Would a kinky music group be a rubber band?

Things I’ve learned about stretching:

First rule of any fitness: If it hurts, stop.

There’s a difference between tension and pain. Tension is something you can work through. Pain is a sign to step back.

Dynamic and Static stretching are different, and to understand it’s helpful to think of a rubber band. If you take a rubber band our of a freezer and pull on it, chances are it will snap. If you warm the rubber band up first, it will slowly expand the range it can stretch. It’s the same thing with Dynamic and Static stretching. Dynamic stretching (pulsing into a stretch rather than just holding it) is great when you’re starting a workout, and Static is great for cooling down. BUT IT’S NOT JUST THAT CLEAR CUT.

Once you get used to the difference, you can use Dynamic and Static stretching interchangeably to get the most out of a movement. Say you’re bending to the ground with straight legs and you’re not getting as far as you’d like, stop. Gently bend your knees. Then cycle back and forth, straightening alternate legs. You’ll probably find that in those small increments, you can stretch further than you could in a Static stretch. Once your legs feel sufficiently warmed up, try going back to Static stretching, straightening both legs. It’s likely that you’ll be able to stretch deeper than previously. You can do this again and again until you have the stretch you’re looking for.

Once again, if it hurts, stop.

You can step back and recalibrate at any point. If something doesn’t feel right, ask yourself why that is. Can you gently change the angle? Rotate somehow? Move other parts of your body to stimulate different muscles? Here’s an example. Spread your fingers out as wide as they go. Now bend your index finger. Bend your hand forwards and back. Feel what the movement does. Now try this with your middle finger bent instead. Move through all your fingers one by one. Do you feel how it engages different parts of your hand? These are all technically mildly different stretches with different applications. If you do this with rotating your wrist instead of bending your hand, do you feel a difference? It’s the same with most stretches. If you’re bending to the ground with straight legs, what happens if you rotate your torso? Trying new things out is a great way of exploring how your body is connected, and may lead to releasing tension in areas you didn’t realise you were holding them.

I must repeat, if at any point it hurts, stop.

Just because you know that a particular muscle is sore, it doesn’t mean you can take care of it right away. Sometimes particular muscles are near inaccessible until you’ve relaxed the surrounding muscle. Say you have a sore knee, and stretching isn’t helping. Could you try stretching your ankle? Your quads? Your abductors (outer leg) and adductors (inner leg)? Your IT band (a long thread that runs from your knee to the outside of your hip. You probably have IT band issues, we all do)? They’re all connected in ways we don’t realise. The good news is that once you stretch all the surrounding musculature, the particular muscle is likely a) already feeling some relief and b) far easier to work into.

BE PATIENT. Never rush. If you’ve just done a deep stretch, please do not pull out of it quickly. Slowly release that tension. Remember what I was saying about the cold rubber band earlier? Same thing. Work back into it. If you’ve been stretching your knee, maybe start by gently wiggling your toes. Then rock your foot from side to side. Rotate your ankle. THEN start to straighten your leg. I know it sounds silly to spend upwards of 30 seconds to a minute coming down from a stretch, but if the goal of stretching is either healing or preventative action, take care of yourself and spend the time.

Learn to tighten your core. If you can tighten your core, it helps you isolate particular muscles without putting unneccessary strain on supporting muscles. Stretching with isolation is an entirely different level of stretching.

It’s very helpful to examine your framing around stretching. Is it something you do to get you ready for a workout? Or are you looking for long term change? They have different applications.

The bad news is that stretching for long term change is not as quick a process as most of us would like. Some things take a long time, and the bigger issue it is, the longer it takes. There’s pain management, and there’s fixing body trauma. The more you learn about stretching, the more there is to learn. You may even realise just how much tension you’ve been holding, and be amazed by how long you’ve been holding it.

The good news: The way you think about your body might be wrong. Things that you assume are the way your body works might be patterns you’ve created around ingrained and normalised tension. These are things you can change, and potentially fix.

