Two Words

Last night, a cartoon about kids going through puberty made me download a dating app. I’ve been single for 4 months, and have the intent of staying that way for quite a while longer or at least until I can iron out why I seem to be drawn to men who are possessed by the black goo from “Stranger Things;” but something about watching teens navigate their very first romantic encounters made me cross over from “I can’t look men in the eye” to “I’ll briefly consider our 20 year marriage together while scrolling through pictures of you squatting next to a lion and soulfully playing guitar on the edge of your unmade bed before sliding you into the discard pile.”

I am WAY pickier on dating apps than in real life, because I just can’t bear the thought of meeting up at a restaurant after days of texting back and forth, having illuminating conversations about spirituality and music and ways to SAVE HUMANITY only to find out that in real life, all this man really loves is the sound of his own voice. So I’ve developed a kindof short hand for interpreting dating profiles to save me from spending a precious evening suffering through a bad date instead of chocolate-dipping a whole box of strawberries and eating them by myself:

  1. Picture of him holding up a cat by it’s armpits, face-to-face, with his mouth wide open feigning surprise (this is weirdly common): Incapable of a mature romantic relationship with a woman, who will inevitably express disappointment at some point which will send him into a shame-spiral and cause him to either withdraw or hurl blame at her rather than just apologizing, so chooses the company of his cat who loves him unconditionally, porn addiction and all; not to mention, has zero regard for feline hind leg support
  2. More than 1 gym selfie: Has made up for his lack of intelligence with muscles, and will have nothing interesting to talk about at dinner
  3. Not smiling in any of his pictures: RUN, this guy is just looking for a manic pixie dream girl to cheer him up for 2 months before plummeting back into the depths of his brooding self-centered existence
  4. Says he is looking for a “down-to-earth” girl who just wants to enjoy the simple things in life: Looking for someone to do his laundry and listen to him talk about his boring-ass day at the office
  5. Super super hot: See #2 but add “bad in bed”
  6. His answers to all the questions are short and basic: YAWN not only is this guy going to have nothing to talk about, but he is going to respond to my delightful essays of texts which I’ve curated just to make him laugh with “cool.” 8 hours after I send them.
  7. Playing the violin in one of his pictures: This is an immediate discard* because either he’ll be threatened by my violin BADASSNESS or he’ll want me to give him free lessons (*I’m assuming violin is a hobby; if he’s professional, there’s a 95% chance he’s crazy)
  8. Under 5’7″ AND under 25: He is not grown in ANY of the ways, and will compensate by texting waaay too many kissy face emojis and patting my head while calling me “his little girl”
  9. His “thing that most people don’t know about me” is “I tried stand-up comedy once”: Oh God, he’s not funny, but he’s going to try to give me “notes” on my material because he has “experience”
  10. Wearing a tight-fitting suit showing off his giant muscles and tiny package with a tropical skittles toned shirt, arm-in-arm with two of his equally-outfitted business school buddies: Closeted gay

Ooh hold up. Mark, 36, is a graphic designer at a real place that issues real paychecks; he loves writing, astrophysics, cooking and other smart people things I can’t remember; he doesn’t need to show a pic of him standing in name brand workout gear in front of a gym mirror to see that he’s buff, and he doesn’t look like a serial killer. It’s a match! I get the ball rolling and send him a message:

“Hii! I love to write too! What kinds of things do you like to write?”

And I wait. If he really loves to write, he’ll have a super fascinating, thick juicy response and I won’t be able to help diving in and picking up on things that spark my curiosity and he’ll be so impressed with my intelligence and sense of humor that he’ll ask me out for a drink and we’ll say we only have time for one before we meet just to be safe but then we’ll stay at the bar until they close just sharing stories and gazing into each other’s eyes and the waiters will give us dirty looks while they sweep the floors until finally we’ll pay our bill and leave to roam around the streets of Montreal at night, taking in the warm early-Spring air and talking and trying to get the courage to go in for a kiss but we’re both enjoying each other so much that we want to WAIT for that moment because then we’ll never have our first kiss again, and in fact EVERY relationship benchmark from that point on will be last time we ever do it for the first time with someone…

He writes back, 7 hours later, with two words:

Existential Prose

And into the discard pile he goes.

My Worst Recordings Ever, Episode 1

As a professional classical violinist, I have spent a lot of time recording myself. You need high quality demos for summer music festivals, scholarship and grant applications, university auditions, and orchestral auditions; and honestly I’d rather sit in the middle seat on a flight to China surrounded by babies. You have not seen me at my worst until you’ve witnessed me during a recording session. This coming from somebody who has screamed at innocent bystanders in an A&W for obstructing her path to a Beyond Meat burger with cheese in a post-concert hanger craze; one of the bystanders in fact, an old blind man.

