What guys should -- and should not do -- on online dating apps.

The Not So Definitive Guide for Men to Creating Dating App Profiles

What guys should -- and should not do -- on online dating apps.
Oh, dating in the app age. Remember a few short years ago — you know — the good ol’ early 2010s when you’d plunk down cash/card and go through the exhausting getting to know you questions on eHarmony? Or, the mindless browsing of profiles on Match?

Gone are those days.

Er, well, not gone, but definitely not as prevalent as the new kids on the block like Tinder and Bumble.

After a year of swiping, I’ve noticed a few things I’d like to share with the male population: some tips to make me actually want to swipe right. And, once you’re there, how not to blow it. And, I don’t mean the sexual way. I mean the you-have-nothing-to-say-way or the pen-pals-for-life way.

So, let’s start at the start.

Your Profile

Gentlemen, first, you need to establish why you are on the app and what you are looking for. There tend to be three types of men on the dating apps:

  • Those looking to get laid
  • Those not specifically looking for an actual relationship for any number of reason (i.e. they’re picky, just got out of a relationship, etc) but won’t be opposed to it if they meet a great girl, but will also likely to be looking to get laid initially as well
  • Those looking for an honest-to-goodness longterm relationship

Men. If you’re the latter, let’s examine your profile.

(Note: There’s also a fourth kind of man on the apps, those looking for a plus-one in their romantic relationship. But since that is a less mainstream and more specific polyamorous type, we’ll stick with one-on-one dating lessons.)

What Photos Not to Post on Dating Apps

Now, as a 37-year-old woman who has dated my fair share since moving back from the dating wasteland of Thailand, when I look at your profile, I will swipe left 99 percent of the time if you have any of the following photos:

  • Shirtless  (if you’re not at a beach or pool and, you know, being casual, not flexing your guns for the camera) – personally, I’d rather wait to take off your shirt myself than see in a profile. Also, it makes me wonder why you feel that your shirtless selfie (or shirtless bathroom selfie — even worse.) is necessary when someone is deciding whether or not to drop you a line initially. If you’re proud of your body, awesome. Love it. Confidence is rad. Write about how you like to workout. Or, even better, don’t because it seems every. single. man. writes about how he likes to workout and stay fit.
  • Petting a tiger/riding an elephant – first off, I’m super against both of those things, as are many other women. And also, again, every. single. man. posts photos of himself with a drugged tiger or cub or exploiting animals. Let’s leave ethics out of this convo and ask some simple questions: Do you want to be cliché? Do you want to fall in line with every other guy, or stand out? It’s awesome that you like to travel. Write about it. Or, again, don’t because – I’m not exaggerating – all the men like to travel. I’ve never read a blurb from a guy that says “traveling sucks. I never want to leave my backyard.”
  • Holding a fish. Or dead animal. Again, you’re looking for a female right? Most girls do not want to see that shit, not now, not if they’re married to you 20 years. As someone who loves all the living things, nope. Swipe. We get that you are outdoorsy, but I don’t want to see some dead fish in your hands or you proudly holding up the a deer you killed by the antlers. Unless the woman likes fishing or hunting, it’s more cliche than anything else.
  • Triathlon/marathon/scaling the world’s tallest peak. One of these is fine. Your entire portfolio of images composed of your athletic feats is 1. overkill; 2. intimidating. I love someone who is athletic, and I’m sure other women do, too. But, just pick your best shot. One. Photo. And if you only prefer women on a similar athletic plane, make that known in your bio.
  • Selfies in a bathroom mirror. (FYI — 99 percent of my single girlfriends report this gets an immediate left swipe.) Come on. Someone can take a photo of you at some point in your life when you look good. Let them take it. Also, we judge the cleanliness of your bathroom.
  • Pics of you with kids. If you have a kid, I’m going to go with the opinion of don’t share it (or at least blur out the little one’s face). There are creepers on the internets and apps. You never know who is looking. Also, I get posting pics of you with your niece/nephew/friend’s kid to show you like kids. But, you can always tell us you like kids versus stealing one for a photo shoot and then adding a disclaimer: child is not mine.
  • Filtered pics. If you are going to filter or photoshop your photos, do it so we don’t know. I’ve seen so many photos where the filtering/tweaking is just bananas. Also, snapchat filters for your profile pics? Nope. Ladies – if you’re reading this – same goes for you.
  • You partying excessively. One pic with a beer is fine. Six photos where you are downing shots, beer, wine, whatever … it starts to look like the only thing you are serious about is partying. And, if that’s the case, I hope your profile states that versus looking to settle down. I’m 37. I like to go out and drink. On occasion. But, every photo of boozing makes those warning bells go off.
  • You with a bunch of hot women (hey, it’s a thing on these Vegas profiles). We are women. If we see you surrounded by a bevy of beauties, it leads us to draw a few unsavory conclusions: 1. You are a player. 2. You expect to date a super model. 3. You’re a player. 4. You want lots of easy sex with lots of “10s” and probably have no soul.
  • You in bed. Immediately, I wonder who you sent that photo to before you were on a dating app. Also, it looks creepy and lazy. Two things which shouldn’t go together for a first impression.
  • You 10 years ago. Um, catfish anyone?

What Photos to Post on a Dating App

And now for what photos will get women to swipe right:

  • Smiling photos that aren’t selfies in a car while you’re driving
  • Smiling photos that aren’t selfies of you doing something you love (that isn’t showing off your deadliest catch or latest kill or exploiting an animal)
  • Photos of you with cats or dogs. Because cats, dogs and men together are so cute.
  • Photos of you with friends (but not every photo. We want to see you on your own, too. And know who you are in the group.)
  • A full-length photo
  • If you like to travel, a photo of you traveling
  • Photos that are recent. Like, really recent. If you have to write that you no longer have a beard, etc. how about just uploading a photo with you sans beard?
  • Photos that really show your personality. You’ve got 100 or so words and a handful of pics. Choose wisely.

What Not to Put on Your Profile

The worst thing you can do is leave you profile blank. To me all women, it shows that you’re not serious in meeting someone. It also shows that you’re maybe a little bit lazy. Swipe. Left.

Typical profiles I see go like this:

I like adventure, work out and stay fit, love to travel, work hard, play harder, whisky, dogs, 6’2. We can tell everyone we met at a Whole Foods. (Note: what women request height? I’m sure some do, but I don’t know any who claim height is a deal breaker. I’ve never asked. In fact, some of the greatest men I have dated have been shorter than I expected, but it didn’t matter because they were so rad, it was all good.)

