Thursday, May 21, 2015

Heavy Stuff


Last week I wrote about how discovering a diet that worked for me changed my life (and I want to do a Chris Traeger "lit'rally" here, because I feel strongly about this). Eating paleo was only one part of the puzzle for me, however: the other half comes, as it turns out, from weightlifting.

I've never been particularly femme or butch. Wait, do straight girls get to claim "femme" and "butch"? In either case, neither extreme has really ever rowed my boat. I've always been fascinated by supposed flaws, like gap teeth, freckles, unconventional hair colour, tattoos, and fluffy hair. But my bete noir was skinniness. Fashion models, the tiny girls in my high school, the sub-20 BMI, the size-zero jeans, the 24-inch waist: all of that was my holy grail. I wanted it so bad. To me, being skinny was being a woman. It was being unassuming in body so that my large, sometimes challenging personality was easier to swallow.

This manifested in a lot of different ways. There was the eating disorder, but in between flare-ups, I would often drag myself to the gym in the name of good health. Academically, I knew purging was bad for me, so I tried to get down to that magical waist size by working long hours on the treadmill, or hitting the Pilates classes.

Here's the thing about the treadmill: it is boring. Supremely, ridiculously boring. If you want to talk about the futility of trying to accept your body while still actively loathing it, there is no better metaphor than the Stairmaster. Climbing forever and getting nowhere; sounds about right.

Besides, going to the gym took a lot of time. There was getting there, changing, doing the stair machine, rowing furiously on the rowing machine, clambering on and off the gazelle-looking contraption, wandering around the weightlifting section like a little lost lamb, leafing through the brochures for classes, weighing myself, feeling upset, changing, and leaving. This was no lightning-ops procedure.

At some point, I got a pair of dumbells from my mom, and a weightlift-at-home DVD to go with them. It was very 1993: the hosts wore a lot of Spandex, she had a side ponytail, and he said things like, "Whew, I'm tired just watching you work out, girl!" But I would put it on once a week and follow along at home. At first, I was terrible. Anything to do with my triceps or my quads was just a gong show. But, slowly, I got better.

Scratch that: I got stronger.

And I liked that.

Turns out, I'm not alone. This article by Anna Maxymiw cites studies that show lifting heavy stuff is good for you: "A 2001 study found that college students who completed a course in weight training reported an increase in body strength, lower physical anxiety and general improvements in body satisfaction, while concurrent aerobic activity was found to have to have no effect on body image. Research from 2005 suggests that high-intensity weight-lifting is an effective treatment for older patients suffering from depression." No wonder the treadmill wasn't making me feel better. Besides, people who work out at home rather than in a gym are more likely to stick to their routine, and these days, a pair of dumbells (or even just a Pinterest board of bodyweight exercises) is enough to get me going. I do Russian twists with style, I have five different kinds of squats in regular rotation, and I've graduated from my first pair of blue plastic five-pound weights to a beauty pair of adjustable stainless steel numbers that clock in at about 14 pounds fully loaded. That's a bicep curl that you'll feel.

The outcomes of lifting weights have been pretty dope. I have visible tricep muscles! Do you even know how hard that is? I can do a chatturanga pose for ten breaths and not want to die. Instead of visible hipbones, I have visible obliques. That feels wonderful. It feels like I've made something I'm proud of. And, to be fair, while I love having visible muscles, I felt this way when I was heavier, too, when the muscles were there—and strong!—but not showing off for the naked eye. It's a feeling of knowing that I can push myself, that I am strong, that I'm more than a 24-inch waist, and that I'm proud of what my body can do. That is a rare feeling, and I will praise any path to it with my biggest, loudest voice.
A 2001 study found that college students who completed a course of weight training reported an increase in body strength, lower physical anxiety and general improvements in body satisfaction, while concurrent aerobic exercise was found to have no effect on body image. Research from 2005 suggests that high-intensity weightlifting is an effective treatment for older patients suffering from depression. - See more at: http://maisonneuve.org/article/2015/01/29/making-gains/#sthash.ZUM6Xg3f.dpuf
A 2001 study found that college students who completed a course of weight training reported an increase in body strength, lower physical anxiety and general improvements in body satisfaction, while concurrent aerobic exercise was found to have no effect on body image. Research from 2005 suggests that high-intensity weightlifting is an effective treatment for older patients suffering from depression. - See more at: http://maisonneuve.org/article/2015/01/29/making-gains/#sthash.ZUM6Xg3f.dpuf
A 2001 study found that college students who completed a course of weight training reported an increase in body strength, lower physical anxiety and general improvements in body satisfaction, while concurrent aerobic exercise was found to have no effect on body image. Research from 2005 suggests that high-intensity weightlifting is an effective treatment for older patients suffering from depression. - See more at: http://maisonneuve.org/article/2015/01/29/making-gains/#sthash.ZUM6Xg3f.dpuf

