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:


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.


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.

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, 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].


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.


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



Pride 2015: Loving my gays

25 Jun

gay prideI have known and loved gay men ever since I can remember. A man my father worked with when I was a wee child was gay – this was in the early `70s when being gay was still hush-hush and freshly decriminalized in Canada – but I had no conception of sexuality. Sid was flaming and living a lie, married to a woman. As a kid, I could neither put my finger on what it was about Sid that I was sensitive to, nor did I have the language to describe my perception of him, but there was something extra special about Sid: he had a lisp, a limp wrist, and he loved martinis.

What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.  – Tennessee Williams

In high school, I made friends with Jay, a fun, gentle gay man who I am still friends with. Jay was just Jay and his sexuality was not an issue – in our social group at least. Trying to deal with high school in the 1980s when homophobia was rampant and homosexuality very misunderstood, I was grateful for people who broke the rules and weren’t afraid to be themselves.  Jay was one of these; he was just himself and we couldn’t understand why people made such a big deal out of his sexuality – especially at a time when the people who teased him wore horrible mullets and listened to crappy bands like REO Speedwagon!

He took me into the clandestine gay bar in our small prairie city, a place very close to one of the larger and popular hetero bars. It was a secret place – we had to be signed in by members of the club and buzzed in through the locked door. At that time, being gay and being a gay ally was dangerous, so precautions had to be taken. But it was a wonderful time; Jay told me about his exploits with older men who recognized his state of being even before he did. It was a time of discovery about ourselves and our tastes; our rebellion, our character, and our desire to be ourselves. Through Jay, I learned to have fun and be true to myself no matter what people said about me.

Before you criticize queens, fairies or someone who acts ‘too queer’, consider where we’d be without them. -Ken Hanes, The Gay Guy`s Guide to Life

My first job out of high school was at a Canadian department store where I worked in the menswear department. This is where I met Greg. He was always neat, tidy, and smelled good. Greg was older than me and lived with his boyfriend in a gorgeous apartment in an old building with white pillars in the front. They introduced me to lots of older professional gay men who immediately accepted me for who I was, and I was completely taken by their open minds, their zest for life, sense of fun, and of course, their good taste.

Life can throw tough circumstances at us, but when you’ve got a life-long friend – especially a gay one – you know that you’ve been blessed. Greg and I have been through good times and bad together, still going strong 30 years later. He’s easy to talk to and laugh with; we have common loves like clothing and design. We don’t live in the same city any more, but no matter how much time has passed since we’ve been in contact, we always pick up where we left off. Greg taught me that no matter what a person’s sexual identity, we share the same joy, fear, and pain because we’re all human.

There’s this illusion that homosexuals have sex and heterosexuals fall in love. That’s completely untrue. Everybody wants to be loved. -Boy George

I spent ten wonderful years volunteering at the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT). I was the first woman in the history of the agency to volunteer for the gay men’s outreach program, where I handed out countless packs of condoms and lube to guys in gay bars and talked about safer sex and social issues. In the beginning, some bars didn`t welcome women but I went in anyway and did my job with the objective of preventing transmission of HIV and STIs, and ultimately saving lives.  I also coordinated the route on several AIDS Walks for ACT to raise money for services for positive men in the community. My time with ACT gave some of my most fun and fulfilling moments, and I gained a deep understanding about the gay experience, gay politics, sexual health, and stigma; being open-minded, how to listen, and how not to judge.

I have no idea why gay men love me, but I would have to assume it’s because they know how much I love the gays! Everyone needs a good gay man in their life. – Chelsea Handler

The bond between gay men and hetero women is a natural match; most of my friends are gay men. I’ve met many fantastic gay men and made friends with some of the more amazing ones who have completely enriched my life. If you ask me, gay men are perfect beings created from the best elements of the masculine and the feminine and the more they are recognized and empowered, the better world it will be. I am very fortunate to know so many gays and I couldn’t imagine my life without them – love you all, darlings – Happy Pride! XOXO

PS – I’m taking July off writing – enjoy the summer!

