Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

the_subtle_art_of_not_giving_a_fuckI occasionally read Mark Manson’s blog. He’s a rather smart guy with good, counter-intuitive and certainly not mainstream advice about how to live. Among others, he preaches certain pragmatism in dating which of course makes me his fan. This is why when I saw his book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” in a bookstore, I decided to give it a go.

Just like Buddha and other Buddhist folk, Mark tells us that suffering is a natural part of life. The problem with the modern society is that it doesn’t want to accept it as a fact. We try to find various ways of relieving the pain of life or entirely get rid of it, which just doesn’t make sense. The mainstream media promotes a happy clappy reality, which just isn’t, well, realistic. We’ll all suffer in this or other way and we should embrace it, says Manson. In his mind it means choosing the things we give a f*ck about. You know how people get bent out of shape every time something doesn’t go exactly like they expected it to? This is giving a f*ck about something they shouldn’t. Some things are beyond our control and there’s no point in excessive anger. There are other things, however, which are important and which are worth fighting for. In other words, we will suffer but we can choose what’s worth suffering for.

Of course, Mark tells the reader much more in his book and explains his ideas in more detail but the above summary should give you an idea about the tone. I like Manson’s no bullshit approach to life. Oh, boo hoo, it’s difficult to have the courage to change your job? Well, life is difficult. Is it important enough for you to try? Manson also analyses why humans act against their best interest and uses good examples to explain why things are the way we are. The book is a good read and certainly an eye opener particularly for those people who never encountered Buddhist teachings. However, it’s not free of flaws.

First of all, Mark gives you nothing in return for changing your life views. He pours a bucket of cold water on your head and then he leaves you out there, in the cold in, with no clothes on. Buddhism after doing the same gives you meditation as a way to improve your life. Therapy gives you tools to deal with new information such as practical exercises aimed at changing your habits. Hell, even other self-help books give you practical advice on what to do. Manson doesn’t and he claims he doesn’t have to, which is surprising for someone who claims to well know the human nature. Another weakness of the book is that even I, as an irregular reader of his blog, have recognized big chunks of the text as being copy pasted from his online work. This isn’t cool particularly for his faithful readers. There are different ways to say the same things and this device is just lazy. Last but not least, he digresses quite a bit and the book could have been structured in a better way.

Having said that, I still think that Manson is brilliant. He’s the only widely read person I know, who stands up to the harmful beliefs that the main culture is ingraining in us. He’s a free thinker and I have a lot of respect for him. I recommend this book to everyone, particularly to those who are comfortable with their illusions about how life should be nice and fluffy.

Do you read Manson’s blog, Dear Reader? What blog do you read (apart from this one, of course)? Can you recommend any books that opened your eyes? I’m looking forward to reading your comments.

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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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open-Mindedness in Dating : Could it be a Bad Thing?

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It has been almost 3 years since I started the whole ‘modern dating thing’. When I say ‘modern dating’, I mean using tools like Tinder and OKC, which were previously reserved for the world’s biggest losers, to meet guys, rather than waiting around for your potential Prince Charming to appear organically you while you are sweating it out at the gym (well, yes they do say it’ll happen when you least expect it but they never warned you that you may look like a sweat infested troll). Anyway, so back to those 3 ish years; in that time I’d like to think I’ve kept an open mind about the type of people I dated (beggars can’t be choosers and all!). In fact, I’d go as far as to say, that I openly despise people that only date people who are in certain social circles, went to the right schools, practice a particular religion or belong to a certain ethnic/racial groupethnic/racial group (yes, I do pride myself on having dated the United Colours of Benetton).

Ha! But you see the truth is my judgement of these bigoted fools hasn’t got me very far. Sure, I’ve had some fantastic experiences but at the end of the day it seems like it’s those close-minded people that seem to be walking down the aisle while that nice chick who dates anything with a pulse is always the one twirling alone at the wedding (although she does have a 100% success rate at catching the bouquet!). So, for today’s post, I want to question whether having an open-mind about who you date is necessarily such a good thing? Or are you more likely to be successful in finding your happily-ever-after/settling down if you match with someone you share certain similarities with?

