And men fake it too!

21 Jan

A mist of goodwill, well-being and lazy relaxation temporarily obscures reality. Both sexes may experience a burst of creative thought as orgasm produces a near lightning storm in the right, creative-thinking side of the brain. Biological duty fulfilled, there normally follows a lengthy period of exhaustion, rest, and – frequently – sleep.

Edited extract from O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm by Jonathan Margolis (I urge you to take a look a the link – fascinating piece).

Men. Faking. Orgasm. Three concepts we don’t usually put together, but looking around online to inspire this week’s post, I came across an interesting study about men doing just that in the Journal of Sex Research, read it, and searched for more information.

The more I read, the more I remembered, and I do believe that I have experienced this before. I’m having memories of a couple of old boyfriends and orgasms past that just didn’t have the depth they should have, as if they felt obligatory and forced. Perhaps there is something to this male faking phenomena.

Charlene L. Muehlenhard and Sheena K. Shippee of the Department of Psychology at the University of Kansas, published the findings of their surveys of college students to discover if, how, and why men pretend orgasm and what faking men and women reveal about their social sexual scripts and the orgasms within these scripts in “Men’s and Women’s Reports of Pretending Orgasm”.

Who’s faking and why?

The participants of the orgasm study were mixed gender mostly Caucasian heterosexual students, average age 19. A thin slice of society but a slice carved at a time when a young man hovers around his sexual peak. Given their age, one would think that the guys in the study would be grappling for orgasms, but it turns out that some of them are only pretending to have them. Of the study’s sexually experienced participants, 67% of the women and a surprising 28% of men pretended to orgasm during intercourse, oral sex, manual stimulation, or phone sex.

Most frequently, the reasons behind the orgasmic charades for both sexes were that they were tired and/or wanted sex to end, orgasms seemed unlikely, they wanted to avoid negative consequences (e.g., hurting their partner’s feelings), or to obtain positive consequences (e.g., pleasing their partner).

Because there are always exceptions to the rule, the study’s findings gained new insights: some men used a make-believe orgasm to cover their premature ejaculation; 37% of all participants reported frequently or always feeling pressure to orgasm. One young man in the study faked because his inexperienced  girlfriend didn’t have the right technique to bring him to a full-on orgasm. Others pretended to come because they were “not in the mood” or that they weren’t attracted to their partner and “Just wanted to get it over with.”

The study showed more men than women having been intoxicated when they pretended to orgasm. One male participant reported, “One night after a couple hours of heavy drinking I was talking to this girl on my floor and apparently I was hitting on her. One thing led to another and I started sobering up during sex so I faked to make her go away…. She is unattractive/annoying [and I] wanted to get her off me… when my senses came about and I took my drunk goggles off.” (Beware the booze, boys.)

The methods men used most often to fake their orgasms were moaning or making other sounds, saying that they were orgasming, moving or thrusting faster or harder, freezing or clenching their muscles, and acting spent or exhausted. (Women used more vocalization and heavier and faster breathing.)

Why she faked

Women are quite different creatures as we know, and the women in the U of Kansas study faked for reasons unique to their gender and to their bodies, which to me, drip with social and emotional connotations:

  • More women than men faked because their partner was unskilled;
  • More women faked out of boredom;
  • More women than men faked to get a positive response – i.e. being perceived as “sexy” and to please their partner/boost his self-confidence;
  • Women used orgasm to avoid conflict or explanation and in an effort to keep their partner from leaving or straying;
  • Women frequently mentioned that they faked because they didn’t want to appear abnormal or inadequate;
  • Women often pretended to orgasm to meet their partner’s expectations.
We’ve got our own set of psycho-social pressures to deal with when it comes to sex, but we’re all under pressure and social expectation if we decide to cater to those pressures that may only exist in our mind (and remember, you always have a choice).

Pressure to perform

Our unquestioned and accepted sexual norm is that men always want sex and because of this, should always be able to perform. The study suggests that the myth of the perpetual sex drive, getting an erection, and having an orgasm can lead men to fake an orgasm if they really can’t or don’t want to orgasm, in an attempt to support the myth, perhaps believing that their partner supports (or perhaps expects) it, and might go through with the unfulfilled sex even though they might be tired or really aren’t into it. (This pressure is not reserved for straight men – gay men will be under the same kind of pressure, perhaps a product of living in a penile-centric society.)

This online article describes social influences that pressure men to feel as though they have to come no matter what.  It describes men feeling “a strong need to perform, and this pressure is based on the influence of porn culture, media, advertising, and magazine articles. Bombarded with pornographic images, commercials touting erection-enhancing drugs like Viagra, and magazine articles about how to keep thrusting until she screams for mercy, men are under a tremendous amount of pressure to come hard, come fast, and give their partners orgasms so intense that plaster falls off the walls.”

Muehlenhard and Shippee nodded their agreement with the observation that ‘‘many men appear to feel that it is a refection on their adequacy if the female partner does not come to orgasm.’’ I expect that this could be a heavy load for men who agree with this way of thinking. I’ve personally experienced men chastising themselves for not fulfilling what I think of as a socially-imposed sexual expectation – I certainly didn’t criticize them.

I see absolutely no reason for anyone to take something like that personally; there are so many outside forces affecting sexual performances – our partners could be tired, under stress, hungry, preoccupied, time-constrained, or any other reason under the sun that you don’t necessarily know about. In other words, guys, there are lots of different reasons that your partner didn’t reach orgasm – it’s not necessarily all about you.

