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My relationship with mannequins has been nothing short of tumultuous over the years. First, there was my confusing childhood crush on a grown man/mannequin hybrid in Jeff from Today’s Special, and then, growing up, the realization that a mannequin’s painted-on eyeliner was so superior to my own. For a brief moment things turned around, when a movement began to eliminate hair and faces on mannequins across the board, in favour of the polished and uniform faceless look. I suspect this was done to accommodate the fact that many prospective shoppers don’t have porcelain skin and horse-hair locks of gold. It was definitely a move to improve race relations, and recently it went a big step further when mannequins started having no heads at all. It was a bold but intelligent move, since as an ethnic minority myself, there’s nothing I relate to more than a decapitated likeness of a human in the latest and greatest fashions.
A few weeks ago though, things went horribly wrong. It happened on Toronto’s bustling Yonge Street in the downtown core. My friends and I (it’s important for bloggers to “character drop” friends into their posts, to eliminate the stigma that bloggers have no friends, even if the “friends” in question are fictional, and in my case they are, but no one needs to know that except myself and the readers (aka my REAL friends! Are you all eating Cheetos in your pajamas too?)…oh wait, I forgot what I was saying. Oh yeah, so my friends and I were strolling along after a fabulous dinner, a skip in our step from splitting two bottles of vino (friends are great for splitting the vino in a dignified way, as opposed to drinking the bottle alone in your pajamas after binge-eating a bag of Cheetos), when we came across…THIS.
Your eyes do not deceive you; those, my friends, are anatomically-disgraceful INVERTED knee-caps. We weren’t sure if our eyes were deceiving us that night, so I took the picture, let it sit for exactly one month, and didn’t look upon it until today, only to find that it wasn’t a sick joke. I mean damn, like it wasn’t already hard enough to relate to blonde mannequins, or twenty-inch-waisted mannequins, or decapitated mannequins, but now you’re telling me the basic structure of my human form is no longer worthy of wearing the dresses in the shop window? It won’t be long before women start getting elective knee-inversion surgeries, just like how there’s procedures to elongate legs, or a recent rise in butt implants, or the newfound obsession with having a thigh-gap (did you see that episode of Dr. Oz? Better yet did you see Beyoncé’s photoshopped thigh-gap from that day she was playing golf?).
The fact that this blog is supposed to be about Paris reminiscence (and there’s so much reminiscence I haven’t yet shared!) should tell you how this issue has been weighing on my mind. I even went back and changed the post’s title to reflect this disturbing topic.
Due to my current state of distress, I think I’ll leave it at that. In other news, since I haven’t blogged for two months, I never shared that Ted Talk I did in November re: following your dreams. Well here it is! (I’m also working on a butt-load of writer stuff, but it’s still too early to mention it yet…just know that I’m using the full 10% of my brain that we humans use!)
Single people have been led to believe that Valentine’s Day is when they must confront their loneliness, feel sad, then reflect on all the ways they can improve as a dateable commodity, to avoid winding up in this sorry predicament the next time this day rolls around. It’s like a new year’s resolution, only tailored to your romantic inadequacies, as opposed to the weight/nicotine/alcohol issues that are typically targeted on January 1st.
Many single people (mostly women) fight the power by getting all dressed up and hittin’ the club with “their girls,” where they’ll inevitably hold court with the remnants of the male population, the single guys who troll such clubs on Valentine’s night, ready to feed off a single woman’s fear of dying alone (1. eww; and 2. been there, said NO to that).
But back to the people who accept their lot in life as feeling sad/punished on Valentine’s Day: stop that now, there’s no need! And I’m about to tell you why.
Few people know that Valentine’s Day is the one day a year to take pity on couples, as they only engage in romance on this day because of the biggest and loudest reminder ever known to man:
Worse than that, is how contrived all this romance is. I mean…a Pepto-Bismol-coloured card with a corporation’s impersonalized greeting? NOT romantic.
