28 Reasons

Life, a magical field of existence whereby humans try to establish what the hell we’re doing here. Amidst the wins and curveballs, one of the greatest life joys I’ve experienced is having a solid, stable; reliable group of friends. Each one brings something unique and wonderful, however today I’ve decided to dedicate a post just to one…it’s her birthday.

The intention is not to draw comparisons, nor exclude the group I deem close, but as it is her birthday (and let’s face it, bar my mum she is my biggest fan), this piece of writing is in honor of our fully faultless friendship. Over the course of 25 years, she has been what I consider a shelter from the storm; a friend, a sister, a constant…

Three. That’s how old I was when I met her. I don’t remember much about our first meeting, but I do remember spending my first few school years plotting her death. We would fight so much that our mothers would get called in and frequent letters sent home. Understandably, we were advised to stay away from/ignore each other but alas, we could not.

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“You will wear it bitch”.

Joanna: the irritating, blonde-fringed girl with freckles on her face. Invited to each and every one of my birthdays: keep your friends close but enemies closer. Loud, boyish, outspoken and bold – everything about her annoyed me. I used to cry post-haircuts, scared she’d rip the shit out of me, and when she did, I would yell out “BITCH” so loud that all our peers would gasp in shock, labelling me the antichrist.

Had somebody informed me then, that she would prove to be the most consistent, loyal and selfless friend I’d ever have, I probably would have jumped from the climbing frame there and then.

Our relationship changed during high school, because we were dealing with a whole new kettle of bullshit: bullies, boyfriends, rebellion; hormones. Astonishingly, the moment we upgraded uniforms, we upgraded the way we treated each other. Instead, we became each others point of reference, severing not a single fallout. No bitching, no competitiveness, no time for being fickle or hasty – we knew who we were to each other and accepted it – a solid friendship; unquestionably rare.

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My 14th Birthday, hence our great choice of outfits/hairstyles.

If friends were graded, Joanna would sail through every subject from A*, to merit, to distinction. But, as there’s no such thing as a degree in friendship, I’m celebrating her 28th, on the 28th, with 28 reasons as to why she is THE BEST:-

  1. She’s neutral.

I’ve had some nasty fallouts over the years and Joanna’s one friend who’s stayed neutral. Never has she encouraged bad vibes, or involved herself in my battles. Instead, she’s reflected opposing sides without forming any judgement. At times I’ve found this severely frustrating because the ego wants to be “right”. In hindsight, her stance has been most helpful because she’s demonstrated maturity without encouraging childish behaviour.

2. She protects my fragile heart, *violin*.

Six years ago I was crazy in love with a guy who couldn’t spare a flying fuck.  Upon discovering his infidelities with numerous partners, I was so heartbroken I lay in bed sombre and lifeless; unwilling to get up. Joanna was the friend who got me out of bed, treating me to a pedi and reminding me that life goes on. At the time it didn’t mend my broken heart, but it certainly made my toes sparkle.

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Post-pedi, Jo told me I had to wear these paper sandals. As you can see, I believed her.

3. She’s with me for the ride.

Over the past few years I’ve moved house three (almost four) times and she’s been there for every single one. From lifting boxes, to driving, to unpacking. I haven’t even had to ask her – she considers me  a *cough, burden* priority.

4.  She’s a handy-wo-man.

Jo is one of the most practical human beings I’ve ever met – if there’s a problem – she will fix it. From transferring stencils on the wall to unscrewing lightbulbs or climbing shelves –  lets just say I’ve never had to contact one of my exes.

5. I’m her dolly.

Not to be trusted with an eyeliner, Jo does my hair beautifully. French plaits, buns, fishtails – this girl is my personal hairstyle queen.

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6. She’s a comedian.

My. Friend. Is. Hilarious. I can’t recall a single time we haven’t laughed. Even when things have fallen apart around us, when we’ve felt stuck, worried, frustrated – laughter’s prevailed, the best remedy for anything.

7. She’s effortlessly thoughtful.

On my 21st birthday I took some friends to Bournemouth for a messy weekend. Whilst in the shower, Jo decorated our room with banners and balloons, going out of her way to make me feel special. #AwYouShouldntHave

8. She’s always there.

I had a nasty, invasive procedure last year and despite her own commitments, my girl booked the day off and took me to the hospital. She even went as far as to bring me home and spend the day with me, making sure that I felt fine. </3

9. She loves my mum.

This probably sounds like a weird one, but the relationship between two of my leading ladies is 100% sincere. They have their own special unique bond and it warms my heart up. Plus, mama knows best and if she says Jo is gold, she must be.

