Part 1 – The Proposal

Part 1 – The Proposal


The one year anniversary of my partner and my wedding is coming up 3 weeks from today. As the date approaches, I have found myself remembering all the moments leading up to the big day last year. Some of them were touching, others were downright hilarious and all of them were perfectly timed and positioned to create the perfect day.

So….If you’ll indulge me, I’m going to share it all with you in a 3 part series. Starting today, I’ll tell you the story of my proposal to him. Next week, I’ll tell you about our engagement (and telling my parents), and finally, on our 1 year anniversary (August 4th), I’ll tell you about our wedding day.

I have always travelled a lot for work and to see my family in Edmonton so Ryan and I were accustomed to frequently being apart for short periods of time. However, in the late spring / summer of 2012, I found myself travelling for work more frequently than usual and for longer periods of time. At that time, Ryan and I had been dating for 5 years or so. With each trip, I found myself missing him much more so than usual. At first I didn’t really pay much attention to it but a conversation with my boss (who is also a very close friend) got me thinking a bit more about marriage.

We were traveling together to North Carolina and talking about shopping (as usual). I was showing her a ring that I had my eye on and she asked when I was going to buy ‘the ring’. I brushed off the idea of marriage because Ryan and I had both always said it wasn’t for us. We felt we were already committed to each other in every sense of a ‘marriage’ and didn’t think we needed some certificate on paper to validate what we already shared. My boss understood what I was saying but shared with me that something shifted when she got married to her husband. Even though they had shared the same level of commitment to each other, getting married created a definite shift in their relationship.

I took her words to heart and I guess she had planted the seed, so to speak. A few more trips and those feelings of missing Ryan became more noticeable. Coupled with what My boss had said started to build in my head. I met up with my best friend one day and told her what I was thinking. She got so excited by the idea and was fully on board! She gave me some great advice and told me to really think things through and be sure. I had done that and felt sure that this was something I wanted to pursue. And so the games began!

Ryan, like myself, is quite attuned to design and certainly knows what he likes (translation, we’re both picky). So finding the right ring was essential. Then there was the whole question of how to propose. In a heterosexual proposal, the guy typically buys a ring for the girl, gets down on one knee, etc. But what about a gay proposal?

I’ll tell you one thing, I was not down with Ryan being the only one to get some new bling! So my friend and I started Googling gay proposals and after a lot of searching, our conclusion was that there was no conclusive standard. It was basically up to the couple to do what felt right for them. Nice! We were both getting rings!

My best friend is awesome! She’s just as devious as I am! We plotted a plan together to show Ryan a few different rings to gauge his tastes. Remember that ring I wanted? Well I was sure which one I wanted but decided to have a certain change of heart and ask Ryan his opinion on some ‘alternatives’, Thankfully he didn’t question it too much and went along with it. After much back and forth, we landed on a ring. He thought he was picking it for me but little did he know he was actually picking out his own engagement ring.

Ring – check! Now the proposal. We had plans to be in California over Christmas and New Year’s with my brother’s family. There was a DJ that Ryan loved out of Santa Monica who happened to be DJ-ing at a local club for New Year’s Eve. As soon as Ryan told me, I knew that was the perfect setting for the proposal. We booked our tickets right away and also booked a hotel within cab distance of the club. I found us a great Indian restaurant that was having a New Year’s Eve special menu and booked that as well. It was all falling into place perfectly!

Fast forward to New Years Eve. We checked into the hotel and well, let’s just say it was a little ‘questionable’ in it’s decor… Everything was clean (thankfully) but the hotel was definitely old and worn down. The area it was in was a bit seedy as well so I was a little concerned. Ryan was a good spirit about it all and managed to get us both over it. We decided to drive to the restaurant and then come back to the hotel afterwards to drop off the car before heading to the club. I was starting to get a bit nervous about the proposal. What if Ryan said no? It wasn’t that far out of the realm of possibilities because anytime anyone asked us in the past, we both said that marriage wasn’t for us. Just because my mind had changed on the subject, didn’t mean that Ryan was on board. Oh well, I decided to just go with it and see what happened. I gave myself a pep talk and told myself that I would be happy no matter what his answer was.

We got in the car and headed over to the restaurant. I had the two rings wrapped in a small pouch, tucked away in my pocket out of sight. As soon as we walked into the restaurant, we were both totally impressed. It was perfectly decorated and the food smelt delicious! The server was amazing too and gave us a private booth tucked away in the corner of the restaurant. It had beautiful Indian fabrics draped all around and really gave the feel of an Eastern tent. The food was so flavorful as well and Ryan and I were having a great time!

Dinner was done by around 10pm which gave us plenty of time to drop the car off at the hotel and hop in a cab. Neither one of us thought getting a cab would be an issue on New Year’s Eve – we were wrong… We called several cab companies and they all told us there was at least an hour to two hours wait. When we bought the tickets for the club, we chose the premium option that included free drinks for both of us so driving really wasn’t in the cards. At this point, it was already 10:30pm and I wanted to propose right at midnight. Not seeing many options, I told Ryan that I would just drive. He could drink for the both of us and I would still have fun. In my head I was cursing because I really needed a bit of liquid courage to pop the question.

It wasn’t ideal but we made the most of it and hopped back in the car. Now came the task of finding parking. Once again, not an easy task on New Years Eve. We decided to drive up to the club first to see where it was and then find a spot close enough to walk. As we approached the club, I saw Ryan’s face drop. He read the marquee and the DJ he loved wasn’t listed. He looked up the event information online and his DJ was taken off the billing there as well. Not good… Ryan was so disappointed and so was I. His favorite DJ was a big part of my ‘perfect’ proposal plan and now it seemed like everything was going wrong. Then came the dreaded words from Ryan – “Maybe it’s not meant to be, let’s just go home.” My heart sank! Maybe this proposal wasn’t meant to be either and all these things going wrong were signs telling me so.

