TV Series Review: After Life

After LifeI’ve been lucky with TV shows for a while now. Another gem I’ve found on Netflix is called “After Life” and it’s a British comedy series starring Ricky Gervais. Just like “The Russian Doll” I reviewed for you last week it’s sweet and short. In other words, perfect for binging!

The main character of “After Life”, Tony, loses his wife to cancer. From the recordings she made for him it would seem that he used to be a rather cheerful chap before her death. However, what we see on the screen is not only a grief-stricken fellow but also an angry, mean guy who’s more than happy to end his life. He’s a terribly funny douchebag but still someone you’d never want to have around. His friends and family are more resilient than the audience but keep failing at cheering him. Will Tony stop being a sour puss or will he eventually kill himself? I won’t tell you, you’ll have to watch “After Life” to find out for yourself.

The biggest advantage of the series is, of course, the sense of humour. It’s British and it’s dark but most importantly, it’s hilarious. Ricky Gervais is very convincing as Tony who’s lost his will to live. There’s a number of other characters who are also pleasant enough but he’s an undeniable star of the show. The horrible comments he makes are really funny in this kind of way that makes you feel a bit bad about laughing at them. At the same time, the series manages to lighten things up a bit towards the end, which is not much of a spoiler because TV shows usually do. From a more subjective point of view I love the main character’s unapologetic atheism. (Pssst, you can find out more about why an atheist should not date a team-God member from our Short Guide to Dating and Religion.)

Perhaps more importantly, the series talks about grief after the loss of a loved one. I’m sure that anyone reading it who’s married or in a long-term committed relationship and actually cares about their partner, will be able to empathise with the main character. Of course,  your significant other should not be your everything because it’s just not healthy. However, at the end of the day they’re the person who matters to you the most and the mere thought of losing them can bring tears to your eyes. Watching a character going through such loss unavoidably makes you appreciate what you have more. It also shows you how much a person who’s lost their partner is going through and how unhelpful people who want you to “just snap out of it” are, even if they’re well-meaning.

If I was to criticise anything it’s the very quick ending. It feels almost like it’s been thrown at us when for a number of episodes we see one thing happening and then seemingly out of the blue everything changes… All in all, it’s a very good series. It makes you feel a bit happy and a bit sad, giving you just the right amount of both kinds of emotions. I will certainly give the season 2 a go.

Are you sold or not yet? Here’s the trailer to give you a sample of what to expect:

Have you seen the series? If yes, what do you think about it? If not, are you a fan of British humour? Does “After Life” sound like something you’d like to watch?

 

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Movie Review: On Chesil Beach

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Let’s talk about sex, baby. “On Chesil Beach” for a movie about sex has very little of it happening on screen so don’t get too excited. This lyrical adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel (check out my review of his novel “Sweet Tooth” here) with the screenplay by the author has just debuted on South African screens. It’s worth a watch, especially if you’re a McEwan fan, but far from brilliant.

Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) are in love but come from very different backgrounds. They can talk for hours, have fun together and his family loves her. But are they truly a match? They’ve never had sex or know much about it, which will make their wedding night truly unforgettable and not in the right way.
The narrative in the movie splits between the said wedding night and how the relationship had progressed leading to it. Sounds promising? Perhaps but something went wrong. Maybe it’s just that two hours for an adaptation of a very short novel (or should I say a novella? The Booker Prize Committee seemed confused too!) was just too much screen time, which is why it resulted in lengthy story telling?

The movie certainly addresses a number of interesting issues such as sexual (and general) compatibility, the importance of sex in a relationship, sexual frustration of well-behaved people. I can’t complain about the acting either. The performances by both actors are, in fact, very strong. Seeing that their relation is the focal point of the story, it adds a lot to the movie. You may remember Saoirse Ronan as a young girl from another adaptation of a McEwan novel, “Atonement”. Already there she was a remarkable actress and she doesn’t disappoint in “On Chesil Beach”. She’s detached, calm and perhaps slightly deprived of emotions, just like I imagined Florence when reading the book. Billy Howle as Edward is quite a straightforward guy, at the same time fierce and awkward. Other actors are somewhat peripheral but they do a good job too. I also really appreciate the music and beautiful scenery.
Unfortunately, it was just all not enough to keep my attention through the movie. I really like deep, well-constructed characters but this movie completely forgets that there needs to be some action. Watching the film felt a little bit like watching a couple’s therapy session.

