Four hundred and thirty-six

Still working on that one “out of my comfort zone” act that I’ve been avoiding

Part of me is desperate to get it over with, and part of me is avoiding it at all costs.  The dreaded stand-up comedy routine.  The thought of standing in front of a group of people telling them jokes makes my skin tighten, my insides jump, and my stomach work really hard not to heave all of its contents up and out.  I want to have a child-like tantrum where I lie on the ground flailing my arms and legs around, hitting the ground occasionally with my fists and screaming out “I don’t wanna do it” over and over again between sobs and attempts to catch my breath.  That is how dreaded the stand-up comedy thing is for me.  But I promised I would perform a stand-up routine last August during Out of My Comfort Zone month and I will do it.

The routine is written and I’ve been practicing.  I’m still not even close to being confident with it, but I can only do baby steps.  If I can get through the routine from start to finish without running around in circles (literally) in frustration, then I’ve accomplished my goal for the day.  The worst possible thing I could do would be to go up on stage and be so nervous everyone just feels awkward for me.  Unless, that’s part of the routine and people are supposed to feel awkward.  I squirm while watching The Office – especially the British version.

I’m pretty sure my coach and comedic mentor has given up on the hopes of ever seeing me up on that stage.  I haven’t forgotten or given up the goal to get myself up there, Peter!  I’m going to face my fears and push myself so far out of my comfort zone I am already embarassed for myself.  Some people hate heights, some dislike snakes, I dread trying to be funny in a room full of strangers.

I’m talking about this today because a run-in with a couple of old acquaintances got me thinking about how I need to keep pushing myself.  A couple of years ago I was working New Years Eve and was serving a group of guys and girls in their 30s.  They all had a few drinks and were loving me.  One guy in particular kept talking to me and asked me if he could go out with me on a date.  I respond like I do every time I’m single and someone who’s had a few drinks asks me that question: “come back tomorrow and sure”.  The next day was New Years Day and I was sure he wouldn’t remember, let alone come in hungover – especially when I saw him making out with another girl later that night.  Funnily enough, the next day he showed up with his buddy and sat at the bar.  I was shocked, but went and chatted with them.  Since then every time they come in to the pub we chat about our lives.

A couple of days ago they came in and I told them about the book and the blog and how much happier I am than a year ago.  The one asked me “if I were to tell someone one thing to do to be happy and simulate the results of what I went through, but without the 366 days of blogging, what would it be?”  I was about to respond that it’s everyone’s personal journey that they have to take, but then something hit me.  “Challenge yourself every day.  Do something that gets you thinking and learning and pushing yourself just a little.”  I must continue to challenge myself too – not just in writing, but in continuing my educational and social journeys.  First one – do the stand-up comedy routine already, Lindsay!

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Three hundred and fifty-five

“Blasts from the past”

I went for a three-hour walk around the city yesterday.  I always find a long walk gives me inspiration and ideas.  I kept seeing places that I visited this past year.

Do you remember these moments (some are more cryptic than others)?

(Burritos in the park with The Director in date month)

(I entered Anthropologie in Yorkville dressed as a “total hussy” – my highest views all year – and one week later dressed as a “total bum”.  See here for photos on me in the changing room on both occasions.)

(JustEat.ca – the good, the bad, and the ugly during Online Shopping Month)

(The Concert Date at the Tranzac)

(Panacea – vegan store I visited at Bloor and Bathurst, which is very sadly closing.)

(The social experiment date at David’s Tea)

One hundred and seventy

The cheaper version of SPAM –  Holiday Luncheon Meat

Apparently there is cult following of ‘luncheon meat’ lovers.  A coworker was telling me yesterday about how her friend (a twenty-something woman) entered a SPAM recipe contest and won.  According to Wikipedia, on average 3.8 cans of SPAM are consumed every second in the United States.  Burger King and McDonald’s in Hawaii both feature SPAM on their menu.  When fresh meat is unavailable or there is economic hardship, canned meat products are a cheap and easy way to get protein.