We talked it over for a bit and I convinced Ryan that we should just go. We had already paid for the tickets and were there so we might as well make the most of it. After driving around for what seemed like an eternity, we finally found a parking lot that had a few spaces left. We paid an exorbanant amount for parking and finally got into the club. By this point it was already 11:15pm! As we walked in, the emcee was just announcing the featured band for the evening. They were a bluesy-jazzy band called Vintage Trouble. They came onto the stage and as soon as they started their first song, I knew things were looking up. Both Ryan and I got into it right away and loved the music! Ryan’s mood was changing already and I could tell he was letting go of all the drama that led up to the club. I got us a couple rounds of drinks because I knew I needed him loose and agreeable for midnight :-) (don’t worry, I held on to my one drink and nursed it all night long – safety first!)

As midnight quickly approached, my heart felt like it was in my stomach! I was nervous!!! I didn’t see another gay couple in sight and the club was packed! We had found a small space to stand and watch the band but there definitely wasn’t a lot of privacy so when the time came, I was pretty sure the people around us would know what was going on. It didn’t matter – the vibe in the club was really cool and I had a feeling homophobia wasn’t going to be an issue.

The servers all started coming around with champagne flutes and the band announced there were only 5 minutes left till midnight. They played one last song before starting the count down. It was time! As the clock struck midnight, we all toasted and cheered each other and the band played that New Year’s song (you know the one). Ryan was jumping around, all excited and I knew it was now or never. I reached into my pocket and fumbled around to get the rings out of the pouch. I held both of them in my hand and nudged Ryan in the arm. He looked at me and asked what was going on. I nudged him again and motioned with me eyes for him to look into my hand. He looked down and saw the rings, then looked back up at me. I moved closer to his ear and said “Do you want to?” to which he replied “want to what?” So I held up the rings and said “Do you want to marry me?” Instantly his eyes welled up with tears and he said “You better not be kidding!” I hate to admit it but my eyes and welled up by this point as well and he knew I wasn’t kidding. As the first tears streamed down his face, he said “yes” and “yes” again many times!

In those few moments, nothing else existed. It was like all the noise around us had been turned down by some remote control and all the people around us all moved away to give us some room. It was just Ryan and I in that moment, taking this next step in our relationship and in a way, embarking on a brand new adventure. Even though I had been nervous and shy about displaying any affection before, in that moment, we kissed and I didn’t care who was around. It was, by far, the most incredible moment of our lives. All the nerves I had been feeling, all of the planning and scheming, it all came together perfectly to create the best possible moment for us.

As if that wasn’t enough, as we were still caught up in the moment this woman came up to us. Now I’m not sure if it was the high I was on from all the adrenaline and endorphins running through my body but this woman seemed to have this glow about her. She looked to be in her mid-fifties, or early-sixties, with a fair complexion, bright eyes and almost platinum blond hair. She walked right up to us, reached out her arms and encircled both of us, leaned in and said “I’m so happy for you.” and walked away. Just like that, she seemed to float in and then within a moment, she walked away and disappeared. Both Ryan and I were stunned and were both taken aback by her. Ryan turned to me and said, “I think we just met an angel.” I looked at him and said “sure honey, have another one”. But I have to say, there was definitely something about her. Whatever the case, she walked into our lives and gave us that first bit of congratulations and affirmation at the perfect moment. We looked for throughout the night but never saw her again.

So there you have it, the story / adventure of how I proposed to Ryan. A HUGE thank you to my dear friends for all of their help along the way, and of course, to Ryan for saying yes!

Stay tuned for next week’s blog when I tell you all about our engagement, telling our parents, and planning the wedding.

I’m So Digitally Connected / Addicted

I’m So Digitally Connected / Addicted


What’s your idea of an appropriate amount of time that can pass before you reply to an email? 1 hour? 1 day? A few days?

I was recently reminded of just how accustomed I have become to the ‘new normal’ in communication. A dear friend of mine had emailed me and it took me 3 days before I had the chance to email her back. When I replied to her email, the first thing I did was apologize for the delay in my response, letting her know it had been a very busy week. She emailed back and said there was no need for an apology because she grew up in a time when she would send a letter and receive a response a month later. Yes, a letter! Her comment made me laugh when I first read it but as I thought about it, I realized that I too grew up in a time before the internet and email (I think I was 10 years old when the internet first became popular).

For what seems like a very long time now, I’ve been completely connected/addicted to the internet and emails. So much so that I’ve had the idea of taking a ‘digital day off’ and writing a blog about my experiences but I just can’t bring myself to do it. A whole 24 hours without a phone, internet, computer, tablet, anything that connects me digitally to the outside world! I think I’d crack in an hour! Seriously! I’m so attached to my phone that I actually feel naked if I don’t have it near me or in my pocket. Is there a support group I should be joining or 12 steps I need to be climbing?

It’s quite remarkable when you think about how relatively new all this digital connectivity is to the mainstream population, and how quick most of us have been to adopt it. I’m a self-proclaimed Apple geek (and proud of it) but the iPhone I clutch in my hands was only introduced in 2007. The first iPad didn’t come out until 2010. That’s not that long ago. However, it feels like life wouldn’t be the same without either of those devices today. They have become such an integral part of my daily activities that being without them would feel so foreign to me.

As foreign as it may seem today, it wasn’t that long ago when when we wrote letters to each other instead of emails. When our social networking consisted of picking up the phone and actually speaking to our friends and family. When we printed out the photos we took on our trips, carefully placed them into photo albums and then flipped through the pages with our friends, instead of simply posting them on our Facebook walls.

You get the idea – life did exist before all this digital connectivity, and some might argue that it was a better life. After all, in those days, the friendships we had were nurtured and developed through conversation and human connection. These days we may have hundreds of friends on Facebook but how many of those are actual connections and not just random acquaintances?

Certainly makes you think, or at least it made me think. So a big thank you goes out to my dear friend who reminded me that true friendships and connections transcend digital connectivity.

