Tag Archives: girl

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Run Foreign, Run!

Warm Up

How hard can it be do go for a run in India’s international metropolis? Mumbai has a special place in many hearts including mine but that probably doesn’t include the terrible pollution and traffic.

Being from North America’s most liveable city, I grew up being spoilt by Vancouver’s long, straight roads with bicycle lanes and wide sidewalks. The fresh mountain and sea air make the perfect humidity and temperature to run outdoors, and the infrastructure makes it safe and even peaceful to run as long and as far as you can dream.

When I made the transition to living in Mumbai, it meant that I went from running 30 km’s a week to none. More than anything else, I was afraid of committing some social taboo since I didn’t see any female joggers on the roads. The thought of the people staring, the traffic, and the sidewalks kept me indoors. The cost of a gym membership, the gym small-talk, and the monotonous running on a treadmill kept me sedentary.

Living in India, I could handle many eyes staring at me on a daily basis and I only ever managed to let it piss me off about once a month when it would get really bad on a day when I have no patience. Being a caucasian with blond hair, I realized that it would just have to become a part of life. Still, I was conscious of running outside but the thought of sweaty body building men hitting on me at the gym seemed even worse.

After being told to stop complaining and just give it a try, I decided to go for an early morning run in my neighbourhood. I couldn’t imagine running in the afternoon/ evening after the streets had baked in the hot sun all day.

I used to say that the hardest part of exercising is putting on the running shoes but I have changed my mind about that. Running shoes on, I headed out for my adventure.

KM 1

I decided to start out on the beach near my house. At low tide there is usually 2-4 kilometres of good beach to run along but I had only seen it at sunset when it was crowded with cricket players, young couples, and old men. At 7:30 am, I reached Versova beach to find it almost empty at high tide. I ran toward the fishing slum, the only direction I could.

As I was running, I suddenly passed an Indian man squatting in his lungi on the edge of the water and staring peacefully out to the horizon. I didn’t think much of it an assumed it was some kind of morning meditation and continued on. Then, I passed two more doing the same thing, lungi’s hitched up to their waists. One of them sleepily turned his head in my direction as I was approaching and I realized that perhaps this was not just a morning meditation but also a part of the daily morning ritual for all the men and women of the slum as I saw another 20 or so lined up further down the beach.

I decided to give them their relative privacy and headed back to the streets to give test the sidewalks.

KM 2

I was on! Running on the sidewalks of Mumbai was like a full obstacle course. With the music playing in my headphones loud enough to just hear the car horns, I was dodging rickshaws, elderly people, roadworks, piles of dirt and garbage, and complete holes in the cement. I even thought that perhaps this could actually be a better workout than just running and I could become a hyper-alert runner and perhaps even start learning parkour.

That was when I passed a pack of stray dogs sleeping next to the chai-walla stall. They jumped up and started chasing me, biting at my heels. Scared shitless, I growled at them with my wolf-pack dog training yell and ran faster. I don’t know if I intimidated them with my growl or they just lost interest but they left me alone after that. I kept running forward and left behind a group of men laughing at me as they drank their chai.

KM 3

Now utterly conscious of the people around me, I noticed that I was the only person running. I wondered if all the gyms were full and if running outside really was a societal taboo in Mumbai. Some cars swerved closer to me as they passed while the drivers were busy staring at me. Ready to go back, I picked a bus stop 20 meters ahead as my turnaround point.

The bus stop was full of 17-21 year old boys on their way to college. They saw me coming and I knew that they were pointing me out to their friends. Starting to get uptight about the whole thing, I stared ahead and ignored them, putting on my bitch-face. As I reached them, they broke into applause. I stopped to turn around and saw the shock and guilt on their faces. Secretly relishing the feeling, I took out my headphones and asked if the applause was for me. Silence. One of them lamely pointed to some indiscriminate spot across the street as if to displace the blame.

“That’s really not necessary,” I said to them in my hoighty-toighty highschool bitch attitude. I put in my headphones and started back, really proud of myself but not so satisfied with my run.

KM 4

Taking a different route home  to hang up my running shoes until I could afford a gym membership, I passed something that I had always thought was a private garden. I stopped to take a look inside and saw that it was actually a 500 meter running track, full of men and women walking, running, and sitting on the small benches meditating. “So, THIS is where all the runners have been hiding!” I thought.

As it turned out, many parts of suburban Mumbai have these private parks that have been built by private developers in order to get permits to build their boxy, high rise apartment societies. Entry was 2 rupees (4 cents), and it was open mornings and evenings.

A bit of peace and greenery separating opposite directions of traffic in Mumbai.

A bit of peace and greenery separating opposite directions of traffic in Mumbai.

Cool Down

So I had finally found my running-haven. I started going for runs whenever I could wake up in the morning early enough to avoid the heat. I found it difficult to run more than 4-5 kilometres because I would get very tired. I read the weather report and in Mumbai it had been a forecast of “Smoke” for the last 2 months. I heard a rumour that it was recommended to run only in the evenings to avoid the pollution which settled on the ground overnight making the morning air extra-polluted.

I started running in the evening, which turned out not to be the worst thing ever. The park was busier though, and after many runs feeling like an anonymous park-runner I finally had the experience I was really trying to avoid by staying away from the gym… conversation.

Running my laps, I noticed a young guy kept stopping his workout in the stretching area to come watch me run by. Ever damn time I would run past, he would stop what he was doing, walk to the edge of the track, and openly stare as I passed. When I finally finished, I couldn’t see him and was glad I didn’t have to face him. I bent down to touch my toes and stretch my hamstrings and closed my eyes, glad to finally have a peaceful place to work out. I slowly straightened my back and opened my eyes, and I turned around to find the guy standing directly behind me. Oh shit, seriously?

I went to the other side of the stretching area and resumed stretching. The guy tried to do a pull-up on the bar and failed. He then tried to get my attention again, “are you stretching?” he asked?
“Yes,” I replied with my expert bitch-face. I put my headphones in and faced the other direction.

