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DATING FOR DUMMIES: Relationship rules defined

Is date three always the sex date?

By Shannon Hunter

The third date is universally accepted as the ‘sex date’. I’m not sure when I first heard this or where, but I know I’ve heard it more than once. And to be honest I’ve never really been comfortable with it. Why should the number of times you’ve gone out dictate when it’s socially acceptable to get busy?

I’ve said before if the first date goes well and you just so happen to end up in bed together you shouldn’t feel guilty. Sometimes these things happen – denying yourself of what you feel is right because of an unwritten rule is ridiculous. I apply the same logic to a third date: If you’re ready – go for it.

Dating is complicated enough without imposing MORE rules on ourselves… we’re careful to wear the right make-up, never drink too much but not too little either, show the right amount of skin, and share ourselves but again not too much; all things we’ve learned to do naturally. When other people start giving us rules to follow it becomes a little too much to handle.

So when it comes to the ‘sex date’ I think the call is simple. If it happens it happens. If it doesn’t it’s not because your relationship is doomed, it’s not because he doesn’t like you, and it is most definitely not because he doesn’t find you attractive. So check your insecurity at the door.

Relationships play out in so many different ways that when we create rules and mandatory milestones we kill the romance, the fun, and the spontaneity.

Stop planning life and let it happen. Because when something really fantastic does happen it’ll always be better than anything you could have planned.

In Sickness and in Health

By Jen Kirsch

You’re sick in bed.  You feel everything that the words ‘miserable’ and ‘discomfort’ are made of.  You would give it all up if only you could – for the love of Fendi – feel better. You look over at your partner and his ‘How can I save you eyes of sympathy’ peer into yours, which suddenly light up.  Because let’s face it, when we are as sick as can be, we all – even the Sam Jones’ of the world – love (and dare I say need) some good, old, classic, TLC.

I may go as so far as to say that TLC makes for the best medicine.  A prescription often prescribed, yet not always filled. Which is just what happens when – after you tell him how grateful you are for having him around to take care of you – he tells you he’s going to go sleep on the couch tonight so he “doesn’t get sick.”

Excuse me?’ You wonder to yourself thinking you may have misheard his words.

There are two types of men when it comes to the direction of sleeping habits when you’re under the weather. There are those who are a) at your beck and call, by your side all night and wouldn’t think to have one sleep away from you (sick or not), or b) the cautious ones that are more concerned about catching a cold.

I don’t know about you ladies, but when I’m sick just so happens to be synonymous with when I need extra cuddles, love and attention. I’m more than happy to give that same extra TLC to a partner when they aren’t well and I genuinely want to because I know how it feels. A great feeling comes with knowing someone is there for you without having to ask for it. When a partner goes to sleep on the couch, it’s ever-so-easy to take it personally.

I understand with keeping your distance, but the fact remains that the germs are already in the house and we are more contagious before we are sick than during. So be conscience that you are sick but make sure that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to your sleeping arrangements. Because the last thing any of us need is the added stress when our mind tells us ‘we’re uncared for’ when in fact we very much are.

 

 

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.

 

 

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

With the rise of instant dating smartphone apps like Tinder is true romance really just one tap and swipe away?

Today’s young professionals have a rabid appetite for social fulfillment. The enticing and fast-paced social applications for today’s cellphones allow people to satisfy their social urges more rapidly than ever, producing a cult-like atmosphere of social media worshipers. As this industry grows, social media developers are continually finding more creative ways to indulge people’s fixation with social efficiency.

The rise of the social-media empire has even conquered the world of dating. Today’s singles have quickly caught on to the benefits of using social media for their Romantic pursuits. These applications offer people a quick, nonchalant way to pursue someone within a relaxed virtual environment. Consequently, social media is enabling society to court others technologically – but to what extent is technology tarnishing the natural dating process?

We are currently experiencing a battle between efficiency and romance. Alas, we have the rise of Tinder, the savior to quench society’ thirst for unabashedly shallow, yet quick routes toward courtship. It epitomizes the death of organic dating. Through this program, one can browse through dozens of local singles, separating desirable candidates from the undesirables. If two individuals are mutually attracted to each other, they are able to converse.  Essentially, this program permits the mass accumulation of potential dates via iPhone; it is a pathetic excuse for romance!

We have essentially become a romantically deactivated society. We are experiencing an epidemic where at least 2 out of 3 people you know have likely been courted via text as opposed to meeting organically through friends or a tasteful piano bar. Tinder is mercilessly plunging our society at hyper-speed into a new era of dating where romantic contenders have been diminished to a cold selection process on a mobile screen. Dating has officially become stale, flat and virtually effortless as technology creates these fast-paced dating platforms.