Pedestrian Etiquette & Distracted Walking

Pedestrian Etiquette & Distracted Walking

Distracted Walking

Okay, I’ve got to get this off my chest. Living in Vancouver, you get used to the fact that there are a lot of people crammed into a relatively small area. In the summer months, that population density increases thanks to the tourists. That’s fine. I like a busy city with lots of people from different cultures and different parts of the world. Yay diversity!

What I don’t like are people who think they own the sidewalks. You know who I’m talking about – those people that walk like they’re the only ones on the street, without a care in the world for those around them. Ugh! Those people drive me hella crazy some times.

Let me break it down for you. The people I’m talking about do the following:

  • Don’t look both ways when they exit a building to enter the sidewalk. They just walk on through and if they bump into you or cause you to swerve out of the way, oh well!
  • When walking on the street, they don’t maintain a regular pace. They speed up, slow down, and some times (most annoying of all) they’ll just stop all of a sudden! No warning, no moving out of the way first, just a complete, abrupt stop directly in front of you.
  • Let’s not forget those who like to walk in groups. Oh yeah, they’re delightful! They walk with the friends, side by side, taking up the whole sidewalk. Everyone else? Guess we’ll just have to walk into the street and dodge traffic to get around them.
  • And last but not least, we’ve all heard of distracted driving right? In fact, it’s against the law in most places now to have your phone in your hand and drive at the same time. Well, the same should apply to people walking and texting. Look up!!!!! If you need to text or read an email or whatever, move over to the side of the street and go at it. But please, oh please, don’t do it while walking in front of me.

Don’t even get me started about umbrellas! In Vancouver, it rains a fair bit and what starts as a beautiful, sunny day can often include a sudden burst of showers so we usually have our umbrellas with us. Some people have umbrellas that are appropriately sized for one or two people to walk under. Others however, feel it’s completely justified to bring out their golfing umbrellas which are capable or sheltering an entire family. Is their entire family huddled up underneath with them? Nope, just one person….

Whether they have a big or small umbrella, there are some people who are completely oblivious to the people around them. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve nearly had an eye poked out by someone else’s umbrella. The best is when the person in front of me decides to tilt their umbrella downwards to shake off the rain. Guess what people – water sprays! Yup, your little shake off just drenched my clothes and sadly, I’m not Gene Kelly walking around in my suit “singing in the rain.”

So, what are we to do? Well, if you are one of the people mentioned above, listen closely. If you know someone who is, send them over to Farzopolis to read this post. And if you’re just like me and can feel the pain, let out a big sigh and commiserate with me.

Here are my tips. They’re pretty simple actually and mostly common sense:

  • Think of walking as driving.
  • You need to look both ways.
  • Shoulder check.
  • Maintain a steady speed.
  • Indicate when you want to change lanes or exit the sidewalk.
  • Pull over if you want to do anything on your phone.
  • Keep a good distance between you and your fellow pedestrians – especially when you have an umbrella.

One final gripe about umbrellas. If you have one, use it and stay out from under the overhangs and canopies that the people who don’t have an umbrella are using to stay dry.

That’s all – simple stuff people. You can do it! I know you can :-)

Kick Fear in the Rear

Kick Fear in the Rear

Overcome fear and achieve greatness!

We’ve all experienced some form of fear in our lives. Yes, even all the manly men who might be reading this blog, you too have to admit that at some point in your lives, you have been scared of something. Is there any shame in admitting you have fears? Of course not, nor should there be.

Fear is a natural human emotion that at times, can be used to inform a decision about what to do next. For example, the sound of a car quickly approaching when crossing an intersection raises our fear level and can help us react by moving out of the way. The fear acts as a trigger for a whole range of physiological changes in our bodies that help us react in the moment. But what about fears that stop us from doing something, or act as an obstacle in our path, such as a fear of the unknown, or the fear of failing at something?

That’s what I want to talk about today – how fears can stop us from reaching our goals. I have experienced this type of fear many times in my life and I’m willing to bet most of you have as well. It starts early in our lives. From the fear of rejection in junior high that stops us from approaching a person we’re attracted to, the fear we might feel before a job interview when the pressure is on and we want to make a good impression, or the fear of taking a risk. Those are all fears that are fueled by ‘what ifs’ and the unknowns.

Believe me, I’m certainly no shining example of being fearless of the unknown, but I have faced a lot of fears of that nature in my life and have come to an understanding of them. What works for me is logic. It sounds pretty simple, I know, but hear me out. Fears of the unknown are typically irrational and illogical, not always, but typically. Let’s use the example of not taking a risk because we’re afraid of what might happen. How would any of the innovations we all enjoy today be possible if the people who came up with the ideas for them never pushed them forward because they were too afraid of what might happen if they failed? The keyword here is idea, because that’s all something is before you actually do what is necessary with the idea to develop it into something. And that part about doing something to develop it, well that my friends involves taking a risk and overcoming fear. So I ask you again, if you let fear stop you from taking a risk then how the heck are you ever going to create something?

I get it, it’s scary. Yes, you’re right, you may stumble, you may fall, you may flat out fail. So? When a kid learns to ride a bike, they inevitably fall down. The first time they fall, they probably don’t see it coming. But the pain associated with falling instills a fear within them. Now if that kid doesn’t get back on the bike because they’re scared of falling again, they’re not going to learn how to ride a bike. Simple as that. The same underlying principle of overcoming fear applies to each and every instance of our lives when we let fear stop us from taking a risk. Now granted, I’m not suggesting people start jumping off buildings as a way of overcoming fears and ‘taking a risk’. Let’s be smart here people. What I’m suggesting is this – use logic to help you overcome fear. If you don’t try to do something, you have zero chance of achieving results. If you try, you have a really good chance of succeeding. Sure you may not succeed right away but let me tell you, I’ve learnt so much more in my life from all the times I’ve failed at something, than I have in all the times I’ve succeeded. In fact, the majority of successes in my life, if not all of them, have been achieved because of the learning I took away from the failures along the way.