He left. Message received.

I don’t think there will ever be a guarantee of exercising in Mumbai in peace. I’ll just have to keep running.

 

 

Featured image source: http://runangelrun.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/woman-running-beach-sunset-abh-patient-story.jpg

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I Want to be a Unicorn, a Boy one.

I describe my childhood-self in two words: Space Cadet. Every moment when my immediate and full attention was not required I would go off in my own world. I had a difficult time with bullying that manifested in ways such as hiding in the bathroom during math class only to be found, ten minutes later, by my teacher while skidding gleefully across the slippery floors in my puppy slippers.

There was even a phase in my young life when I had a couple of friends who would also join me on my fifteen-minute escapades around the park at recess. In full form, our troupe would consist of a tawny owl, a bear, and a black Unicorn with flaming mane and tail. I was the heavy metal Unicorn, and not only did I go for the most flamboyant of the animals but I always insisted that I was a boy-Unicorn. There were a few arguments about whether it was possible to be a boy-Unicorn or if Unicorns were boys and Pegasus’s were girls. I always won with the wise 9-year-old argument that Unicorns were boys because of the phallic horn on top of their heads. I also wanted to have Pegasus wings, but at that time we were not aware of hermaphrodites and I had to settle with the exclusively male Unicorn anatomy. If Disney had been a little more graphic then it would have saved us a lot of time and energy.

This was not where the story ended. I would also make-believe that I was White Fang, the famous folklore wolf (also male), and I had an inexplicable crush on the cartoon fox Robin Hood from that children’s animated film.

I had been unable to dissect this strange tendency towards the male until fairly recently. I tried to theorize that I am really a gay man in a woman’s body but the truth is I enjoy having my lady parts too much for this to be true. When I was 9 I called myself a tomboy. This is also no longer true since I have finally moved past traditional conceptions of male and female thanks to university and living in a modern age with a few good female role models. Now I can happily walk around in a shirt and pants discussing how I would like to have a penis for a day (or week) just to satisfy my curiosity without fear of being judged as sexually confused.

Going through the thick library of childhood photo albums, I can find at least three photos where I was playing the groom in a make-believe marriage. I had three wives, one of them being my own sister and all of them wearing the same dress. For the first time in my life, I wore a real wedding dress in summer 2013 for a bridal photo shoot. I realized I have never once fantasized about having a white wedding dress.

I finally found out the answer to my strange male-fascination by changing my question. It turned out not to be why I wanted to be a boy, but rather why I did not want to be a girl. In my years of physical self-discovery and the social training institute called ‘school’, I was surrounded with kids classified by ideal girls, ideal boys, and the weirdos who fit somewhere in the middle. The girls wore the right clothes, colors, experimented with makeup, and ran away laughing from the boys who tried to kiss them… The boys wore the right clothes, played the right sports, and ran away screaming from the girls who tried to kiss them, alienating them and making them question themselves for wanting to kiss just as much as the boys. Outside of this, there was also the whole world of new media, advertising, and Disney, reinforcing these gender stereotypes that I’m sure we’re all aware of. To be honest I’m tired of hearing about it, but I keep hearing about it because it’s still true.

Don’t get me wrong; I had no problem with girly things. I liked girl’s clothes and I often played with Barbies and horses but I still wanted to be a boy.

In my housing society, there was a group of boys with whom I played street hockey and other games. Kick-the-can, water gun fights, and Nintendo-64 were also some of our favorites. I was the only person of the female gender in the gang, and I was intent on making sure the boys treated me like one of their own. I became a tomboy because I wanted to partake in the same games as them, and it was almost a perfect plan.

I remember one day the boys decided to wrestle. They all partnered up and nobody wanted to wrestle with me. I couldn’t understand why, because unlike the kids in school, my neighborhood boys had never excluded me from anything. At first the argument was that I was girl, but after I became very upset, a short blond boy admitted it was because I was bigger than half of them. Being big and being a girl were my two tender spots, so I punched that boy in the eye and went home very proud of myself but also very angry.

On the other hand, the girls around me were very fond of playing house and that was all well and fine except that I wanted to play the husband. If I was ever asked to be a princess or a wife or a helpless kitten, I flat-out refused to cooperate and be a good playmate. I would then turn into a heavy metal Unicorn and obliterate everyone and everything girly. I think what got to me was the image of the soft hands of the princess trapped in the castle, gingerly lifting the teacup with the pinky finger raised and waiting to be rescued. For some reason, being female had already become associated with being powerless. Whether or not my girl friends enjoyed this feeling of being girly and being rescued, I sensed that it wasn’t for me and decided to act like I was a boy at every possible moment. It empowered me to jump over trees, build forts in the forest, punch a kid in the face, and wear hats in ways they were never made to be worn (like a backwards baseball cap, or the classic sideways, upside down visor). To my child-mind, these things would not possible for a girly girl to do.

Remotely related side story: I was a nail-biter, and to convince me to stop biting my nails my mother had to tempt me with the reward of a remote-control monster truck if I didn’t bite for 6 weeks. It was the only thing that worked since I wasn’t excited enough by the thought of having long, pretty painted nails.

Even now that I am all grown up and can dabble in both ends of the gendered behavior scale without fantasizing about Unicorns and wolves, I come across this perception almost every day. My men’s dress shoes are cool, but my high heels are hot. Somehow, wearing men’s clothing adds a new facet to my personality, while a dress just makes me look good unless it is unusually funky. Again, this is all just how I’ve been trained to perceive it and I can get past it all now as I’m sure many of you readers do as well but I hope you are getting my point.

Of course you might not really care. It’s all just a matter of how important these things are to you. As a child, I didn’t succumb to fitting in one gender or the other and suffered through the bullying until being a tomboy became cool when Avril Levine became famous. However, I like to think that if people had been more open to the idea of girls and boys being similar in taste and behavior, life could have been a lot easier for myself and numerous other children. Also, let’s take a moment and empathize with all the grown-ups who continue to live their lives according what they believe they should be, rather than who they are.