Prescribed sexual script

Many study participants mentioned pretending because they did not know how else to end sex. The patriarchal sexual script that the researchers describe is, she orgasms, he orgasms, then sex is over. Indeed, Roberts, Kippax, Waldby, and Crawford (1995) described an ‘‘‘orgasm for  work’ economy of heterosexuality’’ in which the man’s job is to give the woman an orgasm, and her orgasm proves the quality of his work.” There’s that pesky ego again giving a guy extra pressure to perform work he may not have the proper training for – women are complex and so is their sexuality – we’re not all sure how we work!

Luckily for everyone, the sexual climate is changing and is changing rapidly. No longer are women relying on men for orgasm (real ones this time), women are becoming more and more sexually empowered and expanding their erotic horizons. As a matter of fact, in today’s research, I read about Patty Brisben, an amazing woman who has risen from the depths of misfortune to build a wonderful sex-positive women’s toy/party company called Pure Romance.

She explains in her article, Why You Shouldn’t Fake An Orgasm, that “by faking pleasure, you’re not only neglecting your needs, but you aren’t being honest with your [partner]. Let’s face it, if you’re faking in the bedroom, where else are you faking? Being in a committed relationship is about being open enough to communicate about all aspects, especially the tougher topics that may embarrass you like issues regarding your sexuality.”

I can honestly tell you that I do not believe I’ve ever faked an orgasm. What I like to do instead is be honest with my partner and tell him where I’m at and communicate what I need. I’m not sure why people go to all of the trouble of putting on a performance when they could just as easily come out and say “Sorry, it’s just not going to happen tonight” or “I’m too tired”, then be asleep and dreaming in the arms of Morhpeus faster than you can z-z-z-z-z…

 

Resetting the body for 2016

7 Jan

Hey, it`s 2016! Welcome to reseta New Year! How much did you indulge over the holidays and how do you feel now?

Many of us don’t feel so good come January – there were lots of parties, lots of heavy, sugar-laden food, and of course, lots of alcohol over the holidays. Though I like being on holidays, I don’t celebrate them and this takes me out of the holiday indulgences for the most part, though this year some friends invited me to Christmas dinner which was very tasty but left me ill. I ate so many carbohydrates and (vegan) protein on the 25th that I understood how a boa constrictor would feel after swallowing an entire antelope; I felt as though I drank a 40 of vodka and was stinking drunk, except I was drunk on food – it was one of those moments when I proclaimed, “I’ll never eat again!”

For me, it was just that one meal, but for others, this may have happened daily for a couple of weeks so you may not feel so good. The time has come to clean out your system and renew your energy.

Cleanselemon

I talked to Janet Perry, a Certified Holistic Nutritionist™ and reiki master in Calgary, about cleansing the system after the calorie-laden holidays. She offered some good advice beginning with a tip for our morning routine: drink a glass of warm water with the juice of half a lemon before you have anything else – this kick starts the metabolism and helps to detoxify the liver (I’ve done this for several mornings so far and I like the results).

She devised a gentle and simple cleanse that is available through her website, with the focus on clean eating (for those of you interested in buying a cleanse kit, I recommend First Cleanse by Renew Life which I have tried and really liked). Janet’s cleanse means eating sensibly and paying attention to what you put into your mouth: no gluten, no processed foods, no processed sugars, and no dairy.

As a vegan who hasn`t taken dairy products for about five years, I can tell you that I feel cleaner and I’m rarely sick. Janet explains that the human digestive system is not designed to take milk from other animals, and taking dairy products creates excess mucous in the body which lines the digestive tract – this layer of mucous blocks the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, and this can lead to malnutrition (!).

When I switched to veganism, most people were alarmed at the idea of removing cheese from my diet. I liked cheese but found that I lost my taste for it as I moved further and further away from it. Happily, I discovered Daiya, a plant-based “cheese” from British Columbia that is delicious and nutritious!

Eating properly is not difficult but seems to be all about will power and organization. “Planning is essential,” Janet says, “so make sure you take the time to stock up on healthy snacks (a handful of almonds – recipe below) and plan your meals.” Everyone knows that fruit and vegetables are key to a good diet, but many people are low on time, so Janet suggests to go to stores that have an open salad bar and buy your chopped vegetables there to cook in the evening. Good advice for busy people.

Herbed Almonds

  •  4 cups unsalted almonds
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. dried basil, rosemary, oregano, or parsley,or  another herb of your choice, or a combination
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional)

1. Combine almonds and oil in a saucepan or skillet, sauté over low heat, about 5 minutes, stirring often.

2. Transfer almonds to a bowl, and toss with dried herbs, sea salt, and pepper, if using.

3. Allow to cool, then serve.

4. Store the spiced almonds in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Boozealcohol

Don’t forget that water is essential for living and cleansing. Water will flush the toxins out of the body and keep us hydrated.  Water also helps with liver function, and for those of us who tipped a few too many over the holidays, your liver could be in dire need of a flush (apart from drinking more water and eating well, Renew Life also does a liver flush).

With excess booze, the liver has to work harder. The sugar in alcohol (or holiday baking or boxes of chocolates) is stored as glycogen and can be used as energy. However, too much of it will turn into fat. Alcohol does much more than that, according to Men’s Health.  Alcohol obviously messes with brain function and alters our behaviour, coordination, and mood, and it also affects the essential functions of our body:

  • Booze dilates the blood vessels in our face and leaves us red and puffy, sometimes giving “gin blossoms” on the nose;
  • Alcohol affects our muscles because the body cannot effectively repair damaged tissue;
  • Just two drinks a day can increase the risk for atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) by 17 percent;
  • Alcohol irritates the stomach, increases acidity, and can cause heartburn. According to Dr. David Sack, CEO of a U.S. addiction treatment centre, with alcohol use, “harmful toxins and bacteria leak from your digestive system into your bloodstream, prompting a dangerous immune system response that can eventually lead to liver disease and other health problems.”
  • As few as five drinks a week can lower your sperm count, and many men with alcohol dependence has sexual health issues like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.

