Shannon Hunter


Support systems make a world of difference

 The last month and a half of my life has been insane: I’ve been writing more and more, organizing my fourth annual #LoveAHeart fundraiser for the Heart & Stroke Foundation, working, going to the gym, and trying to be a good puppy mama. For the majority of January, I slept about four or five hours a night, I was working until midnight most nights and subsisting on tangy BBQ rice chips, Black Cellar shiraz cab and a LOT of sugar-free Red Bull. While I love organizing my event, my dog, my writing, the gym and my job, it got to be a bit much and adding Boyfriend into the mix wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. As it turns out, when you try to do it all something inevitably falls by the wayside.

When I tried to apologize to Boyfriend for not being around as much as I would have liked, he scoffed at me, literally. “Your event won’t be here after February 13 but I will,” he said. His support was unwavering when things got to be too much for me, and when I had to cancel a date he didn’t complain, not once.

On the night of my event, Boyfriend had to leave a little early not because he wanted to but because he was watching my adorable Corgi mix and he needed to head home to walk him. The day after #LoveAHeart when the exhaustion had hit its peak and I cancelled our Valentine’s Day plans in favour of watching Dawson’s Creek in bed and falling asleep at 9 p.m., he told me not to worry and offered to keep pups for another night. This prompted me to scream from the metaphorical rooftops that I have literally the best Boyfriend in the world because he put my sanity and health before our relationship without a second thought, and that is something I had never experienced before he came into my life.

At my first #LoveAHeart I was seeing this guy who wanted to date me but wasn’t at all interested in sex, so that went all kinds of nowhere; he was convinced that if we got naked that things would be too serious so he just wanted to hold hands and make out and stuff. Ha! No. At the second #LoveAHeart, I was with Country Boy who just didn’t show up; granted this is the same guy who ended it over BBM a month later with, “When ya know, ya know?” I probably should have seen that coming now that I think about it. But last year and this year there was Boyfriend, smiling proudly and reassuring me that people would in fact show up.

I’m a lucky girl and I probably don’t tell Boyfriend enough, but I love him more than I love country music and whisky, which is saying a lot — believe me. I hope that he knows how much I appreciate his never-ending support but from his perspective he’s not doing anything special so I shouldn’t be so grateful. If only he knew all those that came before, he’d probably be less surprised by my overwhelming gratitude.

Follow Shannon on Twitter at @Shananigans.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

The ‘dating contract’ is something that actually exists

Dating is hard, especially around Valentine’s Day when single sounds like a dirty word and every date comes with the added pressure of the Hallmark holiday.

Recently, while having dinner with a group of friends, I received a call from one of my best girlfriends who needed to see me for drinks immediately. Assuming that something was wrong, I invited her to join us.  After she ordered a very large glass of wine and a piece of cheesecake, we had the pleasure of hearing about what was possibly the worst blind date … ever.

Blind dates are never a good idea, but when a friend sets you up with someone you go in confidently knowing that a friend would never put you in an uncomfortable situation. For whatever reason, this was not the case on that particular evening.

My friend arrived at the date with high expectations, hoping for, at the very least, a fun evening. What she was met with was a clipboard and a ‘dating contract.’ She was instructed by Mr. Clueless to read and sign the two-page, six-clause document before the date could begin. Knowing that this date had gotten off to a bad start anyway, the lifelong Torontonian had met Mr. Clueless at a restaurant in The Rogers Centre for dinner. Even without the dating contract, he had lost points for choosing the most touristy possible location.

The best thing about the Dating Contract is that my friend had to agree to indemnify the woman who had set them up, which I imagine is good for their friendship.

As I read through the contract to our friends at dinner, it was met with a mix of shock and disbelief. How could a man living in Toronto actually be this clueless? How could anyone that has ever been on a date try this on someone? Did we accidently stumble into some real-life sitcom? Friends hasn’t been on the air for years, but I’m pretty sure this would have made an excellent plot line.

Page 1 of the dating contract © Shannon Hunter

Dating is hard enough without forcing someone to sign a contract that outlines every step of the relationship, including who pays for what, what terms you’ll use to describe your relationship in three months’ time, and mandatory disclosure of any and all “bizarre religious beliefs.”

To her credit, my friend managed to stay with Mr. Clueless all the way through dinner and she even went with him to the top of the CN Tower, which for a lifelong Torontonian is also cheesy and forced, but when he tried to get her to stand on the glass floor despite her fear of heights, she called it a night.

