Through Love and Loss

It was the first week of December. A Wednesday. My grade nine gym class had been doing a bunch of really cool stuff that week, like climbing a little rock wall the school had set up, rappelling down another wall via a rope, and learning the proper procedure for zip-lining—something we were set to finally do on Friday. I was super excited. As someone who hated both school (I had a lot of anxiety about social interaction), and physical activity (I preferred reading, and wasn’t at all interested in chasing after a ball for a grade), that was saying something.

I’d recently read the first two Twilight books, and had discovered that people wrote their own stories with the characters. Since the third book wasn’t out yet, I’d been avidly reading these stories after school, going straight to the computer and sitting there until bed, leaving only for dinner.

That night, we had stir fry, one of the few things my dad could make without slightly burning it. As a kid, I was afraid of trying any new food, so I’d opted for the chicken and rice by themselves. I remember talking about my gym class, how excited I was for the zip-lining. But, as it was just a normal dinner, I wasn’t paying much attention to anything else. I went straight back to the computer afterwards.

My father played hockey every Monday and Wednesday night. So, after dinner, he got ready to leave. My mother and my sister were still in the kitchen, so they got to say goodbye. As they usually did, my parents even said "I love you." Me, I completely ignored him as he passed by me, barely nodding as he said goodbye. After all, he’d be back later. It was just one night, and the story I was reading was so good.

My mother got the phone call around 8:30 pm. She’d just gotten back from picking my sister up from her dance class, which was across the street from the hockey arena. She had been getting ready for bed; pajamas on, face washed, robe secure. When the call came, things went by quickly. My mother grabbed her purse, dropped us off with the next-door neighbours, and went to the arena. She even ran a red.

My father had always been a bit of a klutz. He’d had accidents before; he’d gotten his arm stuck in a conveyor belt at his first job, had fallen off the roof of our cottage, had slammed his thumb nail with a hammer. Hearing a call that he’d gotten hurt wasn’t that surprising. For all we knew, he’d broken his leg playing hockey, or gotten a puck to the face.

When 10 pm passed, we knew it was more serious than that. My mother had called our neighbours, telling them to bring my sister and me to the hospital. A few of my father’s team mates had driven his car home. No one would tell us what was happening.

It was 10:36 pm when we got to the Queensway Carleton Hospital. My mother came and got us, and we were brought to a private waiting room. Beige walls, green couches, stale crackers, and warm ginger ale. What was surprising though, were the occupants. My father’s mother, father and his new wife were there. That was when it clicked that something had gone wrong. It wasn’t a broken bone. These people rarely entered the same room, yet there they were, comforting each other, and crying.

I don’t entirely remember the doctor coming in, telling us about the blood clot in his heart. What I do remember is going to see him. Seeing the bed, the sheets. The body. I remember nearly knocking over a tray as I walked over. I remember how cold he was, how pale. I remember the noise that came from my throat.

I was fourteen years old. And my father was dead.

Certain events in your life tend to follow you around, like ghosts. Some are so important, so integral to who you’ve become as a person, that they don’t ever quite go away, no matter how much time has passed. For me, that was the passing of my dad.

The next few days were a blur. Of family staying over, of friends bringing by food, of the viewing, and the funeral. My mother was in shock—her best friend had died. So was my sister. We all were.

Of course, we all coped differently. My mother started cleaning up the house—she threw herself into finally organizing and getting rid of everything in the basement. She sold his car. She threw out most of his clothing. She didn’t sleep much. She often woke us up at 5 am with the vacuum cleaner. She bought new furniture, new clothing, a new car. A year later, almost to the day, she discovered a spot on her face—it turned out to be malignant skin cancer. The doctors got rid of it easily. A year after that, she tried dating—and met a man.

Three years after my father’s death, we moved in with Richard and his two children. It didn’t go over so well. Four teenage girls in one house, under circumstances we didn’t want to be in, and we didn’t get along. His children would steal our clothes, our money, purposefully spend too much time in the shared bathroom, bad-mouth our family. They were arrogant, disrespectful, and constantly complained about anything to do with the living situation. Their room wasn’t big enough, they weren’t going to sit with us at dinner, they didn’t feel welcome. They tried to make it sound like their lives were so much harder, as if my sister and I hadn’t gone through something traumatic for young children.