Nevertheless, this unapologetically superficial, hyper-speed dating style is appropriate for the needs of today’s busy young professionals. Tinder’s efficiency makes it the ideal contemporary dating tool. It is a convenient, yet non-threatening way to pursue others. People are able to protect their egos through this low-risk courtship style.  Therefore, people can feel more emotionally safe because their pursuits appear unintentional and casual; it is easier to toss a message into a virtual vacuum than to create a face-to-face opening line. However, this care-free approach to courtship has soured the vulnerability and beauty of the traditional high-risk dating process. I am not implying that people re-enter a world of classic chivalry with codified ways of offering greetings or lofty proclamations of eternal commitment (society’s dating habits are far too removed from these hyper-romanticized ideals).  But this does not mean today’s 20 and 30 somethings have to live in a romantic wasteland! People should try abandoning their technologically protected realms—their phones screens— and genuinely interact with each other. When courtship is accompanied with anxiety and fear of rejection, the thrill of dating is preserved in its most raw form.  There is a heated sense of risk and sensuality associated with face-to-face courtship .Thus, people need to set aside their feelings of machoism and embrace real romance once again.

As the rise of these speedy dating alternatives continues, the integrity of intimate, face-to-face courtships are relentlessly dying. Social media applications such as Tinder are decaying the spirit of traditional organic courtship. But with the growing starvation for quicker, more compelling ways to socialize through media, technology will continue to address society’s growing demands. Yet, I find it difficult to imagine the next big dating application when society has already seemed to reach he peak of romantic lethargy.

 

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Parental seal of approval

Last Friday I finally made the parental introduction. Mr. Unexpected and I joined my mum and her husband for dinner on King West.

As we walked from my condo to the restaurant I could feel my heart pounding; I’ve never wanted my mum to like someone so much in my life and I honestly didn’t know how it would go. But when we arrived at the restaurant all of my nerves and fear melted away as Boyfriend fell into an easy rhythm and immediately got along with both my mum and her husband.

At one point Boyfriend looked at me and just said, “Get over it,” in reference to something silly. It made my mum howl because according to her if my brother ever told me to just, “Get over it” I would probably deck him. This is mostly true except that my little brother is about 9 inches taller than me and a rugby player and I’m about 100% sure I’d lose that fight.

A lot of our dinner conversation revolved around a new job that I’ve recently accepted and the support coming from both my mum, her husband and Boyfriend made me feel like I’ve finally got the family I’ve always wanted. Because my mum only remarried last year we don’t refer to her husband as our stepdad, but he’s more loving and supportive that my birth father ever was and I think that stems from his deep love for my mother. Their relationship is the kind I want for myself. I never once looked at my parents and thought “I want that,” because things were never that good, but looking at my mum and how happy she is now I finally understand what people with happy parents were saying – I want what they have.

But the best part of the whole dinner was the email that came from my mum a few days later letting me know how happy she was, how proud of me she was and how nice it was to see me with someone who is good for me and good to me. Boyfriend and I complement each other but because I’m in it sometimes I forget that, so it’s nice to hear from someone on the outside that we work well together.

I was nervous for nothing, I was afraid for nothing; I was a complete spaz for nothing because in the end introducing someone I love to my mum felt good and right. I wanted her to love him and she does – because according to her he’s lovely, kind and charming none of that was relayed to him though; I don’t want him to get a big head.

Now that he has every possible approval necessary, my best friend, my mum and boy bestie I think it’s time that I start calling him Boyfriend here officially instead of Mr. Unexpected. He was unexpected in October, he was a complete surprise, but now he’s earned the Boyfriend title. And while he still surprises me daily mostly I just realize exactly how lucky I am to have found someone who isn’t perfect but is perfect for me.

Can you be friends with your exes?

Whenever a relationship ends, one part of the former pair insists on remaining friends, even if they don’t mean it, they somehow feel necessary to pretend that their now ex-partner will remain in their lives. But can we really be friends with our exes? Should we?

I don’t speak with the Big Ex; he cheated on me and broke my heart. My friends don’t lie to me, they don’t take advantage of me, and they don’t leave me crying on a couch wondering what I’ve done wrong. Sometimes relationships end amicably, sometimes two great people just realize that they don’t belong together and they go on to be great friends who once upon a time used to have hot sweaty naked time together. But more often than not, a break-up happens because of something more severe and at least one person is left with a broken heart and a bruised ego.

