Standard party conversation, or perhaps late night talks under the stars, or stoned moments of clarity: if you could download any skill like they do in the Matrix, what would it be?

Some people need time to think. They either haven’t thought of their answer before or perhaps they’re searching for the answer that will make them seem the most… intellectual? Or the most virtuous? Or just the most. These people eventually come up with answers like “infinite patience” or “the answer to ending world hunger.” Which makes them sound much more like a contestant in a Beauty Pageant than having their desired effect.

Other people have quick answers. And I would be of the that category: Guitar.

“But Rebecca, guitar is something you could pick up and learn at any time.” And to that I would say, you are right. But then I would present to you my 15 year-old acoustic guitar that I have had re-strung 3 times by three different men, all of whom I had a crush on. I would follow it up by saying when I was 16 I took a few lessons, and then again when I was 25. And every year it appears on my list of new years resolutions and vision boards acting as a regular reminder that I have been failing at this goal for fifteen years.

Like I said, you’re right, I could learn guitar. But then I’d have to learn guitar. And I don’t want to learn guitar. I want to be able to play guitar. I want to go over to a girl’s apartment for the first time, see a guitar that happens to belong to her roommate, pick it up and play a few chords. She’d melt. I’d shrug and put the guitar down. Fire would ensue. And I don’t mean to say I’d like to be able to play guitar so I can get some, although yes. What I mean is that I want to be able to play guitar for the social benefits. Music is universal. Tell me you’ve never been envious of the person with the guitar around the campfire? If you haven’t then it’s because you were THAT person. Heeding requests and controlling the vibe of the evening, all eyes on you waiting to fulfill their individual musical desires. I wonder how that feels? Is it a partnership? Are you every bit as focused on the people listening as they are on you?

To the people concerned about what their answer says about their character, I feel you. Not being consumed by what others think of me is a day to day struggle. Let it be known that I don’t judge you. So when you say, “I’d want to download the ability to perform any surgery so that I could heal the world” the most you’ll get from me is a knowing smile.

Then I’d follow that up with, “I’ve been thinking about learning the guitar, any chance you know how to play?”

Ingredients:

1 cup English Breakfast Tea with unlimited hot water top-ups to stay caffeinated
20 oz of Water in enviro-friendly water bottle that sends the message that you are a nerdy, strong feminist – pretentious peacocking
1 Bic Pen
1 Notebook with quote that makes you feel equal parts generic and accountable
1 Coffee Shop that has private restrooms because all that caffeine is going to go RIGHT through you
1 set of Headphones because the coffee shop playlist has too many recognizable songs that distract you from writing

Substitutions:

1. Substitute the Tea for Coffee

2. Substitute the Notebook and Pen for a Laptop (Note: this may result in decreased productivity due to: (1) lack of generic and yet TRULY inspirational quote, and (2) easy access to distractions like social media and online shopping carts. Both can lead to an underbaked script).

3. Substitute the Coffee Shop for Park Bench, Library, Subway, Home Office (Note: Home
office may have increased distractions like cats, laundry, and/or a bookcase that totally needs reorganizing this second because who could get any writing done with the chaos that is THAT shelf?! This may also lead to a Pinterest board full of other beautifully baked scripts and an accompanied self-loathing due to how much of a stupid procrastinating shitty script baker you truly are).

4. Remove Headphones all together. (Note: Be wary of uninvited conversations from other coffee shop (or library or subway) goers that may cause an allergic reaction resulting in red face, rapid heartbeat, twitchy eye, and an urge to shout at a stranger
because SERIOUSLY, don’t they know you’re writing the script that is FINALLY going to let the world see how amazing you are and that you’re the writer Hollywood has been waiting for and this script of yours will probably also cure world hunger and save the planet and that their trivial conversations about how their husband just doesn’t get that women prefer romance over porn IS LITERALLY KILLING THE FUCKIN’ PLANET!?!

Directions:

Mix all ingredients.
Repeat everyday until the script is done. Then re-bake script starting from the very beginning over and OVER until you’re certain it can’t be baked any longer.

Congratulations! You’ve just baked a First Draft.

Bake time: ~3 months to 3+ years… with no assurance it will actually ever taste good.

