Tuesday, July 21, 2009


In May of this year, I celebrated my 10 year anniversary. No, not at my job (that was last August, even though I can hardly believe it). It was 10 years since I first began living alone. Not as in, leaving my parents' home, but as in living by myself.

The first "by myself" apartment was a subterranean dwelling (ok, basement) in Scarborough, not far from where I grew up. The owner of the house lived upstairs and she was a friend of my dad's so I got a great deal on the rent. She had 2 small children living up there with her, and my days of sleeping in were over once I moved in. The children were boisterous and energetic, as children are. She did, however, have a vast backyard with a small area that I called 'my own' and over the 2 summers I was living there, I used it extensively, as I also had a subscription to the New Yorker at the time, and, I must admit, a stunning tan. I moved out after she decided she needed the basement for her growing family and headed back downtown. Well, midtown.

I found the apartment on Bathurst, where I lived for almost the next 7 years, after my favourite aunt told me to drive along the street, looking for vacancy / for rent signs, and just go in and ask to speak to the superintendent. I did just that. They took me to a top floor apartment in a low-rise building right on Bathurst Street. The top floor was a huge carrot dangling for me, after living below a loud family. Also, the apartment faced a large Catholic church, directly opposite, visible through the very large windows that looked east onto the street.

I moved in two weeks after I saw it, mid-month, in October, just shy of Hallowe'en. It was the year 2000. Summer 2001 saw one of the hottest Ontario summers in years. It also saw me, without air conditioning, ( I later bought a window unit) reading The Fountainhead near the open dining room window. The New Yorker subscription continued, and I read that between chapters.
It didn't take long for me to aclimatize to living alone. After all, I worked very long hours and didn't spend a huge amount of time awake in the apartment anyway. Most of my waking hours were logged when I was home, after work, eating dinner in front of the tv, or at home after a night at the restaurant where I worked part-time, staying up late by myself, reading, thinking, and wondering if I would ever live with anyone ever again. After a while, I couldn't imagine it.

Year 8. 2007. My horoscope for January 1, New Year's Day, in the National Post said that 2007 was an auspiscious year for me to buy real estate. In a compulsive fashion, I did just that.
After getting a realtor, and a mortgage pre-approval, I started looking for a condo. I found it, very downtown, in the form of a loft that was formerly an optical office, with the connecting factory building also converted to lofts. I was home. Still alone, but more home than I had ever felt living alone. Every evening when I came home from work and duplicated my routine on Bathurst (who doesn't eat in front of the tv living alone, tell me this?) I would marvel at the high, smooth ceilings, the exposed ductwork, and the open concept rooms. Never mind that I would suffer another very hot, un-air-conditioned summer in those open rooms; as soon as the problem was resolved, I forgot it.

Recently, I got back into a relationship with a person whom I had been on-again, off-again for the past few years. We had discussed, in a previous incarnation, living together. I had done it once before with a boyfriend, years ago, and did not consider it to be something I wanted to do again. But things change, people change. They do. That expression "People don't change" is really a myth. They DO change, and you change too. If you're lucky, and you really work at it, they (and you) can change for the better.

So here I am, ending a 10-year plus stint. I could tell I was ready in a few ways. One, I'm really happy in my relationship. When both are working at it, it makes things easier than if only one is. Two--I started, probably about six or eight months ago, to feel very lonely in my living-alone life. That hadn't happened in a long time. Three--when I think about my boyfriend moving in, I have no feeling of dread or fear of 'giving up space'. I'm just excited. For my chance, for my turn. I've had plenty of time (ahem ten years....) to absorb every minutae detail about myself. I'm really ready to open things up.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tier One