Exercisewooden figure walking

I had been going to the gym three times a week before the holidays and felt good and strong, but after almost two weeks of laying about, I didn’t feel so great. Moving and challenging our muscles feels good, increases oxygen intake and blood flow, strengthens the heart and lungs, and showers us with feel-good endorphins. Exercise isn’t just good for the body, it also has positive effects on the mind, reduces anxiety, and is an excellent way to cope with stress.

Even if you can’t commit to a full-blown gym regimen, start slow and start walking for 20 minutes a day, or dance a few times a week to your favourite music. Exercise should be enjoyable, not a chore, so find the right activity for you and get to it!

Start the New Year with a cleanse to feel better and detoxify, and start moving to lose the fat you got for Christmas. You’ll notice a difference right away, and in a little time, you won’t even remember swallowing the antelope.

The life of the gentleman

10 Dec

The Perfect GentlemanThis is the third and final installment of the gentleman series, starring Zacchary Falconer-Barfield, founder and
1st Gentleman at London’s The Perfect Gentleman, a UK outfit that teaches men to be gentlemen,  one man at a time.

In the first article of the series, we discussed the things that drive men to want to become gentlemen: to dress smart, feel good, climb the social ladder, and make more money. The second piece focused on women and romance and found that women respond very well to true gentlemen. Knowing that manners, kindness, politeness, and grace are central to the gentleman, and understanding that largely, the world lacks this type of man, I asked Zach some questions about what it’s like to operate in the world as a gentleman – the topic of this final piece.

I know that well-dressed people – not just men – have a much different experience in life than those who do not pay attention to their clothing. For example, there was a time when people used to dress up to travel. If any of you readers have been in an airport lately, you may have noticed that very few people dress to travel anymore and airline line-ups are made up of extremely casual, almost pajama-clad travellers. But what would happen if a flier chose to dress up for his next trip? I remember my Irish grandfather insisted on dressing in a suit every time he flew back to Dublin, and a man I used to know told me that on a trip to Europe, he put on a suit, tie, and pocket square, and was chosen to upgrade to first class.

This should not come as a surprise. In this Daily Mail article about how to be the lucky flier who is chosen to upgrade, the way to success is through your dress: “Airlines want first and business class to look a league above, so make sure you do too… tracksuits and torn jeans certainly won’t further your cause.”

Gentlemen, as a rule, should do better in life. Zacchary cites other perks besides upgrades for true gents: free meals, compliments, and positive comments “all the time”, never mind the attention from women and the respect that comes with gentlemanly ways. Let’s see how else a gent fares in life as Zach answers my last round of interview questions:

LM: Are gentlemen timeless?

ZFB: Yes, absolutely. The core principles of the gentleman are respect, chivalry, and gentility. There is a 1000 year history of the English gentlemen, and a 4000 year history of Chinese gentlemen – the warrior poet, the philosopher warrior.

LM: Is a gentleman taken more seriously?

ZFB: Yes and no. In business and romance, yes, but not for guys who feel threatened by it. Some men have a fear of being less than, and they get defensive around gentlemen.

LM: How do gentlemen make the world a better place?

ZFB: If everyone treated the world, others, and themselves with respect, by golly, the world would be a better place! Part of being a gentleman is about being selfless. People should think about their actions and the repercussions that follow.

LM: Are politicians gentlemen?

ZFB: In the modern political world, it’s very difficult to be a gentleman. A politician has to do so many ungentlemanly things – there is no reason that politicians need to insult each other, there is a high level of selfishness, and they are not as authentic as they should be – there are so many factors that would not make them a gentleman. Modern politicians aren’t gentlemen because the politics of politics and the business of politics is not gentlemanly. If it was, they’d actually think about things. No politician has ever made our gentleman of the year.

Click here for tickets for the Becoming the Perfect Gentleman in Toronto March 5 – 6 2016.

*Happy holidays to all – writing resumes in January!

Gentlemen, women, and romance

26 Nov

how ladies feel about gentlemenWelcome to part two of my interview with Zacchary Falconer-Barfield, founder and 1st Gentleman at London’s The Perfect Gentleman, an operation that seeks to make the world a more respectful, stylish, and gentlemanly place, one man at a time.

Zach and I talked about many things during our Skype interviews, including romance in the world of the gentleman. Perhaps this comes as shock to some of you because romance seems to be something sadly missing from our modern world – Tinder, digital pornography, and internet dating/hook-ups have taken care of that. At least in North America, we don’t make time for romance anymore, but we can pencil in a quick booty call which may momentarily satisfy our needs, but I think will ultimately leave us feeling empty and emotionally frustrated.

The term “romance” may seem old-fashioned to the modern reader, but it is romance that will win our hearts. In fact, The Perfect Gentleman insists that men learn how to romance a woman, to woo her, court her, prove his worth through respect, affection, attention, and mutual enchantment.

Men always want to be a woman’s first love – women like to be a man’s last romance.

-Oscar Wilde

I told/whined to Zach that there are not enough gentlemen in the world and wished there were more.   I asked him if women worldwide ask for gentlemen. “So far, yes!” he said, “I have yet to meet a lady anywhere in the world who does not desire a gentleman.”

The following short video provides a glimpse into women`s desires to have more gentlemen in the world:

Interview

Please enjoy the following interview about gentlemen, women, romance, and sex with Zacchary Falconer-Barfield.

LM: What do gentlemen look for in women?

ZFB: Everyone has different parameters, but most guys, if they’re honest with themselves, are attracted to who they’re naturally attracted to. Look within. Romance is about shared connection. A gentleman should build her self-respect. A gentleman should be able to help the woman he’s interested in.

