Your Guide to the Girls’ Getaway

Whether you’re dating around or in a committed relationship, it’s worth taking the occasional time-out from couples territory.  Devote a weekend to those other people who are so important in life, namely your girlfriends.  I’m hot off the heels of a girls’ getaway in Tofino (west coast gem and Canada’s surf capital), so in addition to being a little bit biased, I know that spending quality time with girlfriends can be restorative mentally and physically.  These gains will no doubt translate to your love life.

With the weather looking up and a few long weekends on the horizon, now is the time to start planning your ladies’ weekend.  Before you do, consider the following:

Pick a theme song.

The theme song sets the tone for the entire weekend, so think twice before going all Vanessa Carlton and signing yourself up for a thousand miles of treacly piano pop.  Choose something upbeat with memorable lyrics that can be referenced in subsequent Instagrams.  If you’re okay with Pitbull’s more questionable turns of phrase, then I would recommend Timber featuring Ke$ha.  Perfect for dance parties ad nauseum.

Bring a puppy.

I’m serious.  The best accessory for a weekend away is a furry friend.  Puppies work especially well being adorable and easy to smuggle onto ferry decks etc.  I’m not saying you should procure one specifically for the occasion, but if you do have access to a pet, then don’t leave her at home.  Provided the ladies are on board, your animal will help everyone to relax and come together for a stress-free weekend.  Just remember to secure pet-friendly accommodation.

Embrace the group selfie.

So you’ve been sick of the group selfie phenomenon ever since Ellen broke Twitter at the Oscars?  Hold that thought.  A girls’ weekend is not the time to protest social media #trends, but rather to stretch your selfie arm and work those angles.  Indulge in a healthy photo shoot (or three) because it’s fun and absolutely flaunt the spoils of your efforts.  The world will be a better place for these public displays of female camaraderie, and you’ll be grateful for the souvenirs come Monday.

Set realistic goals.

This is the time to let your hair down, so forget any lofty intentions to hold yourself to strict diet/exercise routines.  Be healthy, always, but let moderation rule the day.  Plan for balanced meals, fresh air, toss in an oceanside ramble if you’re lucky and above all leave self-deprecation at the door.  Take a rare moment to appreciate who you are today and encourage your friends to do the same.

Brunch.

The ladies’ brunch is a cliché I can get behind.  I suppose you could make it work with fruit salad and low-fat yogurt, but let’s be honest, waffles and bacon are so much better.  Plus you’ll need ample energy to tackle the various work/love/life issues that will inevitably be served up on the side.  And yes, this means packing your waffle iron.

 

Why Daydreaming Doesn’t Get You Dates

If, like me, you hiked up a mountain this weekend with no fewer than five happy couples, then you may be dreaming about the day when you won’t be the eleventh wheel.  Sound familiar?  You should also know that the more you fantasize about a love interest, the less likely you are to achieve actual dating success.  At least, that’s what Gabriele Oettingen and Doris Mayer concluded from their study of American college students.

For this research, participants were asked to fantasize about their crush using prompts like “You’re studying at the library when you look up to see your crush searching for a spot.  As he approaches your table, you…”  Participants also had to rate their imaginings as positive, negative or somewhere in between.  Five months later, it turned out that people who rated their fantasies as more positive were also less lucky in love.

So this means that if you don’t have a real boyfriend, then you can’t have a pretend one either?  What’s so bad about the occasional flight of fancy, especially when they’re so much fun?  Well, that’s just it.  The theory goes that by taking pleasure in an envisioned future, you become less motivated to actually make it happen.  In other words, you get comfortable with Imaginary Boyfriend.

Luckily, there’s more to the story than just dumping the daydreams.

The researchers also found that, unlike fantasies, positive expectations strongly predicted dating success.  A fantasy could be riding off into the sunset alongside your love (who happens to be Brad Pitt), while expectations are grounded in reality.  Expectations that are positive also suppose a degree of past success, including the effort this entailed and a willingness to match that effort going forward.