Dating in the digital age

11 Jun

internet datingSomething came over me a couple of Thursdays ago and I found myself posting my picture on a dating site. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but in this case, it is. I went cold turkey after ten years of what I think I can now say was an internet dating addiction. Since that time, I dipped my toe in the digital dating pool only twice and ran away screaming within days of joining.

The picture I used this time is sort of bright and hazy and I said little about myself outside of my statistics and that I wanted to meet men within 5 km of me. I was astonished to find that within two days, I had 100 “likes” and over a dozen emails from men all over the western world. I felt overwhelmed – this is not what I expected.


Sometimes men will tell me about their time on dating sites and complain that most women don’t answer their emails. I ask them what they write. “Hi,” they often say. A good start, but Hi for what reason? What inspired you to write to her? A girl needs something to go on, fellas!

I got a lot of email and admittedly I didn’t open all of it (including the ones that just said “hi”), but I did respond to the ones I opened and I’m always polite in my exchanges. The very first message was from a gorgeous creature with tattoo sleeves, but he was looking for casual sex—I passed. Later, I had conversations with a couple of interesting artistic types, a guy with cool style and a fun attitude, and brief exchanges with two men from the UK and two from the U.S.

I wrote back to the foreigners to say thanks for the email but they were too far away (sometimes efficiency is more important than romance). The one in Liverpool wrote back to say how much he wanted to express himself to me and all men voiced their disagreement with my choice and said we should get to know each other over email first. I’m flattered, but I’m also practical.

So lonely

After looking at so many men`s pictures and profiles, I started to feel their loneliness, their anger, and their desire to be wanted. Some of the emails I opened begged for attention (I imagined one man literally on his knees), and some men wrote long emails to try to convince me to get involved with them. It made me feel sad; it made me realize just how socially isolated we are from each other.

One man in particular embodied the emotional desolation of modern dating and romance. In his first message to me, this American man sent his phone number and says he’s willing to relocate after one exchange:

HE: Gooday [sic] dear….good to read your profile… you look adorable and down to earth. Would love to know more about you and maybe have a longer conversation with you, to see if we have something in common and to also see if we are going to be compatible…You can send me a text anytime and I’ll be glad to hear from you. (XXX) XXX-XXXX Much love, _____

ME: _____, it’s good of you to get in touch but I’m looking to meet men within 5 km of me in Toronto. Best wishes to you!

HE: Am ready to relocate, if i get the one my heart beats for…and i believe since am attracted to you am ready to do anything just to make the one my heart beats for happy

ME: _____, you won’t believe this, but a guy from Maryland just sent me the same email. I’m afraid I’m not the romantic type and I want to find someone near me. Good luck.

HE: am mostly attracted to you …please don’t do this to me…just give me a chance into your life and see the little love that can make you believe am for real.

HE: just send me your number so i can call or text you as to enable us know each other the better.

It would seem that in the world of online dating, women suffer from the noise while men suffer from the silence.
– My friend, Andy

After only five days, I took down my profile. At the risk of sounding conceited, I had trouble with the amount of attention I received: by the time I deleted my profile, I received 220 likes and there were 27 emails in my box.

Irony of ironies, three of the men I was in conversation with on the website sent their email addresses to me, so I contacted them and guess what? To date, I’ve not heard from one. Reminds me of the last time I attempted internet dating: I met a man, chatted a bit, then set up a date for a Sunday afternoon. He cancelled only an hour before we were to meet. Humans, eh? I guess some people don’t believe they deserve happiness.

Exfoliating without microbeads

14 May
Plastic microbeads in your facial wash go straight down the drain and into the water system.

Plastic microbeads in your facial wash go straight down the drain and into the water system.