Story time: Last week I was thinking about that thing where you put an arm behind your back and reach over with the other arm to grab it. Ever since I was a child, I’ve only been able to do it with my left arm behind my back. So I tried to consciously think about what would need to happen to do it with both arms. I pulled my right arm behind my back, and gradually inched it up. I got a thick rubberised band and grabbed one end with my right hand. I pulled my right hand behind my back, and used my left hand to pull on the other end of the band from above. Then I noticed there was tension at the front of my right shoulder. I did a chest stretch with my right arm taught, and felt around the front of my right shoulder for where the pain was centred. I pressed down on that spot with a finger on my left hand. While flexed, I massaged this spot and gently worked out the tension. I tried the arm behind my back thing again. I did it. For the first time in my entire life, I could reach my right hand behind my back and grab it with my left.

This whole process took five minutes. Five minutes, with the right knowledge, meant I could correct something I didn’t know wasn’t working right. Take whatever metaphor you want from this.

That’s also not the extent of it. In the past ten or so days I fixed wrist issues I’ve been dealing with since I fractured my ulnar styloid two years ago. I released a whole block of tension in my back I thought was just how my back worked. My entire back eased up. I did not know that your whole lower back was not supposed to tighten when you tighten your core. Things had been that way for so long, I thought that was standard. My body physically is different now. My shoulders are not constantly taut. My back was literally swollen with tension, and that has all receded.

Around ten years ago I tore my PCL. Knee pain has been a constant in my adult life. Last week I spent over an hour working on my knee. Testing each point of articulation, breathing deep and gradually working my way through it. My knee no longer hurts. Seriously. Over a decade of daily pain, and it’s gone. Whoosh. I could not believe it. I’m not saying it’s fixed forever, but it’s at such a low level that it’s incredibly easy to maintain, and I know how to ease it back to normalcy going on. If you told me two weeks ago I’d be without knee pain now I would have loudly and rudely laughed in your face. And enjoyed it. Turns out, things we think we know aren’t always true.

The worst and best part is, I still have so, so much to learn.

On, Tario!

I think that this is an important article for Ontarians to read. Our public health communications have been an abject failure, and have directly caused preventable deaths.

So many of the issues that we’re facing now: Conflicting information, Communications that are difficult to parse or misleading, and the lack of a timely response backed by science, not spokespersons, are a direct result of cuts to public organisations for the sake of “fiscal responsibility”.

This is exactly what Ford said he was going to do, and sometimes it’s worth believing what people are saying rather than listening to their rhetoric.

I don’t know what contact any of you have with Ford’s base, but it is vitally important for all of us to put in the work to educate people on how the actions of his government have directly harmed the vulnerable. I’m not talking about “cancelling” relatives, or shitting on them. I’m talking about frustrating, methodical conversations where you listen to their concerns and lead them towards real information. It fucking sucks, but continuing to let partisan bullshit prevent actionable change for the better is actively harming us. We need to be better, and that starts with us.

A genuine “Whys” guy

Back when I taught kids’ gymnastics I quickly found that people learn when you give them the Why, not just the What. If you know what the purpose of a behaviour is, the benefit is much clearer.

I have read a bunch of Ontario’s COVID Stage 2 announcement and it is not that.

The document is long, with a bunch of sub pages. To find the information you want requires a lot of clicking. Most of the information on the different pages is very similar, just tweaked for the current topic.
And then it mainly tells you What to do.

By not telling the public why we adopt certain behaviours around COVID, we’re putting the onus on them to find it themselves. This is easier for some than others, and those who find it difficult will likely get discouraged. EVERYONE deserves this info and the right to be healthy.

It also sows the seeds of misinformation. If people are finding it too hard to parse how COVID works, they’ll go for the explanation that they understand, because then they get to feel better about themselves and their place in the world. They understand it now. Fin.

But it’s not. If people are ignoring information in favour of what they want to believe, they will continue to do so if it’s easier and continues to make them feel good about their competence. This leads to partisan rifts over facts, which is always worse for the public.

You don’t have to Make It Sexy, but public information should be clear and easy to understand so the public is informed. If you’re not telling people Why to follow your instructions, you’re not doing your job. People need to know Why these COVID measures are in place.

If the public understands how COVID spreads, then they’ll be able to take ownership over their behaviour, and understand how dramatically it affects the spread. The more people who understand how it works, the quicker we can mitigate the spread and get back to safe reopening.

