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Follow the dress code

2 Feb
At a semi-formal event, don't show up in a t-shirt.

At a semi-formal event, don’t show up in a t-shirt.

I was out at a networking event at a hotel in an upscale Toronto neighbourhood last night. The invitation gave a semi-formal dress code, so I put on a dress and a pair of heels and went on my way.

When I got there, what I saw when I surveyed the crowd of entrepreneurs confused me. Though the dress code was quite clear, several men were in very casual dress. It made me wonder if they came straight from their non-semi-formal work place to the semi-formal event, and didn’t, or weren’t able to pay any heed to the event expectations.

One of these casual men  approached me and inquired about my business. Depending on the person, some men will get really excited because they’re talking to the first woman in Canada to specialize in men’s image, others will look downtrodden because they remember what they decided to wear that day, and still others will outright recoil (possibly out of shame or fear of being judged). This particular man was a member of the business team that put the event together, and he took a great interest in my work.

Of course, he asked me how he was doing with his wardrobe. Normally, this costs money, no different than asking for free legal advice, but I indulged him. I stepped back and took in his ordinary shoes, jeans, and a white knit Henley shirt.

“Well,” I said, “you’re in very casual clothes tonight.”

“Yes, is that okay?” he asked.

“Considering that the invitation says “semi-formal”,  you didn’t seem to pay that any mind.”

“So what is your advice?” he asked.

“Dress for the dress code.”

It’s simple, really. When an invitation gives a suggestion of what to wear so that you are appropriate for and comfortable at the event, follow that lead. Otherwise, it creates confusion in people and probably isn’t that good for business because you’ve entered an event on a rule and broken it. We only get one chance to make a first impression.

When a person is under-dressed or looks as though they have not made any attempt to dress for the level that is expected, it can have a negative impact. A casual look at a semi-formal occasion may conjure impressions of laziness, ignorance, disdain, spite, and a devil-may-care attitude – not exactly a respectable image to project at a business event where you’re trying to sell your services.

The best thing to do is dress for the dress code. It exists for a reason, and your appropriate look will be much more appealing to others – especially in a business setting. Even if you’re still in jeans, take a sports jacket to the event – this will immediately elevate your outfit. Another option is to change your footwear to a fancier, more stylish shoe – this can also up your look.

First impressions are hard to shake. Do it right the first time and heed the dress code.

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Testosterone spikes this season

13 Oct

Ah, the autumn! Crisp air, glorious colours,  the delicious harvest, and look out – the peak of your annual testosterone levels.

More than any other season, the fall seems to have the most birthdays, doesn’t it? A September-born friend of mine jokes about being a “Christmas Party Baby”, but it turns out that there is more to it than a slap, tickle, and one too many cups of holiday cheer.

“Testosterone levels and sperm counts are highest in late fall and early winter… the peak times for human births in the Northern Hemisphere is around August or September – 9 months after the high testosterone levels of the preceeding fall.” (Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers: Testosterone and Behavior).

According to Jed Diamond in The Irritable Male Syndrome,  testosterone levels cycle throughout the year: “Studies conducted in the US, France, Australia found that men secrete their highest levels of sex hormones in October and their lowest levels in April.”

The irritable male syndrome is characterized by a “state of hypersensitivity, anxiety, frustration, and anger that occurs in males and is associated with biochemical changes, hormonal fluctuations, stress, and a loss of male identity.”  Diamond claims that there is a seasonal aspect to the irritable male syndrome that makes men “more irritable when days shorten and there is less light. The decline in testosterone between October and April may contribute to this irritability.”

When I read these two books a few years ago, I was left wondering why it’s taken us so long to start examining men like we do women. As I research further, I have found that male hormonal swings may be more powerful and more prevalent than female hormonal fluctuations, and yet women have been pinned as the changeable, screaming, crying, mood-and sometimes axe-swinging slaves to their monthly hormone changes.

Not only does a man’s testosterone level change throughout the year, it is constantly changing all day and every day – when men go to sleep, testosterone is on the rise hour by hour until its peak upon waking in the morning (if you don’t believe me, gentlemen, think about what you wake up with every day). By the afternoon, the hormone levels off, begins its decline, and by late afternoon, testosterone is at its lowest level – when men are said to be at their highest point of irritability.

Did you know?