Being a human includes so many interesting and sometimes taboo aspects of our psyches that we should always feel free to explore them in some way that is safe. Whether they are our dark sides, our masculine or feminine sides, or our completely unmentionable sides, we should all feel empowered to explore them without fear of social alienation.

Unicorns can have wings too.

The F-word and Female Responsibility

There was an ‘incident’ that happened to me recently which made me furious.

Have you ever heard about those stories about groping on Japanese subways? I became aware of this when I was 18 and travelling to Japan by myself for the first time. I had heard that men would often grope Japanese women on trains because the women did not make a scene out of embarrassment. The travel logs never said that western women were groped because they had a tendency to yell at the groper, causing mortal shame for the groping men.

anti-groping

That was when I made up my mind to be that vocal woman. Fortunately, I never had a chance to practice my scream on the Japanese train and I soon forgot all about the risk of being groped. That is, I forgot until a ten year old Indian boy grabbed my boob four years later.

The mere shock made me stop in my tracks, speechless. I was walking with a friend in Colaba, Mumbai, and it wasn’t a crowded street. The Jr. groper had been walking next to us and asking if we would marry him. Then, he briefly cupped my breast, and we both stopped. There was a strange moment where time slowed down. He looked at me expectantly, to see the shock on my face. It was there alright. He had a big grin on his face when I snapped out of it and cuffed him on the side of the head. He took off running as I yelled after him.

I didn’t think it was a big deal. I still don’t. At least he hung around to receive the punishment he expected. It wasn’t very serious, but I’ll tell you what has prompted me to write this blog.

Just last week, while waiting for the bus in Vancouver, I felt something touch my bum. I took my earbuds out, and turned to see a man of about sixty walking past me wearing a sweatsuit and baseball cap. He had shoulder length and scraggly blond hair.
He smiled at me.
This time I didn’t hesitate.
I yelled at him, “What the fuck do you think you’re doing? You can’t just touch my butt and walk away like it’s okay!”
I caught up to him.
He picked up his pace, and didn’t meet my eyes but turned and said, “Don’t worry about it baby, I’m an international rock star”.
“It doesn’t matter who the fuck you are. You violated me.” I yelled, so that people across the street could hear.
He started to run away, and I chased after him. I caught up and tried to kick him in the butt, but missed because I was wearing high heels.

I will take this opportunity to mention to the assholes who might be reading this, that I was not wearing slutty clothes (and if I was, it wouldn’t mean that I had less right to be angry).

I continued to yell after him as he ran away. A man who saw the whole thing told me that I should file a police report.
I couldn’t be bothered with that. What was that going to do anyway? I didn’t know who he was and he looked like a generic man who hung around the Gastown pub district at night.

I was fuming and felt violated, but was happy that I had had the presence of mind to yell and chase after the guy. I was glad he got scared and ran away from me…
I wished I hadn’t missed the kick to the ass.

My bus didn’t come either.

So, pissed off and riled up I went back to the pub to wait with my friends for the next bus that would come in an hour. After my unexpected re-entrance and grand proclamation that I had just chased a groper down the street and that my bus didn’t come, my friends and I got into a discussion about female blame and responsibility.

Basically, even though we are taught that rape, groping, and verbal sexual abuse is wrong and we should fight out against it, many women I know have been raised to believe that they have some kind of responsibility for the male attention they receive. Whether this attention is wanted or unwanted, there is something ingrained into society that says that men only react to female sexuality.

For a less-extreme example than rape, take a situation where a girl finds out that a boy she has been friendly with has a crush on her. If this attention is unwanted, I know that the first question that will come up for her and her friends will be “what did I do that made him get a crush on me?”

The problem here is the belief that a woman possesses a dangerous power to seduce, and if she doesn’t control it carefully then men will end up falling for her. It’s something we call “leading him on”.

I know that whenever this has happened to me, I feel as if I can change the way I behave around men to avoid any sort of awkwardness. I immediately start to evaluate and mediate all my male relationships to ensure they stay friendly.

For the more extreme example of rape, let’s think of all the times when a woman has been accused of “deserving it” because of her past sexual history, the way she dressed, what neighbourhood and what time, or how much she had to drink. Thankfully a new dialogue has risen out of some unfortunately extreme cases that got a lot of publicity. The new idea discounts all aspects of female responsibility when a woman falls victim to sexual abuse.

For the people who are aware that women are not responsible for the abuses visited on them by men, there is a new kind of responsibility we must adopt. This is not only the responsibility to educate other women, but the need to educate men. It might be hard to tell the creepy man who is gesturing at you on the bus that it is inappropriate and makes you feel violated, but now you know that it’s not your fault you should think of the next girl or woman he will do this to.

Every time you let something slide (because maybe he’s not actually said anything, or hasn’t touched you, or you’re getting off at the next stop anyway), you’re actually sending a message that it’s okay.
My advice? Use your voice. If you’re in public, tell it to them. If you’re not in public, yell it to the world in some other way.

Also, don’t listen to people who call you a feminist like it’s a bad thing. It means you believe in your rights and will defend them.

My question for you:

Why has Feminism become a dirty word?

Edit: I  just discovered this website, iHollaback! which campaigns against street harassment. There is a space to read and share other stories about this issue.

Bad Girl

The following short story is based on a reality that many teen girls I know have dealt with.Stealing

Ah, the rush of adrenaline running through her veins!

She swaggers through the aisles of the drugstore next to her high school in between exams with a bag of books, taking handfuls of lipgloss off the shelf and dropping them silently between the binders marked “Science 8” and “English 8”.

She doesn’t even look at the colours but moves on to the next section and grabs a compact powder and tosses it in among the rest.

Her friends follow behind her at a distance, snickering and blocking the view of the oblivious staff behind the makeup counter.

