Posts Tagged With: Rona Maynard

Dog Whistles and Other Requirements

“A girl that can dog whistle.”

“One that can do crosswords.”

“Can sing harmony.”

Must play guitar.”

A random Friday night fireside chat in Nashville proved to be incredibly illuminating. What each of us found alluring in a partner was a fascinating glimpse into our customized concepts and unique demands of true love. Our answers came instantaneously, but I’ve never read a personals ad that blatantly asked for such skills.

MUST love dogs

 It’s a dirty pleasure, like licking Oreo cookie icing from the biscuit and leafing through the smudged copies of In Touch and Hello! at the grocery store. I love to read personals ads. Often, I am shocked at how cookie-cutter love-seekers are.  “I love candlelight dinners.” Well, duh. Who doesn’t? Maybe someone who worked a graveyard shift at a candle factory, or somebody allergic to paraffin wax, but, c’mon!

“I love nature and long walks on the beach.” Again, who doesn’t? Maybe an agoraphobic or an albino. And really, you are only looking for someone with brown eyes between the ages of 31-53? That’s your criteria? My friend Kelly Whittet says she’s just happy to find someone with two eyes.

Canada’s best comic, Elvira Kurt, did a bang-on sketch a few years ago about dating and love. She remarked that we spend more time looking for sunglasses than we do for our partners. If someone expresses interest in us, we are sucked in by an insurmountable magnetic force. The force convinces us that maybe this is the very last person on earth who will ever want us again.  Weeks later, the neat and tidy little Ikea life is set-up once again and yet another relationship is kick-started with cutesy pet-names and voluntary foot rubs.

But how do we keep the home fires burning when “psychologists report that the dizzying feeling of intense romantic love lasts only about 18 months to—at best—three years” (“How to Make Romance Last” by Helen Fisher, Oprah Magazine, December 2009).  Should we just commit to a three-year term, or narrow the window to 18 months to guarantee mutual happiness? Would that be so wrong? If everyone could agree to a condensed timeline, the honeymoon would never end.

In the same article, psychologist Marcel Zenter, PhD (University of Geneva), “found no particular combination of personality traits that leads to a sustained romance—with one exception: the ability to sustain your positive allusions.” So, if you maintain that your partner is sex-on-legs, clever, handy, brainy, funny and ideal for you in every way, extended bliss is yours.

Helen Fischer has seen this phenomenon, better known as “love blindness.” She watched a couple she knew from college days morph into bigger, lazier versions of their fit and fab college identities. But, to each other, they haven’t changed at all. Fischer thinks of this form of “self-deception” as a “gift from nature, enabling us to triumph over the rough spots and the changes in our relationships.”

So, love is blind and dumb?

In August I had lattes with my pal Kim. I told her that I had once read that the thing you love most about someone initially, is the quirk you end up loathing the most in the end. I’ve left a few people sleepless over this comment. But, I know from analyzing myself and my relationships, that by god, it’s true! Try it, you’ll be alarmed.

Kim wondered if we should become more or less tolerant of what we want in a partner with age. Should we refine our Must Possess lists to a very tight and impractical checklist—or open up the strict guidelines to welcome new possibilities? I knew a Serbian who loved a Croatian, so certainly a vegan could love a butcher? And do I really need a girlfriend who spells well? Why have two in the family? There’s always spellchecker, or me.

Dax would like a guy that reads, with an accent, who preferably owns a Great Dane. Is this too much to ask for? And, if I find a girl who can’t dog whistle and cringes at the thought of sleeping with lions while on safari in Botswana, should I give her the brush off? If she doesn’t love dogs in general, yes. My theory is that if you don’t like dogs, there has to be a serious underlying human defect that I don’t want to be associated with.

I want someone who will stop and pick earthworms off the sidewalk so they don’t get stepped on. A girl who will take that long walk on the beach and throw washed-up starfish back into the tide.  And I want a reader too—not just someone who can read my mind. Although that would be okay too. Someone who could read my mind perfectly would never, ever, under any circumstance, ask me to dance in public or sing karaoke.