First things first, I’d definitely say that dating with an open-mind and giving everyone a fair shot provides for better experiences. Let’s be honest, the type of girl who sticks to what she knows would never have the experience of a lifetime moving across the world because she bumped someone she clicked with on a night out on Long Street. Nope, she’d probably avoid the risk and stay put in her happy little village in the sticks. And even when you don’t find an epic romance, the fact that you are willing to date weird and wonderful folk certainly provides good LOL stories. Remember, the Indian Prince. Dating people who are different to you means you are exposed to new cultures and ways of life. Keeping an open-mind will be a good learning experience if nothing else.

But not everyone in the world wants to try everything at the buffet. Some just prefer to stick to the Sweet and Sour chicken that they know and love. Come on, we all know this type. The girls that only date guys that studied at Ivy League universities or went to particular posh schools. I guess it has it advantages, the chances are you have a lot of mutual friends and you can pretty much guarantee he’ll know how to conduct himself around your social circles (unlike the fool without a Matric certificate who’ll have a phat brag about how he pee’d on someone because of the colour of their skin!). Then there are those that prefer to date people from the same ethnic background as them. I’d be tempted to call them out for being slightly racist but maybe they just don’t want to deal with the challenges of being in a inter-racial relationship. Life is full of obstacles, would removing one of those be such a crime?

I usually jump at any opportunity to hate of #teamgod. But actually I think religion is one area where it actually may make most sense to stick to your tribe. Unlike, race and the school you attended, religion isn’t completely arbitrary. Sure, your parents may have forced it on you as a child but there should come a point when you grow a brain and decide whether the mumbo jumbo truly resonates with you or it’s just complete nonsense. Our religious beliefs are like political views in that they are something we choose to subscribe to and it’s totally in our control to follow (or not) a certain system. So yes, if religion is going to shape every aspect of your life, then perhaps it makes sense to find a partner who buys into the same way of thinking.  I mean, you wouldn’t expect a marriage between a Lefty and a Tory Jerk very long would you? Wouldn’t the same apply to a union between a guy who loved Church and chick who would barricade the doors to stop her kids from going anywhere near a house of god because she thinks all priests are a bunch of dirty paedos?

So now I bet your wondering why #englishrosiee doesn’t just subscribe to the whole arranged marriage farce if she suddenly understands why some people prefer to stick to their own? Firstly, do you really want to see me palmed of onto the first guy that provides my Dad with a gelato and my Mother with a Louis Vuitton Handbag? Next, marrying the male version of myself would be nightmarish and they’d probably file for divorce within 24 hours. And finally, I’ve spend over three decades allowing Disney to pollute my fragile mind, the chances of me ever clicking with the match that’s right on paper are very slim. That said, in my old age, I get why matching with someone who shares a religion, social class or culture with you does work for some people. Also, I think people have the right (and duty) to be unapologeticunapologetic about what they want because it saves everyone time (and the heartache) in the long run. So being open minded obviously means that your dating pool is larger and chances are you are going to be exposed to a more diverse range of people, but diversity also means differences which can cause issues when it comes to dating. Tissues and issues though, who cares? There is nothing to say that the guy from your village, country or religious institution isn’t going to break your heart. So, I’ll keep chasing the interesting ones, the ones that give you stories and keep life interesting.

OK.What are your thoughts on open-mindedness in dating? Is it just for good experiences? Is there something to be said for the archaic way of doing things where people stuck to their own tribe/race/religion/village, etc? Share your experiences in the comments below.

The Deuce: Sex, Sex, Sex and James Franco

the deuceI haven’t seen such a sexed up series in a while. Game of Thrones or Spartacus are truly romance stories for teenage girls by comparison! In this review you’ll learn what #zlotybaby thinks about this series about prostitution and porn in New York of the fabulous 70s.

The first season of the series focuses on quite a number of main(ish) characters. Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a disillusioned prostitute who refuses to be pimped and aspires to direct sexy movies. Abby (Margarita Levieva) comes from a rich family but doesn’t feel like she belongs to the overly proper world so she tries to make ends meet as a bartender. There’s also James Franco in a double role of twins, Vincent and Frankie Martino. The former is the more level-headed business owner, the latter your typical trouble maker. The series also follows a number of secondary characters: the main pimps played by Gbenga Akinnagbe and Gary Carr and their protegees, Darlene (Dominique Fishback), Lori (Emily Maede) and Ruby (Pernell Walker). Let’s not forget about a nosy and beautiful journalist Sandra (Natalie Paul) who wants to write an article about it all with the help of a slightly corrupted police officer (Lawrence Gilliard Jr).

