Connection

It’s easy to be anonymous in London. It’s one of the things I like about large cities. I  gravitate towards places where I can hide in plain sight. It creates the illusion of belonging without actually having to interact. The tube is an extension of this anonymity.

People cram into carriages, eyes straight ahead, glued onto the paper or their phone. The only goal is to make it to the final destination without hearing the words, incident on the tracks or signal failure. Commuters don’t really pay much attention to each other, unless it’s to deliver a withering look to someone who stole the seat they had their eye on.

So it shouldn’t have been surprising to me that no one had noticed the woman in front of me was crying. I’d had to double-take to be sure. Her mascara was running, she sniffed and shook emotionally. I felt a twinge in my chest and it grew when I realised the rest of the carriage was oblivious to her.

Most people are generally too busy with their own drama to notice anyone else’s. I don’t think it’s a London thing, just a human thing. I guess getting involved in someone’s sadness is messier than jumping onto the happy bandwagon. Sadness is awkward.

I’ve been on anti-depressants for nine months and am currently weaning myself off them. Having suffered from chronic depression as long as I can remember, I’ve always been strangely proud of the fact I’ve avoided medication for decades. But there comes a point when you can’t get out of bed, or get a job and you decide to take the help. It’s an act of kindness. Maybe that’s why I offered the woman the tissues.

I didn’t want to pry or give her a pep talk. I just wanted to be nice to her. To empathise. I’d been in tears on the tube days before and managed to pass under everyone’s radar, much to my own relief. We’re not meant to be unhappy in public. It’s something kept behind closed doors and smiling faces.

There’s a shame in being sad for some reason. I saw it when she took the tissues and tried to compose herself. I felt it every time I turned down medication. It’s like an admission of failure: I just couldn’t stay happy.

People distance themselves from sadness like it’s contagious. I’ve noticed it with my own depression. It’s feels like I have a shitty superpower that makes me invisible when I’m down. People want to laugh and get their endorphin high. I spent years hiding it and trying to fit in with the rest of the tube.

I told the woman to keep the tissues. This led to a random stranger offering me several packs of Kleenex. It felt like a thank you for my intervention, and a little like handing over a joint to the nearest person in the circle when you can see the 4 0 coming. He didn’t want to be caught holding in the face of a crying woman.

Yeah, sadness is awkward.

 

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The Trust Paradox

It’s recently dawned on me that I can’t get that trust balance right. I want to be trusting, but I think the worst. I can ask a stranger to watch my things while I go to the bathroom, but I guarantee that seconds later I’m envisioning my identity being stolen, my laptop being trashed and someone trying to insert their genitals into the USB port in some bizarre sex hate crime. It’s an emotional razor edge.

Apparently, the people closest to you set the benchmark when it comes to our ability to trust. My family were the litmus test for the rest of society. Unfortunately for me, they were also people who lied for sport and couldn’t be trusted as far as you could collectively throw them.

My dad used my trust as the set up to his jokes. Like the time he bought me a bucket and spade before taking me to a pebble beach. Or the time he made us watch Aliens promising us that a clown was about to pop out of  John Hurt’s stomach. Our tears gave him more than our trust ever could. In return we got nightmares.

My sister learnt from the best and continued my dad’s experiments. Each lie was a toe in the pool of my credulity to see how deep it went. Could she convince me to slide down a bannister to jab me in the arse with a pin? Could she hang me from a curtain rail by telling me she wanted to see how long my hair was? Yes, yes she could. I deserved to lose that hair.

Even my mum had her moments. She wasn’t mean, just out of her depth and filled with wives tales. My favourite being that I needed to cover myself in turmeric if I wanted to get rid of unwanted hair. Some fun facts about turmeric: it has no depilatory qualities and stains skin bright yellow. It was like highlighting the hair.  

Trust works paradoxically. You only figure out that you can’t trust someone by trusting them. By then you’re locked under the stairs, looking like a hairy Lego and clutching a bucket and spade.

Even so, I continue to put my faith in people. It’s easier than burying my stuff in the sand like a Samiad, or having a catheter put in. Most of the time I’m pleasantly surprised. When you were imagining someone spitting in your coffee, the only way to go is up.

 

Trials and Tribulations of Cupping

A truthful account of the first time I used a cup.

“Don’t panic,” I said to myself. “There’s nothing to panic about.” It was just a 6 cm silicone cup trapped all up in my lady parts. I was lucky this had been a trial run.

I had decided to try a menstrual cup after ranting (once again) about Tampon tax. The cup was appealing for many reasons; cheap, reusable, environmentally friendly and easily transported. It was perfect for me. I spent about 10 minutes on Amazon, found an economic generic model named after a Greek goddess and decided to give it a whirl.

What could go wrong?

Mistake #1 Lazy research

I thought any brand would do. I thought they were all the same and after a few hours practice I would be a pro. What I wasn’t counting on was my over zealous high positioning and short fingers leaving me with a foreign object trapped inside me.