To sum up, “On Chesil Beach” is an okay plus watch. I can see and appreciate what the director and the scriptwriter tried to do there but I’m not buying it as a product. Now to finish off I’ll share with you an amusing anecdote about the writing of the novel: Apparently, Ian McEwan has admitted to taking a few stones from Chesil Beach in a radio interview. He kept them at his desk when writing. This confession caused protests by Mother Nature lovers as that was apparently illegal, which the author hadn’t know about. He ended up paying a fine of 2000 pounds. Go figure, the Brits!

 

Book Review: Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

mating in captivityEsther Perel is a renowned psychotherapist who has been working with couples like forever. One of her main interests are long-term relationships and more specifically domestic sexuality and infidelity. She’s also fluent in 9 languages and in general a very impressive smart thinker. During one of my book shopping splurges I bought a copy of her book “Mating in Captivity” and here’s what I think about it.

“Mating in Captivity” is an interesting read. Theoretical parts of the book are supported with Perel’s clients cases. It’s quite a comprehensive book in some aspects. I did feel, however, like it was written a bit too much on the basis of Perel’s work experience and thoughts and there was too little focus on other books/research on the topic.
The author makes some very important points. She underlines how a good couple is a union of independent beings and how dependence and lack of separation is a desire killer. This is counter-intuitive given our social and cultural programming (just think about the Jerry Maguire everyone’s favorite line to his love interest “You complete me.”). I also liked how she pointed out the importance of society in formation of our expectations and views regarding sexuality and domesticity. As a representative of any Western society, you can relate to most of what she’s talking about. Still, some of her points are very American culture oriented and fall flat with a non-American reader.
The society has a big impact on us but Perel couldn’t be a respectable psychotherapist without mentioning a thing or two about the impact of childhood and our relationship with parents on our sexuality. Last but not least, she discusses the complex reasons why children can be such sex life killers and no, just being tired isn’t anywhere close to the full explanation.

The book provides food for thought and reads well. I do have certain doubts about its use for a troubled couple, though. Let’s say someone, for instance, thinks that spending 100% of your time apart from work with your partner is the blueprint for happiness but after years of doing so is struggling with resentment and a non-existent sex life. I really doubt that pointing out that this isn’t the way to go, even if supported with an appropriate case study will encourage this person to change. In a way, as good as this book is, it does feel a little bit like preaching to the choir. Perhaps the genre of the book is a bit unclear? It has some traits of a self-help book as well as some of a more general “how human works” vibe. Anyway, thanks, Madame Perel for making me feel justified in my judgment of other couples 😉

 

When Things Change

bloom-blossom-blur-162311Some people dread change, others almost pathologically follow it and then there’s this third group there’s somewhere in between. I’ve been a representative of all three groups at some points in my life. Regardless of what your attitude to change is, things do change so embracing it is just a part of life.

Of course, there are all these unpredictable horrible changes that happen to people. A dreadful disease, a death of a family member, a loss of job or a lover. Life’s full of surprises and many of them are far from pleasant. It’s often not easy to deal with something bad that has hit us unexpectedly, especially that we foolishly consider our lives comfortably predictable and safe. My general make up is more of an expectation of the worst so my relationship with this source of change is weird. It’s not like I’m not angry or sad it’s more like underneath all these feelings there’s a strong undertone of “Oh, hello, tragedy, I’ve been expecting you.” Now, to be honest (touch wood) I’ve been so far spared many of the worst life tragedies and I have had an objectively easy life. Being highly sensitive, however, means that I sometimes take blows that would mean almost nothing or little to other people very badly.

Anyway, let’s not talk about the bad stuff. Change can also be positive but even if it is, it can bring unexpected consequences. For instance, I remember when being a singleton I was the first one to criticize friends who get too comfy with their boyfriends or girlfriends and ditch their friends. Almost two years into being married I still believe that being a separate unit from your partner is crucial to your personal and couple happiness. Say “yes” to hobbies, friends and networking. Still, part of having a functional relationship is spending a lot of time together doing both fun and domestic things with your partner. Even though I used to be so eager to judge, today I must say that life just isn’t the same for a single person as for a person in a committed relationship. When you like spending time with your partner (and if you don’t why are you together?) and they’re your priority, your time for other things becomes more limited. Some things even have to go and honestly you’re quite happy to let them. Sure, it’s nice to have an extended date with your girlfriends from time to time but your preference for a weekend away will be most of the time to be with your partner and/or other members of the coupleverse.

