My Month Without Alcohol… and Men (Week Four)

by Brenna Holeman

Brenna Christmas Party

With my wonderful friend Ryan. I realised that in a solid third of my photos on Facebook, especially any selfies, I’m holding a glass of wine. Trust me, this month really has been an exercise in self-restraint. I’ve only taken, like three selfies, guys! 

Please note: This post will make a lot more sense if you read the previous weeks first. Click here to read Week Oneclick here to read Week Two, and click here to read Week Three.

January 22, 2017

It’s the final week of this experiment, but I’m starting to realise it no longer feels like an experiment, one with a hard end date. Technically, next Sunday (or, if we’re counting all of January, next Wednesday) I can have a drink. Technically, I can go on all the dates my heart desires… though truth be told, it’s not like I’m getting offers for dates left and right. Dating, for me, has always felt like a “when it rains it pours” scenario, because I either go through long spells of no romantic encounters or periods of time when multiple people seem to be interested.

I once read an article that said that men can smell sex. First of all, ew, and second of all, I’m not sure that that drunk guy at the bar is like, “Wait a second, my spidey-sense is tingling. Are those PHEROMONES I smell?! Did this fair maiden perchance copulate with someone else recently, therefore making her much more attractive and worthy of my competition?” I’ve also read an article – probably by the kind of guy who quotes The Game and thinks that “negging” is a great way to pick up chicks, man – that said that men can smell desperation.

If I had a nickel for every time somebody said, “It will happen when you’re not looking for it!” I would be able to buy, I don’t know, a really fancy blender or something (it’s never your single friends who say that to you, by the way). No, I’m not desperate for love, but I am open to it. I’m the kind of person who goes after what she wants – a plane ticket, a job, a degree – and I feel the same way about dating. I’m not just going to sit back and hope that some man waltzes into my life. I’m going to stay open to it, I’m going to try dating sites or apps, I’m going to go to events where single guys might be, and I’m going to make eyes at that cute barista (who, on second glance, might be ten years younger than me. Isn’t that a weird feeling? When you start to recognise that some guys are actually too young for you? It’s like when Carrie sleeps at that guy’s house on Sex and the City and he uses toilet paper for a coffee filter and she’s like, “Oh shit, nope, I’m out.” Once I kissed a guy in a jungle in Thailand on a dare and then tried to, you know, get to know him. He told me he had just finished school. I thought he meant university. He meant high school. I wish I was joking).

At 32, nearly 33, I’ve also recognised that I might fall into the category of “second wife” one day, that is, if I even get married (the thought of spending a bunch of money on one day sickens me, and I’ve always said that if a guy got down on one knee and proposed with some huge rock of a diamond I’d have to say no, because he clearly doesn’t know me at all. No judgement on anyone who does want those things, but it’s definitely not for me). To be honest, over the past few years I’ve accepted that I’ll probably meet the person I’m supposed to be with when I’m older, anyway. You know, after I travel Central Asia for a while, maybe get another degree, write some books, live on a couple of other continents, and learn how to sail. When I was younger, God, there was nothing more I wanted than to be in a relationship with a man (at that point, any man would do). Now, there are so many things I want just as much or more, so much more. I picture meeting the guy I’m going to be with at some little tequila bar in Mexico when I’m in my late 40s. I’m also wearing a lot of turquoise jewellery in this image, FYI.

And because I’m not sure that I want to have babies, either, I’m perfectly happy to be the cool stepmum one day. You know, the kind that takes you to Disneyland, not the dentist. The kind that lets you stay up half an hour late, not the kind that makes you sweep cinders all day and banishes you to the cellar when there’s a ball going on, forcing you to invoke a fairy godmother who gives you a pumpkin carriage and glass slippers. But seriously… glass?! That would have been so uncomfortable and sweaty. I can barely wear leather without getting blisters.

January 23, 2017

Today I go to the office. I write this post when I get home. I realise I stared at a computer screen for approximately 15 hours and wonder if that’s why I now need glasses (answer: yes).

January 24, 2017

Another day at the office. I’m trying to avoid drinking lattes from the office’s Starbucks machine because I’m trying to be healthier, and I’m assuming drinking four large glasses of whole milk with added brown sugar does not equal exemplary health. The Starbucks machine also happens to be in the kitchen closest to where my former office crush gets his tea, and is the site of the two conversations we’ve ever had, so I may have had an extra incentive to drink those lattes. Thankfully, as mentioned last week, I no longer have this office crush, so it’s a good thing I no longer have the motivation to go to that particular kitchen.

I try to tell myself that when I see him in the hallway and laugh a little bit too loudly at my colleague’s story.

January 25, 2017

Today I hand in my passport and residence card, because I’m applying for a new visa to stay in the UK. It’s a scary process of a 41-page application and £665 (yes, I pay that every year) but I’m relieved when it’s handed in, because it’s now out of my control. It also means that I have to stay in the UK for at least six weeks to two months while it’s being processed, which, I know, boo hoo. But as someone who grew up in the Canadian prairies, I am all about jumping on airplanes to different European countries every chance I get. It still blows my mind that I can take the train to Paris. That I can fly to Italy in two hours. That I can drive the length of England in about the same time that it would take me to drive from my hometown to Fargo, North Dakota (yes, like the movie, and no, I don’t have the accent).

But these passport-less two months are just motivating me to see more of the UK, so I’m planning a trip to Rye in February and a road trip around Scotland in March. You can take away my passport, but you’ll never take away… my… um, never mind, that Braveheart reference totally doesn’t work (*quietly removes blue paint on face*).


Aperol Spritzes on my own in Venice… a few minutes after this photo was taken the people next to me got engaged, but I got extra chips, so I feel that things really balanced out. 

