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.

Dear Self

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Dear Self,

I’m struggling.

There are times I feel unfulfilled, drifting almost. What am I still doing sitting behind a desk, aged 27? I worked for that degree – is this what it amounts to? I feel condescension from others; undermined, unseen. I resent the way the world is: ruled by finance, met consequently with a dithering respect for others. Our success, definitively based on hierarchy;  means equality for all is presently unconceivable. Want respect? Go into your place of work and ask the cleaners for their names – it’s a two-way street, after all.

I should be grateful, right? I’m on a wage that’ll grant me a mortgage within two years; a stress free job means I can focus on writing. I’m comfortable; stable and yet, I have nothing figured out. Thoughts niggle at me to achieve more, be more; one goal met and it’s on to the next…

Am I striving for myself, or the benefit of others? Am I fixated on proving a point in the hope I’ll win accreditation? Ultimately, will such approval enhance the way I feel about myself?

I’m exhausted by this way of thinking.

Struggling.

I’m hearing so much about death and illness that all I can think about is death and  illness. Scared I may die before achieving anything, I fear departing from my loved ones. I try to consider an existence without my mother and I swear, it is the loneliest thought conceivable. In my head, I’ve attended nearly all of their funerals. I’ve said my goodbyes and witnessed caskets being lowered into the ground. Suddenly I’m awake, crying on the train; the man opposite me stares awkwardly at my pain – he’s reluctant to offer me a Kleenex.

I. Am. Struggling.

Is something wrong with me? I built castles around a guy to whom I was invisible. If I had known he wasn’t interested I would have spared myself the embarrassment. I’ve spent years being closed, withholding emotions until finally: I deemed someone worthy. Recognizing myself in him I became interested: his earnestness, seriousness; authenticity. Unfortunately, I was met by a rude awakening. I recognized myself because I knew him not at all.

His rejection made me feel transparent. I felt looked down on and undesirable. Stupid for having even tried…

In a world where transparency is scarce, I was hopefully optimistic. They said that unless we connected physically, all other forms of “connection” were irrelevant; amplified.

I wonder – if we had taken it there – would what could’ve been materialized? Would my feelings be then justified?

***

Dearest Self,

You do realize no-one’s got it completely figured out, right? Plus, how many people set themselves homework and meet their own deadlines? The first piece of work you ever shared was then published yet you’re full of self-doubt – why? Nobody is forcing you to do this – you do it for yourself. You make time for what you love and that’s admirable, thrive. 

Be patient with yourself, you’re not on borrowed time. In the space of two years your writing has climbed; you’re not doing it for nothing. And when you tell people you want to be a writer, they ask “what have you written?” And you provide: An ongoing blog, two (nearly three) publications, countless poetry and work you prefer to hide. You’re on the right track, keep it up, with pride.

As for worrying what people think of you, have you met a person who isn’t self-conscious? Thank god for self-doubt because it keeps you grounded. If you walked around saying and believing how great you were you’d be fathered by Kanye West. Believe in yourself without being arrogant – there’s a line between the two. 

The most important piece of advice I can give is this: fuck everyone. If they doubt you, they don’t know you (you won’t remember them when you’re at the finish line anyway). When you peak success, (which you will, ’cause you’re determined), be graceful. Remember everyone who uplifted you along the way, treat every human being with kindness. Acknowledge others, irrespective of their job title. If you want to make your parents proud, that’s all you need to do. You’re not cut from a cloth intended to strangle people. 

I promise you are fine.

You worry so much about death and illness because you love being alive. You enjoy life so much that the thought of letting go scares you shitless.  Don’t berate yourself for that. You have so much love around you; a loving family, supportive friends – you’re grateful and you should be. You’d be a sociopath if you were fine saying goodbye, regardless, unless something happens, what’s the use in worrying? We’ve all got a shelf life, that’s why it’s so important to cherish who and what you have. 

Rather than preparing yourself for the worst, visualize the best; find comfort in it. Do whatever you need to keep yourself fit and healthy; everything which can’t be controlled needn’t be thought of.

You’ll deal with whatever life throws at you, you know this.