When I was 16 I imagined I would be a hermit on a mountainside with a German pointer, a small garden with plum tomatoes, chives, elephant garlic—and an ocean view. (This is the year my mom gave me a dog-eared copy of How To Live On Nothing by Joan R. Shortney). I wanted, quite desperately, to be a three day paddle from civilization. I have similar fantasies now and again, but after reading Into the Wild (Jon Krakauer), the obvious message was “Happiness is best shared.”

The trouble with liking yourself as much as I do, is that you feel complete already. The Jerry Maguire compulsion to find someone to complete me somewhat vanished a few needier years ago. I am complete. But maybe I need a really funny and smart accessory who likes baked brie and chimpanzees as much as I do.

In Stratford this past fall, my mom elbowed me as we listened to our charming server describe the nose and legs of the chardonnay we ordered. When she stepped away from our table my mother suggested I needed someone like our server, “Someone nerdy and bookish.”

But do I want to date myself?

My problem is that I fall in love with people’s stories. Beyond dog whistles and somebody that can do a loon call with cupped hands, I am a sucker for a good bildungsroman. (Wiktionary definition: A coming-of-age tale tracing the spiritual, moral and psychological growth of a character from childhood to maturity.)

I wish all my friends would write autobiographies, but then I’d be in love with a lot of people at the same time. I guess it’s the vulnerability that I’m drawn to. The whispered secrets. The same rescuer in me that likes to save baby birds and abandoned dogs, likes to rescue stray girls too, the ones who haven’t been loved as they should be.

Jann Arden’s song “Everybody’s Broken,” would be the soundtrack for the movie of my life. On her website she writes: “We are all flawed. We are all broken. It’s hard to remember that we all have a story, that we all have a past, a present and an uncertain future. We all belong to each other. We are all in this mess together.”

I’m sure if I posted Jann’s song description as a personals ad, I’d have a line-up of heart-broken saps, the runts of the litter, the black sheep and the misunderstood—all wanting some unconditional love. But I’m thinking more along the lines of a gal with a few fractures—who had one “that got away,” but survived. A gal who isn’t jaded or bitter about love and thinks Love In the Time of Cholera could happen in this era too. (Just to prove those pesky psychologists who believe in three year bliss terms wrong). I need someone hopeful and happy with their lives, who still wishes on birthday candles, chicken wishbones and falling stars.

Rona Maynard blogged that “what passes for harmony in marriage, two hearts and mind in lockstep, is my notion of a snooze. Let’s hear it for the allure of difference!” In her post “How We Stayed Married For 39 Years,” she mentions a pair who have been together for 40 years—she  a Catholic who enjoys speaking to the dead, and he an “atheist with no truck for the other side.”

So, here’s your chance to weigh in. Should we ask for more than brown eyes and an age group? Do we marry our soulmate or look for a Catholic/Atheist– Butcher/Vegan-type union? Do we side with the psychologists and take on a lifetime of honeymooning?

Or do we let love sneak up on us as it usually does and just hold on to its promise for as long as we can?


“How We Stayed Married For 39 Years” by Rona Maynard—

For more of Jann Arden’s personal examination of Free and the intimate stories behind the lyrics–

Categories: Polyblogs in a Jar | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

“So, how do y’all know each other?”

It didn’t occur to me that our story was perhaps a strange and startling one. Did we really all meet online? And after only a few short months of knowing each other, we thought we should travel to Nashville for the weekend? Together?  We immediately sounded like a reality TV show full of guaranteed fireworks, bitching and someone crying into their margarita by night’s end.

Last summer I remember reading Rona Maynard’s article “Online Bonding” (Best Health, Summer 2008) in the fluorescent lighting of the Shoppers Drug Mart in Abbotsford, in one swallow. I identified so closely with her concept of the “virtual community” and its merits that I bought the magazine. Finally, I had found someone who understood the comfort, intrigue and network that can be discovered through social media forums like Facebook and Twitter.

I emailed Rona immediately and said I wanted to be part of her virtual neighbourhood. She wrote back and we got on like a house on fire.  Her words were amplified when I spent four months in Africa, and longed for the connection of friends so many oceans away. Although the internet connection was as reliable as public transit, I was able to send daily ‘postcards,’ if you will, to all my friends flung worldwide. And because I was falling asleep in Uganda just as Canada was waking up, I had constant companions into the wee hours to chat with.