A couple of weeks ago I was out with a friend of mine who recently left his partner after two years; I asked him very calmly if he planned on being friends with her in the future or ever getting back together with her. I did this because you never know and what I had to say about this person could not be taken back; I then proceeded to use a four-letter word that happens to start with a ‘c.’ There were some other words that my inner feminist would not approve of, but sometimes you just need to get your feelings out and this self-righteous woman had all of it coming. That’s the most difficult part about being friends with an ex: once you’ve done something really terrible most friends have picked a side and if your behaviour was bad enough, that side likely isn’t yours. How can you ever be friends with someone when everyone who knew you together now thinks that you’re the worst kind of person for one reason or another?

Boyfriend and I are at the point in our relationship where we have a lot of mutual friends. My pals are becoming his and I love that, but if we broke up tomorrow, it’s easy enough to know who would pick my side and who would pick his. After a break-up, terrible things are said, tears are shed and promises are made; but it’s your best friends who hear the absolute worst about your former love and asking them to just forget about all the bad things is asking the impossible.

Maybe the couples who end things happily knowing that they’ve made the right choice can be friends, but there are some things that once said can’t be taken back; there are some things that once done can never be undone and as a result – friendship is impossible. Let’s all stop kidding ourselves and admit that being friends with an ex is almost as bad as sleeping with an ex; it’s never going to end well and someone is almost always going to have unrealistic expectations.

Follow Shannon on Twitter at @Shananigans.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Embracing country

I’ve been trying to keep busy while Country Boy and I have been taking our little break, which actually isn’t hard. It’s only been a week and I’m already losing it. It’s not hard for me to trust him; it’s not hard for me to believe that we’ll be back together in a few short weeks, but it is really hard to be without him.

I’m lonely and I want a little company and while there is no lack of men in the city, I just don’t want any of them. I want my Country Boy, with the deep brown eyes and curious smile, and no one else will do. So, what am I going to do if things don’t work out? What if the distance and work and life gang up on us and win? Well, in all honesty I hope that doesn’t happen, but if it does, I’ll do what I’ve always done: I’ll move on. But this time I’ll be able to do so with a better sense of what I want in a relationship and in a man.

I love Country Boy; everything about him makes sense to me and everything about him excites me. I need a man who listens to country, drives a truck, has a big family and values to go with it. I need a gentleman with small-town southern flare.

I am not the girl who can date a Bay-Street guy. I am not the girl who can date a lifelong city boy; it’s not me and it never was, but it has taken Country Boy to make me realize what really makes me happy.

When I was younger, my mother told me to stop bringing home the tall, skinny, artsy boys because they were all wrong for me. Ten years later and I realize she was right. She’s always known me better than I know myself, but I’m stubborn and I had to figure it out on my own. If only I had figured all this out when I was 15, life would have been so much easier.

I’m not giving up on Country Boy by any stretch, but there is a comfort in realizing that, for once, I know exactly what I want. I want the wedding (some day), I want the house in the country, I want the life in the city, and I won’t settle for anything less.

It may take a while to get everything I want but the best things in life are worth waiting for and the kind of boy who will take a drive to nowhere so we can fool around in the back of the truck while Eric Church blasts through the radio – definitely worth waiting for; but then again maybe I’ve already got that.

This article was previously published on March 1, 2012.

Learning to be happy

For the first time since before the Big Ex, I am happy with someone I’m dating, actually happy. More importantly, though, I can be myself. I’m not sacrificing parts of myself to fit into what I think he wants me to be and I’m not keeping my opinions to myself because I’m afraid that he might not like them.

I spent so long trying to be what someone else wanted that I had forgotten what it was like to just be myself. Mr. Unexpected makes me laugh sometimes uncontrollably, sometimes to the point of falling on the floor and almost always until my stomach hurts and I’ve forgotten what started the laughing in the first place.

When you spend so long trying to please other people, trying to be the right girl, you forget how wonderful it is to just be yourself. I don’t have to pretend anymore that not introducing me to his family after a year is okay, I don’t have to act like never letting me meet his friends doesn’t bother me, and I don’t have to temper my enthusiasm for being with him because I am worried that he will run away.

Mr. Unexpected wants me to meet his family, he doesn’t hide me from his friends and when I tell him how happy he makes me he doesn’t get turned off, he just tells me I’m cute and smiles because he knows that I’m going to hit him for using the ‘c’ word. Babies and puppies are cute, women are not; although my friends would probably take his side in this particular argument.

One of my best friends told me something about two months ago that really stuck with me: “He isn’t who you’d pick for yourself but he’s who you should be with. Don’t screw this up.” Which I think was his loving way of telling me to just enjoy it and let myself be happy.

It’s funny that when I’m sad or unhappy I forget to question what is making me so unhappy, but when things are going well I constantly wonder why I’m happy and when the other shoe is going to drop. What if the other shoe doesn’t drop? What if I just let myself be happy without asking so many questions?