I think it’s important to mention to any women reading this: you can’t lose a menstrual cup inside yourself. Your cervix isn’t a vacuum that hoovers up foreign objects. A fact I soothingly repeated to myself during my panic.

Mistake #2 Over-confidence

The easy to use instructions you receive with your cups seem a little nonchalant in retrospect. I got my fold right and whacked it up there without considering how I was going to get it out. What ensued was the gynaecological equivalent of trying to find the end of a roll of sellotape.

Also, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a one finger job. There was a level of intimacy that left me feeling like I owed myself a steak dinner and two bottles of red. I may actually be a qualified gynaecologist now.

Mistake #3 Thinking I was in charge

The vagina is in charge. People who use pussy as a put down clearly haven’t tried to wrestle a cup away from its vice like grip. It had claimed the cup for it’s own and was not going to give it up without a fight.

Happy Endings

Rather than run crying to my nearest Family Planning clinic, I made a cup of tea, watched some Youtube videos, did some Kegel exercises and tried again. The cup had shifted, I was able to get a better grip on it and I sit here typing, cup free and knowing a lot more about my cervix.

The experience has not put me off in the least. I think it’s great women are getting to know their bodies better. And I stand by my choice to use the cup.

I’ve done my research properly this time and found a cup that’s right for me. I’m sure with some practice I’ll be a pro in no time.

Adult Fun

Clubs are playgrounds for adults? No, PLAYGROUNDS are playgrounds for adults.

The most fun I’ve had in ages was an alcohol free romp in a children’s playground. I love this kind of fun. It’s free.

Why am I not constantly running around screaming loudly whilst being chased by my adult friends? Maybe because embracing your inner child in this way, is a sure fire way to elicit their concerns.

I have started skipping again, it’s healthy and great fun. Why should kids have the monopoly on skipping? I have taken to skipping when there is a lull in Skype conversations with the fella, just to mix things up. I am trying to convince him to buy a yoyo so we can virtually play together. I mean we’ve known each other since we were 16, that’s some kind of green flag to be able to bounce up and down on beds together and have PG fun right?

It’s a shame that maintaining contact with your inner child in this way is something that is generally an indicator of waning mental health. A warning sign that you are some kind of sexual predator. After all, no self respecting or upstanding adult with no kids would own a bouncy castle unless they were a child who had wished to be big and woken up to find they were an adult. Or Michael Jackson.

I often think that’s where MJ went wrong: his insistence that his playmates be thirty years younger than him. Had he called me to Never Never Land, we could have torn that shit up; I’m talking skipping, super soakers, sack race, roller coasters, candy floss. Sadly he will never know what we could have had.

Unfortunately for me, these situations would never take place in society outside a Tom Hanks movie. If they did they’d be met with a string of character damaging lawsuits and headshaking from all sides.

These children games still exist for adults, the swings, the pogo sticks, the running; only now they are more dating metaphors or have been turned into sex toys, so we can all relive the joy of being a child with the adult bonus of bouncing up and down on each other’s private parts with the help of swings and a jump rope.

Actually it is quite unnerving that something like a swing can be turned into a sex contraption, there is something Brave New World about the parallel. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong and my love of swings was in fact erotic play. In which case, the dream is alive people.

If only there was a place adults could go for fun that wasn’t a brothel or a bar. On many a sunny afternoon, whilst hogging a swing from a sour faced child, I have looked to the skies and pictured a playground, just like a child’s, only capable of sustaining heavier body weight, with more rubber flooring for the adult who likes to drink and where being childless and wanting to join in on the fun didn’t put you on a sex offenders list.

There’s still hope someone may read this and build this place. Until then I’ll be lurking around people’s garden sets, trying to get my fine ass down a kiddy slide.

Let me be Brief

The battle for most practical panties seems to be on. Gone are the days of pants simply hiding your shame and offering a paltry barrier to the cold. Now they actually DO stuff.

In the Red Corner…

For those of you who haven’t been exposed to the viral advertising campaign infecting Facebook feeds, THINX are a brand of underwear intended for use during your period. Think luxury period pants meets feminine hygiene products.

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Here comes the science

No more panicking when you think you’ve come on, or having to make sure every purse you own has an emergency tampon in it. THINX has you covered from flow and hygiene, to style.

Now, I’m no Mila Kunis, so maybe the awesomeness of my undergarments being more ‘period friendly’ is lost on me. Like most women, I learnt to be careful and always prepared. Unlike Kunis, I also don’t have $100 to spend on a cycle set that saves me from having to pay that annoying tampon tax. It’s a shame.

Miki Agrawal, She-EO, seems to have good intentions; she’s setting up an education foundation, giving back to women who need it and trying to bust the menstruation myth. The sale of each pair of undies contributes to Afripad, a Ugandan project that makes reusable sanitary pads for women at an affordable price.

So wearing underwear finally pays off.