LM: Does a gentleman understand women better?

ZFB: He should. Fundamentally, a gentleman should be a lover – gentle, kind, courteous, and a fighter in the sense of being a protector, but not an aggressor.

LM: Is there such a thing as a gentlewoman?

ZFB: We call them “ladies”, and ladies abide by the same key principles as gentlemen – respect for themselves, others, the world. Women tend to think more about how they present themselves to the world and there are more resources for them, also, their support structure is different: inclusive, conversational, and supportive. There are more ladies than there are gentlemen in the world because of this.

LM: Do you think gentlemen have more luck with women?

ZFB: Yes.

LM: What about sex?

ZFB: Ha! Between two consenting adults, the gentleman stops at the bedroom door.

The next article in our gentleman’s series will feature a gentleman’s attitude towards the world at large and how he fits into it.

Read part one of my interview with Zach and becoming the perfect gentleman. Click here for tickets for the Becoming the Perfect Gentleman in Toronto March 5 – 6 2016.

Become the Perfect Gentleman

12 Nov

The Perfect GentlemanI was lucky enough to have not one but two two-hour long interviews with Zacchary Falconer-Barfield, founder and 1st Gentleman at London’s The Perfect Gentleman, an operation that seeks to make the world a more respectful, stylish, and gentlemanly place, one man at a time.

The Perfect Gentleman runs courses and events to teach men the art of the gentleman, and includes dressing, how to dance, how to be charming, etiquette, romance, and modern chivalry. North America is fortunate to have the two-day PG event, Becoming the Perfect Gentleman, tour in early 2016 and visit five American cities: Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, with one Canadian date (Toronto). For any of you who have fallen under the spell of Downton Abbey, you will agree that it is high time to resurrect the gentleman and all the niceties that go with him.

Falconer-Barfield explained to me that the gentleman is who he is and what he does. As a child, he spent countless hours watching old movies and was influenced by the most stylish and gentlemanly of gentlemen: Cary Grant, James Bond, and David Niven, among others. He was raised by women who gave him an understanding of etiquette, and he always dressed well. In fact, every Friday is Cravat Friday for our 1st Gentleman.

He explained that there have been centuries of gentlemen, but World War II saw the beginning of his decline. It was a time of austerity that saw the massive loss of life, the rise of women, and changes to the socio-economic world that urged men not to bother anymore.

“It’s been four generations since the war – three moved away from the gentleman and now we’re moving towards it again.” Falconer-Barfield believes that it’s just in the recent past that men have had style ideals to live up to and the social freedom to make an effort. He says that men are being held to a standard again, and cites George Clooney, David Beckham, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Hugh Jackman as modern icons of style and gentlemanly ways.

Please enjoy part one of my interview with Zacchary Falconer-Barfield.

Interview

LM: Do North American audiences/men differ from British audiences/men?

ZFB: Yes. English men think they’re already gentlemen – English women will disagree. North Americans wonder when we’re coming over! The difference between the response to learning how to be a gentleman is that there is no culture of self-improvement in the UK for men; the thought of a “gentleman” is perceived as elitist, but of course this isn’t true. In the UK, it’s immigrants who seek out self-improvement.

LM: Do men in different countries have different challenges?

ZFB: The same challenges seem to be generic across the world – dating, romance, but there are minor cultural differences: business etiquette and style. How do I approach a lady? How do I have a good date? Universal. Style? Cultural differences, but a suit is a suit. Male icons are fairly universal.  Confidence is king.

LM: What drives a man to be a gentleman?

These are general drivers: everyone wants to be better and have better relationships; dress smart, feel good, climb the social ladder, make more money. When men realize what they’re capable of, the world opens up. It’s a kind of enlightenment.

The next article will feature a gentleman’s attitude towards women and romance, and women’s attitudes towards gentlemen.

Click here for tickets for the Becoming the Perfect Gentleman in Toronto March 5 – 6 2016.

Fall 2015: Time for a footwear check

29 Oct

Alright lads, no matter where you are in Canada, you may be experiencing a spray of El Nino/Hurricane Patricia thatAldo cleaner beat the west coast of Mexico this week. The Weather Network says that half of Canada is affected by the storm as of Wednesday, with high winds and heavy rain.

If you have to go out in this stormy weather, you may have dragged out last year’s boots and coats perhaps to find that you forgot what state you left them in when winter turned to spring. I went into the boot closet yesterday to revisit my footwear and resurrect my winter shoes and boots. Some were in a sorrier state than others and some I had to do a little mending surgery on them, some were ready to move on. To keep your feet dry and hopefully warm, it’s a good idea to take some time and inspect your winter footwear and look for cracks and holes in leather and rubber boots and shoes.

The best thing to do is of course, take your damaged footwear to a shoe repair shop and have someone else do the work, but it can be very satisfying to do the work yourself. I had to mend a pair of dress boots that have been so frequently worn that my foot tore through the side of one of the boots. I had an idea of what to do but verified it by looking on YouTube. Have a look at this short video that shows how to mend tears in leather and adjust accordingly for your footwear:

Another good video shows how to replace lining in your shoes (but I recommend that you keep the sound off).

Depending on the material your footwear is made of, you might try a leather cleaner and then follow up with a moisturizer which will make your footwear more supple and prevent cracks (note that cleaning products are sometimes called “sandal cleaners” but are made for shoes and boots). Aldo does a cleaner-moisturizer in one if you’d rather not do it twice.

The next thing to do is polish and protect your footwear. Kiwi is a trustworthy polish line that will help cover the scuffs on your boots and shoes. Apart from shoe care products, Kiwi offers some good tips on keeping shoes in good condition.