Oh dear, you sensitive, sensitive girl.

Don’t hold on to feelings of resentment or bitterness just because he wanted something different. It’s rare for a person to culminate sincere feelings stemmed from a place of innocence – you did – which was sweet, albeit naive. Our society is desensitized – they hook up and move on – they’re not going to understand your depths. Next time be more private, don’t share anything with anyone – their interference won’t be beneficial. 

What’s with the embarrassment? You wanted to bring another person happiness, you needn’t be embarrassed for that. 

The way he handled the situation was insensitive – he could have been gentler, kinder. Still, he’s human – far from the immortal you’d built up in your head.  Plus, no point welcoming someone who didn’t ask to be invited. You don’t want to host a disinterested visitor, do you?

Look at it this way, you’ve lost nothing. He didn’t manipulate you into bed or promise you the world. Sure, you harbored feelings which weren’t reciprocated but then, what kind of writer would you be if not romanticized?

As far as not feeling good enough – stop there. You have everything to offer and more. You judged someone based on your own standards and they couldn’t reach them – next!

I promise you this: I won’t let you settle for anyone or anything other than the best. A person worthy of your time won’t waste it. So let go and before you know it you’ll find your hands full. 

Love yourself.

Love,

Your Self ❤ x

Hype Culture

Last week I lay in bed, unable to sleep, when I scrolled past Kylie Jenner posing with some bright blue bear-shaped hair supplements in her mouth. Now, the last thing I need is hair supplements – having the Indian gene leaves one with no shortage of hair (I’m actually undergoing hair laser to avoid continuous maintenance). Still, whilst I didn’t buy the bottle, I did lay there feeling curious. I thought about ordering some, simply for taste. To put a few on my tongue and take a full-faced,  triple-filtered selfie and show everyone my deliciously bright blue gummy bears. Luckily, with the knowing that spending £25 on Kardashian branded vitamins would be a complete waste of time and money, I set my phone to flight mode and let myself drift…

I wish I could bury my brain in the sand so that I didn’t spend sleepless nights worrying about the world; beating myself up for not having even tried. I couldn’t call myself an activist due to the missed protests and countless times I’ve stayed silent baring witness to ignorance; a belief that monthly donations will be a sufficient way to “play my part”. Sometimes it’s just a matter of not knowing where to start: which cause is weighing heavily on my heart and do I have the emotional capacity to tackle it?

HYPE CULTURE. I’m a born and bred Londoner who understands that whilst our country has seen brighter days, we are by far one of the most privileged. The fact that we mostly feel safe enough to live here enables us to neglect widespread contextual issues; most of which we view through manipulated images, scattered along the pages of a third-party source. We understand things as if they aren’t really happening; are we being accurately informed or simply brainwashed? Is the aim to make us fear or keep us grossly entertained? Whatever truth is out there, there’s one thing for certain: our culture permits us to focus on whatever we want…Bullshit.

I’m trying to emphasize how much time we spend giving to those who don’t need our attention, closing our eyes to the ones who do. It’s a deliberate trap which we fall for every single time. Here are some first hand examples on what I’ve labeled as HYPE CULTURE – the nonsensical trends some can’t help but follow:-

1. Trendy hashtags. It doesn’t take more than five minutes for me to scroll through Instagram before finding images of acquaintances using hashtags such as: #Yaaaaas, #Slay, “#Lit, #OnFleek etc. WHO THE HELL made this a linguistic trend? I’m guessing Kylie Jenner but still, can we try to be a little bit more innovative? The majority of these words aren’t even words! Meh, #HatersGonHate.

2. Maya Jama & Stormy’s relationship. Okay so before my entire social circle disown and deny my existence, yes I find this couple cute and yes – they seem to be nice people. But still – COME ON! What’s with all the “Relationship Goal” retweets? You do realize that it’s very common for two young people to stay together for a couple of years, right? Perhaps we idolize them based on our own obsession with celebrity culture; buying into ideals which may or may not be a true reflection of life.