I often talk to my clients about using exfoliants to remove the dull dead skin cells that sit on the surface of the skin to keep it soft, supple, and youthful. Exfoliated skin feels better, looks polished, and takes age off a guy’s face. It’s also a great pre-shave step which softens men’s whiskers and lets the razor glide right over. Once guys are on the bandwagon, there’s no turning back.

However, there are massive environmental concerns with some commercial exfoliant products that contain microbeads – tiny plastic beads that are so small that they slip through the water treatment process and end up, at least in Ontario, in the Great Lakes. Tiny bits of plastic in water systems can wreak havoc on our marine environment and ultimately, us. Environmental Defence says that microbeads “are being eaten by fish and birds, which can cause digestive blockages, dehydration, and even death from starvation thanks to stomachs full of plastic. The plastics absorb dangerous toxics that can harm wildlife when they mistake the colourful beads for food”. Since we get much of our drinking water from the Great Lakes, I’ve read that these beads can end up in our drinking water and beverages made with water (i.e. beer!).

It’s an issue that is gaining ground. In March of this year, Ontario MPP, Marie-France Lalonde, introduced a private member’s bill to ban the manufacture and use of microbeads. South of the border, Illinois has passed a state-wide ban on microbeads, and New Jersey, Colorado, and Wisconsin are in the process of banning them too. Back in 2012, The Guardian discussed the global effects of microbeads in the oceans and said that “the [beauty] industry needs a reminder that an ecosystem driven to the edge will not be productive”. Happily, CBC reports that “L’Oreal, the Body Shop and Johnson & Johnson all committed to phasing out plastic microbeads by 2015, and Proctor & Gamble said it would do so by 2017.” This is wonderful news on many levels.

Natural alternatives

We don’t need plastic beads to keep our skin smooth – there are lots of natural alternatives. For instance, I recommend a pre-shave facial cleanser from Bread & Butter men’s skincare line which uses biodegradable rice flour granules as the exfoliating agent.

A friend who sees a naturopath uses plain old baking soda mixed with water to make a paste and uses that on his face to exfoliate his skin. He uses this very inexpensive and environmentally friendly exfoliant once a week; his skin looks clean and polished and he says it feels great.

Some people will turn to drug store exfoliant products that contain things like broken nut shells or fruit pits. Natural, yes, but these are somewhat harsh on the skin because the pieces of shell or pit are not rounded, and pointy bits of hard shell rolled over the face can damage the skin. Better alternatives are found at neighbourhood health stores that carry different exfoliant products, or check the multitude of online suggestions for natural facial scrubs.

For guys who want to take it a step further and give their whole bodies a good exfoliation, Janet Perry, a Certified Holistic Nutritionist™ in Calgary, offers her own recipe for an inexpensive DIY sea salt body scrub for the shower (not to be used on the face):

1/2 cup good quality oil such as almond, jojoba, avacado, olive, or grapeseed

1 cup sea salt (if your skin is sensitive, substitute sugar for salt)

5 – 15 drops of good quality (i.e. organic, therapeutic grade) essential oils like lemon, lavender, peppermint, or rosemary oil

1.  Put the sea salt (or sugar) in a glass bowl.
2.  Pour in the oil and mix with a wooden spoon.  The texture should be moist enough to hold together; if the mixture is too oily, add more sea salt.
3.  Add 5 – 15 drops of your favourite essential oil, and combine well.
4.  Transfer to a sterilized glass jar and store in a cool, dry place.

Also check out exfoliating gloves and towels from places like the Body Shop that you can soap up and use like you would a wash cloth. Feels great but be gentle exfoliating around your privates, gents.

It’s not much of a sacrifice to make a change from plastic microbeads in commercial facial exfoliants (and toothpaste and body wash products); you’ll be more natural, find more money in your pocket, and you won’t add to the water pollution problem that currently faces us.

Click here to send a letter of support for Ms. Lalonde’s bill to Glen Murray, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and make the push for banning microbeads stronger with your voice.