In the Blue Corner…

The good intentions behind AR Wear’s anti-rape underwear will lead us all directly to hell. In an attempt to take action against the rising number of sexual assaults in Germany, an inventor has created a fashionable looking…well, chastity belt. Clearly a future where men were taught to respect women’s bodies, control their urges and were adequately punished when they didn’t, was looking unlikely.

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Drinking in these bad boys is gonna be rough

The underwear is cut proof and locked into place, thus thwarting any would be sexual assailants. Because we all know someone with a knife, aggressive enough to try and cut off your underwear during an assault will just shrug and toddle off when they realise there’s no getting in…

 

I’d much rather put £87 toward a taser.

There is always the hope the government will invest. Then they could issue women with a few pairs. That way if attacked we could  neutralise the threat with a taser and then put his genitals in prison until the authorities arrived.

The message is bleak and antiquated: Lock up your daughters.

And the winner is…

If I thought the right underwear was the answer to anything, I’d be wearing as many problem solving pairs as I could. However, between these two ideas THINX seems to have a more feminist and life affirming message. It also manages to flip off that stupid tampon tax that I loathe.

 

Numbers game

Women who sleep with my boyfriend, then have the cheek to comment on my sexual history will be verbally decimated.

There is nothing that will get a woman more angry than finding out she’s being cheated on.

Oh wait, how about his side chick calling her promiscuous.

“He thought that because you’ve slept with so many more people than him that you wouldn’t be happy with him. He was always worried.”

Yeah, that happened.

A married ‘Christian’ woman who had been looking for Jesus in my ex’s boxers, was using my sexual history to justify  her arseholery.

I should have pointed out the irony, but why confuse her further with fancy words?

I’d love to say it was the first time my sexual activity has been commented on. But, as an asian woman I am used to people commenting on my dating life. Jokes have been made about my revolving door dating system. My parents stopped bothering asking if I will settle down. And I have learned to shrug off the questions fishing for confirmation of how many people I have slept with.

Not enough I say.

I am used to friends taking the piss about my dating life. It’s part and parcel of sharing it so openly on social media. It’s funny. I have no problems with it. So why should anyone else?

But, oh they do. And rather than accept that it’s their issue, their insecurity and their choices, they want to make it my issue, my insecurity and about my choices. All of a sudden it’s all about numbers.

The more open minded people I meet seem to have no problem with how many people I have slept with. They also tend to have slept with significantly more people than I have. So why would they care?

As long as you’re the lower number you’re fine.

Funnily enough, I have seen the same nonchalance disappear when it’s turned out I’ve slept with more people than they have. Then they spit out their Starbucks, awkwardly mumble something about doing what you want with your body, before quickly leaving.

Probably to call a group of women together for an orgy to get their numbers up.

It’s a strange phenomena. It doesn’t make me regret a thing. Just taught me to never share numbers, or waste too much time on people who seem obsessed with mine. The issue is clearly their own.

Nothing good comes from sharing numbers.

Unless they’re phone numbers for hot guys you’re going to unashamedly bang.

Signs of Singledom

Being single comes with unique characteristics

“Are you single?”

In the right context, it’s a promising question. It was half term Friday. I was mid-ludicrous story and being loud and drunk, when a relative stranger inquired into my relationship status. All it took were these four words to turn that my smile into my ‘I wish I could stab you with my eyes’ look:

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What the hell does ‘single’ look like? Say it!

“I can see why.”

You’ve seen it in movies when someone says the wrong thing; the scratch of vinyl as a record comes to an abrupt halt. That pin drop silence.

What the fuck did he mean by that?

Am I single because of my behaviour? Was he implying I had no choice in being single?

No, he meant it in the good way. There’s a good way. The “No man could handle you!” way.

It was fast becoming clear to me that this guy a) had archaic notions about the liveliness of a woman being directly proportional to how likely she is to be available and b) wanted to be kicked in the crotch.

I didn’t get it. He was recently divorced. (You can see why. I mean that in the good way.) He didn’t fall into his own labelling system. Perhaps marriage had made him docile and lacking in personality, thus more likely to take a bride.

Maybe he was onto something though. What if I do have distinguishing features that set me apart from women more likely to take a groom/partner?

I used to think I was a fun loving, alcohol abusing, wiseass. Little did I know I was manifesting the symptoms of being single and incapable of being domesticated.

Perhaps single people everywhere are subtly evolving. Currently we have the ability to be shown a genital shot at any time without flinching. Eventually, I’ll have evolved physically to have extra long arms, so I can zip up my own dresses.

Lord knows I can already eat a meal for two by myself.

One day in the future, we’ll all develop a Tinder shaped birthmark about our person that will fade along with our personalities when we meet our match. You know, the one who is out there, somewhere, waiting (knowing my luck, in the bushes).

Maybe then people won’t ask me stupid questions and waste my hard earned drinking time.

Photography credit: http://www.gratisphotography.com