Movie Review : The Bookshop

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I’ve always thought there was something romantic about libraries and bookshops. Once upon a time I even dreamt of bumping into my Prince Charming in such a place. Well, that was until my innocent mind was ruined thanks to the Netflix series –  YOU (I really owe y’all a review on the one).  Anyway so its understandable why a film titled ‘The Bookshop’ would appeal to me. It also stars that Brit legend and silver fox, Bill Nighy, which added to the appeal. So I dragged #zlotybaby along to see said film on our last date night. And let’s just say I doubt she’ll be letting me make movie choices again anytime soon.

The protagonist of the story is Florence Green, played by Emily Mortimer. At first glance, she is a somewhat dowdy looking, wouldn’t say boo to a ghost type. Not quite a 30-something virgin but a bit of loner since her husband died in the war. Despite appearances, she does actually have some spirit because she is willing to go against the grain to pursue her dream of turning a decaying building into a bookshop in this butt-fuck nowhere village somewhere in Blighty. Anyway, she comes up against a lot of passive-aggressive opposition from other major players in the village.

One of her first customers is Mr Brundish (Bill Nighy), a slightly eccentric (he burns the book sleeves with the authors pictures on – strange) recluse whose major love is books (especially since his wife didn’t drown while out fetching blueberries to make a pie for him). At some point, the Mr Brundish and Florence strike up a ‘friendship’ and he is pretty much the only person willing to champion her cause and help her fight to keep the bookshop open.

To me, it’s not exactly clear why the villagers, led by some sour-faced old hag (played by Patricia Clarkson), are soooo against Florence’s bookshop. Even though most of them seem a bit backward, they obviously can read because they buy the books from Florence’s store. I guess, a part of it is to do with them being a bunch of conservative twats and not wanting a single woman running a business and corrupting their delicate minds with her dirty dirty books…

The movie got some awards and lots of smart, film buff types said good things about it but honestly… I don’t know why. The only thing I could take away from it was firstly, that it’s possible to meet the love of your life in a bookshop (because Flo did after all!) but then he may die and you are basically doomed without him. And secondly that the world really hasn’t changed that much since the 1950s, mainstream society really doesn’t have much love for born-again virgins (we worked out that it was unlikely that Florence got laid in about 16 years and for Mr Brundish it was probably about 55 years). Sure, they touched hands at some point in the movie but that was probably the most action that either of them (or perhaps that whole god-foresaken village) had seen in an awfully long time.

Perhaps I’m just a little too basic (or sex-obsessed) but I wouldn’t recommend you pay to see this movie. Actually, even if you get hold of a free version, I would say make sure you exhaust all options available on Netflix before wasting a few hours of your precious life. All in all, the movie was pretty underwhelming. Obviously, some people enjoy spending hours reading between the lines but I’m sure you can find better things to do such as munch on pasta and talk about anything and everything else like #zlotybaby and I did after this ordeal. So yep, give it a miss and rather do some swiping so you increase your chances of getting lucky rather than living a sexless existence like the main characters in this story.

Rinsers, Have you watched The Bookshop? What did you think? Also, can anyone provide any insight into why through the ages, societies continue hate upon and ostracize born-again virgins and other forms of social recluse? Answers in the comment section below. Please and thank you.    

 

 

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Book Review : The Unexpected Joy of Being Single By Catherine Gray

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As you all know by now, #englishrosiee recently took a much-needed sabbatical from the world of online dating.  As I found myself contemplating my Tinder hiatus, I stumbled across this book titled The Unexpected Joy of Being Single by Catherine Gray. To be completely honest, as much as I hated/hate the rigmarole of the dating game, I did find myself scoffing at this ludicrously titled book.  Although my initial thoughts were that this would be some silly Feminazi justification for spinsterhood, I knew better than to judge a book by its cover (quite literally) and seeing as the author is a Sunday Time’s Bestseller, I figured she probably had something worthwhile to say and there probably was no more appropriate time to read such a book than during a self-imposed period of singledom.

So, the book is part auto-biography, part self-help but with lots of factual insights into the realities of modern dating and being single. It starts by putting things into perspective – apparently more than half of Brits aged 25-44 are single. and increasing numbers of people are putting off marriage and babies till later in life (if they choose to pursue that at all). It’s reassuring to know, especially when you consider the stigma attached to being single. I mean, it’s normal for everyone and their dog to offer you dating advice and tell you not to fret because Prince Charming will fall from the sky when you least expect it. Ugh, not so long ago a Sri Lankan waitress in a Thai Restaurant offered to set me up with some dude from India (who can speak English – how lucky am I!!) because according to her my life would be OVER if I wasn’t married and knocked up by the age of 35. Sigh. Exactly.

I think there are probably single women in their 30s that will be able to resonate with the content. At first I literally felt the book was written for me and sent a friend a picture of one of the chapters titled something along the lines of A 33 Year Old Spinster (yup, there are days when I think that is me!).  The basic gist of the story is how the author goes from being a love addict (having desperate need to always be in a relationship for validation) to confidently embracing her single status.