Why you should care:

It’s one thing to envision your dream man or dream relationship, but don’t get too caught up in the idea of it all.  Reflect upon past dating experiences and let this inform your next steps–because steps you must take.  Join an online dating site.  Find singles events in your community.  Ask a friend to set you up with someone from their network.  Talk to a counselor and resolve issues that prevent you from connecting.  Take up jogging and feel good about your body.  You could use the Secret to will your soulmate into being, but you’re better off pairing optimism with a proactive approach.  We’re with Science on this one.

 

Mayer, D. & G. Oettingen (2002). The motivating function of thinking about the future: expectations versus fantasies.  Personality and Social Psychology, 83 (5), 1198-1212.

What to Wear on a Spring Date: Oscars Edition

You didn’t have to watch Sunday’s Academy Awards to know that Leo would fail to score-sese a statue, that Ellen would deliver a fine pizza show, and that we would fall (again) for JLaw’s antics.  But could you have predicted the latter’s fiery Dior ensemble?  Or that Lupita Nyong’o would outshine everyone with her pleats and deep V?  The most exciting part of the event was, as per usual, the clothes.  While most of us aren’t about to splurge on Prada or Armani Prive, elements of the year’s best dressed fit seamlessly into a real life wardrobe.  Ditch your winter duds (cute though these may be) and look to the red carpet for what to wear on a spring date.  You’ve got your movies lined up for date night; now, enjoy these Oscars-inspired tips for looking the part:

Show your true colours.

The highlight of Nyong’o’s gown was no doubt its sublime shade, blue like the Nairobi sky and a breath of fresh air compared to more literal interpretations of black tie.  Olivia Wilde showed precisely how slimming black can be, but why not opt to stand out for a change?  Pastels pack just the right amount of pretty, for instance THIS blouse in petal pink, for a look that’s demure yet distinct–perfect for a first date.

Let your hair down. 

Ellen wasn’t far off when she crowned Jared Leto the prettiest of them all.  He certainly won for most effortless coif.  While it’s not quite time for full-fledged beach hair, gentle, face-framing waves like Leto’s will have any suitor California dreamin.  For hair that’s been harassed by the elements, use a deep conditioner like THIS to restore moisture.

Or dress it up.

You won’t be able to achieve Leto’s flow if you chopped it all off last fall (who didn’t?), in which case, take another page from Lupita Nyong’o and embellish your pixie.  A Fred Leighton diamond and gold headband is ideal, but failing that try THIS crystal version.  Headbands add a touch of personality to hair at any length.

Don’t be afraid to shine.

It looks like metallics are here to stay.  Cate Blanchett and Jessica Biel glittered in golds and silvers, while Emma Watson supplied an edgier take on the trend.  Her gunmetal Vera Wang was magical, but subtler metallics like THIS dress are winning hearts for spring.  A little bit of shimmer goes a long way and easily transitions from day to night.  Whatever you do, avoid adhering reflectors to your chest.  These will distract even the most respectful of dates and could prove blinding on a sunny day.

 And, as always, bring balm.

By “Oscars-inspired” fashion tips, I really meant Lupita-inspired.  Try HER lip-pick.  And let us know if it beats THIS, our reigning favourite.

The Valentine’s Gift that Keeps Giving (from One Tiny Canadian)

Ellen Page’s speech at the Time to Thrive Conference in Las Vegas is the Valentine that swept me off my feet. My actual Love Day consisted of falling asleep post-pizza binge while watching Jackie Brown with (non-feline) friends. And probably drooling. Despite a love affair with carbs, this wasn’t the magical evening that Hollywood has incepted into my imagination. Good thing one of its own was on the case. Canadian actress Page won countless hearts, mine included, not with chocolate or roses but a beautiful and badass admission of self (she’s gay) that won’t soon be forgotten. I commend her courage in speaking out about who she is and speaking up for those who don’t feel safe enough to do so.

I initially envisioned this blog post as an epic comparison between ice dancing and love–the pageantry, the scandal, the triumph or in the case of Scott and Tessa, the defeat. I figured the world was over Valentine’s Day and the whole Ellen-Page-comes-out thing. But I’ve been thinking about her speech all week, about how simple words delivered with grace, wit and much aplomb can, hopefully, make things a little less “horrible” for people. It helps if they’re shared often and widely. So I’ll do my part and share them with you:

“Loving other people starts with loving ourselves.”