On my list of attractive traits in a partner, I have always been adamant that humour is the most important. Yes, that’s what everyone says because no one wants to label themselves vain and say looks take priority. But for me, it’s the honest truth. I need to laugh more than I need most things, like sleep, chocolate, heck even sex. In terms of comedy, the bar isn’t that high. Some of the deepest laughs I have ever experienced were over farts. Even now, I find the word fart hard to say without laughing. So finding a person that can make me laugh above everything else should be easy. Here’s the problem: often times it’s hard for me to differentiate between comedic genius and socially awkward.

When I see a guy whose comedic timing is slightly off, or who tells a joke that no one laughs at, or who uses obscure references that I need to Google to understand, I instantly go weak in the knees. “But Becca, in terms of comedy, these are all bad qualities!” I hear you. And objectively, I completely agree. But hear me out. It doesn’t compute in my brain that someone could have made it this far in life with such a terrible sense of humour. Thus I make the only conclusion that seems rational: this extreme awkward comedy MUST be “a bit.”

The person in front of me is now the funniest person I have ever met. I watch as they fail time and time again to make others laugh while I do my best to contain my hyena-like cackles. “They’re doing the I’m-not-funny bit again.” Priceless.

I begin to wonder what living with such a character would be like. The promise of non-stop laughs gives me the courage to ask this individual for their number. This is usually where things take a turn for the worse. What is supposed to be an adorably funny and stimulating back and forth banter is instead more like pulling teeth. I find myself re-reading messages searching for wit. I wonder how someone can be so funny in person and so flat via text. I consult my friends for advice and they tell me the person sounds like the type to live with their parents by choice. Could that be apart of the bit? Maybe they’re method like Sacha Baron Cohen? What if this is all a movie and I’m the leading lady?

I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is I am the leading lady of my life. The bad news? There are no cameras, this isn’t a movie, and more importantly: it isn’t a bit. This person is just awkward. And that’s totally okay. They’re good people. They’re just not what I thought. Not the fantasy my brain allowed me to think they were. Our text message communication ceases.

Later, I’ll run into one of their buddies at my best friend’s party and learn that said individual stopped messaging ME because MY sense of humour didn’t jive with theirs. Pardon me? I’m the one who isn’t funny? OH! It was a never a bit, their comedy was just so advanced that it went over my head! Hearts form in my eyes as I pray for the opportunity to run into them again and rekindle our romance. My best friend slaps me. Right. I was doing it again, wasn’t I? I’ll just be over here, forever searching for my Rowan Atkinson in a world full of Mr. Beans.

People have long lists of things they don’t approve of being done in public and many of them centre around indecent exposure. You shouldn’t pee in public. Though people do. Don’t whip out your dick in public. Though they do. Sure going topless for females is legal in Canada but still don’t do it. And we generally don’t. (Which makes me sad but let’s save that for another day). No shoes, no shirt, no service. You must stay covered up at all times.

On top of that are the distasteful conversations. Don’t swear, there are children around. Stop talking about your penis in this coffee shop. Your bartender is not a therapist, your problems are boring and tragic. Mom, stop singing in the checkout line, it’s embarrassing. That one might just be for me. But the list of taboo topics in public goes on and on. Which raises the question, why oh WHY do aestheticians think it’s okay to give me dating advice while they pluck stubborn hairs from my labia?

It’s as if you clear the threshold of whatever hair removal room you choose and suddenly social norms no longer exist. You’re allowed to be naked. In fact they prefer it, because that blue paper thong they give you to calm your bashful nerves really just slows them down. Now you’re naked on the table with all your bits exposed save for the small section you’re able to keep covered with the supplied hand table. They throw on their protection goggles if it’s laser or gloves if it’s waxing and get to work. The lavender room atomizer and sounds from the ocean do little to relax you, so you close your eyes and try not to focus on the heat of the laser and murder-rationalizing pain of the wax strip.

“You’re very beautiful, do you have a boyfriend?” Your eyes shoot open and you wonder if she is referring to your face or your pussy. “Thank you, and no.” She launches into a speech about how unfortunate this is and then starts describing all the avenues to getting a boyfriend that are really quite easy if you just try. “My boyfriend first messaged me on Facebook saying I was the most beautiful woman he ever saw, it was so sweet. We started talking and then eventually met up and now we’ve been together for three months. Do you ever reply to guys when they message you on Facebook?” Hell no. “Um… no?” Apparently I’ve been living my life all wrong.