So there’s a partner that will unavoidably change your world in some way. Then there are other things related to being an adult. For some people this means puppies and for other children. The point is, unless you’ve been in the situation yourself you don’t really understand to what extent such things change your life. Surely you’ve been telling people either directly or indirectly “Ah, but you used to be out all the time!”. Of course, when you’re on the receiving end and it’s your friend getting steady with someone or moving abroad or enrolling into a study program on the top of their full-time job you’re the one feeling the emptiness. Unavoidably, however, you’ll be at some point the one changing (and if you won’t is this really a good sign and are you developing at all?). It seems like the best thing to do is to try to get as comfortable with life changes as you can. Both yours and that of others because change is very often a sign of growth and what doesn’t grow is dead (even if just inside!). Also, there’s no point crying over spilt milk and all.

Last but not least, no one changes entirely. Big events in life usually just strengthen the features that people have already had. These moms that tell you they have no time whatsoever for exercise now that they have kids and you’ll understand that one day, in most cases didn’t use to be active before the kids either (just don’t point that out cause they’ll bite your head off!). Active parenthood is a thing and as challenging as it must be many active people fight to upkeep that lifestyle in some modified way.  The people that all of a sudden start to be crazy late after they get a promotion using their Responsible Job as an excuse, usually used to annoy the shit out of you with this characteristic before too. Those who can’t keep any arrangements after they found a new partner, become just more flakey than before. In other words, yeah life sometimes changes drastically but people are also full of shit and LOVE excuses. Am I right or am I right?

When things change and they change all the time, try to go with a flow. Sometimes change pushes you out of your comfort zone and makes your life even better than before. Other times it makes it worst. Sure, it’s annoying when you had been happy about something and this something changed but it’s just life. Moan and complain a little bit and then move on!

How Often Does LOVE Actually Exist Behind Closed Doors ?

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#zlotybaby’s post on the #royalwedding shed some light on the human obsession with weddings. NB: Weddings. Not love. Not the marriage that comes after the wedding. But the event itself. And in some cases, it is a GBP 32 million event. Everyone and his dog seems to feel they should voice an opinion on such events. Whether it’s about Meghan’s hairdo or just a lowly pleb’s bad choice in caterers – I’m sure the ugly aunties, pervy uncles and even the next door neighbour’s cat will have something to say. Oh and don’t even get me started on what people are going to be saying if you aren’t in a rush to get down the aisle, pop out babies or follow the crowd. Breaking with convention (as we saw Harry and Meghan do on a number of levels) is certainly going to get you some backlash from those who did/are doing it RIGHT.

Anyways I’m getting ahead of myself here. This isn’t the post about where I bitch and moan about lavish weddings, I’ll save that one for a rainy day. Getting to the point, what I want to talk about today is how often ‘love’ (in the traditional sense – whatever that is) really exists behind the facade of all the ever-perfect relationships we are bombarded with today. Life these days (like weddings) has become nothing more than a big fat competition – who is the most successful? Who has the best relationship? Who has achieved all those big life goals by the arbitrary deadlines set by society? With that kind of pressure and all the requirements, people strive for in a potential partner  –  I really find it hard to believe that ‘love’ features that heavily in most people’s stories.

Call me a cynic all you want but I think often all the ‘perfection’ we see around us is a bit of an illusion and you only need to start looking beyond those lavish weddings and facebook declarations of love to see that things aren’t all that peachy. Let’s look at things a little more closely.

Long distance marriages

Long distance relationships. Been there, done that. And I can honestly say from experience that they are not much fun. The novelty of playing online battleships and falling asleep with your Skype camera on wears off pretty quickly when you only get to do the deed once every six months! But maybe, I’m just a needy little girl because there are some people that can make it ‘work’ for years and years. Take for instance long distance marriages which feature kids, pets and extravagant holidays but where the couple themselves only meet a couple of times a year. But don’t worry, he got her that Cartier bling she was after so it’s all good.