To his credit I’d like to thank Mr. Clueless for providing me and several friends with an evening of laughter; but if I could give you one piece of advice, Mr. Clueless, it would be this: don’t try so hard. Deciding how you’re going to introduce someone to your friends over the course of the next three months is a bit much, especially when it comes before drinks.

This article was previously published on February 16, 2012.

Follow Shannon on Twitter at @Shananigans.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

The worst date ever: I’m sorry, you want what?

Sometimes a girlfriend calls in a friend favour and even though you’ve taken off your make-up, put on your PJs and are cuddled in bed ready to watch the TV you’ve missed this week, you get dressed and go meet her. It’s just what you do.

A couple of weeks ago one of my best friends called in a friend favour and had me meet her at boy’s house for a couple drinks. She had met this boy a few weeks prior to that and they had hit it off instantly. He was gorgeous, smart, funny and he had abs you could grate cheese on; he seemed to be the whole package.

We arrived to cold beers and Gold Rush on the TV, a solid start to any evening. But within minutes we found out that his small town friends would be arriving and so would his dealer. The evening took a turn after that. We were happy to have a couple of beers and chat but neither of us were interested in putting anything up our noses.

I left around 1 a.m., citing work as my excuse. I offered to take my friend with me, but she was willing to stick around and give him the benefit of the doubt.

It wasn’t until the next day that I heard how her evening ended over several bottles of wine; it was just one of those stories. My friend popped by my apartment after work with two bottles of white and what I’ve come to recognize as her what-the-hell face.

After I left my girl and the Charlie Sheen wannabe had retired to his bedroom. About halfway into what might have been the turning point for their evening he asked her a favour: “Would it be OK if my friends came to watch?” Her response was simple, “Not a chance.” At which point our leading man stood up to leave—not because he was angry or disappointed but so he could go to the living room to tell his friends that unfortunately she wasn’t interested in putting on a show.

I think the best and worst part of the story is that he had assumed that she would say yes. He had so much confidence that she would say yes that he had pre-arranged everything with his friends. I’ve been on a lot of terrible first dates and a few terrible second dates, but never has a man assumed that a second date meant a closet show for his friends, because that is insane. Isn’t it?

Has being in a relationship changed my perspective? In the four months that I’ve been with Mr. Unexpected, have men started asking women for their wildest fantasies? Perhaps in anticipation of tomorrow’s apocalypse men have decided that they might as well swing for the fences. That has to be it, right?

Learning to be happy

For the first time since before the Big Ex, I am happy with someone I’m dating, actually happy. More importantly, though, I can be myself. I’m not sacrificing parts of myself to fit into what I think he wants me to be and I’m not keeping my opinions to myself because I’m afraid that he might not like them.

I spent so long trying to be what someone else wanted that I had forgotten what it was like to just be myself. Mr. Unexpected makes me laugh sometimes uncontrollably, sometimes to the point of falling on the floor and almost always until my stomach hurts and I’ve forgotten what started the laughing in the first place.

When you spend so long trying to please other people, trying to be the right girl, you forget how wonderful it is to just be yourself. I don’t have to pretend anymore that not introducing me to his family after a year is okay, I don’t have to act like never letting me meet his friends doesn’t bother me, and I don’t have to temper my enthusiasm for being with him because I am worried that he will run away.

Mr. Unexpected wants me to meet his family, he doesn’t hide me from his friends and when I tell him how happy he makes me he doesn’t get turned off, he just tells me I’m cute and smiles because he knows that I’m going to hit him for using the ‘c’ word. Babies and puppies are cute, women are not; although my friends would probably take his side in this particular argument.

One of my best friends told me something about two months ago that really stuck with me: “He isn’t who you’d pick for yourself but he’s who you should be with. Don’t screw this up.” Which I think was his loving way of telling me to just enjoy it and let myself be happy.

It’s funny that when I’m sad or unhappy I forget to question what is making me so unhappy, but when things are going well I constantly wonder why I’m happy and when the other shoe is going to drop. What if the other shoe doesn’t drop? What if I just let myself be happy without asking so many questions?

I’ve decided to stop constantly questioning why and just enjoy where I am right now: happy without conditions.

It’s a first for me and it’s going to take a lot of time to be happy without asking myself why, but it’s about time I enjoy the person I’m with; it’s about time I stop constantly worrying and waiting and driving myself crazy.

Is it so hard to just love and be loved? Am I so jaded that being treated right makes me wonder what the catch is?