It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating. Over and over and over again because it’s that important and we’re that terrible at doing it. If you’re stuck on where to start, WikiHow will get you going. Pick a few areas where you’ve been lagging in self-love. For instance, learn how to say no, or make a point of being kinder to your body and nourishing your physical self. Small changes make a world of difference to your self-concept and, in turn, the success of your relationships.

“Tired of lying by omission.”

What we don’t say speaks volumes, and as Page describes, can take a serious toll. The stress of keeping a worry or secret under wraps just isn’t healthy. Maybe you’re perfectly honest with your friends and loved ones, but probably not. If there’s something on your mind, give yourself permission to let it go.

“Love, the beauty of it, the joy of it, and yes even the pain of it is the most incredible gift to give and receive as a human being.”

Now I remember why Valentine’s Day has so much potential. It’s not just a romcom with Taylor Swift or Hallmark heyday. You can run with it, authentically, so much so that someone weeks or years later will remember the card you gave or that speech you shared. When I mentioned my Valentine’s evening earlier, I left out the part about how my aunt all the way in Ontario sent me a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. It was completely unexpected and still makes me smile. Don’t be afraid to give love, and remember to be gracious when receiving it.

“We deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise.”

I probably don’t relate to this statement the way someone of the LGBTQ community would. Still, I want this type of love–robust and unapologetic–for people. For Ellen Page, for my friends and family, for the haters on YouTube, for myself. I won’t settle for less; nor should anyone.

 

 

Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via Compfight cc

How to Make your Super Bowl Date a Game Changer

Valentine’s Day will be here quicker than you can say “Blue 42!  Blue 42!  Hut, hut, hike!” but before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s consider the other celebration that brings men and women together in a frenzy of passion: the Super Bowl.  This weekend, the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos will be getting cosy at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. and if your partner is at all football-savvy, then you’ll know that, honey, this Sunday it ain’t about you.

However, that’s not to say you can’t turn Super Bowl XLVIII (48—I looked it up) into a dating opportunity, maybe even a relationship #win.  You’ve just started seeing each other?  Head to his for a Super Bowl party and find out what he’s like around the boys (or vice versa).  This is an unintimidating way to break the ice with his friends.  The game will provide an instant talking point and any awkwardness will be drowned out by the buzz. You might even discover that he makes a mean 7-layer dip.

If you’ve been together for at least a few Super Bowls, then host the party together this time.  No need to stress over details as when entertaining in-laws, so you’ll be able to fully appreciate what it means to be on the same team.  One person sends the invites (i.e. mass text message) and the other buys the beer.  Domestic bliss.

Either way, here’s the game plan for making the most of your Super Bowl date:

Pick a team.  

Team colours are orange and blue for the Broncos and green, blue and silver for the Seahawks, if that helps.  Which it probably doesn’t because who picks their favourite team based on a colour scheme?  Not me.  No way.  As if.

The more analytically-minded might look to the economy for hints.  Which team’s win predicts a more significant rise in the S&P 500?  Bespoke Investment Group, for one, is going Broncos.

Brush up on the rules of engagement.  

Perhaps you have more football trivia up your sleeve than Justin Bieber has Americans wanting to kick him out of the country.  Perhaps you just figured out that a down is—what’s a down?  Not an up…It turns out that the basics are really quite basic.  Give them a gander.

Prepare your offering.

Along with highly-anticipated commercials, halftime wardrobe malfunctions and, well, football, the Super Bowl is all about indulgence.  So you’ve been sticking to your New Year’s diet thus far?  Scrap it, at least for the day, and give in to the jalapeno poppers.  The Huffington Post has put together a delectable lineup of game day appies including my personal favourite: fried mozzarella sticks.

Perfect your victory dance.  

Supermodels get lots of attention when they shimmy in the end zone.  See if it works for you.

Know your alternatives.

If you somehow manage to claim TV rights, or work in a compromise with your football-breathing date, then check out these other bowls that will be airing Sunday: Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl and Hallmark’s Kitten Bowl.  The expectation is that both will be adorable.

And finally, GO SEAHAWKS!