I once read an article in a forgettable magazine, about friendship.
Although the magazine was forgettable, the message in this article (I read it
about 15 years ago), has never left me.
It talked about the "levels" of friendship that women cultivate, and now, as I get
well into my thirties, I'm finally starting to see and experience that.
No, it's not a "people come into your life for a reason/season" type-thing, but more of
a comment on how dynamic, and how, for lack of a better word, malleable friendships
between women are.
I recently had a conversation with a very dear (and long time) friend of mine on the phone.
We were talking about how, at a certain point in your life (usually around 28, 29, 30) you
go one way or the other. One way being the Marriage-and-Children route; the other being the Not-Marriage-and-Children route. It often isn't even a decision you "make" yourself, like choosing what career you want to commit to, or what you're ordering off the wine list. It's
sometimes kind of made for you. You might get lucky, fall in love with a great, committed partner at 22, and that sort of maps out the next few years--you build a life with that person, marry them, and have children with them. Alongside that, you may very well be constructing the early years of your career, and then bam, you're 30. Or the opposite may happen. You may be barrelling along, just as much in search of love and acceptance as the other gal, and guess what? It just doesn't happen. Or it does, it just happens wayyy later than you thought it would.
Your career (which you have plennnttty of time to devote to) benefits hugely. Your personal life...ahh. Not so much. You have wonderful friendships, as do your married counterparts, and for this you're grateful. But you wonder about the great divide. Because whose kidding who? In our socially-structured world, we are expected to reach milestones, especially as women.
The Great Divide ensues.
You're at the point where tiers of friendships begin to emerge.
Tier One is the top point--you talk to them everyday. Or at least every other day. They hear it all, your fears, your successes, your best and worst moments. You can finish each other sentences. You have tonnes in common. You can make spontaneous plans, ie, an hour before, and don't give it a thought. You may have very good highs with these girls, and sometimes severe lows. But you know they are in your life for good.
Tier Two. There are usually, when you have a good friendship base, alot of Tier Twos. They are amazing people, you've usually known them a long time, and no, you're not on a daily phone call; but you may be on a daily email, they connect through other tier twos and can catch up on your news without a conversation, and the internet in all its' email and Facebook glory, can let you get solid glimpses of one another's lives and keep up to date. In short, they are constants.
Tier Three. You may have once been tier one with this friend, and vice versa, but something has changed. Sometimes it's a misunderstanding, or a life changing circumstance, sometimes it is the Marriage and Children thing, and, usually through no ill will or recognizable sudden shift, you're not the person she calls on to have dinner with, and she's the last person you call when you need a serious opinion, because you know she's busy and over-extended. You think of each other fondly, but things have changed.
If you've managed to read this far, you're probably asking yourself, where is this going?
Well, as my friend on the phone proved to me this past week, there are sometimes when the tier system simply does not apply.
There are some people, if you are lucky enough to find them, who just get you. They just do. They always have.
They always will.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Summer Reading Schedule

These are a few favourites and a few i plan to read in the future. Keep in mind i often have strange taste in books...
Manhattan When I Was Young--Mary Cantwell Stunning fictional (?) memoir (?) of a young woman's journey through Old New York as she goes through her life.
What Remains--Carole Radwizill
Suite Francaise--Irene Menirovsky Depressing but poignant
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (series)-- Alexander McCall Smith no cell phones, no email, just the human condition. yes, it sounds cliched. Guess what? IT ISN'T
Naked--David Sedaris He is a New Yorker writer so i'm completely biased.
1984--George Orwell We live in a dystopia now. Why not explore that?
Animal Dreams--Barbara Kingsolver Has never left my top ten for life and it's been almost 20 years.
Banana Rose--Natalie Goldberg A gem of a writer, never has received the accolades she richly deserves.
Time Traveller's Wife--Audrey Niffenegger One of the best love stories ever written.
The Fountainhead--Ayn Rand As an interior designer, this might be why this book is so meaningful to me.
She's Come Undone--Wally Lamb Used to laugh on the subway reading this. People probably felt sorry for me. They needn't worry. I was in bliss.
Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing--Melissa Bank An unfortunate title, an unfortunate cover (the version i have anyway) but this book is amazing. Relationships. With yourself. Imagine!
The Wonder Spot--Melissa Bank Sophomore effort. You would think a person, even with abundant intelligence, could not re create the effect of GGHF. But she did. Fantastic book.
The Corrections--Jonathan Franzen Not an easy read, but worth it. The man took on OPRAH.
The Last King of Scotland--Giles Fogen Puts the movie to shame.
Important Articles and Personal Propery--Leanne Shapton It's an auction catatlogue in the form of a novel. Amazing.
The Pleasure of my Company--Steve Martin. Just read it. It's indescribable.
What Remains--Carole Radziwill Her husband has cancer, her best friend is famous. A beautiful, quiet book.
The Year of Magical Thinking--Joan Didion She knows what she's doing.
Drinking--A Love Story Caroline Knapp She doesn't shy away from the absolute simplicity of being unable to control her drinking. Dryly, she chronicles her struggle with the observance of a journalist.
Darkness Visible--William Styron Best memoir of depression I have ever read. His depression debilitates him in the evening, not the morning, and he struggles to keep going.
Autobiography of a Face--Lucy Grealy A child in a situation that forces her to grow up and strengthen her mind quickly. Well written and a must for anyone experiencing what they may feel is an insurmountable problem.
The Journals of Sylvia Plath--Edited by Ted Hughes Neurotic? To the bone. Intelligent. Too. Whatever you do, do not read this in the depth of Canadian Winter.

You don't have to like this list, or even see the relevancy. As with all my blog posts, they are for myself....