As a kid, I had over 40 pen pals at one point. I went to several summer camps and picked the very best of the lot to keep me from being not so “campsick” (my version of homesick) over the too-long winters. There was a girl in Korea who sent me traditional dresses, Marco from Quebec who I met in the Bahamas, Dan from Boise, Idaho and a few others that I still keep curious tabs on.

The pen pal process has definitely been updated and refined, and the likelihood of meeting  Facebook and Twitter ‘pen pals’ is tangible, doable and the obvious next step in online friendships.

I haven’t actively searched out strangers online, more often they are friend suggestions from someone near and dear to me who says, “Hey, this person is really cool. You should add her, you’ll love her humour.” And with a virtual introduction and handshake, the friendship is kick-started.

It’s almost like online dating, but for friends. And why not pull out the weeds before deciding which flowers to keep as perennials? The most remarkable people have shown up in my inbox–like when Jules Tortolani wrote me a random note to say, “Hey, we share a lot of letters in our name in common. We should probably be friends.” I initially had my Nut Bar Radar on high alert, but I couldn’t pick a more perfect soulmate than Jules.

I only have seven other ‘never-mets’ on my Facebook list, but I know these face-to-face encounters will happen because I have to meet Rob Peace. One night he was creeping through my old Toronto brownstone neighbour Ryan’s Facebook friend list and found me. He recognized my name and made a miraculous connection to a wall mural I had painted in Dunnville, Ontario a decade ago at a pizza joint called Godfathers. Rob had stopped for greasy pizza after a wedding and sent me a photo taken that night—of him and his then-girlfriend at Godfathers, with my mural and name in the background.

And this is why I love Facebook and its zero degrees of separation.

Which brings me to Nashville and the firepit where Andrea asked, “So, how do y’all know each other.”

Well, Heidi and I had been emailing back and forth like a tennis ball in a Serena and Venus finals game since March. A mutual friend had virtually introduced us and I was told that Heidi had been to Africa, and anyone that’s been to Africa is good in my books.

And Pam, another online friend said, “Leslie, she’s the real deal. Add her. Funny as hell and not a wacko.” So,  Leslie and I started our bantering late August and met weeks later at a concert at Hugh’s Room in Toronto. Her potential probationary Nut Bar status was removed just as quickly as Jules Tortolani. I sat at Leslie’s  table with a cardboard cut-out of Heidi’s head (semi-long and separate story), because Leslie and Heidi were also linked together online, about a year before. And then Leslie introduced me to Kelly at the concert, who played Proline football with Heidi in Nashville, and the Twittering began.

As someone who loves to write (anything really—from grocery lists to erotica to emails longer than a Charles Dickens novel), Leslie and I outdid each other with our essay-length get-to-know-you question and answer sessions. Mid-September she asked me what my biggest regret in life was, as one of her daily five questions (we liked to keep things light and fluffy). This was after Leslie told me that she and Kelly had decided to visit Heidi in Nashville in November.

Leslie, me, Kel

“My biggest regret is not going to Nashville with you two,” I responded, half- joking while sipping merlot on my brother’s floor, and sorting out where to work and live as I had just landed back in Toronto. When I woke up in the morning, there were almost a dozen emails from Kelly and Leslie insisting that I come to Tennessee with them, to meet Heidi and see a football game of all things, and in less than an hour I had a flight booked on

Naturally, one would think such a random get together would be a train wreck in slow motion. What we didn’t realize was how perfect we all were for each other. I’ve gone camping with friends who I’ve wanted to leave out for the bears to eat on the first night.

I uesd to know a woman who would end all her relationships (not intentionally) when she planned an overnight camping trip with them. She convinced me that maybe this was the best way to filter out the gal and friends that are going to work. If you can set up a tent together, eat sloppy S’mores, sleep in soggy sleeping bags, piss in a beer can in the tent because it’s raining, wake up smelling like bacon bits and still respect each other in the morning, the partnership/friendship would definitely work.

And maybe this was what Nashville was for us. It was our camping trip to ensure that we had the vital elements for continuing the friendship that had started online.