The book also explore how, thanks to popular culture, we’ve been led to believe that single life is inferior to the traditional package of marriage, kids and happily ever after. It is also touches on some interesting economic perspectives as why people (may) feel more motivated into pursuing a relationship rather than remaining happily single. For example, single life tends to be more expensive. In many western metropolises, it is difficult for single people to get onto the property ladder. Its also more expensive to travel solo versus splitting the costs with a man-friend. But as she points out there are always ways around these thing.

In essence, the message behind the book is well intentioned and gives you a lot to think about. It is also reassuring to realise that you aren’t alone as 30-something singleton, and there is really nothing wrong with you (you really aren’t single because you are morbidly obese, ugly and dumb). However, I think it is mainly written from the perspective of a well educated, white, middle class woman in her mid/late 30s living in an affluent western city. In other cultures, it would be more difficult to have this ‘I am a strong liberated woman’ attitude when you factor in cultural, religious and various family pressures.  I think we are lucky in that while they can get irritating, most of the comments we get from family and friends are somewhat LOL-worthy and easy enough to fob off but I think in other societies the pressure would be more real.

So while I do agree with what Catherine Gray says about having to be a sorted single person before you can expect to be a functional part of a happy relationship and how people should try to date in moderation rather than out of desperation. There is a lot I don’t agree with. Of course its nice to believe that there are other forms of love – from your family, friends, dogs and various other sentient beings. But lets be real none of these compare to romantic love. Yeah, yeah I know what you are thinking. We live in an age where you can easily pay for sexy time if you have the cash money, hit up Anne Summers or use your trusty hand if you really are broke. But you already know my thoughts on the whole WISO way of thinking. Even beyond those basic animal instincts though, there are other elements of romantic relations that can’t be replicated elsewhere. So while periods of singledom are well and good, I don’t think this should ever be a permanent state of affairs.

Speaking from personal experience, I’ve probably had both my happiest times and most heartbreaking times thanks to relationships. Having a fulfilling single life can certainly save you the emotional rollercoaster that comes from engaging in human relations. But to me its, just that a happy medium, a safe haven essentially. And I think we should always strive for more. So yup, the #tinderhiatus was a good thing on many levels and as much as being back in the game will get infuriating, I’ll keep tindering along while still finding time to all the other stuff that life requires till Prince Charming makes an appearance.

Rinsers. Give me your thoughts on single life. Is it something that should be embraced and seriously considered as an alternative to the happily ever after BS fed to us by the media? Do you think people these days are legitimately single out of choice, or because basically they are unwanted, fussy or lazy? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

 

 

Review : 50 Shades of Fairytales @ The Alexander Upstairs

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While things may be a bit different nowadays when it comes to children’s entertainment with Disney becoming all PC and ensuring that their stories aren’t as whitewashed as they once were and contain some sort of feminist undertone, I’m old enough to be of that generation brought up on the traditional notion of a fairytale. You know those feel-good stories where Prince Charming is an alpha male with BIG MAN muscles who is capable of destroying all the bad people in order to ‘save’ the damsel in distress and give her the happily-ever-after she deserves …. blah blah blah. Sigh. Unfortunately, as we are all by now well aware. Disney LIED. Alpha males, very much like unicorns, only exist in La La land and when it comes to slaying dragons and dealing with bad people, well us chicks are probably better off dealing with all that stuff ourselves because Prince Charming it seems is getting delayed.
’50 Shades of Fairytales’ is a one-women show which deals with exactly that. It tells the story of two women (played by Titilayo Adedokun) who share their personal experiences of relationships and the associated challenges through a string of songs. Covering everything from little girls fantasizing about the arrival of their Prince Charming and the excitement of planning one’s dream wedding to coming to terms with the reality of dating one deadbeat after another, being trapped in an unhappy codependent relationship with someone you want to kill.
Sure, it sounds a bit cynical. But I think most 20,30, 40-somethings can definitely identify with the characters’ struggles. Especially that of trying to remain hopeful despite all the knocks. Although the show is ultimately focuses on women chasing fairytales, the way that modern dating operates these days I think even the guys will find that they can relate. And even though there are parts that come down pretty hard on the male-species, the humour and sing-song of it all helps to tone down the raging-feminist vibe, which makes it more digestible for the men in the audience and those of us who aren’t quite yet complete haters of men.
The show is also provides a nice reality check for anyone who is feeling that the whole world is against them. It’s a nice reminder that nobody’s story is all that ‘original’. All you have to do is talk to five randoms on a bus to find that you aren’t the first woman to be blind-sided by a philandering jerk, to have dated a broke-ass loser, or fallen in madly in love in a sociopath. But in this world of Facebook reality we only ever get insights into the sugarcoated version of other people’s lives which tricks us into believing we are thee ultimate failure in life.
While there are anecdotes throughout the show which will pretty much resonate with anyone who didn’t simply marry their first love, it’s not all doom and gloom. And as much as it isn’t ‘cool’ to be into musicals these days, the whimsical show tunes here keep things light and fluffy, allowing the audience to leave lol’ing and skipping their way into the night rather than feeling depressed and hopeless. The lyrics are well-written and thought provoking and Titilayo Adedokun just has an amazing stage presence with a voice so incredible that it is almost too big for such a intimate venue. Furthermore, the fact that all the stage paraphernalia and costume changes are kept to a minimum also mean that you can focus more on the songs without being overly distracted.
All in all, 50 Shades of Fairytales is a lovely, uncomplicated little bit of entertainment that tackles the somewhat painful issues associated with modern romance in a fun and quirky way. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is currently feeling a bit hateful towards the opposite sex and world at large.  It’s on at the Alex for till the end of September and tickets are reasonably priced at just R120 (online), so catch it while you can. You really won’t be disappointed!