There is no reason a children’s gymnastics class should be unable to understand this information. That’s how clear it needs to be.

This is what I call a puff piece

So an NZ based documentary crew reached out, looking for Kiwis in Canada who used weed post legalisation. I wrote out a big email, and realised it could be interesting for others.

When it comes to weed, it’s a big part of my life post legalisation. I wasn’t much of a smoker back home, or even once I came over here. Going to Portland, Oregon for a holiday was an eye opening experience. It was legal, the stores were well organised and informative. Nothing clandestine or back-alley, staff were only too happy to explain in depth to my ignorant self. It made me feel much safer and more secure about the experience. Once it was announced that weed would be legalised here, I grew more interested in trying it out.

A big part of the equation was having some kind of metric with which to understand how intoxicated I would likely become (edibles etc list MG of THC and it’s a very handy guide). With alcohol, you have no control over the type of experience you might have. With weed, while it’s not absolute, you can at least tailor it a little. Do I want to relax, watch something dumb and fall asleep in a few hours? Maybe an indica would be good. Do I want to release anxiety or feel slightly better in my body? Maybe a low THC hybrid would be the ticket. Do I want to be spritely, sociable and creative? I’ll smoke some kind of sativa.

Honestly, the legal weed is kind of dogshit. It’s often dry and of low quality. The provincial government fucked up big time with their roll out, because they’re a populist government who are more about making back pocket deals than creating effective public structure. They allowed something like 25 stores across Ontario, which for reference is significantly larger than the entirety of NZ. Lots of pearl clutching, etc. I won’t start ranting about this government, because I won’t stop. “Trump light” is the best compliment I could give.

I tend to go to “grey market” locations. CAFE (Cannabis And Fine Edibles) is my go-to. It’s not technically legal, but after a ton of legal troubles (and if you want a story, please reach out and talk to someone involved in CAFE about when the cops were daily putting large concrete blocks in front of their stores to prevent customers being able to enter. CAFE would just pay the fines, because they were making money hand over fist). It’s well lit, they have efficient systems worked out, the staff are knowledgeable and helpful, they have a variety of strains, plus edibles, disposable vapes, shatter bars, etc etc. I usually pay $10-14 per gram, and I understand that the illegal market is probably about half the price. While I smoke probably daily, I don’t smoke quantities enough that it’s worth me sniffing out the illegal market. Plus I’m a boring, uncool dork, so why bother doing something cool like meeting dealers by the light of the moon?

I use a vape to smoke. I grind up weed and use it in there. It’s easier on my lungs, it’s very simple to use and allows me greater control over my experience. It’s also pretty discreet, and I feel okay smoking it while walking down the street, or standing on my front porch. I have a variety of purposes I use weed for, depending on the strain. I have never and hope not to smoke before work. It’s not my style, I like my job and I wouldn’t want to compromise my ability to do it. Weed has helped drastically cut down my alcohol intake, which is wonderful. Depending on the strain, weed has been good for parties, going out dancing, or relaxing if I’m on evening shifts and walking out of the office at 12.30am. I’m actually quite into using weed with exercise, going to the gym for a light focused workout (I wouldn’t dare to lift heavy weights on it) or having a jog. I don’t own a car, but I can’t imagine I’d feel safe to drive after smoking. I think I’m a relatively responsible dude, and it’s shocking how Chicken Little of a big deal legalisation was. I thought the sky would fall, and basically nothing changed.

You can teach a man, two fish

It feels like my brain is leaking out of my head. So that’s where we are to start.

I was thinking about online learning today. Frankly, I haven’t done a ton of it. It’s in my mind because of the near constant teachers’ strikes that’ve been happening in Toronto. From what I understand of the issue, the Ford government has sold high school students and their curriculum up the river. Classes en masse have either been cancelled, or switched to online courses. It’s damaged the potential futures of an untold number of kids, because the streams they were working towards no longer exist within the framework. The vague rationale I’ve heard it’s that it’s about saving money for the province (because when are cuts ever not about some abstract “austerity” goal?). At the same time, they’re shelling out so much money to parents (paying them personally for each day missed due to strikes) that this bribe money could have been used to fulfill what the teachers are trying to negotiate for. Or at least thereabouts. It seems like a case of twisted priorities, but what do I know? I don’t have kids, I don’t run a province, I don’t know what life is like when you’re in a position of power that lets you trade in the rights and needs of the vulnerable for cold hard cash and/or favours that amount to the same thing.