Or how about chocolates that are supposedly romantic because they’ve been stuffed into a heart-shaped box for this once-a-year occasion? Umm NO (and don’t be fooled by the box, it’s exactly the same as the regular Ferrero Rocher chocolate, only the heart-shaped box has eight measly pieces, whereas the year-round rectangle box contains SIXTEEN pieces for only a dollar more! There’s a sucker born every day…)
What about stuffed animals holding stuffed-hearts? Seriously, what’s a grown woman supposed to do with a stuffed animal? That’s the equivalent of getting Flintstones chewable vitamins for your wedding anniversary.
“But guess what Romi, ” the couples say (condescendingly), “we don’t do the shitty “greeting card and chocolate” stuff on V-day. We plan romantic getaways, and give each other mix tapes, and do scavenger hunts, and make crafts based on inside jokes, which means our love is REAL, so the single people can go back to envying our holiday.“
First of all, dear couples, you doth protest too much. Second of all, no matter what you do, no matter how quirky and “not mainstream” your hipster romance is, if it happened on Valentine’s Day, it’s immediately disqualified from the best romantic moment of all time, because any sweet gesture was jacked-up, amplified, and prompted by the manufactured romance that’s filling up the air on February 14th. It’s like when disgraced baseball star Mark McGwire tried to claim the home-run record when his butt-cheeks were pumped full of steroids. I DON’T THINK SO.
Of course, this won’t stop the couples from trying to show the single people who’s boss. You’ll know that feeling when the Facebook posts start trickling in: “My man is the best!” Or “I’m the luckiest girl in the world!” You know what the “luckiest girl in the world” posts are supposed to do, right? They’re supposed to remind you that you’re not (until February 15th of course, when everything goes back to being the same, ya know?). It’s cool though, ’cause calendar-prompted romance is the same as a tainted home-run record, so why feel bad about that? And let’s not forget the slashed prices on chocolate you’ll find on February 15th! (the heart-shaped boxes of Ferrero Rocher are always the first to go)
Despite this post being a streak-free spray-tan of self-esteem for the average single person, your couple friends definitely deserve a shout-out, for when they do romantic things on any old day of the year (and when asked why, they respond: “just because”). When these random acts of romance happen and you hear about it, you’re totally allowed to feel jealous. And sad. And maybe even jump off a cliff.
Okay so the “dying alone in a violent way, cliff-death wise” imagery was harsh, but back to my overall point: Valentine’s Day should never make you feel bad again, so take back the night!
PS: is it weird that I listened to “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt on repeat while writing this post?
It starts with the beginning of a brand new year. For people who indulged too much over the holidays, this means an end to the guiltless consumption of chickens stuffed in ducks stuffed in turkeys (it’s called turducken and it’s real), and the beginning of joining a gym so you can buy into the Richard Simmons lie, the supposed promise that your legs could ever be as toned and oily as his, or that silky striped short-shorts are available en masse.
For those of us who are pretty much the same weight all the time and pretty okay with that—isn’t it cool how I sound like a zen person who never even wrote about a weight-conscious protagonist in her first book?—we’re thrust into reality in different ways. There’s less sweat and less “trying to like kale” involved in this latter case, but it’s equally likely to exhaust you and stimulate your gag reflex.
I’m talking about those of us who managed to embrace our dreamer selves in the year just past, floating under the radar of “I’ll settle down and straighten out in 2014, don’t worry.“
And now, my friends, it’s January 2014 (dun dun dun!—>it’s hard to convey dramatic music in text, which is why I regard writing as the most inferior of the arts; I wish I’d learned to play the piano, but this is what I’ve got, so I will pimp it like a hooker with an enormous bosom).
While living in Paris last year, I was surrounded by dreamers all the time. They would come and go but the theme of our journeys was the same; we’d left something secure for the quest of something different, which manifested itself in many ways: inspiration, enlightenment, and a high concentration of connecting with incredible people.