And that’s another thing, the word failure. Please people, don’t let that word scare you. Failure is not a bad thing. I promise you, it’s not a negative judgment that needs to stop you. In fact, it should do the exact opposite. When you fail at something, that’s just an indication that you still have something to learn. So learn it and then enjoy the sweet taste of success.

One of my best friends once told me something that I have never forgotten. I was going through a significant time in my life that had a lot of ups and downs. I confided in her many times and got a bit self-conscious in telling her about the failures I made along the way. What she told me has so much logic, and for me, so much power, because it’s indisputable. She said, “If you take two steps forward, and then stumble and take a step back, you’re still one step further than you were before.”  Right? Makes sense to me! So come on people, let’s stop letting fears stop us from achieving all that amazing potential I know we all have. Let’s turn fear into motivation and reap the rewards!

To PDA or Not to PDA?

To PDA or Not to PDA?


Public displays of affection, also known as PDA, were the recent topic on the popular show “What Would You Do” where actors are placed within real settings to gauge reactions of the unsuspecting public on moral and ethical dilemmas. The particular episode I recently watched took place in the small town of Vicksburg, Mississippi where two actors portraying a gay couple were affectionate towards each other while having a meal at a local restaurant. Hidden cameras were placed throughout the restaurant to gauge what happens when another actor, pretending to be a patron of the restaurant, showed her disgust towards the gay couple. This actor would start off by huffing and puffing or scrunching up her face when the gay couple held hands or stole a quick kiss. She would then be more audible in her reactions and go so far as to ask the couple, loudly from across several tables, to stop doing that in front of her. The real test was to see how fellow patrons around her would react.

Well, react they did. For the most part, the reactions were pretty tame and consisted of whispers and glances across the tables that were in support of the woman, not the gay couple. When the gay couple asked other patrons if they were bothering them, some said that ‘not everyone understands that type of affection between same sex partners.’ Some said that they didn’t believe in same sex relationships but it was none of their business, it was ‘between you two and your God.’ Of course, one woman brought up the ever popular line ‘God intended it to be Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.’ (my personal favorite). Although there were a range of reactions, the majority of them sided with the disgusted patron with varying levels of tolerance for the gay couple.

Where do I stand on this issue? Well, I’ll be honest, I’ve never been big on PDA. For me, the idea of holding hands or kissing in public has never felt totally comfortable. I’m not sure if that is because I am afraid of judgement from someone who might see. I think it’s mostly because I have always been more private about my relationships. For the most part, I’m a pretty open guy and have no issues sharing most of what happens in my life. Some of the best stories or experiences I share are the ones that are the most embarrassing to me, but they also tend to be the funniest. I’m also quite open about my relationships and usually don’t have issues sharing personal details (as long as the person I’m with is also comfortable with sharing them). However, when it comes to affection, I tend to be more private about that because it feels more intimate to me and it’s something that I prefer to be shared only between myself and my partner.

That being said, I don’t have any issues with other people showing their affections in public (gay, straight, lesbian, anything in between). In fact, I think it’s quite sweet for the most part (excluding those demonstrations of affection that might be better suited for bedrooms…) In my opinion, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a little kiss between two partners, or holding hands, or sitting close in a restaurant and gently stroking each other’s arms. What’s wrong with that? As long as there isn’t any groping or tongues down each other’s throats, I say go for it. One of the loveliest signs of affection I’ve seen are where two older people hold hands. That, to me, is something to aspire to – to be at that age, in a relationship for that long, and to still have that shared connection. It’s beautiful. Would I have a different reaction depending on if the older couple was heterosexual or homosexual, of course not!

So let’s get back to the gay couple in Mississippi. One of the patrons justifies her distaste for PDA by saying that she would be equally objective of it if it were taking place between a heterosexual couple. So the show’s producers try out the same experiment using a heterosexual couple. They take their PDA to the same level as the homosexual couple, and the actor posing as a disgusted patron voices her objections in the same manner. What did they find? All of the patrons sided with the couple, ridiculing the disgusted patron and saying things like “oh, she’s just jealous.” Interesting… Kinda makes you think that perhaps the objections weren’t so much about PDA as they were about same sex couples showing the same displays of affection.

Towards the end of the clip, there is the biggest and best redemption that literally made my eyes well up. A couple of university aged straight guys sit down at a table across from the gay couple. As the disgusted patron starts her rant, the two guys take notice. The patron turns to them and suggestively asks them if they too are disgusted. They respond by defending the gay couple and asking the patron what difference it made to her. Meanwhile the group at the table behind them is recording the whole thing on their phones and giving the patron the thumbs up in support. The patron pushes it further and suggests the gay couple leave. This prompts one of the college guys to get up from the table and speak to a server. He defends the gay couple and complains about the disgusted patron. The server (who is also an actor) comes into the dining area and instead of asking the patron to leave, walks towards the gay couple and asks them to leave. The gay couple are shocked and sadly walk out of the restaurant. The patron turns to the college guys and says “you understand why I had to do that, don’t you?” One of the guys is visibly shaken and flatly tells the patron that she is what is wrong with America. You can see that he is so angry and is doing everything in his power to hold himself back. That’s when the show’s producers come out and reveal the hidden cameras. The college guy has tears in his eyes and when asked about them, he explains that he just couldn’t stand to see the gay couple treated so badly.

What an incredible validation for today’s generation of youth. Here are a couple of guys who are clearly more evolved human beings that understand diversity, tolerance and equality. They’re from the same little town in Mississippi and have grown up with the same social conditioning except they have also come to understand why just because someone is different from them, it doesn’t mean they deserve to be treated any differently. A homosexual couple should be afforded the same rights to display their affection for one another as a heterosexual couple would be.