The big number of characters may be initially confusing but they’re all quite memorable. The cast is very well chosen and it also facilitates remembering who is who. There are some weak points in the choice of actors, though. Abby, a 20 year old girl, is played by a woman quite close to her 40s and it hinders the character’s credibility (and yes, I’d also be protesting if it was the case of a male character). Another weird choice was James Franco x 2. The characters of the twins are not different enough (or perhaps it’s Franco’s acting fault?) and I often felt confused about which one is which. I get that many women could watch Franco in all the roles but alternative movies like “Being John Malkovich” or “Adaptation” are a better fit for such questionable cast choices. Having said that, I was really impressed by great costumes, make-up and acting in the TV show in general and in particular on the side of the pimps and the prostitutes. You almost could forget that this isn’t what they do in their every day life!

Partially thanks to the actors, it’s very easy to get into the world presented on the screen. You feel for the girls and just like them you have a hate and love relationship with their pimps. Sex in this series is just a commodity that can be bought and in general is rather deprived of romanticism. What do you want? The world of prostitution and porn is cruel. The women are abused not only by their pimps who are supposed to be protecting them but also by their clients. The business is dangerous and it doesn’t pay that well after “your man” takes his cut. The idea that it’s easy money seems to be far from the truth.

The sad, depressing world of “The Deuce” is in some twisted way entertaining. I compulsively wanted to learn more about the characters, even if a lot of the time I wasn’t expecting anything good happening to them (GOT fans surely get it). There are no easy fixes in the depicted world. How to escape the business? Especially if there’s a video out there on which you’re having sex? Even if it’s possible, can you forget about all the penises you had to suck? I’ve never worked as a prostitute but as a teenager I made money sex texting in my first post matric job. I felt dirty for a long long time after I quit. I was also very doubtful about the nature of men in general for years to come. Of course, they’re not all the same but when you’re constantly exposed to one kind it does become your perception of the whole. Still, I’m quite interested to see what the future holds for the women of the night in this series.

“The Deuce”  is a bitter-sweet tale that shows us a world which doesn’t exist anymore. And yet, 50 years later just like 200 hundred years earlier, both prostitution and porn prosper. Perhaps it’s time to get off our high horse and recognise that interest in sex, including paid sex in reality and on the screen is a part of the human nature? Legalisation would bring safety to men and women involved in the industry but also to their clients. Brutal assaults, killings, spreading of STDs – all these issues could be avoided if only more governments had the balls to address the situation.

Last but not least, “The Deuce” really has a good soundtrack mostly suited for the presented period (I wouldn’t know any better but my husband did occasionally voice his doubts about the music truly being from the 70s). I really recommend this series to anyone who likes a TV show that takes them to a completely different place. I also can promise you that if you look at the problems of people on the screen, you will almost immediately feel so much better about your own.

What’s your opinion about legalisation of prostitution and pornography, Dear Reader? Any secrets to share? Have you already watched the series?

 

 

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?

 

 

Competing with Ex-Appeal : Why You Need To Stop Comparing Yourself To Their Past

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Perhaps I sound like broken record but if there is one thing that my experiments with the Tinderverse has taught me it’s that most people (at least, those you may contemplate dating because you know I just can’t deal when it comes to 30-something virgins) come with a past (an in turn, the associated baggage!). Often, a major (and potentially thorny) part of a person’s past concerns their exes (or past conquests, if you prefer!). Let’s be honest. Whether it’s through an ‘innocent’ facebook stalk (aka essential ‘research’) or because you live in a hopeless little town where everybody knows everybody it’s only a matter of time before the subject of your partner’s ex pops up.

And when this roadblock in your relationship does happen , it’s only natural that you find yourself wondering comparing yourself to the past. Is she prettier than me? Did he have a better job than I do? Is she smart? What did she ever see in this dude…does he have bigger guns than I do? The list is endless and once you get started, you’ll find yourself falling rapidly down a never ending rabbit hole. While it’s only human to have these thoughts, it can easily get out of hand, become somewhat torturous and potentially have negative impacts upon your relationship.

So here are a few reasons why we need to accept that everyone has history and stop competing with so called ex-appeal if there is any hope for a functional relationship that isn’t haunted by the ghosts of boyfriends (and girlfriends) past

It’s a pointless activity

Start by asking yourself what you hope to achieve by comparing yourself to girl/boyfriends past and whether exhausting so much energy thinking about your partner’s past is going to do your budding new relationship any good?