Georgia had developed a cockiness with her stealing since she started going to the mall with her friends on their lunch breaks and coming back to class with a haul of stolen goods. “It isn’t that bad because it’s not like I’m taking something personal. Corporations can afford the loss,” she thought as she pulled  her jeans over 6 new thongs in the Winners changing room.

She digs in the pockets of a pair of khakis, still on the hanger, and finds one more thong with the tag on it. She takes the tag of and puts the thong in her pocket. She walks out and gives the pants and the plastic sign that says, “1 item” to the change room attendant.

Back at home after her final exam, Georgia locks herself in her room with a roll of toilet paper and tries on all the new shades of lipgloss she bought. Pink, Mauve, Purple, Brown, Gold. There is a rainbow pile of toilet paper kisses on the floor when she is finished.

She takes a small suitcase out from under her bed and opens it. There is a mountain of makeup inside and Georgia dumps the ugly colours inside of it.

She takes off her pants and thongs and shoves 7 new pairs of underwear into her overflowing underwear drawer.

She lies down on her bed and falls asleep with the rest of her clothes on. She dreams about getting into Hogwarts and turning down Harry Potter when he asks her out on a date until she wakes up at 1 p.m. the next day.

~

Georgia is running. Running as fast as she can in a pair of pink flip flop sandals. She’s at the mall again and her best friend Danielle watches her dodge a mother with a stroller. Danielle has been stuck with an oversized shopping bag full of clothes. She pulls out her cellphone and calls her mom.

“Hey mom, Georgia and I are finished. Can you come pick me up?”

Georgia curses her luck as she runs out the front doors only to find she’s still being pursued by the most athletic security guard she’s ever seen.

A portly security guard sits across from Georgia in an underground parking lot office.

“If you had run away from me, I wouldn’t have bothered!”

She is still catching her breath when the guard who chased her comes out from behind the plexiglass booth to inform her that the police have been called.

“I would have just called your parents. Now you’ve resisted arrest and you’ll get a criminal record. I hope you weren’t planning on leaving the country anytime soon.”

Georgia’s throat constricts until it aches. She fights back tears as she thinks about her mother and stepfather shaking their heads in disappointment while they get on a flight to Mexico, leaving her behind.

The portly security guard asks, “Are you sure you can’t reach your parents?”

“They’re both working,” Georgia chokes back.

The guard who chased her, softens a little at the sound of her voice.

“What does your father do?”

“He actually works in the towers next door. He’s a security guard there.”

The portly security guard leans forward.

“Why don’t we just try calling his cell. If he picks up and can come down here we’ll call off the police.”

~

A female security guard enters the room with a rough looking young man.

“Fake bills, we’re going to do a test,” she barks and they pass through to the back room.

Georgia’s father turns back to look at his daughter, sitting in her pink flip flops and matching pink cheeks.

The athletic guard breaks the silence.

“I’m actually pretty impressed. She ran really well despite her shoes. Nearly knocked over a woman and her stroller, but I run triathlons and she kept ahead of me for quite some time before she gave up in the parking lot.”

He leans against the security counter, smiling at her father.

“You might want to put her in track and field. Sports are supposed to be a good way to help troubled teens,” he adds.

Her father turns to the guard and says, “only just a teenager at 14, but that’s not a bad idea… is it Georgia? You could use some exercise to get fit for modelling.”

Georgia looks up at her father and the fit security guard.

“I’m not troubled, and you know I don’t want to model anymore… I’m too short.”

She looks at the security guards, they both smile at her, “Fit and Fat,” she thinks. She smiles back for the first time, her nerves calmed.

Georgia and her father say good bye outside his office building.

“I guess your mom and I won’t have to punish you. Banned from the mall for 5 years and it seems like those guys taught you a lesson before I got there.” He smiles at Georgia and laughs.

“Thanks Dad. I’ll tell mom when I get home then you can talk about it.”

“Love you Georgia.”

“Love you Dad,” and Georgia walks away to the bus station.

~

Three weeks later, Georgia climbs out of her father’s car at the high school track field. A small group of teens and two coaches greet her with smiles, and Georgia recognizes a girl from her class.

The girl comes up to Georgia.

“Hey, how come you’re starting track?”

Georgia takes a sip from her water bottle and grimaces.

“What’s wrong?” asks the girl.

“Nothing. I just mixed some vodka with my water and it tastes terrible. I was afraid I would get tired so I thought this would loosen me up a bit.”

The girl laughs, then goes serious.

“You’re joking right?”

Georgia laughs, “Yes, of course I’m joking. No, I put advil in my water. Now I know why they only have it pill form.”

“So how come you’re joining track halfway through the season?”

“Got caught stealing and the security guard said I was so fast I should do the 100 meter sprint. So here I am.”

Georgia pours out her water into the grass.

“Mind if I share your water today? I can’t drink this,” Georgia asks.

The girl stammers, “sure, but-”

“Thanks.” Georgia picks up her bag and walks toward the coaches who are calling for them to gather around. The swagger is back in her step.

*~Edd!e: A Romantic, Teen-Thriller and True Story

Sometime early on in my five-year high school saga, I found my first love on a website called Nexopia.

I just checked, and somehow it’s still around. Anyway, I was fifteen years old and had had a few “relationships,” each one last less than two or three weeks.

I was not looking for my first love when I joined Nexopia… not at all. I was more than familiar with dating websites like LavaLife, where I would prank unsuspecting men looking for a casual encounter by setting up a time and place and imagining them waiting for this beautiful blond, eighteen-year old model to show them a night of fun and of course nobody showing up. I did this once… Maybe twice.

So I joined Nexopia.com because my friends all had profiles. You could personalize your page with HTML codes you could copy and paste and have things like a cursor that would sparkle and leave a trail of glitter-scat wherever you moved your mouse. Some people got very creative. This is when I think “Emo” and “Scene” became “things.”

Teens and pre-teens would post angsty poetry or fill out personality quizzes and see how many friends they could get to do the same. It’s really not that different from Facebook, but I think Nexopia came first and didn’t appeal to anyone that had grown out of acne or their training bras.

