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Spring image prep!

25 May stack of shirts

stack of shirtsWell, we’ve passed the Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada and that’s usually a sign of some things: new growth, the sweet smell of spring; time to open the cottage for the season, and time to get out your summer clothes.

When it’s time to change our seasonal closets over, we should think about the life of our warm weather clothes and what they’ve been through for the last 6 – 8 months. Essentially, they’ve been neglected, hanging in the dark, weighted down under folds and layers, stuffed into bags, boxes, or suitcases. They need to be refreshed. Here are some easy ways to prep your spring-summer wardrobe and get  you ready to rock spring-summer 2017:

cat in washer1. Organize your drawers. Get rid of the socks with holes, toss the Swiss cheese underwear hanging to the waistband by a thread, and ditch the old, worn, and possibly torn t-shirts. Don’t be afraid to try on last summer’s clothes and give away the stuff that’s not doing it for you anymore–excess only takes up space.

2.Wash your clothes. If possible, hang out in the air to dry. They’ll smell better.

3. Some of your clothes should be given a press. After cleaning, press a clean crease in your cotton or linen trousers; give your shirts some steam.

men's shoes

4. Have a look at your shoes from last summer –what shape are they in? Are they scuffed? Heels worn down? Time to visit the shoe repair shop! Next-to-new shoes will definitely put a spring in your step!

 

 

exfoliating gloves5. If you haven’t done so for a while (if ever), exfoliating is a lovely way to feel like you’ve woken up your skin. Exfoliation is a process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of skin, leaving a soft, fresh layer beneath.

For the gents, I suggest a pair of exfoliating gloves lathered with soap to smooth away rough skin. Get in the shower, put on the textured gloves, wet them, soap up, and wash entire body – toes, elbows, and buns included (go lightly on your gentlemen’s parts); rinse gloves, squeeze out excess water, then hang to dry. It feels great to slather on an oil or a moisturizer on freshly-exfoliated skin – you’ll feel invigorated and refreshed!

men's feet6. Check hands and feet. After a long winter, chances are, your digits are not in great shape. Go for a gent’s manicure and pedicure at a salon or simply get yourself a nail brush and give your feet and fingers a good going-over. Use a moisturizer afterward – you’ll notice a difference.

7. Spring is a great time for a new look and it doesn’t have to mean replacing your entire wardrobe. How about something simple like a new hair style? An updated pair of sunglasses is always a wise investment as well.aviator sunglasses

The excitement of spring-summer 2017 awaits – best to be wardrobe and grooming-ready!

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.

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!

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.

Contact

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.

Truth or consequences: Dating in Toronto

1 May

There is certainly no place in the world like Toronto but for reasons you may not expect.

Will a nightclub draw a suitable partner?

Will a nightclub draw a suitable partner?

S. is a successful 39 year-old financial professional who owns his own house and car. In less than two years, he’s worked hard with a personal trainer and lost 70 pounds. One might think he’d have luck with women with all of these things going for him but after a year of clubbing, he’s still single and still looking.

R., a 35 year-old from Ireland works in construction and began dating as soon as he arrived in Toronto. He had no problems meeting women as a newcomer with a charming accent, but after three years, he describes the Toronto dating scene as “bizarre”.

Both gentlemen feel that dating in Toronto is about narcissism and feeding the ego. Those of us who live here know there is no place like it: people avoid other humans and don’t make eye contact, it is difficult to meet new people, and according to pick-up artist, Roosh V, it is the worst city in North America to meet women. (Read his 15 reasons why the city sucks for dating, and take the racially charged reason #7 with a grain of salt.)

Toronto is a large city and with large cities comes wide choices in people to get friendly with. This, combined with the vast amount of choices of people to meet in Toronto over the internet widens the net. When I internet dated,  I found it very difficult to settle on one man because there were so many – possibly too many – choices. What happens if I start up with Mr. Right Now and then Mr. Right comes along? This thought caused a kind of terror and was one of the reasons I ran away from internet dating, screaming.