Sure, there are perhaps there somethings we can learn from past failures but weigh it up and your likely to find that focusing on history will do more damage overall. Firstly, the comparisons are probably just going to bring up your own insecurities. If you then start vocalising these fears/concerns, they’ll probably serve to do nothing more than be a source of irritation for your partner. However much a person is over their ex, being constantly reminded of your past isn’t going to give you good feelings.

Remember for one reason or another reason those relationships broke. They weren’t meant to be. Of course, all of our exes had some good qualities and we may even have fond memories of them but at the fact of the matter is that the bad things outweighed the good otherwise things would have likely panned out better.

 

It makes you (look) UNHINGED

Once you start digging into a person’s past, you’ll end up falling down a never ending rabbit hole and eventually all the questions polluting your weak mind will start to make you insane. Who knows? You might even become so obsessed with the past that you end up going all SWF (Single White Female) on the poor dude and become replica of exactly what he has trying to get away. Pretty much a recipe for disaster

So before you go down that path. Just don’t. Choose to preserve your sanity and let it go.

 

Another place, another life

If you look hard enough you’ll find purpose in every past relationship in your life. Even those horrible, sexless affairs have something to teach us about life, what we want/don’t in a partner and probably most importantly about ourselves and how we deal with other humans.

People change. Sometimes that happens within the confines of a relationship. That 23 year free spirit exploring deepest darkest Africa (aka Long Street) won’t necessarily have the same priorities as a 30-something who has learnt that real life isn’t a Disney animation. They may have been the perfect trophy couple in their teens but maybe life took them along diverging pasts.

So get this, comparing yourself to an ex is just a waste of time. You are two different people operating under two completely different sets of circumstances.

 

You can’t rewrite history (so just focus on the future!)

Even if they refer to the person as the love of their lives or the one that got away, nothing any of us can do will ever change the past. Clearly, some shit had to go down for things to end. And yes, sometimes even in real life we have these wonderful epic romances that are the stuff of fairytales but don’t end up in happily ever after with the poofy white dress and horse drawn carriage. As we get older, maybe people just calm down or perhaps they become more pragmatic and look for a partner that can give them what the want/need in a longer-term sense rather than going for those somewhat more superficial relationships.

Even if there are exes where things could have potentially worked out better, you analyse things and see that they ticked all the boxes, the fact is that they didn’t so stop trying to rewrite history and poke holes in the past. Instead focus on the here and now and building a future.

To tie up today’s rant… While it’s human to be curious about a partner’s past don’t let the comparisons overwhelm you. Everyone we meet comes with a bit of history. But hopefully, it’s just that – history. Even if there are those  relationships that we look back upon nostalgically, people grow up and circumstances change and however amazing a person we dated back in the day was the truth is that for whatever reason that relationship failed and we’ve now found ourselves of on the cusp of something that looks far more hopeful. So working on creating a happy future rather than trying to play historian and unraveling the matters of yesterday – it’ll only drive you crazy and destroy this good thing you’ve got going.

So, Rinsers. Have you ever compared yourself to a S.O’s ex? Did all the stress serve any positive purpose? Why do we do it to ourselves? Pop your thoughts on the matter in a comment below. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

sweet toothI’m a huge Ian McEwan fan. Finishing this book means that I’ve read all his novels (and collections of short stories and plays and books for children and no, my name isn’t Misery). As you would assume, my expectations were high. Has the novel managed to meet them? Read the review to find out!

Serena Frome is into literature but she’s also good at maths. Pushed to study the latter by her mother, she graduates from Cambridge with no clue about what to do with her life. Fortunately, this beautiful girl meets a gentleman who moulds her into a perfect secret service candidate. Will Serena conquer the sexist world of spies and successfully infiltrate the literary world or will she fail miserably?