There is no catch. This isn’t a movie or a bad romance novel; it’s life and it’s pretty fantastic right now.

Follow Shannon on Twitter at @Shananigans.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

The perfect night

Sometimes the stars align and everything just goes right. On Tuesday, thanks to one of my favourite people, Country Boy and I had the pleasure of sitting 21 rows up from the ice at the Leafs game, which is basically my happy place: boy, beer, and the blue and white.

We laughed and talked throughout the game, trying to make bets on the outcome, drinking, and just generally enjoying ourselves. After the game, courtesy of another wonderful girlfriend, we managed to get a table at Real Sports for a couple pints where his baby sister and her boyfriend joined us and that is where my nerves really kicked in.

My last big love, you know the one, the guy who broke my heart, the one who made me think that believing in love was wasted effort because when your heart breaks into that many different pieces you almost forget how to put yourself back together – that guy. We dated for over a year and I was so incredibly in love with him that I put up with never meeting his family and with being his secret girlfriend because I was never strong enough to force the situation, to tell him what I needed. So, these days meeting the family is a big deal. It’s so important to me that I’ve put a time limit on it, if I’ve been dating a guy for 6 months and he still hasn’t introduced me to the family, I’m done.

Country Boy didn’t have a problem with introducing me to his baby sister but I sat there wondering if I was talking too much or too quickly or if I was saying too much about myself. It was intense. But in the end, we got along well and she seemed like a wonderful young woman, beautiful, confident, and sure of herself.

After the bills were paid and we went our separate ways, Country Boy and I walked hand-in-hand back to my place, all smiles and stolen kisses. The night was warm and it made for a lovely walk but we couldn’t just saunter back to my place without running into more people that I know. As we came up to my street, we almost bumped into another girlfriend of mine and, as always, he was charming and if her messages the next day were true, I was glowing.

There is something about being happy and feeling safe that makes anyone look more beautiful. Country Boy has that effect on me. Being around him makes me smile in a glowy happy way that I had forgotten I knew how to do until recently.

I don’t know how things will go between us as we move into 2012 but I do know this: Country Boy has taught me that my heart wasn’t ever broken beyond repair, it was just waiting for someone to understand me, someone to make time for me, someone who for whatever unknown reason knew how to bring the glowy, happy, smiley me back. And I’ll tell you a secret; I love it.

This article was previously published on December 15, 2011.

Follow Shannon on Twitter at @Shananigans.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Find love for a good cause before Valentine’s Day


I normally use my weekly column to share my relationship fails, successes and drama; sometimes I share my friend’s stories too, but mostly I use this space to talk about the love in my life. Today I want to share with you an event that I’ve been running for the past four years, #LoveAHeart. Love a Heart is a bachelor/bachelorette auction for the Heart & Stroke Foundation. So if you’re single and need a date or if you’re taken and need something interesting to do the night before V-Day, then come out, have a drink or two, and support a great cause.

Love a Heart was born in a coffee shop four years ago. Our first year was a smashing success raising over $8,000 for The Heart & Stroke Foundation. Since that first year we’ve raised over $30,000 for the HSF and I like to think that we’ve saved at least one life. This year I’m dedicating the money from the event to my mother’s brother, Christopher “Chris” Charles Francis Masterson. He died of a heart attack on November 3, 2013 at 55, which is far too young to die of anything let alone a heart attack. So the money that we raise will be donated in Chris’ name as a small tribute to the uncle I barely knew and the mother I love dearly.

We’re upping the ante this year: our attendees will be treated to wine samples, cupcakes, and a photo booth from Snapshot Magnets that prints out magnets that you can take home with you. I imagine I’ll probably chug back a glass of bubbly and a cupcake before the whole thing starts and I stop having time to do anything but run around.

Two of my favourite women in the world will be hosting, Nat & Marie, these social media rockstars are going to bring the fun in. Together these powerhouses have hosted some of Toronto’s most exciting events, interviewed some of the most important people on the Internet including the fine folks of Epic Meal Time and Erik Martin (the General Manager of Reddit) and made my world just a little bit better by being in it. I look up to Nat & Marie, who are stunning, talented, intelligent women engaged to the loves of their lives and doing everything they set out to do. I aspire to be like them and I couldn’t be more proud to have them involved in my event.

If you need a Valentine’s Day date this year all of my bachelors and bachelorettes come with a date package, so the planning has already been done, and I personally guarantee that every person on the auction block is amazing in every way. We’ve got actors, reporters, social media unicorns (no gurus), singers, dancers, cheerleaders and so much more!