I’ll tell you who really is #Goals though – My best mate’s parents. Not only have they been together for 30+ years (raising three children, three dogs, one cat and invested in properties), they’ve maintained a healthy relationship. They have date nights, go for walks, hold hands….communicate. The goal to achieve a marriage which can withstand the test of time whilst remaining in love, for me, is real goals. And whilst I actually know these people, I would still never retweet their couple photos. #Weird.

3. Ridiculous chart music i.e. “Strawberry Champagne” & “Swalla”. Agh god, can somebody shoot me in the face already? Has anyone even listened to the lyrics of these songs? Looking at my library on Spotify anyone would mistake me for a 70 year old because I just can’t handle what’s in the charts. I get that I’m sounding very much like a stereotypical bitter grandmother but it’s as if these songs have been created to annoy me. And everybody’s singing them. Stop. The. Madness.

4. Veganism/Spiritualism. Please don’t commit murder and later serve me up as steak: the first vegan I ever met was my mother. 15 years ago my brother and I were the only vegans in town and everyone treated us like aliens ’til we caved and started eating meat again. Let’s be honest though, it does seem like everyone has jumped on the spiritualist bandwagon i.e. “I’m spiritual because I do yoga and I’m vegan”. I was kinda feeling it until I realized I was being looking down on by those who were “conscious”. Consciously annoying more like. Just because you eat bags of kale whilst standing on your head doesn’t mean everybody has to do the same to be “enlightened”. Live and let live brothers and sisters. Or write a self-righteous blog. Namaste.

5. Branded Clothing. I stepped out in an Adidas T-shirt recently and EVERYONE went bananas like “Wow Chelsea! That’s a strong T you got there” or “Oh my god babe! Wicked shirt!”.

The top was fake.

It was fake and nobody realized which made me wonder: if nobody can differentiate between what’s real and what’s fake, why are we pouring money into high brand labels? Aside from stating the obvious (they’re trendy, we like them blah blah), what’s all the fuss about? Are we suckers for advertising? Mainstream media? Fashion? We don’t like to admit it but we’re inadvertent followers, throwing money into the palms of large corporations; getting frustrated when we can’t deposit a 1 bed London flat. Sigh!

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6.  Finally, my biggest critique which I am so compelled by I MUST ADDRESS: Snapchat Filters. Ah yes, the best way to ruin a girls self-esteem. I am sick of countless filters adding halos, garlands, red lips, pink lips; all that jazz.  I know it all seems like a bit of harmless fun, but think about how many of us have changed our profiles using generic benchmark filters. You reckon we’re doing so because yellow floating leaves above our heads is a good look? Or is it because we believe we look better once reconstructed by a filter? These filters refine your nose, remove your bags, lighten your skin; enlarge your eyes. It’s disgustingly demeaning. Strange world though, look how fast we are to jump on the hype and normalize this trend. Thanks for correcting everything physically wrong with my face, Snapchat. The pressure to adhere to current beauty standards isn’t hard enough already.

 

I know I probably sound really negative and moany right now, it’s just that I’m constantly having to remind myself that there is more to life. I’ve stopped being the girl who ignores her friends at dinner whilst staring into her smartphone; I start to feel curious about meaningless hype and resist ’cause I’m scared to fall in.  Maybe I’m stating the obvious but it feels we develop habits without questioning why we’re doing what we’re doing; we allow ourselves to be swayed; to follow. We lose our uniqueness to cultural trends and numb ourselves to things desperate for our attention. Obviously, we are all free to live how we wish, but having that freedom can be taken for granted. This is ultimately the reason why I’m touching on this, because I want to stay substantially present. I want to feel alive rather than numb and so, whilst I may never be a leader, my days of following are far long gone.

Welcoming Brian

“Will you be coming over tomorrow?”

“Mmm not sure, maybe”.

“But you have to – it’s my birthday”.

“I’m not sure Bri, we’ll see”

“Okay then.  See you tomorrow”.

Over the weekend I met a girl in her late teens, who mentioned having to meet her dad and his new girlfriend. I asked if she liked the girlfriend, to which she replied “not really”. I asked why not and she said “I don’t know, just don’t”.