To encounter a female character who’s a spy in literature is exciting for most women. There aren’t many of them and if they exist, you mostly find them in children’s or teen fiction. Certainly not on the pages of books by serious writers like Ian McEwan. However, the author seems to have a liking for female protagonists. “Atonement”, “On Chesil Beach” or his second to last book, “The Children Act” are good examples of this tendency. I usually can relate to his characters but I did struggle with Serena. She reminds me of a child lost in the mist. Her actions are not well thought through, she falls for one wrong man after another as a twisted version of your typical femme fatale. Serena doesn’t seem to take fate into her own hands and things just happen to her. Perhaps that’s the reason why the novel ends where it ends…

“Sweet Tooth” does fail as a love story, mostly because Serena is more of a plastic doll than an actual character. The novel also fails as a spy novel. There were moments when I couldn’t stop myself from reading further but most of the time I was forcing myself not to skip parts of it. I’m not really interested in reading lengthy descriptions of secret service procedures and neither are other people who choose to read spy novels. A typical reader of this genre is looking for swift action, even if unrealistic. Ideally, it should be so fast, the reader doesn’t have time to stop and question what’s been happening. McEwan gives us instead a kind of lengthy semi-philosophical divagation on the topic of secret service. Can and should the government control artists? Well, no, hello, communism? I don’t need a whole novel to get that it’s morally questionable.

Do the ideas in the book have any merit? From my selfish point of view, yes. I was quite interested in McEwan descriptions of non-existent writings of his fictional character that are sometimes uncannily similar to his actual work. There’s also the beautiful manner in which McEwan puts sentences together. In other words, the plot isn’t captivating but his style as always is. Does it mean I’d recommend this book to anyone? I don’t think so. A McEwan fan won’t stop reading his novels because of this below average book. I could, however, see someone starting their adventure with the author with “Sweet Tooth” and getting discouraged from exploring his work any further. This would be such a shame! We all have bad days so someone who’s been writing for the last 50 years has the right to write a bad novel. McEwan virgins should rather have a go at “Atonement”, “Enduring Love” or his short stories.

Have you heard of Ian McEwan, Dear Rinser? Who’s your favorite writer?

Taking a Break vs. Breaking Up – Can some breathing space be good for a relationship?

How-Taking-a-Break-in-a-Relationship-Works

Relationships are a very necessary element of life (I’ve already made my thoughts on haters and 30-something virgins clear in previous posts). That said, relationships (even the seemingly perfect ones) are inevitably difficult. Even if two people share a lot of commonalities, there’s bound to come a time where both parties won’t see eye to eye on an issue or predicament. Add to that the general obstacles that life throws into the mix and it’s no wonder there are times you feel like pulling your hair out. Naturally, in any good relationship things will be peachy most of the time and with a little bit of work two mature adults can probably iron out issues and come to some sort of understanding on their differences. However, there are also some life problems that can drag on and may not be even within the control of the two parties themselves.

Of course, there are quitters that run at the first sign of trouble. And maybe, for them, that’s a good thing. But there are others who try to find ways to fix things. When you hit a rocky patch in a relationship, and it carries on a little too long the easiest option may be to cut your losses and call time on the union. However, things aren’t always so clear cut or ‘fixable’.  In some instances, while you may feel like a tortoise running in peanut butter when it comes to relationship issues a break up may not be an option in your mind because your feelings for your partner are just too strong. So, you may reason that ‘taking a break’ and spending some time apart may give the much-needed breathing space necessary to reevaluate the situation.

Of course, there are some people that ‘a break’ is nothing more than cowardly precursor to an actual break up. But we’ve also all seen those couples that are constantly breaking up and making up which is nothing more than annoying drama queen behavior. So perhaps taking a step back is the most mature way to deal with things when your getting close to breaking point and feeling that the pressure could force you to make a bad decisions. That said, what the hell is ‘a break’, anyway? The term can mean different things to different people so it’s good to set some parameters when it comes to any sort of trial separation. Here a few things worth considering before making the move…

 

What are the reasons behind the ‘break’?

Pressing the pause button on your relationship certainly shouldn’t be the first line of action when it comes to your problems. Ask yourself whether you’ve sufficiently communicated with your partner about the issues. Simply taking some time apart to stare mindlessly into space isn’t going to solve anything unless you’ve addressed the issues and had some sort of discussion about it beforehand. Remember no one is a mind reader so make sure you are both on the same page before embarking along this path.

 

Is it just a way to avoid the inevitable?

As I said before, some people believe that taking a break is a bad sign and means doom for the relationship. Maybe? Maybe not? Again, look at the nature of the problem you guys are trying to solve. Is it something that can possibly be overcome? Or is it something bigger than the two of you? Be honest with yourselves. It’s tempting to want to try to wean yourself off someone you are attached to rather than calling it quits one time but if deep down you know your aren’t meant to be then perhaps you should simply rip off that band-aid and get things over with?