The Royal Wedding AKA Hey, It’s Me Complaining About the Royalty Again

the wedding.jpg“Have you watched the Royal wedding?” People ask. “No,” I reply and politely don’t add “Why did you?/Should I?”. I expressed my views about the Royals on this blog before but let me quickly summarize them for you:

  1. I don’t think some people are better than others just because of the family in which they were born. The world makes it very unfair as it is for many people around the world who are born in all sorts of circumstances that make their life difficult. From zero to hero is a myth we like to believe and a statistical anomaly. Life is hard as it is. Archaic concepts such as monarchy make it even more unequal.
  2. Seeing that I don’t believe that the Royals are any better than commoners just because of who their parents are, I don’t understand the ado about them. Fair enough the Queen who has a job is salaried but the rest of them? I also don’t understand why British taxpayers pay for their lavish weddings (or why people need lavish weddings at all).

The core of my disinterest in the Royal Wedding lies my 1) dislike for people’s alleged superiority and a little bit 2) the trend of splurging on weddings in general.

Now, when it comes to watching weddings I’m not particularly interested in any apart from those of people close to my heart. I don’t know Meghan Markle and I don’t know Prince Harry (do you?). I’d perhaps be more interested in a wedding of someone famous who I admire for their achievements. Sure, I’ve indulged in reading some gossip about them. Markle has definitely won some affection from my side for being a rule breaker, ignoring the haters and getting what she wanted. I even Googled Markle’s dress because she’s gorgeous and I was curious how she would like on her wedding day. However, to spend a few hours of my precious lifetime to watch two absolute strangers tying the knot seems ludicrous. Of course, everyone is allowed to waste their time as they wish and I don’t feel in any way superior because I binged on the second season of “13 Reasons Why” instead. Still, apart from them being absolute strangers, they also represent something that in principle I’m opposed to. I’m actually curious why people do watch or care about this wedding at all? Especially people who are not even British? Perhaps those that do can tell me in the comments section.

On the top of all I’ve mentioned, there’s of course all the stuff that Markle can and can’t do now to be considered lady-like. Because, yes, this obsolete institution called Royalty is not only elitist but also sexist. The rules are pretty conservative for men, of course, but I don’t remember reading anywhere about the fact that men have to cover their cleavage, among other things. It does anger me when anyone tells a woman what to wear, even if that person is the Queen of England. If you really think about what being a princess means, I don’t think most women would like to be one. You can’t work, you can’t decide what you wear, you can’t even openly express yourself or own a social media account. Even your husband and children aren’t truly yours to enjoy in peace and your pain such as childbirth doesn’t get the much needed privacy. It seems like quite a big price to pay for a free wedding, even if it’s straight from a fairy tale. Anyway, I do wish the Royal couple all the best just like I’d wish any other couple after their big day.

 

Is The Decision To Procreate Just Selfish?

 

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Women in their 30s are constantly being reminded about that ticking biological clock. It’s almost as if you haven’t popped something out by a certain point in your life you are less of a woman. It bugs me that we’ve all been a bit brainwashed into congrats’ing people for having kids. Really, is spreading your legs (or getting acquainted with a turkey baster) really such a great achievement? By all means, congratulate women on fighting oppression and making it to the top of their profession, high five them when they run marathon (there are far fewer people that cross the finish line than those that manage to get knocked up. Just saying!) but don’t glorify an activity that for many is just like breathing.

Anyway, I’m sure there are lots of baby mamas out there who are wanting to smash me up and say I will never understand anything till I have given the gift of life (let me go pewk in my mouth). Anyway,  since everyone has me down as a hater of little people (there some truth to it – there are maybe a handful I can tolerate and sure I will love my own hypothetical children if they should appear but generally I am way more broody about puppies), I’m gonna take things up a level by talking about how the decision to procreate is ultimately selfish decision.

Let me start by not taking any credit for this genius idea. I was actually inspired by this article which was sent to me by a dear friend of mine. You should read it to get a more highbrow account of the issue. I don’t consider myself qualified to go into the deep philosophical arguments here so let me just dumb things down a bit and draw on some of my real life observations.  So, let’s break things down a bit and look at some of the motivations for discarding contraception and letting the flow of life operate as god intended.