My sister coped by throwing herself into school work. She kept up with her dance classes, went out with friends a lot, studied hard for every test, and got a job the minute she was able to. Her grieving process wasn’t that noticeable, something she’s said she never really did because my mother and I were grieving so much, and she didn’t want to add to that.

Me, I just stopped. I quit my dance class, didn’t hang out with friends unless absolutely necessary. I spent more time reading books and stories online than socializing, retreating into other people’s lives instead of dealing with my own. To me, the guilt over not being able to say goodbye, of completely ignoring him that last night, it killed me. I became depressed, my grades slowly dropped, my friend circle got thinner, and so did I. At one point, I even started cutting myself. In comparison to the rest of my family, I wasn’t coping so well.

When I was sixteen, it got worse. I’d finally agreed to go to a party with some of my friends, and was introduced to my first boyfriend, and alcohol. While both relationships were rocky at best, the latter one stuck around longer. Both negatively affected my relationship with my mother, enough so that at one point we barely spoke. I graduated, barely, and worked a minimum-wage job instead of going to any post-secondary schooling.

But time really does change things. It was been nine years since my father passed away. In that time, my sister and I passed the 20th birthday milestone, and my mother passed her 50th. We grew up. We learned to heal, to be able to deal with our grief by ourselves. We all got closer as the years passed, and now are closer than we’ve been since my father was alive. It’s almost been a decade, and things have gotten better.

After four years of living with Richard and his bratty children, my mother had had enough. Between his oldest constantly throwing fits, his youngest moving out of the house, and the two of them never making an effort to bond, Mum decided to move out. In the February of 2014, we moved into a new house, which dramatically changed all of our relationships. My family became close again. There were no more odd house rules, no strange people to live with. My mother was happy again. Richard still comes to visit, but his children stay far, far away.

Nicole graduated high school with honours, got a huge scholarship for Ottawa U in the field of health sciences, and still kept in touch with many of her friends. With the money from her job, she got a car. She pushed forward, excelled in anything she put her mind to, and decided to get into health care because she wanted to be able to help people avoid what had happened to us. This year, she is graduating magna cum laude from Health Sciences. She wants to be a nurse practitioner, or she would like to eventually work in the OR. She volunteers at the Queensway Carleton every week. She’s hopefully going to either Queen's or the University of Toronto for nursing next year.

As for me, after four years of working and not doing much with my life, I finally got into a good, stable relationship. With my boyfriend’s help, I got the urge to finally do something with my life, and enrolled at Algonquin College. While the first program didn’t work out, my second one did, and my grades are the highest they’ve ever been. That relationship helped me get over a lot of the guilt, the resentment, and the total loss of hope I had been clinging to for years. My depression slowly eased, my anxiety lessened, my life got better. Even though it didn’t last, and he left to pursue the army, that relationship changed my life for the better, and is something I will always be grateful for.

Everyone’s grieving process is different. My mother coped by redecorating everything; the house, her wardrobe, our lives. My sister didn’t fully grieve, and threw herself into school, into success. I found solace in other people—be they fictional, or whoever I was dating at the time—and whatever liquor I could get my hands on. When something so life-altering happens, you don’t know how you’ll react. It feels like you can’t survive it. But one day, you realize how much time has passed, and how, slowly, you have gotten better.

The fact that it has been nine years still astounds me. A day never goes by that we don’t think, mention, or share some story about my father. During any family get together, someone always brings him up. My father lived to help people. Be it something small, like picking up a forgotten side dish for Thanksgiving dinner, to something bigger, like helping my grandpa build his cottage. He stayed home with my sister and me if we were sick; he always volunteered as a chaperone for our school field trips; he’d go out of his way to make sure his employees were satisfied with their jobs; he built a cottage so he and my mother could retire in the country—something he never lived to see finished.

The thing about loss is that it inevitably brings people closer together. Once the grieving process has settled down, you’re left with these people who stood by you, who helped in any way they could, who stayed. We may have lost a father, a husband, a son, a friend, but we gained a unique newfound closeness. There’s nothing like mortality to bring people closer together.

No matter how we initially coped, I know that now, nine years later, my father would be proud of us. Of my mother, who learned how to stand on her own. Of my sister, who is going to make a difference in other people’s lives. Of me, since I finally started living again.


Kelly Spence

A 20-something who reads too many romance novels, has a soft spot for wine and anything comfortable, and has decided to blog about her experiences with creepy people on the internet. Hopefully, nothing too traumatizing will happen.