S. and R. want to meet women and frequent downtown clubs on weekends. S. says that women expect attention, free drinks, and ego validation, with the option to brush the guy off. They told stories of their attempts to strike up conversations with women, many of which were received with rudeness and sometimes humiliating responses. S. says that women have walked away from him, one said, “I don’t want to talk to you”, and another actually pushed him away. He told me about the time his friend went over to talk to a woman who responded by punching him in the jaw which caused his mouth to fill up with blood. There is no excuse for rudeness and certainly not for violence. A polite, “No thank you” will do.

That said, many men don’t realize that women are in a tricky social position because we are targets of male attention, desire, and sometimes aggression, and this puts us into a state of constant defensiveness. We also know that men will always want us and we usually have the choice whether to couple or not, especially if we’re good-looking. When men approach us however, we have a choice in how we handle it. Choosing a rude route, like what R. and S. experience in bars is, I believe, learned and perhaps socially encouraged, depending on your generation.

Has the internet spoiled us?

R. says that the internet is killing character and genuineness. Before internet dating and social media, people were different. Before the digital age, people were people, warts and all, and our in-person selves drew others to us within our circle of friends. Now, people edit and censor themselves and become synthetic versions of their true selves, put on display for the world to see. Younger generations born into smart phones and social media see edited versions of the world and this is a massive influence on their psyche.

Young women seem especially susceptible to digital media influence and because society is still obsessed with what women look like, the expectation to be beautiful and sexy is even more pronounced. This, and the influence of media that seems to reward and normalize bitch behaviour can create legions of women who say, Yeah, I’m all that, and you have to work for it. Many women expect attention and fancy that they could and should have the pick of the litter. In the Kardashian-styled age of the egotistic selfie and the popularity contest that is social media, we have become horribly self-absorbed and narcissistic. It really should be no surprise to men like S. who is interested in younger women that many will have an arrogant sense of themselves and feel entitled to cast men away because this is what they’ve been taught.

My friend Gail likes the term “age appropriate”. She believes that instead of going after beautiful young women in their 20s, mature men, including our gents in question, should go by the 5 year guideline: choose partners 5 years younger or older than your age and there will be much more harmony. A woman within 5 years of you will be easier to relate to, there will be far less drama, more emotionally maturity, a sense of self, and she’ll have the ability to pay her own way. In other words, there will be no princess expectations.

I proposed this idea to S. who said that he just wasn’t attracted to women his age. Well, I thought, you’re really narrowing things down for yourself – women over 40 are #$%&! awesome. Gail says that women in their 20s are not really connected to men and are quick to dump and move onto the next one. A bit flighty, I suppose, because they’re young and they can be.

The gentlemen complain that everything has to be on women’s terms and many women will string them along in-person or by texting. Something to do with the notion of having an entourage of men to keep their egos buoyant. I suppose there must be men who do the same thing, but I’ve met more women who like to show off their digital “collection” of men which to me says, “look at how popular I am and how many men want me”, and yet these women remain single. It makes me wonder what their goals are.

Bitterness

S. says that though the constant rejection by women was difficult in the beginning and he took women’s refusals personally, his confidence has increased and his skin is definitely thicker. With a touch of bitterness, he now takes satisfaction in rejecting women himself, to “give them a taste of their own medicine”.

Sounds like a war that no one will win.

For men tired of this treatment, S. told me about an online men’s group called MGTOW – Men Going Their Own Way, “a statement of self-ownership, where the modern man preserves and protects his own sovereignty above all else”. I completely back this empowering premise because I know how frustrated men can be with the attitude of some Toronto women, but unfortunately, the site quickly turns vile. The founder, apparently a guy in his mid-30s who works downtown, known as Sandman, is very bitter and hateful towards all women according to his videos I’ve watched. He says that men have “learned the ugly truth about female nature. Women are made out to be harmless, beautiful creatures but the truth is many women today will rip out your heart and testicles through your wallet and move onto their next victim.”