So what’s your take on this? Do you believe in PDA? Does your opinion on PDA change depending on whether the couple is heterosexual or homosexual? No judgement either way, I’d just like to understand what motivates your beliefs.

Here’s a link to a clip of the episode.

A Woman is Raped Every 22 Minutes in India – Unacceptable

A Woman is Raped Every 22 Minutes in India – Unacceptable


Have I got your attention? I certainly hope so. I just read a news story about two Indian sisters who were allegedly gang-raped by three men, two of whom were police officers, strangled and then hung from a tree. I’m literally still shaking from the complete and utter disgust I felt after reading the whole story. These two sisters were only 14 and 15 years old! I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of sick, perverse and twisted stains on humanity would find pleasure in robbing these young girls of their innocence. Rape in any form is unacceptable and I’ve never been able to understand how the attacker could find pleasure in committing such a heinous act. But to rape children, that to me, is pure evil. I just don’t understand it.

I’m sure many of us remember the stories of a fatal gang-rape that took place on a moving bus in New Delhi in 2012. I remember reading about it back then thinking how could this have happened? How did an innocent woman, only 23 years old, get onto a bus unsuspectingly, and then get raped so violently? How did the six men on the bus all get the impulse to rape her? How does that happen? Was it due to social conditioning? Was there a lack of moral guidance in these men’s lives growing up that didn’t teach  them the difference between right and wrong? Does that even need to be a taught lesson – don’t we intrinsically have a moral compass within us that would tell us that forcefully having sex with someone against their will is just wrong – no question, no debate, just completely wrong?

The woman from 2012 died from her injuries 13 days after the rape. Of the six men who raped her, one hung himself while in police custody, one, who was only 17 at the time, received a maximum sentence of 3 years in a reform facility, and the remaining four men were sentenced to death. The case sparked a much needed outcry and international discussion on the frequency of rape in India and prompted stricter anti-rape laws. Sadly, those laws haven’t done much to reduce the number of rapes that still take place in India today. Even the statistic mentioned earlier of a woman being raped every 22 minutes is estimated to be drastically under representative because of the social stigma attached to women who are the victims of rape. Many of these victims are told by their families and their local law enforcement to keep quiet about their attacks in order to preserve their honor and respect for their family’s reputations. Honor and respect – not exactly what I would consider being preserved after a rape takes place. Quite the contrary. However, in India (and many other places around the world) a woman who is a victim of rape carries that stigma with her for the rest of her life. In India especially, her chances of ever getting married or finding a partner are drastically, if not completely, reduced. She is seen as an outcast and sentenced to a lesser life for an act that was imposed upon her against her will. For something she had no control over. Not only does she have to live with the trauma, both physical and mental, she has to then carry the consequences of that horrible abuse for the rest of her life.

So what role does social conditioning have on the case of the two sisters in India? It was reported in the story that they were from the Dalit community in India, also known as the ‘Untouchables‘. In India’s history of the caste system, the Dalit were seen as the lowest rung on the caste ladder. Their designation of being ‘untouchable’ was a literal one in that they were seen as impure and regarded as a lesser sect of the population. “In the context of traditional Hindu society, Dalit status has often been historically associated with occupations regarded as ritually impure, such as any involving leatherwork, butchering, or removal of rubbish, animal carcasses, and waste. Dalits worked as manual laborers cleaning streets, latrines, and sewers. Engaging in these activities was considered to be polluting to the individual, and this pollution was considered contagious. As a result, Dalits were commonly segregated, and banned from full participation in Hindu social life.

Did the Dalit status of these two young girls have anything to do with their rape? Did the men who raped them have the sense that what they were doing was somehow more acceptable because they were raping women that had a lesser designation in their caste beliefs?

Perhaps the messages they heard around them growing up, and even in present day, gave them the false notion that it was ‘okay’ to have sex with women even if they didn’t consent. The girls were raped in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The head of the Uttar Pradesh governing party told an election rally just last month that he was opposed to gang rapists being executed. Why? Well, in Mulayam Singh Yadav’s words, “Boys will be boys. They make mistakes.” No sir, a mistake is a baseball accidentally going through a house window after a great hit. A mistake is jumping in a puddle of mud after your mom just finished cleaning your clothes. Those are mistakes that could be justified by “boys being boys” but there isn’t any chance that raping a woman can be written off as “boys being boys.”

I just don’t get it. It makes me really sad to think that in some places around the world, messages like these are being handed down through society (and believe me, I’m not deluding myself into thinking these types of behaviors and notions only take place thousands of miles away and not in our own backyards). There are so many forms of inequality and injustice within our society. Haven’t we learned from history? Haven’t we seen enough evidence that would clear up any doubts in our heads that this is just wrong? The skewed sense of morality (or perhaps a lack of morality at all) that allows people to commit acts like these and somehow justify them within their own heads just makes me wonder where the world is headed.

Shake It Like You Mean It

Shake It Like You Mean It


Okay people, I have a feeling a lot of you aren’t going to agree with me on this one but I’ve just got to say it – handshakes are overrated! I know, I know, a firm handshake is ‘a sign of confidence’, it can ‘get you promoted’, it ‘makes a strong first impression’, blah blah blah. Yeah, I get it, you’ve heard the same things told to you all your life and therefore it must be true.

Well, actually, that part has some truth to it – we’ve been told that a firm handshake connotes confidence so many times that by now I’m sure most people in the world believe it to be true. However, just because something has been said over and over again doesn’t necessarily make it true. We’ve just been conditioned into associating a character judgement to a physical movement. We’re no different than Pavlov’s dogs – for those who don’t know, Ivan Pavlov was a Russian psychologist who conditioned dogs to salivate when he rang a bell. He did this by first giving the dogs meat powder to get them salivating. Then he rang a bell right before he gave them the meat powder. After ringing the bell and giving them the meat powder several times, the dogs associated the bell to the meat and linked the two together. Pavlov found he could then only ring the bell and it would still get the dogs to salivate.