To ensure the survival of the human race and generally make the world a better place

So, some of the haters of my post about Me-ternity Leave said the reason why governments/companies in certain countries offer such great perks for those that choose to procreate because their are worried about population decline. Well, I have news for you, there is this wonderful thing called immigration. Let’s just even things out a little and import in a bit of labor from the third world. Surely, it’s not rocket science.

People may justify their decision to bring life into the world by claiming that they are doing a service to humanity by producing a little human that will go on to do great things and make a substantial contribution to society . Maybe it will be the one to discover a cure for cancer? But perhaps it’ll become a paedo or a drug dealer? There are no guarantees. It’s honestly doesn’t matter if you are the best parent in the world children don’t grow up inside a bubble . Even if your child doesn’t become a felon, it’ll still do more damage in terms of its carbon foot print than it is likely to do anything amazingly good.

YOU’re broody and it’s just the right time in life

I honestly believe that most of us (except maybe IVF babies but that’s pretty much a new fangled thing) were ‘mistakes’. In some instances, people man-up and take care of their kids and in other cases they dump them outside a church (or liquor store).  But sure, there are obviously cases that differ, where two people (or one with the help of a sperm donor) consciously make a decision to bring create life.  Apparently once you are married/in your 30s apparently some magical switch gets flicked and you feel the need to create a mini-me, so I am told. I think I missed the memo but fair enough if you are one of the ‘normal’ people who feel the need to give into your broodiness go forth. Just don’t be under any illusion that giving into your natural urges makes you a better person/more of women. You do it for yourself, not for anyone else.

YOU want to leave a legacy

What is the purpose of life if we are all going to end up as dust (or glitter in the case of fabulous unicorn people!)? We want to know that we are not simply spending our whole lives working simply to make ends meet. Everyone would like to be remembered, I guess. The truth is most of us won’t be immortalized for doing something spectacular. Most of us aren’t going to save a small African village or become a rock star. One way of leaving a bit of yourself behind is by carrying on the family line.  Again, not necessarily doing anyone but yourSELF any favours here.

What about adopting orphans?

So I pre-empted this one and used the word PROCREATE in the title of the post rather than ‘have’ because I believe e there is one exception to my sweeping statement about baby people being intrinsically selfish – those are the people that choose to adopt. Unlike, people who choose to put pressure on the earth’s natural resources by popping out kids all over the place, there are truly selfless people out there that go out of their way to do a service to humanity by taking on a kid they themselves did not manufacture  and is therefore actually not their problem at all.

That said, not everyone is cut out for adoption. I wouldn’t do it. There really is no reason you need to take on a problem somebody else created. You won’t necessarily get a clean slate with an adopted child. And if some day I do need to tolerate a child of my own, the narcissist in me wants a real little mini-me (i.e. a cute little chubby kid who quietly sits in the corner and reads books all day). I don’t think it’s a crime to want a biological child that shares your genes, but just admit you are doing it for selfish reasons.

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So, You see what I’m getting at here. I’m not telling people to stop having children. There really is no reason why the baby making types would listen anyway. Plus, it’s their life to do with what they wish. It’s OK to want to be a parent and give into your natural urges. It’s even understandable that you’d still want a biological child despite the fact that there are lots of orphans in the world that need a home. I’m sure having children brings lots of joy (and stress) into people’s lives (just remember dogs are less likely to break your heart). However, people who opt to procreate aren’t doing the world any favours and they certainly don’t occupy the moral high ground here. The reasons for procreating are selfish but it’s not criminal because so are the motivations for a lot of the things we do.

I believe that there needs to be a shift in society’s attitude towards the people that choose not to have kids. Those that opt to avoid parenthood should not be branded as selfish narcissists who put their own lives of fabulous holidays and Jimmy Choo shoes ahead of some social and biological duty to reproduce. Because in actual fact, these are the people who are mature enough to buck social trends and choose the path that is actually better for themselves, their non-existant children and the world’s population as a whole.

Alrighty, dear Rinsers. Do you think people who have children just need to come to terms with the fact that their decision is selfish? Why does the world always hate on those that choose contraception over a screaming rugrats infiltrating their lives? Can you think of any go unselfish reasons for bringing a child into a world bossed by the likes of Donald Trump? Unleash your hate in the comments below. Please and thank you.   

 

 

 

Review: The Vegetarian by Han Kang

The_vegetarian_-_han_kangPerhaps the literary awards are political and biased but I’m a bit of a sucker and I always try to read the books and authors awarded with a Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize or anything else which has the name Prize in it, even if it’s awarded by the Kansas Board of Paper Manufacturers. This is how I ended up reading “The Vegetarian”, the winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize.