Since we’re in the wet season now, the next step is to protect your footwear to repel the moisture that can cause damage. The Tana All Protector is a good one. Treat your footwear with a spray every 8 – 10 wears, their website says.

It’s amazing what a good once-over on your seasonal footwear can do for your footwear, your image, and even your self-confidence – some people believe that self-esteem is reflected in the way one keeps one’s shoes, so keep this in mind.

Further reading:

Declare war on salt

A little gift for the winter blahs

The sloshed galosh

Bitch slap: How do you handle conflict?

15 Oct

Good advice from the archives…

Today’s post is born of a real personal experience I had at a friend’s 50th birthday party. It got me thinking about humans, human emotion, and human behaviour.

During Christmas week, I attended a long, lovely Christmas choral concert with a friend. We left feeling uplifted and calm, and walked through the cool, humid night to the condo building where the party was happening.

The party room was large with pockets of people scattered everywhere. I really only knew the birthday boy and his husband, so my friend and I hung around the bar, vainly attempting to catch up to the rest of the party-goers who had a few hours of celebratory drinking on us already.

I found myself next to a very handsome man who I noticed earlier. He was on his own at the time but I had already seen him with his girlfriend and knew that he was not available. Hands off. No problem. We struck up a conversation and chatted for a while until his girlfriend, quite drunk, appeared out of nowhere.

In uncoordinated drunken aggression at the sight of her boyfriend talking to another woman, she lashed out – the palm of her hand connected with my cheek but she wasn’t able to deliver the stinging slap she intended, instead  pushing my face off to the left. I wasn’t hurt but  I was shocked, and so was her fella.

“What is this?!” she wailed.

The boyfriend and I, stunned, looked at each other in gaping confusion. Within seconds, I moved away from them, he hauled her out, and the party resumed. It was surreal.

Conflict management

I shared a radio interview with communications expert, Ric Phillips, of 3V Communications last year and I met with him this week. I always like talking to Ric because his background in social psychology and coaching gives him an interesting perspective.

During our visit, I told him about the intended bitch slap. We discussed what my options could have been, and Ric said that when conflict arises, there are really only four possible choices:

1.  Do nothing – maintain silence and do not react;
2.  Escape the scene or person(s) to avoid further conflict;
3. Change your attitude because you have a minimal chance of changing theirs;
4. Change your behaviour (see #3).
Note that retaliation is not a suggestion in Ric’s list of conflict management options. I responded with a combination of 1 and 2 for a couple of reasons: one of my friends said that he would have hit back, but I believe that violence begets violence and I would never strike anyone, so there’s that, but also, the woman was intoxicated and this made her emotional response a little more uh, “lively”, and I chalked it up to that. That, plus the understanding that the underlying insecurity issues that the booze brought to life have probably been there for a while and are the root of the outburst.
Jealousy

Psychology Today describes jealousy as

…encompassing feelings from fear of abandonment to rage to humiliation. It strikes both men and women when they perceive a third-party threat to a valued relationship… Conventional wisdom holds that jealousy is a necessary emotion because it preserves social bonds, but it more often destroys them. And it can give rise to relationship violence.

Ric says, “Jealousy is directly linked to a lack of self-confidence,” and of course, he’s correct. Confident people don’t fret over whether their mates are being faithful or not because they trust their partner and their partner trusts them. People in unstable relationships would not feel confident due to the instability of the partnership that co-exists with that person’s lacking self-esteem.

Jealousy is a one-sided, ego-based reaction that begins in self-doubt and can eat away at any of us and sabotage our relationships (if we’re the jealous type, that is – I do not believe that all people are). I feel that the woman in question reacted not to me personally, but to me as a threatening figure to her relationship, and she violently protested. If she were not the jealous type and presumably more comfortable with herself and her relationship, she might have come over, introduced herself, chatted with me a bit to get the sense of who I am, and looked clearly into my eyes to see that I wasn’t out to pick up her boyfriend at all, just making conversation with him. Unfortunately, she made a different choice.

Dramatic jealous scenes can wreak havoc. If you’re the type to get jealous, Askmen.com offers five points to counter jealousy and keep it in check before we do anything we’ll regret:

1. Learn from past experiences: look at how your behavior affected past relationships and use that to help you behave better.

2. Deal with reality: focus on what is really happening, not what you perceive to be happening… Don’t let your imagination dictate the kind of person [your partner] really is.

3. Respect yourself: realize that [he/]she chose you for a reason and there is no need for her to be so easily tempted elsewhere.

4. Get a third party’s opinion: ask a friend to take note of your behavior around your [boy/]girlfriend. It may help you to fully understand the extent of your actions (as well as [theirs]) by getting a neutral party’s perspective.

5.  Set some rules early on: try establishing some general guidelines as to what is and isn’t acceptable for you [and your mate].

Empathy

Of course the news of the slap went on Facebook the next day. A friend called me when she heard about it explained that she had a couple of really good-looking boyfriends in her life, and these relationships were difficult – not because of the men in question, but the women who reacted to them. She said that when they were out at bars, women would step in front of her to engage the boyfriend, and other women actually gave the boyfriend their phone numbers right in front of her. How terrible that must have been for my friend!

I don’t know who the woman was who assaulted me but seeing as though her boyfriend was so drop-dead handsome, she may have experienced other women behaving in less-than-respectful ways too, and when I think about the situation this way, I feel empathy toward her (and him –  I can’t help but wonder how this made her boyfriend feel and how the outburst affected their relationship).

“I try my best to empathize with the other person or people, and I give them permission to be a flawed human, just like me. Through empathy I connect with them and calmly work at resolving the issue, one way or another,” Ric says.