I can’t imagine that I would’ve done well in an online learning environment. It’s not like I’m entirely un-smart. I did pretty well in high school. I was an avid learner, and loved filling out my knowledge of a subject. I’ve always been terrible at studying, but I ask a lot of questions. It’s the method that works for me. If I can clarify things in real time, it helps me see the flaws in my logic and course correct. I thrive on discussion, because it gives me access to perspectives I would’ve otherwise missed. Frankly, I was one of those kids well-suited to a classroom or lecture environment. It’s not ideal for every kid, but I imagine it’s beneficial for the majority of them.

As I said, I don’t know what online learning consists of enough to hold up valid complaints. I asked my girlfriend her thoughts, and she mentioned the program Blackboard that they used a little. We had Blackboard in school and it was relatively new. From what I remember, the teacher could post resources for everyone. My girlfriend said that there would probably be video lectures for kids to follow. Blackboard was set up kind of like a forum, with individual pages or threads. I don’t recall how much immediacy there was in terms of responses. I know that people *could* respond in real time, but we mainly used it for outside of school hours. Would that change if it was being used as a primary teaching method? Would kids respond well to online courses taught in real time? Is that what the idea of Ford style online learning is? Do the schools all have the resources to let so many kids on computers constantly? Who supplies the lectures/structure/curriculum? Is it the teachers themselves, or a private company? What’s the end game trajectory? To move towards remote learning more concretely? To phase out more teachers? To accomplish schools in favour of private teaching contracts? What kind of subjects does this benefit? What does it detract from? The more I think about the topic, the more questions it raises. Has the Ford government done credible consolations and research? Or is this just a way for them to make money while they’re in power, and force the next government to fix their mess? Can they even fix it, if those funds have already been shifted to the police force or rights for landlords, or whatever priorities this sham government has?

I dunno. I’m clearly biased, but I’m not certain that I’m wrong.

If your date solely eats red meat, get the fuck out of there

A friend of mine works as a dating coach. Jumping on the 2009-2019 trend, they started a post wondering what dating advice people had learned in that time.

I’ve got nothing else to write about today, so why not this?

I feel like in 2009 I’d barely started dating. At that time I’d been in one relationship, and it was kind of disappointing for all involved. I think we liked each other, but we certainly weren’t deeply in love. We were drawn to the idea of being in a relationship. We had fun together, but sparks had trouble getting off the runway. I’ve always been a weird dude, but I was far more of an off-putting kind of weird than the innocuous and endearing kind of weird I am now. I didn’t draw women in. Not to mention, I reeked of desperation. It wasn’t a good look. Or smell. Now it might sound that I’ve taken to being unnecessarily rough on my past self. The truth is, I had so much to learn, and that’s taken the better part of a decade. I feel like I’m still learning. So what lessons have I learned?

Firstly, it’s okay to not have great dates. I’m not talking the kind of shitty stuff that happens to women constantly, where they feel threatened or unsafe. I’m talking about dates that feel meh all over. You just don’t get the butterflies, or getting conversation rolling feels Sisyphean. Maybe you have an okay time, but neither of you are excited. That’s not a bad thing, it’s part of the process. Average dates help you learn what you do and don’t want in a partner. After an average date, can you pinpoint what it was that put you off? Or things that you did like, but less than the things that you didn’t? That stuff all helps you to get a picture of your desires, and ways they manifest. Then you can start looking for those aspects in others.

Kind of a corollary to that, not all dates will be winners. That’s kinda the point, and it’s entirely okay. Personally I find an unremarkable date to be a gift. The sooner you know you’re not into someone, the quicker you can both go your separate ways and seek people who light you up. I’d much rather have an average date that results in knowing where I stand, than someone appealing in many ways who also carries a load of red flags. Mixed signals are tricky to parse (and unfortunately are also part of the whole deal), they can really mess with your head. Finding people who really click with you is hard, and we all want instant gratification. Sorry, dating isn’t that easy. Even if you’re ravishingly attractive, you still need to wade through a lot of bullshit.