It is one thing to be frustrated and disillusioned with women, but quite another to be hateful towards the entire gender and make sweeping statements like all women being whores and liars who trick men into marriage and fatherhood so they can divorce them and collect the legal booty from courts that favour women. Sandman, remains anonymous behind his screen and slut-shames, fat-shames, and age-shames women, and complains about single (gee, can you imagine why?). Disturbingly, MGTOW has over 7000 members and his introduction video has over 100,000 views. That’s a lot of fuel for the bonfire of masculine rejection and bitterness.

Is there anyone out there?

S. has decided that the woman for him does not live in Toronto and possibly not even in Canada. He plans to travel to meet women because as he sees it, it is more financially feasible to travel and try a long-distance relationship with a genuine person instead of spending $100 a night in clubs on the weekends. This is not the first time I’ve heard this; a friend of mine passed on an online forum made up of men, sick and tired of the self-important attitude of Toronto women, who moved to or visited places like London, Ontario to meet “real” women.

“Real” women do exist in Toronto (I consider myself one) but I don’t go to clubs to meet men, and I’m not sure that a club is the best place to go to meet genuine, down-to-earth types of people. I also don’t have faith in internet dating for reasons already stated. So where does that leave us? This question I cannot answer, but what I do know is that people aren’t telling the truth. Being honest and upfront may cause initial disappointment, but ultimately, it is the best route to take. Honest and respectful communication is key; I wish more people would understand this.

Stress and the man

19 Feb

From the archives… The differences between the sexes and how they deal with the physical, emotional, and mental effects of stress.

In the Key of He

stressWe all experience stress in our lives, but we don’t talk about it enough – men especially – but there is growing interest in the topic – upon this writing, “men and stress” catches 239,000,000 Google results.

I spoke to a couple of stress experts through the Distress Centres Ontario (DCO),  a provincial organization that provides support services to lonely, depressed, and suicidal people, often via a 24-hour crisis line.

DCO presented “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Stress”, focusing on how to shift from a stress reaction to a support response in our body.

Asha Croggan and Arianne Richeson co-presented the learning event – Asha provides support to crisis lines and suicide networks across Canada and is the Provincial Programs Manager for Suicide and Mental Health Networks, and Arianne Richeson is the Manager of Educational Service at Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region. Below are some…

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Spread ’em. Actually, don’t

8 Jan

you balls are not that bigInspired by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the move to ban “man-spreading”–men who sit on public transit with their knees spread so far apart that they actually take up seats next to them–has reached Toronto and the Toronto Transit Commission, and it’s caused some interesting gender chatter.

Globe and Mail article on the topic mentions the Canadian Association for Equality (CAE) who started a petition to stop the ban on man-spreading. The group says, “This sets a very bad precedent as men opening their legs is something we have to do due to our biology. It’s physically painful for men to close their legs and we cannot be expected to do so, and it’s also a biological necessity for us to do so.”

According to the petition, a ban on spreading one’s legs would “be a big blow to men’s rights.” Men’s rights to do what? Take up unnecessary space on public transit? To be discourteous to others?

Mike Wood, a volunteer advocacy officer with CAE argues that men should be able to take up as much space as women who board buses with strollers, but he fails to understand that when women bring strollers onto a bus, there is another person in the stroller, and the baby in the stroller needs space, just like any other person.

I wouldn’t agree that testicles have any independent rights and need their own seat on the subway.

 In Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers: Testosterone and Behaviour, James Dabbs describes “panache” as a manner that seeks to get the attention and respect of others. “A person with panache,” he writes, “scores points by looking dominant. Bluffing often works just as well as fighting when it comes to getting attention and respect. Male animals bristle, puff, strut, preen, spread their tail feathers, control space, intimidate their opponents, and show off to get their way and impress the opposite sex.”