Stand out and skip mentioning things in your bio that everyone loves. These include: “having fun, traveling, hanging out with friends, my pet, good food, good drinks, good conversation, loving life,” etc., etc. So you like fun and traveling and friends? Groundbreaking? Nope. Does it make you blend in with 1,000 other swipes? Yep.

Or just:

Vegas local.

Simply writing where you are from gives us ladies nothing to go on. I automatically assume if you write that, then you’re looking for a little fling and that’s it.

Or:

“Best guy ever.” — New York Times

“Hot and funny.” — LA Times

“A keeper.” My mom.

 

The quotes? The first time I saw it, I thought it was cute and original. The. First. Time.

What to Put on Your Dating App Profile

First off — what do you want out to get out of the dating app? A relationship? A hookup? A new friend?

Save us time and spell it out. There’s nothing worse than getting into a convo with someone who seems awesome and then having them bust out with peaches and eggplants.

The guys who are honest and disclose they only want hook-ups — thank you. Really. Thank you. Because I know you’re not for me. You’re for someone. Just not me.

I know there are only 100 or so words on Bumble and you can do a bit more on Tinder, so break it down to this:

  • Where do you live? In Vegas, we get so many tourists, I never know who is here full-time or just breezing through
  • What do you want?
  • What makes you cool?
  • What do you like to do?

An example of a dope profile I’d swipe right on:

Las Vegas local who gives a shit about animals, seeing new places and hitting lesser known locales. Digs whisky, foreign cities with character, and good vibes. Loves veggies, wine and looking for a long-term partner-in-crime. Not allergic to cats.

I mean, that’s the guy I’m looking for (so, if it’s you, holler).

Communicating in App

Now, for the communicating. With Bumble, it’s ladies who take the lead. So, depending on how creative we get, it’s up to you to continue the convo. Responding and not leading to another question likely results in the end of the chat. I assume that if we match on one of these apps, you actually want to talk to me. Therefore, let’s talk.

On Tinder or other swiping apps, if you message first, please please please don’t start with any of the following:

“You’re hot.”

“Hi sexy.”

“Hey/Hi/Yo.”

Engage. It’s the best way to get a woman interested. If someone messages me that without anything else, I don’t respond. Because, why? Dating is a dance. And that first impression via messaging is important.

Take a minute and read her profile. Determine a question that shows you read her profile and ask. Then, start the convo. The best convos span a little, dig a little and then lead to asking for a number and, ultimately, asking the woman out.

What guys should -- and should not do -- on online dating apps.

Also, if it’s clear from a profile that you aren’t what the woman is looking for, stop right there. For reals.

Pen pals are fun. If we are actually getting letters in the mail that are handwritten. Pen pals on dating apps are a waste of time. If you have no interest in asking a woman out, then there’s no point in continuing a conversation. Let it go.

Not interested? Get back together with your ex? Meet someone else? Please don’t ghost. It’s so damn rude if you are mid-convo. Instead, a simple: “Hey, you’re rad and all, but I think right now isn’t the best time for us to continue getting to know each other.”

End. Of. Story.

If you reach out to a woman and she doesn’t respond immediately, don’t follow-up to check on her. Give it a day or two or three. And, if she still doesn’t respond, definitely don’t message her and be all “hey, are you not interested or what?” Starting to send numerous unanswered messages is your kiss of death. Promise. Chill out. Let it be. If she’s into you, or interested, she will respond.

Sometimes, we get a little swipe happy and may swipe on someone we didn’t think was a match. It’s not a rule to respond to every person who messages, just like you don’t have to respond to every message you get. I get the hint. You get the hint. Hopefully, others get the hint, too.

Go forth, into the wild west of dating apps where no rules apply, but really, they should. And men, please let us know what you like/don’t like on dating apps, too!

Title photo via Flickr Creative Commons: NASA GSFC

Featured Perspectives The Dating Life
Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

All the Reasons 2016 Did Not Suck

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.OK. 2016. We get it. You wanted to test our collective patience. Tolerance. Compassion. Slow. Clap. You did. For sure.

I’ve found that this year, people have clung to the idea that all 365 days have been so horrid that the negative energy we are putting out there is making it even worse. I actually removed social media from my phone for a hot minute because I couldn’t take the general gloom and doom everyone was putting out into the universe. While most people are posting memes about how 2016 sucked (and, in terms of our great nation and well, the world, sure, it did and hot damn, really, can we stop losing all the celebrities we grew up with amiright?), the year actually didn’t suck for me. At all.

Even if it did, I’ve learned a lot about dwelling on the negative and the importance of celebrating and focusing on all the good, so today it’s all about the reasons why 2016 did not suck. In fact, it was epic for me.

Shall we?

I got re-acquainted with American life.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

I moved back to the US after almost four years of living abroad in December 2015. If we’re nitpicking, it was Dec. 15, 2015 in the evening. My mom and I flew from Madrid to Newark to Las Vegas with my cats tucked neatly into the United Economy Plus cabin. I smelled a bit of urine, thanks to Penelope, my sweet little girl feline, who promptly peed before we even taxied down the runway in Spain.

The day after arriving back to the States, I was thrust FULL FORCE into that good ol’ American life … and the American necessities I had forgotten about while living abroad.

You know what I’m talking about — the throwing of money into the air like I’m a damn rapper. Rent. Electricity. Cable. Phone plan. Gas. Car. Car insurance. Renters insurance. Car registration. Business license. Clothing. Groceries (hot damn is produce expensive in the States for shit flown in from other countries). Parking. Movers that duped me (although I pulled a total badass move and got refunded because I threatened to reign down a hell like they had never seen before if the assholes did not refund me the money the stole for a move they lied about).

So, yah. That shit was fun.

But, I also got re-acquainted with the things I loved about American life before I left. Namely the people and having some consistency and roots. I promptly went out and bought a couch and unpacked my belongings and displayed my wares from all the years of traveling and living abroad.

It felt damn good to unpack and not worry about a visa. Or not speaking the language. Or whether or not I was going to have someone to talk to for three years (because when you are home, there are people who are nearby and will talk to you!).

Quickly, I fell in love with being an American again. I loved getting into my car and driving and knowing where I was going. I loved talking on the phone with a friend and then actually seeing them in the flesh versus Skype. I loved going on dates with people who understood my culture.

A lot of people talk about how hard re-entry is on them. For me, other than the enormous price tag associated with re-establishing my life in the States, I didn’t have any problems getting re-acclimated to life here. In fact, I was so damn excited to start life in Las Vegas that my heart felt like it was going to burst with sheer, unadulterated glee.

I quit smoking.

It’s nasty. It’s gross. It smells bad. And damn, I smoked for most of my adult life. Sure, I took breaks, but living abroad was basically permission to be a cancer chimney. Cigs were cheap. Everyone smoked. And by everyone, I mean the people I noticed who would further my argument that the entire country smoked (clearly, no entire country smokes, but still …).