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Paleotronic


There are very few things that I get evangelical about. I'm not, like, really committed to a certain genre of music, and I won't corner you at a cocktail party to expound on the benefits of registered GICs versus high-interest savings accounts (LOL, like I know what those words mean). My life moral and message is pretty much you do you, except when your choices are exceptionally stupid, in which case we go into life is a rich tapestry mode mode (and I'll definitely talk shit those choices, FYI).

There are, however, two exceptions to this rule. I'll talk about weightlifting next week, but for now, I'll just go ahead and paraphrase Nicole Cliffe: I love picking up heavy shit. I LOVE IT.

But this week, I'm going to yammer at you about the paleo diet. I know, I know: trust me, I know. And I know that anecdata is pretty much the devil's breakfast cereal when it comes to reasons to believe in something, but here's the thing: following a paleo diet pretty much works for me.

I first started the paleo "thing" three years ago, when I was a good thirty pounds heavier and getting sick every time I ate. My stomach would seize up, and it would be an agonizing cycle of constipation, bloating/gas, and then horrible diarrhea. TMI! But also, my skin was this like, gray colour? And I had had acne for fifteen years? And my farts smelled like something was literally rotting inside me. So, yeah, TMI. But I want to make it crystal clear how foul it was to live inside my body.

When I first read about paleo, I dismissed it as one of those eliminate diets that promise its adherents the moon (but like an hourglass moon instead of a fatty full moon), but in reality is just an eating disorder with a fancy name. Besides, I had tried the gluten-free thing. I had tried giving up lactose. I had tried a low-calorie approach, and its sister, low-fat. Nothing worked. I was still puffy, I was still farting, and I was pretty sure paleo wasn't going solve those problems. After all, nothing else had worked.

For those of you who had never heard of paleo, it's your basic low-carb/high-fat and -protein model, based on the idea that our modern diets have evolved far faster than our ostensibly cave-man guts. Agricultural inventions of the last 10,000 years—things like grain crops, for instance—don't jive with our digestive systems, which evolved over hundreds of thousands of years. The science is a little iffy; for example, humans have developed the capacity to eat dairy only in the last 7,000 or so years, but it's definitely there. Anyone who can drink milk can raise a glass to evolution.

On the other hand, one might argue that the basic tenets of the diet have been borne out by nutritional research (eat whole foods, eat protein, eat vegetables), and that trading cheeseburgers and chocolate croissants for sweet potatoes and red peppers is actually a step in the right direction. And! Even nutritionally clued-in modern humans are pretty bad at figuring out where calories come from. Like, there are 170 calories in two slices of bread, which is roughly the same as an entire can of tuna, and about double the calories in a large navel orange. Grains are a good source of fiber; two slices of bread have about four grams of fiber. But a half-cup of raspberries offers the same amount for one-fifth the calories. It's not like two slices of bread will make a person feel fuller than a teacup full of raspberries, but it's good to be able to wave vaguely at these basic nutritional considerations.

Anyway, I cut out grains, upped my protein levels, and immediately noticed a difference. I lost a whole pile of weight, but I also just felt better in my body. I slept better, I pooped on the regular, my skin cleared up. It was sort of amazing. Over the last three years, I've slid into a lazy-girl's paleo diet: I eat protein at every meal, I load up on fruits and veggies and nuts, and I try to avoid grains. I try to sneak fermented foods in as often as possible, since our gut bacteria is a delicate biome and I have stomped on mine. I like kale. I like kimchi. I like almonds as an afternoon snack, and an egg every morning for breakfast. I eat avocados in bulk.