Is this not what man-spreading is? Puffing up to take up more space and display some form of power and superiority? Why else would a man would choose to sit in on public transit in a way that exposes his most vulnerable body parts, open to potential contact with knees and parcels at the sudden jolt of an unexpected brake. If I were a man, I would protect my fragile spheres, not make them targets.

Ball room

Subway behaviour has its own etiquette and etiquette is about respecting other people and making them comfortable. Man-spreading is the opposite of this. Mr. Wood mentions men’s biology a couple of times being the reason that men need to spread. Some men will need a little extra space for their tackle than others, yes, but how much space could comfort possibly require? Are your testicles so big that you need an extra foot to accommodate them? Perhaps it’s time to change your style of underwear instead of hogging transit seating.

The image used for this post is from a hilarious site about man-spreading. YOUR BALLS ARE NOT THAT BIG seeks to out man-spreaders on the New York subway by posting pictures of the culprits (world-wide submissions are welcome). The blogger makes it clear that man-spreading is about men concerned only with display and their own comfort, not the comfort of others.

Display includes body language, the expression of our self-confidence. Individual self-confidence and self-esteem speaks through the way we move and position ourselves in space, including the way we sit. A man who sits with crossed legs looks comfortable, a man sitting with knees 6″ apart also looks comfortable, but when men sit with knees wide apart, i.e. over 12″, he’s telling the world that a) he’s desperate for attention, b) he’s painfully insecure, and c) he wants to appear virile and by spreading his knees apart so far apart, he can show off those “big balls” of his. Testosterone likes to put on a good show, as Dabbs says.

Funny thing about virility: it’s often not what it seems. Like male animals, much of the virility is false but the display can be stunning.  I had a boyfriend with a huge set of testicles that hung heavily under his pinkie-sized penis which only ejaculated prematurely, so I wouldn’t say that large testicles necessarily indicate virility. The whole puffed-up, I-have-bigger-balls-than-you-and-that-makes-me-more-masculine mentality of man-spreaders is a delusion; mere posturing.

In the animal world as Dabbs mentions, panache works to look dominant and impress the opposite sex. I cannot imagine any woman being attracted to a man who tries so hard to show he’s masculine by exposing what he thinks are mammoth testicles to prove his manhood, while simultaneously imposing himself into other people’s space.

I’m not even sure that men are aware of how much space they take up because they haven’t been challenged on it until recently. Once men are called on it however, many will acknowledge their puffed-up, space-taking wrongdoing and change their position (at least this is what happens in polite Toronto). Several times I’ve been on public transit and saw the only seat available beside a wide-kneed man,  but instead of being intimidated, I said, excuse me, and lowered my bottom into the seat (while he scowled because I’ve messed up his space). If a man’s leg is in my space, I ask him to please give me some more leg room and I’ve never had an argument. Politeness and a kind smile can do wonders for personal comfort, so I recommend it.

Now that the New York subway system’s anti-spreading campaign is on and the messages are travelling to other large cities, it’s time for men (and women who take up more space than they need to) to pay attention and be more aware of the necessity to share space in our ever-increasingly populated cities. As subway posters in Philadelphia say, “Dude It’s Rude… Two Seats — Really?”

PS – Have a look at this site that features Japanese subway posters from the 1970s and 80s that even back then, tried to make people aware of how man-spreading negatively affects people.

 

Flirting: A personal deconstruction

15 May

flirtbroken heart, flirting verb \ˈflərt\

: to behave in a way that shows a sexual attraction for someone but is not meant to be taken seriously

: to think about something or become involved in something in a way that is usually not very serious

: to come close to reaching or experiencing something (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Do you flirt? Maybe you are a flirt. Flirting is fun and not meant to be literal. But sometimes it is. Depending on the flirtee’s emotional state, they may take heavy flirting as “s/he wants me”, but does it mean that person is insecure or needy, or is it that they’re reading heavy messages from you?

Last month, I meet a singer at a show who said, “I noticed you when you came in.” Our conversation continued and he invited me to his next gig the following month. The next day, he contacted me online and we had a sometimes flirty off-and-on conversation over the next few weeks. I was titillated!

