Age of love?

June 28, 2007 | Filed Under The Heartless Bitch Way | 4 Comments

The bf looks sweet and innocent, and he works it. But don’t let that boyish charm fool you – he has an EEEEEVIL streak.

The other night, as I was relaxing in front of the TV, he turned the channel to some reality dating show called “20 vs 40”.  He KNEW I’d be repulsed but too morbidly fascinated to pull myself away.  He kept stealing glances at me grimacing and groaning, with a look of utter delight on his face.

The premise is this: – like other “Bachelor”-style dating shows, some supposedly hot guy is given the pick of some group of women who are to compete for his affections. If that weren’t revolting enough, THIS version has our supposedly unwitting bachelor surprised when he meets a group of women 40- 48 years old (he’s 32).  After getting to know them for a bit, he is then introduced to another batch of much younger (20-something) females to choose from as well.

Never mind the whole “compete for the guy” thing which I find utterly debasing and ridiculous (which seriously makes me think these are all actresses, because REALLY, who would publicly demean themselves in that way?), then there’s the whole pitting of younger vs older women thing. 

I’ll confess however, that I took some sick delight in seeing the 20-somethings flounder under the pressure. Most of them came across as inexperienced, directionless, and downright ditzy.  Then again, I have a feeling the show producers were deliberately providing the bachelor with some spectacularly low-wattage bulbs in that pack. 

Despite my frothing, the grand irony of this is that some of the most vicious commentary and snide remarks came from the bf:

bf: “It’s not like he’s the world’s greatest catch. I mean, he’s a tennis pro. What does that say about his intellectual skills?”

[A pneumatically-enhanced 20-something is introduced as someone who is in Surgical Sales]
bf: “Surgical Sales?  Gee… I wonder what she sells…”

bf: “Is he even looking at her EYES?”

Amanda: “Hi, I’m Amanda, and I’m 25”
bf: “And my chest is 4.”

Bachelor: “You have gorgeous blue eyes” [to one of the few women who does not appear to have had a boob job]
Natalie: “And I can notice them because I’m not having my eyes poked out by enormous breasts.”

bf: “Her personality is just like her dog’s??! Just like her DOG’S??” [ commenting on something actually said by one of the women ]

bf: “What did I miss? Please tell me he sent the idiot blonde packing.”

I found myself really annoyed by the woman who said she would be “devastated” if he eliminated her.  Oh fer Chrissakes. You barely know the guy. Devastated?  What kind of a lame excuse for an existence does this woman have?  That HAS to be put on.  I want to believe that nobody could be that shallow and stupid.  Then again, I have to remember some of the HBI membership apps I see…  Yes, there ARE some people that shallow and stupid, and I hope they never have the opportunity to breed.

I have to remind myself that most of these shows are totally put-on and scripted for effect. In this case, the show director took great pleasure in having the 20-somethings privately making fun of the older women. Even though I’m fairly certain the scene was manufactured, all I could think at that point was, “Girls, your time will come. Your time will COME.  Don’t tempt fate, cause Karma’s a real Heartless Bitch.”

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Bedroom Bliss or Boredom?

June 22, 2007 | Filed Under The Heartless Bitch Way | 1 Comment

The bf is always on the lookout for articles that will pique my interest, and yesterday he forwarded me a link to “Good Sex or She’s an Ex” by Sarah Hampson, in the Globe and Mail.  Interestingly enough it is the follow-on to an earlier article she wrote entitled, “Sex, or He’s your Ex“.

The implication is interesting: He just wants sex. Period. For her, it has to be good sex.  I know of men who would argue with this, but then again, I know plenty of men who think that any (consensual) sex is “good” sex.  The women I know, however, are FAR more choosy. And I personally will state that bad sex just ain’t worth the time, trouble or risk (if you are not in a monogamous relationship).