I laughed. I remember feeling similarly towards my own stepmother (stepmother: a word my family hate but use to socially appease) and advised the girl to give her dad’s new girlfriend a chance. “You might be surprised how things develop over time, you may even grow to care for this person”, I encouraged. The girl looked skeptical, but then, I once did too.

Things are rarely as black and white as they seem. Stepmothers aren’t always wicked and conniving and stepdaughters aren’t always wholesome and innocent. Humans are complex; sometimes we act out in unkind ways but that doesn’t necessarily mean we are unkind people.

I remember when my stepmother fell pregnant for the first time. It was a bizarre experience because I desperately wanted to be happy for her, I just couldn’t. I struggled with the concept of having a new sibling, despite having grown up with the woman who carried him. Despite the fact that I loved her. I was resistant to change, clinging onto ideals of “being the youngest” and “only girl”. I didn’t want to share my parents or be forgotten.

Suffice to say, I didn’t know how I would feel about Brian, my unborn baby brother. Would I love him the same way I loved my older brother? Would he accept me as his sister or would I be like a distant relative with a broad age gap? Could I be a constant figure in his life? Or would we drift apart, like other siblings do?

I needn’t have worried.

The moment I laid my eyes my baby brother, I was a goner. I remember my stepmom, Grace, laying in the hospital bed with a small white bundle in her arms. Peering closer, I saw this tiny little being with little round head and my heart. Just. Melted. Quite honestly, I remember thinking he looked like a little white mole (obviously he’d only just been born and had to share oxygen for 9 months). Still, he was perfect.

It was love at first sight. In those few moments I realized that my small brother was totally innocent; he held no malice. His birth subtracted nothing from my life and quite pleasingly, added the elements of love, happiness and comfort.

And the love grew stronger. After Brian learned to walk he would run around the room with his arms held out and then straight into my arms. He would cry if it were time to leave the house and jump excitedly on my return.

Even if I’d tried to resist, I would have been won over because he gave his love so freely: a love which hadn’t been invited but just pushed itself in, (these include all the times he would hide in my cupboard and barge in at 6am). I was not ready for how much joy he’d bring to my life but based on his existence, I’m constantly reminded.

Brian’s arrival bought the whole family together. It’s as if he and Bradley (our youngest sibling) were the missing components to find our families resolve. Shortly after Brian’s birth, my mum and dad found peace with each other. We began doing things as a whole (birthdays, holidays, lunches etc) and did so for enjoyment over obligation. Our conception of family ideals were rebuilt: when you’re able to put aside petty differences; when you let go of hindering grudges; you are met with a new found stability.

Speaking of wholes, I’m really uncomfortable referring to my younger brothers as “half”. When outsiders try to distinguish between being “half” and “full” i.e. “They’re your brothers?! They don’t look like you!” followed by “Ohhh they’re your half-brothers, so that’s why”. I find it extremely unsettling.

Perhaps calling someone your half-brother or sister should be scrapped as “a thing”. So what, because my brothers and I share the same dad should I love them half as much? We may not share a biological mother, but they’re my blood and I claim them fully. Measuring in halves need not apply when it comes to relations, it encourages uncertainty and confusion.

Whilst I believe my youngest siblings sparked a new era, it took a lot of patience and understanding for my family to get here. I used to worry about how they would cope during celebratory functions; baring guilt if I made one parent feel more important than the other. Needless to say, we’ve reached a place I never dreamed we could be and whilst don’t conform to religion, I prayed for it.

 

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Valentines D(ism)ay

I’ve been seeing myself for a little over two years now and I have to say, things are going pretty well.

My relationship with self however, was recently disrupted. How dare this person interrupt the euphoric equilibrium I’ve worked so hard to create. For the first time in years, I’d developed all the feels for a guy who on paper seemed perfect, or rather, based on the mental ideals I was projecting on to him.

I went through my mental – and, regrettably superficial – checklist and there wasn’t a single box he didn’t tick. Intellectual? Check. Good job? Check. Confident? Check. Handsome? A chiseled beauty mate.