Tips from the Best Kisses of 2013

 

I’m a fan of keeping it simple over the holidays—except when it comes to the New Year’s kiss. I take kissing in general very seriously, but as the last thing you’ll do all year and first taste of the next one (pun intended), the New Year’s kiss holds particular clout. It’s your chance to kiss last year’s bad romances goodbye and to set a new precedent for 2014. Read: passion. And not just in terms of love and relationships. If you’re going to brave flu season and swap saliva at all, then why settle for a peck? Whether you’re popping champagne at a gala event or banging pots on the front lawn, this year, make your kiss count.

Seems like quite a bit of pressure to lay on a notoriously stressful evening. Which is why I’ve scoured the past year’s pop culture annals for some kiss-spiration, a few of the best kisses of 2013. My personal favourite:

Even if you’re not a fan of New Girl, take a moment to appreciate the kiss that alleviates two seasons’ worth of sexual tension between roommates Nick and Jess. Their chemistry shines despite this clip’s graininess, making out up for the fact that it was such a long time coming. Swoon-worthy elements—other than babes Jake Johnson and Zooey Deschanel—include the initial arm-grab, assertive lean-in and tender denouement, which brings me to…

Tip #1: Strive for a kiss that is both sultry and sweet.

You might not have a Nick (or Jess) in your life, that special someone who inspires you to kiss like a sitcom star.  You’re on POF, so that’s something, but don’t sweat it if you don’t land your ideal New Year’s date.  Instead, follow the examples of Seth Rogen and James Franco.  Plant one on a friend.  Have fun with it.  Be silly.  Find a green screen, a motorcycle and enjoy the ride.  See the actors’ spoof of Kanye West’s “Bound 2” below (skip to 2:13 for a delightful dude-smooch):

Even if you can’t pull off starry skies and sunsets…

Tip #2:  Consider your surroundings.  The more romantic, the better.

Perhaps sexier than Seth Rogen, shirtless, straddling James Franco is this kiss between Piper and Alex in Season 1 of Orange is the New Black:

Piper’s just been released from a stint in solitary, and it’s possible that kissing isn’t the only thing on her mind.  This New Year’s Eve, I wouldn’t advise stripping down on the dance floor, but do…

Tip #3: Kiss like nobody’s watching.

Of course, there is such a thing as overdoing it, and who better to illustrate this than 2013 darling Miley Cyrus?  My next recommendation hits home in her “Wrecking Ball” video.  That poor sledgehammer:

Tip #4: A little bit of tongue goes a long way.

To finish up, here’s something a bit more wholesome.  At the end of Silver Linings Playbook, Pat professes his love to Tiffany, and she acquiesces in a flurry of lips and romantic camera angles.  This is the out-of-body experience kiss, the one so sublime that it must mean love.  Cliches aside, if a kiss of this calibre is at all within your reach, then follow Pat’s lead and chase it down the street.  You won’t regret it.

Tip #5: Lay it all on the line.

Happy kissing, and all the best for 2014!

 

The Language(s) of Love

When it comes to relationships, advanced verbal communication is a leg up that we have on, for instance, bonobos.  Feelings are meant to be felt, but language can lend clarity to the lump in your throat and butterflies in your stomach.  Is it merely infatuation or do you love the guy?  Was it a fling or do you sense stirrings of commitment?  It helps enormously to talk things out with your best friends over brunch, and it’s not just the mimosas.

But the right words can be hard to find.  Given the everchanging dynamics of modern dating, we sometimes need to invent or repurpose words to capture a certain phenomenon.  “Ghosting” is a term that I’ve recently stumbled upon in the dating blogosphere.  It’s when you’ve been texting (or talking) up a storm with your latest, and then the texts become less and less frequent until he fades out of the picture completely, spectre-like.  Oh—and that initial sussing out of date potential (the “talking”) is known as “pre-dating.”  Nobody likes getting ghosted by their pre-date, but at least we have the tools to articulate what’s going on.  If there’s a word for it, then take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone.  We’ve been there, too.

There’s also a way to describe that delicious, spine-shivery feeling you’d get if Ryan Gosling were to drop by your office (because he’s such a fan of your blog posts) and proclaim, “I will eat cereal from your hand and your hand alone.”  The word is not “delusional” though I see how this could apply.  In fact, it’s not even English.  Multilinguals report being able to tap into different personalities depending on the language they’re speaking.  Where English fails to capture a romantic nuance, perhaps another language could pick up the slack and even enhance our breadth of experience.