“For your full body laser service today, we’re doing arms, legs, armpits, and Brazilian, correct?” Except read that as if the woman speaking has a thick Russian accent. “Yes, and areolas.” She looks back shocked and appalled. “No, no, no, no, no. Breastfeeding.” Shit, as if getting my nipples lasered wasn’t discouraging enough. I already get it from my parents, my friends, and society, but now YOU want me to have a baby too? “It’s okay, I don’t want to have kids, also I’m pretty sure it doesn’t harm my milk ducts should I change my mind.” She winces. “Seriously, it’s fine.” Begrudgingly she wipes aloe on my nipples and mumbles something in Russian that I can only assume is a prayer begging for forgiveness for her part in my shameful choice.

It makes me wonder if the topic hadn’t come up organically or I had asked her, “do you want to breastfeed some day?” how SHE would react? Or to the other woman, “you’re very beautiful,” I’d say as I pull my butt cheeks apart so she can remove the hair from around my anus. What reaction would that get? I imagine it would sound much more like an inappropriate flirting technique than pleasant conversation. Basically, if you’re naked on a table, at a time when you’re the most vulnerable, it’s open season on life advice. But don’t you dare ask the aesthetician anything about her life because she is wearing clothes and it’s hella inappropriate to be that intrusive when the person isn’t naked too!

Continued…

“So you just get as much free beer as you want?” I ask. “Not exactly,” you reply and then you launch into the intricacies of the credit system followed by, “would you like some?” If I was being honest I would tell you I don’t like your beer all that much. If I was being honest I’d tell you that I’ve actually never sat on someone’s face and if you asked me to I’d be confused by which direction I’m supposed to be facing.

We arrange a day for you to swing by and drop off a six-pack. Only our second time meeting in person but with all the photo-swapping, joke-telling, and secret-sharing, our relationship feels much more intimate. I tell you my street address and you spit back my postal code. “Stalker much?” I say, to which you reply, “I used to live in that building.” Our love story according to Nora Ephron would start with a montage of all the times we missed each other before we met. Her version would also paint me much less like a home-wrecker than you tend to make me feel.

I find you waiting in the lobby holding the six-pack. I extend my hand and go in for a handshake to ease your philandering nerves. You handoff the beer and skip the handshake. “Wanna come up?” In my apartment, I have the time to take you in. You’re every bit as attractive as I remember but I do my best not to let that show. Despite the safety of you having to get back to work and me having a roommate, you are still cautious to maintain a great distance between us. I’m not a predator. I won’t jump you. Those feelings that you’re visibly wrestling? They have nothing to do with me. Though I like having you in my space, I don’t like the stench of guilt that you brought with you. I have to get to my job and you should get back to yours. You offer me a ride. I decline.   I want to be in your car. But more than that I want to be in your heart and right now, I can see, all I am is in your fantasy. After you leave I look around my apartment which now resembles a dingy motel room with drawn blinds and dim lighting. I vow to keep our meeting places neutral because that’s more important than vowing to respect myself.

We go see Iron Man 3. You preface the outing by saying “no touching” as if I’m an animal you need to cage. You don’t understand me at all. I want to be with someone who can’t wait to be next to me. Not someone who has to send me ground rules. I should’ve backed out when I read that message. But I suppose if you being married wasn’t the line, then you being an asshole wasn’t going to be it either.

Our emotional affair has continued long enough that it’s time for you to swing by my work again. We make eyes at each other while maintaining discretion. It’s fun and sexy and I remember how it was before you were married. Or rather, before I knew. You’re done your work and you leave. You take the rose-coloured glasses that veiled our relationship with you and I see the reality of the situation. “I can’t do this anymore,” I text. And I work the rest of my shift with equal parts confidence in my resolve and mourning for the loss of you. I do my cashout and check my phone. “We should probably talk about this in person.” My heart pounds. Another text, “Here.” I consider heading straight for the exit but my curiosity keeps me there. I plead my case. You understand. You plead yours. I understand. We share a drink and agree to be friends. Friends? Yes, “friends.” Look at us being adults. We say our goodbyes. The hug lasts too long. It says anything but “friends.” The movement we made seemingly erased in one silent moment of contact. It was electric. It was tragic. Despite that, we respect our mutual decision and maintain distance. I have an affair with an Irish man that feels like something from a movie. I live, I laugh, I love, and I try not to beat myself for that one time when I fell for a married man. I feel good.