When the next gig came along, he talked and hung out with me and my friend a bit, and had a wonderful performance. I remember thinking, “Awesome! I’ve got this one in the bag!” He did nothing that would make me think otherwise. I bought him a drink and he invited me to his next gig. I said we should do something before then, and he said, “I would if I was single.”

I told him to take it as a compliment and then I left.

Lots of things going on here.

1. Ethics: Why would an attached man say he noticed me when I came in?

2. Assumptions: When is it friendly conversation and when is it a come on?

a) I suppose this is where the emotional state of the flirtee comes in: people open to romantic interests may take flirting to heart and will feel like they’ve been drop-kicked across a muddy field when the flirter reveals that they’re not actually available. It’s the price we pay for allowing ourselves to become hopeful and emotionally attached to a person or idea.

b) It could be that I made an assumption about the singer’s level of interest, but  I’m really not sure of another way I could have interpreted “I noticed you when you walked in”. That would prick up any single person’s ears.

c) When do we determine when it’s relevant to mention our emotional status?  At what moment do we decide that this person is chatting us up so we can gently slip “girlfriend/wife-partner-boyfriend/husband” into the conversation to indicate our emotionally UN-availablity? A clear statement up front will set boundaries. However, some instigators of innocent conversations will roll their eyes at your assumption that you think we’re looking for more time with you.

Assuming that everybody wants you reflects the size of your ego or your insecurity, and may cause enough paranoia for you to go on the defensive just because someone speaks to you: “Back off or my boyfriend will kick your ass”. These types you’d want to back away from anyway.

3. Mixed messages: My brother, a musician himself, insists the guy was leading me on. There is a fine line between innocent flirting and leading someone to believe something that isn’t true. I have trouble understanding why anyone would consciously mess with someone emotionally like that; it seems cruel. The singer doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would pull that kind of thing; he seems honest, gentle, and down-to-earth. I’m confused.

4. Rock and roll: My buddy, Stephen, says flirting is the vernacular of the music industry; a language bred into musicians. He says there are three kinds of flirting:

  • Social flirting: In public places like bars or clubs, flirting is “safe”, even for married and otherwise spoken-for men who can engage in this light, fun, social interaction. It’s about showing someone you find them interesting, attractive, and otherwise charming and that’s usually uplifting!
  • Get-down flirting: A heavy, blatant prelude of good things to come.
  • Marketing flirting: I know it’s only rock and roll, but PR is important. If flirting is written into the music schtick, it can certainly grab people’s attention, create a desire, keep people coming out to gigs with their friends. Stephen says the singer is more concerned with success than protecting my feelings. “It’s games people play,” he says.

Another entertainer I know says he leverages flirting for laughs in his act. “I intentionally flirt with very old women in the crowd. Women who I’d never flirt with, so it doesn’t seem too creepy.”

“Flirting makes the older lady feel kinda special but they know it’s not for real,” Matt says, “Everyone knows what’s going on for sure.”

There was a handsome personal trainer at my old gym who mostly worked with women and understood the art of marketing flirting: he held his client’s hands as they walked around the gym, he held women’s upper bodies as they lifted dumbbells, and watched his clients intently in the mirror which always caused a face-busting smile on the women who completely fell under his spell.

This kind of marketing flirting is the carrot dangling before the donkey who can never reach it; it is the kind of flirting I’ve fallen victim to. The price of the transaction was my heart and my hopes, dashed by the rock and roll machine.

This flirty experience has made me feel good, excited, and given me something to look forward to. At the same time, the flirting has made me feel like I’ve been duped, sucked in to believing that the singer was actually interested in me, and this has made me feel not only lousy, but dumb for reading the signs wrong.

Sigh.  What can I do? I’m just a vulnerable human like anyone else, but now I’ll know to wear a thicker skin.