It’s a touchy topic, and though I think her opening line in the latter article is lame (“The penis rules”), and I don’t always agree with her conclusions, I think Sarah Hampson does a good job of exploring the issues and stirring up controversial things for me to discuss here. Her quote from couples therapist, Esther Perel, particularly insightful:

“It’s not healthy for men to feel pathetic about their urges and shame about their desire. It’s not just their masculinity they are expressing through sex but also their lesser masculine qualities, their tenderness, their vulnerability, their desire to give pleasure and receive it,” she explains.

By the same token I think it’s not healthy for women to feel pathetic about their urges or shame about THEIR desires. But as evinced by Sarah’s closing remarks, when a woman IS lusty and horny in bed, she’s often labeled a “whore”.  Where is the positive, shameless imagery for women in that?

“This expression through the body is often the primary language that men use to say these things. It’s easy for the women to just brush it off, and say, ‘All he wants is sex.’ What they should be asking is, ‘Why am I never interested? What happened to my own desires?’ “

An excellent point, but it also can’t be all dumped on the woman’s shoulders. Yes, she has to take ownership of her desires and look at why she’s not interested. But some of that may be due to the fact that she’s not getting what she needs from her partner as much as it may be she’s not giving herself enough of what she needs to feel sexy and energetic.

Ms. Perel’s prescription for good marital sex is what she calls “more air.” Too much intimacy, having to know everything your partner did and share every activity he or she enjoys, kills lust, she believes…  The trick, she says, is allowing “a modicum of freedom in a relationship. Don’t ask the other person to give up freedom so you can feel more secure.”

I think there is a real gem here. What she is talking about is avoiding co-dependency. Relationships are strongest when both individuals are not relying on the other person for all their happiness and fulfilment.

And on the “too much intimacy” front, making your partner your therapist is a good way to kill the lust. This is true if you are male or female. If you have issues from childhood or trauma or depressions that leave you needing to continually vent, DON’T do it to your partner. They are your LOVER – not your therapist. They have no training in handling that sort of thing. Sure, you should be able to talk to your partner about what’s important to you, but listening to you going over the same complaints again and again and again isn’t what they are there for.  They’ll get tired of it. In time they may lose respect for you because it appears you are doing nothing to move past the issues or “fix” your problems. And even if they do sit there listening, your partner can’t remain emotionally close to you if they have to play therapist at the same time. They WILL emotionally (and often physically) detach. Get a good counsellor or therapist and do your emotional purging there.

But back to the articles…  Sarah also touches on how having young kids can completely exhaust a woman. “Yummy Mommy”?  Yeah, right!  I have a fairly high libido and it was DEAD for a few years when my kids were young. I was working full time, looking after a household, cooking, doing the bulk of the yardwork and all of the logistics. I was having hormone issues and my breasts hurt so bad I didn’t want to be touched. Combine that with complete and utter insensitivity to your exhaustion and it doesn’t exactly make you feel horny.  At one point the husband asked, half-seriously, “Are you having an affair?” when I told him I was really not interested in sex that night.  I retorted, “Honey, if I am too tired to do it with you, I am too tired to do it with anyone.”  But seriously, that question HURT, and it just showed how completely self-absorbed and insensitive a guy can get.  Yeah, I feel REALLY hot for you when you accuse me of having an affair. Ooooh baby. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Even when couples share the physical work of childrearing and the household, I find that most women still take on the work of planning – is there enough food that the children like to eat? When is their next dentist or doctor’s appointment? What is the final date for sign-up to little league? Do their clothes still fit?  Do they have clean clothes for school? Shoes? Lunch bags? Are we running low on diapers?  When is the parent teacher meeting? Where is the form for the field trip?  I mean at the end of it all, she is the logistical manager. He may help do laundry, or run the vacuum over the floor,  but chances are, she’s the one pointing out it needs doing. She’s the one tracking who has what activity after school and coordinating who is driving and who is picking up the kids from daycare. If she’s also working full time, it’s an incredible amount of hidden stress that largely goes unrecognized and unappreciated by her spouse.  Hell, I can recall one friday evening, when my two were very small, and my husband said, “You should get up with the kids tonight because I have to work tomorrow.”  At his own business, where he had employees. Given that I worked full time, Weekends were my only time to get all the household stuff done; laundry, grocery shopping, new shoes for the kids, yard work, etc. And in the midst of it all, try to spend quality time with my children.  I nearly lost it. “YOU have to work? And I’m just sitting home eating bon-bons? Tell you what. YOU stay home with my chore list and I’ll go into your shop for the day and we’ll see who has to WORK.”  He never tried THAT line on me again.