But I knew. I knew Kelly would be like a golden retriever—happy to follow any of us wherever we wanted to go. She used to do stand-up comedy, so she was a logical choice to spend life on a desert island or a weekend in Nashville with.  I was also confident that Leslie was solid, despite her warning that she sometimes turned into a Greek man when drinking.


The bigger question was whether Heidi could handle Team Canada on her Nashville doorstep.


Emails full of anticipation were sent back and forth, fast and furious. We nearly laughed ourselves hoarse the first night in Detroit (and Leslie returned with no voice to speak of at all!). And when we finally met our Nashville ambassador, Heidi, we laughed even more. The ‘reunion’ was without awkwardness or oh-my-god-she-didn’t-tell-me-about-that-annoying-quirk revelations. It was like a mutual sigh and sense of relief–“Finally, we get to be together!”


The November Nashville sun was like a summer’s day. We had lunch on Ted’s sun-kissed BBQ patio, feeling the southern hospitality instantly–bison meatloaf sandwiches, Flying Dog Pale Ale, sliders, Auntie Faye’s squash casserole and the company of ‘strangers.’

We had so much to talk about and I left Nashville after four days thinking, there just wasn’t enough time for all the conversations, pancakes and pork rinds that needed to be ha

I had no idea that Nashville was going to be such an epicurean pleaser either! I have a list of things I still need to eat there—like the four pound burger that’s free if you can eat it in an hour, deep-fried pickles, fried catfish sandwiches, grits and Jack’s BBQ! But, when you travel, you always need to leave a reason to return.

The highlight was unanimously Arrington Vineyards, founded by country artist Kix Brooks (of Brooks & Dunn fame). What a magical place of storybook quality. Heidi insisted that we arrive just before the sun set to fully experience the charm of Arrington. At Arrington you can buy a bottle (Viognier, Reisling, Muscat, Syrah, Cabernet) and find a place to picnic on the property. And the picnicking is serious—linens, candles, charcuterie, cheese wedges worth more than the bottles of wine and artisan crackers. We’re not talking about cold KFC and a bag of stale Doritos. Arrington wine sippers know how to picnic.

There are dozens of picnic tables, huge swings in the handsome trees, a wrap-around deck and a welcoming hillside for casual wine drinking while reclined in the grass. The vines were scarlet red in the fields, and so striking against the horizon. When the sun dropped in the sky that night—it was like God was showing off his best brushstrokes.

Heidi introduced us to her favourite, the Syrah—black tea, exotic spice, pepper, blackberry jam and mocha flavours. It was a gentle collision of sensuality and silkiness. We talked into the darkness, sharing the intimate conversations that the night pulls out of you before you even realize it. A bonfire was lit at the top of the hill and was licking the belly of the stars when we left.

We continued the wine-tasting theme at The Wine Loft, a swishy tapas-style resto with thimble-sized stools and small, cozy tables that add to the contagious vibe. I was still full from the stack of Cracker Barrel blueberry pancakes 10 hours previous, but managed to eat almost an entire wheel of vanilla-infused baked brie with crostini. The tapas were almost too pretty to eat as the Loft takes pride in constructing appetizers suitable for hanging on gallery walls.

On Sunday, after crappy football nachos with congealed cheese at the Titans vs. Bills game (16 rows up from the field!), Heidi made sure that we had the finest tortilla chips and love potion margaritas in town at Cantina Laredo. Let me tell you, even the forks are bigger in America, and for good reason.

My vision of Nashville was largely of 10 gallon hats, spurs and a lot of Marlboro men leaned up against pick-up trucks, but I was pleasantly surprised. The Cumberland River splits the city in a reflective divide, and minutes from downtown, the manicured properties and drool-worthy plantation homes elicit constant oooohs and ahhhhhs.

The grounds of the Steeplechase and the local parks with spun-gold maple leaves brighter than the sun, where we took Heidi’s retrievers for a swim, were the best bits of America. And with the Southern drawl, everyone we talked to had us at “hello.” Really, I can’t remember visiting a friendlier state. Even the homeless are hospitable and willing to sing a hurtin’ country song for spare change. Kelly and I decided we could easily live there. She would require season’s tickets for the Titans, and I would simply need to add more mileage to my morning runs to keep pace with the butter intake.