January 26, 2017

Today I have a fantastic day with my friend Claire, who was in the same master’s program as me. We don’t see each other often enough – she lives in Kent – so it’s so nice to catch up. We wander around Borough Market with Monmouth coffees, go to the Tate Modern’s new Switch House, head to Gail’s Bakery for amazing corn pancakes, and then meet up with Abigail and Gabriella, also former classmates of ours, for coffee. We have a lively, wonderful chat about books, writing, and life.

Inevitably, one of them asks about my dating life. They are all in happy relationships with fantastic men, and it’s sometimes hard to articulate what it’s like to be single to people who have been in relationships for a long time.

“I finally figured out what it is,” I tell them. “I’m too goddamned nice. I’m a complete pushover.” They all wholeheartedly agree.

And it’s true. I have dated men from all kinds of backgrounds – ethnically, religiously, financially, everything from how old they are to what language they speak to whether they like football or not – and guess what? The only thing they have in common is me. I don’t think that I seek out bad guys, or that some of them even ARE bad guys, but I have sure let them get away with a lot of bad behaviour in the past. These are just a few of the things I let slide in relationships when I was in my early twenties, and, just to warn you, it gets pretty heavy:


-calling me names

-criticising my wardrobe, my beliefs, my weight, my intelligence, my cooking, my sex drive (too much or too little, what am I, goddamned Goldilocks?!), and just about everything else about me

gaslighting (a form of manipulation in which someone tries “to overwrite another person’s reality”)

-blatantly flirting with and checking out other women in front of me

-finding out, after I took him on a family vacation, that he was telling people, “Nah, I’m not serious about her, but do you really think I could pass up a free trip?”

-not calling or texting when he said he would, sometimes disappearing for days

-pushing me, punching the wall next to me, throwing objects at me, throwing my belongings out the window

-getting angry enough to flip a heavy coffee table that landed on my friend’s foot and broke her toes

-“accidentally” punching me in the head while getting into a drunken brawl at a concert

-having sex with me while I was passed out, and then getting angry when I woke up crying and asking him to stop

-having Skype sex with another girl on my laptop in my flat while I was asleep in the other room

-saying “Fuck you” to me so many times I lost count, including in front of my mother

-drinking so much he urinated all over me in bed

-telling me nobody else will ever love me, look at me, or want to touch me

To reiterate… I CONTINUED TO DATE THESE PEOPLE AFTER THEY DID THESE THINGS. I would eventually go on to break up with them, when the culmination became too much, but none of those individual actions sparked me to speak up and get really fucking angry (OK, the urine actually was the catalyst for me to break up with that one guy). Why? My best guess is that I was so desperate (there’s that word again) to please, and that I was so desperate to make the relationship work, that I put up with anything. Remember, I said that, in my past, the number one thing I wanted was to be loved by a man. Does this stem from my parent’s divorce? Perhaps. I was so determined not to rock the boat that I shut my mouth, never speaking up against my boyfriends and also downplaying my emotions when talking to my friends or family.

But one day I woke up and I was just tired. I was tired and angry and sad for being treated like this all the time, or, perhaps, of letting myself be treated like this all the time. My mum once told me that I come across as so confident and self-assured online, and yeah, I’ve travelled the world and accomplished a lot of things I’m really proud of and not been afraid to speak my mind about so many topics I believe in. But I’ve also let myself be a fucking doormat in almost all of the early relationships I was in, and I think it’s important to sometimes pull back the curtain and expose the voice behind the wizard, to show that it hasn’t been all sunshine and lollipops and making out with hot guys on beaches (don’t get me wrong, though, there was a lot of that, too). One day I woke up and just felt worn down by past boyfriends’ behaviour, and I decided I didn’t want to feel that way ever again. And when did that day occur? It occurred after I’d gone out and travelled. I’ve often talked about how longterm, solo travel changed my life, and it really did – it made me stronger, more confident, and more in tune with who I really am. I would never put up with the things I put up with in my early twenties today, but I was also young and naive and not as independent as I am now, so I try not to judge myself too harshly for staying in those toxic relationships.

I’ve never really written about any of this on the blog before, and to be honest, it was very difficult for me to write it now. I cried writing it, because all I could think is that if my sister or my friend came to me and told me any of those stories, I’d tell her to run like hell. But, chances are, there’s someone reading this who can relate (for the record, I’m telling you to run like hell). I didn’t mean for this to get so serious (what’s that you say, Freud? My hour is up? Oh, ok then, up off the couch I go…) but the truth is that being single is often much more complex than just, “OMG guys are so lame LOL” or “Wahhh, I didn’t get any matches on Tinder today.” I realise I’ve kept potential serious relationships at arm’s length in the past six years or so because I didn’t know if I was ready to be in a relationship again, not until I knew that I was 100% ready to stand up for myself and 100% ready to BE myself. It’s probably why I’ve found travel romances much more appealing sometimes, and also why I write about them so much more than any serious relationships (oh Jesus, this IS getting deep). The fact is, while I’ve since dated some really wonderful, great men, I’m now happy to wait until I find a relationship that stems from mutual respect and admiration, one that just feels right, even if it means it’s years and years in the future on that Mexican beach (oh, I’m also wearing a white kaftan in this scenario, just to give you an even clearer image. I’m barefoot, too. It’s also probably sunset).

