be left alone at home wondering why girls don’t ever like, ‘nice guys.’

But even if the grand romantic gestures we grew up watching, and believing in, on TV and in the movies are of the past why should we settle for someone who we only kind of love? Are we just so lonely in our big digital world that we’ll settle for someone who meets all the basic partner requirements? He has a good job, he treats you well and maybe he knows how to satisfy you in bed; do you also have to love him in that big epic way too? That seems like an incredibly tall order; at least it does to my friends who’ve given up, who’ve resigned themselves to finding someone so they don’t have to be alone rather than finding someone who makes their hearts flutter.

It may be because I’m in love now, it may be because I’ve been in love before but I hate the idea of settling just so you don’t have to be alone.  I have a partner who sets my world on fire and I want that for everyone else; even if you have to wait for the next 15 years it’s better to wait and find someone who makes you smile than settle for someone who, ‘will do, for now.’

It took a long time for me to believe in love again after the Big Ex left me, it was such a shock to my system, I remember sitting on the couch repeating the words I’d heard in movies and TV shows before, “No. I don’t agree to that. We’re not breaking up.” As if I had some say in what he did next. It always worked in the movies, she could always get him back, and it was never final; that time, it was. After that I wanted to settle, I didn’t care if I didn’t know his name and he was only there for a night, I just wanted a companion and a good time. I threw myself into my work and I stopped looking for love there were a few that came before Boyfriend that brought me out of the darkness, only to throw me right back into it.

Until the night that I met that silly, nerdy boy in line for a movie and everything changed. It’s OK to settle for a while but my big romantic heart still believes that every one eventually finds their match, sometimes it’s not what you’re expecting and sometimes it takes a lot longer than you’d like but it happens.

 

 

I chose you, now I need you to choose me again too

When you start dating someone friends sometimes fall by the wayside, it’s easy to forget to spend time with your pals when all you can think about is your new person and how amazing they are; but as time goes on and the relationship evolves you learn to better split time between your love and your friends. But no matter how great your friends are sometimes you simply have to choose your partner and you should at least you should if you’re serious about making a life with them.

I love my friends, more than just about anything, and fortunately the only guys I’ve dated that they all hated are long gone. For the most part my friends were right when they told me I needed to dump someone; I remember one night in second year when two of my best friends sat me down and told me that the guy I was seeing wouldn’t be allowed in our house any more. We sat there until 3AM talking about what I wanted; why they couldn’t watch me date him anymore and why they finally felt that they couldn’t live another day without saying something about it. I remember Jess looking me in the eye and saying, “Shan, he’s stealing your sparkle.” I’ve never forgotten that moment, not even for a second, because I don’t ever want to be in that situation again.

Now I’m happy and in love but some of Boyfriend’s closest pals aren’t totally enamored by my wit and charm and I’m trying to find a way to fix it but there’s a problem; I don’t like them either. Of the two that I see a real problem with both have a tendency to lean towards the sexist and one of them enjoys playing devil’s advocate even when there is nothing to advocate for. It’s difficult. I want to love Boyfriend’s friends and I want them to love me but I hate the idea of trying to force a friendship that would otherwise never happen.

Is it possible to love a man and not his friends? Can the relationship work if I can’t find a way to get along with them? I think it can. But first I think I need to make a real effort with them to see if this is something I absolutely can’t get past or if it’s something that can be solved over a couple of pints and a plate of wings.

I love Boyfriend and I owe it to him to at least try with his friends. If he can find something good in them I’m sure I can too. But if I can’t, then there will be a tough conversation about what we do next. I am going to try, really, really, try but there are some things that are integral to who I am that I’m not willing to let go of and if that means avoiding a couple of friends to maintain respect for myself that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

I’m choosing him but I need him to choose me too, again.

RELATIONSHIPS: Getting away with a staycation

Getting away doesn’t mean leaving the city.

I love to combine words, it’s a pastime of mine and Boyfriend hates it, he tells me these words do not exist and I am murdering the English language so funny then that we got to have a little Staycation in the city last weekend.  I am not, by the way, murdering the English language I am helping it to evolve in a whimsical kind of way.