It was new: a strange and wonderful world.

One day as I signed in to post a new webcam picture I took of myself, I saw that a young, Hispanic guy with the username *~Edd!e commented on my wall.

“Hey, nice pics. How R U?”

I took a look at his profile and saw some fairly grainy webcam pictures of a guy with big brown eyes, buzzed hair, sparse facial hair, muscular arms, and a black baseball cap. There wasn’t a single picture without that hat. He lived in Alberta; about 1158 km from Vancouver.

I think my username was something like, $$$P.M.c.G-Unit$$$… I was in the middle of my Baller to Mall-Punk transition phase and I guess I thought dollar signs said a lot about who I was as a person. I replied, unsure of what I thought.

“Hey, do I kno U?”

He didn’t. He said he was browsing and saw my pics, thought I looked interesting and wanted to get in touch. I didn’t think this kind of behavior was strange. After all, in elementary school my friends and I would exchange msn contacts to collect the most amount of friends. This would often lead to getting to know another kids from a nearby school who you would get a crush on, see once, and feel too shy to mention anything about the (K) 😛 😉 messages we would exchange back and forth. A picture I drew of *~Edd!e when we were dating online.

Soon, we had exchanged msn addresses and we started chatting. *~Edd!e told me his life story, and I told him mine. However, his was much more eventful than anything I could even dream up.

*~Edd!e was born in El Salvador during the civil war and because his mother had lost track of the date he had no real idea of how old he was. He estimated he was eighteen, and he never celebrated his birthday.
I said he should just pick a day and celebrate, but he said it wasn’t that easy.
He had an older and younger brother. They all escaped to Canada as refugees and his mother now worked as a cleaning lady to pay rent. He said his older brother was involved in a gang that was widespread across North America, and that due to his brother’s involvement, he watched his youngest brother get shot in a park during a murder attempt on his brother.

I couldn’t believe that someone in Canada could have that kind of backstory, let alone someone I could meet on Nexopia.

*~Edd!e had had a hard time dealing with life after that and started doing drugs and even joined the gang. His brother had the intelligence to give little *~Edd!e a smack on the head, and tell him to leave the gang. The price of getting him out of the gang was for *~Edd!e’s brother to move to Vancouver and take care of business over there.

So now *~Eddie was off drugs, going to school, and DJ’ing in his basement. I don’t know how he afforded turntables, but then I never asked. To get this close, we had been chatting on msn for about three months. I was so blown away by his story, I couldn’t help but get a massive crush on him. I was drawn to his tragedy the same way people like to adopt abused animals and nurse them back to health. I wanted to make him happy, and be the one girl he could tell anything.

Somehow, I managed to fight past the (K) 😛 😉 stage of our relationship and straight-up type: “I like you.”

He was a bit sadistic and asked me what I meant. I pushed down the knot in my stomach and answered, “I like like you.”
“What does that mean?” he asked.

Oh goddamn it all…

“I HAVE A CRUSH ON YOU” I typed, crushing the letters on the keyboard. I was seething.

As it turned out, he had a crush on me too. He told me the night before he was hanging out with his ex-girlfriend who tried to make out with him and he turned her down. He said it was because of me.

Let’s try at look at this from my naïve, fifteen year old perspective. Sure he said he was eighteen, but he didn’t know for sure. What’s more, I told him I liked him first and he never said anything until I did. Also, I knew he wasn’t an old man because we had chatted with webcams and I could see him moving around and doing silly things because I asked him to.

Long story a little bit shorter, we agreed to have an exclusive, online dating relationship.

Here is where things get messed up. Yes, you have seen nothing yet. Buckle Up.

Our online relationship lasted another five months before we decided to take it to the next level. In this time, we exchanged music files. He would make a track with is DJ setup, and I would record some vocals on Garageband and send it back with layer upon layer of reverb. We made some stuff that I remember sounding kind of good. I actually wrote him a love song and I still have the recording of it somewhere. Pretty cute right?

He also told me that he was a part of a DJ group called DJ Tiesto, and that the ‘e’ in Tiesto stood for his name.
The group couldn’t sell commercially so they chose one guy to represent them and created a new persona, DJ Tiesto. I chose to believe him, although I wasn’t without my doubts.

Lo’ and Behold, *~Edd!e’s brother invited him out to Vancouver to come live. He showed some doubt because of the gang involvement, but I encouraged him to move so we could meet in person.
His brother had found him a place on a street nearby my house. He remembered the street name but not the house number. I started getting a lot of exercise walking up and down that street at any chance to guess which house would be his and thinking seeing some Hispanic person might be a clue.

I pressed him for the house number, but in the end the plan fell through and he had to move in with his aunt and uncle in Delta, about a 2.5-hour bus trip from my house. I didn’t make any preemptive walks out that way.

So *~Edd!e moved to Vancouver, and of course I was thrilled! I was super nervous meeting him so I planned for us to meet at a bus loop in a very public area. I hadn’t told my parents the truth about meeting him on the internet, but said we had met while he was visiting Vancouver and had been chatting on msn ever since. I didn’t keep it a secret because I couldn’t not share all these awesome songs we had made together.
They knew everything else about him. I had shared his tragic story, our Internet dating, and our meeting place and time. They told me I could invite him over and he could sleep on the futon in the basement so he wouldn’t have to bus back to Delta at night. I love my parents.

The moment of our meeting was pretty uneventful. He got off the bus and I recognized him instantly. We shared an awkward hug and hopped on a bus to go see my high school. It was a cold, December night and we walked down a dark road to the back entrance of my school. The gates were locked, so we walked back.
Somehow, I worked up the courage to make a bold move. I stopped walking and grabbed his hand. He turned around to face me and I kissed him. I still remember the cold drip of his nose on my cheek. Gross, but I was willing to ignore it.