On the flip side, my sister (it’s actually her birthday today) has always been very strong, vocal, and confident in her relationships. She has always spoken up for herself, and does not put up with any bullshit or bad behaviour. Incidentally she has dated wonderful, caring men, ones who treat her with respect. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Brenna and Zalie Winnipeg

My sister and I on The Night of the Easel Smashing (that will make more sense in a minute)

January 27, 2017

Today I work from home. After my usual walk around East London, I also do a 20-minute workout routine on YouTube, and spend the rest of the afternoon flexing my arm muscles in the mirror because I’m convinced I can see a difference. I go and meet some friends in the pub, and once again nobody says anything about me not drinking. In fact, they’re all kind of in awe of the fact that I kept it up all month (remember, what happens in Italy stays in Italy).

“You better not become one of those people who doesn’t drink at all,” my sister says to me on the phone, and I assure her that I will not become one of those people (the horror!). But this month has made me evaluate both my physical and my mental health; there’s no denying that I have seen huge benefits from a month without alcohol, including clearer skin, brighter eyes, less headaches (actually, no headaches), a bit of weight loss, and, most importantly, a happier and more productive brain. I’ve decided that I’m not going to drink as much anymore – no more wine at home for dinner, for example. And it really wouldn’t kill me to order a half-pint once in a while instead of a full pint (which goes against my theory that Guinness only tastes as good in a proper Guinness pint glass, but I guess I’ll just have to deal with it).

But no, I will never become one of those people, because man oh man, I have had FUN while drinking. Off the top of my head, here are some of the best times I’ve ever had while imbibing the devil’s drink:

1. The Night of the Easel Smashing

It was early 2013, I had just returned from Brazil, and my sister was just about to move to Israel. She threw a goodbye party in Winnipeg with her closest friends and we drank far too many bottles of wine and hugged each other all night. We were crowded round her friend’s living room when someone went to sit down in a wooden chair… which wasn’t a wooden chair at all, but an easel, complete with a large canvas on it. He smashed through the canvas, through the easel, and lay sprawled amongst the painting supplies all over the floor. Even now, I can’t think of that scene and NOT burst into laughter; to this day my sister and I refer to getting really drunk as “easel-smashing”. I thought I was going to die laughing.

2. The Night of the Table Flipping

It was mid-2012, and my friend Kerri and I were travelling around Peru. We were the only ones who signed up for a trivia night in Mancora, so we got progressively drunker and drunker trying to beat each other at trivia (much to the organiser’s chagrin). We met these three Chilean dudes who took us to a beach bar where they proceeded to buy us tons of tequila shots. Kerri and I have this thing about Rihanna songs, in that when we’re drunk we just NEED TO DANCE TO THEM (another one of our “must-dance” songs was that “I Just Came to Say Hello” song that was really popular in Southeast Asia a while back… once Kerri went up to a DJ and requested that song and he said, “Oh wow, that’s really nice, thank you so much for that”. Again, I thought I would die laughing). So Rihanna comes on, and I’m so pumped to dance that I stand up abruptly, flipping the plastic table we’re sitting around, spilling beer all over the Chilean guys (who, by the way, we had quickly discovered were weird and creepy and MARRIED so I’m gonna go ahead and call that karma). In the end, it was just me and Kerri dancing all over this beautiful Peruvian beach, having the time of our lives.

One other funny tidbit about that night was that after tee many martoonis (my favourite expression in the world), Kerri signed us up for surfing lessons at 9am the next day, completely unbeknownst to me. When someone started knocking on our door at 9am, I answered it, hungover and naked save a sheet wrapped around me. I assured him over and over again that we did not sign up for surfing lessons, closed the door, and fell back asleep. It was only around 7pm that evening that Kerri remembered that, yes, she had actually signed us up after all. This is my public apology to that poor dude who had no idea what he was in for when he knocked on that door that morning.

3. The Night I Saved a Man’s Life

It was mid-2011, and Kerri and I were on the island of Koh Tao, Thailand. We were tanned and happy and without a care in the world, and we had just finished our Open Water scuba diver certifications. We drank a couple of buckets of Thai whiskey at a little beach bar called Lotus (does that still exist?) and danced like crazy. When Kerri and I dance, we dance to have fun. We don’t dance to look sexy or look cool, we dance to laugh and jump around and sweat. It’s the best. The night wore down, the music eventually stopped, and we sat on the beach talking with a group of other backpackers. “Our friend Harley is out there swimming,” one guy says to us, and sure enough, there’s a guy in the water about twenty metres from shore. “Oh my god,” I said. “Has he been drinking? He shouldn’t be swimming!” I was half joking, half serious… the water there was only about two feet deep, but I had no idea how drunk he actually was. “I will save you, Harley!” I called out, and marched into the water fully clothed. Harley decided to play along with it, and I dragged him back to shore with both of us laughing the entire way, the black sky above twinkling with stars. The group of us took a bunch of funny photos and ended up hanging out on both Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. Once in a while on Facebook I remind Harley that I “saved his life”, and it still makes me smile.

Brenn and Kerri Bolivia

Kerri and I in Bolivia. I have hundreds of photos of us on dance floors across Asia and South America, but trust me, you don’t want to see them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also had a couple of bad nights while drinking, including any night that ended in tears, vomit, or every night I spent in Cape Town (it was my 30th birthday and I drank too much on a couple of nights, so I spent my four days there either drunk or hungover, and I barely saw the city. I still regret it). But for the most part, I’m a responsible, fun, and happy drunk, and I love drinking with good friends and family. I’ve had some absolutely amazing nights (and a few amazing days, too) because of alcohol, so I don’t think I could ever give it up completely. It sure will be interesting to see what happens next week, though.