I’ve decided to stop constantly questioning why and just enjoy where I am right now: happy without conditions.

It’s a first for me and it’s going to take a lot of time to be happy without asking myself why, but it’s about time I enjoy the person I’m with; it’s about time I stop constantly worrying and waiting and driving myself crazy.

Is it so hard to just love and be loved? Am I so jaded that being treated right makes me wonder what the catch is?

There is no catch. This isn’t a movie or a bad romance novel; it’s life and it’s pretty fantastic right now.

Follow Shannon on Twitter at @Shananigans.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Taking a relationship break isn’t necessarily a bad thing

Country Boy and I have been quiet lately, with a new job for me and work being incredibly busy on his end. We simply haven’t had enough time to devote to each other. That being said, we’re not giving up on us, not even a little bit.

About a year and a half ago I was dating Model Boy. He was tall, gorgeous, and he made me feel like a queen, but he needed me to give him more space than I was willing to and my need for a constant connection pushed him away. Later, he popped back into my life and explained that he had had real feelings for me and if I had been able to give him the space he asked for, we would probably still be together.

As we get older, we learn from past experiences and as I spoke with Country Boy last night, I kept the past in mind and agreed that we should take the next couple of weeks to focus on our respective jobs and come back to each other when we can be more present in our relationship.

Country Boy and I have a lot in common, not least of which is an incredible passion for what we do we. Both of us tie our identities to our work and when work gets tough, it also becomes priority one. As we spoke, I could tell he was worried about asking for a little time to focus and when I told him that I supported him and wasn’t about to run away because of it, he seemed almost shocked.

Is it hard to go without seeing him for a couple weeks? Of course it is. But Country Boy has been so supportive of me; he’s talked me through the ups and downs of hunting for a new job, he listened to my crazy Love a Heart ramblings, and he has always been there to put a smile on my face. Right now he’s asking for my support and after all that he has done for me, I can’t say no. I can’t walk away just because things are getting a little more difficult.

How am I going to get through the time apart? The same way he is; I’m going to focus on work and knock the first few weeks out of the park. I’m going back home to Kingston for a weekend to reconnect with my best friend. I’m going to plan for the reunion, which thanks to a good friend will involve a Leafs game in late March.

My life was amazing before Country Boy and it will continue to be so throughout his absence. I’ll admit though, that I am already counting down the days to our reunion and what it will feel like to be in his arms again… and (obviously) the teenager-esque making out that will likely ensue in my elevator.

This article was previously published on February 24, 2012.

 

Domestic living

If you had told me a couple years ago that I would be happy going to the gym, swimming and making lunch with a boyfriend, I would have told you that you were insane. I probably would have said something about how I am a wild thing and I’m almost certain that I would have quoted Samantha from Sex and the City.

This weekend Boyfriend and I did just that though. We went to the market, we went to the gym, we made lunch together and then walked around the city in the sunshine and not once did I feel like I’d given up a piece of myself to be the somewhat domestic gal.

The thing that makes Boyfriend different is that I never feel like I’m losing myself in the domestic bliss, nor is it boring or typical. We go swimming in an effort to relax after a workout and he ends up tossing me around the pool and pretending he’s a shark. (Okay, I was the one pretending to be a shark.) We make lunch while I sing country songs and he makes fun of me for doing so. The little things that I thought meant the death of a relationship, the simple pleasures, make me happier than any deeply thought out and planned date with the Big Ex ever did.

It’s simple really: it doesn’t matter what you’re doing when you’re with someone that makes you smile. You could be skydiving or arguing over who gets to chop the vegetables for the salad, but as long as you’re with someone you love it’s fun.

Like most girls, I claim to hate rom-coms but I’ve seen my fair share of movies starring Katherine Heigl or Reese Witherspoon. And while I regret watching them after the credits roll, I go back to them like a piece of chocolate cake that I know is bad for me; the sugary sweetness is sometimes exactly what you need even if you know deep down that when you stare at that plate of crumbs you will feel terrible about yourself. Deliciously terrible. Rom-coms are sometimes exactly what I need: mindless entertainment with a happy ending, but the problem with that is that afterwards I’m always wondering why I don’t have a relationship like that. No man has ever told me he loved me via cue cards in the snow at Christmas; I’ve never been in a Thai prison, so I’ve obviously never been saved by a gorgeous British man from said Thai prison; and most importantly no man has ever said, “As you wish” to me, not really anyway.

So I’m in a relationship that will never be worthy of a rom-com, because just being happy without question is not the stuff great movies are made of. But I get to date my best friend and for that I am incredibly grateful. Besides, if life gets too easy and domestic I’ll just get a puppy and introduce that madness into our lives.