Review : The Break by Marian Keyes

 

breakThere are times when your mind is filled with traumatic life issues and you need to find a trashy novel that doesn’t require too much mental capacity (maybe just a Matric certificate though!) to escape your reality and make you feel better about your sad little existence. This was one of those times.

The Break is the tale of Amy, a 40-something PR executive whose husband Hugh has decided to take ‘a break’ from their marriage (hence the title). Hugh emphasises that they are not breaking up and this is just a break. The parameters are set for a defined – he is taking 6 months to travel around South East Asia and after this time he’ll return a fixed man so they can pick up where they left off (oh, and he’ll possibly sleep with other women if he gets the chance). There is no room for negotiation. He is leaving – bags packed, tickets booked and those all-important announcements made of social media. Poor Amy doesn’t have much choice in the matter.  Although the feminazi types may demand she stand up for herself and refuse to let him dictate the rules, the truth is they are old(er), have 3 kids and financial assets together so throwing your toys out of the cot isn’t much of an option.

As much as she left with no other option but to accept the situation. There is a silver lining (kind of).  She is also free to do what she pleases during the 6 month break. Although to be fair it really isn’t a level playing field as he swans off to sow his wild oats in Thailand she has to schedule sexy time around balancing a job, her old parents and her three daughters. On top of that, the story reminds us as much as we may call for a break in a relationship it’s something that’s easier said than done especially in the age of social media where your life is no longer just your own but a form of entertainment for everyone around.

Ultimately, behind all the funny bits, the story supports the idea that in reality relationships don’t always conform to a given model. There is a lot of pressure for people of all ages to keep up appearances for the sake of those around them whether that means kids, parents, friends or just general society. But sometimes as unconventional as things are you have to just go with it and let life take it’s natural course. People are sure to judge you no matter what you do but the truth is as much as people may think they know your life as it is portrayed on social media nobody really sees what goes on behind closed doors. The elements that could be described as possibly the more mundane parts of a relationship – the friendship, understandings, familiarity, day to day division of labour and the in-jokes.

So, if your looking for an easy read and a little bit of reassurance that not everything has to fit into those parameters that society wants human relationships to conform to then this  is just what. It’s not highly intellectual reading but a pretty good reality check with some great LOL moments thrown in.

Rinsers, Have you read the book? What are your thoughts? Are you someone who’ll try different things in order to make a relationship work? Or do you think there is a set formula for relationship success? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

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Defining Success in Relationships – Is a Break Up/Divorce Necessarily a Sign of Failure?

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“Marriage is about two things: sexual satisfaction and building generations. Nothing more. Only useless people are thinking about love. The result of a love marriage is never satisfactory. Divorce, arguments, affairs. These things don’t happen in arranged marriage. Arranged marriage is always successful. Love is for useless people. But if you’re going to feel love, at the very least, make sure it’s someone of a similar income level.” (Jaipur, India)

– Source : Humans of New York

So a few days ago the picture/quote above from Humans of New York (why the hell it features people from Jaipur now, I’ll never know) popped on my Facebook feed. I shared it for comedy value and it seems it got people thinking about our approach to marriage and relationships. Although I have become a little more realistic (read:cynical) as I’ve got older/had more horrific dating experiences, I think I am still, and probably always will a bit of a hopeless romantic aka USELESS PERSON (you can blame Disney!). So I basically took what these elders said as a bit of a giggle but is their any truth to their wisdom? Does arranged marriage have any benefits? Is the pursuit of love necessarily such a good thing? And most importantly how do we define success in terms of a relationship/marriage? Lets break it down in today’s post.

The importance of sexual satisfaction

You’ve got to give it to the oldies. I like that they’ve got their priorities in order. Regardless of whether you marry the person you love or its a set up sex is hugely (wink wink) important. The fact that people stay in loveless relationships because the sex is mind-blowing and that prostitution and porn are still such big business – speaks for itself. The oldies are right sexual satisfaction in a marriage/relationship is important (unless you are one of those strange religious nuts that believes you only have sex for procreation and not for pleasure! – Gawwwwd they don’t know what they are missing out on!).

Look, I don’t know the intricacies of arranged marriage systems so feel free to correct me here. But I was under the impression that the couple meet, decide that the the other person isn’t a complete troll and is a viable husband/wife and BOOM the wedding preparations begin. Now where does the sex factor in that? After the I Dos? If that’s the case then arranged marriage is a risky business if you ask me. Imagine marrying a guy and only learning on wedding night that he is in desperate need of the little blue pill. Ugh. Also, while the media may portray sexual satisfaction as something that happens just like that, I hate to break it to all the virgins in the room but it doesn’t quite work like that…as with a lot of things in life you have to be willing to work at it. Again, if you marry someone without having a clue about their sexual prowess how are you to know whether they are willing to make the effort to keep you happy in bed or if it’ll just be a case of wham ban thank you mam… and sleep!

Building generations 

Ugh the most talked about issue amongst the Baby Mafia. Making screaming little bundles of joy (read: stress!).  Is creating a mini-me really that important when it comes to who you marry/date? Yes and no. If your life-long dream has been to be a mother then sure you need to find someone who wants to be your baby daddy (and perhaps arranged marriage can assist you in making the correct decision – do fertility tests come as standard in these matters? #just saying!).