Next, get used to not taking rejection personally. I know it seems like the most personal thing in the world, but I can assure you it’s more about that person than it is about you. We can’t expect that others will be drawn to us just because we’re drawn to them. We all have a complex network of desires, and some things are quite specific. If you’re not hitting the marks for someone, would you want the kind of relationship that resulted from it? A constant imbalance where you wondered how long you could hold onto that person, irrespective of what they sought? It’d be worse than you think. I’ll put it this way. Say you just don’t like flaky pastry. There’s just something about the texture and buttery nature that feels weird in your mouth. If someone offered you a high end croissant, would you expect to like it? Maybe it’d be okay for you, but it wouldn’t hit the spot like a great cookie or doughnut for you. That wouldn’t mean the person who made that croissant was bad at making croissants, they just weren’t your thing. Everyone has a flavour, and everyone has different tastes. It’s unfair to expect them to always align. I know rejection seems like it’s gonna tear you into shreds, but most of the time people don’t like being mean. Rejection is more innocuous than you’d think. Often, this is how rejection plays out:

You: Hey, you have a really endearing smile. Would you like to grab a drink?
Them: Oh sorry, I’m really busy at the moment (unless they follow up with a legit attempt to propose an alternate time, this is a gentle let down nine times out of ten).
You: No worries, have a lovely day.

For all the notion of waiting for the right time, it’s not usually about the right time, it’s about whether or not there’s interest. If there isn’t, that’s not something you can force or manipulate. In fact, that’s a great lesson too. When it comes for dating, don’t manipulate. Just don’t. Anything fake won’t last, or be truly satisfying.

Be yourself. It’s common advice, but so often it comes off as cheesy. It’s doesn’t have to be. I tend to think of it more as not wasting your time trying to be things you’re not. Don’t try and delude someone into thinking you’re different than you are. What’s your goal? Entrapment? Are you trying to make them fall for someone who doesn’t exist, then hoping they’ll love you so much that when you turn out to be someone else, it’s too late for them to escape? Fuck that noise. Be authentic. Don’t post photos in your profiles that look wildly different from your everyday. Don’t wear clothes that make you feel uncomfortable. Don’t say things you don’t believe because you think they make you sound cool. Don’t agree with sentiments you oppose just because they’re coming from someone you’re attracted to. Let’s go back to the first point. It’s okay if things don’t work out, and the sooner you know, the sooner you can stop wasting each other’s time.

Most importantly, be compassionate. Everyone’s having a hard time, be gentle when you can. Learn to communicate your feelings in a mature fashion. Own what you feel, use “I” statements and don’t try to push blame on others. If you want a relationship to succeed, then work together on it. If you’re making earnest attempts to understand one another, and consider each other’s feelings, then you’ll be able to deal with difficult situations without breaking every time. If you’re not, then maybe it’s a sign that the compatibility simply isn’t there, and you’d both be better with others.

I’ve certainly learned a lot more than that, but I don’t have time to write another book tonight. Plus Jordan Peterson ruined white dudes writing advice books for everyone.

Guess you could say I was drawn to it

No nonsense entry today.

Okay, correction. I’m plowing ahead with my entry and I’m not stopping till I hit the end. That’s what I meant by no nonsense. You can be rest assured, dear reader, that there will be nonsense. This is me we’re talking about. I took on the ungainly task of writing every day for at least 30 minutes over six years ago. I’m still writing. There’s no way I’d be able to fill that much space with good quality, thought provoking writing. I don’t have it in me. I do, however, have a cup of coffee and a metaphorical fire under my arse, so let’s think about some stuff.

I discovered the site watchcartoononline the other day, and I’ve been diving in deep. I don’t need help finding a stream of recent cartoons, but this site archives years and years worth of animation. It’s been a massive treat looking back at the shows I loved as a kid and seeing how they stack up. So far, honestly, they’ve been pretty great. I hit up The Mask first. The jokes were so so, but the scripting on that show is INSANE. Not since Popeye have I seen a character with such an onslaught of verbal diarrhoea. He simply doesn’t stop. It’s impression after impression for sorta non-jokes. The really impressive thing though, is Rob Paulsen. He’s a goddamn savant when it comes to voice acting, and this madcap character makes use of his absurdly wide palette. It’s non-stop accents, impersonations and characters, and he gives it the whole time. The dialogue is frenetic and almost feverishly quick, and I can definitely trace elements of my humour back to this show’s style.