An in the midst of all of that rushing around, women seldom take enough time for themselves.  And when they do, they often feel guilty – especially if they are also working full time. Let’s face it, it’s damned near impossible to feel sexy when you are exhausted.

I have had to explain to more than one woman that it is NORMAL for her libido to shrivel while the kids are very young, and that what she needs to do is find some rejuvenation time for herself, so she can feel sexy and ultimately interested in sex.  Chances are, your libido WILL come back (with a vengeance in some cases), when the kids hit school.  The question is, can you keep your marriage from developing terminal cancer during that time if sex is very important to him and your libido is in hibernation?  If you don’t talk about your needs and come to compromises, you’ll both end up resenting each other, and I know that I never feel like having sex with someone when I’m pissed off at him. Pretty soon the unresolved resentment builds into disrespect and that’s a relationship killer.  Can you create environments (a weekend away, an evening out) where you put aside frustrations and complaints and enjoy each other’s company in order to build intimacy?  Can you head things off at the pass – before they go terminal?  From my perspective, by the time a couple has to see a couple’s counselor,  it’s usually too late. They invariably end up using what they learned in counseling, in the NEXT relationship.

The grandest irony of all is that I know waaaay too many married women in their fourties who are complaining about how little sex they get and how their husbands just don’t have matching libidos anymore. And these are very sexy attractive, physically active women – we aren’t talking about a guy losing interest because she’s “let herself go”.   I’ve even experienced it – as men get older, they aren’t the same horny things they were in their twenties. It’s God’s cruel joke on women. We sexually peak at 40, and men at 20 – I’m peaking and he wants to snuggle?  Fuck!  I remember the first time I heard, “I just want to cuddle tonight, is that ok?”  I now have a keen understanding of what men go through when women aren’t interested, but I have NO interest in “mercy sex”.  He has to be there 100% or it’s bad sex and not worth it.

Unfortunately, the closing line to the “Sex or He’s your Ex” article really irked me,

“Which brings me to a final bit of good advice. Be a lady in public and a whore in the bedroom. And help him understand that before talking dirty, the whore sometimes needs to have a cuddly chat about her day.”

I’m sick and tired of this whole madonna/whore dichotomy that women are supposed to embrace. Do we ask our men to have dual personalities? Hell No!  Fuck the double-standards.  My advice is to actually work with your partner to find out what it is you BOTH need to feel sexy/horny and then go about making that a reality.  And it isn’t so much a “cuddly chat about her day” that a woman needs as it is some indication that her husband is interested in HER, as a PERSON, and doesn’t just see her as a sperm receptacle.

Sarah addresses this in her article, “Good Sex or He’s an Ex”:

“A friend of mine once told me about the difficult sexual tension toward the end of her marriage. Her husband wanted sex every morning – their Life of the Libido had always been robust – but at this point, they had been having trouble in their relationship for some time. For her, his demand was symptomatic of his lack of respect for her feelings. “It was as routine as brushing his teeth,” she complained. She felt that to him, she was just a body, not a person.”

Sex is for many people, a highly intimate act. Making it routine and an expectation can absolutely kill desire for male and female alike – ask a guy in a couple with fertility problems about how much fun sex is…  Even when my libido is raging, if I feel like the intimacy is gone, it’s a real turnoff.

I think that people need to have mutually compatible libidos for a successful long term relationship.  I’ve seen women who turn on the heat during the courtship and then cool right off to nothing after the wedding vows. (And I’m not talking about kids or other factors getting in the way here).  That’s dishonest, in my opinion, and the guy has ever right to dump her and find a relationship with someone who isn’t misrepresenting her need for physical intimacy in order to hook a wedding ring.  I think couples should talk about their sexual expectations the same way they talk about expectations/desires for kids, lifestyle, and beliefs before they get married or move in together.