I also make sure to eat cheesecake and maki rolls if and when I want to, because eating for pleasure is a hard thing to learn after over a decade of treating some foods as inherently evil, and others as "good food." Food is food: sometimes it messes with us, and sometimes it's good for us. And sometimes, eating something that I know will have digestive repercussions is a once-in-a-while treat, because why would Jesus invent chocolate cake if He didn't want us to eat it?

My moral and message is this: it worked for me. It may not work for you! It may turn out that your body is really turned on by, like, yogurt and rye bread. That sounds delicious and amazing. But if you are currently trapped in a body that makes you feel like shit, trying some really old-fashioned eating habits might help. And if not: hey, there are worse things you can do to your body than fill it full of avocados and chicken. I am so happy that I tried this "paleo thing," because it allowed me to come to peace with my body: how it felt, how it looks, and how I feel when I live inside it. That's a victory.

Besides, buying vegetables and meat means I spend so much less time reading the nutritional information on the back of the package. There just is no package. Bliss.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Lightening

Liz and Abe and I met up and got Korean brown-sugar pancakes and sat in Christie Pitts, and I got my first sunburn of the year. It was two PM on a Thursday, a random day where the three of us could meet. We all work full-time or nearly that, but freelancing and shiftwork and an academic schedule and the stars aligning meant that there were brown sugar pancakes to be eaten, and soft grass to be sat on.

The next day, I woke up early and took the bus to Guelph for work. Biking to the bus station, I stopped to take a picture of the day's beautiful sunrise—pinks and purples and orange, splashed across the sky like a hippie's tie-dyed dream. Later that day, after taking the Byzantinely routed, slow GO home from Guelph, I walked back to the bus station at dusk, and the sky was stained again; this time deep indigo and purple, faded from silvery clouds.

It's these moment, these times, when I feel so happy.

Quitting my job turned out to be a good decision in nearly every way possible, but I wasn't anticipating these moments of feeling joyfully like myself. The freedom to sit in a park, the ability to rise with the sun. Damn. It feels good. It feels correct. It feels like I can breathe again.

And it's more than things like Saturday night—us, eating duck in a friend's backyard, a rich feast of mango guacamole and kale salad, capped with an improbably perfect McCain Deep 'N' Delicious chocolate cake. The five of us sat under the night sky and talked about what we would do if we had infinite power, prison reform in America, and the philosophy of True Detective. Previous Saturday nights like this have happened, and what has ruined it is that another bummer Monday morning is coming up soon. But as this one unspooled, I felt no urge to hide away the part of myself that felt lousy. That part just didn't make an appearance.

Stress is like that. It's not confined to the space we think it takes up. It leaks, and that oozes into every corner of the day. I remember coming home from my last job and bursting into tears as soon as I crossed my threshold. I was so tightly wound from the effort of not saying the things that needed to be said that I literally felt like I was outside my body. Towards the end, I started to dissociate at work—to feel like my life was nothing more than a slightly insane television show, and I was trapped. But now I feel like I'm having a spiritual crisis in reverse: as though maybe, knock on wood, and sort of against the odds, things are starting to come together. I feel these huge sweeping moments of joy, and after so long, they're unexpected and amazing.

I've never been pregnant, but I've heard about "the lightening," the moment that the fetus starts to drop down, away from the ribcage and towards birth, and the mother can breath again. Usually about two weeks before labour begins, it's been described as the feeling that she can take her first really deep breath in months. And it means something big is coming down the pipeline.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Broke


The longer I live in Toronto, the more I feel a general sense of irritation: things could be so much better! And yet, things continue to not be so much better. When I first arrived in the city, I was this starry-eyed little small-town girl. Toronto represented the future. It was where the action was, it was where the culture came from (or, if not where the culture came from, where the culture at least didn't have to be acquired through an Amazon.ca purchase). There was live music, first-run movies, street festivals! It was exciting.

But for me, financially speaking, Toronto has often been a scary place. Employment has mostly been short-term, and I'm usually paid a rate that just barely scrapes the underside of the living wage for the city. Part of this is my own fault, since I've made a point of working for organizations whose mission and purpose I believe in; these places are often small non-profits, operating over capacity, and with nothing to invest in the little things like HR, personnel policies or training. I've developed my skills and moved up in the world, which has been great; I have also totally failed to have an RRSP, a pension, or a savings account.

I'm kind of scared.