Resolve to have a better image in 2013

27 Dec

Gentlemen, if you’re the type to make New Year’s resolutions, make 2013 the year you take five simple steps to improve your image and make a better impression in the world.

1. Keep your shoes and boots clean and polished.2013 shoes It’s a cliche by now, but I say the same still rings true – in the old days, a man’s character was associated with how well he kept his shoes, and there is no reason to think differently now.  Freshly-polished footwear is the sign of a man who takes pride in himself, and people notice.

Shoes are the base of our daily wardrobe, and if they’re dirty, scuffed, and/or in need of repair, your footwear will negate any effort you’ve taken to dress well. On the other hand, wearing magnificently cared-for footwear can actually excuse an otherwise sloppy wardrobe – shoes are powerful!

2. Keep your hands clean. hand illustrationWe meet a lot of people and we shake a lot of hands, and keeping yours clean, like wearing well-kept shoes, sends a positive message about your self esteem and your respect for others. Clean hands also reduce the spread of germs, important  especially in winter – so respect your health and the health of others and wash often!

Unfortunately, washing germs away will dry out your hands, making skin tight and uncomfortable (to the point of cracking, for some of you). The way around this is to apply moisturizer. I hear your complaints already, but  moisturizing your skin is no different than using oil to keep your baseball glove supple. To avoid the discomfort of dry hands, gents, try to apply at least once a day, preferably after your morning shower.

3. Keep scent to a minimum. cologneKeep the smell volume down low, because you may be the only one enjoying the fragrant symphony hanging around you.

Remember that most, if not all of your grooming products, from shampoo to shaving cream, are scented. If you wear aftershave or cologne, this is another fragrance on top of these scents, which  gets to be overpowering quickly.

To make things worse, I just read an article about the fragrance industry using human and animal feces in their products – yuck!

4. Wear well-fitting clothing.  When dressing for business or casual, if you’re not paying attention to the fit of your clothes, you’re doing yourself a 2013 fitdisservice. It doesn’t matter how big or small a man is, ill-fitting clothes visually change your body shape.

Wearing too-small clothing makes bodies bulge and pushes us out of proportion. Too-big clothing (left) gives visual obesity while making us look insignificant as we swim in excess fabric. A correct fit (right) accentuates the positive and makes us more confident. Wearing well-fit clothing feels great!

5. Stand straighter. Want to lose a visual 5 pounds and feel more confident? Inhale, straighten your spine, lift your eyes, and square your shoulders.

People often don’t pay attention to the way they stand, but posture speaks loudly; it can diminish us in the eyes of others or boost our presence and mood. People notice confident people, and confident people stand straight.

I encourage you to watch this 20-minute TED talk with social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, who explains body language and how to turn up your testosterone and your confidence by assuming 2-minute “power positions”:

Without spending extra money, you can sharpen your image by following these simple steps, making for a more confident and memorable 2013. Happy New Year!

Note – In the Key of He is taking January off – see you in February!

Image disconnect

19 Jan

Wouldn't it be weird if this man was actually an insurance professional?

A business contact that I have a lot of faith in sent me a link to a sales tip blog by a salesman who has been working in sales for decades and has influenced thousands of people with his sales tactics. I went to the blog site and there on the first page, before any text, before any sales tips, was a picture of the author – a man easily 56-years old but probably a lot younger, skin pale, hairstyle dated, wearing rectangular tinted eyeglasses and a plain white collared shirt. I saw a middle-aged science teacher from the 70s. I did not see a sales guru.

I kept his web page up to read for about a week with the intention of reading it but in the end, I just couldn’t do it. I just didn’t have faith in him.  The man had absolutely no presence.

You only get one chance at a first impression

Now, some of you will be chastising me for not giving this man a chance, but this is exactly the point. We only have one chance to make a first impression, and to me, I saw a disconnect between what this man does for a living and the way he projects himself; the two together just didn’t add up. This man did not look like a “sales guru” let alone a professional, so I decided that his advice was probably as dated as his haircut. In other words, I felt that his credibility was questionable because his messages were confused.