*If you’re not down with my mum, you’ll never be down with me.

10. She keeps it real.

I don’t have to worry about Jo talking behind my back ’cause if I upset her, she’ll tell me. As difficult as it is telling people how and if they hurt you, there’s something relieving about being able to talk, listen and making the choice to move forward.

11. She’s always on time.

And I don’t mean in terms of “let’s meet for coffee at three”. If something big is happening, negative or positive, I know exactly who’ll be there. Hell, this girl is there for all occasions, helping me to swim through life. #Teamworkmakesthedreamwork

12. She’s got bottle.

During secondary school I was constantly being harassed by older girls – I can’t lie, they were scarily evil! But I remember when the bullies tried to “befriend” her, Jo made it clear with her tone and face that she would never be interested – she never licked ass based on her own principled loyalty. #ByeFelicias

13. She’s kept all my secrets despite having a big mouth.

Much like myself, Jo finds it difficult to contain newsworthy information. I in particular am a renown over-sharer (the proof is in the blog), so when it comes to each other; our pain and our regrets; we keep our lips sealed. #ThanksBoo

14. She’s never left me in a vulnerable state.

Fourteen years old – just discovered vodka. We were on our way to a house party and I chugged it down with no concept of units. To this day, I can’t remember how we got home, I just remember waking up with vomit in my hair and a missing phone. Still, somebody got me back safely – somebody tucked me into bed.

15. She’s charitable.

The charity case being me of course (although she has done frequent runs for cancer). The amount of hairdryers, chargers, phones and clothes Jo has thrown my way over the years is staggering. I mean, she could have easily sold that stuff on ebay but nope, here I am, free-balling.

16. She’s accepting.

Jo doesn’t get mad (albeit surprised) when I “borrow” something of hers and wear it in front of her six years later. To be fair it wouldn’t fit her now anyway, girl’s got the body of a goddess.

17. She listens.

And I mean really listens. It doesn’t matter how trivial the issue, if I need to vent, I know I have a nonjudgmental, equally honest ear on standby.

18. She checks in.

If I’ve had a bad week or day, she’ll make it a point to check in and see what’s up. Bare in mind this is a person who works full time, has a child, a head full of tasks and yet still, spares several thoughts for me. She even feels guilty when she feels she’s been “slacking”. #YouGottaStopDoingThatBoo

19. She acknowledges my inner child.

Back to my 21st: I was secretly eyeing up this massive pink unicorn and Jo did everything she could to win it. At the time I was certain her efforts were to appease her daughter – which they were – only Jo won two which means I got one! #HipHipHooray

20. She’s inspiring and smart.

No really, she’s one of the cleverest girls I know: quick witted, sharp; practical. Aged sixteen, Jo was the first to go out and got a job. She was also the first to pass her driving test and basically, the first in our group to demonstrate initiative.

I am proud of the way she communicates with people – she’s direct, humble and straightforward – the sort of person who inhabits natural leadership. #YesBadGyal

21. She’s supportive.

Jo has read and shared practically every single one of my blogs under zero obligation. I never expect my friends to read OR share my work, but over the past two years she’s emitted constant support and exposure. As a writer, I can’t tell you how invaluable that is  – all we want is for our words to reach people – and without shares that can’t happen.

Her feedback, encouragement and genuine interest are all attributes which make a fucking supportive friend. #ThanksForBelieving

22. She’s inclusive.

I swear I’m her honorary adoptee. I get invited to all the big family dos, even Christmas sometimes! #ThanksBabeButIGotMyOwnFamilyToSpendOn

23. She’s thoughtful.

This girl just kills me with it. I came home after traveling for eighteen hours once and Jo had snuck in beforehand to make sure my fridge wasn’t empty. *FYI she didn’t break in, bitch has a key.

24. She shares the limelight.

This is definitely where we differ. My birthday’s in October – hers September – and I always plan the celebrations wayyyyy in advance. Arguably self-centered, Joanna is regardlessly happy to hear my plans with enthusiasm – even before considering her own.

25. She’s not a hater.

You can really see if someone’s happy for you by looking in their eyes. That stab of jealousy, or even disbelief. Personally, I think it’s normal to have twinges of envy. For instance, if I were £500 into my overdraft and a friend revealed they’d won the lottery, damn right I’d feel that stab. But not Jo. Every success I have is received by her as if she were my mother: full of pride and excitement. Sometimes I downplay victories to others because I don’t want to evoke discomfort; but not with her. With her, I can speak in every little detail about something I feel proud of – and her eyes light up with delight. #SheIsJustSoCute

26. She hates being a burden.

Not that she could ever be one. Still, like chalk and cheese, Joanna is not the kind of person to vent her plight – she is private and a problem solver. Most of all, she hates the idea of people worrying about her – and in that sense she is utterly selfless.