Before yesterday, I had never tried meat from a can.  I probably never will again.  From the first whiff of processed meat and fish (why does it smell like fish?) as I tried to open the can of Holiday Luncheon Meat, to the moment I threw it out in a separate garbage bag to get rid of some of the lingering smell that hung in my kitchen, it was not my favourite experience.  I am actually still gagging a bit now, just thinking of it.

I had a hard time opening the can in the first place.  When I finally did, it looked so unreal – like really bad dog food.  Why is it so pink?  I’m starting to gag.  My belly is doing flips.  I cut off a slice.  I decide to smell it before I taste it which was a very bad idea.  I still can’t figure out why it smells like rotting fish.  I had to close my eyes and not think of what I was eating.  I ate a whole slice.  It tasted like bologna gone bad with a spongey, rubbery texture.  I wonder if there’s a reason why I think of the beef stomach lining I ate on Friday when I tasted this…  It left a greasy film on my fingers, the knife and anything else it came in contact with.  Maybe it would be better cooked?

The ingredients: Mechanically separated meats (chicken and/or pork), pork, water, wheat flour, potato starch, salt, sugar, monosodium glutamate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrate, spices, smoke.  “Mechanically separated chicken and/or pork” – yum!

I can see the slab of meat start to sweat in the heat of my kitchen.  The smell is overwhelming.  That’s enough of Holiday Luncheon Meat for me – it’s going in the garbage.  I will not be one of 3.8 cans consumed during this second!

One hundred and sixty-nine

Sexual Health Clinic

I recently had a conversation with my grandmother about how she doesn’t like this month very much.  She doesn’t want to see me walking around in that outfit in Yorkville or going to bars by myself.  I can’t imagine she will be reading the blog anymore after yesterday’s post!  If she is, though, I’m not sure how she’ll feel about my trip to the Hassle Free Clinic at Church and Gerrard…

When I started this adventure six months ago I wanted to learn, but I also wanted to share my new knowledge and teach as much as I could to whoever ended up following along.  Sexual health is a topic I feel really strongly about, especially the more that casual sex is accepted and cheating is considered ‘normal’ (this makes me so sad – just be honest about it).  No one likes to go get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  It is out of everyone’s comfort zone to sit in a chair and talk about your sexual history, then have blood taken and a doctor (you’ve potentially never met, if it’s a clinic) looking up inside you and taking swabs.  But it’s important to have done when you are changing sexual partners, if you have any symptoms, even if you don’t have any symptoms.  Regular testing is important for your own health and for the health of those other people you choose to have intercourse with.  It also helps the spread of disease.

I usually get tested once a year with my family doctor at the time of my physical and then any time I change a sexual partner.  It is never my favourite thing to do, but it is a must.  I think some people are under the impression that it’s better not to know.  That is not fair to all the rest of us who get tested regularly!  And do not lie about being tested.  It doesn’t mean you’re a slut if you get tested, either.  Even if you have one sexual partner, it’s still good to be safe.

The Hassle Free Clinic is a great place to drop in and get checked.  There is a women’s and a men’s clinic that operate at different times (check out their website here for when you should go, but make sure you go early if you are doing the drop-in, as they are usually pretty busy).  They offer STI testing, anonymous HIV testing, birth control info, and counseling, among other things (see website for more details).

Entering the Hassle Free Clinic yesterday, I was anxious to get it over with.  There were a few women already waiting in the lobby – it was twenty minutes before they opened (definitely get there early to be seen).  We were told to take a number and fill out a form.  The lobby was filled with nervous girls, a few of which had appointments, but most were there for the drop-in.  There was one older lady, but mostly the girls were in their teens and twenties (it is located beside Ryerson University, so I think a lot of them were students).  It took about twenty minutes for me to be seen by the doctor after filling out the required forms (from when I arrived to when I left was about an hour).