 

What are the ‘break’ rules?

Remember when in Friends when Ross and Rachel took a break and he cheated but thought it was OK because they weren’t technically together at the time. Yeah, that’s exactly why people need to lay some ground rules. You are taking a break because you’ve got problems, try not to exacerbate things by leaving things open to interpretation.

I think it’s important to state how ‘open’ you want your relationship to be over the break period. Firstly, establish whether you want to sleep with/date other people when  you are apart or whether this is solely a period for actual alone time to reflect on the relationship at hand. (Personally, I’m not a fan of the whole open relationship thing and think that bringing new people into the mix will only really serve to complicate matters).

Secondly, set a time limit for the break. You can’t stay apart forever (unless things do escalate into a full blown break up) but you also need to give yourselves real time to work through things (the last time I tried a break it last all of 48 hours where we talked constantly anyway!). This leads me to the next point, set some rules about communication…do you still plan on checking in on each other or does a break really mean a break on all fronts?

 

Will absence really make the heart grow fonder?

Well, that is the million dollar question. Of course, in an ideal world absence would make the heart grow fonder and the time/distance you’ve given yourselves will refuel your love and longing for one another and you’ll both return to the relationship re-energised and ready to take on whatever the world throws at you. But things aren’t always so. Be aware that the break may also have negative implications on the relationship. One or both parties may realise that in fact they hardly miss each other and single life is far more fun. So while it is OK into the break hoping for the best, you should probably also prepare yourself for the worst.

So all in all, making the decision to take a break from a relationship shouldn’t be seen as an easy option. If you truly want the best outcome (remember the best outcome could in fact be a break up!) it’s important to be talk things through and be clear of what you want and what is expected. Life really isn’t all hearts and flowers and the path to happily ever after isn’t always linear. In some cases, the breathing space offered by a break from the relationship may offer the clarity needed to overcome certain issues. In other instances, it may just prove that some problems truly are insurmountable. Ultimately, I think taking a well-thought out break can be a sign of a mature relationship as opposed to a childish one where people make spontaneous rash decisions without thinking about the repercussions. And at the end of the day, even if the outcome of the break is that it marks the end of a relationship, at least you can both walk away knowing that you gave things a fair shot.

 

Alright Rinsers, time for your thoughts. Have you ever taken a break in a relationship? Did it work out well for you or did it simply mark the beginning of the end? Do you think taking a break is a sign of weakness or a mature course of action? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Review: Lovesick

lovesickYay, a Netflix comedy series about love! And a British one! Seeing that in my Netflix suggestions I immediately thought about Monty Python, Peepshow, Fawlty Towers… Unfortunately, “Lovesick” turned out to be a bitter disappointment.

Let’s have a look at the premise first. Dylan is a 20 something young and mostly single gentleman who learns that he has an STD. Now, he has to contact all his former sexual partners. The main narrative of the present is mixed with the recollections of the numerous women he slept with. In both the past and the present, he’s supported on his quest to find a true love by his two best friends and flat mates, Evie and Luke. Sounds like a reasonable idea, non?

Not quite. “Lovesick” is crap. I chuckled a few times when watching the first season but the series has a big disadvantage for a comedy: it’s not funny. It’s also not a good drama, even if it seems to make the audience emotional too. The characters are just not convincing. Luke is a woman eater with issues about which we learn nothing. Dylan and Evie has feelings for one another but handle them immaturely, choosing to jump into different relationships rather than discussing them. In general, it’s just this kind of series about a bunch of adults behaving like teenagers. I guess it’d be fine, if the series was meant to be purely comedic (after all, no one was taking the characters of “Peepshow” seriously). It’s fine to have cartoon like characters if the style of the show encourages that. You can’t, however, oversimplifies characters and then make them have “serious” problems. It does come off as fake.

I guess the series does address a few important issues. STDs are a threat in the modern, more sexually liberated world. The show doesn’t go on sending any message about responsible sex life, though. Everyone just keeps having sex in the circumstances suggesting that they didn’t use any protection. I mean if you’re a bad series you could at least teach people something about the magic of rubber? Then of course, there’s the quest for true love that Dylan is supposedly on, by sticking his penis without a condom into a lot of women. Last but not least, there’s a question of men and women being “just friends”. Don’t look for depth, though. The series is just bad. I’m not sure why people enjoyed it and why there’s season 2. What can I say, Brits are weird. They voted for Brexit, love their royals and call dessert pudding.