27. Her kindness soothes my soul.

Joanna is the epitome of health, but has never once made me feel bad about my body, nor compared our physical differences. Over the years I’ve had friends discuss whether or not they find me pretty in the morning (I mean, can you name a person who is?), whether I look nice without makeup (better than your mum mate) and multiple jibes about my size.

Thankfully, I’ve never had to worry about all that shit with her. Why? Because she’s comfortable in her own skin, and that makes ME feel comfortable. And if I do ask for advice? Constructive and helpful – never harmful. In my mothers words, “Joanna is a breath of fresh air”.

28. We have snuggle time.

Okay not really, although I totally would if she let me. When we do have sleepovers (yes, these still happen), her partner gets sent to the sofa and guess who bags the double?! Not only is this more comfortable, but it also means I get to hear her sleep-talking. Sleep-talking…possibly her only flaw.

Man that was easy, I should have written this post aged 40.

I realised something extremely important about our friendship over the years. Not only have I taken her friendship completely for granted – the same way you would with your siblings/parents, but her qualities have provided something real and sustainable. I couldn’t fail the test of friendship with Jo because I’ve mirrored her; she brings out the best in me.

Also, when analyzing men I’d fallen for, they’d never been my friends. Drive, money, looks, charm –  shallow attributes – substance barely there. And then I realised – if I sought a partner who had even 3/4 worth of Jo – I’d find a mate for life.

But, who cares about all that when you have a friend like mine. Knight or no knight, I’m counting my blessings in the form of twenty-eight.

 

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Rise of the “Selfish” Woman

Four women sat around a dining table cupping spherical chalices. Over a warm brew they divulged dark and delicate secrets: four estranged women, comforting each other. Amidst the personal exchange there were two main common denominators present: 1. Each woman felt implicitly smug that she was in every way self-sufficient and 2. Each woman also harbored a precious wonder hidden between her legs, lo and behold: The Vagina.

In a couple of months I’ll be turning 28, two years away from the big three-zero. As a child I earnestly believed life would lead me to marriage and a family; that by thirty I’d have a house, a husband, a baby and maybe even a backyard swimming pool. Basically, I’d be attached, because without human attachment females are incomplete, right?

Unashamedly, my aspirations haven’t changed. I still want the house, the spouse, the sticky, pudgy, gap-toothed baby and yes, a hot tub would be nice. It just so happens that these particular dreams have been placed on hold for the long haul and I can’t guarantee they’ll ever manifest. At the semi-wise age of 27, my concentration goes toward the bettering of self – not that marriage and/or children stops ones personal growth/ambition, but it does prevent the freedom to be effortlessly selfish.

I now view marriage as a deliberate social construct: man made, non-attainable. Don’t mind me, I’m just the bitter outcome of a girl who saw the empire of her family collapse; who’s seen love transcend into deep dislike, over and over again.

*Side note: This will never stop me from getting hitched – if anyone loves a big party it’s me and I already have a theme in mind!

Having worked for a variation of prestigious companies, the amount of women I’ve met above thirty without husbands or children, is vast. No, these women haven’t been “shelved”, they just haven’t prioritized conventional ideals. Driven, intelligent, formidable women, their ambitions aren’t solely to find “the one”. Besides, they’re far too selective and rightly so; fueled by determination and vision…I think I’m low-key one of them.

It is assumed that my age has peaked underlying sensitivity. One of the first questions people ask at social gatherings is “Have you met anyone yet?” to which I reply “Nope”. Suddenly their eyes widen with a deep, deep sympathy and they retort “Aww. Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll meet him soon. There’s someone out there for everyone”. Mate, did you not just see me back five tequilas and slut drop my way to the main table? I’m living the dream here, your sympathy is inconsequential. Pity me in the morning, when I’m too hungover to walk to the fridge and have half of my face smeared into the pillow.

Joking aside, it’s a little strange that a culture I deem open and progressive is still obsessed with a woman’s biological limitations. As if in order to be a complete, fulfilled female one should get married and procreate before a certain age – otherwise her life will be sentenced to eternal failure and misery.