I agreed with author Joan Sewell’s statements about compromising on sex, “”This is your body. There is nothing more personal. When you don’t have desire, it’s not merely sexual, it’s invasive.”, but I wholeheartedly disagree with her approach to saving her marriage. She is embracing her low libido, but her husband has a totally different desire for sex. It strikes me that in the end she did just what she recommends against – she compromised and it doesn’t even sound like she enjoys sex.  I guess if her husband wants to put up with that kind of BAD sex, so be it, but I’d be outta there and finding someone more compatible.  I mean, we are talking about INTIMACY here, and her clinical description of servicing his desires hardly sounds intimate or even loving.  Yes, there are lots of reasons that people want to save their marriages – financial, kids, etc… But honestly, do you want to doom yourself to a lifetime of BAD SEX? Not me.  (Besides, where there is bad sex, there is usually a whole host of other problems. The bad sex is just the tip of the iceberg.)

For me, good sex has to be equal sex. Each partner sharing, taking turns, enjoying the moment (or hours!) fully. “Being In Total Control, Honey!” is about being in control of yourself, knowing your body, knowing your desires. It’s NOT about controlling other people or every situation you find yourself in.

Absolute control in the bedroom is never healthy, Ms. Stockley says. The skill, which a therapist can help develop in couples, is how to talk about sexual compatibility without hurting either partner’s feelings.

“I do think many women abuse the power in the bedroom,” she cautions. “Women have been taken advantage of for so many years, and now they’ve shifted into the power position. But I tell them that having power should not be about being overpowering.”

I agree that there has been a pendulum swing (in some societies and cultures), and certainly women are taking greater ownership of their feelings and their bodies and saying “no”, when they don’t feel like sex. I think it’s important for women to find their “center of gravity” as it were, and take care of themselves, but I also see women who have caring for onesself completely confused with being utterly selfish and self-absorbed.   It’s a tough row to hoe because on the one hand, a manipulator will try to tell you that you are being selfish if you do something for yourself, and you have to be strong enough in your beliefs and sense of self to know when to cry bullshit, and when to stop and re-evaluate your behavior.  Are you withholding sex as a control tactic? Ick. Get therapy. Are you just not interested? Figure out WHY and what you need to do about it.

If you want to maintain a healthy relationship, it can’t be a power struggle, in or out of the bedroom.  Sex can be so much fun if both partners actually care about the other person’s enjoyment and fulfillment.

 “The flipside of women’s equal-orgasm-for-equal-effort drive is that many men are adopting more traditionally feminine attitudes about intimacy, saying they want romance, emotional connection and touching, she says. “Men, on some level, are trying to lay claim to something. There are a lot of negative components to feminism for men, but there are benefits, too. There’s a correction in male behaviour and an overcorrection in women’s. What’s needed is for both to meet somewhere in the middle.”

“a lot of negative components to feminism for men”?  For SOME men maybe – the ones who want to be coddled and at the same time in control of everything.  But for the non-asshole, I can see feminism (which is really just the fight for true equality) as only positive.  Certainly, some women have “overcorrected” – god knows, I see enough applications from self-involved-to-the-point-of-sociopathy women, but I’d like to believe they are in the minority.  And personally, I think we still need to see waaaaay more “correction” in male behavior overall.

 

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Dinner conversation…

June 21, 2007 | Filed Under The Heartless Bitch Way | No Comments

Natalie: Yep, some people won’t eat nightshades at all.  White potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants – they are all from the nightshade family. They’ve been linked to issues with Rheumatoid Arthritis as well.  Google it and see what I mean.

S: No Pizza? No Hotsauce? Might as well climb up a building and jump off!

 

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Natalie’s favorite word of the day.

June 15, 2007 | Filed Under The Heartless Bitch Way | 10 Comments

“Fucktard”

It just says so much, so succinctly, and it rolls off the tongue in a pleasingly gutteral way.