Love a Heart hasn’t had a serious love connection in the years past, but there’s something great about the idea of telling your kids that you met their dad when you bought him at an auction back in the day. Or maybe you go with the online dating story instead?

Follow Shannon on Twitter at @Shananigans.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Taking a relationship break isn’t necessarily a bad thing

Country Boy and I have been quiet lately, with a new job for me and work being incredibly busy on his end. We simply haven’t had enough time to devote to each other. That being said, we’re not giving up on us, not even a little bit.

About a year and a half ago I was dating Model Boy. He was tall, gorgeous, and he made me feel like a queen, but he needed me to give him more space than I was willing to and my need for a constant connection pushed him away. Later, he popped back into my life and explained that he had had real feelings for me and if I had been able to give him the space he asked for, we would probably still be together.

As we get older, we learn from past experiences and as I spoke with Country Boy last night, I kept the past in mind and agreed that we should take the next couple of weeks to focus on our respective jobs and come back to each other when we can be more present in our relationship.

Country Boy and I have a lot in common, not least of which is an incredible passion for what we do we. Both of us tie our identities to our work and when work gets tough, it also becomes priority one. As we spoke, I could tell he was worried about asking for a little time to focus and when I told him that I supported him and wasn’t about to run away because of it, he seemed almost shocked.

Is it hard to go without seeing him for a couple weeks? Of course it is. But Country Boy has been so supportive of me; he’s talked me through the ups and downs of hunting for a new job, he listened to my crazy Love a Heart ramblings, and he has always been there to put a smile on my face. Right now he’s asking for my support and after all that he has done for me, I can’t say no. I can’t walk away just because things are getting a little more difficult.

How am I going to get through the time apart? The same way he is; I’m going to focus on work and knock the first few weeks out of the park. I’m going back home to Kingston for a weekend to reconnect with my best friend. I’m going to plan for the reunion, which thanks to a good friend will involve a Leafs game in late March.

My life was amazing before Country Boy and it will continue to be so throughout his absence. I’ll admit though, that I am already counting down the days to our reunion and what it will feel like to be in his arms again… and (obviously) the teenager-esque making out that will likely ensue in my elevator.

This article was previously published on February 24, 2012.


Kitchen queen

By Shannon Hunter
This article was originally published on October 11, 2012

I’m not a very domestic gal. My room looks like a clothing bomb went off and I frequently let my apartment descend into dust covered madness. My fridge has more alcohol and condiments than it does food; I am no Florence Henderson. But occasionally, when I really like a boy, I cook for him. It doesn’t sound like a big deal to those with domestic prowess; for me, it’s huge.

Last night, I made dinner for Mr. Unexpected. He had never had macaroni and cheese that didn’t come from a box, and to anyone who’s ever had the real thing, that is a crime.

He lay on my couch while I cooked, after I promptly told him to, “Get the hell out of my kitchen.” I mixed, boiled and baked it all into a wonderful bubbly dinner treat and it felt great. I enjoyed being a little domestic, even if it was only for an evening.

What I like about Mr. Unexpected is that he lets me be myself. He likes the quirky weird girl, the dedicated driven work obsessed girl and the kitchen queen. He likes it all and never asks me to be anything I’m not.

With City Boy and Country Boy, I always felt like I was giving them only pieces of myself; holding back the parts that I think are strange, hiding the parts that are insecure or scared.  Mr. Unexpected calls me out when I try to hide any part of me and it’s incredibly freeing to just be myself and know that he won’t be put off by even the darkest parts of me.

Too often, we date boys that only want the best parts of us. They want to see the shiny bits but they aren’t at all interested in why you are who you are. They don’t care how we became who we are today, and they don’t want to know what goes on behind the curtains; they want the perfect version of ourselves that we present to the world.

Mr. Unexpected may not be perfect for me, the way I thought Country Boy was. He may not be as together as City Boy was and he’s definitely not who I would have picked for myself, but he makes me feel like I am perfect just as I am and that is priceless to me.

For as long or as short as this dance we’re doing lasts, I will walk away knowing that there is someone out there who sees me for who I am. He doesn’t judge and actually likes all of the strange puzzle pieces that come together to make me, me.

Isn’t that what dating is all about? It’s about finding that person who is equally weird and confused. He doesn’t run away just because you have the entire Gilmore Girls series on DVD or that you sleep with a stuffed Sonic when you’re sad or that you think pickles and peanut butter is basically the most deliciously strange snack out there.

