Remember that James Blunt song, "Beautiful"? Made all the girls swoon?

Well, not me. But I've always had an ambivalent relationship with the word.

As much as I hungered in my youth to hear that I was beautiful, I never inspired that kind of poetry from men. One boyfriend once remarked to someone else that I had beautiful eyes, and another one tossed, "Hey, you look beautiful tonight" as he bolted out the door, late for work, but no man has ever described me as beautiful while looking me in the eyes (like he meant it).

I do get a lot of "cute" though.

But don't start thinking I'm fishing for comments - plenty of people call me "beautiful" and mean it, i.e. my friends. And they offer it spontaneously, genuinely, while looking me in the eyes (like they mean it). Recently, one of my fellow yogis (who is quite possibly one of the most naturally beautiful women I've ever met) even described me as having a "beautiful Portuguese baker's face". Je suis émue.

We are all accustomed to thinking that certain emotions are only meaningful when they come from a significant other. That we are not really beautiful or special until a beloved arrives to make us feel as much. But the truth is, there is love around us all the time and that feeling of "being special" is always there - if only we can stop complaining long enough to see it.

Whether any man will ever find me beautiful (and mean it) is entirely conjectural, but I am daily surrounded by loving people who think the world of me. As long as I have their love, I think I'll be okay.

That being said, don't forget to remind someone of how beautiful they are - you have no idea how it may touch them.


Men Detector

If only...


How yoga is saving my life. Again.

In the three weeks since I’ve returned to work, I’ve barely practiced. My body has been rebelling. Its displeasure is clear and I’ve had to accept a less rigorous practice – or no practice at all.

Once the imbalance in my hips was resolved, the strain in my neck returned. That was taken care of in turn, thanks to the osteo, but only to be replaced by a cold that knocked me out for four days. I am finally getting back to “my old self” and look forward to resuming my yoga practice on Friday.

So how is that yoga’s been saving my life when I haven’t even been practicing?

I’ve had the pleasure – and privilege – of assisting one of my favourite teachers at AYM. Being an assistant may not seem like a glamorous affair, but it’s been very educational for many reasons.
  • I better understand the range of limitations and flexibility issues experienced by different bodies.
  • It’s triggered my inner problem solver.
  • It’s increasing my confidence.
But best of all – it’s given me back my sense of satisfaction and purpose.

I see a problem – or a student asks for assistance. I address it gently, attentively. Immediately I see the student’s face relax or his spine extend – or I hear the sigh of release.

And there it is.

Results. Goodness. Ease. Someone has been helped.

A feeling I don’t frequently achieve. I write marketing copy. It gets reworked by the client, their partners. I rarely see – or even recognize – the final result. Sometime later I might hear that the promotion generated $$$ of sales.

My daily work is abstract. Twice and three times removed from my act of writing. I don’t see the results. I never see the faces of those that read it. If they read it.

So yes, as I return to the routine of “mandate in, text out”, yoga has been saving my life with its promise of results, goodness, ease, help.


He's just not that into you

For one of our Saturday night dinner/movie soirées, Powell brought over He's Just Not That Into You.

The movie wasn't particularly compelling - or enlightening. There's a strong performance by Jennifer Connolly and I'd watch Bradley Cooper peel potatoes, so it was somewhat entertaining on occasion.

The thing is, I'm not entirely convinced by the whole theory backing this film.

Alex, played by The Mac Guy, introduces the audience to the "he's just not that into you" concept. Although I am mostly in agreement with what he says, at the end of the movie he only figures out that he's into Gigi after she's walked away from him.

I want to amend the concept to: "He's just not that into you, unless you're not that into him, and then maybe he might change his mind".

Is that not snappy enough though? Too long for a book title?


What you don't know about your parents

We're all of a certain age here, aren't we? We have life experiences. We've shared in the life experiences of our friends. We've all made mistakes. We got some stuff right. And then we made more mistakes.

C'est la vie.

Maybe some of you have children, or have friends with children. Think about all the drama in your life that your kids don't know about. Or are too small to understand.

Now imagine all the drama that (probably) happened in your parents' lives that you'll (probably) never know about.

It occured to me the other night while sitting at the kitchen table with a friend, her offspring sleeping in the other room. We talked about the relationship issues, being on the brink of separation, the money issues, the therapy... the triumphs and the lows. Chances are, her relationship will be rebuilt on stronger foundations without the offspring ever knowing how close they all came to disaster.