He was visibly shocked, and then exclaimed how cool that was and that he wasn’t expecting a kiss for a while. We got back on a bus and went to my house. My mom met him and showed us how to set up the futon bed in the basement, left us alone to say goodnight, then made damn sure I went to bed in my own room two floors up.

*~Edd!e and I’s relationship continued in this manner. He could sleep in my basement when he came over, but when I visited him in Delta I had to come home every night. He got a job at McDonalds in Metrotown mall, and I went over to visit him one day when he got off work. It was a week before Christmas.
We went around the mall and he said we wanted to buy gifts for my mom, my dad, and my sister. I helped him pick out a coat he wanted to buy my mom that was on sale; a pretty big gift but a nice gesture.

A couple days later, he came over with a big bag of goodies. He said he wanted to bring gifts since he didn’t get to give anyone Christmas presents. Along with a couple $10 watches, he gave my sister a bottle of Lacoste perfume. My mom was surprised by the winter coat, but accepted it. She started thinking something wasn’t right here. How could he afford this stuff if he works at McDonalds? *~Edd!e had also sent me a few gifts during our online relationship. I once got a package in the mail with three beautiful rings that I was pretty sure were made with Swarovski crystal. My mom knew about these gifts, but kept her suspicions to herself for the most part.

Things developed. He came over for Christmas dinner and watched the party unfold. We’ve always had a fairly musical Christmas because my dad is a musician and my mom, sister, and I played piano, guitar and sang. *~Edd!e didn’t end up contributing anything because his turntables were still in Edmonton. He made it through the family event without many problems, but my family noted how he never took off his black baseball cap and was very quiet.
“That’s just the way he is,” I said. Not to mention he had a hard family history.

In January, he told me his brother gave him a hummer for Christmas. I wanted to see it so badly! He said he didn’t know where it was parked, but that he didn’t want me to see it because it was ugly and painted four different colors. I then started to scan every parking lot for multi-colored hummers.
I told my parents, and they casually asked me why he would continue bussing from Delta for 2.5 hours every day when he could drive the hummer. I asked *~Edd!e, and he admitted to not having a driver’s license.

One day I got a call from the Police. They said they found a wallet with my ID in it. I had given my school ID to *~Edd!e so he could get cheaper bus fares, so I told them it was his. The police told me that there were actually a few different people’s ID’s in his wallet, and that they were very curious about that. I asked *~Edd!e about it over the phone later, and he said his Edmonton friends gave them to him so he could have their pictures while he was gone. I was suspicious of there being another girl, so when he went to the bathroom the next time we hung out, I took a quick look in his wallet to find an Edmonton Driver’s license with his picture on it. I didn’t want him to know I peeked, so I kept it to myself. No girl’s pictures were found. A few months went by, and the questions kept on piling up for my parents.

Right before he moved to Vancouver, I told him I loved him. It was true. In fact I was so blinded by this love that I never thought to ask the questions my parents did. I took his answers at face value, and naively assumed that they didn’t really affect me either way.

On a Saturday afternoon, I met up with *~Edd!e at a train station for a surprise. He took me to the parking lot, and he showed me a beaten up blue Volkswagen. His uncle had lent it to him for the day so he could drive me around town. I asked about his not having a driver’s license, and he said he would drive carefully and not get caught. I noticed that the keyhole on the driver’s side door was missing and I asked about it. He said his uncle locked himself out of the car the day before and had to break in to get his keys out. Okay then.

When *~Edd!e drove me home, my parents came out to see the car he drove. My mom saw the hole in the door. He drove back to Delta that night and my mom came into my bedroom and sat me down. She asked me about the car, the drivers license, the hummer, the gifts, the gangster brother, everything. I told her everything I knew, but it didn’t even come close to answering all the question she had. My mom was very careful and left me with a new set of questions to ask *~Edd!e when he got home from his drive. She never openly passed judgment on him in front of me, but merely transplanted the doubts she had into my own brain. My mother is a very smart woman.

*~Edd!e called when he got back home, and I started to ask him these questions. I had so many, that he smelled that something was up and he asked why I was so curious. I told him I was talking with my mom about the hole in the car door, and he got very quiet.

“I don’t see why you need to tell you mom something like that” he said.
“I didn’t. She saw the hole and I was curious about it too” I answered.
“I don’t want you talking to your parents about me” he commanded.
“Why? They like you, they just want to know some things” I pleaded.

“If you don’t stop talking to your parents about me, I’m going to kill myself.”

I believed him. Knowing his past with drugs, his disturbing upbringing, and his brother’s involvement with gangs I wouldn’t put it past him.

“Ok, I’ll try” I said.

I slowly dragged myself upstairs, totally stunned by the interaction. My sister saw me and asked me what was wrong. I said nothing, and went to my bedroom. Five minutes later, I heard a soft knocking on my door and choked voice calling my name. “Paula, can I come in?” said my sister.
She came in, and told me she was worried about me. We had always been able to tell each other everything, and that she could tell something was very wrong. She asked if it was about *~Edd!e and I broke down.
I cried as I told her everything that had just happened. My sister held me through both of our shock and she quietly let me know that our family loves me and that they don’t want to lose me.

I knew that it would be impossible to sustain this lie. I had to tell *~Edd!e that I loved my parents too much to shut them out of my life. I called him and told him just that, and added that I love him but if he chooses to end his own life because I wanted to talk to my parents then it’s his own choice and not my fault. My parents had done nothing wrong and were only looking out for my best interests.

*~Edd!e’s voice sounded strange when he answered. He told me he had a gun with him. I cried through the phone that I was sorry but I couldn’t shut my parents out of my life. He hung up.

The next week, *~Edd!e told me he was moving back to Alberta. His mom had become very sick and needed him at home. I went to the Greyhound station with him and said a teary goodbye with mixed emotions. I wasn’t sure if he was leaving because of his mother or because I had betrayed him. Either way, the separation was a blessing in the end.

A couple weeks of peace  after months of stress, drama, tension, or crying, I realized that whatever was going on with him was wrong and needed to end. I think I stopped loving him when he gave me the ultimatum of my family or him… clearly my family will stick around longer and not move away if they’re mad at me.