The book is divided in three parts which focus on different characters. The first one tells a story of the main trouble maker and the plot catalyst, Yeong-hye. She is a Korean stay-at-home wife, who one day decides to become a vegetarian due to disturbing dreams. The otherwise obedient wife and daughter is extremely stubborn in her new eating regime. Her surrounding will not accept her trying to redefine herself and find her true self (whatever it may turn out to be)…

The Han Kang’s novel is a great read. The author has created a compelling cross-genre narrative with elements of Grimms’ fairy tales, a dark poem and a manifesto of non-compliance. Yeong-hye, just like Bartleby from Melville’s short story, would prefer not do some things. What starts with a refusal to eat meat expands to other areas of her life. Is her stubbornness a sign of her finding a voice of her own or pure madness? And if it’s the latter does an individual have the right to explore it? Who is to decide what’s normal and what isn’t? And aren’t we all crazy by leading the lives we don’t really want, according to rules which aren’t our own? You may find answers to these questions in the novel…or not. It all depends on how you’re going to interpret it. If you’re keen on exploring such ambiguities I’d also recommend an excellent novella by Henry James “The Turn of the Screw”.

“The Vegetarian” will certainly make you think and this is what, in my opinion, literature should do. It also gives you a glimpse into a Korean society which is presented in the novel as highly patriarchal. This is why the novel isn’t just a story of non-conformism but has a clearly feminist flavor to it. If you’re wondering where’s the difference coming from I’ll reply with a quote from “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamands Ngozi Adichie: “Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human.” This novel isn’t just about the right of an individual to decide about himself or herself. If the protagonist was a man, his “eccentricity” would have probably been accepted and maybe only gossiped about behind his back. A disobedient woman, however, has to be put in her place.

If you end up reading the novel and thinking it’s…ummm… different just bear in mind that the Korean compatriots of the author also thought that it was weird. It takes some getting used to but the read is really worth it. It’s a literary feast and food for thought at the same time. “The Vegetarian” is a short read but it doesn’t mean it’s light. I will certainly read more by the author in Deborah Smith’s translation (the female translator has received the Man Booker International prize jointly with the author, in recognition of her efforts to preserve the original qualities of the novel).

Have you read the book, Dear Rinser? If yes, what did you think about it? Any favorite stories of non-compliance or more specifically female non-compliance, you’re willing to share?

 

 

The Mayim Bialik Op-Ed – Are There Some Perks To Being The ‘Ugly’ Kid ?

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In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and #Metoo campaign, stories about sexual assault and harassment have been dominating both the media and social media feeds.  Generally speaking, there has been a consensus condemning the men behaving badly and in support of the women who’ve been compelled to take a stand. And then there was Mayim Bialik’s Op-Ed piece in the New York Times.

In her article, Bialik talked about her experiences in Hollywood as ‘a prominent-nosed, awkward Jewish 11-year old’ and how not matching up to the industry standards of beauty teamed with her ‘conservative decisions’ afforded her certain advantages. To cut to the chase of why the article caused so much drama here is a quote : ‘And yet I have also experienced the upside of not being a “perfect ten.” As a proud feminist with little desire to diet, get plastic surgery or hire a personal trainer, I have almost no personal experience with men asking me to meetings in their hotel rooms. Those of us in Hollywood who don’t represent an impossible standard of beauty have the “luxury” of being overlooked and, in many cases, ignored by men in power unless we can make them money.’

It’s easy to understand why people were enraged by what they saw as victim blaming and she was pretty much forced to apologise for her opinion. And as much as what she said wasn’t all that clever considering the current sentiment around the issues when I first read the article I did resonate with parts of what she said.  I certainly don’t think being ‘ugly’ or ‘awkward-looking’ is any sort of protection from being raped, assaulted or cat-called in the streets. Perverts don’t necessarily adhere to Hollywood beauty standards when it comes to finding victims.

On the flipside though, I think if you read between the lines there is perhaps some value in what she is saying. So let’s just move away from the heavy topic of sexual assault for a moment and towards something more light and fluffy…the perks of  being the ‘ugly friend’. For most girls, somewhere along the line when you’re growing you develop this idea that you need to look a certain way to get the boys to like you or show you even just a little bit of attention. Being ‘ugly’, having wild curly hair, looking horsey and generally being one of those socially-awkward kids is never much fun and at the time your only wish in the whole entire world is to look ‘normal’ like one of the popular girls. Yes, everything is a lot more dramatic  when you’re a teenager but looking back now maybe being chubby, brace-faced loser with a crooked nose and a lazy eye wasn’t all that bad and here is why:

1. You get to fall under the radar

So what if you are not part of the cool popular crowd? Well, nobody really cares what you get up to. If you are lucky enough to date someone and things come to an abrupt end it goes unnoticed. You are not worth gossiping about. And when you are the kind of person that rather hide that brace face behind a book than deal with people, maybe living your ‘ugly years’ away from the limelight wasn’t such a bad thing after all?

2. You are forced to develop other aspects of your personality

The world is a superficial place and as much as you may not agree with the system you can’t live in isolation forever. At some point you need to make friends. This is arguably easier if you look and dress a certain way (did you notice how groups of friends back in high school were almost carbon copies of another) but if you can’t attract people with sparkling good looks you’ve got to find alternatives. Perhaps by being super nice to people or by embracing your quirks and being the funny girl. Either way you had to work on it.