Inspired by Maptia and informed by various blogs, here are twelve non-English expressions to love by (or at least to impress your family with during a Thanksgiving sobremesa):

cafune

cavol

forels

ilung

kilig

kumm

mami

raz

saud

torsch

yaa

yuan

 

Dating on the Webb: Taking to heart advice from “the most popular woman online”

 

Regrettably, Amy Webb is off the market, but you can still take home her dating advice.

Since watching her Ted Talk, I’ve developed a girl-crush on online dating “hacker” Amy Webb. She speaks Japanese and knows JavaScript?! She’s intelligent, accomplished, makes (funny) jokes about kinky sex in front of a live audience and nabbed the man of her dreams?! She is one of those rare people who can proclaim, “Obviously, I’m having a fabulous life,” and you don’t feel a wave of jealousy or the urge to kick her in the shins. Okay, so maybe you feel a bit jealous. But mostly you root for Amy. If not because she’s living proof that people can find what they’re looking for in love, then for an entirely selfish reason: she shares her recipe for success and dares us to replicate it.

We can gain much from Amy’s blunders, in particular. Even if your monetization abilities are the toast of your feminist fan club, don’t be surprised when your resume-based profile strikes out. You can get away with this sort of stunt if you’re a falconer—being able to train birds of prey is dead sexy—but otherwise forget it. Before partaking in a $1300 dinner date, meet for a couple coffees to assess your suitor’s dine and dash potential. Raise an eyebrow if he consistently forgets his wallet. Finally, take it from this CSR that catfishing could result in your account(s) being deleted and banned, so resist the urge to conduct your own market research. Amy, did you really need to impersonate a bunch of men just to determine that they like women with cute profile photos? Your Nana could have told you as much.

So maybe the principles of attraction didn’t come all that easily to our unlikely heroine. So maybe she had never heard of an online dating coach. From the get-go, Amy Webb is worth emulating in at least two ways. She does not succumb to familial pressure to lower her standards, and she has standards, high and very specific ones. Like how she wanted her husband to “weigh twenty pounds more than me at all times.” If you’re going to go searching for a needle in a haystack, you’d better have an idea of what that looks like (Is it a pine needle? Knitting needle?). A list of 72 data points is what, ultimately, leads Amy to The One and informs her take-home message to build your own framework.

I have applied this advice to my own experience. Looking back on my listless early twenties I can see how a few parameters could have mitigated my own dating mishaps. I can see how I might not have stuck it out with the young man who was a self-proclaimed curmudgeon. Not for me. I might have been more discerning before leaping into relationships of convenience, and I would have been far less accommodating when it came to aspects of a romantic interest that just didn’t sit well. I never would have started wearing sweatpants in public because my boyfriend at the time liked the look of comfy clothes. Not for me. It’s one thing to be open-minded and quite another to be passive or worse, a pushover. Luckily, bad dates make great stories and also reveal the must-haves that aren’t on your list yet. I doubt that my list will ever make it to 72 pecs—I mean specs—but Amy makes a case for being proactively picky. And not a moment too soon; my other girl-crush is Margaret Atwood.

Science Says: Thank Your Partner

 

Last weekend, we celebrated Thanksgiving here in Vancouver, Canada.  I’ve already finished the leftovers my mom sent me home with, but the idea of giving thanks remains (because it’s not stuffed or wrapped in bacon).  Expressing gratitude is one common sense tool for cultivating happier relationships, and there’s plenty of research to back it up.

In 2010, Sara Algoe and colleagues found that reflecting upon your partner’s kind acts can enhance your feelings of connectedness and overall relationship satisfaction.  Appreciation of the little things, like when your partner peels all the potatoes (your least favourite) for Thanksgiving dinner or picks you up a pumpkin spice latte (your favourite) just because, preludes big opportunities for relationship growth.

Monica Bartlett and her team built upon this finding, asking how gratitude strengthens social bonds.  They found that gratitude does not merely incite a tit-for-tat mentality, but rather fosters behaviours that are good for relationships.  You want to spend more time with your benefactors, for instance.  You’re also more likely to preference your partner in social activities, and make sacrifices to do so, if you feel grateful toward him or her.

