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Painful Crushes Vancouver: Heartbreak City

New MOV Blog series: Painful Crushes Vancouver
Guest MOV series by Anna Wilkinson

Photo by Paul Clarke
photo by Paul Clarke

As someone who’s had a lot of painful crushes in my life—so many that I curated an art show and created a blog around the idea—I’m pretty familiar with pining after someone who seems just out of reach.

You’ve probably felt it at least once. There’s the good: a fantastic conversation or a shared glance from across the room. And the not-so-good: awkward side hugs, night sweats, not knowing whether they like you “that way”.

Weirdly, I’m starting to think I have a painful crush on Vancouver. Like so many emotionally distant relationships, the city keeps giving me the hot and cold treatment: I endure two months of non-stop rain, then suddenly I'm riding my bike through canopies of pink cherry blossoms. I watch as young ruffians light cars on fire and steal Pringles (seriously guys, worst looting ever), and then see a bunch of lovelies clean up the mess and write sweet love notes to the city. I just can’t seem to quit you, Vancouver.

But then again maybe it’s not so surprising that I have such a confusing relationship with Vancouver. I mean, it is consistently ranked one of the most livable cities in the world and one of the saddest cities in Canada.

Maybe part of the problem is that some of us come here with extremely high expectations. We’ve heard rumours about how good-looking Vancouver is. We see people falling head over heels for it. We hear that the legendary Leonard Nimoy loves it so much he might live here (I want to believe that he watches over us from his West End penthouse. Please don't take that away from me). So how can we help but feel a little heartbroken when we never quite see the Vancouver of our dreams?

Over the summer I’ll be exploring what makes this city so attractive and heartbreaking and asking Vancouver “experts” (that includes you!) about how to get over a painful crush on our Heartbreak City.

Find @Museumofvan on Twitter and share some of your #PainfulCrushes in our city.

Painful Crushes Vancouver, Part One:  Heartbreak City

Holly Flauto Salmon on Granville Street during the 2010 Olympics

Holly Flauto Salmon on Granville Street during the 2010 Olympics

For the first of this series, I had a chance to sit down with Holly Flauto Salmon, one half of the writing duo behind Holly and Holly, a blog dedicated to “un-hating Vancouver one grey, cloudy, drizzling, dizzy day at a time.”   

If you’ve read their recent posts you’ll know that since undertaking this mission, one of the Hollys has actually started to like it here. Ms. Salmon is that Holly and she opened up about finding an intellectual community, unexpected Google searches, and how she ended up falling for Vancouver on her own terms.

How did you get the idea for the blog?

The other Holly and I met because our sons were in the same class. We were both living out at UBC and felt pretty isolated. We just kept saying, “But we should like it.”

And so we started the blog, but decided, “We can’t say we hate this place. It’s so negative.” So we decided to “un-hate” it. That was my goal. I’d lived in a lot of cities before and I’d always found a niche but for some reason it was harder in Vancouver.

From reading your Dear Johncouver post, there’s an image of the city as really attractive but sort of vapid. What were your expectations before you came here?

Well, my spouse got a job here when were living in New Haven and neither one of us had been here before. My friend said, “You’re moving to Vancouver? You’re going to love it!” This was coming from someone who had been here on a trip once and whose favourite book was Stanley Park.

I think it’s definitely seen as being spectacularly beautiful, very international, and culturally diverse.

What are things that come up most often in your blog about Vancouver’s heartbreaking qualities?

It seems to be that sense of isolation, the aloneness. Sometimes commenters on the blog insist that people here are mean but I don’t know if that’s exactly true. For example, it was my second year here, and I would talk to other people who had been here longer than I had, and they would say, “Oh yeah, I didn’t like it when I first got here either. Don’t worry about it.” But then they wouldn’t invite me places. I’d say, “I feel really alone.” And they’d be like, “Oh yeah, I felt that way too.” And then, “Okay bye! Good luck!”

How exactly did you start un-hating Vancouver?

I think finding an intellectual community was definitely part of it. I took a writing class with Lee Henderson at UBC last spring and we became friends. And then one of my stories was published in an online literary journal and I became friends with the editor there, who started introducing Holly and me to people. I call him “Mr. Vancouver.” 

I love the writers I’ve since met and how they all support each other in a way that I haven’t seen another group of artists do. They’re all very proud to be here and really identify as “Vancouver writers.”

Through your blog it seems like you’re building a community of “jilted lovers.” Has it been cathartic?

That’s a great analogy. It’s like a group of people who have been dumped by the same bachelor. You ask yourself, “Why didn’t this work?” And when you meet other people who’ve had the same experience, you can say, “It’s not me! He’s just a jerk.”

If you looked in the search results for our blog, you’d find “I hate Vancouver + want to die.” Now, at what point does a person sit down at their computer and want to Google that? What exactly are you looking for? Holly and I gain some satisfaction in knowing we might have made a difference for some of these people, that they don’t feel so alone.

For now, it seems like at least one Holly has gotten to first base with Vancouver. Some of us, of course, are still just waiting for the city to send us another cryptic text. Stay tuned for the second installment of “Heartbreak City.”

Anna Wilkinson is a museologist and oral historian living in East Vancouver. Her Chestbursters blog is a collection of endearingly awkward, cringe-inducing, and heartbreaking crush stories.

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