That said, it may come as a shock to some people but nowadays there are actually folk out there that don’t intend on making babies. I mean can you blame them? Imagine bringing a child into a world dominated by war, stupidity and water scarcity issues! Then there are also those that for whatever reason (pragmatic or philanthropic) don’t feel the need to have a biological child but instead plan to adopt one of the millions of babies that are in need of a good home.

Finally, this may also come as a surprise too but you don’t need to be in a relationship/marriage to get knocked up. For some it’s a case of spreading their legs one drunken night after the club and 9 months down the line – there is bubba with no baby daddy in sight. Or alternative paths such as – IVF, sperm donors, surrogates….thanks to advances in medical science we no longer really need a piece of paper/another person to make babies.

Oh, so a question for the arranged marriage supporters? What happens when you marry someone you don’t know all that well and it turns out they are firing blanks? Can you get your money back/file for divorce?

Arranged marriages vs. pragmatic dating choices – is it all that different?

From what I gather about arranged marriages is that it is first and foremost about finding someone who looks good on paper. Comes from a good family. TICK. Educated. TICK. Good genes. TICK. Can provide you with 10 cows. TICK. The list goes on.

Is it all that different to what we do these days when it comes to online dating. Think about all the filters you can set on OKCupid for instance. Ethnicity. Religion. Education Level. Political allegiance. Income level. Food preferences. I have to say I think the modern day system maybe more sophisticated here when it comes to getting rid of the deadwood.

Even if you think in terms of organic dating subconsciously we probably have our own little filters we use to reject those we have no real desire to end up with. I mean simply by looking at a guy with his wonky teeth and crooked nose one can write him off even before he speaks. Learning that a person has no matric certificate is enough to make someone run a mile without even considering that he may be street smart.

The Finances

Related to the point above. If you do pursue love how important is it that your partner is your financial equal? Hmmm….tricky one.  Of course in the fairytale world, they never discuss the cost of getting a bond, running a car, raising children, etc. But in real life those things do come into play. Having dated my fair share of broke asses I’ll be the first to tell you that money does matter. And you know what? Saying that doesn’t make me a gold digger. While money certainly makes life easier it won’t solve problems or fix  a relationship that is destined to fail. Even if your parents set you up with a millionaire whats to say he’ll be willing to share his fortune with you ? No such thing as a free lunch remember.

More important than cash money itself is a persons attitude towards it. I think for a relationship to succeed two people need to be on the same page when it comes to their finances. You have to understand the way your partner thinks when it comes to spending/saving. It’s no use having a guy who wants to splurge all your hard earned cash on holidays while you want to put something by to purchase your dream home.

Defining successful relationship

Finally, how do you even begin to define a successful relationship/marriage? The result of a love marriage is never satisfactory. Divorce, arguments, affairs. These things don’t happen in arranged marriage. Arranged marriage is always successful.

I beg to differ here. You think people in arranged marriages never argue or have affairs? Really? Things happen behind close doors and just because people are able to put on a front about being happy doesn’t mean that they actually are.  Just because a marriage doesn’t end in divorce doesn’t make it a success. Staying put and crying yourself to sleep every night isn’t success. It’s misery.  If divorce/breaking up means walking away from a situation that doesn’t serve you or positively enhance your life that isn’t failure. Remaining in an unhappy marriage for the sake or your children or because you fear being ostracized by society may be noble but it can’t really be considered a success.

All in all, depending on how you look at things arranged marriage may not be all that different from our modern dating practices. As much as people may deny it, most relationships these days are based on pragmatic decisions not necessarily just some abstract concept called love. That said, having babies and being sexually satisfied aren’t really the best basis for a solid relationship if you ask me. And finally whatever the case, the success of a relationship shouldn’t be defined by whether it ends in divorce/break up or has blips along the way. Its better to have a ‘failed’ relationship/marriage that you have somewhat fond memories of rather than end up dying stuck in a relationship where you despise your other half.

And breathe. OK Rinsers. Over to you. Do you think there are some advantages to arranged marriages? Do you think people who believe in love are USELESS? What elements do you think it is necessary to have a solid partnership? How would you define a successful relationships?

Movie Review : The Power Of The Heart

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A friend of mine invited me to watch a non-mainstream movie called Power of the Heart on Sunday. The synopsis described it as an ‘unparalleled and life changing film about the astonishing power and intelligence of your heart’.  With a description like that you can’t blame a girl for expecting great things. Sadly being somewhat of a cynic, I just thought it may provide some good matter for my rinsers (and I know I haven’t reviewed anything much in a long while).

So let my start by telling you a bit about the demographic of the audience. The movie was sold out…not an empty seat in the whole place (well maybe one cos someone spilled ice cream on the it so nobody wanted to sit there and get an ice cream butt!). Yeah, so the audience was predominantly made up of middle aged, middle class soccer mom types. There were a handful of guys (probably been dragged there by their WaGs) and one young boy who was there was his parents (probably trying to provide him with some inspiration to find a chick and settle down). The demographic made me quite sad.

The movie was introduced by a lady who basically preached a little about her theory on following our hearts rather than our heads when it comes to all sorts of life decisions. She was a hater of the school system claiming that it teaches kids all the wrong things (ugh, can’t deal. I’ve dated enough uneducated fools (and lived in Observatory long enough) to realise that while the school system may need to be worked on people should certainly not be encouraged to turn their backs on formal education. Anyway now onto the main feature….

So the film is a documentary which features interviews and stories from famous icons such as Paulo Coelho, Maya Angelou and Deepak Chopra all of whom give their take on why the heart is more than a simply organ that pumps blood around our body. It also features the experiences of some normal people including a lady who survived the Rwandan genocide and a family who lost their daughter in a car accident but were still somehow able to connect with her through the recipient of her heart through a transplant operation.