Reflective, considerate, kind? Err…

The last three things are the most important. You know, the ability one should have being able to reflect internally and externally, to consider how their behaviour may affect others; to have a wider understanding of our planet and not be solely confined by restrictions of first world capitalism.

Well, it was too soon to tell and I was optimistic.

The last few weeks made my head (and heart, sigh) spin; I was shocked to experience all the feelings I hadn’t felt since my first love. I couldn’t believe that at the wise old age of 27, I was suffering from a case of love sickness. It scared the shit out of me.

For starters, I became fully in tune with my bodies chemistry. Each time he would say hello or ask a question, I’d blush so hard I’d have to turn the air-con on: it’s still winter. I’d hear my heart beating in my ears as if I’d done a treadmill marathon and hopped off; you know, that feeling where you try to walk properly after a run and it feels like you’re walking on the moon or something? I lost like half a stone in two weeks because the butterflies in my stomach were so ferocious I was scared I might throw up. Despite my panic, it was a reminder of an aliveness one provokes; that the right person will be the catalyst to a vast opening of reintroduced, uncontrollable feelings.

The right person.

Initially I was sure the attraction was mutual because his gestures showed that he liked me. He sought a way to connect, his interactions seemed sincere and earnest; it was refreshing. But it was hard. Every effort he put into knowing me better I would close up. It wasn’t a case of “well if he likes me, let him chase”. No, I just felt too goddam nervous.

Generally I’ve been good at communicating. I’m not particularly shy; on first meetings I’ll always give warmth, make effort; I’m open to those who connect. But with him, I reverted back to my adolescent self. I would end up being rude, asking what he wants, reenacting that whole school girl thing when you diss the guy you like because you don’t feel in control. I didn’t know what was up with me…Well actually, I knew exactly what was up with me.

Like many areas in life, I’d been unconcerned. Uninvolved in choosing the guy and letting him find me. After one too many lessons, I delved into self-protective mode. I didn’t want to open the door and not be taken seriously; fun and games aside, life is real.

When I commit someone, I commit fully. I go into love wholeheartedly with the intention to support and build, hence why I’m initially slow and observant. I don’t have patience nor desire for male frivolity or flakiness. If my time isn’t pursued with sincerity, the guy gets a pat on the head and friendzoned, byeee!

It’s an intense revelation, I get it. I’ve been left so cold in the past by love that I questioned whether I’d turned into an ice-cream. Like what the fuck?! I have feelings? Oh no, not those wretched feelings again, making my head melt down the sides of my body; filling up my cone with a sweet and gushy sentiment.

I could certainly do with a tub of Haagen Dazs right now.

There’s too much to the story to mention, which is a better move anyway because discretion in courtship is key. For instance, I could mention the time I attempted flirting and ended up insulting his attire (wtf, who does that?!) Or the time I called my mum in tears and said “Mum, he said hi and I’ve fucked it all up”. “Why, what did you say?” “I said…oh god it’s just awful… I said…good morning!”

Seriously, couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.

Anyway, all’s well and good in the losing game of love because he proved to be what I feared he would be: a disappointment. The guy who showed such promise; unfairly placed on top of a pedestal for fairytales and expectation, crashed down into a sea of mere mortals. Who would have known that this smooth and suave guy would end up being just another inconsistent and flawed human being? Fucking ridiculous I tell you.

There were two occasions where he belittled me. The first was fair game because 1) I had successfully sabotaged every intention to reciprocate his efforts and 2) I unintentionally compared him to an alien because I thought the alien was a scientific symbol (yeah – long story). As a result, I was told (with others present), that I would be looked down on and ignored at every future opportunity. As you can imagine, like most strong, independent and savvy ladies, I retaliated with a phenomenal defense of “O..kay” and then burst into tears. Fortunately, the storm in the teacup settled and I managed to return back to my semi-normal awkward behaviour.

The second time was less redeemable.

I was in the pub before meeting a friend when suddenly, the god of all gods walked in: clouds of smoke and lightning bolts. At this point I’d already had two glasses of wine; safe to say I was on my way. He didn’t acknowledge me, nor I him. Twenty minutes later it was hometime; I needed the loo and had to walk past.  Don’t be rude, don’t be a dork; polite and cool, you got this. “Hey! How’s your night going?” I asked, met by the response: “Why are you talking to me like I’m a retard?”