January 28, 2017

I did it. I made it four weeks without drinking or dating (*cough* again, ITALY DOESN’T COUNT *cough*). Today, the last day that I technically have to hold myself to these restraints, I meet Isabel at Broadway Market and we walk to Hackney Picturehouse to see La La Land, which is a perfectly pleasant movie about falling in love (but seriously, why the hell isn’t Hidden Figures out in the UK yet?!). I spend the evening cooking a great dinner for myself (take THAT, Shitty Boyfriend Number Two who always complained about my cooking), reading a bunch of feminist memoirs (Lindy West, I love you), and reflecting on all that I’ve learned over the last month.

It actually wasn’t that difficult. The combination of not drinking and not constantly checking my phone to see if some guy texted me back has made me fitter, happier, and more productive (I wrote that sentence and then realised I was subconsciously quoting Radiohead, one of my favourite bands, so it stays). I managed to publish nine blog posts including this one, as opposed to my regular three or four. And in keeping this blog series, I realised that I really enjoy writing in this personal, free-flow style, so you may see more of it in the future. Writing all of this gave me a lot of clarity into my life, and what I want out of life going forward (I’m dead serious about that turquoise jewellery).

So do I recommend giving up your greatest vices in order to see how you change or grow? I honestly don’t know – you do you, as they say. For me, this was a huge wake-up call, a massive push in the right direction, and a jump start on what I hope to be a very happy and successful year. I sincerely thank you for coming along for the ride.


That concludes this series! Were you entertained? Bored? Horrified? All three? Would you like to see more of this style of writing on the blog? Do you think I should have a glass of wine tonight (there has been a mini bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in my fridge for a month, silently mocking me)? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 



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Francesca January 29, 2017 - 9:26 pm

I have absolutely loved reading these posts – they’ve been my Monday morning treat (I’m in NewZealand!). Your writing is beautiful regardless of the subject but you’ve made me laugh and cry more than once this month.

Brenna Holeman January 29, 2017 - 11:45 pm

Aw, thank you so much, Francesca! Thank you so much for following along all month. 🙂

Jesse January 29, 2017 - 9:45 pm

This was great! It was nice that you got to post more often, as well.

And just curious – what happened every night in South Africa? Is it alluded to/written about somewhere else on your blog?

Brenna Holeman January 29, 2017 - 10:06 pm

Thank you, Jesse, I’m glad that you enjoyed the series!

I updated the post so that it wasn’t so vague about South Africa. Basically, I went to Cape Town to celebrate my upcoming 30th birthday and ended up drinking too much a couple of nights, meaning my entire time there I was either drunk or hungover. I didn’t get to see as much of the city as I wanted to see, and I still regret it. I guess that means I have to go back! 🙂

Jill January 29, 2017 - 9:48 pm

Hey Brenna – I’ve loved reading these posts over the last few weeks and getting to “know” you a bit better through them! I also wanted to say that the section about behaviour you shouldn’t put up with from men happened to reach me at exactly the time I needed to read it – gaslighting ex-friend, long story – so thank you for posting it! All the best for the remainder of 2017 and here’s to the wine ahead… ???? xx

Brenna Holeman January 29, 2017 - 11:49 pm

Thank you so much, Jill – so glad that you enjoyed reading the posts. Here’s to a great year for you, too! 😀

Sonja January 29, 2017 - 10:00 pm

I loved this series so definitely wouldn’t mind seeing more posts like this! But I have NO idea how you didn’t open that Sauv in your fridge the whole month! I would have had to chuck it out the first day to even have a hope of making it.

Brenna Holeman January 29, 2017 - 11:48 pm

Ha ha – I actually have a whisky collection as well as an entire cupboard of wine and spirits. I guess I can be pretty determined when I want to be! Thank you so much for your support this month, Sonja 🙂

Cate January 29, 2017 - 10:06 pm

I have love, love, loved this series! I’ve looked forward to reading every week, and would for sure be a fan of posts like this in the future. I’m glad your not with any of those guys anymore, what they did to you was horrible! Hope you are enjoying London life, sending love and asking for support from the UN-united states of bigotry!

Brenna Holeman January 29, 2017 - 11:48 pm

Thank you so much, Cate! I’m so glad that you enjoyed the series. 😀

Christina January 29, 2017 - 10:10 pm

I definitely enjoyed the series and wait for more to come. You deserve a glass of wine, cheers!

Brenna Holeman January 29, 2017 - 11:46 pm

Thank you so much, Christina! 😀

Sheryl-Ann Stephen January 29, 2017 - 10:47 pm

Hi Brenna! Great series and I would LOVE to see some more of these in the future. You definitely have to return to Cape Town. I stayed at the same place you wrote about and I really loved the vibe there. Also, Cape Town is now one of my favorite cities in the world!! I can’t wait to go back in a few months.

Brenna Holeman January 29, 2017 - 11:47 pm

Yes, that hostel is great! I definitely need to spend more time in Cape Town, what I did see I really loved. I hope you have a terrific holiday in a few months 😀

Jas January 29, 2017 - 11:27 pm

Ahh I’ve been waiting for the latest instalment haha! Loved it – being walked over by men, so relatable to me and definitely a few of my girlfriends. I decided to swear off men for a while 6 months ago and I’ve never been happier (in a dating related sense!)

Really hope you enjoy that mini savvy b!

Treat yourself!

Brenna Holeman January 29, 2017 - 11:46 pm

It’s amazing what can happen when we starting putting ourselves first! 😉 Glad that you enjoyed this series, Jas, thanks for your support.

Paige January 29, 2017 - 11:55 pm

I have absolutely loved this series, and also love all the posts this month! Also — *hugs* in regards to the list of the bad boyfriend things. It’s incredibly brave to share experiences like that. So, so incredibly brave. It breaks my heart that those things happened to you, and many have happened to my friends, and some of them have happened to me — and I wholeheartedly agree that solo travel is such a great way to build confidence, heal, etc. At least it has been for me, and I’ve barely gotten started!