Samurai Pizza Cats was a similar awakening, but more so. A quick note on Samurai Pizza Cats, Saban adapted the Japanese show Kyatto Ninden Teyandee, but were provided with very few usable translations. So they just completely rewrote the scripts as a wacky farce. It’s insane. It’s a show about, you guessed it, samurai cats who work at a pizza parlour. They didn’t bury the lede. There are puns galore. The writing is intentionally gratuitous, overstuffed with asinine alliteration. It’s ostensibly for kids, but the quantity of jokes that would’ve gone over their heads (talking about inadequate pay for writers, gentle references to sex workers, referencing classic North American pop-culture) is insane. It’s so meta, self deprecating (a line in the intro “they’re stronger than old cheese, they’re stronger than dirt” as a reference to an Ajax commercial) and there are a bunch of characters stuffed with campy pomp. It’s such a good time, and watching it revealed how integral it was to developing my meta humour. The idea of calling attention to the inane and unnecessary really spoke to me. It’s exactly the kind of comedy I like to see in the world, and hope to inject. Without a doubt, this show was one of my pillars.

Last night, I watched Animaniacs. This was a big one. It came at exactly the right time for me, when my brain was elastic, with endless potential. I was thrilled by this show. So many jokes were conceptual on a level I’d never seen. I hear people talk about their first time watching sketch comedy with a type of reverence. Animaniacs was my sketch comedy. Unbound by the laws of reality or physics, it swung for the fences at every turn. It wasn’t afraid to challenge kids, or shoot above their heads. One of the episodes we watched last night was an oral history of the Warner Brothers (and Warner Sister) filtered through a lens of old Hollywood. There were jokes that still went over my head. I remember being a kid, watching this show and not getting jokes, then asking questions to find out more. It made me inquisitive and curious, with a hunger for knowledge so I could get more attuned to the funny. I wanted to understand the references. Also, as an adult I think Chicken Boo is the funniest goddamn thing in the world. I used to be so angry that people couldn’t see that he was clearly just a chicken, and now I’m rooting for the chicken always.

Y’know, for an entry about cartoons, there was very little nonsense. Here’s Chicken Boo.

Time to parcel on some knowledge

What dumb shit did you write in school?

I was listening to a podcast, and someone mentioned a high school essay they wrote. I had a thought, and almost physically recoiled. I remembered my schooling, and the excessive amount of essays I contorted into talking about subjects I already liked. In intermediate school I got put in a gifted stream. It was an elective class outside of our ordinary ones. We’d get together weekly, and were led to work on individual projects of our own design. I felt uncomfortable being moved away from the regular streams, and in no way did I think I deserved to be there. The rest were really smart kids. They loved science and computers. They had a host of extracurricular educational hobbies. I was just some goofy kid who loved superhero comics. I immediately knew what I had to do: Dig in. I decided to do my project on comic creation and the process. I think I really sold our teacher in charge on a piece about production. However, I really didn’t want to do research. So I read a bunch of fluff pieces, and put together a lionised account of Lee and Ditko creating Spider Man. Compared with the rest of the final projects, it was dismal. I’d drawn a dumb little comic, and I was a terrible artist. I didn’t care, I’d gotten off doing the bare minimum. I was relieved.

In high school I got put into the extension class again. I didn’t know why it kept happening to me. We did extension science and English. I flailed helplessly at the science, but in English? I did great. We were given Shakespearean sonnets to learn. I rote learned mine in an hour and said it out loud repeatedly. Soon everyone in the class knew mine. Hell, I still know it off by heart. I know it’s called “O Mistress Mine”, but I’ve got no idea what play it’s from. We were instructed that we were going to film a play. I got cast as Macbeth in a very truncated role. I learned my lines in a day, and turned in a gloriously gratuitous performance. I wasn’t in my element, I made it my element.