I’ve lost count of the women I know who literally do it all. They run a home, raise children, work full-time jobs and come home to make dinner. One of these women, my step-mum, wakes up at 5am each morning and doesn’t hit the sack until 1am that night. Personally I couldn’t do it, but kudos where it’s due. The first time I single-handedly looked after my little brothers (they must have been around two and five at the time), I didn’t have a single moment to think about myself. Drinks were spilling, toys were flying; food was burning and I was exhausted.

How does one find time to think of self if her life is spent thinking of others?

My parents have both advised me NOT to get married: an alternative stance to say the least. Still, the lack of pressure is appreciated: I have some figuring out to do – goals to meet – which couldn’t get done if not for time out. On the subject of love, how can I guarantee somebody right today will still be right tomorrow? Especially in this constant phase of self-development and change?

Men are encouraged to be selfish, fact. They are programmed to think independently and thrive – no deadline for when and if they should settle. When I was a child I was given toy kitchens and dolls, my brother: cars and guns. Our parents didn’t intervene when we chose to have a swap session but still, what do you think was the message perceived?

When my dad met my mother he was forty – she was nineteen. Her family encouraged her to wed because A) He was Western and B) He had money. There was nothing unusual for an Indian woman to be married off at her age, nor was it unusual for a British man of his age to not be married. By 23 years old my mother already had two children; seventeen years on and my dad had two more, a reminder that men don’t succumb to biological pressure and based on that, they can do whatever they like for as long as they like: winners every time.

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My mother, who grew up in India and moved back in 2007, had plenty to say about the unfair social behaviors cast upon women:-

“From what I’ve seen, men are encouraged to travel, hang out with friends, have varying hobbies, drink, take drugs as well as numerous sexual partners. Women on the other hand are seen as whores, labeled as “gone cases” or alcoholics should they indulge in anything deviating away from home duties.

Men are trained to earn money, fight wars, lead countries; think politics and sport, while women are encouraged to help their families, cook and clean. You can forget going out after hours with friends, you’re more likely to be married off and forced to breed before you’ve even hit your twenties. 

Decision making in running this planet doesn’t seem to be an option for Indian women. Instead, they are mostly confined to their physiology and identities of mother and wife. These roles are selfless by nature. Men, even while being fathers and husbands, are unlimited in their choices.

If you look at history, most enlightened beings i.e. Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, etc are men. Why is it just man who is capable of enlightenment? Surely as a species we are all enlightened or we are all ignorant or we are all both enlightened and ignorant at the same time?

I for one am uninterested in the words of man dictating terms and conditions laid out for women through biased perspective. And let us not forget the ignorance of women’s physical, mental and emotional states, including menstruation, childbirth, postnatal depression, menopause and so on. Unfairness has been cultivated for thousands of years so man can do his thing and women can support man doing his thing. I am pleased it’s changing and whilst I have fought to be selfish, you can be selfish more naturally – thereby being equal to fellow man, if not superior ;-)”

*Mic drop*

Yes mum.

If you’re still feeling a little unsure regarding the message in this post, I’m going to number the shit out of this conclusion:-

  1. A woman should not be shamed because of her age. We are all getting older and one day we will all die. You + me + your dog + your nan + 150 years = Dead.
  2. A woman does not need to have children, nor a partner to be fulfilled.
  3. A woman also does not need a thriving career, nor a hefty salary to be fulfilled.
  4. A woman does not need to be pressured by her peers, friends, family to settle down and pursue “The One”.
  5. A woman, should be able to live her life however she chooses, the same way men do, with no outside judgement or interference.

I guess I should be more appreciative – I grew up in a country which advocates freedom of speech: nobody is going to kill me for writing this post; nobody cares that I’m writing it wearing a tight-fitting mini-dress. Still, I’m rather tired of witnessing female oppression: whether you see it or not, it’s there.

When my mother left my dad, she was criticized by all. I grew up hearing everyone slate her choices, fight and freedom. Nobody blinked an eye at my dads mishaps because his liberation was given, not earned.

Typical.

We now have access to ongoing projects offering female-support; countless texts and programs encouraging empowerment and it’s about fucking time. Unfortunately, “we” is not enough. There are women all over the world subjected to gender apartheid – everything from the way they dress to the way they walk is dictated. They are bullied, tortured and ostracized and in some places even made to sit at the back of the bus. Sound familiar? And let us not forget about FGM and Death by Stoning. Where’s the humanity? Where’s the fairness? Where’s the equality?

But don’t worry, because change is coming. Rise of the”Selfish” Woman: where a woman does whatever she wants, whenever she wants, however she wants and no individual will stop her. I see the rise of this woman every day, because she stares straight back at me; almost fearless.