On a lighter note, thank you for reminding me that the musical stylings of “Hello” by Martin Solveig and Dragonette exists in the world. I worked at a Tommy Hilfiger outlet the summer that song was big, and my coworkers and I would be so excited every time it played over the store speakers. One time my coworker was saying to me, “Who sings this? It’s like Martin something? Martin S something?” And our boss walked by and said, “Did you say Martin Scorsese sings this song?” Whenever the world is terrible, imagining Martin Scorsese dancing and lip sincing to “Hello” makes it better.

Brenna Holeman January 30, 2017 - 2:51 am

Thank you so much, Paige – you’re always so supportive of this blog, and I really appreciate that. 🙂 In some ways I’m glad that (some) of those things happened to me, because now I know exactly what I will and won’t put up with. And yes, travelling can definitely heal a lot!

And HA HA HA that is an amazing image to have 😀

Bran January 29, 2017 - 11:57 pm

Hey. I’ve enjoyed dipping in to these. The last post definitly reonated and rang true for me. The good and bad. Thanks for your honesty and thanks for sharing. Raising a glass to you! Cheers! X

Brenna Holeman January 30, 2017 - 2:45 am

Thank you so much, Bran – so glad that you enjoyed the series. Cheers to you!

Laryssa January 30, 2017 - 12:58 am

Brenna, I’m new ’round here but this has been an incredible introduction to your blog. Love your writing and your honesty.

Also, I completely agree about the wedding day thing. I just can’t imagine spending $10k on ONE DAY, or hell, even $3,000. I could live in Thailand for two months (or more) for $3k!!

Brenna Holeman January 30, 2017 - 2:46 am

Thank you so much, Laryssa… and I hope you’ll stick around for a while! 😀 And yes, I can think of so many other ways to spend $10,000. I say get a town hall wedding and then go travel the world for a while…

Linda January 30, 2017 - 1:19 am

Hey Brenna – as usual, your post moved in a variety of ways. Kudos to you for sharing, as others have said, the good and the bad. It’s really good to hear an intelligent, witty, talented (and beautiful) woman be open and brave about how we can sometimes let ourselves be treated, even when intellectually we know it’s wrong to put up with and/or stay. And of course it’s also so good to hear about the crazy fun times. Big congratulations on making a plan and sticking to it (Italy doesn’t count) – it takes real determination to change habits and create a new lifestyle. Keep writing – and we’ll all keep reading! An amazing month of thought-provoking posts!

Brenna Holeman January 30, 2017 - 2:55 am

Thank you so much for all of your amazing feedback – your words mean the world to me. I’ve felt really good this month, so yes, it looks like a new lifestyle is in order! Here’s to a great 2017 for both of us. xo

Kelley Reinhardt January 30, 2017 - 5:27 am

Hi Brenna – another inspiring topic, your writing is amazing, you describe this series with such passion that it’s an honor to read. Thank you.

Brenna Holeman January 30, 2017 - 6:51 pm

Thank you so much, Kelley – I always appreciate all of your kind words and support! You always put a big smile on my face. 🙂

marg Greenwood January 30, 2017 - 3:59 am

Oh Brenna!!.Just joined your blog a few weeks ago ,and I’v had the best time reading it, just so funny and so well-written ,can’t wait for more.!!
Thanks for entertaining us..Cheers..????

Brenna Holeman January 30, 2017 - 7:01 pm

Aw, that’s great, Marg! I hope that you’ll keep reading. All the best 🙂

Marlee January 30, 2017 - 10:24 am

Loved this series and as I’ve mentioned before, thoroughly enjoy this style of your writing. I connect with so much of what you’ve said, especially the shitty boyfriend collection and the terrible treatment (I almost wrote “less than ideal treatment” but that’s being too kind!). Thank-you for taking us all along with you on your journey and here’s to a happy and healthy 2017 – Cheers! Ha ha

Brenna Holeman January 30, 2017 - 7:14 pm

Aw, thank you, Marlee. I’m so glad that you enjoyed this series! And yes, let’s not mince words 😉 Thanks again for all of your support, and cheers to your 2017, too! 🙂

LC January 30, 2017 - 11:04 am

This was a jolly good series – funny, cheeky and reflective, all at once. Do write more of this sort in the future, please.
On a separate note, I think as women grow into themselves, becoming who they want to be, they develop a strong idea of how they want to be treated alongside it. Some seem to know this instinctively from day one. Others learn later down the line. Some never learn at all. I’m okay with being situated firmly in the middle, in this instance (for one thing, it means I didn’t marry my high school boyfriend FOR WHICH I PRAISE THE HEAVENS, as sweet as he was – kissing the frogs can be fun!). Makes for plenty of good writing material, at the very least. Thanks for sharing.

Brenna Holeman January 30, 2017 - 7:31 pm

Aw, you’re the best, thank you so much for all of your support on my blog over the years! I will try to write more like this, definitely.

And I totally agree. I have felt mature in some ways for years and totally immature in other ways (to this day). And yes, THANK HEAVENS I didn’t marry some of the guys I dated when I was young! I looked them up on FB. Dodged a couple of bullets, hah. I totally agree that it makes for good writing inspiration, though 😉

Thanks again xx

Melissa January 30, 2017 - 11:17 am

Hey Brenna! I too, have enjoyed reading this series. This one made me laugh out loud.. easel smashing! I appreciate your candidness and can relate to what you say often. I am 32, Canadian and live in Florence. Regarding life, I think you are a pioneer woman and your leading the way for the ones coming up behind us. I’ve often thought that about a lot of the women in our generation so I hope you don’t take it the wrong way! By it, I just mean you are in control of your story and when you say you want other things in your life just as much or more than a relationship, I love that. Despite the narrative regarding relationships, I think that the self awareness you shared is one of the many truths about our society, and particularly women, today. We don’t all want husbands, children and mortgages. Although if you do, that’s awesome too. So, thanks for articulating that. Also, the depths you go to and the stories you share encourage me to be more introspective myself and inspire me to get out there. I’m thinking of doing my first, technically second but solo Via Rail travel in Canada doesn’t count, so my first solo trip to Ravenna next weekend. We’ll see.