But, on Jan. 4, I quit. Had my final cigarette the night before and then broke the remaining two in the pack and tossed them into the garbaaaaage.

It sucked. Damn, it sucked.

I remember standing in my closet a day later, rationalizing smoking a cigarette. Just one. And realizing, in a fit of tears, that if I succumbed, I wouldn’t be a quitter; I would be a quitter who quit quitting and, in turn, would break my parents collective hearts and likely get emphysema and feel my lungs turn blacker than night.

So, I fought it.

Also, people in the States do a really good job of making smokers feel like lepers. You know what I’m talking about: you’re outside, smoking a cigarette and someone walks by, about a million feet from you and dramatically waves their hand in the air, fake coughing. Yeah.

I had my heart broken.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

I think everyone needs to have their heart broken, truly broken, at least once so they can open their damn eyes and take a good look at themselves. This heart-break was the catalyst for me getting all my shit together. For opening my eyes and seeing me. For seeing others as they really were.

Having my heart broken also made me realize that I needed to love myself more than anyone else. And, had I done that in the first place, perhaps my heart would not have been broken.

Therefore, heartbreak = learning to love ME. Because, let’s face it, at the end of the day, the most important person who will ever love you is YOU. Plus, you won’t break your own heart, although you may do a number on it until you learn how to love yourself all the way.

I got ghosted.

No one likes to get ghosted. Seriously though — I didn’t even know what “ghosting” was until I got back to the States. I saw angry comments about people who were “ghosted,” but like “Netflix and Chill,” I didn’t really know what it meant. Until I was in mid-conversation with a guy I had gone out with a few times and never heard from him again. Ever.

“Maybe he died,” my friend had tried to convince me.

“No,” I had sighed. “I think he did this thing where he just decided to stop talking to me.” (Hai, ghosting.)

“Or, maybe he died,” she offered again, smiling.

Ghosting is nasty, but as another friend eloquently explained to me one day, that ghosting isn’t about the person being ghosted. It’s about the shit the other person has going on. The insecurities. The issues. The (although I hope not) relationships they may be in.

It taught me not to take shit like that personally. And, let’s be real, it is super hard not to take that shit personally. But, I learned a lot from that incident. I’ve been ghosted since, but it hasn’t bothered me. OK, one time it did, but whatever. We’re allowed to have those rare instances of feeling bad about ourselves.

So, either it was the ghosting, or it was the wise words from my friend about the reason people ghost. Either way, it helped me become a stronger, more kick ass woman.

I became a certified business woman.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

Remember how I wrote about forking over all the money for all the things when I returned to America? Well, I forked over a ton for starting my own business, Vegans, Baby. I had to get a license (hence, becoming a legit business woman). Then, I had to hire a lawyer and trademark my logo. Then, I did some advertising. Then, I got work. So, yah. Business. Woman.

I learned how to practice gratitude.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

A long time ago, my mom gifted me with a gratitude journal. She saw it on Oprah and sent me a little purple-flowered covered journal. I wrote in it all of a week or so, and then never thought about it again. That was in 1997. Yeah. Long. Time.

I adopted the practice again in April when I was at my lowest. I needed to change my thinking. I needed to stop dwelling on the negative and focus on the positive.

Each day, I pen at least five things which I have taken place in the day that I was grateful for. It could be anything.

I am grateful for this gorgeous pre-summer weather.

I am grateful for my column running in Vegas Seven.

I am grateful for my friends who love and support me.

I am grateful for being rejected, because it isn’t a rejection, it is a redirection.

I am grateful for my client and our meeting.

Doing this dramatically changed my outlook on life.

I changed my story.

Like practicing gratitude, I knew I needed to change my story. For more than 30 years, my ass was negative. Super negative. I told myself I would never find love. I would be single forever. I manifested all this negative shit because my story was so negative.

It took my friends and my therapist to help me change my story. I let go of the things which no longer served me. I let go of my past. I let go of those negative stories I told myself. I changed my story.

I wrote in my manifest journal my new story.

I am loved.

I have everything I need.

I let go of my past.

The relationship I need is on its way.

Changing my story was powerful. It opened me up to successes I never thought possible, both personally and professionally.

I learned about boundaries. And how to unclog that throat chakra.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

I’ve always walked a fine line with boundaries. When I first learned how to establish them, it came across as bitchy because I was trying to be strong and stand tall. Except I was crap at it.

It took a reiki session with my friend who helped explain to me how to honor my truths. How to speak kindly, but firmly. And, then I did. All. The. Time.

I  burst that throat chakra right the hell open and never looked back. I honored myself for the first time, and it felt incredible. Powerful. I stood my ground. I established how I expected to be treated. When people hurt me or treated me in a manner which I deemed unacceptable, I no longer worried about how they would perceive me or if would upset them by speaking my truths.

Instead, I was authentic. I was true to myself. I spoke how I felt and did not hold back. It was never mean or hurtful, but it was honest. Those boundaries don’t always go over so well. After all, when people are used to treating you a certain way and then you turn around and break that pattern, it can cause some problems. But, for those who had problems with me laying my boundaries, I realized something: I didn’t need those in my life who couldn’t respect those boundaries.

This carried into both professional (no, I am not willing to have my brain picked beyond a quick coffee, I’m sorry) to personal (I appreciate your attention, but it is a bit too much for me at this time, I need some space).

Once I started being authentic and establishing my boundaries, I felt more empowered, stronger, than I ever have before. And, something else happened, too (see below).

I made friends with positive people … and cut the negativity.

When you are positive, you attract positive. Same thing goes for negative. But, I realized that the more I was with those who were negative, the more it would weigh me down. I tried to encourage those who were negative to embrace a more positive attitude. If they couldn’t do that, I kindly exited stage left.

Once there was positive in my life, everything started to flow. Kindness. Love. Work. Happiness.

I got involved more than I ever have before.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

“Find your niche,” my mom would always advise.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I’d always muster. But, I didn’t want to hear it because I wasn’t ready to hear it. Well 2016 I was more than ever before.

I’ve found my niche before (see travel blogging, responsible tourism), but this year marked an even greater niche and even greater involvement.

With Vegans, Baby, I got deeply involved in the Las Vegas vegan community. I set up monthly meetups. I set up special events. I started serving as an expert on vegan life and general lifestyle topics on television and in publications.

I. Got. Involved. And, with that involvement, I met incredible people who are now in my life. I was a part of amazing events. I no longer felt that impostor syndrome I have felt in years past because I was doing stuff. A lot of stuff.