“I’m moving out.” There it is again. That ominous glow from my cellphone. But this time it isn’t bad news. You follow it up with apologies for being a stranger and for all the times you may have put me in a shitty position. You left your wife? Am I the exception to the rule? I celebrate by drinking one of your beers. I still don’t like it. And now I feel the freedom to tell you that. I can have an opinion. I’m no longer scared of turning you off because your separation is the ultimate declaration of being very much turned on. The emotional rollercoaster our tryst has taken is finally coming to an end. You send me a photo of you and some friends that helped you move. I send you a selfie of me celebrating.

The next day I check-in. No response. You must need space so I give it to you. The day after that, “everything okay?” and still nothing. I get confused. “Did I do something?” Silence. I read back through our message history to verify that you leaving your wife wasn’t something that I dreamt up. “I’m getting a little worried. I understand you may need space but at least tell me you’re okay.” Nothing. In an effort to ward off neediness I delete our message history and your contact info from my phone. You’ll come back to me when you’re ready. But you were never going to be ready. All along I kept telling myself that this wasn’t about me. I wasn’t the one doing something wrong. This was about your feelings for your wife. Turns out it wasn’t about her either. It was about another woman. The one that you now had permission to be with after my affection sparked in you the promise of something more than a loveless marriage. The one that I learned about from a friend of yours. The one that proved to me I wasn’t the exception to the rule. The one that… the one.

Epilogue

I purposely don’t grab a basket at the grocery store to manage my spending so all I can buy is what I can carry. Arms full I make my way to the cash and choose the shortest line. My body reacts to the man in front of me before my brain clues in. “Mmm… cute,” I think, as I begin to unload my items on the conveyor.

“Hey!” you say with warm familiarity. The woman next to you turns to see who you’re addressing. A moment of confusion and then everything snaps into focus. My smile fades. Hey?! HEY! FUCKIN’ “HEY?!”

“HA!” I blurt out as I retrieve my items and head to another line. I keep my back turned to you. I want so badly to know what lie you are concocting to explain to your lady friend why a woman she doesn’t know would react to you in that way. I look back long enough to see her mouthing “OHHHH” and staring in my direction. I’m certain whatever you just said to her was unfair to me. And though that should make me mad, it actually makes me happy. Happy that I am not that woman. Happy that I am not with a man who lies about his indiscretions. But most of all happy that I never sat on your fuckin’ face. Either facing away or towards your body. Like seriously, am I supposed to pop-a-squat facing your head or rest my knees against your shoulders facing your feet? I just don’t get the mechanics!

I’m cleaning behind the bar when you appear. “Devon said I could come clean the lines.” Your blue eyes offend me and yet I cannot look away. “Did he? Well I say you can’t.” Playful with my game, you turn away “okay, I guess I’ll go.” Your ponytail stares me in the face. “Sweet ponytail, though” I say. The tattoos peaking out from under your shirt accent your arms in a way that starts a pulse between my legs. “I was kidding, you don’t have to go.” You turn back and introduce yourself “I’m [generic boy’s name].” Those eyes again. My cheeks are prone to giving me away so I move my gaze to your lips that lay buried beneath a wealth of facial hair. I bet you’re a soft beard kind of a guy. I hope to find out. You adjust your wayfarers and get to work behind the bar.

At first glance you tick all the boxes of hipster bad boy and I wonder, am I one of those girls? Is this the kind of guy I like or did society tell me that’s who I should like? For a second I thought I had a choice, but the heartbeat in my loins reminds me that I don’t. I find Devon. “Where did this guy come from?” He fills me in and I blurt out, “I want to sit on his face!” Devon executes a real life spit-take. Did I just say that? He urges me to tell you as we both steal glances in your direction. You go about your business: beer. And I go about mine: you. And then all of a sudden, you’re gone.