Where a live classical music performance is already shrouded in the expectation of flawlessness (we’ll allow you to play 1-3 notes slightly off-pitch or rush one passage of 16th notes before mentally tossing you in the garbage); a studio recording is meant to display one at their VERY BEST. A representation of what they COULD sound like if they had the most amazing night’s sleep, got to the hall with no near-death Uber experiences, nailed every single technical obstacle exactly as they practiced it, and had a suspiciously healthy audience with no dark phlegmy hacks and crinkly cough drop wrappers saved for all the quiet moments.

Assuming you have thousands of dollars to throw around, you have unlimited chances during a recording session to re-do any passage that’s not to your liking, then you get your audio engineer to hack it all up and glue it back together making a polished musical-Frankenstein of only the best takes. If you’re not so financially blessed, you record as many full runs of the piece as possible on your own shitty equipment then pick the best one.

Cut to me on all fours in a room I’ve rented out in the Maritime Conservatory of Music, screaming and banging my fists into the carpeted cement floor after the 82nd take of Paganini’s 5th Caprice for a university demo. I don’t think more swear words were ever launched in that place, which also hosts ballet classes and children’s music programs. There are like 8000 notes in that 3 minute long mother fucker. Every time I fudged something, it was straight back to the beginning like Paperboy on the original Nintendo. Except I couldn’t throw my violin across the room like I would have with the controller.

The only alternative to this method of recording, other than quitting music, is to magically get an amazing take from a live performance. I have never had the best luck with this method, because I get NERVOUS as FUCK. No matter how much I prepare or how many performance-regulating drugs* I take, I inevitably shit the bed in at least 3 spots, rendering the recording useless. (*Musicians won’t admit it, but most of us have a bottle of beta blockers in the medicine cabinet that to an audition panel behind a screen, marks the difference between “this is a normal person” and “Jesus are they okay?! Are they being chased by a man with a knife??”)

In my “Lauren DeRoller” itunes folder, I have two sets of recordings: those made in a studio and fit for the ears of snobby music judges wearing suits so tight they can’t sit down properly (that’s how I imagine them); and those recorded live, which are not permitted to leave the safety of my computer. UNTIL TODAY. My friends. I think it is time we stop perpetuating this myth that the best musicians are those able to get from start to finish of a piece with zero mistakes. I would so much rather listen to a musician play from their heart with I dunno, 15 wrong notes, 2 memory slips and an audible curse word; than spit out Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto as though it was being played from a Midi file. Technically flawless but boring as fuck. Some of my live recordings are actually really good, save for a few spectacular donks.

The following recording takes this a little far, containing MOSTLY donk with a few “actually really good” moments; but I thought I’d start this series with the one that makes me laugh the most. Which is worth something too, God dammit. In grade 12, I put on a solo recital that showcased not only my stress-fueled violin skills, but yup… my mediocre piano abilities. I really did love playing the piano, but I would notoriously sight-read for my weekly lesson, never practicing at home. I am proud to say, it shows. (All the “dramatic pauses” you hear are me scrambling to find the notes)

P.S. If you listen to this and can’t tell what’s wrong with it, congratulations! You haven’t been jaded by the impossible standards of classical music culture and you are capable of simply… enjoying music. What a concept!

I give you, my favourite worst recording ever:

Rachmaninoff Piano Prelude in C# minor/Lauren DeRoller/2004

I’ll leave you with the “good” version.

Things that Drive me Bonkers

  • The sound of people chewing their food. Or really any use of their mouth other than talking that makes noise. I’ve literally broken up with somebody over this… while on a romantic vacation to PANAMA. You’d think I could have waited until we got back home but nope. Dude didn’t know how to eat shrimp tacos. (He also had anger issues and smelled like urine but that’s beside the point)
  • People who get annoyed when you mispronounce their name. “It’s Alaaah-cia, not Aleecia.” Get over yourself. There are literally hundreds of names everybody needs to remember on a daily basis. It’s not my fault your parents gave you the most pretentious sounding name EVER
  • Those tiny little hairs that get stuck in your eyeballs
  • The metro (also called light rail or subway in cities outside of Montreal) Subcategories:
  1. People who walk onto the train as though they’re on a leisurely moonlit stroll DURING RUSH HOUR and stop right in front of the door, as though nobody is behind them ALSO wishing to be transported somewhere
  2. People texting while walking, again, slowwwly during rush hour, thinking they’re multi-tasking when really they are making all 74 people behind them miss their connection or worse, end up in public transit jail (that should be a thing*) for dumping a blueberry breakfast smoothie all over their head. *I imagine it being like a school carnival jail where you actually just hang out and eat candy
  3. People who leave the SOUND ON to get 30 texts a minute from their BFF or watch full length trailers for the next bro-bait cinematic disaster. The last time this happened, I threw a pair of broken earbud headphones I still had in my purse onto the dude’s lap. I didn’t actually, but it would’ve been cool.
  • All women’s underwear
  • Chatty uber drivers. You know what I want to hear in those precious last moments before I’m bombarded by the constant stimulation of working in a professional orchestra? Not you.
  • People who don’t tell you they’re sick until halfway through a visit to your house after they’ve touched all the doorknobs and double dipped their chips in the salsa and made out with you
  • This one guy at work who did an impression of Herbert the Pervert from Family Guy on a tour bus in March 2019 and hasn’t stopped doing it since
  • Extroverts who claim “Oh I’m extroverted AND introverted. I love being around people and I’m usually the life of the party but I need a movie and a glass of wine at home alone once in a while!” Shut up you lost the real introverts at “I love to be around people”