Brenna Holeman January 30, 2017 - 7:35 pm

Hi Melissa, I can’t tell you what your comment means to me. It made me tear up a little bit, actually! Thank you so much for all of your amazing words – sometimes in the past I’ve worried that I don’t live up to societal norms, but then I realise that I’m part of a generation of women who are creating new ones. 🙂

And wow – so cool that you are going to Ravenna! I’ve always wanted to go. I’m sure you’re going to have an amazing time, I find that short solo trips are a great way to start to feel more comfortable with being on your own. Those kinds of trips have given me a lot of confidence over the years.

Thanks again for everything you’ve said, it really made my day. 🙂

Kate January 30, 2017 - 11:30 am

Amazing! I can’t tell you how much I loved these posts. They were so raw, heartfelt and inspiring, but also so funny, so thank you! I look forward to your next “series”

Brenna Holeman January 30, 2017 - 7:07 pm

Thank you so much, Kate – I really appreciate all of your support. 🙂

Katie January 30, 2017 - 1:35 pm

WOW. I have to be careful or my comment will be as long as your post.

1. I always thought the glass slippers were messed up, too. Like really? Who wears glass shoes?

2. As long as you’re bringing back this “retro” free-flow style of blogging (remember how pretty much all blogs started out?), I think you should occasionally bring back your signature feet and food photos. I know *everyone* does them now, but I always loved them on your site. (Esp. the food photos — they always showed a bit of the tablescape and sometimes a book and evoked this calming sense of peace about dining alone in a foreign country.)

3. I’ll admit, your honest revelations about your dating history did surprise me. But also not, in a way, because you remind me so much of my little sister. She went through much of the same, often conforming herself to the guy’s lifestyle so that he could be as comfortable as possible. She was always the “giver” in the relationship and, if we’re going to be honest, just more attracted to the guys who seemed less attainable (and later turned out to be abusive in so many numbers of ways). I introduced her to the guy she just married last year, but I introduced them like 7 years ago. She didn’t give him a shot then. He was “too nice.” It took a couple of more assholes and several more years for her to get used to the idea that someone treating her with respect, thinking about her when they weren’t together, appreciating her particular weird brand of goofiness and laughing WITH her rather than asking her to stop, were all actually good things that she deserved. I just don’t think she was emotionally equipped to realize that sooner.

4. You think you’d be the kind of mom/stepmom who’d bring the kids to Disneyland? Please. You’d be the kind of mom who’d bring them to Germany or Romania to see the *real* castles. (It’d probably be cheaper, too.)

5. Went back and re-read “Vietnamese Baby.” Still gives me goosebumps.

Brenna Holeman January 30, 2017 - 7:41 pm

1. I just imagine the slippers all fogged up because of sweat. EW.

2. Thank you – and yes, I really want to go back to some of my blogging roots. I really miss doing those posts, too, but the fact is that they take AGES to put together, because I have to scan through thousands of photos! Now that I have more time I definitely want to do some more, though. 🙂

3. I get that. I can definitely think of a few guys I perhaps could have dated in my past who I would have considered “too nice”, but now I understand that that is the kind of guy I want and need. I don’t think I was emotionally equipped to handle that, either… and still not sure that I’m fully there, although I am definitely lightyears away from where I used to be!

4. Ha ha ha, you’re right. I just liked the alliteration. You know me too well. 🙂

5. Thank you so much… your comments always mean so much to me, because they are so insightful and supportive.

and finally 6. Can you please come to London so we can hang out?! x

Katie January 31, 2017 - 2:39 pm

Haha, I get that “too nice” doesn’t exactly inspire instant attraction. But one thing I’ve learned is that all initial lusty attraction eventually has to evolve. If you think about it, that’s why people have affairs. They’re addicted to that initial excitement, and when that wears thin, they get bored and go looking for that again. But the other option is to keep loving, to find other ways to connect. When love becomes a choice (rather than a reaction), it can actually be quite a bit more meaningful, if you think of it that way. A lasting partnership is a choice! And the choice becomes much easier when you’re with someone kind, attentive, and as interested in your happiness as much as his own. Which is why is also totally healthy that you’re in no rush to force anything, especially if you’re not feeling the urge to have biological kids.

Of course I have all these theories, but I’m no expert on relationships. We all have our ups and downs. 🙂

Ahhh I would so love to come to London! If I run across a flight deal and it worked out schedule-wise, I’d probably be all over that invite.

Victoria January 30, 2017 - 2:36 pm

I’ve absolutely loved this series and the style of writing. I just read this last post at my morning cafe job and laughed OUT LOUD many times, inviting “what’s so funny?” from my pals/customers at the bar.

I thank you for being so honest and open. I connect with so many things you write about, life philosophies and, as this series explored, sometimes contrasts (travel/independent living vs. relationship stuffs!) It’s comforting to know 🙂

Looking forward to more posts!

Brenna Holeman January 30, 2017 - 7:30 pm

Aw, your comment just made me smile. 😀 So glad that you’ve enjoyed this series and that it made you laugh! I was really hoping at least one person would, ha ha.