The idea being promoted here is that the heart has the ability to know what is best for us and listening to it will help people transform their lives and experience success  in areas such as their relationships, health and business. They also say as result of people being forced to conform to certain socially engineered systems we somehow manage to lose this connection to our heart and it gets silenced.

There were parts of this theory which were backed by evidence from scientific experiments which proved that our hearts often know about something before it happens. In terms of relationships, one interesting thing the movie brought up was that people needed to stop actively looking for love but rather focus on figuring out their identity and then letting love come to them. This is a nice idea and all but I’m not sure it holds true in the age of internet dating.

All in all, I thought The Power of The Heart was an interesting movie. The ideas were certainly somewhat thought provoking. However while I think listening to your intuition/gut/heart is important it isn’t always the best. Perhaps it’s because I’m an overthinker but in real life  there are times when as adults we need to weigh up the facts and analyse the reality of something working out before jumping in head first. I also guess it depends on the area of our lives we are dealing with.

For instance, when it comes to love if you try to find fault in every potential relationship then I’m sure of one thing, you’ll die a virgin. It’s OK to follow your heart, especially when you are young, because even if it turns out to be a mistake you can learn from it. However, when it comes to our careers, I think at some point we need to get real. I know a lot of people that have/had dreams of becoming successful writers, life has forced most of them to downgrade this dream to a side project (read: blog!) while pursuing another (possibly related) career path that helps them pay their bills. I thought the movie was a little selective in that it only chose to focus on people that had experienced real life material success . I mean it’s easy for Paulo Coelho to preach to budding writers about pursuing the dream of writing novels but I think the perspective of thousands of authors who died without seeing their work published or earning those millions would paint a totally different picture.

Honestly, if I look around me I can think of lots of examples of writers, poets and musicians, etc who have chosen to work on their craft/follow their dreams and at the age of 50 something haven’t actually amounted to much and rely on others (people who did jobs that the economy demanded) for handouts. The reality is that having dreams and following your heart is great in theory but as we grow up we also have responsibilities which may mean our dreams have to be sidelined on occasion. Sometimes you may want to do/be something but its also important not to delude oneself (honestly there isn’t enough space in the world for us all to be the next J.K.Rowling). So yeah, the movie was interesting and provided food for thought but I also think that the ideas it was promoting was somewhat irresponsible. Still, go see it as it’ll give you something to talk/rage about.

OK Rinsers. Have you seen Power of the Heart? What your thoughts on these topics? Do you think we don’t listen to our hearts enough? Does society make us fear uncertainty and always opt for the safe route? Should we always do what makes us happy or is there sometimes a need to do something boring/responsible? Answers below.

Entitlement Issues – Why The World Owes You Nothing

 

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There is no such thing as society…There are individual men and women and there are families’.

Maggie Thatcher famously made this statement in 1987 and even though I was only one (ish) at the time for some reason it resonates with me. Perhaps it’s because I’m a cold-hearted biatch just like the Iron Lady herself? Or that I live in a world where certain people feel the need to rant and rave, making a huge political statement about their personal issues on social media?  If it isn’t your local bergie DEMANDING that you cook them a hot meal (because even though they are starving a peanut butter sandwich just isn’t going to cut it), it’s a kid without a Matric certificate asking to be hooked up with a job just because they need a bit of cash money , or my personal favourite – the god-awful Baby Mafia wittering on about why the government can’t give them 7 years maternity leave (cos apparently that’s how long you need to breastfeeding – you wonder why we have to deal with so many Mama’s boys these days!), it seems to mean that everyone and their dog these days is ENTITLED.

Yes, the world is a bit of a #shithole and life isn’t fair – BooHoo!

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the world is a wonderful place. It really isn’t. To be honest it’s a bit of #shithole. In my humble opinion, people really need to start thinking twice about whether they really want to be bringing precious little people into a world where the likes to Trump and Zuma are in charge and where it seems there is some sort of perve at every corner. On top of this, life is not fair. I wish it was but it isn’t. We are not born equal. Some people are born into poverty or to parents that couldn’t care less while others are born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Some of us are blessed with brains, others have beauty, a lucky few have both and sadly some people have neither. But basically, it’s all bit shitty.

Sure, the government should help level the playing field 

I have to say, I’m in agreement with good old Maggie’s thoughts when it comes to society. It’s pretty much a social construct and basically a bit of a fictitious way of organizing people and trying to get us delinquents to behave. Sure, the government has a responsibility to help level the playing field. Providing things like basic education and healthcare works in the country’s favour because a bunch thick shits and sick people aren’t much good for the economy now, are they? That said, not all governments think the same. Politicians are a bit corrupt. Like most people, they generally look after themselves and their own family/network of corrupt buddies first (what she said about individuals and families). Some countries the governments have the means/will to function better than in others but still they are under no real obligation to provide everyone with EVERYTHING they need.

Oh and that thing we call society? It works as far as it serves our own needs. Think about it. Honestly, how many people would you lay your life down for? I could probably count them on one hand, if that. And her is some food for thought for the Baby Mafia, who are ever so keen to have the childless members of society foot the bill for them to stay at home and cuddle bubba all day.  Think about those miracle stories about mothers who somehow manage to lift burning cars in order to save their babies. These chicks aren’t necessarily the types benching 200 in the gym now, are they? No. It seems they only manage to find these hidden BIG MAN muscle strength when it comes to their own kids, but it’s hardly like they run around saving randoms all day. Go figure.