In university, I repeatedly warped the assignments around my sensibilities, almost rebelling against taking things seriously. We were to write an essay on a sentimental object in our lives. I wrote about Transformers bedsheets I got as a kid. I turned a feminism essay towards porn, and video game boob physics. I wrote an Environmental Feminism essay on mass production as a result of men’s inability to give birth. I talked about the curves of sleek cars and Coke bottles as commodification of the female form. I turned in an exam essay on creative revolts in the comic industry. Almost every project I put together revolved around subjects of interest, requiring the least amount of effort.

I think what I’m discovering, is that I spent my education trying to do as little work as possible, while getting results. If the schooling system was trying to teach me something, it was that nominal results didn’t really translate into anything tangible. I could get all the good marks I wanted, but I wasn’t really learning in the process. I was doing my best to not change, and teaching myself terrible lessons along the way. I wish that I’d known years back that there’s no way to shortcut the process. That real results came from advancing skills, not abstract marks for turning in projects. I think I’ve finally started to learn, but egads I wish it didn’t take this many decades.

Some gifted student, eh?

Never be That Guy™. You always know when you’re being That Guy™, and you need to stop it. Just stop it, Guy

I don’t often write about polyamory. I have my reasons.

Firstly, when I initially heard of polyamory, it was from people who found it difficult not to talk about polyamory. They found ways to shoehorn it into almost any conversation, and I found it more than a little grating. I don’t want to be That Guy™. Secondly, I know that in a mainstream sense, poly is still a relatively new idea. Some people find it intimidating, challenging or even uncomfortable to think about. I get it. I often did when I first heard about it. Rest assured that I don’t follow these bullshit Gold Star Poly mantras of thinking that it’s the be all and end all. I firmly don’t believe that poly is for everyone. I think that people navigating their relationships in a variety of different ways is healthy, and if a system works for you, that’s a personal thing. I also don’t believe in prescriptivist shit. If there’s some combination of systems that’s your sweet spot, I’m glad you’ve found it. Today though, I want to talk about poly, because it’s given me the best dating advice that I wish I truly understood much earlier.

Be genuine.

It sounds simple, it’s not. I know that when I started dating, I had this internal scarcity model dictating my actions. It felt like having sex, being in a relationship, these were things I was missing out on, and I desperately wanted to enjoy them. The efforts I went to were staggering. I’d constantly think about my interactions, and how I wanted to present myself. I’d focus on whether or not a situation was potentially romantic, and if I saw an inkling of it, I’d lean in. I wouldn’t lie in the pursuit of having sex, but I’d definitely lessen aspects of myself in order to agree with people more. To try and put our compatibility on a pedestal. I’d worry about what I said, and whether this would make people like me less. I’d fret about what to wear on dates, the implications of my clothing choices and what they said about me. I’d be swept away on a wave of anxiety if I thought I’d messed up. In my mind, the risk of losing out on something that could be more was a tragedy. People who were interested in me were a rarity, and if I missed out, chances were that an opportunity wouldn’t come around again any time soon.

There’s a lot that was very wrong about the above. It’s not like I didn’t care about these people, but I definitely objectified them. I turned them into a goal I pursued. Of course I wanted to spend time with them, get to know them and grow closer, but also I was very much driven by a fear of being perpetually alone. Also at a base level I was diminishing myself, trashing my self-confidence. The underlying idea was that I was not worth affection, and thus I needed to trick and scheme my way into someone thinking I was. Gross all over.

I no longer operate on a scarcity model. I’m older, more relaxed, and confident [a reminder that we stan the Oxford comma here, when it makes sense -Ed]. Poly has enabled a lot of this change in behaviour. I know that I have someone to come home to. I’m in a stable, loving relationship and I’ve stopped seeing my value in whether or not I’m dateable. I know I’m dateable. I’ve been dating someone for over five years. Being in this relationship has assured me time and time again that all of my little oddities and eccentricities are features, not bugs. I’m a lovable dude to the right people. However, I’m not gonna find the people who like my specific strangeness if I act like someone else.