I get it if your financial situation requires you to take up a lucrative job offer in a butt fuck nowhere in order to support the fam but in some cases, it seems that it is the long-distance element that has allowed the relationship to stand the test of time. Perhaps there could be nothing worse than having to share a whole country with the dude you married. Let’s just say, I’ve probably spent more time with boyfriends from bad relationships that these couples have with the ones they said ‘I do’ to!

And if you can’t emigrate to avoid your spouse remember this is the age of Ashley Madison ….

Behind many of these real-life fairytales, lies a deep, dark and sinister subplot AKA the affair. Even though most people won’t admit it, monogamy is overrated in this age! All those perfect relationships you see happening around you, well, the stats say that 1 in 3 marriages feature some form of infidelity somewhere down the line. Even the Royals aren’t immune!

And the sad truth is that in most instances it won’t even end in divorce. People just carry on. Some choose to turn the other check while others go to couples therapy. And some just seek revenge in the arms of the gardener/maid/car-guard/stripper. What a time to be alive!

But surely noone wants to die alone. So just get a buddy and sleep in different beds …

While women feel the pressure to settle down thanks to that ticking biological clock, there comes a time when even the most eligible of bachelors has to come to terms with the fact that unless he puts a ring on it he is most likely to end up dying alone. It really is a scary thought.

It’s a reasonable motivation to settle down, I suppose. Love doesn’t necessarily have to feature. It’s about finding someone you can tolerate you enough to share their space with you to some extent. Of course, sex, snuggles and the like are going to become too much effort as we age anyway. So why not cut to the chase and set yourself up in separate beds from the go? #truestory!

Yup so, that wonderful thing called LOVE. Well, it is a nice idea and all…But the next time people make you feel sad about the state of your life and the fact that you might not be sticking to the convention just remember that as great as all those social media official relationships look, you just need to scratch the surface to see that things aren’t all that perfect. Love doesn’t always feature in these things and clearly lots of people don’t think it’s a requirement for a ‘functioning’ relationship. But sometimes I guess the facade of these things help because of deep down we are all different degrees of dysfunctional. What I’m saying is people should do whatever makes them happy – marry a pleb, marry a movie star, don’t get married – just live in sin, sleep in separate beds, live in different time zones, whatever. And if you are lucky you may just find a glimmer of love somewhere hidden behind the Facebook pictures, public glorification, etc and if not well just try not to die alone (and get eaten by Alsatians!) 😛

OK Rinsers. How prominently do you think love features in our relationship choices today? Is it all about the facade and reaching major milestones at the given deadline? Or are relationships more about companionship so we don’t need to die alone? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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 It Ever Too Late To Settle Down?

watchChances are that you, just like me, live in a big city and you see the tendency of people to settle down later and later in life (if at all). Is it ever too late for that? One would be tempted to say “no” but I do think it gets more and more difficult with age.

Not long before I met my husband, a friend of mine who was in her thirties and who listened to me complaining about men told me I was being unrealistic. She said that at 28 I should only be counting on the so-called second market, meaning guys who have already been married and possibly have kids. I actually did follow her advise for a bit in my choice of who to swipe right and went for the daddies. They would send me too many picture of their kids about whom I always said they were pretty because, well, what do you say? This short experiment taught me quickly that I don’t really want to take on a whole family and I became unapologetic about children being my deal breaker. The older guys, however, seemed more mature, usually secure in their jobs (rather than living with their moms and lying about having their own companies) and interested in younger women (surprise, surprise). For a bit there I thought I found my niche.

I went on quite a few dates with first market gentlemen in the age bracket of 35-40 and chatted with a few even above the 40 mark. The trick was there was always something they said on the first date, which made me understand why they haven’t settled down. A lot of them had serious vibes of a commitment phoebes, telling me about how there’s something wrong with women in general (like for instance, their dislike for nice guys) or how monogamy is a bad concept. Some mentioned their mom way too much (one even said he hasn’t met the woman being as good as his mom yet). Others were fine with a relationship but not with living with someone. Yet another group was still hang up on their last long relationship and was clearly not over it, regardless of whether it finished a year or 10 years ago. Last group were people who just lacked social skills/women skills. The group I haven’t encountered during this round were constant travelers but I know they exist. Most of these men weren’t actually interested in a serious relationship. This made me wonder: have these guys missed their time to enter a serious relation and lost flexibility to the point that wouldn’t risk their lifestyle even to accommodate someone very special? Also, there’s a reason why they’re not everyone’s favorite group to date and why their dating market value drops with age.