Regardless, some people will still screw up and look for excuses (and other make a success of themselves against all odds)

Even if the government/society/the Bank of Mum and Dad gave a person every opportunity there are those that would still manage to mess things up royally. Shit happens to the best of us. But there comes a point when you need to stop blaming the rest of the world. Yes, blaming racist Maths teacher that held you back a year when you were 12 for the fact that you don’t have a Matric certificate at the age of 35 isn’t really going to solve anything. Night school will though, but let’s rather just take the easy way out and play the race card. On the flip side, you’ll find that there are people who are dealt a rubbish hand but manage to handle all the knock backs with grace and come out more successful and fabulous in the end. I guess it’s what you want to make of a situation.

Life is also about making good decisions and taking accountability

The most basic decision has the potential to impact our lives in the most profound of ways. Think of that movie, Sliding Doors. The choice about whether or not you stay at a party for an extra drink could be the difference between you meeting the love of your life or going home to cold bed. Similarly, the career path we choose, where we choose to live, the connections we choose to make all effect where we end up. So take accountability.

If you happen to have a rare set of skills because of what you chose to study or you marketed yourself well, you might find you are hired by a company that provides great benefits because to them you are irreplaceable. If on the other hand, you are one of those that  followed your dreams (or just do sweet F.A with your life) and got yourself some bog-standard arts degree like millions of others, don’t expect anyone to keep your job open for 7 years or whatever. It’s supply and demand. Economics 101. Deal with it.

So it’s up to us to make the best of the hand we’ve been dealt

So to tie up this rant on entitlement. Basically, nobody owes us anything. Not government, not charity, not the neighbour down the road and not even the selfish parents who bought you into this world! Life is pretty much like those lucky packets you get when you are child – you never know what you are gonna get but sure they’ll be a some trash involved! While it may suck to be born girl in man’s world or be an ethnic minority in a place which is not truly color blind, you may be blessed (well, pre Brexit days) with a British passport and half decent family that don’t want to kick you out of the house the moment you turn 18. We all have to make the most of the resources we have at our disposal. As for the Baby Mafia rants – well yeah it sucks that William and Kate get to pop out heirs to the throne without having to worry about maternity/paternity leave but that’s not the reality of the rest of us plebs. People need to evaluate their situation before they choose to spread their legs rather than complaining about the government/employer/family/friends/random charitable folk aren’t supporting you to play house for a few years longer. None of us are entitled to anything. So if you want something enough, you make it happen and if not you spend you life bitching, moaning and complaining on social media.

What are your thoughts about our entitlements ? Do we have the right to demand things from the government/our family/friends/randoms, etc? Or should we really just fend for ourselves if we want to get something sorted? Go wild in the comments below.

Flirting, Secret Signs and Making Something Out of Nothing

fliritngSome people are great with the matters of the heart since they’re teenagers and they can always see through people’s intentions. Most of us, however, need some experience to learn to recognise whether the person we’re interested in is also interested in us. Others seem to never learn.

Secret Signs or Wishful Thinking?

When I was young I used to develop crushes. I’d observe the person I liked and convince myself that he was also interested in me. He smiled, he said “hi”, he replied to something I said – anything really could be interpreted by me as a sign of him liking me too. I could go on for weeks on one secret sign making up a whole story of our future together in my head. I was probably the biggest dreamer in my friends group but other girls weren’t much different.  We would talk and talk and talk. Nothing would really happen with the boys, though, regardless of our overblown expectations.

Most of us once we gain some experience with people who are actually interested in us, realize that these people don’t send secret signs. The behavior of a person fancying someone is rather obvious, often to other people too. Of course, you have people who are more shy than others but even they manage to send a subtle yet direct message. The lesson here is that if you have to look for secret signs in someone’s behavior, seeing them is most probably just wishful thinking. Realizing that will make you save a lot of your precious time. He/she may be amazing but you need two to tango.

Meaningless Flirting

In some parts of the world, making eye contact with someone of opposite sex is pretty much expressing that you want to marry them. This isn’t the case in the Western world. Looking at someone may mean that you appreciate their physical beauty, that you find them repulsive or that you like their pants. On its own it’s truly meaningless and so is flirting. Whether someone is making small talk or actually flirting with you, it means that he or she is potentially interested in you in some way. However, even someone who flirts with you every time he sees you isn’t making you a promise. Being interested is one thing, being interested enough to actually make a move is another. Unless the person makes a move or reacts positively to you making a move and you two end up on a date, there’s nothing to write home about. Sure, it’s irritating if someone you fancy is not truly following up but you should take such behaviors at face value. You guys are flirting and that’s it. Enjoy it for what it is. There’s no promise than anything else will come out of it so don’t get hang up on it.

Making Something Out of Nothing

There’s this saying in Polish that translates into “When there’s no fish, a crab is a fish”. It applies perfectly here. Part of the reason why my female friends and I, as teenagers, would make something out of nothing was that we didn’t know many boys. We went to a predominantly female school and even if we increased our chances of meeting men by attending karate classes, after eliminating all the guys who were our fathers’ age and/or married, guys our age with girlfriends, the undatable ones and the crushes of our friends there still weren’t many men left! In other words, if you liked a boy and there were some chances that he would like you back, fantasising about him actually didn’t seem like a terrible idea. The difference between this situation and an adult woman describing to everyone a guy at the gym who smiles at her as dating potential, is massive. We had not much choice! Adult men and women have so many opportunities to meet other people in our modern world. There’s work, there’s social life, there are limitless activities no one will judge you for taking up on your own, clubs related to your hobbies, let alone online ways to make friends such as MeetUp or regular Internet dating. There’s honestly no excuse these days not to give oneself enough possibilities to stay cool as a cucumber till something is really happening (as opposed to: in our heads)!