But then we all left that world, and hanging on to our inspiration HERE makes us seem like we’re “koo-koo for Cocoa Puffs.”
Luckily the new year offers up a slap to sort us out, along with the encouragement of family, which most recently sounded like this: “Send your resumé to a bank; even if you don’t like the job at least you’ll be making money.“. Right, the money lie. It’s so much worse than the Russell Simmons lie, because unlike the oily toned legs of a sixty-five-year-old man, the signs of money are everywhere. Don’t let that statement confuse you; I’m a huge fan of money. I mean how the hell do you think I got to Paris in the first place? On well wishes and group hugs? I even cheer whenever the Canadian dollar drops in value, because my book royalty checks are in US currency (hopefully by cheering heartily for Canada in the Olympics I can right this wrong).
Yes, I’m a huge fan of cold hard cash, but the difference between some of it and a lot of it is usually happiness. Some people make a good amount of money and are also really happy. I mean of course they are, because it’s not like their constant Facebook updates about how happy they are represent a lack of satisfaction that can only be cured with the validating power of the “like” button, of course not!
But forget the ones who have it all…what about the ones who have to choose? How do you choose between doing what you love for most of your awake hours, vs. doing what’s expected of you so you don’t make people uncomfortable because your path isn’t easy to explain? Or easy to brag about? Or easy to not be embarrassed by? (again, I am referring to the hooker career choice).
I am now at the six-hundred word mark of this post, and I’m wondering if I’ve inadvertently written a glowing endorsement for prostitution.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, there’s no balance and routine and security to being a dreamer, so the sensible thing to do is just stop, especially when you’ve already had a taste of what it could be like; that should be enough, ya know? Hang on to the memories, kid!
Or you could be insane and keep reaching for insane goals, because there’s one thing you know how to do better than any other thing, and expressing yourself in that way, and connecting with others in that way is essential to your existence. So you just keep going, even when there’s no clear path, even when you know there might not be many more days to do this if something big doesn’t happen, and even when it means you might go back to a job you don’t like at some point, while you brainstorm revisions to your strategy for happiness.
Well, I have to go now, ’cause I’ve got big honkin’ plans and there’s lots and lots to do.
[You may now decide which path I've chosen and imagine what happens next:
1. bank teller
3. lady of the night]
How can I even argue with that?
You’ve got the sunsets to enjoy with that someone who could be “the one,” and how could you not feel happy when you admire the changing sky, and how those last rays of sun make the ripples of the Seine glimmer like jewels from Chanel? If it’s cloudy out, don’t worry, there’s back-up! It comes in the form of romantic cobblestone side-streets that are perfect for stolen kisses. Or here’s another option: gaze at each other as you sit side-by-side on charming café terraces.
These elaborate set pieces are somehow the natural state of Paris, and as beautiful as it all is, it negatively alters your ability to discern who’s dateable vs. who’s insufferable. If anything your judgment is blurred by the distracting background.
Basically…Paris is airbrush makeup for ugly personalities.
It’s not Paris’s fault; I mean Paris didn’t ask to be defiled in this way, to be used as an agent of “surface romance,” for people who think wine and chocolate and gazing at Eiffel Tower views will be enough to distract you from poor conversation skills.
But that’s what people do!
And only after several dates (once the Parisian haze has lifted) do you realize you’ve never been more bored in your life but now you’re so far into it you should probably break it off in person and dammit if only you’d met him (or her!) in a rural barren wasteland because then you would’ve known how boring he (or she!) was within the five-minute mark.
It’s a shame how Paris numbs your senses and radars, and all the other skills you’ve amassed over the years to weed out the wrong ones to help you find the right one. It’s a shame because well shit, you’re in Paris! And it’s beautiful! So why can’t you share it with someone special?!
This is the part where I tell you to move to a different city.
This next part is when I tell you I was lying in the part above, because I loved living in Paris and will rob you blind when you’re not looking so I can fundraise my way back to the Seine.
So what’s the workaround to the Paris “blur”?