I figured out how to relax, breathe and meditate.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

Like practicing gratitude, I realized I needed to learn how to become more mindful. I had tried in the past and read books on being present, but never really was good at it (although that is strictly interpretation). This year, with some serious positive influences in my life, I learned the art of being in the moment. Of meditating. I set up a meditation area in my apartment. I started reading more about being mindful and really paid attention. I took note about energy and realized it wasn’t something super abstract: it was in my face and the more positive my thoughts were, the more positive my life was.

Now, I meditate daily. I practice my breathing daily.

I even took a two-week trip to Mexico and relaxed. I’ve never relaxed in previous travels. But, in Puerto Vallarta, I wrote. I took time for me and walked and explored. I put zero pressure on myself to have a certain type of vacation. All I wanted was to be. It set the precedent for any future travel.

I took the time to learn how to love myself and others, truly.

The most important thing I have learned in 2016 is how to practice loving kindness. To myself. Towards others. For the first time … ever … I love myself. Truly. Madly. Deeply. I accept who I am and, while sometimes the negative chatter can fester, I put it in its place quickly. I see people and their beauty and love without apology.

So, yeah.

We can all sit and dwell on all of the reasons 2016 sucked. OR we can all make a list of things which happened this year for which we are grateful. I choose the positive because the negative shit going on? We can’t control that. But, we can control how we react. React with kindness. React with love. React with peace.

Featured Perspectives

#LOVETrumpsHATE

Let love trump hate. www.thecomfortzoneproject.comPresident-Elect Trump.

Holyfuckingshit. What.

A mere 24-hours ago, I would have never in a million years and a hell freezing over would have even thought Donald Trump would be our President-Elect.

But, alas. He. Is.

Like more than HALF OF THE POPULATION (i.e. the popular vote), I went to bed last night feeling a myriad of things after Hillary conceded via call to The Donald.

I felt hopeless.

I felt helpless.

I felt ashamed.

I felt embarrassed.

I felt betrayed.

I felt appalled.

However, the most predominant feeling I had was horror. (It’s true. I pretty much commented on every message which sent to me from friends around the world that I was horrified. When I could type. Sometimes, my tears were so thick, I could do nothing but ugly cry.)

For months, it seemed Hillary was on track to become the first woman to take the White House. Even last night, as I sat down with my spaghetti squash to watch what I assumed to be her landslide victory, I still felt the night was going to be historic.

And it was. Only, for the wrong reasons.

Instead, once the vote tallies began trickling in from Florida, and then Michigan and then Wisconsin, I felt something I hadn’t felt in the pit of my stomach for a long time. Not since I was trapped in the middle of a field in Thailand surrounded by water buffalo that began to encircle me as I stood there, knowing damn well I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, had I felt this.

I felt fear.

Gut-wrenching, sick-to-my-stomach fear.

Donald Trump was going to shock the nation. To less than the majority’s delight, but still, enough to win the Presidency because we have an antiquated system of letting “our voices be heard” (Ed. Note: because, really, they are not) he became the successor to Obama.

I watched as Trump supporters praised his campaign, praised him, and I listened, with tears in my eyes as Van Jones spoke of “whitelash” and the fear parents had about talking to their children in the morning, after the election was called.

On Facebook, my feed quickly filled with disbelief. Shock. Hysteria. Statements from my international community of friends about just how unbelievably fucked we truly were. It was the worst moment of watching breaking news unfold on social media I have ever witnessed, and it began to slowly fill me with hate.

Last night, I felt so much hate flow through me. More than I have ever known. I felt more hate sitting on my couch, tucked safely in my Las Vegas apartment than I did towards a villager when I witnessed him torturing an elephant to train her, filled with pride at his ability to do so.

If there is anything I have learned the past six months, it is to practice gratitude, and yet, last night, as hate and sadness spewed forth in every social media account I could manage to check, I lost that gratitude.

Instead, I cried. Big, fat tears. Every post friends wrote about feeling ashamed, scared, devastated, ripped through me.

But, hate was the predominant feeling.

When my mom called me early in the evening to tell me she was going to bed, I could barely speak, I was so overcome.

“I can’t believe this,” I nearly wailed to her. “How can people hate so much? How can people stand by and vote for hate? For racism? For sexual assault? For a woman not to have rights to her body? How can this happen?”

“You can’t take it personally,” she sighed, even though I am sure it hurt her just as much as it hurt me. Hillary was going to be the first woman president. She was going to speak for us. She was going to be that beacon of hope to little girls everywhere. She was going to finally shatter the political glass ceiling and break into the Boys Club. “We don’t walk in their shoes. We aren’t living their lives. It isn’t all about hate, honey. It is about other things, too. And, maybe that is what they voted for.”

Those words didn’t matter to me. I sat, staring at my television — which is never normally on, but played for more than six hours last night — damning those red states that flipped. Damning Wisconsin. Damning Michigan. Damning Florida.

I sat there, thinking about how all of those people who hated went to the polls, and hated that those people spoke louder than us. Outnumbered us in the states that mattered. That my story of assault, that others’ stories of assault, that misogyny, racism, ignorance, fear, homophobia, spoke louder than my voice. Than most of the people’s voices I loved.

I don’t like Trump. I never have.

Let love trump hate in this democracy. www.thecomfortzoneproject.com

In fact, I think he is a shitty person with zero respect for women. He makes my skin crawl and I loathe how he has brought together people who so freely hate, bully and justify their actions. But, I also don’t think he is as hateful as he led people to be. I can’t fathom that someone with that level of fame, with that level of support over the years, would truly be that horrid of a person. Deep down, I pray he is simply really, really good at playing a villain to drum up the support of those who are scared of, well, everything.

But, his supporters? Last night, there wasn’t a one I would have been able to look in the eye because to me — that vote for Trump was a vote against women, a vote against minorities, a vote against the LGBT community, a vote against those who are differently abled, a vote against immigrants, a vote against anyone who isn’t Christian or Catholic.

I went to bed last night feeling the worst I’ve felt in a long time and with a heavy heart.When I moved back here last December after four years living abroad, I never imagined I would be moving back to a place where a President who stirs such hate and nastiness could exist. That our nation, our people, would elect someone who could incite such hate.

I never could have imagined how helpless, powerless, terrified and sad I would feel. How betrayed I would feel.

I went to bed ashamed of what my country had voted for; it was everything I saw wrong with the world and they saw right.

And yet …

But, this morning, I woke up and made a very conscious decision to let it go. Hatred. Anger. Fear. Why? Those feelings do nothing positive for me.