Eh?

I began to nervously babble about him being rude and myself, needing a piss, to which he replied “that’s not very ladylike is it?” and “It’s not my problem you have social anxiety”.

Okay, somebody contact rehab ’cause this dude’s been smoking crack yo!

There were two things playa did which made his fall from grace a mighty one:

1. How can somebody remotely educated slam a word like “retard”? If used to expel or suggest indignity, the word is extremely upsetting. It’s possible I was slurring due to being a little tipsy but still, he wanted to shut me down and I hadn’t even tried to provoke him yet.

Secondly, what was the social anxiety remark about? To tell someone who you suspect might have social anxiety, that their social anxiety isn’t your problem, shows a lack of empathetic concern. Comments like that are what give people social anxiety in the first place, idiot.

Had I actually suffered with social anxiety (which for a brief while I did), this comment would have kept me housebound. And don’t even get me started on the whole “ladylike” thing. As if having a vagina makes it socially unacceptable for me to pass urine, yet guys will get their penises out and have a field day urinating willy nilly. That shit pissed me off, literally.

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As a child I was brainwashed to seek out partnership and romance – not my parents doing but courtesy of the media and school. Compare a film like Disney’s Sleeping Beauty  (1959) to Moana (2001) and you’ll witness progression regarding a woman’s life ambition.

It’s not right to expect Prince Charming to straddle up and sweep me off my feet; he doesn’t exist; I’ll be waiting for life. Plus, do we ever really know what’s in another persons mind? We only really know our own intentions, feelings, desires etc. For all you know, I could be totally overthinking the whole thing. Maybe he was just trying to be funny. Maybe I’m being a complete and utter drama queen. Maybe.

As cynical as it sounds, I’m more comfortable keeping everyone at arms length until they prove themselves worthy. The good news is, my prince-not-so-charming woke a writers block spell just in time for Valentines. As a thank you gesture, I’ve decided to send him a giant bunch of thorny roses; leftover fragments from my tired, aching heart…

…Perhaps not, but the sentiment’s still there in Land of Make Believe.

Weight Off my Mind

The other day I stumbled across an article which read: “18 Amazing Untouched Photographs of Marilyn Monroe” and, acting from a place of minimum interest, I clicked an image which showed Marilyn laying in bed with her arms up. “Holy shit”, I thought. “That’s what I look like – but she looks amazing!”

I’ve always had a complex about my arms, even at my skinniest I felt they could be thinner. I began this phase of self-judgement as a fifteen year old, when I overheard some friends at a party discussing how big my arms looked. Despite redetermining my friendship group, it seems that even twelve years on I’m still witnessing the same negative physical attitudes.

As I went on to read the articles comments, I was reminded that any body adhering to a rounder shape would immediately be rejected. “OMG, look how swollen her arms look!” and  “Jesus, somebody needs to photoshop that shit!” were left in response to the post. I’ll admit, I did contemplate for about 2 seconds whether I should just live off air and water for the rest of my life but then I thought, fuck it, I’m keeping with the notion of being real and am going to finish this doughnut.

I blame the media for feeding us limited standards of feminine desirability. For instance, even when the exception is made i.e. Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian or Nikki Minaj – all celebrated for being curvaceous – their curves are only desirable for being in the “right places”. There’s been a so-called shift in mainstream attitudes given that it’s okay to have a round ass, however, if your waist isn’t small and your stomach isn’t flat, don’t expect an invitation to the hot bodies club.

The pressure bestowed upon women to physically conform is astounding. Mass control; where the only females we see on billboards, in film and in advertisements are below a certain size; thus setting unfair limitations regarding what we should class as normal or even worse, better. Our vision can’t adjust to seeing rolls of flesh on screen; when a fuller size 12-14 makes an appearance, we label them as “heavy” or “big”, segregating them from their dainty peers.