To sum up, secret signs are good for teenage crushes and not for adults. Flirting is just flirting so hold on with telling everyone and their dog about your new potential relationship because it’s far-fetched and embarrassing. Last but not least, make sure your social life is busy enough to give you enough opportunities not to turn into a crazy stalker just because someone smiled at you.

Do you know people who as adults still can’t see clearly in terms of opposite sex? Are you guilty of too much wishful thinking?

What If You Don’t End Up With The Love of Your Life?

Dear Abby

‘You’re not my ex, You’re the love of my life’ 

What would you do if you heard such words? Would you :

a) slap the fool and burst into tears

b) throw yourself into his arms, say all is forgiven and sail away into the sunset

OR

c) Say ‘Well, sadly for you those two things aren’t always mutually exclusive’, have a bit ponder, write a blog post about it (then swiftly move onto bigger and better things!)

Fairy tales and Hollywood movies have us all hooked on the concept of ‘Big Love’. You know, the kind of story where your eyes meet across a crowded room, a twist of fate results you both walking down the same street and the same time or he sweeps you off your feet and takes you on a magic carpet ride. Of course, these stories contain a few hiccups and miscommunications along the way, a village full of provincial fools that has decided your guy doesn’t look quite like a Prince so they try to slay him or some ho-bag that tries to get in between you and your man. Whatever the case, because this is ‘The Love of Your Life’, everything falls into place, you iron out the issues, punch the bad people in the face and subsequently live happily ever after. THE END.

But the thing is in real life, love doesn’t always work out that way. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a total cynic (yet!). Probably because I’ve been there and done that, I still believe in (elements of) Big Love. I still believe there are real life stories that are worth telling your grand-kids (although I honestly doubt they can ever involve Tinder).  However, as we all know things don’t always go plan and there maybe some alternatives to that happily ever after bit. Yes, if you are lucky, you may only ever fall in love once in a lifetime and  marry that person, move to the burbs, adopt a puppy (because happily ever after MUST ALWAYS involve puppies) and perhaps pop out a few of those crying things.

Sadly though, the world isn’t fair and we don’t all get dealt the same hand. So here’s what those fairytales don’t tell you. Sometimes we do meet the ‘Love of Our Lives’ but we don’t necessarily get to stay with them forever and live happily ever after. Ugh, surely this makes that little girl inside of you wanted to stomp the feet and burn all the Disney memorabilia she ever owned! I’m sorry!

The truth of the matter is that in the real world, love doesn’t conquer all. Sometimes the people we love do unforgivable things. Love may not resolve every conflict. It certainly can’t cure Cancer. Love doesn’t always bridge religious or cultural differences either. There are also times where love can’t fix a person who is totally off the rails, unhinged and  determined to self-destruct. And what about when life pulls you in different directions? You want to pursue a career that takes you around the world and they are happier living in a small town close to their family (mummy’s boy! Jokes!). It is possible to have ambitions that are bigger than a relationship. And sometimes you are forced to let go of someone you love because it’s best for them or for the both of you. And there are other instances where you have no choice in the matter whatsoever.

But none of this means that the love wasn’t there in the first place. The fact that you don’t end up together doesn’t mean that the whole thing was nothing more than some stupid farce. While the end goal may (or may not be) happily ever after, just because you didn’t get the result everyone is after doesn’t mean it was all for nothing. If it was even partially a good experience that you can look back somewhat fondly well then it’s probably better some of those seemingly solid marriages out there.

So, yeah you don’t always marry the ‘Love of Your Life’ but it’s not the end of the world. Who knows what the future holds for any of us? Maybe that particular chapter was intended to help us grow up and know how to act when a more pragmatic match came along? Perhaps it was a pretty important stepping stone on the yellow brick road to happily ever after?  Or what’s to say there can’t be another ‘Love of Your Life’ around the next corner. Because those fools who wrote the fairy tales may have just forgotten to add the plot twists. And even if you don’t get the white dress and the dream wedding, at least having an epic story to tell is better than dying a virgin!

So Rinsers…Do you think it’s possible to have a the ‘Love of Your Life’ but not end up with them? Or do you believe that if it really is love it will conquer all? And is it possible to have more than one epic love story in a lifetime? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

“Hi. Do you want to be my friend?” and Other Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Woman

doucheThis post is going to be slightly ranty in nature. Perhaps I will express in it, however, some struggles that women deal with daily.

Last year, I decided to start a writing group. I’m a part of an expat community and at the time it seemed like a good idea to start it there. A part of starting such a group is introducing yourself to the community, which obviously makes sense. How otherwise would people find the group? When I created my spammy introductory message and sent it to the members I expected to be mostly ignored. After all, most people are not writers. Surprisingly, a lot of those who received the message did reply in a very polite way refusing or accepting the invitation. I felt for a bit like the world was a nice, welcoming place.