When I’m talking about politicians to the media, we often discuss what visual cues promote believability and trustworthiness. I tell them that when there is a disconnect between what a politician says, how he looks, and his body language, he affects people’s opinion of him. The same goes for any one else – when we send mixed messages, our integrity is compromised and we become suspect.

In your personal life and in business, a fragmented image isn’t going to be doing you any favours. Here are some more examples to help you understand how this works:

–> I know a fellow in the insurance industry who insists that he is warm and understanding. He could very well be warm and understanding, but the sight of a thin, pasty-skinned man with long wiry hair and large glasses makes him look rather like a mad scientist, not anyone particularly “warm”. I’m not sure how many people could get past this first vision of him and accept him as a “warm” person because he certainly doesn’t project that feeling. The disconnect between what I see and what I hear throws me into confusion and I doubt what he says.

–> If I had a meeting with a person I only knew from his picture on the web, and he looked about 35 with a full head of hair, and the man I met was actually 55 and balding, I would certainly be confused and I might decide to not trust him (if you’re using a 20-year old picture, this could be interpreted as a little something called “dishonesty”). People recognize and trust genuine and honest people, and if people perceive that you’re not being open and honest with them, you may have to kiss the business/kiss the girl/boy good-bye. This happens a lot with internet dating. It’s in your best interest to maintain an honest and up-to-date online web presence.

–> I volunteer for a cultural organization in Toronto and we are in the process of updating our website. The woman in command and I met with a fellow who raved about the websites he’s created and was sure that we would be convinced that he was our man for the job. When we met with him, he was dressed in dusty clothes and his skin was rough. This vision was immediately confusing to us because we expected to meet someone who looked like a web designer, not a drywaller. On top of this, the man did not prepare anything for our meeting – I came to the meeting with more ideas than he did. What’s wrong with this picture? He looks and behaves opposite to the way he came off during telephone and email contact, and guess what? He didn’t get the job.

–> About 10 years ago, I was buddies with Andy. Andy was a computer geek and had a lot of friends. I got to know one of his friends who helped me with some internet something-or-other and we exchanged some friendly emails. I thought he was a nice guy. A couple of weeks later, I had a party. Andy and his friend were supposed to come together, but Andy couldn’t make it in the end. I suggested that his friend come anyway.

Party night. Andy’s friend buzzes in from downstairs. I open the door to a tall, scruffy man wearing a ripped Ren & Stimpy t-shirt, and reeking of body odor. I sensed something menacing about him. I was so thrown off by what was in front of me that I questioned his identity to make sure that he was Andy’s friend. He was. Dang. Being a polite Canadian, I let him in but I wish I hadn’t. He unleashed himself upon my guests, overpowered them with his stink, bombarded them with his conspiracy theories, and creeped them out by his general demeanor. What an awful experience.

Sending, or not being aware of sending inauthentic messages, might cause you to lose out. I’m telling you this, men, because I don’t want you to make the same mistakes as the fellas in our examples. We’re looking for honour here, gentlemen, an awareness of who we are and the messages we send out to the world about who we are. Are you aware of the messages you’re sending? Are they true and balanced, or are they inconsistent and unclear? How do your messages affect your relationships?

Bitch slap: how do you handle conflict?

12 Jan

Today’s post is born of a real personal experience I had at a friend’s 50th birthday party last month. 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 answer #3).
Note that retaliation is not a suggestion in Ric’s list of conflict management options. I responded with a combination of 1 and 2 for a couple of reasons: one of my friends said that he would have hit back, but I believe that violence begets violence and I would never strike anyone, so there’s that, but also, the woman was intoxicated and this made her emotional response a little more uh, “lively”, and I chalked it up to that. That, plus the understanding that the underlying insecurity issues that the booze brought to life have probably been there for a while and are the root of the outburst.

Jealousy

Psychology Today describes jealousy as

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empathy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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