Herd Mentality

I’ve been binge watching Planet Earth. So far I’ve seen a wolf kill an ox, a shark kill a seal, a seal kill a penguin and global warming kill a polar bear. With the exception of the polar bear all the other animals were picked off from their herd, which got me thinking about our herds.

As much as we try to separate ourselves from animals, we have a lot in common. Being part of a group is one of them. We may no longer need a tribe to hunt, or protect ourselves from wild animals, but having a tribe makes an uncertain world seem less scary. It’s also a seal of approval on who we are and how we live our lives.

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Remember High School?

Even though we don’t depend on the squad for survival in the same way musk ox might, our herd is important to us. Penguins work as a team to survive harsh weather. Lions hunt in prides to take down bigger prey. We lean on our inner circle for support, advice and companionship. But where animals are unified by species and survival, our groups are selected from who’s closest.

Though our main social groups are comprised of whomever we interact with most frequently, there are people that we pick out and maintain friendships with over distance and time. We like to think it’s because there’s something special about them. The reality is a tad more narcissistic. Studies show that friends who support our sense of identity are more likely to be kept around. If you see yourself as a high school prom queen, chances are you’ve surrounded yourself with people who see you the same way.

Our herd reflects who we are, or at least the version of you that you identify most with. If you’ve changed and evolved as a person, it stands to reason that your herd has too. One way or another.

It’s because your herd matters. The right friends can help you to  grow as a person and achieve your potential. Similarly, hanging out with the wrong crowd can limiting. The need for approval and fear of being cast out is powerful. You can get stuck in old patterns and trapped in a version of yourself that isn’t true to who you are. If you’ve ever tried to break up with a friend, you’ll know it can be just as hard as a romantic break up.

If you’re in the right herd you all grow and evolve together. If not then it can be bittersweet. It’s all part of being human. It beats being taken out by a shark, I suppose.

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Why can’t we be friends?

Not all relationships should turn into friendships

A few years ago I received a Youtube video of War’s ‘Why Can’t We be Friends’ with the accompanying wit:

C’mon, let’s be friends (insert winky face).

The message had been sent by an Ex who I had deleted off social media. It actually made me LOL. Not because it was cute, but because the guy who sent me the message knew exactly why we couldn’t be friends.

I don’t really stay in touch with any of my Exes. I tried when I was younger, but the reality is you break up for a reason, and you need to cut that cord.

Some people can’t though. Maybe they think that this person will magically transform. Or maybe they need something to show for the time they invested.

Perhaps that’s why the same Ex expected to just strike up a conversation with me on my Instagram today.

It’s been over a decade and yet here he is, still trying to be friends. Even though I had closed the door. Locked it. Walled it up. I changed numbers, blocked him, cut contact with his friends and yet here he was. Again.

This guy is the post-break up Wile E. Coyote. It’s a pity that an anvil hasn’t been dropped on his head. Repeatedly.

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There’s persistent and then there’s not being able to take no for an answer.Source: Giphy

There will be some deluded Notebook fanatic that will take this persistence for romance. Let me correct you: a guy who can’t take no for an answer after 10 years, or works tirelessly to convince you to change your mind isn’t being romantic.

He has no boundaries.

Showing up blind drunk, throwing stones at a girl’s window and crying, is not normal. Nor is it a sign of sensitivity. It’s a warning sign that says: RUN. RUN FAST! (meep meep.)

Through his sobs he claimed that the only thing he ever did wrong was love me.

Kicking me in the head, dragging me out of a club by my hair and punching me in the face are also fine examples of things he did wrong.

But he’s crying and pursuing me so he must be genuine right?

I will never understand women who think men who cry are sensitive. Maybe the arsehole should be crying.

I’m baffled by people who fall for the bursting into tears routine. But maybe my coldness comes from having had a bottle thrown at me by a guy who swiftly burst into tears over how I made him do these things to me.

There’s something sinister about people like him, who genuinely believe they did nothing wrong. He really believes we could be friends.

Maybe someone did drop an anvil on his head after all.

Photography source: freestocks.org

A Suitable Boy

I give up. Let someone else pick the next dysfunctional man I date.  Just don’t let that someone be my parents.

After a conversation on the dire state of my love life, my friend Jess suggested letting my friends introduce me to nice single men they knew.

Now, coming from an Indian family I am no stranger to the idea of relationship introductions. My Dad showed me a picture of my future husband when I was 11.