There was a palpable sadness in leaving Nashville and saying goodbye to Heidi (who definitely passed the weekend camping test). I am so grateful for the virtual introductions (thanks J.) and for the beautiful connections that have been made in a world that really is not so big after all.

God bless America, Facebook and Rona, for reminding us that it’s not about where you find your friends, it’s where you keep them. And I’m keeping these women closer to my heart after this weekend.

Heidi, Kelly and Les


Arrington Vineyards–

“Welcome to my online community.  Instead of wine or coffee, I’m serving stories—the kind women tell among friends.”  Visit Rona’s brilliant blog—

All things Nashville–

Categories: Polyblogs in a Jar, Wild Women | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rachel Getting Married

Movies about weddings usually carry an unspoken guarantee. Much like a Meryl Streep film, you know it’s going to be good. Muriel’s Wedding (1994), Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) and Mamma Mia (2008), were all box office sledgehammers.But Rachel Getting Married? Ugh.

Not Rachel Getting Married, some anonymous couple in Lake Louise knot-tying

Not Rachel Getting Married, some anonymous couple in Lake Louise knot-tying

Director Jonathan Demme has delivered knock-outs like Silence of the Lambs (1991), Philadelphia (1993) and The Manchurian Candidate (2004). His latest and supposedly greatest Rachel Getting Married was filmed in 33 days and opened the 65th Venice International Film Festival.

Jenny Lumet, a juniour high drama teacher, daughter of Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of Lena Horne, wrote the screenplay. Demme loved Jenny’s “flagrant disregard for the rules of formula and lack of concern for making characters likeable in the conventional sense.” No kidding.

Anne Hathaway, who plays Kym, the troubled, just out of rehab Buchman family member, was nominated for Best Actress (the Oscar went into the proper hands of Kate Winslet for The Reader).The eponymous bride, Rachel, was handled boldly and beautifully by Rosemarie DeWitt, with more patience and grace under fire than I could swallow. When her whining whippet of a sister (Kym) comes home for the wedding, the sibling battle begins, and rightfully so. The tension between the sisters is so palpable and uncomfortable that I found myself wanting to smack Kym with at least one stinging slap across the face. Dinner parties became hunting grounds for the sisters, and the house full of captive wedding guests allows Kym ample opportunity to exercise her rehab humour and spur on yelling matches. She steals more attention from Rachel than a NFL half-time streaker.

And there is so much yelling that weekend of the wedding. It reminded me of a t-shirt I saw a guy wearing on the subway in Toronto last year: “I’m not yelling, I’m Italian!” Apparently some families yell as a way of expressing their love for each other, this is new to me.

It comes as no surprise that Rachel Getting Married sits at 86% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer. I left my seat twice to make popcorn and grab another beer (slow moving movies = faster drinking apparently). Usually I ask Wanda to hit ‘pause’ but I was secretly hoping that she would accidentally press ‘fast forward’ on the remote. One hour into the movie I asked if she wanted to stop it and watch something on the Food Network. “No, we’ve watched it this far.” And so we twitched and cringed to the bitter end, waiting for their estranged mother, Debra Winger, to possibly steal the show, waiting for the big reveal of something. Like the explanation of the emotional worms eating at dear old Kym, explaining her slap-worthy behaviour and rants.

But, that explanation didn’t fully come with acceptance until I emailed Rona Maynard, telling her that I had just watched the dreadful Rachel Getting Married. A reader on Rona’s blog “Let’s Talk” had suggested the movie on a recent posting on the theme of healing estrangements ( The reader recommended the movie as she felt it deftly handled the squirmy topic of family rifts and resolve “without being manipulative.” Rona replied almost instantly to my email.

Hmmm…I’m the one who loved Rachel Getting Married. Saw it twice, in fact—and on the second viewing felt more compassion toward all characters, including Hathaway’s.” Rona went on to explain that sometimes a “dangerously enmeshed family avoids burningly important truths whle stepping uninvited into everyone else’s business. Kym is what family therapists call ‘the identified patient'(scapegoat).” SPOILER HERE– “They can’t bear to talk about the dead brother, so she provides a convenient distraction.”