Facebook - OkCupid Profile (created for the experiment)


Stupid Cupid

People, I found love.

Just kidding. While OkCupid is an actual dating website, and the people on it are a bit more serious than those on the hookup apps I went on, it’s still not going to be a result. Meeting people online is kind of weird, I’ve come to realize. You can never fully figure out who they are, because conversations in-person, seeing their facial expressions, hearing the tone of their voice, watching how they act around you, reveals so much more than talking on the Internet. It’s like comparing a black and white photo to a high definition, full colour version. The quality is incomparable. And so is finding someone online in comparison to in-person.

the curiosity may have ended up killing him. i never answered.

the curiosity may have ended up killing him. i never answered.

I did have some great conversations on this app though. While there was the usual, “Are you sure you’re 23?,” “Would you consider an older man?” and a few odd messages, the people on a legitimate dating site are more genuine, and are not looking for a one night kind of thing—which was a nice change. There was actually a point where two different people had grabbed my attention. Sadly, one ended up ghosting me, and the other moved to BC. So there’s that. But the latter, Robert, was quite nice. We shared the same values on family, liked a lot of the same TV shows (anything Marvel or DC, The 100), and it was easy to talk to him.

OkCupid results: slightly restored my faith in dating apps, but I’m not the kind of person to use them.

As weird as this experience was, I’m glad I did it. It got me out of my comfort zone without having to put much effort into it, or fully scaring myself out of meeting people. Like that Tinder article said, maximum payout for minimal effort. These days, everyone has tried online dating once. Since everything else is online now, it makes sense that dating made the switch as well.

I have noticed that some apps tend to draw certain types of people though: the casual, “I don’t want anything serious” people who either have no time for or do not want an actual relationship; the ones who’d prefer one drunken night over those lazy Sunday mornings. Which does make me wonder: are the serious ones just not online, or are they slowly dying out? Have we modernized dating so much that casual dating has become the new norm over serious relationships?


Kelly Spence

A 20-something who reads too many romance novels, has a soft spot for wine and anything comfortable, and has decided to blog about her experiences with creepy people on the internet. Hopefully, nothing too traumatizing will happen.

Facebook - OkCupid Profile (created for the experiment)


Inside the Hive

The second app I chose because of a ridiculously funny social media blogger, aptly called Daddy Issues. Bumble is a bee-themed app—black and yellow with bee hive shaped icons and small bees that appear if you match with someone. It’s kind of cute, actually. What sets this app apart though, is that the girl has to be the one to send a message first. The guy can’t do anything, except extend the 24-hour window if he really wants to speak to the girl. I liked that part, if only because I didn't get any creepy messages from random people. However, as someone who has never made the first move before, let alone on a dating app, this was slightly terrifying. I may or may not have had a glass of wine before every attempt at the first move.

Gotta love animal puns.

Gotta love animal puns.

The first person I matched with was Colin. His little bio mentioned how many animal puns he could do, so I started off with that. The conversation lasted about half an hour, and it was entirely filled with puns on his part. It was actually quite enjoyable, and I didn’t mind talking to him. He seemed quite normal, which was a bonus.

The second match was another story completely. His name was Jeremy. He is also the reason I decided to make this blog in the first place. Our conversation started off normal. We spoke of our families—we both have big ones; our hobbies—he’s in accounting, I’m a book nerd; what we do—he’s back in school for the second time, I’m still starting out; even our favorite foods—both Italian. We spoke for a few days, something I haven’t done with anyone on these apps before. He seemed really nice, and I kind of liked him.

jeremy2.jpg
   

 

 

 But then Friday night, he started asking me about my schedule, when I was free. He was drinking, but so was I, so it seemed okay. Until he turned the tables. Basically, he thought that since I had spoken to him first (even though that’s how the app works), I was ‘in the bag.’ He started asking for sexual favours, photos, even giving me his address so we could start our “foray into the wonderful world of exclusive friends with benefits.” At that point, I didn’t know that was what he was looking for. It was an interesting wakeup call about the actual purpose of the app. Though, I suppose it only takes one person to ruin something.

Bumble results: good concept, love the theme of bees, but I don’t think I’m the person to be on these sorts of apps. A bottle of wine was consumed.


KELLY SPENCE

A 20-something who reads too many romance novels, has a soft spot for wine and anything comfortable, and has decided to blog about her experiences with creepy people on the internet. Hopefully, nothing too traumatizing will happen.