These studies highlight how counting your blessings helps you.  New research by Algoe and colleagues shows how the act of expressing gratitude means greater relationship satisfaction for not only the expresser, but also the target.

Seventy-seven couples took part in the study, published in the journal Emotion. They completed an initial relationship assessment, two lab sessions and one follow-up questionnaire six months later.  Participants were 28 years old on average, heterosexual and about four years into their relationships.

In the first lab session, couples discussed everyday events—one positive and one negative—with each other.  In the second, they were instructed to reflect upon and then thank their partners for a recent, thoughtful gesture.  Afterwards, participants rated how responsive they felt their partners had been during each exchange.  This was compared to ratings of relationship satisfaction after six months.

It’s no surprise that expressions of gratitude predicted higher levels of future relationship satisfaction for the benefactor, while disclosure of everyday events did not.  What’s interesting is that the researchers identify “momentary psychological impact from hearing an expression of gratitude” as an indicator of future relationship health.  Could the emotion of a moment really have such far-reaching implications?

The authors recognize the limitations implicit in their study design: the lab sessions may have “served as an unassuming intervention…[and] causally jump-started the proposed upward spiral of gratitude.”  Well, that doesn’t sound so bad.  Whether it’s a solitary thank you, or one that plants the seed for many, showing appreciation for your partner is an easy way to keep your relationship on track.

Dido, not unlike her nineties pop counterparts, says it well:

***

REFERENCES

Algoe, S.B., Fredrickson, B. L, & Gable, S.L. (2013). The social functions of the emotion of gratitude via expression. Emotion, 13, 605-609.

Algoe, S.B., Gable, S. L., & Maisel, N. (2010). It’s the little things: Everyday gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships.  Personal Relationships, 17, 217-233.

Bartlett, M.Y., Condon, P., Cruz, J., Baumann, J., & DeSteno, D. (2012). Gratitude: Prompting behaviours that build relationships. Cognition & Emotion, 26, 2-13.

 

 

How to Date Like You’re in the Movies

I don’t look to movies for dating advice.  I have never woken up to Peter Gabriel blasting through my bedroom window.  Nor has anyone cajoled me into dating them by hanging, one-armed, from a Ferris wheel.  Nor have I been wooed by a desperate suitor belting Can’t Take My Eyes off You in time with the school marching band.  My high school didn’t even have a marching band.

While romcoms provide a distorted take on courtship (if you’re reading this and really want to impress me, then go for Option Three), they do well to raise the bar for date night.  We all embrace our weekday coffee dates and dinner/movie combos, but it pays to get creative once in awhile.

Real life—and love—are better with a catchy soundtrack.  Here are seven memorable movie clips to inspire this week’s dates:

10 Things I Hate About You

Pick a fight with your romantic interest.  If the local paintball circuit is beyond pedal boat range, then consider using snow, mud or pillows.

Listen to Fascinating New Thing by Semisonic.

Moonrise Kingdom

Sam and Suzy prove that you don’t need the lift to make it look good.  Dance together like nobody’s watching.  It doesn’t matter where—your living room works—just so long as you let your guard down.

Listen to Le temps de l’amour by Françoise Hardy.

Happy Gilmore

If you’re like Happy and have weak ankles, don’t worry.  Your date won’t mind if you grab his/her hand on your next ice skating encounter.

Listen to Endless Love performed by Diana Ross and Lionel Ritchie.

500 Days of Summer

Spend an afternoon playing house.  We challenge you to be more adorable than Summer and Tom.

Listen to There Goes the Fear by Doves.

Rent

Not into Ikea?  Think thrifty and environmentally friendly, instead.  Skip and sing like this Tom and his Angel while you peruse the local flea market, a garage sale or vintage clothing store.

Listen to I’ll Cover You performed by Jesse L. Martin and Wilson Jermaine Heredia.

It’s Complicated

Plan a baking date, but don’t take it literally if your boyfriend says, “You’re, like, 300 French pastries away from an engagement ring.”  Or do.

Listen to Mal ô Main by Sanseverino.

Terminator I

Escape technology for the day.

Listen to each other.