  • Testosterone rises in men when they win a competition and falls when they lose (this seems to be the case whether the competition is direct or observed);
  • Testosterone tends to decrease talking and socializing – unless sports or sex are present;
  • Men higher in testosterone tend to be dissatisfied in marriage;
  • Men lower in testosterone tend to have more convincing smiles.

We’re only starting to recognize the complexity of men and the role of testosterone is fascinating, to me at least, in the way it motivates male thinking and behaviour; I think it’s important that people understand this and give a guy the benefit of the doubt because believe it or not, there are some things that men cannot necessarily control.

So fellas, before I end this week’s post, I want to tell you that because your testosterone is rising to peak right now and at any moment you could be at your most virile, I want to remind you to keep yourselves protected to prevent any surprises next fall.

Recommended reading: Effects of Testosterone On The Body

Essential Etiquette

29 Sep

The way we behave is a large part of the image that we project. dining etiquetteOur actions have all sorts of repercussions, good and bad, and knowing how to conduct oneself in different situations can definitely work to your benefit.

The point of etiquette is to be considerate of others and make them comfortable by doing the right thing, the polite thing, the things that make people want to be around us. One of those nice things is the ability to work a dining table with grace and mindfulness of our company.

Bad table manners won’t get you another date

Many people have stories about rude dates that displayed behaviour that put them off. A few years ago, I wrote about social and clothing changes since the 1980s and took my influence from Love Connection, a dating show from that era. On the show, several people mentioned manners being important to them but unfortunately, their dates didn’t always politely come through.

For example, Del talked about her date with Donald and explained what it was like to go out to eat with him: “What was embarrassing was at dinner when Donald licked his knife… then he put his lobster shells on the bread tray, then he reached over to my plate and ate my food, so he enjoyed his and mine.”

Surprise! Donald didn’t get a second date.

Speaking of dates, a friend of mine had a date with a woman who was a friend of a friend. From this familiar association, he assumed that she’d be alright. Things may have turned out differently if she hadn’t arrived at their dinner date drunk and then ate from his plate.

I started seeing a fellow several years ago who I liked but because of his ill-mannered ways, I fled and didn’t look back. On our third and final date, we met for breakfast on a Saturday morning. I remember ordering eggs Florentine that came with some sort of potato on the side. He ordered an odd breakfast: salad and fried eggs over easy.

When the food came and we began eating, I had to look away because watching him shovel iceberg lettuce from a fork dripping with egg yolk into his mouth – that he didn’t close while chewing – was a disgusting sight. I was literally put off of my food. I laid my napkin over my plate and what was left of my breakfast.

“Are you going to eat that?” he asked.

“Uh, no,” I replied.

“Mind if I do?”

I should have seen this coming; the second time we saw each other, he came over to cook dinner with me. I keep dried beans, rice, grains, nuts and seeds in jars on a shelf in my kitchen. I had my back turned to him as we chatted and I cooked on the stove. I turned around at the very moment he was about to toss a handful of sunflower seeds he had poured out of one of the jars (without asking) into his mouth.

He didn’t see me again.

Good table manners might

On a first date breakfast with a different fellow, he caught some food in his throat and started coughing. I beckoned the waitress to bring some water for my friend who cleared the block with a sip of water and appreciated my gesture.

I got a second date and I felt classy.

Bad manners can cast a bad light on your person

I had to meet a client in a shopping mall food court one day. Behind my client was a very large man who I couldn’t help but notice as he stuffed mounds of processed food into his greasy mouth, then stuck a fat, oily index finger into his hole to dislodge the food from the inside of his cheeks.

What can I tell you? It was sickening to watch but I found myself unable to tear my eyes away, like I was looking at a car wreck. The state of this man, what he chose to feed himself with and how he administered it made me wonder what he could possibly do for a living. Without meaning to, his bad behaviour made me question his intelligence and his sense of self-worth.

Good manners make us glow

Polite people always leave a good impression; we tend to like people with good manners because they are considerate of us and that makes us feel good; it seems to me that good etiquette breeds trust in other people.

THINK: How do you feel towards the person ahead of you who let the door slam in your face? The woman on the streetcar who offers her seat to an elderly lady?  The man who allowed you in front of him in the grocery store line up because you had fewer items?