Facebook OkCupid Profile (created for the experiment)


The Tinder-pocalypse

With articles like this, this, and especially this, it’s easy to see why the thought of joining Tinder made me a little weary. To me, Tinder took out all the fun parts about dating: meeting people by accident or through other friends; that first spark or connection you get when meeting someone in person; the cute awkward small talk at the beginning. Tinder is more analytical. It’s all swiping to the right on the people you find attractive, while not knowing their personalities. It only tells you who else liked you, to get rid of that awkward rejection that comes with dating. With Tinder, the pivotal point of it seemed to be to hook up with other people. It’s an easy way to potentially get laid. By simply swiping on a photo, a very easy task, you can either end up hooking up with the person, or moving on and finding another. Little work for the potential of a big payout.

Because this will totally work on most people I suppose.

Because this will totally work on most people I suppose.

To make my little experiment easier, I swiped on both people I found attractive, and the ones who seemed most likely to match with me. In the week of having this app, I matched with a surprising amount of people. About 95 per cent of the people I’d swiped matched with me. And yet, few conversations were started. Like that first article, I did notice something. While there are people who use this app religiously and can get what they want from it, people don’t often speak.

Those who did though: wow. I got every kind of message, from asking about TV shows (as a TV nerd, I happily replied) to messages asking me for photos, or even a place to meet. Some were witty, and of course, others were down right creepy. One guy didn’t even message me. He simply put up a photo, which read “Who’s DTF?”

the enthusiastic super like notification.

the enthusiastic super like notification.

After a few days, I was introduced to the Super Like. Basically, every member has the chance to “super like” someone, and it actually notifies the person they liked about it. I accepted it, and out of everyone, he may have been the neediest. Since it appeared that I’d reciprocated, he thought it was basically a sure thing. Our conversation went from talking about favourite foods, to him asking me to eat said food off of his body. Needless to say, I unmatched him quite quickly.

Tinder results: deleted the app as soon as I was able to, and spent the evening watching rom-coms to remind myself that not every man is creepy.


kelly spence

A 20-something who reads too many romance novels, has a soft spot for wine and anything comfortable, and has decided to blog about her experiences with creepy people on the internet. Hopefully, nothing too traumatizing will happen.

FacebookOkCupid profile (created for the experiment)



The New Normal

When dating/hookup apps first became popular, I was in a nicely committed relationship. My first thought about them was one of disinterest and pity, wondering who would download them just to find a boyfriend, even though they are mostly used to find hookup buddies. Fast forward to a year and a half later, and I kind of get it. It’s hard finding people who will actually stick around. These days, when something breaks, get a better model. We don’t try to fix anything anymore. We trade things in; get the better phone, the better job, the better significant other. It’s something we’ve been told by the masses for a while: there is always something better out there.

These apps focus on finding a person for the night, maybe a month tops. They’re not for a real connection, just a fling. As someone who is a not-so-closeted hopeless romantic, the idea of apps dedicated just for hookups both intrigued and disturbed me. Is this what our generation is becoming? Instead of wanting something solid and lasting, do we only want a just-for-tonight type of connection? Are we too busy in our own lives, our own careers, our own hobbies, that we don’t have time to just sit down for a simple coffee and get to know somebody?

I decided to find out. Over my better judgement, and the not so subtle shattering realization that hopeless romantics are a dying breed, I downloaded three of them. This blog is dedicated to finding out what exactly happens when a decently attractive 20-something joins Tinder, Bumble, and OkCupid, in an attempt at figuring out what they are, and what I can get out of them. Each blog post will focus on a certain app, and what happened when I joined it.

Let me be clear about something though: this is not just a way to meet people. I will not be meeting anyone in person. I’m simply figuring out what kind of people use these apps, what they’re looking for, and if there is someone who actually wants more than just a temporary indulgence. I’m looking into the new wave of dating, the new thought of “There is always something better out there,” the new hookup dating craze that our culture has accepted with open arms, and if there’s even a place for the hopeless romantics anymore.

I hope so.


Kelly Spence

A 20-something who reads too many romance novels, has a soft spot for wine and anything comfortable, and has decided to blog about her experiences with creepy people on the internet. Hopefully, nothing too traumatizing will happen.

Facebook - OkCupid Profile (created for the experiment)