My mind was clear for the first time, and I called him in while my parents were in the house and broke up with him. He told me that if he started using heroin again it would be my fault. Heroin Again? I didn’t know there was a first time.  Good Riddance I thought… this guy has too many issues for a now sixteen-year old girl to deal with.

I cut him out of my life completely. I told him I couldn’t speak to him anymore. A month or two later he called me from an unknown number and asked what I was doing since he was in town again. I told him I was busy and didn’t say where. I was paranoid of him showing up unannounced at my home for weeks but he never did.

I chalked it up to his being a compulsive liar, although I’m now fairly sure there was more to the story than that.
A few years later he added me on the new Nexopia, Facebook, with a message saying he was curious about what I was up to. I took the opportunity to creep his profile and saw he was actually DJ’ing and had a trashy girlfriend. I chose to ignore the message.

Never once have I ever regretted this relationship. From beginning to end, we were in contact for 12 months. I don’t think there is anything in the world that could have opened my eyes to the crazy things people are capable of and at the same time teach me that if everyone around you thinks something is wrong – something is probably wrong. Love is a scary thing for me to this day because it requires so much trust, and if you love someone badly enough it can leads to blindness even when the unanswered questions are slapping you in the face.

I wonder if *~Edd!e is still out there, if he really doesn’t know how old he is, if he has a gangster brother, and if he still tells people he is a secret member of DJ Tiesto… Perhaps he really is and it’s a huge house-music conspiracy. Who knows?

All I can do is share the story with others, but not to warn people about the ‘dangers’ of Internet dating.
The problem wasn’t the Internet, it was the two people on either side of their monitors taking webcam photos and posting them on Nexopia. – One so naïve and desperate to make an impression that she takes on a rescue mission to save a poor El Salvadorian refugee boy with her love – and One who is so deeply traumatized by something that they only feel empowered by manipulating people and can’t handle the threat of control being taken away so they keep them in the dark.

So now I am a much wiser person who writes potentially incriminating stories about past follies on the internet for everyone to read. But I don’t regret past mistakes; I learn from them.

The Girl from Germany

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I have had many strange encounters riding the bus over the years. 90% of these take place at night. While sometimes it’s creepy and frightening, most of the time it’s entertaining. Often the people are men, and these men are often drunk. I can remember seeing strange men on the bus since I started taking Vancouver transit when I was thirteen.

When I was that age, my only confidence was from the self-defense and rape-awareness class I had taken in school. The moral of the story was that being quiet and polite to these men when they approach you would encourage them. However, being mean and telling them to get lost can set them off and you put yourself at risk of attack. The woman teaching us liked to use the ultimatum: You will either end up In the truck, or Under the truck.

The solution was the look them dead in the eye and use sentences starting with “I” like, “I don’t want to talk to you”, “I would like it if you stopped staring at me”, etc.

This stuck with me and every time a drunken guy comes up to me to chat while I’m waiting at the bus exchange, I would assertively tell him “I don’t want to talk right now”. Sometimes this would work, but more often it would just spark a conversation.

Last night while I was sitting on the bus to go home, a young man of about twenty-five stumbled into the seat next to me nearly sitting on my lap. I had my headphones on and ignored him. I could smell the alcohol on his breath. There were many empty pairs of seats on the bus, but he chose to sit next to me. I could see him looking at me with my peripheral vision (because I’m so sneaky) but refused to acknowledge him.

The bus started moving, and he turned to me and said something. I pretended to not hear or see him, thinking he would leave me alone. I was tired from a long day at a film festival followed by a housewarming party, and it was one o’clock in the morning.

He proceeded to poke my arm in order to get my attention.

I took out my headphones, turned to him, and said, “Can I help you?”

“Hey, I just wanted to chat,” he said.

“Why do you want to talk to me?”

“Because you’re a, a, you’re cute and I feel like talking.”

“I don’t want to talk tonight” I tried to keep the smile off my face. He was so drunk and earnest; I could tell he had no creepy intentions. I still didn’t feel like talking.

For some reason, some men think that insulting a girl will get her attention and make her interested. This was the method the guy attempted next, but couldn’t quite pull off.

“I just thought you weren’t some stuck up b*tch who I could have a conversation with. I’m not trying to say you’re a b*tch though.”

I saw my opportunity for an out.

“You can say it if you want.”

He went for it.

“Ok, you’re a b*tch”

I subsequently reached for my headphones and put them back on.

“Then you shouldn’t talk to me.”

Poor guy, I was being a b*tch. I was only doing it because I couldn’t be bothered to amuse some drunken guy on his ride home! I was enjoying the Bassnectar playlist I had put together for the ride home, and wanted to zone out.

I could see through my peripherals (again) that he was trying to say something to me. I tried to ignore him, but he got to me and I couldn’t fight back the smile this time. It seems I had really played the part of being insulted well.

Off come the headphones. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“I’m sorry, I never should have called you a b*tch. I wouldn’t even call my ex-girlfriend that.”

“You wouldn’t?”

“Well, I do sometimes in bed because she likes that kind of stuff…” his voice trailed off.

“You still sleep with your ex-girlfriend?”

He is taken aback. He didn’t notice his phrasing.

“What? No, that would be impossible anyway because she’s in Germany.”

“I see,” and I was about to put my headphones back on.

“Please talk to me? I just want to talk because I’m bored and you look boring.”

Wait a minute. “I looked boring? Then why talk to me?”

“No that’s not what I said. I mean you look bored. I could talk to that guy over there but he’s playing on his phone and doesn’t give a shit. But you are really hot and bored so I thought I would talk to you.”

“Ok, thanks. I think.” I go for the headphones-

“Will you please just entertain me for the bus ride?”

I sigh. I’m no longer tired, and this guy is so persistent…

“Ok, I’ll talk to you”

He proceeds to pump his fist and yell a loud, “Yes!”