The truth is that we do get more and more stuck in our ways as we get older. Many people get their own place rather than stay with flat mates in their mid to late twenties. They prefer independence but they could still could mould themselves easily to live happily with a partner, even if that was their first exprience of this sort. It does seem, though that there’s an age when such flexibility as the one required to learn to live with someone happily disappears. Just think about it. If you live on your own you can be as messy or clean as you want to. You don’t have to let anyone know what time you’ll be home or move your schedule around to suit your partner. Even living with flat mates is a different dynamic and gives us way more independence than a serious relationship. Now imagine having such independence for 5, 10, even 15 years. One gets used to it and with age it becomes more and more difficult to see that the perks of a happy relationship are bigger than the ultimate freedom. Especially men are likely to skip settling down altogether, in my opinion, due to the preferential upbringing that still teaches them that as men they can do pretty much whatever they want.

Reaserch seems to support me in my thinking. This article in Time analyses a study according to which the perfect age to get married and not end up divorced is between 28-32. Makes sense to me: not too late to lose flexibility and not too early not to know what you want. I don’t think that people above (or below) the mark should despair, it’s just a study, after all. It’s more an indication that perhaps there’s something to my thinking. I know some people (mostly men) above the mentioned mark, for instance, who have already given up on love because they feel dating is too much effort and they don’t want to compromise their lifestyle for anyone. You can also see a similar tendency among people who are married or in a stable partnership and want to have kids. They also keep pushing the boundaries of when to have kids because they like their lives and are used to them. After years of building a life you want in terms of education and professional sacrifices, it’s difficult to decide to change it just like that for something which may or may not make it better. You know why there are no similar stats for “lasting parenthood” as they are for the best age for a lasting marriage? Because you can never divorce your children. I think when we’re younger we’re more willing to try new things, knowing we may fail. It’s just easier to pick oneself up.

Last but not least, some people have serious relationship issues that prevent them from having their happily ever after. They may be trying to to fix the issues they had as children in the relationship. For instance, if someone has an unappreciative mother and keeps dating people with similar traits hoping they’ll eventually appreciate them. Patterns are difficult to break and sometimes require help from someone objective, you pay a lot of money to, to help you break them. Science agrees, however, that due to our flexibility disappearing, such issues are easier to work on in our twenties than in our thirties or later. Of course, not settling down isn’t the only risk. An even bigger one is attempting to settle down with a wrong person. You can learn more about it in an excellent Ted talk “Why 30 isn’t the new 20”:

To sum up, I don’t think it’s ever too late to settle down but I think the older you get, the more difficult it is to do so. It’s also probably much easier if you had some previous experience with serious relationship than if you don’t. The flexibility disappearing with age, men being used to having their way and last but not least, the lowering dating market value connected to age make settling down above 35 a challenge.

The Things We Stop Talking About When We Grow Up

little_girlsDo you remember how you used to tell everything to your BFF when you were little? She knew all your secrets and you knew everything about her. Even when you were a teenager there were those girlfriends you told about how disappointing your first sexual encounters were. Then something happens around the time we get into a committed relationship and some things we used to talk openly about become taboos. What are those things, why does it happen and is it necessarily a negative process?

First of all, money becomes a thing. Sure, there are some people who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth but most of us lack money to some extent. As kids we dream about buying more bubble gum and sweets than our pocket money (and reason) allows us too. As teenagers we moan about not being able to buy cigarettes and booze. As students we never have enough money to experience everything we would like to and as young professionals we usually stand on our two feet for the first time and we learn that EVERYTHING costs money and more than we would like. As we have a common ground of complaining with our peers, there’s no shame in telling someone that we’re broke and we can’t do this or that. We also openly complain about how little we earn and we know exactly how much that “little” means for our friends.