“Empathy is the key to communication. We must try to listen, read body language and see the issue from the other person’s perspective. We do not need to fight, or run away, or apologize, or get riled up with defensiveness. We instead should practice self-control and empathy first.”

Empathy is putting ourselves in another person’s shoes in an attempt to understand where they might be coming from and why they react to situations the way they do. She reacted to me the way she did for reasons only she could (or perhaps could not) understand – I don’t know who she is or what she’s been through and I don’t know what it’s like to date a gorgeous younger man, but it mustn’t be easy. In fact, it probably sucks, or she wouldn’t have tried to maim me. I imagine that a lot of energy is wasted fighting to maintain her status as the woman with the handsome beau, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

I think it would be great if this woman gets to the point of accepting and appreciating herself for who she is so she won’t have to get aggressive when she perceives that someone is out to get what she’s got – i.e. changing her attitude, as Ric suggests – changing her attitude about herself.

A change in attitude will bring better relationships with others and with the self, strengthen personal confidence, and ultimately, it will save someone the shock of being on the receiving end of a bitch slap.

Anti-aging: Alternatives to Botox

1 Oct

syringeWhen I turned 40, my body started to do weird things. Hair growth patterns started to change, my energy levels changed, and most notably, my skin changed. I’ve been blessed with good genes, I don`t smoke, I eat well (I’m vegan), exercise, and I use organic skin products, so I think that I could look a lot worse, but I do see myself age and I understand how people feel once they start to physically and visually change.

I`m certainly not going to judge anyone for wanting to retain their youth – I`m doing it too, but I want to suggest some non-toxic anti-aging options for you to consider when the time comes. Before I go on, know that I err on the side of natural products and services for wellness, so this is my bias. I believe that there have to be better answers to anti-aging than having chemicals injected into the face to paralyze your muscles to keep wrinkles at bay, and that there are natural, effective, cruelty-free alternatives to toxic chemical concoctions that will not further spoil the earth.

Botox

If you look at the official Botox website, you`ll see lots of pictures of youthful-looking, Botox-injected women, and below that, the approved uses:  BOTOX® Cosmetic is a prescription medicine that is injected into muscles and used to temporarily improve the look of both moderate to severe crow’s feet lines and frown lines between the eyebrows in adults. 

Below that, you`ll see a really long list of warnings and side effects: IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: BOTOX® Cosmetic may cause serious side effects that can be life threatening . (Caps and bold text theirs.) Some of these side effects include problems swallowing, speaking, or breathing, muscle weakness, double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids,  and hoarseness. What is particularly interesting here is that these side effects are just the same as the symptoms of the life-threatening type of botulism. This is not a coincidence. Botox is made from a neurotoxin that is produced by bacterium Costridium Botulinum – botulism bacteria. This means that people are having neurotoxins made of food-poisoning bacteria injected into their face so they look younger.

Does this seem weird to you? It does to me. Still, the treatment remains popular for wrinkle reduction. The latest stats I could find were from 2005, when 142,374 Botox injections were given in Canada, and it has been increasing in use since then.

Google “Botox”and the first thing you will see are ads selling it for $7 – $10 per dose. Seems like a good deal, then you may learn how many of these discount shots you’ll need. Apparently, the forehead “could require about 12 to 16 units; frown lines can take 25 to 30 units and crow’s feet need 12 to 15 units per eye (men will need almost double that amount)” according to Canadian Living. Let`s say it costs $900 for a man’s face. If the Botox treatment lasts for 3 – 4 months and you get treated four times a year, that’s $3600 a year for facial injections of botulism bacteria to make you look younger.

Non-toxic age-defying options

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see my client, Dr. Greg Wells, the physiologist and sports television commentator, who offered me a glass of wine. I asked for a small pour and told him that if I have more than one glass of red wine, I feel as though I had ten, and wondered if I had developed an allergy.

”No,” he said, ”it’s the chemicals. There are chemicals in everything now and our bodies can have adverse reactions to them, that`s why you feel drunk after a glass of red.”

The vast majority of commercial grooming products, including skin care, consists of mostly water and chemicals. In fact, most of these mass-produced personal care products are made by chemical companies and our skin absorbs these products when we apply them. Have you noticed how many people now have allergies or sensitivities? The chemicals in personal care products can cause reactions in us like the red wine caused a reaction in me.

If this bothers you, read on. I’d like to introduce you to some options that I have tried myself and recommend.

Natural anti-aging options

Your first line of defense for youthful skin is your skin care regimen. A few years ago, I had a chance meeting with David Brooke, a partner at Skin Essence, an organic Canadian skin care company. David scheduled a demonstration of his products with me and I have been using Skin Essence products since then.

What I like about the line is that everything is organic and is made of natural extracts, oils, and minerals, free of all parabens, carcinogens, and sodium lauryl sulfate (often found in drug store personal care products as mentioned above). Skin Essence products are stored in tinted glass bottles to protect from UV light damage (as opposed to plastic containers which can leach chemicals into products), and their packaging is completely recyclable.

Skin Essence has a lot going for it but the best part is the results. Their line has specific products for dry, sensitive, and aging skin. I use their cleanser, eye serum, and facial moisturizer regularly, and my skin has greatly improved over time. For a woman over 40, this is good news, but what about the gents? One of my clients who leans toward natural products started using the eye serum and facial moisturizer and he’s happy with the results: ”I feel like a movie star every day!” he says.

Facial acupuncture

Facial acupuncture is an uncommon practice and requires extra accreditation. Compared to Botox, facial rejuvenation acupuncture is a non-toxic method of reducing wrinkles and signs of aging, and you`ll still be able to fully express through your face. I made an appointment to see Dr. Hilary Booth, naturopathic doctor at Toronto`s Darou Wellness to check out the procedure. Dr. Booth`s literature states that ”this treatment promotes a more youthful, glowing appearance by encouraging natural collagen production, increased circulation, and improved skin elasticity… and is noticeable after your first visit”. Indeed, my skin was noticeably smoother, tighter, and spongier after my first visit.