After the initial wave of nice replies from both genders, I started to be contacted by various men, who clearly didn’t think the message was sent to everyone. In their opinion, it seems, I have sent this personal message to them specifically. Must be, because they’re so hot and I’m lonely and confused as ladies often are. “Hi there. Thanks for the message. I’m not a writer but how about you give me a call on XXXX-YYY-ZZZ?”, “Hi! Don’t do much writing but I’d love to meet up for a coffee”, “Hi! Not a writer but do you have plans for New Year’s?” and my favorite of all, “Hi! Thanks for the message. Do you want to be my friend?”. Eventually to protect my privacy and prevent these people from reaching me on other channels, I changed my surname to initials only. Then I realized that I made a terrible mistake and I didn’t wear a potato sack on my profile picture nor had I  focused on demonstrating a clearly visible sign of belonging to another man. I updated my profile picture to one in which you can see me, my husband and my wedding ring (hint for the more determined types: this man next to me is not my brother). The messages stopped. I never wanted to be this person who defines herself by being married or in a relationship. As I have written before, merely being in a relationship isn’t an achievement.  At the same time, my life is just easier on different networks if I have a profile picture with my husband.

Men are so disrespectful, treating women like commodities they find in a shop. Oh, what a nice pair of shoes! I’ll just touch it and try it on to see whether I like it. WHAT? This pair of shoes isn’t looking for an owner? What a ridiculous pair of shoes! It needs one! Oh, I see they have one. Nah, that’s okay then! I’ll just keep looking. Many men think about women in such terms. She can be approached at any time if she’s not taken and any opportunity can be used for it. Whether a woman is single or not this is very annoying.

Dear men, the list of ways in which a woman shouldn’t be approached include:

  • Hi.
  • Hi, you’re hot.
  • Hi, you’re pretty.
  • Hi, do you want to be my friend?
  • Hi, wana do coffee?
  • Hi, wana move to my country? I pay for everything (true story)

There are very few women who like to be approached in this way. Sure, being complemented on beauty is nice but it’s also nice to be treated like a human being. There are millions silly ways in which a man can strike up a conversation with a woman, which have nothing to do with her looks. She’ll still know you mostly just thought you like how she looks like and had a good feeling about her but will feel nicer that you put some effort into a conversation starter. If she doesn’t seem interested, just let it go. Also think twice whether you should hit on anyone at all. Are they sending you a message that they’re potentially interested? Perhaps she really just wants to have a glass of wine on her own in a bar. A woman isn’t a child that cannot be left on her own. Last but not least, if someone is being friendly or invites you to join their writing group, they may be actually doing what they say they’re doing. At least try to take this possibility into account.

I’m done for today, Dear Rinsers. Any thoughts welcome!

 

 

 

 

How to Set New Year’s Goals

new_year_goalsI will lose 20 kilos, quit smoking, stop drinking, hit the gym 7 times a week…! Sounds familiar? Perhaps you’re also one of the people who try to make radical New Year’s resolutions every year and find yourself failing in week one and giving up entirely? Is it even possible to set truly life changing goals? I think so, you just have to be a bit more patient.

The biggest problem with achieving New Year’s goals is that people tend to be aggressive and not really realistic about setting them. I don’t know how it goes for you but how I used to do it is I’d watch an inspiring video or listen to a motivational speaker before the new year and decide that “I can change EVERYTHING”. And so I would decide to get abs, quit smoking, cut out negative people from my life and write something substantial. I would even make a proper plan how to achieve those goals because everyone tells you they’re meant to be measurable. Year after year, however, I would fail in achieving any of them. Then I realized that often it’s difficult to know what’s an achievable goal. 5 kilos for one person is more difficult to lose than 20 for someone else and if you spent your life being a walk over you won’t become a champion in assertiveness over night. You only learn what’s too much in the process so as slightly more vague goal like “I want to eat healthier” or “I want to learn to say “no”” isn’t a bad idea. Therefore, I decided to try to be more gentle with myself and just make sure that I’m heading in a good direction.

The year I actually ended up quitting smoking was the year I cut down cigarettes first. As a box/two box smoker I failed every time I tried to go cold turkey. My lungs would really suffer from such a quick withdrawal, I would be sad, extremely irritable and very very hungry. That particular year by cutting down I had a nicotine free life by March with minor side effects. I’m still a non-smoker after almost three years. I think part of the problem with setting goals is that people (in life, on TV, in books) often encourage us to have the big change NOW, while often a small step today will give you more long term. If you have ever done any of the this “change in 3 months” courses or read such books you should know that it never really works this way. You can jump start your development with a 90-day solution but nothing gets done in such a short period of time. A lasting change takes time and sometimes requires mini-steps, especially if a habit has been a big part of your life for a long time. In other words, for instance, if exercising is not a part of your daily routine, you may get ripped in three months but you’ll probably also lose your mojo after that. With such experiences in mind, I’d say that a part of setting good goals for New Year’s is deciding on your direction and steering your life there. Very few people manage to move from couch potato to a fitness enthusiast in few days. Don’t make a resolution to hit the gym every day, rather try to exercise three times a week and upgrade it when you realize that you enjoy it. Part of staying on a good path is realizing that your life is getting better thanks to the change. This is the whole point of resolutions, isn’t it?