Our society is such that unless a certain shape, women are ostracized and sneered at for dressing in attire “unsuitable” for their figure. Where people think it’s perfectly acceptable to say “OMG, did you see what that girl was wearing? Her thighs are chafing together in those shorts!” or, “She’s hot but she’d be even hotter if she lost a few pounds”.

Sorry, who asked for a fucking running commentary on the shape of another persons body, or how they choose to dress it?!

Unless somebody asks for advice on their appearance, no need to offer shallow and unwarranted comments. If you’re lost for words stick to safe subjects such as the weather or your dog. It’s not rocket science, I’m sure most people are aware they need to eat more greens and do cardio to reach that “physical ten”. But you know what? Maybe they’re comfortable as they are. I know I certainly was until people started filling my head with their own unkind, neurotic thoughts.

Don’t get me wrong, if you want to work out seven days a week and feel better for it then please do, just remember the same freedom applies for those preferring to stay at home and bake. Let us be kind and embrace one another for who we are, as opposed to how we look.

The benefits are countless when it comes to exercise and nutrition; whilst it’s important to retain balance, my main priority is far from trying to “look better”. I am constantly trying to find the happy medium between work, friends and family; beating myself up for not doing enough writing; setting myself goals and how to reach them. I can’t afford to lose any more sleep over a mere shell; the way outsiders respond to my body or letting them affect the way I feel about myself.

I’ve had stretch marks for as long as can remember and though they’ll probably fade over time, I’ll have them forever. They’ve been a way bigger deal in my life than they should’ve been. Stretch marks occur because the skin has stretched during weight loss or weight gain, no biggie. They are as much a part of my body as anything else, so why have I found them so hard to accept?

The few articles I’ve read to normalize stretch marks only do so if the women have had children. I find this is offensive. ANYONE can have stretch marks: men, women and children alike. Again, it has everything to do with skin type and weight fluctuation. They are our bodies way of adapting to physical changes; they needn’t be rejected.

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My arm before being photoshopped, my hips before being airbrushed.

It’s a shame the world hasn’t invented a filter for real life; women are constantly being told they’re not good enough. We hide our faces beneath makeup and our curves beneath dark and baggy clothes. That said, if I want to wear a pair of shorts this summer I’ll do so without plastering my legs first in sun-beige foundation: stretch mark and cellulite galore baby! Like it or like it.

Our culture spends SO much damn time focusing on the outer shell, idolizing celebrities who do little to promote awareness outside of a self-indulgent bubble. It’s all well and good, but why?

Try to imagine meeting your best loved celebrity: there they are, airbrushed and contoured, smiling and perfect…and then they step on you. They believe you’ll never be as good as them, boring you with stories of how beautiful everyone finds them. They claim you should eat more salad ’cause it will help you gain more insta-likes. They look down at your hopes and dreams, because in their mind without “looks” you’re inadequate.

Is such behaviour worthy of admiration?

Sounds extreme but I’ve met many people like this, who think they’re better than others because they fit some kind of man-made, mis-represented illusion. Personally, I think they’re lost, conceited and boring. Their energy is ugly and it drains me; they go from swans to scary monsters in a heartbeat.

A word of advice: remove the pedestal from beneath the feet of those who walk past you and the ones who walk all over you; this includes our friend, the media. Idolize those who inspire the good change, place more focus into your loved ones. Try to go deeper by sorting out your nature, cause no amount of bronzer is going to fix your soul.  The most beautiful people I know are the ones who consider the feelings of others, who can acknowledge when they’ve fucked up; who work on themselves from within.

Dearest Media,

FUCK YOU.

Sincerely,

A living, breathing, real-life girl.

 

 

 

 

The Power of NO

A friend of mine recently recalled several interactions (with the majority of them happening on the underground), where men have found it appropriate to cop a feel of her because well, they’re disgusting pigs. At the time of conversation we were having a laugh about it because A) These situations have  been and gone and B) My friend has “balls” of steel and punched every single man in the face who put his hands on her. Obviously she’s my hero.