The doctor took me in to an examination room and asked me a few questions about my sexual and general health history.  She took blood for syphilis.  The doctor was great – she made me feel very comfortable and able to ask all the questions I needed to.  I asked her about HPV, which I keep hearing about.  She said there’s no way to be tested, but it is estimated 75% of Canadians will have at least one type of HPV infection in their lifetime (more stats at hpvinfo.ca).  Scary thought.  The exam on the table was over in thirty seconds.  Stirrups.  Everything looked normal.  A couple of swabs.  Done.  Painless.

There’s no excuse not to get tested.  This is one great thing to do for yourself and others that is out of your comfort zone.  It only takes an hour of your time and you find out the results in about a week and a half.  Do it!

One hundred and sixty-eight

Metro Theatre – a trip to one of the few remaining old-time adult cinema’s in Canada

I have said over and over again this month that the anticipation and thought of doing something out of your comfort zone is worse than the reality.  This is an exception to that rule – my experience at the adult cinema was so much worse than my wildest imaginings I still have the hebejebes.

“Don’t slip,” the cashier (a gentle older man who genuinely seemed to be looking out for me and my gentleman friend) says as he walks us to the general admittance theatre – ewwww.  There are two theatres at the Metro, a historic movie theatre on Bloor between Manning and Clinton, that offer continuous play of three porn films from 11:30am to 10pm, 7 days a week.

It was 8:30pm on a Sunday when we arrived through the red door with the “POSITIVELY NO ONE UNDER 18 ADMITTED” sign under a picture of a woman holding a snake.  I had paced back and forth outside the cinema with my male accompaniment saying that I might not be able to do it.  I wasn’t sure I was brave enough.  Did I really want to see that part of society?  And did I really want anyone to see me going in there?

I clung to my date and made him do all the talking.  Twenty dollars for two got us admittance to both cinemas – the general admittance larger theatre and the smaller one that you need a code to enter (an extra that I think the cashier gave us to be kind).  We entered the coded cinema first and besides the musty smell in the air and the giant screen of two women and one man getting it off, it wasn’t so bad.  No one else was there.  The porn was fairly tasteful.  The theatre wasn’t too dirty.  I was relieved.  I was all worried for nothing.

The decision to check out the larger cinema will haunt me forever.  “If anyone comes up to you just give them the bum rush and tell them to go away.”  More words of advice from the cashier.  “You know how it is.  A girl comes into a place like this they get brave.”  There should have been horror music as he led us to the door.  “If they want a girl, they should just go to a club.”  I had a really bad feeling and clung to my gentleman friend’s hang so tightly I was afraid he would lose circulation.  “Just go in and take a seat right away.” My date later told me that he thinks if you stand at the back of the theatre that means you’re inviting other people to check you out.  We definitely did not want that.

We entered the grand theatre to the image of a black leather corseted woman in white makeup and a top hat on the big screen (this I later found out from my date, as I was too petrified to even pay attention to what was on the screen).  The vinyl seats are peeling and sticky.  The musty smell is strong.  I am creeped out.  It’s dark, but I can see about four men scattered around the theatre.  All is still when we enter and we take a seat on the side.  My date sits like a coiled spring ready to defend me.  Then there’s movement.  The men are moving towards us.  We hear belt buckles clink.  It’s been five seconds.  I tell my date we have to leave – NOW.  I couldn’t even look at the men.  My friend said he didn’t want to.  Who are these men?  Why are they there?  Are they lonely?  Do they just enjoy the films, as this article about the Metro from the Toronto SUN suggests?

This is a world in which women are outsiders, only to be watched on the big screen as objects of lust.  This is not a place where I was welcomed.  I stood out, in a very bad way.  And I was so happy I had not tried to do this alone.  It’s not the porn that shocked me, but the experience itself.

The minute we left we went to wash our hands.  I didn’t touch my clothes.  My date and I were both overwhelmed.  Neither of us had ever felt such an intense energy before as in that second cinema.  Every instinct in my body said run.

Some men enjoy this and I am glad there is a place for them to go.  The cashier was lovely and the historic cinema beautiful. I would recommend if women want to go, to stick to the VIP room, though.  Or just watch porn at home on the internet.

Click here for another woman’s take on her trip to the Metro Theatre on blogTO.