Instead, I messaged two of my dear friends and we met at our Downtown vegan spot, and hugged. And cried. And burned some sage. And when a woman walked in, tears rolling down her face, we hugged her, too, even though she was a stranger. More people came in, inspired by the chalk board out front reminding people #lovetrumpshate. And magic started to seriously happen.

#lovetrumpshate at Downtown Las Vegas' VegeNation. www.thecomfortzoneproject.com

I made a decision: to speak louder. To speak with compassion. To speak with love. To put faith in this universe and that everything would work out.

I also forgave. I let the hate leave me. I repeated in my head throughout the day to be rid of hate. Instead, I opened myself up to understanding. Understanding that not every person who cast their ballot for Trump is a racist, or homophobe or doesn’t respect women. That some of those people who voted for him are my friends and did so because the hatred he spewed wasn’t as important to them as the other things he promised to the people — things they felt strong passionately about. Or, they voted for him because he was the lesser of two evils in an election filled with accusations of corruption, rigging, bias, conspiracies, manipulation, and more.

Understanding that there were plenty of other ideas at play, and the reason these stood out and upset me is because these are the values and morals I abhor. Understanding that people aren’t happy with their lives as American citizens and they wanted their voices to be heard and Trump seemed to be the person who would hear them. That some of these people were — and are — my friends.

#LoveTrumpsHate

Today, I decided to not sit down and let politics continue as usual, but to speak. To hug strangers (you know, if they want a hug, of course). To promise I would help speak out for my fellow women, assault and rape survivors, those who believe in a woman’s right to choose, who support Muslims, who believe we are all created equal — regardless of nationality, skin color or religious beliefs, who don’t believe in a wall, who are in same sex relationships, who need that extra push.

When Trump gave his victory speech last night, he said it was time to come together. And, it is.

No matter what side you sit, please, let’s all try to love. It’s the only positive choice we have, and the only way to truly impart change. Get involved. Write letters to politicians. Boycott. Protest. Speak loud. But with kindness.

We have an arduous task these next days, weeks, months, years. Regardless of the protests taking place in the streets in major cities tonight across the US, Trump is, in fact (as much as the majority of the population hates it and says he is #notmypresident), the nation’s President-Elect.

It is up to us, the people who don’t want to see him in office, to be peaceful. To use our words. To use our hearts. To stand strong. Together. To not bully. We are better when we love. Hate gets us nowhere. Let’s show the people who voted for hate that #LoveTrumpsHate. Regardless of who is in office. ALWAYS.

Perspectives
Let's talk about the tough subject of sexual assault

Let’s Talk About Sex(ual Assault), Baby

Let's talk about the tough subject of sexual assaultHe walks into the apartment, naked save his coach’s cowboy boots and a welcome mat he is holding, wrapped around his penis.

I’m 17, heading into my freshmen year of college. My friend and I are sitting on the couch in an apartment rented by members of a professional roller hockey team, the first of its kind in Maryland.

After a summer of my dad serving as a referee, I’ve gotten to know some of the players on the team, and this particular night, we’ve celebrated their win with drinks at one of their apartments.

As someone who grew up watching hockey, and writing about it in high school (one of the first players I ever interviewed was Wayne Gretzky), I felt incredibly important, incredibly special, to be hanging out with these professional athletes at a tender young (and naive) age.

Dan, the naked early-20-something athlete, heads into the bedroom.

“Diana,” I hear him yell from the bedroom. “C’mere.”

So, I do.

Why? Because I’m 17. And, this man is a professional athlete and in my mind, I’ve already created a long-term relationship where we get married, he plays in the NHL and I write about it, and we have 2.5 kids, a dog and when he wins the Stanley Cup, we retire somewhere exotic.

Except, that’s not what happens. At all.

Instead, I walk in the bedroom, and he is laying on the bed. Dick in his hands.

“My cock is so big, isn’t it,” he asks me as I sit there. Frozen.

What do I do?

I’m so uncomfortable. I sit on the bed and have no clue what I’m supposed to say. What I’m meant to do. I’ve never been in a situation like this.

“Um, yeah,” I fumble.

Then, he’s on me. He pushes me off the bed and to the floor, where he sits down next to me, as I lay there, shocked.

Dan takes my head and pushes it into his crotch.

“You know you want to suck it,” he says as I use my strength to push up and away, despite his hand on the back of my head.

I get up quickly, retreating back to the room with my friend and the other players. I tell her what’s happened.

“That fucking bitch,” he screams, storming into the living room, his face red and the veins popping at his temples. He points at me: “You fucking bitch,” and then grabs a chair to hurl at me.

The other guys grab it from him and we leave.

I’ve told exactly one person this entire story: my therapist.

And, I didn’t tell her until the summer of 2015, when we were trying to dissect why I tend to fall for men who are closest to me — the most recent being my best friend of a few years.

“So, that happened,” I tell her, as I finish recounting the story, tears rolling down my face because suddenly, I feel. I feel for the young Diana, who was embarrassed. Ashamed. Thought she deserved it. I feel for the woman I am, and how this incident impacted my growth as a woman. “But, that’s not the only time something has happened to me.”

Then more comes out. And more.

“Diana,” my therapist says, looking straight at me, sympathy I can detect in her eyes even though our Skype connection between Las Vegas and Madrid is spotty.

“Yeah,” I say quietly, “I guess it explains some stuff.”

In a sick twist, a session where I thought nothing was going to be discussed turns into a chilling breakthrough as I unwrap the secrets of my past. Secrets I was ashamed of. Secrets I thought I deserved to have happen to me.

“Diana,” she repeats. “You were sexually assaulted. Numerous times. This isn’t something you brush off. This is something that changes your life. And, it changed yours.”

I cry again. For so long, I wasn’t sure why I fell for the assholes. The ones who I felt I had to impress. To make them respect me. And then, I wasn’t sure why I always fell for my best friends. The ones who loved me, and treated me kindly and cared for me, and in return, I loved them (too much) back. They were safe, whereas the ones before — and the ones who assaulted me — were not.

Those patterns had been present since I was 12. Since the first time I was thrust into the sexual spotlight. Back then, I had dreams of winning an Emmy for acting in a soap opera like Susan Lucci. I was cast in my first non-school play, at a local playhouse, and that’s the place I lost my innocence.

The stage manager sat with me stage right, as he downed some cheap beer and I sat clad in flannel pajamas and a robe, watching the second act of the play.

“You’re cute,” he had said, moving his stringy chin length hair from his face. “I like the way you look in body suits.” (Yes, it was the early ’90s, and yes, body suits were most definitely a thing.)

Um, ok. I knew he shouldn’t be saying those things, but what was I supposed to do?

“Are you a virgin?” he asked.

Holy shit, this is uncomfortable. I smiled, because I didn’t know how to handle the situation, and shook my head “yes.”