As we grow in experience and our salaries get bigger, however, the money taboo appears. Somehow, it’s not okay anymore to ask your friend how much they earn and even if you do they may get cagey about the question. Sometimes some vague estimates are given publicly and you can see the other members of the party having fumes coming out of their ears, trying to count exactly how much does that mean and whether it’s more or less than themselves. Perhaps with age we become more competitive, jealous and full of ourselves? Who knows. The fact is that apart from my husband only my sister-in-law knows how much I earn and that’s because she has no boundaries. I honestly feel quite comfortable not knowing what people earn, as I know it’d eat me up to know that someone less educated and more importantly lazier than me earns more than I do.

Another thing that’s affected by the lost of sincerity is a sex life. I used to have girlfriends with whom I would share everything. We knew with whom, when and how many times. Especially those who didn’t have long-term boyfriends were open about their sexplorations. Even the more settled ones, however, would often tell me more than I wanted to know, which made it difficult for me to look at their partner in the same way. Generally, the rule seems to be: the more serious and committed the relationship, the less you will hear people commenting on their sexual lives. It makes sense then, why in our youth we are more sexually verbal. When we get older and we have more respectful relationships we naturally tend to keep certain things between ourselves and our partner.

As little as we talk about sex when we settle down, there is an exception to this rule, namely procreative sex. Especially when you’re married, everyone and their dog feels entitled to ask you whether you’re trying for a baby yet (=are you fucking without using contraception) and about your plans in this respect (=when are you planning to fuck without using contraception). People will share their news about being pregnant over a meal (gross guys, I’m eating and I don’t want to be thinking about you two fornicating!) and even tell you about their trouble with conceiving (I AM LITERALLY PUKING IN MY MOUTH HERE). The reason for that is that society (Team God, in particular) has been trying to separate the two issues of procreation and sex as if they were entirely unrelated. “You wouldn’t like your child to know you had too much fun making you, now, would you?” they seem to say. Well, I don’t know. Personally I hope my mom had a multiple orgasm in the process.

With age it becomes also more and more difficult to share both happiness and unhappiness with people. I have written about the latter here so I won’t repeat myself and focus in this post on the difficulty with sharing happiness. Perhaps this particular taboo has to do with similar reasons as the money one. The truth is, even if we like our friends we don’t like to see them more successful than we are. If ,on other hand, we are the successful ones we don’t want to rub our “better-offness” in. People both feel uncomfortable sharing their happiness (=showing off) as being on the receiving end of such behavior (=feeling inferior).

As kids we don’t really judge ourselves according to a strong superiority/inferiority metric. Perhaps, a kid gets mocked sometimes because it wears a cap on their head in – 20 degrees winter (true reason of mockery in cold countries – cool kids are always cold) but it takes a while before we develop our insecurity to the point that it really bothers us. Hell, I remember being proud that I had friends who were smarter/prettier/more fashionable or cooler in any other way than I was. Look at adults, though. Have you ever noticed what happens if one of your friends at work becomes a manager? All of a sudden, people stop being friendly with him or her (especially her!) and start gossiping about how they’re full of themselves or whatever else bullshit is being said about them. In reality their promotion is no mystery because they did just work so much harder than everyone else.  And yet, people prefer to label them as lucky because if the new manager is better at their job than they themselves are than they are worse. And that bloody hurts. Let me hold my horses, here, though. Our lovely #englishrosiee has written already about the difference between being lazy AF and unlucky in the context of love.

I do believe that we have the right to be happy about being happy and we shouldn’t stop ourselves in most cases. A good example of when we should stop ourselves is, for instance, when someone’s cat died. This is really not a good moment to tell them how happy you are about your new puppy or even a raise. Otherwise, we should grow our appreciation and gratitude for life rather than the skills of moaning and complaining.

To sum up, as we grow up we stop talking about certain things with our friends and basically anyone who isn’t our partner. Part of this tendency, is jealousy and insecurity and a part of it is just closeness to our partners. As much as our friends may do without the details of our marital coitus we should try being more open with them and allow the relationships to grow. Perhaps, learning that a friend earns much more than we do, will initially make us feel bad but then may inspire us to take some steps towards a career change.

Hello, Dear Rinsers! Do you talk about money with your friends? You sex life? Do you agree that the things we talk about with our friends change as we grow up or am I being a lunatic?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

 

 

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.