After a lengthy interview during the appointment, I lied on the table and Dr. Booth began the process. I had needles of varying thicknesses in my feet, legs, hands, and scalp, and dozens more in my face. Afterward, she gave me a cold compress to close facial blood vessels, then a warm compress to bring the blood back to the face, applied a lovely coconut, vitamin E, and rosehip oil blend, and gave a gentle head and neck massage. It’s a very relaxing treatment that works better on men than women, and the results last longer for men.

Neither Botox nor facial acupuncture is cheap, and like Botox, once is not enough. The first acupuncture  treatment ($200) lasts a mere 24 – 72 hours (I was sad to see my chin droop after a couple of days). After that, Dr. Booth recommends patients come in for 1 – 2 shorter treatments per week ($130 per treatment) for 4 – 6 weeks, then wean down to twice a month, then maintenance once a month. This treatment is not permanent and varies from person to person, skin condition to skin condition, and age, so some form of maintenance will have to continue. Again, men are better  off than women in this case because they have thicker skin which results in fewer facial wrinkles, and men don’t experience any loss of collagen like aging and post-menopausal women do.

If a person came in with deeply-lined skin did the full facial acupuncture treatment and monthly maintenance for a year, they would pay around $3250. Less than Botox, non-toxic, and no side effects; only the treatments take longer.

For anti-aging options, you be the judge.

Nice guys finish last… or do they?

17 Sep

nice guys finish lastNice guys finish last. There is some debate over how this quote came to be, but there is no doubt that it came from a cranky New York Dodgers manager, Leo “The Lip” Durocher (Durocher was famous for arguing with umpires). During the summer of 1946, Durocher`s response to sports reporter, Red Barber`s question, Why don`t you be a nice guy for a change? prompted an answer that would coin the famous line:

“Nice guys! Look over there. Do you know a nicer guy than Mel Ott [NY Giants coach] ? Or any of the other Giants? Why, they’re the nicest guys in the world! And where are they? In seventh place! Nice guys! I’m not a nice guy – and I’m in first place.” 

That fall in the Baseball Digest, Durocher’s quote about nice guys in seventh place was boiled down to last place, and the phrase was born.

So it’s that idea of Durocher’s that nice guys perhaps aren’t tough enough to win pennants or to be in first place that has captured our imaginations and damned nice guys to be unworthy, spineless, second-rate wimps. But is it really true, or have nice guys just given up and accepted the assumption that they’re unworthy, spineless, second-rate wimps?

Nice guys: It’s all about perception

I had the opportunity to speak with First Gentleman, Zacchary Falconer-Barfield, at The Perfect Gentleman in London recently and I asked him if gentlemen, the considerate, polite, chivalric types, have more luck with women. He said that the idea of women being attracted to bad boys is short-term and the appeal of the bad boy disappears quickly. These gentlemen, these nice guys, have a lingering effect and are the ones women want to marry or have long-term relationships with.

Psychology Today article speaks to this. In Do Nice Guys Really Finish Last? Theresa DiDonato says that “until a woman is interested in establishing a steady partnership, she may sacrifice niceness for other desirable attributes”. She goes on to suggest that for short-term partners, women may choose attractiveness over kindness, but for long-term relationships, kindness and warmth will have more importance.

“Men confuse “nice” with “weak” and this is the problem,” Falconer-Barfield says, “Being nice is being polite and respectful; someone willing to compromise. Being weak is lacking in self-confidence, but this is a temporary state of being, and it’s all in your head.”

I’m always thinking about the social prejudices that men live with and from what I can tell, the idea of masculine weakness is associated with the feminine and to be thought of as feminine is a cardinal sin in the world of men (though I’ve never been able to understand why). That pressure to be strong, to be the man’s man, to be the best, to seize the booty is the patriarchal expectation of males and it’s that kind of pressure that seems to sort out the men from the boys, or if you like, the jerks from the nice guys. But this expectation only exists if you say it does; if you don’t, you’re free to be who you want to be.

Who really finishes last?
boring guys finish last

While looking for graphics for this post, I found a meme that really spoke to me: Nice guys don’t finish last, boring guys do.

Nice is always better than nasty, and nice doesn’t have to mean boring. One can be nice and bold, or nice and adventurous, or nice with a sense of humour. Nice guys can have some edge to them, just like bad boys, but they’re probably more present and attentive. Interesting individual characteristics blend well with “nice”, so don’t be afraid to be yourself.

If I created another meme for this post, it would be Nice guys don’t finish last, guys that try too hard do. There are nice guys out there who have the best intentions but cater too much to other people and invariably cast their own needs aside in order to please others. (Here there is a hint of co-dependency here, but that is another topic.) Then there are the nice guys who don`t know how to say no and can easily be taken advantage of by those looking out for their own gain. Nice guys like this run the risk of turning into doormats, and honestly, people don`t respect doormats; they wipe their feet on them.

Scientific experiments discussed in this short video about nice guys finishing first explains that “[f]rom an evolutionary perspective, animals which contain genes that promote nice behaviour are likely to have more offspring. It’s the basic underlying code for altruistic behaviour – you help me and I’ll help you. And ultimately, we’ll all do better! So while some mean, cut-throat, or envious people may temporarily exploit and gain from others, in the long run, not only nice guys, but nice people, really do finish first.”