Another thing which I find important in achieving goals is choosing things that make sense for us. Life’s busy and perhaps learning 5 new foreign languages next year isn’t what you should be spending your time on. I think a big reason why I’ve been failing at a lot of my goals was that I just didn’t care enough about them to keep going. The abs resolution is a good example. Yes, it looks great when people have a ripped tummy but it’s not an easy thing to achieve. It’s not only about exercising a lot and focusing on this part of the body but also about  being very rigorous with what you eat. This is why, as much as I want to be fit and eat healthy, I probably will never have perfect abs. This goal is just not important enough for me to keep myself in check all the time and skip an occasional treat. Don’t set goals you don’t care about because the problem with one failed goal is that it changes your mindset to “I’m a failure”. If you’ve set ten goals that year and you failed at one, you’re actually less likely to achieve the other ones. This is why it’s super important to set a few non-aggressive goals around things that matter, if you really want to see yourself changing.

Last but not least, you need to want to change. I know it sounds trivial but it isn’t. All the times I tried to quit smoking before I actually managed to do it,  I didn’t  really want to get rid of the habit. I was thinking that it’s a good thing to quit smoking because it costs me money, harms my health, stinks and for many other reasons why everyone thinks that smoking is bad for you. I was reasoning with myself that I should do it but I didn’t want to do it. The last time I actually decided that I didn’t want to be defined by an addiction anymore. It still wasn’t easy to quit but when you tell yourself “Yes, I can have this cigarette but it will make me want to smoke more and I don’t want to be a smoker”, it has much more power than saying “I shouldn’t have this cigarette”. Remember that “Resistance is futile”. The rule applies to any other goal like, for instance, learning to cook. The element of wanting and not feeling forced (even by oneself) is crucial. I’m not saying that it’s impossible to force oneself to do things, it’s just easier to achieve goals if you consider them to be a a choice based on what you want, rather than a necessity.

To sum up, good goals are those which may be a bit vague but slowly but surely take you in the desired direction, which you actually care about and which you can internalize as a “want”. Good luck with your New Year’s Resolutions! Also, please don’t forget that any time of the year is good for goal setting so you can reuse this post later in the year, if you find it helpful.

Any thoughts on the topic, Dear Rinser? Do you have any success stories about goal setting? Maybe tips to share with others?

#FatGirlProblems : Is Fat-Shaming Yourself Wrong?

pig-face

For as long as I can remember, I’ve lived in a world that didn’t have much love for fat people. Yes, there are still places where carrying a bit of extra weight is considered attractive but I think most people I know would opt for a 6 pack and inner thigh gap over a bit of muffin top any day.  More recently though there has been some change thanks to the body positive people telling everyone to except their flaws and be proud of their wobbly bits. Ugh, I know they mean well but I’m not that sure I buy into it. As a girl, who like Bridget Jones, ‘will always be just a little bit fat’, I’ve always felt I had a right to be a self-proclaimed fattist the same way gangster rappers seem to be OK throwing the N-word around. It’s not like I go around shouting FATTY FATTY MORBIDLY OBESE FATTY whenever I see a chubby person scoffing down on a bit of KFC (although I may cringe a little or make a bitchy comment to #zlotybaby). That said, I honestly don’t think that anyone is in a position to fat shame another person into losing weight or getting healthy. Today though I want to  look at the whole issue from a different angle and question whether we have the right to fat shame ourselves?

Let me start by giving you a bit of the back story. OK, so for as long as I can remember I’v been on some diet or another hoping that one day in my wildest dreams that I would become the skinny chick that I aspired to be. After almost giving up hope and almost resigning myself to life as a glutton some sort of miracle occurred. Thanks to some wise (?!) dating decisions (and subsequently learning there is a better form of cardio that doesn’t require running marathons) I somehow managed to shed a few tonnes. As is customary nowadays, I decided to declare my achievement on social media with a #transformationtuesday picture. I also took it a few steps further by adding a pig emoji next to the before picture and using on favourite hashtags – #fatgirlproblems.

While most people showered my attempt to be funny about something I think people take too seriously with lots of LOLs, likes and loves, my un-PC way of doing things didn’t go down so well with everyone. One person in particular sent me a private rant saying that posting pig emojis next to fat people (the fat person was ME!) was immature, unnecessary and basically wittering on about why fat shaming anyone, including yourself is wrong. Although, as I said before, I don’t know why people can’t find better things to do than offer unwanted opinions (like the one just expressed above) on the state of another person’s body, perhaps it’s the Brit in me, but I don’t see any harm in a bit of self-deprecating humour. So for all the hard-core body positivists out there here are some of the reasons I don’t think fat shaming yourself is wrong.

It’s MY body

All around me I hear people wittering on about how they own their bodies and can flaunt them in whichever way they see fit. I am in total agreement. But by the same token, I don’t think criticizing your own body or wanting to change something about it is wrong either. Perhaps you are just over being the ‘fat friend’ or having insecure ‘men’ call you morbidly obese. If getting a revenge body (and associated public declarations about it) makes you even temporarily more happy or confident, then fat shame yourself to your hearts content I say!

FAT is not a life sentence (it really doesn’t need to be embraced)

There are certain things in life, such as one’s skin colour or gender, which can’t be changed without a lot of difficulty. While these things can certainly be regarded as disadvantageous or unfavourable depending on how you see things, the trouble you’d need to go to in terms of skin bleaching or a sex change are probably too much hassle for most people. In such cases, I think it’s better to embrace and move along with your life. However, when it comes to your body composition, I don’t believe anything is a life sentence. If you have an issue with being fat, it can be changed with the right mix of food, exercise and willpower. So just do it.