And so, my fiery backlash at Hathaway was gently downgraded. I will have to watch the movie again with Rona’s slant on scapegoat-ism and Kym being the true victim in a movie that makes her seem like the villain.

But before that I will rent Margot at the Wedding because Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh exhibit sibling rivalry at its best. The wit and clever dialogue had me rooting for both sisters instead of dividing my allegiance like Rachel Getting Married.

You decide. Or, if you’ve decided, let me know if you’d watch Rachel get married again.

Trailer for Margot at the Wedding:

Rachel Getting Married:


Categories: Flicks and Muzak | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Bullied Into Blogging

Last year I narrowly avoided the pencil jeans craze and am stepping clear of the Daisy Duke short-shorts phenomena of 2009. However, I was the first and only one to own a red faux-leather Michael Jackson Thriller jacket in elementary school. Sometimes I am ahead of the crowd and sometimes I choose to avoid from what I presume will be a bubblegum fad or a phase. Like Facebook, I would have bet a lot of Monopoly money that it would become Phasebook, so I was the very last to join the social media ranks. Previous to that, I was the last to get an email address, despite my brother having our family connected by dial-up back in 1993.

I’ll blame it on my parents. We were the last family in southwestern Ontario to buy a microwave. And a VCR? That purchase took years (during which we rented a VCR from Jungle Video for the weekend, and my father spent two hours, mostly exasperated, connecting the machine to our console TV). I never did learn how to program the VCR because a very wise part of me knew that it would go away. The DVD will as well (hello Blue-ray!), so it doesn’t make sense to become well-versed with the settings and features now. My 4MP digital camera of 2005 is already a museum exhibit which I will display next to my cell phone of 2000 which is as big as a rolling pin.

Should I confess that I’ve never sent a text message? Oh, the humiliation! I don’t think I’ve even bothered to figure out the necessary keys to make a happy or sad face out of apostrophes and parantheses. But, the time has come for me to blog. Rona Maynard, former editor of Chatelaine told me so. And what does she know? Well, when it comes to anything literary, writerly or necessary, she would be the woman I would choose to represent me for the Double Jeopardy question in any of those categories.

 “You really MUST have a blog (I say for the hundred and 99th time).”

–Rona Maynard, April 25th, 2009

In May, when Rona roams around China possibly eating frog eyeballs and chicken testicles, I will be featured as a guest post on her website This post has prodded me to enter the jungle of blogging because as Rona said, how would her readers find me otherwise? Where could they go to read more of me?

In the last few months I have read three books that have stemmed from blogs: Julie & Julia by Julie Powell, The 100-Mile Diet—Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon and Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson. I have come to realize the power of love (thanks to Celine Dion), and the power of blogs in a society that has a hunger for the latest and greatest (preferably in word economy format that Twitter allows)with the immediacy of ordering a tall, no-fat latte.

Julie Powell’s humble blog about creating 524 Julia Child recipes in 365 days evolved into a movie starring Meryl Streep. For Smith and Mackinnon, who originally chronicled their attempts to eat local on, their blog boiled into a Food Network series: The 100-Mile Challenge. The couple can now lean back and watch the exasperation as six Canadian families endure 100 days minus daily vices like coffee, tea, chocolate, olive oil and sugar.

For Catherine Sanderson, the Brit blogger living in Paris, fame came when she pink-slipped from her job at Dixon Wilson Chartered Accountants, due to her blogging activity. Her employer must be still frothing to know that canning Sanderson directly led to her publishing deal and first book. The initial gross misconduct charge was altered to “dismissal for real and serious cause—breakdown of trust.” The Petite Anglaise blogger was anonymous until press interest leaked her name. Sanderson’s complaint in court earned her a tidy sum of 44,000 euros plus legal costs and a two-book deal with Penguin Books.

As I begin this blog, I wonder where it will all lead to. Possibly getting fired if I don’t get a move on here and get ready for my real job. Don’t think Penguin will issue me a book deal for that.

with-latteAnd here I go.

Categories: Polyblogs in a Jar, The Kitchen Sink | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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