I’m proposing the same idea applies to handshakes. We have been told so many times that a firm handshake is a sign of confidence that we have been conditioned to believe it. So much so that I remember some of my male friends in high school comparing handshakes to ‘prove’ who the ‘real men’ were. And it didn’t stop at high school. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation about meeting someone for the first time and I was reminded to give a firm handshake to make a good first impression. Really? Come on people, my handshake is what’s supposed to make a good impression? Silly me, I thought it was my personality, my intellect, hell even my looks, that would have a more resounding impact on the impression I left but apparently, if my handshake wasn’t firm enough, all those other things wouldn’t matter. I’m sorry people but I just ain’t buyin’ what you’re sellin’.

Unfortunately, I think I’m in the minority on this particular rant of mine. A study conducted by four psychology students at the University of Alabama found associations between the firmness of the handshakes of their test subjects (among other evaluating criteria) and their personalities. Apparently “those with a firm handshake were more extroverted, open to new experience, less neurotic and shy than those with a less firm handshake.” Less neurotic? Believe me, I’ve met some pretty freaky (some might say neurotic) people in my time that have had handshakes that were plenty firm. I suppose extroverted would be a nice word to describe them…

The study must have had some merit to it because it did get published by the American Psychological Association. So I’ll give them that :-) It doesn’t, however, change my opinion on the subject. I do believe that a handshake is part of several indicators or behavioral traits that are used to form an impression of someone. Absolutely! It’s a part of the big picture. However, I do not believe that it’s the most important part of the overall assessment.

Consider this: let’s say someone you meet has a firm handshake that by all measures and metrics is rated as being a ‘good’ handshake. Check! They get the ‘confidence’ box ticked off on your evaluation of them. Now what happens if that same person is timid and shy throughout the rest of your interaction with them. Would your impression of that person remain that they were confident? Probably not. Now flip that around. Say you get to talking to someone and they’re full of personality, charisma and charm. You end your conversation with a handshake and find out that their end of the shake is a little weak or soft. Has your impression of them changed? I sure hope not.

I don’t know people, maybe it’s just me but I say that the handshake is completely overrated. People can practice their handshake till they’re blue in the palms but it isn’t going to change their personality or who they are. I tend to agree with Howard Friedman, a professor of psychology at the University of California who says “In general, any attempt to assign a single, major specific meaning to a gesture or touch is an oversimplification.” He goes on to say, “because people are very good at expressing and understanding a whole complex of interacting verbal and non-verbal messages.

What do you think? Is a firm handshake enough of an indicator of confidence?

He Kissed a Boy and He Liked It – SO?

He Kissed a Boy and He Liked It – SO?

Michael Sam Kiss

Katy Perry sings about kissing a girl (and liking it) and she becomes a pop sensation. Michael Sam kisses a boy on TV and receives backlash for it.

Ah, the world we live in really boggles my mind sometimes. Well, actually, the people in the world we live, really boggle my mind. I just watched a clip from a morning show out of Dallas, Texas called “The Broadcast” and my jaw nearly hit the table! At around the 2:35 minute marker in the clip, one of the anchors, Suzie Humphreys, says the following in response to Michael Sam kissing his partner on ESPN after he got the draft call, “People don’t have the right to express the way they feel if it offends somebody else.” Hmmm, I’m with you so far Suzie. I can see the merit to what you’re saying. Even with Freedom of Speech, I think we as an interconnected, global community should think about what we say and do so as not to offend other people with our expressions.

Oh, wait a second, hold up, Suzie just made that comment in support of the NFL players who tweeted out derogatory messages after ESPN showed Michael Sam kissing his partner. Hmmm, now I’m confused. What Suzie is trying to say is that Michael Sam should not have kissed his partner on live television because his partner (wait for it) was a man!!!!! Well golly, that makes perfect sense, right Suzie? How dare Michael Sam express his joy and excitement that way on national TV! That just ain’t right y’all! His expression was clearly offensive to somebody else. Now let’s look at those tweet happy NFL players who felt the need to express themselves. What do you think Suzie? Do you think anyone from the LGBTQ community might take offense to negative tweets about an honest expression of love between two same sex partners? I suppose they might but come on now, everyone knows that those types of people don’t really matter as much as “All American, God Fearing” people like good old Suzie. I suppose Suzie’s aptly titled twitter handle really says it all – @SuzieSaysSo. Yup, Suzie says so and therefore it must be okay.

As you may have picked up from my tone, I’m more than a little unimpressed with comments like the ones Suzie made. If you keep watching the clip, you’ll see another one of the co-anchors actually storm off the set because she’s so frustrated with the continuous defense of Michael Sam’s genuine, and completely appropriate, expression of excitement. There’s professionalism for ya – storming off a live TV show and throwing a tantrum the likes of a 3 year old. Nope, nothing wrong with that…

I wish that was the only negative reaction to this story but it isn’t. Ever heard of Jack Burkman? Before today, either had I. Apparently he’s a powerful Christian lobbyist in the US who has now launched a boycott against supporters of Michael Sam. He feels that companies supporting Michael Sam’s right to love whomever he chooses are “trampling on Christian values.” The largest company that he is targeting in his boycott is none other than Visa, who I personally applaud for giving Michael Sam his first advertising contract. Jacky boy has riled up his coalition of evangelical Christian leaders all across the US, as well as many influential grassroots organizations, to boycott Visa as well as all St. Louis Rams games and team merchandise. He also wants everyone to sell any stocks they hold in the offending companies.