Fucktard.

Love it.

 

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Limoncello Success!

June 14, 2007 | Filed Under Lifestyles of the Heartlessly Bitchy | 2 Comments

At the request of one of my readers, I shall post my limoncello recipe – or as close to a recipe as I get – the bf will tell you that to me, a “recipe” is merely a set of guidelines, and very rough ones at that.  (I find it oddly entertaining to see him devouring some meal I have made with great enthusiasm, only to stop, look up at me with a look of longing and distress, and ask rhetorically, “We’re never having this again, are we?”). What can I say? Each creation is a unique masterpiece, never reproduced exactly the same way twice.

That being said, here is as close to a recipe as I can give, and it’s not mine, mind you…  It comes from a source in Rome.

First, get something as close to pure drinking alcohol as you can: Alcool in Canada, Everclear in the US.   Pour it into a large jar with a lid you can seal tightly.  Don’t use Vodka – it’s too diluted at only 40% alcohol.

Next, get about 12-15 large, ripe yellow lemons. They have to be all yellow – no green on them.  The thicker the skin the better. If they aren’t organic, clean them well with a good veggie cleanser that removes pesticide residue but don’t scrub them too hard or you lose the vital oils needed for the limoncello.  Make sure the lemons are well rinsed and dried, and then using a vegetable peeler, peel off the zest – trying to get none of the white pith. You’ll find your hands feel kind of oily after a bit. There is a lot of oil in citrus.  Put the peels into the jar with the alcohol and seal it tightly.  Leave it for about 2 weeks until all the colour is out of the skins and the alcohol is a nice bright yellow. (some people say to leave the skins in for up to a month, but I found mine was fantastic after just two weeks.)

As for the leftover lemons – juice them, strain out the pulp, reserve the juice and freeze it or mix with lots of sugar and keep in the fridge in prep for the next phase.

The final results!

After the two week period,  strain the alcohol into another container through a coffee filter.  On the stove mix some water (about two to four cups) with about 8 to 10 cups of sugar (or more) – this is where you really have to do it to taste.  If you want less strong limoncello, use more water. Heat the water and sugar and get it to dissolve into a syrupy consistency. Then add some of the remaining lemon juice. The more you add, the less sweet it is – you have to decide what your preference is in terms of taste. Stir to get it to mix thoroughly.  Let cool and then mix with your lemon-infused alcohol and mix thoroughly.  The result is wonderful. 

Mine was ready yesterday, (you can see the finished product in the photo), so we chilled it overnight and tasted the results tonight – fabulous. 

Though I’d have to say that this batch is about 60% alcohol – the commercial Limoncello is only about 20-25% alcohol.

How do you drink Limoncello? It is a sweet after-dinner cordial, best served deeply chilled (store in the freezer until ready to use), straight up in a liqueur glass.  If you chill it in the freezer it tends to have a more cloudy appearance – the photo is right after we mixed in the sugar-syrup.

(And yes, that yellow colour is entirely from the lemon peels!)

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A life of leisure?

June 12, 2007 | Filed Under The Heartless Bitch Way | 4 Comments

You’d think with me being off work and all I’d be laying back on the recliner in the yard, reading a book, drinking limoncello and relaxing, but unfortunately that’s not what is in the typical day for this Type A personality.  Here goes a day in the life of “Natalie”:

1) Wake up around 7am to alarm clock. Get delightfully ravaged by bf. Fall back asleep until 8:30 while bf showers and takes off to work. (Briefly reawakened by full body kiss goodbye)
2) Get up at 8:30. Shower. Debate making pot of coffee. Decide on single “pod” coffee instead.
3) Eat a bowl of shreddies and scan paper while waiting for Hot Tub Repair guy.  Start weeding garden…
4) Repair guy finally arrives. Watch repair guy fix leaky hose and charge me $149. Kick myself for not pulling the panel off myself and looking before calling the repair dude.  I could put on a new hose clamp. And it wouldn’t cost $149. Ouch.
5) Go to kickboxing class and try not to have heart attack during workout.  Must remember to BREATHE. Still have wicked round-house kick.  Use it on stand-up bag to take out my frustration with Hot Tub Repair.
6) Come home, shower again, eat leftover pizza.
7) Throw a load of laundry in the washer.
8) Load up the car with old computer stuff from the bf and old clothes of mine for goodwill
9) Drive to the other end of town to drop off the computer stuff at a place that safely disposes of them (and pay $57 for the privilege)
10 Drop the clothes at goodwill
11) Stop by a junk dealer to price out used 50 gallon plastic barrels, wondering if we should get new ones for the HMCS Deathtrap (our motorized swimming raft at the cottage) or just try and repair the (leaking) ones that are on it.
12) Drive to marine supply store where T works. Explore entire store while waiting for T to get back from late lunch.  Look at hinged ladder setups. hmmmmm…  T returns and sets me up with hand winch, rope, guide wheel and bolts (for proper anchor mechanism for Deathtrap). T wonderfully gets me the goods on her employee discount. Bonus!
13) Stop by grocery store on way home – get food for dinner and other stuff that is on sale – like President’s Choice sauces. oooh! a new one – with Tamarind!  (note to self: Must start using more of existing condiments or bf and housemates will take drastic action. Buy no more condiments until I use what is in the fridge and cupboard(s). After today, of course.  I can kick my condiment addict-, er, habit, any time I like. Really.)
14) Make tacos for supper. Use new green salsa sauce bought at grocery store today.
15) Eat dinner and converse with bf.
16) Go downstairs to workshop and build “box” for Deathtrap winch setup using 2×12″ board cut into 4 pieces and a surprisingly minimal amount of profanity. No large hammers were required.  I love my cordless impact drill. Winch Box setup looks like it will do the trick.
17) Cut up a bunch of empty packaging boxes in the basement and tie them up for recycling
18) Come upstairs, drink wine, watch “Notes on a Scandal” with M. (bf has gone to bed)
19) 1:30am: Check email, review ads, review blog comments in moderation queue. Wonder where the hell the day went?
20) Crawl into bed, snuggle up to bf (who grabs my arm in his sleep and pulls it around him), pass out. Have vividly weird dreams (as usual)

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Roman Holiday

June 6, 2007 | Filed Under Lifestyles of the Heartlessly Bitchy | 5 Comments

I’ve been remiss in updating HBI of late.  But I have a valid (in my mind) excuse. You see, just over 2 weeks ago now (has it really been over 2 weeks?), I was laid off. Nothing to do with my performance, but part of a layoff of about 10% of the staff, or so I am told.  It was a bit of a shock considering that they recruited me AWAY from another very comfortable (but not terribly challenging) job.  Ironically, I DID get some sense that “the jig was up” when my boss asked if I would be in the office on Monday. I was due to fly out to a conference, but I confirmed I would be there that morning – leaving that afternoon for my flight to LA. But his inquiry set my spidey-sense a tingling. So much so that I started joking about it with my co-workers.

“Hey Joe!  Did Daryl just ask you if YOU were going to be here on Monday?!  Hmmmmm. I don’t like the sounds of this.”  Unfortunately, I didn’t take it all that seriously, but I DID resist buying that second Mario Beaudoin painting at a gallery in Montreal that weekend, quipping, “Let’s see if I still have a job on Monday.”

All that being said, as my co-workers helped carry my boxes out to the car they were shocked to hear me saying, “Woo-hoo! Summer vacation!”.  This is not the first time I have been laid off, so my skin is a little thicker than a newbie.  I also have a very pragmatic approach to these things – it just means I am intended to do something better and more interesting. I’m not worried about finding work – I’m more worried that it will find me before I am ready to go back to the grindstone. I’ve already had 2 calls from recruiters.

Well, the trip to LA was cancelled, as was my presentation at a conference in Rome the following week.  However, the ticket to Rome, while reimbursed, was non-transferrable, non-refundable. Whether I got on that plane or not, did not matter to the airline.  I had this epiphany. Why not go to Rome?