For the Love of Rats

This little writing corner is my favourite spot in my long skinny apartment. I call my place the “rat maze” because contrary to the trendy “open concept,” it’s a series of little nooks and crannies, all wonderfully compartmentalized for an introvert who loves to nest. Every room is it’s own little universe, full of soft things and hidey-holes and materials to nudge me into creativity because I often forget.

Look closer and you’ll see the books are obsessive-compulsively organized by genre and height. I’ve gone so far as to divide the comedy section into male and female authors, and improv comedy manuals; which is an oxymoron to such a high degree that I’m waiting for the books to spontaneously combust. Peppered ever so carefully around the books are little toys curiosities I’ve accumulated in my travels, each one with it’s own significance. But the one that would light up my brain in an MRI like a group of ballerinas (ballerinas notoriously chain-smoke); the object that makes my heart ache because it’s a bittersweet reminder of “the one that got away,” is this guy.

Oh hi rat

Before I met Harry, I thought rats were disgusting vermin, a view shared by most of the other people on this planet. Rats were creatures to avoid; the bottom feeders of the animal kingdom. Calling someone a rat meant this person was filthy, untrustworthy, sinister. But Harry is a Neuroscientist, and spent most of his time studying rats because they are actually very similar to humans in terms of genetic, biological and behaviour characteristics. Harry loved his work, but hated studying rats, because they are wonderful. It pained him to keep them in small cages, inevitably having to sacrifice them for the test results. Aside from being super intelligent, they are adorable, silly, and extremely loving. While many a mouse bit Harry during his studies, rats were only ever happy to see him because they crave social interaction even more than treats. Even when the treats are actually DRUGS. It’s been scientifically proven!!

Harry and I started going to pet stores just so we could visit the rats. I was looking at them through Harry’s eyes now, and couldn’t believe how anybody could look at them and not squeal with delight. Those curious little faces with their glossy eyes and forests of whiskers and tiny little ears… Sometimes they would come up to the glass to say hi, but more often than not you could find them in a glorious pile under a miniature log cabin, the shape of which their bodies would maintain once removed. Rats LOVE to cuddle; a trait I share with them. At home wherever Harry was, I wanted to be near him if not fully integrated with him, our bodies molded together like play-dough. So I started affectionately calling him “Rat.” And it stuck. I loved that we had something nobody else had. He wasn’t my “babe” or my “honey;” he was my rat, soft “r.” The word took on this whole new meaning that only we understood.

When I moved to Montreal to pursue a Master’s degree in music, he stayed in Ottawa to continue his studies and I missed him terribly. While living together, we couldn’t get pet rats because it would have interfered with his work; but in Montreal, there was nothing stopping me! So I adopted Lucy and Taco, two female ratties from the SPCA. Having rats would help ease some of the pain from being apart.

Lucy and Taco are two cuties in the middle!

Reunions in Montreal were extra special because we not only got to see each other, but Harry was able to interact with rats in a way he had only ever dreamed. It felt like we were a family, with weird little rat children. We would make them rattie castles out of cardboard boxes and egg cartons, and hard boil eggs so they could play rattie soccer; they would sit on our shoulders while we cooked (Ratatouille is real, guys!! Though they were more interested in eating the food than cooking it) and as they got older they mellowed out and cuddled in our laps while we watched movies. We created little rat voices for them, obviously, and would narrate for them when they’d find a new exciting hack to get even higher up in the apartment; or steal a cough-drop out of my pocket. It was pretty much just the voice of Consuela, the housekeeper from Family Guy. “No, noo. I take.”