His message is simple, “Openly gay football players send a terrible message to our youth about morality. Somebody needs to step up because the moral fiber of the nation is eroding.” You tell ‘em Jacko! What a terrible message to send to our youth! Michael Sam worked hard throughout high school and received scholarship offers from Arizona State University, Colorado State University, University of Houston and the offer he accepted, from the University of Missouri (Mizzou). So far, not looking good Michael – you worked hard, got an education, and developed your sporting abilities to the level of major recognition from 4 top universities. Tisk Tisk

Michael’s stellar football career blossomed at Mizzou where he was named a first-team All-American (hear that Suzie, he’s All-American) by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, Associated Press, Sporting News, the American Football Coaches Association, and the Football Writers Association of America. He was on track to be a first round draft pick as he was obviously well qualified in the sport of football.

On February 9, 2014 Michael publicly announced that he was gay in an interview with Chris Connelly on ESPN, becoming one of the first publicly out college football players. He made this announcement before the draft picks were made. I’m sure he knew what to expect and was advised profusely to keep his sexuality quiet. That would have been the ‘safe’ move for sure because it was obvious that there were a lot of teams interested in his football playing abilities. After all, that is what they should primarily base their draft picks on, isn’t it? Revealing his sexuality, which he did on his own terms by the way, not because he was forced to in response to speculation or someone ‘outing’ him, would surely affect his draft prospects. Still, he was no stranger to adversity and he knew that who he was and how he became the man he is today, was not something that came from shying away from adversity or being afraid of what people might think. He felt it was more important to stand for who he was, rather than pretend to be who others wanted him to be.

Where are we so far on the morality index and messages sent to our youth? Hard work, discipline, education, facing fears, overcoming adversity, being true to one’s self, standing up for your values, yup, it’s looking like a pretty good message so far. One that, in my opinion, the youth of today’s generation should be listening to a hell of a lot more than what Jack Burkman has to say.

With only 8 more picks left on the 3rd and final day of the NFL draft, the call finally came in to Michael Sam from the St. Louis Rams to join their roster. All that doubt he faced by his critics, all of that pressure and stress he felt waiting round after round without a draft phone call, it all bubbled up to an emotional release that had Michael shedding tears as he spoke with the Rams. After the call, he kissed his partner who was standing by his side the entire time. That kiss, televised on ESPN is what has the skivvies of all these ‘righteous’ people in a bunch? Really? Come on people, really?

Not surprisingly, there was a flurry of reaction following the draft pick and the kiss. A lot of it was really positive and focussed on what a great achievement this was for Michael Sam as a football player. There were shout-outs from LGBTQ activists and alliances commending Michael for expressing his joy in a way that felt honest and true to who he was. And of course, there were negative comments too. I quite enjoyed how the SB Nation website showed us some of those negative tweets. They captioned images of heterosexual NFL players kissing their wives and girlfriends with the tweets made about Michael Sam kissing his partner. Well done SB Nation, well done.

There’s no doubt that this debate over what is moral and appropriate and righteous will continue. Listen, I’m all for sharing opinions and saying what you truly feel – just as long as the double standards are checked at the door. Don’t go around saying that same sex relationships are wrong when you go around preaching hate and intolerance. As a wise person once told me, when you point the finger at someone else, you’ve got 3 fingers pointing back at you (don’t believe me, try it out – point your index finger and see what your middle, ring and pinky fingers are doing).

Going Up? A Little Elevator Etiquette

Going Up? A Little Elevator Etiquette


We’ve all been there. You get into an elevator and something smells funky. There’s no one else in there but you get the distinct impression that the person or people who were just in the elevator before you may not have had the best personal hygiene practices. As the doors close, you stand there hoping and wishing that no one else gets into the elevator with you because you just know that they are going to assume the odour is coming from you. You stand there, watching the numbers turning on the elevator screen, slowly going down towards the main floor. You’re almost there, the end is in sight and then it happens – the elevator stops on a floor to pick someone up. Ugh! You have a second or two to decide what the best way is to convey that the stank ain’t from you. The doors open, the person walks in and you see that look of “pee-eww” on their face and they’re looking right at you. You smile the best, confident “that’s not me who’s stinky” smile but it doesn’t look like they’re buying it. You hold your finger up to your nose in an attempt to indicate that you too are smelling the offensive odour. Do they notice? Do they believe it isn’t you? Unless you ask them or make a comment about it directly, you’ll never know. You’re about to say something about the smell right when the doors open and the other person exits the elevator. Too late, now you’ll never know what they thought.

That’s just one of the many awkward situations that can often arise in an elevator. I’ve seen them happen and also been involved in my share to have come up with a list of what I feel is good elevator etiquette. Here are some bits of advice.

Going back to the stinky elevator, I’ve been in that position a few times before and I too have felt those shameful looks from others. Let’s keep it simple here people, there’s a good chance we’re all smelling the same thing so instead of pretending not to notice it, just talk about it. When I’m in one of those ripe smelling elevators and someone else walks in, I make sure to make eye contact with them as soon as they come in and say something about the smell. You can make a joke about it or just flat out say that you aren’t the source of the stank. Whatever you do, at least you’ll feel better (and so will your fellow passenger) that you’ve, um, cleared the air.

Another really important piece of advice is how to properly enter and exit an elevator. When your elevator arrives and the doors open, instead of bursting in, please make sure to look inside first to see if someone is getting off on your floor. If they are, they have the right of way. Remember that, always allow people to exit first before getting into an elevator. When the time comes to exit, guys, please remember your manners and let the ladies out first. I’m all about equal opportunity and know full well that women are most definitely not the weaker sex but still, a little chivalry is never a bad thing. That being said, ladies, remember that when someone holds a door open for you or allows you to exit an elevator first, you too must remember your manners and say thanks. I’m always left with a bad taste in my mouth when I’ve held open a door for anyone, not just a woman, and they walk right on through without taking the time to say thanks. Not cool people – I made the time to hold open that door, you can make the time to say thanks.