Other people sitting behind us on the bus snicker, and I go a little red. Damn it, I just gave in! I’m so weak!

Oh well, it’s just a conversation.

So we talked. He asked me many questions, starting with my name. He then tried to guess what I did that night and guessed wrong about five times before giving up and asking. He asked me what was in my purse.

“Just some personal effects.”

He asks me to show him, but I refuse.

“Why not?”

“Because it’s over the line. I don’t see why I should show a stranger what’s inside my bag.”

“Oh, you have a line? Where is this line?”

“Between the public and private. You have one too, but it’s blurred because you’re drunk.”

“I’m not that drunk… And I don’t have a line.”

“Ok, so tell me about your ex-girlfriend in Germany.”

“What? Well, I guess I do have a line,” he said.

“Yes, we all have baggage we don’t like to share. Mine happens to be a purse.”

He started asking me a string of random questions. What do I do? What did I study? What kind of things do I like? He then asked me if I have tried bondage.

“I’m not telling you that.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s inside the bag. Over the line” I said.

“I have never tried it. Well, maybe kind of. Not really…” he mused.

I stayed silent and hoped he would change the topic.

“So what’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you?” he asked.

I knew the answer. I wondered if I should share the story, and decided it couldn’t hurt. It was nothing I was ashamed of.

“I dated a boy I met on the Internet for a year when I was 14. He moved to Vancouver six months in, and turned out to be a compulsive liar. He threatened to kill himself if I didn’t stop talking to my family.” I replied.

(I’ll share the full story another time.)

“Wow, do you regret it?” he was looking at me with deep interest.

“No. I learned a lot of valuable lessons from it.”

“What was the biggest lesson you learned?”

“To listen to the people who care about you, especially if they are all telling you the same thing.”

At this point, I thought I had shared enough. I had become very interested in this guy and what had led him into having this conversation with me. Why did he want to know the details of a stranger’s stories of sex and love?

“So what is your story?” I asked.

“What do you mean? You want my life story?” he laughed.

“No, but why don’t you tell me about the girl from Germany, or what you did tonight?”

“Well I got home from work, and was really bored. I ate some noodles-”

“Kim-Chi?” I asked.

“What? You’re so racist!” He exclaimed.

“No I’m not! You said you’re a student, and students live off of Kim-Chi noodles!”

“Oh, right. Well, my mom made me real noodles. Not that fake shit…. So I was bored and I called up my friend but he was in the hospital. Can you believe it? In the hospital! So then I called my other friend and he wanted to chill. He asked me to come to Commercial Drive and so I did. He talked about his problems the entire time and I drank, and drank, and drank. Then I got on the bus to go home and here I am.” He laughed and lurched forward as the bus slowed for a traffic light.

“Ok, so I am a bit drunk” he admitted.

“So you got on the bus and now you want me to talk about myself? Aren’t you tired of hearing people talk about themselves?”

“I don’t know. I like talking to people. Tell me something else about yourself.”

“Why don’t you tell me the story of your girlfriend from Germany.”

“Ex-girlfriend.”

“Is she German?”

“Well yea, of course!” His eyes gaze upward and he thinks silently.

“Where did you meet?” I pressed.

He smiled down at his hands.

“She was a dishwasher at the restaurant I worked at. My boss was a Vietnamese guy who would say yes to everything, so I asked him to get her the job so I could talk to her. We had met a month before but she was living on the island with her boyfriend. Eventually we started talking and she asked me to hang out. So we started meeting outside of work and we would smoke up together. One day, I kissed her. Then I took her back to my house, and I banged her.”

He laughed and looked at me… clearly proud of himself.

“So then you two were together after that?” I asked, trying to keep a straight face.

He nods.

“How long until she moved back to Germany?”

“About a month. It was super intense.”

“So why did you bother having a relationship with her if you knew she was moving back so soon?”

“I don’t know. It was crazy. I was crazy about her.”

“So did she end it when she moved back?”

“No. She wanted to keep dating long-distance. I even went over to see her. Amsterdam has some beautiful women by the way.”

I listened silently.

“I broke up with her about a month ago. She wasn’t very happy with me. In fact, I think she hates me now. But it’s not like I didn’t want to be with her. She didn’t understand how hard it was for me to be hanging on when she wasn’t going to be coming back again.”

The bus was coming to his stop.

“It’s too bad you couldn’t make things work out. Do you keep in touch?” I asked.

“Yea, we chat every couple of weeks.” He said, shrugging his shoulders.

I wanted to tell him that it was okay. That I have also been in a similar situation, and just because it doesn’t work out it doesn’t mean you failed.

From his interest in my stories and reluctance to discuss the girl from Germany, I could tell he was hurt, and unsure if he made the right decision. He was looking for similar stories in others that would justify his decision to protect himself from pain by ending an undesirable situation: the long-distance relationship.

The fact that he continued to talk with her gave me mixed emotions. I think that it’s good he didn’t try to cut her out of his life because the relationship couldn’t be what he wanted. At the same time, I wonder if it’s cruel to keep talking with a girl who has feelings for him and keep her hanging on. At least he is facing his feelings for her and being honest instead of cutting her out and keeping his pain to himself.

The bus was slowing down and people were moving toward the doors. I stayed seated while he picked up his umbrella.

“Well I like you. You’re cool. Can I have your number?” he asked.

“I’m not giving you my number.” I said.

“Come on, give me your number” he persisted.

“Sorry, but I already gave in to having a conversation with you, I’m not giving you my number as well” I laughed.

I wondered what might happen if I gave him my number. He would call me I guess. I suppose it wouldn’t be the worst thing either. However, I wasn’t ready to start a friendship with this guy. He clearly needed to sort out his feelings about the girl from Germany, and I wasn’t the person to do it with.

We had entertained each other for thirty minutes on a rainy night, and that was where our relationship would end. I could tell he understood.

He smiled at me and said, “Okay. Goodbye”

“Have a good night.” I said, even though it was already morning.