3. You learn to laugh things off more easily (and develop a thick skin)

Maybe self-deprecating humour is just a Brit thing? But when you are not a popular kid then being able to laugh at yourself every time you do something idiotic like walk into a glass door is key to social survival. I mean if you can’t laugh at this kind of thing, then you’ll end up crying (and that’s not good). Sometimes being awkward, ugly, fat, etc leaves you open to mean remarks but overtime you develop a thick skin and learn to bounce back. This type of resilience serves you well later in life.

4.You become friends with the weird and wonderful (and that exposes you to lots of new perspectives)

They say beggars can’t be choosers. When you aren’t ‘pretty’ and popular you have to be nice to the people that are nice to you. This makes you open to forming friendships with an eclectic bunch of people. Some of the best friendships I have today aren’t conventional (and sometimes I even struggle to understand why they exist) but at least they keep life interesting.

5. By default you are a late bloomer (and being a kid for a little longer isn’t the worst thing in the world)

It’s hard when you are 15 and it seems like everyone and their one-eyed dog has a boyfriend. But seriously, relationships are tough – so why the rush to get coupled up? Of course, there are some people who marry their high-school sweetheart but not having a high-school sweetheart/crush/fuck-buddy is OK as well. Being a late bloomer gives you some figure out what makes you tick – read lots of books, travel the world, etc. I’m not saying people should never bloom (you know my views on 30-something virgins) but eventually you do catch up and realise you weren’t really missing all that much.

So, let’s end by going back to the beginning. Sure, Mayim Bialik’s NY Time’s piece was pretty poorly timed but I think there are somethings (very much unrelated to serious issues like sexual harassment and assault) that many of us awkward kids who grew up watching Blossom can relate to. When you are there, being what society doesn’t regard as pretty, life can be pretty bleak but once the dust settles (maybe a few decades down the line) I think your realise the hardships of those formative years weren’t all that bad. Being pretty and popular comes with it’s own set of issues. I think that’s what Bialik was getting at was that being that unpopular, unattractive, geeky kid isn’t the end of the world.

Rinsers, what did you think of Mayim Bialik’s piece? Were you the ‘ugly’ girl back in the day? Do you look back and think not being part of the ‘popular’ crowd was actually a bit of a blessing in disguise? Comment below. Please and thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

#MeToo: Sexual Harassment and Assault Awareness

quietYesterday I saw women all over my Facebook sharing #metoo. The idea was to raise awareness about sexual harassment and sexual assault in that way. Perhaps if all women in someone’s Facebook feed shared the hashtag, it would make people realize how widespread the problem is?

The problem is indeed massive. Of course, there are levels to which women are touched by it. However, the fact is that ALL women experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault. Rape, verbal or physical sexual coercion, unwanted touch, predatory looks, comments on your appearance, “jokes”, aggression because you rejected someone – all these are just elements of the world where women are objectified. When women aren’t treated like people but like sexual objects, men believe they can do whatever they want with them: comment on, evaluate, touch or use at will for their own sexual pleasure.

Most women experience a garden variety of sexual harassment. Catcalling is honestly just a daily experience to which I never know how to react. As I work from home for instance, I like to go for a cycle or a walk during lunch. The problem is that the nearby construction workers take their break then. I can’t go past one not to be catcalled and neither can any other woman who’s on her own. Why do men do it then? Probably because they can. It’s certainly not to actually get anything out of it:

Catcalling makes me a mixture of angry and ashamed. I want to react or do something but mostly I’m scared. Perhaps if I reacted to a guy who’s on his own I could get him to think about his behavior but a group would mock me or perhaps become aggressive towards me. I’ve gone out a few times preparing myself to say something next time I’m spoken to and I’ve always chickened out. Now, I try to go out before or after they’re gone. I’ve lost, I’ve altered my behavior. That’s just catcalling. Being a woman, however, means a lot of fear in general. You’re scared of being raped too. You may second guess a guy’s intentions when he invited you for a cup of coffee to his house. You walk faster when it’s late and men feel like a threat. Sometimes someone gives you a predatory look and you feel that if circumstances were different he would hurt you but after all it’s not like anything really bad has ever happened to you, right? Are we supposed to count ourselves lucky because we haven’t been raped, though? Men don’t count themselves lucky because no one chopped their arm off or they didn’t get murdered, do they? Of course, it’s much more probable for a woman to get raped than to any of this to happen to a man. The point is that every time a woman feels threatened, she feels like this not because she’s crazy but because something could happen.

Something should be done to make people understand the problem. Will #metoo do it? I doubt it. It feels like preaching to the choir. The women who shared the hashtag in my feed are all lefties and that’s who likes on my own status came from. I haven’t seen any negative reactions but I haven’t seen any positive reactions either from anyone outside of my circle of expectations. I’m sure some people thought about some women’s statuses “she should only be so lucky that someone harasses her” but in the age of social media finger pointing they knew better than to share such views on Facebook. Perhaps the hashtag is not so successful in achieving its goal but that doesn’t mean it has no use at all.