You know that friend that can find your crush online just off his hair colour? That’s me. And I find you, but only on twitter. Sure “wanna grab dinner?” satisfies the then 140 character limit, but it’s public. I decide on a callback, “sweet ponytail” I tweet. And a follow. You take the bait. “Sweet job finding me on twitter.” And a followback. With direct messaging then possible, things pick up speed. What follows is a laugh inducing, cheek reddening barrage of jokes, memes, and tell-me-mores. I don’t know what the man of my dreams is like but you have to be close. Am I close to yours?

I remember when it happened. I was at the Black Bull playing pool with my best friend. Or rather, I was messaging you and was periodically interrupted to take a shot. We are bonding over our shared love of Hot Tub Time Machine when I quote the movie, “do you have girlfriends? Hot ones? NO. You have boyfriends. Gay ones.” Though not a direct quote, I rework it so that is allows me to ask the question. The question everyone always wants to ask when they meet someone in a non-dating environment. The question which had an answer that should have been obvious after all of our talking. I know your answer is no, but I want to hear you say it.

“A wife actually.” Ummm, pardon me? My heart sinks. Another message, “you?” And without missing a beat, I reply, “yes I have a wife and she’s definitely a gay one.” I let you off the hook. You’re welcome. Now instead of having an emotional affair with a woman, you are simply making a lesbian friend. I wonder, do you feel lighter? Does my apparent homosexuality bring you solace? Our banter continues as if uninterrupted by the talk of significant others.

Some time later, maybe a week, you bring it back up, “do you really have a wife?” That’s when I had my answer, but not to my initial question. Whether or not you felt lighter I may never know, but I did now know that you were disappointed. Well, we had that in common. I take a deep breath and decide to go with honesty. “No. Let me put it this way, the first time we met I told Devon that I wanted to sit on your face.” I’m not looking for praise, I’m not looking for pity, I’m not even looking for an answer from you. But I get one. “Oh. For the record, I’d love for you to do that.” Fuck, fuck, fuck! Fuckity, fuck. FUCK! You didn’t let me off the hook.

to be continued…

An ex of mine was a bit of a self-proclaimed renaissance man. Sometimes it was fascinating like when he could accurately predict if a person’s parents were still together based off a few random questions. Times like those, it was like dating Sherlock Holmes. But other times, like when he’d correct my pronunciation? That’s when it was like dating Ben Stein (just in case that’s appealing to anyone, no judgment, but I meant it in a bad way). Those are the times when I would clench my teeth so hard, two veins would protrude from my neck. I’d be thankful I wasn’t born with Cyclops’ optic blast ability otherwise I’d be taking the stand pleading “your honour, I didn’t mean to kill him, my protective glasses just FELL off.” And then I’d tell the jury that though they couldn’t see it through my lenses, I was definitely batting my lashes in a cute and totally innocent way.

Perhaps you haven’t noticed but many people, at least in Toronto, have dropped the “c” out of the word “picture.” So when I ask, “hey babe, can you take my picture?” I sound as if I am asking my boyfriend to grab a pitcher of something (probably wine ’cause that’s how I roll). “PIC-ture. PIC-ture. PIC. There’s a c,” he would say. You know what else there is? A pedantic man making his girlfriend feel stupid for no reason other than to make himself feel better. Was my dropped “c” hurting anyone? No. Did it make me stand out from the crowd or make me seem of a lower level I.Q.? Hell no. Did it give me a complex and make me want to speak less around him? Absolutely.

There’s a famous anonymous quote, “never make fun of someone if they mispronounce a word, it means they learned it by reading.” If I was a betting gal, I’d say I probably learned the word “picture” in grade school from a teacher and not from reading. And somewhere along the way, much like the second “t” in Toronto (re: Turonno), the “c” just dropped out. But the lesson still stands: don’t be a pronunciation bitch. It doesn’t make you look smart, it makes you look like literally the worst person ever. PLEASE stop talking, then go die.

But seriously it’s ba-gel. Like BAY-gel. Not bag-el. You idiot.