Fat-ism isn’t all that superficial 

Some may argue that all this talk of weight loss and revenge bodies is superficial. To some extent, sure there maybe some fakery involved. But surely losing weight by making some good lifestyle changes that have benefits for your health can’t be all bad? Exercise and eating well have positive effects for your health and outlook on life and even if you need to fat shame yourself on social media into getting started isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Don’t we all have a responsibility to promote positive body image? And where do we draw the line?

If you ask me it’s a matter of perspective. Yes, it is possible to be fat and fit. If my millions of miles of running has taught me anything it is not to judge a book by its cover. There have been many times when I’ve felt like a tortoise crawling in peanut butter as someone who was four times my size overtook me without breaking a sweat (and on the flipside I can’t say I don’t feel like high fiving myself everytime my chubby ass passes one of those gym bunnies with the perfect hair!). Basically, I think positive body image is whatever you want it to be. If you are morbidly obese and happily running marathons then as far as I’m concerned it’s better than being a naturally skinny person who sits around eating pizza and playing computer games all day (the pizza bit is fine, it’s the gaming I object too!).  There are people who are happy, healthy and just a little bit chubby but if you aren’t it’s OK to want to change things and maybe those #transformationtuesday images are just good inspiration for you.

Maybe it’s a case of those who can’t, only criticize 

The truth is we’ve all got things we’d like to change and we’re all on our own mission. Whatever it is you are trying to do with your life you experience hurdles as well as turning points. Sometimes the path isn’t linear and as hard as you are working you don’t always see results. So I find there is this tendency to be critical of someone else’s approach to things.

#zlotybaby put things into perspective by giving the following example. Imagine you were earning R5000 per month and had to listen to your friend who earned R10,000 per month bitching and moaning about how broke ass they were the whole time. Sure, it would be annoying. I get that seeing someone fat shaming themselves all the time may be a bit irritating, but I think if it really gets to you then you should just stop following them rather than offering your moral judgement.

People need to stop taking life so seriously (and pigs are super cool!)

The PC police take life way too seriously.  Bringing a bit of sarcasm and humor into a world full of drama and misery really isn’t the worst thing a person can do. If you can’t laugh at yourself and the things that people say about you, you are really going to have a tough time in life by making a battle of everything.

And, why exactly are there so many negative associations when it comes to pigs? They are actually super clever and amazing.

So, the point of all of this. I don’t think fat shaming oneself should be frowned upon. If you don’t like someone else’s self image and feel their use of pig emojis is so irresponsible then maybe just disassociate yourself. Everyone should be left to fight their own battles without any judgement. Being a little self critical is a good thing, it means we are working on ourselves. So basically, if someone wants to fat shame themselves into being fabulous let them and go fight some other battle.

Alright Rinsers it’s your turn. Is fat shaming yourself wrong? Does everyone have a responsibility to be PC and promote a positive body image? Do you think people have the right to call you out for fat shaming yourself or is that just another form of policing people? Answer in the comments below. 

 

 

 

Review – Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment

Why_Buddhism_Is_TrueYou may think that this book doesn’t belong here. After all our blog is about dating and relationships. However, I would argue that how we approach life in general and how much we act on autopilot of our programming has a lot to do in how we choose our partners and behave in relationships. A book about a tool that helps us to think before we do, is a tool that has its place on this blog.

Robert Wright’s book “Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment” is a much more down to earth book than the title suggests. Wright is also a very reasonable guy himself and has an amazingly dry sense of humor. He describes the perks of meditation from his point of view, which is that of an evolutionary psychologist. In his book he compares the ancient knowledge with what we know from science. As we are animals (just deal with it), we are ruled by natural selection. This means that most of the things we do have to do with how we’re programmed to perform. Natural selection’s goal is to make us reproduce, this is not a human goal most of the time (even if someone wants kids they don’t want to have kids all the time either). I touched upon this topic in my posts about pragmatism in love and rethinking romanticism, where I explained that butterflies don’t seem to be much more than our body yet again tricking us into reproduction. For the same reasons we are programmed to choose our kin above strangers, to label people and put them into us vs them categories and even to gossip. All these mechanisms were valid tools of survival in the hunter-gatherer society but they don’t serve us in the modern world. Meditation is a tool to undo some of such useless programming. I will not get into any more detail because a) Wright has already written a book about it and b) in his book he actually does a great job at explaining things.

Someone could say that the book isn’t a good manual for meditation but the fact is no manual is really needed. Maybe like me you’ve spent a lot of money on meditation courses, guided meditation CDs and other devices. They may help you but the truth is they usually just make you procrastinate. The simplest guide to meditation is: sit down, close your eyes, focus on your breath, when your thoughts appear don’t follow them but keep focusing on your breath, repeat it for at least 20 minutes every day. Ta-dam! Here, I saved you some money. The book serves a different purpose, however, and this is to help to popularize meditation as it is a very helpful device in living better and just becoming a nicer human being. Of course, there are a lot of misconceptions about meditation. People are scared that it will change them, deprive them of feelings and other things. Wright answers to all of these concerns in a knowledgeable manner of someone who not only studied the subject theoretically but is also a regular, yet not heavy, meditator.

I recommend this book to anyone, really. As meditation is challenging in the beginning and often counter-intuitive as it’s not a part of the Western cultural heritage, it’s good to read a book that explains in a (not overly) scientific manner the benefits of meditation. I can only tell you that it’s really worth it. I may be still far away from being the person I’d like to be but both myself and my relationships have significantly benefited from my meditation practice.