As much as people may not change their mind because of this social media campaign, it has become a voice of female solidarity. We are all ashamed of our experiences with sexual harassment and we often feel guilty. It’s something we don’t talk about because often if we looked for sympathy after we are harassed we just found more sexism, even in women. When I was slapped on my bum by a stranger in Paris a friend of mine who was walking with me replied to my outrage: “Chill, it’s not like he’s taken away your virginity or something”. When I was maybe 10 a drunk guest house manager stopped me on my way from the communal toilet back to my room. He started hugging me and making inappropriate advances. Then I saw a ray of hope walking down the stairs: a female friend. She ran away when she saw us, though. I eventually managed to escape and then was shaken and outraged that she didn’t help me. She just said it wouldn’t have happened if I was wearing long pajama pants like she did. These are of course just illustrative examples not the entirety of my experience. All women experience sexual harassment and certainly they all experiences negative reactions to trying to speak up. The bigger the trauma, the more shame there is associated with it and the more potential there is for a negative reaction for speaking up from both men and women. Yesterday, however, some women had the courage to talk about unimaginably horrible events such as rape when they were still children, gang rape or sexual abuse in family. It is sad and it is so depressing that such things happen but maybe by talking about it, we’re making even more people share their experiences. In taking the shame away from the victims, we can finally move to focus on the perpetrators. It’s NEVER the victim’s fault.

Today a new hashtag is trending: #iwill to express what will we do to help to improve the situation. Can we really do something? What do you do? Any thoughts on #metoo, Dear Reader? Do you think it can truly help spread awareness? Feel free to share your #metoo stories in the comments. 

#EnglishRosiee and the Maasai Warriors – Some Food for Thought from Deepest Darkest Africa

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Let me start by offering my deepest to apologies for being a bit AWOL recently. In part this absence from the blogosphere was simply due to a severe case of writers block as a result of being removed from the Tinderverse and subsequently not having as much to bitch and moan about. In addition to this I was also away exploring other parts of deepest darkest Africa with limited internet connectivity. And this dear Rinsers leads me to the topic of today’s blog post …

Spending two weeks in Kenya where lions (and tigers and bears and of course the elusive Kenyan unicorn) really do roam free was certainly a magical experience and even though I’m heartbroken to be back in humdrum I am pleased to say that I managed to collect a lot of blog matter for all of y’all! On my travels I witnessed a lot of weird and wonderful things, the most exciting of which were lions having passionate sex while jeep loads of pervy safari junkies aka voyeurs looked on in awe. But enough from the animal kingdom for now (I shot some lion porn if any of our more animal inclined readers is interested!). Aside from the safari’ing, I also visited a Maasai village where we got to check out a bit of tribal life. Learning how these folks kill lions to demonstrate manhood (poor kitties!), start fires with nothing more than some sharp sticks and can jump higher than most of us could ever dream off (just to get a discounted price on a bride) was interesting and all but what I though was most relevant for the purposes of this blog was how the Maasai people view relationships,etc.

Forgive me for what may come across as a bit of reductionist account of what is a probably quite a complicated subject matter and something that people have slaved for years writing PhD theses on but my comments are based solely on my observations (and me just generally speaking out loud) and with really, really limited internet I don’t really have the chance do more detailed research/fact-checking. Anyway here are some things that my interactions with the Maasai warriors got me thinking about.

Monogamy vs Polygamy

So as is the case in quite a few cultures these Maasai guys tend to be polygamous. The one that was showing us around had two wives (neither of which was his favourite!) but he said he knew of cases where a Maasai had ten wives. Apparently, there really is no limit to how many wives they can have just as long as they are capable of providing for all of them (and subsequently the multiple kids that they are sure to produce) sufficiently.  (Guess it’s not that different from our beloved chavs back in my homeland except they just tend to knock up multiple women and get the state to foot the bill)

While polygamy is pretty much an alien concept to a girl who grew up reading too many fairy tales and since developed slight feminist leanings, there are people (even so-called progressive liberal types) who claim that such a system has it’s advantages over monogamy. Hmm…I’m not convinced. Perhaps it’s the only child in me that doesn’t like sharing my toys (read: boys) but I really don’t see how it can work on anything but a superficial level. Sure, for the Maasai people there are certain benefits such as a division of labour (one wife goes out to trade things while the another one stays home to take care of their collective kids!) but surely jealously and competition are common human emotions/behaviours that transcend cultures. I just can’t deal.

That said, it’s really probably not all that different than phenomena going on closer to home – threesomes? Open relationships? Philandering scumbags? At least the Maasai ladies know what they are in for, right?

A Woman’s Worth 

In Maasai culture before a man can get married, it is standard to for him to give his future wife’s family ten cows, essentially putting a price on her head. As I mentioned before, if a dude is particularly athletic and can jump really high then the number of cows he is required to exchange for his chick can be reduced down.

As a hopeless romantic (see even Tinder couldn’t take away my sparkle and turn me into a jaded old hag) who believes love makes the world go round this type of dowry system where even an elderly man can buy a girl young enough to be his great granddaughter as long as he can get his hands on those all important cows does make me pewk in my mouth A LOT !

But then again things could be worse, at least these women have some worth (calculated in cows), the dowry system still in operation in parts of the Indian sub-continent see the chick’s family literally paying men to take the daughters off their hands. Again, I just can’t deal.