Here's my reality: I can't afford afford a house in this city. We will be at the mercy of landlords for probably our entire lives. The ramifications of these are varied: we won't be able to make repairs to major structural issues, nor will we be able to hang wallpaper. Our landlords often take weeks to reply to emails, if they ever get back to us; in the meantime, we have dribbling water pressure or no hot water at all. We don't get to choose the (sometimes scary) people who come into our home to do repairs. We don't get to negotiate with the landlords over rent increases. We're on the waitlist for a co-op unit, but that could take years.

I ride a bike because transit is too expensive for me to justify when I'm in rude health. This sometimes leads to lousy decisions, like biking home after a few beers. We're constantly riding over rough, poorly maintained streets, and I'm often afraid I'm going to taco my wheel on a gnarly pothole. Toronto isn't a bike-friendly city, and the four years we spent under Ford underlined this even more. Bike lanes were removed, and car-vs-bike rhetoric grew more heated and personal. I like riding my bike in Toronto, but it doesn't always feel like the city wants me out there.

A few years ago, I worked at the Island Yacht Club, which is one of those places that charges a few thousand dollars for membership and pays its dining room wait staff minimum wage. I stopped on my way to work one day, tired and rained-on and broke—and I didn't realize how broke I really was until I tried to buy a bottle of Coke Zero from a drugstore. A buck eighty-eight, and my debit was having none of it. I sat down on the curb and cried, and called my friend Liz; she, superheroine of my life, biked down Spadina with a can of Coke Zero and delivered it to me.

I felt disgusting that day. I felt so poor and miserable that I could barely see.

I'm a Millennial. Allegedly, we're one of the most self-centered and annoying generations to deal with, according the previous record holders, the Boomers. The primary narrative is that we're a bunch of over-teched dream-followers who can't hold a job and who want a medal for showing up to work every day. But here's my life: my last job paid thirty-four thousand dollars a year. I owe nearly half that in student debt. I live above a bar. I went to university because I was told hundreds of times that employers wouldn't even look at me if I didn't have a degree. And now that I'm in the workplace, my bosses are white dudes in their late sixties. Twenty years ago, they would have retired by now, but they're hanging on for dear life.

When my dad was my age, he owned a house. He had a kid. He was a fully-formed human. I'm only a few years removed from a buck-and-change in my bank account.

I might be freaking out because M and I are starting to take a look at what the next ten years will hold for us. Houses? Kids? International travel? If we want to have a dinner out, how do we pay for that? If I want to add to my ever-increasing number of black tank tops, will that always require a trip to the Sally Anne? Questions! My savings account has seventy-seven dollars in it. My sister works in oil and gas, and she now makes triple what I do. But, y'know: she works in oil and gas. I'm not mad at her, but I can't follow her path, either. All those "how to live frugally" articles that pop up online? I know that shit like the back of my hand. I already live like that. There aren't a lot of corners for me to cut.

I'm not bitter. I just feel kind of freaked out. I'm worried that I screwed up somewhere a few years ago, and I'm going to spend the rest of my life making less and less money because of it. There are factors outside my control—I graduated in a recession, I'm a woman, I work in the arts and in non-profits—which I know mean a reduction in income. I'm not looking for pity. But I am starting to question whether or not I'm ever going to hit that living wage—$18.52 an hour in Toronto, an amount I haven't made since I waited tables when I was eighteen years old—and what the hell I can do about it.

Image via Abandonedography

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Week of Sundays


 Some cool life updates! Life updates are cool!

1. I've started writing a lot more—like, a lot more. Like, six-articles-due-this-week more. I was asked to become the Civic Impact editor for Yonge Street Media, which means that I get to write about all kinds of neat and inspiring things. Mostly my beat seems to be the non-profit and community-building beat. I'm enjoying it so far; the stories are fun to write, and I'm getting exposed to all the sparkly, innovative nooks and crannies of the city.

I also started a new column at Torontoist, called Sex-ist (M came up with the name, which has been getting thumbs up across the board). I'm covering sexuality topics, which I've liked since I aced all my sex ed quizzes in the fifth grade. My first column was about the Feminist Porn Awards, which was a total hoot. Writing about sex is something that makes me really happy; it's part of my version of feminism, in which different types of bodies are celebrated, and different sexualities are safe options, and different gender identities are beautiful. (Obviously, in today's landscape, my version of feminism is a wee bit science fiction-y, but we're making progress, please, right?) In related news, I have found a pornographer that I like: her name is Erika Lust, she is Swedish, and her films look like HBO but you can actually see the penises. Much yes.

