I’m just a girl in the world

Of late, I’ve been listening to a lot of Taylor Swift.

Well, only one song really, but let’s not mince words. Blank Space is a bloody pop masterpiece of the highest order, and no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise.

Don’t even try it, ya jerks!

Because you all might as well resign yourself to the fact that, inevitably, we all must bow down to T. Swift, bubble gum goddess that she is.

So get your shin pads out.

The future is here.

I’m not sure about any of you, but I just listen to this stuff and immediately I am once again eighteen years old, filled to the brim with cusp-of-adulthood angst, heart-wrenching love, and mind-boggling lust.

The compulsion to jump in a car and just drive as far and as fast as I can is almost too difficult to control. So mostly I dance about the house in the most ridiculous and flamboyant of fashions, with Marc and Nymeria taking up the rear.


They’re good partners in my insanity.

I’ll tell you, another thing that makes me feel like a confused, silly teenager is having the brilliant luck of finding my diary from grade 10, 11, 12, and my first year of undergrad.


Holy hell was I one heck of a kid.

I spent about an hour yesterday reading excerpts aloud to Marc and just generally laughing my face off.

Marc too got a huge kick out of my daily captures of what it mean to be Vanessa Woznow, seventeen years of age.

Choice entries include:

June 2002

Holy shit Friday is just never going to come. I seriously am going to go completely insane (I am already halfway there, I can feel it!) Soon I will be sitting outside in a lawnchair and throwing spoons at all of the people who pass by, cursing them for their new fangled ways. EDADS. I talk like Mr. Lodge in the Archie comics. Call the medics I tell you!!! I miss Mark [ed. note: high school boyfriend], and I just want to get my damn vacation started with. [Redacted] gave me a ride to my socials exam. Made me feel bad about never phoning him. I really hate that. I got 90% on my math final, so I ended up with 88% in the course, which isn’t too bad. My socials final was so funny, some of the questions really killed me. I laughed really hard and was so tempted to put down that sexism was one of the causes of WWI. 

There were some questions on the test that I was just like WHAT THE FUCK!? How are we supposed to know THAT? I even asked Ms. [Redacted] whether or not she had taught that subject in the class and she just looked at me said “No.” before smiling and walking away. That killed me too. That’s classy as hell. I am really going to miss having [Redacted] as an English teacher. She’s really hilarious! I think I might buy her Chicken Soup for the Teacher soul. I think she might like it.

I’ve realized that sometimes my writing really reflects that of Holden’s in Catcher in the Rye. LOVE that book. Old Holden gets my goat, he is just damn hilarious.

JUST DECIDED. Going into writing when I graduate!!!

p.s. What to do for six month anniversary??

I also used the journal quite a bit as a scrapbook, for all of the ticket stubs and play bills of either the shows I went to, or acted in myself.

IMG_20141130_093531There is also a lot of BAD poetry.

IMG_20141130_092251(I can’t actually bring myself to publish a large photo of this gut-busting rubbish.)

However, I did kind of dig this little ode:


I actually remember writing this ditty in my grade 12 math class. For a laugh, I used to always write poems for one of my best friends. Rosy was (and still is, to this day) one of the most beautiful, caring souls I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and I always wanted to either make her laugh, or make her smile, and as such, was compelled to write her stuff like this.

A large portion of the book is dedicated to my falling in love with Marc, and the early days of our courtship:

IMG_20141130_092548 IMG_20141130_092455 IMG_20141130_092417I can tell you, I absolutely loved that sweater. I actually get the goofiest smile just thinking about it, and I swear that my heart is beating just the littlest bit faster.

Unfortunately, there is also a large (VERY large in fact) portion of the book dedicated to chronically my eating disorder. In no uncertain terms do I take any pains to disguise this reality. Many pages are just lists of what I ate, how much I exercised, and how much of what I ate ended up in the bottom of a toilet bowl.

Scintillating reading it may be not, but still, it serves as a salient reminder of what it meant to live with this illness, and how far removed my present-day life is from these very real, and very hard struggles.

IMG_20141130_093439My heart too beats a little faster seeing these pages, for of course, incredibly different reasons.

Still, it’s all one. This is the girl who I was.