————

White: Physics and snobbery

3 Sep

primary colours make white lightWhen I was in Theatre school studying design, I got a good rounding of other theatrical tasks and took classes in stage management, performance, and sound and lighting. I learned a lot of things during the lighting class and developed an understanding of light and colour as frequency. I also learned how to make white light out primary colours. White is a combination of all light frequencies, so focusing blue, red, and green lights in one spot gives us white light. This experience was the beginning of my fascination with colour. (For more information on light frequency, see this page from NASA.)

White as a reflecting colour

From a light perspective, if we think about light and how it changes throughout the year, it makes sense to wear either reflective or absorbing colour depending on what season it is. In the spring and summer, there is bright, warm light and it makes sense for us to reflect light away from us which keeps us a bit cooler, while in the fall and winter, we have cool and limited light that we want to absorb to keep the heat in, so we wear darker colours. (A psychological link seems to exist as well, as we mimic the natural world.)

White is sleek, clean, and classic; we can all envision basic white but there are many, many whites, some cool, some warm,  some with coloured undertones. If you’ve ever looked at paint chips to decide on a room colour, you may have been surprised to see just how varied white can be.

types of white

Believe it or not, these are all considered white. Notice the variations between colours. From Benjamin Moore’s 2015 white collection.

White, along with black and grey, are considered neutrals, and will mix well with other colours of the same level of warmth or coolness. Warm-skinned people will do well in warm – red or yellow-tinted – whites (cream, oatmeal, eggshell white), while cool-skinned types look best in cool – blue or green-tinted – whites (ivory, stone, oyster, silvery white). Notice the subtle differences in cool and warm whites below; you may also see that warm whites advance and cool whites recede slightly:

warm whites

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cool whites

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White after Labour Day

The Labour Day argument can be a source of confusion for those of us in the Western world. We’re not truly in autumn until the fall equinox which falls the third week of September, so theoretically, we shouldn’t fret about wearing white after Labour Day. This tradition, once fiercely defended, is not longer a sticking point – many of us wear white into the fall which is perfectly acceptable.

The “white season” is an American concept devised by rich white women after the American Civil War. This sartorial snobbery was created to differentiate between the wealthy and the common; people who could afford multiple seasonal wardrobes and those who could not; white was for those who were lucky enough to enjoy resorts, cottaging, and summer holidays between Memorial Day and Labour Day. According to TIME, wearing white after Labour Day was impractical in cooler and rainy fall weather and by that time of year, it was time to return to the more formal attire of city living anyway.

Modern society likes to break old rules, including the not-wearing-white-after-the-September-long-weekend rule. Depending on where you live, September can still be very hot (it certainly is in Toronto) and dark colours wouldn’t be appropriate – hot weather still begs for light colours even at the end of summer. White should still prevail into the fall when the temperatures start to drop and we can get snuggily in deeper, richer whites that lend an air of class and elegance.

Maybe that pompous when-to-wear-white rule does have a basis: white is one of the more elegant colour options no matter what time of year it is, so go ahead and don’t be afraid to indulge in the classic brightness of white.

What have you learned lately?

20 Aug

school desksWe’re nearing the end of the warm season; that’s right, summer’s almost gone. What did you do? Take any holidays? I was lucky enough to spend a week in beautiful British Columbia where I enjoyed charming cities and looked at the Pacific Ocean every day. I’m going to Montreal next weekend to cap off the season.

One thing I’ve become very aware of is that holidays and hot weather are a good combination to turn us lazy and sloth – not only physically but mentally. It’s easy not to do much on hot, heavy days thick with humidity; this kind of weather can bring about sleepiness, migraines, low energy, and the desire to drink cold beer. Most people agree that it’s okay to let this happen during the summer – it hearkens back to our two months of holidays while we were in school, the two months of bliss that at the time seemed to last forever. Invariably, the beginning of the new school year neared and the pressure to stop having fun and get your nose into a textbook nagged at us. It was depressing and at the same time, exciting.

Like you, I’ve been riding the summer calmness, digging the feeling of relaxed holiday in the air, and not taking much seriously. But a couple of weeks ago, I sensed an unknown stress pressing into my mind. I told a friend about this anxiety and he says he has it too. He thinks it’s because it’s the time of year we’ve been conditioned to associate with work – i.e. school. I think he’s right.

I felt invisible pressure to do something with the autumn looming, but I didn’t know what. Then I received a booklet in the mail from the Toronto District School Board that listed dozens of adult classes that begin in September. I looked through and found many classes that interested me. Yesterday I registered for one and I feel great about it. After a couple of months of working (mostly part time), sweating, loafing, laughing, drinking, and socializing, I’m excited to learn again, to improve myself, to make a commitment to something. To me, it’s like the physical feeling of changing from shapeless sweat pants and t-shirts to fitted, woven clothing.

It’s one thing to take a week or two (or more if you’re lucky) to go away on holidays which chops up the year, but quite another thing to make a commitment to learn something new. I’ve decided that instead of taking a winter holiday in January, I will take another class. Lying on a beach is certainly relaxing, but taking a class is definitely much cheaper (albeit not warmer), and the mental improvements from it will last my lifetime.

Can you imagine who you could be if you made the decision to start learning again?

Learning is fun and a wonderful investment in the mind. It’s also a good way to stop stagnation – let’s face it, as adults it’s very easy to fall into a comfortable rut and to keep on with the tried and true schedule. But this gets boring and boredom can eat away at our minds. Learning is a healthy challenge for us and keeps us humble, but it also means change. Some people are afraid of change, but the thought of it depends on your perspective: when it comes to learning, I think about change as an enhancement, not as anything uncomfortable.

Learning whets the imagination and the intellect and improves confidence; new skills develop and talents emerge. Putting yourself in a new environment to learn with other people is an amazing experience. I can’t wait to take a seat at my school desk on September 9 and let the learning begin!

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

– George Bernard Shaw