Bad table etiquette = employment suicide

I spoke to Catherine Bell, one of Canada’s premier etiquette specialists at Prime Impressions about manners. Catherine says that poor dining skills are the result of either one’s upbringing (where proper dining etiquette was not a priority), or the rejection of what are perceived as empty rules of behaviour that no longer matter. She told the story of a student who blew his chances at post-graduation employment because of his bad manners:

This particular student won an award for his marketing skills at college. At the awards banquet, someone from the marketing company who was giving this young man the award, leaned over to the professor in charge of the class and said that they would not be hiring him. When the mystified professor asked why, the marketing executive said, “It is because he brings his face down to the food, not the food up to his face.”

The job entailed entertaining clients over meals.

*                                                                  *                                                                    *

Exercising good manners is a choice. Some people shrug and scoff at etiquette and say, “that’s just the way I am” or “if you don’t like me, you can (fill in the blank)“. Fair enough. But if you decide to reject the etiquette, think about what you’re doing and what you could be losing out on, not to mention the lasting impression you’re leaving on other people.

The way I see it, if a person decides not to exercise polite manners, that individual is waving off consideration for others which ultimately reflects how other people see that person. It also seems an indication of how that person regards himself, like the man in the food court. It’s about respect for others and for oneself – if we don’t respect ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to?

Remember, we only get one chance to make a first impression and if we blow it the first time, we may not get another go at it.

Bourbon’s bad rap

31 Mar

My friends treat me well on my birthday and some of them give me gifts of liquid gold. They know I like bourbon and sometimes I’m presented with a bottle of bourbon. Not just any bourbon, good bourbon like Maker’s Mark, one of the best Kentucky bourbons around. It’s strong, no question, but it is lovely with warming caramel notes and a little spice. Makes my chapped winter lips tingle. I’m not a big drinker but I appreciate the complexity of amber liquors and I drink them straight. That’s right, straight.

It’s the sweet sting of an Irish whiskey or a bourbon that does it for me, you see, and when I tell people I like bourbon, even men call me “hard core”. I just like the taste of it. I think people might be scared of bourbon due to a popular misconception that confuses it with another hard and notorious whiskey, Jack Daniel’s, the drink of the rebellious.

Bourbon is an American whiskey that must be made in Kentucky to be considered a true bourbon. It is made of corn and aged in charred, oak barrels. I’m certainly not an expert of bourbon but I know that I like the “straight” bourbons – bourbons of themselves without additional colour or flavours. Higher end bourbons are a pleasure to sip, like a fine scotch which is meant to be savoured. (For those hard-core bourbon fans who are able to travel, there is a bourbon tour called the Kentucky Bourbon Trail with tours of the best straight bourbon distilleries in the state: Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Four Roses, and Heaven Hill.)

Jack Daniel’s is not featured on this fine bourbon distillery tour because it isn’t bourbon and it’s not made in Kentucky. It’s Tennessee sour mash whiskey. I believe that people confuse JD with bourbon (easy enough to do) and because of this, bourbon has taken on the associations of Jack Daniel’s drinkers as hard-drinking, ass-kicking rock & rollers and bikers, but it isn’t necessarily true.

Jack Daniel’s (JD)

American whiskeys are made of basically same stuff but are processed differently and not all are considered true bourbons. Jack Daniels is an example of this. This famous Tennessee whiskey is sugar maple, charcoal-mellowed, relatively cheap, and easily accessible in many parts of the world. Jack Daniel’s is also the signature drink of old school rock & roll, and this 80 proof bad boy booze has been the liquid drug of choice for the world’s heaviest bands.

There is certainly an attitude about Jack. I remember getting two bottles of Jack for my brother and I for a rental viewing of The Doors movie – a stinging drink well-suited to watching a film about Jim Morrison. By the end of the movie, we were messed up on Morrison and the bottles were empty. We went out looking for more. I can’t explain it but I can appreciate that rock & roll and Jack Daniel’s strike a perfect balance.

So what is it about Jack?  It seems like a good drink for a guy, strong and honest. It is the hard-drinking liquor that separates the boys from the men; it’s the type of drink that could grow hair on your chest. Jack Daniel’s is the stuff of legend, like the musicians who favoured it.