If she hadn’t existed, I wouldn’t be the person (girl, woman, epic pop-loving running champion of life) that I am today.

And I wouldn’t trade this for the world.

And if I had to put a wager on it, I bet Taylor would feel exactly the same way.

Say yes, and then make it all up

Last Friday, Marc and I co-lead our first high school improv club meeting.

One of his students had approached him at the beginning of October to tell him that he was interested in starting the club, but in order to do so he would need a teacher sponsor.

Marc is amazingly involved at his school – he coaches soccer and rugby, and also leads the games and homework club – and he was more than happy to get involved, especially with how enthusiastic this young man was to get a group together to work on their improvisational skills.

Knowing that I did a ton of improv in high school and university and that I absolutely love to work with young people on all things theatre, he asked me if I was interested in helping him out.

It was all I could do not to jump up and down with my excitement.

(Okay, there may have been quite a bit of jumping up and down.)

These kind of opportunities are just so important for teenagers in terms of self-confidence and teamwork. My best friends in high school were my improv teammates, and we were all theatre kids who loved to perform and make ourselves out to be as silly as possible.

It would be my wish that every young person who is interested in trying out the performing arts to have this chance.

So if I can help make it happen, I will help make it happen.

I arrived at the school a little after the final bell had run for the day.

Man, you definitely forget how crazy high school is once you’ve been outside of those hallowed corridors for over eleven years!

The buzz of excitement, of nerves, of vulnerability, and silliness, of drama, and anticipation – the place just seems like an ever-seasoning soup, cooking in the craziest of cauldrons!

I went to the office to check-in and grab my visitor’s pass, before sitting down to wait for Marc to come and get me.

While I sat there, I marvelled at the seemingly unending stream of students that filtered in and out, either chattering to each other, or texting on their cellphones. Most of them were decked out in their Halloween finery, and many were munching on the mini chocolate bars being passed out by the student council in the main atrium.

Marc then came and got me and we walked to the auditorium.

There, seated on or around the stage, was a group of about twelve students, ranging from grade eight to grade twelve. Some of them were chatting away, while others looked a little nervous or shy about their decision to show up.

I asked them all to join me in a circle and we spent the first ten minutes learning each other’s name, by ascribing an adjective to ourselves that had to begin with the first letter of our first name, and then acting out the adjective. The next person would act out the previous person’s name, before doing the same for themselves.

The majority of the session was then spent getting the kids to become comfortable with saying “YES!” and supporting their fellow improvisers.

Improv is all about going with suggestions – whether they be from the actors with whom you are performing, or the ideas you get from the audience. A scene will go nowhere if someone says, “Ah, isn’t this an amazing day at the beach!” and their co-improviser counters with, “We’re not at the beach.”

Talk about killing the energy on the stage!

I am so proud to say that the group really bonded together and took this rule to heart. They were all super supportive of one another, and worked hard to make the scenes work, as well as make each other laugh.

And they even kept the inappropriate humour to a minimum!

(Although I am happy to report that the word “threesome” still absolutely destroys a group of teenagers. May this please, never, ever change!)

Honestly, it was just the best way to spend a Friday afternoon.

I cannot wait to go back and work with them again; I so badly want to ensure that these students have the opportunity to keep each other in stiches.

Because together, they’re sewing something great.

Paying you lip service

My first French kiss was in France.

With a French boy.

His name was Julian.

I was in grade nine, on exchange in Dijon. As a French immersion student, I was one of the lucky few who, because of my fluency, was picked to spend a month oversees studying at the lycée.

The trip was a pilot programme – the school wanted to “try it out” and see if it was something they would consider implementing on a permanent, yearly basis.

Believe me when I say that my time in the city as a student was a total trip.

First off, my home-stay parents didn’t seem to grasp the concept that I was a vegetarian. Every day for lunch they would make me these amazing baguettes filled with salami, or rotisserie chicken, or roast beef – seriously, you name the viande and it was packed up for me every morning, between two slices of bread.

I felt so horrible the one and only time I binned my lunch, that from that day onwards I would gift them to one of the other Canadian students whose parents didn’t think to send them off to class with anything at all.

It was a pretty sweet trade off in the end, because in return, whomever I had gifted the sammie would give me a couple of francs, which I would then use to purchase a crepe from the creperie down the street.