Actually, it’s simple: you must go to the places that bring out the random conversations…you must! Nothing tells you more about someone’s personality than how they react to random topics of conversation. “But Romi,” you say, “conversation’s not that important. I mean that’s what my buddies are for. I just want a girl I’m really ‘into,’ ya know?” Sure random blog reader, I know all about it. But what YOU don’t know is that forty years from now when all your buddies are dead (your buddies lived hard and fast) you’ll stare into the face of the person you spend almost all of your “awake time” with, and you’ll realize you have absolutely nothing to say to her (or him!). And it’s not one of those adorable “comfortable silences” either.
So back to my workaround solution!
There are many places in Paris that are ripe for random conversation, and one of the best ones is the Centre Pompidou, a.k.a. Paris’s museum of modern art. I don’t even have to take you through it step-by-step because it’s easy. All I have to do is show you some of the art I saw when I was there, and the conversations will make themselves. I was not there on a date, but if I had been, there’s so much I could’ve discovered about a possible mate in front of this melting bicycle painting. I mean it’s MELTING! What does that MEAN? Does it make you think about how everything’s made up of atoms, whether it’s a liquid or a solid? In which case…is a melting bicycle really such a leap in logic? And how does a specific combination of atoms even hold a bicycle into a solid? How fragile is it? What if I’m riding a bicycle and it starts to melt?! I have many concerns!
Obviously this sort of date could result in my possible mate thinking I’m extremely weird and running away, but that’s the risk you take by being yourself, and there’s someone for everyone..right? In other words your conversations don’t have to be as weird as mine, but at least it’s a conversation! Now this one…well this one is just so easy. Do I even need to go there? Look closely. Bringing your date here and getting them to describe this work of art will equal automatic laughter, and laughter’s an important part of haze-free romance!
Okay…so this one. Well it freaks me the hell out. I could find out a lot about a guy by asking him how he feels about these little troll men who are basically SMILING while one of them passes the other one the CORPSE-HEAD of one of their peers! If your date is not the least bit disturbed by this, he is probably a serial killer, which is a really important trait to weed out!
These are just a few examples, but by reading this, please don’t think I’m so nerdy when it comes to romance that I’m a conversation robot who simply wants to talk and talk until death do us part. As a matter of fact I love gazing into someone’s eyes on a café terrace, I love sunsets, and I love those little cobblestone alleyways which are so conducive to making out in doorways (heh). I’d just rather do all that once I’m sure the personality in question matches up well with mine. You gotta EARN the sunset…
Before I drift away into the new year, I wanted to share some exciting news: the “Year of the Chick” series is now available as an ebook box set! The readers of the series have been SO great with their reactions/emails/Amazon reviews, that I’ve put together all three books into a set you can get for yourself (for a crazy introductory price of $3.99!), or gift to your friends via Amazon’s simple “give as a gift” button (all you need is the “giftee’s” email address, and they don’t even need a Kindle, since you can read ebooks on your phone or iPad with the free app).
Anyway, here’s the link so feel free to check it out, just in time for Christmas!— Year of the Chick series boxed set
I’ll be back in 2014 with many more thoughts on Paris (oh, you thought I was done?) and updates on my writing projects.
For now I’ll leave you with this lyric I’m really digging right now: “Our love, it grows, because I know it makes me better; thy will be done, when we are one, us, together.” (See? I’m not a robot who’s only obsessed with conversation!). It’s called “Fall” by Serena Ryder, and I gotta say, she really gets me. If you’re curious you can listen to it here!
This is my honest assessment of six months spent in Paris, where I explored a new (to me) city, in a new (to me) country, in a new (to me) continent, made amazing friends, wrote another novel (“Never or Forever“), published that novel, had a book launch party in Paris, had my heart skip a beat more than once, and walked for endless stretches against a scenic backdrop. It was the city of lights, and it possessed the same magnificence captured in the countless guidebooks I’d read before ever reaching its soil.