I mean, why not?  The ticket was paid for.  I’d been reimbursed for it. 

I asked the bf if he could fly to Rome the following week, but he was too swamped at work.  He said, “Go!  Find a friend or go on your own, but go if you want to!” I asked around to my semi-retired friends but all were either working or pre-booked with other things. B., who normally would jump at such a chance, was already flying to Belgium to take his family on a driving tour of Burgundy for the next two weeks. (Egads, what a rough life, eh?!).

I agonized over it for the rest of the week. I mean, ROME! When would I get the chance again? Yeah it would be more fun with the bf or a friend, but ROME. In May.

By the Sunday of the flight, I had prepped my clothes with inside pockets (the pickpockets are horrible at the main train station and on the busses), packed minimally, and was resolved to go.  I drove to Montreal and boarded the flight. 

I’m sure some of you are thinking, yeah, the bf said, “go” but he didn’t really mean it, and he’s going to be all bent that you went without him. 

Not so. Not so at all.  He, like I, figured this was just part of the bonus of being laid off. I mean, they could have given me working notice, and I’d have taken the trip but been working the whole time. Now I had it all for vacation. Sure, he wished he could come, but he didn’t resent that I went on my own.

I mean, it’s ROME, after all.

So, not working, I couldn’t exactly stay at a 5 star hotel, but I DID find a very reasonable hostel/pensionne for just $30 Euros a night.  It was a dorm room, but just fine for the price, and close to the Termini station so I could catch busses and the Metro to any areas that were too far to walk.  For the most part, though, I walked.

The trip was FABULOUS.  I could write pages about it, but I won’t bore you with the ALL details. I’ll just relate a few experiences.

I took my Rick Steve’s guide to Italian – recommended for not only the practical Italian, but the hilarious phrases inserted.  On my trip back to the airport I learned why he had inserted the Italian translation for, “If you don’t slow down, I’m going to be sick.”  He also has other important phrases for women like, “Leave me alone” and “I have a contagious disease” – none of which were required, but it was fun to read and practice them anyway. 

In the end, I didn’t really need the guide. Pretty much everyone at restaurants and tourist areas speaks some English. In fact, I must have butchered the language any time I really tried to speak it because everyone always replied in English – like the time I asked in Italian, “Dov’e la Cherche Conceptione Immaculata?”, to a security guard outside an office building and he replied in perfect English, “It’s up there, on the right, past the umbrellas.”  *sigh*

In the end, the phrases that were most useful were “Permesso” – to get past someone on a crowded bus or in a store, “scusi” to get the attention of a waiter or shopkeeper, “per favore” – please, “grazie” – thank-you, and “Quanto costa” – how much is it?

My roommates varied throughout the 4 night stay, with one American girl, a Spaniard, a Mexican (who was fluent in English) and a Japanese girl. The Spaniard was there the whole time and though she spoke no English we managed to communicate through my broken French and sign language.  As for sleeping in a dorm room, with the right earplugs, I can sleep through anything. Don’t get the foam ones. Go for the soft silicone plugs that you can shape to your ear canal. Miraculous.

My flight arrived at 9am on the Monday morning. I had just 4 days to see and do as much as I could. I figured out the trains and made my way to Rome from the airport by about 10:30am. The pensionne let me check in early which was great, and they gave me a one-page tourist map of Rome which was all I needed to navigate my way around. I started out on foot and found myself famished by about 1pm.

I stopped for lunch and had the best lasagna I have ever tasted. I swear it is impossible to have bad pasta in Rome, but it IS possible to gain 10lbs if you eat the “first plate” of pasta with every meal!  On top of it all, I was courted by the waiter who was distressed to see that I was travelling alone and offered to show me Rome after he got off shift. I graciously declined.  Several times. I learned to get used to it.  Many waiters throughout my trip offered to show me the sites and keep me company. Even after I explained I had a boyfriend.  