Keith Richards, Rolling Stones

I think that Keith  Richards that started it all. Keith made drinking Jack Daniel’s cool among rock & rollers; he guzzled it on stage, in limos, studios, and on planes. As a member of the original bad boy group, Keith Richards had the freedom to do/drink/smoke/snort/inject whatever he wanted. And he did. And he’s still alive to talk about it.

Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

“I kept my medicine cabinet on stage, in a 14-inch drum head, the bottom of which contained… one Dixie cup with a straw and blow [cocaine] in it and the other with Coca-Cola and Jack Daniel’s in it.”

Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin

Rock god Jimmy Page was another heavy JD drinker as seen here in 1975. Again, being in a super group like Led Zeppelin gave Page license to do as he pleased, including getting a good buzz on with his favourite Tennessee whiskey before the show.

Lemmy, Motorhead

“I’m not completely fixated on Jack Daniel’s – it’s just that it’s the one with the best distribution system worldwide.”

When we lost Lemmy at the end of 2015, Jack Daniel’s came out with a selected single barrel whiskey in tribute. “We have selected one that is dark, oaky, but still some corn and sweetness with that signature Jack smooth charcoal smoky finish.”

Bon Scott, AC/DC 

AC/DC’s Vince Lovegrove, in an interview with Adelaide Now, talks about the night when their singer, Bon Scott, got into a horrible road accident where he was “smashed to smithereens”. Guess who else was there?

“About 11pm on May 3, 1974, at the Old Lion Hotel in North Adelaide, during a rehearsal with the Mount Lofty Rangers, a very drunk, distressed and belligerent Bon Scott had a raging argument with a member of the band. Bon stormed out of the venue, threw a bottle of Jack Daniels on to the ground, then screamed off on his Suzuki 550 motorbike.”

This happened before AC/DC became famous. It is likely that JD was present the night of Scott’s death in 1980, caused by pulmonary aspiration of vomit due to acute alcohol poisoning.

Van Halen

Van Halen bassist, Michael Anthony, shamelessly adored JD to the point of having a Jack Daniel’s bass guitar made. Get your replica here.

I found a really weird eight-minute video of Van Halen singer, David Lee Roth, spewing out drunken drivel on stage until the arrival of a little person in a suit who delivers a tray of JD for the singer to pound before the band breaks into Janie’s Crying:

Venom

Here’s a JD endorsement from the heavy-speed-black-thrash metal band from northern England, Venom. If this doesn’t make you want to drink Jack Daniel’s, nothing will.

 

Slash, Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver

Slash is the modern rock god guitarist who favours Jack. Especially in G N’ R’s early days, the band smoked and drank heavily. If you have a copy of Appetite for Destruction, the back cover shows the boys in all of their rock & roll glory, sitting around with guitars, beers, sneers, and the mandatory bottle of Jack.

Charity Jack

Given that Jack Daniel’s compliments the devil-may-care rock & roll lifestyle, would you believe that Jack Daniel’s can do more than get you @$%*!& up? It supports charities too!

Yes indeed, during the 2011 Sunset Strip Music Festival, Motley Crue received an award for contributions to the Sunset Strip music scene, and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey donated a specially-chosen barrel of hooch, bottled it, and made it available for a recommended donation to support the to the Skylar Neil Memorial Foundation, an organization to support the people doing breakthrough work to find cures for cancer, AIDS, and other diseases.

Skylar Neil is the late daughter of Vince Neil, singer from Motley Crue, another band notorious for swilling JD and sucking hard at the rock & roll teat. Shown here is the cover of their 2001 tell-all book, The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band. That bottle looks mighty familiar, doesn’t it?

So ultimately, Jack Daniel’s is a split personality casting a dual image: the kick-ass and the charitable, but mostly the kick-ass. Curiously, or perhaps not, I found no female musicians who were into Jack, which suggests that women either don’t like it or don’t like it’s image (though I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions that we just don’t hear about). JD is a drink that only the strong will survive, and unfortunately, some of them don’t.

As one of the rare women who likes straight bourbon and has had her share of Jack Daniel’s, I take full responsibility for the image this conjures and I’m more than cool with it. Like the clothes I wear or the way I speak, my choice in spirits reflects who I am as a person, but contradicts the image that is associated with these hard liquors. It’s all about ownership, I suppose. Straight up.

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.

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.”

————

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