2. My bike got a tune-up and I have fallen back in love with riding it. Sometimes, a little air in the tires is all a girl needs, you know?

3. Should you need a quick dinner idea, may I recommend glass noodles with shredded veggies, soy sauce, and a poached egg? That has been my lifeblood for like, two weeks. I'm sure my sodium levels are just through the roof, but it is so delicious.

4. I've been trying to work out more—turns out that spending a winter lolling around on the couch eating Ritter Sports means that none of my pants fit—and with that, I've been both lifting weights and doing some HIIT work. I do twenty seconds of burpees (with the jump, natch), followed by 10 seconds of "rest" (read: panting like a dog), several times in a row. Right now, doing two minutes of that is disastrous, but I'm working my way up to four minutes in May. Oh, and my pants fit again, so chalk one up for the HIIT parade.

5. I am desperate for a trip somewhere, but I don't know where. We've heard of several upcoming trips to Japan, taken by friends and dinner-party strangers, which means M is pretty much beside himself. We've made a pact to get there before we turn 35, so that's a goal we're working on; in the meantime, I feel like I've been marooned in Toronto forever. I want at least a weekend trip! Maybe Montreal is calling my name? We could spend a few hours on the train, get some cute Air BnB crash pad, and eat brunch. Who doesn't want that?! I want that.

6. I've been trying to do a no-sugar April for a 101 over 1001 day challenge. I will have more to say on the topic when I write about it for the other blog, but for now: sugar is magical. Life without it is healthy, sure, but to this I reply: chocolate-covered cashews. Caramel corn. Carrot cake with cream cheese icing.

6. Things are feeling really different these days. Some of it is little things—like, I got a pair of green cargo capri pants and they were the missing piece of my wardrobe, and I've been wearing them pretty much nonstop, and I love them. Some of it is bigger. Letting go of my last job and settling into this new role has been stressful, but it's also felt good, like a big stretch after sitting for far too long. I've been sleeping better. I've seen my friends more. I feel like I'm settling back into my body, after a year of carrying around so much stress and frustration. I am busy, but I no longer feel like my brain is being hijacked by terrorists. ("Bring us four Ritter Sports or your new issue of The New Yorker gets it!") I've been more active, I've been more creative. I've been able to love more, both myself and others. It feels really, really nice.

Image via VeronicaLovesArchie

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Working Through the Storm


A month ago, I quit my job. It was a long time coming.

When I was first hired at the place I will call Housen, I was ambivalent. It was a job, and after a year of unemployment, any job was going to be the right job, because it was going to pay my rent and let me have some of that so-called financial freedom that work is supposed to allow. Right away, things went weird: my hiring manager, the only other person on the Housen staff, went on a personal leave to take care of her sick mother. At the end of her allotted six weeks, her mother was neither better nor worse, so she asked for an extension, which the board she answered to denied. So she quit.

I was then left alone for the next six months. Housen's board president came in once or twice a week—he and I split her workload between us, and I took the communications and office administration side, while he navigated the financials. Things got done. The fall fundraising campaign fell to me, and I knocked it out of the park. In fundraising, a campaign that returns more gifts and money than the previous year's is a success, and my campaign did both those things. Other projects were less glorious: the annual gala  needed an in-house staffer who could lead the way, and there was no one on staff to do that. It ended up being split between a part-time event planner, a volunteer committee chair, and about seventeen different women who made calls, picked up silent auction items, bullied the venue staff, and more. It was a patchwork quilt time at Housen, and sometimes things didn't get sewn all the way to the end. But, for the most part, it was manageable. Not fun, but manageable.

Things changed once the new Executive Director was hired. Whoever was going to step into that role was going to be seen as the saviour of the organization, a person who would lead Housen into United Way-level fundraising on a shoestring budget. Laurence came with great bona fides: nine years tenure at a charity, deep involvement in the community that donated to Housen, and the ability to talk and talk and talk.

We was doomed from the beginning.

Laurence and I never connected very well. He saw me as a glorified handmaiden, someone who should drop everything if he let out a peep of confusion or distress. I, on the other hand, had had to work out any issues that had come up in the previous half-year on my own, with only the barest of support. I expected him to be an professional adult; he expected me to be a gum-snapping, nail-filing, cartoon-secretary ditz who would be at his beck and call.