The image of a fat boy ramming an ice-cream into his mouth, as if it was the cure for ugly, made me burst into tears. As it turned out, he wasn’t my betrothed, but some random child who had wandered into the shot.

The arranged marriage ‘gag’ had been born. It would plague me all the way to adulthood.

Initially, there were some golden opportunities for a laugh. Like when my Dad signed me up to Shaadibride.com, an Indian dating website. We would sift through the applicants, who neither cared that I was an agnostic, nor that I drank and smoked.

“They’re desperate!” My dad would cry, laughing. Cheers, Dad.

But the fun would always be short lived. My dad’s thinly veiled desire to see me married to a nice, Indian boy always came out when an eligible candidate appeared. In this case it was a doctor, offering to fly me out to Frankfurt for a date. Then all I’d hear was:

“Why do you hate your people? Give him a chance!”

The doctors always made him crack.

3ffd8bae2635f73c80d91544aab0782d9fab3aefc2d45f71e9c239955e73d98dThings haven’t changed. Only last month my Dad was waxing lyrical about the neighbourhood watch officer who had come to give him property stickers. Before him, it was the Olympian flautist he’d met at a wedding back home (playing fast and loose with the word Olympian there, Dad).

Occasionally, my mum will take over and dish out dating advice straight from the 30s.

No, I can’t keep quiet until the wedding day, mum. I don’t want to be a secretary and try to marry my boss. I will not learn to ‘talk nicely’ with ‘boys’. Thanks anyway.

They’re more bothered by me being single than I am.

I can only imagine that the sound of my biological clock ticking away like The Tell-tale Heart, is driving them to madness.

This is probably why I avoid any kind of spinstervention. Historically, they have ended in disappointment. My dad remains optimistic though.  He still insists I don’t stand directly in front of the microwave in case I fry my eggs.

Hope never dies.

 

 

 

Hell is Other People

The hunt for digs is on. What fresh hell will I discover this time round.

I hate flat hunting.

It’s a reminder that you can put a price on freedom and it’s somewhere between  £600 and £800 pcm. It’s a small price to pay for sanity I suppose. That’s only if this group of flatmates doesn’t drive me up the wall.

On the whole I’m a live alone type of gal.

I did it for 5 years quite happily and enjoy my own company. There was no one to answer to. I could have whoever I wanted over, for as long as I wanted. No one complained about me smoking, or told me I couldn’t have a pet. I could dance around in my underwear eating Cheetos, listening to Nina Simone.

They were truly great times.

The only downsides were when I’d freak out after a Special Victims Unit marathon and barricade myself in the bedroom with the cat for protection. Or when my pervy landlord decided to pay a visit while I was in the shower.

It was still bearable for a rent controlled, two bedroom apartment in an up and coming part of Mexico City. And all at the bargain cost of £350 a month.

I should never have left.

I definitely shouldn’t have moved into student housing.

Sharing a bathroom is the quickest way of learning that hell is other people. There’s nothing like realising someone’s been using your Venus Velvet glide to shave their face or your Femfresh to shower, to make you want to use their toothbrush to clean the thick ring they left in the bath tub.

I don’t like inconsiderate people.

How do you fail to realise that your hair won’t clean itself out of the drain?  Or that screaming about your love life with your rabbi over Skype at 11pm on a school night isn’t convivial?

It’s a catch 22 situation. They may seem nice, like most people do in the wild. But you’re only going to really get to know them by living with them. Sometimes it’s great- like my first flat share in Barcelona. Or the time I spent living with the well intentioned, albeit stingy, clown who would practice his clowning on me.

Then there are times you are woken up by a woman who has decided to dress exactly like you. In your clothes in fact. Going so far as to squeeze her size 5 feet into your size 3 Nikes.

Sharing houses is a bit like like Russian roulette. Only instead of shooting yourself, you may end up with a flatmate who gets drunk and mutters menacing threats through your door, as you cry into a body pillow. Yes. That happened.

Let’s hope speed flat mate hunting holds a regular couple of alcohol loving, neat freaks to bunk down with.

Pray for me.

 

Situationships

‘Hey. Remember me?’

Every now and then a guy I’d completely forgotten about will resurface on my WhatsApp or chat.

You know the type. The ones who send a mandatory maintenance text that outwardly says ‘sup’,  but really means ‘I haven’t forgot you, we could still hook up. These never ending situationships that went nowhere have started boomeranging back in the form of monosyllabic text reminders of the fuck ton of bad choices I once made which now baffle me.