Should we just keep our noses out of other people’s business?

Finally, as we are all well aware we live in an increasingly globalised world where we are all more likely to be exposed to different people and cultures (I mean, a few centuries ago I very much doubt that the heir to a Maasai empire would be chatting up a Brit girl and telling her that he’d like to be monogomous for her, now would he? True story!) Living in more connected world is great in many ways because it opens our minds to new perspectives/ideas. But on the other hand, it could also lead the erosion of different cultures as well and perhaps that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Our guide told us that there are something like 42 different tribes in Kenya but the Maasai are pretty much the only ones that have managed to keep their culture intact. But even with them as they become more educated (in the conventional sense) more of them end up leaving their tribes. It’s kinda of sad, I guess.

Then there we are (in many ways not so different from our colonial ancestors) wandering into their villages and getting all judgey about the way they do things. A younger, more idealistic/naive version of myself would have probably spent days ranting about women’s rights after my encounters but I’m starting to see things a little differently in my old age. Sure, I would like to think I’m worth more than 10 cows (although my Dad would probably trade me for a dog and a free gelato) but maybe other women are OK with being treated like a commodity? Maybe they have bigger problems to deal with? Perhaps they look at as mindlessly swiping away on Tinder and pity our existence? Either way, I don’t think any of us should be judging and commenting. Whichever perspective you look at things from things on both sides are going to change eventually but it should only happen when people are ready to make the changes themselves rather than because of external interference.

Anyway, enough from me lets in the comments below Rinsers. What are your thoughts of polygamy vs monogomy? Do you think dowry systems are archaic and should be abolished from this world? And do you think we should even be commenting on the way other people do things? Go wild like the lions in the comments below. 

This was #englishrosiee reporting for #rinsebeforeuse! Good night!

Review: Grace and Frankie

Grace_and_FrankieI must say that new TV shows have been positively surprising me with their diversity (thanks, Netflix!). The choice of what to watch is no longer between series about financially secure 30 somethings looking for love and male lawyers series. It’s an oversimplification, of course, but let’s just say that a lot of shows deviate from the “safe” formulas and explore new areas. A good example of such a show is “Grace and Frankie”

Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) fiercely dislike each other. They have to spend time together as a part of the same Coupleverse. Their relationship changes drastically when at the age of 70, they learn that their husbands are in love with one another and they’ve been cheating on the ladies for the last twenty years. The gentlemen want to get married and the two very different women are forced by circumstances to share a house. Grace is a well-groomed former business woman who enjoys her Martinis a bit too much. She’s rather detached in her behavior and appearances are of utmost importance to her. Frankie, on the other hand, is an unsuccessful artist with a soft spot for weed and a keen interest in spirituality. Their characters naturally clash, but shared misery (just think about your coworkers ;)) can bring people closer together.

The husbands are present in the story, but the plot focuses primarily on the experiences of their (ex-)wives. It’s a bitter-sweet journey for the audience too! Do you think that dating at 30 is difficult? Try doing it at 70! Grace and Frankie experience many ups and downs in their rather mature single life. There’s no beating around the bush about sexuality in this show, in particular, about mature sexuality. I really liked the lack of prudishness! As we know there’s a lot of ageism in dating and a TV show that speaks specifically about sexual needs and problems of older women is a novelty. Society loves to put breaks on female sexuality. Too young isn’t good (just watch 13 Reasons Why to learn about differences between parents’ ideas about their kids innocence and reality) and too old isn’t good either. According to many, women should only have sex in their reproductive years and that, preferably with one man they’re married to and with not too much pleasure. Well, Grace and Frankie are getting some well-deserved cock and mostly without much fear of “sex in the vagina” (you’ll have to watch the series to really get the joke). These women feel they deserve sex, love and professional satisfaction regardless of their age. It’s not Girl Power, it’s Granny Power, here.

“Grace and Frankie” is a series about the right to pursue happiness, regardless of everything. The husbands, Saul (Sam Waterston) and Robert (Martin Sheen), make a difficult decision of being together, disregarding the expectations of others. It’s not because they’re assholes and it’s an easy decision for them to make, it’s because they want to be true to themselves, even if it means unpleasant consequences. Grace and Frankie fight for their well-being, regardless of how many doors close in front of them. Last but not least, there are children of both couples, who make similarly difficult decisions.

“Frankie and Grace” isn’t a hahaha and hihihi show that laughs everything off. The characters seem to be real people with human problems, even if there’s a lot of lightness in the series. I think this is the main reason why I enjoyed it so much. I may not be 70, but who hasn’t been disregarded in their life because of their gender, age or other quality that people can be prejudiced against? Who doesn’t want to be loved? Who hasn’t faced the difficult choice between pleasing others and doing what they feel is right? At the bottom of all of our experiences and troubles, lays our need to simply be happy.

The only thing that’s wrong with the series is the opening song, which is a butchered version of “Stuck in the Middle With You”. Let me remind you how it should sound like, before you start watching the series that I really recommend.