“Well, when you’re ready to have sex, you let me know. It’s a gift, and I’d like to help you.”

I sat there, nervously laughing because: what the actual fuck? I was 12. What was a 12-year-old who has never even kissed a boy, supposed to do with those words?

I took my bow that night and knew something wasn’t right. Something, in fact, was very, very wrong. He had no right to speak to me that night. Yet, he felt there was no problem with it.

The next day, I wrote a note to my friend telling her what had happened. At 12, I used the words “I was sexually harassed” in a fucking note. No 12-year-old should have to do that. Ever. And, no 40-year-old man (and I use that term really fucking loosely) (with a wife and kids) should ever speak to a kid like that.

That set the stage for the rest of the shit I endured. I’m not pulling the victim excuse, it simply showed me how I should expect to be treated. I didn’t know any better. I knew it wasn’t right, but when other men would say inappropriate things to me, I shrugged it off.

Men.

It was the culture I was used to. A culture that told boys, told men, it was OK to tell a woman all the things you want to do to her,  to go ahead and grab a woman’s tits, or her ass, or her pussy. It’s ok because it’s what we have come to accept.

Let me say this: it is NOT OK.

Not one, tiny, little fucking bit.

At. All.

For most of my teen and adult life, I put up with the shit because there wasn’t anyone really taking a stand, telling these people it was not ok. That it was damaging. That it was putting little girls into dark places. That it was setting the stage for their development and for how they were to be treated in the future.

When I was harassed the year after the crotch incident, I felt my blood boil. Despite warning bells going off in the pit of my stomach, the following year I accepted a position as the assistant director of PR for that hockey team. I set aside the assault from the previous summer and focused on my career and my goal to become a director of PR for an NHL team once I was done with college. This opportunity was a foot in the door.

One day, I was at work and the equipment manager for the team I did PR for told me my boobs looked like they were going to pop out of my shirt. The men on the team treated me like I was a groupie. Like I had nothing of any value other than my womanhood to give to the world.

There was an afternoon where the coach yelled at me because I refused to go into the locker room and talk to one of the players while they were changing from practice.

“Get your fat ass in there,” he had said. Side note: that coach happened to be a former Capitals player and a real disrespectful asshole.

I stood my ground, but I could feel myself grow more and more ashamed. Instead of going into the locker room, I ran outside of the arena and sat in the parking lot, sobbing.

Guys, the shit goes on. The stories go on. The thing is this: it doesn’t just happen to me in America. I’ve been sexually assaulted in Spain. Bosnia. Turkey. Hell, I was just flat out assaulted by an old western man in Thailand when he called me a bitch and I told him that was unacceptable.

Because standing up for myself and demanding respect and setting boundaries is not acceptable in our culture.

“I respect women.” Yet, I force myself on them.

I am going to respectfully not get into any conversation about politics at this moment, but simply pull from the current events to discuss the important subject of sexual assault.

Let me say something very clearly:

You cannot say you respect a woman and also say that you walk up to women and “just start kissing them” or “grab their pussy.”

Respect and unwanted touching/kissing do NOT go together. Someone who respects a person does not touch them in any sexual way without permission or consent.

But, this conversation gets even scarier.

Victim shaming, denying people of their truths, justifying assault … it all makes me sick.

(Ed. note: originally, I had planned on including nuggets from social media regarding the current events, but have decided for the sake of peace and to keep this strictly talking about assault, I will not include them. I am including this video simply because it tackles what sexual assault is — and what it is not. Skip to the 7:45 mark to get my point.)

 

On the plane the other day, I was sitting next to a loud mouthed woman from Long Island. She asked where I was from and I told her Vegas and we started talking about assault. Well, her being OK with it.

“Well, I don’t care. He can grab any woman’s pussy he’d like,” she said.

Wait, what?

“I don’t care.”

Did she really say that?

“So, if a man walked up to your daughter and grabbed her pussy without asking, you’d be ok with that?”

She faltered, rolled her eyes and said no and then brought up the fact that women came forward way after it occurred, and that they were likely lying.

(Because, of course, if a woman is assaulted, they would report it immediately, right? Wrong.)

As a victim, I think it is important to point out that women don’t often come forward. It’s scary. It makes them vulnerable, open to attack. But, when one person starts to speak, dominos fall. Then, another. And, another. And soon, it is a very important — and necessary — dialog.

The past few weeks have drummed up a lot of feelings and memories I already tackled last year when I finally forgave myself for what happened to me and realized these moments of harassment and assault were not my fault. It’s been shitty — really, really shitty — not only to relive them again, but also to read people’s comments about how these women are lying, or how they deserved it, or (this is the worst) that assault is ok. It is a part of our culture.

One more time: It’s. Not. OK. It will never be ok.

I hate that I am writing this post. I hate that the things which happened to me, happened to me. But this is an important conversation we need to have.

Many of the people who speak out against victims, who make this issue small, have likely never felt what it’s like to have their head shoved into a man’s crotch. To have their breasts fondled. To sit in a car with their boss and have him place his hand on their leg. To be thrown onto a bed and expected to have sex. To be disrespected. To be violated. To be told that what happened to them is ok, because boys will be boys.

As far as I’m concerned, each and every day since this hot topic broke, I’ve had to relive my assaults. To think about them. To dredge up the past and the feelings and the moments, and it’s a terrible fucking thing. It’s a painful fucking thing. And I don’t want to be told that the way I feel is wrong, or that I should be worried about other topics.

That’s not the issue here.

The issue is sexual assault and how people think it is justifiable or chalk it up to “locker room talk” and accept it. I wonder if those people commenting had a daughter, a sister, a wife who was a victim, if there wouldn’t even be a comment?

Sexual assault happens once every 109 seconds to a person living in the USA. That’s once every two or so minutes.

WHAT?

Until recently, there hasn’t been much of a conversation about it. But, now, there is. It sucks that it took a hot mic and a complete asshole to get this conversation going, but now it is.

It has empowered me to share my story. I want it to empower other women, too. Share your story. Stand strong. Stand together. And, let’s help to raise awareness about this cultural problem and set the record straight. Let’s change the future.

If you’d like to share your story, you can do so below and not use your real name. Help keep this conversation going.

More statistics can be found on RAINN’s site, along with support for victims of sex crimes.

Featured Perspectives

Yes, I am a Travel Blogger. No, I Do Not Piss Glitter.

Yes, I am a travel blogger. And no, I do not piss glitter. A look at what life as a travel blogger can really be like.

“Glitter close up” by Inkwina – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Huge disclaimer: This is most definitely a rant.

This post has been a long time coming. But, life got in the way.