Rifling through my “memories & keepsakes” box the other day, I came across a collection of photobooth strips. While many were of me and my ride-or-die best friend, there were an equal measure of me with ex-boyfriends. I looked at one specific set of 4 black and white 2.5 x 1.5 inch squares showing me and one of my exes seemingly in love and all I could think was, “ugh, I look so cute.” Is that weird? Most people would be reminded of that failed relationship and think any number of damaging things like, “you cheating fuckin’ asshole” or “how could I have been so clueless” or even worse, “I miss you.” But, nope. Not me. I feel nothing. Except vanity of course. Seriously though, so cute!

And it’s for that very reason that I never throw photos like these away. In a perfect world, I would be in that photobooth alone and when it got to the fourth photo where we are oh-so-adorably smooching, he’d be replaced by some fierce individual like Idris Elba or Cara Delevingne. Babe. And then the photos would cease to be of me and my ex, but me and my future. DREAM BIG PEOPLE.

In a world with 7.6 billion people, the odds are that I am not alone in this form of photographic memory hoarding. And it goes deeper than just photobooths. Three laptops, each spanning about 4 years of my life from the age of 19, that wreak of exes. Kisses, dinners, holidays, trips. Disposable cameras developed to include a CD copy so those kisses could be immortal. Did I really think we’d be together forever? My pride doesn’t want to let me say yes because it means admitting that I was stupid enough to make the same mistake over and over. But, it’s the truth. And whether it’s considered “healthy” or not, it’s something I will probably never stop doing. My only hope is that the next person is actually the real deal.

DISCLAIMER: If we have ever been in a photobooth together, YES I still have the photos, NO you cannot have them back, NO I will not throw them out, and YES it’s possible that I’ll post them with you replaced by someone more deserving of my time.

Dr. Dre’s 2001. In grade 7, I remember dragging my mother to HMV with the goal of getting the album. I tirelessly pleaded with her to buy me the CD because it’s cool and I’m cool, and because she’s not cool, she could never know how cool it was. Ah, the logic of a twelve year-old. Finally, she gave in. I like to think it was because I was so persuasive but it was probably more because she secretly knew what table I sat at during lunch. We get to the cash and the nice-nice-oh-so-nice man behind the cash looks from me to my mother and back to me then says, “did you know we have the clean version?” Are you fuckin’ kiddin’ me? My eyes drilled holes into his head as he showed my mother where to find the PG album. I felt so betrayed. What gives, dude? Retail workers don’t get tips. And even if they did, joke’s on you, she tips the same no matter what the service is like. Having since worked at HMV for a 3 year stint, I can say with confidence I never showed the same douchebaggery to underage folk. That is until they came the listening booth with five CDs. This isn’t the buffet of music, all-you-can-listen, get the fuck outta here!

Walking proud with my new CD spinning in my discman, I took my usual seat in the cafeteria only to be interrupted by Christianne: self-proclaimed rebel from the grade 8 class. She asked me what I was listening to and when I replied, she yanked the headphones off my head and hit play. Right off the top things get suspicious when Snoop turns into one of those faceless adults from Peanuts and starts talking gibberish, “Da da da da da, It’s mwa-sner-der-fla D-O-double-G!” If you weren’t paying attention or you were say, in a large cafeteria full of 1200 students, that one may slip by you. It isn’t until the song finishes and the iconic words, “EYAT WYERMS EVERYDAY!” hit your eardrums that you truly know something isn’t quite right. Eyat wyerms? Like eat worms? Oh please no, Dr. Dre, not you too. Or maybe Wyerms is an acronym for some new diet of diets spreading through the Hip-Hop crowd and Dr. Dre is getting paid to advertise? Not having heard the uncensored version, I didn’t dwell on it too long. But Christianne knew the original very well. And nearing the end, at around the two minutes and thirty eight seconds mark when Dre reminds gardeners everywhere that they’ve been doing it wrong, she heard it: “HOLY SHIT! It’s the clean version!” She proceeded to run around the cafeteria and tell everyone about my profanity-challenged CD, which had the added sting of her having to point me out when she was met with “who’s Rebecca?”

It sucked. But isn’t that the way when you’re motivated by vanity? Murphy’s Law. I like to think that the spike in censored album sales thanks to yours truly (or maybe thanks to mommy dearest) gave Missy Elliott her inspiration to “Ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht [reh] tup.” It’s all how you look at it. And I’m taking this one as a win. But also, like, fuck you HMV dude.