Alone: A Love Story

Chapter 9: Freedom

Freewheeling with my friends vs being a "divorcée" and the superconnectors.
It's okay not to know where I am going. To not let fear stop me. (Ben Shannon/CBC)
Listen to the full episode21:58


I call this chapter Freedom because it's about an awakening period. It's about Michelle 2.0 emerging, slowly and drunkenly out of the fallout of The Bomb.

Music nerd alert!

We've got a tie here when it comes to songs about freedom. It's either Freedom 90, from the wonderful George Michael, or the Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar song Freedom.  

If you didn't see their performance at at the 2016 BET Awards, man you have to. It is so good.

In the middle of this episode, at the end of the vignette Young Again, I say:

And so I tell the stories with relish, as if I need to prove to my married friends that I'm constantly turning lemons into lemonade. Sometimes I am, don't get me wrong, but here with this familiar crowd, I feel like even the best of my new experiences are still just more lemons. 

No one loves Beyoncé more than Alone producer Veronica Simmonds, and I love her too, so we are not comparing ourselves to Queen Bey. Buttttt I just want to state for the record that I wrote almost all of Alone more than three years before Beyoncé released Lemonade.

Again, I am in no way comparing myself to Beyoncé. And I know that Lemonade is about so much more than just her husband having an affair. It is an incredible and important work of art that has opened up discussions about so many things that we all like to pretend aren't real, but need to be talked about.  

Thank God we have Beyoncé in this world being beautiful, complicated, brilliant and unafraid of making people uncomfortable.


I first heard the term superconnectors in Malcolm Gladwell's 2000 bestseller The Tipping Point. I think he just called them connectors in the book, and he certainly didn't come up with the idea — connectors and superconnectors have always been among us, those people who seem to know everyone and facilitate ties between people.

It's okay not to know where I am going. To not let fear stop me.- Michelle Parise

In the book, he cites a study from 1974 called Getting a Job that showed 56% of people surveyed found their current job through someone they knew. It's not about nepotism, but rather, what study author Mark Granovetter called "the strength of weak ties."

Further explained by Gladwell in his book, "Acquaintances, in short, represent a source of social power, and the more acquaintances you have, the more powerful you are."

This vignette is not about power in the traditional sense, like in the work world. But about me building back my personal power, there in the summer of 2012, as I navigated my newly-single life.

The way to do that, was by hitching a ride with the superconnectors in my life, namely my good buddy Forever 21 and my amazing friend The One With the Big Laugh.

They are such positive forces in the world, both spontaneous and fun, and sensitive and smart too. That's why everyone loves them and invites them to everything. They really helped me break out into this new uncharted part of my life. I owe them a lot.

Young again

This vignette is a flash-forward. A sorta-flash-forward. Since it's really only skipping ahead to the end of 2012.

The difference is that in Superconnectors I was like a baby-bird coming out of her shell, and a few months later in this scene, I'm more like a full-grown vulture, swooping drunkenly through bars and picking up guys.

Thanks to The Husband, I'm young again, rah rah.

Music nerd alert!

Right around the same time in 2012, Paul Banks, the lead singer of the band Interpol, released a solo album with a song on it called, you guessed it, Young Again. When I first heard it, there in the opening moments of New Me, the lyrics and his deadpan, sarcastic, morose delivery felt just like I did.

'Cause I am young again, thanks a lot
I feel young again, rah rah

I mean, everything in this vignette highlights the way my life suddenly felt bifurcated, or as I say in the piece, part-time parent, part-time partier.

If you've been divorced, then I know that these scenes are familiar to you. The ones where you're hanging out with your coupled friends and their multiple children ... it just brings your own singledom and single-parentness into stark relief. You stand around feeling like you've had a limb cut off.

And so maybe you do what I did, which was regale them with cool stories about the party part of my life. To breathlessly tell them about all the hot guys I'd been bedding, even though bedding them left me feeling more empty than before. So much nothing, to make up for the something that once was.


What are you fighting for?

Canada Day 2012. I'm at Wasaga Beach with The Girl with her Mom's Name Tattooed on her Arm. She also has a million more tattoos all over both her arms, not just her mom's name.

She's an hilarious, loud, spitfire of a person. I haven't seen her in years, unfortunately, but she helped me a lot in these early days. Mainly by posing the real f****** question, "What are you fighting for?"

I am a fighter. As in, I will fight to death for something I think is worth saving, even when it's not worth saving anymore. It almost never occurs to me to quit something, or someone. I always think there's more that can be done. I often focus on the good things in a person or relationship and give them more weight than the bad things.

But when she asked me that question, I really had to stop and think about it hard. Because she was right. What was I fighting for?

Sometimes you do have to quit things.

Sometimes you do have to admit that it's foolish to keep fighting for something that's already been KO'd.

The bell has rung. Put your gloves down. Move on.

Music nerd alert!

After she poses the question, you hear me say:

I'm quiet. This is a real f*****question I haven't considered. But I'm considering it now, here, Wasaga Beach, first of July.  

That's a little nod to the wonderful Daniel Lanois and his song Lotta Love to Give ...

Fireballs bursting in the sky
Wasaga Beach, first of July
You said to me, hey, I got a whole lotta love to give

I f***** love this song. I also love Wasaga Beach, which is on Georgian Bay in Ontario, about a 2 hour drive north of Toronto. I've gone there every summer of my life. Fun fact: Wasaga Beach is the longest freshwater beach in the world! A good place to sit and think about life-changing questions.

Less fun fact: On that exact day, July 1, 2012, Italy played Spain in the Euro Cup Final and lost, brutally 0-4. I suffered that loss that day too, just sayin', sitting in a bar on the Beach 1 strip of Wasaga with The Girl With Her Mom's Name Tattooed on Her Arm.

She even took a photo of my disappointment! Here I am that day, watching Gli Azzurri get completely annihilated. Talk about heartbreak!

The next day, I was on a plane to Italy. That's the next episode, Chapter 10!