I appear to have dated an array of sexual opportunists and emotional parasites who have hoped the relationship door will be left ajar on the off chance they get locked out of a opportunity with a girl they actually like. Luckily, I can now identify a waste of time in under 10 characters. A tragic but necessary life skill. Like being able to find your way home drunk.

It took me years to realise I had to stop responding. Screw being polite. I wasn’t bitter, or in my feelings, I just didn’t want to massage the ego of some guy who was clearly getting some relationship karma coming back his way.

These men had gotten all the time out of me that they were going to. If I was going to spend anymore of my time frivolously, I’d rather waste 20 pokeballs trying to catch an angry Seadra than maintain intermittent contact with someone who lacks both common courtesy and the ability to send a witty text.

Despite this move in the right direction, I did not live happily ever after.

Much like the elusive bus that only appears when you light a cigarette, the minute you stop bothering with some guys they rematerialise with added emojis.sex-love-life-2014-10-text-from-ex-main

Really? You were thinking of me? If you want to get all nostalgic, try having a wank over your mum’s Mary Kay catalogue or watch The Goonies. Don’t assume some type of emotional vigil is being held for you by an old flame. You’re getting in touch with a practical stranger who (if they’re me) will ask you to lose their number.

I refuse to assist any more guys in any delusion that I may be the one that got away, or that I’d spent years at a window, Jane Eyre style, before wandering the moors to find them. I am not that girl. The only time I patiently wait by the window is when I have an ASOS delivery coming.

Why am I ranting about this? The Colombian. A fuckboi who didn’t want to date me then  ghosted me before disappearing completely. Until one afternoon when I got that ‘Hey’. Here’s some free advice: if you plan to resurrect a relationship via text, get a thesaurus. Only Jesus can get away with a casual ‘Hey’ and that was after just three days. I hadn’t heard from this guy in 2 years.

What followed was more monosyllabic inane small talk and thinly veiled enquiries about my relationship status which culminated in him asking me to fly out to see him in Colombia. The only response I could think of that fit was LOL. He did not take this well.He ranted on about how I obviously didn’t care and to forget he’d said anything.

Guess what? I didn’t care. He had texted me while I was happily eating Jaffa cakes in a dick free zone. His irritating wounded act ruined a perfectly lovely afternoon.

A month later I got another ‘Hey’ and a life update. Now he’d moved to Mexico and wanted to know whether there was a chance I’d be moving there, or was I still mad at him (because clearly it was my irrational female anger stopping me from uprooting my life to Mexico for a guy who was a dick). I’ve never found block and delete quicker in my life.

To the horrified male friends who have messaged to ask what the ‘poor guy’ had done wrong, allow me to clarify my position: I’ve got nothing against exes getting in touch. Just don’t do it if you were a douche who is now feeling sorry for himself. Definitely don’t interrupt a woman during biscuit time.

It’s a mobile phone, not a time machine. Move on.

Asian in Asia

Have passport, will travel.

It’s 7am and I have a yoga class in an hour. I woke up because of the sea. Living in London, I’ve never had the luxury of waking up to anything other than the sound of urban foxes shagging. Mexico City wasn’t much better. Although sirens were often interspliced with drunken arguments, or thumping music. I didn’t realise how much I love to wake up to the sound of the sea.

The journey to get to Koh Phangan was not as tranquil.

The first night in Bangkok was spent wandering around the Khao San road shopping and avoiding teams of men in matching wife beaters, trying to drunkenly chat up anyone in grabbing reach. People like to touch here, not just drunken Brits out on a stag. I got poked in the boob, had my tattoo stroked and was awkwardly patted by a couple of giggly vendors, who may have been at the laughing gas balloons.

The night in Bangkok was a sensory overload. Lights. Vendors. Food. Massages. Rats. One of which I had an unsettling run in with that left me contemplating how much I really needed my right foot.

It was loud and bright and dirty and seedy. I liked it.

At 5am we were abruptly woken by our panicky Thai host who thought we were going to miss our flight. She had taken the liberty of booking us a taxi that was waiting as we spoke. I don’t think I’ve got packed and ready so quickly. I silently cursed her all the way to the airport.