He was flummoxed and irritated by his email. He swore constantly. He interrupted me, the office volunteers, the president of the board, tech support, donors. He called our accountant multiple times a day, looking for guidance on things like what a P&L statement is. He used words like "rationalize," a business-ese expression that means organize but sounds fancier and more cutting-edge. He took the limitations of Housen's donor database system personally. He spent so long working on a mailing list that we nearly missed the holiday it was supposed to be honouring. His gift of gab transformed 15-minute check-in conversations into meandering anecdotes and opportunities to name drop. He had a habit of sticking his hand into the waistband of his pants when we spoke, a personal tic that bordered on the inappropriate.

Having to spend my days locked in an office with this man took an emotional toll. I would come home and cry. Sometimes, I would come home and vomit out of sheer anxiety. My parents encouraged me to speak up for myself. After all, I wasn't doing anything wrong. What were they going to do—fire me? After many weeks of screwing up my courage, I sent an email and asked Laurence for a meeting to discuss the tension in the office.

The gods have a funny way of dealing with personal strife. Sometimes, merely setting some corrective motion in action is enough to make them smile down on you. Two days after I sent the email, I got a call from an agency I had applied to two years before. They wanted to interview me.

It took two weeks for Laurence and I to sit down and discuss the issues I had brought up. Two weeks of him telling me he was too busy, that he didn't believe in meetings, that more important conversations with other people would need to come first. By the time we sat down together, I had already talked to the other agency. I was waiting for my references to be called. It would be the very next day when I would get the official job offer.

I quit my job on a Monday. Laurence barely reacted. In the ensuing two weeks, he made no concessions to the fact that half his office staff was leaving. I prepared a manual—how to enter donations, how to pay an invoice—and left that for him. I offered more than once to sit down with him and go over any questions he might have, knowing full well that I would be inundated once I left the office. (I wasn't wrong: it was less than three hours after my final day at Housen when he texted me, asking if I would call their email service provider for him. I reminded him that I had left all that contact information for him, and that I didn't work there any more.)

Those last two weeks felt heavy. I hope Housen does well, because they have a well-meaning mission and a dedicated donor base. Under the right direction, they should grow.

But leaving was still the right choice. I moved into a job where I can work from home, and where I have enough time to write, and get paid to write. This is great. This is literally the thing that I've wanted for years. And it feels good. Housen was always going to be a stepping stone: having two people in an office means that someone is always the boss, and that someone was never going to be me. There was no role I could move into if I did well, no promotion that would come my way. I learned a lot while I was at that job: how to run a project, how to work alone, how to manage volunteers. I learned how to speak up when someone in power is using that power to make me feel lousy. I learned how hard it is to do that, and how worthwhile it can be. But mostly, I learned the value of moving on when it's time to move on.

Image via Mike Hollingshead via This Is Colossal

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Broad Town


There are pop culture phenomena that seem to sail right by me, and I just watch them go, happy and content in my vague awareness. Things like Iggy Azalea, for example: she had some radio hits, and some beef, and my whole reaction to her could be summed up as "huh." She doesn't matter to me. She's a product that isn't aimed at me. Her whole shtick is something that operates mostly outside my interests (the exception that she pings my "white people being idiots in hip-hop" radar, which is a frequency I tune into only when I've had a good night's sleep). My world isn't enriched by her existence, and so basically, to me, she doesn't matter.

On the other end of that spectrum, there are things that are just downright embarrassing to be missing out on. Despite three or four of my friends saying, "You should definitely be watching Broad City," I sort of dismissed it as Girls-ish, and my patience for Girls petered out sometime before the third season started. Can you blame me? I was tired of the endless thinkpieces, of reading about Lena Dunham's maybe-probably-not molestation of her sister, of reading about Dunham in general. Don't get me wrong: Girls is interesting, as a certain type of portrait of a certain type of girl. But all girls, all the time? Snooze.