So what about when you’re in an elevator? Maybe it’s crowded, maybe it’s just you and someone else. I think most people these days look down at their phones or up at the news monitor in the elevator, or if neither option is available, they stare straight ahead as if the elevator walls are the most interesting things to look at. I get it, it’s a small space that you travel within with a bunch of strangers for a short period of time. It’s inherently a weird concept. However, as I was once told by a flight attendant, “smiles are contagious so spread them around.” It’s really that easy, just make eye contact with each person that walks into the elevator and give them a nice smile. There’s something about that little, most basic form of human connection that seems to go such a long way. And you just never know what conversation might strike up after that first smile. If you feel like striking up a conversation, talking about the weather seems to be a universal ice breaker. Seriously! I’ve started conversations, or had conversations started with me, all over the world using weather as the topic. Even when I don’t speak the language. It’s amazing how much of an impact the weather has on all of us.

Speaking of conversations, I remember this one time I was riding in an elevator with maybe 3 or 4 other people in it. It was dead silent, you could hear a pin drop. All of a sudden, the woman in front of me turned to her friend and asked her if she was ticklish. Her friend looked at her, confused, and answered “yes”. To which her friend replied “that means your sexually oppressed.” It was the funniest and most awkward moment I have ever had in an elevator. Even though I didn’t know the person standing next to me, I turned to look at them and we both burst out laughing. Even the two women in front of us turned around and started laughing. It was just so out there, so unexpected for that woman to make a comment like that, it broke the silence and connected us all instantly. So much so that we kept on talking after leaving the elevator and walking to the front door. After all, we had to know whether the woman asked the question to purposefully make us all laugh and if it was actually true – did being ticklish really mean you were sexually oppressed? Now you’re wondering too, aren’t you? Google it :-)

So there you have it, a few quick tips on elevator etiquette that will hopefully make those small trips through space and time a little more enjoyable. Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment if you have any tips or stories of your own. I know you have some so come on people, share!

‘Standard’ but not Acceptable – The Demise of Customer Service

‘Standard’ but not Acceptable – The Demise of Customer Service

Customer Service

Okay, first things first – I have to admit that I’m a bit of a shopaholic. What can I say – it’s one of my few vices so why not! It’s harmless enough…until the Visa bill comes.

In my many interactions with retail establishments and the staff that serve within them, I have come to notice a growing trend in the decline of good customer service. When I first started noticing it I thought perhaps the person serving me was just having a bad day or maybe they were busy with other things and were trying to get it all done. As it happened again and again, I wondered if I was doing something to provoke it. Was I being rude? Did I have a closed off expression on my face that led the sales person to think I wasn’t friendly? I took a step back and watched sales people with other customers and sure enough, the same behavior was repeated over and over again. This is when I started being more aware of the level of service around me.

You’d think the grocery store would be a safe bet for good customer service. At the very least, the checkout clerk would say hello and exchange a few pleasantries right? Wrong! I was shocked when I first encountered what I refer to as a non-talker. At the start of my transaction, I looked up at the clerk and said hello. What I got in return was a blank face and then she started to scan my items in. When all the items were scanned, she stopped, looked up and said nothing. It caught me off guard and I too stood there for a moment and said nothing. Then I realized she wasn’t going to say anything and would just wait for me to clue in that it was time to pay. Sure enough, once I said I wanted to pay with my visa, she turned the machine towards me and I inserted my card. Once approved, she tore my receipt off the machine and put it in one of my grocery bags. That was it and she moved on to the next customer. Not a single word was spoken in that entire time! I was flabbergasted! I walked out of the store in a daze. Did that just happen? Did I really just go through an entire transaction without the clerk saying a single thing to me? Not even telling me what my total bill came to! Surely this wasn’t a common occurrence.

Oh but it is… I’ve run into non-talkers at coffee shops too. These people just stand there and wait for you to tell them what you want. No “hello” or “how can I help you?” – just blank stares and vacant expressions. Really? Is this what customer service has dwindled down to? I thought there was no way this was the norm. I told my friends about my experiences and was surprised when they told me that they too had experienced the same thing. One friend went so far as to say that this was just ‘standard’ and ‘the way things were done these days’. No way! I’m all for fast and efficient service but come on people, we have time to say ‘hello’. Surely we aren’t so busy and so self-involved that we can’t even make that very basic of human connection.

I decided to raise my level of awareness and see just how common these instances of bad customer service were. Unfortunately, I kept coming across more examples and found something even worse than a non-talker. What’s worse than a non-talker? The sales person that acknowledges you exist and then goes back to talking to their coworker. Have you ever experienced that before? You get to the checkout and the sales person says hello. They begin to ring in your purchase and carry on a conversation with their coworker the whole time, only stopping briefly to collect payment and send you on your way. I’m not asking for a lot here people but come on, surely common courtesy says they should at least make an effort to talk to their customers. If the customer is non-responsive then by all means, they can go back to talking to their coworker but let’s not forget what they are getting paid to do.

I can almost deal with sales people carrying on their own conversations but what I can’t handle is when I get to the checkout and they don’t even acknowledge my presence until they’re done talking to their coworker. Now that I just won’t stand for. I understand if they are talking about something work related that needs to be attended to first but if they are catching up on their weekends and could care less that I’m standing their waiting, I’m going to let them know my time is just as valuable as theirs.

It blows my mind when I experience customer service as bad as this. It’s like these people have never been taught how to properly interact with a customer. Or perhaps they just don’t care. Maybe this is an affect of our new ‘socially connected’ world where we spend more time looking down at our phones than we do looking at each other. Has today’s generation grown up feeling more comfortable Posting and Tweeting than actually talking to someone face to face? Is that why when it comes to actual human interaction they are at a loss? Perhaps those blank stares I spoke about earlier are a result of the expressions on their face as they peruse their social media walls on their phones. If so, how very sad indeed because I can guarantee that they will never experience the same level of human connectivity through technology that they could get from actually talking to someone face to face.

All is not lost though. I’m happy to say, not all sales people are like this. Thankfully there are still a lot out there that value good customer service and offer it with a smile. Now they just stand out more, and I for one, am very grateful for them.