Upon reflection, I  started to remember times where I have also been subjected to unwanted physical contact; how powerless I felt within these moments. When I was 16, I remember getting off a bus and this guy with trousers hanging below knees and a creepy smile to match grabbed my bum and hopped off with me. In reflex I remember screaming “don’t touch me!” and his response: “Well you shouldn’t be wearing a skirt that short”. In those days I thought very little about consequence and could easily tell someone to fuck off. In reality, that guy was towering over me – physically bigger and stronger; if he wanted to assault me he could have.

Another friend of mine found herself on the daytime tube (what is it with men getting brave on public transport?) and the man opposite her decided to have an explicit fondle. There were about 6 other passengers on the carriage that day. These are the sort of men who have been so sexually repressed that they exude normality regarding sexual harassment. They do not care whether they are in public, or how uncomfortable they make other passengers feel: their goal is to overpower and intimidate. They literally get off on the notion that they can do whatever they like, whenever they like, to whomever they like. No.

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The same friend also told me that she’d witnessed a man rubbing up on a girl in front of her and mouthed to the victim “Is he trying to touch you?” The girl replied “I think so” and so my friend began to video him, making sure the harasser was named and shamed. What concerns me is that the girl just stood there feeling timid and small. She felt so scared and overpowered that even on a train packed full of people she couldn’t defend herself. She’s not the only one – there are countless young women who’ve experienced assault without reacting.

I think it’s time self-defense classes were introduced as a compulsory part of the national curricular. 

Over the years I’ve found myself in situations where distant relatives, family friends and even friend’s boyfriends have crept up behind me and acted over-familiar; from massaging my shoulders, to holding my hand longer than a handshake requires. Instead of plucking up the courage to just say “You’re making me feel uncomfortable”, I’ve simply shrugged them away, stunned. It’s pretty clear that as women we’ve been trained to endure far more than we should. We’ve been taught to be respectful, polite, courteous and graceful at all times. And I’m fucking sick of it. It is every persons right to take full ownership of their body: if you don’t like somebody touching you in a particular way – don’t have to let them, simple.

My best friend doesn’t like hugging strangers and avoids the whole “London greeting” thing, when we stand up and kiss strangers on either side of the cheek. Whilst this is a notion I’m pretty much comfortable with; people shouldn’t have to abide by “political correctness”  if it makes them feel uneasy. If we allowed people to be more authentic in the way they relate, perhaps women wouldn’t find themselves being silent when a man touches them in an inappropriate and over-familiar way.

So, my question is, how as women can we protect ourselves if we feel threatened? The solution should be easy but it isn’t; we’re too scared to offend, confront or be judged.

I started talking with my mum about possible solutions (FYI, whilst growing up my mum would directly ask men to stop staring at my chest, which I found SO embarrassing) and together we acknowledged the powerlessness women are subjected to.

I live in London, which means that if a man tries to touch me up on the train, I can defend myself and feel confident that most will offer support. But what about the rest of the world? The places where women undergo rape massacres, female-genital mutilation; stoning-by-death and nobody responds to their cries. Countries where women aren’t allowed to drive, work or roam the streets unless accompanied by a man? Where girls younger than 12 are married off and forced to breed whilst they themselves are practically babies?

It’s all too overwhelming to comprehend. Imagine, if I feel uncomfortable because I’m too scared to request my own personal space, how on earth are women with zero support ever going to find their collective voice?

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not encouraging you to start displaying extreme behavior by turning up to meetings and then refusing to shake your clients hand, or meeting your boyfriends parents for the first time and then attacking them with the barbecue griddle should they reach for a hug. What I am encouraging, is to put the barrier up when you feel uncomfortable.

If a man tries to feel you up on the train and you find yourself stuck, tell the nearest person to you. Regardless of who it is: family friend, friends boyfriend, teacher, colleague etc – if you don’t like the way they are behaving towards you, your instinct is probably right.

I’ve been writing about women for over a year now and  STILL I am a hypocrite: I haven’t yet mastered the power of no. If a person is confident enough to put their hands on you, then you should be confident enough to tell them not to. And if they persist? Well, that’s how you know the uninvited attention isn’t harmless. That’s when you know something truly isn’t right and you’re entitled to take action: Pepper Spray £12 on Amazon and bricks are free on Gumtree. You’re welcome 😉