Thursday, 27 September 2012


Whether you like it or not, we spend a huge part of our lives being controlled by other people. From a very young age, we are introduced to a host of influential characters designed to make a significant contribution to our lives. Teachers, parents, employers and nuns. We never really escape authority and while most of us cannot wait to exert power of our own, some of us derive great satisfaction by being told what to do, when and how to do it. What we don't know at the time is that we are slowly being conditioned into one of two roles...the powerless or the powerful.

As I headed down south for the long weekend, I pulled into the local News Cafe to catch up with Charlotte and Emily. We'd somehow got onto the topic of sex when Emily made a shocking revelation. "I love giving head. I don't know, I think it's a power thing for me." Charlotte nearly gagged at the thought of it and chose to adopt the opposing stance. For Charlotte, a man who takes control in the bedroom is what made her cookie crumble. As I considered both ideas placed in front of me, I couldn't help but wonder, have we been geared for sexual segregation all our lives? Is the world made up of Anastasia Steeles and Christian Greys? Masters and slaves, tops and bottoms, S & M? Can one extreme exist without the submission of the other? 

When the power dynamic is mutually beneficial, sexual satisfaction is a sure win but what happens when the darker side of control becomes too much? Manipulation is a skillful art used as a defense mechanism by narcissists who are either too insecure or too afraid to live in the real world. They spend a lifetime creating a false identity in order to safeguard their innermost vulnerabilities. What may have started out as a positive reinforcement of one's self-esteem turns into a compulsive need to control everything and everyone around them. While most of us refuse to acknowledge our inner control freak, the other half is busy getting off on it...and not in a good way.

If you have a friend like Gee it's best you run the other way and don't look back. She's beautiful, charming, confident and not afraid to let the world know it. She's the kind of girl who never pays for her own drinks at a bar, a legend in her own right with a head the size of an air balloon. She's revels in using her sexual prowess to get what she wants no matter who gets hurt in the process and at the end of the day, nobody's feelings matter but hers. Basically she gives women a bad name.

The one thing that always amazed me about Gee was the way she'd always have some kind of lap dog boyfriend eating out the palm of her hand despite going out of her way to humiliate and disrespect him in public. I remember the time that she physically assaulted some guy in the middle of a dinner party before storming off into the middle of the night. I was mortified for him but like the fool that he was, he went after her. Was this form of hyper-dominance or submission maybe going a little bit too far? Just how damaged was she? Was her vagina made of platinum?

Peter Parker probably said it best; "with great power comes great responsibility". The ability to influence and wield power over someone is a great gift especially when you find someone eager and willing to submit. There is a fine line between sexual empowerment and sexual manipulation and while some men and women make it their personal mission to assert their dominance through sex, money and physical strength, control is essentially yours for the taking. 

When it comes to control, what role do you play?

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Cost of Loving

No matter how budget savvy you are it's hard to avoid the ever increasing cost of living. Thanks to inflation, we are forced to make certain cutbacks in our month-to-month expenses in order to keep up with the negative side-effects that price hikes have on our bank accounts. From social activities to second guessing luxury items we once couldn't live without, we learn to adapt our living standards to more cost-effective solutions. Unless you are in the fortunate position where money is no object, inflation essentially comes down to one thing...compromise.

As I searched the shelves for the cheapest pack of no-range skinless chicken breasts, I starting thinking about relationships and the cost of loving. Any relationship worth staying in requires time, patience, sacrifice and a shit load of effort. Life happens somewhere in-between and we are often faced with compromising scenarios that are as unfavourable and unpredictable as fluctuating inflation rates. Relationships are far from consistent, so when the value of a long-term relationship increases, so does its demand, and in a city where the supply of decent relationships are at an all-time low, it's necessary to make certain concessions in order to make existing ones work.

Whoever said that love don't cost a thing was seriously deluded. Or JLo! It had been a month since Aiden resigned from work and I was nowhere near getting used to the idea of a one paycheck lifestyle. Even though I had made the conscious decision to support him throughout this difficult time, and despite the efforts made to secure himself a new job, the resentment was starting to build up fast. I found myself bitching and moaning about the smallest things and constantly pushing him to work harder than he already was. For the first time in my life, I was mentally struggling to adapt. So much had changed in such a short period of time from our declining social calendar to clipping coupons at Pick and Save. Was this seriously the price I had to pay for loving someone so unconditionally? 

I was beginning to feel love spent and needed some time to deflate. The thought of leaving Aiden to clean up his own mess had crossed my mind more than I cared to admit and even though my heart was in the right place, my mind seemed to be all over. Thanks to the constant stress of my current situation, my vicious criticisms had turned me into an overnight super-bitch so much so that I had completely discarded the rewards that came with being in an exclusive loyalty programme. Had the cost of loving Aiden finally gone over my head or was I maybe too quick to overlook the benefits of being in a relationship altogether? Support. Companionship. Sexual chemistry. Someone who actually loves you for you. When they say that a good man is hard to find, they ain't kidding. It's so easy to forget the good things that work in a relationship when times are tough and after all, isn't that the true test of being in a committed relationship?

It's true what they say...the best things in life are free especially when everything comes at such a heavy price. Love is unfortunately no exception, so the sooner you learn to bargain, the sooner you'll find yourself adjusting to any given situation. It's much easier to give up on something these days than it is to actually take the effort and make it work. Difficult situations can often be a blessing in disguise giving us a chance to test the true strength of a loving relationship.     

When it comes to relationships, how do we know if it's worth the compromise?