And, I’m not talking about my life of travel and unicorns and rainbows that for some reason the general public seems to think we travel bloggers live. I’m talking about the cold, hard world that REALLY can be life.

Waking up and wanting to get through the day, just so I can go to sleep and start another day. Working with my laptop perched on my legs, leaning against a pillow on my bed, wearing a bra and shorts because I just can’t be bothered with getting out of bed. And, when I do get out of bed, it is to smoke a cigarette, go to the bathroom, or go and heat up some crappy food. Oh, and to grab a corkscrew and pour a glass of wine or 10.

See, people talk on the interwebs about what a glorious life they lead as travel bloggers. Seeing the places! Eating the food! Drinking the drinks! Sleeping in that 1 billion thread count bed. They don’t talk about the struggles. They just spew the idea that everyone and their mother can do it, too. Can live some kind of life where they can see the world, make a shit ton of money and go to sleep with a smile on their face and start the next day all sparkly and rich.

I call bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit.

Yes, there are definitely a select few who are able to do this (and the ones who really do damn well deserve it!), and make enough money to live (likely not in the States. Or Australia. Or maybe even parts of Europe.) And, my hat goes off to them because they work their asses off. And I mean it.

But, the rest of us? Nope. Not even close. Some will tell you they are successful (and you can be, too!), but if you look closely, it is because the post is littered with affiliate links directing you to often-times pricey resources to DIY, of which they get a nice cut.

When I tell people I’m a travel blogger, I kind of mumble it. Or, I don’t even tell them. I just say I work online. Because I know what words will follow: Oh my god. You are sooooooo lucky.

While I don’t disagree, I am lucky, I always tell them I am luckier that I have the ability to travel because I work really hard to make money. That I am lucky I have friends and family who support me. That I have enough money behind me to pay for annoying visas to live abroad. To cover the cost of rent. To ship my cats from Thailand to Europe.

Yes, I am a travel blogger. No, I do not piss glitter. I do not get to travel the world for free. Hell, I don’t even make an income off of my blog really. Unless you count that $30 that Amazon has that they won’t release to me until I hit the ever-looming $100 mark.

I work. All of the time. For everyone … but me. I do social media. I do PR. I copywrite. I ghostwrite. Hell, I have even toyed with starting a dog-walking service in Madrid just to cover rent. I dream of simply working for myself. Of writing that one great novel. Of hitting the Amazon Affiliate jackpot. Hell, of writing an e-book that sells millions … or at least 100. But, right now, that isn’t my reality.

So, please. If you want to get into travel blogging, do it because you LOVE TO TRAVEL. And, love to write. Not because you think it is some cure-all. For some, it is. But, for many of us, we do it because we love it, not because we are in it for the money.

Also, welcome back to The Comfort Zone Project. More news to come soon.

Diary Perspectives

Fear.

Fear

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: OC Always

[Ed. Note: For purposes of dramatic intention, I have included many swear words. If you are offended by a potty mouth, this isn’t the post to read. Then again, this post is designed to challenge readers, so maybe give it a read and just self-censor. – DE]

Fear.

Fear is a motherfucker. It is the shit which paralyzes us. Which turns us from wide-eyed, 20-something go-getters, to older, less riskier versions of ourselves.

It keeps you from doing things. It keeps you from engaging. From taking steps. From saying, “you know what, I am scared shitless, but that is OK.”

Fear roars in our heads when we can’t sleep. It keeps us from those eye-opening moments wherein we have honest dialogs with ourselves.

Those inner conversations can often go something like this:
“I’m really unhappy in my job. I know XYZ would make me happier, but I have security. I have vacation days. I have health insurance. I’m not prepared to turn my back on that, even if it means I’m not happy where I am.”

Or …

“The place I live isn’t really for me. I think I would like to live in XYZ. But, I don’t want to start fresh and not know anyone. Therefore, I will stay here, even though it isn’t really what I want or what I think is best for me.”

And …

“My dream is to do XYZ. But, there is a lot of work to accomplish this. Maybe I will start later. Today isn’t the right day. I need to get ABC sorted first.”

Maybe even, fear keeps you from realizing the possibilities of relationships. Something like this:

“I’m scared shitless of getting into a relationship with someone. What if it doesn’t work out? Then what? I’m alone.”

Fear keeps us from taking chances. From accomplishing our things because we can think of a million reasons why we shouldn’t.

Fear keeps us from saying stuff like:

“I am unhappy in my job. I really enjoy XYZ and think I need to make a change. It won’t be easy, but I want to see if I can make this dream a reality.”

Or …

“The place I live isn’t really for me. I think I would like to live in XYZ. Sure, I have to start fresh, but it will be challenging and the reward will mean I am in a place I truly want to be.”

And …

“My dream is to do XYZ. I know it is a lot of work to get from Point A to Point B, but imagine how amazing it will feel once I do!”

Maybe even …

“I’m scared shitless of being in a relationship. But, this one? What if it can work? Not everything ends messy … not all kisses are throw aways. And, if the relationship doesn’t work, I think I am a better person for having experienced it.”

The truth is

Fear keeps us from moving forward. It keeps us from taking the steps we so desperately need to take to have the lives we want. It keeps us from our goals, from our dreams, from love … because sometimes it is easier to just accept.

To say, OK. This works. Even when it only kindofsortof does.

Fear.

It can immobilize us. Keeps us stationary. Even if we think we are moving forward, the truth is, we are just spinning those fucking wheels. Taking each day like we did the previous. Doing the same things. Having the same routine.

Why not change your career?

Why not pick a new place to live? Or to travel to?

Why not love?

Struggles are a part of life, but if you never swallow that fear, the only true struggle you will own is that of regret, later, when you look back and realize the error of your ways. When you look back and say to yourself, I could have … I should have … I didn’t.

Open your eyes.

Open them fucking wide.

See what is in front of you. Beside you. Embrace it. Love it. And take that step. Open your heart wider. Open your mind wider. Love larger.

Look fear in the eye and say:

“Fear, I give zero fucks about you. I’m going to try. I’m going to give. I’m going to learn. And, if things don’t work out, you know what? It wasn’t fear that kept me from living. I tried opened doors I never imagined. I experienced something I never would have had I kept living in my mind, kept listening to your shitty, seductive words of staying stationary. I fucking lived.”

Featured Perspectives

Muay Thai and living in Thailand: Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu

When I first began The Comfort Zone Project, I had it in my head that not only was I going to join a gym and get fit, I was going to learn the art of Muay Thai. One reason being that muay thai is one hell of a workout, and the other being that the sport is so popular in Thailand, it would be great to learn more not only about it in terms of the physical aspect, but also the cultural.

Well.