It’s entirely changed the way I navigate potential romantic connections. I don’t try to appear more appealing by changing myself. I’m okay having disagreements, because I don’t try to force things down a romantic path. If we’re not compatible, that’s okay. There’ll probably be other people who we will be compatible with. I’m done with spending time around people simply because I’m attracted to them, and hoping that I’ll fall for their personalities. I don’t prioritise sex these days, because being able to have connections where I’m able to be my genuine self means that sex is a bonus. The real goal is increasing the amount of time I get to spend having great conversations and doing neat activities with people. I don’t try to date anymore. I just have adult friendships. Sometimes those friendships become intimate, and that’s the cherry on top. I let these connections be what they are. There are a number of people with whom I’ve shared kisses. Some of these may end up resulting in sexual connections, some may not. I don’t mind. Getting to know someone you admire, hearing about their lives, and seeing what the world looks like through their eyes is a real reward. If sex is going to happen, it’s gonna happen when you’re both ready, comfortable and enthusiastic to do it. Why rush that timeline? If you’re both being your most genuine selves, and you’re each attracted to those genuine aspects, it’s probably more likely that things will get intimate. Far and away, I’ve found these connections so much more rewarding than any I had when I was dating out of fear.

So no, it’s not poly advice, but I doubt I’d have learned it if I wasn’t poly.

Oh by the way, this is a sponsored post for Kind Bars. Soz

Your regularly scheduled reminder that progress takes time.

We all have the capacity to change and grow. You’re allowed to learn new things that shift your opinion, and this is a great thing. Just because something doesn’t gel with your current world view, that doesn’t mean it’s immediately wrong. I know we don’t all have the energy to create space for regressive voices to learn at all times. Still, if the goal is to hope for a better future, the more we can work towards fostering understanding rather than “scoring points”, the closer that future gets. Signed, someone who still has a lot to learn.

I truly feel like I’m learning new stuff all the time. This year in particular has had a ton of growth. Last night I went to a lavish party with a particular group of friends. We tend to get together for fun excuses to get dressed up. Earlier this year, we visited a couple who’d moved to Montreal and had a post New Years event. This was at a huge low point for me. I’d deeply sunken into my depression, and come to the realisation that I wasn’t thrilled about being alive anymore. No melodrama, I didn’t want to die, but I also didn’t have a desire to go on living. My mental health had staggered for so long, and was bottoming out. I felt fortunate to be around friends, but it was hard to feel happy. Look, having fun is more enjoyable than not having fun, but there’s a noted difference when the things that used to bring you enjoyment begin to feel neutral. It’s a close knit group, and I made no secret of how much I was struggling. They were warm and compassionate about that, we all shared what was getting us down and it was cathartic. It also wasn’t some magic switch that made everything better. I still struggled.

Last night at this party, it was notable just how much things had changed. For the first time in years, I’m at a stage where I feel truly happy and grateful for everything around me. The medication has really turned around my mental health. I’m at a new job that I love. It’s challenging and requires constant creativity. I’m exhausted when I leave work, but it’s a tangible, pleasant exhaustion. Like the satisfaction you get after a good day of manual labour. I have a wonderful partner, and because of the work/life balance my job brings me, we get to spend a lot more time together during the days. We can wake up together, even. It’s such a mundane thrill. I have so many supportive friends, and I’m feeling better about the other intimate connections I’m making. I feel confident and engaged all the time. It’s an unbelievably positive place to be, and nine months ago I wouldn’t have thought it possible.

Recently, I read some post about the difference between being “nice” and being “kind”. It stuck with me. I don’t have a clear through-line, but I want to work on becoming a kind person. Nice often seems to stem from propriety. Being contextually pleasant, and doing small gestures. It’s almost like being nice is something to garner social status. That’s not what I’m looking for. I would like to be kind, and I think it’s an actionable goal. The way I see it, being kind is embodying a belief that people are worthy of compassion, and aiming to teach them that. It’s doing things for people because you want their lives to be better, and knowing when that’s in your capacity. It’s not ceding of yourself, compromising your needs for others. It’s finding ways to make it effortless to care, and to help. In my head, being nice is posting a supportive comment on a Facebook post. Being kind is letting that person know that you have space for them if they need it. Being nice is giving platitudes. Being kind is understanding what that person needs- whether it’s venting or advice- then giving them what they need rather than what you personally want to give. Being nice is offering help. Being kind is allowing that person to say no if they need, and not to feel bad about it.

As I said, I’m still learning. If things go well, I’ll never stop.