The journey to get to Koh Phangan was a two fold nightmare. Unlike Alex Garland’s romanticised journey through jungle, jumping off waterfalls and swimming across the island, ours was more pedestrian and disgusting. The waves were dangerously high, so our speedboat jumped along the ocean for nearly two hours. The nausea it provoked was understandable. I regretted inhaling a pork bun and chilli chicken curry on the dock before we boarded. But the real kicker was the synchronised vomiting that began to take place about 20 minutes into the journey. Smiling faces handed out pink plastic bags and tissues, then the pukefest began. It was like the story Chunk describes in The Goonies: one person barfed and everyone else just joined in. It surrounded us and we sunk into our seats hoping we wouldn’t be hit by the spray.

My body’s natural defense mechanism in situations of high stress is to shut down. Much like a possum. Only more like a narcoleptic. I pass out.

When I awoke and drowsily got off the boat there was still another journey left to make. Kerry, had warned me that transport to The Sanctuary was a mafia. It’s lucky I had her and her amazing litigation skills to get me this far.

You couldn’t get a cheaper price no matter how good you were at haggling. What was worse they had decided to hike the prices up, to make the best of all the business that was anxiously waiting. We held out for as long as we could as the surliest driver in the world bitched at our attempts to bring the price down.

It didn’t feel great having to concede and get in the back of his shitty truck. It felt less great as we were hurled about along bumpy back streets out into the middle of nowhere.

Luckily we were headed towards Sanctuary.

So this is Christmas

 

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Not this year it isn’t…

John Lewis and shiny stuff would lead most of us to believe that this is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas can be pretty wonderful: friends you haven’t seen in years, time with family, spreading joy, giving and receiving, great food, the list goes on. This year my attitude, normally on a par with Buddy the Elf, is a bit more like the weather: lukewarm.

Christmas comes but once a year. At least that was my mantra in past years when I forced a smile when being nagged by my parents about when I was going to meet a nice boy. Or when I was being nagged about when I was going to move closer to home. Or when I was wincing at drunken shouting and trivial arguments. Or when I was joining in on the shouting. I still managed a smile because a week down the line I would be back on a plane and far away. Future conversations could be tolerated. Or at least muted.

This year Christmas feels like it is building up to be Wrestlemania. All the previously small bouts that have taken place lover the last four months will now culminate in this one off spectacular event.

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All things festive

There is no tapping out.

A chair may be employed as a last minute act of desperation.

My plan to hide in the gym was thwarted. I may no longer have any idea what day of the week it is, but most of the normal working world have been counting the sleeps until they could go out, get battered, safe in the knowledge there was no getting up at 7 am the next morning.

This is my life.

Maybe that’s why my cheer isn’t as cheery. The biggest factor in my love of Christmas was desperate relief. The winter term was the longest one at school. After seven weeks of crowd control, marking, observations and prising kids off windows and walls, I wanted to sleep for two weeks. It’s like the Eddie Murphy joke about the cracker you get offered after weeks in the desert.

Christmas was the best cracker I had ever eaten.

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Christmas Hip Hop Carousel

Every day is like Christmas now. In the sense I get to stay at home watching bad television, balancing my finances and drinking anything mulled. All I’ve been missing over the last four months was a festive hat at a jaunty angle.

The traditional Christmas dinner is also a festive selling point.

Roast potatoes, Turkey, Christmas pudding, even sprouts, there’s something about that Christmas spread. It warms the heart.

As I sit staring at the swede that will be the crowning joy in vegan Christmas, I find it hard to get excited.

My brother is an excellent cook. It will be a Vegetarian/Vegan delight. But it’s not quite Christmas this year.

I nearly went full Scrooge when Facebook asked if I wanted to see what 2015 looked like. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

The Ghosts of Facebook Statuses past have helped me to gain some perspective this Christmas Eve.

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Still smiling. Kind of

This hasn’t been my worst Christmas. Not by a long shot.

There was the Christmas Air France lost all my luggage. The Christmas I lost my phone in a taxi on the way to the airport. The Christmas I nearly lost my hand and had to have surgery. Last Christmas, when  I was sent blow by blow details of how my then boyfriend liked to get down in the bedroom, and then had to spend the day comforting him.

This has been quite an uneventful festive season in retrospect.

Christmas has it’s good points. I get to make it magical for my nephew.  I stay up watching cheesy movies and playing board games with my siblings. It’s the only time of the year when I can hit reset with my parents and start afresh. I also get to see friends I love and laugh. Drunkenly.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. If I let it be.

So I’m going to get me some wine and listen to Jingle Bell Rock until the spirit of Christmas, or Christmas spirits restore me to my normally hyperactive Christmas state.
Happy holidays. Get merry. ’tis the season.

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