Thanks again for all of your support and kind words, they really motivate me to keep writing 🙂

Anwesha C January 30, 2017 - 3:55 pm

I visit your blog for free flowing writing exactly of this sort. Please keep at it. I also love your posts where you talk about the books you like. Would like more of the same!

Brenna Holeman January 30, 2017 - 7:10 pm

Thank you so much, Anwesha! I actually have a few posts like that planned, thanks for letting me know you’d like to see more 🙂

Jill M January 30, 2017 - 4:14 pm

Love these posts! I like the more personal aspects as well. You keep writing and I’ll keep reading!!

Brenna Holeman January 30, 2017 - 7:08 pm

Aw, thanks Jill! You’re the best. 🙂

veena January 30, 2017 - 6:37 pm

I absolutely loved this series and would love to see more of the same in the future!

In regards to always being the pleaser in your relationships, I can totally relate. I am a total pushover when it comes to relationships, and I am working on being better and standing up when I feel I need to. It’s a work in progress, and I wish you luck.

And I can’t wait to read about your UK travels in the coming months! I am taking my parents to the UK in August and would love to read your suggestions. Happy travels! xxx

Brenna Holeman January 30, 2017 - 7:20 pm

Thank you so much, Veena – I’m so glad that you have enjoyed this series. And yes, it can be tough to break old habits (for me it’s taking years) but I have faith that we can learn to change our pushover ways. 🙂

I’m sure your family is going to love the UK, there’s so much to do. 😀

Tina January 30, 2017 - 9:36 pm

This was awesome! I was also taking January off of drinking so this post really spoke to me. Thanks for sharing!

Also, I think what you’re doing- focusing on yourself- will ultimately lead to finding the right person. I completely swore off men a few years back and completely focused on myself. During a yoga retreat, I met the man of my dreams. He showed up unexpectedly and was attracted to a strong, independent woman who loved herself. Similar to yourself, I had spent many years focused on the WRONG men (what an understatement). Once you start to focus on yourself, I think you attract something different. Good luck! 🙂

KMunoz January 31, 2017 - 1:43 am

I LOVED this series and it’s also affirmed my belief that you should come visit Australia because I feel like you and I would be great friends. And now I realise I sound like a stalker.

Brenna Holeman January 31, 2017 - 12:24 pm

Ha ha ha, not a stalker! I’d love to return to Australia, I haven’t spent nearly enough time there in my life. Thank you so much! 🙂

Zalie January 31, 2017 - 5:44 am

I think this last post of the series might have been my favourite! Sharing negative relationship experiences are never easy and I am so proud of you for having done so, even though I know it must have been difficult for you. Thank you so much for the lovely compliment sister, that meant so much to me. xoxo

Brenna Holeman January 31, 2017 - 12:23 pm

Thank you so much, Zalie. You know I look up to you very much xoxo

What I'm Reading: January 2017 #2 – Edge Of It All January 31, 2017 - 2:52 pm

[…] Battered Suitcase’s last installment in her “My Month Without Alcohol…and Men” was brilliant.  I’ve been a longtime fan of Brenna and posts like this remind me of […]

Renee January 31, 2017 - 4:27 pm

I LOVED this series! I 100% think you should do more posts like this. Maybe you should even give up other things a month at a time just to write about them. I have no suggestions for what those things might be…Maybe just do this again.

I really loved your insights about men too. I’m 33, and though I’ve been married for over a decade I feel like I’ve only ‘come into myself’ (pardon the hippie dippie phrase but I am in fact a hippie dippie sort of person) in the last few years. I think it makes so much sense to be open but not looking for a relationship. That confidence and comfortableness with self is the one thing I would give every woman in the world if possible. It’s simplistic, but can you imagine if every girl was just like ‘yeah I’m enough and I’m not going to stand for crappy behavior’s what a different and beautiful world it would be.

Brenna Holeman January 31, 2017 - 6:02 pm

Thank you so much, Renee! I don’t know if I want to keep giving things up, ha ha, but I will try to write like this more often.

I think that’s very common for people to come into their own later on – I don’t know anyone who says, “I knew exactly who I was at 21!” I wish that all people could feel that confidence, too, so that there would be so much less hurt/hate in the world. We should all stand up for ourselves! 🙂

Ashley January 31, 2017 - 8:41 pm

Thanks for being so honest and sharing all you did in the post, and the others in this series – I loved it, and would definitely like to see more posts in this style 🙂

Also excited to hear you’re coming to Scotland soon! Let me know if you’re stopping in Edinburgh – it would be lovely to meet up!

Brenna Holeman February 1, 2017 - 12:23 pm

Thank you so much, Ashley! I will try to write more in this style. Yes, I hope to be in Edinburgh in the first week of March! 😀

Beth Meyer February 1, 2017 - 4:50 am

Love the series Brenna! Just finished catching up! Well done! I felt like I was just sitting at the pub with you catching up & hearing all these stories as we caught up over wine 😉 Miss ya! xx

Brenna Holeman February 1, 2017 - 12:24 pm

Aw, thank you, Beth! I miss you, too! xx

Cindy February 1, 2017 - 6:38 pm

Great series Brenna! And I appreciate your honesty. I’m sorry so many of the guys you dated before were such jerks. That guy sleeping with you while you were passed out definitely committed rape! It made me a little angry to read how terrible those guys were! I’m in my early twenties (21! to be exact) and trying to decide if I should enter the dating scene or not. I’m not desperate (yet anyways lol) but I kind of want to see whats out there without wasting too much of my time. Reading this gave me some perspective and I’m thinking about what should I focus on that will enrich my twenties relationship wise. This post got really deep Brenna and I’m glad it did. You kind of spoke out to me by sharing your most personal narratives.