Maybe I’m wrong, but for now it’s nice not to have to hide anymore.

Let’s make it official

By Shannon Hunter
This article was originally published on October 25, 2012

It’s been about a month and a half since I started seeing Mr. Unexpected. He wandered into my life and has been surprising me since that first night. He still isn’t my type, he’s different in a way that is as unexpected as the name I’ve given him here, and that might be my favourite thing about him.

But in the age of Facebook nothing is official until you update your status and let the world know that you’re ‘In a Relationship.’  I don’t have a relationship status on Facebook, that field is left empty and I don’t plan on changing that. When the Big Ex and I broke up, I was all of a sudden receiving messages from ‘friends’ I hadn’t seen in a decade who wanted to tell me how sorry they felt for me; it was then that I decided that I didn’t want to have a public relationship status anymore.

Now that I’m wondering if Mr. Unexpected and I should make it official, I am once again thinking about the dreaded relationship status. While I would be comfortable committing myself to him, I am in no way interested in updating my non-existent status. I’ve noticed that whenever someone changes their status to ‘In a Relationship’ friends start to post congratulatory messages. It’s as if we feel the need to award someone for no longer being a sad spinster lady completely forgetting that being single isn’t a bad thing; some people actually enjoy being single, they like playing the field or they haven’t found the one and aren’t willing to settle.

So while I don’t want all 999 of my Facebook friends to start commenting on my choice to be with the same person for an extended period of time, I’m not against the idea of committing to someone. It’s just been a long time since I’ve done it and I’m not sure I remember how.

I hate serious conversations. Hate Them. I don’t like the uncertainty and I certainly don’t want to be the one to bring it up because in all honesty, I’m not even sure I know how to have that conversation without getting really nervous. When I get nervous I tend to fumble, talk too quickly and blush like a school girl. Most boys find this adorable or charming but for me it’s embarrassing and the embarrassment tends to make me even more nervous.

I haven’t dated someone in an exclusive way since the Big Ex, and there is a small part of me that wonders if I can even do it. Can I be monogamous? Can I commit to being with just one person for the foreseeable future? If I want to be his girlfriend can I just skip the awkward conversation and only use the word in my head? Should I keep dating around and enjoy my twenties? Why am I such a headcase?

All of these questions have been floating around in my head this week, but, when I really think about it, the only thing that matters to me is that he is in my life, the rest is just details.

It’s my party

Tomorrow is my 25th birthday and despite the fact that everything is very new and totally unofficial with Mr. Unexpected he’s planning on joining me for the festivities.

When I invited him, we hadn’t started seeing each other yet; he was just a fun boy who gave good banter and there was zero pressure associated with my friendly Facebook invite. As far as he knew it, it was just another party and I was just another girl. Now things are different, we’ve been seeing each other for about two weeks and he’s going to spend the night celebrating my life with my closest friends.

Birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day: these days are relationship kryptonite. They are difficult to get through, full of expectation and heavy on the pressure.

I’m so used to boys who fear the big days, who worry about meeting the people in my life, who don’t introduce me to the people in their lives. I’d forgotten what it felt like to have someone who isn’t afraid of actually being with me.

The Big Ex and I were together for over a year and he never once introduced me to his family. It should have been a warning sign, but I was too blinded by love to ask why he was hiding me from his friends and family. I promised myself after we broke up that I’d never let a boy keep me a secret again. I’d never be a ensconced girlfriend. I would never let someone make me feel like I wasn’t worthy of a formal introduction. I’m fantastic and if you’re with me then you should want to share my fantasticness with everyone in your life.

The only thing I’m worried about is that my friends won’t like him as much as I do, and I need them to. After a string of less than wonderful boyfriends, I look to my friends to tell me if I’m getting into something I shouldn’t.

I found out, after the mess with City Boy, that one of my closest girlfriends had been biting her tongue the entire time I was with him. But, she was afraid to tell me; I don’t want that to happen again. I don’t want my girlfriends to ever be afraid to tell me what they think of the man in my life because while he may not be a forever boy they are forever friends.

Tomorrow may not feel like a big deal to Mr. Unexpected, but his willingness to attend means the world to me. It’s a breath of fresh air after a year that included months of waiting for nothing, a seven word break-up and a cancelled trip to Shangri-La.

Maybe 25 has more promise than 24, and even if it doesn’t at least, I’ll be starting the year off with a smile.