As Lucy and Taco aged, Harry and I started to grow apart. We couldn’t help it. Of the 6 years we dated, 4 of them were long-distance and I was becoming a new person in Montreal, with new friends and habits and interests. Around the same time Harry was accepted to a post-doctoral position in Houston, Taco started to get sick. Harry spent his last summer before moving to Texas in Montreal with me, and we tried with all our might to nurse her, and our relationship back to health. I knew deep down that neither would survive the summer.

A part of us left with Taco when she passed away. These rats are what kept us together despite our distance and now with one of them gone, our hearts were starting to break. We tried long-distance for another month, but I just couldn’t stomach it. Another 3 years of this relationship purgatory, getting the worst of both worlds. No intimacy, and no freedom. I ended it. The day before he had an appointment to buy an engagement ring.

Thinking about it 4 years later as the woman I am today, a survivor of multiple soul-crushing romantic experiences, sends a wave of remorse crashing through my body. Why couldn’t we have just worked a little harder? Gone to therapy, chosen one city to live in, or even tried an open relationship. But I know realistically, none of that would have worked. I did what I felt was right in that stage of my life, and I have to respect that. I actually told him when we broke up that I wanted to know what it felt like to date a jerk. Like that’s some sort of essential female experience in our fucked up society. Boy does the Universe ever fucking DELIVER!

When I look at bookshelf rat, I’m reminded of what I once had. I’m grateful to have experienced what true love feels like so I’ll know when I’ve found it again. Next time though, I’m not letting it go.

Happy February

So I have a bit of a controversial statement I need to make. Are you sitting down?!?

I love winter

I love how… low pressure it is. I love that I can have almost a whole week off, and do nothing but curl up under a blanket with a book. I’ve been in the habit of rotating self help psychology books with memoirs by my favourite comedians, I loved Ali Wong’s book Dear Girls! Wow I just erased that last comma and made it a semi-colon about 4 times. The comma just seems more approachable, right?! This is the kind of perfectionism I’m going to try to nip in the bud over the next few posts. I actually sat down to write this post yesterday afternoon… My goal: to write about something I love aka, winter. What came out? A manifesto on why Rom-Coms are as poisonous to relationships as porn is to sex. I think I’ll save that for another time, maybe Valentine’s day!

Anyway, back to winter. I know it’s “cool” to be outside, but I love being inside. Especially in the city- where outside means navigating giant man-eating puddles (at least in Montreal in February), people walking while texting (which I realized yesterday, are just as much a nuisance to the flow of traffic as a snowplow- if you see one coming, you best be jumping out of the way) and let’s throw in a third reason… oh right… the cold.

Even in the summer, when only one of those three things is a threat, I struggle from FOMO. When I decide to take myself on a nice walk through Park Jarry, which has a beautiful fountain in the middle and has more wildlife than most of the other city parks, I am met with a sea of friend gangs playing pétanque and cooking on their tiny barbecues; and couples weaved together on a blanket like a shitty braid. Part of me is happy for them, but part of me would sell an organ to have that life. I have to remind myself, maybe this friend group hasn’t seen each other in ages, and this is a one time thing! Surely they’re not coming here every weekend to bask in each other’s love and support and store-bought macaroni salad. And that couple over there- maybe they’ve been fighting all week, and this was their truce! They agreed to just have a nice afternoon in the park before going home and going at it again over who is spending more time in the bathroom.

I have to remind myself, you know who’s life is really awesome?! Mine!!

Anyway, back to winter. So yeah, I like that there is no pressure to be outside. I can wrap myself in a cocoon of blankets (cat included) and slippers and tea and just BE, uninterrupted by the sounds of lollygaggers (yeah, I don’t really know what that word means either, spell-check…) coming from my open window. We are ALL in a cocoon. We have all slowed the fuck down. And that puts my mind at ease, knowing everybody else is doing the same thing as I am.

A social worker told me once that contrary to popular belief, people tend to struggle more with depression in the summer, than the winter. You hear of seasonal affective disorder (“SAD”) and you just assume people are happier in the summer because the sun is stronger, but turns out, I’m not the only one that suffers from FOMO. People like to feel like they’re more or less experiencing what everyone else is experiencing. So people with depression feel more at ease amongst people who are hunkered down in their nests than people out running around seemingly having the best time of their lives. Fuck off, extremely happy people!! You’re ruining it for the rest of us!!

I love being inside, but when I do venture outside, I am met with even more reasons I love winter: the snow on bare trees, the brisk fresh air, and kids waddling in over-sized fluorescent snow suits. God bless them all. I’m going to leave you with the pièce de résistance: the thing that inspired this whole post but somehow like usual I got totally off track. I give you, the #1 reason I love winter:

Dogs in Booties