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Comedown

They say that addiction is the continued use of a substance that alters one's mood and behaviour over a long period of time despite the obvious adverse consequences. The more we use, the higher our tolerance, and the higher our tolerance, the greater the dependency becomes. Whether it's alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex, addiction is all about surrendering to some kind of weakness in exchange for an instantaneous high, and while some addicts are fortunate enough to get help before it's too late, the power of withdrawal can sometimes get the better of us.

As I struggled to kick my own filthy habits in the butt, I started thinking about love and its striking resemblance to addiction. Just like any kind of drug, one hit is all it takes to be hooked for life, and in a world full of dealers and pushers, it's hard not to give into the pressure. You can deny it all you want but nothing compares to the feeling of confidence and elated sense of self that comes with falling in love. Racing hearts and butterflies. Everything is amplified from that first kiss to the moment you realise you've just made a significant connection. They don't call it a high for nothing.

But what happens in a situation where your number one dealer decides to leave you high and dry? What happens when he denies you a more potent dose of the good shit that you had become so dependent on? Do we simply move on and find ourselves another fix to fill the void or should we see it as a sign, a chance to admit that we may just have a problem?

"Hi. My name is Sarah and I'm a love-aholic." It took Sarah nearly fifteen years to come clean about her addiction to love. For as long as I've known her, she had been using as often as possible in any way, shape or form. She had recently found herself in one of those frustrating situations where girl meets boy, boy shags girl, girl wants more but boy couldn't care less. What started out as a casual hook up had turned into an ominous dependency, one that had noticeably transformed Sarah into an erratic mess. She had let her emotions get the better of her even though she knew that Mr. X was nothing but a bad habit in a cute disguise.

After carefully observing her own behaviour and the effect that this relationship was having on her heart, Sarah decided to go cold turkey. She had cut off all communication with her latest lover and was on her way to a speedy recovery. After a few short days of sobriety, Sarah started showing severe symptoms of withdrawal. Her sponsor was the first to notice the secret texts and private rendezvous and it wasn't long before Sarah had suffered a massive relapse. Was Sarah merely hooked on hope or was her dependency actually becoming a problem? Was it time for lovers anonymous or was Sarah just in fact a functional addict like the rest of us?   

When it comes to drug of choice, love is the crack of life. It's the ultimate fifty-fifty drug designed to take you up and bring you right back down. We're bound to shoot up eventually and even overdose at times, and even though the comedown from a bad trip can have serious long-term ramifications, there's no greater feeling than the initial rush of meeting a potential soul mate. Whether we're addicts or just recreational users, one thing is certain...when love is good, free and real, there's no greater high in the world.    

When it comes to love, I couldn't help but wonder, are we all addicts?

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Picture perfect

A few weeks ago, I decided to take an intensive five day course in digital photography. As usual my theoretical understanding was picture perfect but for some reason, I seemed to be struggling with the practical side of the assignment. What should have been a simple case of “point and shoot” had somehow become an over-complicated, ambiguous mess. The whole experience reminded me of high school and the way in which our eccentric art teacher would ask us to pick up a paint brush and start painting our feelings. “There is no right and there is no wrong answer when it comes to art for beauty lies within the eye of the beholder.”

This kind of whimsical subjectivity may be the very reason Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear that starry night. Our insane obsession with getting things right or as close to perfect as possible can be altogether consuming especially when society sets the bar so high. Financial freedom, a high-end career and a happy marriage...are these the only goals that frame success or are they just mainstream perceptions we’re expected to want for ourselves? Are we all ultimately after the same thing or was Ms. Moore right? Can one person’s idea of perfection be someone else’s shortcoming and vice versa? 

Aiden and I were finally on the same page. Things were particularly starting to look up for him at work since he landed the promotion he had been working so hard for. He even got himself an attractive salary bump which was in itself a real shocker considering the low life white-collar criminal that he worked for. I had only ever heard negative things about this man. Apparently he was the type that screwed around on his pregnant wife with his barely legal secretary. I also heard that he had a tendency to dip into the staff pension fund to support a cocaine habit. Whatever the case, the firm that Aiden had worked for sounded like a place where ethics and professionalism came to die. It’s no wonder he decided to resign from such a morally repugnant environment.

The initial shock happened at shutter speed. What should have been interpreted as a glass half full situation was in fact the beginning of the end. Instead of showing any kind of support for his decision, I unleashed my inner she-bitch, a force more potent than a thousand volts of PMS. After all we had been through in 2010, all the lies and set-backs, Aiden decided to put me in one more difficult position. And in such a difficult job market where most positions are AA, EE, I O U? We were supposed to travel next year, see Europe. Conversations of buying a house together and marriage now seemed to filter away in the harsh light of reality. Just when you think you’re on the right track and the bigger picture starts coming into focus, something drastic happens to alter the clarity of your perfect composition.

The status of our relationship had become as blurry as my photographic assignments. We were somewhere stuck in limbo walking a very fine line between making it work and ending it completely. Just like all those assignments, our relationship was being tested and I did not like it. Once again, the theory was clear but applying it into actual practice was the bigger challenge especially when there was no right or wrong answer. Had my need for black and white eliminated any kind of subjectivity on the matter? When did my life become so rigid and calculated? Had I really conformed to the standard perceptions of perfection?  

If beauty really does lie within the eye of the beholder then I’ve been temporarily blinded. No matter how hard I try, I just cannot see the upside to my current situation despite Aiden’s attempts to re-invent himself. As individuals we’re entitled to make changes in our life but not at the expense of your partner’s hopes and dreams and not without discussion first. As I sat in limbo trying to adapt, I realised that “perfection” may just be an impractical state of mind especially when life as we know it could change at any given moment.

When it comes to a relationship's darkest hour, why is it so hard to see the light?