From the external world, it goes like this:
“So how are you “adjusting” to being back in Toronto?” (the word “adjusting” is accompanied by a condescending scrunch of the nose, which I can even detect in text messages, believe me)
“Have you started looking for a job?” (obviously this question comes from the parental unit)
“Do you think you’ll ever go back to the corporate world, or can you afford to keep writing full time?” (back-door way of finding out how much money I’m making from writing, to assess if it’s more than a hobby)
The questions that come from within are a little more detailed, and they usually go like this:
“What am I supposed to do next, after living the dream that was only a far-off vision for the longest time?“
“Are dreams individual goals, or is dreaming of new possibilities a way of life?“
“How will I get back to Paris? Or will Paris become a memory that nothing else can ever top?“
I’ve never been in this place before, a place where I could check an insane dream off the list, and pat myself on the back for a mission accomplished. Before now it was always something I was working towards, and not having reached it was the common thread to all my efforts, the thing that gave me focus. It makes me wonder if dreams are only ever supposed to stay dreams, since turning them into reality is just another way to kill them, only this time it happens after the finish line…a natural cause of “dream death.”
On the other hand…well shit, if I’m not going to strive for something bigger and better after the best experience of my life, then why am I even here?!
Now is the time to have a sense of humour towards this limbo, now is the time to put my restless energy into writing new things, and now is the time to give my books some marketing love, in the hopes that new readers will find them.
Along the way, I’ll figure out what sort of job I’m willing to take to keep the bills paid, and meanwhile I’ll keep dreaming that one day writing will pay ALL the bills, and leave something extra for fancy indulgences like twenty-five-euro conditioner (I forgot my twenty-five-euro conditioner in Paris; I’m not sure if this is a “white-people problem” since I’m brown, but I think about that bottle often with nostalgia and regret…it made my hair smell like coconuts, and during my nighttime frolics in Paris I’d get compliments about it from various members of the male population).
Meanwhile, the name and theme of this blog will remain the same, since my memory is full of Parisian moments. I’ll continue to post those moments on the blog, which will help me figure out just how they’ll fit into a non-fiction book…i.e. the places and the STORIES behind the places, because you don’t usually get the stories in a typical Paris guidebook.
So I’ll see you soon, or as they say in Paris “à bientôt!” Before I go though, I wanted to mention a talk I did at the Tedx Youth conference this past Saturday. I was so honoured when they asked me to speak, and whereas here I discussed the aftermath of a dream, in the talk I focused on everything it took to get to Paris, in the hopes of inspiring today’s youth (when I say “youth,” I wish I was talking about eight-year-olds, but in reality sixteen-year-olds are considered youth when compared to my very adult age. This is horrifying; now please excuse me while I put on an extra layer of “Oil of Olay” for tonight). The talk should be up on YouTube before the end of the year, so make sure to come back as I’ll definitely share the link!
Here is a preview of the Ted Talk, with some quotes of things I actually said. This isn’t meant in that traditional way where it’s totally weird and “delusions of grandeur-ish” to quote oneself, but more to give you an idea of the weird things I actually said while onstage in front of 250 students. Below that is a picture of me giving the actual Ted talk, complete with “suspended in a jpeg” hand-motions. It all feels rather old-fashioned in a world of animated GIFs, but it’ll have to do for the time being.
Things I actually said in a Tedx Talk…
“…Angelina Jolie’s right leg had a blog at a certain point…there is even a blog called “Is Ryan Gosling Cuter Than a Puppy?“ which is obviously a resounding YES, so I’m not even sure why we need a blog to debate that.“
“And then the inevitable buyer’s remorse, when you realize the butt pockets don’t even align to your actual butt.“
“When you’re scared about pursuing your dream…you must book non-refundable things!“
“A restless soul is the number one catalyst for change.”—>okay, that one is actually a good reminder for me, I should listen to myself more often (“delusions of grandeur alert!” CODE RED.)