We won a trip to the all new Bob Blumer Surreal Gourmet room at The Gladstone, fun, and we took advantage of it. How often do you get to stay in a fancy hotel free of charge? How often do you get to sleep on dream enhancing marshmallow pillows?! Basically never, so we did it.

Boyfriend and I have been away together but we’ve never stayed in a hotel in the city and I have to say I HIGHLY recommend it, no neighbours to accuse you of being loud, no roomies to anger and no sheets to wash; all of these are good reasons to escape without escaping but the reason I really enjoyed it was that it added a much needed dose of romance to our relationship.

It’s so easy to get into a rut, it’s so easy to just watch Netflix all day or play video games into the wee hours of the morning; we’re both busy people who manage to make time for each other because we love to but it doesn’t mean that the romance comes without effort, you actually have to try for that. When relationships are fresh you’re so busy impressing each other that every night feels exciting, every date feels like a challenge and every movie is an excuse to make out a little in the dark but after a while those things happen less often and you have to really think about doing nice things for each other. It’s easy to be romantic on a special occasion, birthdays and anniversaries are a given, but on an average weekend a little help can go a long way.

The weekend inspired me to really focus on doing little things for Boyfriend that remind him that he’s special, not every day is amazing but every day with him makes me feel like it has the potential to be the best day yet.

We go to so many parties and events I don’t want our nights together to be full of exhaustion and movie marathons; I want to give him the same energy I give my job, my friends and my family. He’s earned that from me, after everything we’ve been through and everything we’ve survived he should know that he’s a priority in my life not an option.

Maybe it was the marshmallow pillows or it could have been the fact that we made out like teenagers the minute we arrived; it doesn’t really matter what it was because it reminded me to appreciate him every day not just on the remarkable ones.

Follow Shannon on Twitter at @Shananigans.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

The joy of birthdays (even when they aren’t yours)

Birthdays are literally my favourite thing. I get more excited for my birthday every year than I do for Christmas, I just love the idea of a day dedicated to you. Also, it comes with cake and any day that carries with it the assumption of cake is a good day.

Today is Boyfriend’s birthday and I think I’m more excited than he is because it’s time for me to win; Boyfriend is so good at giving gifts that it’s become a bit of a competition to see who can get the other the better gift, and since he won Christmas I have to win his birthday so that I can gloat about my championship for at least the next five months until our anniversary. This sounds twisted I know, birthdays shouldn’t be about winning; but I’m a competitive person and Boyfriend is so good at finding the perfect gift that I didn’t even know I wanted to now it’s my turn to blow his mind with my thoughtfulness!

When it came time to start thinking about birthday presents I wracked my brain to come up with something perfect and then I found it; FAO Schwarz in New York has an online Muppet workshop where you can design and order you own Muppet. Boyfriend who lost his mind when he discovered the original Muppet series on Netflix has always wanted his own Muppet but he’s never been able to get one made. It’s the perfect mix of childhood fantasy and wish fulfillment and I think for the first time since we started dating over a year and a half ago I may be able to beat him at gifting.

Every couple develops little rituals and pet names; as much as I love it when Boyfriend calls me a, “Wild Shannon.” Or does a ridiculous dance to music down the street or insists on singing, “Hey sexy lady, Shannons.” My favourite ritual is the competition we add to events always trying to make the other happier. Finding the perfect gift isn’t about spending the most money or going through the most effort it’s about getting to see that smile his face when he realizes that he got something he didn’t even know he wanted.

I’ve always loved finding the perfect gift for someone, when I was 13 I made my mother cry with a pair of diamond earrings, but it’s different with Boyfriend I want so much to make him happy and I use birthdays as an excuse to be extravagant. In this case it was designing a Muppet, shipping it to a friend’s place in New York and then having them ship it to Toronto to be honest though I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to top this one. Is there a nerd boy equivalent of a giant freaking diamond? Like a gold plated PlayStation or a comic signed by Stan Lee, these are thoughts for another day.

Today I will rest easy knowing that I’ve won, for now.