So when I finally watched Broad City, I was delighted. First of all, it's nothing like Girls. Both are about female friendship, but Broad City is about women who actually like each other. It's about women who don't want the penthouse, the boyfriend, the job that defines them. What Abbi and Ilana mostly seem to want to do is smoke weed, wear weird outfits, and hang out in each other's company. The jokes are funny and often absurd—Ilana's attempt to power through an all-seafood dinner at an upscale restaurant despite a life-threatening shellfish allergy leaves her slurring and puffy in her studded bustier; Abbi's stoned attempts to keep Ilana's "tax papers" safe end with her soaking wet in a dentist's bathroom after her smoke sets off the fire alarm; their attempt to ride the Chinatown bus is on par with any joke on Louie—but the theme of friendship is a rock-solid foundation for the entire show. Ilana and Abbi like dudes and hang out with dudes, but their first to-do is always to check in with each other.

Last year, one of my longest friendships fell apart in a spectacular way. Shelley and I had been friends since high school, when we would smoke reefer on my parent's back deck after we finished waiting tables at nearby restaurants. We talked about guys, we talked about our creative dreams, we talked about our parents. And once we both landed in Toronto, if you swap out the weed for vodka, things stayed like that for a long, long time. But over the last few years, things started to change.

Full disclosure: I am weird with women. I'm competitive. In high school, I compared myself to my friends across every rubric, and if I felt myself lacking, I would short-circuit the friendship in an attempt to never have to be the dumb/ugly/virginal/unfunny/non-musical friend. I ditched a couple really awesome girls because I felt I couldn't live up to them—and yes, I know now exactly how strange that sounds. But I didn't then. I thought I was protecting myself, but all I was doing was closing myself off. Some of those friendships were rebuilt, and some of them weren't. Now I know what I was missing.

Anyway, back to Shelley. She would call me up and dish about her boyfriends when there was a problem—he's so mean, he's so drunk, he's so unambitious—and then disappear when things were fine. As a result, I tended not to like her boyfriends, because I knew them as drunk, mean, slackers. She opened a business and became a community leader in her tight-knit neighbourhood, where I didn't live. She started declining my offers to meet her anywhere that wasn't her home turf. I'll be honest, I was jealous of her success, but I was also irritated that we couldn't just hang out and be chill any more. When she got engaged, we started to disintegrate.

I'll cop to the fact that I behaved badly during the early part of her engagement. Things with my own partner where up in the air—were we going to make the same commitment? Who could tell!—and I pouted. But she did thoughtless stuff as well: when I called her up to tell her M had proposed, the first thing she said, even before congratulations, was "You'd better not get married on the same day I do." Things got chillier and chillier, until all we could do was compare notes on our upcoming weddings.

When she finally sat me down after I got back from my honeymoon and told me she didn't want to be friends, it was, by then, a relief. But you know what? I still mourned. I still felt sad as hell that we had split up, because we had come from a place of closeness. There were times when we were younger when we swore we would be friends for life. But without the glue of singleness, drinking, and an open schedule, we didn't have that much in common. By the end, we had gone from open to opaque.

So when I watch Broad City and see how Ilana and Abbi (the characters) behave in the hands of Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer (the writers/producers/editors/actresses/showrunners), I feel. First of all, I feel mad please that these obvious geniuses have been given a crack at a national audience and knocked it out of the park. I love seeing women succeed in entertainment, comedy especially, and it's really nice when it doesn't have to be marketed as "women's entertainment." Because, you know: barf.

Secondly, I am insanely grateful for the female friends I have in my life. I am stupid blessed with amazing female energy, from my sister, to my university friends (some of whom turned into my for-real best friends), to the women I've met through M, to former bosses, to old co-op buddies, to second-degree friends who I mostly see at clothing swaps, to the small cadre of lesbian friends I have who are helping me answer some of sexual identity questions, to the moms I know (mine included) who have shown me how not to be an asshole mommy when my own time comes. Some of those long-lost friendships from high school have turned, Lazarus-like, into warmblooded relationships, complete with texting and Christmas cards and the whole shebang. And it's clear from watching Broad City that there are women out there who love their friends, and who can write about it in smart, knowing ways.

I'm still a little blue about what happened with Shelley. But I can have these awesome memories of her—of us—and still know that being apart is better. I'm working on being healthy in all aspects of my life: eating better, working out, having good communication practices, working at a job that I like, getting enough sleep, drinking less, consuming good media, and making time for creativity. Watching a show like Broad City is good for me, but not in an eat-your-vegetables kind of way. It helps light a path to things that really matter: laughing as hard as you can with your friends, as often as possible.

Image by KittyCassandra via BuzzFeed