I did, however, run into one of the hotel owners, Roberto, on my way out to dinner one night, and took him up on his offer of joining him for dinner. We had a lovely meal at a restaurant in the Travestere district (which is absolutely wild at night, and not to be missed), where I fell in love with Limoncello. Roberto explained how to make it (and I have a jar filled with lemon zest and alcohol on my counter as I type). We wandered throught the Travestere after dinner, soaking up the atmosphere – vendors selling all manner of knock-off belts and purses till 1 or 2am, people drinking and partying in the streets… It was crazy but I never felt unsafe.  Then Roberto drove me up to the “Zodiac”, which is the highest point above Rome, for a fabulous view of the city at night. He was a perfect gentleman and I learned a great deal about the city, the sites to see, and the culture.  It was the highlight of my trip.

On hearing this story, some people wondered about the bf’s reaction. “You went to dinner with a man you just met?” –  Of course he was fine with it. I was just having dinner with someone, and he completely trusts that it wouldn’t be anything else.  It’s one of the reasons I love him so much.

I saw strange things like a crypt all decorated with human bones, the catacombs of San Sebastien and San Callisto, art galleries, the Pantheon, the Colloseum, the cat-hostel in Largo Argentina… Actually, that one has a funny story. I was there, late at night, taking pictures of the cats in the ruins in this big piazza full of ruins that has apparently become a haven for the stray cats of Rome. These elderly, slightly loopy “cat ladies” look after them (I talked to one, I can attest to the loopiness), and they are all neutered or spayed. 

As I was looking into the ruins, a man who was standing next to me said, “There are cats in there you know.” I replied that I knew about the cats, and asked “Do you know how many?”.  He replied that there were over 500 cats living in the ruins. Then he said, “I run that Pizzeria over there. We’ve been in the same spot for over 100 years. Best Pizza in Rome!”. I looked to where he was pointing, and then he said, “And THAT is my girlfriend. And if she sees me talking to a beautiful woman like you, I am in trouble! Ciao!” And off he ran.

Ah Roma!

As for the food, you can get Pizza any time of the day, sold by weight. You can have potato and cheese pizza for breakfast and tomato, tuna, onion and cheese for lunch, and thin-crust with tomato and cheese for dinner. Really there are so many different toppings, and types, you’ll never get bored. I LOVED the cappuccino!  I would stop at cafes and just have cappuccino in the afternoon.  Everyone stirs their coffee. Even if you have a black espresso, I noticed that the custom is to stir it a bit.  I had to try “suppli” – which is a rice ball deep-fried with cheese inside, (I think of it as the Italian equivalent of Poutine), and I had the best tiramisu ever midnight on my last day, at a little restaurant that was almost closing.

A friend asked if I would bring back pictures of “hot Italian men” – unfortunately, I wasn’t so good at taking those kinds of pictures, so I brought her back a calendar of hunks instead. Unfortunately for her, the models are all priests. And all fully clothed in “the cloth”.  Yes, I AM evil.

My flight left at 9am the next morning. As I sat in the airport, someone was making a disturbance in the upstairs food court.  I watched from a distance as more and more Polizia showed up to deal with the distraught man who was either on drugs or severely deranged, or both. He kept threatening to throw things and was crying out “Polizia! Polizia!” even when they were already there.  I kept expecting the worst – like seeing this guy get absolutely thumped by the police.  But in the end, the police just “talked him down”, and casually escorted him out, with an officer gently guiding him by the elbow. All I could think of was, “Wow. He’s lucky it wasn’t the RCMP.”  People think of our mounties as these polite, non-violent types, but given what I have seen, if that same situation had happened in a Canadian airport, as soon as they determined the guy didn’t have weapons, he’d be tackled to the ground, cuffed, and dragged out by several officers.  I’ve had an RCMP officer YELL at me for simply standing on the doorstep of my business with a beer in my hand.  You don’t want to mess with our cops.

At any rate, I spent the week in Rome, then the weekend recovering, then last week up at our cottage (where there is no Internet access), and well, I haven’t really gotten ’round to doing site updates.  But I’m sure you can understand. Scusi Mi.

I’ll be working on site updates (and new member updates) this week.

And I’ll keep you posted on how the limoncello turns out.

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