A replica of one of the many crepes I ate in France.

Come to think of it, I pretty much ate my body weight in Nutella during my stay.

(Whoever owned stocks in that brilliant, hazelnut-chocolate nectar of the gods that month must have done very, very well.)

My classes were great, though some (re: computer science) were a complete write off because not only did I understand nothing of which was said (alas, I learned much as an immersion student, but the inner workings of PCs was never a topic included in our weekly dictées) but the boys in that class were so darn funny, I was too busy concentrating on keeping all my urine inside my body to really focus on anything else.

Other notes of mention: French schools have super long hours, way crazy math, and the multi-storied, multi-buildinged campus made our school back home look like a pre-kindergarten.

Okay, back to kisses.

It was Friday night, the end of our second week of study.

All of the Canadian students were invited to attend the school’s senior dance.

Point: high-school dances are complete gong shows, and a completely ridiculous explosion of drama, hormones, angst, and hilarity the world over.

Teenagers – doing it like it’s the most important thing in life, since time immemorial.

Anywho, so myself and my home-stay gal Charlotte showed up ready to get our tip-top grooves on with the rest of the senior grades.

As we walked into the gymnasium I couldn’t help remarking to myself, for what was probably the (rougly) two thousandth time since touching down in France: HOLY CRAP FRENCH BOYS WEAR TIGHT PANTS.

My immediate follow-up thought was (of course): I wonder if any of them think I’m pretty?

And so it went on.

We danced to Will Smith and Ricky Martin, and a TON of crazy French rap and R&B. At one point the DJ played a rap song that had bagpipes in it and everyone went completely batshit crazy, dancing like complete madmen and singing like banshees, which both cracked me up but also made me really happy.

It was at this point, as I moved off to the side, just to watch the carnage unfold – a slightly loopy smile flickering across my mostly shocked visage – that a boy about my height (pretty good for 14 years old, because at this point I had already reached five foot ten) came and stood beside me.

He had sandy brown hair, in the style of Chris Klein from American Pie. Freckles dotted the bridge of his nose, and his front teeth were crooked, but only slightly so.

Same hair. TOTALLY.

He was a bona fide hottie.

Bonjour, he said.

Bonjour, I said.

My heart nearly exploded out my chest right then and there. A boy!? Talking to ME!?

It was almost a real Alien moment.

Voulez-vous sortir avec moi? Juste pour quelques instants? He asked.

He wanted to go outside!? With ME!?


Instead, I remembered to smile coquettishly and simply nod. Also, the less I spoke, the less likely I was to barf all over my shoes.

We walked outside and sat on top of a picnic table in the middle of a covered courtyard. We talked about school, and Canada, and France, and good grief, I’m pretty sure we talked about Will Smith’s latest CD, and then – WHAM.

Julian, of the freckles and the tight jeans, was kissing me.

Kissing ME!?


And honestly, it wasn’t good.

Dude was a smoker and as much as half of my brain was screaming THIS IS THE MOST ROMANTIC THING EVER!!!!1!!1!!, the other have was screaming THIS IS LIKE LICKING A BLOODY ASHTRAY MAKE IT STOP.

Like kissing one of these it was.

Also, French kissing may look glamorous and sexy as hell to all those young, impressionable kidlets at the movie theatre, (aka me) but in real life, for the first time – EGADS.

Do not want.

Especially with Monsieur Marlboro.

Anyways, the long and short of it is, we made out for a good hour (you think just because the guy tasted like a tobacco leaf I didn’t want to keep kissing him? DREAM ON!) before returning to the dance for one final slow jam.

We met up the next day, ate at McDonalds and walked around the old town.

On Monday, after spending about half an hour looking for him after class, Julian’s friend Tony came up to me and let me know that he was really sorry, but Julian had just been using me to get back at his girlfriend who had cheated on him the week before.

This was the second time in a very short period that I felt as though I was going to have a real alien moment.

Or barf on my shoes.

But I didn’t. I sucked it up and moved on.

But only until of course I arrived home, opened a jar of Nutella, listened to Everybody Hurts on repeat six hundred times, and wept like the silly, angsty teenager that I was.

So there you have it.

I had my first French kiss, with a French boy, in France.

Which is why of course I married a Swiss man.