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An urban love affair

I have a confession to make: I’m in love. For many years now I’ve kept this a secret love, an illicit affair. It’s not easy to be in love when practical circumstances prevent you from being with the object of your affections. A number of things make my confession risqué: many of my friends openly scorn my love; most can’t understand my devotion; and I’m currently committed to another. But it’s time to come clean.

photo by c.s. cosco

I love Toronto. These might seem like strong words, but Toronto and I have a long-term relationship. We were together for a solid six years before I flirted with others: London, Newcastle, Ottawa, Anchorage, and Vancouver. London is a bit stuffy; you’ll never be quite up to snuff. Besides, he hates foreigners. Ottawa is similar; a closed, conservative type that values institutions and traditional social ties. Let’s face it: unless you grew up with the guy, you’ll never be part of his inner circle. Newcastle has a past: clearly he’s gone through some hard times and come out stronger. Maybe this is why he’s a little more tolerant of your imperfections. Anchorage is friendly and adventurous, resilient and willing to take on new challenges. He’s young, let’s just say; the inexperience is charming but in the end, you need someone a little more seasoned.

These were all temporary flirtations. Toronto remained in my thoughts throughout the years, and we continued to have weekend trysts. In fact, I only broke it off with Toronto for another long-term commitment: Vancouver. I was initially impressed by Vancouver’s good looks: who wouldn’t be? Further dates revealed a laid-back nature, openness and receptiveness to new ideas. But he’s like a star that burst onto the Hollywood scene too quickly, struggling with his new persona, uncomfortable in his own skin. On one hand, he claims to enjoy fine dining and high-end cocktails; on the other, he scorns anything too urban. He can be a bit superficial, all looks and no substance. One thing is certain: he’s not a nose-to-the-grindstone type, and that’s what it takes to be a real success. Still, many of my friends admired Vancouver, even those who never actually met him. They would have scoffed if I said I wanted to get back together with Toronto. But after five long years, I began to fantasize about Toronto again.

Thankfully Toronto and I reconciled, and I’ve spent the past four blissful months with him. Now this is a man with style and substance. He’s not as gorgeous as Vancouver, of course: no one could confuse Hugh Laurie with Jude Law. And he is downright surly at times. But there’s no denying his popularity. Everyone is drawn to him; they always have been. He is deep, sometimes impenetrable: there’s more going on than you’ll ever know. If you commit to him, he will do anything for you, since he’s both dependable and financially secure. You must, however, share his value system: a complex mélange of determination, assertiveness, tolerance and respect for the hard work that needs to be done, with more than a bit of scorn for those who can’t stomach his gritty taste. He has changed over the years, but as the French say, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. There’s only one problem: I remain committed to Vancouver, at least for another year or so. I owe him that much; and besides, practical reasons prevent our separation. This is why I’ve been keeping my affair a secret for so long.

Needless to say, Vancouver and Toronto hate each other. Vancouver thinks Toronto is full of himself, and feels insecure and invisible around him: a bit like Gabourey Sidibe at the Oscars. He cannot for the life of him understand Toronto’s popularity and magnetic charm. Who could be attracted to an aging urbanite with more than a few scandalous liaisons to his name? Toronto, on the other hand, is not threatened by the young upstart’s movie-star good looks. He is mildly amused with Vancouver’s laid-back attitude. “That’s fine,” he appears to smirk, “but you wouldn’t last a week here.” I’ve lost no sleep over this conflict: it seems inevitable. What man loves his rival?

The ending to this love story has yet to be written: while my relationship with Vancouver is deteriorating rapidly, Toronto beckons like Carrie Bradshaw’s Mr. Big. I know he’s the one, but the timing never seems right. I’ve taken the first step: I’ve professed my love. Whatever happens, I’m sure it will be an affair to remember.


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