The big advantage of the series is that it consists of only a few 20 minute episodes. I don’t feel like I wasted too much of my lifetime watching it. Besides, anything to protect my Dear Rinsers from watching something that is just not worth it.

Have you watched the series, Dear Rinser? Do you like British comedies in general? Which one is your favorite?

What to Watch Out For When You Start Dating Someone

sea-sunset-beach-coupleYou’ve made it past date three and you’re already imagining yourself in a wedding dress or writing down a proposal script? Hold your horses! You should still be looking out for potential bad signs at this stage. It’s quite easy to pretend you’re a completely different person for a short period of time. I’m sure, you’ve had the experience when after a glass of wine or two you were behaving like a much more confident version of yourself? Early dating is a little bit like that. Putting your best foot forward is natural but it also can be quite deceptive.

First of all, you should make sure that the person you’re seeing is actually available to fully pursue a relationship with you. A friend of mine met a guy once. He lived in a different city and visited hers every second week for work. He was always at his best behavior when he was with her and kept in touch when he was away. One day on a weird hunch she Facebook stalked him and it turned out that he was friends with a married man and a father looking like his identical twin… Of course, it wasn’t a twin but her man was a cheating bastard. I’m not saying that you should ask people to provide you with a certificate of no impediment before you get involved but listen to your intuition. If he’s covering his phone, always having conversations away from you, blocking your access to his social media, something may be up. Another signs such as never meeting his friends or not being seen out with you, may be a sign of him being involved with someone else too. He doesn’t necessarily have to be married, it may be that he has a girlfriend, a number of back pocket girls waiting for him or is just a player and wants to keep his options open. Guys, times are changing, females can be sailors too!

The problem of unavailability isn’t limited to the marital status only. Commitment issues and other emotional issues can be a similar killer for your happily ever after. The bad signs for commitment issues are: making little to no effort, spending little time with you, making things about sex only, lack of affection, not communicating with you apart from when you’re meeting up, keeping you away from a personal life in all possible ways, openly flirting with other women, telling you about other women to make you jealous, talking a lot but not following up… The list is long but I think we’ve covered the basis. It is similarly problematic if someone is a walking disaster and doesn’t keep their shit together. If you’re just after a break-up and so is your love interest, chances are you’re bonding over a broken heart. You can have a rebound but emotional pain isn’t exactly a recommended recipe for mature, long-term love. Someone who’s telling you long teary stories about their ex-spouse or childhood traumas on the first few dates is oversharing. Think about it: doesn’t this person have friends to tell them about such issues? They don’t even know you yet! Don’t fool yourself, thinking that you have something special because of it. Clearly their problems are still very fresh and/or undealt with if they can’t stop themselves from talking about them when still trying to impress someone. Sharing builds intimacy, oversharing a dependency. Don’t forget about it.

You should keep your eyes open and follow-up also on the things that strike you as weird. One swallow doesn’t make a summer so don’t obsess about something that’s only been mentioned in passing. At the same time, if you hear about something repeatedly, it may be worth investigating. A good example is my ex mentioning his mother 21 times on date one that I conveniently ignored. The more someone mentions something, the more he or she is attached to it. People may be downplaying their tendencies to impress someone they like, especially if that person doesn’t share their views (pretending that someone is less religious than they are in reality is just one example). However, it’s usually easy to pick up on such things. In other words, it’s up to you to hear exactly what you hear, when someone tells you about how your Zodiac signs are compatible. On the receiving end, don’t minimize the issues you care about. Maybe your collection of healing crystals will freak someone out but isn’t it easier to deal with it early, rather than spend eternity hiding your treasures from your spouse? Instead just imagine how many crystals you could have with a partner who’s also into these things!

To sum up, in the early stages of dating you should look out for the signs of your partner not being able to commit to you, being an emotional mess and a needy person, as well as for any worrying anomalies in what they’re saying. Last tip: As sex can complicate things and cloud your judgment, rather keep your legs together/your pickle outside of the jar, till you make up your mind about someone.

What are the things you think people should watch out for in the early stages of dating? Any stories about how you ignored a worrying signal? The comments section is all yours!