I have so many memories - some even documented by photographs - of me playing in the kitchen while my mother gossiped with her friends over a cup of coffee. Of being sent to bed so that the adults could talk. Whispers of illness and death that I didn't understand - or care to understand.

What secrets were they telling, so confident that I wasn't listening? What secrets were your parents telling while you played with pots and pans in the corner?


Be a man!

It's not easy being a man. And no, this is not some segue way into a rant about the stupidity of men. I just don't envy the pressure they're put under.

The best way I've heard it described: "Men are expected to know the answer before the question is even asked".
So if I understand this correctly: perpetual certainty is a must, displays of weakness are to be avoided at all costs, and must he-man skills include car maintenance, home repair, techie skills, the ability to to survive in the wilderness, puppy cuddling and a six-pack.

Did I leave out "must be sensitive" and "mind read"?

Living up to these ideals is impossible and yet the expectations keep getting heaped on - by parents, by girlfriends/wives, by the media, by other men. We've already see the same thing happen with women and all the roles we're expected to undertake.

And when you drop the ball, there's always someone to remind you of your failure as a man/woman.

I bring up the topic because there's been a lot of discussion lately about what it means to be a man. On Sunday, a friend tossed out, "I can't figure out which pipe is leaking. What kind of a man am I?" Then the other night, Powell and I watched Revolutionary Road, a movie whose statements about gender in the 50s is still relevant today.

To (potentially) inspire some good conversation, I polled some lady friends and discovered that most of us don't care if our men can't do half the stuff on that list... as long as they have a good sense of humour about it.

Are we being desperately optimistic, sure to turn into shrews once in a relationship? Have our neuroses mellowed with age? Or is anyone willing to back us up?

On your marks...


Salle de redaction IV

Me: So the French word for scapula is omoplate.

Unnamed French colleague a certain sexual persuasion points to himself.

UFCCSP: You mean, homo plat.


Reviewing Eva Moran's Porny Stories

If you Google my name, most of the entries are book reviews I've written for the Montreal Review of Books (MRB).

Although my requirements for a "good" book are fairly simple, I'm a hard reviewer to please. I want a good story, well told. I don't really care about genre or style, as long as it feels true and has a satisfactory ending.

The last book I reviewed was "Porny Stories" by Eva Moran. If you read the review, it's rather obvious that I didn't like the final result. Thing is, I had totally forgotten about it until I received a Facebook friend request from the writer herself a few weeks ago.

I was a little wary of accepting at first, worried that it might degrade into a snippy exchange. Not that I know anything about Eva Moran or her character. The doubt came from the fact that most people don't know how to reconcile a negative review.

I accepted the friend request.

Eva had commented on the negative review and her friends (rightfully) pitched in with comments about me not getting it and me being a prude. One even suggested that Eva look me up on Facebook and tell me how it is. They were supporting their friend and it was commendable, but I still felt compelled to leave a message on the thread. To defend my point of view, obviously, but also to underline my admiration for Eva Moran.

Because she did put a lot of work into this collection. I may not have liked the final result, but she is experimenting with a new style and that's a courageous thing to do.

She took the risk. It was published. She is a talented writer. And maybe I didn't get it, but others will. My opinion has no more/less weight that anyone else who's read the book. What's important is not what I think - but that it's being read and that it's eliciting a response.

So read it. Or not! Just keep reading and feeling and responding.


The problem with Facebook

In the last few weeks, I've had the following conversation on numerous occasions:

Anonymous friend: So I was on Facebook the other day and I looked up an ex/friend from high school/university/the old neighbourhood.

Ad: Oooo. Never a good idea.

Anon: Turns out they're married/have kids/own real estate/went to Harvard/teach the blind/run a small island country -- and I can't even remember to water my plants once a week.

And then we run over the usual reassurances about being on your path for better or worse, not assuming that they have a better life than you, recalling that they too have their hardships to face, etc.

But that's the trouble with Facebook, isn't it? The people who are going through a difficult time won't post their darker side on FB. Facebook is a happy-fun place where all babies are beautiful, every weekend is a photo opportunity and puppies grow like potted plants.

Maybe I'll start posting sad-type status lines like "Adriana Palanca is a little constipated today" or "Adriana Palanca is going to die a bitter, twisted-up spinster". To make people feel better, you know?