I have yet to get involved in the learning of the sport, but I did manage to connect with Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu. The Muay Thai fighter has been living in Chiang Mai with her husband for two years. I wanted her take on the sport, what it’s like to live in Thailand and what takes her out of her comfort zone.

Sylvie practicing Muay Thai

Diana: Why did you become an expat in Chiang Mai?

Sylvie: I don’t consider myself an “expat.” We came to Thailand in order to focus on Muay Thai because this is the best place in the world for learning and practicing the sport/art. We chose Chiang Mai because we’d been here at this camp before and my opportunities for frequent fights and a variety of opponents near my size is greater than in other areas of Thailand.

D: It is very easy to fall into the trap of not doing much/drinking/etc. What is life like for you as an expat in Chiang Mai?

S: Muay Thai camps see a lot of tourists in and out, with varying degrees of commitment both in time and effort. Some folks stay only for one session, some for a few days and up to a month or more. But, more than a couple weeks is pretty rare. None of the folks here on the short-term are “expats” but they are mostly young travelers who seem to experience their tours in foreign countries through the lens of partying. I think for a lot of tourists, Thailand is a fantasy space and it’s both viewed and treated as an adult playground — an extended “Spring Break” trip. That’s unfortunate, I think, although for many of those people that experience is satisfying. For me, because I have a focus, spending all my time training, studying Thai language and writing my blog, 8 Limbs, is very gratifying.  I simply don’t have an interest in hanging out all night with westerners who are on a transient path through Thailand, one stop of many.  For me, it’s easy to avoid because it holds no appeal for me. And one simply cannot commit to both late nights of booze AND 6:30 a.m. start to six-hour days of training. I consciously, and happily, choose the latter every day.

 

Sylvie writing for her blog, 8 Limbs
D: How did you get involved in muay thai? Did this happen in Chiang Mai or before you relocated?

S: I started Muay Thai in the US in 2008. I was living in New York and commuting an hour in each direction to train with an absolutely incredible man named Master K, who is a 75-year-old Thai man still practicing Muay Thai and teaching it out of the basement of his home in New Jersey. He instilled in me the love for Muay Thai that is a “way of life” rather than simply an exercise or sport. My husband and I relocated to Chiang Mai in order to pursue Muay Thai full-time (for me; my husband doesn’t train) and get as much fight experience as possible; something that is very limited in the US at this point in time.

D: What makes muay thai such a great work out?

S: Muay Thai is also called “The Art of 8 Limbs” because it uses strikes from the fists, elbows, knees and legs. Using every part of your body in the practice means both that you are going to be exercising your full body, but also it is rare (especially for women) to appreciate all of your body at once, rather than picking one limb or feature to highlight or hide. There’s no hiding in Muay Thai! However, an important point to realize is that Muay Thai is a job for fighters, nakmuay, in Thailand — it’s a job for me — so simply calling it a workout does not come close to what is invested by those of us who practice Muay Thai as a way of life.
Sylvie von Dugglas-Ittu

D: How easy is it to get involved in the Muay Thai scene in Chiang Mai?

S: Very easy. There are numerous gyms in Chiang Mai and surrounding areas. Most of the camps are within a proximity to one another so that you could easily visit more than one from a central location and decide for yourself which suits you best. My camp, Lanna Muay Thai/Kiat Busaba, is located near Chiang Mai University and near the foot of the Doi Suthep mountain, so it’s a really lovely area and easy to access by bike or public transport, as well as being near lots of accommodation options. All gyms offer day rates (single session or single day, depending on the camp), as well as weekly and monthly, so it’s very easy for anyone to just “drop in” and try a session or get a discount for longer stretches of training.

D: Can you describe the muay thai scene in Chiang Mai?

S: There are about four stadiums in Chiang Mai, almost all of which are within walking distance of each other, and located around the Night Bazaar. There are fight programs scheduled for every night of the week and big shows on weekends. Fighters come from all over, from big camps with familiar names (once you’ve attended two shows you’ll start to recognize the names already) to tiny gyms in family yards where the pedagogy is passed down from parent or uncle to children — very traditional. There’s a lot of gambling at some of the venues and that lends to the excitement of the atmosphere. Usually, westerners fill up the seats directly around the ring and the gamblers stand in the back. There are usually one or more  “foreigner vs. Thai” bouts on a card, which are a big draw for tourist audiences. Sometimes, the matchup looks a little funny, simply because westerners can be pretty big and there aren’t Thais of that same size, so you’ll see a big western guy against a much smaller Thai — but usually the Thai makes up for the size disparity in experience and these fights can be really exciting. The cards usually start with the smaller and less experienced fighters, like young boys with a handful of fights, and progress toward the “Main Event” of bigger, more experienced fighters or the westerners on the card.
Sylvie sparring in muay thai

D: Has muay thai changed your body image? How was your body image before you started the sport?

S: I’ve always been athletic but I’ve never committed to a practice like I have to Muay Thai. My body is very “functional” for me, so how it looks is much less on my mind than how it performs. I’m quite muscular, which gets a lot of attention in Thailand, but I’m recognized as a fighter almost instantly here — like an assumption to explain the aesthetic — whereas in the US I was often asked “do you work out a lot?” So, there’s a level of pride to that recognition that I think makes up for the unwanted attention I get for looking the way I do. Muscles on women is not so hot in contemporary Thai aesthetic, so I think I’m more self-conscious of it than I would be back home.  The women I fight don’t look like me – but because a strong body is appreciated in Muay Thai for its function, that lends to confidence nonetheless.

D: What challenges do you face to maintain your health and fitness in Chiang Mai? And how to you solve these challenges?

S: I don’t face challenges.  I’ve heard western men at the camp complain about the expense of protein powder and supplements in Thailand, but I don’t partake in either so it’s not a bother to me.  I find no difficulty in locating nutritious and delicious food and health care is significantly more affordable here than in the US, so if I need to see a doctor I can actually afford to go see one, which I couldn’t do in the US.  So it’s actually easier for me here.

D: What advice would you give to someone who wants to get out of their comfort zone?
S: One of the beautiful things about training Muay Thai is how hard it is. It never gets easier, the level of “hard” just moves right along with you so you are constantly facing new challenges.  Spending six to seven hours a day being uncomfortable is not something that sounds appealing from the outside, but it’s absolutely good practice for being able to push yourself in every area of life.  It’s that saying, “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.” It doesn’t have to be a huge degree of discomfort, but just pushing a little bit past the comfort is where growth happens, where learning takes place.  And you never know what you’re capable of until you try.

Follow along with Sylvie’s Muay Thai experience on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or go check out her gym when in Chiang Mai. 

Photos courtesy Sylvie von Dugglas-Ittu

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