Brenna Holeman February 1, 2017 - 10:23 pm

Thank you, Cindy. Dating can be so incredibly wonderful – I’ve had some of the best times of my life with significant others – but I think it’s important to stand up for yourself and respect yourself. I didn’t do that in my early 20s and I wish I had been stronger/more aware of my needs. Anyway, I’m really glad that you liked the series, and I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun when you decide to start dating! 🙂

Cynthia February 1, 2017 - 9:06 pm

Loved it… please continue to write things like this, Brenna!

Brenna Holeman February 1, 2017 - 10:21 pm

Thank you so much, Cynthia!

April February 5, 2017 - 5:40 pm

Always a joy to read your thoughts and experiences. I am rather impressed that you kept a bottle of Sav Blanc in your fridge for a month! Congrats on the experiment and cheers to self reflection~thank you for sharing! I wish I would have known you when I came to London back in September (I also wish I didn’t have tonsillitis while I was there!) I need a redo trip for sure 🙂

Brenna Holeman February 6, 2017 - 10:47 pm

Thank you, April! In fact, the bottle is still there (I’ve decided to not drink at home anymore). I hope you get back to London soon! 🙂

Genna February 8, 2017 - 7:14 am

Love this series! Your writing is magnetic because of your honesty and skill. The free-form style reminds me a lot of the blogs I used to read maybe 5, 10 years ago – longer posts that I couldn’t help but read every word. Cheers!

Brenna Holeman February 12, 2017 - 2:45 am

Aw, thank you, Genna! I’m definitely going to try to write more of this style on the blog again.

Elizabeth February 10, 2017 - 12:56 am

I really enjoyed this series! Personally, I can’t relate because I actually hate the taste of alcohol and don’t seem to have trouble having fun sober, though the SO thinks I could lighten up a bit… but I did start off the year sticking with a workout plan and working through online blogging classes so I can definitely relate to being more productive and proactive than in the past few years. It feels good!
Please do more posts like this! I think personal stories really add interest to blogs!

Brenna Holeman February 12, 2017 - 2:46 am

Thank you so much, Elizabeth! Yes, I’m definitely trying to be more productive and proactive this year, starting with my health. Thanks for the support 😀

Jen February 11, 2017 - 1:49 am

Hi 🙂

I’ve never been a fan of blogs before, but I stumbled across yours looking for advice on what to wear whilst backpacking India and Nepal. I loved your style of writing and I can relate to you a lot with the adventures, travelling and living in London. I usually find personal blogs tiresome but I found myself reading this and really enjoyed it. Definitely keep it up!

Jen x

Brenna Holeman February 12, 2017 - 2:47 am

Aw, thank you very much, Jen! That’s so awesome that you are enjoying the blog, and I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. 😀

Erin February 15, 2017 - 11:30 pm

This post definitely resonated with me and I think you should keep writing more like it! I’m 33 and single. I own my own place, travel when I want and have great friends (definitely would move to the UK in a heartbeat though!). I haven’t had a lot of relationships but I’ve come to realize I’m not one of those people who NEED to be in one. Thank you for your honesty about the shitty things that have happened to you. It’s hard to think about but at least you know now what you won’t put up with! Looking back on an old relationship, I definitely see there was some of that stuff going on. Thanks again for a lovely post!

Brenna Holeman February 16, 2017 - 1:24 am

Thank you very much, Erin! I really hope to write more of this style. And yes, I’m realising a lot about my past relationships, but also very thankful to realise I don’t feel that I NEED a relationship to feel fulfilled! Thanks again for your lovely comment. 🙂

Charlotte February 25, 2017 - 3:03 pm

I can confirm Lotus bar still exists!

P.S. Love this blog post.

Brenna Holeman February 25, 2017 - 6:07 pm

Ha ha – I was hoping someone would let me know! And thank you, Charlotte 🙂

Mo April 2, 2017 - 8:12 am

Still so behind on my blog reading, but loved this series to pieces!!! Please, more like this in the future. Loved the stream of conciousness, the seriousness, the peek behind the curtain, the humor, the relatability. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself!

Marie Landry May 26, 2017 - 6:15 am

This series was SO much fun, Brenna! I loved getting to know more about you, and just generally being inspired by you. I appreciate your honesty and that you opened up so much and really dug deep. I cried reading about your experiences with past boyfriends…and I cried for a different reason reading about how and why you’re okay with being single. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to be single forever (if I’m completely honest, unlike you, I do kind of (stupidly/naively) hope the right guy is just going to walk into my life…I’ve never done the whole dating thing and the thought of trying online dating literally makes me want to vomit), but in the past few years, I’ve grown more comfortable with who I am and I enjoy my own company and my freedom. I’ve haf the room to grow as a person and figure out what I want in life. My mum’s first marriage was an abusive one, and she’s always told me there are worse things than being single. I see so many of my friends in unhappy relationships or marriages, and it makes me think there’s a reason I’m still single – that when I finally do meet the right guy, I’ll know what I deserve in a relationship and how to be a good partner. I’ve been talking about this a lot lately with a newly-single friend who’s had a string of shitty relationships, and I’ve been thinking of writing a blog post about it myself, and you’ve inspired me to go for it. 🙂

Anyway, thank you for this beautiful, hilarious, insightful series. I thoroughly enjoyed it. In the morning I’ll be sending a link to the friend I mentioned, because I know she’ll love this series too.

Katerina July 18, 2017 - 6:32 pm

Very fun to read, love the spectrum of ideas and how you touch on so many different topics, from joking to discussing something quite dark and serious and being really honest about both. Thank you! 🙂


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